Gifts

Mrs. Lovett just couldn't believe it. After so many lonely Christmas days without any gifts at all, there was now a small package lying on her nightstand. For a few moments the woman was too mesmerized to react, but then she slowly reached for the small package while she simply radiated of joy because someone had bothered to buy a present for her.

Not wanting the surprising moment to end too soon, she stared at the gift for a few seconds, just looking intently at it. The paper that was wrapped around the box that it seemed to contain, was one of a plain but charming sort. The woman turned the present around numerous times to find some sort of tag on it, but there was none. This surprised her: not only had she received a totally unexpected gift, but the person who had been so generous hadn't bothered to identify him or herself as well. This surprised and confused the baker, but since the gift was lying on her nightstand, it was at least obvious that it was meant for her and that she could better satisfy her curiosity now and think about the mysterious giver later.

Not wanting to wait any longer, the baker slowly removed the paper from the present. Like she had expected before, there was a box around the present indeed. Holding her breath in anticipation, she opened it, and she gasped in awe as she saw the lovely pair of fingerless gloves that the box contained.

She took them out of the package carefully and scrutinized them. They were easily the most beautiful gloves she had ever seen. The fabric was very soft yet it didn't look fragile at all, and they would doubtlessly be divine to wear. Tears of happiness welled in her eyes as she realized that someone, whoever it was, had been willing to give her something so beautiful.

As she admired the gloves, she couldn't help but wonder who exactly had bought her this and the reason for giving her said gift. She couldn't remember anyone giving her a present the last decade, but then again, the past ten or so years there had been no one to care enough for her to even really talk to her. She had been all alone, not even customers bothered to visit her shop for a pie. But now... the love of her life was living in the same building as she was again. She highly doubt that he had given her the present; he wouldn't even normally talk to her after all, let alone show any sign of affection or give her something nice. But along with Mr. Todd and the trouble he caused, there had been another addition to her crazy little family.

"Toby," the baker muttered as she thought of the young boy. "It must be him."

She jumped out bed, wanting to thank the boy all day for bothering to give her a present this Christmas, only then realizing that she was still wearing her nightgown. Quickly, she changed into her working clothes, during the process casting a glance on the gloves that were proudly lying on her nightstand now.

As she was dressed, she hurried to the parlor, expecting to find Toby there. However, he wasn't sleeping on the couch, which was highly unusual.

"Toby?" she called, concern for the boy clear in her voice.

"I'm here," he said as he sneaked out of her kitchen, closing the door carefully and cleaning his fingers at the fabric of his shirt.

Mrs. Lovett would usually worry about this – he wasn't supposed to be in her kitchen at this time after all, let alone cleaning his fingers on his clothes. And in fact, he was looking quite guilty, as if he had done something that he shouldn't have been doing.

But as she reminded herself of the wonderful gift that she had received from him, the baker smiled brightly. She walked towards the boy and hugged him tightly.

"Merry Christmas," he muttered to her as he returned the affectionate gesture.

For a few seconds, Mrs. Lovett was too moved to reply. She had dreamed for so long to once experience a moment like this, and although Toby wasn't her own son, it certainly felt as if he was.

"Merry Christmas Toby," she replied, "and thanks so much for that beautiful gift. You have no idea how happy it made me feel."

"Gift?" he muttered, sounding confused. "But... I haven't gotten you anything!"

Mrs. Lovett hastily let go off the boy, her mind racing. If the boy hadn't given her the present... than who did?

"I mean," the boy said, thinking that he had upset the baker by not giving her a present, "I haven't gotten you anything yet."

"Oh," the baker muttered, not really knowing what else to say about the subject. "Well, I'll get us something to eat. Luckily the shop is closed, so we can really enjoy this day."

The boy nodded eagerly, seemingly already having forgotten the confusion about the present. Mrs. Lovett however had not, and as she went to the bakehouse to fetch the bread that she already had prepared the previous day, she tried to find out the identity of the mysterious person who had been so generous.

She hadn't heard anything from Mr. Todd yet, but of course she would bring him his breakfast as usual. Because it was cold and she didn't want her hands to freeze, she went back to her bedroom to change her old gloves for the new ones before she went up to his shop to bring him his food.

As she entered the cold barber shop, she was greeted by the merry jingle of the bell at the door. Usually this was the only thing that seemed to notice her presence, but this time Mr. Todd turned around to face her; if she wouldn't have known any better, she'd sworn there was a look of expectation on his face.

"Good to see that you are wearing them."

"Excuse me?!"

Mrs. Lovett was completely surprised by hearing any sound coming from Mr. Todd's direction and thus she didn't really her what he was actually saying.

"Those gloves. I said: good to see that you are wearing them," he repeated.

Unlike what she had expected, his face wasn't showing the usual snarl or deadly glare and because of this unexpected detail it took her another few seconds more to realize what he had actually said.

"Mr. T!" she gasped, realizing that there was only one other person who knew about the gloves: whoever had brought them. And since Sweeney noticed them immediately and referred to them as "those gloves" as if he was familiar with them, he seemed to be the one who had given to her after all.

Feeling so extremely happy because of the fact he had bothered to give her such a nice gift for Christmas and forgetting the man she was dealing with, she hurried forwards and flung herself into his arms.

"Thanks so much," she whispered.

Only then she realized what she had done exactly. For once, Mr. Todd had been kind and what did she do? She hugged him as if there was no tomorrow and if there was a way she could surely anger him, it was this one.

Automatically, she wanted to start apologizing; but before she had the chance to do so, she felt two arms wrapping themselves around her waist. Overwhelmed by the moment, she refused to think of a reason that made the barber act this way and enjoyed the warm embrace as much as she could.

"Do you like them?" he asked softly, muttering into her hair.

"They're beautiful," she whispered back, "the nicest pair I ever had."

"Good," he answered, "I noticed that the once you usually were have huge holes in them, they were almost falling apart. And we don't want the customers to find parts of gloves in their pies, now do we?"

This explanation of his actions didn't please Mrs. Lovett at all. So that's what it's all about, she thought angrily. Always thinking about customers and pies, but never about me.

"But," Mr. Todd continued, holding her tighter so she couldn't get away from him, "as I was at the market, I found myself incapable of choosing one of the countless pairs of different gloves that were offered for sale."

The baker was only vaguely aware of what the barber was saying; the fact that he was still holding her and didn't seem to plan to slaughter her soon because of this, was to her an even more wonderful gesture than the fact that he had given her a Christmas present.

"So," Sweeney added, "since there were so many to chose from and I decided that you deserved something nice because it was almost Christmas after all, I asked for the best gloves that the owner sold."

The barber sounded as if he was particularly proud of himself and because of this rather unfamiliar tone of his voice, it did caught Mrs. Lovett's attention this time. As he stated that he had bought her the best gloves available, the woman smiled into the barber's chest, forgiving him his earlier blunt comment immediately.

"Thank you," she muttered to him, "thank you thank you thank you."

"I do believe that saying 'thank you' only once is usually enough," Mr. Todd answered, the pleasant sound of his voice suggesting that he was, for once, amused. Only slightly, of course, for he was still the infamous demon barber.

"No," Mrs. Lovett replied happily, still unable to believe her luck, "not in this case."

As the man didn't seem eager to escape from her tight embrace, Mrs. Lovett just kept holding him, wondering what she had done right to be able to experience this moment. Mr. Todd even seemed to return the embrace, which made the baker feel even better, even though it was clear that he felt quite awkward because of it.

"That's quite enough," he muttered after a minute, clumsily removing himself from her again.

She just smiled at him, and her happiness seemed to be a bit contagious since the harsh lines of pain and sorrow in his face seemed to fade a bit.

"Merry Christmas Mr. T," she said, still incapable to stop smiling.

"Merry Christmas, Mrs. Lovett," he replied.

Sweeney didn't smile, but the genuineness of his voice was clear enough: although he knew that his Christmas day couldn't be a merry one after all the misery from the past, he sincerely wished her a nice Christmas. How much Mrs. Lovett appreciated the fact that even Mr. Todd seemed to feel good enough to be polite today.

"You should go downstairs," he said quietly. "Toby is probably waiting for you."

"And what about you?" she asked, the comment of her adoptive son waiting for her not distracting her from the man that she would have to leave if she went back to Toby. "You stay here, all by yourself?"

"Of course," he replied, staring at the floor now instead of looking at her. "I don't want to... spoil the fun."

"Mr. T!" the shocked baker cried. "What's this nonsense?"

"I know who I am... what I am. I'm not the one to enjoy things, let alone participate in them. Not anymore, anyway."

The woman stared at Sweeney, her heart breaking for him, as she was searching for the right words.

"Do know that you'll never spoil my fun, Mr. T. You probably don't realize it, but I thoroughly enjoy your presence. And it would make me happy to know that you feel at least a bit better yourself today as well."

She took his hand, gently rubbing her thumb over the surprisingly soft skin of his palm. For a second she thought that there was a lonely tear glistering in the corner of his eye, but as she blinked and looked closer, it seemed to have vanished. She pitied him more than ever and at the same time she was more grateful than she had ever been because of the unexpected present he had given her.

Wanting him to feel loved too, she dared to step even closer to him and kiss him softly on the cheek.

"You're always welcome; not only today, but every day of the year. Don't ever forget that."

He tensed, and she was afraid that she had really gone to far now, but except for a shiver that seemed to run through his body, he didn't move.

"I won't forget," he replied. "Now, go. There's someone waiting for you."

Mrs. Lovett nodded, smiling sadly and wanting so desperately that Mr. Todd would be able to bring himself to come downstairs as well and just to relax for a few hours. But she knew just as well that it was his choice, and that he would never come before he thought that he was ready for it.

"Thanks again," she said to him. "For everything."

His solemn nod was the only sign that he had heard her, and after they had cast one more, long glance at each other, she disappeared through the door. Usually she always felt as if a part of her heart remained in the barber shop as she went back to her own parlor, but this time, the feeling was much more intense than usual.

However, as soon as she stepped into the warmth of her own home and Toby came to her with a huge smile on his face, motherly affection grew stronger than the aching in her heart that the lonely man upstairs caused.

"Merry Christmas Mum," the young boy said again. "I made you a gift."

Not knowing what to say as she was in complete shock at the thought of not only one present but two, the woman just stared at the boy as he went to the kitchen with a bright smile on his face.

"I hope you don't mind that I worked in your kitchen without you knowing it," he said, "but I couldn't ask for your permission because that would spoil the surprise."

A few seconds later he returned from in the parlor, carrying a plate from the small oven in her kitchen.

"Merry Christmas," Toby said as he offered the baker the plate.

On the plate was one of the most deliciously smelling pies that she had ever seen in her entire life, even before she was used to the stench of her new recipe. This one was unlike any pie she had ever seen; it was clearly not made by a professional baker.

"The dough is from the bakehouse, and I made the rest here."

"The bakehouse!?" Mrs. Lovett repeated, her heart suddenly racing because Toby was just suggesting that he had been to the place where so many people had found their way into a pie and a lot of bones and other useless parts of the human body could still be found.

"Don't worry," the boy said happily, "I know you don't want me to go there. And I didn't actually went there myself. Mr. T. did that for me."

"Mr. Todd got it for you?" Mrs. Lovett asked sheepishly, wondering how this all could be happening and if her mind wasn't playing tricks on her.

"Yes, I told him that I wanted to give you something but that I didn't know what. Without really asking him for help, he suggested to bake you a chocolate pie. He told me that you like chocolate, so that's why I got chocolate for in the pie."

"That is the most wonderful..." the baker started, staring at the pie in disbelief, wondering why she hadn't recognized the smell of chocolate sooner.

"But don't tell him!" the young boy continued before she could finish speaking as he looked guiltily op at the ceiling in the direction of Mr. Todd's room. "I promised him not to tell you anything, he even forbade me so, but... "

"I promise I won't say a thing," she said, winking mischievously to the boy. "Let's try a piece of the pie, shall we?"

Toby took plates and forks from the kitchen while Mrs. Lovett reached for a knife, enjoying the smell of the chocolate.

The two of them gathered around the table and stared expectantly at the pie. But before they could cut it, there was a knock on the door.

"Who can that be?" a bewildered Mrs. Lovett asked. "A customer who missed the closed sign on the front door?"

Toby looked disappointed at the interruption of the moment; he was clearly eagerly awaiting his adoptive mother's reaction to the pie he had baked her.

"Don't worry Toby," the baker said to the young boy as she stood up and moved to the door, "I'll send him away and then we'll just continue..."

Mrs. Lovett speech faltered as she opened the door, causing Toby to look up to identify the unexpected visitor.

"Mr. Todd!" both Mrs. Lovett and the young boy said, as the two of them were equally surprised by the arrival of the demon barber himself on their little Christmas party.

Sweeney raised an eyebrow because of their rather surprised reaction, but as he looked around in the room and spotted the two plates and two forks, he stepped back.

"I see I'm interrupting," he muttered, "I'll leave."

"Nonsense!" the baker said enthusiastically. "I just told you that you're always welcome, especially now that it's Christmas."

She placed her hand on his arm and as he didn't seem to be angered by this, the woman guided the barber inside her parlor.

"Get a plate and a fork for Mr. Todd," she said to Toby.

The boy nodded and as he disappeared in the kitchen again, the barber and the baker shared a look.

"Mr. T," the woman said quietly, "may I ask..."

"What I'm doing here?" he added, not giving her the possibility to complete her question.

"Yes," she nodded, realizing only then that she probably shouldn't have asked anything at all.

"It's alright," he said quietly. "I was just thinking how we used to spent Christmas together. You, Lucy, Albert and I... Do you remember?"

"Of course I do," Mrs. Lovett said, joy welling inside of her as the demon barber seemed to be not the only one who had good memories of the parties the four of them had had. They belonged to her favorite memories, and she still remembered how happy she always had felt if she had managed to get a seat next to Benjamin without rousing any suspicion from the two men and, most of all, Lucy. And that one heavenly time that Albert had been ill and Lucy had left the party earlier because she was tired, and Benjamin and the baker had ended up alone in the parlor of the Lovett's, on the same couch and both a glass of wine in their hand... nothing improper had happened of course, but it was one of the baker's most pleasant memories.

"Mrs. Lovett?"

Sweeney's voice brought her back to the present. She shook her head, knowing that it was silly to think of that night long ago since it was simply no use. Benjamin hadn't want her back then because he was with Lucy and even though so many things had happened since that day and the barber believed his wife to be dead, she presumed that Mr. Todd still didn't want to have anything to do with her.

And yet, here he was, asking to be part of her little Christmas party...

"And I thought that, in spite of the situation," he added, "it would be... nice to honor that tradition. There are only two left of us anyway, but perhaps..."

It was rather odd to hear Mr. Todd using the word 'nice', but Mrs. Lovett couldn't care less. "You're very welcome here, you know you are," she said, stressing the word 'welcome' in such a way that even the demon barber would hopefully catch how grateful she was to have him close to her.

He nodded and as she gestured to one of her couches, he sat down on it and made himself comfortable. Mrs. Lovett observed the man, to her surprise noticing that he seemed less tense than usual.

At that moment Toby reappeared from the kitchen and cut three slices off the pie, offering one part to his adoptive mother, one to the barber and kept one himself. To Mrs. Lovett's surprise, Mr. Todd took his part immediately from the young boy.

"What?" the barber asked, as he found the woman staring at him.

"Nothing," she said, still smiling. "I'm just glad to see you freely accept any food."

He snarled, but it was a bad attempt and it was clear to her that the barber only pretended to be offended by her words.

During the next few minutes, the three of them ate their piece. The pie tasted quite good, especially if one considered the fact that Toby had baked it. The young boy talked a lot, but for once Mrs. Lovett wasn't aware of it since she was completely focused on Mr. Todd all the time.

When they had all finished eating, the baker sent Toby out of the parlor to play outside, saying she would give him his present later. She felt quite guilty because of this, especially since it was Christmas, but she preferred to be alone with Mr. Todd for a while.

"Do you remember that night?" he asked while really looking her in the eyes for the first time that evening.

His description was quite vague, but the baker immediately knew about which evening he was talking.

"Yes I do," she replied. "How could I forget?"

"I did," Sweeney said, grimacing. "It seems as if that one Christmas day that we spent together has taken place in another lifetime. In some way it did, of course."

They both stared at the flames in the hearth that Toby had already lit that morning. Sweeney seemed completely lost in his thoughts and Mrs. Lovett didn't want to interrupt him, afraid that disturbing the barber would end the friendly atmosphere between them.

"How was it like exactly, that night?" he asked, much to Mrs. Lovett's surprise.

"Well," she said, "there was just the two of us. We were sitting on this couch, drinking wine and talking."

"I don't remember the wine," he muttered. "How long is it ago? Eighteen years, nineteen perhaps?"

"Twenty," the baker replied. "You and Lucy were just married. May I ask you why you care, Mr. Todd?"

"Because today somehow reminds me of it, I think. I felt happy that day and I wish I could remember that feeling."

"Things have changed," the baker sighed, not sure what to think of the barber's words. "You should know that even better than I do."

"I know, but in a way, it's just like then. We are talking, there's no-one except for us... And do you, perhaps, have some wine?"

"I do."

"Would you... we...?"

"Certainly," she replied, trying to suppress an excited grin.

Half a minute later she came back from the kitchen, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses. Mr. Tod was sitting in a corner of the couch now, in a way that was very similar to the way he had been relaxing there twenty years ago. His eyes were closed and he only opened them as she sat down next to him and handed him the glass of the red liquor that she had just filled.

"You... you were sitting closer that day," he said, seemingly forgetting his wine as he focused all his attention on the baker.

Before the implications of his words dawned on her, he took her hand and gently pulled her closer to him, until their sides were touching and her head was resting on his shoulder.

"Yes," he muttered, sighing in a way that she could describe as 'contented' if she wouldn't know any better.

Since he didn't seem to mind her presence – he was the one who had arranged them this way after all – she made herself comfortable by cuddling against him.

Carefully, as if he was afraid to scare her away if he wouldn't move slowly enough, Sweeney wrapped one arm around her and with the other he moved the glass of wine to his lips and took a few sips.

"Yes," he said again, "this is exactly how it must've been back then."

It was very much like that night indeed, Nellie mused; the only difference was that they were almost twice as old now and this time, there were no potentially angry and/or jealous spouses waiting for them just outside the parlor.

"But why?" she asked, in spite of everything still her curious self. "And why now?"

"I think it's because it's the first Christmas that I spend here again. And that night with you... it is the only happy moment that I can remember that doesn't include Lucy. I... I wanted to experience something good again. You are the only one that still can make me feel as if I'm not dead yet."

Mrs. Lovett was sad because of the barber's statement; it made clear once again how much the man had lost, but at the same time she was very happy of course because he had just admitted that she could make him feel happy.

"Do you like your gloves?" he asked, catching the baker off guard because of the sudden chance of topic.

"Yes," she managed to say after a few seconds, "they're beautiful. Thanks so much again."

She was afraid that now that the previous subject was dropped the barber would return to his usual self again and snarl a nasty remark to her, but none of that happened.

"Could we just sit like this for a while?" he said quietly, his breath against her neck causing her to shiver.

"Yes," she mumbled, "we certainly can."

Their eyes locked for a moment and both the baker and the barber smiled.

"Merry Christmas Sweeney," the woman said to Mr. Todd, wanting to say those magical words again now that the two of them suddenly had come to a whole new understanding.

"Merry Christmas Nellie," he replied, giving her another light yet beautiful smile.

Mrs. Lovett wrapped both arms around the barber and sighed happily as he returned the embrace.

Yes, this Christmas would be a merry one at last. Mr. Todd's affection was the most beautiful gift to Mrs. Lovett after all.