Disclaimer: Wreck-It Ralph is the property of the Walt Disney Company.
Author's note: The working title of this was 'The Fluffiest Fluff-tastic King Candy/Taffyta Fluff Ever'. You've been warned, guys. Because even villains need friends, amiright?
A cold wind swept across the Frosty Mountains, blowing powdered sugar snow across the racetracks winding through them. This was the zone of the Royal Raceway where racers rose or fell, where they proved themselves or where they skidded out and slipped over the side, to be unceremoniously hoisted back to the road by the service marshmallows that took care of everything along Sugar Rush's tracks. These were the advanced tracks, the courses where you really showed your stuff (or where an inexperienced gamer embarrassed you in front of everybody else). It was treacherously icy, hard to see in frequent white-out conditions, and frigid.
It was also where Taffyta Muttonfudge chose to come when she wanted to be alone.
A hidden road just outside the entrance to the Rainbow Ice Caves wound up the side of the highest peak in the range to a sheltered overlook. From there, most of Sugar Rush was visible, sparkling under the lemon drop sun. "Best view in the game," Taffyta announced to the empty, snow covered cliffs around her, cutting the engine to her kart and hopping out. She flipped her visor up and pulled off her helmet, then dropped it in her seat, before she shook out her hair and walked to the edge of the overlook.
The mountain plummeted away from her feet, its shadowed blue slopes visible for a few hundred feet before foggy clouds of crystallized sugar particles obscured them. With a happy sigh, she plopped down in the snow, pulling her pink jacket tight around her and swinging her feet.
Rancis didn't get why every so often Taffyta slipped off by herself after the night's Random Roster Race. Candlehead didn't either, she didn't think, but at least her best friend had the good grace to just let her go. Rancis—not that she didn't like Rancis or anything, but pop rocks, he could be so clueless—he had followed her around for like, half an hour after the race tonight, wanting to know where she was going. Eventually, Jubileena and Candlehead had pulled the boy away, Jubileena shooting Taffyta an amused look as she looped an arm through Rancis's and led him off.
She'd gotten first in the Random Roster Race. Not like that never happened, but it didn't exactly happen every day, or even every week. And winning the day's final race had been the perfect end to a perfect day.
Taffyta shivered as the wind cut through her, but she didn't move. Sometimes she couldn't decide what was the better feeling, the race itself, or crossing that finish line first. Then again, she was probably too competitive to tease the two apart. Racing without ever winning wouldn't be enough for her, she knew that. But the thrill of the race, the adrenaline that coursed through her, the…the complete joy that soared through her code as she zoomed through the town square, or dodged gumballs in Gumball Gorge, or sped through the Rainbow Ice Caves, or—oh, who was she kidding, she loved all of it.
In the far distance, along the shores of the turquoise Kool-Aid sea, she could just barely make out a few of her fellow racers zooming along Chocolate Seashell Beach. She unwrapped a lollipop and stuck it in her mouth. Maybe she'd join them later. A gamer hadn't selected that track in forever, and she liked hydroplaning on the surf.
But for now, she was content just to sit, shivering now and then, and enjoy the silence and solitude of the mountain.
Suddenly, another sound drifted in on the wind. One of the other racers doing a lap on the Royal Raceway for fun, she assumed, but rather than passing by and fading, the sound grew louder and louder. Taffyta got to her feet in time to see a kart careen around the mountainside and come to a screeching, skidding halt in a swirl of snow. Good thing she'd parked her own Pink Lightning further back, though she knew that this particular driver would never have hit it, even if it had presented more of an obstacle.
The kart's occupant opened his door and stepped out, discarding his helmet and goggles. Then he looked up and caught sight of her.
"Taffyta!" King Candy exclaimed, caught off guard by her presence. The ruler of Sugar Rush looked around, then added, "You're alone? I thought you'd be cthelebrating with your friendsth."
"Um," Taffyta said around her lollipop, then felt like kicking herself. Way to look like an idiot. Except…well, she'd come in first in the Random Roster Race. And that meant King Candy, the best racer in the game, had come in second.
Which happened. King Candy didn't always get first place. He didn't even always get second. And on rare occasions, he wasn't even on the day's roster, having placed below ninth in the Random Roster Race. But if you broke down every racer's stats, tallied up all their wins, he'd definitely have the most marks in the first place column. And he was never exactly a bad sport about losing. He was too cheerful for that. But Taffyta knew that when you were good, and used to winning, it was galling to watch someone else get the glory. She knew, because she was the same way.
But he didn't look unhappy. Just the opposite, actually, as though meeting her up here was exactly what he'd wanted to happen. He raised an eyebrow at her stutter, and she pulled the lollipop out of her mouth, dropped it accidentally in the snow, and quickly added, "No, I just thought I'd come up here for awhile."
Um, obviously, Taffyta, he's standing right there staring at you. He knows you came up here. The truth was that, even if she hadn't beaten him today, King Candy flustered her. He was so good, such an amazing racer, and she wanted so much to be like him, that she had to rehearse pretty much everything she said to him fifteen or twenty or a hundred times in her head before she actually said it. Candlehead thought it was funny. Well, Candlehead thought everything was funny, but maybe this was. After all, Taffyta wasn't a shy girl, not at all. When they were actually racing, she didn't hold back. But when they weren't, things were different. He wasn't just her king. He was her idol.
His grin faltered and he drew his hands up into loose fists. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
"Oh, everything's fine!" she said, wincing at the shriek-y quality her tone had in her own ears.
King Candy furrowed his brow. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Becausthe you stheem a bit…on edge."
Taffyta took a deep breath, un-tensed her shoulders, and forced herself to act like a normal person. "No, I'm good, King Candy. Great, actually." She hugged her arms around herself. "In fact, kind of perfect."
The smile on his face brightened again. "Good!" He brushed powdered sugar snow off his shoulder. "I'd hate to think that after such an outsthtanding day of racing you'd be feeling down in the dumpsth."
His acknowledgement of this fact made her loosen up, and she felt the smile on her face relax and become more natural. "Well, actually," she said, "that's the reason I came up here." Was this going to sound stupid? It was going to sound stupid. She didn't care, she was happy, she was a winner, and everything was right in her world. "Sometimes stuff's just so…so perfect, that I don't want to share it with anyone."
He quirked an eyebrow. "Well then, it looks as though I should be on my way. My sthincerestht apologiesth for intruding on your victoriousth stholitude, my dear."
"Oh, spice drops," she exclaimed, twisting her fingers together. "No, I didn't—I mean, you don't have to go, King Candy. I mean, you're the king, and—" A realization; he was here, maybe to be alone himself? "—and I should go, you obviously weren't expecting me to be here, and—"
King Candy held out a hand as she blathered her way towards her kart, and she stopped abruptly. He chuckled and said, "Taffyta, I insist that you stay. And if you don't mind the company…?" She shook her head, and he continued to look amused. "Only if you're quite sure, of coursthe."
She could feel her face turning red and she wondered if it would be weird to go get her helmet, jam it over her head, and pull her hair across her face. Probably. "I'm sure." She hesitated, then inched her way back towards where she'd been standing before. "Sorry, I don't usually act so stupid."
Waving a hand, he replied, "Oh, nonsense, you're just—" Then he paused, looking musing, like he didn't know what she was. Instead, he finished, "I just surprised you."
"Yeah." She laughed a little, dared to meet his eyes, and saw nothing but kindness there. He wasn't laughing at her, and that made her relax. Hopefully for good this time.
He strolled towards her, a bounce in his step, and peered over the edge of the cliff. "It's quite the dramatic spot, isn't it?" he asked, lacing his hands behind his back.
"I like the view," she replied simply.
"Oh, hoo-hoo, me too." He glanced at her, rocking back and forth on his feet slightly, and remarked, "You had quite the day. How many times did you win?"
Unable to keep the grin off her face, she said, "Eleven or twelve." When he raised an eyebrow at her, she giggled and said, "Okay, it was twelve. It would've been thirteen if Snowanna hadn't gotten that Sugar Rush at the last second on Sweet Ride."
"She snuck up on me, too, I've never understood how she keeps that kart of hers running so quietly."
"You could order her to tell you."
King Candy laughed. "I could! I'll let her hold onto her advantage, though. We've all got one or two tricks up our sleeves." Then he tilted his head at her and tapped his fingertips together in front of himself. "Anyway, congratulationsth are in order. You beat me thirteen times, counting Snowanna's win. I'm impressed."
"Oh, that was just luck…" And beating King Candy took not just good luck on your part, but bad luck on his.
But he held up a finger. "No, nonono, on the contrary, a good racer makes their own luck." He opened his mouth to go on, then gestured with one hand and amended, "Well, unless the gamers choose you, you know, not much you can do then."
Five minutes ago her heart had been fluttering with nervousness, but there was something…easy…about this? Like he really wanted to spend time with her, and actually thought she was good. The feeling was…nice. So she smirked and said, "Oh, I get it. So I only won because you got stuck with bad gamers?"
"Did I sthay that?" he asked, his tone full of mock innocence.
"You kinda did," she said, faking a regretful tone and wrinkling her nose.
With a chuckle, he said, "Don't worry, you beat me fair and square, and I know it. Bad gamer—hoo-hoo—or not. And I meant it," he added, "I'm impressed. You're very good. Not as good as me, of course, ha, but I've been meaning to tell you and I don't think I have. Have I? No." He paused, glanced out over the landscape again, and then looked back to her. "I don't mind being given a run for my money every now and then. Keepsth me on my toesth."
She grinned. "I don't mind giving you a run for your money every now and then."
"Ohhoho, I bet you don't." He put his hands on his hips, then crossed his arms over his chest, still smiling. "Don't let it go to your head."
Ha, as if. King Candy had just told her he was impressed with her. That was going to go to her head, and everyone else was going to know about it, too. "I won't!" she chirped nonetheless.
There wasn't a jawbreaker's chance in a taffy swamp that he believed her. Taffyta's self-confidence in her own abilities wasn't exactly a secret. Then again, to have them confirmed by the man you looked up to was something else entirely. Sure, she was good. But he was better.
"I wish I could race like you," she blurted, without exactly meaning to.
He didn't even look flattered—not that she'd really thought he would—though he did look delighted at the implied praise. "Well, hoohoohoo, I think everybody does. Not to brag of course, but you know, I'm not sure false modesty's a good color on me."
Taffyta shrugged. "Everybody wants to win. But…" She trailed off, wondering if she should keep this next part to herself. But it wasn't like she was breaking any rules. She was just doing something that none of the other racers bothered with. They could if they wanted to. And…and, wasn't there that insistent part of her that had been wanting to talk to King Candy for months about this? She always wimped out at the last second, and it would be, oh, tomorrow, or next week, because she had something to fix on her kart or Swizzle was having a party, or whatever excuse she came up with.
"But?" King Candy prompted her.
She took a lollipop out of her pocket and fiddled with the wrapper, just for something to do. "No one else watches video of the races like I do."
The wind howled in the sudden silence. Taffyta glanced up, wondering if she was breaking some rule that she didn't know about, and ready to backpedal and blame it on someone else, if necessary. But King Candy just looked bemused.
"Let me get this straight," he said.
"Okay," she squeaked.
One of his eyebrows was arched very high. "You watch video of the day's races?"
Hastily, she replied, "Not every day! I mean, I have a life, but…maybe…once or twice a week…" She stuck the lollipop in her mouth, realizing only after she'd done so that she hadn't unwrapped it yet, and spat it back out. She knew she was blushing now. For the love of sugar and spice, couldn't she not act like a ditz for more than five minutes at a time?
An unwrapped lollipop was offered to her, and Taffyta looked up into King Candy's slightly crooked smile. "I didn't realizthe anyone ever watched that sthtuff," he said.
Taking the lollipop from him, she said, "Well, like I said, I'm the only one." And of course, she'd caught the glitch hanging around the building a few times, but she wasn't going to tell King Candy that. It would just worry him if he knew that the glitch was still trying to race, that stupid Vanellope still didn't care that she'd get the game unplugged if she actually managed to get onto the roster. Taffyta always chased her off.
"I…I want to be able to drive like you," she said. "I thought that would be a good way to do it." Then, she took a deep breath. Now or never, Taffyta. "I—I always wanted to ask you if you'd…I don't know, teach me some of…of what you know. So, yeah, I guess…I guess I'm asking now."
Belatedly, she stuck the lollipop in her mouth. Strawberry. Her favorite.
King Candy had fallen silent again. She didn't think she'd ever seen him so at a loss for words, like she'd really taken him by surprise. As though not only had no one ever said something like this to him, but he'd never even imagined the possibility. Well, he was the king, and he definitely had better things, like, duh, ruling the kingdom, to do. She'd probably been right to never bring this up. Which presented her with a minor problem now, since she…had.
Snow flurried down and King Candy shifted so that he was facing her. She braced herself to be told that that was a serious conflict of interest for him. Which—yeah—it totally was, why hadn't she thought of that before she'd opened her mouth? The whole point of the game was to beat your opponents, not give them pointers.
Except, what he said was, "Really?"
She waited for him to go on, but he didn't. A snowflake landed on her nose and she brushed it away, staring up at him and realizing how cold she was. Usually she didn't stay up here so long.
There was a dumbstruck expression on his face, and despite her nervousness, it almost made her giggle. He caught her eye, and his surprise faded at the same time that his jovial smile returned. "Oho, you're trying to usthe my affection for you for your own nefariousth purposthesth."
She relaxed. At least that hadn't been outright rejection. "No," she laughed, then realized what he'd said. "Um, what?" Affection? Of course, it was obvious King Candy cared for all of his subjects, in a sort of distant, kingly way, but he'd said his affection for her like she was special…
"Taffyta, really." He hooked his fingers in the lapels of his tailcoat. "You mustht know you're my favorite."
"I…" The warm glow spreading through her made her forget how cold she was. "No. I didn't think you had favorites."
King Candy clasped his hands in front of himself and hesitated. The admission seemed to have startled him. "Well," he said, "it's just—you know, you're very good. You know that." He reached out, then pulled his hand back. Then, with a smile and a little chuckle, he put his hand on her shoulder. "You remind me of, well, me." He put a finger to his chin. "Wait, does that sound narcthissthitic? Oh well!" He waved his hands. "Point is, Taffyta…" Patting her shoulder, he said in a gentler tone, "Any time you want some advice, I'd be happy to help."
Her stomach felt like it was full of overly fizzy soda. King Candy was going to give her racing advice! If she'd thought things were perfect before, now they like, really, really were.
Something seemed to occur to the king suddenly, and he said, almost to himself, "No."
He looked at her, and there was a flash of fondness on his face that she'd never seen him direct at any of the other racers. "I can do better than that. What do you say we meet tomorrow after the Random Roster Race? You choose the course, I'll let you in on a few secrets. How does that sound?"
"You'd do that?" Taffyta asked. She could feel the smile on her face becoming irrepressible. "That sounds…yes! But aren't you afraid I'm going to start winning more races than you?"
"Pfft, no. Please." He giggled and added, "I said I'd let you in on a few secrets, my dear."
"Yeah, well that might just be enough," she said, flipping her hair and smirking. "You said yourself I'm good."
King Candy laughed and patted her on the head. Of course, she wasn't programmed to have any family—no one in the game was—but the gesture seemed fatherly. And that was a nice feeling too—maybe even the cherry on top of the day. He produced another lollipop and handed it to her, then said, "I'll see you when the arcade opens, then. And Taffyta?"
She put a hand on her hip. "Yeah?"
"Don't count on beating me nearly asth many timesth tomorrow."
His smile was playful, though, and so she bobbed in a mischievous curtsy. "Of course, Your Majesty."
He patted her shoulder again and headed back towards his kart, but then, on an impulse, Taffyta asked, "King Candy?"
He turned around, one hand on the door to his kart. "Yes?"
Tilting her head at him, she asked, "Why'd you come up here?" Then, she hastily added, "If you don't mind me asking."
Putting on his helmet and snapping his goggles over his eyes, King Candy replied, "Oh, like I said. I just like the view." He glanced out over the kingdom one more time, a tiny smile, almost a smirk, on his face. "As a matter of fact, I don't think I'll ever get tired of it."
"Best view in the game," Taffyta said wryly.
He hopped into his kart and said with a chuckle, "You see? I told you you remind me of myself."
The words filled her with happiness all over again, but she didn't tell him that. Anyway, he'd have to be blind not to see it on her face. She, Taffyta Muttonfudge, was the king's favorite. That was worth—well, she didn't want to say all the trophies in the world, because she never wanted to give up winning. But it was worth at least some of them.
Without another word, he flashed an infectious smile at her, then started the kart, revved the engine, and tore off. Snow streamed up from his tires, obscuring his exit.
The sound of his kart faded, replaced gradually by the whistling wind. And even though he was already gone, and couldn't see it, Taffyta returned his smile.