What was it about basketball season that always got to him? It wasn't the game, he hated it, thought it was pointless, like pretty much every other sport that wasn't football, and it wasn't the team, because as usual they sucked. Casper High pretty much always sucked. And the team was the same ordinary guys from basically every other sport on campus. So what was it?

Why, when he avoided all the other games, did he come to watch basketball?

Sam yawned, as uninterested in the loosing game as he was, Tucker, on his other side, played solitaire on his cell phone. Valerie was keeping a sharp lookout for ghosts; boy was he grateful, because he was keeping a sharp eye on the court and ghosts loved sports games. The only ones their town won, it seemed, were the forfeits by teams too scared to come and face ghosts.

His mother and father were keeping their eyes open as well, with their own team of middle schoolers and young high schoolers still insane enough to try out for ghost hunting. They'd learn eventually, they always did, but Danny still felt like warning them sometimes. Then he remembered they kept his parents out of his hair and out of his social life, and decided against it. What could he say, he was selfish at heart.

The ball was passed to Dash Baxter and Danny felt himself tensing up, leaning forward as Dash made the throw.

And scored.

This got some people interested in the game again for a few more minutes. In all actuality the scores were both pitiful. Casper High's lame playing was countered by the nervous distracted players on the opposing team glancing around every few seconds for ectoplasmic attacks.

If one more ghost messed with a game their high school might be taken out of the leagues, not good. Not in the town's eyes anyway. Danny and Sam figured it'd knock the sports hierarchy off its pedestal. Oh the joys that would bring. Still Danny, despite his distaste, would miss going to basketball games, but the question he was asking himself was, why?

He didn't even go to most football games, and he fantasized about playing football, than again what high school boy didn't? What was so awe inspiring about this nonsense game that he never missed a match?

The game was over, Casper High lost, as usual, and Danny knew that as soon as he stepped outside the gym and away from his parent's watchful eyes Dash would corner him and take his frustrations out on his body. So as he shuffled to the door, watching Sam and Tucker head out with knowing looks on their faces, he thought again about why he always went someplace where they never won, he never had a good time, and he was usually beat up afterwards.

He still got out before Dash, even walking slowly. He was probably taking extra long in the locker-room planning what he would do to his little looser. Danny thought he could just make a run for it, turn a corner and disappear, but that would make school all the more unbearable. No, it was better to just lounge on a picnic table and wait for whatever punishment would come.

Man, what was he doing here?

Dash came storming out of the locker room in a puffed up, angry stride. It was the kind of bloated ego that said he had just spent the past five minutes declaring himself king of sports and it was the rest of the team that lost. He at least, scored three shots that game. It usually meant an easier time on Danny Fenton, which was good news to Danny Fenton of course, but the fact remained, their team still lost and for some unfathomable reason it was entirely his fault and he would be punished.

As he headed home later, knowing well that Dash had gone extremely easy on him because both their parents were on campus, he thought back to why he was even there. Normally his teenage mind would have moved onto a new subject by now, but this stuck with him. Why did he keep coming back?

Dash's sleek little car pull up beside the slab of shattered concrete, due to a ghost attack last week, that the city called a sidewalk. His window rolled down and he smiled that arrogant, all knowing, I'm gonna get what I want smile reserved and used only by Dash Baxter for Danny Fenton. Danny stumbled a bit before turning and sending a hollow smile back to him.

Up in Dash's room Danny lay relaxed and motionless as the larger teen pressed into him. As usual during these times his mind was elsewhere. Usually in the vicinity of the ceiling, looking down at the erotic picture they made, or at least that Dash made. Danny though he looked more like a really well made sex doll. All motionless and semi-silent, save for the small noises he made when something slightly painful or sometimes even pleasurable happened.

He never really responded, that's what Dash liked about it. Like masturbating only better. No screaming chick, not emotional attachments. Just sex, great sex as Dash would call it sometimes, but then he never had sex before with anyone but Danny. It kind of made it a little romantic in a way, Dash never had, and so far didn't want anybody else. But Danny knew it was more a fear of commitment than anything. A practice session for what may come, when he actually did get a girlfriend. Then Danny would slide to the shadows until Dash broke up or didn't get any.

Danny's only real comfort was that Dash treated him gently during these times. It was the one time the jock didn't see him as a punching back. Danny liked being in Dash's company without fear of bodily harm. It almost made everything bearable. Almost. It still didn't change the fact that Dash was, and would always be, his tormentor, and when he was done with him, he'd throw him aside until he needed him again.

What was he doing here?

Dash made them dinner after everything. This was their ritual after games, beatings, sex, then food, and sometimes more sex if Dash's parents didn't come home until later. This time Dash's parents came home earlier and Danny had to sneak out the kitchen door. Danny had never even seen Dash's parents, and he honestly didn't want to. No more attachments, he might feel bad when he had to end everything.

End everything. Everything. End it. It all sounded so good to him. No more school, no more ghosts, no more pointless sports without anything really to keep him there but he went anyway. He would end it all. The sex, the food, the beatings. He would end the Casper High loosing streak. He would end the ghost attacks on the town. Everything would be over.

Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow he would end it, or maybe Monday. Another week wouldn't hurt would it? He still had to get things done. He hadn't taken the garbage out last night. It wouldn't do for his parents to be crying and then have to take the garbage out.

Yeah, maybe Monday.

But then Monday came and he still didn't end it. Dash didn't call him over after school or when his parents went out. Sam said Dash had a girlfriend now, met her Saturday afternoon. Tucker said she was hot, and she played for the girl's basketball team.

Sports again, everything always comes down to sports.

He should just end everything. Make the school and the teachers and all the sports gone. Just make them go away. End everything.

What was he trying to do here?

Dash's hottie basketball star girlfriend was a tease apparently, and though Dash won the game on Friday she didn't so much as kiss him. He was angry, and he took it out of Danny. He won the game, Danny thought things would get better, but instead they got worse. Dash was actually rough with him this time. He had never been rough, not when they were up in the room. The room was supposed to be a different world, but he wouldn't let Danny leave, wouldn't let him go up on the corner of the ceiling where he watched everything.

He didn't want a lifeless doll he said, he wanted a girlfriend. But his girl denied him, so Danny would have to act it out. If he wasn't convincing he'd be punished. Danny didn't know how to act. He always just stripped and lay down and Dash came to him, climbed on top of him and took what he wanted.

Dash punched him twice and he fell back onto the floor, half leaning against the mattress. A bloody nose. Red dripping on the light blue covers. Dash was furious, but he didn't take what he wanted. He couldn't, because he didn't want Danny Fenton. He wanted his pretty little athletic girlfriend.

Dash stormed out. Danny clutched his nose, feeling the warm trickle of blood on his fingers.

What the hell was he doing here?

Dash had this really nasty looking knife under his pillow. Just in case, he had always said. A man could never be too careful. Danny smiled as he held the fluffy white pillow, bloody smears soaking into the fabric. It was there, underneath the white cotton cloud. There in its sheath looking as harmless and beautifully dangerous as a single decorative knife could look under a pillow.

He picked it up.

And wondered some more.

Why did they always do the wrists? Wrists were so overdone, so boring. So was the jugular and stabbing it into his chest. He knew it would hurt, so where did he want it to hurt most? He could cut his dick off and let it bleed out, yeah that would certainly send a message to everyone, but would it be worth it? At the same time he didn't want anything really disfiguring so his family could have an open casket funeral, and the last thing he wanted people whispering about after he was gone was that he felt so ashamed of being gay he cut his own dick off.

The inside of his elbows looked nice, yeah inside the elbows were good. But that was a sensitive spot for him. It would hurt more than cutting his wrist. He didn't want to cause unnecessary pain. He didn't like pain.

It hurt.

He looked down at his naked body, where to end it, so many decisions, so many possibilities. He needed something quick, for that he needed precision.

He though a moment about simply shooting himself in the chest with an ectoblast, but disregarded it. This had to have meaning. Symbolism. And ghosts couldn't be blamed. Dash's expensive little knife, more like a letter opener, was just fine. It was sharp and pointy, perfect for dipping beneath skin. Sharp as a physician's scalpel.

He remembered seeing something on a TV show once. The external iliac artery wasn't it? It was a fun thing to remember, it was in the pelvic area after all. Teenagers couldn't forget things mentioned in the pelvic area. What had they called it? Yeah the femoral artery. It had lots of blood in it right? He contemplated his inner thigh a moment before positioning the blade.

He missed the first and second time, he knew, and it hurt, and he wanted to just stop and cut somewhere else, tears of pain were clouding his vision, but Dash was coming down the hall. One last time. Just once more, then he'd do the jugular, right when Dash opened the door. Blood spurting everywhere. It was memorable enough wasn't it?

The third time and blood was flowing freely now. He removed the blade and it spurted out. He'd gotten something, and it was all leaving him so fast.

He set the blade on top of Dash's pillow as soon as Dash came back in, his face still angry.

Put on some cloths he started to say, his girlfriend was coming over

There may have been an and in there somewhere but Danny couldn't hear it over the screams, Dash's screams. He watched blood run down his leg like he was a child wetting himself. He was getting dizzy now. It was all so perfect.

Dash's hands were covering the wounds, but he couldn't figure out which one was bleeding the most in his panicked state. Danny pinched a lock of blond hair between his fingers with a smile, he was humming. Tears were in his eyes. It hurt, but he was beyond caring anymore.

Dash was mumbling questions. Why, why, why? As if he didn't understand why people killed themselves.

His parents had the whole ghost thing under control, Sam and Tucker and Valerie were his only true friends and he'd stopped really talking with them, and the only person he bothered with had a girlfriend now. All those hesitations, all those excuses just didn't matter any more. Why wait until Monday when he could do it now?

He kissed Dash on the forehead, his bloody nose leaving a streak. Dash was busy trying to stop the blood flow with a stuffed bear. Danny could have laughed but his body was shaking and he couldn't find the energy. Dash had to elevate the wound, bring it up above his chest, but Danny was shill sitting upright on the bed with the blood running down his leg and getting the pink teddy soaked in blood.

Poor Teddy.

Poor Dash.

Guess Danny never really noticed how much he wanted Dash to appreciate him. He came to very game, stayed willingly instead of running off, and let him do whatever he wanted with him. Yet Dash didn't care. So Danny didn't care.

He hoped this girlfriend was the romance Dash always dreamed of.

Even though he had kind of wished the same thing for himself not too long ago.

What could he say, he was selfish at heart.

The days went on; Monday came around and Tuesday and soon Friday. Ghosts still attacked and the Fenton's still had to protect the kids from ghosts, the teachers still had to teach and the popular kids still loved sports, Dash still had a girlfriend who was athletic and on the basketball team. Everyone was upset, confused, angry, but life went on. Danny hadn't ended anything but himself, but in that everything had ended for him. It was all gone.

He'd ended everything, in his eyes anyway.

Written September 30th 2004 At the Heart is my second oldest Danny Phantom fanfic and one of three to have Danny/Dash until June 2006. It was, in fact, a request and what originally got me into the DP fandom, though from then on I favored Kwan/Danny and Dash/Tucker. Reading this again, and editing it, brings me back to a place and time I really don't feel very proud of, yet cherish.

Everyone knows the depression and fear of starting new things, abandoning an old life and facing a word of adults. Some of you are probably going through that now. Starting high school, starting college, moving out, getting a job, saying goodbye to friends who you may not see until reunion, some you may never see again until you pick up a paper and they're in the obituary. I've seen two of my childhood friends end up there. It's like a kick in the gut.

So, in memory of my past self and your own, of those who couldn't face life and who wished for an escape. To everyone who ever did or ever will look into the unknown and want to hide in the past. To those who look out at the world and wonder "What are we doing here?" This was written for you, without my knowing it then, without any thought or intent, this was written for you.

And it will always be yours.