The Strangers In My House by King Cheetah

These characters are from the sweat-beetled brow of Craig Bartlett... lucky stiff.
Rated T cause I felt like it, and some characters might end up nude later. We'll see... Enjoy.

Part Four - Necropolis


It was by some strange twist of fate that Lila Sawyer was one of only three human beings on the face of the Earth capable of making Arnold's tea EXACTLY as he preferred it, a skill that she diligently attempted to pass on to Helga, so far with mixed results. Earl Gray, made just this side of a strong pot, brewed without the strainer. Three wedges from an orange (not lemon or lime) cut into ten sections, one squeezed in, the other two in reserve at the saucers edge. One and one half teaspoons of honey, preferably that dark variety they'd found down at the exotic food store by the dinner theater. Prepare scalding hot and let sit for ten minutes before serving.

As they and their friends grew into their late teens, Arnold alone remained impervious to the seductive allure of chic coffee culture, and stood firmly in the camp of her majesties own. Lila and Helga did some of their best brainstorming within the desperately casual atmosphere of Starbucks, and she and Gerald had come to invent excuses to share a quiet cup alone in the tranquil late night womb of their favorite Denny's. But Arnold knew what Arnold liked and this was one of the few thing left in his life that might bring him to violence if threatened. Well, tea and Helga, at any rate.

Slow stirring, Lila watched the last traces of honey sublime from the spoon's surface into the dark draught, just as she heard Arnold call to her from her bedroom. Hesitating for as long as she dared, she slowly rose and followed the call to it's source, hoping to force a few more moments of precious intimacy between the long distance lovers. Halfway down the hall, she came upon Arnold just leaving her room and trying his level best to hide the fact that he'd been crying. Eyes reddened, he threw his shoulders back to appear more masculine as he softly croaked, "Um, Helga would like to talk to you for a bit."

"Okay," she smiled sweetly, "Your tea's in the kitchen." and sauntered into her room. Her iMac was a vessel of pure white on which sat the image of Helga, not at all as concerned about being caught mid tear as Arnold was. Wiping away her joy, she smiled at the good witch of Hillwood and said softly, "Thanks. I really needed that."

"He needed it a little more, I think." Lila said, settling in at the computer table.

"Really?" Helga sniffed, her tears far from over.

"Yeah. What did he tell you?" she asked, looking earnestly into their cycloptic interface.

"What do you think he told me? He put on a brave face and just said that he missed me." Helga said with just a touch of annoyance in her voice.

Lila sighed, "Um yeah, I see. Well... he's a wreck. I think he really needs you right now."

"Why, what's wrong?"

"What else. His sister's on the warpath again. We um... talked about it a little." said Lila, looking back over her shoulder on the off chance Arnold was standing there, though that would be out of character for him.

"And?" asked Helga, knowing full well what Lila was referring to.

"I... I think he's ready to admit that he's not the problem." she said thoughtfully.

Sighing, Helga sat back and closed her eyes, "Finally! That's half the battle right there."

Lila leaned forward and smiled, "What else did he tell you?"

Helga suddenly wore a coy, playful expression, "Well... he told me that he loved me..."

"Yeah? Go on." grinned Lila.

"And he told me that he really, REALLY missed me..." she said through half lidded eyes.

"Uh huh. What else?" smiled Lila conspiratorially.

"And the rest is none of your damned business." said Helga primly, as Lila nearly laughed herself right out of the chair.

"Fair enough." she smiled


Finally composed, Arnold sat quietly at the kitchen table and considered his tea, though this merely served as a focus for the greater matter that occupied his thoughts. Lila had finally forced out into the light of day that one thing he'd never been able to come to grips with; his sister truly hated him. No real reason, no firm justification, she just did. Oh, he well understood the sort of low key sibling rivalry that was bound to take place between them. After all, for all intents and purposes, she was likewise an only child all her life and well used to being the focus of their parents affections. But while he was overjoyed at the prospect of a new family to fill the void in his life, she saw him merely as an interloper. He was her brother in name only.

For a time upon their return, Arnold enjoyed the lion's share of his parents attentions and gave little to no thought as to how everyone else was feeling, let alone his sister's attitude. But almost immediately, both parties found they had little in common other than surname. Not adding to the situation was the understandable celebrity that they enjoyed, as their time in San Lorenzo was the stuff of action movies. Endless interviews, talk show appearances, and documentary filmings fill all but the most precious moments of each day, and while Carmella reveled in her role as heroine of circumstance, Arnold quickly tired of being the "tortured young sole, ere hopeful and wishing their safe return". His part of the story was easily summed up in a paragraph, answering and reanswering the same set of questions time and again quickly became a Sysiphian task.

He started at the sound of Lila taking the chair across him, so deep his wool gathering that he'd not even heard her enter. She smiled sweetly and looked at him expectantly.

"Um," he stammered softly, "I-I'm sorry, what was that?"

Again the smile as she cocked her head slightly, "I asked how the tea was."

"," he quickly took a sip, "Ah! Perfect as always. Thanks." and marveled at the pride she seemed to take in this small praise. She'd evidently taken some time after talking with Helga to finish dressing, her usual black ensemble now accented here and there with bits of gold finery and that necklace that Gerald had given her for her sixteenth birthday. Arnold had been instrumental in it's purchase, dispite Gerald's uncertainty, and never missed an opportunity after that time to lord it over the younger Johansen just how much she loved it. Even before Gerald's passing, this was her most cherished possession. Noticing him noticing it, she smiled again and said, "He always liked seeing me in this. He said it made me look exotic and regal. He was really into that whole Egyptian princess thing." she said as she adjusted it across her throat. "Helga and I were even taking belly dancing lessons for a while there. Did she ever tell you about that?". His expression told her no, and this brought a mischievous grin to her lips, "I was planning on surprising Gerald on his birthday. Y'know, put on a little show for him. I didn't think I could jump out of a cake all that well. And Helga... well I guess she had her own reasons for learning." and gave him a sly look. Fidgeting, he looked down at his tea and nervously fingered the tiny cup.
"Arnold, what's wrong?" she asked, sensing that they'd inadvertently entered a whole new area of emotion for him. Standing, he once again paced the room without meeting her gaze.

"It's..." he began hesitantly, "It's just that I'm not um... ready to talk about Gerald, okay? I mean, I'm... I'm kind of surprised that you can after..." and he caught himself, as looked over to her. She sat serenely before him, hands now folded under her chin as she contemplated his distress. Giving a slight pout, she said softly, "After I foolishly attempted suicide? Go ahead and say it. That's what happened, right? No need to candy coat it or pretend it was something else. I tried to kill myself, simple as that." He just stood looking at her helplessly for a moment or two, then slowly took his seat at the table again.

"Um, sorry..." he said softly, "That night... that night was just so much to deal with all at once, you know? I mean, Helga and I almost broke up, and them Gerald's... accident. Then you." He looked on the verge of tears, "I just don't understand what the purpose of any of this was. It all just seemed so... pointless."

Lila sat quietly for a moment, then said, "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods: they kill us for their sport."

He looked at her for a time before saying, "King Lear, right." and she nodded approvingly, then said, "Arnold, as these things go, I see this could have turned out a lot worse. I mean, I was so wrapped up in what I was going through at the moment, I completely forgot about everything else. My father, my friends, the kids at school, all of you. That's what's the hardest thing to deal with for me; thinking about all the people I almost hurt, y'know?" Arnold nodded somewhat absently, not sure he was getting her point completely.

She leaned back in her chair and stretched as she said, "I think that's your problem. I think you're so worried about winning your sister over that you're letting the rest of your life get away from you. You need to just ignore her and start living again."

This seemed to re energize him, "But I didn't do anything to deser-"

"Arnold!" Lila snapped, then caught herself, "Arnold... you're not the first guy who never got along with his sister. Heck, just look at Gerald and Jamie-O, or even Gerald and Timberly for that matter. See what I'm saying?"

He nodded, more affirmatively this time. "I guess... I guess I just really wanted her to love me." and gave her a sad little shrug.

Laughing, Lila said, "That's your trouble, you were always trying to get the love of the wrong people."

This brought a much needed smile to his face, "Oh, and you don't think we could have worked out as a couple?" he asked playfully.

Quiet now, Lila fixed him with that cool, serene look again, "Arnold, what would you have done if you were in my shoes? If it had been Helga in that car instead of Gerald?"

Arnold stiffened, then went silent. Not calm, but rather a deadness inside. After a long pause he fixed her with a look and said softly, "I would have made sure ALL of the doors in the house were locked." and she nodded her understanding.

For the first time he truly understood her loss.

Fade To Black

To Be Continued


Okay, in planning this story out, I thought I'd go with short, tight chapters and get to play around with some experimental narrative. And before anyone freaks out, this isn't an Arnold/Lila story, so no whining. It's time for the 2005 Hey Arnold fanfic awards and I won't even pretend that I'm not furious that this story didn't even get nominated.

Go to my homepage and get the url for my DeviantArt page where you'll see the TON of Hey Arnold stuff I've been doing that I can't post here. Thanks!