This moves kind of fast, or at least it seemed to me like it did when I read it over, but it turned out to be fun to write so I'm happy. Hope you are, too.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! or anything affiliated with it, but I do have claim to this story.
The sound of a bottle's cap being popped off is a sweet one. I sat back in the rickety pink beach chair that Arnold and I had set up, in addition to a white one for him and a cooler of drinks we snuck up to share. It's not like anybody would catch us. I grabbed the cool beer he held out to me and took a gulp, cold enough to burn my throat on the way down and just bitter enough to make me shudder. But it felt good.
The high temperatures of the day had tapered off into a pleasant heat that was lifted away by a constant summer breeze. It was mid-August, and everyone- the whole PS 118 gang we were still friends with- was going to be leaving for our sophomore year in college soon. It was bittersweet. Not too many of us had really stayed in touch while away, but during the summer we caught up with parties and trips to the beach. I had never really stopped talking to Phoebe, though. And I couldn't really stop talking to Arnold, considering we ended up going to the same college. Not that I would want to stop.
Now I'm not saying I was still into him, like I was when I was younger. He was definitely attractive, and funny, and charming, and nice- maybe a little too nice- but he was just a friend. Okay, to be honest, I'm not really sure what I felt for him. But I'm pretty sure I only thought of him as a friend.
We basically became friends in high school, although we were sort-of friends in middle school—we were classmates who talked occasionally, at least. Still, even by senior year, we weren't that close. It wasn't until the first year of college, when we both needed somebody to know and hold onto while going through that chaotic September, that we became real friends; and we found some great people along the way. But we never really let go. Maybe we did a little, when we started to branch out more, but this was still a guy I would spend all night talking to.
Of course, a little beer never hurt.
Arnold was the one who called me this time. He asked if I wanted to hang out on the rooftop and talk. I wasn't so sure what that meant, but hey, I'm not in any position to be turning down a chance to bond with my favorite football head. When I got there I helped him lug up two beach chairs and a cooler. The sun was still gleaming above us then, but it descended pretty quickly, and by the time we sat down the night was turning a cooler blue- that dim transparency of dusk that makes you feel alive.
And here we were, sipping our first beers of the night, and I still wasn't sure what exactly we were doing.
"Ready to get back to school?" he asked after a few minutes of silence, not turning away from the dropping sun.
"Pfft. No." I took another swig. "But I love those people, so I guess it's acceptable."
"I concur," he chuckled.
"Yeah, well, I guess you're pretty excited to get back, huh?" I commented, and I guess he picked up on the innuendo because he started to stare at me. I rolled my eyes. "Well, besides that one chick you picked up at the beach and maybe even the hot Asian you started hitting on at the movie theater, how much action have you really gotten here in Hillwood? I'm betting you're looking forward to the college girls who are always falling all over you."
He stared at me for a few more seconds before reaching over and lightly hitting me upside the head.
"Hey!" I protested before rubbing my head and pouting at him.
"Shut up," he laughed. "Besides, they're not 'falling all over me.'"
"Are you kidding me?" I raised an eyebrow. "What's your score for last year, like 20?"
"I can't believe I have to ask this of you, Helga, but could you please not refer to the amount of women I've slept with a score? Strangely enough, they are actually more than just numbers to me," he ignored me as I rolled my eyes again. "And no, I didn't sleep with 20 girls. I slept with, what, five?"
I snickered as he drank from his bottle, nearly finishing it off. I had already grabbed for a new one. "Yeah, right. For your sake, football head, I won't count. You're a strange guy, you know that?"
"Well, you're a pretty strange girl," he retorted, watching me chug more beer, "and I'm sorry if I have morals. Jesus, Helga, slow down."
"Oh don't get all preachy. It's the end of summer, I deserve this," I hugged the bottle close to my face lovingly.
"You're very stupid."
"For your information, I have some of the highest grades of our year," I retaliated.
"I want proof."
"You don't deserve proof!"
"Oh, that hurts, Helga," he laughed at me.
"Fine, if you don't believe me, just go hang out with one of your bimbos." I crossed my arms after tossing my finished beer to the side.
"What's your obsession with my love life? You jealous?" He smirked at my glare.
"If you mean jealous of all the college sex you're having, then yeah, I am," I said. It had been quite a few months before I had really fooled around with anyone, besides a little bit of making out in the corner, and to be honest it was a little upsetting. I wasn't trying to be promiscuous or something-not that something like that really mattered to me- but I just hadn't felt much attraction to many guys lately. And for the few to whom I did, they didn't seem to feel anything back for me.
So that sucks.
"I told you, I haven't exactly been having a lot. Probably no more than you, at least," he shrugged and offered me a new bottle, which I accepted but sat on the ground before drinking any.
"I've been with, what, two guys since we started college? I guess it doesn't really matter, but sometimes it's a little frustrating. I normally don't focus on it though."
"Wait, two guys? What about all the guys I've seen you with?" He sounded surprised.
"You know, it's possible for a girl to have friends that are guys, even if you don't know them. You should understand this," I pointed to him, "we're just friends. And you have other friends who are girls."
"Well, I don't know. I just thought…" He trailed off, effectively ending the conversation. The sun had left our view but must have still been there, hiding behind the buildings of the city like a child. The sky was stained pink, no clouds. It was too nice for an ending. I wanted something more…dramatic.
I picked up the beer I had left beside me and gulped down as much of it as I could, wiping my mouth when I came up for air.
"Hey…" I hear Arnold's voice from beside me. I turned to see him staring at me intently, obviously forming a question in his head. "You know how- back in elementary school- you liked me? Like, really liked me?" Well, that was putting it mildly.
"Uh, yeah," I responded, unsure of where this was going.
"Well…I was just thinking…when did all that stop?"
What kind of a question was that? When did I stop idolizing him like some sort of god? When did I stop torturing myself with an unrequited love? I wasn't even sure of the answer. In the fifth grade I still held onto my obsessive love for him, but after that I had become a little more tranquil, fading a little more into the background. Those weren't good times for me. Maybe it was after that year of lost hope that I really got him out of my head…but then again, I remembered little twists in my stomach in 7th and 8th grade when I saw him, when he would occasionally talk to me. I was still pretty mean, I guess. Was there really a time where I could officially say it ended? I mean, this was love we were talking about, for Christ's sake. Well, I guess I could just estimate-
"Helga?" His voice protruded into my thoughts, and I realized I'd been silent for probably a whole minute.
"Oh, um, well I guess around middle school." I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. "What's with the questions, anyway, Football Head?"
"Hm," he almost sounded disappointed. "Nevermind."
"Oh no you don't," I interjected. "I answered your questions, as awkward as they were. Now tell me why."
He looked a little distressed by my forcefulness, but tough shit. I had to deal with his interrogation.
"I was just thinking of a time in high school. Junior year, when we had English with Ms. Gold together."
"Yeah, and?" I said when he didn't continue.
"Well, I was just remembering how you looked, and how we'd sometimes joke around for no reason, and that- at the time- I sort of wanted to…" Oh my God, he was blushing.
"What…wait, you wanted to do me?" I laughed, and he squirmed in his seat.
"No, I didn't mean that-"
"Oh, yes you did," I shook my head, laughing again. It was a flattering thing to hear, to be honest. Well, maybe a little more than just flattering… "Why didn't you just tell me?"
His head looked at me in shock, mouth open. "Wait, but, you were with… whatever that guy's name was!"
"His name was Toran," I corrected, "and, well, yes. But who doesn't like hearing that they're desirable?" I smiled sheepishly as he went to hit me again. "You know, if you keep on doing that, I'm going to be forced to beat your ass. Don't think I won't, Shortman."
"You're not that threatening, Pataki," he mocked.
"Just because you play football doesn't mean I can't take you down." After all, it's not like I would let myself get weak and helpless. Helga Pataki is a lot of things, but she is not helpless.
"Whatever you say, Helga." Well, that did it.
I jumped out of my chair and tackled him while he still was reclined in his own, succeeding in not only bringing him to the ground but also in breaking his chair.
Maybe I shouldn't drink so much beer.
"Woah, what the fuck?" He sounded startled, and I didn't exactly blame him. He started to fight to get up, but there was no way in Hell I was going to let that happen. Even though I may have been rethinking my actions now, that didn't mean I couldn't finish what I started.
"Then admit I could beat your ass," I said, sticking my tongue at him, only a few inches away from his face. He grimaced and tried to push me away. I didn't budge.
"I don't want to fight you, Helga," he said roughly. "I don't want to hurt you."
"Arnold, I'm not made of glass," I said matter-of-factly. "Besides, I don't think you'll be doing much damage anyway."
With that he smiled dangerously. I was starting to regret being so cocky.
Again, I blame the beer.
In only a few seconds he had gotten up and my back hit against his rooftop, his hands pressing into my shoulders and his body hovering over mine. Well, damn.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," he smiled again, this time with only a little less mischief in it.
"You bastard," I harrumphed. He just continued to smile.
Slowly, I began to realize our position. It was really warm, and his legs were tangled with mine. His hips were resting on mine. His face was entirely too close. I could feel his breath on my lips.
It wasn't bad. Not bad at all.
Now it's not like I had never imagined a situation like this with him, but I had always dismissed it as something that would never happen, at least not in a romantic way. And I had to remind myself that this was not at all romantic. Arnold was too much of a good guy to think of this in the way I did—or if he was thinking of it like that, he didn't let on, and neither did any other part of his body.
Well, maybe it hadn't awakened anything in him, but it shook me. It reminded me of my earlier years, of my attachment to him. And with that I began to realize that this- whatever I felt for him- wasn't just a mild attraction. I don't think it ever really was just that. Because as these feelings started to find their way back into my head, (maybe not love, but some very strong feelings at the very least,) I realized that, somehow, they'd been there all along. Muted, but alive.
Or maybe I'm just too much of a romantic.
Either way, it didn't really matter. Because Arnold was still on top of me, his blonde hair framing his face and his smile fading. His pupils seemed big as they looked into mine. It was as if he was analyzing me.
Maybe he really was starting to think like me.
The thought released a small wave of euphoria in my stomach.
I found myself wondering if he was thinking of real, actual feelings for me, or if his mind was on something that followed a more primal route…
"Helga," he whispered, and as his lips formed the words I found myself wanting to meet them with my own. I wanted to run my fingers through his hair and pull him closer to me, kiss his neck, run my teeth along his skin... Luckily, I didn't. Thank god I wasn't actually drunk.
"Yeah?" The close proximity was making the tips of my fingers and toes tingle. He blinked.
"You should probably lay low on the beer." And with that, (which probably was good advice,) he got up off of me. Well…I had no idea how to take that. So I got up, too, shaking off whatever excess sensations I had. He walked to his chair-which now was just a pile on the ground- and kicked it lightly, sighing.
"Sorry about that," I grumbled as I plopped down into my own chair.
"It's not a problem," he said, "I have an idea." I didn't watch as he walked out of sight, but I heard the sound of him climbing down into his room and some shuffling. In not too long he was back with a thick blanket under his arm. After promptly kicking his broken chair to the side he laid out the blanket and sat himself down on it.
I looked back out to the sky. It was dark now, but the city was burning bright, and the light from Arnold's room flooded the porch.
I could hit myself for being here right now, in this state. It's not like I had never gone drinking with Arnold around, but never alone. And now I was slightly buzzed, alone with a guy who I had been in love with for half of my school career, and who at this very moment I was feeling extremely attracted to. Not. Good. I looked back at the blanket.
"You gonna join me?" He cocked his head to the side.
"Yeah, why not…" I got out of my chair and landed my ass on the blanket, then lay on my back to gaze up the non-existent stars in the sky. Arnold stared at me for a second before lying down, too.
"Remember when we used to play baseball at Gerald Field?" Arnold whispered after a little while.
Wow, I hadn't thought about baseball or Gerald Field in a long time. "Yeah," I whispered back. "It feels like that all was forever ago. The last time we played was, like, seventh grade."
"I know." He paused. "I passed the field a little while ago. It's some electronics store now. Weird, huh?"
"I can't believe I never even noticed," I breathed. "I don't think anybody did."
"Change…isn't so bad though. Change is good," he looked at me. "I'm glad you changed."
"I don't know if I really…changed…I definitely relaxed a little…"
He laughed at that. "If you hadn't changed, I'd be thrown off the roof right now."
"Oh come on, I wasn't that bad." Well, maybe I was. "And besides, the night isn't over yet. You may still end up on the sidewalk."
Arnold chuckled. "I'm just saying, I'm glad things went the way they did. Because I like how it is right now."
Hearing that made my stomach flip, made a warmth spread through my veins. I turned my head to look back at him. "Me, too."
He averted his eyes and bit his bottom lip, which really didn't help. I couldn't stop myself from staring at his lips.
What happened next I blame on the beer. And maybe teenage hormones. Basically, I just wasn't thinking.
Because when he looked back at me with those green eyes and opened his mouth to speak, I attacked him. Well, I didn't attack him attack him. More like I viciously climbed on top of him and mashed my mouth against his. He was probably completely shocked, but I didn't really notice as I kissed him feverishly, trying to close any distance between us.
You cannot imagine how good it felt- the electricity that ran up my spine, the adrenaline that possessed me- when he started to move his lips against mine. It was slow, at first, compared to my movement. But when he licked my bottom lip and lightly scraped it with his teeth I felt every nerve ending in my body respond.
"Helga," he moaned when I started to grind my hips into his. The sound of his voice saying my name- saying it like that- made me shiver. My mouth left his to let my lips follow the line of his jaw as my fingertips traced his neck, his collarbone, any skin I could reach. In a move that seemed very un-Arnold, he grabbed my head by the hair and forced my lips back on his. I couldn't help but moan into the kiss.
My fingers moved to unbutton his shirt. The red flannel would've reminded me of the old days if my head wasn't so foggy. And as attractive as it was on him, I felt it would look better off. I had only undone the first few, my mouth still caught up in probably one of the best kisses of my life, when his hand grabbed my wrist. Suddenly we weren't kissing anymore. He was looking into my eyes, and while I could see that they were clouded with lust, but they also looked determined.
"Helga," he said, in a voice that-though not moaned like before- still sounded pretty damn hot coming from him. "I don't want to…I don't think we should-"
Of course this would happen. I'm getting the guy of my dreams when all of a sudden he has to be snatched away. This was just cruel. I knew it was too good to be true. And Arnold's just too nice of a guy to have a "hook-up" with his friend, anyway…
"I get it, Arnold." The words came out coldly, but it couldn't be helped. I rolled myself off of him and sat up, putting back on the flip-flops that I had kicked off in the midst of it all.
"Wait, no, Hel-"
"I'll see you later, okay?" I pushed myself up and turned for the window, praying that I wouldn't be weak enough to cry. At least not yet. Not while I was still there, with him.
It was a little surprising how much I cared about this, even to myself.
"Stop!" He got up after me.
"I told you, Arnold, I get it!" My voice came out stronger now.
"No, you don't!" His hand grabbed my wrist again, this time stopping me before I was able to climb through the window to his room. I sighed and turned around to look at him, wrenching my hand free.
"Listen, I'm not really mad at you, it's just a little frustra-"
"Helga, stop it! Give me a chance to explain!" He looked pretty upset, which surprised me more than it really should have. "It's not that I don't want to, it's just that…" He took a step closer. "I care about you, Helga. A lot." I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off. "More than as a friend I mean. I think. I don't know! It's not like the idea has never crossed my mind, but I didn't really think about it too much. But…if you care about me, too…then I would like to try something real. And not as just a one-time thing on my roof."
I was speechless. My emotions should have been tired by now, but right now they were really pulling through because I felt amazing. If I wasn't going to cry a minute ago, I felt like I probably was going to after hearing that. Maybe it wasn't an "I love you, never leave me" kind of thing, but it was something. And that something was more than enough.
"I-" I choked out. Get it together, Helga, you idiot. I took a breath and smiled widely. "I like your style, Football Head."
A smile spread across his face, rivaling my own. "Well, in that case…" He moved closer, close enough that I thought he was about to kiss me until I felt his hand wrap around mine.
By that hand I was pulled back to the blanket, back to the ground, where the morning and college and life couldn't touch us. Where we were just Arnold and Helga; nothing else.