I really liked the semi-relatedness of the chapters in my previous story One and I wanted to write another multi chapter fic like that, because it's easier for me to update that way and because I had some more ideas for One which I couldn't use in that story.
This story consists of two parts: the first one is based around the Ben/Nellie pairing and the second one will be Sweeney/Nellie. The chapters within a part can mostly be read both as one shots or as an actual multi chapter story; the "connection" between the chapters will only become clear once I begin posting the second part.
Part 1: Nellie Lovett & Benjamin Barker
"How often do I have to say it for you to understand?" Nellie yelled at her husband, who remained unsatisfactorily calm in spite of her outburst. "I don't want to do this!"
"I don't see why you shouldn't prepare this lunch and join us to eat it," Albert Lovett said, not even bothering to look up from his newspaper.
"You don't see?" she echoed, anger rising within her. She and her husband of half a year didn't quarrel often, probably because he didn't listen to her once he had made up his mind about something or because he didn't react to her when she was in such a mood anyway. But young Nellie Lovett was a woman with a hot temper and if there were things that she didn't like, she'd made sure that everyone involved knew of it. "What is there to see, except for your dramatic decisions when it comes to tenants?"
"These people are different, Nellie. I have to admit that my previous choices weren't very fortunate ones, but I can assure you that this couple is very kind and..."
"Not very fortunate?" the baker screamed, too upset to do more than repeating him. He had chosen all the previous tenants of the room above their home and shop without even asking her opinion about them. All of them, without exception, had been horrible people, varying from a thief to a man who she hadn't seen sober once.
She had warned Albert every time, sensing the true nature of those persons long before her own husband had, but he had never listened to her before the situation had escalated already. That was the reason that the baker couldn't believe that he had found new tenants again without even asking her what she thought of them, and she was going to make that very clear to him.
"Are we... interrupting something?"
The heads of the fighting couple turned abruptly towards the person who had spoken. In the hallway to their parlor stood a young, yellow haired woman, but Nellie didn't give her a second glance. For behind her was another person, someone who did capture her full attention.
It was too easy to say that he was the most beautiful man that she had ever seen - it was more than that. There was something about him that made her feel at ease immediately, something that told her that she could trust him with her secrets – with her life - even though he was a stranger. Never before she had met someone who evoked this unexplainable feeling.
And as if that wasn't enough yet, the man was incredibly handsome. The gentle curve of his mouth, the soft looking lips, his warm, brown eyes and the equally dark hair that reached to his shoulders...
She stared at him, flabbergasted, and when the man's eyes met her own, she stood rooted to the ground because this wonderful man was looking at her, smiling gently and somewhat shyly, clearly having no idea what he was doing to her.
He looked away quickly however, as if overwhelmed by her interest. Neither his wife nor her own husband were aware of it, for which the baker was grateful.
"These are Mr. and Mrs. Barker," Albert said, gesturing to the young couple. "They are the new tenants. Mr. and Mrs. Barker, this is my wife, Nellie."
Even when her husband introduced her to the woman who was married to the beautiful man, Nellie remained looking at him, his last name echoing in her head. The Barkers nodded to her, clearly feeling rather awkward because of the moment that they had entered the parlor; the fact that there was quite some distance between them and the other couple while they were being introduced to each other only made this worse.
The baker nodded back to them without thinking, remembering at least some of the manners that her mother had attempted to teach her and trying not to make a complete fool of herself in front of the beautiful stranger.
Albert gestured the Barkers to sit down on a couch and raised his eyebrow slightly when he looked at her. Knowing exactly what he wanted her to do, Nellie began preparing the lunch she had refused to make only minutes ago. She would gladly make a meal for the man that began talking to her husband at that very moment, reluctantly at first but soon with enthusiasm, even if it would take her an entire day.
When she prepared the food, she wasn't really focused on the task. Her mind simply couldn't care about the bread and the soup that her hands were touching; all she could think of was the man who had just entered her life and had captured her attention in a way no man had ever done without even trying.
Later that afternoon, when the meal was eaten and Mr. Barker's compliment about the soup had made her blush, the men talked about nothing in particular. Lucy opened her mouth to answer only when she was asked a direct question and Nellie found that she for once had nothing to say herself. She didn't trust herself to speak anyway, not now that she couldn't even take her eyes off the dark haired man or think of anything beside the skin and hair that her eyes were consuming.
After they had been visiting for about two hours, the Barkers promised to move into their new house soon and returned to their current home. Albert said something about his high expectations of the new tenants, but Nellie didn't hear him. She could only think of Mr. Barker, and the thought that he was her new neighbor and that she was going to see him much, much more often, never left her mind.