Hi everyone! This is a small one shot I wrote about a year ago that got published in the digital zine The Pataki Press and I'm finally getting around to posting it here (yay!). I hope you guys enjoy it! Please keep in mind that while this story is set after TJM, it was written before TJM came out : ) Thanks!
"Helga, can you hand me that wrench?"
"I still think you have no idea what you're doing."
"Helga, the wrench?" Arnold sighed and held out his hand behind him in her direction.
Helga, seated on a large crate, set down her flashlight and crossed her legs. "I'm pretty sure your Grandpa just sent us down here so he could have more of your Grandma's cookies to himself. What's her deal with always cooking with raspberries anyway?"
"Helga…" Arnold gave one of his classic patient sighs and took away his hand to rub his temple.
Helga grinned and leaned closer to him. "Or maybe it was secretly your idea to have him send us down here for you to fix the boiler. Maybe you just wanted to show off your macho, eleven-year-old handyman skills to me."
Arnold was half turned to face her as he tried to keep back a smile now. "I'm going to have to get the wrench myself, aren't I?"
Helga picked up the wrench from the red toolbox at her side, playing with it in her hand, still grinning. "Hey, I was just waiting for you to say the magic word. It's called 'Please', Mr. Goody Two Shoes. I'm your girlfriend, not your trusty sidekick. That's tall hair boy's job."
Blushing slightly (and still smiling), Arnold stood up and brushed off his hands then walked over to Helga and took the wrench from the toolbox. "I'm sorry. You're right, I did forget to say 'please'. But I do know how to fix the boiler, Helga; I've done it a lot of times. And since it's snowing outside, it really does need to get fixed—it really has nothing to do with trying to impress you." His smile grew.
She rolled her eyes with a smirk. "I still think I'm right about your Grandpa wanting more cookies as one of his reasons for sending us down here though."
"Probably." Arnold chuckled as he walked back over to the boiler grate and tightened something. Then he closed the grate, walked back over to Helga, and sat down beside her. "Now it should work—it just needs to rest a few minutes to warm up before it turns on."
Helga took the wrench as he handed it her and placed it back in the toolbox. "I'll bet you a Mr. Fudgy Bar that thing does not suddenly start working. You're good at motivating people, at doing the right thing, and, surprisingly, at trekking your way through jungle terrain on an epic adventure. But good at household repair too? No man is that perfect."
Arnold's eyes narrowed as his smile grew. "Okay, Helga. One Mr. Fugdy Bar it is." He held out his hand for her to shake. "You can buy it for me this summer—ice cream always tastes better that time of year."
"Oh, you are dreaming. And also you're on, Football Head." Helga took his hand and shook.
Laughing, they separated and looked to the boiler. The machine made a few small sounds, but nothing happened yet. 'A few minutes' could feel awfully long when a person was quietly waiting for something to happen alone in a dim basement.
Eventually Arnold and Helga looked down a little, Helga playing with the flashlight and Arnold swinging his feet.
They both spoke at once then stopped and laughed a little more.
Helga cleared her throat. "You know, I was just thinking, we haven't gotten to be alone like this much yet: I mean, alone without knowing one of our friends or family members is probably about to pop in on us wherever we are." She sighed and leaned back a little on her hands. "Man, no wonder people usually wait until they're teenagers or adults to try having a relationship. Kids get no privacy."
"I know." Arnold blushed a little. "Even if we go out to a movie or to get something to eat, someone we know is always there. And in my room, one of the boarders or my grandparents is always knocking on my door…or my parents come in to say hi to you." His smile and eyes brightened.
Helga saw, and her smile brightened as well. "And I like getting to say hi to them too, Arnold." Her voice softened a little, and she moved her hand to touch his on the crate. "And then, of course, at my house you have Olga popping in every weekend she can get away and wanting to giggle over us." She shrugged. "But sometimes you and I do find little moments of peace. Like now."
"Yeah." He nodded, looking down and blushing a little more. "We do."
Helga's face turned rosy. "Being alone is still kind of weird for us though, I guess, after everything that's happened. I mean, my daydreams about you usually never got too far into how time like that would realistically be."
"I hope I'm not disappointing you." He gave her a humble smile.
She shook her head with a grin. "Never."
Arnold swallowed. "So…what should we do now that we're alone? I mean, you're the one who knows more about what it's like to be in love, Helga." He let out a deep breath, looking down. "I'm sort of following your lead."
Helga hesitated. Then she spoke softly. "Arnold, you do know we don't have to kiss every time we're alone, right?"
He flushed a brilliant red and looked up at her with wide eyes.
She just sighed and gave him a dry look with a small smile. "Don't act so shocked that I know what's bothering you, Football Head. You pulled off that kiss to me in the jungle because we were both swept up in the moment of your confession. But ever since we got back here last month, you get like a deer in the headlights whenever we snag a minute to ourselves and I make a playful come on." She raised part of her brow, and her smile fell. "If I'm pressuring you at all, just let me know. I really don't mean to." She blushed lightly again. "Us dating is about learning the best way for you and I to be together and happy. We should both be comfortable, Arnold: not just me."
Arnold frowned a little and shook his head. "No, no…you're not pressuring me, Helga. I'm…pressuring myself." He swallowed, cringing a little. "You know, it just…seems like you're so much more advanced at this emotional stuff…and even the physical stuff. And I'm not. So when it comes up, I just think about it too much and then I'm not sure what to do or what I want." He sighed as his look went a little dry. "I'm starting to feel like it was easier for you to deal with me when I was completely dense about things."
Helga smirked playfully. "Nah, you're much more fun like this—all blushing and awkwardly affectionate." She nudged him, and managed to get him to smile again. "But seriously, Football Head, you can tell me these things…and you don't have to worry so much around me if you can help it. Sure, I may have spent years fantasizing about you as some daring romancer, but I don't love you for who I imagine you to be—I love you for who you are." Her blush returned. "Kissing is a big, intense, intimate thing. And we're still pretty young. So how about this? If a moment comes up on its own and we're ready and know it, then we'll do it. But in the meantime we'll just stick with flirting and handholding and me writing sappy poetry about you and you grinning at me with that half-lidded gaze of yours when you don't think I'm looking, okay?"
Arnold smiled so warmly. He shifted his hand from beneath hers and used it to clasp their hands together. "I'd like that, Helga. I'd love that actually." Then he came forward and hugged her.
Helga blinked at first but then smiled more and hugged him in return.
They separated, looking into each other's eyes, sharing a moment of trust and gentle affection.
And then the moment lingered…and then their eyes hazed a little…and then their heads moved closer.
"Arnold," Helga whispered, "…are you sure…?"
"Mmm hmm…" He nodded. "I think so."
Slowly their eyes closed and their mouths went to meet…
Then suddenly the boiler burst to warm, glowing, humming life again!
Arnold and Helga gasped together and separated, breathing heavily. As they both realized what had startled them, they laughed and shook their heads.
"Crimeny," Helga grinned at Arnold, "Guess I owe you that Mr. Fudgy Bar, Mr. Fix-It."
Arnold smiled more. "I told you I could do it."
Their breathing returned to normal, and they stood up.
"Well," Helga blushed and picked up the toolbox, "I guess we should head upstairs."
"Yeah," Arnold picked up the flashlight and came close to her, "But first…"
"Hmm? Hmm!" Helga raised part of her brow and then squeaked as Arnold came close and kissed her on the mouth.
He pulled back with a small, proud smile, blushing, his eyes bright. "Thanks again for being so understanding, Helga. It really helped me feel better and more relaxed about everything." He took her hand. "Come on, let's go get some cookies before my grandpa finishes them."
With a dreamy look and blush Helga just nodded. "Sure thing, Arnold darling." She swooned a little.
"Arnold! Helga!" Phil's voice came from upstairs. "It feels like the heat's turned up again! Good job fixing the boiler! Now come up here for some yuletide pranks! Heh, heh!"
"And so you two can have a snowman building contest with me and your father, Arnold!" added Stella.
"Yeah, men against women! We've got this, son!" chimed in Miles.
"And the winner gets a fresh plate of raspberry tart cookies!" Gertie's chuckle rang through the house.
"Ooo, Pookie, why is it always raspberries?"
The family's laughter rang out upstairs.
Arnold just shook his head with a smile. Then he blinked and glanced over as Helga came up right along side him with her arm hooked in his.
"Come on, my love," she cooed, "now that we've enjoyed some time alone, let's go enjoy some time with your family."
Arnold smiled warmly and nodded as he moved a little closer alongside her as well. "Whatever you say, Helga."
The happy couple headed upstairs to the warm house above.
I'm pretty sure this is the shortest story I've ever written for HA! lol! But I liked working on something so concise for the sake of keeping in the word count rules of The Pataki Press. Please check them out if you get a chance, and please review if you can! Thank you! : )
~Azure129 aka Jenna