Vanellope Von Schweetz had given up.
She had no Kart. No coin. She had lost count of how many times the word "Glitch" had been thrown at her like a sharp stone. And it felt as if she had been running away from angry guards and angrier Devil Dogs for ages now. Day in and day out, that was the routine...stuck in a Game that hated her down to her very code.
"Stuck". That was what had finally done it. Trying to just...leave it all behind, even for a little bit, and finding that door closed to her. "Glitches can't leave their games," Taffyta had jeered when she'd caught up to her. "So you may as well find a good corner in this one and crawl into it for the rest of your life."
The peak of the Ice Cream Mountains seemed as good a corner as any. At least here, she could admire all the pretty snow while she sat down in it and cried. At least here, no one else was around to hurt her. So there she had run to, and there she now wandered, biting her lip and holding her sides. And when she was sure there was no one else around, when she could no longer see anything past an inch from her face, Vanellope screamed. She screamed, and cried, and kicked up the snow, and lashed out blindly at the air. She could feel herself glitching as it happened; felt each pixel of her body break apart and tremble in a wave of blue light. She felt it, and that only served to make her angrier. "I HATE YOU!" she shouted out as loud as she could, so that when the echo bounced back, she knew exactly who she was talking to. "WHY DID YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS?!?"
She was whole again, fists clenched and hair a mess. Her ragged breaths came out in puffs of cold cloud right in front of her face, large and long. And when she felt herself grow still, when all the echoes had gone silent and she still felt her cheeks sting with tears, she pressed her knuckles hard against her forehead. "...why can't you be normal...?" she whispered.
"Don't say that."
Vanellope went rigid then. That was no echo. That was someone else. Up here, with her, which could only mean one thing. She shook her head, eyes darting about in search of whoever had spoken, one train of thought racing over and over again through her mind. "Please leave me alone...please, no more teasing, no more chasing, leave me alone, please...."
"S-stay back...!" she squeaked, "Whoever you are!"
Immediately she tried to step back, but the thick snow made that impossible, and in her panic Vanellope instead wound up stumbling over onto her back. "Don't ever say such awful things about yourself...." the voice spoke again, almost in tune with the whipping winds.
That was when Vanellope saw her.
It was only a shape at first, a shadow within the storm. Yet the shape was moving toward her, and as it grew closer, it became clearer as well. A woman...? Yes...but like no woman...no person...Vanellope had ever seen before. She stood heads and shoulders above any of the characters in Sugar Rush, a sleek form garbed in shimmering, soft blue silk that flowed and dipped as if it were a snowflake flowing gently through the sky. For a moment, Vanellope tried to get away again, crawling back on her hands, but then the woman knelt down in font of her, and their eyes met. "Please," the woman said, "don't."
Vanellope gulped, part of her still inching her toward escape. But something in the woman's eyes...those deep, cool eyes...held her there. "Who...who are you...?" she asked.
"My name is Elsa," the woman said, "and who are you?"
"V-Vanellope," she answered, slowly rising back to her feet (and still only meeting the kneeling Elsa face to face). "You're...not from around here, are you...?"
"No, I'm not," Elsa said with the slightest giggle, "I'm...not even entirely sure how I got here, or even what 'here' is, in fact."
She smiled then, and reached out slowly toward Vanellope. In spite of herself, the young girl did not shirk away. "What I am sure of, though, is that I heard your voice," Elsa continued, "saying things no child should ever think of themselves."
Her hand found Vanellope's cheek, and even in the heart of the snowstorm Vanellope could feel how cold it was. But it was not the biting cold of the snow and wind. It was a gentle cold. A soothing cold. And even as she felt herself smiling at that touch, the would-be racer felt her tears bubbling up again too. "But...it's all true," she said, "I'm just a mistake. I'll never...I'll never be anything but a Glitch...."
"You're different, that is true," Elsa whispered, her other hand finding its place on Vanellope's other cheek, "And being different...it can be hard. It can be terrifying."
Vanellope blinked her tears away as she heard the sharpness in Elsa's voice then. "You're...you're different too, aren't you...?" she asked.
Elsa nodded. "And I used to think the same things you did," she said, a tremble in her words, "I used to think I was a monster who could only ever hurt the people around her."
Her hands slowly slid down to Vanellope's shoulders. "But eventually...with the help of someone very special to me...I learned that I don't have to be afraid of the things that make me different."
She spread her arms out and stood back up, her smile growing as she gave the child a wink. Taking one step back, one deep breath, she pointed her hands upwards, and Vanellope's eyes widened as streams of the purest white flew like threads of silk from her finger tips. They curled and sailed and flowed, glowing sparkling snowflakes drifting out of their elegant paths. Vanellope's mouth went slack as she watched, leaning her head all the way back to catch every last pop and flash of those wonderful streams. Even the storm seemed to calm in their presence. And as the last of their glowing crystals vanished into the air, Vanellope stood stock still, stuck staring at where they had been.
It was only a moment before she began hopping up and down in the snow, hands shaking back and forth as she giggled to Elsa, "Do that again! Do that again!"
Elsa gave a sharp nod, clasping her hands together and drawing in a deep breath. Then she exhaled, and opened her hands up to reveal a newer, even brighter flurry. The glowing trails of snow wove around Vanellope, tickling her with their gentle breeze as they spiralled together above her head. They then wove together one by one, creating a gigantic snowflake that glowed with all the light of a star. Vanellope looked up into its soothing light, holding her hands together, and could not hold back the warm laughter that soon escaped. Even as the starry snowflake drifted apart bit by bit, Vanellope could feel that light bathing her.
"That...was...awesome!" she squealed, looking back to Elsa, "Do another one! A bigger one!"
But Elsa was no longer in front of her. The storm had risen again, and Vanellope could only see the woman's shadow slowly receding into its depths. She took a step toward that fading form, but Elsa's voice rang clear through the snow before she could get far. "It's OK," she called, "I think...I think I have to leave now. But I know you'll be OK. You don't have to be afraid, Vanellope. No matter how hard things get...you don't have to be afraid of who you are."
Vanellope reached out toward the voice, but soon even the shape of Elsa was gone.
The storm slowed then, its whipping winds growing eerily quiet.
Vanellope lookd around, ears perked and eyes wide. She gulped as she saw nothing...heard nothing. But she felt something. Tingling on her cheeks...in her chest. And after a moment, she began to run back down the mountain, back the way she'd come....
Morning came, and Vanellope awoke. Licking her lips, feeling the familiar flicker of code that quivered through her whole body, she rose from the small pile of candy she'd used as a blanket and the jawbreaker that had been her pillow. She gazed out at the sunrise peeking out through the peaks of the many mountains all around her, scaratching the back of her head as she felt the oddest sensations running through it. Something...half-remembered. Like a dream. A snowy, ice-creamy dream. And words. Words that rang clear in her ears, even as she had no idea where they had come from.
"No matter how hard things get...you don't have to be afraid of who you are."
The would-be racer snorted a bit through her nose, patting her hoodie down and striding forward. It was another day, and that very likely meant more insults, and more running. But that didn't matter. Somehow, she would get a Kart. Somehow, she would get a Coin.
No matter what, she would not give up.