Author's Note: No one else will write this couple no matter who I beg, so here's my crack at it. I tried to keep everyone in character and have the thing move at a reasonable pace, I really did. But if I failed, or even if I didn't, I'd still love reviews, especially constructive criticism, please. :)
I own abslutely nothing.
It was official. Dash now hated the carnival.
First off, it was a gathering spot for all the geeks and nerds of every highschool for fifty miles. They either give him looks of hate or awe, but either way, massive amounts of people were staring at him like he was the one who's lost. He hated that. The fact that their weird looks and double takes were justified annoyed him. Dash liked being in control and making the scene, not being shoved into it. This whole set up goes against his scheduled, well managed life.
Second of all, he's been here for far too many hours. He got up at eight, got dressed, then the next thing he knew he was on the longest date of his life. First the mall, then several high class stores, then a sickeningly girly resturaunt, then here. And here he'd been for almost five hours now. They'd been on every mild ride, won every girly prize, and tasted every overly sweet treat that this place had to offer. As a football player, he was no stranger to endurance, but this was too much. Too many hours, too much built up energy, and more fluff than any unmarried man should be asked to handle. He wanted out.
Finally, there was the girl he was here with.
Oh, God, Paulina! He thought he loved her, he really did. It had started out so wonderfully, with little flirty looks and that warm, butterfly feeling that crushes bring. Their first dates had been casual ones where they'd both been reveling in each other's presence as teens do. It had been so great for the first two monthes. They'd made some wonderful memories, had some great laughs (usually at the expense of a nerd or geek), and it seemed to him that he'd finally found someone who understood him. She liked all the things he liked... Well, no, she liked a few of the things he liked. They liked expense things, bullying people, and spending time together. But that had been more than enough at first. That had been more than he'd ever had in common with a girl before. Dash had never felt so close to someone.
Yeah, he really had been in love. He was capable of it; it just came in the form of gestures and time spent together rather than in the form of poetry, romance songs or other girly things. He kind of understood those things, he just couldn't have written them or made romantic gestures like that to save his life. Unfortunately, those overly mushy moments were exactly what Paulina wanted from him. She wanted flowers and chocolates and candlelight dinners. She wanted long romantic poems and constant compliments on her beauty. He didn't know how he could improve upon the words 'you're pretty', but apparently she did. Somehow, at some point, she'd turned into the 'gimme attention' girlfriend. Dash blamed himself, partially, for not being a good boyfriend. But he also was tired of her now.
How had it all fallen apart so horribly? They'd been in love, they'd been happy together. Now he was insanely thrilled when Danny Phantom flew by and distracted her. Despite the lack of interest on the ghost's part, and her relationship with Dash, she took off like a rocket, leaving the carnival altogether to chase her white haired love. He cringed inside. Maybe he was deluding himself. Maybe they'd never been in love. Maybe... maybe he was just a part time, substitute boyfriend until she got Phantom. Was that it? After all his efforts, was it all planned that it fall apart anyway? It almost didn't matter. He'd somehow lost the connection he'd had with Paulina. They weren't in love anymore and this date was a testament to how tedious this relationship had become.
With a heavy sigh, the blond boy walked around the carnival, not really caring where he was going. Everywhere, he saw geeks in love. Geeks of all kinds, every race, color and gender, all had someone who loved them. It was like one of those soap operas he'd taken to watching. But in those, a guy as good looking as him would get several people. At the very least, he should have someone. After all, he thought as he watched people ride the Tunnel of Love, he was tall, blond, blue eyed, in shape, and he'd cut back on picking on the losers lately. There wasn't any reason he could find that women shouldn't be falling at his feet. He was the most popular boy in school. Everyone knew about him. Everyone knew how awesome he was and how great he was at sports. Everyone-
He stopped walking.
Everyone had his life's story memorized by heart. Everyone knew every little bit of information about him that he'd ever leaked to the public, ever. He was no stranger to anyone here in anyway. He was a familiar face, an icon. No longer a person, he realized that all they saw him as was the football star - which he was, and he was proud of that. But now it was backfiring on him. What he needed was someone, anyone who didn't know his past well enough to recite it from memory. He needed someone who had no idea who he was or what he'd done. Dash groaned to himself. That was impossible. Everyone here knew him. Every kid who lived in reality and most of those who didn't knew lots about him. There was no way he'd find someone like he needed. That kind of kid would have to be from miles and miles away, or really young, or really naieve. Possibly all at once.
He walked over to the rollercoaster. It was, without a doubt, his favorite ride. The way the world flashed by, the wind in his hair, and the moments of adrenaline. Adrenaline where no football moves needed to be thought of - that was rare for him. Paulina had left him with most of the tickets. Finally, one thing went right today. The attendant was busy arguing with a kid when he got up there. That was odd. According to the sign, the child in question was tall enough to ride. Just barely, but hey, Dash snuck onto more than a few rides when he was young.
"You can't ride alone if you're under 5"5," the attendant argued, shaking her head, "Those are the rules."
"I'm 5"5!" the girl lied heatly. It was a pathetic attempt. She was 4"7 and the attendant knew it. The girl turned her head to pout, and spotted Dash. "Hey! He's WAY over 5"5. Can he ride with me?"
The attendant, who loved children, gave Dash a pleading look. He was not in the mood to babysit, and part of him considered saying no. Then that little voice in his mind, the same one that yelled at him when he was bullying, told him to let her ride with him. It was late and the ride was short. She probably didn't have the energy to be as annoying as Paulina. The worse that could happen was that she might scream in his ear. He was used to that by now, given who he was dating. He sighed and nodded. The girl cheered and the attendant gave him a cheesy, 'aww' look.
It wasn't an extreme rollercoaster, only one loop and a few relatively mild turns. It was, however, a rollercoaster, and that made Dash immensely happy. The safety bar locked into place with a loud, metallic bang. Dash glanced over at the girl. Beneath a sea of black hair, her bright blue eyes were focused on the bar. They had the same thought right then - it really wasn't within her reach unless she sat up to the point where her feet had nothing to grip. With a jerk, the ride started up the long hill. Her grip on the seat tightened. Dash watched her with concern. Stupid attendant, letting a little kid on. Someone that dumb was probably someone he'd have beaten up if she'd been in highschool with him. They climbed higher.
"First time?" Dash asked, half joking.
"Yeah," came the meek reply, and for just a second, their eyes met. Time stopped. She was so vulnerable, so open. "But I really wanna try this."
Then they went downhill. The next seconds were filled with frightened and happy screams. The scenery blurred and rushed by them. The girl's first four screams were afraid. The next four were happy, especially when they took a turn to the left, leaving every else swaying in a mad panic. Dash was laughing the whole time, of course. He wasn't afraid of rollercoasters and hadn't been since he was four. This was pure joy; adrenaline and endorphins without any sports involved. His heart seemed to be going faster than he was okay with, yet he had to admit part of that might be the laughter of the girl next to him. She loved this. He loved this. Their wild screeches as they passed a steep and sudden dip sounded at the same time. They were climbing the stretch to the loop, Dash's favorite part. She was still trying to catch her breath. It was then he noticed she was still gripping the seat, not the safety bar.
It was then that they went down too fast. Her grip was lost. Her tiny frame slammed into the corner of the ride as they began to tilt upward. In a moment of true, genuine fear, she screamed. Dash's split second timing, honed by a thousand football games, kicked in. In one swift movement, he wrapped an arm around her, holding her as tight as he could. He looked over at her to make sure he'd caught her, but the ride was moving so fast all he saw were blurs of color, black hair, blue hoodie, and... green? His other arm braced against the satefy bar. It was only a few seconds of time. It seemed like an eternity for him, his arm aching. It seemed like a nightmare for her, the only thing keeping her in her seat being the quick reflexes of the boy next to her.
Finally it was over. Legs woobly, they staggered out of the ride and down the platform, onto the wonderfully solid and firm ground. She swayed violently, then put a hand to her mouth. Concerned, Dash led her to the nearest trash can, where she choked out a few mouthfuls of half-digested nachos before collapsing on a bench. Her breathing was coming hard, as was Dash's, though he could control his better. She looked a little paler than before. After several deep breaths, she took her hat off and wiped the sweat off her face with it. Dash stood there awkwardly. He didn't know how to comfort people. That wasn't his thing. She seemed sort of embarrassed as she stood up and sighed deeply.
"I guess you think I'm a total wuss now, huh?" she asked, eyes on the ground and rubbing her neck sheepishly.
"What? No!" he objected, waving his arms. "You were totally into that rollercoaster! That's awesome! Do you know how many girls wouldn't even get on that thing, let alone think it's cool?"
She smiled, a small, content smile, and Dash felt great. Finally, he'd comforted someone and said the right thing. That hadn't happened to him ever before. Whenever he tried to comfort Paulina, it ended up blowing up in his face. Beaming inside, he helped her up. She seemed to be getting better. The color was returning to her face. She sure recovered quickly. If this had been Paulina, she'd have been sobbing hysterically into his shirt right about now. He blinked. He needed to quick comparing her to Paulina. No one compared to his girlfriend - in a bad way. And she wasn't here now. He could have a normal conversation without her breathing down his neck. He could make a friend. Unless this girl already knew his reputation and didn't recognize him.
Time to take the plunge. "I'm Dash Baxter."
She didn't recognize the name at all. "I'm Dani DeCarte."
Bells, alarms and sirens of joy went off in Dash's mind. She did not know his life story, his address, his position on the football team, his favorite color, and his bloodtype. All she knew was that he was a random (good looking) person. It was a breath of fresh air. He had to seize this opportunity before someone informed her of who she was talking to. Smiling a real smile at her, not his usual overly smooth move smile, he pulled out some tickets.
"Wanna try some of the other rides?"
"Yeah!" she cheered. "I heard that the Mad Teacups spun this one kid so hard, it knocked him out!"
He stared. Well, that was unexpected. He thought all girls liked was the Merry-Go-Round and the Tunnel of Love. Still somewhat in shock, he walked alongside her through the heart of the carnival. They were sidetracked a few times by the ball toss and carboard-duck shooting games, both of which she was good at, and by the vaguely Dance Dance Revolution-esque game. Dash was good at that, to the surprise of all. He liked to think he made the game look a bit more manly. Then they got to the Mad Teacups; basically, 'Spinning Teacups of Doom and Vomit' would have been a more accurate name. Once they got off, stumbling and not totally sure where they were, Dash asked her if she had any other ideas.
She did. They went on all the rides Paulina refused to go on outright. Dani loved to get dizzy, get an adrenaline high and go fast just as much as Dash did. She screamed alongside him, she howled with laughter even louder than he did, and she was not grossed out by the sight of vomit. The way she loooked at it, it was part of the package deal. She never asked him to do a million things for her or bully someone she didn't like. She never showed him off. She never yelled at him, just with him. It was almost like being out with a boy, except she was much nicer than any of the guys Dash hung out with. She had an air of total obliviousness to her, lacking knowledge of what exactly was going on in the Tunnel of Love or why all those girls wanted their boyfriends to buy them jewelry.
"I do like the skull necklace, though," Dani said fondly, "That's really awesome. If they could make that into a belt buckle... What?"
Dash chuckled. "You're so weird." Her face fell. "In a cool way, though!"
It was getting late. Three hours of rushing back and forth from one ride to another left them both drained of all energy and almost totally out of tickets. Her feet were dragging. He stifled a yawn. They strolled the now slowly-emptying carnival grounds, dodging trash and stepping around pieces of food. They'd pretty much done everything. Dash thought about asking her to go on the rollercoaster again, but the way she looked at it told him that was a no-go. There were a lot of fortune tellers, amateur and decent, out now. They were doing good business at this hour, when everything was dark and kind of eerie.
"What's a fortune teller?" Dani asked suddenly. It was one of her vaguely dumb, vaguely innocent moments that was both endearing and kind of weird.
"They tell you your future," Dash replied with a shrug. "You know, palm reading, crystal balls... that kind of stuff."
"Does it work?"
"Sometimes," Dash thought back to when Star had been dabbling in palm reading, and how she said Paulina lacked a love line. "I mean, sometimes it seems bogus at the time, but works later, and then other times it's complete crap." Like when Star had told him he had a thick love line. That was stupid.
Dani looked at one fortune teller's tent. The old Gypsy woman had a kind face, with an air of gentleness about her. Her stall was the plainest and therefore the line was by far the shortest out of all of them. Biting her lip, the blackhaired girl glanced at the football player. Her eyes were burning with curiousity. Her pockets were totally empty of all tickets. She hated to mooch off of him more than she already had. She didn't want to seem like one of those whiny girls like she'd seen earlier, begging their boyfriends for everything. But she really wanted to know how all this worked. Dani wanted to know how the whole palm-reading thing worked. That was a power beyond even ghost power - seeing the future. She would have gladly traded the ability to fly for that kind of knowledge.
"Can we have our fortunes told?" she asked. "Please?"
"Together?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow. Paulina always booted him outside when she had hers done.
"Sure!" she blushed, realizing how horribly flirty that had sounded. "I mean, if you want."
He had never believed in this kind of stuff, anyway. Granted, sometimes it was correct, but it was just as often wrong. He was mostly doing this because he didn't want to wreck a perfect evening. The Gypsy woman smiled at the young couple as they entered the dark gray tent. Inside, the atmosphere was warm and cozy. Candles were lit, placed throughout the space in clusters, and there were cushions for customers to sit on. The room smelled faintly of lavender. Dash had to admit, this was different than the usual, over the top and deliberately spooky look that he'd been expecting. He actually felt relaxed here. Dani was fidgeting like an overly excited, anticipating child - which was pretty much what she was. She grinned at him. Dash resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
The woman spoke in a soft voice. "Who wants to go first?"
Dani's hand shot up like a rocket. "Me!"
"Hold out your hands," the woman instructed. Dani did as she was told. The size of her tiny hands made the woman lean in quite a bit. Dani watched her with a vaguely nervous kind of joy. "That's odd."
"Calm down, my child," the woman laughed quietly. "It's nothing bad. Just very unusual. You see," she said as Dash leaned in, curious in spite of himself, "The left hand is what you are born with in fate, and it cannot be changed. The right hand is what you have made of your life. For most people, after they get to be about preschool age, their right hand begins to change accordingly. Your hands are almost exactly the same, my dear, very rare in someone your age, or any age over a few monthes."
"Almost the same?" Dani asked, wide eyed. "There's something different, then?"
"Your fate line on your right hand is different. It starts out faint and little, then there is a break, and it becomes deep and big." The Gypsy woman smiled. "You were not going to be successful before. Something was going to hold you back and keep you from achieving anything. But then you did something, and whatever it is, you made yourself ten times as likely to succeed and move up in the world."
Dani's face was serious. Dash could tell she knew what the thing was, but he decided now was not the time to ask.
"But there is something that worries me, though both your hands have it. Your heart line, my dear, oh, your heart... It stops right by your fate line, and your fate line stops for your heart. In your future, you will have to make a choice between your success and your love." The woman squinted. "This same problem has been in your family before. Your family line nearly blends with your head line, the line of intellect and over thinking." Dani's jaw dropped. "I can see you know what I'm saying. But you have a good palm, my dear. You can make your fortune by your own ability, and you will find a few but loving friends in your time. You are loyal, though you need to be careful who you're loyal to. These are wonderful things, my dear; the kind of everyday treasures people have forgotten to enjoy."
"Wow," Dani whispered, "That's amazing."
Dash blinked as she grabbed his hands and held them up for the Gypsy to investigate. "What about him?"
Normally, Dash would've pulled back his hands, denounced this place as dumb and uncool, and strolled out the door. Normally. But he'd been watching Dani's face the whole time. This Gypsy was not spewing crap about dark and tall strangers or anything as stupid. Everything she was saying was hitting home, one line after another. Dani was too childish to lie or fake like this was real. It either was or it wasn't, and right now, it was. So he held out his hands and hoped for something good. He also desperately hoped that this chick would only mention his better qualities in front of Dani.
No such luck.
"You're exceptionally selfish," the fortune teller stated right away, "At least, your right hand says you are. But you were not born like this. Your heart line is naturally far reaching and all encompassing. Then on your right hand it is faint and touches almost nothing. You've pushed aside what and who you love for something, and that has hurt how imaginative and open you are. You have much success in your life, but your lines are fragmented. Your success comes at a high price, you get what you want but suffer for it." Dash cringed as if in pain. The Gypsy's face softened. "But in the end, perhaps later in life, or when you don't expect it, you will eventually be truly happy. Don't despair. Even real happiness later on in life is more than most people get all their life."
Dash knew what this meant. He'd known it all along. Ever since he was little, it was his father's dream for him to go to college on a football scholarship, play college football, and make it pro. And Dash was tough enough and determined enough that if he really wanted to, he could make it. He knew he could. But then he wouldn't have time for friends, for girls, for anything else. A football life was what he'd been shoved into since day one, and even though sometimes he reveled in the idea, somedays he wished he could just do what he wanted to do. The fact that the fortune teller could see it wasn't surprising, just scary. She'd read him like an open book, and he wanted to keep it all hidden. As far as anyone else was concerned, Dash Baxter enjoyed football. As far as the rest of the world knew, he loved the idea of doing this professionally just as much as his father did.
"What about us together?" Dani blurted out, receiving matching looks of confusion. Her face flushed. "What if your read our hands together? Could you tell what's gonna happen for us? If we're gonna stay friends, or end up hating each other, or that kind of thing?"
"Oh, you want a lover's reading?"
Dani's face turned flaming red, but it didn't even come close to matching Dash's shade of maroon.
"I - that's not - you don't understand-" Dani stuttered. Dash just sort of gaped.
"Well, let's see what your hands say," she carefully chose Dash's left hand and Dani's right, since Dani's hand was more current, and Dash's had far too many to be his real self. "Both of you have unusually wavy family lines, so your families are both wonderful and exhuasting, not stable. Both of you have a series of small marriage lines, for the few but beautiful relationships you have and will form in this life. The girl's hand is without a Venus line, whereas you," she gave Dash a knowing look, "have a very straight, firm line that connects to your wisdom line. You know the difference between real and false love. She does not." She turned to Dani, "Not that you don't have your good qualities. Your life line, your moral strength, is stronger than his, though at the beginning, it was rather faint. With time, you two should have a good relationship. How stable a relationship, I'm not sure. There is a lack of experience on one side and an overload of experience on the other, a dangerous imbalance. But unless one of you starts lying to the other, you should be more than alright."
"Well, that'll be easy," Dash grinned, "What'd we have to lie about?"
"Right," Dani agreed, though her eyes didn't quite meet his.
They awkwardly thanked the fortune teller, paid, and left with more than a few feelings. Dash had never seen someone so dead-on accurate before, and Dani had just never seen a fortune teller before. What did she mean, Dani couldn't tell the difference between real and false love? So she'd made a mistake with Vlad. That was different. She didn't know better then... But did she now? She looked at her hands. They hadn't changed except for her breaking free from Vlad. She really didn't know very much about people. Book learning was easy, concepts could be grasped, but people alluded the young girl. That was something, she admitted to herself, she needed help with.
Dash was lost in his own thoughts. He would never lie to Dani, and he would never use her. He didn't even use girls like Paulina, and if anyone deserved it, it was Paulina. There were limits to his immorality. He cringed. Selfish? He did everything his dad wanted him to! How could he be- oh. Right. The bullying and transferred aggression and basking in the awe of Casper High. That. Dash took a deep breath. But he was smart about love? He smirked ruefully for a second, wishing Paulina could've heard that one.
She looked up at him with all the innocence of a child in her blue eyes. "I don't think you're selfish. You were really generous today, and..." she timidly took his hand. "You really saved me today."
Something about those words made his heart lighten. Someone who didn't know he was a football hero was complimenting him. Someone who didn't have a hidden reason to suck to him was telling him he was good. Someone was really liking him. His hand closed over hers. She smiled up at him. A genuine smile. Genuine smiles and naieve compliments and little-kid hand holding. These things were all so Dani. What was this warm feeling that was coming over him? He felt like he could smile through the apocalypse. Dani didn't know how to be flirty or giggly or fake. Was someone who didn't know anything what he needed? He'd been happy with Paulina, but... This went beyond happiness in hurting others or sharing a meal. This was joy. This was something more, something purer.
He kneeled down to kiss her.
Dani's eyes widened and her jaw dropped.
He stopped. His face fell.
Timidly, she asked, "What's wrong?"
"Dani, how old are you?"
"Ten - why?" she asked, her childish face falling when he pulled away. "What's wrong?"
Dash turned away for a moment. She was ten. She was in grade school. She was too young to get into a PG13 movie by herself. He looked at her. 4"7, small build, no chest, no knowledge of the world, easily excited and an open heart. In other words, a child. Not a teenager, not an adult. Far too young. What was the age difference rule Paulina had mentioned? Half your age plus five? Half of sixteen was eight, plus five would be thirteen. Dani was out of his league by a long shot. He had to end this now. She was jailbait for him. She'd probably be teased insanely if anyone knew anyway. He turned to her to break up with her before this thing even started...
And instead ended up pulling out a permanent marker and scribbling his number on her small hand.
She stared at him, confused and kind of hurt and now relieved. Too many emotions at once. Everything had been going well, then it wasn't, now it was. Dani didn't know what to do. She was too young to have any idea what to do. Dash gave her a sad smile.
"Call me so we can hang out some time, okay?"
"I will," she promised, honestly. A voice sounded in the distance, calling her name. "That's my mom. I- I gotta go."
She wanted him to do something, anything at all to show he wasn't mad. She was too much of a kid to grasp what was going on. He loved that. He also hated it. In spite of his mind screaming at him to stop, he kissed her on top of her head. That made everything better as far as the child's heart was concerned. Smiling widely, Dani hugged him and ran to her mother, a tall African American woman. Dash blinked. She must have been adopted, then, he guessed. She turned and waved at him before getting into a dark green car. The family drove off, and he watched the car until it was out of sight. The cool night air blew around him, and the carnival didn't seem as bright as before.
A screeching voice sounded. Paulina was calling him.
Yeah, it was official. Dash hated the carnival.