A/N: Just a one-shot idea I had to get out of my system.
Sweeney took the broiling London sun, and watched it burn. He lifted up his thumb and finger against the glass, and pretended he was pinching the sun in his hands. He imagined he was like God, squeezing the life-blood out of the world.
His morning was like any other. It was like the long roll of mornings to come. Hearing nothing, dreaming nothing, doing nothing. It was a list, a calendar, a collection of absolute nothings.
Today would be like any other, Sweeney thought. Mrs Lovett will bring me the breakfast I will not eat, and I will wear the floor-boards down to nothing with my pacing.
I will wait.
Wait for the first of the bleeders to make their entrance into hell. If any come at all.
He was drifting, like one of the mindless beggars weaving their way through the growing crowds. He was drifting without taking a step out of the room. Sweeney Todd could drift through time and drop off the centre of the world, and not give a –
"The world is filled with shit," he almost spat, turning away from the half-misted windows. In his mirror, he saw only more masks. "More shit," he said aloud.
He held his razors to the light, and saw in them the rims of his hollow eyes.
Sweeney thought of the day, and how he was going to take it and waste it like every other. Take it and watch it burn.
"Mr Todd!" A curious head poked through the door.
Sweeney clenched his razors, and imagined the rivers of blood that would run either side of the boy's neck, if he were to take the blades and slash – "What?" he snapped.
The boy tensed up, ready to run. "I'm worried," he blurted.
"Good." Sweeney wanted him scared. He wanted the whole of London to feel gorged and bloated with wickedness. As sick and tormented as himself.
Toby glared. "Mum isn't well."
Sweeney snapped the blade shut. But the work waited. Bleeding the boy this early would merely mean a mess to clean up. "What's wrong with her?" he said at last.
The boy shrugged. "How should I know? I ain't a doctor."
"Then how is it you know she's sick?" Sweeney hissed.
"I just know. She ain't got up yet, an' she's been sayin' strange things – "
"You've been eavesdropping, boy," the barber accused.
"No I never!"
Sweeney stalked downstairs, down to the parlour.
Toby followed him stubbornly in the corner. "I'll stay 'ere, if you don't mind."
"Leave," he commanded the boy, and when Toby did not move, Sweeney pushed past him and stopped at the end of the hall.
He'd never been down this way. There'd been no need. "Mrs Lovett's room?" he asked.
The boy nodded.
If Mrs Lovett had lost the plot, he had to know. The barber briefly panicked – what if she died, and he was left alone to slit throats and dispose of the bodies? It would mean extra work, for one – but who would skin the bodies, bake all the pies? Sweeney had never spared a thought as to where his breakfast came from each morning. It was as if Mrs Lovett were a witch brewing potions out of ash. He wouldn't know what to do or where to start, if she were to suddenly cark it.
But she wasn't dead.
He could hear her muffled voice on the other side of the door, singing in scratchy, slightly off-key, high-pitched tones.
"An' the Lord will guide thee,
On your journey to the dark land,
Yes, little one, fond as I am
Of your sweet little laugh,
Even you must go, my child,
Go, follow the Lord an' he will –"
"Mrs Lovett!" he thundered on the door. Who on earth was she talking to?
The singing stopped abruptly. Silence came from the inside. Clearly, Mrs Lovett was hoping he would go away.
"I will wait, Mrs Lovett."
Eventually, the door opened, and Mrs Lovett stuck her head through like a sheep with its head caught in a picket fence. "Yes, Mr T? How can I help?"
"I'm not one of your customers, Mrs Lovett," he said, frowning.
The baker's hair was almost ruby-red, pulled into tight little corkscrews around her head. Her face was also painted – ruby lips and rouge on her cheeks. "I suggest, my pet, that you wipe it all off, unless you are planning to sell something other than pies."
Mrs Lovett's face turned beetroot red. It wasn't often she felt embarrassed, or angry. But it was obvious that she had gone to a lot of trouble that morning, and she certainly didn't appreciate Sweeney implying she looked like a common whore. Especially when he was partly the reason for her going to so much trouble. Nellie went to shut the door in his face.
Sweeney was quicker, and blocked it with one swift hand. He held it wide, and took in the simpe cotton dress she had on, tied beneath her bust with a dusty pink ribbon. She had matching white gloves for her hands, and a creamy shawl around her shoulders. It was something a country girl would have worn. Something his Lucy might have worn.
"Not so fast, Mrs Lovett," he said.
Since he was staring, Nellie decided to defend herself. "I happen to think I look rather nice, Mr T. But you wouldn't notice that sort of thing, seeing as you've neva looked at a woman since your Lucy –"
He slammed the door against the wall. "Don't you dare mention my wife."
Mrs Lovett might have argued with him. But she didn't. She picked up the large wicker basket from the floor, and held it as a barrier between them.
She was obviously going somewhere. Sweeney didn't like to be thwarted. And that included witholding information. "The shop needs opening," he said, pretending Mrs Lovett wasn't dressed at all.
"It can wait," Mrs Lovett gulped. "I'm going out today Mr T, so if you want to open it on your own - "
Sweeney snatched the basket from her hand, and threw it to the ground. The contents spilled across the floor. "You won't, Mrs Lovett. I don't decide to take personal days off. Neither will you."
But she wasn't listening. She dropped to the floor, and was scrambling to gather up the mess."Drats!"
One of the items rolled out of Mrs Lovett's grasp, and came to rest by Sweeney's booted foot.
She threw her hand over it, but Sweeney was quicker. He brought his foot crunching down slightly, and she snatched it back.
"Leave it Mr T," she begged, but Sweeney was merciless.
"What's this?" Sweeney brought it up to the only window of light in Mrs Lovett's gloomy room.
"Nothin'!" She made to grab it, but Sweeney pushed her forward. White skirts went tumbling, and Mrs Lovett landed on the edge of her bed, distressed and out-of-breath.
The toy almost disappeared in his hands. It was so small - so soft and yellow. He immediately thought of his Joanna's infant face - her slight yellow curls. Gone now.
"Quiet!" he snarled. He lifted the rattle to his ear and shook it. It sounded like bones clacking together in a coffin.
Mrs Lovett had got up from the bed. She was pleading silently, hoping he would drop the rattle and go back up to his tower.
But he didn't. "You stole it, Mrs Lovett." He held the rattle close, and eventually slipped it into his vest pocket.
He now looked at her. The red rouge looked as if it were melting, and her dark eyes were smudged with bags underneath. She was no better, Sweeney realised suddenly, than the pathetic beggar woman that haunted Fleet Street.
"Well, Mrs Lovett?"
It was obvious she had stolen it. Her eyes were beginning to flood, and Sweeney knew women only cried when they were pregnant, or extremely happy. And since Mrs Lovett was neither of those, and was never likely to be any of those, Sweeney felt sure she was crying to hide her guilt. Crocodile tears, was what they had called it back in Australia.
"What else did you fleece from Joanna's crib?" he accused, wresting the wicker basket from the floor and tearing it apart as he imagined the Judge had torn his Lucy.
"Nothin', I swear - " Mrs Lovett stooped at the edge of the bed. She could only watch despairingly as the precious items were scattered every which ways.
The lace christening gown.
The little white boots.
The tiny silver spoon inlaid with silver.
The little sailor doll with the cracked blue eyes and the broken neck.
"Please - " Mrs Lovett fell amongst the items, and clutched at the closest thing. The broken sailor doll.
But that wasn't all.
Sweeney was hunting now, on the trail for blood. He moved around the poky room, until he spied the sad little object tucked away in the corner.
It was covered in mosquito netting, and when he lifted the edges he was half-afraid he'd discover a dead babe wrapped in swaddling. He wouldn't put it past Mrs Lovett.
"I should kill you for this," he said, flicking up his razors. He nearly tripped coming forward, and clutched Mrs Lovett's arms to steady himself.
The razor was open, and sunk down into her tough, pale skin like teeth into a crisply cooked pie.
"Whoever thought a woman could bleed so much," was all Sweeney said.
They watched the blood seethe and drip onto the floor.
It splattered onto Sweeney's boots. It soaked into Joanna's gown, into the little white boots. It even filled the crater rim of the little spoon.
"No harm done," Mrs Lovett attempted half-cheerily, bobbing down on the floor to scoop up the broken, bloodied things.
"Leave it Mrs Lovett. The damage is done."
He was right. Nellie rose, and didn't bother to wipe the sticky valley of blood pooling out of her arm.
"Why don't I kill you, Mrs Lovett?"
It wasn't a threat. Sweeney sat down on Mrs Lovett's hard springy bed, flicking the blade in and out.
He didn't know why he didn't just finish them both off now.
"I can't answer that, love," she said, eventually fishing an old rag from her chest of drawers. She bandaged it swiftly, as if it were one of her pies.
She came and plopped on the bed beside him.
"Why can't you leave my child in peace," Sweeney said brokenly. "Leave Joanna be." He felt like crying like a babe.
But that could never happen. Sweeney hadn't cried. He never would cry.
"Love," Mrs Lovett said softly, stroking his white sleeve with her bandaged arm. Some of the blood still seeped through, and spotted itself on Sweeney's clothes.
"Who were you singing to?" he asked.
"I wosn't singing." Mrs Lovett looked straight ahead, and stuffed her hands into her lap. She was imagining someone -
"Don't lie to me, my pet. You were singing just like that filthy old woman."
"Wot filthy old woman?" Mrs Lovett said quickly, darting her large eyes up at him like a sparrow caught stuffing a worm in its beak.
"The crazy old beggar," Sweeney spat. The very thought of the urine-soaked stench of that woman was enough to make Sweeney feel off.
Rusty thick blood he could handle.
Broken women he could not.
"O'right," she sighed, clutching her hands together. "It wos me singing."
"Joanna," he croaked.
At this Mrs Lovett snapped. She almost leapt off the springy bed, and began to fix up the wicker-basket, and cover over the crib. "It's not all about bloody - "
Sweeney's face clouded.
"Wot I mean is - I didn't steal all them things!"
"But you did, Mrs Lovett. Did you think I might be entitled to keep the only bits left of my family?"
She nodded. "'Course I did. I took them....I needed...." She didn't finish.
Instead, she sat on the floor, and calmly unwrapped her bandage.
They didn't drift from each other this time. Their eyes connected, and Sweeney knew immediately what she was suggesting. "No, Mrs Lovett."
"Chop me up into little bits, please, Mr T," she said, holding her arm forward as a sacrificial offering. "It would be best for us both. Chop me into little pieces. Just as you please."
She took out the broken sailor doll, and pressed her wound briefly against its porcelain surface. "Chop me up," she repeated, and her voice came out strained and sing-song.
What was she saying? Nellie hardly knew anymore.
Sweeney tore the doll away and threw it into the corner of the room. She was pitiful, and the thought of bringing his singing razors against the heaving ghost of her throat sickened him now. Now that he was thinking rationally again.
"Tempting, Mrs Lovett," he said with disgust, "but it would not be best. Who else is going to bake the pies?"
He dragged her to her feet, and bound the wound with sailor's strength.
She couldn't tell if he was joking. Mr T so very rarely made a joke. She burst out laughing. "Ooh Mr Todd, you's a funny one!"
Sweeney stared at her. "Are you mad, Mrs Lovett?"
She was gripping the edge of the dresser, and her body shook as though she were having a seizure. "We're all a little mad, Mr T," she managed at last.
"Hmm," Sweeney considered.
"I'm not opening up shop," Mrs Lovett said, when some of the madness had left her at last.
"And you're not planning to throw yourself into the Thames?"
Nellie shook her head. "Don't be so dramatic Mr T. I'm going to visit someone." She fixed her hair at her mirror, and picked up the wicker basket.
"This isn't a game, Mrs Lovett," he snarled. "Those are Joanna's things."
"Can't I borrow them?" she begged. "Just for the morning?"
"You don't have any friends. Who could you possibly visit?"
Mrs Lovett felt stung. "It's a very old friend. They live far-out of town. He's mute. Probably deaf too. He won't give us away, if that's wot concerns you, Mr T."
"I don't want Joanna's things to leave this house."
"As you wish, Mr T." She emptied the wicker basket into the crib, and took one of her few possesions from her desk.
It was a small silver brush. Albert had bought it as a wedding gift.
"Can I come?" Sweeney followed her out into the kitchen.
They both stepped over Toby's fallen body. The boy had drunken himself into a gin-stupor again.
Mrs Lovett was tying the shawl around her shoulders. "I thought you hated the sun an' the country an' all them things."
Sweeney didn't answer. He cast his gaze beyond the windows, and watched the families amble to and fro from church. It was hard not to feel like throttling every smiling face and happy father that bore his child up on his shoulders.
Nellie sighed. "Come along then. Won't hurt, I guess."
* * *
Go on to Chapter Two - I had to break up the one-shot!