A/N: Another long series in the works here people. I have a plan for it, of sorts! It's set pre-oven Mrs Lovett, since I haven't ever attempted a canon long series fic. Sit back and enjoy the ride Thanks to AngelofDarkness1605 for her consultation with the very important task of choosing a title!
~The Promise Price~
There was no easy way of walking at night. Shadows loomed on every city corner in the rambling expanse that was London. Shadows, and many things beside that were not shadows, but far worse. You would have to be a fool to believe you could wander freely here without your head constantly looking over your shoulder – unless you were the type of person who ran with the shadows.
Sweeney Todd and Nellie Lovett were such people. They did not walk down the length of Fleet Street in the hurried manner of some skulking businessman, going off to lose himself in the opium dens or whore houses. They were not vagrants or street walkers or orphans ambling wherever which ways. They walked with the silent confidence of having seen many shadows in their time, and knowing best how to confront them.
The moon shone with a full yellow glow that neither of them felt. There were few clouds, and the light it threw across the rooftops and upon the heads of that wandering couple glittered with the leftover dregs of yesterday's sun. Even from a distance, it was possible to see that the man and woman were intimate. They walked side by side, close together, he at times stopping to listen closely to some private word uttered in his ear. The man frequently took his hands from his pockets and clasped them behind his back. The woman latched onto his close arm, and with her free hand waved about wildly, as if it were a flag administered by a breeze. In fact, the first words spoken by the man that night were:
"There's no wind."
"As dull an' dry as a pile o' bones," Mrs Lovett agreed, casting her eyes into the street where a few figures lingered here and there, but nothing held her attention. She was much more interested in the way the moon, quite full, filled the barber's eyes full of untapped oceans.
"Why don't you stop this chit-chat, Mr T," she said suddenly, dropping his arm. "An' tell me the real reason wot you brought me 'ere for? Wot's on yer mind, hmm?"
He wasn't one to linger or wax lyrical about moonlit landscapes.
"I see the way he looks at you."
She knew, of course. There was only one man in the whole of London that had the power to drive envy in Sweeney Todd.
They let the wind push them down the rest of the road. The baker was tired from a full day of chopping bodies, but she did not dare shut her eyes.
"He watches you, my pet." As if it were somehow acceptable, because she was not twenty-five with hair paper thin gold.
Playing coy was not in her repertoire, but there was a first time for every new experience, Mrs Lovett was fast discovering. "I never noticed," she lied.
They were now walking beyond their world, past St Dunstan's Church to the west where the shadows grew long and high.
They had come to the Temple Bar, where statue of the dragon stretched proudly before the Royal Courts of Justice. Once they passed through the stone gateway, they would be standing on the opposite side, in the Strand.
"I do believe we're at the barrier, Mrs Lovett."
She wasn't interested in barriers, real or imaginary. He was gripping her hand, and looking far into her, not at the coaches and men and inn noises descending all around them. "The quiet's stopped," she said, forgetting to breathe through her nose.
"Indeed." He wasn't going to relent.
"Out with it then," she said, still holding his gaze.
"I want to know…how far you are willing to go."
This time she didn't hesitate. "See that all depends, love, how far you is."
"This isn't it a game –" he started crossly.
There was no jest left in her moon-bare form. "I know it ain't."
"So let's both be quick. The Judge covets you."
She paused and turned, twisting her white wrist up to the air. On Fridays, when the Judge was finished at the courts and had only the weekend drag to look forward to, he would stop by the pie shop, and stare. The same lecherous stare that left spittle on his lapel. The same Lucy-adoring stare.
"Don't think for a minute I encourage that foul –"
"I want you to."
"Wot?" She stared at him. "Did I hear wot I –"
"The purpose of our…this walk, my dear, is that you entice him. He will not come to us, now that he suspects I am in league with the sailor boy –"
"Anthony, Mr T, that's his name, or 'ave you forgotten that too –"
"He will follow you, my dear, if you present an opportunity. Go to his house, if he is reluctant. Lure him here. One night is all I need. You bring him here, and I will slaughter him."
"That sounds very complicated Mr T. Couldn't you just write 'im a nice letter sayin' –"
"He won't fall for that. His weakness…" Sweeney shuddered, "is of the flesh."
It wasn't easy for Mrs Lovett to pretend she was at all comfortable being described as a bit of "flesh" for the Judge's disposal. Yet this was the time to strike, when the fever was riding high in the great useless thing's head –
"Well, my pet? Are you willing to do it?"
"Lord you is green, Mr T. I give you a home, feed you, let you set up shop for wot, nothin', an' now you think I'll sacrifice meself for your Almighty Cause? Wot you think I am, a bleedin' heart?"
"I thought you are on my side." His voice remained low, but that meant nothing. He might explode any moment.
"You want this revenge business that bad Mr T, you'll be prepared ter pay the price."
They turned and resumed their walk back down towards the Eastern end of Fleet Street, and the moon followed them still.
"How much, Mrs Lovett?" Sweeney supposed she wanted the money they were earning from the murders to go toward a cottage by the sea. Well, so be it. He did not care for money. It seemed a very fair exchange.
The words from the baker fell like coins into the drain. You did not see them fall immediately, and by the time they had fallen, it was too late to catch them.
"A child. I want a child, Mr T."