And they woke up and it was all a dream...
Nah, just kidding XD
Author Notes: Well, here's the last installment of Mas Chrons for you. It's pretty epic lol, by far the longest chapter I've written and I hope to God it doesn't disappoint and gives you lots of laughs and 'wtf' moments. I love to make you laugh XD Anyways. You don't know how much I love reviews. They are just so hugely, amazingly encouraging and exciting to find so please don't be shy. Thank you to everyone who reviewed so faithfully in the past, I love you all loads. Thank you to all who read it. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it and I'm sure I'll have something else for you in the future.
It may be a while before anything by me pops up because I just started university. So the earliest I can really promise you anything is April through to June. I'm really sorry about that but a good, long break will get all my creative juices flowing so I'll be able to hopefully deliver you some more laughs in the future, most likely featuring our dear friends, Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd. They're such good sports. I don't think any other writer has tortured them as much as I have, poor dears. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to review, I love them and thanks for all the lovely feedback throughout this story :)
Disclaimer: I am the lizard Queen! But sadly, not Tim Burton...
The Masculinity Chronicles
Revenge Doesn't Solve Anything
Mr. Todd burst into his barbershop in a flurry of panic. He hadn't just done... what he thought he'd done... had he...? Oh God no. No... surely... he wouldn't be that stupid...
He stood in the open doorway, frozen in a growing sense of horror at his own lack of self control, his own blind and violent actions which half of him almost couldn't believe he'd actually been capable of. The last hour seemed to have passed in a confused whirl of breathless, tangled events in sharp succession. He only remembered a few things clearly... Mrs. Lovett's furious assault on his face... (he held a hand gingerly to the cheek in question)... her furious accusations ('How dare you take it!' rang fairly clearly in his mind)... and lastly and most gruesome of all... his own terrible crime against Mrs. Lovett which... somehow... seemed far worse than his past murders. Attacking a defenceless woman in that... manner... was a brand new low for Mr. Todd.
So, what could he do? What could he possibly do to undo the last hour's events? Mrs. Lovett would never forgive him... and why should she? He had done something ridiculously cruel and brash... even for him.
He exhaled heavily and slowly closed the door, as though closing the door on the rest of the house closed out all of his guilt, all of the mess he had caused.
He turned and stood in the middle of the darkened shop, staring expressionlessly out of the far window. He felt... limp... tired... and blank... like he didn't have the energy to think or even to try and begin to repair the damage he'd caused. It just seemed like his life was a series of violent, unhappy events transpiring one after the other. And this felt far from some sort of divine test, it felt more like... a curse. That must have been it. He was bloody well cursed... or damned. Whichever one forced once innocent men into murder and violence and... ravishment... He gave a shudder. What the hell had he become?
He felt the familiar troubled frown fall onto his face. It was odd... He put a hand to his furrowed forehead. He hadn't felt that grim frown for... a short while at least. As if for a short while he hadn't felt quite so hard done by. The last few weeks... or was it months, he didn't quite know... had been tiring and dreadful... but... sadly and horribly ironically... they had been the happiest few weeks... or months... he'd had in... fifteen years... Fifteen long years. What an odd and unsettling thought... And to think it was due to the infuriating Mrs. Lovett... Ugh. That was by far the most unsettling thing of all... or was this appalling person he'd become the most unsettling thing of all?
He blinked as he suddenly realised that as he had been standing there, staring into space, darkness had almost completely fallen outside and he could see himself reflected in the grimy glass, standing there pale and unhandsome in full attire, with his coat still on. And there was his face and the familiar frown and the slightly downturned lips. Miserable looking bastard, really, he couldn't help thinking to himself as he stared at his reflection. What did she see in him? That man in the darkened window? What the hell drove her to love such a... monstrous blight on society? Well, he reminded himself grimly, she probably didn't any longer. Who could love someone who had... done that to them... that terrible abuse of power. A power he had always wanted before now, for a reason that he now couldn't quite grasp. Now that he had the power he'd thirsted for, he felt he'd sold himself for something totally flighting and fickle. He had committed a terrible crime for a tiny, insignificant glimpse of power for a few minutes strung together in his lifetime...
With a sudden sickening realisation, he was abruptly struck with a thought that was far more disturbing than anything that had crossed his mind that evening: Didn't his actions make him just like ... Judge Turpin...? He had committed the same crime which had condemned Judge Turpin to death in Todd's eyes. The crime he had committed against Lucy Barker. The crime which had driven Todd to end the lives of so many men for her... For her... He curled his lip contemptuously at himself in the reflection. Who was he trying to fool? For her? How the hell would he even entertain the thought that she, his sweet, gentle dead wife, would ever want him to commit murder in her name? He may have had his own romantic, sweeping ideas of vengeance and avenging his wife but she... she would despise him... if she were alive and knew his crimes... She would never want to see him again if she knew of the blood staining his hands. She would leave him... He felt the emotion build up behind his eyes and he fiercely blinked away the dampness. He hadn't shed a tear in fifteen years, he wouldn't now. He couldn't stand here in the dark, pitying himself like he deserved even a shred of pity from anyone. He had to act. His wife was dead and cold in her grave and he had committed crimes for which he may one day pay the price for but now, there was one crime he had to mend. A crime which he needed to put to rest if he ever wanted peace.
He had not sweated blood for the past fifteen years to allow himself to decay into a man like Judge Turpin. For, even as a murderer, he was still better than Judge Turpin and he intended to do what the Judge could and would not: amend his crime against the woman he had harmed.
There had been certain times in Nellie Lovett's life when she had felt an emotion beyond and more terrible than grief. One had been when she had been sixteen and the boy, or young man, who she had been feverishly admiring from afar for two whole years had suddenly become engaged to a prettier, fairer haired girl of higher station. Another had been when she had been eighteen and her parents had introduced her to Albert Lovett... her soon to be husband, a man twice her age and size... literally. And yet another had been when a certain (then) handsome barber, she had been desperately in love with for God knew how long, was abruptly transported for life when she had been twenty-five. That had been a particularly hard blow.
But none, not even losing him to Australia for fifteen long years, compared to the pain and anguish she felt at this moment. She felt as if every fibre she possessed was aching with a harrowing, agonizing hopelessness. She could hardly remember how she travelled from the living room to her bedroom; she had been so blinded by her own unhappiness. As soon as she had been in the privacy of her room, she had thrown herself down by her bed and, burying her head in her arms, had cried violently, for how long she didn't known. In the end her sobs had become more like agonized screams, as though she couldn't quite communicate her agony any other way.
Finally, exhausted, she had collapsed onto her bed, laying very still in the semi-darkness and letting her tiredness wash over her. She didn't sleep or close her eyes, she just lay, staring at her hand on the top of the covers and feeling oddly drained and blank. After what felt like hours of just laying and staring into nothingness, haunted by the events of the past day, she slowly pushed herself upright, and immediately shot a hand to her head as a throb of pain went through it. The result of her enthusiastic weeping, she assumed.
As she sat, holding a hand to her aching forehead, her eyes immediately fell on her dresser top, the empty space where Albert's portrait had sat for the many long years since his death, far more out of duty than real affection. However, it still struck her as a severely brazen act to take something which was of obvious sentimental value to someone simply out of spite. And after she had told him that she hadn't taken his stupid picture of his stupid dead wife. Hadn't he believed her and had wanted revenge? (Very likely, considering his track record) Or had he simply wanted to do something nasty and underhanded? She didn't know. And she didn't know what had prompted the brutality following his theft of Albert's picture either. Perhaps, she didn't so much care. Or perhaps that had been what had prompted her outpouring of emotion. She didn't know. It had been an awful day.
She dragged herself off the bed and went to the dresser, running a hand over its surface and staring vaguely at the objects scattering it. Useless objects that she never used or didn't even like so much. A terribly ugly china cat her grandmother had given her for her eighth birthday, which she felt obliged to keep. A painted plate that she had found in the cupboard when she had been rummaging around for a broom one day (in a sudden motivation to clean) and had just kept because she hardly ever through anything away. And a powder puff that her dead husband had bought her one Christmas, God knew how many years ago and which she had never used. For the simple reason that she had no powder and could never be bothered to buy any. All these useless, stupid things that she didn't like, didn't care about, never used. And was Albert's picture any different? She never really looked at it. She dusted it once a month like a good, little widow and bought a new frame once in a while. Most of the time it was just shoved behind the mass of junk; a pale, little reminder of when she was respectable. Why did she care about the stupid thing anyway? She didn't know. It was just another confusing detail in the traumatic tangle of events which had spilt over the day, staining it as one of the very worst in her life. And, worst of all, she didn't know where to go from here. Life seemed meaningless. Life seemed to have met a dead end and, as far as she could see, there was no way back.
At some point in our lives we are eventually told that it is rude and improper to go meddling in the affairs of others. To be a 'sticky beak, a 'gossip monger', a 'nosy parker' and so on and so forth... Eventually parents make it clear that while it is perfectly acceptable to indulge in whatever morsels of gossip might come our way, maybe in the hope of extracting revenge on those who may have outshone them in some form of charity ball/school play/report card event, it isn't acceptable to go looking for trouble by stepping out of line and into the business of others.
Tobias Ragg had no parents. So this lesson had been missed... and unfortunately, it had been the one lesson which may have saved many people in the Todd/Lovett household a lot of trouble. True, a shagging or two had been achieved but that seemed pale in comparison to the strange and disturbing events which had taken place earlier that day. Especially to a boy like Toby who had seen months of painstaking work disintegrate before his eyes in a scene which seemed to have had no real prompt. Although, he wasn't about to throw all responsibility on the two adults (although they did seem incapable of natural human function sometimes), he did know that his taking Mrs. Lovett's picture had made the situation considerably worse than what it could have been and did admit it had been, in retrospect, a stupid decision.
And now, with his plan ultimately in ruins and that damned portrait still in his bottom drawer, he felt somewhat at a loss as to what... he was supposed to do... Was there really anything to be done? He felt that by meddling any further in the affairs of the two, he was tempting disaster. Perhaps he just had to accept that he had lost... His plan had failed and there was nothing he could do to right it. He just had to leave things as they were or risk damaging the situation beyond repair forever... or perhaps he had already done that...
The following morning, Mrs. Lovett rose before noon and cleaned the house top to bottom. Of course she didn't go anywhere near Mr. Todd's barbershop but nonetheless, every room, closet, corner was dusted and virtually every drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny was searched thoroughly for any sign of Albert's portrait. But, at 5pm, she collapsed exhausted into her favourite armchair empty handed. She felt completely disheartened and more certain than ever that her brazen assailant had taken the picture and was intent on keeping it. For what purpose, she wasn't sure. Perhaps just to infuriate and humiliate her.
But she couldn't risk another messy confrontation. Sometimes she forgot how violent and volatile he was. Maybe she was lucky to have avoided a scene like last night's before now. The whole situation made her more furious than ever. But more at herself than anyone. Furious that she hadn't known better, furious that she hadn't fought back, furious that she couldn't, even now, imagine her existence without him. Weak, impossible woman. When would she learn?
She frowned up at the ceiling. Life had seemed so much easier when they were just mass murdering lunatics. When sex was involved, everything became rather sticky. And yes, she was aware of the innuendo in that statement.
With a heavy sigh, she dragged herself out of the armchair and lumbered to the liqueur cabinet to review the gin levels. She seemed to have doubled her intake of alcohol ever since Mr. bleeding Todd had moved in. The stress, the anxiety, the ridiculous 'drink-offs' he insisted on dragging her into. Though, to be perfectly honest, she hadn't put up much of a struggle. She could have just said 'no' and that would have been the end of it. But... really, perhaps she had liked the attention he had been paying her over the last few weeks... WELL, OF COURSE SHE BLOODY WELL HAD. She had wanted him for God knew how long. How many people wouldn't want the man they worshipped to pay months of attention to them, consumed by attempting to make them acknowledge their masculinity? Anyone who said 'no' was almost certainly lying. Mrs. Lovett had been lying to herself for months, insisting she found his masculinity obsession ridiculous and irritating but she had always known she was lying... If that even made sense... it probably didn't.
She glanced into the mirror fixed above the fire grate, without really seeing. If she could just find Albert's portrait, at least she could forgive Todd for that small crime against her. Why couldn't he just be the bigger man and give it back to her? That was his whole problem. He thought masculinity was all muscles and force and dominating all those around him but he didn't realise that it had to be balanced out by humility and graciousness. If there were two things Mr. Todd did not have it was humility and graciousness. God, the man carried on like a two-year-old if he won (or lost) anything and as for courage, Mrs. Lovett was convinced that courageous men didn't flounce about killing people and having them cooked into pies. Robin Hood, now he was courageous. He was courageous because he was selfless and noble. Mr. Todd was just sulky and cynical. And he didn't give his victims a chance to fight back. He just took out his own bitterness on... arguably innocent men. Which so didn't equal a hero. Though, as far as she knew, he had never wanted to be a hero. Just a... masculine villain...
And now she was trapped in this wretched situation and she didn't know what she was supposed to do to resolve it. She couldn't forgive him so easily. A good night sleep may have calmed her down somewhat but, despite her tenderness for him, she was quite sure she would throttle him and feed him to a goat if she saw him before the next century. Though, admittedly, she couldn't just let him starve. That would just be mean. But she didn't want to come face to face with him until she was quite sure she wouldn't set upon him with a saucepan. Though, on the other hand, if she intended to make this work she couldn't ignore him forever. That was just impractical. And kicking him out was obviously out of the question... She was sure he'd skip meals if she didn't keep him in check and with that sexual appetite of his to keep in check as well; she knew she was the only woman for the job. After all, despite everything they had been through, they were still accomplices... associates... occasional lovers. She couldn't just cast him off. They were... soul mates... 'Soul mates' was hardly a phrase you would often use in conjunction with 'Sweeney Todd' but she decided 'kinfolk' was somehow considerably less romantic. And also seemed to make her unintentionally imagine Mr. Todd in small green shorts and clogs, singing The Lonely Goatherd. And that was decidedly unnatural... Although who didn't want to imagine Mr. Todd in tiny goatherd shorts? Perhaps nuns... But apart from that, who?
But, she was getting distracted... from the issue at hand by the image of Mr. Todd in very small shorts... She gave herself a shake. That was quite enough of that. She needed to focus, Gosh darn it. And besides, after his nasty antics, he didn't deserve to feature in a fantasy wearing goatherd mini shorts and singing folksongs. That was a privilege, not a right.
Nonetheless... she still had to put up a terrific fight to keep a goofy smile from creeping onto her face whenever she (unintentionally of course) combined 'Mr. Todd' and 'tiny shorts' in the same image. Ah... it was good to have a dirty imagination...
Mrs. Lovett gave a convulsive jerk of surprise and flattened herself against the fire grate. "What?" She spluttered, somehow embarrassed to be caught in the middle of a Todd-and-tight-shorts perv session. To her slight relief, she found it was Toby and not Mr. Todd and relaxed very slightly. She mentally shooed away the tiny-short clad Mr. Todd.
"What are you doing?" Toby asked curiously, peering at Mrs. Lovett's semi-guilty expression.
"Nothing, dear." Mrs. Lovett replied airily, unintentionally patting her hair as she often did when she was uncomfortable or nervous. "What do you want?"
Toby was silent for a moment, examining her face intently in a way that made her vaguely uncomfortable. It was almost as if he knew what she had been thinking about. It was all making her a bit flustered... She hurriedly busied herself with pretending to rearrange the mantelpiece ornaments to avoid looking at him.
In reality, Toby's all-knowing look had been completely unintentional or at best, misread. He instead was undergoing an inner struggle between his conscience and his louder, more commanding 'i-dont-want-to-get-into-serious-shit..ence'. At the moment the latter was putting up a very good argument. Something about horrific suffering and cut throat razors sawing through vital organs...
"Are you alright?" He managed to stammer after a few moments of agonizing silence.
Mrs. Lovett looked sharply at him, seeming to silently size him up. "I'm fine, dear. Why?" Her voice was calm, her face was nonchalant, if her terrified eyes hadn't been such a dead giveaway that inside she was repeating 'holy shit, holy shit, holy shit' to herself in a whirlwind panic then perhaps Toby would have been convinced. But, nonetheless, he had to be delicate. Mrs. Lovett had a habit of clamming up if she felt she was being interrogated. He had to keep it casual and non-intrusive.
"You weren't ill or anything, were you? Last night?" He asked anxiously, knowing full well that she hadn't been but feeling it was a good way to edge into the subject.
"Oh no, love!" She replied briskly, some of the panic seeming to ease from her eyes. "I was just a little tired last night and you know what Mr. Todd's like. So demanding and pushy all the time..." She fell into her armchair and stretched out her legs in front of her. "Don't you worry about us, dear. It's all grown-up things that you needn't concern yourself with."
Toby found that amusingly ironic but said nothing. His thoughts had strayed to the portrait still sitting in his bottom drawer. One of the only rooms which hadn't been touched by Mrs. Lovett's cleaning frenzy that day was Toby's room which she had perhaps deemed too empty and small to deserve a broom attack like the rest of the house.
"Mrs. Lovett..." He began, trying to ignore the voice which was telling him he was signing his own death sentence. "About the portrait..." She sat up so suddenly that Toby fell back slightly in alarm.
"The picture? Albert's portrait?" She said eagerly. "You know where he put it?"
Toby assumed she meant Mr. Todd and not the ghost of her dead husband come back to her haunt them all... although that would make things a whole lot more interesting... Ahem. But would be completely unrealistic. Unlike the rest of this very strait-laced story...
"Well..." He began, faltering slightly under her fervent gaze. "You see..." She was beginning to bear down on him, he was feeling more and more like a small animal in a bear trap.
"Has he hidden it in his barbershop?" She demanded, looming over him with her eyes flashing dangerously in a fashion which made Toby surer than ever that he would undergo some hideous, violent death before the end of the day.
"No-not exactly..." He said lamely.
"Well?" She said, motioning impatiently. "Where did he put it?"
"He didn't put it anywhere..." Toby said numbly, flattened against the wall in a bid to distance himself from Mrs. Lovett.
Mrs. Lovett looked momentarily confused and then, abruptly, a look of panic appeared. She all but clambered over the coffee table towards Toby. "He didn't... destroy it... did he?" She said anxiously, clutching unintentionally hard on Toby's shirt.
Toby, feeling like he had a huge, overbearing bird of prey attached to his front, was struggling to keep his nerve. "No. He didn't destroy it."
"Where is it then?!" She burst out, giving him a slight shake. "Where?"
Toby swallowed deeply, his mouth was feeling very dry, he wondered if he'd even be able to get the words out. "Mr. Todd didn't take the portrait."
Mrs. Lovett stared at him. "What?" She said confusedly. "Of course he did." She sounded slightly uncertain. Her grasp had loosened slightly on Toby's front.
Toby swallowed. "I took it." The words were so tiny, so soft that for a moment he thought she hadn't heard him. She was staring blankly at him, seeming not to comprehend what he had just said.
She slowly lowered her hands from his shirt, her eyes still on him and a slight frown on her brow. For a moment there was complete silence and then, so suddenly Toby barely had time to flinch, she brought her hand sharply across his cheek.
Toby clutched his stinging cheek, almost too stunned to feel the pain. She had slapped him! In all his time of living with Mrs. Lovett, she had never set so much as a finger on him. It was more shock than hurt or anger or pain which was pounding through Toby now. Mrs. Lovett was staring at him, a look of bemusement on her face.
"Sorry." She said faintly, at length. "I don't know why I did that..." She drifted back to her armchair, seeming almost in a daze. Toby watched her, still clutching his bruised cheek.
She fell roughly into her favourite chair and looked at him, a troubled frown still sitting heavily on her countenance. "It's not like it was of great value to me. I don't even like that picture..." She hesitated. "...sometimes I think perhaps I didn't like my husband very much either..." She seemed slightly ashamed of admitting it; as though it was something she had swallowed for a very long time. "I don't know why I cared that it was gone. Why, in God's name, should I care?"
Toby was a little bewildered by this change in temperament, not to mention these questions he couldn't possibly answer. He could give it a stab but he suspected that any advise he tried to give would become some variation of 'listen to your heart and you will understand...'. He wasn't used to being asked his opinion. He was a workhouse boy for God's sake...
"Erm." He began intelligently. "I... don't... know..." He felt suddenly sheepish, like he had suddenly found himself in the dirty laundry of a woman he had always thought to be very private and resilient.
"I'll tell you why." She said, suddenly fierce. "It's because that wanker... excuse my French... that bastard... accused me of breaking into his room... and I thought this was his nasty, childish way of retaliating.
Toby assumed by 'that wanker' and 'that bastard', she meant Mr. Todd. He also felt that he should really bring the rest of his crimes to light if he ever intended on fixing his contributed damage. "About Mr. Todd's room..." He mumbled.
Mrs. Lovett looked sharply at him. "That was you too?" She sounded uncharacteristically annoyed. "Jesus, Toby." She snapped. "I told you about all this stupidity. All this messing around. When will you learn! When I'm dead? Because that's what's going to happen if you don't learn to mind your own bloody business." She hadn't meant to say the last part but she was furious with Toby for his continued meddling. It was hardly all his fault but he still seemed unable to keep his nose out of Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd's affair...s...
There was a frosty silence while Mrs. Lovett fumed and Toby sulked sullenly under his mistress's furious gaze. Mrs. Lovett was guilty to find that most of her anger came from the fact that Toby seemed to have worsened the chances of Mr. Todd ever asking her to marry him rather than improve them. If the boy hadn't been completely incompetent and had actually succeeded in his plight then she would have been rather more inclined to forgive his meddling. But as it was... as it was... She frowned in sudden realisation, still staring at the carpet but, all of a sudden, struck by a devious idea which could help her get her get her own form of revenge on her assailant.
"Sorry." Toby muttered after a few more moments of brooding silence. Privately, he couldn't help thinking that Mrs. Lovett was being rather ungrateful for his efforts.
Mrs. Lovett didn't reply, she was staring fixedly at a burn in the carpet as though suddenly seeing it in a different light. As though, suddenly seeing everything in a different light. She slowly looked up at Toby.
"I want you to help me with something." She said grimly. "Something important."
This problem was really beyond anything Mr. Todd had dealt with. Waging a one man war on London and one of its most eminent figures? That was easy. Dealing with a seriously pissed off woman (who he may have accidentally ravished)? Potential suicide mission. Especially when it concerned Mrs. Lovett. Especially after what he did. And especially since he had no excuse or explanation. What could he say? Blame it on his loins... they have a mind of their own.... how am I supposed to control them.... even in his head it sounded fairly pathetic.
No. He had screwed himself over big time. And he was living in mortal terror of a woman half his size, who made pies for a living. What the hell had he been thinking? His masculinity had peaked and plummeted in one night. Todd's mental capacity had always been... erm... questionable... but his instability had taken him to new lows. But this time, instead of a cold corpse and a batch of pies, he had Mrs. Lovett and all her womanly wrath to deal with.
Mr. Todd hadn't yet come to a decision about what he intended to do. Maybe there was nothing to do, maybe the damage was done and she would kick him out as soon as she had recovered her composure. She hadn't bothered bringing him a meal that day, which was a terrible sign. In the past... even in the most terrible of moods she had always brought him his dinner... but now... this absence spoke more plainly of her fury than any letter bomb or abuse hurling ambush could have.
On the other hand, he was struggling with the prospect of having to grovel in submission just to have her rebuff him, which was more than likely. Actually, the most likely prospect was her attacking him with whatever happened to be handy around her. Which could be a knitting needle... or a meat clever...
With a heavy sigh, he heaved himself with trouble out of his barber chair and swaggered over to the darkened window, night was falling on the scurrying Londoners below. Scurrying like little... rats in the smog and smoke. He felt his lip curl in distaste. He still felt the same contempt for a good three quarters of London and he was aware that he was being distracted from his plight again by a certain milky faced, dishevelled baker but he was disconcerted to find that he was less concerned by this than he had been in the past.
He frowned down at the people below and, instinctively flexing the fingers that would usually hold his cutthroat razor, turned from the window and almost shat himself.
"TOBY!" He bellowed, abruptly realising that it was the twelve-year-old workhouse boy standing in the semi-darkness and not the angel of death.
"Sorry." Toby stammered, while Mr. Todd glowered at him, embarrassed by his moment of alarm. "Mrs. Lovett sent me up to give you this..." He held up the laden dinner tray. "The door was open so I... let myself in."
And of course he hadn't effing knocked. He was like a little mini Mrs. Lovett, minus the dress and... boobies...
Mr. Todd went a little pink in the darkness and was glad for the cover.
He grunted at the boy in reply and jerked his head at the dresser. "Put it there." The boy obeyed and, scuttled out.
Mr. Todd watched him go with a furrowed brow. The boy's presence hadn't pleased him. He had wanted Mrs. Lovett to bring him his goddamned food, not the half witted rat boy. Nonetheless... he was starving...
He wandered over to the food and toyed a little with it with the fork. He wouldn't have been surprised if it had been poisoned... it didn't seem beneath her. If he hadn't been almost entirely sure that Mrs. Lovett still needed him for the sake of her business, he would have almost expected it. But, as it was, he was satisfied that she wouldn't attempt to kill him... yet. And certainly not in such a quiet fashion. She could scream like a banshee when she wanted to, he was convinced that if she ever considered murdering him it would be in a highly dramatic fashion. Maybe beating him to death with a shoe or suffocating him with a pie crust, or something.
Comforted by this thought, he picked up the plate and with a quick smell of it, began eating. It was Mrs. Lovett's usual, just barely edible cooking. Bland, thick and overcooked but not poisonous. He tentatively nibbled his way through the dish and left the plate and cutlery on the dresser for whoever might come to collect it, he hoped it was Mrs. Lovett. Maybe, if he was lucky, when she crept up to take his things, he could lock the door and force her to forgive him... He raised an eyebrow at himself in the shattered mirror in the corner; even he had to admit that very likely could turn out to be unnecessarily and unwisely forceful.
With another heavy sigh, he returned to the window, staring back down into the filthy London darkness. Sometimes he had to wonder whether poison might be somewhat preferable.
Mrs. Lovett had never been so aware of her own power. She now knew what she held over Mr. Todd's head. In the past it had always been her, trailing after Mr. Todd, desperately clinging to any small gesture of affection Mr. Todd had tossed her way. But now, even after his brazen act, which had initially distressed her, she knew that she could use Mr. Todd's desperate sexual need for her to her advantage. She still loved him. Very much. But she couldn't let that cloud her judgement any longer. If she didn't punish Mr. Todd for what he had done to her and teach him a severe lesson about masculinity, then she feared she would never be able repair the damaged barber. Yes, she still harboured a precious hope that one day he would marry her but she was under no illusions as to how much work it would take to recover Mr. Todd's humanity. Or a little of it anyway. She wasn't trying to make Prince Charming here, she just wanted a husband. Even if it was bitter, twisted, skulking Mr. Todd who murdered people for a living.
With that grimly set in her mind, she waited quietly in her living room for Toby to return. She was pretending to read, mostly to calm her own nerves than anything. Pretending to read was strangely therapeutic. Especially when you vaguely focused on one word on the page. In this case it was 'thus'. Thus. Thus. Thus. Thus. Thus. Ahhh... calming...
She heard footsteps on the staircase and her eyes instinctively darted from the page to the doorway and back again. She arranged her position in the armchair into something which she hoped was idle and unconcerned and relaxed her countenance as best she could.
Toby appeared at the doorway and Mrs. Lovett immediately struggled upright. "Well?"
Toby nodded. "I gave it to him."
"And?" Mrs. Lovett pursued. "Did he eat it?"
"Well... not while I was there-
"Toby!" Mrs. Lovett said exasperatedly. "I told you to stay until he started eating."
"I... tried..." Toby said feebly.
Mrs. Lovett rolled her eyes. "You have to get over this ridiculous fear of Mr. Todd, dear. He's a man not a monster. He's not going to eat you." The corners of her lips twitched slightly at the irony in her own words, but she actually did believe what she was saying. Toby was as oblivious of Todd and her crimes than ever and that gave Todd no excuse to want to harm him. "Now. It's about time you went to bed."
Toby nodded and allowed her to peck him on each cheek. He nodded briefly to her and disappeared to his bedroom. He really couldn't see how Mrs. Lovett's plan would prove to be any more effective than his but... time would tell.
Mrs. Lovett waited until Toby's footsteps had died away before she began upstairs. In one hand she held a candle in a brass holder and in the other, her skirts bunched up so she didn't trip. She trod as carefully as she could on the stairs, and then in the hallway to Mr. Todd's door. She hadn't been entirely sure of how long to wait before venturing upstairs but she couldn't make herself wait any longer, she was too jittery about what she was about to do. She had to keep reminding herself that Mr. Todd was too attracted to her to attempt to harm her. In the creaking darkness of the old house with several decomposing corpses in the bakehouse below and their murderer just beyond the door in front of her, it was enough to give her a little... twinge of uncertainty.
She halted at the door and, holding her breath, she stooped and pressed her ear to the keyhole. She couldn't hear anything from within. Not even Todd's usual rhythmic pacing on the floorboards. She put her eye to the keyhole, but couldn't see anything in the darkness. There was no way of knowing without a doubt if the coast was clear but she would have to take her chances. Drawing comfort from the silence, she carefully turned the knob and, barely daring to breathe, pushed the door. With a hair-raising screech it fell open. Her heart was beating painfully hard in her chest, she had been sure that would have spelt her doom but there was no sound omitting from the barbershop. She eventually recovered her nerve and edged forward, peering around the corner of the door. The light from the candle fell onto the dusty floorboards. Everything was silent and still. The barber chair was standing eerily in the gloom. The moon, hidden behind a layer of thick clouds, provided only a slither of light from the window.
Mrs. Lovett crept through the doorway and cast an eye over the entire barbershop, it fell suddenly on a figure slumped on the floor. With a thrill, she hurried to it, holding the candle before her. It was Todd. His limp figure was strangely endearing as he lay motionless on his side, breathing steadily. Mrs. Lovett gently knelt beside him, transfixed by his lifeless form. She set the candle beside her and with her free hand tenderly tucked a stray hair from his forehead behind his ear, her heart aching dully under the weight of her own affection for him. She eventually managed to drag her hand from his face, reminding herself fiercely of her mission. She scrambled her way down to his faded, worn boots and carefully, painstakingly untied the bulky knots. It took a good ten minutes to completely untangle them, by which time much of her surge of affection for him had evaporated in her irritability at his typically male approach to the simplest of tasks, such as tying his shoelaces. It seemed rather than simply admit he couldn't tie them properly, he preferred just to wind them into a big, tangled ball.
She carefully pulled each lace upward and then tied all four laces together into a neat, tight bow and cocked her head to one side, admiring her handy work. With a sigh she edged her way back up to the candle, flickering in the darkness and casting delicate little shadows over Todd's gaunt features. She caught herself gazing at him, transfixed by the eerie beauty of the candlelight on his shadowy form. She glanced over her shoulder, consumed by a sudden desire to touch him.
Feeling her pulse quicken somewhat, she carefully pulled back his jacket to reveal his white, button up shirt, eerily bright without its usual decoration of blood. She had to pause to catch her breath. Laying her hands on him, feeling his warmth radiating under her hands almost completely drained her of her strength. Glancing upwards, she forced herself to rearrange his clothes back into their original position. He suddenly gave a small groan and moved slightly under her hands. She froze, eyes glued to his face. But he didn't awaken.
Mrs. Lovett took the candle and left the barber slumped on the floor, heading back for the door. With a last glance at the barber's still from, she slunk from the room, closing the door quietly behind her.
Mr. Todd awoke the next morning in considerable pain. He blinked bemusedly, struggling upright and giving a strained groan as pain shuddered up his back and neck. He stared around him. He was on the floor. Why, in God's name, was he on the floor...
And why... couldn't he remember anything between now and... yesterday afternoon... He rubbed his throbbing head, frowning fiercely against the sunlight filtering through the grimy window. His back and hip were aching from his being asleep on his side all night on the splintering wooden planks. He could only come to one conclusion... he must have... passed out... How else could he have no recollection of the night before? And besides, Mr. Todd wasn't in the habit of sleeping on the floor, or sleeping at all for that matter.
He gave his head a shake, trying to rid himself of the hazy mist that seemed to be swirling over his eyes. With a heavy groan he attempted to struggle his way to his feet and immediately collapsed sideways, jarring his hip and jaw painfully as he did. He struggled onto his back and lifted his legs up in the air before his eyes. His boots were tied together... He frowned up at them blankly.
He managed, after a good few minutes of rolling about like a beetle on its back, to get onto his knees to untie his laces. He tugged them loose and got to his feet. Maybe this was Toby's idea of a joke... sneaking in here while Todd was inert and tying his laces together. He scowled down at his boots. Or, maybe he had somehow... tangled them up... He had to admit his tying skills weren't... perfect...
Shaking his head at his own capacity for unexplainable weirdness, he shrugged it off as a bizarre... highly confusing mishap and gave his jacket a dust off. He just needed to get himself together. The last couple of days had been stressful and tiring, he was obviously strung out. And this was his body's way of telling him he was overexerting himself. Mentally, physically, emotionally. The sooner he fixed his problems with Mrs. Lovett, the sooner he'd recover from these weird episodes. Or the ones which found him on his back at nine in the morning with his boots tied together, at least.
Suddenly his door swung open with a tinkle and a sharp thud as it hit the wall. He spun around with a jerk, caught completely off guard.
"Sorry." Said the well-dressed, portly man in the doorway. "You are open aren't you? The woman downstairs... with the pies... told me you were-
Todd, who had been staring at the man with a questioning frown, smoothly rearranged his countenance. "Yes, yes. Sorry. Yes. I'm open. Sit, won't you."
The man nodded pompously and, removing his coat and hat, took a seat in the infamous barber chair and bore his throat. Todd stared at him. They passed their lives so easily into his hands. He turned to fetch his razors from the dresser, still lost in thought. He absentmindedly shoved the empty bowl and cutlery to one side of the dresser and took out his razors, casting a fond glance over their stainless silver glint, winking up at him while he glowered back at them. He took one from its case and held it for a moment, hearing the man's breathing behind him strangely loudly.
He turned back to him and took his usual position in front of the barber chair, casting an eye over the man's vulnerable jugular. He didn't feel like being creative today. One good, strong slice across the throat would be enough to give the man a nicely violent death and if that didn't polish him off, the drop below certainly would. With a grim set to his jaw he glanced quickly up at the man's face and then, without another thought brought the razor cleanly across the man's throat. There was the usual wet squelch of metal passing through flesh and blood which had become so familiar to him. The blood sprayed up, almost onto his clothing but stopping short at his wrists. The man hadn't uttered a word. Todd looked away and hit the peddle. The man slid slowly off the chair and Todd listened with satisfaction to the sickening cracks of his bones against the bricks below.
The barber chair was brought back up into its original position and Todd wiped the blood off his razor with the handkerchief at his hip. It had felt somehow... different... that time. Still somewhat rousing but... he had been distracted. Distracted by Mrs. Lovett. She was invading his life, his mind and now his profession. But, strangely, it didn't infuriate him as it had done in the past. He was still a highly messed up individual but that strange enragement that Mrs. Lovett used to excite was slipping away. He still found her ridiculous, annoying, provocative and unabashedly lustful but the violent desire to control her and everything she did wasn't nearly as prominent. But perhaps it was too late now. His sudden surge of maturity and poise had come far too late.
Yes, her prank had been childish, but it was designed to make the barber question his own sanity. She wanted him to feel fear and uncertainty, or at least a good dose of 'what the hell'.
Mrs. Lovett would have to put her urges to kill Mr. Todd with her bare hands to one side. This way she could punish him progressively over time. Or at least until he apologised to her face, honestly and genuinely. God knew when that would be. He had proven himself to have no self control, no respect for her and no idea what real masculinity entailed.
Maybe she should have sat him down in the past and told him point blank what she thought was masculine. Maybe that would have stopped this before it had become completely out of control. But she had liked all his attentions. She had liked it. And she had let it get out of control.
Not that she took any responsibility for the events two nights past. Mr. Todd would have to get himself out of that one. She didn't know how he'd do it but she was interested to see what he'd do when he eventually recovered his nerve and could face her again. Perhaps his absence was somewhat comforting; it could suggest he at least felt some shame for what he had done. That was... promising...? She didn't know if she dared to think anything was promising anymore, it all seemed to turn to dust in her hands.
But, she could still hope, right? She could still dream. She had held onto this dream for fifteen years, it had never felt so close, so reachable. She just had to be patient and optimistic.
She gave a small, contented sigh and sunk heavily into her bed covers, the weight finally being lifted off her aching feet. She bent down and removed her shoes and stockings, glancing up at her dresser where Albert's picture had been restored to. Horrible, ugly man. She didn't know why she kept it there. Maybe one day she'd throw it out, when she felt she didn't need its safe, familiar presence anymore.
She kicked away her shoes and fell onto the bed still fully dressed, staring up at the ceiling. Mr. Todd would be up there now, pacing around and around and around, glowering his evil barber glare of doom and stroking his... razor... She rolled her eyes at her own dizzy infatuation. She was more in love with Mr. Todd than ever, he could have killed Toby and put him in a pie and fed it to her and she'd still marry him, lest he ever ask her. She felt a slight twinge of guilt. She was fond of Toby, she'd never purposely go out of her way to get him pie...d... but he did come second to Mr. Todd, it was a fact. But, as long as Toby didn't piss off the man upstairs he wouldn't have to worry about being sold for a few shilling with a tankard of ale.
With a sleepy yawn, she closed her eyes, grinning slightly at the thought of Mr. Todd's reaction when he had awoken to find himself on the floor with his boots tied together. Priceless.
She heard a gentle tapping at her door and shot upright, her immediate thought that it might be Mr. Todd come to declare his love for her (well, a woman can fantasise, can't she?). She instead, naturally, found Toby looking slightly breathless.
"I did it." He said as soon as she opened the door.
"Well done, dear." She replied, stepping aside to let him in. "And you watched him eat it?"
"Yes." Toby replied, listened at the door.
"And you're sure he ate it?" Mrs. Lovett pressed him. "Positive?"
"Positive." Toby said firmly.
"Alright, good." Mrs. Lovett said, turning to go to her dresser for her 'supplies' for that night's activities.
"I don't understand why this will work." Toby remarked while she rummaged through her drawers, which is rather ironic really that it happened to be her drawers' drawer.
"Of course you don't. You're male. You don't understand or believe anything unless it hits you over the head with a cold fish." She replied mildly. "But trust me, dear. This will work much more effectively than drunken escapades... although they're half the fun...." She muttered to herself.
Toby shrugged. "Whatever you say, mum." He left her, closing the door behind him. Mrs. Lovett was too busy with her searching to notice.
Tonight's attempt was going to be much trickier and require all her sneaky skills. And she'd have to keep her desire to stick her tongue down his throat under wraps. That may be a slight giveaway. And she should keep her hands away from his... crevices... she couldn't trust her hands... they had a mind of their own... they had an inbuilt homing device, designed to search out Mr. Todd's... well, Mr. Todd, in the wider sense. She couldn't risk ruining her plots by having him wake up half way through to find Mrs. Lovett's hand down his pants.
She pulled out her sowing basket, lovingly shoved in her bottom drawer under a pile of miscellaneous junk. She picked out the various things she needed and put it back where she had found it. Time for round two.
Mr. Todd finished his soup and pushed away the tray to one side on the dresser. All in all, it had been a successful day. A good, steady supply of customers, therefore a good, steady supply of meat and more satisfied customers for Mrs. Lovett. But, speaking of the pie wench, why hadn't she appeared yet? Surely, she would have gotten over it by now. I mean, come on... Come on! He kicked the dresser and immediately tried to pacify himself. He was supposed to have passed those blind angry spells now.
He leant frustrated on the dresser, breathing heavily and feeling suddenly very hot under the collar. He thought he had these mood swings under control but apparently not. He was still like a premenstrual teenage girl, except permanently and minus the bloating, breakouts and constant need for chocolate... although chocolate did sound quite good right now...
"Oh, shut up Todd." He growled. Distracted by chocolate of all times... He staggered to his feet, feeling strangely drowsy all of a sudden and turned restlessly to the window, stumbling clumsily towards it. He was about half way there when suddenly, without warning, he crumpled onto the floor, fast asleep. Mrs. Lovett and Toby had struck again.
Mrs. Lovett crept up the hallway as she had done the evening before. She had more confidence now. She knew she was capable of doing it now so she wasn't so haunted by the possibilities of failure. She approached the door and did the usual check for any telling sounds through the keyhole. Hearing that all was deathly silent, she pushed open the door and padded in, unsurprised this time to find Todd slumped on the floor, sleeping peacefully. Like an adorable man whore. She cringed. She wasn't supposed to be thinking about that... but somehow it popped up so readily in every situation.
Attempting to force man whores, no matter how adorable they may be, from her mind, she crossed to the fallen man- barber and knelt by his side, taking her materials and using her candle to light her work. She couldn't afford to get too confident, one slip and she could make an irreversible mistake... Well, 'irreversible mistake' might be a little dramatic. 'Poke Mr. Todd with her sowing needle' was somewhat more accurate.
She gently threaded the needle and laid out her materials beside her in the candlelight. She cast an eye over Mr. Todd's person, he was on his front with his head to one side, so it would be a little difficult to get to his front without a risky attempt at shoving him onto his back, but she would find a way around it. In the worst case scenario she could stick her hand through his legs and attempt to do it that way. Yes, it was inadvisable, but if her pranks had to come at the price of shoving her hand in Mr. Todd's crotch- then so be it.
Battling a grin in the darkness she gave herself a small shake, forcing herself to focus on the task at hand.
It was the second day in a row Mr. Todd had woken in some amount of pain, sprawled out like a drunkard on his barbershop floor with no recollection of the evening before.
He blinked blearily across the floor, everything a little blurry in front of his eyes as he lay flat on the ground, half on his back and half on his side. He didn't feel like moving, his back and hip were both extremely stiff and his head was throbbing dully, perhaps from the impact when it hit the wooden boards for the second time in two days. He still felt too foggy and disorientated to question how he had become to be in a similar position to the night before, so he just lay, staring at the wall and feeling rather like a ragdoll which had been dropped a few metres... on its head.
After a few moments of staring at the wall and thinking about how strange this would look to anyone who happened find him, he decided it was time to get off the floor. With a tight groan he began to claw his way upright, feeling every ache and jolt like someone was kicking him in the stomach. He managed to struggle to his feet and, hunched over and grunting in pain, he stumbled to his dresser to examine the damage. He found he could barely stand up straight enough to look in the mirror, but strained his back as far as it would go without feeling he was about to snap a rib.
"Bloody hell." He hissed, rubbing his screaming joints, while he stared at his crotch in the mirror (the highest point he could set his eyes on in his stooped position). "What is this..."
He slowly began to straighten up fully, with more than one sudden surge of agony through his back as he did so. It took a good ten or fifteen minutes but eventually, after much pain and irritated cursing, he managed to stand more or less straight, if not rather like the Tin Man with his limbs all rather stiffly placed.
He was just working up to getting his jaw in line with his neck rather than his chest when he saw a flash of pink in the mirror and froze. He raised his eyes to his waist in the mirror and felt a cold rush of unpleasant realisation. There were... pink things on his shirt... PINK THINGS. His head shot up straight and he gave a jerk of horror. Oh. Hell. No.
He shot a hand up to his hair, now newly adorned with a large amount of silk, pink bows and tugged at them. They were firmly tied into his hair. 'Firmly', in the sense that when he pulled them with enough force to, rather painfully, remove large chunks of his hair he couldn't come close to removing them. They stayed stubbornly in place, looking quite grotesque against the paleness of his skin and darkness of his hair. He looked like some sort of sick, hideous clown.
"FUCK." He burst out, staring from the bows in his hair to the pink material hearts and flowers which had been carefully sewn into his shirt in an artful pattern. His coat also had not be spared, with bows being tied across both cuffs, looped through the button holes so that he wouldn't be able remove them without a serious struggle.
He shook his head slowly in disbelief at himself. This couldn't be happening to him... had he finally lost his nut... or was this some sort of bizarre divine retribution for his past sins...? Or was this Toby... If it wasn't entirely unlike Toby in every way to play pranks, especially clever, arty pranks at that, he would have suspected him capable of it.
He cringed at himself. Whatever had happened. Insane or not. He would have to change out of his ruined clothes before someone-
He spun abruptly from the dresser. The man was staring at him, a look of badly disguised horror on his face, as if he'd just encountered a madman. It was far from comforting.
"I-I... see I've interrupted you..." The man stammered, his eyes darting from Todd's patches to his bows. He obviously thought he was a loony, Todd thought flatly to himself. "I'll come back later..."
Mr. Todd all but launched himself at the man who tripped over backwards in his haste distance himself from Todd..
"WAIT." Todd said hoarsely, stumbling towards the man.
The man was slumped against the door, feeling blindly for the knob while keeping his terrified eyes on Todd who was lumbering towards him like some pink... madman.
"I'm not- Todd fell over. -crazy." He clambered back to his feet. "I just had a little... run in... with... the bows..." 'A run in with 'the bows'. Fucking hell, he must have sounded insane. "I mean... not a... 'run in'... I mean more like...." He tripped again and had to claw his way up his barber chair to his feet. "I mean... I don't even know how they got there... they just appeared." APPEARED?! THE BOWS APPEARED?! WAY TO REASSURE HIM, IDIOT. "I mean..." Todd said desperately. "I mean... they... are... just..." He floundered wildly for something reassuring to finish that thought on. "Pink..." He finished lamely.
The man was looking at Todd with a look of terror which suggested he thought Todd was about to announce that the bows controlled his every movement and thought and had decided they wanted Todd to kill him. He found the doorknob just as Todd was bearing down on him. He threw himself out of the door and Todd heard him thunder down the stairs as fast as his feet could carry him.
Mr. Todd clutched the wall to support himself, feeling a mix of dismay at losing a customer and panic at the prospect that maybe he was really going crazy.
"Alright..." He gasped. "It's ok... you're... not... going... mad... Just... take a... deep breath... and try and... not freak out..." He stared blankly at the door for a few moments. "WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME?!" He howled, collapsing onto his knees.
Below, Mrs. Lovett smirked to herself. Everything was going perfectly to plan. Todd, on his emotional rollercoaster of doom, had fallen so easily into her trap. And she was enjoying her revenge too much to let it stop just yet.
She poured herself out of her armchair, feeling rather lazy and at peace now that she was getting even with Mr. Tool... I mean Todd... She absentmindedly paused at the mirror above the fireplace and gave her frazzled curls a tease, without really seeing. She was still too wrapped up with her own feeling of exhilaration at her vengeance. She now knew what it was like to 'slit someone's throat' of such. Not literally but figuratively.
But, she still had a day job, she reminded herself, turning finally from the mirror and giving herself a little shake. She couldn't get distracted from the bigger picture. Mr. Todd finally getting his hands on the judge was the real objective here and she had to pretend she actually gave a damn about it until Sweeney had satisfied himself with slitting the judge's throat in a creative and highly violent fashion and then watching him being incinerated, hacked up and baked into a pie. He'd probably want to eat it himself.
She headed for the bakehouse, she hadn't been down there since the former evening and it was important she got the meat when it was fresh. If it was sitting there, even for a few hours, it could get set on by flies. She opened the doors and began down into the darkness, temporarily blinded after being in the well-lit living room.
She found the bakehouse as she had left it. Big, dark, empty and somehow menacing. Smelling heavily of festering meat and the odours from the sewers below. Disgusting place. One day she'd have to train Toby how to prepare the meat so she could have a break from the stink and darkness for a change.
She edged over to the corner where the corpses usually sat in a heap under Mr. Todd's chute, depending on how murderous he was feeling on that particular day. To her immense surprise, she found it completely empty. No half dead Londoners gurgling on their only blood, no battered well-to-do's laying like splattered birds on a windowsill. All she could see were dull blood stains on the bricks that would probably never wash out.
She frowned. That was very odd. It was ten o'clock, the barbershop would have been open on average for two or three hours by now and that usually meant at least two or three corpses but no, nothing. She shrugged. Maybe her prank had hit the barber so hard, he hadn't been able to continue his usual timetable of murder and butchery.
She gave a small snort as she pictured Mr. Todd in his bows and left the gloomy confines of the bakehouse for the warm light above. She really had hit Todd where it hurt and she had to say, he really did deserve it.
Mr. Todd sat numbly in his barber chair, looking straight ahead with a small frown on his brow and clutching seven or eight pink heart decorated shirts in his left hand.
"Alright." He breathed. "Alright." He took a shuddery breath. "I... get it..." He got to his feet, flinging the ruined shirts to the floor and heading for the door, throwing it open and marching down the hallway towards the stairs.
He found Mrs. Lovett in the living room, in her usual chair, staring seemingly into space. He walked into the living room, too certain of what he was supposed to do to feel apprehensive about how she would react.
Mrs. Lovett looked up sharply when he entered and at first she looked stunned and slightly disbelieving, but he didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign.
There was a stiff silence. Mr. Todd stood squarely in the centre of the room, awkwardly aware of his bows and Mrs. Lovett sat in her chair, the corners of her lips twitched slightly as she took in his entire person.
He was a bit put out that her first reaction after not seeing him for two days after his terrifying display of violence and dominance, was to laugh at him.
"Get it off your chest." He said flatly, while she wrestled with a grin.
She burst into laughter, crouching over in her seat and howling through tears of glee. Mr. Todd looked on unsmilingly from the middle of the room, while Mrs. Lovett was overcome with hysterics. After two minutes, he thought it was time to step in.
"Alright." He said irritably. "Get yourself together."
Mrs. Lovett fell back in her chair and wiped her eyes, finally getting hold of herself. She was still giggling a bit though, even as Mr. Todd was glowering at her, feeling his impressive display had been somewhat dented by her immature reaction to a few... dozen... pink bows... and flowers... and hearts...
"You... wanted... to... say... something..." She gasped.
Mr. Todd cleared his throat. "Yes. I thought it was about... time... I... well..." He trailed off, trying to decide what the best way to word this was.
Mrs. Lovett, who had completely recovered from her outbreak, was sitting silently in her chair. She looked very grim but Mr. Todd was hoping for an impressive reaction to his declaration. Something involving sex would not be unwelcome.
"Look..." He began, beginning to pace as he spoke in his agitation. "I... Look..." He cleared his throat again. "I know... I've given you..." Pause. "...no reason to..." Pause. "Trust me..." Pause, glance at Mrs. Lovett. "But... well..." Pause, uncomfortable fidget. "I guess... I'm trying to..." Pause, fidget, glance at Mrs. Lovett. "I'm... sor...ry... about..." Vague gesturing motion. "... that."
He returned to his place in the centre of the room and, stared at the carpet, not quite daring to look at Mrs. Lovett's face. There was a long, painful silence. He could hear the Londoners passing by outside, chattering and shuffling along.
"Are you telling me..." Mr. Todd's eyes shot to Mrs. Lovett. "That... that... is the best you can do?" His heart sank. This did not sound like it was going to lead onto sex, somehow.
He didn't even bother trying to defend himself, if he stayed nice and quiet, maybe she'd let him off after she'd satisfied her scream factor.
"After all you put me through?" She said, her voice rising dangerously. "That weak, blathering apology is all I get?"
"Well, what do you want?" He snapped, his 'nice and quiet' plan going out the window. "Flowers, a fucking... song? What do you want?"
Mrs. Lovett scrambled to her feet. "I want you to stop acting like such a-a... wanker!" She spluttered, not really thinking through what she going to say before she said it.
Mr. Todd didn't reply. He'd already pissed her off and ruined all chance of her letting him off with an apology. Maybe it was best if he took his own advice and just shut up...
Mrs. Lovett put a hand to her head and closed her eyes momentarily. For a few moments neither of them spoke. And then, finally, Mrs. Lovett looked up at him, unnervingly calm. "Mr. Todd. Seeing as screaming never seems to work with you." You should know, he couldn't help thinking to himself. "I don't think you're manly." She said the words so plainly and matter-of-factly that the sting of them didn't hit Mr. Todd until a few seconds after she'd said them. He frowned at her, opening and closing his mouth wordlessly. "I may have once. But that was before you turned into this... crazy masculinity-obsessed nutter." She took a deep breath. "Anyway... I have ...people to serve..."
She swept past him and out of the room, as though she didn't trust herself not to take her shoe off and start batting him over the head with it if she stayed with him any longer.
Sweeney didn't move for a few moments. Even after everything she had said he couldn't stop the words 'it was her...' from crossing his mind.
Of course now it all made sense. The black outs, the weird incidents. The shoelaces and then the bows. She had decided to punish him herself. How cruel and... quite clever. Really.
He was in his barbershop, dressed in his leather coat even though he was inside; it was the only thing she hadn't ruined with her stupid pink. He glowered at the pile of bows sitting on the dresser along with a liberal amount of black hair which had accompanied them when he'd ripped them out in frustrated irritation an hour or so ago after getting a little impatient with picking them out one by one.
He ran a finger across his razor and thoughtfully brought it up to his eyelevel, catching sight of his own sunken eyes in the silverly reflection. She didn't think he was manly... After all that stupid fuss... she had seen right through his smoke and mirrors. He didn't really know what he was going to do about it. Everything he had done in the past seemed sort of... lame, now that he knew none of it had convinced the person he'd been so unexplainably desperate to impress.
He thinned his lips and cast a quick look down below to check that no one was coming before he turned to put away his razors for another day. He already had a vague idea of what he intended to do, he now had no doubt that the past two nights she had laced his food with something to put him to sleep. He just had to make it seem he'd eaten it and then he could catch her out in her next weirdo deed.
He glanced at the window. It was getting dark. Soon she'd send the boy up with his dinner and he could start, hopefully, patching up this business with Mrs. Lovett. He gave a tired sigh. Women. They were so much more exhausting than murder...
The door suddenly opened and he jumped, turning abruptly to the door. It was Toby. He hadn't bothered to knock and he was holding a dish resembling something like the inside of a vacuum cleaner, what was new.
"Tell me, Toby." Todd snarled while the boy was crossing to his dresser. "Were you raised in a barn?"
The boy blinked at him. "No. I was raised in a workhouse." He said blankly, the metaphor obviously lost on him.
"No I mean... oh just go..." Mr. Todd grumbled, glowering at the boy's confused expression. You'd be better off teaching a monkey to shave...
The boy disappeared and Todd watched him go with distaste before turning to his 'dinner', if you could call a plateful of slimy mystery grey stuff 'dinner'. He didn't even bother touching it; he took the whole plate and, pushing back the barber chair, emptied it all into the bakehouse. Just in case she checked to see if the plate was empty.
He returned the empty plate to the dresser and placed his cutlery on top of it. Then, with a glance at the door, he arranged himself on the floor in what he hoped was a natural, limp position. As he was perfecting his 'unconscious' position, he felt a faint pang of annoyance at Mrs. Lovett's immaturity. He could have broken his nose... or his neck on these floorboards and she had risked that for her own petty attempt at revenge. God, some people were so juvenile...
He had time to ponder on this as he lay on the floor, listening to the sounds radiating up through the gaps in the floorboards. It seemed to take an age for Mrs. Lovett to appear but finally, after a good few minutes, he heard her footsteps echoing up from below and smirked slightly. She was going to get her comeuppance now.
Darkness had completely fallen and even with his eyes open he couldn't see anything but a few slithers of moonlight trailing across the floor. He closed them tightly now and listened with a hitched breath for Mrs. Lovett to arrive. He heard the floorboards creak outside as light footsteps approached the door; his heart was beating unusually quickly, he felt strangely exhilarated and at the same time, the same fierce attraction to Mrs. Lovett was bubbling under the surface. It seemed to grow more intense when mixed with anger or apprehension, any strong emotion. Lucy, the judge, revenge were put completely from his mind. In fact for the first time in more than fifteen years they didn't feature in his thought process at all. And for once he wasn't punishing himself- or Mrs. Lovett for it. It was a strange, unintentional remedial method of dealing with his resentment.
The door suddenly opened, with a shriek of its rusted hinges. Mr. Todd jerked slightly in surprise and quickly stiffened himself, hoping that the darkness hid his movements well enough.
Mrs. Lovett's breath sounded strangely heavy to Mr. Todd as he lay, the silence and the darkness seemed to intensify her every movement. She approached his fallen form, shuffling blindly through the gloom. He was just wondering how she was going to see him through the darkness when she suddenly walked right into him and he had to bite his tongue to keep himself from swearing. Stupid, clumsy woman...
He heard her kneel beside him, she was fiddling with something, Todd wondered vaguely what she was intending on doing. Coating him in rose buds... tattooing a teddy bear onto his butt... He suddenly gave a convulsive jerk and he felt Mrs. Lovett freeze next to him. He bit his lip, forcing himself to lay still. After a few agonizing moments she continued, still shuffling with something, then suddenly, in a flash of moonlight, he saw what she was holding. Scissors. Scissors. What the hell was she intending to do with a bloody great big pair of scissors?! He forced himself to stay still. He couldn't move yet, unless he wanted to find himself impaled on Mrs. Lovett's scissors.
He could feel himself beginning to freak out a little, his breathing was becoming a little too quick and he could almost feel his heart beating against his flesh. He had to stay calm, she probably wasn't doing anything drastic... nothing involving his bottom half.... please... God...
He gritted his teeth together, forcing himself to wait until the ideal moment.
Clutching the scissors, she suddenly flung her leg over him and positioned herself on his stomach. Mr. Todd was aware that his eyes were widened but he couldn't seem to move. He felt her begin to unbutton his coat and, with a full body shudder, he suddenly shot upright, forgetting momentarily about the possibility of being impaled on Mrs. Lovett's scissors. He heard her inhale sharply.
"Jesus Christ." He barked, grabbing for her wrists. "Are you insane?"
Mrs. Lovett was struggling; she was still sitting squarely on his hips, straddling him with her legs on either side. "Get off me." She hissed but he wouldn't let go of her wrists.
He managed to get the scissors from her hand and threw them across the room. She stared at him sullenly through the darkness. "You would have deserved it."
Mr. Todd frowned at her, still clutching her wrists tightly in his hands. "Do you really hate me that much?"
"Oh, don't be so dramatic." She retorted. "A few decorative patterns in your shirt are hardly going to change your life forever."
Mr. Todd opened and closed his mouth a few times. He was feeling increasingly stupid. What kind of crazy conclusion had he come to...? That she ended to remove one of his... appendages... when in reality she had probably been thinking more along the lines of puppy shaped holes in his barber shirt, or something. He was hoping she wouldn't guess what he had feared.
"Look." He said hoarsely, deciding to change the subject. "Revenge isn't going to solve anything." He regretted the words the moment they were out of his mouth. That he should be giving advise to anyone about revenge was... stupid... to say the least.
"I'm sorry." She said flatly. "But wasn't it you that informed me that the world was full of people made of shit a few weeks ago..."
Damn. He knew that would come back to haunt him. Stupid awesome singing skills. They were such a curse.
Silence fell on the two for a few moments, each was reflecting on the weirdness of the last few weeks. All starting with Mr. Todd's bizarre masculinity plight. It took a few moments for them both to realise they were still seated, rather... cosily on top of each other. Then there was a rather embarrassed shuffle as Mrs. Lovett struggled off of him and rearranged her skirts, pointedly away from him. So her prank had failed but she cared less than she thought she would have. She busied herself with tidying herself up away from Mr. Todd's gaze. He was still sitting on the floor with his legs apart watching her and trying not to mentally undress her where she stood. It all came down to sexual politics, this masculinity thing. 'Sex' being the key word and he'd had a lot of that lately.
Mr. Todd watched her smooth her skirts but didn't move. He still wanted her despite all of the mess which had accumulated over the last few weeks. He still was very attracted and attached to her and he was aware somewhat of her affections for him, if in reality, not nearly the full extent of them. The full extent of her love for him was somehow lost on him. He had never really considered it; he didn't really understand it and, she didn't believe he would ever be able to reciprocate it to anyone but his wife. Which was saddening but she, as painful as it would be, would eventually have to accept that he would never love her as she did him. She didn't actually think it physically possible for him to feel for her what she did for him... She suddenly paused. A thought had abruptly come upon her. Something which she hadn't really thought about before.
She turned slowly to him. He couldn't see her face completely clearly in the darkness but he thought she looked strange nonetheless.
"Eh. Mrs. Lovett..." He began, a little unnerved by her change in behaviour.
She didn't reply, but she walked, calmly towards him and took her former position on his hips, straddling him and drawing an unintentional groan from him which he hadn't been quick enough to mask. She began a very familiar attack on his neck which he didn't have the willpower or inclination to prevent and then he felt her hands move to his belt buckle and he knew she knew exactly what power she had over him and was, for the first time in her life, actually using it rather than pandering to his needs in a bid to secure his affections.
She had come to a silent resolution. If she couldn't have him, which she was convinced she couldn't, she could at least have one night where she took a little of what she wanted from him and then, if her assumptions were correct, and he saw her more as a sex toy than as a wife, she'd leave all this dallying behind and return to her quiet fantasies. It was about time one of them grew up and started acting like a woman... man... whatever.
She undid his belt and pulled it off slowly, ensuring he felt every movement acutely. She gently put her hands on his chest, and kissed him with all the tenderness she had ever wanted to. He didn't react. She hadn't expected him to, she could almost feel his bemused gaze on her cheek as she deepened the one-sided kiss and moved her hands downwards to his trousers. He wasn't doing anything but sitting under her warm weight and witnessing all her affectionate fantasies spill over him. He was enjoying it, she could feel that he didn't share her intense tenderness, he couldn't return it to her because she didn't even know if he possessed the ability anymore to treasure someone as feverishly she did him. But he didn't rebuff her or tell her to stop. And that meant more to her than him forcing himself between her legs like she was the whore and he was her client.
She took both of his hands in hers and gently pushed up her skirts with his hands, he threw his head back slightly, the pressure between his legs was becoming intense. She realised it and tightened her grip on his hands as she rocked forward slightly, so her lips were bare inches from his ear.
The following morning, Mrs. Lovett had come down from Mr. Todd's barbershop after leaving him fast asleep in his barber chair, dressed only in his shirt. It was still dark; it couldn't have been later than six o' clock. It was freezing, and she was still only dressed in her underclothes with her dress bunched up in her arms from the evening before. She had spent the night with Mr. Todd but not as a whore but as an actual lover and though she had no illusions about how he viewed her, she knew he didn't love her and he never would, she felt she had put everything right and faced her biggest demon. Her demon.
She was happy with things returning to how they had been before these last couple of crazy months. When they had just been accomplices. Yes, it had been a lonely existence but at least it didn't fool her into thinking she had a chance with a man as damaged as Mr. Todd. If he pretended that nothing had happened the next time she saw him and had returned to his usual bitter, sullen self then she would know that their relationship had come to its close, but if... well she didn't dare to get her hopes up... but... well, she'd see what sort of mood he was in when he awoke.
In the darkness she was suddenly struck by a strange impulse which compelled her to turn down the hallway and then slip back into her bedroom. She stumbled through the darkness and finally found and lit a candle so she could see what she was doing. Then, clutching the dress around her like a shawl, she went to her dresser and ran her eyes over the objects scattering the top of it. She gently picked up the portrait of Albert, her unloved ex-husband and stared at it. She didn't need it anymore. She didn't need him anymore. Silently she placed it back on the dresser and after a moment of silent reflection on it and its meaning, she suddenly found herself nudging it off the dresser with her hand. She watched with a thrill as it tumbled off the edge. She felt slightly breathless as it disappeared through the darkness and landed with a satisfying crunch on the floorboards. The glass undoubtedly broken. She stood for a few moments in silence, savouring the destruction of her dead husband's portrait.
Then, with a slight sigh, she turned back to the doorway, not bothering to try and clean up the glass in the darkness. It had been a simple and impulsive act that might find her, hours later, desperately trying to glue the glass back together with fish oil or it may have finally freed her of Albert and her feeling of duty to someone she had never liked, less loved. She didn't know but she didn't feel it mattered overly at this very moment.
She felt too exhilarated to sleep so she crept back to the living room and sunk into her usual armchair and arranged her dress over her legs as a sort of blanket. The embers in the fire were still hot in the grate, casting a warm glow over the living room. She'd have to get up soon and get to work. If she went to sleep she'd have to hope she woke before nine.
She sunk back in her chair and made herself comfortable. She was just feeling her eyes begin to grow heavy when-
She jerked upright, staring at the doorway. It was Toby. She felt momentarily ashamed at herself for her initial thought that it might be Mr. Todd.
"Oh, love. Why are you up so early?" She whispered. He didn't reply but crept over to her and knelt by her knee, peering up seriously at her face.
"Did it work?" He asked.
Mrs. Lovett hesitated. "Not... completely."
Toby's face fell. "So..."
"Well, it worked well enough." She added quickly. "In its own way..."
Toby nodded but stayed silent. Mrs. Lovett gently patted his hair. "Now. Please. No more playing cupid? If it's meant to be... it's meant to be..." She felt she was somewhat dooming herself if she kept that sentiment but... well, life wasn't meant to be easy. Especially not for her it seemed.
Toby nodded again, looking down. "Ok." He said mildly.
There was a brief silence
Mrs. Lovett closed her eyes gently, feeling suddenly very tired. Toby glanced up at her and suddenly stopped short, frowning slightly.
"Where are your clothes..."
Mrs. Lovett finished her chores in record time that day and sold a rather impressive amount of pies. There had been no shortage of meat, Mr. Todd had seemed to be in an enthusiastic mood, there had been a body falling through the floor almost every fifteen minutes. At five, she had shut up shop and left the cleaning to Toby so she could finish off her small chores.
She hadn't seen Mr. Todd all day but she felt things had more or less fallen back into their usual pattern. Which after initial disappointment, she had decided perhaps was for the best. No more potatoes, no more DIY hair cuts or ridiculous aphrodisiac fuelled confrontations in closets and against window sills... It had been fun in a... twisted, 'I never want to go through that again' sort of way...
She sunk down onto the floor in the living room and surrounded herself with her least favourite work in the world: sewing. She had shirts of Mr. Todd's which, being in the sewing pile, had escaped her pink wrath to be patched up of various snags and holes, stockings to be darned and various dresses to be hastily stitched up, many of them looking as if one good pull would make the whole thing collapse.
She calmly picked out a needle from her sewing basket and began on Mr. Todd's first shirt. There were only three shirts of his which she hadn't attacked with her pink hearts and flowers and they had been on her sewing pile for months. The rest had been pinkified and she knew she'd have to restore them sooner or later... or at least buy him a good few more to replace them. It depended on whether she could keep her patience long enough to get through even one session of tedious unpicking. She'd probably find herself in that 'FUCK, I HATE FUCKING SEWING' mindset in less than five minutes, knowing her track record.
Oh well. It was worth it to see him covered in tiny hearts and flowers. She grinned dreamily into space as the image of Mr. Todd in his pink ensemble. If that was how she would have to remember him in their brief few months of competition and shagging then so be it, she could live with that.
Just as she was beginning to force herself to do some actual sewing, a black and white blur went past the doorway of the living room. She stared after it. That had been Mr. Todd, unless a panda had been living in the household without her knowing.
She couldn't account for why he would be down from his barbershop so late- or at any time at all but she had her own foolish hopes that it might be for something dreadfully romantic or dramatic-
"Mrs. Lovett." Toby had appeared at the kitchen doorway. "Mr. Todd wants me to let him into the laundry."
- or maybe he was just doing his laundry...
"Oh..." She said, trying to disguise her disappointment. "Well, yes. Do it then."
"Are you sure?" Toby said suspiciously, not seeming to trust letting Mr. Todd onto such sacred ground.
"Yes, Toby, let him in." Mrs. Lovett said impatiently, rolling her eyes. "What's he going to do? Set it alight." She paused. "Well, actually... maybe you should just keep an eye on him... while he's in there..."
Toby nodded importantly and disappeared, leaving Mrs. Lovett to wonder at Mr. Todd doing his own laundry for once. It was nice... different... unusual... to have him actually do something for himself. She could get used to it, if he kept it up. Which she suspected he wouldn't, after he got bored of playing housekeeper.
She looked back down at her sewing and forced herself to return to it, using all her willpower to take up her threaded needle and pick up the first shirt to be tended to. She could already feel the frustration building up inside of her and she hadn't even put the needle through the material yet. Stupid sewing... so... bloody... irritating.... She stabbed the needle through the material and ripped it through irritably. The thread was at least three shades too dark for the material of the shirt and the stitching was clumsy and untidy but in the great scheme of things-
Mrs. Lovett jumped. She had been so wrapped up in her hatred of sewing that she hadn't noticed Mr. Todd had appeared in the doorway. She looked up at him and snorted. He glowered at her and plucked at his shirt. The whole shirt, which he had evidently had the ingenious idea of attempting to wash with the pink flowers and hearts still attached had been dyed a very pretty shade of rose.
"Stop sniggering!" He snapped at her, as she battled with a grin.
"Sorry..." She choked. "I'm not... I'm just..." She forced a straight face. "I wish you'd waited, love."
"How was I supposed to know the stupid things would dye all my shirts pink!" He spat furiously.
Mrs. Lovett rolled her eyes. "If you'd come to me first, I would have told you."
"It's your fault in the first place!" Todd burst out. "They're your stupid hearts!"
Mrs. Lovett didn't reply. She glanced back down at her sewing pile. "Well... are they all pink..." Her lips twitched slightly. "Are all your shirts..." She choked slightly. "... pink..."
"No... three or four aren't..." He replied sullenly.
She paused for a moment and then sighed. "Bring them here... I'll unpick them for you..."
Todd stood glowering at her for a few moments and then left, taking the ruined shirts with him. He went upstairs and found the four shirts which weren't bright pink and headed back downstairs, he was halfway down the stairs when he was abruptly struck by an idea and stopped for a moment, savouring it. After a few moments he continued downstairs and stood at the living room doorway, watching Mrs. Lovett struggle away for a minute or so before he spoke:
"Show me how to do it."
She looked up slowly from where she sat and studied his face for a moment before she replied at length: "... What...?"
"Show me... how to... sew..." He repeated stonily.
She frowned slightly at him and gave a half shrug. "O...k..."
"OW. Watch where you're poking that thing." Todd snapped at Mrs. Lovett while she demonstrated (badly) how to thread a needle.
"Oh, stop being such a big baby." She scoffed. "It's a pin for goodness sake."
"That thread doesn't even look white." He chided, glaring at it.
"It's white." Mrs. Lovett replied flatly.
"It's cream." He grumbled.
"It's white." Mrs. Lovett snapped. "It's my thread and I say it's white. Now shut up and put it through the shirt..."
Mr. Todd sent her a sour look but obeyed, threading it with remarkable ease through the ruined shirt.
"Good." Mrs. Lovett said, with some surprise at his skill. "That's good. Now just bring it out- OUCH. Not in my hand."
"See, it hurts, doesn't it."
"God." Mr. Todd said, frowning at his handiwork. "This thread is practically orange, don't you have anything whiter?"
"Don't you ever shut up..." Mrs. Lovett muttered.
"'Shut up' isn't in my dictionary." He replied to annoy her.
"Maybe you should get a new dictionary then."
"It's a figure of speech-
"I know it's a bloody figure of speech..."
"Geez. No need to get so angry, Mrs. Lovett. You really should keep that nasty temper of yours in check..."
"Oh, shut up."
"You shut up..."
"Look. Just concentrate on what you're doing..."
"I am... God, you're so bossy..."
"I heard that..."
Things were back to normal. Or as normal as they got in the Lovett/Todd household... which really, in truth, is not all that normal whatsoever...
A/N: Well. There you go ;) Now you've read it, review ittttttttttttttttttttttttttttt XD Pwease... ;P