Tucker was busy reading a book in the park, waiting for the daily visit of his nephew, when he heard the engine of Sam's car roar down the street. He looked up and grinned, just as the car parked on the side of the road.
The mayor tucked his book away into his bag and walked up to the car. The back door opened and out inched Andy, until he was able to jump out and run to his uncle. "Uncle Tucker!" he cried out happily, holding out his arms.
Tucker laughed and threw the boy up into the air, making Andy laugh hysterically. "Hey, Short Stuff!" he exclaimed. "How was school?"
"I learned how to write from one to twenty!" Andy replied proudly.
"Wow, already? You're gonna be better than me in no time!" Tucker looked up at Sam when she stepped out of the car and then looked through the windshield at Danny, who had remained inside the vehicle. He did a doubletake and looked at Sam again. "Yo, what the heck happened to Danny?" he said in shock, having noticed the scrapes and bruises.
Sam rolled her eyes. "He saw Dash's kid picking on Andy and tried to stop it," she said. "But then Dash showed up and practically told Danny that Andy was too weak to handle anything."
"Oh, snap," Tucker muttered softly, shuddering in the progress. "I'm guessing it wasn't all hugs and kisses, huh?"
"They started fighting on school grounds," Andy replied. "And right after, Mr. Lancer came outside."
"Ooo, that mustn't have been pretty," Tucker added while recoiling as though he had received a heavy blow. "Danny's not adjusting too well to seeing Dash so often yet, is he?"
Sam sighed and looked at her car. She remained silent for a moment before looking at Tucker and holding up her keys. "Take him for a ride," she said. "He needs to talk to someone other than me."
"Trust me, he played the silent treatment with me all the way here in the car."
Tucker sighed softly and put Andy down. "Okie dokie, Squeaker," he said. "You stay here with your mom for a minute while I go cheer your dad up."
"Okie dokie!" Andy echoed, as Tucker traded his laptop bag for Sam's car keys.
He walked up to the vehicle and opened the driver's door. He sat down inside the car and closed the door behind him before taking the keys and sticking them into the ignition. Once it had started, he buckled himself in. "Phantom; start," he announced, making the vehicle start up.
All this time, Danny watched him do so in silence. "What are you doing?" he wondered.
"Taking you for a ride," Tucker replied.
"But how did you start the car?"
"But Sam said it only starts with her voice."
Tucker clicked his belt into place and placed his hand on the clutch. "Maybe," he said, pushing the stick to drive. "But I'm the one who installed the system into the car for her."
For the first fifteen minutes or so, Tucker remained silent, and so did Danny. Tucker planned on remaining silent for the first few minutes of the drive, just to let Danny cool down. He knew exactly how his best friend worked, even though he had not seen him for the past five years; and the first thing Danny needed after having blown a fuse was some quiet time without being forced to give the silent treatment.
He drove down different streets, passing sites they recognized from their childhood, and then decided to take the car out into the country. He took the car into the forest, back out again, up and down hills and only stopped it when they came to a hill high enough to over look Amity Park and the surrounding areas. There, he put the car into park, pulled the key out of the ignition and sat back, staring at the city-turned town he had grown up in.
Danny, arms still crossed and body halfway off of the seat, stared over the city as well, suddenly amazed at how much it had grown since he last saw it.
Tucker waited a moment before sighing and looking at his best friend. "Tell me what's bothering you," he said softly.
Danny scoffed softly without looking at him. "You sound like my sister," he muttered.
"A therapist? A doctor?"
Tucker giggled very quietly before sinking down into his seat and placing his hands on his chest. "You know what really sucks about being mayor of Amity Park?" he said. He waited a moment before continuing. "People always come to me with their problems. Whether it's about reducing taxes or fights over a patch of land, or even something ghost-related. They want me to choose sides or ask for my opinion. They expect me to have all the answers. They ask me before taking stuff to the court. Even the media, after a conference, ask me question after question. Eventually, it all starts to pile up in my brain and makes things confusing. Sometimes I even find myself doubting my abilities to handle situations like that. Sometimes I think that people aren't there to ask for my advice; they just want to twist the truth and make me look like an idiot…"
Danny remained silent. He did not quite understand where Tucker was going with his story, and if he never would understand, he'd probably just find himself sitting there while Tucker chattered on and on and on.
But he listened anyway; just in case something important did pop up.
Tucker looked at him, although Danny did not give back the glance. "But as hard as the problems seem, I know that I have to keep going," he went on. "I know I have to take charge. I'm the mayor of Amity Park. People didn't vote for me to take advantage of my power; they voted for me because they knew that I would make a good mayor. I'm smart, I'm confident, I even know how to build ghost weaponry. I'm the town's link and closest known companion to the ghost hero, Danny Phantom. They rely on me to help resolve their problems. I can't afford to waste time when I'm listening to their problems or going through political junkmail, even if it feels like a waste of my time. I've got a duty to the city, and that's to keep them up to date, protect them as much as I can, and help them survive one day at a time."
"Tucker, I don't mean to be rude, but it really feels like I'm going nowhere with this talk," Danny eventually sighed tiredly. He looked at his friend after rolling his eyes. "What exactly are you trying to get to?"
Tucker looked at him in silence before answering. "The point that I've got responsibilities," he explained.
"And what do they have to do with my fight with Dash, or his kid bullying mine?"
"The fact that you're wasting your time."
Danny fell silent. Tucker's talk suddenly seemed serious.
Tucker looked at him in silence once more before turning his eyes back to the horizon. "When you have responsibilities, Danny," he said, "You need to think before you act. If you heard all of the stupid little, dinky problems people come to me with, you'd be ready to resign and chop your head off. Some people come and bother me with little things like a parking ticket or a rock through the window. They come to me before going to the dang police.
"But instead of shouting at them and telling them to go see the cops, or before deciding to comment about their stupid little issue, I play a little movie through my head. It shows me what could happen if I acted like an idiot. People would stop relying on me or trusting me; they might even kick me out of the mayor's office. I could lose the reputation I worked at building since I graduated from Computer college. That's why you should think before you act."
Tucker sat up and leaned towards Danny. He looked the man straight in the eye. "I know Dash has been one of the top people you wanted to kill since high school, Danny," he said. "I even want to knock the guy's teeth out sometimes. But you not only punched the guy, you did it in front of an elementary school, in front of dozens of kids, and worse, in front of Andy. Did you stop to think about what would be going through Andy's mind?"
Danny was suddenly overcome by disbelief and shame. He looked at his feet as his eyes darkened.
"There's always going to be people that we love to hate, Danny," Tucker continued. "Just like there's always a bunch of ghosts who will always hate you for trapping them in that thermos and sending them back into the ghost zone. But we can't expect to make ourselves or the people around us feel better by knocking the daylights out of the guy who bullied us since kindergarten. That would just make things worse. Karma's a seriously bad thing, dude. And it's especially not good for a guy who not only saves the world on a daily basis, but for the kid who looks up to him as a dad and a hero."
Danny sighed heavily yet remained mute, and did not look up at his best friend. He suddenly felt completely horrible for his actions and felt embarrassed for the way he looked like at that moment, covered in bruises and scrapes.
"Anger's a really easy emotion to use to our advantage," Tucker said. "And I know you know it better than anyone. Anger influences your ghost powers incredibly easily." He placed a hand on Danny's shoulder and smiled encouragingly when his best friend looked up at him. "But you've been able to overpower it before. I've seen you do it. And you can be an even better person when you do. Not to mention it makes you feel a lot better than when you hold in your anger until it explodes. Things would work a lot better if you thought before you acted, Danny. And I'm pretty sure you'd agree."
"I… didn't stop to think about what Andy would think," Danny said softly, staring at his feet again. "I was just so ticked off when I saw him get bullied, and realizing that it was Dash's kid just made me flip." He paused before continuing. "I don't want Andy to go through what I did when I was his age."
"What Andy will go through isn't something you should be concerning yourself about, Danny," Tucker said. "School, cliques, bullies; those are all things we needed to go through, and when graduation arrived, we all realized just how far we came and how great it felt to have it behind us. Andy may meet problems along the way, but resolving it by sinking a fist into Dash's nose won't fix the dilemma…" Tucker paused for a moment and grinned. "But it would make a great action picture," he added.
Danny chuckled softly at these words before his smile faded away again.
"Andy's a smart kid, Danny. He's hidden from us his powers of intangibility and invisibility since forever, and he's probably learned how to use them to his advantage without giving it away to anyone." Tucker chuckled after a moment. "And he's not shy, and he's not a nervous wreck like you were, so we won't need to worry about his pants falling down in class."
These words brought back memories and finally made Danny throw his head back and laugh.
Tucker waited for him to finish before speaking again. "So," he said, sitting in his seat. "How was that for a shrink?"
"Way better than Jazz," Danny replied through a chuckle. He looked at his arms and studied his injuries. "I guess I did act a lot like how Dash did in high school. I think spending five years in the Ghost Zone has rusted up my brain."
"Nothing that can't be fixed within a few days," Tucker replied, starting the car. He put the clutch into reverse and began backing up. "So before we go back to see how Sam and Danny Phantom Junior's doing, why don't we make a quick stop at the Nasty Burger and grab a bite to eat? My treat."
Danny grinned and looked out the window. "I'd like that," he said softly.
"Good. But don't make it too expensive. I still need to pay Sam back for breaking her grandma's china. Oh yeah; and I wanted to get Andy that toboggan when the snow comes."
Danny looked at him. "Thanks, Tucker," he said.
Tucker looked at him for a moment before looking over his shoulder again to see where he was going. "What are best friends for, Bro?" he replied.
"Not just this," Danny said with a shake of his head. "Thank you… for not changing, except for a certain degree of maturity… and for taking care of Sam… and Andy all these years."
Tucker looked at him again and remained silent for a moment longer before grinning warmly and stopping the car to put it into drive. "A promise is a promise, Danny," he said. "I just wanted to make sure everything had its place for you when you came back."
"Well… thank you. Again. For everything."
"What are best friends for?"
They returned to the park thirty minutes later, finding Andy and Sam playing on the seesaw. Tucker stepped out of the car and walked over to Sam once she had gotten off of the plank of wood. She took back the keys, spoke to him while Danny waited in the car, and then pointed at where she had placed Andy's backpack and Tucker's laptop. Tucker then rushed over to his nephew, scooped him up into the air and ran around the park, carrying the five-year-old in his arms. Andy squealed happily and spread his arms out wide like an airplane.
Danny watched them laugh and imitate the sounds of a plane until Sam opened the door to her car and sat down in the driver's seat.
Danny looked up at her before staring out the window at Tucker and Andy.
"I hear he broke your silent treatment," Sam announced. "That's pretty good if you ask me. I still haven't figured out how to do that."
Danny grinned weakly but did not look at her.
"I guess you need to be a techno geek to do it; Danny Phantom comes with his own security codes that need to be cracked every now and then to get to his soft spot."
Danny continued to watch Tucker and Andy fool around. The black man and placed Andy back down on the ground and the five-year-old pretended to shot some kind of ghost weapon at him. Tucker, being the dramatic person that he was, cried out in fright and began running off around the park, Andy hot on his trail. Of course, Tucker only ran as fast as the five-year-old could, and only stopped when Andy said that he had shot him. Tucker fell to the ground and lay completely still while Andy walked over and asked if he was okay. Then the man sprang his arms up and wrapped them around the boy, taking Andy by surprise. He dragged Andy to the ground, where he began to tickle him.
"Andy really likes him," Danny said very softly.
Sam looked at him for a moment before staring out the window at Tucker and Andy. She grinned. "Yeah," she said. "Tucker took care of him whenever I had my hands full. He told him all sorts of stories, mostly ghost stories or your adventures or something. He knows all of Andy's favourite story books by heart and all his favourite outdoor games. He taught him how to ride his four-wheeler bike and how to play chess. He's Andy favourite uncle."
Danny looked away for a moment and began comparing the moments he spent with his son since he returned from the Ghost Zone to all the days Andy spent with Tucker since he was born. Compared to that, Danny hardly knew him.
"Why didn't you just make him Andy's father?" Danny asked.
Sam looked at him in surprise.
"I mean, he knows Tucker so much better than he knows me, and Tucker knows him a heckova lot more than I do," Danny added. "All I know about him is that he looks like me and he's inherited two of my ghost powers. Why didn't you just make Tucker Andy's dad?"
Sam remained silent before finally smiling. She chuckled softly and shook her head. "I don't think Tucker would have wanted to, to be honest, Danny," she replied. "Andy reminded him too much of you. He would have thought that it was weird, caring for his best friend's kid as if it was his own." She looked out the window. "He made it perfectly clear to Andy since the day he was born that he was going to be his uncle and that his daddy was the town's superhero. I think Tucker was the one who told Andy that he was the son of Danny Phantom. He told Andy that his daddy was lost in the Ghost Zone and was trying to find his way home, but that one day, he would come back and take care of him.
"Tucker was so proud of who his best friend was, he didn't want to replace you, Danny. So he told everything about you to Andy until Andy couldn't go a single day without kissing a picture of you or asking a question about the way you acted or what you liked. He loved Danny Phantom stories, he loved hearing stories from your parents about how you grew up, and he never went one night without acting out a battle between Danny Phantom and Vlad Plasmius or some other bad guy that Tucker gave him in his toy set."
Sam reached over and placed a hand on Danny's arm. Danny raised his head and looked at her.
"Andy loves his Uncle Tucker, Danny," Sam said softly. "But he loves his daddy too. And he'd never ask for another one. Trust me."
Danny grinned weakly as Sam leaned over and kissed his bruised cheek.
"… Even if his daddy gets teed off a little too often."
"Okay, okay… I've learned my lesson… You can drop it…"