A/N: I was bored enough to try imagining what Stanford and Fiddleford's college years may have been like. Guess you could sum it up with "interesting".
Special thanks to altairattorney for bearing with me through this!
As far as college roommates went, Fiddleford Hadron McGucket was far from the worst, unfortunate habit of playing his banjo at all the wrong times aside. He wasn't half bad at it, really, but his singing voice left something to be desired.
Earplugs, for example.
Then there was the other issue. One earplugs couldn't fix, Stanford thought with a sigh, moving aside the bunch of wires and circuit on his desk.
Fiddleford's side of the room had become a mess within a week of him moving in it. At first the electronic components of God knew what, found God knew where – Fiddleford was awfully elusive on the matter – had simply cluttered his desk, the way Stanford's books cluttered his own. Then they had started to colonize the floor and every other flat surface available, including Fiddleford's bed and, now, Stanford's own desk.
Brilliant as his roommate was, he really needed to learn how to focus on one project at time. Or at least to clean up after himsel-
Stanford winced and looked up just on time to see the door slamming open; he had only one moment to see Fiddleford's grin before the door bounced off the wall and slammed right back on his face.
Had he not seen the same thing happening more than once, Stanford may have worried.
"You all right out there, Fids?" he asked, not even getting up from his desk. Accident-prone as he was, Fiddleford seemed to be hardly hurt by anything. One had to wonder if he was made of rubber.
"I'm fine," was the predictable answer, slightly muffled by the door.
"Fit as a fiddle?"
A laugh, and Fiddleford opened the door – far more carefully, this time. "Fit as a fiddle," he said. His nose was slightly reddened and his glasses were askew, but he didn't bother to fix them. He strode across the room to slap something on top of Stanford's book. "Take a look at this!"
Stanford peered down at the flyer over his glasses. The contrast of black and bright orange told him it had to be about the upcoming Halloween party before he actually read any words.
"A costume contest?"
"Nah, don't mind that. I'm done with Halloween costumes after a neighbor tried to shoot me for trick or treating."
"… You sure had interesting neighbors."
Fiddleford shrugged. "Alabama."
"Point taken," Stanford said, and glanced down at the flyer. "Mystery prize for best special effects at the party? Is that what you're so worked up about?" he asked, looking back up to see Fiddleford grinning.
Come to think of it, it was a rather dumb question.
"Sure it is! Look, up to three people can work together. Let's team up, and the prize is ours!" Fiddleford exclaimed. It was obvious that he was barely able to keep still: he was an easily excitable guy, after all.
Stanford looks back at his books. "I have a lot of reading to do," he said, but the excuse sounded weak to his own ears. It did look fun, and there was a part of him that just liked the idea of being part of a team. It's hard to be on your own when you've been half of one for your whole life. Fiddleford was not Stanley, but-
A gnawing feeling at the pit of his stomach warned him not to pursue that line of thought any further. Instead, he adjusted his glasses and smiled. "Okay, count me in."
"Yee-haw!" Fiddleford threw up his arms and improvised a quick victory dance that made Stanford laugh.
"Hold your horses, cowboy. I guess we should enter the contest fir—"
"Done," Fiddleford cut him off, shoving a piece of paper – where was he keeping them? – in his face. It was the form to enter, sure enough, already filled out. "I knew you'd say yes, so I just went ahead. Picked a team name and all."
"Ford Squared? Really?"
Fiddleford huffed, crossing his arms. "If you can come up with anything better, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Stanford laughed and threw up his hands in mock surrender. "Fine, fine. Ford Squared it is. I assume you have an idea of what we could do, or…?"
This time, he was not surprised at all when Fiddleford slapped a few more papers on his desk. "Here, look – jotted down some notes during lunch break!"
Stanford raised an eyebrow at the stain right in the middle of the first page. "Is that ketchup?"
"Told you I was having lunch. Take a look at the rest. I reckon a couple of weeks would be enough. We'd be done just on time for the contest!" he added, beaming, and turned to his left with a hawking noise that Stanford knew all too well.
"You're not going to spit on the floor," he said, and ignored the resulting coughing fit as Fiddleford choked on his spit, focusing on his notes instead. He put aside the ketchup-stained page to look at the second one, and was confronted with the drawing of… of… what the world was that? It looked like some kind of anthropomorphic alligator, but the back spikes and horns sure were nothing you can find on any alligator existing. It had claw-like hands, too, and drawn right in its grip… was that a banjo? "And this is…?"
"The most convincing Halloween monster anyone has ever seen. The prize will be ours," Fiddleford declared, sounding all the world like he was stating the tenets of the universe, and Stanford had to chuckle, though a little wistfully. On one hand, he liked Fiddleford's boundless confidence. On the other, there were moments when it reminded him of Stanley, and he couldn't pretend it didn't hurt some – especially now that they were talking of building something together.
What had even happened to Stan O' War?
Fiddleford's voice was a welcomed distraction from the thought. Stanford shook his head slightly and looked back down at the drawing. "Sorry, zoned out for a moment. So it's going to move on its own?"
"Yep. I'll build a remote control. Want to program it so that it can actually learn from its surroundings."
"A learning technology? Isn't that flying a bit high for a special effects contest?"
Fiddleford grinned. "Go big or go home, no?" he said, and Stanford found himself chuckling.
"Fair enough. Very well, I'll—" he began, only to trail off when Fiddleford spat in his hand and held it out. He raised an eyebrow. "I'm not going to shake that."
A sigh. "Stick in the mud."
Stanford ignored him and looked back down at the notes. "If this is supposed to be scary, I'd drop the banjo. It's only scary when you're the one playing and decide to sing as well," Stanford said, and took a closer look at the notes and drawing the beast's head. "Why are there are raccoon face marks on an alligator's face?"
"Because raccoons are true evil," Fiddleford said, waving his hand. "Have I told you how one of them tried to chew my arm off when I was six?"
"You did. You also said you picked it up. Who the hell picks up a wild raccoon?"
"I thought it was a cat. A mistake anyone could make."
"Now I can tell why you didn't pick biology."
"Oh, ha-ha," Fiddleford grumbled. While his great gift and interest lies in engineering, his shortcomings when it comes to biology are kind of a sore spot. "So, you reckon that's feasible?"
Stanford grinned up at him. "I reckon so. I'll need more detailed notes, though. You didn't write down many details for such a complicated project."
Fiddleford shrugged. "I was in a hurry. But no worries, it's all here," he added, tapping his forehead. "Not everyone needs to write down even what time they have to shower," he added, and Stanford decided not to argue. One thing he really envied him was how he hardly had the need to write anything down.
Fiddleford's memory was nothing short of amazing.
"Oh! And we're gonna record everything!"
Stanford looked up from the blueprints he had been working on to see that Fiddleford had picked up a huge portable camera – not without some effort, from the looks of it – and was now pointing it at him. He shifted. "I usually prefer to record everything in writing, and-"
"Eeeeeverything," Fiddleford drawled, pushing the camera closer to Stanford's face. "Smile for the camera!"
Stanford saw the opening when he looked up from the parts he was assembling to ask for a screwdriver and saw Fiddleford bringing a mug to his lips. He waited until he had taken his first mouthful of coffee before speaking.
"Is that a screwdriver in your pocket, or you're just happy to see me?"
The resulting spray of coffee on the desk was quite satisfying. He hoped the camera had caught that.
"What was that for?"
"Need the screwdriver. The small one."
Stanford ducked under it just on time.
"... Fids? What's this?"
Fiddleford's head popped up from beneath the table where he had been looking for the soldering iron. Stanford stood on the other side of the room, pointing at a sheet of paper in his hand.
"I mean this," Stanford insisted, pointing at the word on top. "Tell me that's not its name."
"Why not? Looks good to me."
A shrug. "Yeah?"
Stanford frowned, crossing his arms. "We're not going to name it Fordenstein," he said, and Fiddleford frowned as well, standing up.
"First of all, the reference is all wrong. Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster. Furthemore-"
The argument dragged on until well into the evening, and at some point they grew so tired that they had to sit on their beds and yell their arguments and comebacks at each other across the room. When they ran out of steam, they just lay down in brooding silence for a while.
"... Fordzilla?" Fiddleford finally suggested, and Stanford was too tired to argue further.
"Fordzilla it is," he conceded, still staring at the ceiling.
He wondered if naming children was that draining as well.
Looking back, test number one could have ended up a lot worse if they hadn't had a fire extinguisher in the room.
Stanford looked at their foam-covered room, the smell of smoke and burned plastic making his eyes water, and glanced at Fiddleford. He was staring at the now empty fire extinguisher in Stanford's hands, and when he finally turned at the camera it was with a sigh and a drop of his shoulders. "End of test one," he said, and looked at the fire extinguisher again. "... Guess we should get a new one before we try again."
Fire extinguishers turned out to be more expensive than either of them had anticipated, and they needed more than just one more. Soon enough, they knew had to resign themselves to living off instant noodles for a month.
"For science," Fiddleford said.
"For science," Stanford agreed through a mouthful of noodles.
"This is test number eighty-seven, and I have more caffeine than blood in my system," Fiddleford told the camera. His voice was more similar to a zombie's than to that of a man who had been sustaining himself instant noodles and caffeine for the past five days; at some point they had even used coffee in place of water to brew more coffee.
He kinda looked like a zombie, too, with disheveled hair and stubble-covered cheeks. The shadows under his eyes were so deep he almost looked like someone had punched him on both eyes. Stanford may have had a laugh at his expenses if he wasn't exactly in the same sorry state. He just nodded and turned to the nearly entirely assembled robot, lifting the fire extinguisher.
"Ready," he said.
Fiddleford stepped next to him, the grip on the control so tight his knuckles were turning white, keeping it lifted in front of him like a shield. "For science?"
"For science," Stanford said, dead-panned. "Count up to three?"
"All right. One… two… three!"
At the same instant, Fiddleford pressed the button to activate Fordzilla and Stanford raised the fire extinguisher's hose, fully expecting it to go haywire, to start stomping around, try snapping at them, catching fire – any of the things it had been doing in the past several tests, usually all at once.
Except that it didn't. Under Stanford's stunned gaze, Fordzilla came to life, lifted its head, and began walking across the room – perfectly following the directions Fiddleford was giving it through the controller, and looking amazingly real. It stopped before them, opened its mouth, closed it… and then Fiddleford turned it off again, and the beast's head lowered, the lights in its eyes growing dim and then turning off entirely.
This time, neither of them said anything. Fiddleford didn't even turn to the camera to announce the end of the test. Slowly, they both lowered their hands and looked at each other in utter disbelief.
"... It works," Stanford heard himself saying.
"Yeah," Fiddleford repeated numbly.
"It really works."
There was a long moment of utter, stunned silence, then...
"Ha. Hah. Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHA!"
Exhaustion melted away into pure euphoria, and Stanford didn't even care that it was four in the morning and that people were likely sleeping in the next room over.
"We did it! WE DID IT!"
"GO BIG OR GO HOME!"
"AND ARE WE BIG OR WHAT?"
"MYSTERY PRIZE TO FORD SQUARED!"
Later on, Stanford wouldn't be able to tell exactly whether he had been the one to pick Fiddleford up or if Fiddleford had just jumped on him. They were right in the middle of some sort of twirl – stumbling around and laughing like they spent their days drinking bourbon instead of coffee – when their room's door slammed opened and someone screamed.
"IT'S FOUR IN THE MORNING, YOU GODDAMN NER—"
The scream died down to a choking noise, causing Stanford to still and turn to the door. The guy from the next room stared at them, his mouth hanging open, before his gaze moved around the devastated room, on the monster standing on one end – and then back on Fiddleford, who was still clinging to Stanford's torso like a koala on a branch.
The guy had to work his jaw for a few moments before he finally broke the silence, and when he did his voice was absolutely flat. "… I really didn't need to see this," he said, and closed the door.
For a few moments Stanford could only stare at the door, speechless. Then Fiddleford cleared his throat, and he recoiled, immediately dropping him back on the floor. They both tried to somehow smooth down their hopelessly wrinkled clothes, but they gave up pretty soon and just glanced at each other, as though to assess how much of a mess they were.
And they sure were a mess, Stanford thought, wrinkling his nose. "You could use a shower."
"You could use a shave."
"Way ahead of you," Fiddleford said, and let himself drop on the floor. After taking a look at both of their beds – two blackened messes, half-burned and half-covered in foam – Stanford shrugged decided that he may as well do the same.
They slept on the floor, snoring like chainsaws, until well into the next afternoon.
As it turned out, programming Fordzilla with a prey drive wasn't the best thought-out plan ever. Neither was accidentally dropping the controller in a bowl of punch.
There was some chasing around, broken chairs and tables, a few shattered windows, several suddenly loose bladders and much, much screaming. Stanford thought of setting off the fire alarm only moment before Fordzilla actually managed to bite off someone's arm, and the water was enough to fry its circuits.
As it had been undeniably the best piece of special effects, they did win the contest. On the other hand, they were banned from taking part to any other, ever.
Neither of them minded terribly.
The mystery prize consisted in some cash – which was entirely spent on buying new beds and some of the furniture that was too badly damaged to fix – and a What-the-heck-a-hedron to solve.
Fiddleford was terribly put off when, after he gave up his fruitless attempts, Stanford solved it in a couple of hours' time. It didn't help that Stanford gloated more than he probably should have, promising to never let him forget that defeat. And indeed, he kept the promise.
At least for the next ten years.