It took me a very, very long time to write this, especially because the first version of this chapter died along with the hard disk of my laptop. But here it is at last, a new chapter, which is unfortunately also the last one of this story.
However, the first chapter of Miracles, my third multi chapter Sweenett fanfic, is on its way!
This is the first multi chapter story that I ever finished writing and I want to thank everyone who read this, and especially the ones who reviewed as well, for doing so. If it weren't for you, my stories would never make it to the net ;)
The next day, Mrs. Lovett woke up early, as she always did. But this time, she didn't wake because of the terrifying memories of Peter Turpin that haunted her, but because she intuitively felt that this was the right moment to get up.
Automatically, she put on her working clothes and only when she walked from her bedroom to the shop to check how many batches of pies were already done, like she had done for the greater part of her life, she was reminded again of what had happened a few weeks ago.
The realization that the room she had intended to go to was probably going to be visited by men like Peter Turpin made her stop dead in her tracks in her parlor as panic took over her. How could she have been able to forget about that?
"Nellie," someone said suddenly.
The baker turned around quickly towards the sound, thus seeing Sweeney Todd who was sitting on a couch in her living room and looked as if he had been there for quite some time, as if he had been waiting for her.
"Nellie," he said again, "it's alright. There's no one there yet. At least you can take a look, don't you think?"
He offered her to take his hand and, quite hesitantly, she did.
"Don't let him win," was all he said.
She knew exactly what he was talking about. If she wouldn't allow Mr. Todd to help her to get her usual cheerful and optimistic nature back, she would be locked up in her own home like a prisoner for the rest of her life. She would do no one a favor, except for men like the Turpins who thought so lowly of women.
Like Mrs. Lovett had done often in the past, she wondered if Sweeney made all this effort because of some sort of personal battle against the Turpins; that it was another way to revenge the terrible things that were done to him and the ones he loved. But the look in Sweeney's eyes was one of genuine concern.
She held his extended hand more firmly and together, they entered the pie shop. Mrs. Lovett took a deep breath while doing so, part of her expecting the ghost of Peter Turpin to jump her the minute she stepped into the room, but of course this didn't happen. And with Sweeney Todd at her side, she felt safe enough to proceed.
She walked towards the middle of the room, not aware that Sweeney remained near the threshold, and she looked around but her back was to the corner where Peter Turpin had attempted to rape her.
The shop was like it had always been, safe and familiar. But when she turned around slightly, attempting to look at the table, pressed against which she had experienced the most terrifying moments of her life, fear overwhelmed her again. She could almost see Turpin sitting there, ridiculing her and threatening her, his hands greedily moving over her body.
Panicking, Mrs. Lovett stepped back, and screamed when someone grabbed her from behind.
"It's alright," Sweeney said reassuringly. "He's a memory, nothing more. His brother will be gone soon too. There's nothing to be afraid of anymore."
Her knees buckled in fear, but Mr. Todd was right behind her, helping her to remain standing on her weakened legs.
"Try to look at it," he said, and while he remained holding her tightly, he spun the two of them around, so they were facing the corner in which Mrs. Lovett's life had taken such a drastic turn.
The baker's breath quickened as she was forced to look at the table and the memories of what had happened there two weeks ago forced themselves upon her. But after a minute, the initial fear lessened and she was able to watch the table without trembling.
And then, Sweeney walked towards the table slowly, leaving Mrs. Lovett standing in the middle of the room, and sat down on the place where Peter Turpin once had sat. Mr. Todd gestured to the baker to come towards him.
Mrs. Lovett bit her lip, and after a moment of hesitation she took a step in the barber's direction, and another one, and another one, until she was standing right in front of him.
"Good," he whispered, "now, come closer to me."
Once again he offered her his hand, but no matter how gladly she would take it in any other situation, the current location made it impossible for her to take his hand.
But Sweeney just kept looking at her, wordlessly encouraging her to overcome her fear, and after another minute, she closed the distance between them and sat down in his lap like he gestured her to do.
"See? It's just you and me, nothing to be afraid of."
She sighed, knowing that he was right, and embraced him tenderly.
But as she was gently holding and held by the barber, another thought hit her, a thought that was almost just as terrifying as her nightmares in which Peter Turpin returned to her to finish what he had started.
"Mistah T," Nellie whispered, "if I go to work today, if we pretend that nothin' ever 'appened to me, does that mean that this… thing between us never 'appened as well?"
Sweeney stared at her as she carefully said those words, as if he had expected this question but not as soon as now, and that he didn't have an answer to it yet.
"I don't know," he said quietly. "I had sworn to myself that I would never look at another woman, but I'm beginning to see what Lucy was talking about all those years ago. It is impossible to keep loving someone when that person is gone, even if you try with all you have. At first, I only looked after you because I didn't want you to end up like Lucy did. Not because I cared for you, but because if something bad would happen to you, it would be another victory to the Turpins. But when I began taking care of you, when I actually paid attention to you…"
He didn't finished his sentence, but as he caressed her hair carefully and pulled her closer to him, wrapping a protective arm around her, she knew exactly what he meant. But at the same time, he sighed deeply, causing the baker to pull slightly away from him, feeling that she wouldn't like what he was going to say next.
"I don't know Nellie, I honestly don't know. You're a special woman, I care for you, a lot, but…"
"I'm not Lucy," she said, finishing his sentence.
He nodded, causing Mrs. Lovett to look at the floor, hoping that Mr. Todd wouldn't see her disappointment this way. But, of course, he did.
"But," he continued however, "I didn't say that… I can't stay that I love you, but I can promise you that I'll be there for you, to try to help you."
He looked at her intently but in spite of his grave words and gaze, she couldn't suppress a smile.
"Yeh've got no idea how happy I am to 'ear yeh say that," she said, sighing.
"But…" he said, clearly confused. "I just said that I can't love you… I can't see why that makes you happy."
"I think yeh care much more about me than yeh think," Mrs. Lovett said, still unable to stop smiling. "The fact yeh support me the way yeh do tells me that there could be somethin' between us. It'll be different than with yer wife, I'm not Lucy after all, but I can promise yeh that I'll be as devoted to yeh as she was, and that I'll love yeh just as much if yeh give me the chance."
Mr. Todd remained silent for a long moment and she feared that she had gone too far, but then he took her hand in his own and moved his face to kiss her knuckles. She didn't know why he did this, but the sensation of his lips and tongue against her skin was something that she could only enjoy.
"Perhaps you're right," he said, his hand caressing the side of her face, before he leant closer to her and, when she didn't pull back and instead moved closer to him, brushed his lips against hers. Her hands weaved into his hair and as he deepened the kiss at this sign of affection, she melted against his body.
Never had someone kissed her as tenderly as the demon barber was doing at that very moment. She only wished that there would be more moments like this, those forbidden seconds of bliss, but for the time being, the mere memories of this kiss would be more than enough to keep her hoping.
When the kiss came to a natural end and they stared into each other's eyes, there was something more than worry or even lust written in the barber's gaze and Mrs. Lovett's heart beat fast with joy, because it seemed to be something dangerously close to love. Yes, it was there, even though it was well hidden and Mr. Todd didn't seem to fully realize it himself yet. But she would give him time, all the time he needed.
"It's almost seven o'clock," he said, breaking the moment. "If you want to open your shop, you have to do it now."
She nodded, knowing that he was right.
"But please Mistah T, keep an eye on me and help me if somethin' happens."
"I will," he replied gently.
She headed for the parlor, waking Toby. When the boy saw that she was wearing her working clothes and seemed to be spending a day in her shop, he smiled brightly and hugged his adoptive mother with much enthusiasm. While he did so, Mrs. Lovett looked up to see Mr. Todd watching them. If she didn't know any better, she'd swear that there was a hint of a smile on his lips.
"I'll look after you Mum," Toby said when he stepped back. "I won't let anything bad happen to you."
"I know love, I know," she said, very moved because of the boy's affection for her. "And now, let's go to work."
Toby headed for the pie shop where he opened the doors for the already arriving customers. Mrs. Lovett took a deep breath of air when the first people entered the shop. She feared the gossip of the women and most of all, possible terrifying gazes from men. Instead, some of her customers mostly ignored her like they usually did, but the majority congratulated her for her 'recovery' and praised her while she brought them their pies.
Within half an hour, it felt to Mrs. Lovett as if she had never been gone from work, let alone for such quite a long time. Sweeney had returned to his tonsorial parlor, but the thought that he was watching over her gave her the sense of security she needed. And indeed, often she found him standing just outside his shop, keeping an eye on her. She smiled at him, like she always did when she saw him, but this time, he actually returned the greeting.
This fact, combined with the joy she found in her work, made her heart beat in the way that it was supposed to, but had not done before. Never in her life had she felt so happy, and although the shadow that Peter Turpin had cast on her never left her alone fully, she was, in a strange way, grateful for what the brothers Turpin had done.
Of course, the actions they both had committed were horrible, but if it weren't for them, she wouldn't be as happy as she was now. If the Judge wouldn't have banished Benjamin Barker and would've left Lucy alone, the barber would never be the man who he was today. He had become a different man, a much darker man, filled with so much rage and aggression that even she feared him sometimes, and he still didn't care for her.
But as Mrs. Lovett had become more and more desperate for his love, no matter what he did to her or no matter how much he ignored her, Peter Turpin had made her so scared and vulnerable, so much like Lucy, that Sweeney had felt forced to look after her. And because of this he had finally noticed her, and something much, much better was developing now.
No matter how strange it seemed, there was more hope than there had ever been. Her current life was better than she had ever hoped or even dreamed of; it was the perfect reality.