People keep telling me that they have a hard time imagining Tobey speaking without his accent, and I just want to say that I can relate! The only time in the show that he says more than a few words in his real voice is at the beginning of 'Robo Camping' when he's arguing with his mom in the car, and it's hard to program a whole voice track into your brain with so little reference. HOWEVER! I can promise you that once you do get Tobey's normal voice in your head, it's well worth the trouble. The way I imagine him saying some of these lines is so darn cute! X3 I mentioned this back in Time to Go Home, but for the benefit of those who may not have read it, I want to again suggest looking up some clips from Minecraft: Story Mode if you have trouble imagining Tobey's normal voice. Seriously, just play the video, close your eyes, and picture Tobey whenever Jesse talks. The lines won't make sense, but you'll be surprised how easy it is to match the voice to an older, more mature Tobey (you know, since it's the same voice actor and all :P). If nothing else, you'll have a good giggle imagining Tobey saying stuff like, "People always wanna talk to the guy with the pig…" and "Holy crap, you're all acting like crazy people!" and "Behold, my enchanted diamond hoe!" XD

Anyway, the theme of this oneshot was suggested by Ani-maniac494. The story takes place about a week after 'Aftermath.' Enjoy! :)

Badinage [bad-n-ahzh, bad-n-ij] – light, playful banter or raillery.

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There was once a time when Tobey had considered video games to be 'a brain-rotting activity not worthy of his time.' Of course, that was before he'd grown close to Becky and learned how fun it could be to play with someone dear to him. Just the excuse to sit beside her for hours on end was worth it, and now that he was skilled enough to play for more than a few seconds without dying, he was even finding the game itself to be quite enjoyable.

"Go left!" Becky shouted, banking her controller accordingly.


"Nice word choice."

"Thank you."

On the TV screen, exaggerated digital caricatures of WordGirl and Captain Huggyface, controlled by Becky and Tobey respectively, were locked in an epic battle with an equally exaggerated digital caricature of the Butcher. Becky had introduced Tobey to WordGirl: The Video Game almost two years ago as an alternative to smashing buildings when he needed an outlet for his aggression. Since then, it had become an unexpected staple of their time together at Becky's house.

"Watch out for the hamburger hurricane," Becky exclaimed. "Good! Okay, activate emergency plan #387!"

"You realize I'm not actually Captain Huggyface, right?" Tobey questioned as he dodged a flying burger patty. Bob chuckled and stuffed a handful of popcorn in his mouth. He was sitting beside Tobey watching their antics, both on and off the screen, the way one might watch a sitcom.

"Sorry," Becky murmured sheepishly. "Just jump around and distract him while I tie him up in a telephone pole."

"Wait," Tobey mumbled, "emergency plan #387 is actually for Bob to jump around and distract him while you tie him up in a telephone pole?"

He shot a questioning look at Bob, who chuckled and shrugged.

"Aaaand you died again."

"Oh—bother," Tobey grumbled, turning his eyes back to the television as the on-screen Captain Huggyface disappeared in a puff of smoke and reappeared back at the level's start point. For the fifth time that round he returned to the fray with a vengeance. The Butcher's energy bar was nearly depleted.

"Almost," said Becky, "aaaaaaaand… GOT him!"

"Yes!" Tobey shouted, raising his controller over his head like a trophy. "I win!"

"We win," Becky corrected.

"Right, we win, that's what I meant," Tobey said nonchalantly. "We win, therefore I win."

Becky gave him a wry smile. "Fair enough. You're getting better at this game."

"Why, thank you! It's to be expected from a genius such as myself." Tobey beamed and tugged haughtily at the sides of his collar. He no longer wore a bow tie regularly, but that gesture was so ingrained in him that he still did it on impulse. It was like his British accent that way.

Becky snorted a chuckle and appended, "I mean, you're still pretty bad at it, but you are getting better."

Tobey gasped and clapped a hand on his chest. By now he'd grown comfortable talking to Becky in his real voice, but when their conversation spiraled into banter he usually switched back to his fake accent for comedic effect. He did so now as he dramatically bellowed, "You've cut me to the quick, madam! Well, I daresay it's far easier to show off in a game when you're playing as the alien superhero rather than the monkey sidekick."

Bob gave an annoyed grunt but continued to munch on his popcorn and made no further objection.

"You've played as WordGirl before," Becky pointed out. "The difference it made was negligible."

"Well, naturally I'm not as good at being WordGirl as you."

Becky snorted a laugh. "I bet if you practiced playing this game for half the time I spend fighting crime, you could do something about that excuse."

Tobey grinned slyly. "Are you implying that I should come over and play with you more often?"

Becky folded her arms and leaned back against the sofa, mirroring his smile. "Or you could use the copy I bought you for your birthday and practice at your own house."

"Might I remind you that you bought me said copy knowing full well that I had no game station to play it on."

Becky gave an innocent shrug and pertly replied, "Well, I just figured that a genius such as yourself would have no trouble building one."

Tobey blinked and found no retort. "Touché," he conceded. "Consider your challenge accepted."

Tobey was so glad they could still playfully tease each other like this. It was a practice he'd always relished back when he and WordGirl used to match wits as enemies, but he'd figured it smacked too much of villainy for Becky to be comfortable with it anymore. To his delight, though, Becky still bantered with him and had no qualms about his bantering back. It was a comforting reminder of what she'd told him several times before—that she really did like him for who he was, and that there were plenty of things about him that he didn't need to change.

Becky flashed a victorious smile and then turned her attention back to the TV, letting her controller rest in her lap as she watched the cutscene before the next level. Tobey, on the other hand, kept his eyes fixed on her. Part of him could still hardly believe that they were actually a couple now. The rest of him was just too delirious with joy to worry about the state of his sanity.

He reached toward her, intending to take her hand, when TJ came charging out of nowhere and plopped himself right between them—where, it might be noted, there wasn't enough space for him.

"I play winner," he announced as Tobey and Becky sprawled to either side from the force of his impact. Tobey crashed into Bob, who narrowly avoided flinging his popcorn across the room. They all simultaneously shot TJ an annoyed frown. Bob grumbled and pulled himself and his bowl up onto the top of the sofa, where he perched and continued to eat.

"TJ, this isn't a fighting game," Becky said, righting herself.

Tobey sat up and straightened his glasses, sticking to his accent as he impatiently huffed, "That's right, so kindly run along and play with your crayons or… whatever."

He made a shooing gesture at TJ, who glared at him.

"Heeeeeeeeeeelp!" yelled a shrill voice as a pale, panicked man in a green jacket burst in through the front door. "Lady Redundant Woman is robbing Taco Dell! And Bel Taco! And El Taco Chozo! And McTaco's! AND Every location in the city for all four of them! That's 27 restaurants!"

He paused to take in a deep, exaggerated breath and seemed to notice his surroundings for the first time. "Wait…"

"Dude, the police station is like, on the other side of town," said TJ. "I don't know how you keep ending up here."

"Oh, sorry," the man muttered sheepishly, and a split-second later he was running down the street, gesticulating wildly and screaming for assistance.

"You've got to be kidding!" Becky moaned, sinking morosely into the sofa. "27 restaurants simultaneously?"

Bob chirped what sounded like an inquiry and Becky lethargically said, "Simultaneously is when two or more things happen at the same time. Lady Redundant Woman is robbing 27 stores all at once, so she's robbing them simultaneously." She heaved a reluctant sigh and grumbled, "This is going to take all day."

"Aweso—! I mean, 'bummer,'" TJ said, eying Tobey with a sly little grin. "I guess Tobey will just have to play with me for the rest of the afternoon."

"Or I could go home and start building a game station," Tobey retorted, tapping his chin in mock-thoughtfulness. "Decisions, decisions… I just don't know which of those options sounds more appealing."

TJ scoffed and rolled his eyes.

Becky got to her feet and passed a concerned look over the two of them. "Just… try to get along, you two. Come on, Huggy."

Bob put aside his popcorn and hopped onto her back as she changed into her WordGirl costume.

"Oh, I almost forgot!" Becky jetted suddenly upstairs and was back in a flash with an annoyed Captain Huggyface on her back and a pink envelope in her hands. "Here, Tobey. This is for you."

Tobey was too surprised to respond at first and could only blink at her. After a short moment of silence, Tobey smiled and reached out to take the envelope. "Th-Thank you, Becky."

Becky nodded, and a delicate rosy flush colored her cheeks. "Well, I'll see you both later."

And with that, she disappeared in a flash of light. Tobey stared after her in a hazy stupor with a warm grin spread across his face. His first letter from Becky! He couldn't wait to—

"Yoink!" said TJ as he snatched the envelope right out of Tobey's grasp and ran off with it.

"Hey! Come back here with that!"

Tobey furiously gave chase, but skidded to an abrupt halt as Mr. Botsford zipped in front of him and stood perfectly in his way.

"Tobey," he greeted exuberantly with a happy smile on his face. "Just who I wanted to see. I'd like to have a talk with you."

Tobey froze, instantly forgetting all about TJ. He swallowed hard and with some difficulty managed to repeat back, "A…talk?"

Becky's father wanted to 'have a talk' with him? Tobey's heart hammered trepidatiously as his mind raced with possible topics—none of them pleasant. He had been so happy these past few days that he'd never even considered he might have to contend with Becky's parents. Was Mr. Botsford against their relationship? He had seemed fine with it the other day when he'd found out, but… that could have been an act for Becky's benefit. Thinking about it more, it made all the sense in the world for the man to have reservations about his daughter dating a former villain. What father wouldn't?

"Step into my office for a minute, hmm?" Mr. Botsford said pleasantly. He turned around and walked over to the kitchen table, where he sat down and looked expectantly at Tobey.

Your office is the kitchen? Tobey thought. He thought better of actually saying it and instead nervously obeyed, taking a seat at the table opposite Becky's father.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" the man asked. "Water? Juice? Tea?"

"N-No, thank you, Mr. Botsford," Tobey said skittishly, nearly losing track of his accent amid the mounting tension.

The man propped his elbows up on the table and rested his chin in atop his interlaced fingers. For a long, uncomfortable moment he just stared at Tobey with an appraising look on his face while Tobey shrank into his seat, feeling vulnerable and unworthy. "You know, I never would've guessed on my own," he said suddenly, "but according to Becky, your accent isn't genuine."
Tobey blinked. Darn it, Becky, you're not supposed to tell anyone that! "Uh…"

"There's nothing wrong with that, of course," Mr. Botsford added with a chuckle and a slight shrug. "What you do around your friends is your own business. However, I would much rather the young man dating my daughter be completely honest with me."

In spite of his horror, Tobey was reminded of something Becky had said to him last year. "I want you to be real with me, Tobey."

"Um… All ri—" He caught himself and stopped mid-sentence to clear his throat and switch off the accent. "All right."

As the words left him, so did the last vestiges of security he'd managed to hold onto. Whether by design or coincidence, Becky's father had done the one thing that could have made him feel even more intimidated and exposed. He'd long been embarrassed by the sound of his real voice. It was always awkward when he first started speaking to someone without the protective shell of his false accent to hide behind, but in this case, it was downright nerve-wracking.

Mr. Botsford just smiled at him, either oblivious to his suffering or relishing it, and absently muttered, "Well, I'll be."

An uncomfortable flush rose up into Tobey's cheeks, and he couldn't help but avert his eyes. He shrank in his seat and muttered under his breath, "Was there… anything else?" He considered adding 'sir,' but decided against it. He didn't want to make it any more obvious how completely powerless he felt.

"Indeedy," Mr. Botsford sang, flicking an index finger in the air. He then cleared his throat and adopted a stern frown, clasping his hands together on the table in front of him. The change from his usual jovial tone was worryingly clear as he declared, "All right, Tobey. If you're going to date my daughter, there are going to have to be some ground rules, understand?"

Tobey gulped. He wasn't sure whether he should be relieved or even more scared. 'Rules' for dating her implied that he was allowed to date her… right? Still, he reeled with nervous anticipation. He didn't want to sit there and find out what Becky's father feared he might do. He wanted to bolt from the table, run back to his house, and hide under the bed covers in his room. Somewhere deep inside himself, he found the courage to stay put. He needed to put his best foot forward right now, for his own sake as well as for Becky's. She loved her parents. What they thought of him was important.

"Of—course," he managed, swallowing hard, hoping he'd be able to remember the rules and wishing he had something to write with. It was taking all his focus just to keep from flopping back to British.

"Rule one," Mr. Botsford said, suddenly chipper again. "No eating anything I didn't cook after ten o'clock. Leftovers are always on the top shelf of the fridge."

Tobey blinked. He had no idea how to respond to that, but it quickly became obvious that the man was waiting for a reply. Tobey did so quite awkwardly and with no small amount of effort. "You mean when we're together, or just… period?"

Mr. Botsford chuckled. "Good one. Rule two. Never be late for dinner, or there will be consequences."

Tobey swallowed. "Understood."

"Rule three. No calling her Pumpkin, Sweet Pea, Princess, or Beck-a-roo. Those are mine."

"I can call her 'Becky,' right?" Tobey blurted out on pure reflex and could've kicked himself for doing so. The comment smacked of sass, though Tobey had intended nothing of the sort.

To his surprise, Becky's father didn't look angry, or even annoyed. He just thoughtfully stroked his chin and murmured, "I dunno… It's a little close to 'Beck-a-roo.'"

He smiled and winked, and Tobey was struck with realization. "Mr. Botsford, you're… bantering with me?" He'd intended it as a question but intoned it more like a statement.

"I prefer the word 'badinage.' Or, as I like to call it, 'dadinage.'" He paused to chuckle, then happily added, "Becky taught me that one yesterday—badinage, that is, not dadinage. That one is a Tim Botsford original."

To his own sheer astonishment, Tobey smiled, his worry ebbing away. With an inward sigh, he deferred to his usual method of bantering with Becky—minus the accent, of course. "So I can't call her Pumpkin. I suppose I'll have to think of a different gourd to use as a pet name. Calabash, perhaps?"

"Clever," Mr. Botsford complimented. "Though I put some in a curry once, and I don't recall her liking it."

With one finger touched thoughtfully to his chin, Tobey shrugged and said, "Well, I could go with a root vegetable instead. Sweet Potato!"

"Nah, too close to Sweet Pea. How about 'Candied Yams?'"

Tobey grimaced dramatically. "No thanks. Mother made that for Thanksgiving once, and I don't recall liking it."

Mr Botsford laughed. It was a hearty, genuine laugh that set Tobey completely at ease. With a soft little rush of surprise, Tobey realized that he had just made an important discovery. That witty, fun-loving side of Becky's personality which he so loved to engage—she'd gotten it from her father. Tobey had never really contemplated before just how much Becky's parents were part of her. It was a sobering thought, considering how completely he'd overlooked them all these years.

Oblivious to Tobey's pondering, Mr. Botsford wiped his eye and mumbled through his laughter, "Oh, boy… I'm gonna have a lot of fun with you, son."

Son. He'd said it casually, the way someone his age might call a boy 'kid,' or 'squirt,' but for some reason, it went straight to Tobey's heart all the same. It reminded him of the missing member of his own family that, deep down, he'd always yearned for, even though he barely knew what having one was like.

Tobey repressed a sudden, irrational urge to jokingly call Mr. Botsford 'Dad.' He doubted his ability to maintain a jesting tone if he did so.

"But in all seriousness," the man said, sobering, "there was something important I wanted to say."

Tobey's smile vanished. It figured that as soon as he realized they were joking things would get serious.

"About Becky—"

"I love her, Mr. Botsford," Tobey blasted, rising from his seat on pure reflex. "She's the most important person in the world to me! I don't know where, or even who I'd be without her… She—"

Tobey paused as he noticed the surprise on Mr. Botsford's face, and he suddenly felt ashamed. He sat down again, face downcast, fingers still trembling on the edge of the table. "I mean—"

"I know, son," Mr, Botsford said. Tobey repressed a little gasp and looked up to see that the man's surprise had been replaced by a tender smile.

"You—you do?

"Of course I do," he said with a little chuckle. "We adults become very fascinated with the lives of kids once we aren't kids anymore—particularly if those kids happen to be our children. Your mother talks to my wife, and my wife talks to me, and now I'm talking to you. I figured it was kind of implied, but I still wanted to give you my formal consent to date my daughter."

For a moment Tobey was catatonic with surprise. Finally, in a soft, awed voice without the slightest trace of a fake accent, he managed to murmur, "You mean it? You're not concerned about… my past?"

Mr Botsford donned that warm, inviting smile once more, and lightly shook his head. "Tobey, Tobey, Tobey…The thing about the past is that the farther back it is, the less it matters. You were a villain years ago. The part of your past that I'm most concerned about right now is what Becky told me happened just a few weeks ago, on that ship out in space. She said that if you hadn't been there to help her, she would never have made it back home. I think her exact words were, 'He would've died for me… and he almost did.' Honestly, what better quality could a dad hope for in the boy he entrusts his daughter to?"

Tobey didn't answer—just stared up at Becky's father with wide eyes.

"You told me just now that you love her, and you've already proven it," Mr. Botsford said. "I am more than happy to accept you as a member of this family."

A member of this family

Tobey was speechless. Hopefully, his profound gratitude went without saying.

« ... »

Tobey wandered upstairs, purposeful, but subdued after his 'talk' with Mr. Botsford. Having just been accepted as an honorary member of the family, he just couldn't muster the rage he'd felt earlier toward Becky's brother. He still wanted his letter back, though.

The door to TJ's room was open, and he stepped inside to find the 11-year-old quietly writing at his desk.

"All right, you've had your fun," he grumbled in his accent, expectantly holding out his hand. "Now hand it over."

"Hand what over?" TJ asked, rudely neglecting to turn and look at him.

"Oh, you know what," Tobey snapped, "just… give it."

This time the little brat turned in his chair, and he regarded Tobey with a mischievous smirk. "Well, if by 'it' you mean the ashes of your mush-note from Becky, then it's in the trash."

Tobey did a double-take. He had considered the possibility that his precious letter might suffer some sort of mutilation at the hands of Becky's vengeful sibling—perhaps a pass with a red correction marker or some other such scheme—but this?

"Why you—!" he blustered, fumbling for words. "How dare—?! I ought to—!"

"Oh, would you relax?" TJ said, rolling his eyes. He turned back to the paper in front of him and jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. "It's on the shelf by the door."

Dumbfounded, Tobey turned his head to see that there was indeed a shelf just left of his head where Becky's letter lay in plain view. He grabbed it immediately and turned it over in his hands, amazed to find that it was completely unharmed. In fact, the seal wasn't even broken.

Tobey looked up at TJ, pleasantly surprised.

"Oh, and on the subject of ground rules," TJ fussed, spinning around and shooting a childish frown at Tobey. "I can't do anything about Becky, but I'd better not catch you drawing little hearts on the outside of your envelopes. That's just gross!"

Tobey blinked and looked down at Becky's letter. Sure enough, there were little hearts drawn on it, and his was warmed to see them.

He looked up and gave TJ a good-humored smile. "Deal."

TJ nodded curtly and once more returned to scribbling away at his paper. "You're lucky I'm not the boss in this house," he snidely muttered, "'cause you're still under-qualified for your position in my book."

Tobey continued to smile at him for a brief moment, resisting the urge to laugh or make a witty comeback, then shook his head and quietly took his leave.

He went into the upstairs bathroom and locked the door, then sat down on the footstool by the sink. His fingers trembled as he opened the envelope and unfolded the paper. His heart pounded as he began to read.

Dear Tobey,

I have a confession to make. I've been purposely keeping you at an arm's length for quite some time now. The truth is, I started to reciprocate your feelings a few months ago, and that scared me a little. Even though we were friends, I kept remembering the time when we were enemies, and I wasn't sure if I could trust you with my whole heart yet.

I'm sure now, though. I want you to know that I'm through pushing you away. I want to be close to you. I want you to be part of my life. I want you to get along with my family and friends, and I want them to like you. I want to get to know you better and better, until someday I'm able to properly express how important you've become to me.

In the meantime, I want us to keep writing each other. I love having your words on paper, where I can read them as often as I want and keep them safe forever. It's just a hunch, but I'm betting you feel the same way.



Tobey read the letter five or six times before he could put it back in its envelope. Then he just sat there for a long moment, leaning back against the cabinet below the sink, holding the little paper bundle tenderly in his hands.

He could hardly believe how fortunate he'd been these past few weeks. For the first time in years, his future looked completely bright. Becky had accepted him, and on top of that, her friends and even her parents had accepted him. Her brother was contentious as always, but even he, in his own immature way, had accepted him. Not a month ago Tobey thought that any chance of a future with Becky had been doomed for years. Now here he was… living the impossible dream.

As if spoken aloud in her gently reprimanding voice, a single sentence from Becky's letter popped into his mind: I want you to get along with my family and friends, and I want them to like you.

The words were sobering, and Tobey's blissful smile wavered just a bit. They had all accepted him… but did they like him? He knew some of them did. He knew just as acutely that some of them didn't. In the case of one or two, he was ashamed to realize, he had no idea how they felt about him. He wasn't used to wondering or caring what people thought of him, but if there was one thing today's events were teaching him, it was that the people who were important to Becky should be important to him, too.

With Becky's letter clutched gently but firmly in his hand, he took a determined breath and stood to his feet. He didn't know if it was even possible to make them all like him, but may the Lord deal with him, be it ever so severely, if he didn't put in his best effort.

Resolve firm in his mind, he marched back to TJ's room. The door was still open, and TJ was still sitting at his desk. Tobey opened his mouth to speak, then paused, remembering how Mr. Botsford had specifically requested he drop his accent around him. He'd said he wanted Tobey to be 'completely honest' with him. Could it be that TJ felt the same way? Might that be part of the reason he was so hostile toward him? Because he didn't feel like Tobey was being honest with him?

"Um… TJ?" he muttered—without his accent. It felt right, but still terribly uncomfortable at first.

TJ's head popped up from his work, and he turned to face Tobey with a bemused expression. "You know, you don't have to fake an American accent just for me."

Tobey tensed and flushed, but quickly realized what TJ was doing. "Haha, very clever," he drawled, "but you've established that you were eavesdropping on me earlier and you already know this is my real voice, so there."

TJ flashed him a snide smile and said, "Huh… funny how even without the snobby accent, you still sound like a snob."

Tobey just smiled. "Yes, well… do you still want to play the WordGirl game with me?"

TJ was silent, and for a moment he just looked up at Tobey with a conflicted expression that seemed to be composed of curiosity, confusion, and intrigue all at once.

"I get to be WordGirl!" he shouted out of nowhere, and with that, he ran past Tobey and out the door. Tobey stared after him for a moment, then shook his head and followed behind.

« « « « « ж » » » » »

Okay, so the battle hadn't taken all day, but it was still a good three hours before WordGirl and Captain Huggyface were able to head home after Lady Redundant Woman's citywide taco heist. As the superheroine streaked across the cityscape toward her house, she worried about how Tobey had fared with her family in her absence. This was the first time she'd left him at her house without her since the two of them became an official couple. The situation had a high risk of awkwardness and/or tension.

"Do you think he got along okay with Dad and TJ?" she asked softly.

Huggy gave a sympathetic grunt, saying he didn't know.

They were nearly there, but WordGirl checked in with her super-hearing anyway. She was dismayed to hear Tobey's voice cry out in alarm, followed by TJ's exclaiming, "Now look what you've done!"

"Uh oh," WordGirl murmured. She doubled her speed and arrived at the house in seconds, then flew unceremoniously through the front door.

She was dumbfounded at the sight that greeted her. Tobey and TJ were sitting together in the middle of the sofa with game controllers in their hands and matching frowns of intense concentration on their faces.

"Well, it's not my fault you were too slow to catch me! I can't fly, remember?" Tobey snapped—in his real voice. WordGirl was stunned.

"Actually, it is," retorted TJ, using a very poorly-executed British accent that surprised WordGirl even more than Tobey's lack of one. "However am I supposed to catch you if you go jumping off the roof like a crazy person?"

Tobey shot him a glare and sharply grumbled, "You don't have to mock me, you know."

"Oh, but it's so much fun," TJ retorted.

Tobey wasn't looking at him anymore, though. He'd noticed WordGirl standing by the door and greeted her with a wave and an excited smile. "Hey, Becky! Back already?"

"Yeah," she said, pressing the star on her chest and reverting back to her regular outfit. Bob hopped from her back and plopped onto the sofa beside TJ, returning eagerly to the bowl of popcorn still waiting for him up on top.

"Have you two been having fun?" Becky asked, smiling with relief.

She strode over to the opposite side of the sofa and sat down beside Tobey, who sounded surprised by his own words as he answered. "Yeah, actually we di—"

"It was miserable!" TJ cut in loudly abandoning the silly voice, thank goodness.

Tobey whirled on him and indignantly bellowed, "Excuse me?"

"Honestly, Becky, I don't know how you can handle playing with this guy," TJ said an insincere tone, pointing sideways at Tobey with his thumb. "He's so bad, I bet Dad do better."

"I heard that!" Dad inserted from the kitchen. He lifted the spoon out of the bowl he was stirring and pointed it playfully at TJ.

Tobey set down his controller so that he could cross his arms and drawled in his British voice, "Well, you certainly didn't seem all that 'miserable' during the two hours we've been playing."

"We have not been playing for two hours," TJ argued.

"Yes, we have! I've been keeping track!"

"You're a track."

"At least my insults make sense."

TJ rolled his eyes. "Sure. 'Cause talking with a fake accent all the time makes sooo much sense."

Becky smiled as she watched them continue to bicker, a warm feeling rising up inside her. She never thought she'd see Tobey and TJ actually having fun together. Heck, she'd been starting to worry that they'd never get past simply tolerating each other, and now here they were, bantering like siblings or old friends. It was a tremendous relief.

At some point Tobey heaved an exaggerated sigh, letting his arms fall limp at his sides. Becky saw her chance and discreetly slipped her hand into his. She felt him flinch at her touch and met his eyes as he stole a glance at her. She loved how he beamed with joy at even the slightest show of affection from her.

She returned his smile with a gentler one, then coughed softly and flicked her eyes over to her brother. Tobey comprehended at once, resumed the playful argument without missing a beat, and TJ was none the wiser. Becky, meanwhile, just sat there contentedly, listening and laughing as she held Tobey's hand.

"Well, that about wraps things up," announced the Narrator in a British accent. "Tune in next time for another—"

"Oh, shut it, you!" Tobey shouted at the ceiling.

« ... »

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

Author's Notes:

- Cover Art— Unlike my previous WordGirl stories in which I've used a picture custom-drawn by my sister Lucinda Cottontale, for this story I've decided to use 'Notes' by Taylor Netter on DeviantArt. Lucinda wanted to do the cover art for this story as well, but she's extremely busy right now. Plus, I couldn't really think of a picture that would work better for the story than this one. :3

- Great Minds Think Alike— I wanted to give a shout-out to Cyber Rogue, who also suggested the word 'Badinage.' According to my rules, I had to give credit to the person who suggested it first, but seriously, what are the chances two different people would suggest that word? Is there some famous Youtuber or cartoon episode I don't know about that made it famous or something? *-* Anyway, thanks to both of you for your suggestion! It was so fun to work into a story! :D

-'WordGirl: The Video Game'— Some of you might remember this game from my debut WordGirl fic 'Saving Tobey,' though I didn't bother to give it a clever title until now. :P It was something Becky had Tobey try as a means of getting out his aggression without destroying things. Needless to say, it caught on. ;)

- Yoink!— You'd be surprised how difficult it can be to decide on an expletive for an 11-year-old to say as he impishly pilfers a love letter from his sister's boyfriend. :} I decided on 'yoink' as callback to a scene in Minecraft: Story Mode where Jesse (the one voiced by the same actor who does Tobey) snatches something from his friend while adorably and nonsensically exclaiming 'Yoink!' XP Also, I feel I should note that this is the second time Tobey has had an important document snatched right out of his hands. The first was in 'The Robot Problem' when The Coach stole his plans for a potato-fueled robot. Kid needs to learn to hold onto things better… Just like Jesse! *coughinsidejokecough* XP

- Dadinage— Just for the record, I don't plan to make a habit of using the theme words themselves in the oneshots. My sister came up with that 'dadinage' joke, though, and I thought it was too Tim to pass up. XP

- Calabash— Okay, if you think this sounds like a dumb pet name, you need to look up a picture of a calabash gourd. They're adorable. :3

-"You're a track."— I had TJ make this dumb joke in honor of my brother, who got it from my sister, who got it from my other, dorkier brother, who got it from an even dorkier friend of his. Is it just me, or are these lame throwback jokes actually funnier the less sense they make? XP

- Previews for Reviews— I got so busy scrambling to get 'Aftermath' up that I completely forgot I wanted to reprise my old tradition of giving sneak-peeks of the next chapter to anyone who reviews the current one! DX So… yeah, I'm doing that. :} If you leave a review on the latest oneshot, I'll send you a bit of the next one sometime before I post it. Make sure you're signed into your account since I can't reply to an anonymous review. Also, if you want to you can take the opportunity to offer your thoughts on how it could be improved. I've gotten many a helpful critique in this manner. :)