Characters: Robert and Aditi Fowler-Cooper...and Sheldon
Word Count: 2257
Author's Note: This fic is the latest work in a series, and heavily features original characters. Persons interested in this story are highly encouraged to read The Gamete Indeterminacy and The Connubial Catalyst prior to reading this fic.
Disclaimer: The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and is produced by them along with Steve Molaro. It is a Warner Brothers production and airs on CBS. All characters, plots and creative elements derived from the source material belong exclusively to their respective owners. I, the author of the fan fiction, do not, in any way, profit monetarily from the story.
Dust bunnies aside, hiding under the bed really wasn't all that bad.
Aditi lay flat on her stomach, the crown of her head grazing the netted fabric on the bottom of the mattress, and her chin resting on her folded arms before her. She pushed her disheveled brown hair and overgrown bangs from her face with the heel of her hand. In the wee hours of the morning, everything was dark, and the only light in the room came from her Winnie-the-Pooh nightlight that glowed dully through the cotton fabric of the bed skirt. Forgotten treasures were scattered all around her: stray hair barrettes, a penny loafer that didn't fit her anymore, and half of an oatmeal cookie that she'd snuck into bed one night after dinner. Aditi remembered being afraid of the abyss beneath her bed and the floor back when she was a little girl; now, however, at ten years old, she was much too big to believe in monsters, goblins and boogey men.
She reached down into the pocket of her pajamas and pulled out an old mobile phone that Amy had given her to play with. The wireless service on the device was disconnected, but Aditi liked to carry it around anyway. It had games on it and she could use it to send secret messages to Robert. In fact, it was the very method they had used to plan the night's top-secret meeting. She swept her finger across the face of the phone, unlocking it, and noted the time. It was 4:06 AM, which meant Robert was late. Aditi's shoulders sunk as she stared grimly at the screen: he had promised her he would set the vibrate alarm on his own discarded phone (given to him by Uncle Leonard) and stick it under his pillow so he'd wake up on time. Plus, Aditi knew for a fact that his bedroom was only a two-second walk from hers. She could make the trip from her door to his door in only four giant steps. She could make the trip to the hallway bathroom in ten giant steps (and 13 bunny hops), and Mom and Daddy's room was only seven giant steps away. She knew because she had counted one day when she was bored because Robert wouldn't play with her because he was mad that she'd told Adam that he'd cried when Amy pulled his last baby tooth.
Aditi tucked the phone back in her pocket with a humph. Robert was always bragging about how he had been able to tell time ever since he was two years old, but it was really nothing to brag about if he was still going to be late for a meeting as important as this one. She drummed the fingers of her right hand against the floor and leaned the side of her face into her balled up fist with a frown (pushing one eye shut). After a while, she turned onto her back, and then idly started picking balls of lint out of the mattress fabric. She thought about what it would be like if—instead of being born into a human family—she had been born into a family of lint. She imagined that her aunts and uncles would be dust mites and her cousins would be cobwebs. Sure, it might be fun to get to travel by static electricity. Ultimately, however, she thought she might end up in somebody's belly button, which would be icky and dark. She was suddenly very glad that she was a little girl and not a lint ball. When that distraction was exhausted, she checked the phone again; it was 4:13 and, just as she was about to send Robert a message inquiring as to his whereabouts, she spotted three sharp flashes of light through the veil of the bed skirt. She stuck her neck out just beyond the foot of the bed. Again, a series of three pulsing lights shined through the crack in the bottom of her bedroom door, summoning her from her hiding place.
IT WAS ROBERT!
She hurriedly slid out from underneath the bed—the knees of her pajamas gritty with dust—and crawled to her bedroom door. Stretching her arm up as high as it would go, she turn the doorknob and pulled it open. Robert (also on all fours) scurried inside bearing a black, metal flashlight.
"What took you so long?" Aditi asked in a raspy whisper as he went by.
"I don't know what you mean," he replied in kind, his voice barely audible over the sound of cardboard scraping against the wood floor. "I came when I was supposed to."
"Uh uh," she disagreed. "You agreed to come at 4:00. It's already 4:13!"
"Actually," he countered, "I agreed to wake up at four. However, after stretching my muscles and putting on my slippers, I had to gather my secret meeting kit."
The idea of a "secret meeting kit" piqued Aditi's attention. Robert pointed his flashlight at the small box he'd brought along with him, and her eyes lit up with glee. The tattered container was a treasure trove of doodads and gizmos perfect for a mission of this sort; it contained a gyroscope, binoculars, a black light, a motion alarm and a dart launcher, among other knickknacks. Aditi, however, was taken with the fingerprint duster kit, and reached in to take a closer look.
"No, DeeDee!" Robert said, much too loudly and his hand balled into fists.
"Shhh," Aditi shot back, also much too loudly. "You'll wake up Mom and Dad."
"Then don't touch my stuff," Robert said.
"How are we going to make this mission successful if we don't share our resources?" Aditi asked, clearly pleased with herself at formulating this unimpeachable line of reasoning.
"You could have at least asked first," Robert said, and if it weren't so dark, she would have seen the pout on his face.
"Then, can I see the fingerprint dusting kit, please?" she asked.
"No," he said, taking it from her, and he stuffed it back into the box.
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because we don't need it yet."
Just then, both children froze. They could hear the distinct sound of their parents' bedroom door opening. It was followed by the sound of footsteps that approached, and then passed, Aditi's door. By the thudding gait of the nighttime walker, it was clearly their father.
"Honestly, Amy," he muttered to himself as he went by, his voice strained and perturbed, "After a late dinner—hastily eaten and high in fiber, cheese and acidic sauces—some flatulence is to be expected."
Both children then heard the hallway bathroom door open and shut, followed by several loud, gaseous noises that could only be taken for the aforementioned gastric distress. Aditi bit her bottom lip and covered her mouth, just barely suppressing her explosion of giggles. Robert gave her a pointed look that she could barely see in the dark, silently admonishing her to get a hold of herself. The initial gassy interlude was followed by a high-pitched, melodic toot, and Robert found himself trembling as well, trying to stifle his own laughter. A moment passed and both children, through great effort, finally calmed down and swallowed their amusement. All was silent and then, as if from a tuba, one final blast rang out from the bathroom and both children collapsed into audible giggles. Aditi threw her head back, making throaty sniggering sounds. They could hear the bathroom door open and, in short order, the sound of Sheldon making his way back to his bedroom. Desperate (and only marginally able to rein in his own mirth), Robert grabbed his sister's wrist with one hand and pulled her towards the bed, under which both children crawled to hide. Just as Robert's body slipped under the bed skirt, he stuck out his other hand to grab the cardboard box bearing his equipment and pulled it towards him. It made a loud clanging sound along with a swoosh, the rattle of the box's contents combining with the sound of the box sliding against the floor. The sound of Sheldon's steps slowed before finally stopping just outside Aditi's door. At close range, shoulder to shoulder, the twins could see each other's faces more clearly, and they exchanged looks of terror mixed with accusation. Both children went perfectly still. Sheldon's steps resumed, and disaster was averted when there was the large clang of something metal settling in the box. A second later, Aditi's bedroom door flew open and the light came on.
"Aditi?" came Sheldon's voice, tinged with panic when he undoubtedly saw his daughter's bed was empty. Realizing their plan was in serious peril, Robert signaled for his sister to reveal herself. After a moment of apprehension, she stuck her head out from under the bed, the bed skirt falling around her head like a bonnet.
"Hi, Daddy," she said, her voice as chipper and bright as she could muster.
"Why are you under the bed?" he asked, sincerely baffled.
"Because," she said, and Robert bit his bottom lip with one eye closed and his face scrunched into a panic. Aditi was terrible in a crisis, and he'd been unable to feed her a suitable story. There was no telling what she might say. He felt her reach behind them and he followed her hand with his eyes from his hiding place.
"I dropped my cookie," she said, producing the withered and stale specimen from weeks gone by.
Sheldon took a step forward and then stooped down, taking the crumbling snack from her hand. "This is filthy Aditi," he said, truly appalled. "You are much too old to be eating things from the floor, much less sneaking food to bed." He shook his head. "I swear, young lady, it's as if you are deliberately trying to decimate the functioning of your immune system. Do you want to have to go and get shot like you did last time?"
Aditi recalled the event with a shrug. "It didn't really hurt that badly."
"Maybe not for you," Sheldon said shrilly, "but I fainted, hitting my head on the instrument cart. Would you want to have me suffer that way again?"
She shook her head with wide, sad eyes. She looked at the cookie and then back at Sheldon. "I'm sorry, Daddy," she said.
As was his custom, he relented immediately, powerless before her cherubic eyes. "Worry not. Just… just get into bed."
"Okay," she said, nodding. As Robert fought to hide himself, Aditi pulled herself forward, scrambling to stand, but Sheldon lifted her from the floor and placed her into the bed. Pulling her bed sheets around her, he tucked her in.
"Don't tell Mommy, okay?" Aditi asked.
"Not this time," Sheldon said, which is what he said every time.
"Good night, Daddy."
"Good night," he said, and tenderly brushed her bangs from her face. Then he walked over to the door, turned out the lights, and left, shutting the door behind him.
As soon as the door to his bedroom shut, Robert hopped from his hiding place, joining his sister on the bed. Aditi popped up as well, sitting on top of her sheets.
"That was a close," she whispered, smiling brightly, and maybe a bit proud of herself.
Robert brought a finger to his closed mouth, demanding silence from his sister. Then, reaching into his box that had arguably created the near-debacle, he pulled out a sketchpad and marker. Turning the cover page under, he scribbled hurriedly on the first sheet, illuminating his writing with his flashlight. Aditi squinted at his message.
"It's invisible ink," it read. Within seconds, the writing disappeared. He scribbled again. "This is the way we have to talk from now on," he wrote. "Leaving our communication untraceable."
A smile of pure delight flashed across Aditi's face. She snatched the marker from her brother's hand excitedly.
"This is so cool," she wrote.
He snatched the marker back. "I know." Then he pulled another marker from his box, handing it to his sister.
She uncapped it and then began to write a message of her own. "So what should we call this club?" she asked, each syllable fading only moments after it hit the paper. "I think it should be called the Lady and the Tramp Club."
"Why?" Robert wrote. "You're not a lady, and I'm not a tramp."
Aditi covered her mouth, trying not to laugh. "Because I saw Mommy and Daddy eating spaghetti with pieces of hot dog cut up in it, and then they started kissing when they didn't know I was there."
Robert considered the idea then conceded with a shrug. "Fine," he said. "But I'm not going to sing anything."
Aditi had a question. "How far away is it, again?"
"Exactly 146 days," Robert wrote. "So, we have to start planning now!"
Aditi nodded. When he used a lot of exclamation marks, he meant business. "Alright," she wrote, and lowered herself to the bed on her stomach, kicking her skinny legs in the air. "Let's invite Aunt Penny and Uncle Leonard."
"And Uncle Howard and Aunt Bernie."
Aditi's jaw dropped and her eyes grew wide. "LET'S GET A CAKE :)"
Robert sighed, short on patience. "Of course we will," he wrote. "Put on your thinking cap, DeeDee. We only have 28 meetings left and we don't want to waste any time on the obvious."
Aditi nodded with a smile she couldn't contain.
This was going to be the best surprise anniversary party ever.
Endnote: As always, thanks for reading and reviewing. Lio worked her beta magic, so all errors are mine.