He'd been making a study of human expressions, broadening his horizons, so to speak. He'd been told he couldn't recognise pain and sorrow as well as other emotions. He saw anger, he saw happy, and he'd been told once that maybe the reason he hurt people was because he couldn't recognise the facials signs that told him to stop.

He'd laughed at that. He saw pain and fear just fine; he was interested in what made people feel them, so of course he set up his own little experiments. Sometimes he even wore a white lab coat to get that professional feel. It was all about image, or so he was told, a trustworthy image as carefully crafted as his filthy purple suit and permanent bad hair day.

It was about the message.

And oh, oh, how his lady sent her message. She sent it with the easy confidence of her strides, the sidelong looks to see if she was being followed, the tightening of her lips that said she didn't want to be in this dingy bar, oh no she didn't, didn't want to meet with Maroni's man him, of course, in yet another costume designed to send a message to people, didn't want anything but dear old Gramma's hospital bills to go away.

He'd forced a shower upon himself who said psychopaths had poor self-control? for this date, gnashed his teeth and growled to himself as the water cleaned him off, washed away his face --- he would put it back on later. After. Post. Post-grin. Post-her. Right now he wanted to huddle at the end of the bar and watch her as she waited, jumpy in this nest of vipers that she herself was part of, part of but thinking she was better than, better than but just the same as.

Her face. Her face. Her beautiful face was all round eyes, round cheeks, full lips pulled into a frown, his lady was unhappy and he knew it, saw it --- he must be getting better at seeing emotions. Oh, but he had her grin already, all ready for her to make her happy again, and he would, he mused as he shoved away from the bar and sauntered over to her, he would make her smile.

"I knew this lady," he declared as he edged in between her and an overly-muscled Italian. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "She gave me an Anna grin every time she came around."

The nails of her left hand no ring there, his lady, ripe for the plucking, no one waiting at home and worrying, no one but Gramma-in-the-Hospital rapped sharply on the bar counter, the only sign of annoyance as he looked her up and down, the only sign of his grin the crinkling of the corners of his eyes.

"Is there a reason you're talking to me?"

Oh, she wounded him deep as she brushed him off, and he couldn't didn't stop the small snuffles of laughter the crept out of his scarf. He flicked his fingers at the bartender. "You look like you could use a drink. What's your poison? Jack an' Coke? Get my lady here a Jack an' Coke," he ordered, still grinning, his voice a natural whine but not whiney.

That was her cue, enter stage left, put on her best most reluctant smile and treat him nice. She cradled the drink but didn't partake not a drinker, his smile, just watched him out of her big round brown eyes, her hair today curled for the occasion he'd twisted his to get it curlier, aiming to impress his smile rather than frighten her and black in the dark lighting, her lips red like she never wore at work just one of the guys.

He slipped into a drawl, watching the reflection of neon in her brown eyes from far too close. "What's your name, love? What's your story? I'm a great dancer; take a twirl with me."

Charming, charming, Mr. Charming, that was his name, that was what got her off of the bar stool and on to the dance floor, resting her cheek against his shoulder while they rocked to the music, her curls tickling against his nose as he breathed in her perfume vanilla had always been a favourite of his, how had she known? his oh-so-magic lady and reveled in the warmth of a body close to his that wasn't quaking with fear or revulsion, no, his lady would never treat him like that, would she? Not while he wore her grin.

Oh, she probably would, who was he kidding? But for now she held him as his muscles tensed and his skin ached for want of the contact, him greedily tightening his grip, delighted at the body that was fuller than the squeeze's, curvier, better fed and what was it with women imitating stick-bugs?, more comfortable to touch because he couldn't break his lady, not this one, not his smile, oh-no.

She tried to speak and he raised their entwined hands in the dark-musty room dark like her to place them on her lips; he wasn't here to talk about Maroni or the plan or the Dent he needed to iron out noooo, he was here for her, for his smile and the plan would wait until the next day.

"Take me home," he eagerly demanded two drinks and four or eight dances later, as the musty-dark was replaced by garish-bright, the cold wind let inside from the open stable doors as the herd was put out to pasture for the night. Now her eyebrows twitched, now he placed discomfort and unease and perhaps a little fear you could teach an old dog new tricks cross her round-pretty face as she told him no of course not, but she would in time because he owned his smile, he always had and always would but she would call him a cab and he laughed, almost pulling his smile-hiding scarf down as his head fell back and he shook, he laughed and laughed and then brought their faces together, rubbing the tips of their noses in an Eskimo kiss like he'd gotten as a boy, holding her cheeks in his palms and snickering to himself.

Then he wished her a good night and walked off down the street, swinging his arms as he went, singing.

"Goodnight, sweetheart, we-ell, it's time to go-o-o . . . Goodnight, sweetheart, we-ell, it's time to go-o-o . . . I hate to leave you but I really must say-y-y, goodnight, sweetheart, goodni-ight . . ."