Author's Note: I know it's been a long time since I last updated and I know that a lot of you are impatient, so I apologize. But, hey! The last chapter is finally here! The conclusion. It's exciting and yet so sad TT at the same time. But I want to let each and everyone of you know that all of your time spent reading and reviewing this fic has meant a lot to me. I will forever appreciate it, really I will. And I hope to see you all again when my next Jimmy Neutron fic comes along. Hopefully, it'll be soon. I'm currently working on another one ft. Becca! I love her! For once I created a character that I actually like! Lol! So please, enjoy and comment. And. . .farewell. For now.

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The room grew with excitement. Becca watched as her brother turned to her. A slow, devilish grin formed on her face, showing a row of pearly whites. She waved playfully, his uncertain and fearful look amused her. He then turned to Meryl and Chase. They played along, adverting their eyes, pretending they had nothing to do with it when indeed they had a lot to do with it. Becca giggled as she looked at her aunt and her new uncle. She had gone to them after spotting them in the crowd. She had to play it smoothly, though. Otherwise Jimmy would've caught on. She met up with Meryl first. She was the first one Becca found and then Chase joined them. Becca talked to them in a way that would appear that they were joking to someone on the outside, but what they were really doing was plotting some kind of tactic to get Jimmy and Cindy to spend some "one on one" time together. Becca had a stroke of genius, but she knew she wouldn't have been able to pull it off on her own. She had asked the newly weds to get a hold of the wedding singer to sing a special request. She was just bursting with excitement. She couldn't wait.

Knowing that Jimmy was watching them, they moved very smoothly. Jimmy's eyes were on Becca specifically, so she moved with ease in the crowd, talking to aunts, uncles, cousins, whoever was there and then she wove in and out of the crowd until she knew Jimmy had lost her. That was when she met up Chase again. They both went to the wedding singer, but neither one of them could come up with a good song. Chase's were too old, so Becca said, but Becca's songs were to recent. They wanted one that wasn't really old, but not really new at the same time. Chase was unwillingly pulled away, but the bride joined Becca and she was able to pick out a great song.

"Sarah McLachlan's 'Angel' was the song chosen for this young couple," came the wedding singer's voice. She had announced Jimmy and Cindy as an official couple as Meryl and Becca had asked and now Cindy was looking both afraid and excited. Jimmy was just scared and confused. It made Becca want to laugh out loud, but she held it back. "Oh, don't be shy," the wedding singer encouraged. "We're all family!"

Becca jumped down from her seat and pulled Jimmy to his feet. She then pushed him toward Cindy. She had to shove him a little to get him to stand in front of her. Becca eyed Cindy, trying to encourage her to stand. She did. Becca nudged her brother once and made him take Cindy's hand. He was still confused and now extremely scared. Becca pushed them to the dance floor and soon the musicians began to play the soft melody and the wedding singer took her mic off the stand and allowed herself to sing as Jimmy surprisingly placed his arm around Cindy's waist and took her hand in his. He probably doesn't even know what he's doing, Becca realized. Cindy smiled and she placed her free hand on his shoulder. Becca wanted to scream out of pure joy, but she settled for a small squeal as her aunt joined her.

"'Spend all your time waiting. . .for that second chance. . .for a break that would make it okay. . .' " They moved gracefully and in rhythm with one another. It was so perfect. Cindy became slightly bold as she inched closer and closer without Jimmy ever really knowing it. Rebecca admired her and hoped that everything would go smoothly for them now. They could talk to each other, one on one now. Couples young and old began to join them on the dance floor.

"'. . .and it's hard at the end of the day. . .I need some distraction. . .' "

As the song continued to play.

"'. . . oh beautiful release. . .memories seep from my veins. . .' "

Becca watched them both, thinking that she had done her job and done it well. Jimmy wasn't being hostile and he was listening to Cindy, but you couldn't tell what he was thinking or feeling. He wasn't expressing much. But he did speak when he was spoken to.

"'. . .let me be empty. . .' "

For some reason, though, Becca felt that he was nervous and very afraid. It was just something she felt and then a horrible sensation went through her as Cindy looked at Jimmy, her eyes seemingly expressing a mixture of pain and longing that Becca had never really seen. And then it hit her.

Something was going to happen. Something bad and almost as if it were her thoughts that sparked it, Jimmy's face changed completely. His eyes grew wide with that fear. Slowly Jimmy began to pull away from Cindy as she looked at him, wondering what was wrong. Her eyes grew worried and then Jimmy completely pulled away and ran.

What had happened? Why had he run away?

Cindy ran after him. Becca stood, ignoring her aunts words. She felt her legs move and then before she knew it, she was running after them. She wanted answers and she'd get them.

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Run. . .Just keep running and don't look back. He didn't dare stop to look behind him. He kept his eyes focused on his destination: the men's bathroom. He knew that at least in there he'd be safe. Cindy wouldn't go in and when he made it inside he was thankful that no one was there. He leaned against the door for a moment, collecting himself. His heart hammered in his chest and he could hear it pumping faster than it usually did. When he felt he was good to go again, he cautiously made his way to the sink and looked at his reflection in the mirror. His breathing was still a little labored from his run and his eyes still held fear. He narrowed them. "Coward," he said to himself. Cindy is in love with you! Isn't that a good thing? He didn't reply to himself. Isn't it?!

He bowed his head low. He was afraid to death of it all! He knew it was a good thing. He loved her too, but she had the capability of hurting him and he didn't think he could survive another stab to the heart. He knew it sounded selfish and cowardly, but he wanted to survive the pain and he knew he wouldn't if he was with her. Every day he'd wonder when she'd get up and leave because she couldn't take it anymore. Because she couldn't take him anymore. He didn't want to live through what he had when his father left. Not only would he be hurt, but Becca would be too and she was the most important person in his life right now and she was hurting enough with her condition and with their father's return. She didn't need any more disappointment and pain. Neither did he.

He wanted to be free! And what was so wrong about that, anyway? Why was it such a big deal?!

The door opened. He didn't bother to look. He turned on the faucet and placed his hands underneath the running water. It felt good on his fingertips and palms. He splashed some water on his face and then lifted his head high and took a deep breath. He turned the water off and let the water on his face run down his cheeks before he wiped it off.

"Jimmy."

He turned, his heart hammering again. Cindy stood there staring back at him, her eyes full of concern and tears. He turned away from her. He didn't want to see her crying and he wanted to make himself angry. Come on, he urged. Get angry. The anger was the only thing that ever kept him sane. It was his life raft. It always was. It was what allowed him to survive this long. It kept him in the path he was in. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't make himself angry. The only thing that came out were the tears and then his sorrow surfaced, his every pain and suffering. A whole side of him that Cindy had seen only once before made it's way to the surface. Just one of the many parts of him he kept safely tucked away.

"It's hard to believe," he began, still looking away, "that you love me. I never would've guessed. I thought it was Nick you were in love with."

"Whenever I spoke about that guy I liked, I was talking about you not Nick, Jimmy," she replied.

He didn't say anything, but he finally turned to look at her. He wasn't holding anything back now. Everything was coming out, everything except his true feelings for her.

"You should've stayed away," he mumbled as he looked down, adverting his eyes, his emotions taking full control of him now. "I told you to stay away and you didn't listen."

"Jimmy," Cindy began, "I couldn't stay away."

"Why not?!" he demanded as he looked at her now. There were tears in his eyes and now he was feeling that familiar anger that had always saved his life before. "It wasn't such a hard thing to do!"

"I couldn't!" she shouted. "Something always drew me close to you. Didn't you feel that way about me?"

"No!" he lied. Of course he had felt something when he had been with her. Something was always pushing him her way, but he never really understood what it was. Anyway, it didn't matter anymore.

"Don't lie to me, Jimmy!" she argued. "You felt something and you know it. You're just afraid!"

"Afraid of what!"

"Afraid of saying it aloud because you think. . I don't know! That you're survival will be a complete loss!" He was taken aback by her answer. "Well, guess what, Jimmy!" She paused for only a moment as she looked at him in the eyes. "Love isn't about surviving anything! It's about embracing! Embracing the one you love! Embracing the good and the bad all at once! It's about living each day with that special person always standing beside you. It's about-"

"It's a lie!" he protested. "Love is a lie!"

Now it had been Cindy's turn to be shocked.

Jimmy shook his head as he looked at her, his tears streaming down his cheeks. "You only say that because you don't know what it's all about! You have never gone through what I have. It's not as simple and ideal as you think, Vortex!" She looked hurt and Jimmy knew she was. The way he had spoken her name was almost as if he were smearing it. "You have never known the pain that is love!" He shook his head again. "One day you'll get tired of me and you'll leave without saying goodbye. Without a word and I'll be left in the cold again. I'll be left with nothing but the questions. Why did you leave? Why wasn't I good enough? Had I done something wrong? I'll be left with all the guilt, knowing that it was my fault. Because it's always my fault! It's always my fault! Even when we were kids!"

His tears fell away as his heart tore. He looked down. "You don't even know what 'love' is. It brings you nothing but hurt and pain. And that's why it's best for you to be away from me! I don't want to get hurt anymore. I'm tired of it. I just want to be left alone. Is that so much to ask?" He looked at her now, watching. "I just want to be left alone! I'm so drained from running away, so drained from the guilt, so drained from everything. I just want you to leave me alone." He didn't want to hurt anymore and saying all this aloud always hurt. But he didn't feel like hiding anymore. She needed to know that with him came a great amount of baggage. Baggage that she could not handle. This would give her the reason she needed to finally leave him alone and it was something he needed as well. But what happened next surprised him. He looked up and Cindy was now standing only inches away from him. She reached out her hand and gently touched his cheek, caressing him with a loving touch. He cringed but allowed her to continue. She was in tears as well and he couldn't understand why.

"It hurts me to see you like this," she said. "It's almost as if I can feel it."

Feel it? He thought. She feels my pain? How is that even possible?

"How could you possibly know?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I don't know, but I feel it right here." She drew her hand away from his face and placed it on her heart.

"But you can't know," he said.

"I feel it and I know you hurt. But I'm not here to hurt you, Jimmy. I'm here to love you," she said. It was like a nip at his heart, hearing her words. He couldn't explain in words the sensation that was going through him, but he didn't like it. It made him feel guilty for what he was doing as if something was telling him this was wrong. But he shook his head.

"And that's exactly why I want you to stay away! I don't want you to hurt me!" he confessed.

"I won't hurt you!" Cindy protested.

"You're hurting me now!" he argued. Cindy was taken aback. "By loving me," he continued, his voice softer now, "you're hurting me and that's what I want to get rid of. The hurt."

"But I'm-"

"Not doing it on purpose," he finished for her. "But it's done, so just, please. . .stay away."

She looked on the verge of new tears and just when he thought his heart couldn't tear anymore, it tore apart. Wasn't it bad enough that he had to do this? And now he had to watch her cry again. She was breaking down and it was because of him, but how else was he suppose to handle it? There was no other way. It had to be done.

"I can't," she said. "I love you!"

"Well, I don't love you!"

. . .silence. . .

They stared at one another, Cindy's eyes and form never moving once. He wouldn't be able to take much more of this. Part of him hoped that she'd run, but another part of him wanted to hold her, to tell her it was all just a lie, but what would happen then? He'd confess his love and then what? They'd finally get together and? Everything would be fine for a while and then? She'd leave him without a word and what would happen then? He'd completely break down and his "shell" of protection would come back stronger than it ever had been. But he'd harbor all that pain, all that heart ache. Everything would be locked away, never to surface again. Don't you see how much pain you can cause? How much pain love can cause?! He asked.

"But. . ." she began, the tear streaming down her face as she twiddled her fingers about. "I love you and I want to be there for you." Her tears fell to the floor one after the other as Jimmy stared at her. His own tears fell

"But I just said-"

"I know what you said, Neutron," she interrupted as she stepped closer. She smiled weakly as she placed a soft hand on his forearm. "It's because I love you that I want to stay by you. It doesn't matter whether you love me or not."

He knew that was a lie. It did matter. It mattered a lot. "Cindy. I-"

"Shh," she hushed him, placing a gentle finger on his lips. "I know."

Renewed tears rolled down his cheeks as he looked down at the girl he loved. She really did love him. Her feelings were genuine. She was so devoted it hurt, but at that moment he allowed his barrier to fall and he broke down, letting his sorrow and guilt consume him as he leaned against Cindy for support. He cried on her shoulder as she welcomed him in her embrace. She soothed him with tears in her eyes and love in her voice.

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There was a knock at the door. Becca sat in her room with her brother's invention in her hand, smiling devilishly. She knew who it was. Jimmy's invention had allowed her to zero in on anyone in range.

The screen read: Subject 5 is feeling excitement, nervousness, joy. It had to be Cindy. After what had happened the day before at the wedding, she was the one still feeling that joy and excitement of knowing that she was just one step closer to cracking Jimmy's shell completely.

Becca had seen it all. She had run after them both and she had waited outside a bit, listening to them and when things got too loud, she stepped inside but couldn't find her voice. Not even when Jimmy had lied about loving Cindy. He did love her, but Becca couldn't speak. Or maybe she just wouldn't. Never-the-less she stood there, watching them from the door. They hadn't noticed. They had been too involved in their argument. And when she saw Jimmy lean into Cindy and finally allow her to comfort him, a weight seemed to lift off her shoulders and a great sense of relief filled her and she knew then that there was definitely hope in bringing out the real Jimmy. The Jimmy she got to see when it was just the two of them. Cindy was the one who would bring him out. That was when she slipped away and left them to themselves. They needed that time alone, just for them.

She walked to her door and opened it a jar as another knock came. Jimmy moved toward the front door now. Goddard at his heals, barking happily, already sensing who was there. Becca smirked as Jimmy opened the door, revealing a lovely, young blond with sparkles in her eyes and joy on her smile.

"Hi," she greeted. "How has your day been so far."

Oooo, Becca thought. If only I could see Jimmy's face.

"Uh. . .it's been alright, I guess," Jimmy replied. Goddard stretched his head up high and licked Cindy's face. Once. Twice. Three times until Jimmy pushed him away. Cindy only laughed.

"Jealous?" she asked. Cindy laughed again and then she stepped forward, spreading her arms, but Jimmy pulled away before Cindy could hug him. Her smile fell then and Becca wondered what the problem was. She was just about to look down into the realistic heart she held in her hand but Jimmy spoke.

"I told you yesterday that I don't love you and I meant it," he said. "So go away. I don't want to see you anymore and I don't need nor want your help." He began to close the door.

"Stop!" Cindy shouted as she pushed the door back. "Don't shut me out! I love you!"

"Would you stop it?!"

Goddard whimpered as he retreated into a corner. Becca shook her head. You're making a mistake! She thought. Her heart pounded in her chest. She wanted to stop him, wanted to say something, but like the day before she couldn't. She didn't understand why, but she couldn't speak or move. You're making a mistake!

"I don't love you!" Jimmy shouted. "And I don't want some ill-tempered, love sick, loose-!"

Becca gasped as she watched the events unfold. Never in her life had she seen anyone do that to a person. Jimmy's words had come to an abrupt halt when Cindy's fist connected with Jimmy's jaw. The impact had been so strong that Jimmy was almost knocked off balance.

"What have I ever done to you?!" she shouted, tears brimming.

Jimmy slowly turned to her as he rubbed his jaw. "You've done a lot," he replied, his voice never once wavering. Cindy looked at him with momentary disbelief, but when her tears fell she turned and ran.

Becca now stood, tears in her eyes and a whole in her heart. "You've done it now," she whispered, finding her voice just a little too late as Jimmy closed the door. "Are your happy now?!" Her voice rose and Jimmy turned. "You got what you wanted!"

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A week later Jimmy sat in his room. Cindy hadn't called or visited since she had punched him and she avoided him in school. No surprise there, he thought. But it was fine with him because he went out of his way to avoid her too, but when they were stuck in the same class together, he never looked her way. He always fought the urge to. Things at home seemed worse and it had all been his fault. Apparently, Becca had been watching from her room and his mother had stepped out of the kitchen just in time to see it all. Neither one of them would look at him. He could care less if his mother hated him, but Becca. . .she was a different story. He sighed as he let his head fall.

His door opened and Goddard ran inside, Becca stepped in after him. The metallic dog happily jumped on the bed beside him and barked twice before licking his face. He patted his head and looked up to see Becca walking toward him. She sat down on his bed and neither one of them spoke. The silence between them was unnatural and uncomfortable. Jimmy waited for her to speak, he knew she had something to say. He called her by his little pet name for her.

"Don't," she interrupted as she finally turned to him. Her eyes were serious and angry. "You're an idiot, Jimmy," she said after a pause.

He stared at her, not believing what she had said. "What?"

"You heard me," she replied. "You're an idiot." She said it slowly the second time, putting more emphasis on each word. "Cindy was right there and you shut her out."

"You're upset because I let Cindy go?" he asked, his anger growing. He didn't need this right now. He stood with the intention of leaving, but Becca wouldn't have that. She quickly blocked his path to the door.

"Let her go? Jimmy!" she scolded. "You let her walk out! You let her run away! She loved you and she would've-"

"Torn me apart!" he finished. "Inside and out!" Becca shook her head. "Look. You don't know what kind of girl Cindy really is."

Cindy was the type of girl who scooped up a guy and used him and finally tossed him away like a new toy that got too boring after only a few weeks after Christmas. She was heartless and rude, an all- round bitch who's demanding, vicious ways were always granted because she was so damn beautiful and irresistible that when-He suddenly wanted to scream. His thoughts always seemed to head in that direction even when he said the worst of things about her.

"I don't know Cindy?" Becca questioned. "I know her enough to know that she changed. Her priorities obviously have, so she must've too."

Jimmy looked at the small girl. She looked almost pleading now.

"What makes you say that?" he asked.

"She's popular and let's face it you're. . .not," she answered. "And she cared about things like her hair, and makeup and appearance. But ever since that project you two had to work on together, she's been slowly changing. She fell for you, Jimmy. Someone not of the same social group and she pretty much gave that up for you. Her outer appearance isn't on the top of her priority list anymore."

"You don't know that," Jimmy said.

"She fell for you!" she shouted. "She dumped Nick for you!"

He was taken aback by surprise at his sister's burst of anger and the passion of that anger with which she spoke.

"Cindy loves you, Jimmy," she continued, her voice softening. "And you're an idiot for letting her walk away like that!"

Jimmy stood there, staring down at the small girl before him. She had to practically strain to look at him, but to him it felt like she was looking down at him and he was the one straining to look up at her, but he soon shook the feeling off and his anger grew.

"I have my reasons!" he argued. "You don't know what's going on inside me!"

That couldn't have been more of a lie. Becca knew everything there wasto know about him. Hell, she knew him more than he knew himself! She didn't even have to ask how he felt because she knew how to read him. She knew him. Plain and simple. That was really all there was to it.

"I know what's going on, Jimmy," she said. "You're afraid."

"Of Cindy?" he asked. Becca made no move to argue. "That's ridiculous!"

"Is it?" she asked. Jimmy turned to her. "You're afraid." She paused only for a moment to look him in the eyes. "Because she has the ability to change you're entire life in a heart beat. For the good. . .or for the bad."

Jimmy swallowed hard.

"And that, Jimmy," she said, "is why you're afraid of Cindy."

Jimmy looked away suddenly ashamed of himself. Fear was a sign of weakness and Becca was the last person he wanted to show weakness to, but she was right. He had thought about it on so many occasions. She could change his life and that was a scary thought. He didn't really know what she could do.

"Jimmy," Becca began. "I spoke to Mr Hunter."

"My Criminal Law teacher?"

She nodded.

"How'd you get a hold of him?"

She smiled devilishly as she sighed dreamily. Jimmy knew enough that when she go that glint in her eye and she sighed that way it had something to do with romance. He rolled his eyes as he guessed that Dr. Swanson was somehow involved. She just never gave up. He hide a smile.

She shook her head, clearing her mind and then she was serious again. "Anyway," she said. "He told me everything about that girl he missed out on. He told you. He warned you, Jimmy! Why didn't you take him seriously?!"

"Because that won't happen to me!" he argued as his anger rose again.

"Yes, it will!" Becca disagreed. "You already let her go! And if you just talk to-"

"I won't talk to her!"

"You have to talk to Hugh first!"

The room grew quiet and unsettling. Jimmy stared at her as if she had grown a second head. Why had Becca suggested it?

"Mr. Hunter told me that you have to go to the root of all your problems and get things cleared up before you can really let Cindy in," she explained. "Look. You don't have to clear everything up. Just talk to him. Figure things out, so you can go to Cindy and tell her how you feel about her. It'll make things easier." Her eyes were pleading again and he could see that tears were beginning to brim. "Please," she whispered. "I just want you to be able to live your life with no fear or regret. I want you to be happy, Jimmy. Really happy."

He looked down as he thought to himself. There were things he wanted to know, but he couldn't even look at the man without wanting to punch him. But he never answered my question, he realized. He thought back and remembered his own words, Why? Why did you do such a horrible thing? He remembered falling to his knees only moments before he had actually spoken the words. Tears in his eyes and Cindy. . .she was holding him. What excuse do you have . . .? Tell me!

"You think too much," Becca said. Jimmy looked at her, tears in his own eyes now. "You concentrate too much on what's in here-" she continued as she tapped his head with the tip of her index finger, "rather than what's in here." She tapped his chest where his heart beat.

Jimmy opened his mouth, "But the brain is what sends-"

Becca shook her head in disapproval and he stopped himself. "Technically, yes," she said. "But forget about that. You're letting your mind find the answers to love instead of your heart. Listen to your heart, Jimmy. It's crying for Cindy. Make the tears stop and listen to your heart." She looked at him one more time before she turned and walked away.

Listen to your heart. . .

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On Monday, nothing had changed. He sat in Dr. Swanson's office going through the routine procedure.

"Jimmy," Dr. Swanson began, "can you explain to me why you told Cindy you didn't love her?'

"Because I don't," he said as he looked away, his arms folded across his chest.

"Becca seems to think that you do love her," Dr. Swanson said. She desperately wanted to figure him out. She knew that he was having problems at home. She only wished that he could talk openly about them. She wanted to know how he felt and getting everything off his chest would make him feel a little more at ease, but she couldn't force him to talk.

"Becca knows a lot, but she knows nothing about this relationship-" Jimmy stopped, realizing his what he was saying. "That doesn't exist."

Ah ha! One small step for me and one large step for Jimmy.

"What relationship 'that doesn't exist', Jimmy?" she asked as she leaned forward in her chair and placed her hands on her desk.

"Look," he said. "I don't want to talk about any relationships. None. Not with my mother or my father or Becca."

"Okay then," Dr. Swanson replied as she leaned back. "Then tell me about your status with Cindy."

Jimmy stood, overwhelmed with anger. "I told you I didn't want to talk about any relationships!"

"Yes, you did," Dr. Swanson said. "And I remember clearly. But we already established that you do not have a relationship with Cindy, so there for I'm still going by your wishes. No relationships. You and Miss Vortex don't share one."

Jimmy's scowl fell away and then he scoffed as he sat back down, defeatedly. "What exactly do you want to know?"

Jackpot!

She stayed seated in the same position as she clasped her hands together and brought them to her lips to hide a smile. She cleared her throat and proceeded. Jimmy scowled.

"Well, Jimmy," she began. "Like I said before, Becca seems to think that you love Cindy. And I'm not saying she's right, mind you, but what do you think of her? How do you picture her? And you have to be completely honest with yourself and with me."

Jimmy looked at her and she kept a straight face. She was determined to make things better. He was hesitating and when he finally answered, it wasn't what she had expected. "Not much to tell." He smiled, weakly as he looked away.

"Something tells me that there's more than what you're willing to share."

"Maybe," he said. "And maybe not."

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After school Jimmy sat in his room. He remembered Becca's words. You think too much. Listen to your heart. If only it was that easy. How does someone go about doing that? How can someone "listen to their heart"?

He walked to his bed and sat down. Sometimes Becca was so insightful and wise that it was scary, but she was someone he could really be proud of and now it was his turn to make her proud. The only problem was this "listening to your heart" thing. He took a deep breath and concentrated hard. Listen to my heart, he said. Listen to my heart. He closed his eyes. Nothing. He sighed heavily as he threw himself back on his bed, his arms spread out wide.

Goddard barked and Jimmy turned to him. The mechanical dog sat on his bottom and out popped the screen reading, Maybe you shouldn't try so hard.

"I guess," Jimmy replied. "But then what do I do? What options do I have?"

You could go to Becca again.

"She's had enough of me," Jimmy answered.

You could ask your mother for help.

"Let's keep her out of this."

You could call Sheen or Carl.

"Aahh," Jimmy replied with uncertainty in his voice. "This may be too complicated for Sheen and Carl. . .he may be allergic." Now he was just coming up with excuses.

Goddard cocked his head, with confusion in his voice. The last suggestion erased and a new one made it's way on the screen: You could try again.

Jimmy sighed. "I'll try again."

He closed his eyes. Listen to my heart, he said. Listen to my heart. Listen to my heart. Listen to my heart. . . listen to my heart. . .listen to my heart. . .listen. . . listen. . .to my heart. . .

Mr. Wilmington, I'm not working with Neutron over there. He's not quite 'partner material. . . .' Don't act so tough, Neutron. I can see behind that. . . I'm not leaving! I told you before. I'm worried and I'm not leaving until I know Rebecca is okay. . .Cindy. . .

She had been missing from his life for a long time, but when she came back she stayed by him through everything. She was there when Becca got extremely sick and she was there when his father returned. She was there to hold him back when he talked--argued--with his father. She had been there when Sarah, Robin, and Samantha were messing with his mind. She was there for all the important things and for so much more.

But, Jimmy, please, don't shut me out. I wanna help. . .she always wanted to help him. Always. . .

She was the one who convinced me to allow you back. . .She really wanted you back. She must like you a lot. She doesn't go out of her way so much unless she likes you. . .

Cindy. . .

You're getting a chance that not many kids get. . .Everyone deserves a second chance. . .And if you ask me, I think she likes you. . .Follow you're heart and you can't go wrong. . .People deserve a second chance. . .

Cindy is everything that I could ever ask for. She's stayed by my side even when I didn't want her there. She was even by my side when I insulted her and hurt her. She came back to me every time. She didn't give up. . .I love Cindy Vortex. . .Don't you dare let Cindy fall out of your reach. . .Grab a hold of her and don't ever let her go. . .And that anger you're harboring. . .get rid of it. . .! That's the only thing keeping you from Cindy. . .

There was so much, just so much.

She fell for you. . ! You have to go to the root of all your problems and get things cleared up before you can really let Cindy in. . .I just want you to be able to live your life with no fear or regret. I want you to be happy, Jimmy. Really happy. . .Listen to your heart, Jimmy. It's crying for Cindy. Make the tears stop and listen to your heart. . .

"Cindy," he whispered.

Goddard jumped on the bed beside him and sat down. Jimmy sat up as he placed his face in his hands. His tears rolled freely down his cheeks. His body began to shake and Goddard whimpered. Jimmy turned to face him. The mechanical dog licked away a lone tear and Jimmy took him into his arms. "I need her, Goddard," he sobbed. "I love her."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jimmy walked down stairs. He looked around the dark, gloomy house he was suppose to call home. Instead of seeing his father's face, he caught Becca's. She looked up at him, asking him a silent question. He smiled weakly and a smile grew on her face as she jumped to embrace him.

When she was back on her feet she said, "I'll go with you then."

"No," Jimmy replied. "I can't ask you to do that."

"Why not?" she asked.

"I know you're afraid of him," he answered.

"But I want to do this," she protested. "I want to be there for you. And you'll need someone to keep you at a safe distance. I know how you are around him."

Jimmy was grateful to her and awed by her. She was brave. Braver then he though possible. She was actually willing to put aside her fear for him. He was so glad to have such a loving sister. He was fortunate and lucky to have her and he knew it. He kneeled before her and took her in his arms again and kissed her forehead. "Thank you."

"No problem."

Together they walked into the kitchen, but Hugh wasn't to be found. Instead they came across their mother. She turned to them.

"Where's. . .dad?" Jimmy asked. "Dad" had sounded so alien coming from him. It must've sounded worse for Rebecca when she said it. Come to think of it, she had never called Hugh "dad" before. She rarely ever called him "Hugh." She never called him anything, but "that man."

Judy's eyes grew with surprise and a sudden burst of joy. Tears made her eyes appear to sparkle. Or had that been from her joy? She opened her arms wide and embraced them both. Jimmy allowed it. He would have to forgive his mother as well. She would be a lot easier to forgive compared to his father.

"I know you're not doing this for me," she began. "But thank you."

She pulled away. "I have to go to the grocery store for some things. I'll be home soon. You're father is in the garage working on some ducks."

"Ducks?" Becca asked.

"It was a weird hobby of his," Jimmy replied. "He had some weird obsession when I was a kid and I guess he hasn't gotten over it. He made them a lot."

"That explains the ducks in the garage."

"Well, I should be on my way," Mrs Neutron said as she moved toward the door.

"Mom," Jimmy called. Mrs. Neutron stopped. "You're one of the reasons why I'm doing this. It shouldn't have to be this way and I'm sorry for adding so much to the problems around here. I was being selfish and I-"

Mrs Neutron stopped him. She shook her head. "It's not your fault. I should've been more considerate of your feelings and Becca's as well before I allowed your father back. I let him in so quickly without even thinking of the trouble it would cause. I was the selfish one. I was thinking of myself. I'm sorry for everything. I was one of the reasons why you had to grow up so quickly. Why you didn't have much of a child hood left when your father had gone."

"I'm sorry to," Becca added. "I said and did a lot of things I shouldn't have, but it was just that you let him in so fast and I was. . ."

"Scared," Mrs. Neutron finished. "I understand and I'm sorry, Becca. I love you more than anything. You do know that, right?"

The small girl nodded and then she embraced her mother. The woman then stood to look at her son. Jimmy looked at her and she gave him a kiss on his forehead and thanked him once again before leaving.

Jimmy and Becca soon made there way to the garage where they found Hugh, cleaning the wooden ducks he had left in his hurry to leave his family.

Jimmy cleared his throat and Hugh turned. "Hey!" Hugh called.

"I don't want to spend too much time on this, so I'll make it quick," Jimmy began. "The night you came back I asked you a question and you never answered me."

"What question?" Hugh asked.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Jimmy said, trying to keep himself calm. Becca squeezed his t-shirt either because of fear or to help him keep calm. At the moment Jimmy couldn't tell. The anger had come so easily. The very sight of him made him want to. . .Calm down, Jimmy, he told himself as he took a deep breath. "Why did you do such a horrible thing?"

Hugh looked at him. It was the same face he had made when Jimmy had first asked him. The memory played back. He was on the floor on his knees as Cindy held him, trying to calm him. Tears were in his eyes. Why did you do such a horrible thing?

"I don't know what you're talking about," Hugh said as he turned away.

Jimmy stepped closer. "You know what I'm talking about!" he yelled. "I want to know why you left! What excuse do you have for not being there when we needed you?!"

"That sounds like two questions," Hugh said.

"Just answer the damn question!" Jimmy shouted back.

Hugh kept his back to them as he sunk his head. "I. . .I was scared."

Jimmy almost laughed. "Scared? Of what?"

"Having a second baby," Hugh answered.

Jimmy was shocked by his answer, he looked at Becca from the corner of his eye.

"The neighbors," he said. "They were talking. At first it didn't bother me, but then it got to me. I still remember what Mrs. Vortex had said. 'That Neutron family is having another kid. As if Jimmy wasn't enough. Now they're having another one just like him!'"

Mrs. Vortex? The woman had gone through so many changes over the years what with her almost divorce with her husband and all that Jimmy had almost forgotten how she use to be. Like Cindy, but possibly worse.

"Everyone was talking and I couldn't take it anymore. I was happy with one kid, anyway," he continued.

Anger began to boil and Jimmy's body tensed. He took one step forward, but Becca pulled him back. "I didn't think that I could raise another baby!" Hugh turned to them. "You were a handful growing up and even though we never mentioned it to you, we got complaints."

"People always complained!" Jimmy argued.

"There were just some things that people said about you that your mother and I kept from you," Hugh explained. "Sure you knew, but there was a lot your mother and I never told you and when your mother told me she was pregnant, I was happy. I really was, but when the town found out, I doubted myself more and more. People were already beginning to compare your sister to you. Saying that she was going to be just as 'destructive' as you. That she was going to cause twice as much damage to the town than you ever possibly could and I couldn't take it."

"So you left," Jimmy said. He reached behind him where Becca now stood, but she pulled away from him. He turned around. She had tears in her eyes and her breathing had become rapid and labored. This whole time Jimmy had felt so guilty because he believed it was his fault that his father had left, but now he knew that it wasn't him. It had been all about Becca the entire time.

No, the thought. This isn't anyone's fault. Definitely not Becca's.

"So it was because of me then?" she asked. Jimmy shook his head as he watched her. Her face was twisted with pain and guilt. She let out a labored breath.

"No," Hugh replied, his voice so much softer then before. It had the careful, loving touch of a father, which for some reason had angered Jimmy. A reason he couldn't make out. "Of course not."

"This isn't your fault Becca," Jimmy added. "It's not you."

"But it is!" Becca shouted. "I'm the reason he left! That means that I'm the reason why this family fell apart and I'm the reason why you and mommy went through so much. I caused it all!"

"No!" Jimmy protested. She looked away. "It's not your fault! This isn't your fault!"

"It was my fault, Becca," Hugh said. "I was a coward."

Becca looked up, looking him in the face for the very first time. She remembered calling him that the night he came back. Everyone did.

"It's true," Hugh said. "I am. I was sacred and I wasn't thinking straight and I wanted to come back. But the more I stayed away the more I thought that you were better off and that it was too late. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make it so hard for you. Will you forgive me? Will you both forgive me?"

There was silence. Jimmy stood as he took Becca's hand. He made his way to the door.

"Jimmy? Becca?" Hugh called. "Will you ever forgive me?"

Jimmy stopped. He looked down at Becca who was wiping her tears away. She didn't seem to hear his voice asking them. She glanced toward Jimmy once and he knew his answer would be for the both of them.

"Forgiveness doesn't come that easy. Not for you anyway," Jimmy replied, his voice firm. Behind him his father nodded as he bent his head, the tears slowly made their way to the surface. "But there's hope." Hugh looked up at him. His tears of sorrow turning into joy. "Just don't expect anything soon." With that Jimmy and Becca both made their way out.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I'm going out!" Jimmy shouted as he opened the door. He had every intention of finding Cindy. He had to talk to her. It had been four days since he had spoken to his father and now he felt ready to finally tell Cindy. He just hoped that she would be able to forgive him. He didn't think that she would, but it was worth a try. He took a deep breath as he stepped outside.

"Cindy's at the Candy Bar, if you're going to go look for her," came a voice.

Jimmy looked down. Cindy's little brother stood before him with a wide grin on his face. Jimmy looked at him questioningly.

"I'm here to see Becca," he answered. Jimmy nodded as he stepped aside to allow the boy inside. "You're late," came Becca's voice. Jimmy turned. "I told you to be here at five." She paused to cross her arms over her chest. "It's five ten!"

Jimmy smiled.

"You know the deal," Becca said.

"Oh, come on!" Benjamin pleaded. "I don't wanna!"

"I don't care," Becca replied as she shook her head. "A deal is a deal. We play dress up now. Come on. To my mommy's room. I think the maid of honor dress she wore for my Aunt Meryl's wedding is perfect for you!"

Ben whimpered as he sunk his head in defeat, following Becca up the stairs.

"You two sure are getting along pretty well," Jimmy commented.

Becca and Benjamin turned. "What makes you say that?" they asked in unison.

Jimmy shrugged. "You've been setting play dates for a while now."

"Don't get the wrong idea, Jimmy," Becca warned. "It's nothing."

"Yeah," Ben agreed. "We're just. . .playing is all."

"Mmhm." With that Jimmy turned around.

"Don't think too much of this, Jimmy!" Becca called.

"It'll be over soon!" Ben said.

"Right after we play dress up!" Becca added.

"Yeah!" Ben agreed. There was a pause and then. . ."No!"

Jimmy laughed as he closed the door behind him and walked away, listening to Becca and Benjamin argue. Definitely another Neutron/Vortex love-hate relationship, he thought. He smiled to himself thinking of Cindy. I just hope their's doesn't get so complicated.

He walked to the Candy Bar, growing nervous with every step. He stopped dead in his tracks for a while as he closed his eyes. His hands formed fists at his sides. You can do this, Jimmy, he encouraged himself. Just tell her you love her. Explain to her that you were scared. Tell her everything. Don't be afraid anymore. You can't be afraid anymore. He continued to walk as he let out a heavy sigh. It wasn't long before he was outside, peering inside. He was ready to open the door and step inside when a hand fell softly on his shoulder. He quickly turned, startled by the sudden touch, but he collected himself when he saw Samantha standing in front of him.

"I'm sorry," she said. "For leading you on like that."

"No problem," he said as he looked away. He really didn't have time for this and she was among one of the last people he wanted to talk to. Besides, he knew better than to believe anything she said. She was a liar and a huge deceiver.

"It is a problem," she said. "I just-"

"Look," he said. "I know you're not really sorry, so let's save the sympathy crap for others who care, okay? Okay."

She scowled and walked away. He rolled his eyes and turned toward the door. He opened it and stepped inside, looking about. It was full of people. Fellow classmates were seated all around, joking and talk amongst one another. And. . .was that Dr. Swanson and Mr. Hunter?!

Jimmy turned away. Okay, he thought as he cleared his throat. He stood for a moment, watching Cindy. She looked so down. Her eyes never left the small bowl of ice cream she had sitting on the table. She sat alone with her elbow on the table and her chin on her palm. She twirled the spoon in the bowl. He looked at her. All of her. She wore an open neck, long sleeved shirt with a pair of long pants. I guess she's not up for completely impressing people, he thought. She cared about things like her hair, and makeup and appearance. But ever since that project you two had to work on together, she's been slowly changing. Becca was right. She usually was. Jimmy slowly made his way to her. He slowly sat down across from her and cautiously made his way beside her. He was a little surprised that she had yet to notice him, but he was thankful that she hadn't. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He tried again, but. . .

"What is it, Neutron?" she asked as she continued to play with her ice cream. She didn't look up.

His heart hammered in his chest. He looked down, not knowing what to say. "I. . .uh, just wanted to. . ." He swallowed hard and tried again. "I need to, uh, talk to you."

"Why so nervous?" she asked as she slowly looked up at him.

"No reason," he replied before looking away. A blush grew on his cheeks. He couldn't believe how incredible she looked even when she was looking so glum. "Cindy. . .I. . ." He looked at her again and she waited with a heavy sigh. ". . .wanted to say that. . .your. . .ice cream is melting."

She looked down and sighed. She probably expected something else.

I'm so stupid, he said. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

"Is that all?"

Jimmy looked up at her and looked back down as his eyes grew sad. Cindy brought her spoon to her lips and tasted the melted ice cream. She obviously wasn't expecting anything else from him and so she ignored him. He sat there watching her. When she was ready take another spoonful of ice cream, Jimmy leaned toward her and waited for the right moment. She slowly leaned toward her spoon and then without ever seeing it coming, Jimmy kissed her. She dropped the spoon on the table and pulled away. There was a look of shock in her eyes. Jimmy looked at her as if he were a child waiting to hear his punishment. They were sad and wondering.

"I love you," he whispered. He watched as Cindy's eyes grew wide. She shook her head and stood.

"Don't toy with me, Neutron!" she shouted, ready to walk away. Jimmy took her hand and pulled her back down into the seat. He made her face him.

"I'm not toying with you," he said. "It's true!"

"But you told me before that you-"

"I lied," he interrupted. "I was so afraid of you."

She looked at him, her tears rolling down her beautiful eyes.

"I was afraid that you'd hurt me despite that you said repeatedly that you wouldn't." A lone tear rolled down his cheek. He looked down as his hands fell away from her shoulders. "You have to believe me when I tell you. I really do love you. I was just afraid! And I didn't think I could trust you! I'm so sorry. It was all a defense mechanism. I knew you were capable of doing what Hugh and Sarah did to me. I didn't want to have to go through all of that a third time. It would've been too much for me to handle. I just knew that it would hurt. Especially, coming from you. You were special. And I was just so-"

Cindy's touch stopped him. She lifted his chin and she smiled. "I believe you." She caressed his cheek. Jimmy let out a sigh of relief as he placed his hand over her's. He closed his eyes as he thanked her. He then kissed her palm. "Jimmy." He looked at her and she wiped away his tears. He couldn't believe it. Was it okay? Could he finally live a life in peace?

He looked deep in her eyes and he saw something. It was something he hadn't really bothered to take the time to see before. Something he hadn't seen or felt in a long time. Something he hadn't seen or felt since he and his parents were a family. It sent an undying sense of warmth and security through his heart and spread through his entire body. It was like a warm, tender embrace and this was from her eyes alone. He wondered what her kiss and actual embrace could bring him.

Cindy leaned forward as she looked at him. Something urged him to tilt his head as he looked into her eyes and down to her lips. Fueled by love or desire or possibly both he didn't know, but he leaned forward with his head tilted as he closed his eyes. Their lips touched and slowly and ever so gently they kissed. Breath mingling, hearts joining, and intentions pure. Jimmy could feel the barrier around his heart crumble as it had when they kissed in the library and the on coming emotions seemed to wash the remains away. It was such an incredible feeling and he knew, he just knew that there was no other feeling in the world like this one and he felt so complete. Finally complete. It was like. . .new technology. It was scary, but so fresh and exciting! The feel and the joy of something entirely new to the world. Or just new to his heart. It was overwhelming and surreal and he never wanted it to end. Suddenly, his past felt so small. A sense of achievement swept through him, like he had accomplished a life goal and he was looking forward to his next challenge. With Cindy at his side.

When the kiss ended, he placed his head on hers. "I love you so much," he whispered.

"I love you too, Jimmy." Cindy blushed and for the first time Jimmy caught it. He smiled as he embraced her, holding her tight.

"Well, it's about damn time," came Libby's voice. Jimmy looked up as Cindy turned. She had a huge smile on her face as she stood behind them with her arms on her hips. Sheen and Carl standing beside her, smiles on their faces. Becca and Ben emerged from behind them.

"Tell me about it," Becca agreed.

"It took long enough," Ben added.

"Shut up you little twirp," Cindy replied playfully. "You're lucky I'm in such a good mood." She leaned back against Jimmy as he placed his arms around her.

Ben rolled his eyes as he moved toward the table. "So can we have ice cream now?"

"No!" Becca shouted. "We have to leave them alone for a while longer. Geez!" she said. "Haven't I taught you anything?!"

"You promised me!" Ben said. "You said if I played your little dress up game and put on that dress then we could come here and eat some ice cream. Your treat!"

"I said we would," Becca agreed. "But I never promised, you silly boy."

There was a sudden burst of laughter as Ben blushed. He scowled, folding his arms across his chest, mumbling something under his breath about "girls."

"It doesn't get easier from here, little man," Sheen added. "Believe me. They give you orders and make you do even more embarrassing things. And then they make you wait for hours when you make plans for a nice day out! And then they take away your Ultra Lord action figure and keep it-"

"Sheen," Libby said exhaustedly.

"Well, well, well," came a familiar voice. They looked up. "It's nice to see all of you."

Mr. Hunter and Dr. Swanson stood side by side. They greeted everyone. "It seems like you really are doing better, Jimmy," Dr. Swanson commented.

Jimmy nodded.

"So you did take my advice after all," Mr. Hunter put in.

"Your's and various other," he answered as he looked at Dr. Swanson as well. "You've helped a lot. Thanks."

"No problem. What else are teachers for," Mr. Hunter replied. "Other than teaching, I mean."

Jimmy nodded.

"Well," Dr. Swanson continued. "We should be on our way. See you at school."

"Don't have too much fun," Mr. Hunter added as he followed the psychologist out.

"Guys?" Carl called. They turned to him just as his stomach grumbled. Becca laughed.

"Let's treat ourselves then," Libby said as she moved toward the table. Jimmy and Cindy moved in and soon they were all sitting together, talking and laughing among each other as they ate ice cream. Things were different, but in a good way and Jimmy only hoped they'd get better. He looked at Cindy beside him who was laughing at something Sheen had said. She's beautiful, he thought with a smile. He sighed dreamily and joined the conversation.

His heart was finally open, ready to love. Ready for a new home.

The End