Todd's eyes scan the street below. Small shops are closing for the night and lights in windows extinguish, signifying the end of the night for the upper-middle-class. A few windows would stay lit all night, desperate to make enough money to scrape a meager existence. The heads of men, women, prostitutes, and beggars are all visible under the soft gas light. Beggars tread about, arms extended to secure a meal for the night.
Sweeney's eyes narrow in concentration as he searches for one head in particular. A head that most likely has gray hair now, and stands proud over all the other ant-like vermin below. He snarls, and remembers…hears the pounding of the gavel, hears the words: I sentence you to transportation for life in Botany Bay in Australia, Mr. Barker. Perhaps they will teach you justice, that the law must not be violated. May the Lord have mercy on your soul. The fear and panic on his Lucy's face… how he had willed himself to comfort her, but could not fight the strength of the officers—
His boots scuffle on the floor below as he paces by the large window, the repetitive sound adding to the fervency in his soul. He is ready, always listening. The shop below is quiet, and the small courtyard contains only sounds of tables being wiped with rags and faint humming—Lovett, perhaps?
How will he get to him—there has to be a plan. Always a plan. He ruminated for weeks on one to leave Botany Bay. He must pose as an inconspicuous man, a barber coming to seek fortune in London. He is poorer, only able to afford a meager shop and had to convince Mrs. Barker to let him use her husband's old shop. He was a widower himself—his wife died…of…of illness, yes.
A creak on the floorboards. His heart quickens in excitement, hands searching for his razor. His eyes fly from the window towards the damp and bare corner of his shop, towards the door. The glass seems cold in the light, revealing no shadow of his enemy. False promises.
He has no time for such pettiness!
His breaths become jagged as his mind races with images of shock in the Judge's steely eyes as he reveals his identity—then, the look of horror preserved upon the man's face as he dies with that shock. The muscles in his arm and shoulder twitch, finger tapping the razor impertinently. Stillness. Nothing. More pacing.
The street is bustling and controlled, a stark contrast to the erratic beats of his heart inside his chest, thumping like a small drum. Anger causes his jaw to clench, revealing another jagged muscle in his sloped face. A small chill creeps into the room, prying at the bolts of the window and leaving goosebumps on his skin.
Torture him before the kill. Remind him of the pain he caused you…caused your Lucy—
At last, he focuses on the pleasant sound. Peace and contentment seep through the walls and come into his old shop like tendrils. He walks closer to the door, her voice growing louder. He cannot make out the song. He hopes it is one from years ago.
He is saddened at her reaction to his vengeance. Yet Lucy has to understand with time–she has to. He wants her to know that only once the Judge is gone can their family be safe.
The Judge. He hurt his wife in one of the ways she was most vulnerable. He humiliated her and now he was going to suffer mightily for it. Did he harass her afterwards? Was she safe? Was Johanna safe, or did Turpin's slimy hands try and corrupt them further?
Footsteps climb up the stairs and he prepares his body and steadies his hand on the razor. With bated breath and heart thumping his ears, the very sounds of victory of a long-awaited battle, he watches the door open. The light from the street lamps below cast a small shadow on the floor.
"Father?" comes Johanna's voice. She steps into the room like a breeze in spring after a dead winter. He can still hardly believe she is there, too. His once-plump baby now a willowy girl. She is the image of her mother as he dreamed she would be. His daughter. His. So why can't he muster the courage to cross the room and go closer to her. Why does he look at her like he would a stranger's child? Johanna, too, regards him with kind but wary eyes.
"Would you like to join us for supper?" she asks, fidgeting with her skirt. She just barely hides that she is biting her lower lip.
Sweeney nods tersely. A slight pressure is taken off his shoulders—now he can get to know his daughter a bit more, perhaps speak with the women, revive that aspect of human nature that he has forgotten. Though it is easy to forget after all the hard labor and ruminating over the time he lost—time that was taken from him.
He cannot forget that just as easily.
"Good, I will get Mother." Johanna gives him a small smile and swifts past him to open the door and tell her mother supper is ready.
"Thank you, darling," she says. Sweeney's heart pounds with each light step she takes, coming closer to him. Her eyes are focusing on him and he turns to look at her. She is there, real, ever the vision she always was. He is grateful for it—he has feared that he will turn around to find himself in the cold dampness of his underground cell.
But no, his two girls are standing there with their golden hair and brown eyes. Just as he dreamed they would be. They were the only things right in this broken, miserable world. In all the grime and filth of London, they were pure. And always would remain that way.
Lucy gives him her usual gentle Madonna-like smile. "We normally eat in the parlor, love. Are you ready?"
"Yes," he replies, marveling that he is actually responding to her. That she is real and can answer him back.
With that, Johanna and Lucy take him outside the shop, away from the glow of their home, and downstairs. One lone man sips ale on an outside bench. Most of the customers must have left for the night. He is grateful for that.
They enter the shop to find Mrs. Lovett kneeling on the hard bench as she polishes off a table. She is engrossed in her work, her burnished and frizzy curls bobbing with each swift movement. "Hello, loves. Jus' cleanin' this up, is all. Jo, can you start serving the soup?"
"Yes, Aunt Nellie," Johanna responds, and both of them lead him into the parlor. Johanna instructs them both to sit while she takes bowls from the kitchen and begins to do as ordered.
Aunt Nellie. Sweeney never truly imagined Mrs. Lovett taking on the role of "aunt" to his child. It was something Lucy likely encouraged—she was always friendly towards Mrs. Lovett. Even if she never appreciated her "fancy airs." "Mrs. Lovett is not the sort who should put on such a show!" Lucy remarked one day. "She's a hard-working woman." Back then, Benjamin had agreed with her, though he could tell Mrs. Lovett wished to escape her life and have more leisure, like his Lucy.
Johanna places a hot bowl with a spoon into his hands with care, a sort of stew steaming up at him. His stomach rumbles in response. Botany Bay made him used to less hearty fare. He supposes he should be grateful for this now.
Lovett sits down when Johanna hands her a bowl and spoon. Once Johanna follows, she and Lucy silently and with grace bow their heads. Prayer. A silent grace of thanks for the meal, the end of a long day, and the gratefulness of him returning home. Sweeney glances over at his wife, who prays with a serene face and a smile on her lips.
He has never had much use for the activity in fifteen years. He stopped praying years ago, when he realized there was no hope of getting out of Botany Bay. When the ache for his wife and baby grew too strong. When his desire for vengeance brewed and grew and finally broke him. So he looks up into Mrs. Lovett's brown eyes. They are tired from a long day's work, reflecting toil and pain.
"Amen," Lucy mutters, and Sweeney is returned back to the present. Johanna follows suit, and their meal begins. Spoons clink against the china bowls as everyone eats in silence. He looks down at the soup and dares to take a spoonful. It is delicious, a respite from the bland morsels he's eaten for the past fifteen years.
"Lucy, were ye able t'get tha' new dress done? You mentioned somethin' of the clien' wantin' it soon."
Lucy glances up at their neighbor. "Almost, Nellie. She wants it before the season starts."
"Likely fer all the balls 'n' dances, eh?"
Lucy nods. Sweeney eyes her with caution. What kind of work did she do? What kind of clients did she serve? Was she overworked? Tired? Did no one help her?
Another, more sinister voice whispers back: she's had to slave away because he took you away. Let that fester inside you, Sweeney. Use it as fuel—
He forces the hisses away. Unanswered questions buzz in his mind, all the things he's wanted to ask her. Yet he can't; his mouth is shut as though by an invisible force. What does Lucy think of that? Benjamin Barker had been an amiable chatter. He did not prattle like Mrs. Lovett did, but he always enjoyed meaningful conversation and was good at small talk. It is another change; another reason for revenge.
"Jo an' I had a lot of customers today, all the usual ones though. There was the Walsh family comin' in, chattin' about how their eldest daughter's gettin' ready ta marry some banker bloke. Then their younges' was wantin' some new doll 'n' favher couldn' afford it. Then those two drunks tha' frequen' the pubs came in. A customer tried battin' 'is eyes at me earlier on in the day—told 'im I'd hit 'im with me club if 'e ever did that again."
Lucy winces at the description, and Johanna looks up. "You don't have a club!"
Mrs. Lovett gives her a mischievous grin. "Exactly."
After a moment of silence, her eyes shift to him. "Mr. B, what'd you do today?"
He winces at the nickname. Mr. B—Mr. Barker. That man is dead. Yet he looks at the woman at his side, smiling at the thought of hearing him speak. She cannot know that.
"Jus' thinking. Observing, really. Thinking about opening the shop."
"That'll be great for business, love. Get you workin' again! We can 'ave our old partnership back!"
She grins at that; his face remains a scowl. But both know what she is referring to: how she would chatter about the nice barber upstairs and he would refer his hungry patrons downstairs to her. It was a mutual partnership and business was good then. It did help with their friendship.
"And Mother can help sew up cloths and rags if you need them," Johanna points out. Lucy sends her an affectionate grin. The three of them: husband, wife, and neighbor, all working together.
The situation, like the air in the room, is dampening and smothering. His shop is merely a plot. His revenge will be done alone. He does not need or want co-conspirators. His stomach twists as Lucy laughs at something Johanna mentions. A breathy chuckle, something warm and affectionate.
No. His Lucy does not need to be involved in his plans. Her eyes had gone wide when he revealed that detail to her, and she pressed herself to him and looked terrified. His sweet wife would never understand, and he does not want her to. Not her, and especially not his little lamb.
Supper finishes and Mrs. Lovett offers to take the bowls away. She calls Johanna to help her. Lucy thanks their hosts, and offers to clean up the parlor.
"I've got it, love. If you've got to go clean up upstairs, yeh can do tha'. Mr. B, you're more'n welcome ta stay down 'ere…or go wherever."
He nods, eyes looking into the crackling fireplace. Once his neighbor and daughter clear out of the room, his wife gives a contented sigh next to him. He feels her almost anxious presence next to him, like she wants to say something but does not know how. That comforts him—Lucy was always a shy, demure creature. It is another shred of his past he can cling to.
"Benjamin, I'm sorry we did not get to talk much today. If you need me to, I can not work so that we can…catch up, or just simply…talk."
He nods, but what is there to catch up on? How does he tell her about all his time spent away? One does not make small talk about Botany Bay. He can tell her that he's missed her, that he's wanted so much to be back with them. Maybe not about the fact that he would imagine her lying beside him at night and hear her lovely voice, that she was so real to him he began to doubt his sanity. That he imagined Johanna growing up and was then plagued with nightmares of her never knowing him.
He wants to reconnect. He wants it. This is his family, and he owes that to them. But he cannot burden them with the whole truth. He prays Lucy will understand that. If she is anything like he remembers, she will.
"There's so much I've wanted to tell you, but I want you to get readjusted."
He turns to her, partly touched by her comment. "You can tell me." It will take the burden of explaining the past fifteen years off him.
"I first got a job three months later. I chose seamstressing because I've always liked sewing up old things—cloths, handkerchiefs, altering dresses. I could be home and help take care of Johanna. In fact," a small smile tugs at her lips, "I used to use her as a model sometimes, if I had to make dresses for a family. She used to fidget quite a bit." She laughs at that.
"Johanna," he says. He's missed the life of his only child.
"She was a good girl, always was. When I had to teach her to write, I had her help me spell out words or sentences. We wrote…letters to you. We never sent them—we knew they wouldn't reach you—but figured that when you returned home, you'd get the chance to read them. She used to draw little pictures on them."
Letters. His wife had been considerate enough to save enough money to write to him throughout the years. The mere mention speaks of devotion that is almost stifling. She loved him enough to keep his razors and clean his shop, and then to write letters he would not read for years later.
"She started walking at about fourteen or fifteen months. She stood right there, actually." She points to a place in front of the hearth. "She sat there and then managed to get herself up. Albert was alive then, dozing in his chair. She walked towards him since he had his hand hanging off the side of the chair. She fell, but took two or three good steps on her own."
"Then she nearly knocked 'er brains out bumpin' into everything once she could walk!" Mrs. Lovett says, her shadow intruding on the light from the hearth. She looks even paler in its light. "Poor child had more bruises than she knew what ta do with!"
Lucy nods. "That she did." She then turns towards him, eyes full of that same devotion. Didn't he used to look at her the same way? With those adoring but naive eyes?
"I'm going to get ready for bed, love. Come up whenever you're ready."
He nods, and she presses a tiny kiss to his cheek. A warm imprint, like a candle's flame, is left in its wake. Pleasant, but still burning.
SHe leaves and Mrs. Lovett comes closer towards him, then goes to stoke the fire. "I'll be in 'ere for a few good hours, Mr. B. You can 'ave some gin if—"
"Todd," he blurts. "Sweeney Todd."
She stops and puts the poker off to the side. She raises an eyebrow his way. "You changed yer name, love?"
"Have to if I don't want to be caught. Besides, it'll help with my real goal." He stands and takes out his razor, flickering it open. His shining sword, reflecting his own black eyes back at him. They glitter with dangerous intent.
Lovett's own eyes remain fixed on him. "Which is?"
He is suddenly conscious that his daughter can likely hear him. So he goes closer to her and all but whispers, "the Judge. I won't rest until he's dead—he and the Beadle."
"Ah." She crosses her arms at that. "So, 'ow are you goin' ta get rid of the bodies, eh?"
He narrows his eyes at her. She remains just as determined in her stare. "I'll think of a way."
A small knock comes on the doorframe. "Aunt Nellie, everything's all set. I wanted to wish you and Father good night."
Mrs. Lovett gives his daughter a genuine smile, a maternal one. "Good night, love. Sleep well."
"You as well. Goodnight…Father," she says to him.
He repeats the phrase back, hardly believing he is actually saying it to her. As Benjamin Barker, he used to dream about being back with Lucy and tucking in a much younger Johanna. Now, he manages only a stiff nod.
The baker looks back at him. "I'm tuckin' in fer the night myself. G'night, Mr. Todd."
He is taken aback at how easily the two words slide off her tongue. She has accepted his new identity almost without thought. He glances up at the smoke-stained ceiling, to the woman who almost dances with fluid steps above his head. His Lucy, on the other hand…she would understand if only for him to be safely home with her and their daughter. As a cover.
That is good enough for him, for now anyway. He walks slowly out of the pie shop where the smell of old gravy and crust still lingers and into the dung-smelling night, up into his clean smelling shop and bedroom. His beloved is pulling pins out of her hair and placing them in a drawer. "What did Nellie have to say?"
"She offered gin, I told her of my plans."
Lucy raises a golden brow at that, but then lowers it. She doesn't say anything, but he can feel the new tension between them. "I…If you want me to take the morning off, perhaps we could do something together. Walk down the street, if you wish."
He nods in thought. Lucy puts her hair all the way down and fluffs the golden locks with her hands. Her hair was her most priceless feature. He loved to run his hands through it, caress it, and ensure she had the best things for it. Expensive things, but he did not care. He was a young man in love at the time, not caring much for practicalities.
Lucy picks up one of those items—a brush embossed with silver—and begins to comb through her hair. Before he has realized what he is doing, he is behind her with his hand extended. "Allow me."
Lucy smiles at the thought. "Thank you, Benjamin."
He takes the brush from her and takes her soft, golden hair in his other hand, providing the tension. Oh, how does he do this? He hasn't brushed out his wife's hair in over a decade. He hasn't known how to be gentle in years. Prison stripped that of him—hard labor did not provide the means for careful movements.
He gently puts the brush to her hair and moves it down. Almost no snags. Good. Again, and again. Lucy is relaxed. The motion is repetitive, but soothing in its own way. The brush sings against her soft golden waves. He begins to work his way up towards her scalp, ever mindful of how he is with her. Lucy is his wife and meant to be treated with all the gentleness and respect she deserves.
Lucy, the woman he wanted to come home to. Lucy, his wife whom he spent all those years dreaming of, whom he plotted revenge for. Yes, this was for her. To avenge her and all she and Johanna suffered. Even the brush glints up at him. It too is silver, just like his razors. Razors he will use to—
She grunts, and he is snapped back to reality. Oh. He brushed too hard.
"Sorry," he says.
"That's alright, love. You can keep going."
He tries to put all his focus onto Lucy, looking into her hair. Golden yellow, but he can also see some darker yellows and lighter ones, almost white. So lovely and innocent.
He has to plan better. Plot and plan while she is not there to witness it. He loves his wife, so it is only fitting he keeps the danger away from her. Her own gentle, tender heart would not do to be exposed to such.
When finishes brushing her hair, Lucy smiles up at him. "I missed you doing that, you know. You especially did it for me after I got pregnant with Johanna. Do you remember that?"
He searches his mind. Thankfully, he does remember. He also remembers how she was so excited to become a mother, how she fretted over their daughter's cradle to prepare for her arrival, how she complained of swollen ankles and thanked him heartily for picking up something for her. In all those, her face was a blur.
Now, he can remember. Though Lucy's eyes are more tired and weary, she is still the same lovely creature from years ago.
She pads over to their bed and gets in silently. Her eyes are still on him, that same loving gaze. "Could…could you…hold me, love? Like you used to?"
Like you used to. A theme he is certain will become constant. Yet one he longs to fulfill. "Of course," he whispers. He sits with caution on the plush mattress and inches closer to her. He awkwardly settles back onto the pillows and moves down, opening his arm. Lucy presses herself into his embrace sans hesitation, as if they'd been doing this for years. Her weight is warm and unfamiliar. For so long he has held the air. Now, he is really holding her.
He is not dreaming. She is smiling, and guilt sloshes in his gut. Here, he is dreaming of avenging her and all she cares for is to be in his arms.
She sniffles and he finds little tears moving down her face. "I love you, Benjamin," she whispers. She presses a kiss to his chest.
Pain strikes him there, but he ignores it. He tries to push aside the thoughts of revenge that burn and pulse inside his mad mind. For now, he is a husband again. His wife is really here in his arms.
"You as well, Lucy," he whispers. The words 'I love you' have not come to him just yet. But they are there; he cannot say them.
Her warm arms hold him until they slacken off and her breathing deepens. He inhales her scent of roses and lilacs. She's there and his heart pounds underneath her. Part of him wants to stay, stay and hold her as long as he can before she wakes. To have her in his arms again like he's yearned for the past fifteen years.
He looks out the window. Nightfall is there, waiting for him.
He moves gingerly out of bed and extinguishes the lamp. The bed will be there for him in a few hours. He takes his razor and opens it, walking into his barbershop. His footsteps are quiet as his mind reminisces. It will be time soon enough.