Tallie was gone for a long time.
When she became aware again of the things outside her brain, she saw the Book slumped over its pages. The room was a shambles: the remains of her mushrooms and pillows and pots were scattered from wall to wall. The Book itself was motionless. Its works were turning slowly, irregularly. It had punished itself terribly, she saw.
"Book," she said. "Are you there?"
One of its eyes irised open. She could see a broken linkage hanging from the other one. The Book didn't speak.
"We're going to have to fix you up," Tallie said gently. "I think you've had some kind of a fit."
The eye closed again. In a creaking, distant ghost of its old voice it said, "I would rather you took me apart."
Tallie patted its huge, broken hand. "You just feel that way now," she said. "It's going to be all right." She started to clear away the mess and turned a careful eye on the Book's works. It was going to be a big job, she saw, but the Book had been built to last. She'd have it ticking away again. She would.
"It was everything he dreamed of," said the Book. "It made him what he was. It was the reason he... the reason he..." Somewhere a gear ground toothlessly, pointlessly, but unable to stop itself. The Book groaned. "I've destroyed it."
"But you haven't," Tallie said, as brightly as she could. Poor, poor Book. "I heard them all: every story in the Orb. The stories aren't gone. They've just moved into me."
She wiped her eyes, picked up her toolbox, and got to work. The Book sat quietly while she reconnected its eye, and when she was done, it looked up at her.
"Tallie?" Its voice seemed very small. "... will you tell me a story?"
She smiled into its great metal face. "Of course I will," she told the Clockwork Book.