I didn’t realize until about three-fourths of the way through that this drabble hugged closer to whethervane’s headcanon for the au, since the original calls for a wholly separate Sugar Rush and mine is set in the Litwak one. But by then it was almost finished and I really liked how it was set up, so I kept it. I’ll remember next time.
Vanellope von Schweetz was not the sort to get nervous at the last second. She was confident, driven, and she knew exactly what she wanted. Self-doubt had never been an issue. Not even a question.
Or so she told herself as she began to edge away from the flowing curtain behind her throne.
What if it all went wrong? The tiny whispers of fear circulated through the back of her mind, taking root and pushing every reason she had for being here out of her reach. What if this was one of those things that you should never, ever do—like game hopping? Everyone had told her countless times when she was a glitch that you couldn’t muck about with the program. It brought nothing but trouble. Case in point the entirety of her life spent as a glitch.
But she wanted. So badly, and this was her big chance.
"Well." There was a shove to her back that could have been more gentle, but Taffyta wasn’t the sort. She was the go-getter, the girl of action who didn’t take ‘no’ or ‘later’ for an answer. Which was why she was here when not even Sour Bill knew what their little royal was up to. "Get going."
"What if he doesn’t like me?” Vanellope blurted it out before she could bite her tongue. Once it was said, there was nothing she could do but chew relentlessly on the candy drawstring of her hoodie, hoping that the extra dose of sugar would give her some comfort.
Taffyta, predictably, rolled her eyes. “You can’t be serious.”
"Don’t laugh!" Vanellope’s foot came down in a stomp that was hard enough to make her leg go numb to her knee. "What if he doesn’t like me?! What if that’s his whole story?!" Her hands went frantic, switching between tugging at her hooded pullover and flailing about in meaningless gestures. "Like—he’s trying to overthrow me! Or what if he doesn’t like me racing?! P-p-priiincesses aren’t supposed to raaa-race!" Halfway through the terrified rant, Vanellope’s image began to stretch and fracture into pixels and splashes of code, drawing out the words into wails.
Taffyta slapped her.
The sound of palm meeting cheek echoed in the vast, empty throne room. In another time, in another video game kingdom, Taffyta would have never dreamed to raise her hand to her princess. Such a move would have brought nothing but misery on the racer. At the very least it would have meant time spent in the dungeon. But this was not another world; this was them and Taffyta’s hand stung with the force of the blow.
Vanellope blinked, long and slow, trying to adjust to having her code startled back into place so violently.
"You’re welcome." Taffyta replied without looking up from the sucker she was trying to wrestle from her pocket. Her hands were shaking—you couldn’t tell a pre-programmed response that it wasn’t needed after all. When she finally got the wrapper off, the pink bit of candy was all but jammed into her mouth, and Taffyta took a long, grateful swallow of the cherry flavor already melting on her tongue. "You good?"
"…I…think so?" Vanellope gave herself a once-over, and nodded more certainly. "Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Do you have to hit me so hard?"
"You turned brown and red again." As though that explained everything.
"Oh. Right." Apparently it did.
"Look." Taffyta took another draw of the sucker, and pushed it to the side of her mouth. "He’s gonna love you. Everyone loves you, even if you’re a huge brat and a major spazz. We’re programmed to love you. Sure, you don’t always make it easy. But that’s just how this stuff works.”
Vanellope didn’t look comforted. “You didn’t love me when I was a glitch.”
Taffyta had no answer for that. None of her subjects enjoyed being reminded of that particular time in their lives. There had been unpatched holes in all of their heads—everything from levels that they couldn’t get to, even when they knew they should; to missing drivers; to a king that didn’t quite sit right but they still followed because what else could they do? After a long moment, she took a shaky breath and waved at the curtain.
"We gonna do this or what?"
Vanellope’s heart leaped to her throat and she nearly choked on it. “…yeah. Yeah, we’re gonna…I can do this, I can do this.” Her fingers knotted in her drawstring, and she shuffled for the curtain at top speed, before she could change her mind. Taffyta was right. He’d love her, at least at the beginning. He didn’t have a choice.
They could work on everything else later.
She hated sitting on the throne. Always had. It was too plush, and strangely shaped. The royal marzipan car was nothing like her lovely little racing kart; it was all sparkles and gentle curves, and a silly little horn that beeped funny. Not her at all. But this was where she was supposed to be at the beginning of the game, and it was the only console she could enter cheats into besides the main programming hub. Everything was set—character data locked and ready to go, and the only thing holding her back was her hand hovering over the ‘go’ button.
"Want me out?" Taffyta offered, a hand going to the other girl’s shoulder. She couldn’t be judged if no one was here to watch. If something went wrong, and she had to undo the additional code. No one but Vanellope would have to see a thing.
She grabbed Taffyta’s hand tight and shook her head.
"I can do this. He’ll love me." She rubbed at one eye, focusing hard on the innocently blinking button in front of her. One little press, and her whole world was going to change. "That’s what family does." Taffyta bumped her shoulder forward, a silent agreement, and a promise that began and ended with no matter what.
Vanellope slammed her thumb into the button.
If she went fast enough, her fears wouldn’t catch up with her.
“Have some c-c-aa-A-aaa-A-ndy!”
There was a burst of light and color that didn’t quite belong. It swirled into the center of the palace’s main room, sparking and fracturing even while it took shape. In a blink, it was gone, and in its place was a tiny, older man with a shiny red nose, a high lacy collar, and rosy cheeks. His costume was colorful and decked haphazardly with candy trimmings, and tufts of fine white hair came away for his bald head. A little crown sat atop it, far too small, and slightly lopsided.
He was exactly as she remembered, but much better.
Oh please, oh please, oh please.
"Vanellope! My dear girl!" He all but bounced while saying the words, and she was already scrambling out of the car. The button was left in her wake, and Taffyta moved in to hover beside it. Just in case. "You’ve gotten out of your dress again I see! Hardly appropriate behavior for a princess!" His gloved finger waggled at her, but he didn’t manage to hold the serious gesture for more than a moment. By the time she reached him in the middle of the chamber, he was laughing. As a greeting, he pinched her nose lightly, and gave a little tug that moved her side-to-side.
He moved a step away, as if to look her up and down.
"Been out racing again!" He laughed, the edges of his design flickering. "No, don’t try to fib now, I can tell by your shoes. Chocolate sauce all over, hard as a brick. Let me guess: the old Laffy Taffy swamps? Just like your mother! How shall I ever make an honest princess out of you, sweetie?"
Vanellope flushed, unsure of what to say.
"And!" He exclaimed, sweeping his hand out toward the rest of the hall. "You’ve been redecorating!"
The overdose of pink had long been replaced for the most part—mint green and splashes of cherry red and chocolate brown took its place. On the whole, the palace looked far more varied for it.
"Mu-u-U-st have done it all while I was sleeping, clever chip, how did you find the time?” He huffed, hands going to his hips as he paced through the room, surveying the changes. “Green, of all the things to choose. But I suppose girls will be girls.” He swiped a finger over the nearest wall, and it came back white to his obvious surprise. “Dried too. Did you slip me milk and ginger snaps again? Slept through a whole day. Must’ve. You know you don’t have to do that, I’ve told you I don’t mind your racing habits. And I don’t care how Sour Bill pouts, my heart is perfectly fine.” He straightened the little crown on his head so that it was leaning on the opposite side. “You know what I say: a candy apple a day keeps the dentist away!”
Taffyta had stepped down from the throne, and as she passed, she gave her ruler a careful nudge forward that nearly tripped her. Then she discreetly made for the side entrance. Giving the two of them space, the once princess realized as she watched her friend disappear into the rest of the castle. Steeling herself, Vanellope moved toward him again, stumbling as she went. He didn’t notice until she was a step away.
"Now what’s that fa-A-a-aace?" He took hold of her chin, tilting her this way and that as if in search for an unseen injury, and the way his pixels twitched made her code burn and break in tandem for a moment. "You look like someone’s gotten your licorice in a twist. Have a rough day, did you? Or did you go driving again without breakfast? I don’t care if you think it makes you faa-a-ster, I won’t have it. It always m-m-mmmakes you—…dear?"
She didn’t tackle him, not exactly. But it was a close thing.
"…Vanellope?" His arms moved around her shoulders, unsure but solid. Unable to help herself, she buried her face into his chest as far as she could. The lining of his coat was already becoming sticky underneath her cheeks, but even the candy melting to her face wasn’t enough of a discomfort to make her let go. "Hone-Ee-ey? What’s wrong?"
She sniffled and clung to him tighter, trying to shake her head and cry at the same time. Her voice had become a lump stuck in her chest, her nose was probably running, and her eyes were going to be red. But King Candy was running gentle fingers through her hair and rubbing circles in her back as he shushed her.
"Hi, dad." She finally managed, before she dissolved into sobs.
Everything was absolutely perfect.