Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold.
Reciprocate [Lunch break. Junior year. Hillwood High.]
"Oh, Arnold. I'm glad I caught you. Listen, I was wondering if you were busy this weekend. The Old Theatre is having a special presentation of Singing in the Rain and I thought we could see it together."
Arnold kept his smile in place, as fake as it was, as his school mate Abby tried once again to get a date from him. Though she was a nice girl Arnold just was not interested in her.
"I'm sorry, Abby, but uh-" he spotted Helga across the hall rearranging the books in her locker, "I'm pretty sure my girlfriend Helga wouldn't be okay with that."
The sound of a locker door slamming shut caught their attention. Arnold saw Abby's look of confusion, panicked and ran to Helga's side. "Please, for the next two minutes just go along with whatever I say," he begged in a rushed whisper.
Helga jumped at the feel of his breath on her neck and the ridiculous request the boy just made. "What are you talking about Football Head?" Helga gawked at the boy. Her back was to the lockers with Arnold standing in front of her with pleading eyes.
"Your girlfriend calls you names?" Abby scoffed behind the couple.
Please, Helga, Arnold mouthed to his childhood tormentor and smiled to the little brunette at his side, hoping that it didn't look as fake as it felt.
"I can call him whatever I want. I've been with him long enough," Helga crossed her arms and stared down this chick that was delusional enough to think that she had a chance with Arnold.
"And how long is that exactly? I've never seen the two of you together," Abby tried to throw them off, not believing their statement. "Really, Arnold? You expect me to believe that Helga Pataki is your 'special someone'?" she scoffed.
Arnold frowned at that comment, but before he could defend the girl, Helga stepped up. "Listen here, bub, Arnold's not interested so hit the bricks. I mean, did you really think you could get him with a theatre showing of Singing in the Rain? He has it on DVD. Besides that, he'd choose An American in Paris or Les demoiselles de Rochefort over that film any day," Helga informed Abby. With her hands on her hips, her fists balled, she went on, "So take your creepy stalker tendencies and your school girl fantasies and try your luck somewhere else."
Abby looked from Arnold trying to keep his face neutral to Helga trying to keep her temper in check, huffed in discontent and marched herself down the hall. Helga noticed her shoulders slumped in defeat and smirked. She had nothing against the girl. In fact, she had never met Abby before this moment, but to suggest that she wasn't good enough to be someone's girlfriend- them's fightin' words.
"So, what exactly just happened here, Football Head?" Helga asked Arnold. He was still staring in awe of the fact that not only did Helga go along with his ruse, but she defended their fake relationship and somehow knew his preferred Gene Kelly films.
"How did you know my favorite movies?" Arnold asked point blank. Her eyes widened in startling realization.
"I didn't know," Helga answered. "I just said it because they're my favorite movies." She could feel the warmth of embarrassment coloring her face. Did they really like the same films? "Anyway, the next time you need me to cover for you, give me more of a heads up, will you? I don't want you breathing down my neck in the halls. People might get the wrong idea about us."
Arnold's cheeks flushed as he worked out her meaning. It must have looked strange to someone who knew they weren't dating. "But, it was supposed to look like we're dating," he reasoned. "Anyway," he began as he rubbed the back of his head, a nervous habit, "thanks for covering for me, Helga. I really appreciate it. Abby's been trying to get a date from me for nearly two weeks. I didn't have an excuse this time and I kind of panicked. So, when I saw you I just-" he looked up at her and with all sincerity he thanked her, "Thank you, Helga."
Helga sighed and shook her head. "You have got to stop being such a goody goody, Arnoldo. Really, just tell the girl you're not interested. It's not that difficult." She patted his cheek as if to say 'Poor kid, when will you learn?' and walked away. Arnold caught up with her in hopes of working out a favor for her in return.
"If you haven't had lunch yet I could buy you something from the cafeteria," Arnold offered.
She held up a paper bag, "Got it covered," and stopped at a vending machine near the side doors that lead to the high school's courtyard. Arnold was quick to use his loose change before Helga had the chance to deposit her coins. Helga raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow at the guy who only grinned in return, "Your choice, my treat."
Helga hit the all too familiar buttons that resulted in a Mr. Fudgy bar landing in the waiting tray. She thanked him and headed out to the stone tables in the courtyard. Her lunches were rather quiet. Phoebe had some kind of study group or prep course to attend during breaks and lunches. Helga didn't mind. That left her with more private time to write. She set her school bag down beside her and the paper bag that contained her lunch on the table top off to her left. She tore the wrapper of the candy bar and bit off a piece as she scrolled through her phone looking for something to read. While trying to decide between Wilde and Dickinson, her seat was overcast by the shadow of a tall burly schoolmate.
"Hey Helga," came a deep, husky voice from behind her. Helga took a calming breath and tried to ignore her new companion. Otto Oswald was every bit of Big Bob that Helga had come to despise; large, loud, pompous, arrogant, obsessed with status and image and what not. Sure, Helga grew into her looks as her sister Olga had and sure, she was in the top ten percentile of her class and being more athletic than the majority of the girls not already on a sports team made her very appealing to Otto. But she shot him down every time he came a courtin' and ignored him the rest of the time. So, why? Why did he always come right back?
"Hey, Otto," she gave her standard greeting void of any emotion as he plopped down on the bench across from her. "Sure, you can join me. Don't bother waiting for my invitation," she droned on. She ignored his presence as she flipped through the pages of selected poems by Oscar Wilde. The long dead author was far more charming than the oaf in the letterman jacket leering at her.
"So, Helga," Otto leaned forward on his crossed arms trying to capture her attention. "There's this special showing of Singing in the Rain at the-"
"Seen it. Own it. Don't want to go," Helga abruptly cut him off without looking up.
"Well maybe we could just go to another movie instead. Or we could rent one and watch it at my house," Otto offered, not bothered with Helga's lack of interest. The girl was a challenge. That's what he liked about her, aside from her looks and smarts and her ability to pitch a sinker.
Knowing he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer (but hoping every time) and just keep trying, Helga had to think of something more to throw his attention. Looking up she smiled when she thought of the best plan. "Gee, Otto, I'd love to." Otto perked up as she said those words. He was about to throw a fist in the air in triumph when Helga shot out her left hand and grabbed the arm of an innocent passerby and pulled him down on the hard stone bench. "But I doubt my boyfriend Arnold would be okay with that." She threw an arm around a rather startled looking blonde guy. Arnold looked at Helga in a moment of confusion. "Arnold, dear, Otto here," she gestured to the now surly and suspicious guy sitting across the table, "has asked me on a movie date this weekend. He obviously wasn't aware of our relationship," she smiled sweetly at her childhood crush.
Arnold, having caught on at "dear", cleared his throat and chanced a look at Otto Oswald. He was definitely bigger that Arnold, taller, more muscular. Arnold recognized him from the football team and the wrestling team. Feeling a little intimidated but wanting to return the favor to Helga, he gave her suitor an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Otto, Helga and I already have plans. Gene Kelly double feature at my house. Movie nights usually go pretty late," he shrugged and let Otto draw out a double meaning. He pulled Helga a little closer by the waist and Otto narrowed his eyes at the blonde couple.
"You two are dating?" he questioned them. He hasn't seen the two of them talk to each other ever since he'd taken a liking to Helga two months ago. "Helga never mentioned you. And I never see you two together," he challenged their logic.
"Well, Helga's a nice enough girl," Arnold stated. "She's not interested so she turned you down. You were the one who wouldn't take a hint," he shot back. Helga stiffened at that last part. Inadvertently calling a guy stupid was not the best thing to do when the guy could was a wrestling state champ. She threw a warning look at Arnold which he ignored. "We're not the type to make out in the hallways, but we spend time together outside of school, at each other's houses," Arnold smirked, enjoying the look on Otto's face knowing the Big Bob double was believing every word and hating it. But so what? Arnold knew his type. He was only after Helga's pretty face. He only chased after her because she's probably the only girl to ever turn him down repeatedly. Otto Oswald didn't deserve Helga. "She's quite familiar with my bedroom and I'm well acquainted with hers," Arnold dealt the final blow. Helga saw Otto's face turn a lovely shade of red, most likely from holding in his anger and losing to this guy that had come out of nowhere.
"So, how long exactly have you been together?" Otto asked as evenly as he could. It can't have been long. It would be easy enough to convince Helga to dump the guy, he thought.
"Long enough, Otto," Arnold insisted. He has a feeling that the guy trying to count to ten before he started throwing a fit was not about to give up with Helga. So, Arnold did something kind of… bold. He kissed Helga.
He caught her by surprise so she didn't move at first. He just felt his lips pressed against her soft unmoving lips. After the initial shock wore off, Helga tentatively reciprocated. She knew it was just for show, just to get Otto off her case, but hell if she was going to let this opportunity pass her by. Helga leaned into the kiss and tilted her head opposite of the blonde god she thought she had taken off of a pedestal years ago. Helga moved her lips against Arnold's evoking some feelings thought to no longer exist when it came to that goody goody Football Head. Arnold got sucked into the act, were it the need to make Otto Oswald believe in their fake relationship or the way Helga was gently sucking on his lower lip rather enthusiastically, he wasn't so sure anymore. Not wanting to make Helga uncomfortable and feel like it was one-sided; Arnold put more effort into the exchange. He traced her jaw line with his free hand (the other still holding her waist) drawing a gasp from the girl who he thought hated him.
It may have been because Arnold hadn't made out with a girl since that summer trip to the beach house. It may have been because the thought of having done something in two minutes a guy like Otto Oswald, All-American athlete and academic superstar, couldn't have done in two months felt amazing. It could have been because Helga Pataki, the girl who tormented him from pre-school to seventh grade, ignored him from seventh grade to junior year, only to help him twenty minutes ago, was doing absolutely amazing things with her lips right now. Whatever the reason (one, the other or all three together) Arnold felt it was okay to squeeze her waist a bit more. This caused Helga to moan at the feel and Arnold took that as his chance to slip his tongue into her warm, waiting mouth. It was only for a moment; long enough to taste the chocolate bar he bought her at the vending machine; long enough to sweep the smooth roof of her mouth and that plump warm tongue he's so used to seeing taunt him. It was only a moment and Helga realized that this wasn't one of her girlish fantasies. This was actually happening. Helga was making out with Arnold. His tongue was in her mouth and his hands were pulling her closer. But it was all for show. She had remembered that Otto was watching them. Otto was the reason this was happening at all. So, she regretfully pulled away from her handsome prince and kept her eyes cast down. She focused on the buttons of his shirt as she tried to calm her erratic heartbeat. She didn't notice his complexion matched her own. She didn't notice him scoff when he realized Otto was long gone. She didn't notice his hands were still on her, the one on her waist had made contact with her skin during their moment, the one on her cheek now playing with her hair that framed her face. All Helga noticed was that her heart rate had not slowed down. She still had trouble breathing. Her lips were still tingling and her face was still hot. Arnold could not still have this much power over her.
"Helga, he's gone," Arnold finally got her attention. "I don't think he'll be coming back," he chuckled. Arnold took in her appearance; flushed face, full pink lips, wide eyes, shallow breathing… that's not because of kissing. "Helga, are you all right?" Arnold started to panic.
"Arnold," Helga strained between wheezes, "did you eat strawberries today?" She pushed him away and scrambled through her school bag for her emergency epi pen. After the injection, her symptoms died down and Helga was finally able to breathe easily. Arnold sat beside her, dumbfounded.
"Helga- I'm sorry- I- I didn't know," he stammered an apology awaiting a beating he knew was coming. "Are you okay?" he asked after a few violence-free moments. Helga had taken her time putting away her med kit before answering Arnold.
"The next time you stick your tongue down a girl's throat, try not to send her into anaphylactic shock," Helga pointed out to Arnold who nodded profusely, still mumbling apologies. She took pity on his flustered state and laughed a bit before asking, "So, you still up for that double feature? I'll supply the movies if you provide the venue and snacks."
Arnold smiled and let out a sigh of relief, "Whatever you say, Helga."
A/N: The first in a series of one-shots. Updates will be dependent upon inspiration. I appreciate your interest.