Chapter 10: In which there are even more feelings and the author is considering renaming the fic to Feeligs Ahoy.
Danny woke with too heavy limbs on a too stiff surface and most of all with the too bright, they were just awful, lights of the school nurse's office. In the brief bleary moment before he found his bearings, when all he was aware of was the smell of disinfectant and sharp pain in his head, Danny wondered if he hadn't finally been caught by his parents. The school nurse herself, a portly woman of a kind yet stern disposition, must have heard Danny shifting on the cot, or perhaps heard the moan Danny wasn't sure if he'd made or not, his head was pounding too much. Within seconds she was on her feet fussing about him and asking him questions he couldn't focus on.
Finally she took his chin in one small, pudgy hand and turned Danny to face her. "Can you hear me?" she asked loudly, enunciating each syllable too deliberately, boarding on the ridiculous.
Danny, groggy as he was, snapped "I'm not deaf."
That drew a frown from the nurse. "Indeed. If you have the presence of mind to insult me boy you must be right as rain. Still, I'm going run a few tests, don't move." Promptly a thermometer was shoved in his mouth and a small flashlight pointed directly in front of his eyes, respectively. She ran through all the basic physical assessments with practiced ease, asking questions as she went, this time actually waiting for a response, and scratching everything on a form attached to an old worn clipboard.
"Hmm, nothing seems to be too out of the ordinary. You're a little cold, but long sleeves and jacket ought to help well enough. Must have been some fall." She glanced up and down from the thermometer and Danny a couple times before making another note.
"Um, fall?" Danny asked.
The nurse turned to him with suspicion in her eyes. "Your friends carried you here during lunch, they said you tripped and fell."
"Oh yeah, yeah totally." That must be what they'd told the nurse. He wondered if they'd seen anything of the actual altercation with Dash. "Um, I'm feeling much better now so I think I'll just go." He began to get up but a firm hand on his chest pushed him back down.
"Oh no you don't. You've been unconscious since noon and I have half a mind to make sure you're warmed up. If I didn't know better I'd say you're borderline hypothermic." Again, she glanced up and down from the thermometer, a pensive look on her.
Danny's eyes widened "I feel completely fine you don't have to-"
The nurse raised a hand to silence him. "Mr. Fenton I've made up my mind. I'm going to fetch you a hot water bottle, and you will stay with it here for the remainder of the day."
"A hot water bottle? It's summer." Danny shrunk away under the stern glare.
"It's sprig Mr. Fenton," she deadpanned, as if that made all the difference "and I don't want to hear another word from you." She stood, but before exiting she turned back and said pointedly "If I come back to find you've disappeared, I will make sure you receive detention for every class you missed today."
That was enough to make Danny stay put. After years of tardies and absences the teachers were hardly lenient with him.
Luckily there was only one period left of the day, not even that, so it wasn't long Danny had to stand the hot water bottle under his feet and piercing glare of the nurse before he was dismissed. Even though the nurse had grabbed his shoulder on his way out insisting there would be serious consequences if she caught him without a jacket in the future.
Just as he closed the door behind him, he heard Sam call his name from down the hall. "Class just ended and we came strait here. Are you okay?" She asked, running up to him, flanked by Tucker. "She wouldn't let us see you while you were still out."
"Yeah I'm fine. I mean," he tried for a chuckle "I have splitting headache and the nurse thinks I'm hypothermic. But I'm fine."
Sam smiled, however begrudgingly so "Well if you can joke you've gotta' be fine."
"He's not fine! Dash punched him in the back of the head. What was that?" Tucker exclaimed.
Danny pursed his lips "It was just Dash being Dash." He shrugged.
"'Dash being Dash'? He knocked you out man!"
"Y'know for once I agree with Tucker. Dash went way too far this time." Sam crossed her arms.
Danny opened his mouth, a defense ready on his lips, but he thought better of it. After all, was there a point anymore? "Yeah, he did. Can we just, I dunno' go? I don't want to have to see him again." He brought a hand up to his neck. It's was true, he didn't want to see Dash's probably smug and triumphant face. Not right then, in either form.
The look Sam and Tucker shared wasn't lost on him, but he chose not to remark on it. Sam said slowly "Yeah, sounds good. We can maybe go to the library and get some homework done?"
So the trio did just that. The halls were packed with students funneling past them in both directions, talking, giggling, yelling, slamming lockers, laughing, chattering, calling, stomping their feet. It was as good a camouflage as if Danny, Sam and Tucker were made invisible, silently weaving their way through the throng of hot bodies. It was a little nice actually, like everything going on was white noise drowning out how horrible Danny felt.
He knew he had no right to feel betrayed like he was. After all, Dash had never been his friend. He was Phantom's friend. And after what had happened Danny didn't think he even wanted that.
No, that wasn't quite right. He still wanted Dash's friendship. It had been so great the past few weeks, getting to be with Dash, getting to know him. There was some sort of.. of spark between them. There was no other way Danny could think to put it. Everything just, clicked.
But that had been when Dash Baxter, bully extraordinaire and quarterback King of Casper had been gone. While their little friendship remained untouched by the cruelties of high school. Now he was back to remind Danny of everything he hated about Dash. To remind him why they could never, never be anything more than bully and punching bag. That loss stung more than anything.
"Danny?" Sam softly asked, softer hand on his shoulder.
Danny blinked away the anger that had risen in him. They were in front of two large doors, the words CASPER HIGH LIBRARY in big cold letters above. "What?"
Sam worried her lip "Tucker went in to find a table. You just kinda' stopped here. And started glaring at the door like you wanted to set it on fire. Your eyes went all," she waved her hand in front of her own face in a vague gesture that Danny knew probably meant they'd gone green. Sam leaned in close, the hand over his shoulder tightening a touch, concern welling in her violet eyes, "Are you sure you're okay."
Danny put his hand over Sam's, allowing himself that brief moment of hurt and comfort. "I'm fine Sam. Now let's get inside already," he pushed through the doors, plastering on a smile "I don't know about you but I wanna' get at least half of my math homework done by the end of the week."
"Danny wait, if you need to-"
"Might not even get detention if I've at least got some of it done."
Sam huffed, realizing she wasn't going to get anywhere significant right then, and would have to leave the conversation for another time. They found the table Tucker sat at, secluded between two shelves in a corner in the very back, and spoke nothing more on the matter. Instead they discussed ghosts, their homework, DOOMED, ghosts again, planned parole for that night. Everything they always did.
Danny was okay with that.
He didn't need Dash's friendship, not when he had Sam and Tucker.
At least that's what he told himself as he flew over the town later that night. His direction was towards the Baxter household, intent on breaking things off with Dash.
He had Sam and Tucker. Friendship with Dash wasn't an option.
Soon he could see the house. Closer still he saw Dash's light was on.
He has Sam and Tucker, didn't want Dash.
He arrived at the window, ready to phase in. Dash wasn't there, but Danny expect he was in the house. Taking the moment he gathered himself. It would be quick, in and out. Like ripping off a bandaid.
He had two best friends, he didn't ne-
Under him, a door slammed open harshly. Danny looked down to see Dash, wearing nothing but jeans and a tight V-neck, red T-shirt, storming from the front patio and down the drive. The front door opened again a moment later, a woman's voice calling harshly "Dashiel Baxter, don't you dare walk out while I am speaking to you! Dash! DASH! Come back so help me!" She sounded horse.
Dash, almost to the street, turned on his heel just as Danny turned invisible, giving him clear view of the fire in Dash's eyes. He hollered back, throat raw with some horrible blend of emotion that made Danny's heart bleed. "So help you what? What more could you do? What is there left for you to take?" He threw his arms open wide in a gesture that should have been inviting.
There were footsteps under the patio roof, presumably the woman Danny assumed was Dash's mother having walked to the edge. She made an attempt at schooling the anger from her voice, yet she spoke with hot severity "Dashiel I want you to came back inside this instant. I only want what's best for you."
"Best for me?" Dash yelled back, having lost none of his fury "who the fuck do you think you are? Want what's best for me?" He mocked.
"Language Dash! The neighbors will hear!"
"The neighbors?" Dash parroted, true offense on his face. "You're telling me you're worried about the fucking neighbors?"
"Dashiel this is your last warning, come inside this house immediately!"
"Fuck you!" Dash yelled again, reaching a higher, painfully desperate octave "Fuck you! Fuck this house! Fuck the neighbors! Fuck this. Shit. Haunted. Town!" Once more he turned, this time throwing his arms up in the air "Fuck it all right in the ass!"
His mother sputtered, she continued calling her son's name, interspersed with threats, groundings and invoking God, all the while looking this way and that for nosy neighbors, until Dash vanished around the edge of the fence. Finally she just panted, the angry breathing soon morphing in to soft sobs curling up around the roof. She cried, mumbled something Danny couldn't hear, and stumbled inside. She didn't lock the door.
Danny followed after Dash, finding him not even a block away, slumped against a light pole with his phone to his ear. His knees were drawn up to his chest, one arm slung around them, his head down. Once Danny got close enough he could hear Dash's side of the conversation. He spoke with an emotion clogged voice "I don't know Kwan, it's just... she's so..." there was a quiver in his voice, a quiver Danny had never herd before and it hurt many times more than the punch from earlier that day. "How does she expect me to be so perfect all the time? I'm not-" he choked then, and now Danny was close enough to see that he was shaking, his hands the worst. He gripped his phone with white knuckles trying to keep them steady. "I can't be him." he whispered, tired. Defeated.
There was then silence from Dash, in which Danny could hear the garbled sounds of Kwan's voice on the other end. Dash sniffed eventually and answered "Yeah, yeah that sounds good. Thanks." He was quite again for a beat "By the red house with.. yeah with the weird dog." Kwan said something that seemed like it should have made Dash laugh, but the sound came out choked and broken. "Okay, see you soon. Bye"
Dash hung up and wrapped his second arm around his knees. He breathed in deep, tried to gather himself but in the breath out he broke down. He keened low and long, giving in to a veritable waterfall of tears.
Danny hung in the air, shell shocked. What had he just seen? Obviously an argument between mother and son, but it wasn't like Dash would react like this to any old argument. Or would he? No, he wasn't the type.
Danny wanted to reach out, any notion of ending their friendship forgotten. He wasn't about to rub salt in whatever wound just opened by doing that.
It wasn't long before Kwan pulled up in a white Volvo, and luckily in that time Dash had managed to calm down some. Until then Danny hung by Dash, unsure of what to do. He didn't think they were close enough that Dash would want to share the details of whatever happened, and Kwan had been the first person he called, so Danny knew he'd be fine. But on the other hand Dash was obviously hurting, and it hurt Danny in turn not being able to do anything.
Instead he resigned himself to waiting. Danny felt oddly protective, although for what he couldn't be sure, perhaps it was just his hero side that would always help someone in need. When Kwan arrived Danny felt very much like he was passing over something fragile and precious, from his hands to another's, even though neither football player was actually aware of his presence.
Kwan threw the passenger seat's door opened, sympathy on his face. "Shit Dash, you look like a mess."
Dash managed a wobbly smile "Wow, you know just what to say."
Kwan smiled sadly, "Come on. I've already got crappy beer in the backseat, we can swing by the drive-through and get equally crappy burgers."
Dash barked a horse laugh and rubbed his face tiredly "You know just what to say." He stood unsteadily, using the light pole for support, and all but fell in to the car. The door was closed a touch harder that it really needed, and Kwan drove away, taking the rest of the conversation with them.
With a heavy heart, Danny went to meet his friends for parole. Sam noticed something was wrong, she always did. Danny brushed her off.
He was doing a lot of that lately.
The school day after was horrendous. Dash was like a tornado, tearing trough the school and using every opportunity to seek and destroy. Word of Dash's volatile temperament spread quickly through Casper High's lower social rungs, most making quick work of avoiding the jocks.
It almost came as a relief when Danny's ghost sense went off at the tail end of first period. A relief, that is, until of course he meet the speedy little bugger that flew him in laps around the town, taking him out all of second, third and even some of fourth period. The only silver lining being that he wasn't in the school for most Dash's tirade.
Danny didn't rush flying back to, and then through the school once he'd finally managed to catch the ghost, having employed strategic traps and tricks as opposed to speed and agility, his usual go-to tactics. He was already beyond late, and utterly exhausted, a few extra minutes wouldn't make a difference.
He floated back through the school halls leisurely, catching his breath, listening to the snatches of classes he could hear through the doors as he passed them. However once he got closer to the classroom he was supposed to be in, he stopped in front of an innocuous row of lockers.
One of them belonged to Dash.
He hovered there, simply staring at the unassuming metal, a thought having dropped in to his mind. He wondered if it would be too intrusive. He almost though better if it, but a mental image of Dash from that morning, storms in his eyes and another of him from the night before presented themselves.
He stuck his head in through the door, finding the contents stacked haphazardly, but all the school necessities were there. However some looked relatively untouched, despite it being so late in the school year. It didn't take much rooting around to find a pen and notebook, Danny flipped it opened to a blank page scribbled and quick note.
You should talk to you friends if there's something bothering you, don't take it out on other people. We're here for you.
That ought to do the trick.
It wasn't like he planned it all, Danny just wrote whatever came to mind. Even so, the moment he signed it he second guesses himself. Dash would know exactly who 'D' was, and would know exactly to which conversations he was referencing, but wasn't that the point?
Danny worried his lip, what was the point? Was he trying to change Dash? Comfort him? Support him? Regardless, he added quickly underneath, P.S. I'll be you-know-where tonight.
He left the note in the inside of the door, plastered to the surface with a little sticky ectoplasm. Even if he hadn't signed the note that alone would be enough of a tell.
Danny wasn't sure, until the end of the day, whether or not Dash had seen the note or not. He still thundered through the school, practically leaving scorched marks behind him for all that his anger burned. If anything it seemed worse than it had been that morning. By the end of the day Danny had been shoved in his locker no less than trice, Tucker and the other nerds of Casper faring little better.
But just as Danny and his friends were about to leave at the blissful end of the day, they passed Dash and Kwan out the main doors. Danny didn't think Sam or Tucker payed them much heed, nor did he think either football player notice the three of them, or anyone for that matter. They were engrossed in a conversation, Dash talking quickly and urgently, although Kwan seemed terribly at ease. It was only out for a second, but Dash held a bit of paper with a smear of green across the back, said something, only to then have Kwan snatch it away from his quick, but not quick enough, fingers.
"Yo Danny." Tucker poked him in the shoulder.
Danny jerked, returning his focus to his friends. Had he been staring? He didn't think he had, he'd only looked over for a second. "What?"
Tucker glanced in the direction Danny had been looking "Come on, let's get out of here before they notice us."
"I don't think they've even noticed us dude." Dash made another grab for his note, but Kwan held it aloft, using his free hand to push his friend at bay.
"Who cares! I don't want to be here when they do!" With that Danny was dragged out.
True to his word, Danny sat ready on the picnic table later that evening, just as the sun began waning from the sky. He was alone there for almost twenty minutes, all the while wondering if Dash would even come. If Dash actually knew what Danny meant by 'you-know-where'. What he would say to Dash when he finally did show up.
Why he was even bothering.
In his boredom Danny started playing around with his new glow stick power, as much as he hated the ridiculous name he had to admit it was fitting, not that he'd ever admit that. He experimented idly with shapes and sizes, finding that it was rather difficult to make anything other than spheres. He'd managed at one point something like an ellipsoid, and another roughly cylindrical, but soon enough they both collapsed back in to circular forms. Eventually he tired of that as well, and heaving a sigh he lay back along the length of the table, entertaining himself by arranging and rearranging a number of the glowing orbs in various constellations he liked, leaving them to float above his head.
It was a rather fun, mindless sort of activity. But of course it was always the most mindless activities that best keep a person from dwelling on topics they wish not to dwell on.
Danny jerked up, eyes blown wide. On instinct alone he threw his hand out towards the sound, the glowing orbs flying after the reflexive ectoblast. The blast ripped strait through a thick branch, making it fall to the ground with a sickening crack, the little orbs exploded against nearby trunks and bushes, leaving black and smoking rings in their wake.
It took a short moment for Danny's eyes to adjust to the subsequent dark, even with his ghost powers augmenting his night vision. There, crouched in the long early evening shadows, felled branch beside, was Dash.
"What the hell Dash! Give me a warning next time I could have killed you!" Danny yelled.
"Jesus I didn't mean to! I thought 'Hey' was a warning!" Dash yelled back, just as startled, if not more, than Danny. He turned his head up, taking in the damage above him, right where his face had been not moments ago. "Jesus."
"Oh my god." Danny brought his hands to his face and scrubbed. "I seriously could have killed you. You can't just sneak up on me like that."
"Yeah." Dash said absently. He stood, curious fingers running along the bombarded tree. "Your Scorpio was cool though, y'know. Before it tried to kill me."
"That isn't anything to laugh about! I seriously could have actually really hurt you!"
Dash's only answer was a boyish grin thrown over his shoulder. "But you didn't."
Looking at it Danny realized Dash's was a face he couldn't stay mad at, not for very long at least. He rolled his eyes, muttering "Whatever." petulantly, fighting the betraying smile from his lips.
"So," Dash said casually, flipping around and leaning against the tree, one foot hiked up "practicing your new power Glowstick?"
In the back of his mind Danny noted the carful avoidance of the subject at hand, but he didn't mind all that much. This was good familiar, safe territory. Little jokes, light teasing, laughter. "Yeah, I wondered if I should try making actual sticks but I didn't want to give you any more excuses to use that name."
Dash snorted "Too late for that."
"Remind me to find an annoying nickname for you too." Dash laughed at that, bright as it always was, filling Danny again with that strange contentment that came with their easy interactions.
But it wasn't all that easy actually, not anymore. Danny looked down, a hand snaking up to the back of his neck. They both knew the reason Danny had asked for Dash, they both knew. Neither wanted to be the first to speak.
Danny much rather wanted to ignore Dash the bully, and his reasons for doing the things he did.
He didn't want to lose his friend.
God you guys have no idea how much I struggled with this chapter. You know how sometimes it just won't let itself be written? And you'll try a million and a half scenarios and none of them work? And you just hate it? Yeah... yeah.
And of course in my idealistic head I figure "Yeah it's Christmas I'll totally manage a chapter a week I'll just write extra much and work extra hard and yay I love Christmas this is gonna' be great!" And then no. Just no.
Okay I'm gonna' stop ranting now. Here's another chapter, enjoy. It's mostly filler but there's a lot of important details adrassed for later. Next chapter you can expect the entire thing, or mostly, being Danny and Dash together with lots of fluff and little angst and then more fluff because we like to ignore our feelings! Yay!
Critisism is always appreciated!