Hope you all had a good Christmas this year. Think of this as a... late Christmas present. Somehow, I just know I screwed up something in this chapter, but... eh.

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 land... 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 facing him again, 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."