A/N: Thanks to all who reviewed, more comments at the end! Enjoy!
Ashes to Ashes
It had been a long ten months for Danny Fenton…nearly a year but not quite there…ten months. Ten months since he made, what he now considered in retrospect, an idiotic decision that probably couldn't be helped…something that he didn't want to do but knew he had to. Ten months since he had done something that made him disgusted with whom he was, and mirrored him too closely with a man he despised. Ten months since he had fully realized how chaotic and messy his life was always going to be…ten months since he gave those he cared about a choice to leave it behind.
Okay, so really it had been a long year but he didn't like to count those previous three months all that much…he wanted to just move on and not think about those times.
He wasn't depressed, he knew that and could say it truthfully, but that didn't necessarily mean he had come to terms with what he and Jazz went through a year before. He was healing…and for now that was enough for him and his family. So was Jazz…better than most expected, considering her ordeals, and was even planning on returning to school in New York with Mikey come next August. Danny had to admit, despite the annoying and over-bearing streak he had because of his brother instincts, that Mikey was a good guy for his sister. He had not stayed in Amity Park, both he and Jazz knew he had to return to school, but he visited at least twice a month and always brought her cheesecake that she claimed to adore. Whether it was because of the cheesecake or him, Danny knew that Jazz was falling in love with this man…and he was happy for her.
Danny and his sister attended counseling sessions with someone who specialized in post traumatic stress victims, and this heralded the aforementioned healing for both Fenton siblings and Fenton parents. Jazz seemed to come to terms easily that none of what happened was her fault…because she knew it wasn't. Danny…well, needless to say he hadn't been as fortunate. He knew that everything that happened was because of Vlad Master's attempts to destroy his mind, everything from Mance Riley to attacking Amity Park and killing innocent people, and he had a very hard time coming to terms with his guilt. It had been hard…and it still was, but somewhere during those sessions he had started to believe what everyone had been telling him. It wasn't all the way fixed yet, and neither was he, but he thought that it would happen eventually…he just needed a bit more time.
Valerie ended up recovering completely from her injuries that Vlad's attack had caused, and she was back to ghost hunting in no time. She had really been Danny's rock for the past ten months…she had stayed in Amity Park to attend the local university like she had planned on doing from the start. The only difference was that she made frequent visits to California to visit one Tucker Foley, who was attending Caltech due to his prowess at technology. Danny was happy for his best friend, even if he missed him terribly, and was always happy when the bespectacled young man came back home to visit that previous Christmas. Those two deserved the happiness they had found…Danny wasn't the least bit jealous of them.
Nope…not at all.
Speaking of ghost attacks, there had been hardly any over the past year, other than that one night where Vlad led a virtual army against the small Illinois town of Amity Park. Danny had a sinking suspicion that the Season spirits, along with Clockwork, had something to do with that…or maybe it was something else that he didn't understand yet. All he knew was that things had certainly changed…it wasn't everyday you went to attack a ghost and was dumbfounded as said ghost bowed at him before disappearing. Every time he tried to ask Messis or Aestas what was going on though, they'd shrug at him and only say that the Ghost Zone was quiet…which was one of the worst lies he ever heard. If there was on thing the Ghost Zone was, it certainly wasn't quiet.
He didn't press though; he had other things to focus on besides the Ghost Zone…like college and trying to maintain his grades while dealing with his "issues" and superhero side gig. Luckily, his parents knowing about his secret ended up being a great help the past school year, and once they had a very long, obligatory, talk about what happened and what he could, they would always offer him help whenever ghost hunting and homework was concerned. It felt nice that they knew, after so long of trying to keep his secret a secret…and he found out that he had been worried for nothing. Well, almost nothing…his parents were still to damn nosy and scientific for his liking.
But, the past was past, and he had another summer ahead of him…he only hoped it was marginally better than the last. Really, there was no where to go but up as compared to the last summer. He had turned nineteen and his parents had finally allowed him to buy a new car…not that there was anything wrong with his old one, but it was a little beat up. Going through a ghost related accident will do that to any car. It was still a truck…just a little newer and blue instead of cream. Tucker had returned for the summer, to a very enthusiastic Valerie and was talking about transferring to a Tech school closer to home. He claimed he didn't like California as much as he thought he would, but Danny knew it was because of a certain chocolate-eyed huntress. Nope…he still wasn't jealous of them.
Mikey was planning a trip for him and Jazz to go see his parents in July…Jazz was doing her best to weave some sort of valid story to tell his parents about what her and Danny's parents did. Jack and Maddie had reinstated themselves back into their kids' lives, and no one had heard mention of Vlad Masters beyond what they might hear in a business report on the news. All in all, things were returning to normal…everything but one.
And that's where we find Danny Fenton, renowned hero Danny Phantom; now…staring off into nothing behind the health food store's counter, in the red "Jerrio's Health and Aid Market" apron, thinking about the stupid decision that he had to make ten months ago. Everything was coming back to normal…everything but the fact that he hadn't seen Sam Manson in all that time and had spoken with her a total of three times since she went off to NYU last August. He really was an idiot…but whining about it couldn't help anyone, so he kept it to himself.
It probably was the best decision given the situation, but that didn't make it the right one. He knew that he wasn't at a place where she could help him ten months ago, he did, but he still felt now as if he ad given up, thrown in the towel, without even trying. He knew that the strain on the relationship, from both the distance and Danny's inner turmoil and guilt about what happened, could very well have torn them apart…but that didn't mean he had to do it and save time the hassle. He knew that he owed it to Sam, the person who would be most affected by his hectic and dangerous life, to give her a choice if she wanted to take it or not…but that didn't stop him from wishing with every fiber in his being that she would chose to stay, despite his mood swings and angsty attitude.
She hadn't been angry with him, she let him have the space he told her he needed and she always had that understanding tone to her voice the few times they talked. He almost wished she had been angry with him…he certainly deserved it. Valerie had told him, on more than one occasion that it was him who needed to decide what it was he wanted…that Sam had already done so and was just waiting for him. Tucker called him a moron in a half teasing, half serious manner, and his sister just left him alone…for once knowing that any talk on the subject would drive his patience out the window. Everyone told him the same thing, just worded different, and he hated what it translated to…because they were right.
Clean up your own mess…it's the only way to fix what can't be taken back.
Problem was, Danny had no idea to begin doing that…he had no idea period. So, here he stood at work, staring off into space and generally being morose as he pondered how to fix the situation between him and the one person he loved since before he even knew what love really was. His coworkers didn't say anything to him…they knew nothing they had to say hadn't been said anyway, but the ornery store manager wasn't of the same opinion. Frank Jerrio narrowed his grey eyes at the sullen youth, a youth who had been through the mill the past year, and stood behind him, waiting for his presence to be known. However, whatever daydream ensnared the black haired youth was quite strong, so he decided to use a more direct approach.
With a slight clearing of his throat, Mr. Jerrio tapped the despondent young man on the shoulder and grinned wilily as he startled the young man back into the present. "I see that whatever you were thinking about is more important than work," he began with an arched eyebrow above his knowing grin…a grin that unnerved many a new employee. "So, how about we break open the gingko biloba and talk it over, man to man!"
"Aw…no thanks Mr. Jerrio," Danny answered with a wary smile that had absolutely no warmth behind it…it was just a mechanic reaction. "I'm sorry…I'll focus better from no--"
"Why? There's no one in here?" Jerrio responded with a hand wave across the empty store to emphasize his point. With a dexterity not expected in a sixty year old man, Jerrio hopped up onto the counter Danny was standing in front of and fixed the young man with a beady glare. "Now…how about you tell old Jerrio what's going on in that head of yours?"
"Well…" Danny began with a nervous breath, his hands wringing his apron as he backed away from the counter and glanced at his manager. "It's kind of hard to explain…"
"Let me guess, you messed up in a big way, probably with a girl, and now you're trying to figure out how to fix it?"
"What…yes!" Danny exclaimed with wide blue eyes, wonder at how the old man seemed to read his mind. And, as if sensing the unspoken question, he answered with an exasperated look only a sixty year old store manager can pull off.
"I'm old kid, not stupid. I was your age once to, you know."
"Then, do you know what I can do?" Danny asked with a hopeful look at seemed to brighten his entire face. Some people were just like that…so expressive that one smile could light up an entire room and one frown could bring it down. Luckily, the frown was gone for the moment, but the smile was still missing…he just hoped his little "intervention" would work out as planned.
"Well…it's different for every girl, kid," Jerrio said with upturned hands and a small frown as the slightly hopeful look on Danny's face deflate. "I guess the best thing to do s just talk with her…it'll work itself out in the end." Danny gave him a look that belied his statement but kept silent as his manager fixed him with a glare. "Tell you what kid, we've got enough coverage for the night…my and Jose can handle it well enough on our own, so why don't you pack up and head home. Give you some time to think a way out of this pickle you've gotten yourself into."
"But, Mr. Jerrio…" Danny began, not feeling great about just leaving an hour early because he was having some relationship (if you could call it that) issues.
"Nope, I don't want to hear another word outta yous until you've figured out a way to make things better between you and your girl. Now scat! Go on, get!" And for the second time in his life, Danny found himself almost literally tossed out of his work, his apron still on and his wallet and keys in hand. That old man certainly could throw when he wanted to.
Danny didn't really think as he drove back home…he preferred to concentrate on the road and not end up in another accident, ghost related or not. He did think about how seemingly useless all his moping around was though…too bad that alone did not seem to snap him out of it. He pulled up into his driveway, careful to leave plenty of room for his parents' RV, should they decide to tear out of the garage and barrel down the street after a rogue ghost, and locked his door behind him, tearing off the apron as he walked into the house. The porch light was on, which meant someone was home, and the front door was unlocked…that was strange though because his parents had been a little paranoid about home security ever since Riley…with good reason mind you, but paranoid nonetheless. He shrugged it off though and walked into the lightened house, calling to whoever was home that he was home…no response greeted him though.
Now, this is when Danny started to become confused because he knew that someone ought to be home…if not then he was seriously fearing for his computer's safety. He called out again as he walked into the front room and then back into the kitchen, a room that was lit. He looked around and found a post-it note taped to the refrigerator…it was from his mom and it said that she, Jazz, and the boys were going out to dinner…why the hell was the door unlocked then?
His attention pulled away from the note and to the figure standing in his backyard, just outside the screen door. He immediately felt an ecto ball of energy form in his left hand and he cautiously opened the door to the outside, peering at the stranger with a strange look of anger and curiosity. Why was he curious over a burglar? Maybe because he didn't feel like there was anything to fear from this person. "Hey!" he shouted in an angry tone at the clearer figure. "Who the hell are you and what are you…"
He felt himself trail off and the ball of energy faded into nothingness in his hand as the figure, most definitely a girl figure, turned around and smirked at him in a gentle teasing manner. The hair was shorter than before, almost a pixie style and curling under her ears, but there was no mistaking those purple eyes anywhere…she was finally home.
"Sam?" he asked quietly as she walked towards him, stopping only a foot or two away from him. Yes, it most definitely was her…that playful smirk outlined in a light purple gloss, her violet eyes aglitter with something he thought he'd lost for sure in his ignorance, her black shirt and jeans a stark contrast against her ivory skin. He cheered inwardly that college had not managed to change his Sam…but then he remembered that she wasn't really his anymore.
"Hey, Danny," she replied in her lilting voice…she was hypnotic to listen to sometimes. "How've you been…summer all right so far?"
She was engaging in small talk…bless this girl! "Fine…it's been fine. You?" he replies with a half grin…an attempt at normalcy between them. He feels awkward as hell, but she doesn't seem to be affected. It was then that Danny noticed that she was still wearing that pendant he gave her for her birthday last year…that little amethyst gem that was both a curse and a blessing.
"I've been good," she replied with a small smile…Lord this was weird. Danny didn't know how to respond to this so he nodded instead…lucky for him she spoke up again and took away the creeping awkwardness. Kind of. "Danny…we really need to talk."
"About what?" he asked while mentally kicking himself…he knew damn well what she was talking about.
"You gave me a sort of ultimatum last August, Danny…and I told you that I'd let you because I thought you needed it. Well, you don't need to be alone anymore, and I know what my answer is…I always have. The question remains is if you know your answer yet. So, do you, Danny Fenton, know what it is you want, or are you going to keep ignoring me and pretend like it doesn't hurt to be apart?" Damn it…he forgot how direct and blunt she was. Well, he didn't forget, he just got accustomed to not dealing with it. Now he was just blathering on in his head to keep from answering her own ultimatum…just fantastic.
"Sam, I…" he didn't know how to word it. Nothing he said was going to make himself feel any better about hurting her because of his "hero gene." He fumbled for words for a few more moments, praying for some sort of inspiration to streak down and hit him in the face…it didn't quite happen that way though. Instead, he felt two very soft lips press gently against his own and then pull away, leaving him to stare into those violet eyes. "I'm so sorry…"
It was lame, but he hoped she would get it.
She did…probably because of that pendant of hers. Her arms wrapped around his neck and he clutched onto her as if she were his life support, as if she could disappear if he let go. She was whispering in his ear, little nothings that pretty much summed up to, "you are such an idiot sometimes," and "I already forgave you Danny…just let the guilt go already." It still wasn't okay yet, and probably wouldn't be for some time. He was still having issues with contact and he knew that she probably was a bit annoyed with him underneath her calm exterior.
No, it wasn't okay yet…but it was a start. And they'd both start together this time, like they should have in the first place.
Denea really hated living in her clan sometimes. She never wished for a normal life, because she had seen normal before and hadn't cared for it too much, but she did wish that life was different somehow. Everything seemed to have rules, even using simple magic, and it wasn't fair that she couldn't use hers when she wanted too…all the adults seemed to do it, why couldn't she? She heaved a heavy sigh and sat down, ungainly, next to an old, forgotten Seeing Pool that was rusted with age and overgrown with plants. Sometimes she just wished for a friend to confide all her complaints and frustrations in, someone who wouldn't look down at her because her magic wasn't as strong as the others.
She ran a pale hand through her dull blonde locks and narrowed her scowling brown eyes at the thought of everyone who treated her like a child…she wasn't one! She turned fifteen that May for the Creator's sake! But did anyone give her the time of day, or listen to her suggestions? No! She got up and pounded an angry fist into the calm, inky waters of the Pool, splashing the water on the ground and on her clothes. She took a few steadying breaths before turning away and starting back towards home…she didn't want to miss dinner because of everyone else's problems getting to her. She took an angry step forward, only to stop and turn around suddenly as an eerie green light flooded the clearing. She turned around and slowly walked back to the Pool and gasped at what she saw reflected in the black waters.
It was a beautiful field of glowing flowers, marred only by a singular stone tower in the center, and standing in the flowers, smiling benignly up at Denea, was the most beautiful maiden she'd ever seen. Her white hair was flowing about her, weightless, so pure that the young girl thought it would put freshly dropped snow to shame. She had a flawless figure and her skin color glowed in a soft pearlescent light, reflecting off the short, white dress she was wearing. The dress was the only thing about her that looked less than perfect…it was torn in several places and smudged with a substance not identifiable in others. It was the eyes that really pulled Denea in though…a clear, ocean blue with no trace of white or pupil…just the cerulean blue all throughout.
"Bloodline," she spoke softly in a melodious voice that sounded like water running in a gentle stream, her eyes smiling at the confused girl. "What is your name?"
"D-Denea…my Lady," the girl answered with a shy smile…she felt as if she could trust this beautiful girl in the water unconditionally. "How did you know I was a Bloodline?"
"I know many things child," she answered with a laugh, showing perfectly straight and white teeth. "Like I know how lonely and misunderstood you are…a powerful soul that no one will listen to." Her eyes filled with such compassion as she stared up into the girls' face, who could only nod at the statement. "You poor thing…if you wish it, I could listen to you…I can even teach you a many things as well…"
"Really child. I know you are in need of a friend, and I wish to have one as well. So, will you Denea of the Bloodlines? I have been so alone for so long…"
"Of course!" Denea answered with a smile as the girl's face lit up with such joy that she seemed all the more beautiful. "I can come back tomorrow after classes…is that okay?"
"It is splendid, Denea!"
The blonde smiled softly and turned to go with a soft goodbye and a promise to return on the morrow. She paused for a brief moment and turned her head back around and looked back down at her new friend. "I almost forgot…what is your name, friend?"
The girl merely smiled and answered, "My name was forgotten long ago…but you may call me it. My name is Vani…" Denea smiled and wished her new friend, Vani, a good night and morning before flittering off into the forest back towards the village. The all blue eyes continued to stare up through the black water until it closed completely, leaving her to stare at the green sky of the Dead World with that same gentle smile on her face.
"You have a good night and morning as well, Denea. I look forward to playing with my new puppet on the morrow…"
A/N: I…finished. That doesn't happen often.
I want to say thank you to everyone who's been reading this story! You guys are seriously awesome! There are some particular people I feel compelled to mention however: First, thanks to Lacey52 for inspiring me with your wonderful fiction! I know that you've been too busy to read the conclusion of this story, but I'm still grateful for your input and hope you enjoyed the rest of this when you finish!
Second…Me the Anon One…oh my Nonny! Thank you for the never ending stream of compliments and advertising of my writing in your own! I'm so happy we met through this story and I'm happy to say that your friendship really helped me out on certain parts of this fic. Seriously, I really don't think I could have done this without you…Kael says hi to Michie and Errol!
Third, Norris Scott, because of all the intellectual discussion of characters and plotlines. You seriously helped me with my action sequences, and the admiration you have for my writing, especially coming from such an awesome writer like you, really is touching. I'm so happy I got to know you because of my fic and look forward to those talks again when we both have time eh?
And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank SilverstarsEbonyskies for being the reviewer who stuck with me since this story's inception! You've reviewed every chapter and gave me great advice with grammar…thank you so much for putting up with my long waits and confusing twists! You get the Top reviewer award and my thanks for sticking with me the whole way!
Everyone else…I can't describe how happy writing this story has made me! You guys are some of the best, and I'm so thankful you took the time to give this little ficlet that warped into an epic your time and compliments! I'd like to ask that everyone, even those who don't usually review, to drop me a review and tell me what you thought about the story…good, bad, the ugly! I would really love to know!
So…here ends book one of my Rebirth Arc, and it's not as perfect as it might have been, given another path. The story continues in book two of the Rebirth Arc, "Dust to Dust" where our heroes, and heroines, will come face to face with a being that makes them question the bounds of what is good and what is evil.
Thanks you all for your devotion and compliments again…I'll see you when I see you, and remember to always just keep on keeping on!