Disclaimer: I Do NOT own Meet the Robinsons…Nope…
AN: Hey there! Still Alive over here. And plotting dastardly things…my favorite past time.
Decided to give Romance another go! This here is a Companion Piece to Happily Ever Never. Can be read alone…whatever floats your boat.^^
Special Thanks to GigitheRagDoll and MissingthePoint for nudging me towards more experimentation with fluff. Braving the Unknown is rather fun I admit. ^^
Hopefully you'll enjoy it!
Once Upon a Time Machine
Murphy's Law: Anything that Can go Wrong…Will.
Where was it? He dug through his dresser, haphazardly pulling out shirts and vests in his desperation.
Where could it be? He swore he'd laid it all out last night, but now…He had his black slacks, shirt, and jacket on…but his tie! Where was his tie?
He was losing his marbles…so this was where his future son would inherit his insanity from…Dear ol' Dad.
In spite of himself, he smiled at the thought of Wilbur, fondly reminiscing over their conversations.
He frowned suddenly. If he didn't get his act together…Wilbur…No! No he couldn't think like that! He had plenty of time to achieve his Happily Ever After.
He swallowed, the daunting task seeming even more impossible at sixteen than it had as a twelve-year-old orphan. Darn hormones…
He glanced nervously at his closet length mirror, running a fretful hand through his spiky hair.
His glasses slid down his thin nose, and he fiddled with them a bit; Mom and Dad said they were a mark of intellect, but they were parents…they were obligated to say placating words of comfort…what would SHE think of them…
Too nerdy? He bit his lip and checked his watch for the umpteenth time, he was already twenty minutes behind schedule, if he wanted to arrive on time, he needed to leave…now.
He sighed, head hanging, it's a shame because he picked the tie especially for…
His eyes widened. There we go!
He grabbed the tie, little devil daring to slip beneath the foot of his bed!
Dark, emerald green. Perfect. Bound to catch her eye. In fact, it was the first item he'd bought. He'd tentatively approached a store clerk, holding out the tie and asking if she could help him build a suit around it.
Well she talked to another saleslady who talked to another who recognized him from a magazine, and soon he had a flock of middle-aged women eager to help him. Was it for prom? Who was the lucky lady?
They tried to dissuade him. That green wasn't a friendly color for blonds. And though no one voiced it, he could hear 'especially ones as pale as you.' That the light green shirt would wash him out, make him look sickly.
But he was adamant: green was mandatory. Her favorite color was green…
He had to use every advantage he could get.
The directors gushed over him as he strode through the lobby. All thanking him profusely for attending, that who could be a better speaker than him?
He responded that he's always been an avid lover of scientific innovation.
They complimented him over and over on his successes. How great it was that someone his age can show such support for others—very inspiring, they wish their children could act like that.
Made him feel terribly artificial—rattling him because he couldn't answer truthfully.
The real reason he was here was because he looked over the pamphlet last month, when they first offered a spot for him in their presentation and saw her name…
He drummed his fingers on the arms of his chair, set out in the middle of the stage beside several others. Strategically placed for him, Miss Angelle, and four members of their city's Project Science Committee (a.k.a. readers of names and handshakers).
He spotted her immediately; the carnation pink ensemble making a lovely contrast with her dark hair.
Clearly he wasn't the only one who thought so. The boys standing in line were eyeballing her—craning their necks for a better view.
Feeling distinctly ruffled at the way they're raking their eyes over her. And who wouldn't? That dress hardly hid her blossoming curves.
His sight trailed down to the end of her dress, where very nicely shaped calves came into view. If his eyes were drawn to them more often than one could deem proper it was because he admired athletic ladies…who did karate…and would someday marry him.
A boy not far in front of her took that moment to bend down and tie his shoe, attempting to flex nonexistent muscles.
She never batted an eye.
He's somewhere caught between relief and exasperation. Thankfully, she remained ignorant of the blatant flirtations—walking through life with blinders on—
Of course it also made things difficult for him…did she not notice him or did she CHOOSE to ignore him?
He'd been staring at her for the better part of the last five minutes. Couldn't she feel the weight of his gaze?
Franny began playing with an earring—amazing, how she could even make bored an alluring expression. Her gaze swept over the stage and meeting his, finally!
Her expression brightened and she waved energetically, practically bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Smiling…at him…for him. His heart swelled—no one could fake that. Her eyes shined.
Nancy Angelle, another speaker for the awards presentation, and a fellow classmate at his university, approached and took her seat beside him.
Sure they'd butted heads in the beginning, but they'd come to an understanding that there was indeed room enough for TWO child prodigies at their school.
She adjusted her glasses, flicking her blonde hair off her shoulder as she smiled playfully, "Your girlfriend's cute."
"Thanks…uh-er…well, sh-she actually isn't m-my-" he spluttered.
"Looks like she'd like to be" She leaned forward, muttering in his ear "Stop overanalyzing Science Guy! Go for it Neil!"
The lights had dimmed—the buzzing of the crowd dulling to silence.
Cornelius swallowed once as the spotlight hit his podium.
Cornelius cleared his throat as the microphone adjusted to his voice.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to commence this occasion. These young men and women have proven their merit in this year's 64th annual Junior League Science Exploration Society Exhibition."
He privately applauded himself for not mucking up that mouthful. He knows even now that when he has his own company in the future. He's keeping these titles short: R.I.'s Youthful Achievers. Done. Concise. Neat.
"Proudly sponsored by InventCo and SynTech. Too often, we take the quality of our lives for granted. Anchored in the Present, most of us have trouble seeing beyond our daily struggles. Pop quizzes, traffic jams, water bills" the audience chuckled supportively.
"Yet these individuals were able to see beyond that. Gifted with the ability to focus on the Future; Their Future, Your Future, OURS. Determined to make it a better, greater place for all of us with bold ideas, unique theories—fresh new perspectives that will revolutionize the world!"
"So encourage them! Applaud their unwavering bravery! Dream WITH them and we can all make something truly amazing. I ask you…to be brave with them. Let go of your Present and Keep Moving Forward to a Brilliant Tomorrow. I ask you to support these Science Pioneers. I hope you'll be inspired by these incredible visionaries,"
He thought of one pig-tailed girl in particular, who'd grow up to be an amazing woman.
"As they've inspired me. Thank you."
The crowd cheered.
"Well there you have it, a brilliant speech by our city's very own rising prodigy Cornelius Robinson" the announcer stated taking the microphone. "We'd like to give him a special thank you for coming here tonight. Our Science Exploration Society awards Cornelius L. Robinson the Certificate of Scientific Prestige. Its one thing to be truly brilliant as a scientist, quite another to be truly respectable as a man—Here's to Mr. Robinson achieving both with dignity despite his young age."
Another roar of approval sounded.
Nancy gave him an approving nod as he sat down beside her. Feeling rather numb, shocked by how high he was placed in their esteem. He stared at the award in his hand.
"Good job, Science Guy" she murmured "See? Nerds can win too."
He shook his head smiling. Early on in their friendship, in a moment of particular insecurity concerning his self-identity, he'd made the mistake of venting to her.
Movies and books always depicted burly macho men, handsome Fabios, and average Joes as the heroes. They either had six-pack abs and couldn't spell "cliché" or won a lady with blunt statements or Shakespearean monologues. Unrealistic.
Not that the female heroines were much better. The girls were usually supermodel glamorous or lovably ordinary. And they always behaved on one side of the spectrum or the other: completely self-sufficient dominatrix or willowy locked in a tower damsel. Tch. Impractical. No man would want to be brow-beaten all the time, or waste his whole life gallivanting after a woman who couldn't keep herself safe.
But what really got him, was how smart people were always Villains, or Mad Scientists, or eccentric babbling FOOLS who were inept in all other areas of life. You know SOCIAL FAILURES doomed to grow up into Cat Ladies or Bizarre Uncles.
Didn't Hollywood ever stop to THINK how HARD that made it for the scientifically gifted? It pretty much screamed that Nerds like THEM shouldn't hope for Fairy Tale endings.
She'd blown up like a grenade and didn't talk to him for a week. It'd taken an intricate explanation from his mother to understand that he'd inadvertently offended his friend.
Apparently, implicating to a girl that she didn't fit into the Pretty Heroine Category and that her fate as a Smart Person may lead her to becoming a Cat Lady…was highly insulting.
Thankfully, a healthy bout of groveling cleared it all up and she'd come to realize that all of that was based on his OWN fears.
Which led into him…telling her about Franny.
Nancy smiled once more before focusing politely on the speaker.
Her speech would come after the names were read and then he'd have one last closing spiel.
His eyes flitted over to the sidelines, privately pleased at the look of awe gracing many of his peers' faces.
But there was only one person he wanted to impress. He wondered how that would look on her. She was usually so confident, so unshakeable, so…Franny. He briefly fantasized how it'd be; her glancing demurely up at him through her long dark lashes, blushing prettily as she admired his achievements.
Terribly unlikely…but he could dream right?
The announcer started reading off the names and Cornelius waited with anticipation.
He clapped excitedly, waiting for her to appear so that he can cheer her on.
Her name's repeated.
The next name's called.
Where was she?
He just saw her a little while ago. What happened?
She wouldn't miss it on purpose. She was dressed for this occasion—rather nicely too…extremely nice.
Cornelius stood, feeling Nancy's gaze on him the whole time as he abruptly left the stage.
He was ruining the presentation. They both knew it. They both knew why.
He glanced back once he was safely on the sidelines.
Rather than looking disapproving, her face was decidedly smug.
Turning to face him, she held up her hands and lightly touched them together while mouthing "KISS HER."
She grinned as he blushed madly and offered him a thumbs-up.
Harassing the remaining teens in line proved fruitless, and he found himself confronting the stage manager and demanding to know where she went.
A techie not much older than him caught his eye, motioning to the bright green exit.
He offered a sincere "thank you" and hurried away.
"Fran?" he called out—anxiety rising. He sprinted through the empty lobby and out the front entrance. Did something happen? He hoped she wasn't hurt.
Nerves? It was hard to believe fearless Fran could have stage fright.
Maybe he should've knocked on the ladies' restroom. Just in case. Maybe she wasn't out here at all. He hoped she wasn't. It was awful cold, and that little dress she was wearing would hardly offer any warmth.
Not to mention, that cold, late-night parking lots were no place for a lady—let alone one as radiant and lovely as Miss Francesca Framagucci.
"Franny?" he repeated more loudly.
He was about to call one more time when he saw her. The night wind blew her dress carelessly up past her knees. He swallowed, pulse increasing.
She looked over her shoulder, surprise clear in her features.
Caught like a deer in the headlights, he floundered—out of breath from the run here and…something else…something that's put his heart in a strangle-hold "They said-you-spr-sprinted out here. Is everything okay?"
She turned a rigid smile on her pink lips, "Oh my cell was about to go off, it vibrates twice before starting an obnoxious song. I didn't want to be a bother so I-I, ya know-" she gestured wildly with a hand.
She was lying. He knew it as plain as the nose on his face. How could he not? If his smooth-talking future son couldn't shoot one past him, his blunt but sincere future wife never stood a chance.
And they were so alike—their faces fully expressing every emotion that flitted through their heart.
The slightest eyebrow twitch, quirk of the lips, shade of their eyes…which did change… Different shades of brown depending on their mood. Bright and reflective when happy, dark and hollow when sad. So blatantly obvious to him.
In a handful of exchanges, he's dealt with their future son—He knows those eyes too well to be deceived. Her eyes…
Wife or Son. Not-so-secret Crush or Best Friend. It was painful seeing those eyes filled with unhappiness.
"Fran?" He frowned, not buying her act for a second. "They read off your name" he started a bit unsurely—Duh, Genius, she probably knew that—that's what they do at these events, "You…you didn't appear." Thank you, Captain Obvious. "If you come back right now, they might be able to read it again at the end. I could ask if you like?"
"Its fine" She replied sharply—a fixed smile freezing her features.
Such a plastic smile, not at all the one she's capable of—the heartwarming, quench your soul's thirst one he knows she can give. The one where you know you'd do anything to make this woman happy…just for a glimpse of it again.
"Franny? I don't mind. I can ask them. I can. If that's what you want I-"
I'll have them read your name as many times as you want.
He swallowed, moving closer—determined to fix it; clear away her sadness, make her smile…for him…
"No, I don't want to be here actually" she admitted bluntly. She blinked rapidly as though surprised she admitted that.
He set his hands on her shoulders.
Something he does to Wilbur when he visits spontaneously, and he's sure the kid's lying through his teeth about having permission.
In this day and age, Neil's taller than his time-traveling thirteen-year-old. And if Neil's height was impressive when compared to his colt-legged boy, he towers over fourteen year-old Franny. Making her seem all the more petite and feminine.
It doesn't help that the shoulders under his hands don't elicit platonic feelings of affection.
No…these ones are smooth and soft and make his brain hazy.
"Fran" he murmured.
She smiled more brightly; face stretching tightly, before ducking her head down.
He followed her line of sight and stared as well; pretty little feet all done up in pearl pink nail polish, strapped in silver shoes that HAD to be terrible for her arches.
He should probably have said something suave and flattering, but all he could keep thinking was she smells nice. Very nice. Nice enough that he'd like to step a little closer, or pull her in a little closer, or do both.
Eyes still downward, she abruptly stepped away from him. Effectively shattering that fantasy.
He tried to swallow the feeling of utter dejection that swept through him.
She trotted over to the stone steps leading back toward the foyer, twirling gracefully as she announced that" These ceremonies are dreadfully boring."
He despised himself, for how closely he watched her dress lift as she spun. But he's sixteen and a boy and he can't help it!
She plopped down on a cement step and he sat down beside her. Trying his best to be manly and not shiver at how darn cold the step was.
Maybe he could convince her to return with him to the lobby. It'd be warm in there, and he could buy her a soda and a candy bar.
Doubtless, he'll be much more charming when he's not stuttering from cold…or at least one can hope.
He cleared his throat, "It's freezing out here, let's go back inside. Don't want to catch a viral upper respiratory tract infection."
She smiled again, assuring that she's perfectly fine, and stared purposefully forward again at the grand fountain in front of the building.
She was watching the fountain cycle, he was watching her.
He frowned heavily. She was ignoring him. She risked a look back.
Yes, I'm still here. Brown eyes widened at his grave expression.
She flashed another grin, "Don't you have a final speech?"
Yes. But it's insignificant. You look like you're going to cry…
Leave. Almost as clearly as if she spoke it…but she didn't…and that gives him a feeble, fragile sense of hope.
She smiled again, that 'tough guy' er 'girl' smile.
A strained expression that he'd seen Wilbur put on.
Don't worry about me. I'll handle this.
Which was…infuriating as usual. Made him feel like yelling, 'I'm right here, tell me what's wrong! I want to help!'
Sick of watching her suppressed shivers, he placed his jacket over her slim shoulders.
He wasn't sure what to expect, but the fact that she doesn't shrug off the garment was vastly encouraging.
He sat back down beside her, closer this time—his knee brushing against hers.
She looked him in the eye.
"They'll be missing you" she informed him seriously.
Duh. He knows that. The Committee had been ecstatic about him speaking tonight.
"You should go back. Your closing speech-"
"They'll figure it out" he snapped.
Her head tilted to the side, mouth forming a small 'o' of surprise—undoubtedly shocked by his rudeness. His breath leaves him suddenly—temporarily mesmerized by the adorable expression.
On regaining his senses, he hastily apologized. Babbling about how stressed he's been lately and a multitude of other things she probably didn't want to hear about…
When she doesn't respond, he began stammering—more excuses and apologies flooding out his mouth.
"-And then I tripped over a spare arm of C4R1, dropping a package of new beakers, and then when Professor Macter was done berating me for that. He changed his tune and chewed me out for blowing up the chemistry lab again.
Which wouldn't have happened if I'd gotten some sleep last night but I had this great new idea for optimizing mail distribution so I've been taking a few of Mom's Coffee Patches. Don't recommend it, if you're a caffeine-lightweight like me. But anyways the withdrawal was awful and I was really tired which made me fumble with the soldering gun and before I knew it Kyle's satchel was ablaze.
Probably didn't help that I missed breakfast this morning, ran into a doorframe, which kind of bent my glasses—I don't know if you can tell—misplaced my tie and ended up searching for it so long that I was actually running late tonight and-and-I-I-"
Her lips twisted into an amused smirk and she giggled. Laughed at him, was he so pathetic?
His blood ran cold.
"Thank you" she murmured softly.
His eyebrows shot up—perplexed.
She giggled again, nudging him with her elbow, "Nice to know you aren't perfect."
"Far from it" he muttered before smiling; grateful to finally glimpse a real smile quirking her lips.
Blue eyes stared into brown—boring into one another. He felt a warm thrill run through him. Something about having her eyes on him—being the object of her attention made him feel…like leaning closer…and earning his role as the sole focus of her affection.
"I'm not sure why I'm here" she confessed suddenly. Like a gunshot...effectively murdering the romantic mood he was desperately (and likely ineptly) trying to set.
He blinked, "You're here because of your theory on genetic enhancement of amphibians. Manipulation of certain key bases in DNA, such as cytosine, could result in a favorable mutation. With proper mapping and experimentation, the possibility for increasing the relapse time between synapses could well produce musical frogs."
She stared at him. Darn, did he remember something incorrectly? He'd done his best to cement every detail in his memory. He thought-
She moved closer, face peering into his intently. Her whole side…touching his…he swallowed, body tingling.
Just like that the atmosphere changed—charging with some unknown electricity that simultaneously filled him with dread and excitement.
Was this it? Was this the moment?
Was that his cue to lean in?
Carbon dioxide mingling. Their lips were less than a hand span apart. He could close that gap…
But every Action had a direct Reaction…and he dreaded an unfavorable outcome.
He needed a sign! Some positive signal to prove to him he's not just some nobody following her around like a puppy. That he actually means something to her, that he—
Her pupils dilated.
His mouth went dry. Attraction.
He's watched enough animal magnetism documentaries, and read enough date tip websites to recognize it.
His heartbeat sped up, pounding in his chest—it's a wonder she can't hear it—it seems deafening.
Her eyes locked on his, face tilted just so. This is it!
This is it! This is it!
He began leaning toward her—body on auto-pilot—relying blindly on an assortment of Hollywood romance scenes, childhood fairytales, and teenage hormones to get the job done.
When she abruptly turned away.
Wait! What? It seemed! He thought! Mixed signals?
No, no, she was definitely attracted.
Everything in her body language suggested attraction
He'd hesitated! He'd contemplated too long! Neil you fool!
Ergh! He missed it! He'd seen the moment, and instead of just going for it, he over-thought it.
He watched her closely. Eagerly waiting for her to glance back at him—to give him a chance to smile winningly or say something witty or romantic or-or something. He was desperate to rekindle that chemistry…but to no avail.
Time passed and all too soon a dark blue Camry drove up.
Franny's father, a large intimidating swarthy skinned man, thanked him for waiting with his little girl.
He replied (thankfully without stuttering) that it was "no problem at all Mister Framagucci, Sir."
Cornelius cringed inwardly: he was going to have a scary father-in-law…greeaaaat.
The man nodded approvingly and beckoned 'Francesca' to "get in the car before she froze to death."
She grumbled about "Parental Units" while she returned Neil's coat.
The blond tried to catch her eye when her fingers brushed over his. But she was busy staring down again, thanking his shoes for spending time with her.
Cornelius replied, that it "was an honor he hoped to repeat in the future."
He was deemed "too kind." Hopefully that wasn't her code for 'too desperate.'
He opened the car door, helping her inside and wished their family well.
And then…the Framaguccis sped away—his princess whisked from him to a far away land in the kingdom of Suburbia—and he was left alone.
"Weeeell? Science Guy?" Nancy nudged him, finding him on a bench outside. Her eighteen-year-old boyfriend Kyle leaned against the wall near them. He waved merrily at Neil who ignored him.
He was feeling a distinct twinge of jealousy at them. They'd come together so easily. One day over lunch in the cafeteria after three weeks of countless little conversations, they locked eyes, admitted their feelings, kissed, and then finished their sandwiches.
Some people just had it sooo disgustingly easy…he's honestly liked Franny since he was twelve. She was such a vivid person—like Wilbur. Bright shining stars highlighting the space around them, and you just can't help but be snagged into their gravitational pull.
And he was just an asteroid; a boring lump of rock that they just happened to take along for the ride.
And now-now she made his palms sweat, made him go tongue-tied, made him…crazy—certifiably insane.
Because he's started thinking about her all the time. It doesn't help that it's early spring and already everyone at his school's paired off. And he KNOWS who's supposed to be at his side. But SHE doesn't know and he's got to WIN her somehow.
He wasn't terribly romantic. He'd like to be if that's what she was hoping for. Or macho and strong if that's what she admired. Or lovably sweet or whatever she wanted.
But all he could be was himself.
The inventor dully watched all the families disperse to their cars. He let the committee down...didn't even get his kiss…
Maybe if he'd been a Hollywood Hero, he'd have "gotten the girl."
He desperately hoped Franny didn't end up marrying him just for financial security and a touch of attraction.
That filled him with terrible, depressing feelings that made him want to wring answers out of Wilbur and make sure his future was as happy as he envisioned it.
"Were they furious with me?" he asked at last. Probably the last time they'd offer him a role as guest speaker.
"At first" she replied lightly.
"And then I let them in on it."
"What?" he shrieked. "Tell me you're joking. PLEASE!"
Her Cheshire cat smile has his stomach in knots.
"Nancy!" he groans, humiliated. He'll never be able to look these people in the face again.
"And they're rooting for you Neil! Once they knew, they made sure that nobody else came…ya know…looking for you. See? Everybody's on your side."
Cornelius took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Thank the heavens, he's dealt with Wilbur. Or he'd NEVER be able to recover from this-this ill-conceived plan, this blatant disregard for privacy, this terrible though well-intentioned scheme.
"Sooo…you two were out here long enough. Tell us" she motioned to her boyfriend Kyle, who'd helped videotape the ceremony "We're dying to know. What do her tonsils taste like?"
"What?" Cornelius squeaked.
"Yeah, I'm thinking she's probably a strawberry but Kyle here thinks she's minty fresh"
Neil's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
Nancy continued undeterred, "So is she a bubblegum gal or a tic-tac popper?"
He flushed bright as a tomato.
"Nancy!" he gritted scandalized. "Don't…ask about that stuff…not for conversation..."
Her jaw slackened, eyes wide with disbelief. "Good Lord, YOU made it to second base?"
His eye twitched; he felt like he was going to melt from embarrassment or indignation or both.
Simultaneously, mortified and offended—sheesh! They were treating him like he was incapable…really…He had a son! In the future perhaps, but clearly, he eventually figures all this relationship stuff out.
He suddenly re-thought that and what it insinuated and flushed heavily.
When Wilbur visited him again…good lord…he wasn't going to be able to LOOK at him…Oh my…looking at him…and KNOWING…
His face heated up even more.
"N-no" he admitted.
"I didn't think you were quite that bold, but you did kiss her right?"
"I…I tried but she wasn't…"
"Paying attention, hmm, you picked a tough one Neil. You're gonna have to work to catch her eye."
No kidding. He practically lunged at her and she was none the wiser.
"Who's the lucky lady?" Kyle inquired lazily. He didn't get why Nancy was so keen about pairing off the whiz kid.
"Franny Framagucci" Nancy answered promptly.
He snickered, "Froggy Franny?"
"Don't call her that!" Neil hissed, sending him a venomous glare.
Kyle winced; as if the high-heel through his foot wasn't reprimand enough. Now he had an angry inventor to contend with.
"Be nice!" Nancy hissed "He's liked this chick for ages!"
"Right…Franny…yeah, I can see the appeal. I mean she's got a nice pair of-"
The look Cornelius sent him, dared him to finish that sentence.
"Of-of" what else came in pairs? Arms? Legs? Eyes? Ears? Uh…
"-shoes" he answered desperately, that came in pairs! It worked!
Cornelius' sharp blue eyes narrowed "Uh huh."
Sudden fears of being strapped to a metal table and dissected didn't seem like an impossible Hollywood drama anymore. Kyle would avoid the lab areas of the campus for the next three weeks—claiming that his doctor said it was for his health.
"Anyways, here's her certificate" Kyle announced cheerfully, shoving the paper into Neil's stomach.
"You can present it to her Personally, Science Guy"
He stared at it in surprise—Her name neatly printed in the center.
Nancy smiled—clearly pleased with herself, "The Committee WAS going to mail it to her. You know, standard procedure. But open learning that a CERTAIN someone was smitten, made an exception."
And suddenly the young inventor beheld the sheet in a glorious new light.
"Let's hope you have more luck in Round 2."
R & R Please! ^-^