A/N: Hey guys, this is my first Flushed Away fanfic… I'm not completely sure how this story was created. Guess I just wanted to try some different things
Somehow at some point I managed to think, "Hey! What would've happened if Roddy and Rita met under different circumstances?" and decided to write this. Or something like that, anyways…
Originally this was going to be a one-shot but I decided to make it multi-chapter. I dunno… maybe like a fan-version of the original
Chapter One: Burst Water Main
A strangle, gurgling sound from elsewhere in the house startled Roddy awake. For a moment he lay completely still, breath held tight, heart beating fast with adrenaline, and just listened…
There it was. That gurgling sound again. What was it? An intruder? Roddy cringed at the thought. He needed reinforcements. After all, in a big, empty house like this, one rat on his own didn't stand much of a chance.
Minutes later, he was in the kitchen, clutching tightly onto an army doll and a keychain which doubled as a torch. Oh, and wearing a plastic Viking helmet for protection. Roddy was using the soldier as a shield, but there didn't appear to be any immediate danger, despite the noise definitely coming from the kitchen. He listened.
There again… the sink! It sounded almost blocked up. But what could –
The recorded sound of "Give up your weapons of mass destruction!" made Roddy jump, and in the panic of thinking an intruder might spot him, Roddy began doing battle with the army doll to shut him up.
Having at last removed the batteries from Sarge's back, Roddy clambered somewhat ungraciously onto the counter in the middle of the kitchen, where he saw the tap of the sink beginning to shake and vibrate.
As Roddy shone the torch's beam of light directly at the sink, a burst of water shot up from the sink almost like a fountain… Roddy saw a flash of colour before he looked up… a shape somersaulted through the air, propelled by the push given by the water, and landed almost silently on the counter, and straightened up.
A rat – a girl rat, probably from the sewer.
Actually, Roddy thought, she was quite a pretty girl rat. Even if she was from the sewer.
Then again, he'd never seen another girl rat in his life before. But she was definitely prettier than Tabitha's fashion dolls.
The girl rat was looking straight at him, through the glare of the torch. The shock of seeing her green eyes bore into his – of actually being stared at by someone alive, someone who wasn't just a human or a fashion doll – momentarily erased all memory of how, exactly, speech worked. Probably, it involved not standing there staring with your mouth hanging open.
It was the girl rat who broke the silence first. Underneath her cockney accent, her voice was tentative; cautious. Perhaps even a little hesitant. "Is this… your house?"
That sentence seemed to kick some sense into Roddy, who was feeling very awkward, still wearing the plastic helmet. He hurried to remove it. "Yes," he replied. Then he added: "Who are you? How – how did you get here?"
"Not sure. I was in the pub, but there was a burst water main…" the girl rat stopped talking, as though she felt she really didn't need to explain any further. And it was true, Roddy understood just fine: the burst water main had sent the girl up through the pipes and she had ended up here. So she must be from the sewer.
"Who are you?" Roddy asked again.
"Rita," the girl answered absently. She seemed to be searching for something.
Despite his horror, Roddy had to admit he was enjoying conversing with someone who could actually… well, talk back.
"Where's the toilet?" Rita asked. Roddy blinked.
"The pipes lead to the sewer. Duh." Rita stared at Roddy as though he were a complete idiot. He wasn't sure he approved of being given such a sarcastic look. Especially not by a sewer rat.
"Look here, you can't –"
"Are you going to answer my question or not?"
"It's through the door to your right, but –"
"Thanks." Rita hopped off the counter and headed for the door. Roddy's stare of annoyance dropped into a frown. He'd just met the first rat he'd ever seen in his entire life – other than himself, of course – and he couldn't think to be courteous?
Okay, he thought. Take two. I'll just have to make a better impression than I did five minutes ago.
Roddy immediately followed Rita out the door, calling out nervously: "Rita! Wait! Rita!"
Standing with her left hand on the toilet handle and her right hand checking something in her back pocket, Rita turned to stare at him. "What?" she asked. Her fingers closed around the silver handle.
Roddy froze. He hadn't planned this through, and now Rita's green eyes were staring directly into his and his brain was melting.
"I – uh –"
"Look, I have to get going, alright?"
"Well, I was – I was wondering if…" Roddy was plenty experienced with talking to plastic fashion dolls, but apparently he needed practise with talking to real people. Especially with girls.
"Spit it out," Rita said.
"Would you like to stay for a while?" Roddy blurted out. Rita looked at him, seeming to think the suggestion through carefully.
"Sure," she said at last. "Probably safer if I stay here for a bit."
Roddy blinked. "Safer?"
"Long story," Rita said, jumping down to stand in front of Roddy. She extended her hand. "I'm Rita Malone."
"Roddy St. James," Roddy replied, shaking Rita's hand. Her hand was incredibly warm, especially in comparison to Tabitha's fashion dolls. Roddy had to try and repress a small grin. "Would you like something to eat?"
Rita regarded him again. "Sure. What've you got?"
Now it was Roddy's turn to think. "Well… there's plenty of food in the kitchen… and Tabitha's parents may have left some chocolate cake behind… what would you like?"
"So… d'you get to live here on your own?" Rita asked. She was lounging on a sofa cushion, eating a small slice of cake, watching an advertisement for the upcoming world cup match. Roddy couldn't stop watching her. Especially her eyes. She had charming eyes, he thought. Absolutely lovely.
"Not – not exactly," Roddy stammered, unsure of how to continue. Should he explain that he was a pet rat, or make something up? He should probably explain, but make it sound better than it could, Roddy finally decided. "My owners live here too, but they're usually out, and they don't realise I can get out of the cage whenever I want."
"You're a pet rat, then?" Rita didn't look surprised. At least, not much. "My mum knew a pet rat once. Not as – er, refined – as you, though."
"Do you have much of a family?"
"Huge. Thirty-something siblings, I think."
"I never knew my family." Roddy couldn't stop the sad undertone in his voice.
"That's unfortunate." Rita turned to face Roddy. She had been very reserved at first, but Roddy felt he had been able to get Rita to open up to him. Just a bit. "Roddy, don't worry about it, alright? I mean, a huge family like mine isn't exactly easy…"
Rita continued to watch the television with mild interest, as Roddy, in return, watched her. She wore a green jumper, sewer boots and Union Flag jeans, with a red ponytail. Her clothes had all been scavenged, of course. As had the clothes of the vast majority of her family, she had explained. Oh, she said, others who lived in the sewers wore scavenged clothes too, but normally the material was scavenged and then the clothes were made in a boutique; but in Rita's family, the material usually went straight to her mother, who made clothes. They couldn't afford the boutique clothes if they wanted to keep eating.
"You… have a large family, then?" Roddy asked.
"Yeah," Rita answered. "Huge. The house is pretty full. There's not a lot of money but we get by."
Roddy had never realised there was even poverty among sewer rats. "Is there anything I could do to help?" he asked the question before he realised what he was doing.
"Nah," Rita answered. "We'll be okay. I've got this."
She took a jewel-shaped piece of red glass from her pocket. To an inexperienced eye, Roddy realised, it would look like a ruby. He frowned.
"Is there a story behind all this?"
"Sure," Rita said. When she turned to find Roddy waiting expectantly, she continued: "I used to work the drains with my dad, and we found this ruby one day… Dad broke every bone in his body trying to get to it. But we got it. Problem is, this crime boss – the Toad – wanted it and he keeps trying to steal it, so then I have to steal it back… long story short, I was hiding in the pub after I'd nicked it back again. The Toad's henchrats are probably looking for me."
Roddy's frown deepened. Rita and her father had possibly risked their lives… for a piece of glass.
But wait: wasn't there a jewellery box in the master bedroom?
Roddy wasn't sure if he was feeling generous or just trying to impress Rita.
"Rita…" he began, slightly more sure of what he'd say this time. "I can give you a ruby, if you want one."
Rita stared at him as though he was an idiot, and raised the false gem in her hand a little higher. "I've got one."
"No," Roddy explained, moving closer to her. "I doubt that. It's just glass. Look: you can tell. Real gems don't break."
With that, he snatched the piece of glass from Rita's hand and hurled it to the ground, where it shattered. For a moment, Rita stared dumbly at the shards; then her jaw set and her hands curled into fists. Almost too late, Roddy realised his mistake.
He didn't quite expect the first punch, which knocked him backwards. Roddy stumbled away and grabbed a cushion to defend himself with. Perhaps I shouldn't have done that, he thought. Making Rita angry was the exact opposite of what he'd planned to do. Now he had to get her to calm down so he could –
Rita wasn't attacking. Roddy lowered the cushion and peered around it. Rita was at the opposite end of the sofa, her knees drawn up to her chest. She looked ready to cry.
Well done, Roddy, old chap. You're just smashing at this, aren't you?
Roddy stepped cautiously up to Rita. "I'm sorry," was all he could think to say. He wasn't used to guilt.
"Just leave me alone," Rita mumbled.
"Rita, please. I want to help you."
Rita scoffed. "Is that what you call helping Up Top?"
"Rita." Roddy's voice was firm enough that it even surprised himself. It certainly made Rita look at him. He knelt next to her. "In the master bedroom, there's a jewellery box full of diamonds, rubies and pearls… real ones. I can give you one."
Rita looked doubtful. Roddy couldn't say he blamed her. It probably sounded too good to be true. "Why?" she asked suspiciously.
"I want to help," Roddy answered. "Is that so hard to believe."
Roddy chuckled and stood up. "Come on," he said, offering his hand to Rita. She stood up on her own, casting him a defiant glare, and followed him into the master bedroom.