"Brought you some breakfast, dear," she announces. Her tone is cheery, but there is no hiding the hint of the sigh at the end of the sentence. She sets the tray of food down on the wood surface of the desk, and glances over at him. He is positioned by the window, as per usual. She wonders why he always looks out the window. All his eyes care to visualize are ways of how to best get his revenge on Judge Turpin; standing at the window, door, bed, or table would make absolutely no difference.
There seems to be something about the window, though, that he is drawn to. This wide, flat screen to the outside world is really the only way he knows how to interact with other humans anymore. Joining with what is out there, becoming one of the many who stroll the streets, is not possible, and neither is removing himself entirely from what he used to be a part of.
She wishes terribly, with an ache that throbs in her every heartbeat, that he could see what he's become, that he could put his past to the side, that he could move away from the window. She wonders every day if this is possible, but every day it seems to become more impossible. Every day he slips farther and farther away from life, every day he presses closer and closer to the window.
All good things may come to those who wait, but sometimes, she realizes as she makes a quick and possibly rash decision, sometimes there's no time like the present.
"Mr. T? Can I ask you a question?"
He has learned to tune Mrs. Lovett out long ago: that is, he usually listens vaguely to what she says, enough to catch most of her chatter and to hear her voice, but he doesn't trouble to distinguish her words or deduce what she is saying. Her speech is recognized in his ears, just not the meaning behind what she speaks. It's not that he dislikes her, it's just that he really doesn't want to bother with her. She either doesn't understand this, or simply will not accept it, for no matter where he turns it seems she's always lurking beside him.
But she has just asked him a question. Questions require an answer. He can't let her realize that he usually doesn't listen, after all.
"What," he replies flatly. He does not move away from the window. Before she interrupted, he had been thinking about how to best kill the judge, and he wanted to return to those thoughts. It couldn't be brief, that was for certain. Brevity meant no suffering. Suffering was the one thing Sweeney Todd knew he wanted the judge to feel. He would begin with a quick horizontal slash, enough to make him bleed but not to die; next would come another slash, a diagonal line that would gush a fresh spurt of blood; then he would jab the razor in a series of harsh punctures across the man's throat; followed by –
"What did your Lucy look like?" she asks softly, breaking his thoughts.
'Lucy' is one of the few words that he always hears someone say, even Mrs. Lovett, so his images of revenge are gone for the moment as he considers her question. He expects an image of Lucy, his Lucy, his beautiful and young and perfect Lucy, to float immediately to mind. And she does . . . but there's something wrong. The image is oddly fuzzy, distorted. It is a woman, but she has no real distinguishable features, no real defining characteristics. Her face is proportioned evenly, with blank eyes, a nondescript nose, a characterless mouth, a commonplace chin. All that stands out is a mane of yellow hair, but even that is misty around the edges, the color not very distinct.
"Can't really remember her, can you?" Lovett inquires in a low tone.
"She had yellow hair," is the brief response, his voice gruff against his throat.
The yellow hair, the beautiful yellow hair; he shall not forget it, he shall hold onto this memory forever, no matter what . . . and yet, even this is unclear in a way, even this is somewhat hazy in his mind. He does not recall the texture of her hair anymore – was it soft waves, shinning curls, silky straight strands? – nor does he recall the precise color – wheat, flaxen, tawny?
Todd's stomach stirs: he is beginning to forget her, her, the one whom he breathes for. He cannot forget her. She is his life, his world, his everything; the fingers to his hand, the sand to his shore, the laces to his boots, the roots to his tree trunk, the lips to his smile, the beautiful rubies to his razor –
He hears footsteps come up behind him, solid clunks against the old wood panels, as Mrs. Lovett draws nearer to him. He remains where he is, his elbow leaning against the window sill, his eyes on the sights outside. She comes to a stop slightly behind him.
"You've got to leave this all behind you now," she murmurs. "She's gone."
But he doesn't want to let her go. He can't let her go. She's all that remains for him, all that will ever be, all that there is – fleetingly he thinks of whirling around and grasping Mrs. Lovett by the throat, squeezing her, choking her, telling her she's wrong, yelling that he shall not let Lucy go, not after the great injustices enforced on them both, and besides that she is still alive in his memory –
Yet he doesn't turn around. He doesn't speak. He remains where he is.
"Life is for the alive, my dear," she continues sincerely. Her tone becomes more reflective. "We could have a life, us two. Maybe not like I dreamed . . . and maybe not like you remember . . . but we could get by."
He drops his gaze down for a moment, then back out the window. As usual, he is not seeing what is out there in the streets of London, but his current thoughts are of a rather different variety than normal – thoughtful, rather than vengeful.
Slowly he turns to face her. He looks at her for a long moment, looks at her more closely than he has in a very long time, perhaps ever. Her hair is pinned in ratty waves on her head, but is cleaner than it used to be; her hands rest on her hips, her elbows jutting out away from her, jabbing the material of her dress and showing her somewhat angular bones; her skin is pasty and her eyes sunken, gifts from the hard times that have befallen them all. The expression on her face is open, the harsh lines on her skin softened for the moment, her eyes dark and wide as they lock on his. She doesn't look bad. Almost looks attractive, in a lower-class, working woman sort of way. What he sees most prominently, though, is the unbarred, innocent, almost naked way she is watching him while she waits for his response. She looks at him so caringly, so lovingly. More than that, she looks at him as though he is all that really matters, as though all else fades away into an indistinguishable, meaningless blur when he is there.
It's this quality more than anything that strikes him. This is how he views his wife, this endless adoration and rapture. He's always registered vaguely that Mrs. Lovett cares for him, but the realize that she harbors such devotion is stunning.
He doesn't care about her, doesn't care about her all that much, really. True, they work together, and true, he would be saddened if she were to pass away or the like – but he certainly wouldn't pause on her death for more than a moment. He certainly would be able to move on without trouble.
He's not sure how long they've been standing like that, facing each other, but it is then that she extends her arm towards him, palm up. "Come away from the window, love," she says soughfully.
He stays where he is. She remains as she is too, her arm still stretched towards him, eyes glimmering with love.
"Mrs. Lovett," he finally says. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course," she replies, the fingers of her outstretched hand curling ever so slightly in the air.
"If I were to be carted off tomorrow – "
"Oh, please, Mr. T," she scoffs, with a flickering smile of amusement. "You're worried about the authorities? No one's going to catch on to us, we're careful to pick and choose our supplies of wot's going into them pies, there's nothing to fret on – "
He shakes his head once, a sharp twist of his neck to the left and then right, and she falls silent. "I'm not worried. It's a hypothetical question. If I were to be grabbed and shipped off to somewhere – "
"The judge isn't going to do that to you again, love, you've got nothing that he wants – "
"Just listen to me." Todd speaks quietly, without malice or anger, but still with a hissing intensity that none can miss. She closes her mouth. "Just say that I was. Just say that I was taken away from here and wasn't going to return. What would you do?"
She tilts her head to one side, considering him with mild interest. "Well, I s'pose I'd do wot I did last time, wouldn't I? I'd go on trying to get by. The pies would probably be a lot less successful with you gone off again, but I'd scrape enough to survive . . ."
Todd reaches up a hand to massage his forehead, and then lowers it. She is missing the point of the question. She doesn't understand what he is asking her.
". . . and I s'pose it would be a little more difficult," she rambles on, "wot with still having to feed Toby as well as meself, but maybe the boy could learn a trade of some sort and bring in some extra coins – "
"What if I was killed?" he interrupts sharply.
Her mouth falls agape, before she collects herself. "Mr. T, you mustn't talk like that, they wouldn't be killing you, 'specially not without enough evidence to back it up – "
"But if I was," he persists, dogged to get a reply, to hear an answer. "If I was killed, what would you do?"
Lovett looks at him with new intrigue, flicking her eyes along the curves and edges of his face, as though trying to find the meaning behind the question within one of the arcs of his features.
"I would . . . I'd be devastated," she mumbles, half to him and half to herself, as though realizing these answers for the first time. "Broken. Completely shattered." She unconsciously drops the arm that she has been holding out towards him, bringing the hand up to her face, her fingertips lightly tracing over her chin and lips as she stares at him, wide-eyed. "It'd hurt me beyond anything else to have you pass away, B – " she stops herself, closes her eyes briefly before reopening them " – Mr. Todd."
He finds himself touched by this. Certainly she has preached words of fondness to him before, but never ones of such force. Still, his question has not been answered.
"And what would you do?" he asks.
Her brow knits together, her hands coming to rest against her hips again. "I . . . well, what would there be to do?" she utters in a soft tone. "You'd be gone. I'd just have to go on with my life."
"Would you dwell?" he inquires quietly. "Would you dwell over – me?"
Her eyes take on a new light of understanding, one that unsettles him in some way. She takes a step towards him. "'Course I would," she whispers in gentle agony. Her arm extends again slightly, reaching out to his arm that rests stiff at his side, and laces her fingers through his. "But not to the point where I wasn't still living. If I kept looking down into your grave for too long, I'd never look up. And life would just pass me right by."
He turns his head to one side, glancing ruefully out the window.
She takes a half-step back. Both of their arms, still joined by their entwined fingers, lift into the air a bit.
"Come away from the window, love," she says again, her breath catching slightly in her throat.
He turns his gaze back to her. She is waiting for him. Waiting for him to love her, waiting for him to have a life with her, waiting for him to turn away from the demons that are haunting him.
To have a new life . . . it's a hard concept for him to imagine. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. It would never be the same: she is never going to be Lucy. She is never going to be Lucy, and he is never going to feel for her the way he did for Lucy. But then again, he is never going to be Benjamin. That man is dead, after all. So maybe it would work. Maybe it would turn out well.
Maybe he could have a new life.
She is waiting for him. Waiting for him to love her, waiting for him to have a life with her, waiting for him to turn away from the demons that are haunting him.
She is waiting for naught, for he is never going to do any of these things.
He lets go of her fingers. His arm falls back to his side.
Her eyes crinkle at the corners.
He shakes his head once. "I'm sorry," he offers, with no emotion to his tone. "You're not Lucy."
"I would never try to be," she responds quickly, "I'm just me, but maybe that could be enough – "
"I can't leave her," Todd states, in the same toneless voice.
"You can't, or you won't try to?" she challenges. Her voice is raised and irate, but her lip is trembling as though she is on the verge of tears. "You can't leave her behind, or you're just not willing to attempt it? You can't stop staring out that stupid window day after bloody day, or you're just not in the mood to try?"
The anger floods him instantly. This is nothing new, his temper always broils just beneath the surface these days, fury and hate just waiting to be released on whatever or whoever happens to be in front of him – and since Lovett is in front of him so damn often, she is quite often the receptor of his wrath.
His fingers twitch, and in one movement his right hand has dived for the razor. He brings the knife to her neck, grabbing her shoulder with his other hand. He runs the blade down her neck, the flat side against her skin.
"How dare you question me," he snarls, "you bitch, you tramp, you snake, you piece of filth, you . . ."
Normally, when he puts the blade to her throat, as he has done so many times before, she tries to wheedle him out of it. She hums words about how 'you need me around, y'know, what with all the bodies you kill and you needing a place to put them'; and how 'slitting my throat would just cause you more difficulties, 'specially when the police come poking around'; and how 'come now, Mr. T, you know you care about me too much to take my life'. This is what they always do, it's almost become a routine of sorts.
Yet, she does none of this, she trills none of this typical banter. Instead, she turns her head to the side, resting her chin on one shoulder as she shuts her eyes, in a true gesture of defeat and hurt. She looks peculiarly like a sleeping owl as she does this. His stomach spirals with some strange emotion that he believes is called pity, and his furious words die in his throat as he looks upon her. He finds himself withdrawing his razor from her neck, folding the blade up and tucking it away. She doesn't move or talk, and neither does he for a long moment, still breathing hard as he recovers from his outburst. Finally, he gathers himself to speak.
"I'm sorry," he says again, though this time he means it. "You're not Lucy. But that shouldn't stop you from . . . I'm not ever going to be able to give you what you desire, but you're certainly able to have a life with another man."
Her eyelids flutter, and then open, revealing orbs that sparkle with restrained tears. "Ah, Mr. T, you don't understand, d'you?" she says, her voice raw with pain, as she swivels her head to face him directly once more. "There's never going to be another man. You – you're my Lucy, if you will. The only one that'll ever . . ." Her voices quivers. She blinks several times very quickly, then takes a step towards him and presses her lips to his. He doesn't kiss her back, but he doesn't pull away from her either. Her words have moved him in some strange way that he does not understand.
She draws away after only a moment. Her eyes are dry already. He should have expected this though – whatever else might be said of her, Mrs. Lovett is a proud, strong woman.
She reaches for his hand again, lifting it lightly in her own, and brings it to the side of her face. She places his palm against her cheek, looking down at his fingers with wistful resign, before she raises her eyes to his.
"I'm always going to be here for you," she declares in a near whisper, pushing his fingers closer against her skin, her hand still covering his own. "No matter how insistently you may turn me away, I'm still always going to be yours."
She lets go of his palm, and both of their hands drop numbly to their sides.
The two stand staring at each other for a long moment, and he is tying to collect his thoughts to formulate a reply to her, when the door to the shop jingles.
"Mr. Todd!" Anthony cries as he bursts through the door. "Mrs. Lovett, mum!"
The boy hastily tells of how his Johanna is locked away at an insane asylum, driving all thoughts of what has just taken place clean from Todd's head.
It's hard to say whether she has made an impression, she thinks to herself, as she looks over at him. It's hard to say whether or not their interaction has merely been an exercise in pointlessness, or if it has actually reached him in any way.
It's hard to say whether the time she has spent in his barber shop this afternoon, before being interrupted by Anthony, has been wasted.
It's hard to say whether it is going to have any lasting effect, or change anything between the two of them.
One thing that Mrs. Lovett can say with certainty, however, is that she does not regret a second of it either way.
She watches Todd as he paces back and forth on light, nimble feet, explaining quickly to Anthony about setting him up as a wig-maker, to allow him access to steal Johanna. She shifts her gaze longingly towards the window during this exchange, the spot where Todd had been standing just moments before.
Soon Anthony leaves, and the barber is pacing back towards the window. "Fetch the boy," he says to her as he passes, barely even looking at her, already staring out the window.
"Don't you think you should leave the poor boy alone?" she asks.
He snaps her a cold look. She tenses, but doesn't move, and stares right back at him.
He looks at her, his eyes still remorseless ice chips – then something flickers in them, some recognition, some memory – and they soften ever so slightly, though still burn with a searing intensity.
"Fetch the boy," he hisses between his teeth.
She wants to speak, wants to speak about what just happened, but she wants him to speak first, to acknowledge what just happened between them – or has he already forgotten? Has it already left his mind, has the memory already fled, driven out by his never-ending scheme for revenge, his vain attempts to put the pieces of his old life back together?
She lowers her gaze, spins around, and silently moves for the door. What's done is done. She who lectures about not looking into the past and continuing to move forward should follow her own advice.
She halts, surprised, and slowly pivots back around. Mr. Todd is staring at her. His eyes are narrowed, dark, yet with some strange pinprick of light.
"Yes, Mr. T?" she prompts, when he doesn't speak again.
His lips part a fraction, his jaw shifts to the left and then back, then his lips press together again, all of this in complete silence.
He strides across the room, reaching her in three swift steps. Bringing one palm against the side of her face, cupping it slightly under her chin, he tilts her head up and kisses her on the forehead.
She closes her eyes, leans into his touch, wanting for the moment to never end.
She knows that the gesture isn't one of love. She knows that he doesn't love her. She knows that this is more out of sympathy than anything else. This is his way of letting her know that she is not alone, that they both are victims of this cruelty called love. She knows that it is not because he feels any real emotion towards her. She knows that it means nothing.
But she can still pretend that it does, for these few seconds that his lips are against her skin.
He pulls away all too soon, his hand falling away from her cheek. Her eyes remain closed for a few seconds longer, before she pulls herself together and opens them, to see his dark orbs staring at her, impassive as always.
"Fetch the boy."
She nods her head quickly, and hurries for the door.
Maybe not much came from the words she spoke to him earlier, maybe not much came from the interaction they've had by the window. Maybe, in the overall scheme of things, it has hardly made any difference.
But as she reaches the door, she turns her head back fleetingly: he is standing at the window yet again, his back to her, but in the window's reflection she sees his face, and a subtle smile of mingled sadness and contentment is playing at his lips.
Maybe, in the overall scheme of things, it has hardly made any difference.
But it is still enough for them both. It is still enough for now.
A smile touches her lips, and as she descends the stairs, she touches her fingertips lightly to her forehead.
A/N: some of the dialogue in the beginning has been taken directly from the film, and does not belong to me. Also, the lines, "If I kept looking down into your grave for too long, I'd never look up. And life would just pass me right by," were adapted by me -- they were from the original script of the movie, although they were cut from the actual film. Those also don't belong to me. Thank you for reading this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.