Disclaimer: I don't own anything Sweeney Todd related except the DVD and my imagined world in which Sweeney and co inhabit.
A/N: This is the first fanfic I've put up here, so go ahead, read and review please. I'm one of those people that criticism can't stop. Maybe a brick might =D.
CHAPTER I: Getting' Rid of Loose Ends
The dead man reached out with a feeble, bloodied hand to grasp her ankle. Mrs Lovett stifled a scream by biting her knuckle. It was fortunate she had the habit, biting her knuckles whenever she felt the need to scream. Or else Mr T would come running down demanding what the devil she was screaming for. It was something she'd done quite frequently when her Albert was alive. And that wouldn't do, oh no. She had a mess to clean up.
Mrs Lovett turned her attention back to the almost-corpse.
In two swift kicks the woman managed to disentangle her booted ankle from the dying man's hand. One more firm kick to the head silenced the rest of his death throe. Judge Turpin was finally no more. Although you'd think the throat-slitting would have done it, Mrs Lovett mused absently. Considering Mr T's artistic skills with his razors. She rewarded herself with a wry smile, but inside, her little heart beat rapidly at the thought of her almost discovery.
It had almost been curtains, thanks to that rotten Judge. For, unbeknownst to the dear master upstairs, Mrs Lovett (I doubt anyone except herself and her dear Albert ever knew her name) had a terrible secret. Not as terrible as her feeding human remains to her customers in the guise of meat pies (although Mrs Lovett wouldn't have considered it terrible, rather 'eminently practical') – but it was close. She had known, plotted, orchestrated - take your pick of the adjectives – that Sweeney Todd's (formerly Benjamin Barker) poor outcast wife was alive. Indeed, the very same old crazy woman who spouted warnings and Armageddon's to customers and passersby of Mrs Lovett's famous pie shop.
It wasn't Mrs Lovett's fault the silly little nit couldn't hold her head together for more than a day, without a man around. It certainly wasn't her fault the blonde sot had gone mad after her little adventure at the Judge's ball. The dim thing hadn't deserved Sweeney. Poor Mr Todd. If only the stupid woman had waited at least a year before losing her head, Mrs Lovett might have held a little respect. But the woman was weak. A silly blonde mop like that was as fidgety as a grasshopper, flighty as a bird.
And all the while, Mrs Lovett had been waiting, waiting her time out in the pie shop, waiting for her dear Albert to drop dead (although a little arsenic never hurt a man) - until Benjamin Barker returned. He had a fifteen year service in the Australian colony and Mrs Lovett waited, counting each year until almost as if by chance Mr T was drawn, inexorably into her pie shop. After all those years, he'd come, haunted and aged (and more than a little mad, though still handsome) where Mrs Lovett set about to repair all the damage Mrs Barker had done.
But if Mr T ever knew she knew the truth about his wife, well, Mrs Lovett trembled just thinking on it. She had seen of course, the bodies slide down and pile up in the furnace room, sent as if from the devil himself (though really from the trapdoor above Mr T's barber shop). She'd seen the blood spilling from the dead men's throats like slaughtered pigs (Mrs Lovett could think of no better analogy) – but the misguided woman couldn't conceive that Mr T would ever harm her.
He certainly was fond of his two 'friends', those twin silver blades that helped him with his work, stroking them and talking to them and what not. He might have his little violent outbursts now and then, in many ways Mrs Lovett thought, like a spoilt child. But she was sure as she was sure Benjamin Barker's wife was a fool that when it came to it, he would never bring himself to hurt his partner in crime.
So now she was looking down at what she had dreamed of all those years to come true, Mrs Barker's dead body lying on the floor. It was true, Nellie (for that was Mrs Lovett's first name) wasn't the least bit sorry for it. She savoured the blood-matted blonde hair and sad little (once flailing) limbs before setting swiftly to work.
Mrs Lovett dragged the dead weight, with no puns intended, towards the roaring furnace, left open earlier by Toby. It wasn't easy, mind you, lifting the sour thing on her own, but somehow Nellie managed to push the body head first into the shuddering flames. Mrs Lovett paused for a moment to watch her handiwork shrivel and blaze into that hellish coffin, until the face melted away and all trace of Benjamin Barker's first love vanished.
'Where is he?'
And then, footsteps coming down the stairs. A rough, grizzled voice interrupted her celebrating. Mrs Lovett spun round, hands on her corset.
'Who?' She cleverly masked the brief twinge of fear at being discovered by mopping her brow with the back of her gloved hand. Then, ever the competent actress, the woman turned her attentions to the bloody corpse lying beneath the trapdoor. 'Oh you mean the Judge? Gave me such a fright 'e did, droppin' down like that.'
Sweeney did not really see Mrs Lovett, (he himself was quite practiced at staring past her, or through her) or he might have noticed the unusual amount of sweat beading on her forehead. He saw only the pathetic piece of fat on the floor, its eyes still frozen in the moment of death, the moment of the realization that he, Sweeney Todd, had had the honour of the stealing from Turpin his last breath. Sweeney brushed past Mrs Lovett, bending down in the pool of blood to survey the jagged cuts across the dead man's throat, the admirable stab wounds in the neck and face and chest. Ten minutes must have passed, before Sweeney remembered where he was.
Now was the time, Mrs Lovett thought, steeling herself. Now's the time to strike.
'It's over love,' the baker said, placing one of her small, gloved hands over the vested shoulder, now stained with fresh blood. Mrs Lovett couldn't help wondering how many men's blood now stained her love's clothes. Mr Todd was certainly an efficient one. No one could accuse him of being a slacker.
'It's over,' she repeated, as if the lull of her voice could drown him out of his own private fires. 'It's time we forget this nasty business. What's past is past.'
Suddenly the barber's eyes flew up at Mrs Lovett's comforting form, ablaze with a mad fire that she briefly hoped was love. 'Johanna.'
Mrs Lovett frowned inwardly. 'Wot about her then?' If it wasn't the blonde nitwit of a wife, it was his daughter. No one had ever sung a ballad about Mrs Lovett.
'Where is she?' Mr Todd was scrambling to his feet, the Judge all but forgotten. He paused. 'Is she…alive?'
Mrs Lovett removed the comforting hand, now all business, hands on hips again. 'I should think so. Young Tony said he was to bring her here when 'e'd called a coach.' She held her breath, realising she'd revealed too much.
Sweeney took her by the shoulders. 'A coach?' He shook her roughly. 'He plans to steal away my girl!' That same fire flared up again.
Mrs Lovett knew that fire. He was only like that at the thought of killing someone. Else he was like a half-strangled dog staring off into heaven knows what; a great, useless thing he was. 'Mr T, please,' Mrs Lovett grasped his arm, 'you've got to let her go.'
'I've waited fifteen years, Sweeney said, 'I'll slit his throat – any man's throat, 'e who dares take 'er from me!'
'Wait!' Mrs Lovett's voice was filled with such earnest, that it drew him back from ascending the stairs. 'Think about it love, think,' she whispered, drawing her face close to his. 'Are you gonna spill 'is blood in front of the poor little lamb? You plan to lock her up like the Judge, stop 'er from seeing a soul? She won't thank you, you know.'
Mrs Lovett let this sink into Sweeney's scrambled mind for a moment. 'Bringing that little girl into this world was the best thing you did in your life Mr T.' Clearly, her words were taking effect to his tortured soul, because he did not run up the stairs after Anthony. He was waiting for her to speak. 'Now love,' Mrs Lovett continued,' I can think of something just as worthy you can do.'
'What?' Mr T met her gaze, and there Mrs Lovett saw a glimpse of the man he had been before all this terrible business started.
Mrs Lovett returned the gaze, and for once was thinking of Johanna's happiness as much as her own. 'Let 'er go. Let 'er 'ave the happiness you 'ad with your Lucy all those years ago. Don't,' she added, her gaze sweeping round the dank, bloodied oven room, 'let 'er see all this. And she will, you know, if you make 'er stay. You can't go back love,' Mrs Lovett finished with a final dramatic whisper, 'you can't change wot's done.'
Sweeney broke away, walking stiffly to the furnace. He looked in that fire for a long time.
'With me, you don't 'ave to hide wot you are,' she added, although I don't know if Sweeney heard her, lost as he was in the embers of the past.
It was true, everything Mrs Lovett said. Whether he would ever realise it, she was the only woman who would ever love him completely and utterly for what he was, once the naïve Benjamin Barker, now the Demon Baber of Fleet Street. I don't know if we could call it a rare meeting of two psychopathic, kindred spirits, or simply a warped, blindly devoted lust on the widowed baker's part, but in Mrs Lovett's dark, age-worn eyes, it was love.
Suddenly Sweeney Todd slammed the furnace shut with a shuddering bang, and when he at last turned around some of the mad fire had died in his eyes. 'I've decided. Johanna will 'ave her freedom. On one condition.'
Mrs Lovett raised a brow.
'I get to farewell 'er.'
'Well,' said Mrs Lovett, dusting her hands and inspecting Sweeney's clothes, matted from head to toe in dried blood, 'we're gonna 'ave to do somethin' about your presentation.'
And so after Mrs Lovett raced upstairs and caught Antony and his blonde betrothed waiting in her shop for the coach, she had it decided that Mr Todd would clean himself up and say his goodbyes to Johanna. Mrs Lovett had to admit, when she laid eyes on the girl for the first time, she was surprised. She'd been expecting some daft vacant child all face an' no brain like her mother.
'Thank you for hiding us,' Johanna whispered in that tiny child's voice, no stronger than a finch's.
Mrs Lovett crossed her arms. Anthony was watching them impatiently, eager to go to the coach. In Johanna's eyes Mrs Lovett read no impatience, only meek sadness. There was a lifetime of sadness welled up in those eyes, as if she knew, wherever they went, that the ghosts of her parents would follow her. Mrs Lovett was impressed. The girl was not even sixteen years.
'Care for a pie dearies?' Mr Lovett said, going to the oven and offering them a pie from the tray. Mrs Lovett waited, watching them both. She wasn't evil. It was just that she couldn't stand waste.
'Now remember, it's our little secret. Mr Todd will get himself into a right tizzy if 'e discovers I've been wasting our goods on you little ragamuffins.' Mrs Lovett winked co-conspiratorially at them. 'Well?' The warm smell wafted across the room. It was obvious the two lovebirds were hungry. Anthony leaned forward, and took one gingerly. He took a small, tentative bite, and as the taste coursed through his mouth he devoured the rest of it.
'Wot about you pet?' Mrs Lovett waved the tray in Johanna's direction. The little blonde shook her head vehemently. Her caged eyes darted towards Mrs Lovett and back to Anthony. It was clear she was not as trusting as the boy. It was clear that she didn't trust Mrs Lovett a wink. Mrs Lovett returned the suspicious gaze with a warm smile. Wise girl.
She placed the tray back in the oven. No use Mr T finding out she'd been attempting to stuff his girl with his murdered customers. 'Well, no time for beating about the bush,' Mrs Lovett said loudly, rubbing her gloved hands together. It was the cue for Mr Todd to make his appearance, now that he was spiffied up.
'Mrs Lovett.' The voice alone commanded her to turn around. Mrs Lovett found her stiff joints giving way just a little. She had to rest one of her hands on the grubby kitchen bench. It was hard not to stare. Wasn't he spiffy.
The pale face was still there, alright, as were the haunted eyes and lined forehead, but what a wonder a change of clothes did for Mr T. He'd washed off all the blood of course, and now he was smartly dressed in a simple white barber's shirt, a navy blue best and black trousers. It was a surprise to her that women weren't throwing themselves at him. It was probably the only time Mrs Lovett had ever seen him nervous. Trust a man, she thought. Completely at ease with throat-slicing, but goes to pieces in front of a little blonde china doll.
'Now then,' Mrs Lovett said gently, realising she would be doing most of the talking, 'let's get these two little moppets home.' She took Mr T by the hand and brought him standing directly in front of Tony and Johanna. There was another reason for her urgency. Judge Turpin was still rotting in the furnace room below, along with the rest of the bodies. Pretty soon he would be noticed missing, and the police would be out searching for a body. Mrs Lovett looked back and forth at the couple and Mr T. Poor thing was a right mess, Mr Todd's hands were shaking, and he had no eyes for nothing but his girl. Even for someone as lacking in sentiment as Mrs Lovett, it was a touching moment.
'Where are me manners,' Mrs Lovett said finally, clapping her hands in a gesture to bring Mr Todd to his senses. The girl was trembling, though out of fear, not emotion. Poor Mr T didn't know he was staring quite so hard.
'Johanna,' he spoke suddenly, dropping her name in the air like a treasured glass is dropped to the ground. The girl didn't say anything, predictably. Just like her father, she was.
'Exactly,' Mrs Lovett said, smiling enough smiles for all four of them. 'This 'ere's Johanna, Anthony's bride-to-be, Johana, this 'ere's Mr Sweeney Todd.'
Johanna gave the smallest of bows. 'Thank you for your generosity sir.'
Yes, Mr T was completely enchanted. It was going to take all Mrs Lovett's powers of persuasion to keep this under wraps.
'My pleasure,' Mr T answered, on the point of choking.
Mrs Lovett wondered if he wasn't going to faint. 'Now 'ere Mr Todd,' she began, when he cut her off.
'That's an honest girl you 'ave there Anthony,' Sweeney said, never taking his eyes off his daughter's face. Mr T had never been the liveliest of sorts, but in the girl's presence some of the emptiness went out of those dark eyes, and something human returned. 'You had better take care of her.'
Anthony looked nervously at his former sea companion. Their eyes met. It was a threat, of that he was in no doubt, but the older man nodded, and the two of them reached a wordless agreement. Anthony had no idea of Johanna's true parentage, but he understood that Mr Todd was concerned for his future bride. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, if he had had one, which Anthony was certain he had. Mr Todd had never said much during their voyage on the sea together, but Anthony knew that he had lost his family, someone he had loved. It was the only answer he found that explained how a man like Mr Todd could have been destroyed, for someone as kind as innocent as Anthony felt he could sense who had been wronged and who had done wrong to others. It was the difference, say, between someone like Johanna, and someone like Judge Turpin and the Beadle. So Anthony returned Mr Todd's nodd, promising that he would care for Johanna. He would have the life, have the family that Mr Todd had never had, or lost. Anthony's gaze returned to Johanna and he eyed her sweetly. How glad he was to finally have her to herself!
Mrs Lovett pretended to wipe a tear from her eye. Secretly she rolled her eyes heavenward. It was sweet, for the first three minutes, but as I have mentioned, Mrs Lovett was not the most sentimental woman, and couldn't help wishing they would pack themselves into their carriage. She cleared her throat. This seemed to galvanize Mr Todd. He drew something out of his vest pocket.
'I... I have something,' he said, staring directly at Johann again. 'I have something for you. A gift.'
Johanna looked at Anthony, surprised.
'For your wedding,' Sweeney added, giving what he hoped was a friendly smile. I doubt she was used to having gifts generously donated, having lived with Judge Turpin. He took the thin, gentle white hand in his own rough, tanned one and placed something shimmering and golden in the tiny palm. 'I never got a chance…to give it to my wife.'
Johanna thought to ask what had become of his wife, but was so baffled by the sad longing in those eyes that she thought better of it. Instead, she turned her eyes to the beautiful locket gleaming in her hand, a plain golden circle, like a miniature sun. Johanna opened the locket, and saw two people in the two interior circles. The man, Johanna saw, was Mrs Lovett's now husband, before the world's troubles had blighted his looks. The girl smiled. He had been handsome. Then her eye rested on the second picture – his old wife. She had long, pale hair; small, thin lips like herself. Johanna felt a sudden, sad affection for this lost woman, this woman long forgotten over the years except by this haunted man. Johanna hoped Anthony would care for her that intensely through the passing years.
'I thank you sir,' said Johanna, sincerely this time, finding as she gazed into the barber's eyes a kindred spirit. They had both known suffering.
'Well, that's that then,' Mrs Lovett intervened, breaking the strangely intimate moment, 'I expect your coach 'as arrived.'
'Yes,' Johanna said, finally finding her voice.
'We will never forget this kindness,' Anthony said, speaking for them both with a warmth that became him. They shook hands, the women embraced.
At last, Mrs Lovett thought. Good riddance. She sat Mr Todd down by the bench where he'd first sat those six months ago, straight off the boat. She left him starting there for now, lost in the past. He'd make a right good scarecrow, Mrs Lovett mused, who often found herself breaking into humorous observations to stop herself from sharing the real well of emotions, the longing beneath the dry veneer.
'Wait,' Mrs Lovett found herself going out to the young couple, stopping just outside the doorway. 'Don't tell Mr T,' she whispered, 'but I think you could use this.' Mrs Lovett took the same gold and maroon purse-bag that had once belonged to Senor Pirelli out of her corset and placed in Anthony's hand. 'Don't spend it all once love,' she said with a little laugh.'
The two looked at her again, Anthony grateful, Johanna surprised. Then they scrambled into the coach and sped off to whatever life awaited them.
'Alls well that ends well, that's what I say,' Mrs Lovett said, somewhat predictably, re-entering the shop. 'Mr T?" Sweeney Todd was missing from his favourite staring spot. Suddenly she remembered the one oversight she had forgotten in her rush to get ride of Johanna.
Toby. And Mr Todd was missing.
Before Mr T had been interrupted by the arrival of the Beadle and then the Judge, they had been about to dispatch of Toby. Don't misjudge Mrs Lovett – she loved that child, with the greatest amount of affection possible, like he was her son. It was simply the fact that she loved Sweeney Todd a great deal more, more than her dear old Albert and Toby combined. We might call such love destructive. Mrs Lovett would have called it practical.
What was to be done? Mrs Lovett had intended for Toby to be done away with, but now, as she made her way down the basement steps into the furnace room below, she had a sudden change of heart. He was just a boy, after all. Now history was behind them, she and Mr T could have the life she dreamed. They could afford a cosy little house by the sea from the enormous sales of her pies. If the boy could be trusted, why couldn't Toby be part of that life? She had always wanted a son. But poor old Albert with his good for nothing impotence had put an end to that dream.