Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, puh-leeease!
This is the first fanfiction I've written, and I bet there are going to be countless flaws. I apologise in advance for you dear readers that might spot them. Another writing flaw of mine happens to be that my beginnings can be slow. So hang in there!
The usual morning sounds of rain stirring the smoggy air and pattering against the cobbled streets were the sounds that Mrs Lovett awoke to everyday.
Every day in which she continued a routine- the same routine. Over, and frankly, over again.
Sighing heavily, she dragged herself out of bed as if being slowly pulled by some invisible force. Which was true, in a way. Everyday, Nellie Lovett was pulled out of bed by the thought of being noticed by a certain someone. Of course, she had heard the story enough times to give it a million, ever-varying renditions, but still, she believed, there was a way that she could change her ending.
...Mr. Todd, I-"
The door swung open with the force and rage of a demon.
If you weren't Mrs Lovett, you might be convinced that you were seeing exactly that. In front of her stood a tall, silhouetted figure, who seemed to blend with the shadows as if he evolved from them. His wild, untouched hair conflicted viciously with the smooth, sultry darkness behind him. The eye of the storm was his very face- a mask composed from years of torture and surprisingly, even worse- hope. Wild, insane hopes, that one day, he would once again enter the seemingly glowing presence of his fallen wife, Lucy. Crazy, impossible dreams that would end with him, for one last time, gently caressing the face of his daughter Johanna. After the hope, came the rage. The rage that turned the last bit of human in those once deep brown eyes black and empty.
But Mrs Lovett knew better. The only thing she saw was a beautiful, lost, and maybe slightly twisted soul, who needed a bit of help in the right direction. She was also convinced that SHE would be the one to show him this way, and bring back the man who once was. Then, maybe, he could return what only she was then willing to give- love.
She offered up a metal, rusted tray carrying a quantity of food, not noticing the dooming item placed underneath the bowl of porridge.
"I just brought you your breakfast, love. Ya can't just sit up here and waste away, dreamin' of her... I know you'd love to, but not today. I won't let you. So eat up."
She checked his eyes quickly for the sign of danger she knew well, and saw just the nothingness she was used to most of the time. It was safe. She walked in slowly, softly pushing his idol body aside, and placed the tray on a large trunk kept in the damask room.
How she dreamed for the look he once gave Lucy to be placed upon her, to fill those eyes once again...
"Well? Here ya go." She held out the tray, and felt disappointment sink in as he snatched the tray, snapping out of his stature. The typical morning routine. Which then involved a dejected Mrs Lovett heading out the door, and back downstairs to get ready for the next day of business.
Sweeney Todd was sick.
He was sick of that irritating little chime the door made when it opened and the Judge didn't walk in. He was sick of seeing not the Judge, but Mrs Lovett walk through the door. He was very sick of seeing that stupid, joyful look she had, as if some how her glee would seep out of her ears, on to the floor, and eat through his shoes (for he had no doubt happiness was acidic) and infect him as well. He didn't care what he ate, where he slept, who he killed (exception for the Judge) or how he lived. No, correction- Sweeney Todd was not living. He was merely being dragged on a leash through every day, forced to react, to "live".
He wanted out of the deal. All he wanted was to kill the judge, and leave. He didn't care about Mrs Lovett and her practical ideas, since he was thinking of escaping her suffocating hold. Once he was free of the stinking binds of London, Lucy would show him where to go... Lucy. The only thing attaching to that dreaded leash, dragging him through an empty existence. Yes, once he left, everything would be less real. He and Lucy would be as close as they would ever get for now, be that miles and miles, or practically another lifetime away.
Once he was rid of London... But the real problem was ridding that constant punishment of his... This proved very difficult- much more difficult than he had thought.
"TOBY! I need ya on the tables, dear!"
The expected answer was shouted followed by footsteps of a young boy.
She smiled. Now, if only someone else were as willing...
Toby was a very obedient child. He wanted nothing more than to make his adoptive mother as happy as possible. And since Toby was facing a big problem, he was going to have to do something he thought necessary for Mrs Lovett's happiness. He was going to do something about her and Mr T before... Before it happened. He checked a time-keeping system he had made up on a ripped up piece of paper kept in his pocket. He felt many emotions arise looking at the paper- sadness, fear, and worry. Especially worry. Toby had a job to do. And even as young as he was, he knew it was going to be difficult.
Mrs Lovett was just about to flip the "Open for Business" sign when Toby quietly tapped her on the back. She gave a small jump, and whipped around. "Toby! Don't ya go sneakin' up on one like tha! Gave me a fright!"
"Sorry, ma'am. All... All I wanted was to ask you a li'l question."
"Anything, love", Mrs Lovett spoke quietly, the softness of her words hiding a bubbling curiosity waiting inside. Toby wasn't one to go outside of his orders, unless it was in showing affection for Mrs Lovett. Why would he do this now?
"I've been thinkin... Has.. Has Mr T been any different lately?"
"Well... Towards you. You've been doin' all these things for 'im, ma'am, and I just don't think 'e's been a right bit proper with-"
"Toby! You know what poor Mr T's been through! Imagine, all 'em years, locked up in a cell, sweatin to the high 'eavens! What if I treated you like that? As a prisoner? And ya know what me and Mr T is- barber and baker, is all. " Once again, with the angriest voice she could muster, Mrs Lovett was masking what she was truly feeling- agreement.
Why does that crazy old fool have the right to treat me like dirt while he just wastes away up there, thinking about someone that won't come back? While I am absolutely everything he could want and more- he ignores me.
"I see the way you look at him, ma'am." The child's innocence showed that he didn't understand how these words tore through Mrs Lovett.
"Uh- Toby, love, listen- I know you an' Mr T ain't on the best pretenses here, but we gotta learn to forget. Mr T will come around. Just wait." She then patted his head reassuringly and sent him off to the tables again.
Like predicted, the day was busy as it ever was, with no sign of Sweeney Todd except for the fact that there was food in the resteraunt. When Mrs Lovett had first come up with the notion of baking his dead customers into her pies, Sweeney had agreed, seeming more lively than he had ever been. Maybe I'll have a chance, this time... Maybe this is the start of it all... The start of us.. In the early days, Mrs Lovett couldn't stop these dreamy, immature thoughts from swirling around her head like a thick cloud. But soon, the cruel bright sun broke through these thoughts so her head was completely clear. And a new thought, though not as lovely, set in- reality. All he would ever do was kill, sulk, eat, sleep, and repeat. Somehow, Mrs Lovett was determined to find a spot in this routine, no matter how small. This proved very difficult- more difficult than she thought.
As the baker waved goodbye to the last customer, she turned around, relieved that she wouldn't have to stretch her weary face into a smile anymore. Sighing, she flipped the open sign, nodded a quick goodnight to Toby, who was cleaning the last dishes, and heaved herself off to her room.
As Nellie laid her head down on the pillow, any thoughts of sleep darted away quickly like minnows in a pond. All fatigue was gone, and a new thought had plagued her now- Mr Todd.
Mrs Lovett had found herself supporting what Toby said the more she thought about it. Sweeney couldn't thrive without her doings, and it wasn't a bit fair that he wouldn't even make the slightest effort to show he cared.
Because he probably doesn't, Mrs lovett thought, annoyed. Then another new thought wormed its way through her head.
That's it. Tomorrow morning when it's breakfast, I'm not bringing it.
She decided she would go up there, and speak to the barber... She wanted him to know that she thought she deserved a little more respect. She was tired of waiting. Tired of waiting for the subtle sign of "thanks". So very tired of waiting for a notion that he noticed her existence. And very, VERY tired of waiting for something she knew would not come quickly nor easily.
Well, it's time for a change... Tomorrow morning, she promised herself, and with that thought mentally taken care of, Nellie Lovett could sleep easy.
The next morning, however, was the exact opposite.
An ungodly, thunking noise was what easily punctured Sweeney Todd's rare moments of sleep.
He dug his nails into the thin mattress, and biting his lip he mustered a weakly-forged "Go away."
"Hmmm... Can't do that, dear. Gonna need ya to open up."
He felt frustration erupt and surge through every inch of his veins. Not to mention, he was still mad from yesterday. The breakfast brought to him by his landlady had a concerning note-
"She liked gillyflowers- maybe some to lighten the mood?"
With that, a single gillyflower.
How did she know about what Lucy liked? And since when was her handwriting so.. So illegible? It made him very puzzled indeed.
He blinked hard, trying to distribute the anger into all parts of his body. Bending his wrists, squaring his shoulders, tightening the already-tense muscles in his neck. "No."
He heard an obviously staged sigh from the other side of the door, and instantly hated himself for letting her predict how he was going to act. "Fine, then..." From the other side of the door, Mrs Lovett took out a rattling set of skeleton keys, and fitted one into the keyhole. "I'm not daft Mr T. I'm still the landlady. I still 'ave me the keys." She suddenly regretted this all in the first place, feeling both quite scared and sorry. "I- I'm going to open the door now".
A particularly moody growl from the other side of the door.
"Yes, I know.." Wanting to go below the anger radar, Mrs Lovett tried to play along. She turned the key, and thrust the door open. "I need to talk ta you. And for once, you're going to listen." Mrs Lovett realized she had never been this firm with him before. She mentally regretted it, for she now had no experience to know what signs to look for in those ever-changing eyes.
Sweeney Todd was no more than a grump in a lump, all caught up in sheets, showing signs of a horrible sleep the night before. And the night before that, and the night before that...
"If it's food, leave it on the trunk, and escort yourself out. And... And I don't understand the flower. What you were trying to do." Sweeney said these words quickly, for he didn't want to spend the time it would take for a conversation. He knew there were trigger words that could set Mrs Lovett off for hours.
"Flowers? I'm afraid I don't 'ave the foggiest what you're going on about."
Sweeney rolled his eyes. Why must she make it so hard?
"And...It's not breakfast. And I'm not making it. D-... Do it yourself, if you really want it." She sniffed, looking unusually indifferent. Sweeney didn't like that.
Anger fueling him into stringing words together, he sat up and spat, "Then why did you come?".
"I'm tired of this all, Mr Todd, to be perfectly honest. I-" she paused, wondering if she should continue, and then Toby's previous words filled her head- "I've been doing all these things for you, and in return, I haven't seen the least bit of gratitude in my direction. No tiny words of thanks, or any notion that alerts me that you know I exist! Well I do, Mr Todd, and in fact, if I weren't here, I bet you wouldn't be either." She stopped short, surprised that she had gotten this out with no razor or cold hand pressed to her throat. He sat seemingly unimpressed, a stony expression spreading over his face. She continued, not holding her tongue at all this time, recklessness letting her sentences loose. "Not any ounce of respect, not any show of affection, or lo-"
His eyes lit up, and the stony expression was gone, switched for rage instead. Mrs Lovett gasped, instantly covering her mouth, inwardly cursing herself... She had gone much too far... "Oh, Mr T, I didn't-"
He slowly raised from the bed, and walked towards her in a decidedly not-friendly manner, razor flicking at his side. Did he sleep with it?
"You are not Lucy. Nor will you ever be her. You don't deserve to ask those things of me, no, because you already know I only live for one person." Mrs Lovett registered the calm before the storm, deciding it was a great time to leave. "And you- you will never be worthy to take her place!"
Mrs Lovett's last straw snapped, and the part of herself telling her to back down and leave was crushed as the words came tumbling Iike rocks down a mountain.
"I know! Mr T, I know! I'm sorry! I'm sorry I don't have those gorgeous blue eyes, and angelic yellow hair! I'm just- I'm just me! The landlady, the baker, whatever you want! And.. And I'm as good as its gonna get. I can't be your Lucy. But you need to move on- because I'm all you have. You know that." Mrs Lovett felt relieved letting the words fall, but immediately winced, waiting for it to come back and bite her.
Sweeney paused, for once, struggling for a reaction. He settled on a familiar one. Anger.
"Why did you come then? Is this all you woke me for?" He felt angry just saying it, knowing that he could be so vulnerable to one measly, annoying little person.
Mrs Lovett did some quick thinking. She realized in that moment, if she backed down from the barber, everything would slip back into that dreadful routine. Why had she come up here in the first place? To stir a CHANGE. So, with nothing more to say, Mrs Lovett uttered a not-so-thought-through idea.
"... I . I.. I think.. I wanna help you. Up here, I mean."
Sweeney made an odd expression- apprehension? As if he was trying to put on anger, dominance, and confusion all at once. He let anger take over again. "What are you talking about?", he muttered stonily.
Mrs Lovett panicked inwardly, trying to string up many excuses at once, and ending up finding nothing but frayed ends at most of them. "Well... Well you need time alone, and maybe it would do me some good, ya know. Learning new things."
The barber had to make an effort for once- there were too many thoughts bouncing around. He selected one of them and let it slide through his mouth with a scowl, and perhaps a small smirk. "Oh, a female barber? Mrs Lovett, I do believe you have lost it. And who exactly will run shop, hmm?" It wasn't that he was agreeing to go on with this conversation- Nellie realized he was mocking her. That upset her quite a bit. She felt frustrated that her words began to come out in a hurry, that her excuses were getting weaker and thinner each time one fell off of her dry lips.
"The boy's got quite a hand on things, he's gettin older, some responsibility would do 'I'm good!"
She was looking for anything now, anything that would make him agree.
"Ha. He can't run all of it. He'd have to find out about the pies." Once again, mock agreement. Mrs Lovett groaned. Desperation was literally showing in her now- in the frayed ends of her weather and age worn dress. in the way she always cocked her head to one side, and placed a gloved hand on her hip. In her searching eyes, those eyes that seemed to find things many people already thought long gone.
She needed to spend more time with Mr Todd. Like a plant thrived in sun, like a fish relished in water.
"Well, I don't have to be up here all the time! Maybe just when you want a break. For one or two shaves, ya know, then I'll go back to baking and you've had your time, and it's all well."
Mrs Lovett noticed with a start that the next comment from her partner in crime was not of mocking tone, but it had dipped to a sudden icy seriousness.
"You know you'd have to do it though."
"Kill. And don't even get me started- you'd have to first know how to shave anyways. As if I would ever agree to any of this. No."
Mrs Lovett did hear his comment about the murders, but at that point, she figured she would work out details later.
"Oh, Mr T, but-"
"No. And I'm still wondering how you think the idea of a female barber could work." Fake answers were directed at her once again. Mrs Lovett fought back a bit more, wanting to break through to him that she meant all of this.
"Hey! I.. I.. Well, think about it this way- you're right. Who's ever seen a female barber? That'll intrigue 'em, and bring in more customers..." She flushed a pale pink, and bit her tongue, knowing that sounded much worse out loud.
"Ok, lets say your ridiculous idea does bring in more people- I don't want you messing with my job. It's my punishment, my duty to kill... My... Responsibility." His eyes lit up with a fire.
Mrs Lovett paused.
Was this really the fate of Benjamin Barker? Was this the same charming, sweet man she had known in her youth? What would he have said if he knew what he was to become?
She knew she could never kill. Chop up the bodies, yes, but kill... That would place her directly at the front of the line. To be responsible for a life. But she knew, she knew when it came to the end of the day, if she was swearing revenge for the fall of Mr Todd... She would do it in a heartbeat.
But for now, she was second in line. And she was fine with that one thing staying the same.
But she wasn't going to let the conversation end there. That was submission.
"But... But think about this. If anything ever happens... I don't know... You go over the edge and go down to see old Lucy",-a word she usually used with caution, but now she was getting desperate- "or just leave me... Just... I don't know. Maybe for fun? Mr Todd- I want you to teach me the ways of a barber. A proper barber."
Sweeney bored his eyes into hers. "Me take my time, teaching you useless things?"
She had nothing else. Mrs Lovett was stripped. What was left?
"I suppose..." She blushed. Could he not notice how obviously she was aching for a scrap of time in his presence? Even this was a bit satisfying for her, even if it was a sort of argument.
Sweeney turned to the window, abandoning something of a stare off between him and Nellie.
Why was it, in that twisted and dark labyrinth of a head, that he was considering saying yes?