Danny looked at Madame LaRoache in shock. Was she kidding? What did she mean she didn't know who Indrajit was? Was she just playing dumb to protect the Jinn?
"I'm sorry," Danny said as he rubbed his face. "Something strange has been going on." He sighed heavily. He wasn't really talking Madame LaRoache. "I don't know what to do next."
The psychic picked up the deck of cards on the table and handed them to Danny. "I don't know if I can help you," she said. "But let me try."
Danny looked at the offered deck of cards. He knew what she wanted him to do. He took the deck, shuffled it then laid it in the middle of the table. Madame LaRoache looked at him for a moment then picked up the deck. She began laying down cards.
The psychic frowned as she surveyed the cards. She looked up at Danny and shook her head. "Help has faded. It has receded from your grasp. It is almost like you've been abandoned."
"That's kind of an understatement," Danny said. "Every time I think I have a solution to the problem, it seems that things change and I'm back to looking for another way out of this mess."
Madam LaRoche frowned at Danny. "There is only one person you can trust in this instance," she said gently.
"Who?" Danny asked wondering if she was going to give him the name some impossible to find creature. Her frown turned to a smile and she sat back and watched Danny for a moment, as if she was considering giving him the information he needed.
"Please," Danny said feeling almost desperate.
"Yourself," Madam LaRoache said. "Trust yourself."
Danny looked at Madam LaRoache incredulously. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked angrily. "Trust myself? That's how I can get out of this situation? That doesn't make sense!"
"It's all I can offer you," The psychic said. Danny stood. He walked out of the tent, without looking back and straight into The Ghost Zone. He quickly transformed, almost out of instinct into his ghostly form.
"Wait!" Danny said and turned around frantically and found himself suddenly facing a brick wall. He turned again and found he was boxed in. He growled as he formed a glowing ectoplasmic ball to give him illumination in the darkness.
He felt along the wall as he walked then stopped as he realized someone was standing beside him. He turned and came face to face with a mirror image of himself.
"Boo!" his duplicate said.
"Not you again!" Danny groaned and his duplicate laughed.
"Why am I in here again?" Danny asked in irritation. He wasn't in the mood to play games..
"You are assuming that you actually left the last time," his duplicate said happily.
Danny blinked at his doppelganger then looked around the small black room. He paused as he touched the wall. Had everything he experienced been an illusion?
"How long have I been here?" Danny asked worriedly.
"A few minutes, a few hours, a few days it's all the same," answered his twin. He was beginning to transform. First this eye color changed to a firey red. Then he grew tall and thin. His clothes changed to saffron robes. His head was bald and he wore a serene expression on his face.
"Indrajit?" Danny asked in shock.
The creature smiled the walked to the center of the room and sat cross legged on the floor. He looked at Danny expectantly. Danny gave him a look of irritation and sat down.
"Is this really you?" Danny asked. "Or is this another trick?"
"You have been here for quite some time," Indrajit said. "This is my form. It's no trick this time. I am merely a servant of she who put you here."
"Why am I here?" Danny asked. "Why did she do this to me?"
"Because it pleases her to do so," Indrajit answered.
Danny ran his hand through his hair. "So everything has been an illusion right?"
"Yes," Indrajit answered. "Presumably you have learned the lesson my mistress has decided to teach you. She is pleased."
"Wait," Danny said as he held up his hand. "Sam is still in surgery right now? Is she going to be all right?" His heart began beating so fast it felt like it was going to jump out of his throat. He tensed because he'd already been through so much he didn't think he could do it all again. He dropped his head in exhaustion and Indrajit reached forward to touch him. Danny jumped and moved away as if he'd been burned.
"I cannot insure the future," Indrajit said. "But I can promise that you're friend will be fine."
"When she lets me go," Danny said. "Will it be for real this time?"
Indrajit smiled and waved his hand and suddenly they were floating in the ether of The Ghost Zone. "If you have no further questions," The creature said. "You are free to go."
Danny growled at Indrajit in frustration then flew away as quickly as he could. There were a million curses on the tip of his tongue, but he held them back for fear he would be imprisoned and made to go through further torture.
Danny looked at the clock in the lab as he flew out of The Ghost Zone. It was five thirty. He flew up to his room and grabbed the blue instant messenger and read the message blinking in wait for him. It was from Sam's mother letting Danny and Tucker know that Sam had made it through surgery with flying colors. Danny sighed in relief and laid back on his bed.
Jazz stuck her head in Danny's room, saw him laying on the bed then entered. "Where have you been all afternoon?"
Danny opened one eye and looked at his sister. He smiled slightly then sat up. "I don't know if you're going to believe me," he answered. He stood and hugged his sister who gasped in surprise. Getting a hug from her brother had been like pulling teeth, usually it involved some sort of bribery.
"Is Sam okay?" Jazz asked worriedly.
"Yeah," Danny answered but didn't elaborate, much to Jazz's frustration.
"Danny," She said in irritation. "What's with you?" Danny smiled serenely and her expression changed to one of disbelief.
"I've changed," Danny told his sister. "Everything has changed. He began to tell Jazz the story of what happened in The Ghost Zone. How he was trapped by a ghost and then he thought he was released but it was all an illusion.
"It felt so real Jazz," Danny said. "But none of it was. I lived through the whole summer but it wasn't real."
"That's really bizarre," Jazz replied. "Are you okay? I mean it must have been very traumatic for you."
Danny took a deep breath. "I think I'm better than I've been in a long time Jazz," he answered. "The world looks different to me."
"I'm glad," Jazz said then looked at the messenger as it blinked to life. Danny's grin widened as he looked down and read the message.
"It's from Tucker," he told his sister. Jazz watched her brother for awhile as he talked back and forth with Tucker. He looked happier and more relaxed than he had in a long time. She smiled as she walked out of the room, wishing she could thank the mysterious ghost who helped her brother achieve such a peaceful state.
Danny stayed relaxed as time passed. He talked to Tucker and Sam daily, to Sam usually several times a day. Her recovery was quick and she was going to return sooner than expected. Danny was elated, things were definitely different than they were the first time around.
In the space between his experience with the ghost and Sam's return, he spent time with his mother, letting her teach him how to defend himself. He managed to avert several fights with Dash and he spent time with Valerie, as just friends. Of course he had fights with ghosts, but it wasn't bad. He knew he could deal with everything on his own with no problem.
He didn't tell Tucker or Sam what had happened. He decided it was a story he wanted to tell them face to face, especially Sam. He had a lot to say to Sam. He finally understood what normal was and accepted himself for who he was and now he only had one goal.
Sam's parents didn't want Sam to have company when she first came home, but that didn't stop Danny from stealing into her room late at night to watch her sleep. She looked beautiful, a little more rosy cheeked than he was used to seeing her, but she definitely didn't look fragile like she did in the reality the ghost had put him in.
It was on one of those visits that Sam woke up. She found Danny sitting on the edge of her bed with his back to her. It wasn't an uncommon event in their history as friends, to find him in her room after a bad ghost fight, needing comfort.
"Danny?" she asked as she sat up. "Are you all right?"
Danny turned in surprise. "Did I wake you?" he asked. "I'm so sorry."
"It's all right," Sam told him. "What are you doing here?"
Danny smiled. "I miss you," he said as he reached over and took her hand. "Should I leave?"
"No," Sam said quickly. "Despite what my mother thinks, I'm not going to go running around and doing too much just because you're here." She looked at her hand in Danny's and then back up at her friend.
"Are you okay?" she asked. "Has something happened?"
Danny nodded his head. "A lot has happened Sam. I didn't want to tell you until you got back and were well. I didn't want to upset or worry you, and well it's a really long story."
Sam braced herself. "You're dating Valerie now?" she asked. Danny could hear the tremble in her voice and he frowned.
"No," he answered and resisted the smile that tried to pop up on his face as she let out a breath of relief. He squeezed her hand again then started to detail the story, of his experience in The Ghost Zone, but before he reached the point in the story where he had kissed Sam, he walked over to her jewelry box and lifted the secret compartment.
"What are you doing?" Sam asked in outrage. "Get out of my jewelry box. I have private stuff in there." She growled as Danny pulled out an envelope with his name on it. He smirked at her and she gave him a dirty look.
"Don't read that," she told him angrily. Danny only smiled then walked back to her bed and sat down.
"How did you know that was there?" she asked.
"You told me," Danny answered. "You wrote it in case something happened and you didn't come back. Right?"
"Yeah," Sam said sheepishly. "And I'd really rather you continued on with your story and gave me the letter." She held out her hand and Danny slid his finger under the flap of the envelope and opened it.
"Don't you dare read that," Sam growled. "I never told anyone I wrote that letter, especially not you."
"Not true," Danny laughed. "You told me right where to find it. " He opened the letter and read it. It was exactly the same as the first time he read it. He sighed shakily then looked at Sam, and was so glad he was reading the note as she laid in bed, alive and well instead of under the circumstances it was written for. He was smiling when he put the letter down and looked at Sam who was glaring at him with a mixture of fear and anger.
"Sammy," he said softly. "My heartstrings are yours."
"Don't call me Sammy," Sam said as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Danny took her hand and placed it on his chest and her mouth dropped open as her wary and amused expression faded into shock..
"You can have my whole heart if you want it," Danny said sincerely as he looked into Sam's eyes.
Sam blinked at him for a moment then pinched herself. "Don't tell me," she said almost sarcastically. "I really did die and this is a dream. Right?"
"No," Danny laughed as he pulled Sam closer. He was beginning to worry about her reaction but at least she didn't fight him. "And in return, I want yours."
Sam closed her eyes and sighed shakily. "You already have mine. You read my letter, you know how I feel," she told him as she blushed a bright shade of red.
"Tell me," Danny said as he put his arms around her.
Sam opened her eyes and looked into his. "I don't think would be fair," she told him sternly. "I shouldn't have to tell you first, especially considering how long I've waited…"
"How long have you waited?" Danny teased, but he didn't allow Sam to answer. He captured her lips with his instead. Sam's eyes widened in shock at first, but then she closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the sweetness of their first real kiss.
Danny broke the kiss and smiled as he looked into Sam's dazed eyes. "I love you Sam," he told her softly. "I'm really sorry it took me so long to admit it. I'm sorry some ghost had to put me through hell to make me accept it."
Sam smiled and shook her head. "You need to tell me the rest of the story," she said. "So I can understand where all this is coming from, because right now it feels like it's right out of the blue and…" She brushed the hair out of Danny's eyes. "I'd like to hear the process that brought you to this wondrous revelation."
Danny laughed then hugged Sam tight. "Before I do. Will you answer another question?"
"Sure," Sam said as she put her head on his shoulder. "What?"
"Do you think I'm normal?" he asked.
"I wouldn't love you so much if you were," Sam teased then pulled away and looked Danny straight in the eye. "But to be honest. You are the most normal person I know. It's everyone else who's weird."
"Thanks Sam," Danny said happily. "I wish I had known that earlier." He moved so he could hold her better and told her the whole story, leaving absolutely nothing out. Sam laughed with him, and cried for him and occasionally interrupted him to kiss him as he himself was over come with emotion.
"So, when given another chance," Sam said. "You chose to not start a relationship with Valerie. I thought you liked her."
"I like her yes," Danny said. "But I happen to love you. I'm not scared of that anymore."
"I'm glad," Sam replied as she wiped a tear from her eye. "But I'm so sorry that it took thinking you lost me to make you realize that."
Danny laughed. "It took losing you to make me realize a lot of things." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "I know now that if the worst should happen, and I'm without you and Tuck, I'm going to be able to survive. I'm not going to turn into that pathetic creature who called himself my future."
"Good," Sam said happily.
"No! Great," Danny replied as he smiled a heartbreaking dazzling smile at Sam that nearly took her breath away. "So now that you're mine. Do you want to tell Tucker or make him wait till he gets back?"
Sam laughed. "I think we should wait. I want to enjoy having you all to myself. He'll tease us daily and it will be fun having a secret from Tucker. He knows way too much."
The two lovebirds sat and talked for several hours, until Sam grew tired and Danny decided he'd stressed her too much.
"I'll come break down the door tomorrow and we'll have a reunion all over again and we'll turn you're mom's hair gray when we tell her we're going steady and…"
"Wait!" Sam said as she put her hand on Danny's mouth, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "We're going steady? I don't remember you asking."
Danny laughed. "That's because I'm going to ask you tomorrow."
"Oh," Sam said as she grinned. "I'll make sure I'm home then." Danny hugged her then kissed her one last time before changing to his ghost form and flying away.
"Wow!" Sam said as she lay back against her pillows. "Whoever you are ghost. Thank you!"
Danny spread out his arms in joy as he flew high up into the sky. Nothing could erase the joyful expression on his face. All the burdens that he carried before seemed to be lifted from his shoulders. He accepted who he was, and in so doing became what he most wanted to be. Normal….for him.
He closed his eyes as he sped up his flight, enjoying the feel of the wind in his hair. He sighed happily then watched as the city of Amity Park glittered below him. He knew that with his powers, he had to accept the responsibility that came with him. He was now ready to embrace his powers as a blessing instead of a burden, after all, not many boys his age could fly. Not many boys he knew could handle his life, and none of them had Sam and Tucker for friends. He wasn't normal, he was exceptional.
Danny laughed as all his realizations hit him then paused as he ghost sense went off. He looked around and caught sight of The Box Ghost speeding through the night.
"And now it starts," he said. "The average night in the average life of your average ghost hybrid." He laughed as he flew down happily to grab The Box Ghost and put him back in The Ghost Zone where he belonged.
If The Box Ghost noticed the change in Danny, he didn't say anything, he was just glad that he was dealt with more care than he was used to, though he really hated being stuck into that disgusting cylindrical container of doom. He resolved, as he sat squished in the bottom of the thermos, to tell the ghost kid that he needed to change the shape of the thermos to something square. It would feel much more normal that way.
Thank you to all my reviewers, especially Deeds. Please show me the kindness of sending me a review since you've now made it through a story which was so extremely hard for me to finish and almost caused me to stop writing all together.
No apologies here. This story is what it is, and now I understand Danny so much better. Thank you for taking this journey with me