A/N: Hey guys! Welcome to my second fic and first multi-chapter ever! I was randomly struck with inspiration for this when I saw the Pride and Prejudice miniseries and realized that the main ingredients for a great Jane Austen romance (a dashing, mysterious guy, a headstrong, willful girl, a secondary, somewhat uninteresting couple, etc.) could all be found in Sweeney Todd. I don't plan to take the whole Jane Austen thing TOO far, though. I write dialogue as seems best for the story, and may throw in some surprising plot twists later on. Enjoy!
Also: All reviewers are cordially invited to Verity and Sweeney's Annual Meat Pie Banquet. Hope to see you there! Now, on to the story!
"Look at that man over there," said Nellie Lovett's mother at the London market one Saturday. "Never seen 'im around before. And 'e looks right 'andsome, don't 'e Nellie?"
"Exactly 'ow many times do you intend to try this with me, mum?" replied her daughter. "I've told you to stop trying to set me up with every man in all of bloody England with a pulse." She almost added something about, "we saw how well that worked last time," but that would have been too cruel. She had taken her mother's advice in marrying Albert Lovett, and she had been quite fond of him at first. But over the years he changed into someone cruel, a great bloated tyrant. And then, just when she was starting to consider getting the police involved, he caught scarlet fever and he died, leaving her to run the pie shop.
"You can at least take a look!" her mother insisted, and so Nellie looked. To her great surprise, he wasn't one of the typically repellant men her mother usually pointed out. In fact, he was extremely handsome. Tall and thin, with a certain poise about him and the most incredible dark eyes Nellie Lovett had ever seen. Involuntarily, she let out a little sigh.
"Who you lookin' at?" asked the lady at the vegetable stall, an old friend of her mother's and reliable source of gossip. Her eyes found where Nellie's were. "Oh, him. That's Mr. Sweeney Todd, just arrived in town. Supposed to be the heir to the Todd hairdressing fortune. Must be some long-lost relation," she added, seeing Nellie's confused expression. Everyone knew old George Todd hadn't had any children, just his assistant, Ben Barker, who got shipped off to Australia for reasons still not entirely clear.
"So he's rich!" cried Nellie's mother triumphantly, her eyes lighting up. "Nellie, dear, the poor man's new in town, why don't you go and introduce yourself? I mean, just to make him feel welcome, what could it hurt?"
Nellie looked at the two older women's hopeful, expectant faces and smiled. "Oh all right," she said. "But you two are the biggest twits in London."
She marched straight up to him and said, boldly so as not to show she was nervous, "Why hello there good sir, I don't believe we've met. I'm Mrs. Danielle Lovett, owner and operator of the meat pie shop down on Fleet Street. You must be new in town. If so, allow me to be the first to welcome you to London. I'm sure you'll find it a most agreeable city." There. For once she had even managed a decent curtsy.
The man looked startled, as if he had been deep in thought before she'd spoken. Finally he said "Mr. Sweeney Todd, charmed I'm sure," then nodded once and took off, muttering something to himself. Mrs. Lovett caught a line about "the vermin of the world."
Mrs. Lovett was furious. Vermin! How dare he! We can't all be "heir to the Todd hairdressing fortune," but where did he get off talking to a respectable woman like herself that way? Mrs. Lovett stormed back to where her mother and the vegetable lady were waiting.
"That," she said, "is one man I can assure you I will have nothing to do with ever again!" And with a quick goodbye she marched straight off back to her pie shop.
Meanwhile, Sweeney Todd was looking for his former barber shop. George Todd's little upstairs place on Fleet Street. When he finally found it, and saw the shop underneath, he cringed. He really had been rude to that woman, and whatever else he may have been, Sweeney Todd told himself, he was not rude. He even planned to be courteous to the judge until the moment he slit his throat, making his revenge all the sweeter. But first, to achieve that, he had already decided he needed his old barber shop back, and to get that, he needed to talk to that woman. Sweeney Todd took a deep breath, swallowed his pride, and opened the door.
Inside, Mrs. Lovett was working some dough with a rolling pin. Times were hard at the pie shop, especially what with her apprentice Toby being away touring with an all-street urchin production of Oliver! She heard the bell on the shop door ring and immediately jumped up. "Hello, welcome to Mrs. Lovett's Pie Shop, worst pies in London, how may I help you?" This was her latest business strategy: maybe if she was open about the inedible pies, they would develop a sort of novelty value. Then she saw it was him. Her friendly expression turned to what she hoped was haughty indifference. She was distressed to realize she still found him absurdly attractive.
Mr. Todd paused for a moment. Could he really go through with this? He had to. But he was still too proud to offer an apology about the market. Instead he said, "Madam, if you would be so kind as to listen for a moment, I have a proposition that may be of some interest to you."
Her first instinct was to say no and boot him out of the shop, just to spite him. But her curiosity was too strong, so in the end she nodded and said, "have a seat. I suppose I can hear you out."
And what a story she heard! He told her everything, about his former identity, how old George Todd had believed he was innocent and left him his fortune, resulting in Sweeney Todd being "Benjamin's" new name, in George's honor, and about the judge, and Lucy, and more. The poor man! It was enough to make Mrs. Lovett forgive the "vermin" comment. He paused only once to ask what had happened to Lucy.
"She's dead," Mrs. Lovett said, which was true, if only just. After Lucy went mad she took to drinking absinthe, and the poison had finally caught up with her last week. Poor thing. Even if Mr. Todd had arrived a week earlier, Mrs. Lovett was doubtful she'd have said anything different. She couldn't imagine anything sadder than this poor man finding out his wife was a mad, absinthe-drinking beggar woman.
Mr. Todd just looked resigned, as if he had known all along, which in a way he had. Mrs. Lovett put a sympathetic hand on his wrist and left it there. Then he continued his story, her hand still in place.
"So as you can see, I require the shop upstairs in order to extract my revenge upon the judge, and I was hoping we could find some sort of arrangement," he said when he had finished. He was furious with himself. He'd only meant to ask her to rent the room, not tell her his bloody life's story! And why did it feel so good to have her hand on his wrist, to look into her eyes? It must just be because it had been so
long since he was around a woman, and so long since . . . someone listened. Yes, he told himself, that must be it.
"Well," Mrs. Lovett said, "how's about you take the room, and we sort out rent and all once you've gotten on your feet. And the same goes with your meals. I promise you, I am a good cook so long as it's not meat pies. What do you say?" Mrs. Lovett stuck out her hand to shake. She was equally livid with herself. What had possessed her to give him the room, and not even try to bleed him dry on the rent! Had she gone mad? And what was he thinking behind those dark, flashing eyes she could drown in . . . stop thinking about his eyes! she ordered herself. And don't start on those cheekbones either . . .
Sweeney Todd had to fight back an amazed smile. He had just told this woman that he was planning to rent a room from her in order to extract revenge by murdering a judge, and she had just nodded as if she understood! She was going to rent him the room! Nobody he had ever known would have done that. Whoever this Danielle Lovett was, she was a bloody wonder. And she was the closest thing Sweeney Todd had to an ally. He couldn't suppress a haughty sort of smile as he took her hand. "Mrs. Lovett, I do believe we have ourselves an agreement."