Title: Anamnesis in Full Revolution
Characters: Anthony, Sweeney
Summary: Sweeney unravels and ties the past with the present. Anthony presses where he's not wanted.
Warnings: Rape in memory and in practice, unhealthy relationship, some AU elements.
Author's Notes: This is my first time writing Sweeney Todd fanfiction, so just a character sketch here. I had a bunch of different ideas when I was writing this, and it ended up just writing itself. It's meant to read like a stream of memories, since that's basically what it is. The attempt here was to make Anthony/Sweeney parallels, and it ended up somewhat different than I'd planned.
I: jonah without his whale
He floats on the sea and knows he is half dead, it is all for nothing. Salt and sand grit his mouth and parch his lips, and there is nothing beyond endless crests of water. The ocean is called a woman, tempestuous and changing and beautiful, and he remembers Lucy's golden hair spilling down her back like waves of a different color. His eyes close briefly under the spell of this vision. Even in the sea, he still has her memory.
He thinks this is his ending.
He thinks this is his ending.
II: sliding beneath the surface
It takes time to get acclimated to London again, the few days spent initially settling in become filled with rediscovery, jamais vu: the sense of familiarity with no coherent recognition to go along. Dreamlike, ghostlike, he drifts through the streets and remembers each thing, relearns and adjusts. It is changed, it is all fundamentally the same.
While in exile in the godforsaken penal colony, he'd a clear picture in his mind of the streets, the buildings, his home with everything washed in gold and swept through to brimming with sunlight. But that was very long ago, and sunlight faded to cobwebs and rot in his mind as loneliness, as homesickness gained the edges and blades of hatred and bitterness.
Still, nights there left him awake and contemplating with a firmer picture of London than he has now. What he has are broken memory-images corrupted by time.
Even the weather is something that again he has forgotten. Fog and wet and cold, dank grey skies. It's a wet that seeps through barriers of wool and flannel and straight through skin, and in his flesh's memory there's still the touch of hot sun and the prickle of sweat. All of this is unimportant.
(his muscles remember the ache and strain of his arms as stronger hands pressed him into dirt, because no one cared what criminals did to one another as long as it was kept among themselves)
He swallows and tastes dirt, scorched earth and blood, and even with cold water seeping into his boots he feels burning sunlight like the echoes of pain.
(for the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru, he thinks, if commonplace things may be called wondrous)
That was very long ago, but he is a man haunted by the past and with no true hope for the future beyond blood spilling from a cut throat. He has changed from the man found floating in the waves, changed by simple words and the knowledge of a death fifteen years past.
Sweeney wonders if there's any room in him for an emotion away from cold vengeance and the love of silver blades.
III: the necessity of sufferance
When the boy brings him news about Johanna, it is a struggle to keep himself from taking his key from him on the spot: temptation he can barely resist. Sweeney can't help but dream for an instant of passing through the place of his wife's desecration and slitting Turpin's throat open, of killing him with a hundred cuts and painting the room with crimson. But that wasn't the wise way, nor did it guarantee his prize.
Mrs. Lovett's eyes across the room are wary as she looks at him, and he knows she can read his intentions as though they were written across his face. He wonders what he looks like, desperate or joyous or maybe, as he feels, something like fear and something like hesitation: he has known his daughter as a year-old infant. She has gone from a baby to a young woman of fifteen and he knows nothing of her, of her hair if it was yellow like her mothers, or even the sound of her voice. He hadn't heard her speak before he was made to go.
"A sad girl, and lonely," Anthony says, and the room stands still for a moment as he remembers the baby reaching with pink-dimpled hands for his cheek, laughing and blue-eyed.
When he looks down again, the boy is looking up at him pleadingly like a child, and a piece of him cries out in painful remembrance of how it was to be so naive and so confident in the kindness of strangers. It's not a kind feeling, not nostalgic but resentful. He imagines it is akin to the hatred of the old for the young, for what is lost and can never be reclaimed.
IV: like a stone cast into the sea
The moon on the water is peaceful enough when viewed from the safety of a ship. It hung, a sharp sliver of silver-white, reflected in the tips of the waves, the stars dimly hanging around. He knew there was beauty in this, but his mind refused to register it as such. It was nothing but the faintest touch of light in the darkness, not enough to be useful.
"Lovely night, isn't it?" Anthony's voice was unmistakable by his ear as he drew nearer. Through the few weeks since the boy had spotted him in the wreck of lumber that was left of his boat, Anthony had constantly tried to be companionable and engage him in conversation. Not a false gesture of friendship, certainly, Sweeney has become adept at reading intentions. The boy is naturally gregarious, which doesn't make his constant chatter any less irritating. It is such an abrupt contrast from what he has become accustomed to in the past fifteen years. Used to silence or rough, crude banter, Sweeney finds his companion's openheartedness hard to take. He makes a noncommittal sound, not turning to greet him. With any luck, the point will be taken and he will be left alone once more. "Sir, I admit that I am...concerned. You have spoken to no one in a week save the captain and I, and only to ask our destination." The statement comes out like a plea. "I have no need to speak with anyone," he replies. "I am not inclined to be sociable. Indeed, I have had little chance to polish my conversation skills, and even if I had been given the opportunity I would still lack the interest. Don't worry unduly on my behalf." He feels like he might want to see the boy's expression, (for he is only a boy of seventeen or eighteen at the most,) but maintains his distance. Anthony lingers a while longer, at least for this once allowing him his need for silence. He wonders why the boy feels it necessary to give him company he doesn't need. It is like there is a thin but immeasurably deep rift between them, separated by age and principles and circumstance in life, but despite himself he feels a certain spark of kindred in Anthony. "I never offered you my gratitude," he said, "For my rescue." The words sound like a small piece of the world changing, a faint touch of light.
"Lovely night, isn't it?" Anthony's voice was unmistakable by his ear as he drew nearer. Through the few weeks since the boy had spotted him in the wreck of lumber that was left of his boat, Anthony had constantly tried to be companionable and engage him in conversation. Not a false gesture of friendship, certainly, Sweeney has become adept at reading intentions. The boy is naturally gregarious, which doesn't make his constant chatter any less irritating. It is such an abrupt contrast from what he has become accustomed to in the past fifteen years.
Used to silence or rough, crude banter, Sweeney finds his companion's openheartedness hard to take. He makes a noncommittal sound, not turning to greet him. With any luck, the point will be taken and he will be left alone once more.
"Sir, I admit that I am...concerned. You have spoken to no one in a week save the captain and I, and only to ask our destination."
The statement comes out like a plea.
"I have no need to speak with anyone," he replies. "I am not inclined to be sociable. Indeed, I have had little chance to polish my conversation skills, and even if I had been given the opportunity I would still lack the interest. Don't worry unduly on my behalf." He feels like he might want to see the boy's expression, (for he is only a boy of seventeen or eighteen at the most,) but maintains his distance.
Anthony lingers a while longer, at least for this once allowing him his need for silence. He wonders why the boy feels it necessary to give him company he doesn't need. It is like there is a thin but immeasurably deep rift between them, separated by age and principles and circumstance in life, but despite himself he feels a certain spark of kindred in Anthony.
"I never offered you my gratitude," he said, "For my rescue."
The words sound like a small piece of the world changing, a faint touch of light.
V: the cruelty of men
His thoughts are nothing but a raging, clanging furor, red-heated and alive with murderous intent. So close, he thinks furiously, the words rushing through him like a chant, pounding to the sound of his heartbeat, I had him, I could have had him there, I should have cut him open the instant he set foot here.
And Anthony, as if blind to all sense of self-preservation, stands in front of him, eyes wild and breath coming in short gasps, begging for help. Sweeney wants desperately to use his blade on something, to carve it into unresisting flesh, to prolong the death agonies and watch blood fly from the wound.
The barest vestiges of self control keep him from killing the fool, the stupid little sailor who had once pulled him from the ocean.
"Get out!" he rages at him. His voice sounds hoarse, a guttural snarl, and the boy steps back, eyes wide with fear of whatever he sees on his face.
"But Johanna, Mr. Todd," he manages, "He's going to her! Who knows what he'll do to her, sir, you have to-"
His plea is cut off by Sweeney grabbing an empty cologne bottle and flinging it to the floor with a crash. "I have to? I can do nothing, thanks to you and your damnable infatuation! Leave me! Now!" His voice curls around the word, snarling it out, and the boy steps back until he is pressed against the door. He stands there firmly, chin set in a brave, stubborn gesture, and Sweeney feels only blinding hatred in that instant as he looks at the fool standing in his way.
"How can you just leave her? Have you no mercy?" Anthony protests, and it's either the moral indignation in his tone or the wounded look in his eyes that sets him teetering into mindless rage.
The razor is in his hand without him being aware of having flicked it open, the blade glinting in the light of the window. It gleams like sharpened moonlight, like poetry, and he bunches his fist into Anthony's jacket and pulls him in close. The blade traces the side of his jaw as the boy swallows hard, his adam's apple rising and his eyes wide as saucers in his shock.
"The world has no mercy," he says in a bitter half-whisper, "It's time you learned that."
It's a blur of swimming emotions, anger and frustration and hatred as he shoves Anthony to the floor, as he holds him down and holds the razor to his throat, pinning down his arms with his own, slicing a thin line against the pale skin of the hollow of his neck, across the collarbone. Anthony doesn't scream, doesn't beg or cry out in fear as expected: his mouth sets into a hard line and his skin pales to milk-white.
Sweeney feels like he wants to destroy him, devour him, make him suffer and close out the angry roar of 'I had him! I had him and you interfered!'
Noises come later after he's ripped his trousers down, the belt broken, after he pushes the razor against Anthony's neck with a hoarsely-muttered threat and pushes himself into Anthony's body. He takes him brutally, rough thrusts that shake whimpers and pained gasps from the boy, sinking his madness, his anger into the body beneath him.
Near the end the boy cries out loudly, begging for him to stop, for it to be over. He just laughs at him: hard, forced, harsh laughter without a trace of genuine mirth.
Climax comes with little pleasure, but then that hadn't been the point.
Everything feels dulled when he withdraws, anger made soft-edged by exhaustion. Rational thought slowly returns, his breathing slows, the pulsing drumbeat in his skull dies down.
Anthony doesn't move even when he gets off of him and moves away, and after the fact he feels a tinge of concern. The boy's hair covers his face and his head is turned away from him anyway, but his hands are balled into tight fists and his body moves with his breathing. Still, he makes no sound.
"I wouldn't sleep there if I were you," he says without emotion, as if he had never attacked him.
Anthony responds with a jerk, but as he stands he moves slowly, sluggishly, like a man in a trance.
He is still trying to button his torn jacket as he leaves, his fingers working helplessly where the button no longer exists.
There is a feeling like a fist closing around his chest as he watches this. He thinks it is not guilt.
VI: in the making
There is a definite way of the world, an absolute path that must be followed in all things. Therefore, he knew what would happen to Anthony after he had gone. For him it would not be razor blades, as he was never a barber by trade and a man must fight with what they are comfortable with.
But Sweeney knows that one day he will meet the boy, possibly not even a boy by then, and see him eaten alive with desire for vengeance. When he thinks this he wonders why he hadn't slit Anthony's throat instead of watching him leave, free from everything but the intangible mental bindings and injury.
VII: in the wake of collapse
When he next sees Anthony, he thinks he might have been mistaken about his previous ideas concerning destiny. He is filthy, stumbling, lank-haired, and in the process of vomiting all the contents of his stomach into the alleyway by a tavern he'd just stumbled out of. Not a very promising sight if one was looking for a man driven by vengeance. The difference in appearance is so striking that he has to watch him for a while, making sure he had not been mistaken.
Men walk out of the tavern and laugh at the boy, one emptying a tankard of something over his head as he vomits and chokes. Sweeney feels the typical surge of contempt for his fellow man as he watches them, but Anthony doesn't so much as flinch, let alone defend himself. The fist around his chest clenches tighter, convulsively.
(not guilt, he thinks again, but he knows better because Benjamin Barker is not dead so much as deeply buried)
Anthony is light when he comes to sling his arm under him and help him walk, he feels as though he has not been eating. He also feels hot as an iron, despite how desperately he is shivering.
When Sweeney gingerly braces an arm around him, Anthony mutters something incoherent and the stench of alcohol hovers in the air like a thick cloud. "It won't stop," he mutters as he grasps the arm practically carrying his weight, "I can't make it...it won't stop."
He says nothing. There is nothing to say.
When he manages to take him to the staircase that leads to his shop, Mrs. Lovett flies out of the pie shop door with a flurry of floury hands, her hair sticking out in all directions as usual. It only adds to her look of confusion as she notices who it was he was dragging up the stairs. "Heavens, love, it's that lad again?" she says dismissively, waving a hand that indicated her immense disapproval. "Wot's he gone and done this time? Your daughter's well shot of him, sir, you don't mind me saying so."
Anthony shudders next to him and he continues to make his way up the staircase with no word.
"Oh now, Mr. T," Mrs. Lovett calls out behind him, and there's a strange quality in her voice that makes him turn to look back. She looks a little anxious, a little careful. "Wot are you...would make it easier if he got himself a room of 'is own, you know." She says it cheerfully enough, but her habit of wringing her fingers gives her away.
Sweeney stares at her and she looks away.
"Wotch...wot you going to do with him?" she finally asks, and it makes it clear to him that she had seen what he'd done to him before. Knowing that should have made him feel some twinge of shame, but all he manages is a memory of his hand gripping Anthony's wrist, the soft material of his cuff beneath his fingers.
(when the men walk away he feels like the sunlight is heavy on him as lead, and his wrists are bruised.)
Suddenly he feels very tired. "Nothing," he says quietly, and leads him up.
VIII: the steep and thorny path
The powder from the apothecary's shop comes in a plain, glass bottle and smells musty and sour mixed with ale. There is something about it that makes his stomach turn with revulsion and an eerie recollection of Lucy, Lucy purchasing arsenic and choosing a quiet death over life after defilement. Like the boy lying quiet on his pallet, sweating feverishly, his sleep wracked with awful flashes of nightmare. So like his Lucy, and not so much like him after all.
He tells himself this one won't die.
When he tries to move Anthony, gripping a shoulder so to push him into a more comfortable position, his reaction is instant and almost violent. He shakes, shoots back and almost off of the pallet, tangling sheets around him in his haste to move. Anthony's eyes are glazed over with fever and he's not quite looking at Sweeney when he mutters: "No, not again, please not again." The boy is exhausted and soon slumps down once more, and he no longer tries to move or touch him except to give him medicine.
The medicine trickles through Anthony's lips and sometimes he worries that the boy will refuse to swallow.
Eventually his fever breaks in the little hours of the morning and when his breathing softens and relaxes, Sweeney allows himself a brief moment of relief before leaving Anthony to his much-needed sleep. There are still tiny glass shards on the floor from the flung bottle, and the boy whispers to himself in his sleep about being trapped, being hurt, but Anthony is still alive.
The irony of him trying to save any man's life occurs to him as his eyes droop with fatigue and he rests.
IX: like earthquakes trembling underfoot
He watches Anthony's face when he awakes and he realizes where he is, sees his expression waver between fear and shame in a flickering instant before stopping on frustration. He hears him groan as he sinks his head between his knees, his fingers claw through his hair and Sweeney thinks, for a second, that he is about rip out some in his distress. Instead, Anthony drops his hands and looks up.
The look in his eyes holds more confusion than anger, still dizzy-looking after a night near the edge of death. He looks like the world crumbled under his feet and when he speaks his voice rasps from lack of water. "Why?"
Just one word that contains more questions than the single 'why am I alive?' He could have asked all of them, every thought that must have run through him from the rape to the rescue, and all fit in the simple profundity of 'why'. Sweeney recognizes his expression in a visceral way, the memory of the skin reminding him of when he wore anguish on his sleeve, openly. Time has taught him to be less open.
The question goes unanswered not because he doesn't believe it deserves to be, but because he can't address all of it at once. He doesn't believe he can answer some of it at all- what he does is no longer bound to the understandable anymore.
Instead of speaking he gets to his feet, ignoring how Anthony flinches as he moves, and goes for the water pitcher.
When he returns, Anthony looks panicked, his hands bunched into fists in the sheets. "I can't get up," he says, and there is a rising edge of hysteria in his voice that grinds across his nerves like sandpaper.
"You've been ill," he says harshly, and leaves him alone with the water in reach.
X: working towards a union broken
Time passes as it is wont to do and the boy heals slowly, as though reluctant to become healthy again. Sweeney has little to do with his recuperation, despite the fact that he was the one who had brought him. Instead, Mrs. Lovett tends to him, bringing him broth and dry bread, the only things he can keep down at first, and administering his medicine when necessary. It is only a few days needed for him to recover, but it seems much longer.
"He wants to talk to you, y'know," she confides when she comes down the stairs, empty tray in her hands and an unreadable expression on her pale face. "Keeps on asking about you, he does."
He looks up from where he is polishing his blade, the cloth stained with the faintest brown specks of old blood, and frowns. "What about?" he asks sharply.
"Can't rightly say, love," she says as she sets the tray down and turns the empty cup over in her hands. "It's not like he'll talk to me about it, is it? And he's such a quiet thing too, in't he?"
"No," he says, because that was one thing that Anthony hadn't been before. If anything, the boy was too damned talkative. Had been. Was. He swipes the cloth down the length of the blade one last time and flicks the razor shut. He can sense her waiting for more of a response, but he gives her nothing.
"Might be better off just to send him away," she says finally, "Can't be hanging 'round in a sickbed forever, poor lad. Best to be off somewhere bein' active, that's right for young men."
She looks at him significantly and leaves him to his silence.
The past just hangs in the air here, unspoken of and yet tangible enough to suffocate on. There's undercurrents in the atmosphere like creeping tendrils or snakes: neither accusation nor agreement, and his own thoughts wrap around invisible implications, winding their way down. He wants this to be over. It's too much of a complication, and he can't afford those now.
It's gone nightfall when he opens the door to the room they placed Anthony in. It's dark inside, almost pitch black and lit only by the vaguest hints of starlight from the mostly-curtained window by the bed. The blankets are barely visible as a dark, huddled mass, but Sweeney can hear the faint sounds of breathing.
He can't tell whether the boy is awake or sleeping, but he fully intends him to be conscious enough during this confrontation. Just a hand laid on his shoulder is enough to make Anthony sit up with a jolt, his shadowed face looking for Sweeney in the dark.
"Who-" Anthony asks, his voice a frantic whisper that is choked off by the cold of steel against his throat.
"That's right, son," Sweeney half-whispers, half-growls, "It's me. I've been told you wanted to talk." The razor slips a bit and he can hear a sharp intake of breath that tells him that it cut into the skin, "Or did you want to relearn your lesson?"
This is cruel, and he knows it. But he also knows it is effective, it is methodical, it will work, and ignores the mutterings of conscience, of his buried old self that flinches away at what he does.
He also knows it is an empty threat, and that helps a little as he grips the boy's shoulder tightly, knowing he looks like nothing but a living shadow in the darkness.
Anthony is breathing like he can't get air into his lungs, and his body is trembling under Sweeney's hand. When he speaks, though, his voice doesn't tremble despite his obvious fear. "Why would you have saved me," he says in a voice quiet enough it is hard to hear, "If you were going to kill me anyway?"
Silence. Then he moves the blade away and steps back. "You're leaving tomorrow," he says, and it's his voice that's shaking through the snarl, "You're not to stay here. This is no place for you."
Halfway to the door, the question stops him in his tracks.
"Mr. Todd, it was something I did, wasn't it? Its because I made you angry, it's something I said...you wouldn't have done it...you wouldn't have unless you had to, would you have? I... please, tell me why." His voice is thick with unanswered questions, unresolved troubles and nightmares.
It hadn't occurred to him that the boy would rather sacrifice self-trust rather than break his trust for others. Not like him, not like Lucy, but who knew what her thoughts were while she drank down the bottle, and who she blamed? (and, the barker part of him whispers, if he is like lucy, even like benjamin, who then are you? which part in the story?) The memories weigh him down, and his throat burns from the strain of his silence.
"No," he says, and the words cost him, "You did nothing."
XI: harshest to drink
Salt water clings to his clothing and weighs him down, chokes him as the raft falls apart underneath him and he is left with only a few boards to cling to. It's a sharp taste, rough and sandy, and so salty it makes him thirsty. This is amusing for some reason: surrounded on all sides by water and none of it quenches. He could drink the entire ocean and still thirst.
He thinks of this as his eyes begin to burn with salt spray and droop with fatigue, as he fights sleep, about thirsting and thirsting and never being satisfied. There is a familiarity to the thought, a sort of deja vu, like he has dreamed it or done it or seen it before. The realization nearly hits him, but he is interrupted by kind hands reaching for him and taking him in, and a boy wrapping a blanket around him who names himself as Anthony. He thinks this is a new beginning.
He thinks of this as his eyes begin to burn with salt spray and droop with fatigue, as he fights sleep, about thirsting and thirsting and never being satisfied. There is a familiarity to the thought, a sort of deja vu, like he has dreamed it or done it or seen it before. The realization nearly hits him, but he is interrupted by kind hands reaching for him and taking him in, and a boy wrapping a blanket around him who names himself as Anthony.
He thinks this is a new beginning.