A/N: On one of the tumblrs I run, Twinings and I offered ourselves up for one full week of filling fic prompts for our readers, varying in length from a hundred to a thousand-plus words. The project has been dubbed the Free For All Fic For All—or FFAFFA for short. This is one of those stories—and this is the boilerplate author's note you'll see on all of 'em.
Prompt Combo: Something featuring Killer Croc, Croc enjoying some Cajun food and Croc comes to dinner.
Notes: The Killer Croc I tend to write is an extrapolation based on various aspects of comics canon, not based on any one single depiction.
The first time the Unusual Caller places an order, Belle Thibodeaux picks up the phone with one hand, trying to keep her roux from burning on the stove. They've been open less than a week and already she hasn't got enough hands to go around, even though it's nearly closing time.
"Yats," she says, keeping an eye on the thickening brown liquid. "Reservation or pick-up?"
A deep voice mutters in Belle's ear, sending a shiver slithering down her spine, "I hear you have Cajun food…"
"We do," she answers, pleased to hear another accent like her own. "Creole, too. What can I get for you?"
"You have crawfish etouffee, today, cher?" the voice on the other end of the line asks.
"We're just about down to the last of it, but yes." Belle sweeps her hair out of her eyes and takes the cast iron skillet off the flame.
"You save it for me, ange?"
"For a man who calls me angel?" she smiles and shakes her head though the customer can't see it. "How can I not?"
"Good," the caller answers, obviously pleased, "I send somebody to pick it up,"
Twenty minutes later, a man roughly the size of a refrigerator comes to retrieve the order.
He doesn't have an accent.
Belle picks up the phone without even thinking about it, motioning at her business partner to stir tomorrow morning's red beans and rice, "Yats. Reservation or pick-up?"
"What's on that fine menu today, cher?"
"Last thing we got left that I can guarantee you get is the maque choux with chicken," she answers, wiping her hands on her apron, "want me to save you some, beau?"
"If you would…?"
Ten minutes before the restaurant closes, another, different fridge of a man shows up to pick up the order.
He isn't Cajun, either.
The Unusual Caller rings at around his usual time—the seventh time in a row. Belle almost looks forward to his calls. After all, his is the first voice she's heard that sounds like home since she moved to Gotham.
"If there are beignets today, ange," the caller says smoothly, "I buy you a shiny new stove."
"Ah, well, I get no stove today," she laughs, pulling a bowl of raw chicken from the fridge to prepare. "Dessert is bread pudding in whiskey sauce."
"Oh." Belle can almost hear him drooling on the other end of the line. "Cher, I swear, I take you back to the island someday and show you a good time for feeding me so well, no?"
She laughs again. "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, mama said."
"I prefer through the chest," he answers cryptically, "but your method is better."
"An order will be waiting for you," Belle says with a smile.
She makes it a double order, and doesn't charge the next gofer any extra.
The Second Tuesday
"Yats," Belle answers automatically, shifting the phone to her shoulder so that she can finish powdering the beignets.
"Beignets today," she volunteers. "Special made, just for my best customer."
"You're too good to me, cher."
The Second Saturday
"I got your roses, beau," she says, putting the spices back in their rack as she prepares another batch of jambalaya.
"Had to do something for my favorite chef. You like them, ange?"
"Very pretty." She stirs the contents of the pot and lowers the temperature, tapping the excess from the spoon. "Comin' to get your gumbo tonight?"
"I send someone."
She pauses and then…"Oh."
"Cheer up, cher; I call again tomorrow."
The Third Thursday
"No, I haven't been to New Orleans in years," Belle says, cleaning off the counter tops in the kitchen in the few minutes she has before it's time to clean the crawfish. For the fourth night this week, the Unusual Caller is her companion as business winds down and she prepares to close up shop.
"I prefer this little town—Houma. I got…a friend there."
"My people come from Houma," she answers brightly. "Mama was born there."
They continue talking.
The Fourth Monday
"You ever gonna come to see me, beau?" Belle asks. "A lady gets tired of feedin' a different dock worker every night…"
"Can't, cher. Wish I could, but I can't."
"Can I come see you, then?"
"It's no trouble, I promise. I would really like to actually meet—"
"I said no, ange."
He doesn't call on Tuesday.
The Fourth Wednesday
"So you're married, right?" Belle asks him when he calls her next, absolutely without ceremony.
"No," he answers immediately, "I'm not married, cher."
He laughs heartily and the sound fills her with happiness for some reason. "No hunchback here."
"Okay, so you're horribly deformed?"
She puts her spatula down and clutches the phone. "Beau?"
"If you are," she says genuinely, "I don't care."
"I…cher, this is not right for you to—"
"On Friday at eleven o'clock, there's going to be a special dinner waiting here," she pushes ahead, "and the door will be unlocked. I want you to be here."
"I turn the lights down low and everything," she continues. "If you're not here, I don't want you to call again."
A long silence stretches between them.
"You mean it, ange?"
"I do," Belle answers firmly.
"I…I think about it."
The Fourth Friday
The only illumination in the restaurant is a cluster of candles in the middle of one of the tables.
Belle puts the final touches on the table, making certain that everything is where it belongs. Crawfish etouffee, cornbread, red beans and rice, chicken and sausage gumbo and beignets and coffee to finish—this may well be the finest spread she's ever laid out.
The bell on the front door jingles merrily and she turns around, standing behind her chair and waiting with bated breath.
She can only make out the large shape of someone in the darkness in front of her—not even so much as his eyes.
"You can call me Belle now that we're meeting face to face," she says with a shaky smile, her knees knocking together with all the nervousness of a teenage girl on her very first date.
"You look nice…Belle," he says slowly. "I'm Waylon."
"Come here," she extends a hand in welcome.
"I can't take your hand," he answers awkwardly.
"I have…a condition. My skin is…"
She stubbornly continues to hold out her hand. "I told you, I don't care."
He doesn't move.
Belle hears him take a step forward and sees a shift in the darkness—slow and reluctant.
The very tips of his fingers come into the light—and she sees the claws, the green skin, the scales…
She nearly falters—not out of fear so much as surprise—but ultimately doesn't.
His skin is cool as their fingers touch, pleasantly cool, but a little strange, and she smiles at the place where she guesses his face must be.
"Please, sit down."
"I'm afraid of the etouffee getting cold, maybe," she replies.
His chair pulls out with a heavy scrape and she forces herself not to gasp when he sits down. He's too large for the chair by half, never mind the lizard-like features and yellow eyes.
"You're not so bad." She smiles at him slightly and pulls out her own chair, taking a seat. Her own face is at last fully revealed by the candlelight, and she can tell that it's his turn to keep from gasping.
He reaches for her face instinctively, but then draws back, realizing he's overstepped the bounds of good conduct. "You didn't tell me you were scarred, cher."
"I didn't think it mattered." The smooth white skin of the old burn stretches with her smile—and she's luminous in spite of it. "Now, cornbread, or gumbo to start?"