A/N: So after having had this monster of a fic haunt me for two years, I have aptly gone through phases of "gosh I hate that title" to "gosh I hate the first ten chapters," which quickly lead to "gosh why haven't I deleted it?" But, common sense won out with the little reminder that I spent practically two years of my life on this thing, and that there were people who would probably (I hope) be sad to see it go. So, if you've come across this and decided it seemed familiar, that's because you've probably read it before under the title Passed Reflection Past Direction...which I honestly don't know why I ever thought that worked. But regardless of whether this material is new or old to you, I sincerely hope you enjoy it, for what it's worth. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I don't claim to own Sweeney Todd or anything recognizable. Just a reasonable ability to form sentences.


It scorched, it burned, and it sizzled at the weight of the itching tears that struggled to drip down her crimson cheeks. Nothing now could stop it; it was inevitable, inescapable…indescribable. The fiery demons that cackled around her, poking fun at her grief and licking up the skirt of her dress, seemed all for show. It was superfluous, as much as hot had turned to cold before morphing into a flat numbness as it blinded her pain.

Unfortunately, the flames inside of her clenching heart were much harder to douse. Visions of bridal veils and beachside weddings, sunset kisses and dancing before the moon, all went up in the bright orange tongues before she had time to reflect. All of it…gone, disappearing and fading away just after whooshing past her vision, much like the thick dress around her.

'We all deserve to die,' he'd said, 'even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I'. This notion hadn't failed. Sooner or later, she was to be nothing but smoke and ashes. There was nothing to save her, no one to care. The one man…There was no future in shoving the only woman alive to care into an open furnace.

The crackling around her grew to a roar in her ears, hissing back at the familiar rush of relief at her feet. A white veil of vaporous smoke wafted into her face, stinging her eyes with its ashen moisture. By the time she'd blinked away the steady hindrance, it was all too clear to her senses what had halted her physical suffering.

A tiny river swam at her feet, grazing the ragged flesh on her legs and stabbing through the numb with a smarting tinge. It didn't surprise her. The factor of surprise had worn down to a frazzling of frayed nothingness in her condition. Instead, she only splashed down through the plunging river to her knees, adding to the hectic water and pressing her forehead up against the rusty, tepid door. The oven was sure to be locked, as sure as someone considerate had managed to turn the emergency pump.

Swallowing at the burning in her throat, she pushed down a flicker of hope at the desperate thought. Surely, the only one that considerate would be Tobias. For it would never be in Mr. Sweeney Todd's temperament to forgive, forget, and repent.

Sucking in the bitter air, she pressed her ear to the rust-coated door in order to listen…to silence. Despite the flood of emotion leaking down her streaked face, curiosity peaked a sudden interest in the world within her. Where was Mr. Todd – he was in such a fury earlier, there was no room for silence in his presence – and where on Earth was Tobi?

She stood to shoulder the door, but as speculated it didn't budge. Better than sulking in being shut-in and stuck, however, she took to knocking her fists against the resounding metal. There was no answer, but a reply was far from her goal. She shoved and kicked, yelled and punched, pushed and yanked at the obstinate door before it finally gave way. When it did, the accomplishment was hardly expected; it left her to trip over the hem of the opening and fall deftly to her nose on the cold, unwelcoming floor.

The affliction of pain spread a wildfire across her raw skin, producing a groan from parched – most likely blistered – lips. She sat up in languor, feeling drained of any sort of will to control her aching muscles. What greeted her, much to her horror – not quite surprise – was a scene she wasn't likely to forget. It sent a shocking tremor up her spine, putting a stop to any move she was partial to make and instigating the flooded wells to seep out from her wide stare.

Her own gaping reflection was barely visible – singed hair, ruined dress, and running make-up – from a dark-red puddle creeping along the cobblestone's crevices. At the center of it all knelt the one man she wanted to see least and most, in a position worthy of collapse. His head was bent and shadowed, the streak of milky white in his jet-black hair stained by the blood of his victims. In his limp clutches lay the prominent object of his sentiments – something she'd never be – Lucy Barker. What caught her breath the most, however, was the glistening ruby fluid that leaked down from his neck to the floor.

Remembering almost too late to breathe, she crawled across the pungent, sticky liquid towards the motionless barber. In coming closer, she was able to make out the dripping slash across his throat, and it produced a considerable amount of emotion up through her veins. It swelled in her own throat and pushed back against her resistance to cry out, leaving her to struggle a moment in her raging agony.

"Mr. Todd, you're not dead," she pleaded. "You don't deserve that, yet."

Glancing towards the lonely razor on the floor, open and blemished by the pool in which it sat, she reached out a hand to touch the edge of his collar. Still, he remained immobile and inert, and she traced her hand along his downcast cheek in disbelief. If she didn't deserve to die, then why did he? Shaking her head at his unresponsive expression, she knew she had as much claim in his murders as he, and that she had no control over her sympathies in spite of his attempting to kill her.

Having tuned it out in her panic beforehand, she barely recognized the incessant squealing and clashing in the background. Looking up now, and rubbing away the veil over her vision, she squinted across the floor at the figure of Tobi. He was preoccupied in turning the grinder on the meat, heaving it around in a vigor as he repeated to himself the perceptible phrase "I have to turn it three times, mum, three times for good pies."

Frowning at the boy, she deduced that she had no time for his insanity. Gathering an unusually paler Sweeney Todd in her arms, she managed to lift him a little ways off the floor by stepping up and bending backwards. Slipping her arms under his, she tugged him upwards and made her way backwards, towards the staircase. His head flopped back into her shoulder and his ankles dragged the floor, forcing her to hold him tighter against the resistance.

Tobi stayed in his place as she traveled up the stairs one by one, securing Todd to herself as if he'd suddenly fade out of existence at any moment. He was unexpectedly heavy to her smarting muscles, and by the second landing she was already shaking with the expenditure. In favor of remaining conscious, she stopped to lean her back against the nearest wall, sliding down until she sat stacked against Mr. Todd like they were two playing cards in a deck. The light from the room through the door, a landing away, revealed the sickly tone that played across his skin.

"Now I know I'm in Hell," rasped the startlingly familiar voice at her side, "because you're supposed to be dead."

Jumping at the cognitive words, she gasped down at the barber as he glowered up at her with a sullen kind of look. The blood from his neck bubbled up to rush down across his collar, and it provoked her to move in an action of ripping a shred of cloth from her ragged dress. He gave her a weary glare as she bent over him, elevating his head to slide the strip of fabric to the back of his neck and tie it over the browning slit.

"Mrs. Lovett," he pronounced smoothly, "…why aren't you dead?"

"Why aren't you?" she shot back, moving the knot on the cloth to the back. He made a face at the movement – painful, no doubt – and seemed to accept, for the moment, that they were both alike and alive.

Getting to her knees along the wall, Mrs. Nellie Lovett moved promptly to catch Todd as he went falling in her direction. Peering down into his skeptical expression, she pushed him up and sat once more until – to both of their discomforts – his head was fetchingly close to the edge of her lap.

"Kid can't handle a knife," Sweeney growled up at her. "Cut's too shallow…"

Feeling her brows arch up in concern for the rouge staining the cloth at his neck, Mrs. Lovett put the tip of a finger to his purple-colored lips. "That doesn't mean you couldn't die, Mr. Todd. Hush, and stop trying to put such a distress on yourself."

He glowered up with a murderous sort of intent, sending a true prickling of fear across her nerves, but she knew better than to let it show. Removing her finger from his mouth, she looked away from his piercing, black stare to tug at the edge of her dress. She could still feel his eyes on her, even when she didn't look, and it unnerved her.

If not for his unfortunate state of health, he would have more than likely tried and succeeded to kill her right then and there. As it was, he was already driving her mad – and had been, for quite some time.

"You know, Mr. Todd…there's nothing I wouldn't do for you. I never meant to hurt you, when I said she'd gone. It was the change, you see…she's not the same, as surely you yourself are not."

Chancing a glance back to his face, she sighed in relief that he'd at last moved his dark gaze to the wall at her back. Unfortunately, the look he gave the poor bricks was enough to demolish the entire structure without even a spec of dust. It was so set on hatred that she had to look away again in order to remain.

"That's why I can't let you die, Mr. Todd," whispered Mrs. Lovett. "…because I… love you."

Still, he didn't even blink an eye in her direction. It cracked a small hole in her chest to see him ignore her so, but she held all that in so as to remember the words she needed. Worrying her lip until Tobi's kind song tripped through her mind, Mrs. Lovett sighed again before directing her eyes to his. As before, he paid her no attention. She drew in a deep breath of the dank air before voicing the small song, carrying her tone reverberating in echoes down the stairwell.

Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around.

Nothing's gonna harm you, darlin'…

She noted the way his black eyes came to be shut halfway, and the dangerous drooping of the back of his head to her knee. In a flutter, she took his shoulder to shake it, jostling his onyx stare into focus. This time, his contempt was lessened from her, and in its place he uttered a sharp protest to keep her off.

"Please, Mr. Todd," she said, and bit her cheek at the quaver to her voice. "You've got to stay awake."

Giving her something in the way of a faint scoff, the barber shifted his head to the side to stare unrelenting in her direction. "Of course; you're making too much noise not to."

Even as he said it – nearly only a whisper – she saw just the opposite of the effect intended by his words. His eyes were already closed, hiding his malignant gaze from view, and his head tipped once again to its side. She accredited this to his amount of blood loss – severe enough to probably kill anyone else on the spot – and thought better about waiting for a while. The only thing the accretion of time achieved was his further infirmity, not his vitality. In all truth, his vitality was decreasing by the minute.

"Well, come on, Mr. T; let's get you upstairs," Mrs. Lovett said loudly. It snapped him to alert, and he narrowed his eyes on hers as she tried standing him up.

" A cut on my throat does not hinder my ability to walk, Mrs. Lovett," Sweeney grumbled.

She acknowledged this by pulling his arm over her shoulders and winding hers about his waist, escorting his orneriness up the next set of steps. He scowled at her the entire trip to the fireplace just past the main pie shop, and she rewarded his stark expression by setting him in the chair closest to the fire – a long, green number with a reclined back and scrawny feet.

His ebony surveillance was still drilling into her an unsettling sort of consternation, and she tried hard not to look at him and meet his scrutiny unless necessary. The barber's obsidian watch followed her back as Mrs. Lovett strode across the room and brought out a more proper bandaging – a cloth soaked in water and gin, heated over the fire as Sweeney glared at her every move.

Concentrating on her work instead of his eyes, she loosened the knot on the cloth around his neck and gingerly peeled it away from the abrasion to his throat. This seemed to distract his gaze at last, for he flinched away in a sudden repellence that gained him her commiseration.

"Don't touch me, woman," he snapped up at her. "Give that here."

Motioning towards the dripping cloth that she drove closer to his neck, he flashed out a hand to yank it from her grasp as Mrs. Lovett retreated backwards a step. He wrenched it so harshly from her clutches that the fabric scraped rough across her burned palms, leading her to wince at the smarting sensation and realization of how bad she really seemed to have had it.

The once so pale flesh across her legs and feet – seeing as her slippers had been immediately incinerated – had taken on a pinkish tinge, and when she looked closer at the rest of her flushed skin she was enlightened to another painful revelation. The rosy coloring came not only from the rawness of her freshly uncovered flesh, but from tiny, prickling droplets of crimson blood that peeked out from almost every pore visible. Making a less-than-satisfactory face down at a place where the red had already started to darken and scab, Mrs. Lovett bit at the inside of her cheek at the sight. All that blood – hers – was truly sickening to watch drool down across her skin knowing the misery it was likely to cause. No doubt, between her own torment and Mr. Todd's, it would be a rough night. To say it was a discomfort in the least was most likely the grandest understatement of her lifetime.

The otherwise named Sweeney Todd paid her astonished gasp no attention in his mind, reserving her concentration for pressing the gin-soaked fabric vigorously along the gash to his throat. His face was contorted into a scantly hidden grimace at each graze of the stinging fabric, and his ruby-speckled hands trembled at their work. Admiring this brave yet masochistic sort of ritual, she reasoned that it would probably do him more good than harm, anyway. That is, if he stopped trying to rip open the deleterious incision…

"Now, Mr. T, you can't be doing that right!" she almost chided. "come on, love, let's see it here."

Taking no heed at the glance of warning he sent her, she risked igniting his fleeting anger to slide her fingers down over his and grab hold of the cream-colored linen. A snarl replaced his pained expression, quivering his lips in a razor-sharp threat just short of death, but Mrs. Lovett gritted her teeth against the daunting display. If it was a matter concerning his life in her hands, then she could withstand any of his harsh words and punishments that came afterwards.

His hand just under hers, she noted, was cold. The temperature was suspicious in her perception of Mr. Todd's loss of essential fluid. Picking the bandage fabric from his grasp with a tender hand, she found relief of her itching burns in his frigid touch and just barely stopped herself from advancing to get a more widespread reprieve from the scathing sensation ablaze across her nerves. Trying hard to shake the feeling, Mrs. Lovett reached to dress his ugly wound and secure the white cloth around his stiff neck.

"Mercy, Mr. Todd, for goodness' sake relax!" she exclaimed to his smoldering expression. "You're going to kill yourself with all this raging about! Do and say whatever you want afterwards, but good Lord, please don't upset yourself so!"

Pinning the last of the fabric down, she lifted the back of her hand to his forehead. The look on his face was unchanged even after she moved to stroke the tips of her fingers down his inky black hair, and she couldn't' help the sigh that escaped her lips at his demeanor. What had she expected? After all, he was as of yet just getting over the impression of killing his wife…over her lies. It was her fault that Lucy was dead. Of course, there was no helping the fact that Mr. Todd was hell-bent on killing anyone to set foot in his barber shop.

She had no intention of denying her wrongdoing, but how was it her fault how he'd interpreted her words? She'd only told him that Lucy had poisoned herself, never said she died…she just left off the part about living. But here, too, her practicality strived to have legitimate reasoning for her half-truth. Lucy, as she was, had been a simple thing. Pretty, yes; she had been enviously blessed by the seraphim's beauty, but there was not a bit of wit to follow up her deserted common sense. After the affliction of arsenic, Lucy was a shell of stark-raving stupidity. The years having changed her beloved Benjamin so, he had no love to give even if he had returned himself, only vengeance and cruelty.

"Why, my dear Mrs. Lovett," Sweeney ground out, "did you take me from that place after I most blatantly persisted in arresting you of your life? I should have died down there, at her side! Why do you continue to encroach upon my fated existence?"

His words seeming only to prove her thoughts, she shook her head in his direction with a growing sense of dread. It was he who deemed this condemned existence inevitable and death his fated release, not her. One for believing in control over her own life, it was why she had brought about the mess now dwelling around them, though only in part responsibility. It was her way of surviving, her way of trying to cut her own mark into the grey-sculpted statue that sat as the world's masterpiece before her eyes.

"Fate, Mr. T…?" Nellie echoed back his deduction upon his life. "If it was fate to keep you down there, then why are you alive and up here with me? It's not my fault I care about you, love. No one could stop that, now…"

Instead of retorting his thoughts across her own, he remained silent. It was slightly surprising to Mrs. Lovett, seeing as there were probably a million ways to counter what she'd said. Then again, Sweeney was never much of a talker. Usually, she was lucky to just receive the esteemed monosyllable, unless he was angry.

His black stare glittered with the light of the fire on the hearth, and Mrs. Lovett watched for a moment as he concentrated on the abyss. After a while, she became acutely aware of the weight settling itself against her limbs, and the pain that broiled up her veins. It became infinitely noticeable with each passing second, forcing her to quicken her blurring thoughts with a small shake of the head.

Whether Mr. Todd felt live dieing or not was irrelevant; and the moment, he was alive and in desperate need of a miracle should he require to stay that way. It was a miracle as it was that Tobi hadn't killed him within the first moment.

Tobi…

Sighing to herself, she finally gave in to her weakening knees to drop onto the long, chartreuse cushion at Mr. Todd's feet. Tobi, her little Tobi, had attempted to murder Sweeney Todd…and for what? Had he done it for her, seeing as he had to be the one to pull the water valve? …or had he done it out of vengeance? The last she looked, the poor boy was working away at the grinder down in the bake house. His madness seemed to be caught from the contagious affliction of driven insanity that plagued them all. For her, it was love. For Mr. Todd, it was hatred.

Doubting in the boy's awareness of his own existence, she was skeptical to believe that he would ever regard the door she'd so carelessly left ajar. She would handle that case later, after the security of Sweeney's and her own well-being. Far from reasonable distance to a mirror, Nellie could only imagine how she must have looked to the unsuspecting eye.

Scraping together her last ounce of strength, she managed to slip towards the kitchen and return with a wet rag and a pie in each hand. Mr. Todd ignored her up to the very last second upon approaching him with the watery handkerchief, and snapped up a glowering contempt when she pressed the fabric to the brown-ish stains on his stony face. He moved as if to slap her away, a sudden flare arising upon his apathetic expression, but the action was left unfinished when Mrs. Lovett took caution to head him off.

"Come, come, dear…look at all that mess over on your face. Hardly a comfort, I think. Right filthy, it is. Sit back, love; that's it, love, stay just there." He was oddly compliant to her instructions, and fell back immediately upon her request. His countenance neither changed nor lessened, but it bore a slight tolerance towards her dabbing at the sully to his cheekbones. His eyes stared endless holes through the space just before them, giving her mood a strange jittery type of discomfort as she finished her small piece of work.

Nellie smiled as bright as she could as she triumphed over the revealing of his face, but he simply stared. It proved too much even to notice her cheery grin for him, and under such resignation she dropped the façade completely to turn up a corner of her mouth in a sarcastic sort of smirk. Brushing the tip of her finger across his nose, she made another attempt to gain the favor of his attention.

"There's a face, there is. See all that blood, Mr. T?" she waved the rag under his unheeding gaze for emphasis. "What are you doing up there, dear, pumping it all out for a bath? Hello…? Mr. T, are you listening? I brought a pie, here. One of the older ones, mind you."

Slowly, Sweeney's dark orbs focused up to her, and she shifted under their blank pressure. At first, he said nothing. Taking the small, rotund pie from her outstretched fingers and pouring over it in a condescending skepticism, the barber sniffed at it once, made a face, and then returned it to her hand.

"I'm not hungry," he mumbled darkly.

"Yes you are. You will be. Come on, love, that one's healthy. Not an ounce of human flesh to be found, not at all." Pushing the tanned meat-pastry towards his unyielding lips, she waved it just under his face in a tempting manner. It felt a lot like convincing a small child to eat his vegetables, and led her to wonder if Mr. Todd, living in such constant seclusion, had ever laid eyes on such a thing as a juicy, green vegetable. "Mr. Todd…are you quite fond of asparagus?"

Squinting up from the pie to her face without lessening his obvious disgust, he didn't miss hardly a beat before answering, "No, I am not."

"I can't say I'm much for it in the way of foods, but I s'pose it's alright, love. Really, now, you should eat this. The worst pies in London are only the worst because they're good for you." She smiled cordially to his revulsion, and disguised the taste of the most terribly corrupted pie with a small display of breaking off a piece to plop it between her teeth. With enough imagination, Nellie was able to get it down with the smile still broad across her face, and took the initiative to offer the rest in the barber's direction. "See…?"

Narrowing his eyes distastefully at the pie, he grabbed it from her and, with an effort, choked it down. His stoic expression morphed into one of revulsion, like so many before him, and then to a sullen dislike as he swallowed the last of the wretched crumbs. Setting his head back against the chair, Sweeney ran a finger along the empty holster at his side where his razor should have been.

"Gin," he groused up to her.

She watched him a moment before making a reply, biting her lip and simpering down at his bleak visage. Despite his gruff mannerisms, she knew that the barber could not harm her even it he had the intention. Not physically, at least. Emotionally, he'd already done his part on her grief, but she tended not to show it.

"Now, Mr. T," Nellie chided lightly, "you know that-"

"Now, Mrs. Lovett!" he barked. His eyes shot open wide in the murderous type of ire and impatience that she'd grown to recognize, and his lips pulled back in an animalistic snarl that had her jumping to his behest. It was the insanity that she saw there in his gaze, teetering on the edge of explosion, which had struck her to move as she did. In any case, he didn't have to shout to get her to do what he wanted. If he'd simply asked her again, even without all the fuss, Mrs. Lovett had no doubt in her mind that she'd be in the same place, retrieving for him the alcohol upon his request.

Crossing into the main shop with every intention to obey his hasty command, Nellie stopped halfway as she noticed the open passage leading down to the bake house. Leaning a throbbing shoulder against the cheery wallpaper, she rubbed keen fingers over her stinging eyes and frowned into the clotting darkness that she'd dragged Mr. Todd from. Somewhere down there was Tobi, still grinding away at the meat of the barber's victims.

The thought sickened her, and she sighed at the aqua and rose-covered walls to step away from the parlor and into the dismal pie shop. Quickly, lest Sweeney be angry at the amount of time she was taking, Mrs. Lovett carved out a generous portion of gin into a small shot glass and carried both the glass and the bottle back to the hearth. Setting the tall container atop the mantle, she sat on the edge of the long chair where Mr. Todd downed the contents of the glass she offered him.

She saw the subtle bob in his throat as he gulped down three strong draughts of the gin, and watched as he polished it off with a grimace before setting the glass to the floor and looking up to her. When their eyes met, piercing black against warm chestnut, it was as if the world around them had stopped its pace to move on without them. To Nellie, the barber was the only real existence. He carved out her heart and left the scar to bleed with a simple flourish of his blade, a look as sharp as his profession. It was a painful reminder of a joyous occasion – she was alive. They were both living flesh and blood, and how ironic that Sweeney Todd, who seemed more of a bloodthirsty demon than a human, could bleed just as bright as his victims.

In a position oblivious to her internal musings, Sweeney looked away again and closed his eyes as a shadow reminiscent of sorrow cast over his brow. He fingered the empty holster at his side, and drew out a long exhalation in a sort of wistful torment. Studying this candor of appearance, Nellie picked up on the unusual trait right away. It pained her more than his harsh looks to see him this way, knowing that she could do nothing. There was only one woman he cared to hear from, now more than ever, and Mrs. Lovett would never be invited to fill that vacancy. She knew this well, and so she kept silent with the knowledge that her words would be ignored and disregarded.

Still, she could not help but to try and touch his agony, and as a child in fascination she reached out towards his porcelain features. The barber gave no hint of recognition to her gentle caress except to utter the pair of syllables "Lucy" and claw the side of the chair on which they sat, fraying small lines across the vulnerable, green fabric. She abandoned his troubled face to take up the hand damaging her furniture, and traced a pattern to his gloved knuckles. It gave her a small delight that his hand in hers was pressure enough to numb the dull burning sensation, but Mrs. Lovett knew without a doubt that it was no compliment, nor was it a need for condolence by anyone aside from his dead wife.

It sent a prickling chill across her flushed skin when his fingers released hers to belie the weight of his arm as it slipped from her grasp. The chill lasted no longer than a second, raising bumps on her flesh where the hair had been singed off, and surrendering to the greater heat of her injury. Beneath her, Sweeney lay immobile with naught but a shallow breath to disturb this posture, his expression of grief slowly dissipating to be replaced by one of a blank indifference and innocence only slumber could bring about on such a wicked man.

When his frigid temperature sacrificed its contact on her scandalous burns, Nellie felt the fever set about her nerves heighten in protest. Now that Mr. Todd would not notice, she relinquished her reservation to catch his hand in a greedy vice and push back his sordid, crimson cuffs, pressing her sanguine cheeks, once so pale, to his cool skin. The relief was sublime, leading her to believe that she'd been neglecting a greater part of her suffering.

Seeking further solace from his glacial contact, Mrs. Lovett moved to lay at his side and, forgetting his tempestuous behavior over the benefits to both, spread an arm about his waist. However much pain resulted from her widespread inflammation, Mr. Todd was sure to have no less of an ailment from his steadily dropping temperature. Therefore, she reasoned, in an equal balance to keep them both alive she had justifiable evidence to prove why she rested an ear to his chest.

It was an instant reprieve from the scorching ache, and a proportionally large wonderment to think that she was lying practically on top of her life's love. In lesser terms, it was hardly an accomplishment. Sweeney certainly didn't know, and there was no way from Heaven to Hell that he would approve of the notion if he did. But there was always room for imagination, and if she just tweaked her mind and squinted – as squinting was prone to do in its utter distortion of the visibility, leading into rather creative images – she could just picture the fantasy a perfect reality.

And there he lay, complete in his intoxicating effect upon her frazzled senses by simply opting to exist. The healthy rhythm in her ear a steady metronome to her rushing pulse, Nellie could just catch the skipping of his heart increase – if she just squinted – as she stroked the fastenings to his besmirched collar. Her breath was caught just behind her teeth as her blurred sight depicted his flawless angles and achromatic lips in such close proximity, and she hissed it all out over her dry tongue at the mere thought of his translucent skin across her own, assuaging the new burning in her careless system. What acrimony had she to face? Mr. Todd was asleep for the first time in her presence, deaf to her mute pleas and dead to the silent world that had left them behind. He could do nothing to ignite the dormant insanity that lurked beyond his ashen beauty and waxen lips.

If by leaning just forward and up, Mrs. Lovett could barely reach those unblemished, wax-carven features that were so alluring and undeniably taste his radiance. If she squinted, then she could already feel the wax melting to her tongue and taste his bitter-sweet vengeance.

Unfortunately, some treasures were best kept hidden. Always one of practicality, her pleasurable exhaustion failed to let her forget this. The enigma of a precious jewel remained only until it was examined, and if under the veil of a ruby lay nothing but a deceitful copy in its stead, then disappointment was a sure course. If even for a little longer the mystery remained, then she could be free to create whatever image she wished to place upon its charm. Expectations, she knew, were nothing but a false hope in the face of a glaring reality.

Of course, if she just squinted, allowing the dream for just a moment longer, then Mrs. Lovett was almost positive of the cool, waxen rubies that kissed a fiery trail down her terribly torrid throat.