"For the tenth time, I'm fine!" Stepney snapped at the physician. "Rob will you show the good physician the door please. I want to get dressed." She glared at the doctor and Rob did as he was told. "So everyone's on the same page. Yes? We have the scarecrow right in the middle of it. Good." She vanished into her bathroom with her Clerical dress. Rob was back in his smurf clothes. "Now we can go and see Jonty and his wife."
"So soon? Are you up to it?" Rob called through.
"Don't you start too. Yes I'm up to it. You need to be believed and remembered on your realm, Rob, even if it only by two people. Those two people are true friends." Stepney emerged fully dressed and fully groomed. "Now seeing as the scarecrow returned with you to your room, I'm thinking that location is known to Dinsen's magic. You ready?"
"Are you sure we'll go to my bedsit? I have to change. I can't go on the bus dressed like this. Hell I'll be back in the house of delights in no time." Rob explained. "I'll give you a big coat to wear to hide your scythes otherwise the Old Bill will have you."
"Of course." Stepney turned to Cripps. "The others know we have to do this, Cripps. Would you go and tell them we've gone and we'll return soon? I'd do it myself but they'll only arse about and do my head in."
"My pleasure, Lady Stepney. Take care and good luck." Cripps smiled and went to deliver the message.
"Assume the position and don't throw up." Stepney held onto Rob and connected her wristbands behind his back.
Rob ended up in a heap on the floor and Stepney ended up on her backside on the step.
"I'm getting better at that, Stepney." Rob dry heaved and swayed on the spot. "Stepney? Oh balls, what now?" He could hear Stepney's voice outside and looked out of the window. She was talking to Tommo! Stepney saw him and discretely waved him along, telling him to get out of sight. Of course she was. Rob had been missing for over a month. He ducked behind the tatty net curtain.
"That step's always been dodgy." Tommo told Stepney. "The bloke who used to live here dropped a crate of beer on it and it cracked. Moron."
"Moron? It sounds like an accident to me." Stepney said rather defensively.
"Well Rob was full of accidents when he was drunk. Full of surprises too. He did a flit! Just cleared off owing rent! Arsehole. We had to cover that."
"So you don't even know what happened to him?" Stepney said hotly. "You didn't care enough to check?"
"Hey you aren't related are you?" Tommo asked suspiciously.
"No. It's just a shame when no one cares about anyone. It's sad."
"I suppose so. Hey I'm going to meet my mates in the Mermaid for a few beers. You can come if you like. I'll soon fob that lot off, don't worry. Just me and you."
"That's very lecherous of you but I can't. I have an appointment." Stepney smiled falsely at Tommo.
"Oh well. Your loss darling." Tommo swaggered off down the street. Rob darted out and bundled her into the bedsit.
"I heard all that. The git." Rob began rummaging for clothes. "I think I was like not so long ago."
"Well I think you'd know what lecherous means. He didn't." Stepney pulled a face at a pair of jeans and a crumpled T shirt.
"They honk a bit. They've been here a month. It shows what a dump this place is when they can't even re-let the pit. Here." Rob handed Stepney a combat jacket. "Don't look like that! I can't help it, can I?" Stepney put it on and it came down to her knees. "Nothing wrong with that. Anyway you had me dressed up as Tinkerbell. Bus fare." Rob dived under his bed and began lifting the floorboards. "Twelve quid but it's better than nothing. I'm surprised that lot haven't ransacked the place. Come on. Bus in five minutes."
"Wait!" Stepney was peeping round the curtain. "Is that him?"
"Who? Tommo?" Rob came for a look. "I don't see anyone."
"Him with the walking cane and whiskers! Is that Old William?" Stepney pointed at the window.
"Who the sod is Old ... Oh! Old Bill?" Rob started to laugh. "No. I'll explain on the bus. Come on."
Jonty opened his front door and almost collapsed in relief.
"Rob!" He dragged Rob inside and closed the door. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Jonty, Step ..." Rob looked at the closed door, Stepney on the other side of it.
"I've had the police here, man! You promised me you weren't in trouble."
"Holy hell." Rob swore. "I just never thought about the police Jonty. I'm really, really sorry. I swear I'm not in trouble. I've done nothing wrong or illegal. I swear on my Nan's grave I haven't." Rob felt awful.
"I believe you." Jonty sighed. "Rob you broke out of the hospital! Why? You weren't even in there by order."
"They reckoned I wasn't well enough to leave. If I'd insisted, I'd have been reassessed and I'd be back in. I had to get out, Jonty. It was vital."
"Vital. Rob your health is vital." Jonty said flatly.
"I know what my Doctor said to you on the phone. I heard him. He should never have done that. He told you I was nuts."
"No he didn't. Don't talk like that." Jonty walked into the sitting room and Rob followed him. The wristcuff picture was framed and hanging over the mantle shelf.
"Oh crap!" Rob ran back through the hall and yanked the door open. Stepney was standing on the step with her hands in her pockets. "That was an accident. Hell I'm sorry. Er ... can she come in, Jonty?"
"Good God! I'm so sorry. Yes of course she can come in Rob! Why didn't you say you had someone with you? Come in." Jonty ushered them into the sitting room. "I'm really sorry about that. Rob, you oaf."
"Hey! You shut the door on her. Is Kate home?"
"Kate? No she's out for the evening. So?"
"Don't you recognise her?" Rob rummaged Stepney's circle headband from the cavernous pockets of the combat jacket and put it on her head. "See?"
"You do look vaguely familiar. Rob this is rather rude. We shouldn't be playing guess the guest with your guest." Jonty smiled awkwardly.
"Bah! Here." Rob unzipped the baggy jacket and it simply fell off Stepney, who was in full Clerical garb.
"Oh!" Jonty laughed and clasped his hands together. "Oh wow! The drawings are good but you had to go one step further! So you're the girl he based his protagonist on?"
"Jonty this is the protagonist!" Rob put his arm round Stepney. "This is Stepney. Stepney Lions. Bugger the Doctor eh?"
"Ah. Yes. pleased to meet you Miss." Jonty said very awkwardly. "So do you know Rob from the hospital?"
"No!" Rob flung up his hands. "She's not a loon Jonty! For sod's sake. Does she look off her rocker?"
"Of course not." Jonty rubbed his eyes, avoiding the fact that she was standing in his sitting room like someone from The Lord of the Rings. "Rob you've chosen this lovely girl and based your best loved character on her and that's amazing, especially given that you went to all this trouble to bring her here like this." He smiled at Stepney.
"You don't know the half of it." Rob said sadly. Jonty didn't believe him and who could blame him? "She got me out of the hospital and took me to Lawlim. Just hear me out Jonty." Jonty closed his mouth and nodded. "We've been through a hell of a lot together and there's still a lot to come for us. I came back for one reason. To see you. I know it's easier to believe the Doc than it is to believe me. That Quack should never have forced a choice. Git. I didn't believe it all either, not for a long time. I still wasn't sure a month ago, hence the hospital. We won't wait for Kate. This'll be as impossible for her as it is for you and everyone else. I don't want to freak her out. She can have all the pictures, by the way, you can have the rest if you want it."
"What are you going to do? Please don't do anything stupid, either of you."
"Do away with ourselves? Not a chance. We have a realm to save!" Rob smiled but Jonty didn't. "Jonty we won't do that. We won't. Nan's grave again. I'm telling you the truth. Nothing's impossible and when you watch us leave you'll see for yourself. Shame I won't be back to gloat about it. Stepney?" Rob stood infront of Stepney and put her arms round his chest. "Stay nerdy Jonty and thanks for being my friend."
"Rob ... Jesus!" Jonty watched the couple shimmer and fade away. All that was left was an old combat jacket that smelled of stale damp. Jonty Styles fainted for the first time in his life.