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Mag Mell (Wreck-It Ralph)

Discussion in 'Shipping Fics' started by Kutie Pie, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    As I am aware of Wreck-It Ralph not having been released to a lot of countries as of this writing, this still goes for everyone:
    If you really want to see the film and haven't yet, then don't read any further. There will be spoilers.

    A bit of a new thing around here (thus I'm nervous about posting this up), but I seriously can't get Wreck-It Ralph out of my head. I enjoyed the movie very much, and I had a blast riding the emotional rollercoaster. So, I might as well return the favor.

    A quick warning is that an original character is involved in the story, and is thus the reason why this story is here in the Shipping Fics and not in Non-Pokémon Fics. And the title may make little sense right now, but do bear with me here.

    Hope you enjoy!

    Rating: PG

    Pairing: "Wreck-It" Ralph/OC




    Chapter One: Awkward


    Even while sitting in the back seat, Ralph couldn't help feeling embarrassed. It was nothing new, albeit attitudes toward him have changed over the past few months, but he didn't want to make eye-contact with anyone in the same cart. He could feel their stares, and he chose to look at the lights flashing by to avoid acknowledgement, wondering how much longer it was going to take to get to the right destination.

    It was rude to ignore someone talking to him, however, Ralph was very sure the person accompanying him wasn't aware he was pretending not to hear her. From what he could gather from bits and pieces of what did reach his subconscious, she was the strangest character he ever met. She was even out-talking Vanellope, something he thought would never happen.

    To think she was quiet up until this point.


    It was said sunset in Sugar Rush was beautiful because the cotton candy clouds had glitter sparkles in their depths—though only during the winter times, so the residents would correct. Because his game never seemed to have a sun outside of the monitor's light, the few times Ralph had seen the world's sunset was a rather magical moment. It was harder to appreciate while in Diet Cola Mountain (even with the permanent skylight they incorporated), but it was interesting to see the light spill in colors and melt into the glow of the hot cola—if Vanellope didn't keep hollering at him to watch her do a trick or drive over the ramp in a distracting manner.

    “Ya saw it that time, did ya, Stink Brain?”

    Ralph just raised a hand like he did every other time. “Yeah, yeah, that was cool,” he fibbed. “I'm jealous.”

    The girl tossed her head back to laugh. “Nice try! You can't fool me with that tone of voice.” Smirking, she attempted a wheelie before a dip in the road knocked her back on four wheels. She slowed to a stop to look behind her. “Aw, gee, road's uneven again.”

    “Well, that's what you get for backing up at random intervals,” he called out, though he knew she wouldn't admit to her mistake before she sent a rebuttal in the form of an engine's roar. “Growl at me all you want, can't say I didn't warn you.”

    “You're gonna eat my cola dust one of these days!”

    The man let out a hearty guffaw. “Can I take your word for it?”

    “I'm the president. I have to keep my promises.”

    “Ooh, tough guy.”

    Vanellope stuck out her tongue before starting up again. Knowing she wasn't going to make it over the gap from where she was, she threw her kart into reverse. Ralph shook his head with a small sigh at the sight, then looked up at what little sky he could see. The last of the sun's rays were just barely peeking over the Mentos stalactites before the purple hues swept over it, and the sugar candy stars twinkled in. The longer he stared at them, he eventually saw a few fall from the sky. He remembered how odd it was the first time he watched the phenomenon happen, and it was then he came to the conclusion just about everything sans-clothes (perhaps) in Sugar Land was edible—not that he planned on eating anything from the land. The thought of eating anything with sugar made him a little ill inside.

    Tearing his eyes away, Ralph looked about the handmade fort, smoothing his large hand over the wrapper-blanket. It was a little sad to know of the tragic memories Vanellope held in this place, yet she didn't have the heart to tear it down. Even after regaining the throne—or the more correct word was authority—she would come here when she wanted to be alone, or pull together her thoughts. For being a nine-year-old, a lot were falling on her shoulders since the new political system was enforced. He worried over her, but she was spunky and full of energy. She proved it time and time again.

    He hardly flinched when the small eruption happened, knowing the boiling liquid couldn't reach this far. He did look up when Vanellope gave a hoot of joy as the kart spun a few times until it slowed. “Aw, yeah! That's a wicked boost! Ralph, we need to upgrade this kart to have the fuel of Mentos-induced diet cola!”

    “Yeah, not going to happen,” he said without hesitation. “You don't need anymore power-ups.”

    She pouted for a brief moment. “You're no fun.”

    He nonchalantly shrugged. “As the bad guy, I make sure you have no fun.”

    A corner of Vanellope's lips curled in a knowing smile. “But you have fun being the bad guy.”

    “What can I say? It's so easy being 'evil'. This is the life, you see, even the Devil tips his hat to me.”

    They pointed their fingers at each other in a knowing manner. “You're catching on quick,” she said, quirking a brow. “Have the other villains caught on to that yet?”

    “Haven't found the right moment, yet. Sure to get a good laugh from them when I do.”

    “There better be. Wish I could be there to witness that.” Turning off the engine, she hopped out to stretch, making her way up to the fort. “I may have been here for about a good decade or so, but the mister's schedule is weird. It's what, about seven o'clock, and the arcade closed half-an-hour ago?”

    Ralph rocked his hand back-and-forth. “It changes over the year. His promise to the parents the kids would be home before sunset has become a policy.”

    Vanellope nodded, coming up to the bed to climb and sit next to him. “He's a nice guy for doing that.” A cat-like smirk spread on her face. “Gives us more time to hang out together.”

    “Your bedtime has not changed.”

    “I'm the president, I can stay up all I want.” She puffed out her chest in authority.

    He lightly bumped her shoulder. “Can't abuse your power in that way. It'll get to your head.”

    “Oh, what do you know? You've never been president.”

    “And I don't plan on it, if only because of lack of knowledge in that area.”

    “That's 'cos your brain's stinky.”

    Ralph rolled his eyes. “Very mature, Miss President.”

    She took it as a compliment, her face brightening up. “I know I am.”

    He quickly stood up to give the bed a jolt springing back to its original shape, and to bounce the girl a foot into the air. “Well then, you can walk back home by yourself.” He walked over to her kart, gently pushing it off the track as he headed for the exit, giving a mock salute while hiding a smirk.

    “Hey-hey-hey, I need a body guard!” she exclaimed, hurrying after him. “I could get 'assinated'!”

    “'Assassinated',” he corrected, “and no one would do that to you. 'Specially at this age.” He gestured to her tiny physique.

    She scowled up at him before her face relaxed, reaching up to fix her licorice ribbon. “You got me there. But still, Diet Cola Mountain's in no way close to the House.” Tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, Vanellope looked up at her companion. “When am I going to escort you to the exit, by the way?”

    “When you finally bring Sour Bill to the hideout.”

    “Not going to happen.”

    He raised his hands up in a half-shrug. “That's my answer as well.”

    She scoffed in slight disgust. “I can't believe you're using that against me!”

    “Such is the life of an authority figure.”

    Vanellope kicked him in the leg, which did little to his walk and only stubbed her toe. “Ow... You win this round, fiend, but I will counter a smart-aleck comment the next time.”

    Ralph held back a snicker at how she attempted to sound threatening. “I look forward to that day when you out-smart me.”

    “Which shouldn't be so hard, you're all full of stink.”

    “And the 'stink' comments are starting to reek, by the way.”

    She flustered, her hair standing on end. “Dang it...”

    Chuckling, the man reached down to scoop her in his hand and place her on his shoulder. A wide smile lit up her face as she held onto him by his wild hair, leaning her head against his. Lightly patting her back, he continued down the usual path to the castle, resuming the small talk they always had every day, ranging from current events to more attempted-name calling until they reached the gates. Every now and then, he would walk her up to the door, but as security was still out, he just saw her off, leaving once she entered the building with a final wave for the night. With a nod to the guards, Ralph went on his way, whistling a few game tunes while a few sugar candy stars dropped from the sky.

    At the end of Rainbow Road, he checked his pockets to make sure Vanellope didn't slip anything in, then stepped through the terminal. Surge Protector passed on by without a second glance, which Ralph shrugged off, at least happy he wasn't being stopped. Game Central Station was as busy as ever, with the buzz of conversation in the air overlapping the Public Service Announcements, and the voice over the intercom. He took in a deep breath, catching the slight scent of electricity. A few characters waved to him as they side-stepped, and he quickly realized he was in the middle of the walkway and went for the benches.

    Glancing over at the port of Fix-It Felix Jr., he shrugged to himself before sitting down, briefly looking down when the wood creaked under his weight. “Might as well hang out here for a bit,” he sighed, curling his arms behind his head. “Felix and Sarge are probably on a dinner date or something.”

    While the thought of the married life of his friend didn't bother him in the least, he rarely talked about it. It never interfered with work, their enhanced friendship wasn't affected, and he enjoyed the company of Sergeant Calhoun. (He still wasn't permitted to call her by her first name, and insisted on keeping her title even outside of Hero's Duty.) Life in his world was better than he had dreamed it would be, with the Nicelanders being friendly toward him, and having Q*bert as his neighbor was comforting (even though he could hardly understand him at times). Loneliness was now a thing of the past.

    Ralph let out a slow sigh, vision blurring out the background as he fell into relaxation, and his mind drifted off. The memories slowly played out, both the good and the bad. In his core, he had that desire to get it off his chest. Bad-Anon, as much as he was liking the group and the other villains, only did so much. He understood that he still had a long way to go, but he felt it wasn't satisfying enough. He wanted all that bad data out, game play exempted, to get rid of depressing thoughts for good.

    He jerked in his seat when he slipped, pulling him back to consciousness. Smiling awkwardly at passers-by who stared in confusion, Ralph leaned forward and rubbed at his eyes. “I should probably sleep on it,” he grumbled. “Or I could go visit Tapper or something. Yeah, yeah, get my mind off that.” Standing up, he turned to the direction of Tapper when he did a double-take.

    He was willing to acknowledge he wasn't exactly the brightest character out there, but one thing he was proud of was his memory. Even when he wasn't well-liked, he took the time to memorize faces, whether if he got their names or not. Anytime a new game was installed to the arcade, there was always an announcement, whether in Game Central Station, or by word-of-mouth. The longer he gazed upon the character, the more puzzled he got, not recalling hearing of any new arrivals.

    She was standing by the map for who-knows how long, the most confused, anxious look on her face. Constantly was she fidgeting in place, hands tugging on the frilly apron she adorned. After a quick look around in case someone else had also noticed her, Ralph walked up to her side, unsurprised he easily towered over her. “Excuse me, ma'am,” he politely started, “you need some help?”

    What looked to be a small, wonky crown flickered above the woman when she gasped (more like squeaked) and jumped back, gawking up at him with wide eyes and small irises. He blinked quizzically down at her, a wave of sad nostalgia rising in his core. He raised a hand in an apologetic manner. “Sorry 'bout that. Anyway, are you looking for a port?”

    Her face relaxed, the green irises growing to take up half of what would be her eyes, if she had any whites for them. Her voice was timid when she spoke, having a hint of a foreign accent. “Um... I guess...”

    Ralph drew connections to Vanellope's design almost immediately, though she had a different style. Her nose was petite, almost a bulge in the middle of her face, her mouth had brief similarities to a cat's, eyebrows were pencil-thin, and she looked to have permanent, circular blush marks on her cheeks. The oddest trait he could already see was her shag-cut hair, with the end strands—possibly the longest strands—curling far behind her.

    There was a name for this style he couldn't place his finger on.

    “Do you know the name of the port?” he inquired.

    She looked down as her eyes drooped, hands tightly gripping the strawberry-patterned apron, and toe of a shoe lightly tapping the floor. A slight nod was seen, but she remained silent. He fought back a groan, understanding her current situation. “I take it you're a newbie.”


    He lightened up a little. “Can't blame you. Game Central Station is a big place. You're not the only one to have gotten themselves turned around. At least I got to you before you wandered off somewhere.” He jutted his thumb at the announcement playing behind him, refraining from quoting it along with Sonic. “You enter a game and get hurt, it's game over for you.”

    She briefly glanced up at him before turning to the map. “I can't... find my port.”

    “What's the name of the game you're looking for?”

    Running a hand nervously through her auburn hair, she murmured a word.

    “Speak up, I can't hear you from up here.” He mentally filed the sentence away to memory for later use.

    Her face glowed a little from embarrassment, and she lifted her head for better projection. “It's called Scrumples.”

    Ralph quickly covered his mouth to swallow down a laugh. “Such an odd name for a game port,” he gasped out.

    The woman's eyes dropped again, and his stomach knotted in guilt. “Not... that it's bad. A friend of mine makes fun of the game here called Hero's Duty, though she'll find anything funny.” He briefly rolled his eyes. “Then there was a game here years back called Jumpman until the character got a name change. Can't exactly blame him.”

    “What's your game?”

    He scratched at his head from her innocent question. “It's Fix-It Felix Jr.” He paused for a moment. “Before you ask, no, that's not my name. I'm Wreck-It Ralph, the villain.”

    She blinked a few times, eyes widening slightly as she scanned him up-and-down, which he fidgeted under her gaze. It took a few moments before she spoke. “You're not scary-looking, though.”

    Ralph had to laugh even if it would attract attention, placing his hands on his hips. “Well, it's better than being called a hobo.” He grinned down at her puzzled expression. “Anyway, ma'am, you need an escort to your port?”

    Looking back at the map, the woman grew worried again. “I can't find it...”

    Three squiggle lines floated above her head as her lips pursed. Ralph didn't know if she was aware of them, but decided not to point them out. “Well, if you're new, then they probably didn't update the map yet.”

    “I've been here for a week now...”

    Slowly, he took a look himself on the map, trailing his eyes to the legend on the side. After a few moments, his brows furrowed. “Odd...” He heard a small sniffle, and turning his attention to her, he spotted tears on the edges of her eyes, and her hands had suddenly lost their fingers, looking more like knobs. “Uh... have you tried asking Surge Protector, yet?” he hurriedly suggested, getting a little creeped out about her behavior. “He would know where your port is.”

    “I shouldn't have gotten on that train,” she whimpered, ends of her hair drooping. “I-I didn't know my stop, so I stayed on... and... a-and...”

    “Wait, how long were you on the train?”

    His voice might have gotten a little gruff, for she flinched a little upon swerving to look at him. “U-Um... I guess thirty minutes.”

    Ralph's brows rose. “Thirty? It normally takes no more than five minutes to get to Game Central Station. That had to mean...” He counted on his fingers. “...you took six trips.”

    She started to weep again. “I don't kno-o-ow!

    The moment grew more tense and awkward, the man desperately looking for Surge Protector in the crowds. “Darn it all... do you happen to remember which direction you came from?”

    The woman pointed behind him, then froze, eyes giving off a blank stare. “...I think...”

    He gaped at what he heard, unable to take his eyes off her unnerving look. She never once looked away, her face unfaltering. “I walked around in a circle for a while,” she replied to break the silence. “I lost track of time, and forgot the train number I was on.” Her arm dropped to her side. “I can't read English very well either, even though the translators made sure I could speak fine.” Her shoulders then shrugged. “Programmers don't think very deeply.” When she blushed, she gave a small smile.

    The station's clock's minute hand let out a clank when it landed on the six.


    The train came to a smooth stop, with the announcer naming off the name of the station, and a few different ports. As the characters got off onto the dock, the woman let out a breath, standing up from her seat and brushing the back skirts of her dress. She turned to Ralph, tilting her head at his posture. “Um... we're here.”

    He slowly blinked, then raised his head. He was unsure if he was glowering, his brows had grown numb some time ago. “Oh, I see.”

    She fidgeted in place, then bowed a little. “Thank you for escorting me on the trip. And... thanks for listening.”

    He remembered a little of what happened during the ride, though he had only caught a few words from her. Giving a half-shrug, he simply said, “No problem. I was happy to listen.”

    A small smile came upon her lips, looking more like a cat's mouth than before. She turned to leave, then looked back. “Um... it's Wreck-It, right?”

    “Just call me Ralph.”

    “Oh, yeah.” Her smile turned nervous, a small drop of sweat appearing on her temple. “Nice to meet you, Ralph.”

    He nodded, more out of habit than sincerity. “Same here.”

    Her chin drooped in a little, her blush marks burning brighter. “Yes...”

    He gestured his hand in a small wave. “Better get going. You're causing a scene.”

    The crown appeared again as she swerved her head to look over at the new passengers gaping up at her, wordlessly asking her to make a move. With a red face, she faced Ralph again, bowed once more, and jumped onto the dock. She then spun around on her heels, the long ends of her apron's ribbon falling around her knees. Lifting a hand, her fingers flapped in what he suspected was a wave of farewell just as the train jerked, and sped into the tunnel. She became a dot in the distant within seconds before he blinked.

    Letting out a sigh, he side-glanced at the other passengers before returning his gaze to the lights. It would become just another memory by the morning.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
  2. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    Not much to say here, really, since everything's self-explanatory. I would like to have longer chapters, but it might not be for a little bit. Just depends on how everything turns out. And as I'm rarely ever happy with finished chapters no matter the story, these early chapters may be edited/added upon in the future, especially as I get used to the characters and pacing/style of the story.


    Chapter Two: Scrumples


    The week passed on by without any issue, nor any interruptions. Every morning it started off the same: Ralph, Felix Fix-It and the Nicelanders woke up, prepared themselves for presentation, had small-talk as they got into position, and watched as the first player of the day placed in their quarter to start up the script. On the sidelines, Q*bert and his companions waited patiently for that one skilled player—which was often—to activate the bonus level, and they always gave it their all. For Ralph, at the end of each successful round, he eagerly looked forward to catching a glimpse of Vanellope racing, whether she won or not. When the day was over, they patted each other on the back for a job well-done, and were on their way. Felix tidied up to be more presentable for his wife, while Ralph as himself wherever he went.

    Nothing new, but nothing old, either. Vanellope at least had something in mind for each visit, often times involving game-jumping. That one Tuesday night, she announced she wanted to check out Altered Beast the moment he walked through the terminal to Sugar Rush.

    “I'll need to ask Neff first,” he replied almost immediately, “though that won't be until tomorrow.”

    She rose a brow almost suspiciously, helmet tucked under her arm. “Why? We go through other terminals without permission just fine.”

    “Well, I have to get his permission to change the code a little bit. The environment for the game's not that friendly for visitors.” He shrugged apologetically. “I don't think he'll mind either way, but it's better safe than sorry.”

    The girl remained standing in place for a few moments longer before turning on her heels and goose-stepping toward her parked kart. Instead of hopping in, she set the helmet on the seat, and reached in to take the key from the ignition and stuff it in her coat pocket. “Well, let's go for a walk, then,” she announced, not sounding forced or upset. There was a smile accompanying her sincere words. “Need the exercise.”

    Ralph chuckled slightly. “Have to burn off all that sugar somehow.”

    “It's not for me, Tiny.” She spun herself around to show her toothy grin had turned mischievous.

    He felt hair stand on end, but kept his demeanor in check. “I am just saying someone has been getting chubby around the cheeks, lately. Starting to look like a chipmunk.”

    Vanellope sneered. “Am not! I'm a growing girl, this is normal.” She puffed out her cheeks to pat them.

    Flexing an arm, Ralph smirked, “And this is all man.”

    She let out a sudden burst of laughter, tears briefly squeezing out from beneath her eyelids. He dropped his smirk and limb when she collapsed onto the pavement, clutching her sides as her giggling deepened. It took several breaths before she could properly speak. “That... that doesn't count.” She developed another giggly fit.

    He rolled his eyes, biting back another remark. Getting her back to her feet, he lightly pushed her toward the slope. “All right, that's enough. Let's start walking.”

    Once she balanced herself, Vanellope took a step back. “Not around Sugar Rush. I want to walk around Central Station.” She traced out a circle to emphasize her point.

    Ralph raised his hands in frustration. “I just came from there! Why didn't you meet me right outside the terminal?”

    “'Cos I have a jawbreaker in my pocket.” Almost stealthily, she showed him a peek of the candy before putting it back. “I didn't want Surge Protector to stop me.”

    He pinched his brows. “Why do you have a jawbreaker?”

    “'Cos I can.” She made a face for a split second. “There's no law that says I can't.”

    Sighing through his nose, he slumped a little in place. “Well, if you want to walk around the station, then put the candy in your kart.”

    “I don't have to now that you're with me.” With a big grin, she started to cross the gate.

    Ralph snatched her up by her hoodie, quickly setting her back down at the slope. “You're going to also get me stopped. Start walking, or I'll hi-jack your kart.” He was half-serious about the last part of his sentence, but he was very willing to ride it to the end of the road.

    Vanellope's brow rose, slowly inching her way down the track. “You can't fit,” she pointed out, almost smugly. “The fact I can still drive with you sitting on the tail-end is surprising. Actually...” Her face scrunched up in thought. “...I'm more surprised it doesn't fall back on your weight.”

    “I get it, I'm fat.” He pushed her with a finger, getting a little tense. “Enough stalling, get to walking.”

    Giving him an irritated look, the girl flickered in a shade of blue pixels, and stretched herself into near-apparition to reform at the bottom. She shot him a taunting look like she expected she would get away with it. “Well, that was fun! And look, there's plenty of time to spare!” Vanellope pretended to hold up a wristwatch to eye-level and tap it. “Let's go racing!”

    Brows knitting tighter together as he leered down at her, Ralph crossed his arms, shaking his head. She held the gaze for a few moments before relaxing, slacking her shoulders and briefly sticking out her bottom lip. Dropping her gaze, she trudged up the slope with hard steps, keeping her hands in front of her in preparation to catch herself should she slip. She reached the top within a few minutes, slowing to a stop in front of the man, whose stance not once loosened up.

    Shooting up a pitiful look, she bobbed her head to the side. “Right,” she sighed out, skimming the toe of her boot on the ground. Lightly chewing on her lip, she glanced at the background for a quick scan. “We can... walk to the outskirts of the forest and come back, I suppose.” Her large eyes darted up at him, silently asking for an agreement.

    With a deep inhale, Ralph lowered his hands to his sides and gave a single nod. “That's fair enough. I will walk you back home afterwards, all right?”

    “You always do, there's no need to ask permission.” Vanellope pulled out the jawbreaker from her pocket, running her palms over it for a moment before sticking it inside a cheek. “Lesh ge' goin'.”

    Slightly rolling his eyes, he managed a small smile and offered out a hand. She grasped a finger without hesitation, and they started their walk in reverent silence (except for the girl's constant slurping), carefully making their way down the steep slope. Once they were at the bottom, Vanellope's face crinkled up and she pulled the jawbreaker from the depths of her mouth, loudly smacking her lips. “Tha's no jawbreaker. I got a sour ball by mistake.”

    Ralph crookedly smirked. “Sour Bill isn't going to be happy to hear you've been eating his relatives.”

    “Ha.” She stuck her tongue out playfully, stuffing the sticky candy back into her pocket, and wiping her hand on her skirt. “I've noticed something lately.”

    “Oh, have you? Do enlighten me.”

    She snorted a little, a sly smile on her face. “You need to get out more.”

    “And why should I take advice from a kid?”

    “Because...” She just shrugged, waving a hand around. “...I'm president.”

    He raised a skeptical brow. “Yeah, that's not a valid excuse.”

    “But I'm right, right?” Vanellope shot him a knowing look with no intention of teasing, a rare expression. “You still have some social issues.”

    “And it matters why?”

    “Look, Stink Brain,” and she pulled her hand away to stick them parallel in front of her, “just because you're respected doesn't mean you're outta the woods yet. You still need to reach out to people, and get to know them better. And I know this from being a public official,” she added before Ralph could object.

    He found one immediately. “Before or after you became president?”

    She folded her arms. “Before, duh. So anyway, first rule of becoming social: not being shy.”

    “I am not shy.”

    “But in your case, I'm going to say being a big meanie.”

    “This 'big meanie' is going to fling you into the goop if you don't stop with the labeling.”

    Vanellope raised her arms up in mock taunt. “You're proving my point further, ya oaf—I'm speaking truth, I swear it!”

    Ralph made a move to pluck her up by the hoodie, then decided to drop it and quickened his pace. The girl plodded along, resuming her explanation. “Anyway, you need to stop being mean to people, and just go up and talk to them. It can be about anything as long as you control your temper. You may or may not click with the person immediately, but friendship takes work, and a whole lot of it.” With a large smile, she latched back onto his hand. “You got proof of it.”

    He couldn't help but return her smile when it hit his soft spot. “Can't argue with that,” he agreed, reaching over with his free hand to muss up her hair, much to her disliking.

    Though she had on a small scowl from what he did, the girl couldn't remain angry at him, and gave him her biggest, toothiest smile she could muster.


    “You got to be kidding me.”

    Shortly after passing through the terminal, he stood there dumbfounded and slack-jawed when he spotted the woman by the map. She wasn't looking at it this time, but she was watching characters walk on by, her hands clutching her apron. A few times, she made a move like she was going to stop them for a chat, but then she would pull back when they gave her a passing glance. Briefly noticeable were beads of sweat flickering beside both sides of her head, her face a bright pink.

    Somehow, even though she looked to not have learned her lesson, Ralph felt sorry for her, having an understanding of what she was going through. Throughout his thirty years of existence, he had seen numerous characters step uncomfortably out of their bubble to meet others, himself included, though they were welcomed within time. But at least they made an effort to actually speak out. While she was acting much more shy than the Boos, at least she didn't cover her face and turn invisible every time someone made eye-contact. He had to give her that much.

    Letting out a heavy breath, he scratched at his head, mentally arguing with himself to either ignore her, or go up and talk. He kept stepping in place through the internal struggle, mumbling incoherently to himself. Ralph's scowl deepened when he realized he was going to lose that battle, whether through Vanellope's influence or not. It was obvious he was soft, willing to give others a helping hand when they needed it the most. His villain persona was for the game only, he didn't allow it to take over his life.

    With the Bad-Anon motto randomly citing itself through his mind and Vanellope's advice, he found himself standing before the woman, whose head was currently down, and eyes closed shut. She looked to be composing herself, taking deep breaths and damming any signs of tears. When she looked up, she let out a squeak of surprise, leaning up against the map. Sensing another awkward moment, Ralph kept his mouth shut and raised a hand in a friendly manner.

    Her face lit up in a smile, and hand on her chest, she gave a small bow. “Nice to see you, Wrath.”

    “Ralph,” he had to correct.

    She shrugged a little, tilting her head. “I was close.”

    “What are you doing here again?” He didn't mean for his response to be sharp, if at all.

    It might have been judging from how she straightened up a little, nervously side-glancing and chewing on her lip. He flinched at the possibility, then returned to a normal stance when she spoke up. “I'm... trying to get to know the neighbors a little more.”

    Her reply made some sense, he had to admit. Still, he wasn't happy she had returned to the very spot, unsure if she purposefully made her way here or not. “Your game lies on the other side of the arcade. We're not technically 'neighbors'.”

    “It's still a community.” A very honest answer that, once more, was plausible. He couldn't exactly argue over such a concept.

    After a heaving sigh, Ralph crossed his arms. “I'm going to be blunt with you: while this place is friendly, no one here knows who you are.” Her eyes had a spark of realization the moment he said it. “We get announcements if a new game is installed to this station. You are stationed over at the Game Play Station across the way after you stop at a few crossroads.” He then raised a brow. “Did you visit the other stations?”

    The moment her eyes glazed over in deep thought, he started to regret asking. “I...” she held it out for a long moment, “...did not. I may or may not have... fallen asleep.” She looked up at him with the most innocent, sincere expression he had seen on a character. “Long rides make me sleepy.”

    Once he realized he was holding in a breath, he let it out in exasperation. “This can't be happening,” he murmured to himself.

    She leaned in with a quizzical tilt. “Eh?”

    He waved her off. “How in the world do you fall asleep for thirty minutes straight and not get woken up by other passengers?”

    “Doesn't help the lights as they swoosh on by is hypnotic,” she resumed as though she didn't hear his question. “I remember my eyes drooping as I tried to concentrate on them, and I guess I blacked out.”

    “You didn't catch a word I said,” Ralph noted matter-of-factly. “Have you never traveled by wiring before?”

    The woman shook her head for a moment, then thought on it. “I don't know.”

    “Oh, dear Nintendo, this is Vanellope all over again,” he groaned at the revelation, covering his face. After a few mutters and rubs, he slid his hands down to meet the unblinking gaze of the character, a small smile on her face. The longer he stared, the more he could swear there was something off about her. Shaking his head, he turned his back on her, glowering in a random direction. “Why is it I keep running into these characters? What is wrong with programmers these days?”

    “If it'll make you feel better, my programmer worked in the industry for a decade,” she stated in a simple tone. “I'm his first game character, though.”

    “Why am I talking to you, again?” was what he opened his mouth to say until he caught himself. Glancing over his shoulder, Ralph gave a her an odd look from the way she was leaning to her right, hands behind her back. He couldn't bring himself to ask another question once he locked eyes with her large irises.

    It was obvious she was a very recent addition, possibly even a recent game. There was an air of childlike quality about her. While her model was that of a full-grown woman in at least her twenties, it was apparent her creator wanted her to look much younger. Her face was way too round to the point he didn't know if a chin existed; her hair was too curly, and her stance when she straightened up was like a child at attention, with her hands pointed outward and toes close together. Everything about her attire screamed she was girly, from her white stockings to her sea-green, puffy dress. The pink-and-white checkered apron was frilly, with attention to detail in the way it was padded in the front, but form-fitting at the waist. It was tied back into a huge bow, with a smaller one peeking from behind her neck. There were numerous strawberries scattered about, the pouch in front adorning an even larger, and riper strawberry.

    Though Ralph was positive he knew of her objective, he decided to ask. “So... what's your game about?”

    She beamed, mouth curling more at the corners. “I'm a chef... or cook... baker... well, I work in the kitchen. I, or should I say the player can fix a total of thirty recipes, but only a random ten recipes per gameplay, with each round getting harder, faster, and more demanding. Everything has to be timed right, or points are lost based on temperature, taste, and reception gauges. There may not always be the ingredients needed, so a substitute will suffice, and they don't run out until the harder rounds. The shelf and cabinets containing the ingredients cover an entire wall, right next to the stove and oven. There's a rat living in the kitchen, and he'll steal food and ingredients from time to time—he's my real pet rat, Cheese, he's very cute—so to chase him away, you need to hit him with the broom. His speed increases over time, too—”

    Unable to keep track of what she was saying, he quickly interrupted her, waving his hands before her red face. “Okay, okay, I get it! Sounds fascinating!” He watched as she took a long, deep breath through her open mouth, the color on her cheeks dimming down.

    When she straightened back up, she smiled. “Thanks for stopping me. I sometimes get a little excited.”

    “You were starting to cause a scene.” From the corner of his eye, a small group quickly walked off, returning their attentions to the front. “You need to control your squealing.”

    The woman pressed her fingers against her throat, her brows furrowing in worry. “I'm sorry. I make a lot of noise in my game, so it's a bit of a habit.”

    Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Ralph shrugged almost indifferently. “Once you learn about who you are, you can easily switch between acting and being the real you. I used to shout at people unintentionally until I learned to control myself.”

    “You shout a lot, too?”

    Raising a brow at the excited gleam in her eyes, he added, “I have only a few lines. I'm supposed to be angry in my game.”

    “What do you do?”

    He pulled his hands out, and held them up. “I have big hands for a reason. I wreck a building apart for taking over my home.”

    Her face fell, and she grew teary-eyed. “That's the saddest backstory I ever heard...”

    Ralph's head tilted back when he raised his eyes to the ceiling. “It's not, trust me. And I have a new home, now.”

    “Oh, okay!” She was back to her happy self, only her eyes suddenly became thick arches and her nose disappeared.

    Quickly checking the clock, he decided to wrap it up to get away from the awkward moment. “So... err... it was nice seeing you again.”

    “Same here, Malph!”

    “It's Ralph...”

    The crown flashed above her head as her eyes suddenly vanished the moment a blue flush spread across the top half of her face, and her mouth dropped past her chin. He winced and stepped back when several straight lines stretched downward on her right side. What sounded like a strained gasp escaped from her open mouth before her face returned to normal, albeit in an embarrassed expression. “I-I'm sorry! I'm not that great with names, eh heh... Um...” She reached into the apron pocket and pulled out a small notepad, a pen sticking out from its pages. “Can I get your full name again? I didn't write it down the first time.”

    He relaxed his body enough to release the breath he himself had held. “It's 'Wreck-It' Ralph, with a hyphen between 'wreck' and 'it'.”

    She wrote the name in a flash, capping the pen and dropping the items into the pouch with a grin. “I'll remember it from now on, thank you!” And she bowed, hands pressed to the apron to avoid spilling.

    Ralph flushed a little, running his hand through his hair. “Yeah, not a problem... er...?”

    The woman straightened back up, irises sparkling. “It's Scrumples.”

    He gawked a little down at her, then leaned down with his head tilted. “I want to make sure I heard it correctly,” he explained.

    She giggled. “You heard it right. I'm Scrumples. The game was named after me. Or am I named after the game?” She raised her hand to her mouth in a thoughtful pose.

    Almost immediately, Ralph felt a twinge of guilt inside, remembering he had laughed at the name of the game, not thinking it was hers as well. Her hurt expression for that one, brief moment the previous week was now more recognizable than it was the first time. Turning to her, he wondered if she still remembered, but didn't wish to ask, nor could he bring himself to give a word of apology whether she forgot it or not. When their gazes met, he quickly backed up and looked at the map for a distraction, running a hand along his face.

    Scrumples didn't seem to catch the awkward movement, returning her attention to the bustling crowds. He grew relieved from the silence, as much as he wanted to get out of there. His eyes trailed after various characters passing on by, wondering if the conversation was over.

    Scratching his back, Ralph happened to glance down to find she was staring up at him. A small chill trickled down his spine as old memories flashed in his mind. “Please don't stare.”

    “I never got a good look at you,” Scrumples said, her tone innocent. “Can't really see how you're a bad guy. You're too nice.” Her cat-like smile spread as her eyes arched, though her nose remained intact. When her irises reappeared, she giggled, then her gaze drifted over to the clock, and she squinted a little. “What time do the trains stop moving?”

    The man jolted upward when he fully assessed the question. “As long as the electricity stays on, they'll work. Still, as we have work in the morning, we can't stay up all night.”

    She nodded, stretching her arms over her head as she swerved around to face him. “Okay, then. I'll be seeing you... Ralph?” When he nodded once, she clapped and giddily jumped in place. “I got it right this time! I'll remember it for sure!”

    Something clicked in his head as he cast his eyes about the station. The closest characters were by the bench several feet away, and as far as Ralph knew, they were keeping to themselves. Everyone else walked on by with hardly a passing glance, though when she joyously cried out, some lifted their heads briefly. Dropping his gaze back down, he saw a knowing glint in her eyes. “You... what are you saying?”

    “It was nice talking to you again!” She waved with a smile, carefully backing her way toward the train's direction. “I'll be seeing you around, Ralph! Good night!” Twirling around, she appeared to skip away, easily moving out of the way of other characters.

    He gaped after her, trying to process what had happened. Shaking his head and taking one last look around his surroundings, he walked off to Fix-It Felix Jr. A good night's sleep was what he decided he needed.

    “Perhaps this'll make more sense in the morning,” Ralph told himself, even though there was that certainty at the back of his mind it wouldn't help a bit.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  3. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    Fun fact: I Google'd to see if “scrumples” means anything, because I seriously thought it wasn't an actual word, and that it's something a non-English speaking person would come up with. I laughed and cried at the same time. That's what I get for taking my brother's advice when it comes to naming and not bothering to look it up. So... yeah. That should give you some insight on the character, I guess ^^;.


    Chapter Three: Little Changes


    The light from the monitor slowly poured into the game world beyond the walls as the sunrise arrived. While the front of the Niceland Apartments building was lit up, the rest of the surrounding area remained in shadow, though the pin-points of light serving as stars dimmed down. Ralph was awake a good thirty minutes ahead of schedule, though he didn't exactly know why. He slept fine, from what he could remember, and there were no dreams that bothered him. Anything he may have felt from whatever dream he had slipped away into nothingness. Having chosen to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, the wrecker allowed his thoughts to wander.

    Memories, old and new, marched in and out as he picked through them. If he stopped to hover on a memory such as with Vanellope on her silly days, participating in activities with the villains at Bad-Aon, or just having a chat with Felix (and sometimes Sergeant Calhoun) wherever they were at, he felt happiness swell in him. Such was the opposite when he thought back to when he broke the girl's heart, and carelessly abandoned the Nicelanders and Felix, nearly leaving themselves homeless. If they had indeed lost their home, it was guaranteed they would starve in the station like Q*bert and his fellow companions. And the little guys these days were thankful for everything that happened. It had been a long time since he saw them happy, and he wouldn't dare trade that for a silly medal.

    Though if they had become homeless, would the Nicelanders have shown even less respect than before? Would the other characters have thought the same way? Q*bert was well-liked amongst the arcade, but no one knew what to do once his game was unplugged. They were only pitied by many. While he wasn't completely despised for being a villain, he would've been worse off. As much as he liked being alone, he never wanted to go unacknowledged. He would've liked for at least one person to have shown some form of sympathy for him.

    The conflicting emotions were what got Ralph out of bed to get himself ready for work and push it all from mind. Pulling in his clothes from the line outside his window, he took a quick look at the apartment complex to catch a glimpse of Gene walking out and fixing his coat. While he never once saw him first thing when he woke up, judging from what he would do every night in leading Felix to the dock, he did the same thing every morning since Felix moved out of the apartment to live with Calhoun. It was a rather tedious routine, but no different from whenever Felix himself would come greet him in the morning and made sure he, Q*bert, and the others were up and ready.

    Slipping into his clothes, Ralph stared at the spot on the dresser where many-an alarm clock had been accidentally broken. He was still finding little pieces around the floor, and even in his bed, all of which he expected weren't from a specific clock. He stopped asking Felix to fix it after the third time it broke, knowing it was useless. There had to be a possibility there was a stronger alarm clock he could use so he could stop relying on his neighbors to wake him up. Pausing at the entranceway, the man glanced into the mirror on the wall before he headed outside.

    Walking around to the back of his house for the apple trees, Ralph let out a yawn. “Le'see... it's another week of Bad-Anon, ain't it?” he mumbled to himself, plucking a few ripe fruit from the branches. He stared blankly at the tree as he carefully backed away, trying not to look away. It was a silly thing, he admitted, but it always bothered him how every time the tree was out of sight, new fruit would grow back like nothing ever happened. It never surprised him that it would, the exact same thing happened in the forest he once lived in. He just never bothered looking into it.

    Reaching the front door to Q*bert's house, he lightly tapped on the wood with his foot. Not a moment later did it open, and from the corner of his eye, he could see the top of the orange creature's head. He garbled out a greeting, with Ralph nodding in reply. “'Morning, buddy. Did you all sleep well?” The response was a small honk, bringing a grin to his face. Leaning down, he handed over half of the apples. “Eat it all up, fellas. I'll see you in the field.” He then side-stepped away, still keeping the trees in view until his house threatened to block it, and he started backing up. Q*bert never once questioned his odd behavior in the mornings, so he figured he understood what it was all about.

    Once he hit a brick wall, he leaned against it and bit into an apple, wiping the juices from his chin. A small movement caught his eye, bringing him to glance over to find a worm had popped out from the core. He let out a terrified yelp (though he could swear it let out a scream as well), threw it a long ways, and spat out what was still in his mouth. Now paranoid, he split the other apple in half, relaxing to find it was normal. Turning his attention back to the apple tree, he nearly threw down the two halves in frustration at the newly-grown fruit.

    “Why does it keep doing that?!” he growled with a deep scowl, and jabbed his finger before him. “Just you wait, tree! I will witness your respawning!” Ralph did a double-take when he saw Mary standing at the corner, giving him an odd look. He ineptly grinned, giving her a wave. “'Morning, Mary! I'm just doing my part in keeping the trees green and healthy! Have to talk to them every day, you know?” Nervously chuckling, he flicked both his fingers at the accursed tree, and power walked off to the dock, resuming eating his breakfast. Keeping his face to the front, he grumbled a “Why me” through his teeth.

    He remained as such until the platform came to view. Standing directly beneath the clock, Gene looked over, a brow raised slightly. “That's the third time this week you threatened a tree,” he stated. “And it's only Wednesday.”

    “I didn't threaten it,” he countered, coming to a halt behind him. He flicked the seeds and stem into the shadows before throwing the rest of the half into his mouth.

    “It's just a tree, Ralph. So it grows new apples when you look away, big deal. At least it doesn't take an entire day to grow new fruit.”

    He wasn't liking his tone of voice, but Ralph decided against arguing with him. “It does if you keep picking the apples all at once.”

    The mayor wrinkled his nose a little in a flustered manner. “Well, of course. Mary runs out of ingredients for her pies daily, so the trees here are convenient for her.”

    The wrecker nodded in agreement, finishing the rest of the apple and wiping his hands on his suspenders. He ignored Gene's look of disgust until after he swallowed and leaned against the pillar, folding his arms. “Felix is a little late, ain't he,” he pointed out, gesturing to the clock above them.

    Facing the front, the Nicelander nodded gruffly. “Must be some traffic in the station, or something.”

    The two stood there in silence, no more lines of dialogue spoken. Ralph didn't mind it, knowing it was less words to share between them. While he was on better terms with the mayor, it was apparent he still wasn't too fond of him despite his huge role in the game. As long as he wasn't calling him names, he shrugged it off easily.

    From inside the tunnel, they could hear the echoes of wheels from the cart, and they stood at attention, watching as it came into view with Felix in the front seat. Normally, he called out to them before they got to see him, but judging from his goofy smile and glazed eyes, he was clearly spaced out. His face was covered with lipstick marks, so it wasn't a big mystery as to what happened to him. Ralph had cough out his laughter while Gene straightened up and pretended they weren't there.

    “Good morning, Mr. Fix-It!” he greeted him, hands grasping his jacket. “I take it your evening was pleasant?”

    Felix stood up from the car at an angle and loosely raised his golden hammer, his expression unchanging, though his speech was slightly slurred. “G'day-all! T'day's gonna be a good 'un!” He chuckled for a long moment, cheeks glowing pink as he stepped out, and nearly lost his balance. He just nearly missed smacking himself with the hammer head when he gave a salute. “It's 'make the missus proud' time!” Then he started to quietly laugh, and slapped his knee.

    “Yes, of course.” Gene cleared his throat, and let out a sigh. “Well, let's finish the rest of the preparations, and then get into position. See you two in a few.” Shooting Ralph a glance that told him “your turn”, he walked off.

    Rubbing the back of his head, the wrecker turned back to his giddy friend, whom was still giggling uncontrollably. Thinking through his responses, he picked one from the batch that was more normal to start. “I can see you're doing well.”

    Taking a couple of deep breaths, he nodded. “Uh huh!” A few snickers blew past his teeth, and he took off his cap to squeeze to his chest. “Tammy is still full of surprises, gee willikers!”

    Ralph forced himself to nervously smile. “Thanks for the info... I guess...” The moment hearts started popping around Felix's head when he deeply sighed, he took a step back and clapped his hands together. “Okay, we're off to a good start! Hey, after work, let us go to Tapper's! My treat!”

    “Sorry, Ralphie, I made plans tonight.”

    “I draw the line at 'Ralphie'.”

    The hero giggled, reaching out to pat his arm and missing. “Sorry 'bout that. Les' try tomorrow.” Tipping his cap when he put it back on, he swayed the moment he started to walk off toward the apartment complex. It was incomprehensible at first, but it was apparent he was singing a ditty Ralph guessed was a song he and Calhoun must have listened to earlier.

    Unsure what to do with him, he shrugged it off and followed after him, hands in his pockets.


    “Someone smell funny.”

    “Sorry, Cyril,” Zangief apologized, smiling nervously. “Couldn't shower immediately after work.”

    “At least be grateful he doesn't keep hair unshaved on his arms.”

    A chorus of “ooh”s went around the group when Zangief turned to give Kano a weird look, who in return shot a grin of victory across from him. He slowly shook his head in disappointment. “Why do you have to be that way?”

    “Wanna fight me? I'll gladly take you on.”

    “If you two want to fight, you'll have to take it outside,” Clyde stepped in from where he sat on the bot's shoulder, shooting the two a warning glare. “But then that means you'll have to forfeit the game, which means everyone loses.”

    “We can just do the 'surgery' technique,” Satan suggested, scanning the tangled arms to connect the hands of Kano and Zangief for plausibility. “Besides, I wouldn't mind seeing a fight between them—a friendly one, mind you.”

    Cyril flopped his head over his shoulder where his axes lay. “Me call doctor,” he said in a slight gurgle.

    I'm the only registered doctor in this room,” Robotnik corrected, goggles glinting when he looked up at the zombie.

    “I think we're too tangled up,” Mishaela muttered, a frown on her lips. “If Bison hadn't moved from where he was earlier, I think we'd have a better chance.” In response, he ducked his head to shake it in disagreement.

    “If you wish, I can give an incantation to make your arms separate temporarily,” Neff grunted, snorting and tossing his head back. “It is bloodless, too.” Beholder and Bowser chuckled under their breaths, to which the rhinoceros gave a small smirk.

    “I wouldn't trust that with my life, honestly,” Ralph said, not taking his eyes away from his side of the knot. “Cyril, duck under here, see if that'll work.” He lifted his arm in a gesture.

    “He's going to get stuck if he does that,” Kano interjected when he broke his gaze from Zangief. “I'll move in his stead.”

    “Please do, Kano,” Clyde sighed, shaking his head as the criminal leader ducked under a bridge of arms. “We were doing so well, too.”

    “Nonsense, I think this pointless argument here is proof we're getting along.” The devil gave a smile when a few villains nodded a little. “Little things come up we don't agree with, and that's wonderful.”

    Smoke shrugged his shoulders. “Eh, my guess is it's because we're all playing as newbies.”

    “No newbie would've known about the 'surgery' technique.”

    “Or perhaps this struggle is because we're not helping each other out as much?” the wrecker threw out, glancing around the group. “I've noticed communication was lacking, at least when it came to the game itself. We mostly just talked about other things, or snarked to each other.”

    Kano's hands slipped out when he moved to throw them up in defense. “Not my intention. It was just a joke.” He then looked at what he did and slapped himself on the forehead. “Crud.”

    Dropping his arms, Cyril leaned against Ralph a little. “Still smell bad here.”

    The ghost let out another sigh, the robot gently placing him down on the ground. “Well, before Cyril's nose falls off... again, guess we might as well close this meeting. We'll save this for another time. Obviously, this week wasn't a great week for an activity.”

    Individually, the villains pulled their hands away, a few rubbing their arms and stretching them out. Once they were back in order, they reached out for a hand. Bison patted Clyde on the back in comfort before they recited their affirmation. “Sorry things didn't go as planned,” he then said once their hands dropped.

    “Not your fault, it's nobody's,” he assured him. “It's going to sound a bit like an excuse, but we had a really skilled gamer today. Took us to a really high level.”

    The villains perked up in interest, a couple muttering to themselves. “Did you encounter the kill screen?” Neff inquired, putting his armor plates back on.

    “Thank Namco we didn't. I think Pacman got tired by then, and had unintentionally slowed down. I don't think the player noticed.” His look transitioned to that of worry for a brief moment before he took in a breath. “It was an interesting day, to say the least.”

    One by one, the group went up to wish Clyde well before exiting the building. Ralph caught up to the sorcerer when he made a turn for the restroom. “Neff, before I forget, I need to ask you a question.”

    He stopped at the doorway, hand on the handle. “Query away.”

    The man got right to the point. “I have a friend who would like to visit Altered Beast, if not at least see the gameplay.”

    “Then come on over, I appreciate visitors.”

    “I told her, however,” he quickly added before Neff stepped into the restroom, “that I'd have to get permission from you and everyone else if we could temporarily change the coding.”

    “Ah, yes. You do have that knowledge.” The bipedal rhinoceros' brow rose in fascination. “What is it you wish to do with the code?”

    Ralph, not wanting to stall, shrugged honestly. “Whatever it'll take to keep us safe from the harsh environment.”

    Neff nodded in understanding. “I have no real issue about the situation. I will have to meet with the minions and heroes for their agreement, however. I am sure they will approve of it either way. Stop on by tomorrow, and I shall have an answer, and you your ideas.”

    “Deal.” They shook hands, and with a wave, Ralph went down the tunnel, and just managed to hop into his seat before it took off.

    Looking up at the tunnel lights triggered a memory, which he quickly brushed off. He looked over at Cyril beside him, thinking about starting a quick conversation, but decided against it—until he noticed the zombie was missing something. Tapping him on the shoulder, he whispered to him, “I think you forgot your hatchets again.”

    “I wha...?” After looking up at Ralph, Cyril dropped his head to stare at his hands. It took a moment for his slow mind to get it. “I forgot my axes!”

    Some of the villains quickly stifled their laughing, the ones seated nearby reaching over to pat him on the back. The man smiled sadly, feeling bad for the character. “It's okay. We all forget sometimes.”

    “Not I!” Robotnik raised a hand. “With this high IQ of mine, I have the memory of three elephants, give or take.”

    Bowser guffawed. “Care to explain how that 'pesky hedgehog' can't foil your plans again?” he growled in a taunting manner.

    “I call hypocrisy!”

    As the two villains started getting into a verbal argument, Ralph quickly blocked it so he could focus on what he wanted to do with Altered Beast's coding. He imagined during gameplay, he and Vanellope could view it on a moving platform in the background, away from enemies and any debris that would fly around. For safety measures, he could grant them temporary status as non-playable characters so they wouldn't be targeted. Sounded easy enough.

    When they arrived to the platform, Bowser and Robotnik were still disputing, prompting a few other characters to chant “Fight, fight!” in a joking manner. Ralph went ahead to send Cyril off back to the game, and waited until everyone entered the station before walking in himself (though fresh graffiti caught his eye and he wondered who thought it'd be funny for Sonic and Mario to co-op together). Waiting at the top of the stairs, he scanned the floor and made up his mind to not make eye-contact with anyone. He locked his vision straight ahead, keeping his mind on the modification idea.

    “There you are, Ralph!”

    A smile spreading across his face, he turned to face Vanellope as she bounded her way up to his side. She spoke up before he could open his mouth. “Looks like I caught you just in time before I lost you. How was the meeting?”

    He gave a shrug. “Ah, same old thing, really. That's the thing about support groups, they tend to be pretty consistent. Had some issues with our activity, though.”

    “Did you get permission about Altered Beast?”

    Deciding to mess with her, he lightly smacked his head in feint awe. “Oh, snap, it totally slipped my mind. Dear, oh dear... I can't find him in the crowd, looks like he went back home.” He rubbed his neck at an angle to conceal his smirk from her. “I won't be able to see him until next week, so... might as well go on that walk around Game Central Station like you always wanted.” In mock excitement, he clasped his hands and rubbed them together. “Which way you want to go, clockwise or counter-clockwise?”

    Ralph could tell just by looking down at Vanellope's face she wasn't buying it. “You're a terrible liar,” she simply said, brow cocked in amusement. “I can lie so much better than you.”

    He rolled his eyes, dropping his hands to his hips. “Oh, yeah? I'd like to see you try.”

    She grinned mischievously, and from her pocket, she pulled out a jawbreaker. Jutting her thumb behind her at where Surge Protector was standing, the girl explained, “He stopped me when I crossed the gate, see. Asked for my information, and I gave him my response until he asked that deadly question of 'are you possessing food or drink on your person'. He was looking at me the entire time, and I didn't want my candy taken away. So this is what I did.”

    Rocking her little body side-to-side, Vanellope placed her hands together before her, bent her knees slightly so they touched, puffed out her cheeks a little, and stuck out her bottom lip. Then she stared up at Ralph with big, teary eyes as she gave out a tiny whine. The man managed to be physically unfazed by her puppy-dog stare, though it tapped a chord in his core. “And that was how I snuck candy past the guard,” she concluded, her stance back to normal in a blink of an eye. Snickering through her teeth, she tossed the jawbreaker in her hand a little, and stuck it in her mouth.

    With a small chuckle of his own, he patted her on the head. “That was more deception than lying, but you're getting there. Just don't get it to your head that you can get away with that on me.”

    “Why sho'd I? I a'eady did jush now.”

    He made a brief gesture like he wanted to strangle her, and she laughed, jumping around in a circle. Sighing heavily, he left her be, running his hands through his wild hair. “Okay, so... you ready to go?”

    “Yesh!” she exclaimed, pumping her fist into the air. He grimaced when a string of saliva dripped from her mouth, then winced even more when Vanellope slurped it back into her mouth. She spoke again like it never happened. “Shucksh A'tered Beasht hash to wait anosher day.”

    “I would appreciate it if you would take out that jawbreaker to speak.” Ralph then had a second thought. “Actually, don't. Keep that in your mouth. And as for Altered Beast, Neff has no problem with it, he just has to talk with the other characters. I'm going in tomorrow to get his response.”

    The girl shrugged it off, stuffing her hands into her pockets as they began walking down a random direction. “Sho, anyshing goin' on in life?”

    Thinking it as an excuse to speak more than her, he shrugged a little. “Nothing much, honestly. I'm thinking on getting a new alarm clock, one that won't break so easily. I can't always have Felix or Q*bert coming in to make sure I'm up on time. Which is odd, I should've already developed an internal alarm clock by now, but it tends to get messed up around this time of year—oh, what's it called... Daylight Savings Time. Which is ironic, considering my game doesn't have actual daylight, know what I'm saying?”

    Vanellope nodded. “I shink our clock'sh'a shame year-round. Haven' rea'y paid attenshion to it.”

    “I think half of the reason is because I have a house now. It was easier waking up on time when it was just the brickyard, but I'm not going to complain.”

    “I'm not too ushed to my own bedroom yet, eisher. It'sh pretty weird.” She wiped at her mouth. “My window'sh to sh'a easht, sho I get sh'a shun to sh'a eyesh ev'ry mornin'.”

    Ralph quietly laughed. “Sorry to hear that.”

    “Eh. I have acshual blanketsh and pillowsh and all t'at. I'm happy wish it.” Her grin was slightly lop-sided from the bulge in her cheek. “After shtayin' in Diet Cola Moun'ain for sho long, I can bundle up like a cocoon and I'd shtill be cool. And loud noishesh can't wake me up eash'y. 'Sh one time, apparent'y Shou' Bill shaid firecrackersh a'shident'ly went off in sh'a sh'rone room when it dropped from a bundle—my bedroom'sh right above it.”

    Only able to understand what she was talking about over half of the time, he just nodded, brows raising to make it look like he was surprised. “Interesting.”

    “Yeah, it wash nutsh.” Vanellope then slowed down and her face started to droop in what he believed to be the beginning of a sneeze. They stood there for a few moments until the girl scowled in disappointment. “Shtupid shneeshe.” Looking up, she spotted a restroom sign down at the end, and her eyes lit up. “Be right back, Ralph, gotta take care of bushnesh. Shtay here.”

    He gave her a small salute. “Sure thing, President.”

    With a half-smile, she hurried off in almost a blend of a jog and skip. Ralph shook his head in amusement, and sat on the closest bench. Resting his chin on a hand, he watched the passers-by, occasionally giving a wave whenever he made eye-contact with a character. He briefly glanced up at the departure schedule when it flickered in an update, then he glanced down to visually trace out patterns on the floor. It was possible it was only for a few minutes, but he didn't know how long he was looking down for, finding himself surprisingly entertained in coming up with different shapes he could see. He would stare at one particular spot before scanning around to see if he would find an identical pattern only to discover a new one. It was an odd feeling to know he walked up-and-down this place for thirty years, and not once saw the detail in the marble.

    Sitting back, Ralph looked up and nearly jolted back in shock when he noticed the woman from the previous evening standing off to the right. She flinched as well, her eyes slightly widening and shifting around. “Don't scare me like that,” he said as a groan, pushing back his hair.

    “Sorry,” she whispered out, grasping her apron. She glanced over at him with a sheepish smile, then raised a hand timidly. “Hello, again.”

    “Yeah, yeah... uh... S... Scamples?” he guessed, knowing he wasn't correct, but didn't want to admit to not remembering her name.

    “It's Scrumples.”

    “Ah, of course. Scrumples.” He nodded a little, taking her in with a quick scan of her familiar outfit. “How you been?”

    “Okay. Everything went well.”

    He blinked. “Were you having trouble before?”

    She shook her head, though he noticed her hands tightened their hold slightly. “Not at all. I'm just not used to everything yet.”

    Nodding in understanding, he straightened his shoulders. “You'll get the hang of it. It's in your coding.” His finger tapped against his knee as they shared a moment of silence, their eyes awkwardly avoiding contact. Scrumples' face slowly glowed a light pink, her hair slightly standing on end. “What are you doing back at this station, by the way? Wait, let me guess: you're reaching out again.”

    Her head bobbed a few times. “Yes...”

    “Well, third time's the charm... unless you've been doing this longer.”

    She shrugged. “I've done this in both stations.”

    “Any luck?”

    “Somewhat. I've talked to a few people, but I've gotten nothing more past, 'Welcome to Litwak's Arcade, we're glad to have you with us.' Well...” Scrumples pursed her lips while she gathered her thoughts. “...my actual neighbors are pretty good at talking to me.”

    Ralph perked up, giving her a small smile. “That's a good sign. They're good folks, I bet.”

    “Yeah, they're not bad. Don't talk a lot, though.”

    “Busy schedules tend to do that where you may not see each other a lot.”

    “N... Not that...” Her face flushed deeper as she side-glanced. Upon raising her hands to her chin, she also brought up the apron. “I just... mmm...”

    He had a good idea about the cause of the lack of communication. Letting out a soft sigh, the man nodded in understanding, not wanting to continue pushing her. “I see. Guess you wanted to try your luck here, then.”

    Scrumples looked over at him. “Once I found my way back here, yes.”

    “And? Have you introduced yourself to anyone here? Besides me, of course,” he hurriedly added when he caught the pause.

    Her eyes drooped in melancholy, releasing her hold on the apron. Shuffling in place, she tapped her shoes against the marble floor, clasping her hands behind her. “Y... You have a good variety here,” she slowly started, “and I'm sure there are nice characters. But you were right, Ralph. No one knows me here because I'm not from this station. I don't know if any of them are willing to speak a word to me.”

    Something tugged inside of him at her words, knowing full well what she was talking about. Fighting back the memories, the wrecker decided against bringing it up. “I wouldn't say that. They're probably just a little surprised that a stranger wandered into this station. Far as I know, few of the characters here travel all over the place.”

    She let out a small sigh, raising and dropping her shoulders. “I suppose...”

    “Eh? Who're you, lady?”

    Ralph turned to scowl at Vanellope as she walked up to them, her attention on Scrumples. “Don't be rude, that is not how a president should speak to people.”

    “Well, what'd you want me to do, curtsy?”

    “At least it's better than shouting out 'who're you, lady' to a stranger.”

    “I wasn't shouting, I was questioning.” She rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. In a hand, she twiddled between her fingers a round, solid ball of paper towel he guessed was the jawbreaker. “You need to work on deciphering tones of speech.”

    “I don't care if you were singing it through the speaker, you are supposed to say, 'Oh, I've never seen you around here before. Care to introduce yourself?'”

    “Want me to strike a pose while I'm at it, too?” She snapped her fingers to-and-fro before her face.

    Scrumples' giggle interrupted the verbal match, her face a soft pink when they turned to her. “Is she your sister, Ralph?” she asked.

    “I'd much rather have Turbo be my long-lost brother than this guy,” Vanellope interjected through a cheeky smirk. She laughed under his glower, slapping her knee like she had told a joke. “I kid, I kid! But seriously, he's my best friend.”

    The woman's eyes widened in awe, looking back-and-forth between the two. “Is that so?”

    “You're not the only person to have said that,” Ralph said, keeping his eye on the girl. “Scrumples, this is Vanellope, or should I say, President Vanellope of Sugar Rush.”

    “It's President Vanellope von Schweetz, to you, mister. But as for you, you can call me Vanellope.” She gave a welcoming salute. “So your name's Scrumples, eh? I've never seen you around here before.” She pointed at the man when he jumped up from the bench and took a menacing step toward her. “I said what I was supposed to say, Stink Brain! Don't get mad at me, now!”

    “You better thank those lucky stars we're in public,” he huffed, pointing threateningly at her. “Were we elsewhere, you'd be getting a spanking.”

    Her mouth dropped open more from disbelief than horror. “Not with those hands, you aren't! You'd break my butt!”

    “Then perhaps you'll learn your lesson the hard way as you shuffle around. You seem to like those kinds of sessions.”

    “That's considered a cruel and unusual punishment to let me walk around with a broken butt!”

    “Not in my book, it's not.”

    They stopped when Scrumples suddenly burst out laughing and clutching her middle, tears beginning to leak from the corners of her now-arched eyes. She was unaware of a few passing characters giving her an odd look as she fell to her knees. “Sh-She got you there, Ralph! Such a clever girl, hitting back your own advice!”

    Vanellope raised a puzzled brow the longer she watched the woman shake with mirth, though her eyes trailed to the three long lines dancing in blocky movements above her head. Steadily leaning over to Ralph, she asked, “Uh... is she okay?” She shot him a glimpse.

    “It's called 'laughter',” he muttered to the side.

    “Not talking about that. For one thing... what are those?”

    “I have no idea.”

    “And is she laughing at what I think she's laughing at?”

    The man sighed, dropping his face into a hand. “Some people get jokes slower than others. Felix is the same way at times.”

    “Guess it makes sense.” The girl frowned a little, looking around at those who were slowing for a better look. “It wasn't that big an inside joke, though.”

    Scrumples tried to breathe in between giggles, but was failing. She laid herself flat on the ground when her body couldn't hold itself up any longer. The tears kept on coming, streaming down her cheeks as thick, white lines.

    “You sure pick the weirdest people to hang out with,” Vanellope sighed, scratching her head.

    Ralph gave her a brief glare, though it softened to just a warning glance when he acknowledged to himself she wasn't far from reality.


    A/N: Ack, that Bad-Anon meeting was a pain x_x. I know maybe not even half of those characters, but at least thank goodness for research. I went with the names I thought were the best identifications with a few characters who are still a bit ambiguous. I don't think we'll know all of the names until the movie is released to home media.

    So yeah... I may have butchered that one part. Meep.
  4. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    Nothing much to say here. Moving along.


    Chapter Four: Oblivious


    “...and this is the Candy Cane Forest. Stink Brain and I first met here on one of these trees... somewhere.”


    Ralph had trudged behind since the beginning of the tour, keeping his mouth shut and his gaze elsewhere. While he had nothing against Vanellope showing Scrumples around Sugar Rush—she actually looked really excited to show off her world—he didn't know why he had to be a part of it. Wait, she just about forced him to go along, giving the dumbest explanation about why he wasn't allowed to let them go off on their own.

    “What if someone were to kidnap us? Then it'll be all your fault, because you would've been there to prevent that from happening.”

    It was such an obvious lie, he would've countered it easily. But then Scrumples fell for it, and was emotionally torn over the thought. Knowing he'd never live it down if he left the two there, and not wanting to leave with a bad impression, he gave in. At first, he went along with it, and everything had gone smooth. However, as time passed and if they weren't paying attention, the woman began wandering off whenever a piece of candy caught her eye. Vanellope thought it was funny, yet even she started getting tired of chasing after her to make sure she stayed on the path. It was for that reason they strayed away from the Laffy Taffy, having the knowledge she would never leave that place.

    “...don't lick the trees when it's cold. Especially after they've already been licked.”

    Ralph decided it wasn't worth asking, let alone knowing.

    Scrumples knocked on the hard coating, staring wide-eyed up at the branches. “Is it climbable?”

    “Of course! I climb these trees whenever I can!” The girl puffed out, and pounded her fist on her chest. “The branches hang down like that for a reason, and it's easy to hang on after you lick your hands.” She looked around with shifty eyes. “That's my secret, by the way.”

    The woman quietly gasped, then slowly pulled her hands away from the trunk. “Anything... else I should know about?”

    She pointed high above them. “See that double-striped branch? Those disappear when you land on or touch them. They come back, of course, but it takes about a day to respawn. If you want, you can go ahead and try your hand at climbing.”

    “Um... I'm good. Thanks, Vanilla.”

    “It's President Vanellope.”

    “Oh, right.” Holding up a finger for her to wait, she pulled out her notepad and flipped to a page. “Okay... how do you spell it?”


    “I meant your name,” Scrumples giggled, blushing a little.

    Vanellope lightly smacked herself upside the head. “I knew that.”

    Letting out a tired sigh, Ralph turned his attention to the pink sky. It was steadily becoming a darker shade as the sun started to set behind the clouds, with hints of purple streaking after it. He estimated they had no more than half-an-hour left, which he also expected was how much time he had left with Scrumples for the day. Such a negative thought bothered him somehow, even with a few good reasons.

    A tug on his suspenders brought his attention to Vanellope, whom was presently sucking on one of her drawstrings and gesturing for him to kneel. He lowered himself closer to her level without a word, tilting his head when she stood on tip-toe. “You think I should show her the hideout?” she quietly inquired, a small smile on her face.

    “Absolutely not,” he answered without hesitation, his voice low. “You've only met her about an hour ago.”

    “So? I showed you Diet Cola Mountain in that amount of time.”

    Ralph scowled a little. “She's different.”

    The drawstring dropped from her mouth when Vanellope raised a skeptical brow. “...yeah, I can kinda see where you're coming from, but um, I showed it to you out of trust. How can you not trust that face?” She gestured over to Scrumples.

    He glanced up to find the woman's head was thrown back for a better look at the trees. She was so engrossed in it, when she backed up for a better angle, her shoe slipped on a pebble and she barely missed landing on the lollipops. Scrumples' eyes were wide and blank from the shock, complete with a small bandaid on the spot she hit her head, though when she flipped over and turned in the direction of the candy, her irises returned to normal with a sparkly gaze. Sitting up on her knees, she rubbed her hands on both sides of a lollipop, a small string of drool dripping from her mouth.

    Looking back at the girl, her stance didn't change, though she let out a nervous chuckle. “I'm letting it slide,” she whispered.

    Ralph covered half of his face with a hand, shaking his head. “Kid, you're too trustworthy.”

    “Why are you being so paranoid, Ralph?”

    “I'm not paranoid,” he snapped, immediately realizing his voice raised. He dropped his hand. “I'm not,” he repeated in a quieter tone. “I am just saying you need to be a little cautious. Scrumples is just...”

    “Why not call her 'Scrumps'?”

    He gawked down at her. “Why not what?”

    Vanellope grinned. “That's the nickname I'm going to give her. 'Scrumples' rolls off the tongue too much for me. Besides, she just looks like a 'Scrumps', doesn't she?”

    Ralph waved his hands around in defeat. “Whatever. Scrumples is a little bit ditzy. In fact, I'd say she's too ditzy to be let loose inside Diet Cola.” The girl suddenly snickered through her teeth, and he reviewed in his head what he said before rolling his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

    “Hey, uh... is this green goop safe?” Scrumples called out, pointing to the taffy.

    “If Ralph can sink in like a rock and get out of it fine, Scrumps, then it's safe,” Vanellope responded, giving a thumbs up.

    Ralph resisted smacking her upside the head. “That was uncalled for!”

    She smirked at the man, ignoring his glare. “Well, it's true.”

    “I don't care, I could have drowned in there that time!”

    “There's no way you can drown in that stuff. It's too thick.”

    He cracked his knuckles. “Maybe you'll change your mind when I dunk you in there.”

    The girl let out a gasp, though her big smile gave it away she wasn't seriously frightened. “An 'assinated' attempt!” She laughed and pumped her fist. “I'm one step closer to becoming a true president!”

    “That's not something you should be having on your 'to-do' list!” He then did a double-take when he noticed Scrumples at his side, quickly standing up and stuffing his hands into his pockets.

    The woman didn't seem to notice, her eyes remaining locked on Vanellope. “Did... did I hear you right?” she breathed out, lips barely moving. “Did you give me a nickname?”

    Rubbing the back of her head, she nodded. “Yeah... sorry. It's kind of a habit.” She tensed up when she spotted tears at the corners of her eyes, guilt twisting in her gut. “Uh... um... I-I should've asked you for permission before I blurted it out, I'm sorry!”

    Before any of them could react, Scrumples snatched her up and hugged her close, twirling around with a squeal of joy. Hearts were ejected out from the spinning, weirding Ralph out even more. “I have a nickname and it's the cutest nickname ever!” was squeezed out in one breath.

    While she continued to make noises of glee, Vanellope shut her eyes in attempt to block the wave of dizziness. “That's good to hear!” she shouted over her voice. “Can you put me down, please? ...Scrumps?”

    Kya-a-a, it's so cute! Scrumps-Scrumps-Scrumps!” Her grip tightened.

    “Ack! Ralph, help! I'm going to be si-i-ick!”

    While tempted to laugh loudly and call it a form of karma, the man couldn't bring himself to do either. He nervously held up his hands in hesitance, unsure if he should stop Scrumples' spinning, or grab Vanellope. Unable to make up his mind, he shut his eyes and lunged forward where he was sure the woman was in. He only grabbed thin air, as she had fallen to the ground a second before. Ralph blinked in slight surprise, dropping his gaze to the collapsed characters. While the girl crawled clumsily a small ways, Scrumples lay unmoving, her eyes replaced by spinning spirals. The man scratched at his head, at a loss for what to do.

    Vanellope let out a small gag, clutching her abdomen. “This is just like the time I binged on candy to make my wrapper-blanket,” she groaned, laying back down on the ground. “Only... with a fuller stomach.”

    The woman uttered what sounded like a small laugh before quieting down.


    Scrumples was still a little tipsy by the time they reached the terminal, but Surge Protector hardly glimpsed at her when he looked up and made a note on his clipboard. Ralph brought himself to smile and nod at him when he turned the woman toward the right direction (then rebalanced her when she leaned too much to the right). Once out of earshot, he let out a sigh and released her. “Something tells me he's starting to slack off at his job.”

    “Poor guy,” she mumbled, stretching her arms out to help with her balance. “The security at Game Play is pretty nice.”

    “Possibly because they don't put up with folks like me.” He meant it as a joke, but even he winced inward from it.

    “I don't know...” She turned around to face him, slowing down her walking. “Thanks for coming along, by the way. The odds of us being kidnapped were really low like Vanellope said.”

    He fought back an urge to face palm. “You actually believed that?”

    She nodded. “Though I have to wonder if the tour would've gone just as well without you there. I could tell you weren't happy.”

    “I was that obvious, huh?”

    “You didn't talk a lot. But I guess it makes sense, since she was the tour guide, after all.” Scrumples faced the front, clasping her hands to lay on her apron. “Vanellope has a really cool world to live in. All of those sweets...” Her voice trailed off to a sigh.

    Ralph held back any sounds of disgust, instead choosing to side-glance at the other passing characters. “This was your first time game-hopping, I take it.”

    She looked over her shoulder. “Is that what it's called? Isn't that dangerous?”

    “If you don't watch where you're going.” He grabbed her shoulders to bring her to a halt. Scrumples tilted her head up and her jaw dropped to find a Tyrannosaurus Rex strolling past them. Before it crossed into the nearby port, it looked down at them, and lifted an arm in greeting upon recognizing Ralph. He waved at the dinosaur until it disappeared through, the thundering footsteps dying down. With a sly smile, he glimpsed at her face, which seemed to freeze from permanent surprise. “Not even the stations are safe,” he added.

    There was no answer, let alone any other reaction. When he lightly pushed against her shoulder, she started to tip forward, prompting him to straighten her back up. Feeling stares on him as characters walked around them, he snapped his fingers before her face in a thankfully-successful attempt to bring her back to normal.


    Ralph covered her mouth (then realized a moment later his hand took up her entire face), and promptly pulled her the rest of the way to the platform, avoiding eye-contact. Once inside, he took her aside and spun her around to look in her eyes. “What is wrong with you?!” he demanded, shaking her by the shoulders. “What did you do that for?!”

    Scrumples stared at him with a puzzled expression. “You saw that dinosaur, right?”

    He could feel something start to crack inside him the longer he searched her calm face. Pulling his hands away from her, one look at her arms showed immediate signs of bruising. The woman shuffled a little in place, slightly wincing when she rolled her shoulders. Following his gaze, she pulled up her sleeve for a better look. Ralph backed up in a panic, glancing back to make sure he wasn't getting in anyone's way, then dropped his head, running a hand through his hair.

    “I'm sorry... I-I wasn't thinking right...”

    Pressing her fingers to the center of the bruise and flinching from the pain, Scrumples dropped her arms, turned to face him, and lifted her lips into her cat-like smile. “It's okay. It's nothing compared to the numerous burns I've had.”

    He sharply inhaled, shaking his head. “It's not. I could've crushed your shoulders...”

    “Really, Ralph, it's okay.” Gingerly, she reached out to clasp both of her hands over one of his, marveling at the size difference. “Oh wow, they are huge.”

    Ralph roughly pulled away, stuffing them into his pockets. “Stop pretending you're okay, Scrumples. This is serious.”

    “They're only bruises. They're much more easy to take care of than burns.” Her eyes then arched for a second when she quietly giggled. “And why don't you call me Scrumps from now on? I don't call you 'Wreck-It' Ralph, or use Vanellope's whole name, which I think is 'Vanellope Bond Suits', or something.” She placed a finger on her chin in thought.

    The wrecker anxiously scanned her, inwardly wanting her to act normal for once, and drop this charade of naïveté. However, when her green irises locked back on to him, and she smiled, it became even harder for him to believe this was who she really was, programmed or not. Facing the tunnel in time for the carts to pull in with its share of passengers, he felt it was a godsend.

    Taking a deep breath to calm himself down, Ralph fanned his hand out toward the train, keeping his head down. “Off you go... Scrumps.” The transition to her nickname felt unnatural in his core.

    Scrumples remained standing where she was while the passengers changed, her expression remaining the same like it froze. Slowly, she leaned her head to the side for a better look, slightly stepping more into his point-of-view. Once they made that one brief eye-contact, she straightened up, and lifted a hand in a friendly wave. “Bye-bye, Ralph! I'll see you later!”

    Giving him a bow, she skipped up to the carts, jumping onto the end facing away from him. When she sat down, she spun around in her seat, shooting him another smile. Ralph shivered a little under the many gazes: the confused or uninterested stares of the other characters, and the perky beam of Scrumples. He barely raised a hand for a small wave when the train jerked, and sped off into the tunnel.

    The man watched as it disappeared from sight, a heavy sensation fell over his shoulders. Turning his back on the tracks, he punched the wall as lightly as possible on the way out, leaving behind a small dent.


    Scrumples turned back around when the train swerved further into the wiring, still smiling brightly. She closed her eyes with a quiet sigh. “I like that... Scrumps.” She squirmed happily in her seat. “Hee... Scrumps! It's so cute, too! 'Hello, Scrumps! Nice to see you!'” A small squeal escaped her lips, clasping her hands together under her chin. “Ohh, I love it, I love it! Scrumps, Scrumps, Scrumps!”

    For the whole trip, she was oblivious to the other passengers giving her an odd look as she rocked in place, cooing to herself.

    When the carts pulled into the dock, Scrumples was one of the first to hop out, twirling on her heel. Once she caught her breath, she smoothed out her dress, fixed her apron, and walked on out to the station. Her eyes sparkled at the numerous characters walking about, leaning on the railing as she stared out. The place looked no different from Game Central, but it was noticeably half its size, home to only twelve games, hers included.

    Skipping down the steps, she hurried through the crowd, coasting to the left where her port lay. Scrumples let her gaze wander, spinning whichever way to look at whatever caught her eye, nearly bumping into other characters in the process. In her clumsiness, she barely caught herself stumbling over the dwarf twin dragons, Bubblun and Bobblun, though she swerved around to apologize and give them hugs.

    “You look well,” the blue one squeaked, giving his buck-toothed smile.

    “I do, Bub—I mean, Bob!” She grinned with a nervous laugh looking over at the other twin. “Sorry.”

    Bubblun shrugged. “My response's the same.”

    Nodding rapidly, Scrumples sighed and twirled in place. “I've had a really fun time, today! The game went well like always, but I made a new friend today!”

    The dragons perked up, eyes widening in interest. “You did?” they said in unison.

    The woman almost melted at their unified voices until she composed herself. “Her name's Van... Va...” She took out her notepad for a quick look. “Vanellope! She's the president of her game, Sugar Rush.”

    “Oh, we've heard of that game,” Bobblun gesturing to his companion, whom nodded once. “We heard it was saved from a virus.”

    Scrumples blinked twice. “A virus?”

    “Well, that's just the rumor. It's become a bit infamous around here, as it's believed it could've threatened the entire arcade.”

    Her head tilted in interest. “Really? They didn't tell me about it.”

    “Because you didn't ask,” Bubblun piped up. “We only heard it from the people in OutRun, since they're a type of racing game... I think.”

    “They prefer calling themselves 'drivers'.” Bobblun used air quotes with the roll of his eyes. “Same thing, though. But yeah. I think the racing games have a secret clique or something if they all know this stuff.”

    She accepted it with a shrug. “That makes sense.” Glancing up at the clock, she bent down to hug them again. “I'll see you two around!” They waved back as she hopped away, giggling to herself.

    When she reached her port, she grabbed the end of the wall and spun herself into the terminal. Her shoe caught on the last step, but she quickly stumbled into the back cart, looking around to see if anyone witnessed the trip. Scrumples let out a breath that expelled itself in a mushroom cloud, and kicked her feet up on the seat before her when the small cars took off. Throwing her head back, she stared hypnotically at the passing lights, feeling herself start to drift off until she grew dizzy.

    Until the carts came to a stop outside a green forest, she had her head between her legs, rubbing her temples. “I should stop doing that,” she murmured to herself, drawing in a deep breath. “But why do the lights have to be so interesting?!” was the scream of anguish, eyes scrunching shut. “Why does it have to be so pretty?! No—why does it make me sleepy?!”

    Scrumples paused to think on it, feeling she had this conversation with herself many times. “Let's see... I get enough rest,” she started to count off on her fingers, “I like pretty things, light is amazing in some weird way, I stare at them long enough for it to either blur or sharpen...” Her eyes narrowed a little, small lines hovering on the side of her brow. “I think I have motion sicknesses...” she added, then slumped over the seat before her. “I'm tired. Besides, I don't want to forget what happened today!” There was a small prickle in the back of her mind at what she said, but she brushed it off without another thought.

    Taking a large step out onto the dock, she inhaled deeply once more, and spun herself around to face the cobbled path. Rocking on her heels and face relaxing when she thought of her tour of Sugar Rush, Scrumples walked onward. Occasionally when her eyes wandered, so did her mind.

    It's too bad the autumn season is nearing the end—Does the Candy Cane Forest have any leaves on their trees?—It sure is cool tonight—Cheese must be worried about now—Watch out for that stray root —The theme to Sugar Rush sure is catchy—

    “I forgot to fill up Cheese's food bowl!”

    In a panic, the woman ran the rest of the way to her house, skipping over the steps leading up to the front door. She grabbed the doorknob, then squealed. “Locked! Where'd I put the key?” After running her fingers over the top of the doorframe, she suddenly giggled to herself. “Oh yeah, I never lock the house. There's nobody here but me, after all.”

    The door opened soundlessly, the glow of the porch light spilling into the living room. Scrumples hopped over the threshold before bending down to unbuckle her shoes and place them in a small cubbyhole. She shuffled her feet around the small tile area, giddy at the cool touch through her stockings. Pushing the door closed with a heel, she called into the house in a sing-song voice, “Cheese, I'm ho-ome—oh!” Looking behind her, she frowned at the caught ribbon, reopening the door a small ways to release it.

    Rubbing the silky material between her fingers, Scrumples walked past the room until she stopped at an entranceway to her right. Looking up, she scanned the kitchen area first at the stove, then the countertop and sink, back to the stove to stare at the oven, and up at the long, wooden shelves covering the entire wall. She spotted movement from one beyond her reach, and she flicked the light switch on. Before she moved for the step ladder, a head peeped over the board. The white rat's long whiskers and round ears twice the size of its head twitched, its beady black eyes blinking down at her.

    The sight of her pet brought a toothy grin to her face. “There you are, Cheese! What're you doing up there, silly boy?” A brow rose in mock suspicion. “You getting into the ingredients behind my back again?”

    Cheese emitted a small string of squeaks, sitting up on his haunches. Scrumples clasped her hands and rested her cheek on them, small hearts rising like bubbles at her sides. “Oh-h-h, I can never stay mad at you, Cheese!” When she looked back up with teary eyes, they individually popped. “I'm sorry I'm a little late. I was exploring another game. Isn't that great?”

    The rodent scratched his ear, bringing another smile from her. “It's called Sugar Rush, and it's fu-u-ull of sweets!” The woman spread her arms wide. “I made a new friend, too! Her name's Vanellope, and she's the president. Isn't that cool? She's only a kid, and she's a leader!”

    With an admiring sigh, she leaned on the counter across the shelves, gazing dreamily out of the large window in what little wall there was. From what she could see past the glare of the cabinet screen, and through the doors of the arcade, there was a light snow falling. Cheese, after finishing grooming himself, scurried through a hole in the back, appearing on the bottom floor within several seconds. Pausing briefly at her feet, the rat leaped for the ribbon, and took a few moments to carefully climb up to her back. Scrumples squirmed a little in delight, glancing over when he reached her shoulder and sniffed her ear.

    “You like the sight, too?” she cooed, looking back at the window. “It's a shame we don't get seasons here outside of summer. But we can at least pretend that it's autumn in here, and that winter is on its way.”

    Cheese squeaked.

    “We should decorate... if we had decorations.” The woman hung her head in sorrow for a brief moment. “Well, hopefully the station, or... stations decorate. Then we can take a walk every day. How's that?”

    She flinched a little when her pet stuck his nose against the back of her neck, reaching upward into her hair. Giggling from the tickling sensation of his whiskers and claws, Scrumples scooped Cheese up and held him out before her. He stared back at her, holding it for half-a-minute before turning around to look out the window. She lowered him to the countertop where he bounded out of her hand before sitting back to scratch at his ear. She gently pet him with a finger, then glanced back up. Her gaze drifted to a painting hanging next to her.

    Often, she would stare at it for hours, and get lost in it. There were days she woke up the next morning still in her kitchen because she temporarily lost all sense of reality, and even still wondered for minutes afterwards if she was awake or still asleep—or both. Scrumples couldn't remember if her programmers gave her the painting, or if she placed it up there herself. All she knew was she wished to be there, running and dancing through its tall grass, climbing the many hills, trees and the occasional mountain, dip her feet in the lake mirroring the sky, watching the clouds drift on by as the sun soared across...


    Raising her hand, she frowned down at Cheese whom gave her an innocent look. Glad he didn't break the skin, she rubbed the bitten area, then her eyes trailed to her shoulder, noticing a dark bruise had developed just underneath her sleeve. Rolling it back, Scrumples gawked at it, now feeling it throb beneath the skin. Curiously, she lightly poked at it, biting her lip at the pain. Furrowing her brows, she checked her other shoulder to find it was equally bruised as well.

    “Huh,” she murmured, fixing her sleeves after taking a good look at them. “Must've run into something again.” With a shrug at her pet, she turned to face the stove, avoiding looking at the clock above it. She didn't need another reminder. Letting out a slow sigh, she plucked her toque from its hook and slipped it on her head, fluffing out her bangs.

    “Well... let's get started.”
  5. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    Chapter Five: Another Day


    “Good morning, Mr. Fix-It.”

    Felix tipped his cap at Gene when the trolley pulled in. “G'morning to you, Mayor.” Stretching his arms above his head, he jumped out onto the platform, and pulled out his golden hammer to twirl it in his hand. “Ready for today, sir?”

    “Oh, I'm always ready.” The Nicelander chuckled a little before his face fell back to his default frown. “Ralph, on the other hand, hasn't come out of his house yet. Doesn't he have an alarm clock?”

    The hero grinned a little from the memories. “He's... picky about clocks. I don't mind waking him, I can get a small conversation from him that way.”

    The mayor wrinkled his nose with a small “hmph”, fiddling with his tweed jacket as he turned to walk toward the penthouse. “Ever since the house was built, he's nearly always the last person to punch in.”

    “He's still getting used to it, Gene. This is his first house.”

    “It's been a good few months, Fix-It. He should've gotten used to it by now.”

    Felix rubbed the back of his neck after fixing his collar. “He will, sir. Eventually,” he added under his breath.

    Gene didn't seem to hear the extra word. The moment they were in view of the brick house, he pointed at the door and continued onward for the Niceland Apartments. The hero waited until after the mayor entered the main building before making his way up to the porch. Even though Felix figured it was easier to tap on his bedroom window to wake him, he was too polite to make it a habit. (And he had that unshakeable feeling Ralph would throw something at him if he ever did try that.) Hopping up the steps and landing on the mat, he wiped his shoes, cleared his throat, and knocked on the door before opening it. He poked his head inside to scan the front room.

    “Ralph, you awake?” he called inside, even though he one hundred percent believed the answer was “no”. Walking further in, he glimpsed into the kitchen, then headed down the hallway to his room. Pressing his ear to the wood, he knocked twice and entered. As he thought, the man was still asleep with his back to him. Letting out a soft sigh, Felix stepped up to the foot of the bed and raised his hands up to clap them, only to drop them when he caught sight of his troubled face.

    Ralph didn't move where he lay propped on his elbow, staring thoughtfully out the window. His eyes were briefly in shadow, making him appear more tired than he most likely was. The hero couldn't bring himself to speak at the moment, his chest tightening in worry. He remained where he was, studying his expression. From outside, he could just hear Q*bert having a conversation with his companions as they walked to the apartment complex.

    “Be honest with me, Felix,” murmured the villain to break the silence, refusing to look over at him. “Do you feel guilt often?”

    Fixing his cap and shifting in place, Felix darted his gaze a little at the window. “Gee... I s'ppose there were at least a few moments.”

    “Name one.”

    “Hmm...” He rubbed his chin, leaning against the baseboard. “Well... I remember watching you leave one night after work—”

    “Not about me, about you.

    “Sorry, Ralph, but it involves you a tiny bit.” Felix scrunched his brows together to think a bit more on his words. “Anyway, it was from a long time ago. That one night upon watching you leave the game, I somehow had that feeling that no matter what I would have done for or said to you, we could never be good friends—not right off the bat, anyway. I've always liked working with you, Ralph, I just didn't know how to... you know.”

    Ralph said nothing about the comment, though he sat up in place, keeping his eyes averted and expelling a quiet huff through his nose. The titular character glanced sideways at him, waiting for a response as he tapped the wood nervously.

    “Did it hurt?”

    Hesitant wanting to know where this was going, Felix nodded. “I'm sorry—” he started before he was interrupted.

    “It's too late to apologize for the past now that you're making up for it.”

    He chuckled a little, scratching a spot underneath his cap. “Yeah...” Chewing on his lip, he stepped away from the bed, hitching up his tool belt. “Mind if I ask?”

    Shrugging, Ralph straightened his boxer shorts when he slipped out of bed, shuffled to the window, and pulled his clothes inside. “I was mostly curious, and a lot of stuff was on my mind.”

    Felix dropped his gaze to the ground, spotting a small screw by a bed post. Picking it up for a closer look, he believed it to have been from one of his previous alarm clocks. He quickly scanned the floor to see if he could spot more loose parts.

    “I'm still not used to my own strength,” the villain quietly said. “I almost hurt her.”

    He stood up straight, mouth slightly dropping open. “Did you get in a fight with Vanellope?”

    Ralph glanced over as he was pulling his teal undershirt over his head. “I didn't tell you about the new character, did I?”

    “I would've remembered there being an announcement if there was one.”

    “She's from across the arcade. She had gotten lost, and since then, it looks like she comes down this way to visit.”

    A small beam spread on his face at what he was hearing. “Ahh, a lady-friend.”

    “It's not what you're thinking, Felix,” he muttered, putting on his plaid shirt and smoothing it out. “Wipe that stupid smirk off before I do.”

    “Denial is one of the signs, Ralph.” Scowling, the man made a threatening advancement toward Felix until he shrunk back a ways, though he still remained smiling. “You're only proving my point further.”

    “I don't even like her that much,” he grunted, turning his back on him to swipe up the overalls. “At least with the kid, she was cunning enough to get me interested in what she wanted before I truly warmed up to her.”

    Leaning forward, Felix pressured in a teasing manner, “Is that a good thing?”

    Struggling to get his feet through the legs, Ralph had to sit on the edge of his bed and unhook the fabric from his toes. “Nothing's ever a good thing with her. I almost broke her shoulders last night because of it.”

    “Criminy, you're really bad at making first impressions.”

    “I'm this close to throwing you head-first out my window.”

    Not wanting to make a big deal out of it, he raised his hands in surrender, firmly spinning himself around on a heel to head out the door. “O-O-Okay then, I take it this conversation's over. I'll see you on the field, Ralph.” Glancing over his shoulder to tip his cap, Felix left the room, and was soon out of the house judging from the quiet click of a door.

    Shaking his head with a frustrated sigh, Ralph stood to hike up the front and loop the strap over his arm, eyeing where it lay on his shoulder. He remained frozen in place, slowly staring into space when his mind hovered on the event the previous night. It bothered him how the woman could just stand there and pretend he wasn't manhandling her, then go on to say she had “worse”. Though it wasn't her words that rubbed him the wrong way, nor her stance.

    Deeply inhaling, he ran his hands over his face. “After I talk with Neff, I'm coming straight home,” he murmured to himself. “I don't think I can handle her one more day.”


    Sitting quietly in the entranceway to the kitchen, waiting for the arcade to open, Scrumples read and re-read everything written down in her notepad. Every now and then she'd look down at Cheese, whom was asleep on her lap, reluctant to wake him back up. Counting the number of pages she had used up, she quietly sighed and dropped her arms, resting her head against the entrance frame and staring out the window.

    “I wonder how many players we'll have today?” she mused, more to herself than to Cheese. “My guess is it'll be the same number as yesterday's...” She stared at the calendar hanging in front of her, tracing back to the day she was plugged in the start of the month. By each date, there was a number written in red ink, which according to the word written out in large characters next to the month were the amount of players she had per day.

    From what she had down in her notepad, her first day at the arcade was a rather moderate success, at least she thought so. There were a line of players wanting to try their hand, but most of them only stayed—mostly due to the lines. It was enough to exceed over the quota Scrumples believed was the average in general, but it seemed she had been steadily losing players. The thought worried her as much as she tried hard not to dwell on it.

    Gently scooping up Cheese into a hand and cradling him close to her chest, the woman stood and spun around to the bureau against the adjacent wall in the hallway. Opening the top drawer, she fished out the lone notepad, flipping to the first page. Her expression fell a little as she read over the first paragraph.

    Day one was a big success just like my programmers predicted. My game was the most popular, but I can't remember clearly how many players I had. I just know the players loved the game. The girls who were there kept shouting how cute everything was, the boys more so. I wonder how many more boys there were than girls, there were quite a few.

    Flipping through the pages, she noticed it was treated more as a journal than as something to jot down important notes, whether the programmers put it in her or not. Her attitude then, she realized, was much more cheery judging from how the writing was getting more crisp with each character.

    It's the most peculiar thing when you have a lot of players return every few hours to play. Some of them were excellent players, they were always very excited every time they passed a round. Of course, as I can only do ten rounds per gameplay like the programmers wanted, they kept putting in more change with each successful gameplay. Some of them had actually returned a second time and played until they ran out of pocket change. It was a great day, and I hope I have more days like this to come.

    Scrumples skimmed from then on, trying to comprehend how she was able to go into detail about what happened each day. She could barely recall what happened last night except for what she did remember to put down into her current notepad. After running into blank pages, the woman went back to the last entry she had written down.

    I hear Cheese and I are being transferred to a new place. No one else in the game corner is going, just us. I find it rather odd, but the other characters congratulated me, and wished me well. From what I could gather, it looks like the cabinet's getting unplugged tonight so it can be taken to the company and get my code tampered with a little. Yeah, just my code. Cheese will be left alone. Supposedly, since my programmer's handling me, everything should still remain the same the next time I get plugged into an outlet, at least that's what everyone told me. I'm not going to know for a while, for I will be in a deep sleep by that time. No matter what happens, though, I believe them. They were nice to me even though I got most of their players. I'm going to miss them.

    Scrumples dropped it back into the drawer with a sigh. “I wonder who these characters were.” She looked down at Cheese when he rolled over onto his feet. “Guess they were right about everything, Cheese.”

    He squeaked a little in response, standing on his back paws to sniff at her dress. The woman smiled, and closed the bureau shut in time for an alarm to go off. With a squeak, she hurried into the kitchen, snatching up her torque and setting down her pet when she stood in place. After watching him scurry into the hole, Scrumples looked up to her first player of the day.

    “Welcome, customer! Please select your difficulty level, and we will be with you shortly.”

    Every day, she was eternally grateful for the programmers to have inserted a pre-recorded intro code. Such was such a moment when she noticed her notepad wasn't in her pocket, and had to step out of her place to snatch it from the floor and kick the chair out of sight. Stuffing her hat on her head, she smiled when the button labeled “Normal” was highlighted. After a quick scan of the utensils, chopping board, rice cooker, and mixing bowl laid out on the counter, she glanced over her shoulder to see the ingredients were set in place.

    Then she looked at the counter again, straight at the sink before her. “I forgot to wash my hands!” she squealed, reaching out like water would jump into her arms.

    In a split-second, Scrumples got into her pose when the menu disappeared: standing at attention staring up at the player, hands pointing outward at her side, and lips curving like a cat's. She bowed at the waist, and a timer and the gauges appeared at the corners. On the bottom of the screen lay the list of ingredients needed for that round—the instructions for cooking them would appear once she got them all. Her first recipe was a blueberry pie; not a bad start, she admitted.

    Raising her hands above her, she announced, “Game start!”

    Feeling the tug of the control stick, Scrumples moved in time to the player's movements. As the list of ingredients listed themselves off with a small “ping”, she snatched the closest one up—the flour—when she passed over, though she had a carrying limit. Once it was tossed into the mixing bowl, Cheese poked his head out of his hole and looked around like he was contemplating coming out. Scrumples always hated whenever the player reached for the broom to shoo him away, so she wasn't looking forward to the moment when the rat would start scurrying about.

    Each time the ingredients on the shelves wobbled, depending on it her back wasn't to it, she would get a shocked expression on her face. If the player wasn't quick enough to grab it, which exactly happened that particular moment with the blueberries, the item “vanished” before hitting the floor, and points were lost. As it was on normal setting, the ingredients were endless, and Scumples moved on like it never happened. For the highest ingredients, the player had to have her use the stepladder and sometimes walk across the shelves to get to them. After swiping Cheese away with the broom, she got the final ingredient, and ready to mix. As part of the program, even after getting everything for the recipe, the ingredients still steadily fell and her pet continued to swipe away food, forcing the player to quickly abandon the mixing to attend to them.

    It never took longer than what was needed on the small timer that flickered above her head to use the mixing bowl, rolling pin, or the stove and oven. A good player, she noted, would take a good minute on average to collect everything and put it together for the game's calculations. If the point goal was reached, Scrumples would jump happily in place and pose for victory before moving on to the next round, and another random recipe.

    No matter the level difficulty, each new round got faster and more demanding. Usually around the third round would Scrumples start tripping if the player jammed the control stick too hard to the side (though she sometimes tripped on her own merits). Any ingredient she would hold spilled or fell and disappeared. Though the player could get bonus points for speed or impressive skills, she had no invincibility or extra lives programmed into the code. If the player failed to complete a recipe in time, or lost too many ingredients or points, she would fall to her knees in defeat and hang her head to cry as the “game over” ditty played. The pre-recorded intro animation would then start, and Scrumples picked herself up and return to her spot as the game reset itself.

    It was rather simple for what it was, but the woman loved every minute of it. What she enjoyed the most were the reactions of the players. Her experiences possibly didn't live up to what other games in the arcade had, but she was happy for such small events. Most of them were stoic, though some showed they were into the game by muttering to themselves or to the game (she couldn't tell). A few smiled and giggled at her actions—they were mainly the young female players. Only once since she was plugged in did a player scowl during gameplay, which had made her nervous and nearly mess up on the controls. If anything interesting happened, Scrumples would record it in her notepad in between work as she hummed along with the game music.

    “I can say proudly, Cheese, that we met our quota,” she announced to her pet, then looked outside. “It's the afternoon, and there's still plenty of time for new players.”

    Cheese let out a small squeak, rubbing up against her shoe. Feeling like melting in happiness, the woman scooped him up and placed her cheek lightly on his back. Her blush marks brightened as faint pink lines etched across her face. “Oh-h-h, you're so cute!” she cooed. “I'm gonna take you ho-o-ome—wait.”

    She hardly thought on what she said before another player started heading for her cabinet. Setting the rat down, she smoothed out her dress and straightened up, wishing her smile would widen as she watched the boy struggle to deposit his two quarters. He looked to be young, as he could hardly be seen, peeking up at the screen and moving about in place. Once the menu started, he took a little bit longer than the previous player to pick the difficulty level, not that she minded. A player was a player no matter their experience. The moment he started pressing buttons and moving the control stick at random intervals, the woman came to the conclusion he was new to the arcade, or to games in general. She stayed to the program even if he kept missing the ingredients, or grabbed one when it fell and didn't know what to do with it. Somehow once, he placed the sugar into the oven, to which she giggled to herself.

    ...then she suddenly stopped in place.

    Though confused, Scrumples continued her static animation of a hop as she watched the player get pulled away by an angry woman whom looked to have appeared out of nowhere. Nervously glancing over her shoulder, she watched as Cheese returned to what he was to do, wincing every time an ingredient fell and disappeared before hitting the floor. The timer casually ticked on by, and the stove started to emit smoke.

    “Was I... just abandoned?” she breathed to herself, though also as loud as possible for her pet to hear. He didn't respond back, too busy crawling in-and-out of the holes and carrying away food.

    Mercifully, the timer ran out, and the “game over” music played. On cue, she fell to her knees and cried until the opening sequence popped back up and the kitchen was reset. Though the tears dried, the shock still remained. She found no strength at the moment to pull herself up, trying to comprehend what had happened. Cheese scurried over to her, sniffing at her flour-covered hand before looking into her face.

    Shakily taking a breath, Scrumples lifted her head to look out into the arcade, blinking rapidly when she spotted the woman talking to whom she was sure was the manager. She couldn't hear her, but judging from how wide and far her mouth opened and kept gesturing to her cabinet, it wasn't a happy conversation. With a gulp, she stood back to her feet, wiping her hands on her apron.

    “I wonder what that was for,” she mused out-loud.

    The alarm interfered with her thoughts as a new player placed in their quarters. Already in position, the woman put a smile on her face, and posed as the intro flashed on the screen.

    “Welcome, customer! Please select your difficulty level, and we will be with you shortly.”


    “Closing time, finish your last game!”

    The final player, with a small sigh, allowed Felix to take a blow for a game over before leaving with his remaining quarters. The titular character respawned from his death sequence when the title screen flickered on, and he hopped off-screen to dust himself off. Ralph cracked his knuckles when he flexed his fingers, watching as the last of the children left the arcade. Even after his acceptance of his role, it was still rare of him to remain on the building. As dull as it looked, he liked watching the arcade clear itself out, carrying out the noisy ambiance and allowing the cabinet beeps and music to steadily fill the atmosphere. From across the way, he and Vanellope locked gazes. She mouthed to him:

    “Wanna hang out?”

    Ralph silently replied back with a slight shake of the head, “Not today.”

    The girl shrugged in acceptance as the screen returned to the selection menu. When she glanced at the other racers, a sly smile appeared on her face, a sign she came up with an idea. Taffyta noticed her look and she and Vanellope had a quick chat that resulted in her eyes lightening up in excitement. The other racers had heard whatever it was they were discussing, and were getting worked up themselves. Ralph had to smile at the sight.

    Then the florescent lights shut off, and the arcade owner left the building, locking the doors behind him. Once he disappeared from sight, he heard Yuni call out from her post, “All clear!”

    A murmur spread through the arcade as characters relaxed and stretched. From below, the Nicelanders started to chat amongst themselves, and pat each other on the backs for a job well-done. Felix walked up to the entrance of the penthouse to greet them, then looked up to nod at Ralph. He climbed down the building to his side, extending his hand for a shake, which the hero obliged.

    “Good work, brother,” he said, tipping his cap. “Glad you got the view this time.”

    “Ah, that was dumb luck,” the villain smirked. “Still, it was an impressive day.”

    “True, true.”

    Gene exited through the front doors, and waddled up to Felix first for a handshake. “Great work, men, as always.”

    “Same to you, sir.”

    He chuckled a little, cocking a brow. “Well... it's like second nature.” Behind his back, Ralph lifted his eyes to the sky. The mayor then turned around before he could take a step toward the dock. He noticed the brief movement. “Are you not staying for the get-together?”

    The wrecker shook his head. “Naw, I have an appointment with Neff tonight. But if you want to save a little something, go ahead, I don't know how long it'll last.”

    “What're you seeing him for?” Felix asked, flinging his hammer in a small circle.

    “Have to ask for a request about messing with the code for a day.” Ralph gestured with a thumb to the direction of Sugar Rush. “The kid wants to see the game, but it's not a friendly place.”

    “I'll say,” Gene sniffed. “It's full of dead people. Not necessarily social, either.”

    House of the Dead is lively, though.”

    The Nicelander shuddered in place, mustache frizzling a little. “Anyway,” he then moved the subject along, “Ralph is not going to be here, and I take it you have plans as well?”

    Felix nodded, his eyes showing a hint of day-dreaming even with his answer, “In another hour, Tammy and I will be at Tapper, and just chat up a storm. Nothing fancy today.”

    The women giggled to themselves. “It's not a very romantic place to be at,” Deanna noted matter-of-factly.

    “It's good enough for the two of us,” he sighed.

    Lightly patting Felix on the shoulder, Ralph started backing away. “Well, you two have fun, same with you, guys,” he added to the others. “I either may or may not be back by midnight, we shall see.” And with a wave, he turned around and lumbered off for the trolley. He looked back once before getting into the cart, then thought about what to say to Neff, mentally kicking himself for not writing it down earlier.

    He passed through the station's crowds without issue, and Surge's interrogation wasn't as painful or irritating, even though it knocked his train of thought off-balance for a moment until he was allowed in. He was truly distracted by what awaited him beyond the terminal. Walking into the world of Altered Beast was like walking into a dead world, just as Gene said. It was an odd feeling entering a graveyard, he had to pause to take everything in for the first few moments. The world was silent, but the vegetation gave off a peaceful, welcoming environment. It was a very peculiar sight.

    Glancing up at the exterior of the temple he had supposedly exited out from, the wrecker cautiously made his way down the steps and into the graveyard. He was at a loss, not knowing where anyone was, nor where Neff stayed, let alone how to get to him. Keeping his hands at his side, Ralph only ogled the tombstones and the towering bull statues as he weaved through them. Upon casting his eyes about the wall, he spotted a figure cloaked in purple crouching before it, head down and muttering to himself. Glad to have found someone, he hurried over.

    “Excuse me!” he called out. “I'm looking for Neff. Can you tell me where he lives?”

    The person stood up and turned around, revealing he was headless. Ralph backed away a little until he looked down and found a skull in his hands, though that did nothing to calm his nerves, even when it spoke. “You must be visitor Master talked about,” it stated in a crackling voice. “Apologies for not being at entrance. Keep losing my head.”

    Ralph nervously smiled. “I... see.”

    The figure gestured with one arm outward. “Follow me. I take you to Master's Palace.” A hole opened up in the ground, light spewing from its depths. “It's safe. Safer than Cavern of Souls.” And the skull cackled like it told a joke.

    The man cringed a little, still keeping his awkward smile without another word. The figure jumped in first, while Ralph carefully slid his body through until the hole started to close. The sudden action startled him enough he lost his grip and dropped into the darkness with a yelp. He fell without a sense of gravity nor time, unable to bring himself to think past his instincts though they failed him. There was the occasional creature he passed by in a flash, but from what he could glimpse, there was nothing friendly about them.

    Suddenly it was as though someone grabbed him by the collar and yanked him upward, throwing him onto a marble surface. He lay there staring wide-eyed at the high ceiling to regain his breath and insides. The headless figure leaned into view. “Newcomers always scream. This way.” And he left with another laugh.

    Slowly but shakily, he got to his feet and lumbered after the guide. The corridor they passed through was dark and eerily silent, setting off an alarm in his head that it wasn't a friendly place. He shouldn't have been too surprised, but he noted Bowser's castle was much more inviting even with the lava theme he had going on. Here, it was empty with exception for busts of Neff every few pillars.

    “You very quiet.”

    Ralph tensed when the guide muttered, skull looking at him with a side-ways glance. “Er... Neff has... great attention to detail,” he responded with a nervous chuckle. “Also likes his space.”

    “Yes. Master built this.”

    He nodded briefly. “He's got talent.”

    “Master gives life.”

    “Good for him.”

    They walked on in an awkward silence for another minute until the guide stopped before a door. “Master's throne room.” And he bowed when he pushed open the creaking door.

    With a nod of thanks, Ralph walked inside, finding it was the same interior design with exception of the stone throne erected in the middle of the room. He jumped a little when the door slammed shut, but he took a breath to calm himself down and casually approached the berth. He found it odd Neff was nowhere to be seen except for his personified effigies. He was tempted to call out, and announce his arrival.

    Scarcely did he reach the foot of the steps before when another beacon of light ruptured from the seat. Emerging from unseen depths was a disembodied, bald head with a long nose, and sunken eyes. Ralph fought an urge to shrink under the gaze. “Ah, your timing is impeccable!” it boomed as it smiled, teeth green.

    His face faltered sheepishly. “Er... Neff?”

    “It is I.”

    He believed the floating head, but another half of him wondered if it was playing tricks on him. “Where's your... rhino-self?” he hesitantly pointed out, then bit his tongue for asking such a ridiculous question.

    The head laughed heartily, though the sound of it was somehow amusing. “It is one of my many forms I can cast myself as, though it is one of the five I use in this game. This is my true self.” He glanced down. “Well, part of my true self. Excuse me.” He lowered out of sight for a moment, then reemerged with the rest of his body, which was thin and cloaked in purple garb. He leaned against the armrest and conjured up a seat beside the throne. “Come rest yourself, and we shall get started. Would you like some refreshments?”

    “Oh, no thank you. I don't plan on taking very long.” Ralph approached the chair, cautiously sitting down and let out a sigh.

    Neff raised a brow, the wrecker noticing it was hairless as well. “Is your schedule tight as well?”

    “No, I just didn't want to keep you from... doing whatever you were planning on doing.”

    “I see.” He sat up straighter, but still kept his stance the same. “Well, what is it you wish to do here?”

    Pulling his thoughts together, the man laid out his proposal. “I don't exactly know what really goes on during gameplay to begin with, I just know this is not a very outsider-friendly place. I and a few others have learned some time ago how to work with the game's coding where we can tweak a few parts, or rewrite an existing, extra code. That is why Q*bert and his friends live in Fix-It Felix, Jr. now. I'm not asking to completely change the code, or rewrite anything, but I'd like to tweak a few things for one gameplay.

    “I was thinking something along the lines of a moving platform in the background, you see. The kid and I will be on this platform and watch the whole thing play out. I don't expect any of the game's enemies to be as far back as we will be, but we would still have immunity in the meantime. We won't change the surrounding environment, and we'll be out of the way. I... don't have the transferring from level to level worked out yet, it was a bit of a surprise coming this... far in—I suppose this is a level—but I like this light you use. So we could travel through that as well at the end of each level. It's nothing too complicated, it's temporary, and won't affect the gameplay.”

    He held his breath, inwardly taken aback he was able to explain it without stumbling over his words and sounding complicated. Neff looked to be interested, judging from how intently he was focusing on his face, even though his expression hadn't changed from its stone-edge appearance. The prolonged silence, however, was sinking in, making Ralph shift a little in his seat. His thumbs twiddled briefly until he clenched his hands tight when he caught himself.

    “Is that all?” the sorcerer noted, still unmoving.

    Looking up at the high ceiling for a quick run-through of his thoughts, he nodded. “Yeah... that's all.”

    Neff sat back into the headrest, rubbing his chin. “Interesting. It is simple, but it is clear to me you thought long and hard about this.”

    Ralph smiled with a small chuckle, preventing the hand on his knee to reach up and rub his neck.

    “Luckily for you and your friend, I as well as the rest of the cast in this game have found no issue with showing off to visitors. As long as you keep your word, of course.”

    “I most definitely will.”

    With a toothy smile, Neff reached out a hand. “We have a deal.”

    He grabbed it happily, and they shook on it. “Thank you so much, Neff. Vanellope will be happy to hear that.”

    When they withdrew their hands, the sorcerer then folded his arms. “I have of yet to set a date for this occasion, however, but I will accept any request.”

    “Yeah, I'll have to come back to you on that,” he freely admitted. “The kid is president of her game, but she always manages to set aside time for activities for us in between racing and governing. I have no set schedule, so any day works for me.”

    “As long as you give a twenty-four-hour notice.”

    “I will.”

    Neff clasped his hands. “Good... anything else?”

    Ralph shook his head. “That was it.” He quickly glimpsed about the room. “Nice place, by the way.”

    “Thank you for your compliment. This palace is one of my finest works.” He spread his arms out in a prideful gesture. “I shall offer up a tour, but I shall not show you all of my rooms.” His brows raised in a sly demeanor.

    “Um... agreed.”

    “Yes.” He chuckled quietly to himself, then his face loosened up a little. “By the way, do you know how to return to the graveyard?”

    “Not a clue.”

    Neff suddenly grinned in satisfaction. “Excellent. Unless you do not mind losing a limb, it is for the best you keep your arms locked at your side, and legs together. Try not to flail around.”

    He almost didn't understand the message when he did so until a beam of light enveloped him. Right before he was shot upward into nothingness, Ralph scrunched his eyes shut, though it did little with the accelerating sensation. Mercifully, he was quickly expelled outside, but he didn't land on his feet as gracefully. He remained on the ground for a few minutes to catch his breath, silently cursing the game's use of transportation.

    A small cackle sounded off to the side, and the guide from before leaned into view. “Thank you for visiting Master. Got what came for?”

    Coughing a little, the villain pushed himself up. “Yeah... yeah.” Clearing his throat, he looked over to find he was directly in front of the exit, and took a step toward it with a wave. “I will see you around, then.”

    “Look forward to visitor.” And the skull laughed again.

    Forcing himself to smile, Ralph hurried over to the carts, trying to push the unnerving feeling from his system. He looked up at the passing lights only to immediately grow ill. “I so am not looking forward to visiting again,” he groaned to himself, rubbing his temples. “Now I know why he doesn't get many visitors.”

    Upon arrival at the station, he cautiously hauled himself out, and approached the gate, glad he didn't have to deal with Surge. Unsure of himself if he would be able to handle the ride back home, he decided to rest at the station, finding a bench for himself to lie down and close his eyes to fight the dizzy spell. He diverted his thoughts away to anything that didn't deal with light and falling.

    “Are you getting sick, brother?”

    “He ain't sick if he ain't puking. Observe.”

    Ralph immediately sat up with his hands in the air (fighting back the spurt of nausea from doing so). “I'm up, I'm up!”

    Calhoun had a hint of a smirk as she pulled her arm back to rest on her hip. “Such quick reflexes for a big guy. 'Specially one who's 'sick'.”

    Felix chuckled, nervously scratching his cheek. “That wasn't very nice... obviously.” Sucking in a deep breath, he resumed, “You feeling okay, Ralph? Did something happen?”

    He half-shrugged, half-cringed. “I... learned Neff is not a true rhino.”

    The couple gave him an odd look each, having expected an entirely different answer—Calhoun was in the dark as to who he was talking about, but refrained from asking. Ralph added to his comment, “I also think he has a thing for beams of light. That's apparently their use of transportation in Altered Beast, but it's not fun. At all.”

    “I'll take your word for it,” the handyman said, still trying to process what he said.

    The wrecker waved it off. “You two finished with Tapper already?”

    “We just now met each other on our way over,” the woman responded, patting her husband's shoulder. “You feeling up to it tonight?”

    “Let's not force him, Tammy,” Felix said, curling his fingers over her hand.

    Ralph couldn't help smiling at the soft gaze his friend gave his wife, feeling he shouldn't interfere, let alone be in the same vicinity. They were still newlyweds, and it wasn't uncommon for them to make eye-contact with each other in a way that made other people feel like they were intruding. Ralph was rarely ever bothered by it, understanding it was natural, and he was happy for the two. This particular, brief moment wasn't an exception, even if he did avert his eyes for a second.

    “Erm... did you need something, ma'am?”

    “U-Um... I guess...”

    It was as though someone had smacked him across the room when he heard the all-too familiar voice from the side. While he didn't forget about her, he didn't expect her to be at the station this early. Knowing he was going to regret it, the man turned to face Scrumples, whom stood there rather stiffly, chin tucked in, cheeks flushed, and eyes half-closed. When she glanced up at him, she appeared to have lightened up with a small smile, though her stare was still unnerving. He wasn't willing to look at her arms.

    “Do you know her, Ralph?” Felix curiously asked.

    Straightening up, Ralph gestured to her with a hand. “Felix, Calhoun, this is Scrumples. She's new to the arcade.”

    “Um... I have a nickname,” she whispered out, bowing at the waist. “My nickname's Scrumps.”

    “Speak up, girlie,” the sergeant barked, startling the small group. “Where I come from, there's no room for the introverts and soft-spoken. Speak up, or shut up.”

    “Tammy!” Felix gasped.

    She looked down at him with a raised brow. “I speak nothing but what I know: truth.”

    “I know that, but she doesn't. Look at her, you frightened her to death.” Looking over at her, they could see her eyes became like large plates, tears at the corners as she shivered in place with her knobbed hands under her chin.

    Calhoun sniffed, glancing up at Ralph. “You attract the strangest characters.”

    He scowled a bit at her comment, but held back a retort as he reached out to tap Scrumples on the shoulder—then remembered the bruise when she squeaked in pain. “Ooh... sorry about that,” he quickly apologized.

    “It's not your fault.” Her innocent reply combined with her distressed expression didn't help.

    Felix unintentionally rubbed more salt in the wound when he questioned, “What happened to your arms?”

    She blinked at him for a moment until she unflinchingly pushed up one of her sleeves to show off the dark bruise. “I ran into the doorway yesterday.” Then a slight pause. “Or I burned myself. Though why would I get burned on my shoulders?”

    Ralph could see Felix glance over from the corner of his eye. He stammered a little before he gave a proper response. “I'm sorry to hear that.”

    Scrumples shrugged. “I'm just clumsy is all. I think I smacked my hand against the wall in my sleep last night, I remember hearing something.”

    “Reflexes in your sleep is nothing to be ashamed of,” Calhoun spoke up, despite her facial expression not once changing. “You have to train yourself to control it, but it is useful. I use it all the time.” She grinned mischievously at Felix.

    “Sounds interesting,” the young woman cooed, irises widening slightly.

    “Interest will only leave you dead in the end. Survival runs on instinct, that is your gut feeling—”

    While the sergeant got into a discussion, Ralph allowed Felix to pull him aside. “Ralph, what really happened to her?”

    He was more demanding this time. The villain knew the moment he opened his mouth what his concerns were, and it didn't soften the blow. With a quiet sigh, he confessed, “Scrumples was who I was talking about this morning. Yesterday, she was being an embarrassment, for both her and I. I took her aside, but I wasn't careful handling her.”

    “Then why is she saying she ran into something? Did you threaten her?”

    “You know me, Felix, it's not up my alley. I don't know why she's lying.” He looked away from the hard stare he was being given, watching as Scumples grew more engrossed in what Calhoun had to say. He had that unshakeable feeling that if they kept on talking, she was going to grow attached to the woman like she did with Vanellope. “If it's to protect me, she's only making it worse on herself. I want nothing to do with her.”

    Felix not once turned away, but he remained silent. Ralph felt it was for the best.


    Ehh... ending could've been better. It may be added onto later in the future if I can come up with a little something. I'm just glad this chapter's finished.
  6. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    There is a moment in the story where a different language is spoken. The translations are at the end of the chapter. I used Mango Languages for it, as well as another website to translate the characters used for the language so I could understand it better. I'm 90% positive the translation is accurate, but do feel free to point out any mistakes with the language used, whether it's in the actual language 's grammatical structure, or the translations themselves.

    ...yeah, I'm purposefully not telling you what the language is XD. Chances are very high you'll recognize what it is once you see it (or you probably know what it is already because you're savvy like that).

    Chapter Six: The Day's Leisure

    “Welcome, fellas! The usual, I take it?”

    The bartender grinned up at the small group as they walked in, though only Felix and Calhoun answered back. Ralph was keeping his expression as neutral as possible, slipping through the couple for the back table, sitting at the end by the wall. Looking up, he saw Scrumples had remained by the doorway, gazing around in awe at the bar. Scooting in close to the wrecker, Felix respectfully took off his cap and noticed her as well, raising his arm to wave it around.

    “Miss... Scrumples! Come join us!” he called when he remembered her name.

    Their eyes met for a brief moment before she looked around the room again, slowly making her way over. Tapper had three glasses in hand ready to fill them up when she reached the table, hands pressed to her apron. The man beamed up at her. “I haven't seen you before. You just recently plugged in?”

    She flinched with a little squeak when she was addressed to, then she flushed briefly complete with small, blank eyes. “U-Um... a couple of weeks ago. My name's Scrumples.” She bowed, still visibly shaking, though a few drops of sweat appeared to spurt out from her head to further point out her nervousness.

    Tapper laughed, then gave a respectful nod. “Welcome to the arcade, ma'am. The name's Tapper, I'm the main character of the game Tapper. Your friends are regular customers—well, Ralph comes the most. We go way back, him and I.”

    Ralph snickered slightly, avoiding eye-contact with Scrumples and the others. “I can't quite remember, Tap. Who was plugged in first?” he playfully smirked.

    Fishing out another glass, he shrugged, but raised a brow knowingly. “Memory's not how it used to. I'll be having my thirtieth anniversary soon, though.”

    “Ah, that's right. We'll help throw you a party.”

    “I got all the party I want here.” He grinned and spread his arms out, gesturing to the entirety of the bar. A couple of characters having drinks let out a “Hear, hear!” and raised their glasses. Straightening his bow tie, he nodded at them and turned back around to the group. “Thanks for the offer, though.”

    “We don't mind helping,” Felix said with a sincere smile. “You've been so kind to us for all these years.”

    “No, really, it'll be fine. The girls were planning something anyway. Speaking of which, I'll be right back, fellas, ma'am.” Excusing himself from the room, Tapper zipped out the door.

    Sergeant Calhoun looked over to find Scrumples spacing out, and she slapped her palm on the table, startling her and the men. “You gonna stand there all night? Sit down and have a drink.”

    The woman shifted in place, tugging at the ends of her apron. “Um... drink what?”

    Shooting her husband and Ralph a side-glance, she inquired, “Do you drink?”

    “Um... I drink milk.”

    “Good enough. Sit.”

    Obediently, Scrumples sat on the stool beside her, then discovered the seat could spin. Her eyes lit up as she used her feet to push herself around in a half-circle and back again. Calhoun roughly kicked the bar of the stool to grab her attention. “You're makin' a fool of yourself.”

    “Tammy, she's never been here before,” Felix calmly pointed out.

    “Vanellope spins herself around on one all the time, anyway,” Ralph added, “and you don't yell at her about it.”

    “She's a kid, this gal's not. Stop spinning!” she snapped, which brought her to tear up and shrink in place.

    “I'm sorry,” she whimpered, clutching her apron close.

    Clearing his throat, the handyman leaned over and quickly stepped in before his wife could. “If it would help to have two people on either side of you, would you like to switch seats?”

    “I did not agree to this,” Ralph immediately protested, scowling.

    In opposition, Scrumples nodded and hopped off the stool. Giving his companion a passing glint, Felix took her seat, and she sat in between Calhoun and Ralph. She wriggled in place to get comfortable and placed her hands together on the counter, looking straight ahead like she was at attention, a few random hairs sticking up. With a roll of the eyes, the sergeant let her be, and crossed her arms and legs. The villain found slight interest in the keg before him, resting his chin on a hand. Tapper then walked into the room, though he quickly attended to a few new customers before returning to them.

    “All right, so it's the usual for you three,” he noted, filling up their glasses and passing it to them individually. Turning to an unmoving Scrumples, he asked, “What about you, ma'am?”

    “I drink milk,” she replied, nearly in the same tone from when she answered Calhoun's similar question.

    He chuckled. “I can get you a glass of it, if you wish.”

    “Miss Scrumples, you should try the root beer,” Felix suggested, raising his mug. “Tapper has the best root beer anywhere. It's down your alley, I take it.”

    “Don't force her if she doesn't want to,” Ralph muttered before taking a swig.

    Her face fell as she slumped in place, and twiddled her forefingers together. Her peers took notice of small “poinks” accompanying each tap. “I... never had root beer before.”

    The wrecker swallowed roughly but fought back coughs, Felix and his wife gave her a blank stare, and Tapper just stood there with his normal expression. When she glanced up in embarrassment, the bartender let out a chuckle. “Well, then today's your lucky day. Unless you still want the milk?”

    Scrumples scrunched her eyes shut into the shape of arrows, her knobbed hand raised to her mouth. “I don't know...”

    “For mod's sake... just give her the root beer,” Calhoun sighed, frowning down at her. “She's gonna try somethin' new whether she wants to or not.”

    The woman looked up at her, brows furrowed nervously. “What if I don't like it?”

    “It's better to have tried than not tried at all. At least you aren't being forced into situations you can't control.” She then scoffed quietly. “You wouldn't last a megabyte's worth.”

    Tapper set the over-flowing glass before Scrumples with a smile. “Here you are, ma'am. Oh, and before I forget...” He ducked under the counter for a moment to pull out a piece of paper and a pencil, handing it to her. “Because you are a new customer, I'd appreciate it if you would fill out this survey before you leave the game.”

    From behind came a chorus of victorious chants as six young, blonde boys marched single-file into the bar. A taller man wearing blue shorts and a muscle shirt followed right behind them. “Yo, Tapper! We'd like seven root beers and your Tapper Surprise tonight!” he called out in a gruff voice, a toothy grin on his face. “We're celebrating a new record of victories!”

    “Ah, coming right up!” He left the group to zip right on over.

    Tearing her eyes away from the characters, Scrumples scanned through the survey, momentarily pursing her lips. Ralph read through what he could see from the corner of his eye, briefly glancing over at her directly when she had not once lifted the pencil, nor set the paper down. To break the silence, Felix spoke over the cheers of the dodgeball team, “So, Scrumples, tell us a bit about yourself. What's your cabinet?”

    She flipped the paper over when she looked past Calhoun to meet his gaze. “I'm from the game Scrumples. It's on a different outlet.”

    His eyes lit up. “Golly, you traveled that far? Now why would you come all the way here?”

    “How long have you been in this arcade?” the sergeant inquired, switching her legs around.

    “Um... I think two weeks.”

    “What do you know about game jumping?”

    She blinked, raising her eyes to the ceiling to think for a moment. “I don't know what that means.”

    Calhoun snorted. “She may be new, but she's stupid.”

    “I'm not—”

    “Listen, this is an arcade. We may be free to mingle about and have fancy tea parties with one another, but you can't goof around willy-nilly.” She leaned in, a shadow falling over her eyes. “It may be the last goof you will ever make.”

    The crown flickered over Scrumples at the revelation, bringing a frightened squeak out of her as she paled. Ralph's brows furrowed, remembering he had told her about it the previous day, though it was brief enough she may have just missed hearing it. He wasn't sure Calhoun telling her about it in a harsh tone would sink in well with her, but he chose to stay out of it.

    “You mean... I-I can die?”

    “Nothing but useless data.” She chugged down the rest of her drink and barely caught herself from slamming down the glass. “You will never regenerate. Your code will wander the databases forever until that game is unplugged, and pfft, permanent deletion. Bartender, I'd like a refill!”

    Felix tugged on his collar. “Tammy, I think you're scaring her.”

    “Ha! She's a full-grown woman, she can handle it.” Calhoun suspiciously leered at her. “You are a mature woman, right? Not that maturity!” she growled when Scrumples' eyes glanced downward. When Tapper refilled her glass, she took a swig, and let out an exasperated sigh.

    Her husband nervously laughed and changed the subject. “How long have you been visiting this side, Scrumples?”

    “One week,” she replied without hesitation. “I got lost, and Ralph found me.” She turned to smile up at him, and he peered down to at least acknowledge her. “He led me back to the station I came from, and then we met again a couple of days ago. Yesterday, I got to meet Vanelly.”

    “Vanellope,” he corrected before he took another drink.

    She blankly stared for a split second before pulling out her notepad to flip through it. “Oh yeah. Sorry, I was coming up with a nickname for her.”

    He let out a small sigh. “Don't you start giving me nicknames, either. I have enough on my plate from Vanellope alone.”

    “I can't think of one... Um...” She leaned over the counter to look at Felix. “...do you have a nickname for Ralph?”

    The hero shook his head. “I will refer to him as my brother, but that's about it.”

    Her eyes widened in interest as she gazed up at Calhoun. “Does that mean you're his sister-in-law?”

    “I'd rather have a Cy-Bug be my brother-in-law before I let him,” she grunted into her glass.

    “Thanks, Sarge, for those words of enlightenment.” Ralph pushed Scrumples' drink closer to her. “You haven't touched your root beer.”

    She stared down at the little fizz that remained. “Oh, yeah.” Gingerly cupping it, she lifted it up almost to eye-level, making sure not a drop spilled over. Bringing it close to her nose, she inhaled in its sugary scent, slightly recoiling at the tickling sensation rising through her nostrils. Then placing the rim to her lips, she sipped, eyes slowly widening and watering up. Once she swallowed and set the cup down, Scrumples let out a quiet sigh. Looking between her companions one time each, she turned back to her drink.

    “Tastes and smells like a root.” When no one replied to it, she added, “But it's sweet. Reminds me of vanilla extract, only not as bitter.” With a cat-like smile, her eyes arched. “I like it.” And she took a swig, then suddenly burped when she sighed, a few bubbles escaping from her mouth. She immediately slapped it shut, face burning a bright pink.

    A few moments later, Calhoun roughly patted her on the back with a chuckle. “Not bad for a newbie.”

    Felix raised his glass for a drink until he had a fit of giggles and ducked his head. “Oh, my lands... I'm going to get a scuffing for this, but... heh, we should hold a contest between the gals in the future.” His wife briefly rolled her eyes.

    Ralph slapped his forehead in response, though he bit back a snicker of his own. “Did you seriously go there, Felix?”

    He shrugged sheepishly. “Just a suggestion...?”

    “We'll bring this up with the kid and see what she thinks,” the sergeant said, slyly smirking. “Can't do it here, unless Tapper holds belching contests.”

    The bartender, whom was cleaning a few glasses, overheard and shook his head. “Not doing it, ma'am. A few here and there is enough for me.” He flinched not even slightly when one of the boys let out a loud belch and chortled.

    “Well, knowing the kid, she'd take it on in a heartbeat.” Ralph then noticed the empty space where Scrumples had been, and looked over to find her leaning close in, her nose right over his mug. He let out a cry of disgust, quickly pulling it away. “You sniffed in my drink!”

    “It doesn't smell like mine,” she pointed out, looking innocently up at him. “Is that a different kind of root beer?”

    “What're you harpin' on about, big guy?” Calhoun mumbled from her glass.

    “She sniffed in my drink!”

    “Did she ask?”


    She just shrugged indifferently. “As long as she didn't go stickin' her nose in my own drink.”

    Ralph shook his head in disbelief before clenching his jaw shut. Shielding his mug in his hands, he leered over at Scrumples, whom had returned to sipping her own drink. His eyes fell to how she was holding it, noticing she wasn't touching its handle and instead had it sitting on her left palm while her right slightly held it by the side. He thought about questioning her on such odd behavior, though Calhoun beat him to it.

    “There's a handle for a reason.”

    The woman blinked. “Yeah?”

    Felix leaned in for a quick look. “Well, as long as she's got it steadied, she can hold it however she likes.”

    “Such a smart-aleck, Fix-It,” his wife grumbled, returning to her drink, then asked for another refill. “You always have your pinky slightly bent anyway, but you still hold it by the handle.”

    He blushed a little, curling the little finger around the handle when she looked away.

    Setting her mug down and smoothing out her dress, Scrumples spoke up, though her soft tone of voice suggested she was speaking mostly to herself. “I just thought of something. What if us four being here together, two boys and two girls, means it's a double-date?”

    “It's not,” Ralph immediately responded, not making eye-contact. Tapper refilled his glass on request before he would bother to look over, finding she looked confused about his simple answer. “Not every get-together is a date. I never asked you out or anything.”

    She rested her chin on her hands, gazing out into the bar. “Huh... I guess. I never dated before, so I don't know how it feels. I've known characters who've been out dating or are dating, but that's about it.”

    “Those words have a second meaning, you know.”

    A pause.

    “I think I know dating characters.”

    “Bah!” the sergeant scoffed, jutting her chin out. “It's only an option. It don't matter if you date, double-date, triple dare challenge, whatever floats your boat—go for it!” Smirking, she chugged her drink, and slammed the mug down on the counter. “Good mod, I've got a headache,” she then sighed out, brows furrowing. Pulling out a handful of coins, she slapped the money by the cup, then turned to Felix. “I'm headin' off, I can't stand this atmosphere any longer.”

    He looked around with a puzzled expression as though he would find the source. “All right, Tammy. Want me to escort you?”

    “No need, Fix-It. See you soon.” Ruffling his head affectionately with a smile, she stood up and looked over at Ralph and Scrumples, returning to her normal, gruff expression when she did. “Be a good soldier and escort the lady home after all this.”

    He gave a small salute. “Whatever you say, Sarge. See you around, then.”

    “Bye-bye! Nice meeting you... uh...” The woman trailed off, staring up at Calhoun with a blank stare. “I... never caught your name.”

    “Sergeant Calhoun.”

    Scrumples struggled to pull out her notepad. “U-Um... how do you spell it?”

    “Sorry, girlie, this headache'll be the death of me. Ask my husband, we'll play catch-up some other time.” With a small wave, she strolled out the bar, characters respectfully stepping out of her way.

    Smoothing down his hair, Felix let out a loving sigh as his cheeks glowed. “I miss her already...”

    One of Ralph's brows quirked a little at what he said, but shrugged it off. “Whatever, Fix-It,” he mumbled to the side, finishing the last of his drink. Turning to Scrumples, he noticed her own mug had a little under half of the drink left. “You going to finish your drink?” When she didn't answer, he lightly tapped her shoulder, quickly pulling back when she spun around to focus her wide eyes on him. “Are you going to...?” He gestured to her mug, not wanting to repeat his question again.

    After a moment of staring, she caught on and returned to her root beer. Putting on a serious expression, she held the cup with both hands, and chugged the rest of it down, much to his astonishment. “Whoa, slow down there, you're going to choke!”

    She coughed right when he said “to”, which brought him to roll his eyes to the ceiling, heaving his shoulders in defeat. Snapping out of his dream-like daze, Felix slid closer with worry. “You okay, miss?” he gasped, laying his hands on her shoulders.

    Rubbing her throat and deeply taking in breath, Scrumples nodded, blinking away the tears. “I-I'm okay...”

    “You sure?”

    “Yeah...” She apologetically peered up at Ralph before ducking her head to rest her forehead on the counter. “...I'll be okay...” She then hiccuped, and curled her arms underneath her chin.

    Brows raised, Felix stepped back and stuffed his hand into a pocket. “Looks like we're done here,” he said, pulling out a few coins then looking over at his companion. “Do you have change of your own, Ralph, by the way?”

    “Oh, yeah, don't worry about me, pay for your own.” Standing up, he reached into his overalls, and spoke out to Scrumples, “Come on, Scrumples, we're going.”

    She moaned a little, lifting her head and reaching up to rub her temples. “Guai ga yoku arimasen...”

    “Did you hear me, Scrumples... or Scrumps as you want to be called now?”

    Scrumples appeared to have not heard him as she peered into her glass briefly. “Kore wa mou root beer ka douka jishin ga nai...”

    The two men shot each other concerned glances as Felix stepped back to her side. “Er... Miss Scrumples?” She looked over with half-lidded eyes, and he noted her blush marks were a little brighter than he remembered them being. “Are you feeling okay?”

    She hiccuped a little before answering. “I'm not sure... I'm getting dizzy.”

    “What were you saying before?” Ralph asked, unsure of the response he was going to get.

    Scrumples tilted her head back to look at him. “Huh? Was I mumbling again?”

    “No... you were speaking clearly... I think.” He scratched his head, shrugging at Felix. “Your words seemed to have blended in together.”

    She frowned slightly. “Then it doesn't make sense.” She paused briefly after another hiccup, lightly patting her chest. “Watashi wa hakkiri to hanashite iru nara, naze anata wa watashi ga itta watashi o motomete iru?”

    “For that very reason,” he expelled as a sigh.

    She then started getting louder, drawling her words out slightly. “Nani, watashi mo, ima watashi no supiichi o osoku shitai ta no desu ka?”

    The two men cringed a little from the sudden strain in her voice, warily glancing at each other. Felix clasped his hands together. “Um... yes?”

    “Watashi no kuchibiru o yomu...” A hiccup caught in her throat. “I'm dizzy.”

    Oh, I see now.” Grinning up at his large man, he nervously laughed and reached for his cap. “Do you... want us to take you home now?”

    “And ruin the... date? Not yet.” Glancing down at the cup, she took it into her hands. “Besides, I think I should have one more root beer for the night.” Another hiccup burst from her mouth.

    “I think you've had enough,” Ralph said, pushing the cup back down onto the counter. “And we're getting ready to leave.”

    “Shikashi,” she interrupted in the middle of his second sentence, clutching the mug closer, “kore wa watashi ga ima made motte ita saikou no root beer desu! Baatender-san, watashi ga fill uppa shitai no desu ga, shite kudasai!”

    “Speak English, Scrumples!” he exclaimed, raising his hands up to eye-level in frustration.

    “Watashi wa Ralph ga eigo o hanashite imasu!” she shouted, chin up and eyes scrunched shut into arrows as her face turned red. “Watashi wa dekiru you no ougore de eigo o hanasun da yo!”

    Tapper stepped up to their table, his brows low as he looked between the two. “I hate to bring this up to you fellas, but you're disturbing the customers. I'll have to ask you to leave if you can't keep it down.”

    “We're trying to communicate with her—”

    “Baatender-san, mou hitotsu no root beer, onegaishimasu!” Scrumples butted in quickly, leaning across the counter and jutting out her glass.

    Ralph forcefully set her back onto her feet. “Don't give her anymore, she needs to sleep it off.”

    “Onegaishimasu!” She was pushed back again.

    “Sir, we're terribly sorry. We'll take her straight home.” Hurriedly dropping the change onto the counter, Felix pointed his thumb to the exit. With an apologetic nod to Tapper, Ralph grabbed hold of Scrumples and carried her over his shoulder.

    She let out a small shriek when he did so, and wriggled around to loosen herself. “Nani o yatte iru! Watashi wa watashi o shita ni oku, Ralph o aruku koto ga dekiri shite kudasai!”

    He ignored her struggles and the passing stares until he exited out of the bar, then hurried over to the dock. He contemplated throwing her into a cart, but instead roughly set her down, watching as she stumbled over her feet. “What is wrong with you?!” he growled through his teeth. “That was embarrassing back there!”

    “Nani itteru—”

    “Stop that!” His roar made her flinch and take a step back as it echoed. “Why are you speaking another language?! You can speak and understand English!”

    She gazed wide-eyed up at him, hints of tears forming at the corners of her eyes until she blinked. Turning her head to look back at the entrance to the bar, and slowly faced him, though her gaze dropped at his harsh scowl. Her fingers gently touched her throat, and then along her lips as her brows furrowed in confusion.

    “Watashi wa... eigo o hanashite inai nda kedo?” she spoke, though Ralph was sure it was more to herself.

    The sincerity in the tone was enough to get him to breathe. Running his hands across his face to his hair, he scanned the wire tunnel, trolley, and walls as he brought himself to clear his thoughts. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he murmured.

    “A... Anou...”

    He looked down at the soft tone, meeting her sad gaze before she bowed at the waist. “Wa... Watashi wa subete nitsuite moushiwake arimasen deshita.” She didn't pull herself back up, as though she froze.

    Ralph stood there, unable to tear his eyes away from the sober scene. He hadn't counted how many times she bowed to him, though she did it enough times to know they were fluttery to match her personality. This particular bow had a rather apologetic appearance to it; for some reason or another, he felt it wasn't like Scrumples to hold it out. Then he made the mistake of glancing at her arms, and it felt as though someone kicked him in the gut after smashing bricks over his head.

    When he saw Felix walking out, he quickly let out a relieved sigh disguised as a grunt. Moving to get on the trolley, he noticed she hadn't once moved. “Come on. We'll take you home.”

    Like a wind-up toy, she straightened up, but kept her gaze down. “Hai...”

    She walked over and stepped into one of the front carts, sliding over to the end. Giving the handyman a slight nod, Ralph let him get in first before he sat in the back. Scrumples remained quiet on the way back to the station, except for one small hiccup—though from behind, the wrecker thought she was starting to cry. He stared at the passing lights to get his mind off it, even if it reminded him of his sudden motion-sickness from Altered Beast.

    They walked through into Game Central without issue, nor with a word. Felix had glanced up at his companion once when he noticed he had fallen a little behind before returning to guiding the woman through the crowds. When they arrived to the platform, Ralph chose to wait by the entranceway, hands in his pockets and eyes glued straight ahead.

    Helping her onto the trolley, Felix gently asked, “Shall we escort you to your home?”

    She smiled a little, giving a quick bow. “No, thank you... I'll be okay.” She sat down and waved modestly to him. Darting her irises up at the large man, her gaze transitioned to a somber look, but she still didn't drop her hand until the train took off.

    When it disappeared around the bend, he fixed his cap and turned around to find Ralph already lumbering down the steps and into the crowds.


    “You know, I've come to a rather startling conclusion.”

    Vanellope looked up for a moment at Ralph before resuming wiping down her side of her go-kart. “Yeah?”

    With a slight smirk at the corners, he twirled the icing spatula between his fingers, watching the chocolate syrup slowly drip from the wafer tail-end. “Presidents aren't supposed to have time to run around doing whatever they want.”

    “I know that,” she snorted a little, taking care not to pick off the sprinkles as she scrubbed around them. “But a president can still do activities... right?”

    He shrugged. “Perhaps, but only after they do their job. Speaking of which, how's it going, Miss President?”

    “Err...” Vanellope moved to scratch behind her ear until she spotted the syrup on her hand. “We're still voting on laws... and stuff...”

    “Don't you make speeches?”

    “Not really—”

    “Well, a president has to give speeches.” He lightly poked the coating, pleased to find it was hardening quicker than he thought.

    She gave him a small raspberry, and a roll of the eyes. “Stink Brain, there's nothing going on right now that deserves my attention!”

    “Sounds like something an incompetent president might say.”

    “I'm not... whatever that means!”

    “I'm just saying you can have your fun after someone else is the President.”

    “Ah, what do you know about being president?”

    She got him there. With a shrug of defeat, Ralph resumed coating her go-kart, occasionally replacing and adding sprinkles where he felt they needed to be. Vanellope started humming the Sugar Rush theme to herself, bobbing her head to the melody in her head. As it was a rare, quiet moment, the man tried to make the most of it dwelling on a few thoughts crowding his mind. He was for one thing curious about how it was his young friend managed to get her go-kart destroyed in a way that it needed repairs—though she had waved it off saying it was needing renovations, so the crash was rather convenient. She didn't want to go into detail, only instead saying a young player who didn't know what he was doing took the wheel.

    It was suddenly pushed away by the remembrance of that morning where he woke up to the harsh beeping of the alarm clock that mysteriously appeared at his bedside. He almost destroyed it in a hasty attempt to turn it off, and after calming himself down, figured Felix had come in when he slept and fixed it. Though why he did that was what puzzled him the most, as he hadn't asked him to. He meant to question him before the arcade opened, but he arrived later than normal, just making it in time as the first quarter was about to be inserted. Then at the end of the day, when Ralph managed to catch up to him, he said not to worry about it.

    The response and how quickly he waved it off concerned him a little, yet he was secretly glad for what he did, even if it gave him a heart attack.

    As he pushed in some of the decors into the hardening syrup, the man brought up the question he needed to ask. “So, have you decided when you want to visit Altered Beast, or are your hands too full?”

    She was distracted by the glitter sprinkles until his voice was fully registered into her head. “Oh, you have to tell him ahead of time, right?” Glancing up to see him nod, her brows rose as she nodded, and thought on it for a moment. “When's the next meeting?”

    “Next week, of course.”

    Vanellope did the math in her head. “Then we'll go next week. The arcade will be closed sometime next week, right?”

    Something pricked in Ralph's mind at the sentence, which caused him to drop his arms and almost spill the candy. “Uh, yes, there's a holiday coming up, so we'll be off for about a day or two.” He grinned over at his friend, giving a friendly gesture with his index finger. “Excellent observation, Miss President.”

    Suddenly, her eyes widened when a loud gasp gathered in her throat. “Oh, gingersnap, what time is it?” She dropped everything to run to the exit and look up at the sky. Then she groaned and rubbed her forehead, staring in disbelief at the sticky hand she used only to dismiss it. “I almost forgot! I have to monitor the council meeting!” Her bottom lip stuck out as she gathered up her things and nearly threw them onto the shelves and cupboards in a hurry.

    The wrecker blinked in recoil. “Since when did you get a council?”

    “Just last week.” Vanellope caught the items that fell to shove them back in place again. “We chose Fridays to have meetings, and I suggested the day, too—if you want to rub it in a little more.” With a disgruntled sigh, she looked over at her companion. “Sorry I have to kick you out, Ralphie.”

    He waved his hand as he stood up. “Don't apologize, it's your job. Perfectly understandable. And don't call me Ralphie.” He gave a teasing smile, though he completely meant it.

    She either didn't catch it, or she refused to acknowledge it when she sent him her own cheeky smile, backing toward the exit. “Well, there's children to make sad and candy to be had.”

    He chuckled. “I thought that was my job.”

    She laughed. “Anyway, thanks for the help, Ralph. Think we got everything important patched up.”

    “It was fun. You should get in more accidents sometime.”

    “Not happening. Wish me luck.” With a wave, she ran off, disappearing around a bend.

    With a quiet, but pleased sigh, Ralph put away and corrected the ingredients and weapons, checked the go-kart once more for any loose parts and wet spots, then carefully picked it up and carried it the castle garage. When everything was locked up, and he had no more speck of sugar and chocolate on his person, he headed for the gates. It wasn't long before he could hear the Oreos chanting from where he was, and he silently cursed them for such a catchy tune. He had nothing against them, he just never liked walking by to-and-from the castle, but he remained courteous enough to wave to them.

    Stepping over the rock candy on the way to Rainbow Road, Ralph watched the sun set, and the stars slowly twinkle into view. He focused on one particular star, finding it was brighter than most of the others around, knowing immediately it was going to fall from the sky at any given moment. And as he predicted, it streaked across with a flash, disappearing beyond the tops of the candy trees.

    “Still can't believe it's considered edible,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head with a sigh.

    After the climb up the road and into the terminal, he glanced back at the sugary world bathed in an orange light, making the pink world more of a redder tint. As the sun was right behind the mountain he was exiting into, he watched the shadow steadily stretch across the land. Rainbow Road started giving off a glow as time went on, though looking directly down at it hurt his eyes (not that they didn't already strain having it in his peripheral vision). Ralph wondered if Vanellope had a sight like this from her room, or if she had ever seen it from above. He made a mental note to ask tomorrow—or whenever he gets to see her next.

    With no other plans for the day, the man decided to return home, and possibly join the Nicelanders in the penthouse, something he hadn't done in a while. He was met with little interruption on his way back, though he did slow when he walked by an arguing Bowser and Robotnik comparing and insulting each other's favored transportations they had somehow brought into the station. (As much as he preferred the mad scientist's mobile more, he kept his mouth shut, not wanting to get involved, or on any of their bad sides.) Upon arrival at his game's dock, he clearly heard the music pumping from the top floor of the apartment complex. Taking a breath, Ralph started for the building before deciding he needed to make himself more presentable and jerked to the direction of his house.

    “Why is the front light on?”

    His walk slowed at the strange sight, knowing he never turned on the light unless he was inside for the night. Growing curious, he stopped at the front step and tapped the lightbulb once. When it didn't once flicker, Ralph's brows rose as he opened the door.

    He froze in the doorway, gawking at the sight of Scrumples in the front room, sitting on her knees across from the stump, a cup in her hands. Her gaze met his with a slight puzzled expression for a quiet, awkward moment before her face lit up, and she smiled brightly as her eyes arched.

    “Welcome home.”


    A/N: Scrumples' translations (in order):

    “I don't feel well.”

    “I'm not sure if this is root beer anymore...”

    “If I'm speaking clearly, why are you asking me what I said?”

    “What, did you want me to slow my speech down now, too?”

    “Read my lips.”

    “But this is the best root beer I've ever had! Bartender, I'd like to have a fill-up, please!”

    “I am speaking English, Ralph! I'm speaking English as loud as I can!”

    “Bartender, one more root beer, please!”

    “What are you doing?! I can walk, Ralph, put me down, please!”

    “What are you talking about?” (Though she got cut off.)

    “I'm not speaking English?”

    “U... Um...”

    “I am sorry about everything.”
  7. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    Sorry it took a little bit, but I'm just glad I got the chapter finished. So nothing more to say here. Moving on.

    Chapter Seven: Getting to Know Her

    Shaking his head and scowling, Ralph pushed the door shut. “What are you doing in my house?”

    Scrumples tilted her head with a blink, putting down the cup. “I came to visit. Well, actually I arrived at the station first, and because I remembered the name of your game, I asked your security where it was. He was nice enough to tell me, so I came here by myself.” He noted she sounded proud when she explained it. “One of the nice people here brought me to your house when I arrived and told him I wanted to see you.”

    As much as he appreciated the explanation, it wasn't what he wanted answered. He pinched his brows and let out a sigh. “Let me rephrase that. What are you doing inside my house without my permission?”

    “The door was unlocked. He said I could wait in here.”

    It was such a simple response and so innocent, Ralph's face landed in his hands, then smoothed back his hair with a huff. “I bet it was Gene...”

    “He was nice.”

    Ignoring her comment, he stepped to her side. “I did not invite you here. You are trespassing.”

    The crown flickered over her head as her eyes blanked. She scrambled to her feet, which he then noticed her shoes were off. “I-I'm sorry! I mean... I knew you weren't home, but he said it was okay, and I apologized to the house for coming in without your permission!” She gave a couple of sharp bows during her response, which combined with her hurried speech only reminded him of the previous night.

    He quickly dismissed the twisted feeling in his gut when the slight distraction almost made him miss what she said. “I don't care, you shouldn't have listened to Gene and just waited outside.” He grunted a little, growing a little uncomfortable with her stance. “Knock it off, Scrumps, and tell me how long were you in here for.”

    Scrumples straightened up with a nervous look on her face. “Um... I don't know.”

    “Then give me an estimate.”

    Her eyes rolled about the room in a quick scan. “Five minutes.”

    Ralph guessed it was longer when glanced down at the cup she was using to find a green liquid inside, steam still rising from it. “What's that?”

    She looked. “Oh, I made some tea while I was waiting.”

    “You were exploring the house while I was gone!”

    She whimpered at the sudden harsh tone. “N... No, the kitchen was right there.”

    “Then you used the kitchen without my permission!”

    Her face then started to turn a little green as she covered her lower face. “F-Forgive me for saying this, I didn't want to bring it up, but...” her eyes scrunched shut and her voice constricted, “...your breath smells bad.”

    Ralph rolled his eyes with a scoff. “Okay, fine, thanks for telling me something I've known for a while.”

    “Y-You've always had bad breath?!” she squealed through her fingers, irises shrinking from the shock.

    He contemplated exhaling over her to prove his point, then went against it. “Yeah, so what about it? If you want to run outside, go ahead.”

    Shaking her head, she instead disappeared into the kitchen.

    “Don't you start adding that in your little notebook!” he shouted after her, turning the corner to find her standing by his stove, but was then distracted by how different the kitchen looked. He could not last remember it being so... open. The countertops and sink were cleared and shined, the cupboards polished, even the lamp hanging over the table was dusted. All the utensils he remembered being scattered about were gone (presumably into their drawers) or hanging up on the walls or over the stove.

    “Well... if I haven't had it written down by now, I guess I decided to ignore it.” Ralph did a double-take when she spoke. A small frown had transitioned on her smooth features, and she pointed toward the exit. “But don't come back in here until you clean your mouth.”

    Brows raising questionably, he stood his ground and folded his arms to look tougher. “You have no authority over me,” he stated proudly. “I'm in the walls of my home, I can do whatever I want.”

    “I mean it, Ralph!” she hardened her tone. “The kitchen is not meant for stinky breaths!”

    He snorted. “You've only seen Vanellope once, and already she rubbed off on you.” He thought back to what he said and slumped. “Oh, Tobikomi, she rubbed off on you...”

    Scrumples then grabbed the kettle from the stove and held it out before her. “You don't get out right now, I'm pouring this in your mouth!”

    Ralph couldn't help laughing. “Like that will do anything.”

    She placed it back on the stove and turned the switch to the highest setting. A few moments later, they could hear the heat rushing through the water inside. The man, still letting out chuckles, looked over at the woman and shut his mouth at how serious she was. Nervously glancing between her and the kettle, he backed off, quickly heading into the restroom. It was once he shut the door did something click in his head everything was off in this scenario.

    “Wait, what am I doing?” he inquired himself, brows knitting. “Was I just seriously chased out of my kitchen? Within the walls of my home that I built?” He could just feel the steam expel from his ears at the embarrassing thought. While they were not butting heads, the man had the feeling they would have had he been more stubborn and stayed.

    Then he wondered on why it was he was not more stubborn. What was it about Scrumples that separated her from the others and kept him from doing what he normally would have done around them? If it was Vanellope in her stead, she actually would not ever tell him what she would do. She might pick up a kettle of boiling water, sure, but she would not actually use the water as a weapon. He knew her well enough to know she would have poured the water on something in the kitchen (or take it into the next room to do just that) to make him stop her and use something entirely different that would bring comedic harm to his person. And then she would chase him out of the kitchen when he was distracted.

    All Scrumples did was tell him off and say what she would do because he had bad breath. Not even Felix would get straight to the point without a couple of different euphemisms. So what exactly brought him to do as she said? Was it due to how serious she looked and sounded, which he had never seen before?

    With a scowl and shake of the head, he grasped the doorknob—then paused. It was a little thought, a stupid one at that, yet it made him second guess himself. “Wait... what if Scrumples is outside, listening to make sure I'm doing what she asked?” Imagining the woman standing guard had Ralph inwardly laugh it off. “Yeah, right. Like she would do that. Now if it were Vanellope, she would totally do that.”

    He made the mistake of letting it sink in further.

    “...wait... what if she heard that?”

    Cautiously removing his hand from the knob, he side-stepped to the sink and opened the medicine cabinet for his oft-neglected toothbrush, glancing between the door and the mirror in suspicion. Squeezing more than enough toothpaste on the bristles, he turned the faucet on all the way and took as much time as he felt was needed for better convincing, even making sure to gargle as loud as possible without choking. For a few extra minutes, Ralph used the mouth wash, though he didn't think it through and poured in as much as sixty milliliters of the liquid before he choked and coughed out a waterfall of it. He remained in the bathroom for a few minutes longer to wash out the taste, and until he was certain Scrumples was no longer going to hound him before strutting out.

    Entering the front room, he stopped in place to stare at how she sat on her knees at the stump, casually sipping the steaming tea, though she was visibly struggling to keep the cup steady due to its large size. She looked as though the event in the kitchen never happened, like he walked into his home and just went to the restroom without issue. (Then he amended in his head he would've found it creepy if he walked into an empty front room first and later came back to find her there.) It was an odd picture.

    With a small huff go clear his head of it, Ralph stepped a little more into the room. “All right, I did as you asked. Now will you please leave?”

    She looked up at him, blinking twice in a row. “Can I finish my tea first?”

    He glared at the kettle that had been placed in the center. “You weren't here for five minutes if you made tea.” Then he pointed at it. “And where did you find that?”

    Scrumples followed the finger to the kettle and stared at the thinning steam for a few moments. “Um... by the sink. It was hidden behind a pile of dirty dishes, which I washed for you by the way, if you hadn't noticed.”

    “I don't care, you touched my stuff and helped yourself to making tea... which I don't recall ever having on-hand.”

    “You don't have a lot of kitchen material, so I don't know how you couldn't remember where your kettle was.”

    He clutched his head briefly in frustration. “Whatever, all that matters is you came in without being invited, and you helped yourself!”

    “You're pretty disorganized about your things, actually...”

    “Stop thinking about my kitchen, we're not talking about the kitchen!”

    The woman stared for a bit before reaching across the stump and picking up an empty cup he missed seeing. “Would you like some tea, Ralph?” she politely asked, a small smile spreading on her lips.

    “I don't drink tea,” he muttered gruffly.

    “'It's better to have tried than not tried at all,' as someone once said.” She lowered her arms slightly as she threw her head back to think on it. “I don't remember who said it.”

    Ralph looked at the empty cup to avoid her face, knowing who she was talking about, but wondering if she remembered anything else about yesterday. Something inside him said she didn't, leaving behind a small, hollow emptiness. Taking a couple of breaths to help clear his mind, he made his way over, sitting across from her. He watched as she poured the tea into the large cup, noticing she held it by the handle, and with a pad held the lid in place. It didn't look anything out of the ordinary, but he was finding himself curious about how formal she seemed when doing so.

    “I thought you drink milk,” he somehow found himself asking.

    She briefly glanced up. “I do, but I also drink tea, though it's not often. Only when I need to relax after a day's work.” Placing the kettle back down, she carefully picked up the cup and held it out to him.

    He gingerly took it from her, frowning down at how he noticed it was green. Looking up at her, he was slightly phased at her smile. “It's green tea,” she answered, like she read his mind. “I brought it along.”

    He raised a brow suspiciously. “Why were you carrying around tea?”

    “I wanted to visit, of course.” Scrumples giggled a little. “If it was anymore formal, I would've brought my cups, but I figured you would have cups of your own, and you did. They're pretty big, though.” She stared in slight wonder at the one before her, rhythmically massaging the sides.

    Rolling his eyes, Ralph returned to the tea, which he noticed had a slight bitter smell to it amongst the otherwise-soothing aroma. Cautiously, he took a sip, flinching a little from the hot temperature and quickly swallowing it down to keep from further burning his mouth. Glancing over at the woman, whom was watching him closely, he sipped again for a second taste, noticing it left a little residue. “Hmm...” he carefully thought over what he wanted to say, “...it's not bad.”

    Her eyes sparkled with a broad smile, bringing her clenched hands up to her chin. “Really?!” she gasped.

    He leaned back slightly in surprised at her excitement. “Well... it's got a thick taste to it...”

    “Sweet or bitter?”

    He rocked his hand a little back-and-forth. “Somewhere in between. I dunno, kinda tastes like dirt.”

    She blinked before her face fell, eyes dropping to the stump's surface. “I see...”

    Ralph started to regret what he said. “Err... trust me, it's not that bad a drink! I've had worse!” He grinned with a small laugh to emphasize his point.

    She didn't seem to catch on, descending more into her gloom. “No, it's not your fault. Just different tastes is all...”

    Ralph felt a bit guilty, and drank a little more. If he could choose his words more wisely, his comment wouldn't have been as harsh as it was. He was willing to take it back, as it was starting to taste a little better.

    “Figures that I can't make tea,” Scrumples continued to murmur to herself. “I can't even cook to begin with.”

    The man spat out the tea across the room, almost knocking the cup over when he roughly set it down. His guest leaned in with worry, untying the big ribbon of her apron to reach it over to possibly clean him off, though he unintentionally pushed her away. “Say that again!” he gasped out.

    She sat back down with a puzzled look on her face. “Um... I can't cook.”

    They stared at each other in silence for a long time, Ralph unable to bring himself to look away. The shock seemed to freeze his insides, receiving the odd feeling he had been lied to, that this was a different Scrumples—which he knew was impossible. He wanted to laugh off the irony, and possibly the now-awkward moment, but even he couldn't force himself to. The longer they stared, the more he came to the conclusion she, as confused as she looked, was serious.

    Leaning back to take a breath and rub sense back into his face, Ralph started to mutter to himself. “This can't be happening... what are the odds...? Weren't you programmed to be a cook?” he asked loud enough for her.

    She blinked. “I think so.”

    He covered his face again after a few seconds. “Oh, Tobikomi... um... how do you cook in-game?”

    Scrumples seemed to stare into space for a moment. “The player controls my movements as they follow the ingredients list at the corner.”

    “Is everything made in real-time?”

    “Not really.”

    Ralph was starting to get his answer, and decided to voice it. “So... you're probably screwed up over how cooking works because your game doesn't do it correctly.”

    She nodded a little hesitantly. “...yes, sounds about right.”

    “Do you eat often?”

    She scratched at her cheek nervously, a small drop of sweat appearing on her brow. “Yes, I do.”

    “How?” The man held himself down when he noticed he was getting too into his questioning, and had been leaning closer.

    Her cat-like smile looked a little crooked when she replied, “I cook, of course. Well, it's more like I'm practicing cooking, now that I think about it.”

    Ralph's current mental image of her started to break apart, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. “And... how does it taste?”

    Scrumples flushed a little, dropping her gaze for a brief moment. “Um... not that great.”

    “Nonsense, that's just critic in you talking!” he suddenly blurting out with a laugh. “I bet it's fine, like this tea!”

    Her face fell slightly. “Making tea and cooking food is different.”

    “At least you don't burn water!”

    When she remained silent, the Scrumples he knew shattered in his mind, leaving him with pieces to put back together while knowing it wouldn't be the same again. His nervous chuckles quieted down, and he slumped in place. “You do... don't you?”

    Her shoulders half-heartedly shrugged. “Sometimes. Rarely happens when I'm making tea, though...” She put her finger to her lips in thought. “It's weird. It's like... when I make tea, I'm all calm and smooth about it. But then when I'm trying to make something simple like heating up soup from a can, it burns.”

    “Well, to be honest with you, I burn food sometimes, too,” he piped up to help her feel a little better.

    “I can't even make a simple rice ball correctly. I mean... I have a rice cooker, and I follow the instructions to a “T”, yet I still tend to undercook or overcook like over half of that rice.”

    “But at least the rice that's not overcooked or undercooked still is edible.”

    Scrumples looked up at him with the forlorn gaze she had been steadily developing the more she talked. “That's because it always burns.”

    It was obvious she wasn't going to stop talking negatively about herself. Somehow, Ralph didn't want to believe her, wanting to see it for himself. Without another word, he stood up for the door, and walked outside toward the apple trees. He yanked one off the branch, made a move back for his house, then decided to get a second one and turned his back on the tree (though he glanced back when he stepped onto the porch to find it had respawned, but waved it off). Entering the front room, he passed by a confused Scrumples for the kitchen, opened a few drawers to find a knife, and returned to hand the utensil and an apple to her.

    “What's this?” she asked.

    “I want you to peel the skin off,” he instructed, sitting back in his spot. “Pretend you're making apple pie. So peel the apple like how you normally do.”

    She stared between him and the fruit for a few moments. “Why—”

    “Don't ask, just do as I say.”

    “It's not even washed.”

    He rolled his eyes, then stopped himself. “We're playing pretend here. You're not actually making a pie.”

    Bowing her head, the woman turned the apple around in her hand before carefully sticking the blade in at the top, and sliced a chunk off. She glanced up in half-approval, half-confusion. “Um...”

    He waved his hand around. “Don't stop, just keep going.”

    Taking a small breath, Scrumples painstakingly resumed hacking away at the apple's skin. Her brows furrowed at the uneven grooves and little pieces she was leaving behind, her fingers trembling more in anxiety each time. She let out a gasp when she was nicked by the knife the first time, almost dropping the apple, but continued when there wasn't a response from Ralph. She lifted the injured finger away and kept it hovering until she jabbed herself again, and decided to keep a tight hold the apple until she was finished.

    By then, there was a pile of irregular slices on the stump, and a few pieces on her lap. The skinned fruit lay flat in the middle of her palm, which she stared at with teary eyes. Looking up at Ralph, whom had barely moved where he sat, she hesitantly held it out to him, ignoring her throbbing, dripping fingers. “H... Here,” she murmured after she swallowed. “I'm finished.”

    He didn't reach for it, and instead pointed to the stump, which she obeyed and set it down where he gestured to. She brought the skin together into a clump and slid it into her lap to hold in the apron. “Um... I'll throw these away.” Slowly, she stood up and shuffled for the kitchen, keeping her eyes down at the pile as she readjusted her apron as seen fit.

    After she disappeared around the corner, the man looked back down at the peeled apple, scrutinizing its now-irregular, mushed shape. His mind berated him for asking her to do a small task that he knew deep down wasn't going to prove anything. “Scrumps is no Mary, after all,” he muttered to himself. Though he wasn't sure if Mary was perfect in peeling apples, just that she made great apple pies.

    There was a sound of water turning on, and Ralph let out a sigh. Getting to his feet, he went to stand at the kitchen's entrance, watching as she thoroughly scrubbed her hands, eyes drooped in sadness. His expression softened at the scene, his vision catching on the faint, rising steam. Then she paused, and let the water wash over her hands, leaning against the counter as she relaxed her posture. Not liking where it was leading up to, he walked over to turn off the faucet. She blinked twice and turned her head to look up at him.

    Ignoring a slight, hollow drop in his chest, he straightened in place. “Take me to your house.”

    Her eyes slowly widened. “Eh?”

    “I want you to forget about that apple presentation back there, I don't know what I was thinking. I'd like to see you working in your own environment.” He rose a brow slyly. “And as you invited yourself over without my permission, I'm inviting myself to your place so we'll be even.”

    Scrumples stared for a long moment before she absorbed what he said. She glanced away, cheeks tinting with a light pink. “Um... okay...” Drying her hands on her apron, she hurried into the front room to retrieve the kettle and cups. “Let me wash these out very quick,” she said, gently placing them in the sink as she reached for the faucet.

    Ralph laid his hand on it to stop her. “Don't worry about it, you did enough in this kitchen.”

    She held her hands to her chest, backing away. “Okay...” Taking a small breath, the woman seemed to flit over to the entranceway, closely watched the man as he lumbered over, then hopped for the door.

    He found her sudden behavior odd, but waved it off as her normal self. “Do you need anything very quick before we leave?”

    She shook her head as she slipped her shoes on. Then before she straightened up, she faced a random direction of the front room, and bowed. “Thank you for letting me stay. Sorry for the intrusion earlier.” Turning to Ralph, she repeated her action. “Thank you for not kicking me out for my intrusion.”

    Though not sure what it was all about, his cheeks glowed in embarrassment, and he just raised a hand. “It's okay,” was all he could say.

    Scrumples' posture returned to normal as she shot him a smile with eyes arched.


    Game Play Station, Ralph dutifully noted, was what he expected in similarities, yet at the same time it was different. It was quieter than Game Central, slightly more inactive, he could see all the way to the end of the station, and more peaceful with the low buzz of talk. He recognized a few characters here and there, but that was it. It wasn't like he entered an entirely new world, he felt lost and out-of-place.

    Scrumples didn't seem to notice his discomfort where they stood overlooking the station. “My game's ri-i-ight over there.” She pointed over her head to the left wall. “It's the second-to-last port. See? Right across from Bubble Bobble. Bub and Bob are nice neighbors.”

    He didn't respond immediately until he glanced down to find her gazing up at him. “Uh... yeah. That's cool.”

    She giggled, spinning on a heel and looking down at her twirling dress. “Everyone here is nice. They all I guess know each other pretty well, but I'm still learning names. I'll let you take a tour later, how's that?”

    “No need to do that.”

    With a shrug, she hopped down the steps, and skipped in place. “Come on, Ralph! I want you to meet Cheese!” She then started off, but not without loudly announcing to passers-by, “I'm bringing a friend home!”

    Feeling his ears burn up, Ralph intentionally took his time following behind, not wanting to make awkward eye-contact with other characters and kept close to the wall. Scrumples occasionally slowed, but her movements were sporadic in her joy to where he would lose sight of her for a moment if he didn't pay close attention. The walk to her port didn't take very long, though he almost missed it because his “guide” had stopped to quickly chat with another character.

    “Oh yeah, Ralph, this is our security, um... Surge Protector!” she introduced with a smile, even though the blue man standing right outside of her port's entrance was the same one from his station, albeit shorter and had a more alert look on his face.

    He let out an awed whistle. “Impressive, Miss Scrumples. See, I knew you'd find someone to get along with!”

    When she placed her hands on her cheeks, she made a small noise that reminded Ralph of a kitten. “I'm happy I did! True, he plays a bad guy in his game, but he's nice. I made him tea today, and he liked it.”

    Though slightly confused about her comment, the wrecker shuffled his weight from a bubbling guilt, knowing she was stretching the truth a bit. He couldn't bring himself to correct her.

    “Rather quiet, ain't he?” the security guard pointed out with a sly grin.

    “It's his first time in this station,” Scrumples whispered to him, which made Ralph raise a concerned brow.

    With a knowing nod, Game Play's Surge pulled the clipboard from under his arm. “Well, I need to do the general observations to make sure your game stays safe, Miss Scrumples,” he said. “I don't believe he has malicious attempt to, but you know the rules.”

    Scrumples stared up at the ceiling for a brief moment. “Oh, yeah.”

    Pushing his glasses closer to his eyes, the guard motioned Ralph over. “Okay, sir, I'd like your name, game title—”

    “Name's Wreck-It Ralph of Fix-It Felix, Jr., I'm coming from Game Central Station to go into—” he glanced up at the sign, “—Scrumples for a visit, I have no fruits nor any foreign objects on my person, I've been Mushroom-free for two months and two weeks even though that was not my fault to begin with, so other than that my record's been good, and you look like our Surge Protector.” He took a breath. “And I don't hate you.”

    Surge Protector had been gawking up at him since Ralph opened his mouth, pen limp in his hand. Scrumples had a blank look to her face, her mouth slowly dropping open. The wrecker, after looking between them, just shrugged and leaned in. “Anything to declare?”

    The guard rapidly shook his head. “I-I'm impressed... really. Err... you may proceed.” He stepped aside, and flickered out (though not without a wave to the woman when she returned to normal).

    “He's great, isn't he?” she said with a giggle. “Your guard isn't bad either, though his heart's not in it.”

    The man just shrugged, and gestured into the terminal. “Go ahead, Scrumps.”

    “I forgot to tell him my nickname!” she blurted out in surprise, the crown blinking above her.

    “Forget it, want to go home or what?”

    “Oh yeah.” Giggling again, she strolled inside, Ralph trailing after with a slight shake to the head.

    When the small trolley came into view, he couldn't help gaping at how the backrest of the carts were strawberry-shaped, and that the headlights were the same shape. Reaching it, he stared at the seats, wondering how he was going to fit without breaking it. Scrumples seemed to notice when she hopped into the front and turned around. “Think you can fit?”

    Scratching the back of his head, the man let out a breath. Cautiously, he stepped in and eased himself down, wincing at the tight space squeezing his sides. Glimpsing up at the wide-eyed woman, he muttered. “Let's just get this over with.”

    With a curt nod, Scrumples without warning yelled out “ALL-L-L ABO-O-OARD!” as she spun around, and the carts jerked taking off. Scowling, Ralph stuck a finger in his ear for a few moments to help clear the ringing, then watched as her head bobbed to-and-fro, and she mumbled to herself. Rolling his eyes, he stared at the seat before him to take in the painted detail and to avoid the passing lights.

    It was quiet up until the trolley pulled into the dock minutes later.

    “We're here already?” came Scrumples' surprised tone as she sat up. Spinning around in her seat, she smiled at the man. “You excited, Ralph?”

    He decided to humor her as he attempted to wriggle himself out. “Not as excited as you—mmph—but yes, I can't wait.”

    Her eyes briefly darted downward. “You stuck?”

    “No-no, I'm feeling myself slip out—mmm, stupid...”

    Scrumples jumped out of her cart and tightly grabbed his wrist. “I got'cha, Ralph!” she squeaked, tugging as hard as she could.

    While it wasn't much, he started to flail his free arm about when he felt the wheels begin to lift. “Scrumps, I got this! Let go... please!”

    “Wriggle around or something!” she grunted, pulling again.

    “The train's gonna flip!”

    She stopped and stared down at the tracks. “Trains can flip?”

    He yanked his arm free and forced himself to stand, popping out of the seat and stumbling onto his face on the wooden planks. He fumed when the woman started to laugh, picking himself up to dust his clothes off. “Knock it off,” he growled in her face, which worked immediately. When her eyes started to tear up, he slapped his forehead and spun around, finding a well-placed cobbled path leading into the forest. “I take it we go down that way.”

    “Wow, you're very observant!” Scrumples gasped in admiration, jumping excitedly.

    Deciding to ignore her, Ralph deeply inhaled and started off, slightly relaxing at the cool surface of the stones. He looked around at the healthy foliage, which led to him gazing up at the dark blue sky and wondering why he could still see everything clearly when there didn't seem to be a light source. He glanced over his shoulder to find his companion swerving in place with her trademark smile and arch-eyed expression, finding himself not having the heart to ask her questions.

    They walked in silence until they reached a clearing where a white house stood. It was rather generic, he thought, even though it was small for a two-story. He noticed the one side of the building was nearly taken up by a single rectangular window revealing, on closer look, a kitchen. Craning his head to look beyond the treetops, he could see the cabinet's own window, and that her game was stationed close to the arcade's doors.

    He jolted when Scrumples accidentally bumped into him with a squeak. “Sorry!” she quickly apologized while bowing. Lifting her head, her red face dulled to a pink when she looked at her house, and her smile broadened. “Oh, we're here!” Hopping in place, she skipped for the front door, and once she grabbed the doorknob, suddenly gasped in horror, eyes turning into blank discs. “Locked out?!” she shrieked.

    Ralph was taken aback himself, and hurried on over when she collapsed to her knees. “U-Uh... don't you have a key?”

    Much to his surprise, Scrumples wailed, tears pouring down her face like twin waterfalls. “I don't have a key!”

    His heart flipped then sunk into his gut. Glancing around the yard and house's structure, he climbed over the porch's wall to test her window, finding with relief it wasn't locked. “Stay right there, I'm going to climb in and unlock it,” he told her before starting to haul a leg over the sill.

    Just when he did, she stopped sobbing, and her face lit up. “Oh yeah, I never lock the door.”

    Ralph slipped and fell out, barely missing kicking the window pane loose. She hopped to her feet momentarily and ran to him, bending over to peer in his face. He opened an eye to glare up at her. “You trying to make a fool out of me?” he growled through his teeth.

    With a frown, she shook her head. “Why would I, Ralph?”

    Her innocent tone did little to calm him down as he picked himself up and stormed to the front door. Grasping the door knob, he caught himself from slamming the door into the wall pushing it open, watching his shadow stretch across the wooden floor, the contours of his hair pointing toward the single flight of stairs positioned right by the entranceway to the living room. Across from the front room was another entrance that was the only other room lit up, suggesting it was the kitchen. Looking up at the ceiling, he huffed through his nostrils, having that unshakeable feeling he was going to hunch over throughout the house.

    Scrumples lightly tapped his back to let him know she was behind him before she ducked under his arm and entered, pausing on the small area of floor that was just tile to take her shoes off and stick them into a cubbyhole. Padding further inside until she was in the middle of the pathway, she spun around and humbly bowed. “Welcome to my home, Ralph. Please enjoy your stay.”

    They stared at each other before she giggled and skipped to her left into the kitchen. With a brief roll of the eyes, Ralph carefully squeezed himself in, poking the door to close it behind him. Shuffling further in, he looked over into the living room he would've entered through, noticing what looked to be a straw mat surrounded by a various number of flowers in their vases and on the floor directly underneath the window. Then casting his eyes about, he found himself gaping at how different it looked from what he expected.

    Instead of being covered in strawberries motifs or of its color scheme—though he figured pink still counted—the walls were occupied by pictures or murals of spindly trees covered in small, pink blossoms, or of the tiny petals scattering all around. Splashes of green fields occasionally caught his eye, but the entirety of his sight was full of the pale color, though he was a little grateful it wasn't as blinding as Sugar Rush's color scheme. For furniture, and coincidentally the only strawberry-motif in the room, there was a small sofa and chair by the far-end wall where a small fireplace lay. The room was otherwise devoid of other objects, though a colorful set of connected tunnels, tubes and containers was positioned close to the couch and even snaked itself around the chair.

    His ears then caught the sound of scuffling from said-tunnels, and a shape zipped down one of the tubes. The man followed it closely, watching as a white rat slid down an exit conveniently facing his direction. The little rodent appeared to gallop for him, and with a series of squeaks, reached his foot and chomped on his big toe.

    While Ralph was sure he would feel the bite and had braced himself for it, he still let out a yowl and flailed about to try and shake the rat off. “Go away, get!” he yelled at it, backing away into the wall. It was then the rodent scurried up under the overalls pant-leg, and he started smacking at the tiny lump in retaliation, and flinched each time it bit him.

    “Ralph, what's going on?” Scrumples called out, sliding into the corridor with an anxious look on her face.

    “Some mangy rat attacked me!” he roared, growing more desperate to hit the creature, not liking where it was heading.

    The woman then paled and her irises shrank as she gasped. “Where's Cheese?!” she squeaked from constrained breath.

    “You're in the kitchen, should be in there—NO-NO-NO, NOT THERE!”

    Scrumples looked on his person, covering her lower face in horror. “WHAT'RE YOU DOING TO CHEESE?!

    Ralph recoiled in shock from her shrill voice, raising his hands up before him, though he still squirmed from the rodent's teeth and clawed feet. Then he watched as she grabbed a broom leaning against the wall and raised it above her head. “DROP HIM, RALPH!

    With a sudden change of direction, the rat crawled up his chest and popped its head out from his shirt, large round ears perking up as it looked at the woman. It squeaked, jumped off his person, and bounded for her, climbing up her leg and disappearing behind her only to show up seconds later on her shoulder. Scrumples not once moved as her eyes continued to glare Ralph down. And it was then he had that feeling her hair turned into fire from how it splayed outward and glowed from the light in the kitchen.

    For some reason, he got it in his head she was capable of swinging the broom at him.

    Slowly, he brought himself to give her a nervous smile as he took a step back. The rat chittered at him, which he quickly ignored as he addressed Scrumples. “I'm... sorry about the fuss there. Um... I take it I'm not welcomed here?”

    She only continued to leer up at him, remaining motionless.

    Eying the broom, Ralph took another step for the door. “Yeah... well, thanks for showing me your house, but I just remembered that the stove wasn't turned off, so I gotta get back and—”


    He flinched from the blow, but as it didn't harm him, he made no other sound, nor opened his mouth to tell her off. They continued to stare at each other until her face softened when smiled and clutched the broom closer. “Silly, I wouldn't leave a stove turned on if I'm not in the kitchen,” she chastised in a teasing tone, shaking a finger at him. “You're a bad liar, Ralph.”

    Ralph scowled, resisting rolling his eyes. “Okay, so I can't add 'lying' to my list of villainy. Whatever.”

    Scrumples giggled, then noticed the rodent on her shoulder. “Oh! This is Cheese, by the way! You two met, but not properly.” Smiling at her furry companion, she told Cheese, “Want to introduce yourself again?” To the man's slight surprise (though he saw it coming either way), the rat turned up its nose with a quiet squeak. “Oh, that's too bad. He's not used to strangers,” she whispered to Ralph.

    “I noticed,” he flatly said.

    With a quick sigh, she gave him a small wave. “Come into the kitchen. I think you'll like it.” Then spinning on a heel, she strolled into the room, though not before Cheese shot him a warning glance.

    Giving the rat a sneer of his own, Ralph followed, and found he could straighten to his full height. Cricking his neck, he took some interest in the size and number of the shelves that greeted him, believing he could possibly just barely touch the rim of the middle shelf. Looking about the oddly-large kitchen, he found nothing out of the ordinary outside of the aforementioned shelves and large window gazing out at the cabinet. It looked normal otherwise, except he could see holes in the wall that he guessed the rat could travel through.

    “Cool, isn't it?” Scrumples asked, a hint of constrained joy in her voice. “I can walk amongst the shelves to get what I want! I'm small enough that it won't break under my feet.”

    He just nodded, turning his attention to the clear countertop and sink, unable to find a speck of dust or water spot. “Do you... clean here often?”

    She gave him her trademark smile as she raised two fingers, small lines dancing around her like rays of a sun rising behind her. “A kitchen has to be clean, because that's where food is always prepared.”

    Ralph mentally slapped himself for asking an obvious question. Returning his gaze to the countertop, his eyes trailed far enough along he noticed a painting on the wall in shadow. Stepping closer, he could see it was of a hilly field in the foreground leading into a grove of trees before emptying out to a crystal-clear lake reflecting the sunset-lit sky and clouds. Blurred out in the background was what looked to be more field, and some mountains on the horizon. He noticed the attention to detail in every blade of grass, leaf on the tree, and grooves of the clouds. Whoever had painted it had to have spent countless hours making it look realistic as possible, but with an air of perfection. The only complaint he had was the frame was too plain for such a beautiful painting, but it was kept clean enough to give off a small shine. However, printed on a gold plate beneath the painting was what he believed to be the title.

    “'Mag Mell'?” he muttered, tilting his head.

    “You like it?” the woman asked quietly from behind. She squeezed in next to him, resting her elbows on the counter, chin in her hands. Cheese was now absent from her shoulder, bringing him to glance over for a quick scan of the kitchen, and hearing a tiny squeak sound from somewhere by the shelves. She deeply sighed when he turned back to her, finding her eyes glazed over in a dream-like daze. “I've had it for as long as I can remember. I don't know who painted it, there's no given name.”

    A thought popped into his head at what she said. “You're saying this may have been programmed into the game?”

    She shrugged. “I dunno. I like to look at it when I wake up, and before I go to bed.”

    He stared at it for a few moments longer, trying to take it all in. “What's this 'Mag Mell', anyway?”

    Scrumples pointed to the painting. “That, silly.”

    Ralph let out a small sigh. “I know that, but is it an actual place, or just a painting?”

    She shrugged again. “I like to believe it exists somewhere.”

    Pulling himself away from the painting, he looked out the window, feeling he was looking at a different world despite not having left the arcade. The door was right across from where his cabinet was placed, but he had never seen it up-close before. He felt a little disappointed that the world beyond his turned out to be dark and bland, though he could see white flakes dropping from the sky.

    His eyes then lit up when he recognized it as the same white snow he would see in Sugar Rush. “Oh, looks like the arcade gets snow after all.”

    “It's snowing?!” Scrumples cried out, tearing herself from her dreamy state to look outside. She swerved her torso around so she still leaned on the countertop. “I love snow, it's so pretty to look at!”

    He raised a skeptical brow, looking down from the corner of his eye. “Is this something that was programmed as well?”

    She chewed her lip thoughtfully. “I don't think so. I mean, I was just plugged in at the start of the month, so obviously I got to see snow the moment I woke up...” Her voice trailed off briefly when she sighed. “But somehow, it's like I've known snow my whole entire existence. I sometimes get memory flashes of snow and of children and people walking by covered with it. And I also remember really bright, colorful lights at night.”

    Ralph didn't know what else to say, so he kept his mouth shut and let the moment sink in. The longer he watched the snow fall from beyond the screen, the more he imagined the small scenario she described. It sounded familiar to how the arcade was like for about a month every year, which he was estimating to happen in a few more weeks. From what he remembered, the arcade owner was rather passionate about the annual occasion, and the players seemed to like that rather calm, but festive atmosphere. Though he didn't really care much for some of the music he played.

    “Am I crazy for thinking that, Ralph?”

    Her inquiry pierced through his memory and jolted him back to the kitchen. Flustering, he turned to Scrumples, whose face was tilted toward his direction, but her eyes remained on the window. Clearing his throat, he responded, “No, of course not. That's probably your backstory, which sounds... simple.” He shrugged at the end of his sentence.

    She blinked up at him. “I don't have a backstory.”

    Ralph frowned, scanned the kitchen, then back to her. “That can't be right, every character has a backstory of some sorts. Well, they should, anyway.”

    Her expression not once changed. “I'm just a cook. I'm really sure that this is a memory.”

    “That has two different meanings... be more specific.”

    Her brows furrowed minutely before she understood what he meant and tapped her head. “Talking about this.”

    Turning his back on the window, the man scratched at his head. “Well, we all have memories. How else would we remember each others' names, be able to hold nostalgic conversations, important dates, and the like? Memories are what help remind us who we are. If we never had memories, we would never learn, or make different decisions every day. You know?”

    When he faced Scrumples, his small smile fell at the sight of her blank expression, though he caught a gleam of emotion in her eyes. It came and went so fast, however, he could only go by his gut feeling of what it was he saw.


    The woman suddenly let loose a big yawn—her mouth became so wide, it extended below her chin, her nose briefly disappeared, her eyes flattened and developed tears at the corners, and three wavy lines danced over her. Ralph froze at the odd sight, unsure how to react. When her mouth closed, she returned to normal, and peered up at him. “Sorry, Ralph,” she mumbled, rubbing at her eyes. “I get sleepy when I space out too long.”

    Nodding, he remembered why he asked to visit her home and started looking around, from the shelves to the stove. “Um... sorry if I sound a little nosy, but where'd your cookbook?”


    He mimed opening a book. “Your cookbook,” he enunciated. “Where is it? Do you have one?”

    She caught on, and briefly lifting a finger, she stepped out of the kitchen. He heard a small drawer open right around the corner, and she returned with a moderately-sized book. “Why do you want to see it?” she asked.

    I don't, but I'd like to see how you cook in your kitchen.” It sounded awkward to tell her why he was there, but it helped get him back on track from when he came up with the idea earlier.

    Scrumples had obviously not figured everything out until that moment. For one second, she had her default pleased expression on her face, then the next it turned dumbfounded, her eyes turning into simple dots and thus making her blush marks more prominent, her nose disappeared, and her mouth shrunk to a simple triangle. “Y.... Y-You want me to cook?” she stammered, beginning to sweat a little.

    Figuring he was going to regret it, Ralph gave a hesitant nod. “Yes, Scrumps. I know you said you're not a great cook, but I... don't exactly believe you. That's like me saying I can't break things.”

    She hugged the cookbook close to her chest with a whimper. “You want me to burn my house down in demonstration?”

    “No, of course not.”

    “Ralph, I can't cook!”

    “That's all talk,” he said with a shrug. “I haven't had anything of yours outside of the tea, and I thought that was okay.”

    Her eyes shimmered with tears. “You're mean, Ralph.”

    He decided to wave it off when he spotted her chef's hat hanging on a hook. Walking past her to grab it, he stated, “Let's go with something simple. Why not bake some cookies? That doesn't take a lot of ingredients, I take it.”

    Scrumples flipped through the book until she found what she was looking for. “I count ten.”

    Ralph fought back the urge to face-palm. “Okay, the number of ingredients doesn't matter. It's how long it takes to make a batch.”

    She looked at it again, and her brows furrowed a little. “Well... it's not like I'm making an apple pie.”

    A smile transitioning on his face, he plopped the hat on her head. “That's the spirit, Scrumps!”

    Sticking her bottom lip out, she reached up to fix it so her bangs peeked out fully. Ralph then realized the bangs were somewhat in the shape of a strawberry. “I don't know, Ralph...”

    Meeting her gaze, he brought himself to chuckle. “What's the worst that can happen, really?”

    Scrumples didn't say a word.


    A buzzer sounded as Surge Protector flickered into view, pen and clipboard in hand. “Okay, sir, before I let you proceed to Fix-It Felix, Jr., I'm going to need your name, and the name of the location you just arrived from.”

    “I'm a secret agent, and I put the finishing touches on Polybius.”

    He gave the large man a look of warning. “You're only making this harder on yourself.”

    “I just want to go home and forget this all happened.”

    “Don't we all,” the guard dryly said, tapping the metal clip. “Name.”

    “Wreck-It Ralph,” came the disgruntled sigh.

    “Where are you coming from, sir?”

    The response was grumbled out.

    Where are you coming from?” he questioned more loudly.

    With a huff, Ralph grunted, “Game Play Station, which is where Scrumples is docked. You probably never heard of it, but it's been all the rage recently.”

    Surge Protector “mmm-hmm”ed in reply. “Did you bring any fruit with you?”

    “A bruised ego.”

    Cocking a skeptical brow, the guard just checked off “no”. “Anything to declare?”

    “Not while there are children present.”

    “Good choice.” Peering over his glasses, he squinted past the death glare to scan the black face and smoke rising from his hair. “Are you aware your hair is on fire, sir?”

    “Go jump in a bottomless pit,” Ralph snapped, and passed on through without waiting for the Surge Protector's approval.
  8. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie "It is my destiny."

    I'm kinda not proud of this chapter, but I'm waving it off because I see this story as more of a slice-of-life, and so anything kinda goes.

    Chapter Eight: Irony

    Tapping on the door with his knuckles, Felix cheerily called out, “Rise and shine, Ralph! Today's gonna be a great day!”

    There was no response, like he expected, though he could just hear some shuffling beyond the wood. Crossing a foot behind him, the handyman pulled out his hammer and a rag for a quick cleaning, holding it up to the cabinet's light for better inspection. Once the door opened, he spun around and began to greet him again when he hesitated. Blinking in slight surprise, Felix's gaze trailed upward Ralph's disheveled figure before stopping on what he was sure was a faint patch of dark whiskers all along his chin. When he squinted his eyes and leaned closer for a better look, he could see burn marks, and found the “whiskers” were flat and stuck to his skin.

    Clenching his jaw shut when they made eye-contact, he scratched underneath his cap from the awkwardness. “Jimminy,” he muttered.

    “Don't ask,” the villain grunted as he pushed past to trudge for the apple tree.

    “Y... You look awful,” Felix stammered out, hurrying up to his side. “Did you and little Vanellope get in an accident?”

    “I said 'don't ask',” Ralph growled, almost tearing off the branch along with the apple. He snorted at the tree before chomping into his breakfast. “I'd like to pretend it never happened.”

    Nervously tapping his shoe against his other heel, the handyman held up his hammer. “Well, you can't go to work looking like that, now can we?” Without waiting for consort, the man hopped closer to eye-level, and tapped his face with the head. In an instant, Ralph's skin cleared up, and his hair free of singes.

    He gently prodded his cheek in response. “Thanks, I s'pose,” he said, then headed back to the door.

    “Where are you headed, Ralph?”

    “I'm going nowhere, Felix, just locking my house up.”

    Felix fidgeted with his cap. “You never lock up,” he pointed out. “You don't even have a key.”

    Ralph hissed under his breath when he hit his head against the top frame, chipping off a bit of the wood. “Ah-h-h, that's true...”

    Glancing over at the penthouse and tugging at his collar, the handyman tried his hand at another question. “May I ask why you're so... off this morning?”

    The wrecker turned to him with furrowed brows. “Oh, I'm 'off', am I? Guess I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

    “More like you slept on the wrong side,” Felix corrected more to himself.

    He mockingly laid a hand to his ear. “Wha's that? Speak up, Felix, I can't hear you from up here where my face is.” Scowling and pointing to himself at the end of the sentence, Ralph lumbered off for the main building, barely catching himself from crushing the apples.

    The little man scurried over to the front, spinning on his heels to walk backward until the giant came to a halt. “Ralph, why won't you tell me what happened?” he urged, his movements getting more frantic. “I mean, I've seen you cranky in the morning before—”

    “Scrumples was here yesterday.”

    His posture straightened at the name, and his face lightened up. “Oh, really? That was awful nice of you to show her around.”


    Felix grinned awkwardly, averting his gaze briefly. “Huh. Well, that's not an issue, I take it?”

    Ralph scoffed. “Under normal circumstances. But a visitor doesn't touch your things, or clean your kitchen, or even kick you out of said kitchen for being stinky.”

    The handyman thought on it for a moment. “The last one makes sense.”

    He forcibly held his hand down to keep from face-palming. “Well, if that doesn't chap your hide, in Felixese, then how about finding out that a character they're programmed to be can't really do it off-duty?”

    They studied each other's expressions for a few moments, Ralph watching as Felix's face fell in confusion. “Wait, what?”

    Ralph pinched his brows and took a small breath. “Like say Sarge is incapable of going around barking orders at other folks and using a firearm.”

    “But she can...”

    “Just pretend, okay?”

    Felix scratched at his head, glancing around at the passing Nicelanders when they waved and greeted him. Looking back up at the giant's serious expression, he timidly asked, “What are you getting at, Ralph?”

    He threw up his large hands in defeat. “Scrumples can't cook. I was at her house yesterday, and she almost burned us alive. Happy?”

    The little man blinked, brows barely raising. They continued to stare at each other until Gene called out from where he stood at the doors to the apartments, “Five minutes to opening! Places, everyone!” He nodded at Felix, but gave Ralph a rather neutral look before walking inside.

    With a small huff, he turned his back to trudge to his place off-screen. Felix hopped to his line of vision and held up his hands. “Are you suggesting I do something about it?” he guessed in a bold manner.

    While taken aback by his sudden approach, the wrecker heavily exhaled and shook his head. “It doesn't matter anyway. Just forget I said anything.” He took a step forward until the handyman braced himself.

    “I'm not budging an inch until after we've talked some, Ralph,” he said, looking up from beneath his cap's rim. Straightening up and clearing his throat, he added, “So you have problems with the ladies. It's normal.”

    Ralph deeply frowned, hands twitching at his sides. “I don't have problems.”

    “You just need to keep yourself in check, is all,” Felix resumed, shooting him a small smile. “Watch how you act around her, and what you say to her. Treat her like a woman and not a man, Ralph.”

    “Dutifully noted.” He roughly marched past him.

    Spinning around, he announced louder, “As for Scrumples, she can take cooking lessons.”

    “Ha! I feel sorry for the chump already!”

    “I'm talking about Mary, Ralph.”

    He did a double-take over his shoulder. “M... Mary, huh?” He scratched at the hairline behind his neck. “Well... how convenient. But listen to me, Felix, Scrumps... Scrumples...” He waved his hands about briefly and rolled his eyes nonchalantly. “Whatever, she is a hazard even in her own kitchen. We were baking cookies, and she set it ablaze. How that happened I have not a clue, but just imagine her burning down Mary's apartment.”

    Felix nervously shuffled in place, glancing up at her window like he expected her to be there. “Nothing to worry about,” he said with a little laugh. “Mary knows her cooking, she'll teach Scrumples how to do all those things! I... just have to ask her, first.”

    Ralph slowly took in a breath, imagining the horrified look on the Nicelander's face the moment the baked goods Scrumples touched burst into flame. Somehow, he found that moment funny, but for the whole apartment to be smoked out was the real issue. While he didn't doubt Mary would forgive the young woman for her mistakes, the others most likely wouldn't. He figured Gene would be the most angry of them all, and chew her out. Her already-fragile demeanor would break to receive such harsh words from someone who isn't afraid to give them.

    He shook his head at the vision. Why was he so focused on the negative and not the positive? “I don't think we should bother her about it,” he said in a simple tone.

    “She wouldn't mind.” Felix seemed rather supportive of the idea, much to Ralph's chagrin. “Besides, from what I remember about Scrumples the one night I did see and talk to her, she and Mary will get along.”

    The villain had to swallow down a scoffing laugh. “We'll see,” was all he could blurt out.

    Finding no other reason to continue his persuading, the handyman let out a soft sigh. With a quick glance to the cabinet window, he tipped his cap at him, and bounded off for the other end of the game. Ralph looked toward his house as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, unsure how to shake off the sudden unnerving feeling that hit him.


    “I'm getting worried, Cheese. We haven't gotten a player yet...”

    Thirty minutes had passed since the arcade opened. Scrumples hadn't moved from where she stood, waiting patiently for someone to put in their quarters. Her pet was laying by the hole in the wall, ears lowered in a tired stance, though he looked up when she spoke. She kept her eyes locked onto the outside world, her heart doing flips every time she saw someone hover around the area her cabinet stood, then sinking whenever they left or chose another game. She had stopped smiling by this point, brows furrowing more and more in anxiety.

    “I don't understand. We were doing okay yesterday.” She glanced over at the rat. “Right?”

    Cheese just licked his back paw and scratched at his ear. Scrumples smiled a little at the sight, though it fell when she looked back out. The looping animation playing before her had by now faded into the background as she started to go into a daze. She reached out to rest her arms on the counter, tapping her shoe on the floor to an imaginary rhythm, and quietly hummed along to it, thinking she made it up while wondering if she heard it before. Beyond the haziness of the cabinet window and arcade's doors, her vision caught onto the light flurry of snow.

    Somewhere in the distance, whether outside or in her mind, Scrumples heard voices... indecipherable voices of people chatting away and laughing. Sometimes, an exclamation of delight sounded, but nothing too distracting. The voices had no distinct faces to them—she could never memorize that many players, even those who returned many times. She could only tell from the voices if they belonged to children, women, or men. Most of the time, they were of men.

    A chill ran through her chest for no apparent reason, making her squirm in discomfort and shake her head. Turning away from the window, the woman gazed at the painting, and started to relax. It always made her feel better, she noted.

    “Cheese?” Scrumples softly called, not tearing her eyes away. “Do you like it here?”

    The rat's ears flicked and he scurried over, grabbing onto the ribbon to climb up. She saw his whiskers twitch into her peripheral vision as he sniffed her cheek. With a small giggle, she asked another, “Have you seen the others besides Ralph, by the way?”

    Cheese sat on his haunches, and began cleaning his whiskers. She sighed a little, trying to remember if she ever introduced him to her neighbors. “Well, do you like Ralph?”

    The rat let out a rather harsh squeak, bringing her to frown.

    “Such a shame... I was hoping you two would like each other, because I like Ralph.” Scrumples lips curled up at the thought. “He's grumpy, but he's nice when he's not.”

    The rodent jerked and let out what sounded like a sneeze.

    With a blink, she giggled. “Someone's thinking of you, Cheese. I bet Ralph would like to see you again.” Cheese slowly looked at her with a glint, though she appeared to have not caught the expression. “But still, I'm sure it's because you never saw him before, and you're not used to strangers. That's why I'm going to invite him again later.”

    Scrumples turned to the stove, and had a second thought. She walked over and opened the oven only to back away covering her nose with a whine. Faint smoke poured out from its depths, triggering the memory of last night. “Before I do, I should clean this,” she said behind her hand. “I hope I won't have to make cookies again.”

    The quarter alarm sounded just when she shut the oven door, making her squeak in surprise and almost slip sliding back into place. She laughed when Cheese ran down her back to jump down and run into his hole. Fixing her toque, she stood at attention with a big smile on her face, staring into the face of a young girl, and who looked to be her mother standing by. The child picked out her options, and watched with bright eyes as Scrumples bowed and raised her hands to cry out, “Game start!”

    It was apparent the child had no idea what she was doing, as she pressed buttons at random and jiggled the joystick around. It was a game over before she knew it, though she had to hold in her giggles until the intro started up. Once she did, she quieted down the moment the player spoke, “Mommy, can you help me?”

    “Um... no, honey. Let's try a different game.”

    Getting to her feet, she lifted her eyes up in time to watch the girl's mother take her hand and quickly pull her away. The woman shot the cabinet a single glance before stopping the daughter at the Whac-A-Mole, and stood directly behind her. Scrumples had tensed when their eyes indirectly met, sensing something wrong with the look. She couldn't remember a time where she had been given such a harsh look. Not even Ralph had given her a similar stare.

    Slowly, she trudged for the step-stool and plopped down on the bottom step, resting her chin in her hands. Cheese appeared by her foot, gazing up at her as he tilted his head. She let out a sigh, glancing over in his direction. “Are we doing something wrong, Cheese?” she whispered, eyes drooping. “Did... did we do something to make players not like us anymore?”

    The rat rested his chin on the toe of her shoe, letting out what sounded like a small sigh. She reached down to stroke his back with a finger, scarcely reacting when her toque slipped off her head.

    She wouldn't pick it up until the next player came along an hour later.


    “You want me to what-now?” Mary asked with incredulous undertones, cautiously eyeing the stairway Ralph was half-stepping on.

    Ralph glimpsed down at Felix where he stood before repeating his sentence, “I'm wondering if you'd like to give cooking lessons to an acquaintance of mine.”

    “Um... I guess?” She gave a confused smile, and a small shrug. “I'm not the best cook in the world, but I know my stuff, you can say.”

    Pleased with the answer, the man simply said, “Okay, just wondering,” then moved to climb down the building.

    “Wait!” she spoke up. “Who wants cooking lessons?”

    “I told you, just someone I know.” He pushed himself from the side to safely land next to the mud puddle.

    “Is it that little girl from Sugar Rush?”

    “No, it's not Vanellope.”

    “Then...” Mary leaned further out her window to point in his house's direction, “could it be that lady I saw you escort yesterday?”

    Ralph had to take a deep breath before he could answer. “Yes,” he grunted.

    “That a yes?”

    Furrowing his brows, he leaned back and repeated louder, “Yes, Mary. That was her.” He shot a glance at Felix, silently cursing and telling him to take it from there, though a new player came in before he could.

    In between each game restart, the handyman relayed everything he knew about the proposal. Ralph briefly tuned him out most of the time, trying to put all of his focus on his job and worry about everything else later. But each time the slightest remembrance of Scrumples came up in the brief conversations, the deeper it sunk into his thoughts, leaving him annoyed, but with some relief. Mary seemed to be the only one who could help her predicament, and he came to the conclusion that once she improved her skills and opened up more to people, Scrumples would slowly become more popular where she lived. Then she would visit less, giving him more availability to spend time with Vanellope, Felix, and even the villains.

    He refused to admit out loud that though she was irritating to be with, he didn't despise her (except for possibly her rat). He just didn't want to deal with her for as much as he has. Vanellope was a handful in her own right, but it made sense for a young, energetic girl. Scrumples was an embarrassment for her age, yet she never seemed to notice, and chances were high she never would.

    If anything, Ralph pitied her.

    After the last game, Mary was the first to come up to the wrecker as he stood up from the mud puddle. “First of all, you did a great job, Ralph,” she said, flashing him a smile. “Now, as for the cooking lessons for the miss, I'll teach her if she's willing to do it.”

    With a shrug, the man replied, “Good to hear, I suppose.”

    Her face fell a little. “Are you really not for the lessons?”

    “It's not that, Mary, even though I didn't come up with the idea in the first place.”

    She clasped her hands looking over at Felix, whom was having small talk with Roy near-by. “Well...” and she nervously smiled, “at least you thought about it. From what he told me about this lady, she's rather unique.”

    Ralph disguised his scoff as a laugh. “Yeah, she's something all right.”

    “How long has she been plugged in?”

    “About two weeks. Probably still learning names at her place, knowing her.”

    Mary shrugged daintily in agreement. “Possibly. Still, she sounds like a nice character. I'm looking forward to meeting her.”

    “Is that the train I'm hearing?” Felix asked out of the blue, lifting his head for the dock's direction. The others quieted down when it came to their attention as well.

    Feeling in his gut he would regret it, Ralph stepped to the front of the crowd and focused his gaze toward the tunnel. With the creak of its wheels, the cars rounded the corner, Scrumples in the front seat. The man tensed at the unexpected reveal, wanting to hide himself until he was ready to face her before he noticed she had her head down. Glancing at the confused Nicelanders, he hesitantly approached the dock, taking care best he could to have his broad shoulders and back block their view.

    He stopped feet away when the train came to a jerky halt, jolting the woman out of her daze. Lifting her eyes up, her face brightened when their gazes met, and she smiled. “Hello, Ralph. How are you today?” she politely asked, leaning forward in what he interpreted was a bow.

    For a split second, Ralph briefly looked back at his co-workers, then lowered his brows at the woman. “What are you doing here, Scrumples?” he inquired in a harsh whisper.

    Scrumples tilted her head in quizzical innocence. Twiddling her fingers together as she cast her eyes about, she slowly put her words together. “Um... I came to apologize, and that if you want, you are still invited to come to my place anytime you want.” She blinked up at him with a small smile.

    He didn't take a breather to think on it and give a proper response. “Not that!” he hissed, pointing to the cabinet window. “The arcade just closed!”

    Her eyes followed his finger until she spotted the clock above them. “Did I come at a wrong time?”

    Barely catching himself from slapping his forehead, Ralph raised his voice, “Do you realize what you may have done to your game?!”

    Unflinchingly, her eyes arched in response as she lifted a finger. “Not to worry, Ralph. I made sure that I wasn't getting anymore players before I left.”

    “That's not the point!”

    “Is everything okay there, brother?” Felix called out, craning his neck to try and look around him.

    Ralph watched as the woman's eyes lit up, and she stood on the seat for a better look. He tried to move in her line of sight, but once she saw the handyman and Gene, she began waving wildly. “Good evening, everyone!” she cheerily greeted them. “Forgive me for interrupting your... meeting it looks like! I came to talk to Ralph about yesterday, and—!”

    The wrecker stopped her mouth with a finger before she could go any further, feeling his face burn in embarrassment. She stared at him with wide eyes for a moment before she relaxed, dropping her arm. Taking a deep breath, he pulled away and turned around to trudge back in defeat. He paused before the confused Nicelanders, addressed first to Mary, “Mary, meet Scrumples. Have fun explaining the lessons to her,” then leaned down closer to Felix's level to grunt, “She's your problem.”

    He nervously adjusted his cap as he cleared his throat. “Ralph, that's not a good idea,” he stated. “You can't abandon your guest.”

    “She's not my guest!” he snapped, straightening to his full height. “I didn't invite her over!”

    “Pardon me for interrupting,” Gene said, a small scowl on his face, “but what is she doing out of her game this early?”

    Ralph snorted, rolling his eyes. “She claims to have not had anymore players, and decided to visit. I'm not sending her home now that she's here, because I was going to bring up cooking lessons to her anyway.”

    “By giving her to us without our consent?”

    “That's not very gentlemanly of you,” came the scolding of Deanna, shaking her finger at him. A few other Nicelanders shook their heads in a timely manner. “You should be the one accompanying her.”

    Before he could growl out another statement, Scrumples' voice piped up from behind, “I'm sorry about everything, Ralph.” He whirled around to met her worried upward gaze, hands clasped before her. Her eyes dropped with her faint blush marks glowing in a dark pink, her hair appearing to droop. “I... I couldn't stop thinking about everything that happened yesterday, and I had to apologize as soon as possible.”

    “For what, dear, visiting him?” Gene's soft tone startled Ralph enough he gave him an odd double-take. Felix shrugged awkwardly, looking as equally-confused. The mayor pretended he didn't notice his movements and continued, “I said it was fine, did I not?”

    The woman went into a brief daze. “I guess,” she said, holding out the “s” for a beat.

    The short man gave a rare smile. “Obviously, as you're still standing, Ralph here didn't mind.” He shot the giant a berating glance. “You are welcome to visit, ma'am. Even if Ralph isn't here, you are free to come to us.”

    A bright grin spread on Scrumples' soft features, her fingers lacing together under her chin. “Thank you, man with the purple suit, sir!”

    “It's 'Gene',” he corrected with a small chuckle.

    “Sounds like 'jeans'. Is that how it's spelled?” she asked, pulling out her notepad.

    Looking between his co-workers, Gene said, “No, it's G-E-N-E.”

    She scribbled it down as she mouthed out the letters. “Oh, okay!” Her gaze darted up at Felix as her face lit in remembrance. Pointing her pen at him, she squealed through her teeth, “I forgot your name, sorry!”

    Ralph covered his face with a hand when the hero chuckled, taking off his cap. “It's okay, Miss Scrumples. It's Fix-It Felix Junior, but do call me Felix.”

    She nodded the whole time she wrote his name down. “Okay... okay, I'll remember it for sure! And how about the others?”

    “For crying out-loud, what is this, a census?!” the wrecker butted in, glaring down at Scrumples. “Are you going to take your cooking lessons today or not?”

    “I have cooking lessons?” she gasped, eyes widening.

    When Ralph's roar of frustration echoed through the game, the ground rattled hard enough they could hear the cabinet creak.


    Vanellope stepped onto the floor where Mary's apartment was located, looking over to find Ralph grumpily sitting on the floor outside a door, taking up over half of the hallway's width. She smirked a little, stepping lightly to his side, arms behind her back. “Earned yourself a time-out, I see,” she teased.

    The man barely shot her a glance. “There's no room for me to fit in the apartment,” he grunted.

    The girl looked at the door number with raised brows. “Uh...”

    “I don't know what you're thinking of, but that's not it,” he added to the side.

    “Well, I never saw you step foot inside here before,” she said, shrugging. “I'm just a little curious as to what possessed you to come up here.”

    “What're you doing here, kid?” Ralph muttered, his brows furrowing.

    Vanellope rocked on her heels. “Visiting.” One of her cheeks scrunched a little, her eyes rolling about nonchalantly. “I kinda got a little concerned about you not showing up, so I figured I would come looking for you.”

    He slowly turned to face her, his expression unchanging. “In other words, you got worried.”

    She laughed in his face, though her face turned a shade of pink. “Me, worried? No-no-no, you look more worried. I've seen you off-and-on all day, and you weren't too happy.”

    “I'm not supposed to be happy in my game,” he said flatly. “You know this.”

    The girl lifted her hand and then dropped it just as quick. “You waved like this most of the time.”

    Ralph shook his head, then flinched when he heard a loud clatter from inside of the apartment, and a voice squealed a string of apologies. Vanellope had jumped a little from the noise, though she hurried around him to place her ear at the door, her mouth slowly dropping open. “Was that Scrumps I heard?”

    Taking a breath, he nodded. “Yup. Mary's giving Scrumples cooking lessons.”

    She gave him a weird look the moment Mary's voice grew a little panicked. “Nuh uh, that can't be right.” She listened for another beat. “It sounds like a wrestling match in there.”

    “I can't referee the whole time,” he said, quickly following along with her wordplay. “Mary's on her own for another while longer.”

    Backing away from the door when what sounded like glass shattered, Vanellope sat on the other side by Ralph. Tapping her boots together, she blinked up at him. “So... what's Scrumps cooking in there?”

    “I think it's a batch of brownies.”

    She nodded, sticking one of the jacket's strings in between her teeth. “Think it'll be any good?”

    He sarcastically laughed. “I'll be impressed if it comes out decent.”

    Frowning at his tone of voice, she turned her attention to the potted plant across from them. “So I take it there's a reason she's taking cooking lessons,” she sighed. “But I thought she's already a cook.”

    “I'm starting to wonder if her programmers love the thought of irony,” he muttered, huffing through his nose.

    It was Vanellope's turn to laugh. “I don't think it was intentional, Stink Brain.” Then she paused in the middle of a chortle, her eyes growing wide and drawstring falling out of her mouth. “What if she actually is a chef-in-training, and the player is the one helping her?”

    Ralph briefly rolled his eyes. “You're only proving my point further.”

    She raised a brow up at him. “It's called 'speculation'. It doesn't have to coincide with yours.”

    The man cracked a smirk at her hardened tone. “Such big words you're using there, Miss President,” he blatantly noted to humor her.

    Vanellope stuck her nose up at him with a knowing smile. “A president is required to have an intelligent vocabulary to be taken into the least bit of consideration.”

    A brow cocked, then he shrugged. “Whatever you say, kid.”

    The door suddenly slammed open, revealing Mary at the doorway with a teary expression underneath the black smudge. Before wisps of smoke escaped into view, they could smell the acrid scent of burnt sweets, and the hint of metal. Ralph and Vanellope jumped to their feet (though mostly Ralph to give her some space). “Mary, what's wrong?” he asked, even though he knew what her response would be.

    She slowly looked up at the towering man, her smoking, pudgy figure rocking in jerky movements. She hiccuped for a few moments before she could find her voice. “Wh-Where's Felix?” she sobbed out, wiping at her eyes only to make it worse. “Oh, my oven, my kitchen!”

    The young girl's curiosity got the better of her, and she squeezed through Ralph's legs to make her way into the middle of the apartment. Her jaw dropped when she looked off to the side where the smoke continued to pour out. “Ho-ly fudge!” she shouted out, running both her hands along her hair.

    While Mary hurried down the hallway in a panic, Ralph carefully squeezed himself into the apartment, taking care to shuffle around the furniture to peek into the kitchen. Waving away the fumes, he stared incredulously at what remained, getting a flashback to the previous night. On one side of the countertops, splotches of batter on the walls, ceiling, in the sink, and on the floor where powered sugar didn't cover. An egg looked to have been dropped, though a broken measuring cup caught their eye the most.

    Standing by the open oven with her back to them, Scrumples' head was down, though they could see the tips of her hair and the ribbon of her apron were singing. Gradually for effect, she turned around to reveal her whole front save her eyes was blackened, an equally-darkened tray clutched in her oven-mitts. On the tray were indistinguishable lumps, which they guessed were the brownies. Ralph and Vanellope stared back, confused as to how her face remained strangely calm. Without any other movements, she held it up before her, tilting it slightly for them to see it better.

    “Would you like a piece?” she offered as a sad, awkward smile penetrated through the smudge.

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