Disclaimer: I wouldn't know what to do if I owned Mister Todd, so let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

A/N: The italics are scenes from the past. Andyeah. Enjoy! I hope you like it!

I know from the first moment I awake that today is that day. It comes every year without fail, slipping seamlessly into the fabric of my life. I haven't even talked about it since the first time I set the proposition before my husband, but it's always there, lurking at the back of my thoughts. And it has finally come, whether I want it to or not. By now, I figure that I should simply accept it without complaint. And outwardly, I do. It is the least I can give my poor Mister T.

He's suffered through a bloody hard life and it's obvious. He's not who he used to be. No smiles, no laughter; he's withered away to nothing but a sorrowfully abused little man. On this day it's always easier to see the scars. Today is an ode to the past. When confronted with how things used to be, I'm afraid that the present hardly measures up. Nothing's as grand as I try to pretend it is. His grunts are hardly a conversation, and a mouthful of stew is not a meal. Nothing is as I've dreamed it would be, and I'm just barely getting by.

The smell of breakfast is in the air, tempting, tantalizing, but I simply ignore my aching stomach and curl further beneath the blankets, burying my face in my husband's pillow, breathing in his scent. I always succeed in forcing myself to get out of bed and trying to live, but admittedly there are times when the extent of my existence does not surpass that simple everyday act. Sometimes I don't even bother waking Mr. Todd up and getting him dressed. He's nearly a corpse. But for now, it's my turn to be dead for a while. He can live without me today, because I just don't want to move.

Despair is a lonely companion.

It's ironic that the only person I've ever been jealous of is a dead woman. But she had captured his heart while it had still been beating, and I've only ever had to fight to keep it alive. We've been married three years and I've only barely begun to piece together the shattered remains. I don't know if I ever will be able to heal wounds this deep.

xxxx

I am sure that he will be down any second, storming in with razors blazing at the sound of my screams. It wasn't like I was very quiet about it, with that broken and bleeding old geezer clutching onto me skirts. But seconds tick past, minutes roll into a silent existence of waiting. I move to the door to the bakehouse and carefully close it. Maybe I'll be safe to start cleaning up a bit. And then I'll go find Mister T, join in his celebrations and get out of here as fast as we can.

There are corpses at my feet, and her corpse especially. I will dispose of her first. Disgusted, not by the death around me –for I have seen too much of that already – but by the sudden revelation that I am all but celebrating as I drag her across the floor, I throw his precious Lucy into the oven. The surge of heat is overpowering, leaving my face feeling hot and numb and dry even after I turn away. Now she's burning, and now she's gone, as I had told him. Now she really is dead and my lie is complete, made true by his own hand. There is no reason to fear. The judge next, and then the arrogant pig, Bamford.

The fat crackles and pops and I watch it curl with a morbid fascination as the final remains of Mister Todd's old life melt away. I don't think I'll ever be able to see fire without smelling the horrid stench of death all around me. Finally, I shut the oven door. This could be a new beginning for us. Surely he'll see me now, see me instead of some pretty strumpet with yellow hair. Surely he'll want me.

In any case, Toby has surely run for the law by now, as he promised he would. I feel a wave of remorse, a pity that the lad who has been close to me as a son will miss out on the life I will carve out for me and Mister T. He would have been included, but now I can see him vanish from the picture of my life by the sea. The sun doesn't shine quite as bright in my head, but when Mister T smiles at me and slips the ring on my finger I hardly notice. But now there is no time to be sentimental. We have to escape, or there's going to be nothing but trouble.

I tramp up the stairs as fast as I can manage, hitching my skirts nearly to my knees and pounding my way up a weary step at a time. Around the corner, outside to the patio. I push through the rows of tables, catching my hem on one and yanking it free with a terrible rip. It had been my best dress. As I approach the staircase, Anthony pounds comes pounding down, some little lad in tow. He stares at me, his face fixed in horror. Maybe he knows. Maybe he knows. But it doesn't matter because it is done, and Mister T and I will be long gone by the time the police get here. I just hope they have better things to do than listen to workshop lads and petty sailors. The more time we have the better; me poor knees don't appreciate all of this rushing around.

My heart can take no more and I can hardly breathe. By the time I reach the barber's shop door, I have to stop. My pulse roars in my ears, tiny black specks dotting my vision and threatening to send me into such a classically feminine swoon that the very idea would be almost embarrassing if it weren't such a pressing concern. I place one hand on my stomach, tightening it into a fist against the pain, wishing I could beat at this bloody corset until it releases me from its claws. The other hand is flattened against the door, stabilizing me as I breathe.

When I am able to move, I enter.

All I see is red. I am not squeamish of blood, especially after all the work I have done for Mister Todd already. It constantly coats the sleeves of his shirts, drenches his barbering cloths. It sticks to the floorboards so hardily that I scrub half of the wood off, trying to remove it. But this - I have never seen anything like this before. I push it out of my mind and move to his chair. "Enjoy yourself, did'ja love?" I ask quietly, forcing a tiny smile despite the situation. There is no answer, not even a response. I frown. Usually there is something.

I move around to the front of him, pushing sticky locks of hair from his completely reddened face. "Mister T, d'yah hear me?" There is nothing in his expression to say that he does. His black eyes are lifeless, like a doll, his spidery fingers gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that I am almost surprised they do not snap right off. Blood is dripping into his eyes and he doesn't even blink. "Sweeney, love, are you okay?" I never use his first name, but even that does not rouse him.

"The judge is dead," he finally says. His voice is quiet, disbelieving.

"Good heavens, I thought you was bloody dead, stayin' as quiet as you did. Or lost your mind or somethin'." I cry out, relieved. "Now come on, let's get outta here. Them bobbies is comin'." He does not move. "Outta your chair, love, we have to go."

"Let them come," he says.

"What? No, Mister T, you don't understand. You don't want to go back to bloody Australia or wherever, do you?"

"They won't take me there." He sounds confident. I am beginning to worry.

"Cor, Mister T, they're not as dumb as all that. Blood all over you and all, it's all a little obvious, love. They won't let you escape. We have to go." I grab his arm and pull, trying to hoist him off of the chair. What is he saying? What is he doing?

"Just leave me," he says, pulling his arm away from my grip. "The judge is dead. And my Lucy..."his dark eyes are haunted, the tiniest bit of fear and hurt burning behind his gaze.

"They're all gone, Mister T." There's just him and I. Doesn't he see that? Him and I. Us. "You gotta let it go..." he is silent again, though when I grab his arm he doesn't try to pull back. He doesn't seem to have the will.

"I just want to die," he moans. "Just leave me."

"I won't let throw your life away like this, Mister T." Throw away our life. I need him, I do, and in time he'll come to feel the same. Gathering my strength, I grab him firmly by the suspenders and heave, pulling him out of his chair. I throw his arm over my shoulder, ignoring the almost dead weight as I head towards the door. "You'll thank me one day."

xxxx

I'm still waiting for the bloody day to come, when he'll open his eyes and realize all I've done for him. I put up with far more than I should, waiting for that second where everything will suddenly be worth the effort. I'm just afraid that if that day comes, it – along with everything else I've ever dreamed – will turn out as unfulfilling and empty as this little cottage by the sea, or this golden band on my finger. Or even as Mister T himself. As big a disappointment as I was ever handed. But I love him too much. Or at least if I keep telling myself that, I'll be able to make it through just another day. One at a time.

I hear him laughing away in the kitchen now; the voice I seldom hear is almost unfamiliar. It's more like the one I knew fifteen years ago. His throat is raw from disuse, but his rough voice is almost gentle as his muffled words creep beneath the door and reach my ears. He sounds genuinely happy and from the tone of his speech I can imagine his smile, his twinkling eyes. No doubt he has shaved this morning and put on his best clothes for the occasion. No doubt he's every bit the man I dream of and more. The clink of plates, pots as he sets the table, dishes out breakfast.

There are flowers on the table too, but they're not for me.

None of this is for me. It's for his precious corpse. His dead, mad, beggar woman. His wife. It's all for her. But it's just one day a year; I should be able to manage. I don't let him think about her or talk about her any other time, because that is my time. But my time doesn't involve flowers, or breakfast, or speech or acknowledgement at all. It's too ironic that he lives for the dead. But then again, isn't that what I'm doing for him? Only, I hope he can find life once more. Lucy has no hope of return. Todd knows this, but he's just mad.

I think it would be easier to be mad. Easier than this waiting, at least, than trying to ignore the sounds of happiness in the kitchen. Ignoring the fact that my husband lives in a completely different world in which I am unable to reach him. I don't blame him. His world is certainly a good deal better than mine. Maybe even better than anything I can give him.

I can't take this inactivity any more. It's too easy to become lost in thought, to dwell on the injustices and the pain. I need to do something, to just work and push through as I do every day. It's how I cope, and it seems to almost work some days. Grunting, I push myself off of his pillow and stand, peeling my nightdress off and dressing laboriously. I choose a simple dress. No fancy frills or corsets. He's not going to be looking my way – not that he ever does – so there's no reason to dress up. Nobody looks at me anymore. I tell myself that it doesn't matter. Empty words.

Damnable man. What is he doing to me?

xxxx

Things have been looking up a little since we narrowly escaped London. The eyes of the police are elsewhere, turned far away from this abandoned little strip of beachhead, miles away from the nearest town. We don't even have to travel there often because I planted a little scrap of garden in the back, on the grass that manages to escape the tide and the sea for most of the year. With the way Mister T eats, one tomato could probably feed him for a year. It's better than him not eating at all. I guess by now he realizes that I'll just shove it down his throat if he doesn't feed himself. Then again, most days it's hard to see if he realizes anything.

I'm quite good with a razor now, from shaving him, and I can tie a cravat in a flash. I'm more of a caretaker than a wife. But today is our wedding. Today is the day everything will change. Once we're married, he'll have to realize that I love him, and realize that he loves me.

Married.

It seemed an impossible prospect even a month back, but it's coming to pass. The preacher will be around within the hour.

"Don't you look 'andsome, Mister T," I say, smiling and smoothing his jacket. I tie his cravat and step back to examine him from head to toe. His shoes are immaculately shined, the result of my staying up all last night. His trousers are pressed, jacket and tails wonderfully dark, matching his shortly cropped black hair. It all but broke my heart, but I had to cut it, die that white bit black. It was too conspicuous, wild and beautiful. Now at first glance he's almost like anyone else.

Though he'll never be ordinary. He's seen too much, done too much, but he's beautiful he is, and he's mine. Or at least he will be and not soon enough. I lead him to a chair and sit him down in it, moving away to get myself dressed now. I know it's not good luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding, but it can't be helped. The way our luck has gone, though, I doubt it will make a difference at all.

I lead Todd outside as the preacher pulls up on his horse. He smiles at me and tells me how fine I look, shakes Mister Todd's hand with a concerned frown. I tell him it's only nerves. The ceremony flies by like a dream, a daze of vows, jumbled sentences, and the two most important ones words of all.

"I do."And do you, Mister Todd?

"I do," but his heart is not in it because I swear his heart is dead. I'll bring him back to life if it takes me forever.

There is no wedding night, just a few tears in the garden while he lays motionless, alone on our bed.

xxxx

My slippers mask the sound of my footfalls as I sneak my way along the hallway to the kitchen. Then again, I could probably make as much noise as a herd of elephants and he wouldn't notice, but it is my part of the bargain. I will leave him be, today. It's a small price to pay. I wish I could hear the other side of the conversation, but the words of his former wife are not audible to anyone but himself. I'm missing a lot. Even as Benjamin, he was never one for meaningless chatter.

"Let's not talk about that now, love," he says. I creak the door open and peer through. His smile fades only momentarily as he stares across the table into space. He's having an imaginary disagreement. "I don't know when we will, Lucy. But it doesn't matter. What's passed is passed. I'm back now, my wife."

I wince.

Benjamin's words and smile in Mister Todd's face seem foreign, a kind of enigma. There's still the pain in the back of his eyes, the years of abuse and hard living etched into his features. I see that even in his delusions, he can't forget everything. He can forget me, though, and seemingly without any effort at all.

"Of course I'll come for a walk with you, love," he tells the air, offering a warm smile to the empty seat across from him. It is not only his voice that is almost unrecognizable now. I can hardly believe that this 

man is my husband. Maybe because... he isn't. How long has it been since I have seen such a welcome sight as a smile, heard a laugh? The answer is simple, but the truth still hurts. It's been a year.

He clears the plates, almost happy to do so, doting upon this figment. His unseeing eyes never once look with curiosity upon her untouched plate as he sets the dishes on the counter. At least I will get a meal out of this.

Mr. Todd comes towards me and I press myself as tightly against the wall as I can manage. He paces through the hallway. I notice that the fingers of his right hand are curled tightly around what would be Lucy's. They - he walks right past me. Not surprising. Just tradition.

Another tradition calls, my stomach growling angrily. I grab a fork from the drawer on the far side of the kitchen and snatch the plate of eggs and sausage from the counter. A dead woman's food tastes the same as any other.

xxxx

He's a bloody skeleton.

Never having been a particularly large man to begin with, even his old garments hang off of him like rags. I can see every bone in his body whenever I manage to get him into a change of clothes. His eyes, once so dark and deep, are glazed over, bloodshot and empty. He's hardly more than a hollow shell.

If I don't do something, he's not going to last the week. Sometimes I worry that he won't survive the night.

I have an idea, but I'm not sure if I can go through with it. It's a fool's hope that he'll even hear me, a fool's hope that he'll agree... a fool's hope that he's mad enough to go along with it. But it is hope, and I've lived too long on a single grain of the stuff to ignore this chance. It's now or never.

I move into the sitting room with a tray of soup balanced on one hand, drawing confidence from the immaculately dusted bookshelves and wallpapered walls. He's standing beside the window as he usually does, looking over the endless wavy expanse of the ocean. "Sit down love, I need to talk to you."

He stares blankly at me until I place my hand on his back. He grips my arm for stability and I lead him to a chair, helping him lower his scrawny frame into it. Even such a small motion leaves him completely exhausted, panting and leaning against the back rest. A bloody wreck.

"You have to eat something. You can't keep living like this," I say, brushing a dark lock of hair from his face. I doubt that living is his intention, though he makes no attempt to either swallow or refuse the spoonful of lukewarm broth that I hold up to his lips. I let out a sigh and shove it into his mouth. It trickles down his chin, so I wipe up what I can with an already stained handkerchief. "Alright then, Mister T. You win." He doesn't move. "I'll give you your Lucy."This seems to get his attention. For a split second, his eyes are on me. My skin burns beneath his stare, but I force through it, ignoring the telltale pounding of my heart.

"She's dead," he says.

"Well, I'll give you her memory back, then." I hate him talking about her – thinking about her. I'm a jealous wife who is practically without a husband, but I won't have competition. He has learned that quickly within the first month of our marriage. "If you die, you'll never see her. But if you eat, sleep... if you stay with me, I'll give you a day. It's the best I can offer." This not an attempt to keep him sane – it is too late for that. It's simply to give him a reason to live.

"A day for what?" he demands quietly.

"A day for whatever you want. For her. For you. It'll be your day, and I won't interfere."

"What's in it for you?"

Everything. "Nothing. This is for you, love." Just... don't die.

"I'll think about it," he whispers. He's so weak. "Leave me."

I leave, as I always do.

When I come back, the bowl of broth has been drained and Todd's eyes are shut, his breathing even and deep. I have my answer.

xxxx

I've saved the dishes until now, just as the sun dips down into the tranquil sea. There aren't many, just a couple plates and pans from breakfast and a couple more from my lonely lunch, but I've waited to bury my arms up to the elbows in the soapy water because he's on his way back from his evening walk and I can see him from the window. He's bathed in silver, his pale skin reflecting the light from the moon as if he were a part of the atmosphere himself. He smiles and swats her hand away from his hair, breaking out into a run through the surf. Some time ago, I had imagined him strolling along like that with me on his arm, but time always shows dreams to be foolish.

I look away, biting my lip to keep back the tears. I taste blood on my tongue and I still lose. Fat, salty drops plunk from my eyes into the sink, almost muffling the sounds of his playful splashing. I nearly attack the last plate, scrubbing so hard that I fear I will wear a hole right through it. I had thought that I could fight the ghosts of the past by remembering them, giving him his little fix on his previous life with his wife so that he could move on to the here-and-now for the other days of the year. But I had never considered that maybe he would only want to live the here-and-now for that one day, and that the ghosts never go away. Not really.

I'm too selfish to really ever be happy seeing him like this. The only consolation is that this day allows me to pretend – if only for a moment – that he's not quite as broken as he really is. As broken as I am. That he is still capable of feeling in some extent, capable of thought and love. Only in the past, though. I'm eighteen years too late. Drying the final dish and placing it carefully back in the cupboard, I sneak 

another glance out the window. It's nearly the end of his day, lasting from sunrise to sunset, and the final glows of the sun are sinking into darkness.

He holds her tightly, leaning his head down to meet hers, raking his fingers through her golden locks. They stand together a long time in each other's arms. My husband produces a daisy and laughs as he sticks it behind his ear. Probably Lucy's idea. I can almost imagine her there with him, perfect in every way, beautiful and kind and as madly in love as the day they were married. Why do they have to be so wonderful together? It's the question that's haunted me since the first time I saw them. What right has Mister Barker to put the men to shame, his wife to humble every woman on the earth? At least until fifteen years ago. No one in their right mind would envy Mister Todd. But this is a glimpse to the past, and this is what I see as I stare at him once again.

I move to the table and grab the vase, chucking the entire thing into the filthy dishwater. Mangled flower petals and twisted stems float to the surface. I steal another glance through the window. The sound of his voice doesn't reach my ears through the glass, but I don't need to hear him to know what he's saying. I love you, I love you, I love you. Don't go. Such a far cry from the more common 'leave me' that he so often offers me.

But inevitably she does, even her memory departing from him. Everyone must say goodbye eventually, including him. By the time I even consider going to bring him in, he's hunched over on his knees, chin on his chest and hands buried in the sand. The tide will be rising soon. Already the waves lick at his fingers where there were no waves before, breaking against his knees. I give him ten minutes on the shore before I fetch him.

The sand is cool on my bare feet, refreshing and soft as I stalk across the beach to Mister T. A steady breeze toys with my auburn curls, spilling them into my face, lashing my dress around my legs with a harsh crack of cloth. It's a sound like the flapping of a loose sail, a futile, disheartening sound. Bending down, I grab him beneath the arms and haul him backwards away from the deepening waters, creating a pair of lines where his unresponsive feet plough matching ruts through the sand.

I kneel down beside him and place my hands on the side of his face, turning him to look at me. I stare into his haunted eyes. "Hush, love," I say, but I know it won't help. It doesn't really matter. It never does. He's at least holding up a deal better than last year.

"She's gone," he mutters, voice nearly about to crack beneath the weight of his long repressed emotions. One day a year does not allow for anything but the most powerful of feelings to overtake him. Grief is no exception. "She's gone, she's gone." His fists are in the hair at his temples, clenched tightly. He grits his teeth together and shuts his eyes.

I don't know what else to say. Nothing will reach him. He couldn't care less if the world was crumbling around him, just that his precious apparition faded with the daylight. "It's alright, love." It's really not. But who am I to remind him? He knows better than anyone, I think. "It'll be alright." Quiet sobs rack his body, every inch of which is now trembling violently. I pry his grip away from his hair, replacing the pain 

with the slow flexing of my own fingers over his scalp. He begins to weep, a pathetic moan that escalates with the heaving of his chest, punctuated by desperate gasps for air. "She's gone."

"Shh, shh. I'm here for you, Mister T." Even to myself I sound cold, jaded. I know that whatever I say will not help, that it's just a matter of time before he fades out of comprehension again. I wonder why I'm even here at all, but it's something I have to do. It's a habit, an automatic reaction to his grief. Mister T is who defines me and without him, I'm nothing but a misguided dreamer. And I love him, I do.

Another mechanical reminder. Another set of empty promises and almost-lies.

"You love me," he says, and I realize that I had spoken my affections aloud.

"'Course, love. Always."

There's a glimpse of the old Mister T there for a second; he juts his jaw out and scowls even as the tears run freely down his sculpted cheeks. "Why?"

As if I know. Everything points against this obsession, but by now it runs deeper than a mere infatuation. "I would do anythin' for you, Mister T. An' I made a promise. On our wedding day I told you I'd be twice the wife she was, and I bloody meant it."

He sticks his hands over his face and lets out a heavy sigh. "That's what Lucy keeps telling me," his voice carries the same sting of disbelief that plunges into my soul.

I blink. "She does, does she?" I shake my head, trying to sound indifferent. He doesn't answer. I have lost him to the pain and the tears I hug him tightly to myself, pressing my lips to his neck and running my fingers through his tangled mane. "Well maybe you should start listening to her, Mister T." Listen to yourself and give me some proof. Then perhaps I'll be able to believe you.

xxxx

"Is it something I did?" I shriek. He just stabs his fork into a mound of salad.

This is our anniversary, and it should not be spent at opposite ends of the dining table. It is not by my doing that this is the way things are. It's him. It's my Sweeney bloody Todd. "Is it something I didn't do? What do you want?" Sobbing, I pick up the vase of flowers that I had painstakingly cultivated in our back garden and I throw it at him. Thankfully, it hits the carpet and does not shatter, but the crushed petals and stems litter the table, water strewn across the room, over the dinner and over him. "Why won't you answer me?" But I already know what he would say if he did talk. I am not his Lucy, so why should he want me, especially when they have their special day together? All I've done with that stupid idea is go from the frying pain into the fire.

I had thought for one brief, beautiful moment, that I had meant something to him. That at the end of that day, when he was a completely shattered human being for one moment, that I had touched his heart and helped him through the pain and the tears. That maybe he had noticed. That maybe the night that marked the beginning of the second year together, tonight, would make some impression on him. 

That I hadn't wasted all this effort. I had hoped – for I am not sure if I can hope anymore, because I feel too hollow – that I could prove myself wrong and have something to show for my dreaming. But this is all I end up with, a waterlogged table of ruined food and crushed daisies.

"Not even a kiss," I sob, sending a fistful of skinned potatoes his way. He doesn't recoil when they strike his face, followed by a fork that bounces off of his chest. "Not even a thank you. Nothing. That's all you ever give me. Why can't you just look and see what you have now, Mister T, instead of aching for things you can never get back." I hardly believe half of what is coming out of my mouth. It's been so long in my head that it's spilling out without my conscious consent. "Lucy's dead. Johanna's gone with the sailor. All you have is me. Why don't you want me?" Tears blur my vision so that I can't even see, but somehow I manage to jab an accusing finger in his face.

"Look at me! In case you haven't noticed, I'm your wife now, not her! Me, not some crazy blonde!" He doesn't move, but I can see the flash of rage in his eyes. Even the tiniest lick of life, a miniature glimpse of his old self is better than nothing. "Why can't you need me more than her?" Haven't I done enough to deserve it and then some? "Can't you even pretend that you meant some of those vows you said? To have and to hold, Mister T. To love and to cherish." And until death do we part.

Why do you have to be so dead, Mister T?

I can't even stand to look at him for a second longer. "Get out of my house," I say. But after a moment, I'm the one who storms out, not him.

Because I'm the one who's going to come back in the end. And I'm beginning to think that he never will.

xxxx

I guess I was wrong. About everything. About me, about him... about Lucy and that day. I had given up on the whole lot, resigned myself to the idea that everything was always going to be the same. Just because there had been no evidence of change, I had believed that it was impossible. But I know now that anything can happen. Just as Mister Todd is my husband, that I'm living by the sea... sometimes things work out – not necessarily the way you had planned – but better than you hoped.

This is one of those times.

I wipe tears from my eyes with my sleeve and smile as best I can, though my lips are trembling harder than I can believe possible. He stands from his seat at the table and looks at me – really looks at me. "And?" he asks quietly.

"Mister T, I love them." I fly to his side and press my lips greedily against his, letting out a quiet sob. His hands are on my neck, cupping my face and drawing me closer. My hands are in his hair and I never want to let go. I'm afraid – terrified – that I will wake up at any second, but even this has never happened in my dreams. I break down completely now, blubbering like a baby into his chest, clutching at his shirt as he wraps his arms around me.

There are flowers on the table.

A/N: Flowers aren't cheap, you know. Reviews help to pay for them. Anyways, thanks very much for reading.