After a long week of fighting ghosts, Danny desperately needs someone to hold onto. Because even heroes need to be weak sometimes.
Danny silently prided himself for remembering to knock. He had been told multiple times that knocking was of no need during emergencies, and while Danny would go as far as saying this was an emergency, it was definitely not a matter of life or death. So, he felt like knocking was the least he could do. This, however, did not stop him from stumbling through the window the second it was opened and promptly collapsing on the wooden floor. A set of steady arms helped him lean against the wall. He closed his eyes and tried to remember how to breathe.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
When he was confident that his brain could handle the task on his own again, he instead focused on where he was and why it was he had wanted – no, needed – to come here. He was half aware of a voice talking to him. Subconsciously, he knew exactly who the voice belonged to, but at the moment his brain was busy processing something else. Part of him was trying to tell him that what had happened was nothing new, that the best way to deal with it was to push it to a part of his mind labeled 'not important', but right now, nothing seemed harder to do than that.
Just forget it. Move past it. It changes nothing.
With some effort, he managed to open his eyes, gaze focusing too slowly on his friend. Worry was evident in the other's expression as he laid a hand on Danny's shoulder, silently asking for an explanation. His mouth opened in an attempt to form words, but nothing came out.
I can stand on my own. I don't need help.
There was a lump in his throat along with the sick feeling in his gut and he just could not move around it. The pained look he accidentally donned must have mirrored his feelings enough though, for only a short moment later he found himself safely encased by the strong embrace of his best friend.
I'm strong. I'm strong. I'm strong.
As soon as he felt the extra hold, all he wanted to do was let himself fall and be caught, but there was something inside him too stubborn to let go, too afraid to show this ultimate lack of strength. Then he heard his voice again, this time just a whisper near his ear but more clear than before anyway.
"It's okay to cry, Danny. It's human to cry sometimes."
And so he did. He cried, cried more than he could remember ever doing before in his life. His half-life. Because he was a ghost.
It's human to cry sometimes. I'm crying. I'm human.
The tears took a kind of pressure away. A pressure that had always been there, pushing down on him, yet he had not thought there was a way to be without it. He realized how long it had taken him to realize how much of a strain his lifestyle was putting on him, how hard he was being on himself.
"I'm sorry," he sobbed. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," repeating it like a mantra that would make the guilt dissolve into nothing but bad memories, ghosts from the past.
But those ghosts always come back to haunt me.
"Don't be. There's nothing to apologize for."
The soothing circles being rubbed on his back did nothing to calm him down, but at the same time he craved the comfort and did not want it to go away any time soon. He found himself gripping onto him like a lifeline, which may as well have been true right then. He was suddenly so tired of dealing with these feelings all by himself. No, not tired, he was exhausted. And he was not sure how much longer he would be able to go on if he did not stop this. Right here, right now.
"But I'm supposed to be the strong one. I'm supposed to be the hero."
"You are, Danny. You're a great hero. You've saved so many lives, prevented so much harm, pain and sadness."
And he did. He knew that. It was not hard to miss as it was all he was focused on doing day by day. But how could all the good he did ever be enough? How much good did it do the families who lost someone when he saved someone else? How could he ever be allowed to call himself a hero when there was still so much hurt?
"Then why does it feel like there's no difference?"
All the same. It's all the same. Nothing ever gets better.
"Amity Park would be nothing without you. I would be nothing without you. Don't you dare ever think you didn't make a difference."
Danny had no reply, so he just kept crying. He hated himself for it. He hated doing it. But it felt so damn good. Maybe he deserved this. Maybe it was okay not to be the hero once in a while. Today, that job was preserved for someone else, it seemed. Even heroes need heroes. Even heroes need help.
Even I need help.
"I feel so weak, Tuck," he whispered, so low it was nearly lost.
The arms around him squeezed even tighter for a second – if that was possible – before loosening a little and moving Danny so he was now looking his friend in the eye. He instantly felt the desire to go back to their previous position spike inside him, but he made no move to return to it. He did not have the energy to do much of anything at the moment.
I'm weak. I'm weak. I'm so weak.
"Hey. Look at me. Do you know what being strong means?"
Danny just patiently stared at him, waiting for him to continue. He was not sure where exactly this was going, but he was confident it was important for him to take it to heart.
"Being strong is when you're weak, but you keep going anyway. You keep fighting even though you're tired and feel like the whole world's against you."
Danny tried to process what was being said, but he did not understand. How could it be strong to be weak? To him, it made no sense at all. He should just be strong all the time and not be weak at all. Yet he also knew that no matter how much he wished he was actually capable of it, he could not keep carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders as a full time job.
Strong. Weak. Strong. Weak.
But if he believed in needing to take on hard times completely alone, would that not mean anyone else needed to do the same to be a good person? Was he not the one who kept saying that everyone could be a hero?
I'm a hero.
Why was it so much easier to forgive others for all their mistakes, their moments of weakness, than it was to forgive himself?
I'm a hero.
Was it really necessary to transfer all of those bad deeds to himself? Could there not be a way to leave them in the past? To move on without them?
I'm a hero.
Does it count when a hero saves himself?
I'm a hero.
Could he even save himself?
I'm a hero.
Tucker wordlessly pulled him back into a steady embrace and just held him there. Danny's harsh sobs had by now decreased to little more than faint shaking and the stray tears running down his cheeks.
"A hero is supposed to help everyone, right?"
I'm no exception.
"Is it okay for a hero to be selfish then?"
Just once. Just today.
Confidence. He said it with so much confidence. And Danny believed it. For the first time in years, he truly believed he deserved to be selfish. Right now, the person who needed him most, was him. Right now, he needed a hero. Because even heroes need to be saved sometimes.
I'm tired. I'm weak. I'm scared. But that's okay.
I'm a hero.