I know it's a little late, but this story takes place just before Christmas. I'm not sure about the historical British Christmas celebrations but most of the things that are common now seemed to have been popular already then, or at least known. The firecrackers are still something I'm slightly worried about though; I know they already were in use those days the same way as they are now, but I'm not sure whether that are lit before Christmas. Lightning firecrackers even before Christmas happens a lot here though (even though it's officially forbidden), and since this is quite necessary for this story I decided to include it anyway, even though it may not make sense at all ;)


Firecrackers

"What's that sound?" Mr. Todd asked suspiciously as he listened intently.

"I don't hear anything, Mr. T," the baker replied, for once not really paying attention to him since she was busy decorating the Christmas tree in her parlor.

"It's coming closer," he muttered.

"I'm sure it is love," Mrs. Lovett replied, not bothered by whatever he was talking about at all. "Why don't you just try to calm down? It's almost Christmas, even for you."

"It sounds like..." he continued, not listening to the baker at all, "firecrackers."

"Oh well," the baker replied indifferently, "that's only normal this time a year."

Mr. Todd looked extremely uncomfortable, but Mrs. Lovett wasn't aware of it. She did hear the small explosions outside as well, but she wasn't concerned at all.

"Please give me some help her dearie," she said, struggling with a particularly big branch of the Christmas tree.

When Sweeney didn't react at all, not even with a grunt of annoyance, the baker realized at last that there really was something wrong.

"Mr. T, are you alright?"

"Not really," the man muttered, seeming to be even paler than usual. "I'd rather go back to Devil's Island than..."

"Than what?" Mrs. Lovett replied, raising an eyebrow.

"Than having to endure this."

Before he could specify 'this', another explosion was heard.

Mr. Todd tensed visibly because of the sound, making it clear to the baker at last what was bothering him. She found it rather strange though that the demon barber seemed to be afraid of firecrackers.

"Nothing to be afraid of love," she said, hoping to reassure him.

The barber didn't react; instead, he looked around as if he expected the house to be blown up any moment.

Since he was standing in the middle of the parlor, being hopelessly useless, Mrs. Lovett gently pushed him in the direction of the pie shop. She wasn't going to let him ruin her anticipation of Christmas, not now that his behavior had already destroyed her good spirits so often in the past.

"Just go back to your room," she said, for once actually hoping that he would leave her instead of continuing to brood in her presence, reminding her that the tree and the other Christmas decorations in her parlor were nothing but illusions; she was not living the happy and innocent life that they suggested after all.

It was not that she didn't want him to be there, in fact, she wanted nothing more. But she wanted him to be there, not the dark thoughts that dwelt in his mind and dominated his behavior.

"No," Sweeney said powerfully. "I'm not going out there until it's quiet again."

"Well, that can take a while," she sighed. "It's another week until the new year begins and I presume this will only get worse until it's the last day of December."

He stared daggers at her, as if it was all her fault.

"Don't blame the messenger," she simply said, promising herself once more not to allow Sweeney to ruin her good mood.

But from the corners of her eyes she watched the barber, wondering if she could perhaps bend this situation to her advantage. It was quite unusual after all that he was rather in the parlor together with her than all alone in his barber shop. Especially now that it was just before Christmas, it would be very pleasant indeed if he wasn't only simply standing in the room like a living statue, but would participate with some enthusiasm in the activities she had planned as well.

"You can stay here if you want," she replied, "but then you have to help me decorating the tree."

Sweeney eyed her suspiciously and for a few seconds, she was afraid that he'd truly rather force himself to go outside to get back to his own room that way than helping her with doing something so simple, but then he nodded.

The next minutes were spent in silence as they placed ribbons and brightly colored Christmas balls in the tree. The noises of the firecrackers could still be heard from outside but now that Mr. Todd had something to focus on, he seemed to be unaware of it.

It was needless to say that Mrs. Lovett thoroughly enjoyed the barber's company now that he was actually helping her instead of only standing in her way. He didn't say anything, but just grunted something every once in a while when she asked him to get more ribbons or to handle the fragile Christmas balls with a little more care.

Especially when their hands brushed accidentally when they were handing each other decorations or tried to place a particularly stubborn items in the tree together, the baker had to suppress the squeals of delight that welled within her. She was very pleased that the barber behaved the way he did. He probably wasn't enjoying himself – except for killing, she couldn't really imagine Sweeney doing anything that he actually liked to do – but this was the closest she had ever seen him to doing something innocent and harmless without obvious reluctance.

But she knew well enough that this would last only for a little while. He would doubtlessly leave the moment that he thought that it was safe for him to go back outside and judging from the silence outside, this moment was awfully close. But at that very moment, a sneaky idea found its way into her head.

"There must be another box of Christmas balls, but I can't find it here," she said, using the first excuse that she could think of. "I might have stored it last year in one of the empty cupboards in the shop."

Mr. Todd didn't seem to realize that she had spoken in the first place and was busy attaching a ribbon to one of the highest branches of the tree.

Not sure whether she should surprised by his lack of attention or not, she headed for the pie shop. But instead of looking for more decorations, she moved to the door, opening it to peek outside. To her relief, she saw Toby almost immediately; even though it was getting dark, he was still continuing to build a huge snowmen together with two other boys.

"Toby!" she called, gesturing him to come inside.

"Something wrong, Mum?" he asked, his brown eyes immediately widening in alarm as he heard the urgency in her voice.

"Nothing's wrong," she replied, her smile reassuring him quickly. "But there's something I want you to do."

"Alright Mum," the young boy said, as eager as always to please the woman who had accepted him into her household as if he were her actual son.

"I want you to buy firecrackers for yourself and your friends," she said, waving in the direction of the two boys that he had been playing with. "And to lit it here, in front of the shop."

She reached for her purse, trying to count the coins in the fading daylight, then shrugged and gave the young boy the whole thing. Toby's eyes widened once more, in shocked surprise this time.

"Now, go and buy as much firecrackers as you can with this, and lit all of them, even if it takes until midnight."

The boy nodded, obviously even more eager to do what she told him than he had been before, although it was clear to him that he didn't quite understand why on earth she would want him to spend so much money on firecrackers.

But after another reassuring nod from the baker he turned around, shouting enthusiastically to the two other boys, and a moment later they had disappeared in the growing darkness. Satisfied and feeling quite some anticipation herself, the baker returned to the parlor.

To her immense surprise, Mr. Todd wasn't sulking in a corner and didn't seem to have damaged the decorations in any way. In fact, he was still busy attaching ribbons and Christmas balls to the highest branches of the tree, the ones that she couldn't reach herself.

"I need at least five more Christmas balls," the barber said as he saw her enter the room. "The ones you have now aren't spread evenly over the branches. Is it really that hard to decorate a Christmas tree, Mrs. Lovett?"

For once, the baker was at a loss for words, not sure whether she should be pleased or offended by this particular remark.

"So where are they?" he asked, looking up from his work.

"What is where?" she replied, her mind still unable to process what he just had said.

"Those Christmas balls you were going to get!"

She was thoroughly surprised to find out that Sweeney actually seemed to have noticed that she had told him that she was going to get more Christmas balls from the pie shop. It was probably the first time that he was aware of anything that she said that was not related to his vengeance. It was rather unfortunate that it happened now though, for her cheeks were reddening because she had used those Christmas balls only as an excuse to speak to Toby. She could only hope that he hadn't heard her conversation with the boy now that he suddenly was so aware of the things happening around him. But luckily, there was nothing about him that indicated that he knew what she had asked of the boy.

And, something that was quite fortunate as well, he apparently really had been focused on the tree and its decorations to the extent that he hadn't noticed that it was still quiet outside and thus perfectly safe for him to go back to his own room to pace and brood until exhaustion was finally stronger than his will to develop the perfect plan to murder the man who was responsible for his cruel fate.

She didn't know how long it would take Toby and his friends however to come back with the firecrackers, so she needed to distract him for the time being, especially because the overwhelming fact that the barber had actually listened to her made it hard for her to think of a persuasive way to tell him that there were no other Christmas balls even though she had just suggested that there were.

"Why do you care anyway?" she asked, once again saying the first thing that entered her mind.

"I don't," Sweeney said, the indifference in his voice not entirely convincing her of the truth of those words, "but if I'm forced to spend time here in your parlor, which unfortunately seems to be the case, I'd rather face something less..."

"I think I get your point," she replied quickly, not wanting to hear him offend her ideas for Christmas even more. Distracting only went so far, after all.

But still, he looked at her, as if he was truly wondering about the decorations, but the intensity of his gaze made it only harder for her to think. Her eyes weren't confused though and they noticed that the barber looked more at ease than usual, in spite of the apparent threat of the firecrackers. It seemed as if he was actually enjoying the preparations for Christmas, but she knew better than to cherish such hope.

And just when the silence grew too long and she feared that he had either found out about the white lie that she had told him, or would realize that it was still silent outside, there was another explosion, louder than the previous ones. The baker was afraid that she couldn't hide a triumphant smirk as she realized that Toby had done exactly as she had asked of him and was lighting firecrackers now right in front of the pie shop, but Mr. Todd's reaction to the loud noise prevented her from doing so. The poor man almost jumped when he realized what was happening just outside the building. She really had to find out why he behaved like this, both because she was very curious to the cause for his strange fear and because she didn't want him to be afraid like this for the remaining week of the year. She didn't feel guilty for what she was doing now, sensing that she deserved his attention and presence after all that she had done for him, even if it had to be arranged like this, but it would be for only one evening.

She shut the door to the hallway that connected the pie shop with the parlor, managing to block out some of the noise and making sure that Mr. Todd wouldn't accidentally see Toby that way. He didn't dare go outside now but she was rather sure that he would do about anything to 'punish' the boy if he would recognize him once Toby ran out of firecrackers.

The two of them stared awkwardly at each other for a moment and the baker's mind was racing to think of something suitable to say, something that could persuade him to continue helping her.

"There are still some empty branches in the tree," he said neutrally, almost causing her mouth to fall open in surprise.

She smiled at him, hoping that it would make clear to him how much she appreciated his enthusiasm, even if it was feigned or perhaps mocked, something of which she wasn't certain.

Hoping that they would continue decorating together like they had done before she had disappeared into the pie shop, she approached the Christmas tree again, looking at it for a long moment before she removed one of the ribbons she had placed in it before and attached it to a branch that was just a bit more to the left, hoping to fill one of the empty spots that Mr. Todd had mentioned earlier.

From the look on his face however she could tell that this didn't have the desired effect but she didn't mind at all, because he stepped forward and removed another ribbon, placing it somewhere between its original place and the initial spot of the one that Mrs. Lovett had just removed, trying to spread the decorations in a more regular pattern.

After a minute of re-adjusting the decorations it was clear that it didn't make things better. They had quite randomly placed all the items in the tree without cooperating, and this lack of mutual planning couldn't be undone so easily. As they looked at each other briefly, she knew that he was thinking the same thing and after two short nods, they began to remove all the ribbons and Christmas balls from the tree. It was one of the good things about Mr. Todd's aversion to talk: she had learned to understand him by nothing but the smallest movements of his head.

After neatly sorting all the decorations and, on Mr. Todd's insistence, counting how many of each there was, they began to place everything back in the tree, but with actually collaborating this time, thinking first before acting with the total amount of decorations in mind.

At first, the baker didn't like his tendency to give the location of even the smallest ribbon so much thought, but after quite a few disagreements she began to see that this was going to be the most beautiful decorated tree she had ever had, probably only because of Sweeney's shocking eye for detail.

The baker mostly only liked things that were done without too much thinking and consideration because they otherwise simply didn't go fast enough for her liking, but she thoroughly enjoyed this process, especially because the barber was less aware of the firecrackers with each minute that passed and didn't bother to hide anymore that he actually liked this preparation for Christmas.

A little more than an hour later, the work was done. As the baker stepped back to admire the tree, she gasped for air, never having seen such a beautiful tree before. She had seen large and ridiculously luxuriously decorated ones in the houses of rich people when she was young and went to the better parts of town to amuse herself by looking at all those wonderful Christmas trees, so much more beautiful than what her parents had at home; but none of them had been as wonderful as the one that Sweeney and she just had decorated. Everything about it was just perfect. And to her immense joy, even the barber himself seemed to be quite impressed.

"It's lovely," she said, smiling, as she moved her gaze from the tree to the barber. He was after all the thing that she liked to look at most. Even if the tree in her parlor had been twice as big and would've had even larger and shinier Christmas balls in it, she still would prefer to scrutinize the grim and stern Mr. Todd. He possessed a beauty that was much more intriguing than even the most mesmerizing Christmas decoration.

She was more than content with the way her parlor was decorated now, but as the barber looked questioningly at a box with candles that she had bought earlier that week, it was clear to her that the lovely evening wasn't over yet. She hadn't plan to place those in the room yet, let alone light them, but if Mr. Todd thought that she was, she wasn't going to correct him.

They went through the room together and while she placed the candles where she wanted them, Mr. Todd lit them. They didn't say a word, but Mrs. Lovett wouldn't know a better way to spend the evening.

When all the work was done at last, Mrs. Lovett collapsed on the couch, watching her parlor with wide eyes that were incredibly pleased by what they saw. To her surprise, Mr. Todd sat down next to her, making her feel even more delighted. The poor man was probably exhausted after a long morning and afternoon of cutting throats and then spending the evening with her to decorate her parlor. The difference between those two particular activities couldn't be greater, but to the baker it wasn't strange at all.

Sighing happily, she turned her head so she could look at the barber properly. His expression was blank but it seemed to her that his eyes weren't as empty as they usually were. Perhaps this was the right moment to find the answer to the question that had been bothering her since she had seen him react to the noises of the firecrackers so intensely.

"Mr. T?" she asked, not really expecting him to give an answer, or actually hear her. Thus she was pleasantly surprised when he turned his head to look at her almost immediately. "Why are you... afraid of firecrackers?"

She didn't really dare using the term 'afraid' when addressing the demon barber, but she didn't know how else to describe the way he had reacted earlier.

"I can't remember," he said. That answer shouldn't surprise her; there was not much after all that he seemed to remember from the old days. But yet, Mrs. Lovett was curious and this time, she wouldn't let the barber get away with it so easily.

"It seems to me that it is caused by something that made quite some impression on you," she said, looking intently at his face as if she could find the answer there if only she'd look closely enough. "It probably happened a long time ago, before you even met Lucy."

The latter was a rather wild guess, but the baker did have the feeling that his seemingly unexplainable behavior had to do with something that had happened a long time ago, probably when he was still rather young.

Mr. Todd shook his head, as if the mere idea was ridiculous. But then, just when there was another small explosion right before the pie shop, his eyes widened suddenly and it was clear to the baker that he seemed to remember what had happened to make him afraid of firecrackers after all.

"They were throwing firecrackers... three older boys," he muttered, staring at the Christmas tree with unseeing eyes. "Throwing them at me. I had a Christmas present with me for my parents and they wanted to have it. I was scared and I didn't know what to do, but I couldn't give them the present - I had saved pennies for half a year to buy it. I ran... but they were faster than I was. They cornered me, and..."

As he talked, images began to fill Mrs. Lovett's mind. She gasped as she realized what she was remembering because of the barber's words. She suddenly knew what he was talking about and in her memory, there was a little girl, seeing a boy who was a few years her senior, running while holding a small package tightly in his hands. But even though he ran as fast as he could, the older boys caught up on him.

"I was at the end of an alley and I couldn't move forward, and I couldn't go back either because they blocked the exit. They were approaching, laughing while they threw firecrackers at me because they could see how much it scared me..."

Mrs. Lovett remembered it clearly now, as if it was actually happening now instead of thirty years ago. She had recognized the boy all those years ago; he was the one who had been living in Fleet Street for only a few weeks. She didn't know him, but even though she had never talked to him she liked him very much. She saw how kind he was for the other children who he knew, how helpful he was for his parents and how politely he always spoke to her mother when he came in the shop to buy some pies... She had wished often before that she could speak to him, but she had never found the right opportunity – or the courage – to do so. She was only five after all and she was sure that she'd know better what to do if she would be a little older, when she would be the same age as the boy had been back then.

"And suddenly, there was a girl, approaching them from behind. The boys didn't see her..."

When she had seen the kind and polite boy being bullied by those three older boys that her mother always warned her for, she wanted to help him. She had sneaked up behind them; it wasn't hard because their backs were facing her and the noise of their horrible firecrackers overwhelmed every other sound.

"I felt the movement of air and dirt that the explosions caused... they were stepping closer to me, ordering me to give them my gift for my parents...."

She had been right behind them, and spotted a box of matches in a pocket of the trousers of the tallest boy. A small hand had reached for it and triumphantly, she had taken the matches. The previous owner was too busy terrifying the younger boy to be aware of it.

"I closed my eyes and I couldn't see what they were doing... my ears were buzzing from the noise and I couldn't hear anything anymore. I was sure that they were going to hurt me. But then there was someone screaming, and it wasn't me..."

She had never found out how she had gotten that idea exactly, but she had to do something to help the boy and there was only one idea that had entered her mind to distract the boys. She had lit one of the matches and held it right next to the fabric of the boy's shirt, watching with satisfaction as the boy's clothing began to burn.

"And suddenly, there were no more exploding firecrackers. There was fire, but not near me..."

She had moved away quickly, not wanting the older boys to see her. She hid right around the corner, turning her head around it though to see what was happening, to find out whether her plan was working. And indeed, the boys that had behaved so despicably mere seconds ago, were screaming in fear now themselves.

"The the clothing of one of them was burning. They ran away to extinguish the flames. I followed them, wanting to know what had happened; in spite of what they had done I didn't want them to be hurt..."

Nellie had wanted them to get hurt though; they had scared that nice boy so much and they didn't deserve better than what they had gotten themselves into, or did they? But right after she had turned around to look at the boy that was rolling through the mud and was surrounded by other people who tried to help him, the boy that she had saved had run towards her without being aware of her because she was still hiding, stumbling over her, and a second later they had been in the mud themselves and she had looked Benjamin Barker in the eyes for the very first time.

"I bumped against the girl and I couldn't help but stare at her when I saw her from a close distance for the first time. Her skin was pale, and she had brown eyes and auburn hair. I was mesmerized by her."

She didn't realize that his eyes had been closed, reliving the memory that way, until they snapped open to look directly into hers. Her own memories, of how he had thanked her endlessly and had taken her home with him to help her clean her clothes, completely forgetting about the boys who had tormented him, were temporarily forgotten because of that.

She wasn't surprised to hear him talk so much, or to see the smile that graced his face. It was a strange thing to see, yes, but in that moment some of the long lost memories of Benjamin Barker were revived and it this made it seem as if some parts of the young barber were still hiding somewhere deep inside of the man that he had become.

"It was you," he whispered. "The first time that we met."

She nodded, an unfamiliar feeling rising within her. How could she have forgotten this? She had been only five but it had been the day that she had met Benjamin Barker, the moment in which their friendship had started. How ironic that it was the demon barber himself who reminded her of that long forgotten incident.

He blinked a few times, obviously having some trouble to retreat to his current life after he just had experienced a rather vivid memory. And then, his eyes focused on her once more, with an intensity that she hadn't seen in them before, or at least, not when he wasn't angry or upset with her.

"I... it seems that I had forgotten that we have known each other for such a long time."

"I had forgotten about it myself as well," she said, choosing her words carefully. "But I do know that I've known you as long as I can remember."

She didn't dare telling him that she had always been fond of him, and that this fondness had grown into someting much, much more during the years. She probably never would. But still, there was this look in his eyes that suddenly made her feel as if there might be a day in which she could tell him how much he truly meant to him. It was probably only her imagination, fueled by the thoughts of Christmas, but still, there seemed to be some sort of sparkle in his eyes.

He didn't say anything, but for once, she didn't mind. She was more than pleased by the way he looked at her, eying her with appreciation and even mild curiosity. Even though they just sat there in silence, looking at each other without saying a word, Nellie had rarely felt as much at ease as she did in that very moment.

Time passed slowly but she wasn't aware of this and she had the suspicion that the barber wasn't either. He wasn't looking at her all the time anymore, but his eyes seemed to go from the Christmas tree to her, and then to the burning candles before going back to her - always back to her. Having captured his attention at last, she was thrilled and nervous at the same time.

She didn't have to worry about it for the time being, though. It was growing late and the barber was tired. He tried to suppress the yawns but he failed more and more often doing so. It was obvious that he wanted to retreat to his room so he could sleep, but to his horror - and to Mrs. Lovett's delight – the boys outside were still lighting firecrackers, preventing the barber from actually going to his bed.

Now it was very clear to her why he didn't dare go outside and she wouldn't even think of trying to persuade him to do so anyway after she had remembered what had happened all those years ago, even if she actually would've wanted him to leave her so she could process all what had happened, both now and in the past.

"Mrs. Lovett, I..."

She felt sorry for him as he looked at her with obvious embarrassment. Even though it was clear to him that she knew now why he didn't want to be near the firecrackers and that she understood him more than he could've ever thought before, he still was afraid to ask what he so obviously wanted to.

"It's alright," she said, enjoying the moment but not wanting the barber to have to endure even more on this day, that doubtlessly had already been too demanding for him. "You can sleep on the couch if you want to."

This was exactly what he had hoped to hear seeing the circumstances and he nodded at her with gratitude. Mrs. Lovett of course had rather suggested a quite different location but she knew too well that Sweeney would never take her offer to sleep in her bed, no matter how much firecrackers there was and no matter how tired he was.

Before she had even said those words, his eyes fluttered closed already, even though it wasn't that late yet. It made her wonder how much he had exhausted himself the past few weeks, or if this evening truly was the first one during which he had been able to relax, if only a little.

Of course, the temptation of Sweeney Todd sleeping on her couch was very hard to ignore. In the past, she was rather sure that she would've sneaked into his barber shop at night to watch him sleep, if only the door – that he always locked – didn't make such a bloody noise any time that it was opened. No matter how much she enjoyed it when he talked to her, thus proving to her that he was aware of the fact that she was more than a simple baker who he could handle as he saw fit, she most certainly wouldn't like the conversation that would follow if he would wake up to find her sneaking into his room.

But now there were no doors that creaked and any accidental sound that she made would go by unnoticed now that he was asleep and the sound of the firecrackers could still be heard in the background.

The baker had planned to leave him, only to return when she was sure that he was fully asleep, if only to watch him for a few moments... but in contradiction of what she had thought, he had fallen asleep almost immediately, even though she was sitting right next to him. The possibilities truly were too promising to ignore.

Holding her breath without realizing that she did so, she moved closer to him, whispering his name urgently. When he didn't react she was entirely sure that he was asleep and because of this she had enough courage to place her hand on his shoulder, as lightly as he could.

The barber shifted in his sleep, but he didn't wake up. Nellie made herself as comfortable as she could, which was quite hard now that her heart was beating too fast and her hands were becoming sweaty.

Biting her lip nervously, she applied some pressure to the hand that was on his shoulder, so his body moved in her direction as it slid a little downwards against the couch. He still didn't react and she repeated the action until he was basically lying on the seat, right next to her. And then, her heart beating so fast that it almost hurt and her hands shaking so much that she feared that she would wake him accidentally, she gently lifted the head of the oblivious barber, resting it in her lap.

Only as the minutes passed and Mr. Todd didn't wake, she calmed down at last and could begin to appreciate and enjoy what was happening. No matter how unlikely it seemed, he was sleeping so close to her and because the moment wouldn't last as long as she wanted it to, her treacherous hands began doing what they had longed to do for so long now that they finally had the chance.

She caressed his face, marveling at the skin that was still soft, even after all the harsh circumstances that it had to endure. And even though she knew the danger of the game she was playing, her fingers moved towards his mouths, touching his lips gently. They weren't as hard and cold as they looked like and once again she wondered how it would be to kiss them.

Even though she couldn't do so now, she didn't mind. Sweeney had already given her more than she had ever really hoped for, even though he wasn't aware of it himself. This was probably the only reason that she could touch him like that in the first place, but she preferred to think of that just not yet.

She smiled as she carefully touched Mr. Todd's face, savoring every detail of it. He wasn't aware of what she was doing – well, she wasn't entirely sure of that, but it was not that the barber would let her do this if he would actually know what she was doing.

After a while he did turn out to react to her, however. He was muttering in his sleep, a dream that she doubtlessly wasn't part of requiring all his attention. He was shifting his body slightly and although this alarmed her at first, she relaxed once more when he didn't wake up but actually tried to get closer to her. Her heart melted when he nuzzled her hand and the knowledge that it was probably not her whom he was dreaming of, couldn't change anything about this. How she loved this beautiful man, and the fate that had given her this moment.

Sleep was beginning to overwhelm her as well, but she resisted this urge of her body, wanting to enjoy this unexpected moment as long as she could. All the Christmases of a lifetime couldn't be better than this, after all.

-

Toby was relieved when he had run out of firecrackers at last. His friends had gone home a while ago, after their mothers had asked them to do so. This reminded him once again how strange the behavior of the woman who was like a mother to him had been. She hadn't asked him to come home like the mother's of his friends had; instead, she had given him more money than he had ever seen in his life and had asked of him to buy firecrackers. He had no idea why on earth she would want him to do this, but of course, he had done as she had asked of him, like he always did.

Lightning firecrackers had been a new and exciting thing to do, but after three hours it did become rather boring. But still, even though his fingers had gone numb from the cold and he had had more and more trouble to keep his eyes open, he had continued.

Now that the last firecracker had exploded, he wasn't sure what to do; Mrs. Lovett hadn't told him what he should do once his task was completed. Deciding that he would ask her, he went into the pie shop and quietly made his way into the parlor, surprised to find the door that was usually always open to be closed.

When he stepped into the room, his mouth fell open. Never in his young life he had seen such a beautiful thing. There were more candles than he could count and their little flames illuminated the rest of the parlor, so he could see the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Never before he had seen something so wonderful and for a minute, he just stood there, watching in awe and trying to memorize every detail. This was the first Christmas he was actually going to celebrate – Mrs. Lovett had promised him that – and he already could tell that this was going to be the most memorable experience in his life so far.

Only after a few minutes of admiring the parlor, he realized that he wasn't as alone as he had thought at first. It was hardly visible in the dim light, but there was something lying on the couch that looked like a human being.

Carefully stepping closer to take a better look without disturbing anything, he saw that there wasn't one person, but two. To his shock, it were none other than Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd who he was looking at. They had seemed like one person because they were actually holding each other.

Unable to believe his eyes, the boy blinked and squeezed his arm, but when his eyes opened again, it was clear that he wasn't having a bad dream and that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. It were indeed Mrs. Lovett and the barber who were lying there like they just had... well, Toby didn't want to think about it.

He was shocked to see them like that, but as he looked closer, somehow unable to drag his eyes away, he realized that it wasn't as bad as it seemed. At least they still had their clothes on and it didn't seem as if the barber had hurt her. In fact, his adoptive mother was holding the dark haired man, and not the other way around. His head was resting against her chest and one of her hands was kneaded into his hair, as if she was afraid that he would move away otherwise. To Toby however it was clear that Mr. Todd probably wouldn't do so, for the arms of the barber were wrapped tightly around the baker's waist in an almost possessive gesture. Both their bodies were bended rather awkwardly, as if they hadn't fallen asleep like this but their beings had found this position subconsciously.

Toby knew that he was only a simple boy, but when he looked at the peaceful display, he intuitively sensed that the man and the woman who were holding each other was the most beautiful thing in the room. Indeed, he was rather sure that Mrs. Lovett would be shining the following morning, more than the candles were doing now.

Although he wasn't fond of Mr. Todd, the baker had made it very clear to him that he was a good man. He wasn't sure of this and he sensed that Mrs. Lovett liked the barber more than was healthy for her, he was somewhat glad to see her like this. They looked so content together, and if there was someone who deserved to be happy, it was his Mum.

Suddenly feeling as if he was intruding on something personal, he withdrew from the room. Now that the two adults were occupying the couch that he usually slept on, he had to find himself another place to sleep. As he stood in front of Mrs. Lovett's bedroom, he told himself that she wouldn't be angry if he slept there, just for one night. She would hopefully be too glad of what had taken place that night to realize where he had slept in the first place, and if she would be angry or disappointed with him after all, he could always remind her that he was the one who had been lightning firecrackers all night. Even though he had no idea what the connection was, he felt strongly that he had been one of the causes of what he just had seen in the parlor.

Usually the boy needed a tot of gin to help him fall asleep, but now he had no trouble falling asleep at all. The memories of the workhouse and signor Pirelli were chased away easily by the thought of the happiness of the baker and the barber. For all three of them it was going to be a wonderful Christmas indeed.


Merry Christmas! =D