All the Difference.
Why can't we not be sober?
Why can't we drink forever?
I just want to start this over…
I will only complicate you; trust in me and fall as well.
Over breakfast, Nellie convinced Sweeney they should stay for at least a day. She didn't really fancy the old farm house, and it was more than unsettling considering who it belonged to, but she figured they might as well make the most of the place they had to themselves.
They certainly could make use of the laundry station, cleaning their clothes and hanging them in back yard to dry on the line that was set up already. And they could search the house for more essentials before they set off again.
As morbid as it sounded, she felt lucky they had a full house to themselves, even just for a little while. She was already planning a large supper so they could have a proper meal before they set off in the morning.
She sent Sweeney off to bathe after he protested, but she reminded him it was the only bath he would probably get for quite awhile.
Once he relented and disappeared down the hall, Nellie made her way back to the bed room and went to inspect what he'd found in the carriage.
She rummaged through the satchels, pleased they wouldn't go hungry until all the food spoiled. She saw the medical supplies from their own bag and remembered with a guilty grimace she hadn't tended to Sweeney's bullet wound in too long.
She set everything out on the night stand by the bed and waited for his return but she did not have to wait long.
Sweeney walked through the doorway wearing his same dirty clothes, hair dripping and oddly flat against his head.
"You weren't supposed to put those back on," she chided lightly, smiling. "Takes away all your cleanliness."
Frowning, he just stood there looking away.
"Here," she said, reaching into the bag and pulling out his only other set of clean clothes. "Put these on so I can wash those."
"I really don't think we should stay-"
Nellie waved him off, handing him the garments. "It's just for a night, Mr. T, and we need the rest. You remember them saying it was private property, don't you? And they being the only ones who lived here, we don't have to fret about unwelcome visitors."
Sweeney opened his mouth to start another argument but Nellie had a good idea as to what he would say and spoke before him, "If there are policemen following us I doubt they could trace us to here."
He grimaced, taking the clothes from her still looking uncertain but she said again almost pleadingly this time, "Only for the night."
He looked down at her for a few moments, betraying nothing of his emotions as his eyes rolled over her face until he softly said, "One night."
Nellie waited to hear his footsteps growing quieter and he was a safe distance away to call after him, "Don't bother with the shirt, I need to have a look at that bullet wound."
His footsteps faltered but quickly continued and a door clicked shut distinctly. Was he hoping she'd forgotten?
Again she waited, busying her hands with the bottles on the table. When he returned again he looked very sullen but didn't say anything as he sat down by her stiffly on the bed.
Carefully, she peeled off the old bandage and inspected the tiny hole on his upper back. "Looks like its healing," she noted and smiled at his grunt in response. Nellie cleansed the wound, keeping one hand on his shoulder to steady him despite the way his muscles tensed under her grip.
He did not jerk or hiss, he barely even winced, but for her hand on his shoulder she wouldn't know he was in pain. Such a proud man, she thought to herself.
Or was showing weakness sometimes not a good thing? Nellie recalled talking him down a few times in the past, and even helped him walk when he didn't have the strength. She never really received thank-you's because he never acknowledged those moments in retrospect.
Once it looked much better than before, she was satisfied and started taping the gauze back over the wound.
"You know, I should probably help you move your arm," she suggested mildly, eyes flickering to see the first emotion that crossed his profile. Confusion?
"Had to do it for Albert when he couldn't walk, you know. Doctor Troll-" she abruptly cut off, remembering the unfortunate fate of the man. It was Sweeney who turned to see her reaction to her own words that made Nellie blush and continue, "The doctor said it would help when he regained his strength, so I wouldn't have to teach him how to walk and eat and all that over again. Although," she added thoughtfully, "He didn't ever recover; just ate and drank himself to death."
Sweeney was glancing at her uncertainly now so she went on a bit. "Be a shame if you got your arm back and it was too weak to do anything."
Evidently, she had said the magic words because he grunted, "All right."
Nellie stood and walked over to the other side of him and picked up his left hand until it was extended. "Feel anything?" She asked just to make sure.
"Nothing," he grumbled.
She moved his arm around, stretching bending, and extending it; curling his fingers into a fist and reaching it high above his head.
Between each movement she asked, "Now?" and he answered, "No," each time for a good quarter of an hour until she wrapped her hand around his again stretched upwards and stopped when he jumped a little, head snapping up.
"What? Did I hurt you?"
"No, I think I... felt something," he told her in disbelief, looking up at his arm.
"You did? Where?" Without really thinking about her other hand reached out and traced his arm.
He frowned slightly. "It was a twinge or something; started at the shoulder and down to my wrist."
She kept moving his arm, asking if he felt it again when she raised it, but it did not happen again.
He looked gloomier than before.
"Don't worry, love, it was good you felt something at any rate," she told him, handing him his shirt and finding a new sling. "Most likely means the feeling will return soon."
She adjusted his arm in the sling until it was properly fitted and he mumbled his thanks.
As she started gathering clothes to wash, he interrupted her by putting his hand on her wrist making her spin and stop in her tracks.
Maybe she should have expected it but she didn't protest, only let him lead her back to the bed. "Can you get out of that?" He asked nodding to her dress.
Blushing, Nellie slid her arm out of the sleeve and tried to slide it down far enough but the neckline of the dress was not wide enough. She grunted in frustration and was about to start complaining when he touched her shoulder. "Lay on your stomach."
She complied, feeling his warm hand guide her down. She turned her head on the pillow so she could see him, read his face.
He hooked a finger under the opposite side of her dress and started pulling down that side as well. Blood was rushing in her body, making her heart beat faster but she had to keep telling herself he was only undressing her to get to her wound.
Kneeling on the ground he grabbed the disinfectant and poured it slowly over the cloth on the stand. He started dabbing gently, but she couldn't keep from wincing as the liquid bubbled and stung.
"It appears much better than yesterday," he told her quietly but she had seen the grisly cut this morning. If it looked better today she shuddered to think what it looked like before.
She watched his face, the frown lines smoothed out and a look of concentration sculpting his features. Now that his hair was drying it fluffed out to its usual unruliness.
When he finished putting a fresh bandage on he stood and helped her arms back into the dress and took her hand to help her sit up. Then he started to unwrap the bandages on her palms to check the healing progress there.
They were both glad to see them sealing up and he discarded the dirty cloths.
Nellie smiled up at him and thanked him, then promptly started collecting the laundry again. "Sweeney, would you mind repacking that carriage and getting one of those chickens ready?" She asked carefully, balling up the clothes in her arms.
"Of course." And he was out the door.
Sweeney had already prepared a chicken and was cleaning the entrails out for their supper that night.
Admittedly, he didn't like the idea of staying in one place now, but the more logical side of him let Nellie convince him they needed the rest. They both had wounds that needed recovering and the more energy they used the slower the healing process would take.
He actually didn't mind the farm itself, and wouldn't be object to something similar in the future…
If he- they- had one.
When he came back inside the house Nellie was fussing about the kitchen, lighting the stove, and preparing ingredients. There was already a pleasant aroma wafting through the halls and she hadn't begun cooking yet.
Sweeney's stomach stirred.
He deposited the chicken in the pan she had prepared and finally noticed his reappearance. "Oh, thank you, love, that's perfect." She picked the pan up and brought it over to her counter where she began basting and seasoning diligently.
After a few moments of standing there lamely, watching her, he decided to see if there wasn't anything else useful they could take along with them.
He roamed the house again, searching through cupboards and drawers and closets, but finding nothing. He had already packed the carriage full of supplies. All the food they could carry, for that Nellie had insisted on, claiming they wouldn't know when their next meal would be if not. Extra clothes and blankets, though tattered and thin, they would be of great help when the weather turned colder. Sweeney had already looked through every room and grabbed all the weapons out of them; a rifle, two revolvers, and all the knives. One of the farmers even had a shaving kit stowed in the bathroom cupboard that Sweeney had to admit was a fine razor.
But everything else the house held had no use for them. The former occupants didn't have many personal hygiene objects, including anything medical; no extra bandages, no leftover antiseptics, not even any toothpaste. Nellie wouldn't be too thrilled, but they still had supplies from their doctor's visit and so long as they used everything sparingly, they would not run out.
After about an hour or so the smell of roasting chicken was filling up the house and Sweeney could ignore his rumbling stomach no more. He made his back towards the kitchen to find Mrs. Lovett.
When he reached the room, he stood in the threshold a moment, taking in the sight of the woman before him.
Her hair had dried, and long, ruby-colored curls cascaded down her back and spilled over her shoulders whenever she bent down. He had never thought she had long hair, or thought about her hair much at all since it was not in yellow waves and always done up in that messy concoction she managed to pull off. But tonight as her hair hung free her strands caught in the lamps and candlelight and seemed to glow off of her head.
Her brow was set and determined in her task and she moved about the kitchen efficiently, checking the stove, cutting vegetables, and churning butter. He watched the way her thin but strong arms worked and her petite legs carried her with more grace than he had ever noticed before.
Was she always this way when baking? So concentrated and dedicated to her art like he was while shaving? How had he not noticed before?
Somehow without realizing it, he had taken a few steps into the kitchen and when she turned her back from the stove and spotted him she smiled warmly, wiping her hands on a towel.
"Not much longer, love, I just put the vegetables in to cook. Care for some tea?" She asked grabbing a kettle off of the stove as it whistled and steamed.
Taken-aback at being discovered, Sweeney could only nod and take his seat at the table, looking pointedly down at the hard wood and nothing else.
His sudden notice in Nellie Lovett unnerved him. Before she had been nothing; merely his landlady in the background there to assist him and answer to him when he needed her to, but when had it changed?
When had he started seeing her as more of an equal?
As a woman?
The hot earl grey on his throat was a pleasant deterrent to his current thoughts. He sipped his tea and kept his head down, looking up only for a few moments to see where she was in the room, and then kicking himself mentally for it.
His thoughts should still only be centered on Lucy, his dead, dead wife. And he did still think of her, but most of his waking and unconscious thoughts had shifted to another.
Another delicious wave of aroma hit the room and he looked up to see her taking the pan from the oven and placing it on the counter. He never realized how much he missed her cooking, not just pies and muffins, but real meals.
And she put all of her weak strength into making it that day. Surely her injuries must have still been bothering her, but she slaved anyway. For them, or him, he wasn't sure of which but felt grateful either way.
Sweeney watched her going about carving the chicken with a small smile on her lips, and he realized she must be as hungry as he felt.
How long had it been since he really considered the needs of another human body? Or stopped ignoring his own?
She was searching for plates now and then pouring herself another cup of tea and putting the kettle on the table before bringing the plates to the table.
When she placed his plate in front of him, he could only stare in awe for a few moments. Never had a meal looked so good to him, so appealing he found the juicy looking chicken next to the seasoned vegetables, all steaming hot.
He looked up into her face and she was looking down at his, and unspoken emotion passed through them. She had served him many times at their previous home, but she always left after and let him eat in peace, or torment rather, as he never felt peace in those days.
But now, even whilst on the run from the law and in an unfamiliar home, unsure of anything but the woman next to him, Sweeney felt peace.
Nellie sat in the seat next to him and refilled his cup before they both tucked in to their meal.
The silence between them was content, they didn't chatter throughout on account of their hunger, but it was a mutual silence that comforted them both.
He supposed this was their first shared supper; and he was trying to decide why it felt like such an event, why he was slightly obsessing over it in his mind and why they kept looking into each other's eyes while they chewed.
Did she feel the same way? He was sure she did, he imagined she was rejoicing inside right now. But then why was she keeping the comfortable silence around and not ruining it with her idle ramblings as she normally would have?
She did not smile coyly at him like she would have, like there were a naughty secret between them. Her expression was blank, but not empty, just content.
However, much had happened in the short time since they had left Fleet Street. He felt a change in himself reverberating off the hollows of his chest, so why should there not be a change in his baker?
They ate all they could and after their meal she cleared the table of all the dishes and cups and then returned to the table. "Found this in the back of the cupboard. Not our usual, but I think it will do tonight."
Looking up to see what she was talking about he saw a slender bottle of red wine in her hand. The drink did seem oddly appealing at the moment. She poured two glasses full, but not in a wine glass for there weren't any she had explained, so they were in regular drinking glasses.
With a jerk of her head she motioned for him to follow her into the sitting room where the fire had been going all day. It was a small room, but cozy despite the mismatched furniture and strange items adorning the walls. Odd paintings, animal horns, pictures of the farmers and who could only be their family.
They sat in the worn loveseat in front of the fire, avoiding eye contact with the pictures while they drank the sweet wine.
Sweeney couldn't remember the last time he drank wine. Nellie obviously favored gin, as that was all she had in stock, and he didn't mind the stuff so never asked. But this one went well with the meal they just finished and was lulling the atmosphere until they were both reclining into the couch.
He was the one who refilled their glasses each time they went empty, and they merely coexisted next to each other while a clocked ticked somewhere in the room.
The comfortable silence continued until Nellie finally got to her feet swaying only mildly.
"Where are you going?" Sweeney demanded a little alarmed at her sudden movement, and then his equally nervous question.
"Can't stand it anymore, these ugly pictures leering down at me," she said, walking unsteadily over to the frames mounted on the fire place.
The barber watched with interest as one by one Nellie began to take the pictures from the frames and tossed them into the fire, the flames hissing and growing each time. Once the photographs were no more than ashes, she replaced the frame on the mantle, leaving an empty piece of wood.
By the time she was done, he couldn't argue that it was much improved.
She wiped her hands together sighing contentedly. "That actually was quite liberating," she stated, smiling back to him and taking the last gulp of her wine. "You should try it too."
In a matter of seconds, she had grabbed his good hand dragged him to his feet. He didn't protest; perhaps it was the wine, but he wanted to join her. He wanted to eliminate everything left of those farmers with her.
Still, she smiled up at him, the wine glazing over her eyes and her finger lacing with his as she led him over to a wall adorned with more frames filled with unpleasant photographs.
Then together, they went about destroying every memory of the house's former occupants. The wine had loosened them both up and before either of them knew it Nellie was dancing through the room burning pictures and rearranging everything. Sweeney was strolling by pictures with his razor in hand and slashing at them at random to tiny pieces until they ran out of frames.
Now the walls were filled with empty pictures and it definitely made the atmosphere better in the room he started circling the room, turning in a circle, taking everything in with new appreciation. The house was better now, and they both agreed silently through a look at each that they would continue this ritual through the rest of the house.
Nellie's lips parted as if she were about to speak, but Sweeney beat her and asked, "Which room next?"
They drank and danced and erased the farmers from their home. It could have been minutes or hours they spent diligently at their task, or no time at all. When they were finally done, they walked the house appreciatively, Nellie clinging to his arm a bit tightly.
There was certainly a stagger in their steps and they stumbled a few times, chuckling and righting their positions again. They had circled back to the sitting room and Sweeney made for the wine, frowning when he discovered all that remained was the last few drops. Nellie laughed and then suggested they go outside for some air. He didn't know what to make of her offer but he felt full and warm from the food and wine so he shrugged and followed her out into the garden.
Stars had begun to come out as the sky darkened and he lit the two lamps outside. Nellie was walking through the grass barefoot and running her fingers through the tall grass and flowers. It seemed now, like so often lately, he was able to do nothing but stand there and gaze at her.
After about only two minutes of taking her in strolling and bending to pick a flower to inhale its scent or moving her mass of hair to one side avoid it falling into her face, he made up his mind.
Nellie had changed, it mattered not how or why or when, but he liked this version of her, the honest, a little fearful, but still head-strong Nellie who needed his protection and needed to protect him.
He was struck with a rush of longing, to walk with her, to put that daisy behind her ear, to laugh. But he was not there yet, he was still struggling so hard to acknowledge what was happening he only managed to start walking towards her post at the fence, leaning on it and looking up at the sky.
As he drew nearer, she lowered her head and her gaze met his. Strangely, he just then seemed to notice that he was close enough to kiss her, as all those other times when he had been trying to do the opposite, but this was the first time he had been so, so close to her and was not thinking of hurting her.
Her smile never faltered and she did not move; did not reach out to him or get closer, she only lounged against the post and let the moonlight bathe her skin, nearly blue in the nighttime.
For the first time Sweeney Todd admitted Nellie Lovett was beautiful; not out loud, but to himself.
Those wildly red curls twisting around her face, her warm brown eyes reflecting the moon, her skin almost illuminated. Yes, she was beautiful in a way that was perhaps different than Lucy, but nonetheless, he wanted to reach out to her, to touch that blue skin…
Instead, his voice came out surprisingly softly even to his own ears as he reached out his hand and said, "Let's go to bed."
He thought he saw her cheeks redden in the dimness but she nodded and accepted his hand let him lead them to the room they had slept in the night before. They had spent the past few nights sleeping together so neither of them thought it strange to do so now.
The house was warm from the fire and neither of them wanted to sleep in their heavy clothes. Turning their backs to each other, they stripped to their underclothes and climbed into the bed, carefully avoiding each other's eyes.
Nellie began braiding her hair, never able to sleep with it down and Sweeney lay on his good arm, happening to face her. He watched her fingers moving quickly, obviously accustomed to this routine. He noticed the way her neck arched and curved and fell down to the slender curve of her shoulder and formed her back, mostly covered by the thin slip she wore under her dress.
When she finished and knotted her hair, she eased onto her back and settled into the bed, her shoulder just an inch from his chest. Her face turned towards his and he did not look away from her like they both expected him to. Instead he held her gaze, but began to frown as he knew what he wanted, but how to say it… that he did not know.
So he didn't say anything, they just stared into each other for long minutes until he finally felt his hand moving, on its own accord, and tracing the line of her jaw with his thumb. Somehow, he would never know how, she knew what he wanted and curled her body into his, her head resting against his chest and letting him slip his arm around her, lowering his head to the top of hers.
Her warm body was welcomed against his and he drew strength from the comfort of their embrace, letting himself not think of anything or analyzing the situation, the wine did a fine job clouding up that for the night.
They let the sounds of their breathing and the feelings of their beating hearts lull them into sleep.
A HUGE thank you to anyone still reading this.