A/N – While you are reading this, bear in mind that it may be OOC. I wasn't exactly sure how to go about writing this, it's been hiding in the back of my mind for awhile, and when I finally came to type it out it just got longer and longer :P So yeah. Enjoy! :)
It was a bright, sunny day; a rarity of London, and despite the good weather, business at the pie shop was too slow to stay open. The customers all seemed to be outdoors enjoying the sun; and, truth be told, the baker of the pies was all too happy to have them doing so.
Mrs. Lovett flipped the sign on her shop door to read 'Closed', and sighed contentedly. She hadn't taken a day off just for herself in a long while, and today seemed like the perfect day to do so. Mr. Todd had disappeared without a word that morning, and even now, well past noon, he still hadn't returned. Though she was curious as to where he had gone off to, the only thing she could think about at the moment was that she wouldn't have to concern herself about him missing his supper.
She walked along the riverside on her way to the park, relishing the sensation of the sun's warmth on her shoulders and face. The sky had never seemed as blue as it did today: but then again, it was an unusual day. She could really see the sky today, as it wasn't covered with smog and rain clouds.
When Mrs. Lovett arrived in the park, she immediately set off down the well-beaten path between the trees that lead around the perimeter of the park. But she didn't want to walk around the park; she wanted to enjoy the park itself. So, about halfway down the track, she stopped, looked both ways casually – and dove into the bushes on the side of the path.
Branches and twigs caught and pulled at her hair and dress, and scratched her pale skin; but she pushed on determinedly. After a few minutes of trekking through the bushes, she burst out onto the riverbank and heaved a sigh of relief.
The grassy embankment sloped gently down to the bottom of the hill, where the river met the shore at the sandy edge of the bank. The water was not shallow here; Mrs. Lovett knew that if she happened to stand in the middle of it, it would be at least two feet above her head, if not more. She could see the bottom of the river from where she was standing at the top of the bank, the water clear and rippling with hundreds of little swells and waves as it flowed along the riverbed, catching the sun and shining beautifully.
The trees were in full blossom, the petals giving a vibrant array of colour to the earthy hues around them. All the grass and the leaves of the bushes and trees were a vivid, deep green; the kind of colour that made Mrs. Lovett feel completely alive. Sunlight filtered through the branches of the trees, dousing everything in a peaceful golden glow.
She sank onto the grass under a large maple tree and closed her eyes, feeling herself give in to the soothing soft feel of the sun on her face, letting herself be soothed by the cheerful bubbling of the river, and just basking in the tranquility that made this her favourite place to be. It had been nearly a month since she'd been able to get away from her shop to come here, and just relax; Mr. Todd just kept her too damn busy all the time.
Mrs. Lovett pulled the sleeves of her dress down off of her shoulders, and hiked her skirt up above her knees, hoping that her skin would tan if she sat there long enough. She did hate being pale; it made her feel wraithlike in comparison to some of the other sun-kissed women on Fleet Street, and so very unattractive. She felt very daring having that much skin exposed to the world: but then again, who was around to see her?
She closed her eyes again and relaxed completely. Becoming drowsier and drowsier, Mrs. Lovett began to lose herself in her own reveries and fantasies. But just as she was drifting off, she heard the crashing of someone pushing their way through the bushes, and then the faint rustling sound of footsteps in the grass.
Her eyes snapped open at once, and she looked around hastily to see who was invading her private place. How had anyone found out about it? As far as she knew, she was the only one who came here. She'd never seen any traces of someone else being here, at this particular place.
A spark of anger flashed through her in response to the intruder…until she saw who it was.
Mr. Sweeney Todd stood no more than twenty paces away from her at the edge of the riverbank, his eyes and face bearing a distant expression. Mrs. Lovett knew that she should probably let him know that she was there, somehow. But her curiosity got the better of her, and she remained silent.
Sweeney stood there on the riverbank for a moment, then wiped his brow and squinted up at the bright sun beating down on him. Mrs. Lovett watched quietly as he proceeded to unbutton his vest, and throw it to the ground beside him without a second thought. He was now left wearing only a thin white shirt, and Mrs. Lovett blushed shamelessly when she saw that it didn't do much to hide his torso.
He sat on the edge of the bank and looked down into the water, flowing and ebbing and undulating. After a few moments, he leaned down… and began taking off his boots.
Mrs. Lovett was completely bemused. What in the world?
She looked on in curiosity as the barber finished untying his boots, and flung them aside with just as much consideration as he had his vest.
Then he took off his white shirt. Although Mrs. Lovett couldn't make herself look away, half of her mind was worrying about what would happen if he took off all his clothes, and didn't see her until it was too late. But the captivated half of her mind soon overpowered the worried one, and she couldn't keep her eyes off of his bare chest knowing that this was something that she might never see again in her life. Long, ugly scars lashed across his torso and back, and Mrs. Lovett was reminded with a jolt of how horrible fifteen years in the Australian prison must have been.
However, what he did next was what bewildered her the most: he stretched out both of his legs, and, with a long sigh, flopped onto his back in the long, cool grass of the riverbank, his arms spread wide, one on either side of his head.
Mrs. Lovett wanted to laugh; this was the most out of character thing she had ever seen Mr. Todd do. But, for some reason, she just couldn't.
His eyes were closed, his lips slightly parted, his chest rising and falling so slowly that Mrs. Lovett wondered if he'd fallen asleep. Ever visible muscle in his body was relaxed, and she didn't have the heart to disturb him. He looked so peaceful … almost content. All she could do was smile at this rare sight in front of her.
Sweeney lay there for an incalculable amount of time, but Mrs. Lovett was happy just to sit under her tree, enjoy the sun while it lasted, and watch her beloved barber. She found herself drifting off again, and her last conscious thought was wonder that he hadn't seen her yet.
Some time later, Mrs. Lovett was awoken by a sudden, loud splashing noise. She opened her eyes to see Mr. Todd wading out into the middle of the river, cupping small amounts of water and splashing it on his face and neck.
She felt a vague sort of disappointment that he hadn't been afraid to get his trousers wet; but she supposed that he didn't need to be, the sun would dry them fast enough when he got out of the water.
Mrs. Lovett became restless after a while, and her mischievous streak took over. She then decided to inform him of her presence. She pushed up the shoulders of her dress and let her skirt fall back down over her calves, standing up and brushing herself off. Lastly, she took off her own shoes, knowing that the material would not be the same if it got wet.
She walked over to the bottom of the bank and stood in the sand for a moment, watching in amusement as the demon barber splashed around in the water like a child, cooling himself down, and completely oblivious of her company.
Wading out into the river, she waited until the most opportune moment to let him know she was there: when, head down, staring into the water, he began to walk straight towards her. When he was no less than two feet away from her, she spoke.
"Wot brings you 'ere, Mr. T?"
He stopped dead and stepped backwards quickly, his eyes wide and shocked, his jaw agape and working noiselessly in the air.
But, the stones were slick and wet, and the barber, being as stunned as he was, and in such a hurry to get away from his landlady, slipped. He fell backwards, his arms thrashing wildly in the air. And he snatched at the one thing that might possibly hold him up: Mrs. Lovett.
But of course she didn't, being the small-framed person that she was. She felt his hands grab her around the waist, and then she was yanked off her feet, falling with a splash on top of him in the water.
She surfaced a moment later, spluttering. Sweeney surfaced beside her, gasping for air, his hair plastered to his head.
"Mrs. Lovett!" He looked furious, but couldn't seem to get his mouth to form any more words than those.
Mrs. Lovett was having a hard time staying above the surface of the water. Her head had gone under more than once, and she was choking severely now, unable to get proper oxygen. It wasn't that she couldn't swim; her dress was simply too heavy. It billowed around her in the water, pulling her down. She heard Sweeney say her name once more before she was pulled underwater, and couldn't get back up to the surface again.
She struggled with the fastenings on her dress, knowing that if she could get it off she would be able to swim to the surface, but her panicked fingers and the slippery fabric did not work well together. She felt as if her lungs were going to burst any moment now, and she realized with growing alarm that if she did not get the dress undone soon, she would drown. She was fighting with it in earnest now, panic welling up inside her as water started to fill her nose, flailing helplessly.
All of a sudden, an arm looped around her waist and pulled her upwards.
Mrs. Lovett surfaced again, wheezing and coughing. All the while those hands held her up, letting her rid her lungs of water as they pulled her towards the bank.
Then she was dragged onto the shore and up a hill, and she was back lying on the grass again, the sun still shining brightly as if none of this had just happened. She blinked the water out of her eyes and rolled over on her side, to see none other than Mr. Sweeney Todd, soaked from head to toe, lying on his stomach and breathing heavily.
"Mr. T," Mrs. Lovett said quietly, in amazement. "Ya saved my life."
Sweeney lifted his head to look at her, an expression of utmost surprise on his face.
"Course I did," he grumbled. "You didn't really expect me to let you drown, did you?"
"Well, no, but…." For once in her life, Nellie Lovett was speechless. Sweeney let his head flop back onto the ground, panting slightly. They lay there in silence, the only noises reaching their ears the chirping of the birds, and the wind rustling the leaves and grass.
"Thank you," she said at last. "Ya wouldn't believe 'ow grateful I am, Mr. T."
"You bloody well better be," Sweeney said gruffly, still facing away from her. "This isn't something I do often."
"Is getting' 'alf undressed and splashin' round in the river somethin' ya do often?" Mrs. Lovett couldn't help but tease him a bit. She was still shaking from the aftershock of the incident, but when would she ever get the chance for this again?
"No," Sweeney said defiantly. Mrs. Lovett could have sworn she saw a hint of a blush creep across his cheekbones, but she couldn't be sure.
"How long were you watching me?" he demanded, turning over to stare at her with accusatory eyes.
"Since you arrived," she told him. "I was 'ere first, after all. It's not my fault that you didn't look 'round properly." She let her eyes twinkle at him, and she smiled, her cheek against the ground.
Sweeney had no response to that, so he said nothing.
"Well, wot are we gonna do 'bout this, then?" she said, gesturing to her own saturated clothing and hair, and then his. "We can't go walkin' down the street like this."
"Wait to dry," Sweeney said brusquely. He rolled onto his back, folding his arms behind his head, and closed his eyes. Mrs. Lovett saw that he wasn't going to say anything further, so she followed his example and did the same.
Mrs. Lovett didn't know how long they lay there. But while they did, she let her thoughts run their course, and she realized just how close she had come to dying today.
"Mr. T?" she said quietly. Sweeney grunted.
"If you 'adn't been 'ere today, I would 'ave drowned. I wouldn't be 'ere right now," she said slowly. "If there's anythin' I can do for ya, anythin' at all, let me know and I'll do it. Mr. T, ya saved my life. I don't know 'ow to tell ya 'ow much it means ta me that you were there."
"There, you've told me. Now leave it be," Sweeney said, sounding a bit irritated.
"I'll always be 'ere for ya, Mr. T," she said. "Ya do know that, don't ya? I'll do anythin' for ya. I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for ya, and I don't know 'ow to repay you. Name it; anythin'."
Sweeney turned his head to look at her, an unreadable expression on his face. "Mrs. Lovett, you are impossible."
"Why?" she asked with a frown, thoroughly confused.
Sweeney sighed. "Yes, I saved your life. You don't have to harass me about it every waking minute of your life."
"No," Sweeney interrupted. "Don't worry about 'repaying' me and all that. You do enough for me already; don't think I don't know that. I'm just not the sort of person who is openly appreciative. Know this, Mrs. Lovett. I will tell you once, and only once: I do value and appreciate you, and the things you've done for me. This is the least I could ever have done for you in return for that. Another thing you should have known that I absolutely would not have let you die; my heart isn't that cold, and I hope that it never will be."
"And never speak a word of this to anyone," he added after a moment. "I don't want the world to think that Sweeney Todd has gone soft."
Mrs. Lovett was astonished, for more reasons than one. Firstly, that was the most she had ever heard Sweeney speak, the entire time she'd known him. Secondly, what he'd said had been almost as good as "I love you", coming from him. At least, that was how it seemed to her.
Then, purely out of impulse, she rolled over on top of him - and kissed him square on the lips.
Sweeney was shocked, to say the least. But as he felt the softness of her lips begin to move against his own, he felt himself responding. His arms snaked around her waist, and his hands moved across her back and over her shoulder blades, running down over her hips of their own accord. One of her hands was lost in his wild hair, the other caressing the side of his face. His clothes were still damp, and he could feel that hers were, too; but he could still feel the warmth of her fiery little body on top of his.
Abruptly, there was a crashing sound in the bushes nearby. An instant later, a pair of teenagers burst out onto the bank, hand in hand. They stopped dead and stared at Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, and Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett stopped dead and stared back.
The boy found his voice first and stuttered an apology, pulling the girl back with him through the trees.
Mrs. Lovett got off of Sweeney and stood up, blushing fiercely. Sweeney stood as well, and they stared at each other wordlessly.
"Well, Mrs. Lovett," Sweeney said finally. "I suppose now that you've sufficiently humiliated me for today, we should be getting home."
"I suppose that we should," Mrs. Lovett said. They picked up their clothes and dressed as fully as they had been before, and set off for Fleet Street.
As they started back through the trees to the path, Mrs. Lovett felt a bold desire to take the barber's hand. So she did.
And he let her.