A feels-y snippet, inspired by the ever-tragic "Brad-comes-back-and-stuff-goes-down" scenario that seems to be hovering about.

Critique as well as grammatical and spelling corrections are greatly encouraged.

Vanellope wasn't used to seeing respectable grown men cry.

Although she would be one of the last people to consider Felix respectable or grown—or even hardly a man— she couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable as she looked on from her normally cozy perch on Ralph's shoulder. She watched the bigger man as he tried—and ultimately failed—to sooth the smaller man from where they both sat on the wrecker's sparse, candy-littered living room floor. Felix's entire frame was wracked with sobs; his favorite and only monogrammed hat missing, and his once tidy hair now a frizzled, emotional mess. It made Vanellope cringe.

"So… you're tellin' me that Brad's back?" Ralph asked, wincing as he continued to gingerly pat Felix's back with a giant hand. He was trying his best to approach the situation delicately, despite being a wrecker with all of the delicacy of a bull in a china shop. "You're positive about this?"

There was a squeak and a sniffle.

Haltingly, Felix managed a small nod, but refused to lift his face from where it was buried in the knees of Ralph's overalls. Not the most hygienic place to unload a bout of emotional trauma, but Felix didn't show any signs of minding.

"And it was really him, the Brad. The big guy himself—not just some NPC copy-"

The sound of Felix's sobbing was almost too much to take. The sight of him when he had stumbled up to Ralph's shabby, man-made doorstep, all forced smiles and choked-up greetings, hadn't been an all that pleasant start of an evening either. The normally healthily rosy-faced handyman looked downright peaky as he stumbled his way into Ralph's brick abode, the only signs of red on his face marking deep telltale splotches under his eyes.

It was a balmy Tuesday night, nearing the middle of the week and one of the few days where Litwak was liable to close early on account of most of his customers giving passes on gaming in exchange of more time to work on homework—or, more likely, sit on their duffs at home to watch TV. As such, the grizzled wrecker liked to reserve Tuesday nights for spending time with a certain pint-sized president from Sugar Rush. Granted, he liked to take every opportunity he could to spend time with his best friend, but relations were difficult when both parties have full-time jobs—two for Vanellope when you thought about it—and who also lived literal worlds away from one another. How Felix was able to manage a marriage was beyond him.

It hadn't taken more than a few quick questions from the kid about why Felix had decided to drop in out of the blue and where Calhoun was at and why she wasn't with him and so forth—Vanellope sure liked to talk— before man in blue had all but broken down completely and flung himself at Ralph's knees, scaring the dickens out of them both.

The story of the return of the long-lost fiancé had come tumbling out of the Fix-It in a stuttery, helter-skelter mess of mad gesturing and despairing wails. Felix was difficult to follow when he was in panic mode, and the colloquialisms he was prone to utter were even harder to understand through a distraught stammer. The best that Ralph was able to figure out was enough to shock him.

Apparently, Calhoun's long lost sweetheart from her backstory days, the infamous Brad, had spontaneously reappeared after one of the more accomplished patrons of Litwak's arcade, a dark-haired stalk of budding puberty already showing the sure signs of severe adolescent acne, had defeated all twenty levels of the tower in Hero's Duty while also defeating every Cy-Bug, collecting every hidden Power Pack, and stomping every Cy-Egg along the way. Hardly any of the gamers found the time to play the game so rigorously, let alone survive the first ten levels, but the kid's hard work had earned him a secret bonus cinematic that revealed Tamora's long-lost love to not have been lost at all, but merely working behind enemy lines to infiltrate the Cy-Bug development labs from the inside.

It had taken all of Tamora's years of hard training not to budge an inch in front of the first-person shooter.

Felix hadn't seen the cinematic himself, having obviously been too busy pulling quarters for his own game at the time. He had only stumbled upon Brad and Calhoun once the arcade had closed, having planned on making an unscheduled visit to his beloved. Calhoun despised surprises, but ever-optimistic Felix figured she wouldn't mind a pleasant chat. Or some alone time, if they could manage.

At first, Felix had been downright pleased for Tamora upon hearing she had been reunited with her supposedly dead ex-boyfriend. Calhoun was a hard enough nut to crack as it was, her backstory being an imperative barbed wire surrounding her heart.

It had seemed like the perfect source of closure Calhoun would need after all those years'-worth of coded trauma, and at face-value it was just that. Felix should have seen the warning signs, how Calhoun had started to smile more when Brad was around, how she was prone to joking at the soldier's expense, how she seemed to punch him harder in the shoulder than she would Felix—he had asked her to never hold her dynamite self back on his account, no matter how much it might have hurt. Felix had been optimistic. He couldn't help that; it was in his coding to always see the positive side of situations. He had been so certain that no amount of programming, tragic backstory catharsis of otherwise, could get between his and Calhoun's marriage, not even a flame as old as Brad.

Only when Calhoun had requested that Felix "give her some space" did he realize how wrong he was.

Vanellope looked away, shrinking a bit behind Ralph's shoulder as Felix continued to openly weep like a newborn Yoshi.

"I-I SAW him— Ralph—"

Ralph flinched, but sighed in resignation, resting his hand entirely on Felix's back entirely. Felix's voice sounded terrible, all hoarse and choked with phlegm and hurt.

"H-he was real… real alright," Felix croaked, his shoulders hunching and shaking something fierce. Ralph had never seen the Fix-It in such a—well—such a fix.

"Wha—okay so… fine," Ralph said, blunt as a dulled blade, "Great. Calhoun's man is back from beyond the grave… that's… great…"

It should have been great. Who wouldn't love it if every two-bit writer brought back every lost friend or family member from a backstory? Ralph might have been a bad guy, but even Bad Guys know that breaching "tragic backstory" territory was delicate business. Hubbard-dangit, even Bowzer had the common decency to steer clear of asking Mario about his long-lost family that never was.

Felix nodded, coughing.

"I-it is… I," Felix swallowed, his eyes a shade or two too red, "I am sure of it and… it is great…"

Ralph shot Felix a look, gruff gone and replaced with mounting concern.


"I-I should be happy for Tamora…" Felix said, willing the words to fit together in that blasted sentence, jaw set and brows furrowed in a horrible mockery of determination. "I-I… I should be… a-and I will be…"

"Felix, don't push yourself there. Y-you don't have to be anything, you just—"

"Y-you didn't SEE THEM Ralph!"

Ralph's attempts to reach Felix died in his throat. Felix was staring up at him. The wrecker had never seen the shorter man eve glare daggers at anyone, not even at the most deserving of miscreants. The glare Felix was giving him wasn't sharp enough to cut, but the screech of Felix's sharp cry was enough to sting.

And Felix wasn't done there.

"You d-didn't SEE how HAPPY Tammy was! You don't KNOW how HARD it is to get her to smile, even on her best of days—w-when her game only gets played a few times and—and she doesn't have to see her soldiers DIE fifteen times a day! 'Cause that's the kind of gal she is—s-she—she don't give two pennies to Sunday how many times s-SHE has to regenerate!"

Ralph felt Felix shaking against his knee with all the fervor he had in his sudden burst of articulation. Behind him, he heard Vanellope whimper.

"All that matters—" Felix stopped—he had to, he had run out of air—for lost no steam, "All that ever matters to her is that her troops get back to start! A-and you think I-I'm going to forsake that—that—giving part of her just because I… because I can't take it… YOU DIDN'T SEE HOW DAMNED BRIGHT SHE SHONE WHEN BRAD WAS BACK AT START!"

Ralph was not an easily stunned guy.

But even he, a patron of several Bad Anon meetings, a shining example of a man with a 1-UP turned 'round, and even a sponsor for some of the newest to the Bad Guys to get plugged into Litwak's, had no idea what to do or to say. He didn't even know what to do about Felix's small, but ever-so-present swear, Felix leaving the curse as it was and without apology. Ralph just stared, open-mouthed as an emotionally charged handyman glared in burning, aching anger and hurt and rejection up at him, daring him to say anything.

Thankfully, he didn't need to know what to say.

"W-why did you have to leave Sarge with him?" Vanellope croaked.

Ralph and Felix both jumped, their eyes flipping to the little girl as she took her chance to get a voice in the rather adult matter. Deflating but not about to change his mind, the handyman in blue took a deep, shuddering breath of air, trying for all he was worth to stay composed for however long his heartache-weathered will would allow him to.

"He and—T-Tammy's with h-him now…" Felix began, his throat sticking as Vanellope stared him down with her big, unknowing eyes.

"…You could be with her too…" said Vanellope, her voice quiet and aware but not entirely understanding, "You're married, ain't ya?"

The ring on Felix's hand suddenly felt heavy, foreign. Cold.

Felix gaped for a moment. He felt his eyes burning, quickly jamming a hand across his nose and swallowing back whatever he could, "I-I didn't… I-I couldn't—"

But to no avail.

Ralph couldn't tell what was worse. The situation, that Vanellope didn't understand, or the fact that Ralph agreed with her.

Felix hiccupped, the words were caught in his throat. His Adam's apple bobbed. Ralph sighed, still unsure of what to do or say. Ralph wasn't much one to know how to fix anything, be it buildings or relationships.

Felix looked like he was about to say something else… but he didn't manage a word in edgewise before another bout of sobs crashed out of him like a Blue Shell barreling to first. He threw himself against Ralph's knee once more, causing Vanellope to jump and bite her lip in empathy and worry. Ralph didn't need the bright, flashing "-100 3" marker hovering over Felix's head to tell him that his friend was in rough shape.

"Easy, buddy… Easy…" The wrecker managed, his big heart going out for the broken man.

Ralph didn't know it was possible, but it seems that even the most dashing of heroes couldn't stand up to the most daunting of Final Bosses: a broken heart. And not even some fancy-schmancy golden hammer could fix this mess.