Hush, Love, Hush

Toby's limbs were weakly compliant as she gently roused him. He'd been kipping on Nellie's parlor sofa for a week, and she wasn't heartless; the lad had to be feeling the old springs in the small of his back by now. She wasn't a damned fool, either; she'd said not a word to Mr. T about her tiny parlor or the way she stumbled over the lie-abed every morning on her way to the bakery. It'd be better for everyone involved if Mr. T thought the sofa was enough, and there was no sense if he tried to board the lad up in the shop—sooner or later he'd smell the death that dripped through the floorboards into the pie shop, and really, there just wasn't room up there, anyway.

No, she thought as she woke Toby with carefully caressing fingertips, this was the best solution, for everybody. If there was a little incentive in it for her, well, who could deny a poor, little old—though not too old—widow a bit of cheer. Her Alfred had been gone these six years and with Mr. T being so shy-like, she figured a woman's got to get a bit of cheer from someplace, and as her eyes raked over the supine figure below her, she figured that this was as good a place as any. He was a fine young lad, fit and strong and loyal like a dog. Maybe a little young…yes, a little bit young, but you catch the pup younger and you don't have to teach the dog so many tricks, she thought. Besides, it could perhaps distract him from his near-constant wondering about the Italian barber, which was as good a reason as any, really. Those long, firm limbs her fingers were raking over didn't hurt the idea at all.

Smirking to herself, she carefully slipped a red-lacquered nail beneath the button at the boy's collar, popping it open. She didn't see how he managed to sleep so confined, anyway! Nellie herself was breezy-cool in just a shift, a draft from the cellar twining around her ankles and causing her skin to break out in gooseflesh. The boy was near-feverish, though, sweat slicking his hair dark to his forehead. To help him out, she popped another button, and then another, until her fingertips were resting on the laces of his trousers and his chest was glistening in the dark light shimmering off the banked coals in the fireplace. She traced an idle pattern over his chest with red nails, watching the muscles shift beneath the skin.

"Ma'am?" the voice was soft, muzzy with sleep and confusion. Nellie bit her lip and darted her eyes up to Toby's. She waited for the realization to sink in, waited for him to shrink back or strike her, but his face was guileless as he stared up at her.

"I was…you fell asleep in your clothes, dearling. I was only trying to help you out; you looked so uncomfortable there in your full kit, so I thought you'd sleep better with a few less layers on, 's'all," she murmured reassuringly.

Toby's eyes widened and he clutched his open shirt closed with one hand. "Oh, no, ma'am! It…it ain't right, me sleepin' half undressed with a lady in the next room. People'd think such awful things, and me wreckin' your honor just to sleep more comfortable," he frowned fiercely. Nellie's hands stilled his fingers as he tried to rebutton his shirt.

"But aren't you too hot?" she asked, scratching at his stomach gently. Toby's eyes widened further and he frowned.

"To be honest, ma'am, I'm half melted in here, but I weren't going to say nothing, seeing as ma'am's let me stay here out of the goodness of her heart," he admitted.

"Well, that settles it!" she said cheerfully, lifting the shirt off his shoulders. "You needn't worry for my virtue, dearling. I was a married woman once, but there's not a man's touched me in many a year since." Toby blushed at that, cheeks lighting up so brightly that their pinkness was visible in the darkened parlor. "Not a one that's wanted to, either," she added, needling.

"Why, that can't be true, ma'am!" Toby cried indignantly. "Maybe…maybe there's a man's just been waitin' for…waitin' to ask you to marry him and move you off to the country. Maybe you don't know the man yet. Maybe he's…maybe he's someone you don't think about marryin', but all he can think about at night is you!"

Nellie chuckled softly, smoothing his sweaty hair back from his forehead. "You think so, do you?" A thought struck her suddenly, catching in her throat, "Mr. T? You think Mr. T wants to make an honest woman outta me?"

Toby looked away, shifty in his denial. "Maybe," he said finally. "You just never know, 's what I always say. Never know from day to day what the Lord's got planned for you; why, just this time last week I thought I was done for—back to the workhouse for poor old Toby, and scratchin' for a crust of bread 'cause the Signori was done with me—but you stepped in like an angel o' mercy and saved me from it all. An' just a week before that, I thought I was gonna go on bein' slapped around and sleeping on the street while the Signori took up the whole cart, but look where I am now! There's even a fire here and company to talk to. An' no more scratchy wigs," he added, itching a bit in memory.

Nellie smiled and petted him. She really was an angel of mercy sometimes. "You're right, Toby. One can never tell how one's fortunes are going to change, so you should always be on the lookout for the next opportunity, right?"

"Exactly, ma'am!" Toby's cheerful grin was interrupted by a jaw-cracking yawn. "Ooh, ma'am, I'm rather tired. Is it really alright with you if I sleep out here like this?"

"Nothing would make me happier than to see you comfortable, dear," Nellie assured him, tripping her fingers down his arm. "Are you set to fall asleep right away, dear, or do you think a tot of gin might help? We've got a busy day tomorrow, and I'll need you well-rested…." She trailed off, watching the greedy light fill his eager eyes.

"Ooh, ma'am! You are an angel!" he cried. She laughed darkly and grabbed his hand, tugging him toward the dark hall to her room. He sat meekly on the edge of the bed when she shoved him down, his eyes following her as she went to the drawers for the liquor. She'd have to ply him gently and carefully, she realized. It wouldn't do any good for him to drink himself stupid; all her plans would be ruined.

Nellie carefully poured out two thumbs, setting the bottle on the bible on the side table. "I'm feeling a bit wound-up, myself," she murmured as she sank onto the mattress next to him. Toby'd already slugged his drink back and was eyeing the bottle eagerly, though he didn't dare ask for more just yet. She smiled graciously and poured him another drink carefully, still sipping at her own.

"Dear Toby," she cooed softly, stroking the back of her hand along his arm again. "You still look a little peaked. Are you still too warm?"

Flushed with alcohol, Toby half shook his head 'no', half nodding. "A bit, ma'am," he admitted, and Nellie felt her face split in a feral grin.

"It's those woolen trousers, boy. They're all fine for running around the streets in, but I'm a civilized lady, and I can't see sleeping in something so heavy."

Toby was scandalized—as much as he could be, half listing drunk and tottering to his feet. "Oh, no, ma'am, I just couldn't. You're a lady," he seemed to be trying to remind her.

"Come now, lad, you've got nothing I've never seen before," she mocked cheerfully, tugging at the laces of his trousers. "I'm not bashful."

Toby's blush deepened and he hesitated, hands fisted in the waistband. "I couldn't. It wouldn't be right, ma'am; what would people think?"

"Then you just won't tell them, Toby," she said simply, slowly for his benefit. "I don't mind; it can be our secret."

"Ma'am," he protested weakly, grip already slipping. The heavy fabric pooled at his ankles, revealing the ill-fitting bottom of an old union suit. Toby nervously covered himself; the fabric was stretched thin and old and nearly transparent.

"You're so shy," she cooed, coaxing him back to sit next to her on the bed. "You act like you're not all covered up!"

"Ma'am…."

"Such a fine young lad," she murmured, ignoring him. She raked her nails from knee to thigh, smiling sharply. "Such a fine young lad. I can't imagine how many sluts with bastards we'll have to turn away in a few years."

"None!" Toby cried indignantly. "I won't…I would never!"

"Never." Nellie's voice was wry.

"Never!" Toby vowed.

She wanted to tell him he'd change his mind later—they all did; even Albert'd had a trollop or two show up, bouncing babes on their knee and demanding payment, back before the gout had got him—but she clucked her tongue and gently slipped her hand around his cock instead. Even if Toby didn't change his mind, this part would change it for him. She shushed against his shoulder, wrapping arms like steel bands around his chest as he tried to squirm away.

"Shh, shh," she puffed into his ear, stroking along the tight fabric to his waist. "It'll help you sleep, lad," she sighed sweetly, relishing the feel of him in her hand. Toby made a strangled cry, sagging against her as she slipped a hand inside his pants. He was hot, sweaty—barely a handful—and she groaned softly, whimpering at the feeling. "Oh, Toby," she whispered, clutching at his thigh with the other hand as she worked him. "Good lad. Good, good lad."

When he seized, body tense and cock pumping into her hand, his breathy "oh!" sounded like a sob. She squeezed him gently and pulled her hand out, wiping it on his pants. She maneuvered him around, tugging the sweaty boy to lay atop her on the bed. He shivered, nuzzling into her neck and pressing against her side.

"Damnation," she muttered, his soft snores loud in her ear. "Just like a man."