Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! Or anything else that probably sounds like you could make some money off of it.
Summary: Arnold can't decide which is harder: Raising a baby or figuring out his feelings for Helga.
Warnings: This story will be rated a high T for now, and will get bumped up to an M rating in later chapters.
Companion Piece to this story is called From the Dugout.
"Of First Last Days and Separation Anxiety"
Dawn was just starting to creep its rays through the skylight when a small cry cut through the early morning silence.
Arnold peeked his eyes open as he yawned and stretched, feeling Helga curl her arms tighter around her pillow and muttering something incoherent.
"Hey Arnold! Hey Arnold! Hey Arn-"
Arnold unplugged the alarm clock and rubbed his eyes. Glancing at the clock, it read: 5:00. He turned his head and saw Helga sitting up and stretching her arms, "Well, he definitely sticks to his schedule. You gotta give him that."
"Mm-hmm," Helga mumbled and stood up.
Arnold got up as well and rubbed at his eyes again while fighting off another yawn.
"I'll go feed Henry-
"While I go shower," Arnold finished. When Helga nodded sleepily, Arnold gestured lazily, "And I'll get him ready and watch him-
"While I go take a shower," Helga nodded again as they broke and went about their morning routine.
They finally managed to find their rhythm with Henry's schedule, especially since he's been sleeping mostly through the night lately.
It had been rough over the summer, with them both trying to each do one online college credit class, Arnold working a part-time job, and taking care of Henry. But, it certainly was good practice for what things would be like during this school year.
Their last year.
Today marked their first day as seniors…and on top of getting ready for school, they were getting their son ready for the day.
Arnold was just thankful to finally be getting some regular sleep again. For a while Henry had been like clock work when it came to his brutal 2-3 hour round-the-clock naps. Arnold felt like he was on auto-pilot for the first 2 months or so before things finally started to get better.
He headed upstairs, fresh out of the shower and Helga handed off the towheaded infant to him. Henry was steadily working through his bottle and couldn't be bothered to be silly with Daddy right now.
Arnold knew though that after he was done eating, he'd want a little bit of tummy-time and silly faces from Daddy. Henry was an astoundingly good baby. At least, that's what his parents kept telling him. And how lucky he was. By all standards, he had been a good baby but apparently Henry was even more mellow than he was. Even Big Bob had said Olga wasn't even half as easy going.
Now that was saying something.
Henry had finished with his morning bottle and was wriggling around in Arnold's grasp. His morning bottle always put him in the best mood, since he wouldn't get another bottle of breast milk until dinner. Helga had switched to strictly pumping about a month ago, and a couple weeks ago they started implementing formula, so it was no wonder Henry looked forward to his first bottle.
"Don't worry, Buddy. In a couple more months, you're going to be enjoying solid food. Milk won't even compare," Arnold insisted as he shifted Henry to his shoulder so he could burp him.
After a couple burps had escaped, Arnold situated Henry on the play mat in the nursery. Almost immediately, the baby kicked and bent his limbs about as he cooed with joy.
Arnold laid down beside him and placed a toy in front of the baby. Henry loved tummy-time. Which was stupendous, because that meant you could actually put him down for a good 15-20 minutes and he was perfectly content. He'd gurgle and reach out for his toys, and his new trick would be to roll himself over when he finally snagged a toy. Better to gum on that way.
The two Shortmans played for a few minutes before Helga finally made her way up again to get her school things ready.
"Okay, Stella said breakfast is ready. Miles can watch Henry while we eat."
"Sounds good," Arnold said as he hoisted his son up and cradled him against his chest, a hand still supporting his head, although Henry was getting better and better at holding it up.
"What time do you have to work today?"
"One, so I'll just drop you off right after school and head straight over to the site."
Arnold had started working about a week after school had let out. Thanks to Mr. Potts, Arnold got a job at a construction site. Since he wasn't eighteen , they could only give him 15 hours a week, but the pay was good considering. He worked three 3-hour shifts during the week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, plus a 6-hour shift on Saturdays. He'll be turning eighteen in less than 2 months, but he'll only be adding an hour to each shift. He still has homework to do after all. Oh yeah, and a baby to help take care of.
After they finished with breakfast, Helga cleaned up the kitchen while Arnold took Henry upstairs for a diaper change. He had just finished up when a knock came to the door.
When he opened it he smiled, "Hey Miriam!"
"Hello Arnold," she returned before shifted her eyes and widening her smile, "And hello handsome! Are you ready to play?"
Arnold handed Henry over, "He just had a diaper change, so he should be good for a while. I think Helga has the other play mat already set up downstairs with some toys. His pack-and-play is still down there, too."
Helga's mom had been a huge help in watching Henry and taking care of little things during the summer when the new parents were trying to get ahead on some school work. Everything was working out so well, that Grandpa hired Miriam to help out around the boarding house. And now, while Helga and Arnold are away at school, Miriam will watch Henry and do some cleaning and other small chores around the house while he naps. She'll also stick around the afternoon while Helga gets some school work done.
Helga never mentions anything, but she seems a lot more relaxed around her mom now. And her dad has been making a point to stop by two or three times a week to see her and Henry.
"Alright, Football Head let's get going!" Helga breezed past him as she shoulder her bag.
Arnold grabbed his keys as Helga went over to get Henry from Miriam, "Thanks again for helping out, Miriam."
"Oh, of course Arnold!"
"Okay," Helga cooed pathetically against Henry's cheek, "You be a good boy for Grammie while Mommy and Daddy are gone. I'll be back in just a few hours," she kissed the top of his head as she held him against her. Frowning, she grumbled, "Oh, this really sucks."
"Separation Anxiety is perfectly normal at this stage," Arnold said matter-of-factly.
"Oh, put a sock in it, Hair Boy," the blonde lightly hissed before whispering softly to her baby, "Mommy loves you so much, Henry. I'll see you in a little bit," she placed one more kiss on his head before giving him over to Arnold.
"Alright Buddy," Arnold gave his son a sound kiss on the cheek and was given a gummy smile in return, "You be a good boy. I'll see you tonight."
"This sucks," Helga huffed.
Arnold glanced over before returning his eyes back to the road, "He'll be fine, Helga."
"I've never been away from him this long before!"
"Hey, need I remind you I won't even get to see him again until tonight?"
"Humph!" Helga crossed her arms before abruptly switching topics, "Ugh, I am not looking forward to seeing all these assholes again."
Arnold rolled his eyes, "They're not all that bad, Helga."
"Hello? What, were you asleep all last year?"
"Okay, well you're not pregnant anymore and you're still in school. They probably won't even remember half the time that you even have a baby."
Helga snorted, "You're delusional."
Arnold pulled into a parking spot, "No, I'm optimistic."
At his half-lidded expression, complete with smart-ass smirk, Helga responded with an unamused stare before getting out of the car.
As they approached the steps, Helga whispered harshly, "Let's get one thing straight, Football Head. Just because we're raising a baby together does not mean we are suddenly attached at the hip or best friends, got it? So, you're on your own Hair Boy!"
And with that, Helga went off on her own, leaving Arnold blinking after her outside the doors.
Shaking his head, he continued through the doors to go and find Gerald.
The blonde sighed dramatically and shut her locker. She shot Rhonda a bored look, "Last time I checked."
"Oh…my gosh," Rhonda stared with wide eyes, "Helga…you look amazing! I'd never believe you had a baby!"
"Yeah well, young bodies just snap right back," Helga drawled flatly.
Actually, they didn't. Not without work anyway. Helga was up and working out the minute she was cleared. She didn't go nutso or anything, but she'd put Henry in the stroller and take morning runs in the park with him, watched what she ate and threw in some light weights and crunches. She had never thought of herself as particularly vain or anything about her body, but after having a baby…she just wanted to have it back the way it was! And she prided herself on having done that.
'Not that Arnold had noticed or anything,' Helga thought bitterly.
It would've been impossible for Arnold not to notice Helga's return to her previous figure. And when she walked into 3rd period, it was clear that he wasn't the only one to notice.
Arnold knows everyone is under the impression that he is some kind of really laid back, non-confrontational, un-territorial guy.
He thinks that's ridiculous. Of course he's territorial. He's actually really territorial. It just so happens that…not a lot of people tend to challenge him. He's gained this reputation of being such a good guy who fights for the little people and stands up for what's right. So nobody wants to be the douche that tries to go up against him.
Arnold's all too aware of how many people would have his back, or be outraged at anyone who dared to cross him. And its always made him a little uncomfortable, but he's come to terms with the fact that it's just the way things are.
But, it also means that people tend to think he's some kind of pushover.
Which, he's not.
Considering all the things he's done (some of which, were illegal) he's way more stubborn than he is a pushover.
But, because he's a nice guy who always tries to do the right thing…some people think that means he's, yeah, a pushover.
Well, Arnold is not a pushover, and he is territorial.
And watching all the guys in class eye Helga like a piece of meat has got his hackles up. And, since he's Arnold, he's got no problem with expressing how he feels about something and standing adamantly behind it. If something is his, is important or valuable to him, means something to him…then he's going to make sure no one messes with it.
But, that's the thing.
Helga isn't his, and well…she's a person, so he doesn't have any rights to her. She doesn't belong to him.
He thinks it's stupid to be territorial over something that can't belong to him really anyway, but then he has to remind himself that he is a guy and that's just how he's programmed.
He wasn't aware of this territory issue until today when he's had to deal with all the unhinged jaws and wandering eyes. And now he's fighting to keep these feelings away because behind them is something scary, something terrifying and he hasn't felt that looming sense of fear since he was ten. He wasn't ready to face it then and he doesn't want to be ready to face it now. Especially when he understands now just how big it all is. He's been putting it off for a while now, but as the bell rings Arnold shakes his thoughts away as he gathers his things.
He makes a silent promise that he'll deal with all this soon. Really, he will!
Helga bolted up the stoop with barely a goodbye to Arnold, and she opened up the door enough to let the animals out before letting herself in. She found Henry asleep in his pack-and-play and pouted.
This wasn't surprising. It was Henry naptime after all. He sleeps from 8-10, then 12-2, and 4-6 before he goes down for the night from about 8 or 9pm-5am.
He was very good about his sleep routine, and was a happy baby so long as it wasn't disturbed.
Helga went to locate her mother and saw a sandwich was waiting at the kitchen table. After a minute or two, the teen saw her mother with a laundry basket full of towels.
"Hi honey! How was your first last day?" Miriam asked perkily, "Oh! I made you a sandwich for lunch. Gotta have that energy for getting school work done!"
"Thanks mom. How was Henry? Did he do alright?"
"The boy is an absolute angel, honey. He had a bit of gas during his first nap, but he went right back down. Aside from that, he's been a happy camper!"
"Great! I'll take him when he wakes up so you can get all your tasks done. I only have a bit of math and one French assignment for today. Pretty basic stuff though."
"Okay, Helga. Just let me know if you need anything!"
Helga managed to complete her French homework right before Henry woke up, and his joy at seeing her was obvious. He gargled and cooed with a toothless smile as Helga made silly faces and mimicked his sounds.
After putting Henry down in his own crib, Helga went to work on her math. It wasn't long after she had started when Arnold had returned home from work looking dusty, sweaty and disheveled. And dangerously sexy.
Helga felt tingles all the way down to her toes. She wanted to kiss Mr. Potts and hit him over the head with a frying pan for getting Arnold this job. All it managed to do was bulk him up. Not in an over the top, bulging muscles sort of way though. Arnold had already been in relatively good shape before hand, but now everything about him was…more fit and taught and sinewy. His arms had increased subtly in size but she could see the way the muscles would bunch beneath his sleeves when he'd pick up Henry. And when he turned against her in the night she'd swear she could count each individual abdominal muscle.
"Henry just go down?"
Helga managed to snap out of whatever trance she was in as Arnold collected the necessities for a shower, "Uh, yep."
Arnold nodded, "Okay. I'll go jump in the shower and then I'll get started on my homework."
"What do you have?"
"Just some reading for English. Answer a couple questions. Shouldn't take me very long."
They each went about their routine into the evening, and when Henry had woken up for his dinner bottle, he went into a fuss when Daddy didn't come and make faces for him.
Arnold felt a pang in his heart. He hadn't seen Henry since this morning and it seemed his son was feeling the loss as well.
All the young man could think was that tomorrow he wouldn't have to go right to work, and he couldn't help but look forward to it. A moment passed before he was struck, not for the first time, with the weight of love he felt for his son.
Finally finished with his school work, Arnold went downstairs to get Henry. Grandma was currently holding him while everyone else ate, but Arnold took him happily as Henry wriggled with his arms outstretched for him. The two went in the living room where Henry could have him tummy-time, and after a bit Miles came and leaned against archway.
"And long. But, it's better now," Arnold bent over to nuzzled Henry's belly after he rolled himself over.
"Well he's certainly getting the hang of that," Miles commented and went to kneel beside his son and grandson.
Henry let out an almost laugh, for he hadn't quite mastered that yet, as his Daddy tickled under his chin, "I've been looking forward to this all day, Little Man."
"Dad was right in telling us to get in our Henry time before you got finished with your school work," Miles remarked in amusement as he watched the two interact.
"Yep. No one can compete Daddy," Helga quipped from the archway.
"You and Stella need any help in the kitchen?" Miles inquired.
"Nah, she's just finishing up. Said she would like to see her son today," Helga said pointedly with a smirk.
Arnold scooped Henry up, "Alright, I'll go see her."
"If you've got Henry, I'm going to go get some bottles prepared for tomorrow."
Arnold held Henry high against his shoulder and made his way to the kitchen.
"There's my son!" Stella greeted and went over to give him a kiss on the cheek, "How was your first day back at school?"
"Fine. Nothing really exciting when I have a baby I can't wait to see at home."
"Aw," Stella offered a sympathetic frown, "It's rough, I know. For him, too," She caressed Henry's cheek and spoke in a light baby voice, "You missed your daddy, huh?"
"The feeling was mutual," Arnold remarked before his attention was drawn down when Henry's hand made a grab for his nose, "Oh, I'm sorry. Was I not paying you enough attention?"
When all Henry did was give a gummy smile, Arnold laughed.
Stella chuckled as she put away another dish, "I put a plate in the fridge for you. Just heat it up when you're ready for it."
Arnold nodded, "I'll come back for it when Henry goes down for the night."
"Ahh," Helga sighed as she laid down on the bed.
Arnold was finishing setting the alarm and he raised a brow, "Long day, huh?"
"Long first day. Ugh, and its only Monday, too."
Arnold sighed as well as he laid back and got himself settled, "Tell me about it."
Helga flipped the lights off and got comfortable, "Well, goodnight Arnoldo.
Arnold rolled his eyes despite the slight smirk playing across his lips, "Goodnight, Helga."