Greetings Readers! I should be writing other things, but this got into my head and wouldn't leave. It's only a one-shot, but I warn you that it's sad. Read at your own risk.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! or any of its characters.
It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day – the clouds clustered in marshmallow-like clumps scattered about the sky, the sun casting its rays onto the small nearby lake, making the water sparkle. There was a breeze, cool but not too cold, vigorous enough to tickle one's face but enough to blow hats away, and the warmth was gentle and soothing, like a soft hand caressing the cheek. It couldn't have been a more gorgeous day.
Helga hated it.
Today was too mournful a day for the atmosphere to be so blissful and radiant, and she wanted storms, she wanted bleak darkness, she wanted mournful winds – anything that would make the day seem to realize what was happening and feel the grief residing in the hearts of the onlookers. She cast a quick glance over at her husband's face, and her heart sank even more at the numbness of his face.
Arnold, her Arnold, the man whose smiles could brighten any day, no matter how bleak, or lighten any heart, no matter how heavy, looked blank and weary as he held his grandmother close to him. He had, early on in the proceedings, tried to place a hand on his wife's shoulder while holding Grandma, but she had persuaded him with silent looks to focus on comforting his grandmother. After all, she had lost more than any of them could possibly imagine.
The black-shrouded crowd watched in a somber silence as the smooth wooden coffin was lowered into the vibrant green earth, and Helga watched Arnold pull his grandma closs as her shoulders began to shake. The raw pain in the older woman's eyes made Helga's heart clench and she closed her eyes. Helga had lost a mentor of sorts, the mourners had lost a friend, but Arnold and his grandmother had lost their family. A wife has lost her husband, Helga thought, and closed her eyes tighter. Despite the anger and grief she felt at losing her grandfather-in-law, Grandma had lost so much more and was in pain she couldn't evn imagine. I couldn't imagine losing Arnold.
The pain that shot through her heart made her shudder, and she opened her eyes. It was almost as though she had lost Arnold – ever since they'd sat beside Grandpa as he'd slipped into his final rest, Arnold had worn the same expression: solemn but blank, nearly unfeeling. But Helga knew better, she could see the grief and sorrow warring deep within his gaze and wished that he would let himself release it. However, Arnold wanted to be strong for his grandmother and, being the unselfish person he was, would put his own grief on hold to be her stronghold. Helga loved him for it – but also hated that he felt he should.
She shuddered again, drawing her black coat tighter around her taut stomach and blinking back tears – tears not only for the loss of someone she considered family but for the pain her love was forcing himself to endure. A warm hand touched her shoulder and drew her close; she looked up to see Arnold attempting to smile at her. She smiled back while inwardly cursing herself. He has enough grief to handle without trying to take on mine.
The priest closed the small book of prayers after the final benediction and walked over to Grandma, given the now weeping woman some kind words and a comforting embrace. Arnold watched concernedly and Helga took the opportunity to slip over to Aunt Mitzi, who was letting her own tears for her brother flow freely. "Mitzi," she whispered, "would you mind taking Grandma to the reception hall? I think Arnold needs some time alone with – " Her voice caught.
The older woman put a hand on her shoulder and weakly smiled back. "Of course." She walked over to the widow, Suzie closely following. "Come on, Gertie. We're taking you to the lunch – I'm driving."
A light went on behind Gertrude's eyes, subdued but present, and she laughed. "Oh, no – let Suzie. Last time I let you drive, we hit Dad's mailbox."
"That was over seventy years ago, Gertie," Aunt Mitzi groaned, "Let it rest."
The group of women made their way over to the parking lot, their words infused with a poignant mix of laughter and tears. Arnold began to follow them, only to be stopped by Helga's hand on his arm. He looked at her blankly. "Helga, I need to drive Grandma –"
"Aunt Mitzi's driving her – we need to stay a bit longer." She grimaced slightly and clutched her protruding stomach.
"Helga, are you all right?" His eyes filled with self-reproach and concern. "How's the baby?" He shook his head. "I should have made you bring another coat, I'm sorry."
Helga had discovered she was pregnant a month or so prior and she was just beginning to show. Grandpa had been ecstatic to hear he was getting a great-grandchild. Helga couldn't tell if the memory made her want to smile or cry. She shook her head. "No, Arnold, I'm fine. You, however, need to stay here longer."
"Helga…" he sighed, "I can't. I need to get the lunch started, and talk to the insurance people, and finish getting the tombstone ordered, and –"
"Arnold. It can wait." Her voice, although gentle, left no room for argument. "What you really need to do is say goodbye."
"What?" Arnold seemed puzzled, almost hurt. "I have, Helga."
"Not really. You've been too busy trying to comfort Grandma to-"
"Well, shouldn't I?" Arnold sounded almost accusatory, but Helga refused to feel hurt. "She's lost her husband, Helga!"
"And you've lost your grandpa."
Arnold began blinking furiously. Sweeping a hand across his eyes, he sighed. "Helga, that can wait. Grandma needs me."
"She'll be fine for a few moments – you need to do this." Helga could see the sorrow deep within him, sorrow that would corrode him from the inside out if he didn't release it. "Arnold, please. For him if not for you."
"How am I supposed to say goodbye? He wasn't just my grandpa, he was my friend, he was the only dad I had, he was…" Arnold stopped, staring at the open expanse of earth in front of them. "I need to be strong to help Grandma. I don't have time to – " His voice shuddered to a halt as he tried to rein in his emotions.
Helga sighed. She besought anyone who was listening for the right words; the normally loquacious writer was at a loss for what to say. Instead, she guided him into her arms and held him close. She leaned up and said quietly into his ear. "Arnold."
He pulled back just enough to look into her eyes.
"It's okay to cry."
Arnold stared at her a long moment before pulling her close to him, and he began to shake. She only held him tighter as the sounds of his too-long-suppressed sobs filled her ears and his warm tears began to drip down her shoulder.
The cemetery remained still and empty as Arnold finally released his grief, and his wife rubbed his back in a soothing motion, her own tears flowing down her face. It will be all right, Arnold, it's going to be all right. When he released her, she reached up with both hands and tenderly wiped the tears from his eyes before cupping his face in her palms.
"Are you ready?" She asked.
He nodded, and her heart filled with light to see a weak but genuine smile on his face as he looked down at her. "Yes, I am. He's fine now."
"I'm so proud of you, sweetheart." Helga kissed him gently, before turning to go. He quickly grabbed her hand as he followed and she squeezed it. Looking back, the light of the sun seemed to touch the newly dug grave especially, and Arnold grinned.
"Isn't the light beautiful? Grandpa would have loved it."
And suddenly, Helga loved the sun.
A/N: And that's the end of this story. I'm sorry if it's too sad, but it got stuck in my head, and I had to write it. I like the concept of Helga comforting Arnold for a change - and I can just see Arnold refusing to let himself grieve in favor of helping others.
Anyway, thanks for reading and please review. Let me know what you think.