Disclaimer: I do not own Meet the Robinsons, Disney has that privilege. If it were me…there'd have been a sequel.
Author's Note: Prepare yourself—everything you think you know about Wilbur is about to be challenged. Dun Dun Dun.
Oh, and apologies to Spelling Nazis, Grammar Police, and individuals well-versed in Science and Technology. I be but a humble fanfic writer, who hopes you enjoy the ride (and forgives the potholes in the road).
...and I also apologize to any readers who hoped this was an update for one of my other fics. Maybe you'll enjoy it anyways...shifty eyes. But enough of me blathering, onwards!
Wilbur sighed from his perch on a counter, absently kicking his heel against the cabinet door beneath.
"Son" his father scolded lightly from his position across the room—eyes intent on the complex circuit board before him. "One more adjustment…"
Wilbur's eyes darted back to the large digital clock on the wall, which alternated between flashing in bright green: ROBINSON INDUSTRIES—LEADING THE WAY TO THE FUTURE TODAY—KEEP MOVING FORWARD
And the time:
"Just a minute."
"I know, I know."
"Patience is a virtue."
"One I was born without" the thirteen-year-old quipped.
"Too true" Cornelius chuckled.
"Dad, I gotta go. The guys are expecting me-"
"I thought it was an optional practice? The schedule said-"
"-Well yeah, but you know the team's just not the same without me," Wilbur grinned, jabbing a thumb at his chest.
Wilbur rolled his eyes, before jumping off the counter.
Cornelius finished bolting the back panel back on and stood back, admiring his work.
Wilbur thought it looked somewhat like a squat, giant metal hour glass wearing a shoe. The top half funneled down into the bottom half and a conveyor belt led it into an adjoining box—which reminded Wil of a pizza oven.
"LinenXR 90" his father announced proudly.
"Aaaand it does what?"
"Well you see it's a three step machine. It'll completely revolutionize laundry as we know it! See the dirty laundry is set in the top half, it gets washed then dropped into the bottom half, and once dry it'll pass into the final chamber where it's ironed and folded. It'll really help spare time and frustration, making it a boon for large households."
"…epic" Wilbur offered flatly.
Cornelius sighed. Kids…they just didn't appreciate clean, unwrinkled clothes.
Running a hand along the machine's seams, Wilbur noted offhandedly, "The welding is really straight."
Cornelius blinked. "Er, thanks" it wasn't quite the compliment, he'd been fishing for, but he'd take what he could get.
"I still don't see where I come in"
"It's very important" Cornelius informed his son. "I need another set of hands."
It wasn't a complete lie, though usually he'd just call on a co-worker. But Franny had spoken with him earlier that week, stating he needed more bonding time with his son.
She'd urged him to let Wilbur participate in more of his inventions. Invite him over to the company; let him get a feel for it all.
Who knows maybe he'd take to Science? Cornelius wisely refrained from pointing out that despite her countless attempts, Wilbur never took to Music.
He sighed. Maybe she was changing strategy or admitting defeat. She seemed downright determined that Wilbur should take after one of them. He wasn't so sure. Wilbur was…Wilbur. Adventurous, bold, brave…reckless, carefree, impatient, impetuous…
Wilbur and Science or Wilbur and Music…Cornelius winced…neither seemed quite his niche.
Though Cornelius loathed admitting it, he just…didn't really trust his carefree son in the tinkering stage.
Oh he knew that Wilbur was fantastic at operating perfected inventions—probably flew the Time Machine better than he did. But the mapping out, the calculating, the testing, the adjusting, the PATIENCE…
He normally let Wilbur flick switches or clean up spills. After all, his son had an unrivaled track-record for frying prototypes.
Still, Franny would want a full account of today's activities, so he was willing to have a little faith.
"So if you'll type in this sequence-" he guided Wilbur over to a computer, handing him a clipboard with a long line of numbers. "-We can start"
Wilbur glanced at the clipboard then back to his father's smiling face.
"What will you be doing?"
He jerked a thumb back, "The switch"
Wilbur glanced at the massive flip switch (nearly the length of his arm) on the opposite side of the room, near the prototype.
"Why can't I do that part?"
"No Wilbur. Not this time. It's still an early prototype. Maybe on another one."
Translation: If it explodes I want you far from shrapnel.
"Really Dad, I can do it—no prob. Leave it to-"
"I'll handle it" Cornelius finished, gently but firmly coaxing his boy back towards the computer terminal…far from the switch.
"Come on Dad" Wilbur wheedled "This stuff's boring, I want-"
Wilbur pouted, "This is 'cuz of last summer isn't it? Sheesh. You get hit by debris once and now…" He trailed off, raising an eyebrow "YOU'VE been in all sorts of explosions and you're nowhere near as tough as m-"
Recognizing that flat tone of finality Wilbur acquiesced, though not without a dirty look.
Cornelius waited for Wilbur to settle in his seat before making his way toward the switch.
He shook his head sighing, it might've been an exciting highlight for the young teen—he'd been unconscious, but for his father…he remembered all too vividly the horrific ambulance ride to the ER.
Sitting to the side (out of the way), as the vehicle zoomed down interstate.
For all his brilliance, he'd been completely useless—while the EMTs worked frantically to save his little boy.
So much blood and terror…his chest constricted at the painful memory. He released a shuddering breath. Never again. Not when he could help it.
He gripped the switch, looking over his shoulder at Wilbur.
Wilbur glanced at the numbers in hand and the screen.
The teen took a deep breath and punched in the numbers.
"R-ready" he called back, before adding under his breath "…I hope."
At first all seemed well, the top cycle began to spin—leisurely at first and then faster and faster until it began humming ominously.
There was a spluttering sound, a grating scrape, and then:
The machine began spitting out charred towels and clothing articles. Wilbur managed to dodge most of them, though one sock did smack him pretty good.
Cornelius heaved the switch back off.
Wil pealed said sock from his face, muttering, "When Laundry Attacks! Sounds like a lame Sci-fi flick."
"Wilbur?!" His father sprinted over, grabbing him by the shoulders and checking him over with a critical eye.
"I'm okay, Dad" and he was, but the machine….his eyes wandered over to the blackened prototype. Smoke billowed from its panels.
Prognosis: Not Good. Wilbur winced.
Confident that his son was alright, Cornelius focused on the terminal which was flashing ERROR on its screen.
His fingers flew across the keys and in moments, an output sheet sped out.
Cornelius ripped the page out, eyeing the data speedily.
"What did you type?" the blonde inventor barked, indignant and incredulous.
"What is this?!" mounting anger evident in his voice, "This is gibberish. Wil, half of these are letters! Letters Wilbur?"
"If you didn't feel like participating all you had to do was tell me."
"That took several months and now I'll have to recalibrate the whole thing!"
"S-sorry Dad" his son replied meekly, eyes wide, skin pale.
Cornelius took several deep breaths before gritting out a terse, "It's alright." Deep exhale. "These things happen."
"I-I'm gonna go to practice now." Wilbur squeaked
He gave a sharp nod. Staring at the ruined prototype as his son all but fled the room.
The anger and annoyance dissipated as Cornelius tinkered away.
A couple of wires had been poorly soldered anyway. He might even swap out some of the software. In fact, it was going to be better now. Improved, he'd even found several areas where volts were being wasted.
Perhaps, it wouldn't take months to repair…Just a couple weeks…hopefully.
In fact the more time that passed, the worse he felt.
He kept thinking about what Franny had said.
He supposed deep down he DID want Wilbur to take after him.
Which was unfair of him; he'd always promised himself, he wouldn't set expectations like that.
Wilbur was his own person, he'd discover his place in the world and Cornelius would be happy for him. No matter what it was. And given the way they kept arguing about everything lately, Wilbur seemed more likely to be a professional stuntman than a quiet scientist/inventor.
It sometimes felt like they spoke a different language. He'd say one thing, and Wil would ignore, misconstrue, or twist his words.
Other times it felt like their conversations were more like battles than discussions. Franny insisted that it was the "Horrible Hormones of Teenagedom" setting in.
To which Cornelius would respond somewhat desperately "that he was only thirteen, couldn't he have waited a couple more years?"
The inventor sighed, sorely missing the days of endless hero-worship. Where little Wilbur would sit in Daddy's lap, content to watch Cornelius sketch blueprints. Brown eyes wide with adoration as he tried to understand each invention.
Days where Daddy was the smartest, most bestest Daddy ever! Where did all that sweetness go to?
He could seriously have done without all the defiance that Franny dismissed as "Testing Boundaries."
Especially since it felt like his son purposely set proverbial traps, ones he was always doomed to get snagged in. Ones that always revealed how "lame" and "outdated" and "stuffy" he was.
Maybe he wouldn't feel quite so bad, if his wife shared in them. But Wilbur never lobbed those her way.
On one occasion, after he'd been thoroughly trounced in a game of Chargeball, Wilbur abruptly declared that they were nothing alike.
Cornelius privately agreed and felt more than a little dejected from the certainty in the boy's voice; almost as though he were proud of the fact.
He caught constant glimpses of his wife in Wilbur: in the boy's looks, his straight-forward manner, his athleticism…
He was his mother's son from the cowlick to the karate moves.
What had he gained from dear ol' Dad?
Perhaps his lean frame, maybe his ears, or the childhood asthma (they both thankfully grew out of). There just wasn't much of him showing.
Then there were traits that were simply Wilbur: the witty asides, his melodramatic flair, his constant thrill seeking.
As for the smooth-talking…well he had a theory about that.
He'd used to leave James Bond movies on while he was tinkering.
Toddler Wil would sneak out of his pen and try to crawl onto Daddy's lap. He'd make such a nuisance of himself, that Cornelius would relent and move his pen into the lab.
After four or five attempts to play with Daddy failed, he'd finally just sit in his pen and watch the movie.
Sowing seeds for a devil-may-care attitude—exposing him to wanton use of explosions, violence, manipulation, and charm.
He knew Franny did the same: putting on programs, getting carried away with her frogs, not realizing that 'Toddler Tutelage: Teaching Your Baby To Enjoy Academics' swiftly ended at 4p.m. and Super Galaxy Avengers began.
When BOTH of them were busy; Franny at concerts and he at Global Science Conventions, Carl was in charge.
The Television and Carl were practically Wilbur's surrogate parents. A fact that made Cornelius' insides squirm with guilt.
No wonder the T.V. always had Wilbur's utmost attention. They'd bonded in his early childhood.
Perhaps it was for a mixture of all these reasons that he'd agreed to let Wilbur come today.
Maybe regain some clout in his son's eyes.
He'd overreacted. True, the sequence Wilbur typed in was completely off. But he'd been genuinely apologetic. A rarity.
He'd come to the Chargeball practice and show there were no hurt feelings. Then maybe they could swing by the ice cream parlor. Let the boy get a triple scoop. Yeah, that'd put him back in good graces.
Cornelius arrived at the Chargeball Courts in fairly good spirits.
The explosion, while not ideal, was letting him refocus and strengthen the machine. Right. Focus on the Good. Keep Moving Forward.
As he approached the team, a chorus of "Hello Dr. Robinson" sounded.
He gave a hurried wave, scanning the courts for his boy. An inexplicable sense of frustration crept in when he couldn't spot him.
He could ALWAYS find his son—used to infuriate the child whenever the Robinson Family played Hide-and-Seek.
His wife often stated he had a sixth sense when it came to Wil. He'd laugh that it was his duty as a peaceful inventor to prevent anarchy. Especially that which he unleashed himself, at this he and Franny would share a naughty smile.
Or at least they used to until Wil turned ten, and suddenly KNEW things.
"Hello Dr. Robinson" Coach Anders greeted, sports suit rustling as he approached with a clipboard in hand.
"Oh Hello" the inventor returned distractedly, eyes flitting over each bench without success "Wilbur-"
"-Can't make it again, he called a few minutes ago. Sorry he's not feeling so good."
He offered him a packet from the clipboard. "Just a few techniques, I want the team to perfect. Tell him though; he needs to start coming regularly. Or I'll start benching him-Ace or not. Even if he's not up to play, I'd like him to just sit in on at least twenty minutes twice a week."
Cornelius gave a sharp nod before rigidly returning to his hovercar—possible scenarios tumbling over each other in his mind. Once inside, he pulled out his earpiece, keying in his boy's frequency.
Wilbur didn't pick up.
"You have the reached the voicemail of the Amazing Wilbur A. Robinson."
His father rolled his eyes. That boy…
"I'm off doing something awesome. But if you leave me your name, link, and frequency I'll be sure to get-wha? Wait! Carl NO! Don't touch that! It's-" Beep.
That message HAD to change. He massaged the bridge of his nose. Hearing panic in his son's voice did awful things to his already worked up nerves.
Still, he supposed rather reluctantly, it was better than his last one: which had simply been a loop of squawking chickens.
He dialed in his wife's frequency. It was possible that Wil could've been feeling poorly and decided to head home instead of practice. Though, he was supposed to call him if there were changes.
"Hello Honey," chirped Franny's cheerful voice in his ear.
"Did Wilbur call you?"
"Mmhmm. Practice will be going on later then he expected. Maybe you could swing by and pick him up on your way home? I don't want him walking in the dark."
"When did he call?"
"Um, three or four minutes ago I think? Why? Is everything okay?"
So this WAS planned; Time to use the GPS function on his son's earpiece.
His eyebrow rose as it indicated Robinson Industries.
"Right. No reason, Sweetheart. I'll get him."
A crowd of passersby openly gaped as a blue hovercar spun into a parallel space at top speed, thrusters screeching in protest at the abusive motion.
Cornelius ignored the rubberneckers, wrenching his key from the ignition, and stalking into Robinson Industries.
It was likely just mischief, Wilbur had a penchant for chaos. That was nothing new.
Still, his pace hurried significantly, if anything had happened…
Unlikely though it was, his imagination kept conjuring up villains forcing his son to break off his engagements with easy lies.
He shook his head roughly. Franny kept making him watch all those True Story shows—each episode brimming with murdered spouses, abducted young women, and children who never came home.
If all he found was the phone…Bile rose in his throat.
"Bonnie!" he demanded the desk clerk at the front desk.
"Y-yes sir?" The woman's head jerked up, frizzy blonde curls bouncing erratically.
"When did Wil leave?"
She stared blankly, "Leave?"
The pit of his stomach fell—urgency, worry, and confusion cementing into full blown panic.
Luckily, Alice (a long time associate) was passing by with a beaker, she grinned at her boss.
"Oh Dr. Robinson, I wondered where you were. Wil's been down in the lab an awful long time. I hope he's not bothering Dr. Haynez. He's not really…" she lowered her voice, running a fretful hand through short mousy locks "…Child-friendly."
Cornelius turned on his heel, leaving both women blinking at his abrupt departure.
The laboratory levels still used lifts rather than tubes; safer for transporting materials.
But infinitely slower, and every second felt like an eternity.
He rushed down the corridor; scaring the wits out of two poor interns and earning some rather indignant squawks from three chemists handling hazardous materials.
Hardly worth a second-glance, let alone an apology. Every second could be precious, could be life-altering, could be fatal…
Adrenaline was pumping through his veins; his lungs were burning, anxiety twisting his guts, he felt like he'd just explode from the intensity of it all—
When he heard it: the unmistakable tenor of his son's voice drifting from down the hall:
"Then Dr. Dreaddix activates the Death Ray and Captain Time Travel has to reverse the polarity of the weapon, which of course saves the day."
Cornelius hurries over, pressing himself against the Plexiglas window—relief leaving him weak-kneed.
There was his boy whole and unharmed, sitting with his legs criss-crossed on top of a lab table.
Tossing a Chargeball glove carelessly between his hands, as he blah-blah-blahed away—much to the annoyance of the room's other occupant.
Cornelius quietly entered the room.
"-And I know it's all techno babble because a simple flip of a lever wouldn't do that. Very, very rare anyways-"
"Will?" Dr. Haynez gritted out, exasperation evident.
"-In all likelihood, you'd have to reverse the polarity of the power source of the device (assuming it's not AC)-"
"Will!" the scientist called sharply.
"-And even then it might fry the invention but it wouldn't blow up the ENTIRE ship and the nearby Villainous Space Station. We're talking nuking Dude. This was even MORE unlikely, cuz the machine they showed totally wasn't nuke tech compatible. So the last ten minutes were complete junk-"
"Please spare me the intricacies of your melodramatic kiddie show"
The blatant animosity ruffled Cornelius' feathers. It was well-known in Science Society; you were not mean to Dr. Robinson's family.
"Why? Got stuck again?" Wilbur asked (with what his dad felt was much more kindness then the man deserved.)
Haynez' lips flapped wordlessly like a fish out of water.
"It's okay. I had Dad explain this to me like eighty times, no joke. Ask Carl. It's tricky."
Wilbur stared intently at white board, eyes narrowing. "Thaaat's what it is. You're missing a negative near the bottom left-hand side."
Haynez stiffly righted his error.
"There you go. Oh…and that six should be a four…Perfect. You got it. Oh…and that decimal should actually-"
The young Robinson jumped off the counter easily and walked up to the board "be right here" placing his index finger in between two numbers.
"Thank you for your…aid in my calculations" venom dripped from every syllable.
"No prob, you're really getting the hang of it" Wilbur smiled good-naturedly.
The man looked like he wanted to strangle him for the compliment. He swiftly ran his twitching fingers through his thinning gray hair; a futile attempt for calm—and though his breathing eased, something raw and angry blazed in his hazel eyes.
A surge of paternal protectiveness writhed in Cornelius demanding retribution. Nobody looked, let alone spoke to his child so hatefully.
He opened his mouth to voice his anger, when his eyes scanned the board—Fury momentarily forgotten.
Complex algorithms…sure he HAD tried explaining them to Wilbur countless times, but he never knew the boy was actually listening, let alone TRYING to understand them. Or succeeding, Cornelius' chest swelled with pride.
He also noted somewhat melancholically, that he'd missed his son's triumphant AHA moment. The realization stung on an intimate level.
"Okay," Wilbur announced, authority ringing in his young voice. He tapped a screwdriver against the metallic hatch of a small prototype the size of a toaster. "Let's open this bad boy up and-"
"Wait! You know the rule. If you're going to help me-"
"-But they totally clash with my cool!" he whined.
"You're not coming near my invention without them" Haynez hissed.
"But they're so, sooo, so—I can't-"
Dr. Haynez grabbed his son's light blue backpack, openly scoffing at the lightning bolt insignia decorating it.
With more familiarity than Cornelius cared for, Haynez rummaged though it, extracting a small oval case.
"I don't understand why you make such a fuss; it's a very common affliction-"
"-Well excuse me if I haven't succumbed to my AFFLICTION yet. I plan to fight off my destiny for Dorkdom as long as possible."
Haynez clicked opened the case with ease, shooting an exasperated look at the young teen.
"Pfft. Not my fault my DNA donors passed on some faulty codes" Wilbur grumbled.
After setting the pair of glasses on his son's face with more force than necessary, Haynez stalked back to a board of blueprints.
Meanwhile at the back of the lab, a puzzle piece of the mysterious universe suddenly fell into place. And with such a loud click, with such nakedness, with such an earth-shattering DUH! That brilliant world-class inventor Cornelius Robinson was left gaping.
He could've slapped himself for his ignorance. His boy needed glasses. Of course! How did he not guess that? The avoidance of books, odd answers for tests, botching grocery lists, incorrect cooking ingredients. Or that awful taping job he did for that memory scanner schematic. What kind of genius was he?
All the times he'd tried helping with homework, referring to the worksheet in question. Pointing at a problem and receiving a blank stare from his child. He'd tap the problem again and the same response. Finally, he'd underline the equation …the equation that his son couldn't read.
But he could play charge ball and watch television with a nary a glitch. He could read billboard signs, point out constellations, and navigate his surroundings gracefully enough…Gracefully enough, that those other tendencies fell beneath the radar.
It all made sense: the boy was far-sighted.
He frowned suddenly. The boy was far-sighted…and knew it…and didn't tell anyone…didn't tell him.
"You know? I was thinking we oughta tweak it a bit. The wiring on the left side is kinda…messy, you know? Not to mention that while we straighten it, we can use the DVM and note any fluctuations."
Again Cornelius felt ecstatic, watching his son with a screwdriver in hand speaking science…with someone…that wasn't…him.
It hurt. Here this was exactly what he'd been hoping for two hours ago.
They should've been on Level 8, his personal laboratory floor. He should've been answering wiring questions, gently correcting his son's grip on the tools, lavishing him with praise for a job well done.
He watched Wilbur spin a wrench, with an air of practice. He blinked. When did Wil learn that?
"OH! And you know what reeeeeallly gets me?"
"I don't care Will."
"Well I'll tell you! Those conveniently imbecilic moments, where the villain's weapon is defeated by a chess principle, the hero learned at the start of the episode. Like an invention that high-caliber designed by an evil genius, would be so easy to disengage."
Wilbur snorted loudly as he took up some wire-dikes. Continuing his rant as he stripped the wires, "I mean, Captain Time Travel's friggin' awesome, but he didn't even have to hack any firewalls or short-circuit any camera-bots or anything!"
He tossed the wire-cutters down with a thunk, and plugged the soldering gun in.
Wilbur took a couple reels of soldering wire down and began juggling them, "I mean, I know I'm overanalyzing it's just…it's kinda hard to watch those with Dad. Cuz I mean, he'll know all that stuff and more. He'll either be bored stiff, or rolling on the floor at the impossibility of it all."
He set the coils down, reaching for the soldering gun.
"But it's the imagination in it, you know?" He began fusing the wires together. "The honor and adventure a-and awesomeness! It's just-It's just…I wonder" the soldering gun drooped.
"Wonder about what? Lighting a fire?!"
The tool was swiftly unplugged and set to cool. Just like the topic of conversation.
Wilbur remained quiet; speaking only to announce that the latest adjustment should yield at least a 3% increase in efficiency.
Dr. Haynez eye's narrowed, muttering that it wasn't good enough—that Wil must've botched it somewhere.
And that was the straw that broke Cornelius' back. That man shot one glare too many.
He made his presence known "Gentlemen."
The effect was immediate.
Wilbur froze, thin frame tensing, as he cautiously peered over his shoulder.
"Uh, uh, uh um"
The blood drained from his son's face.
"Dr. Robinson" Haynez greeted his voice slick with courtesy. His countenance polite: the very image of a well-meaning science man.
The Father of the Future wasn't fooled for an instant.
Wilbur blinked at the unfamiliarly cold expression on the elder Robinson's face.
He gulped. Dad was really mad.
But…it didn't SEEM to be directed at him …Or maybe he'd finally earned disdain as well as disappointment…Yippee. He reluctantly climbed off the table and inched his way toward his father.
"If you could wait a moment in the hall, Dr. Haynez."
Ruffled at being told to leave what he clearly felt was HIS territory; the scientist stiffly complied.
When the door clicked shut, Cornelius nodded expectantly, "Wilbur."
"I-you see-funny story-I-"
"I-I….." Wilbur sighed. Even the most brilliant lie wouldn't work. This man had known him his entire life…well…technically even longer than that. Ah, the joys of time-travel.
"I kinda…ran into him last month" he admitted quietly "I wasn't paying attention as I sprinted to the elevator and…WHAM…Goodbye Project."
"Well, I didn't want him getting in trouble because of me. So I volunteered to help. I…I was pretty surprised when he took me up on the offer."
"So…I kinda got a crash course in it all" he laughed weakly "What's been rough is that…"
"I'm listening" Cornelius hoisted himself onto a lab table, patting the space beside him.
Wilbur shifted his weight from foot to foot, contemplating his next words before taking a seat.
"Every time I thought I was through, he'd say that the output wasn't as good as it was. But I look over the blueprints and I-I just can't see where it'd come from!"
That's because he's lying, Cornelius noted angrily. And he's using you.
"And if that's true, and I messed things up then I've got to fix it and-"
"Son, that's noble of you, but he's an adult. He needs to take responsibility."
Wil frowned, "But it's MY fault, I'LL take responsibi-"
"How much output did you achieve?"
It was a soft, simple question but the weight of the answer was crushing.
Wilbur focused on his shoes, studying the laces intimately. The silence stretched until he finally mumbled something.
"Didn't catch that," Blue eyes watched the boy intently.
"36" Wilbur won't lift his gaze.
Cornelius nodded, "I see. I'll take care of this."
The inventor calmly closed the door behind him—instantly bombarded with an overly bright smile, "Sir I assure you that, I meant no harm—just showing young Will the finer points of inventing a self-sustaining portable generator-"
"-your output was never greater than 32% the structural integrity is unsound. The torque you're trying to achieve (even if you somehow manage it) can't be done in such a soft casing—it'll warp."
"I've read your recent reports. Had one on my desk yesterday morning. Hell, I even congratulated you on your progress. Exchanging the large motor for three smaller ones and installing a better cooling system. You'd been so adamant about not changing your overall method that I was quite impressed, you gained several more percents. After months of flat-lining, I wondered how you got such inspiration."
Cornelius suddenly scrutinized the man, his gaze hard and merciless.
"And that's just it. It wasn't yours, was it?" he gave a mirthless laugh "Not even a footnote about his help."
The older man's smile vanished as he went stock still; time slowing as they stared each other down.
"Awful" Dr. Robinson breathes the word—and despite the softness in which its uttered—something venomous and unforgiving strains through the syllables.
"He's not an employee there was no reason to cite him at all" the man babbled quickly.
The blonde's teeth gnashed, "Used him. Stole his ideas and paraded them as your own. You know what that means. Go."
Haynez stared at him blankly.
"Go!" Dr. Robinson insisted "You know our policy on this. We have a zero tolerance for plagiarism and thievery."
"He's NOT an employee! He doesn't matter! He's just some kid. He's nobody. Worthle-"
The scientist choked on the word, because suddenly Robinson was fuming; Blue eyes blazed with unyielding fury.
Hackles raised…Feral…and it strikes Haynez because he's only ever seen it once before in a grocery store. Some man, not watching his step, wheeled his cart straight into a stroller knocking it over. What ensued…was not pretty. The toddler stopped wailing long before his mother paused for breath. Frame taut with anger, eyes flashing with wrath, berating the man ruthlessly for his carelessness.
Even now he recalled the spectacle from his place in line. Her piercing voice, shrieking about her baby, her precious baby, and what was he thinking, and what sort of idiot was he? How could he? Her baby! Her poor, poor baby!
He remembered feeling a bit of pity for the man. Parents, they were a different breed.
Haynez' breath left him in a rush. Suddenly he's looking from the glass to Dr. Robinson, back and forth and back—dawning horror evident on his face.
"Will…Wil…bur…" he swallowed "Wilbur…Robinson" he murmured faintly.
"My Wilbur, yes."
Haynez faced his employer, a doomed expression etched on his face. He'd crossed the Rubicon.
The cold, hard expression facing him was more than enough proof of that.
"I'll have my desk clear by five."
"See that you do."
Cornelius reentered the room, desperate to ease the fury boiling in his blood.
"I'm grounded aren't I?" came a weary voice.
"I'm very disappointed."
"You're always disappointed—you'd think you'd be used to it by now."
Cornelius was momentarily stunned by the bitterness.
"That's not true" he responded levelly. "I'm upset that you'd abuse our trust in you. You lied to your coach, to your mother, and to me."
Wilbur looked away, "You wouldn't understand."
"Then explain it so I can."
"Why bother? You wanna punish me, go ahead."
Cornelius scowled, "I never WANT to punish, you Wil."
The raven-haired teen scoffed, before stiffening; his father had clapped his hands on his shoulders. Wil knew this stance. They now stood in lecturing pose 101.
So he's surprised when he's suddenly pulled into a hug. He's even more taken aback when he hears a note of hurt in his Dad's voice, "Why didn't you tell me you needed glasses?"
"Cuz only Nerds and Geeks wear glasses" Wilbur announced, reluctantly leaning into the embrace.
"That's not nice Wil."
"No, but its true" was the muffled response as Wilbur buried his face deeper into his dad's chest.
"When did you know you needed them?"
Wilbur's response was mumbled incoherently.
"The beginning of se…" he trails off.
"Second Grade" Wilbur repeated. "R's are pretty far back in the alphabet. I'd use the time to listen in on the exams and memorize the sequences for the close-range reading."
"I already told you."
"But Wil, why would you do that to yourself? Sheesh, Son…that had to make school so hard for you."
Wilbur remained sullenly silent.
"There's more to life than being cool, you know."
"Not for me. And I'm not about to botch that" Wilbur growled, trying to pull away.
But Cornelius held him fast, "That's not true."
"Puh-lease" Wil laughed scathingly.
"Wilbur," he scolded sharply "You are a smart kid."
"Don't patronize me" he bit back.
And there was such venom there, that Cornelius was genuinely startled.
Wilbur normally acted so cocky, so self-assured, so confident… seeing hurt and doubt darkening his boy's eyes made his heart contract. How long had he carried these feelings around?
"You clearly know your equations" Cornelius gestured to the board.
"Only cuz you drilled me on this."
"Well, in case you aren't aware, I didn't guide you through that one. You figured it out all by yourself."
"Well whoopdedoo, I remembered something I was told a bazillion times…Did ya know I can even tie my own shoes!"
Cornelius sighed and pulled him closer—petting his hair, the way he used to soothe Wilbur when he was little…before he became too cool.
And it goes to show how upset Wil was, because he wasn't complaining.
"How did Haynez learn you had glasses?"
"He prompted me to get them in the first place. He…well…he had me read off an inventory list. And if that wasn't embarrassing enough, he noticed that my eyes cross a bit when I focus too hard."
There's an aggravated sigh, "So I finally bit the big one and went to the school nurse. She pronounced me blind and set me up with these."
He indicated the round rims adorning his face. "They're not my prescription, but they get the job done. If I'd have ordered them…"
"We'd have been notified."
"But Wil, I just don't understand what the big deal is-"
"Do you notice how lame I look? Kinda like Harry Potter meets Dracula."
Cornelius managed to nip his laugh in the bud—barely. "Those just don't suit you kiddo. You're going to have to try on some different styles. You know, your mother happens to think glasses are quite chic."
"Ugh. Mom will probably think it's cute."
"She probably will." She'd loved it when toddler Wil would snatch his father's glasses and jam them on his face, declaring he was like Daddy. "Yes, your mother will definitely enjoy it."
"Well that'll be some nice, lovely, Saturday afternoon torture."
"You've got to embrace it Wil. You are my son. I've bequeathed my Nerdom to you. You were genetically predisposed to it from either side. Apparently mine was simply more dominant."
"Blasphemy" was the response, but Wilbur's laughter resounds: clear, high-spirited, and warm as it should be.
Cornelius loosens his embrace slinging an arm around his son's shoulders.
"So what was it you were working on?"
"You already know."
"Indulge me." Wilbur trudges over to the worktable, pulling his father by the arm.
"A portable, regenerating generator—uses mechanical energy. Haynez' brainchild. And this crappy prototype is courtesy of yours truly" he holds the small, metal box with one hand. "And the only reason I can call it that with any confidence at all is because its predecessor was EVEN WORSE. If you can believe it."
Cornelius frowns at the cynicism, taking the prototype and turning it over with gentle hands. His fingers pass over a rather roughly welded seam.
"I know it's crooked" Wil snapped defensively.
"Takes lots of practice" Cornelius assured as he inspected it "All by yourself?"
Wilbur nodded albeit a bit shyly.
It's odd, because he wasn't used to Wilbur being conscientious about anything. And Cornelius found he didn't like it.
"I-I know it's not perfect" the teen murmured dejected.
"Wilbur, you did a great job" he insisted. "Spectacular. One month in and you're turning out prototypes. That's very impressive. More than most of our interns accomplish in a year. It's phenomenal son."
But his child looked doubtful; As though he were waiting for something…something dreadful.
Cornelius blinked, caught off-guard yet again, because he'd placed the look now. He'd seen it on interns between the ending of their thesis presentations and feedback. Vulnerable. But despite whatever nightmares they conjured up about rejection, they were at least guaranteed a cordial dismissal.
And he suddenly has an awful insight of the private hell Wil experienced this past month.
Drowning in barbs, and animosity—convinced of nonexistent short-comings.
Not at all how he would've wanted to welcome Wilbur into science.
He wanted to soothe all those hurts, take back those seeds of doubt, and erase all the turmoil.
And it's so tempting because he could. He has the technology; he could easily travel back—alter things. Wouldn't make him much of a role model though; Do as I say and not as I do.
Big brown eyes watched him wearily, awaiting judgment. Completely at his mercy. And he was Father, so his say weighed heavily.
He rested his hand on his child's head, looked him straight in the eye and told him how proud he was.
When Wilbur asked, "What for?"
Cornelius grinned, "Everything; For taking responsibility, for stepping up and giving inventing a shot, for coming clean about the glasses. But most of all, for being my son. And just being you."
It's clear that Wilbur doesn't quite grasp all that, nor does Cornelius expect him to. It was the sort of universal truth you acquired with parenthood.
But he does accept the affection there and smiles back.
"Well, I have a certain prototype upstairs that could use a soldering gun expert."
"I-I dunno. I'm not…an expert. I mean, I only know bits and pieces—I hardly-"
"Wil," he clapped his hands on the narrow shoulders, and steered them out of the lab, "This is part of learning. We slowly acquire life skills… like pieces of a puzzle, and we have to master each one before we see how they fit together, let alone try to decipher the image. And it's ALWAYS okay to ask for help."
Wilbur shrugged noncommittally.
Cornelius knew then that he'd be spending a good amount of time undoing the damage Haynez had wreaked. But Wil was definitely worth it, and the future suddenly seemed even brighter.
"That was some pretty fancy tool-spinning earlier."
Wilbur couldn't help smiling, "I uh kinda saw you do it."
"I guess your lame old Dad knows a couple of cool things."
"…A couple. It got easier… with these." He fiddled with the round wire frames.
"I bet. You know I'll have to tell your Mom about ALL of this?"
"I know. She's…gonna be pretty mad."
"Mmm-hmm. But I think she'll be more upset than anything."
"Yep. The lying part. Got it."
"Wilbur, we're your parents it's our job to see to it that your needs are met."
An eyebrow rose.
"Son, whenever something's wrong. Big or small. Like you aren't feeling good, or you injured yourself, or you can't reach something, or you scared yourself watching something we told you not to, OR you can't read small print" he paused here looking his son in the eye "It's your job to tell us. We only want what's best for you. Always."
The boy's head bowed, and the glasses slid down his nose.
Cornelius gently pushed the large lenses back up.
"It's not so bad. Is it?" He tapped Wil's nose affectionately with his index finger, "Taking after your Old Man?"
"I guess, as long as I don't uncover some overpowering need to wear sweater vests."
"Aww, I was going to purchase us some matching ones."
Wilbur laughed, leaning into his father who wrapped an arm around him tightly.
One fried prototype seemed a small price to pay for this slice of heaven. And the fact that it'd provide a perfect father-son project was an added bonus.
At last all was well with the world: a shady employee was found out and dismissed, an appointment with the optometrist would be scheduled for tomorrow, Father and Son had negotiated a cease-fire.
And Franny was right…as usual. Wilbur took to Science. He'd have to ask her if it was womanly intuition or a mother's insight.
Still he wasn't complaining. In fact, smug satisfaction brimmed—his chest swelling with pride.
It might've been his wife's cowlick, the Framagucci skin tone, Captain Time Travel merchandise, and the James Bond persona…
But those glasses, that need to twirl a socket wrench between his fingers, and that crooked side-smile were all from him.
He was his father's son through and through.
Read and Review Please
OMG—a fic where Wil isn't a sodding moron. GASP. O.o
Side Notes: I see Cornelius being a Helicopter Parent. I agree with the fandom flock announcing that the initials W.A.R. would suit Wil nicely. The firing of Haynez may seem a bit extreme (a.k.a. no warnings, no investigations, *cough* Bureaucracy) but I'm functioning under a "Neil runs the company and has a Zero Tolerance Policy for theivery--physically, academically, etc." Is that realistic...? Probably not, but it sure made things fun and dramatic, huh? : D
As for where did my inspiration originate?
Did anyone else notice how badly taped that piece of paper was? Snicker, it was awful. Especially, considering how great he was at aiming meatballs.
Laaaaaa! Ta Da! Sparkle, sparkle, a fic was born. Hope you enjoyed it!