Engaging Heartfelt Conversations
Later that evening, Vanellope finished setting up the back of her new mega-kart, as she called it, deciding to take a bit of a walk before she and Elsa had a sleepover that evening. She stopped when she noticed Jack sitting on a log, making ice patters on the ground with his staff. He paused when he saw Vanellope watching, smiling lightly as he sat up.
"Hey... have fun today?" He asked.
"I sure did! I never had an actual snowball fight before. I've got to do that on ice cream mountain one day!" Vanellope smiled.
"Well, fun is my specialty." Jack chuckled a bit. "And by the way, I'm up for seeing a whole mountain made out of ice cream."
"It's pretty sweet! No pun intended." Vanellope laughed. "I would tell you more about Sugar Rush, but... it was pretty rare when I was actually able to go out without being chased off somewhere."
Jack frowned lightly, placing his staff aside. "I just don't get it. You're a really good kid, Vanellope. You kind of remind me of this one boy I know..." Jack chuckled to himself. "Jamie... he's the one who helped me out big time."
"You mentioned him once..." Vanellope said. "At least he has friends. Until I met Ralph, I didn't have any."
"I just... I can't understand why everyone would be so mean to you. It's... it's horrible. I couldn't imagine the kids in Burgess treating Jamie that way." Jack frowned.
"It's because I'm a glitch, Jack. No one likes a glitch because they just mess everything up." Vanellope frowned.
Jack remembered how Pitch had said something similar to Jack long ago, crouching down in front of Vanellope to put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, hey... you do not mess everything up. If anything, you make things better."
Vanellope lifted her head. "You think so?"
"I know so." Jack smiled. "I'll bet my staff if Jamie ever met you, he would think you're the coolest kid around. And coming from Jack Frost, that means something."
Vanellope smiled gently. "Thanks, Jack. I'm pretty lucky to have friends like you and Ralph."
Jack smiled back, resuming his seated position on the log, glancing up at the treetops. "How did you meet Ralph, anyway?"
Vanellope snickered. "The big lummox fell right in the middle of the candy cane forest. I knew he was a big sucker from the second I met him, but he's really not bad. Dumb sometimes, but not bad like everyone thinks. People hated him too... just because he was a 'bad guy.' So stupid..."
"Guess you both have that problem, huh?" Jack frowned. "I had no idea the video game world was so cutthroat."
"Speaking of problems, I don't know what's with him lately!" Vanellope threw her hands up.
"Who?" Jack tilted his head.
"Ralph, of course!" Vanellope hopped to her feet, pacing back and forth on the log. "All he does nowadays is get all goo-goo eyed at Elsa... I want to chuck a jawbreaker at his head!"
Jack blinked, a snicker swelling before he burst out laughing. "Have you ever heard of someone being love struck?"
"Yeah, and it's yucky if you ask me! Of course that big numbskull would fall for it..." Vanellope groaned.
"Well, you have to give the guy a break... I mean, after spending all those years in the dump, it's no surprise that he would fall head over heels for someone as pretty as Elsa. It's just that she's already taken." Jack said.
Someone clearing their throat in the background made them both turn, Alice standing a few feet from them with her arms crossed as she raised a brow. It was Vanellope's turn to snicker lightly, elbowing Jack's arm.
"Ohhh you're in trouble now, pal!" Vanellope giggled.
Jack groaned, standing to his feet. "Come on, I was just trying to explain to Vanellope why Ralph has been such a twitter painted... Alice, don't give me that look..."
"Should I simply assume I walked into the conversation at the wrong time and heard that sentiment out of context?" Alice asked.
"Yeah, just... yeah, it's that." Jack sighed.
"Don't worry Alice, you've got Jack wrapped around your finger like Laffy Taffys to a fruity cane tree!" Vanellope chirped. Her smiled faded then, sighing. "I just hope Ralph doesn't forget about me because he's all gushy for Elsa..."
Alice's expression softened, walking over to them. "I highly doubt that will happen; as absentminded as Ralph can be sometimes, he seems very protective of you."
Vanellope smiled at that. "Yeah, he is..."
Meanwhile, Ralph was about to head in for the night when he saw Bunny heading back into the encampment. He headed over to say goodnight to him, raising a brow when Bunny was seen whistling to himself.
"So... you seem like you're in a good mood." Ralph said.
"I am, actually... today was a good day. We needed a day like today... just letting all that anxiety go for a while." Bunny said. "You know, Elsa's all by her lonesome in Vanellope's kart thing... you may want to check in on her."
Ralph waved a hand. "Nah... I'm sure she's got everything handled, she's... oh. Right..." Ralph got the hint then, Bunny rolling his eyes playfully. "I should just, uh... make sure everything's in tip top shape for that sleepover."
"Sounds like a plan, mate." Bunny chuckled.
"Hey, by the way... I'm happy for you too." Ralph said.
"How do you mean?" Bunny asked, popping the blade out of one of his boomerangs, using a flat rock to sharpen it.
Ralph blinked. "Well, you and that Emily girl are a thing now, aren't you? You've been spending a lot of time together and talking-"
"Woah, woah, woah!" Bunny held a hand up. "I never, ever said she and I were a thing, mate."
"But... I mean, I thought... you two have been inseparable." Ralph said.
It was Bunny's turn to blink then. In that moment, Bunny suddenly realized that he HAD been spending a lot of time with Emily in the past few days... after the kiss incident with Alice, Emily had become quite a good distraction to keep her off his mind. He determined then, that what had first been merely had distraction had been slowly developing into a friendship.
Never, in all the years he had knew her, did he ever think he could call Emily Jane Pitchiner a friend.
To consider a romantic affair with her was a whole different ball park, one that Bunny was not willing at all to tread. No sir, he was not going to travel those rough seas, where Emily's emotional unpredictability and capability to end your life in mere moments would forever loom over his head. She was a majestic creature, and at the best of times, she could be as gentle as a feather when it came to tending to her forest. However, Bunny couldn't deny that dark streak she contained, and that it could burst right back to the surface at any moment.
Then again, Alice's dark past made her unpredictable at times as well.
'No, Alice is different.' Bunny thought to himself. He couldn't place a finger on why... he just felt a very close bond with her, something that seemed to keep drawing him back again and again. After meeting her back when the Kinship was founded, he did begin to remember vaguely of when he knew her as a child. How could he forget something so important? Perhaps it was because he was a guardian, and he was responsible for possibly billions of children a year. 'No... Alice is different...' he said again in his mind. He shook his head, figuring he was simply looking too deeply into this. He cleared his throat, finally finding the will to speak again. "Well... I guess I'm just trying to be friendly, you know? Keep her on my good side."
"I guess that's a good idea… seeing how she can probably wreck things better than I could." Ralph cringed a bit at the thought of Emily having another one of her tantrums. "Well, I'm going to take your advice now…" He smiled. "… thanks, Bunny. You're a good friend." He nodded, heading towards Vanellope's mega kart.
A bit out of the encampment's range, Emily knelt down, tending to her moon flowers. When she heard someone approach her, she looked over, slightly surprised to see that it was Pitch. She stood, straightening up but maintaining a slight side stance as he walked up to her. He stopped a few feet away, bowing his head ever so slightly in a formal greeting.
"Good evening, Emily." He started, taking a step closer. "I was hoping you would join me for a turn about the forest… you can show me more of your lovely work."
Emily took in a deep breath. "Hello, father." She nodded then, glancing over at her moon flowers briefly. "Very well."
As they walked side by side along the trails, they did so in silence for some time, Pitch glancing over at her more frequently as the seconds passed. Emily finally raised a brow, side-glancing at him.
"You've truly grown beautifully, Emily." Pitch finally said, smiling gently.
Emily furrowed her brows slightly for a moment, clearing her throat. "Are you trying to flatter me, father?"
Pitch exhaled slowly. "I'm merely stating an observation."
"I'm glad that the end product is satisfactory to you, then." Emily responded. "I know our last meeting was not exactly concluded on the best of terms."
"That doesn't matter to me now, Emily. We are together again." Pitch said softly.
"You seem to be more interested in the hyperactive child." Emily glanced up, narrowing her eyes a bit.
"How do you mean?" Pitch asked. "She's… perplexing."
"Just remember this, father." Emily spoke lowly. "I am your one and only daughter. If you make her yours, I will destroy her." She warned.
"Emily… there are none in this world I would behold as my child aside from you." Pitch stopped then, glad that Emily did not resist him when he placed his hands on her shoulders. She turned her head when he lifted her face, frowning lightly. "I see so much of her in you."
"Do not speak of mother." Emily said, finally shrugging away from him as she turned to move away from him.
"Emily, I know you do not believe it, but you and your mother were all I had. This is why when I lost both of you, the light in my heart was snuffed out, it left an open void for darkness to fill." Pitch said, Emily slowing to a stop as she closed her eyes.
"You never came back for me." She said.
"I did." Pitch replied, approaching from behind her. "You did not allow me chance to say this the last time we encountered one another… when report reached me of your mother, they told me she had been clinging a child with raven colored hair… I recovered your mother from the edge of the vast sea, barely able to mourn for her when I saw you were nowhere in sight. I feared you may have fallen into the ocean. I sent out every man, every ship to search the seas for you. I called your name, again and again, until my voice was worn. I searched for days, months… holding out hope that I would find my little emerald, that I would take her into my outstretched arms and protect her forever…" Pitch's voice shook, shutting his eyes tightly as he clenched his fists. "When I heard the sound of your voice in that prison cell, Emily… when the nightmare men completely overtook my form… I knew the true meaning of false hope. I lost everything I ever loved, Emily. Can you understand that?"
Emily turned, looking at Pitch with a hint of sadness. "Yes. I believe your words, father." She started. "But be that as it may… I too lost everything I loved. My mother, the purest of souls… and my father, whom was my pillar to support me. The man I idolized… he is long gone. Only a shadow of his former glory and goodness stands in his stead now. You have been plunged into the deepest of darkness."
"Yes." Pitch replied. "But I have been trying to climb back up into the light… crawling, clawing, laboring…"
Emily sneered then. "Ah, yes… you've been cast a silver string by your mortal queen… a pathetic attempt to replace mother."
Pitch's spine stiffened then, narrowing his eyes a bit. "You should say the same for yourself… neither of us can deny that you also have been plunged into darkness. It is not as severe as myself… but you are floating down into the abyss… gracefully, slowly…"
"And I too have been laboring to surface from that darkness. To break away from our damnation." Emily replied.
"Believe me… I've taken note of this." Pitch said, his expression darkening a bit as Emily raised a wary brow at him.
"In what regard?" Emily asked.
"Do not think you are the only one with observant eyes, Emily… I too see things the eye does not." Pitch responded.
"Do not be vague, father… speak plainly what you imply towards." Emily said, her eyes following Pitch as he paced around her.
"I see the way you have been regarding him… looking upon him with curiosity… it is the precursor to exploration… and I'll not approve of such a notion." Pitch said.
Emily sighed lightly. "You are still not making clear of whom-"
"You know EXACTLY of whom I speak." Pitch interrupted. "Do not play ignorant with me, Emily. You may be of age chronologically but I have claimed stake in your life now and I intend to follow through this time, whether you accept my role or not."
Emily whirled around, gritting her teeth. "You dare to believe that you can now place control upon me after centuries of abandonment and neglect?!"
"You said something to me the last time we met, Emily… that for better or for ill, I am your father… that no other can boast that claim. I shall heed those words and ensure the best for you." Pitch said.
"Whom I choose to interact with is no concern of yours!" Emily shouted.
"It is now." Pitch said. "And I shall not tolerate a courtship of any kind of that gargantuan RODENT with MY daughter!"
"Upon what grounds do you assume that I intend to court with Aster, father?" Emily asked.
"You've been spending quite a lot of time being in close range with him." Pitch replied.
"I have been spending quite a lot of time in close range with many in your party, father, does this suggest I wish to court all of them?" Emily asked.
Pitch took a quick step forward, hissing. "Do not attempt to evade my words. I am well aware that you cannot be bothered by those in this party who are mortal, so I shall exclude them entirely. Jack Frost is not familiar enough to you to show any interest, and I certainly know that your relationship with Sanderson is completely platonic in nature."
"Indeed, it is… and he would not appreciate your sentiments concerning his fellow guardian." Emily replied.
"Listen very closely, Emily… despite my uneasy alliance with the guardians, I still hold a degree of resentment towards them, especially that arrogant rabbit." Pitch growled. "And more importantly, my blood, though tainted with darkness, is rich, it carries regality of a class that he could never even dream to ascend to. He is lowly, his blood is filthy with the mud of a feral beast. He has the audacity to think he encompasses such greatness within him, he could not even fathom the divinity you are derived from, the divinity you yourself contain within you. I shall not have you be cast down into the muck to writhe for all eternity, to be bound to such an undomesticated varmint."
Emily's face tightened, opening her eyes to glare at Pitch. Seeing the anger in her expression only confirmed Pitch's suspicions, but his words made her seethe inside. "You are one to speak when you would take a mortal queen to be yours."
"You are not to advise me in my own romantic affairs… her mortality does not make her less worthy of me. She has more dignity and composure than that which you are considering." Pitch spat.
Emily raised a brow, then. "But father…" She spoke, pausing for a moment. "You have incorrectly estimated something."
Pitch narrowed his eyes. "What might that be?"
Emily smirked lightly. "A father knows his daughter well… this can even be said for you, it seems… you are right about one thing. There is someone I've been… curious of… and I do wish to explore this curiosity."
Pitch took a step closer. "Whom are you referring to?"
Emily turned then, still smirking lightly. "You mistake my observations of Bunnymund, father. I only observe him to judge the character of those my true interest associates himself with." She paced around, plucking a white rose from the ground, waving a hand over it so that thin layers of ice covered its delicate petals.
Pitch widened his eyes, shaking his head. "You do not mean to tell me you have set your sights upon-"
"- Jack Frost?" Emily chuckled lightly. "Indeed, I have."
"You lie!" Pitch hissed. "Besides, he already has his own mate!"
"You believe that the likes of Alice Liddell is a match for me? Did you not speak of my divine blood? I could eliminate her with a wave of my hand, father. Jack Frost would desire no other but me. It would be comparing a weed to a flower in bloom..." Emily glanced over at Pitch then. "I'm quite sure you are more comforted now, being your strong objections to Bunny needn't worry you any longer. As a matter of fact, he spoke very highly of you. He had encouraged me to build rapport with you when I had not been willing before."
"He is still a guardian, Emily! And he is barely any better than Bunnymund!" He exclaimed. "He is disobedient and lacks respect for authority!"
"I'm sorry, father… but I feel that his disobedience does not make him any less worthy of me." She smirked once again, walking up to a dumbfounded Pitch and placing the frosted rose in his hair. "You wanted me so badly to be back in your life, father… here I am." She sashayed past him, continuing along her way as Pitch's feet remained planted where they were.
"Jack Frost…" Pitch breathed, clenching his fists. "He will rue the day he ever gave cause to attract her!"
Meanwhile, Elsa laughed as Ralph continued to tell his story, waving one arm lightly. "… and I don't remember how many times my foot had been burned from that boiling hot cola… but in the end, when I saw that kid driving like a pro… it was all worth it."
"Ralph… what you went through to help her… it's nothing short of admirable. She's very lucky to have you in her life." Elsa smiled.
"I'm lucky to have her." Ralph smiled gently then. "She made me realize that I should just accept myself for who I am. That being different isn't a bad thing. Sure, I can be clumsy and I break things on accident… and sometimes I have trouble fitting through doors… but doing the best I can with what I have is what really matters."
Elsa smiled sadly. "I wish I had realized that about myself a long time ago." She looked down at her hands. "I always thought my powers were… it was like some disease. That where the ice spread, so did misery and despair with it. It wasn't until I came to terms with it that things improved. I learned to love."
Ralph rubbed the back of his neck then. "Elsa… I don't really know much about… about the 'player's world…' I don't really know much about anything, actually, because for most of my life I was stuck in a dump when I wasn't being tossed off a rooftop. So… I really didn't know much either about love…" He sighed. "… I mean, I love Vanellope like you love Anna, like a little sister or something… but… I'm going to be honest, I feel… something… when I'm around you."
Elsa's smile faded a bit then, furrowing her brows. "What do you mean, Ralph?"
"Like… I get all nervous and I like being around you, but at the same time, I feel… scared, almost. And I mean, I really don't have much to be scared of, obviously… but it's weird… I think this is love, but it's different. Kind of like we are." Ralph said.
Elsa took in a deep breath, Ralph visibly tensing when she placed her hand on his. "Ralph… there's something I need to tell you." She bit her lip, glancing to the side for a moment. "I… I've really come to appreciate the friendship we've built together… and it's been a very stressful and tense time… but I need to tell you that I feel-"
"Hey! No boys allowed!" Vanellope snickered as she hopped into the mega kart, dropping a few things inside. "I'm giving you the boot, stinkbrain!"
Elsa cleared her throat as Ralph groaned, the young woman panicking a bit on the inside that she wasn't able to convey her true feelings to him.
"Alright, alright…" Ralph got up, shuffling past the child to exit the large vehicle. When he did though, he turned to give them both a wave. "Well, have a nice sleepover…" He gave Elsa a shy smile then, turning to head to his shelter.
Elsa smiled back nervously, not having long to dwell on the conversation as Vanellope settled in, already chattering away about the events from that day.
"… -man, I thought you were a goner! I didn't expect Emily to let you off the hook like that. Man, if that had been King Candy, he would have thrown me right in the fungeon for sure!" Vanellope exclaimed.
Elsa blinked, catching the last part of that sentence as she shook her head. "I'm sorry, a… fungeon? I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with what that is. Is it like a dungeon?"
"Yeah… it's a play on words for 'fun dungeon…' except it's not fun at all. He painted all these mean messages on the wall, him and the other racers… some say I'll never race, some say I'm a bad glitch, some… I don't even want to say. I can't even move around in there because they put the glitch proof belt on me…" Vanellope sighed.
Elsa furrowed her brows deeply. "What kind of heartless monster would confine a child to a prison?"
Vanellope shrugged. "King Candy… well, Turbo, actually, is who he really is." The child blinked in surprise then, when Elsa hugged her close. She smiled, hugging Elsa back. "Hey, we should play a game!"
Elsa giggled then. "What kind of game would we play?"
"Hm… how about truth or dare?" Vanellope asked.
"I'm not familiar with that game." Elsa tilted her head.
"It's real easy! I ask you truth or dare, and if you say truth, you have to answer a question I ask you honestly. If you say dare, you have to do something I tell you to do. Then you ask me. You can play it with Anna someday!" Vanellope said.
"Seems simple enough… how about you begin?" Elsa asked.
"Okay, truth or dare?" Vanellope asked.
"Hm… truth." Elsa replied.
Vanellope pursed her lips in thought. "Do you think I'll be a good racer someday?"
Elsa chuckled. "I think you're already a fantastic one… Pitch was telling me about the little journey you took him on the other day."
Vanellope raised her brows. "He did?"
Elsa nodded. "I think you're beginning to grow on him."
Vanellope smiled gently. "Okay, you ask now."
"Alright… truth or dare?"
"Hm… dare!" Vanellope exclaimed.
"Oh dear, what could I have you do…" Elsa giggled, Vanellope snickering. "It can be anything?"
"Anything, I'm completely at your mercy!" Vanellope laughed.
"Alright then, hm… how about… you try on a new outfit?" Elsa asked.
"Where am I gonna get a new outfit from?" Vanellope giggled.
"Here, stand up." Elsa said, Vanellope doing do as Elsa waved her hand. Vanellope gasped, her hoodie and brown skirt being replaced by a light green nightgown, her pigtail reforming into a braid with a matching bow to tie the end. The child blinked, gasping lightly as she looked at the nightgown.
"Wow!" She beamed. "This is so cool! How did you do that?!"
Elsa shrugged. "It's a specialty of mine." When she noticed Vanellope yawning then, she reached over to grab one of the pillows Vanellope had dropped inside. "I think it's past someone's bedtime."
"Oh, come on… I'm nine, not…" Vanellope yawned a second time. "… five…"
"It's still quite late, young lady… young princesses need their beauty rest." Elsa said.
Vanellope blinked sleepily. "But… I'm not a princess…"
"You are to me." Elsa smiled, lightly kissing Vanellope's head as she tucked her into her sleeping bag. "Goodnight, Vanellope."
"… Goodnight, Elsa…" Vanellope said sleepily. "… I love you…"
Elsa blinked a bit at this, smiling warmly. "I love you too, Vanellope."
"… I'm glad we're friends…" Vanellope said before drifting off to sleep.
"So am I." Elsa laid down then, falling asleep soon after. In her mind, she could see why Ralph cared for her so much… but was saddened and confused by how anyone could treat her so badly back in Sugar Rush… then again, she remembered how SHE had been treated when people first discovered her powers. Either way, she had come to cherish Vanellope, and hoped that she could resolve things between her and Ralph before it was too late.