In Camelot

Author: Telanu Rating: G
Fandom: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005 Burton movie--sorry, purists)
Pairing: None, it's gen! Gen, gen, gen! Remember, kids, platonic love is cool, too.
Summary: Wilbur Wonka, D.D.S., visits his son's amazing factory for the first time.
Disclaimer: I don't own nothin'. Even the title (and Wonka's greeting) comes from the musical "Camelot."
Thanks: To Nym, for ever-helpful comments and suggestions :)

Do not archive this story.


"Are you sure about this?"

"Pretty sure. I mean, Mum thinks I do it every night, but I don't. But I still remember how."

Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka stared at the strings of mint-flavored dental floss they each held dangling from their fingertips.

"I hated it when I was a kid," Mr. Wonka mumbled.

"We promised. We promised Mum and Dad. Everybody's going to brush and floss. Even the grandparents."

"The grandparents don't have teeth! Not real teeth, anyway."

"Grandpa Joe does. Come on." Charlie tugged experimentally at his thin white string. They didn't have much time.

"You've got to wrap it around your fingers," Mr. Wonka said, and true to his word, he began winding the floss tightly around both his middle and index fingers. "Dad always told me that. Then you string it between your teeth." He shuddered. "Like a saw. You know what, Charlie, this doesn't even make any sense at all. We haven't eaten yet. Why would you brush or floss before you ate?"

"Mr. Wonka"

"No, no, of course we promised, yes, and all that, but still, what if we didn't?" Wonka's eyes gleamed. "He'll never know. Will he? I mean, it's not as if he's going to inspect our" his voice trailed off and he looked terrified. "Oh, no. Oh, rats. He will, won't he? Ow."

Charlie sighed and helped Mr. Wonka untangle his hands from the floss, which he'd managed to turn into some kind of cat's cradle that dug right into his gloved fingers. "Dunno why you're so scared. You just"

"I'm not scared. I resent that. How can you say that? I'm only -- "

"You just saw him a couple of weeks ago and he was nice to you, wasn't he? He had all those news clippings about you on his walls." It had been pretty obvious to Charlie that Wilbur Wonka, D.D.S., loved his only son, but maybe that wasn't obvious to Willy Wonka, Chocolatier, at all, since he still had some strange ideas about family. Then again, Dr. Wonka had abandoned Mr. Wonka years ago, taking the whole house and disappearing into thin air as soon as Mr. Wonka crossed him. Very strange business all around. Charlie was glad that he couldn't imagine his own parents doing such a thing, no matter what. "He hugged you, even," he added.

"That was just in the initial rush of euphoria," Mr. Wonka said gloomily. "Or maybe it was the laughing gas."

"Mr. Wonka"

"Mark my words, tonight it'll all be back to normal. He'll tell me how candy is a waste of time. He'll sit and be all frowny and sinister at dinner. He'll ask me why I haven't gone into law, or animal husbandry. He'll make me look stupid in front of your whole family."

"It's your family now, too," Charlie felt obliged to point out, but Mr. Wonka seemed to be past hearing.

"We don't have to do this, you know. I'm very good at not doing things I've been avoiding. I consider it a particular talent of mine -- one of many, I might add. Hey!" His eyes lit up in a way that made Charlie worry. "He did it, why can't I do it? We'll just move! By the time he gets here, the factory will be gone! Picked up and left! Whoosh!"

Charlie wasn't entirely sure that Mr. Wonka was joking. There didn't seem to be any limits to what the factory could do: who was to say it couldn't just fly away on Mr. Wonka's whim? There was probably an Oompa-Loompa-manned spaceship beneath everything, just ready to lift the whole edifice up into the stars. Charlie made a note to find out for sure before it was too late and he and his family woke up on Jupiter one morning. "Wh-where will we go?" he asked.

"Oh, anywhere! Just any old where there is!" Mr. Wonka's eyes were dazzling now. He gripped Charlie by the shoulders. "Charlie" he tilted his head to the side with his most ingratiating smile, "have you ever seen Siberia?"

"I've a maths exam next week," Charlie said firmly, and Mr. Wonka wilted. "Now, come on. He'll be here in ten minutes!"

"I should never have taught you to tell time."

"I knew how to tell time before I came here," Charlie said indignantly.

The mopey look on Mr. Wonka's face vanished, replaced with the look Charlie liked best: the secretive smile that meant he was in his element, and about to explain something to Charlie that nobody else in the entire world understood, except for them and a few hundred Oompa-Loompas. "Oh, no you didn't. Not here, not in the factory. Time here works differently than it does outside. Haven't you realized?" Charlie shook his head. "Well, it does. The clocks are all upside-down. That's because everything is inside-out, you know: the Chocolate Room brings the outside in, right?" Charlie nodded. "Right. So if I turned the outside-in, it stands to reason I had to turn time upside-down. Simple! What do they teach you in school these days?"

"Nothing like that," Charlie said with a grin. "So, how much time do we have before your father gets here for supper?"

Mr. Wonka checked his gold pocket-watch with a satisfied smile that quickly changed into a look of horror. "Good grief! Nine minutes!"

"Right, then," Charlie said, and put a fresh string of floss in Mr. Wonka's hands. "Watch me. This is how we start."


Willy Wonka and the Buckets all stood in the dark, forbidding main hallway, awaiting the arrival of Dr. Wonka. Their gums were bleeding to a man.

Charlie was glaring at his mother, who shrugged helplessly. She'd always told him how important it was to keep his teeth clean. "We couldn't afford floss for years," she told him. "Your father only got toothpaste samples, not floss, so we just bought it for you." Then she narrowed her eyes. "And you haven't been using it, either." Charlie quickly stopped glaring.

"My gums hurt and my shirt itches," Grandpa George said irritably. All of the grandparents had eventually followed Grandpa Joe's example and started spending most of the day out of bed, but Grandpa George was the least happy about it. Mr. Wonka had offered to get the Oompa Loompas to carry him about in a chair, but he'd been even less happy about that. ("I'll be tipped into the river like that fat brat!")

"Now, Pops," Mr. Bucket said, nervously straightening his tie, while Mrs. Bucket fussed over her skirt. Charlie wasn't surprised that his parents were a little nervy. Dentists did that to people, a bit. But Mr. Wonka, standing right next to Charlie at the front of the group, looked as if he was going to throw up. Or faint. Or both.

Charlie didn't want to embarrass Wonka by asking him if he was all right, or anything like that. So instead, he sidled in closer -- not really close enough to touch, since Wonka didn't like that -- and murmured, "Have you thought about what you're going to say?" Wonka looked down at him. "When he gets here?"

"What? Oh." Wonka looked back at the main doors then, obviously trying to play it cool. "Oh, yeah. I've got it covered. No worries. None."

"Have you brought your cue cards?"

"Cue cards?" Wonka asked quickly, looking back down at Charlie with wide eyes. "Do you think I'll need cue cards?"

Dr. Wonka would be here any second -- there was no time for Mr. Wonka to flip out. "No," Charlie said quickly. "He's your dad. You don't need cue cards to talk to your dad. I was just asking. Stupid idea, really."

Just then, a loud banging sound echoed through the cavernous foyer. Everybody jumped. The sound was much louder than it seemed one person could make, just by knocking at a door.

"I think the roof fell in!" Grandma Georgina said brightly.

"No, Mum, it's just the door," Mr. Bucket said, and adjusted his tie again while an Oompa Loompa in a tailed jacket went to open the door.

"stupid idea" Wonka murmured, looking even paler than usual, but he didn't have time to say anything else, because the Oompa Loompa had opened the door, and the imposing silhouette of Dr. Wonka was standing right on the threshold.

"Oh dear," Grandma Josephine said from somewhere behind Charlie, "if only I'd brushed more as a girl"

Charlie had half expected Dr. Wonka to be wearing his white dentist's coat. Instead he was wearing a dark gray suit with a vest and a tie that had a diamond pin on it. He still had white gloves on, but they didn't look like they were made of latex, at least.

And he made a very odd picture, standing stiffly across from Mr. Willy Wonka, who was wearing a violet velvet coat, striped trousers, purple gloves and paisley spats.

Almost twenty seconds passed in total silence. Mr. Wonka looked paralyzed. Charlie decided that he'd been telling the truth: time did seem to work differently in the factory, because twenty seconds suddenly felt like two hours. Dr. Wonka waited for his son to greet him, before he eventually said, "Good evening." His voice was so deep, it seemed to shake the floor.

By contrast, Mr. Wonka's was high-pitched and squeaky when he blurted, "There's a legal limit to the snow here in Camelot!"

Dr. Wonka blinked. Charlie heard his family shuffle uncomfortably behind them, and someone -- he would have bet money on Grandpa George -- sighed in exasperation. Then there was an "ouch!" because somebody else -- he would have bet money on Grandma Josephine -- had evidently elbowed Grandpa George in the stomach.

"Dinner's all ready, you know," Mrs. Bucket said brightly.

"Oh, good," Mr. Wonka gasped, turning around quickly with a smile that was much too bright, even for him. "This way, then! Oh, Dad, these are the Buckets. You know, Charlie's family, this boy, you've met him." He gestured vaguely.

"I am very pleased to see you again, Charlie," Dr. Wonka said, and shook his hand, "and to meet all the rest of you." Charlie saw him stick out his hand to Mr. Bucket as well, but then Mr. Wonka grabbed Charlie by his shoulder and began to pull him along the hallway back towards the Chocolate Room.

"How'm I doing?" Mr. Wonka panted. "I knew I should have gone with the cue cards."

"You're doing great," Charlie lied, keeping his voice low. "But you know, maybe you ought to calm down a bithe's being nice, look" They glanced over their shoulders, to where Dr. Wonka had offered his arm to Grandma Josephine as they hurried down the hallway to catch up with Charlie and Mr. Wonka.

"--gums of someone half your age," Dr. Wonka was saying sincerely, while Grandma Josephine blushed. Grandpa Joe raised his eyebrows at Charlie, who grinned back.

"See?" Charlie prompted.

But Mr. Wonka didn't look reassured. They were drawing to the end of the shrinking hallway, almost to the door. Dr. Wonka looked extremely perplexed, but didn't say anything about the room's odd dimensions.

Mr. Wonka had his hand resting on the doorknob. "And this -- is -- the Chocolate Room!" His smile was huge with terror. Charlie thought he understood that, at least. Dr. Wonka had never wanted Mr. Wonka to eat so much as one piece of candy; how would he react to a whole room made of it?

"The Chocolate Room?" Dr. Wonka repeated, his face politely expressionless.

"Yeah. Yeah, the Buckets live there. Here. You know."

"Mr. Wonka moved our whole house in there," Grandpa Joe put in. "He's been very kind."

"A whole house within a single room?" Dr. Wonka inquired. "I confess to curiosity."

"It's not a big house," Mr. Bucket said quickly.

"But it is a big room," Charlie added. "It's a great room."

"Okey-dokey, then!" Mr. Wonka cried, apparently unable to take any more suspense, and swung the door open. The smell of warm, perfect, melted chocolate flooded the air and, as always, Charlie had to close his eyes for a second. Then he opened them again as he led the little group of Wonkas and Buckets into the room, because Mr. Wonka himself seemed frozen at the door.

Every time Charlie entered the Chocolate Room was like the first time. He hoped that never changed. He hoped he never stopped feeling that rush of happiness, of wonder, at the sight of candy trees and swudge and a river made out of chocolate.

Mr. Wonka was still lingering inside the doorway, as if he might bolt back out at any second. He looked anxiously at Dr. Wonka, who appeared completely thunderstruck by the whole room.

Then Grandma Josephine said, loudly, "Oh, my knee! These old bones! Dr. Wonka, do you think you could be so kind -- "

Dr. Wonka shook his head rapidly, and turned down to regard Grandma Josephine. "Of course, ma'am," he said. "Do forgive me. Let's get you to the house so you can sit down."

"We just love living here," Mrs. Bucket said, taking Grandma Josephine's other arm and smiling at Dr. Wonka. Charlie was relieved to see that her gums weren't bleeding any more, although they were still a bit red. "It's always warm, you see, and that's a nice change."

"It does feel, er, warm," Dr. Wonka acknowledged, sounding cautious. "Very comfortable." He glanced back at his son, who'd finally entered the room, and was bringing up the rear of the group. "Very comfortable room, son," he said more loudly.

Mr. Wonka stopped dead in his tracks, and it was his turn to look thunderstruck. "Really?"

"Er" Dr. Wonka said, "yes. Quite, ah, temperate."

Mr. Wonka smiled then, a big happy smile that showed off his dazzling white teeth. "Wow!"

Charlie grinned at Mr. Wonka, and dared to think that it might turn out all right, after all.


Mr. Wonka had decided that dinner wouldn't be in the Bucket house, tonight--he'd arranged for the sky to show a lovely sunset, and the Oompa Loompas had laid out a magnificent table on the riverbank with fine linen and silver plates. Off to the side, a quartet of Oompa Loompas in formal dress were playing a haunting melody on

"I've, erm, never had dinner accompanied by wineglass music before," Mr. Bucket said, sipping at his glass of milk.

"Oh, isn't it lovely?" Mr. Wonka asked. He was always buoyant with enthusiasm whenever the Oompa-Loompas were involved. He beamed over at the quartet, whose members each stood over a table filled with empty wine glasses. They drew their fingers around the crystal rims while the glasses hummed. "I think this is one of their original compositions. They're so musical."

"You brought them from Loompaland, of course?" Dr. Wonka inquired as a nearby Oompa-Loompa removed his salad bowl. Charlie dropped his fork on his plate as he looked over at Dr. Wonka, astonished. He'd never met anybody, besides Mr. Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas themselves, who had heard of Loompaland. Half the time, he couldn't help but wonder if Mr. Wonka had made up the place, and the Oompa-Loompas really came from somewhere else. Somewhere real.

Mr. Wonka shot Charlie a glance, as if he'd read his mind, before he looked over at his father. "Of course. Horrible place, it was. Just like in the books."

"The books?" Mrs. Bucket asked. "II'm sorry, I don't remember ever reading about Loompaland in school."

Dr. Wonka snorted. "School! What nonsense the schools teach children these days. I taught my son myself, with the books I had as a lad." He flashed Mr. Wonka a cautious glance. "He was a very intelligent boy. Got on well, in most things."

"Well, we think he's a very intelligent man," Grandpa Joe said loyally. Charlie thought it was neat that, even though Mr. Wonka had sacked him without any explanation fifteen years ago, Grandpa Joe still said he was the best boss anyone could ever hope to have.

But Mr. Wonka didn't look flattered, either by Grandpa Joe's praise, or his father's. He just poked around at the roast goose on his plate as he said, "I, uh, killed a whangdoodle while I was there."

Dr. Wonka raised his bushy gray eyebrows. "Did you, now?"

"Sure did," Mr. Wonka said, and then changed the subject right back again, saying, "Hey, Charlie goes to school. Don't you, Charlie?"

Charlie hadn't been prepared for everyone at the table to look at him. He especially hadn't been prepared for Dr. Wonka's eyes: intense, and so cold, even if he was trying to be friendly. "Eryeah," he said, hearing his voice come out all small.

"Really," Dr. Wonka said.

"Yeah," Mr. Wonka said, and laughed nervously. "He, uh, he likes spelling. And math. I taught him to tell time, though."

"He already -- ouch," Grandpa George said, as Grandpa Joe nudged him. Then he muttered, "What? I'm half sick of -- ouch!"

"And do you like school, young man?" Dr. Wonka inquired.

"It's okay," Charlie said. Truth be told, he didn't really. He wasn't stupid, but neither was he the cleverest pupil, and he'd never had many friends. Other children didn't want to get close to a boy who was so poor, and he'd been ill a lot, from not having enough to eat. Now that he'd moved into the legendary Wonka factory, more kids wanted to be nice to him, but he wasn't sure he wanted those kinds of friends. "I like the factory better."

"Then why not get the boy a tutor?" Dr. Wonka asked Mr. Wonka. "He'd get a much better education than he will in the schools. Especially if he's not even learnt basic geography."

"We think it's important for Charlie to go to school," Mr. Bucket said quietly, but firmly. "It'll be good for him to know about life inside and outside the factory."

"Mr. Wonka agrees with us," Mrs. Bucket put in.

Dr. Wonka looked at Mr. Wonka then, raising his eyebrows again. "Uhyeah," Mr. Wonka said to his plate, his voice slightly squeaky. "I meanhe gets to hang out with other kids. Make friends."

"Most children are repulsive," Dr. Wonka said to the table at large. "Not young master Charlie, of course, I can see that -- but I kept Wilbur the younger here away from the neighborhood children as much as I could. Nasty, selfish creatures. Every time I let him near them, it led to trouble. And they made fun of his headgear." He appeared proud as he looked back at his son. "Wouldn't they be jealous of your fine teeth now, eh?"

"Maybe they weren't all so bad," Mr. Wonka said, still talking to his plate. Charlie glanced over at Grandpa Joe, and saw him watching Mr. Wonka with a look of pity on his face. Charlie knew how he felt. "Maybe a couple of them would have been nice," Mr. Wonka continued. "If I'd gotten to know them."

"I doubt it," Dr. Wonka said. He wagged a gloved finger at Mr. Wonka. "Keep an eye on this boy of yours. He's a good lad, but he could easily become contaminated."

"I -- " Mr. Wonka stopped, then started again. "Charlie won't," he said firmly. "He couldn't."

"That's right," Grandpa George said grimly, and Charlie could tell he wasn't impressed with Dr. Wonka at all. "Our boy's no dummy." Then, to Charlie's delight, he winked at him. But Charlie felt like a bit of a dummy at the moment, since he didn't exactly understand what Dr. Wonka meant by 'contaminated,' only that it sounded as if it had more to do than with germs. He wasn't sure why.

A change of subject would be very nice, right about now. "Your real name is Wilbur, too?" Charlie asked Mr. Wonka.

Mr. Wonka frowned, but Dr. Wonka said, "Wilbur William Winchester Wonka the Fourth. The name's been in our family for generations. But he's always gone by Willy."

Mrs. Bucket smiled at Mr. Wonka. "Now that sounds like a mother's idea. What was Mrs. Wonka like?"

If Charlie had thought the silence before was awkward, this new, sudden one was deadly. Mr. Wonka turned even paler, and Dr. Wonka's eyes went even cooler and more distant. For a second, nobody spoke. Then:

"I think I left something in the house," Mr. Wonka said, got up, and hurried away from the table, towards the Bucket shack. His hands were shaking. The rickety door clattered shut behind him.

Charlie stared after him, wanting to follow, but wanting to hear what Dr. Wonka was going to say, too. Maybe he'd explain why the question was so upsetting.

"I'm sorry," said Mrs. Bucket, who already seemed to have figured it out, somehow. "I, I didn't mean to"

Dr. Wonka swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "Not at all, ma'am," he said, a little stiffly. "You could not have known. As it happens, Willy's mother died in childbirth."

Another moment of silence. Then Grandma Josephine said hesitantly, "Withwith another -- ?"

"With Willy," Dr. Wonka said. His lips thinned. The Oompa-Loompas had stopped playing on their wineglasses, and were looking towards the Bucket house in obvious concern. A couple of them were glaring at Dr. Wonka.

Charlie felt as if someone had opened up a very cold pit deep inside his stomach. That would explain a lot -- if Dr. Wonka blamed Mr. Wonka for Mrs. Wonka's death. And if Mr. Wonka blamed himself, too.

"I'm going to help Mr. Wonka," he blurted, and stood up fast, before anyone could stop him. "I'll see if I can, er, if I can help him find what he's looking for."

"I certainly hope so," Dr. Wonka said, without looking at Charlie, or in fact, anywhere but off in the distance. Charlie saw Grandpa George roll his eyes, before he turned and hurried towards the shack.

When Charlie entered his house and closed the door behind him, he saw Mr. Wonka was sitting by the fire, his hands dangling listlessly in front of him. "Mr. Wonka?" he said.

"Is he gone?" Mr. Wonka asked in a very small voice.

"No," Charlie said. "Dinner's not over. Come on, we'll go back and talk about something else." He didn't like seeing Mr. Wonka like this. He was meant to be enthusiastic, energetic, always in control of everything, of the whole factory, even when it didn't seem like it. He was a genius. Charlie walked over and tugged gently on Mr. Wonka's sleeve.

"Did he tell you she died?" Mr. Wonka asked, without looking at Charlie.

"yeah."

"Yeah. Of course he did. He blames me, you know."

"I'm sure he doesn't," Charlie said, even though he wasn't sure of any such thing.

"Well, you're wrong," Wonka snapped. "I knew it, growing up. Everybody knew it. He loved her. I was just a mistake. He always wanted her back. He'd have traded me for her in a heartbeat."

"Then he's wrong," Charlie whispered. He stopped tugging, and dared to rest his hand on Mr. Wonka's arm. Mr. Wonka didn't shake it off, or even appear to notice. "He's the one who's wrong."

"Hmm."

Charlie tugged again, then dropped the sleeve. "Come on. You can't hide in here. They're waiting for you to come back."

"I hoped he'd be different. That hug suckered me in." Mr. Wonka swallowed hard. "I don't think I'll invite him again."

"You don't have to," Charlie said. He tried a smile. "You don't have to do anything. You can do whatever you like, can't you?"

Finally, Mr. Wonka seemed to cheer up a little. "Yeah. Hey, yeah. I can, can't I?" He straightened his shoulders. "I always have. Ever since he left. Not going to stop now. No way."

"That's the spirit," Charlie encouraged, and Mr. Wonka let himself be tugged back out the door.

The scene at the table hadn't changed much; everybody was still eating silently and looking awkward, except for Grandma Georgina, who was smiling at a candied-apple tree. Charlie and Mr. Wonka sat down, carefully keeping their eyes on each other. Charlie made sure to keep an encouraging look on his face. At least he hoped it was encouraging.

"To answer your question, Mrs. Bucket," Dr. Wonka said suddenly, "Mrs. Wonka was a fine woman. A very fine woman, indeed."

Mr. Wonka froze in his seat, his hand halfway to his water glass, his eyes darting like a scared rabbit's. Charlie felt his heart skip in his chest.

Dr. Wonka put down his fork. "She was a quiet lady of considerable intelligence, strength, and determination." He looked hesitantly over at his son. "She would have been very proud of you."

Charlie's heart skipped again, but for a different reason, and he grinned. Mr. Wonka's mouth opened and closed, but nothing came out. Eventually he said, "Oh."

"This goose is quite good," Dr. Wonka said, turning back to his plate. The Oompa-Loompas started playing on their wineglasses again.


At the end of the meal, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket brought out a basket of apples for dessert. Mrs. Bucket had picked them up at the grocery store that very day. Dr. Wonka expressed his delighted surprise. "Fruit for dessert! I wouldn't have believed it."

"Oh, we love fruit round here, we do," Mr. Bucket said.

"Can't get enough apples," Mrs. Bucket said.

"And bananas!" Grandpa Joe added. "Andwell, everything really. All manner of fruits."

"Healthy to a T," Grandpa George said sourly. "That's us."

"Isn't that right, Willy?" Grandma Josephine prompted.

"Huh?" Mr. Wonka said, looking down at his apple, and obviously trying to appear interested in it. "Oh, yeah. Apples all the time." Then he bit into it, only grimacing a little.

"I worried about it, and then the bumper fell off," Grandma Georgina said.

Dr. Wonka bit into his apple, a big red one, with a relishing crunch, and smiled.

But during dessert, such as it was, Charlie got to thinking about something, and he couldn't quite put it out of his mind. Later, when the Oompa-Loompas were clearing the table and the Buckets were helping them (over their protests), he took Grandpa Joe aside.

"Grandpa," he whispered, glancing over at where Mr. Wonka and Dr. Wonka were talking by themselves, near the door. They both looked hesitant, but not unhappy -- just as they'd looked back in Dr. Wonka's dental practice.

"Yes, Charlie?"

"Howhow old is Dr. Wonka? And Mr. Wonka?"

Grandpa Joe raised one eyebrow, and smiled.

"I meanyou said you worked for him twenty years ago. So he's got to be older than Mum and Dad, even." Charlie's parents were both thirty-five. "But he doesn't look it. And after we left Dr. Wonka's house, that time we met him, Mr. Wonka told me he hadn't aged a day since he'd left. But if he's Mr. Wonka's father, and Mr. Wonka's older than Mum and Dad, then Dr. Wonka's probably even older than you"

"Probably so," Grandpa Joe said complacently. "Quite possibly very much older. We can't really know how old they are, exactly, Charlie."

"Butbut how"

Grandpa Joe laid his hand on Charlie's shoulder. "Haven't you figured it out by now?"

Charlie shook his head.

"It's magic, Charlie. Think about it! Everlasting Gobstoppers, ice cream that never goes runny? Oompa-Loompas from a land nobody's ever heard of? A man who can build a candy factory that extends for miles underground -- and his father is a man who can make his whole house fly away?" Grandpa Joe smiled. "That's a family with magic in the blood. You mark my words."

This was why Charlie loved Grandpa Joe: he'd say things that other grownups would never say, even if it was the truth. And some part of Charlie had known it all along; he'd only needed to hear it said aloud.

He looked back at the Wonkas, feeling dizzy. They were still talking, and seemed to be having difficulty meeting each others' eyes, just as they had all night. Mr. Wonka kept his candy cane firmly on the ground between them.

Magic. It made sense. Only, they seemed to use their magic differently. Dr. Wonka used his to make everything all clean and cold and shut-in, and it made him and his son unhappy. Maybe it had made Mrs. Wonka unhappy, too -- or maybe he'd only started acting like that after she'd died. Charlie would probably never know.

But Willy Wonka had done something else with his magic. He'd used it to make his own world, a world of such bright and wonderful colors and tastes and smells that Charlie could still scarcely believe it was real. Even if Mr. Wonka didn't like people, he'd used his power and his genius to make himself, and others, happy. Dr. Wilbur Wonka made his world brown and hard and empty, but Willy Wonka's world was bursting with life and energy, in spite of how he'd grown up. Or because of it.

Magical Mister Wonka. Charlie's heart swelled in his chest until he thought it might burst, as he looked at Mr. Wonka in his bright velvet coat and shiny top hat. "He's amazing," he whispered, feeling a surge of love so strong for this weird and wonderful man that it squeezed at his throat. And that was neat, too. He'd always liked Mr. Wonka -- well, ever since Wonka had let his family move into the factory, anyway -- but he'd never thought about loving him. He'd only ever loved his parents and his grandparents before, and this was a little different. But he couldn't help it, it was just extraordinary, knowing there was a person like that in the world, and that Charlie was living right under his roof.

Wow.

"He is amazing," Grandpa Joe agreed, and smiled at Charlie in a way that meant he understood exactly how Charlie felt. "Come now, lad. Let's help with the dishes."


Mr. Wonka and the Buckets all stood by the great main doors to bid goodbye to Dr. Wonka, just as they'd welcomed him. Things were a little more relaxed now, though not, Charlie couldn't help but notice, by much.

"Well," Mr. Wonka was saying. "It's beennice, Dad."

"Yes, indeed," Dr. Wonka replied. "Veryvery pleasant."

"Maybe I'll give you the full tour, sometime," Mr. Wonka said uneasily. Charlie thought that sounded like a terrible idea on the surface, but thanks to his mum, he was learning more about what grownups meant when they said certain things. In this case, he decided that 'sometime' really meant 'never.'

"Sometime, yes," Dr. Wonka replied, sounding as if he agreed with Charlie. "Thank you again for the meal and the company." He inclined his head towards the Buckets. "It was lovely to meet you all. Especially you, young Charlie. If all children were like youwell."

"Yeah, well, they're not," Mr. Wonka said. "That's how come he won the contest. Right, Charlie?" And to Charlie's great surprise, Mr. Wonka -- briefly -- rested a hand on his shoulder.

"R-right," Charlie stammered, hoping that was the right answer, but Mr. Wonka was already looking at Dr. Wonka again, his hand dropping to his side.

"So," he said, sounding more uncertain, "have a -- have a good trip home."

"I'm sure I will." Another awkward silence, then both men reached out and shook hands. Dr. Wonka's leather gloves made an unpleasant sound against Mr. Wonka's latex ones, like a balloon being rubbed.

Then the door closed behind him with a great, booming kerthud, and he was gone.

Mr. Wonka bent slightly at the waist, leaning on his cane, and let out a huge, relieved-sounding sigh. Charlie saw everybody else relaxing, too. Grandpa George muttered something, but it was so low under his breath that nobody felt the need to elbow him for it.

Then Mr. Wonka straightened back up, and looked at all the Buckets with a hopeful smile. "Dessert for real, now -- right?"

"Yes!" everybody cried at once. And they all headed back to the Chocolate Room at full speed, seizing the treats they liked best as soon as they were inside.

"Apples, my Aunt Sally," Grandpa George grumbled as he licked a lollipop.

"Now, Charlie," Mrs. Bucket called around the raspberry truffle she had in her mouth, "don't make yourself sick."

"I won't, Mum," Charlie called back. He was nibbling a piece of peppermint bark he'd got off one of the nearby trees, while he and Mr. Wonka lay side-by-side on the swudge by the banks of the river.

Mr. Wonka himself was sucking on one of the Chocolate Room's newest innovations -- candy hayseed. It was full of honey, and it was sticking out from between his teeth on a long stalk. His hat tilted forward, shading his face, and his long thin legs were crossed at the knee. He looked happy.

"That wasn't totally awful," he said, glancing over at Charlie. "I mean, it could have been a lot worse. Couldn't it?"

"Could have been," Charlie agreed, savoring the bark slowly, letting it melt on his tongue. "It was nice," he added more hesitantly, "when he said your mum would be proud of you."

Mr. Wonka got a wary look on his face. "I just meant, I'm sure she would be," Charlie added quickly, wanting to share with Mr. Wonka how he'd felt when talking to Grandpa Joe -- all that wonder and joy -- and not sure how to do that. "The factory. The candy. All this. It's great."

Mr. Wonka's cautious frown disappeared, and he looked pleased. "Yeah," he said, turning to smile up at the ceiling, which was shading into twilight, now. Little stars were starting to come out. "It is, isn't it?"

"I'm" The words just wouldn't come. "I'm really glad to see it all. To be here." Still not right.

Mr. Wonka smiled. A real smile. He didn't look at Charlie, but he said softly, "I'm glad you're here, too."

And that meant everything, everything in the world. Charlie hoped that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Wonka had understood what he'd meant, too. Perhaps he had, because when he glanced over at Charlie again, his eyes were warmer than usual, and he was still smiling.

Good enough, then. It'd have to be, for now. Charlie settled back down next to Mr. Wonka, tasting the melting peppermint on his tongue, and watched the fluorescent stars just beginning to shine.

The End