“Okay, now I think it’s time to take this off the stovetop. And always remember to turn the stove completely off first and to wear oven mitts before you try lifting it or you’ll get burned.” Roy explained.
“Yeah, and then your hands’ll look like Freddy Krueger’s.” Lian grimaced.
“Hey, how do you know what Freddy Krueger’s hands looks like?” Roy asked. “Have you been sneaking into the living room to watch the late show again?”
“Nuh-uh, daddy, Grant was just watching it one day and I got curious.”
“He actually let you watch it?” Roy couldn’t believe this.
“I closed my eyes during the scary parts.” Lian assured him.
“Yeah, well, I’m gonna have a talk with Grant about that at some point.” Roy huffed. “Anyway, where was I?”
“You said you were gonna give me a million dollars.” Lian joked.
“Before that.” Roy just rolled with it. “Oh yeah, so, now I think we can add the brown sugar, beans, and Tabasco sauce. Ready?”
It was evening in Titans Tower, and Roy Harper (a.k.a. Arsenal), with help from his adorable daughter Lian, was offering to prepare a special dinner for some of his teammates (Donna Troy/Troia, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Wally West/Flash, and Tempest/Garth). Roy was making a batch of his mentor, Oliver Queen’s, infamous chili, along with a batch of Navajo fry bread. He’d been working on the chili all day to make sure that it came out perfectly, and Lian had been doing her best to help. Now, in a few minutes, they would finally get to serve it after adding a couple more touches to make the chili complete.
“You think this looks like enough brown sugar, hon?” Roy asked. The two Harpers carefully inspected the spoonful of brown crystals that was meant to be added to the chili.
“Maybe just a teeny bit more will be alright.” Lian put a lot of emphasis on “teeny.”
“My thoughts exactly.” After putting in the initial tablespoon, Roy added a bit more and stirred it in thoroughly.
“Can I get a taste?” Lian asked.
“Sure.” Roy took a spoonful from the pot, gently blew on it to make sure it didn’t burn Lian’s mouth, and gave it to her. Lian carefully tasted the chili, swallowed it, and then beamed at her father.
Roy looked extremely proud at the compliment.
“What was that?” Lian asked. She’d almost fallen off the chair before Roy caught her.
“Dunno.” Roy pulled out his communicator. “Yo, Wingman, what the heck are you guys doing?”
“Sorry Roy, but I think we might need some help. You got a minute?” Roy’s teammate Dick responded via the Titans communicator.
“Le sigh. Lian I’ll be right back, keep an eye on the chili, okay?”
“You can count on me, daddy.” Lian saluted her father.
“At ease, soldier.” Roy saluted back. He double-checked to make sure the oven was completely turned off before leaving the kitchen.
Lian fell off the chair this time, a few bottles of spices had been knocked over…
And Lian watched as the container of salt on the shelf above the chili tipped over, and a cascade of salt began to spill into the chili.
“Ahhh! No! Nononononono-“
Lian rushed to pull the chair back over to the kitchen counter and to stop the salt from ruining her father’s chili. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quick enough to reach it.
“The salt’s almost empty!” Lian gasped. “Oh no, daddy worked so hard on this what do I do?”
Lian looked over to the numerous containers of spices and chili powders Roy had left out on the counter. She had to work fast before Roy got back.
“Um let’s let’s see which did he use? Um, the chili powder, yeah! That’ll hide all the salt!”
Lian started vigorously adding in a certain blend of chili powder to the concoction. Somehow it felt like that wasn’t going to do the trick.
“Better use both, no, all of them. And maybe some of the cayenne and the, the cumin yeah, and where are the basil leaves I know they were-yeah! No that’s too much basil, where’s the cayenne?!”
As Lian haphazardly dumping in spices to try and cover up the damage the salt had done, she was sure she heard someone making their way towards the kitchen, so after quickly stirring around the extra touches she added to her father’s chili, she quickly dragged her chair back to where it was before and attempted to appear as if nothing had gone wrong.
“Yeesh, sorry ‘bout that princess.” Roy stopped when he saw Lian looked somewhat frazzled. “Hey, is everything alright?”
“Yeah! Of course. Everything’s fine daddy.” Lian quickly said with the best, least suspicious smile she could put on.
“Are you sure?” Roy placed a hand on her forehead. “You feel a little warm.”
“I’m just kinda excited about everyone getting to try Grandpa Ollie’s chili.” Lian brushed off her dad’s worry. “Maybe I’m a little scared they won’t like it.”
“Ah, don’t worry ‘bout it, child o’mine.” Roy kissed her on the forehead. “They’re gonna love it, you’ll see.”
“Ahaha, you’re right daddy.” Lian shifted in her seat.
“Wait’ll they get a load of this.” Roy said eagerly.
“I really don’t know what you were thinking, Wally.” Dick shook his head at his scarlet clad teammate, Wally West.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I did manage to avoid all of them.” Wally tried to avoid blame.
“We still have to repair that wall.”
“Those photos you took of Cerdian turned out amazing, Donna. Dolphin absolutely loves them.” Garth complimented Donna.
“It was my pleasure. Cerdian’s such a joy to be around.” Donna glowed. “Are the three of you still taking that trip to Scotland?”
“End of the month.”
“Okay kids, soup’s on!”
Roy triumphantly placed the heavy pot of chili on the table. There were also bowls of oyster crackers, chopped onions, and different kinds of grated cheese to garnish the chili if someone felt like it. Lian stood behind Roy trying to hide the fact that she was very scared about the whole thing.
“I can’t believe we let you talk us into this.” Wally shook his head.
“Come on Wally, I’m sure all those stories about Green Arrow’s chili are exaggerations.” Donna said.
“Well, this is the first time I’ve had it, but I know Arthur never goes near the stuff. Not after last time.” Garth reminisced.
“That hot?” Wally asked.
“Well it’s the first time the Atlantean Royal Palace had a plumber from the surface world come down, if you-“
“Please just stop there.” Donna blushed as she laughed at the thought of what Garth was getting towards.
“I’ve tried it before.” Dick explained. “Believe me, after the first taste it’s not that bad.”
“Well gee, Short Pants, thanks for ruining the surprise.” Roy said as he finished handing out bowls for his teammates.
Lian had crawled up onto her seat and kept her head down low, staring at her bowl of what was originally her dad’s chili. Now… she didn’t know.
“Okay, you’ve all signed your life insurance policies and said goodbye to your loved ones, right?” Roy inquired. Everyone groaned at his bad joke. Lian blinked.
“Awright, awright, let’s dig in!”
Time seemed to have slowed down as Lian observed her father, her surrogate aunt and uncles begin to eat the chili. The spoons slowly inched towards their open mouths, when-
“Crap, I forgot the bread.” Roy suddenly remembered he’d left the fry bread in the kitchen. “Uno momento, guys. Lian, hold down the fort for me kay?”
“Um, o-okay daddy.” Lian whispered.
“Back in a sec.”
Lian watched her father leave, and then quickly turned back to Donna and the others. They all seemed to be thoroughly chewing their spoonfuls before Lian heard four loud gulps. She held her breath.
“That was it?” Garth asked.
“Yeah, that wasn’t really hot at all, was it?” Donna looked down at her bowl.
“Heh. So much for Green Ar-“
And then the screaming began.
“IT BURNS! WHY DOES IT BURN SO MUCH?!” Wally clutched at his face and tried to get his mask off.
“I’M BLIND! ALL I SEE IS WHITE!” Donna frantically waved her hands in front of her face. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and her eyes looked painfully red.
Dick was holding onto his throat and seemed to be choking.
Garth had fallen out of his seat.
Lian looked terrified.
“Hey guys so the fry bread’s a little burnt but it’s not too bad if I do say so myself. Hope you don’t mind it on the crispy side.” Roy casually sauntered into the dining room holding a plate of somewhat blackened Navajo fry bread. “What’s everyone yelling a-“
“Oh God! My entire face is red!” Wally screamed at his reflection in the chili pot. It’s true. His bare skin had turned almost exactly the same shade of scarlet as his costume.
“Who said that?! Was it Wally?!” Donna shrieked, still waving her hands in front of her trying to sense what was going on. “Wait, wait my vision’s starting to come back. Garth, is that you on the floor?”
Roy didn’t blink. Donna’s eyes looked puffy and she couldn’t stop crying. Wally’s face had become indistinguishable to his costume. Dick appeared to be choking. Garth was on the floor convulsing. Lian looked horrified.
Roy set the bread down on the table, folded his arms across his chest, and looked thoroughly non-amused. He wasn’t buying the joke for a second.
“Ha ha, mi amigos. I know old Ol’s chili has got a reputation but seriously, you’re making Shatner look like an amateur.”
“What did you put in this?! Tar?” Wally had ripped off his mask and looked like he was having trouble breathing due to how badly he was sweating.
“Okay now you’re trying to hurt my feelings.” Roy pouted.
“Roy, I was literally BLIND for thirty seconds!” Donna’s eyes were red and puffy and tears ran down her cheeks. She had bent down and was trying to help Garth, who was on the floor and appeared to be convulsing.
“Et tu, Wonder Babe? Wait, you guys are being serious?” Roy’s expression had shifted from being faux hurt to being confused.
“DOES IT LOOK LIKE WE’RE NOT BEING SERIOUS?!” Wally almost got into Roy’s face and shouted that at him.
Roy was truly perplexed by the situation.
“I followed Ollie’s recipe exactly. It’s not THAT hot.”
“No, no way!” Dick finally spoke. It looked as if he’d been trying to fight back the urge to scream ever since that first faithful spoonful. “I’ve tried that man’s cooking and whatever THIS is, it’s definitely NOT his recipe!”
Lian shifted uncomfortable in her seat, while also trying to make sure she looked as tiny and unnoticeable as humanly possible.
“What the hell did you do, Roy?” Dick asked.
“I dunno.” Roy shrugged before he began scratching the back of his head, trying to think over what could have happened. He’d been so careful. “Maybe the pepper went bad or something? I’m sorry guys, I only wanted to do something nice-“
“WAAAAAA I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY EVERYONE I’M SORRY DADDYYYYYYYYY!” Lian, who had been silent throughout everything, couldn’t take the guilt much longer and threw herself at her father, burying her face in his leg.
“Lian! What are you talking about?” Roy asked his progeny as she began to spill her guts while also staining his pants with her tears.
“When you left the kitchen I saw the salt spill into your chili and by the time I got to it almost the whole thing had spilled in and so I tried to fix it with the spices n’ stuff you left out but I didn’t know what to do and I used too much and now everyone’s on fire and I KILLED UNCLE GILLHEAAAAAAAAAAAD!”
“Huh?” Someone said.
“N… not… Gillhead… Lian…” Donna had started to help Garth off the floor, and offered him a glass of milk. He looked very dehydrated.
“HE’S ALIVE!” Lian shouted with glee that she hadn’t committed unclecide, but then her lip began to quiver once more and she turned to her dad with tears beginning to manifest in the corners of her brown eyes. “But, but I still wrecked the chili and now everyone’s sick and it’s all my fault and I’m sorry daddy honest I didn’t mean to hurt anyone I swear!”
“Lian, Lian.” Roy soothed her and firmly placed his hands on her trembling shoulders. “Calm down, Etai Yazi. It’s okay.”
“But, but I-“
“Why didn’t you just tell me what happened?” Roy calmly asked her as he gently began wiping the tears from her eyes with a napkin.
“B-because you were working on this for so long and you wanted it to be perfect and I, I thought if I fixed it but I made everything worse and I’m sorry.” Lian’s chin quivered. She buried her face in her father’s chest and began to cry once more. Roy hugged her and tried to console her, but it wasn’t working. He looked to his friends, who were all very red faced and teary eyed. Surprisingly, though, he suddenly looked mad.
“Did the four of you have to start screaming just because the chili was a little hot?” Roy spoke through gritted teeth. He sounded practically venomous, and the glare he was giving off could’ve peeled the paint off a barn door. “You think maybe you could’ve just left the room instead of scaring my daughter out of her mind thinking you were dying?”
“Lian, honey, I, we, we’re sorry.” Donna apologized. “We shouldn’t have carried on like that.”
“Speak for your-“ Wally was cut off by Garth’s elbow to his stomach.
“No daddy don’t be mad at them this is my fault.” Lian took her face out of Roy’s midsection. Her eyes were almost as red as Donna’s.
“Lian, the next time something like this happens, you tell me, understand? It’s just chili. It’s not that big a deal.” Roy firmly told her. “But you have to be careful when preparing food, because sometimes too much of this or that really can hurt someone.”
“I-I know. I’m so sorry everybody.” Lian turned to Donna and the guys. “I-I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
“I wanna see how hot this stuff is myself.” Roy adamantly spoke, and bravely grabbed a spoonful from his own bowl of chili.
“No Daddy don’t-“ Lian protested. The others looked terrified.
“Roy what are you doing stop!” Donna cried out.
Too late. Roy had swallowed a spoonful of the doctored chili with a single gulp. He didn’t blink. Everyone in the room held their breaths just as Lian had earlier.
“This… this…” Roy seemed shock. Lian closed her eyes, preparing herself for-
“This is AMAZING!”
“What?” Lian whispered.
“WHAT?!” The other four Titans cried out.
“This is way better than Ollie’s recipe!” Roy could hardly believe what he’d eaten. It was like heaven itself. “I never thought a thing was possible!”
“Y-you really think so?” Lian wiped her eyes.
“Lian, I want to make it very clear that not telling me about what happened was wrong, and also that YES. Oh my God you’re a genius!” Roy gushed and smothered his daughter in a bear hug.
“T-thank you, daddy!” Lian cried out from unexpected happiness.
“You HAVE to tell me exactly what you did, but we need to cut back on the salt.” Roy explained.
“Oh yeah, too much salt.” Lian agreed.
“H-how is this possible?” Wally stammered.
“All those years eating Green Arrow’s chili I, I think he must’ve built up an immunity to the heat.” Dick, a man who had trained with Batman himself, didn’t think he’d ever seen anything as scary as Roy eagerly wolfing down the chili his daughter had prepared.
“Here Lian, try it!” Roy happily gave Lian her bowl back. Lian did try it.
“Wow! That is amazing!”
“I know, right?!”
“I have never seen anything more horrifying in my entire life.” Garth whispered.
“Or adorable.” Donna sighed.
“Is there a word for that?” Wally asked.
“Adorifying.” Dick responded.
“-and that’s how daddy and I invented our chili recipe!”
Lian had finished explaining the story to Iris and Jai West. The twins were spending the evening at the Harper household. They were inside the living room while Roy put Lian’s baby brother Tommy down for a nap before he got started on dinner.
“Donna didn’t really go blind, did she?” Iris asked.
“Yeah, no one’s skin actually turned red, did they?” This was Jai’s follow up question to his sister’s.
“Well…” It was true Lian had embellished a little bit in a few certain areas, but the majority of the story was true. “More or less that’s what happened.”
“Hey, how’s it hanging mi compadres?” Roy stuck his head into the living room to see how things were going.
“Hi daddy, is dinner ready?” Lian ran up to her dad.
“Just about. C’mon in guys, you can help set the table.” Roy motioned to the Wests.
“Cool, um, what are we having?” Iris asked.
Roy and Lian shot each other a conspiratorial glance.
“Oh, you know…” Lian trailed off.
“A favorite of ours.” Roy chuckled.
Iris and Jai gulped as Roy and Lian headed into the dining room, and then the kitchen, ahead of them.
“Should we tell them it’s pizza yet?” Roy whispered as the two Harpers watched Iris and Jai set the table in the dining room.
“Nah, not yet.” Lian giggled.
“You’re so evil, hon.” Roy ruffled her hair. “Makes a father proud.”
“I try, daddy. I try.”