A/N: Sweeney Todd thinks he's so macho. But we all know he's a big girl's blouse under that sulky pout and eyeliner ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own Sweeney Todd.
Edit: Old story. It's probably crap. But if you have a strong stomach, read on.
The Masculinity Chronicles
"Mrs. Lovett… do you think I'm manly?"
It was a question Nellie Lovett hadn't been expecting as she collected Mr. Todd's bloodied shirts from his barbershop for washing. It certainly wasn't one that she had prepared herself to answer ever from Sweeney Todd.
She hesitated, her eyes combing the barber from his long, matted hair to his slim figure almost swamped in the tightly belted trousers.
"Yeah… sure… anything you say, love," She said with a weak smile, attempting to take her leave.
He grabbed onto her wrist and she closed her eyes in pained exasperation. Now she'd have to turn and face his 'kicked puppy' eyes and gently explain why his singing, dancing, prancing ways didn't make him the typical posterboy for masculinity. She took a deep breath and turned to him with a forced smile.
"Stop lying! Tell me the truth." He whined at her, keeping his hand firmly around her wrist. "You don't think I'm manly at all, do you? Do you!"
"You are manly, love," She said heartily, attempting to tug herself anyway from him. She was clutching onto the shirts very tightly to stop them from tumbling down the stairs and it made it very difficult to break the barber's spindly grip.
"You're lying," He said accusingly, watching her very closely.
Mrs. Lovett was very conscious of the bloodstained razor in Mr. Todd's left hand and wasn't keen to suffer the irony of being put into one of her own pies so she strained a laugh. "Really, Mr. Todd. You're being ridiculous. Of course you're manly. I'm sure everyone thinks you the very picture of manliness in the hair design business." She tried to twist out of his grip but he didn't yield.
"You are lying!" He burst out. "Why aren't I manly? Is it the leather coat? Should I comb my hair differently? Is it the eyeliner because I was told it's all the rage in the Caribbean for men to wear eyeliner!"
Mrs. Lovett hesitated. She wondered whether it was better to tell him the truth, as likely as it was to result in her becoming a pie or to lie and humour him.
"Why?" He pressed her reproachfully.
"Well…" She hesitated, finding the right words. "You're a bit of a… well ponce…" She finished flatly.
He stared at her blankly for a few seconds and the next thing she knew she was against the wall with a cutthroat razor pressed against her neck. She sighed. Always resorting to violence…
"Now who's the ponce?" He snarled, the razor pressed dangerously close to her jugular.
"Certainly not the man pushing a woman half his size against the wall with a razor…" Mrs. Lovett replied flatly.
His look of triumph faded. "Oh," He said gruffly. "Sorry," He let her go and she straightened her collar stiffly.
"That's quite alright," She sniffed, pushing past him and going for the stairs. "… You ponce," She had to break into a run to escape the enraged barber who had begun to chase her down the stairs.
Mr. Todd sulked for a week after his and Mrs. Lovett's little episode and refused to speak to Mrs. Lovett for almost half that week. He began replying with single words on Wednesday, by Friday she could almost draw full sentences from him and on Sunday he actually replied to her when she asked whether he wanted soup or lard for dinner (almost shouting her down the stairs with his bellowing reply of: "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOUP!"). But Mrs. Lovett knew he was still stewing on his own insecurities. He was already bitter, murderous, angry, unsettled, gloomy… But now he was also insecure. Where did it end? She supposed she'd get used to it. She wouldn't even mind getting used to it if he agreed to marry her but in their present sinful situation his grumpy seclusion was beginning to grate on her nerves. What did she have to do to make him happy, just for a day or two? What?
"How about an arm wrestle?"
Mrs. Lovett looked up from her baking table where she'd been rolling the dough for the following day's pies. "What?" She asked blankly, wondering if she'd misheard him.
He stood in her doorway, looking strangely resolute. "You heard me," He insisted. "I want an arm wrestle,"
She rolled her eyes. "Is this because of your blooming masculinity hang ups?"
"No," He said stubbornly and then on seeing her raised eyebrows added: "Perhaps…"
She watched him beadily for a few moments and then finally slapped down her rolling pin and wiped her flour-covered hands on her front. "Fine," She rolled her eyes again.
"Excellent," Smirked Mr. Todd. He obviously thought he had the upper hand, so to speak. After all, he had spent fifteen years doing hard, unyielding labour.
He took a seat squarely at her kitchen table and Mrs. Lovett threw one leg over the bench, straddling it and leaning one elbow firmly on the table.
"Ready?" He asked her smugly.
She nodded silently at him, taking his hand securely with hers. His hand was covered in dry calluses but the contact of skin on skin made her heart rise a few inches in her chest.
"On the count of three," He went on. "One… two… three-
Mrs. Lovett applied as much pressure as she did when she was rolling a piece of particularly tough dough and Mr. Todd's arm bent almost effortlessly to the table top. He stared blankly at his bent arm for a few moments seeming unable to comprehend what had just happened.
"How… what…how..." He spluttered at her. She shrugged a shoulder at him with a smirk.
"Baker's hands…" She said, batting her eyelashes at the fuming barber.
He glowered at her for a few moments and then with an angry scoff he swept up and flounced out of the kitchen. Mrs. Lovett watched him go with another roll of her eyes. Such an inconvenient time for him to go through his mid life crisis…
"I can drink more than you,"
Mrs. Lovett peered at Mr. Todd over the top of her newspaper. He was standing before her with his arms folded and his chin up. Like a schoolboy challenging his friends to game of leapfrog…
"That's nice, dear," She said mildly, going back to her newspaper.
He stared at her for a few moments and then cleared his throat. "Did you hear me? I said I could drink more than you,"
Mrs. Lovett made a skeptical noise in her throat but didn't look up from her newspaper.
"I could drink you into the ground," He said provocatively, trying to goad her into action. "I could drink more than you could drink in a year in one sitting,"
Mrs. Lovett looked up and yawned deliberately and slowly in the barber's face. He glared at her.
"Well, aren't you going to challenge me?" He asked her impatiently.
She tilted her head, seeming to consider him. He was tall and broad shouldered but he was a gangly, half starved thing. Bony and meatless. The alcohol would go straight through him.
"Alright, Mr. Todd," She said finally. "I'll verse you in a drinking match and if I win…" She paused, considering what she could ask of him. Of course she could never ask what she really wanted of him. "… You… have to wash all my laundry for a week,"
He pondered this. "Alright… and if I win… I want…" He also paused. "… I want…" He shrugged. "I'll decide that later,"
She smirked. "Alright. Let's do this thing,"
Minutes later, she and him were seated opposite each other in Mrs. Lovett's kitchen at her table. Nellie's three remaining bottles of gin were sitting between them and two well-cleaned tumblers. Mr. Todd was looking confident, he was obviously laying a lot in his assumption that men could simply drink more than women in all circumstances.
"We drink until the first person passes out or throws up," Mrs. Lovett said pouring the booze into their glasses and sliding the tumbler to Mr. Todd with a wink. "Bottoms up, love,'
He smirked at her and took a straight, long gulp of the gin. A quick swig and it was gone. Mrs. Lovett watched him silently as he went for his second shot, etching a thin, spindly 'I' in the parchment he had produced for scoring purposes.
Mrs. Lovett poured her first drink slowly and steadily and drank it just as so. She knew there were two types of drinkers: those who guzzled their alcohol faster than they should and those who knew their boundaries and heeded them. Otherwise known as 'men' and 'women'…
"Scared, Mrs. Lovett?" He sneered, lifting the second tumbler of gin to his lips.
"You wish," She replied with a smirk and drank the rest of his gin.
"Up you go, dear," Mrs. Lovett had managed to struggle the hulking, staggering figure of the thoroughly drunk Mr. Todd across the kitchen. "Let's get you to bed…"
"I'm… fine…" He slurred. "I co' take…sommore.. just gimme it,"
Mrs. Lovett struggled with him past the baking table. "Of course you could, love"
He had downed almost two full bottles without so much as a break while Mrs. Lovett had stuck to a modest four. When he couldn't keep himself up straight where he sat she knew it was time to step in and save him from himself.
"Mind your head," She said a moment too late as they went through the low door parting her rooms from the shop. He hit it with a dull 'thunk' and grumbled darkly under his breath.
"I am… manly… Missus…ovett'… am… li'… a tiger…" He rambled as she tried to get him on the settee and cover him with a blanket. "Li'… a beast..."
"Yes, Mr. Todd." She said patiently. "You're a beast,"
"I… am," He mumbled, letting her drop him onto the worn settee and cover him with a threadbare blanket. "Li… a beast..."
Mrs. Lovett went to her cabinet and drew out a small vile of pills. These would help him sleep…
"Take this, dear," She said cheerfully, holding the pill to his mouth.
"Wossat?" He tried to focus on the pill but his head swaggered violently from side to side.
"Just a little magic pill," She said soothingly. "Open up,"
"Jussapill…" He mumbled, clumsily opening his mouth.
Mrs. Lovett jammed the pill into his mouth and with a splutter he managed to swallow it.
"Thatta boy," She said with a small smile as he laid his head back.
"No'… a boy… I'ma'… beast…" He said sleepily, his eyes flickering closed.
Mrs. Lovett gave him a last look and went away to her favourite fireside chair, picking up the newspaper she had discarded barely hours before.
End of Chapter One