* * *
"Stop 'ere thanks," Mrs Lovett said to the driver, and dropped down from the buggy. Sweeney copied, and didn't pay the driver another look.
The road was wide and dry, nothing at all like London's streets.
"Just through 'ere, love," she said, and pushed open the rusty white gates.
A graveyard was the last place Sweeney had been expecting.
"Are you sure - "
Mrs Lovett whipped her head back, and gave him one of her no-nonsense looks. "'Course I'm sure."
They didn't speak for a long while. Mrs Lovett guided him at times with her hand, touching the edge of his palm, the top of his shoulder.
They walked through high grass and brambles, and a small field of wild flowers, until they at last came to the graves.
Most of them were very old. Many of the surnames were unfamiliar. It was the local village graveyard, but no one it seemed had any money to look after it.
Young trees were shooting their roots around the sides of the tomb stones. Many of the graves were cracked or completely broken in two.
"These are the new ones," Mrs Lovett said, walking comfortably down a narrow row of graves. She obviously knew her way around.
"What is this, Mrs Lovett -" Sweeney stopped. It sounded odd to hear his voice ring out amisdt a place such as this.
"There," she said softly, and bent down in the grass. She was carrying a pair of garden shears, and began to trim around the wild spot until it was neat at last.
Sweeney wouldn't have known there was a grave unless Mrs Lovett had pointed it out. The head stone read:
"Taken by God's Grace. Jebediah Lovett, son of Eleanor and Albert Lovett. 7 months."
Sweeney rounded on her. "You never told me there was a child."
Nellie shrugged. "You never asked," she said. Her eyes were two bottomless wells.
"Joanna was almost six months when - "
"When they took her?"
Sweeney nodded. "Your boy - what -"
Nellie knelt by the grave. It was a tiny little square, covered in sky-blue tiles. Two little carved marble angels hung over the top of the tomb.
"He died o' consumption. Nellie looked up at him, and swiped a few stray tears.
He didn't say anything. What could he say? It was common for a child to die so young. Lucy had almost been expecting that Joanna -
"An expensive grave, Mrs Lovett." He doubted he'd ever afford such a thing for his Joanna. Or his Lucy.
Nellie didn't blush. She blinked. "I know. Albert had his family pay for it. No way we could afford such a fine thing as that."
"Then why - "
"When Albert died, they saw their obligation to me as finished. They let me keep the pie-shop though. Could 'ave taken it from me, but they didn't."
She placed the little silver comb at the end of the grave.
"What about these?" Sweeney picked a bunch of the coloured wildflowers.
"Jeb would like them," Mrs Lovett said with a cracked smile.
They worked together, and in ten minutes had arranged the flowers nicely on the child's grave. Sweeney put Joanna's rattle on the grave.
Mrs Lovett sent up a prayer, and when she was done the sun was high in the sky. "Come on love. Life is for the alive, as they say."
Sweeney nodded. "Indeed." He accepted her arm, and they wove their way out of the still, sleeping plots.
But neither of them really believed that.
* * *
They were standing on the dusty road now.
Neither of them knew quite what to do. They were certain of one thing: it was too early to go home. Back to that fiery pit of throats and pies.
Mrs Lovett was putting wildflowers in her hair, and on her dress.
"That's enough flowers, Mrs Lovett. You're massacring them." The corners of Sweeney's mouth twitched upwards.
"Well it would be a lot easier if you lent me your razors. You could lop a whole lot off - "
Their smiles faded. The mention of razors had depressed them.
"If I wos to die Mr T, would you do me a favour?"
"That would depend, Mrs Lovett."
"Would you visit me?"
Sweeney turned his mouth up into a wry smile. "That could prove difficult, Mrs Lovett."
"You know wot I mean," she said impatiently. "Would you stop by me grave, from time ta time? Sprinkle a few daises on top of me head-stone? I couldn't stand being lonely, Mr Todd."
She was gripping his shirt sleeves now, and hardly seem to notice.
"Don't you think it'd be lonely? Oh, how lonely. Lyin' cold and bored in them poky boxes, wif-out a breath of air or a spot of sun to lift the gloom. Oh Mr T, I don't think I can stand it."
"Take heart," Sweeney said grimly, with a touch of irony colouring his voice, "you're not dead yet."
"I know, I know," her voice trailed off huskily. Some of the panic had gone, but her eyes still lingered back to that spot in the cemetery.
Sweeney knew what she was thinking. They were the same thoughts that often circled through his battered head.
"You don't have to mean it," she went on, that slight hysteria bubbling just beneath the surface, "but it'd mean an' awful lot to me."
"What?" Sweeney was miles away.
"If you left flowers on me….oh neva mind!"
"No," said Sweeney, stopping her with one of his barber hands. "If it comes to it Mrs Lovett," he said solemly, "I will do it."
"I expect ya will," Mrs Lovett said nodding, cheery as pie now, "but mind you bring me daises. Or forget-me-nots. But not roses."
Sweeney was humouring her now. "Why not roses, my pet?"
"They is awful things. Pretty, snarky things. All them thorns, and then they go and drop their petals an' die. You neva see daises carryin' on that way. I hope neva to see a daisy wilt."
They had stopped outside a village inn. Some sort of Irish jig was playing, and it warmed Mrs Lovett's bones to hear the sound of dancing voices and dizzy violins.
"Let's go in," she said suddenly, yanking him by the hand.
"The Judge, Mrs Lovett," Sweeney growled. "He might turn - "
"Oh hang the Judge! Just one song!"
The villages were happy, as they had never seen human beings happy. The old men were playing chess and smoking pipes in the corner.
The rest of the inn was dancing and drinking. Men and women drinking by the tavern. Men and women tapping their feet and spinning to the sounds of violins.
A boy Toby's age was playing one of the violins, and had his eyes closed swaying softly.
They had obviously never heard of Judges and injustices and cold London streets.
Sweeney briefly remembered that same dizzy feeling - that last afternoon he'd shared with Joanna and Lucy before the Judge -
"Mr T," Mrs Lovett said breathily.
Sweeney looked down on her. He didn't know how they had managed to dance so close. But it comforted him. He hadn't held a woman in - Sweeney could barely remember what if felt to hold a woman.
Her eyes were closed, and she had her head rested into the crook of his neck. She could die now, and she wouldn't care. Let someone strike her down, as long as she had this moment of oblivion. "You know I wos serious 'bout that grave thing. It's not as if I've family of me own to go an' rememba me – "
"Of course, Mrs Lovett. On one condition."
Nellie's eyes shot open. "What?"
"As long as you promise to visit mine."
Mrs Lovett lifted her head, and the look she gave him spooked Sweeney. They were so alike, he realised. She was staring at him as if it was the last time she was ever going to see him alive. "Cross me 'eart an' 'ope to die, Mr T." She even did the childish little cross. "I'll be there everyday, wif-out fail."
Sweeney half-smiled, picturing Mrs Lovett traipsing dutifully to his grave every morning with a fresh bucket of flowers. She'd take her picnic blanket, some pies, no doubt, and sit there talking to the silent grave stone until noon. The poor graveyard would be sick of Mrs Lovett by the end of one week, Sweeney could imagine.
She was now nuzzling her red curls beneath the crook his chin. He allowed it, because the spilling fountain of red reminded him of dripping rubies. He fingered the little curls and watched them fall right through the curves of his hands. He wondered if there was any difference….Mrs Lovett's hair was as delightful as blood, he realised.
"Can I ask you a question love?" Nellie interrupted. She was trembling just at the barest touch – Sweeney's hand accidently brushed the back of her neck.
He looked down at her, and the penetrating eyes told her quite clearly.
He was all there. He wasn't off with the fairies. He wasn't imagining she was his dead wife. He knew it was Nellie he was caressing.
"What, my love?"
Nellie shivered. She knew he didn't love her. But it thrilled her no end. My love, he'd said.
It was sick. Nellie knew it was twisted – but she was imagining, as he held her, of a false past.
Instead of Benjamin and Lucy cooing over Joanna in the barber shop up Mrs Lovett's emporium all those years ago, it was Benjamin and Nellie, cooing over her little dead son. He would never grow up, but in Nellie's head she could imagine that Benjamin had been a proud father, a decent man, a fair husband. In her head, Benjamin kissed her boy goodnight on the head every night, and together they would watch the child sleep.
"Do you think….he's….my son's up there?" She lifted her brows up, as if she could see through the ceiling to the pearly gates of heaven.
"I am a demon, Mrs Lovett. How should I know? Or have you forgotten?"
"I guess that makes us both demons, Mr T. But even demons 'ave 'opes an' dreams. I'd like to think he's up there, up where the angels sing and all the priests an' judges 'ave gone to hell."
"Don't we all, Mrs Lovett."
Mrs Lovett seized his arm. "Then you do think there's a chance!"
Sweeney shrugged. "Not for you. Not for I. We, my pet, are destined for the darkest pits of hell. But if any angel on earth rose to heaven – it is surely my Lucy. And your son," he said gently, remembering the sad little blue tiles, and the way Mrs Lovett had attempt to piece them back together.
She was really rather pretty, Sweeney decided, breaking their embrace to smile slightly at her childish dress and bobbing curls.
It was a broken smile, to be sure, but Nellie memorised it inside out.
"Come, my pet." The air was chill stepping out of the sweaty inn. Sweeney shrugged off his jacket, and cast it over Mrs Lovett's thin shoulders.
Nellie beamed, and linked his arm in hers. "It might not be the sea, Mr T, but we'll make a home together. Even in hell."
They were walking home to that familiar demon shop on Fleet Street.
Sweeney wasn't really listening. He was watching the stray people rush to and fro out of shutting shops, scuttling back too the safety of their homes.
There was no one else in the word, he realised, quite like Mrs Lovett. No other woman would walk arm and arm with a murderer without a care in the world.
"Of course, my dove," he whispered to her. "Anything you say."
Mrs Lovett was buoyant, and Sweeney's heart was full of joy.
They almost skipped down the street, except Mrs Lovett's bones were too weary for that and Sweeney had forgotten how.
But he was full of joy! He was going to spill the blood of the Judge.
They were both going to home to hell.
This is staying as a one-shot. Hope you liked it!