Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Dinner with the family" in more than 500 words; first posted there on 11 January 2009.
The Joker couldn't recall if he'd been aware that the Ha-Hacienda even had a kitchen before Harley came along.
There was that shiny room tucked away in the back where the fridge he stored various temperature-sensitive chemicals was. And once he'd stumbled across a drawer-full of slightly rusty cutlery somewhere in the ramshackle former comedy club. The teaspoons had turned out to be pretty useful when he'd needed some new toys to play with the last newspaper boy who tried to collect the subscription money.
But rusty tableware aside, if the place had contained such items as a stove, kitchen sink or set of cartoon-themed eggcups then he hadn't had reason to notice.
The Joker didn't spend a lot of time thinking about food. He had more important things to dedicate his genius to, such as how his plan to maim the Bat last week could have been improved, how to spectacularly get the Bat's attention this week, and what would be the best way to cause the Bat mental anguish next week.
He was perfectly content to just eat whatever his latest hired goons came back with when he sent them for supplies, and the criminal underworld supported a large percentage of Gotham's Chinese restaurant and pizza place industries.
This was until his ex-shrink and newly self-appointed henchwench announced she was also adopting the title of "domestic goddess".
"I'm not havin' my poor Mistah J livin' off take-out and microwave burritos." She'd declared within minutes of setting foot through the door of the hideout, sweeping empty pizza boxes and take-out cartons into a garbage bag before marching off to find the kitchen. Which, it turned out, was that shiny room with his chemicals fridge.
He'd let her get on with it. The concussion from the silly twit having set off a small explosive device less than six feet away from his head at Arkham a few hours earlier might have been affecting his judgement, but she seemed to be having fun. It was no skin off his nose if she wanted to add some sort of suburban domestic fantasy to the already potent mix of infatuation and mental breakdown she was revelling in.
"What you need is some good home cookin'!" She chirruped, donning a frilly polka-dot apron (and where had that come from?) over her harlequin costume and bustling about with pots and pans and a particularly dangerous-looking industrial can opener.
"Knock yourself out." The Joker replied, affecting nonchalance but watching her out of the corner of one eye as he checked his supplies of Joker toxin to make sure no one had been moronic enough to ransack the place while he was away.
He had to hand it to her – he'd wanted something dramatic to result from his latest psychiatrist baiting project, particularly once the strength of her obsession with him became obvious, but he hadn't expected anything quite as spectacular as this. First breaking him out of the funny farm in a wonderful joke-themed fashion, and now installing herself as some sort of henchwench-cum-houswife. Dear Dr Quinzel's transformation into his own little devoted toy harlequin was really quite cute.
The Joker watched as she scrutinised the labels of several dented cans and dusty packets gathered from the dark recesses of the Ha-Hacienda's store cupboards before shrugging and adding them all to a merrily bubbling pot on the stove. He was gratified to discover there was a stove – now he had the additional option of holding people's hands against it when negotiating payments for various goods and services he couldn't just out rightly steal.
But he soon lost interest in half-watching his new harlequin cook. She didn't seem inclined to come to her senses and start wailing about turning him back into the authorities any time soon, and there were dozens of half-finished projects he'd been working on before he was cruelly incarcerated that he could be getting back to. If she was going to stick around for any length of time she would have to learn to stop being so monopolising of his valuable time.
In the end rather than working on his projects he actually plumped for watching Wheel Of Fortune and making up his own alternative and more colourful phrases as the answers. He'd almost forgotten about the daffy dame that had followed him (well, driven him) home until she skipped into the room bearing a tray with a covered dish.
"Here ya go Puddin'!" She placed the tray – complete with tiny vase containing a flower – reverently on the tv table in front of him and removed the cover. "Bon appetite!"
"What is it?" the Joker asked, staring suspiciously at the lumpy and worryingly gelatinous mass oozing across the plate and poking at it with a fork. The last time he'd seen something similar the gloop had crawled across the floor and reassembled itself into Clayface's left leg. He wasn't entirely convinced this plateful wasn't going to slide off the tray and follow suit.
"It's tuna casserole." Harley replied, as though this should have been obvious to anyone. She had curled up on the couch next to him and appeared to have entwined herself around the arm he wasn't holding a fork in. "I livened it up a bit with what I could find in the storeroom. I don't think they served a whole lotta food when this place was a club, because it was mostly drink garnishes."
"It looks… innovative." The Joker toyed with the lemon slices, cherries and cocktail olives scattered across his plate before risking a small bite. He chewed cautiously, trying to recall if casserole should have a similar texture to silly putty.
Harley gazed up at him expectantly. "D'ya like it?"
He made a noncommittal noise due to the fact that the concoction appeared to be becoming more and more glutinous as he chewed it, and it was rapidly sticking his jaw together. She appeared to take this as enthusiastic assent.
"D'ya know what the secret ingredient is Puddin'?" she asked, looking at him with eager, shining eyes.
He swallowed, feeling much like a snake that had just consumed a small deer whole as the unyielding lump was squeezed down his throat. He adopted a look of deep thought as he considered her question. "Boot polish? Lime scale remover? Shake'n'bake? No – you'll have to tell me."
"You silly sausage!" She giggled, scooting over further to sit on his lap. He took the opportunity to push the tray further away with one foot as she cuddled into to him and smiled up at his face with complete contentment. "It's love!"
The Joker fought a sudden urge to revisit the mouthful of casserole he'd just swallowed. And then he had an equally sudden urge to laugh hysterically as he realised just how much he'd broken his serious, boring little doctor.
He gave in to the laughter, Harley joining him gleefully although she didn't quite understand why. She squealed as he tipped her back and kissed her deeply, even as their giggles continued.
"I think it tastes just scrumptious, Harl."
End Note: Argh, the fluff, it's everywhere! Well it's kinda romantic, in a "ha ha ha I broke her brain" sorta way... If that's not "family dinner" enough for you then just imagine a coda where Bud and Lou are in the background polishing off the rest of the casserole. If they're willing to chew on Batman then they'd probably eat Harl's cooking too.