A Series of Kisses

11 - The Jungle

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"I think they headed this way!" Pointed an anxious Gerald at the path ahead while looking back at his two companions. He looked tired, covered in dried mud from head to toe. A machete in one hand a torn map in the other.

Arnold looked at him in relief, he was tired and weary, jeans also covered in mud, shirt torn in a few spots, blood trailing from a cut by his brow, and a bloodied pink cloth in his upper left arm. Helga in contrast was glaring fiercely at him, but she looked no better than the two boys. Her jeans were torn, with what looked like dried blood under one of her knees, she mud all over her, and the hair that she once kept in pigtails was flowing freely over her shoulders a blond curl falling in her face every few minutes. She kept pushing it back angrily.

"Great work, Sherlock. What gave it away? Was it the broken branches or the tire tracks?" She said mockingly, stopping to put a hand on a nearby branch and catch her breath "Oh, wait! Maybe it's the fact that this is the way to the temple!" she sneered up at him.

"OK, that's it!" lodging the machete on a nearby tree trunk, he turned to advanced on her. "What is your problem Helga?! You have been doing nothing but bitching since we got off that cliff!!!" he yelled at her.

Standing at her full height and lifting her chin, she glared fiercely at him "Obviously YOU, are my problem Geraldo! Thinking yourself the leader, only because you have a machete! Who gave you that stupid thing anyway? You aren't even doing a good job with it!"

"What?! That makes no sense! I don't think myself leader! And what does it matter who..."He trailed off, and just stared angrily at her. After a few moments he threw his hands in the air "You know what?! FINE! You lead the way!" He said pointing at the machete. "Let's see how good a job you do."

Glaring she made for the machete when a hand grabbed her arm yanking her around to face an angry Arnold.

"Stop it." he growled at her. Turning to face Gerald "Both of you, stop."

Turning Back to her he took a calming breath and let go of her arm "Fighting each other will get us nowhere, and yelling will only get us captured. Again. I don't think we will be as lucky a second time." he didn't need to say it out loud, both Gerald and Helga understood the meaning behind his words: a few bullets and a cliff will seem like nothing.

Sighing wearily he ran a hand through his hair and looked up at the forest canopy.

"I know I am asking for a lot. We're all tired, and with everything that's happened in the last few hours; well I can't really blame you for going at each other's throats. But if we want to find my parents and survive, we need to at least TRY to get along." At this he looked imploringly at Gerald. Asking him silently to be the better man and let it go.

Narrowing his eyes, Gerald looked ready to argue.

After a long pause and clenching his jaw, he muttered an angry "Fine" turned, grabbed the machete, and silently started making his way further into the jungle. Leaving Arnold to deal with Helga.

Thinking that he owed his best friend a lot, Arnold turned to face Helga. Who was glaring off into the distance.

Sighing wearily he thought tiredly for the millionth time: letting her goad him into accompanying them to the jungle, was probably the worst decision he's ever made...No, scratch that, the worst was not listening to her. That had only gotten them caught, he thought, a chill running down his spine as he remembered her pushing him away to save him from that second bullet, and holding tightly to her arm as they fell off that cliff...Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath to calm himself.

"Helga...what's wrong? Why do you keep trying to pick a fight with Gerald?" at her silence he ventured again "You were fine with him leading for the past three days, so that can't be it. What's really bothering you?" he asked tiredly.

Glare deepening, she folded her arms and took a step away from him "I already said what's bothering me football head, so drop it."

Noticing her movement he frowned and took a step towards her, she backed up again. She was avoiding him. She had been avoiding him as much as she'd been arguing with Gerald. He knew she was, but he hadn't paid much attention to it before. He hadn't really cared. But now it seemed to annoy him. A lot.

Taking another step forward she was about to back away, when he reached out and grasped her elbow, stopping her retreat. At that he noticed her nails began to dig into the skin of her arms. "Helga?" worried he glanced back at her "Please, tell me what's really bothering you?" He'd never seen her this tense before, and looking closer, were those...tears?

Without warning she dropped her hands, twisted around, and punched him on his side.

"You want to know what the HELL is bothering me Arnoldo?!" Yelling at his wheezing form she pulled her arm out of his hold "You almost DIED! You got shot! And as if that wasn't enough, you fell off a cliff!!!!" she continued to yell, backing away from him. "I thought you were dead! And then...l...I thought..." here her voice broke and she bit her lip as if to prevent any more words from leaving her mouth. Her eyes brimming with unshed tears. She was loosing control.

Catching his breath, he reached out for her again but she slapped his hand away, backing into a tree trunk. "Don't. Touch. Me." She told him looking up threateningly.

Now, he was angry, really angry. What the hell was her problem? "Right." He said through gritted teeth.

Moving forward, he stepped up to her until she had to press herself against the tree in order to keep from touching him. "You told me to not touch you. So I'm not" he said before she could do more than open her mouth, more than likely to yell at him. "But I'm not letting you get away. Not anymore." He finished by slamming a hand on the side of her face when she tried to inch towards the right. Glaring down at her shocked eyes, he wondered feebly: when had he grown taller than her?

"Now tell me what the HELL is going on? Why have you been avoiding me? What does me almost dying have to do with you fighting Gerald every step of the way?!" Narrowing his eyes and leaning closer to her "And, if I remember things correctly; you were also shot at, and hanging just as fiercely to that cliff as I was." he finished in a deadly voice, staring down at her in anger.

To his amazement something happened, something he thought she would never allow anyone to see much less him. A tear fell. Blinking in surprise, he watched it slide down her cheek. Soon others followed the first.

As if in a trance, he reached out his hand and touched her cheek trying to wipe them off. A sob escaped her when his hand touched her "Helga...?" glancing worriedly at her, he saw as she let out another sob and crumbled to the floor. Shaking and covering her face with her hands as she cried.

Completely lost as to what going on, he knelt down in front of her. Grabbing her hands he pulled her forward a little. When she resisted, he whispered that it was going to be alright and tugged again, this time instead of resisting she flung herself into his arms, nearly making him loose his balance. Letting out a breath he buried his face in her soft hair and hugged her tightly, waiting helplessly for her to calm down.

After what seemed like a few hours her crying was reduced to sniffling and she started mumbling something into his chest.

"What was that?" he asked softly.

Feeling her stiffen he held her tighter to keep her struggling form from leaving his arms. A few tries later she gave up and lifted her face to glare at him. A light blush in her tear streaked face.

"I said I can't yell at you!"

Raising an eyebrow at her "Yeah, I can see how hard you are working at restraining yourself..." he replied sarcastically.

"That wasn't what I meant and you know it! You almost died! I can't yell at you!!!" She explained, tears beginning to gather in her eyes again "But I can yell at Gerald. I know he saved us! I know that if he wasn't the only one thinking clearly we'd both be dead. And that pisses me off! It means I'm useless. All I've done is cause problems." Raising her fists she started pounding his chest "I get your parents captured, got US captured, then lost, and almost killed!! TWICE!!!! And that scares me! I get angry when I get scared! I only know how to be angry. So I want to yell at you but I can't! So I yell at him instead!!! You almost died. I almost lost you!"

"Helga" He began trying to get her to stop struggling. "Stop...listen" All that did was get a no out of her and more pushing. Frustrated he braced himself and pushed her closer, trapping her hands forcefully between them. "Stop it!" He yelled when she tried to push again.

"Listen carefully" he told her, pausing to see if she would argue some more. When she didn't, he continued slowly, trying to make her understand "My parents getting caught was not your fault. They would have been found whether or not you were involved. You didn't get us lost, you fell on a river, and NO, we weren't going to abandon you!" He said quickly "You didn't get us caught either, that was my fault. I didn't listen when you told me not to go that way..." Swallowing hard he pressed on "It was MY fault that we had those guns pointed at us, if you hadn't...if you hadn't pushed me away when you did, that second bullet would have done more than just graze my arm like the first one did." He had been really stupid "Because of me you could have died...you would have been shot instead of me, and you could have fallen off... You would have died and..." He was horrified.

"That's not important" she said quickly looking off to the side.

He blinked "...What?"

"Nothing" She whispered harshly "We need to find Gerald. I promise I won't yell at him again, so let go."

"What?" he repeated transfixed, he couldn't have heard correctly.

"I said that we need to find Gerald, so let go"

He was so surprised that he almost let her go. But only ended up digging his fingers into her arms when she made to move away. He was beginning to see red. What did she mean?

"What do you mean by 'not important', Helga?"

"Nothing Arnoldo! And let go, that hurts!!"

"Not until you tell me what you meant by 'not important'!!!" He yelled at her. Pressing harder.

"It means what it means! Not important!!! If I died, it wouldn't BE important! Nobody would blink twice. Nobody would care. Unlike you Mr. Do-gooder, I don't matter to the world. I'm not important! Nobody gives a damn about me. Now let go. You're hurting me!"

His mouth had suddenly gone dry. Swallowing hard he stared at her. He couldn't seem to wrap his mind around what she had just said. How could SHE of all people say that? Think she wasn't important. She was...she was Helga! If it wasn't for her, they would have lost so much in the neighborhood, he wouldn't have found his parents, he wouldn't be alive!

"Everybody would care. Your family would care, our friends back home would care, I care." He pleaded with her.

"HA! Yeah right!" laughing hollowly she looked up at him "My family can hardly remember my name, more than likely they don't even know that I'm gone. Phoebe is my only friend and she's better off without me. And you, of course you care, that's what you do, you care about everything. You'd probably care for my death as you would with a dead plant." she finished mockingly.

"Don't say that Helga, it's not true and you know it." He said in a deceptively calm voice, he was finding it incredibly hard to keep his anger in check. She had always been the one person to make him loose his patience. She always seemed to know which buttons to push. But he had never lost it so much as he was about to do. "Don't say that about me Helga. You of all people should know better. You know it's not something I just do. I care about you..."

"Oh please, stop it!" She interrupted, she didn't know why, she knew he was dead tired and angry, possibly more than he'd ever been with her, more than he'd ever been, period. But she was tired of this game too, hell she was tired of everything at the moment so she couldn't really stop herself from going on "Don't try to fool me like you do with everyone else. Of course I know better. I see what you do. I see it all the time. You fix things! You take on this little projects, and you make it all better. You fool everyone into thinking that life is full of sunshine and daisies. And once they believe you, you move on to your next project!" his face was getting red, her arms will probably have bruises when he finally let go, but she won't stop, she was already in this deep, so she might as well get it all out "I am NOT a project! So stop saying you care! Stop trying to fix me! My life is what it is and NOTHING can fix it. You pretending that you care will not make anything better. Stop lying and just get the damn truth out! YOU. DON'T. CA!!"

She didn't get to finish her sentence, he didn't let her. He'd had enough he was tired. He saw the problem now and she would never believe his words, she didn't want to. So, moving one hand to the back of her neck he pushed her face forward and pressed his lips to hers.

A surprised gasp left her lips. Thinking she was going to push away he pressed her harder against him. And it wasn't until he felt her tension melt away and her lips respond to his that he let his hold relax a bit.

After a few minutes he broke away to catch his breath, resting his forehead against hers "I'm not trying to fix you, it hasn't been like that for a long time Helga." he whispered hoarsely before lowering himself to catch her soft lips again.

"Arnold! Helga! Were are you guys?"

Jolting apart, they looked up and saw Gerald making his way back to them.

"There you are!" he said spotting them. "I thought you guys were behind me so I went ahead! I found...What were you doing on the floor?" eyes going suspiciously from Arnold who was helping Helga off the floor...to Helga who was blushing a deep red and looked like she'd been crying. Neither looking at him.

Clearing his throat "Talking" said Arnold after a few minutes. Ignoring his best friend's raised eyebrow he changed the subject "What were you were saying you found?"

Looking at his best friend he decided to drop it, for now. He'd get the truth out later. There were more important things now.

"I found your parents, your mom's at the jeep with two guards, your dad was taken inside a cave. I think we can free your mom between the three of us. Then go help your dad."

"Right" He'd been so involved with Helga, he'd momentarily forgotten they were in the middle of the jungle. Trying to rescue his parents and stay alive in the process. Taking a deep breath he told Gerald to lead the way. He'd let his emotions take control...it seemed to be something that was increasing whenever Helga was around.

"I won't argue with him anymore...unless he really gets in my nerves." said Helga after a few minutes of walking quietly behind him.

Looking back at her in surprise he saw that she had her arms crossed and was rubbing were his hands had been. She was shaking a bit, and a blush was still in her face. Frowning he took one wrist in his hands and touched the spot with his other. He'd hurt her.

"Sorry about that..."

"It's alright" She said quickly, not looking at him. After a few minutes she took a deep breath squared her shoulders and finally looked up at him "We need to go. We'll loose Gerald and we need to save your parents."

She was right, they needed to move. Taking her hand in his, he started following in the direction Gerald had left. But stopped in his tracks as he remembered something, turning around he looked down at her "Don't do anything stupid. Don't go jumping in front of any more bullets, alright?"

Shaking her head she looked at their still joined hands "I won't make any promises football head. But for your sake, I'll try and resist temptation." she said, giving his hand a gentle squeeze, blushing again.

Grinning he turned and started walking. He wasn't as tired anymore. It was alright now, she had just needed to get things off her chest, and he just needed to clear things out for her. All he had to do now was make sure they all stayed alive and save his parents. Easy...

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A/N

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I blame their being out of character on nerves. Both were so tired and so scared, they HAD almost died a few hours ago, and they'd not slept well in 3-4 days...Emotions were running high for both of them.

Hope you like, I know it's been a while, but I promise I'll try and update.

This is supposed to be a 5-6 chapter fic and I'm already working on the second.