AN: Well, this was the original sequel to my one-shot "Enough". When I first wrote this, I uploaded it very quickly, and suddenly deeply regretted doing so, perhaps because I thought it sucked.
But searching through my files of Sweeney Todd writing, I happened upon it, and I like it much better now, haha. The new title, "A Game of You" is the title of a volume in the amazing comic series The Sandman. It sounds fitting, I think.
I suppose you could consider it an alternate one-shot. Anyhow, enjoy!
It's been about two weeks now, since Mr. Todd came back from the ends of the earth (Australia or wherever, as she always said, which sometimes made him crack a cynical smile), and she had suddenly looked in the mirror one morning and given a little murmur of suprise.
She had been pretty enough, fifteen years before, with color in her cheeks, and smooth brown and red hair, and a smile that her late husband had always said lit up ten rooms. In some ways, she had been fond of him, dear Albert. But she had been pretty enough, and she had looked alive at least, full of energy.
But times had become hard, in the years that had passed since the lovely man Benjamin Barker, with his sweet as anything smile, and kind brown eyes, had been hit a blow to the head and shipped to Australia (or wherever), away from his perfect wife and child, away from his beloved friends, those silver razors and away from happiness. It was perhaps a year after he left that Nellie Lovett had begun to notice the London she had known all her life was changing. Those streets that had been filled with light, and sun were suddenly seized with a cancerous grey mass of chimney smoke and corruption, and suddenly, in what seemed only a night, she had awoke in the morning to find the city of London had turned into a swirling dark mass of filth and wretchedness with over-priced meat and too many madmen flooding the streets. She had strode out into Fleet Street and saw that even the flowers in the flower shops that Mr. Barker would bring to his wife, smiling shyly as if he's even afraid to believe this beautiful creature is his wife, his love, that those flowers had lost their color, their loveliness. And then, suddenly, her business can only just barely stay afloat, and she wakes up to find her hair is a mess and there's shadows under her formerly bright eyes, and she's pale as death itself now.
She feels as if London is in mourning, over the loss of the man named Benjamin Barker, and with his leaving, he's taken with him all color in the world, all the warmth of these city streets, almost as if he's taken revenge on not just the that Judge Turpin, but the entire world itself.
But it changes nothing on the inside of her. She's always prided herself on staying the course, on waiting it out and keeping bright about it, and for fifteen years, she's entertained wonderful fantasies, of her working in the pie shop, when suddenly there comes Benjamin Barker, dressed in ragged prison clothes, older but still so wonderful, and he comes into her shop and simply sweeps her off her feet, kissing her fervently and telling her she's all he's thought of these years away, and that he knows his wife is long gone, but it doesn't matter anyways, she's what matters. But then, there's always the jolt that reminds her that it will never happen, but she keeps his silver friends under his flat's floorboards just the same, sometimes sitting up there, looking out at London's rooftops, running her hand over the wooden board where she's hidden the box, reassuring herself that he'll come back. After all, Benjamin was nothing if not full of determination. She had to believe...that things would be alright.
Of course, when he did come back, there was no ridiculous music, or light that suddenly filled her shop as he strode in the door, and he wasn't even recognizable, at first, until she leaned over him and suddenly locked eyes with this pale, ghost of a man, and felt her heart give a familiar jump that told her it was him, without a doubt, but he's Sweeney Todd now, and Mr. Barker is dead, buried and floating away in the cruel heat and sands of Australia's desert prison colony. Some part of him is dead, just like her, just as she has turned to dust, so has he.
So, when she awoke that Sunday morning in early December and looked at herself in the mirror, she couldn't help but give a small yelp of suprise to see, staring back at her, mouth opened slightly, a woman she had not seen in fifteen, almst sixteen years. Her eyes were sparkling again, and she even looked a bit less pale. It was not so significant a change that it had suddenly altered her entirely, she was still grey looking, just as all of London's inhabitants were nowadays, but something had changed and she decided today was going to be good day.
It's been a bit better, her pie shop, now that Mr. Todd has begun his work again, and customers come to get a shave, and perhaps eat a pie (but only before, for the customers who step inside his shop never return to eat some of those world famous pies, having become ingredients for the aforementioned food themselves), and she's suddenly got other people to talk to, while she serves them the food, and brings them ale, instead of Mr. Pale as Death and Silent as the Grave. She adores him all the same, but she admits it's nice to have a person who replies when she speaks, and reacts to her colorful stories. There's of course instances, little rare moments when Mr. Todd is sitting in her kitchen, smiling (laughing even) at her tales of Mrs. Mooney and her disappearing cats, or that silly barber Pirelli (who was, in fact, delicious and better as a served food than as a man, on the whole) or even, when he's had a few knocked back, some stories from when they were both full of color, and they lived in a London that has since been lost. They laugh, for once, and Toby looks from one to the other, hardly recognizing these two adults who have been alive much longer than he has, and who seem to recall a time when rats did not plague the city's streets and flowers still bloomed in abundance.
And she supposes this is why the color has begun to return to her face, why there's a little spring in her step, and she's noticed she's developed quite a bit of strength in her arms (no doubt from turning that meat grinder's massive handle, and lugging pie trays up and down those cellar stairs).
She smiles at her image in the mirror, and gets dressed in a hurry, passing by little Toby, who's snuggled up on her chaise lounge, murmuring softly. She lets him sleep in, after all, it's a Sunday, which means all the men have gotten shaved yesterday for church today, and it means that no one will be here for pies until later, after sermons have stopped and people have repented for all their sins, bellies aching for food, minds numbed at the drone of the preacher. Mr. Todd sends them to their maker quicker anways, and they have the lovely oppourtunity to ask Him, in person, for forgiveness, so it's not like these men should bother. After all, everyone shaves.
She starts each day by lighting the furnace in the cellar, and today, she does it just to get heat moving through the small house, for it's bitingly cold, and she shivers, rubbing her arms. She turns the sign in the shop's window to "closed". It's Sunday and it's not like she gets much business on Sundays anyways, besides, she has earned this rest, for today. Sitting at the table under the window, she notes the frost covered glass, and whistles.
"It's gonna be a bit nippy, out there, I'll bet." She sighs, yawning, and then looking up at the ceiling above her, listening intently. She can hear the quiet scuff of Mr. Todd's polished leather shoes, moving so softly so as not to disturb those who actually sleep during the night. He's never slept (as far as she can tell), for at night, when she's lying in her own bed, and cannot sleep, right above her she hears the familiar shuffle of his feet as he paces the floor of his shop, pondering who knows what, and the rhythm of it, the back and forth of it lulls her right to sleep, smile on her face.
She sometimes wonders if he ever thinks of her, while he's up there, thinking deep thoughts (she assumes he thinks of everything, up in his high tower as he looks over London's sleeping people, but she's not ever sure of anything, when it comes to Sweeney Todd). But, deep down, she doubts this, at least, she doubts he ever thinks of her the way she wants him to.
He did kiss her.
At this thought, she sits upright in her chair, staring out at the silent streets of London, because its so early, and no one is awake, and even they are, they're at church or bundled up, sticking out this frosty weather indoors, near a fire. A flush creeps up her neck, spreading easily to her cheeks and a warm tingling feeling spreads from her toes up to her face, causing an involuntary shiver. She can recall it so clearly...In fact, just the thought makes her absolutely unable to walk properly. Twice, she's had Toby grab her arm to keep her from running straight into the closed door, tray of fresh pies in her hand, just because she's been thinking of him, and his lips, brushing against hers shyly, but lovingly, in a way she's never known from anyone, let alone expected from a man such as Sweeney Todd. She's embarassed by how she reacted so quickly, clinging to his newly made red scarf to keep from completely collapsing onto him, knees weakened, and how she kissed back fervently.
She supposes it's a good thing she did it, too, for he's completely avoided her, the past few days, turning right back inside whenver he sees her out in the courtyard, serving customers, instead of pacing like a predator on the front balcony, his face twisted in a combination of shame and a foreign expression she's never seen on his face. It's been odd, and unlike him, for he seems to know she would never speak of it, ever, unless he brought it up first. And yet, she assumes he's noticed her new brightness, and he's decided it's because of what transpired between them.
Running a hand anxiously through her hair, her brow furrows in worry. She so hates the thought of him avoiding her, even if she herself knows she's a bit overbearing (in a healthy way, she tells herself, always), and must be especially pressing upon his concerntration.
No...she banishes this thought of her distracting him from his work, remembering all the times (nearly every time, really) he's been staring off into the distance while she talks of the ocean breeze and healthy complextion and something or other. It doesn't rattle him, her talking, but nothing really rattles Sweeney Todd, except perhaps the thoughts of his revenge, the silver glint of his razors, and the Judge himself.
She's sitting there, pondering the existence and possible thoughts of Mr. Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber when there's suddenly footsteps on the stairs, and she looks up, watching feet appear on the steps outside the shop, and then, following the polished shoes, pinstripe pants, and the thin (yet remarkably muscular looking, at least to her eyes) frame of the man himself. And she gives a little start, because instead of his usual form, coming down the stairs like a grey ghost, with a shock of black hair and his pale, pale face, wrapped about his neck, a bright red maroon, almost like he's slit his own throat, and is walking amongst the living, is the scarf she made for him.
Her heart gives a flutter of affection, even stronger than usual, and she stands without knowing it, watching as he walks down the wooden steps with all the dignity he can muster, and yet, he still appears comical to her, for some reason. He enters without saying a word, sitting down at the table she had just been seated at, mouth covered by his scarf, shaking slightly from what is obviously cold weather outside. His face (what she can see of it, for at the middle of the bridge of his nose, the scarf covers the rest) has turned down into a scowl, and he gives muffled clearing of the throat, as he often does, before speaking.
"What," he drawls, sounding both tired and cold, and altogether irritable, "Is so amusing, Mrs. Lovett?"
She stares at him, a tall, lanky man who exudes gloom and menace, hair pulled back like some sort of madman's (almost, she thinks, as if he had been struck by lightning), brow pulled into what is clearly the most fearsome look he can muster, eyes glinting, and laughs a bit more. The bright red of the scarf is too much for her, and it completely destroys his image of a man to be afraid of, but he's still wearing it, looking quite silly, with it pulled up to his nose. He huffs a bit, and turns his head, almost pouting, as he pulls the scarf away from his face, letting it hang about his neck.
She sits across from him, shoulders shaking a bit from supressed snickers, and pokes him lightly.
"You...look quite silly, with your scarf on. Not scary at all. Well, a bit, but only because I know what yer up to, Mr. Todd. You'd not scare any little kid, looking like that."
Now that his mouth is visible, it's easier to tell what he's feeling, for his mouth always gives him away, twisting into manic smiles and tightening into a thin line when he's pondering things. Right now, he's biting his lip, looking downwards at the faded turquoise flooring. He shrugs.
"I thought...perhaps, since it was cold...And you did give me the scarf. I don't care how it looks..."
She laughs again at this, placing a hand on his own, but pulling away when he stiffens under her touch, and she's almost hurt, but ignores the feeling.
"Ah, Mr. T, you do. But no matter, it's that it works in keeping you warm, that's what counts. How's it been, then, 'ave you felt any better? I mean, no cold breezes creeping up your neck, or anything?"
He shakes his head. "No. It's a fine scarf, Mrs. Lovett. Thank you."
She tilts her head to the side, smiling. It's nice, to hear him say it, that "thank you", and she's reminded again of the kiss, oh, the kiss, the kiss. She rests her chin in her hand, elbow on the table (unpolite, but she doesn't care now), looking at him, as she does when he remains silent, and she doesn't want to talk. They sit there, a man in a bright scarf, and a woman with wild looking eyes, in a comfortable silence. She enjoys these silences, too, when they simply sit, and say nothing, for nothing needs to be said (and she thinks this quite romantic), though truly, he always has nothing to say. And then, her gaze drifts past his shoulder to the early morning street, and her eyes widen suddenly. She stands up quickly, the chair making a loud scrape that makes Mr. Todd give a little jump as he's pulled from whatvever musing he had been lost in, as she rushes to the window, pressing her nose against the glass, straining to see through the fog her breath is already making.
He's at her side, leaning out, peering at the empty street, searching for whatever caught her attention so quickly, and with such intensity. She squints, and then turns to her companion.
"Look!" She points to the outside, grin spreading on her face. "Snow, Mr. Todd. It's snowing! I'm gonna go get my coat, wait there, alright?"
She's in her room again, past Toby, now snoring, and back, grabbing his arm (she ignores his dragging feet and noises of protest) and stepping out into the empty cobblestone walkway that is Fleet Street, grinning up at the sky.
Her coat is a deep navy blue, not unlike that of a marine's uniform, with buttons that go up to her chin, only she seems to have ignored these, simply throwing the thing over her shoulders in her haste to get outside. Mr. Todd stands next to her, staring at the dull sky, looking unenthusiastic. For once, she doesn't notice.
She was a little girl, only about six, and she was sitting at the window, her brother next to her, peering out at the rows of houses and buildings in London. There was a warm fire, despite the worker's lodgings her father had recieved for working in the factory being cold, freezing cold, and the room is filled with the orange glow. They hadn't been able to buy a tree, being in a city, but she has decorated a small pile of books with a green cloth, and tinsel, and the two siblings have pretended that this is their large tree. They stare out, for hours and hours, as their mother cooks dinner (what they have, at least), and her father is nowhere to be found, probably off drinking. Suddenly, her brother gives a sharp yell of excitement, and there, right in front of her face, a white flake of snow is falling. She gasps.
They race outside in ragged coats and mittens, and play until dark, shoving snow into their pockets to keep, which earns them a smack each from their mother, who gives them an affectionate look of annoyance, shaking her head.
"You two," she says, sighing.
She has always loved the snow.
They stand for about twenty minutes, until the snow covers the ground, and then sit on the stairs leading up to the barber shop, after Mr. Todd complained of being tired of standing so stiff. He's too used to pacing, she expects, staring up at the sky, blinking quickly to move the snowflakes off her eyelashes. Next to her, Sweeney Todd shifts, and gives a cough.
"Mrs. Lovett," he begins, slowly. "I would like to speak to you, about something."
She turns her attention away from the snow, staring at him expectantly. He continues.
"Do not expect me to be the kind of man you want me to be. I am afraid...I will consistently fall short of your expectations. But..."
She inhales, almost not believing what she's hearing.
"...what happened...I don't want you to...I'm not that sort of man, anymore. I'm sorry."
Her heart sinks, and she looks down. He had her going, for a little bit there, but she's been told something she already knows, and has known since she laid eyes on him and heard him cry out, begging the world to have some mercy on that ridiculous wife of his. He's not ever going to be Sweeney Todd of her fantasies, even if he does try, because she is not part of that circle of events that holds him to this world, keeping him alive and full of purpose. She will never be part of that place in his heart (or his mind). But she knew this before.
"I..." he whispers, looking at his shoes. "I wish...I wish I could give you something, if only to make you happy...But I can't. I know that...and you know it as well, Mrs. Lovett."
She sighs, nodding.
"You've done so much for me..." He begins, leaning his head against the railing of the stairs, staring past the steps and the snow. Mournfully. Her heart gives painful jerk, and she reaches out, cautiously, taking his hand, while brushing snow off his hair. He looks at her, carefully, and just a bit confused, as if he feels she has not heard a word he's said. She leans her head on his shoulder.
"Don't...Don't do it to yourself, Mr. T. Don't worry your head about me, lord knows you've got enough to feel all gloomy about. I'm not...I'm not asking you to go along with me. Just...please..."
She leans in, and she can feel his breath on her lips, and can feel her own arms shaking with the closeness of the two of them, reaching out, threading fingers in hs hair, and she whispers to him:
"Let me pretend, at least...please."
He looks at her, no less distressed than he had been before, and then slowly nods his understanding. She smiles weakly, and knows he sees it's a half-hearted smile. He runs one long finger down the banister of that staircase, coming back with a small bit of snow on his finger. He stares at it like a bug he's spotted on the floor.
They sit in a silence once more, this one extremely umcomfortable for both parties involved, and she wonders if he regrets kissing her at all, if he had known what trouble he would cause himself and her. Drumming her fingers on her knee, she finally looks to him.
"'Ave you ever been to the sea, Mr. Todd?"
He frowns at the bit of snow on his finger, then wipes it on his slacks, nodding. She breathes a little gasp.
"...Yes." He places a hand on each knee, and tilts his head to look at her. "When I was a boy...a long time ago."
She can almost feel them both breathing a sigh of relief to know that this will bring them back to the sense of normalcy that they had before.
"What was it like, then? The sea?"
He shrugs. "It was hot. And windy. I begged my mother and father to take me...But we went during November, when the wind whips the sand about your ankles, so it hurts. I remember liking the ice cream I got there the most. But...I can't recall anything else about it."
"Mmm." She murmurs a reply, turning her gaze back to Fleet Street, and watching as a street vendo arose and began to push his cart of fruits slowly through the thickening layer of snow on the ground, cursing.
Suddenly, he's standing up, and he starts down the three steps to the pie shop, and then stops, turning to her, and holding out a hand to help her up. She reaches, and takes it, strong arms pulling her down all three steps easily, but too quickly, so she stumbles and has to wrap her arms about his neck to keep from falling. Her stomach sinks unpleasantly, and her cheeks flush, but Mrs. Lovett is not prepared for Sweeney Todd's look of almost amused affection, and he reaches up with one hand to brush a stray piece of hair away from her face, smile crossing his face unpleasantly, a sort of smirking evil grin, but she's suddenly realized he doesn't quite know how to smile the way he used to. Her heart thumps loudly at his touch, and then, he lifts her off the last step, and leads her back inside, muttering something about waking Toby, and how work is going to be good this afternoon, because there's some sort of holiday coming up this week, when he leans in to her ear and says:
"I may be wont to pretend, too, Mrs. Lovett. If only for the briefest of moments."
And with this, he leaves her, feeling as if she's been dragged through several emotions since she woke up this morning, and thought it would be a good day.
In some ways, it has been.
The work continues, and they close in, ever closer to the day when he'll slice up that Judge and she'll be there, waiting below to grind him up just like the others. It's better, she knows, not to think of the future after this occurence.
Life continues, and the snow melts quickly, much to her disappointment, but Toby tells her that snow is supposed to come, later, around Christmas. The two of them work together to help clean up the pie shop, clearing it of the ever-present flour and the insects, dust floating out the windows, while Mr. Todd stands in the doorway inbetween customers, watching them curiously. She and Sweeney stay at their distance, as always, and it's almost always like it was before, but there's brief instances.
Where he'll brush by her, and suddenly, her hand is in his, and he squeezes gently before continuing, and sometimes, he leans over her as she makes dough for another set of pies, and he'll kiss her (for the shortest of moments) on the cheek. In some ways, she feels as if he's humouring her.
But it's better than nothing, and she's always prided herself in being a woman who is resourceful, which includes making the best of what is there. Which is exactly what she does.
She pretends, for a while, until she starts to ache with real longing. She wants so badly to go to the sea and live with him, and Toby, and be happy. She wants him to be happy.
But she's a fool, and she knows it, for she knows his happiness doesn't come in the form of the ocean spray or the sand between toes. He is not fit for her fantasy, and so she fits into his, as best as she can. She'll never really be the perfect piece, the perfect fit, but he seems a bit more content than usual. Which is all fine and well for her. It's good enough, she tells herself. But somehow, she aches for more.
Outside the pie shop, the streets flood once more with the beggars and the street theives and the sellers, London's skies stir fitfully with grey smog and chimney smoke, and inside, every day, Mrs. Lovett looks out and feels, for an instant, a feeling of real dread, and the carefully constructed curtain she builds falls right away, and she knows and admits readily to being aware of Mr. Todd's using her, being aware of that Lucy, the old woman who persists, of foolish Johanna, who's just like her mother, of Toby, who's too genuine to last long under this roof, too good, and she knows, somewhere within her, that this is going to have to end. It's going to suddenly melt right away, as simply as the snow.
Shaking her head, she pushes this into the back of her mind, forcing it into a nagging feeling that makes her move faster, work harder, and try (above all) to pretend he loves her back.
It works some days, and others, it does not.
If only life could be the way she wanted it. If only she could go back and brush away all of his hurts and sadness. But Sweeney Todd has been broken beyond repair, and nothing she does can fix it.
She knows it. Mrs. Lovett has known all along quite a few things people seemed to think she was unaware of.
Oh, he's not going to be healed not by her hand, by his daughter's, or by the sweet hand of revenge, when it comes to collect him, bloody and clutching his razor in that skilled hand. Nothing she will do can make him feel.
But she tries all the same.
AN: Well, that's that! I hope you enjoyed it (I actually did, because re-reading it was somewhat odd...It doesn't feel like I wrote it at all).
Reviews are appreciated, all the time!