Oh, forgive me, world. I'm embarrassed enough to be a 25 year-old college kid who's written thousands of pages of Harry Potter fanfiction, but that wasn't enough. I blame The 90's are All That and my nocturnal habits for this one. Admittedly, Rocko's Modern Life was my favorite 90's cartoon, but Hey Arnold was up there too. And with the advent of the huge following/fandom associated with it…well…
So yeah, sorry for this. Couldn't help it, had to write it.
A Rumble in the Jungle
San Lorenzo, 2002
Helga hugged her arms around her body, shivering miserably under a large tropical leaf that was doing a poor job of sheltering her from the cool downpour. Her dress was ripped, her bow had come untied and was hanging limply from her sticky, matted hair, and worst, worst of all, Arnold was missing.
The fact that she was lost and alone somewhere in Central America didn't even cross her mind. Arnold was somewhere, probably in worse shape than her. A cold shiver ran down her spine as she recalled the event that led to their separation…
Three hours earlier…
"Good lord, football head, could you be leading us any farther into this forsaken jungle?" asked Helga, tone dripping with her usual sarcasm.
"It's just past this ridge, I'm sure of it," he reassured her, blazing a trail through the tall grass and winding roots.
Helga harrumphed and continued to follow, letting her eyes drift to the boy in front of her. Don't look at his butt. Don't look at his butt. Don't look at his…gah!
Arnold stopped and gave her a look. "Everything all right, Helga?"
"What? Yeah, fine. Let's just get this over with al…"—she frozen mid-sentence as they pushed through the last bit of brush before the lip of a great crater—"…ready."
It was a hundred feet to the bottom, and straight down. That fact alone would've made the gash in the Earth impressive, but there was an enormous metropolis made entirely of adobe and stone that covered the floor of the caldera, and Helga could distinctly indentify hundreds of natives milling about, working, or doing chores.
"See?" asked Arnold in satisfaction. "I told you it was close."
"Criminey, football head…this is…this is unreal! A whole civilization isolated from time and the world and preserved in this small piece of Central America!"
"I know, it's pretty incredible," replied Arnold, not exactly looking at the city. Helga felt Arnold's stare and suddenly was forced to concentrate so as to not blush. "I think my parents might be down there."
Helga paused and finally tore her gaze away from the crater. "Why did you bring me here?"
That seemed to throw Arnold for a loop. He rubbed the back of his head and scuffed a shoe along the dirt. "I…I don't know. I thought you'd like it."
Helga crossed her arms and smirked at him, opening her mouth to retort, when a click from behind them made her blood run cold.
"Hold it you two!" They turned to see two dark men in beige safari gear pointing hunting rifles at them. "Just what do you think you're doing here?"
"We're just looking for my parents," explained Arnold, holding his hands up in front of him. "We're not going to cause any harm, I swear."
Helga looked worriedly from Arnold to the hunters, whose brows had furrowed and were looking at Arnold with expressions of scrutiny. The first muttered something to the second, who nodded, and suddenly they were walking forward, rifles still raised.
"You're the one they all worship," said the first, a yellow, toothy grin appearing on his lips. "La Sombra will be happy to see you."
Helga made up her mind in an instant and, eyes-wide, gasped at a tree behind the men. The second man bit and turned his head around. The first didn't turn completely, but lowered his gun just the slightest at his companion's action, which was more than enough opportunity for Helga to grab Arnold's arm and haul them both off into the jungle.
"Move it, football head!" she yelled, dragging him along. Arnold wrenched himself from Helga's grasp and sprinted up beside her as a gunshot rang out behind them.
"You shouldn't have done that," he said, breathing hard.
"Oh, right, and those two men were just going to let us go peacefully!" exclaimed Helga, hurdling a downed log. "Face Arnoldo, not everyone is as lucky-go-happy as you are."
Arnold frowned but kept running, their smaller sizes allowing them to navigate patches of thick foliage that would make a nightmare for adults. Finally, after five minutes, the sounds of gunfire ceased and they skidded to a halt ten feet from the edge of a small cliff.
"I think we lost 'em," muttered Arnold, turning around and squinting through the jungle.
"Wow, take a look at that," said Helga, peering over the ledge of the cliff at a rushing river twenty feet below.
"Helga, don't stand so close to the edge, you never know if the rocks are—"
The soil under Helga's feet crumbled and she went spilling over the edge, plummeting into the water below. The current grabbed her legs and threatened to keep her under, but she pushed hard off the bottom and broke the surface, gasping for air as the rocks flew by on either side.
"Arnold!" she screamed, looking up as Arnold sprinted alongside the river atop the cliffs.
"It levels out in a few hundred feet, I'll pull you to safety!"
She watched as he sprinted ahead to where the cliffs tapered off to banks of rich, brown soil on either side. Pulling her arms from the water, Helga swam as hard as she could toward the edge.
As the cliffs fell away, Helga saw Arnold climb a tree and edge his way out over the river on a branch just scant feet above the surface of the water. Paddling, Helga lined herself up with it.
"Ready?" yelled Arnold, leaning over and holding out his arm. Helga grumbled and thrust from the water just as she passed under him, reaching up and locking hands. The river nearly tore Arnold off the branch as he began to pull them both to safety, and a few seconds later Helga's feet found the bottom, and she pulled herself to shore.
"Thanks, Arnold," she muttered, wringing the water from her dress.
She never got a response.
A sickening crack went off behind her like a shotgun, and Arnold was gone, pulled underneath the surface of the river.
She had followed the river for a hundred yards with no sign of him, when the end dropped off in a fifty-foot waterfall. Helga felt her stomach plummet through her feet as a small blue hat went over the edge and disappeared into the cloud of mist below.
In a fit of madness, she jumped over the edge after him, and swallowed half the river in doing so. Somehow alive, she crawled from the bank minutes later alive, but with no Arnold.
Three hours later she was sore, tired, soaked, and on the verge of tears. Following the river had turned up no sign of her beloved football head, and she was beginning to fear the worst. Wiping at the tears that had started to form, she hauled herself up and staggered back to the river, determined to keep looking, even in the rain that was growing colder with each passing second.
Once again, the surface of the river was devoid of any ten year-old boys. Overcome with grief, she sank to her knees in the mud and began to pound the soft earth with her fists.
"Oh Arnold…Arnold, I'm so sorry."
Her heart nearly stopped at the voice, and she whirled around to see the love of her life standing there soaked, bruised, and hat-less, but alive. Letting out a choked sob, she threw herself forward and wrapped her arms around his body.
"You're alive! I thought you were done for!"
"I caught a branch on the way over the waterfall," he explained, pushing away slightly so he could breathe. "I saw you go in after me, but you didn't come back up right away and I've been trying to track you down ever since."
"You…you came after me?" asked Helga, too broken down to put up a dismissive face.
"Well, yeah," he said, looking at her properly. "I mean…I couldn't just leave you out here alone."
Helga swallowed hard and looked away. "That's the only reason, huh?"
Arnold paused and, glancing down slightly, reached for one of her hands. "No."
This time, Helga pulled away and looked at him. "What…what do you mean?"
Arnold took a deep breath and sighed. "I mean…I mean I thought a lot about what you said that night on the roof of Future Tech."
"Wha…I don't know what you're talking about football head, I didn't say nuthin'."
"You told me you loved me." Helga froze and stared at Arnold. It was one thing to say it to herself once, or twice, or a hundred, thousand, million times, but to hear it from the object of her affection was another thing entirely. Arnold didn't seem to notice the change, though, and continued undeterred. "And, well, maybe I don't mind the idea so much."
"Look, I get it, you don't like me back, it's fine, I'll just—wait, what?"
"I mean…I like you."
Helga gulped. "You like me, like me?"
Arnold smiled and looked away, though he reached for her hand again. "Yeah, I guess I do." A big grin appeared on Helga's face, though she seemed to have lost the ability to speak. "You can say something you know."
Helga grabbed Arnold by both shoulders and wrenched him forward, crushing her lips to his in a kiss very similar to the only other one they'd ever shared. The best difference, was that this time Arnold kissed her back.
When they pulled apart, Helga's eyes were shining with happiness, and Arnold had the slightest tinge of pink in his cheeks.
"We should probably try and get back to the camp," he said.
"Or we could just stay here for the night," suggested Helga quickly. "We're both soaked through, I could build a fire and you could weave a blanket from those big leaves for us to snuggle under while our clothes dry."
Arnold laughed lightheartedly, and Helga thought it was the most wonderful sound she'd heard.
"Maybe some other time," he said, taking her hand and leading her into the brush. "Come on, I think there's a trail up ahead."
I really like this universe, so I may write some short one-shots in the same universe in the future. For now, it's almost 3am and I have class tomorrow. To all my H/Hr fans out there, sorry this isn't an HP fic, and I'm sure I'll get panned by some of you for that…but hey, sometimes we all just get the impulse to write about something weird (and I think this officially puts me over the top on that account).
Until next time!