Disclaimer: not mine. Used without permission or remuneration but with as much love and respect as Sweeney has for his friends.
Feedback, including constructive criticism, very welcome.
"When did she – die?" Mr Todd asked on his first morning back.
Mrs Lovett – who had looked up, startled, at the sound of his voice; it was the first thing he had said in hours, and even her powers of monologue, honed by years of shopkeeper sociability, had been exhausted by the heavy silence of mourning – bent over the work surface and concentrated on rolling out the pastry very thin. "She took the poison in the last week of the September after you … left." By that time, on the rare occasions Lucy ventured out, instead of bouquets of flowers she brought back armfuls of dead leaves, and left trails of the nasty parched brown things all over her landlady's floor.
"She was dead all the time I was in Australia," he said bleakly. He was thinking, thinking, thinking, applying the new word widower to himself, examining fifteen years' worth of memories through its prism. Morbid, in Mrs Lovett's opinion.
She laid down the rolling pin and went over to where he sat by the window. She wanted to rub his shoulders, knead the grief out of him like lumps out of pastry (although it was no secret she never bothered with that any more); but also, from here she had a better view along the street. Undead-Lucy, a crushed leaf herself now, often shuffled past about this time of day. It wouldn't do to let Mr Todd see her. Wouldn't do at all.
He flinched as she laid hands on him, but didn't turn around, push her away, take her hand in his, anything. This was no good. What was the use of having the man of your dreams back in your house if he just sat there like a statue, as lumpen as Albert? She squeezed his shoulders, feeling the wiry muscle and all-too-prominent collarbone (that, at least, would be easy to sort out), hoping to press some life into him the way you rubbed cold hands to warm them. This time he did shrug her off, and hunched forward over the table, out of her reach. She noticed she had got flour on his jacket.
The street still being Lucy-less, she went back to making the pie that no one, probably, would ever eat. Now she had someone else to feed, though… She turned the pie dish over, banged it on the counter (Mr Todd didn't look up, which was a comfort in a way; if Lucy did walk past, he likely wouldn't notice that either) to get the worst of the charred bits out, and wiped off the grease. Resolving that this pie was the charm, she retrieved her last remaining drumstick and set to work scraping every bit of meat off it.
When she looked up next, he was admiring one of those razors – oh, how pleased with herself she was about that, who else would have thought to have kept those? – with an expression she couldn't quite call wistful, it held too much cunning for that; maybe it was simple appreciation for the pared-down beauty of the blade, like his, because now she thought about it, the leanness suited him… She went on assembling the pie, feasting her eyes on the oblivious Mr Todd, until, pressing down the pastry lid, she realised there was a spider hanging half out of her supposed piece de résistance. Bloody hell. Where did that come from?
Giving up, she sat down opposite Mr Todd, who, closed razor still in hand, was now staring out of the window (fortunately Lucy was nowhere to be seen – she must be flogging her tattered wares in another part of town today). She was going to have to go and buy more meat, even though it meant no more coal this week. A stroll might do Mr Todd good, anyway … and they could go and laugh at all the silly buggers taken in by Signor Pirelli…
Oh, yes. Here it was, here was the way she could give her lost and found-again tenant his spark back. The only thing that ever riled him in the old days was a charlatan like that one. They disgraced his profession.
"You were the best barber in London," she said.
"Yes." Quite simply, no self-aggrandisement – Benjamin Barker had never been guilty of that, never been guilty of anything except falling in love with the wrong woman – just acknowledgement of the truth, with 'what of it?' implicit in his tone.
"Well, love," she said, getting up to fetch her hat, "there's someone you need to meet."