Rating: PG-13/R for thematic elements
Author's Notes: I do so enjoy writing Stalker!Mrs. Lovett. And, as I have already written a fic where Sweeney is kind of molesting her (which I have not and probably will not post here), I figured it's her turn.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, or any of the characters associated with it. Any similarities between my fic and someone else's are purely coincidental.
Who knew how long it had been before Mrs. Lovett finally noticed that something was missing from the night. She'd been aware that something was off—somehow, she just couldn't fall asleep. She tossed and turned, staring intermittently from the wall to little Toby, sleeping peacefully on the sofa. She'd at first thought it was the heat—London had been a veritable furnace today, the sun shining merrily and mercilessly down upon everything, no clouds daring come forth and take pity on the sweating, panting ants of people that scuttled to and fro beneath them. Mr. Todd had been up in arms today, beads of sweat condensing into little trickles, his white shirt turning translucent, his black vest turning blacker. He'd not liked the heat—not liked it at all. It had confused her as to why he didn't take off the black vest, but the moment she'd suggested it, he'd glared at her and told her to go away and leave him to his business—which had been very dull. Oh, he'd shaved enough faces to do decent business, but that was just it—down in the dark, dirty depths of her bakehouse, only one broken body was there. How strange, that Mr. T would murder only one on such a day—he must not have wanted hot blood on him to make the burning heat even worse.
As a carriage rolled by her shop, the horse's hooves clip-clopping loudly on the cobbled stones, her thoughts dwelling absently on Mr. Todd, she suddenly realized just what was keeping her awake.
Sweeney Todd was not pacing.
It startled her to realize how the sound of Mr. Todd's hobnailed boots thumping back and forth on the floor above her had been lulling her to sleep for these weeks. She supposed that's why Toby had fallen asleep so quickly, without that creaking noise keeping him awake. Unfortunately, she'd grown so used to it, she actually enjoyed it now—somehow, knowing he was above her yet again, but this time he was alone, without Lucy Carrington blocking the way…she supposed that was what helped her sleep as well, that smug thought that he was now all hers.
All hers, and not pacing.
She stared up at the ceiling, her brows knitted together, drumming her fingers lightly. It worried her a little; had the heat affected him so badly that he would go to sleep before even she did? He'd not helped her in the bakehouse that night, so who knew when he'd stopped his steady back and forth, going from window to window, mirror to mirror.
She knew she wouldn't be able to stand it, wouldn't be able to sleep a wink if she didn't confirm that he was merely asleep. What if he was ill—or worse, just simply gone? He never left, not even for a walk—but then, he'd also never stopped pacing.
Getting up out of bed and throwing on her robe, she padded softly past Toby, smiling indulgently at him as she went. Already pulling her keys out, she made her way up the creaky stairs, noting that the parlor was as dark as it had been for the fifteen years he'd been missing from it. She peered through the dirty panes of glass, but couldn't see anything—most notably, couldn't see Mr. Todd. So it didn't take her long to fumble about for the key to the upstairs room and slip it into the lock, hesitating slightly before turning it and hearing the lock click.
She winced as the door creaked open, and squinted into the darkness. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the shadows, aided by the sickly moon shining through the window as she peered about the room, eyes sliding over the barber's chair, past the window, past the mirror and her own reflected image, and finally to the small, dilapidated bed with worn sheets and a moth-eaten blanket.
And there, sprawled out on top of it on his stomach, was Mr. Todd. And he was half-naked.
Her eyes widened at the sight, all manner of emotions racing through and competing for dominance. She felt embarrassed and improper, seeing that. They weren't married (yet), and he didn't even know she was looking, so he didn't have the option of covering himself. But that thought appealed to the other half—her Sweeney Todd, asleep, unable to stop her from looking…
The latter half won out, and she quietly shut and locked the door again, eyes on him the whole time.
She moved as silently as possible across the floor, pausing and suppressing a gasp with every creak, rustle, and noise she made on her journey, but he never moved, and within moments, she was at his bedside, settled down upon her knees with her dressing gown and robe wrapped tightly around herself, the skirts puddling about her.
His back…she couldn't stop staring at it. Scored, uneven, mutilated, worn—the skin there was hideously disfigured, and suddenly she remembered that he'd spend fifteen years in one of the cruelest prisons in existence. She'd pushed that fact out of her mind shortly after he'd returned, not wanting to think that he'd changed so, but staring at the whip scars, the terrible slashes that marred what she'd often dreamed would be perfect, flawless, and bronze…
Disfigured, dirty, and pale was not what she'd expected to see at all—or perhaps she'd just not wanted to expect it.
She wished she could see his face; it might have distracted her nicely from the mark prison had left on him. Instead, she was merely given a view of the back of his head, his black hair damp and limp from perspiration. She listened to the sound of his deep, even breathing, muffled by his pillow. It was a little endearing that Mister T snored lightly—she'd have laughed, had his scars not been so visible.
She didn't like them. She knew that already—she didn't like them because they were a reminder, something that she couldn't exorcise. She knew that, with hard work, she could drive the memory of Lucy away, supplanting thoughts of that empty-headed little slut with remembrances of herself, promises of a happy life—no, a happier life, just with her at his side. And she knew that eventually, she could taper off his deadly little habit. Profitable it may be and happy it may make him, she was going to put her foot down if he couldn't go a single day without killing someone once they were married—what a terrible wedding night that would be. The scars, however…
She'd originally thought that the prison term was also something she could drive from his mind. Fill his life with nicer things, softer things, things that had nothing to do with what he'd endured for fifteen years. Unfortunately, the scars were tangible. They weren't a memory—they were there, and nothing save her tearing the battered flesh from his back could ever get rid of them. And what if that reminder led to another? What if he got to thinking on his scars, which would get him to thinking on his prison sentence, which would then get him thinking to how he got that sentence in the first place? Lucy Carrington would invariably crop back up into his thoughts, and that was something she did not want. What on earth could she possibly do to make these fade? They were far too deep, far too numerous—they'd not had any time to heal, none of them had, and so they'd stay there forever.
The thought of Lucy being forever in her Sweeney's mind did not sit well with Mrs. Lovett at all.
A thought came to her—yes, she was repulsed by them. But then, that meant surely everyone else would be as well. He certainly was—she was no stranger to the way he'd shy away when she put her hand on his upper back. He hated it when she touched him there (well, he really wasn't fond of touch in general, she admitted), and he always kept his upper arms and back firmly covered—now she knew why he hadn't removed his vest today, despite the scorching and uncustomary heat. A white shirt drenched in sweat would have surely betrayed his secret. Perhaps…perhaps if she showed she did not mind…
Part of her wanted to do it. Part of her desperately wanted to reach out and touch him—the only bare skin of his she'd ever felt was his hand, and that hardly counted. But the other part…it told her that would be a dangerous risk, because she didn't know how lightly he slept anymore, and it also asked her why on earth she would want to put her hands on something so…so horrible?
She grit her teeth—thoughts like that weren't going to do her any good in trying to prove to him that she didn't care what he'd been through, didn't care how he'd changed, and most certainly didn't care that the years and the labor and the brutality had robbed him of his beauty and his spirit.
And so she reached forward, hesitating, her splayed hand hovering over his back, before slowly and carefully closing the distance between him and her fingers.
She nearly drew back immediately; she'd never felt anything quite like it, and truthfully, it rather disgusted her. She felt ashamed of herself, being revolted by anything that was Mister T (and especially so because for heaven's sake, she spent her nights sawing through human remains), but…it was so rough, so knotted, and the sweat covering him didn't help matters. She bit her lip, slowly lifting up, her fingertips still touching him. Instead of drawing away, she set a finger in the clearest, most defined crevice of a whip scar and traced it from his shoulder to his lower back, struggling to get used to that scaly texture.
She gasped when he suddenly jerked in his sleep, and she whipped her hands back to her lap, her stomach falling to the first floor for a moment as he suddenly rolled over, hiding his ripped flesh from view—she gave a slight sigh when she saw he was still asleep, but did not miss what she had before—his razor. It was closed, but still there, clasped tightly in his right hand, and he drew it almost protectively to his chest. She wondered how she hadn't seen it—his right hand had been dangling over the side of the bed. She stared contemplatively at the silver, wanting to pull it carefully from his grasping fingers but knowing better, and then noticed the handle was near even more scars, these making twisting patterns across his chest and shoulders. She sighed—was there no part of him unmarred by that wretched hellhole he'd lived in for fifteen years? More slashes, what looked like a knife wound, and, near his side, something that looked disturbingly like bite marks—whether they were human or animal she couldn't really tell (and didn't want to).
Yet again, she reached forward, gently pressing her hand against his slick chest. It wasn't much better than his back—the skin was rough, and his ribs reminded her of the harpsichord in her parlor downstairs. She knew that, at least, could be modified, if he'd just cooperate with her and eat what she brought up instead of either taking only a few bites or ignoring it altogether. She wondered why on earth he didn't eat more—he was so terribly thin, almost skeletal. That honestly surprised her—although she'd often felt through the fabric of his clothes the telltale bumps of his ribs, he'd been heavy the day she'd dragged him to his feet. She thought there would be more to him than skin and bones.
Lifting her hand, she slowly placed it on his arm, pressing very gently—even asleep he was tense, the lean, wiry muscle there not giving much to her fingertips. How could such a ropy man be so incredibly strong? She hadn't ever asked how he'd managed to kill Pirelli, how he'd managed to do such terrible things to the bloke's skull, but now she wondered all the more—and how the blazes did he drag the bodies so effortlessly, as if they were made of nothing but air? And how could he have held her hands so tightly when they'd danced in her pie shop? There was simply nothing to him…nothing at all. Devil's Island had eaten him alive.
Not for the first time, she felt sorry for him. The years hadn't been particularly kind to him—hadn't that been an understatement. No, the years had been downright sadistic to him. She vaguely understood his cold nature, knowing it was simply a habit for him now, closing himself off so he could shut out whatever pain he was feeling at the moment. She felt a familiar prickling behind her eyes at the thought of the man she loved being beaten down to what he was now, and somehow, the disfigured flesh beneath her hand became a little less abhorrent and a little more pitiable. That made it easier to have her hand there; she gently slid her hand down, each of her fingers resting between his ribs.
She leaned down a bit, resting her head on the bed and against her arm, letting her eyes travel away from his chest and back to his face. After so many weeks of nothing but detached apathy, rage, or unutterable sorrow, it was rather startling (but certainly not unpleasant) to see him looking almost peaceful. The ever-present crease between his brows was smooth and gone, his eyes not narrowed into hateful and black slits. His lips were slightly parted, and she could feel little puffs of air ghosting over her arm. Strands of hair were sticking to the side of his face, black occasionally contrasted against white. She sighed wistfully—while his hair was wild, his eyes sunken and rimmed in shadow, his face pale, gaunt, and worn, the way he looked now…he was Benjamin. She could see him, see the man nobody else saw. She remembered how he'd viciously declared Benjamin Barker dead—surely that wasn't so. Not when he lay before her now, struggling feebly to the fore while the wild and bloodthirsty dragon that was Sweeney Todd slept.
She absently found herself tracing the scars on his front with her fingers again. Perhaps they weren't so bad—they weren't as bad as the ones on his back, in any case. She slid her fingers up to the pale but unblemished skin of his throat. While it was rough as well, at least it wasn't scarred. She ran the pad of her thumb across the sharp angle of his jaw, a contour she'd always loved tracing with her eyes. Feeling a little bolder since he wasn't showing any signs of waking up, she gently brushed her hand against his cheek before finally resting her palm against him, caressing his face, grazing her fingers across his cheekbone, lightly touching his cracked lips. He twitched then, but only slightly, jerking his head away from her hand. She leaned forward, moving closer to, and pushed the hair away from his face. He shivered slightly, but she didn't let it deter her—she leaned in and kissed him, not caring that he wouldn't respond.
She heard a sigh escape his throat, and a thrill went through her. She closed her eyes, not wanting to pull away, but knowing it would be best. She didn't move entirely away from him, though, her face barely an inch from his, her hands still on him.
She loved him—she loved him more than anything. Armed with that simple fact, she knew she would eventually be with him the way she wanted, because surely he'd eventually see her, and know that she loved him. He'd finally let go of the past—he'd let go of Lucy once he saw there was someone who was still around to want him, to love him, because that's really all that mattered. She sighed, trembling a little, no longer caring about the scars—he was so warm beneath her fingers, and it was him, he was in her hands, she was finally getting to experience a taste of what Lucy Carrington had enjoyed.
She ran her hands down his front, daring to go even further, and pushed all doubt from her mind. She wanted to feel him respond to her hands, to her touch, and knew that surely he would, and she leaned forward, feeling his hot breath against her cheek, and she opened her eyes to gaze adoringly at his face—
She stared right into cold, black eyes, eyes filled with terrible fury and outrage.
"Don't touch me."
She shrieked, reeling backwards and trying to get to her feet—unfortunately, she didn't succeed and wound up on her arse, her dressing gown and robe falling open. She clasped them closed as she stared fearfully up at Mr. Todd. He hadn't moved, but even in the dark, she knew that look he was giving her. He was livid, and no explanations, no excuses, no nothing would help this particular situation.
If she hadn't already enough reason to obey his order as fast she could possibly manage, he gave her another by moving just enough to flick his razor open, staring a hole through her as he did.
She rose shakily to her feet and backed away, almost afraid to turn her back to him, afraid that she would and suddenly he'd have her, razor at her throat again, and this time, maybe he wouldn't pause. She yelped slightly when she backed into the door before fumbling for the lock, unable to break eye contact with Mr. Todd. He hadn't even blinked yet, that cold and implacable fury making her feel like the room was going colder with every passing second. With a final, frightened glance, she pulled open the door and stumbled backwards through it, slamming it shut and running back down the stairs, having enough sense to be as silent as possible when going back into her bedroom so as not to wake Toby. Once she'd taken off her robe and gotten back into bed, she was suddenly aware that she was trembling violently.
She struggled to calm herself down. She could hardly believe her own daring—had she actually done that, just a few moments ago? She stared down at her shaking hands, unable to believe that just a moment ago she'd had them on him, had put her hands…she suppressed a nervous titter. Eminently practical and appropriate, he'd called her. Practical, yes—but she certainly wasn't appropriate. No, absolutely not—even though she hadn't managed to stay long to do much of anything, she'd touched him, had stroked her hand just once down the front of those striped trousers of his and felt him…and it had been enough to make her feel that it hadn't been nearly enough. Impropriety be damned—she wanted—
She jumped a little when a thud sounded above her. Staring up at the ceiling, she held her breath, her mind and heart both racing—and then she heard his footsteps. She clutched her hands together, her imagination shooting off in two separate directions for a single moment—one part of her imagined him coming downstairs and sweeping her into his arms, realizing that he'd loved her touch, and the other saw him a little more vividly, sweat dripping from him like blood, his razor in hand—
But the door upstairs never opened. He was merely pacing again, the sound of his footsteps going back and forth above her head, the floorboards creaking beneath his hobnailed boots. No doubt that razor was in his hand, his fingers stroking the metal absently, his eyes dark and distant.
She couldn't help but smile. Leaning back against her pillow, she settled comfortably into bed, not pulling the covers all the way over herself because of the heat. But the heat didn't matter now—it didn't take long for the sound of Sweeney Todd's relentless, tireless pacing to help her finally go to sleep.