She didn't expect to see him again. The moment he left, she forced herself to let his memory go because the unrelenting pain threatened to consume her if she held on. Nothing hurt more than to see her beloved depart from her life with the very real possibility of never returning, so she had no choice but to release him from her memories and continue on with her own life. Needless to say, it wasn't easy at first. She had to store all over her volumes of poetry about him in the attic space of her bedroom closet, and she had even dismantled her shrines and threw them all out with the trash. But neither of the two reduced the agony of her breaking heart.
So, with one last ounce of creativity, she had purchased one last pink notebook and filled it with her every memory, thought, and desire about the boy she had loved since they were three years old. An entire sleepless night was all it took to fill those empty pages until she was positive that her tears were no more and her little pink book was at least a pound heavier with all of that fresh ink.
The day he left was the day she had hidden that little pink book in a suitcase that her beloved would be taking with him to his new life in San Lorenzo. With years of stealth behind her, Arnold had no idea that she had even managed to sneak into his room from the skylight to deposit her confessions, and she was gone before he could catch her.
The last page of course held the one poem he never got to finish reading from one of her many volumes when she was nine. Confessing her love for him once already, she couldn't bear to face him one last time to express her true feelings. That was the only way she could think of without subjecting herself to a formal rejection, or worse…acceptance of her love and a request to keep it. Helga could not allow either of those two to happen, which was why she had left a hand written letter addressed specifically to him saying just that. And in that letter, among other things, she all but begged him not to ever contact her about any of it and just enjoy his new life with the parents they had only just found alive. It would not have been fair to create a tie for him here now that he had his family back.
And he was gone.
All of Helga's love and pain went with him, and for the first time, she felt a sense of freedom. That is…until she had ended up in the park with her four year old nephew, Ezra.
Her older sister, Olga, had enlisted her help with babysitting once summer vacation started and Helga couldn't bear to refuse once she had laid eyes on the little blond haired blue eyed child. Despite her past issues with Olga, she was instantly hooked on her new nephew and took every opportunity she was given to take him under her wing. She even taught Ezra how to read and write his ABC's before Olga managed to stick him in preschool, or teach him herself, to Helga's own delight. And that little boy loved her the same, if not more, than his mommy loved her little sister, which pleased the now eighteen year old more than writing.
It didn't take long though, on Helga's first official day of babysitting, for the four year old boy to prove who the boss was going to be in this relationship. "Play!" Ezra would chirp in the most adorable way so that his auntie would not even dream of being able to refuse. So she had packed their bags up with the most essential items and took off for the park. Unbeknownst to her, Helga's entire world as she knew it would be shattered in little less than an hour after arriving to that single little park bench with her nephew.
The two played a game of catch, which Ezra proved quite good at, and took time to eat a small lunch before stringing up a bright orange kite to fly, which simply delighted the little four year old to the point where he had tired himself out from giggling so hard. Helga caught him yawning not long after the kite had landed. "Alright you little trouble maker." This comment was in no way mean or accusing, but simply poking fun. "I think we had better rest a while before we send that kite up again." She held up her hand at him and motioned for Ezra to join her beside the bench on the ground where she had laid a blanket. "Let's lay down for a few minutes, and I'll read to you."
Not one to disappoint his auntie, Ezra smiled sleepily and did as he was told without complaint.
Helga couldn't help but smile sweetly as the four year old planted himself right in front of her and laid his head in her lap. "Alright, now let's see here…how about a few poems from Robert Frost?"
Ezra nodded enthusiastically much to Helga's delight. "Notting gold can stay!"
The long haired blonde and blue eyed teen chuckled at her nephew's ill attempt to quote Frost. "Close, Ezra. It's 'Nothing gold can stay'." She shook her head and opened her old volume of Frost's work and read aloud until she heard childlike snoring coming from her lap. Being as gentle as possible, she closed her book, hooked her hands beneath her sleeping nephew and worked her way out from beneath him without waking him up. A little nap shouldn't hurt him, Helga thought to herself as she reached for her small backpack by the wooden bench. Inside of her bag held a small lavender volume only halfway filled with a new batch of poems she had written just recently and grabbed for one of her trusty purple pens. She had given up the color pink when her beloved had left.
In this particular notebook was nothing but poems about her last few weeks of high school. Since graduation, she felt a small pang of sadness that she would never see her friends again in those hallways. Since she had stopped being such a bully, she had been able to acquire quite a few friends over the last few years in school and it bothered her that it had all come to an end. But she was going off to college with Phoebe to the same school, so it wouldn't be that lonely.
Helga sighed as quietly as she could so as not to wake Ezra and smiled as she opened her notebook to pen down a few of her thoughts. She had only just discovered a new muse in the little child, so at the moment she felt like attempting another short poem for him to possibly keep if he'd like. Nothing made Helga happier than to see that bright little face light up at almost anything that she did for him. It always made her heart melt.
She was just in the process of clicking her pen to write when the sounds of conversation picked up in the light summer breeze.
Slightly annoyed at the dastardly voices that might stir Ezra's slumber, Helga stood, notebook in hand, glanced once down at him to ensure that he was still sleeping, then stomped out from their hiding place behind the rather large oak tree that block them from prying people's views and whipped her head from left to right catch the noise making culprits.
But before she could even lay her eyes on them, the two teenage boys had stopped talking and walking, and were taken aback by her sudden appearance from behind a rather large tree.
Helga paused as the sounds of talking ceased…but almost panicked once she realized that there was absolutely no sound in which to hear. But I just heard…I know I heard voices! Where…?
Feeling slightly uncomfortable with the unusual silence (not even a bird could be heard chirping), Helga went into defensive mode and turned quickly to get back to her nephew when she noticed them standing not but a few feet away…and her heart skipped several beats before the shaking of her knees started to transfer to the rest of her. Jaw dropping slightly, and hands unclenching (which caused her notebook to hit the cobble stone path with an audible clunk), Helga felt her whole body succumb to its craving for a fainting spell and her whole world crashed next to her lavender book of poems.
The two teen boys watched her go down; too shocked to move until they were positive they had actually seen what they thought they had seen.
The second they came to their senses, both Gerald and Arnold raced over to help.
Helga was in hell. That was it. There was no other explanation for what had just occurred.
Arnold… She thought, marveling at how much he had changed. He was much taller now, with a bit more muscle tone to him, but still handsome and boyish like she remembered. He is still so…wonderful to look at…even after all of this time. I'm in hell…oh god! I took him out of my life for good when I was thirteen! How DARE he come back here and stir all of my most intimate memories about him! Helga was experiencing every emotion that that boy had caused her since she was three years old all at once, and she felt sure she would drown in them if she did not resurface from unconsciousness. Every touch of his powerful hands…every brush of his soft and wonderful lips upon my own…and every smile he would give me despite my tough exterior…no other boy I had given a chance in the past could compete with this boy who had held my love for so long.
Torture! It was torture! Even in her unconscious state, she held the ability to bring forth memories of the boy she once loved…and now, because of the moment before she went down, her love for him came back and all but slapped her in the face. The agony of it was unbearable. So much to the point where she had to fight her way out of her own brain and back into reality where she had left her own nephew alone in.
Back in reality, Helga stirred and opened her eyes slowly to adjust to the sunlight, but was met with a football shaped shadow that was unmistakable. Oh. My. "ARNOLD!" She shouted so loud that both of the teen boys who had come to her aid nearly jumped out of their skin as their eardrums were assaulted.
"Auntie Helga!" Though this cry was softer, it was enough to catch Helga's attention to the point where she all but jumped to her feet to be ready to defend Ezra. Much to her surprise, the little boy was already running toward her with arms flailing and planted himself between herself and the two teen boys standing only two feet away, and he looked much like she did then. Ready to defend her with everything he had. Helga beamed at him before realizing the reality of the situation.
She looked up and found herself pinned to the very depths of her core by the most penetrating familiar greens eyes, and her suspicions were confirmed. Helga's heart…and entire being, whether she liked it or not, belonged to Arnold…no matter what she had done to forget him. And judging by the looks of recognition, fear, amazement and… (Helga gulped as her stomach flipped while the rest of her body trembled) desire from said teen, Arnold knew it too.
"Going for an afternoon stroll, Geraldo?" She may have changed, but not enough to keep her from slipping out old nicknames whenever she felt the need to be protective of herself. Unfortunatly for her, she could not escape Arnold's devastating eyes while she asked her best friends boyfriend about their sudden appearance.
Gerald had not changed much either, except his height. He was much taller, but his hair was much shorter, and he was sporting a simple pair of light blue jeans with his signature basket ball jersey from the high school team. The only thing that Helga could see that would define him as different was the unmistakable smirk that formed as he realized just how crazy this little afternoon encounter really was. "Don't knock it till you've tried it, Pataki. Who's your little friend?"
Helga was still trapped by those piercing green eyes when she heard Ezra chime in with his two cents. "I'm not that little!"
Gerald grinned at the kid's fearlessness and addressed him directly. "Don't worry, you'll grow. You look like you got the potential to be my height in the near future."
Ezra studied Gerald's face for a second before deciding that he was alright. "Really?" The little blonde boy could not contain his excitement at the idea that he would be as tall as the towering teen before him.
Gerald chuckled and nodded. "Oh yeah, little man! Just you wait! Soon, you'll be taller than Helga here!"
That was all it took. Ezra's grin was from ear to ear as the two shared a pretty interesting, if not sudden, bonding moment. "I'm Ezra!"
Gerald shared his grin. "I'm Gerald. You must be Helga's nephew."
"Yup! The one and only!" The little boy thought for a moment. "Hey! Wanna see my kite?"
Before Gerald could say or do anything, Ezra had reached out and snatched him by the arm and was pulling him in the direction of Helga's makeshift picnic area. "Uh…sure! Be right back, Arnold!"
"No problem, Gerald!" Were the only words out of Arnold's mouth as he continued to hold Helga captive with his eyes. He couldn't even believe his luck. His first day back home, and he had been practically mauled by his group of former friends and had been having the best homecoming he could have imagined…but never dreamed he'd have the chance to see her again so soon. Yet there she was…
It wasn't just the fact that he had seen her so soon that made him freeze in this moment…It was the way Helga had changed physically. Yeah, she was pretty when he last saw her when they were thirteen…but now, at eighteen…his hormones were on a rampage. In his periphery, he noticed that she was taller than most females his age but still shorter than him, which he liked a lot for some odd reason. Not just that though, but her body had curves…wonderful curves that drove him insane on the inside, and she was wearing a coral pink sundress that blossomed at her waist out into a full skirt. Arnold felt the distant heat of a ghost blush threaten to tinge his cheeks with a rosy hue, but was thankful that he was not as modest as he used to be once he noticed that Helga's dress was held up my quarter inch straps and her neckline dipped to show off a hint of her cleavage.
This is defiantly not the same Helga from five years ago… But he didn't care. There was only one thing on his mind in that instant, but before he could stop himself from verbally stating it inside of his head, it was too late. She is still…mine.
Helga was beginning to feel the heat…but it wasn't from the summer's day. "Um…Hello…Arnold." My heart is all but leaping out of my chest at this point! Oh my god! Can he tell? Can he see? Please don't let him speak again…his voice alone makes me burn up inside! I feel as if I shall melt…oh please…don't speak…
Arnold caught the nervous hesitation in Helga's voice and fixed her with the 'eyes' before addressing her too. "It's nice to see you again, Helga." Luckily, his own voice had not betrayed him, which made the woman before him shiver, he noticed.
I want him…no! No! Damn it! Why is my body betraying me this way? Why? Oh…that voice…his voice has gotten deeper, but not so much that I cannot tell it belongs to him. Oh! My face is getting hotter! No! I'm blushing! Stupid! No! Oh no…not the 'eyes'. He knows what they do to me! Five years, Helga! He has been out of sight, out of mind for five years! Stop acting this way! You don't want him! You don't love him anymore! Oh, damn it! No matter what she threw at herself inside of her head, she knew better. Her love was still strong, only this time it was coming back with a vengeance. "L-likewise, Football Head." Shit! I didn't mean to say that! Stupid, stupid, stupid! "I..I-I mean…Arnold…" Real smooth, idiot.
Contrary to popular belief, Arnold was not as dense as Helga thought he was. He actually knew exactly how he was making her feel just by catching the stammer in her attempt to take back his old nickname. For some reason, it made him feel slightly more powerful. Feeling particularly bold, despite the circumstances, he took a step toward her…which resulted in Helga taking a shaky step back. Not at all fazed by this, he took another step and smirked as the young woman mirrored him backwards. She's…afraid of me? No, wait…she's…nervous. "Is something wrong, Helga? Why do you keep backing away from me?" He was, in truth, genuinely concerned by her reluctance to get closer to him, but despite that concern, he was actually enjoying this. A game of cat and mouse? I think so…
"No reason!" She squeaked a little too quickly, and knew then that she was a goner in his captivating presence.
"Well…if you'd stop moving, then I can give you a hug. I've missed you." Arnold never lied, and he knew Helga was more than well aware of that fact.
Boy, was she. That's not all you want to do, Arnold. I can see it in those wonderful green eyes of yours. "No, that's ok. I'm fine with you just standing right there, if you don't mind." Oh man…it's completely obvious that I'm setting myself up for something. I'm practically handing myself over to him with just my stupid squeaky voice!
Arnold wasn't fooled in the least, though his did back off…for now. "Whatever you say, Helga."
Those familiar words did more damage to her new barriers than if she had allowed his wonderful hands to reach her.
Everything flooded back into her memories. One by one, she saw herself swooning helplessly as she gazed at Arnold's nine year old self in the fourth grade after having receive numerous spit balls, and all of those encounters with him whenever she'd be running one way and him walking in the other and they would crash into each other…and, dare she think it? Yes…all of their kisses, which could be counted on one hand…Helga betrayed herself again and swooned.
This time, Arnold caught her before she hit the ground after having studied her fearful facial expressions. "Helga!"He was more than grateful for keeping up with his karate while he was gone, otherwise he probably would have gone down with her. With Helga out cold, Arnold hooked one arm underneath her knees and carried her bridal style over toward where Gerald had disappeared.
"Gerald, we need to get her home! Will you grab her stuff for me?"
Gerald, who was busy at the moment with a lesson in kite flying by a four year old, looked up at his childhood friend and felt his jaw drop instantly at the sight. "Man, what did you DO?" He looked to Arnold's slightly amused, yet worried face, then down at a knocked out Helga being carried in his arms protectively. "I knew the sight of you would freak her out, but I never thought she'd literally pass out!"
Arnold only shrugged his shoulders and waited patiently.
Gerald chuckled to himself. "Dude, she may not be the school bully anymore, but I guarantee you that she will kick your butt for this if she wakes up still in your arms like that." He turned back around to face Ezra when he caught sight of the kids face. "You ok, lil' man?"
"What's wrong with Auntie Helga?" Ezra demanded in his most intimidating voice as he looked on to see her in the arms of a complete stranger. A male stranger at that.
"She got a bit dizzy out in the sun." Gerald offered his best lie for the current situation and was glad to see that it took, because Ezra angry face disappeared and was replaced with one of concern.
"Home!" Ezra's little finger shot up in the air as he declared their next destination.
Both of the older boys nodded in unison and Gerald gathered up all the things he could see that belonged to Helga, took the boy by the hand and proceeded to walk all the way to the girl's house while the girl was still obviously gone from reality in Arnold's arms.
About an hour later, Helga finally awoke to find herself back at home tucked in her bed with no clear recollection as to how she had gotten there. "EZRA!" Was the first thing she shouted once she realized that she was supposed to be babysitting her nephew. "Oh my god!" She scrambled out of her tangled mess of blankets and landed with a distinct thud on her floor but didn't care. "Ezra!" She all but screamed again once she regained her foot and she darted for her closed bedroom door. It was all a dream! It was nothing more than a weird, bizarre, crazy mixed up dream! We did NOT go to the park. I did NOT see Arnold, and I did NOT pass out! I didn't!
Before she could even reach her doorknob, it had already twisted and the door was thrown open.
Helga's mind froze. To say she was shocked was an understatement. To her immediate horror, the first and only love of her life stood planted firmly before her, dressed in black dress pants while wearing a well tailored white shirt that had its sleeves pushed up to his elbows looking absolutely stunning, when she realized that for some reason, she was still running…and couldn't stop.
Her body contacted his chest so hard that it knocked her breath out.
"Whoa! Take it easy, Helga! Your nephew's downstairs playing video games with Gerald."
His voice alone paralyzed her in place as she felt his arms tighten around her to keep her still. OHMYGOD! Oh! It's…he's…he's here…he's real! Oh my…he even smells like I remember…I could almost drown in his wonderful scent…oh…wait…Oh. My. "AHH!" The scream was out of her mouth before she even knew it was coming and she jerked away from the familiar figure as if he had just set her on fire. She stood a foot away from Arnold now, almost livid. "You son of a…I oughta…you…you, you…OH!" She knew it wasn't the smartest move, but every emotion of hatred she possessed took control of her limbs and she swung with everything she had in her right hand and prayed that it would contact something to vent her anger.
Arnold saw it coming though.
Before Helga even realized it, Arnold had caught her flying hand by the wrist just one inch shy of his left cheek and yanked her back to him with such force that Helga could not possibly be able to break the connection in time to anticipate his next move.
It was Arnold's turn to be angry. "You gave me that notebook in an attempt to throw away your feelings!" He was well aware of where all of their frustrations were coming from and he wanted revenge. "You gave it to me, not knowing how it would affect me while I was gone!"
"Wrong!" Helga had found her voice again. "I gave it to you to let you know everything that I felt for you in all the years we have known each other! I couldn't live with all of that while you weren't even here! It would have killed me to bottle it up and let you leave without a clue!"
"Then why the hell did you tell me through a letter to not bother trying to get in touch with you to talk about it all? I would have understood! You know me better than that to assume that I could have ever been so careless with your feelings! I found out everything that night on the FTi building when you kissed me, remember? And in the jungle with my parents!"
"You weren't supposed to come back here! I was never supposed to see your stupid face again! I allowed myself to let you go…and it was the hardest damn thing I could have ever put myself through! And yet, here you stand! Home again, tearing my whole world apart in just ONE day as if the past five years of your absence didn't happen!" The tears were leaking from her puffy eyes. "I gave you that damn book to tell you how I've felt for years and also as a final goodbye…you…you…AH!" Her next shout was out of frustration as she yanked herself free from Arnold's grip.
And then she did it again. Helga was so angry and confused that the only thing she knew she had control of was her hands. So she lifted her right arm and swung at him again.
Arnold had had enough.
He caught her wrist so hard she had to catch a quick breath from the sudden pain it caused and he yanked her back into his arms, causing a frightened gasp to escape Helga's throat. Instead of allowing him to embrace her again, she lashed out with her left hand hoping to catch him off guard.
Ah! Arnold caught her other wrist almost effortlessly and spun her around. Helga's heart stopped as the sound of a door slam met her ears. Looking down, she noticed what Arnold's foot had done. She was trapped. Alone. In her bedroom. With the angriest, most attractive man she had ever laid eyes on. "Arno…!" Was all she got out before she felt her own back being pressed into her own bedroom door, with her arms pinned in a vice grip on either side of her head by Arnold's impressively strong hands.
"Are you done, yet? Look at me!" She heard his demand but ignored it.
"Let. Me. Go!" Helga snarled as she squirmed within his hold, determined to find a weakness in his strength but found none. Helga, don't you DARE look him in the eye. Don't you DARE! She was screaming at herself. Everything she knew about him, the one thing to make her freeze was his beautiful eyes. If those green orbs caught her own blue ones, she knew that she was trapped and completely at his mercy.
"After what you just tried to do? I don't think so! Look at me, Helga!" He saw her desperate attempt to close her eyes but he bent low and enslaved her beautiful blue orbs before she had the chance. "It took everything I had to keep myself from you for the past five years! Everything!"
Helga's heart beat faster than the wings on a humming bird, it seemed. Her very breath was caught in the power of his eyes and she mentally cursed herself for getting trapped in them. She had nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide from him…he would always find her despite her best efforts to conceal herself. She was his now…and always has been since the moment he complemented her little pink bow…
"Arnold…I…p-please…" Her every attempt to suck in a breath caused her chest to heave and press firmly into Arnold's, which did not escape his notice.
In fact, because of this, he stepped closer to her and marveled in the feel of her female frame against his front and felt her shiver at his closeness. "Do I still make your girlhood tremble, Helga?" He whispered, feeling slightly wicked with his words. He never would have dared try this with another girl…not that he wanted to either. Oh, no. This side of him was made for Helga. He was made to challenge every move she made, just as she challenged his. Only this time, he was winning…and he couldn't get enough of it. He pressed into her harder, tempting a reaction.
Oh my god…my poem! He quoted me, to me! Ah! Helga felt the heat in her face when his body pressed into hers, making her very aware of what all of this was doing to him. He used to be this modest, kind boy from preschool…did I do this to him? Did I really bring about this dark angel who has all but possessed my soul, and not yet my body? Oh! My own thoughts are becoming more wicked and wanton by the moment! How can I be turned on by this? I'm being manhandled! Helga resisted the urge to respond to Arnold's very bold question. I can't believe I'm turned on by this! I'm Helga G. Pataki, for Pete's sake! Why? And then it hit her. Because it's Arnold…He is the only boy I would have allowed to see the real me…he is the only one I would have allowed to touch me like I am being touched now…
In a weak whisper, Arnold heard her. "Yes…"
It wasn't enough. Five years! He spent five years believing that she had let him go for good, and then he saw her today and suddenly everything he knew was a lie. Oh yes, he was angry. "Say it, Helga! I want to hear you say it!"
The blush in her cheeks was obvious, but he nearly lost himself when he realized that this particular blush went farther down onto her chest, which he had himself firmly against.
Helga's own body betrayed everything against her will now that Arnold had her in his grip. "You….y-you make me tremble…"
Arnold was convinced but that was not what he had meant. "Tell me the truth, Helga, or I'm gone…say it…"
She knew what he wanted to hear, but she had not said it in so long. Can I truely speak those beautiful words? "I…I-I…I…still love you, Arnold…"
Arnold's penetrating stare held her captive as he leaned his head down as close to her face as he could get, making sure that his lips were just a breath away from Helga's already trembling ones. "Again." He whispered softly, making sure that he maintained eye contact and that his bottom lip brushed lightly against hers. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn she had a fever because the heat radiating from her body was intense. But of course, he knew it was because of him and he fed off of her energy.
Helga was a goner. She knew it, and she accepted it. Please…just kiss me, damn you! "I still love you, Arno…! Mmmm!"
That was all it took for him to do it.
Helga's entire world from the past five years crumbled and she whimpered softly beneath Arnold's demanding lips. He devoured every moan she made and consumed every angry thought about their current situation with every flick of his tongue against hers once she tried to break for air in a gasp that he took full advantage of. The taste of him after so long made Helga's every nerve ending jolt with delicious pleasure, but fear got the better of her after about a minute and she turned her head sideways to break their connection. "Ah! Wait! Let me just…Mmm!"
No. He stated in his mind as he reclaimed her mouth again. This time though, Helga was too afraid to grant him access to her tongue, so he released her burning lips long enough to whisper against them. "Open." He demanded in a venomous whisper.
Every nerve in her body tingled at the sound of him and didn't dare refuse, so she simply nodded to let him know she would and felt her lips being captured once again by his skilled mouth. Only this time, Arnold invaded her mouth so deeply, that Helga felt sure she would faint from the sweet agony of it. He…oh my god…he-he's…trying to possess me! It's almost as if he's afraid of releasing me!
Moments later, Arnold broke their connection to linger as close to her lips as he could get without kissing her again as he fixed her with his half lidded stare. Out of breath but not guilty in the slightest, he smiled wickedly, which send a strong wave of highly noticeable shivers through Helga's already overly sensitive body. It was the most intoxicating experience of his entire life.
"Helga…you should know by now…I love you too, and I intend to prove it for the rest of my life. Do you understand?" His breath teased her puffy lips, secretly begging for more of his kisses. "Do you?"
Helga was beyond frightened. She had been cornered in her own bedroom, by the love of her life that she had tried to let go of but couldn't, and she liked it! Which lead to her next few words that left him dumfounded and almost speechless.
Arnold heard the whisper but didn't quite understand. "What was that?"
Helga's face flushed so much deeper than it had ever done before she allowed the words to come out a second time. "I said…prove it, my love!" A challenge!
Arnold was shocked by the request, but only for a second. And then he thought about it while gazing at the woman he held against the door. He searched her blue eyes for any sign of fear but found nothing but daring oozed out of those secretive orbs of hers. That's when he knew that he could never refuse a challenge from her. "Prove it, huh?" He asked with his the most heart stopping smirk.
"Is the Football head scared?" Helga taunted him with her legendary nickname for him and returned the smirk.
"In. Your. Dreams, bucko!" He harnessed one of Helga's most classic phrases and confirmed he was up to any challenge he was thrown by her with a kiss that could spark life back into a skeleton if he tried.