A/N: THIS IS DEDICATED TO CRYSTAL-BUU, FOR HER BIRTHDAY WAS A WEEK AGO, AND SHE IS AWESOME AND MADE OF JUICE. What kind of juice, though…? One must ponder… *Strokes Dumbledore beard*

Happy birthday, Buu-Juice! Enjoy my blood wrapped sweat!

For details: I don't know how it happened, but this started as a drabble—it exceeded 1,000 words, though, so I left it. Then Juicy-Juice informed me of her birthday, and it put me immediately in mind of this drabble, so I went further with it with my only intention being to make it extra fluff-filled. And then somewhere along the line, it turned into a sequel to "Same Mistake." I don't even understand the mechanisms of my own stupid brain, danfklnsgkldnfparrotsbrahznkf

I'm not entirely sure if you have to read the original fic to get it or not. I suppose it would be helpful, but I'm not too sure if it's necessary… I hope I didn't make it necessary. Dreadful thing, continuations, always demanding more to be read. Just dreadful. My back hurts now. Ow.

Just read already before my hip breaks.

Disclaimer: I own a rather extensive collection of balled up tissues and trash. All of which I would consider trading in exchange for HA! if such a trade were offered, but know will never happen. My snot rags are far too valuable after all, obviously.


The Cover of Nightfall


The cover of nightfall can have strange effects on people.

Sometimes it makes people feel safe, bold, like they can do anything, say anything, and nobody would ever know. Sometimes it makes people feel afraid, for pretty much the same reasons. But then sometimes, night can just make people feel unsure, trapped by the thoughts racing through them that rebel against peaceful slumber.

On this night, Helga feels a mixture of all of this. She's terrified, restless, and she's never felt safer in her entire life.

The thick striped blanket covering her is warmed with body heat, soft and familiar to the touch, wrapped tightly around her thin frame. The sheets under her are tousled, but comfortable. Her pillow is soft, and crushed under the weight of her head and arm. The perfect comfort of it all is enough to make her cry.

But she doesn't. She doesn't want to worry him. He who was kind enough to bring her into his home and warm her so thoroughly from the rain, and bring such vibrant emotions back into her system after so many years living dormant.

She knows he's about to speak before he does, his voice quiet, as if he's hesitant to break the gentle silence that has swept over them, "I'm glad you're here."

It takes her a moment, but she turns her head to him and smiles, surprised to hear her voice sound so genuine, "Me too."

He seems pleased with her response, his smile wider than she remembers. He falls quiet after that. Though he still seems to have things to say, he keeps still.

She breaks the silence this time, bolder than she's happy with, "Would it be weird to say that I'm kind of terror-stricken?"

He starts at her confession, but relaxes back after a moment, studying her. His voice cracks. "Why?"

She cringes, screws up her face, shame overwhelming. She hadn't meant to hurt him. She loves him. She loves him, and it feels so good to admit to it again. "Shh…" she whispers, bringing a hand up to barely touch his neck, "it's… it's not a bad thing, it's just… I've never felt so… void of worry? Content?" Gulping, she speaks the word she's been thinking the entire time, "Perfect…"

The room goes quiet again, but she doesn't mind. Looking at him again, a small smile has formed on his lips, bedroom eyes shining. Her heart leaps in her throat, hiding, scared to beat any louder lest he hear. His voice is warm, like old memories of summer break, like hot chocolate and herbal tea, like everything good and right and beautiful in the world, "You are perfect, Helga."

Her breath goes shaky. She tries to dull the chilling sensation running through her with the blanket. It helps, but not enough. "Thanks… or whatever…" Normally she would have denied this pretty lie, but she knows he's sincere, and she's scared to correct him. What if he believes her? Realizes he's wrong? Kicks her out of his lovely world filled with warm blankets and gentle kisses?

His laugh breaks her of her fears, deep and slightly gravelly with age. It warms her more than any blanket could. More than anything else, she would miss his laugh. She prays she never goes a day without it. "Always so modest," he teases. A god. He moves closer under the blankets, his arm enveloping her, hot enough that the chills come back. An ironic turn of events, but then her emotions never have made much sense to her.

"I'm so glad you're happy," he whispers, his breath causing hairs to stand on the back of her neck. "I've missed you. I was afraid I'd never see you again."

She cuddles closer to him in response, instincts leading her. Her eyes shut, trying to ingrain this moment into her memory forever, never wanting to forget because she knows this is too wonderful, too devastatingly perfect to last forever. She keeps quiet, intent on listening to the reassuring beat of his heart for as long as time will grant.

It stays this way for a while, their breaths matched, before her voice betrays her, "I learned to ride a bike when I was six…" her voice quivers, barely audible. She's not sure why she's confessing to this, but it feels right. She wants him to know. She wants him to know everything. Her voice wavers a moment, before she continues, "Or at least, I tried to. I must have asked my dad a hundred times if he would teach me, but he was always busy… Finally one day, I got fed up and decided to teach myself…"

He's shifted slightly to look at her, but she refuses to meet his eyes. She keeps hers on his chest, her voice still quiet in it's hesitance to continue, "I stole Olga's bike out. She never used it, not since Mom and Dad got her a car." Her eyes hint bitter. "I tried rolling down a hill to start out, figured it'd be easier that way… It was right on your block, I was hoping to see you…"

He doesn't want to interrupt her, but he needs to know, his voice almost scolding, "Why didn't you use your own bike? Olga's must have been way too big."

Helga shrugs one shoulder, the one not against the mattress and warm, warm sheets. Her reply is sheepish, cheeks tinged with hardly noticeable blush, yet he notices all the same, "I wanted to impress you." Desperate to move on, she starts again before he can respond, respond with something other than amused eyes and a silly smile, "But anyway, um… So I went down the hill, and it was okay for like… four seconds, before the bike tipped over and I flew across the pavement and ended up scraping my knees and hands… Just my luck, you were there." Her smile is fond now, and she knows it. She's betraying things she never wanted to, but she doesn't care. Is glad, even. "You were horrified and ran into your house. I felt terrible after that, it made me cry more. But then, miraculously enough, you came back out only a minute later with band aids and antiseptic and God knows what else piled into your scrawny little arms." She laughs, still delighted as ever to insult him, however loving it is now. "You fixed me up like a pro, and… and ever since I can't get a scratch or stub my toe or anything without thinking about it." Finally, she manages to bring her eyes to his, lighthearted and smiling. "I wasn't surprised when you told me your mom taught you all that medical junk. Don't be surprised if I suddenly start having random injuries from now on."

His grin is sinful, and makes giggles bubble up from somewhere deep in her throat as he lowly teases, "Seriously, Ms. Pataki? You're that desperate for my touch? Well, in that case, the love doctor is in the house." He barrels down and nibbles playfully on her neck, making her laugh and try to push him away.

"Ugh, you're so cheesy!" she giggles, shaking her head vigorously. "I swear, your jokes have always been the worst."

He merely shrugs, goofy grin still in place as he rests his head in his hand and gazes down at her. "And yet, you always laugh."

She smiles and smiles, and geez, this bed is comfortable. Smirking, she informs, "I'm laughing at you, not with you, numb nuts. You're just really pathetic."

He goes to bite at her neck again and she growls, mainly to keep the giggles at bay, but she fails. He pulls back after a second, grinning even wider than before, and says lightly, "Eh, technicalities." Scrunching up his nose at her continued laughter, he adds, "Meanie."

She just sticks her tongue out at him, scrunching up her eyes and causing adorable wrinkles all over. It just makes him smile more. She'll always be a child deep down, with her random, half-hearted insults and trickster ways. He's happy for it. He's glad for the constant. She's changed so much while he'd been away. It had broken his heart to see how much he'd missed, watching her grow up into such a strong-willed, confident woman, but she was still the same old Helga he'd always known. He'd never realized it, but he was relieved, starved even, for the childish, unpredictable chaos she brought every time she entered a room. He'd always been the good guy, the dependable, trustworthy adult that took everything seriously, even when he'd been just a kid. But he wasn't now, in this moment. Now he was just simple Arnold, carefree and dreamy-eyed, with Helga, the woman he'd loved ever since he was a kid.

He'd only just told her that yesterday, though.

Releasing a breath, he pulls her closer to him again and buries his head in her shoulder, rustling the blankets as he does so. The rain outside is still pounding down with a vengeance, the monstrous black clouds invisible against the night sky, with the slight hinting of fading stars and twilight poking through the madness. He can feel her quiver in his arms, and pulls the covers up over them more, kissing her chastely on the neck before burrowing his nose back in.

He'd first seen her again in the grocery, picking out produce. They were old and bruised, on sale no doubt, and she'd brought a tomato up to her nose only to go bug-eyed and throw it back in with the rest, foul words slipping past a deceivingly sweet mouth. It had been the most wonderful thing he'd ever seen. To live in Hillwood for six years, wondering every day where she was, why she'd left, only to stumble upon her in the supermarket cussing at fruit. It was a sight he'd never thought he'd be captivated by, but his breath had left him in a rush when he arrived back at the boarding house to see his mother chopping up tomatoes. It was funny how much meaning the confused fruit had come to have in his life, first with saving the neighborhood so many years ago and now with her smelling them.

She'd gotten a shower since he'd invited her into his home, away from the slow storm creeping across the town, and she smelled of his soap, his shampoo—of spices and ocean air. It was odd smelling himself on her like that, but she'd been so delighted, her smile too big to resist. He'd caught her several times smelling herself over dinner. It was odd how much that affected him. He'd half-expected her to punch him or something—slap him, kick him down, and leave him heartbroken in the rain and mud when he'd confessed to her yesterday. Seeing her now, knowing she wasn't just willing to give him a chance, but was still utterly in love with him… It almost hurt it felt so good.

Almost as good as it feels now to feel her breath shake at his next words, "Thank you for telling me that, Helga…"

Her breaths come out in little, tense puffs, each one a new assurance of her feelings. But she's been so relaxed all night—her voice so soft and heart-stoppingly velvety, like melted fireball candy—that he feels the need to pull back from her. He rests his forehead on her own, hoping this will be easier for her, and smiles though his eyes are closed. He wants to assure her too, remind her she's not the only one feeling surreal and wonderful. He licks his lips briefly, before cracking his eyes open and saying, "I still remember the exact moment I realized I loved you for the first time."

And just like that, her eyes are wide and interested. He has to hold back a chuckle at the change. Her words come out in a rush of hot air and cool mint, "Oh, now this I've got to hear." She pulls away from his loose embrace to sit up in the bed, pulling the blankets around her as she goes, blue eyes alert and still very much close to his own, burning with intrigue.

His lips part to a small, teethy smile, and he sits up slightly on his elbows so their eyes are practically crashing into each other as he says, "We were five."

Her eyes instantly become an ocean, and he sucks in an invisible breath without thinking. "Five? What the hell are you talking about, Football Head?"

Unable to help the laugh that comes shooting out of his mouth, he pounces on her and throws her back on the bed, the covers falling away as he holds her down, eyes gleaming. She just stares up at him in shock, blinking her pretty eyes. "Arnold, what the—"

He silences her with a kiss. Pulling back, he practically grounds out, eyes suddenly aflame, "Call me Football Head again."

She looks startled at the request. It wasn't the first time he'd demanded it of her since she'd been here, but it still manages to catch her off guard every time it comes. Yet still, with the raging storm outside, the strong hands holding her down, and the intense green eyes burning into her own, she's in awe of how comfortable she is, how alive she feels. She's half pressed into the bed under his weight and her only wish is that the moment doesn't end, and she only knows of one way to do that. Pressing her head up to his, noses crushed, she narrows her eyes daringly, growling, "Football Head…"

Instantly aggressive kisses are being poured over her, harder than the rain had so long ago. She manages to push him away, though, half panting and reluctant as she may be, and shakes her messy head. "No way, Arnold, I want to hear this story."

He just smirks, whispering against her lips as he ducks his head back down to hers, "More than you want to kiss?"

Her eyes flicker, eyelashes twitch, before she growls again, more for determination's sake than anger, "Yes." Sighing as he pulls back, she goes on more normally, mouth quirked in a smirk, "Enough of your damn sultry eyes, Shortman. There are more pressing matters at hand." Sitting up so they're facing each other rather than him holding her down, she pushes him by his shoulder back down to the bed, and with a swift hand, pulls the blankets back up over him. Lying down beside him, she does the same for herself, and nestles in comfortably before bringing her eyes back to his, sparkly even in the darkness. "Now then: proceed." She smirks.

Amused and slightly in awe at her affectionate actions, he just smiles at her and nods. It crosses his mind that she'll make a wonderful mother someday, but he doesn't blush or flinch. It's a thought he's had lingering in his mind for a long time. "All right." Nestling in a little more comfortably as well, he begins in his quiet voice, "Yeah, we were five. And, well, uh… I'd always vaguely remembered falling for you at one point, but I never paid any mind to it. I'd liked a lot of girls when we were kids, you know, so I figured it was only natural I'd have crushed on you once. You were the first girl I ever really met after all, or at least the first one I remember. The memory's kind of fuzzy, but I can still recall the first time you called me Football Head…" His eyes fall halfway, making her heart skip and jump, like it's suddenly decided to play jump rope. "Weirdly that's when my crush started. I can remember you screaming at me and then staring at you racing away down the street."

His laugh is deep and precious, and she wishes so much she could wrap it up and keep it all for herself. His half-grin sends her heart thundering, but she doesn't mind, captivated by his story as she is. "You're going to hate me, but I didn't technically fall for you in San Lorenzo like I said. It was more of a realization. You'd been on our tail all week yelling at me and raising hell, screaming at the natives and complaining about the stupidest things. When I yelled at you to go away, and you did, that was when I realized. I'd always been so irritated with you, blinded by this frustration and confusion that always rose in me when you were around, that I didn't stop to think why. Why did I care? Why did it bug me so much?"

Reaching a hand under the blankets to grasp hers, he held it firm. Her eyes didn't leave his, breathless by his confessions. "When you went missing I lost my mind. It forced me to realize it, you know? Within the hour of searching, somewhere along the line, I just kind of… got it. I mean, I knew. I'd never felt so panicked before. I mean, the idea that you…" He shook. It made her eyes widen. He clears his throat then, eyes shifted to the pillow as he breathes through his mouth. The room is quiet. Finally, after seconds that felt like centuries, he goes on, "I don't know when I realized it exactly, but when we found you sitting behind that tree, safe and sound, I… I just…" Sighing, suddenly frustrated, he squeezes her hand without thinking and clenches his eyes shut. "Feelings are complicated…" he breathes, almost to himself.

Her loud snort shattering the silence makes his eyes bolt open. Her expression is rueful, smile both bitter and darkly amused. "Hey, you don't need to tell me, bub. You're preaching to the motherf—"

He shushes her with a quick kiss, replacing any curses and negative thoughts in her head with twittering birds and haloed footballs. An angel, she thinks, eyes fluttering. He whispers to her, unaware of his effect on her, "Such a potty mouth."

She smiles, only half flirtingly. "Only when I'm angry."

"So all the time?" he asks in mock-outrage, eyes huge and jaw dropped.

She laughs and pulls his hand up to her mouth, kissing his fingers still clasped over her own, before bossing him, "Continue with the story, stupid."

His eyes close unexpectedly at the touch of her mouth, and a strange sigh escapes him. She pushes her surprise aside when he tightens his hold on her hand and quietly jokes, "Yes, ma'am." Smirking strongly now, he continues, "All right, here comes the part where you hate me. I'd pretty much forgotten all about having a crush on you before. I'd put it out of my mind, you know? 'Cause the last thing I needed was the fact I'd ever had any thoughts like that about Helga the Horrible flittering through my head." She wrinkles her nose at him, and he just grins, enjoying teasing her. He's never felt so comfortable around her, so at ease. The world feels right here, and he's relieved to get this all off his chest. "But when we found you, it all came rushing back to me, and I just… I got it. I mean, I don't know how else to put it. And I realized then that my crush had never actually left. For years I'd been worrying, caring, but never realizing. How crazy is that?" He stares at her, still shocked by it himself.

Helga sighs forlornly, reaching a hand up to put to his cheek sympathetically as her eyes gleam untold tales of woe and heartache. The beauty in it both shatters and mends his heart. "I know what you mean. I felt the same way when you left."

He blinks, green eyes widening. "Really?"

"Yeah. I loved you for so long, after a while I kind of just went numb to it. It was the only way I could function thinking you didn't love me. For a while I even thought I was over it. Then when I heard you were coming back…" she frowns, "it kind of just hit me that I'd never really gotten over you… Feelings can be weird like that. They dig themselves deep inside you and hide when you can't handle dealing with them. Then the little bastards play jack in the box and surprise you when you least expect them." She scowls, temper flaring and shoulders squared. "And it's always at the worst time."

He stares at her a second with heartbreak in his eyes before moving closer to her on the bed, letting go of her hand so he can wrap his arm around her back once more tonight. He doesn't know how they keep ending up apart, or why he keeps having to pull her close, but he suspects she's still subconsciously distancing herself from him. The thought saddens him, and he hugs her tighter. "I'm so sorry, Helga."

She shakes her head against his chest, half burying her face against him. "Hey, it's all right." Tilting her head up at him then, she smirks, trying to lighten the mood, "Sounds like you had a rough time yourself anyway. Those feelings are real sneaky geekbaits, huh?"

Smiling at her childlike phrasing, he chuckles softly and nods his head. "Definitely. They had me oblivious for seven years." Smiling sadly then, he kisses her on the forehead and sighs, resting his chin on the top of her golden-haired head as she snuggles into him. "But still, after all the realizations and thinking, I was too cowardly to tell you I loved you…" He closes his eyes, feelings tugging unbidden at the corners of his mouth. "Until we were both fully grown adults. I really am stupid."

"Hey, you had good intentions—"

"But that's just it, isn't it? Always good intentions, yet they always seem to blow up in my face." He sighs. "There's something very wrong with me."

Helga can't help but giggle. Giggle in this comfy, warm bed, with her insecure, angel of a bedmate beating himself up over things she couldn't possibly bring herself to care about now. Not when she feels so wonderful, not when he's just admitted he's loved her almost as long as she him, not when his eyes have been twinkling even more beautifully than the silly little stars above them. And so she says to his startled face, "I know I don't usually say this to you, Arnold, but you're perfect. You have no idea the kinds of things that run through my head when I just look at you. Your good intentions aren't the problem, Arnold—the world just sucks is all. It's not you that's flawed, it's the world." Scooting her body up higher so they're face to face, she presses her lips to his, whispering in an odd daze, "You're an angel, Arnold. The only mistake you ever made was falling in love with a devil."

Arnold shudders at her words, eyes huge and on the verge of having a heart attack. She hasn't spoken to him like that since FTi, when they were nine. He'd always thought it was a fluke, that it was all just six years worth of obsessive love that built up to the point she just exploded, and everything she'd said was merely an exaggeration of the truth. She always had been rather overdramatic in times of crisis and confusion. But now he knew she really did think he was some kind of perfect person. The reality of her feelings was almost enough to make him black out. His breath hitches, and his words come out in a half-wheezing rush, "Y-You think I'm—" Gulping, he shuts his eyes and tries to picture a beach to calm himself, but the ocean just reminds him of her and makes him release a shaky breath. "Okay… First of all," he opens his eyes, determined, "you're not a devil—"

Helga interrupts him with a loud, "HA!" Smirking broadly, she dances her fingers up his chest before bopping him on the nose. "So naïve, so sweet—angelic, really. But still, so, so naïve." She shakes her head and goes to push herself away from him, but he just pulls her back against him forcefully. Eyes wide and surprised, she struggles a second to pull herself back together. "O-Okay… Fine then. Just thought you might need some space—"

"I need you, not space," he growls out of the shivering darkness, frustrated. Her eyes widen. "I've had enough space. Why do you keep pushing yourself away from me? If I'm so perfect?"

Her breathing virtually nonexistent now, she just stares at him, speechless.

He growls a half-second before asking, trying to be patient, "Well?"

She shivers at his tone, as if in fear, but that theory is disproved when she buries her head in his chest again. "It's nothing…"

Head bowed down in an attempt to look at her, he rubs her back. His voice is gentler now, more soothing yet still with some leftover edge to it he can't help, "What is it, Helga?"

She groans, before pulling back. "Look, I don't know, it's just…" Her eyes shoot to the ceiling, not really seeing the shuddering clouds or thudding rain. She's just tired. "Every time you kiss me, or hug me, or anything, I'm just reminded of how… none of this seems new to you." Her eyes shoot down to his, troubled. "And you were away for so long…"

He blinks at her, worry and confusion creasing his brow. "Helga, I don't… What are you getting at?"

She lets out a loud groan then, fury climaxing, before she grabs him by his shoulders and pulls him nose-to-nose with her as she rages, eyes practically buried under her eyebrows, "Who was she? Who the hell do I have to gut, skin, and boil in her own stomach acids? Who's spleen do I need to rip out and use as a noose for her little neck? Who's ass do I have to kick to Hong Kong? Who's big, sparkly eyes do I have to stab out with my damn car keys? In other words, darling, who was the broad you kissed and cuddled with for creation knows how long? Who?" She'd practically climbed on top of him as she near yelled these things in his jaw-dropped face in an enraged whisper.

Arnold stares at her a few moments in gaping shock and awe, before he just shuts his mouth and says calmly, "Who was he?"

Helga blinks, eyes still fired up with jealousy. "What?" she hisses.

Arnold just shrugs. He's handled enough of Helga's tantrums to know how to deal with this. "Well, if you're going to ask me who she was, it seems only fair you should tell me who he was. I mean, you haven't exactly been confused…"

Helga just raises an eyebrow at his logic, bemused. "Okay. I had nine boyfriends in high school, and two college boyfriends."

Arnold's jaw snaps open.

Helga can only manage a roll of her still sharp eyes at his reaction. Her voice has an odd, high-pitched edge to it, mocking as can be with that nasty jealousy still so active in her eyes, "Well, I had to at least make an effort to move on, Arnold. What did you expect? That I just sat in my room all day crying over your picture?" She scowls down at him. "Not Helga G. Pataki, bucko." Coughing then, she adds under her breath, "At least not all the time."

His world is spinning and careening out of control, though, and her face has turned to nothing more than a blurring whisper of sassy eyes and grim set features. This had been what he'd wanted years ago, for her to move on, to be happy, to try, and yet now, now that circumstances have changed so drastically, now that their game has been spun and turned upside down just so with the years of tortured longing and sleeping hands grasping at empty sheets, he cannot believe his ears. His words fall from dead lips, a dazed mumble of, "I-I didn't realize…" and "I'm sorry…" He doesn't even hear himself.

Helga just snorts, though, either unaware or uncaring of his current state of flux. "Yeah, so anyway—" and just like that her face catches fire and she's seething into his face, white hands gripping murderously into the pillowcase beneath his head, and all he can do is blink and stare, "what's her name?"

But he cannot respond. He merely breathes, and stares, brain dead as he is at the moment, lips slightly parted.

Helga twists her face at his lack of response. This had not been what she'd expected. But then again, Arnold always had been the only one to ever respond unexpectedly to her threats. It was one of the many things that irritated and thrilled her about him. But right now, she is more impatient than usual, so she grabs his hair and gives it a tug, whispering testily, "Hello? Earth to idiot? Are you in there? Do not make me get Houston on the line, Football Head."

Her growl is caught between his lips when he suddenly grabs her to him and forces his mouth on hers. The squeak that pops out from her only fuels his fire, and he laughs a very dark, sardonic, unArnold laugh against her lips, pulling her in tighter. It's all she can do not to shatter into a million pieces in his arms with how much she's shaking. Her eyes clench painfully, her brain a jumble of 'I'm going to freaking murder you' and 'Kiss me harder before I strangle your perfect, stupid neck' and 'Why do you make this so hard, my love?'

When he pulls back, she can't see his eyes, but by the tone of his voice she's almost glad, for it is so hollow, so bitter, and so unlike her perfect, sunshiny Arnold, "Her name was Tiffany, she was my first girlfriend. We dated three years before she broke up with me because she thought I was infatuated with someone else—something about staring at blondes too much, and reacting strangely when she wore certain colors… It's what made me realize I was still in love with you. I switched over to H.S. 117 the next year."

She can't control the gasp that flies from her mouth at the shock of realization that shoots through her, nor the tense silence that suddenly falls upon them like an anvil. The room is thick with the knowing, and Helga is unprepared for the fresh feelings of regret that swell inside of her like the plague.

She had run away from Arnold's love.

Just as he had fled from hers, once upon a time.

She hates how no matter how much he screws up, she's always the one left feeling like the real jerk of the two of them. Because for every mistake he's ever made, he's always selfless and good intentioned and angel-faced, and she's hard and battered and still so much the soaked, muddy three-year-old coward of a girl she was so long ago. And it's so scary how easily things can change, how with but a few sentences one's entire world can spin out into what feels like an entirely different realm. The silence is only broken when a shudder suddenly breaks out across her spine, and his fingers tighten on her.

Her voice tumbles out softly and breathlessly, her eyes still not meeting his, "Oh, criminy…" Mother of God, how the hell is she supposed to respond?

His voice is weaker now, having succumbed to his own brand of beautiful, considerate regret now, "I'm sorry, Helga, I shouldn't have dropped that on you like that… I-I wasn't even going to tell you, but it just…" She can hear his breathing in the silence of the room, the only other sounds being the fierce drops of rain still pelting relentlessly against the windows.

This really wouldn't be so bittersweet if this damn bed wasn't still so warm and comfortable and soft. Even in this tense atmosphere of whatever, the serenity of before is waiting patiently by for the right moment to return. It is there, yet it isn't, and it's frustrating how easy it would be to grab it back if they only knew how.

So finally, since she is so unskilled in matters such as these and they both know it, she utters the only safe, sensible thing she can think of, "No, Arnold… I'm sorry…" She hangs her head then and grumbles, trying to lighten the mood with thinly veiled truth, "You always make me feel like such a doofus."

His laugh is quick and concise, just what the moment needs, before he brings her eyes to his at last and presses his lips to her cheek. He is smiling, because he knows he has to, for both their sakes. For no matter how long they lay here in this carefully crafted cloak of silent peace and tousled blankets and soft skin, there is still so much to talk about, so much that needs to be dealt with between all the memories and regrets and resentments. But for now, they're here, they're together, they're safe, and neither of them is ready to give that up just yet. And so he jests, lighthearted as can be despite the oceans that still lay between them, "Just imagine how I felt when I realized you did exactly what I'd wanted you to. You only have to kill one girl, I have to go up against an army, and it's my own fault."

She laughs and her eyes are wide and earnest when she looks at him, sweet in their own way that still quickens his breath. "I only dated so much because I was frustrated that I couldn't get over you. I always had some stupid reason I had to break up with them—once I broke up with a guy simply because he liked blueberry pie." She twists her face, laughing.

He laughs along with her, their laughter dancing and mixing together in the air like a long-lost melody. Before long, it lightens, and Arnold comments, "I would have thought it'd be strawberry."

Her eyes can only widen. "You remember my allergy?"

His smile softens ever so slightly, and her heart softens in tune with it, "Yeah…" His eyes are a gooey green mess now, and she's more than happy to be stuck in the middle of them. "Angel."

She starts at the pet name, but he's prepared for it. His arms hold her tighter, and his words are swift, "It's only the truth, Helga."

She can only think to sputter out incredulously, "More like Hell girl." She looks both uncomfortable and sheepish and he doesn't think he's ever seen her more adorable. All he can do is laugh, laugh at this perfect girl so unsure of herself, looking up at her darkened, fair face, with eyes so scared and shiningly blue, framed with a golden waterfall of hair, and gray skies and violent rain backdropping the lovely sight. To this day seeing the great elementary school horror that is Helga G. Pataki—the girl that could make boys twice her size shudder and purse their lips—turn into a quivering mess in his arms is both terrifying and entirely too satisfying.

But despite all this, he hates seeing her like this. He hates her blind disregard of her own marvel, especially since it is triggered by some inane belief that he is perfect. He will not allow such ridiculous ideas to pass through her mind.

Because he's spent a lifetime of pain and longing and confusion over her and all her convoluted, beautiful madness, and she needs to understand that he can't think of a single other individual in the world that is more deserving of love than she.

So he shakes his head and smiles, smiles in that knowing way that makes her stomach twist and tumble, "Angel girl. You're all sunshine and sweetness. You just like to be difficult about it."

She snorts derisively. "You're out of your mind."

He pouts his lips then, eyes flittering away in thoughts he isn't actually having, before he looks her back in the eyes and smiles teasingly. "You know, that would explain a few things."

And just like that, the laughter in the room is renewed, lighthearted and sweet as it is. She doesn't dare leave his embrace again that night, with the tearfully warm comforters slung up over both their bodies, wrapping them together into a cocoon of sorts. They share whispered secrets and kiss and giggle with a childlike blitheness that had long been lost with the curse of age and heartache. For tonight, that is what they are—children. The presence of one another transporting them back to a simpler time, a time of big pink bows and small blue hats, of angry bickering and fitful tangos, and above all, a time where a single kiss in the middle of a dripping wet, humid jungle was all it took to shatter two hearts into one.

Thus were the effects of nightfall's cover, after all, as baffling and beautiful as they could be when they so wished.


A/N: They're wearing pajamas.

BUZZ KILL! *Maniacal laugh*

Gooey green mess = Nickelodeon slime, just so you know and stuffz.

Rofl, they must kill ALL DA EXES! XD So come on, guise, guise, guise, what'ja think? What'ja think? What'ja think? *Bouncing on one foot*

Especially you, Buuuuuuuu, Buu Juice. Juicy-Juice, Juicy-fruit, pulverized fruit blood! Dude… tell me it didn't suck and that I have pleased thou, for none of this could have been possible if I had not heard of your daybirth. D:

First one to review gets a hug! :D

*No reviews ever come out of pure horror*

Y'all suck. XD Fine, first to review gets a bakery thingy! How's that? Guise… Guise, guise, guise, guise—*Hits self in the face with frying pan, crumples to the floor*

REVIEWS

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Highly fattening, but ohhhh so satisfying. *Shuddery sigh*