Title: Missing Ichabod (working title)
By: St. Minority
Pairings: Fred/Sweeney with allusions to all three together (Ichabod as the third)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, make no profit, yada yada yada....
Warnings: m/m, kissing, angst
Summary: Ichabod's packed up and gone. Why? What's the real reason? (needs a better summary, I know :D )
"I just don't understand it," Fred said, baffled, as he continued to pace back and forth near the window that Sweeney was usually posted at.
The barber was sitting in the plush chair in the middle of the area, occasionally glancing over to watch the inspector's movements and expressions of confusion.
"Why would he leave without telling us? Or leaving a note? Anything."
"I suppose he really did have to leave in a hurry. Or, he didn't want us to know. He was bound to return to America sometime. We all knew that."
"Yes, but I didn't expect it to be so sudden and without good explanation."
"Leaving for another, better post isn't a good reason to you?"
"I thought….I thought we were enough to make him stay."
Both men fell silent, left to ponder the decision of Ichabod Crane. The constable had disappeared seemingly without a trace two days prior, and the only information Fred was enlightened with was that the young man had boarded a ship to sail back to the Americas in order to take a slightly higher paying position in a more favorable city than London or New York. Fred, however, felt that something was awry, yet he did not know why. He kept himself from telling Sweeney, figuring the barber would merely think him delusional – too many trips to the opium den or such other nonsense reason.
"Perhaps he'll write once he gets settled," Todd offered, trying to sound optimistic, though it was extremely difficult for him to even think positively.
"Perhaps. I hope so." Abberline stopped in place and turned to gaze at Todd with solemn eyes. "I miss him already, Sweeney."
Hearing the despair in his lover's voice, Todd stood and went to stand in front of the inspector. "I miss him too," he voiced practically inaudibly. The words felt quite foreign on his tongue, for he had never cared about anyone in such a fashion since Lucy.
After looking into one another's eyes for a brief moment, Sweeney leaned forward and kissed Frederick tenderly. When he pulled away, he whispered into the lawman's ear, "Give him time."
Fred nodded absentmindedly before letting his lover kiss him once more, a hand running through his brown hair as they occupied their lips with the other's mouth.
Time. Never mind that he had a questionable feeling about the whole situation; he knew the turmoil would not go away at any sort of quick rate. It would take time for it all to unfold.
A month and a half passed with no word at all from Ichabod. The silence caused immense heartbreak for both Sweeney and Frederick, though the inspector showed it a little more than the barber. Sweeney did not say anything, but he had started to notice how Fred had trouble getting out of bed in the mornings, how much he was sleeping, and the hours when he was not, he did not speak as much as he used to and a permanent expression of deep melancholy was etched into his features.
Todd was better at concealing his emotions, something he had become incredibly good at after so many years in a harsh environment with no one to care about him or for him to care about. Instead, he attempted to comfort Abberline as best he could, which was simply holding Frederick close to him while lying in bed together or placing delicate kisses on his forehead and cheek. They hardly made love anymore, but the instances they did, it was a tremendously gentle, intimate act that strengthened their bond each time. Afterward, Frederick would curl up next to Todd, in the barber's embrace, and neither would speak. The sound of one another's heavy breathing usually lulled them to sleep a number of minutes later.
"What if something happened to him?" Abberline inquired softly, head and arm resting on Sweeney's naked torso.
The barber sighed as he continued stroking his lover's sweat-dampened hair. "What if something did? We can't be certain about anything. We can't do anything if something happened."
"It doesn't feel right," Fred whispered.
"Have you had any visions of him?"
"No. I wish that I had. I think the judge may know something, though."
Sweeney cringed at the mention of the corrupt man. "Why?"
"Whenever he or someone else mentions Ichabod, he has this….wicked grin on his face and sounds as if he's mocking Crane when he talks about him. Maybe I'm just imagining things."
"What if he did something to Crane?"
"I doubt that. Why would he? Crane was one of the best lawmen he had. Why go and ruin it?"
"He has a good tendency of ruining things," Sweeney muttered irately.
Todd kissed the top of Abberline's head and murmured a quiet, "I know."
It took a long while that night before either one fell asleep, unpleasant thoughts of Ichabod following them into their subconscious.
"Acquire a warrant so we can scour his house to see if there's any evidence we could use against him," Fred instructed his friend, Sergeant Godley, as they treaded down one of the side streets, heading for the courthouse.
"I wouldn't be surprised if that idiot still had the weapon in his possession."
Fred smiled at the comment before saying casually, "Go on ahead and I'll be there shortly. I'm going to make a small detour."
"Oh Christ, Frederick. Not that bloody barber again, is it?"
"You have to end this. Don't you think it's becoming a bit too risky? What if someone-"
"-Saw us and found out. Yes, I know. But it's my business and risk to take, not yours."
"I'll see you at the courthouse."
With a disgruntled sigh, Godley turned onto the next left street while Fred continued on the current one towards Fleet street. There were a few beggars spaced out along the alleyway, and he gave a couple of them a small amount of money, though hardly lost his focus on where he was headed. For most of the way, he kept his eyes staring straight ahead, which was why he managed to miss a pair of legs stretched out on his straight path. He tripped on them, yet caught himself before he collided with the stone cobbled ground. A faint groan was the only response from the person lying on the cold street; it was the single way Fred could tell he was even alive, for he did not move whatsoever.
"I'm sorry, I didn't see you," Fred apologized quietly. He gazed down at the man's countenance, which was shrouded by tangled, matted brown hair. "Sir?"
"The papers…." was the hoarse, exceptionally soft response. "Hide them."
Fred knelt down, the man having sparked his interest, and placed a hand onto the person's arm. He quickly retracted it, however, from feeling the man tense up and hearing a weak whimper. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to startle you. What do the names that you were uttering mean?"
Abberline frowned, more puzzled than ever, and dared to view the man's face. He brushed the disarrayed strands of hair away from the pale countenance and instantly felt his heart stop. His lungs seized up, preventing him from breathing for a moment.
Eyes wide in shock and throat dry and constricted, Abberline whispered, "Ichabod."
The American did not respond at all to the mention of his name; he merely continued mumbling to himself about things Fred could no longer discern. The inspector's heart was tearing apart. He was certainly relieved to find that his lover had not gone away, but the circumstances in which Ichabod was in instead made him wish the younger man had made his escape back home.
"Ichabod, love, can you hear me? Let's get you up."
Despite a feeble fight Ichabod made, Frederick was able to pull him up to sit against the wall.
"Oh god," he muttered the moment he could better see the state Crane was in.
The young man's face was covered in bruises, grime, and dried blood. His shirt, which had been white at one time, was the color of dirt and torn down the middle to his navel. It was tattered, as were his trousers, and his coat had been used to serve as a pillow. He had no shoes or any other item with him other than the three garments.
"What happened to you, Ichabod?" Fred asked gently.
"I don't know," Crane replied slowly, quietly.
"Do you know who you are?"
There was a pause before it seemed as if the name reached him through an epiphany. "Ichabod Crane."
"Right. Good. And what do you do? What did you use to do?"
Crane at last gazed directly at his company, studied Abberline's features for a moment, and became overwhelmed with tears. "You look like someone I knew," he said faintly. "Beautiful….loving…."
"Ichabod, it's me. Frederick."
"Yes, that was his name. And there was another. Just right on Fleet Street, he was. A barber….he was beautiful too…."
"Todd. Sweeney Todd. He's still there. He's missed you just as much as I have."
"They were wonderful. I wonder what happened to them."
Abberline wiped his eyes as tears slid down his cheeks. "Ichabod….It's me. I'm right here. Please remember. Please look at me and remember. Why can't you see what's right in front of you?"
The younger man began to cough harshly, causing Fred to place a comforting arm around him. The inspector could feel the cold body shaking against his and was now aware at how frighteningly thin he was. After several minutes, Ichabod overcame the coughing fit and slumped against the other man's warm chest. Fred cuddled him and kissed the top of his head.
"Jesus, Ichabod," he whispered somberly. "What in God's name happened to you?"
It was a struggle to convince Ichabod to leave the alley he was accustomed to, but Frederick had been successful. The former constable was now resting on the inspector's bed, asleep, and Fred took advantage of the moment to leave him alone and race to Sweeney's shop. He barged into the room, relieved to discover only Todd present, and went quickly to him.
Throwing his arms around Todd's neck, Abberline murmured, "He's here. He's here in London. Alive. He never left."
Todd enveloped his lover securely and was completely flabbergasted. "What are you talking about?"
"Ichabod. He's here."
The barber's eyes widened in surprise, and he gently pushed Fred away from him to stare into his very serious eyes. "Where? Where has he been? Is he alright?"
Linking his fingers with Sweeney's, Frederick started moving to the door, dragging the barber with him and instructed, "Come with me. See for yourself.
With cautious, affectionate hands, Sweeney rubbed a wet cloth against Ichabod's battered visage, cleaning the pale skin gingerly. The younger man was still sleeping, though whimpered often and muttered incomprehensibly. Sweeney was next to him, sitting on the edge of the bed, expression stern and foreboding as usual; he was doing quite well at concealing his pain. He had not cried in the longest time, and now that there was a powerful reason to, he found that he could not. Even though the smallest urge to do so was present within him, the tears would not come. His eyes were relatively void of any turmoil as he gazed at his slumbering lover. It was quite the difference from what he felt inside.
He brushed his fingers through the messy dark hair and caressed Crane's cheek while holding the cloth to it. This could not be the same innocent, lively, caring man he had shared his heart and bed with. How did Crane become like this? Who ruined him?
Once he was finished washing Ichabod's face, he got up carefully, left the cloth on the bedside table, and treaded into the main room of Frederick's place. Fred was seated on the couch and appeared to be deep in thought. Without a word, Sweeney sat beside him and set his focus on nothing in particular ahead of him.
"Did he wake?" Abberline inquired after a minute.
"No. He's still asleep."
Abberline sighed and nodded. "I guess that's a good thing."
"He's sick," Todd stated plainly.
"Possibly a case of pneumonia, judging by his wheezing and coughing you described."
"God, I hope it's not serious. I'll send for the doctor tomorrow. It's too late tonight."
"I can't lose him, Frederick."
At those words, Abberline turned to look at his lover. The man's stoic expression was beginning to falter, exposing that he was frightened and helpless. Abberline leaned over and kissed the barber's cheek. "You won't."
Sweeney stared into Frederick's dark, loving eyes and felt as if the man was gazing into his soul. He watched, entranced, as Abberline closed the distance between them until their lips came in contact with the other's for a vehement kiss. The action made Sweeney melt. He gave in to whatever Abberline intended on doing. The answer was soon revealed.
Abberline unwrapped the scarf from around Todd's neck, dropped it to the floor, and started making quick work of the barber's vest. Sweeney's own fingers flew through the task of unbuttoning his lover's shirt after removing Abberline's cravat. Their breathing accelerated as excitement began weavings its way into their blood. Clothes were sporadically tossed to the floor in between heated kisses and caresses. Sweeney laid down on his back, raised his hips, and emitted a quiet sound of pleasure as his trousers were tugged off of his hips and pulled off completely. He observed hungrily, impatiently as Fred undid his own pants and discarded them, reaching into a pocket to remove a small bottle before he cast them to the floor.
"Frederick," Todd breathed hotly, cupping the inspector's face in his hands to bring him down for another sweet kiss.
Todd trembled beneath the hands wandering along his thigh and torso. He whimpered into Fred's mouth when fingers ghosted over his erection. Fred's lips traveled along the older man's jaw to his neck, and then to his left shoulder to bite gently. His reward was a gasp of bliss and feeling Todd arch upward against him. It was Sweeney who usually took on the dominant role when it came to making love, causing Abberline to be extraordinarily thrilled and aroused to have the roles switched.
It was made official the instant Sweeney whispered, "Take me, Frederick."
The three words made Abberline close his eyes briefly as ecstasy coursed through his anatomy. Leisurely, he rubbed the slick substance from the bottle he had had in his trouser pocket onto his hardened member. He gazed down at the barber, smiling at how the barber bit his lip and had his eyes tightly shut in utter rapture. They opened when Fred lifted and parted his legs. As the inspector positioned himself, Todd wrapped his legs about Abberline's torso and relaxed himself.
Slowly, carefully, Abberline penetrated his lover, reveling in the quivering moans he received. He groaned as well, shaking from the immense pleasure running through him. It took several minutes before he was wholly within Todd's body, and he did not move for a short while in order to allow them each a chance to catch their breath. After witnessing the tension fade away from Todd's dilated eyes and sensing the request to continue, he gave a small thrust, making both of them vocalize their elation.
As he gradually began to move in and out of Sweeney at a somewhat steady pace, Fred bent down and clumsily kissed the man's lips. Their moans were muffled as they incessantly kissed and tasted, tingling sensations forming in all places along their bodies. Once Fred started to thrust faster, they had to break apart from one another's mouth due to their quickened breaths and need for air. Todd inched his hand downward to fondle his own cock, bringing him closer to climax. The combination of Abberline inside of him and his fingers rubbing himself, he finally reached his peak and opened his mouth in a silent scream. His pale frame went limp, and a minute later, Fred ejaculated within him. Each panting heavily and sweating, they stared longingly at one another as Abberline pulled out. There was no need to say anything, for everything was conveyed in their wearied eyes.
Sweeney brought Abberline down on top of him to hold and began stroking the man's damp hair. All the reassurance and consoling he needed was fulfilled in the intimacy they had just shared.
"We'll be alright," Abberline said softly and pressed his lips to Sweeney's chest.
Todd knew the two of them would be; it was the third that was alluded to in the sentence that concerned him deeply and gave him great uncertainty.
From the doorway, Sweeney observed the doctor tending to Ichabod while Frederick did his best at keeping the ill man subdued. It was hard enough for Ichabod to let someone touch him, but he became utterly devastated when he had to remove his shirt for the complete stranger. Both Todd and Abberline had an understanding as to why he would react in such a fashion from viewing the various scars, bruises, and several burns on the younger man's skin. He was terribly emaciated, looking as if he would break if not handled delicately, causing Frederick to worry whenever he dared to place a soothing arm around him. Ichabod had good reason to be self-conscious, yet it seemed as if the emotional strain went far deeper than just what was able to be seen, judging by the way he buried his face in the crook of Frederick's shoulder to cry weakly.
The wounds were cared for and medicine was administered down the young man's throat to begin treating his pneumonia. After conversing with Abberline on how to take care of Crane, the doctor got up and headed toward Todd. The barber led the man to the front door, uttering a quiet and sincere, "Thank you for coming," before the physician left. With a heavy sigh, Todd returned to the bedroom and ventured nearer to the men on the bed. Crane shied away from him, refusing to look at him, and wrapped protective arms around himself.
"A bath ought to relax you and make you feel better," Abberline spoke gently to him. "Would you like me to draw you one?"
A hesitant nod was the reply, and the inspector kissed Crane's left temple before exiting into the other room.
Todd gazed down at his lover with great compassion and took a seat on the mattress in front of him. Cautiously, he cocked his head, leaned forward, and lowered it in order to stare directly into the younger man's pitiful eyes.
"Ichabod," he voiced softly, noting how the other male started to tremble in fright. "You need not be afraid of me. I wish to help you, as does Frederick."
Ichabod wiped his damp cheeks and responded so quietly, Todd almost could not hear it. "I don't understand. Why?"
The barber's eyes widened in bewilderment. "Why?" he repeated, not quite believing that the word had just come out of Crane's mouth. "Ichabod-"
"I've betrayed your trust, as well as Frederick's. I've betrayed and sullied all that we had. I don't deserve your kindness or your most coveted feelings."
"What are you talking about?"
There were a few quivering sighs as he came undone and began to sob. "I gave myself to another."
Filled with overwhelming shame, Ichabod hugged his knees to his chest and rested his forehead on top of them as he wept uncontrollably. This was something Sweeney had not been prepared for. He had no doubt that his lover would be quite a wreck because of whatever had happened to him, but for the reason stated, it did not make sense. If that was all he had done, how had he acquired the numerous injuries and why was he left out on the street?
"Ichabod," Sweeney began in a hushed tone, "What does that have to do with how you are now?"
"I have no desire to tell you. I haven't the heart to. Please don't ask anything more. I don't wish to speak of it. Any of it."
Sweeney was about to reply, however, Fred entered the room at that moment and said kindly, "It's ready now if you are, love."
Acting like a scolded child, Crane kept his head bowed and languidly moved to get up from the bed. He walked two steps before his legs gave out, and he emitted a startled whimper as he started to collapse to the ground. Sweeney caught him before he fell completely and swept the underweight man up into his arms to carry. Crane saw no reason to protest this gesture, for he knew he would not be capable of making it on his own.
Sweeney held onto Crane to help him stand once they came to the side of the tub, allowing Frederick to undress him gingerly. The extraordinary humiliation conveyed in the former constable's brown eyes once he was naked made Abberline breathless with tremendous sympathy. He kissed Ichabod's forehead before he quietly addressed Todd.
"Can you bathe him? I'm going to search for some clothes he can wear and change the bed sheets so he can sleep on clean ones."
"Certainly," the barber answered affectionately.
As the inspector headed off to the bedroom, Todd aided Ichabod into the bathtub and eased him down into the water. The young man let out a quiet hiss due to the high temperature of the water, though it rapidly dissipated the tension in his muscles, making him feel tremendously relaxed. As he cleansed his face with water from his cupped hands, Sweeney rolled up his sleeves to his elbows and took a small sponge to soak with water.
"Let me see your arm," he said to Ichabod and began to lightly scrub the man's skin once Crane slowly extended his limb.
"You don't have to do this."
"Why are you then?"
"I care for you. It's what a lover does."
"I didn't think I could constitute as one of yours anymore."
"Ichabod, what happened?"
"Don't. Just….don't. I've already told you that I don't wish to divulge any of it."
Todd held the sponge above Crane's head and wrung it out to wet his lover's dark hair. The younger male sighed and enjoyed the cascade of water run down from his brown locks to his torso. At first, he had been afraid and uneasy about Todd tending to him, but as the barber's hands caressed his pale skin, he became a bit more comfortable, more so than he had been in a long time.
Ten minutes later, Todd was sitting on the sofa with Ichabod, who had a blanket wrapped around him, curled up in his lap. Abberline came into the room and, after fetching a bottle of absinthe, took a seat next to the barber. Noticing that Crane's eyes were closed, Abberline thought him to be asleep, prompting him to ask, "What are we going to do with him?"
"You mean, which one of us is going to take care of him during the day?"
Frederick nodded and took a drink before speaking again. "I can't stay here. I'm buried in paperwork and can't leave Godley on his own for the case."
"And I have customers," Todd muttered to himself, thinking of how it would not do to have Ichabod present when he conducted his vicious business. He certainly could not have the young man find out his secret.
"Don't speak about me as if I'm not here," Ichabod murmured sullenly. "Forgive me for being such a burden for you both. I can make it easy for you and return to the streets so that neither of you will have to sacrifice anything."
"Ichabod, I didn't mean for it to sound as if you're a burden," Fred hurriedly stated. "And we won't let you go back to that filthy alley. We just need to find….an arrangement, is all."
Todd sighed indifferently and said, "I suppose it would be fine for him to stay with me. Is that alright with you, Ichabod?"
"Sure," was the dull response.
A stale silence settled between the three men. Abberline drank all that was left in his bottle and let himself succumb to unconsciousness. Ichabod fell victim to a bout of harsh coughs and had trouble breathing for some time before he at last fell asleep. Sweeney merely gazed from one man to the other, wondering if this was what his heart truly desired.