ST fic: Gallows Literature (Sweeney/Lovett, PG-13, 1/1) Title: Gallows Literature Author:shyaway Rating: PG-13 Pairing: Sweeney/Lovett (in her head) Disclaimer: Not mine. Used without permission or remuneration but with as much love and respect as Sweeney has for his friends. Prompt: Penny Dreadful, for 6impearfics. Also called Gallows Literature. A dime novel rife with melodrama, horror, madness and cruelty; a ten cent analogy of vice and virtue in conflict. Soft perfume evocative of noir heroines over rich red grave loam. Table here. Summary: It’s her fantasy and she’ll cast herself as the tragic romantic heroine if she wants to. Not all Mrs Lovett’s flights of fancy are as wholesome as ‘By the Sea’. A/N:hereswith did her usual wonderful job betaing (thank you!); any remaining errors are mine.
Mrs Lovett was just serving a nice meat pie – clerk, very fresh, butchered only yesterday – for the delectation of a gaggle of law students, when through the bustle outside cut what had become the most unwelcome sound: a police whistle blew.
The customers all craned to see (you’d think they were on the stage, the way they turned as one), eager for a good crisis, so none of them were looking at her when she jumped, the pie bouncing on the plate, and then froze. They were coming down Fleet Street. From the police station.
Cash in the tin on the mantelpiece. Mr Todd, was there time to get to him? Could she take Toby? No, she couldn’t run, they were too close – all the months they’d been doing this and she still hadn’t come up with a story for the police –
A blurred figure shot past, followed by three constables. They were chasing after an anonymous lad. It wasn’t for her and Mr Todd.
Conversation started up again, the customers disappointed at the lack of a satisfying to-do. “You all right, Mrs Lovett?” one of the students asked. She was still foolishly holding the pie aloft – just think, she would have been caught red-handed, as it were.
“Perfectly, thank you. Jus’ awful to think of what that boy must have done to ‘ave the police after him at his age. People nowadays!”
They accepted it. No one really cared about anyone else (that was how you got away with murder). She set their food down, and with heart hammering, took refuge behind the counter, bending over the work surface and wiping it diligently to avoid any other questions.
She did always start when she saw the police now, and the uneasiness lingered like rotten meat in her stomach afterwards. Nerves of steel she might have when it came to those mangled bodies that landed in her bakehouse every day, but the law … mind you, she’d taken against them the day poor Mr Barker was arrested, and what the Judge did to his stupid wife hadn’t helped, even if she had brought it on herself, silly little nit – it was only natural that they should be the enemy.
What would happen to the two of them if they were caught? Mr Todd would face the noose, she knew that and worried about it all the time. As if he hadn’t suffered enough! She wasn’t sure that what she did was actually against the law; it wasn’t as if she killed anyone herself, and people passed much worse things off for nefarious purposes – look at Toby’s old master and his Elixir. Her customers got exactly what they paid for: a nice meat pie. Still, like the loyal almost-wife she was, she would stand by Mr Todd to the last, with the noble cry of, “Whatever you do to him, you have to do to me!”
Wasn’t it called being an accessory before the fact? So they would be doing it anyway. All right, death by hanging for both of them. She could see it now. The two of them side by side on the gallows. Her in her Sunday best. Would it be sunny, to give them a good send-off, or raining, to suit the sobriety of the occasion? Sunny – she’d look like a drowned rat in the rain. There would be a crowd, jostling and pressing to get a better look at the infamous barber and his faithful baker. Catcalling and angry? No, you’d be curious, wouldn’t you, about a pair that had played such a jest on the world? The itinerant pie hawkers, all aspiring to own their own shops, they would be swarming around her for tips.
It would be the first time she and Mr Todd had seen each other since the trial, she supposed, but there would be no chance of conversation, no heart-to-heart before they breathed their last – they could only speak with their eyes. She would take the secret of Lucy to her grave. Why burden him with such a thing?
The only opportunity to talk would be when she was offered a priest (ha ha), and she would have no confession for him, either. “It was grand passion,” she would tell him. “God will understand.” And then, in her supreme moment, in extremis, she would declare it for everyone.
“I did it all for love! If you wouldn’t have done the same, it’s only because you’ve never loved as I love him!”
Or because you hadn’t the wit to think of it, Mrs Lovett thought, catching sight of Mrs Mooney trudging past, her dress threadbare now, the way Mrs Lovett’s own used to be.
Back on the gallows... When she had spoken those words, proclaimed her love for the whole world to hear, Mr Todd would look at her and – well, she had to admit that even in her wildest dreams she couldn’t imagine him saying, “I love you,” in front of a crowd, nor of consenting to an eleventh-hour public kiss. But he would meet her eyes, and she would know how much he appreciated everything she had done for him, and that he did love her in return.
Then the signal would be given and they would both dangle. That was the trouble with this scenario; it had to end badly. Oh well. Not that it would ever come to that. A doomed kiss, a neat little incision, a graceful swoon in his arms, and Mr Todd could put them both beyond the reach of the law before you could say knife.