A/N: Hi! If you're reading this, then you're reading my very first fanfic. Be gentle. I beg of you! There are probably other fics out there like this...but I haven't read any. So I'm sorry if this is totally redundant! My bad! No flames, please! I'm sensitive *tear*

Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! But that would be rad! Yeah, I said it...sue me. No, wait! Don't!

Not Stupid

I'm not stupid. Okay, maybe a little dense…but not stupid. I had always made pretty good grades. I could usually figure out solutions to people's problems. But, when it came to girls…I might have been a little oblivious. Especially for the first nine years of my life.

I NEVER thought that Helga G. Pataki could possibly be in love with me. I mean, she hated me! She picked on me every day of our lives. Shot spitballs at me, called me names, played TONS of pranks on me, even snapped at me when I tried to be helpful. The ever-present thorn in my side.

So how did she expect me to react when she cornered me on top of that building? When she admitted to writing poems about me, building shrines in a closet, and, basically, just STALKING me for six years. What's that about?

I had no idea how to respond to that! So, when presented the opportunity, I convinced her that I would forever chalk the confession up to "heat of the moment." But I knew that wasn't true.

So, for the next…however long, I tried to figure out my own stupid feelings. They didn't really become clear until a few weeks after we saved the neighborhood.

I was at the movies with Sid and Stinky. There we were, calmly enjoying Evil Twin 6, when I felt something hit the back of my head. I turned around in my seat to see Helga sitting two rows behind us, steadily tossing popcorn at Stinky's head (he was sitting next to me). I caught Helga's eye and raised an eyebrow at her. She smirked and put a finger to her lips, silencing me before I could say anything. And she just kept on flicking kernels into Stinky's hair.

Call me crazy, but a fire erupted in my chest. How dare she pick on Stinky! How dare Stinky let her! She was MY bully. Mine. Only I was allowed to gaze into her beautiful blue eyes that feigned innocence. Of course, I was always glaring, but still.

And that's when I knew. When I knew that I felt the same way as she did. Maybe not quite as intense, but…watching her torture Stinky was eating me from the inside out. She was supposed to be tormenting me. Yet, somehow, she still was.

That was a few months ago. I look at her now, sitting across the clearing under a tree. She has her arms crossed and a cute little pout playing on her lips. I didn't mean to make her mad. I only wanted a moment alone to compose my thoughts. Gerald was fine with it. He went off to find…food? Water? I have no idea. I was too concerned with Helga.

I mean, we're in the middle of the jungle, searching for my lost parents, and I'm sitting here thinking about the little pigtailed girl across the clearing. What is wrong with me?

I would say there are more important things to think about, but I'm not so sure. Of course I want to find my parents, and that's the most important thing to me right now, but…who says my relationship with Helga isn't just as important?

Uh oh. She caught me staring at her. She's scowling now. I try to smile at her, but I bet it comes off stupid and nervous. But that's how she makes me feel!

Maybe I should try to talk to her. Apologize. Something.

I cautiously get to my feet and plod toward her. When I reach her, I stand awkwardly in front of her for a few minutes before I say anything.

"Hi, Helga."

"What do you want, Football Head?" she asks, not looking at me. "Am I still too close? Why don't I just go back to Hillwood? Would that suit you, Hair Boy?" She looks positively livid.

"Helga, I'm sorry," I explain. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just…I've got a lot to think about. And it's just easier when I'm alone. I'm sorry."

Her eyes flit to mine, and she purses her lips. Those perfectly pouty pink lips. I feel my eyes go half-lidded as I wonder how those would taste against mine. I had, of course, felt them before, but I hadn't exactly been savoring the experience at the moment. Any of the three times we had kissed before. Oh, those perfect lips. Which are speaking to me right now.

"…and why are you looking at me like that?" she finishes.

"What?" I ask. "I'm sorry, Helga. I…got distracted. What did you say?"

"Criminy, Arnoldo. You tell me that you're sorry, and then you don't even listen to me when I say something." She rolls her eyes. "I said that you could've just told me that in the first place instead of snapping on me like that. I'm just trying to help. I don't have to be here, you know."

I smile at her. "I know, Helga," I say, taking a seat close to her on the ground. "I really appreciate your help. It's a pretty amazing thing to do for someone you claim to hate."

I watch as her eyes register my words and almost pop out. "What did you just say?" she asks. I can tell she recognizes them from FTi.

I smirk. "You heard me, Helga." I scoot a little closer to her, gazing into her beautiful blue eyes all the while. "What? Have you heard those words before?"

She looks down and clears her throat, placing her clasped hands in her lap. "Why did you yell at me?" she asks quietly. "You basically told me to get lost."

I frown and look at her cute little nose. "I'm…sorry," I say. "It's just so overwhelming."

"Searching for your parents?" she asks, looking up into my eyes. "I know it's hard, Arnold, but we're going to find them."

"Thanks, Helga," I say, "but that's not what I was talking about." I move even closer, staring hard into her eyes. "I was talking about you. And how you make me feel when I'm around you. I can't think…sometimes I can't even breathe. You don't know the effect you have on me, Helga G. Pataki."

Her jaw drops slightly, her mouth agape. "W-what are you s-saying, Arnold?" she asks.

"What do you think, Helga?" I ask, not even sure where I'm going. "I mean, do I need to be on top of a building to get you to understand?" I smile slightly.

She lets out a tense little breath. "Arnold, I don't," she says, her eyes shining. "I don't understand. You…I…we said, remember, we said that that whole thing was just heat of the moment." She stands quickly and points a finger in my face. "We agreed!"

"You're right," I say, standing also. "We did. But I never believed it. I started thinking about the past six years. All of the things you did. How you always seemed to be there. When I needed someone, you were always there. Silently helping me." I take her hands in mine. "You're my angel, Helga. My tormenter and my savior. You're everything I need."

"Kiss me, you chucklehead," she says, pulling my face toward hers with fire in her eyes.

Our lips smash together for the fourth time ever. I inhale sharply through my nose and catch a whiff of her raspberry lip balm. Lip balm in the jungle? Whatever. I'm not complaining. But now I want to taste it. I part my lips slightly and curiously lick those perfect lips I constantly fantasize about. They're just as soft as I imagined, even better. Plump and complying, they open at my silent pleading, and I hear a soft sigh escape her as I investigate her beautiful mouth.

I suddenly become aware of a loud rustling noise in the trees. And grumbling. There's definite grumbling crashing through the jungle toward us. "Mm mm mmm…all of these 'adventures' I get roped into…."

Helga and I pull back at the same time, both of our faces flushed and, at least in my case, hearts hammering. We step far away from each other. I watch her rub her arm, and I notice that I'm scratching the back of my neck. How did I not realize our similar nervous habits before?

Gerald suddenly bursts through the foliage on the other side of the clearing. He glares at me. "I'm not the grocery man anymore," he bellows. He tosses a couple of bananas on the ground. "I quit. Get your own food." He stomps over to our backpacks, plops down, and lies back, throwing an arm over his eyes.


I look to Helga, but she's gone. "Helga?" I call. "Where are you? Helga?"

"Arnold? Arnold, wake up! Arnold!"

I sit up with a start, looking around frantically for the dead person who woke me from such a wonderful dream. Helga's big blue eyes stare back at me.

"Criminy, Football Head," she whispers heatedly. "You were talking in your sleep! What were you dreaming about?"

My face heats up as I imagine what I might have been saying. "Um, n-nothing," I stammer. "J-just a movie I watched a couple of weeks ago." I pull out the collar of my t-shirt, trying to let out some of the heat. "Why are you whispering?"

"Because, bucko," she replies, prodding my chest with her index finger, "you were spewing some crap about eyes and lips and angels. I don't know, paste-for-brains, but it seemed really private, and I figured you didn't want Geraldo hearing it." She nods toward Gerald's sleeping form a few feet away. "So you're welcome, Football Head."

I clear my throat. "Thanks, Helga," I say, trying to push the dream from my mind. "Um, do you want to try to get some sleep? I can keep a lookout for a while."

"I thought you'd never ask, Arnoldo," she replies with a smirk. "Wake me up in just a little while. I don't wanna sleep too long." She curls up on her side, looking extremely uncomfortable.

"Hey, Helga, why don't you rest your head on my leg?" I suggest. "It's got to be more comfortable than that." Did I really just say that? Where did that come from? She's gonna murder me for even suggesting it.

She looks startled for a second but covers it with a smug smile. "If you insist, Football Head."

I inwardly sigh with relief and try to calm the glee exploding in my stomach.

She scoots over to me and lays the back of her head on my thigh, her gorgeous blonde hair spilling out around her. She closes her eyes, and, in just a few minutes, I hear her breathing steadily. She's already fallen asleep, a small smile on her lips.

I slowly lift my hand and gingerly touch that golden hair. So soft…even in the middle of a humid jungle. I wish I knew how. My hair feels like straw.

How is she so perfect? She's so perfectly strange. Not like any girl I've ever met. She's so…fun. None of the other girls at P.S. 118 play baseball with us like she does. Well, Sheena does, but it's not the same.

She's always so willing to do anything. To hang out with us guys. Like when we taught Lorenzo how to be a normal kid. She was right there with us, sliding in the mud and everything else we did that day. And when we went to the cemetery to find the Ghost Bride. She had wanted to come with us so bad that she dressed up like the Ghost Bride herself just to spend time with us…well, maybe she was just trying to freak us out. Whatever.

But she is utterly perfect the way she is. I love her eccentric pigtails and her one eyebrow. I love that she wears pink when she's so…tomboyish? Is that the right word? But I adore her pink bow. She's been wearing it since I met her (probably even before that). Her bow…it's kinda like my hat. I bet she'd be lost without it. Like I was when my hat went missing. Which she found, by the way, and brought back to me.

I sigh quietly to myself. This mission, the whole reason we're even in San Lorenzo, is to find my parents. So why am I only thinking about the girl asleep on my leg? I know I've got to tell her at some point. But how do I know when? When is the right time to tell the girl of your dreams that you love her too?

Just a little while longer…I can do it. I'll figure this out. It won't be that difficult, right? I mean, I'm not stupid.