No, please. Please.
His head spun, aching from every direction. Everything hurt. His head hurt, his eyes hurt, his throat hurt, but mostly his stomach hurt.
Of course it would hurt. Glancing down, he could see the edges of the gaping wound under where Tucker was attempting to staunch the bleeding. It was hard to see in the dark, but he could see that his shirt was ripped away around it, stained a deep red, utterly decimated. The crater in his stomach pulsed, and he let out a pitiful whimper.
He could hear Sam, up by his head- his head may have been in her lap, he wasn't sure. Her hands rested soothingly in his hair, and he was sure she was whispering something, but he couldn't hear it very well. All he could really hear was the stiflingly distressed undertone to her voice, as if she were choking back tears.
He coughed, and to his surprise and unsurprise, blood welled up from his throat. He heard Sam gasp, and he desperately tried to turn his head to avoid choking, tears escaping his eyes at the same time. He tried to sit up, but his stomach felt like fire- no, worse, like he had been submerged in a volcano- and that only made it worse. Regardless of his attempts, blood poured over his lips, streaming onto Sam's jeans. His mouth tasted like a million pennies, and everything hurt so bad. The December snow rested around them, now stained red, and he was cold, he was so cold, and Sam and Tuck were probably just as cold. Wasn't the cold supposed to numb pain?
It hadn't actually hurt that much when it had happened. One of the men, one of the guys in white had shot him, with some explosive bullet, he wasn't sure. But it had hurt a little bit, but he only started feeling it moments afterwards, when his body forced him to shift back to his human form.
He honestly had no idea how they had gotten away, but he was sure he could thank Sam and Tucker. They were in some wooded area, going by the fact that he could see trees above him. Probably by a road, too, with the cars that drove by every so often.
He coughed wetly, relieved that the blood from his mouth had slowed, but he almost threw up when he realized that he might die.
Sam had reassured him that they'd called an ambulance, that he was going to be fine, but he'd heard Tucker say that they probably wouldn't get there in time.
He knew, with the amount that he was bleeding, he shouldn't have been conscious. It had to have had to do with his ghostly abilities, and he honestly believed he might be dead already had he been human.
Tucker released the pressure on his stomach for a moment, and it hurt so bad that Danny let out a loud gasp, followed by a heavy sob as he writhed. Sam shhed him, like a mother would a child, and something in Danny was soothed, while the rest of him was still so upset.
He could feel it in him. Something, something deep in his chest could tell.
He was dying.
The prospect shouldn't have terrified him so much. He'd been half dead for going on four years now. But half dead means half alive, and full dead meant nothing.
The pressure on his stomach returned, and he began to cry. Not huge, heaving ones like before, just small whimpers, and tears drip, drip, dripping down his face, mixing with the blood. Sam and Tuck probably thought he was crying from pain, and while he was hurting so badly, that's not what he was crying for.
He was crying for himself. That may sound selfish- or maybe it didn't, because he was dying. He was dying . He was crying, and crying, because he was dying, and because he didn't want to go, don't make him leave, he's not ready-
And oh, god, his friends. His family. He had never gotten to tell his mom and dad. He suddenly wished he had, no matter how risky it would have been. He wished he'd told them, wished he could have gotten their help, wished they could be here, that they could save him. He wished he could have said goodbye
And poor Sam and Tucker. They would have to finish high school without him. A deep sadness resonated in him with the knowledge that they were a mere five months from graduation. They would graduate, throw their caps in the air, and Danny would be six feet underground.
He was sorry to Jazz, who was in New York, on a full scholarship to a college of her dreams. She would get a call, and she would have to fly back for the funeral. He couldn't tell her, but he was sorry for making her miss school.
He thought of Dash and Paulina, who'd stopped tormenting him since the beginning of sophomore year, who would find out that the weird kid they used to make fun of had died on the side of the road in the snow with his stomach falling out.
He thought of Vlad, and how he'd been something of an ally to him lately, and who would once again be the only halfa on earth.
He thought of Valerie, and Kwan, and Star, and Wes, and all the other people he wished he'd gotten to know. All the people he desperately wished he'd talked to.
And he was scared . God, he was so scared. He'd lived so long as a human, and yes, he'd been half ghost, but something told him that actually dying was different. He didn't know what came next and that was what terrified him most.
But… he remembered his uncle, who'd died in a car crash when he was ten years old. He remembered his cat, who they'd had to put down. He remembered hearing his parents talking with the vet, heard them say that it was the best option. He heard them say her existence wouldn't be a good one, filled with pain and surgeries. He remembered hearing about her "quality of life".
He wondered, if he could have survived, would they have put him down? Would they have chosen to pull his plug, had he gone into a coma? He knew, logically, they wouldn't, not as long as he wasn't braindead.
He heard Sam begin to cry above him, and he wished he could tell her not to, that she didn't have to be sad like him. He hated that he'd hurt her, hurt both of them, hated that he'd hurt his mom and dad and Jazz.
But the snow began to seep into his skin. The pain in his stomach began to lessen, becoming more of a tingle after a while. The tears on his face were growing cold, possibly freezing to his skin, and he looked up at the night sky. The road to his left seemed farther and farther away, and he almost felt… calm. Calm. He couldn't understand it, but he felt calm, even though he could feel his organs shifting. Even though the only part of his body that was warm was his abdomen, because of the still flowing warm blood.
He looked up at the sky, and be could see the stars. There were clouds, yes, but between them, the stars were bright and shining. Endless. Inconceivable, the sky was. Snow flurried down around him and he could feel it land on his nose.
He felt hands, cold hands, around his neck. Not choking, but pressing, one sliding down to his collarbone, and one gently pressing under his jaw. They stayed there, for a long time, or what felt like a long time, before sliding away. They then rested in his hair.
He heard Sam say something- something about his pulse, about how it was slow, and she was crying, sobbing. Tucker left his stomach, and going on prior experience it should have hurt, but it kind of just felt loose.
"No, no, come on, man," he heard Tucker say, distantly. Everything was distant. Tucker came into his vision, and he was crying, oh, no, he was sobbing, shaking, an ugly sob ripping through him. He wanted to tell him, tell him he didn't need to cry, because it didn't hurt. He promised, it didn't hurt. But when he opened his mouth, all that came out was a choked moan, and Tucker only winced. "Danny, come on, you can't do this. You can't do this ."
Tucker held his face, and his hands were wet, and warm, and he would bet they were covered in his blood. Tucker leaned in, and Danny was confused, he couldn't tell what he was doing, but Tuck just pressed a kiss to his cheek, and for some reason, that's what broke the dam in Danny.
He was calm, yes, but faintly, he could feel his terror. But on the surface, he could feel his sadness, and his guilt, at leaving them behind. Why did he have to go? He wasn't ready. He was only seventeen. He didn't want to go, he didn't want to leave, and he was being dragged, kicking and screaming, and wasn't he already enough? Death had already claimed half of him, and here he was hunting for what he'd left behind. And he was going to get what he wanted.
The tears flowed freely from his eyes, and his hands, which had been resting in the snow, came up around Tucker's back. He tried to hug, tried to give him a proper embrace, but his muscles weren't working, and the best he could do was to fist his hands in the back of Tucker's shirt. He whimpered, sobbed, and Tucker cast his eyes down, and laid his head on Danny's chest. His hands gripped his upper arms, and Danny wished he could stay.
Sam kissed his forehead, cool and lingering, and he could feel her tears slide down his temples. He turned his head, pushing into her lap, and he hoped that she could tell that this was his hug to her. The best that he could do in the state he was in.
"Danny, please, just hold on. You can do it, just a little bit longer, please," Sam babbled, and now her hands were on his cheeks, and he looked up at her. He was so tired, and the cold wasn't biting, it was welcoming, and he wanted to close his eyes.
"Danny, hey," Tucker said, sitting up. "You can make it. You can do it, please, you're Danny Phantom , the strongest person I know. The coolest. The best." Danny laughed, as best he could, and Tucker smiled at him, strained and distraught, but a smile. He pursed his lips, and his laugh turned into a sob, and he knew he couldn't. He couldn't make it, because he was already losing this fight, he could feel himself fading away.
He tried, he tried so hard to say it, just to tell them "I love you." Because he wanted them to know. But his throat wasn't working, he couldn't form the words, so he mouthed them, tried to that at least, over and over again. I love you. I love you. I love you.
Sam must have noticed, because she looked at him, and she couldn't muster a smile as she said, "I get it, Danny, I know what you're saying. I love you. I love you too, please, don't leave."
Tucker looked at him once more, and his eyes were so lost. But he looked at him and said, "I love you too, man. I love you so much, okay? You hear me? I love you." Tucker tuck one of his hands and interlaced his fingers, and he squeezed, tight. Sam took his other one, and he could feel his head floating away without him.
He could hear them crying, feel the snow around him, and he shut his eyes.
As his world went black and he could feel no more, he was painless. He was untouchable.
And for the first time in his life, he was truly intangible.
So he let go.
The ambulance was late.
The ambulance was too late, too late, too late.
He was dead by the time they arrived.
They found three teenagers. Two heartbeats. One dead superhero.
Of course, they didn't know that. All they knew is that this teenage boy had died from a horrific wound to his stomach, from an unknown cause.
Sam and Tucker couldn't keep his secret any longer. There were too many questions, too many suspicious circumstances, too many injuries.
It was on the news- Amity Park hero, dead, age seventeen. Daniel James Fenton, a scientific oddity.
The town doesn't know how to react when their hero dies.
When Maddie and Jack find out, they hold tight to each other, and they shake and sob and they don't let go for hours. They only release to call Jazz.
It's only worse when they find out about their son's secret identity.
They had all of this paranormal detecting technology, and they hadn't even noticed. If they had… would their son still be alive?
Jazz gets a call from her distraught mother, and she flies over the next day in a foggy haze.
She misses a week of school, one day of which is for the funeral. She doesn't mind.
Jazz has never cried that hard in her life. Her baby brother, in the casket….
Only the top half was open.
She hadn't seen the body, but she could guess why the rest wasn't shown.
Dash is in his living room, eating breakfast, watching the news, when a familiar face appeared on the screen.
"Yesterday night, at around 2 am, the Amity Park hero known as Inviso-Bill, or, more commonly, Phantom, passed away. His death revealed the identity of the superhero, which information was highly sought after. Phantom's secret identity was a seventeen year old boy by the name of Daniel Fenton. Fenton's identity was confirmed by his two…"
The rest of the segment was bypassed, because Dash suddenly couldn't keep his eggs and bacon down at the sight of Fenton's school pictures on the screen.
He dropped his fork onto his plate, a loud clatter resounding.
He slid into his bathroom, fell to his knees, and expelled the contents of his stomach into the toilet.
Paulina stood in her kitchen, leaning against the counter, scrolling through her news feed, when one caught her eye.
Daniel Fenton, Aged 17, Dead.
Her phone slipped out of her fingers, making a loud thunk ing noise on the hardwood floor, and simultaneously let out a shriek of utter shock. She clasped her hands over her mouth and, though she didn't know him well, tears welled in her eyes.
Her mother came rushing in moments later to find her curled up on the floor behind the counters.
Vlad sipped his morning coffee delicately, the steam rising into the air as it did most mornings. His newspaper rest open in his hand, his eyes scanning the headlines lazily. He ran over one absentmindedly, until he realized what exactly it said. He only got through the first few words- Phantom Found Dead- before he couldn't continue.
He set his cup shakily down onto it's plate, the glass rattling together delicately, and he primly folded his newspaper and set it down with trembling hands.
He took an unstable breath, and closed his eyes, one hand coming up to cover his mouth as he tried to regulate his breathing.
Despite his best efforts, there, on his sofa at 8:15 in the morning, Vlad wept for the first time in years.
Wes shot yet another hoop, the ball swishing into the net smoothly. Satisfaction seeped into him as he retrieved the ball. The park's basketball court was empty for the morning- a rare occurrence, at noon on a Saturday.
Once attained, he dribbled it on the concrete spinning and weaving the ball around his legs and behind him. He heard his friend, Michael, return from the bathrooms, looking down at his phone.
Michael looked up, and Wes paused his dribbling.
"Dude, you were totally right." Michael continued walking forward, setting his phone on the bench and beginning to dribble his own ball.
"Of course I was, but about what?" Wes asked him.
"You know how you thought that Danny Fenton kid was Phantom?" Michael brought the ball in a figure-8 around his legs, shooting it. It bounced off the headboard, barely missing the hoop. Michael winced.
Wes nearly hissed at the name. "Uh, yeah, obviously. I made a whole PowerPoint on it, dumbass."
"Shut up, dickwad," Michael retorted good naturedly, and Wes snorted. "But you were right. I said that already, didn't I?"
Wes paused his fiddling of the ball hesitantly, tucking it against his side. "...How do you know?"
"Dude, have you not seen the news at all?" Michael asked. "He was found dead with a crazy stomach wound. He had ectoplasm all around him, even in his blood, so the autopsy guys believed his friends when they said he was Phantom."
Wes froze, his ball slowly slipping to the ground, unnoticed by him. It bounced a few times, the bounces growing closer together.
Suddenly, he didn't wanna be right ever again.
Kwan and Star sat in a booth at the Nasty Burger, quietly chatting as they waited for the other parts of their group.
Kwan laughed at something Star said when Dash sat down. He was uncharacteristically quiet.
"Hey, Dash," Star said softly, kind as always. "Where's Paulina?"
"She, uh… she couldn't make it." It was only then that Kwan noticed the redness in Dash's eyes, something so rare in his friend that Kwan couldn't help but be concerned.
He looked into Dash's eyes, and Dash flicked his away. "Hey… are you alright?" Kwan asked.
Dash didn't give a proper answer, only asking, "have you heard?"
"Um… no," Kwan hesitated, glancing over at Star, only to see her just as confused as he was. "Heard what?"
"Phantom's dead." Dash didn't cushion the statement at all, brutally throwing the information out. His voice was raw, rough, as if he'd been crying. Star gasped, but Kwan was just confused. Yes, it was awful, but Dash wouldn't be so torn up about just that. "And his secret identity got revealed."
Oh, no. Somebody they knew, then? "...Who?"
Dash scratched the back of his neck, cleared his throat, and then mumbled something unintelligible. At Kwans prompting, he spoke, slightly louder than before, "... It's Danny."
"Oh, God," Kwan spoke, his jaw dropped open. It made sense, now, why Dash was so upset- even though he had relented the whole bullying act years ago, he knew he still felt immense guilt. And now Fenton was dead, and it must be eating him up inside.
Star piped up cautiously, leaning forward slightly. "I'm sorry… who?"
Kwan jumped as Dash dropped his hand on the table, the salt and pepper jars clinking together, the bustling noise of the restaurant suddenly louder. " Danny. Danny Fenton. You know, the guy whose life I made a living hell for a year and a half?"
Star had flinched back, and while Kwan was irritated at how aggressive he was being, he understood. He was sure, if Dash had said "Fenton", she would have known- but calling the dead by their last name felt… cold. Dash stood from the booth suddenly, turning around to stalk away. Kwan called after him, but he didn't turn back.
There are many people who were affected when Daniel Fenton died.
But, predictably, his best friends were perhaps the most affected of everyone.
For the first week after Danny died, Sam and Tucker spent as much time as they could at each other's houses. They'd lay on Sam's bed, and Tucker would lay his head on her chest. Sam's mom would walk by, and she wouldn't say anything, because she knew it didn't have anything to do with romance. It was simply seeking solace in possibly the only person that could ever understand.
Sometimes they talked. Sometimes about Danny, mostly not, because neither of them wanted to spend more time crying. Sometimes they tried out stupid games, like the Slide hand game, and one time Sam even bought a book of two person cat's cradle puzzles.
There was always music on, because neither of them could stand the silence.
Tucker's favorite game to play was one called Mancala, a board game Jazz introduced them to on one of their visits to the Fenton household. He liked it because it was easy enough not to hurt his brain, but hard enough to be engaging. And something about the way the board was crafted from wood and the pieces from stone felt grounding.
Sometimes, they would read to each other. Sam would bring her favorite book, and she would read for hours until her voice was hoarse and she had drank three water bottles. Normally, Tucker would call her a nerd with all her books, or get bored, but after that… well, he was all too happy for the distraction.
The grief might have been crippling if they hadn't had each other.
Reminders of him, of his life, of his death… they hurt like a knife. And the places in which he was absent felt like the twisting of that knife.
The first time Sam went back to school after it happened, she was prepared for it to hurt. She was prepared for teachers to give her pitying looks, prepared to see the mini shrine outside Danny's locker, prepared for people she'd never known to tell her they knew how she felt when she knew they didn't. What she didn't prepare for was to look at his seat to see it empty. She wasn't prepared to spend fifteen minutes sitting in a locked bathroom stall staring silently at the back of the stall door.
Neither of them would ever be the same. There were the obvious things- the grief, the people, the memories. But the more subtle things were somehow just as difficult to deal with.
Even a month later, Sam couldn't wear the clothes she wore that night. It made her nauseous, just looking at the jeans. They were a dark green, and they always brought back the memory of both brighter green and deep red staining them. The stains came off with spray and a wash, but the mental stains weren't so easily washed away. She'd accidentally grabbed them instead of her black jeans one morning. Seeing them after she had put them on, she turned around in a whirl and punched the wall. Her knuckles stung, but she didn't really care.
When Tucker texted her an hour later, asking where she was after their first period ended, she only texted him a picture.
It was her backyard, the fire pit bright, the fire flickering frantically. Under the flames you could see something, a dark green color.
Sam's smile felt sinister, and yet it was the first genuine smile she'd had in weeks.
Tucker's mom had asked him to help with dinner one night.
Of course, he'd said yes, because he was a mama's boy. She was making cherry chicken, with asparagus and cut up peaches. She had forgotten some ingredient at the grocery store- vanilla, she'd said, and what did they even need vanilla for?- and had left Tucker to the easier tasks while she went and picked it up.
He'd cut up the peaches, arranged the asparagus in its pan, and was midway through pitting the cherries when he wiped his hands on the towel next to him.
The towel was white, and it came away bright red. His hands were sticky, tinted with the warm hue.
It wasn't the same color. It wasn't even close, far too bright, not thick enough, not deep enough. Not consuming. And yet…
Tucker couldn't breathe.
His hands were sticky, and the rag was red, and this was reminding him too much of a snowy night a little over a month ago.
He needed it off his hands. He needed his hands to be clean, right now.
So he washed them. His kitchen sink was pushed on haphazardly, and he frantically washed and washed and washed.
His mother came home five minutes later to find him still scrub, scrub, scrubbing, tears on his face and seeming far too calm.
She rushed forward, yanking his arms out from under the water, her heart beating in her chest. The water was far too hot, almost painfully so, and Tucker's arms were rubbed raw, and in one place there was even a patch of exposed skin akin to a rug burn.
Tucker looked up at her, and where she expected to see anguish or fear or something, she only saw indifference. Vacancy. As if he didn't know where he was, or- or he did and he just didn't care.
"Oh, Tuck, honey," she held his arms and looked into his eyes. "What's wrong?"
Her son swallowed, and his facial expression didn't change. It hurt to see him like this, with Tucker always being so colorful and animated, and now… nothing. Tucker looked down at his arms as if he'd just noticed them there.
"My hands… they were messy."
She didn't know how to respond to that, so she grabbed a clean towel off the oven handle and began to gently pat his arms dry. She was suddenly very glad the chicken was still thawing.
"It's very… cold in here. Snowy."
That's when she realized. The therapist had warned them about this- flashbacks, they'd called it. From his PTSD. She had originally thought only people who'd been abused, or had been in a war or something had that, but the therapist had assured them that wasn't true.
For some reason, she thought it would be more violent. More thrashing, or crying, but somehow… this might be worse.
She shhed him softly, talking nothing to him, reassuring him that everything was alright. She took his shoulders and led him to sit down on the couch, and handed him a blanket. Tucker simply looked down at her outstretched hand blankly. She relented, unfolding and wrapping it around his shoulders.
"Is… is Danny gonna be okay?" Tucker asked, but he didn't seem to be asking her. He looked as if he were asking the air.
His mother enfolded him in her arms, tucking his head under her chin. His arms linked loosely around her back. Somewhere, in his head, she hoped this was helping.
Tucker passed out on the couch ten minutes later. He woke up the next morning- so that was about 10 hours of sleep. As far as his mother could tell, he was perfectly normal again.
But she wouldn't forget that very easily.
Despite their respective suffering… they were healing.
It was a long process, but that's how grief was, such a fickle thing.
Sam and Tucker started to hang out more. And that's not to say they didn't spend a lot of time together before- but then, it had been a necessary thing. They'd clung to each other because they were the only ones that could understand. But soon, they started to hang out just for the hell of it, like before it happened.
Well… not quite like it, but closer.
They started going to movies again. Tucker got used to not having two people on either side. Sam got used to having to find another person to partner with in class. Tucker got used to being the only one to geek out at comic books (but Sam got used to tolerating it for him).
The first time they played Guitar Hero after it happened- about six or seven months after- they had to stop midway through the first song. The room felt too quiet, even with the volume turned all the way up. Danny used to sing on the microphone, and now they could only hear the tapping of the drums and the clicking of the bar on the base.
But rather than an explosive reaction, Tucker simply pressed the home button on the Wii controller, the menu coming up with a "ping". Sam looked at him curiously, and he merely said, quietly, "I don't really wanna play this game anymore."
Sam huffed a soft laugh, and it sounded genuine. "Me neither."
She set her base down on the carpet, and Tucker got up from the drums to sit on the couch. It was silent for a few moments, but silences had become ubiquitous in the last months, and somehow it couldn't be awkward anymore.
Sam took Tucker's hand. It wasn't a romantic thing. Many people thought they were together- Sam resented that assumption, because Tucker was her best friend. They both needed to physical affection from the other, and at this point it had simply become an aspect of their friendship rather than a necessary thing.
But she held his hand, and even though he didn't need it, she thought she could see his shoulders slump a little bit.
He didn't need to say why he needed to stop, because she felt it too. So she twisted in the couch and pulled on Tucker's arm, and he fell into her with little resistance, resting his head on her shoulder and his arms around her back.
"It's okay. I get it." She felt him nod into her shoulder.
"I know. It's just hard, because I'm getting better , I'm feeling better. And then sometimes… things like this happen." He took a deep breath and fisted his hands in the back of her shirt. "And I just miss him so much."
Sam didn't respond, because she knew he didn't need her to say anything. He just needed her there. She knew, because she needed him, too.
Tuck sat up, and his eyes were a little red. But his breathing was calm, even, and he was recovering.
She smiled at him, equally happy and sad. "I know, Tuck. Me too."
Eventually, they stopped shying away from memory of him. They didn't avoid pictures, didn't refuse visits to his house. They looked at the Fenton's family photo album with Jazz, and none of them cried. They even smiled sometimes.
That was called progress.
Sam found a video on her Snapchat history at lunch one day. It was a video of Danny, walking on the sidewalk ahead of the camera, singing Sweet Caroline, loud and obnoxious. " Sweeeeeeet Caroline! Ba ba ba! Good times never-" He tripped on something, falling out of sight of the camera, which then flipped views for a few seconds, finally settling on a close shot of somebody's clothing as raucous laughter from Sam and Tucker sounded from the speakers.
She showed it to Tucker, and they both laughed till their chests hurt, the video playing on repeat.
"God, he was so dumb." It was said affectionately, the laugh still in her throat, and Tucker only laughed harder.
Soon enough, almost a year had passed.
Sam and Tucker had graduated. Sam had gotten into her college of choice- a good college for politics in Minnesota while Tucker decided on a gap year. It hurt, being away from her family- including Tucker. But Vlad would sometimes visit her, seeing as he didn't live that far away, and even though she'd always disliked him… it helped.
Tucker had spent the few months working, getting money. He'd missed Sam, of course, but they video chatted, so it wasn't too bad.
All things considered… they were doing good.
But she was back for Christmas break, and at the same time that it felt good to be home, the snow on the ground brought unwanted memories.
She'd spent the first two days with her family- with brief visits to Tucker and his. It was a welcome break from everything which helped her ground her college-stressed, all-over-the-place mind.
But that day was the anniversary of Danny's death.
It was kind of already known that one of them would spend the night. It was decided that Sam would stay over at Tucker's.
It was, surprisingly, not bad. Nobody cried. There wasn't even conversation about him- it wasn't that he was being ignored, but because they'd already told each other all that could be said on the subject.
They watched movies on his couch, and ate junk food. Tucker tried to braid Sam's hair after making a joke about girls' sleepovers, the results of which made Sam nearly cry from laughter.
Sam was walking around, waiting for Tucker to get out of the bathroom, when she paused. She looked out the sliding glass door, looking at the snow fluttering down. Something in her stopped at that, remembering. But it wasn't painful, then… it was just there.
When Tucker came out, he saw her staring out the window, arms crossed.
He made a split decision, then, turning around.
"Tucker? What're you doing?" Sam called as he walked down the hallway.
"Put on your coat and shoes, I have an idea!"
Sam was cautious, because fifty percent of the time when Tucker had an idea it lead to minor injury, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. As she was finishing lacing up her boots, Tucker walked back out, boots and coat on with a mass of red plaid cloth in his hands.
She stood, walking towards him as he walked towards the door.
"Tuck? What the hell-"
"Just hear me out!" Tucker had the biggest smile on his face, and Sam couldn't say no to that.
He opened the door, rushing over to the snow like a kid on Christmas morning. He unfolded the cloth- which Sam could now see was a thick blanket- and whipped it out till it was straight, laying it down on the snow. Without any inhibition, he plopped right down, laying on his back with his hands behind his head.
"Tucker, no," she said, but she was certain he could hear the restrained laughter behind her words.
Tucker pat the space beside him on the blanket. "C'mon, lay down! It's nice."
Sam snorted, and despite her words, she found herself slowly walking. "Tucker, the snow is gonna melt through the blanket. You're gonna get wet. And besides, it's literally so cold that it's snowing out here."
"Okay, that's bullshit, I've tried that coat on and it's the toastiest thing I ever did wear, because you're an upper class citizen-"
"And besides, it's waterproof. So we won't get wet." Tucker looked at her, puppy dog eyes equipped, and Sam felt her resolve slipping.
"You're ridiculous," she said, as a last ditch attempt at refusal.
"Yeah, I am. What're you, a coward?" Sam's jaw dropped in mock offense, and she laughed. "C'mon! Prove me wrong, coward!"
She glared fondly as she tramped through the snow towards the blanket. "You know, this is peer pressure."
"Sure is," Tucker said, and he snorted at Sam's exaggerated eye roll. "Are you giving in?"
Sam sighed and flopped down on the blanket next to him. "I guess so."
"Hell yeah!" Tucker laughed and scoot over to give her more room. "You're a cool kid now. Peer pressure, am I right?"
"You're a dumbass," she said through her laugh, and Tucker let out a wheeze.
And then they both were quiet, reveling in the peaceful snow, looking up as it fell down towards them. Ten minutes passed by in the blink of an eye.
"See, isn't this nice?" Tucker asked.
She hated to admit he was right, but Sam Manson was not a liar. "Ugh, yeah."
Tucker was quiet for a second, before he spoke up hesitantly, "Are you warm enough? If- if you're cold, we can go inside."
Sam wheezed, waving a hand. "Nah, I'm good. You were right, I'm pretty sure this coat was like two hundred dollars. Unless you're too cold?"
"No, this is nice." Tucker responded, and they lapsed into silence once more.
This one had them looking at the stars. The only ones they could find were the really big ones- basically just the big Dipper and Orion's belt- but thinking about something else.
"Do you remember what Danny's favorite was?" Tucker asked out of the blue. The question was unsurprising. It was hard to look at the stars without thinking of Danny when you know him well enough to hear his endless space rambles.
"Of course. Do you?" Sam replied instantly, turning her head to look at him. How could either of them forget, when he talked about it so often?
"Lyre?" Sam was about to interject, but he realized for himself. "No, Lyra." He turned his head in return, asking, "D'you know where it is?"
Sam snorted, turning back to the sky. "Absolutely not."
She expected a realization like that to hurt, or maybe give her guilt. Maybe make her want to look it up, find it in the sky, and stare till she had it carved on the inside of her skull. And some part of her did want that- something in her wanted that so bad. But a bigger part of her had this melancholy happiness, a hesitant peace, that told her thinking about him was enough.
Tucker laughed quietly. "Me neither."
And they looked at the stars, each thinking their own thoughts, getting lost in the only black in between the stars.
It must have been something about the similarity between the darkness of the sky and the darkness behind your eyes, but when she looked over next, Tucker's eyes were closed, and he was asleep.
She woke him up, and they went inside, where Tucker immediately fell back asleep on the couch. Sam lay on the other, staring up at the ceiling, which she couldn't actually see due to the darkness of the room.
There are so many types of darkness, huh?
She fell asleep, eventually, and she dreamed. The memory of what escaped her, but she caught the vague image of a field of flowers, a lone figure sitting somewhere in the distance, their back to her.
Something in her knew who it was, but as much as Sam loved the dark things, she wasn't superstitious. So she decided it couldn't have been.
She was woke up, that morning, the house still dark, and with only the faint trickle of light into the house. It couldn't have been later than 5 am.
It was Tucker, shaking her shoulder gently, that woke her up.
She rubbed her eyes, trying to expel the sluggishness from them, and she opened her mouth to ask why he'd woken her up. But Tucker shook his head at her, a finger over his lips, and she shut her mouth.
He ushered her up, gently, and Sam seeped into the quiet awakening of the house. All was quiet, nobody awake, and something about that kind of world immediately calmed her.
Tucker took her hand, and led her to the sliding glass door.
Once out, Tucker dragged the blanket- which has been rolled up by the door from last night- onto the stairs of the porch.
He sat down, patting the seat next to him, so naturally she sat down, and she didn't question what he was doing anymore, because he looked ahead of him.
The sun was rising over the horizon, and Sam was breathless. Streaks of creamy oranges and yellows crowded the sky in every direction. It was crazy, just how big it was. The sky was big, and vast, and impossible, because it was never one singular thing- not at night, and certainly not in moments like this.
No. The sky was… everything else, everything other than the planet they lived on. Every other conceivable thing, because it was endless. Sam may not have noticed where Lyra was, but sometimes, if she tried, she could look at the sky not as a flat plane, but she could see it as endless space. See it with the perspective that she was looking into everything.
Sam breathed a sigh, and Tucker seemed to settle into the porch, staring into the horizon in a relaxed daze.
Sam wasn't often awake to see these, and it felt like it gave her soul some sort of healing.
She looked at the snow around her, softly reflecting the orange hue, and she smiled. She thought of Danny, of his stars and his songs and his love for the simple world. Of his soft smiles at a tiny shoe store on the street. Of his beaming grin when he found a ladybug. Of his love for the planets, the solar system, the galaxies… the sun.
She decided, just then, that she would do the same. She would find joy in the regular things, for him. Because she knew that's what he would want her to do.
Tucker squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back.
So this. This is what moving on is like, huh?