It has been too long. Are you all ready to murder me yet? I know I would be. I hate it when stories are not updated in a timely fashion. But, what are you going to do? Life, unfortunately, beckons to me at every turn and I have not had the time to sit down and pound out all four chapters to my different stories in nearly a week. I apologize. So, without further explanation and no more ado, I give you chapter four.
Disclaimer: No matter how much I pray, I still own nothing, and certainly not the characters I am writing lives for.
Mr. Todd sat still as a statue for another five minutes while Mrs. Lovett regained her composure. It took that long for her to stop trembling, and once her body was no longer quivering he felt safe to slide his hands beneath her back and hold her upright so he could climb off her bed, replacing the pillow that had been displaced when he'd sat down before he lowered her head back down. With a ragged sigh he knelt down and fished a cold and wet rag from the bucket Toby had left at the side of her bed, wringing it out and folding it before he laid it over Mrs. Lovett's forehead.
The corners of her lips twitched, but she did not smile. "You getting' back to work, then, Mr. T?" she asked, not sure what she wanted him to reply with. It was nice having someone to take care of her, but it was Mr. Todd, after all. She had loved him when he was Benjamin Barker and she loved him even more now, when he was Sweeney Todd. But because she loved him, it made her situation almost repellant to her. She wanted him to take care of her; then again, that made him uncomfortable, and she only cared for his happiness – which is why it was killing her, watching him self-destruct over Lucy. And, of course, she hated that he was seeing her like this – paler than usual, sweaty, shaking, and wildly unattractive therefore.
Mr. Todd's expression was unreadable. He didn't know whether or not he was going back to tend his shop. On the one hand, there were throats to slit; but the person who took care of the bodies was in no condition to do so. But then, there was Mrs. Lovett's condition. He didn't trust Toby to care for her properly. That boy, while entirely devoted to his surrogate mother, was all too liable to screw things up. "Dunno yet," he replied at long last, running a hand through his hair, over the white stripe that Mrs. Lovett found so wonderfully striking. And, on the verge of blushing, he turned on his heel and slipped out of the room, amazed by his racing heart. The hope in her eyes… something about those eyes made his heart pound.
He sank into an armchair in the living room, holding his head. What the bloody hell was wrong with him? Lucy, he reminded himself fiercely. Your wife. Revenge is all that matters. Throats to slit. Vengeance to be had. Make them pay with their blood.
But that exhilaration, the intense pleasure that came with digging into the necks of men with his razors and slicing into them – eliciting their life's blood from their throats – was far different from the exhilaration of being with Mrs. Lovett. She made his very blood boil with an animal want, a fierce desire. Even when he was courting Lucy, he had never felt such an attraction. It was distracting; yet it was necessary. If those moments with Mrs. Lovett, that feral yearning for her, were to cease, he would go entirely crazy.
NO! He hurled himself from his thoughts, forcing himself to focus on reality. That was dangerous territory. Lucy. Revenge. Lucy. That was what mattered to him. Judge Turpin must die. He had to set his sights on that. That was his purpose. It was all that mattered. He had to fulfill that purpose. Lucy was raped by Judge Turpin, he reminded himself bitterly. He must pay. His life won't be nearly enough – but it's the most he has to offer.
And the sooner Mrs. Lovett was well again, the sooner he could return to business. Therefore, his priority should be ensuring Mrs. Lovett's health was restored. He told himself it was logical; there was nothing emotional to be had. It was business. And yet a piece of himself in the corner of his mind purred with satisfaction. Mrs. Lovett was weak and utterly dependant. She'd have to cling to him – metaphorically, he mused – and she'd be indebted to him.
Thoughts of just how she could repay him ran thick and wildly inappropriate through his mind, and he had to give himself another mental shove to focus on the task at hand. He ran through a checklist in his head. She had seen a doctor. She'd been bled. She was resting.
She hadn't eaten. That would have to come first. Mr. Todd grimaced at what that meant. He'd have to take the liberty and cook something for the first time in over fifteen years. It wasn't as though he could feed her meat pies. That thought was repugnant even to him, letting her eat human meat when she was ill. Now that he thought about it, was it the human meat that made her ill in the first place? They had consumed a meat pie or two every few days, and while the taste was by far superior, there was the contents to think about. But then, no; the meat had been cooked. Wouldn't any disease have been burned away? How had she gotten sick?
He'd think about it later. For now, there was cooking to be attempted.
The simple task of making soup was even challenging to him. He had started with the basics; one of Mrs. Lovett's few pots sat on the stove, which he had lit already. He'd filled it with water, too, but the rest of it remained a mystery to him. Cooking. Not a talent he thought he would ever exercise again.
He wondered briefly where Toby was. Maybe the boy knew something about making soup. He was the one who spent all day with Mrs. Lovett, after all. His jaw clenched with frustration, Sweeney began scouring the cupboards for something useful; a recipe, and instruction book, even a bloody list of ingredients crumpled up and forgotten in a corner. Nothing.
He glanced at the bookshelf, the end of which he could see sitting in the hall, and proceeded to it. His eyes found the word cookbook and he snatched it off the shelf without another thought. He flipped through the pages until he found a page labeled soup, paused on it, and perused the recipe. Chicken broth, the title of the page read. Seemed simple enough. All he really needed was a chicken and some salt, and an onion if he could find one.
As if he had sensed he was needed, Toby clambered into the shop, clutching a paper bag from which various exotic aromas wafted; he'd gone to the market and restocked the spices, like Mrs. Lovett had told him. He froze at the sight of Mr. Todd and then inched around the counter, stacking white bags of his purchases in the cupboards while throwing cautious glances back at the barber. Sweeney smirked with amusement. It was exactly a time like this that kept him from slitting the boy's throat every other day. Fishing a pound note from his pocket, he said, "I've got an errand for you, boy."
Toby shut the last cupboard and crumpled up the bag. "Yes, sir?" he asked cautiously, slowly approaching Sweeney.
Mr. Todd held out the pound note and the boy took it from him. "There's a butcher just up the street there. I need you to get a chicken. The biggest you can get for that amount. You understand?"
Toby looked a little put-out; he felt he had barely been in the shop since he'd woken up. First he'd had to run to the market, and now he being sent to the butcher's. He didn't mind running errands, usually, but two in such quick succession when he was eager to see how Mrs. Lovett was holding up threw him for a bit of a loop. But Mr. Todd frightened him, and he felt that bad things would happen if he didn't do as the barber asked. "Yes, sir," Toby replied. "But do you mind if I just pop in on Mum for a moment to see how—?"
"No," Mr. Todd interrupted him, a little too forcedly. Toby gave a small start. "She needs 'er rest and you'll only distract 'er. To the butcher's. You understand?"
Toby nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Go, then," Mr. Todd said briskly, and the boy hurried out of the shop.
The butcher's was not far; Mr. Todd anticipated Toby would be back within fifteen minutes. He found the salt in a low cupboard and threw a handful into the water on the stove, and then sat down at the table by the window, holding his head, to wait for the boy and battle with his thoughts, which were growing increasingly more occupied with Mrs. Lovett.
When he heard the door open, he looked up expecting Toby with a chicken, but instead of a small, seedy boy with a mess of black hair holding a dead bird, he found a tall young man with a curtain of dirty-blonde hair in the door. "Mr. Todd," Anthony greeted him with a sigh, slouching into a seat across from the barber.
"Any luck?" Sweeney asked gruffly. He couldn't deal with Anthony at the moment. The boy was, admittedly, the only positive link he had to his daughter, but most of the time he just found Anthony annoying.
"I've searched everywhere, sir; I can't even begin to think of where she might be," Anthony replied. He was entirely unaware of Mr. Todd's relation to Johanna, concerned only with finding her so they could run away and start a life. He was head over heels about her and he hadn't even spoken to her. A tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. What if he never found her?
"Well, keep looking. She'll turn up." Mr. Todd wanted Anthony to leave. He obviously had no good news to share and Sweeny was preoccupied enough without having to deal with the lovesick boy pursuing his daughter.
"What are you doing down here, anyway, sir?" Anthony asked. "I went upstairs first. Why's your shop closed today?"
More irritating questions. Sighing, Mr. Todd opened his mouth to inform Anthony about the condition of his landlady and hopefully drop a few hints that he should leave, but Toby clambered back into the shop at that moment, struggling to hold a rather large chicken in his scrawny arms. For fear that he would drop it, Mr. Todd got to his feet and took the bird from the boy, dumping it on the counter before beginning his search for one of Mrs. Lovett's knives.
Anthony stared, baffled, at the chicken. "What on earth are you doing?"
Toby, glad to be relieved of the heavy dead bird, slumped into Mr. Todd's vacated seat, brooding a little. He wanted to go see Mrs. Lovett, but he knew Mr. Todd wouldn't allow it.
"I am… attempting to cook, if you must know," Mr. Todd said reluctantly, realizing how idiotic it sounded. "Chicken broth."
"Mrs. Lovett is dreadful ill, sir," Toby elaborated for Anthony. "Mr. Todd had to run and get a doctor this mornin' for her." He looked to the barber and asked reservedly. "Did he say anything about what she had, Sir?"
"Flu. Nothing much to worry about," Mr. Todd muttered barely loud enough for Toby and Anthony to hear him as he pulled a knife from a drawer and examined the blade. It wasn't like holding his razors. It felt unnatural in his hand. But chopping raw meat would ruin his blades, not to mention look absolutely ludicrous.
"Ah. Well, tell her get well from me, then," Anthony said, finally taking the hint and standing to leave. "I wish you luck with your… chicken." Mr. Todd nodded his farewell to the boy and Anthony bowed out of the shop.
Mr. Todd ignored Toby, who was watching him from his chair at the table, and chopped up about half of the chicken, throwing pieces into the cooking pot as the water boiled. He had the child locate a few vegetable after a bit and the boy threw those into the pot with the chicken.
Mr. Todd, satisfied with the broth after several interminable minutes of stirring the damned brew, found the bowls and pulled a couple down, filling both and handing one to the boy to eat and picking the other up for Mrs. Lovett. Time to go see how that bloody wonder of a woman is doing, then, he thought to himself, going through the hall to the living room and proceeding to Mrs. Lovett's bedroom.
Fin! Not long… not excellent… I apologize again.
I threw Anthony in here for a bit, per request of one of you readers. I'm not sure if he'll make another appearance. He isn't very involved in this story, I'm afraid. (Actually, I don't like him too terribly much because he ruined a possible happy ending for Mr. Todd not just once, but twice…) I hope you enjoyed this short little excuse of a chapter and please send me your reviews! I won't post another chapter without at least one review on this one! I'm serious! ...Maybe. Just review for me.