Greetings Readers! This is just a short little story for Valentine's Day - I'm hoping to have it finished by then. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! or any of its characters.
"I'm home!" Arnold called as he closed the front door behind him, and instantly had to keep himself from laughing at the completely clichéd line. But it had seemed a completely rational thing to say, he rationalized to himself as he dropped his briefcase at the bureau by the door and hung his suit jacket on the hall closet. It had been an interesting but long day at the clinic where he worked as a psychiatrist and he wanted nothing more than to sit back and spend some time with his wife. Luckily, he hadn't run into any of the boarders on his way up to their rooms, and so was able to get there quickly without stopping to talk or offer advice or break up an argument. Maybe it was selfish of him, but after a long day of helping people, he wanted to be helped himself. He wanted to be with Helga…
Arnold frowned thoughtfully in the doorway of the front room when Helga didn't come to greet him or call to him in greeting. That wasn't like Helga – even when writer's block had struck particularly hard and her day had been frustrating, she'd always been eager to see him. He was close to getting worried when he heard a hum of faint music down the hall and followed it to the small room between their bedroom and the kitchen. He pushed the door open to see the source of the music, and his heart nearly melted at the sight.
Maybe it was a little old-fashioned of him, but seeing his wife holding their sleeping baby girl always made his heart swell and give him a feeling of completeness that was rivaled only by the feeling of completeness he felt with his wife. No longer interested in getting Helga's attention, he walked up silently behind the chair where Helga was gently rocking their daughter and crooning a quiet lullaby. To him, the scene looked a little like the Madonna-and-child paintings done by the Masters – Helga looked tired but somehow radiant as she bent her golden head to the baby, who was nestled snugly against her chest
Arnold slowly, so as not to wake up the baby, wrapped his arms around Helga's shoulders and kissed her hair. "Hey, honey."
"Shh," Helga said wearily, "I just got her off to sleep –"
The baby's eyes opened sleepily and saw her father. Her eyes widened excitedly and she became wide awake, babbling enthusiastically and reaching out for her daddy. Helga groaned and shook her head. "Football Head…" she said warningly, "it took me almost an hour to get her settled down enough to take a nap and you choose now to come in."
Arnold winced, "Sorry, Helga."
Helga turned and there was a tired but amused look on her face. "It's okay, Arnold," she reassured him, "It was probably too early for her to sleep anyway if we wanted to have her sleep most of the night. And who can blame her for getting excited when you come home?" She kissed Arnold's lips as he leaned his head on her shoulder. "However," she stood up quickly, nearly hitting him in the face with her shoulder, "you get to hold her while I start on the dinner I should have done hours ago, if it weren't for this one." She playfully tweaked the baby's nose before handing her to Arnold.
"No problem," Arnold cradled the infant tenderly in his arms and sat back in the rocking chair as Helga went out the door and into the kitchen. "Hey there, sweetheart," he said quietly to the little girl who giggled and began playing with the tie around his neck.
Stella, whom they had named after Arnold's mother, was the most beautiful girl that he had ever seen – "except for your mother," he joked to the little girl, "but you're a close second." Her short blonde hair was smooth and silky at the top of her head, her mouth was teased in an almost perceptual smile, and he got lost every time he looked into her dark blue eyes. He was at a very real risk of being wrapped around her little finger, but he could only hope she would use that power for good.
Arnold stood up and ticked her stomach as he walked out to join Helga. Stella cooed and grabbed at his fingers, curling his little fists around them. He laughed at the strength and mentioned casually to Helga, "Your daughter's got your grip, you realize that?"
Helga rolled her eyes from her place at the stove. "I'm here most of the time – of course I do. Whoa," she held up a hand to stop Arnold from approaching, "no closer, Football Head, I don't want the baby to get burned." She turned back to the pot on the stove and continued stirring, "I'm worried about her, though – what if she gets my tendency to get into fights, too?"
Arnold sat down at the kitchen table and began playing a clapping game with Stella. "We'll just have to keep after her if she tries to pick fights. Besides," he smirked appreciatively after her, "I can think of worse things than her being like her mother."
Helga laughed, "Oh, shut it, you smooth-talker."
"When's Grandma coming over?"
"Um," Helga glanced at the clock above the refrigerator. "About half an hour, she wanted to go ahead and make dinner for everybody before she had it with us."
Arnold's eyes saddened slightly as he asked. "How is she doing?"
"She's doing okay; misses Grandpa a lot but that makes sense, right?" Helga scowled pensively and crossed her arms. "I should have been more pushy about me cooking dinner for the boarders – she deserves a break."
Arnold and Helga had been living in a small apartment in Hillwood after their marriage but had moved into the boarding house to help Grandma out after Grandpa had died. Grandpa had been as energetic and lively to the last, actually bragging to everyone that he'd managed to beat the family curse by two days. He'd left smiling, but he'd left behind a grieving family. Both Arnold and Helga had convinced Grandma to let them move in and help her out; Arnold would do the house repairs and keep up with the rent when he was off from work, and Helga would help cook and clean while she was busy working on her second book. Of course, Grandma couldn't refuse when they said that the boarding house would be a great place for their daughter to grow up."
Arnold grinned over at his wife reassuringly. "She likes cooking occasionally, and besides she knows you're been busy with Stella. I wouldn't worry too much." He looked down at Stella and smiled. "Looks like somebody's ready for a nap."
Helga turned and saw that Stella was sleeping peacefully in Arnold's arms. She turned the heat down on the stove and walked over to her family, crossing her arms. "Typical. I spend all day long with you, and you fall asleep in minutes for your daddy." She threaded her fingers through her baby's bangs. "You're breaking my heart, kid."
"Should we put her in the crib?" Arnold asked.
"I think so," Helga replied. "Hold on there, Football Head," she continued, holding her had to keep him sitting down, "I'll get her. You take a load off – you've had a busy day, too." Gently cradling the infant in her arms, she walked into the baby's room and laid her down in the crib, folding the blankets comfortably around her. "Sleep tight," she whispered, and shut the door behind her.
Grandma was sitting at the table when Helga came out, cackling about some reminiscence with Arnold – Helga heard something about Mayan rainforests and bulldozers and laughed. It had taken a while to get Gertie's face to smile and her eyes to sparkle with humor and mischief once more after Phil had died, but she'd done it and it made the boarders and her family very glad to see it.
Grandma occasionally came over to eat dinner with just her family, but tonight her grandson had a special reason for inviting her. They had finished swabbing the remaining soup with their bread when Arnold and Helga exchanged looks across the table and Arnold scooted closer to his grandmother. "Grandma, Helga and I have something we want to give you."
Gertrude's eyes lit up and she placed her hands eagerly on the table. "A riding lawn mower?"
Arnold laughed. "No, Grandma – not after you tried to raid that demolition company that was after Mighty Pete again? You tried to mow down their doors with a lawn mower."
Gertrude cackled, "So?"
"You succeeded," Helga grinned, "and that was with a push mower. I shudder to think of what you could do with a riding mower." She stopped and tilted her head in thought, "Actually, that's not a half-bad idea. Arnold, couldn't we –"
"Oh, come on, Kimba!" Grandma said, "It's a good cause."
"I agree, but I don't want to have to bail you out again." Grandma laughed appreciatively at that, and Arnold continued, "No, it's not a mower, but hopefully this'll be just as good." He pulled a square envelope out of his pocket and handed it to her.
Grandma gave him a questioning look as she took the envelope and tore the top open. She shook the envelope and two pieces of glossy paper fell out. Picking up the larger piece of paper and unfolding it, Gertrude's eyes widened as she read the large print. "A cruise brochure? What is this for?"
Arnold moved closer to his grandmother. "It's a cruise to Alaska – Helga and I got it for you as a Valentine's Day present."
Gertrude's eyes saddened a bit as she held the paper – it was probably the mention of Valentines' Day that did that, as it was the first time she'd be celebrating it without Phil. He'd always gotten joy from coming up, with different surprises for her on that day. "Arnold…I don't know…"
"Would it help if we added that Grandpa helped us, too?" Arnold asked, "And that he suggested the cruise?"
Now, the last sentence wasn't entirely accurate. When Grandpa had revealed the nest egg he had saved for Grandma, he'd just told them to "buy Pookie something that'll make her smile – but no fireworks. Last time I gave her those she lit up the place like a giant Roman candle!" Upon which, he'd slapped his knee and cackled loudly.
"He did?" Grandma fingered the corners of the ticket, "That Slim…"
"Aunt Mitzi's going, too," Helga added, "and she'll be meeting us at the ship when it leaves in two days." She picked up the brochure and perused it. "Looks like you'll be near Worthington Glacier on Valentine's Day."
"Glaciers?" Grandma rubbed her hands together, "Excellent! I've never rappelled down a glacier before."
Arnold's eyes widened. "And you're not doing that now."
"Oh, come on, Kimba – where's you sense of adventure?"
Arnold spent a good half-hour trying to talk his grandmother out of climbing dangerous glaciers, but it didn't seem to sink in as she left the room, cheerfully talking about how she had to hunt down grappling hooks for her and Mitzi. Helga laughed at Arnold's face which looked torn between amusement and concern as he sat down next to her on the living room couch and handed her a mug of coffee.
"Lila and Brainy should be here in a few days," Helga said, sipping her coffee.
Arnold took a fortifying gulp and sighed appreciatively. "That's good – it's been a while since we've seen them. We hearing wedding bells yet?"
"No," Helga groaned, propping her feet up on the coffee table, "it's driving me and Phoebe crazy."
It was ironic, considering their relationships when they were at P.S. 118, but Brainy and Lila had become two of Helga's closest friends. She had seen Brainy simply as a benevolent kind of stalker up into their first year of high school. He had come to her defense against an upperclassman who'd been harassing her, and even though he had been pummeled to the ground in the attempt, Helga had been very grateful. She'd invited him to eat lunch with her and Phoebe, and that lunch had stretched into many others and a friendship. With the confidence born of that friendship, Brainy had become an outgoing, friendly young man who was enjoyable to be around despite his penchant for bad puns. Helga had found it easy to warm up to Lila once the girl had made it clear that she had no romantic interest in her. Brainy and Lila had struck up a friendship and after a few years, everyone but them had seen that they had fallen for each other. It hadn't been until they had graduated from college that the two had confessed to each other, with some aggressive prodding from Helga and Phoebe.
What Helga and Arnold didn't know was that Brainy had held a long-standing crush on Helga, or that Lila had been the only one who had ever figured that fact out. The rapport that had been built between the two once Lila had told Brainy she'd known about his crush and offered an ear when he needed to vent had strengthened into a close friendship and eventually blossomed into love. The two had been dating for a little over a year, and lived in the same town about an hour from Hillwood.
"It'll come in time," Arnold said, propping his feet up on the table and rubbing the top of her leg with one hand while holding his coffee in the other. He put the coffee down and rubbed her shoulders. "How was today?"
Helga sighed contentedly at the massaging fingers and pillowed her head on his shoulder. "Busy. Stella's really moving now and I needed to chase her a lot – but I did finish a chapter and I was able to edit half of that last one. You?"
Arnold shrugged. "Interesting diagnoses, but no new patients. I was definitely ready to come home and see you." Seeing that her eyes were drooping shut sleepily, he took the cup from her and placed it on the table. "Want to do anything?" he asked, brushing a kiss against her cheek. "Watch a movie?"
Helga shook her head. "No, sorry."
"Want to put on some jazz and dance?"
Helga yawned and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the back of the couch, "Sorry, Arnold, I'm just too tired to do anything."
"Really?" Arnold asked, arching an eyebrow. He kissed her temple and continued, in a husky voice, "That's a shame," he kissed her cheek, "because I was hoping to do," he kissed the bridge of her nose, "something tonight." Helga opened her eyes only to shut them again as Arnold caught her lips with his in a deep, passionate kiss. She was about to wrap her arms about his neck and pull him closer when he pulled away. He jumped off the couch and began walking nonchalantly to their bedroom, saying in a perfectly normal voice, "But since you're tired, we can always do that later. My pajamas are in the top drawer, right?"
Helga tore after him, all drowsiness gone, and grabbed Arnold by the collar. "That is not even fair, Football Head. Come on!" And she yanked him into the bedroom and closed the door.
The healthy, sleepy wails pealed over the baby monitor on the table next to their bed, and Arnold groaned tiredly and rolled over to his side, looking at his wife. "Your turn," he mumbled sleepily.
Helga placed a pillow over her head, and Arnold had to lean in to hear her. "Eight hours of labor, Arnold. Trust me, it's your turn."
Arnold laughed, more awake. When Helga was tired, she liked to cite the hours of labor in an effort to guilt him into getting up. "If I knew you'd keep bringing that up, I would've taken some of the labor."
Helga pulled the pillow off her head and gave him a glare that would make most men's blood run cold with terror. Arnold just laughed and kissed her cheek. "I got her."
Arnold's weight left the bed and Helga slipped back into a haze of sleepiness. Half-listening, she heard the baby's cries become soft hiccups as a soothing, low voice spoke to the baby. The sounds became silence, and then footsteps were heard crossing into the bedroom and someone sat down on the bed. Helga opened her eyes to see Arnold smiling down at her, with Stella in his arms. "Someone wanted to see mama."
Helga sat against the headboard and reached out for the baby. "That's cheating, you know. You know I can't resist this face. Hey, sweetheart."
Arnold got into bed beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, pulling her to him. She smiled as the warmth of his chest seeped through her night gown and into her skin, and looked down at Stella. The baby, feeling content and comforted, was already slipping back into sleep. Holding Stella close to her, Helga looked up at Arnold and kissed him on the chin, and he wrapped both arms around both of them. They sat together like that for a long time until Helga began falling asleep against Arnold. He guided her back into lying down and made to take the baby back. Helga put a hand on his and said, "Why don't we leave her here with us?"
Arnold nodded, and lay down beside her, one arm cradling Stella the other around Helga. A contented smile spread across his face as he listened to Helga's breathing even out. He watched the two sleeping quietly for a while before falling asleep himself.
A miracle of love. His family.
A/N: So that last line was probably incredibly sappy - I'm a sappy kind of person.
This story should be about three or four chapters in length, and I'll try to post the rest soon. Thanks for reading and please review!