Danny didn't know it, but no one who knew anything was surprised when he didn't come to school the next day. It extended to the absence of one Paulina Sanchez. He didn't know, either, that there were quite a few that were surprised when he came on Friday, walking stiffly but still basking in the glory of having showered and dressed all by himself. Danny knew his body and his abilities; by Monday he would be right as rain with little more than a new scar.
However, the pleasure didn't extend to the backpack that he had to repeatedly sling across his still injured back, come the afternoon. He was moving slowly along to his final class, the bell having already rung, when he went to round a corner and slammed into the solid front of Dash Baxter, Kwan Sie, and Jeremy Howell.
As proud as he was for dressing himself he was even prouder when he did little more than wince and maybe whimper when he hit the floor. He was prouder still that when the three jocks made straight for him he did nothing other than sigh, resigned to having a swirly or a locker stuffing to go with everything else.
So when hands lifted him up under his arms, instead of jerking him up and pulling on his back, Danny started to feel a little confused. And when Dash picked up his book bag and neatly stuffed his papers and books back into it, zipping it up all the way, confusion went out the door and a feeling of impending doom loom.
"Here, Fenton," Dash said, looping the bag over his arm as he tucked his own book under the other one. "Lemme carry this for you. Least I can do since we knocked you down."
The feeling intensified as the other two jocks just seemed to agree eagerly, all of them practically escorting him to his final class, and his desk as well, and then making an excuse for the teacher that saved him a detention.
He knew the world was ending when they showed back up at the end of the day, blithely took his backpack up and carried it, talking to him about ghosts and his parents' work until he realized they'd reached his front door with a distressed Sam and Tucker not far behind.
In a moment of desperate fear, Danny turned to them and asked, "Why are you doing this?"
Dash's nonplussed answer was, "It's time we grew up."
It turned out that the next committee meeting was on the Monday after Skulker tried to julienne his back. Danny spent the entire weekend giving Sam pep talks and, after walking to school on Monday morning, enjoyed her loud laughing as she opened her locker to find a dozen rolls of duct tape and a coil of glowing Fenton Rope ™. She promised him she'd use it if she had to, so long as he promised to come and watch what she had to put up with.
That was how he wound up sitting invisibly in the rafters of the gym where the committee meeting was being held, an hour after school let out.
Sam was doodling irritatedly as the meeting got under way, expecting the discussion to start off with more strange princess ideas. She snorted quietly to herself and entertained thoughts of suggesting they just go to Disney World.
So when Star turned to Sam and said, "Sam, why don't you tell us about your ideas?" she was understandably confused and a little concerned, considering the strange behavior the jocks had exhibited on Friday after school.
She wasn't someone who was ever unprepared, barring random ghost battles, and Sam never flinched back from the spotlight when it fell on her. So she responded in a steady voice the same ideas she'd told Danny about, with only a few additions. The colors might be better as a nice deep purple to set off the silver and pearlescent white everyone seemed to want, and the theme could probably be a little more mature than 'Once Upon A Dream.'
Two minutes later the cruise and the colors were agreed on, and three new themes had been suggested. When they decided on 'A Night to Remember' and using black as an accent color seven minutes later with the declaration that Casper High could do with some new traditions, Sam agreed with Danny that the end was near.
However, prom was going to be awesome. And that wasn't something Sam Manson ever just said.
Tucker escaped the strange behavior for two whole weeks before he had his first shake up. Actually, he'd noticed the lack of bullying sooner, but only in passing because he hadn't had to save his PDA once in any of the fourteen days that passed. However, he really only registered it when one of the cheerleaders, a perky brunette named Cara, asked him if he wanted to get a milkshake the last day of school before the holidays.
He noticed it even more when, while he and Cara only had a few dates, several more of the popular girls paid him an embarrassing amount of attention. By Valentine's Day Tucker was well and truly supportive of the end of the world theory Sam and Danny had been telling him about.
However, he was content not to pay it too much attention, since on Valentine's Day he worked up the nerve to actually ask one of the popular girls out. She hadn't been one of his new groupies, but Tucker figured that the phrase 'nothing risked, nothing gained' applied clearly.
So he asked her. He knew it would turn out really well when she answered, "I'd love to. And it's Elizabeth, not Star."
The secret life of Danny Fenton became the best kept secret in Casper High (considering Paulina's dirty little secret was currently being used as blackmail, no one figured it qualified) and, by extension, Amity Park. The students who had once termed themselves the A-List had all spent a great deal of time and effort doing soul searching, and with the exception of Paulina, all decided that growing up some wasn't such a bad thing.
The result was a surprising rise in GPA's, the destruction of the popular cliques, and a hell of a lot of new friendships. Someone had said jokingly once about Tucker Foley, that odds were the geeks they had so recently bullied might very well become successful businesspeople, and possibly their employers at some time in the future.
Between that and knowing what Danny's and his friends' lives were like, it was an altogether easy change to make.
Which was why they all knew the gossip that had surrounded Danny and Sam for years, and were fairly eager to act on it. Danny had obviously never found out about Paulina's dirty trick (a hard shutdown because of Christmas light induced blackout had accidentally seen to that) and no one wanted him to find out. They figured, as a whole, that the boy – no, man – was under enough stress as it was. It wouldn't hurt him to never know about it, and by and far they were all content to help him quietly from the background.
So when it came time to create the ballots for prom king and queen they discretely made sure that Danny Fenton and Sam Manson were listed clearly. They all knew who they were voting for, and they figured they could count on the rest of the school to either quietly follow their lead, or just vote for the couple as the underdog.
And if that failed not a one of them had a problem with rigging the results.
This wasn't to say they were above a little teasing. They made a point of picking a single day of every week to coordinate a 'We 3 Danny Phantom' event, usually carried out by wearing shirts with the infamous ghost's logo. After all, it was entirely too entertaining to watch him squirm just a little. It was even more fun to watch Sam alternate between pleased that the Phantom was so loved, and annoyed that Danny got no credit. After all, he was definitely getting more credit than he knew about.
By the end of March, the end of the world hadn't happened. This wasn't to say an apocalypse hadn't tried to occur, but Danny, Sam and Tucker had taken care of it. granted, it broke Tucker's PDA again, but Sam never failed to quietly replace it, usually upgrading it at the same time. Danny did break a finger, but that was only because Tucker slammed a door on it trying to prevent the latest ghost army from entering the Nasty Burger. (He made up for it later on by supplying Danny with a picture of Sam in a dress.)
Of course there were more signs that the end was near, and not for any ghostly reason.
One of Sam's paintings was selected as the yearbook cover. It was, surprisingly enough, not a dark and dreary piece. She'd done character studies of her fellow classmates and the underclassmen, and one day spent an entire lunch period sketching the scene. When she later painted it, she was surprised to find that what she was looking at was good, in more than the painted sense.
Tucker and Elizabeth were still dating. That in itself was a sure sign, possibly an eighth plague of Egypt, Sam joked. But Tucker just smiled, because Elizabeth had confessed she would have joined the Mathletes if she hadn't been trying so hard to fit in with Paulina's definition of popular. That had led to a conversation where he learned that she was as big a Doom fan as he was.
Danny was invited to go out for track by Dash, in person. Nonplussed he tried out and found out that, though long distances kicked his ass, years of being quick on his feet in ghost fights had given him amazing sprinting power. He managed to earn enough points to letter in his first four meets. When the rest of the team celebrated by dumping a cooler of Gatorade on him he smiled, laughed, and danced around because it was colder than hell. But he didn't complain.
Tucker had a date for prom. It was almost a given since he and Elizabeth were still dating, but he was pleasantly surprised when she asked him to take her. After days of discussion it was agreed that Elizabeth would wear a red dress, since it had been a fanciful childhood dream to wear red to her senior prom and dance to Lady In Red. Tucker had agreed to rent a black tux with a red vest.
It was the first school dance he'd ever really looked forward to.
Danny and Sam both agreed to go stag without actually saying anything. It's not to say that they were never asked, but neither would say yes, and the people who asked took it with good nature when they were turned down by one or the other red-faced, stammering individual. They didn't actually talk about it, though they did somehow decide that they'd ride together.
Sam bought a black dress that Danny wouldn't see until the dance.
Danny knew nothing about it, but rented a tux on his own, making sure that the vest he'd picked would be a midnight blue that was nearly purple, just like Sam's eyes. He also bought a corsage for her, a small cluster of purple orchids.
Prom was just as awesome as it had been boasted to be. The food was wonderful, the music was fun, the decorations spare and tasteful. The chaperones were mostly strangers, which was better than having teachers and parents leering at them constantly. In fact, the only teachers there were Principal Ishiyama and Mr. Lancer, in order to officiate. There were two instance of seasickness, but everyone on the prom committee had packed a tab of Dramamine to deal with such occurrences, and the foresight proved effective.
Elizabeth and Tucker were both pleased with their attire, Tucker properly appreciative of the body hugging bodice his girlfriend was wearing. They agreed to split the costs and bought the largest package of pictures they could.
If Sam noticed Danny's color coordination she said nothing, but she left a lipstick mark on his cheek when he offered her the corsage. Her response, while he was still tongue tied by the slinky black number she'd chosen, was to tuck one of the orchids into the buttonhole on his jacket.
Tucker danced with Elizabeth exclusively, as she did with him. Danny danced with three girls, one dance each, before giving in to the compelling desire to dance with no one but Sam. Sam wouldn't have danced, but Danny dragged her onto the dance floor at the front of the deck. She didn't regret it in the least.
In fact, everything was going exactly as planned, right up until it was time to announce the king and queen. Danny and Sam had both admitted that they hadn't voted long before, but Tucker still kept quiet about who he'd voted for. All in all neither of Tucker's friends cared, because there was honestly no one on the ballots that they felt like supporting over everyone else.
So when they were crowned prom king and queen, they were understandably shocked. They were even more shocked when they received the gift certificates for a dinner for two at one of the nicest restaurants in the city, and passes to an upcoming play that Sam, at least, wanted to see. The only requirement was that they attend together.
They didn't admit it out loud, but neither of them had a problem doing that.
It was a little more interesting when they were informed that they had to take the dance floor alone, just the two of them, for the dance of the king and queen. Danny's palms were sweaty when he finally gave in and led Sam onto the dance floor. Her heart was pounding and her knees were weak as he pulled her closer and music cued up. When the first bars and lyrics of Always and Forever cued up Danny's fingers curled in, holding the small of her back.
The first minute of the dance was the longest minute of both their lives. The second passed marginally quicker as they stopped paying attention to the words. The third minute passed slower, but for a different reason. It was a little hard for Danny to continue ignoring how much he wanted to kiss Sam when she was this close, no one else crowding them, and nothing to distract him.
Neither of them would ever be sure when they stopped hearing the music, and when everyone else disappeared, but just before the four minute mark Danny decided to quit trying so hard, and leaned forward to gently press his mouth to Sam's.
Just after the four minute mark he jerked back, suddenly terrified of what he'd done.
At four and a half minutes Sam grabbed the lapels of his tuxedo jacket and pulled him back to her. Neither of them noticed when the music stopped, but eventually the whistles and clapping penetrated and brought them back to prom, red faced and breathing heavily, but entirely happy, for once.
Naturally the strange behavior continued, but by then it had become so commonplace that it was less disturbing than just odd, but expected. Their last day of school before graduation went without a hitch as they said their goodbyes, received their yearbooks, and joined in the passing around signature waves. It wasn't until the three friends were crowded onto Danny's bed later that night going through their yearbooks and the hundreds of signatures that they found one last very strange thing.
The senior class had decided in favor of and then voted on the most likely lists, with each particular caption under the winning senior's picture. But as all three finally went to see their own picture, they found three captions that had never been on that particular ballot.
Tucker Foley – Most Likely to Take Over Microsoft.
Sam Manson – Most Likely to Change the World.
Danny Fenton – Most Likely to Be A Hero.
So when graduation actually came and all three of them received standing ovations by their fellow graduating seniors, they decided to accept that maybe it wasn't a sign of the end of the world.
So it took forever, but hopefully since it just kind of bloomed from the projected couple hundred words you'll all forgive me. That and the add-on happened, which kind of needed to go up at the same time. Hope you enjoy!
(P.S. I never want to write as bitchy-Paulina again.)