Hola amigos! I have returned bearing gifts. This chapter is slightly longer than the others and I had so mcuh fun writing it, especially Jack's part. I was terrified of writing Jack 'cause I thought, how do I keep him in character? But the buffoon practically wrote himself and I love him for it. I'm still wary of him as he reappears in later chaps, but I thought he came out okay here. So without further ado, read. And don't forget to leave a comment. :) Peace.
Jack Fenton knocked lightly and stuck his head in his son's room. It would have been completely dark were it not for the slivers of sunshine sneaking through the narrow gap in the curtains.
"Danny, may I come in?"
Danny moaned or some such noise. Jack looked back questioningly at Maddie, who nodded furiously and pushed him. He stumbled into the room, regained his bearings and adjusted his orange jumpsuit. He cleared his throat and stood beside Danny's bed. Moments later, Danny felt the side of the bed sink and turned to face his father who was grinning, but was also sweating like he was sitting on a grenade.
"Oh no," he groaned. "This isn't going to be one of those awkward father-son talks, is it?"
Jack scratched his greying temple and smiled nervously. "Afraid so."
Danny pulled himself into a sitting position and drew his knees to his chest. "Alright," he sighed with resignation, "lay it on me."
"Your mother told me what happened," the older Fenton began. "You and your girl being Splitsville, I mean."
"I figured," the younger man replied flatly. Splitsville? Who still says that after 1965?
There was a pause.
"Well, uh," Jack rubbed the back of his neck, "stiff upper lip, son. Plenty more fish in the sea and all that." He coughed and snuck a glance at his son. Danny was staring at him expectantly. Despite the cynicism he had expressed, he wanted his Dad to make him feel better. It was the same way he would look at his father when he fell off his bike. Jack knew how to deal with scraped elbows and skinned knees but broken hearts were out of his expertise. Still, for his only son, he was going to try.
He angled himself towards Danny. "Son, I know you're hurting right now and I'm not the best at these kinds of things, but I want you to know we're here for you – your mother and I – and we love you."
Danny's eyes shimmered and he reached over and hugged his father. The older Fenton grunted in surprise and then closed his arms around his boy. They didn't do this enough, this hugging thing. It felt nice.
"I hate this pain."
Jack bit his lip. Danny sounded so much like a wounded six-year old it was liable to make him cry. He hugged him harder. "I know, but it will end. I don't know when, but it will. And that's the Fenton guarantee!"
Danny pulled away and actually grinned. "Thanks, Dad."
Jack grinned back. He gave himself a mental pat on the back. What had Maddie been so nervous for? He'd been doing this dad thing for twenty years almost. He had picked up a thing or two – he wasn't a complete idiot. "Besides," he added, standing up, "You and Sam have been friends for years and I know despite this bump in the road she still cares about you—"
The Fenton boy tensed immediately. "Sam?" he broke in harshly. "Why are we talking about her? What does she have to do with this?"
Jack's mouth opened and closed. "But I… isn't she… I thought…"
"My girlfriend's name is Valerie!" Danny declared. His face took on a tropical burn but it wasn't clear if it was from anger or embarrassment. "Jeez, Dad, you've met her! She's had dinner here for crying out loud!"
Valerie… Jack racked his brain. The name was familiar but it certainly wasn't the name he'd had inscribed on his old class ring and bequeathed to Danny. He'd always assumed that Danny had meant it for Sam. Boys and girls, particularly teenagers, couldn't be that close without being romantically involved, at least not on Gossip Girl (which he only knew about because Jazz had once left the TV tuned to it, not because he actually watched it, of course. He was all Deadliest Catch and other similarly manly shows). He studied the wallet photo his son was shoving in his face.
"Who, her? But she's so out of your league!" he exclaimed before he could stop himself. His shoulders slackened. He could mentally hear his Dad points dropping to naught. "Aw, crud."
"Just get out, Dad," Danny growled, turning his back to him.
"Uh, I meant, time heals all wounds?" Jack made a last feeble attempt to get back into his son's good graces.
Danny whipped out his arm and pointed at the door. "Leave."
Jack trudged out, only to find his seething wife awaiting him. The glacial expression on her face said it all, really.
"So, I'm guessing tonight there's not gonna be any…"
"Not even if you begged," she replied and flounced off.
Jack hung his head. He had so been looking forward to checkers.
"She is unbelievable!"
"Danny is the one who said he didn't want any visitors," Tucker reminded her. "Mrs. Fenton was just doing what he asked. We can always come back tomorrow."
The two were walking home from Danny's place, where his mom had regretfully denied them access to their friend. Sam had insisted that there's no way Danny would ever not want to see them – they weren't just any visitors, but Mrs. Fenton had been adamant. Eventually, Tucker was forced to drag Sam away as she seemed liable to tackle Maddie Fenton in her frustration.
"I don't mean her!" Sam snapped. "Valerie! She's the reason Danny turned us away! He has never turned us away."
"It's only been two days," Tucker shoved his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts. "Maybe he just needs time to process."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Now you sound like Jazz!"
"I've missed her," the brown-skinned boy mused, "Maybe I should give her a call, catch her up."
But his remarks were lost on Sam as she had moved ahead of him and on to the next part of her diatribe. The back view of her black T-shirt showed a spinal column and the back of the ribcage as would be seen through an X-ray. It was a disturbingly realistic image. She had paired the shirt with a pair of denim shorts that curved over her modest rear, sheer black tights and her usual lace-up boots. Tucker had been converted to the flip-flop movement, which made more sense than heavy boots in the increasingly warm weather.
"She is the biggest hypocrite I've ever met! How dare she be mad at Danny! It's not like she was exactly forthright about her own alter-ego." She was punctuating every word with forceful hand gestures, so much so that she narrowly avoided hitting a thick-necked, heavily bearded passer-by in the nose. The man's face immediately reddened but Sam was oblivious to his ire. Tucker had to apologize profusely on her behalf because he was the one likely to end up injured if the situation came to blows and, call him particular, but he liked the current arrangement of his face.
"You need to calm down," he said, grabbing firm hold of her upper arms.
Sam narrowed her violet eyes at him and pouted. The failing sunshine painted one side of her face a soft orange and glinted against her nose-stud. Tucker observed, not for the first time, that her shadowy eye make-up and dark lip colour only served to harshen what was actually a delicate and beautiful face.
"And you should be madder," she retorted. "He's your best friend. You've known him even longer than I have and here you are acting like it's no big deal!"
"I am mad," he answered. "I hate to see Danny so down, believe me. But I'm not going to take it out on all the wrong people."
The Goth girl seemed to be focusing on some indeterminate spot behind Tucker. She had this dangerous glint in her eye and when her lips spread into a smile, his worst fears were confirmed: Sam was having one of her ideas.
"You're right," she admitted slowly, in a humble tone that would have fooled anyone who didn't know her. Tuck wasn't buying it. "I should be taking it out on the right person."
Before his tongue could form a protest, she had bolted down the street. He blinked in shock before running after her. She was weaving between the other pedestrians with a feline agility Tucker had forgotten she possessed. She might not necessarily have seemed like it, but Samantha Manson was remarkably athletic. In fact, she was the only one in the trio of friends who had never been in danger of flunking P.E. He, on the other hand, kept bumping into folks and tossing windblown apologies over his shoulder. Instead of running straight to Fenton Works, she made a sharp right. The chasing boy cursed under his breath when it dawned on him what her destination was.
"No, Sam, no."
But she crossed the road without checking and ran straight to Valerie's building. By the time he caught up with her she was pounding on the door with the side of her fist.
"Valerie! Open up, Valerie! I know you're in there – I saw your dad's car outside. Valerie!"
Tucker took a few moments to catch his breath, leaning heavily against the wall. Man, he hated exercise. His chest heaved and sweat rolled down the back of his neck. Using his beret to fan his heated skin, he swallowed hard and straightened up.
"Sam," he panted. "What… do you think…?"
"Valerie Grey, get out here! We need to talk!" She banged on the door again but predictably there was no response. Unlike Tucker, she looked fresh as a daisy and the flush in her skin was from her irritation rather than exertion.
A door opened but it wasn't the one they expected. Down the hall, a vexed neighbor stuck his head out. He glared at the teens who were the source of the racket. Tucker took a discreet couple of steps away from Sam as if to say, "I'm not with her."
"Will you kids stop making that noise?" he demanded. "Some of us are trying to relax in our own homes."
"Two words," Sam sneered in reply. "Better toupee."
The man balked and clutched his straw-coloured hair piece in horrified humiliation. He disappeared back into his apartment with a slam of his door, mumbling about rude kids.
Tucker took hold of Sam's elbow. "We should go," he hissed. He didn't need to whisper but he felt that he had to compensate for his friend's loudness. "Come on!" But Sam was stubborn as a rock, insisting that she wasn't going anywhere until "no-good hypocrite" faced her.
There was a click as the door down the hall opened again. Tucker's mouth went dry as a huge Doberman pinscher emerged. It growled.
She turned and spotted the snarling dog. "Tucker," she began, finally lowering her voice. "Just stay calm. Whatever you do, don't—"
The boy screamed hysterically and tore down the hall. Sam pressed herself against the wall as the dog bounded after him with a sharp bark. She stood, torn for a moment between staying and seeing her mission through or going to the aid of her friend, whose cries could be heard echoing down the stairs. More of the Greys' neighbours had come out to see what the bedlam was about. The man she had insulted sniggered triumphantly. She rewarded him her with filthiest stare and then, with a frustrated roar, she abandoned her post by Valerie's door and followed Tucker out into the night.