-1

The Candy bar was as loud an packed as usual, if not possibly a bit more, than on a typical Saturday. An attractive blonde sat in a booth in the corner, her head in her hands as she fought the urge to fall asleep.

"Cindy?" a young black girl, about the same age as Cindy, with a head full of braids and kind brown eyes called. She received no answer. "Hey, girlfriend? …." The girl, Libby, studied her best friend for a moment. Not another late night talking to Neutron online… Libby rolled her eyes, knowing she was right. "Hey, Cindy! I just saw Jimmy walk in with Betty Quinlan!"

That got her attention. The vivid green eyes immediately snapped open before narrowing to slits. She looked around frantically. "He wouldn't! He ..he…he couldn't!…I am going to kill her -- um…him."

"Relax," Libby said, sliding into the booth beside Cindy. "Jimmy hasn't shown up yet. Is he supposed to meet you here?" Cindy gave a weak nod. "How late were you up on the computer last night?"

Cindy looked thoughtful for a moment, calculating. "Let's see….the morning show with Remus Philgin was on..so…"

"That doesn't come on until seven in the morning!" Libby cried incredulously. "Girl, this relationship is taking a major toll on you. You've got bags under your eyes." To prove her point, Libby pulled a compact from her pocket and slid it towards Cindy. Cindy scooped it up and popped it open, groaning when she saw her reflection.

"Don't suppose you've got anything with you to treat it?"

"I'm eleven, Cindy…I don't expect to have bags under my eyes at this age. Maybe you're just not ready for a boyfriend?"

"Neutron's not my boyfriend!" Cindy snapped.

"Could have fooled me," Libby said with a smirk. "Let's see, you've held hands," she held up a finger, counting the 'evidence', "you've technically been on a few days, you stay up all night talking to him…and let's not forget…..you kissed!"

"B..but…but that was…"

"What? Jimmy was running an experiment on kissing?"

"I dunno…maybe.."

"If that was an experiment, it was an experiment to see if you'd like it or not," Libby said simply, crossing her arms and giving her friend a worried look. "Look, maybe you and Jimmy should---"

"She and I should what?" The voice was free of any form of suspicion, but Libby still tensed up when she heard it. She turned and came face-to-face with James Isaac Neutron, Retroville's own boy genius. Libby fought down the instinct to groan, and instead jumped to her feet.

"Should…uh…come over some time! Yeah, you can bring Sheen and Carl, and…"

"Or maybe I could just bring Sheen?" Jimmy suggested with a smirk, quickly stealing the place that Libby had just vacated. Libby couldn't help but notice that Cindy looked wide awake now.

Libby didn't say another word. She left them in peace, crossing over to where Carl and Sheen were animatedly arguing over whether llamas or UltraLord were better.

"Hey," Jimmy said with a smile. "Sorry I'm late - Goddard needed some last minute repairs."

"Late? Late? Ha, barely even noticed!" Cindy said with a fake laugh, checking her watch. "Besides, I was only waiting since the Candy Bar opened…"

Jimmy gave her a bewildered look. "But Cindy, I said we should meet at twelve. The Candy Bar opens at nine…you've been waiting three hours?"

Cindy shrugged. "Didn't have anything better to do." Jimmy frowned as he studied her face. She was still very pretty, but the bags under her eyes marred it a bit. It only added to the guilt he already felt - he'd been late because he was working on another new invention.

"So, what's the invention this time?"

"Huh?" For a wild moment, Jimmy thought Cindy had developed the ability to read his thoughts. As though she were really doing so, she pointed to his hand - he still had a little bit of grease there. "Oh," Jimmy said softly, grabbing a napkin from the dispenser beside them and wiping it away. "Nothing too much….I'm afraid I'd rather not talk about it until it's done."

"You've been keeping all your inventions secret from me lately, Neutr---Jimmy," Cindy said sourly.

Jimmy gave a shrug, but said nothing. The truth of the matter was, he liked the place he and Cindy were at right now, and was still a bit afraid that a backfired invention would toss them back to where they had been just a month ago.

"Another lame invention? Geez, Neutron…hope this one doesn't shrink the whole town, or invite aliens to come eat us…" Thankfully, it was not Cindy's voice making the comments. Jimmy glanced up to see Nick standing over them, and inwardly groaned. He was still not sure if Cindy was over her crush on Nick, and if she wasn't…well, there was always the chance she'd agree with Nick, just to impress him.

"Back off," Cindy's voice was a poisonous warning, reminiscent of a rattlesnake's rattle, warning that she was ready to strike. "Just leave him alone, Nick."

Nick looked amused. "So, what, Cindy, you and nerd boy going out now?"

Cindy didn't answer, instead she rose from the booth and struck a defensive stance. "I told you to leave him alone. Get going, or I'll do to you what I kept threatening to do to him."

"It's cool, it's cool," Nick said, running a hand through his hair, seeming a bit thrown off - no girl had ever threatened him before. "Have fun on your date," he said, walking off.

"It's not a date!" Cindy and Jimmy said in unison. Still fuming, Cindy got back into her seat.

"I hate that creep," she declared, gesticulating to Sam so that he'd know that they were ready to order.

"Uh..yeah, me too," said Jimmy, more than a bit bewildered by the encounter. Bewildered, but happy. Cindy was definitely over Nick. But Jimmy was now at a loss for words. "Cindy?"

"Hmm?"

"Thanks," he said nervously, fidgeting a bit. The urge to kiss her came on again, but unlike the time after the faked alien story when Libby had gone a little overboard with her gossip segment, he managed to fight it down. They had never talked about it. He was still waiting for her to bring it up, and he wasn't going to try to do it again unless he was absolutely sure she'd let him. Suddenly, an idea came upon him. "Cindy?"

"Yeah?"

"After we're done here…would you like to go to the lab? I'd like to show you what I'm working on."

Cindy brightened quite a bit at that. "I'd love to," she said as Sam came by to take their orders. Maybe it's not another kiss, she thought, but it's a step in the right direction…