Part XII: Lovely Wounds
Storms brew outside the window, rattling the panes in the windows of the tiny house by the sea. Salty ocean winds whip sand about, in clouds, stinging a person's bare legs and face, piercing through one's clothes.
The grey cottage sits atop a small grassy hill right on the beach, about a hundred feet away from the crashing waves. Its small porch and tiny two-story structure is just how she's always dreamed, always pictured.
It is as if he has chosen this place to mock her.
Upstairs, there is only one solitary oil lamp lit in the left window, and inside, she sees no-one.
Downstairs, there are lamps lit in each of the squares of glass, tiny spots of golden light in the stormy darkness of the evening.
The house itself looks to be in bad shape, with peeling paint on its shingles, and a rickety looking front stoop, complete with those beachside wicker chairs. Just the sight conjures up pleasant images of colorful skies and lovely bright furniture, and Eleanor is not so blind that she does not see the humour in how Sweeney Todd has warped even her most secret fantasy, taking her perfectly pleasant dream and infecting it with somber greys and blues, a cold climate and a general state of disrepair.
By the sea...Certainly not what she imagined, though the irony is enough to make her smile sardonically.
Mrs. Lovett followed the wooden planks that made a walkway from town to the ocean's edge, as Toby instructed her to, in silent contemplation. The wind is fierce, now that she is so close to the waves, and she feels spray hit her face as she stands at the end of the pathway, looking into the distance at her final destination.
End of the line.
This is where it will be over, and she can live again...
Reaching into her coat, she pulls out the pistol she stole from the Beadle, and grips it tightly in one hand. Her boots make soft noises in the sand as she leaves the walkway, like fabric against fabric.
The porch is old and creaky, almost too wobbly to walk upon, and she treads very lightly, for fear of both falling into the space a plank will leave behind for her when it finally gives in, and for fear of being discovered. She has nothing but an element of surprise.
The door has a tiny bronze mail slot, that reads "POST", and with a twinge of shame and anger, she remembers in her fantasies, the house did have such a slot as this one. Her finger runs over it briefly, and she is lost in thought for a second before glancing at the door once, twice, then taking a few steps backward, she hurls herself forward, and her foot collides hard with the door.
There's the crash and snap of it breaking on its rusty hinges, falling to the floor with a thump that's muffled by the carpet underfoot, a moth-eaten thing that lets out a sigh of dust as the heavy wooden door falls upon it. Nellie winces.
So much for surprise. Though that was incredibly satisfying.
The doorway opens into a small, narrow hallway, which has a green and red striped wallpaper she's imagined so many times in her dreams, and a line of shoes at the door, neatly arranged, ready and waiting for their owners. A woman's shoes sit neatly nearby, slightly separate from the other pairs, as if in protest.
A coat rack holds a grey jacket, a familiar thing she recalls him wearing often, and most notably, when they danced together in her shop, rejoicing over the brilliance of their plan. There's a white apron hung there too, undoubtedly Toby's, and an unidentified violet coat and feathered hat that peaks her suspicion and jealousy..
If he has some sort of woman here...She's killing her too, whoever she is.
Shifting her hold on the gun, she pulls out her knife and clutches this in her other hand, advancing down the hallway, brandishing both weapons. At the end of the corridor, there is a flight of stairs immediately in front of her, a dining room to her right, and a lighted area to her left.
She half-runs the rest of the length of the hall, whirling about lighting fast, to face the doorway that the golden light is flooding out of.
Her feet carry her to the left, and--
She lets out a gasp, turning at angle to come face to face with none other than...
And, whipping round, holding the gun and blade, she comes face to face with Sweeney Todd.
He has an expression of bored curiosity, eying the pistol that is inches from his nose with an air of disinterest. Dark eyes glitter and dance like the flame in a fireplace, but it has been so long since she saw him up close that she no longer remembers the language and the words his eyes told her. His face seems to have become more weary, and his entire body looks different.
Was he always so thin, so ghost-like? Had he always looked so tired, or was it just her own mind playing tricks that had made him seem larger than life, strong as anything, invincible. She's so shocked, to see Sweeney Todd like this, through eyes no longer clouded by complete adoration, that she cannot find her voice. He has changed too, in all these years.
But upon turning his eyes on her, he smiles that familiar smile, and her heart thuds instinctively, as it always has, when he is near. She should shoot. She should shoot the gun the right now, have the blood spill across the room, and...and...but she knows she can't. That she never really will. He leans his head to the side, as if to move out of the gun's range, and addresses her.
The pistol drops with a clatter to the floor, and her heart sinks.
She knows at this moment she's never going to fire it.
The use of her first name, always ignored in the past, makes the fury boil up inside her again, and she smiles right back, brandishing the gun for emphasis as to her purpose.
He winces, scratching his head as he steps back, reaching down to pick up the gun and place it carefully in her hand, then leading her into what is a brightly painted kitchen, with a wooden table in the center, and cabinets painted a turquoise color, perhaps to mimic the ocean's hue during summer. Through another doorway is a parlor, with a chaise lounge and armchair, bookcases and a fireplace...
It is unnaturally his, obviously bearing his mark, with tiny scratch marks on the surface of the table in the kitchen, carving initials and small pictures into the wood. An odd presence follows him, making the entire area seem his, and only his.
He sits down in a chair, drumming his fingers on the sides of the tea cup. Leaning back, he seems utterly relaxed.
"Come to kill me, then?" It sounds like an accusation.
She nods, fist closing tighter over the knife, shakily. "Yes. I am." Her voice is calm and icy, determined, but inside, her stomach is a knot of tension, and doubt. Could she do it?
He nods, taking a sip of the tea, and gesturing for her to sit in the chair across from him. She stands, wary. Mr. Todd sighs, and holds up his hands.
"I assure you, I have no weapons. My razors are all in the other room, the parlor. And the knives are..." His eyes dart to a drawer near the oven, and then back. He smiles easily, so strange, to see him pleased, and alert. His mind is in this moment, this present. Slowly, she sits down, folding her hands over Edward's knife and the pistol, staring at him, trying her best to not to tremble.
She hadn't been able to do it. To kill him, while she had surprise on her side, and she curses herself, for giving into her weakness for his face and his presence. And what now, what does he plan to do...? What could she do now?
He clears his throat, and stares at her for a moment.
"You have changed, Eleanor."
The use of her name again, stabbing her; he never called her that, five years ago, but...when he was married, and his face had been bright, he had said her name like it was something sacred. At least, she had always thought so. Gritting her teeth, Mrs. Lovett shrugs.
"So have you. Must you call me that...?"
"It's your name," he snaps back, grabbing a spoon on the table, and stirring his drink. The little clinking noises the utensil makes against the china inside of the cup grates her nerves. His eyes, icy, never leave her, as if he's trying to see through her, to what she's thinking. It used to be he always seemed to know what she was thinking.
Forgetting her weapons, she folds her arms, slumping in her seat. "You never called me that, before...before..."
"...before I killed you."
"You didn't kill me," she protests, unbuttoning the first buttons of her dress collar, pulling it back to show him the scars on her neck and shoulder. He exhales, drawn to the proof of his violence, one hand on the table restrained, as if he longs to reach out and touch the marks on her skin. She glares at him. "You did a right good job trying, I s'pose. I'll give you that."
He laughs quietly. "Yes...I mean, thank you. I wanted you to be in pain. The way I had been in pain.
"I was. I still am, at least, emotionally."
"Well, then, I succeeded, didn't I? I'd wager you're here to kill me, to get rid of that." Sweeney Todd licks his lips quickly, before resuming his position of complete stillness.
"You wager correctly, Benjamin Barker," she answers, but she's not so sure of that anymore, herself. As if he reads her doubt, a chuckle comes up from his throat, and he shakes his head.
"Well, it appears to me that you're still sorting that out. Even after all this. Killing the Beadle, surviving that fool Anthony's little attempt on your life...And keeping the demons at bay all the while. You certainly handled things better than I do, Eleanor. Look what's become of me."
She looks, and sees a man who's been beaten and driven to murder by the ghosts and nightmares that she now knows all too well. He's tired, eyes darkened around their edges by a lack of sleep, and she's sure he has his share of scars as well. His wounds go as deep as hers, possibly deeper. She looks down at her hands, and says nothing.
"But enough of speaking of myself. We haven't spoken in five years, although your little tantrum at the inn in Venice was quite touching. But, seeing as how I did not really converse with you then...We'll let that incident slide by us, for now. So..."
He tilts his chair back until it's on only two of its four legs, and his left shoulder comes upwards to his head, as if he's going to pull something out of his pocket and--
She pushes away from the wooden table, chair screeching on the unvarnished floor, but it's not fast enough, and her arm explodes with pain. Casting her eyes down, expecting the worst, she's surprised to find only a thin needle protruding from the bare skin of her upper arm. Alarms going off, Mrs. Lovett stares at him, furious.
"What--what the bloody hell did you just shoot me with?!"
He leans forward, bringing his chair back down to the ground, eying the needle with interest.
"It's laced with truth serum. I rebuilt the pistol to fire 'em. Quite fancy, eh? It's my favorite invention of mine. You may wonder why I shot that into your arm and I will tell you-- Don't touch it, it needs to set in!"
She lets her hand fall, wincing at the stinging sensation, but telling herself that she has felt worse is a small comfort, though not necessarily the most uplifting thought. The needle remains.
"As I was saying...It is a truth serum, quite effective with none of the usual side-effects...Although..." He pauses, glancing her way in curiosity. "You may feel a slight sense of euphoria."
"Euphoria...?" she murmurs. "No."
He gives a nonchalant shrug, and sighs. "That is unfortunate." His face suddenly becomes serious.
"Now. When it comes to you – and us – I have a few unanswered questions. So before this tale of bloody revenge reaches its climax, I'm going to ask you some questions, and I want you to tell me the truth. "
His fist clenches on the table, almost as if the subject of honesty, when concerning her, is detestable and painful.
"But therein lies the dilemma!—For, when it comes to the subject of you, I believe you to be truly and utterly incapable of telling the truth – especially to me, and – least of all to yourself. And, when it comes to the subject of me, I am – truly and utterly incapable – of believing anything you say."
And at this, her head drops, looking away, to anywhere but him. She feels a sudden wave of helplessness pass over her; she is trapped now. Still refusing to meet his gaze, she whispers:
"How d'you propose we solve this, then?"
Cracking his knuckles, Mr. Todd ponders this. "I will ask you my questions. And then, if you would like, you may ask me anything you wish. And then...if you so desire, we will have a fight to the death, or whatever it is you call it."
The thought of fighting him seems silly now, ridiculous. She only nods quickly in consent, and hears him shift, gathering himself for what is to come. She thinks she might cry, or become sick. Perhaps both.
"So..." he begins, fingering the cuff of his shirt, "Is it true that you loved me, before?"
She doesn't need to hesitate. "Yes. Since about the first moment you came in to rent the room over the shop."
The corners of his mouth twitch slightly, not quite a frown or a smile. His eyes suddenly are alight, blazing, and something about this comforts her.
"Very well." He pauses, then continues. "Did you truly believe, with all of your heart, that I would return such a love?"
Mrs. Lovett bites her lip, trembling, mind screaming a different answer, but her lips betray her anyways.
"N-n-no..." she mutters. Tears begin to form in her eyes, and she breaths in deeply, forcing the feeling away. She will not cry in front of him, she cannot cry in front of him...
He watches her placidly, expression remaining the same.
"And even now...now that I have made such a great attempt upon your life, and you've gone through so much, because of me...Do you still love me?"
She suddenly looks up, now freely crying, and her mouth twists, half way between a sad smile and a thin lipped frown. Her voice is shaky, and her breathing is shallow.
At this, his customary look of annoyance and distaste forms on his features (the one he always reserved for her, when she came too close or lingered too long). He clears his throat, and the expression vanishes, replaced with a face of neutral calm.
"I was simply warming up." He says, and his voice is completely void of any emotion. "Now for the ten thousand pound question."
She watches him, steeling herself for this, whatever it is.
"Why," he chokes, voice pained and hoarse, "Did you lie to me? You have admitted to loving me. So why would you deceive me, knowingly betray me...?"
He has broken his facade of stone; it's clear he's just as pained to be in this position as she is. And this alone surprises her. He really has changed.
Eleanor's gaze falls to a picture frame on the wall, of a lovely Johanna in a white wedding dress, next to a handsome Anthony, dressed in a finely pressed suit. She looks at the gun, sitting on the table.
"I can't lie, and say I did it for you. To protect you, from the pain of seein' Lucy like that, all addled in the head. I did do it, because of that, but...I loved you, and I had waited so long...She was as good as dead, and I wanted you to love me. I thought if you didn't know...I could be with you. B-but...I did love you, a-and isn't part of loving someone protecting them from getting hurt? I want...I like to believe I did it for you, to protect you, but...I did it mostly out of my own selfishness, I think."
She does not look away from his face, and he seems so far away from this place in time, so lost in thought she almost wants to ask if he was listening at all.
He reaches for his tea, and takes a sip.
"I see. That's very naive of you. Foolish, almost. And most certainly...selfish. I cannot say I can ever forgive you. But then again, you probably cannot say you could ever forgive me, despite your saying you love me..."
Her heart thumps insistently, and she sighs. "I dunno anymore, Mr. Todd. I really don't."
He seems to understand, nodding slowly as he stands from his seat, beginning to pace, boots thumping familiarly on the floorboards. It's almost like nothing has changed.
But she knows that everything is different. How could she possibly think that they could go back to what they were...? And even if it were possible, it's not as if they were anything to begin with.
He turns quickly, striding back to the table.
"You have done a lot, to get here. You killed the Beadle, I heard."
"The chandelier was fallin' anyway. I was only helpin' it along some. S'not like he could run fast enough to avoid it crushing his slimy little body."
He whistles. "How pleasant...You've been on quite an adventure, if one can call it that."
She can't think of anything to say. He suddenly stops walking, standing in front of his chair, gripping its wooden back. His eyes are downcast, a look of confusion on his face.
"You've come all this way...So, why haven't you killed me yet, Mrs. Lovett? Is it because you love me, still?"
She stands, leaving the gun where it lies on the table, hands on her hips.
"I said before...I dunno what to think about this. About us. I do 'ave one question, for you. You said I can ask whatever I like, once you're finished."
He gestures with his hand for her to go ahead. They're only about four feet away from one another now.
"I don't suppose you regret killing me?"
He laughs, shaking his head, a strand of hair falling in his eyes. "No. At the instant I stabbed you...I did not regret it in the slightest."
Her stomach sinks lower, and despite herself, she can almost feel her heart breaking.
"But," he continues, and his voice is soft. "I do not think I considered what I had done to myself."
Mrs. Lovett's head jerks up, staring now as he traces a circle in the wood of the kitchen table, looking almost...
Sweeney Todd's eyes fall upon her, and they lock gazes for the first time since she pointed a pistol in his face. Her face flushes, and she loves him then, even more than she ever did before.
"I began to realize that...despite the irritating qualities...you have an air about you, that..."
He pauses, struggling to find words.
"Once I killed the Judge...I had nothing more to do. And I thought quite a bit, on what happened. You were right; it would have hurt me, to see my wife again, in such a state...It does not forgive your actions, or mine, but I want you to know that it would have hurt me, perhaps as much as the knowledge she was dead. But I also thought on my sins. I've killed...And I think nothing of it. I murdered my wife, I've lied and cheated and schemed as much as you, and I went and hurt the only woman who could have forgiven me for all of it...And yet, you still say you love me? How can you love a demon? You've said you loved me when I was Benjamin Barker."
He steps toward her, and she rises from her own chair.
"I cannot associate myself with such a man as him. I'm not anything like Benjamin Barker. How could anyone love such a man as Sweeney Todd?"
She walks to him, smiling. "I don't care about that. You're you, and it's not like I can help myself. I've been in love with you for so long, it's not as if I can just stop, can I? I think I'm only realizin' that now. I never really managed to stop bein' in love with you."
Another step. "Foolish woman. I'll be the death of you."
"Silly man. You are already were."
They suddenly collide, standing now, toe to toe, and she reaches upward, brushing the stray hair away from his face, and resting her hand lightly on his shoulder. Sweeney Todd eyes her, then runs a finger along the scar on her throat.
"Mrs. Lovett...You're a bloody wonder, eminently practical and yet, appropriate as always...Mrs. Lovett, how I lived without you all these years, I'll never know..."
She cannot help but beam at him. An intense feeling of being home fills Mrs. Lovett, warming her skin, and filling her with an odd sense of bitter happiness.
He might not love her. But she hardly thinks it matter anymore, for he feels something, and that is more than he felt before. His hand runs down to her waist, resting on the small of her back, possessive, and at the same time, tender.
They have been away a long time.
She takes his face in her hands, and kisses him. His lips are warm underneath hers, and she feels him chuckle at the absurdity of it all; they are quite the pair. Pulling her closer to him, he kisses her back, with all the fierceness she expects from a man such as her Sweeney Todd, and she loves him.
They are two horrible people, through and through, murderers and liars and crooks. They hate and they cheat, but they are human, and they love. His body is warm against hers, and he adores the way she looks at him, now that he sees her, no longer distracted by thoughts of vengeance. She will follow him, no matter what, and this is what matters to him now.
Outside, there's a vicious wind blowing against the window panes, and the ocean is icy cold. Spray from the waves is hurled into the air like stardust, and sand stings just as much as a knife.
But inside, they are two people, and they are warm, and they are happy at last. Content, and free from those ghosts they are plagued by. And even if they aren't, they can share their scars, their pain, and their nightmares.
It is all that counts, in the end.
"Let me wrap myself around you, let me show you how I see, and when you come back in from nowhere, do you ever think of me?
When your heart is not able, let me show you how much I care.
I need those eyes to tide me over...take your picture when I go. Gives me strength and gives me patience, but I'll never let you know...
I've got nothing on you, baby, but I always said I'd try.
Let me show you how much I care.
But sometimes it gets hard and don't she know...
Don't give the ghost up, just clench your fist; you should've known by now:
you were on my list.
When your heart is not able, and your prayers, they're not fables.
Let me show you
Let me show you
Let me show how much I care."
--- My List by The Killers
AN: And that, my friends, is the end of this little story.
I wrote this pretty early on, actually, when I had submitted the third chapter. I always had the intention of ending it either with her killing him...
I personally think this ending is much more fitting, especially since I'm a hardcore Todd/Lovett fan. C'mon guys, you must have seen this coming.
I tried my best to show that Mrs. Lovett loves Sweeney Todd/Benjamin Barker no matter what, but it is that she would love him now, unconditionally, that makes Sweeney start to love her back. I think he's afraid that Lucy wouldn't love him as Mr.Todd, and he takes comfort in the knowledge that Mrs. Lovett would, one hundred percent (even if she didn't really know it until now).
I may or may not post the "alternate ending" of this story, which follows the actual ending of Kill Bill.
I hope you enjoyed it.
I loved writing this story, perhaps because it allowed me to humorous and dramatic and sad and romantic. I like that a lot.
A hundred billion thanks to all my reviewers, supporters, watchers and subscribers. Even if you didn't do any of that, if you're reading this, and you've read all the way through, I thank you. Your support means everything to me, and it's what has motivated me to come this far.
So, merci beaucoup! Muchas gracias! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thanks especially to: smashing, Lady Charity, Sanguinary Tears, xlawa, Pebbles1234, Vintage Writer, niki-chan2, and Princess Moogle.
Your reviews throughout this story (I actually went back and checked; you all reviewing every single chapter! Whoa!) have encouraged me, entertained me, and definitely motivated me to continue this. So, thank you so much for all your extra support. :D
See you all again, for the epilogue story, which is titled "Palettes".
Until then, zenstereo is going to go crawl in a hole and sleep for three days.