"Christmas Under the Mistletoe"
Mistletoe. Webster's dictionary defines it as a European plant, Viscum album, having yellowish flowers and white berries, growing parasitically on various trees, used in Christmas decorations. It has been used in kissing contests since the mid 12th century and has been a staple of Christmas decorations since the 18th century.
Danny stood with the plastic cup of cranberry juice all but dangling out of his hand as he read the words scrolling across Tucker's PDA. It was red and green colored for Christmas, but somehow Danny didn't mind as much this year. There had been no ghost attacks for almost 2 weeks and Danny knew with the Christmas Truce tomorrow, there would be yet another night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
"Haven't you played enough with that thing tonight?" Sam asked, walking up to Tucker and handing him a frosted sugar cookie shaped like a snowman, "I mean, You DO know there is a Christmas party going on around you, don't you?"
Tucker grimaced as he put away the PDA and took the sloppy cookie carefully away from Sam. "I was just showing Danny the new program I found online. It has a tool that can define any word you ask it, even the ones you know it doesn't know. I put in the words "Ghost Zone" and it popped up 'A theme park near Beijing, China where everyone has to dress in white sheets to enter...'"
"Great. You've found an online version of Mad-libs..." Sam muttered as Danny looked around the crowded party.
His mom and dad had finally put away their Christmas argument, after Danny's blow up last year and had chosen instead to celebrate in their own, unique new ways. So there was a huge Christmas tree in the center of the room with people dancing around it. Danny glanced up at her ceiling thinking of the presents in his room for his best friends, one in violet for Sam, one in red for Valerie, and one in yellow for Tucker. His mother, on the other hand, ran back and forth between the kitchen door under the other sprig of mistletoe and the front room showing everyone how to make a snowstorm indoors using one of the unfinished ghost weapons. Fortunately Danny had checked the machine weeks ago and even though it was supposed to freeze any ghost that came in contact with it, all it did was freeze the air around one, so he had nothing to fear...yet.
His eyes kept drifting around the room; amazed that everyone there could fit, let alone dance in his house. It was almost as if the whole town had heard of this party and decided to show up. He just saw Sam's grandmother flirting with a trapped (and rather desperate looking) Mr. Lancer in the corner, and Dash looked uncomfortable dancing in the center of the Christmas tree dancers, with Star hanging on his arm instead of Paulina.
As a matter of fact, Danny thought, scanning the room again, Paulina was the only one who he hadn't seen all night. With the Fenton's relation to the "Ghost Boy" (the fact that they could actually detect him...or so they thought), he would have expected her to be one of the first people to the open house. Even if she wanted to be fashionably late, he wondered why she'd let the party hit in full swing without making an appearance of some sort.
Suddenly, as if reading his thoughts, the door swung wide, and a perfectly made up Paulina Sanchez in a white trench coat trimmed in matching fur strolled into the room like she was ascending the staircase at some grand ballroom in some big city, instead of an open invitation party held by ghost hunters in Amity Park.
"Fur?" Sam muttered behind Danny, "Where's my red paint?" Danny ignored her comment and tried not to show his slight irritation. Couldn't she just relax for once?
"Like, is someone going come and take my coat?" she asked at the foot of the stairs. As if on command, Danny leaped to do just that, unable to keep a grin off of his face.
"I will, Paulina," he managed to get out as he made his way toward the Latina. That's when he remembered the little, green branch with white berries he had hung himself above the entryway...and Paulina happened to be standing right under it. Now was the perfect time to ask something he had wanted to ask all year, and it was now or never...
"Hi, Paulina" Danny muttered, waiting for her to finish removing her coat, and couldn't help but have his jaw drop at the dress she wore underneath. A white, sequined, spaghetti-strapped, ankle-length dress under a transparent, sparkling material that hugged her curves perfectly. "M-Merry Christmas," he stuttered as Paulina all but dropped her coat into his arms and returned with a roll of her eyes:
"Merry Christmas to you too, I guess. Has the Ghost Boy shown up yet?" He sighed and hung up her coat in the closet next to the door as she headed for the dancers in the center of the room, her eyes trained on Dash.
Realizing he was about to lose his chance, Danny immediately spoke up behind her. "Um, Paulina? You know where you're standing, don't you?" Paulina's eyes narrowed at she glanced up at the little green sprig dangling over her, and then glanced over to Danny, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.
"You want me to kiss you under the mistletoe, don't you, Danny?" she said, with a sly smile and a playful expression on her face.
Danny blushed to the tips of his cinnamon shaped ears. "Only if you want to. I mean, you don't have to. It's a silly tradition anyway..." He realized he was babbling, and wondered why she hadn't just walked away until she leaned forward, and just for a moment brushed her lips across his cheek.
"Merry Christmas, Danny," she whispered in his ear before she moved away and floated toward the dancers in the center of the floor. For Danny, it seemed as if Clockwork had frozen time. His whole being suddenly felt lightheaded and dizzy, as if sparks traveled up and down his veins instead of blood. His brain had suddenly exploded in roses, and the world looked and felt much warmer than it had only a few seconds ago. Still in a daze, he was barely aware of Tucker walking up to him, and elbowing him in the ribs playfully.
"Wow! She kissed you! She really kissed you!! Dude, what I wouldn't give to be in your shoes right now!"
"Yeah, It's the epitome of puppy love," Sam walked up behind Tucker, gagging. "I need to use the bathroom...you don't mind people hurling there do you?" She stopped beside her two friends, standing with a glare and her arms folded. When neither one responded, she sighed in exasperation, and grabbed Tucker's arm. "Come on, Tucker. He'll be in dreamland for another five minutes, at least." With a look that stated he didn't know whether to be scared or annoyed, Tucker let himself be dragged towards the center of the party.
Danny almost didn't give them a second thought. Paulina had kissed him. Him...Danny Fenton. She had actually chosen to do so. He'd given her the chance to get out of it, but instead--
"Danny?" a soft hesitating voice came from behind him. Turning he saw Star standing there in a gold and red dress at the foot of the stairs looking almost as nervous as Danny had felt just a moment earlier "Danny? You do know where you're standing, don't you?" She whispered, fiddling with a cup of his mother's cranberry juice. Danny blinked, and looked up.
"Oh...right," he muttered, realizing he still stood under the mistletoe. Blushing again, he looked over at Star, who almost seemed uncomfortable as Danny heard her mutter, "This is stupid." under her breath. Then she looked at him, and said in a louder voice, "You're under the mistletoe, you know? You have to kiss me, right?"
"Err..." Danny's jaw dropped, suddenly speechless for the second time in ten minutes. Star wanted to kiss him? The loser of the school?
"All right, I guess," he shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck as he always did when he felt nervous, not that he minded the sudden attention. Maybe because Paulina had kissed him, Star felt she should too.
"Cool!" Star said suddenly as she all but tossed herself into his arms and planted a movie star-like, "My Hero" kiss on the cheek. Then as soon as she had come, she wandered away from him shaking her head and muttering in what sounded like total disgust, "I kissed him! I kissed him?! Ewww..." Despite this, Danny couldn't stop smiling. This was turning out to be a really good night.
With a satisfied smile still plastered on his face, he wandered over to the punch bowl and was about to refill his cup when he felt a tap on the shoulder. He turned to see a girl he'd once introduced himself to at the beginning of the year in his Seventh period Math class. She smiled mischievously, and before he could do anything, she'd wrapped her arms around him and pressed her lips to his cheek in a big, wet kiss. Ignoring his sudden, shocked look, she then turned, and skipped away into the crowd humming loudly.
"What the...?" Danny mutters to himself, scratching his head as his mother came up to him with a big plate of Christmas cookies.
"Having fun, Hunny?" she asked as she set the cookies down on the already overloaded table.
"Yeah, Mom. It's been really...interesting tonight." Maddie nodded with a smile of her own. "Well, Good. I'm glad you're having fun with you're friends." Then, right in front of everyone, she bent down and gave him a kiss on the top of his head.
"Mom!" he hissed, backing away and rubbing his head furiously.
"I hope you have a fun night, Sweetie," she chirped, grabbed an empty cookie plate, and walked back to the kitchen, leaving Danny staring after her in confusion. What was happening? Was it just him, or had he suddenly become the most popular guy at the party?
Before he'd had time to complete the thought, the girl he sat next to in Mr. Lancer's English class whispered, "Danny, You're so cool!" into his ear, causing him to jump away in surprise. She giggled, and with peck on the cheek, she was gone too.
He glanced around, nervously. He didn't really mind all the attention from girls, but he had to admit, the sudden change had him slightly worried. The last time that had happened, his secret identity as Danny Phantom had been revealed to the entire world. That had been one major mess to clean up, and wasn't something he particularly cherished as a memory. This whole situation had started to make him feel slightly uncomfortable.
Danny started to make his way out of the crowd, feeling suddenly claustrophobic. He had to get away from these crazy girls, just for a second. Maybe it was a contest or something between the popular girls. A "Let's see how badly we can freak out the loser" type thing. He knew it was too good to last, no matter what was really going on...and for one second; he caught himself wondering if he wanted it to go on...
Before he'd made it half-way through the room, he'd been kissed by Goth girl Sam sometimes hung out with when Tucker and Danny were busy playing their games, and a girl who had had the locker next to him when Poindexter tried to trap him in the Ghost Zone. At this point, some of the other boys had begun to take notice of his newly found popularity, and were eying him dangerously.
He'd been attacked by at least two more girls, and felt more than a little breathless by the time he got clear of the crowd and back into the entryway, and he saw at least five more girls headed his way. Normally, he wouldn't have minded, but something about the whole situation just felt...wrong.
He backed slowly toward the door, so distracted that he barely noticed his father pushing towards the entryway with a large grin on his face. The second Jack opened the door to admit a latecomer to the party; Danny made a break for it, brushing past the person who stood in the door. Vaguely, he registered his father saying something about, "V-man! Didn't think you'd make it!" but while that tickled the back of his mind, his first thought was getting away from everyone.
Danny let the door slam behind him and took his first breath of cold, snowy air, letting it out slowly in a relieved sigh. "What happened in there?" he asked the open air, putting a hand over his hammering heart. "All of the sudden it was like I was Paulina in the kissing booth at Homecoming! What the--wait" his eyes widened in horror. "V-man?!"
So, now he had to fight all the girls in there and Plasmius at the same time! Of course. With a shake of his head, he realized he needed to clear his mind. He felt like it had been wound around a taffy-stretching machine, or one of Clockwork's watches. Just a few minutes worth of flying, he told himself. He'd never be missed...although with all the girls acting the way they were, he wasn't so sure anymore. He took a step forward, and glanced up and down the empty, cold street.
He could see no other latecomers, thankfully, so he wouldn't have to hide to go ghost. He stepped forward, about to trigger the transformation, when he caught sight of a dark head of hair sitting on the wall behind the trashcan, out of sight of the front door.
"Valerie?" he squeaked and froze.
The dark-skinned girl turned to look at him, surprised. "Danny? What are you...are you okay?" Her face suddenly contorted in worry, taking in his unusually panicked expression. "What's wrong? You look as white as a ghost."
"Heh, heh," he laughed forcibly. Suddenly he found himself wondering if he had transformed, would he have been kissed, or blasted? "It's nothing. I've just been having an interesting night."
Valerie pats the snow-covered wall next to her and says, "Why don't you tell me about it? I really don't wanna go inside tonight. She kicks her feet as she looks down, a slight blush redding her cheeks. "I haven't been to many parties since..."
Danny wandered closer; sitting on the wall beside her, vaguely thankful that she wasn't being as forceful as the other girls. He knew what she meant: Since her dad got fired and she found herself on the bottom of the most popular list. "I usually don't like Christmas parties, either." Danny said in a voice that was almost a whisper. "Every year my parents would have this big fight and I'd be the one angry the next day." He found himself seeming to stare at the same spot in front of him, absently kicking his legs.
Valerie looked over. "You know, I didn't think you're parents where the kind that fought. I always thought of them as the kind that would help each other with ghost hunting..."
Suddenly, It was if a light went off over Danny's head. Working together with ghosts. The Ghost Zone Truce would be active tonight, so if he went to see anyone about this strange thing that seemed to be happening, they'd probably tell him!! His eyes lit up at the possible solution to the indefinable problem, but before he could thank his friend for her words, or even hop off the wall he heard a rather nasty sneer in a very familiar, menacing voice.
"Hey, Fentonata! Speaking of hunting..." Danny cringed and turned just in time see Dash Baxter cracking his knuckles and advancing toward the pair sitting on the wall, two more football players behind him with sour looks on their faces.
Valerie jumped off the wall and turned to Dash with clinched fists. "What's you're problem, Dash?"
Dash pointed to Danny. "Tell him to stop stealing our girlfriends! They've been talking about nothing else but 'we've got to kiss Danny' and we're tired of it!"
Danny blinked. Every girl was talking about him? He would have been worried if not for the look of total disgust that Valerie shot him. "That's you're interesting night?! What's going on?!"
Danny muttered under his breath to Valerie. "I don't know! If I knew I'd have been working to fix it."
"I don't care what you did or why they're after you! I just want Paulina to think about me instead!" Dash grabbed a hold of Danny's collar and yanked him forward, raising his fist to make contact with Danny's face when a new voice spoke...a voice that seemed to make even Dash cringe.
Ah, Crap! As if Dash wasn't bad enough, Vlad Masters stood at the top of the snow-covered stairs with his hands in the pockets of his brown overcoat and a large smile on his face. "Playing with you're friends, are you?"
Danny's look suddenly darkened. Still in Dash's hands, he turned his head to Vlad, giving him a glare that made Dash suddenly want to put the smaller boy down and spat in a venom filled voice: "Yeah, Pla--" he stopped and took a deep breath before continuing, "Vlad, that's exactly what I'm doing. Playing with my friends..."
Vlad's eyes narrow for a moment. Dash and Valerie glanced between the two, both realizing they didn't know something and both wondering what they had missed (Dash more vaguely than Valerie) that had caused Danny's sudden change.
The billionaire refrained from retorting, instead choosing to turn to Dash. "You must be Dash Baxter, captain of the Casper High football team. You do know the school's stance on getting into fights after curfew, don't you? You really don't want to jeopardize that next game coming up on Saturday, do you?. I've heard there's a college scout coming down from State to look in on a certain player on the team."
Dash's face went pale, and he seemed to very suddenly want to be somewhere else. "Yeah," he started to mutter under his breath, "I gotta be the role model for the whole team. Uh, I'm going to turn in now. Gotta get up early for practice in the morning." With that, he set Danny down and strolled away, lacking his usual swagger. Judging from the two other jocks that had followed him, as soon as he rounded the corner he took off.
Vlad then turned to Valerie, who looked up at him with admiration. "And as for you, My Dear. I thought I saw a present under the tree with you're name on it. I would go check under the tree, if I were you. It looked rather large."
Valerie blinked at Vlad with a puzzled expression, until her eyes lit up with a sudden shine after a moment. In an instant, she'd already dashed through the door, leaving it swinging in her wake; leaving Danny turned his glare full force on Vlad.
"No 'thank you', Daniel?"
"What do you want, Plas-" It didn't seem to Danny as if Vlad had even moved, but there he was, suddenly less then an inch from Danny's face hissing.
"Another slip like that, dear boy, and you're friend Valerie might not live to see another Christmas. Don't do it again." Danny straightened, obviously about to go into ghost mode, until Vlad smiled and said, "It seems as if you're really popular tonight. Ever wonder why?"
Danny's glare lightened into a look of suspicious puzzlement. "What do you know about it?"
"And why are you so upset about it, my boy?"
Danny took a deep breath, deflating slightly. "It...It's not really them. They don't care about me. Someone's making them do this."
Vlad raised an eyebrow, his expression suddenly unreadable. "Not someone, but something," he said finally, causing Danny to blink.
"Seriously, What's you're problem? Are you going thru cat withdrawals?" Danny snapped, realizing Vlad was toying with him.
Vlad stiffened. "I am going to ignore that and ask you a question even you can figure out, Dear Boy. When did they start kissing you?"
Danny blinked. "After Paulena kissed me under the mistletoe..."
Vlad smiled, the contempt evident in every bit of his smile. "And every girl after that kissed you, correct?"
Danny unclenched his fists and began to rub the back of his neck. "No, not every girl. Sam didn't, and she was right there after Star kissed me. And Valerie just now..."
Vlad smiled even bigger, if it was possible to do so. "And what makes these girls different, Daniel?"
Danny blushed. "Uh...Their my friends?"
Vlad shook his head and rolled his eyes, his tone becoming slightly more sarcastic. "Very well, Daniel. If that's what you think. If that's the case, then all you have to do to brake the mistletoe curse, is to kiss you're friend...in you're case both of them, under the mistletoe."
Danny's mind froze as Vlad laughed at him. Finally Danny's mind unfroze as he sputtered, "Why did you just tell me this? You could have been laughing at me until New Year's Eve, but you didn't. Why?"
Vlad cocked an eyebrow, and for just an instant a truly laughing smile lit his face. "Because I was fourteen once, Daniel. And oh, by the way, Merry Christmas." Then he turned and strode back into the suddenly inviting party.
Danny stood mouth hanging open. Vlad Masters was strange, but strangest of all on Christmas, he thought, it must be the Christmas Truce that was making him act so differently. Shaking his head almost in awe at the power of the Ghostly Truce, he headed back into the party to get his friends. He guessed it would have to be Sam and Valerie; they were the only girls...because he was NOT going to kiss Tucker.
He stepped in the door and looked up at the mistletoe. It was as if a dam broke, and every girl in the room turned to him. "Here goes nothing." Danny muttered, wanting to become invisible again. He ducked the girls making a beeline for him, dodging around the adults and becoming intangible so if they did touch him, they couldn't hold him. "Hey, Sam! Valerie, Hey! I need to talk to you about something! Meet me under the mistletoe at the kitchen door! Help!" he yelped, eyeing the green sprig under the kitchen door.
Then Valerie was there, hollering, "Hey! Give the guy some air, will ya?!" And Sam was right behind her in pulling Danny to her side and giving a glare to every other girl in the room. "What's you guys problem? Find yourself another date! There's more guys in this room than just Danny!"
"I'm their problem," muttered Danny quickly to Sam as Valerie, twirling a broomstick she had picked up somewhere, kept somewhat of a distance between them and the other girls in the room. "When I kissed Paulena under the mistletoe, I started some kind of ghost mistletoe curse, and now I have to..." He paused, wondering what Sam's and Valerie's reaction would be when he told her how to break the curse.
Sam blinked. "What is it with you and Christmas Curses?" She muttered under her breath. "So, How do we break this one?"
Danny blushed. "You and Valerie have to kiss me under the mistletoe..." he whispered, in a voice almost too low to be heard.
"Please?" Danny asked, in a voice that was more of a plead, "Then I'll be like this maybe forever..."
Sam and Valerie exchanged an unreadable glance between them and then looked up at the mistletoe hanging above all three of them. "Well, if it is for just this..." Sam muttered. "I guess it's just a silly Christmas thing anyway..." muttered Valerie. Then before Danny could even blink, both Sam and Valerie bent forward and kissed him on the cheek, one on each side. Danny blushed from the tip of his nose to the edges of his round ears.
Instantly, the other girls in the room seemed to shake their heads and snap out of whatever spell they had been under. "Wow! What happened?" Star said, with her hand holding her head. "Yeah, Why did I suddenly want to kiss Danny Fenton?" the girl next to her muttered, sounding a lot like Paulena. But Danny was in a haze as he smiled at every girl in the room, feeling lightheaded and floating.
Sam let out a sigh. "Well, that seemed to work." And glanced around the room and spotted Tucker standing against the wall with his PDA out again, totally unaware of what had just happened. "I'm gonna go get Tucker and see if I can't get him away from his program for longer than 10 minutes."
"Good luck." Danny muttered, still wondering why he felt so lightheaded.
"I should be getting home, it's late and I've got stuff to do." Valerie peered at Danny's blissful expression and shaking her head, walked from the room.
Suddenly, Danny remembered something. "Wait! Valerie! I haven't given you your present this year!!" Danny dashed up the stairs and slammed open his bedroom closet door, snatching at the red present and then stiffening as he felt the shift change him from Danny Fenton to Danny Phantom.
"So, How was you're Christmas?" he asked pleasantly ducking the blast aimed for his head.
"Bad. I had to go to a party that I didn't like and kiss a boy with a girl I like even less. Why do you care about my social life, Ghost?!" Valerie snarled, aiming her gun for another shot at the Ghost boy.
"I have something for you." Danny tossed the present to Valerie and watched as she almost dropped her gun to fumblingly catch it.
"What?! Why?!" You could see the shock and surprise on Valerie's face. "What is this?"
"It's called a Christmas present. Merry Christmas, Valerie."
Danny smiled as Valerie started screaming, "How do you know my name, Ghost?!"
And she started to fire as they sped out of sight, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!