Ralph would never say that "going Turbo" was the worst thing he'd ever done. In fact, it had been the best. Life for him had never been better- new friends, new home, and a life where he was appreciated. He loved it all. The transition had been a little difficult, leaving his brick pile and moving into an apartment while his own home was being built. The ceiling was a little low, and he missed the outdoors just a tad. But other than that there hadn't been anything to truly complain about.
So, while he waited for the bricks he used to sleep in to be turned into a "Ralph Sized" home, he slept at the top of the apartment building- his favorite spot.
There hadn't been much to move into the apartment. A few boxes filled with random chords and sundry, another few boxes brimming with memorabilia from his game jumping. He'd placed his Hero's Duty medal (found by Felix during a romantic moonlit walk with Calhoun in the Niceland woods) on a bookshelf. The thing wasn't really that much of a weight on him now. There were bad memories connected to it. But other than that, most of the connections were good. Like the fact that the medal got him more than just a few people's respect and a place on top of a cake.
The only important thing he'd had to place in the apartment was the medal Vanellope had given him. He'd framed it, of course, in a pink frame. Very "unmanly" as Calhoun was quick to point out. But he'd just shrugged. Anyone who wanted to complain about it could answer to him- and he doubted anyone would even try. And besides, pink, though a very neutral color, reminded him of Sugar Rush and the girl in it. And so it stayed there on the wall, even though it would be moved soon, and he was sure that the candy string it was attached to would attract bugs (he'd have to make sure to seal it tight before Calhoun visited), but he could care less. The cookie facing out with "You're my hero," in her neat curly q's for all the world to see.
He had kept one brick, placed on top of another shelf, as a kind of memory to what his life used to be. Vanellope had questioned him about it, asking him who'd be weird enough to use a brick as decoration. He'd just shrugged and left it at that; the girl didn't have to know what he'd been through. And if she did know every detail, god knows what she'd do. Now that she had some power he'd been scared to find out just how far she'd go if she was ever to really use it. So far, no such disaster had occurred. Felix hated the brick, one time asking Ralph if he'd like it thrown away. Ralph had said no. And Calhoun, who had tagged along, had asked Felix about it. The smaller maintenance man blushed furiously and told her that he'd update her on everything later. Ralph was sure that it would lead to some sort of fight. The woman still wasn't fond of Ralph, but she was dead serious when it came to justice. And, since he'd received very little, there was sure to be a long discussion later about what "being a true hero" means.
He guessed that his Ralph Sized apartment would be ready in a few days, with the speed Felix worked at. But until his own was added to the newest street in Niceland, he'd have to stay in the penthouse. And so his stuff sat in boxes, stagnate until the time came. At least, everything but his homemade medal. That would be in plain sight as long as he was around.
He guessed that Vanellope wouldn't much care about decor. Not when she was in the state she was in. And so he would have no need to point out the pink frame on the wall. Not that he would. Letting her see it herself would be far more worth it.
Ralph turned from where he was, walking into the lobby of the apartment. He turned, bending over slightly to avoid the chandelier in the center. "Oh, hey Mary."
The Nicelander bobbed over, tipping her head in pigeon like fashion. "Who've you got there?"
"Oh, her?" he lifted his arm, the small girl mumbled something and her head lolled to one side. "Vanellope. She's from Sugar Rush. You know," he jerked his head, "the game by the Whack-a-Mole?"
"Oh! The candy race game! Yes! How sweet! Eh," Mary's head tilted once more, her face contorting quickly into a look of concern. "Is the poor dear alright?"
"Ah... a little worse for the wear. But she's too stubborn to do anything 'bout it. So, yunno, I'm kinda... helping out."
"Oh! How nice! Well, ring me up if you need anything!" Mary, he had decided long ago, was one of the few Nicelanders who lived up to the name. She was more naive than some of the others, and sometimes a bit dull. But she was nice enough, and had been one of the few to actually acknowledge Ralph's existence. And besides, the woman could bake. Really well.
"Actually, Mary. One quick... real quick thing." He shifted his arm, Vanellope moving once more, "Do you think that, maybe... I mean, do you just bake?"
"Well, you make lots of pies. For Felix. And they're good!" He held up one hand, smiling widly to prove a point. "Nothin' against a good pie! But, do you make anything other than pies?"
"Well... I can make cake." Yes. He knew that. In fact, he had smashed one of them.
"No. I mean... ah... cooking. Not baking. Just, do you make anything that's not a sweet thing. Like, for a random, non specific example, soup?"
"Oh! Well, I can make soup, yes."
"Oh! Great!" His face lit up, and he made sure to control the volume of his voice, for fear of waking the girl. "Can you make some? Please, I mean. Because I really have no chance at all in a kitchen. Well, I mean maybe I do. But I just moved in, and I don't really have a Ralph Proof environment, if you know what I mean?" She didn't seem to. He sighed. "Listen. I've got a sick kid here. And I'd love to help her. Honestly, I would. But, I've never really taken care of anyone else. Besides me. And, honestly, I'd like to help her. Actually, I'd love to help her. And I don't really do that a lot. Well, now I do. But, you know." He sighed again. If Ralph knew one thing about himself, it was that he was terrible with words. "I just want to know I'm doing something right for once. And, with her... I don't wanna screw up. I just don't. I'm new at this whole thing," he motioned to her with his hand, "and I want to make sure I do it right first time around. So, could you maybe make soup? Please?"
Mary smiled, mood shifting instantaneously. "Of course! I'd love to help a new parent out!"
The smile he had worn so openly dropped off his face in a moment as he quickly registered what Mary had said. "Wha- I'm not a new-"
"Though, I have to say," Mary tutted as she moved to the elevator, "I never really looked at you before as the fathering type!"
"That's because I'm not-"
"But, I'm able to see both sides of the coin!" She stepped into the elevator, huge smile on her face. "I'll knock around eight!"
"Thanks, but really I'm not her-"
The elevator doors shut before he had a chance to finish the sentence, and he hung his head in defeat, drawing his other hand down his face. "Oy. What's wrong with everything today." Vanellope mumbled something, curling up tighter in his arms, and he adjusted them quickly to make sure she was comfortable.
Well, it was a long way up the stairs, so he'd have to start right away.
As he entered the stairwell he wished more than anything that his new home was already done. Because, while the apartments had a slightly Ralph Sized penthouse, they in no ways had a Ralph Sized elevator.
A few hundred stairs, beads of sweat, and back cracking excursion later, and he'd reached the top of the building. It had taken a minute to search through his broken overalls for a key, whilst holding a sleeping girl in one hand, but he'd done it, and finally got into his apartment. Ralph took a few minutes to flick on lights, turn on the heating and check for any cracks in the windows that Felix may have missed. And when he was satisfied, he went to the task at hand.
The apartment's came with basic things. Couches, chairs, refrigerators and such. A few of the villains from Badanon donated blankets (he had quickly gotten rid of the one that Zangief had given him, as well as the totally destroyed one from the zombie) and pillows. What he needed went straight onto his bed. What he didn't quickly got a home in the closet. So, after he'd positioned Vanellope onto the couch, he'd rummaged around and pulled out as many blankets as he could find for the nine year old to burrow under. The one from Satan (pardon me, Sateen) smelled a little like brimstone and the pillow set from Robotnick had the words "kill sonic!" written on the corner in Sharpie. Other than that, they were totally sanitary. And he didn't think she'd mind. She had lived in a mountain for years, for pete's sake.
"Ralph?" He stopped shuffling through the pile of bedding to look over at the couch. Vanellope stood on the cushions, supporting herself on the back, and rubbing her eyes. "Are we in your apartment?"
"Yeah, kid." He grabbed the blankets and moved over, kneeling down and feeling her forehead. "How are ya feeling?"
He gave her a sympathetic smile. "Yeah, I thought so. But, hey, Mary's bringing over soup later. And I can't make much, but I can probably figure out how to make tea if you need it."
She rubbed again at her eyes and he stood, rounding the couch. "Who- who's Mary?"
"One of the Nicelanders."
"...mean to you?" She was falling asleep on the spot.
"Mary? Well... not really." He chuckled. "She did put me in a chocolate puddle though.
"You... don't like chocolate."
"Hate it." He smiled. "No matter how many times I land in it."
She smiled, looking up at him through lashes weighed with sleep. "Alright, kid, hold on a sec." He placed everything down next to her, running back into his room and rummaging through drawers, coming back seconds later with a box from Bad-a-Non.
He looked up quickly, smiling at her. "Well, I started goin' to these meetings for bad guys. And they gave me some stuff. Just because last time I said I was moving into my own house, and I have, well, nothing really." She nodded, understanding. "And a few of them gave me clothes. But I really don't think they'll ever fit me. I go a little beyond extra lar- oh god! Zangief!" he threw one of the red speedo's across the room. "Gross!" Vanellope could only giggle and he glared at her, wiping his hands off on his overalls. "Anyway, a few of them had some extra clothing and- aha! Here we go!" He pulled out the long sleeved red shirt, courtesy of M. Bison. "I thought this would come in handy!" He threw it at her, and despite her lack of coordination at the current time, Vanellope caught it.
"Whose was it?"
"Oh. Just another bad guy. He's from Street Fighter 2. It's next to DDR, you can't see it from your console. Point is, it's soft. And big. You can use it tonight for pajamas. Now," he pointed to the bathroom, "change, teeth brushed and time for bed."
Through her state, she managed a snort. "Really? Taking... taking initiative, are we?" he winced at how weak her voice sounded, but managed to keep a firm stance.
She rolled her eyes and dropped to the floor, stumbling. When he reached out to catch her she batted him away and managed to make it without actually falling. Snatching the shirt from him she shuffled away down the hall.
Ralph sighed. "Kids," he muttered when he heard the door click close, "I swear she'll be the death of me one day."
Vanellope got worse.
After she'd changed into pajamas (the red shirt went to the floor, and she had to roll the sleeves up in order to prevent them from doing the same) and curled up on the couch he'd proceeded to do everything he could. She'd teased him before about being far too "doting", and he'd never believed her. Or, at least, he'd just brushed it off, rarely able to admit when he was wrong. Now, he was fully aware of what he was doing.
He'd tucked her in with as many blankets as possible, turned up the heating system, figured out how to work the kettle (an amazing feat in itself), and constantly checked on her temperature. And somehow, through all his watchful behavior, Vanellope got worse. He swore it was a way of punishing him for doing everything he did. Never in his life had he been so completely scared.
It had started with taking her temperature at around seven. She'd been an even 99, and he was able to let himself simply stress. Though each cough was freaking him out. And then, at seven fifteen, she'd complained about being cold, despite the four blankets she was currently cocooned in. He'd taken her temperature again. 100.7. Ralph then let himself begin to worry. And at around seven thirty she'd begun to shiver. He'd asked her how she was feeling and she could only shake or nod her head, unable to answer through chattering teeth. Again, temperature. 102.4. That was when Ralph began to panic.
If it wasn't for the Nicelanders ability to be perfectly punctual, no matter what, Ralph would have called Hero's Duty filing for an emergency. At eight, exactly, Mary had knocked on his door.
He'd all but ripped the piece of wood off it's hinges in order to usher the small, plump woman inside.
"I don't know what to do!" He panicked, "I've done everything I can! And... well, look at her!"
Mary, calm as ever, put the soup on the counter and bobbed to Vanellope's side, checking temperature, feeling forehead, and clucking her tongue, Ralph looking over her shoulder the whole time.
"Okay! Well, she does seem a little down at the moment," the Nicelander, optimistic as always, smiled widely at Ralph, casting glances down at the girl. "You may want to give her some of these though," the woman rummaged through her purse, handing him a small pill bottle. "Just two will be fine. It'll bring the fever down. But, honestly Ralph, you couldn't be taking any better care of her! The fever's just burning off, as it should be!" Ralph sighed, slumping slightly.
"Oh... good. Whew! I was... yeah! Got real worried there!" He was still worried. But Mary, of all people, did not need to know that.
Mary chuckled. "Well, I said it once, and I'll say it again. You never stop surprising me Ralph. For a bad guy, you sure do care a lot about her!"
"Yeah, well, she's... she's kinda special."
"Well, I've never had kids of my own, but that's what I've heard!"
Ralph froze once more, her words slapping him in the face. "Ugh! She's not my-"
"And of course, I've heard a lot of kid stories!" Mary's cheery voice interrupted him once again.
"Yeah, but I'm not her-"
"And once you have a kid. Well, you know how it is! You'd do anything for them, wouldn't you! Go as far as to step out of your comfort zone. But that's just what they make you do! From simple as a fever to jumping into a cola mountain! Well, call me if you need anything, Ralph!"
Ralph opened his mouth to try and brush off another statement, but shut it quickly. For once, no denial came forth.
"I'm just downstairs!" Mary continued, walking out and leaving a stunned Ralph behind, "Fourth floor! And you know my husband, Bob. Just ignore him if he says anything 'gainst ya! You know how he is!" Ralph could only nod. "Well, hope she gets better soon!"
And the door shut.
Ralph stood for another moment, staring at the space Mary had stood. The woman had a mouth on her, constantly running. When she wasn't baking, she was talking. And when she was doing neither, she was shouting "yoohoo!" out of windows to get Felix's attention, pie in hand. But every so often one of them said something that left him speechless. First, it had been Gene.
"... Well now, you can live alone in the penthouse."
And then it had been Bill.
"... You don't think he's really going to do it, do you?"
And now, Mary.
"... Once you have a kid... you'd do anything for them, wouldn't you? From simple as a fever to jumping into a cola mountain!"
He hated to say it, but she was right. he looked over his shoulder at the kid shivering on his couch. Moving to her side he brushed some of the sweat soaked bangs off her forehead, stroking the spot there with one large thumb until her face relaxed. He would do anything for her. If she asked him to bring her the key to the arcade, he'd find a way to deliver. And if anything ever happened to her-
His chest tightened, a heavy weight, hot as embers twisting and churning with fear.
What would he do if anything happened to her?
He brushed the thought away, but the twisting in his stomach decided to stay. Sometimes he had to own up and say it. He hated to even think it was possible for him to exist without Vanellope by his side. In fact, he didn't think it was at all possible. More and more, he found, whenever he thought about who he was, whether it was a question at Bad-a-Non or just late during a sleepless night filled with jumbled and random thoughts, he always saw her there as well. She existed with him and he existed because of her.
What would he do?
Well, he was freaking out over a virus, imagine what he'd do if it was something bigger. Probably cease to exist.
He hated it when someone like Mary was right. Well... at least it wasn't Gene. He really wouldn't be able to take that.
Vanellope stirred and he was brought back into reality. Slowly, and as carefully as he could, he shook her awake. At first she just tried to roll over, saying something akin to an insult in her sleep. He chuckled, "C'mon Princess, wake up."
"Pres'dint," she said through a cotton mouth.
"Same thing. C'mon, get up. I need ya to take these."
He did manage to get her up, edging against the pillow and sinking into its surface. She was handed the two pills (which took forever to get out of the tiny bottle) and her cup of now cold tea. Taking both she seemed to sigh, form deflating and slithering back into her spot. Her huge eyes, still heavy and half lidded with sleep, blinked at him, confused.
"Am... am I okay?"
"Yeah, kid, you're okay."
She frowned, shifting, "I still... don' feel good."
"You have a virus. Pretty bad one, too. 'Course you dont feel good."
"What... 'wha bout the random roster?"
"Sour Bill's got it covered."
She nodded, drifting farther away. "Thank... thanks for... helping... stinkbrain." It was one of the only times she would ever really thank him, and he knew it. She wasn't one to tell him things- more of the type to hide her feelings away and lock them away with a sarcastic grin and a witty crack. But he accepted it happily, brushing away hair and tucking her in.
"Som'un else... here?" She began to close her eyes.
"Hm? Oh! Oh, yeah, Mary was here."
"She... she said... you were... fathering type?" Even though the sick glazed face, she managed a teasing smirk.
Ralph blushed (or as Felix would say, got the honeyglow), and stammered to make an excuse. "No! No she- she didn't... I mean... she might have... it's just... she's a Nicelander, okay? They stay stuff like that!"
"Cool... cool it Ralphie!" She snuggled down under, regarding him with huge eyes filled with something familiar. What was it... trust... awe... love? "She was... right..." And with a sigh she was back to a state of sleep he doubted anyone could wake her from. At least until morning when he'd give her a briefing.
An hour later he'd taken her temperature again, and was somewhat happy to see it had gone down a few points. He was doing something right, and that's all that mattered.
He thought about going to bed when it got late- he did have work the next day- but he decided otherwise. And so, he set up camp next to the couch. Even though the ground was uncomfortable, he didn't sleep, favoring to stay up, making sure she was comfortable and watching her condition. He knew he'd need the sleep. It was Thursday and Friday was the second busiest day of the week, besides Saturday. And he had a Bad-a-Non meeting after work which he'd have to be present for because there were rumors about two new villains coming, and he had been asked to stay and share his whole story. Now he was regretting saying yes, knowing that he'd fall asleep if he didn't get enough coffee in his system. And he hated coffee.
But somehow sleep didn't really seem like the best idea. He'd rather sit up, staying with the small girl, making sure that she had someone there for her if she woke up. He'd never want her to wake up alone, not in her state.
And at times, this came true. Her sleep was filled with small fits. She tossed and turned, wriggled and bundled. Sometimes her feet would move up and down, as it controlling the pedals of a car. Another time her face, eyes closed with sleep and color ashen with fever, contracted into a look of concern and she muttered something like his name, a surprise to him. And when he put one large hand over her, blanketing her tiny body, she relaxed as if knowing he was ok.
But, at around 3 a.m. his biggest surprise came into play. The girl had stirred again, mewing pitifully and clawing at the comforters. Ralph had been at attention in a minute, always keeping the watchful eye, and adjusted the covers that had bunched up around her arms. It had taken a few minutes of fiddling with blankets and pillows and small touches on her forehead and hand to let her know where she was, bringing small pieces of reality into her fitful dreams. Vanellope finally let out a heavy sigh, his sign that she was finally relaxing. And with that sigh came three very strange words.
"...I'm... okay... dad..."
Ralph's heart had stopped in his large chest, and then sped up again like a car backfiring. His emotions battled for dominance in his mind, on one hand he wanted to drop everything in fear. On the other he wanted to scoop the small girl up in his arms and never let her go. Instead he did neither, adjusting her blankets one last time and smiling in awe at the girl. She was amazing, and in three little words he could confuse him and amaze him at the same time. Nothing in the world had made him feel so strange in his life. And he loved it.
But he hated Mary for being right.
Hope you liked it!
Part 3 coming up soon!
Again, please leave comments and tell me what else you'd like to see!