A/N: I am a horrible person. It's been MONTHS since I submitted a story. I'm so terribly, terribly sorry. There's really no excuse for it. Except, you know, college. But I really am sorry!

Anyways...this story follows "A Little Bit of Boy Talk." You wouldn't necessarily HAVE to read that one, but I would highly recommend it :D This is slightly at the request of some of my reviewers. People make predictions and give me great ideas! So, thanks so much you guys! I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold!


Connections

I don't know what to do. Only a few hours ago, I was woken up by Gerald and Arnold talking…about me. Gerald wanted to know what was going on between the two of us. At first, Arnold denied everything. I turned over, facing away from the boys, to make sure they couldn't tell I was awake. I even snored a few times to keep up the act. Gerald kept badgering Arnold (insulting me, which isn't unusual for him), and Arnold defended me. I know; I'm just as surprised as you are!

That's all great, right? WRONG! Arnold never answered when Gerald asked if he liked me. It's so frustrating! He was so close to answering…but I guess he doesn't like me. He would have told his best friend about it, right? Phoebe knows that I like…Ice Cream.

Oh well. It's not like I expected him to confess his undying affection or anything. I've treated him like dirt since the day that I met him. We have a truce now, I guess. Since FTi, I've tried not to pick on him as much, and he hasn't tried to get me to "open up" about anything. I think he's learned that Helga G. Pataki should never open up. It always ends up sounding completely insane.

Last night, Arnold finally told Gerald to shut up, so Gerald rolled over and fell asleep quickly. But, of course, I was wide awake. I kept thinking about their conversation. Which signs pointed to the idea that he did like me, and which ones seemed to confirm my aching suspicion that he didn't.

But then…then Arnold started playing with my hair. I'm sure he thought I was still asleep. And that threw me for a loop. The way he pulled his fingers through…it was so sweet, so tender, so…loving. It sent chills up and down my arms. He took special care to make sure he didn't pull it. When he ran into a tangle, of which there were many (being in the jungle without a hairbrush, you know), he used his other hand to carefully separate the strands.

I had been gnawing on my bottom lip (trying not to move or swoon or grab him and kiss him as hard as I could) for a good five minutes when he sighed and dropped his hands from my hair. I held my peace for a little longer before I rolled toward him and groaned a few times before opening my eyes. Doing my very best to appear as if I'd just woken up.

Arnold looked surprised at my sudden movement. The encounter was brief. I asked him if he wanted to sleep a bit while I took watch. He agreed and fell asleep within minutes.

I woke him up just a little while ago. He woke Gerald while I started getting my belongings together.

"Helga?"

I look up from my backpack. "What is it, Football Head?" I ask venomously. Inside, I cringe.

Arnold just rolls his eyes good-naturedly. Lord love him. "I was just wanting to know if you're about ready to get going," he says. He was standing at the edge of the clearing, his backpack slung over one shoulder, with Gerald right behind him.

"Alright, alright, Purdy Boys," I say, shouldering my backpack and standing up. "Let's get this show on the road."

Gerald and I just follow Arnold blindly; he's the one with the map. I can't think of anything to say to break the awkward silence that has been hovering over us for ten minutes. I don't know why today feels more uncomfortable than usual. But I feel like Gerald is watching Arnold and me, analyzing our behavior.

Finally, Arnold clears his throat and glances over his shoulder at me. "So, Helga, how's your sister?" he asks.

Well, that's completely random. "Um, she's fine," I answer. "Cold. You know, she went to teach Inuit children in Alaska. But she sends letters sometimes. And she comes home for holidays. I think she likes it there."

Arnold smiles. "That's great!" he exclaims. "I know you don't have a very good relationship with Olga, but I bet you're glad that she's happy."

"Well, yeah, I'm not heartless," I tell him. "And as long as she's far away, I can actually miss her sometimes."

He just nods, smiling. "And what about Inga?" he asks. "She moved back to the Alps, right? Do you still hear from her?"

I blush at the mention of Inga. I'm not proud of how I acted while she was my nanny. "I get postcards from time to time," I reply. "She says she's happy to be back there. She got a new job as a nanny for a family with four kids. She's always telling me crazy stories about them." I laugh as I remember some of them.

"I'm glad," Arnold says. "She was really nice."

I nod. And then we fall silent again. I don't know what all that was about. Should I ask about his family? I wouldn't even know what to talk about.

"You know, Gerald has a brother and a sister," Arnold says after a few minutes.

"I knew he had a sister," I say. I smirk at him. "She had a crush on you a few months ago, didn't she?"

Arnold blushes, and I hear Gerald burst into laughter behind me. I chuckle a little as well.

"Yeah, Timberly," he replies, rolling his eyes. "He has an older brother named Jamie-O, too."

"Ah," I nod. "So you know the horrors of older siblings, too, huh?" I look at Gerald.

"No doubt," he answers. "Jamie-O is ridiculous. What makes it worse is that he's on his high school wrestling team. At least your sister doesn't put you in a headlock every morning."

I shrug. "I guess you're right," I concede, "but vice-grip hugs are almost as bad." We both laugh a little.

We launch into stories about our siblings. This goes on for so long that I almost forget Arnold is there. Who would have thought Geraldo and I would have something in common?

"…so, that night, I sneak into the bathroom and put a few drops of green food coloring in Olga's shampoo," I laugh. "That'll teach her to blab her big mouth at the dinner table."

Gerald laughs with me. "Oh, oh!" he exclaims, remembering another tale. "One time, Arnold, Iggy, Sid, and I were playing a detective game. Well, Timberly runs in all wanting to play and stuff. I tell her she can't 'cause she wouldn't understand, and then she comes up with this big scheme where somebody kidnaps her stuffed Wally doll. We run all over Hillwood trying to find the thing! And she had it all along. I can't stand little sisters."

"Hey, guys?" Arnold pipes up. "I hate to interrupt this bonding session, believe me, but we might have hit a snag."

So that's what he was doing. Trying to get Gerald and me to make some kind of connection. He's pretty sneaky sometimes.

I peek around him and see a humongous cliff in front of us. The other side is about thirty feet away. And the only way across…is a rope bridge with scary, rotten planks.

"Yeah, I'd say that's a snag, Football Head," I respond. "There's no way I'm walking across that thing. We'll all die. No question about it." I cross my arms over my chest and pout like a preschooler.

"How else are we supposed to get across?" asks Arnold. His eyes wander up and down the ridge, looking for a way around. When they don't find anything, they shift down disappointedly. It's a heartbreaking expression. "I don't know what else to do. I guess we could backtrack and try to get around it somehow."

I groan loudly. "Geez, Football Head," I cry. "Don't look so depressed. If it's the only way, I'll go. But one of you chuckleheads is going first." I look smugly between the two boys.

Hope immediately springs to Arnold's eyes. "I'll go first," he says excitedly. "Thank you, Helga." He looks at the bridge and then at Gerald and me. "I think we should go across one at a time. I don't think those old planks can hold all of our weight at once." He takes a deep breath in and out. "Well, here goes."

To say I'm a little worried would be a bit of an understatement. I know I shouldn't be worried. Arnold is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, and the bridge is probably—!

Arnold yells as his foot goes straight through one of the boards. "Arnold!" I scream. Luckily, he grabs the frayed end of the rope before he can plummet to his death. "Arnold!" I cry again as I take a few steps toward him. He's not about to die in front of me.

"Helga!" says Gerald, jerking me back by my arm. "You're going to get both of you killed. He's already pulling himself back up, see? That bridge is way too dangerous to have two people on it at once."

"I don't care!" I say, wrenching my arm from his grasp. "He's halfway across it. I'll be fine until I get to him. And, yes, Gerald, he is pulling himself up, but I don't want to take the chance that he might lose his grip."

I take hold of both sides of the bridge and carefully step toward Arnold. "Arnold?" I call. "I'm on my way. Gerald is right behind me." At this, I turn around and glare at Gerald. He's a good friend. He'll follow my lead.

"I'm—I'm okay, guys," Arnold gasps as he continues to hold on. "I can…almost pull myself up." I watch in distress as his arms tremble from the strain.

I'm a quarter of the way when I hear the creak of Gerald's foot on a plank. I knew he'd follow me. "Just hold on, Football Head. We're coming."

Taking one careful step at a time, we finally reach him. Beads of sweat run down his face, his teeth are clenched, and his arms are shaking even more.

"Okay, Arnold," I say, trying to stay calm. "Just give me your hand."

"I can't. I can't, Helga. If I let go, I'm going to fall."

"I will not let you fall, Arnold," I promise. "Now give me your hand."

He wraps the rope around his left hand and grips it as tightly as he can. Then, with his right hand, he lets go of the rope and reaches toward me. I'm ready. He's saved me so many times; it's my turn to repay him. I clutch his hand with both of mine and pull hard.

"Now let go," I say through gritted teeth.

Arnold's eyes widen, and he shakes his head rapidly. "No, I can't. You can't hold me."

I stare hard into his eyes. "Trust me." He nods reluctantly. Then I turn back to Gerald. "Be ready to grab his other arm."

Once we're ready, Arnold releases his hold on the rope, and Gerald quickly grabs his hand.

"Okay!" I exclaim. "Now pull."

Gerald and I walk backward on the bridge until Arnold is lying in front of us. We flop down, taking gasps of air. Arnold sits up slowly and, breathing heavily, smiles at us.

"Thank you," he says, his eyes boring into mine. "Thank you."

I just smile slightly and nod, still trying to catch my breath.

"Guys," interrupts Gerald. "I really think we need to get off this bridge."

So, taking no more time to get our thoughts in order, all three of us stand slowly and creep to the other side of the gorge. Once on the other side, I collapse on the ground, kissing it like I've been on a cruise for a month.

Then I roll over to lie on my back. I look at Arnold, who's sitting with his head on his knees. "Guess we're even now, huh, Football Head?"

He looks back at me and smiles. "Not even close, Helga. I owe you way more."


A/N: Well, I hope you liked it! Let me know in a review!