Author's Note: This is just a quickie one-shot I came up after the fantastic response I got to Deep Blue. Again, it's nothing terribly deep, action oriented or romantic.
I love doing perspective work and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please review and let me know what you think.
I'm the Hero – A Danny Phantom One-Shot
Dude, the first time I saw him, I practically tripped over my cleats. I dunno know why, though. There was nothin' remarkable about him. He was short and scrawny, with messy black hair and ocean blue eyes that belonged more to a girl instead of a guy. He wasn't rich, he obviously wasn't an athlete and he slumped when he walked. He even hung out with a technology nerd and some dreary so-not-cute goth girl.
But I couldn't take my eyes offa him and that freaked me out.
It didn't matter what I did or where I went. I'd turn around from my school locker to chat with the gang, and there he was on the other end of the hall laughin' it up with his two buds. In gym class, he'd always end up on my team. That sucked! During lunch, didn't matter if I ate outside in the school yard or inside the cafeteria, that trio of misfits would be there; with him, always him, at the center. Just like a see-saw, Tucker Foley the techno-geek was at one end, Sam Manson the veggie-goth-so-not-cute-girl at the other and Danny Fenton the Freakazoid was the fulcrum-thingy, the balance, in the middle. Foley and Manson orbited Fenton just like the wanna-bes orbit me and the other A-Listers – the "A-Listers" bein' all of us rich, popular kids in town.
Why would anybody care about such a loser? He's a freak! Everyone knows it. I knew he was a freak when I heard what his parents did for a living. Professional ghost hunters? In Amity Park? Get real! Since when are there such things as ghosts? The A-List gang had a good laugh over that one when I told 'em. It made me feel so much better about the whole thing. After all, if the others were laughin' at him, I wouldn't need to worry about being replaced by him.
I don't remember I first thought that. No, I'm lying. I remember it too well. It was all Val's fault. She thought we wouldn't notice. Maybe the others didn't, but I did. She was staring at Fenton, the strangest look on her face. I figured maybe she had a crush on him or something the way she would keep looking at him when he wasn't paying attention. Then one day, I saw the anger in her eyes. Talk about surprised! I wonder why she thought the freak was such a threat to her. He certainly wasn't a threat to the rest of us.
And yet every time I got near him, in school or outside of school, every time I looked into those girlie-blue eyes, I felt strange inside. Almost as if I were, I dunno, insignificant?
Damn Fenton anyway. I am not insignificant. I know better. My parents have been telling me how special and wonderful I am from the day I was born. Mom said I could be President of the United States some day, Dad telling all his gang about how I was gonna go Pro with the NFL. I was, I am, the center of their universe. I may not be the richest dude at school, but I am Casper High's star quarterback. I have more trophies and athletic awards than anyone else in the district. Even the teachers respect me because they know how special I am. No teacher dares give me, Dash Baxter, a failing grade because they know how important my skills are to Casper High.
So if everyone else respects me, why the heck doesn't he?
When that thought finally occurred to me, I dealt with it the best way I could think of. I punched him. Danny Fenton, the geek, doubled over in surprise, fear washing through those wide eyes of his. Suddenly he saw it. Suddenly he knew just how insignificant I wasn't. And to prove my point, to show everyone just how much I mattered, I shoved him into his locker.
It felt good. Real good. Everyone applauded. Well, everyone 'cept the perennial school losers. Paulina and Star wrapped themselves around my arms, laughin', while Kwan and Valerie gave out a cheer. Foley was in shock. Manson was horrified. Her bright amethyst eyes glared at me like a ref gettin' ready to call a penalty on the visiting team. I was tempted to follow up on my touchdown-like victory by kissing her. Just to prove a point, of course. I am the fulcrum of this school, the magnet to which all else is attracted. No babe, not that Manson's a babe, can resist the Dash-man's kiss. She would have been putty in my hands, abandoning Fenton to worship the ground I walk on. Only two things stopped me from pushing the issue. Star and Paulina. It's hard to move when two squealin' girls are hangin' off your arms.
No big deal, though. My point was made. Or so I thought. Next day, Fenton walked into school like nothing happened, laughin' and chattin' with his friends. Ignoring me. He walked straight past me as if I were invisible.
Anger. Hate. Those words are too small and nerdy to describe what I felt at that moment. Did he not understand the scoreboard? Apparently not. So after lunch, I took it upon myself to make my point a second time. Swirlies in the boys' room. Kwan decided to help. This time I was sure Fenton would acknowledge me.
And yet, the next day…
At some point, it became routine. Every day Fenton would come to school and completely ignore me. Every day Kwan and I would chase him down (it was good practice for the football games), sometimes Foley too, and do the punching / locker routine, or trip him in the hall, or more swirlies. What's his problem, anyway? All he ever had to do was acknowledge me, respect me, admit how important I was and that he couldn't live without trying to be like me.
Odd, though. The more I beat on him, the less significant I felt. I was the school hero! How dare he upstage me by playing the part of the school martyr. It wasn't fair! Even though the rest of the A-List shunned him, taunted him and cheered me on, I could sense they respected him on some level. Everyone was turnin' against me. They never said it aloud, but I knew what was really goin' on. The harder I whaled on Fenton, the more people actually began to like him. Even Val. Especially Val. I could see it every time she looked at him.
Fenton was stealing my spotlight as casually as a linebacker steals a pass. Worse, at some point, he actually grew a backbone.
"Not now, Dash!" he actually dared say to me one day.
"I don't have time for this, Dash," he growled on another.
Suddenly, the freak was no longer playin' like he was on the losin' team. He started fightin' back. I dunno how he managed to get my combination, but one day I opened my locker and out spilled my entire stuffed animal collection (don't ask). In front of EVERYONE. Their laughter still haunts me to this day. I had the combination changed, but the freak managed to figure it out again a little while later because he stuffed my locker full of Fenton-wipe. It had to be him. I know 'cause all the rolls of toilet paper had the word "Fenton" printed on them. Right underneath the picture of his dad's face.
What had started off as me teachin' the freak how to respect authority quickly became a war. Suddenly he was retaliating at random moments, trippin' me in the hallway or dodgin' my punches and making me hit the wall with my fist (and that hurt!). And if insult wasn't already added to injury, it all happened 'round the time Phantom arrived in town.
Turns out ghosts are real and for some reason, most of 'em have it out for the students of Casper High. Except for Phantom, formerly known as Inviso-Bill (kinda like Prince). Now he was a cool dude! Saved my life from evil ghosts more times than I could ever count. If it weren't such a girlie thing to do, I would have made a shrine to him in my locker. Paulina did. Course, she thinks she's in love with him. Me? I coulda lived with wantin' to be exactly like him.
That's when it hit me.
Or, bein' specific and stuff, that's when a football hit me in the head and knocked some sense into me.
Phantom this, Phantom that. Don't worry about those horrible ghosts, Phantom will save us! It was all over the television, on the front page of the papers, whispered in the halls of Casper High. Even when Phantom playing the big bad dude, robbin' banks and tryin' to take over the town, he was the topic of conversation. The girls were all swoonin' over him. The guys were all wantin' to be him. And me? I was invisible again.
Then there were the A-Listers, minus Val. She'd been kicked out months ago and was now moonin' after "Fenturd", trying to re-establish her orbit around him, Manson and Foley. And his parents bein' ghost hunters gave his street cred a small bump. Again, that geek ended up being the center of attention at our school, even though he was nothing. Worse, the other A-Listers, while ignoring "Fentonio", were never able to stop talking about Phantom even when the ghost kid wasn't around.
Last week, I won the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award. The newspaper article got bumped 'cause Phantom saved Amity Park from some dingus ghost king and his army of ghost drones.
Yesterday I failed a history test because the teach graded on a Bell Curve and Fenton scored two points higher than I did, bumping me from a 'D' to an 'F'.
Today Mr. Lancer informed me I hafta to do extra credit to raise that 'F' to a 'D' or I'll get suspended from the football team.
My parents are gonna to have a fit.
I went to pound on Fenton, after all this grade thing is his fault, and he had the nerve to apologize to me as he did his voilent-shiver thing and glared down the empty end of the hall. "Sorry, Dash, gotta run. Maybe you can beat me up after lunch?"
His sister Jazz ran off after him as he charged down the corridor. "You'll have to forgive him," she said to me. "He's seeing things that aren't there."
As if I didn't think "Fetonelli" was weird enough already.
Then I see Phantom flying down the halls, shootin' ecto-blasts at nothing in particular, shouting at no one that I can see and I know the truth. No one has said it, no one has hinted at it, but it's still happenin' and there's nuthin' I can do to prevent it.
I'm bein' replaced.
I still have my friends, and I always will. I'll still have my football career, even if I have to permanently lock the Fenton freak in a closet to make sure I don't fail another test. I even have my family, after a fashion. But the glory, the respect, the responsibility of being the school's ace quarterback and top dog role model is gone. Every bit. I used to be a leader. Then Fenton came around, tryin' to lead us to our parents rescue when they were all kidnapped by ghost space pirates. I challenged him, of course.
"Why should we follow you?" I demanded, fully expecting everyone to agree with me and ask me to lead the charge.
"You're right, Dash," he quipped back. "Let's follow some other kid whose parents are professional ghost hunters and knows how to use their equipment."
Suddenly I wasn't looking at the geek anymore. For one brief instant, Danny Fenton was a bigger hero than me. Shoulda known he was gonna screw it up by getting thrown off the pirate ship in the middle of the fight and leavin' me, and Phantom, to clean up the rest of the mess.
As far as Phantom goes? Well, he makes a daily chore of rescuing damsels in distress, fightin' off the dragon – literally in some cases – and making the whole thing look easy. Even when he's hurtin', he refuses to back down. The defiance I've seen in those glowing green eyes makes me wish I had his strength. No matter what happens to him, Phantom always gets back on his feet.
And at the time of my life when I should be the one rescuing damsels, fightin' the bad in the world and showin' everyone what a true hero should be, I end up stuck on the sidelines, running from the ghosts. I'm the one who ends up getting rescued because no matter what I do, no matter how I try, no one sees me the way I truly am. Even a loser like Fenton gets more attention than I do.
Don't they get it? Doesn't anyone understand? I'm the hero of this story. I always have been.
So why do I keep feelin' like someone's cast me as the black hat dude?