*PLEASE READ THIS AUTHOR'S NOTE BEFORE YOU BEGIN READING THE STORY.*

Hello, and welcome! This story takes place after TJM and what would've been The Patakis. This is the story of Arnold and Helga's 5-year relationship in their 20s.

You heard me right, football heads. Five years. Not 50, not an eternity. But 5 measly years. Get ready to tear your heart out, throw it on the ground, and say, "That's alright. I didn't need it anyway." Before I lose the hardcore Shortaki shippers who don't accept anything less than Shortaki 4ever: realize that this is an AU, not canon, and it's just a "what if?" idea that was entertained. There will be plenty of heart-warming Shortaki moments. Actually, this story will break your heart one chapter, mend it the next, and keep doing the same thing over and over until the story ends.

This story is based on the musical The Last Five Years. The musical was made into a movie back in 2014 starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. I'll be mentioning the musical in the author's notes as the story goes on. My story is not a songfic and not a musical; the songs of the musical just inspire this story.

Here's the important part: each chapter is going to switch back and forth between Arnold and Helga's point-of-view. Arnold's chapters will be told in reverse chronological order; his first chapter will be Year 5 (at the end of their relationship), and his final chapter will be Year 1 (at the start of their relationship). Helga's chapters will be told in chronological order; her first chapter will be Year 1 of their relationship, and her final chapter will be Year 5 of their relationship. To try to keep up, just know that Arnold's chapters are going in reverse (he's getting younger) and Helga's chapters are going forward (she's getting older). Their timelines will intersect in the middle chapter, where I'll attempt to share both of their POVs without making your head spin.

Thank you to the amazing and incomparable Tapioca Puddin on IG for the amazing cover art!

Without further ado, here is The Last Five Years of Helga and Arnold.

Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold, The Last Five Years, or any business/brand that is mentioned throughout the story.


We begin with Arnold at the end of the relationship. Hold on to your tiny little blue hats, everyone; he's in rough shape.

This chapter is based on the first song of The Last Five Years called Still Hurting. Listen to the song beforehand to set the mood.

Chapter 1 - Still Hurting

ARNOLD, YEAR 5

Arnold's eyes fluttered open. Reality slammed down on him like a hammer onto his heart. What little reprieve of pain sleep had blessed upon him had now dissipated as the presence of his consciousness appeared.

Heartache. He now knew why the term was coined in this fashion. His heart was literally in pain. It felt broken. It felt bruised. And now that he was awake once again, the weight of his heartache had returned.

Even now, he had a strong urge to wish her a good morning. Every time he got a text message, he wanted it to be from her. The amount of times his thoughts always came back to her was pathetic.

His sanctuary used to be with his arms around his beloved. Now, his bed was his sanctuary. As soon as he would lie down, he felt safe from the world and shielded from reality. The deeper he dug into his blankets in pillows, the safer he felt. In the hours he spent in his bed, he could take a break from reality to contently be alone with his thoughts.

In his thoughts, he was never rejected. His thoughts would never betray him, and he could put every ounce of trust in his thoughts. In his thoughts, it was the only time he felt alive these days.

When he would drift off to sleep, he dreamt. His mind created fantasies and nightmares; however, he didn't mind. Whatever his mind would make up was better than the depressing reality in which he was forced to live.

When he would open his eyes and reality would seep back into his consciousness, he realized that his thoughts were just that: in his head. And he couldn't stay there forever. He was 28, after all. He had a life to maintain, a job to go to, and friends and family who cared.

Every time he woke up, he would stay secluded and cozy for a while, building up enough strength to face the world.

He took a deep breath before using his arm to throw the blanket off of him. He sat up, taking note of how excruciatingly heavy his body felt. His feet touched the shaggy white rug – the one that she picked out – and it triggered another vivid memory of happier times yet again.

"What about this one?" he asked, pointing to a cushy blue mat.

She let out a chuckle. "Please tell me this is one of your football-headed attempts at sarcasm."

He picked up the mat off the shelf and tossed it in his hands a bit. "No, this is a football-headed attempt at getting us the fuck out of this place," he said with a laugh, leaning toward her and nudging his shoulder with hers in jest. "Come on. We've been here for hours. We now have two carts of shit for the new apartment. Let's just pick out a bedroom rug and call it a day."

"Great. I agree. So pick out a bedroom rug next time, doofus," she said, taking the blue rug from his hands. She shook it near his face for emphasis. "THIS is a bath mat. And not just any bath mat," she continued, opening up the mat to see the whole u-shaped mat unfolded, "but a bath mat that goes around the TOILET." She threw it playfully at his face. The mat clumsily slid down his face and into his arms, revealing his feigned look of anger. She giggled.

"That's it. You're gonna get it," he said before dramatically throwing the bath mat into the air, high enough for it to go over the shelves into the next aisle. Both of their eyes went wide as they watched the mat flying out of sight, waiting to hear the bath mat hit the floor on the other side.

As luck would have it, the bath mat landed on someone, just as Arnold wanted. They heard a yelp, followed by a, "HEY!" from a woman who sounded to be in her 40s or 50s.

Arnold feigned a look of shock at his girlfriend. "HELGA!" he said in an accusatory tone, obnoxiously loud enough for anyone within a five-aisle radius to hear, wearing a giant grin he couldn't hide as he spoke. "I can't believe you did that! Why would you throw a bath mat over the aisle?" he continued, holding his arm out to keep her at a distance and she tried to hit him. "I'm so sorry, ma'am, my girlfriend here is a little off the rails," he shouted over the aisle to the ticked off stranger on the other side, before he erupted into a fit of giggles as Helga upped her effort to take him down.

"You are so dead," she said, moving her hands quickly all over his body in a series of pinches, hair tugs, intense tickles, and titty twists. Arnold laughed as he attempted to dodge her attacks. She suddenly knelt down on the floor, starting to untie his Converse. He bent down in an attempt to stop her before she, with intention, shot up, snagged his tiny blue hat off his head, and zipped past him.

"Hey!" Arnold said, turning around to see Helga facing him in the distance, near the end of the aisle. He stopped to drink her in for a moment. Her straight blonde hair was down that day, stopping at the middle of her back. She had on jean shorts, a form-fitting graphic tee of a band he didn't know, and her worn-in Doc Martens. She assumed a wide stance, one hand on her hip, the other hand holding the hat on the tip of her index finger as she twirled it around and around. She wore a mischievous smirk as she reveled in the power she now held. And she looked super hot doing it.

She started dangling the hat tauntingly. She held the hat near her ear. "What's that, Mr. Hat?" she said, as if the hat were telling her a secret. "You want me to... go to the bathroom... and... clean the toilets?... using your tiny hat body? Well, why didn't you just say so?" she said with a smirk as she turned around and dashed out of sight.

"Oh, no you don't!" he said with a laugh as he darted down the aisle in pursuit of her.

Arnold blinked as he emerged from the cherished memory. He sighed heavily. With everything he had, he stood up. With a slouched posture, he shuffled his feet as he headed for the bathroom.

He walked to the sink and forced himself to look in the mirror. He looked like hell. His cheeks were sunken in a bit from his suppressed appetite. He hadn't showered in days. His hair, which had a reputation for being unruly, used to have life; now, it just looked oily and unkempt. His eyes seemed permanently red and puffy as of late.

Looking at his reflection brought him back to another memory. It was a recent memory, and not a happy one.

Arnold was walking down the street with a hood over his head. His hands, which were shoved into the middle pocket of his hoodie located near his stomach, were holding onto a warm burrito, which he regularly relied on to sustain his life force during the current slump he was in. As he walked, he happened to catch a reflection of himself in a store window. He stopped and stared at himself for a moment. Seeing his reflection brought him to a disturbing realization.

"I'm so... blah," he thought.

He felt plain, that no one would notice him in a crowd and say, "Hey, look at that guy." There were so many good-looking dudes walking around, and he felt like he blended into the background, going unnoticed.

Sure, girls hit on him sometimes, but the type of girls who hit on him were the girls who hit on everyone. Not the Helgas of the world.

He thought about how no part of his appearance stuck out (besides his football-shaped head), and he couldn't stand it. He felt so invisible sometimes.

When he continued to think about it, fuck, what did his personality have to offer, either? "I'm not original or different. I'm not that funny. I'm not that smart, either," he thought.

It's just... Helga got bored. And who could blame her?

He returned from the painful memory, his lips pressing into each other and his eyes closing as tightly as they could. Tears began to fall.

Amidst his sobs, he looked back at his reflection. He looked almost as unrecognizable as he felt. He felt like he didn't know who he was without her. He never would've thought, after all they had been through, that she would ever leave him. If Helga, the biggest part of his life, betrayed him, what did he have? Who could he trust?

In these weeks since coming home to her goodbye letter, he has questioned their entire relationship. Was she ever in love with me? Was our entire relationship a lie?

She had been pining over Arnold for years. YEARS. With poems, shrines, stalking, and saving his ass time and time again in the shadows. It confused him; he'd never think that of every guy she'd ever been with, Arnold would be the one she'd get tired of. He would be the one she'd give up on when things got hard.

He just wanted a damn hug. It had been weeks. He wanted to go knock on her door right now, wherever she was, and just hug her. If she answered the door right now, he'd be waking her up. If life would allow it, that girl could sleep for an eternity, or past noon, anyway, something he could never do, not even in his depressed state. Her hair would be all messy. Her eyes would be groggy and her skin would be warm. She'd be absolutely adorable. She used to look so cute waking up in the morning.

The night before he got Helga's goodbye letter, he had a dream about her. He and Helga were in a grocery store together and they were in an argument. Helga walked away from him. When Arnold turned around to go look for her, her back was turned to his, and another guy had his arm around her. Arnold's face started burning. But as he looked closer, relieved, he realized it wasn't Helga. Arnold turned to the left and saw Helga down the aisle, innocently looking at crackers. And he felt guilty.

At the time, Arnold thought it meant that he was always a little worried when she was around other men at the frequent parties she attended. But that he didn't need to worry, because she loved him and she would never do anything to hurt him.

Now, he looked at the meaning differently. In the waking life, they had been fighting a lot. In the weeks leading up to the goodbye letter, Arnold tried to salvage what little was left of their broken relationship, but Helga kept leaving. Arnold had suspected she was with another man, but when he confronted her about it, she had denied it and ended up making Arnold feel extremely guilty about it.

It creeped him out that he had that dream the day before she actually left him for good.

He didn't know if she left him for someone else. Part of him didn't want to know. The other part of him was dying for answers.

A goodbye letter. A fucking letter. After 5 years, that's all he got. It had been three weeks, and he still hadn't heard from her since. It led him to further believe that she never loved him. How could you leave the one you love cold and flat like that? He would never do this to her. Never in a million years. Even if someone stuck his head in a cage with a starved, rabid rat, he still wouldn't do this to her.

He poured everything he had into the last 5 years, but it was all for nothing. She stole that time from him. When she left, she shattered his heart and decided to take his soul, sanity, and zest for life with her, just for kicks. He was broken, and he felt like he could never be fixed.

Overwhelmed by his anger, confusion, and grief, he turned away from the mirror and headed back into the bedroom. The comforter lay on top of the mattress in a jumble, clearly not having been made in a while. Nonetheless, it was still inviting. He crawled back into bed, pulled the sheets up to his chin, and buried himself deep into his pillow. He tried to make this a somewhat normal day, but it just wasn't going to happen. He would try again in a couple hours. For now, he was going to get lost in his thoughts, and hopefully, drift back to sleep.

In time, he would face all his feelings, and maybe even face her.

Not today, though, and not for a long, long time.


A/N: Well, there it is! I hope you all are intrigued enough keep reading.

I uploaded this as a Complete story. Because the varied time points and switching POVs, I decided it would be much easier for the reader to follow the story if they could binge it instead of me updating chapter-by-chapter, a little at a time. Nonetheless, I would still love to receive feedback and comments chapter-by-chapter, if possible, especially if the chapter moved you enough. Rate and review!