zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
[personal profile] zeborah
Brief notes, spoilers, trigger warnings, and part 1

*** Part 2 ***

It was months later before Rory went back. Tony wasn't even sick, he was just being a poophead. Actually he'd been a poophead all week, and Rory had been going to the library after school all week, which he didn't mind exactly but yesterday the librarian had said, "Hello again, Rory," and it was just too embarrassing.

The house was even spookier in the rain. A tabby cat watched him from a bare silver birch and Amelia didn't appear from around a corner. He hoped she was there. He hadn't been able to talk to her during the day and he wasn't sure this was a good idea.

He stood on his tiptoes to ring the old doorbell. It echoed inside, and then all he could hear was the rain. She was probably at the shrink in town, he thought, and he'd have to go to the library after all. Maybe he could slip in and hide in a corner without the librarian noticing.

But then the door opened -- just halfway. "Hello," Amelia said. "Is Tony sick again?"

"Yea-- No, he's gone to Jeff's house again. Jeff's got a PlayStation."

"You need more friends."

"Yeah, I guess." That was what his mother said, but he didn't want more friends. But Amelia was just standing in the doorway, and this was a stupid idea. "Well, I guess I'll get going..."

"I didn't say you had to go," she said, sounding offended. "Just you need more friends. Come on, I'll get you your clothes."

He closed the door behind himself and struggled out of his dripping raincoat. As Amelia clattered up the stairs he heard someone talking, but when he ventured to look the door was closed.

Amelia came back down with the gigantic shirt and tie. Rory joked, "Is that the Raggedy Doctor in the kitchen?"

She rolled her eyes. "No, that's the babysitter. She'll be on the phone until Aunt Sharon gets home, don't worry about her. So you're eating fish custard, and you ask where's my aunt."

Fumbling with his buttons, Rory dutifully said, "So, where's your-- Wait, how do I know you've got an aunt?"

Her face fell and he had the terrible feeling he'd said something wrong. "Okay," she said, "you ask where's my parents."

"Oh. Um..."

"Go on," she said impatiently.

In a rush he said, "Where're your parents?"

"I don't have any parents. I've only got an aunt."

"You're lucky," he said. "I've got two parents and four brothers and sisters and sometimes aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins, and they're always shouting at each other, or shouting at me, and then the dog next door starts barking and the man starts shouting at the dog to shut up, and there's never any quiet."

"But then you know they're there."

"I wish they weren't."

"Don't say that!"

He stepped back. Her fists were in white balls by her side. "Okay..."

She took a few quick breaths, then said, "You're supposed to say 'I don't even have an aunt.'"

He repeated the line, and waited for her to go on, but she seemed to be suddenly hesitating. She was chewing on her lip, and he almost thought she looked like she was going to cry.

He shifted uneasily. She really was crazy, he thought, but it wasn't funny like how people always laughed about it at school. It was kind of... wrong instead, and it made his stomach hurt. After a long silence he said, "Um, maybe I should go..."

"No! You have to fix the crack in my wall."

"Okay, well... Let's go and look at the crack in your wall then."

They went upstairs to her bedroom. She showed him the wall above her desk, but there wasn't any crack in it at all.

"Is this the Raggedy Doctor?" he asked, picking up a crayon picture from the desk.

She snatched it back. "Yes."

"Was that when you were supposed to be drawing the animals at the zoo?" He'd heard some girls giggling in the playground about how she'd got in trouble with Miss Banford.

"You're not paying attention," she said. "We need to move the desk so you can look at the crack."

It was heavy and all her crayons rolled off as they shoved it out of the way, and he still couldn't see any crack on the wall. But he pretended there was one, and followed her lines, and when she pointed to the glass by her bed he knew what to do without prompting. He tipped the water out the window and put the glass against the wall and listened to the humming of the fridge downstairs. "I can hear something," he said slowly, "but I'm not sure what it is."

"It says 'Prisoner Zero has escaped,'" Amelia said from behind him. "I hear it at night. What does it mean?"

He put the glass down and squinted at the wall and thought. "I think... it means there's a prison in there. And maybe a monster. But it's just a crack, so... so if we fix it then it can't get out, and then the police in there can catch it and you won't have to worry about it again."

"How do we do that?"

He felt pleased that he'd said it right, and he thought maybe she wasn't crazy, maybe she was just scared, and if he could make her think the monster had gone away then she'd be okay again. "Well," he said, and thought hard. "Do you have any polyfiller?"

She giggled. "Polyfiller won't stop Prisoner Zero. You need to use your wand."

"I have a wand?"

"Yes, here." She gave him a grey crayon. "You point it at the crack, and that opens it."

"But we don't want to open it, we want to close it." She looked at him and he said quickly, "But first we have to open it. Right." He pointed the wand at the crack and said, feeling a little silly, "Abracadabra!"

"It's not that kind of a wand," she said. "But it doesn't matter. It's opening."

"Can you see Prisoner Zero?"

She shook her head. "Only black, and the voice keeps saying 'Prisoner Zero--'"

"Prisoner Zero has escaped," he echoed, looking back at the wall.

She pulled at his arm.

"Ow! What?"

"There's an eye," she half-whispered. "It's bigger than the crack -- it's bigger than you are, and it's looking at us. Is it Prisoner Zero?"

He opened his mouth to say yes, but she was shaking her head. "No," he said. "I think it's... the police? A prison guard?" She nodded. He looked back at the eye and demanded, "Why are you scaring Amelia? You should be catching Prisoner Zero."

"The crack's closed," Amelia said.

"Oh, that's good. Isn't it?"

"But there was a light first. Look at your wallet."

"Um..." He dug in his pocket for something that could be a wallet, but he only had a bit of string and some gum.

"Your other pocket," she said impatiently.

"Why--" Then his hand found the piece of paper, and he pulled it out and read its crayon scrawl: "'Prisoner Zero has escaped.'" He blinked at her. "How did you do that?"

She didn't answer. "Why is it telling us that?"

"Well, maybe..." he started, but then he thought it wasn't a good idea to tell her maybe Prisoner Zero had escaped into her bedroom.

She gave him a stern look. "Maybe what?"

"Maybe... Maybe Prisoner Zero came through here and is running away really fast and the eye wants to know if we saw what direction it went in."

"But if it came through here we'd know," she said. "There's something you're missing."

He frowned, then shook his head. "Sorry, I can't think of anything."

"Go out to the landing and look."

He went out and looked. "You've got a really big house? We could look for it in the other rooms."

"No, just look. In the corner of your eye."

He stood still and tried to look from the corner of his eye, but it made him go cross-eyed and the house felt even spookier than ever.

"Can you hear that?" Amelia said suddenly. "It's like a grandfather clock. Your time machine's going to explode."

"Oh, that's not good. I'd better..." He gestured at the stairs.


"Run," he repeated, and ran clattering down the steps with Amelia clattering behind him. "Hurry up!" he shouted, and yanked the back door open and ran out into-- "Oh yuck, it's still raining."

He dashed back inside and stood in the doorway with Amelia, looking out at the shed as the rain poured down. "Did your aunt get it fixed?"

"Yep," she said, and reminded him, "It's his time machine now."

"And it's going to explode."


"I'll get my raincoat," he decided.

"It's okay. He just said he had to go five minutes into the future and then he'd be back and I could go with him. And then he jumped down inside, and then the box disappeared. And then..."

He waited. The babysitter was still talking in the kitchen.

Amelia shrugged and shut the door. "He's coming back at Christmas," she said, and headed for the stairs again.

"Is that what he said?"

"No, but I asked Santa to bring him back at Christmas."

"I... Um, I don't think Santa can bring people."

She turned angrily on the step and told him, "He brought the Raggedy Doctor when I asked. Only that was an emergency, and if it isn't an emergency it has to wait for Christmas. Santa's very busy, you know."

Rory shuffled his feet. He didn't think anything he could say would be a good idea. Amelia thumped on upstairs and after shuffling a moment more he went to the front door where he'd left his bag and his raincoat.

He took off the Raggedy Doctor shirt and tie, then looked around. It didn't seem right to just leave them there. He sighed, and put on his backpack to make sure she knew he was leaving, and took them upstairs.

Amelia was trying to push her desk back into place by herself, but it was way too heavy for her. Rory dropped the shirt and tie by the door and hurried to help her. She didn't look at him until they'd finished, and then she said, "If you wait until Aunt Sharon gets home she'll give you a lift."

"That's okay," Rory said, but he glanced across at the rain lashing the window.

"She's giving the babysitter a lift anyway."

She started picking up her crayons, and Rory remembered the grey one in his pocket. He put it on the desk and put the orange and black ones there too. Amelia sat down and started drawing, so he sat down on the floor and got a book out from his bag.

He'd never realised it could get quieter than the library. It was wonderful.


He looked up with a start when he heard steps on the stairs. He'd finished one book and started another and kicked off his shoes and now he was sprawled on Amelia's bed with the last of the grey light. At the desk, Amelia was stuffing her drawings in the bottom of a drawer. She shut it, darted for Rory's discarded book, and was sitting pretending to read when her aunt came in.

"Hello, Amelia. Michelle said you had a-- Oh, not a friend. Hello... Rory, isn't it?"

He smiled weakly while Amelia shut her eyes as if in pain.

"What are you reading?" her aunt added.

"Pandora's Box," Amelia said promptly. "It's really good."

"What's it about?"

Amelia hesitated. Rory said quickly, "It's thousands and thousands of years ago, and there's a god and he has a special box, and he likes this girl so he gives her the box, and there's demons--"

"Shh," Amelia said, "I haven't got that far yet."

"Oh, sorry."

Her aunt looked happy, and changed the subject. "Michelle said you were playing a game before...?"

Amelia sucked on her lip, then said firmly, "I was telling him about the crack in the wall."

Her aunt took a breath. "Amelia, you know there's no crack in your wall, don't you?"

"Yes," Amelia said, but insisted, "but there used to be one. You saw it too. You said--"

"Amelia," her aunt said, and then smiled brightly. "Rory, would you like a lift home?"

"Yes, thank you, Ms Pond. I'll just put my shoes back on."

"I'll see you two downstairs, then."

When she was gone, Amelia said, "Can I keep the book?"

"It's from the library," Rory said, struggling to unknot his laces.

"I know. I mean to read, and then I can take it back."

"Oh, okay then." He pulled his sneakers on, then thought of something and looked up. "It's not about the Raggedy Doctor, you know. The box isn't a time machine."

"I know," she repeated, exasperated. "I just want to read it."

He wasn't quite sure, but when he kept looking at her she narrowed her eyes back at him, so he said, "Okay," and concentrated on tying his shoelaces.
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