AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a two-chapter Jimmy Neutron fanfic. Part I can be found HERE.
“Serva ma, servabo te.” (“Save me and I will save you.”)
– Petronius Arbiter
“Gas planets,” James groaned as the mocking screech of Lindbergh Elementary’s bell pierced his ears. He deactivated his jetpack and awkwardly fell to the ground; his first steps landed him ankle-deep in a puddle. Jimmy narrowed his eyes but otherwise ignored the unpleasant sensation while dashing through the school’s double doors. Cindy bursting out of the library sent him sliding to a halt; he avoided a collision by the curl of his hair.
It only took a second after pulling back in shock for Cindy to wryly snap, “Late again, huh Neutron?” She set off towards Ms. Fowl’s class at a brisk pace, and Jimmy rolled his eyes while falling in step beside her.
“And what’s your excuse for dashing to class, Vortex?”
“The others needed help with their book reports.” She hesitated, then cautiously added, “Then I was looking something up.”
Jimmy flashed an inquisitive stare and asked, “Looking up what?”
Cindy came to a stop outside Ms. Fowl’s door and whispered, “Do you think we could talk later?”
Jimmy considered the question for only a moment. “My schedule may have an opening at recess.”
Cindy smiled and nodded. “I could move a few things around myself.”
“So last night,” Cindy explained as she and Jimmy strolled onto the playground. “Libby stayed late with her grandma and you guys were holed up in the lab.”
“Sheen’s been trying to make Sundays video game night,” Jimmy chimed in. He weighed his words before adding, “You could have come.”
Cindy instantly shot back, “Well that’s not easy to do when no one tells you something is happening.” Jimmy cringed, and Cindy sighed. “Anyway, it was raining and I was alone so I figured I’d read some creepy stories online. You know, follow the ambiance.” She shrugged and continued with, “I stumbled on one about parallel worlds. It was cool, so I did some research on the topic.”
“The relative state formulation,” Jimmy chimed in.
“Exactly,” Cindy agreed. “So I figured if there was anyone to ask about this,” Cindy shrugged, “it would be you.” James raised a surprised eyebrow as she asked, “Do you think there could be other universes out there?”
“To be honest,” James slowly answered, “I’ve wondered the same thing myself.”
“You have?” Cindy smiled, relieved to have her curiosity validated.
Jimmy nodded and went on, “There are flaws in the theory to be sure. I’m sure you read up on its blatant disregard for time symmetry, for example.”
Cindy vacantly blinked and rubbed her arm. “I kind of skimmed over that part.”
“Well,” Jimmy awkwardly continued, “the point is that the idea’s not perfect. But I’ve already poked holes in several established theories regarding quantum physics. Maybe it’s time I dispute one more.”
“You really think you could do it?” Cindy asked. “See if there’s something…sideways?”
“Yeah. I do.” Jimmy realized that this may have been the first time Cindy ever came to him with a serious question. He decided to offer a token of trust back. “And if I find anything, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Thanks, Neutron,” Cindy sincerely answered. She motioned at their friends, who were squaring off for a kickball game with the rest of their class. “Think they’d let us join? I bet we could squash Ike’s team.” She grinned devilishly before changing her mind. “Or maybe we could go head to head.”
Jimmy smirked back. “Game on, Vortex.”
Hunched over his bedroom’s desk, James allowed himself a break to glance up from his blueprints and stare out his window. Sun still mid-sky, the beautiful afternoon stood in perfect contrast to the stormy evening the night before. It was the perfect day to grab Carl and Sheen and test out the modifications he’d made to his hover craft’s engine.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Jimmy muttered aloud. He glanced down at his blueprints; the nearly complete schematics outlined the device that would enable him to peer into parallel universes. As he studied the designs, he realized that this wasn’t just the first time that Cindy had sought him out for help; it was also the first time that she had trusted one of his inventions to work.
James put his pen down and leaned back in his chair. He thought back to his and Cindy’s conversation in the schoolyard, how he had failed to invite her to his lab. Guilt bubbled up and irritated his stomach; as he always did, James tried to logically refute this feeling. Just because we kiss once doesn’t mean we have to do everything together. “But,” he hesitantly countered aloud, “I suppose we should do some things together.”
For the better part of a year, since their journey to Yolkus, Jimmy and Cindy had continuously skirted the boundaries of hatred, friendship, and love. The line between the former two had been erased with a contract; he still couldn’t ascertain if the latter boundary had been destroyed with a kiss. He remembered how it had felt to grab Cindy’s hand, slam his lips onto hers, and watch a dreamy grin spread across her face.
Jimmy smiled wide and set back to work, happy to finish this favor for Cindy. Besides, he easily thought, maybe this machine could show us what we might be.
A knock at James’ door interrupted him from setting pen to paper. “Come in, Mom,” he shouted without glancing up.
He wasn’t surprised to hear the door open, but listening to Cindy’s voice gave him pause. “Does the invitation extend to me?”
He spun around to find the door open and Cindy standing in its threshold. He cocked his head in confusion; both at her presence and how haggard she looked. Sweat covered her brow, her ponytail was frazzled, and her breaths came heavy. After a moment of silence, Cindy tapped her foot and impatiently asked, “Well?”
“Uh,” Jimmy struggled to find his footing, “sure. Are you okay?”
“T’ai chi,” she simply reminded him while slowly stepping inside. She glanced around his bedroom; eyes appraising every poster and stray invention. “It’s neater than last time I was here.”
“We promised never to bring that mess up again,” Jimmy reminded her. He was willing to spend time with Cindy; being forced to remember how they had once switched bodies was forever off the table.
“Fair enough,” Cindy easily shot back, and they both reflexively shivered. Once her body stopped convulsing, she leaned against a wall a few feet from her friend. She glanced at his desk, spotted the blueprints, and nodded at them. “Are those for the machine?”
“Yeah,” Jimmy agreed. “They’re nearly set; I should have it built by tomorrow.”
Cindy’s expression suddenly changed; he’d never seen her features harden so quickly. It was as though ten years of wisdom flooded her pupils in an instant. “I guess I got here in time, then.”
“What do you mean?” Jimmy nervously asked.
Cindy pushed herself off the wall and started pacing around the room. “I was thinking, Neutron. When you went in the past, you nearly destroyed the entire timeline. When you went to the future, you turned Libby into a dictator.”
“Technically,” Jimmy snapped, “that was thanks to Carl grabbing the wrong present. It had nothing to do with the Chrono Arch.”
“My point,” Cindy tiredly went on, “is that whenever you try to mess with something big, something horrible happens.”
“You have a funny way of showing appreciation,” Jimmy shot back. “I am doing this for you.”
Rage flashed across Cindy’s pupils, but it was doused quickly enough. That wisdom Jimmy had witnessed stayed alight; it enabled Cindy to say, “I know. And,” she licked her lips and swallowed hard, “thank you.”
Jimmy shook his head in confusion. “Why are you here, Cindy?”
The blonde-haired girl took a deep breath. “I’m here because whenever we do something that goes beyond heading to The Candy Bar, we usually end up nearly dying or destroying the universe.”
“So you’re saying you don’t want to go on adventures anymore?” Jimmy attempted to guise his dismay with rage; he wasn’t sure how successful the ruse was.
“No, Neutron!” Cindy finally snapped. She struggled to temper her temper as she said, “I’m saying that if we’re going to play with fire, we should at least avoid frolicking in gasoline. Maybe we don’t mess with the fabric of the universe itself…that’s all.”
Jimmy stayed quiet, and Cindy stepped towards the bed. She slowly sat down, waiting for resistance from James. None came, so she sighed and turned away from him. “Do you even remember that we kissed?”
The question froze James in place – he hadn’t known they were allowed to discuss that event. “Obviously,” he answered.
Silence saturated the air and smothered any anger each child held. “We haven’t talked about it,” Cindy whispered.
“We don’t,” Jimmy shook his head and slowly answered, “talk about that stuff.”
Cindy bit her lip and slowly nodded. “Maybe we could,” she offered.
Both children sat there for a long time, lost in their own thoughts. At last, Cindy rose off the bed. “You helped me today,” she admitted. “I wanted to talk and you did. Then you offered to find something out for me. That I’d be the first to hear what you found.
I do want to know what’s out there. If there are other worlds. But I don’t risk to destroying any or all of them. Maybe we should actually learn something from all the stuff we’ve been through this year. Maybe we should leave this one thing alone.” Cindy swallowed nervously and added, “And maybe we should deal with what happened last week. If I’m being honest,” Cindy looked at James, who stared back into her eyes. Emerald and blue looked deep into each other, desperate to decipher what was churning behind.
“More than deciphering the mysteries of the universe? Right now I just want to grab a shake with you.”
Jimmy turned to the schematics in his hand. He couldn’t recall a single time he had abandoned an invention that he’d designed before the trial phase – he usually experienced at least three explosions before he called it quits. But he could hardly refute Cindy’s points. His previous dances with the time-space continuum had been dangerous ones. Plus, he had become committed to personal growth after being on Intergalactic Showdown. And…he had enjoyed that kiss.
“I suppose,” he said while crumpling up the schematics, “I could take your advice this one time.” He tossed the blueprints into his trash can. “As long as you know it’s not the beginning of a habit.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it,” Cindy smiled back. “What fun would whatever the hell we have be if it weren’t fueled by rage?”
“Acrimony?” Jimmy tried to correct her.
“Rivalry?” Cindy offered.
“Friendship tethered by uncertainty.” Jimmy’s tone left no room for further argument.
Cindy chuckled and extended her hand. She jerked her head at the window and the descending sun. “Let’s get you out of here and to the Candy Bar. My treat.”
James stared at her for a tender moment before clasping her palm. He was greeted with an all too familiar and welcome electric shock. She led him out of his bedroom, and he didn’t realize until he was down the stairs that he’d been too distracted to close his door.
Author’s Note: I wish to sincerely thank all of the authors who helped make this story possible. I hope many of my readers were able to tell that the bolded sections in this story were partially rewritten excerpts from many different Jimmy Neutron fanfics. Here are the referenced stories in order (stories referenced twice are only mentioned once in this list):
Fireflies by quietthinker
Catalyst by soulful-sin
Revenge by quietthinker
Pushing Through by quietthinker
In Brightest Day, in Darkest Night by GaDS2000
Last Call by quietthinker
The Longest Night by Farley Drexel
Spring Fling by quietthinker
Growing Up by quietthinker
Emerging Compassions by jcfreak4ever
Scattering Ashes by quietthinker
The Devil and Jimmy Neutron by GaDS2000
The Other Side of Tomorrow by AntiqueDreams
The Lost Chapters by quietthinker
Stealing My Heart by quietthinkerd