A/N: Thank you, thank you, thank you all for being so patient with me! I'm so grateful to be writing for such a kind, patient, easygoing fandom! I know I can be insufferable and I'm easily distracted sometimes, but you've all been so sweet. It's been a bumpy road getting here, but here's the wrap-up. I was going to have a couple more chapters, but, well… I think it's become abundantly clear that I should quit while I'm still barely ahead. ^^" I've tried to make this worth the wait, though. My inspiration for this has been very dead for a while now, but I've done my best to resurrect it so you guys can have a proper ending. I mean, don't want this to end up like… well, you know, the second movie. *Clears throat* o_o That would be cruel and unusual… Which I am sometimes, but not this time. XD
You know what's sad? This might have actually been a pretty interesting story if it didn't look like it was written by a hyperactive eight year old. *Facepalm* But then again, when have I ever not been a hyperactive eight year old? xD But still, I don't want to write like one… Ah well. *Plays flute while skipping off to war*
So without further adieu, here is the final chapter of "Hypnotizing Helga!"
*Rubs face* Thank God…
Disclaimer: Brah, dude, buddy, seriously now… the only thing I own here is my lack of pride, and these buffalo wings I got jammed halfway down my throat. Ya dig?
"Law number one-hundred and twenty-eight: along with Girl Scout chocolate turtles being forever banned, so are the Girl Scouts. Those stupid accents they put on are banned too. If I hear so much as one more, 'Aye, lad, you gotta buy some tartles!' I'll 'tartle' them into the ground!"
Arnold rolled his eyes, wishing his hands were untied so he could run them down his face. He'd been at this for twenty minutes or so now, but it felt more like twenty years. His demands just continued to get dumber and dumber. Although, Arnold couldn't help but kinda agree with his last demand. He had always hated those fake accents the Camp Fire Lasses put on. But still, you couldn't just tell them to stop it. That would be rude. You were supposed to complain about it behind doors, and secretly roll your eyes when in their presence. That was the only polite way to deal with it.
But really, who cared about that anymore? Who cared about chocolate turtles, or Hardy Boy books, or mastering arcade games, or heck, even Saturday morning cartoons with Sugar Chunks cereal? All that seemed so far away now, like a million years had passed.
Everything had changed after FTi. Suddenly he wasn't a kid anymore. He'd always been a mature person, growing up in the boarding house forced him to be, but he clung to the little bit of childhood he had. He always tried to remind himself when things got tough that he was only a nine-year-old, and he had his entire life ahead of him. But after FTi, he knew he couldn't just be a kid anymore. He had to own up to the fact someone felt a very grown up, albeit kind of overly obsessive, love for him, and he had to deal with that. Then the next thing he knew he'd gone from wondering when the next Pop Daddy episode was coming on to trying to figure out how to steal a kiss from someone who, only a few months ago, had been threatening to rip out his spleen. It was madness.
And now here he was, tied up, helpless, and with his best friend, his best friend's crush, the mayor of Hillwood, and the love of his ten-year-old life unconscious and mentally unwell at his side, while a none-too-intelligent mad man rambled on live television. All that effort he'd put into trying to be grown up for Helga, and putting on the suit and getting the reservations and forcing himself to stay in line with her at school so their date would be perfect, and it had all lead to this. He didn't feel like a grown up. He just felt like a failure. A helpless little kid being forced to watch yet another aspect of his life burn.
No matter how hard he tried when it came to Helga, in the end, he was always shot down. He tried to be her friend, he'd get a death threat. He tried to lead her down the right path and give her good advice, he'd get a blank stare and a death threat. He tried to figure out why she mauled him on a rooftop and professed her undying love, he'd get a blank stare, a shove, and a big death threat. But he'd finally felt like he was getting somewhere with her, like things were looking up for them. Things had suddenly gotten so easy. Out of nowhere, something he thought would be insurmountably, unbearably difficult to figure out had been the easiest thing in the world. But then it'd turned out she'd been hypnotized, she jumped to conclusions, and next thing he knew she was gone and he was sitting at home paralyzed. It was almost too perfect. That was just typical Helga, wasn't it? She'd lead you on, have you feeling all light-hearted and happy like you finally had her figured out and life was perfect, and then snap, you were back in the alligator pit floating downstream straight towards Hades lair.
Helga… Helga Pataki. He was in love with Helga Pataki. Helga G. Pataki. With all the adrenaline and excitement it hadn't really managed to sink in until now. He'd been acting crazy, and now look where he was. Had he completely lost his mind? What kind of a person threw down everything and risked his life to save a girl he'd only just recently come to care for? And the most infuriating part yet was, that he didn't even regret it. He would've done it all over again had he gotten the chance. Even if he hadn't admitted to loving her, he would have come. Not because of some moral reasoning in his head that they were friends, or because it was one of his classmates and he felt obligated, but simply because it was Helga. Even when she was his bully she was important to him. And now that he was in love with her, he really had to question, had his falling for her really been all that sudden? It was so complicated.
He didn't understand why everything in his life had to be so difficult. With Helga especially, he'd always felt particularly frustrated. This was the entire reason he ignored her all the time. She was just an added wrinkle on his forehead that he didn't need. For that reason it'd always been easy to disregard her. But now, he couldn't do that anymore. He couldn't disregard her. She'd finally pushed the one button he couldn't just pop back into place. She had him, and the universe hated him, and he was miserable, furious, and exhausted all at once.
It just wasn't fair.
'Life isn't fair,' he thought to himself, looking down at his lap forlornly. 'I can't even look on the bright side right now. There isn't any bright side to this crazy situation. I try and I try, and it always just blows up in my face. I'm not some big action hero, I'm just Arnold. I don't know what I was thinking with jumping into this mess. Heck, if it weren't for Helga, I never would have managed to save the neighborhood in the first place. I'm just another useless pawn in this game.' He gave a big sigh through his nose and closed his eyes. 'Oh, Helga, if only I had some sort of sign.'
There was a sudden shift in the room, and the distinct sound of struggling and grunting.
His eyes snapped open and flew to his left, along with his friends,' and they stared in shock as Helga struggled against her bonds. Her eyes were darting all around in panic, clearly disoriented. It wasn't long before her eyes came to Mr. Mantle and she stopped. Her eyes burst into hot flames and she growled, the duct tape over her mouth serving as a poor silencer. She stayed like this a moment before her eyes widened and she froze a mere moment, before her eyes snapped straight to his. "Marnol!" Her eyes shifted over to Phoebe, Gerald, and the mayor then and her eyes grew even wider.
Arnold couldn't help it. Excited, muffled words started bursting from his throat. Phoebe as well seemed very relieved, and a couple surprised squeaks popped out of her like a teakettle.
Helga looked from them all before her eyes came predictably back to Arnold's. She looked lost. Lost and furious. It took only a second for Arnold to realize she was reflecting back his same emotions not a few moments ago. He knew it wasn't a good thing that she felt that way, but he found himself comforted. He tried to communicate a smile at her through his eyes.
Mr. Mantle had other plans, though. His dark eyes that had been staring at her since she awoke darted back to the camera as he rolled up his list once more. "We'll continue this a bit later. In the meantime, uh… enjoy our feature presentation!" He turned around then and rushed over to a couple men sitting in plushy chairs near the door. He pulled them up, pushed them in front of the camera and said, "Dance you smelly fools! Dance!"
The two men just stood frozen a few moments before sharing a look and shrugging. They both broke into dance. One had decided he was going to do the robot while the other was apparently in more of a jolly old jig mood, and the one ended up punching the other in the face by accident. This ended the dance party abruptly and erupted in a slap fight.
Mantle opened his mouth like he was about to protest but then he just waved it off. "Oh, forget it." He wandered over to where Helga was to stand in front of her, his eyes narrowed. "Awake, I see. Isn't that special?"
Helga gave him an indifferent look before heaving herself back and propelling her legs straight up to hit between his legs. He shot up straighter than a board, his face contorted, and a high-pitched hiss was forced from his mouth. A moment later he was on the ground in a ball.
Helga stood, her hands and feet still tied, and hopped over to stand over his pained, stiff form. She let out the best scream she could with her eyes filled with blind rage, and even through the thick duct tape over her mouth it was painful to hear. She then jumped up only to smash her body into him with as much momentum as she could produce, causing him to unleash a rippling howl.
The two men still in front of the camera were frozen and watching in awe of this. Rather than trying to help the situation, though, the one looked at the other and grinned before kicking him in the groin and then dog piling on top of him. Arnold and the rest of those still held captive stared in utter shock.
'Helga's back,' they all thought, almost in unison.
"Whoa, he's going to feel that in the morning, and the morning after that, too," the mayor muttered out of nowhere, eyes wide.
All eyes snapped to him and he looked at them. The duct tape was hanging purposelessly from the side of his face, and he arched an amused brow at them. Smiling slightly, he whispered, "Come now, you didn't think they'd just give me such a powerful job without teaching me how to get out of a hostage situation, did you?"
They all just blinked at him, unable to speak.
The mayor hopped up and bounced over in front of the camera, just behind the two men on the floor stiff with pain. He looked straight into the camera's lense, perhaps a 'tad' too closely. His face was close enough everyone watching could probably see every pore and lash and hair on his face. Not moving even a little, he began, his message being sent to every scared, confused citizen in Hillwood, "Now, stay calm, everyone. I know this looks bad but we have everything under control. And I really hope this doesn't affect my still somewhat new position as your Mayor. I mean, Dixie almost tore down an entire neighborhood and had to be stopped by a few little children, but this isn't anything—"
Mr. Mantle, who was still on the floor and had managed to kick Helga away from him, crawled his aching body over to grab onto the mayor's ankle and pull him down. He flopped onto the floor like a pancake and his head hitting the floor knocked him unconscious. Mantle huffed at him, furious at the spectacle this had all caused. Taking a few moments to find the strength in him to pull himself off the floor, he stood and straightened up his suit, patting out the wrinkles as best he could with that blackness still whispering at the corners of his eyes.
Once he could feel his lower half again instead of that dull, unbearable ache, his sense returned to him and he blinked away the residual pain-stricken stars in his eyes. As soon as he did, fury gripped him. He grabbed Helga off the floor and held her in front of himself, grounding each word out like he was trying to turn diamonds to dust, "After everything you've done to me, you add this on top of it all? I don't get it. What did I ever do to you to deserve this kind of treatment? I put you back into your normal state of mind, I even looked the other way when you insulted me. But no, you had to punish me, take away my home, my only source of stability, and throw me out on the streets!" His voice had reached near-screaming at this point, and tears began to stream unwittingly down his poreless, ghost white face. Helga's once hateful blue eyes widened with shock, disbelieving at the sight before her.
"Stop!" a voice called out suddenly, sounding far away and quite muffled. It sounded as if it had come from outside. If it weren't for the window open at the other side of the room, they might not have heard it at all.
Emotions still raging, Mr. Mantle ripped across the room, pulling Helga along at his side, and threw the window open wider so he could look outside.
Down amongst the crowds of people, by the police cars with a bullhorn in hand, was no other than Mr. Simmons, waving his arms frantically, almost looking as if he were trying to fly up into the air like a helicopter. Holding the bullhorn back to his face, he yelled, "You do not have to do this! You have it all wrong!"
Mantle rolled his eyes, the angry tears thankfully beginning to dry, though he doubted anyone down there could see when he was an entire story higher than them. Still, it was a struggle keeping his voice normal, "Oh really now? Is that so, Sir Special Sparkles?" He growled, not at all happy with seeing the one man who's hiring him had changed his life for the worse.
Mr. Simmons faltered only a moment, before continuing on and saying, "Um, well, yes! You see, Helga wasn't the one to turn you in! I was!"
And just like that, the world ended. Fire and brimstone rained from the heavens, a thousand seas crashed over major cities and killed millions upon millions of people all at once, ripping them limb from limb, entire buildings fell to the ground as if they were constructed of tissue paper, and the entire planet cracked clear in two.
Anyway, back on Earth, Mr. Mantle was just barely managing to pull himself from some place very dark and uncomfortably wet. He mumbled at first, before his voice suddenly turned to a shout, making Helga wince, "What?"
Mr. Simmons repeated as clearly as he could, "I was the one who turned you in, not Helga!"
The perfect little sack of flesh under Mr. Mantle's eyes twitched. He could barely comprehend basic speech. "You're… You're lying! You were completely clueless! You didn't know I was a fake! No one did!"
Mr. Simmons tried to be patient with the man. "Well, to be fair, it wasn't all that hard to figure out. Once I saw Helga so unlike her usual special self later on, and thought back to how unprofessional you were and how phony your act sounded, I told Principal Wartz of my suspicions! Now, I'd never have expected him to—" He paused, blinking. "Okay, strike that. But my point is, it was all just a big misunderstanding! You don't have to do this!"
Mr. Mantle stared down at him, confusion driving him mad. He slowly turned his head to look at Helga's relieved, angry face, before dragging his eyes back down to look at the middle aged man in the midst of all the cops. He couldn't handle the truth. The blinding guilt that was beginning to grip at him was violently forced back and he screeched, "You're lying!" before slamming the window shut and pulling the blinds.
The room now enveloped in shadowed darkness, Mantle turned sharply around and let Helga fall from his grasp. She fell hard on her side, but he paid her no mind. He made short work of the room and was in front of the door before anyone could blink, pulling at the doorknob.
The homeless men lying on the floor pushed themselves up, both looking beseechingly at their leader, and one spoke, "Mayor Mantle, where are you going?"
Mr. Mantle didn't respond, merely continued to pull at the knob desperately until it occurred to him you were supposed to turn doorknobs, not pull. His hands fumbled to do so quickly, and the door flew open.
And there stood a straggle bearded, gray beanie-wearing Max, standing tall and intimidating, with metallic eyes aflame.
Mr. Mantle freaked, stumbling backward in shock, as if he'd just opened the door to the underworld, before tripping over the two guys on the floor and falling onto his back. He scrambled up to sit quick, staring in horror as Max walked slowly into the room.
The two homeless men on the ground quickly scrambled as well, only away from Mantle, shame leading them.
Max observed them both with saddened eyes, until they hardened once more and fell upon Mr. Mantle.
Desperate for something, anything to happen, Mr. Mantle spluttered out, "M-Max, hey, buddy, long time no s-see. I-I was just—"
"Shut," Max said simply, snapping his hand shut beside his mouth, and Mantle obeyed. "Where are the rest of them?"
Mantle kept his eyes on the ground, and answered quietly, "Guarding the perimeter… Or, I told them to do that, but they're probably all off eating." He sighed slightly.
Max exhaled, before shaking his head in awe at this grand mess. "I can't believe you did this. What is wrong with you?"
Mr. Mantle kept his head down for a few more moments, unable to respond. His head snapped up then and he asked, "How are you even here?"
Before Max had a chance to respond, Fred suddenly stepped into the room and walked over to stand next to the bearded man.
Mantle gawked. "Fred?"
The black-belted man in question rolled his eyes and asked, "You didn't seriously think I was going to let you get away with this did you? You may have been able to play the food card on the rest but you can't do that with me. I have very hard concentration." He pulled out a turkey leg from behind his back then and took a bite, speaking with his half full mouth, "Plus I may be homeless but I'm not broke." He rolled his eyes and threw the turkey leg at Mr. Mantle, making him flinch, before walking over to untie the children.
Mr. Mantle balked at all this. "But what about revenge—"
Max crossed the room swiftly, and lifted Mantle up by his collar, his fists turning white as he glared intensely. "Revenge is only for those that are too weak and cowardly to just walk away and move on. You compromised not only yourself in this foolish endeavor, but also made an idiot out of practically every homeless man and woman in the entire city. Do you not realize what you've done?"
Mantle quivered in his grasp, terror stealing any vestige of self-control and confidence he'd had left. "I-I was only trying to stand up for myself, for everyone—"
"There," Max growled, "is a fine line between standing up for yourself and being a complete moron. You may think you've gotten your little 'revenge' now, but you sacrificed every ounce of self-respect and dignity you had left."
Fred rolled his eyes again from across the room, his anger increasing, while gently pulling back the duct tape from Phoebe's mouth. "Which wasn't much, you dirty liar."
Max let the handsome man go then, standing up straight as he glowered down at him. "You're not worth it."
Fred turned around suddenly, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "He's worth it to me." He jumped on the horrified Mr. Mantle then, causing the man to scream in fear and pain. The other two homeless men that were on the floor quickly stood up and ran out the door, scared for their lives.
Max shook his head at the scene, before walking over to finish untying the kids. Letting the rather tight knot loose from Arnold's bondage, he then ripped the duct tape off his mouth in one sharp movement. Arnold cried out, and Max smiled apologetically. "Hope you weren't ever planning on growing a mustache," he teased, trying to lighten the mood.
Arnold let out a shaky breath, half in pain, half in relief, before opening his eyes wide and throwing himself at the man. Max stumbled slightly at the unexpected hug, but it was over in half a second. Next thing Arnold had sprinted across the room to where Helga was still laying on the floor, and made short work of the ropes. Helga pushed herself up off the floor then and sat up weakly, her mind still in a tizzy at all that had happened in such a short time. Arnold only had one thought on his mind, though. In a swift, quick movement he pulled the duct tape off her mouth, making her scream. In order to silence his pain at having to do that to her and her scream, Arnold quickly grabbed her and gave her a gentle kiss.
Helga immediately stopped in her squirming and stilled, her eyes bolting open. She inquired oh-so eloquently against his mouth, "Hmmm?"
Arnold pulled back for only a moment, barely moving a breath away, and said quite plainly, "I love you."
Helga's eyes widened, her heart going at time traveling speeds. "W-What? That's not—"
"Oh, shut up, Helga," Arnold interrupted her softly with burning eyes, wrapping his arms around her in a vice-like grip. "I have to get this out of me before something else crazy happens, like Curly bursts down from the ceiling, or you forget me again, or Big Bob finds us, or-or-or—Oh, forget it. I just love you. Deal." He grabbed her face in his hands again and pulled her lips to his forcefully, passion and relief overflowing. Helga melted at the gesture, despite her eyes still being open and her confusion evident.
A sudden gagging was heard across the room, and Arnold and Helga pulled back to look and see Gerald, now free from his bonds, pretending to violently throw up with Phoebe giggling at his side.
Arnold and Helga rolled their eyes at the same time, before Arnold kissed her again, adding to her already muddled countenance.
Mr. Mantle just screamed some more from the other side of the room, something breaking, undoubtedly, as a painful snap was heard that echoed across the room.
Suddenly, the door burst open again and there stood the entire Camp Fire Lass troop, their faces red with rage.
"No more chocolate tartles, eh," their leader said lowly, accent thicker than ever. "It's Camp Fire Lasses, ya numpty! We are in no affiliation with the Girl Scouts! Never have been, never will be! We are an independent organization, ya daft twit!" She unleashed a shrill battle cry then, waving her arms. "GET 'IM!"
With that, Camp Fire Lass after Camp Fire Lass barreled into the room and threw themselves on top of Mr. Mantle, each causing a new shriek of pain out of him.
Despite everything that was going on, Helga smirked.
Big Bob stumbled sleepily out of the closet he'd been thrown in and threw himself around Helga, making her stiffen at his abnormally affectionate gesture. "Oh, Helga," Bob wept, "thank creation, you're okay!"
Helga blinked in bafflement and slight discomfort, feeling deeply touched. "U-Uh, gee, Bob, I… Dad, what are you doing here?"
Bob pulled back, his eyes still fogged from the tranquilizer but the effects of the sedative thankfully mostly worn off. He said almost angrily, his voice gruff and caring, "Why wouldn't I be here, for Pete's sake? You're my daughter!" He stopped suddenly, eyeing her with scrutiny. "You are my daughter, right?" He thought back to how she was hypnotized.
Helga couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, Dad, it's me."
Bob let out a hulking breath of relief. "Thank the mother. What crap was this mess, huh?" He laughed awkwardly, still unnerved by everything that had happened. He couldn't believe he'd been taken down so easily. That was entirely too close a call for his liking.
Helga laughed along with him, equally unnerved, though for different reasons. Not wanting to hear anymore and feeling quite overwhelmed, she threw her arms around him and snuggled deep into his camouflaged shirt. Bob stiffened at this, until a heavy dose of parental instinct and love hit him and he hugged her back, touched.
Police scoured the house for evidence of all that had gone down, and had questioned all the hostages as thoroughly as was in their power, until finally they were free to go. As the kids walked out of the building, they caught sight of the long line of homeless people being handcuffed and hauled off to jail.
Amongst the long string was Mr. Mantle, limping and leaning heavily on some crutches as he tried talking to them.
Lenny had just been cuffed and was walking down the line, waiting his turn to be put into the large police van and taken away. Upon seeing Mr. Mantle, that crazed glint in his eye was increased tenfold, and he scowled.
"Lenno, listen—" Mantle tried.
Lenny pulled his cuffed hands back before slapping him across the face. He yelled, "Call me Lenny!" An officer ran over quick and pulled the mentally unstable man away, as he shrieked in protest. He would no doubt have to be put into an insane asylum.
Max walked out of the building after them, and smilingly led the children away from the scene, not wanting them to have to witness anymore violence. "Kids, hey," he began, catching their attention, "you all okay?"
Helga could barely contain herself. She growled and burst out, gesturing to her wrinkled and ruined dress and messed up hair, "Do we LOOK okay to you?"
Arnold interjected, feeling endlessly grateful to the man, "We're fine, really. Just a little shaken up." He glanced at Helga. She looked away quick, still confused by him.
Gerald grumbled, "I beg to differ. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm with Helga on this one. I did not sign up for all that. This has been one of the most exhausting days of my entire life."
"Same here," Helga mumbled testily.
"I'm afraid I have to concur," Phoebe said, adjusting her cracked glasses in an attempt to see better.
"Well I'm not saying it wasn't hard," Arnold said in slight exasperation, his own exhaustion beginning to weigh down on him as he drooped.
"Yeah, tonight was probably hardest on you, man," Gerald said with some concern, patting him on the back. A sly smile lit up on his face then and he nudged him. "Not that you haven't been taking advantage of things cooling down finally."
"Well," Max said then, amused, "I'm just glad everything is over." His shoulders dropped then and he sighed heavily. "I do wish it hadn't happened at all, though. People are already prejudiced against homeless people, the last thing we needed was something like this."
Helga blinked, looking over at all the dirty people that were heading off to the big house. "Well, they have a home now, technically. That is if they don't give them the chair."
Phoebe hit her in the stomach with her elbow, effectively shutting her up before she said anything else.
"You there," a male voice suddenly called from behind them, and Max turned around in confusion.
It was the mayor, untied now, though with a rather painful looking goose egg on his head. He didn't seem concerned by it, though, as he marched purposefully over to where Max was standing. At first Max was worried he was planning on arresting him too for associating with the criminal hobos, but when the man reached him he outstretched his hand and smiled widely. "Are you the man that started the 'Home for the Homeless'?"
Max eyed his hand a second before cautiously taking his hand and shaking it, nodding his head. "Yeah…"
Mayor Robert Josephson grinned his bright, perfect teeth at him, the ones that won him the election. "It is an honor. I've heard very good things about you. A shame you had to be closed down so abruptly."
Max's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "Closed down?"
The mayor looked at him confusedly. "Well, yes, I just assumed. All your alleged 'homeless' are being hauled away as we speak, after all. Your home is nothing more than an empty basement now, I'm afraid."
Max stared at him, blank faced and dead eyed. Finally, he spoke, point blank, "I wasn't gaining profit from it, Mr. Mayor. Whether or not there is an abundance in homeless people or not is irrelevant. I will not be closing down anything."
The mayor smiled at him, more sincerely now. "See, that's the exact attitude that makes you such a swell guy. I heard you even took in my brother." He rolled his eyes then, his carefully crafted confident countenance melting away at the mere mention. "Now that, right there, proves you're far more patient a man than I." He grinned charmingly then, back to business. "Which is why I would like to make the 'Home for the Homeless' a reality once more. A real reality. See, there's an abandoned orphanage not too far from here that would be perfect. Nice place, big building—very old, though, but that can be corrected with a few renovations…"
Max stared at him bulgy-eyed. "What are you saying?"
The mayor straightened himself, stating more seriously, "I'm saying I would like to make you the owner of a homeless shelter. A real one, not some dark, damp basement in some family's house. The details would have to be ironed out, of course, but I think the idea is brilliant." He smiled. "What do you say, Mr…?"
"Maxwell," Max said suddenly, his back straightening and old business instincts kicking back in after spending many years dormant, "Maxwell Sheffield." He grinned, the name sliding off his tongue riddled with cobwebs but feeling so good to finally be able to say again.
The mayor grinned back. "Fantastic. I'd be more than honored to have you stay at a good friend of mine's house while we get all the details sorted."
Max sighed ecstatically, nodding his head. "Sounds wonderful." He turned around then, suddenly grabbing off his gray beanie and sliding it onto Helga's head, revealing to the world his graying, fluffy brown locks. He smiled at Helga kindly, adjusting the hat on her head as she stared at him wide-eyed. "Keep that safe for me, Sweetheart. It's my lucky beanie."
Helga pulled it off her head with an almost offended jerk, staring at the surprisingly clean and soft hat with aghast eyes. "Then why don't you keep it?" she asked in disgust.
Max chuckled. "Something tells me I won't be needing it anymore. I gained all the luck I needed. It's lasted me through a lot of rough times." He bent down and smiled at her. "Enjoy it. Who knows? Maybe it'll help you out one day too." He stood back up then and turned back to the mayor. "Now then," he began smoothly, "about where my good friend, Fred, will be staying…" The two men walked off into the crowd of police officers and flashing lights, having many things to discuss.
Helga just eyed the old, gray beanie with suspicious eyes, muttering sarcastically, "I heavily doubt that… All this could ever give me is a bad case of lice and some rare, irreversible diseases…"
"Helga," Arnold's voice suddenly came from beside her, and she unconsciously gripped the beanie tighter. "Helga, do you think we could talk?"
"We're talking now," she grumbled quietly, not making eye contact.
"I mean alone," Arnold hinted, his eyes shifting over to look at Gerald and Phoebe.
Gerald caught it and held his hands up, closing his eyes. "All right, man, I get it. We'll leave you two be. Come on, Phoebe." He turned slightly to walk away, smiling at Phoebe with inviting eyes.
"Yes, well," Phoebe started uncertainly, her eyes darting between Gerald and Helga before she flew forward suddenly and enveloped Helga in a tight hug. "I'm glad you're okay, Helga," she squeaked.
Helga, greatly surprised, caught the small girl in the hug and returned it weakly, confusion shaking her softened voice, "I-I'm glad, too, Pheebs…"
The two embraced for a few more seconds before Phoebe pulled back, big eyes smiling. "Good luck, Helga." She winked discreetly, hiding a giggle, before jetting over to grab Gerald by the hand and practically dragging him away.
Helga narrowed her eyes at her retreating form. "Traitor," she muttered, seething.
A warm hand was suddenly slipped into hers, and Helga was pleasantly thrown back into reality as Arnold pulled her farther away from the chaos. She absentmindedly tucked the beanie away in her shirt.
"I was really hoping for this moment to be more romantic," Arnold confessed softly, smiling sheepishly. "But I guess at this point, beggars can't be choosers, huh?"
Helga stared at him, thoroughly overwhelmed by him and the memory of his insistent lips on hers. She shivered at the thought, before stating bluntly, "I have no freaking idea what the heck is going on with you."
Arnold's eyes widened at the verbose statement, before he raised an incredulous eyebrow and pulled her face down to his, so she was forced to witness the affection in his eyes. "I don't know why, Helga, I thought I'd made myself very clear before."
Helga, stiff from his touch, had a sudden shudder run through her entire body. She closed her eyes. "I-I didn't think…"
"I know," Arnold said, breath hot on her lips and nearly killing her, "I remember from the restaurant… You really thought I went to all that trouble just to say I have a crush?"
"You did with Ruth."
"I was a child then."
Helga's eyes snapped open, and she stared at him in disbelief. "Oh, and you're not now?"
Arnold rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine, point taken. But this is different."
"Because you love me," Helga deadpanned, working to look unimpressed.
Arnold eyed her, before narrowing his eyes and putting an arm around her back, pushing her closer. "No, I do not 'love you,'" he said, imitating her flat, dead tone of voice before his eyes softened and he said more dearly, "I love you."
Helga's breath hitched. She suddenly wretched herself away from him, hands shaking, and stumbled to put some distance between them. "Oh you do, do you?" she asked coldly, though her voice trembling tampered with the effect.
Arnold looked at her, eyes widened and heart still pounding. He huffed, frustrated now. He didn't want to play games anymore. He just wanted her. Now, before anything happened. Fate was clearly at odds with them and he didn't want to waste even a nanosecond more. "Yes, Helga, I do. I really do. How paranoid could you be to assume that I just had a crush on you after all this?" He crossed the distance in a bound and grabbed her shoulders, making sure she couldn't escape again. "I love you. Okay? I always knew there was goodness in you but after you were hypnotized I—"
"See?" The words were so hot with anger they practically burned on her lips. "That right there! That's the keyword! Hypnotized. You fell for me when I wasn't even me."
"But you were," he argued just as hotly. "It was you, Helga. You were sarcastic and clever and outspoken, but you were also so… so nice."
"Ha," she mumbled bitterly, eyes hardening. "Right, because the only way you could ever care about me is if I was some perfect little Mary Sunshine—"
"Helga!" Arnold suddenly let go of her and walked away, throwing his arms up. "Yes! Yes, I like it when you're nice!" He turned around, upset and shoulders stiff. "I like it when you're sweet and kind and caring and honest. What is so wrong with that? I was already attracted to how passionate and fiery you were—heck, I'm attracted even now—but I also like it when you let your kinder side show. I like it when you're not so guarded up and… and like this." He gestured to her with his arms outstretched.
Helga's shoulders shook. It was too much. Too much to take in. "O-Okay…" she managed, voice slightly breathy before gaining in strength as her anger began to burn once more, "s-so w-what? You o-only like me when I'm not defensive? I'm this way for a reason, Football Head."
"Why?" he asked, anger subsiding as he stepped over to her, his love and natural caring instincts leading him. "Why do you have to be so defensive? Didn't you see how much everyone liked you when you were just yourself? When you weren't hiding?" He looked at her imploringly.
Helga swallowed hard, her mind at a loss for a response. She desperately grasped for a reason he was wrong, a reason to be angry with him—anything. She could handle anger. This… This she didn't have the first clue to how to deal with.
Seeing he had her, Arnold brought a hand up to sweep across her cheek, making her twitch. "Helga, people care. I care. You just saw tonight how much people care about you, didn't you? Your dad was going crazy when he found out you were missing. Your sister was in hysterics. Phoebe and even Gerald were worried out of their minds…" He swallowed dryly, confessing earnestly, "I was going out of my mind…"
As she still didn't respond, Arnold sighed and withdrew his hand. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Helga. I know this must all be a lot to take in, and your head's probably all messed up after all you've been through. I've been selfish. I never took a moment to think about how you must feel, I—"
"No," Helga said suddenly, her soft voice determined. "No, you've been perfect. A perfect angel… You're always a perfect angel." She took a small, measured step towards him then, making Arnold freeze as he took in her words. Her eyes gleamed as she considered. "You're never selfish, Arnold. Not a day in your life. I'm the selfish one. I… I've been an idiot." She looked down.
"No, I under—"
"Shhhh…" She suddenly put her hand over his mouth, silencing his protest. "It's okay, Arnold. I have been, it's just hard to admit to. I-I mean," she scoffed, "here all this time I thought I was protecting myself from some evil force. Then I wake up one day and, poof," she shrugged, "I'm forced to realize I've been freaking out over nothing." She gulped. "I mean, I try to be tough, but I don't know how to do it." She laughed, looking at him amusingly. "Can you imagine all this time I've just been copying Big Bob? As if that'll make me scary?" She rolled her eyes, thinking of the big talking blowhard that was her father.
Arnold's eyes fell half-lidded, unable to point out that he actually was very scary and she had done a very good job at replicating the effect.
Helga sighed dramatically, shaking her head. "So now you know my deep, dark secret… I'm not evil."
Arnold pushed her hand away from his face. "Duh—"
"No, no!" She shoved her hand over his mouth again, silencing him again. "Not another word! My love, I have been so cruel to you. Torturing you with love like I've been, doing everything in my power as a dominant female to make you crack whilst you only meant to make my dreams come true. What agony you must have been in all this time. My poor, sweet prince." She brought a hand up to run through his hair, pushing it back. "What a fool I've been…"
Arnold shuddered at her words and touch, closing his eyes involuntarily.
Helga took this as her cue and let go off his mouth, quickly seizing it as her own.
Arnold turned to hot licorice, his face warming to a soft red hue.
Helga pulled back from Arnold's mouth half an inch, just enough to growl. She didn't even open her eyes. "Not now, Brainy… Leave now and maybe, I will spare your life…"
Suddenly, a deep throat cleared. "Um, I'm fairly certain my name isn't Brainy…"
Both kids' eyes popped open at the same time, and they both let out a heavy breath of panic. In a flash, Arnold was pushing Helga behind him and taking steps backward, a dark scowl on his face. "Get away…"
Mr. Mantle looked at them wide-eyed and with an unnerving vulnerability about him. It was probably the crutch he was leaning on. "I'm not going to do anything." He scoffed, coughing out a nervous tittering laugh. "I couldn't even if I wanted. There are police everywhere, remember?" He held up his hands then, bringing the handcuffs on his hands to their attention. "I'm all tied up…"
The kids observed all this before Arnold spit at his feet. "I don't care! Get away…" he warned lowly, eyes narrowed dangerously. Behind him, Helga swooned. It made him straighten slightly, proud.
Mr. Mantle blinked, before taking a few limping steps back. "Um…" he began unsurely, "better?"
Arnold blinked, having not expected him to actually obey. Curious, he said, "Uh, a few more steps."
Mantle did so, nearly falling in the process but holding tight to the crutch.
Arnold smiled slightly to himself. "A few more."
Mr. Mantle huffed, taking one more careful step back before stating, "Okay, you've had your fun. Look, I'm not going to do anything. I just wanted to say one thing…" He coughed awkwardly. "Can… Can I do that?"
Helga suddenly heaved herself around Arnold and yelled impatiently, "Just spit it out already, I've got spit to swap!" Arnold's face turned bright pink, and he grabbed her back behind him, shushing her.
Mr. Mantle was taken aback, but not as taken aback as Arnold and Helga were when he suddenly broke down. "I-I'm sorry!" he near-screamed, a car alarm going off in the distance. "I just got so angry! I was seeing red when it happened, and suddenly I was reliving the cartoons I used to watch, and I lost everything! I didn't even have anything to lose in the first place, but-but-but…" He shuddered hard. "I-I'm sorry…" he whispered, before turning around and limping as fast as he could away from them.
There was a tense silence, only broken by the chattering of policemen and concerned townsfolk. They barely heard them.
Finally, Arnold blinked, shocked. "What was that about?"
Helga was at a loss. So she just shook her head and turned his face towards hers, fluttering her eyelashes at him. "Who cares?"
Arnold's eyelids twitched, as if they wanted to close and agree, before he slapped himself suddenly and threw himself away from her. He shook his head. "No, no, no more of that, Helga."
Helga looked at him innocently. "No more of what?"
"Messing with my head," he sighed, rubbing his now sore cheek. "It's hard enough when you're not even trying. But I think there's seriously something up with Mr. Mantle."
Helga looked at him as if he'd sprouted a third eye. "Arnold…" she began slowly, "you're talking about the man that just tried to take over Hillwood with a string of threats and lies, who kidnapped me and bound and gagged you, who influenced the man who took down my dad and could have killed him, who just put a ton of starving people in jail… Other than the fact he's completely out of his mind, there is nothing up with him." She walked over to him and grabbed his hand, interlacing their fingers together. "You can't let bad people take advantage of your good nature, Arnold. Sometimes people really are just as bad as they seem."
Arnold shook his head. "No, there's always a reason, Helga. People aren't just born like that. The change was too drastic anyway. I think losing his home really set him off." Sighing then, he relented with a squeeze of her hand, "But you are right. I don't want to take anymore chances with him, with anyone. This entire mess happened way too easily." He turned to her and laced their other hands together, pulling her closer as he grinned lovingly. "And I still owe you a romantic candlelit dinner."
Helga giggled, much to his delight, before she dipped her face to his and smirked. "You bet your shrimpy football headed keister you do."
Arnold grinned at her, until, "Oh!" He suddenly remembered, pulling something out of his pocket. "Um, your bow back," he admitted sheepishly, handing the silken pink ribbon back to her. "Athough I have to admit, you do look cute in blue." He eyed her up and down appreciatively, admiring how well his favorite color suited her.
"Oh yeah," Helga muttered, grasping the ribbon in her hands. At hearing his compliment, though, she felt delight bubble up inside of her and she giggled. "Oh… Oh, you know what? Keep it." She handed it back to him, blushing slightly.
Arnold's eyes widened. "K-Keep it? But Helga… It's your bow!"
Helga scoffed, waving him off. "Oh, please, as if I only have one. I have a ton of spares back home. That's not even the original."
Arnold's eyes widened even further at that, his eyes jetting down to observe the perfect ribbon in his hands. "It's not?"
Helga shook her head, laughing at the very idea. "Of course not. The old one's long been falling apart, but I still keep it for… sentimental purposes." She blushed. "Besides, I'd like for you to have something to always remember me by." Her feet shuffled nervously.
There was a moment of silence.
Helga, ashamed of herself for thinking he would want it, tried to save face, "L-Look, if you don't want it, Arnold, it doesn't—"
She stopped mid-sentence when he suddenly brought the material up to his face and inhaled deeply, before letting out a happy sigh. He then wrapped it around his wrist and tied a neat little knot, before looking up at her gratefully. "I love it, Helga. Thank you. But how about I have you to remember you by?" He smirked slightly, chuckling at her shocked face before lacing their fingers together again. "Now come on, let's go get that dinner already. You must be starving."
And with that the two kids walked out into the throng of people in the direction of the boarding house (after concluding that Chez Pierre was indeed haunted by some romance hating evil specter), their hands still tightly interlinked to make sure no one could ever, ever pull them apart again.
Edward woke up suddenly with a startled snort, slurping up the bathtub of spit that had collected in his mouth as he looked around drearily. The place was ghostly quiet, not a soul in sight. His eyes snapped left to right, disoriented.
Rebecca walked in suddenly. Seeing him there, she let out a drawn out groan and rolled her eyes. "Oh, dear God. Please tell me those idiot police didn't forget you."
Edward looked over to her, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. "What police?"
Rebecca scoffed. "Typical. Story of my life." She turned and walked away then, unwilling to deal with him.
Edward sat in confusion for a few minutes more, too lazy to get up and see what was going on, when suddenly the doors burst open and in ran a Czechoslovakian man with brown comb over hairdo. He tried to speak, but his breathlessness caught up with him and he had to lean over, panting heavily.
Edward looked over at him, only half-curious. "Uh, are you the police that forgot me?"
Oskar looked over at him, eyes wide. "Eh? What are you talking about?"
Edward barely blinked at hearing the heavy accent. "I don't know. Who are you?"
Oskar stood up, shaking his head. "Who wants to know?" He whined then, "Have you seen my wife? Tall, very pretty, doesn't like making sandwiches?"
Edward shook his head. "Nah." He sat back in his seat then, saying, "If she doesn't like making sandwiches, though, I don't know why she's your wife. That's basically all they're good for." He snickered then. "Well, that and—"
Suzie and Rebecca suddenly walked back in from the hallway, Suzie asking curiously, "I don't know how you manage it, Becky. All these years with him around, calling you all the time, asking for money, a place to stay. How do you deal with it?"
Rebecca blew a rather large bubble, then listlessly answered when it popped, "I tell him 'heck no, rot in a hole,' then hang up."
Suzie gawked at her in awe. "But how?"
Rebecca shrugged. "Simple. I didn't marry him."
Suzie stared at her, her head nodding slowly as the realization dawned on her. "Ohhh…"
"Suzie!" Oskar's whiny voice suddenly called, making her stop in her tracks. "I've been looking all over for you! I woke up from my evening nap and everybody was gone!"
Suzie looked over at him in surprise, shifting uncomfortably. "Oh, Oskar, I… Well, we all decided last minute that we wanted to go out to eat and you know how grumpy you get if I wake you from one of your naps—"
Suzie huffed, suddenly defensive as she put her hands on her hips. "Well what was I supposed to do, Oskar? It was all so sudden. And then before we even got to eat poor Helga was kidnapped and everyone was running around in a frenzy, and next thing we knew we were down here in town hall and—How did you even know to come here?" She gawked at him.
Oskar shrugged. "I turned on the TV."
"Ah, of course," Suzie muttered, rolling her eyes slightly to herself, some of Rebecca's tendencies rubbing off on her after the couple hours they'd spent talking.
Oskar snapped his head over to where Edward was lounging back carelessly, irritated and needing someone to take it out on. "Aren't you even going to say something?"
Edward barely looked up at him. "No."
Edward shrugged. "Too lazy to care." He looked over to Suzie and Becky then, clicking his tongue. "Hey, one of you lovely ladies wanna go out and pick me up some subs? Daddy's starved."
Before either woman could react, Oskar suddenly twisted his face in utter disgust and yelled, "Hey! That's my wife you're talking to!"
"Oh, Oskar!" Suzie suddenly swooned, clasping her hands together tight in front of herself with sparkling eyes.
"If she's gonna get anyone a sub, it's gonna be me! Suzie, get me a sub!"
"Oh, Oskar…" Suzie sighed, excitement drained.
He stormed over and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her towards the door as he glowered at Edward. "Get your own wife! And a job!" And with that said, he threw open the doors, and the two were out of sight.
The room was silent a few moments.
"So Becky…" Edward said smoothly, his fingers walking seductively up the armrest.
Rebecca flashed him the bird on her way out of the room. "Rot in a hole, Ed."
A/N: I read the back of a chocolates package after eating every last one of them, and it read, "Do you dream in chocolate?" And I thought to myself, "Why, yes. Yes, I do. How ever did you know?" I liked that thought so much I cut out the words from the back of the package and attached them to my computer monitor. True story.
For anyone who recognizes the name "Maxwell Sheffield"… SOUL MATE! :'D
To celebrate the completion of this monster of a fic, I put on some sunglasses, my pinstriped fedora, and blasted "Bad to the Bone" from my speakers while dancing around like a freaking boss.