As long as she could remember, there had been things that Nellie Lovett was afraid of.
When she was a little girl, she had found a bat once in the attic of her parents' home and since the moment it suddenly had flown towards her as it saw the light of the candle she was holding, the little black animals terrified her.
A few years later she had gone to the seaside and she had attempted to swim when her family wasn't looking. She had almost drowned and although she survived, she had developed a water phobia.
Those rather childish fears faded during the years and were replaced by more severe and realistic ones.
She feared starving in those hard days. She was afraid of something happening to her husband and herself, or catching a horrible disease.
Those things did actually happen, all of them, one way or another. She had survived the flu, two times, and luckily she had never encountered anything more deadly. But her dear Albert hadn't been so fortunate and when he passed away, she was left with a bankrupt shop and nothing but her body to make the money she needed to survive.
When Sweeney Todd had returned and she had grown rich because of the pie 'ingredients' that he so generously offered her, she had thought that there was nothing she had to be afraid of anymore.
But as her love for the barber grew stronger every day, no matter his seemingly low opinion of her, new fears had found their way into her heart.
She was afraid of losing the barber again, both his physical form and his acceptance
for her as his accomplice (that was better than nothing, after all) and she feared that he would find out one day that his Lucy wasn't as dead as she had made him believe.
Yes, Nellie Lovett's life had always been filled with fears. But never, never, had she known for sure upon wakening whether or not she would die that very day.
Never, until now.
In all her fear concerning Sweeney Todd and his (lack of) feelings for her, she had never fully considered the possibility of her and the barber's crimes being found out. And this was exactly what happened three days ago.
The 'process' had been over within an hour and had let to a sentence that for once everyone in London agreed with: the demon barber and his devilish accomplice would be hung as soon as possible.
And there Mrs. Lovett was, in Newgate Prison, sharing a cell filled with other arrested women. None of them was as unfortunate as she was, although they had, just like her, had hardly anything to drink or eat the past few days.
The only good thing was that the baker, in contradiction of the other women, had been treated relatively well. None of the guards had laid a hand on her, as if they feared that they would be punished for touching "the accomplice of the devil himself" in any way.
In the dirty cell, ignored by the women who were just as frightened of her as the guards were, Nellie was counting down the minutes. She would be executed at noon, together with Sweeney Todd and eleven criminals whose sins were never proved. Judging from the slightly retreating darkness in the cell, the moment she had been dreading for almost three days was coming soon.
Counting down the last few hours of her life was the best thing she could do, given the circumstances. If she didn't do so, fear would overwhelm her completely. All the things she had been afraid of in her life were nothing compared to what she was experiencing now.
The thought of death had never been one that she liked, not even if she imagined herself dying of old age in Sweeney's arms. But very soon, this way…
The Judge was dead, Johanna was free and probably living happily ever after with Anthony, somewhere very far away, but Nellie didn't give a damn. All she had ever wanted was the love of the barber, whether he called himself Benjamin Barker or Sweeney Todd, but he had never even cared a little bit for her. And now she was going to die because of everything that she had done for him. His quest for revenge had made her rich, but the money was so obscenely useless since she only longed for something that could not be bought with the largest amount of pounds.
Tears welled in her eyes and for the first time in prison, she allowed herself to cry. There was no reason anymore to pretend to be strong.
Because her eyes were filled with tears that blurred her vision, she only noticed the guards when they grasped her arms and dragged her out of the stinking cell. The relatively fresh air was not a relief for the baker, for it only indicated that the moment of death was closer again.
She was thrown on the floor of another room, larger this time. When the guards retreated behind the safe side of the bars, shouting threats to no one in particular, unfamiliar hands roughly moved over her body, tearing at the already damaged dress she was wearing.
Nellie didn't have the strength to defend herself, only to think how ironic it was that even though the guards had left her alone, she had to be raped by the other men who were sentenced to dead, who were so mad in their rage and fear that they were capable of humiliating a woman who would soon undergo the same fate as them, even as this woman was said to be the devil in disguise.
But before the remains of her clothing were fully removed and those disgusting hands touched the most intimate parts of her body, a sickening sound of flesh against flesh was heard numerous times.
She didn't recognize the sound and she just shut her eyes tighter, wishing that it could just be twelve o'clock so she could be over with it all and leave the miserable place called earth.
But then someone gently helped her up her feet and covered her as well as possible in the almost completely destroyed dress.
When she dared opening her eyes again, Sweeney Todd turned out to be the one who was helping her.
The barber placed himself between her and the men who he had not send into sub-consciousness yet, wordlessly challenging them try, so he had an excuse to beat them as well.
The guards yelled loudly at them and moved back into the cell to restore order, but as they did so, the men that were still able to walk launched themselves at the policemen, probably in the nonexistent hope of escaping prison and their deaths.
During the chaos that followed, Sweeney pulled the openly crying woman to a relatively quiet corner. When she didn't calm down, the barber didn't snarl at her like he usually did, but simply held her and allowed her to bury her face in the fabric of his shirt.
They both smelled like anyone who had been locked up in a stinking cell for three days would, they were both weakened, and they were going to die within an hour, but all this faded to the background and Nellie experienced the first moment of relaxation since the terrible inferno in the bake house.
"Mr. T," she managed to say, "I…"
But she couldn't put her thoughts into sentences, couldn't formulate all the things that she still needed to ask him, couldn't say what she still wanted to tell.
But his hands, gentle for once, rubbed her lower back in a strangely comforting way, understanding her without words.
She didn't know why he behaved like this, especially why he did so now that it was too late. It was a mystery to her why he seemed so concerned about her in this moment.
The fight between the policemen and the prisoners grew worse, six bodies lying motionlessly on the ground already. But Mrs. Lovett didn't notice and even Mr. Todd seemed to be unaware of it.
The baker's tears stopped falling because of Sweeney's comforting presence and when she looked up at him again, he wiped the last tears away. His dirty hands left a trace of mud on her already far from clear face, but neither of them could care even a bit.
"Mr. T," she whispered, "'Ow can yeh be so calm?"
There were so many other things that she wanted the two of them to talk about, but a lifetime of unrequited love couldn't be discussed in all the years that were going to be taken from them, let alone could all those painful conversations be done in one hour.
"There's nothing more I need to do," he said softly. "I defied death to seek revenge for what was done to my family and myself. Now that I have that vengeance, I deserve the death that I have escaped for sixteen years. There's nothing more I have to live for."
Even now, Mrs. Lovett couldn't help but be disappointed at those words. Couldn't he see that he was not finished with his life? Could he not see that she was so desperately longing for him? Could he not…
"However," the barber continued, interrupting her train of thoughts, "there is one thing I need to do before I'll see my Lucy again and I'm glad I have the opportunity."
The barber's words puzzled her. The Judge and the Beadle were dead, Johanna was free, what more could he want?
"The last few days I had a lot of time to think. I realized that I have never properly thanked you for all what you have done. I… I never thanked you at all. You are going to die because of me, I can't change that. But I can at least give you what you wanted all this time."
Before she could ask what he meant exactly, before his words actually dawned on her, he cupped her cheeks with both his hands and slowly, very slowly, as if giving her the chance to deny him, he moved closer to her.
His fingers caressed the skin of her face, confusing Mrs. Lovett even more. So many questions and insecurities were going through her system, but she couldn't think clearly anymore, not after her brain had seemingly shut itself down.
Her worries faded, and she simply stared at Sweeney, who was leaning into her. No thoughts were going through her head and there even wasn't a moment of triumph when his lips touched hers lightly. Just the calmness, the peacefulness and a numbing happiness as they kissed almost shyly, their lips brushing and experimenting, and their breaths mixed. Mr. Todd's hand kneaded into her hair and the other went down to her waist, pulling her closer to him and thus deepening the kiss.
Never before the baker's mind had been so empty. Her body was aware of everything: the heat radiating from his form, the warmth of his mouth, the gentleness of his tongue and the perfect pressure of his hands on her body. There were tears, a mixture of joy and absolute sadness, but the physical sensations left no room for mental interruption of the moment.
Even when the kiss came to a gentle end and the baker and the barber rested their foreheads against each other, Mrs. Lovett's mind didn't go into hysteria. She only realized that this was all that she was going to get, ever, but that it was enough. One glimpse of heaven was enough to compensate for a lifetime of hell and a suitable ending.
"Thank you," she whispered, hoping that Mr. Todd could understand how much his actions meant to her.
It seemed that he did, for he allowed himself a sad smile and embraced her again.
"It's nothing compared to all you did for me," he spoke softly into her hair, "but it's all that I can give. Lucy is the only one for me, but… sometimes I wish it had been different, Eleanor… That I would've been able to love you back, that we could've escaped and started a new life together, a second chance for the both of us… but I can't. And it's no use to think about it now, because we won't have that life, no matter our feelings."
She nodded, knowing that he was right; truer words had never been spoken.
They remained silent, standing with their arms around each other in the corner of the large cell, unaware of the wounded men that were dragged out of the way by policemen and not noticing that other uniformed men began placing shackles around the ankles and the wrists of the prisoners that were still able to stand. Only when a few guards approached them abruptly, the quiet moment was over.
"You," one of them said harshly to Mr. Todd, "go stand with the other male prisoners."
"No," Sweeney said, while looking at the baker next to him, "I'd rather stay with her."
Mrs. Lovett looked up, shocked upon hearing that the barber wanted to spend the last moments of his life with her, chained to her, but it made her feel strangely relieved.
The guard looked from Sweeney to her and back, a questioning look on his face, and the baker's heart sank. The guard would never even consider the request of a mere prisoner, especially because it never happened that men and women were hung together. But the thought of having to face what was about to come was to her even more horrible than before if Sweeney wouldn't be there with her.
"Alright," the guard said after a long moment. "If you insist…"
Perhaps it was fear for the reputation of the baker and the barber, or perhaps he was still a somewhat good man who didn't want to deny the last wish of a man who was sentenced to death. Either way, Mrs. Lovett was grateful.
Other policemen approached and without saying a word, they locked the iron shackles around the body of the man and the woman, chaining them to each other.
The iron was heavy, so heavy that the petite baker could hardly move, but Sweeney lifted most of the weights for her, giving her the ability to walk almost normally.
The policemen took their clubs into their hands and ordered the prisoners to start moving, making it very clear that the inevitable ending was at hand.
The small group was guided to the yard of the prison, a small square surrounded by walls that was dominated by a huge wooden platform containing three gallows in the middle of it. That sight however wasn't the worst part yet.
What was even more terrifying and intimidating in Mrs. Lovett's eyes, were the hundreds, if not thousands of people who were gathered there. In the past she had heard of public executions and how some people seemed to be attracted to them, but this was more bizarre and terrifying than she could've ever imagined.
All the men, women and even boys and girls that were in the square, shouted at the first row of prisoners that were escorted to the gallows. But when the crowd laid their eyes on Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd, the people seemed to go mad as one.
They yelled in rage, cursing the baker and the barber, offending them with the most horrible words. Rotten vegetables and eggs were thrown at them and Mrs. Lovett had never felt so humiliated in her entire life. Wishing she could sink into the ground, straight into the anonymous grave that was awaiting her, she bowed her head, hiding the tears that were falling from her eyes again.
But then there was Sweeney, right behind her, moving between her and the crowd, protecting her body with his own.
"Don't," he whispered, "don't behave like they want you to do. Don't be afraid, look them in the eye and they'll remember you; you'll haunt their nightmares for the rest of their lives."
His words gave her strength and slowly, she looked up, facing the crowd. But now, it wasn't a mass of people anymore, but a collection of individuals. She looked at them, blinking the tears away and recognizing some persons now. When she had gathered enough courage after a few seconds, she stared back at them with determination.
There was an elderly woman, one that Nellie had known for half of her life, a woman that had always been nice to her. And now, the baker stared at the same woman, who was still holding an old tomato, and she remained staring, until the woman dropped the vegetable and, after another endless moment, cast down her eyes.
A triumphant smile found its way on her lips and she eagerly searched for a next victim. This person turned out to be a middle aged man, whose toothless mouth opened again and again to throw verbal offenses to Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett. But as the baker stared at him for many seconds, an entire minute perhaps, without blinking only once, he looked away as well, his mouth closing at last.
Other prisoners were hung, their bodies being removed from the rope of the gallows the second that the attending officials were absolutely sure that they were dead, other prisoners quickly being escorted to the again free gallows. It was a perfectly working system, horrible in its own efficiency.
Mrs. Lovett kept staring at the individuals in the crowd, silencing them one by one with their eyes. She was humiliated, offenses sticking to her like the garbage against her skin. She was chained like an animal, but never she had been as proud as she was in that very moment.
She was about to die, yes, but she did so freely: she had chosen to help Sweeney Todd, knowing what the consequences could be. She was changed, but she was shackled to the man she loved and in a way, she found this beautiful, almost poetic. And even now, helpless and dressed in nothing but rags, she was wordlessly silencing everyone who was offending her.
Mrs. Lovett was unaware of the passing of time, until Sweeney placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Nellie," he whispered, "it's time."
She looked up to the gallows, seeing how three corpses were removed and that the place where the row of prisoners had been was empty except for the shackles they had worn around their feet.
The baker stepped towards the wooden stairs to the platform, knowing what she had to do, but she was stopped by Sweeney's hand, which was still resting on her shoulder.
She turned around, facing him for the last time, smiling lightly upon seeing the approval that was written on his face. And while the now silent crowd watched them breathlessly and the stupefied guards stared at them, their mouths hanging open in shock and amazement because they had never seen or even heard of something like this before, Sweeney wiped the dirt from her face with the edge of his sleeve. When he was satisfied with the result, he softly kissed her forehead.
"Just a few more moments Nell," he whispered, "and then we'll meet again."
He pulled her into an embrace once more, taking his time in doing so, as if he was saying goodbye to his wife before a day of work instead of hugging his accomplice one last time, his partner in crime, the woman who had found the way to his cold heart at the very last moment.
When he let go, a long moment later, Nellie's body filled with a calmness she had never experienced before. Sweeney Todd was protecting her, not because he had to do so because he needed her for his plans, but because of something more than that, something she could've only dreamed of for so long.
As he guided her through the unnaturally silent crowd along the small path that was marked by uniformed men, a strong belief welled inside of her, an overwhelming feeling that this wasn't over yet, that they would meet again, in different and perhaps better circumstances.
And thus, when she slowly walked to the ending of her life, followed closely by Sweeney Todd and guided by his hand on the small of her back, Eleanor Lovett was fearless for the first time in her life.