Authors Note: My first story, so please bear with me.

Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold! I wish I did, and I wish that there was a Jungle Movie, but you can't always get what you want.

Where to Begin

Chapter 1 – Dandy Life

                Arnold kept his focus on the opponent in front of him. He was trying to read the eyes, the hips. He was exhausted, having played at full speed for nearly an hour in 23° weather. He kept telling himself to stay focused. He could not afford to give up another basket. Gerald and he were barely winning, 47-45, and he was guarding one of the best three-point shooters at West Hillwood High. He gritted his teeth and followed the bouncing ball, careful to not let a shoot get off.

                "Arnold! Stop ball already!" Gerald shouted. He was currently guarding Stinky down at the post, which was difficult because Stinky stood 6'8'' to Gerald's 6'4''. "I can't hold him much longer!"

                "That's for damn sure!" Stinky yelled. "Shoot it or pass it already!"

                Arnold was distracted by this comment for a split second, and Stinky's teammate took advantage of Arnold's lack of concentration, since he was worried about Gerald, and drained a three from the top of the key. Arnold groaned as Gerald grabbed the ball and passed it inbounds to Arnold. "Nice job, football head. I believe that Stinky and I have just taken the lead."

                Arnold glared at the figure who was waiting for him at half court. He still did not understand how Helga G. Pataki had gotten so good at basketball. Though it was slightly sexist, he knew that boys where supposed to be stronger then girls at their age, but Helga had never followed gender rules. Though she did not stand a chance against him inside, she normally schooled him out on the perimeter. In fact, that was the seventh trey she made on him. "Let's see if you are better at offense then you are at defense, not that that should be hard to top."

                Arnold's eyes narrowed even more as he dribbled up the court. They followed Gerald as he cut deep towards the basket and then popped back out. Perfect, Arnold thought, and passed the ball to his right. A split second before the ball left his hand, though, he realized that Helga had read his pass. He watched her intercept the ball and started to run and stop her. Unfortunately, Helga was not only a better shooter from beyond the arc then him, but she was faster then him. He groaned as she made a left-hand lay-up. "I guess not," she said, shoving the ball into his chest. She looked at her watch. "Stinky, it's five till five. You better get going."

                "Thanks, Helga. Good game, guys. I'll see you at school tomorrow. Maybe next week you can actually give me and Helga a challenge."

                "Oh, don't worry, we will," Gerald grumbled. "At least when Arnold remembers how to play basketball."

                Arnold sighed. "See you, Stinky."     

                "Bye, Stinky," Helga called as she picked up a towel from her bag and whipped her face. She tucked a few loose strands of her light blonde hair back into her messy ponytail. "You guys are really loosing your touch. We've beaten you for the past three Sundays."

                "I know, I KNOW!" Gerald grumbled. The four of them have spent every Sunday since seventh grade playing basketball at the outdoor courts beside West Hillwood High, their high school, and now as juniors were all on their varsity teams. Gerald ran a hand through his hair, which was now much shorter then it had been as a child. He turned to her. "What the heck is up with you lately? You never miss a damn thing."

                She shrugged. "Face it, tall hair boy." Gerald grimaced at Helga's childhood nickname for him, which didn't fit his cropped hair anymore. "I'm just better then you guys."

                "Yeah, right. Arnold and I are just having a bad week, er, month. We'll win next week."


                Arnold smiled. Helga and Gerald got along much better these days, and there were many reasons behind this change. The first and probably most startling was that their first day in junior high Helga G. Pataki, and her army of Old Betsy and the Five Avengers (A/N, I love the fact that Helga only has FOUR fingers on each hand) woke up and decided to be nice. Not just for a day, or a week, but mostly for the next five years. In fact, the only time glimpses of the old Helga surface was times like this, when she was playing sports. Another reason was that that same year Helga decided that she loved basketball, and Gerald was the best at it, so everyday after school she challenged him to a game of two on two, Stinky and Helga verses Gerald and Arnold. Slowly the two began to develop mutual respect for each other, and that developed into their own weird relationship. They tolerated and respected each other. Also, playing against boys did wonders for Helga, and she soon became the best girl player in the neighborhood, and made the varsity team as a freshman. The final reason was that Helga, with the help of Arnold, finally fixed Phoebe and Gerald up, and the two had just celebrated their two and a half year anniversary. Yes, even Gerald had to admit that Helga was not so bad anymore. "Trust us, Helga, next week the game is ours," Arnold said.

                Helga smiled at him. "Whatever gets you through the day." She pulled her sweatshirt over her head. The cold was finally getting to her. She looked at Gerald. "Aren't you supposed to meet Phoebe at the library at five?"

                Gerald's eyes grew wide. "Uh, I'll see you guys later." He grabbed his backpack and ran off towards the library.

                Helga laughed. "What would he do without us?"

                Arnold laughed with her. It was hard to believe that this was the same Helga who was his bully back at P.S. 118. Not only did she act different, she looked different. Big Bob Pataki's features had softened on her face over the years, and Miriam's more delicate features surfaced. The contrasts made Helga one of the most beautiful girls he knew. Gone was the unibrow, and the pink bow rarely sat atop her golden hair. She was shorter then him now, standing 5'8'' to his barely 6'0'' (when he said barely, he meant barely, but at least he could boast he was six foot), but she was extremely toned, all muscle and still incredibly strong for a 16 year-old girl, especially since her frame was slightly narrow. She had grown from a very misunderstood, burly bully to a beautiful young woman who was one of his closes friends, though she was still a bit misunderstood to most. His smile widened at that thought. Who would have known that Helga would become one of his closest friends? She turned to him. "Ready to go?"

                He nodded and grabbed his stuff. He was still hot from the game and shoved his sweatshirt into his bag. She looked at him funny as she handed him a bottled water. "You aren't cold?" He shook his head. She rolled her eyes. "Lord, it's January in Washington and the boy chooses to run around outside in a pair of shorts and a cut-off tee just so he can look tough in front of a girl."

                He scoffed. "I am not trying to look tough in front of you, Helga, and you have shorts on too."

                "At least I have enough sense to put a sweatshirt on." She grinned evilly. "And besides, if you had these legs, wouldn't you show them off?"

                He choked on his water. Yes, Helga did have amazing legs, but they were Helga's, his best friend, legs. He never thought of her like that. "Gross, Helga," he said as she laughed loudly.

                "It's okay, Arnold," she said as she climbed her stoop to her door. "I don't want you looking at my legs anyways. I'll see you tomorrow."

                "Right. Bye, Helga."

                "Bye. And, Arnold?"


                "You really need to work on your defense before the Concordia game."

                He sighed. "I know, I know."

                She nodded and went inside. He stared at her door for a second, and then proceeded home. Sunset Arms had not changed much since fourth grade. The regulars were still there, plus two new tenants, Mrs. Soo-Yung Li, a widow who had formed somewhat of a close relationship with Mr. Hyunh, and Mr. Stephan Wendell, a crabby, staving artist who spent most of his day cooped up in his room.  Still, home was home for Arnold. He opened the door and the same familiar herd of various animals, led by Abner, ran out. He laughed slightly and headed upstairs.

                He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror in the hallway. He looked at his reflection and smiled. He wasn't that good-looking, but he was decent. He had finally grown properly into his football shaped head. The little blue hat was gone, now resting beside a picture of his parents and his infant self on a shelf beside his bed. He still had the same unruly blond hair, but it worked for him. He was also still a bit on the skinny side, but he was still relatively solid.

                After a quick shower he went upstairs to his room. As logged on to his computer and smiled at the picture of Gerald, Phoebe, Rhonda, Stinky, Harold, Sid, Lorenzo, Helga, and himself at Dino Land from the last summer. They had decided to spend a whole day doing things they loved as children. Helga even acted mean and Rhonda spent the day pointing out what was wrong with everyone's outfits. He smiled. That had been one of the greatest days of his life. He had to admit, as crazy as things got, he was lucky to be surround by people who cared so much about him.

¤ ~ ¤ ~ ¤

                "Night, Shortman!"

                "Good night, Grandpa," Arnold called as he climbed the stairs up to his room in the attic. He flopped onto his bed and turned the television on, but turned it off after flipping through the stations and realizing that there really isn't anything on television at eleven on Sundays. He sighed and stared at the stars through his skylight. I don't want to go to sleep, but I have nothing else to do, he thought. He rolled over and stared at the wonders of his bookcase. He pulled out his sophomore yearbook since he had nothing else to do. He opened it up to the front page. There was Helga and the rest of her basketball team after they were crowned regional champs. He smiled and turned the pages. He stopped at the Homecoming spread and stared at the picture of Lila Sawyer and Luke Harrington with loathing. He groaned. Why was I so stupid to think that she would like me? And why did I continue to like her?

                That whole drama had started around Christmas of last year, but in reality it had started years before. Arnold's crush on Lila had continued into junior high, but while Arnold remained everyone's favorite optimistic football head, Lila had developed into a bitch that no one could have foreseen back at P.S. 118. In sixth grade, Lila's father had remarried to a very lovely but extremely cold woman who was the manager of a department store. Lila did not really like her that much, at least not until her stepmother inherited a very large sum of money from a great uncle before freshman year. Her family moved out of the slums of the city and into a penthouse on the upper side, and in effort to make up for past years of poverty, Lila's father bought her everything in sight, no matter how much it cost. Lila arrived at West Hillwood High freshman year wealthier and better dressed than every other girl in their grade, including Rhonda (which did not make Miss Lloyd happy in the least bit). Lila greatly enjoyed her newfound popularity, and began dating upper classmen. Arnold had tried to warn the naïve girl exactly why the upper classmen wanted to date her, and Helga even backed him up (which confused Arnold at the time. He asked Helga why after years of disliking Lila why she would try to help the girl, and Helga simply said that they would eat Lila alive), but Lila did whatever she wanted, and by April she was convinced that she was pregnant (not from the same boy, a different one). She was not, and the scare did not stop her from dating and sleeping with other boys.

                By the start of sophomore year, Arnold for some odd reason still could not see what Lila had become, which was a shallow, narcissistic bitch who had slept with numerous people, no one really knew the correct number, they had lost count. She started dating Luke and by Christmas she had discovered that she might be pregnant again. Lila had tried to tell Luke, but he immediately dumped her because he did not want the kid and he was certain that the kid was not his (Lila had never commented on this accusation). Lila seemed to have no one to turn to because she was afraid to tell her father and stepmother, and her friends were busy gossiping and spreading nasty rumors about her, so naturally she sought out Arnold, who still had a knack for helping everyone with their problems and giving great advice.

                Naturally, Lila used her charms to get Arnold to really help her, to take her to the clinic and things like that, and led the poor boy into thinking that she actually had a thing for him. She had managed to completely fool Arnold into believing that she was still the "ever so" sweet little girl that he had "like liked" back at P.S. 118. However, and soon as she got the results that she was not pregnant, she dropped Arnold without looking back and began dating Daren Battier, a senior. Arnold had a hallow victory because Daren had broken up with Lila when he started school at Washington University. Crushed, Lila had the audacity to run back to Arnold's shoulder, but for once Arnold refused to help her.

                Arnold groaned again thinking of that horrible experience. The worst part of the matter was that Helga had warned him of everything during the ordeal. She knew what Lila was going to do, and repeatedly told Arnold, but he refused to listen; he was too happy to be with his dream girl to even consider that she was just using him. "Some dream girl," he said out loud. Helga, however, was still there for him when Lila left, just as she had always been, just like when he found out the truth about his parents.

                He turned the page and saw a picture of Gerald and Phoebe at the Winter Formal. He smiled. Gerald Johanssen and Phoebe Hyerdahl were the perfect couple and now have been dating for two and a half years. Took them long enough, Arnold thought. Everyone had known back at P.S. 118 that those two would get together. Arnold sighed. He could only hope that he would find somebody that would make him feel the way those two felt. Yeah right. Who am I going to find like that? he thought as he went to sleep.

A/N: That's all for now. Hopefully it is not too confusing, but I tried to give you a bit of background information before the plot really gets started next chapter. Later days and peace in the Middle East.