Disclaimer: I don't own Meet the Robinsons. Alas...
AN: Hey everybody! I'm still alive, yaaay. And it IS a feat, cuz my finals were CRAZYYYY! I've only just recovered. And now fiiiinalllyyy have the time to update! Sorry for any misspellings, I wanted to get this one out!
Hopefully you guys are still interested! Here's the next chapter! Enjoy! : D
Cornelius sighed from the backseat…of his own car. Gaston had insisted on driving them all back.
And with Neil's eyes swelling shut at a rapid rate, he couldn't really argue; though he cringed every time Gaston made a sharp corner.
Honestly what had he been thinking? Rushing into a fight … Franny could've probably dropkicked that guy no problem.
Their almost-date was ruined. He laid his head down on the icebox next to him.
Still, he glanced at Franny sitting in the passenger seat. With her window rolled down, the breeze blowing her loose hair every which way… so pretty …
Noticing him she turned, eyebrows knitting together in concern, "Cornelius? Are you sure we shouldn't take you to a doct-"
"I'm sure" he told her flatly. Yeah, it sucked that he took a wholloping, but come on! He wasn't going to be a sissy about it.
"You know … you … for someone with no experience, you held your own."
Gaston nodded in agreement, "From what Franny told me, you fought the good fight, soldier."
"Thanks" Neil replied dryly.
"I mean it" Franny murmured as she stared at something in her hand. "Really, quite a trophy you got, don't you think?"
Cornelius' eyebrows shot up in confusion. What on earth was she going on about? No doubt about it, she was definitely wearing a 'cat-ate-the-canary' smile.
She pulled the seatbelt under her arm and twisted awkwardly around in the passenger seat.
Cornelius frowned; he could feel the nag rising up in his throat: Franny, sit forward, it's dangerous having your back towards traffic! What if we're in a collision?
She'd probably glare at him the same way Wilbur did whenever he scolded him about such things. He idly wandered if she'd snap the same way too.
Wilbur usually sneered: "Can it bubble boy! I passed kindergarten, I can use scissors without your supervision!"
Against his will, he took a deep breath. His mouth opened to voice the scolding. Darn, his automatic safety lectures! He just couldn't help it! Especially, with people he cared about….when she opened her hand for his inspection.
He blinked, "Is that Josh's tooth?"
"You… you know…they can't reattach that if it's…here."
She gave a wicked smile, "Make a wish."
And with that she tossed it out her open window and onto the highway.
They ended up dropping Franny off first. And by dropping off, it was more like chucking her out.
Gaston had pulled up by the curb of their neighborhood, announcing that it was her stop. He didn't even park and rolled up the window while Franny told Cornelius "I'm sorry" and "thank you" and "goodbye."
Cornelius felt his spirits plummet: any chance of a "My Hero" kiss was officially gone.
Gaston seemed to know it too, relaxing into the driver's seat for the first time that afternoon—a slight smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.
The blond inventor felt his temper ignite at that. It was one thing to thwart him out of brotherly duty; but getting amusement out of it?
Cornelius grit his teeth together. They'd been sooooo close. If he closed his eyes he could still feel her breath on his lips. One minute … he thought bitterly. Couldn't you have come one minute later?
It was a godsend when Gaston pulled into the Robinson's driveway, shifted into park and removed the key from the ignition. The radio filled what would've been awkward silence. On the ride over, both boys had remained silent except for the sharing of directions.
Gaston took a deep breath and then looked into the rear view mirror, "Thanks…for you know…watching out for her…I mean especially since … I mean…you're not exactly-"
"Tch. Like I'd just stand aside," Neil wrenched open the door and climbed out.
Honestly, it was infuriating; as if being on the intellectual side of the spectrum, made him a defective male specimen incapable of offering any kind of defense. His Y chromosome was perfectly intact thank you very much! And with it, he had just as much brute "man-strength" as the next guy.
He just preferred resolving things with his smarts versus his strength.
He stretched gingerly. Franny dropping him so suddenly had given him some whiplash.
"Hey" Gaston tried again as he shut the driver's side door. "I-"
"So, should I call a cab for you…or well … as I'm really having trouble seeing, do you want to call a cab for you? There's a phone-"
"Nah, I…I need the walk" Gaston replied, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Both young men faced each other. Cornelius couldn't quite tell if it was a face-off or a stalemate and then there was a loud triple honk.
"Art?" Gaston asked incredulous, "how did you-"
"Yeah well, Franny called me-" the eldest Framagucci barked from the truck.
"And? You're shift doesn't end till nine-"
"Well, Jodie could use the hours and we gotta be somewhere" he told him meaningfully.
Gaston raised an eyebrow, "Art?"
Art reached over and opened the door, "Come on."
Gaston chuckled, a sinister smirk stretching his mouth, as he hopped in and rolled down the window.
"Later Robinson!" both of them chorused.
Totally caught off guard by the suddenness, Cornelius just stared as they sped off. What were they up to? What about Franny? She was home all alone! He didn't have long to dwell on it though—his nose and eye throbbed.
Right. Next Mission: Ice.
Then regroup for Phase 2.
Franny Framagucci sighed, staring gloomily at her tank of frogs. Usually, watching them was enough to shake her out of any kind of funk. But lately … nothing had helped her this week.
Her gaze swiveled to the magazine balanced on her bedside table: Science Today-Modern Marvels. It was an old issue from February.
She'd justified keeping it, because there was an article about tree frogs (which she'd always thought were adorable—shame they're poisonous).
And also because…well…
She flipped it open to a well-worn spot: Local Inventor—Teen Genius.
He'd made a revolutionary design for a hover car.
She traced a finger around the outline of his schematics, lightly humming "The Jetsons" theme song.
According to him, he felt he was well on his way to manufacturing one within the next ten years.
She tried to imagine a world of flying cars: rolling down your window to a blur of colors and clouds.
She giggled as she thought of having to honk at a flock of geese and remarking to her passenger 'Oh traffic's always bad this time of year, migrating season.'
She smoothed her hand over the page, sighing happily as her insides trilled with delight.
There he was grinning triumphantly at the camera. His blue eyes as bright and vivid as the first place ribbon he was holding.
Even though she knew the page by heart, her eyes wandered over the caption: …Currently a student at the Tomorrow Times University of Science and Engineering…
No doubt he was earning degrees in engineering, physics, mechanics, and the like.
And here she was still in stupid middle school—again she cursed her luck. She wouldn't be a high-schooler till this September.
Which meant that college student Cornelius Robinson thought she was a stupid kid.
Err! Why did she have that stupid Deer in the Headlights moment? She's beaten Josh in class tons of times! Why, why, why did she have to freeze then?
She'd had a perfect opportunity to show off her skills and she blew it.
"And you paid the price" she murmured, staring again at his striking eyes.
Eyes that were probably swollen shut now…
Man, she should've just taken the bus, and spared him all the drama.
"I'm her boyfriend."
Even now, recalling that made her flush. Sure she knew he was just saying that to help her out. But it was the way he'd said it. With such confidence, no, certainty … like it was a fact … the sky's blue, we live on Earth, frogs are amphibians, and oh yeah, we're going out.
It gave her a dangerous sort of hope. Even though, her common sense kept telling her that any chance she had was done.
Come on, after all that …he probably hated her guts.
He hadn't said ANYTHING when she'd told him goodbye the other day. Yeah, Gaston had pulled away really fast, but …
She'd said "I'm sorry" and he didn't say anything …
And when she asked Gaston about it, he'd just shrugged. No message. No "tell Franny, it's fine."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. And she'd tried to kiss him! Maybe he hadn't wanted that! Maybe she misunderstood!
No … he'd pulled her down before … Gaston showed up.
Well, maybe it was just because he was a boy. Boys take kisses even from girls they don't like because of hormones.
But was Cornelius that kind of boy?
She shook her head.
Regardless…regardless of whatever the case was… she needed to buck up and apologize…properly. Not just a toss away "I'm sorry."
So what if she was nervous? So what if she was thoroughly embarrassed. It had to be done.
After all, Framaguccis weren't known for being timid and she had to restore her name.
"There's no doubt about it. She thinks I'm a doofus" Cornelius grumbled from his spot at the picnic table. "Worse…a really uncoordinated doofus who bruises easily."
So far none of his professors and classmates had guessed the cause behind his injuries. They were split on the reason why: either he'd been mugged or one of his inventions revolted. While he'd had to suffer a few jokes at his expense, they'd all accepted it easily enough.
It was his parents who'd freaked out.
He groaned and laid his head on the table, and stared at a happy couple strolling through Tomorrow University's campus.
"I don't see why this is such a big deal" Nancy replied flatly—annoyed by the constant rehashing of his woe—he'd spent the last week bemoaning his lameness.
Neil glared at her as she poked at her salad more viciously than normal—the cafeteria issued plastic fork just wasn't up to par.
"You don't GET it, Nancy" Kyle announced as he munched on Cheetos. "It all boils down to the Macho Meter."
Nancy arched an eyebrow.
"It's true," sighed Cornelius. "My caveman ancestors would be disappointed. I should've won that fight! I had every motivation necessary!"
"You're being ridiculous. She couldn't have mistaken you for some kind of body-builder-adventurous type. You're a science guy, a gadgeteer like Kyle. Being a pansy comes with the territory."
"Hey!" Both boys protested angrily.
"Oh don't even argue" she snapped "Kyle you're taking a Shakespearean Literature class for kicks—I've seen you, you enjoy iambic pentameter. And Neil! You're entering the mad scientist zone the way you coddle that prototype of yours."
"C4RL is easily distressed. He-"
"IT" she emphasized "is a machine. And I've seen that machine Neil. You don't even make burly robots."
"C4RL is a domes-well-assistant styled-"
"Say it. Domestic. He's a domestic robot. He's not a destroyer of worlds or guardian of super-secret phlebotinum. He's a secretary."
"No! No … he doesn't…just organize stuff…he can do…other things."
"Ah right, how could I forget, we saw him ironing laundry last time, didn't we Kyle?"
"Hey his sensors know the perfect temperature required for button-up shirts-"
"ALL I'm saying" Nancy interrupted loudly "is come on folks, if RIGHT this second a ninja came out of those bushes. I'd be the only one with even half a chance of outrunning him. So Neil, there wasn't even a slim possibility that you would triumph—he was a boulder, you were gonna get crushed."
"The lady doth protest too much"
"So I'm a total loser, gee thanks Nance you're a real pal. That's exactly the sort of pep talk I needed."
"Relax, I mean you knocked a tooth out. For regular people that'd be 50 points. For you that's gotta count for at least 100."
Cornelius ran a hand through his hair, "She hasn't called me, and…I'm kinda afraid her dad'll pick up if I try. And she hasn't been online. Or if she HAS been online, she's been keeping her status as "invisible" which means she's avoiding me on purpose. Which means-"
"That you're developing some stalker-ish habits, my friend."
He frowned and pulled a crumpled brown bag from his satchel. Great. His peanut butter sandwich was completely squashed.
He gave a growl of frustration. Unless he wanted to eat it with a spoon, lunch was canceled.
He made his way to the trashcan.
"Where are you going?" Nancy called after him.
"The trashcan Mother! You know, provided that ninjas don't ambush me!"
Before any retort could be made, a feminine voice rang out:
"Hey! C-Cornelius? Hey?"
The blond felt his mouth go slack.
"Oi, Cornelius! Thy lady becketh!"
He very nearly walked straight into a pole adding yet another injury to his laundry list of ailments. Because it couldn't be…could it?
There, standing astride a rusty red bike, was Franny…Beautiful Franny with her hair in a simple ponytail, that adorable cowlick defying gravity.
He glanced at the old boy's bike beside her. The girly tassels on the handlebars and white basket were clearly efforts to feminize it, but somehow they only enforced the feeling that it was a hand-me-down.
She straightened her flowery blouse, as if bashful of his intent gaze.
He blinked. When did he walk over to her? His head whipped over to where Nancy and Kyle were sitting watching. Dang, he couldn't even remember! She was definitely an anomaly who distorted his sense of time.
"Um" she bit her lip. "I…well…I would've made you cookies or brownies or something, but uh well, we didn't have chocolate chips and I…um, but what we did have. I mean well, I-"
"Here" she pulled a heavily foiled pan from her basket. "I made it in cooking class; Mama's making me take it." She made a face. "Didn't make Gaston or Art do it."
"Uhh" His eyes were on her hair. So…was she wearing it like that … because of what he'd said. Was she wearing it like that for him?
"Not that I don't like cooking or that I'm not good at it, cuz I am. Which is-I-"
"What's in the pan?" asked Nancy abruptly.
Franny's lips pursed into a line.
Cornelius gently pried the pan from her white knuckled grasp. He pulled a corner up "Oh its lasagna! For me?"
"Yeah" she scuffed a toe on the ground "it's a 'I-hope-you-don't-hate-me-after-that-fiasco-cuz-I'm-super-sorry' snack."
"Don't be silly. None of that was your fault."
She glanced up at him hesitantly, as if gauging his sincerity.
"I feel kinda responsible for-" she waved a hand at his eyes "this"
"Don't. He's a creep. You…you're not gonna have to see him again at your dojo are you?" The thought made his stomach squirm. He didn't want her anywhere near that jerk.
"I was worried about that too, but Gaston spoke to Marcello who talked to Ferdinand who heard Gertie and Nicky talking and Josh up and quit. Weird huh?"
Cornelius didn't say anything at all. Well that solved one mystery. Looked like Gaston and Art paid someone a little visit.
Oddly enough it made him feel better.
Sure it meant things were going to be…difficult for him but once he had proven himself to them and was accepted into the fold…
It meant he could rely on them to watch out for Franny…and one day for Wilbur too.
He felt his smile widen as he looked into Franny's doe eyes.
Gosh she reminded him of Wilbur.
That glint of mischief in them…
The way their eyebrows would lift in a 'Yeah, I just broke the rules to get my way. Whatcha gonna do about it?'
He blinked as it struck him, "H-how are you here, I mean—wait a minute, don't you have school? Or was it a minimum day? You-"
"Don't worry about it," she waved a dismissive hand "Lizzy's covering for me." She giggled and gave him a conspiratorial wink.
"You…you ditched?" he asked aghast.
"Well, it wasn't gonna stay warm otherwise" she indicated the pan.
He glanced at the casserole and then at her hopeful expression.
She offered him a plastic fork.
His stomach growled and he quickly took it.
Best decision of the day, it was sooo gooooooood.
"Do you like it?" she asked him shyly, tucking a dark strand of hair behind her ear.
"This. Mmm, this is reeeeaaaallly good. I mean it. This is delicious."
She giggled as he wolfed down mouthfuls of cheese and pasta.
"Nancy, why don't you cook for me to show me your affection" Kyle whined as he came on the scene.
"Trust me, I'm showing you affection by NOT cooking"
"I'm glad you like it" Franny replied, rather breathlessly "I better go though, Mr. Stevens will only buy Lizzie's excuses for so long."
Neil chewed and swallowed. "Lemme give you a ride."
"Nah! I got my bike, I'll be fine."
"I've got a rack. Dad and I installed it when we camping."
"YOU went camping" she asked, eyes sparkling with amusement.
"Neil, you can't miss class" Nancy interrupted "You know Professor Callen always starts it with a pop quiz."
"Nancy it's fine."
"Neil-" Nancy growled.
"She's right, Cornelius. I-I don't want to impose-"
"Franny honestly, I'd feel better if I gave you ride back. I mean by this time traffic's gotta be terrible. It's the lunch rush."
"Just a quiz"
"You miss one and you're grade point average will lower. Bye bye Mr. Valedictorian."
He sent Nancy a furious look.
"No, she's right I oughta get going-"
"I haven't seen you on the computer!" he gushed desperately .
"That's because Gaston's been hogging it for his finals! And … well I kinda owe him too."
Cornelius felt his teeth grind a bit more.
Gaston … Thwarting him again!
The bell rang and he watched her take off, nearly giving him a heart attack when she cut off a red SUV in the parking lot.
As she swerved up and onto the sidewalk ignoring the honks, Cornelius had a revelation: he thinks he knows now where Wilbur gets it from.
"She's a firecracker. I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, Science Guy."
"What the heck is your problem?" He exploded.
"Sheesh Neil, I'm doing you a favor."
"By sabotaging me?"
"By letting you maintain some dignity. You've got to set some limits. Otherwise you'll be eating out of the palm of her hand."
The sudden image of her in a toga feeding him grapes with her dainty little fingers sent a rather pleasant tingle through him.
"Ew. You're thinking something perverted aren't you?"
He choked. Not quite able to deny it.
That night (much to Cornelius pleasure) Franny's status was online.
Who cared if they'd started chatting at 9pm and it was 1:13am? Or that he had an essay that was due tomorrow for his European History Final that he hadn't even started?
No…what mattered was that she'd finally accepted that he had no hard feelings about the karate fiasco. And then she'd just opened up to him and they were gabbing about anything and everything.
FroggyPrincess4Ever: Gaston's graduation is next week, ya know assuming he doesn't
bomb his last tests. Papa says we're having a barbecue. You could be my guest!
Cornelius grinned at the little winking smiley face finishing her sentiment, and quickly typed his response.
ScienceGuy: It'd be my pleasure. Let me know what day and time.
He sat back in his computer chair, feeling monstrously pleased with himself.
Phase 2: Garner Acknowledgment.
Good. He had Franny's attention.
He smiled as he downloaded the e-Invite, she sent him. Then with an obvious reluctance, she typed that she ought to go to bed. Since, it was only a matter of time before somebody needed a glass of water and realized she was still on the computer.
He agreed that he needed to turn in and that maybe they could talk tomorrow?
He sighed, utterly content before swiftly standing up and stretching.
Definitely. She'd said "Definitely" before she logged out.
With three exclamation points no less!
Cornelius grinned as he approached his "Mission Board."
Alright, Neil time to launch Phase 2.5 Familial Acceptance.
What was great about that was they didn't even have to really like him! He just had to earn their tolerance. Get them to accept him as boyfriend material. That way he could continue wooing without interruption.
Gaston would be tricky of course, but Neil wasn't going to be scared off so easily. Not when Franny chose him as her guest.
Wow, he was doing better than he thought. He'd tricked out his parents' old Candy Land game board and hot glued it to his corkboard.
Having attached a tack into a blue game piece (that he'd swiped from their 'Sorry!' board) he took great care in setting it into the next box on the path.
Alright Neil, this is it! Once you get through this you'll have a definite shot!
His smile faltered a bit. Timing was everything. If he backslid now, all his efforts would be null and he'd have to start over.
Still, he was almost through the most challenging part of all—getting himself successfully through the "Molasses Swamp" or as his post-it renamed it "THE FRIEND ZONE."
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