The Penguin and the Raven

BY : AsylumWritings
Category: DC Verse Comics > Batman
Dragon prints: 76
Disclaimer: I do not own Batman/DC Comics, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Countess swathed in ebony
And snow-white balletic grace
Ruby lips procure the wish
For dusk and her embrace
Dusk… and Her Embrace, Cradle of Filth

I checked my makeup in the mirror, making sure I hadn’t smudged anything. It was my first time in the evening show, and even though I was only singing one song, I wanted to look perfect.

“Bree,” The stage manager poked her head in the door. “Time to go on.”

I nodded, standing and readjusting my dress. “How do I look?

“You look great, now come on.” She ushered me out to the backstage area, gesturing for me to go.

Lifting the edge of my deep red dress, I walked up the stairs and out onto the stage. There was a big crowd, which was to be expected. Friday nights at a club, even a nicer one like the Red Lantern, were always busy.

“Hello everyone.” I began, positioning myself behind the microphone. “My name is Brianna Grace, and I’m going to sing one of my favourites tonight. It’s called Every Little Movement. I hope you enjoy.”

I nodded to the band, and they began to play. There were a few bars before I would need to sing, and I took a chance to look out at the people watching. There were a few people I recognised, from my nights as a server, but mostly it was people I didn’t know.

Soon, it was time to start, and I gently took hold of microphone stand, letting the words slide out of me. It was a romantic, magical song, and I’d been wanting to sing it in front of people for a long time.

Every little movement
Every little thing you do
Is it sleight of hand that commands
My heart to love you?

As I moved to the music, continuing through the song, I could see that the audience was engaged, at least the people I could see anyway. It made me happy and I worked even harder for them. Unfortunately, the song had to come to an end eventually, so I put in my best performance in the final verse.

You could bind me in blindfolds
You could put my heart in chains
You could make the world vanish
But my Spanish love remains

I let the final note ring in the air, as the rest of the music slowly faded out. The applause was loud, and I found myself blushing.

“Thank you, everyone. I’ll be back next week.” I curtsied and carefully walked off the stage.

Back in the dressing room, I changed into a nice, but much easier to move in, cocktail dress. Then I headed out into the actual bar area for a drink. Molly, the curly-haired bar manager, was my best friend and housemate, and I was glad she was on to see my first song.

She saw me waiting and poured me a rum and coke, carrying it over to me.

“You were amazing up there, Bree!” She gushed. “Did you enjoy yourself?”

“I had a great time. I’ve been waiting so long for this.”

Other people were turning up at the bar, so she had to leave, but she gave me a big smile and a second drink before she left. I sipped at my drink, nearly ready to go home, but then a man sat down on the stool beside me. I noticed him straight away, from his well-tailored suit to his sharp jaw. He was probably late 20s - early 30s, so only a couple of years older than me.

“You have a beautiful voice.” He commented quietly, in an obvious British accent.

“Oh! Thank you.” I replied, blushing again, hoping he wouldn’t see it through my stage makeup. “I haven’t seen you around before, are you new in Gotham?”

“Newly returned. Used to live here as a young boy.”

I turned in my seat to face him a little better. “What brings you back?”

“You ask a lot of questions, love.”

“I’m a curious person.” I shrugged, a little hurt as I finished my drink. “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

Before he could say anything, I slid off the stool and headed out the door. I was tired, and I didn’t feel like dealing with someone criticising me like that for being who I am. Molly and I only lived round the corner, maybe a ten minute walk. We lived in a fairly nice neighbourhood, but it was still Gotham, so I couldn’t always be certain about how safe I was.

Luckily, it was still early, and people were still out and about, so it was safe enough to get home. I walked straight into my bedroom to change, then to the kitchen to reheat my leftovers from the previous night.

I was in the lounge, watching a show on Netflix, when Molly got home at midnight.

“What happened?” She asked, sitting down beside me. “You left pretty suddenly.”

“That guy I was talking to, the British one? He told me I asked too many questions. I don’t have time for that, so I bounced.”

“Oh… So I’m guessing you don’t want this then?” She pulled out a napkin with a phone number on it.

“Did he give you his number?” I took it from her. Above the number was the name Oz.

“No, Bee. He gave you his number. Told me to hand it over when I saw you next. He said to tell you that he’d really like to see you again.” She saw the last of my noodles on the coffee table. “Ooh, I’m stealing these.”

“Hey!” I laughed, as she began to eat them.

“So,” She began, between mouthfuls. “Are you going to call him?”

I bit my lip, looking down at the phone number. “He insulted me, Mol.”

“Are you sure?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

She placed her hand on my arm. “Well… ever since you broke up with the asshole, you’ve been closed off to other men flirting with you. You find any reason to not even try.”

I was silent, thinking back over a the brief conversation I’d had. “He said I ask a lot of questions.”

“That’s hardly an insult. Mostly because it’s the truth.” She stood up, the empty bowl in her hands. “He clearly wasn’t too upset by you leaving, since he still wants to see you.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“You’d better.” She ruffled my hair, heading out to the kitchen. “I’m heading to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I have the afternoon bar shift tomorrow, so probably won’t see you until after.”

He sat in his hotel room, tapping his fingers on the table while he thought. There was something dark inside this woman, and he wanted to pry it out of her. There was still the matter of why he was back in Gotham though, so he couldn’t let himself get too distracted. Still, his interest in her was undeniable, and he was determined to discover her secrets.

The afternoon shift was a little slow, which was nice. I loved having time to talk to customers between the work I had to do. It was busy enough that I didn’t have time to stop and think though, so when Oz came in again, I didn’t know exactly what to say to him. He somehow managed to find the quietest part of my shift too, so it wasn’t like I could avoid him.

“Sorry for last night.” I handed over his drink. “It’s been a rough few months, and I think I just panicked.”

“We’ve all been there.” He drank some, then looked up at me. “I’m sorry if I said something that offended you.”

“You didn’t.” I pulled the pack of straws from under the bar, refilling each of the holders. “I do tend to ask too many questions and pry a little. I like knowing things about people.”

“I wouldn’t want to stop you being who you are.” He thought for a moment. “Can I buy you a drink when you finish your shift?”

“Sure. I finish in an hour and a half.”

He gave me a sweet smile, finished his drink, then headed back out. I wanted to know more, and even though my hesitations were still there in the back of my mind, I knew Mol was right. I had been avoiding even really talking to men outside of my work. I didn’t want to keep being stuck in my bad memories, and now I was determined to get out.

The rest of my shift was a bit of a blur, but finally it was clock off time, and Oz walked through the door. It was getting busy by that point so I gestured for him to follow me to a small booth at the back.

“How was the rest of your shift?” He asked, handing me my drink and sitting across from me.

“It was a slow one. But it’s nice to have a slow shift sometimes.”

“Do you work everyday?”

“Now who’s asking all the questions?” I asked, slyly.

“I guess you have me there.” He looked me over with his grey eyes. “How about this, a question for a question?”

I stirred the ice in my drink with my straw, resting my chin in my other hand as I looked at him.

“Alright. You first.”

He nodded, taking a sip of his drink. “Have you always lived in Gotham?”

“Sadly yes. I’ve never even been out of the state.” I bit my lip. “Where were you living before you came back here?”

“Here and there around the UK. How long have you been working here?”

“Two years.”

Our conversation continued for a couple of hours, as we exchanged life stories and drank. He had a way of telling his story that made me just want to keep listening. I don’t know whether it was his accent, his voice, or just how he spoke, but I wanted to hear more.

“I really should get home soon.” I said, as one of the servers dropped another round in front of us.

“After this round, I’ll make sure you get home safe.” He tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear, his fingers softly brushing my cheek. “I think there’s time for you to ask one more question, love.”

I didn’t even have to think. “Can I see you again soon?”

His hand hadn’t left my face, and the feeling of his thumb sliding back and forth along my jaw made my heart pound in my chest.

“Only if you let me take you somewhere nice.”

“I’d like that.” I reached for a napkin, writing my number down and handing it to him.

“Come on, let’s get you home.” He stood up, holding out his hand to me.

We walked the short walk to my apartment, stopping at the security door.

“Thank you for tonight.” I whispered, feeling myself blush a little.

“It was my pleasure.” He leaned in, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “Goodnight, Brianna.”

“You can call me Bree, or Bee.” I tucked my hair behind my ears. “I rarely go by my whole name.”

I walked inside unsteadily, thankful that my apartment was only a couple of floors up. Opening the front door, I could hear the TV, so Mol was still awake.

“So? How was the date?” She asked, as I dropped my bag on the armchair.

“It was good.” I tried to hide my blush.

“Just good?” She grinned. “You should tell your face that.”

“Alright, it was really good. He seems very nice, and we just talked a lot.” I swayed a little, still pretty drunk. “I’m gonna go to bed and sleep this off. I’ll see you in the morning.”

He watched her enter the apartment building, before quietly turning and heading down the street. She was beautiful, he could see that, but she was so shy. It seemed odd to him, how she could get up on stage and be so confident, but then seem so quiet when he was talking to her. He was sure that seeing her again would be interesting.

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