Disclaimer: If you think I own this show, I think you need a visit from Spectra.

Chapter 1: Danny's Luck Runs Out

Danny Fenton was looking like an everyday teenager nowadays. Ever since his parents and friends had almost died in the Nasty Burger explosion, he smiled a little more. The jocks still picked on him, but he never retaliated, and eventually they moved onto the new incoming freshmen. His grades even went up-not a whole lot, but enough to satisfy his sister and their teacher. All in all, it looked like Danny Fenton was finally coming into his own and adjusting to his double life.

Danny Fenton was a world class liar.

Nobody saw the bags under his eyes, the slowness with which he moved. His hands often shook with weariness, but he covered it up with hand gestures. Tucker knew something was off, but spending more and more time with Valerie had caused him to miss many things. He tried to be around as much, but things had changed and they all knew it. Sam saw though. She saw everything that happened. When it was only her around, he let the facade drop and she saw him as he truly looked.

The ghosts were getting more numerous. There were at least ten a day now, and there seemed to be no end to it. He almost never slept, spending most of his nights studying or doing homework. He said the ghost kept him too busy to fall asleep, but she knew better. There was something else bothering him, something he wasn't talking about. His sister didn't have a better clue, as he was pleasant around the house as well. His parents were utterly clueless, more focused on their latest projects than on their children.

Sam had some inkling, more so than Jazz because she went with him fighting. There was a second-every time a new fight came up-that he hesitated. A brief pause before he transformed, almost unnoticeable to the naked eye. He never shouted "Going Ghost" anymore, and he left his ghost form as quickly as possible. There were no random flights, no phasing through everyday obstacles, no extra use of his powers at all. It was such a change from before they went to the future that she was very worried.

"Before they went to the future." Strange that she could even think that and not check herself into a loony bin. But it was true, they had traveled into the future-or rather a future, where Danny was an evil ghost that tried to destroy Amity Park and they were all dead. It still seemed so unreal, but they had escaped back to their own time and all had been better. At least, that was what they all thought.

Sam wasn't so sure. Sure he laughed when they mention the things they saw, but when he though no one was looking his eyes turned dull. When he looked at them, his eyes filled with many things, including something that looked like guilt. She had a feeling that Danny had experienced something more than they had, and it had scarred him deeply. She only hoped that he would let her help.

Danny leaned his head against the locker while Sam looked on with some worry. The past two days had been better, she knew. There had been a total of three ghosts to fight, and he actually slept for a few hours between the two nights. She didn't know what exactly had turned his luck around, but she was very grateful for it. Of course now there were other issues.

"I feel heavy Sam, like I was lifting weights all day. My whole body aches, like one big tooth. And I'm pretty sure these pants were longer yesterday." Sam tried not to snicker at the outrage in his voice. He had grown a few inches since Monday, although she had been loathe to point it out to him. "I really appreciate getting time to sleep, but the silence is making me nervous. I go from an average of a ghost every two hours to one a day? It just screams 'plot' to me." He slammed his hand into the locker and turned to walk away. Sam hurried after him, trying not to worry that there was a very large dent in his locker now.

"Well Danny, we could always go looking for information. The Box Ghost is usually pretty easy to crack." He spun her around, meeting her eyes with a crazed expression.

"Don't ever say that, Sam. We can't stoop to their level or we're just as bad as them. Do you understand?" His fingers were tight around her shoulders, almost to the point of pain. He looked so wild that she decided to approach this calmly.

"Danny, you're hurting me." He let her go staring as if she were something that had burned him. The look of horror in his eyes had her opening her mouth to reassure him, but she was interrupted.

"Fenton! I was looking for you. These new boys aren't nearly as much fun. Let's talk." Dash Baxter, bully extraordinaire, strode down the hall with a malevolent look on his face, only to stop when Danny turned to face him.

"NOT NOW DASH!" The football player fell onto his butt, pushed back by the power that emanated from his target. He scramble to his feet and fled, fearing that which had changed from hunted to hunter. Danny, meanwhile, had covered his mouth with a groan.

"I've tried so hard to repress that." He saw the question she wanted to ask, and gently grabbed hr arm. "Come on, let go get a drink." She didn't say anything until they had left the building.

"You know there's still one class left for the day. I don't mind skipping if it's really important, but we should leave a message for Tucker." He sighed before pulling out the patented "Fenton Messenger" his parents had gifted him with when his grades started improving. He typed out a note to Tucker, telling him that they had to go somewhere and they would meet back up at his house. He checked the ghost radar that came standard just in case. Nothing.

Where exactly are we going Danny? You seem to be heading to the Nasty Burger, but it's not going to be open for another two weeks." He didn't speak for a second, but responded when they were a good distance from the school.

"They're keeping a vending machine there, hoping that people will still come around so they don't get used to not going there. Something about traffic flow continuation." He paused outside of the machines, digging in his pocket for the money to get one water and a coke. They sat at the provided benches, sipping slowly while she waited for him to build up the nerve to speak.

"Do you remember that attack I used in the future? The one that broke everything?" She thought back, going through the memories she was avoiding about the person that did all of those things.

"I remember it alright, but that wasn't you Danny. That was some dark and twisted monster, something you could never become." He pinned her with a look that told her he wasn't convinced.

"He called it the Ghostly Wail, and I almost used it on Dash just now. I've been avoiding using against the ghosts, mostly because it takes way too much energy." He looked down at his drink, swirling it in its bottle before he continued. "There's something I never told you guys. You remember when I came back in front of the Nasty Burger, right after you guys did?" She nodded, bit sure what he was getting at. "That wasn't me. I was floating in the ghost zone ten years into the future."

"Then who...oh my god."

"That's right. He came back instead of me, and he cheated on the CATs in my place. Then he took you all and trapped at the Nasty Burger, waiting for the big explosion that would change my life for the worse." She was shocked, and tried to protest.

"But that's not what happened Danny! You turned in the test answers and Lancer let you retest. We weren't kidnapped at all." He gave her a sad smile, even patting her on the hand before he started again.

"I finally escaped back here, and I met up with him. He had revealed my identity to everyone, and then we fought. I was losing, and then I used the Ghostly Wail on him. H wasn't expecting that Sam, because it took him ten years to learn it. I sucked him into the Thermos, but I had forgotten something." He shuddered with dread, and Sam felt a shiver run down her spine. "I had used up so much energy, I was too tired to get back to Nasty Burger in time. I tripped on a rock and watched as you were all blown up by the overheated sauce. That was the worst moment of my life. I had failed to save you, and to top it off, I was the one to put you there. I know, I know," he said, putting his hands up "it wasn't me me, but some part of me still existed in him, and it made everything that much worse." He finished his soda and crushed the bottle, tossing it into the recycling bin by the machines.

"But we're here Danny. Nothing bad happened to us and everything turned out alright in the end."

"It wasn't me. I didn't save anyone. Clockwork stopped time to rescue you all, though only he really knows why. I was glad though, because at least if I was so weak, someone could look out for you."

"You're not weak Danny! You managed to beat him, even though he had the advantage of experience and growth. Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you're a failure." He sighed, standing up and offering her a hand.

"After that, he rewound time to the CAT's. He said that I deserved a second chance after all I had been through." He smiled at her, but it didn't reach his eyes, just like almost all of his smiles now.

"There's something else, isn't there. That's not the only thing that keeps you up at night." He looked at his sneakers as they walked, now headed towards his house. It was about the time school let out anyway, so with luck no one would notice he had skipped.

"I'm scared Sam. Scared of what that future said about me."

"You're not evil Danny! I don't know what happened to that other Danny to make him turn out that way, but I refuse to believe that you would be like that."

"I know exactly how he came about, and you're halfway right. It was a strange, complicated set of circumstances that we managed to avoid this time around. Here's the part that worries me though: no matter how different we were, I could almost understand the decisions he made. They made sense in a way that scares me to the bone. How do I know I won't make similar decisions some day? I still have you guys, and that'll probably help, but what if it's not enough?" Sam stopped him from walking to give him a hug.

"No matter what Danny, I'll never let you make those decisions." They stood like that for a couple of minutes until they began to feel uncomfortable. When they separated, they were both a bright red.

"Thanks a lot Sam." He might have said more, but a blue mist escaped from his mouth. "Dammit! There goes my ghost break!" A group of ghost snakes materialized around him with a flash. Danny raised his hands, ready to go ghost, but he was interrupted by the call of someone else.

"Beware my wrath, for you have forfeited the right to peace!" Danny groaned and then turned pink as the box ghost came into view. He turned to Sam and saw her blinking.

"Is it me or is he actually...smaller?" He looked over to where the box ghost was floating and nodded with some shock. The box ghost was slimmer, and his overalls seemed brighter. While they were looking, the snakes started talking in their hissing language.

"You know the order of the zone. He must be destroyed before the claim cements." The box ghost stared at them before responding.

"He will take his proper place weaklings. Pariah will fall and the new lord will rise. No one will stop the ascension!" He launched himself at the five ghosts, throwing kicks and punches with skill and power he had never shown before. In short order he had them trapped in a box the he created from ecto-plasmic energy. "This is the fate of those that stand in the way of the new order." The box shrank until it squeezed out of existence, taking them with it. There was a moment of silence after they were gone, with Danny and Sam not sure if they would have to fight or not. The matter was settled by the ghost, who bowed deeply to Danny and faded from sight.

"What was that all about?"

"Sam, I don't even want to try figuring that out right now. Let's just get home and worry about it later."

"Mom, it's really okay. I'll be fine going to and from school so I don't really need to wear a Specter Deflector." Sam watched with both amusement and concern as Danny fended off the offered item without touching it. It was funny to watch him coming up with excuses not to wear it, but at the same time she felt bad that he had to lie to her like that.

"Danny I'm only concerned for you. What with the recent increase in activity I think it would be better all around in you were protected whenever you left the house." She shook the belt at him with vigor and he grinned at her, though it was a little wan. He really wanted to turn it down, but her face was so full of concern he couldn't hurt her like that.

"Fine, but I'm not wearing it inside the house." He made sure it was off (it always buzzed to his senses when it was on) and took it. The smile that came over his mothers face was almost worth it to.

"Just put it on really quickly so I can make sure it fits right. I don't want it coming off when you meet some ghosts." Danny threw Sam a nervous glance before slipping the belt on with a flinch. His mother fixed it around his waist, tightening some screws and bolt before stepping back. "There! Now no ghost is getting my son. Now make sure you have that on when you leave everyday and you'll be perfectly safe."

"Maddie! Did you get him to wear it?" Danny's father stomped into the room, closely followed by his sister. Jazz glanced to the belt around his waist and her eyes shot to his. He gave her a small nod to let her know he was okay.

"Yeah dad. See, it fits well and everything." He put his hand to the latch, intent on taking the belt off before his luck came into play.

"Danny you forgot to turn it on." A large hand reaches down to his waist and he wasn't quick enough to stop the tiniest press of the button.