How many of you were surprised? REALLY?
A happy family, curved up into each other in that intimate loving way families do, two young kids standing with huge grins playfully tugging at their parents arms wrapped around them, looking up at the camera with bright faces flushed from the sun. The adults laughed behind them, gently restraining them with warm hugs, stilling the rambunctious youths for the instant it took to snap the picture. AMITY PARK the loud curving letters red as rust announced to passersby, stapled to painted plywood of a billboard over the image of an unbelievably shadowless park fixed forever in the glory of bright spring pastels. ITS ALWAYS SUNNY HERE
A crack split the air, outside of the cheery reality with its impossible to achieve perfection. Blue-silver raced across the edges of the real world, casting its light to the gray shadows and igniting reflecting surfaces into white beacons. They touched the image of the sign, staining the faces with the softest edge of shadow, turning cheer into strained smiles and impatient eyes. Rain slipped from the clouds in swarms, parachuting down to the rooftops, wetting shingles and concrete, racing down glass in pulsing veins, and slipping into soil to quench the parched tongues of roots left dehydrated from the summer drought. The leaves of trees and bushes applauded the light show as wind smashed them against eachother, the dark green of summer kissed around the fringes with the sunset colors of autumn. A few weaker shoots dropped early, unable to fight the rampaging winds that lashed at them, separating them from their brethren to dance to their graves.
"By the end of the month they were dropping dead in droves, falling victim to exhaustion, dehydration, and starvation. Unable to stop even to use the bathroom." the words of a balding educator vibrated against the glass of a first floor classroom window, hissing in an attempt to chill the history lesson that misted over drooping students. "Heart attack, strokes, they suffered them all, and nobody could get them to stop. To this very day noone knows the reason, not a single theory outside of mass hysteria can explain why over 400 people danced to their deaths."
The wind smashed a colony of raindrops against the rows of glass, bullying the captured leaves flush to the smooth surface, their soaked and wilted bodies thrashing in protest, sticking like kindergarten thanksgiving decorations.
Danny thrummed his fingers against his desk, chin supported in his opposite palm, knuckles indented against his cheek. Heaving in a gulp of air he blew it all back out in a puff of a sigh. Severe storm warnings were sure to go off soon, hardly ideal flying weather, and he would likely spend the rest of his day bunkered out in his room ignoring the world and his parents... especially his parents. They would no doubt be trying to fortify their home against the imagined ghostly threats this storm produced. Not that he could blame them after the incident with Vortex, but he would still rather listen to his playlist while thumbing through piled up e-mails and, should the power go, sit back with a flashlight and a few comics.
"So when you're out and about choosing your outfits for the upcoming dance, you'll do well to remember 1518 France, and how it just may happen again." Lancer oozed his warning through his teeth, eyes boring down onto each student with a long sleepy pause. He looked like he may have added something else, perhaps about the practicing of safe sex and how kissing led to pregnancy, but the final bell lit the intercom with its hellish shriek, scaring the drowsy adolescents in a way the disciplinary had never achieved without the use of cross dressing and slang. "Read chapter 4 in your history texts tonight and answer odd questions 1 through 13," he called above the noise of scraping chairs and teenage chatter, papers being shoved into backpacks and zippers and Velcro being deployed, "and choose an essay question!"
With a hefty sigh he eased his girth into his posture correcting chair, watching the evacuating prisoners escape his realm of knowledge and wondering how much longer before he burned out and just handed out workbooks like every other teacher he knew, or worse yet focused all his time on being the discipline oriented vice principal.. His eyes slid over to a student still struggling with the broken zipper of his very worn, singed, and green stained backpack. "Mr. Fenton," he addressed the teen, a knee-jerk reaction he found both refreshing and rewarding when he gave into the urge.
Danny paused from shoving his just as unbelievably brutalized notebook through the meager hole he was able to fight open, a pencil clamped between his teeth. "Hmmn?"
"I haven't yet received your assignment on the U.S. Presidents." He knew it was petty of him to nitpick, especially when so far the boy had kept a good pace with his schoolwork, however burned, blood speckled, or slime covered the pages turned out to be, but if he relented who knew how far the boy would fall behind. "I was looking forward to what incoherent scribbling you'd come up with now."
"Uhn, Mister Lancer you said that was optional." the brunette managed from around his tortured pencil, a bit of drool was peaking out the corner of his mouth and he quickly dropped the utensil into the maw of his backpack and wiped at his lips.
"Extra credit Mr. Fenton." he pressed his fingers together and leaned his elbows on his desk. "Something I recall you requiring quite often last year."
"Tomorrow Mr. Fenton, or it will be for a grade, and you'll be working on it," he paused a beat, "in detention."
"Tomorrow," Danny nodded, slinging his still open backpack over his shoulder and inching down the line of desks towards the door.
"Or detention, yes." Lancer confirmed.
"Okay, yeah," a few more feet and he'd be out, "tomorrow." So much for vegging it out in his room. "Bye."
"Good day." the teacher smiled. Ah the rejuvenating qualities of a good browbeat. Nothing worked on the haggard educational spirit like bullying a student into doing his best. He may even have the energy to grade those vocab tests he gave the freshmen last month. Lifting a manila folder he thumbed idly through the content, his content half-smile tugging downwards as if hooks were embedded in the corners.
A few days more wouldn't hurt anything. He reasoned as he slid the papers under a larger pile of work.
Danny slinked out of the room as quickly as he could and lost himself in the mass of swarming bodies outside the door. There was only so much Mr. Lancer a student could take and he had what he'd assume was a lethal dose last year. He didn't need an prologued exposure, who knew what the health effects amounted to.
Sam was waiting at his locker in an ankle length rain poncho so dark it actually dimmed the area around her. Its large, shapeless sleeves and thrown back hood were rimmed with plastic button sized cat skulls struck into a yawl and vomiting out gold-colored thread stitched into the pattern of barbed wire and snaking around every edge of the article before tying shut in the front with large claw shaped buttons. It was a demonic style fashion only the goth could enjoy. Her steel toe combat boots squeaked on the linoleum floor as she fidgeted with a small plastic skull on the hem that had gotten a fang caught in her hose.
"Where's Tuck?" he asked, putting his combination in and throwing his rebellious pack into the waiting mouth of his locker. Standing on his toes he reached into the unknown that was his top shelf and rummaged around the discarded trash and exchanged notes, sure that he had tossed a collapsible umbrella up there somewhere.
"Geek club in the comp. lab." she dislodged the skull, frowning at the run it had made and picking at the frayed hole wondering if they would look good torn in a grunge fashion. Not that she would wear it like that to school, but maybe to the club or a concert.
"Geek club?" he turned to stare at her, his hand twitching sideways and skidding through something wet and sticky and feeling vaguely like hair jell. Making a face he pulled his hand back from the void to gaze at his well lubricated fingers. What the crap was that?! It smelled as bad as the tonsil stone he hacked up last week, GROSS!!!
Sam sniffed, passing an all-consuming-night clad arm in front of her nose. "Uhhg, what is that?!
"Locker love juices apparently." he wiped his fingers across his jeans and stared perturbed at the upper level of his locker, suddenly not quite sure what was left up there from its last occupant to rot into slime through the summer months. "Anyway, geek club?"
"Yeah," Sam swallowed past the stench she could swear was still clinging to her nostrils and explained, "something about the district admin not updating the school's programs and hacking into the cheerleaders' MyFace page." she picked at a skull button. "There's only so much Esperanto I can understand." or tolerate, she didn't add.
Under the guise of making another attempt at penetrating the unexplored territory of his locker, something he hoped was a testament to his unfaltering bravery and not his unstable mental state, he angled his head just enough away from her to hide his blush. "so I guess its just you and me then." he stated nonchalantly, his voice hallow and echoy from within the locker.
Her cheeks flared and she tugged at her sleeve, gazing at the dwindling traffic of the student body brushing by her, glad his face was turned away so he couldn't see her she replied, "Guess so." just as neutral.
His fingers ghosted over the handle strap of his umbrella and he rested back on his heels, pulling the item and turning back to face her. Their eyes met and they shared a smile, the umbrella dangling in his hand.
"Well, now that I have everything we can leave." he gently tapped the object into his open palm like a threatening police officer would a baton, then grimaced when a cool wetness made itself known during the connection. His face screwing into an irate kind of disgust he examined it to find that whatever had insulted his clean hand before also offended a thin line along the cloth. "great." he growled.
"Seriously, eew, what is that?" Sam's eye twitched at the stench.
"I don't know, someone's goo-ivied old grapes or something."
"No fruit smells like that, even in rotten slime form."
"Geeze what the heck else could it be, textbook vomit?" He curled his nose and held the thing as far away as he dared. "Maybe a pencil crapped itself, or it may just be the aftermath of locker on locker unprotected se--"
"Fenton." his witty sarcasm was interrupted by a familiar nasally growl, the near empty hallway hummed with the echo of a locker slamming. His locker. Right next to him. If only he had a Dash sense to go along with his ghost one.
Sam raised an eyebrow, silently questioning if he needed a distraction to escape. A shrug was his answer. He might as well deal, maybe if he let Dash pound on him now he'd leave him alone during the dance. Thoughts of the event tinged his cheeks with red and he turned to face his tormentor to avoid Sam seeing.
Later, he thought as he heard her turn on her heel and stomp down the hall, he'd ask her later. Post bullying and hopefully without looking like a traffic accident victim. "Yes Dash?" he let the tremor sneak into his voice, more from apprehension about asking Sam to the dance than the jock. Other boys had to worry about pimples before dates, he had to worry about ecto-plasm slime and fist shaped bruises.
Dash had taken the collar of his letter jacket between his fingers and pulled it forward, leaning down until the extended article was in Danny's face. "See this?" he wheezed.
Danny squinted his eyes and strained, thinking maybe Dash referred to a missing button or stain or a minor fray in the fabric, but it was perfect, freshly ironed and smelling mildly of fabric softener. "Uhh."
"I just got it dry cleaned Fenton." Dash stated, as if it was an obvious fact anyone could come to upon being within smelling distance. Danny swallowed back a line he was going to make about Dash's cologne and nodded meekly, still a bit confused over why he needed to know this. He didn't recall spilling anything on the blond today. "Its not supposed to get wet, it shrinks when it gets wet." Danny nodded again, even slower if that were at all possible. With a twitch of a cruel blue eye Dash snarled. "Its raining."
Danny blinked, a slow blink, a quick where the hell does all this information connect at accessing blink, then his mouth opened into a little oh and he looked down at Dash's jacket again.
"Um, sorry?" he said, still not quite getting why it was his problem, unless this was one of those times when Dash just wanted to take it out on him, which, he relented, was extremely often and not at all outside the realm of possibility. "Why would you get a jacket that can't get wet?"
Dash's eye twitched again, blond lashes quivering at the tick. "It was a gift, and don't change the subject looser."
Danny's head shrinked into his shoulders at the intensity of the glare, a meaty fist removing itself from the letter-jacket pocket to punch the locker next to them, Dash leaning down further, collar still pulled out and in his victim's face, the heat of his body a tangible thing in the inches between them.
"Um...so..." Danny pressed himself into the line of lockers, trying to escape the awkward closeness.
"So..." Dash breathed, raised eyebrow and gaze softening slightly as whatever irate thought had been swarming his mind dissipated. "Lend me your umbrella."
A moment. He blinked. Dash blinked. He let out a breath. Dash blinked again. "What?"
"Lend. Me. Your. Umbrella." The fist became a hand, with fingers that lowered from the locker to Danny's wrist. "I'm asking nicely." he squeezed.
"Ah, ow, okay take it. TAKE IT JEEZE!" Danny released the item, fingers hardly able to hold a grip with the pressure applied so brutally. "Guh." he was released and he stepped away as Dash leaned down to pick it up. "Sheesh, THAT was asking nicely?" he shook his reddened hand, flexing tendons and rubbing where little pink crescents conversed drunkenly with his uninterested body.
"Shuh, yeah. What you want I should just grab it and throw you in your locker?"
"No, thanks." Danny threw his hands out in a placating gesture. "I can find my way into dark crowded spaces myself. I'll get back to you later on that though."
"You sure?" Dash tapped the umbrella against his chin, staring amusedly at the little doors. "Still could do that." his nose twitched. "Uh..."
Danny paused in his snarky protests, eyes going wide, an unconscious smile tugging at his lips. "Yeah, i should probably tell you tha-"
"Uhhg! What the heck is that?!" Dash flung the umbrella away. It skidded across the tile, hitting a trash can that sent it spinning in circles before finally rolling to a stop near the leaky drinking fountain. A hall monitor stopped to stare at it, then the boys, then shrugged and trudged on.
"Um, yeah I don't know. Really...I think its something rotten that leaked in my locker." Danny scratched the back of his neck, quietly hoping this wouldn't end with him hurting.
"What, like sweat-sock spew?" The jock snarked loudly, rubbing at his nose as if it were singed. "I've never smelled something so gross. Its like used cat litter blew chunks all over a septic tank."
"More like mildew had explosive diarrhea in a crowded elevator with no air conditioning."
"It smells." he snarled, "I can't use that."
"Uh, sure you can." Danny backed away a step, glancing at the thing, "The rain will wash it off, and you can barely smell it if its not, like, right in your face."
"Fenton." the warning was there, just the instant before the fist in his shirt.
"What do you want me to do, Stop the rain? You already took my um-" The lights went off. "Great. Punishment in privacy."
"Oh for craps sake." Dash set the smaller teen back on his feet but didn't release his hold just yet. "If I had a car this wouldn't be happening."
"Well if 'this' is you choking me with my own shirt collar and a car would stop it from happening on a day to day basis, I know several second hand dealers." Dash threw him against the locker, smirking at the clang of dork hitting metal.
"I meant getting stuck in the rain, freak." he said to the dark grey colors around him.
"I knew that." was whined.
Danny wobbled to his feet, stretching with his fists on the small of his back till he felt the tell-tale knot of pain, then crackling that indicated he was close, a little further. THERE. A succession of loud popps and he slung forward with a gush of a sigh.
"Your eyes adjusted yet?" his tormentor demanded.
"Uh, does white dots and squiggles count as 'adjusted'?" he dodged the smack that was no doubt aimed at his head. "Yeah, yeah," he wheezed, "Shapes and shadows, but enough to move. Its still midday."
"No windows, that sucks. There should be a class down here with windows." Dash took a few steps in a direction, leaving the half ghost to wonder if he could just take off and disappear. Sure Dash would be peeved as all heck, but that would be later, not now, in the dark, with noone around to witness anything or play referee. Bad idea, being alone with Dash as Danny Fenton was one really, really bad idea.
"Fenton?" Dash called, and his voice sounded a little strained.
"Yeah?" His voice cracked. Why the hell had he answered?!
"Geeze, are you scared?! What the heck are you scared of? Its school, dark or not the only thing in these hallways that's gonna hurt you is me, and I can't see two feet in front of my face." Dash was a dark blurry blotch against slightly lighter darkness, it hurt Danny's eyes to pick him out but he could, and he wasn't that far off. Moving a little closer back to him. "What, you think a ghost will-"
A firework exploded between them, white and green smashing into the lockers on the wall, blinding them and sending Dash to stumble backwards with a yelp.
Danny's lunges froze, air squeezing out through the cramping muscles in the forced reversal of a gasp, the wisp of blue glowing a misty neon in the darkness as if touched by a beam of blacklight. "Can we never finish a sentence or what?" he sprinted the few steps to the other teen and tugged the blonde up by his trembling arm. "Come on, run!" he shouted, "Ghost, here, now, RUN!" Dash got his feet under him and bolted.
"Serves, hah, serves me right, huh, to say what, hah, what ifs." The jock panted, out of breath more from fright than the run.
"In this town, yeah." Danny slided around a corner and, not bothering to waste time with locks and doorknobs, crossed his fingers that Dash wouldn't notice a little fazing. He shoved him forward, through the door and into whatever room or closet was beyond. "With him out of the way..." he thought aloud.
Another mental prayer was sent up that the idiot would remain wherever he stuck him, he sparked a flare of ectoplasm to existence in his hand, holding it aloft and making his way back to the place of attack.
"Well," he mumbled to himself, "whoever shot at us wanted our attention." he traced a finger through the singe marks, him and Dash were a yard apart and the blast hit almost dead center of them. "Or for us to scram." Tossing the ball of light a little in his hand he considered, then chucked it as far as he could down the hallway. It shot through the air in a straight arch, unhindered by lift or air currents or gravity from this world. Splattering harmlessly against the far wall at the end. Nothing moved in the short instant of light, no shadows but those cast by the eerie green. "The back up generator should have kicked in by now, but we're still in the dark." He lit up his palm again with the hovering orb. "Either the school hasn't paid its electric bill, or someone ordered lights out."
Barely a thought, just a flicker of conscious, then the hall was lit with an entirely different light.
The rings dissipated, he rose from the floor, and flew straight through the wall, intent on looking for whomever was behind this mess.
From around the corner, pressed up against the side of the lockers Dash trembled, hands covering his mouth to silence his gasping breaths. He blinked his eyes, turning around the corner once more to stare at the darkness there, the darkness that for an instant held a familiar ghost boy. Crouching he looked the hallways up and down, then up again. Nothing moved, but when it was this dark, and what he was looking for was ghosts, what did he expect.
Screwing his eyes shut he slumped back against the lockers, cradling his head in his hands and shaking it back and forth. This was not possible, this was a dream, this was an illusion, this was a prank, this was some ghostly trick, this was some hallucination, he hit his head, he passed out, he..this...it was...
This was just seriously messed up.
He was not sticking around for whatever ghost battle was about to happen, Danny Phantom or no.
With shaking legs he shuffled down the hallway in the direction of the entrance, casting looks forwards, backwards, side to side, he'd turn in a circle then look over his shoulder, turn back and inch sideways. His foot kicked against something and he jumped back, barely containing an 'eep' as it clattered across the floor in muffled thuds.
Bending to his knees he felt around until his hands hit wet fabric and his nose tickled with the disgusting familiarity of Fenton's umbrella.
He swallowed past the porcupine that had crawled into his throat, unable to fully think past the shock of that unbelievable little revelation he'd stumbled onto.
Picking the thing up at the handle, the vile odor now a little comforting with its familiarity. He hit the button on the hard plastic and heart the 'shink' like claws unsheathed as it extended into its full length. Hardly the ideal weapon against ghosts, but the feel of something tangible, something stable to hold onto, gave him a trickle of courage.
A crash, haunting laugher, the sounds of a battle. Right behind him. A room off to his left, he pivoted on his heal and held the umbrella out against the darkness like a saber, backing slowly towards the double doors.
"Gah!" Another crash, with the harsh crack of wood...or bones, and the musical shatter of glass.
Without thinking he charged, crashing into the door and feeling the crunch of glass against his shoulder, seeing from the light of a swirling blue and white vortex the spiderweb he had imprinted in the glass of the attendance office. A ghost of some sort was caught in the spiral of light and wind, distorted into some surreal nightmarish movie monster before fading to swirls of black and green within the canister grasped in white gloves, its final cries of vengeance silenced by the capping of the thermos.
"Its lights out for you." Danny quipped with a tired smirk, the dim light from the overcast sky through the torn blinds cast bags under his eyes as dark purple as a double black eye. His worn smile drooped tiredly and in the chaos of the room Dash and the broken door were easily overlooked. Until he took a step forwards and his foot disturbed the fractured remains of a flower vase.
"Wha, DASH?" The fair-haired ghost straightened from his haggard pose into his much more straight backed and noble one, stepping into the role of awe-inspiring hero and away from the overtaxed teen, but Dash's eyes were open now, and he wondered how he could have been so blind, how everyone could be so incredibly and unforgivably stupid. "What are, wah, that is, um, are you okay? Did you get hurt?"
"Fenton." Dash's mouth was dry as the ground was just before the rain. So many things flittered through his mind, erratic and withoutrythim, like the beeping of a heart monitor when you're going having an attack. Running together and overlapping eachother until all that reaches the ear is nonesense noise. What Happened? Did it hurt? Who was that ghost? How long have you been...dead? Areyoudead,whatsitliketodie,? The Ghost Boy tensed at the name, and Dash's mind fell into the soulful hum of a silent heart, the long tone numbing his brain from the stem to the skull. "Fe..I was, I thought I heard.... Fenton."
A bead of sweat was on the brow beneath white bangs and Dash watched it roll down past black eyebrows. "He disappeared, he was right behind me and he vanished. I thought maybe a ghost got him."
The relief that oozed into the teen before him left him trembling and looking feint. "Oh, you... you're looking for the Fenton kid?" he asked with a shaky laugh in his voice. Dash nodded numbly, afraid that anything else and the boy would turn to jello and flop down onto the ground. "I, he did get captured, right outside in the hallway, but I saved him." He puffed out his chest a bit in fake pride. "I set him outside and sent him home. He's safe."
"You just dumped him in the rain?" Dash blurted without meaning to.
"Uh, well it was letting up." Danny defended, arms coming out to perform strange gestures in the air and run through his milky tangled mop. "He told me you were here though, said he brought you to a room. I was going to go get you." he confided.
"I never figured you'd actually..." he trailed off and Dash stopped kicking at the glass on the floor to look at him. "Well I didn't think you'd come looking for him, you never much minded for his saftey before." He smiled amusedly as the umbrella still in Dash's hand. "And with such a shoddy weapon, seriously?"
They shared a muffled laugh and gazed around the trashed office. "The ghost get rid of everyone else in the building?" The jock asked, wondering about the privacy they shared.
"Yeah, scared them all away. Wont be surprised in the mess in blamed on him. Not that I mind it being blamed on me, its just I kind of like when I get a free slide once in a while."
Dash thumped his hero on the shoulder with the extended umbrella. "There there, noone will blame you today."
Danny choked on a snigger, then sniffed the air, scowling.
"Uh, oh its..."
"Locker snot." he mumbled, brushing the offending object away. "Do me and every nose a favor and wash that soon."
Dash pulled it back slinging it over his shoulder with the thin metal rod resting against his clavicle. "Sure."
Come on, like any of you are really surprised I threw my hat into the fray? You get anything to do with "challenge" and Danny and Dash and you get my attention.
Not as long as it could have been, and nothing like what I originally had planned. But when you have the age limit of 15 you cant really do a high school reunion now can you? I will tell you this, I'll be posting the first idea I came up with for this in a day or so, depending on how my schedule works out, (grad bash is a bitch) and see how you guys like it.
And since the second half is not part of the challenge, but rather inspired by it, it WILL have slash...maybe...I'm still leaning more towards heavy undertones.
Hope you liked it JuneLuxray, if not eh *shrug*