It was nearly pitch black. The lantern on the floor next to the basin provided the only light, and it was a flickering, sickly yellow light that cast freakish shadows across everything in the room.
She didn't care. The only sound was the soft lapping of the water whenever she moved, and the rosewater she'd added was enough to cover the stench, if she kept her nose close enough to the water. That meant that she was slumped down low, the water covering her mouth, and her legs hanging over the edge of the small basin, one crossed over the other. It was relaxing in its own macabre way, and that was the best she could do at the moment.
The basin was barely big enough for her small form, even with her legs hanging out of it. Mr. T. had bought it at the pawn shop down the street when they realized that all that blood made the dirt floor into a sticky, sickly mess. The meat didn't care that it couldn't all fit properly into the basin, and anyway once Mr. T. made the large cuts they could pile the pieces on top of each other while they finished the carving. And it was lovely how the basin caught all that blood.
She heard a muffled noise from the stairs and looked over. He was carrying a pile of clothing down the steps, with a lantern hanging from his elbow, and he was muttering to himself. She caught the word "Judge" and exhaled in frustration, though her breath underwater turned into an absurd uprising of bubbles. He stopped dead in his tracks at the sound, a few steps from the bottom, and whipped his head towards her, seeing only the guttering light reflected in the water's surface and in her eyes.
She pushed herself up, raising her head above the water and folding her legs back into the basin. The water lapped gently around her shoulders and dripped from her hair and the tips of her ears, nose, and chin. "Whatcher doin', Mr. T.?" she asked nonchalantly, breaking him out of his trance.
He blinked once, and then looked down at the clothes in his arms. "Once I looked at these in the light, it was clear that they have too much blood on them to pawn…blood…" He stuttered, blinked again, and looked back at her. "Mrs. Lovett, why are you bathing in that filthy tub?"
"Ow, come off it. I cleaned it first. 'Sides, where else is a lady supposed to get some respite from back-breakin' labor such as ours?" She raised her arms out of the water and rested them on the rim of the basin, dripping water onto the floor from her dangling fingertips. He was giving her the most disgusted sidelong glance, appalled that she'd even consider the idea. She smiled, one side of her mouth quirking higher than the other, amused at his revulsion. "Oi, Mr. T., don't tell me yer squeamish."
His lip curled up slowly, as if he hadn't heard her, and then he rapidly shook his head. "No, no, not at all. It's just…a lady of good breeding ought not to…erm…" He broke off, unsure of how to phrase this unusual chastisement.
"You and I both know I ain't no lady of good breeding," she said, subtly raising herself further out of the water as she did so, the tops of her breasts now visible in the flickering light. His eyes flicked down and back up quickly and guiltily before he spun and walked towards the oven with the pile of soiled clothing. She rolled her eyes; her nipples weren't even visible, and he was already acting prudish.
He had thrown the clothes into the oven and was sprinkling kindling on them. Lighting a stick from the lantern, he touched the flame to the kindling and watched as the cloth quickly caught fire. The light from the oven played over his features, hot and red and almost glowing on his pale skin. She could see the wheels in his brain turning again as he stared into the flames—or, rather, the wheel, since it was just the same thing over and over. Judge, Lucy, Johanna, Judge, Lucy, Johanna, on and on.
"Screaming Jesus Christ, give it a rest!" The moment she opened her mouth, she knew she shouldn't have spoken. He turned his head very slowly towards her; half his face was still aflame while the other was completely in shadow, his eyes glittering with the beginnings of anger. She took a deep breath, her breasts rising and falling in the water, and continued, against her better judgement. "You ain't going to get 'em here and now, in this bloody basement, and all your thinkin' and plannin' aren't movin' forward now neither." He blinked once, his eyes large and glassy. She glanced down at his fingers, which were flexing in and out ever so slightly, building tension.
She twisted in the tub, folding both her arms on one side and resting her chin on them so she was facing him directly. Water sloshed over the rim and onto the dirt floor. She was already over the line with him…what the hell. Looking straight into his eyes, she said, "There's only one thing you can get in this basement, dearie."
He was on her before she could react, his hand around her throat, pushing downward. If the tub had been any larger he could have drowned her, but since her whole body was folded into it already, he couldn't push her under the water at all. She braced her arms on the edge of the tub and froze, waiting for him to release her, conserving her breath. This action from him wasn't exactly a surprise. Locking eyes with him again, she watched the seething fire die down as she felt his fingers relax around her neck just slightly.
"Come on, Mr. T., don' be like that," she crooned. She reached out and took the hand that wasn't around her throat, intertwining their fingers and then resting their hands on the edge of the tub once more. "Be reasonable, love. Nothin' you can do now, and you know it." She inhaled deeply, her throat straining against his hand, and she saw him glance down at her breasts again. She smiled with pleasure, noting that his eyes lingered a little longer and a little less guiltily this time. "We'll just keep the shop goin', keep the customers comin', and you know I'm gonna help you get 'em when the time is right. But 't'ain't right yet, love."
He sighed, dropping his hand from her throat defeatedly. His fingers were trailing at the very surface of the water, and he was looking away from her into the fire again. She craned her neck, trying to look into his eyes again, but she couldn't see his face. Grabbing his free hand with her other one, she joked, "Better get those fingers out of the water before they get all wrinkly like mine, Mr. T." She gave the hand a small tug, trying to catch his attention again. His head twitched very slightly towards her before going back to the fire. Clearly, more drastic measures needed to be taken but without scaring him off again. She rolled her eyes again and then swiftly pulled his hand up to her face and closed her lips around his first finger.
That got his attention. He turned back towards her and cocked his head slightly, almost like a dog. He seemed to be confused about why his finger was in her mouth. His incongrous innocence today continued to amuse her. She smiled around his finger, her teeth lightly holding onto his second knuckle, her lips parted wide. She swirled her tongue around a couple times and then withdrew the finger and giggled. "What's the matter, Mr. T.?" She pressed her lips to his knuckle again. "Never had no one do that before?" Surely Lucy, that purest of the pure, had never done anything to him that Nellie would consider fun…but she couldn't risk mentioning the woman by name.
He shook his head slowly. "No." He was looking at her lips again, and he reached his finger back out to touch them, tentatively and curiously, as if he'd never seen them before. He ran the tip of his finger over her full lower lip once, slowly, his face deep in concentration. She smiled again, close-lipped, his finger at the corner of her mouth that pulled higher in her crooked smirk. Nipping lightly at the tip of his finger with her eye teeth, she felt the points of her teeth sliding over his rough skin and felt particularly carnivorous. She wanted more of him, always, but getting him into it was always a particular challenge. And it was never soft with him, though that usually wasn't a problem for her. Her tastes had always been raw.