stillthekey: ([ha!] i don't have all the answers)
[personal profile] stillthekey
Title: Trying
Fandom/Universe: Hey Arnold!
Character(s): Helga, Arnold
Rating: Teen
Chapters: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7




It’s raining.

Helga keeps her eyes focused on the road. There’s a large part of her still screaming in fear and happiness and confusion and that part of her is punching against all the walls in her mind - demanding answers. She stifles that voice the best she can and let’s out a long sigh.

Arnold is sleeping.

It’s a restless sort of sleep. His eyes keep twitching and he starts every now and again, before settling back against the seat. Helga keeps watching him out of the corner of her eye. She studies the up and down movement of his chest and assures herself, for the eighty-sixth time that he really is alive.

It’s just that… three years ago she lost a part of herself and even before then… when he left the first time?

She stops that train of thought before it can really take off. She doesn’t want to dwell. Not here. Not now. Not when Arnold is alive and well and sleeping beside her in their stolen vehicle, which, he told her before he nodded off, they would be ditching as soon as they possibly could.

There’s a small, round, cloth-covered something sitting on Arnold’s lap. His hands are still clutched against its sides as if it were the last light left in a pitch-black world. Between them, wedged against the cup holders is an old, faded book. His dad’s journal.

Helga doesn’t know very much about his parents. Only that they weren’t around when Arnold was growing up. Even during their classes' misguided adventure in the jungles of San Lorenzo, he had never given away very much about them. His dad was a doctor? His mom was an archeologist? No, it was the other way around?

She shook her head as she made another left hand turn.

Anyway, even though she was clueless when it came to his parents, what she did know was that through all the time she had known Arnold, he had obviously never given up thinking that they were alive. Their little jungle adventure had taught her that much. And even before then, he always had this… wondering sort of look? Like in the school plays - at the end, he’d always scan the crowd, face full of hope. And when he saw his grandparents… His face didn’t fall exactly, but there was sort of this resigned look to it.

She laughs a little. Bitterly.

Why does she still remember that?

Whatever. It was years ago and all behind her now. She’s twenty-five and not some sniveling kid too afraid of getting her feelings smashed to ever really come out and say what she felt. She’s twenty-five and driving her undead man-boy-thing to the ends of the earth without really knowing why.

The pounding voice in her head continues.

She ought to let him sleep. God, he looks so worn out. Like he’d been running for months on end. That glimmer of hope in eyes that seemed like a permanent fixture when they were nine has been replaced with something a lot more… feral?

She shivers.

Another voice, not the loud pushy one that doesn’t know when to shut up, but an entirely different one pipes up from somewhere deep inside her mind. It’s barely a whisper really. Nothing but a breath of a sound, but it says something that immediately leaves her insides cold.

He is not your Arnold.

She mentally stomps on the voice, shuts it out and glares at the road ahead of her. A wall bursts in her mind and the demanding, shrill voice is set free. She spots a sign up ahead and immediately heads for it. She slams on the brakes as she pulls into a parking spot right in front of a small roadside diner. The jerk of the car shakes Arnold out of his slumber.

“W-what?”

“Morning, princess.” She teases as he looks outside. He raises an eyebrow.

“A diner? This is your great destination?” He asks her, confused.

She puts the car in park and throws the door open.

“More like a pitstop, really.” She says, before slamming the door shut so that the car shudders a bit from the force. Arnold sighs and opens his door.

“Well then go do your business and hurry back. We gotta to keep going while we can.”

She shakes her head and crosses her arms over her chest.

“Nope. We’re taking a break. And you,” She says as she moves closer to his side of the car, sneakers dragging against the pavement as she walks. “are going to tell me everything I want to know.” She touches his nose with one finger and he bats it away.

“No.” He says gruffly. “It’s better than you don’t know anything, Helga.”

“So what you’re saying is that it’s really you who is the bad guy here and helping you was a really bad idea, right? Then I better turn you in to the police….” She prods as she reaches into her pocket for a cell phone. His hand darts out to stop her. He stands up and holds her arm firmly.

“Don’t.” He says almost dangerously.

But she is not afraid of him.

“Then explain.” She scowls up at him.

“Whatever.” He finally responds as he grabs his cloth-ball and journal out of the car and carries them into the diner. Helga stifles a laugh. He looks sort of ridiculous.

She follows him inside.



---



They get a booth in the back. No one really seems to pay much attention to them, though the waitress keeps making offhand comments about romantic locale. To resist punching her in her stupid face, Helga distracts herself with tearing her paper place-mat into tiny pieces. Meanwhile, she wills her face to stop burning red. Arnold, for his part, either doesn’t care or doesn’t notice. If he’s anything like he used to be, she figures it’s the latter.

He has the ridiculous cloth-ball snuggled comfortably beside him and every few minutes he reaches down and pats the top of it as if it were some sort of faithful dog. Helga makes another tear in her placemat.

“Getting ammo?” He asks suddenly.

She’s startled.

“What?” Completely confused, eyebrows arched. Yes, eyebrows, she’s a grown woman, thank-you. She’s learned how to use tweezers.

He motions towards the small, but growing paper pile on the table.

“Ammo. Y’know,” He picks one of the small pieces up and rolls it around his fingers. “For spitballs?”

She laughs.

“You remember those?”

He smiles at her and something flutters in her stomach. She doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of seeing him smile at her.

“Unfortunately. It’s kind of hard to forget six straight years of spitty hair.” He picks up his water and points at her. “You were sort of a mean little thing back then, y’know?”

“I was a bitch.” She says bluntly. He chokes a little on his water as he laughs at that.

“Well I wasn’t gonna say it, but….”

“To you especially.” She says then, quiet-like. He looks at her then, really looks at her. And there’s something about her that is so entirely changed that he kind of has to remind himself that it’s Helga in front of him. It was easy to remember when she was shouting at him to get in the car or before that when she’d been complaining about every little thing they were doing, but this… quiet, shy thing is foreign to him. He wonders what happened to suck all the life out of her. Last he knew she was finishing up college and was, according to Gerald, supposed to be close to snagging some sort of book deal. He’d never expected her to still be sitting around Hillwood after all this time.

“You liked me.” He said with a chuckle as he turned from her to gaze out the window. The rain was picking up again. “That’s why you did it. I know it took awhile, but I did figure it out.”

And then the fire is back.

“Ha! I told you! If I hadn’t confessed you’d have never ever known. Face it, footballhead - you are not the sharpest tool in the shed.” With that she flicks a small piece of paper into his face. He laughs and bats it away.

“Yeah, well at least I wasn’t some crazy girl stalking the boy of my dreams!” He teases as he throws a piece back at her.

“Oh really? You could have fooled me with the way you followed Gerald around like a lovesick puppy. And all while wearing that silly dress or kilt thing you used to wear! We were all waiting for the two of you to come out since preschool!” Then she picks up a handful of paper bits and chucks them straight in his face so that he gets them stuck all throughout his hair. With an annoyed huff he quickly sticks a finger in his mouth and lunges across the table, aiming for her ear.

“Don’t you DARE!” She squeals as he struggles to push her arms away from shielding herself.

“It was a shirt! Not a dress! Not a kilt! A shirt!” He shouts.

“Excuse me?”

They both stop immediately, his spit-covered finger still prodding the back of her hand. The waitress blinks at them.

“I um, I have your food?” She seems to ask rather then tell. The two quickly pull apart and smile at her. Their waitress raises an eyebrow as she silently lays out their plates in front of them. Then she walks away.

Before she disappears behind the doors to the kitchen she stops, whirls back at them and sticks a finger in the air.

“Oh! The kissing rock! It’s an old legend around here! So romantic.” She bats her lashes at them. “Perfect for couples.”

Helga raises a fist at her, her face going redder by the second.

“Get back to the kitchen you dumb twit!” She yells. Their waitress giggles and finally takes her leave.

When she’s gone, Helga sits back down and puts her head in her hands. Meanwhile, Arnold is happily eating his food seemingly oblivious to everything their server has just said. Helga watches as he takes another bite of his sandwich and smiles to herself.

Some things really don't change.

---


The rain is slowing by the time they finish and Helga still has a universe of questions bouncing off against the inside of her mind. She’d held them back through dinner, wanting to pretend that maybe they were just two old friends meeting up to have a good time together, but the truth of the situation is too heavy to pretend away completely. There’s little he could do to keep her from following him now that she’s found him again, but she can’t just keep stumbling along blindly.

She pushes her plate aside and rubs her elbow.

“We need to talk.”

“You’re not breaking up with me are you?” Arnold jokes, but he also refuses to meet her gaze. Slowly, he pushes the last bit of macaroni around his plate.

“Come on, Arnold.” She says firmly, not letting up. “I’ve given you time. I need an explanation.” He turns his head to watch as she seems to debate something within herself. Then she lays her hand on top of his. He tries to avoid it, but her gaze catches his and all he can do is look at her, blue eyes sparkling in the diner’s dim lighting. “Please.” She implores.

He shakes her off.

“I can’t.” He says softly. Then he bolts. He grabs the cloth-thing and the journal and heads straight for the door. Helga is left gaping at his retreating back.

Quickly, she digs into her pocket and pulls out a twenty-dollar bill. She hopes it’s enough to cover their food and wishes that she hadn’t left her purse back in her apartment. It complicates a lot of things. Then she chases after him.

He hasn’t gone far. She can see him standing, his back to her, on the other side of the road. It’s still raining.

She squints at him, before quickly ducking into the car, grabbing an umbrella from between the seats and heading out to where he’s standing.

He doesn’t say a word as she approaches and she comes to a stop about two feet behind him.

“What happened, Arnold?” She asks quietly. His shoulders sag.

“It’s a long story.” Is his reply.

The umbrella opens and she steps closer, shielding him from the rain.

“We’ve got time.” Helga says as she awkwardly rests her hand on his arm. It’s weird. Touching him after all these years. He looks at her then and smiles that same sort of dreamy half-smile that she remembers from childhood and a part of her breaks and a part of her heals.

And then Arnold tells Helga his story.




a/n: I LIED. I said you'd get answers in this chapter. YOU DON'T. Aren't I the worst?

On the upside (or downside depending on the kind of person you are) the next chapter is probably going to be completely full of flashbacks! We shall relive the experience right there with Arnold. Huzzah!

Oh god, you don't know how badly I want to go through each and everyone of these chapters and point all the ridiculous canon throwbacks and symbolism, because I keep doing adding them! I DON'T EVEN TRY TO.

Also, I told you they'd changed. This story is mostly about them finding themselves again. Also, ADVENTURE! Seriously, there's so many awesome things that I've got planned for this story. I keep sort of going 'round in circles about some of the plottier details though. I'll figure it out soon though.

Oh and here's a little reference thing mostly for myself, but you guys might enjoy it too. What's in Helga and Arnold's pockets?!


HELGA'S:

- $20 bill (gone now)
- Gum
- Cellphone
- Chapstick
- Beeper (on her belt - perks of being big bob's daughter)
- 2 pens
- Small notebook for taking orders

ETA: - A flier for Rhonda's party



ARNOLD'S:

- Pocket Knife type thing (has a screwdriver, a knife and maybe something else small, but useful?)
- Driver's License (expired)
- One 20 dollar bill, one 10 and three 5's ($45 total)
- Pocket watch (his grandpa's (The Sewer King))
- Journal (he has big side pockets and he'll eventually stick the journal in one of them)

ETA: - A flier for Rhonda's party and a small newspaper clipping
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stillthekey: (Default)
Alyssa Marie

April 2012

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