HELLO there everyone :D

Okay, so, quick back story behind this. It's a oneshot I did forever ago but I just never posted it because…I don't know, it just seemed very random and free floating but I wanted to get it up for now because 1) LTBH will not be updated until at least December because I'm knee deep in grad school apps until then, 2) it's national novel writing month and I figured I'd finally take a crack at that, lol! There's a web site! And 3) I finally found an ending for it to make it not free floating. YAY! ^_^

Anyway I guess I decided to finish it up at this specific moment because well, I had this very stressful phone interview yesterday with the head of the English department at my top choice grad school and I was having a mini freak out about it, lol, and HA! fanfiction is how I soothe myself so YAY :D Story getting posted ;)

Hope you all like it!

~*I 'Hate' YOU too!*~

"Yes! Yes! YES!" Helga yelled out loud, finally feeling a sufficiently safe distance away from the crowds of people on Vine Street to express her sheer elation in words! Racing into an alley for cover (just in case any people flocking toward the sound of the overpass being blown to inevitably find out the news about Sheck being defeated happened to be walking up this way) the elated blonde girl quickly closed her eyes and spun in a circle, she was so ecstatic!

Unfortunately, this action resulted into her slamming right into a trashcan and flying backwards onto the pavement of the alley.

"Ow!" She rubbed her shoulder as she used a brick wall to try and prop herself upright again. Still, even this bit of awkwardness didn't dissuade her reverie, and as soon as she was standing once more the smile was indeed right back on her face.

"We did it! I did it! He did it!" she shouted to the rooftops, pulling out her Arnold locket to address it specifically. "Oh, Arnold!" she cooed in joy, "We won and no one has to move away and I kissed you and the best part is I got away with it all!" She closed her eyes and squealed in excitement, and then opened them again to look at her Arnold locket once more, "And in case you didn't hear me, let me repeat…I KISSED YOU! I KISSED YOU! I KISSED YOU!" And with that she suddenly brought the glass face of the Arnold locket to her lips and pressed it firmly against them.

Now, normally Helga didn't get this carried away about her love for Arnold (well…most of the time she didn't…), but considering all of the adventures she had just recounted (especially that wonderful, perfect, very lengthy kiss between her and her beloved), and the fact that she was alone, what could be the harm? In addition, her judgment was a little impaired by not having slept in the last 36 hours…so she might not notice if someone had been following behind her on her giddy way to this alley, for instance…

…Which would explain her great surprise when, all of a sudden…

"Hi, Helga."

"AHH!" Helga wasn't sure about the physics of it all but somehow she had gone from just standing up on a sidewalk to now being on her back, strewn among the mates of the initial trashcan she had slammed into, her locket clutched for dear life in her hand… And her heart beat wildly in shock as she realized that someone had just said her name…someone…usually not unwelcome to be saying her name…Except for right now of course considering the whole 'mid-monologue' thing.

"ARNOLD!" Breathing heavily Helga looked wide-eyed at the boy who had suddenly popped into the alley. Her heartbeat fluttered as she saw the sultry smile on his lips yet at the same time she could feel all color draining from her face as she realized the indescribably awkward position in which she now found herself. 'Oh no…no, no, no, no, no…he already knows about the poetry and the stalking and the shrines thanks to me…does he HAVE to know about the monologues too?'

Taking a few more deep breaths to get herself relaxed enough to function, Helga swallowed once and tried to pull herself together and speak in a much more ordinary voice. "I-I mean, sheesh, Football Head, wh-what the heck are you doing sneaking up on me like that?" The poor girl tried to regain a little more dignity by propping herself up using the trashcans around her but due to their round shape several just rolled out from under her, causing her ascent to be less than graceful to say the least. Eventually though, she had herself propped up against the brick wall, upon which she kicked the trash cans away from her feet, ridding herself of them once and for all, let out a breath, and then looked at Arnold with the firmest scowl she could muster.

Watching this whole little display, Arnold finally couldn't help but chuckle to himself. After all, it was kind of…cute when you thought about it… He sighed to himself with a smile and approached her, glancing away in his amusement. "Sorry, I…I didn't mean to surprise you, Helga." He stopped a few feet from the still obviously surprised girl and made eye contact again, still giving her his signature smile. "I just thought I saw you go this way after the police and everyone left Vine Street, and I wanted the chance to talk to you. Alone."

Helga swallowed. 'Okay, I need to play this really REALLY close to the vest. Easy, girl. Easy.' Helga took a breath, and did her best to recall her full-blown scowl and usual stern voice. "Well wh-what is it, Football Head? I—I'm a busy person!" She crossed her arms over her chest and glanced away with a 'hmph!' "I mean, you and your crazy schemes have already taken up enough of my time this week, you know!"

Arnold, however, undaunted by these 'harsh' words, just took a few more steps closer to her, putting him very 'very' near Helga at this point.

His half lidded gaze made Helga stop breathing.

His smile became just a little wider…

…and he spoke. "YOU like me."

Helga blinked. "I—what the heck are you talking about?" It was the only thing that she could think to have fly out of her mouth…in an unfortunate and very UN nonchalant high-pitched squeak of course.

Arnold just did his best not to chuckle once more at the little question. He leaned in closer toward her. "…That you like me." He explained again and then shifted just one step back for a moment and rolled his eyes upward like he was trying to recall something. "Remember? A long rant on a rooftop followed by a kiss about fifteen minutes ago. I think I remember something like that happening." He glanced back at her and raised an eyebrow. "You?"

Helga took a few breaths. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't happening. She did her best to keep it together. "Arnold," she began calmly, still basically pressed against the wall behind her. She wanted more than anything to resume her usual commanding tone…but she was sadly in too much shock and denial to do so at the moment. "I—I already told you…I just said all of that stuff before because we were running around and I just…" some sarcasm returned to her voice, "I don't know why I said it." She scowled, "Now, I'm going."

A determined Helga G. Pataki went to take a step around Arnold. However, she suddenly found herself in a very thin pocket of space between the brick wall behind her and the boy in question, who had stepped to the side to match her and then stepped forward once again to trap her once again and even more snugly in her current position. And he was still smiling in that coy way, like he knew a secret he wasn't telling…which, Helga reminded herself, with a sick feeling, he did. 'Stupid freaking confession…I guess I should have known that if there was ONE thing that was going to blow my secret it would be my big freaking mouth!' She gulped.

And then suddenly Arnold leaned his head a few inches closer to Helga's now petrified looking face. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't move, she couldn't blink. What was he doing, and why wouldn't he just do it already and quit torturing her?

Another quiet second or two passed…and then Helga watched (with continued perplexity) as Arnold just raised an eyebrow in surprise and pulled his face just slightly away from hers once again, making the proximity at least bearable for her (for now)...You know, bearable in the sense that her only two options for the continuation of any kind of personal existence were no longer to either kiss him again or to just completely melt and collapse into a pile of nine-year-old lovesick girl right here in this alley.

Able to focus a little more again now, Helga's wide eyes observed Arnold's face very closely…and she noticed that he seemed to be doing his best (and failing a little bit)…at not… laughing at her? "You're THAT nervous, huh?" he finally asked, his smile so very prominent.

Helga just remained looking at him in the most pitiable state of shock imaginable, a small squeak of nerves actually escaping out of the back of her throat. He wasn't supposed to EVER know how much his presence affected her, how nervous she ALWAYS was around him…and yet now he did. She could have just died!

Arnold's question lingered for a second or two longer…

And then slowly, the football headed young man backed off a few steps from the girl before him…still grinning to himself quite proudly of course though.

Finally (temporarily) significantly freed from her beloved's critical mass proximity, Helga took the first deep breath she'd been able to take in a while and eventually found her voice again…though she really didn't have a plan just yet as to what to use it to ask… "Ar-Arnold…what the—what the heck do you think you're…" She just plain couldn't even find words to describe her disbelief at whatever it was that was going on between them right now. She had no idea what her beloved's game was…and she was equally torn between wanting every detail of his intentions and wanting to run away from here and find one of those bulldozers and tear down this whole freaking place so that she really would have to move away from Hillwood and NEVER encounter Arnold like this again!

At her half question, Arnold, meanwhile, merely shrugged and put his arms behind his back. "Sorry I got so close like that, Helga…I just wanted to see something. Not much fun being suddenly pushed against a wall by someone though, is it?" he added just a little smugly.

Helga glanced away, still breathing heavily. At least her scowl was finally coming back, though it was a challenge to make it do so. "Arnold, look, I-I don't want to talk about this." She swallowed hard.

Arnold just crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow at her. "You don't want to talk about it now that we have all the time in the world, but when we had less than thirty seconds to spare it was all I could do to keep you from kissing me?"

Helga blushed furiously. She knew she needed to get out of here…now! "I…I have to go."

She blindly pulled herself from the wall, passed Arnold, and made her way toward the end of the alley, practically running! 'Go home and go to sleep and this will all be a dream! Go home and go to sleep and this will all be a DREAM!'

"Helga!" Arnold suddenly called from behind her though.

Despite her serious desire to leave, Helga couldn't help but at least pause at the sound of her name coming once more from those perfect lips. She heard Arnold continue in a casual voice at her obvious waiting to hear what he had to say. "I actually do need to ask you something now that we're alone."

Helga continued not moving, just barely glancing over her shoulder in his direction. "What?" she merely asked flatly…and just a little curiously, though she tried to hide it.

Arnold, from his position back in the alley, shrugged once more and replied simply, "What should I tell Gerald about why you were with us?"

Helga froze and half turned and felt everything inside of her rip apart at this unexpected (but unfortunately very pertinent and good) question. "HUH?"

"Gerald," Arnold explained again like it was the simplest thing in the world. "He's going to ask eventually about why you suddenly showed up on that bus. What should I say to him?" He smiled in feigned innocent boyhood curiosity.

Helga sighed mentally. The last thing she wanted to think about right now was some minor piece of damage control (okay, maybe not SO minor, but definitely minor when compared with the damage control she'd obviously be spending the rest of her life doing with Arnold). But anyway she did NOT want to deal with this now! She just wanted to be safe in her room surrounded by her Arnold shrine and her books of poetry and away from this situation that had gone from perfect during their kiss on that rooftop to the pinnacle of embarrassing now that she was being called out on her feelings by her beloved. She just shook her head, "Just…just, I don't know….just tell him I was Deep Voice and helping you guys!" she finally came up with.

"And…what if he asks WHY you did that?" Arnold raised an eyebrow, once again that smug aire coming to him, just dripping from him really.

Helga rolled her eyes and scowled, turning back to Arnold fully now and putting a hand on one of her hips. "Just tell him that's all you know, Football Head! If he wants to find out anything else he'll have to come to me and I know he's way too scared of me to do that. Doi!"

Helga awaited confirmation of this course of action from Arnold, but all she received in return instead was a sudden fit of warm laughter from the flippant boy.

Helga blinked and scoffed, her face taking on the appearance of being just a little offended, to say the least. "And just what's the laughter supposed to mean, Chuckles?"

Arnold managed to get his laughter under control and looked to her again with a warm sigh. "Nothing, nothing. I just think it's funny that if he knew the real reason you helped us… he'd probably never be afraid of you again. I mean, at least, I know I'm not afraid of you anymore…but I feel like the effect on him of knowing the truth wouldn't be all that different." His arms were behind his back and that grin of his picked up just a little more on one side.

Helga's face lost all color.

Arnold yawned (he freaking YAWNED like this was really just all…small talk or something!) "Well, anyway…" he began to approach the end of the alley where Helga was. "I don't know about you but I could use a nap after all that save the neighborhood stuff so…I guess I should probably get going then…"

"Arnold," Helga looked at him very seriously and put a hand on his shoulder as he was passing her, stopping him in his tracks, though the look of complacency and happiness on his face remained. The thought was almost unbearable…From now on seeing not just Arnold but Gerald as well all over this city and in school each day and feeling TWO sets of eyes boring into her like they could see right past her blustery exterior and into her warm, mushy, good hearted center. The very idea practically sent a tremor or worry and humiliation through her! "You're not going to…" she went on shakily, "I-I mean, you wouldn't…you know, TELL him or…or anythi—"

Helga's words instantly stopped and her eyes went open wide at Arnold's sudden placement of one of his soft index fingers vertically against her warm lips. His sultry smile made her blush furiously. "Don't worry, Helga…" he soothed sincerely, "I won't tell him if you don't want me to. Besides, I…kind of like this thing just being between you and me—now it's like we both have a secret, right?" He slipped his finger from her lips and winked at her.

Helga swallowed hard, paused, and then in her (slightly blushing) fluster just barely managed a small nod.

Arnold couldn't help but chuckle to himself once more at her embarrassment and shake his head as he took the remaining few steps forward toward the corner that would take him completely out of the alley. "Well, I'll see you later then, Helga." He gave her a small nod as he turned and moved around the corner completely.

"Uh…s-see you, Arnold…" Helga only managed to reply to his (seemingly) disappearing form.

Alone for a moment now, Helga could not believe the exchange that had just taken place between her and her beloved. 'Oh for Pete's sake, he hates me! He thinks I'm the biggest weirdo in the world and he—'

Helga's thoughts were interrupted at the sudden appearance of Arnold's head leaning back around the corner and looking into the alley with a smile. "Oh, and Helga?"

"HUH, WHAT, I DIDN'T DO IT?" she was so shocked by his reappearance she'd jumped and practically screamed this sudden random exclamation!

Arnold paused (tried not to laugh again at her flusteredness…and how, well, cute it was…), glanced down for a second in thought (as he recalled some of her words to him during their last little alone encounter mere minutes ago after Sheck had been taken away), and then looked back up at the young girl before him. "By the way…I, uh, 'hate' YOU, too." He winked and his face then instantly 'disappeared' around the corner again.

'You knew it, you knew it he hates you! He….' Her heart crumbled and her thoughts screamed!

But…but then… 'W-Wait a minute…' something strange struck her, 'He…he 'hates' you too! But you only said you hated him before because you were trying to still keep it a secret that you love him. So that means…'

Helga instantly blinked in surprise and realization. "Arnold ,wait!"

And with that Helga Pataki quickly rounded the street corner and pursued Arnold….(who was actually waiting patiently right around that street corner to catch her in his arms (which he did and as he had been planning to do all along) and bring them close…and…)

"Arnold…Arnold…ARNOLD, WAKE THE HECK UP! Come on, it's finally light out again! We can keep going, Football Head! Sheesh, you can't exactly 'sleep in' when you're trekking through a jungle trying to find civilization! Doi!"

Arnold instantly bolted upright, his heart pounding and his eyes wide! 'WHERE AM I…I…' He blinked a couple of times and his eyes took in all the bright greens and exotic colors everywhere…and then he breathed in and his lungs processed the warm, humid almost sweet air around him…and then he became fully aware of the feeling of sitting upon the damp ground, of being a little hot and kind of dirty at this point (considering, he recalled, how long they had been in the jungle so far)…and also the feeling of a pressure on his shoulder.

"Arnold! Get out of your state of shock at being awoken from your 'beauty sleep' already and help me pick some bananas or something for our breakfast! Crimeny!"

The ten-year-old boy's eyes flew to his side where they were met with Helga Pataki's scowling and very close blue ones…and her hand was on his shoulder.

He instantly spazzed away from her and then stood up shakily, breathing heavily. 'A dream…just a stupid dream…Not real…Just like the other ones…NOT real. I didn't follow her after that whole thing back in the city, I didn't smile and say all that stuff to her…get close to her…tell her I …I 'hated' her…' HE shook his head violently and then finally looked to Helga. "Uh…b-bananas?" It was all he could come up with, flustered and still half-pumped with adrenaline as he was.

He watched her just eye him curiously for a moment or two (and he couldn't help but gulp as it almost felt like she could see into his soul or something…past what he was hiding…It made his heart pound a little)…

Finally though Helga just stood up from the ground she'd been kneeling upon and then sighed and rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest (like usual). "Yes, Einstein, bananas!" She jerked her thumb up in the air to a bunch or two of them hanging right above the two of them from a tree limb. "Crimeny you're weird sometimes, Arnoldo…" She shook her head impatiently at him as she turned and walked over to the base of the tree to start climbing it, "Can't believe I got stuck with YOU when everyone got split up…" she grumbled to him over her shoulder, "I swear, you'd be food for the tigers or something if you didn't have me…" She sighed and found some footing and a low branch or two and then began her ascent, still scowling.

Arnold just blinked a couple of times to fully reawaken himself (and to get used to the tremendously full of relief idea that she wasn't pushing him on why he had woken up so strangely or anything) and then he automatically stood up and walked over to the tree to stand under it to catch the fruit she'd shake loose (a system they'd been using for the last few days for food)… Meanwhile, Arnold's head still swum in thoughts…the poor boy just trying not to blush (too much) at half of them. 'They're getting…more detailed, almost… Like something's trying to tell me something…' Arnold was referring to the fact that, well…this hadn't exactly been his first dream about acting a little 'funny' around Helga G. Pataki… There had been many, actually… Some about after the FTi incident, some about during it, some about being in school, some about being on the plane coming here together…some even about being alone with her in the jungle like they had been for a couple of days now…together…in the warmth and secrecy of San Lorenzo…lying together in the moonlight…and…

Arnold swallowed very hard and did his best not to think about some of the more intimate details of the one or two of those dreams that had managed to make their way into his head so far…Let's just say they had been a heck of a lot more intense than just telling her suggestively that he 'hated her too', to say the least…

…And meanwhile it wasn't helping make all the dreams stop in general that the Helga in real life kept, every once in a while during all of this jungle mess, doing little nice things for him…giving him small looks…saying unexpected things…that all just reconfirmed for him that she loved him. The way she'd comfortingly coax him on if he suddenly felt tired and almost like giving up, the way she kept making sure they had food and found a comfortable place to sleep each night and fresh water…the way she'd look almost…terrified, really if he tripped or almost fell… Of course, all of this she kept explaining away, with a scowl, as her just trying to make sure his parents, when they got to see him, would see him in 'one piece'…But Arnold knew it was something else too, of course…

And also maybe the dreams kept happening and getting more and more intense because, on a side note, Arnold couldn't deny that…if he had to be lost like this in the jungle with anyone…he was becoming more and more glad it was her…because she made him feel safe…Very…safe was really the only word… He smiled a little…

"Okay, ready, Arnold! Catch!"

'I'm just…tired…that's it. Tired and confused and…it's just awkward, knowing that she lo—uh, likes me…' (Arnold had point blank refused to say the real 'L' word out loud or in his thoughts ever since Helga had first introduced it to him on the roof of that building). 'We… just need to find some people again and get hot baths and a good night's sleep in warm beds and then me and my dreams'll be back to norm—'

And then Arnold's thoughts went away for a little while as, in his distraction, he'd allowed half a bunch of bananas to basically crash into his skull.

A few minutes later…

"Arnold! ARNOLD! Wake up! Please wake up! Are you okay? Please! Speak to me!" It was her voice calling to him again, but not harshly like before when he'd been waking up from sleeping-in…but so lovingly and with so much concern…

Probably another one of his dreams, actually, the voice sounded so nice…(although part of him had to admit that even the Helga in real life could be kind of dreamy when you got right down to it…)

"Helga…" Arnold sighed out to himself, barely blinking a few times…and still half in a repeat of that 'I hate you too' dream… He chuckled to himself in his drowsiness, "Don't sound so scared, I…" another chuckle… "I… 'hate' you too…"

The boy's eyes fluttered open and he could just make out her face so full of concern and also confusion, blue eyes so wide with wonder…but also suddenly pierced by something else now, her blonde and pink outlined by the early morning glow of the sun behind her…He was propped up, he realized…She was on the ground holding him in her arms like that.

'Oh…' his half asleep brain said to itself in 'realization', 'Now I'm having another one of those dreams when we're in the jungle together, huh? Okay…I know how to make myself wake up…It'll happen just as our lips touch, just like all the other timesAlthough…usually I'm the one gently cradling her…and…and she's usually batting her eyelashes and has flowers in her hair…and her lips are red like berries or roses…and the moonlight makes her glow and outlines her body in the darkness…' He sighed once more, his smile remaining. 'But this is nice too, actually…' He closed his eyes a little and leaned up…lips a little puckered, ready to culminate the dream…


The scream practically seemed to pierce the jungle and HIM! And then Arnold was jarred even further by suddenly slamming into the clammy, rich soil right onto his back! "OW!" He took a second to catch his breath, the wind having been slightly knocked out of him by the fall from Helga's arms…and then he blinked a couple of times and sat up a little and finally opened his eyes, rubbing his forehead. "What…what hit me?" was the first thing he asked…though he was referring more to the ground hitting his back than the bunch of bananas that had hit his head before (an event which he still wasn't entirely actively aware of at the moment).

Arnold's eyes then fell on Helga…and the memories flooded back a little.

She was just sitting there, looking like she'd scrambled away from him across the ground…and she was breathing heavily, her eyes wide and looking completely terrified almost! And her mouth was hanging open a little…and there also seemed to be…something a little sad to her as well… It was just all plain mixed-up though!

Arnold gulped and sat up a little straighter, still trying to sort things out in his wide, confused, almost fully awake, (and of course slightly sore) head. 'I…But…wait…none of this ever happens in that dream…So…then what's…'

He caught a motion out of the corner of his eye and realized it was Helga's lips moving a little for a second before she finally spoke in response to his 'what hit me' question. "You…y-you…" she kind of squeaked out, "…Got hit in the head…with the bananas…" She gestured with her head in the direction of the pile of fruit on the ground to his right, never taking her eyes off of him though of course… "And it knocked you out…" she went on, "and then you woke up and you were acting, um…" she hesitated on the word, "…f-funny…" she finally decided on…having no emotional capacity to address that 'I hate you' thing…or the complete one-eighty he'd done with that smile and the…the lips… She gulped and blushed! Who the HECK could make sense out of all of that, anyway!

Arnold felt a quick blush come to his features as her explanation finished… Yeah, 'funny' was probably putting it mildly. He'd almost…He closed his eyes and shook his head, unable to think about it…He'd almost ki-…in real life… With one more shake to move his thoughts away from all of that, the poor young boy merely stood up from the jungle floor and did his best to focus very much on dusting himself off as he replied to her explanation. "U-Um…O-Oh…Yeah…Bananas…hit me on the…I…I guess I must have just missed catching them or something, heh…A-And then all this heat and barely any sleep and then being hungry and…" He finally just let out a breath, closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and did his best to look at Helga with a casual smile. "S-Sorry, I didn't mean to worry you, Helga…I-I'm okay, now…Really. I…I think I was just a little confused for a second but I'm better now…"

He walked over to the bananas and took a couple for himself and a couple for Helga. He approached her and placed her two gently and politely in her lap. "Here, Helga…let's eat them and just…" he barely gestured with his head into the jungle depths, "…just keep going, I guess…"

The perplexed girl just looked at him, looked down at the fruit now in her lap, then looked back up at him….and then shook her head as though to clear it of some kind of notion and finally stood, taking the pieces of fruit in hand. "Uh…yeah…let's, uh…let's get back to civilization…I-I mean, heh…" she half smiled and unpeeled her first banana, taking a bite, "Hopefully we find a four star resort hotel or something where we can rest for a few days so that you can at least look KIND OF presentable for your parents, right Football Head?" 'Whoo…the heat must be getting to me too...I almost imagined that he…that he leaned up to…Pft! Yeah right…in my dreams maybe!' She swallowed the bite of fruit in her mouth. 'He hates me…just like he said before he woke up…And who could blame him after everything I've put him through…' She felt sadness come over her again at the idea that those were his true feelings, but did her best to keep hiding it under her normal, witty smile. After all, she had a job to do now…and that job was making sure her beloved was reunited with his Mom and Dad at all costs!

Arnold, meanwhile, of course had to smile a little at one of Helga's familiar good-natured (and always ultimately optimistic) jokes about his parents…feeling some of his nervousness even starting to leave him. "Yeah…I want to make a good impression on them after all, right Helga?" He even threw in a wink at her, though doing so made him blush just a little…But he had wanted to do it just the same and so he'd done it. No harm and nothing too strange in that…right? (At least, that's what he told himself…)

Arnold noticed with interest that the gesture on his part made Helga blink, and then glance down a little shyly…and…was that a tinge of red coming to her cheeks? No…it…it had to just be the heat of the jungle and the sudden shock of jumping away from him just now…Yeah, that was it. "Well…" she started in a quiet…kind of nice voice…And then she blinked and crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes, the playful sarcasm returning, "Well, duh, Arnoldo! Because, sheesh, if YOU show up there looking like a wreck then I'M going to look like the worst Football Head babysitter on the planet! And I'M the one who promised you I'd get you to them so the shape you're in when that finally happens is MY responsibility!" Her familiar scowl was back. "Now come on, let's get going, Football Head!" And with that and another bite of banana Helga turned on her heel and began to march forward into the jungle once more.

Arnold couldn't help the half smile on his face as she'd said all of this (reminding him also of the first nice thing she'd done upon the two of them finding themselves alone together in the jungle and he revealing his real purpose for coming to San Lorenzo so suddenly… She'd promised, no matter what, to make sure he got to his parents safely)… And so with a sigh at this thought and a bite of one of his own bananas Arnold walked forward as well, quickly coming up beside Helga.

For a few seconds the two kids just walked on together in quiet with nothing but the birds and the slight breeze and the many insects of the jungle around them creating any sound.


Arnold blinked at the quiet address and glanced at the girl to his side, swallowing another bite of banana. "Yes, Helga?" he asked sincerely.

She was glancing down shyly again as she walked, he couldn't help but notice…and did his best to fight the idea dying to pop into his head about how her looking like that was kind of…cute… "You, um…" she went on, snapping him fully (and thankfully) back into reality, "…you really are okay from getting hit on the head before…right?" Her eyes just barely traveled upward to meet his own…

Arnold felt that…that warm, safe feeling come over him again…He smiled a little more and now just barely glanced at her as well. "Yes…I'm okay…" he assured her sincerely… "Thanks, Helga…" he felt it right to add…and the thank you only made him warm up inside even more.

He watched her smile in relief to herself (as she had been doing so often when he'd almost get hurt on this adventure but turn out to be okay) and she let out a sigh. "Good…" She cleared her throat and her face became just a bit sterner again as she tossed an empty banana peel over her shoulder and looked forward once more. "I mean, I don't want to have to stop our hike and waste time 'taking care of your boo boo' or anything, you know…" A warm smile pulled at one of the corners of her mouth though she was obviously trying to keep it tame (as usual), as she added, looking forward… "You'll have your Mom to do that for you soon enough anyway…isn't that right, Footba—ARNOLD!"

This exclamation from the ten-year-old blonde girl speaking was due to the fact that, well…the two of them had lurched to a stop in their walk and Arnold was suddenly hugging her tightly around her body COMPLETLEY out of nowhere!

She just heard him let out a happy sigh in response to her shout of his name…and then say quietly… his head almost snuggling into her chest (and the feeling setting her heart practically on fire!) "I know, Helga…I'll have both of my parents soon…because you'll take me to them just like you promised…" He held her just a little bit tighter…his voice taking on a touch more seriousness. "And I…won't ever be able to thank you enough for that, Helga. Not ever in the whole world."

For a few moments the two kids just remained like this, Arnold holding Helga and Helga looking shocked and confused but also blushing like crazy…alone together in the warm jungle…His arms making her feel so safe despite how dangerously lost they really might be…

Eventually Helga gulped and managed to find it in herself to gently just barely push Arnold off of her by the shoulders. "Uh…uh…" she couldn't find words, "Well, you're…you're welcome, A-Arnold…" she finally managed to stutter out, feeling her heart still pound! What the heck had that been and where the heck had it come from and why was he acting so freaking… 'funny' the longer they were alone together! (Indeed, Helga hadn't failed to notice that ever since they'd gotten separated from the group (well, actually, technically kind of ever since that whole FTi 'Arnold, I love you, I've always loved you!' thing, but that was a thought to sort out for another time) he'd been shooting more and more smiles and even…stares at her, and laughing at more and more things she'd say, and even almost seeming like he wanted to hold her hand sometimes when they were walking (it was just…the way he'd sometimes glance down and to the side toward her as they hiked…and every once in a while their hands would brush and he'd just glance away as though pretending it hadn't happened instead of apologizing or something... 'But…that could just be my imagination of course…or a mirage or something…' Helga shook her head and did her best to move on to other confusing things.)

And then there was that time yesterday when she'd swam in a river too close to the waterfall end and had almost gotten swept up in the current and he'd dove in with a vine and gotten them both to shore and practically thrown himself on top of her in fear asking if she was okay! Like he was genuinely scared at the idea of not having her around or something! 'Still…he probably just didn't want to be left alone out here…And also he's Arnold—he cares about EVERYONE'S safety!' But then that weird…smiley, dreamy k-k-ki…(she gulped…not even allowing herself to entertain the idea that his lips had actually puckered for a moment as he'd leaned up… 'They were probably just dry and he'd been pushing them together a little or something…and then sitting up to just get up since he had finally been coming to…' Yeah, that…that was certainly it!) Because then he'd said he hated her! And literally, of all the things he'd done so far in this jungle, that statement from him was the only thing that truly made any sense! (Though the way he'd said it…something about that managed to be funny too! 'Ugh…unless it's another attack of my overactive imagination…Why am I such a basketcase!' )

"I know…but thanks just the same, Helga…" These words in response to her 'you're welcome' (and the wink that accompanied them) brought Helga out of her thoughts and just made her eye Arnold in even more hopeless confusion.

Arnold, meanwhile, seeing her brow still raised and her face still cocked to the side like that, just sighed with a smile at her…He knew that hug had been a little unexpected but…once again it had just been something that felt like…the right thing to do. And so he'd done it. Simple as that…right? "Anyway…" he continued, moving the conversation along, "…like you said we should probably keep going, Helga…" Arnold hesitated, about to take another step forward into the jungle…but then took a step toward her instead. "And, um…I've been trying so far already but…I'll try even harder now to keep you safe for meeting my parents too because…I think I'd like them to know you…and also I…I think they'll really like you, Helga…and I think they'd like to meet one of my best friends…" His smile (and his slight blush) grew just a little more.

Helga blinked and there was no denying it this time—she was blushing! "R-Really?" she squeaked out, almost stumbling back at such an unexpected by gracious invitation and assurance by her beloved! "OOF!"…And then she instantly tripped over a root in her surprise and shock and elation! But really, in her defense…One of his best friends? Wanted his parents to meet her? He'd try his hardest to keep her safe? 'Oh Arnold…' She practically wanted to run off behind a tree and monologue or something at the whole thing! Even if all of his kindness DID turn out to be just him being nice and the elements getting to him and the heat of the moment or something…it was still just so very wonderful to be cared about by him like that! 'Oh maybe he doesn't really hate me!'

Arnold, meanwhile, a look of concern on his features, instantly knelt down and helped Helga up from the ground, dusting her off, then took a step back from her and chuckled a little at her surprise (and also at the kind of…goofy look on her face.) "Of course, Helga…" he assured her with a wink, holding onto her shoulders and looking into her very happy eyes. Then he let out a breath and released her, shook his head to himself and finally turned back facing forward…"So let's go find them…together…" And then before he could stop himself Arnold allowed one of his hands at his side to drift over and do something he'd kind of been thinking about doing for a while now ever since they'd been in this jungle…He let his hand loosely clasp one of Helga's… "A-And um…" he went on, quickly moving forward and feeling her instantly follow in tow as he pulled her a little, "I…I think it might be a little safer if we walked like this…with our hands like this, I mean… Th-Then we won't get separated, and if one of us falls the other can stop them from hitting the ground…Plus it's a little…a little less lonely, you know?" He blushed…not only at his actions and words but also at the fact that he…he was liking holding her hand like this. It gave him that warm, safe feeling again…only a million times over!

Arnold was met with only silence from his companion at first but then the sound of her flustered voice managed to squeak out as she began to keep pace with him and even squeeze his hand a little in return. "Uh…y-yeah…S-Safer…L-Less lonely….O-okay…" What the heck—they were alone, and when would he go temporarily insane again from being hit in the head by a bunch of bananas and ask to hold her hand? 'Once in a lifetime opportunity, Helga…Might as well savor it while you can get it…' she assured herself with a blush and a flutter of her heart.

She watched out of the corner of her eye as Arnold (who had a very strange little smile on his face, she couldn't help but notice…and he also looked a little…feverish…? Though perhaps it was just the jungle heat) just nodded at her words, and then sighed out, "Thanks, Helga…" 'The second we're around other people again she'll probably want to avoid me again…So maybe…maybe I should quit wasting time and finally just try and figure out, while it's still just us, what all this stuff I keep dreaming and feeling is all about…Before she pushes me away again and I lose the chance to do it forever…' Arnold gave a small nod to himself, set on this braver course of action. 'I need to be honest with her…That's the only way anything between us has ever gotten solved…' He gulped and considered for a moment… 'Well…m-maybe I can keep the dreams to myself…e-especially those ones of us in the jungle…' his heart pounded a little, 'B-But I'll try and not be scared and to tell her the truth about everything else.'

The two kids walked on a little while longer…hand in hand…making their way through the jungle…together…

"Hey, Helga?" Arnold eventually asked quietly as they pushed their way through some more brush and he shifted some vines out from in front of them with his free hand.

"Yeah, Football Head?" she asked in return (kicking away some undergrowth) without any of her usual sarcasm despite the sarcastic nickname…She seemed…just so very calm now actually. It was unusual and hard to describe but…it was nice.

Arnold gulped, recalled his 'braver course of action' and this whole 'tell her the truth' thing that he had set himself on, and then came back to what he wanted and needed to say…especially since a certain (and very sad) thought had just crossed his mind as they'd been walking. "You know….I mean…What I mean is, just so you know…What I said when I woke up before, Helga…about 'hating' you…That was taken a little…out of context, I guess… I-I was just having this dream and I…" he cleared his throat, "But anyway the point is that…I actually like you a-a lot…okay?" he finished very sincerely…just wanting and needing for her to know…just in case those words of his really had hurt her in any way, even though she might not be showing it.

He watched out of the corner of his eye as Helga's eyes went very wide at his words and her walking stiffened a little… and then her already blush tinged cheeks pinkened even more…and finally she blinked many times. And then she seemed to consider for a moment…and eventually replied in her softer voice, likewise looking to him now as well as they walked through some trees together… "Thanks…I like you a lot too, Arnold…"

He smiled. His heart even flut—

"But if you ever tell ANYONE I'll pound that football head of yours FLAT, got it! Sheesh, why do you always have to get all mushy on me?" And suddenly she rolled her eyes and scowled a little as she pushed aside some low ivy…and she finished with a squeeze of his hand, just to make the bag of mixed signals complete.

Arnold couldn't help but just chuckle a little again to himself at all of this…and also feel a lovely happiness well within him strangely…He knew she liked him of course…more than liked him actually…But it was just…hearing her say it. It was hard to explain…but he liked it a lot. "Whatever you say, Helga…" he merely replied to her with a sigh.

They walked on in the jungle again a little more, crossing a small stream or two here or there, avoiding anything that looked like quicksand, trying to clear at least some kind of path before them…

…And meanwhile a finally 'fully at peace in terms of Helga' Arnold just swore up and down to himself that was going to find some kind of root and a little water and maybe fashion a wire out of the chain of his grandfather's pocket watch tucked safely away in his jeans because he was determined to wake up BEFORE Helga G. Pataki from now on… Indeed, the LAST thing he needed was another 'dream slip-up' in front of her while he was still sorting out all of this stuff inside of him about her… (or another 'dream interruption' by her…especially of one of the ones set in the jungle if another one got provided by his subconscious, he had to mentally add to himself with a blush).

Indeed, at the very notion of something like one of those two things taking place again, Arnold unconsciously squeezed Helga's hand a bit harder in nervousness as they made their way up a small ridge together, and consciously hoped she would chalk his sudden intense blush to the heat if she happened to glance at him before he managed to banish from his mind once more on this trip through the jungle together the images of those nightly imaginings his head had come up with a couple of times so far (to go along with more….innocent dreams like the FTi ones). After all, the FTi and classroom and plane dreams certainly made Arnold wake up in surprise…but the one or two jungle ones he'd managed to have…well, he couldn't figure out how but, despite the 90 degree weather…they made him wake up and…practically shiver…an audible shudder almost escaping him!

Yes…(his heartbeat quickened and his thoughts got funny again for a moment)… Images of…him and her and moon overhead…the light of it clinging to her and making her glow all silvery yet look so warm at the same time… finally getting to hold more of her than just her hand…like that hug he'd given her before only a million times closer and more intimate…hands in hair…. And then hearts that pounded against each other as lips came together in the warmth and darkness of a night alone…and the word 'love' coming from her sweet soft mouth in whispers (he would never forget the memory of it from the FTi building)... The two of them sealed up together forever in this place to stop thinking and just…feel… in a place where no one would know if the two of them did something a little…crazy…(but then again was it really…SO crazy…? She was a girl after all and he was a boy and…she was…cute…and she liked him and…and he…well… )

A small branch from a tree gave him a little whack in the face and Arnold blinked and took in a harsh breath and instantly snapped back to normal, pushing all of those funny thoughts away again once more. 'It…it's all just the heat…just take a deep breath, it's all just the heat…' he reassured himself as he pushed aside the next small branch or two with his free hand and just hoped with the more reasonable part of his mind that he and Helga would find his parents and a warm bed and clean clothes soon so that he could finally just focus all of his thoughts into figuring out just what was wrong with him…and why, of all things, he was holding the hand of the girl all of his problems seemed to be about.

And maybe, even, as Helga kept joking about, his parents really would be around and so really could help him with something in his life…and 'women' was certainly a ringer of a topic to start out with…

"Hey Arnold! Quit freaking daydreaming already! I'm doing all the work, Football Head!"

Arnold blinked and came completely back to the situation at hand (trying to find some rocks or a bridge or a log or something to cross a large river they'd just run into). "Sorry, Helga…Come on, the river's flowing in this direction…let's head upstream and see if there's a dam or something we can use."

The suggestion actually got an impressed smile out of her. "Hey, not bad, Football Head! Let's do it!"

The two of them, still hand in hand, raced along the river together…Arnold still just barely acknowledging his love…and Helga still completely in denial that all the obvious signs of his love were indeed signs of his love.

It really would take that kiss he was destined to give her at the end of all of this to convince her once and for all…and even then her initial response (after Gerald's inevitable interruption) would be to paraphrase a line her beloved had once used and merely squeak out to him in perplexity, "I'm confused—did you just say you're…in love with me TOO?"

Indeed, the jungle could have strange effects on people…


I hope you all enjoyed this! And YAY one less thing on my to do list to finally post ;) As always please read and review!

And also, as always…


~Azure129 aka Jenna ^_^