A/N: Don't forget to brush after reading; we all know what too much sugary sweetness will do to our teeth. Takes an idea that I've read a few times in the past and puts a hopefully new-ish twist on it. Also a bit of a variation on the name thing - Calhoun just seems like the kind of gal that could easily use her initials instead of her full name. Enjoy!
Summary: Birds do it, bees do it, even 8-bit heroes do it. But at least the birds and bees don't have to explain what 'it' is. Felix and Calhoun? Not so lucky.
Rating: Probably K+/PG, but I'm going to hedge my bets and go with T/PG-13, because despite the clean language, we are talking about sex, baby (Salt n' Pepa would be proud), and little kiddos probably don't need to be around.
Disclaimer: Not even in the realm of mine. Even the title is lifted from that awesome line in Playing By Heart - "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture."
Dancing About Architecture
Going to Sugar Rush was always interesting. He and T.J. didn't always tag along when Ralph went to visit his friend, but every now and again, it was sort of nice to go back to the place where they'd fallen in love. At least in Felix's opinion.
When T.J. had to go back into Sugar Rush, she usually spent the entire time looking like she'd been sucking on a lemon. But she went, and that was what mattered. Most folks didn't see just how many compromises she made to be with him; considering that, Felix didn't mind a little complaining. Even the silent, sulking type.
Anyway, Vanellope was celebrating her first six months as the reinstated princess of the game and had apparently insisted that Ralph bring along 'Mr. Magic Hammer and Sergeant CGI' (her words, not his, a sheepish Ralph had said with a little bit of a blush) for a party of 'epic awesomeness' (again, her words, not Ralph's). When Ralph had delivered his awkward little invitation, T.J. had glared daggers but given Felix a terse nod of acquiescence.
So here they were.
Vanellope was animatedly re-enacting her latest race as Ralph cheered her on. She'd already knocked several plates off the table as she jumped and waved her hands in the air, and Sour Bill was hovering in the background, looking as close to frustrated as Felix had ever seen him. Calhoun, already on her third root beer, had unwound enough that she was slouched in her chair and had thrown a relaxed arm over the back of his.
"Is it okay?" Felix asked quietly, putting his hand on her knee.
She offered him a thin smile. "I'm good. You?"
"You know me," he said, answering her smile with a bright grin. "If you're good, I'm good."
"The game was the pits today," she said abruptly, blowing out a sigh that made her bangs flutter appealingly. "Gamers axing themselves right and left."
Shaking his head, Felix tipped his hat upward so that he could see more clearly. "That's never fun. I hate those days - the ones where I can't even keep count of the number of times I die."
Her arm slid from behind his chair to curl around his shoulder. "At least I don't have to do that," she said with a wry grimace. "It's just the frustration of staying on the ground all day long. It may be the easiest level for the gamers, but it's the toughest for us because we've got to keep the kill ratio at the right place. My shoulders are killing me."
"I know how to fix that," he said, grinning broadly and giving her knee a good squeeze. They'd spent many evenings learning the best ways to deal with T.J.'s various game-induced aches and pains, and Felix fancied himself quite the masseuse these days.
In response, she brought her hand up to the back of his head and began running her fingers through his hair. "Sounds like a plan, Fix-It. An excellent one."
If he had been programmed to be able to, Felix swore he would've just purred at the sensation of her nails on his scalp. As it was, he felt his cheeks burning with a deep blush.
T.J.'s lips quirked and he just couldn't resist leaning up to give those lips a nice, long-
"Oh, for cotton candy's sake, the lovebirds are at it again," Vanellope said loudly from across the table, disgust written all over her features.
Felix winced as T.J.'s hand turned into a claw, nails now digging deeply into his skin. "Um... honey-bear... hand?"
Immediately, the nails withdrew, and she gave him an apologetic look before settling in for a good, hard glare at Vanellope.
"I think it's sweet," Ralph said mildly, looking at them with a slightly dopey expression. Every time he did something like this, Felix couldn't help the overwhelming wave of guilt that washed over him - for thirty years, he basically ignored a kind, considerate guy like Ralph just because his programming was a little different from his own. There was no excuse for that kind of behavior.
But as T.J. had pointed out a little while ago, what was done was done (actually, she'd said, "when the dingo's already eaten the baby, it's a little late for locking the door, soldier," but he got the gist). It was better to focus on the future, and Felix planned on a future building a strong friendship with his buddy Ralph.
"Sweet nothin'," Vanellope scoffed. "I'm the frickin' president of Sugar Rush, Ralph. If anyone knows the difference between sweet and sickening, I think it's me."
"They're married, kid," he said, and Felix couldn't help but be touched at the way he was defending them. "That's the kind of stuff married people do, I guess."
"It doesn't make any sense to me," she replied, sounding kind of puzzled. "I mean, what's so great about kissing all the time? It's all slobbery and gross, and one time, I even saw them do it with their mouths open! That's disgusting, Ralph. It's like when Taffyta tried to make me taste her lollypop. It totally had her spit all over it. I just don't get why married people think that spitting on each other is fun."
T.J. made a strangled noise that caused Felix to glance over in alarm. Her cheeks were stained red and she had a hand clapped over her mouth. "Honey-bear...?" he asked, torn between shock and concern.
"I can't..." she gasped. "It's too..."
And that's when he realized she wasn't upset. She was laughing.
"Lollypop," she managed to squeak. "Taste her lollypop. Like that time I-"
"T.J. Calhoun!" Felix cried, blushing from his head all the way down to his pinky toes as he remembered exactly the night she was referring to. "That is private! And even if it wasn't, there's a child present."
"Whaddya mean?" Vanellope interjected with a scowl. "Just 'cause I'm programmed to look like a kid doesn't mean I don't know stuff. I have gamers, too, Mr. Magic Hammer, Junior, so I know how the world works. I know all about married stuff."
T.J. wiped a few tears out of her eyes as she brought herself back under control, still chuckling. Felix just folded his arms and glared up at her. "Even so, Vanellope, it's still inappropriate conversation," he said, not taking his eyes off his wife for so much as a second.
Without skipping a beat, she started gently running a fingertip around the edge of his ear, using the hand still slung around his shoulders. He couldn't help melting under her ministrations; there was no fighting the honeyglows, really.
"Lots of married people like to race against each other," Vanellope continued, oblivious to the interaction between the pair, "so I get to see them all the time. A few times, the ladies have even had babies in their tummies, and it looks really weird. I guess they have to swallow them or something for them to grow." She jumped on the table, leaning forward to stare at them with open curiosity. "Hey, Calhoun, are you going to swallow Felix's baby? Can characters even have babies like the gamers do? I wonder how it works..."
And of course, T.J. was laughing again and doing absolutely nothing to help Felix, who was now faced with an excited Vanellope bouncing up and down in his lap.
"I bet you know, huh, Felix. Married people have to know how having babies works, because they're the ones that have them. Can you tell me the secret? Can you?"
There was a crashing sound as T.J. somehow managed to flip her chair over and Ralph simultaneously leapt to his feet. In preparation for what, Felix had no idea; he was too busy trying to figure out how he'd managed to get into this situation to begin with.
"Vanellope, I don't..." Felix trailed off helplessly, wondering if it would be possible to escape this without any outside assistance, since T.J. didn't seem to be in any shape to come to the rescue.
"I bet you don't know," she teased, snatching his hat and jamming it on her own head. "That's why you won't say. You don't know, do you?"
"We-ell..." he hedged.
He blinked and, suddenly, he was free. Vanellope was dangling from Ralph's enormous fist by the hood of her coat, spinning and shouting. "Hey, you big jerk, put me down, will ya? I was only goofing around. There's no need to-"
"Just can it, kid," Ralph snapped. "You can't treat people this way, you know."
Somewhere in the middle of the chaos, T.J. had managed to pick herself up off the floor and was dusting off her clothes. "I think maybe I need to take over here, gentlemen," she said firmly.
Even Vanellope fell silent, gazing at her with a doe-eyed expression. "You mean you'll tell me?" she breathed, face shining with childish delight.
T.J. gave him a look full of mischief before holding her hand out in invitation to the girl. "Sure," she said, "why not?"
There was no way this could end well.
"So..." Ralph drawled, looking down at his hands.
Felix swung his dangling legs back and forth and leaned back in his chair. "Yep."
T.J. had apparently decided that the best way to handle the situation was to have a private word with the kid, so they'd retreated somewhere into the depths of the castle, leaving Felix and Ralph to stare at each other over a table full of sugary sweet treats.
"Want a cupcake?" Ralph asked awkwardly.
"I, um, I think I'm okay, brother," he said, flapping his hand in a limp little wave. "You go ahead, though."
There was no way he could eat while his wife was off somewhere, talking to a little girl about... that.
"This is... this is really funny, huh," Ralph said through a mouthful of cake and frosting. "You and me, sitting here, while uh..."
"Hilarious," Felix said as flatly as he'd ever said anything in his entire life. Obviously, T.J. was rubbing off on him a little bit.
"And the kid," he continued with a weak chuckle. "Imagine her not knowing how women have babies. Ridiculous, isn't it?"
He stayed quiet, unsure as to where Ralph was heading with this.
"I mean, everyone knows that, right?" he asked, popping another cupcake into his mouth and chewing noisily. "You know it, don't you?"
Oh, mercy. He wasn't going to say it, was he?
"You know how women have babies, right, Felix?"
Felix wanted to crawl under his chair and die, right there, regeneration be darned. Anything to keep from having to answer Ralph's question.
"Hey, Felix... buddy?"
With a sigh, he pulled his cap down over his face. If he was going to be forced to have this conversation, he wasn't going to be able to make eye-contact at any point. "Yes, Ralph?"
"How do women have babies?"
He'd never blushed so much in his entire life, and he'd certainly never used such appalling language before. But at least he'd answered Ralph's question to everyone's satisfaction.
More or less.
The basics had been covered, at least, and now Ralph was staring down at his lap in slack-jawed fascination. "So that's what it's for," he breathed.
"Uh-huh," Felix managed to say in a strangled voice.
"I always wondered why it was shaped like that. It makes a lot more sense when you know what you're supposed to do with it."
"And girls have..."
Oh, please don't make me say it again, Felix begged silently.
Shaking his head slowly, Ralph let out a big sigh. "Huh. If that isn't the darnedest thing I've ever heard."
He wiped sweaty, slightly shaking hands on the legs of his trousers, afraid of whatever was going to come out of Ralph's mouth next.
"So the baby thing is a no-go for you two?"
With a relieved breath (at least they'd moved past the mechanics of the thing), Felix nodded. "I don't think it's possible. We're programmed with the right shapes, but that's about it. Besides, if we had a child, it wouldn't belong to a game. What kind of life would that be?"
"I can't really imagine the sarge having a kid, anyway," Ralph said, dismissing the notion with a casual shrug.
He could see her standing beside a little girl, correcting her aim, showing her how to mow down cy-bugs good and proper like her mama. He could also see her kneeling beside a little boy, tending to a scraped knee with a quiet word before sending him off to save the world one repair job at a time.
But it was no good thinking about such things; he and T.J. had never talked about it, either. What could they say that the code hadn't decided for them already? What ifs caused nothing but hurt. "Well, you know..." he replied evasively, hoping Ralph would drop it.
And he did, but only in lieu of something far more horrifying. "Hey, buddy, I just thought of something."
"What?" Felix asked, a wary note in his voice.
"How do you know all of that stuff? You know, about... women and babies and... things."
The blush was back, full-force.
"Because none of that stuff was part of my programming, so why would it be part of yours?" Ralph asked, apparently ignorant of the fact that he was slowly but surely embarrassing Felix to death. "Unless..." He grinned widely. "Don't tell me that you didn't know!"
He pulled his hat down even further over his eyes. If Ralph didn't knock it off with the questions soon, the brim would be below his chin.
"You didn't, did you?" he asked in wicked glee. "Did... oh, no, did she have to explain it to you?"
His stony silence spoke a thousand words.
"Boy, I would have paid to see the look on your face when she told you," he said, chortling with delight. "As much time as you spent mooning after her, I bet she was pretty surprised you didn't know where it was headed. That's kind of-"
"Humiliating," Felix interrupted, finally reaching his limit. "And not something I'm willing to talk about, brother."
Although it was absolutely mortifying to talk about now, at the time, he'd mostly been grateful that she hadn't laughed in his face the evening after the wedding ceremony, when he'd been forced to admit that he'd devoted a lot of time to thinking about kissing her but had no idea what came next. He knew how good it felt to touch her, but not in the way that she'd gently (and relatively patiently, for a mostly naked woman on her wedding night, all things considered) guided him through in the following days and weeks.
It had helped tremendously when he realized that her knowledge was purely theoretical, based on her programmed backstory with no practical application. As much as she knew about... the physical aspect of marriage (his code skipped and skittered around the word sex, so it was best left un-thought), she was as much a novice as he was in the ways that truly mattered.
None of this, of course, was ever information that he planned on sharing with anyone apart from the one who already knew all of it.
And some of this must have been readable in his expression, because Ralph's posture and attitude suddenly changed. "Felix, I'm sorry," he said, deflated and downtrodden. "I didn't mean to push. Sometimes, I forget and I just... I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Ralph," he said, re-adjusting his cap to its normal position and throwing in a wink for good measure. "I know."
They stared at each other for a few more moments, and Felix felt himself unbending by degrees.
T.J. wasn't going to be the only one with sore shoulders tonight, if the tension in his neck was any indication. With a sigh and a stretch, Felix gave it a scratch. "Not how I pictured my night going, brother."
"Tell me about it," Ralph agreed with a grin. "Personally, I blame the crumb-snatcher."
As if they had a pre-arranged cue, a door banged open and the little crumb-snatcher in question scampered back into the room, T.J. following more demurely in her wake.
Vanellope skidded to a halt right in front of the throne that she'd refused to sit on since her return to the castle. She glanced back and forth between Felix, who couldn't help turning red again, and an obviously uncomfortable Ralph. Felix looked over to his wife for help; she gave him the tiniest of shrugs in reply.
"So..." Vanellope drawled, rocking back and forth on her heels. "I'm thinking we all need some serious s'mores. Who's with me?"
Ralph's eyes bulged in shock. "Wait, but didn't you... and she... why are you so calm?"
"Jeesh, Sir Smells-A-Lot, what's the big deal?" she asked with a frown. "I've just had my first real big-girl talk, and now I want to toast some marshmallows with my bestest buds. What climbed up your backside?"
"It doesn't bother you?" he stammered. "It really doesn't bother you?"
T.J. was openly staring at Ralph, both eyebrows raised sky-high.
"How could it not bother you?" he said once more.
Clearing his throat, Felix pasted on his happiest smile and tried to change the subject. "I think s'mores sound great, Miss President."
With a loud cheer, Vanellope raced through yet another door, shouting for her attendants.
"What's the deal with the big guy?" T.J. asked quietly, leaning down to brush his cheek with a soft kiss for good measure. "He looks like he just got thrown into the middle of Ghosts n' Goblins without a cross weapon."
"Later," he replied, his smile softening to something much more genuine. "I promise."
"Aww, jeez," Ralph muttered uncomfortably. "That's... I don't think I can take this."
"Felix..." she said in a thoughtful way, giving him a knowing look. "You didn't..."
"You did!" she exclaimed, face lighting up in puckish delight. "I can't believe you told-"
"Later," he repeated, more firmly this time, leaving Ralph to stare disconsolately at his shoes and T.J. to shove her hands in her pockets and grin like Christmas had come early.
"I expect a full report, soldier. Word for word," she said. "Demonstrations too, maybe."
"Ack!" Ralph shouted, throwing his hands in the air. "Please, sarge. I'll do anything, but please just stop! I don't want to think about it any more."
This was destined to go badly, but fortunately, Vanellope's uncanny sense of good timing came to the rescue, and she trotted back into the room, arms laden with food. "You're all being stupid," she announced in disgust, dropping several marshmallows on the ground as she headed over to the table. "Are all grown-ups as stupid as you guys? I mean, really. Calhoun explained it all, and it makes total sense. I don't see why you've got to freak out like this."
Ralph's mouth fell open. "How does it make total sense? What did she tell you?"
"The truth, duh," Vanellope shot back, rolling her eyes and dumping everything on the table in one big jumbled pile. "The husband gets the kit from the store, so it's the wife's job to keep it safe while it grows. That's why they wear it on their tummies - so that nothing will happen to it. But we don't have the same kinds of stores that the gamers do, so characters don't get to build the kits. We have to rely on the programs that are already written. Right, Calhoun?"
"Yep," she said without missing a beat. "Got any sticks for the marshmallows? Or a fire, for that matter?"
Felix and Ralph exchanged incredulous looks. "A kit?" Ralph asked in a careful sort of voice.
"Will ya quit treating me like a little baby, you big dummy?" she replied in frustration. "I said she already explained everything. You're acting like you don't know anything about it yourself. So who's acting like a bratty kid now, huh, Ralphie?"
"Oh, no," he said, holding his hands up in a submissive gesture. "No, no. I'm good over here, speed racer. I just wanted to make sure you got the answer you needed."
"We're cool," she told him cheerfully before turning her attention back to T.J. "And for the fire, I was thinking maybe it would be fun if you let me borrow your-"
Widening her eyes comically, Vanellope tried to look as pitiful as she possibly could. "But, Calhoun," she wheedled, "I've always wanted to use a laser to-"
"Not a chance, pint-size. I have nightmares often enough already. You with a laser pistol? Ain't gonna happen."
She turned her attentions on Ralph, then, and soon successfully maneuvered him over to the fireplace, where he was grumbling over a stack of logs with a good-natured expression on his face.
Felix turned to his wife and folded his arms, gazing up at her with open skepticism. "A kit from a store?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Hey, hey," she said, putting her hands on her hips. "She's a little kid. What did you want me to do? Traumatize her for life? It's not like she'll ever actually need to know how it all works."
He placed a hand on her wrist, feeling her pulse flutter under his fingertips. "I just... think it's sweet, really. You're better with her than you think you are, Tammy."
It was rare that he used her first name; in her backstory, she'd grown up as the rough-and-tumble T.J. the tomboy, who skillfully dodged any attempts to address her as anything else. But Felix, who had been the first one to kiss her, touch her, love her in a way that wasn't a fabricated, pre-programmed memory, had earned the right to her first name, and he wielded it with the care it deserved.
And it served its purpose here. Her lips curved into the soft smile that he rarely saw outside of their home, and her eyes sparkled with the knowledge that what was between them was theirs alone. "I lo-"
Ralph's loud bellow echoed through the room - he'd somehow managed to set part of his shirt on fire, and Vanellope was too busy rolling around on the ground, shrieking with laughter at whatever had happened to cause it, to be of any use.
Automatically, he and T.J. leapt into action, getting the fire under control and fixing Ralph's angry burn with a hammer tap. And somehow the damage control had turned into an evening of toasted marshmallows and melted chocolate, a stubborn smear of sticky browned sugar on T.J.'s chin practically begging to be kissed away as they headed back home, where actions were far more important than words.
Felix could count on one hand the number of times his wife had actually said "I love you" out loud, but as he dozed in their bed, her hair tickling his nose as she tucked her head under his chin, he knew she said it without words all the time, every day. Really, she was saying it right now.
"I love you, too," he whispered into the silence of their bedroom.
She grumbled something that may or may not have been a response - although it sounded like it contained the word "kill," so he was hoping not - but her lips moved against his bare collarbone in a sleepy kiss, and for Felix, that was all he needed to know that everything was right in his world.