"Good morning, love!" Mrs. Lovett calls, as she bustles into his room with a tray of breakfast, chipper as ever. She seems to be in extra good spirits this morning though, for whatever reason: her eyes are sparkling; her cheeks are flushed pink; and as she balances the tray in one hand, she also is holding the other hand behind her back, as though hiding something.
Todd only spares her a brief glance before returning his attention to the razor in his palm, and he continues polishing the beautiful silver with a cloth.
Lovett, humming some unknown melody under her breath, places the tray neatly on his desk. Out of his peripheral vision, he sees her drift closer to him, before she presses up against his side as she usually does, leaning her chin on his shoulder and placing slender fingers on his back. She thinks he doesn't notice how she is always trying to wiggle closer to him, always attempting to feel as much of his warmth as possible, but he does. He just tries not to. If he doesn't acknowledge her, he reasons, she'll eventually leave him alone, even if just for a few minutes each day.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Mr. T," she says, caressing each word, as she places a kiss on his neck.
Valentine's Day. That means it is February. That means it has been ten months since he has first come back to London, ten months that he has been trying to figure out how to finally lure the judge back to him, ten months that he has been holding his beautiful friends in his hand and waiting, waiting for the moment when he can sink their blade into the soft skin of the judge's neck and watch all the blood pour down his front, dripping, gushing, flowing –
"Well? Aren't you going to wish me a happy one too?" she asks playfully, slicing into his thoughts.
"Yes," he murmurs distractedly, stroking the razor in his hand absently.
"I've got you a gift." She carefully pries the razor from his hand, replacing it with something slightly larger, wrapped poorly in brown paper. "Go on, love, open it," she coaxes, when he doesn't move.
He restrains a sigh as he realizes that she is not going to leave until he has opened her present. He reaches his other hand down towards the paper, and peels back its many layers until he finally reaches the object that is inside.
Mr. Todd has only been slightly paying attention to Lovett and her silly antics – his mind has still been mostly focused on the judge – but now he finds his concentration ensnared completely by the item in his hand.
"It's gorgeous, ain't it?" Lovett croons admiringly.
It is, he has to admit to himself. She has given him a small flask made of silver, with delicate, weaving patterns all along its sides.
"Flip it over, love, there's more," she says, even as she snakes an arm around his chest and towards the flask to do this for him. She wraps her fingers over the canteen and turns it so he can see the other side. Etched on this side, in small, cursive letters, are the initials 'S.T.', monogrammed there forever.
"Mrs. Lovett, this must have cost you at least several quid," is all he can think to say, and so he does.
"Ah, don't worry about it, Mr. T, it's not like we're lacking in money at the moment. Besides, you'd never be buying one for yourself. And isn't that what a gift's about, giving something that the other would've admired, but never bought for themselves?"
She doesn't give him a chance to answer, for she is already laughing giddily (over what, he's not sure – she's not the one who just received a gift, she has no real reason to be so pleased), and kissing his neck again. He wishes she wouldn't, but stays mute.
He looks over the flask in his hand. However cavalier she is being about it, this object must have cost her a good deal of money. Whether they can afford it or not isn't the issue – it's more the fact that she has spent it on such a trivial (though admittedly beautiful) item. She may be a silly dreamer, and she may also usually chatter far more than is necessary, but Mrs. Lovett is also extremely practical. She isn't one of those who spends money hand over fist.
Bloody hell, she cares about him more than he'd originally thought.
He suddenly feels guilty that he hasn't purchased anything for her in return. Not that he holds any attachment towards her . . . but she has spent so much money on him for this holiday, and what does he have ready for her in return? Nothing.
Guilt is an unfamiliar emotion to Sweeney Todd, and he doesn't like it one bit.
"Well, d'you like it?" Lovett queries.
"Yes," he answers briefly, running his fingers over it gently. The surface is smooth, cool, reminding him of his razors.
"Mmm," she sighs, as she snuggles her head deeper into the crook of his shoulder. "I'm glad. When the holiday first started approaching on the calendar, I'd no idea what to get for you – men're always the most difficult to shop for, but you, dear, hmph! – you're a category of your own, you are. Gifts should always be meaningful, so you try to look at the person's interests and such, y'know . . . but all I could think of was your razors, and you've already got the best in London of those, so it'd be doing no good to get you some more of them. So I started thinking to myself wot else I could possibly ever give you that you'd be appreciating, and I figured something nice and personal that you'd – "
He isn't really listening to her, too consumed by his thoughts and unwelcome emotions. There is only one thing to do, he finally reasons with dull resignation, and he slowly turns around to face her.
Her chin slips off his shoulder as she steps back. She stops talking, seeming to sense that he wants to speak.
"Your gift isn't ready yet," he tells her in monotone.
Her face breaks into a grin. "Mr. T! You bought me a gift for Valentine's?"
Oh, yes, this is the reason she has bought him this flask in the first place. Saint Valentine's Day. He'd forgotten the occasion.
"Yes," Todd lies. "But it is not here right now. I – I didn't want to leave it around here where you might be able to find it before the holiday, so I – asked the shopkeeper if I could leave it at his premises until the appropriate time, which of course so happens to be today."
She looks happy enough to jump out the window and float onto the roof. Damn this guilt concept and the fool who created it – now he's just gone and encouraged her with her feelings for him. As if she even needs more encouragement.
"It's nothing much," he informs her, in the hopes of calming her down. "Just a little something that I . . . it's not any object that's very large or fancy or . . ." He can't even bring himself to say the word romantic. Just the thought of he buying Mrs. Lovett anything with loving notions in his head makes him shudder where he stands.
"I'm sure I'll love it, dear," she replies. His words don't seem to have quenched her joy whatsoever; if anything, she is grinning even harder, her whole body emitting rays of such pure elation that he thinks he might be sick if he stays one moment longer.
"Well, I'm going to go pick it up," he communicates, sliding around her and towards the door, grabbing his coat from the back of his desk chair. "I'll . . . be back soon."
"'Bye, love," she says, and if Todd had turned back around, he would have seen that her eyes contain a comprehending glimmer, revealing that she knows full well that he hasn't bought her anything. But she is so overjoyed that he is going to buy her something anyway, so euphoric that he is going to show her some small token of affection, she remains silent, and merely looks on; but he doesn't notice anyhow.
Mr. Todd is utterly bewildered, confused, and frustrated.
Such emotions together are never a healthy combination to begin with. But with a man as unstable as ours here, the mixture is positively deadly.
He walks the streets of London, hands in pockets, posture hunched, eyes darting. How is it, he thinks, that there can be so many bloody stores, yet none of them have anything?
He is completely stuck. He passes store after store, but none of them are suitable. None of them are right.
He needs to buy her something cheap, but expensive enough to make it look like there was some thought behind it. Something that she will like, but not something that she will fawn and swoon over excessively. Something that's nice, but not something that will put even more ideas into her head about him wanting to be her Valentine. He's already done enough damage on that front, what with having to buy her an item for this particular day.
Jewelry is too romantic; clothes are too intimate; flowers are too personal; cards are too cheap; hats are too random; furniture is too large; knick-knacks are too pointless – the list of what he can't get for her goes on and on.
Nothing is good enough. Nothing is bad enough. Nothing is right.
And then, finally, he stops in front of a shop window. And he knows that he has found it, the most suitable, appropriate, perfect gift for her.
Mrs. Lovett unwraps the paper with a youthful earnest that he didn't know a woman of her age could still possess, tossing the strips of paper on the floor, unveiling a wide leather case. She gives him a brief, curious glance before unlatching the case and opening it. Her mouth drops open a little, forming an 'o', but he can't interpret the emotion behind it.
"Mr. T – I – they're so . . ." She seems to be struggling not to laugh.
"Do you like them?" he questions; and even as he says it, he's not quite sure why he's asking, he's not quite sure why he cares.
"Oh, I love them, dear, they're gorgeous," she croons, eyes big and incandescent as they encounter his own. "And I've been needing some new knives, our meat isn't the easiest to cut into, and my old knives were wearing down quickly. I'd no idea that you'd noticed, love," she adds, seeming somewhat stunned that he'd noticed anything about her at all. "But these knives'll be doing nicely – and a whole set of them too, I hope you didn't go and blow all your money on these – "
"We can afford it, Mrs. Lovett," he says demurely.
"Mmm, true, we can – oh, yes," she says with relish, looking at the knives fondly again, "yes, these'll be doing very nicely."
It seems she can't repress her amusement any longer, for a giggle breaks from her lips.
"You're laughing at me," Mr. Todd muses flatly.
"No, love, not at you, not at you – "
"You're laughing at my present to you, then."
"No, Mr. T, you mustn't be thinking that – I love them, I really do."
He considers her for a moment, searching her face, but he can't find a lie there – she genuinely likes them. He nods his head at her, oddly content, then exits her pie shop, and moves up the stairs towards his barbershop.
Mrs. Lovett watches him go, then gazes down at her new set of carving and butcher knives. She hasn't been lying to him, she does thoroughly appreciate and adore her gift from him. Of course, he could have presented her with a dandelion, or a piece of string, or a thimble, and she still would have been pleased, just to know that he had been thinking of her. But this is beside the point; she knows she will treasure this gift much more than any string. Nonetheless, she is amused by the contents of the present, and the occasion for which she has received them.
Only a man like Sweeney Todd, she thinks to herself with a smile, would ever consider knives a suitable gift for Valentine's Day.
A/N: I must give a nod to my parents for some of the inspiration behind this fic. A few years ago, my dad's gift to my mom for Valentine's Day . . . was a phone. Just a normal house phone. I thought it was the most unromantic gift ever, and couldn't believe that he'd done that. But she loved it, said it was the best Valentine's gift she'd ever received – the phone had caller ID, and our old one hadn't, which was why she was so happy. But still, a phone for Valentine's Day? XD
Anyhow. Thank you for reading, and as always, I'd love to hear what you thought of this fic.