Title: Courage, My Love
Disclaimer: I own nothing that sprang from the mind of Stephen Sondheim et all. And I make no profit.
Warnings: Blood and gore.
Continuity: After "Try the Priest"
Pairings: Lovett/Sweeney in nature
Summary: Practical in theory maybe, but it certainly wasn't going to be easy. The first one is always the hardest.
Completed: March 16, 2008
She took a long, hard breath.
"Steady now Nellie," she told herself, "After all, this was your bright idea."
She was down in the bake house, cleaver tight in one hand, corner of a bed sheet in the other. They had rolled the Italian in it to bring him down to the stone room under the building, which is where he lay now, tossed down in front of her. Spread out like some morbid feast.
"Meat is meat," she declared to herself in a voice that was much steadier than she felt, and pulled back the sheet with a flicked wrist and flourish.
Signor Pirelli stared back at her.
Wide, dark eyes stared up at her. Unblinking. Unmoving. The eyes stared up at her with a steady gaze, and she matched it. Watching him, watch her. Neither wavered.
But she swayed on her feet, dropping the knife with a loud clatter that echoed around the near empty room, before it settled as silent as the grave.
"Cows have eyes," she reminded herself, "Chickens and pigs too, for that matter." She knelt down to retrieve the knife, never letting her eyes leave Pirelli's dead ones. How could the dead still watch you? Because he was surely still watching her.
Nonsense. The dead can't watch you. No more than they could speak. She was just tired. It had been a long day. That was all. Her mind was playing tricks on her.
This was nothing new. She had carved up many a carcass in her day. The cheapest meat came with all sorts of bones and bits still attached. She was forever hacking and stripping and pulling apart the flesh from waste. And this was cheaper still. Didn't cost her a thing, but it was sure to bring some money in. After all, that was the plan. Turn the tricky bastard into a tasty dish and pull some much-needed life into the old pie shop. But it wasn't all about her; she had to remember that. She was doing Mr. Todd a service. Really helping him out she was. He wouldn't be able to do a thing without her work down in the bake house. And the boy too, Toby. He'd be allowed to stay if there was money coming in regular. He wouldn't be put out because his master had turned up missing, well if he hadn't turned up again. Nor would he be forced back to the workhouse. She'd make sure of that.
The whole lot of them would benefit from this. Nothing but good things ahead.
But first she'd have to go about dismembering Pirelli there.
Best not to think of him as a person though. Certainly not a good person, seeing how he had treated that poor boy. Besides, Mr. T had seen to the worst part of it, hadn't he? All she had to do now was her job, something she had done for years. Daily even. Prep the meat for her pies. That's all this was. Easy as that.
"Right than. Easy to it," she stretched a thin smile over her lips and raised the cleaver. "Bless me," she squeezed her eyes shut and swung down with all her will.
The blade made a dull thud.
She peaked out one of her eyes – the cleaver was stuck deep in the bones of the back of his hand. She had missed the wrist joint she was aiming for. Never had she missed her mark before. And so sloppy too, right in the thick, dense bone. Surely she'd gone and ruined her good cleaver.
It was a sign. There: she couldn't do this. And how could she? This man had spoken to her and visited her home and now she was supposed to chop him into meaty pieces and serve him up to the neighbourhood? The very idea, while practical in its gruesome method and frankly logical, sent a shiver down her spine.
Even if it was her idea.
Maybe, she thought, Mr. T was right all along about burying the man somewhere secret. Or toss the poor soul into the sewer. Or into the bake oven. It was hotter than hell in there, and would surely be rid of all evidence. Not one trace could be left.
Oh, but the waste of it all. It was such a horrible waste, all that meat. Well, and that man's life too. Sad almost: death without a purpose.
She'd have to talk with Mr. Todd about it. That was all. They'd have to come up with something less fancy. Subtler. Less…messy. Lord above, it was a messy business to get her hands into.
She reached for her cleaver, and noticed her hand shake. A horrible tremor deep in her flesh. Her nerves certainly were winning out over her. She just didn't have the guts to do this. She couldn't bring herself to rip into human tissue and sort through his pieces. Such a disappointment too. So much could go wrong if she didn't. But she just didn't seem to have the iron nerve she was so sure hid under her ruffled skirts. Defeated, she was, and she hated to feel defeated. It was right up there with useless.
That's what Albert always accused her of being. Nothing but a useless waste… Not capable of anything.
"Courage, my love." She would have jumped clean out of her skin if it wasn't for the raspy voice of Mr. Todd himself sounding in her ear. He uttered the statement in hot, sticky words that trickled down her neck. And his cool hand covered hers, tightening around her fingers. Together they jerked the blade free, before he pulled back to maintain their coveted personal space.
She felt the fresh charge fill the room and settle low in her person. She smiled a slow, dark and private smile. Raising the cleaver high again, and chancing a quick glance at her barber, she swung down with deadly accuracy.
The hand lopped clean off.
For a moment, she was sure, pride twinkled in Mr. Todd's usually lifeless eyes before he offered a curt nod and disappeared back up the stairs he had so quietly crept down.
She wiped the blood splatter off her hand onto her skirt, and sighed, "You're all the courage I need my dear."