"What do you mean, 'Mr. Wonka, sir, I don't think it's a good idea to use those dolls'? For one thing, they're puppets, not dolls! And why not?"

"All I'm saying is that this girl just lost her mother, and she's coming to meet her last living relative," Charlie explained gently. "I just think that it'd be a bit… rude… to greet her with those doll, er, puppets."

"But that song is so catchy!" protested Willy.

"Let me put it this way, Mr. Wonka," Grandpa Joe said, resting a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Those puppets haunted me more than anything that happened to the other children."

"Well, alright…" he finally relented, seeming a bit hurt. "I guess I won't use them. Besides, I haven't quite figured out yet how to keep the fireworks and avoid burning the whole thing down." He quickly brightened, however. "But do you think she could see them later, when she's more comfortable here?"

"Of course," nodded Charlie. "After all, it's still your factory. Providing you don't burn the place down."

"Oh, I'll figure it out sooner or later. I think I'm getting pretty close now."

Wren Samson stepped out of the hotel, and instantly felt the dead chill that had set in over the night. She pulled her long black dress coat around her as she stepped into the limousine her father had sent, her purple eyes blinking furiously as a dozen lights from cameras flashed in her face. She quickly shut the door and was lost behind the tinted window.

She had gotten in at three thirty, and a cab had taken her to a five star hotel suite where she had been able to catch a few hours sleep. She awoke at seven, and had gotten ready, both physically and mentally, for the ordeal ahead. After that, she had just paced and tried to occupy herself with her current books, The Red Green Book and The Rose After the Thorns: Breeding Roses for Experienced Gardeners. She also listened to a lot of show tunes. That's what she did when she was nervous. Or upset. Or happy, for that matter.

The girl touched the metal box she had hidden under her coat. She didn't want the press to see it, because they would want to know what was in it. Wren herself didn't even know what was in it. Her mother had given it to her, she had said to give it to her father.

She sighed, leaning back onto the plush black vinyl. She felt sick, like she always did right before a music exam or a performance. And this wasn't something you could make yourself faint and get out of it. As much as she hated to admit it, she had gotten out of at least five concerts that way. Never an exam, though.

It was fifteen minutes to six, pm, and they were about ten minutes away from the factory. It would have been so ironic if it was ten o'clock. Everyone knew that ten o'clock am on February 1st had been the day the great chocolate factory had been closed, and on the same time and date fifteen years later, it had been opened again to those ten people.

I wonder what he's doing right now… she thought to herself. This is probably just a slight inconvenience for a man like him. He's probably just heading out of another room right now to make it to the door on time to meet me.

Actually, Willy Wonka had been up since five, pacing his room for nearly an hour before spending nearly another hour getting his hair just right. Normally it only took half an hour. He was more vain about his long locks than most women were. After that, it was dressing in his favourite plum-coloured jacket and his lavender gloves that squeaked just a bit and reminded him of his father's dentist gloves. Next his hat, situated just so on his head, and then his candy-filled cane that he didn't need but carried around for show. He tried to go about business as usual, but his head was in the clouds. Only a few quick Oompa-Loompas saved him from a rather nasty incident with the Exploding Sweets.

He was so nervous on his way to the main hallway that it was a miracle in itself that he didn't run face first into the glass elevator as he had done so many times before. Charlie had started keeping count, actually, and on the clear wall was a tally in window markers totalling eleven. Of course, they were erased every month, and there were two elevators.

The great glass box stopped two floors before, and Charlie himself stepped in, dressed in a bluish suit that actually looked rather nice on him.

"Nervous?" the boy asked as the elevator zipped off. Both had grown used to it, although a bar had been installed so that he could hold on.

"Well that's the understatement of a lifetime," he replied, frowning slightly, checking his reflection in the glass. "I look alright, right? My hair's okay?"

"Your hair is fine, Mr. Wonka, and so are your clothes and your teeth and everything else. I'm sure Wren is going to love you. After all, if I were meeting my father for the first time, I'd certainly be glad for it."

The door of the limousine swung open, and the flashing lights started once more. The girl stepped out, the heel of her black shoe breaking though a thin puddle of ice. She lifted her head, and her thin brown hair fell away to reveal eyes that held a trace of fear. She glanced at the factory door for a split second before her gaze darted to the ground.

Every paper in the city seemed to be there, and they all wanted a clean shot of her face. Microphones were pushed towards her, but their wielders were pushed back by the police, as were those who were waving signs painted with the likes of "Boycott Immoral Wonka!" and "Chocolatiers Should Be Choosey!"

Wren was blinking rapidly against the bright lights, but she caught a glimpse of a sign that made her blood boil.

"Wonka, Out of Wedlock with a Whore!"

She walked past, however, although a quick hand motion, seemingly to move back a strand of her hair, was actually used to wipe away several tears.

As soon as she was through the great iron gates, they closes and the factory doors opened. There stood Willy Wonka, his malt silver coat open to reveal his best purple jacket and his neo-Victorian garb.

Wren looked up, nearly raising an eyebrow. She had been half-expecting the dolls. Walking up the steps, she finally faced the man her mother had cursed for over fifteen years.

The sole thought that flashed through her mind was: How in the hell did Mom fall for a wing-nut like this?

A wide grin shot across Willy's pale face. "Hi, Wren! I'm so glad to finally meet you! I hope you'll be happy in the factory!" He opened his arms, anticipating a hug. This was rare for him, usually he avoided physical contact. Perhaps the nature of parenthood was getting to him already…

Instead of leaping into his arms in a flurry of tears with a swell of music played on thirty-some violins in the background, however, Wren grasped his left hand in her own, shaking it. "Thank you, Mr. Wonka, and thank you for taking me in, as well."

On the outside, he was still smiling, although it had been subdued a shade and his right arm had dropped limply by his side. Inside, however, he was downright put off. Mr. Wonka! Mr. Wonka is my father! Well, actually, my father is Dr. Wonka, but…

The two entered the factory, and the massive doors slammed shut behind them.

"Just drop your coat anywhere," said Willy, gesturing to the area in general. "My, uh, staff, will get it later. Your things beat you here, they're already in your room. I thought I'd show you where you'll be staying, and then give you a little tour of the factory. Sound good?"

"I'd like that, Mr. Wonka," she replied stiffly, tentatively placing her long coat on the floor and hugging the metal box to her chest. Underneath she was wearing a black pleated skirt and a white blouse that didn't seem to differ so much from her school uniform. She noted that it was hot, but didn't ask why. She figured maybe Americans were more sensitive to the cold.

"Oh, and about the whole Mr. Wonka thing… You can call me… You know, Dad or something, if you want. I'm not really used to the title, but it sounds a bit more… right, you know?"

Wren's answer was careful, almost rehearsed. And perhaps it had been. "Until we know each other and have a relationship beyond that of the biological bond, I'd feel more comfortable with 'Mr. Wonka'."

The man was visibly crestfallen. "Oh, yeah, I guess that's best. I mean, we just met, and I don't know you and you don't know me, so… Yeah." He straightened his jacket in an attempt to look business-like. "Come this way, Wren. Or would you prefer 'Miss Sampson'?"

She caught the barbed sarcasm, but she knew she deserved that. "Wren is fine, Mr. Wonka. Lead the way."

Mrs. Bucket heard the conversation from the end of the hallway where she stood with her family. Oh, my, she thought to herself. That didn't go well at all. Poor Willy…

"You've probably seen Charlie and his family on the news, but this is them," the candy man introduced, still acting stiff and professional, which didn't suit him at all. "Mr. and Mrs. Bucket, Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, and… Well, Grandma Georgina thinks she's a sheep-talker right now, so she's probably in the Cotton Candy Room…"

Wren seemed confused. "Why would there be sheep in the…" Maybe she was already expecting the worst in the factory, or maybe it was the Wonka genes in her, but she immediately recalled how much cotton candy looked like wool. A look of disgust shot across her face. She had eaten Wonka cotton candy! "That's disgusting!"

"Oh, it's hygienic and everything," her father assured her. "FDA standards. As for the sheep, well, it's a funny story. I might tell you some time. Come now, time to see your room!"

The girl made a vow to herself not to eat anything in the factory unless she knew what was in it and what it had grown on. She followed the man, who had just looked over his shoulder.

"Heh, purple eyes. Bet you hated those growing up. I know I did."

Well. That was random. Then again, he's random… "I did get teased a bit, so I just started wearing colour contacts, and… Watch out!"

Willy Wonka stepped face-first into the glass elevator for the umpteenth time. He pulled away, the breaking of the suction giving a slightly pop. "Yeah, I sorta meant to do that…"

Charlie sighed, pulling a marker from his jacket pocket, opening the elevator, and making another mark on the glass wall. "You get used to it after a while. Trust me."

"Uh huh…" That was the sole response she could formulate. How the hell could my mother have set her sights on an idiot like this? She could have done so much better! Hey, he might have been a gigolo. Then she should have gotten her money back

Both got into the elevator, and Willy pushed a button with the end of his cane. It went up, somewhat slowly for the elevator.

As they ascended, Wren gazed out in wonder at the floors they were passing. A room with giant pillow-shaped marshmallows, a room that was dark but had what seemed to be glow-in-the-dark lollypops illuminating it, and a swimming pool that was filled with pink lemonade. So it was no surprise that she nearly jumped out of her skin when the candy man rapped the metal box with his cane.

"What's in that?" he asked, apparently just noticing it.

She had forgotten all about it. "My mom, she told me to give this to you. I don't know what's in it, actually."

He took it, examining it carefully. It was a rather plain box, red with a silver pattern on the top and sides. It looked cheap, in all honesty. He was about to open it when the elevator jerked sideways. Willy, used to it, managed to keep his balance. His daughter, however, was flung face-first against the thick glass.