Someone to watch over me
It was the evening after another long day of work and Mrs. Lovett was trying to relax in her favorite chair near the fireplace. However, she couldn't concentrate on reading her book as she was staring outside and her mind wandered off once more.
She could see through the window that the buildings in the street were tormented by rain and wind. It was autumn again, even though she still could remember the last one so well. It was when her dear Albert had died and she was left all alone to live her life and run her husband's shop. It had been incredibly hard to make ends meet and even though spring had arrived many months later, for Nellie Lovett the sun never shone again.
And then, totally unexpected, he had come back. Now that Benjamin Barker was back, she had a reason to live again. She wasn't sure he was the same man as the one who had been banished so many years ago, but during the days since his return she had found out that the man, no matter how much he had changed, still had something inside of him that reminded her of Benjamin Barker. And so she cared for him while he was brooding upstairs in his old room, and she endured his rage and hateful remarks.
She sighed as she took another blanket from the chair next to her to protect herself against the cold, that always managed to reach her parlor, and went back to reading her book.
But before she had read even one page, the quietness was disturbed by a soft sound. Mrs. Lovett didn't recognize it and to a normal person it wouldn't have been of any significance, but since the noise came from Mr. Todd's room, the baker listened carefully.
A few seconds later, the sound was heard again and this time the woman recognized it: someone upstairs was sneezing. Because there could only be one person in that room now that it was evening, Mrs. Lovett immediately realized that Mr. Todd was the one who created the sound.
The barber probably – or rather, certainly – didn't want her to interfere, but the kind baker couldn't stand the idea of the barber having to be in the cold and darkness upstairs all night. Throwing the blankets away from her, she hurried upstairs.
As soon as she opened the door to the tonsorial parlor, she was greeted by the sight of the loudly coughing demon barber.
"Mr. T!" she cried, shocked at seeing the bad condition of the man she loved. "I told you this chilliness would do you no good!"
He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing but a few desperate coughs passed his lips. Mrs. Lovett couldn't bear seeing the man in the cold room for one more second and without further thinking, she took his arm and dragged him downstairs, through the autumn air that was just as cold as the temperature in his room.
He hardly tried to struggle; at first this surprised her, but then she realized that the poor man simply was too weak to try to stop her. Mrs. Lovett had never liked the strength with which the demon barber could intimidate her so easily, but seeing him this weak and vulnerable was far from enjoyable as well.
In her parlor, she gently made him lay down on one of her couches. As she looked at the man, whose eyes were closed and was having trouble breathing, she feared that his condition was more severe than just a common cold. She placed a hand against his forehead and upon feeling the unnatural heat radiating from it, it was clear to her that he was suffering from fever.
Quickly, she went to her kitchen to prepare some tea with herbs that she hoped would make him feel better. As it was done, she mixed it with a few spoons of honey and then hurried back to her still reluctant patient.
"What's that?" Mr. Todd asked suspiciously as he spotted the cup in her hand. But his doubtful glare soon vanished from his face as he started to sneeze again.
"It'll do you good," she said, ignoring his question, "just drink it."
In the one second that he didn't sneeze, Mrs. Lovett forced the cup with warm liquid between his trembling lips and firmly held the back of his head to make sure he wouldn't try to turn away from her.
To her surprise, the barber drank the tea quickly after he had recovered from his initial reluctance.
"More," he muttered, defeated. His voice was hoarse, in spite of the soothing ingredients of the tea. "Please."
That one word made the baker's heart melt, but she had no time to enjoy it. Sweeney's wish was her command, especially now that he was actually depending on her help.
During the next hour, Sweeney drank a few more cups of tea with her help. For once, he didn't try to prevent her from looking after him, causing the baker to believe that he, for once, appreciated her trouble.
However, in spite of her attention, the demon barber wasn't feeling better yet. His skin was grayish now and he seemed to be too weak to even open his eyes. Mrs. Lovett began to fear that there was really something wrong with Mr. Todd. Perhaps it wasn't 'just' a fever he was suffering from after all...
"I'll get a doctor for you," the baker said, deciding that her limited knowledge wouldn't be enough to ensure Sweeney's survival.
"No," he muttered, "I'm... I'm so cold."
Mrs. Lovett was torn between the desire to stay with him and the urge to get a doctor who could help him. The latter would be the most rational choice, but what if she was too late and would come back only to find a dead Mr. Todd? She could never forgive herself for not being there in his last moments.
"So cold," Sweeney murmured again.
Mrs. Lovett carefully placed her hand against his forehead to feel his temperature, rising an eyebrow in concern as she touched his skin.
"It feels as if you're on fire," she said.
"Cold," he repeated, his voice no more than a whisper now. "Need... warmth..."
"I... I'll get you some more tea, love," the baker said as she looked at the now empty teacup, her voice trembling in fear of losing him.
Before she could move however, Sweeney reached for her hand, which was still resting against his forehead, and pulled her closer to him.
"Warmth," he repeated, as his sudden movement forced her to come closer to him in order not to hurt her arm.
Without hesitation, he weakly pulled her closer to him, thus mesmerizing Mrs. Lovett. Only as he managed to wrap his arm around her and buried his face into the crook of her neck, causing the woman's temperature to rise as well, she understood that he was somehow warming himself by holding her.
The heat was simply radiating from the barber's body and the woman had no idea how he could ever complain about cold this way, but for a few seconds it was the least she could worry about. It was simply heavenly to be held by the man she loved so much.
Only as he shivered violently, she was remembered of the reason that the barber and she were currently in this seemingly enjoyable situation.
"I really should go to find a doctor," she tried again.
"No," he whispered, not even bothering to open his eyes this time. "I don't want to be alone."
"Alright," she whispered back, "but..."
"Just hold me," was the last thing he said before he lost consciousness.
The baker's heart was beating rapidly in fear and worry, but she knew what Mr. Todd had said: he didn't want to be alone at this moment. The man's body was still feeling very warm, but Mrs. Lovett presumed that warm was better than cold in this case. Silently praying that he was just sleeping, recovering from whatever he was suffering from, she made sure to cover his body with her own the best she could. There was nothing she could do after that, except for enjoying this extremely rare opportunity. Mr. Todd's arms were wrapped tightly around her upper body, as if he was clinging to her, and with a bit of fantasy, Mrs. Lovett could let herself believe that he wasn't doing this because he was ill. She sighed softly as she buried her face in his chest, just before she fell asleep herself.
A week later Mr. Todd was almost fully recovered. The first night of his illness had been the worst, but after he had slept for almost twenty hours non stop and had allowed Mrs. Lovett to feed him more tea and lots of warm soup, he was feeling better soon.
Of course this was much to the baker's delight, but part of her regretted his soon recovery. She was rather sure that now that he was feeling better again, he wouldn't allow her to look after him anymore. The fact that she had been allowed to watch over him for a few days, was the most wonderful thing she had experienced since his unexpected return to London.
However, that wasn't the only thing that she worried about. She had been able to deny the symptoms for a day, but on a rainy Tuesday evening, a week after Mr. Todd's full recovery, she felt weak and cold herself. She had always thought that the hard work had made her immune to such kind of things, but as she could hardly stop sneezing, she had to admit that she was suffering from a cold (or worse) herself now.
She wasn't the only one who noticed this. Mr. Todd, who spent all his evenings in her parlor now because he claimed that the coldness of his room upstairs would make him ill again, was aware of it too. After he had observed her reaching for a handkerchief desperately thrice within one minute, he stood up from the chair he had been sitting on and dragged his landlady over to a couch.
"Mr. Todd!" the surprised baker cried between two coughs, "what are you doing?"
"I'm looking after you, you silly woman. How often did I not tell you to wear proper clothes with this kind of weather?"
"Well..." Mrs. Lovett muttered, realizing that he had a point.
"You truly are a hopeless case," he said, his voice kinder than his words.
Before she could say anything to defend herself, he pushed her down on her own couch and covered her with the blankets that were still lying there.
"Just stay there," Sweeney warned her, his voice dangerously low, "if you are gone when I come back, I will make sure you regret it."
Although this was supposed to be a threat, to the woman it didn't feel like one at all. She wasn't exactly sad because of the barber's concern, after all.
"I'll be back within a few minutes," he said, "I'll make you some tea."
"You're going to make me tea?!" the baker echoed, her throat aching, not believing her own ears as she heard this, for his doing, incredibly generous offer.
"Yes," he said, "with lots of honey. You need to be better soon; I can't get rid of all those dead bodies myself after all."
Those words were enough to lower her spirits; she wanted Sweeney to care because of her, not because of his devilish plans. However, the comment was companioned by the lightest hint of a smile, making it clear to her that even though the barber didn't want to admit it, he actually did seem to care for her.
As Sweeney moved to the kitchen to prepare a hot cup of tea with honey for her, the baker made herself comfortable on the couch and tried to ignore the endless urge to sneeze. But, for once in her life, Mrs. Lovett didn't really mind. What could she possible complain about after all now that Sweeney Todd was watching over her? Just because of his presence and worry for her she felt slightly better already and she was sure that, as long as he was there, in the end everything would be more than fine.