Blade of Madness
Chapter Sixteen (Alternate): Enough
Summary: The storyline is dramatically altered one night when Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Emporium is broken into and Sweeney Todd's true opinion of his neighbor is revealed.
Disclaimer: If I owned Sweeney Todd, neither Sweeney nor Mrs. Lovett would have died. So needless to say, I don't own it.
Pairings: AnthonyJohanna implied, Sweenett
Author's Notes: Final chapter, if you couldn't stomach the original ending. The beginning of the chapter is the same as the first Chapter Sixteen until "Why would I need savin'?" It's longer that the original ending, too.
For the next week, Nellie spent much of her time in the bakehouse with Toby, teaching him. They would bring trays of pies out together, and Nellie would make proud remarks about her new apprentice when the customers raved about the food. After working hours, Toby would run off to spend time with Micaiah and Sweeney would come downstairs to be with Nellie. The weather was getting warmer and often they would sit outside in the ale garden, sharing a drink, occasionally exchanging kisses over the rim of the glass. Nellie never mentioned moving to the seaside, so Sweeney never had to make any excuses about why they couldn't do that. She was happier than he'd ever seen her without being annoying. While Sweeney had felt reassured that he was near Lucy right when he and Nellie returned from their holiday, that feeling faded quickly. Nellie kept him busy; after they'd enjoyed their picnics on the beach so much that they took their supper to the park a few times before returning 186 Fleet Street for their drinks when night fell. Some nights, when they didn't feel like going out, they took their supper in the kitchen, and then went to sit on the loveseat with Sweeney resting his head on Nellie's lap while she read to him; traveler's tales, usually, which offered an entertaining temporary escape from reality. On Friday, Nellie insisted on inviting Micaiah for supper, and Sweeney actually managed to be decent; he even seemed to enjoy the visit. (Micaiah was quite a little spitfire and reminded him somewhat of Nellie. It was also amusing to see how besotted Toby was with the girl, much like Benjamin Barker had been with Lucy. He just hoped he hadn't acted that obviously starry-eyed.)
On Saturday, Nellie and Toby made an attempt to cook the corn oysters that Nellie had so enjoyed at the eatery with Sweeney on their wedding day. The project was ambitious, Nellie warned her apprentice; working from a recipe was one thing, but trying to imitate something you'd eaten was another thing entirely. It was an extensive operation, what with Nellie having to try to remember all the ingredients she had identified in the dish when she'd been eating it and then finding all of them at the market; the ingredients were only the beginning. It took Nellie and Toby several hours to try recipe after recipe and get the proportions right, but they finally succeeded. Nellie had been writing down every combination of ingredients they tried, and kept the one that worked and filed it with the rest of her recipes. Sweeney watched the entire process with amusement and growing admiration for Nellie's cooking abilities; she was a damn good baker once she had the right ingredients. Not to mention the corn oysters were delicious, although all three of them laughed about the fact that they'd taste-tested so many batches that none of them were hungry anymore. "We may be sick of them, but I'd lay odds we'll make a killin' sellin' these to the customers as appetizers," remarked Nellie.
Saturday night, Nellie was exhausted from work and the long corn oyster experiment. Sweeney had a sudden inspiration while she was sprawled supine and half-asleep on their bed and began working the stress from the muscles of her back. She sighed and her shoulder blades rose agreeably against the pressure if his hands. "Thanks, love. Where'd you learn to do this?"
"I've always found it easy. You just…follow the natural lines of the body."
"That's what I do, too…a little to the right…mmm…but some say they've got'ta learn it."
After he was done massaging the stress out of her back, she proved to him that she was just as capable of the same despite her lack of instruction. Sweeney hadn't needed any convincing, but he enjoyed it anyway. "Nellie, what do you say we make a tradition out of this?"
"A tradition, eh? You're a creature of 'abit, ain't you?"
"That, and I think I'd enjoy gettin' a massage from you every night. You complainin'?"
"'Course not, sweet. It's a lovely idea." She paused. "Sweeney…do you ever see us bein' 'appier than this?"
"I don't know. Why do you ask?"
"'Cause I don't. And that ain't a bad thing—I don't think I've ever been 'appier than I am now."
Sweeney couldn't agree with that statement, but he was certainly happier than he'd been in fifteen years. He kissed her. "Good."
Sweeney nearly didn't go to see Lucy that weekend. He came close to forgetting his visit, and only remembered because he wanted to see her more than usual because he hadn't done so the previous weekend. Nellie seemed to be pleased at the news that Sweeney wouldn't have gone to the asylum if he hadn't missed his last visit; she gave him a kiss and a "'urry back; I'll 'ave some tea waitin' for you."
So he walked to the asylum's massive front doors and knocked. The workers knew him by now and went to fetch Mr. Fogg.
"Ah, Mr. Todd."
"Yes—I'm here to see Lucy."
"I'm afraid you can't, sir."
"What do you mean, I can't? We had an agreement…"
"Late last week, I'm afraid there was a disease—a flu, I believe—that affected many of my children."
"So you won't let me in because there are still people ill?"
"No, sir…your wife took ill. She died last weekend."
Sweeney took an astonished step backward. "She…she's dead?"
"I'm afraid so," said Fogg with simpering sympathy that was likely affected.
"But…how…how could you have let this happen? You call the people here your 'children' and you let them die?"
"We brought in a doctor, but there was only so much he could do."
"You son of a whore…" Sweeney drew his razor and flew at Mr. Fogg, who knew enough about unstable behavior to step back. Two grey-faced asylum workers grabbed hold of his arms and pulled him back; he fought, lashed out as much as he could, but they shoved him and he fell.
"You'll not be welcome here again!" Fogg shouted out the door before it closed.
Sweeney was struggling for breath. Lucy was dead, really dead, gone forever. Any hope of her recovering had just been brutally ripped from him. Fogg, that useless piece of slime, hadn't been able to keep his own 'children' alive. If only Sweeney had been there, gone to see her, maybe he could have done something, but he hadn't been able to visit her.
And why hadn't he been able to visit her?
Nellie looked up when the front door opened so violently it slammed against the wall.
"Back so soon, love? I told you to 'urry, but you've never come back this soon."
Nellie got up from where she sat at the kitchen table and started when she saw his expression. "What's wrong, love?"
"My Lucy's dead! That's what's wrong!"
"Dead? But 'ow?"
"An illness. Can you guess when?" he snarled, storming over to her.
"Well…I'm certain I don't know, dear…"
"Last weekend…when I was with you!" His hand shot out and gripped her, hard, under the chin. Her hands flew to her throat, but she wasn't strong enough to break his grip.
"But I didn't…I didn't kill 'er…" she choked out.
Sweeney let her go, if one could call it that. He flung her against the table and she was thrown halfway onto her back. She got up, one hand massaging the tender places on her throat where she would surely have bruises later. "What 'appened to 'I won't 'urt you again?'"
"I told you to be quiet! You always talk too much."
"Sweeney…" She reached for him. "I know you was 'avin' trouble lettin' go of Lucy, but you knew she was 'opeless, right?" She threaded her fingers through his hair. "It ain't like much 'as changed. We can get through this, I can 'elp you…"
"Really?" He clutched her wrist and yanked her hand away from his hair, and she cried out. "Tell me, my pet, what is so bloody special about you?"
"Mum?" Their argument had woken Toby, who had come into the kitchen. "Mum, are you all right?"
Nellie quickly pulled her arm from Sweeney's grip. "We've just got into a bit of an argument, dear. You go on back to sleep. It'll be all right."
"Are you sure, Mum?" He glanced warily at Mr. Todd's contorted face.
"Of course I am. You just get yourself to sleep and we'll 'ave this sorted by mornin', all right?"
After a pause, Toby nodded and shuffled off. When he was gone, Sweeney seized Nellie by the back of the neck and dragged her into their bedroom.
"I'm comin', sweet, you don't 'ave to pull me along like this…ow!"
He shoved her into the room and shut the door. "The boy can't save you now, my dear."
"Why would I need savin'?" she quavered.
"Because, my pet, you're the reason Lucy's dead."
"What?" Nellie cried. "But 'ow do you figure that?"
"If I hadn't been away, I could have seen Lucy. I could have gotten her to a hospital. But I was with you! If not for you, Lucy'd still be here."
"You're bein' ridiculous," Nellie snapped, being cross to cover the fact that she was frightened. She could feel her skin throbbing under her chin and at the nape of her neck, evidence that Sweeney was angry enough to hurt her. "What day did Lucy die?"
"I don't know."
"What if she died on Saturday? You could've gone to see 'er and found 'er dead anyway. Or she might've been so sick there was no curin' 'er."
"Be quiet. I told you to shut your mouth!"
Nellie shook a little, but pressed on. He loved her, didn't he? Even angry, he wouldn't do anything too horrible…right? "Love, you need to calm down. There was never any 'ope of 'er gettin' back to…to normal. Ain't like much 'as changed; I mean, you seemed like you were startin' to need to not see her."
"I said…be quiet!"
He flew at her, and before she could stop him she felt dull, sudden aches all over, her face, her stomach, her neck, her legs. It took her a moment to realize that Sweeney was raining blow after blow down on her, striking not with a palm but with a closed fist, kicking her, even. A kick slammed into her stomach like a cannonball; dressed in her nightgown and as such without the protection of her corset, she went down, gasping for breath. Another scathing blow to the side of her head and she was completely on the floor. Only then did she manage to burst out: "Stop that! You got no right to hit me!"
"I'm your husband. It's legal," Sweeney snarled.
"You said you'd never hurt me again!"
Sweeney acted as if he'd never heard her outcry. "I knew Lucy was mad. Sick. Whatever she was. But I never gave up hope of her recovering."
"That don't make sense!"
"Neither did you thinkin' I'd fall for you!" The words that he didn't actually love her were on the tip of his tongue. But that could come later, when his logic didn't hinge on the fact that he "loved" her. "So who the fuck are you to tell me what I can't hope for?"
Nellie stood, slowly, shakily. "I'm your wife. Remember?" She was trying to be angry, to react with ire at his violence, but her whole body ached, and the pain was making her cry, not shout. Worse than the physical pain, though, was the broken promise. She'd thought he felt enough regret at hurting her that he'd never do so again. Did a promise to her really matter so little in the face of bloody mad useless Lucy up and dying?
"Only because you guilted me into proposing to you! Did you really think you could replace Lucy?"
"I bloody 'oped I could replace somebody who don't even remember your name!"
He whirled on her again, his fist slamming into her face. There was a sickening crunch as her nose broke and she staggered backward, her hand flying to her face and coming away dripping with blood.
"You will never replace Lucy! You think because you nearly drove yourself spare killing Turpin I'd suddenly be smitten with you?" He swung at her again; she dropped to the floor to avoid the blow. "Lucy was everything that was good about women. She was beautiful, she was graceful, she was modest, she was the kindest person to ever walk the Earth…and you are nothing like her!" He seized her by the hair and she shrieked as he pulled her to a standing position. "Seeing her reminded me of how she used to be, as I couldn't get any of it from you!" His hand flew at her face again, but this time she lashed out with one leg, her foot crashing squarely into his kneecap. He cursed and reflexively released her.
"'Cause Lucy would never 'ave done that! I was right, about what I said right after Johanna left! You like your women weak! Well, I'm bloody sorry I don't fly to pieces when life gets 'ard!" She raised one open hand, ready to crack Sweeney across the face, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Despite what he'd just done, they had been together too long, she cared about him too much. So instead of slapping him, she shouted, "I could stay and try to make you feel better, but if you wan'na sulk about your deranged Lucy, I'll leave you to your tantrum. Honestly—you're worse than a child sometimes!"
She stormed out, but she paused just outside the doorway. Sweeney was in a violent mood, and it wasn't safe for her to be around him. But it should be safe for her to be around him. He shouldn't have broken his promise not to hurt her. Besides, they loved each other, right? Even Sweeney Todd shouldn't hurt someone he loved.
There was a loud thud followed by a sharp crashing sound in the room behind her. It sounded as if Sweeney had punched the wall and a hanging had fallen down as a result. She winced and, fighting the compulsion to go back to Sweeney and comfort him, tiptoed upstairs. She cleaned the blood from her face in Sweeney's washbasin and gingerly touched her nose, trying to work it back into place. Miraculously, the bleeding had slowed to a tiny trickle. She briefly considered walking to Dr. Murrin's house, but he was likely asleep. She found a tattered handkerchief that Sweeney used to clean his razors and tore small strips from it, rolled them up, and lodged them in her nostrils to stanch the bloodflow and keep everything in its rightful place. She could go see Dr. Murrin in the morning; that would give her time to make up a story about how she'd been hurt.
Sweeney's cot was still upstairs; he'd started sleeping in Nellie's bed before they'd gotten around to bringing his bed to the lower level. Neither of them had bothered to take the sheets off, either. So Nellie pulled back the bedclothes and climbed in. She could have sworn she identified the scent of Sweeney still clinging to the pillowcase. It was comforting, even though she knew perfectly well he was downstairs, mourning Lucy. She closed her eyes, more out of distress than sleepiness. She wanted to be with him while he was upset. Maybe she'd been too hard on him, and that had caused him to lash out at her.
Without Sweeney beside her, Nellie slept fitfully that night. The smell of him on the pillow was enough to soothe her into sleep for a few hours only, and she rose very early and spent an hour alternately reading and worrying about Sweeney before she judged the time to be late enough to go see Dr. Murrin. She didn't think a broken nose was too serious, but one blow from Sweeney had also struck her in the eye, and she had heard of people going blind from such things.
Again, Nellie was showed into the doctor's house on Cloverdale Street by the young bespectacled assistant. Dr. Murrin seemed pleased to see her. "Mrs. Lovett. Your face has healed up nicely…yet you seem to have found yourself some new injuries. Come in."
"That'll be Mrs. Todd now, sir." Nellie smiled tremulously, but she extended her hand to display her wedding ring.
"Thank you. Er…I weren't sure 'ow serious a broken nose was, but I thought I should ask you to look."
"Certainly. Have a seat." She settled into a chair, back straight. The doctor carefully probed her nose with his fingertips. Nellie winced and tried not to cry out. "Well, your nose is broken, but there's no blood collected between the nostrils and everything seems to be in place."
"Anythin' I should do? You know, to make sure it don't 'eal crooked?"
"Just be careful it's not injured again, and it should heal fine."
"All right. And I got…er…I think I can see all right, but I've 'eard of people losin' sight from bein' hit in the eye." She made a vague gesture aimed at her left eye, which was ringed with a bruise.
Dr. Murrin frowned, seemingly at the sight of the bruise, as he didn't seem to be examining her eye. "If there were something badly wrong with your eye, you'd have started losing vision already."
"One more thing…this." She touched the drooping corner of her mouth. "Is this ever gon'na…change?"
He paused briefly. There was a touch of regret in his voice when he said, "I'm afraid not."
Nellie got up with a sigh. "Well, I weren't never much to admire any'ow."
"Yes, sir?" She turned to face him.
"It isn't necessary for me to know, but may I inquire as to how you were hurt? I recall you saying that your face was cut by some robbers who broke into your shop; was it a similar incident?"
Nellie had a story planned, and lies normally tumbled off her tongue easily. But what came out of her mouth was: "I upset Mr. Todd. 'e gave me the bruises."
The doctor's eyebrows went up. "I'm sorry."
"Eh, well…" She shrugged. "I'm afraid 'e 'as a bit of a temper." In retrospect, maybe it was good that he'd hit her. If he'd taken out his rage on her verbally instead of physically…he could have easily torn her down, and a broken heart hurt much, much more than a broken nose.
"And your cuts? Were those really from blackguards who broke into your shop?"
"That was 'im too." It felt good to tell somebody. "Me shop was robbed, and I was…attacked…but it weren't the robbers that cut me."
The doctor sighed heavily and stood up. "I hope you won't be paying me too many more visits."
"Thank you, sir. But I do 'ope you'll be payin' me shop a visit soon. You still 'ave a free pie outstandin'. Or two, if you'd rather a pie in place of me payin' you for this visit." Nellie managed a smile as she took her overcoat from the rack where she'd left it.
He chuckled lowly. "I must say that dealing with money can be a bit tiresome, and that I look forward to sampling many of your legendary meat pies."
"Legendary? Really? I believe you are tellin' me false'oods, sir!"
"Not at all."
Nellie laughed. "All right, then. Thank you again." She turned to leave.
"Yes?" She paused in the doorway.
"It is part of my profession to keep my patients from meeting further harm." There was genuine concern in his voice. Suddenly the light mood created by the jests about Nellie's establishment vanished.
Nellie swallowed. "I appreciate that. But…I think I'll be all right."
"In that case, I bid you farewell, and promise that you'll be seeing me at your shop very soon."
"I do 'ope so. I'll even toss in a complimentary dish of corn oysters—me new specialty!"
"Very well. Good day, Mrs. Todd."
Nellie walked back from Cloverdale to Fleet Street. She found herself worrying a bit that Dr. Murrin would go to the law; while last night's beating had been legal because she was Sweeney's wife (as bloody stupid as that was), he could be tried for cutting her face. But Dr. Murrin wasn't the intrusive type; he just had a professional concern.
Sweeney was awake, looking wan and unkempt, seated at the kitchen table. The circles under his eyes were deeper and darker than usual. "Where've you been?" he growled when she walked in.
"I went to see the doctor. You broke me nose, after all." Nellie hung up her hat and overcoat.
"Does he know how your nose got broken?" There was a threat in his voice.
"Why would you care? And would it be beneath Mr. colder-than-ice Sweeney Todd to apologize?"
"Apologize?" he snarled.
"You promised you'd never 'urt me again. You broke that promise. I'd say that warrants an apology!"
"If I hadn't been with you, Lucy would still be alive."
"And if you 'adn't suggested we be gone durin' a weekend, maybe she'd still be alive. Or maybe you'd still 'ave gone to see 'er after she died. Or maybe even if you 'ad gotten to 'er, there'd've been nothin' any doctor could do."
"Would you stop twitterin' for once in your life?"
Nellie sighed. She hated arguing with Sweeney. "Sweeney…can we talk about this without snarlin' at each other? I know you're angry, but if you love me, why can't you just talk to me nice-like?"
Sweeney made a disgusted sound in the back of his throat. "You'd do well to not believe lies people tell you to get you to stop sulkin'."
Nellie stared at him, horrified. "You were lyin'?" she whispered.
"You believed me?" he smirked. She'd seen that look on his face before, but it had been absent for a while.
"Of course I did!"
Sweeney got up and shuffled into their bedroom. She followed him, only to see him climb back into bed.
"Sweeney?" she said gently. "You didn't sleep well, did you?"
"Are you 'ungry?"
Nellie left and went to the kitchen to make breakfast. Her legs were shaking a bit. So Sweeney didn't love her. That same knowledge hadn't been too…crushing…before. Why did she feel like flying to pieces now? He still cared for her a little, right? Surely he was only upset right now. But when he felt better, he'd apologize for hitting her, and maybe, maybe he'd say he'd claimed not to love her just to hurt her feelings. He'd certainly been acting as if he loved her…
She forced the troubling thoughts from her head. She'd continue taking care of Sweeney until he was finished moping about Lucy's death. He wasn't being logical about what had happened, and she wasn't sure why; had he held out hope of Lucy's sanity returning? Was he upset about her death because she'd been a link to his past? In any case, she'd find a way to make him happy again. She always did.
Toby came in as she was pulling out the ingredients and cooking implements for breakfast, and he ended up assisting her in the preparation of the meal.
"Where's Mr. Todd?"
"Still abed. I don't think 'e slept too well last night."
"You look tired too, Mum."
She turned her head to keep Toby from seeing her face; she didn't want him to see the bruises.
"Mum?" Suspicion crept into Toby's voice.
Nellie attempted to change the subject. "Could you 'and me the salt, dear?"
"What's on your face?"
"You got bruises!" Toby caught hold of her face. She averted her eyes so he couldn't see his frightened and angry expression. "Did Mr. Todd do this?"
"'e was upset."
"'e hit you!"
"I'm sure 'e's sorry."
"Didn't 'e apologize?" the boy cried.
"Of course 'e did, love," Nellie lied, taking her son's hand.
"I thought 'e said 'e weren't never gon'na 'urt you again."
"Eh, well, we all make mistakes." Nellie spoke in the most soothing tone she could manage, but she failed to pacify her devoted son.
"Mistakes? Your eye's all black and blue! And what did 'e do to your nose?"
"I went and saw the doctor this mornin'. Me nose'll be fine."
"If 'e ever puts a scratch on you again, I'll kill 'im!"
"Sweet, don't talk like that! Ain't we 'ad enough violence already?" she pled, releasing Toby's hand to take his face in both her hands. "Please, dear, just let me and Sweeney work this out between us."
Toby glanced guiltily at his mother, then nodded. "All right, Mum. Why was 'e angry with you?"
Nellie heaved a sigh and returned to her cooking. "'Cause 'is wife died while I was with 'im at the seaside last weekend. Some illness. Now 'e thinks if 'e 'adn't been with me, she'd still be alive."
Toby's brow furrowed. "That don't make much sense."
"I know. But 'e's sad, so 'e's…gettin' angry at me, just 'cause 'e can." Nellie brushed the back of her hand against her left eye to stop a tear falling and winced.
"Well…when's 'e gon'na stop bein' angry?"
"I don't know."
When breakfast was ready, Nellie piled Sweeney's meal on a tray and took it into the bedroom. Sweeney was still in bed, without any lamps lit or candles burning. She took her hand away from the tray momentarily to rap on the doorframe. "Love? I brought you some breakfast."
"I don't want it."
"Well, I'll leave it 'ere in case you change your mind." She paused. "'ow are you feelin'?"
"I'll be better after you leave."
Nellie couldn't think of what to say. With him in this mood, there was nothing that could comfort him. So she said what she felt. "I love you."
She blinked back tears. "I know you're upset. But you ought'a be grateful you still got me."
"Why? Because you give me a place to live? Because I get to fuck you?"
"Because I'm your wife and no other woman would put up with you. At least not the way you're actin' now." She turned on her heel and stomped out.
Sweeney didn't get out of bed for the rest of the day, nor did he eat anything. The trays of food that Nellie brought him were left untouched. That night, she slept in Sweeney's old cot again, if one could call it sleeping; her own scent had begun to cover his faint one that lingered on the sheets, and there wasn't enough of his presence there to let her sleep for more than an hour. She staggered through the day half-awake. Dr. Murrin came to her shop, and she was barely lucid enough to remember what she owed him: a free order of corn oysters and two meat pies. She managed to perk up a bit when he complimented her baking.
"I've always 'ad a talent for it. Ever since me mum first showed me 'ow to make flapjacks when I was barely big enough to reach the stovetop."
"You look weary, Mrs. Todd."
"Eh, well, you can see 'ow busy we are today, even with me son 'elpin' me."
"Your son? I didn't know you had children."
"Just me dear Toby." Nellie jerked a thumb over her shoulder at where her apprentice stood, pouring a glass of ale for a customer. "I adopted 'im months ago. 'e's me apprentice now, and a right fine one at that."
"Well, I wish both of you luck." He gave her a somber smile.
That was just after midday, and Sweeney still hadn't gotten out of bed, or eaten. Two and a half days later, he was still abed and hadn't touched any food. Nellie felt half-dead with exhaustion, having not been able to sleep at all. And being deprived of sleep made her irritable, which was part of the reason she marched into hers and Sweeney's room, announcing herself with "You know I'd do anythin' for you, but one thing I won't do is let you starve yourself."
He didn't even look at her. "I want to be with Lucy."
Having little control over her emotions after so many sleepless nights, Nellie burst out crying. "You want to die? To be with your mad Lucy? Why? What 'appened to 'I don't need anyone but you?'"
"I miss her."
"I don't know if you even believe in any sort of…of…life after death, but if you do, do you really think you and Lucy would wind up in the same place? And do you think she'll be right in the 'ead again?"
"No! You don't tell me to get out! I'm your wife—for better or for worse, remember? And I ain't gon'na stand by and let you wither away not takin' care of yourself." She took a few steps forward. "You ain't gon'na sulk no more. I ain't gon'na let you. You're gon'na sit up and eat somethin'. I've still got your supper that you didn't take a few hours ago."
He said nothing.
"Would you listen to me?"
Again, no response.
Nellie had placed the tray of food on the floor a moment earlier. She bent down and retrieved a slice of bread, baked just that morning. She sat on the bed beside Sweeney, facing him, and offered him the bread. "'ere, eat. I just made it today. It's good."
Slowly, he reached out and took the bread from her, and for a moment she thought he was going to eat it, but instead he turned over and flung it against the wall. Then he glared at her and pulled the bedclothes over his head. She sat there for a moment, her lower lip trembling. Then…
"Fine." She seized the quilt and sheets and stood up, tugging them from Sweeney's grip, and flung them to the foot of the bed.
"What the hell…?" He stirred, starting to sit up.
She placed her hands firmly on his chest and shoved. He tumbled backwards and another push from her had him off the mattress and on the floor. "This was me bed before it was yours. And I want it back."
Sweeney scrambled up. "Are you sure you don't want us together in that bed, my dear?" he sneered.
"Not with the way you've been actin' lately!" Sparks might have flown from her eyes as she held his gaze.
After a moment, Sweeney snorted and slunk out.
"And get some new nightclothes on!" Nellie hollered. "You been wearin' nothin' but those for days! It's sickenin'!"
Nellie didn't bother bringing the tray of food back into the kitchen, much less putting it into the icehouse so it wouldn't spoil and go to waste. She burrowed into the covers, breathing in the scent of her beloved Sweeney, thinking that maybe she could finally sleep.
She was interrupted by a touch on her shoulder, through the layers of bedding. Assuming it was Toby trying to get her attention, she mumbled. "I thought you was asleep, love."
There was a pause before the reply. "I can't sleep without you."
Nellie sat up. Sweeney stood at her—their—bedside. There was no hostility in his face, only weariness, and he looked as if he'd been crying a bit. "Neither can I." She spread her fingers over the quilt. "That's why I wanted to sleep 'ere. It smells like you."
Sweeney dropped to his knees, as if he didn't have the energy to stand anymore. He laid his head in her lap, and every cell in her brain screamed that she should run her hand through his hair and comfort him. She hooked her fingers behind her back and didn't touch him. "Most would agree I got every right to throw you out'a me 'ouse."
He said nothing, but he took one arm and draped it around her waist.
"You've put me through more than any woman should put up with. Before we were married, and after. You 'ad the power to stop me bein' raped and you didn't do nothin'. I told you I loved you, tryin' to get an apology out of you, and you cut me face up so I'd be ugly. You…ignored me, and when you was payin' attention to the fact that I was alive, you insulted me, belittled me, and you was ungrateful. You was sweet to me for a while, but as soon as empty-'eaded Lucy up and dies, suddenly you sayin' you love me was a lie. You break your promise not to 'urt me, and me nose. What were you gon'na say when I wanted us to go live by the seaside? Were you gon'na tell me you didn't love me then, or make up some weak story?"
"I don't know."
"Do you know why I ain't thrown you out yet?"
He said nothing.
"I asked you a question. Tell me…you…cruel, filthy bastard, why do I still love you? I should turn you out and tell you to never come back, but all I wan'na do is 'old you 'til you feel better. Why?"
Again, no answer.
"I asked you a question!" She pounded her fist on his back.
When he lifted his head up, she felt dampness on her nightdress. He was crying openly when he looked up at her. She'd never seen him cry that hard. Come to think of it, had she ever seen him cry at all? She couldn't help herself; she stroked his cheek, wiping the tears away.
"I'm sorry, pet."
"Well, finally. Sorry for what? You done plenty of things you ain't never apologized for!"
"For everythin'." He laid his head back down, and she caressed his hair. "It ain't your fault Lucy's dead."
"You just realized that?"
He kissed her knee through the nightdress.
"You got anythin' else to say?"
"May I stay with you?"
"Why? You need to sleep?"
"I need you."
She knew that was the closest thing to "I love you" she'd ever hear out of him again, so she relented. Besides, she was bloody tired. "Come up 'ere."
He climbed into their bed and she wrapped her arms around him, cradling his head against her chest. He nuzzled and kissed her wherever he could get at her skin as they lay down.
"God, I missed this," Sweeney mumbled woozily.
"So did I. It's good to 'ear you say it."
"You're so good to me."
She heaved a long breath and tilted her head back. "Heaven knows I try, sweet."
Both of them were so exhausted that more talking was out of the question. Lying close to each other again, they both fell deeply asleep within seconds.
They spent a long time in bed the next morning after they woke, fitted against each other like puzzle pieces, Nellie listening to Sweeney and occasionally comforting him with a few well-chosen words or a kiss. He couldn't explain why Lucy's death had upset him so much, but it seemed like he might have felt like his last link to the past was broken.
"I didn't even need to undress for you to tell me all this," Nellie teased gently.
"No." He left a few kisses in her hair.
"I don't know. I…I just wanted to talk, and I didn't need any calmin' down before we talked."
"You think you usually have to exercise your rights as me 'usband before you wan'na talk 'cause you're tired afterward? Or…does it just make you feel closer to me?"
There was a knock on the door. "Mum?"
"Yes, love?" She lifted her head up.
"Are you…um…gon'na make breakfast?"
"Soon, love. Mr. T. and I are talkin'."
Then the boy's voice was raised in alarm. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, we're only talkin'."
Nellie turned back to Sweeney. "I'd better get breakfast goin'."
"A few more minutes." His arms tightened around her.
"What do you mean?" Nellie felt her heart begin beating faster. She had a feeling she knew where this was going.
"Us. I've seen you angry, but I've never seen you as…upset…as you were last night."
Sweeney Todd certainly wasn't eloquent, but every word he spoke was necessary. Nellie had learned to interpret his sparse sentences. "You're askin' me if I can trust you again."
"Love…you know I want to. There ain't nothin' I want more than to believe I got nothin' to fear from you. But at every turn, you've shown me you ain't trustworthy. And God help me, I'll stay with you, because I want to. Even if you make the rest of me life short, I wan'na spend it with you."
Sweeney slid a hand that rested in the small of her back up her spine and over her shoulder, and ended up with his fingertips touching the little white scar on her throat. He'd heard her say similar things before, called her morbid for it. But at this point, he could no longer argue that she wasn't being logical. "What was that you said that was poetic in the most terrible way possible? About me not being safe?"
"What? Oh…I remember that. It ain't safe to sleep in your arms, but I'd still rather sleep there than anywhere else. Somethin' like that."
"My pet, I think you're mad. You must be, to want to stay with me."
"Seems I am. And it'll get me someday, likely in the form of one of your 'friends.' Madness can kill people. The two of us, we're livin' proof of that. Though oddly enough, we'd be better proof of it if we was dead. So maybe we ain't livin' proof; we're just witnesses." She laughed softly.
Instead of contradicting her, he said. "I hope you're wrong."
"I 'ope so too, dear. But the last thing I 'oped for was for you to love me, and look what that's done."
Weeks passed, then months.
Nellie's nose healed without leaving any visible trace of the break. The other bruises faded, and Nellie forgave Sweeney's broken promise. But Sweeney, in addition to not being able to forgive people who had wronged him, could not forgive himself for what he had done. He never tried to reassure Nellie he'd never hurt her again because she wouldn't believe it and he was afraid she was right to disbelieve. She took care of him, but as much as she loved him, she couldn't change who he was.
They slowly rebuilt the happiness they'd had for a short time, both of them feeling as if they were trying to repair a priceless vase that had shattered on the floor. The pieces could be replaced and glued together, but the hairline cracks would always be there, a reminder of fragility and weakness. And yet, the pain caused by the awful night when Sweeney learned of Lucy's death introduced a brutal but intimate honesty into their relationship; there were no secrets, lies or delusions separating them now.
Not wanting to recall the last day Sweeney visited Fogg's Asylum, they never developed the nightly tradition of working the stress from each other's backs that had been proposed the Saturday before that fateful night. But new traditions developed; whenever Nellie flinched at a sudden movement from Sweeney, he would take her by the waist and kiss every scar he'd given her, always ending with the one on her neck. The topic of Nellie's impending death at Sweeney's hands came up more often; they developed little jests about it that anyone else would have found horrible. Sweeney found them horrible, too, at first, as he felt like Nellie was giving him permission to kill her, but he came to realize that Nellie's approach to tragedy—if you don't laugh at it, you'll cry—had some merit. Of course, these jokes were never discussed around Toby, who, despite his budding romance with Micaiah, refused to relinquish his faint suspicion and his protectiveness of Nellie.
Toby was still Nellie's apprentice and progressing very quickly, despite the fact that he was spending every possible second with Micaiah. Sometimes Nellie wondered if the girl had become part of his motivation to learn to bake; Toby would often bring treats to her, some of his own concoction, and he was always elated when Micaiah enjoyed one of his culinary creations. On some nights, Nellie and Sweeney would take their supper to the park, the way they had done a few times after their honeymoon, and see Toby and Micaiah walking hand-in-hand. Every Sunday, Toby went to church with Micaiah's family and bought her a bouquet of her favorite flowers—poppies—afterwards. On one Sunday when Nellie had forgotten to give Toby money for the poppies, she sent Sweeney after Toby once she'd realized her mistake. Sweeney not only gave Toby money to buy Micaiah's flowers, but he returned home with a bouquet of peach roses for Nellie. Peach roses, for appreciation and gratitude. They weren't red, but Nellie was still overjoyed; after all, he'd never bought her flowers before.
After that Sunday, the purchase of flowers became a tradition for Sweeney as well as Toby. It was only on the last Thursday of the month that Sweeney bought roses for Nellie, and it took her a while to figure out why; Sweeney had found out that Lucy was dead on the second-to-last Sunday of the month, then had stayed in bed for three days. It was on a Thursday that Nellie finally pulled him out of his sulk. Despite the fact that Sweeney Todd was, as Nellie put it, a creature of habit, the roses were not always the same color. The first and second times he gave roses to Nellie, they were peach. The third month Nellie received roses from him, they were pale pink, for gratitude but also grace; Sweeney had been remembering what Nellie looked like when she swam. The fourth month, the roses were deep pink; simply, "Thank you."
On that fourth Thursday, the sky was unusually clear at night. Nellie stood by the window with one of her deep pink roses, absentmindedly smelling it as she gazed up at the sky. She was wearing the indigo dress Sweeney had tried to give Lucy, and he stood at a distance from her for a moment, admiting how the gown fit her as if it had been made for her. Then he came up behind her; when she noticed him, she didn't turn around, just began speaking.
"Look out there, Sweeney. Would you 'ave a look at all those stars? I don't remember ever seein' so many."
At one point, Nellie probably would have run outside and begun dancing in the moonlight the moment she noticed the remarkable brilliance of the stars.
"Do you want to go outside and get a better look?"
She smiled up at him. In the silvery-blue light from the window, her scars were almost invisible. For a moment, he saw what she might have looked like before she'd met him; he couldn't remember with her without the scars, as he'd never paid much attention to her before the day he cut her face. But after he'd stopped mourning Lucy, he had gone around his and Nellie's room picking up the things that had fallen off the wall when he punched it, and one of those things had been a photograph of Nellie with her late husband. The date on the back of the photograph indicated that Nellie had been twenty when it was taken, and she'd been lovely enough to make him almost drop the picture when he first looked at it. "Yes, I do."
Nellie replaced the rose and walked outside, her head tilted all the way back to admire the stars, pinpoints of shimmering white in the black velvet sky. Sweeney followed her and took her hand.
"Did the stars look different in Australia?"
That was something else they did more of: discuss Sweeney's time in Botany Bay. He had become more comfortable when it came to talking about difficult topics with Nellie. "Yes. I can't see what's called the Southern Cross from here, for one thing." He paused. "There was another prisoner—Vincent, his name was—who knew the skies as well as I know barberin', or you know bakin'. He taught me the names of many stars and constellations."
"What's a conste…con…what-you-said?"
"Constellation. It's a group of stars that's been named. He taught me how to recognize only a few that I can see here; that was difficult, without…without this sky. He had to teach by description." He flung an arm up with an index finger pointing. "There's one that I think he taught me about. It's called the Plough. See, that very bright star, there? That's one of the corners. The handle is off to the side." He gestured at the "handle" of the constellation known to most as Ursa Major.
Nellie tilted her head to the side. "I think I see it, but it looks more like one of me measurin' cups than a plough. 'ow did your friend know the names of the…the…star groups in Australia? I'm certain there weren't nobody there studyin' the skies."
"Books, I believe."
"Per'aps we should read up on our sky. I mean, we live under it."
They stood in silence for a moment. Then Sweeney found himself remembering something else Vincent had taught him about the sky. Something about "universal music;" men of science had the idea that the celestial bodies moved according to some cosmic harmony. The music of the spheres. Sweeney wondered what it sounded like…
Nellie gave a startled little squeal as Sweeney suddenly took her waist with his free hand and began waltzing with her, despite the inopportune setting and lack of music. "Sweeney, what're you doin'?"
"The music of the spheres appears to be in three-quarter time."
"Music of the…? What the bloomin' 'ell are you on about?"
"Dance with me, pet."
She giggled and fell into the pattern of the dance, carefully following Sweeney at first, as he seemed to be hearing music that she couldn't. But she had a good sense of rhythm, and soon they were skillfully maneuvering around the tables, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation; only they would waltz around the tables in an ale garden because of an inaudible melodious inspiration from unusually bright stars.
When they reached the point where they'd started, Sweeney pulled Nellie into a tight embrace.
"For a murderer I can't trust with me life, you can be awful sweet."
He didn't feel like making a death jest, so he said, "For a woman I used to think was the most annoyin' thing on two feet, so can you."
"Now, did you stop believin' I was the most annoyin' thing on two feet before or after you met Hyacinth?"
They both laughed.
"Sweeney? Can I ask you somethin'?"
"I want you to make me a promise. It's easier to keep than not 'urtin' me again, I think."
"What is it?"
"When you kill me…" Many of their jokes began with that sentence, but Nellie's tone was utterly serious. Sweeney listened. "…will you promise to do it while I'm sleepin'?"
"While you're sleepin'? Why?" Sweeney stepped back from their hug to look at her, and so she could see his confused expression.
She looked steadily at him while she spoke, giving the impression that she'd rehearsed this explanation, or at least given it much thought. "I know I've said I'd like you to be the last thing I see, but…I don't wan'na die thinkin' I couldn't make you 'appy. So when I do somethin' to anger you, or you just plain get sick of me, wait until I'm asleep to do me in, all right? I just don't want the last thing I think to be 'I failed the man I love.'"
"Pet, I know we banter about this, but I don't want to kill you."
"But you might." She took both his hands.
"What could you possibly do that would anger me enough to kill you? Lucy's already dead."
"I dun'no." She raised and lowered both shoulders. "I'm certain you'll think somethin' up. But I suppose I was thinkin' more about a few years down the line when you get sick of this withered old body."
"You are not anythin' approachin' 'withered.' I should know."
She looked up at him with pleading eyes. "I want you to promise, just in case. Instead of sayin' when you kill me you'll do it while I'm sleepin', I'll say if you kill me, if that suits you better."
"Please, love." She kissed the knuckles on his left hand, then his right. "Please promise me this. I know you ain't got the best record with promises, but this one ain't too bad, right?"
Sweeney hesitated. Making that promise seemed like admitting he would be the death of her, more so than their macabre teasing.
He hugged her close again. "All right. I promise."
She exhaled heavily, as if she'd been holding her breath as she waited for his answer. "Thanks, love."
Sweeney closed his eyes. He found himself praying that the day he would have to honor that promise would never come. What would he do without Nellie, anyway? He couldn't even sleep without her next to him. "You're welcome."
"Why don't you love me?" And since she knew he was unskilled at open-ended questions, she added, "It is 'cause I'm too different from Lucy? Or does Sweeney Todd just not love anybody?"
"It's not 'cause you're different from Lucy," he said instantly. "If…if I don't love you, then who the hell else would I love?"
"So you think it's the second one?"
"Yes." He moved one hand to her hair, which he never tired of touching. "There just…there's not enough human in Sweeney Todd to love."
"Well, that makes sense. You can't stand 'umans." She chuckled lightly. "Eh…you care about me, at least a bit. That's good enough."
They stayed outside for a long time, holding each other. Then they broke apart in unrehearsed synchrony and walked hand-in-hand back inside. Sweeney told himself over and over not to worry too much about what they were both afraid was a grim future. No matter what lay ahead of them, for now, what they had was enough.
A/N: Well, Sweeney does hear music that nobody heard, right?
There you go. This is the happier ending that was originally planned, although I still think the more tragic ending fits better. The only parallel between the canon story and this ending is the waltzing which ends with a discussion of Nellie's death rather than Sweeney killing her.
And with this, Blade of Madness is complete! I still have plenty of fanfiction ideas and far too many malicious plot bunnies, but for the last several summers I've cheated my original fiction novels for the sake of fanfiction, so don't expect much more—if anything—from me until school starts again.