Braided Together by King Cheetah

These characters are Craig Bartlett's, though I'm not sure he would approve of this.
Rated T for hot, steamy action and language, though in reality it'll never be as naughty as you'd expect it would be.

Let me just say a few things about a few of the recent stories I'm working on. Right now, my writing fascination is with "Necropolitan", "The Strangers In My House", and "Braided together", all three of which are byzantine and subtle; all I ask is that you be patient and stick with the stories a bit because TRUST ME, none of the situations are as they seem. Lots of twists and turns, lots of intrigue. But I promise you, when all is said and done, you'll probably be happy with it. Critiques I'm okay with, but not whining, and especially from Arnold/Helga shippers. Chances are good that you've made it through all 100 episodes without Helga confessing her feeling to Arnold, it won't kill you to go through a dozen chapters of story without it either. Just give me and all the other fictioneers a chance, you just might be surprised at what you get.

Keep readin', keep writin'!

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1 Absinthe and Incense

With a flip of the coin, I decided to go to Phoebe's house instead of slashing my wrists.

He's gone.

No warning, no hint.

Just one day he didn't come to school.

After a few days, I went by the boarding house... the now empty boarding house, and found no clues as to what had happened, though eventually a vague picture began to emerge. The death of his grandfather (already common knowlege), his grandmother unable to manage, selling the boarding house, and it's scheduled demolition.

Gone...

Relatives out west, or some such, a cousin I think. I couldn't even track down the last of the few tenants for clues.

I climbed the fire escape to peer down into his room through the skylight as I'd done so many times before. Beyond being empty, his old room had a grey, ghastly pallor... without him it was truly lifeless.

I let three tears fall on the glass before I left.

Gone...

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I turned eighteen yesterday, and what greater present could I ask for? Why, my sister Olga arriving unannounced to eclipse what little happiness there was for me. Nothing changes. My parents, with an almost pavlovian routine procceeded to sweep me aside to provide more ambient light for my sister.

So as not to cast a pall on the joyous reunion, I quietly gathered a few things and slipped out.

That night, I broke in through the skylight and slept in Arnold's old room.

Gone...

Mrs. Heyerdahl answered the door with her usual easy drawl and gracious manner.

"Wha Helga? What brings ya'll bah this mahnin'?"

I wish she'd adopt me.

"Mornin' Mrs.Heyerdahl. Is Phebes home".

She said that Phoebe was in the bath, but I was welcome to wait in her room. She then excused herself to meet her husband downtown for lunch. I wandered back to Phoebe's bedroom. Passing the bathroom, I could hear her singing in the tub, which brought a welcome smile to my face.

Her room was almost spotless, save for her rumpled futon bedding, her closet door ajar and a stray pair of panties on the chair. In Phoebe terms this was total chaos. As long as I've known her, she had a certain fastidiousness about her in which there was to be no jar left open for even a second after it's use or book not returned immediately to it's proper place on the shelf upon closing. Bored, I twirled her panties on my finger and tried to clear my head. Being here helped take the suicidal edge off the morning, but hardly did anything to fix my problems.

What to do now? I guess technicly, I'd run away from home. What now? I suppose I'll head home this evening, and in all probability, I wasn't missed. Slipping off my finger her delicate lacey's did a graceful arc across the room and landed by the closet door. Sighing, I get up and make my way over to the closet to retrieve them, since it was bad enough that I was playing with them, but to add to the existing bedlam around me would surely have Phebes in a tizzy. Smiling as I bent down to get them, I accidently glanced into her closet, then did a doubletake, then slowly opening the door wide, I stood slackjawed and staring.

Illuminated by the single bulb in the closet was a celebration of obsession. Behind her hanging clothes, the walls were covered with digital photo printouts, HUNDREDS of them, blanketing every square inch of every available vertical facing.

Photos of... Me!

I marveled at them. Like a peculiar insect eye, my visage stared back at me a thousand times over. Where had all of these come from? Had she taken them herself? But the gallery paled in comparison to the feature attraction.

Centered against the back wall of the closet was a rough hewn plaster statue of me. About four feet tall, it was my upper torsa, beginning just below my hips. Graceful and rather flattering in spots, my arms were positioned in a beatific open embrace and my expression was an alluring invite to solace.

I was at a loss. Not only at the object d'arte itself, but at the care and attention that seems to have gone into it's construction. While it's overall texture was somewhat course, certain areas had evidently been worn smooth, and I tried to keep from imagining how. This was all a little much to take in on such short notice.

Slowly, I backed out of the closet and turned to see Phoebe in the doorway of her room. Robed, her hair wrapped in a towel, she looked as though her world had just come to an end.

"N-no..." a soft whisper, almost a plea; a prayer to some unseen god for deliverance. I took a deep breath and sat back down at her desk.

Biting her lip, she scurried across the room to shut the door, then turned to face me. Her expression was a mixture of fear and hope.

I hadn't fled, or screamed... these could be read as good signs.

"It's not really..." but I cut her off with a curt wave of my hand as I tried my best to get ahold of the freaky scene I'd found myself in.

What was I suppose to say. I was marvelling at this funhouse mirror reflection of my own obsessive nature with Arnold. My childhood shame was back to mock me, and to add insult to injury she seemed to be better at this sort of thing than I'd been.

The statue was just so... impressive.

Finally, I took a deep breath, looked into her eyes and quietly asked, "How long?"

She fidgetted for a moment, looking at her feet, then I got the whole story. Since ninth grade. She'd slowly become aware of her fascination with me. Not women per se, but for some reason she began to acknowledge a certain erotic fascination with me. Most school bodies have a handful of students that everyone 'wonders about', but no such luck in our class. Perhaps if she could find a lesbian amongst our schoolmates to quiz on these matters she might have been better equipted to deal with these strange feelings. No one to talk too, and as I was too important to her, she dared not risk losing me.

And so, her private passions began.

At first, it was a few photos hidden in books and her locker, then she purchased a little cell phone with a digital camera and began getting at least one shot a day of me in my natural environment. I hadn't seen them at first, but appearantly the bug-eye gallery contain a few nudes of me, courtesy of forth period gym class together. The statue began last year about the time Arnold and I had made peace and a true friendship began to blossum.

"But Phoebe, you were instrumental in that truce. You were the one that got us talking again." She nodded, fighting back tears. She felt it best; my happiness mattered above all else.

I took another deep breath, taking my time exhaling. I wasn't quite 100 on this, but I was getting there.

"Well, now that I know, is there anything you'd like to say to me"
The towel had fallen away from her head and her moist hair framed her delicate features like one of the traditional 'ukiyo-e' prints she loved so. I'd tried unuccessfully for the past two years to get her to accept just how pretty she was, but each time I was treated like it was all some cruel joke.

Slump-shouldered, eyes downcast, she choked out an apology, every word another step closer to her doom. If I walked away, she'd understand, she had overstepped the bounds of trust, and was prepared to face the music.

Standing, I moved to face her.

Placing a finger under her chin, I lifted her face to meet my gaze, "Phoebe, is there anything you'd like to say to my face."

Her eyes were coffee, warm and delicious, and they searched my eyes for a hint of what to do next. What was I expecting?

She threw caution to the wind.

Her breathing went shallow as she finally whispered, "I love you, Helga..."

I'll go to my grave remembering our first kiss. It was electric, and the second and third lived up their predecessor's good example. Then her tongue met mine for what seemed an hour. Breaking apart she took a step back and allowed me to undo her robe. I stood dumbfounded at the graceful curves and soft recesses that she'd kept hidden from me with years of dowdy, frumpy fashions.

She seemed almost ashamed to be this exposed to me, but I gave her a little smile and began to match her state of disgarment, to which she was all too eager to hasten.

She excitedly knelt before me and slowly undid my belt and fly. Looking up into my eyes she awaited my command. "Do it." I sighed as my panties slid below the equator.

Our day of lovemaking passed too way quickly.

I was inexperienced and cautious, she was overeager and forward, but it was all pretty exciting. I didn't really expect anything of her, just being content to cuddle and kiss, but she was evidently bound and determined to send me over the moon... and she did too.

Laying together on her futon, I thought of her sadness all these past months as she sat and listened to me going on about Arnold. As one whose known the pain of unspoken passions, her situation broke my heart.

I hugged her close, as she hummed softly to herself. "Um, Phoebe... thank you. I really needed all this... needed you, that is." She just sighed. I don't think I'm gay, and maybe Phoebe is or isn't either. But right now I just needed this. I needed to feel loved and that was the best part of all this, it wasn't lust or just about sex. It was feeling that she really cared for me and reminding me of just how much I cared for her. It's nice to feel loved again.

I cleared my throat, "Now um, we need to establish some ground rules..." she looked up at me, concerned.

"Do your folks know about your feelings or any of this other stuff?" No, she hadn't told them anything.

"Does ANYONE know or suspect?" No, not that she knew of.

"Okay then, the wierd little shrine comes down. The statue could be explained away as an art project if need be, but the gallery would just be seen as odd. We maintain appearances in public. And above all, no more secrets." Phoebe quickly agreed, though the gallery was a minor sore point.

As two o'clock rolled around, we decided to bath and dress in anticipation of her parent's return, but the bath itself became more lovemaking. I might just get used to this.

Dressing, we left to get a VERY late lunch. Several times, we almost slipped and kissed in public, and laughed about it.

In the park, we found a private spot and sat holding hands. "Helga... thank you." she sighed.

Sure as hell beats what I had planned for today, I smiled.

I don't know if I can ever love her as much as she loves me, but right now I needed someone to love.

Phoebe was an easy first choice.

To Be Continued...

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