AN: I know it's been a while. Real life, work, and lack of interest has kept me from updating much of anything as of late. However! I am now posting the last chapter of A Different Direction. No more waiting for you!

A Different Direction
Chapter Eleven:
"Healing Wounds"

Valerie opened her eyes slowly, hissing in pain as she moved her head ever so slightly. Her entire back, neck, and shoulders hurt, and her chest felt as if it had caved in, just slightly, crushing her lungs almost tortuously. She blinked and lifted her left hand to her chest, only to realize that another hand was laying on top of hers. She glanced at the other hand, following the arm with her eyes until she saw that Danny was sleeping, half of his body on the bed, the other half propped up in a chair. She smiled at him, ignoring the pain she felt as she grasped his hand.

"Thank God you're alright," she whispered. Her raspy voice was enough to wake up the sleeping boy, who muttered something inaudible under his breath as he stirred. He lifted his head, his eyes half-focused on Valerie before he flung himself at her, hugging her tightly. "Ow!" she gasped out as Danny hugged her--but she hugged back, despite the pain it caused her.

"I thought you weren't going to wake up!" Danny muttered into her shoulder before pulling away from her. He was blushing slightly--perhaps embarrassed because of how tightly he had hugged her. This thought only caused Valerie to smile even wider. "I didn't think--I thought you had forgotten about me."

Valerie blinked at that, shaking her head slightly, wincing in pain. "Why would you think that? I'm your friend, Danny. I would never forget about you."

Danny nodded, looking down at the stone floor of the room, sighing. "I just--I felt so lonely here. Vlad doesn't understand."

"Felt? Why the past-tense? And what the hell happened in the lab? Why were you and your ghost-half separated?"

Danny continued to look away. "Vlad told me that he could remove all of the pain and anger I felt over the death of my family and my friends. He needed to remove my ghost-half to do it," Danny explained after a few moments. "He basically ripped out all of my negative emotions along with my ghost-half. He warned me that there were risks--that he could make me unable to feel anything, but I wanted to do anything to stop feeling the pain."

"Why would you do that? There are other ways to deal with pain, Danny. Removing them and forgetting about them won't help you heal from it," Valerie stated, squeezing his hand. "Removing your emotions doesn't make you whole--it makes you empty. What would you have felt if I had died, Danny?"

Danny finally looked up at Valerie before shaking his head. "I wouldn't have felt anything--I would have maybe felt defeated because I couldn't save you, but I wouldn't have been able to feel anything," he muttered, taking his hand away from Valerie's. He folded his hands in his lap. "But I didn't want to lose another person I cared about," he added, making eye contact. "It was my fault everyone died--if I had gone-ghost sooner, I would have been able to save everyone. I--I failed to do what was needed to be done. But, if I had never cheated on that test, they never would have been in danger, either."

Valerie found herself nodding, though she was a bit unnerved by the lack of emotion in Danny's voice. "Do you think you could ever forgive yourself? Right now you probably don't feel regret for your actions--if you don't regret it, how can you be forgiven?"

Shrugging, Danny leaned back in the chair. "It's weird--I know what I should be feeling right now, but I don't feel a thing. I can even find myself crying even though I don't feel anything. But it's for the best--I don't need my ghost-powers and I don't want to feel pain."

"But now you're only half of who you were," Valerie whispered, studying Danny. "You were more human when you had your ghost-half. Feeling pain is a part of life."

"Why have my powers when I couldn't even save those I cared about?"

"You saved me."

Danny looked up from his lap, his eyes narrowed slightly at Valerie. Valerie slowly forced herself into a seating position. "You said so yourself--you didn't want to lose another person you cared about, and you saved me. You stopped those two ghosts from hurting me even worse. And that was without your ghost-powers, Danny. You could have done so much more if you still had them."

Danny was silent, studying Valerie for a few moments before looking away, one of his hands reaching for Valerie's. "But--if it weren't for my powers, I wouldn't have cheated on the test."

Sighing, Valerie looked away from Danny. "So you made one mistake that lead to a huge disaster. You can still learn from the mistake--if using your powers for self-gain only causes you to lose those things that are important to you, then don't use your powers for that reason," Valerie said simply. "You can learn from the pain, too, you know. Feeling the pain can make you stronger once you learn how to manage it."

"But--my ghost-half--it's in the thermos. It'll be hard getting it out of there and back into me--and I doubt Vlad would risk putting himself in danger again."

"I don't think anything I do now will be as dangerous as what we attempted last night," Vlad stated, walking into the room, his hands folded behind his back. "Ah, Miss Grey, you're awake."

Valerie nodded, sitting up straighter, hiding her wince. She didn't want to seem like she was in a lot of pain. "So you would put Danny's ghost-half back where it belongs?"

"I did not want to perform the--separation--to begin with," Vlad admitted. "I just didn't want to see Daniel so depressed."

Danny looked between the two of them before sighing. "But the pain--it was unbearable. I didn't know what to do with myself."

"I think you will know what to do with yourself,Daniel, once you are back in your home. I gave it a great deal of thought. You have no friends, here, and Miss Grey here has shown she cares about you a great deal," Vlad said softly, walking over to Danny and placing a hand on his shoulder. "Keeping you here has done nothing but prevent you from healing. In order to have a great apprentice, I need one who can put his mind to other things aside from wallowing in his own self-pity."

Danny half-smiled at that, which caused Valerie to smile herself. "Wait--he can come home? With me?" she asked, her eyes widening.

"I will be going with him, of course," Vlad said nonchalantly. "I am his legal guardian, after all. I can't just leave the boy in Amity Park by himself."

"I can take care of myself," Danny huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "I don't need you there watching my every move and tinkering with Mom and Dad's stuff."

"My dear boy, I've probably seen everything inside of that lab, if I haven't already made it myself," Vlad muttered. "Jack was a moron. Maddie did all of the hard work..." there was a strange tone to Vlad's voice as he spoke.

Valerie raised an eyebrow at Vlad's tone, noticing Danny shake his head, muttering, "Don't ask," under his breath. At this, Valerie shrugged to herself before looking up at Vlad. "Can we give Danny back his ghost-half now."

"I believe that we should wait until after the two of you are fed, and that we should make sure you're well-enough to stand, Miss Grey," Vlad responded, studying her. "Your wounds were pretty nasty, I must say. You must have run into some trouble on your way here."

Valerie put a light hand on her damaged shoulder. "I was being careless," she muttered. "All I was thinking of going and rescuing Danny."

"As you can see, Danny is fine, considering he would have been much worse if you hadn't shown up in my lab when you did," Vlad said softly. "How did you know the portal was mine?"

"Football fans are easy to figure out," Valerie answered, smirking. The smirk disappeared as Valerie moved the sheets that were covering her, glad to see that she was fully clothed. Movement hurt, but she was determined to get out of bed. The sooner the three of them ate, the sooner Danny would be back to normal. She pushed herself off of the bed, relieved that her legs could support her. Her chest felt strange, her breathing still slightly compromised.

Once she was steady on her legs, Valerie motioned to the other two. "Let's go eat so we can get everything over with."

"I'll go tell the cook," Vlad muttered, sinking through the floor. Valerie stared at the place Vlad had stood, her mouth slightly open. Shaking her head, she turned to Danny, who was still sitting in his chair.

Danny's mouth was a thin line, and is arms were still crossed. "Why did you come after me?" he asked after a few moments, turning his head to stare up at Valerie. "You put yourself in danger."

"I wanted my friend back," Valerie responded, frowning. "I don't care if I'm putting myself in danger if it means helping out a friend--especially one I care about."

Danny nodded, slowly getting up from his chair. He walked over to Valerie, who was now half-way to do the door. As Valerie turned to see how close behind Danny was, Danny hugged her tightly. "Thank you," he whispered, pulling her even closer. "You have no idea how much that means to me. I thought--I thought everyone who cared about me was gone."

Valerie nodded, hugging Danny back, blushing slightly. "You know--I don't know if your emotions were removed."

"I don't feel anything but relief and happiness right now," Danny muttered, keeping his arms awkwardly around Valerie, blushing himself. "I remember how I felt--how much it hurt, but I don't actually feel it. I don't feel anything when I think of them."

Valerie nodded, unable to help but notice that Danny's hands were resting on her waist. "Well, I'm glad you're happy," she responded, moving closer to kiss Danny on the cheek. After that, the two pulled away from one another completely.

"Yeah, but...once my ghost-half is back, I'll be depressed again," Danny whispered, frowning.

"You'll only be depressed if you allow yourself to be depressed," Valerie responded, patting Danny awkwardly on the shoulder. "And you're going home, Danny. That's something to be happy about, right?"

"But they won't be there," Danny muttered, sighing. "Being there will remind me of them."

"But you'll have me. You can always talk to me, Danny. I'll always be there for you," Valerie said softly, smiling at him. "It's not like you'll be alone. Hell, I think even Vlad cares about you. He wants you to be happy, too, Danny--even if it is for his own twisted reasons."

Danny chuckled a bit at that before grabbing Valerie's hand, holding it tightly. "I think...I think everything will be okay, as long as you're there to help me, Valerie."

Valerie's smile only widened. She could only hope that Danny was right. Her physical wounds would heal in time, and so would Danny's emotional ones, as long as she was there to help him.