Disclaimer / A/N : All characters belong to Craig Bartlett / Viacom / etc. Teen for language & situations.
On with the show, and please do remember to review!
The house was dark. That was the first thing seventeen year old Helga noticed. Isn't it supposed to be light by now? Picking up her throbbing head off the wood floor, she popped her neck and turned to see the grandfather clock in the hall. Her eyes strained to read the numerals, only to find that it wasn't ticking. Criminy, just when I finally need to read that blasted thing, it isn't even working!
She sighed, connecting her palm to her forehead, realizing her perfectly functioning cell phone was in her pocket. The time that greeted her, told her otherwise. 3:40 pm. So much for perfectly-functioning, she thought dryly. Something in the blond's gut told her things were out of place, though. She tore her way downstairs and opened the curtains. Moonlight flooded the supposed living room, eyes widening at the surroundings she found herself in. What. What is this? We don't have a huge-ass oak desk here. Where's the TV and sound system?
"Miri! Get back upstairs, into your bed immediately! It's the middle of the night for Christ's sake!" yelled a stern, unfamiliar voice. Helga's head snapped up. Who.. who's Miri?
Suddenly, the owner of the voice burst into the room, eyes closed in tired frustration as he seized Helga's ear painfully, leading her back upstairs. "Miri. How many times do I have to repeat myself?" Roughly, he pushed the teenager into a feminine-looking room, finally making eye contact with the girl. His pale blue eyes widened. "You're not Miri..."
Helga was rubbing her bruised ear as she retorted in a sardonic voice, "No shit Sherlock, of course I'm not Miri!"
The man before her disregarded the insult, opting to cross his arms instead. "Then, young lady, where is Miri, and why are you in my house?"
"Hell if I know."
He gruffly sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, realizing the girl before him knew as much about the current situation as he did. "Look, I won't press charges if you leave immediately. Just don't be lying if you say you have no idea why you're here, or where my daughter is."
"I'm not, sheesh." She looked around the room before the man sighed and turned to give her space to leave. "The window's open, though." Helga shrugged, finally leaving the guy to his own devices, and making her way outside. No use staying there, she reasoned with herself.
No sooner did she make it out onto the stoop, did she catch the sight of a slim blond girl, about her age, shimmying up a makeshift rope of assorted blankets, up to the open window. The blond went rigid at the sound of the front door closing, and the two girls made eye contact. Helga's eyebrows rose, as did the girl's, but broke their staring contest as the rope she clung to started ascending. Helga saluted the poor lass.
"Good luck, your old man is quite the character."
She was on the sidewalk before eying the house she unintentionally broke into. ...It was hers. Then why was it so different? She narrowed her eyes at the sight.
Helga kept walking, not knowing exactly where to go, and feeling completely out of touch with reality. If, if this is my house... I'm just going to assume all the houses other houses are filled with strangers too. She looked down at her pink sneakers as she walked, fingering the cell phone in her pocket, scared to reach out to anyone in case she was alone in this parallel universe. She looked up, when the unmistakable silhouette of someone familiar was running up the street to meet her.
"Helga!" Arnold panted, clearly coming from the direction of the boarding house; two blocks away.
"Arnold!" She exclaimed in unison with him, stopping in her tracks to allow the boy to catch his breath. The boy encompassed her in a hug, evidently relieved by her presence.
"I had a feeling you were here! Thank God I was right! Something strange is going on, Helga." The girl was trying hard to find the words that were currently stuck in her throat, her arms loosely reciprocating his embrace; shocked by the show of affection.
She regained her composure, gently shoving off the tall boy. "You're telling me. I woke up in my own house, but it wasn't mine." Her eyes were wild, arms flailing as she recalled what happened to her minutes before.
All the while, Arnold was nodding his head vigorously, interjecting that he had practically the same initial experience, minus the family drama. Finally, it was his own turn to talk, as he led her along, his hand ghosting over the small of her back. At least he knows where to go.
Her skin, beneath both the plain white tank-top and grey hoodie, still felt electricity jolt through her under his touch. He paid no attention though, as he started telling his own bizarre tale.
"So yeah, I woke up too, and I knew it was the boarding house, but..."
The place was dimly lit, as Arnold came-to in the front hall. He groaned when he picked himself up and dusted off his pants. Taking out his cell phone to check the time, he was almost sure it should be daylight outside. He looked around, realizing that he was indeed, in the boarding house —everything was the same. The sound of tentative footsteps broke his thoughts, as he looked up to meet the eyes of a very confused blond-haired first grader.
Equally confused, Arnold raised his hands up in an attempt to placate the child, who looked as though he was about to— "Dad! Some kid is in the house! His head is shaped funny!" Too late. Arnold sighed, hearing a door upstairs immediately open, and the footsteps that came along with it.
Phil made his way downstairs, tiredly raking his hand through his brown hair. He sighed, looking at the time. "Miles," he called out into the darkness, "I know it's late and everything is a lot more exciting when the lights are off, but your imagination needs rest, too." He stopped at the foot of the stairs, scooping the child up in his arms. By this time, Arnold's breath hitched at the sound of his father's name; and his assumptions were confirmed when he set eyes on his young grandfather. He cleared his throat, finally drawing attention to the teenager; unable to verbalize any of his thoughts into something coherent.
"Oh! Jeepers!" Phil held his son closer to him as he stumbled backwards in surprise. "Kid, what are you doing in the boarding house? Are you here to steal something? Because there isn't anything worth stealing. I'll call the authorities!" The words were pouring out of the man's mouth, before finally getting a look at the boy; whose green eyes seemed wide with terror at the prospect of police (not knowing he was just shocked by everything that just transpired). Phil continued, calming down a bit as he lowered Miles, patting the child to signal him to go upstairs. "You don't look like a hooligan. Do you want a room here? There are normal business hours; you don't have to sneak in and claim a room as if this were a free-for-all."
Arnold finally cleared his throat again, finding himself weaving a scenario in his head. "I— uh..." He instinctively thought of Helga, unable to pinpoint why "—Me and my friend don't have a place to stay. Uh. We're new here and—"
Phil held a hand up to stop him. "Come upstairs, we have a room open; Gertie wouldn't appreciate me turning down someone in the middle of the night." The pajama-clad man was already making his way up the steps, still talking, "Especially if they urgently needed a place to sleep. We can talk in the morning about details. What's your name? Where's your friend?"
Arnold was following him, voice failing him once more as he reveled in the knowledge that this man really was his grandpa, but he wasn't old. And he didn't know who Arnold was, and Miles (his father, he assumed) was approximately only seven years old. What is going on?
"She's scouring for a place to bunk, too. But I'll go get her now. Thank you so much, uh—"
"—Phil. No worries. Just lock the door when you get back." The man quirked his brow. "A girl, huh? I'll fix up a cot, you look too young for hanky-panky."
Arnold blushed at the statement, excusing himself to go outside. Once in the street, he looked up at the building, just to make sure it was the boarding house. He quickly took his cell phone out of his pocket, calling Helga's number.
Not even the jarring sound of a disconnected line.
His heart fell, pounding with the fear that he might be alone in this parallel universe; but something in him needed to make sure. Without looking back, he fell into a full sprint toward the Pataki residence.
He finished his tale, the two of them back at the red-bricked building. He led her up the stairs, trying to fight the impulse to head all the way to his attic of a room, turning instead, into the room given to them by 'Phil'.
They sat facing eachother, Helga on the bed and Arnold on the cot, gathering together the fragments of what just occurred between the two of them. Helga had her hoodie off, quite uncomfortable to sleep in for longer than a nap; whereas Arnold lent her his over-shirt for a little more modesty, leaving him in his trademark mountain-meadow green shirt —as Helga mentally/affectionately coined, (after a color she found in a box of 64 crayons in elementary school).
"So, you think the kid here is your dad?" She asked softly, voice permeating the darkness.
He looked up at her from having bore a hole into the comforter on the cot, "I don't just think so, I'm sure of it."
The girl looked away, remembering the summer after fourth grade, when her beloved vanished along with his grandparents, supposedly in search of the humanitarian parents whom Arnold excitedly told everyone about. She didn't really believe in a God, but that summer she prayed every night for him and his grandparents be safe, for Arnold to find his parents, for the strength that; come what may —she'd find a way to keep loving him.
Two of the three of those wishes were brought into light when the three came back; tired, but none worse for wear. Arnold never really talked about the adventure, the most their classmates got out of him was a shake of the head when asked whether he found them. Even Gerald didn't know what went on that summer. The little hopeful Arnold that left for the trip, never came back. He still smiled, and laughed, and looked at the silver-lining, but it wasn't the same.
The two teens laid in their separate sleeping arrangements, just staring at the ceiling; anxiousness almost palpable in the air. They couldn't sleep now, especially after it all, adding onto the fact that they were practically suffering from jet-lag. Helga was first to break the silence again. She had so many words flitting about her head, she needed to say something; otherwise she'd explode.
"Arnoldo, I hate to admit this, but I'm actually pretty scared."
"Yeah, me too."
The anxiousness seeped into her voice "...We need fake aliases or something. And, and stories."
"Good thinking." He sat up looking at her. "...You write well. You think you can make up something plausible for us?"
Helga visibly gulped at the compliment, sitting up as well, breaking eye contact in favor of acting as if she were thinking up a plot for the two of them. The wheels in her head eventually did start spinning though, and the ideas came rushing out.
"Uhm, judging by the outfit I saw on Miri, it's the seventies... so they're supposed to be a lot more lenient when it comes to school and stuff. We could say we're two foster kids that got released early? We still need to finish the last year of high school? Or— or we're college freshmen that come to survey... the high schools around New York. Infiltrate the school systems to find out about the 'Youth of Today'! Yeah, that's it. It was spur of the moment, though; this project, so the college has yet to be able to fund our journey and—"
Arnold, though amazed at how quickly she was able to conjure up an alibi, was confused about the one detail that was similar between the two fictions, cutting off Helga for a moment. "—Why do we have to go to the high school?"
"Because we're not old enough to look inconspicuous outside of school, doi. As lenient as they are, we want to stay on the down-low as much as possible."
"Okay... yeah. Wow, you're brilliant!" Arnold laughed, throwing his hands up toward her, then using one to rub the back of his neck when he brought them down. "But uh, I like the foster kids excuse better, since it would mean a lot less lying."
"I guess." Through the darkness, Helga was blushing deep crimson. I'm brilliant? She honestly didn't care which alibi he bit into, but knowing he thought of her having some sort of mental prowess was just too much for her to handle. She continued, "Now for names."
"No one knows us, we could probably keep our names."
"What if we return? Will that change anything?"
"I just don't want to lie any more than we have to, Helga."
She smirked, "Fine fine, Mr. Goody Two-shoes. But if we get back and our names are Conrad and Rosalind; I'll know who to beat up." Her smirk faltered, realizing those were some of the potential names she thought up for their children.
Arnold just chuckled at her humor, "Whatever you say, Helga. Those are pretty good names, though!"
Helga fell back onto the bed, choosing to hide beneath the covers although her whole body felt warm from his unintentional agreement. Arnold followed suit, laying back onto the cot.
A stretch of silence descended again upon the two, as they replayed the events that earlier on in the 'day'.
Ever since Olga married Maddock two weeks ago, (a guy Helga actually approved of, but her parents didn't —for superficial (cough-money-cough) reasons), her parents were at eachother's throats now more than ever. The usual excuses of school activities and the like, still didn't give her time enough away to escape the crossfire. Usually, they were good at keeping their tension at bay when Helga got home, but this time, after tutoring some freshmen in English, she found herself at the thick of it.
"Bob, I certainly don't care anymore that the man doesn't own a fortune! She loves him, and he loves her; do you remember how that felt?" He heard her mother hiccup.
"Miriam, our daughter's future is at stake," Bob retorted, exasperated, "with a man who owns virtually nothing! He doesn't deserve her —heck, I'm still reeling from the surprise that you 'remember' anything before this morning! Put the damn smoothie down, Miriam!"
"Wh-what are you implying, Bob?"
Helga sighed, having none of this today. She left before her presence was known, sticking her hands inside her hoodie pockets as she walked down the street. She could have very well gone to Phoebe's, if it weren't date night for her and tall (not so tall) hair boy tonight, so she sighed, choosing instead to head to Arnold's. She pulled the beanie down, as the chill of September went through her.
The two blonds inevitably became good friends once their best friends started dating, and once Arnold and Gerald both realized Helga's bully act was almost completely done for. She still scalded the two on occasion, with her blunt remarks and witty sarcasm, but this time around, her insults and nicknames had more of a friendly air to them. So naturally, the four became close.
Helga rarely used the front door, avoiding the awkward and probing nature of both Arnold's grandparents and the boarders —who though lovable and crazy, were mostly just crazy. She tapped the glass of the skylight, still feeling like an intruder although she's made the trip many a-time. He pulled his headphones off, and grinned up at her from his computer, motioning for her to come in.
She cast a small smile down in return, and as if second nature, slipped right in, careful to leave her worn-out sneakers on the roof. She flopped down onto the bed, as he turned his attention back to the essay he was working on.
Distractedly, he implored, "Parents at it again?"
She sighed, making sure he wasn't looking when she took a big whiff of his pillow. She took a mental note for the billionth time (for each visit there), she must know what shampoo he uses.
"Just take a nap, I need to finish this essay before we do anything. I'll pop in a movie when I'm done, but for now I can't have any distractions, sorry Helga."
A murmured response came from Helga, which was enough for him to pull the headphones back on. She took his advice and fell fast asleep, surrounded by the scent of her one true love.
A jolt of thunder woke her up though, her eyes opening to an Arnold looming over her.
"Criminy, football head! Are you about to kill me or something?" She joked, voice a little nervous from the scene.
"No! Of course not, Helga. I was just about to wake you up. The power died; I took your shoes in before it got really bad outside." He sat at the edge of the bed as she too, sat up.
"Oh, thanks. Did you save your essay?"
It was still day time, so the room had a little light, and she saw him nod in response. "Anyway, usually during black-outs like these, Grandma dresses up like a Campfire Lass and makes hot chocolate for everyone, so we should head downstairs."
Just as the two teens made their way over to the door, a clash of lighting lit the room and the door burst open, a shadow barring the opening.
Helga shrieked, instinctively jumping into Arnold's arms, and although she hasn't done that in years, he (just as compulsively) caught her.
Arnold called out into the darkness, "...Grandpa?"
"Geez Shortman, I wasn't aware you had company over," chuckled the elderly man.
The two teens finally turned their heads toward one another, taking in the scenario. Helga's pixie-cut hair was disheveled from the nap, clothes askew; both their eyes widening. He let her down gently, without a word, smiling sheepishly at his grandfather.
"I, uh; it isn't what it looks—"
Grandpa waved away the excuse, stating his reason for coming up. "Pookie just made some hot chocolate if you two want to, uh, cease and desist for now." He gave a teasing wink to the two before making his way down.
Blushing, neither Helga nor Arnold were able to make eye contact with one another when exiting his room. They could hear the bustle of the boarders downstairs, as the two made their way to the second set of steps.
The teens picked up on Grandma's voice first, rolling her R's and performing a good impression of the green-plaid girls. "I present to all of ye, me newest batch of raspberry tarts!"
"Kokoschka!" Grandpa's irate voice boomed seconds later, "Leave at least two for the kids! And no, you can't have the rest of them; you haven't paid your rent fully for the month yet!"
The two teens chuckled, sitting at the top of the steps just to listen in some more.
"Oskar, please. You are a grown man."
"Heh heh, but Suzie, that only means I need the food. You know.. as they say -heh; 'the fastest way to a man's heart is his stomach'!" whined the man in return.
Another person spoke up, "Listen to your wife, you sleaze. If you worked under my team at our demolition sites, you and your attitude would have been —Pow!— flat as a pancake by now."
"You must show more respect to your elders," Helga smiled slightly, recognizing the voice as the Vietnamese man whose daughter was reunited with him years before, "He doesn't have much time left."
"Waddya mean by that?"
Arnold rolled his eyes as an imminent fight broke out. The two teenagers rose to see Oskar roughly rush his way back upstairs, arms full of raspberry tarts, and smiling sheepishly at them. Suddenly, Arnold heard another shriek from Helga, and the sound of her colliding with the wood. He tried to catch her, failing; as he too fell forward trying to grab her hand, realizing the bearded man probably knocked her off-balance.
Landing with a thud, Helga almost face planted as Arnold gracelessly landed atop her, both their heads knocking into eachother's unceremoniously. The commotion of the accident was masked by another clap of thunder, along with the yelling contest in the kitchen, before the two slipped into unconsciousness.
Arnold was used to the creaking and groaning of the boarding house; even the occasional animal skittering past. He found it comforting that aside from Helga's presence at the moment, it was something constant. For Helga though, she was put on edge.
Both the teens kept their eyes to the ceiling, Arnold's arms nonchalantly crossed behind his head, Helga just lying rigid in the sheets.
"...Arnold?" she ventured.
"I feel like this is my fault. It's gotta be. If I hadn't—"
"No, Helga. There's a reason why we're here, and the cause may have nothing to do with either of us, but we have power to change the effect. Whatever it may be." His face looked determined, though no one was looking. He loved it when Helga opened up to him, those rare moments; but this was different. He wasn't going to let her take the blame on something neither of them had the power to control. He didn't like the prospect that she, one of the strongest people he's known, would just naturally do that to themselves.
She turned to face him in the darkness, bringing up the sheets so that only her eyes and the top of her head peeked through to him. She ducked the rest of her head underneath the covers, curling up into fetal position before tenderly pulling out a normal-sized locket from around her neck. She may not be able to see the picture within it, but she ran her fingertips around the heart all the same.
Oh, my innocent, naive, beautiful prince. So selfless, so caring; when you could have easily taken your grandparents' charming accommodations for yourself, for some inexplicable reason you came to find me... You, in all your blessed glory knew I somehow needed you. You have even graciously showered me in compliments and allowed me the honor of sleeping in your shirt for the night... Truly, you are my angel. She sighed, quietly, melodically; and darted her head back out.
Arnold's ears perked up from the pleasant noise, startling him out of his reverie. He turned onto one of the arms beneath his head, toward the bed where he assumed the noise came from. Renewed determination was etched into his features when he caught sight of the blond, reemerging from the sheets.
She could feel his green eyes piercing the darkness and gulped. This is going to be a long night. Then she heard him speak.
"Helga, we're going to make it back."
Her eyes flashed up to meet his, and he was almost taken aback by how much trust he swore he felt within the gaze. They stopped speaking, caught in an inadvertent staring contest.
Maybe the time finally weighed on them. Maybe it was the solace they found within eachother, (consciously —and poetically— noted, or otherwise). Maybe it was the adrenaline of their day finally drawing to a close. But at some unspeakable hour, one of the two broke the silent conversation to welcome sleep, and the other followed suit.