Passing Grades - Part I.
In some ways, Sweeney Todd is a groundbreaker. A pioneer. He's survived long enough to learn that stereotypical traditions hardly last and are rarely beneficial, and for the most part he prefers to ignore them completely. To do what he wants because he wants to. He finds things that work and blazes his own path. However, much to his chagrin, this particular routine is one he has never managed to shake. It is boring and pointless, but he's not quite sure how else to survive Saturday mornings without it.
By the time eleven o'clock rolls around, he is still only half dressed, wearing only a pair of track pants over his boxer shorts. Sitting in front of the television with a cup of coffee in one hand and a remote in the other hand, he slams his thumb down on the button that changes the channel, watching the screen flick from a fishing show to a colourful representation of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'. Mindlessly exchanging insults riddled with slang, the humanoid reptiles spend most of the show performing animated martial arts and eating pizza. If Todd wanted to watch this level of intellect, he would simply have gone visiting a few of his students.
So, mashing the buttons again, he finds the cooking channel. He is fifteen minutes earlier than usual. Reaching this level of utter boredom is usually a slower process, but his patience has been thin these last few days. He has little doubt what – or who, in this case – has caused this. Giving Louie a sideways glance, he angles his foot and pushes, as if removing her dog from the couch will evict her from his mind.
To keep the mutt from jumping back up, Todd swings both his legs off of the floor and stretches out the entire length of the couch, a tiny smirk twitching at the corner of his mouth. For a moment, he is positive that he has won this battle, but the basset hound simply stares at him with a mournful look and scrambles up onto the couch again, this time lying down on Sweeney's legs.
"Morning, love," Nellie greets from somewhere behind him. He doesn't answer, only raising his remote control in a silent acknowledgement of her presence. If he doesn't, the danger of her interrupting his day will just become that more probable. She sits down nimbly on the arm of the couch nearest to her dog and scratches his head, smiling when the brute blinks lazily and rolls over for a belly rub. She makes pathetic cooing noises and leans in to plant a kiss on his floppy ears.
Only by telling himself that he is not in any way jealous of a dog does Todd avoid growling out loud.
"While you're there, why don't you do something useful and get him off of my legs, love," Sweeney says, managing to keep his voice relatively soft so as not to incur the wrath of Lovett.
"An' 'ere I was just thinking 'ow 'andsome you two looked together." She puts her hands on her hips and sighs, shaking her head for a moment before pushing the dog to the floor. But before Todd can move his legs, Nellie takes the dog's spot on top of him.
He blinks. "That's hardly better." She has a rather bony rear, even through her plush flannel pyjamas, and he squirms. She doesn't move, smiling at him. She wants something. Todd knows it. The only times she has ever interrupted his cooking show is when she wants something. He takes a sip of his coffee and turns up the volume of the television another notch. The drone of the cook's speech on how to handle raw meat is unbroken for all of thirty seconds before Mrs. Lovett speaks his name, pulling his attention from the chicken fillet broiling on the screen.
"Mmm?" He turns to look at her, and she makes a point of getting off his legs. Once he straightens, he thanks her with a nod of his head. She shuffles beside him – the dog clambering up in turn beside her – and cosies up to his arm.
"Sweeney, love," she coos into his neck, reaching up to twist a finger through his tangled locks. He pulls away with a frown, but as she works her fingers over his scalp, he relaxes a bit. "Sweeney."
"'Ave I told you lately 'ow wonderful you are?"
He turns to stare at her, eyebrow raised. "Last week, actually. When you wanted me to sit through 'The Adventures of Milo and Otis' with you." She had known perfectly well that he did not do 'animal friendship' movies, but her powers of persuasion had been too much to resist. Admittedly, the movie had been almost forgotten about in the midst of that same persuasion, but it still irked him that she had gotten her way. "And whatever it is this time, no."
"And 'ow do you know that I want something? What if I'm just madly in love with you?"
For a moment, he's not sure what to make of that. If she's serious or not. But when she turns away to let out a dry laugh, he chuckles too and shakes his head, trying to alleviate the sudden tension. He expels a sigh and fixes her with the most irritated stare he can muster. "What do you want?"
"Well, since you asked..." she says, and gives him a twisted smile, "I want to ask you a question."
"Spit it out, Eleanor." The main course on the television is nearly prepared, and the chef is busily chopping up green onions with such ferocious speed that Sweeney finds himself itching to attempt a similar feat. Surely centuries of experience can compete with professional teaching...
"What?" He has missed everything that she had been saying and he turns to her, scowling. "What about hockey?"
"Ice hockey." She throws up her hands. "I want to play."
"Then go bloody play."
"With you, love," she says, pouting. "I want to play with you."
"I'm not playing ice hockey," he tells her.
"Why not, love? You used to. Came all the way up to Canada to see one of your games, I did."
Todd remembers that, too. It had been a literal lifetime ago, on a pond on the outskirts of Montreal during the tail end of the Great Depression, but he remembers it as clearly as every other memory of her. She is always somehow branded into his history; his most vivid recollections are of her face, and during that particular game, she had cheered louder than anyone else on the sidelines.
He tries to distract her. "I didn't know you played." She could skate like the wind, but he'd never seen her with a stick, or with proper hockey skates on.
"You don't know a lot of things about me, love," she says. She's right. "But really, I don't know why you won't play. Are you scared I'll beat you?"
"No," he says, perhaps more forcefully than he intended.
"I think you are."
"I'm not scared."
She smiles at him, and he realizes with a groan that she's won. "Thanks love. I knew you'd agree," she says. "You better find some equipment or something. We play our first game at six."
"Our first game, Eleanor?"
"Oh, did I forget to tell you? It's a tournament. Sponsored by the 'ospital. Runs through today and tomorrow." She grabs a flyer from under the magazines that litter the coffee table and set it on his lap. He grits his teeth and skims over the headline, crumpling it into a tight fist. "It's for a good cause, love. Charity benefit, and all."
"I'm not going," he says pointedly, and crosses his arms.
"Sweeney, come on. You're acting like a child." She sighs and takes the flyer from him, smoothing it out and setting it back on the table. "Plus," she says, "I already signed us up."
They've been half walking – half jogging along the winding paths of Central park for fifteen minutes, not including the five minute stop to order a couple of hotdogs and a few other snacks to effectively counteract their calorie burning, when Nellie finally brings up the subject of her earlier conversation with Sweeney.
"And you convinced him to go?" Nellie is not sure that Carol's jaw can drop any further away from the rest of her face, but apparently it can.
Laughing, she shakes her head with a condescending smile and shrugs. " 'e said 'e 'ad nothing better to do... so why not?" Truthfully, having nothing to do had never inspired Todd to participate in any of her other wild ideas, but she's struck lucky with this one.
Brushing a few strands of blonde hair from her face, Carol deviates off the path they are following and throws the plastic lid to her cup into the garbage can. Steam puffs up from it and she clutches it between her colourful woollen mittens and breathes in the steam greedily. "You must be... I dunno, Wonder Woman or something. Honestly, Ellie, what did you do to the man?" When Nellie just shrugs, Carol's eyes light up and she hides a wide smirk behind her drink, daring to take a sip. "You have to tell me. Never know, it could come in handy with Tom." She waggles her eyebrows and dodges a swat, nearly spilling coffee down her front.
"It was nothing like that at all," Nellie says. "All I did was –" she waits until Carol leans forward expectantly and then whispers, "- asked 'im nicely." The groan her answer produces is satisfying and she opens the bag of chips she has been carrying in the pocket of her sweater, popping a few into her mouth.
"How nicely is nicely?"
Nellie rolls her eyes. "I'm choosin' to ignore that."
Carol was evidently still having trouble believing her; she forgot that Nellie has centuries of experience trying to get Sweeney to cooperate with her often spur of the moment plans. "So you asked him nicely... and now you're both playing ice hockey?" Carol steals a chip, somehow managing to grab one without removing her bulky mittens.
"It's only one tournament," Nellie says as she shrugs her hands further into her sleeves, "An' it's for a good cause."
"What cause?" Carol demands, raising an eyebrow. "Not that I can complain. The thought of seeing Sweeney all sweaty and delicious, bedecked in hockey gear, is a cause in itself."
Nellie makes a face, though inwardly she can't fault Carol's logic. "I dunno. One of the usual ones. Cancer. Child hunger. Aids. Something."
"Good to see you're informed."
"Obviously, love," she says through a mouthful of chips. "Now can you 'elp me or not?"
Carol looks at her for a moment as if seriously considering it, and then relents with a sigh. "Well if it's for those hungry children with cancer and HIV, how can I say no?"
Nellie nods and offers her friend a few more chips as a thanks offering. "First thing's first, I need some equipment."
"That shouldn't be too much trouble, Ellie. Y'know Tom's neice? She has some stuff, and I'm pretty sure she's about the same size as you."
Being compared to the relative stature and build as a fourteen year old is either very disheartening, or very encouraging considering her age, and Nellie's not quite sure how to take the remark. "An' she doesn't need her gear for tonight or tomorrow?"
"N'ah," Carol says, waving her hand. "She's been out with a torn knee ligament. You know how competitive girls at her age can be..." she trails off dangerously.
"Not really," Nellie says, frowning.
"Well, take my word for it, that level of girl's hockey is fierce. It's like 'I went to a catfight and a hockey game broke out.'"
Nellie stares at her for a split second. "Come up with that all by yourself?" she asks, and gets only a stuck out tongue in return.
"What's the second thing you need?" Carol asks.
"Can you look after Louie?" This was part of the deal she cut with Sweeney. Well, the only part that actually mattered to him.
"Sure Ellie, any time. I love the little scamp to death."
"'Ow about for two weeks?" She grits her teeth and hopes for the best – which in this case would include Carol not dropping her coffee all over the ground. Thankfully, Carol manages to catch the cup in mid drop before it completely empties of liquid, but her facial expression is no less shocked than Nellie's prediction.
Draining the rest of her coffee, she blinks a couple of times.
Nellie decides it's safer to take this as a yes. "Thanks, love," she says with a smile. "I'll bring 'im over before the game tonight."
"Man, she must be into hypnosis or something. You say she got you to say yes by just asking?"
Deciding that it might not be wise to mention the dog if Nellie hasn't sprung the news on the unsuspecting pet sitters, Sweeney shrugs. "It seems that way. Now are you going to keep on gawking, or are you going to help me choose a stick?"
"Alright, alright," Tom throws his hands up defensively. He moves to the rack and picks a gleaming white stick from it, turning it over in his hands. "How about this one?" It has black words scrawled along the shaft, advertising a name brand of hockey gear, and an orange design blazoned across the blade and partway up the stick. Tom tosses it to Sweeney, who catches it only inches away from his face and stares at it. "It's one of those fancy composite things."
Todd raises an eyebrow and examines it critically. Especially considering that he carved his last stick from a solid hickory sapling he all but felled himself, the material it's fashioned from is surprisingly light. He holds it in his hand and places the blade on the ground, leaning into it to test the flex. After a moment of careful inspection, he scans the bar code and tosses it back to Tom. "I don't suppose you managed to check the price tag."
Tom's grinning mouth contracts into an 'o' of surprise as he follows Todd's suggestion, and he carefully replaces the stick. "It's a shame, really," he says, running his fingers along the gleaming white surface. "You'd look pretty darn pro with this thing in your hands."
"And I will look just as 'pro' with a nice wooden stick, I'm certain."
Tom scoffs. "Do they even make those things anymore?"
"Where there are trees, there will be wooden hockey sticks," Sweeney proclaims, and after turning the corner to the opposite side of the rack, there is an entire line of them. After skimming past a few that are painted to resemble their more expensive counterparts, Todd takes a rather plain one into his hands and once again tests the feel. It is sturdy, if not a little weighty, but he is confident that it will satisfy his needs. And his wallet. Nearly grinning at the twenty-five dollar price tag, he totes it to the checkout counter of the sporting goods section of the department store and stands in the line up.
"Do you need anything else besides these?" Tom asks, following him with a roll of hockey tape and a pair of skate laces in his hands. "Like... actual equipment?"
Sweeney shakes his head. It may be a little dated, but he has saved his hockey equipment for a rainy day, and he's not going to buy hundreds of dollars worth of useless stuff just to play a couple of games of non contact hockey. Although if his memory serves him correctly, and it usually does, hockey is never really 'non contact'.
"'Ave you found that bloody thing yet?" Nellie calls into the other room, taking a few steps to round the corner into Carol's disaster-area kitchen. The room looks like the stove, blender, and microwave all blew up and upended the cutlery drawers in the process. Almost completely spotless where food is involved – everything glistens of pure white and stainless steel – there are newspapers, magazines, spoons, and pots littering the counters and floor. Not to mention boxes of things yet to be unpacked.
Carol emits a half scream half growl in frustration and chucks a still sealed bag of tablecloths over her shoulder. It skids across the floor and crashes into a package of spaghetti. "I hate new apartments."
"I could just use your cellphone," Nellie says, trying to help. She had forgotten hers somewhere on her coffee table back at the apartment, along with her work pager, sunglasses, and her keys.
"No good. Battery's dead." A couple cookbooks fly through the air and land atop the tablecloths.
Nellie sighs and leans against the wall. A few strands of hair have escaped her sloppy ponytail, and she tucks them behind her ears, stealing a glance over her shoulder. The dining room table is piled with cardboard pizza boxes and empty coke bottles, the only remnant of her and Carol's rather unhealthy pregame meal. Beneath the tablecloth, Nellie can spot four stomping paws and a rotund belly pushing something across the floor. Frowning, she scoots back into the dining room and rounds the table.
"Oi, Louie! Get outta there, right now!" Nellie snaps her fingers and shoots a withering glare at the dog, who is in the process of shoving his head into a discarded cardboard takeout container that had once housed a couple pounds of barbecue wings. The dog whimpers and backs up a few steps, sitting down on his haunches and tilting his head at her. "Come on, love, don't tell me you're hungry. I gave you two pieces of pizza already, and I know for a fact that Carol was sneakin' cheese bread to you under the table."
Rounding the corner from the kitchen into the living room, phone clutched in her white-knuckled grip, Carol crosses her arms. "I did no such thing."
Nellie raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Carol shakes her head. "'Course not. It was potato wedges." She glances to Louie, pouts, and then hands Nellie the telephone. "Turn it on, then turn it off again, and THEN dial."
"I do know 'ow to use a phone, you know."
"Not this phone. I swear it's possessed." She shoots it a glare as if to prove her point.
Nellie stares at the buttons. It doesn't look evil. "Why don't you get a new one?"
Carol looks offended. "It's my possessed phone. Just remember, on, off, then dial."
Deciding not to tempt fate by toying with evil phones, Nellie follows Carol's instructions and puts it to her ear. The phone makes a groaning connecting sound, a wavering series of squawks and bleeps, and then rings. "Oh, can you get that away from Louie?" she asks, covering the mouthpiece and gesturing to the dog with her head. "'is obedience usually lasts about five seconds." She turns and begins pacing as she waits for the other end to pick up, keeping an ear on Carol to make sure she doesn't try to feed the already chubby hound anything else.
Unsurprisingly, Sweeney ignores her call and the answering machine picks up.
"Hi, you've reached Eleanor Lovett's apartment. If this is an emergency, you'll probably already have paged me, and if not, leave a message."
Nellie waits for the beep and then starts yelling at Sweeney over the intercom. "SWEENEY. Pick up the phone. I know you're there. Get off the couch, or out of the shower, or swallow your food, or whatever, and push the bloody talk button on the bloody phone." She pauses for about five seconds. "I'm waiting... still waiting... come on, love, you know I won't stop until-"
The phone clicks and beeps. She hears him breathing over the other line for a moment before he snaps, "What?" He sounds perturbed.
"Good to 'ear your cheery voice, love," Nellie says, smiling widely. She can just imagine the look on his face. "What took you so long?"
"I was shaving."
Nellie bites her lip to keep from laughing aloud at him. "Jus' mind you don't get shaving cream all over the phone. Anyways, I just called to tell you that I'm sleepin' over at Carol and Tom's tonight."
"An' Tom's sleepin' over there with you. You can 'ave a boy's night, and do whatever it is you do. Watch bloody movies. Scream at re-runs of football. That sounds fun, eh?"
There's a long pause. "He's not sleeping here."
"Well it's not like you 'ave a choice, love. 'E 'as a key."
"What?" His voices raises an octave or so.
" Listen, 'e can 'ave the couch-"
"You gave him a key?"
Nellie buts in again before Todd can go any further. "- an' 'e's bringin' 'is own blanket and pillows an' stuff, so you won't 'ave to play 'ostess."
"You gave him a key, Eleanor. To our home."
"No. I gave him a key to the garbage truck down the street. Yes, to our 'ome. Plus, it's my apartment if you recall, so I can give keys to whoever I want." She rolls her eyes when he growls at her over the phone. "Anyways, I jus' wanted to call to ask if you'll bring my cellphone."
"And to remind you that your game is at 6. So you'll want to be there half an hour early, which means you should probable leave in an hour."
"An' don't forget to eat a good dinner. There's leftover chicken in the fridge, and salad in the crisper-"
"Oh, an' Tom'll be over as soon as he..." Click. "... drops my equipment off." Sighing, Nellie lets her hands fall to her side. "Men," she says in exasperation, handing the phone to Carol.
"Can't live with them, can't live without them. " The moment Nellie looks at her, Carol's stony expression disappears and she dissolves into a fit of giggles. "Or at least... y'know, certain parts of them."
Nellie is about to comment when a large hockey bag is propelled through the air and lands at her feet. Louie takes off across the room and hides in the kitchen; she can hear his claws slipping and sliding across the tile as he seeks to escape this new menace. Tom pokes his head into the room. She gives him a quick wave and zips open the bag, staring inside with a grin. This is nice equipment. And it doesn't even smell too bad.
Casually sliding past Nellie, Tom wraps his arm around Carol. "I couldn't help but hear your conversation," he says. "And I just have one question: which part of men might that be?"
"Your wonderful lips, of course," Carol says without missing a beat, rising on her tip toes to plant a long kiss on his mouth. "Did you think I meant something else? Get your mind out of the gutter. Honestly, Ellie, can you believe I'm marrying such a perv?"
"Not if I didn't see it with my own eyes, love." Nellie says, shrugging. Having apparently decided that a hockey bag is nothing to fear, Louis sniffs around her feet for a moment before jamming his entire head into the bag. He's about two seconds away from fully climbing in when Tom grabs him by the collar and drags him away, quickly distracting him with a belly rub.
Carol goes down and kneels beside her fiancé, jutting out her bottom lip. "Are you mad at me?"
Tom nods, lowering his eyebrows and jutting out his jaw in an expression that makes him resemble a neanderthal. "Furious."
" Well, I'm sorry I called you names," she says in a sickly-sweet voice, cupping his jaw in her hand. "I really do love you." She uses her finger to pull her lip down even more for effect.
Tom straightens and draws her into a hug, barely managing to keep a straight face as he quietly proclaims, "I think you're slightly better than average too, Carol."
The hockey bag nearly falls apart when Sweeney drags it out from storage. He's not even sure why he bothered to keep it, but – then again – he's been paying the storage facility to keep his junk out of sight and out of mind for years, so it hasn't bothered him. And now his equipment will see the light of day for the first time in close to fifty years.
Kicking the bag across the cement floor, Todd passes a hundred other useless artefacts. He's not so much keeping them as neglecting to dispose of them – very few actually carry any sentimental value – but if he adds more he's going to have to rent another room. Each movement stirs up another thick cloud of dust, and Todd laments that he has never bothered to mend the strap on his bag. It takes him a good ten minutes to shuffle towards the door. He's a few steps away when the door swings open, illuminating the cavernous storage chamber, and nearly blinding him.
"Thought you got lost in there," Tom says, blinking at the darkness with the same expression Sweeney reserves for the onslaught of light. When both of their eyes adjust, Tom looks around for the bag. When he finds it, he freezes. "You've got to be kidding," he says.
Todd scowls. "And what would I be kidding about?"
"Man, this thing is going to fall apart if I even touch it." Tom goes down on one knee and gently blows across the top of the bag. Dust flies into the air, and Tom covers his mouth and nose with his shirt. He runs his hand along the top and fumbles for the zipper, which is nearly invisible against the faded material. With only a little difficulty, because of the rust, he manages to open it. And then he raises an eyebrow and stares at Sweeney, open-mouthed. "You didn't tell me your equipment was from the stone age!"
"Hardly. It dates back to..." well, around the thirties. "...before your time."
"You're not that old, Sweeney. That stuff's vintage. Like... grandpa, vintage."
"They were hand-me-downs."
"From who, Julius Caesar? You cannot seriously be playing in this."
If Tom were a student, Todd would have flunked him for a comment like that. "For one, Julius Caesar did not play ice hockey," he says, holding up a single finger. "And two," the other finger flicks up as quickly as the blade of one of his old razors, "this equipment was good enough in 'the stone age', and it is good enough now."
Shrugging, evidently not willing to argue his point, Tom scoops up the battered hockey bag and cradles it like a baby. "You're going to die, man."
Todd smirks. "I highly doubt that."
"Ellie, do you know how awkward that looks?" Carol's fit of giggles are not helpful in the least, proving to be an unwelcome distraction as Eleanor desperately attempts to adjust her equipment.
"It's not my fault, Carol. I 'ave to nip this in the bud before it gets worse."
"Nip it in the butt, rather."
Pausing, arms shoved down the inside of her oversized hockey shorts, Nellie takes the opportunity to glare at her friend. "Shut up. You 'aven't experienced hell until you've 'ad to deal with a goalie equipment wedgie all game. And it's not like you can fix it on the ice, especially wearing all that." She gestures frantically to the corner of the room with her chin, drawing attention to the pile of equipment.
"I still don't see why it's that bad."
"Well, it's not. Except that it's unfixable, uncomfortable, and totally distractin' to the game. Your knickers get twisted, but there's pants and gloves between you and relief. Not to mention you're tryin' to stand in front of a movin' puck and actually stop it. And then you're laden down with leg pads, neck guard, helmet... an' that chest pad with the arms? There's a reason they call it goalie 'armour', love. You can't turn your body around enough to reach back there." Managing to grab a corner of her underwear between two fingers, Nellie straightens it and sighs with relief, fishing her arms back out of her hockey pants.
"Success?" Carol asks, standing from her seat on the dressing room bench to pick out the next piece of equipment for her friend. "What's next?"
Carol picks up one of the leg pads and stares at it. "These things are like walls. Little... blue and white... colourful leather walls. With buckles."
Too amused to bother regulating her volume, and knowing that there's nobody in the dressing rooms to either side of her, Nellie lets out a gigantic peal of laughter. "That was eloquence at its peak, love. I don't think I will ever hear goalie pads described so poetically again."
Annoyed, Carol rolls her eyes and attempts to throw the pad at Nellie's head. She underestimates its weight, and it thuds to the ground at least two feet before reaching its target. Smiling and nodding her thanks, Nellie takes a few steps to fetch it. She feels horribly awkward, with gigantic hockey pants covering her pelvis – in her opinion, she looks like an oompa loompa on skates – and nothing but hockey socks on her legs and a sports bra and t-shirt over her torso. But she manages to drag the pads closer to her, and she kneels down on them, twisting around at a weird angle to begin doing up the buckles. Already, she can feel her undergarments beginning to slide. "Give me five minutes in the net, an' I bet you I'll 'ave a wedgie again."
"Why don't you wear shorts that... don't wedgie."
"Carol, such things don't exist. An' I've been around long enough to know."
Silence lapses for a few moments as Nellie tightens the pads around her legs. The buckles jingle as she works, instinctively reminding Nellie of irritating Christmas carols. As if to add to the festivities, Carol grabs a tin of shortbread out of her purse and opens it, taking a handful of cookies before sliding it across the floor to Nellie.
Nellie eyes the cookies suspiciously. "Where'd they come from?" Shortbread usually doesn't come out in the stores for at least another month."
Carol shrugs. "Somewhere in my apartment. Don't know from when, but they taste okay."
Nellie picks one up and holds it to the light. "No mold?" Carol shakes her head. "Insects?" Head shake. "Stale?"
"They're yummy, Ellie. Eat one."
Nellie needs no more persuasion. She pops one into her mouth and continues getting dressed.
The cookies last all of five minutes.
"Well, at least you have a proper jock."
Despite his constant protesting that the old equipment was good enough for him, Todd wasn't going to take a chance with a seventy-year old cup. "If it's not too much of an inconvenience... shut up." Todd pulls his hockey pants over top of his jock – which the sports stores now tactfully label 'athletic support' – and then sits down on the bench, leaning forward to pick up his skates.
Todd had sharpened them earlier, but there is nothing worse than a pair of dull skates, so he reaches into the pocket of his discarded trousers and pulls out a sharpening stone, dragging it along the blade to get that extra edge. The movement is soothing, a familiar action, and it only takes a moment before the blades gleam, sharper than any machine could hope to achieve. He puts them on and laces them up, standing and shifting his feet to test the fit. His feet haven't grown any, and there are no cracks in the leather – so he figures that he'll be fine.
More than fine, actually.
"Holy – " Tom's intended explicative dies in his throat, and he pulls out a red, white, and blue woollen sweater. Jaw slack, he turns it over in his hands, revealing a large 'C' stitched onto the front. "The guy you got this gear from played for the Montreal Canadiens?"
Todd nods. "Three seasons. Got 70 goals and 50 assists his last year." And then Sweeney had gone back to playing amateur. His decision proved wise; a few seasons later, the Habs won the Stanley Cup again, and his name would have been engraved on the cup for eternity. He was already stuck here forever – the last thing he wanted to do was leave another legacy. The war had broken out a year after that.
"Who'd you say gave this to you, again?"
"I didn't." And he isn't likely to give Tom any more information than a vague, fake relation.
"Relative?" The man just won't stop prying.
"Uncle," Todd finally says as he finishes lacing his skates. He grabs his jersey from Tom and pulls it over his head, adjusting his elbow pads.
Rolling his eyes, Todd slides his ancient leather gloves over his hands and grabs his stick from its place against the wall. "Doesn't matter. He's dead now." And that is that. At least as far as Todd is concerned. Tom continues throwing questions at him, but he doesn't answer. Quickly scooping up his newly purchased helmet from the bench, he pushes the heavy door open and walks out into the hallway, which is padded – like the dressing rooms – with a skate resistant material that resembles rubber.
"Sweeney! Over 'ere!" Nellie's voice only barely travels over the sound of the ice resurfacing machine that roars nearby, and it takes him a minute to figure out which direction he should be looking in. When he catches a glimpse of a frantically waving hand, he pushes past the other people crowding the hall. "You're a bloody blast from the past, love."
Todd blinks. If Nellie's voice wasn't so obviously coming from inside that ridiculous, over-painted helmet, he never would have recognized her. "And you're a goalie."
Though her features are somewhat obscured by the metal bars of her helmet, Nellie's eyes widen in shock. Mouth falling open into an 'o', she looks down at herself, flexing her knees beneath the heavy leg pads. "You're right! Imagine that."
Sweeney communicates his indignation with a well practiced glare. "I didn't know you played net."
Lovett shrugs. "You didn't know I played hockey, either." She makes a good point. "Anyways, I jus' wanted to tell you that you're not goin' to score on me."
Todd narrows his eyes, tilting his head slightly. "Aren't you on my team?"
She snorts in amusement, taking her helmet off to brush a few wayward curls from her face. "No. You think I wanted to play 'ockey with you so tha' we could be on a team? Dream on, love, I want to beat the crap out of you."
"Is that a challenge?"
She smiles, absently smacking the flat of her hockey stick against her leg pads. "Per'aps. But you're only playing my team if you win this game first." She smacks him in the chest with her catching glove to punctuate her words.
Well, he certainly doesn't plan on losing. The roar of the ice resurfacing machine fades into silence as it drives off the rink and into the machine room. Without a word, Todd turns and stalks down the hall.
He turns only once to see Nellie pointing at him with her stick and shouting. "So you better bloody win!"
A/N: Merry Christmas everyone! 8D I know this story has nothing to do with Christmas, but I wrote this an age and a half ago and finally got permission from my dearest beloved Pamena to post it. ^_^ So this is a Christmas present to all of you... andyeah. ^^ I hope you enjoy it.
I pretty much don't own anything. I own the idea of PS Nellie and Todd playing hockey. That's about it. Tim Burton owns some stuff, NHL owns some stuff, and Pam owns all the other stuff. Also, I asked permission to post this. Things get ugly, otherwise. So please please nobody write a Passing Strange fanfic and post it without clearing it with Pam, or everyone's privileges will be revoked and everything will be very sad. And we would not want that to happen. -shakes head-