The Mistletoe Compromise
Summary: Wanting to avoid dim but painful memories of Johanna's first Christmas, Sweeney strikes a bargain with Mrs. Lovett to keep her from trying to infect him with holiday cheer. But it remains to be seen whether or not Mrs. Lovett can control herself.
Disclaimer: If I owned Sweeney Todd, neither Sweeney nor Mrs. Lovett would have died. So needless to say, I don't own it.
Pairings: one-sided Sweenett (duh…)
Author's Notes: Meh, I wanted to do a Christmas fic, and this idea has been actually floating around in my head for a few months. It seems I'm actually capable of one-shots now, rather than my long multi-chapter fics. (By the way, READ MY FULL-LENGTH STORY BLADE OF MADNESS! Please?)
It was snowing.
Sweeney Todd had not seen snow for fifteen years. In Australia, on the hottest days when men collapsed from heat exhaustion and lay in the desert with their eyes rolled back until vultures picked out the eyeballs, Sweeney had remembered snow. He had tried to imagine standing barefoot and shirtless in the London December with tiny lacy bits of white ice floating from heavy clouds and colliding with his skin, melting, hissing, easing the murderous heat of reality from his body. Some days he thought that was the only thing keeping him alive when the harsh climate of Australia had claimed so many others.
Being back in London with the real snow was different, now. It was no longer just a memory to keep him alive. Living (well, not really living, more like abiding) in his old home, surrounded by the half-familiar environment, constantly brought back shadowy recollections of his life as Benjamin Barker. He had once said that he saw ghosts of his former life in the streets of London, but they were the most numerous and uncontrollable in the tonsorial parlor. When he saw the little flakes of snow drifting lazily through the air, oh, how that tore at his memory, for in his mind's eye he saw one-year-old Johanna experiencing snow for the first time, stretching out a rosy, pudgy hand to the floating snowflakes, her blue, blue eyes widening with amazement…Lucy, her pale cheeks flushed from the cold, hitching the child up on her hip, laughing softly at her daughter's wonder…
A loud, piercing laugh from outside shattered Sweeney's reverie. A snarl formed on his lips as he stormed to the window, trying to identify the source of annoyance. He was not surprised to see that said source turned out to be Mrs. Lovett, who had apparently taken a break from running her pie shop to engage Toby in a snowball fight. Sweeney turned away from the offending sight of the woman hurling a tightly-packed lump of snow at the young man who helped her around the shop. Playing in the snow…for God's sake, how old did she think she was?
The sight of Mrs. Lovett making a fool of herself in the snow combined with his recent flashback concerning Johanna and Lucy reminded him of something. When Johanna had been reaching for the snow for the first time, she had been wearing a bright red satin ribbon in her yellow curls. A red ribbon that had matched the red and green dress she was wearing; red and green for Christmas. Christmas, a holiday so packed with "cheer" that surely Mrs. Lovett had some sort of scheme cooked up for the event that would involve enough enthusiasm to make Sweeney itch. The last thing he wanted to do this Christmas (which was surely coming soon; he was fairly certain it was December) was spend it with Mrs. Lovett. On Christmas, he would close his shop and spend the day completely alone, refusing to let the holiday bring up memories of his wife and daughter. Not that he wanted to forget Lucy and Johanna—he would rather die—but the dim memories that he usually dredged up from the remnants of Benjamin Barker's mind were enough to keep him loyal to Lucy and to fuel his thirst to avenge his destroyed family, and the bright, sharp recollection of the red ribbon in little Johanna's wispy yellow hair was overwhelming. It might have made him weep, except that Sweeney Todd did not cry.
Mrs. Lovett brought Sweeney his dinner about an hour later. "'ere you go, love." She set a tray of food down on the barber chair and walked over to where he was standing by the window. "What's so bloomin' interestin' about this window of yours, eh?"
He thought about answering, but decided a one-word answer might possibly be worth the effort. "Snow."
"All right, that'll do," said Mrs. Lovett with a grin. "You ain't seen snow since you was transported, right?"
"Bet you missed it. Beautiful, innit?"
Sweeney thought of the scene he had witnessed earlier involving Mrs. Lovett, Toby, and snowballs. "Not particularly."
She slapped his arm playfully. Sweeney gave her a pained glance; did she have to be so sophomoric? "Silly man. Well, if the snow don't make you 'appy, this might. Guess what's next week?"
He blinked. Surely Christmas wasn't that close. "Your birthday."
She laughed. "No, you stubborn fool, me birthday's in the fall, remember? It's Christmas in five days! On Tuesday!"
"Oh," he said tonelessly.
"Always so gloomy." She hooked her arm though his and laid her head on his shoulder. He tensed. "Maybe the 'oliday spirit will cheer you up." She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek before he had time to turn away. "We'll see." She left.
Sweeney swiped his hand against his cheek where she had kissed him, grimacing. Dear God, she does have some holiday celebration she wants to drag me into. I'll have to do something about this. An image of a baby's hand outstretched towards a falling snowflake flitted through his mind, and he shivered, pushing it away. And quickly.
Mr. Todd made a brief shopping trip later that day. He did not let Mrs. Lovett see him. He only had to purchase one thing for his plan to keep her out of his hair on Christmas.
The plan was put into action the following day. Sweeney was standing by the window as usual, sharpening one of his friends, when Mrs. Lovett brought him his breakfast. "Gazin' out that window again," she sighed as she walked over to him. "Still lookin' at the snow?"
"Yes." Then he paused and turned his gaze to the ceiling, where the one thing he had purchased the previous day hung by a piece of black thread. "Why, Mrs. Lovett, I do believe we are under the mistletoe."
Sweeney wasn't blind to Mrs. Lovett's advances; how could he be, when they were so irritating? He was still completely mystified by her interest in him, but he had deduced that she would like nothing better than to crawl into bed with him. So surely she would be quite pleased to find herself with him under mistletoe.
A slow, delighted smile that made Sweeney's skin crawl spread over Mrs. Lovett's face. "Why, Mr. T., I do believe you're right!"
She leaned up to kiss him. Her eyes were closed, but they snapped open when she found the cold metal of the flat side of the razor Sweeney had been sharpening pressed against her mouth. Sweeney's free hand was gripping her shoulder hard enough to bruise, keeping her there so she couldn't move away from the blade.
"Listen. I'm certain you have every intention of cheerin' me up or some other such nonsense this Christmas. But I want no part of it. So I have a proposition for you, my pet. You are not to decorate my shop with any of those useless holiday trinkets I've seen you puttin' up in the pie shop. You are not to try to get me to come downstairs and celebrate or go carolin' or…or throw snowballs with you and the boy. You are not to even say the word 'Christmas' to me. If you follow my instructions, you get your bloody mistletoe kiss. But if you don't, then it'll be the razor that kisses you. Do you understand?"
He released her. She looked shaken. "Y-yes, love. But…why don't you wan'na celebrate? You've been in such a dreary mood, and it ain't like Christmas is gon'na keep you from the judge or anythin.'"
"You want that kiss, don't you?"
"Then do as I asked."
She hesitated before saying, "all right."
"Good. Now leave me."
She went downstairs, giving him a half-confused, half-frightened glance as she slipped out the door. Sweeney went back to sharpening the razor. Of course he had no intention of kissing Mrs. Lovett even if she held up her end of the bargain. She would be angry, but it wasn't as if she would kick him out. And her feelings would be hurt, but Sweeney saw no problem with that.
The days passed. Christmas came.
Sweeney closed the barbershop. Mrs. Lovett had brought him his breakfast that morning, but she made no mention of the holiday or anything related to it. Surprisingly enough, she opened her pie shop for the morning; apparently she thought people would want meat pies on Christmas. It irritated him that she was right; her ale garden was full of customers. She bustled among the tables, even more of an eyesore than usual in a Christmas gown that was dark spicy green with plaid trim and accents. If she was going to wear Christmas colors, he thought, she might at least wear red. But on the whole, she wasn't being any more of a pain that usual.
So Sweeney spent the morning pacing around the barbershop, polishing things or sharpening his razors again. He did not look outside at the snow that might bring back painful memories, and he tuned out the sounds of the few carolers going by the same way he had tuned out the sounds of sniffling and whimpering at night as the other men in the Australian prison struggled not to cry themselves to sleep. He focused instead on pleasant images of gaping slashes in Judge Turpin's throat. The morning passed peacefully.
The trouble started around dinnertime.
Mrs. Lovett came upstairs with Sweeney's dinner. Aside from the usual tray, though, she was carrying what looked to be a long, tightly woven scarf, folded into a square. It was a deep red, the color of blood that was beginning to dry but hadn't taken on the sickly brown hue.
"Brought you some dinner, love!" She practically skipped over to him.
Good heavens, she's even more bloody cheerful than usual. "What do you have there?" he asked warily.
"Oh, well, you remember 'ow you told me it was cold up 'ere, especially since you're used to Australia?"
Ah, yes. She had been pestering him about how cold the upper story got, even with the wood-burning stove she'd got him, probably to get him to come downstairs and spend time with her. He had agreed it was cold to get her to be quiet, but he had also said that he would prefer not to leave his tonsorial parlor.
"Well, I've made you a scarf to keep yourself nice and toasty if you want to stay up 'ere instead of comin' downstairs where it's warm. And it's, you know, fashionable enough that you can wear it indoors without lookin' foolish. I just finished it this mornin', so I thought I'd bring it up to you now." Mrs. Lovett placed the tray of food on his lap, as he was sitting in the barber chair. Then she unfolded the scarf and draped it artfully around his neck. "Well, you look right 'andsome, dear." She pecked him on the cheek, "I'd best get back to work—I'm closin' up in an hour, and the customers are clamorin' to get one more pie or one more glass of gin before then."
Sweeney glared venomously at her as she proceeded out the door, then continued to glower at the door nearly hard enough to catch it on fire after she had left. He yanked the scarf from his neck and held it up, examining it like a jeweler attempting to identify a false gem. It was very well-made, which bothered him, despite the pleasing color. By making him a warm scarf in a nice color—something he almost liked—Mrs. Lovett had shown potential to be able to make him happy. He resented that. No woman but Lucy should be able to make him happy. But most of all, he resented Lovett's choice to give the scarf to him on this particular day. Oh, she hadn't wrapped it or put a bow on it, but she meant it to be Christmas present and he knew it.
Damn her. Damn her, damn her, damn her!
Sweeney waited an hour for Mrs. Lovett to close her shop before confronting her.
She was downstairs in the parlor. She had lit a roaring fire in the fireplace, and Toby was sitting before it with her; they both were sipping what appeared to be eggnog.
An enormous grin broke out on Mrs. Lovett's face when she saw him. "Well, Mr. Todd! Come downstairs to celebrate with us?"
"Celebrate?" he repeated. "What is there to…celebrate?"
Mrs. Lovett paused, remembering their agreement: no decorating, no trying to get him to celebrate, and no saying "Christmas." "Just…the pretty weather is all. Well, you don't think it's pretty, I know, but you like watchin' the snow, eh?"
"I hardly think snow is a reason to celebrate, Mrs. Lovett."
"Well, I do. Just because I think that don't mean you 'ave to, of course." She lifted her mug to her lips.
"Still, all these decorations you've put up, the fire, that…fine dress you're wearin'…" He had a feeling she might have stopped drinking to preen if she weren't busy looking at him over the mug with nervous eyes. "Seems to be more than snow to celebrate."
Toby cut in, obviously not understanding the delicate game Lovett and Sweeney were playing. "Well, 'course there's more to celebrate, it's…"
"Shh, darling!" Mrs. Lovett hushed him. "This is just between me and Mr. Todd, all right?"
The boy looked puzzled, but his only response was "All right, Mum."
"What do you think the boy was about to say?" Sweeney raised his eyebrows at Mrs. Lovett.
"I'm certain I don't know, dear, I ain't one for guessin' folks' thoughts."
"Perhaps you could simply tell me what day it is, then."
"It's Tuesday, I think," she replied, not missing a beat. Toby was watching her with a befuddled look on his face, obviously confused by her refusal to speak about the holiday.
"What else?" He almost snarled.
"It's…it's the twenty-fifth. Of December."
Sweeney slipped his razor from its holster and snapped it open. It gleamed in the firelight. Toby put down his mug and rose slowly, prepared to defend Mrs. Lovett, who was sitting very still and obviously trying not to panic. "Why, Mrs. Lovett, I believe you have breached our agreement."
"I said it was the twenty-fifth! Ain't nothin' wrong with that!"
Toby was nonplussed again. "What agreement?"
"Everyone knows what December twenty-fifth is, my dear." Sweeney advanced on her; she got up and backed away from him. When she spoke, she was almost shouting.
"That ain't fair, bein' picky about the date! You said I couldn't say 'Christmas!' I didn't…!" Her hand flew to her mouth.
"Ah," said Sweeney silkily, "but now you did, my pet."
Toby had gathered that something terrible was about to happen and flew at Mr. Todd. Sweeney brushed him aside while Mrs. Lovett ran, trying to escape. She made it to the kitchen before Sweeney caught her by the arm and slammed her into a wall, the razor against her mouth just like it had been under the mistletoe.
"You tricked me," she whimpered, barely daring to move her lips. "You shouldn't punish me for that. It ain't fair."
"That stupid scarf you made me," he hissed. "You meant it to be a Christmas present, and that broke the agreement first."
"No, no, it didn't! You never asked me not to give you anythin'! And I'm always bringin' you little presents! I never said it was for the 'oliday!" she cried.
"Then I'm afraid you misunderstood the point of our little compromise," he growled. "I didn't want to be reminded of the fact that it was Christmas, and I expected you to behave accordingly. But despite what you may have said or not said, you did indeed remind me that it was Christmas. Not only did you break the agreement, but you ruined my day."
"Toby, don't!" Mrs. Lovett cried over his shoulder, and Sweeney turned to see that the boy was coming at him with a poker from the fireplace.
"Put it down, boy. You're too young to play with toys like that."
"Leave 'er be! She ain't done nothin' to 'urt you!" Toby shouted, raising the poker. It was a heavy iron thing and he had trouble lifting it.
"I beg to differ," said Sweeney, turning back to Mrs. Lovett. She was crying. Not loudly, just a few tears dampening her face.
"I'm sorry, love."
That surprised him. He had expected her to continue defending herself, not apologize.
"I didn't mean to spoil the day for you, I just…I wanted to make you 'appy. I didn't think…I thought if I just gave the scarf to you, didn't wrap it or anythin', it'd be all right. Please, Mr. T., I'm sorry. Don't cut me, please!"
He pressed the blade harder against her mouth. She turned away from it carefully and tried to speak again.
"Mr. Todd, please, I just wanted to 'elp you feel better. I didn't mean any 'arm."
He heard Toby take a few steps closer and then hesitate.
Damn, it's like kickin' a puppy. I suppose…she didn't mean to spoil everything. She was just bein' a bloody fool.
Mr. Todd took the razor away from Lovett's face and shoved her, dragging her toward the center of the room and throwing her off-balance. She stumbled and nearly fell; Toby caught her.
Then the razor sang through the air. Mrs. Lovett wasn't looking, but Toby was, and he shouted as the razor caught a few of Mrs. Lovett's curls. Three red, curling tendrils fell to the floor. The razor had passed through her peripheral vision and she flinched with a sort of vague, delayed fear, then cried out in surprise when she saw the bits of her hair on the floorboards.
"Mrs. Lovett, I will let you off with a warnin' this time since you broke our agreement by means of sheer thoughtlessness. But if you ever try to weasel out of punishment you deserve again, you will pay. Do you understand me?"
She nodded frantically. "Yes, love."
Mr. Todd could hear Toby's query of "You all right, mum?" trailing off as he stormed upstairs.
Damn her, Sweeney thought as he collapsed in his chair. But his heart wasn't in it. She was frightened, she had apologized…and he was managing to keep Benjamin Barker's Christmas memories at bay. Nothing else mattered.
A few minutes later, Sweeney felt goosebumps popping up on his arms. "Why is it so bloody cold?" He growled. After all, he had the wood stove burning. Irritated that he was made uncomfortable by something as trivial as the weather, he sat resolutely in the chair, refusing to attempt to make himself warmer. That resolve lasted for about another quarter hour, after which he stood and sought out his overcoat. He also pulled his gloves onto his white hands.
He was still cold.
He shuffled around the tonsorial parlor, grumbling. He had to find something else to keep him warm. Something other than the scarf from Mrs. Lovett. Unfortunately, he found nothing.
Standing before the cracked mirror (he had to get that damn thing replaced…or maybe he would just ask Mrs. Lovett to do it), Mr. Todd sullenly draped his new scarf around his neck. He did like the color, and it was warm.
The day did not get any warmer, but Sweeney Todd was no longer troubled by the cold.
A/N: I really didn't know where to end this. But it's Christmas vacation—I don't really feel like doing anything. (Thank you exams for melting my brain.) However, the plot bunnies were attempting to burrow into my head to get away from the cold, since it's negative 20 degrees outside with the wind chill. I wish I had a nice warm scarf like Sweeney's…
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