What an awful week. This is for everyone who needs a pep talk right around now… there's no real plot.
( Baker, this is for you~ )
Danny could still hear them talking around him, about him, even after he slipped into immediate unconsciousness on the couch in his living room. The rest of Team Phantom crashed around him, also exhausted, but not nearly at the same level that Danny appeared to be experiencing.
"Man," Sam sighed as she looked at the prone form of her best friend, too tired to make more than a soft snore. "He's had a rough day, hasn't he?"
She ran a hand down her face, accentuating the dark circles around her eyes proving that they had all had a rough day and she was saying nothing that they didn't already know.
"Yeah," Jazz replied anyway, "he said that he'd fought seven ghosts before leaving for school this morning."
"He actually admitted it to you?" Sam asked incredulously.
"Well, he wasn't at his most lucid," the redhead admitted with a weary amusement. "And we older sisters have our ways."
Sam managed a small smirk. "So devious," she muttered with friendly derision. Jazz caught the look with an appropriate indignant huff which soon dissolved into a smile and then grew into a laugh which only ended when a yawn broke through. It seemed to be contagious and soon every member of the group was unsuccessfully fighting one off.
After a few moments' silence, Tucker looked at his friend, who was utterly worn out by the day's fighting. "Poor Danny," he whispered. "He never catches a break. He doesn't stop as long as he's needed."
"You're right," Jazz agreed. "He never stops as long as he can help someone else." She paused before continuing more quietly, "Anyone else."
"Stupid hero complex," Sam grumbled.
Jazz put her hand on the younger girl's shoulder and smiled with an expression that showed an uncanny ability to look into the Goth's thoughts. "But it's why we love him."
Sam was silent for a moment, then looked back at Danny. "Yeah," she whispered hoarsely before swallowing. "It is."
Tucker, showing an incredibly sensitive judgment, made no love-bird comment. Sam looked over at him in vague surprise, but he merely quirked an eyebrow and then looked back at his sleeping friend.
"I wish I was like him. I wish I was as strong," Tucker finally said.
Both of the girls whipped their heads around in surprise.
"Tucker…?" Sam finally ventured.
Tucker sighed brokenly. "I wish I was as strong as Danny was," he explained. "I'm nowhere near as capable as he is; I don't have any of his powers. It's not like I can actually help him out too much."
"You don't need ghost powers to help out, Tucker," Jazz interrupted.
"That's right!" Sam cut in. "You're able to hack us into or out of any bad situation and you've also become a deadly shot with the Fenton ecto-lipstick. So what if you can't shoot beams out of your hands… you can still protect everyone else with what you have."
"But it's not enough, sometimes. Like today, against Johnny and Kitty and Shadow, we were totally outclassed and Danny was the only one who could really do anything. And I wouldn't trust me with his job even if I could handle it. I don't even want to protect everyone! I mean, I do deep down, but not all the time. When it's the A-listers in danger, sometimes I think it serves them right and don't want to take out the ghost ready to blast them. But I shouldn't think that way, should I? I'm part of Team Phantom, it's my job to protect them no matter who they are!"
"Tucker," Jazz called out softly.
The boy didn't look up, but turned his face into the couch and pretended that he hadn't just wiped away a renegade tear. "What?" he sniffed.
"Tucker, it's okay," the budding psychiatrist said calmly.
"No it's not," he responded sullenly.
"No, it really is." Jazz sighed. "Danny thinks the same way sometimes." Tucker scoffed at the idea, but the older girl persisted. "No, he really does. I'm his nosy older sister, remember? I make him tell me these things, if only to get me to shut up and leave him alone." She smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm not making this up. Danny goes through all of this too. He's still only human, he feels the same way as you do. Because I feel it too, every time I join you guys out in the field."
"I do too," Sam broke in, having taken Jazz's words to her own aching heart. "When I'm having a rough day," she finished quietly.
"We all do," Jazz pressed on, grateful for Sam's look. "You need to have faith in yourself, Tucker."
"But…" he began.
"Because I do. We both do." Jazz looked at him seriously. "Just like we do in Danny."
"No different. I believe in both of you," she said, turning to include Sam. "You're stronger than you think you are, Tucker. You're just as strong as Danny. You need to see that."
"I don't feel like I'm that strong."
"Neither does Danny," Jazz smiled.
"That's just silly, though," Tucker protested.
"I know, right? For a guy who's saved the world a couple times, he sure doesn't believe in himself. But you two have been there with him at every step of the way, doing exactly what he's been doing, fighting ghosts, supporting each other when you need it. You just need to keep trying, Tucker. You already know where you're going. You'll see that eventually."
"And we all believe in you," Sam added.
Jazz nodded in agreement.
Tucker looked back and forth between them for a long silent moment, thinking over what they two had said and how weak he felt when he thought of himself. But then he looked at Danny, still asleep on the couch, oblivious to the entire conversation. He always seemed so strong, but even he had his moments. Now was one of them, even. Danny was thoroughly exhausted now, after having done his duty for the day, that he had fallen asleep almost before he had gotten through his front door.
They were all exhausted, but they would still be ready for whatever came next. No matter how loudly they complained when Danny asked for help at three in the morning, there was no way he would say no to that call.
It sounded strange when he thought about it and he couldn't remember when or if he had ever consciously made that decision to always work at Danny's side and protect those around him. It was just how he worked. Perhaps Jazz was right and he did already know which road he needed to travel.
He looked at his group of friends and decided that it was high time to reaffirm that decision now that he recognized it for what it was.
Yes. He would fight ghosts. He would always be ready. He would do whatever Danny needed him to do. He would be as strong as he could, in his own way.
"Okay, guys," he smiled, his heart feeling much lighter than it had in a long time. "And thanks."
"No problem. It's not like you weren't capable of this earlier; you just needed to realize it."
"Plus, you'll feel better after a good night's sleep," Sam yawned. "We all will."
"Sure will," Danny mumbled his agreement from behind them.
Tucker and the girls looked at him in amazement.
"Danny?" Sam's voice was unusually high as she spluttered, "You're awake? But have you been listening this entire time? Why didn't you say anything?"
"You both were doing such a good job that I didn't think I needed to."
Tucker looked up at his friend who opened a slit of a blue eye to look at him seriously, if not sleepily. "You're one of the strongest people I know, Tuck. You keep me going. And if you can't keep yourself going, then listen to these guys. Jazz even sort of knows what she's talking about."
He grinned as his sister stuck out her tongue but then closed his eyes, too content on the soft cushions to rise to the bait.
"I declare a sleepover," Danny said slowly, bringing the conversation to a close. "Everyone grab… a… couch…"
Sam snickered as Danny began snoring again just a second later and staked her claim on the loveseat. Jazz wisely chose to sleep in her own bed after a quick "goodnight", leaving Tucker to take her Dad's oversized recliner. He soon slipped into sleep with a grateful smile on his face.
Perhaps, since his friends all believed in him, he could too…