A terrible thunderstorm, the perfect setting to a challenge.

Yeah right.

"Dash, I don't think we should do this, its dangerous."

"What you so scared of Fentina? Its fine! I've done this thousands of times."

My fault. All my fault.

"The wind's too strong! I can't keep my balance. I can't do this."

"Chicken, just run across! Look, I made it!"

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

"Fenton!"

A scream.

A splash.

So stupid

That's all that went through his head as he paced back and forth in his bedroom. How stupid he was. He didn't even know Fenton's phone number!

"So stupid!" He shouted, causing a whimper to escape from the trembling form on his bed. Startled Dash slowed his pacing and sat gently on the edge of the mattress.

"I don't know what to do." He said softly. His parents were gone, the power was out, the rain storm that before had seamed an exciting scene for his little challenge now blocked out all hope of getting help.

The worst part of it was, though he knew the Fentons had a backup generator for times like these, he didn't know their phone number to call them on his cell. And Danny only seemed to be getting worse.

He smoothed aside Danny's black, sweat soaked hair cringing when his ice cold hands made contact with the teen's burning forehead. Why did he insist that it be only the two of them?

Dash didn't know how bad of a fever Danny had, and though he knew he should get the thermometer he was terrified of what it would say. There was no way to help, and knowing how bad it was would only make him panic. He needed to stay strong and focused if he was going to be any real help.

Every group had its challenges, there didn't seem to be any harm in allowing Fenton a chance to join the popular group, for good. Not anymore of this you're in, you're out crap. A real, permanent member until the group as a whole decided otherwise. And with Valerie out and nobody to step up and fill the void, there was an empty space just waiting to be occupied.

But in truth, Dash had his own agenda. When he asked the group for permission to choose a new member he already had Fenton in mind, not because he thought he was cool, or because he felt sorry for the looser, but because it gave him an excuse to test Fenton in the most brutal way possible.

He wasn't a nice guy, never believed he was and never tried to be. Nice guys didn't get the girls; nice guys didn't win trophies or start trends or command respect. Nice guys never got their way, even Fenton knew that. Nice might get you a few minutes of fame, nice may get you a pity date with the most popular girl, nice might get you into the popular crowd for a day or two, but in the end you're still the nice guy. And when you have nothing new to offer but the same old nice, you're out.

Because nice guys can't play the game. Nice guys don't know about blackmail or bullying or how to make others fear and respect you. Nice guys couldn't do that, they're too…nice.

But Fenton wasn't a nice guy, not entirely. And Dash had been on the receiving end of his bad tempers more than once. He had to offer Danny something, a test, an obstacle course if you could call it that, but most importantly it was a chance for a place at the top. And best of all, if he failed, if Fenton couldn't make it, he never would.

Dash believed that if he crushed Danny's spirits entirely, gave him no other option, he would never have to look over his shoulder again. Never look down the hallway and wonder if today, or tomorrow or next week Danny would rise up the ranks again and join, and this time stay.

Because Danny wasn't always a nice guy, and he new how to play the game.

But things had gone so wrong from the very beginning. The tests had all been passed, the disgusting challenges seen through to the end, the trials faced head on in front of peers who would judge him worthy or not. Dash had only one other choice, a dangerous, frightening test that would have had him shaking if he hadn't been so determined.

The old pier had been shaky, the giant fallen pillar soggy and rotten, the wood crumbling beneath their steps. The wind had been fierce, the waves crashing against the bottom of the post harsh, sometimes coming high enough to slip over the top and wet their shoes. The moss and slime made the crossing slippery and he almost lost his balance twice, but he had made it.

Then it was Danny's turn.

The small teen was shaking, having come out without a jacket assuming they would be inside. It wouldn't have done much good anyway, his pants were soaked to the knee and the water was rising. If he fell…

"Dash, I don't think we should do this, it's dangerous." He had called. He was scared; Dash could see that from across the post where he stood. It didn't matter, even if he did make it across there were several more just like this he could make him do, and then cross back to land on the rocks that would take them to the shore.

There was no way Fenton would make it. He had won.

"What you so scared of Fentina? Its fine! I've done these thousands of times." During the day, with the wind just a soft breeze and the waves a gentle lapping sound several feet below him.

Standing straighter, his arms falling to his side, his fists clenched, Danny Fenton made his way across the rotten, sea soaked wooden pillar. Jaw clenched, careful of his footing he tried to reach Dash, to reach his goal, and once and for all prove his worth to his peers.

But the waves were getting bigger, the water pushing harder at his feet, and the wind forcing him just that much more off balance. His long hair was wet and caught in the wind, lashing him across the face and obscuring his view.

"The wind's too strong! I can't keep my balance. I can't do this." He called, and Dash knew he couldn't, but he was more than halfway across now and if he turned back…

"Chicken, just run across! Look, I made it!" he called. There was a tightening in his chest. If Danny just got across this one, they would wait out the storm and go back. It was getting worse. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

In an instant he had gone from victory to defeat. Fenton was staggering, eyes closed as the wind blew a spray of salty mist into his face. He took a shaky step back, afraid, even as Dash took a step closer, holding out his hand.

It was ridiculous. Danny was still several yards away and with his eyes shut tight against the stinging water he couldn't see the outstretched hand, but Dash felt the need to reach for him.

Why had he done this? What kind of sick reason did he have for wanting to keep Danny Fenton from popular status for good? Now certainly wasn't the time for self reflection but the wind was so loud, the waves a thunderous roar, his shouts, his pleas, unheard even by his own ears. What more could he do but doubt and blame?

And then Danny slipped and everything seamed to go silent. And Dash knew, the instant before Danny hit the waves he knew … that he felt a little threatened by the smaller teen.

"Fenton!"

Danny disappeared beneath the dark water of the harbor, and the sound returned to his ears. The wind, the rain, the crash of waves and the creak of the old pier under the torrent of the storm, and his own agonized call to someone he may never see again echoing in his ears as he felt himself leaving the safety of the wooden pillars and diving into the water.

He could remember diving, the cold waves swallowing him up like the dark watery jaws of a monster. Could remember opening his eyes to sharp burning darkness as the saltwater invaded his sight. The push and pull of waves above him dragging him and shoving him but eventually he found, by chance, the unconscious body of his companion. He had been afraid, deathly afraid that he had drowned.

Four years on the swim team and a summer lifeguard program helped them to reach the rocks beneath the pier, but even as he breathed into Danny he wished he had remembered more, because Danny had a long gash streaking across his forehead and up into his hairline and the blood was everywhere.

He panicked…

And so they were here, in his house. How he gat back was a blur of rain soaked streets and hard breathing as he ran with the trembling, bleeding, but blessedly breathing body in his arms.

And Danny was stirring, bloodshot eyes cracking open to stare into the troubled face of his peer.

"Fenton?" Dash spoke softly, earning a small pained groan as response. "Can I have your phone number?"