AN: Post-FTI, pre-TJM.
Arnold had been spacing out a lot lately.
…Not like that was anything new. But lately, he'd been spacing out in one particular direction.
He wasn't even thinking about her. He was thinking about Grandma's pancakes, Grandpa's advice, Gerald's tall tales. He was dreaming about flying into the jungle, lost in the clouds, eyes closed and heart open as the plane took him to people he lost.
And then he'd snap out of it and be staring right into Helga's face.
It was always awkward. He'd always be gone long enough for her to realize that he'd been spacing out. He'd come back and she'd be staring right at him, brow furrowed.
The first few times it happened, she'd snap 'What?' and he'd turn away quickly, embarrassed. As it continued, he'd come to and see her twirling her trusty spitball straw slowly between her fingers; he'd turn away just in time to avoid a spitball directly to the front of his face (but not fast enough to escape getting hit on the back of his head).
He'd snap out of it and she would just stare at him. And he would just…stare back. He'd stare long enough to see past the irritation and the confusion in her eyes.
He'd stare long enough to see her compassion. He was amazed she'd let him see that. Maybe she didn't know he could see that.
But the way she'd tap her face, two times, right below her right eye, made him think she did know. Or maybe that gesture meant something else. He wasn't sure. She was a hard girl to figure out.
But the fact that she had a gesture, one just for him…well.
Maybe he wasn't sure what it meant, but he was happy he had one.
Better than a spitball, anyway.