A/N: Welcome to my first completed novel. Yes, I am beyond excited.
Just so everyone is aware, the ST storyline, in this fic, happens during the years 1841-1842 rather than the usual 1846-1847. But this doesn't make any difference until much later in the story.
I must now give two HUGE thank yous to the greatest betas in the history of the world (and no, I am not biased. Not in the least). They have both helped me with this story more than words can ever express . . . but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to make a valiant effort to express it in words now!
First, the lovely MrsRuebeusHagridDursley, aka my long-time beta/first reader, aka the co-founder and the only other person in our musical lovers club, aka my pal Morgan. She has known me for over a decade of my life and still puts up with me. I have no idea WHY she still puts up with me. She shouldn't. But she does, and for that, I am eternally thankful. Morgan is always willing to chat with me about the inane details of Sweeney Todd at one in the morning, discuss the finer points of opium, and snatch Nellie and Sweeney's immense gin supply out of my hands just before I drown myself in it. Moreover, she does so with endless patience and kindness. I'm very lucky to call her my friend.
Second, a thank you to the also lovely Saime Joxxers, aka my ST anthropologist, aka my coochy coochy cooer, aka my buddy Robynne. This story is a freakin' monster in terms of both its length and its numerous structural problems – and I mean that in the most affectionate way, of course – but that never has deterred Robynne. I can say with full confidence that this story would be far more boring, cluttered, and downright ridiculous at times without her aid. Robynne is also always there to commiserate, complain, and celebrate both my writing successes and failures. Writing is an incredibly solitary and isolating experience, and, hokey as it might sound, it's wonderful to know that I'm not alone in this exhausting-but-ultimately-exhilarating journey that is the life of a starving writer. In summation, she is the awesomesauce.
And, as always, any and all feedback about this story is appreciated. I thrive on reviews.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sweeney Todd. All I own is a computer and a little bit of an imagination.
Who has not sat before his own heart's curtain? It lifts: and the scenery is falling apart. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Sweeney Todd opened his eyes and found himself sitting on a chair in a large stone-walled room.
The place looked as though it had stepped off the pages of a history book detailing castles of the Middle Ages: circular-shaped; made entirely of gray, thick-set stones; the ceiling rounded in a dome. The furnishings were sparse, consisting only of stone-fashioned chairs. These chairs lined the walls, and around a dozen occupants sat upon them.
Where the bloody hell was he?
All of the people wore the same clothes: long, shapeless, black attires. If he had to liken them to something he'd seen before, he would have said they were some cross between dressing gowns and smocks. With a start, he realized he wore one too.
Sweeney, being a logical man, began to retrace his steps, searching his brain for his most recent memories. Anthony . . . yes, that's right, Anthony, he was bringing Johanna to his home, and Sweeney had written a letter to Turpin informing him of this to lure the judge into his shop. Turpin had arrived, and – had he – yes.
The barber's lips curved, basking at last in the glory of his revenge. Turpin had finally received what he deserved. His blood had been even more beautiful than Sweeney had fantasized about it being, all that red bathing his neck and pooling on the floor . . .
He strained again to remember what had happened after that. He had allowed his razor to finally sleep, then . . . he'd found a lad in the trunk . . . but the boy had escaped before he could slash his throat (he would have to take care of that lad later before the stupid boy went running to the authorities). Then a scream from downstairs had called him away, and
"No no, not lied at all – now I never lied," she blurts out, a desperate croon and a loving invocation; he stares down at a tattered, bloodied woman, his black heart crying in a way he didn't think it could anymore.
He blinked at the sudden memory, its vividness having blinded him for a moment. No, that wasn't what happened next. It couldn't even be a real memory; he hardly ever went into Lovett's bakehouse, where that scene seemed to take place . . . and why would he care if that mad beggar woman was dead?
Her scream from downstairs, from the bakehouse . . . he'd run down there, hadn't he? Yes, he had, and Lovett had been dragging a body towards the oven –
His efforts to remember were interrupted yet again, this time by a stream of bubbling laughter. His teeth clenched automatically: Mrs. Lovett was here too, apparently.
She sat ten chairs from his right, dressed in the same black robes as everyone else. The man next to her, a weedy fellow with buck teeth, must have said something that amused her a good deal, for she was still giggling as she began her usual blathering.
Lovett being here did help him make a little more sense of the situation. She must have hauled the both of them here last night, perhaps getting him tipsy first so as to make him more compliant. He supposed he could ask her, but it was so rare that she was chatting someone else's ear off and not his that he didn't want to disturb his few minutes of peace. She would be bothering him soon enough.
There is no time, the judge is coming, and if the judge sees this batty woman in the barbershop everything might be ruined, and he can't afford to take risks, not now, not when he's so close, not when he can almost feel the judge's precious rubies moistening his skin and the bastard's fading heartbeat against his own fingertips. . . . Without hesitation he slits her throat and springs the trapdoor, letting her tumble down to the bakehouse.
Lovett bounced up from her chair and pranced towards him, effectively pulling him away from another intense – yet equally brief and unplaceable – memory (if that was, indeed, what they were, anyway).
"When did you get here, dear?" she asked as she flopped into the chair next to his. "I didn't see you come in. Y'know, I think I might've gotten a little too happy with the gin last night – I think Toby, bless him, has been a bad influence on me on that front! – 'cause I can't for the life of me recall how I ended up here. Maybe you can tell me a bit more about this place, since you seem to've found your way here sober? It must've been quite a drinking night all 'round. I was just talking to that gentleman over there, Mr. Ryan Shupkel, and he doesn't've a clue what this place is or how he wound up here either . . ."
She continued to prattle on, but Sweeney – as he was accustomed to doing – tuned her out, focusing on the essence of her words rather than their individual meanings. So she didn't know where this place was either – or was pretending she didn't, at least, for he didn't entirely believe her. How else would he have ended up here if it were not for her interference?
Or perhaps she really didn't remember. They might have both gotten inebriated last night and wandered here through dizzy, winding steps. Maybe they had been having a celebration over Turpin's death, forgotten proper drinking etiquette, and consumed too much. That made sense.
Whatever the reason, it was time to leave; there was clearly nothing further for him to do here. It was time for him to return to Fleet Street and . . .
Though he was not a man known for hesitating, in that moment Sweeney faltered. Return to Fleet Street and . . . what? What did he plan to do after that?
The judge was dead now. He had taken his revenge. But he had never really considered what he would do once Turpin was slaughtered. His appetite for vengeance had been satiated; he and his family had been vindicated.
It was all over. And life seemed strangely . . . blank.
No. It was not all over for him. He still had direction, a clear path he had longed to take ever since he returned to London:
He dragged a breath through his nose. Why had he left his barbershop? Drunk or not, he had been waiting for his daughter, as per the arrangements with Anthony. The pair of them might already be on their way to his ship by now, and he hadn't yet had the chance to slit the boy's throat and finally hold the remains of his broken family.
Sweeney shot to his feet and started for the door on the other side of the room. It didn't matter how far Johanna and Anthony had or hadn't gotten. He would catch up to them. If it took days, weeks, even years, he would reach them. He wasn't about to let anyone or anything rend apart his life again.
"Lucy . . . I've come home again . . ." He brushes his fingers across her face, down the side of her cheek, along her neck and across the incision, re-painting the pattern of splattered blood with his forever-stained fingertips.
Suddenly all that had seemed important to deduce – where he was, how he'd come to be here, when and how he could leave – meant nothing to him anymore, vanished from his mind as though they had never been there, disappeared as completely as the remains of his victims by the eager mouths of Lovett's customers. And the one thing he had focused so intently on ignoring up until now filled his entire view, suffocated each of his senses.
We all deserve to die . . .
She most of all.
He whirled around. Lovett noticed his change in expression and her endless prattle ceased.
In one movement he stood in front of her, close enough to grab her by the waist and pull her into a deadly dance. But past was the time for manipulated steps. This blind rage presently swallowing him allowed no room for trickery or lies, only the desire to kill.
"You thought you would be able to get away with it, did you?" Sweeney hissed. Eyes wide and confused, Lovett jerked to her feet and began to retreat from him as he prowled closer. "You believed that your lies would remain unrevealed? That I would never find out? That we would – " he sneered " – go live by the sea together? I expected more from you, pet. You are normally so practical."
Her back hit the wall, trapped, as he closed in on her. "Mr. Todd – love – I don't know what you're talking about – "
"Yes, you do." The anger began to froth over; he slammed his hands against the wall on either side of her head, barely restraining himself from throttling her, his whispers becoming shouts. "You lied to me – you said she was dead."
Mrs. Lovett's eyes, already round as pennies, expanded further as they stared up at him. "You – know – "
"Of course I know," he spat between his clenched teeth.
Gasping, she shook her head. "Mr. T – I can – never meant to – didn't – "
Sneering, snarling, shaking, Sweeney reached for his belt to grab his razor.
His hand clutched at nothing but fabric.
His razor. Where was his razor? He never went anywhere without at least one of them by his side. And yet – apparently – he had today.
For a wavering minute, panic seeped into his skin, overtook him so thoroughly that his hands slipped from the wall to his sides, as though grasping at his clothes could call his razors to him. Even drunk, how could he have left them behind?
He told himself to regain control; slowly, he harnessed his alarm and tucked it away. Now was not the time to become hysterical. There would be plenty of time to find his friends later. After all, they couldn't go far.
Lovett, on the other hand, could.
When he at last noticed her sliding away from the wall, retreating away from him, a demonic grin stole over his face.
"No matter," he breathed, advancing. Stumbling backwards in her haste to get away from him, Lovett tripped over her robes – and that was all the time he needed to lunge forward and grab her, fingers embracing her throat. "No matter. I don't need a razor to hurt you."
She spluttered, reaching up with both hands to grapple at his merciless grip. "Mr. Todd – " her breathing was shallow " – please – " each taste of air a struggle " – I'm sorry – " she thrashed against him as best she could, but it would not be enough, and they both knew it " – only wanted what was best for you – " he bared his teeth in a hideous parody of a grin " – love – "
She screams, piercing the air with a pitch beyond normal human reach, a scream to wake the dead – a scream to announce she is about to join the dead. The flames devour her, hot and hungry and unforgiving as he seals her fate with the slam of the oven door.
Sweeney released Mrs. Lovett so fast it was as though he himself had been scalded by the oven's fires. Shaking, he held his hands at arm-length from him, half expecting singe marks to erupt over his skin.
His eyes flicked from his fingers to Lovett. She had sunk to the floor, her robes puddled around her, overindulging in the ability to breathe through great gulps of air. Her chest heaved with each of her ragged inhales – moving – breathing – living – everything she should not be able to do. Her hands massaged at the necklace of bruises around her neck, the only marks upon her otherwise unblemished skin: no charred areas, no burn marks, no raw and peeling skin . . . no indications that she had died.
No indications that she had ever been anything less than alive.
He was dreaming. That was the only explanation. He'd watched her die – he'd caused her to die. She wasn't alive anymore. He was sound asleep now, dreaming, haunted by this satanic woman even after her death.
Lovett, still breathing hard, began to pick herself off the floor, her eyes never leaving his face. She took a step that was as cautious as it was fervent in his direction. "Mr. T – listen to me – I only did what I thought was best – "
The urge to seize her, throttle her, hurt her in every way he could struck him hard repeatedly, like growls in a famished stomach, with her every move. She isn't real, he reminded himself over and over again, she's dead, she's not real, harming her won't do any good, better to just wait until this hallucination is over.
Her incessant chatter had taught him that much, at least.
She took another step towards him; the insatiable desire for her pain lurched within him again, hissing, spitting: Snatch her. He fought against the compulsion with every bit of self-control he had, his muscles visibly contracting beneath his clothes.
" – and I never lied, love – only said she took a poison, which she did – I never said that she died – "
Shake her, it snarled, lashing against his side.
" – she lived, yes, but went completely mad from the arsenic – she's not the person you remember her as, she's not the person you loved, that woman's long gone – "
" – should've gone to the hospital, but they threw her in Bedlam instead – Mr. T – " she moved even closer, within arm's reach " – please, just listen to me – "
" – it was better for you to think she was dead – you wouldn't've wanted to know that was all that was left of her – "
" – I didn't tell you – didn't want you to know, didn't think you could handle it – " her eyes, wide, heartfelt, welled with tears as he continued to remain immobile " – only did it because I love you – "
" – she was hardly alive as it was – and she could never've cared for you the way I did – dammit, Sweeney, I'd be twice the wife she was – "
Kill her kill her kill her.
The control shattered. A corpse coming to life, he dived towards her. But Lovett, expecting an attack this time, flitted out of his reach. He snarled and pounced again; she danced away from him, not turning her back on him for a moment.
He knew it was a dream. He knew she was a hallucination. He didn't care. Apparition or not, he needed to destroy her. Watching her burn clearly had not been enough, not nearly enough, not to repay her in full for the suffering she had brought upon him. He wanted her to feel every ache that he did a million times over, to make her feel every pain possible, for he knew that even if he were to inflict all manner of injuries upon her it would still not compare to what he felt, it would never compare, but oh, he would do his best –
The metal slices into his skin, cold and sharp. It's pain beyond pain, pain that's excruciating, nearly unbearable, and yet it is nothing compared to the pain within him, the pain twisting his shriveled heart, as his grip upon her lifeless body grows slack. Black curtains are being drawn around his eyes, black curtains splattered with red – it's red – everything is always red – and the world is fading, fizzling away . . .
That was when he began to question whether where he was at present really was a dream.
A/N: Reviews are love.