"Come on, Tucker! Just take the stupid picture all ready!" Sam shouted to him from her place against the tree, her nose never leaving the pages of the thick book she had in her lap, her eyes only glancing up from the text for an instant.
"It has to be just right; otherwise the whole project is pointless and the value goes down," Tucker said behind his small digital camera.
"Why are they even paying for these pictures?" Danny asked, floating around the branches of a nearby tree, gazing into the large yellow eyes of the small feline who had climbed to the tip and now screamed to get down. "There are already so many floating around, why do they need more?"
"They probably got tired of printing the same photos millions of times and need some new material." Sam said.
Danny sighed, gently reaching for the cat. "And why, again, did we decide on cats?" He was more a dog person, really.
"We needed something no one else has. You fight ghosts and save people, sure, but there's also a softer, gentler side of you that needs to be shown." Tucker said, zooming in and snapping the pictures at different frames in time. "Rescuing a cat from a tree is classic, just what you need to win the hearts of the few who still doubt you."
Cradling the dark furred feline Danny slowly started his decent when something hit him from behind, knocking back spinning head over feet smack into the Nasty Burger billboard sign. The cat yowling as it landed, claws first, in Sam's lap, who in turn practically threw her book to try to get the thing off her.
A glowing pink rocket smashed into him again, effectively crashing through the billboard. Yelling his name in unison, Sam and Tucker charged after him but he had already disappeared into the nearby trees, out of their reach.
"I've got you now ghost!" came the feminine shout as Valerie zoomed overhead in the direction he had fallen. His friends wasted no time following her.
Danny crashed through branches and leaves as he plummeted down before he blindly heard a surprised yelp, landing hard on something much softer than the ground. His muscles relaxed as darkness covered his eyes like deep black ink coming in from all directions. He felt the change come unbidden as he lay limply against the object he had landed.
Dash was walking quietly in the park tossing a small stuffed bear up and down in his right hand. He had seen it on the shelf at the market and knew it would be perfect for his collection. Smiling he grabbed it back out of the air and shoved it in the pocket of his jacket.
The park was awfully quiet today, not that he ever really went to the park unless he was playing catch with his friends or his dog, or planned on making out with some chick. He stood in the center of his usual hangout, a nice shaded spot surrounded by low bushes. It was convenient, and very useful in hiding two teenage bodies from the gossiping eyes of the world.
He heard a sound and looked up just as a body tumbled out of the trees onto him, knocking him to the ground. A light flashed just outside his closed eyelids for a moment. Groaning in pain he tried to move, feeling pressure on his torso. Opening his eyes he stared at a head of thick midnight blue hair. He only new one scrawny looser with that kind of ridiculous messy hairstyle, leaning up on his elbows he shifted his gaze .
Sure enough, Danny Fenton.
Danny felt someone shaking his shoulder roughly enough to dislocate it. With a groan he lifted his head, only about an inch or two but it was enough to stop the shaking for a while.
Then it resumed, harsher, and accompanied by a voice.
"Damn it Fenton, you better be alive or I'm gonna kill you." The object he was laying on moved beneath him, he knew it was a body, but whom? He felt himself fall limply against the person, his body not responding to the directions his muddled brain sent.
Fenton…who called him Fenton…
Several parts of his body were throbbing, probably injured, had he been in a fight? If so then maybe he was with Sam and Tucker…no this voice didn't match them. It sounded familiar though, maybe he had been in an accident, maybe he was dead…maybe he was all ghost now… Slowly he opened his eyes; the broken sunlight filtering through the branches overflowing with leaves pierced his eyes like hot spikes embedding themselves in his brain, assuring him that he was, undeniably, alive.
"Yo, Fentoad!" the voice shouted, almost directly in his ear. He was shook again, a little more gently, but still harsh against his injured shoulder.
He groaned again, unable to respond to the voice any other way. His sight cleared, the pain behind his eyes subsided and his surroundings became more comprehensible. Blinking he looked up at the familiar blonde.
He croaked out a surprised "D-Dash?!" and struggled to sit up, but the only thing he could support himself on was Dash's chest.
"Alright, you're alive now get off me before I make you wish you weren't Fenturd." He hissed irately. Dash was sitting now, his hand grasping Danny's shoulders harshly, ready to haul him off any moment.
Danny pushed himself up, his hands resting against Dash's torso, feeling the hard muscles pressed against the fabric of his shirt, muscles that could shred him in his exhausted state, and Dash's knees pressed against his lower back. A wave of dizziness swept up through his head and he almost fell forward again, but the strong hands that held his shoulders firmly kept him in place. Danny wondered why Dash hadn't chucked him yet. Surely the boy could just stand up and let him fall back to the ground.
Dash wanted to curse again but didn't, despite his usual insulting language he really didn't like to curse. But darn it if the loser wasn't wearing on his nerves. The wimp couldn't have been that hurt, he just fell from a tree. Then again that gash on the side of his arm bled pretty well and by the way Fenton winced when he held him up showed that left shoulder of his was probably hurt two.
Normally Dash would have just dropped him, but sports had taught him not to try and move an unconscious person, especially if they're injured. He didn't know what was wrong with Fenton and what might have caused him to fall hard enough to knock both of them to the ground. He could stick him in a locker, throw a few solid objects at him, and chase him with the threat of bodily harm, but to seriously injure the runt didn't exactly fit in with his high school agenda. He figured he still had a few good years of torment before being knocked to the bottom of the business ladder.
They sat there another moment, Danny in Dash's lap, his hand curled slightly against his chest, Dash's hands grasping his shoulders, their faces so close if it were cold out their breaths would be coming in one large puff as it melded together in the air. Danny trying to reorient himself, and Dash waiting for a sign that he was okay to be thrown off of him.
"Danny!" Sam and Tucker called out in unison. "Danny where are you!"
The figure hovering on the board above the trees came to an abrupt halt in the air. "Oh no, Sam and Tucker." She whispered fearfully before diving down into the brush. If she were to engage in a ghost fight with them near, even a playfully violent one with Danny Phantom, her friends may get caught in the crossfire.
A rustling in the bushes caught Sam's attention. "Tuck over here!" She called.
They both jogged over to the moving plants, a grunt could be heard followed by a loud 'thump' as if someone had fallen.
"Danny?" Tucker asked, shifting aside a branch. Suddenly a figure jumped out at them.
"Sam, Tucker." Valerie huffed, tugging a twig out of her disheveled hair. "What-what are you to doing here?"
"Um, Bird watching." Tucker explained quickly.
"What are you doing here?" Sam asked.
"It's a park." She said curtly. "I was walking and I tripped and fell into the bushes." Looking around she asked "Where's Danny?"
"Despite public opinion we aren't always together." Sam snapped back, handing the cat in her arms to Tucker. "Why do you want to know?"
"Whoa, nice kitty, nice kitty!" The cat's claws dug into Tucker, slicing him across the arms and face before jumping down and darting into the bushes.
Taking this as an opportunity to escape Valerie shouted. "Tucker! What did you do to that poor cat?!"
"I didn't do anything! The monster just attacked me!" But Val was already running after the cat.
Sam darted after her and Tucker was left standing, staring after them stupidly before deciding, why not, and following.
Sam skidded to an abrupt stop, causing Tucker to slam into her dropping his camera. Three clicks sounded followed by three quick flashes. He cursed, moving to pick it up, but the image in front of them stopped him.
Dash and Danny were settled in the middle of a cluster of trees and bushes, Danny sat in Dash's lap, his legs on either side of him, their noses almost touching.
Valerie cleared her throat as the cat jumped up on Dashes chest and rubbed against Danny, both boys jerked their heads in the direction of the sound, their eyes widening at the sight of the three teens.
"Are we interrupting something?" Valerie asked.
Danny trudged slowly behind his snickering friends, cursing this world, the ghost world, and every other world in between. He had gym next, and was not looking forward to sitting on the bleachers for the whole class to see. He clutched the doctor's note firmly in his shaking hand, wincing as the strap of the sling rubbed harshly against the back of his neck. He tried not to imagine the sore that would develop and resisted the urge to move his left arm.
To think, he had fought giant monsters, evil ghosts, and enraged football players and walked away will little more than a few choice bruises. But he tried to rescue a no-longer-homeless cat from a park tree, and he ended up with a Proximal Humorous fracture. Not to mention having to endure Tucker's gay jokes for the majority of the morning. As if the cross-dressing thing from freshman year wasn't enough.
"All in the name of good," he muttered. He was NOT looking forward to seeing Dash today, so far he had managed to avoid the burly dope, but gym was always an inevitable collision.
"Aw common Danny, cheer up. At least you saved the cat." Sam struck through his gloomy thoughts like sun through overcast.
"And we got some sweet pictures of you doing it too, we're sure to win the contest now!" Tucker said gleefully as he nuzzled his digital camera.
"Heh, whatever you say guys." He said with an attempt at a smile, they stopped by the school newspaper office on their way to class so Tuck could drop it off.
"GHOST!" Jack screamed at the top of his lungs, firing randomly at the furniture in an attempt to hit his target. Green blasts of energy sizzled in the air.
"Jack, what on earth?!" Maddie came running into the living room in the hope of rescuing what was left of her furnishings.
"There's a ghost!"
"What?" She somersaulted over the sofa and landed back to back with her husband. "Where is it?" She asked, her gun at the ready.
"I spotted it sleeking through the shadows, the most hideous yellow eyes glowing at me from the dark corners. This one's sure to be powerful Maddie, keep your guard up."
"Gyaaa!" Both Maddie and Jack turned and fired their weapons at the small black cat on the top of the chair.
Frightened the cat jumped down and bolted from the room, slid across the kitchen floor, and collided with Jazz's feet.
"Get it!" Jack rushed into the kitchen with his wife, pointing their guns at the first thing they spotted. "We've got you now ghost."
Jazz looked at her parents with an exasperated expression, the black cat nestled in her arms. "I'm trying to get some rest you two, and I can't very well do that with you guys playing target practice with Danny's new cat."
"Cat?" Jack painted his gun at the ceiling, away from his daughter, and mumbled, "I thought he'd be more of a dog person."
"When did Danny get a pet?" Maddie asked, holstering her gun. "Why didn't he tell us about it?"
"He brought him home yesterday, you know, after his accident?" referring to the tale Sam and Tucker had told their parents. She herself had not overheard whatever lie they had weaved.
"Oh, so this is the little dear that Danny helped out." Maddie plucked the frightened cat from Jazz's arms, cradling him close.
"And to think I thought they were lying when they said he fell when rescuing a cat." Jack said, looking down at the little black fuzz ball.
"I figured he had gotten into a fight at school," Maddie said.
"Or encountered a GHOST! I was planning on having a talk with him when he got home today, but I guess they were telling the truth." Jack pet the cat with his large hand, gun still out and ready.
"Oh honey, you shouldn't be up and about." Maddie said, letting the cat jump to the floor. "You go back on up to bed."
"Sure mom." Jazz said tiredly, certain they wouldn't try to disintegrate the poor cat again. She only had two more days of spring break, it was bad enough she got a fever, she didn't need any more problems to deal with before going back to school. The little cat followed her up the stairs, sitting by Danny's door until Jazz entered her room, then turned around and fazed through it.
The locker room was alive with conversation and the rank moldy smell of socks. Danny removed the strap around his abused neck, cursing all known and unknown worlds yet again. The doctor's note he had cradled in his hand like some precious ancient treasure was supposed to excuse him from gym class due to his injury, but apparently, it did not excuse him from dressing out. So here he was, in the ruff and rowdy locker room surrounded by unruly high school boys who, in his injured state, all seemed to be bigger and stronger than he was.
Trying to keep out of the way of the wrestling teens while struggling to get his shirt off in the least painful way possible Danny felt frustration like no other. He toyed with the thought of overdressing momentarily before simply opting to phase his left arm out of his shirt. Carefully making it seem as though he had actually taken the offending scrap of clothing off his arm he manually removed it the rest of the way and placed it inside his locker.
He had barely had the time to remove his hand from the locker when it slammed closed, causing Danny to jump and spin around, clutching his P.E. shirt to his chest like a shield covering his injuries. Tilting his face upwards and gazing out through his bangs he faced a sneering Dash.
"Hey Fen-turd, heard you aren't participating in class today, that little scratch on your arm too much for your delicate little body to handle?" Dash mocked.
"Heh, actually Dash I fractured my left humerus." Danny answered, turning slightly to protect his injured arm and show his right. "That "little scratch" only needed a few stitches."
"Oh really now, I'm sorry. I didn't realize your puny little body was so fragile." He sneered, gripping Danny's left arm. "I guess I should be a bit gentler from now on." He gave a savage twist sending white-hot pain shooting through the abused appendage, his smile widening at the cry of pain wrenched from the smaller boy's throat.
Danny released his shirt to clutch at his injured arm, revealing his battered body to the hushed locker room in an attempt to protect his week spot.
Startled Dash abruptly released him, the larger teen stepping away quickly in the crowded space, nearly tripping over the bench in-between the two rows of lockers.
"Geeze Dash, what'd you do to him?" Kwan asked.
"What? I didn't do this!"
Danny trembled as he sat on the bench watching the rest of the class, trying to ignore the glances several guys threw his way. He was glad Tucker's stop by the newspaper had made him late to the locker room, he didn't want to hear him, or anybody right now. And Tucker would automatically assume that as his friend it would be his duty to discuss the terrible bruising that had formed overnight.
He knew it had not been that bad when he had gotten dressed this morning. Something was seriously wrong.
"Baxter!" Mrs. Tetslaff shouted catching Danny's attention, as well as everybody else's in the gym.
"Yes Mrs. Tetslaff?"
"Lancer wants a word with you." The large woman said, indicating the waiting vice-principal with her thumb.
"Yes ma'am." Dash said, dropping the basketball and jogging over to Mr. Lancer.
Danny wondered, briefly, what Mr. Lancer would want with Dash, maybe he was in trouble. He cradled his throbbing arm close to him; he hoped Dash got in trouble for something. But in reality, the oaf was probably receiving some reward for the most sports played by a single person with a low GPA.
Dash never got in trouble, for anything.
Shutting the door to the gym Mr. Lancer led Dash down the halls to the Principal's office where a vexed Principal Ishiyama was seated comfortably behind her desk.
"You wanted to see me?" Dash asked.
"Have a seat Mr. Baxter." The principal stated coldly, when Dash had done just that she asked him, "What is your opinion of Daniel Fenton?
"Fenton? He's okay I guess." Dash looked at Lancer out of the corner of his eye, but quickly snapped his attention back to the principal. What was this about? "A little on the puny side but not everybody can look tough."
"She means, what is your personal opinion of him." Lancer said from the seat beside the desk.
"He's a dork, clumsy and awkward. He's not good at sports, `cept on a few occasions, but he's an alright guy I guess." Dash tried hard not to go too far in his descriptions of Danny's looser-ness. He could get in trouble, may already be in trouble, but he'd been picking on Fenton and his looser friends for years, what would get Ishiyama's panties in a bunch about him now? "Is this like, one of those peer review things?" He decided to inquire.
"Mr. Baxter, it has been brought to my attention that you have been violently harassing Daniel Fenton for quite a while, an incident which has been overlooked by some of our staff." She glared at Lancer.
"Come now, it's only harmless high school teasing." Mr. Lancer defended.
"The number of deaths due to "high school teasing" has skyrocketed over the years nationwide, suicide, accidental killings, murder, shootings," She picked up a frame she must have been looking at before they came in, Dash could see an old newspaper, but not what the headline read. Suicide? Murder? Did she think Danny would, what, suffocate in his locker if left there too long? Or maybe… no. Fenton didn't seem like the type to kill himself; he was far too arrogant to do something like that, but… Principal Ishiyama sighed, looking a bit dejected as she set the frame back on her desk with a small 'thunk' "We as educators are obliged to protect today's youth from the outside world, as well as their fellow peers." She opened her eyes to pin Dash with a glare. "I am determined to crack down on bullying and I will start with you." She spoke directly to Dash.
"You don't really think Fenton would hurt himself because some kids are teasing him, do you?" He found himself asking, unsure suddenly of the answer to that question. "I'm only messing with him." Surely only the victims of really bad bullies killed themselves, people with no friends at all who's bullies put them in the hospital and made the whole school hate them, people who were beat up so badly so often death was like an escape, kids who never speak up or defend themselves. People so incredibly different from Danny Fenton. "I've..I've never, never done anything to really hurt him."
"Really," the principal looked doubtful, and a bit annoyed by this. "I have had several students, from this very period, come to my office with concern over Mr. Fenton's health." She leafed through the five incident reports placed on her desk by her secretary. "Assault in the locker room, viciously targeting and twisting his broken arm, there are also details of discoloration, possibly bruises, covering his upper body."
"I didn't do that!" Dash objected. "He fell out of a tree yesterday, that's where he broke his arm and got all those bruises!" This was not happening. Sure, he could get in trouble for bullying Fenton, he could live with that, that's what he did, he bullied him, he didn't mind getting punished for something he had done, but he hadn't given Danny those bruises, he wasn't that kind of person, wasn't that kind of bully. He looked at Lancer, Mr. Lancer knew what kind of bully he was, knew what kind of kid he was, knew he didn't like that kind of ferocity.
"But you did confront him in the locker room at the beginning of this period." She stated, palm smacking against her desk, shocking Dash with her sudden anger. "An injured boy, much smaller than you and not nearly as strong. You grabbed him and twisted his broken arm, doing who knows what kind of permanent harm to the already damaged bone and muscle tissue. We don't even know what part of it is broken, do you realize he may have to have the joints surgically replaced now? Do you know how much that may cost, who would be paying for it? His parents could sue the school for it, we'd have to cut back on several activities, cut classes, maybe fire some teachers to replace it. You could say goodbye to those new uniforms for the baseball and soccer teams, and you're parents could be included in the suit, especially if they psychologically analyze him and find him suffering some sort of mental breakdown due to your constant bullying. Not to mention getting on bad terms with the Fentons could place us in harm's way should they retract their promise to donate the latest in ghost security to our school district to protect the children!" Ishiyama had risen from her desk now, glaring at the two of them, Lancer and Dash.
"The Fentons may be a big joke to many, but Maddie is the greatest ghost hunter in the world, and Jack a brilliant, if somewhat clueless inventor who created, though not perfected, many of the equipment used. Daniel Fenton will inherit that one day as well, and may be even more skilled than his parents due to all his earlier experience. You really want that boy coming after you?"
Dash was no longer looking at the principal, but down at his feet. He hadn't known it was his broken arm; he had grabbed the left one to avoid hurting the one with the cut. He hadn't meant to seriously hurt the dork. Hadn't wanted any of this. Joint replacement, surgery, lawsuits? These were things he never considered, neither had he really understood just how far reaching the Fenton's influence ran. Didn't they consult a government agency as well? What was it, those Guys in White right? Yeah that was it. But did she really think the Fenton's were so vindictive to sue them when they could easily pay for the operation, if he even needed one? Danny would just get back at him was all, like putting itching powder in his football uniform or a stink bomb in his locker. Danny wasn't the kind of person to sue or press charges or file complaints, he was the kind of person who got even, just like Dash wasn't the kind of person who seriously hurt intentionally.
Principal Ishiyama sighed. "When the bell rings for the next class you will escort Mr. Fenton to the Nurses office to be checked out. Ah!" She raised a hand to silence Dash when he would have interrupted. "Your schedule shows you share several classes with him, since he will probably have trouble carrying his books due to his injured arm, you will assist him during those class periods."
"But!" Dash protested.
"No buts, Mr. Baxter. You will be partnered with him for any group projects; you will not speak cruelly or approach him in any threatening manner. Nor will you harass his friends. The members of the staff will be notified and will watch after you two. Is that understood?"
"Yes ma'am." Dash went back to looking at his shoes, sure that his reputation would be ruined, at the very least it would give Fenton and his friends the chance to get even with him big time, and much sooner than usual. Still…
"Principal Ishiyama, really is this necessary?" Mr. Lancer asked, Dash looked at him, but decided not to say anything. Lancer was always on Dash's side, even though he cared about Fenton Lancer liked what the popular crowd could do for him, but even they didn't like him that much. Now, Dash thought, was not the time for Lancer to be butting in.
"Yes. This hierarchy of sports players has gone on long enough. Simply being on an athletic team does not make one better than anyone else. I understand we cannot look after all the students who need our protection from bullies like you, Mr. Baxter, but we will look after this one, and you. Hopefully you'll remember this next time you get it in your mind to attack those smaller than yourself." She glared at Dash. "Go get dressed and be in the Nurses office with Mr. Fenton in ten minutes."
"Yes ma'am." Dash rose from his seat and left the office, closing the door on Mr. Lancer and Principal Ishiyama's discussion on how best to deal with bullies. He thought the principal had her own reasons for pairing them up, mainly the very selfish one of not wanting the school to be sued, but really, there were a million other people who could help Danny. Pairing the two up, when they obviously did not get along, a bully and a helpless victim, just seemed stupid to him. Didn't she realize that if he was really the vicious attacker she claimed he was, he could do anything to Danny now? Even with people watching, who's to stop him from dragging him somewhere nobody could see and doing whatever he wanted?
Entering the locker room he dressed, barely ready before his fellow male gym students entered, as rowdy and sweaty as usual. He managed to smile back at his friends, meeting their high-fives mid air as usual, but not answering their questions of what Lancer had wanted. Instead he shrugged on his jacket, gave a quick glance in the mirror, and made his way over to Fenton's locker.
Danny was struggling between avoiding two wrestling freshmen beside him, and entering his locker combination. One of the boys gave a shout of laughter and lunged at the other, knocking back and bumping right into Danny. Danny let out a yelp of pain, clutching his arm to his chest and backing away from the oblivious teens.
"Hey!" Dash boomed, grabbing the startled boys by their collars. "Watch what you're doing, you losers could hurt someone." Freshman shouldn't even be in this P.E. class, in fact Dash shouldn't be in the class either since he already got his credits for it and did sports, but weightlifting was full, and he wasn't allowed a free period with his grades as low as they were. With a grunt he pushed the frightened freshmen away from Fenton and Foley who were pressing themselves as close to their lockers as possible to avoid the conflict.
Dash turned back to them, his hand slamming down by his right shoulder. Danny flinched, adjusting the strap to the sling when it tried to faze through his neck, desperately trying to hide his trembling arm. Prepared for some kind of blow.
"Get dressed, then meet me in the hall," Dash said, opening the locker for him, "and hurry up about it." He threw over his shoulder as he walked away.
"Dude, how does he know your combination?" Tucker asked, staring after the retreating jock.
Danny shrugged concerned more about why Dash wanted him in the hall. As quickly and carefully as he could he dressed, hoping he wasn't in for any more pain, he had had enough for today.
"Happy freaking 18th Birthday Danny." He mumbled to himself.
A small black cat was curled up on the pillow on Danny's bed, breathing evenly, visibly asleep surrounded by the scent of his rescuer, his new owner. At least that's what it looked like when Jazz poked her head into the room to check on it. Really, he was wide-awake, his little brain going wild over various scenarios that would undoubtedly happen eventually; but in what order, and to what extent? He wondered when his new ghostly companion was coming home. This was the first time he had ever been acquainted with this kind of being. True, he had met those with near death experiences, and even some who had died, for a time, and then came back, taking some kind of spiritual gift with them when they returned. This boy, however, was nowhere near dead or dying, it was…perplexing.
Still, he couldn't count the years he had wandered this world lost with no one to care for or befriend. It was nice to have a soft place to sleep after so long; he only hoped he could be of some help when things got bad.
And they were going to get bad.
Dash led Danny down the locker lined hallways to the nurse's office. Tucker and Sam hung back a ways, partly from the nasty looks Dash was giving them and partly due to Tucker's lethal fear of the nurse's office. It wasn't something he could help or be blamed for; still it was inconvenient at times.
'Like now.' Danny thought as Dash, rather reluctantly, held the door open for him.
Sam staid back with a distraught Tucker who swore his feet would not budge another inch unless it was backwards, to which Sam rolled her eyes, giving Danny an apologetic look as he disappeared around the corner.
Principal Ishiyama was already there as well as Mr. Lancer. Dash gave Lancer a sloppy grin, most commonly used when he was in trouble or failed a test. This time however it was met with a frown as Mr. Lancer's gaze traveled over Fenton's slight, stooped figure.
Danny's eyes were droopy and carried a light purple shadow beneath them, rimmed with dark red outlines, like a kind of red eyeliner, not surprising as it was obvious by how often he dozed off in class that he didn't get much sleep, combined with his hunched posture and how close he cradled his injured arm-
'Now in a sling." Dash thought irritably.
-made for one pathetic, pity-worthy picture.
"Mr. Fenton, this may sound embarrassing but could you remove your shirt?" the nurse requested in a soft voice that sounded oddly like the Lunch-lady's. Creepy much?
"M-my shirt?" Danny squeaked
"Yes, I'm sorry if this is a discomforting subject, there is a curtain you may step behind, but I'm afraid we need to see the bruises on your torso."
"No, no, it's okay." Danny said, but stepped behind the closed curtain anyway. He was too glad for the privacy to really worry about walking out shirtless in front of the principal, and Mr. Lancer, Dash and the Nurse didn't really count since they had seen him without a shirt on more than one occasion.
He let out a sigh and concentrated on fazing through his shirt, letting it and the irritating sling fall to the floor in a crumpled heap. He tried moving his left arm, but the pain, reawakened by Dash's twist earlier, made him stifle a gurgled cry. He chose to keep it at its bent angle, accepting that to let it fall to his side would result in more pain.
"Mr. Fenton," Mr. Lancer called. "Are you done or do you need help disrobing?"
"No I'm good, just a little trouble with the sling." Danny said stepping out from behind his box like space. "It's just a fracture but sometimes it feels like my arm's been ripped off." He joked, trying not to let them see how much it hurt. He went for a chuckle but the collection of dismayed faces halted him. "What? Is there a ghost?!" He asked glancing around nervously, trying not to think of how like his father he just sounded.
"Mr. Baxter!" Principal Ishiyama hissed accusingly.
"I didn't do that! I swear!" Dash cried out horrified. "I never did anything to him that could cause that, I know I didn't."
Danny looked down at his chest and swore aloud, receiving a startled gasp from Dash who's insults, though taunting, were usually mild and unimaginative.
Those were unmistakably bruises, but they were larger and darker than they had been an hour ago. This morning it was obvious he had only fallen from a tree, now…well it looked like he had been hit head on by a bus. 'Or a missile.'
"Dash didn't do this to me." Danny said aloud, causing the principal and Lancer to turn to him. He swallowed hard, not really understanding why he had spoken in Dash's defense. The quarterback was finally getting in trouble and not just for anything, Dash was in trouble for picking on him! Still, his damn annoying conscious never failed to butt in. "I…uh, fell out of a tree yesterday.
"Did you hit every branch on the way down?" Lancer remarked.
"No, but I hit Dash."
"Landed right on top of me," Dash muttered, then realized Danny was trying to help him out and quickly added, "but I walked him home with his pals and Valerie."
"It was a really tall tree." Danny exaggerated. "And there was this cat."
"Yeah, a small black one, I remember." Dash added.
"And I was trying to help it. When I slipped and fell."
"And he landed on me."
"That's quite enough!" Principal Ishiyama interrupted after listening to the story be passed like a ball on the court. "You expect me to believe you received those injuries by rescuing a cat from a tree?"
"And falling," Danny stated with his index finger raised.
"Daniel." The nurse addressed him in her soft caring voice. "Are there some…problems at home?"
Everyone turned expectantly to him.
"What? No! My family is perfectly normal…well as normal as we've always been."
"We all have different views and opinions of family life, perhaps-"
"Enough!" Danny shouted angrily, pulling his shirt back on, wincing when he moved his left arm. "There is nothing wrong with my family!" 'Besides physiological but that wasn't the point.' "The doctor said it was normal for bruises to form around a broken bone, if you have a problem with it just call him." Adjusting his sling he faced the faculty members, and Dash. "Now if you'll excuse me I have another class to get to." With that, Danny walked out the door to his friends and their questioning looks.
Dash glanced from his speechless principal to the speechless Mr. Lancer and back again before heading out to follow Fenton and his nerdy friends. He and Danny had Lancer for the next period so tardiness wasn't an issue, but he was still obligated to carry Danny's books.
Danny reached into his locker for his English book, the heaviest book in his arsenal of texts, as always. Heaven forbid they give the students a lighter load.
He flinched as the locker beside him slammed closed. Dash was not in the best of moods. But then, he wouldn't be either if he was unjustly blamed for something he didn't do, even though Dash was more than deserving of a little karmic payback. Danny himself was still a little fumed at the incident just now, but chose not to discuss it with the jock. Hurrying he struggled to balance his fat book in one arm while shouldering his locker closed all the while avoiding being shouldered aside himself by the passing students in the crowded halls. Today was so not his day.
Suddenly his fat book disappeared and his locker slammed shut without him even touching it. He swung around, fully expecting to face a ghost, possible the BoxGhost who loved to mess with him during school hours when it was difficult to transform, and thus beat the living shit out of him.
What he didn't expect was to face a rather pissed looking jock looming over him. 'Man, I'm so not in any kind of condition to be shoved in a locker.' he briefly wondered when he was, then shook the thought off as he prepared himself to be lifted and jammed into a confining space.
But Dash just placed the overly large book on top of his own and turned, walking in the direction of their next period class. It was only when he was more than halfway to the opened door that he looked over his shoulder and noticed Fenton wasn't following. Looking down the hall he pinned Danny with a smoldering glare, his body turning to fit his angled head. He shouted to be heard over the throng of chattering students and their conversations. "Yo, Fenton! Hurry up or we'll be late for Lancer's class!"
All. Talking. Stopped.
Like a well choreographed rippling wave all the students shifted their heads in Danny's direction.
The sudden suffocating silence snapped Danny out of his stupor, staring nervously at the students around him he hurried awkwardly to Dash's side. It was like one of that creepy, badly written drama's where everybody was lined up against the locker's, staring at a student as he walked down the hall. 'Dead man walking' could almost be heard whispered just beneath the sound of his tapping shoes. He reached Dash, and the two continued, tense and uncomfortable they walked side by side down the rest of the hall until they disappeared into the class.
The conversations burst back to life once the two had entered the open classroom. The topic, Dash and Danny's strange new behavior. The two never walked to class together, ever, even when they were civil to each other. This new development would be the talk of the next two hours, but wouldn't survive any longer unless something juicier came of it.
In fact, a particularly clumsy cheerleader was suppose to have chemistry tutoring next period, that should replace it for the rest of the day.
One student, however, was scribbling down notes in a half hazard scrawl-like handwriting, intent of capturing this moment while it was still hot in their minds, sure it was good for at least a mention in the newspaper, unaware of how her small tidbit of gossip would change their school drastically.
"What a bunch of idiots," she stated as she skimmed over the accumulation of digital photos e-mailed to the school newspaper account. Already she had gone through the printed photos and reaped similar results. Poor quality, repeated prints from the city newspaper and magazines, or just plain fakes, and horrible ones at that. "As often as the ghost boy appeared you'd think there would be at least a few decent pictures of him."
But sadly none. With a sigh she turned to the only camera turned in. Tucker Foley's.
How typical of him to turn in the whole friggen thing rather than just e-mail them in. Hooking up the camera and downloading the contents from the card was time consuming enough, but not infuriatingly so. Until a pop-up informed her there were over 170 pictures on the card.
"Terrific." She mumbled, knowing less than a fifth was actually of the ghost boy. "Does he ever clear this thing out?" she asked the empty room in slight amusement as she stared at a picture of Danny Fenton in freshman year dressed as the Casper High Spirit Baby. Now that was a funny sight. She mused thinking back to the days when she was just starting out in Journalism, wondering what had brought on the spout of depression she had sank into the very next day. "Guilt probably, the poor kid was humiliated and I did an article on him."
Continuing her browsing she finally came across her quarry. "And we have a winner!" There he was, Danny phantom, rescuing a poor defenseless cat from a tree in Amity Park's City Park. A horrible cliché but the best pictures turned in so far. Tempting.
Browsing through the selection she began mentally filing away the best ones for publication.
"You'll NEVER guess what I just saw!" The gossip columnist burst through the door with a scream of pure fan-girlish glee.
"Let me guess, a ghost?"
"No, but just as good." She bounced into a chair and wheeled it around to face her companion. "Okay, there I was, just waiting in the hall for something juicy to turn up like it usually does during passing period, when who but Dash Baxter should come walking by, right out of the nurse's office with this peculiar look on his face. I was going to ask him if a team member had been injured and what it would mean for the team this season, I know I'm not in sports but I figured it would be good gossip anyway, plus I could pass it on right? So I followed him to his locker hoping to catch him before he headed to class. I could tell he was in a rotten mood because he slammed his locker closed harder than usual."
"Does this story have a point?"
"I'm getting there Mrs. Irritable. Anyway he turns to Danny Fenton and it looks like he's gonna pound the poor guy again because his jaw is all tight and I swear I could see a vein popping out on his forehead. I was thinking it was too bad because Danny's arm was in a sling and he looked really tired, more so than usual. But then Dash just grabbed Danny's book and shut his locker, just walking off, but when Danny didn't follow him, Dash stopped and turned around and shouted for him to get a move on. He even held the door to Lancer's class open for him!" The gossiper added with another squeal. "Its so unlike him, all gentle and stuff."
"You don't say." She said softly as an image caught her eye. She clicked to enlarge it.
"I'm thinking 'Bully Turns over New Leaf', or maybe, 'Quarterback Aids Injured Peer.'" The gossip columnist turned to her companion. "What do you think? Does Dash maybe have some secret soft spot for this Fenton kid? I mean, when Tucker had a broken leg for a while, remember, and Dash never did anything for him, so why be nice to Danny when his arm is just in a sling, right? Wait, you don't think Dash hurt him bad and is just helping him out of guilt do you? Dash never goes too far, not that a good scandal isn't needed, but Dash is so controlled."
"I'm thinking this may be a bit deeper that pity gal…." she turned away from the picture on the monitor screen to flash her annoying companion with a conniving smile. "Much deeper."
"Oh my," The gossiper blushed when she saw the image, then added with her own devious grin. "This is too good."
Grumbling Dash walked out to his car, ignoring his gawking friends who stood on the school steps watching him. He had felt rejection before, usually from Paulina who thought she was too cool to date even him. But Fenton?!
"Who does Fenton think he is?!" He shouted fisting his hair in frustration. "He should have been thrilled by the offer. But noooo, he just says "no thanks" and walks off like it didn't kill me to ask him in front of those people."
Several students had stopped to stare, whispering amongst themselves at Dash's odd words. He sent them a nasty glare that had them scattering. His fierce expression dropped a bit however as he got to his car and he fiddled with his keys sadly. He had only tried to be nice, like Lancer and the principal told him to be. Why couldn't Fenton accept that? He didn't always have to be planning something right? There were times when the two of them were civil, even friendly. Did the guy honestly weigh everything they did together with such suspicion?
Driving off school campus he couldn't help but wish Fenton wasn't so afraid of him.
Danny, Sam, and Tucker all entered his house, fully prepared for an onslaught of questions about the incident yesterday. Rescuing a cat from a tree, very believable excuse. Startled, but not completely surprised that his living room looked like ground zero they entered the kitchen, which was pretty much the usual hangout for the family.
"What's all this stuff?" Danny asked his mom who was sitting at the table covered in cat supplies, wrestling with the plastic straps connecting a new tiny cat collar to its cardboard back.
"Oh, it's just a few things for Odin." She said with a "Hah!" as she finally freed the strap from its confining package.
"The cat!" His dad popped his head in around the corner of the stairwell leading to the lab, a small black cat popped its head around his father's with a, "mroow."
"The cat, my cat?" Danny shook his head. "You named my cat, without asking me?" After today's events, he was seriously not in the mood for anyone to be usurping his cat-naming privileges, whether he wanted the damn animal or not.
"Well Danny, we couldn't just keep calling him 'the cat'." Maddie walked up to her husband and picked up the tiny cat who struggled in her grip as she slipped the collar around his neck.
"You couldn't wait a few hours until I got home? Come on!" Danny was sure he was acting a bit childish about this, but he had a hard ass day.
"What would you name him then, sweetie?"
"Um..uhn.." He hadn't expected to win so suddenly, damn his parents and their teenager-handling knowledge. Actually he hadn't planned on keeping the thing at all, it just followed him home; really it did. 'Oh crap, name, name, name, Odin, what a shitty name for a cat. A dog maybe, but a cat?' Damn, maybe he could just blurt some goofy name out. No, then why not just keep Odin if it's something stupid. 'Oh damn.'
'Grimalkin.' The name entered his mind like a flutter of leaves in the autumn wind, in a voice that sounded like it too. His immediate thought when it popped up was, 'what the hell does that mean?' but not having anything else to work with he blurted out, "Grimalkin!"
"Grimalkin? What an odd name. Why name him that?" Maddie asked her son.
"Well you two look busy in here." To emphasize the point a few tiny mice toys dropped from the table onto the floor with a squeak. Danny quickly grabbed his friends by the shoulders and began pushing them towards the door. "And we've got homework to do! So we'll be up in my room. Bye." With that, they trotted out of the kitchen and up the stairs, the small black cat comically scrabbling up the tall steps after them.
Maddie and Jack looked at each other and shrugged. Teenagers.
"You're sure about this?" The Editor asked.
"Just look at it! This picture, Dash's behavior today, maybe even why Fenton is always the one targeted. It all makes sense!"
"This isn't a free press. We could get in trouble for this by the district."
"They GAVE us the picture. Knowingly or not they gave it to us.
"We'll have to ask the teacher, and maybe run it by the principal, but I think we can get it in by Monday." The two girls high-fived each other, but the editor cut it short quickly, "But we run the Phantom story first page, got it? This story stays in the gossip category. Now get to work, we've got a lot of work if we want to run this Monday."
I've been without a computer for a while do to my sibling stupidity during a thunder storm. As such I've had to use an utter crap computer only twice a week with an on screen keyboard. So instead of trying to agonize over the next chapter in such cercumstances, I went through and fixed up the first 16, and have decided to condence it, so you wont click the next button and have to read a chapter that's only a few paragraphs long, It'll probably bring the chapters in to about 8 in total now, but I hope you guys like it. I've changes some things, fixed some errors, and filled out the dialogue and descriptions so that it flows better. Hopefully the reading speed bumps were all smoothed out.
Thanks to everyone who have waited so patiently for the next update.