Author's Note: If you've been in this fandom for a respectable amount of time, you've probably noticed that there's not much love for Lucy Barker. Some people dislike her for attempting suicide when there was still Johanna to consider, others just hate her for being one of many obstacles to Sweeney/Lovett, and yet others simply don't find her very interesting. I've always found the vitriol thrown her way rather unfair. I feel this way partly because she has more awful shit happen to her than any other character; if she did anything wrong, she sure as hell paid for it several times over. Then there's the fact that we don't really see much of her in canon. Most of what we know about her comes from Sweeney's memories, which are colored by love and grief, and Mrs. Lovett's accounts, which are just as influenced by jealousy. Lucy never really gets to speak for herself, except as a crazy beggar woman, and that's why I decided to write this fic. The title comes from the Kinks song of the same name. The name of this chapter comes from the Philip Larkin poem, which you should look up because, seriously, it's fantastic.
Warnings: Some sensuality and mentions of pregnancy in this chapter. Because this story is about Lucy and I'm sticking to canon, there will be mentions of rape, attempted suicide, prostitution, and other sorts of nastiness in later chapters. I'll warn more specifically at the beginning of each chapter, though.
Chapter One: Talking in Bed
"Why do you love me, Ben?" Lucy asks one night, after they've made love. It's the middle of August and they're lying together on top of the blankets. Bundles of rosemary and lavender hang from the eaves, making their bedroom smell better than most of London, although not by much. Benjamin has already been lulled half to sleep by the heat, the aroma of the herbs, and the contented drowsiness that comes after lovemaking; at first, he doesn't really hear Lucy's question. She speaks so softly and quietly, he thinks he's dreaming and says nothing in reply.
"Ben?" she repeats, and something in her voice troubles him. She sounds small and uncertain, like a mouse or an ill-used puppy. These are strange things to associate with his beautiful young wife, whose laughter and singing fill their home, and he's instantly brought back to their little two-room flat on Fleet Street. He opens his eyes to look at her, but the moonlight from their tiny window only lets him see her yellow hair and the line of her profile.
"You're the most beautiful woman I've ever met," he answers honestly. "When I first saw you from across the village green, standing with your parents, I thought you were an angel. I couldn't see anything else but you for the longest time."
He reaches out and traces the curve of her cheek, but finds her face wet with tears.
"What's wrong, Lu?" he asks. He strokes her hair and wonders why lovemaking brings out these fits of melancholy in her. She always appears happy, in her quiet way, right before they go to bed; she even seems to take pleasure in the act itself, although he thinks her enjoyment embarrasses her. She was a rector's daughter, after all, and she was brought up genteelly despite her family's near-poverty. Her embarrassment doesn't account for her tears, though. At least, he doesn't think it does. Another possibility occurs to him. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No, no," she says, shaking her head. "You didn't do anything wrong. I think it's just the baby. It does strange things to a woman, being in this condition."
"All right," he says, although he has his doubts. She only discovered she was with child last month. She's only three, perhaps four months along now, and the tears made their first appearance shortly after their marriage, which was a year and a half ago. It's sometimes best to leave these things alone, though. "If you're sure."
She nestles closer to him and kisses his shoulder. He still doesn't know what he ever did to deserve these moments. He wasn't especially good as a child, although he wasn't particularly bad, either; he just got into the mischief that most boys do. He's not rich or distinguished in any way; he's just a man who grew up in a largish village, attended a dame school until he was old enough to take up his father's trade, and went to London to seek his fortune. There must be a thousand men like him, but only he gets to experience the happiness of being with Lucy. When he's in bed with her, he feels as though he'll never be cold or alone, no matter what happens. He wonders if she feels the same. He hopes so.
"Do you know why I love you?" she asks him.
"No idea," he answers. He slides his hand from her hair to her neck to her collarbone, finally letting it rest on her breast. She lets out something halfway between a gasp and a giggle. "Because I'm next in line for an earldom, I suppose. Or is it my vast fortune?"
"Of course not," she says, suddenly serious. He thinks of apologizing and removing his hand from her breast, but then she places her hand over his to keep it there.
"Do you know when I first fell in love with you?" she asks. "I was passing by your father's shop, and I happened to see you in the window, shaving a customer. I could see from the way your face lit up how much you loved your work, and I could tell from watching your hands how good you were at it, too. And I thought to myself, 'I wish I felt that way about sewing, or the playing the piano, or anything.' After that, I'd see you in the village and I'd notice how gentle you were. You never pushed anybody aside or spoke a harsh word. And I thought, 'That is the man I want to marry. I want to have children with him and live with him for the rest of my life.'" She pauses and laughs a little. "I suppose it doesn't hurt that you're so handsome, either."
For a moment, he cannot say anything. He's suddenly so full of happiness that he could bury his face in her hair and weep. Nobody has ever said anything so wonderful to him. Nobody has ever said anything so kind. He thinks of the baby that's coming and he thinks of his own mother, who died when he was four. He wonders what it would've been like to have a mother like Lucy, so beautiful and full of love. Then he takes her in his arms and kisses her lips, her chin, her neck, everywhere.
"I love you, Lucy," he says, over and over again. "I love you so much."