Ah, it's the end of an era; this was two years in the making! Thanks so much for reading and all your lovely reviews! A thousand thank-yous to my Betas as well, I couldn't have done it without you guys!
When she woke, Willy was leaning over her in all his tousled glory. Lauren smiled drowsily at him as he traced the 'DC' above her breast with one finger. "What fascinates you about that tattoo?" she asked finally.
"I don't know," Willy said. There was along pause and Lauren allowed herself to bask in the sensation of being in love. Finally he spoke. "I guess because it's a mystery. When I look at you, I don't see you as that kind of person... a tattoo person," he clarified. "Every time I see it, it's a surprise."
Lauren stretched, an activity Willy regarded with interest, she noted. "Well, I never considered myself the tattoo sort either. I got it when my father died, to remind me that the company was a part of me. After he passed, it was tempting to just get away from it all. I had a lot of money and I was so young. It would have been easy to sell Derringer's and move off to the west coast, or something. It was the reason I stayed, because it was a part of me and a Derringer takes care of herself, always."
"But you aren't a Derringer," Willy said. "You're a Bucket." His face was a curious mask of calm, with a hint of calculation around the eyes.
She squinted at him suspiciously. "Of course I'm a Derringer. I think in many ways I'll always be one. Just because you're a Wonka, doesn't mean you aren't a Bucket too." For a second, Lauren took a moment to ponder the incestuous implications of that statement.
He looked surprised. "Very true," he replied, and his expression dissolved into a satisfied smile.
"And now we must get out and about. I think Aunt Emma has some very interesting news for us," Lauren said, pressing a kiss to his collarbone before vaulting out of the bed. Willy followed more slowly, looking self-conscious in the artificial sunlight. Lauren was determined to act as unconcerned as possible, and sure enough, Willy's bashful behavior vanished after a few minutes. When he disappeared into the bathroom for a shower, Lauren redressed in her former costume, now looking a bit worse for the wear.
"Willy, how can I get my things brought up?" Lauren called into the bathroom.
He appeared in the doorway, toothbrush in hand. She noticed that it had superman on the handle. "Just ask one of the Oompa Loompas." Superman dove gracefully through the air as he gestured. "They are helpful to be happy... wait, strike that, reverse it," he said, inserting said toothbrush into his mouth.
By the time her luggage situation was resolved, Willy was ready to head down to breakfast, having procured a spare toothbrush for Lauren to use. The walk was pleasant, almost normal, if she ignored the busy Oompa Loompas running past at random. One appeared to be carrying a chop that was larger than he was. Another followed with a large ham. "What's the pork for?" Lauren had to ask.
"Dinner," Willy said, looking mystified by her question.
They walked in silence for a few minutes. "Willy, I need you to brace yourself," Lauren said firmly.
"Why?" The next moment she pushed him against a wall and pressed her lips against his. The kiss was warm and soft, passionate without being too demanding. Her tongue moved in lazy caresses against his, while his hands gripped her forearms almost convulsively. Slowly he relaxed, releasing his hold and sliding an arm around her waist. She broke the kiss carefully and stepped back to give him some space.
"Are you all right?" she couldn't help asking.
"I think so," Willy replied, straightening his top-hat with care. "I may need mouthwash... later."
"Okay," she said, accepting the comment in the spirit in which it had been intended.
When they reached the Bucket house, everyone was practically bouncing with excitement. Charlie swooped down on them the moment they walked through the door, only to do a double-take when he caught sight of Lauren.
"I'm going to have a brother!" he announced ecstatically, wrapping his arms around his cousin.
"Or a sister," James said, coming up behind him and putting a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Isn't it wonderful news?" he asked, looking up at the two and smiling hugely.
"It is! Congratulations," Lauren said, pulling her uncle into a hug. She released him and caught Willy's less-than-pleased expression. She elbowed him gently, "Isn't this just the best news?" she prompted.
"Yeah, it's swell," Willy said, that big false smile of his. James smiled distractedly, unaware of their benefactor's insecurities, and happily moved back to Emma's side.
"You know, when the baby comes, it's going to need a lot of attention at first," Lauren said. "You and Charlie are going to be hanging out a lot more so his parents can watch the after it for at least a few months."
She let this sink in for a second, then watched as his smile became genuine. "That's true. I mean, Charlie won't want to do stuff with a baby," he looked at Charlie for confirmation.
"Yeah, especially a girl baby," Charlie said, looking disgruntled at the idea.
"Oh, you know... girls aren't so bad," Willy said, looking everywhere but at his friend. Lauren reached out and cautiously touched his hand. He blushed, but at least he wasn't flinching.
Charlie looked like he was going to comment on that, but Irene interrupted just in time. "Lauren, darling, whatever are you doing here?" she asked, pulling her daughter into a hug. It felt good, even righ, to hug her. This woman stepped into the role of mother more easily than Lauren had ever imagined was possible.
"Oh, just trying up some loose ends," she replied, smiling mysteriously.
Lauren was aware that work was piling up at home, though she took care of everything that could be done at a distance in good time. She had to periodically fly back, usually accompanied by Willy or Charlie in the Great Glass Elevator. To be honest, the idea of looking down and seeing your feet standing on nothing made her queasy when she thought about it, but it was so much faster than a jet that she kept on using it. Lauren found herself loathe to mention the problem to Willy lest he invent some kind of teleportation machine for her instead. Some things were best left alone, and the space-time continuum was one of those things.
Lauren was surprised how smoothly everything was going. Willy slowly got used to physical contact, at least with the few people he knew weren't infectious. He did invent the Hsawaknow for Lauren to use whenever she flew over from the U.S., because one never knew what strange diseases a person could pick up in foreign countries.
There were the occasional arguments, such as when Willy invented a candy called Orange Orgasm that slowly built up to an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Lauren told him the name was completely inappropriate, no matter what had inspired the candy. After much yelling, they compromised with 'Orange Outbursts.' It was their first fight, and also how Lauren found out that Willy liked when she stood up to him. They stayed up that night talking and sharing Orgasms... orange ones. The sex got better and Lauren experienced a new level of trust in her relationship with Willy. For the first time, she believed that the man she was dating wasn't with her because she was beautiful, or powerful, or wealthy. Willy really loved her, which was why she was contemplating an idea she'd never entertained before... moving in.
"Willy, can I talk to you for a minute?" Lauren asked as he was pulling on his gloves.
"Sure," he replied, smiling beatifically at her. He had the most incredible teeth.
"What would you think of me moving to England more permanently?" she asked, watching his expression carefully for signs of unease. Instead, he seemed to glow with excitement.
"Oh boy, what a great idea!" he exclaimed, clapping his hands. His hat tilted at a dangerous angle and she reached up to straighten it. He caught her wrists and pulled her in for a chaste kiss, bringing the number of kisses he'd initiated up to an astounding total of seven!
"Willy, you've got to come see what I've made!" Charlie shouted excitedly from across the room. Intrigued, Lauren followed at a slower pace than Willy's sprint. Charlie stood at a work table in front of a cage with a bizarre creature inside it. Neither felt the cage's occupant worthy of comment, so Lauren focused on the strange yellow, liquid substance in the dish before them. Charlie proceeded to explain, in extremely technical terms, that he had discovered a way to repel the vicious vermicious knids that stalked the forests of Loompa Land. Apparently the invention was to be called: Stunningly Venomous Instant Knid Spray. The two grew more and more excited as they talked about possibilities and consequences of the discovery. So enthralled were they by the discussion that they almost missed when the small, floppy-eared animal reached through the bars of his cage and tried to swipe the SNIKS from the table.
Catching up the cage, Charlie shook his finger vigorously at the morose-looking animal. "Silly flobbit, SNIKS are for knids!" He moved away, still berating.
Willy looked at Charlie before Lauren felt his eyes on her. She smiled up at him and he blinked bemusedly. She was prepared for a comment on the SNIKS, the flobbit, or even the weather. She was not prepared for: "Would you like to meet my father?"
She thought about it for a long moment. "Very much so."
It seemed as though things couldn't be better. Usually that would've frightened Lauren, except that Willy had a much more extensive imagination than she possessed and they still had far to go before their happiness plateau-ed. Glancing over at Willy as they flew over the small town his father lived in; she was transfixed by the expression of utter contentment on his face.
"You look happy," she said, unaware of the equally relaxed joy on her own features.
"It must be because I am," Willy replied, his grin stretching from ear to ear.
"Don't forget about the man who suddenly got everything he'd always wanted," Lauren cautioned, her tone grave and serious.
Willy's brilliant smile dimmed and he looked concerned. "What happened?"
Lauren put her hands around his neck, drawing him down for a promising kiss. She looked deep into his violet eyes as she pulled away. "He lived happily ever after."