Contrary to popular belief, Dash Baxter isn't a total moron. He's quite intelligent in a dumb animal sort of way, able to instinctively gauge the weaknesses and tolerances of his fellow classmates, knowing just how far he could push a loser without breaking one. It's because of this latent savant that Dash was able to guess that today was not the best day to be shoving Fenton into his locker.
His eyes are narrowed and his teeth bared, but there isn't any panic in it, isn't any anger. Merely... annoyance. Frustration, certainly, and maybe even some distant cousin of discomfort, but no anger. His hands are wrapped around the fist Dash has curled into the fabric of Fenton's shirt, but his nails aren't digging in and his fingers aren't trying to pry Dash loose.
Fenton's just playing along.
For some reason, this rattles something Dash is quite certain he doesn't want loose in his head. So he tries to grin it away with some teeth baring of his own and hefts Fenton a little higher and a little harder to his locker. Dash is rewarded with a reluctant grunt of pain. The grill's probably digging into Fenton's back by now. His hands are wrapped tighter around Dash's wrist anyway.
That something in Dash's head just got rattled a bit harder. "What was that, Fenton?"
"I said, 'Hurry up.'"
No bravado. No surrender.
Just tired and bored and can we get this over with, already?
Odd. Weren't Fenton's feet dangling a bit higher just a second ago? Dash has watched Fenton before, but this is the first time he's really looked. Something's been broken in Fenton for a long time and he isn't quite the same scrawny freshman he was just a few semesters ago. Danny's sneakers tap the tiles, but it isn't because Dash put him down to be nice. Of course not.
It's just... there's something different. Not exactly broken, but broken is all that Dash can understand, because, dumb animal latent savant or not, Dash doesn't know what happens to losers after they break. Dash knows how far to push, how far to taunt and tease and shove before someone snaps and does something that can't be undone. Dash knows how not to break.
But he doesn't know how they rebuild after the breaking.
That's the something in Fenton's steady gaze and clenched fists and squared shoulders. Fenton's close to breaking, but his pieces aren't threatening to rattle loose like the pieces in Dash's head.
"I don't have time for this." Dash shoves Fenton off to the side and let's go of his shirt. "Lucky you," he says before turning away. He doesn't bother looking behind him. Dash knows that Fenton's already straightened his shirt and walking away. He knows that Fenton won't even bother glancing over his shoulder.
After all, Fenton has more important places to be.
Dash turns around anyway. Fenton's already at the end of the hallway, hand on the door when Dash opens his mouth and calls out his name. Fenton looks about as surprised as Dash feels. "Watch your back, Fenton," Dash says. No grin or thumbs up, but at least Fenton nods before heading out the door.
It's not like Dash wants to be buddy buddy all of a sudden. Maybe he's just tired of playing along too. Fenton's got something going on out there. Something bigger than him and crueler. But something that didn't know when to stop trying to break Fenton. In this at least, Dash knows something that Walker, Vlad, or any of Danny Phantom's other enemies have yet to learn. Keep trying to break Fenton, and eventually someone will be broken.
But not necessarily Fenton.
Dash stuffs his hands in the pockets of his letterman jacket and makes his own way towards the door at the end of the hall. Contrary to popular belief, Dash Baxter is not a total moron. He already knows how not to break others. Maybe one day he'll learn how not to break himself.