Fanfic50 #14: possible.

"Take me."

Turpin jolted up from his settee and whirled around, jaw slackening when he saw who stood in the doorway to his parlor. "What?"

Nellie stepped from the doorway and into the room, allowing the door to click shut behind her, one corner of her mouth curled upward in a neglected smile. "Y'heard me, love."

"How did you get inside?" he demanded, recovering his typical polished veneer of apathy, but not able to entirely disguise his wide eyes as he stared at her.

"'S'called a window, darling. Might want to pay better attention to what your servants're up to – one of 'em's clearly slacking on their window-locking duties." She slunk further into the room, one hand trailing across the wall, moving with the lackadaisical confidence of an owner. "Not that I'm complaining, mind . . ."

His eyebrows drew together. "What is it that you want, Mrs. Lovett?"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, c'mon, love. Y'heard me the first time." She ripped open her overcoat to reveal her body, clad in only her underlayers. Her mouth smirked as his eyes fell, against his will, upon her breasts, nearly bursting over the top of her poorly laced corset. "Take me."

He did not move.

"Forget about Lucy. Whaddya want with a stupid little thing like her anyway? She don't know the first thing about – " she struggled for a moment, then snorted " – about anything." Her eyelids lowered to half-mast, brown gaze glittering up at him through her eyelashes, and she tried not to let them shake. "About how to please a man . . ."

Turpin strode towards her; she tautened her muscles lest they try to betray her and flee. His eyes flicked over her face, her throat, her bosom. Nellie tilted her head up, breathing more constrained than even her corset ever made them when laced properly, and closed her eyes so she would not have to stare into his face.

Fingertips lighted upon her cheek. Her labored breathing intensified in repulsion and hatred and fear of the man standing before her and it'll be worth it it'll be worth it this's all for him and that's all that's worthy in this world that's all

The fingertips seized her face with a sudden violence, thumb clamped upon one cheek and fingers upon the other, palm shoved into her chin. Her eyes sprinted open with a gasp.

His face hovered a mere inch from hers. In stark contrast to the brutality of his movement and his grip, his expression was relaxed, a smile playing at his mouth.

"Do you really believe me foolish enough to think that this has anything to do with you thinking poorly of Lucy – or you thinking highly of me?" he asked her, amiably, the smile still at his lips, but his hand held tight to her face, merciless.

She knew it was too late – she knew she had betrayed herself when her face had gone slack at her gasp – but masking was all Nellie had ever been adept at, all she had ever known: she pleated her face into its former attire of brash wantonness, eyelashes lowered, smirking lips half-parted in invitation. "How could you doubt it for a moment, m'lord – "

He released her face with a snap of his wrist; she gasped again and gingerly touched her aching jaw as his feet charted to the other side of the parlor.

When he turned again to face her, her emotions had yet to be shrouded – fingers massaging her face, eyes watering, lips half-parted in fear – but no longer just fear of the man before her, but fear for the man not before her, fear for the one currently sitting in Newgate prison, fear for the one whose presence was forever anchored in her bones, fear for the one she stood here for tonight, unbeknownst to him. . . .

She could not tell him where she had gone tonight, of course. Even though he did not love her, he would never allow her to try and sacrifice herself for his sake. He was far too noble and good for that; he would sooner sacrifice himself than allow her to do the same for his sake, and she could not allow that, not if she wanted to continue living.

And yet a part of her wished that she had told him – a part of her wished that he knew, that he would miraculously break through the walls of his cell and come bursting into this room and rescue her, even though she despised being rescued and not able to rescue herself – because only now that she was here was the full horror settling over her, the burden of the fate that she was condemning herself to, the torment of prostrating herself for a man she did not love –

"Return to your home, Mrs. Lovett," said Turpin, that same smile still at his lips, "before you do something that you regret."

Blood scorched through her veins and thunder clapped in her heart. She took a step forward. "It's you what's going to regret this, Turpin – killing a man what's done you no harm – "

"Kill? My dear Mrs. Lovett, you do realize the proposed sentence for Mr. Barker – why do you look so shocked at my pronouncing his name? is it not acceptable to say aloud what we both are thinking? – you do realize his proposed sentence is deportation, not death?"

"Kills don't have to be physical, as you well know – "

"It might well become physical, if you do not leave immediately."

She shuddered, because she knew he meant it – because she knew he could.

"Return to your home," he intoned in the patronizingly kind voice of a father telling his children to go to bed, commanding and gentle all at once. "If you continue to trespass, you might not do anything that you sincerely regret – but I most assuredly will."

"Sincerely regret, eh?" she managed to choke out, taunting him, trying to mask her trembling through her mockery. "And just what – "

"Mrs. Lovett," said Turpin, softly, too softly, lips coiled upward like contentedly sleeping snakes, "you cannot rescue him."

Her body shuddered again, against her will; the thunder of her heart ceased and closed all ability to speak, to function, to continue and live unwhole, without him.

But she had to. Every road from here led to defeat. All she could do was hang her head and accept the lesser of the evils, the fate of existing without Benjamin Barker dwelling above her, of he moldering far away in Australia – but at least not moldering in the grave . . .

Her mind accepted her defeat as rational. Her heart banged a different tune.

"Good night, Mrs. Lovett," said Turpin cordially. "Shall I show you to the door, or might you find your own way out, since you so cleverly entered in such a fashion?"

She forced through her nostrils a breath and forced through her mouth the sentence: "I'll let myself out, thanks."

Turpin bowed but kept his head lifted, eyes gleaming like daggers in his skull. "Until we meet again, then – farewell."

He picked up her overcoat from the floor and walked to her side, holding out the material to assist her in putting it back on. She snatched it from him, jerked the coat tight around her body to hide her loose undergarments from any stray drunkards that might be wandering about the city, and hurried out of the house.

She did not say farewell in return before departing. It took all of her willpower to propel her motionless feet from the room, down the stairs, and into the darkness of the streets. All of her willpower to keep her crumpled heart beating.

And she silently vowed – to both her arrhythmic pulse and to Judge Alexander Turpin – that this battle was not yet over.

A/N: Reviews are love.