Disclaimer / A/N : All characters belong to Craig Bartlett / Viacom / etc. Teen for situations and language.
My sincerest apologies for the long await, but here's the next chapter! School sucks.
Maddock grew up without siblings. His family backpacked through Europe throughout his childhood until right before he entered middle school, and had a hard time with the public school children during those awkward years. He longed to help, though. He always stood up for the little guy, and had a heart with a propulsion toward empathy. When college came around, he proudly told his parents he wasn't going.
Instead, pulled up his bootstraps and he started his own volunteer-philanthropy group, which was funded solely (and generously) by various families of friends whom he's aided over the years, and used this pseudo-organization to travel the country and provide basic self-sustaining strategies to rural villages worldwide. Though he himself had no penny to his name (something the Pataki in-laws loathed), he was surely a rich man.
And then he met Miss Olga Pataki, who taught English to a modest population of children in a quaint igloo-town at the Arctic Circle— he was quoted (later on) from his vows to have felt, "My heart drop to my stomach as if I were on the Hurl-a-whirl at home. Olga; you've always felt like home."
Maddock wasn't the type of man who would (during normal circumstances) leave his pregnant wife to fend for herself so close to labor. But he also wasn't the type of man to let an entire tribe of people succumb to the pressures of the government that so tyrannically reduced the size of their sacred land. So with Olga's relentless insistence and the sheer fact that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, he set off two months ago to help the people who made his wedding day so memorable.
"Honey, you'll be back plenty of time before the baby's born, I'm sure of it! Besides, if I were in your shoes, I would have been out there without so much as a second thought."
"Lies. All lies, woman!" He pouted, pointing at the blond. "I know for the fact that if I were the pregnant one, you'd be just as doting, if not even moreso —look at how you are with Helga!"
"Don't bring my baby sister into this." Olga huffed, crossing her arms. "Besides," she shook her head, "This conversation is getting kind of strange, Maddock."
He nervously ran a hand through his red locks, pacing before the mother of his unborn child.
Her voice softened at the sight. "I'll be fine. Right now, they need you more than I do."
"Guys, party's over until further notice! Contact Phoebe, Gerald, Arnold or I if you guys want to continue the marathon at some other time; but for now, everyone leave! Phoebe, call an ambulance. Breathe Olga, breathe!"
Before the gang was about to make way for the sisters, Curly burst forth from the direction of the kitchen, covered head to toe in blood. Harold screamed, running for a corner of the room and calling out for his mommy; Sid shrieked, promptly fainting, eliciting a sort of chain reaction from everyone else —an ambiance of mass hysteria greeted the gang like an old friend.
Eugene jumped into Sheena's arms, Rhonda clutched Nadine, frantically reaching for her cell phone; Stinky and Iggy were backing slowly away from everyone, Lorenzo crouched behind a beanbag at fetal-position, rocking back and forth in a corner, and both Lila and Brainy were stock-still, color drained from both their faces.
Curly pressed the back of his blood-soaked hand onto Olga's terrified forehead, feeling for her temperature, simultaneously putting gentle pressure on her stomach. Helga looked on, her expression completely bewildered, and Phoebe stuck two fingers into her mouth, creating a sharp whistle. Everyone froze as she stepped up to regain control.
"Gerald! Arnold! Get some warm water for Olga!" Looking back, she sternly nodded at her friend. "I've called an ambulance, they should be here soon. Everyone else? You've gotta go! Obviously, Curly's fine!" She grit her teeth, swallowing hard and avoiding the realistically-gruesome sight behind her. (Phoebe hates blood.) "Right Curly?"
Looking up from concentrating on the task at hand, he lit up with a charming smile. "Thanks for asking, doll-face. I'm fine and dandy! No need to worry about ole' Thaddeus Gammelthorpe!"
Lila raised her hand up wordlessly, pointing at the boy; lip quivering in an attempt to talk. Thad picked up on it, looking down at himself. "Oh, yeah. The blood!" He chuckled, waving his hand dismissively. "I was supposed to come in earlier to scare the living daylights out of you guys —as my contribution," he bowed graciously, "but then I fell asleep in the pantry."
The boys came back with warm water and facial towels, having heard the tail-end of Curly's explanation. Gerald added (as if to back up Thad's story), "Yeah, there are footprints left all across the kitchen."
All three guys proceeded to pat the towels onto Olga's face and neck, as she tried remembering her La Mas breathing techniques and yelped uncontrollably at the sharp pains coming from her abdomen. Helga finally opened the door for the paramedics to come through, letting her ride in the ambulance with her sister while bringing Olga's overnight bag.
"How bout that kid! Is he alright?" One of the burly paramedics called out.
Helga waved her hand, annoyed. "Yeah yeah, the idiot just thought he'd pull a prank on us!"
She tossed the keys of the Pataki car to Arnold before leaving, exchanging a telepathic message. The three party-planners made sure everyone got out safely, watching Thad (the last one to leave), trail blood all down the sidewalk.
"Man, this? This was crazy. This is precisely why our fourth grade class should never hang out again. Shit like this always happens to us!" Gerald shook his head exasperatedly, "Mmm. Mm. M." and threw his arms up in the air.
Arnold laughed, "Yeah but, I really like that about us."
Gerald continued, pointing at a finger for each instance he named. "Let's see. Wheezin' Ed. That one Halloween the other kids dressed up as aliens. The Headless Cabbie. Ghost bride! That one, Curly dressed up for, too!"
Chuckling, Arnold responded, "Wow Gerald, you have the memory of an elephant. Maybe we should just stop doing scary things together, instead of completely cutting ties with everyone."
Phoebe's voice interjected as she pushed her glasses up. "Well, I haven't had excitement like this in a while, actually. Quite refreshing."
"Oh, and you!" Gerald pointed at the wide-eyed girl, shivering slightly. "God, I had war flashbacks from that time you were hall monitor after Helga! It was borderline terrifying. If I weren't dating you; I'm sure I would've bolted out of there the minute you whistled."
The trio shared a warm laugh before Arnold checked the time on his watch. "Well, I think it's about time I head to the hospital. Phoebe, you wanna come with me?"
The girl shook her head, "I think Gerald and I should stay back and clean up for a bit. I have a spare key. Also, I know where things are supposed to go, and heaven forbid —if Helga's parents come back early and find a trail of blood on the floor— I just. I don't know what they'd do..."
Arnold made his way to the hospital, completely lost on the almost-deserted first floor until a young woman came up to him with a wide smile.
"Hey, Arnold right?"
Arnold looked at the brunette questioningly, before smiling nervously and politely greeting her back. "Yeah. Hi."
"It's me. Ruth. Ruth McDougal?"
"Oh! L-long time no see! You're a nurse?"
"Nah, just a part-time receptionist. Easy money on the weekends. Anything I can help you with? It's pretty late..." She resisted the urge to giggle, though amusement clearly hid in her words. "You're looking good, Shortman."
The boy blushed slightly, realizing he was still in his pajamas. "Uh, thanks." He drummed his fingers idly on the counter whilst talking. "Pataki? She's in labor— I meant uh her-her sister's—"
"Oh. You're with the loudmouth." Ruth popped her gum obnoxiously, flipping through some paperwork.
Arnold almost let out a bark of laughter, a flood of pride swelling in his heart. He scratched the back of his head apologetically. "Yeah, that sounds like her."
"She'll be on the third floor waiting room. I'll see you around."
The blond leaned onto the wall inside of the empty elevator, quietly chuckling at the adjective Ruth used. He imagined Helga, sort of pushed to the side by the staff as her sister was wheeled behind some double doors; furious at her circumstances because, All she wanted was a nice night with her friends! "Is that too much to ask for?" and now she also had to somehow help to usher in another life to this 'Godforsaken world'. (Her words, not his.)
The elevator dinged, letting him off at the correct floor. His eyes scanned the fluorescently-lit surroundings, searching for Helga. He found her relatively quickly, hunched over at a corner next to a potted plant, grumbling at a clipboard of papers. She didn't notice him approach as he slid into the seat next to her, and leaned annoyingly close to look at what she was up to.
Gritting her teeth, she abruptly used her foot to shove the boy's seat away before looking up, causing the chair underneath him to screech in protest. Her eyes flashed in anger as she yelled, "Look PUNK—"
He threw a sheepish smile at his girlfriend, awkwardly hopping the chair back over.
"Dammit Arnold, I thought you were some shitty-ass kid who's parents didn't know how to handle them." She pouted, pinching his forearm lightly.
"I knew what you thought." He smirked, rubbing the sore spot. "So how's Olga?" He casually placed his arm across the back of her chair.
"You actually just missed the OB-Gyn. She told me that Olga just had Braxton-Hicks contractions* and will be held in here for the night, for observation. Since she's a low-risk pregnancy, there isn't anything to worry about, just standard protocol. I've gotta fill out all this shit though because she doesn't live here, and I guess we'll pick her up tomorrow."
"Where's her husband by the way?" He made sure to stow away the fact that she said 'we'. It made him feel fuzzy inside.
Helga looked back down at the papers, scribbling sporadically within blanks. "Uh, he's some sort of philanthropist —that's how they met actually, they were both at some Inuit village— he's in Central America or whatever for a last-minute trip and is supposed to be back next week. Before the baby's due."
Arnold's ears perked up, "San Lorenzo?"
Helga finished off the paperwork, standing up to stretch. "Yeah," she yawned tiredly, "Sounds about right."
Arnold nodded, wondering if this man he's never met would just so happen to meet the green-eyed people he's never met who helped aid the parents he's never met. Before he realized it, Helga and Arnold were at Olga's bedside, watching the younger sister go through the motions of leaving a loved-one at the hospital.
"Well, the doctor probably briefed you already, right?"
"How you feelin? Hopped up on pain meds?"
"Don't be so crude, baby sister; though I am feeling awfully loopy."
Helga chuckled. "Well yeah. Just call my cell tomorrow morning and I'll pick you up. You gave all of us quite the scare you know."
"Well, from what I overheard, I also saved your butt. So you owe me one." Olga smirked, drowsily.
Helga snorted in response, "And getting you to the hospital doesn't count?"
"Nope! But brunch tomorrow sounds great, Baby Sister!"
"Night! Drive home safe! I love you!"
Before the two stepped out, Arnold made eye-contact with the older Pataki. "Glad you're alright, Olga."
She smiled at the boy. "Me too." She dropped her voice to a whisper before winking, "Take care of her."
Arnold winked back, closing the door behind him and Helga.
In the car, Arnold still had the keys and somehow felt comfortable driving for now. There was a stretch of silence between them as the highway lights rhythmically passed through the car windows, syncing up with the beat of the smooth jazz of the radio. It was three in the morning, and barely any other vehicle was out on the road.
Arnold cleared his throat. He heard the girl next to him shift to look at the side of his face.
"Want to... stay the night?" He could feel Helga's smirk growing, almost searing his cheek with its smugness, as Arnold's own face turned beet-red and stuttered, "Not-not in that way, I just meant; your house being empty and all and—"
Helga straight up laughed, slapping a palm against her knee. "Don't get all flustered, Arnoldo. Thanks for the offer... I uh" This time she was the one to start blushing, "I think I'll take you up on that."
Though it was admittedly super sketchy of the two of them, they used the fire escape and Arnold's glass skylight to enter the boardinghouse, making sure to avoid anyone who could possibly be awake or wake up from their entrance. Upon Helga's suggestion, Arnold somehow scrounged up two sleeping bags and zipped them together to create one large one to spread out across the rooftop. Helga rummaged around in the dark for a couple more blankets and pillows, the two of them finally settling down on their makeshift bed.
Tentatively, she snuggled up to the side of him, laying her head on his chest. She was nervous, but the sound of his heartbeat calmed her inner monologue. Instinctively, he started running his fingers through her unwound hair.
Police sirens were heard in the distance, accompanied by Thad's unmistakable manic laughter. The two of them melted into a fit of giggles, rolling away from one another to clutch their stomachs.
When they calmed down again, Helga spoke. "Thanks."
"For what?" Arnold was billions of miles from the moment at hand, trying to name the constellations that were currently above them; wanting to impress her with his knowledge.
"For a lot."
He smiled, though she wasn't able to see it. "No problem, Helga." Snuggling back around her, he continued, "I was pleasantly surprised about today."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, before the whole fiasco, things seemed to be going pretty well. And even afterward, I think we handled it well."
Helga chortled, "Don't thank me, it was mostly Phoebe."
There was a breath of silence before she kept going, letting her stream of consciousness come out. "Yeah. Without Phoebe, I would have probably royally fucked something up by now. Probably be in juvi."
Arnold winced at her language, looking down at the top of Helga's head. He shifted his hand to hug her close. He tried to keep his tone of voice delicate. "What... what do you mean?"
"Let's face it Arnold," She sighed, "My family isn't necessarily the most uh, stable out there."
He was boring holes at the top of her head, trying to will her to look up at him, at his sincerity. "Helga."
"No, just listen for a bit." She refused to budge. "I'm being realistic. No matter how romantic I may be, I need to always be in sight of the truth. My mom's an alcoholic who had —maybe still has— so much potential. My dad, though he tries, just doesn't have it in him to be a father. Not just the dad, not just the provider, but a father." Helga sighed once more, not at all having planned to let everything out —let alone twice in one night.
She barreled through her observations anyway. "Olga, Olga's the exception only because I feel like she's tried all her life to not turn out like them. Fueled at first to make them proud, but something in her also understands the absurdity of their way of existing. Not living. And obviously, I've been trying too, but it's different for me. It's like... it's like I can't get away from it and sometimes it's only a thin shred of luck keeping me from the same self-destructive path." Her breath quivered when she inhaled, close to tears. "Phoebe and you are part of what makes me feel so lucky."
Arnold didn't say anything. He couldn't. But something within him finally made sense. He remained quiet though, opting to just shift her bangs from her forehead and softly tilt her head up toward him for a kiss. He hoped it said all he wanted to say.
He did eventually have something to contribute. "Have more faith in yourself, Helga." Her blue eyes reflected Orion's Belt so perfectly, the universe was right there. "...I know I do."
Neither of them were ready to sleep. The adrenaline from earlier was still tunneling its way through their veins, and so they kept talking. Just talking. Somehow, through some general questions about Maddock, they got onto the subject of Arnold's parents.
"They're dead, Helga." He sat up, causing her to follow suit. "Remember that summer I went off with my grandparents?"
Arnold looked down at his hands. He looked so defeated, the sound of her heart breaking for him surely must have been audible. She cautiously wrapped her arms around him, still not sure what to do when it came to showing affection. In turn, he buried his face at the crook of her neck and pulled her onto his lap. With his arms around her waist, he held her tightly, as if afraid she'd just up and float away. His muffled confession came out along with a few stray tears.
"Sometimes... Sometimes I feel so alone."
She was at a loss, only doing what came naturally to her. Holding onto what she loved the most, and using words. Words were her only strength at times like this.
"They loved you, Arnold," she soothed, her own eyes starting to mist; her hands making their way through his hair. "I, I mean mine—"
"—They love you, Helga," he interrupted, voice low; reverberating between the two of them. The girl mentally rolled her eyes, Criminy, this boy is trying to comfort me right now? Bless him.
She continued on. "I'll always be here. So will your grandparents, and Gerald, and Lila, and heck; even Phoebe..." she trailed off knowing this wasn't her most poetic of moments, but these words will do. She started feeling the first of tiny butterfly kisses leading up from her collar bone.
Releasing a soft sigh, he finally reached her lips, where they shared a series of the most tenderest open-mouth kisses.
"I love you."
Helga's eyes widened at the heartfelt confession, swearing she could get completely lost in those greens of his. Even in the dark of night. His eyes swept over her face, before settling on her slightly parted lips. He continued, realizing the girl in his lap honestly didn't believe him.
"I, Arnold Shortman, love you, Helga G. Pataki."
A huge, uncharacteristic smile broke through her face. Before he could kiss her again, she leapt at him, re-wrapping her arms around his shoulders and toppling the two over into the messy sleeping bag.
She sighed melodically into his chest; arms draped around his neck. "I love you too. I always will."
A/N: So cute I'm going to faint. I like Maddock. I mean, who wouldn't?
*Braxton-Hicks Contractions: AKA False Labor - "...Sporadic uterine contractions that start about 6 weeks... [usually noticed] sometime after mid-pregnancy... (Some women don't.)" - Quoted from 'babycenter' website.