A/N: God, do I LOVE THE ROBINSONS. And I think this story turned me into a raging FrannyCornelius fan. I MEAN, FOREVER.
Firstly, I'm a firm believer that Wilbur would want go back and visit Lewis as much as he could. Being a Disney-romantic, I'm totally ignoring the possible Goob-was-never-evil-therefore-no-memory-of-Wilbur timefuckery and insisting that they are best friends, and would live their life together as much as possible. :NODS:
My first fic was of this certain pairing, but on this I'm adamant: this is, in no way shape or form, supposed to be WilburLewis.
They have an emotional scene, yeeees, but it's emotional in the sense that… well, how would YOU react if you and your best friend—the person you cared about so intensely that you would place them above all others—were separated for months and years at a time? Yeah. Not so much fun. And when you saw them, not knowing when you'd do so again? YOU'D PROBABLY KISS THEM ON THE FACE, just for the pure, exquisite fact that they're back in your life for the moment.
At least, I would.
At first, I was like… WAIT. How could one be best friends with their father? But I think I like the role-surpassing chemistry of these two, as portrayed here. God, they just love each other so much.
Makes me cry. Seriously, I cried three times while writing this. :sneef: Iunno. It's sweet and sad. I just love them. I love the characters. I kinda wish I knew them.
… So just go away or read it already! D: GAWD. :shoos you: GO ON!
Best Man for the Job
The rehearsal dinner had just ended, and Franny had seized their first moment alone without hesitation. It was only fitting that she was asking questions: it was a day before the wedding, after all.
"What's he like?"
But the fact that his lovely, frowning fiancé was perfectly justified in her queries did not, actually, make them any easier to answer. Cornelius cleared his throat.
He smiled to himself, shrugging. The goofy, abashed 'Cornelius Under Fire' chuckle did nothing to assure Franny, who put her hands on her hips.
"How so?" Franny prompted him, looking down her perfect nose at her fiancé to elicit a proper answer. Cornelius looked to the side and scratched his head, searching for more words—or rather, for a perfectly incongruent action that would be symbolic of the shameless, open-mouthed grin of a man he called his best friend.
"Twenty-five and still watching cartoons in the mornings," Cornelius said finally, voice faint and fond.
"I still watch cartoons," Franny countered, somewhat defensively. She flicked Cornelius on his shoulder and continued, a hint of coy challenge in her voice: "In fact, I'm going to make sure my son watches cartoons until he's twenty-five."
She arched one beautiful penciled eyebrow, smiling deviously.
Cornelius resisted the urge to slap his forehead at the sense of it all. Oh god, the mind-numbing, atrocious sense of it all.
"You get my point," he redirected her, recovering admirably from the time-space-continuum slap. "But he's a good man. The best, actually. Perfect for this job."
His smile reappeared, warm and full. Proud, most of all. Franny's rouged mouth couldn't help but lift in all the right, affectionate places to see that expression on Cornelius' face, but, all the same, she sighed a second later.
"I just feel a little odd that I don't know your best man," she began gently, touching his hand. He squeezed it briefly and listened to her attentively, nodding. If she knew the slightest bit more about who exactly he was inviting to their wedding, odd was the mildest of the feelings she would mention.
"You're usually very open with me, Cornelius. Scientifically open: I usually get told more than I need to know," she chuckled to herself, eyes taking a fond, if exasperated, detour of the room. "By this point, I figured you would have already told me his blood-type."
"Biology just isn't my passion, Fran," Cornelius said, voice dripping with some poor imitation of sadness. "But if my friends came with CPUs, you can bet I could tell you everything about them."
"You get my point," she said, using the familiar line with a dangerous punctuation: another quirk of her eyebrows. Cornelius shook his head, laughing into his hand again.
"You'll meet him soon," Cornelius promised her, smile softening at the double meaning of his words. "Just wait."
"I guess so," Franny sighed, and began picking up the rehearsal dinner decorations. Then:
"Where is he from, again?"
"A North Montana man. Interesting."
He was the Best Man only in the most symbolic of ways.
He couldn't return tuxes, or help the groom get ready in the morning. He couldn't even sign the witness sheet (because technically he didn't exist) or decorate the married couple's car (or hover-bike, as the case was: Franny loved the thing just an inch less than Cornelius himself, and insisted he drive her over the threshold of the garage with it). All he did was watch them, and listen.
"Cornelius Robinson: do you take Francesca Framagucci to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
"Francesca Framagucci: do you take Cornelius Robinson to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
They kissed, and Wilbur could see them begin. That was enough for Cornelius. That was enough for him.
On their way to the reception dinner, the newly-married Mr. Robinson and his best friend Wilbur took a detour through the lush, gilded church.
"… Is it wrong to say that my mom looks incredibly hot in forties wedding gowns?" Wilbur asked without asking: his grin was both indulgent and very revealing of his shameless nature.
"When she's my wife, yeah," Cornelius replied archly, looking Wilbur down his nose. "Yeah, it's actually very wrong."
Wilbur laughed loudly, garnering the attention of several old ladies in coiffed church dresses. Cornelius waved apologetically to them until they turned away.
"Man, where's the rulebook for this sort'a thing?" He giggled in his distinctly Wilbur way, nudging his best friend on the arm. "I feel like I'm falling down the family tree and hitting on every branch on the way down!"
Lewis smiled and shook his head. No matter how long he was forced to wait without seeing Wilbur, within moments they were twelve (and thirteen) years old again: affection flowed between them, unchecked, unassuming and unwavering. Wilbur had come back for his wedding, as Cornelius (Lewis, now that the slick, smiling boy was beside him again) always knew he would. He felt happier than he could put into words.
Suddenly, he wanted to hug Wilbur so tightly he couldn't breathe: when the pair of them passed behind a formidably fronded potted plant, the scientist snagged his chance. He bear-hugged the other young man, who sputtered and laughed again in his ear. Wilbur clapped Cornelius on the back, then submitted gratefully to the embrace, rearranging himself fastidiously until Cornelius chuckled and squeezed him yet tighter.
"I miss you," Wilbur said ardently.
"I miss you!" Cornelius rebuffed him sharply and shoved him to arm's length, looking his future son in the face, all fondness and fire. "You have a me, I don't have a you yet! I'm clearly the worse off, here!"
Far from turning to the 'I love you!' 'No, I love you!" game of pubescent wont, Wilbur went silent and nodded knowingly.
"You'll be seeing me soon," Wilbur said, shy side flickering into view as he looked down at his polished shoes, mouth quirking. "Conversations will have to wait another few years, though."
"That's what I told Franny," Cornelius said softly. "That we'd see you soon."
They both stood behind the plant for a few minutes more, Cornelius' hands resting, comforting and invited, on Wilbur's shoulders. Then Wilbur was folded back into his future father's arms once again, where he rested his head against the other's cheek.
"God, I miss you."
"I know, Lewis. I know," Wilbur mumbled, secure and quiet in Cornelius' embrace. Just the presence of the bright, sincere young inventor seemed to give his life an extra dimension of color and emotion: it had been far, far too long.
Best friends should never be apart, yet here they were.
When they parted for the last time, Wilbur's head poked up with a chiding grin. His cowlick was still as prominent as ever.
"You looked pretty cool up there on the altar, Mr. Robinson."
"Anybody would look cool next to Franny," Cornelius said sagely.
Wilbur had to agree. His mom was pretty hot.
"So, I guess you all've guessed that I'm the Best Man."
The microphone (clipped to Wilbur's impressively starched dress shirt after its minimal shrieking had been subdued) amplified his voice so he could speak comfortably, and his smooth voice would still fill the room. The guests waited, all in good humor, to hear his speech.
"Unfortunately, Lew—" Wilbur choked, then swallowed his laugh with an awkward sound. His very rhythm askew, he was prey to his mixed-up impulses as he stood, oddly shaky, at the head of the silent table. His whole family's eyes were on him, even as they had no idea where he'd come from, or what his name was.
It was an unsettling thought, to be so anonymous: especially as he watched Fritz drag Lazlo out from under the table (and pull the spit-slick crayons from his mouth) and Bud watch him with expectant eyes, scratching absently at the orange bowtie perched on the nape of his neck.
A glance at Cornelius' calm, trusting blue eyes was all he needed, truthfully. The heat of his skin dissipated, and he cleared his throat.
"Unfortunately, my pal Cornelius didn't take my advice and hire a professional wordsmith to do him justice. Seemed to think that a guy who's stood by him his entire life, or tried his hardest to be there whenever he could, would be a better choice. All-knowing Cornelius thought that a guy who knew what he was gonna become even before he did—" He winked, then, perhaps to hide a hot and inconvenient tear. "—well, he seemed to think that someone who's been hooked up to his loony machines day in and day out would be more suited to this delicate tradition. And hey—I think he's right. But what can you say to the founder of Robinson Industries, really? Seriously, the man's got you beat."
There was a warm burst of applause: Cornelius smiled sheepishly, taking Franny's hand under the table. Wilbur nodded knowingly, gesturing with his wine glass.
"But really, what I've got to say is simple. Cornelius is an amazing guy. Always has been. He's been my best friend since we were kids, and I've never found a hard word to say about the man he's turned into: a man who's as good as he is smart . Franny, though I've only seen her from the wrong side of the altar today—and believe me, folks, I regret that as much as any red-blooded male—"
The guests laughed good-naturedly as Wilbur gestured wistfully at Franny, who made a startled shooing motion and laughed without thinking.
"I know she's just right for him. I know it just looking at them, how happy they'll be together."
Wilbur stopped, ducking his head to press his sleeve against his cheek; Lucille whispered something nearby, grabbing onto Bud's arm with an emotional sigh. Finally, the young man cleared his throat, and said, with an air of peaceful pride:
"And I know she's gonna make the best mom in the entire world."
Franny's hand tightened on Cornelius', drawing a small sound out of both of them. Wilbur saved them the trouble of communicating their simultaneous tremor by raising his glass with a showman's grace, and bowing towards where they sat.
"To both of you, the happy couple of a thousand smiles. Here's to the world you'll make for yourselves," he concluded, and caught Cornelius' eye. "Ladies and gentleman, meet the Robinsons."
The shout of the toast covered both Cornelius' and Wilbur's voices, which cracked in a most similar way. As the happy guests rose to dance and eat and converse, Franny wiped Cornelius' face; Wilbur wiped his own.
"That young man. Your Best Man."
Wilbur, who had now changed into his favorite black sneakers, was squeaking obnoxiously across the wooden dance floor towards the bar. Cornelius winced to see him do so, and, even knowing he was to answer for anything Wilbur did that night, claimed the sneaker-toting ruffian with a dull word:
"He's a little…" Franny trailed hesitantly, painted nails skimming her red lips.
"Forward?" Cornelius offered.
Franny settled for the term with a twitch of her mouth, then pointed her finger at Wilbur, who (definitely without his knowledge) was talking up a close-enough relative of Franny's at the bar. Lewis instantly hoped he would stay there long enough for him to walk over and introduce them by relation: he would cherish the (utterly disturbed) look on his best friend's face.
No matter if they had been years or months apart, they still loved proverbially kicking each other in the nuts. It was a father-son-best-friend thing. And kind of a guy thing.
"His speech was heartfelt," he said mildly, searching Franny for signs of unhappiness. "I'm sure he didn't mean to imply…"
He knew he had to gently retouch the 'mom' comment, or the possible implication of a shotgun wedding. While he couldn't ever—ever—find it in himself to protest any part of that speech, he wanted Franny to know that Wilbur never meant any harm. She shook her head.
"I didn't think that for a moment," she said stoutly, sending him a glance as if disappointed in his lack of trust in Wilbur.
"Good," he said simply, pleased.
"But familiar. He seems familiar," Franny said the word again, stressing it as she turned to look at her new husband. Her brown eyes were unusually troubled, as though this were more than a misplaced feeling of casual deja vu. "Cornelius, how can that be?"
"You've never met the guy, Fran." Cornelius smiled lightly at her, shrugging and spreading his hands. "I don't know what to tell you."
But he knew what he could've told her.
Perhaps, with her artist's eye, she had seen a little capricious part of herself looking back at her: perhaps she had memorized the professionally eccentric sweep of his hair in her own mirror; the new enthusiasm in his eyes and his smile. She did not know him yet, but he knew her: and she felt that as strongly as a hand to her heart.
When he moved to touch her face—to release the lines of thought and worry from her almond eyes—she suddenly smiled.
"Maybe I just know him because I know you."
"How so?" Cornelius asked her dubiously.
"I can see his smile in you," Franny murmured lovingly to him: Cornelius' skin thrilled at both her fingers on his arm and the meaning of her words. "Real best friends look alike, when they've shared so much of the same thing."
"We did grow up together…" Cornelius said softly.
His heart was full of memories in which he, fifteen or sixteen or newly twenty, had burst into his observatory lab to find Wilbur reclining on his desk, blowing bubbles with his imported Chinese glycerin solution or doodling a robot over his calculations. Pre-teen memories of Wilbur yanking him under tables without warning, provoking a colossal scream and then a few seconds of panicked fighting before Lewis could make out his laughing eyes and cowlick in the dark. Until he had learned that anything that tended to drag him under tables also tended to be called Wilbur, and then only waited expectantly for the questing hand near the table skirt to find his ankle.
Then Wilbur switched to the observatory's plentiful air-ducts (which later inspired the travel-tubes), and the fun began anew.
His visits had become less and less, to be sure… but it was outside his control. Something was happening to the time machine: Wilbur told him about it in bits and pieces, always while averting his eyes. Things were going wrong in the behavior of the machine, ever-so-slightly wrong, and journeys had become more complicated. The very idea of Wilbur's vivacity and strength being withheld from him--more and more as he grew older, like a disease--was enough to keep Cornelius up at night, but he still had memories. Memories in which they shared the same smiles: he repeated the words to himself, feeling a sudden stillness come over him. A starburst of realization.
"I'm glad he's come back for today," Franny told him sincerely. Then she kissed him on the cheek, not noting his sudden stillness. "It's a very special day, after all."
Unable to help himself, Cornelius blurted:
"They'll all have the same smiles."
"What?" Franny asked, absorbing the sight of his strangely excited blue eyes. She was genuinely puzzled, but didn't move to say so. Cornelius took a huge breath.
"Our family. Our big, noisy, crazy, shameless family," he forced out, lips catching on the words. His spine was straight as a board. "We'll share so much, we're bound to have the same smiles. I know it."
He fell silent, blushing and feeling acutely stupid. But Franny—lovely, trusting, knowing, dreaming Franny--just smiled again and held his hand for a second longer, then joined her brothers at the reception table.
Cornelius watched, smiling, as Art muscled his sister into a huge hug, and Gaston, after shouting a (wedding-celebratory) challenge, attempted to (lovingly) punch her in the gut. She (conversationally) caught his wrist in her hand with a smart slapping sound and (with a giggle) bent it backwards.
They hugged and laughed.
Half a room away, Wilbur heard the Framagucci revelry, looked over, and Cornelius caught him smiling with something just short of nostalgic bliss.
He also slopped punch down the front of his flawless tuxedo, and ran out of the room, squeaking and fuming from his ears.
The wedding, in all its stages and pages, had been so very busy, she hadn't had a chance to talk to anyone for more than five minutes. But now, Franny looked up to find herself in a nearly empty corner of the Plaza floor of their dinner club, facing the clean-faced, sleekly handsome young man who Cornelius called his best friend.
There was no one within arms reach. No (lovable, excited) relatives pulling at her elbows. Simply stunned at this fact, she stared at him a good while longer than she should've.
"I mean, it's really nice to meet you," he amended hastily, reaching out his hand.
The young man in front of her seemed curiously solid, even though she had somehow expected him to disappear after the ceremony. She had never truly expected to come face to face with him, much less without Cornelius by her side to ease the introductions. She smiled quickly, avoiding looking at the matte pink stain down his white dress shirt or his shiny black sneakers, and shook his hand.
"Hi there," she said kindly, nodding and studying his bright brown eyes. "I'm so glad you could come down to be Cornelius' Best Man! He talked so much about it, you wouldn't believe."
He nodded, taking the social offering of compliments graciously—perhaps with a little self-confident twirl of his hand, as if to say "And you can't see why?"—but finding little else to say or do or think. He simply looked at her, face conflicted and, somehow, proud.
"You look so pretty," he said breathlessly, when the silence had hit its peak.
He smiled, somehow both shy and dazzling; and it didn't seem like something a 25-year-old would say to his best friend's wife, but it worked for him. It was… so endearing, Franny thought. There was something childish in him: she supposed it was his baby face and formidable, religiously maintained cowlick, but she certainly couldn't deny he was handsome. Dashingly so.
"Thank you," she murmured.
"It must be hard, being Mr. Robinson's best friend," she prompted him teasingly, when he only scuffed his shoes in the silence. "I'm sure he used you for science projects, right? I'm still waiting to be hooked up to a machine, honestly."
"Yeah. I mean, no. No machines," He blustered, then cleared his throat in an effort to start anew. "Yeah, no machines. He's pretty good about that. I could blame my hair on a failed science project of his, but… you know, he doesn't need the karma."
"Well, you and me both." She reminded him happily, pointing to her own cowlick. She winked at him. "Maybe the guy just attracts bad hair problems. It's probably all that static. I should send him through the wash with an anti-stick pad, and then we'd all have easier mornings."
They smiled at each other in the silence, something warm blossoming between them.
"My name's Wilbur," the young man said quickly, then blushed.
Second after second, he amused her ever-more. It was crazy, but he seemed like family already. She could see why he was Cornelius' best friend: it just seemed right. She found herself smiling as a certain mother would smile years from now, upon discovering that her little ADHD sprite of a son had put salt in the dishwasher, instead of soap.
"I mean, if he hadn't told you. Cornelius, I mean. Hasn't," he corrected himself jerkily, like he was afraid his mother would come and scold him for it. Franny smiled at the idea, but didn't spare a thought towards what this beautiful boy's mother would be like.
A second more and he grinned at her, both sheepish and relenting. Very, very like Cornelius. She smiled wider.
"Yes, I know."
And she did.
A slow bustle had started to their left: wherever the family had gone, they were reemerging in fits and bursts, wandering in to decorate the posh club scene. Franny looked, and Wilbur followed her eyes; when she put her hand on his arm, he jumped.
"It's nice to meet you as well, Wilbur," she told him, smiling reassuringly. "I hope we can be friends too."
"We will be. I promise," Wilbur said softly.
She turned to leave, but couldn't do it without voicing a tender feeling in her chest. After a few steps, she turned back around and faced Wilbur again, feeling like she was in a dream.
"I really loved your speech, Wilbur."
"Thanks," he said, voice pushed near the breaking point even as he murmured. He watched her with adoring eyes, hands stuck fast in his pockets. "I think I spent my whole life thinking it up."
She fell silent, looking at him curiously: he simply blushed again, and disappeared into a hallway. Then the family found her, and washed her thoughtfulness away with laughter and karate.
The guests were trickling out. Their wedding was over, and it was nearly perfect.
Franny scanned her family, searching for another cowlick so very like her own. When her husband appeared at her side, she took his arm, looking into his surprised, bespectacled face.
"Where is he?"
"Wilbur," Franny clarified, worried.
"He had to run. Lost track of time." Cornelius said wistfully.
Unexplained was the fact that he had been forced, at Wilbur's hissed warning and the hand on his elbow, to sprint behind the church and clutch his friend close for a spare second before the young man vaulted into the insubstantial time machine, which had begun disappearing of its own volition. Wilbur had tried to smile as he unwillingly vanished from sight and time: he'd only gotten half-way there, but Cornelius—Lewis—understood.
Until we meet again, however long that may be: I'll miss you.
Franny's mouth opened at this news. He was gone. An inexplicable hole opened in her heart: she tried to close it, confused and unhappy. She would miss his baby face.
"Oh," she said quietly.
"He's the greatest guy I know," Cornelius began after a while, looking into the sky beyond the ornate windows. "I only wish I could've spent more time with him. That's always my only wish."
They stood in silence as the party emptied around them, white plates and cups and glasses ferried back to the hidden kitchens as punch bowls were drained, and pink and green wedding cake carefully arranged on platters, to be sent to family. Their crazy, loud, ever-growing family. They stood at the end of their wedding, the beginning of their new life together, arm in arm, and Franny soon put her hand to her mouth with an astounded expression.
"You know… Cornelius, I know this might sound crazy, especially so early, but…"
Cornelius waited in silence as Franny bit her lip, not denying himself the smile that glossed his face, sweet and beaming, as she drew breath to propose possibly the most radical and preposterous plan of her young life:
"What do you think of the name Wilbur?"
Cornelius closed his eyes, and felt his heart leap.
"I think it's a perfect name," he said after a moment of tender silence.
Then, smile radiating a quiet joy, Cornelius Lewis Robinson took Francesca Robinson by the shoulders and hugged her close, cherishing the feeling of her arms around his neck and her life falling into his.
This was the way it was meant to be.