Too Little, Too LateAuthor: saime_joxxersRating:
“Not without you, Mister T,” she told him. “I don’t want to live without you.” “The only other alternative is to die, Mrs. Lovett,” he said. A reminder of why she simply had no choice. She could do what he never could. Survive.Word Count:
If I owned Mr. Todd, I wouldn't need this fancy disclaimer here.
“Oi, barber. You have a visitor.”
Todd didn’t answer. There was no need. Clutching the thin grey coat closer to his body, he simply sat on his bench and stared at the floor. His bench. Hah. Already he was beginning to slip, referring to this horrible place as belonging to him. He as belonging to it. Such a place should have no power over him, and yet he found himself slipping into the exact role he was expected to play: that of a prisoner. And a weak one at that.
At night he could see his breath streaming out in front of him like a cloud, feel the icy chill seeping straight into his lungs. If he hadn’t been sentenced to death already, he knew that the cold would kill him. Though it would be a sweet victory indeed, he doubted he would succumb to the illness by tomorrow. No, he would not be so fortunate. The pompous claws of the law would triumph, and he would fall before the harbingers of their justice the same as any other pathetic mortal.
It never occurred to them that he was the same as they were, or at least that he had been, once. They didn’t care that he had possessed a wife and a daughter and that he had been torn from them in a way that defied their precious sense of right and wrong. They didn’t care that he was the shadow of the future, a potent warning of the creature that every person could so easily become. The only difference between he and them was years of grief and the fact that he had simply given up caring about anything a long time ago. Yes, he had done wrong. . Yes, he deserved to die. But he was no demon, whatever they said. If he was, not even their dingy prisons and petty guards could have held him back.
The groan of the heavy door at the end of the hallway nearly overpowered the clipped sound of footsteps. He had almost forgotten that he had been notified of her arrival until Mrs. Lovett was throwing herself at his cell, pressing as close to the bars as she could manage and staring at him as if he was some sort of whipped dog. “Oh, you poor thing. They haven’t been treatin’ you right at all, Mista T. You look like a bloody ghost!”
He had always looked like a ghost. No more or less now than when he had stepped into her shop for the first time in fifteen years. Mrs. Lovett was just choosing what she wanted to see, imagining that somehow her care had been better for him than this minimalistic existence of cold, insomnia, and starvation. The only thing she had offered him was a little kindness and he had made it perfectly clear that he did not want it. Not from her. Not from anyone.
“I brought you a blanket. Made it meself. And I was going to bring you somethin’ to eat, too, but they wouldn’t let me. Said they didn’ want to risk me slipping you some poison, or nothing like that.”
Todd nearly laughed. Mrs. Lovett wouldn’t have given him poison if he got down on his knees and begged. And if he wanted to kill himself, he didn’t need her help. He had seen enough to know that.
A brightly coloured rag flew through the bars and landed on his boot. Moving for what seemed like the first time that day, Todd reached down and picked it up. It was a pathetically knit piece of garbage, partly unravelled and hardly big enough to fit across his lap. The garish mix of colours was out of place in the dark prison of greys and browns and blues. It offended his eyes.
“A bit small, I guess. But it’s the thought that counts, eh?”
He slipped his spidery fingers through the material, weaving them through the spaces in the yarn. It was warm. And it smelled of her.
Mrs. Lovett had stopped talking, only a quiet sniffle managing to pierce the complete silence that had settled over the cell. What right did she have to be crying? She wasn’t the one who was going to die tomorrow. In fact, what right did she have to be here at all?
“Get out,” he said. The words were quiet, heavy.
“Mister T, I swear, I didn’t know that Toby would-“
“GET OUT!” He was on his feet in a flash, throwing the blanket to the filthy floor. “I said OUT!”
A cough was rattling away in his chest. It burst forth, overtaking his entire body. Pain washed over him in waves. He doubled over, clutching the wall for support as he struggled to stop coughing, a mixture of spittle and blood spraying the stones at his feet. He gasped for air, squeezing his eyes shut and sinking down onto his bench. The coughs were no longer the bursts of pain, now they were little choking things, almost sobs as he alternatively expelled and inhaled the freezing oxygen.
“I’m so sorry Mister T. Honest I am.” Mrs. Lovett’s voice was trembling. He could almost hear the tears in her eyes. Unable to do anything else, he leaned his head back against the wall and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
The bloody boy. The bloody foolish woman. And the bloody demon barber who brought it all down on his own bloody head.
“I didn’t know that Toby would go to the police. He said he just stopped by the workhouse, and I believed him.”
Todd should have suspected that Toby’s visit to the old bailey would turn wrong. That he had already suspected and feared Todd... that his curiosity had brought him to look in Mrs. Lovett’s bake house while she had been sleeping the night before. He had wondered... but then the Beadle came, and the Judge. Todd had killed them, but Lovett hadn’t enough time to cut them up. So there was no proof that she was willingly involved at all.
“And I’m sorry about Lucy, love.”
He had been advancing on her, razor in hand, bloodied. She would have died for her crimes right then, but they hadn’t locked the bake house door.
“I never meant to lie. I love you, but I know now that I was trying to take something what never belonged to me.”
And then there had been police everywhere.
“Suppose it’s too late for all this now, love. But I wish I were in there with you, you know.”
But they wouldn’t arrest her, for Toby had traded her life for the barber’s. Convinced the foolish judge that Todd had been forcing her to commit such terrible crimes, and that the demon barber was the one at fault. And struck a deal that if he delivered Todd, Lovett would go free.
“Not without you, Mister T,” she told him. “I don’t want to live without you.” She crumbled, sinking down onto her knees beside his cell. One tiny hand gripped the bars, the other covered her face.
“The only other alternative is to die, Mrs. Lovett,” he said. A reminder of why she simply had no choice.
She began to cry, and each teardrop cut Todd like he couldn’t believe. Shocked, he simply watched her. “Don’t know where I’ll go after tomorrow. Won't have anything left after you're - ” she couldn't finish.
He felt a sudden flash of pity for the woman, a twinge of almost-regret. It caused him to start shivering again, his breath trembling as much as his hands. “By the sea, love,” he said after a moment of thought. For he could see here there whenever he closed his eyes, walking through the shallows with the surf licking at the hem of her dress. She would forget about him in time. She had her boy and a life ahead of her. A life without him.
“Mister T – I – I just can’t.”
“You can.” She could do what he never could. Survive.
“It hurts like you wouldn’t believe.”
Todd was staring at the floor again. He knew more about pain than she could ever experience, though she was getting a taste of it now. A deserving taste, perhaps, but he found himself loathe to leave her alone in this world without at least a hint of the kindness she had shown him. He pushed himself from his bench with a grunt and moved to her, grabbing the blanket. Kneeling, he stuck it through the bars, moving forward to wrap it around her shoulders. “Hush, love.”
She choked out a teary-eyed laugh and gripped his hands, pressing them to her mouth and kissing them. He realized that he didn't want to die.
He leaned his forehead against the bars, closing his eyes and letting her fiery lips work over the back of his hand. When her hand slipped between the bars - her fingers running along his cheek and pushing wild locks of hair behind his ears - he captured it in an iron grip. “Don’t suppose you can stay with me until morning,” he whispered absently, running his fingers along her skin in a twisting, winding pattern. As if he had been rehearsing for this moment, he followed the path he had been tracing for so many years – that of his precious razors. Upon recognizing his movements, Lovett’s eyes widened in surprise, sending fresh tears cascading down her pale cheeks.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, love,” she whispered.
“I know, Mrs. Lovett.” So was he. He leaned into her touch.
They sat together in silence until the guard came back.
Nellie Lovett held his heart. Not because he had given it to her, but because she had stolen it. Clawed away at his chest a little at a time and wrenched it from between his ribs. It had taken her until the very end, but she had triumphed. And now he was going to die.
He smirked from behind the blindfold they had tied around his eyes, knowing that she would be watching as the firing squad’s rifles drew a bead on his chest.
All that was going to fall was an empty shell.
Because Nellie Lovett was holding his heart and she wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Too little, too late.