Disclaimer: Hey Arnold! is created by Craig Bartlett.
Synopsis: Helga is having a hard time putting on her costume for the school play by herself. Arnold offers to help her with the dress and reminds her of what happened to them six years ago.
Behind the Act
"Argh!" Helga growled, her eyebrow wrinkling. "This stupid dress! I can't believe those ancient nimrods French girls actually wore these dumb things!"
She struggled and strained as she attempted to lace the satin ribbons through the minuscule hoops of the corset she was to wear for the next act of their spring play. Mr. Simmons had once again chosen a play that was dated back to the dark ages: The Phantom of the Opera. Helga began to mentally ask herself what had possessed her to join the play. The costumes were ridiculously extravagant and ornate. Fumbling with her corset alone, it was hard enough to get the ribbons into the small iron loops of the corset, but having to tie the thing from behind made the task nearly impossible. Helga tried again and again, knowing that her scene was coming up next. However, there was no progress in her trials to get the corset on correctly. She glanced slightly at the other pieces of her costume that she still had to put on.
"Criminy!" Helga cried again as she gave up trying to lace the ribbons. She let the ribbons fall out of her fingers and slammed her fists on the dresser; they were aching from hanging over her shoulders for so long. "Who ever came up with this inferno thing anyways?"
"Arnold?" Helga gasped. She stared at him for a few seconds with a look of awe but her expression quickly reverted to her usual scowl. "I mean—what are you doing here, Football-head? Isn't it enough that you sneak up on me during the day?"
"Sorry, Helga," Arnold said sincerely. "I just thought you could use some help."
"Help?" Helga raised an eyebrow. "What the heck are you talking about?"
"I saw you having some trouble with your costume," Arnold said, gesturing towards the part of the outfit that she should have already put on, the infuriating corset and her long petticoat that went pass her ankles.
"So I thought I could help you out," Arnold offered her an innocent shrug and a friendly smile. "Everyone else is either on stage or managing the set."
"I don't need your help, Arnoldo," Helga grumbled stubbornly and turned away from him to look into the mirror again. She took her long blond hair that was no longer in pig tails and moved it out of the way over one shoulder. She then lifted her arms over her shoulders and took up the strands of ribbons again. Helga continued to try to finish putting on her corset, growling angrily every time she couldn't get the lace to obey her. Even though she was wearing a thin, sleeveless top underneath her corset, she still couldn't help but blush slightly. Still, she did well to hide her coloring cheeks from Arnold.
"Let me help you, Helga," Arnold insisted. "I don't think you're going to get that on before the rest of them are done with this act."
He walked towards her but she quickly turn towards him as if to keep the ribbons away from Arnold.
"Come on, Helga," Arnold said with his hands on his waist. Then he gave her a sort of smirk. "You're not going to be able to get it on by yourself."
"Oh!" Helga sounded defeated. "Fine. But don't get too comfortable or gross on me, Football-head."
She reluctantly turned her back towards Arnold with her usual "humph," and hands firmly on her hips, finally allowing him to assist her. The blond boy walked to her and took the satin ribbons in each of his hands.
"Uh, Helga," Arnold said.
"What is it now?" Helga said, sounding irritated.
"Can you move your hair, please, Helga?" Arnold asked politely.
Helga's shoulders shrugged slightly, the question had caught Helga off guard since she had forgotten about her hair that was flowing down her back. She said nothing but gathered her hair and moved it aside for Arnold to continue his task.
"Helga," Arnold said. "Don't you think you should have gotten dressed earlier before Phoebe went on stage?"
"Pft, I didn't want to wear this corset and have to wait in it until my act was up. I can barely breathe in this damn thing."
"Oh, I'm sorry. It must suck to have to wear this though."
Helga crossed her arms. "It sure does bucko." She peered over her shoulder to steal a shy glance at Arnold. She blushed.
"At least it'll only be until this act is over, right? Then you can change into your other costume. Is that one any better?" Arnold continued to pull the satin ribbons and lace them into the loops of the girl's corset. He took things slowly, being careful as he entwined the delicate ribbons in a crisscrossed manger down the undergarment.
"Pft," Helga scoffed. "It's just as froofy as this one."
"Does it have a corset like this one?" Arnold asked.
"No…" Helga said slowly.
"Tell me if it's too tight, okay?" Arnold told her. He started to tug on the ribbons, making the girdle piece constrict against Helga's body from her lower chest to her waist.
Helga let out a sharp gasp and Arnold quickly loosened the ribbons in his hands.
"Are you trying to kill me, Football-head?" Helga cried.
"S-sorry, Helga," Arnold said, nervously. "I didn't mean to do that."
"Well shut your trap and finish up with my costume," Helga commanded.
"I'm almost done," Arnold said.
He pulled on the ribbons again but more careful and gentle this time. The corset still squeezed Helga's body but she didn't complain or lash out at Arnold like before. Once Arnold felt that the corset was well fitted on Helga, he tied the ribbons into a neat bow.
"There, Helga," Arnold said. "I… hope it's still not too tight."
"It's fine, Arnoldo," Helga said.
She turned towards the clothes rack and took her dress off of its hanger to put it on. Helga quickly threw the old fashioned frock over her head, slipped her arms through the armholes, and reached behind her back for the zipper. But before her fingers had even brushed over the zipper, Arnold walked up to her.
"Here," he said softly. "Let me."
He took the zipper and zipped up her dress for her quickly before she could deny his help.
"T—thanks," Helga stuttered. "Thank you, Arnold."
She could see the reflection of him smiling at her as they both looked into the dresser's mirror. His hands remained on her shoulders. She didn't brush him off, or push him away, or yell into his face. She glanced away from the mirror as Arnold began to speak.
"This dress looks good on you," Arnold said.
Suddenly, she shrugged his hands off of her, turned around, and threw her arms into the air angrily.
"Save your flattery, Hair-boy!" Helga exclaimed. She backed up towards the vanity and leaned against it with her arms crossed, giving Arnold her usual angry look. "You're done, here, right?"
Arnold began to laugh lightly at her.
"What are you laughing about?" Helga snapped.
"Helga," Arnold said with a chuckle in his voice. He moved towards her and placed his hands on her shoulders again. He could feel her muscles tensed as he did. Helga tried to pull away but Arnold held her still, not painfully but firmly.
"It's been six years, Helga," Arnold said.
"So?" Helga hissed hardheadedly. She tore her eyes away from him.
But Arnold took her chin in his fingertips and lifted her face so that she was forced to look into his eyes once again. She swallowed hard and watched him smile warmly at her.
"Six years, Helga," Arnold repeated. "You can save your acting for the play."
He leaned in towards her and placed his lips over hers. Helga gasped into their kiss and tensed her body at first. Arnold's hands moved onto her shoulders and he gave them a slight squeeze, telling her that it was alright. After all, everyone else was busy. His hands slid down her arms and stopped at her waist as he moved even closer to her, closing up the gap between them. Helga's back was leaning onto the table of the dresser while Arnold's body was pressed against hers. Helga was defeated now, backed up into a corner, and vulnerable to the boy she's been chasing almost all her life.
Helga was the first to break the kiss. She looked at him with fearful yet frustrated eyes.
"Arnold…" she warned, trying half-heartedly to push him away.
"It's okay, Helga," he said and leaned in for another kiss. "Everyone's—"
The song's decrescendo signaled the finale of Rhonda's song. Arnold closed his eyes for a while, disappointed that their moment had to be cut short. He looked up at Helga again and grinned.
"I guess you're up," Arnold said, stepping away and letting her go from his embrace.
"Doi, Football-head," Helga said and rolled her eyes.
She gave him another angry glare and began to walk with her head held up high towards the stage for the next act. She lifted her skirts up a little as she walked and it made her look like a tomboy forced to wear a dress. Arnold held back a laugh.
"Helga," he said.
"What, now, Arnoldo?" Helga asked, impatiently.
"Remember, save your acting for the stage." And with that he winked at her.
"Humph," Helga puffed haughtily. But she smiled back at him.
Arnold walked up to her again and whispered into her ear. "Let's meet after this is over."
Helga smirked. "Fine, Football-head."
This little story should be taking place around Arnold's freshman or sophomore year in high school. I know it's a bit AU that Simmons is still their teacher but I really like the guy so I couldn't cut him out of it, hehe. This is, of course, after the Hey Arnold: The Movie confession. I hope you enjoyed it!