Disclaimer: DNA is life. It also owns Jimmy Neutron. Weird, no?

It was a rare occurrence to have a day that started off well from the very VERY beginning, but James Neutron was having one of those days. It was sweet even in his having to wake up—his alarm rang out at 6am, which in itself sucked, but he WAS treated to his very favorite song as a wakeup call. Rejuvenated by the beats of the tune, he pulled himself out of bed and to his bathroom, where he enjoyed the perfect shower and a session of nick-less shaving (which was always a plus). He then proceeded to retrieve a set of clothes for the school day ahead. He wasn't on the lookout for anything special, just a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and was delightfully rewarded with his most comfortable shirt and best-fitting pants, which his mother had lovingly remembered to wash, though the task had slipped his own mind the night before. Hell, they even smelled better than usual. When he went downstairs, he was pleased to find that his mother's meticulously cooked breakfast allowed him to not only come back for seconds, but thirds, as she had wisely thought to prepare more than she thought she needed. Stuffed full with eggs, sausage and toast, he bid his parents 'farewell' for the day and strapped himself in his car, ready for another day at Retroville High.

To his surprise, traffic was not a problem, as it usually was, and parking was even less so. He was pulling into one of the best spots in the lot just as Libby pulled up in her old Chevy, with Sheen and Carl smiling tiredly at him from the passenger and back seat respectively. They said their hellos and went inside, stopping first at the lockers in the senior hallway. Jimmy was pleased to note that his new locker wiring system was working perfectly after last Friday's overhaul. After a successful use of the new handprint identification feature, he retrieved his books for the first three periods, namely Calculus, Advanced Physics, and Advanced Chemistry. He had to part with the others here, as Carl and Libby had chosen statistics in lieu of Calculus, and Sheen was barely qualified to handle money, let alone solve differentials.

He headed down to the math wing, eventually ending up in room 247, which belonged to Mr. Urashima. The classroom was half-full already with some of the smartest seniors in the school, but Jimmy was delighted to see that one person was not there; Cindy Vortex was absent at the present moment, giving him plenty of time to ponder just what he would choose to fight about with her today, and how he could skillfully counter her eventual rebuttals. He was even more enthused when Mr. Urashima entered ten minutes before class was scheduled to start, a stack of papers in his hand. Pop quiz, he thought, rubbing his hands together in joy. He loved nothing more than math problems in the morning, save for the opportunity to best Cindy at them and rub the score in her face later. He sat back and grinned at the prospects this day held for him as he counted down the minutes until quiz time.

It wasn't until he had counted down to only a minute or so that he started feeling uneasy. Normally, Cindy was here by now, and she was most certainly never late. When the bell rang, however, he couldn't help but start in surprise—for the first time ever, Cindy Vortex was TARDY.

"Okay, class," Mr. Urashima spoke, brandishing the papers in his hand, "I have a small quiz for you all. You'll have 20 minutes."

The whole class broke into a chorus of groans, save for Jimmy, who was simply twisting his pencil in his hands, half waiting to be given his quiz, half wondering where in the name of L'Hopital's rule Cindy could be. He only focused fully on math when the paper was dropped in front of him, and his classmates eyed him with envy as they watched the genius fly through the first problems of his test without even consulting his calculator, which was still buried at the bottom of his backpack. They hated him more still when he stood after only four minutes and approached the teacher's desk, handing him the paper casually.

"Four minutes? That's a new record, Neutron."

"Thank you, sir."

"Say, any idea where Miss Vortex is this morning?"

"Uh, no, sir."

Mr. Urashima nodded and then signaled Jimmy to take his seat once more. Jimmy sat and let his eyes wander to the ceiling, now left with nothing to do for 16 minutes but ponder where Cindy could possibly be. Yes, the idea of being able to tease her about her lack of punctuality and the 'zero' she would receive on the quiz was appealing, but he couldn't help but listen to the nagging voice inside his head that said, despite the fact that she was stubborn and argumentative, he was missing her ever so slightly.

He was going to chalk the tardiness up to pure morning problems, but as Calculus drew to a close, Jimmy began to worry. Save for the time they had experimented with the Neutronic sick patches, Cindy had NEVER been absent for a class before. He tried to push his concerned thoughts aside, and managed to almost completely forget them between Physics and Chemistry, especially after he had managed to convince himself that she had likely shown up by now, and was chattering away with Libby during their English Literature course. When the bell rung for lunch period, his good mood was back, and apparently, his good fortune was as well.

"Pizza day!" Sheen exclaimed, "The only day where cafeteria food isn't completely rank! I love it so!"

Jimmy grinned at his friend as a steaming hot slice of pizza was deposited on his lunch tray. "It's been especially great since the school negotiated a contract with that local pizza place. It's always enticing to see a meal served in this establishment where the ingredients are all readily identifiable."

Carl smiled broadly as he tried to pack a fourth slice onto the tray. "Yeah. Plus, the pizza's the only thing this place serves that doesn't make me all bloated."

Sheen and Jimmy exchanged "Too much information" glances, then paid for their food. The three of them eventually found their way to their usual table, which was, for once, spotlessly clean. They ate ravenously for a few silent moments, and the only sound that emanated from any of them was Sheen's voice yelling, "Over here, Libbilicious!" to his girlfriend, who had just entered the room. Libby blushed in embarrassment as several eyes flew to Sheen, then her, but she sighed in resignation as she headed for the table; after all, public spectacles were something to be expected when in Sheen's company.

"You don't have to shout across the room," Libby scolded as she took a seat, "You've been sitting at the same table since 9th grade; I can find you just fine."

Sheen only grinned at her.

Jimmy nodded his greeting. "There's pizza."

Libby eyed Carl's tray. "Are you sure there's any left?"

Carl swallowed a bite before coming to his defense. "My genes have made me big-boned. Therefore I require more nutrients."

Libby rolled her eyes. "There's not a single 'nutrient' in that greasy pizza slice."

Carl shrugged. "Still tastes good."

Libby shook her head, and then turned to Jimmy. "Hey, was Cindy in math today? She never made it to English."

Jimmy looked up from his plate. "No. She was gone then as well."

Libby frowned. "I wonder where she is. She didn't say anything to me."

Jimmy stared at her a moment, lost in his own thoughts, Yeah, where is she?

Sheen broke the silence. "Maybe she went to the Ultra Lord convention in Spokane, Washington."

Libby groaned. "Why would she go there, Sheen?"

Sheen popped the top on his can of Flurp. "That's where I'd go if I were playing hookey."

"That's the thing. Cindy doesn't play hookey. I'm kinda worried. I tried calling her at the beginning of the lunch period, but there's no answer at her house," Libby explained.

Jimmy fingered the top of his beverage, trying to rack his brain and come up with a plausible answer for this quandary while Sheen tried to change the subject back to the Ultra Lord convention. There were no school-related activities. No one had a dentist appointment that lasted over three hours. Why the hell isn't she here? his mind screamed, It doesn't make any sense! He didn't have much time to continue testing scenarios as the bell rung for 4th period.

U.S. History was the one class that all five of them shared—Sheen took his seat on Libby's right and continued drilling her on whether or not she would allow him to name their first-born son Ultra Lord, or at least something with the first and middle initials "U.L.." Libby sat just to the right of Carl, who was trying to dig though his bag for both his textbook and his allergy medication. Behind him sat Jimmy, who was staring at the empty seat that Cindy usually occupied. Just before the class began, the teacher, Miss O'Brien, approached Libby's desk with a paperback book and a folder.

"I'm sorry to bother you, Libby, but I just got a call from Cindy's dad. Turns out she's in the hospital and he was wondering if you would drop off these papers at his house for Cindy."

Libby's eyes grew wide, as did Jimmy's as he caught wind of the teacher's words.

"Hospital?" Libby asked, "Why?"

Miss O'Brien shook her head. "He didn't say; only that she had just gotten out of surgery this morning and would be out of school."

Libby nodded slowly as she took the items from her teacher, who then took her place at the board, ready to administer the day's lesson.

Jimmy's head was spinning. It was as if he didn't hear the teacher at all as he tried to process the information given him. Hospital? Surgery? Since when? She didn't mention any scheduled surgery…had she had an accident? Was she okay? Terrible visions of respirators and monitors, comas and ugly prognoses raced through his mind, and he didn't come out of his solemn thoughts until Carl shook him lightly.

"Uh, Jim?" he asked worriedly, "Class is over. Didn't you hear the bell?"

Jimmy looked up at his friend. From behind him, Libby and Sheen had fixed strange looks on him.

"Uh, oh…right. Over. Yeah," he muttered, pulling himself out of his desk. He walked almost mindlessly to Human Anatomy, a class both he and Cindy also shared. Though the mechanics behind synovial joints would normally have been a fascinating topic for him, he just couldn't bring himself to think of forces and potentials when Cindy was in a hospital bed, possibly at death's door. He thought melancholy thoughts about how boring school would be without her. How boring LIFE would be without her. What if she died? What if he never got a chance to apologize for all those times he had been a cocky, know-it-all showoff all in the name of getting a rise out of her? What if he never told her how much she meant to him, even in just the simple pleasures of seeing her get all riled up? All he did know was that he was yearning to see her--whatever condition she was in-- and as far as he was concerned, school couldn't end fast enough.

Sixth period was essentially only 50 minutes long, but on this Monday, it was like an eternity and a half to the young genius. Ms. Mocale happened to pick "love poetry" as the theme of choice for the week, and having to hear snippets of sonnets dedicated to the important women in the poets' lives made the class all the more unbearable, as it made him only think more about poor Cindy and only increased his longing to see her. As the class drew to a close, he was practically twitching in his chair. His eyes were transfixed on the clock, and he counted the time under his breath as he watched the second hand move.


BRRRRRRRRRRING! With the sound of the bell, James Neutron was off like a shot, not even bothering to wait for the teacher's dismissal. He utilized only enough time to get the books needed for his homework, then bolted to his car. He threw his things unceremoniously into the passenger seat and strapped in as he threw his car into reverse. Libby, Sheen and Carl watched in amazement from the South doorway as Jimmy pealed out of the parking lot at breakneck speed.

"Wow," Sheen breathed, "That was awesome!"

"Why do you suppose he's in such a hurry?" Carl asked.

Libby shook her head. "I don't know, but let's drop this stuff Ms. O'Brien gave me off at the Vortex's house and see if we can't get more information on Cindy."

He was almost in downtown Retroville before he realized his mistake: he had no idea WHICH hospital Cindy was in. No matter, he thought to himself as he sped south, All of the hospitals in Retroville are within two miles of the city hall, save for one, and what are the odds that she's in that one?

…Apparently pretty good, he groaned to himself as he headed back north. After a futile search of the three hospitals in the south of the city, he was left with only Retroville General as his destination. He was well beyond restless at this point. After all, he HAD wasted the better part of an hour looking in all the wrong places, and his gnawing desire to check in on Cindy had only grown deeper. He didn't even realize how fast he was pushing his car until he heard the sirens of the Retroville police behind him.

Damn! he cursed to himself. How had his day got from so wonderful to so horrible so fast? The cop approached his car and gruffly asked for his license and registration. Jimmy provided both as he mentally kicked himself.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" the officer drawled.

"No, sir."

"Seventy miles an hour. Now, do you know what the speed limit is on this street?"

"Um, no."

"Fifty-five miles an hour. Do you know what this means for you?"

Jimmy groaned.

He arrived at Retroville General a good thirty minutes after that, a hundred and seventy-two dollar ticket in his back pocket. Still, he didn't regret his haste, as he walked through the sliding doors of the hospital's main entrance. The lobby was large and full of people, but it was rather beautiful and modern. Despite its appeal, the ambiance could wait as far as Jimmy was concerned. He made a beeline for the information desk and addressed the old volunteer behind the counter.

"Hi, can you tell me what room Cindy Vortex is in?"

"Who? You'll have to speak up a tad dear, it's a bit difficult for me to hear you," the woman smiled kindly at him.

"Cindy Vortex," Jimmy repeated. "What room is she in, please?"


"No, VORTEX. V-O-R-T-E-X."

The lady consulted a printed list of patients and squinted at the paper. "Ah, yes, Vortex, Cynthia A."

"Yes, that's her," Jimmy breathed as he shifted impatiently from foot to foot.

"She's in 827."

Jimmy took off toward the elevators, shouting a "Thank you!" over his shoulder. The lady smiled at him, and then squinted at the list again.

"Oh dear. Is that an '8' or a '3'?"

Jimmy swore that he was in the SLOWEST elevator in history. By the time he reached the eighth floor, he was prying open the doors, which were also too slow as far as he was concerned. The big black and white sign greeted him as he emerged:

TRAUMA UNIT/ICU: All visitors must check in and wash hands. See desk for admittance.

His heart fell. She was in the trauma ward? He fought back an urge to throw up as various images of blood, guts and gore pushed their way into his mind. He slowly walked to the side desk, where a nurse was on the phone. The woman seemed to take no notice as Jimmy tried to catch her attention for a brief moment. He tried to speak to make himself known, but the woman only put a finger up to silence him and turned her back to him. After three agonizing periods of worrying, an hour and a half of traveling and searching and one expensive speeding ticket, Jimmy was in no mood to deal with this. He strode purposefully to the sink the visitors were required to use, quickly scrubbed up, then waltzed right past the desk. Permission or no permission, he was going to see Cindy, and he was going to see her NOW.

The nurse took notice of Jimmy's intentions, however, and shouted after him. "Hey! You have to check it first!"

Jimmy ignored her and stormed down the hallway, counting off the room numbers to himself. He was almost at 827 when two nurses caught him.

"Where's your visitor's badge?" the older of the two asked.

"Ask your desk clerk why I don't have one," he snarled, "I've got business to attend to."

The nurse stepped in his path. "I'm afraid you can't be on this ward without proper clearance."

"I could get clearance if THAT NURSE would get off the damn phone! I've been to three other hospitals, wasted almost two hours, gotten an unbelievably expensive speeding ticket, ridden the world's slowest elevator to the desk of the world's rudest nurse, only to be stopped five doors down from the room of one of my best friends whom I NEED to see!"

"Your friend? Oh, I'm sorry, young man," the younger nurse shook her head, "Only the patient's immediate family is allowed as visitors on this floor."

If he didn't know better, Jimmy could have sworn his head was going to explode. "I NEED TO SEE CINDY VORTEX!"

The older nurse blinked at him, dumbfounded. The younger nurse proceeded to flip through her roster, then looked up at him

"We don't have a Cindy on this floor."

"Yes, you do! The front desk told me room 827!"

"Mr. Angelo is in 827," the younger one said, "Here, why don't I check the hospital register. Maybe you're friend is in a different room." She retreated to the desk where the first nurse sat, still on the phone, complaining about how "rude kids were nowadays."

Jimmy paused. Don't tell me there's a worse floor than the trauma unit! he thought. He was saved from lapsing into full-fledged panic, however, when the young nurse returned.

"I think I see the problem here. I just checked and saw that Shirley's on duty today at the information desk. Thing is, she's blind as a bat. Your friend Cindy is actually in room 327. I paged the floor already and told them you were coming."

Jimmy smiled at the woman. For the first time since noon, his day was looking up. He thanked the two and left the floor, stopping only to throw an aggravated glare at the "phone nurse," who was still gossiping away.

He chose to forgo the slow elevator this time, and instead took the stairs. When he reached the third floor, he was greeted with the bright, cheerful halls of the pediatrics ward. He passed a small gift shop on the way to the main desk, and decided that it was perhaps best to get something for Cindy's room. After all, she might appreciate it, when she recovered from whatever put her there. At the very least, he would have something to keep his shaking hands busy. He settled on one red rose, for it was the only thing he could afford with the left over lunch money that was in his pocket. That, and he DID have that extravagant ticket to pay off.

He then proceeded to the desk, where the male nurse on call flashed him a smile, clearly recognizing him as the kid from the trauma unit call. He waved him in the direction of rooms 400-435. Jimmy nodded in thanks, then made his way down the hallway, which was eerily silent to him, save for a few random voices and pages. He stopped in front of a closed door with the paper label "C. Vortex" on it. He willed himself to take a breath, bracing himself for anything he might see.

He pushed the door open to reveal a small, dark room clear of all people except for one lying prostrate on the bed in the center. Cindy was asleep amidst a heart monitor, and drug monitor, and an IV. Jimmy noted that she was pale and that her toned arms were bruised. Before he knew what was happening, he found himself at her side. Seeing her up close was even more heartbreaking, and he found himself struggling to find words to speak to her. Struggling more than usual, he swallowed, thinking to himself, That's saying something. When he finally found his voice, it came out in a harsh whisper.

"Cindy…what in the name of Einstein's theory happened to you?" he spoke, passing the flower from hand to hand.

He wasn't expecting a response, so he almost jumped out of his skin when Cindy's voice rang out.

"Neutron?" she rasped, squinting her eyes in order to focus in the dark.

"C-Cindy?" he stood, dumbfounded.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, rubbing her eyes.

"You…you're alive!" he exclaimed.

"Of course I am, you moron. Why wouldn't I be?"

"W…well, Ms. O'Brien told us you had surgery and no one knew what had happened to you and you're totally covered in bruises."

Cindy shook her head. "And you thought I was on the verge of death or something?"

"Well…yeah," he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

She laughed then, and Jimmy couldn't decide whether he was more aggravated with her or relieved that she was doing well.

"Well its not the this was a scheduled surgery," Jimmy protested, "What that hell was I supposed to think?"

She smiled weakly. "I don't suppose it crossed your mind that it could possibly be no big deal?"

Jimmy stopped and thought. Not once had it crossed his mind. In all his fretting about Cindy, he had never thought about the possibility of anything minor. "Uh…I guess it didn't."

She laughed lightly again. "Dummy."

"So why are you here then?"

"I had an appendectomy, Nerdtron. Relatively minor. I'll be out of here in two or three days, tops."

"But…the bruises…"

Cindy looked at her arms. "Oh, that. They had to take some blood. Between that and the IV drip, they couldn't get a good stick. Who knew it bruised so much?"

Jimmy opened and closed his mouthed a few times, trying to voice relief and frustration at the same time.

"Disappointed that your only true competition for valedictorian this year isn't picked off?" she teased, winking at him.

She was caught off guard when his face suddenly turned stormy and he began shouting.

"What! Why the hell would I think that? One of my closest friends mysteriously lands in the hospital and you thought I would be worried about some stupid TITLE! I'll have you know I traveled to three—THREE!—different hospitals today before I found this one! Then I had to deal with a mix-up and ordeal here that quite possibly shaved two or three years off my life in the way that it raised my blood pressure! And on top of that, while I was trying desperately to get here, I got a speeding ticket! A ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO DOLLAR SPEEDING TICKET!"

Cindy stared at him, wide-eyed. "Whoa, calm down, Neutron. Just trying to lighten the mood."

Jimmy sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

Cindy gestured to a clear spot on her bed. "Sit down, Jimmy, before you pass out."

He plopped unceremoniously onto the bed, took a few calming breaths, then thrust his rose at her.


"What's this?"

"A 'Rosa valentine'."

Cindy rolled her eyes. "Only you would give me the damn scientific name."

At that moment, Libby came bursting in the door, with Sheen and Carl in tow.

"Cindy! Oh my God, girl! You had me worried for a while there! Thank goodness you're okay!" she exclaimed, crossing the room to Cindy's side.

Cindy smiled at her and did her best to sit up completely. "I'm great now. Morphine does wonders."

Libby threw her arms around her longtime best friend. "Still, I was wondering all through school about what the hell had happened to you!"

"Apparently Neutron here put some thought into that subject as well," Cindy remarked, jabbing a thumb in Jimmy's direction.

"Yeah," Carl spoke up, "He totally blanked out in the middle of History class."

"Lunch too," Sheen agreed, then turned to Jimmy. "I'll bet you didn't hear a single word I said about Ultra Lord!" he cried, pointing an accusatory finger at his friend.

Libby placed a hand on Sheen's shoulder as a means of calming him. "He hauled it out of the parking lot after school too," she said, "I've never seen him drive so quickly or recklessly in my life! I was wondering where he was headed. Apparently, he's been harassing employees on the trauma level and bursting into places without permission looking for you."

"How'd you hear about that?" Jimmy mumbled.

"The whole staff in the main lobby is talking about it," Libby sang, "They think it's hilarious and maybe just a little sexy."

Jimmy sputtered at her choice of words. "W-what?"

"Hey, some old nurse said it, not me."

Cindy was going to comment, but a ringtone suddenly cut into the conversation. Libby whipped out her trusty blue cell phone and read the name on the caller i.d..

"Oooh, that's my mom. I'd better take this. Hold on," she said, stepping into the hallway.

Sheen watched her go, then turned to Carl. "I'm hungry! Let's go hit up the snack machine we saw on the way up here!"

"Right behind you!" Carl perked up. He began to follow Sheen out the door, but then stopped and turned to Jimmy as an afterthought.

"You want anything? They have snack-sized bags of Fish Snack-ums."

"No thanks," Jimmy grumbled, "I'm not hungry."

Carl shrugged. "Suit yourself." With that, he turned and left. Jimmy leaned back on his hands and closed his eyes a moment, suddenly realizing how tired he was from his ordeal. When he opened them, Cindy was smiling at him broadly, despite the traces of tears that lined her green eyes.

"What?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

"You were WORRIED about me!" she said in a singsong voice.

"I was not," he said, trying to play off her accusation.

"You're so full of it! You were worried! Admit it!"

"I was not!" he repeated, "I simply wanted to make sure you were still alive. For Libby's sake, you know? She's a big part of keeping Sheen in line, you know, and if she went crazy with grief over your demise…."

She shook her head. "No. You were worried. All those things you said and did…just admit it!"

"Maybe a little…but only a LITTLE."

"Yeah. That's why you sped down here instead of thinking to just CALL all the hospitals in the area about my status?"

Jimmy mentally kicked himself for the second time that day. Was there any way he could win this argument and prevent himself from looking like a worried, lovesick puppy?

"Ha! You've got nothing, do you?" Cindy grinned like a Cheshire cat. "You thought I was almost dead and that bothered you."

"I'm not so cold that it wouldn't bother me, Vortex," he muttered.

"Maybe not," she agreed, "But such is the case with all our other classmates, I'm sure, and they didn't rush down here."

How could she come up with this stuff even in a post-surgery drugged state? he thought. There was no way he was going to win this one.

"Fine. I was scared, okay? Ms. O'Brien told us the news and I was terrified that something really bad had happened. The thought of something life threatening…that something terminal had happened to you…it scared the living hell out of me. Happy?"

Cindy said nothing in response to this, but sat up as far as she could manage and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him into a tight embrace.

"Yes. Thanks for caring about me, Neutron."

He returned her hug carefully, trying desperately not to cause her any undue physical pain. They held each other for a few long moments, and Jimmy reveled in the feeling of being so close to her. To have her here with him when he had feared the worst was the most glorious feeling he had ever felt. He took in all aspects of her in that moment—the feel of her cool skin under her crisp hospital robes, the touch of her hands on his back, her cheek on his, her scent wafting to his nose—and he engrained them in his brain. No satisfaction from inventions or science or academia ever gave him the amount of gratification he felt knowing that he had not missed out on being with her and that she was genuinely thankful for his presence.

They parted from their hug and Cindy smiled at him brightly. Despite the fact that she was flushed, tired and un-made-up, Jimmy would have felt prone to use words such as "ravishing" and "goddess" to describe her in that moment. She leaned her forehead on his and looked him straight in the eyes. Her gaze was as bold and commanding as it always was, and Jimmy found he couldn't look away, even if he wanted to…not that he did.

"No one's ever gotten a speeding ticket for me before," she whispered to him.

He grinned and chuckled lightly. "I don't intend on doing it again. So no more going to the hospital ever, okay?"

Cindy's face melted into a mocking pout. "And here I wanted to getting painful gall stones. You sure know how to ruin a girl's fun."

Jimmy spoke as he continued to stare at her. "How about you get a speeding ticket for me next time?"

An evil grin graced Cindy's lips. "What'll they admit you for? Getting crushed by your own ego?"

Jimmy normally would have gotten indignant at this point, but the quip was music to his ears. "Nope. They'll have to admit me after I rub my valedictorian title in your face. I'm going to be so damn obnoxious, you'll HAVE to put me in a coma before I'll stop," he shot back.

Cindy pressed her forehead harder against his in a small show of force. "Well just remember, I'm still kicking, Spew-tron, so I'm not going to give you that title without a fight. We'll see who's rubbing it in who's face."

"Wouldn't have it any other way, Vortex. Bring it on."

It was like a whole new force was drawing them in; it was something stronger than gravity and certainly never researched by any famous physicists or mathematicians. Jimmy found his lips being drawn to Cindy's and there seemed nothing that could stop them. He was so close to her that he could almost feel her sharp intake of breath as their lips just grazed one another's.

Sheen and Carl burst through the door, snacks in hand, just before the two of them could make sweet contact, and they pulled away instinctively. The two of them blushed furiously, but it seemed that if either of the snack-eaters had witnessed what had almost, ALMOST happened, they didn't show it.

Jimmy cursed the powers that be for his luck, but smiled when he saw the same look of disappointment on Cindy's face. Perhaps another time, he thought, and grinned as his imagination went wild with all the possibilities.

The guests stayed only about twenty minutes or so after Libby had finished her conversation. It was almost dinnertime, and all but Cindy had to head home to prepare for the next school day.

"Feel better, girl," Libby said, waving to Cindy as she exited.

"See ya," Carl remarked.

"I can't wait to see your scar!" Sheen called as Libby dragged him out.

Jimmy smiled at Cindy, then made for the door.

"Get well soon, Cindy," he said, as he opened the beige door.

"Thanks Neutron. I will. Can't let you go too many days without me…you're head might get too big, figuratively speaking."

"Right. Figuratively."

"Well it can't get any bigger literally," she crowed.

"I'll remember that when I'm writing my graduation speech, Vortex."

"Sure. Then you can use it to dry your tears of disappointment as I give mine."

"I didn't realize morphine made people delusional. Maybe you should tell your doctor about that."

Cindy glared at him, but her eyes belied a playful mirth. "Get the hell out of my room."

Jimmy turned dramatically and stalked out, but Cindy caught his wide smile as the door closed behind him. She sat back in bed, fingering the flower he had given her and thinking about what had transpired between them. Who knew appendicitis could bring her so close to the kiss of her dreams?

She only wished she had a second appendix to give to infection.

Jimmy made his way through the main lobby, to the exit. The whispers of the gossiping nurses and volunteers did not go unnoticed by him as they talked about how the big-headed boy had bounded in the otherwise boring hospital, demanding to see his friend, whom many in the staff were wagering was more to him than that. The ladies, in particular, found the whole thing romantic. Maybe Cindy did too? he toyed with the idea.

He sure hoped so.

Maybe the day was pretty close to perfect after all. He reached into his pocket for his keys and managed to pull out his speeding ticket.

Well, it'd be perfect until his parents found out anyway.

He grinned to himself in spite of it all. Maybe they would get so mad HE would end up in the hospital. Then Cindy could come visit him. And they could pick up where they left off…

He sure, sure hoped so.

A/N: So, let me start by extending my thanks to all my WONDEFUL reviewers who read my first two humble fanfic offerings and reviewed. You guys are mucho awesome and totally make my day! I've had nothing but fun writing these pieces, so it's like a total double treat for me. I especially thank all those reviewers who have written fiction themselves, for I've enjoyed some of their high-quality pieces and their remarks mean the most—to be able to live up to such standards is hard, and I'm glad you think I come close. :)