A/N: Heh, there's a reason I haven't put anything up the last couple of weeks, I swear it's a good selfless reason: I'm making an afghan for my next host family as a farewell gift (a little preemptive, but whatever. It'll save me so much time and effort when I'm actually over there). So…yeah. Don't be too mad at me, please. Also, I've been doing prompt filling.
Also, this is my poor attempt at an angsting Danny. Enjoy!
Chapter 8: Don't Want to Talk About It
Walking home from the park couldn't have been the best decision. My legs got sore, my anger and frustration stewed the whole way home. So what if I wasn't fully human or ghost? What did that matter at the end of the day? I still saved people, sort of. My track records been pretty down lately.
I ground my teeth and shoved my hands deeper into my pockets. Nope, I wasn't going to think about that.
I got to the door and froze. Did I want to go in there looking as frustrated as I felt? Taking a deep breath, I tried leveling my face to a normal apathetic appearance. Typical teenaged expression. Another deep breath and then I opened the door, entering the living room.
"Where in the world have you been?" came Vlad's voice from the couch. He sounded worried and livid at the same time.
Like a deer in headlights, I froze. "Uh, um, I…" My mouth fumbled the words I wanted to say as an explanation.
Vlad didn't look amused by my weak attempts to talk. His frown deepened and I lowered my head. His disappointment was the last thing I wanted today of all days. "You had me terrified," his voice softened enough to make me look up at him. His face lost the hard edge to it. "Jasmine told me you were up in your room an hour ago," he continued.
"Sam and Tucker wanted to hang out," I muttered. Probably the most plausible lie I'd ever told. "I didn't want to disturb Jazz's tutoring session." Not with Dash at my house, I didn't add. But, Vlad didn't need to know about that little detail.
"You should have at least left a note," he scolded, sounding almost like mom whenever I came home after curfew.
As my usual answer to that, I ducked my head and said nothing. Better to let the lecture happen and get it over with. Besides, it's not like he knew why I left in the first place. Sam called about ghost on the other side of town causing trouble. I had to do something.
To my surprise, he didn't go into lecture mode right away. A creak from the old sofa told me he stood up and I listened to his footsteps approach me. Vlad placed a hand on my shoulder and guided me to the couch. "Sit, Daniel," he said, adding a push down on my shoulder for emphasis.
I did, if only to try to speed the process up. The sooner I learned how disappointed Vlad, the sooner I could escape to my room. He settled next to me, his hand remaining on my shoulder to keep me there. If only he knew how easy it could be for me just to disappear. I would have loved to see the look on his face.
"Daniel," began Vlad, "I realize you're going through a difficult stage of your life." Understatement of the year. "But, that doesn't mean you get to run off without prior warning. You're mother has rules for a reason, son."
"It's a little more complicated than that," I said quietly.
"Trust me," continued Vlad, "I understand what you're going through. I went through the same thing." I rolled my eyes at yet another reference to puberty. Adults always assumed it was freaking puberty. Another reason to why I could never relate to anyone ever again. Just what I needed: another freaking difference between me and a normal life.
"Doubt that," I grumbled and crossed my arms.
"What's going on, son?" Vlad asked, concerned. I didn't have the heart to look at him, fixing my eyes on my feet. "This morning you were as energetic as a squirrel."
"Nothing." I kicked my feet, distracting myself from Vlad even more. A part of me really didn't want to shut him out of this, but I couldn't tell him what was wrong. A ghost mocked me. I've got my ass handed to me since first going against Plasmius. My sister signed my up for therapy without asking. Sam was upset about something and she wouldn't spill in school, not her usual thing.
"You aren't as alone as you think you are, little badger," said Vlad, causing me to bark out a laugh. "I'm serious, Daniel. I'm here to talk when you're ready." He stood up and walked towards the kitchen, raising an arm in a gesture to follow him. "You missed dinner, but there is still some leftovers in the refrigerator. I believe you might be hungry."
"Uh…yeah." So that wasn't as lecture-y as I believed it would be. One little attempt to relate, and the standard make sure everyone knows where you are. It could have been much worse. Mom pulled out all the stops when she got her hands into. Still, it was nice to know Vlad was concerned. Even just a little. "So, did you hang around the house all day?"
"Actually, I spent most of the day at Axion Labs on the north side of town," he shook his head as he opened the fridge, a smile on his lips. I couldn't tell if it was out of happiness or amusement.
"That old building?" I asked, picturing it in my head. It struck me funny that he would go there, of all places. "What for?"
"I'm thinking of purchasing it." My mouth dropped in disbelief at the thought of Vlad, the billionaire, buying a dinky place like that. There was no way it would be valuable to a guy like him. Maybe he was buying it out to put up some new offices. "Many of their projects are promising and with some funding from my own pocket, they will be able to go farther than they can now," he added, noting my expression.
I nodded and waited for the food he was preparing. The leftovers looked like steak and baked potato that were both edible. And notably not coming to life. "Did you cook that here or order out?" I joke.
"Here," he said, looking at me like I was crazy, especially since I was skeptical of the food being anywhere near good now. "What's wrong with the idea of me cooking?"
"Nothing," I blurted. "It's just…mom and dad fitted all the appliances with some ecto-converters. Food usually comes to life."
"That's highly inconvenient," he observed and I could only agree. "I did notice the converters and turned them off. You're mother was at least sensible enough to have the main lines turned on in the event of a failure of those devices." He set the plate in front of me and ruffled my hair. "Now, eat up. Do your homework and sleep well, little badger."
I nodded, with no intention of doing his last two requests. There was unfinished business with that ghost that ran away earlier. I want to find him and pay him back for everything he said to me. I'd probably feel much better about that. I wasn't a freak. I wasn't just trying to fit in anywhere. I was human.
Vlad, thankfully, didn't watch me eat. He, instead, went out to the living room and flipped on the television. The sound of evening news filled the living room. Typical adult thing to watch, I supposed. I wolfed down the meal and set the dishes into the sink.
I forced myself not to look at Vlad. Guilt about not doing homework started to creep in my gut, but I couldn't let that get in my way. There was stuff I had to do if I was ever going to get back into the game. I had to beat that ghost and prove myself.
Without thinking about it, I slammed the door to my room shut, earning a disgruntled growl from Jazz. The white rings appeared at my middle the moment someone banged on the door. I glared at the floor and shoved my ghost powers down. Great, another interruption.
Grumbling, I opened the door to see an annoyed Jazz. "Did you really have to slam the door, Danny?" she asked, pointing a finger in my face.
"Did it bother you that much?" I said, swiping the hand away. "Seriously, Jazz, I've had a pretty bad day. I don't need you butting in."
"Yes, it did." Jazz crossed her arms, her face more than cross. "You know I'm studying and there's no reason to slam the door. Some of us want to keep our grades at a 4.0 average." That hit me hard and, like I'd been doing that entire day, I stared at my feet, holding back the overwhelming sense of failure I must have been.
She tapped my shoulder and I looked up at Jazz. Her face softened, "I'm sorry little brother. I know you're going through a lot, right now. Which is why I signed you up to see Ms. Spectra. You won't talk to me."
I shrugged and let the whole mention of the world's crappiest therapist roll off me. I wanted to forget I ever saw the woman. She just knew what to say to make me feel worse about myself. "Whatever, Jazz," I mumbled. "I'll let the perfect child get back to her studies."
I shut the door in her face, locked it, and laid on my bed. I didn't have it in me to go after that ghost anymore. That was just perfect. Revenge no longer sounded like a good idea. Wallowing in my freakish misery seemed like the best thing to do at the moment. Fantastic.
The next day, sitting in Penelope Spectra's office during first period was awful. Not to mention she kept the room's temperature so low it took all I had to not wear a jacket. No doubt was in my mind that she'd psychoanalyze that, too. So, I suffered the cold and watched every puff of air I exhaled.
She at her desk, tapping her red nails on her red pen in her red suit. Her red hair reminded me of devil's horns and to be honestly, I almost believed that was the motif she went for given all the freaking red. "So, Danny," she said, in a tone of voice I was sure wasn't appropriate to use on children my age. Her toothy smile reminded me of a big cat toying with its food. "What's cooking in that little head of yours?"
"I'm not little," I answered before I could even stop myself.
"So you have insecurities of your height, hm?" She stood up and walked behind me, hands on my shoulders. My body tensed the moment her freezing hands touched me. "Relax, Danny. I only want to help you overcome your problems. It's not your fault your genetics dealt you a terrible blow and left you a scrawny, tiny, boy."
I sank in my seat and shrugged off her hands. "I'm still growing," I asserted.
"Sure you are," she almost sounded mocking. "But, you've been this size for how long? Two years? Are you really going to wait for that golden growth spurt? Haven't you just given up on that silly little dream?"
"Who said anything about that?" I growled, though it sounded less confident than intended.
"You're getting defensive about this, Danny," Spectra continued. "You're denying your own insecurity. We need to get you to confront this issue right away."
I frowned and stayed in the seat. If she was going to suggest that I jump on Dash's back, I was going to flip out. She already made me confront the student body about my grades, much to their fun and my humiliation. "I don't have an issue about my height," I snapped. I could fly, I argued silently. Height didn't matter.
"Hm," Spectra lifted a hand off my shoulder. "Perhaps you're right. Let's dig deeper, then," she sounded almost ecstatic about that. "Oh, I'm sure you still feel like a failure of the school. An outcast, even. I can tell by your face that you didn't do your schoolwork at home. You're just perpetuating your failure with that attitude. We can work on that, if you'd prefer."
Maybe she was right. I could have done my homework, but I slept instead. I didn't even go ghost hunting, which might have pulled me out of the funk I was in. Damn it, Fenton, you just let a perfectly good night for either getting my school life together or working on my ghost life.
"Are we done?" I asked her. I heard her take a deep breath and sigh like she'd finished something extremely satisfied.
"For now," Spectra answered, taking her hand away. "I might call you back, later."
"Greeeeat," I said, pumping as much as false enthusiasm in my voice as possible. I stood up from the chair, slumped my shoulders, and headed to the door. Sam and Tucker might able to cheer me up.
"Now get back to class and prove you're not just some poor excuse for a human being," she told me the moment I opened the door. Spectra just gave the most wonderful advice, didn't she?
So, I made my way back to class. Lancer already knew Spectra had me in her clutches for the last half-hour so he just nodded and told me to sit down. He also said this, "Mother of Sorrows, Fenton, put a smile on your face."
I realized he was all about spirit week, but not everyone could be as chipper as he was over it. Well, Jazz might be the closest match the student population had, but she was still a far cry from Lancer's enthusiasm.
Case in point: Lancer pulled out his pompoms and started reciting a cheer about Shakespeare. In the middle of class. "Who's got the tragedy? Who's got the comedy? Who brings the masses to a common understanding?"
I buried my face in my hands as I walked down an aisle, utterly shocked that our vice-principal even did that. It didn't even rhyme. But of course, that was a bad move because someone stuck their foot out and sent me sprawling to the ground.
Laughter erupted around me and my ears burned. Lancer yelled something to the class, probably to settle down. He wasn't going to punish whoever tripped me. I glared at the desk beside me as I picked myself up. Dash glared right back, sniggering, "Watch where you're going, Fentina. You almost scuffed my shoes." He leaned closer to me, catching my arm as I tried moving away. "Good thing you didn't," he whispered, "I would've made you lick them clean."
"Mr. Baxter," called Lancer, "let go of Mr. Fenton. And Mr. Fenton, sit down. We don't need more interruptions in this class period."
Dash squeezed my arm before dropping it and I pulled it to my chest. I made my way to the back of the class. Sam and Tucker left a seat open between them, which brought a small smile to my lips. At least one good thing happened so far.
"How was therapy?" asked Sam, venom dripping from the word 'therapy'. Lancer seemed to have given up cheering in class for now and droned on, not even sparing a glance at the three of us.
"Horrible," I answered, leaning over my desk and letting my hair fall into my eyes. "She thought I had height issues. As if I needed one other thing to be accused of having issues with."
"Come on, man," said Tucker, diligently playing with his PDA. "At least she didn't call you a freak."
"Thanks, Tuck," I drawled. "As if I needed a reminder."
"Danny," said Sam, "at least you don't test on animals, or mess with their genetic codes to make them unnatural hybrids." She paused. "That didn't come out right."
I let my head fall to my desk. "No kidding. By the way, why were you upset yesterday?"
Sam's reassuring expression faded the moment I brought it up. "I did some digging on Vlad's companies," she grumbled. "There are so many weird coincidences and dirty tactics about how he amassed his empire. Not to mention what he uses test products on."
"Great, now you got her on activist-mode," Tucker rolled his eyes. "And in the middle of class."
"There's always time to make the lives of those whose voices can't be heard better," Sam shot a glare at our techno-geek and I kept my head ducked. This was going to end up as another one of their usual arguments. I didn't have the energy to put with it.
"They are heard," Tucker countered. "You can hear them say 'moo' or 'quack.' You sometimes take things a little too far."
Sam ground her teeth and was about to insult him when I stood up from my seat. Everyone looked at me and I ignored their stares, pushing their attention away.
"Mr. Fenton, what on The Hollow Earth are you—"
"Enough," I said, a little louder than I intended. "I'm sick of you guys fighting all the time. Just, stop, okay?"
I didn't even realize I was walking out of the classroom until I stood in the hallway, breathing heavily. My hands shook as I ran them through my hair. I did that. I announced everything to the world and now I was going to get detention because I didn't know how to keep my mouth shut. Fantastic. Just fantastic.
At the very least, the bell rang soon after. The halls flooded with people moving to their lockers and switching out their books for next period. Maybe Sam and Tucker tried to catch up to me. Hell if I knew. I stood in the middle of it all those bodies, getting pushed and shoved out of the way by juniors and sophomores. Somehow, it really didn't bother me all that much.
Eventually, I ended up on the side and I leaned back against the wall for support. The hallways cleared and I hadn't made a move for my locker or anything of that sort. I just wanted to be left alone. My thoughts might have gotten themselves sorted that way.
"Mr. Fenton," Lancer asked, "may I have an explanation for why you dismissed yourself from my classroom?"
"No," I responded. "And before you even get started, I'm not trying to undermine your authority."
"I wasn't going to do anything of the sort," he said and forced me to walk down the hall. "I was going to suggest you spend some more time with Ms. Spectra."
"But I just left her office," I whined. I know I whined because Lancer looked down at me like any adult would at a misbehaving kid. "She makes things worse."
"Nonsense." Lancer smiled and stopped in front of her office. "She's invaluable to the staff this week. Now, please Mr. Fenton, do try to work things out with her before heading to your next class. I'll notify your teachers."
"Thanks," I mumbled.
The door opened before Lancer could knock and Spectra's lion-smile was already on her face. "Danny," she sang. "I didn't expect you back so soon."
A/N: Okay, the dramatic irony is killing me but I can't help but write that stuff in. It's just too good to pass up.
Before anyone points this out, between the last chapter and this one, Vlad left his watch over Danny to a clone so he can do his duties as house/kid watcher and make dinner. Danny walked slowly, giving Vlad plenty of time. There. Word of Author, right there. It's fanfic!canon now.
Oh, and I apologize in advance for dragging Spectra out for at least another chapter.