Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom.
Chapter 10: That Awkward Moment
The next morning was not necessarily pleasant.
"Samantha, I would like to speak with you after class," the biology professor said as she set a test down on the desk.
Cold water stormed down Sam's spine. That couldn't be good. "Uh, okay?"
Then Sam looked down and stared at her test, a careful mask in place. A giant "C" was circled in red up at the top of the paper, and she was tempted to both laugh and cry. Were it any other day (or any other test), she would certainly stomp out of that room and berate herself. But, considering the circumstances under which she'd taken the test (which included not studying and oversleeping and stressing over her past and Danny), she thought a "C" was pretty much a sign that the universe was not so much against her, even if the professor thought otherwise.
Take the win, Sam. Just take the win.
Then Sam realized it was biology class, and she had this class with Danny. Her purple eyes widened. Discreetly, she looked at the class through her peripherals. There were the usual classmates sitting in their usual seats, but…
Something in her dropped.
The short window of opportunity for late students to sneak in through the back door had come and gone, meaning that no one would be stupid enough to incur the wrath of a very time-oriented professor past that point. Not even Danny, whom she knew from experience to be incredibly unobservant and scatterbrained. And late. At least in human form.
Maybe he's sick? She tried to guess half-heartedly, but she doubted it. Deep down, she knew the truth was probably more personal. No, he probably just didn't want to see me.
Which is totally understandable, considering how badly I brushed him off.
The class continued without a hitch. Sam tried to listen to the lecture, but she found her thoughts returning back to one Danny Fenton, no matter how hard she focused on the professor. How mad at her was he? Would he hate her forever?
How did he manage his double life, anyway?
Her thoughts were so incomprehensibly locked on Danny that she looked down to see that she had doodled a logo for Danny Phantom. Oh, man. A small blush tinged her cheeks, and she covered the logo as the professor lectured around the classroom.
Somehow, the minutes passed into an hour, and the class ended. The other students gathered up their belongings and backpacks and headed out while Sam did the same. Then she remembered that the professor had requested she stay after class, and she zipped up her backpack with a little more force than necessary. The professor looked up from her papers.
She fought back a groan. Here we go.
"Yes, Mrs. Clearwaters?"
"Miss Manson," her professor began, "I'm concerned about you. At the beginning of the semester, you were my top student. You never earned grades below a 'b.' But now…" the professor trailed off, eyeing her. "Your grades are slipping, and you're not focusing in class. Is there anything wrong? Family troubles? Involvement in the wrong crowd?"
Sam smiled painfully as she shouldered her backpack. "Look, it's ok. Just having some…friend troubles. Don't worry about it."
The professor hummed. "I suggest that you gain control over these circumstances. I don't want your academic performance to suffer like this, especially since you're capable of so much more." Then the woman smiled gently. "That settled, I also had a question for you."
Sam shrugged. "Yeah?"
"I noticed today that one of my students was absent from class." The professor dug into her files and pulled out a couple of packets. "If you could track down Daniel Fenton and give these to him, I'd really appreciate it."
Horror dropped into Sam's stomach. "Uh, I don't know about-"
"-Ah, thank you so much, Sam!" the professor said happily. "I appreciate your cooperation. I know I can trust you to do this for me, you're so responsible."
Sam flushed, feeling horribly, horribly trapped by a mix of guilt and obligation. "Well, I mean, I guess I can…you know, give him his homework for you."
"Thanks again, Sam. I knew I could count on you."
Sam felt her stomach flip around a couple of times in a dance similar to a seizure. Oh, boy.
She was so not ready to see him again.
The moment Sam walked out of the room (most likely grumbling under her breath), the professor narrowed her eyes and hummed. She pulled a list out of her sweater pocket. Sam and Danny's names were crossed out with careful attention, and the closet matchmaker giggled to herself. "Friend troubles, huh?"
Never mind that the professor could have simply emailed Danny his homework…
She tapped her chin with her pen. "That boy sure misses a lot of classes. Maybe I'll have to employ Sam to help him out more."
Mrs. Clearwaters smiled an evil, mischievous smile. Oh, the joys of teaching young adults, orchestrating relationships, planning the next generation…
On the other side of Amity Park, Danny Phantom was currently using a phone booth. He'd run up a charge of thirty cents, and an old ghost dressed in a business suit was waiting impatiently outside.
"I'm sorry," the receptionist said over the payphone, "but PETA only protects real endangered species. Ghost's aren't real, and neither are half-ghosts."
"No, no, you don't understand!" Danny said desperately into the receiver. "They are real! Seriously! Type in Amity Park and Danny Phantom on the internet, and I swear you'll have more than enough proof that ghosts exist."
If only he could get on the list, then Skulker would have to leave him alone…
"I'm sorry, but I'm not authorized to add another species onto our list of protected animals until we receive confirmation of an abuse case from our President. Also, ghosts aren't usually categorized as animals, so even if they did exist, we can't help them. We have scientists and ambassadors for human or…uh, post-human consciousness problems."
"But, can't you just-?!"
"-Have a nice day!" the receptionist cheerfully wished him goodbye and then disconnected his call.
He stared at the payphone dejectedly, and then he hung it up. "Dammit," he sighed.
The receptionist turned to her friends, taking off her headphones with a snicker. "Can you believe that? Half-ghosts? That's almost as good as the guy raving about Puff the Magic Dragon."
"Or that one lady and magical unicorns."
"Or Big Foot."
All three of them turned to look at each other and said, "Eeww!"
"No, we'd never ruin our manicured nails over something like that."
Danny turned back, realizing he'd have to come up with another idea for ultimately stopping Skulker's hunt for half ghosts. "Well, I tried." As he flew out of the phone booth, the now very-much-impatient ghost in a business suit shoved him aside in a flash and shut the booth door. Then, like lightning, the ghost's glasses disappeared, and his business attire morphed into a skintight, blue and red suit.
The old ghost then flew out of the phone booth, one fist raised to the sun as his red cape fluttered in the wind.
Danny blinked at the ghost, realizing that maybe he should have followed him. "Superman?" he said in disbelief. "Did I really just see-?"
"-No, that was just the dead actor, deary," an elderly female voice cut in. "He played Superman back in the original show. He still enjoys the part."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense." Then Danny realized who was talking, and he groaned. It was the same old lady, that escape artist. "Oh no. No, no, not you again! What the hell are you doing here? Don't I ever get a break?"
"Deary, I've been waiting for a break my entire afterlife," the crazy old ghost said. "But Hollywood's acting draft services haven't called me yet."
Danny face palmed, hiding his eyes from cold, cruel reality. "God," he complained. Turning to the ghost, he told her, "Why can't you face the fact that they're never going to call you?!"
"I always wanted to star alongside the great actors on the silver screen," she sighed, her clouded, red eyes misting in nostalgia. "Being an escape artist was always my second choice for a job. But one day! One day, I'll get that call."
He sighed. "I think you spent way too much time looking for a gig, lady."
She sharply turned to face him, and her thin lips raised into an insanely cruel smile. "And you spend too much time disrupting my plans! Now suffer the wrath of my precisely honed action-sequence skills!" Her wrinkled hands raised with power, and she shot at him. "Take one, scene three!"
He spiraled up and raised his sparking palms. "Oh yeah? Well, take this!" he called out, and beams of light cut through the wind, straight into the ghost's path.
The old woman fell back and missed the blasts. "Ha!" she scoffed. "You're gonna have to do better than that!" Between her fingers, ectoplasmic energy expanded into green light, and a ghostly version of a bazooka rotated to fit into her hands. "Resistance is futile!" she shouted.
As Danny narrowly dodged the machine blasts, his eyebrows furrowed. "Hey, wait a minute! You can't use that phrase! It's copyrighted by Hollywood! And by Arnold…" He paused, both in the air and in thought. "Uh, Shwartz-? Shwarbinegar?" He started again, adding quickly, "Whoever that massively huge guy with all the weaponry is who uses that phrase!"
She growled, her crazy locks spinning in the air as she shot at him with her bazooka. "I don't care about copyrights or buff actors named Arnold! I just want you out of the way so I can get back to Hollywood! I must be an actress! I must be great!"
"Well then get an agent!" Danny called back mockingly. "Don't come crying to me unless you wanna be on Channel 4 news with a bounty on your head!" Growing tired of fighting and arguing with the ghost, Danny pivoted back and twisted into a somersault. The old woman couldn't keep up. She tried to shoot him again but to no avail.
In a blur, Danny found himself smack in front of the ghost, a Fenton Thermos in his hand.
Before she could utter another poorly-disguised pop culture reference or insult, he sucked her up into the Thermos and shut the cap with a satisfied click.
"Think of it this way: with your horrible aim, you could be a back-up bad guy for any major blockbuster film," Danny told the Thermos. It shook in his hand until he stilled it. "Just a thought."
Then the sound of distant cars and twittering birds hit him in a refreshing blast of easy afternoon breeze, free of ghost entities (with the exception of himself, of course). "Ah," he breathed. "Peace, at last!" Danny glanced around at his surroundings for the first time, realizing that he was already flying over his own college campus.
Then he realized he had missed all of his biology class, and part of his physics class. Oh darn.
He was heartbroken, really.
Danny smiled, and his green eyes glinted with good old Fenton mischief. I really shouldn't enjoy playing hooky this much. I'll regret it…later.
With the bad guy, er, grandma, captured, and with no other classes to worry about that day, Danny felt his stress roll off his shoulders in waves.
Then he saw it.
Movement by an academic building caught his eye, and he squinted his gaze. Just as the mystery person disappeared out of sight, Danny gasped. "Sam?" he whispered, knowing that stride anywhere.
Cold water stormed through him, and he swallowed hard. "…What is she-?" he cut himself off, realizing the woman had been walking at a pretty fast clip. He followed after her from above, darkly curious. Why is she in such a hurry?
Had she seen him or something?
His heart squeezed in his chest, and he gripped the Fenton Thermos a little tighter. Maybe…
No, no. He definitely shouldn't fly down there. Definitely not.
Danny swallowed hard, green eyes uncertain. But he needed to know why she'd freaked. He needed to know if she would keep his secret.
He had to talk to her.
"Okay, Manson," Sam schooled herself as she walked along the academic buildings towards the housing sectors, where one Daniel Fenton's apartment most certainly was located. "Just keep it cool. Hand him the books, and then walk away. Simple."
Maybe if she was lucky, Danny wouldn't even be there. Maybe it would just be his roommate, that techno-geek guy…Tucker, right? Right.
Yeah, that wouldn't be so bad.
But Sam had never had a very good relationship with Fate or Destiny, and so her walk across campus came to screeching halt the moment she looked up.
Her eyes widened when she saw a familiar glowing figure twisting in the skies above her. Instinctively, she ducked behind a building, eyes wide. Her heart pounded. Oh, shit. Oh damn. That's him.
I hope he didn't see me, I hope he didn't see me, I hope he didn't see me.
"Sam?" his soft voice echoed.
She crinkled the edges of Danny's homework with her crushing grip.
Dammit, he did see me.
Sam peeked her eyes around the corner to see a flash of light run up Danny Phantom's body, transforming him back into Danny Fenton. She quickly looked away, pressing herself into the bricks, wishing she could disappear. But she knew that she couldn't, and she knew Danny wouldn't choose to disappear either.
She swallowed hard. He's not like Gregor, remember? She told herself. It'll be okay.
You need to do this. And not just because you have his homework.
Hiding the shake in her hands, Sam peeled herself away from the brick siding. She took a deep breath.
And when she turned around, she saw him. His black hair was wind blown and wild, and in one hand he held a soup thermos with the word Fenton on it. His blue eyes stared straight into hers with a mix of uncertainty, longing, fear.
The two stood in silence, staring each other down, unsure of what to say, afraid to make any sudden movements.
His blue gaze burned her, and she looked away. "Here," she said, shoving the papers and book at him. She quickly snatched her hand back when her fingers grazed against his. He was warm. "It's your homework from biology. Since you missed today." She looked as though she would add something, hesitant. "Look, I…" But then she clicked her mouth shut and backed away.
Danny stared dumbly at the objects in his hands as Sam quickly walked away.
His fingers tightened around the book, and he unfroze. "Sam? Sam, wait a minute!"
Before he could think about it, he was running after her. He reshuffled all his belongings to reach out for her arm.
His calloused fingers gently wrapped around her elbow. "Come on, don't run away yet."
"Don't touch me," she snapped and he quickly retracted his hand. She inhaled deeply. "I mean…" The words stuck in her throat. She looked away from him. A part of her wanted him to touch her again. "Gah, I dunno."
He still tongue-tied her, in so many ways. How could she explain her jumpiness without actually telling him? How could she apologize for something he wouldn't understand?
How could she really reconcile that the cute, nerdy boy who had saved her was actually one of the top ten sexiest bachelors in Amity Park? Which was a completely irrelevant question, by the way, and it really shouldn't matter but…
Oh look, her thoughts were rambling again.
She blushed and turned away.
Danny's handsome features were drawn into a frown. "Look, if you still don't want to talk to me, fine. But I need to know something. Have you told anyone?"
She kept her eyes focused on the horizon before her. "Told them what?" she asked, voice carefully schooled into a smooth and casual tone.
"You know," he said, struggling to keep up with her pace. His frown faltered with uncertainty. "About me."
Just keep looking away, Manson. "No," she said. "I haven't."
Surprise stopped him cold. "Oh."
For a wild second, Sam thought that maybe Danny would stay there behind her and she could keep walking and it would all be awkward but okay.
Then his voice trailed after her.
"Do you…hate me now?"
Sam stopped walking. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "No. But I still don't know… what to think about you."
Danny stayed silent. She could still feel his presence behind her, and she wanted to groan. He was waiting for an explanation.
Sam opened her eyes and turned around. "Look, something happened in my past, okay? It had to deal with a stupid boy that made up a second identity to steal my family's money, and I played into his game." Her purple eyes hardened with sadness. "I gave him everything, Danny. Everything. And when I found out that he wasn't who he said he was, I…" she bit her lip. "I freaked. I realized I couldn't trust anyone. So when I saw you transform, I just thought back to that, and I freaked again."
An apology lingered on her lips. But it never made it.
"But, Sam, why-?"
"-That's all you're getting out of me, and if you ask me again, I'll get a restraining order on you. I don't like talking about it, okay?" She narrowed her eyes at him. "You think it's fun to have that kind of information hidden from you?"
Danny stared at her, blue gaze hard. "Listen, Sam," he told her. "Everything I've said is the truth. I've never lied to you. And I don't know what all happened with that guy in the past, but I'm not him."
She felt herself soften. "I know."
"Then why are you acting like this?" he nearly begged. "Like you never want to see me again or something? Is that what you want?"
She knew the answer, deep down. She was driving up walls as a defense mechanism. She was creating barriers to protect herself, even if she really didn't want those barriers up between him and her.
God, he made her feel. For the first time in years, she could feel her heart pound and her mind race, all for him. And in both forms he was so unassuming, his eyes open wide with a true innocence of self. She knew he was Danny, plain and simple. She knew she could love him, whether he was human or ghost or something in-between.
But Sam was really, really good at not listening to herself. She gave him a pained glance, then kept walking on.
"Sam! Come on! Please! Just, talk to me!"
He didn't run after her this time, and she kept walking on. She was afraid she'd start crying if she stopped, afraid she'd see him as a man that made her heart jump, afraid she'd really start to care if she never saw him again.
I'm sorry, Danny. I'm so sorry.
The gap between them ruptured into a chasm, but she kept walking on, forcing herself to take step after step.
A/N: Wow, guys. I didn't mean to let this much time pass. 2012 was a very difficult year for me, in more ways than one. I don't want to burden you guys with all my life stressors, but real life kept me from fanfiction. For those who had been following my A/Ns in Quantum Paradox, I had a very special person in my life die last September. So far, 2013 hasn't been much easier. I had to take a lot of upper level writing classes, which required me to pull multiple all-nighters to write novels, and I've also had a lot of stress-induced illnesses. I'm just now getting back on my feet, in time for my summer job and an internship in the city. With all of this, I just haven't felt like myself. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the heart attack that began all of the trouble of 2012. I miss you, David.
The other day, I realized how long I'd kept you waiting for this story. I'm sure many of you may have lost interest in this story because of that wait. I'm sorry, but my real life comes first. I will try to update when I can. I do have a plan for this story, and I know how it ends. I just have to write it. Hopefully, it's still as entertaining for you as it is an escape for me. I really appreciate that many of you have reviewed and favorited and followed this story, despite how silent I've been here on this site. Always feel free to PM me and ask where I'm at with a story; I try to reply to those within a day.
Updated Friday, May 10, 2013 at 2:15 P.M.
3. Other Comments?
Thanks so much for reading,