Title: Abracadabra: Part I
Rating: R overall.
Warnings: Slash. Adult Charlie/Wonka. Some sensuality.
Disclaimer: Not mine. But I did ask for them for Christmas.
C&C: Yes, please. What you liked, what you hated, favorite bits, least favorite bits, you get the idea.
Summary: Eight years after that fateful day in February, Charlie has finally learned how to want. Based heavily on the look of the future Burton film and the chronology of both Dahl's books. Depp is Wonka.
"Give a man everything he desires and yet at this very moment he will feel that everything is not everything."
A clap, muffled thinly by leather, and Charlie knows what's coming next. He slits open both eyes, staring up and up and up, where the ceiling is shaded in sugar, blue and violet and white dusting together in a familiar pattern of duplicated sky. It's still almost the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
"I have a thought!"
Knew it. Charlie rolls onto his side, flattening the swudge a bit beneath him, but it always springs right back, which probably has something to do with the way the Oompa-Loompas obsess over it, spinning blade upon blade of wavy thin grass and clipping each bit back into shape with the tiniest of pruning shears. Charlie loves to watch them, hypnotic in their precisely graceful energy, going about their business whatever it may be; he tried to help them at first, when he was still new to the factory and didn't understand how delicate one had to be, to avoid disturbing this world. They'd laughed at him then, his hands already too big, trying to work alongside them and lagging behind instead, turning out jagged edges of sugary grass.
"Is it about going back to the Alps?" Charlie asks. "That Swiss cartogeographer sent another message yesterday. I left it on your desk."
Wonka is perched beside him--not on the ground, but on a rock crafted entirely of sugar quartz, its faces transparent, faceted, glowing, and against that gleaming concoction the man is a study in rich darkness. His lean legs are crossed at the knee, his form invitingly angular, and he's sipping something green and smoking out of a china teacup. It's picturesque.
"No no," he says, waving a careless hand. "Well, yes and no, but no. And yes."
Charlie waits. The way Wonka's mind works, it gets both behind and ahead of itself. Usually at the same time. Better to wait until it sorts itself out.
"I was thinking that--don't you think we could cut the fudge carving time in half if we stopped the Oompa-Loompas dragging it about and imported Snorklebeasts from the Alps instead? It's quick already, yes, but the Oompa-Loompas do so complain about the aching of their backs afterward..."
Rolling all the way over, Charlie lets his weight rest on his stomach, bracing himself on his elbows and picking a buttercup, eating it petal by petal. Loves me. Loves me not. "I thought you didn't get on with Snorklebeasts," he says, voice mild.
"Well no," Wonka concedes, "but you do. And think, just think of the headache we could save the Oompa-Loompas. They do so hate heights."
Charlie feels obligated to point out the fact. "We're underground. Isn't height necessarily negative?" Still, it's an idea with a lot of outward merit, and some buried part of him wails at not thinking of it first. He's no magnetic genius like Wonka--he'd had to accept that long ago, that some things can't be taught, no matter how willing you are to work or to learn--but he does have flashes now and then of brilliance. At those times, he loves to see the true smile hidden beneath the readily polite version on Willy Wonka's lips.
"Nonsense," Wonka maintains. "Below ground, height must strain itself to become even more positive, to counteract the gravity of the earth. Everyone knows that." He sips from his teacup, then licks foam from his upper lip with a flash of pink tongue.
Charlie pauses, distracted enough to remember something, a little snippet of conversation. They had been in the Alps all right, with snow gusting around them in deeper and softer piles than even Wonka Brand cotton candy, and Wonka's darkly striped scarf had been wrapped round Charlie's neck, because he'd forgotten to pack his own. The knitted yarn had smelled irresistably like cinnamon melted in chocolate, like home. He'd been fifteen years old and gangly, and Wonka had been wearing his dark glasses to protect his eyes, waving his arms wildly to describe something, and Charlie had realized that for the first time, he and the other man were of a height, and Wonka had said... "Wait a minute. Isn't eighty percent of the world's population allergic to Snorklebeasts?" Charlie says.
Wonka's eyes widen, going round. "Gracious me, but you're right! How could I have forgotten that, I wonder?"
"How indeed, I wonder," Charlie says, a little dry, because he recognizes that crafty spark in those blue eyes well enough. It's just another test, then. At least they are becoming less frequent, these days, but they never entirely disappear. He picks another buttercup. Loves me not. He really should remember to start with the opposite phrase next time. Or how about something different? He trusts me. He trusts me not. He trusts me. Flowers aren't supposed to lie.
Wonka takes a last sip from his teacup, then takes a bite out of the rim, leaving a neatly scalloped hole. "Thank goodness you remembered. What a waste all that inedible fudge would have been, don't you think?" He rises nimbly to his feet, unfolding.
"I do think," Charlie sighs, and looks up at Wonka's back with baleful eyes. They've passed the point long ago where Wonka could call him clever, and Charlie could be satisfied with just that.
Wonka inclines his head a bit, acknowledging, but even when he turns back to face Charlie, the brim of his hat hides his eyes. When he isn't quite smiling, and his lips have just that slightest of curves, his skin is flawless, pale and smooth like crème de menthe. The possible eternity of youth surrounding him still strikes Charlie, sometimes. More often than he might like. Wonka seemed thirty, perhaps as much as thirty-five, that long day long ago when first they met, and after eight years he seems forty at the most, still fabulously quirky and exhaustingly eager. "I know you do." He lifts his head, and his eyes sparkle from under the delicate fringe of his eyelashes. "I do, you know."
It's a grudging thing, because he meant to stay a little annoyed, but Charlie smiles anyway. "Better do what you know, then."
"I know what I do best," Wonka returns, and Charlie thinks they've taken that quite as far as they ought to, and perhaps a step further.
Wonka turns again, and clearly he means to go, and that's enough to make Charlie sit up fully, leaning back with both hands braced behind him. The swudge is springy between his fingers, too exuberant for real grass. "Where are you going?"
Flipping his pocket watch quite out of nowhere, Wonka flicks it open one-handed and effortless, showing Charlie the face. Charlie knows it anywhere--the hands still point obediently, but all the numbers have fallen in a clutter at the bottom of the glass, wearing themselves weak trying to keep up with Wonka's pace. "It's four o'clock," Wonka says. "Almost quite precisely."
"Almost quite," Charlie repeats with a very narrow grin. He loses track of time in the Chocolate Room, because everything here is warm and wonderful and hazy and smells completely of chocolate, and because Wonka usually comes here with him. Now and then, Charlie likes to drift deep into himself and dream in silence, forgetting deadlocks and deadlines and anything else that ruins his creative process. Wonka is careful with time, in contrast. He never loses it, never wastes it, and most certainly never kills it. He likes to dream out loud.
Charlie doesn't mind it anymore. Besides, he's always liked listening to Willy Wonka speak...even when some of it really is perfect nonsense. But that's the way the man's mind works--getting the nonsense out of the way right off and turning the rest to genius. Sometimes turning the nonsense to genius, too.
Their creative personalities do differ in a number of little ways. That took some getting used to, at first, and they'd had their first real arguments over how and when and where and why and who was better off not disturbing whom at which time. Charlie learned within the first year that Wonka's intensity isn't all laughter and light; the man is a ruthless perfectionist by necessity, and has the unexpectedly moody streak that all geniuses seem to share. Once when Charlie was all of thirteen, and Grandpa Joe was so recently deceased, he had disturbed Wonka in the Inventing Room, demanding the man's attention with a sort of testing desperation until Wonka had cut him down with a few sparse words and shut the door in his face. Wonka had been exceedingly sorry afterwards--Charlie could tell by the greater consideration the man gave him for months after that horrible evening--but the incident had been quite the effective reminder, nevertheless.
Wonka is not his father, is not his brother, and in a disturbing way, is not quite his friend. They are close, as close as Wonka will apparently allow, but for years now they've been sliding into a pattern of student and mentor, separated by a strange professionalism that doesn't really suit either one of them. It's unpleasant. It's awkward. It makes the Oompa-Loompas unhappy.
Charlie misses being allowed to fling his arms around Willy Wonka's slim waist.
"Good luck," Charlie says only, and it isn't enough, even if Wonka doesn't need it in the first place.
Wonka smiles, and it's the real thing. Not the one of pure honesty he reserves for children and doubting adults, but the slow and secretive one he uses when something truly pleases him. Charlie's heart rises somewhere into his throat and starts to ache.
"Of course, thank you, of course," Wonka says, returning the watch to one of his pockets. He comes up with something else in one gloved hand, something that sparkles, and when he tosses it, Charlie catches it reflexively, cupping it in his fingers.
It's an Everlasting Gobstopper, a small emerald sphere. Charlie turns it like a crystal ball, manipulating it with deft twists of his fingers, rolling it back and forth over the back and palm of one hand, then sitting up a bit straighter and switching it from hand to hand, always flowing. It's the sort of trick a magician might use on a street corner. Wonka can only do a facsimile of it with both hands and his cane, but Charlie can manage the genuine article. After years of working side-by-side among the graceful Oompa-Loompas, he is very good with his hands.
"Excellent!" Wonka cries, and claps both hands together, muffled applause, his cane resting in the crook of one arm. Charlie manages not to simply glow with praise, however fleeting. "Your luck is always the best, isn't it? I'll put it to good use."
Charlie arches both eyebrows, tilting his head. "Promise?" He used to ask that too often, when he was still very young, but Wonka never really seemed to mind. "Promise."
Resting a hand over his heart, the man goes nearly solemn for a moment. "Cross my heart," he says, and does it with one gloved finger. "I promise."
Good enough. Charlie sprawls backwards against the confectionary hillside again, still playing back and forth with the Gobstopper for a moment. "I believe you," he says, then pops it into his mouth. Pity they always stay the same flavor, really. That's something to work on in the future. At the same moment, he sees Wonka's eyes widen a little, lips parting as if to protest, and a disconnected part of his mind realizes that this Everlasting Gobstopper must have actually been his--as in, Wonka had been sucking on it.
Well, if he wants it back, he'll have to ask. Nicely.
He doesn't, and a minute later he goes, stepping light and sure back out of the Chocolate Room and toward the Inventing Room. Wonka is a bit of a creature of habit, after all. Charlie curls his tongue around the Gobstopper and wonders if it all means anything, or if he just likes the idea of holding something in his mouth that Wonka might have touched with his tongue, and with his lips. It's still substitution, but Charlie is good at that sort of culinary math. Ninety-two percent fantasy, seven percent lonely patience, four percent pure sugary lust, and 2 percent Wonka's perfect gleaming lips. One hundred and five percent decadent misery.
Charlie knows the reason for his unhappiness well enough. Before the first news of the Golden Tickets, he had known better than to want. He had conserved his strength for more important things than desire, more desperate to survive than to dream, and though his imagination had always been an active thing, it had been of necessity banked much of the time by exhaustion or worse. By age ten, he had already forced himself to forget how to want more, because the not-getting of it hurt just a little too much.
But then came Wonka.
With the first notion, the first idea of a Golden Ticket, Charlie had experienced a pang of want so sharp, so consuming, that he'd actually felt a twinge of guilt once he was holding the last ticket in his hands, as if wanting so much had somehow been cheating. He still believes that the power of that desire had been greater than any good fortune, and that his desperation, with nothing left to lose, had somehow brought the ticket straight into his hands. Even now, eight years older, he considers his childhood self to have had the ultimate advantageous disadvantage.
Having a great many of your wishes suddenly granted is a marvelous thing. It's also a little terrifying.
Knowing what you want is usually enough to make you want what you can never have.
Charlie closes his eyes, blotting out the warm delicacy of the manufactured world around him, and he indulges himself. He yearns. He pines. He even angsts, just a bit, because though Wonka is generous beyond belief, and gives everything he has and everything he can possibly create, he never surrenders anything of himself.
A little tap on his shoulder rouses him again after a minute or two, and he opens his eyes to see one of the Oompa-Loompas hovering over him, her eyes wide and bright. She barely has to lean down to whisper into his ear.
He tilts his head and listens. "The boiler room? The main or one of the auxiliaries? Oh. I see. Butterscotch Ripple or Marshmallow Cream? Well, that's different." The Oompa-Loompa nods, and he pushes himself up to his feet, leaving an imprint in the swudge that quickly disappears. "Let's go." Some problems really are literally too big for the Oompa-Loompas to handle alone.
Some time later, squished between a sheet of metal and the back wall of one of the factory's hundred-thousand rooms, he begins to think that some jobs are too big even for regular humans, and that asking the impossible isn't really fair, even in Willy Wonka's domain. He has the Oompa-Loompas for company at least, and they are brilliantly helpful, even if they rarely initiate conversations and never question him...even when he's about to do something very stupid, such as open the inner barrel of a boiler without remembering to drain the thing first. They do sing about the event afterwards, of course, but that's always a little anticlimactic. Besides, being splashed with marshmallow cream isn't the worst fate he can imagine.
"Hand me the other one, please," he says to the nearest Oompa-Loompa from his position wedged halfway under the boiler, holding a screw in place with one hand and reaching out the other for the screwdriver. "The new one."
A hand appears, but instead of small and pale, it's long-fingered and gloved in black. It is holding the right wrench at least, a long strange one with a handle turned to a ninety-degree angle, so Charlie gives a mental shrug and takes it. "What on earth is that? Or off earth," Wonka says, leaning over the edge of the boiler to eye the wrench, "not to restrict you in any way of course." He looks distressingly tidy, from Charlie's point of view. Altogether unnaturally smooth, the ironed creases still crisp in his clothing.
Charlie holds up the wrench. "I made it. It's for screwing around. Around corners, that is." He grins, a little naughty, and ducks beneath the boiler again.
"No, no no," Wonka exclaims, catching and tugging at Charlie's sleeve. "Come out of there, out of there right now, and taste this."
Wonka's getting marshmallow cream all over his gloves, so Charlie relents, obediently opening his mouth. He's learned not to question, any longer, whether something Wonka gives him might be safe or not. The man might be exuberant, but he isn't entirely careless. Most of their accidents have been, fairly enough, impossible to prevent--like the time Charlie had to be packed off to the hospital after a nasty allergic reaction to Wonka's Marvelous Metallic Fudge. They only manufacture hypoallergenic sterling silver fudge now, as a result.
Whatever Wonka gives him is a bright and very deep green, and tastes of mint and maybe sugared cream. "It's good," he offers.
Wonka claps his hands together and spins around neatly on both feet, his smile dazzling. "Isn't it? It is! Do you like it, then?"
"Yes," Charlie reassures him, ready to go back under the boiler again. "What is it?"
Wonka clasps both hands together atop his cane, lips curved in his best and most eagerly secretive smile. "You will never, never guess. You will never be able to guess what I made it from. From what I made it. You know the grammar." He waves a hand.
"Well, it tastes of mint..." Not that that necessarily means anything, considering Wonka's talents with flavors.
"Broccoli!" Clearly, the man's enthusiasm far outpaces his patience with any guessing games at the moment.
Charlie sits up fast enough to smack his head against the bottom edge of the boiler; it makes a perfect ringing C note, and sends his vision spinning for a moment or two. "You made that out of broccoli? As in the vegetable? Bane of children everywhere?"
Wonka looks ready to be offended, or at least a little put off. "You don't like the idea?"
"I don't think anyone's going to believe you," Charlie corrects. "It's fabulous." He grins. "You're fabulous." It's just slipped out, but since it's the truth, who cares. Wonka certainly looks startled, eyes gone appealingly wide, but he doesn't say anything. Returning briefly under the boiler, Charlie tightens the last of the screws, then works his way out again and rises to his feet. "There. Another minor catastrophe averted." The Oompa-Loompas seem more than willing to tidy up the rest of the mess.
"Mostly averted." Wonka has a strange, high flush in his cheeks that Charlie has seen only once or twice before; good gracious, but he's blushing. He's laughing too, eyes a brighter blue than any sky Charlie remembers. "You do have marshmallow cream in your hair. And everywhere. Pity about that shirt."
"It'll all come out in the wash," says Charlie without a thought, and only a moment afterward does he realize that he's come out with one of Wonka's own favorite sayings. They share a briefly awkward look, then laugh together. At least he hasn't really ruined anything, since the shirt and most of the rest of his clothing is already white. He and Wonka don't quite share the same taste in fashion, but the sewing prowess of the Oompa-Loompas has proven more than equal to the task of pleasing them both in very different ways. Charlie prefers his clothing high-collared, almost Mandarin, with far looser sleeves than Wonka's frockcoats would allow. He likes having his arms free.
He likes being free to move, to create...to touch.
Then he's shocked, when Wonka lifts one gloved hand and runs two fingertips down his cheek. Charlie can count on one hand the times the man has touched him intimately, and yet now Wonka is setting those fingertips to his lips, licking off marshmallow cream. If Wonka's eyes weren't closed, Charlie thinks--hopes--that he could see something new reflected back at him in blue. As it is, he's most certainly gaping.
Wonka licks his fingertips again. "Augustus-flavored-chocolate-covered-Gloop would have ruined me," he says, his head tilted just low enough that Charlie still can't see his eyes. "Packaging you coated in marshmallow might make me a fortune. Much pleasanter taste, don't you think?" His voice is utterly innocent, tone perfectly mild.
And if a proper response to that even exists, Charlie doesn't know it, and besides, his brain is reeling at the moment. Not just with the image, a curl of pink tongue against dark fabric, but with the sudden warm influx of possibility as well, pressing inward against his chest until he wants to gasp for breath. Cheeks still dimly flushed, Wonka has already turned, already slipped away and out of Charlie's grasp, but maybe where and when and how he goes no longer matter so much, or mean the same thing.
Charlie knows how to want him, after all. He knows where to find him. Most importantly of all...he might even know, now, how to take him.
(To be continued.)