*Oswald "the Penguin" Cobblepot (c) DC, the stab-happy bastard. ;_;

Touch

Silence, at the table. It didn't make her uncomfortable, anymore; she had grown more-or-less used to it. At first, it had slightly unnerved here, as she had always learned to associate silence with punishment. Noise meant life; it meant emotion... and silence a lack thereof.

But silence meant something different, with Oswald. It meant peace; it meant that he was thinking, that he was safe. She was always happy, when he felt that way around her, and she might even say that she had come to love his silence.

"Ozzie?" Cassandra questioned, breaking the silence in a way she hoped was gentle enough for him. Sometimes when she would speak up after a long silence, he would flinch at the noise, and she hated that, "Can I ask you something?"

He lifted something from the table, probably his glass, to allow himself a few seconds to finish his thinking as he took a drink, and at last he replied, "Anything, dove."

A smile curved the side of Cassandra's lips, and she raised a hand to push a bit of her bangs behind her ears, "Oh, get over it, he calls you that all the time," she muttered at herself under her breath. But it still made her happy, "What is it that you do?"

His tone indicated surprise, "As I've said, I run a very successful nightclub-"

"The Iceberg Lounge," Cassandra agreed, "I know that. But at the club, what is it you do when you're there?"

"I murder people in the back rooms."

More silence. "Stop laughing at me," Cassandra frowned fondly.

"I'm not," Oswald replied lightly, a smile in his voice.

"Came over here so I can hit you," Cassandra huffed, and received a chuckle. She smiled toward him, "but seriously. It must be all sorts of exciting, with the music and the lights and stuff." Her chin dipped toward her chest in embarrassment, "'all sorts'? What are you, twelve...?"

There was an endearment, in his voice, when he spoke again, "Actually, I sometimes find the entire affair to be quite boring. The most I do is paperwork, sometimes I'll meet with an artist I'm interested in sponsoring. Occasionally there is need of my presence for security matters... but all and all, it's late nights and hard work."

Silence again. Maybe he was taking another drink. Cassandra waited for him to go on, before remembering how very shy he was, in conversations, "Do you meet a lot of musicians?" she asked at last.

"A few."

Cassandra paused. He was still quiet, probably watching her, and at last she said, "Oswald, I don't think I've ever asked you, but... what kind of music do you like?"

He seemed puzzled, "At the club, we play all sorts of things," he answered slowly, "things the patrons can dance to. Samba, swing, the like."

She chuckled, "Ozzie, I asked about you, not about the club."

"Oh." he was quiet again, and she was afraid that he had decided not to answer again, before at last he composed his response, "Jazz."

"Jazz?" Cassandra said, her fingers finding the tabletop as she leaned forward in interest, "Really? What kinds of jazz?"

"Ellington, Glenn Miller, Coltrane, and anything in between," Oswald clarified. His voice quieted in shy suspicion, at her expression, "Do you know who they are?"

"Uh," Cassandra, her face reddening, and she took to plucking her bangs behind her ears once more, "I'm sorry, I don't. I just listen to what's on the radio, I haven't listened to a lot of jazz..." she lowered her voice, scolding herself again, "obviously."

A loud sound, the sound of chair legs scraping against marble tiles, and she knew Oswald was on his feet. A few short steps coming toward her, and Cassandra was slightly surprised, when he took her hand, his voice closer than she had thought it would be, "Come with me."

He was leading her carefully, but quickly. She stumbled a time or two, and he stammered apologize, before they continued onward. Their footsteps echoed through the empty halls of the manor, and he said nothing further, as he led her through the twisted stairways and cold doorways.

The scent told her where they had arrived- it was a mixture of dust, furniture oil, and Oswald's cologne. His bedroom. She had only been here a few times before, and only fleetingly. Oswald was a man who was stubborn about his privacy, she even had her own room, when she stayed here... and he never stayed long with her, in the evenings. The smell of the room was not half as shocking as the size of it, as it was the smallest bedroom in the entire manor.

He had explained at some point how he hated the cold.

Oswald released her hand and returned to the door, shutting it quietly behind them. "Ozzie?" Cassandra questioned, as he brushed past her again. Shuffling noises answered her, and she was still, still breathing in the smell of the air, finding it not at all unpleasant. The gentle scratch of a record needle made her jump slightly, and as a piano tune started softly, a relieved smile washed across her face. "I thought..." but she fell silent, and listened.

She hadn't heard a lot of jazz, but the song still seemed familiar to her, the drumming bass, the cold run of the guitar, the deep, brassy controlled melody of the woman singing... "Ozzie, what is this?"

His hand found hers again, "Jazz," he answered in a hushed tone, as if he would interrupt the performance, "More notably, Carmen McRae," he fell silent, listening with her.

The song drummed on, softly, but the presence of the music was what commanded silence. She'd never quite experienced anything like it, and her imagination wandered to the scent of cigars and the taste of vermouth. Oswald gently pulled her hand, bringing her out of her daze, and she blinked as he kissed her.

"Did you like it?" He questioned, after the song had ended.

"Yes," Cassandra answered, smiling again as he lifted her hand to kiss her palm, "I like the way it sounds. Which I guess sounds kind of stupid, but... things I can't touch, I just have to listen to... and imagine what they would feel like. So, I suppose... I like the way it feels." She lowered her voice, "which sounds pretty stupid..."

"Stop doing that." his fingers tightened around hers. His tone was cold.

"What?" Cassandra questioned, bewildered.

"Degrading yourself like that. I understand why you talk to yourself, sometimes, but you shouldn't insult yourself," Oswald let go of her hand, his reprimand the loss of his touch; "You never sound stupid. Never even remotely. It angers me greatly to hear any insult toward you, particularly when you're the one doing the insulting."

Cassandra felt shame creep up her neck, "I'm sorry, Oswald, I just-"

"Just nothing. If I heard anyone saying something even vaguely like what you say about yourself, they'd be dead," she felt his gloved fingertips on her cheek, and the edge on his voice softened, "I won't permit it."

"I'm not perfect," Cassandra replied hopelessly, still ashamed.

"Yes, you are." his touch left her again, and she knew that this time, it was no punishment, but a recoil, and his voice grew gravely, pained, "You just don't understand how perfect you are."

She knew that tone. He was going to shut down on her again, "Ozzie," she asked, with as much courage as she could muster, "When will you let me touch your face?"

The silence in the air this time was weaker than the traces of cigarette smoke from the curtains, "I don't know," Oswald answered.

"Please let me touch your face," Cassandra whispered, stretching out a hand toward him, "please, Ozzie, just once?"

She hadn't heard when he'd moved so far away from her, and his answer was so small, she nearly couldn't hear it over the jazz record, "No."

Cassandra's sightless eyes filled with tears, behind her dark glasses, falling from her lashes and striking down her face before she could stop them, "And you tell me to stop hating myself," she said, hurt and angry, "I ilove/i you, and you've never even let me see who you are." She turned away from his voce and the music, finding her way back to the door and letting herself out into the hall.

xXx

It was that same night Cassandra found her way back to his bedroom again, thought truthfully she didn't know how. The horrid drum of the monotonous rain that plagued nearly every moment of Gotham this time of year had woken her, she hadn't known what time it was. It was dark and cold and she had found her glasses on her bedside table when she had left them, rubbing at her itchy, tear-stiffened lashes before donning them, muttering to herself, "As if anyone will be around to see..." She threw on a robe and made her way out into the cold of the house.

The rush of the rain echoing through the halls made her shiver, her toes nearly numb with cold as she strode carefully along the carpeted wood floor. What had possessed her to go to Oswald's room, she couldn't say, but finding it turned out to be less of a challenge than she had thought. Stairs were slow progress, but the closer she felt she got, the swifter and surer her steps became. The smell of the smoke in the curtains and the carpet cleaner were nearly drowned out by the dusky smell of the rain... but his cologne was unmistakable.

She did not knock, when she reached the door. Perhaps she still felt angry with him, perhaps she was scared that she had gotten lost again. All the same, the hinges were completely silent when she twisted the cold knob and pulled, and the only sound came from her frozen feet shuffling across the threshold and the door shutting behind her.

The sound of the rain was greatly muted, as if a cool, still blanket had been pressed over her burning ears. It made her breath shorten and her heart start to thunder in her chest. What was she doing here? Would she yell at him again? Her stomach clenched and twisted, and she thought of backing out and finding her way back to her room... but the thought of the rain pounding at her head again made her stay.

She stretched her hands out into the room. Was it... left...? Wasn't there a table, there? Cassandra's face burned, as she crept forward in the dark, slightly crouched, hands outstretched for any possible obstructions. Her back was hurting, as she moved onward, and it seemed an eternity before her fingers graced anything at all.

Wood, she guessed, polished angles and smooth curves. She grasped her fingers around it, finding it circular, and not much bigger around than her arm. The cold dissipated under her touch, and as she leaned toward it, cloth brushed her face, and she flinched away. Her hands followed the cloth and the wooden pillar, making out a corner, and it wasn't much longer before she realized what she was touching; Oswald's bed.

Cassandra swallowed, and followed the bed up the side. The curtain still brushed her hand, as she walked, before giving way, slightly open. She lowered her hand to the blankets, finding them warm. Without a word, Cassandra pulled at the blankets, lowering herself to the mattress and slipping in under the sheets.

Oswald was curled on his side facing her, and he stirred awake when her wrist brushed his shoulder, expanding with a soft sigh and rumbling, "What is it? What's happening?"

"It's me," Cassandra replied, feeling suddenly foolish, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't sleep, and... Oswald, I'm sorry, I know how you..." She pushed her loose hair behind her ears nervously again, "I just..."

"Your feet are freezing, dove," he said, his voice still raspy with sleep, and he pulled her closer, tucking her cold feet between his knees, warming them, "there. Better?"

"I'm sorry," Cassandra stammered, though taking comfort in the warmth he offered, "this place is just so cold sometimes..."

"Don't I know," he agreed in a murmur. It took her a bit to realize that he had lapsed into silence, and possible slumber, again. She was also aware that he held both her hand in his own.

"But I meant what I said," Cassandra finished quietly, "I... I want to see you."

He was awake. She knew he was, by the way his muscles tensed. The rain outside seemed to find its way into the room, invading the silence and answering for him. Oswald swallowed.

"I'm tired of just hearing you. I mean, not that I don't love hearing you, but... I just have to see you. I know what you've said, that people know you for what you look like-"

"Cassandra," he whispered quietly. His hands were tight around hers, and she nearly lost her conviction, when he whimpered, "please."

"I can't go on not knowing who you are," Cassandra replied firmly, even a little coldly, the tone she had heard him use a dozen times over to command respect, "let me see you, Ozzie."

His pulse was thundering, she could feel his skin begin to heat, "I-I can't- you-"

"Nothing will change, Oswald," she whispered in assurance, but tears were brimming in her eyes, when she pulled her hands free of his weakened grip, "I promise. I love you..."

Her fingertips touched his cheek first, and he flinched away with a sharp sound. Cassandra pressed forward, her teeth digging into her bottom lip painfully, and she whispered his name again to calm him, and her hand expanded over the side of his face.

His skin was smooth, and hot. A day-old stubble prickled on his cheek, his eyelashes flicked against her palm as her thumb followed a thick eyebrow, across his tall forehead to a widow's peak. His hair was soft, and thick. Her fingers traveled down, across his boneless cheek, to his chin, small and trembling. That was when she found his nose.

She was suddenly aware that he was shivering from head to toe.

Cassandra inhaled in surprise as she felt his nose. It was a very large nose, with wide-set nostrils and a long, slow curve, with a sharp downward hook. It fascinated her, and she spent much of her exploration on it, breath still in her throat as she mapped his features with her touch.

"Cassandra, I'm sorry- I lied to you, I-"

"You're beautiful," she stammered.

He sobbed dryly, "You can't mean that."

"I do," she insisted, elation humming through her system, "It's like meeting you again, I've seen you for the first time... and you're amazing."

"You're lying!" Oswald spat, his voice more of fear and hurt than anger, "I'm hideous, a monster!"

"There's no one else like you," Cassandra said, her hand still on his cheek, "no one else feels like you. I've never seen anyone like you. That's what makes you beautiful."

"You can't mean that," he repeated, and his tears were hot on her fingers. Cassandra brushed them away with her palms, and pulled him to her. He buried his face in her neck and trembled.

"Thank you so much," Cassandra murmured into his hair, tightening her arms around him. "I think I'll take you up on that trip to the Lounge, if I'm still invited," she smiled, and he chuckled weakly. She raised a hand to pull her glasses from her face, flinging them into the dark.

xXx

END.