Not Exactly Lovers

Stephen Sondheim:

Yes indeed, I think that Todd and Mrs. Lovett have been lovers, though not by his choice, I suspect.

XOXOXOXO for Sondheim. He has given us all hope.

She was unsure of what had woken her.

All Mrs. Lovett knew was that she was in a bed that was not her own and that there was a warm body next to hers. She dared not open her eyes, unsure of who it was, where she was, and how she had gotten there.

It was not the first time this had happened; Mrs. Lovett had been widowed and there had been times she had been so lonely, so desperate to be held, that she would awaken in a man's bedchamber and have only a hazy idea of the previous night. Generally after helping herself to a few coins from his purse—any fool knew to keep a hold on his purse in pubs; he probably lost the money there, but was too drunk to notice—Mrs. Lovett would dress herself and sneak back to her shop. Pregnancy was not a worry of hers; she craved a child to love and care for and she wouldn't mind one in the slightest. The sudden appearance of a child could be explained easily; a foundling, a dead sister's child, a young cousin.

The body next to her moved, murmuring something gruffly under his breath. Mrs. Lovett held her breath; it would not do to have him wake just now. After he settled she could get out of bed, dress, and help herself to a few coins. The trick was not to steal more than a fool would spend on drinks. She had it down to an art.

The man's arm reached out as he murmured something else, cuddling her close. Mrs. Lovett melted a little; this was what she craved, affection. But despite that, she still needed to get back to her shop. Sighing a little as the man nuzzled the top on her head, she opened her eyes.

Oh #$^%.

The skin of the chest she was staring at was milky pale and as she inhaled sharply, surprised, she caught the ever-familiar scent of Sweeney Todd.

Oh &*%$.

Torn between elation and despair, Mrs. Lovett closed her eyes and tried to remember the previous evening…

She came up the outer stairs with a bottle of gin and a glass for him; the man drank gin less than Toby, but with the same nightly routine. Her foster-son was already passed out on the couch. Poor thing would drink himself to death if she let him. Pausing at the final step, she heard raging whispers, the heated pacing. It was one of those evenings.

"Mr. T?" She called sweetly, attempting to sound calm.

The response was a string of expletives and the sound of something shattering. That would be his tea from that afternoon. And she was running out of teacups; he had a habit of breaking them. Bracing herself for his temper, she walked into the room. Gin would do nothing for his rage, but he would undoubtedly throw a fit if he didn't have any.

"Mr. T, you broke another teacup, didn't you?"

He muttered some curses and Judge Turpin's name.

"Thought so. I told you, you just need to wait. He'll come when he's good and ready. No rushing it."

"He'll never come again!" In a moment she was up against the wall, a razor to her throat. Despite the rushing adrenaline, the burning fear, she kept her expression calm. Being threatened with a razor was a bi-weekly occasion, occasionally a tri-weekly one on a bad week. She just had to wait for the red haze to clear, and though she was screaming inside, she waited until he set her down, almost sullenly.

"I brought you the gin."

"Get out," he muttered.

"After I clean up the shards. It won't do to have your customers cutting their feet to ribbons on them. Kill your reputation, it will."

"Out!" He bellowed again.

With an exasperated sigh, she walked out the door and down the steps. It was beginning to rain, a fine misty rain that made it feel as though she was walking through a veil of water. She cleaned the shop and fetched a broom after an hour or so. Sweeney Todd would not have fallen asleep yet—the man rarely slept—but his temper would have faded by now, back to the brooding silence he favored. And the teacup pieces needed sweeping.

After a look out into the mist, Mrs. Lovett went up to his room by the stairs from her parlor. She wasn't walking through the wet to sweep up some broken cup pieces when she had a perfectly dry way to get there. He didn't like her using the back stairs, but he could deal with it. Wielding the broom purposefully, she walked into his loft. He was in the barber chair, bottle in one hand. The cup lay, untouched, on the trunk.

She walked past him and swept up the pieces, gathering them into an old rag as she left the broom balanced in the corner. She would come back to fetch it.

The teacup pieces were carried downstairs and tossed into a pail containing many broken pieces of glasses, teacups, a mirror, two plates, and a bowl. She knew a strange sort of man who bought them to break them up and put them on walls. Crazy sort of man, who raved about colors and things he called 'moe-zay-ics,' but he paid fairly decent money for the pieces, so Mrs. Lovett didn't mind. She just wished that her tenant would stop breaking the crockery. It wasn't expensive stuff, but it certainly wasn't cheap either. She made a note to give him tin or pewter plates and cups in the future. They would be slightly more expensive, but much harder to damage.

As she came back upstairs for the broom, she spotted Todd slumped over the arm of his barber chair, bottle dangling precariously from one hand. If it fell and broke, it would be a pain to clean up. She carefully slid the bottle from his fingers, and he jolted upright. In his eyes was a sort of burning. Mrs. Lovett sighed inwardly; his rages were frightening, but also bothersome as it took him forever to get back to being manageable and apathetic.

"Drink, Mrs. Lovett?" He growled, and there was something in his voice that warned her not to refuse.

"Of course, Mr. Todd." She fetched the glass tumbler from the trunk and poured herself a shot. He watched her predatorily, waiting.

"Be a good guest, Mrs. Lovett," he growled, "Drink your gin."

She sipped it carefully, keeping an eye on him. She didn't like the way he was acting. The slow simmer was sure to turn into a full-fledged temper if she so much as looked at him the wrong way.

"Have another."

"I really couldn't." Practical, as always, Mrs. Lovett knew that if she drank too much she was liable to begin showing her affection for the barber, the man she was so desperately in love with, and she knew that it would be received poorly by the unstable, likely drunk, barber.

"I insist." It was a growl that threatened at violence, and she poured another tumblerful, drinking it slowly, hoping he would slip into slumber.

This continued until Mrs. Lovett was beginning to feel quite tipsy. She felt very warm all over.

"Mmmm." The barber in bed next to her hummed contentedly and she was tugged back to the present. Frightened he would wake, she relaxed completely. If she was asleep, he couldn't rage at her properly. She was sure he would throw a very violent fit if he awoke with a naked woman who was not Lucy in his bed, and being asleep seemed the most likely way to avoid the wrath.

Fortunately, he merely repositioned himself against her and a soft little snore buzzed from his nose. Good. He was still asleep. Now what had occurred after she started drinking? Thing began to get fuzzy there…

She knew that he was eyeing her hungrily, predatorily. Benjamin Barker was not in this stare, it was all Todd. But the room was so warm and it was beginning to sway a little. Hot, she hooked a finger around her neckline, tugging at it, allowing some air to cool her chest. Corsets, though stylish, were hot. With that movement, his eyes were fixed on her chest, exposed by the low neckline of her dress.

"Mr. T…I think I ought to go now." She wanted him, she loved him. But she wanted him to love her, and this look he was giving her, it spoke of lust. Her mind briefly pondered whether or not she minded his lust. A very large part of her said it did not, but there was a little voice in the back warning her that she did not know if it was her body or her throat slit open that he was lusting after.

"Come closer, Mrs. Lovett." His voice was a growling purr, the sound of a lion. Not that she knew what a lion looked like…or sounded like.

She obeyed, and when his hand came up to touch her cheek, it was so gentle, she was thrown off-guard.

"You're a beautiful woman, Mrs. Lovett."

She would have done anything he asked after that. But he seemed content to trace her cheekbones, a faraway look in his eye. She leaned in to let him continue tracing and tumbled somewhat drunkenly into his lap.

"Nellie.."

Her name, murmured on his lips, in that warm, honeyed tone. She wanted to stay with him forever. She wanted to marry him. She wanted to have him all hers, every day. Something inside her told her that his dead wife, the one she had seen buried in an unmarked grave after her arsenic-suicide, would ever-capture his heart. He did not know what he was saying.

Desperation told her not to believe it. He loved her. Look, he was pulling her closer. He had…what had he done with her last night? She did not recall. As the snores resumed, she closed her eyes, remembering the tumble into his lap, the stammered apology.

"I didn't mean to, Mr. Todd. "I'm sorry, I am."

His chin, dipping down to look at her as she scrambled to get off of him, fear overcoming lust. Her head looked up, anxious, and their lips crashed painfully against each other. But the heat…

He tasted of gin and licorice, and his mouth moved away, only for a moment. But then the hunger entered his eyes and he pulled her face forcefully towards him, kissing her again. She was dizzy with alcohol and his touch. And she was in his lap again, tangled and confused. He smelled like shaving cream and the metallic hint of blood, the cool stinging scent of silver.

He stood and she got her feet, knees like rubber. He was breathing hard and so was she. She wanted to stay with him, but the fear nagged at the back of her mind. Love-drunk and probably actually drunk as well, she ignored the fear. He wanted her, really wanted her, finally wanted her. She couldn't let it go, the scrap of affection he had thrown her.

"Eleanor," he whispered hoarsely. He knew her name. He was whispering her name, not Lucy's. Hers.

"Nellie," she corrected, her voice wavering.

"Nellie." Correcting himself, he kissed her. And it felt so good to be loved. To be held. To be wanted. She couldn't remember the last time someone touched her the way he was now, with gentle hands cradling her face, thumbs massaging her jawbone.

It was a blur, but somehow they were on his bed and his hands were tangled in her hair. When had it been let down? She didn't know; she didn't care. As his hands toyed with her dark red locks, hers moved up, almost by themselves, and undid the buttons of his vest. He was still wearing a shirt, but at the vest came loose, he paused. He looked down at her, her dark, wild eyes, and her dark red lips. Lips red as blood and skin white as snow. He recalled a fairy tale about Snow White, and looked to his landlady. Her hands tentatively reached up, undid the tie that was knotted tightly around his throat. He was pale too, like snow…more like ash really, considering the dark deeds that they conspired and committed. The hunger returned to his eyes and he pulled her into a sitting position, unlacing her dress with nimble fingers. She undid the buttons of his shirt, one of the ones she had laundered just a few days before, cleaning out the bloody stains that his sharp little friends created. He slid the dress from her shoulders, undid the ties on her corset.

"Nell…"

Her name again. He wanted her. She glowed inside, basking in the feeling of being wanted, being loved. Surely he couldn't forget all this, go back to his Lucy after whatever had happened the night before? She tried to resume her timeline. His cool fingers undoing the ties of her corset. The sweet relief of being able to breathe properly, unconstrained by the cumbersome thing. Though she adored her figure with it on, no woman could deny the pains of a corset. It was practically a torture device. He had freed her of it.

"Lucy…"

No. Not her. He could not be uttering her name as she lay in his arms. She drew closer to him, pressing her hot lips against his collarbone, murmuring back some of the things he had said to her the night before. Her breath condensed a little on his skin.

"Nellie…"

That's right love, Nellie. Your Nellie.

She regretted that his wife was dead, of course. But he was hers now, not the little suicidal blonde's. No one else's but hers. He shifted again in his sleep and settled. After making sure he was truly asleep, Nellie cast her thoughts back to his fingers undoing the complicated lacing of her corset.

He pulled out a razor to slice through the cords, but she stopped him just in time. No use wasting a perfectly good corset because he was impatient. Not that she would have minded too much. Because he was desperate to get to her. To her. Smiling, she finished with the buttons of his shirt and cast her eyes to his trousers. Those would come next.

Between his kisses and the removal of clothing, it was a pleasant blur. She relived each moment, treasuring it. And then, after clothes had been discarded, she had stopped him, breathing heavily, but desperate to know one thing.

"Mr. T, do you love me?"

And he had kissed her, growled that he loved her into her ear, low and predatorial, possessive. And she had melted, elated, ecstatic, a thousand other joyful words. The things that happened next were things that she would surely replay in her mind for the rest of her life.

Later, as they lay there in the dark, he whispered sweet things into her ear. She did not recall many of them, only that his tone was soft and gruff and that he told her how wonderful she was, how beautiful, how perfect. And she loved him so much, she was so happy to finally hear him say all the things that she had craved to hear for so long.

He fell asleep nestled against her, breathing soft and steady. His heartbeat beat softly against her ear, her hear against his pale chest.

He was beginning to stir and she played that she was asleep as he moved about. Altering her breathing, she made it deep and loud, the breath of someone sound asleep. He mumbled something, sat up a bit, rubbing his eyes. It took a moment before he started, growling swear words. Inside, she wilted a little. Didn't he remember?

A pause, long and silent, and then more growling. She was shaken roughly and as she sat up, she met the gaze of a furious barber.

"Get out." He hissed.

Her eyes clouded with confusion and disbelief.

"Mr. T, you said," she began, about to recount the things he had whispered so sweetly into her ear.

"OUT!" he roared. She scrambled to her feet, pulling clothing on as fast as she could, tears beginning to burn her eyes. Hurt and shame and the heavy feeling that she had been fooled by sweet words that he had used to get what he wanted. She stumbled down the steps into her parlor and back to her bedroom, past the still-slumbering Toby.

Throwing herself onto her bed, she let the hot tears escape, accompanied by sobs that ripped through her body, tore her apart. He didn't love her. He never loved her. If anything ever wanted her, it was the gin in him. She was ripped into a thousand pieces, pain pouring from her as she sobbed into her pillow.

Upstairs, Sweeney Todd ran his hands through his hair, clawing at his scalp. How could he have betrayed his Lucy in such a fashion? How could he have let the gin carry him away so? And how could he have done something so personal, something that belonged solely to Lucy, with Mrs. Lovett? Self-loathing was the prevalent emotion, fury and pain and sorrow along with it. He dressed himself and stumbled downstairs to the bake house.

There was a large tub there, and he pumped water into it, lugging the thing close to the bake oven. It took a while to heat, but once it was warm he stripped and climbed in, washing her smell from his skin. She smelled like flour with a hint of lavender. Why must she smell so good? Why couldn't she smell of something awful, something that would disgust him? It ought to disgust him that he laid a hand on anyone other than his Lucy. And yet…

In his mind, against his will, the events of the previous evening replayed in his mind, blurred by alcohol. But he remembered her soft skin, pale and milky. He remembered thinking she was Snow White. He remembered how she looked at him, so loving, so tender. How her hair nearly glowed a dark red against the white of his pillow. And the guilt he ought to feel, the guilt of it all, didn't seem to burden him. He tried to force it back, tried to feel it. But Lucy…his golden angel…she belonged with Benjamin Barker. She loved him, the innocently foolish man who loved her more than life itself. She would deny Sweeney Todd, be frightened and disgusted by him. But Mrs…Nellie. Eleanor Lovett…Nellie. She loved him here and now. Despite how hard he fought the thought, it burned into his mind like the coals of the bake oven.

Once he was clean and had dumped his wash-water into the sewers, he pulled on his clothes and found himself wandering into her shop. Into the bakery. And through the parlor. And somehow he stood at her bedroom door, hearing heart wrenching sobs on the other side. He didn't want to go in; he fought it with every inch of his being. But his hand found the knob and turned it, pushed the door open.

"Nellie?" His voice was soft and hesitant and why was he here, he ought to be back in his loft.

"Go away." Harsh and heartbroken, he thought to himself. And he ignored it, walking forward, laying a hand on her shoulder. She threw it off, sitting up and glaring at him.

"What do you want?" she demanded, "Another tumble, is that it? You want to get me half-drunk and then manipulate me into pleasing you?" She was practically shouting now and Todd winced, expecting Toby to come running.

"No."

"Is that all you have to say? No?" He didn't see the blow coming and her hand connected with his cheek in a sharp slap. It stung and tossed his head to the side with its force. He was surprised; Lucy would never…but this woman was not Lucy. She was strong and beautiful and independent and despite his denials, he liked her. Maybe not love d her, but he wanted to.

She raised her hand for another slap and he caught her wrist, pulled her close, and kissed her. She fought him, biting his lip sharply. He drew back, startled, and was met with the fury in her eyes.

"I do not like to be used, Mr. Todd."

"I don't…" He didn't know what to say. So he stood there, let go of her arm, and looked at the floor, ashamed.

"I'm sorry."

She looked startled, and she sat down on her bed, the tears still fresh on her cheeks. His own cheek throbbed, still stinging from her blow.

He explained, allowing the words to run from his mouth like water from a spring. It was the most he had spoken in fifteen years. And when he was finished, he looked up at her, mournful, unsure.

"I'm sorry."

She nodded slowly and he leaned in carefully, lip a little sore where she had bitten him. It was a quick kiss, simple and sweet and asking for nothing. She allowed it, then nodded again.

"All right."

He did not know what it meant, but she was not angry, and she gave a little half-smile. It was a beginning. A new beginning. They had a judge to kill, his daughter to save, a secret to keep, but it was the beginning of something. And it was all he could ask for.

End.

In case anyone is wondering, this story is entirely independent from my other Sweeney Todd fanfic, 'Musings of the Afternoon.' In that one, this never occurred. I just really wanted Mrs. Lovett to be happy for ONCE. Reviews please!