Disclaimer - The DVD, a Sweeney messenger bag and some mp3's are the extent of my ownage. The title of the story is the name of a fabulous Switchfoot song, so I don't own that either. Oh, and the summary is a quote from Nora Ephron.
Author's Note - I know most of you are waiting for my companion pieces to Passing Strange, but I have to get this thing out of my system first! Hopefully you'll like this and waiting won't be such a terrible thing. By the way, I just want to say thank you to you all for the amazing response I got for the last chapter of Passing Strange. You're all unbelievably supportive and I love you to bits. Speaking of love, this little endeavor would not have been possible without the love of my life, Robynne (Phantomfr33k24601).Haha Seriously though, she assisted SO majorly with this, helping me hammer out the details and telling me when something sucked so I could fix it. If not for her, this story probably never would have seen the light of day. Now, do me a favor and go read her new story In The Dark Beside you, because it's amazing and awesome and such an original concept. She's much better than me. So go! Right after you review, of course:D
Summary - Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.
The Shadow Proves The Sunshine
Well past midnight, the kitchen of the pie shop on Fleet Street is filled with the clatter of pots and pans banging together and crashing to the floor with reckless abandon. Any wayward Londoner peering in the shop windows would see the place in absolute shambles. The floor is covered with bowls, bags of flour, jars of spices, various pots and pans, the tea kettle, bottles of alcohol, and cooking utensils including but not limited to the silverware. The cause of all of this chaos is one insignificant spider.
Crouched on her hands and knees on the floor, the top half of her body inside the kitchen cabinets, Mrs. Lovett mutters to herself as she holds a candle to the newly emptied space and peers into the darkened corners. This spider has been a pain in her side for nearly a week, and it is high time she rid herself of its increasingly maddening presence. However, the cabinets seem to be spotless. She sees no sign of anything, spider or otherwise.
She and Toby have been attempting and failing to kill their tireless opponent, a big black spider. It has gotten to be sort of a joke between them, and they have even gone so far as to name it. But this evening, when Bloke had scuttled across the kitchen table when she'd been sipping her tea, it had been the last straw for Mrs. Lovett.
Now engaged in an all out search party for the creature, she and Toby have torn the entire place upside down. In the parlor, there are cushions and books scattered everywhere. The laundry room is littered with clothes, both clean and unwashed. The bedrooms look like a burglar of some kind had ransacked them. And still the spider eludes capture.
"Mum! There 'e is!"
Toby's excited shout from behind her causes her to jump, the top of her head cracking against the roof of the cabinet with a smack. She drops the candle in her fright, and then scrambles to pick it back up, burning herself in the process. A muffled string of unladylike curses escaping her mouth, Mrs. Lovett slowly inches backward out of the cabinets, gingerly rubbing the top of her head as she blows out the candle and petulantly tosses it to the side. Sitting on her knees in the middle of the messy kitchen floor, she turns to see Toby looking at her with an expression that says he wants to appear concerned, but is finding it very difficult to do so. She can only imagine how she looks, covered in flour on the floor, sucking on her burnt finger and muttering grumpily to herself.
"You alright?" Toby asks, suppressing a grin.
Frowning at his amusement, Mrs. Lovett nods. "Where is 'e, lad?"
Toby inclines his head to the side and jerks his thumb behind him. "Crawlin' on top of the breadbox. I was goin' to kill 'im, but then you 'it your 'ead and - "
"And you were too distracted tryin' not to laugh at your dear ol' mum, eh?" Mrs. Lovett asks wryly, holding out her arms.
Toby looks abashed, taking her hands and pulling her to her feet. "Sorry, mum. T'wasn't funny."
Snorting to herself, Mrs. Lovett dusts herself off, wrinkling her nose. "Course it was, love. I looked right silly, I did."
"Well," Toby flounders, looking at the floor, hands behind his back. "Maybe a lit'le."
Snatching up her rolling pin, Mrs. Lovett ruffles Toby's hair as she passes him, creeping closer to the spot where Bloke had last been spotted. The breadbox and the space around it are bare of any sign of life, and Eleanor frowns in disappointment. Dropping her rolling pin arm to her side, she sighs. "Missed 'im."
"Sorry," Toby says, sounding pained. "I should 'ave - "
"Hush Toby," Mrs. Lovett glances at the boy with a soft smile. "No sense in beatin' yourself up over it. 'E's just a spider, love." Placing her rolling pin on the counter, she puts her hands on his shoulders and directs him toward the parlor. "Now, I think we should give up for tonight and start fresh in the mornin'."
Toby nods. "Sure." He gestures vaguely to the war-torn remnants of their living quarters. "But what about - "
"Don't worry about the mess," Mrs. Lovett interrupts. "We'll get to it later. Go to bed, it's awful late and you'll be of no use to me tomorrow if you're asleep on your feet." She gives him a gentle push. "Scoot."
"Alright," Toby mumbles sleepily, yawning as he trudges down the hall toward the parlor. "Night mum."
When he's gone, Nellie turns to survey the disaster they've made of the place. She shakes her head. All this because of one little spider. Determined to put an end to the little bleeder's pitiful life the following morning, Mrs. Lovett shuts herself up in her bedroom and falls into bed without bothering to undress.
It seems that the morning comes before she has time to even close her eyes. The banging of pots and pans coming from the kitchen down the hall greets her ears far too early for her liking. Knowing that Toby is out there trying to put their home together again after their forage the night before, Mrs. Lovett groans sleepily and rolls out of bed.
Stifling a yawn, she stumbles to her wardrobe, ready to begin the tiresome process of dressing for the day. Running her fingers through the tangled curls tumbling over her shoulders, she wonders why she goes through the trouble. It isn't as though she has anyone who truly appreciates all the effort she puts into looking presentable. She is fairly certain no one would notice if she decided to start flouncing about in her nightgown. And by no one, of course, she means Mr. Todd.
Frowning to herself, Eleanor sifts carefully through her wardrobe. Well who cares if he notices? Today, she wants to feel pretty, and it has nothing to do with that brooding, useless excuse of a man. Really, it doesn't. Mrs. Lovett nods once to herself, before selecting the gown she'd bought last week with her earnings.
The deep violet color of the gown against the creamy paleness of her skin makes her look almost luminescent, and while she isn't usually one for the color purple, she smiles a little to herself. She can dress up just because she feels like it, and it doesn't have to have anything to do with whether or not Mr. Todd will pay attention to her because of it.
Eyeing her reflection at her vanity, she stares mournfully at her hair. Really, there is only so much she can do with it. She is just about to begin pinning her mass of curls on top of her head as usual, when an idea strikes her, and humming a little to herself, she begins searching her bureau drawers determinedly.
Pinning some of her scarlet tresses away from her face with an old butterfly hairpin Albert had given her for their last anniversary, she leaves the rest falling around her shoulders and emerges from her bedroom to find Toby in the kitchen. He is standing on top of a chair to reach the top shelves, dutifully arranging her plates and glassware.
"Goodness, love," she laughs. "I was hopin' to get a lit'le of this done before you woke up. An' I certainly didn't want you doin' it all by yourself."
Toby shrugs. "S'alright mum. I just couldn't sleep knowin' everythin' was such a mess."
Never one to mind a little clutter, Eleanor doesn't quite understand Toby's point of view, but nods anyway. "Well why don't you take a bit of a break from all this cleanin' and 'ave some tea."
He jumps down from the chair. "Alright but - " Toby turns to face her since the first time she walked into the room and stops short, staring.
It takes her a moment to realize what has gotten into him, and when she does, she touches her hair self-consciously. "What? Is it too much?"
He shakes his head wordlessly. "N-no mum," he finally stutters. "You look right pretty, like a proper lady."
Stifling a laugh at his fumbled attempts at a compliment, Eleanor plants a motherly kiss on the boy's forehead. "Thank you, love. It's 'ard not to feel like a proper lady, with your ruddy charmin' observations. Now, why don't you find the cups and saucers in all this unsightly 'odgepodge?"
Toby nods, searching under all the wreckage he has yet to clean up and eventually locating the cups under a large mixing bowl, and the saucers under two bags of flour. "Cleaned the parlor and the laundry room already," he says, hopping onto a stool at the counter with the newly acquired dishes. "Put the dirty clothes in a pile and folded the clean ones. And since I couldn't tidy your room with you still sleepin' in it, I figured I'd start on the kitchen."
Mrs. Lovett nods absently, taking the tea kettle from the stove and bringing it to the counter. "I appreciate it, love, but you didn't 'ave to do that. I made the mess with you, and I planned on 'elpin' you clean it."
Toby smiles, watching her pour the hot water into his cup. "I know, but I figured you 'ad enough to do as it is and - where's the gin?" He asks abruptly.
"What do you want gin for?" Mrs. Lovett questions, watching him jump to his feet and begin rummaging through the disarray on the floor for a gin bottle. "You've got tea!"
Toby plucks a bottle of gin out from under a bag of potatoes with a triumphant grin. "Don't care much for tea without gin," he explains, pouring a generous amount into his tea cup and mixing his strange combination with a spoon.
Shaking her head, Nellie smiles affectionately. "What am I goin' to do with you, lad?"
They finish up their tea a little more quickly than usual, other things needing to be done on this particular morning. Toby sets their dirty dishes in the sink and begins his task of cleaning and organizing anew.
Eleanor turns to the cabinets, beginning to go about making breakfast for Mr. Todd. She doubts he will eat more than a bite or two, but she supposes it's the thought that counts. She would prefer that he eat only a few measly bites rather than nothing at all. The man is far too skinny for her liking.
Minutes later, with a bowl of sweet smelling soup and a plate of toast on a tray, Mrs. Lovett makes her way up the creaking staircase leading up to Sweeney Todd's tonsorial parlor. Through the dirt-smeared window, she can see him sitting in his chair, razor in hand as he stares blankly at the floor. Balancing his breakfast tray against her hip, Eleanor turns the door handle, not bothering to knock. She used to knock, but he never heard her over the sound of his own noisy thoughts, and she has since given up trying to be polite.
He doesn't look up when she breezes into the room with a cheery, "Breakfast, dear!"
Usually he will at least glance in her direction when she comes in, giving her a sneer for neglecting to knock, but today, he does not bother to acknowledge her presence. Instead, he wipes the edge of his razor on his coat sleeve and continues staring at the floor in brooding silence. Mrs. Lovett has a sneaking suspicion his pride is still hurting from their rather public disagreement the day before. Blushing even now as she thinks about her behavior, Nellie sets his tray on the table next to his chair and straightens, turning to look at him, hands on her hips. Apparently, they still aren't speaking. Or rather, he still refuses to speak her.
It had been a particularly frustrating day for Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd's refusal to even pretend to listen to her complain about it had finally pushed her over the edge. Wincing, Mrs. Lovett clears her throat, hoping to garner his attention long enough to attempt an apology. She feels she had been perfectly within her rights to yell at him, but perhaps hitting him with her rolling pin had been pushing it a bit too far.
"Mr. T?" She begins tentatively. "About yesterday..." He doesn't show any sign of responding, but she pushes on anyway. "I wanted to apologize for - well, for my part in our little...disagreement."
She watches him stiffen at the mention of the day before and knows instantly that it is still a sore point for him. She needs to tread carefully.
"I didn't wanna to 'it you," she begins to reason, almost to herself. "You really brought it on yourself!" His mouth tightens, and she realizes this is not the best way to go about apologizing. "But I shouldn't 'ave 'done it. It was wrong of me."
His tense shoulders relax suddenly, and she nearly sighs with relief, knowing she is one step further away from being threatened or maimed. Part of her expects him to reply with an apology of his own, but he doesn't move. If not for the soft rise and fall of his chest as he breathes, Mrs. Lovett would have likened him to a statue, or some great monument.
The silence is becoming oppressive, and rather put out that Mr. Todd isn't responding to her attempts to reconcile, Mrs. Lovett wrings her hands nervously and begins walking the floor, grasping for something else to say. Thinking back on the day before, it isn't difficult to come up with something. "I just feel like you never listen to me! I could swear sometimes you just tune me out till I go away!" The corner of his mouth twitches almost imperceptibly at this, but she sees it and her jaw drops. "That is what you do, isn't it?"
Mr. Todd doesn't reply, but that small tug at his lips had said it all. She doesn't know why this offends her so much, she should be expecting this sort of thing from him. It isn't as if he ever acts like he is listening, or responds when he is, but to have him practically admit that he cares for nothing she has to say is a little depressing. A small part of her seaside dream dies every time he glares at her. Every dismissive grunt he gives her sends a bit of her fantasy crumbling around her feet.
"Of all the despicable things, Mr. T!" She exclaims, whirling away from him to face his dresser, littered with bottles of cologne and shaving cream. "After everythin' I do for you, coverin' up your murders, puttin' a roof over your useless 'ead, washin' the blood out of your shirts! And ya can't even listen to me when I speak to ya?"
Silence is her only answer, and she doesn't bother turning to face him, fiddling idly with a shaving brush. He is almost unusually tidy for a mass murderer. She remembers Benjamin always being such a perfectionist, and it gives her hope, knowing he has carried a small part of his former self away from the wreckage of his old life. It makes her want to believe there is some other trait of Ben's he may have decided to keep.
"Am I that bloody 'orrible that you can't stand to be in my presence any longer than necessary? Maybe you don't remember, but we used to get along quite well. Before. When you 'ad Lucy." She does look now, turning slowly on her heel to find his back ramrod straight and his jaw visibly clenched at the mention of his darling wife. "I guess that's what it all boils down to in the end, don't it? Lucy."
She considers just giving up on him, dragging him outside and taking him to the street corner his wife usually haunts, offering herself to anyone with coins in his pocket. See if he is so intent on brooding over her then. It would be so easy. But she won't let him see Lucy like that, she couldn't bear the look on his face when he realized what his wife had become. No matter how angry she is with him, he doesn't deserve that.
"She's gone, love," Mrs. Lovett whispers instead. "And no amount of you wishin' it to be otherwise is goin' to change that." She inches a little closer to him, hovering over his shoulder. "It doesn't mean your life 'as to stop, that everythin' 'as to lose its meanin'."
He blinks, and it's almost as if by mentioning Lucy and the prospect of moving on, she has tripped some invisible mechanism in him. One moment, he is calm and docile, only half listening to her, and the next, he turns his head to glare in her direction. "Get out."
She frowns. "Now Mr. T, don't go gettin' all defensive, love. I didn't mean anythin' by it - "
Teeth clenched, he repeats more firmly, "Get out."
Nellie puts a hand on her hip. "I'm tryin' to apologize, Mr. T. Ya could at least listen to - "
His eyes snap up to hers suddenly, and the words die in her throat. Those eyes of his are nearly black, and they never cease to render her breathless whenever he deems it worth his while to look into hers with them. "Apologize?" He questions menacingly, his voice deadly quiet. "For daring to mention my wife's name? Or for your childish outburst yesterday? For making a fool of yourself in front of half the residents of Fleet Street?"
It always knocks her off balance when he goes from quiet and brooding to violent and aggressive, and she stumbles over her words. "I-I just thought - "
"Thought what, Mrs. Lovett?" He snaps, jumping to his feet, his razor clenched tightly in one fist. Eleanor takes a cautious step back, but he advances on her anyway. "What did you think? Did you think I'd forget all about your appalling behavior yesterday afternoon?"
Continuing to stumble away from him, Mrs. Lovett cringes when her back thumps against the wall. His smirk is almost vicious in its intensity as they both seem to realize at the same time that he has her cornered, and she is his now, to do with what he will.
His face mere inches from hers, Mr. Todd pins her to the wall with one hand, and Nellie closes her eyes as she feels the familiar cold silver against her neck. Swallowing painfully, she feels his breath against his cheek as he speaks again. "I want to know what was going on in your addle-headed mind yesterday, Mrs. Lovett," he growls, "That would make you think I would let you get away with such behavior."
Get away with? He sounds like her father might have in such a situation, and Nellie is quite certain she is no longer in need of a father's disciplinary hand. She may love this man, but she is growing quite tired of him pushing her around and thinking he can threaten her into submission. He hadn't been nearly so belligerent yesterday, when she'd been wielding that rolling pin. She'd merely come up here to try and make things right between them, and he's holding a razor to her throat! She is fed up with him thinking he has any right to threaten her in her own home.
Eyes flashing open, she turns her head to meet his gaze, unafraid, and brings up her hand, taking Sweeney Todd's wrist and pushing it firmly away from her neck. Looking up into his darkened orbs, slightly wider than usual in his surprise, Mrs. Lovett huffs in annoyance.
"Mr. Todd, if you're goin' to kill me, I would prefer if you'd wait until after closin' time," she uses his befuddlement to her advantage, putting her hands on his chest and shoving him away from her. "Right now I've got a shop to open and pies to bake, so if you'll excuse me, love."
Rage in his eyes, Mr. Todd grabs her wrist as she tries to slip past him, roughly pulling her to him. "How dare you, you little - " As if he is looking at her for the first time, Mr. Todd pauses in his tirade to grace her with a baffled look. Leaning back as if to get a better look at her, he drinks in her appearance slowly, his eyes drifting casually over her bodice and up to the top of her head. Brow furrowed and his customary scowl in place, he asks, "What did you do to your hair?"
Surprised by his sudden change in mood, Eleanor can only stare at him for several moments. "I - I left it down, love." She gives him a hopeful smile. "You like it?"
Grumbling under his breath, Mr. Todd releases his hold on her wrist and turns away, sliding his razor back into its holster. Dropping down into his chair again, he pointedly ignores her.
Disappointed, but not surprised, and just happy to get out of the room with her neck still intact, Mrs. Lovett gives the barber one last glance as she slips out the door, shutting it behind her. Outside, she pauses, letting out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Her impertinence had nearly cost her that time, and she silently thanks Albert, God rest his soul, for the hair pin that had saved her.
Returning to the safe dankness of her shop, Nellie finds Toby putting away the last of the dishes. The kitchen looks spic and span, even better than it did before their impromptu raid. He turns when the bell above the door tinkles, signaling her entrance. "Saw Bloke again, mum."
She brightens at this, gathering her skirts in one hand and hurrying to Toby's side. "Did you catch 'im, love?"
Toby's face falls, and he drops his gaze to the dish towel in his hands, looking ashamed of himself. "No, 'e got away again. Thought 'e was a different spider at first, 'e got bloody big since last night, even!"
Mrs. Lovett frowns, not liking this news at all. She has a very strong feeling that the spider is gorging itself on pie crusts when she isn't looking, slowly growing larger until it is strong enough to eat her in her sleep. Inwardly puzzling over this spider with excessive resilience and strength, Mrs. Lovett gives Toby a smile and pats his cheek. "S'alright, love. We'll get the lit'le bugger one of these days, eh?"
Toby provides her with a lopsided grin. "Hopefully before 'e gets us, mum."
Laughing to herself, Eleanor turns to the dough waiting for her on the counter. Mornings are her favorite time in the pie shop, breakfast is slow for business, so she doesn't have to start traipsing up and down the stairs to the bakehouse until lunchtime.
The dough is lumpy beneath her fingers, and sticks to the netting of her fingerless gloves as she tries to beat it into submission. Letting her mind wander as her fingers work the dough, she considers what had taken place upstairs between herself and the barber.
Sometimes, she is only too willing to let Mr. Todd's tantrums run their natural course and leave him alone until his anger for the time being is drained. She knows that with all the animosity the poor man harbors inside, it isn't healthy to keep it all bottled up. So the occasional outburst is perfectly fine by her, but Mrs. Lovett is beginning to grow weary of having all that rage directed toward her.
It feels like she is always being threatened - for bringing him his meals, for touching him, sometimes even for speaking to him. The fact that she is no longer fearful and trembling when a razor is pressed to her neck is testament enough to her familiarity with Mr. Todd's violent nature. She had been sure that her brazen actions upstairs would cost her mightily, but he had surprised her by backing off. Mr. Todd never backs down.
She wants to be flattered that her appearance had caused him to give pause, considering how oblivious the man usually is to anything around him. Her Mr. Todd is not the most observant of men, bless him. But she doesn't really know what to think of what had transpired between them. He's so hard to read sometimes, and then at other times, she feels like she is the only one in the world who will ever understand him.
When will he wake up and realize that everything she does for him is because she adores him beyond even her own comprehension? He gets her out of bed every morning, drags her down to the bakehouse, pulls her through hours of waiting on tables. He makes her day just a little less gray, and doesn't even know he does it.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Lovett ponders how long this particular mood of his will last. Hopefully he'll be over his little tantrum by the time she closes shop. She doesn't want him taking her proposition seriously. "Mr. Todd, if you're goin' to kill me, I would prefer if you'd wait until after closin' time."
Punching the dough with a clenched fist, Eleanor gives a blustery sigh and mutters under her breath, "Bloody man is goin' to make me lose my bleedin' mind one of these days, I just know it."
The bell above the shop jingles merrily, and startled, Nellie looks up for the first time in nearly ten minutes. Toby has finished putting away the dishes, turned the sign inside the door to read 'Open' and is currently outside wiping down tables. Standing in the doorway are three middle-aged men. Two are dressed rather drably, with dirt and grime smeared across their pant legs and on their boots. They're tall and burly, with very intimidating features. They remind Nellie of gorillas in their able-bodied appearance. If she squints, she is sure she can see gun holsters strapped to their sides underneath their uniformed jackets.
They stand stiffly between the other man, who is more properly dressed in black pants and a long overcoat. He eyes Eleanor warily from his position just inside the door, taking off his hat to reveal a bald head. Looking around primly with his beady eyes, he begins tugging at the fingers of his gloves. "Mrs. Lovett, I presume?" He asks, and his voice is much louder, and stronger than she would have expected to come out of the mouth of such a scrawny looking man.
Blowing a stray curl away from her face and suddenly remembering why she always keeps it up to begin with, Mrs. Lovett smiles politely and rests her weight on her hands atop the counter. "That I am, sir. What can I do for you fine gentlemen this mornin'?" The sudden sound of footsteps overhead makes her glance upward, and she frowns at the ceiling, silently berating Mr. Todd for his ceaseless pacing. It does terrible things to her already frazzled nerves. Turning back to the three men, she finds them following her gaze to the ceiling, looking puzzled. "Pie?" She asks, drawing their attention back to her. "Ale? My charmin' company?" Winking good naturedly, she holds up an empty mug and waves it at them.
The scrawny man shakes his head slowly and takes a tentative step forward, the brawny men on either side of him shadowing his movements instantly. "No, thank you. I'm here on business, actually."
Intrigued, Mrs. Lovett raises an eyebrow. "Business?"
The man nods. "I've received complaints about a disturbance here yesterday afternoon. A woman making quite a racket and being physically abusive toward another person. Do you happen to know anything about that?"
Fully intent on feigning her ignorance, Eleanor opens her mouth to speak only to stop just as abruptly, something catching her attention out of the corner of her eye. There, scuttling across the counter just a few feet in front of her, is the spider. Her eyes widen, and the corners of her mouth quirk into a small grin. So far, all attempts to catch and kill her enemy has proved fruitless, but not this time. Slowly and stealthily inching her hand across the countertop, Eleanor reaches out with deft fingers for her rolling pin.
"Gotcha now, lit'le fellow," she breathes, completely oblivious to the men standing in front of her, watching anxiously.
Snatching up the rolling pin quickly, Mrs. Lovett raises it over her shoulder and brings it down with quick efficiency on the unsuspecting spider. It hits the counter with a resounding crack, and she expects to splatter his unsavory insides on the flour covered counter space, to once and for all put an end to this ridiculous game. Instead, Bloke scuttles quickly to the side, missing her rolling pin by mere centimeters, and darts behind a mixing bowl. Moving the bowl quickly, she scans the immediate area around it but finds no trace of her nemesis.
Swearing under her breath, she drops the rolling pin noisily onto the counter and brushes her hands off on her skirts. "Foiled again." She finally glances back up at the men standing in her shop, only to find them backed up against the door, wide eyed, the two more muscular men standing in front of the scrawny one, as though fearing for his safety.
Letting out a small laugh, Eleanor says, "Sorry 'bout that. Been trackin' that Bloke for nigh on eight days, now."
"W-what?" Asks the scrawny man, sounding breathless.
Waving him away, she says, "Never mind that. Now what was it you wanted?"
The man ignores her question, swatting at the protective hands of his beastly companions and taking a step forward. "This...bloke...Do you see him now?"
Eleanor gives him a funny look, but decides to ignore her customer's oddities. "Look, I've got to fetch a couple of things down in the bake'ouse, but why don't I 'ave my Toby set you three up with a couple of pies and a jug of ale?" Coming around the counter and stepping closer to the men, Mrs. Lovett can only frown in bemusement when they all step away from her as if she carries the plague. "Toby!"
She peers outside, trying to spot the boy, and doesn't notice the scrawny man mouth to his companions, 'Toby?' and give a slight, sad, shake of his head.
The boy isn't wiping tables anymore, and she figures he must have run off to the market to buy toffee with his tip money. Turning back to the three men watching her carefully, she smiles. "The lad seems to 'ave run off on me again. 'Ave a seat and I'll serve you."
The scrawny man peers outside the window, squinting out into the streets, eyes searching. "And how often do you see Toby?"
Reaching into the small oven behind the counter and pulling out a couple of pies, Mrs. Lovett frowns. "All the time, 'e's my son." She pauses, tilting her head to the side. "Well, not really my son. I don't 'ave any of my own children." Placing the pies on the counter and transferring them onto plates, Eleanor takes up the jug of ale and gets out three mugs. "My poor Albert died almost fourteen years ago."
At a table in the corner, the scrawny man is muttering to himself, "Making up a child to mother after the death of her son, Albert. How tragic."
Exasperated with this man and his friends, and their peculiar behavior, Eleanor sets down the mugs and puts a hand on her hip. "What did you say you were 'ere for?"
Sweeney Todd is a man with pride. He prides himself on his thriving business, his razors, that look in a man's eyes right when he realizes he will never leave the barber's chair alive. And he prides himself on being dominant over the petite, irritating baker who lives downstairs. Really, he might not find her so annoying if not for her ceaseless chatter. The insufferable woman never shuts up, and sometimes he wonders if she even hears what she is saying, or if she just spouts off whatever happens to be in her head at the moment, without thinking.
In all other areas, they are perfectly compatible. She is as close to without conscience as he could hope for, she is full of ingenious ideas like baking people into pies, she keeps his true identity and his less than honorable hobbies a secret, she makes a decent cup of tea...Yes, if she didn't feel the need to talk until his ears are numb, Mr. Todd might find Mrs. Lovett's company rather enjoyable.
Today especially, he had been in no mood for her incessant gabbing. Not after that horrid display downstairs yesterday. Her outburst then, and her impertinence just a few minutes ago had robbed him of any feeling of supremacy he might have had over her. In that moment, with his razor pressed against the soft ivory of her throat, she hadn't quivered with fright, her eyes hadn't widened in alarm. It's almost as if she had been bored, or immune to his show of dominance over her.
He doesn't like that thought at all. While he knows very well that he will not kill her, if just won't do for her to know that as well. If he doesn't have some sort of power over the woman, then what does he have? She has already shown that she is perfectly capable of holding her own with him in the kitchen yesterday, and he isn't particularly keen on having to deal with her in that state of rage ever again.
Shuddering in his chair at the memory, Todd jumps to his feet, beginning to pace the well-worn path in front of the large window of his shop. Grimacing at the floor, his mind wanders back to the day before and the rather painful memories that go along with it.
"An I said to 'er, 'well dearie I can't really 'elp it that I bought the last of the coriander, now can I?' It's not like I purposefully went and bought 'em out so she couldn't 'ave any, y'know?"
At a table in the front of the shop, Sweeney Todd sits staring out at the faceless masses of London with a glass of gin in hand. Behind the counter, Mrs. Lovett is mixing some sort of concoction in a large bowl, hair pinned up, flour down the front of her dress. He is attempting to tune her out as she prattles on about the day she'd had at the market, but with the constant flow of gibberish coming out of her mouth, he can't help but catch a word or two every now and then.
"The man only 'ad two bottles to begin with, and I needed 'em both! And she got all huffy!"
Mrs. Lovett stops stirring the contents of the bowl to gesture wildly with the spoon, and if Sweeney isn't mistaken, the batter clinging to the spoon goes flying across the room at her erratic movements. It lands on the window he is staring out of, and he watches in disgust as it drips slowly down the glass.
She doesn't seem to notice, continuing with her story. "And then 'er 'usband came outta nowhere and started beratin' me on 'ow his wife needs coriander for 'is birthday cake, of all things! Can you believe that?"
Sensing that she is requiring him to speak now, Mr. Todd nods once and makes a noncommital noise in the back of his throat.
Satisfied, Mrs. Lovett continues. "So I told 'im 'is wife could have a bottle of the coriander if 'e paid me for it, which I thought was very generous of me." She stops again, putting a hand to her hip and brushing a wayward curl away from her forehead. "And d'know what 'e said? 'E said all haughty-like, 'Well Mrs. Lovett, I s'pose you're in need of the money what with that barber and the orphan movin' in with ya. An' didn't I see that sailor boy there just the other day? What are you doin', runnin' a bloody brothel, now?' I swear I thought Toby was goin' to deck the blighter." She laughs, shaking her head and finally looking over at Sweeney, where he still sits, motionless, facing away from her. "If I 'adn't grabbed a 'old of 'is collar, I dare say 'e would 'ave."
Taking a deep breath now that her story is finished, Mrs. Lovett runs one digit along the spoon, gathering up the batter on the tip of her finger before bringing it to her mouth to taste. She watches as Sweeney continues to stare out the window, only moving to take another gulp of gin. She adds airily, "And then 'is wife decked me while Toby was preoccupied with holdin' 'er 'usband down and checkin' 'im for coins. I'm gonna 'ave the bruise on my cheek for a week at least."
"Hmm..." He says distractedly, not even bothering to turn around and look at her.
Sighing, Mrs. Lovett leans against the counter, dropping her spoon back into the bowl. "Mr. T, are you listenin' to me?"
"Then what did I just say?"
He doesn't flinch, continuing to study his half empty glass of gin as he answers distractedly, "Coriander."
Mrs. Lovett stamps her foot childishly, and he looks up, startled. "No, I bloody did not!"
Mr. Todd turns back to the table, unfazed. "You said coriander in that long-winded speech somewhere."
Glaring at him, Mrs. Lovett shoves the bowl aside and decides to take out her frustration on beating the pie dough instead. "Y'know it wouldn't kill you to listen to me every now and then. Or at least pay enough attention to repeat back key words when I ask you if you're listenin'." He doesn't respond, continuing his staring match with the wooden table in front of him. She rolls her eyes. "Mr. Todd?"
He blinks, glancing up at her as if suddenly becoming aware of his surroundings. "What?"
Fixing him with an irate glower, Mrs. Lovett grips her rolling pin tightly. "Ya weren't listenin' just now, were ya?"
"Of course," he says, watching her narrow her eyes at him. "You said...something about listening." Mouth set in a tight line, Mrs. Lovett stalks from behind the counter to his table. He can only stare as she reaches out and snatches his gin glass from his loose grip. Surprised but trying not to show it, Mr. Todd frowns up at her. "I was drinking that."
"Not anymore," she says breezily, downing the rest of the glass and taking it with her back to the kitchen, dropping in into the sink. "Considerin' it's my glass and my gin, it gives me the right to take it whenever I please. I bought it, and I 'ave a right to drink it. You, 'owever, are merely livin' 'ere on my 'ospitality. You 'ave no gin rights."
Mr. Todd narrows his eyes. "And what about the boy?"
"Toby 'elps out around the shop," Mrs. Lovett explains, tucking her rolling pin under her arm as she brings him some tea instead. "And 'e's reasonably polite, and listens to other people when they speak."
Mr. Todd only grunts in response, thinking to himself that if the only way to obtain alcohol is to listen to Mrs. Lovett's mindless prattling, he would much rather remain sober for the remainder of his miserable existence. The sound of Mrs. Lovett's voice begins ringing in his ears once more, but he tunes her out again. He has gotten quite good at listening to her when he wants, and closing his ears to her when he doesn't. He has become accustomed to her constant chatter during his time here, but he has never quite learned how to talk back. Being in exile for fifteen years has deprived him of any conversational skills he may have possessed.
"Mr Todd?" Mrs. Lovett taps her fingers against the table, looking annoyed. "D'ya 'ear me?"
He hears her, but he doesn't respond. It would take too much energy to lift his head and give a reply, and he figures that if she thinks he isn't listening, she'll eventually go away. Today, it seems, Mrs. Lovett is feeling feistier than usual. Instead of turning away like he expects her to, she snatches her rolling pin from under her arm and swats at Mr. Todd's shoulder.
The pin hits bone with a sickening crack, and Sweeney Todd jerks backwards in surprise. Her assault continues however, and he jumps from his seat in order to avoid any further beatings with her makeshift weapon.
"I've 'ad it with you and your bloody inability to care about anyone but yourself!" She shouts at him, moving with him as he attempts to get away from her. If he didn't hear her before, he definitely hears her now. The rolling pin smacks against his chest, and he bites back a string of curses."The world does not revolve and you and your bleedin' revenge!" Another swat, and the pin connects with the side of his head.
"Mrs. Lovett," he barks, dazed as he raises his arms to protect his skull from any killing blows. "Stop this right now!"
He has a feeling hitting him is something she has wanted to do for some time, and now that she's started, she can't seem to stop. Backing up, he makes for the door, all the while with her attempting to smack him senseless with her pin. Wrenching open the door as she repeatedly thwacks him anywhere she can reach, he stumbles out the door and makes for the staircase to his shop.
People on the sidewalk have stopped to watch them, looking on curiously as Mrs. Lovett gets in one last good hit to his back before he makes it to the top of the stairs. He looks back down on her, standing at the bottom of the stairs, rolling pin in hand, breathing heavily, cheeks flushed. Sweeney Todd shouts for all of Flee Street to hear, "You are a bloody lunatic, woman!"
Glowering at him, Mrs. Lovett calls up the stairs in return, "Come back when you've learned 'ow to 'ave a decent conversation!"
The door to his shop slamming shut is her only reply.
Shaken back to the present by his own enraged growl, Sweeney Todd smashes his fist against the wall in his fury. Bits of plaster crumble from the ceiling to the floor at the impact, but he pays it little mind. All of Fleet Street had witnessed their little disagreement, and he is not one for that sort of attention. His head is still pounding from that blasted wooden torture instrument's beating! And even after all that, the woman had the nerve to come up here and try to apologize to him with soup? And then to push him away from her? How dare she!
He'd been ready to throttle her for her disrespectful actions when he'd finally looked at her, really looked at her, for the first time since she walked into his shop. He hadn't realized her hair was that long. He has vague, fuzzy memories of a much younger Mrs. Lovett with long, red spirals bouncing around her face, but he is so used to seeing her hair piled on top of her head like a rat's nest that he had forgotten what it used to look like. It had thrown him, that's all. Otherwise, he couldn't care in the slightest what she did with her hair. She could chop it all off and become a sailor as far as he is concerned.
Although he happens to think that when she pins her hair up, it mirrors her personality perfectly. Practical, chaotic and charming, in an odd sort of way. Not that he notices such things. He has much more important matters to dwell on than the way Mrs. Lovett styles her hair.
And he most certainly hadn't payed any mind to that purple gown she'd been prancing about in. Not really a light purple though, more of a violet that brought out the darker specks in her hazel eyes. Growling to himself, Sweeney turns angrily away from the window and marches to his dresser. Snatching up the photo of his Lucy, he stares hard at it, willing himself to think of yellow hair and pink lace, willing Mrs. Lovett and her infernal dress to leave his mind alone.
He is jarred prematurely from his determined musings by some sort of commotion outside. Hearing the clamor of loud voices, the stomping of footsteps, and somewhere amidst it all, the sound of Mrs. Lovett's voice raised in alarm, Todd drops the frame to his dresser and strides purposefully to the door, intent on telling the woman and her customers to keep it down.
Yanking the door open, Mr. Todd is startled to find a large crowd of people outside the pie shop, with two hulking men attempting to drag a struggling Mrs. Lovett into a waiting carriage. A skinny man in a long overcoat is standing by and watching the proceedings calmly, even smiling a little when one burly man has to restrain Toby from attacking the other in the middle of shoving Mrs. Lovett into the carriage.
Kicking and screaming, she manages to land a couple of punches to her swearing kidnaper, and even stomps on one booted foot with her heel. "Let me go, you soddin' bastards!" Mrs. Lovett sounds positively panicked. "I am not crazy!" She puts up a good fight, but the petite baker is lifted from the ground and hauled into the coach by her angered and bruised assailant.
A million things going through his mind, and most of them having to do with their unsavory business being found out, Sweeney takes the stairs two and three at a time, heart in his throat. He arrives on the scene just as the man keeping a firm hold on Toby finally lets him go, shoving him to the ground and striding to the carriage to climb in after the other man and Mrs. Lovett. Making it to Toby's side as the boy angrily wipes the dirt from his pants, Mr. Todd watches helplessly as the carriage door slams shut.
"Mum! Stupid blighters!" Toby shouts tearfully after them. "Where are you taking 'er?!"
The skinny man pays the boy no mind, climbing into the box seat. Mrs. Lovett is still shouting as he takes up the reigns. The uproar in the streets has reached an all-time high, and over the din of voices, Sweeney roughly grabs Toby by the front of his shirt, nearly lifting him off his feet, and growls, "What is all this?"
Through a haze of furious tears, Toby says, "I don't know, sir. I just got back from the market and they were draggin' 'er outta the shop! All's they said was somethin' 'bout 'er bein' unstable an' takin' 'er away to rest!" He wipes at his cheeks with the sleeve of his shirt. "Where're they takin' 'er Mr. T?"
Letting go of the front of his shirt but grabbing onto the back of his collar so that the boy won't run off after the carriage as it starts off down the cobblestone lane at breakneck speed, Mr. Todd scowls after it. Voice grave, he says, "That was the warden from the asylum, boy. They're taking her to Bedlam."