The sign on the door of the pie shop was loud and clear. Eleanor was selling her business. Or someone else was on her behalf. The possibility chilled him to the bones.
Four days had he spent desperately searching for her with no luck. It was as if the earth had swallowed her up.
As soon as Sweeney made sure Lucy was alright, he made his way back downstairs, with the excuse that on his walk he'd found a patron who urgently needed a shave. But the woman who actually needed him with urgency was nowhere to be seen. In her room, there were only the blood-stained bedsheets.
Like a bat out of hell, he ran to the streets. Never one to sit idle, he assumed she'd gone to see a doctor by herself instead of waiting for him. He first paid a visit to Doctor Higgins, but he hadn't seen Nellie that day. His visits to the other doctors in the area yielded the same results. Next were the hospitals, over the next couple of days he visited as many as he could, even venturing into Whitechapel's own London Hospital. But in the midst of another bout of the never-ending cholera epidemic that had been ravaging the city for almost a decade, chaos was rampant in the receptions and waiting rooms and no one could confirm nor deny that they've seen a pregnant woman matching Nellie's description. They could nonetheless inform him that there was no patient under the name of Eleanor Lovett currently receiving treatment.
That did nothing to assuage him. It she wasn't in a hospital… he struggled to see any scenario in which a heavily pregnant woman who was bleeding the last time he saw her would be fine after not being seen for days. What if on her way to get medical help she was run over by a carriage? What if she just fainted due to a massive blood loss, leaving her at mercy of all the beggars, the urchins and all the vermin in London who would gladly do everything to her, from stealing all she had to killing her to sell her organs and those of their baby? Perhaps it was time to get the police involved, though he wasn't fond of those self-serving coppers who bent over backwards to protect the rich and privileged. Speaking of the rich… what if the Judge got to her and punished her for not getting that abortion when he gave her the chance?
Or that Bouverie street looney, Mrs. Mooney… she never liked that Nellie was going to give birth to what she thought was Albert's heir, what if she hurt her? Those two possibilities were slightly more comforting than just thinking she might be in the morgue or rotting in a filthy alley, so he paid a visit to the demented pie maker first. Yet inside Mrs. Mooney's house of horrors, which he forcefully entered despite the older woman's protests and her threats to have her herd of cats attack him (all named a variation of Albert or Bertie, it seemed), he didn't find what he was looking for. As disturbing as some of her furniture and mementos were—he was particularly perplexed by a shrine to Albert Lovett in the middle of her bedroom—there was no sign that she could have held her rival captive. Not even in the bakehouse, though there he saw some rotting cat corpses suspiciously close to the mincer. Perhaps she'd decided to heed Nellie's suggestion and use pussy meat instead of whatever she used before.
He left Mrs. Mooney's pie shop with empty hands and returned home to check on Lucy before he went back to his search. His next stop would be the Judge's manor and if he found out he had anything to do with Nellie's disappearance, he would not hesitate to deploy his silver friends, no matter the consequences. Yet as soon as he rounded the corner, he saw the big sign advertising the sale of Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Emporium.
With his heart in his mouth, he wasted no time in entering the premises. If something had happened to Nellie and it was some long-lost relative selling the shop in her absence, he needed to know. Though what he'd do if that were the case, he didn't know, his anxious mind did not allow him to see past that moment that could determine everything.
The shop was empty, but the first thing that struck him where the bottles on the counter. There was a clear one that was very obviously gin and four blue bottles, one of them labelled arsenic while the others he assumed were the laudanum the late Albert Lovett used to live on. The cupboards were empty, and mugs and dishes were everywhere, signalling the shop was undergoing a deep cleaning. He could hear sounds coming from the parlour, so he pushed the door open and much to his relief, there she was, his baker. Seemingly in perfect health, vigorously cleaning the floor as much as her swollen belly allowed her to. He let out a deep sigh. She was fine, their baby was fine. He'd never been more grateful for anything in his life.
"Hello. Was there anything you needed?" she asked. Despite her directness, her tone was cordial, making him frown. As much as he sometimes admired her ability to move on by pretending nothing happened, something had indeed happened. Something they needed to address.
"Where were you?" he asked somewhat curtly. Nellie managed a small smile. Only that it wasn't her genuine smile but the fake one she deployed when she played the grand game of pretend.
"Just took a trip to the sea. I was in dire need of some fresh air and I knew the sea would help me find some perspective. Not that it's any of your business" she answered morosely before returning to her cleaning. As grateful as he was that she at least was replying to him instead of giving him the silent treatment, her brushing it off angered Sweeney. He seized her by the shoulders as he forced her to look at him. Still, his motions were gentler that they would have been months ago and not only because she was pregnant.
"You were by the sea? I've looked for you everywhere, I was going mad! And you were by the sea…" he told her sternly, trying his best not to raise his voice. "And now you come back and have the gall not to inform me of your return… You just hanged that bloody sign on the window. What for, to torture me? To punish me?"
"I don't know owe you any explanations, Mr. Barker. We are nothing." They both knew she was lying, but what a bloody good liar she was. "Besides, I assumed your silly little nit of a wife would have told you about my return, since the bloody ninny saw me yesterday when I returned shortly after dinner time. Perhaps she forgot, all that laudanum she took to escape her misery has definitely messed with her head. She'd do well in bedlam!"
That information was new to Sweeney and he found himself angry at Lucy for not saving him another sleepless night of agonising misery as he contemplated a future without Nellie. But could he blame her? He'd realised long ago that even if they both pretended otherwise, Lucy must have known about him and the baker. With how recurrent his absences were and those walls that were as thin as Nellie was loud... Lucy was probably hoping she'd never return.
At the same time, he realised Nellie's harsh words about Lucy didn't bother him like they used to. As insulting as they were, there was some truth in them, and he was no longer blind to see it. No one, not even Lucy, was perfect and faultless in everything they did. Yet, he recognised her tactic. Oh, how well she knew him, capitalizing on the certainty that his anger took could potentially neutralise all resemblance of coherence and logic in him if she stroked it the right way. He wouldn't let it distract him like she wanted to, so he ignored it.
"I've been worried sick, Eleanor! As soon as I made sure Lucy was alright, I went down to see you, to call a doctor to check on you, but you weren't here. You didn't even leave a note! You just disappeared into thin air! To go to your precious sea, leaving me to wonder whether you were even amongst the living."
"I didn't think a man who left me all alone when I thought I was losing my baby would care to know what happened to it!" she replied, her voice was still somehow calm, but her eyes reflected the anger that was brewing inside of her. Sweeney instinctively gulped, for hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
"Is everything fine, with the baby?" he asked, slightly ashamed he hadn't asked before. He just assumed, since she still looked pregnant. But that didn't aid his case of proving just how much he cared. She nodded sharply as she tried to break free from his grasp. He let her. "But the bleeding…? What was that about? I feared the worst" he confessed. Nellie dramatically rolled her eyes. She was determined not to fall for his words again when his actions always spoke much louder.
"Nothing to worry about, my child is fine. Went to the hospital and they said it happens sometimes after engaging in sexual activity this late in the pregnancy. Everything is much tighter now…" she explained somewhat awkwardly, but he was grateful she did. "Doctor advised me to take it easy when it comes to shagging so I suppose you'll give me the boot now. Go ahead. I couldn't care less. Soon I'll sell my shop and get out of this hellhole. Off to a better life by the sea! And I wish to never see you again."
Sweeney sighed. Convincing her would not be easy. "Nellie, please. Be reasonable. I tried to go back with you, I searched for you everywhere… I care so much about you and the baby, you don't know how much."
"Liar!" she yelled out of a sudden. "You don't give a rat's ass about us. You chose her! We needed you and you chose her!"
"She's my wife and she was threatening to kill herself, how did you expect me to react? I could save her life but yours wasn't in my hands. And I did came back! If only you'd waited ten bloody minutes!" Nellie rolled her eyes again and began scrubbing on top of the piano, set on ignoring him. "You're being unfair here. I've proved to you time and again just how much I care."
"I'm bloody not! For the first time, I can see things clearly without my former fondness of you clouding my judgment. So, I'm leaving you." She turned round all of a sudden, not to look at Sweeney, but rather at the door that led to the shop. Sweeney had heard it too, the sound of the main door opening. He held his breath, hoping it wasn't the pesky Mrs. Mooney, an expert in ruining moments. She'd told him earlier she'd make him pay for his home invasion. But after a while, nobody actually seemed to come in, so Eleanor went back to her task not without bitterly whispering. "You'll find another whore soon. One that doesn't catch feelings so easily."
"You're not leaving, you hear me?" Sweeney stated. He was outraged, offended and disappointed but above all, scared to be losing her and their child forever. "I could be the father of that child! I'm not letting you go, Eleanor, not now or ever. I need you!"
His words must have hit her Achilles' heel, because she started crying. She hastily wiped her tears with her forearm, but new ones kept streaming from her eyes. Instinctively, he drew her to his chest, but she didn't let him. "Please, Sweeney, don't you see that you're killing me? I can't keep going on like this."
"Like what?" Sweeney asked. He was perplexed, he thought they were happy in the months since he killed Albert save for this little bump. "I know you're still angry but Nellie, I told you I went back downstairs to you as soon as I stopped her from committing suicide. Please, believe me. I've been in complete agony these past few days without knowing if you and my child were alright."
"You don't get it, Sweeney. It wasn't just that." She took a deep breath before continuing. "I thought I knew what I was getting into. I agreed to become your mistress, the other woman, and I thought I'd be fine with it, that I'd rather have some part of you than nothing at all. But the truth is… it just hurts so much" A strangled sob cut her off and she had to pause to collect herself. All the while, Sweeney's heart was breaking into small pieces. He was responsible for her misery, he'd hurt her even when he didn't mean to. "Because the longer this lasts, the harder I fall for you. And I know that you won't ever love me back, that your heart belongs to her, but there's just nothing I can do. I want all of you, yet I can't have you. And I can't keep sharing you with her, it's killing me. So, I beg you, if you really care one bit about me, please, just let me go."
Her words made him ponder. The whole situation had been unfair to her and he'd been blinded by his own elation to be with her to realise it. Especially in the past couple of months as Lucy got better—or more lucid, at least—when they couldn't see each other as much as they wanted to, because Lucy demanded more of his attention. He was always happy to sneak out for a shag with her before returning to the torture that his marriage had become. But where did that put Eleanor? The fact that he loved her and that he used her were not mutually exclusive.
She wanted promenades along the Thames, dinners and evenings at the dance hall, or, at the very least, conversations that were more than a prelude to sex. A partner, a present father to her child who'd go with her to appointments and shop for baby furniture and clothes, who would have stopped everything to be by her side when there was even the minimum chance the pregnancy could be at risk. She wanted and deserved better. But he couldn't give it to her.
"In another life, I'd do right by you" he spoke, perhaps more sincerely than he ever had.
Eleanor just shook her head sadly. "But there's no other life. And we make choices, and we must live with them."
If only you knew, Sweeney thought, that we could have been happy in another life, if only we hadn't screwed up. But he'd indeed made his choice to try again in a new timeline, and he'd have to live with it. It was over, he had to let her go, her and the baby. But not before telling her.
"Whatever happens, don't you ever doubt that I l…" he hesitated when he saw her eyes suddenly lighten up. Looking up at him expectantly, full of hope. If he told her… perhaps she'd stay. But it wouldn't change anything. She would still be the other woman for as long as his wife lived. He couldn't do that to her. "That I care about you, that I see your baby as mine and that I wish I could be there to see him or her grow, but I understand that I can't, I respect your decision. Thank you for giving me your all and sorry I couldn't do the same for you." He turned round and made for the door.
"Sweeney" she called after him. For a moment, hope soared in his heart, only to be crushed again. "Goodbye."
He couldn't bear it, it was too much. There was a tightness in his throat that didn't let him breath, his heart was clenching, and hot tears were pooling at his eyes. He just wanted to stop feeling altogether, to shut down like he used to. Thus, he grabbed the bottle of gin, not caring that he knocked over the three blue bottles and ran away.
Only two blocks away, in an alley that at night became a prostitutes and beggar's den but that was mercifully empty that time of the day, Sweeney broke down. He sagged against the wall until he was sitting on the floor and took one, two, three big swigs of the gin, the sharp burning down his throat momentarily distracting him from the unbearable pain he was in. It was over, he had no doubts about it now.
He'd lost Eleanor, he'd lost her forever. And yes, throughout the many months—almost a full year—he'd spent in this timeline that somehow still didn't feel like his own, he'd come to that conclusion several times, and they always found their way back together eventually. But the rift between there did no longer seem shallow enough to navigate just with their love as a lifesaver.
No, Eleanor had made it clear. Being the other woman was killing her. It didn't matter that she was the only one in his heart, not when she didn't even know that because he'd been afraid to tell her, of the implications it'd have in his life if he did. Perhaps it's better this way, it's what I deserve for all my sins, he admitted defeat as he took yet another big gulp of the liqueur. But then, something shifted in him, some sort of unexplainable yet strong force came over him with the force of an earthquake. He tightly closed his eyes as he tried to make sense of it. Sweeney Todd had seen the light.
It was a realisation, that he'd already wasted one life because he was too much of a coward to act on his feelings. A determination, to give himself a chance to be happy with the woman he loved and his children. A plan, as much as it hurt him, perhaps bedlam was indeed the place for Lucy. Not Fogg's, but a proper mental hospital where they'd take good care of her. A life in which the smallest trigger made you seriously consider death wasn't a life, and he knew from experience. He'd visit her, he'd bring Johanna to visit, but he realised he couldn't let his past life and a woman that was only a mirage of the one he thought he was marrying as Benjamin Barker ruin Sweeney Todd's future.
Perhaps he was being selfish. But seventeen years ago, the selfish acts of a capricious man had robbed him of his life. He'd been given a second chance by essentially going back in time, didn't an eye for an eye somewhat apply here? Would that put him at the Judge's level? No. Perhaps, he could be selfish for once, just this once. And not only his life would get better but Nellie's, their baby's and even Johanna's, for Lucy's blatant neglect bordering on rejection of her own daughter became more apparent by the day, while Eleanor was a mum to her in all but blood.
Only his wife was standing in the way, and although he felt like he must stay with her, as a penitence for killing her in the other timeline, would he really hamper the happiness of Eleanor and Johanna? Could he? Perhaps it wasn't selfish, he was looking out for the people he loved. He'd once told Nellie that life would be better for her if she just focused on those who loved her instead of those who never will, and Lucy was too far gone to ever return to her past loving self. It was time to lead by example. In the name of love.
Thus, he made his decision. For the first time Sweeney had listened to his heart, not ignoring the guilt and the fears but accepting and overcoming them to finally break ties with his burdening past. From that moment on, he would only look forward. With a renewed sense of optimism and ready to inform Nellie of his decision, to tell her that he loved her and was ready to choose her, only her, he made his way back to the pie shop on Fleet Street. But Eleanor wasn't home. From her parlour, however, he could hear her voice from upstairs. And Lucy's. They seemed to be arguing.
"But he loves you!" his wife shrieked. "You didn't waste your time, Mrs. Lovett. From the first moment you came to this home as Mr. Lovett's fiancée you set your lustful eyes on my husband, and you didn't rest until you claimed him as yours. Those sultry smiles, those low-cut dresses parading your goods like a cheap prostitute and that sinful kiss you gave him the day I departed for Bedford! You thought I was too stupid to notice, but I even found your nude photographs in his vest pockets! You disgust me, you have no shame, no self-respect. A hussy, a tart, that's what you are!"
"That's why he loves you!" Nellie shouted back, seemingly ignoring Lucy's insults, which surprised Sweeney. If anything, Eleanor never wasted an opportunity to fight back. And Lucy was one of her favourite victims of her wit. "I was just his pastime, a meaningless fling. That's why I'm leaving! I'm selling me shop because I know his heart belongs to you and I don't want to interfere! Please, think this through, Mrs. Barker. At least think of your daughter!"
"My daughter you too have stolen! She now cries in my arms because she you've tricked her into thinking you're her mum! You're a she-devil, the devil's wife!" Lucy paused as she broke down crying, but she quickly recovered. Her tone bitter yet detached. "But I must congratulate you, you won with your dirty play. You stole my husband, my daughter and now you have his filthy bastard on the way to cement your evil family."
"This is not Mr. Barker's baby! It's my late husband's!" Nellie stated with uttermost conviction. It was the lie she'd been telling everybody.
"Don't play me for a fool! I heard him telling you earlier! But now that I think of it, it could be your husband's too, or the ugly Judge you were bedding. It could be anyone in London because you're a dollymop!" Lucy chuckled darkly but Eleanor was silent. "Now let me take myself out of the way! I won't stand as he abandons me for a whore and a bastard that may not even be his. I won't be an outcast!"
All alarms raised in Sweeney's head. He ran up the indoors stairs that connected both flats but the door was locked and he didn't have the keys in that moment. Thus, he went outside to use his regular one as fast as his feet could carry him. All the while, he could still hear them.
"But don't think you're getting away with it. I know Ben, my death will destroy him. He always comes running like a lost puppy when I threaten to do it! This time I'm serious. My death will weigh heavily on his conscience, vitiating any future life you might have and haunting you both for all the eternity. Good riddance, you will never be happy together!" Heard Sweeney as he finally made it outside, his heart was hammering in his chest.
"No!" Nellie screamed. "You could kill yourself for all I care, but I won't let you hurt him like this!"
When Sweeney opened the door, he saw the two women struggling to get hold of the blue bottle with the big arsenic tag he assumed Lucy intended to drink. The three blue bottles he knocked over… there was four when he first entered the shop this morning. He should have seen it, she must have been the one who entered the shop while he and Nellie were arguing to steal the poison. "Stop! Lucy!" he shouted.
Nellie, whose back was turned to him and hadn't seen him enter, faltered for a second and Lucy took advantage of it to seize the bottle. She opened it and began swallowing its contents. And while Sweneey's feet seemed to be glued to the floor, it was Nellie who once again took action.
She lunged forward, knocking the bottle from Lucy's hand and making it fall to the floor, where it shattered into a million pieces. But she was a heavily pregnant woman, and her balance was not what it used to be… As soon as he noticed her tumbling, Sweeney reached forward but did not manage to catch her. He could only watch as she fell on her front, her swollen belly landing on top of the small crystals. Her agonising scream made his heart stop.
"Nellie!" He rushed to her side, turning her around to relieve the weight off the baby. He cradled her face and softly wiped her tears with the pad of his thumbs. Both panicked, but he was trying to be strong for her. Lucy laughed maniacally behind them, but he had tuned her out. He could only focus on Eleanor and yet another sacrifice she did for him. "Everything is going to be alright."
"You're going to lose her too! Yes, yes, goodbye, goodbye, hussy! The devil's wife is going back to hell, yippy yay!" Lucy taunted in the midst of her cackle as she jumped madly all around the room. It was obvious the little arsenic she'd taken was beginning to take effect. She kneeled and began licking the poodle of arsenic off the floor, cutting her chin and lips with the crystals. Sweeney froze for a second, guilt and unwanted memories of his original timeline making way into his mind.
It was done, the damage would be permanent. The Lucy he once knew would never come back. She was as good as dead. Thus, he gingerly picked Nellie up and walked down the stairs, leaving Lucy there as she kept licking the floor like a dog. It pained him, yes, but Nellie… he loved Nellie. And she and her baby could, would be saved. She'd risked everything for him, because she knew Lucy's death would hurt him, and it was time he did the same. He would not fail her this time.
He was lucky to spot one of the lads Nellie liked to feed with the day's unsold pies and asked him to fetch Doctor Higgins on Eagle Street, telling him there was an emergency. The boy agreed without question and left on his quest. Sweeney made his way to the master bedroom, where he carefully placed his trembling lover on the bed. Both were horrified to see her pink dress was stained with ruby red blood, and not because she cut herself with the glass…
"The baby… Oh, lord, Sweeney. I don't care if I die but save my baby. It's innocent" she said, making him gulp as flashbacks assailed his anxious mind. It's innocent, his original Nellie had said too…
"No one is going to die" he assured her. The watcher had saved her once. Surely, she wouldn't let his match die. She couldn't, she was his destiny. But their baby… there was just too much blood.
He kept trying to comfort her, so he lied by her side, holding her and stroking her hair. She seemed to be experiencing contractions, for every few seconds she'd scream, a grimace etched into her pretty features. That had to be a good sign, didn't it? The baby was alive… it was going to be born. But the more blood she lost, the dizzier she became, to the point that she had trouble to keep her eyes open. He palmed her face.
"Nellie, stay with me, please" he begged, tears falling steadily from his eyes as he noticed she was on the verge of passing out. "There's something I want you to know" he tried, and her eyes finally focused on him. "I want to thank you, Nellie. For trying to stop Lucy. I don't deserve you but bloody hell I will try. When we get out of this, I'm going to be the man you deserve because I…"
Doctor Higgins chose that moment to barge in, and as grateful as he was for his promptness, there went yet another attempt at confessing his love for her. The doctor, who came with two midwives, ushered Sweeney out of the room but just before he closed the door, he cast one last glance at Nellie. In the middle of another powerful contraction, she smiled sweetly at him, holding him to his promise. They would get out of this. And even Sweeney, a man so disillusioned with the world he considered it a great black pit, could not help but hope for a happy ending.
Hours went by as he waited. In that time, Johanna returned from her playdate, but he asked the kind woman who was the mother of her friend Penny to keep her for the night and she gladly agreed. He also gave some coins to the lad to fetch yet another doctor, this time for Lucy. She was his wife, for fifteen years she was his everything, his lifeline, and even if the damage was already done and she had lost her mind, he couldn't just let her die. He owed her that. Yet, he didn't dare to go upstairs to check on her… He just paced for what felt like an eternity before he heard a high-pitched scream, then silence. His breath caught in his throat, but soon enough he heard it, a wailing cry. Their baby had been born. He waited a few more minutes before softly knocking. Doctor Higgins himself opened it.
"It's a boy" he announced. Sweeney smiled. A boy… his boy.
"And Nellie? How is she?" he asked, worry evident in his voice. From his position he could spy her laying on the bed with her eyes closed, but the soft rise and fall of her chest didn't escape him. She was alive.
"She survived, but I'm not going to lie to you. She's lost quite a worrisome amount blood. She's a strong woman but… things can take a turn for the worse. I don't know and frankly do not care what the two of you are, but it is obvious that you care about Mrs. Lovett. I trust you to keep a good eye on her and don't hesitate to fetch me if you need to" Sweeney nodded and Dr. Higgins opened the door wider to show him a sleeping Nellie. "I gave her some ether to help with the labour pains, she may be a little bit groggy at the moment. But I think you can see your child."
The shock that he experienced when the doctor referred to her son as his child, letting him know he knew but it was none of their business, was forgotten when he stepped inside and spotted the midwives bathing a rosy-skinned baby. He was so small, so delicate that Sweeney feared he'd hurt him when he first held him in his arms. But he didn't, and the little boy just snuggled closer to his daddy when he felt his strong arms rocking him. Because goddamit, even if he were biologically Turpin's, he knew right then and there that he wouldn't let anybody separate him from that precious bundle of joy. This was Sweeney Todd and Nellie Lovett's son. And he was so loved already.
He was perfect. From the dark wavy fuzz on top of his soft head to his dainty yet strong feet, kicking his dad with surprising strength for a newborn as he began to get cranky. On his chest, a tear shaped birth mark, perhaps a testament to all the tears his mum had cried throughout her pregnancy. Sweeney himself felt the tears well in his eyes as he realised how far he'd come. This was their baby… but what about their other baby? He wished he could have met him too, he wished he could have experienced this wonderful sensation of seeing his child open his eyes to look at his father for the first time. No more tears, he told himself. What's done it's done, and there's no point in brooding away on my wrongs, he thought, channelling Nellie. This Nellie and this son need me to look forward . But the baby had other plans, for he began crying loudly, waking his mum up.
"Sweeney?" she asked softly. He walked over to her and handed her the child. She seemed to fully awaken as she stared at it in wonder. "Is it…?"
"Your son. A beautiful and healthy baby boy" he told her. His heard stopped as he watched her welcome the crying child into her arms. She pulled down her dress and the baby quickly began suckling on her nipple.
"Hello, lovey! Are you hungry?" she sweetly asked the boy. Neither spoke for a while as they watched their baby breastfeed for the first time. Lucy never allowed him to see her in those "embarrassing moments" with Johanna and she soon switched to the bottle for it was "unladylike", so this too was his first time. It was more special than either of them had ever imagined. Still, it wasn't lost on him how Nellie kept cramping badly, how she became paler. But she shrugged it off, saying it was normal after having birth. The doctor had already left and the midwives were in the parlour taking a short break.
"Charles Sweeney Lovett. Told you I wanted to name him after a good man." she announced, her voice breathy. Sweeney's eyes welled with tears once again.
"I'm not a good man, Nellie. I hurt you, more than once" he said, humbled.
"But you are. You kept me sane, when my world was crumbling. You made me want to keep living... I love you, Sweeney." For a second, his heart stopped beating. She loved him… hearing it gave it a new meaning. She loved him…"And I know you won't hesitate to do what I'm about to ask you." He was suddenly intrigued. She closed her eyes and gulped before continuing. "Take care of my baby. Please, love him like your own. Promise me you'll be his father, when I'm gone."
"What do you…?" he began but he looked down and spotted an ever-growing poodle of blood between her legs. He shouted for the midwives as Nellie fought to stay awake. "You are not dying; do you hear me? I won't let you!" She managed a weak smile.
"Promise me you will love this child, like I was never loved" she said, her voice only an airy whisper as all her strength seemed to be leaving her. She closed her eyes as Sweeney began crying, holding their son close to his chest.
A midwife was busy trying to stop the bleeding, while the other went to fetch the doctor. She ordered Sweeney out of the room with the child, but he wouldn't leave. Not before he told her. "But you are loved" Her tired eyes opened with difficulty, and they locked onto his. "I love you, Nellie Lovett. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. Please, resist. I can't live without you."
A lone tear fell down her cheek before she closed her eyes again, her breathing becoming fainter. He'd told her but it was too late. And he could only pray to the Watcher. "Please, save her, please. You were right. I love her, then and now! Don't take her from me". He thought he felt Nellie's eyes opening again, her fighting with all her might to keep living. But his vision was blurred due to all his tears, and he could no longer see straight.
All of a sudden, everything turned black.
"You're finally ready to meet your destiny" the unmistakable voice of the Watcher spoke as he momentarily found himself back in that limbo. "This is your final chance. Don't screw up this time"
"I won't" he spoke with uttermost conviction as the space around him began spinning. Before he closed his eyes as everything darkened around him, he wondered whether the Watcher would just save this Nellie, sent him to his original Nellie or to a different timeline altogether. As long as she was alive…
But he didn't need to wonder much. As soon as he opened his eyes, he realised he was resting on an older Nellie's lap as she whispered comforting words to his limp body. They were back at the bakehouse, the bodies of the Beadle, the Judge, and Lucy's surrounded them.
He was back in his original timeline, and it was if he'd just woken up for a deep dream.
Over the next few months, he began wondering whether it had indeed been a dream. It was too bizarre to be real life. But when seven months later, Nellie gave birth to a baby boy with a tear shaped mark on his chest, he just knew.
Nellie and their child were his destiny, no matter the timeline. And he would not let them down this time.
A/N: Thank you for reading! Their story doesn't end here, check out the sequel A Time on Place for Us. Just posted!