Hello everyone! And welcome to pottergal's Hey Arnold! fan fiction. So here's the tale; after seeing the HA! movie, my friends and I were in desperate need of a H/A fan fic, so we started this one. We are big on Hey Arnold in the first place, and we totally love the couple of Arnold and Helga. So here I am, putting words to our outline, and hoping against hope that people like it. Just so everyone knows, this is H/A, but it's more of a coming to understand eachother tale than anything else. The story is based around Arnold figuring out how Helga works mentally, and consequently won't have much mushy mush. It will be sentimental, hopefully. The idea behind this story is the belief we hold that in order for Arnold to even begin to like Helga, he needs to see more into her softer side. So that's what this fic does, it introduces him to her hidden self. Well, enough with the excuses and unneeded explanations. Onward!

Something I forgot to add however, before we continue. Being that I am biased towards the West Coast since that's where I live, this story is going to take place in Seattle, Washington. Not that I hate the East Coast (half of my family lives in Virginia, after all) it's just that I don't know enough about it to feel confidant writing with it taking place there. Besides, I read somewhere that their city is sort of a mix of Seattle, San Francisco, and New York, so hey, it could be either place. Enough of that, to the story.

Yours forever and ever:

pottergal

PS. Oh yeah! I so don't own Hey Arnold! And all the respective characters and related merchandise. I am a poor student with absolutely, positively no claim to it; it belongs to Nickelodeon and its wonderful creator (whose name I can't recall . . . Craig something. If you know it, please tell me!).

*~*~*

~~~~**~~~~**~~~~**~~~~

A Rainy December

Chapter One: November Sickness

By: pottergal

~~~~**~~~~**~~~~**~~~~

*~*~*

It was a normal school day at the elementary school of PS 118, that had started off the same as it always had for Arnold, with the seven am wake up call from his increasingly annoying alarm clocks. He'd started using two, since the one that ran on the potatoes had no snooze button for him to smack repeatedly.

"Hey Arnold. Hey Arnold. Hey Arnold. Hey –" The first one would say at exactly six forty-five every weekday; that is, until Arnold reached up, half asleep, and unplugged it to shut the darn thing up. Fifteen minutes later, his second alarm would go off, but this one was positioned half way across his room and was particularly annoying, forcing him to get up and smack the off button. He'd grumble the whole time, still half asleep, about stupid buzzing alarm clocks and stupid eight am school start times.

After he'd turned off his second alarm, he'd most likely yawn long and loudly and begin the eternal debate of whether or not to crawl back to bed. It would look so inviting, still warm from his body heat, and it would take every shred of will power not to snuggle back down beneath the blue comforter. Some mornings he'd give in, but those were the mornings that he'd wind up missing the bus and would have to run to school, his toast clenched between his teeth and his shoes only half tied.

This particular morning he hadn't given in, and had showered and brushed his teeth quickly before changing into his normal clothes of the plaid shirt, teal sweater, and jeans. Seven thirty had rolled around by the time he finished tying his shoes and he sighed a little. Grabbing his books, he had raced down the stairs, grabbed the toast his grandmother held out, yelled a hasty good-bye while shoving the toast in his mouth, thrown open the door, and had managed to make it to the bus stop on time.

"Hey, Arnold." He'd grinned at Gerald around the toast in his mouth as he climbed into the bus and took the seat beside his best friend. They did their customary thumb wiggle hand shake and for the first time that morning, Arnold was able to draw a deep breath before beginning to munch on his breakfast.

"Late start, I see. Still having trouble getting up?" Gerald had asked with one eyebrow raised. Arnold nodded but didn't respond; his mouth was full of bread. "Sheesh, man. And how many alarm clocks do you have? Five?" Gerald shook his head. "I just can't understand how you can't wake up."

"I do have five, but I only use two of them." Arnold had finally said, after swallowing the last of his toast. "The other three are broken due to . . . ah . . . various reasons." Gerald had raised both eyebrows by now.

"Various reasons? Who are you kidding? You're the one who broke them, buddy. With the amount of force you pound them in the mornings, I'm surprised they aren't in little pieces, let alone broken." Gerald had pointed out, and Arnold had rolled his eyes a little.

"I do not pound them."

"You could've fooled me." Gerald had said, giving him a look.

"All right, so maybe I hit them a little hard." Arnold had conceded after a moment. "But I don't pound them." Gerald had persisted with the look.

"Whatever you say, Arnold." He had said after a moment. "Whatever you say."

The remainder of the bus ride had continued normally, well, as normal as a bus ride could get. Harold, Stinky, and Sid had managed to pull off some prank involving a fake spider and Rhonda, and consequently the bus driver had pulled over and kicked them out. He didn't care one bit about their pleas and frantic apologies; Rhonda was still shrieking in the back of the bus and Sheena and Nadine were doing everything they could to calm her down. Once the bus had started moving again, Arnold and Gerald had shared a look of half amusement and half exasperation.

"Served her right, little stuck up princess." Arnold had heard Helga mutter from across the aisle, and he had noticed she was sitting a few seats away, her angry gaze fixed on the hyperventilating Rhonda. She'd shaken her pale blonde head before turning back to her best friend, a petite jet-black haired girl. "So anyway, Pheebs . . ." She'd begun before trailing off in a frown.

"Yes, Helga?" Phoebe had asked in her gentle voice.

"You sure you're feeling all right? You've got this dazed look on your face or somethin'." Helga had asked, a scrutinizing frown plastered on her face. Her blue eyes had looked Phoebe up and down, who had just smiled slightly.

"I am quite certain, Helga. I just didn't get much sleep is all. I will be fine." Phoebe had urged, but Helga had remained silent, unconvinced. "Please, continue, Helga. You were saying?" Arnold's gaze had turned to Phoebe then, and he could see what had been bothering Helga. Something just . . . didn't feel right.

"If you're sure . . . " Helga had begun suspiciously and Phoebe had nodded with a small smile. "Where was I?" Her gaze, as though sensing Arnold's, turned and met his. He'd smiled, as usual, but was only met with a dark scowl. "Oh yeah, I remember . . ." He'd looked away then, thankful that Helga hadn't retorted like she normally did. Truth be told, it had been grating on his nerves more than usual, and last time this had happened, he'd dumped paint on her.

"What's up, man?" Gerald had asked and Arnold had shaken his head.

"Nothing. So what were we talking about?"

"The upcoming baseball game. You know, the one against the fifth graders?" Gerald had begun exasperatedly. "Sheesh Arnold, where is that head of yours this morning?" He had shrugged but Gerald continued on. "So as I was saying, we need to cram in some more practices. Can you believe it's already the middle of November? Thanksgiving is almost a week away and then Christmas is practically right around the corner!" He'd said, rubbing his hands together and grinning.

"Uh, Gerald . . ."

"What?"

"The baseball game? The practices? What about those?"

"Yeah, right, thanks for reminding me." Arnold had suppressed a small sigh. "Back to what I said, we need some more practices. Stinky and Sid need some more batting practice, and I know Harold has been dying to try out a few new pitches of his." Gerald had glanced at Arnold then, a small sly smile on his face. "And maybe this time your little fan club won't tag along and make you miss a catch again." Arnold had glared.

"Hey, that wasn't my fault." Gerald had given him the look for the second time that morning. "Okay, so that was my fault for missing the catch, but Timberly and Lila won't come to a practice. Timberly doesn't like me anymore." He had added a mental 'thank god' after that.

"Uh-huh, sure. I just hope they don't show up to the game. We can't afford to lose this one, Arnold." The sigh that Arnold'd been holding back finally slipped a bit.

"I know, Gerald." He'd looked up out the bus windshield. "Believe me, I know."

The rest of the ride to school came and went quietly, with Arnold and Gerald discussing different plays to try out at practice that afternoon. The bus had finally pulled up to the school campus and all the students had filed out into the chilly November air. As the cold nipped at his face, Arnold grumbled inwardly for forgetting his thicker sweater and scarf. He'd hugged his books closer to his body in an attempt to keep his hands warm and he and Gerald got inside quickly.

Thus the daily ritual of getting to school was over and Arnold now sat at his desk in Mr. Simmons' classroom, waiting absently for the final bell to ring and give permission to their teacher to begin. The door had banged open a moment ago, revealing a rather flushed and sweaty Harold, Stinky, and Sid. They hastily explained themselves to a startled looking Mr. Simmons, who chided them gently over being kicked off the bus, and then took their seats.

The bell finally rang at eight and Mr. Simmons rose from his desk, his chipper, ever-present smile not wavering the least. Arnold gave himself one final mental wake-up shake before sitting up to give his full attention to their teacher.

"Good morning, class! And what a special morning it is!" He began, his tone the same as ever. The happiness dripping from it was enough to make any normal person sick to their stomach, but his class was used to it by now. "I hope all of you remembered your book reports are due at the end of the day!" The class groaned collectively and Arnold was happy that he'd put his in his locker yesterday.

"Mr. Simmons." A sweet, musical voice called out, and the class's attention shifted to a certain red head. Arnold couldn't help but smile wistfully at the freckled girl as she continued with her question. "Are we still going to present them orally?"

"Yes, we are, Lila. I was just about to mention that; thank you for reminding me." Mr. Simmons smiled at her and she returned it. "Presentations of your book reports will begin after I have had a chance to read all of them." Arnold made a mental note to himself as attention shifted back to the teacher. He should get Gerald to practice presenting with him or something.

"Mr. Simmons, is there a time length that you want us to meet? There usually is, isn't there?" This time attention turned to Rhonda, who was filing her nails while looking up at the teacher with a mixture of curiosity and disdain. "I for one don't want to lose points for not talking enough."

"As if you have that problem, princess. Usually you don't shut up." The class laughed at Helga's quip and Arnold fought to keep a smile from his face. Rhonda turned and glared at her.

"All right, class. Settle down, settle down." Mr. Simmons made quieting motions with his hands and Rhonda reluctantly turned back to face forward. "Yes, Rhonda, there is a time limit of five minutes. And I don't want just five minutes of the plot; I want a bit of analysis on why the book was written and what makes it so important for special people such as ourselves to read. Does that answer your question?"

"Yes, Mr. Simmons." She said and Mr. Simmons smiled.

"Good! Now, it's eight fifteen, so everyone knows what that means! It's history time!" He pulled down a map of the United States and whipped out a pointer stick. "Now, as you all know, we live in the beautiful state of Washington! Can anyone tell me our state's history?"

Much to the general surprise of the class, Phoebe was not the first person to raise her hand. In fact, she never lifted her arm from the desk, and her face was fixed in a rather dazed expression. After a long pause of silence, the class as a whole turned to her, their confusion apparent. Arnold twisted around in his chair to meet Gerald's bewildered and questioning stare. They shared a quiet shrug before looking back to Phoebe. After a moment, it was Helga who finally spoke.

"Hey, Pheebs, you alive?" She asked, perhaps a bit more kindly than she normally did. The little Japanese girl blinked before giving herself a visible shake and smiling gently at her friend. Helga, in the meantime, stared at her with a combination of confusion and worry. "Since when do you stay silent when Mr. Simmons asks a question?"

"Whatever are you talking about, Helga?" Phoebe asked and both Helga and Arnold frowned.

"Uh, earth to Phoebe. Mr. Simmons just asked us about our state history. Now are you sure you're feeling all right?" Phoebe blinked a little before looking up at their teacher. There was a moment of silence, but she finally nodded and smiled at Helga.

"I already told you, Helga. I'm fine." Phoebe turned her smile to Mr. Simmons. "I'm sorry for interrupting your lesson, Mr. Simmons. Please continue."

"Helga's right, Phoebe. Are you sure you're okay? That was the first time you've never answered a question in class." Mr. Simmons asked, his happy smile fading to a concerned expression. Phoebe's smile faltered a bit and Arnold could see the exasperation in her eyes.

"I didn't sleep well last night, but I am fine." Her words came out a little more pointed than normal, their usual gentle quality wearing thin. "Please, Mr. Simmons, I'm all right. Continue." He regarded her curiously for a moment longer but finally turned back to the map. Arnold and Gerald shared one last confused look before Arnold turned back around in his seat and returned his attention to Mr. Simmons.

"Anyway, as I was saying, we are going to begin today's lesson by looking at the European exploration of the state and the Maritime fur trade from 1741 to 1806. Then tomorrow we are going to fit Americans into the picture and their entry into the fur trade rivalry. Doesn't that sound just so exciting, class?" Mr. Simmons said, his bouncy attitude back in full force. There was a collective grunt of acknowledgement and he promptly returned to his lecture.

Arnold sighed a little and slumped into his seat. Normally he enjoyed history lessons, but for some reason, today he could care less about the amount of otters certain Europeans killed for their glossy pelts or the Native American happenings throughout it all. As Mr. Simmons piped on and on and on, Arnold found himself slipping further and further away, his mind wandering back to his warm, inviting bed . . .

"ARNOLD!"

"HUH?" He jerked upright, his mind foggy but his eyes wide and his heart racing. He looked around the classroom in confusion to find everyone either snickering or shaking their heads. "What's going on? What happened?"

"You were sleeping, Arnold, that's what happened." Mr. Simmons said, his smile gone for the second time that day. Arnold blinked, his heart rate slowly returning to normal. He looked up at the clock and stared when he found that it read nine thirty. "At first I couldn't tell, but then you put your head down. How long have you been asleep?"

"Um . . ." His mind began to backtrack furiously; what was the last thing he remembered hearing?

"Have you slept through my entire lecture? Arnold, I am very disappointed in you. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to stay inside during recess today to make up the learning time you lost." Arnold opened his mouth to protest, but upon seeing the stern look on Mr. Simmons face, he closed it and hung his head a little. The class snickered as a whole.

"Good one, football-head." He heard Helga mutter and tossed her a dark glare.

"Class, please. Let's return to the lesson."

Recess came and went, with Arnold receiving a severe reprimand from Mr. Simmons for sleeping in class. He apologized and promised that it wouldn't ever happen again, but Mr. Simmons didn't let him go outside. He was allowed to go to his locker and anywhere inside the building, but nowhere else. Gerald kept him company and the two walked the halls, talking about their upcoming practice to get Arnold's mind off the punishment.

Harold, Stinky, and Sid had come up to them about half way through recess to tell them that they'd come this afternoon, and Harold had promised to show them some great new pitches he'd learned. They were awesome, he'd said. Downright awesome.

Arnold had also managed to get himself drenched by the drinking fountain, but surprisingly enough, it had nothing to do with Helga, his eternal tormentor. In fact, it was a prank played by Curly, who'd been lying in wait for Eugene for some reason or another, and Arnold happened to be unlucky enough that he walked past at the exact moment as the school jinx. The spray of water didn't hit the intended target; it doused an unsuspecting Arnold.

"Man, buddy, this just isn't your day. First sleeping in class and now this." Gerald had said, shaking his head as Arnold tried his best to dry himself off with a towel from the nurse's office. "At least Curly is getting a detention or something. Principal Wartz was chewing him out last I heard." Yet it did little to comfort Arnold, who had to sit through the rest of class in damp, clinging clothes.

Lunch time finally came and Arnold's clothes had finally dried enough for him to be comfortable. The bell rang and the class raced from the room, anxious for their sandwiches or to be first in the lunch line. Arnold and Gerald each snagged a tray and fought looks of pure disgust as the lunch lady ladled them each a bowl of the day's special, mystery chili.

"This is the last time I forget my lunch on a mystery day." Gerald muttered as he reluctantly accepted the bowl of bubbling brown goo. "Ugh, think it could get any nastier?" He whispered to Arnold, who grinned. "And I wonder what mystery means . . ."

"They probably put the mystery meat in it." Arnold suggested as they moved towards the end of the lunch line. "Ah, the last tapioca!" Just as he reached for it however, someone else grabbed it. He was about to protest and ask for it back, but then he noticed it had been Helga who'd grabbed it. Remembering what she'd done last time he'd asked for it, he decided not to press his luck, seeing as he'd already been drenched today and yelled at for sleeping in class.

"Yeesh, Pheebs, could that Simmons be any more boring? I mean, even Arnaldo drifted off." She said to her friend as she set the pudding on her tray. "I think that says a lot. Wouldn't you agree?" But there was no answer. "Pheebs?" Arnold blinked as Helga set her tray down and turned her full attention to the girl infront of her. "Phoebe, are you all right?" Arnold blinked again, but this time it was because of Helga's voice. She actually sounded . . . sincere and worried.

"What's going on?" He asked as he peered around Helga. Phoebe stood infront of them, her hands clenched around one of the three bars they'd rest their trays on and her chest heaving slightly. Her expression was once again dazed.

"Phoebe, what's going on?" Helga touched her friend's shoulder, but the girl didn't respond. "Phoebe, answer me!" Beneath the concern Arnold held for Phoebe's sudden state, he noted dimly the difference in Helga's voice. He rarely heard her talk like this, her tone free of sarcasm and that sneer; it was the same as the one he'd heard when they'd spoken atop the FTi building.

"Everything . . . is spinning . . ." Arnold heard Phoebe whisper as she squeezed her eyes shut tight.

"What? What do you mean?" There was a note of panic in Helga's voice now as Arnold sensed Gerald come up beside him. "Phoebe!" The girl was falling backwards as her grip on the bar vanished. Helga lunged forward, but Gerald was quicker and he caught Phoebe before she hit the ground.

"It's okay, she just fainted." Gerald said after a moment as he looked up at Helga and Arnold.

"Thank you for stating the obvious, Geraldo!" Helga snapped at him and she touched Phoebe's shoulder gently. Arnold watched with amazement as her glare slowly melted away as she looked at her friend. "Any idea why she would just collapse like that?" She said softly and Gerald shook his head.

"But I do know we should get her to the nurse's office. Arnold, could you take my lunch and save me a seat? I'll be back after I take Phoebe." Gerald asked as he picked up Phoebe's legs and Arnold nodded. He watched Helga get the door for Gerald and the two of them vanished into the hall. Arnold frowned a little in thought as he took Helga's pudding, she wasn't going to need it after all, he told himself, and picked up the two trays.

"Hey, Arnold! What just happened?" Sid called and Arnold moved to sit with him, Stinky, and Harold. "What happened to Phoebe? Why did Gerald carry her out of here?" Arnold picked up his spoon and thrust it into his mystery chili.

"I wouldn't eat that if I were you." Stinky cautioned in his mid-western drawl.

"Why not?" He asked as he lifted the full spoon to his mouth.

"It's as nasty as a bucket full of sheep's stomachs on a hot summer day." As he spoke, Arnold had swallowed the spoonful of chili, and every part of him began fighting the urge to gag. It must've shown on his face because Sid and Harold both started laughing. "I reckon I told you so."

"Gah, never again." Arnold said as he pushed the bowl away, his appetite almost completely ruined. He opened his milk and drank about half of it in one gulp to drown out the nasty flavor of the chili still lingering in his mouth. "Never again will I brave mystery day."

"At least you still have your tapioca. They were out when I passed by and the lady refused to bring out a fresh batch." Sid said enviously as Arnold began to dig into his pudding. "But you still haven't answered my question. What happened to Phoebe?"

"She fainted. And I haven't a clue to as why." Arnold said, savoring the flavor of the tapioca. "So about practice this afternoon. Do you guys have any plays we should try? Plays that might help us beat the fifth graders?"

"Aw heck, Arnold, you know we aren't that great at strategizin'. We leave that up to you and Gerald." He sighed a little as Stinky slurped at his milk. "You two never fail in comin' up with the best plays."

"Yeah, well . . ."

"Hey buddy. Thanks for saving my seat." Everyone looked up as Gerald plopped into the seat beside Arnold. He took one look at the lukewarm mystery chili and blanched. "Ugh, I couldn't eat this if you paid me." He pushed it away in disgust and grabbed a piece of fruit from the giant pile infront of Harold.

"Hey!"

"Stuff it. Everyone else needs to eat too, and it looks like you raided the supermarket. You can spare some." Harold grumbled as Gerald peeled the stolen banana, but he didn't demand that it be given back.

"So what's the deal with Phoebe? Is she going to be all right?" Sid asked as Gerald took a bite of the banana.

"The nurse said she has a fever, but that's about all she could tell without Phoebe conscious. She sent Helga to call Phoebe's parents and told me to go back to lunch." Gerald said, his mouth full of banana. "I for one hope that whatever she has isn't contagious. We can't afford to be sick for the big game." Sid, Stinky, and Harold all nodded in agreement. Arnold ate his tapioca in silence, his mind wrapped up in thought.

What in the world could make a person collapse? Flu? Cold? I hope Phoebe doesn't have anything serious. He frowned a little as he remembered Helga's actions. Now there was one confusing girl. One minute she was about ready to bite his head off and the next . . . She'd pop up in weird places, like his fire escape, and would never fail in managing to knock him down when she came around corners.

She was an enigma. One giant puzzle that Arnold could never solve, no matter how hard he tried. It was like . . . he was missing pieces or something. He was missing the few key pieces that would make Helga's strange behavior suddenly make sense. His mind began to drift for the second time that day, thinking about all the times he'd seen a completely different Helga; a Helga who honestly cared about the people around her.

Then there'd had been that . . . confession of hers, if one could really call it that. Things had just become more confusing for Arnold after hearing that; there was no way a person who picked on him every single waking hour could be in love with him. It just didn't make sense! How could . . . Helga, a person who called him football-head on a daily basis and glued feathers to his butt and shot him with spitballs be head over heels in love with him?

But she denied it, remember? Took back every word, saying she'd been lying to get me off her back. He remembered telling himself with relief. He'd dismissed it then, and everything had gone back to normal. Sure, for the few weeks of rebuilding they'd done, Helga had been distant and had avoided him at all costs, but when they'd gone back to school, the tormenting had begun again in full force.

"Yo, earth to Arnold!" He jerked slightly in surprise to find Gerald looking at him oddly. "Did you not hear the bell? We have to get to class."

"Oh yeah, sorry. I wasn't really listening." Arnold stood and the two of them threw away the remains of their lunch before heading to get their things from their lockers and then walking back to the classroom. As he took his seat, Arnold noticed that Helga hadn't returned. Had she gone home too? He could only wonder.

"All right class, settle down! It's time to start the next lesson!" Mr. Simmons said after the bell rang. "Now we're going to focus on times tables! I hope everyone has learned up through twelve by now, because we're having a surprise quiz!" The class groaned as he whipped out a sheet of papers and began to pass them around.

"Great, just great! I didn't study, did you?"

"What?! How is it possible to know up through twelve times twelve?! I can barely remember two times three!"

"Someone should kill me now . . . I'll be dead when this quiz is over anyway." Were just a few of the general moans and whines among the students as Mr. Simmons passed out the quizzes.

"Hm? What's this? Where are Phoebe and Helga?" Mr. Simmons asked, and right on cue, the door swung open. Arnold looked up from his paper to see a tight-lipped Helga, her face white as a sheet and her customary scowl replaced by a look of slight terror.

"Helga?" Someone said in amazement. No one had ever seen her look so . . . so frightened. She walked into the classroom slowly and handed Mr. Simmons a note.

"Phoebe went home I see. And you were staying with her until she left." He said after reading the note. "Why did she go home?"

"She's sick." Mr. Simmons raised an eyebrow at Helga's response. It didn't sound like her customary snide manner; it was quiet and contained and held a tremor of anxiety.

"Helga? Now I'm going to have to ask you if you're feeling all right. Is something bothering you?" Mr. Simmons asked and placed a hand on her shoulder. She stared at him for a moment.

"May I be excused for a second?" She asked in a timid voice and concern filled Mr. Simmons gaze. "It's just that . . . Phoebe is really sick. Her fever was so bad that she was acting delusional. They . . . they had to rush her to the hospital, and . . . I heard the nurse say that she could die if they don't bring her fever down." The class fell completely silent and Mr. Simmons nodded.

"Of course, Helga. You may be excused for a moment or two." She nodded in thanks and raced from the classroom. Arnold looked over his shoulder at Gerald, only to find his best friend in a state of total shock.

"Phoebe . . . might die?" Arnold heard him whisper.

"Is that even true, Mr. Simmons? Could you really die from a fever?" Arnold continued to keep his gaze on Gerald while Sid voiced the question many people had been wondering about.

"I'm afraid so." The whole class gasped at Mr. Simmons answer. "Think of it like this, Sid. Your body is a very finely tuned machine that runs best when the temperature is around ninety-eight degrees, right? If it gets any warmer than that, to, oh say, one hundred degrees or so, you begin to feel sick. But what happens if you have a temperature of one hundred and four? Or one hundred and five? A machine as sensitive as your body doesn't function well at those temperatures. In fact, it begins to break down, it begins to fall apart."

"Fall . . . apart?" Arnold heard Eugene whisper and Gerald paled. The whole class seemed to be imagining Phoebe coming apart at the seams.

"Not many survive a temperature higher than one hundred and four. So if Phoebe does have an extremely high fever, then it is the utmost importance for the doctors to bring it down." Mr. Simmons said, and to everyone's general surprise, he collected the quiz papers. "I can see your minds are not on math at this moment, so I think I'll take this opportunity to move on to our unit on the human body. Nadine, if you don't mind, would you go to the book cupboard and give everyone a science book?"

As Nadine handed everyone a book and Mr. Simmons put away the stack of papers, Arnold reached out and shook Gerald a little. His best friend blinked a little and threw him a shaky smile.

"You all right, Gerald?"

"It's crazy, ain't it? To think a person could die from a fever . . . I never knew that. Did you, Arnold?" Gerald said as Nadine passed him a book. "And how old is Phoebe? She's so young! I never thought anyone could die of a fever . . . do you know how light she is? It was like I was carrying a feather. Well, it was a really really big feather, but she was so light."

"Gerald?"

"I didn't think a person our age could die of anything like a fever! You get sick and you get one, but you go and you get medicine, and you get better. You don't come close to dying, that's for sure. How many people do you know, Arnold, who could die from a fever? I never thought Phoebe would be in that category. She never gets sick; she's always so perfect!"

"Gerald."

"And she's never concerned about herself! You heard her, all day. Not once did she complain or try to worry anyone! Sure, we all wound up worrying because she was acting funny, but I never thought she'd be sick. I just believed her, that she hadn't gotten enough sleep and was a little drowsy! Man, Arnold, her fever must be pretty bad to make her collapse like that. You saw her, just started getting dizzy and then she fainted!"

"GERALD."

"What, man?"

"Gerald, you're babbling."

"I am?"

The rest of the day continued in essential silence, with Helga returning about half way through the science lesson. She still looked rather pale, but her presence seemed calmer and more in control. She took two books, one for herself and one to take to Phoebe, and then sat down. Arnold couldn't help but follow her with a slightly concerned expression, and to his surprise, when she'd caught him looking at her, she'd actually given him a small reassuring smile. I'm fine, it had said. Now go back to your lesson.

On the bus ride home, Arnold chose a seat infront of Helga, and after about fifteen minutes of Gerald's mindless babble, he turned around to face her. She was staring out the window silently, her deep blue eyes distant and reflecting the passing scenery. Arnold watched her for a moment, in awe of how profoundly sad she looked. A small sigh escaped her thin lips and her gaze returned to the present. She looked away from the window, her countenance still immersed in the depths of sorrow. Her emotions had reached out to Arnold, so real and tangible and painful, that he wanted to reach back and drive them away . . .

But then she saw him looking at her. The change was so abrupt it was startling; the sorrow vanished in an instant and was replaced by the same angry glower that she normally wore.

"What're you looking at, football head?" He sighed; so much for the profound sadness.

"I just wanted to tell you that we're having a practice for the upcoming baseball game this afternoon at Gerald Field. Can we expect you to be there or not?" He asked, filing away the incident for later analysis. She stared at him with that scrutinizing gaze of hers, the one that made him feel as though every part of his spirit was being scanned, and after a moment, she nodded.

"I have to stop by Phoebe's and see if her mom is home yet, but I'll be there." And with that, she turned her attention back to the window. Arnold watched her for a moment, and she turned back to him, her expression now both angry and questioning. "What?" She demanded, her brow furrowed in that scowl of hers.

"Are you all right?"

"What kind of question is that? Don't you get sick of asking it, football head?" She scoffed. "I'm sure getting tired of hearing it from every single person who sees me. What is it about me anyway? Do I have a sign or something taped to my forehead that says 'Ask me if I'm okay, because I really don't know'? Crimeny!" She folded her arms across her chest and huffed a little.

"Helga, you still haven't answered me." Arnold said, pressing her a bit. She glowered darkly.

"What do you think, Arnoldo?" The two began their customary glaring match, and to Arnold's surprise, Helga backed down after a moment. She looked out the window with a sigh. "I can't ever win with you, can I?" He heard her mutter and he frowned. What did she mean by that?

"What did you say?"

"NO, I am not okay, football head." She snapped. "My best friend just collapsed right infront of me in a feverish delusional heap, and began tossing her cookies all over the nurse's office. She kept running into things, tried to escape the room because she thought she'd been locked in prison, and scratched up the nurse pretty badly. I was the only one she'd listen to, but that's because she thought I was her mother." Helga drew a deep breath as she scowled at him. "Now I ask you. Would you be okay after something like that? Would you be okay if Geraldo here suddenly started attacking everyone who came into the room?"

"Never mind, Helga. I'm sorry I asked."

"You should be." She retorted and turned back to the window for the umpteenth time that day.

"She really did all that?" Arnold blinked and looked at Gerald, who had turned around and was watching Helga with a stunned expression. "She really started beating up on people?"

"What is this, Pester Helga Day or something? YES!" And with that she showed them her arms. Gerald gasped a little as they noticed the long, thin, and red scratches all over Helga's arms. "The nurse was in such a hurry to get Phoebe out of there that she didn't have time to give me something for them. I tried cleaning them with soap and water, but it didn't do much good."

"Helga, could I come with you to see Phoebe's mom?" She and Arnold stared at Gerald, who was focused on the scratches on her arms. "I want to find out how Phoebe is doing." Helga watched him for a moment before finally nodding.

"Sure, Gerald. I don't think she'd mind. Maybe Phoebe'll be there or something and you could see her." Helga said gently and again Arnold was forced to marvel at her. The way her whole demeanor could change in a split second was amazing, but it only made her ten times more complex. One thing was certain however; it was probably going to take him a very, very long time before he figured out the Helga enigma.

*~*~*

So there's the first chapter. What'd you think? Questions? Comments? And what's going to happen to Phoebe? Well, stick around for the next chapter when we find out! And I apologize if any character is really not right. I tried my best to keep them in character, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. Let me know if you think Gerald is acting extremely un-Gerald like. Hope you all enjoyed it and I hope that it made you want to know more! -pottergal