A/N: My entry into Violaunte's Story Contest.
A dinner for two, that was all Mrs Lovett really wanted. She wasn't high maintenance.
She wasn't like Mrs Mooney, who threw herself at every available bachelor over the age of twenty-five.
She wasn't like Lucy, who would forever be the poor, perfect angel who was the answer to every barber's dream.
She wasn't a demanding mother either: Toby had been given the night off, and was off in the parlour somewhere making himself sick with pies and drink. Good lad.
It didn't matter that the table was filthy, that Mrs Lovett couldn't breath in her corset, that Mr Todd would remain as silent as the grave all through dinner while she talked the leg off the chair.
None of that mattered, because Mrs Lovett wasn't a complicated woman. Give her a tot of gin, and a pair of eyes that blaze like the fires of hell, and she was content. Only if the eyes happen to belong to a particular demon barber, mind.
Considering all that then: was a dinner for two so much to ask?
The baker darted a glance Mr T finally taking the food out of the oven. He dumped a glass dish filled with brown mush in the middle of the bench, gave it a good stir, dished it onto two trays, and carried them promptly to the table where the baker sat waiting. There was no fuss, no lingering, no embellishment. Sweeney was as fast at cooking as he was at killing.
Mrs Lovett stared at the plate set in front of her. "Wot's that?"
"Wot's wot," Sweeney mimicked, his eyes darting like two devilish fairies in the candle-light.
"Love," said Mrs Lovett, raising a brow and giving him that dreary, pie-worn expression. "I baked more pies than flies to-day, so you'd best tell me wot it is you'se shovin' in me face."
"It's very simple," said Sweeney, putting both hands in the middle of the flour-encrusted table.
"Go on," Mrs Lovett said, forgetting the steaming plat of mush in front of her for the moment.
Mr T was smiling, and he hardly ever smiled. He had a sweet little gold tooth in the corner of his mouth, and he'd probably cringe if she kissed him there, right on that glinting tooth….
"I don't cook, my pet," he explained. "I create."
He picked up the unwashed fork on his side, and handed it to her. Mrs Lovett closed her eyes briefly. The metal was as cool as Mr T's razors against her skin. "I don't mind," she breathed, not really interested in his cooking anymore.
"Of course you won't, my dear," Sweeney grinned, picking up the fork as if he were going to unlace her corset. Instead, he used it to shovel some of the foul muck from the plate up toward Mrs Lovett's mouth.
"Love, you needn't go to all that trouble," Mrs Lovett said weakly. It smelt foul. Really it did.
"Just one bite, my love," and he leaned forward over the table, watching her consider the morsel with quivering nostrils.
Well, Mrs Lovett had asked for it, hadn't she? A dinner for two was what she'd been bugging him for all month. They'd been so successful, she'd argued, wot with the sale of pies and the endless shaves that it would be foolish to not grab some happiness while it lasted.
As if Sweeney believed in happiness. But he'd agreed to the meal. The deal was…Mrs Lovett didn't have to cook.
How was she to know that Mr T would turn out to be the Worst Cook In London?
"One bite, I suppose," she conceded, unable to tear herself away from Mr T's hard eyes. Like glittering jewels, they were. Just magic. She could stare at them all day.
"That's the way, my love," he repeated, and he knew he'd won her over.
Her lips parted, and he slid the morsel in. Her eyes were shut fast, as if she were savouring it, and he watched with a sort of delightful perversity as Mrs Lovett began to chew very quickly, and swallow.
Her eyes flew open, and she beamed. "Why Mr T, you is positively genius!"
He lowered his head in a mock-bow. "I am a mere apprentice, Mrs Lovett."
The corners of his mouth twitched. The twinkle in his eyes was too merry, too easy.
Suddenly she frowned. "I didn't know you could cook."
"Then wot –" Her eyes bulged. "You didn't."
Sweeney sat down in his chair, savouring the horror and disgust and the little clumpy crusts on the corner of her lips. "I did, my love."
"Don't you 'my love' me, Mr T. Sick, that's wot you is. Plain sick!"
"Hardly sick, my pet." The barber leant forward, plucked the fork from her plate, and took a bite for himself. He chewed, and briefly nodded. "You have a gift, Mrs Lovett."
"I – you – hateful man –" Mrs Lovett spluttered, and threw her soiled napkin on the table.
Dinner for two indeed.
Fifty minutes later….
Sweeney was tucked safely up in his barber chair, half-sleeping. She'd given him a blanket, so Mrs Lovett must have recovered from the trick, as he knew she would. It wasn't that bad. She baked the damn things all day long! He gave a quick, spurting half-smile before he drifted into sleep. The image of Mrs Lovett blissfully swallowing the morsel of meat made the darkness briefly fade, for now...
Downstairs, Mrs Lovett was scraping the leftovers into an old paper bag. She darted outside, and raced down the end of the street.
"Alms, alms, for a des-per-ate woman!"
Lucy was there alright, spinning around in circles on the corner.
Poor, blighted thing.
"Come here, love," Mrs Lovett cooed. "Look wot I got for you!"
Lucy's eyes shone. "Alms?" she croaked.
"Somefin' even better," the baker whispered, thinking of Sweeney sleeping dreamlessly in his barber-shop just beyond them.
"Left-overs!" Lucy squealed.
* * *