A/N: Just something fun for the festive season.
It was an unusually warm, lovely day in Fleet Street.
The barber and baker of Mrs Lovett's meat pie emporium didn't particularly care if it rained, hailed or snowed squirrels – as long as business was booming, and victims – customers were coming in for a shave.
What did it matter that it was almost Christmas, and Mr T hadn't spared her a second thought? At least, that's what Mrs Lovett tried to convince herself. If she acted more indifferently, like her beloved barber, perhaps he'd pay her more attention?
The bird-nest haired woman paused a moment to admire Sweeney's sturdy back and his wiry hands as he caressed his "friends". 'Twas a crying shame he couldn't caress her like that. Before she fell into yet another daydream involving the barber, a hot bath, a beef casserole and her favourite rolling pin, Nellie cleared her throat and gave her curls a good toss.
The barber grunted, but did not move from his washbowl basin.
Mrs Lovett tried another tactic – she set the rust-spotted tray directly down beside his washbowl, ensuring the jug of milk, tea-cup and china plate of buttered toast-and-eggs gave a good clatter. "Love."
"Leave it, Mrs Lovett," was all he said, as if he considered her too stupid to be addressed further.
Even a simple "thank you," would have done. Before them, an old cloth had been thrown over the mirror. Guess she wasn't the only one who believed in ghosts.
"That's all." His frown deepened, and he worked harder at polishing the stubborn blood stains on the blades.
But Mrs Lovett wasn't giving up so easily. "Mr T, wot's ignominy mean?"
"How should I know?" he snapped, finally wearying of her company.
But, Nellie thought with a satisfied smile, at least he notices me. "Oh well per'aps I should go ask Toby. It's alright Mr T, I didn't expect you to know."
That certainly piqued his interest. "You think barbers are idiots," he accused, setting his blades on the table.
She'd hit a nerve. "Of course not," she answered soothingly, reaching for his shoulders.
But Sweeney Todd was not to be appeased. "Where's the dictionary?" he bellowed, storming downstairs.
Mrs Lovett bounded after him, unable to contain her delight. "By the chair in the parlour, love."
"Which one?" There was more than one chair. "Don't tell me," he said angrily, holding his hand in front of the baker's face. "I can count, you know."
"No doubt, dear, but –"
"There!" Sweeney seized the battered book by the spine and sat on the floor, slamming it down before him. "And to think the boy could possibly know! Thickhead can't even read," the barber muttered, flipping the pages over with a sick sort of pleasure. As if it were one of his customers that just had his throat bled.
When Mr Todd got into such a mood, reasoning with him wouldn't do a thing. And did he have to pick the book up by its spine? Mrs Lovett hoped he'd treated Lucy better than he treated that book, as well as any future lovers…
"It's not here." In his anger, the barber tore several pages into little pieces, which now rained down over their heads like confetti.
"There, there, love," Mrs Lovett said calmly, sitting beside him amongst the mess. She did the only sensible thing she knew how. With her black gloved hands, the baker guided his hands across the "F"s, "G"s and "H"s all the way to "I." Strangely, he did not protest. He was scanning each page intently, and didn't seem to notice the undue attention she was paying his scarred hands. "Just like castor sugar," Mrs Lovett murmured – but a cry from Sweeney drowned her out.
"There!" He shoved a mottled finger, stained more from blood than dirt or age – and turned to his partner triumphantly. "Ignominy, my pet," said Mr Todd proudly, "means to 'disgrace, shame or dishonour' someone.' There! What do you think of that?"
The baker shrugged. "I already knew wot it meant, Mr T. I simply wanted ter prove a point."
"Oh?" His hackles were raised now, and the book slammed shut. Unfortunately, his fingers were still inside it. "Look at that! You did it!" Sweeney's fingers were bruised and throbbing.
"I did nothing of the sort, Mr T." She sighed – at times Mr T was no more mature than a toddler. "You did it to yourself, if it weren't for your silly temper –"
"I haven't got a temper, Mrs Lovett," said Sweeney viciously.
"Yes you have," she said, getting to her feet.
"No I – prove it," he growled.
"I don't have to," said the baker calmly. "You're doin' it now, love."
He began to stalk off. "Wait. You said you proved your point. What was it?"
The baker smiled, and at that moment the candlelight caught its glow perfectly. "I 'ave you under me spell, Mr T."
It was a bold, possibly foolish thing to say; but this might be her only one chance, and never before had he showed so much interest…
He scoffed, throwing the dictionary on the bench. "I may have a temper, my pet. But you are a liar."
"Pardon me, Mr T. Am not." Her brow creased, and she eased her way between the bench and Mr Todd.
His dark eyes glittered. He too, in the candlelight, was somehow no longer tired and drawn, but...transformed.
"Since you said so…"
She leaned forward, so that her body pressed into his vest. She kissed him. Not on the lips. Underneath his neck, just beneath the jaw line and ear. Her creased mouth remained only seconds against his bristly skin, but the sensation of the two surfaces meeting was shocking. It went far deeper than mere touch.
Immediately afterwards, guilt flooded him for wanting to take her lips and return the gesture. Lucy would not have approved.
But he had not thought of his wife when the baker's widowed lips were attending so carefully to him. She had not been kissed in a long time, and neither had he.
"Good night, Mr T," said Mrs Lovett, winking at him as she darted out of the kitchen. She had proved her point.
Long after she had gone, the barber stood there, his fingers still touching the tender spot beneath his chin.
* * *