Disclaimer: BAH, I hate these things. I've run out of creative ways to say 'it's not mine'.
A/N: After the train wreck of my last post, I had to do some reconfiguration of this chapter. It turned into a re-write of several sections, giving me lots of lovely, decently-written blocks with not a transition to be seen. So if this chapter seems choppy to you, just know that's because IT IS.
But come on! Two chapters posted within twelve days of each other! That's got to deserve a vote or two on the savejimmy website!
Cindy gradually progressed from the fog of unconciousness, a lump the size of a tennis ball pulsing agonizingly on the crown of her head. Slowly – laboriously – she let her eyelids flutter upwards, then close again. When no greater pain than she was already in followed the action, she opened them fully, confused momentarily as to why Jimmy was hovering over her. She groaned as the events of the preceding hours slowly trickled back to her memory banks.
"Good," Jimmy stated (more to himself than her), giving her a fleeting smile, both his actions and word-choice blatently defying how Cindy did indeed feel. Jimmy turned away, entirely missing the nasty glare Cindy had summoned.
"Don't sit up," he instructed, walking to the far corner of – what Cindy could only assume to be – the cell King Goobot had them thrown into. Cindy had no intentions to disobey this order, as the glare she had painstakingly thrown at Jimmy had drained her of the little energy she had stored up, though she did resent being told what to do quite a bit. She let her eyelids droop once more, listening to Jimmy a yard away drop something onto the damp stone floor with a loud clatter, only able to muster the faintest of scathing emotions at his clumsiness.
Jimmy's voice – once again just above her – startled her into full conciousness when he asked, "Apple, tomatoe, or grape?"
Contradictory to Jimmy's previous command, Cindy eased herself up on her elbows to better stare blankly at him. (Surprisingly, her pulse quickened as poor circulation that had been staved by the uneven floor was rejuvinated, delivering freshly oxygenated blood to her aching limbs.) He had something clutched in both hands and was plainly waiting for an answer.
"Juice," he clarified, sitting back on his heels and pressing a button of the hypercube in his hands. Several tall, sealed containers popped out and onto the ground between them. "I doubt you wish to keep that headache you must have, and I wouldn't chance water on an empty stomach after what you've endured." He pressed another button and a small bottle of asprin flew into his expecting palm. He asked again, "Apple, tomatoe, or grape?"
Cindy did not know whether it was her extreme disorientation or a simple lapse of insanity on Jimmy's part, but she found herself speechless with shock and disgust. She simply shook her head, mouth hanging open.
"Apple, then," Jimmy decided for her, reaching out to one of the containers on the floor and opening the top. He handed this to Cindy – who had now fully sat up in absolute horror – along with the bottle of asprins. She had been stunned into a slow response time and was unable to refuse the items. She held them limply, waiting for someone to pop out and shout "April Fool!"
"Jimmy," Cindy began, her attempted placid tone coming off as rather strangled, "why the hell, may I ask, are you worring about juice?"
Jimmy simply stared, a strange look of slack vancancy upon his face. He glanced emotionlessly from the fist clenched around the flask of apple juice to her face again before saying, "Your electrolytes are low. Can't have you collpsing on our way out."
Cindy was highly ruffled, peturbed at the lack of concern the genius seemed to have at the ridiculously staid situation they were in. He had lost the remainder of his dwindling mind! He was a complete andindiputable nincompoop! This was the object of her life-long obsession? (She vaugly wondered what type of nincompoop that made her.)
"Jimmy," she cried, scrambling to her feet and not even bothering to keep a false calm in her voice this time, "an egg-shaped mass of snot is in the process of – well, we don't know exactly, but something horrid – and you are worrying about juice! Juice!"
He rose from the floor, a task executed with much more grace than Cindy's disoriented mad clamber. He pulled what looked to be a large rubber ball out of his pocket, an enlarged version of that one might find in a grocery store gumball machine. He dropped it and caught it as it bounced off the stone floor, his cool mood of nonchalance aggravating. "Not juice. Your electrolytes. What you really need is a banana."
He bounced the ball again. Then again. And again.
Cindy felt abashed for snapping so quickly, every slightly-reverberated fonk! of Jimmy's damned ball as it bounced mocking her rudeness, but she swatted it away quickly lest it accidentally show.
"Oh…'kay. So, what now?"
Jimmy continued without appearing affronted. "Our entire escorting party – sans Libby, Sheen, and Carl, who set us back a few hours with their unscheduled attendance and necessary return – are currently in set posts, waiting for their signals. Everything has been planned out flawlessly, time lost made up for, but – " he caught his ball, holding it in a dormant position as he turned up his watchface " – we don't move until 2100 hours… a little more than an hour and 45 minutes from now."
"So just what the heck are we supposed to do for the next two hours?" Cindy exclaimed, regaining some of her frustrated exasperation. She trusted him entirly, be he a nincompoop or not, but the thought of sitting about and wasting time while their friends were in eminant danger was a bit more than irking.
Jimmy shrugged noncommittally, walking to one of the rough cells walls and plunking himself down against it. "I was thinking a good make-out session would be climactically fitting, but you are obviously quite peeved with me."
He threw his dollar-store toy at the wall opposite him – a distance perhaps fifteen feet at the maximum – securing it in his grasp as it rebounded from the floor at an angle. It took two repetitions of this performance for Cindy to realize he had been serious.
"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that," she growled, ears ringing queerly as she crossed the cell to sit on the worn floor retrograde Jimmy, some three feet from the portion of wall he was occupying as a stand-in "Catch" partner.
"I'll let you," Jimmy responded, his aura of vexatious calm unwavering. "Denial takes up a great amount of human pathos."
Cindy was far from pleased with Jimmy's new approach to conversation. The last thing she wanted was maturity while she was emprisoned in some claustrophobic excuse for a hole on a God-forsaken planet lightyears from home, coated in dirt, hungry, and cursed with the prensence a throbbing knot on the crown of her skull and a nincompoop of a genius for company. In sheer grumpiness, she asked rhetorically as she fumbled with the child-proof asprine cap, "What are you on?"
Jimmy tried to smile, and she noticed just how slack his muscles were. "Some form of a truth potion."
Cindy choked on the swig of juice she had just taken.
"Had I a few spare hours to tinker in my lab, I'm certain I could duplicate the compound. It's nothing more than a complicated mix of standard chemicals."
"I really don't think they knew how to use it."
He captured the ball in his fist and held it still as he thought. Cindy, still trying to expell the apple juice from her windpipe, would have belittled him up one way and down the other, but her few wheezy attempts sounded no different from her whooping coughs.
"You know," Jimmy said thoughtfully, resuming his single-player game of Catch, "I would stake good money hestole the formula for my Truth Potion and tried to tweak the potency!"
"So what are you saying?" Cindy gasped. Jimmy had to wait a few moments for another bout of racking coughs to pass. "They know what you have planned!"
He shook his head in the negative, running the hand not occupied with his childish game through his short hair and scratching the nape of his neck. "Like I said, their procedure and administration implied they hadn't taken the time to research its values and properties. They neutrilized some of the key qualities during their modifications; I was able to dodge anything serious."
Cindy was skeptical; it must have shown.
"It just loosens you up, really, relaxes everything, like a really strong dose of insomnia medicine." He gave another weak, lopsided grin, a reedy laugh slipping through his partially open mouth. "You should have seen me – they had to lock me in a room for twenty minutes before they could ask me anything; I think had I been any more high, the drugging would have been illegal."
Cindy grimaced, the divulgence of Jimmy's current state being an improvement none too comforting. "How long is it going to last? You can't go gallivanting off into trouble if you can't even think straight, you nincompoop!"
"Now, let's not get personal," Jimmy scorned. "I'm fully capable of managing myself in our future gallivanting, thank you very much! The major muscle loss was only temporary, a side effect before the serum was at its peak performance. I managed to move you, didn't I?"
Cindy desperately wished to snatch the ball from midair. "What?"
"What – did you honestly think the Yolkians were so thoughtful as to place you gently to the ground, flat on your back and limbs paralell to each other?"
At loss for redeeming words,she just sat there. Stupidly.
"I don't think Goobot expected my control to be compromised so greatly. The serum's main purpose was to ease any fluctuations in my emotions – so I'd just tell them what they wanted, you know?"
She was still moved to aphonia by the second ensign of Jimmy's second-nature caring and could only mutter, "Oh." Stupidly. Like an imbecile.
Glancing down at her hands, she realized she had not yet managed to swallow an asprine. Poppingtwo of the small white capsuls into her mouth and downing them, she grumbled, "I wish you would have told me where I'd end up." She paused, shivering slightly as a draft whistled through the small gap beneath the door. She hugged her knees to her chest. "It's rather disquieting regain conciousness in a jail cell some thousand lightyears from home without the full details of why."
Remorsefully, Jimmy apologized. "I hadn't thought, at the time, every detail would be beneficial – to your aid or my health. I'm sorry."
Honestly, Cindy didn't know whether knowing where she would awaken would have helped her or not. Certainly, when she had been given the shortened version of the day's plans that morning (Good heavens, just that morning? Amazing it took Einstein to apprehend time was relative.), she hadn't been paying full attention, but something like "Oh, and by the way, you will be knocked out by a bash to the head, thrown into a damp and filthy pit, and wake nauseated and in need of a Purple Flurp" would have stuck out. Shrugging it off, she looked back to him with a half-smile. Blinking, she commented as she first noticed, "You're wearing glasses."
Jimmy raised an eyebrow, the most extensive physical attribute he was able to express thusfar. "You're quite quick on these sorts of things. Tell me, how long did it take you to discern my eye color?"
"Oh, shut up," she grumbled, setting aside the flask of apple juice before wrapping her arms tighter about her bent legs. "I was disoriented from both a good knock-out and, don't you forget so very soon, your lack of divulgence on our whereabouts."
"Ah, yes, the lever for my guilt."
"Short-lived, you heartless fiend, but fully earned, if you ask me."
"What if I didn't?"
"I don't think that's a qualifying necessity. With or without your permission, my opinion is dominating."
Jimmy laughed, eyes lit in a smile unseen. "Going to pick up right where we left off then, are we?"
Cindy shrugged, suddenly feeling – well, a bit embarrassed at the terms of their separation. Here she was, insulting him in varying ranges to meek questioning to snapping irrately to exchanging sarcastic banter, (while he was probably wondering whether she was bi-polar or just plain crazy,) without any right.
Even long before the Neutron family had moved, they had grown apart, rarely speaking upon the even rarer times they came upon each other despite the chain of mutual friends. It became harder, she had realized, to keep up a façade of loathing when they were in separate classes, and it became harder to remember just what she had said about the brainless nincompoop as time went on. Best to keep quite and avoid contradicting herself, she decided. That resolution severed the flimsy tenders that connected them; they simply stopped being tolerant friends.
Jimmy shrugged, a mocking facsimile to Cindy's reposte, and shook his head exasperatedly. He observed her in silence, seconds ticking by, shadow of a smile still lighting the cobalt eyes behind wire-framed glasses. (Though it must have been Cindy's imagination, because the near-indiscernable twinkle vanished, so fast she questioned its original existance, and the blank emptiness resumed.) Then, as though there had been no lengthy silence: "So what have you been up to the past – good grief, six years, has it been?"
Cindy shrugged again, sighing at the sharp tug in her chest. Damn her malleable human pathos, she still loved him!
Jimmy sighed heavily at Cindy's silence. (With a sudden leap of her insides, she gleefully realized he thought her to be a snob, snubbing him off caustically at the reminder of their pervasive reticence. It was an incredibly odd thing to be giddy about, but it meant he felt just as uneasily hesitant as she was toward a rekindling of their – very bizarre – friendship.) As though realizing just how large the rift between them had become, his brow creased with forlorn regret at the time passed and the lost opportunities, ruefull spirit shining through the rapidly-dwindling effects of the Truth Potion. With another wrench beneath her breast, Cindy wondered herself what might have filled those long years had they remained near each other, physically even if not emotionally.
Trying to brighten his dolor, Jimmy goaded lightly, "Still whipping massive amounts of butt? That was some primed footwork out there; I'd forgotten how quickly you could flatten someone."
Alleviatedly siezing the opening, Cindy laughed. A bit too forcefully. "Geez, I haven't gone to a martial arts class since I was fourteen. One of those things that died with.. well, every other aspiration I had, after my mother stopped caring." And you left me, she added silently. It was facinating how she could amuse the fact he had been a driving force only when thegeek was right beside her. (Her graduation speech did not qualify, due to his unannounced snooping. He was supposed to be half a country away for the vocal part of her admission.)
"I think that is the worst thing I've heard all night." A corner of Jimmy's mouth was turned down in a twisted frown.
Cindy raised an eyebrow. "All that bad, eh? Not even the threat of our home-planet's destruction outweighs a lost interest in competition?"
"Not when coming from you. You live to put the one-up on any willing opponent."
"Lived. Sure, it's still fun to kick some butt around, but it's not my life's goal to make sure my math test has a higher score than yours anymore."
"You know, I never really understood that." He sat back and threw his near-forgotten ball again. It smacked off the wall near Cindy's shoulder with a bit more force than was required. "Why did you always try to best me?"
"Why are you asking me? I thought you were supposed to be the genius."
"My point exactly. I mean, as brilliant as you are, was there never a recognition it was a deplorable attempt, inevitably fruitless? No offence."
Cindy sighed. "None taken. And of course I knew, but my mother was domineering. She chose to ignore that minor detail and went on ragging me about my inferior work."
She picked at a bit of rubber pealing away from the canvas of Miles' sneakers, finding it easier to quelm her self-pitying remorse when she wasn't maitaining eye contact with Jimmy. When she realized his hands had fallen still, relieving the ball resting in them from its forceful bashing, she tried to restart the awkward conversation. "So what's with the specs?"
Even though she wasn't looking, and even though he wouldn't have been able to manage it well, she could feel the knowing smirk radiating off Jimmy in all its smug glory. Damn the nincompoop! she thought savagely. Damn him to hell -- why, in the name of all that is good, did I have to fall for the most tactless know-it-all of the twentieth century!
"Someone knocked out one of my contacts." Cindy, having moved from further defacing Miles' high-top to pulling at a drawstring of her khaki, cargo capris, started when a large red ball rolled into her line of vision and bumped gently against her sneakered toes. "And as accommodating as the Yolkians are, preparing such a lovely lunch for our arrival and allowing us the use of this fine cell, they were not so gracious as to allow me time to search for it. It's a good thing Goddard packed for me; I'm practically blind. Too many late-nights in the lab without proper lighting."
Cindy picked up the ball, rolling it between her fingers as she asked, "Where is Goddard?"
Jumping to his feet, he exclaimed, "Leapin' leptons – Goddard!"
Concern turning to curiosity, Cindy looked up in time to see Jimmy jam a frantic hand into his jeans pocket, extract his hypercube, and release Goddard from within.
"Sorry, boy," he muttered apologetically. Goddard, unforgiving of his lengthened imprisonment, shook himself vigorously and ambled spitefully away to sit beside Cindy, who thought it hilarious but curbed her tongue for the sake of the poor dog and his bruised feelings.
"Shame on you, Jimmy Neutron," she scolded, patting Goddard fondly on the head. "Have you no respect for your inventions?"
"While I highly doubt PEDA will be on my case," Jimmy grumbled, "Does it please you to know I have already been repremanded about my terrible pattern of neglect by another concerned source?"
He gestured to the ball in her hand. "You were supposed to throw it back."
Cindy did so, asking, "Who?"
"Cody – I believe you met him, if just breifly."
Cindy arched an eyebrow. "What – the blonde pansy that ruined my Saturday at Zoey's?"
"The very same, whose IQ is – oh, how did you put it? I rather liked it."
"Still leaves a number large enough to be confused with tax influctions after dividing mine. Though I think gas prices would have been a suitable analogy as well."
"Pff, no kidding."
"Why on earth would you want to hang around someone like that?"
"Complete and utter boredom." He sighed heavily. "The desperate acts I have commited the past several years are downright shameful. In all honesty, though, he's not that bad."
"Yes, I can imagine that beyond the cockiness, obnoxious immaturities, and overbearing cologne he's a nice guy."
"Much like Nick, right?"
Cindy's breath caught in her throat. He knew about Nick – and it bothered him! The comment had been quick to come, obviously meaning it was prepossessing, and had been delivered with obdurate, clearly practiced ease. She would have prefered the invidious glimmer behind his glasses to be more prominating, but she took into account factorials of denial and the truth serum.
"Alright, I take that back. So beneath the cockiness, obnoxious immaturities, and sexy bod the pansy's just a straight-out jerk?"
Jimmy paused, thoughtfully observing her. "If that is the case, why on earth would you want to date someone like that?"
Well, now they were just going in circles! Cindy thought. No fair cheating, come up with your own accusations. "Complete and utter boredom – though I don't think Cody was able to satisfy your need for the occasional make-out…?"
Goddard lifted his head from the floor at this.
"No," Jimmy snarled, corner of his mouth turning down again.
Cindy didn't bother to contain a blossoming grin. "I didn't think so – really. As for me.. as much as I hate to admit it –"
"So don't," Jimmy interjected.
Cindy could have squealed aloud. "Well, what about you? Was Nicolette all talk, or does James Isaac Neutron; Boy Genius really have 'the sweetest lips on this side of Mars and the ass to match'?"
A steady blush was working its way up Jimmy's collar and cheeks while Goddard watched on eagerly, appetent for vidication for his extended imprisonment and most likely accessing the footage of forementioned event.
"I really would like to change the subject," Jimmy muttered.
Hah. Yeah right, Brain-zilla. "Alright, I'm sorry. I simply figured you'd be more willing to discuss Nicolette with me than, say, the lack of contact we kept, your ambiguous reasons for bringing me here, the heart-covered note on you sidetab –"
"It was only once, and she came on to me first!" he burst out, eyes widening.
"'First'. Meaning you complied with moves of your own?"
"No! Well, sort of -- you know, I really do not want talk about this!"
"But I do. And you forget: my opinion is dominating."
"Seriously, Cindy. Anything else. Ask personal questions about the heart-covered note!"
"No, that's alright," she murmered, a mental note coming back to her attention, having nothing to do with Nicolette or Jimmy's sweet ass and lip combo. "I want to know: what did Goobot mean he said he'd predicted your motions?"
Despite being rather emotionless already, Jimmy's face fell. He looked down at his shoes, running the rubber ball along the outer edge, timidly asking, "Are you certain you wouldn't rather berate me about a girly note on my bedside table?"
"Unless it's a billet-doux from Cody, no. And I'm sorry, but I don'tconcider you one to suddenly swing both ways because of utter boredom." She didn't know if she should be exasperated at his pitiful stalling or all the more enticed by his potential answer. "What did Goobot mean?"
Jimmy fidgited uncomfortably. "He said… a lot of things that made sense, but I disregarded them, thinking it was kindling for his attempted intimidation. Quite honestly, I don't think he implied you specifically, but he said I would bring someone along, that I couldn't handle the backlashed of my stupidity without the aid of my friends."
Cindy was having difficulty discovering where his embarrassed discomfort lay in that admission. "Well, duh. I could have told you that, you nincompoop. Is that all?"
Jimmy looked incredulous, not expecting this response. "Is that a— Cindy, only you could find a lower blow. Honestly, me not able to deal with my repercussions?"
With a snort, she scoffed, "Oh, as if, Nerd-tron! You're forgeting the sheer expanses your stupid repercussions from stupid stupid moments can reach! Not only would you be dead if Sheen, Carl, Libby and I hadn't been there all those years, every child in Retroville would have been orphaned."
Jimmy could find no way to respond to this save muttering indistinguishably under his breath. After doing so for what he deemed a reasonable span of time, he reluctantly, sullenly muttered, "Prob'ly right." Cindy almost missed it, it was so quiet.
"Darn right I'm right!" she exclaimed, smirking smugly. "Apology accepted, and you're welcome! And I must thank you, as well: to this day, if the term 'hypnosis via television' is typed into an internet search engine, my name comes up as the first link, with the over-dramatized story of how I saved the world from brain-washing aliens under the guise of friendly grandmothers. Do you realize how hard it is to earn the place of the first link on the internet?"
"Who in their right mind would rake a search engine for such a ridiculously specific and uncommon topic?" Jimmy reviled.
"I would, duh! Any time I need a little ego boost." She chewed her lip musingly. In a quieter, more serious tone she went on, "I'm sorry for spazzing out on you. When I woke up and earlier at lunch. And on our way to your apartment."
Jimmy shrugged, dissmissing it carelessly. "If things like that are to be taken seriously in such an idiosyncratic setting, then I too need to apologize – for spazzing out on your front porch and dragging you away without so much as a minute of explanation and no time to announce your departure properly."
He glanced down at his watch, then said, "It's time."
A/N: So, obviously, I'm not the best of updaters. I do apologize, but with the combination of school, house work, and bouts of minor depression, this story is regretably taking a side seat. Not back, mind you! But side. I've been burying myself in other writing, different stories and categories, depending upon how surly my mood, and most unfortunately my fluffy Jimmy Neutron moods have been minimal. Know I do try, though, I love all the reviews I get, and I WILL NOT GIVE UP ON THIS STORY. I already have the final two chapters written, and I'll be damned to come this far and not continue on to put those up!