Minor language and suggestiveness. You've been forewarned.
The little eatery down on Martin Street was quite possibly the filthiest joint Karen had ever seen in her life. She looked around in dismay at the grungy tablecloths, the walls spattered with orange grease, the floor–
"Oh, yuck," she breathed, toeing an amorphous lump with her shoe.
Edward was giving the place an abbreviated version of her inspection, taking in the various health code violations and following one interesting trail of sludge up the wall until it terminated on the oddly spotted ceiling. He did a quick double take.
The hell– He blinked. How'd they get a footprint up there?
"Why are we here again?" Karen whispered. It seemed appropriate; a well-aimed shout might dislodge a grease avalanche. There was a shriek of a swinging door.
"Tell you later." Nygma pecked her on the cheek. "Mario!"
"Eda-ward, my boy!"
Karen's jaw dropped.
A man who seemed to be an amalgamation of every Italian cook stereotype stood before her in an apron(grease-stained), plaid pants and chef's hat(also grease-stained) with his hairy hands held palm up. She stared at them in fascinated horror for a beat before realizing he wanted her to put her hands in them. Repressing a small shudder, she did, and he kissed them with bristly lips.
Edward smiled patiently throughout the whole my-favorite-customer spiel, gently squeezing Karen's reclaimed hand.
"Here-a you are. I make-a you a fine risotto, you and your honey babe." The round, genial, greasy fellow bustled off, leaving Karen sitting unusually straight-backed at the table. Edward kept an eye on their retreating host until he disappeared once more. He nodded to his date.
Karen burst into fits of helpless laughter, doubling up at the table with tears leaking from her eyes.
"Is he– is he for real?" she managed to choke out.
"Yes, unfortunately. He thinks we enjoy his fine taste in scenery, so he plays it broadly for us. Truth be told I don't think he's even Italian. His real name's Mort."
"Then, then why here?" Karen tried to stave off hysteria by gulping water from a smudged glass. "And who's 'we'?"
"I thought we should have some seclusion, after last time." Edward smiled, tight-lipped. "'We' would be the rogue's gallery. This happens to be the most frequented spot after the iceberg lounge, but it's nothing official. We mostly meet in plainclothes to avoid attention, but the occasional scuffle does break out…I see he's at least repaired the emergency exit since the last time."
"Wait…you're telling me some of Batman's worst meet here regularly?" she glanced around the filthy but mostly intact eatery. "How is this place not a smoking crater by now?"
"Actually, it's fairly simple; have you ever seen the Three Stooges try to go through a door all at once?"
But he never found out if Karen had ever seen that particular mishap, as their distinctly non-PC waitperson returned with their risotto and breadsticks "on the house-a". Edward saw Karen hurriedly jam a breadstick in her mouth, and even he had to take a sip of stale water to keep from losing control. But once the resident ham had left, the air turned somber and quiet. A nice meal was shared between them (the man wasn't clean but he could cook) and nothing else. Finally Edward sat back and sighed.
"Well, that was nice for a farewell dinner." He picked at a bland roll on his plate. "I'm sorry we wasted our time trying to impress each other, Karen. Maybe if we'd come here first…maybe the awkwardness of our milieu would've been canceled out by the greasy horror that is our host."
Karen cracked a small smile, though she didn't feel particularly funny. She sighed and wiped her hands on the thigh of her plaid pants.
"Edward," she paused and licked her lips, "I don't…I don't want it to be like this. Despite all we've been through, I like you, I really do."
Her dinner companion heaved a sigh.
"I'm not joking!"
"I know," Nygma said morosely, chin propped up on a fist, "you're not lying, you're not trying to spare my feelings, and you're not distracting me so that when the check arrives you'll pretend to use the restroom and escape out the window."
"Right," she agreed, "not even that last one."
"But the plain truth is that we're not…" he searched for a word he hated less than the one that popped into his head. He failed. "…compatible."
Karen nodded listlessly. By her elbow a friendly roach scavenged for bread crumbs.
"I mean, besides the obvious I'm-a-supervillain-you're-a-woman side of it, we're just so different from each other."
"Right, you're more intellectual–"
"–and you're, well, um, not intellectual…not in the sense that–"
"Eddie." She laughed and waved it away. He gave her a nervous grin.
"I'm more into quiet, cerebral pursuits, you probably like the movies–"
"–I'm a morning person, you probably prefer evenings–"
"I like the nightlife."
"–I'm stuffy and boring, you're impetuous and lowbrow–"
"–I'm high-maintenance and obsessive-compulsive, you're lazy and emotionally insensitive–"
"–I'm hyper and completely blind to social mores, you're pushy and opinionated and have no–"
"–look, let's not celebrate it, okay?"
"Fine." Edward stopped up short. He searched for his next words with the care of a master chess player.
"We just don't work, not on the level other couples do. What could we talk about really? What could we do together that wouldn't end in bitter argument?"
"Yeah, when you come home after a hard day of getting beaten up by Batman, I'll have spent my entire day dealing with emotionally unstable coworkers and we'll never be in the mood to do anything!"
Nygma blinked. "Um, yes. Right. My point is, though, what do we really have in common, besides being lonely?"
"Not much," she sighed.
"I mean if our public lives are any indication, we would have absolutely no time and no energy for anything but the occasional one-sided conversation and maybe a quick bout of desperate lovemaking. I mean, at this point all we can hope for is a secret relationship, completely apart from our everyday lives, comprised of nothing but stolen kisses and hot, clandestine sex…" Edward trailed off, suddenly very warm. He stared very intently at the blank walls and gave a long, laborious swallow.
"So…that, uh…that sound…good to you?" he managed.
Karen sat bolt upright and very still in her chair, seemingly fascinated with the fizzling neon sign in the window.
"Oh," she said in a high, breathy voice, "that sounds just dandy to me."
There was a minor delay as he caught his wristwatch on the tablecloth, but he wrenched it free with a cry of victory as she bounded over his upturned chair and latched onto him. Their first kiss was probably awkward, but it was also livid and hot and so intense they didn't even notice. He hoisted her body until they were half-standing, half-leaning against the table; she groaned and lightly bit his jaw. They managed to decouple for a minute to hammer out plans.
"I have a 50."
"Our meal was $15.78."
"It's a big tip."
They chased each other outside.
The restaurant they left was still for a moment, only the silent trickle of warm grease flowing like snowmelt. Then the wall burst in.
A Ford Taurus, tricked out with spikes and various deadly implements, heaved forward and belched crimson smoke. The passenger door flung open, disgorging a nightmare figure who flung his hands to the sky.
"Behold, the harbinger of all–…crap!" Jonathan Crane slid the burlap mask up from his face. "They aren't here!"
"Maybe they lied to us," came his companion's muffled reply. Jervis Tetch ascended from their frightmobile's belly through the sunroof, cup of tea held nonchalantly in one hand, looking not particularly concerned at the escape of their quarry.
Jonathan hefted his straw hat and scratched his head. "Maybe they got stuck in traffic?"
"They've probably already left. I told you it takes too long to find parking around here! We should've gone with the valet."
"Jervis," Crane explained with the patience of a mother, "I told you, that isn't a proper valet. It's Killer Croc in a vest."
The bustling chef chose this moment to enter the dining room. He dropped the greasy torte he'd been carrying and ripped off his chef hat.
"What the hell-a?! My two best-a customers leave without goodbye-a, and you two goons-a break-a my wall again-a."
"Oh shut up Mort." The Scarecrow spat, sliding back into the passenger seat.
The taxi hissed to a stop in front of Karen's apartment building; the happy couple disentangled long enough to throw a wad of money at the driver and exit the vehicle. They joined again once safely on the front step, one furious knot of limbs, tongues, and cotton-poly blend clothing.
"Could you carry me to the door or something?" she murmured around his bottom lip.
"I don't think I could even take two steps with you. Maybe I could rip something?"
"Like what?" she peppered his collarbone with kisses.
There was a loud tearing sound as the seat of her pants split neatly down the middle. Karen drew away and stared Edward full in the face.
"I slept in those," she murmured tonelessly.
"I'll give you something of mine sleep in from now on."
She paused, considering.
"Good save," she said finally.
And now let us leave the happy and unique couple to their nightly activities, for even the oddest of couples deserves their privacy. In lieu of an epilogue, have a punchline:
Way across town, another couple was halted in the process of ugly-bumping by an unfortunate development, or rather lack thereof.
Harley sighed and shook her head, dropping the royal purple sheet. "It's no good, puddin'. I can't get Pagliacci to do a standing ovation. I told ya, you should've seen that doctor!"
The Joker, swathed in a silk robe, gravely took Harley's small hands in his. "I told you, pooh, that wasn't a real doctor, it was Killer Croc in a vest."
Author's note: yes, I'm actually ending it there. Leave 'em laughing, or at least leave while they're distracted by the awful punchline. My thanks to all those who loved it and reviewed, and those who loved it and didn't review, and those who just read the stupid thing. I hate writing typical romance, so this is what comes out when I attempt it. There may be a sequel in the works, or I might just make passing mention of their relationship in another story. Who can say what the future holds? Salute.