Disclaimer: I don't own anything, except for a part of the plot.
Many thanks to Mary for betareading.
Just a dream
Although it was far after midnight, the temperature in London was still unusually high. It has been decades ago when the city had known such a heat wave. Mrs. Lovett was lying restless in her bed and kicked the blankets from her body, hoping to escape from the warmth. It didn't really help; her room was above the cellar where the oven had been burning all day.
It had been like this for countless days. At first people had loved the warmth instead of the fog and wetness they were used to, but now everybody was sick and tired of the heat and the lack of water and did nothing but complaining about it. The customers, other shop owners, even the always-accepting Toby. The only one who didn't seem to be bothered by the heat was Mr. Todd. Maybe he was used to the terrible heat from Australia; he was still wearing his heavy black clothes like he just didn't feel the warmth.
The man endlessly paced in his barber shop and slit the throats of the few customers that still could find the energy to visit him. The thought of the barber was enough to forget her messy bedding and stuffy bedroom for a while. His chilly hands would be such a relief for her skin, which was tormented by the sun in the few minutes she had been outside that day.
A few minutes passed when she allowed herself to fantasy about Mr. Todd. Even if his hands would be made out of ice they would only let her temperature rise. And that damn nightgown…it was made for cold nights, not the hellish heat the city was confronted with those days. Her fingers toyed with the fabric for a few seconds while a tempting thought entered her mind. It was very improper… but surely no one would notice if she'd put it out, if she would try to sleep naked… maybe her body would find then the comfort it needed.
She stepped out her bed and peeked through the open door. In the background Toby was lying on the couch in her living room, an almost empty bottle of gin in his hand. He certainly wouldn't notice anything if she would close the door. Except for Toby there was no one else who was near, except for Mr. Todd. And he… well. Like he would come to visit her. She smiled sarcastically. Of course not. She closed the door, just to be sure, before she took of the nightgown.
One second the air on her skin gave the illusion of coolness to reveal just after that it didn't make a difference, except for the fact she could move freely now. She walked through the small room, waving her arms through the air, trying to create the slightest breeze, but of course, in vain. She lay down in her bed again and stared to the ceiling wondering what Mr. Todd was up to. Nothing good probably. Impossible man… when would he see how useless his actions were… like killing the Judge and all those customers would save Johanna or bring back Lucy's sanity… or her life, cause that's what he thought after all.
"Never," she said to herself just before she dozed off again. "He'll never realize."
Only a few minutes later she woke up with a start. The door had squeezed, she was sure of it. And usually the door didn't squeeze... only when someone… had Toby waken up after all? Feigning to be sleeping, she turned around, opening her eyes just a little. A silhouette was in the doorway, carrying an oil lamp. She couldn't see much but it certainly wasn't Toby.
Her heart moved faster and her temperature rose again.
The person didn't answer but moved the oil lamp in front of him so the flickering flame chased away the darkness that surrounded her. Only then she realized she wasn't wearing her nightgown. As fast as she could she covered her body with the single blanket she bad been lying on.
"Who are you?" she asked a bit shakily.
"No need to be afraid," a very familiar voice said.
"Mr. T.? What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep."
It wasn't an answer to her question at all, but he was the only person from who she could accept it.
"It's hot, isn't it?"
She tried to get control over the situation by some small talk, feeling insecure and slightly threatened by him when he was standing there like a ghost.
"It isn't hot at all. Compared to the deserts of Australia…"
Inwardly she sighed. She didn't want to hear those depressing stories. She didn't want to know what he had been through, for it only made her love him more.
"It isn't really warm here. It's warmer upstairs," he finally said.
"Than why are you here?" she dared to ask.
He eyed her from top to toe with eyes that seemed to look directly through the single sheet that was pressed against her body.
"You look overheated,' he said neutrally.
He touched her forehead with his slender hand.
"Your skin is extremely warm, Mrs. Lovett."
For the first time in weeks she actually shivered. His touch was just like she had imagined, perfectly cold, and his hand was even more pleasant when it lingered on her skin just a few seconds too long.
"Mrs. Lovett, you need to cool off."
"Who shouldn't?' she asked absentmindedly, since she had to focus on holding the blanket so she wouldn't drop it in her excitement. Not that she would really mind if he would see her naked now but she didn't want to push him away. She never did, but especially not at this moment.
"You really should."
"There isn't anything left in London which hasn't melted yet, Mr. T. You're the only one who hasn't yet, I think."
"Melted, huh? I'm not so sure about that."
To her surprise he sat down on her bed.
"Turn around," he commanded.
Something deep inside her made her obey blindly and she didn't resist when he removed the blanket from her body.
Again she did as he asked, not caring anymore for her exposed body. Her eyes were closed; she was waiting for whatever he intended to do with her. Being surrendered to him so much was both thrilling and scary.
She forced her muscles and nerves to be ready, yet his cold hands on her back were a total surprise. She gasped for air though this time it wasn't the delicious coldness of his hands which made her go wild; it where his hands themselves, which were teasing her skin.
"Mr. T. what are you doing?"
"Making sure you won't melt."
The way he said it and touched her did make her melt, but she didn't feel like telling him that – of course not. He laid his hand flat on her back, thus cooling her skin but made her inner fire burn.
"Is this better?"
"Yes," she said, trying to keep her voice normal.
"And this?" he placed his hands a bit higher. "Better?""
Inch after inch he covered her back with his hands, which remained heavenly chilly, no matter how hot the skin he cooled was.
The entire situation was totally bizarre, but she wasn't one to question his motives. His hands left her body and for a moment she had to miss his attention she craved so much, but then his lips touched her skin. Not just touching, but licking and teasing and kissing and biting playfully, caressing her like no one had ever done. She had to hide her face in her pillow to mute the sighs of pleasure which escaped her lips – the last thing she wanted was Toby to show up, now finally, finally was happening what she had craved for so long.
He shoved her hair aside so he could kiss her neck, while tenderly caressing her shoulders. She completely relaxed under his touch, knowing this was the closest to heaven she would ever get.
Then he hesitated. His kisses faltered, and just after that he moved away from her.
"Mr. T.? What's wrong?"
She looked him in the eyes; there was something she had never expected to see there. It almost seemed like he actually cared for her, and maybe even more, yet there was something else: doubt.
"I… I need you," he finally said.
For the first time he actually sounded like Benjamin Barker instead of the demon he had become. He was like the man she had wanted him to be: able to love others instead of Lucy. Able to love her.
"It's alright," she said.
She reached for him, knowing that he wouldn't make the final step himself. She unbuttoned his shirt, but when she was halfway, he stopped her.
"Not in that way," he almost whispered.
"I don't know what you mean…"
"I don't need your body, but your comfort. Your warmth is the only thing that can save me from the darkness. Please, hold me."
The disappointment she felt the moment he said it was soon replaced by hope. This was not what she had in mind when he had entered her room, but in some way this was better. This could mean something, more than having him just for one night.
She took his hands and pulled him closer to her. It was hard for him to show affection, real affection, she knew, and he had been in love with a woman who wasn't her for a very long time, but yet, there was hope.
He embraced her and she snuggled against him. Softly she kissed his cheek, and he actually smiled, a bit reluctant at first, and then hugged her tighter, so she smiled cheerfully as well. He didn't say any words of love to her, but it was his way of saying he was happy.
Slowly she drifted into sleep, while feeling his steady heartbeat and breath. The smile didn't fade from her face, even when she slept peacefully, now Mr. Todd was holding her. Not only the heat and the cold, but the loneliness and unanswered longing as well were over; for her it was finally how it was supposed to be.
"Mrs. Lovett, Mrs. Lovett!"
Toby knocked on her bedroom door, and when she didn't react he ran inside.
She was still sleeping, the smile still on her face.
"Mum, wake up!"
She only opened her eyes when he almost dragged her out of the bed, while watching her worriedly with his big brown eyes.
"Toby!" she said surprised. "You're early today."
"Not early at all, the first customers are waiting outside!"
She blinked a few times. Only then she remembered what had happened last night.
She grasped the blanket to hide her body, only halfway realizing that she wasn't naked at all, but just was wearing her nightgown.
She turned around so fast she hurt her neck, but that was the last thing she could care about: for now she had left it, the bed was empty.
"Where is Benj… Mr. T.?"
"He's upstairs, in his shop."
"For how long has he been there?"
"How do you mean, Mum?"
"Well, what time did he go upstairs?"
"What do you mean?"
She decided to forget about the honor and just ask it.
"When did Mr. T. leave my room?"
"Mr. T.? Your room?"
The boy obviously had trouble understanding what she asked.
"O well," she said, trying to sound cheerful when she noticed he didn't know it. "Mr. T. is very quiet, he didn't want to wake you."
Or me, she thought sadly.
"No Mum," he said, suddenly very certain. "I've been awake all night, I couldn't sleep because of the warmth, even not when I drank some gin. I've been in the room next to yours, and Mr. Todd hasn't been there. No one has. If I would've heard or seen somebody, which I didn't, I would've warned you immediately."
Mrs. Lovett stared to her bed in disbelief.
"He never came to my room… even not late in the night?"
"No Mum," the boy simply said.
He didn't understand why it caused her so much grief, but he tried to comfort her.
"It's alright son," she said while taking a deep breath. "Will you open the door and tend the customers? I need to get dressed first and eat something. Just sell the pies which are left from yesterday, and if those are gone… well, just see what you do."
"Alright Mum," he said before he left the room, not knowing exactly how to handle all those customers on his own, but sensing Mrs. Lovett wanted to be alone.
The moment he had closed the door, she let herself fall on the bed again. She stared to the ceiling, where Mr. Todd surely was preparing himself for another day of cutting throats, after he had slept a few restless hours… alone.
A dream. It had just been a dream. It truly felt like she had had him, and that they had finally found each other. But no. Just a dream. Once again her imagination had fooled her. No matter how real it had felt, it had been nothing but a dream. Her fantasy was too vivid, she knew, but she just couldn't help it, nor could she stop it, even if she wanted to. It was the only way to make life a bit more pleasurable – as long as the dream lasted, anyway.
That night she would dream again of Benjamin Barker. She just knew. And thus, life would be good again – until the moment she would wake up anyway. For no matter how hard it was, she would never get more from him.
Slowly she dressed, preparing herself for another dull and loveless day. She wiped away some stubborn tears just before she entered her shop and feigned a bright smile, while counting down the hours until she could sleep, and hopefully dream, again.