Disclaimer: I sure don't own anything in this story. Roald Dahl is teh awesome. So is Johnny Depp, but that's entirely different.
This is for Niki, because after she made me watch this movie, our catch phrase became, "He needs a hug. And a sandwich."
The week of Charlie Bucket's eighteenth birthday, Willy Wonka invented a rum raisin chocolate bar that only intoxicated people of legal drinking age. Charlie had never really understood how his mentor could create such amazing candies. All of Charlie's creations were clever, delicious, even profitable, but even when Charlie came up with a fantastic idea for a magical new chocolate, he could never quite figure out how to bring it about. That was all Willy, and when he was gone, the glory days of the Wonka Chocolate factory would be over. As much as Charlie loved chocolate, and as hard as he tried, he was never going to be able to duplicate Willy Wonka's special brilliance.
Soon after Charlie's birthday, Willy finally came to a realization.
"Is something bothering you, Charlie? You haven't been all peppy and full of ideas lately."
"I don't know," Charlie said, toying with a bit of red licorice. "It's just…ever since Grandpa Joe died…I've been thinking…"
"Thinking about what, Charlie?" Charlie shrugged.
"Well, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine and Grandma Georgina are gone, and Grandpa George won't be around forever, and neither will your dad, or my parents, or…"
"The whole reason you brought me here was so there would be someone to take care of the factory and the Oompa-Loompas when you're gone, but after spending all these years here, learning from you, I'm not so sure I can do it. I just don't think I'll ever be ready."
"What are you talking about, Charlie? Your candies are great. You came up with the hair-dye toffee, the red eye egg drops, fizzy wafers, candy sparklers, lockjaw caramel, light-up lemon suckers, and those lollypops that make your teeth all super-strong and shiny."
"Actually, that last one was Dr. Wonka's idea. And besides, that's all I ever do, is give you ideas. You're the only one who knows how to put things together. I would never have known how to make a candy that changes your hair color or turns your eyes bright red. Oh, sure, I can remember what you show me, but every time I try a new formula, it goes all wrong. Remember the Oompa-Loompa who got turned into a beetle?"
"Beetle Bob. Yes, but that was years ago. You've gotten better since then.
"No, Willy. I really haven't." Willy Wonka frowned.
"So, what are you saying, Charlie? Do you want to quit the chocolate business and go off to college with all your friends?"
"No way! There's nothing I love more than chocolate, and there's nowhere I'd rather be than here, University or no. Besides, you're the best friend I've ever had."
"And you're mine, Charlie. Which is why I'd rather not talk about what you're going to do after I die. It makes me feel kind of creepy."
But they both knew things couldn't go on as they had been.
Veruca Salt had always used her looks to get ahead. As a child, it had been cuteness—big brown eyes, a bright smile, and a neat appearance when other children were grubby, with gobs of goo dangling from their noses. Then, as a teenager, she had discovered sex appeal. Her appearance was always tasteful, of course—when she saw her classmates outside of school, and outside of their uniforms, she privately thought that most of them dressed like tramps. But she learned very early on to accentuate her beauty without giving too much away. Because Veruca had never been one to give anything away unless she had to.
But while Veruca enjoyed making boys lust after her, she had never felt anything particular for the boys themselves, only for the trinkets they bought her, and occasionally the pleasure of a quick snog.
So the appearance of Charlie Bucket came as quite a surprise.
It wasn't that she hadn't been expecting him. There had been talk of a partnership between Wonka Chocolate and Salt's Nuts for some time now, and Veruca's father routinely called her home from Oxford to help him close important deals. She was the Nut Heiress, after all, destined to inherit her father's company when he retired, and she could learn from experience better than she ever would at university, or so her father said.
But Charlie…well. She remembered him as a scrawny, shabby little boy who looked like he didn't get nearly enough ham in his diet.
Now, quite unexpectedly, he had become a man. He was still thin, but a bit more solid-looking, and his vivid blue eyes were no longer too enormous for his face. He still wore a perpetual puppy-dog expression, but he seemed…not happier, exactly, but…more secure.
He smiled when he saw her, not just a polite smile but a genuine smile of recognition and pleasure to see her again. Veruca smiled back with just the right amount of warmth, not too little, not too much…but she found herself staring into his eyes just a bit too long.
"Veruca," he said, reaching out to shake her hand, which surprised her. Few of the businessmen she dealt with thought to shake her hand, and none of them called her by her first name.
"Charlie," she replied, taking his hand. His handshake was firm, but not aggressive. She noted that he wasn't trying to assert his dominance by crushing her hand, and responded with a similarly firm grip, full hand and equal pressure rather than placing the tips of her fingers in his hand as her mother had taught her.
"How have you been?" he asked, and she blushed involuntarily. His voice was deeper than she had expected, and his breath smelled faintly of mint and chocolate. She imagined how sweet he must taste…and then she realized that she had leaned in so close they were almost touching, and she was still holding his hand. Hastily, she let him go and took a step back.
"Why don't we go into my father's boardroom and look over the contract," she said coolly. Charlie nodded.
"Our attorneys have already been over it, of course," she said as she led him into the boardroom, a place that was more her home than her parents' mansion or her flat in Oxford; this was her seat of power. Everything—the giant windows on the south wall, the low-key lighting, the leather chairs, the massive oak table—was very expensive but understated. He didn't seem terribly impressed, either because the poverty of his childhood had conditioned him to recognize only ostentatious displays of wealth, or because he had by now forgotten what it was like not to be able to afford the best of everything. Either way, she felt a momentary surge of irritation. New Money.
"So has ours," Charlie said, taking a seat. "Everything seems…good." Veruca sat beside him, wondering if their lawyer was an Oompa-Loompa or if that weirdo Wonka had actually hired a human being.
She opened her briefcase and spread the pages of the contract out on the table. The two of them bent over it, heads together as they went over the various points of their future partnership.
Cute little Charlie Bucket was a clumsy businessman at best. He was far too trusting and eager to please, with not enough understanding of just what he was signing away. In his place, Veruca would have known better than to make Salt's the sole nut provider for Wonka Chocolate.
Midway through the proceedings, Veruca slipped off her navy blue blazer and laid it on an empty chair. The boardroom was stuffy—she hadn't meant it as an act of sexual enticement—but she was rather pleased to see that his eyes went immediately to the open collar of her white button-down shirt, and his face went just a bit red.
So he was a man with needs after all. She could control him. She had the power.
Still, it came as another surprise when, without expending any effort at all, she got Charlie Bucket's signature on every dotted line, followed by a walk in the park.
Veruca's last boyfriend, the son of an American oil tycoon, had taken her to a (private) concert for their first date. Her boyfriend before that, Ireland's star football player, had taken her to Carnival in Brazil. No one had ever taken her on something as simple as a plain old walk in the park, especially not on the first date. But when Charlie made the offer, shyly, stumblingly…
Oh, she said yes.