Simple Physics

Chapter 16 - External Factors


The clattering boom, not ten feet from them, followed immediately by a stifled yelp, muffled and barely audible under the bumping and thumping of countless flying sports balls, sent Dash and Tucker jerking apart faster than homogeneously polarized magnets, and immediately, Tucker spun, just catching sight of wide, rightly panicked glowing green eyes a moment before Danny fizzled out of sight completely once again. Danny's name was a curse on his lips.

If Dash said anything in the few seconds that followed, Tucker didn't hear them, too busy storming to the gym door – Danny's most probable line of escape – and slinging it open, reaching blindly about for any sign of material existence until-

Danny made a sharp, startled noise when Tucker found purchase in his t-shirt, gripping tight at the first sign of solidity and swinging his weight around a moment later, forcing Danny hard to the wall almost before he even made it fully back into visibility.

What," Tucker hissed, "the hell-"

"Tucker," Danny near squeaked, "I swear I can explain…"


“…and as you should all recall from chapter three, both DNA and RNA are nucleic acids, each consisting of long chains of polymers, which…”

Danny’s eyes flicked to the clock.


Scowling, he forced his eyes back to his notebook, pen tapping listlessly against the still-blank page.

Where the heck
was he? He should have been back by now.

No, ‘
focus,’ Danny mentally scolded himself. This was not a big deal. He probably went to the bathroom, or got…lost…

…or started making out with Dash in the gym-

and what business of mine is it even if that is what he’s doing?

With more effort than was entirely justified, Danny managed to still his pen, shutting his eyes and taking a breath.

“…while here, the sample polynucleotide chain shows just one of many different possible arrangements of…”

Five more minutes,’ Danny reasoned. ‘Just wait five more minutes…

He glanced to the clock.


Well, fu-’

“…you, Danny?”

Danny’s head snapped forward. The teacher raised her eyebrows expectantly, and he swallowed.

“Oh, uhh, right. It’s, ummmm…”

Stalling on the last syllable for as long as possible, he tossed a fleeting, panicked glance in Sam’s direction, and she rolled her eyes. Then, one second before he gave in and asked for a repeat, she put up four fingers, just below her desk and out of the teacher’s line of sight. His brow furrowed.

“…mmm-err…four?” he ventured.

By some miracle, the teacher beamed. “That’s right, Danny. There are four different types of nucleotides that make up DNA. Now-” When Danny’s hand shot up, she trailed off, frowning, but called on him nonetheless. “Ah…yes, Danny?”

“Sorry, Ms. Watson,” he apologized, “but could I be excused, please?”

A pause. He waited.

“Mr. Fenton,” she addressed him more firmly when she spoke, “you’ve spent the last ten minutes with your eyes glued to that clock.”

Ten?’ he thought. ‘Was that all?’ It felt like hours.

“Somehow I find it difficult to believe that you aren’t fully aware of how close this class is to being dismissed…” He said nothing, holding his breath; she eyed him skeptically. “You’re certain that this can’t wait five more minutes?”

He put on his best ‘desperate, sad puppy’ look – repeating a silent, pleading mantra – and almost whooped when she heaved a concessional sigh. By the time she started lecturing him about seeing to it that he made it back before school dismissed, he was already halfway out the door, hall pass in hand, his nods little more than a trained response to stimuli. When she stopped talking, he clicked the door shut behind him, looked both ways, and grinned, disappearing into thin air.

Hall passes were
so overrated.

A minute later, he hovered before the gym door, suddenly indecisive. What if Phys Ed had already let out to the showers? Would Tucker be in the gym, or the locker rooms? And-

“…just to…with me, is it?”

The fragment of conversation filtered out through the closed gym doors, distorted by echoes, the metal barrier, and sounds down the hall, but Danny’s doubts evaporated nonetheless: Tucker.

huh?” Danny identified the second voice just as effortlessly and mentally rolled his eyes: Dash. “No! Or at least… I mean…”

He missed the next snippet of conversation, phasing through the wall and joining them in the gym; empty, he noted, save for them. Everyone probably
had left for the showers. He grimaced; how convenient.

“…‘cause I
like you, ok?” Dash ground out, drawing Danny’s attention back to the immediate drama. “It’s ‘cause I really…really like you and…and I’m…tired, I’m just tired of bullshitting around. I want whatever the hell…this…is…” For the first time, Danny noticed Dash’s hand in Tucker’s, and his stomach gave a boding lurch. What had he slipped into the middle of? “I want it to finally count for something. Isn’t…I mean, isn’t that why most people…” Dash blushed, a new look, from Danny’s perspective, and Tucker appeared to fight a losing battle with a smile.

Eventually, he nodded, conceding, “Yes, I…suppose, but…” Behind the smile, his expression betrayed a mosaic of conflicting emotions – doubt, hope, wariness – and Danny started to take in the finer details: Dash’s thumb absently tracing the line of Tucker’s hand in his grasp, Tucker’s fingers folding tighter into that grasp when he did, the subtler points of body language, and-

Swallowing a sudden, disconcerting rise of bile in his throat, Danny turned sharply away and grimaced. He should have stuck it out in biology. His own fault, he knew; still, plenty of time to back slowly away…

“…about Paulina?” asked Tucker, and Danny lingered a moment longer, curiosity peaked. “I said before, if-”

“Broke up with her,” Dash cut him off, surprising Danny: He’d broken up with Paulina for
Tucker? “…over the break…and I have apologized for beating up your ex-”

Danny frowned. He was

“He is
not-” Tucker mirrored his objection aloud.

“-and I won’t ever touch him again, I
promise,” Dash insisted, disregarding the interruption entirely, “…err…unless of course he comes on to you, and then-”

Danny raised an eyebrow, retorting with a mental ‘
And then…?


“-I might have to rip off his-”

Oh really now?

Dash!” Tucker snapped.

What?” answered Dash, and for a moment they stood like that, locked in a silent, unspoken battle of wills, neither uttering a word. Soon, though, Dash’s shoulders sagged with an acquiescent sigh. “Okay…I just, um…I just meant ‘sorry,’ is all…you know, for the fight, ‘cause I know I get angry too easy, for what I said on that thing – ‘cause I meant it to piss off Fenton, not you – for not keeping calling all break ‘cause I should have, and…”

Wait,’ Danny backtracked. ‘That thing…?’ Surely he wasn’t talking about… ‘Oh, that’s perfect, Dash,’ he thought, remembering just in time not to laugh. ‘I couldn’t have fucked you up better myself… Now all you have to do is catch it, Tucker…were you paying attention?

“…and for-”

“Wait,” Tucker cut in, looking puzzled, and Danny’s grin could’ve freaked the Joker. “What ‘thing?’”

“Uhh…” Dash frowned. “What?”

“You apologized for some stuff you said on some ‘thing,’” repeated Tucker. “What ‘thing?’”

“The recording thing,” said Dash, arms flapping about in humorous likeness to a startled park pigeon – or perhaps just exaggerated sign language – as if histrionic hand motions might somehow help to convey his point. “The one Fenton got on his pho-” Danny watched the comprehension dawn, observing with spectator’s glee as the rest of the word ‘phone’ disintegrated into something of a retreating “
Oh,” in a voice uncharacteristically small for the charismatic jock.

Tucker tilted his head, the only one out of the loop. “Recording?”

“He, umm…he didn’t…show you…?” Dash blundered, blushing, and shook his head. “Never, uhh…never mind. It wasn’t…it’s not important. I just thought, err…my bad. Can we move on?” he entreated hopefully.

To Danny’s extreme satisfaction, however, Tucker folded his arms, and Dash’s countenance drooped.


“Look,” reasoned Tucker, stoic in the face of Dash’s pout, “either you can tell me what this is about now and have me hear it from your side…” Here Tucker paused, leaving Dash hanging for a moment in anxious suspense, and Danny
almost felt bad for the guy; almost, “…or I can go ask Danny about it later…and I’m sure he’d be happy to tell me exactly what you ‘meant’ by whatever it was you sai-”

“Okay, okay! No, I don’t, umm…” Dash fidgeted awkwardly. “What I mean is…it was before we really…you know, hit each other or whatever, and uh…I was trying to piss him off so I…I sorta…said some stuff about you…”

Tucker waited patiently; Dash swallowed, and Danny just kept on smirking. This was
totally worth ditching Bio.

“Okay…?” Tucker prompted after a long moment. “Such as…?”

“Such as…” Dash shook his head. “But I didn’t
mean any of it, okay? I just…Itoldhimyouwereagoodcocksuckerok?” he admitted in a rush. “And I…I kina…thanked him for it…for, err…for teaching you, but-”

“Wait,” Tucker stopped him early, looking incredulous. “Say that again?”

“I said…” Dash repeated slower, visibly gathering his nerve, “…that you were really good at sucking cock…”

Tucker waited. When it was clear that there was nothing more coming, he blinked. “And that’s…it?” he asked.

“Err…” Dash frowned. “Yes?”

“I see,” said Tucker, looking neither upset nor disturbed, merely…thoughtful? “But you didn’t mean it, you say?”

“No,” Dash insisted earnestly, leaping at the opportunity to defend himself, “I-”

“So you think my fellatio skills could use some work?”

“…” Dash blinked, silent.

‘…’ Danny stared, dumbfounded.

“B…uhh…” Amazingly, Dash looked almost as floored as Danny felt, if that were possible. “Y…err…

“Because, you know,
last time…” Tucker continued, nonchalant, “…I’d say you seemed pretty satisfied with my efforts, so, you understand, I’m a little confused…”

Danny’s cheeks burned; this was decidedly
not where that line of conversation was supposed to have lead, and he immediately began second guessing the wisdom of sticking around long enough to see this drama through. Even invisible, floating around the inside of a gymnasium as your best friend started detailing the finer points of his sex life with someone you despised was just…unsettling, to say the least. At least, he noted, Dash’s impressive fish-out-of-water impersonation was an amusing consolation prize.

“So you…you’re not…mad?” Dash asked, clearly befuddled, barely daring to sound hopeful.

Tucker only quirked an eyebrow. “Mad?” he repeated. “About what? You insulting my ability to give a decent blowjob?”


“Look,” Tucker sighed. “I understand that whatever you said probably came off sounding pretty insulting, and maybe if I were there at the time, it would have pissed me off, sure, but in retrospect…well, I believe you, ok? I’m sure you didn’t mean it in a derogatory way…or at least not to attack me personally, and obviously you achieved the desired effect of riling Danny up, so…it’s in the past. Besides, I’m sure if you’d said something
really awful, Danny would never have kept me in the dark to spare your ass. I’m surprised he didn’t show me as it is, so…” Here, his face took on a new, softer expression, and Danny decided that yes, now was definitely a really good time to back away…

…but he didn’t.

“Just consider yourself forgiven, alright? For everything…for now. No more apologies, no more misunderstandings…deal?”

“Ok, umm…” It was odd, Danny thought, seeing the jock blush so much – like Paulina prancing around with an unmasked zit or Sammy digging her teeth into a two all-beef patty Biggie Mac or something. “Deal,” Dash agreed, “but…” He shuffled his feet, something obviously lingering on his mind. “Err, Tucker?”


“Are you gonna…you know…ever answer my question?”

“Your…? Oh!” Though comprehension came to Tucker quickly, Danny remained frustratingly oblivious.

What question?’

“Yes,” Tucker answered. Then, probably realizing the blatant ambiguity in that, his cheeks darkened. “That is…” He cleared his throat. “Yes, I’ll answer your question, and, umm…” For the first Danny could recall in a good, long time, Tucker looked honestly – adorably –
bashful, “…yes,” Tucker murmured. “I’d really…like that.” A brief pause. “Err…to be your boyfriend, that is…assuming that was the question you mea-mmph…


In the half second that followed Dash’s lips sealing off the latter portion of Tucker’s sentence with a kiss, several things happened at once.

First, technically about a half second
before that – around the time the word ‘boyfriend’ left Tucker’s mouth – Danny’s usually strong handle on the concept of hovering weakened substantially, to the point of futility. Next, around the time Dash’s mouth actually closed over Tucker’s, Danny’s no-longer-weightless body made sudden impact with an unsuspecting ball tub near the front gym doors, not only sending basketballs, soccer balls, footballs and the like flying in any number of different directions, but also – in congruence with watching his best friend lip lock with his ‘hated rival,’ so to speak – shocking him visible, tangible, and momentarily dumbstruck.

Fortunately, his state of dangerous vulnerability lasted less than the half second it took him to traverse the distance from ceiling to floor.
Unfortunately, that was more than enough time for Tucker – unnervingly practiced in the art of pinpointing his location even when he was perfectly invisible – to whirl, spot him, narrow his eyes, and hiss a furious accusation in the form of his first name all immediately before Danny sputtered back into invisibility.

If he hadn’t been so busy cursing the inopportune fickleness of his ghost powers, Danny might have taken a few seconds to appreciate the fact that in the time it took Tucker to notice all these goings on, absorb them, and react accordingly, Dash was still completely hung up on two factors:

a.) the occurrence of a loud, startling noise, and

b.) the subsequent loss of his kissing partner’s attention.

However, Danny
was rather caught up in his silent swearing, most of his focus devoted to some combination of attempting a clumsy escape from the wildly ricocheting sports balls he’d so recently sent flying and demanding desperately that his body phase to a form that would keep him from having to worry about the aforementioned flying possible-concussion-inducers. Invisibility alone, he feared, would not spare him Tucker’s wrath for long. And, of course, he was right.

In a matter of a few more seconds, he managed to right himself, shimmer into intangibility once more, and escape through the closed door. But alas, Tucker was not so easily deterred, and moments later, the same door banged open, Tucker snatched out blindly, barely catching Danny’s still-invisible-but-momentarily-solid shirt, and forced him roughly against the nearest wall, leaving him no choice but to become fully visible once more, lest he either: one, reveal his secret, or two, cast Tucker off as a raging lunatic in front of his new – and he retched a little at the thought –

Neither, Danny guessed, would go down particularly well in the long run.

Thus, by the time Dash made it out of the gym, he found Danny pinned to a wall, hands raised in meek surrender, and Tucker’s hand fisted forcibly in his shirt at his chest, angry shoves emphasizing equally unpleasant words.


"You nosy, meddling, inconsiderate
bastard…" Tucker stressed every other word or so with a jarring shove. "How…? Why…?" He shook his head; seething, incredulous. "I mean am I that…fucking…untrustworthy?" he hissed. "Or are you just so…damn…childish…that you can't-"

"Hey!" Dash's equally piqued, but louder and attention-demanding voice cut through Tucker's rant like a body through fog, dragging him both from his single-minded daze and turning two heads at once. "Hate to, you know…
break it up," he growled, "but could somebody please explain to me what the hell's going on?" and despite the ambiguous nature of the question, his eyes were trained solely on Tucker, and the accusation there was potent.

Under his glare, Tucker's anger wilted. "Dash…" he started, "it's not-"

"It's not his fault," Danny cut in, surprising Tucker and stealing Dash's attention in an instant.

"Oh, yeah?" he demanded. "And did I ask
you, Fenton? 'Cause-"

Yes, actually," Danny snapped icily, meeting Dash glare for glare, "you did. If you'll recall, you asked 'somebody' to explain to you what's going on, and last I checked, I fall into the general category of 'somebody.' So if you'd shut your mouth for twenty full seconds and listen-"


"You know
maybe," Dash growled, barreling heedlessly over Tucker's interruption and advancing without pause, "I don't give a shit what you have to say…" and as Dash moved in, Tucker backed out, dropping Danny's shirt in light of an abrupt, tactical retreat. Few wise things stood between a pissed off Dash Baxter and his unlucky target, and Tucker wasn't feeling particularly generous towards Danny at the moment anyway. "And maybe…" Dash continued, "if you know what's best for you-"

"And what if I don't, hmm?" Danny's lips curled back, baring teeth in an expression that looked far more like a sneer than a grin. "Are you gonna
hurt me?" he mocked, and Tucker watched Dash's fingers twitch, itching to curl into fists, and in that moment, he understood the role of the helpless bystander: trapped powerlessly outside the soundless glass box Danny and Dash had somehow erected around themselves in a few short seconds. "Will it be like last time? 'Cause you know…I seem to remember hearing you say something back there…something about promising not to fly wildly off the handle like a mad he-ape…and-"

"Danny-" Tucker tried again.

"-it'd be a real shame to have to break that promise so soon, I mean…" Danny tilted his head, eyes glinting. "Trust is such a fragile thing, after all…" Dash hesitated; Danny smirked. "Come on, now…what'll it be? Gonna hit me? Is it
worth it?" Dash's hands clenched and released, and Tucker mentally swore. Where the hell was Danny going with—? "Or does he already have you too whipped to-nngh…"


Danny lost the rest of his sentence to a panted grunt, Dash's hand fisting in his shirt and shoving him hard to the wall – a bit more roughly than Tucker's first attempt, from the looks of things – and-

"You…have no
idea how lucky you are he'd be pissed if I broke you in half…" Dash snarled, vicious, and close enough to Danny's face that for a fleeting moment, Tucker thought bizarrely, 'They could kiss at that distance…' before his stomach gave a rather sickening churn, and he took a startled step back.

Despite having a fist at his chest and an irate football player less than a foot from his face, Danny laughed. "Right," he said, "because I'm obviously already quaking in my boots, and who
knows what would happen if-"


The clattering, overbearing ring that governed the school with draconian precision cut through Danny's sentence as sharply as any alarm clock, its signature wail marking the end of the school day, and on cue, the familiar rumble started: doors swinging open, sometimes banging, hundreds of feet and mouths piling into the halls and filling them with the ceaseless hum of dozens upon dozens of teenage voices, all melding together into a jumbled white noise.

Suddenly, Tucker had no desire to stick around and see things pan out, and with the fluid ease of years practice, he turned from Dash and Danny and in half a minute lost himself in the swelling masses. Down the science hall, left, past Mr. Rochester's class, the cafeteria and the front office, he moved on autopilot, traffic-dodging like a New York native and cutting the crowds with blind indifference.

So that's it,' he thought bitterly. 'Months of steeping myself in enough denial to drown a fish, weeks of acting like an asshole because of something that was at least half Danny's fault in the first place, and then five seconds of a relationship only to-'

"Hey, Tucker!"

Fuck.' "Sam," greeted Tucker with painfully strained cheer and hoped it sounded better to her ears. "Hi, umm…"

Luckily, she had her own agenda. "Hey, have you seen Danny? He left early, not long after you did, and then he never…" She trailed off, frowning. "Are you alright?"

"I, uhhh…"

"And where's your backpack?"

"Oh, it's…" '
Double fuck,' thought Tucker. 'Shit, shit, shit…what now?' "I…left it," he said, "in the, uhh…" 'Well, where to? Back? No way…' In a desperate glance across the hall, he found his answer. "The library," he lied. "I was going to…study for a bit…" 'Until Dash and Danny are done beating each other to ground mincemeat, and then, maybe, just maybe, Dash will vent off enough steam that he'll just forget it all, and…'

Thinking of Dash's hurt, accusing glare, Tucker swallowed an acrid lump that rose a little too high in his throat, and he resisted the urge to wince. '
Yeah, right, because calm, cool, and forgiving and/or rational are totally Dash's thing…'

"Danny's down the hall," he said aloud, "outside the gym, last I saw…talking to Dash." '
Rational? Really?' his inner voice snapped back at him. 'And how exactly was he supposed to take that, huh? 'Oh, look, it's Fenton randomly falling from the sky JUST in time to fuck with me asking Tucker out…must be a coincidence…?' Sure, that really-'

"Talking to…" Sam's words slowed. "They're not…
again?" she asked, but before Tucker could even open his mouth, she groaned, muttering something darkly beneath her breath before taking off a moment later. All the better, he supposed. Maybe she could get through to them.

Not that it'll help me, but hey, at least they'll come out of it whole, right…?' Right.

Sighing and disappointingly uncomforted, Tucker diverged from his bee-line path to the lockers and crossed over instead through the already thinning sea of students to the library.

Like sealing the door to a vacuum chamber, all the chaos of Casper High after the final bell dulled to a low hum the instant the door latched shut. Unfortunately, external quiet only opened the doors wide for internal uproar.

Maybe Dash'll just be pissed at Danny,' he tried to reason with himself, 'I mean, it's not like I really had anything to do with it…' and then: 'Oh yeah, because it's not like he ever made assumptions about Danny and I before, even after I told him several times nothing was going on between us…plus, yeah, it's totally natural for best 'friends' to spy on each other's private business and randomly pop in at inopportune moments, fists raised, ready to pick a fight and-'

Swearing silently, Tucker derailed that train of thought and weaned himself from the support of the door behind him, suddenly furious all over again not only with Danny – '
I mean, really, what the hell inspired him to show up, anyway?' – and any number of the world's other injustices, but also with himself – 'Couldn't I have just dropped off the damn note and left…?' – and his own stupidity in particular.

"Things were never supposed to get this complicated," he muttered sullenly, speaking to no one as he traversed the length of the empty library.

He retreated back through rows of shelves like towering wooden dominos, past the more "popular" sections, if any section of a high school library could aptly be dubbed such, and into areas so dusty with disuse he almost expected to start sneezing. When he reached the farthest corner, a cool niche between columns labeled "W" and "X-Z" in the historical non-fiction section, he snatched a book at random – a personal "Do Not Disturb" sign just in case anyone happened in on him – and promptly sank to the floor. Glancing to his fingers, he tightened his grip, not to keep his hands from shaking – because they
weren't – but because…

What?' the more cynical part of him remarked snidely. 'Because it's not fair?' it mocked, and he scowled.

"No," he grumbled aloud, softly, "it's
not fair…" but he'd known that all along. It wasn't the unfairness that bothered him. It was more that, "I knew this was going to happen…right?" he asked, directing the empty rhetoric at his recently-snatched text for lack of any alternative form of counsel. "I knew things would get screwed up eventually. Something was bound to go wrong, and I was ready for that…"

But not for this.

Not for something stupid like this,' he thought spitefully. 'Not for-' Suddenly childishly tempted to throw his book across the room, he shut his eyes, lopping off the mental monologue at the roots and taking a slow breath. 'Okay…' he reasoned silently, 'say Danny hadn't shown up…then what?'

Well, duh,' snapped an irritated and reactionary part of him. 'I'd have a boyfriend right now and be well on my way home instead of sitting on my ass moping in a dusty library while Danny and Dash-'

Okay, okay, so say Dash doesn't blow this over the top,' Tucker cut himself off, redirecting to a more productive line of thinking, i.e.: one that entertained possible scenarios as opposed to irrational and hypothetical 'what if' clauses about the past. 'Say, by some miracle, we actually manage to talk like reasonable people and I convince him that I'm not with Danny and that this whole thing was all a ridiculous mistake and we collectively blame Danny and move forward…'

Which won't happen,' cynicism reminded him decisively; he ignored it.

How long before he gets suspicious again anyway?'

It's one thing when your not-quite-really-official-yet-but-pretty-close boyfriend operates at the beck and call of his PDA, disappears with nothing more than a hasty, "Sorry, can't explain now, gotta go," the moment his 'friend' pages in, and repeats the process on an almost habitual basis. It's something else entirely if said "unofficial" boyfriend becomes
official, and then tries to pull the same stunt.

Suffice to say, Dash wasn't stupid. Slow on the uptake occasionally, sure; not the
sharpest tool in the shed, well, yeah. But stupid? No. Inevitably, it was only a matter of time before he put two and two together to get the obvious four; never mind that there were any number of extra factors stuffed in that equation that he wasn't aware of and that Tucker couldn't point out, which made the real answer practically indecipherable.

"Shit, I never should have said yes…" Tucker grunted, dropping his head back to the bookshelf behind him and scrunching his eyes shut.

Getting into a real relationship with Dash wouldn't change anything, except that Dash would expect answers; real ones.

"…and hell, he'd
deserve some," Tucker snapped aloud, keeping his to voice low hiss, but glowering nonetheless.

left Paulina. He'd ignored the risks to his reputation and made every effort to prove that he planned to continue doing so.

And I've…what?' thought Tucker bitterly. 'Run out on him? Left him with one lame excuse after another, if I even bother to give him one?'

"Maybe it
is better if he blows this over the top," he considered, pointedly ignoring the boding lurch in his stomach at the thought. "So he'll hate me and think I'm a weasely, lying ass, engage in a last brawling throw down with Danny about it and then never talk to me again…but at least things will end early, reasonably cleanly, and before things get worse…before anyone really gets…"

So, how about it…be my boyfriend?"

Tucker swallowed sharply, forcing moisture down a suddenly tight, parched throat, and said "…hurt," in a voice slightly thinner than he intended.

Right,' he thought sardonically, 'because this doesn't h-'

"Oh, shut up," he snarled, suddenly furious with himself, and sat up again, off the bookcase. "I'm fine. This is… Whatever, I'm fine, and I'm…talking to myself." 'Great.' Peevish and scowling, his head slumped forward, sinking sullenly into the waiting hammock of his palms, and his fingers found his temples, rubbing small circles. "Real relationships require trust, Tucker, okay? From both sides. Honesty, openness, and trust, and as long as Danny has his secret…as long as I have his secret and it needs to stay secret…then I can't have that. I can't offer it, can't give it, can't do it, period…end of story. It's not fair to Dash…or

And yet…

Part of him had known
that all along too…hadn't it?

Even if the relationship was doomed from the get go, the journey, the effort, the ride, while it lasted, was enough of an incentive to try. Was that selfish? To want something more serious, even if he'd be the one who could never fully live up to his side of the silent bargain? Probably, he decided. But he still wanted it. Really, he'd never had a "proper" relationship. Something had always gotten in the way. His own incompetence, mostly, but also school, or ghost hunting, or…

He thought of Danny, shoved against the wall, desperately trying to explain himself mere minutes ago, of the crash that jerked he and Dash apart and of whirling and turning and spotting, in the fraction of a second before he sputtered out and disappeared, Danny, caught, shocked, and guilty. Then Danny, bloodied under Dash – '
Was that a month ago, yet?' – barely conscious, but victorious all the same as a horde of teachers dragged Dash off. Danny in his room, telling him what a horrible person Dash was, in his closet telling him he wasn't jealous, and then over and over again, back through every year of high school: furious Danny, miserable Danny, ecstatic Danny, sometimes gushing over his successes with Sam, other times tumbling through Tucker's door – sometimes literally tumbling through his door – interrupting whatever he was doing, whether it be video games or homework or fiddling with his gadgets, and grabbing him and kissing him in earnest, never asking if it was okay, always assuming that Tucker just sort of existed for Danny: to be there for him, to support him, to need him, to…

"Fuck," Tucker hissed, swallowing a hard knot and dropping his head back to the wall, blinking harshly. "That's not fair," he reasoned allowed. "It can't be all Danny's fault…" '…
right?' "No, of course not…" 'If anything, it's my fault…for letting my life revolve around him so much, for letting him make the assumptions he did…hell, for proving him right.'

"But…that doesn't give you a right to keep interfering now," he insisted, angry again. "It doesn't give you a right to fuck with me at
every damn turn, to prevent me from living my life. You're the superhero, not me…you're the one with the secret and the super powers…so, what? You get the fame, and the glory, and the good looks, and the girl, and I get…your secret? Your secret to keep from the people I care about? So that I'm always lying or running off without an explanation and I can't ever talk because it's not even my own damn identity to reveal? You know what that sounds like to me? Sounds like a fucking raw deal…like I got screwed over by the sharp…splintery…short end of the stick of fate with no damn lube and then-"


Tucker jerked backwards, making a stifled yelp and swearing profusely when his head collided hard with the shelf behind him.

"-sounds like a really…interesting…book. I didn't know they kept ones like that in here…"

"I…b…uhh…the, umm…
nghh…" Tucker winced, bringing fingers tenderly to the growing lump on the back of his head and blinking blearily upwards at his unexpected guest. "Y…err…D-dash?"

"Umm…yeah, last I checked…" said Dash, approaching from the far end of the shelves and halting but a few feet from him, expression strikingly akin to concern. "Your head okay?"

"It's, uhh…yeah, I'm…" Tucker fumbled his words, blushing. What was Dash
doing here? "I'm…fine, but…what are you…? Danny didn't-" He started to say 'beat you up,' but then thought better of it. Then: 'Shit, how long has he been standing there? What all did hear? What if—fuck, life hates me.' "Dash, how long have you been…listening?"

Dash blinked. "Uhh…"

"When you came in," Tucker insisted, anxious, "you startled me, I was talking…what did you overhear?"

"Oh, the, umm…" Dash appeared to think back, thoughtful. "Something about you getting raped by a stick?" he ventured. "Didn't sound comfortable…why?"

Breathing a sigh of relief – and mentally stifling a guilty pang of disappointment – Tucker shook his head. "It was…no reason," he muttered, but the dissatisfaction lingered. It would have been so easy that way: for Dash to have simply walked in at the wrong time, to have overheard, for it all to have been an
accident, and yet to no longer have to keep the secret. Apparently, his mental state showed.

"Was there…something I missed?"

"Huh? Oh, no," Tucker denied, unsuccessfully working to convince himself it was good that Dash hadn't heard too much. "It's alright, I was just…babbling…" He frowned, returning to his original line of thinking. "What are you doing here, anyway? You and Danny didn't fight? I thought…I mean, last I saw it…well, it looked like…"

"You ran off," said Dash, as if that explained everything, and Tucker frowned.

"Well, yeah, but-"

"Figured I'd better deal with you first," he said, and suddenly, Tucker empathized intimately with cornered prey.

Deeply regretting the walled-off, secluded nature of his chosen hideaway, he shook his head, repeating, "Deal…with?" with more than just a little apprehension. "You…" He tried to work through any number of possible interpretations of that specific choice of words. "You…came here to beat
me up?" he asked, incredulous. "Because," His words sped up, "it wasn't my fault, you know. Whether you believe it or not, I had nothing to do with him showing up and I was as surprised as you and pissed at him for interfering 'cause it wasn't his business and I didn't want him there – not that I even know what he was doing there in the first place because he shouldn't have been there, obviously he had class – but also we're in a library, too, so, you know, this would really actually be a pretty bad place anyway if you felt you had to like, get back at me or something because someone could hear or come in and besides, you might mess up the, uhh, books or shel…ving…or some…umm…" His words trailed, gradually dropping off to nothing because Dash was standing there, looking at him like him like he'd broken into Martian, and after three seconds of eternity, he swallowed. "Okay, what?"

For another brief period, Dash said nothing. Then, with the air of a park ranger moving in on a wounded animal, he edged forward, stooping down and settling into a low crouch on the balls of his feet.

not here to hit you…" he said, and Tucker felt a twinge of guilt for the relief that swept him.

Unfair, ' he thought. 'Surely Dash wouldn't really have…' Then, he mentally amended, 'No, he really might have, ' practicality warring with optimism, and he kept his grimace to himself. "Alright," he muttered aloud, "so what are you here for? Aren't you…" He hesitated, "Are you mad at me?" sounding hopelessly childish, even in his head, and he swallowed the words. Eventually, he settled instead for, "You didn't look very happy with me last I saw…" and Dash's lips thinned.

"Well, no…" he admitted, after a long moment, "I wasn't…" and Tucker waited for some elaboration.

When none came, he prompted, "But…?"

Dash's look didn't quite pass as a smile. "But…" He frowned, appearing to mentally juggle his words. Finally, he said, "See, thing is…pretty much everything you just finished sayin'…is the exact same as whatever Fenton was tryin' to tell me all up to about two or three minutes ago, and…" He paused. "Well, 'cept that his bit came out a bit slower and clearer…" Tucker blushed, "…and less run together and such and actually made
sense, but-"

"Hey, I-"

"-you know, same
thing, basically," Dash continued, "and I figured…if there was anything between you two…" His frown deepened, "…if there was, then, I mean…" Tucker watched Dash reach to the knees of his jeans, picking idly at loose threads as he spoke, "…then, he'd be like…the suckiest boyfriend I know for sendin' me after you anyway, and so I thought…maybe…even if…"

"Dash…" Tucker waited until Dash looked up, "…it's
not like that," he said, holding Dash's stare, "I mean it…" and he shifted his weight against the bookcase, closing up the long-forgotten text in his lap and pulling it to his chest. "It hasn't been for a long time, and it won't…" He frowned. "It's just…not. Alright?"

For a long moment, Dash just watched him. Then, slowly, but not without stubbornly lingering uncertainty, he nodded. "Alright, but…there is something you won't tell me…" he asserted, and Tucker opened his mouth –
almost denying it – but, uncertain, he shut it again and drew his lip between his teeth.

Was this the part where he said something about things too complicated to work out in the long run? Made up some wonky fib about nothing and bolted like a cornered gopher before things got too convoluted to untangle?

Sorry, Dash, it's just, there's this thing, but I can't tell you what it is, so I'm going to have to call this off on account of…what?' he thought, dropping his gaze to his lap and tightening his grip on the text. 'Mystery nothing number three? How am I supposed to-'


Tucker's head jerked back up, "I…" but words failed him, and he swallowed. "Dash…it's…I just…I can't…"

"Hey…" Fingers caught his chin, lifting it – he hadn't realized he'd started looking down again – and it abruptly struck him how
close they were, how, if Dash leaned maybe three inches forward, their noses would bump, and the sense of being pinned in returned, but this time minus the trapped, must-get-away, claustrophobic feel. "You can trust me, you know…"

"I do trust you," Tucker blurted. Then, belatedly, he realized he
meant it, and his cheeks warmed. "I trust you," he repeated, softer. "This is just…"

"You want me to drop it," said Dash, and Tucker looked down.

Yes,' he thought selfishly. 'I want you to drop it and never bring it up again, but…' "Could I maybe just…ask you to trust me on this?" he ventured, pointedly ignoring as guilt and pragmatism raked him over the coals for digging his own grave. "This doesn't…well, it shouldn't…have anything to do with…err…"

"Us?" Dash provided, and Tucker's blush deepened. Did that word have any right to sound quite so personal?

"Umm…yeah," he mumbled, "somethin' like that…
but, " he hastened to add, "if you don't, I totally understand. I know maybe it sounds like I'm feeding you a line of bull, and I really haven't given you any reason to trust me so far, so it makes perfects sense if-"

"Okay," said Dash, and Tucker's sentence met an untimely end, petering out to a broken exhale at the gentle tap of a finger to his lips. "I'll trust you, and…guess we can just do this my way and deal with possible future shit when it happens, yeah?"

Tucker eyed Dash, looking for the doubt,
waiting to hear the catch. But none came, and eventually, unable to resist, he gave a small smile. "What? No looking before the leap?" he asked.

Dash shrugged. "Might chicken out, if you know all of what you're gettin' into…and then where's the fun?"

"Mm, right…" said Tucker, '…
unless the cliff's steeper than you guessed and you end up falling and breaking your legs…' But, he kept the mental addition to himself and mumbled, "Sounds like kooky teenager logic, to me…" instead, and Dash's snicker brushed across his lips.

"Best kind," he vowed, leaning forward, but a moment before he closed the distance completely, Tucker cut him off.

"Wait, there's, umm…one other thing…" At Dash's raised eyebrows, his cheeks warmed. "I mean it," he insisted. "If we're really gonna do this, we have to decide…erm…"

"Yeah?" Dash prompted, letting their foreheads rest together, and that sort of proximity
really wasn't helping Tucker's concentration. Blonde eyelashes, for instance: very distracting.

"It's…just…we…" He swallowed and shut his eyes, taking a breath and then blurting quickly, before he lost his nerve, "…
wehavetodecidewhatthismeans…ahead of time…before…you know, err…" When he summoned the nerve to venture a glance, Dash met his look with one of blank, absolute incomprehension.

"Again, maybe?" he asked after a moment. "In English?"

Tucker dropped his eyes, abashed. "Right. I just meant…we should decide ahead of time what we're doing…like…I mean how we're going to handle things and stuff…what it means that we're…if we…"

Dash frowned. "What it 'means?'" he repeated, obviously still not quite getting it. "Shouldn't it…I mean…wouldn't it just mean what it
usually does?" he asked, confused, and Tucker hastened to nod, jumping in.

"Well, yeah, in most ways, sure," he agreed. "I just meant like, when…that is, if other people…"

"Okay, how's this," Dash cut in. "I'll tell you what
I meant when I asked you out…and if you see it different, you tell me, alright?"

"I, uhh…okay, I guess," Tucker conceded.

"'Kay, one…" Dash held up a finger, "…you don't date anyone, I don't date anyone. Two…" He lifted another, "…if you decide you wanna date someone else, we break up…and three…" With a third finger, he shrugged, "…guess it just means we quit lyin' to ourselves and keep spendin' time together, really…"

"So if someone asks…" Tucker pressed.

"Then you say you're in a relationship," Dash answered simply.

"And if they ask who with?" Tucker questioned.

"Then you say you're…" Dash trailed off, hesitating as the dilemma sank in, and Tucker gave a faint, knowing twitch of a smile, eyes finding the carpet once more.

"That's more what I meant," he mumbled, his thumb running absently over the corner of the book he had yet to let go of as he examined the floor. "It's not that I didn't know what you meant by wanting to make this more real, just more that…I don't know how much you're willing to let it get around, or who you don't want to hear about it, or…you know, what you think everyone will think if th-"

"People can think whatever the hell they want," Dash grunted, and Tucker's hand stilled immediately as his eyes darted up, more than a little startled, for obvious reasons. He found Dash glaring at the floor. "It's not…" Dash's frown deepened as his words stalled. Finally, he sighed. "Look, I don't give a damn about whatever anyone has to say about me on this one…I've said it to Kwan and I'll tell you too, 'cause I know it's true…no one's gonna come straight after me. I can handle my own and nobody's really got balls anyhow, but…" Here, his fingers flexed, stretching and then almost making fists in a way that reminded Tucker a little too much of the moments right before he and Danny would start swinging, and when Dash lifted his head, sure enough that too-familiar anger flickered there, hovering like a fuse dangled before a lit match, just
waiting for the slightest excuse to catch. Heaven forbid Tucker ever forget why he never wanted to be the target of Dash's fury. "Let's just say…" Dash muttered at length, "…that more than a couple guys I know aren't exactly…homo-friendly, and if any of 'em ever decide they really wanna strike out…they're not dumb enough not to pick and choose who they go after."

'Oh,' thought Tucker. Then, he frowned. "You know, just because I'm not the most formidable guy on the block doesn't mean-"

"There's not a guy on my team smaller than you," Dash cut in, point blank. "Football or basketball…'fact…I'd put money on there not being a sports player at this
school smaller than you…freshman included. But," he continued before Tucker could press, "…it's not like it would matter either way anyhow, even if you weren't…'cause it's not like bullies play fair…" Tucker watched, attentive as Dash's expression grew distant with the admittance, folding inward and darkening with something – guilt or anger or frustration – that he couldn't quite distinguish. "We travel in fucking packs, " he grunted at last. "Three or four or five or more, no matter how small the prey is…and it's never near a teacher or near a good place to run…it's when you're walking home late one day after school or you're in a park alone and we see you and we're bored, so why the hell not? And with even just a tiny excuse, we can…it's like-"


"You know how much that sucks?" Dash snapped suddenly. "To know that
I was that guy…so many damn times before, and now…hell, maybe I still am, but…fuck, I don't want them to know. I know it's not like sooner or later people won't find out anyway, and if I thought breaking a couple skulls and pounding some sense into people now would help I would, but don't think it will and…it's just…" He grit his teeth. "Dammit, I swear to God, if someone hurts you…"

"Hey…" Tucker reached up, but hesitated, fingers stalling a half inch from Dash's face, and then curling back into his palm, uncertain. "You know…I
have had almost a dozen years of practice getting picked on…" he mumbled, gaze dropping habitually back down as his hand found its way back around the book. “So, I mean…I appreciate the sentiment and all, but…I've kina learned to take my beatings by now, I guess you could say, so if that's what it takes…" He shrugged, glancing back just enough to watch Dash from under the upper rim of his glasses, watching as his anger waned, melting back into something more akin to guilt and then, eventually, resignation.

"Yeah, I know," Dash conceded. "I guess I just meant…" He took a breath. "Tell whoever you want. Just…you know…don't go, umm…" He frowned, donning his – very familiar by now – 'searching for a word' expression, and Tucker felt a smile tug at his lips, unbidden, "…pro…prov…that…" He scowled. "Dammit, you know what I mean, that 'p' word that means bugging people and giving 'em an excuse to fight?"

"Provoke?" Tucker provided, unable to help the amusement that crept into his tone, and Dash snorted, but looked otherwise unbothered.

"Yeah," he grunted, "that…" and then, after a prolonged moment he added, "You know, I knew that word."


did, " he defended. "I just-"

"I believe you," Tucker cut in, actually meaning it, and his smile grew with the words, blooming as he spoke into something neither quite innocent or cheeky enough to pass as a grin, nor quite cocky or suave enough to count as a smirk. "So…" There was only the faintest hint of teasing in his voice, largely overridden by good-natured humor, "…you think I'm provocative?"

To Tucker's immense satisfaction, Dash rewarded the comment with a top-notch reminder of just how expertly his emotions broadcasted themselves without him ever uttering a word, blue eyes and light cheeks darkening fetchingly at the casual double-entendre and lips just barely parting. Then, though, as swift and effortless as flipping a coin, he turned the tables, huffing once as he gained composure and then moving in, planting caging hands on either side of Tucker's shoulders and leaning forward until Tucker could have counted his eyelashes if he so chose.

"I could prove that I do," he offered huskily, "if you want…" his voice probably only a semi-tone lower than normal, teasing in a way that had absolutely no right to make Tucker's skin prickle to attention, but somehow managed to anyway. It took Tucker a moment to remember what they were talking about.

"Umm…" By the time he got close, however, it didn't seem to matter much anymore anyway – what with Dash hovering a half inch from his lips and all – and thus, "Mm…'kay, uhh…sure," was about the sum of his verbal response before a final puff of warm air skimmed his lips and speaking ceased altogether.

It started maddeningly slowly: Dash scarcely brushing one corner of his mouth, teasing him with a fleeting, shadow of a kiss, but retreating as soon as he tried to turn into it, and then repeating the move on opposite side. When Tucker opened his mouth, though, Dash's tongue darted out, flicking over his lower lip and dampening it a moment before he blew, and a sound Tucker never intended to make effectively muted out whatever he might have planned on saying.

"Dash, you-" he started to accuse a half second later, finally abandoning his stolen book entirely in favor of reaching up and forcing Dash closer, but by the time the book hit the floor, Dash had already abandoned his cat-and-mouse game of his own accord and advanced, and the word, "tease…" dissipated into something of a breathy hum between their lips instead. As his fingers buried themselves in the soft blonde locks at the nape of Dash's neck and his eyelids dropped contentedly, first to half-mast, and then shut entirely, it pleased Tucker to note that, despite all the awkward in-between, kissing Dash came as naturally as ever.

"So," he concluded after the first break, turning his head into another kiss even as he said it, "sounds like the final verdict is…" and he grinned before the words ever left his mouth, "…tell anyone I like, but…you know, avoid strutting around campus in rainbow tie-dye with 'kick me, I'm dating the quarterback' airbrushed on in glittery bubble letters?"

It was the sort of moment where Tucker half expected Dash's eye to twitch. It would have fit, really. After a drawn out pause, though, Dash just rolled his eyes, the tiniest of peculiar smiles gracing his lips just before he shook his head, dipped down for one more kiss, and then stood.

"C'mon," he muttered, offering up a hand – which Tucker took – and helping him to his feet. "I think…if left to you…we'd
both be mincemeat before we made it a week."

"Aww, come on," Tucker teased, nothing but playful, "I think it would be…fun!" and Dash's grimace was probably genuine.

"Your idea of fun," he said slowly, picking his words, "is…"

"…riveting?" Tucker supplied helpfully.

"…weird," Dash concluded. Then, a moment later, he frowned. "Riveting?"



This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola