Chapter 8: What in the World

He came back from the store, humming a little tune and carrying a bag. Stephanie's pink-haired head peeked out from her room and at seeing him back, she ran, snatched the bag with a "Thanksdadddyberightback" and slammed the bathroom door behind her. Sportacus shook his head, determining that he'd never be able to understand some things, and found Robbie curled up on the couch flicking through television channels.

"That wasn't so bad," he said. Robbie gave him a look.

"What are you?" Robbie asked. "Do elves not get grossed out by anything?" Sportacus frowned slightly, bewildered.

"Grossed out? By what? I just bought a little box." He looked at the receipt and slowly pronounced the foreign word. "Ta-m-pons." Robbie shuddered so violently it looked like he might crawl out of his skin.

"Ew," he gagged. "Ewwwwwwwwww."

"What is it?"

Robbie stared at him for a full minute in shock.

"You're kidding."

"Nooo. What is it? Come on, tell me!"

"I am not going to give you the talk you crazy damn innocent elf. It's not happening. No."

"The talk?"

"No."

"Robbie!"

"You can forget it."

There was a long moment of silence where Sportacus looked confused and frustrated and Robbie was glaring at him for even thinking about it. But then, the sports elf's face relaxed minutely, and there was a tiny, ill-hidden smile of mischief that snuck onto his face.

Robbie saw it and ran.

He got about as far as the backyard before he was pounced from behind.

"Tell!" Sportacus demanded, straddling the man's back and pinning his wrists to the ground with one hand.

"No way in hell you crazy bastard!"

He was promptly tickled for three solid minutes, despite how much he thrashed and howled for release. Sportacus grinned and let him catch his breath after that.

"Tell," he repeated. "Why is it gross? What is… that thing I bought?" He had already forgotten the name. Robbie coughed weakly.

"No," he replied resolutely. Sportacus pouted.

"Why not?" He paused. "… Do I need to tickle you more?"

"NO!" Robbie shouted, squirming again. He stopped after a moment. "You could use other methods of persuasion though…" Sportacus tilted his head to the side.

"Like what?"

"Nothing," Robbie groaned. It was useless, with an innocent. "Nevermind."

"Why won't you tell me what that box is though?"

"Because it's gross," Robbie countered.

"But why is it gross?"

"For the love of… I'm not telling you. I'm seriously not going to explain that to you. Didn't you get any sex education as a kid?"

"Education?…" Sportacus pondered. "They have that for sex? Why would you need that?"

"So no one has to explain to stupid sports elves why tampons are gross, that's why!"

Sportacus frowned, thinking hard. This wasn't good. How was he supposed to help if he didn't know this stuff? Plus, he was naturally rather curious. Robbie squirmed again, getting uncomfortable underneath him.

"Let me up already!" he complained. Sportacus blinked and looked down.

"Maybe."

"Maybe?! Oh, you'll let me up Sportastupid, or… or…"

Sportacus sighed and released his wrists, standing easily.

"You're so loud Robbie," he said as Robbie climbed back to his feet. Robbie froze and looked at him incredulously.

"I'm loud? Are you insane?"

Sportacus smiled at him simply and made a beckoning gesture with his finger. Robbie regarded him skeptically, suspiciously, before slowly stepping closer. Sportacus stood on his toes and kissed him quickly on the lips.

"You're adorable, you know that?"

Robbie didn't reply for a moment, turning red.

"Egh… um… well." he finally stuttered. He adjusted his cuffs self-importantly. "Well, of course I'm adorable. It comes as part of the package of being so handsome."

"Mmm," Sportacus hummed noncommittally. "Lucky me." Robbie eyed him suspiciously.

"… What're you up to?"

"Nothing," the sports elf replied breezily, and did a few flips back into the house. Robbie followed slowly, still not sure what all of that was about. Stephanie was sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream. When Sportacus attempted to pluck it out of her hands, with a chiding "Not until after dinner, you know that!", instead of protesting while letting it go, she clung to the bowl with tenacity and glared. Robbie saw the look of surprise flicker across his elf's face, and caught the subtle shifting of his body that betrayed his intentions of getting into a battle of wills with the pink girl.

Robbie intervened on his behalf, grabbing a handful of shirt and dragging the shorter man away to leave Stephanie to her ice cream.

"Hey! Robbie!" he protested, but let himself be dragged into the other room. Once they were there, Robbie spun him around and gave him a stern look.

"You really want to know?" he asked flatly. It took Spartacus a minute, but he nodded. Robbie grimaced.

"I can't believe I'm… ugh. Fine. You owe me so much."

"I know I know!" Sportacus laughed. "I'll make it up to you."

"Yeah, you will," Robbie muttered. "Just please tell me you know the difference between girls and boys." Sportacus frowned and puffed up slightly, insulted.

"Of course I do!"

"Calm down and deflate, stupid. I'm making sure."

Sportacus huffed, but listened.


Sportacus was one rather confused sports elf.

He got the whole basic… process down from Robbie. It was all pretty weird, and he wasn't sure if Robbie was trying to trick him or not. So, he took it upon himself to examine the prior purchase. He found the opened box in the cupboard under the sink and fished it out. A small pamphlet fell out and he picked it up, unfolding it and reading it curiously. His eyes got wider and he dropped both box and pamphlet and scurried out of the bathroom, into the living room where Stephanie and Robbie were curled around a bowl of popcorn and flicking pieces at each other, picked Stephanie up and headed for the door.

"Wha-? Sportacus!" Stephanie protested. "Where are we going?"

"Store," he said shortly.

"What? Why?"

"You want to get Toxic Shock Syndrome? I'm not entirely sure what that is, but I'm sure it involves getting sick and that it's not healthy for you. So! Those… tam-pons I bought for you are unhealthy. We're going to the store to get something else."

He heard Robbie laughing hysterically on the couch in between mouthfuls of popcorn. Stephanie was turning a variety of colors, mostly red. Was that a symptom? He couldn't remember!

"Sportacus!" Stephanie dropped all her weight, sliding out of his grip and then standing again, out of grabbing distance. "It's fine!"

"It's not fine!" he argued.

"Let it go elf!" Robbie shouted helpfully from the couch. They both ignored him.

"I want to use them!"

"You want to get sick?"

"I won't get sick!"

"Can't you just use something else?"

"You never let me do what I want! I hate you!"

Stephanie stamped her foot and whirled around. This was the second time that day she blew up and retreated into her room. Sportacus stood completely still.

Robbie leaned until he could see Sportacus. He sighed and got up, making his way over while chewing the last handful of popcorn he had snatched. He brushed his hands off on his pants and put his arm over the sports elf's shoulder.

"Remember the irritability thing?" he provided.

"Yeah," Sportacus muttered. If Robbie didn't know better he'd say the elf was sulking.

"It's a good thing you don't actually have kids," Robbie continued. "You'd mother hen them to death." He felt rather than saw the way Sportacus bristled in protest, but he couldn't take it back.

"Would not…"

"You would. I'm surprised you weren't born a girl."

Sportacus rolled his eyes.

"Robbie…"

"Not that I'd complain," Robbie continued, tapping his chin thoughtfully, as if actually contemplating the idea. "I don't mind girls. Hmm. Yeah." Sportacus colored.

"Stop that. I can feel you thinking about me as a girl from here." Robbie grinned.

"Heh. You'd probably be even shorter than you are now." Robbie giggled at the thought. Sportacus snorted.

"If I was a girl you'd have to deal with this though," he pointed out. That stopped that thought dead.

"Oh," Robbie said flatly. "That's… true. Damn."

The conversation led nowhere, but it succeeded in at least temporarily distracting the elf from heartbreak.

"I should go talk to her," Sportacus said. Robbie restrained him.

"Nope," he said. "Bad idea."

"Oh? And what would you do, Mr. Genius?"

"Thank you."

Sportacus slipped out from Robbie's hold.

"I'll deal with it my own way. Go eat more popcorn."

Robbie clutched his heart dramatically and staggered back to the couch while Sportacus rolled his eyes at the theatrics and walked to Stephanie's door. He knocked quietly.

"Stephanie?"

"Go away!"

He steeled himself. That wasn't going to hurt.

"I want to talk."

"No!"

A voice drifted down the hall from the living room.

"Stop being pouty, Pixie!"

An infuriated scream from Stephanie and the sound of something breaking was the reply.

"Robbie, stop helping!" Sportacus shouted back. The television volume got louder. Sportacus knocked again.

"Stephanie? Please open the door?"

"Why should I?"

"Because otherwise we'll have to talk through the door, and Robbie will hear every word."

"NO I WON'T!" came the shouted reply from the living room. Unseen, both Stephanie and Sportacus rolled their eyes. Stephanie opened the door slightly.

"Fine," she muttered. "You can come in."

"Thanks," he sighed, relieved. He closed the door behind him. Stephanie was crossing the room, ignoring him, and reorganizing books on the shelf. He shifted, wishing he had something physical to do to calm him down as well.

"Look," he started. "Maybe I overreacted-"

Stephanie snorted and he kept going.

"But only because I don't want to see you get sick."

"I'm not going to get sick," Stephanie asserted, still not looking at him.

"Why can't you use something else?"

Stephanie grit her teeth to keep from snapping at him.

"Because," she said. "Pads don't work as well."

"Pads?…" Sportacus murmured. He wondered what exactly… he shook his head. Best to not even try to imagine. Stephanie was giving him a skeptical look.

"Yeah," she said. "Pads. I can't dance with them." His eyes got wide.

"You can't?"

"No."

"… why didn't you just say that?"

"I didn't think I needed to!" She turned around and finally faced him. "Besides, it's not about that anyway! You hardly ever let me do what I want!"

Sportacus looked confused. Where did the nice sweet girl go? His pink dancing partner with the singing voice of an angel? What happened?

He suddenly felt a weight settle on him, and his shoulders visibly slumped. He wasn't getting that girl back. People changed with age, and he always forgot that. It was easy to forget. He had changed very little throughout his life, save for the one transformation early in his life when he settled into his role as a hero, instead of the village rascal. So, it was easy for him to forget that other people never stayed the same. And it was unbearably sad.

"I'm sorry," he said finally. "I didn't realize." What realization he was talking about was unclear.

Stephanie noted the sudden change with concern. She wasn't really angry- just frustrated. He still treated her like a little kid, and she wasn't. She was practically a teenager and here he was trying to… what? She paused. The mirror in her mind flipped suddenly, and she was presented with the opposite view- instead of being restrained by Sportacus, held back, she was the one who was walking away, while Sportacus was stumbling to keep up and tugging on the back of her shirt like a little kid.

Her stomach sank and tears sprang to her eyes without permission. What a sad image, she thought.

"Stephanie?…" Sportacus ventured, seeing her eyes glimmer with unshed tears. Her lip trembled and he automatically moved forward and caught her in a hug when she nearly flung herself against him. He held her close as she hiccupped like she was still eight years old, even though she had grown enough by now to come up to his chest instead of his stomach.

He was beyond confused. Did everybody have to go through this? Why were girls so confusing? Still, he held her tight and waited for her tears to stop.

"Are you okay?" he said gently, looking down at her. Secretly, he hoped she wouldn't get as tall as him, so he could always have that feeling of being able to hold onto her and be her shield. Stephanie sniffed and backed away a little, rubbing her eyes.

"Yes," she answered, embarrassed. He probably didn't even know what she was crying about. And now she had nothing to be mad about, but she couldn't just start acting happy and normal again. She was stuck.

Sportacus tried to find something to say to fill up the void.

"… How about for your next birthday, if you want, you could get your ears pierced?"

Stephanie's face lit up and he felt relief melt in his chest.

"Really?" she asked. He nodded and she hugged him tightly again, jumping up a little and kissing his cheek. He laughed, though really he wanted to sob with relief, and hugged her back.

"We better get back before Robbie eats all the popcorn," Sportacus said.

"Too late!" a muffled reply came from behind the closed door. "Already gone. I got bored."

"Robbie Rotten!" Stephanie turned toward the door and glared, as if Robbie could actually see her through the door. "You're such a little kid!"

"And what're you?" came the retort. "At least I don't throw fits and lock myself in my room like a crybaby!"

Sportacus mouthed to her, "he does," and she giggled. There was a pause, and shuffling outside the door.

"What was that?" Robbie asked apprehensively. "… Is that stupid elf talking about me? Whatever he's saying, it's a lie!"

Stephanie giggled more.


AN:

Um... apparently I'm tremendously sucking at this whole "update in a timely manner" thing. Bad me.

Becca, authoraisarte, and LoveTHYconan all got it right in a general sense, but only LoveTHYconan got it 100 percent correct. :3 So you get a jumbo cookie. Becca and authoraisarete get smaller, but equally delicious cookies. But not much smaller.

Ah... this chapter was fun. Neither Robbie or Sportacus knows exactly how to deal with irrationality. And Robbie is the only one who has any sexual education, but he finds the whole topic extremely gross. Sportacus is just vaguely unsettled and confused. When he's examining the box, what he finds is the TSS warnings. I... don't know if every product comes with those, but mine do, so... I put it in. Hah.

I've toyed with the idea of gender-switching. I really have. It makes me giggle. Actually, if anyone wrote that and posted it, I would probably smother them with loves, and spend my days promoting the hell out of the story. And if the Robbiekitten fic doesn't get updated soon I may start crying. Just so you know.

Ah, this chapter is semi-dedicated to Kay, who apparently got inspired by a scene in PBBS and drew fanart. Which makes me all kinda of happy inside. It's on the y!gallery website, in the LazyTown slash community... the piece is called Enemies, and again, I am many kinds of happy inside. Having any of my stuff inspire people makes me go "uh?... I'm influential? wtf? when did this happen?" and then self-destruct.

Long author's note. XP Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed! We get more of Pixel next chapter. Steph's first date! Leave me reviews please loves!