Never Good Enough

Author's Notes: I'm going to attempt to write both this and Eternal at the same time. (By the way, someone review that!) Who thinks this is going to spell disaster?

This is the prequel to Cold As Ice. Lucky for anyone who hasn't read that, you don't need to have read it to know what goes on here. It takes place about, say, a month after Ultimate Enemy. Let's pretend new episodes haven't happened yet, shall we?

Disclaimer: Don't own anything about this story other than the main ghost here… everything else belongs to Butch Hartman, Nickelodeon, etc.

Open Doors

The day had finally come.

It had taken nearly ten months of having to bear through this torture, but the end was at last in sight.

Were those angels singing hymns from heaven above?

The bell had rung, the doors were open, and he was absolutely positively free from one burden on his shoulders for the next three months.

Grinning broadly, he leapt from his desk, dragged the girl sitting next to him out into the hallway. In his ecstasy he grabbed her other hand and did a sort of dance, spinning her around and laughing. It was difficult to do in the thick crowds leaving their classrooms, but he had somehow managed to drag her into a tango. Her eyes were soup bowls as she found herself trapped in his delight, unable to break away from the routine.

"Summer!" he cried, letting go of her hands and doing another spin before settling himself. No one had taken heed of his behavior because, for the most part, the rest of the world was feeling like doing the same thing.

"Danny, please, cut it out," Sam said, even though she was laughing all the same. She ran a hand through the hair Danny's little number had tangled.

Finally still, Danny shot her a grin and said, "Easy for you to say. You didn't narrowly escape another month of summer school with Lancer, did you?"

An arm was thrown over his shoulder from behind him and the third member of the trio suddenly appeared in his peripheral vision. His other arm was around Sam's shoulders so that the two were supporting him. He didn't look nearly as lively as Danny did.

"You okay?" asked Sam, raising a concerned brow.

"No," he mumbled despairingly.

Danny shrugged off his arm indignantly. "Tucker, I'm happy. You're throwing off my happiness. It's now, officially, summer, and you're sulking. Why?"

He said something beneath his breath incoherently, his eyes downcast, but three letters were distinctly heard among his otherwise unintelligible talk.

Sam grabbed Tuckers arm and pulled it from her neck, pushing him (gently) against the lockers. "Our what come today?" Sam asked aggressively, her eyes wide in shock.

"C.A.T. scores," he yelped, shrinking beneath the fifteen-year-old girl's murderous stare.

Danny's mouth dropped. Why hadn't any of the teachers told him this? Why? He was going to walk into his house and an empty envelope would be in his father's hand and his mother and Jazz would be standing behind him. Most likely angry.

"What are you complaining about?" Danny asked bewildered. "You got to study! You got to take it on time! I had to fight my future self and that whole extra week I got was spent with, big surprise, ghost hunting! There is no way I made a decent grade on that."

Sam released Tucker from her grasp and turned to Danny. He had a point. Both her and Tucker had much more time to study. Though she was freaked out beyond all known reason, she was pretty sure she didn't do too badly. Even with her and Tucker's help with him studying that week, there was no denying that he didn't get the full opportunities that he would've had without ghost hunting.

"Look, both of you," she sighed, "don't sweat it. I'm sure both of you won't do as badly as Third Degree Burns did, so don't go all psycho on me worrying about the grades."

Danny and Tucker exchanged a quick look. Then both of them proceeded to scream, all traces of puberty leaving their voices. Sam slapped her forehead with her palm. Grabbing both of them by their wrists, she pulled them towards the doors leaving the school and around to the side. In disgust she threw their hands away and rolled her eyes. "Stop it already!" she snapped, shaking Tucker's already vibrating body.

Danny took a deep breath and calmed down sooner than Tucker did. "I'm okay," he concluded.

"Good," said Sam. "I was beginning to miss your dancing."

This, out of the rest of Sam's begging for him to calm down, caught his attention. "Dancing?"

Danny blushed and rubbed the back of his neck, a reflex he did when he was embarrassed. "Got a little excited about summer," he said, shouting out the last word.

"From the way you're yelling," said a voice from behind him, "I'd have to say so."

All three heads turned to the source of the new voice. There, smirking at the tousle-haired teen was Valerie, gripping her backpack and leaning to one side. Sam's expression immediately hardened.

"Oh, hi Val," Danny replied, relaxing. "Ready for summer?"

Valerie laughed, "Heck yeah. This gives me so much more free time for my… you know, my job."

Sam and Tucker glared and Danny gulped. "Yeah," he said, "free time. Hey, did you know that we're getting our test scores back today?"

The smile on her face immediately fell and shattered on the floor. "The C.A.T.?" She suddenly appeared right in front of Danny, gripping his shoulders. "How do you know? Who told you? Today? Oh, my God, I so failed that!"

Danny jumped back, his personal space feeling invaded, and pointed to Tucker. "Don't know who told him, but he knew!"

She shrieked and moved on to her new prey. "How on earth did you find this out? It was a secret!"

Frightened by being once again held hostage by a crazed female with no attraction to him, he fumbled for his PDA and held it up. "I hacked into the school system," he explained. "They sent them out two days ago."

She yelled again and gripped her hair, repeating "Oh my God" over and over again to the point of annoyance.

Danny put a hand on her shoulder, holding her still, and said loudly, "Valerie, breathe!"

She inhaled deeply, holding it in for a moment before relaxing. "Whoa," she said. "I'm sorry. I spazzed. I didn't have much time to study."

"Neither did I," Danny said. Jeez, was that what he looked like to Sam when he fell into shock?

"Besides," Sam added, stepping in to their conversation, "like I told Danny, I'm sure you didn't do badly. It's not like either of you are untalented idiots or something."

Danny stared at Sam for a moment, his brain becoming fuzzy. Was it just him or did she just give Valerie words of comfort? Valerie seemed thrown off by the gesture as well, but she recovered relatively faster than he did. "Uh, thanks," she said plainly.

An awkward silence stretched around them until a shy cough escaped from Tucker's mouth. "While I'm scared beyond all reason, don't you think we should get home before our parents have even more time to think about our punishment?" The other three nodded eagerly and Valerie took off running around the corner as though she were going to sprint home. Her house was in the other direction.

Turning back to the other two, Danny winked and held out his hands. Tucker and Sam obediently placed their hands in his and felt the familiar feeling of weightlessness overcome them as they became invisible.

"Fly like the wind, Danny," said Sam as they took to the air.

The white envelope that held his destiny inside was shaking violently in front of Danny's eyes. Were its contents that utterly horrifying that it thrashed about, waiting to be opened and spell his doom out for him?

Oh, wait. Those were his hands.

Danny shook his head and pushed the envelope into Sam's hands. "I can't. You do it. Or burn it, whichever one works."

Sam grabbed Danny's wrist and put it back in his hand. "It's not going to be bad, Danny. If it is, blame me and Tucker for not tutoring you well."

"Hey!" said Tucker indignantly, taking that moment to come out of his shocked trance.

From behind the three they heard an impatient sigh. "Hurry up, Danny. It's not going to get any better the longer you wait, you know."

"Shut up, Jazz," he said. He took a deep breath. "Okay. On the count of three we open them, alright?" The others nodded, Sam biting her lip nervously, Tucker holding back whimpers.



Without waiting for the next number, they ripped into the envelopes and pulled out the forms within. Their eyes scanned over the paper until their eyes landed on the red number in the bottom corner.

"Above average?" Danny whispered, scrutinizing the scale next to the grade; eight hundred and twenty-one points versus the 798 average. The highest he could get was a one thousand fifty.

A hand reached from over his shoulder and snatched the paper from his hands. He spun around to see Jazz staring at the number. "Oh my gosh, Danny!" she squealed, throwing her arms around him. "You did it!"

"He did?" Tucker asked, swapping his paper with Danny's. Danny pinpointed Tucker's eight hundred and eighty-four. Craning his neck to see Sam's, he saw her eight hundred and sixty-seven.

Sam looked over to Danny's grade and smiled broadly. After Jazz released the already blushing Danny, she wrapped him in an embrace. "Awesome job! I told you, you could do it."

Danny grinned crookedly. "Not like I didn't have loads of help from you. You got a better grade, anyway. Kudos, Sam."

"Thanks." She let go and looked him square in the eye, completely serious. "You're future's open now, Danny. Wide open. You definitely deserve this break."

"I'll go tell Mom and Dad," chimed Jazz, still grinning in pride. She left the room, leaving the three soon-to-be sophomores alone in Danny's bedroom.

It was all very nearly complete now.

He had several powerful soldiers at his beckoned call. His powers, combined with the ecto-suit the Fentons (or, more than likely, Madeline) had designed, were advanced beyond measure. All of his chess pieces were in the right formation.

Except one. And that made Vlad Masters very unhappy.

The single pawn he required to defend the rest of the pieces was simply not yet fully available to him. It served his use, yes, but not its full potential. Despite his expectations of the young half-breed, Daniel was evolving at a quicker rate than he ever had.

Not as if Vlad actually considered him a threat. He had certainly not reached that level of maturity in his ghost powers yet, but after a year he seemed to have achieved much. Besides, it wasn't at a much faster rate. The child still couldn't pull off a replication. No, the apprehension he felt when considering Daniel was more towards the future… and if he moved in his places, would he stay there? These questions disgruntled him, but the fact remained that all Vlad had to do was take the correct steps at the precise moments, his apprentice would fall into step and remain there willingly.

Fortunately, a precise moment had arrived.

From his sources, otherwise known as the ghost vultures, he had learned that his apprentice-to-be was in a right mental state. How? Why? He had no idea. Something apparently had happened that only Daniel seemed to know the details of. As much as he would like to know exactly what had taken place, it wasn't the main point. He was unstable. It was perfection.

All he had to do now was choose the right way to persuade the pawn.

A green vapor-like substance escaped from the widening crack between the portal doors. Standing in his spectral form, Vlad smiled congenially at the figure stepping, or rather, floating from the hazy world beyond.

"Hello, Cyrus," he said cheerily. "Ready for you orders?"

Author's Note: Please, please review. If you liked it, if you disliked it, if I messed something up…inform me through a review. Also, if this is your first time reading my work: go visit Eternal or Cold As Ice. Much appreciated. I'll be writing the next Eternal now!

Saramis Kismet