She pushed him to the limit and he tolerated it. It was the way it had always been, until one day one of them snaps when they least expect it. ArnoldxHelga AxH

Tolerance

Fate was cruel, or maybe just mischievous, putting them in every possible situation where they could be so close together, yet so far apart.

They had been stuck on the same academic group countless times. She came close to confessing her feelings without the aftermath of denial many times, and he came close to snapping and refusing to accept that denial. But in the end, she continued to hide and he continued to tolerate.

She too had a strong tolerance, to hold such emotions in her heart, to tolerate the silence and the secrets. His tolerance was for her, for the deceit of her actions, for the lies towards him and herself. For the sake of themselves and each other, they both tolerated.

It was a project like any other; or perhaps more simple. There were no eggs, or awkward inconveniences, only math problems. Their previous argument had long since quieted, while they divided the problems among themselves and worked in silence, sitting side by side in front of his relatively small desk.

Occasionally their elbows would touch, but the argument of it being done on purpose had become too old to concern either of them. Sometimes, their hands would brush when they reached for the eraser at the same time, before she snatched it and he tolerated.

He was lost in thought, focused on the math, the yellow number two pencil grasped in his fingers, his thumb resting on its surface. He applied pressure, just a small amount of pressure with his thumb, almost subconsciously.

The pencil had no tolerance. Maybe if it had been a pen, Helga's pink pen that she wasn't using today, it wouldn't have snapped. But the wooden yellow pencil Arnold had chosen to work with snapped, breaking in two. A small splinter was stuck in his thumb, with red dots of blood forming around it.

He only looked at the broken pencil, he didn't realize how much pressure he was applying, or maybe the pencil was simply cheap and fragile.

"Stupid football head," she took his hand and removed the splinter, pricking her own finger with it in the process.

He shook his head, carefully taking the tiny splinter and placing it on the desk. He picked up the two pieces of the broken pencil and fitted them together, though he knew they would not hold.

"Just use another pencil," she spoke impatiently and turned her attention back to her work. But secretly, she thought of her beloved, and suppressed the need to nurse his injury even if it was not grave.

Without a word, Arnold picked up another pencil and resumed his work. Until they had both finished and they simply sat there, pretending to go over the numbers. She stayed, silent, her emotions hidden; her enjoyment invisible. He stayed quiet as well and most of all tolerant.

Then his grandmother came, opening the door just an inch, and peeking in before letting out a heavy sigh and finally knocking. "Come in," Arnold's voice replied before the first knock had the chance to fade from the field of sound.

"I see I'm not interrupting," she placed cookies and two glasses of milk in a corner of the desk. How could she know if she was interrupting or not? Did she notice their relaxed expressions and assumed they were done? The mischievous glint in her eyes indicated that it was something more.

"No," Arnold replied unsure, "we just finished." His grandmother was referring to something else, that much he knew, but he had no idea what it could be.

Then the old woman sighed, "you've always been a good boy, so well behaved... maybe too well behaved. A little mischief now and then doesn't hurt. I won't interrupt again."

"What are you talking about?" Arnold inquired, while Helga came up with a million silent theories.

"Nothing, nothing," the door was closed; Arnold and Helga were alone again.

"Mischief?" it was one word that brought forth many thoughts, but remained a complete mystery. He tolerated it none the less, and didn't press the matter.

"Stupid football head," Helga ate a cookie.

"What did I do now?" Arnold gave her a confused look.

"Nothing," Helga revealed everything, and at the same time nothing at all. Arnold was oblivious, but she tolerated it.

Arnold gathered the papers, organized them and placed them in a folder. "Do you want me to keep the folder?"

"I'll keep it, because you'll forget to bring it to school." He did not protest against her choice and simply set the finished work aside.

He ate his snack in silence; he tolerated the tension as did she. It was comfortable and at the same time unbearable. It was familiar, but even a small familiar push can make one's tolerance eventually break. "How long?"

"What?" She looked at him, his every detail forever engraved in her mind.

"For how long are you going to act as if you don't like me?" He felt himself close to snapping, so close. "I know it's not true. I know you..." his tolerance returned, maybe in self defense, a useless defense that prevented a question for which he already knew the answer all too well. He wouldn't blame her silence if he had silence of his own, he was tolerant once again.

"I what?" Helga knew her secret was out, but she and Arnold acted as if it wasn't. She had falsely claimed it wasn't true. She had acted as if she didn't want it to be known, so he tolerated and conceded.

"Nothing never mind," he was tolerant, too tolerant maybe, so tolerant it was both surprising and frustrating.

She had tolerated him for a long time too, but he was no mind reader, she couldn't expect him to guess how she felt from her vague hints. Then when she did tell him, she quickly denied it and he chose to tolerate it. He was very patient, caring, kind, and tolerant, but she was done tolerating him, and tolerating the wait. "Stupid football head," she had loved him since she was a small child and now she was a teenager, just a couple of years away from adulthood. "I love you."

It wasn't the first time he heard that, but this time there was no drama, no chaos and no rush, except for the fire of their emotions. It wasn't a confession to the occasion, but an indication that her tolerance had been finally washed away completely, little by little. It was the last drop, the small drop that unleashed the flood.

He noticed then, albeit late, that she didn't want him to tolerate, because she was more tolerant than she appeared to be in that sense; and one of them had to snap to end the silence. He decided that he would stop tolerating the denial and the hiding. Because he wasn't waiting for her as he thought he was; she was waiting for him. He was the one who owed a reply. "I know; I love you too."

End

Disclaimer, I don't own Hey Arnold. This is my first Hey Arnold fanfic, but I have written many other stories for different cartoons, anime and games. I'm a bit surprised it took me this long to finally post a little something about Arnold and Helga. Reviews, thoughts and comments are very appreciated!

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