Sing to Life
Disclaimer: Danny Phantom is the property of Nickelodeon, a mighty tyrant of animation.
Chapter 1: Love and Baseball
Danny sat in school on a glorious, sunny Friday, chin in his hand and eyes on the clock. Mr. Nevers was up at the board, scribbling out some bland amalgam of random, confusing, and highly uninteresting facts, while twenty-five of the thirty students were either trying to resist sleep or jiggling around in their chairs, living in dreams of the weekend. In spite of the chattering, fidgeting, and occasional snoring, their stubborn teacher continued to instruct the tiny segment of kids who were paying attention.
"And here in the nineteen hundreds Dalton's hypotheses introduced chemistry as a firm, legitimate science."
A kid in the first row raised a tentative hand. "Uh, Mr. Nevers?"
The twin bushes over Nevers' eyes met as he frowned. He cleared his throat and scurried back to the board. "Yes class, that's nineteen hundred." He smeared out eighteen hundred and scribbled in the correct number while glaring at the attentive student. Several kids in back snickered, and a few heads were turned towards the inquisitor.
Danny flopped back on his chair, resting his feet on the wire tray under the seat in front of him. His second week as a sophomore hadn't gone too well, and the guy at the board made him angry with his chemistry nonsense. At least he was going out with Sam and Tucker after school. Danny smiled and began to trace webbing between the lines of his binder paper. They'd go to an arcade, maybe eat at the mall, see a movie. They'd have fun. No failed tests, homework, or continuums of boredom tonight. He and Sam would probably spend some time together later. Danny glanced away towards the clock. One and a half hours was all that stood between him and cloud nine.
"And that's why all of Dalton's hypotheses are wrong. Now, when the twentieth century came around, there was some more stuff that happened that was very useful." Nevers wrote the date on the board and stole a look at the notes on his desk.
"Oh boy!" someone in back whispered, overcome by the excitement of it all. "More stuff!" Danny chuckled, and muffled laughter peppered the back of the class. The eyes and cheeks of those up front bulged and broke in surreptitious little spouts of air. Someone slapped a hand to his forehead. The girls in back started to giggle again. Danny looked at the clock.
One hour and twenty minutes.
Danny continued his mindless doodles and allowed Sam, his favorite preoccupation, to wander into his thoughts. In his mind's eye he saw the graceful, ebony wave of her hair, her intelligent lavender eyes, and her little smile. Danny grinned into space as he recalled their shared affections in movies, Amity Park, and their quick little hallway pecks and hugs. He remembered their first kiss, a light smooch that had deepened into a passionate catharsis. He had just woken up in the hospital after their ordeal with Alex, and Danny had been so glad to have her back. His scribbles darkened and deepened at the recollection of Alex. He still hated that ghost, if it even was a ghost.
"From this graph you can see that the observations matched pretty well with the theory, but let's get some units on blah blah blah blah blah..."
Danny glanced up at the teacher in annoyance, checking for notes of a test and finding none. He sat up in his chair. In any case, he and Sam had been together for nearly six months now, and six months deserved something special, but he had no idea what he was going to do for it. For the third time that week, Danny thought that he really should sit down and figure out the exact date of the anniversary. He never had gotten that stupid month rhyme down, and his previous attempts had pegged the anniversary's date as two or three weeks distant. Danny stopped doodling and tried to remember the months.
As he put pen to paper, the middle C tone of the bell began to sound. Kids around him rushed up from their seats and dashed for the hall, creating a bottleneck at the doorway. Danny scrambled to collect his things and joined the throng in their race to the last hour.
"Don't forget chapter one review questions!" Nevers called after them.
After the mandatory stop at his locker, Danny checked in at ceramics. That day's lesson turned out to be the art and science of coaster-making.
Danny groaned and looked up at the clock.
The teacher, a serpentine woman with aquiline eyes and centipede lips, whipped around to glare at him. "Something you'd like to add to the lesson, Mr. Fenton?"
"No, not really ma'am." Danny squirmed in his chair and cracked an apologetic smile.
She continued to glare at him before grunting a curt "Good" and returning to the rest of the class. People looked at Danny with suppressed grins.
Danny sat up straight and focused on the teacher. He nodded and responded to questions and appeared a bright-eyed, eager student bent on learning the art of coaster-making. He refused to look at the clock, and he followed all instructions completely and precisely.
The waiting was driving him out of his mind. If he didn't work, he'd explode. Who has a stern ceramics teacher? No one. He had to be the one who got stuck with the devil's sister for a pottery teacher. His patience began to crack over a lump of potential coaster. Danny still had a ghost or two in the thermos. Maybe a little distraction would speed things up. He noticed that the other kids were talking faster and more loudly. Was it possible that it was almost time to go? Dare he look at the clock? Danny couldn't resist, and to his amazement and joy he found that school would end in less than ten minutes.
"Okay class, good job today. Put your unfinished work on the shelves with your initials on it, and go ahead and pack up." Danny had his backpack on before her sentence was finished. He tossed his pile of coaster on the aluminum shelf and waited until that melodious bell rang throughout the school. Danny hustled down the hallway and out onto the school lawn, following the current of eager escapists. The warm shine of the Sun struck his skin, and he took a breath of the autumn air, relishing the sweet scent of the weekend. Blinking in the sunlight, Danny looked around the yard for Sam and Tucker. He walked to the edge of the sidewalk to wait. Kids continued to pour forth from the school, and as he watched a familiar red cap came bouncing onto the lawn.
Danny waved him over. "Hey Tuck!"
Tucker strode over to him, a sour look on his face. "I swear that was the longest day."
"Tell me about it. You ready to go waste some time?"
"Oh, yeah," Tucker laughed. "I'm ready. We going to the arcade?"
"Probably. I'm a little low on money, but the park's free."
"Any ghost-hunting today?" Sam asked. She had appeared between them with a load of books in her arms and an eager, wide-eyed gaze of relief.
"Good to see you Sam," Danny offered, smiling. He moved to hug her but put his hands in his pockets instead. He knew Sam admitted only occasional touching, particularly in public, even though Danny himself would have welcomed it.
Danny cleared his throat and continued. "No. I don't think so. Things have been really quiet over at the lab, and I could use a break." A car horn sounded behind them, accompanied by a symphony of others. The threesome was used to the sound, so they paid no attention. The sound of traffic was heavy and unremarkable at that time of day. "We could-"
"Hey Danny!" a husky voice called. "Come here!" Danny groaned internally and turned, hoping it wasn't who he knew it was.
He watched in chagrin as his father threw his arm back and forth in greeting. He was parked in a red zone, blocking a full lane of traffic. The angry line of cars behind him laid on their horns and cussed or gave him the bird, leaning out the windows and shouting at him. A traffic guard started to walk over to him, watching the lasers and satellite dishes atop his father's automotive monstrosity with mingled curiosity and caution. The guard had his hand over a radio on his belt and walked with a stiff gait. Jack Fenton continued to swing his thick, tangerine arm back and forth, grinning at Danny.
"Sorry guys I've gotta go," Danny breathed. He bolted across the field with Sam and Tucker close on his heels. Reaching the car, Danny stuck his head through the window and spoke in a panicked whisper. "Dad! Stop it, this is really really REALLY embarrassing and if it wasn't Friday I'd be in for it tomorrow. I'll see you at home in fif-"
"Danny! We're going to a baseball game tonight!" Jack boomed, his good cheer undiminished.
"I-" Danny stopped and blinked, trying to catch his thoughts. "I... wait, what?!"
Jack pushed open the door and motioned for Danny to get in. "Come on! We're going to ESP Stadium." Jack whipped out a sheet of print-outs and waved them at Danny. "We've got special admittance to the game!"
Maddy poked her head between the driver and passenger seat. "Your father thinks Jerry Jones is using ghost energy, and all the excitement is bound to generate some kind of spectral-"
"Yes yes, but there'll be GHOSTS, Danny. There'll be GHOSTS!" Jack's blue eyes shone with excitement.
Danny turned gestured to Sam and Tucker. "But I-"
"Don't worry sweety, your friends can come too. Hurry up, though. We have to get a good parking spot." Maddy took the papers from Jack and ducked out of sight.
Danny turned and sighed. "Do you guys want to come?" Sam frowned and bit her lip. Tucker shrugged and started to respond, but before he had the chance, the four of them were accosted by the traffic guard, a mustached fellow in his thirties wearing shorts and a Goliaths baseball hat. "You have to move the, uh, vehicle, sir. This is a red zone. If you punks want some advice," he said, turning to Danny and company. "Go. Jerry Jones has six hundred and ninety-nine home runs, and you guys must be nuts if you don't want to see him hit seven hundred." The guard folded his arms and looked away at the traffic. "Jerry Jones'll be a real legend after this. You don't want to miss it."
Sam rubbed her arm and moved towards the RV's back door. "Alright, I'll go."
"Me too," Tucker agreed, following her in. Danny jumped up behind them, and the three of them threw down their backpacks and buckled into the RV's cheap, hard cushions.
The guard slapped the back windows and glowered at Jack. The traffic noise had become more insistent, and some cars had begun to cut into the lanes of oncoming traffic. "Now that that's finished, you have to-whoa!" He jumped away as Jack hit the gas, pressing the passengers to their seats. Maddy had been working in the laboratory portion of it, and she yelled and stumbled before moving up to the front passenger seat.
Danny sat between Sam and Tucker in the back. Jazz sat one row up, clutching a notebook and several textbooks in her lap.
"You're going too?" Danny asked.
"They wanted me to come along," Jazz said, plainly irritated. She turned around to look at them and sighed. "I suppose it would be good chance to observe the behavior of a large group of highly excited, highly intoxicated sports fans. But I was scheduled to tutor somebody today." She frowned and folded her arms over the seat.
"Not us," Sam chirped. "We wanted nothing more than to be dragged off to a baseball game on Friday night!" Jazz laughed.
Tucker shrugged. "I'm actually pretty happy about it. I've heard some good things about this Jones guy."
"Really?" Danny asked. "Please don't say he's a ghost."
"No, that's just your dad talking. People are saying he'll be a legend, though."
Jazz sighed and turned back to her books. "Maybe for some segment of the population. I missed an appointment for this."
"I went to baseball game years ago," Sam recalled with a smile. "It was actually kind of fun."
Danny looked over at her. "I never knew you were into baseball. What was it like for you?"
Sam fidgeted sheepishly with the hem of her skirt. "Well, I was in a luxury box, so..."
"So you were too busy eating prawns and playing in the hot tub to pay attention," Tucker stated.
Danny shrugged. "There's worse ways to spend an afternoon."
"Like ghost-hunting?" Tucker smirked and scootched to the side as Danny tried to elbow his ribs, but failing that, he went for the shins. Jazz looked up from her books but didn't turn around.
"Shut up, Tucker," Danny whispered.
"The engine in this thing is way too loud for your parents to hear us, and I'm just saying that we don't do ghost stuff nearly as often as in freshman year-"
Sam looked at him in annoyance. "We've gone over this, Tucker."
"-and I miss it. Did Alex take the fight out of you or what, Danny?"
"No, no he didn't," Danny objected. "There's just more to life than stupid ghosts."
Tucker snorted. "Like you and Sam?"
"Well, yeah," Danny said, taken aback.
Sam leaned over to meet Tucker's eyes. "Don't be jealous, Tucker. There have been ghosts flying around before any of us were born. Danny doesn't have to deal with all of them. Just the seriously hurtful ones." She let Danny take her hand.
Tucker wasn't convinced, but he settled back in his seat and didn't say anything for the rest of the ride. Sam glanced at Danny with concern, but Danny squeezed her hand and glanced between her and the brooding Tucker with a half-smile. He didn't think Tucker was seriously upset. In all likelihood he'd be just as loud and geeky as usual when they got to the park. In the seat ahead of the three, Jazz sighed to herself and returned to her books.
The ride lasted a tolerably short hour. The Fenton RV drew stares from the surrounding traffic, but nobody stopped them, to the relief of all involved. They hit a bottleneck on their way to the city's downtown. Hordes of Goliath fans were waiting in massive, infuriated lines for parking. Jack barely managed to maneuver the RV through the traffic and into a good spot close to the park.
Jack leapt from his metallic tank and cased the park with knitted brows. "Yes, Maddy, I can feel it. This place is just crawling with ghost energy."
"You think so?" Maddy looked dubious, the red eyes of her lab suit turning to watch the crowds. "All these people might drive them off."
"Nonsense. Ghosts love to wreak havoc, especially on large crowds like this." He squinted at the ballpark before turning to the back of the RV. "Better get the equipment out."
Danny and his friends dismounted from the RV and stretched. Tucker blinked at all the people. "Jeez, this place is gonna be packed. Mr. Fenton, where are our seats?"
Danny's father emerged with an armload of fancy metal boxes, guns, and nets. "I don't know. It doesn't matter anyway, since we'll all be out ghost-hunting!"
"Right," Danny nodded. He pointed toward the park. "Okay. But wouldn't it be good if you had some eyes in the stands, you know, to keep an eye on the field?"
Jack brightened. "Good thinking, son! You should take the seats! Ask your mother where they are."
"Here you go." Maddy offered Danny, Tucker, and Sam their tickets. "The tickets have the seat numbers on them. I think they're on the promenade level somewhere. Reserved."
"Thanks Mrs. Fenton," Sam said. The three of them started to walk off.
"Wait, Danny!" Jack trotted up to him and thrust a radio in his hands. "Let us know it you see anything."
"We're working on channel twelve," his mother called.
"Okay, thanks!" The three of them scurried off, leaving Jazz to spin her own story to get out of the ghost hunt. They hurried through the streaming crowds of fans and past people begging for tickets or charity. Sam stopped at an old woman sitting on a filthy, ragged bed sheet and holding a cardboard sign scrawled with something illegible. Sam's face creased in dismay, and she dug in her pocket and handed the woman a ten.
The woman took it, her care-worn face lifting for a moment to meet hers. "God bless you, dear." Sam gave her a warm, brief smile before hurrying to catch up with Tucker and Danny on the bridge.
Half the park was built on a landfill, and they could see it from the bridge, a metal and cement wall extending down into the dark, rolling waters. Danny felt the bridge vibrate under the footsteps of the masses and entertained a brief worry that it would collapse. Of course the bridge must have been built well, and even if it did collapse he could go ghost. He forced a smile and looked out over the water. He gasped at the sight and called to Tucker and Sam.
"What?" Tucker asked.
"Look." Danny pointed out over the water. Twenty or thirty kayaks and sailboats had congregated at the tip of the ballpark, directly behind the walled-in stands of right field. From the bridge, Danny could see that they were well-equipped with snacks, radios, and an unhealthy amount of optimism.
Sam crossed her arms and looked out at them. "Can't say I blame them. If it's really such a big deal, whoever catches number seven hundred is going to be rich. It's not a bad trade-off."
Tucker leaned out, threatening to topple over the rail. "Say, do you have a kayak, Sam?"
Danny laughed. "Very funny, Tuck. Come on." Danny tugged him toward the park. "Let's get going." They pushed their way into the park and up three flights of concrete stairs and onto the promenade level, a wide, open-air hallway that looked out onto the field and curved from third to first base. People swarmed around the hall, stopping occasionally at the Goliaths dugouts to buy hats or clothes. Most stopped to feed at the beer stands, pretzel joints, and recessed hotdog grills that lined both walls of the massive hallway. Several already carried full plastic cups of foaming amber beer. The smell was an eclectic mix of sour, meaty, and buttery, with heavy undertones of salt and lard.
Sam couldn't suppress a cough.
Tucker stole a glance at her and took a deep breath, relishing it. "Mmmm, smell that meat."
"Yeah. Just think of all the people trying to kill themselves on bratwurst." Sam gagged and wrinkled her nose at a nearby stand. 'Eat a good dog here!' it advertised. "Disgusting."
Danny shrugged and grinned playfully. "I don't know, Sam. It's a lot better looking than recyclo-compost."
Tucker laughed. "Nice." They clapped hands.
"Very clever, Danny," Sam sighed. "Let's just find our seats." They wandered through the park, following the signs until they found their section. It was just behind third base, shaded by overhanging stands. They sat in their assigned seats and watched the mascot goof around on the field, riding a dinky bicycle around the bases. The fans around them chatted, speculating on the winner, but the majority of the talk concerned Jerry Jones. Jazz came and sat on the edge of the threesome, next to Sam.
"This isn't what I wanted to do today." She looked over the field with jaded eyes.
"I don't know. This really isn't too bad at all." Danny pointed to a family sitting below them. "I'm not even a psychologist and even I find that group interesting."
"Hmm." Jazz leaned down for a closer look at them. They were the very essence of the work 'redneck.' Two kids, straw-blonde hair with dark freckles on their ochre necks, and a father with big meaty hands wearing a white undershirt. Jazz shuffled around in her backpack and took out a notebook. "Good point, even though they're pretty... disturbing."
With Jazz happily occupied, Danny turned and looked up toward the promenade. "Do you guys want to come get food?" The park was filling up fast, and it would soon be difficult to leave their rows. Sam declined, but Tucker followed Danny. They returned with a steaming pile of garlic fries and several thick, condiment-laden hot dogs. Sam edged toward Jazz as they sat down.
The game started with a pitch by an employee of an unknown start-up. The excitement rose and bubbled in the crowd as the inning began. The visiting team sped through their three outs, and the crowd began to get excited as their home team succeeded. Sam got up and clapped with the bulk of the Goliaths fans when a particularly good play was made, a bright smile on her face. Tucker and Danny would jump up excitedly and yell encouragement or disparagement somewhat arbitrarily, and everybody generally found himself having a good time, including Jazz, who kept her nose buried in a notebook.
It came Jerry's turn at bat, and the crowd watched him approach the batter's box with baited breath, and then everyone was shouting for him to hit number seven hundred.
The ball whizzed toward him and Jerry turned just quickly enough that it missed his elbow and landed square in the middle of his back. Danny and company leapt to their feet with the crowd to boo and hiss at the pitcher, and Jerry stalked away from the plate, throwing his helmet and bat to the ground.
"They should toss that pitcher out," Tucker fumed.
Sam nodded. "I agree. It's bad sportsmanship."
"I think I've heard that the pitcher gets a warning when the batter is hit," Danny mused.
"That's right," Jazz muttered, continuing to write.
In the fourth inning, Jerry stepped up to the plate once more. Everyone murmured amongst themselves, well-aware that the injury would make the hit more difficult. Jerry geared up for it nevertheless, and the pitcher stared intently toward home as he paced the mound, readying his pitch.
Danny hardly saw the ball. The crack of the bat rang out in the stadium, and a little white speck flew through the air as twenty-six thousand spectators leapt to their feet and jumped, shouted, cheered as the hero below jogged around his bases. The ball's touchdown in the right field stands became the epicenter of a mad scramble, and from the plumes of fireworks surged from the scoreboard into the inky night, erupting in crimson and white showers. Banners bearing Jerry's image unrolled from its girders, and all around Danny the crowd clapped and cheered.
The game was largely over after that, but the game reserved one more jewel for Danny. Three or four hundred left their seats to boy pins and jackets commemorating the event. The innings passed, and the Goliaths held a lead of four-zip until the opposing team finally scored one, but only one. Jack's radio chirped occasionally, but the three of them were content to sit and watch the great American sport.
The crowd perked up as a feature came on screen, and a booming voice announced a special, 'strangers in the night' segment of the game. The digital screen focused on two people of the opposite sex, and they would point and yell at their images on the screen and kiss one another. The first couple failed, through the apparent absent-mindedness of the male, so the screen cut to a different pair of smiling college kids who gladly embraced one another. Everyone laughed and awwed at it. Two older fans appeared onscreen, and another kiss was completed. The camera panned back to the first woman, who still couldn't get the man, a balding, brown-haired fellow in his fifties, to notice her. A few more successful shots were shown, and then back to the first woman. She tugged persistently at his sleeve and tried to get her face around to get him, and the crowd erupted as the man finally threw his arms around an unfortunate man sitting next to him to deliver a sloppy one.
Without warning, Danny and Sam flashed up on the screen.
"Oooh, quick qui-Mmmph!" Sam started, but Danny's lips were already on hers. Her eagerness relaxed into the kiss, and the people around them whistled.
"You guys are on TV!" Tucker shouted, but Danny hardly heard him.
He remembered a sign he had seen in the promenade. 'Would you rather be anywhere else?'
As they pulled each other close and Sam's lips pressed against his, Danny had to admit that he could be happy forever in that moment, frozen in that instant in that kiss in that crowd of twenty thousand human beings gathered in celebration of nothing greater than the ability of their fellow man to hit a small, white ball.
A/N: Names and events may not be entirely coincidental. This story is the sequel to "Saving Sam," where I show how Danny and Sam hooked up and why Danny has mellowed out. You don't have to read "SS" to follow this, but it would help. Be here next chapter to watch a familiar foe contend with 'the man' in ghost jail.