Quick author's notes:
Wish – It actually didn't get hard until I was reaching the end, and trying to tie up too many loose ends while doing everything I wanted to do with the story. I have a terrible memory and often forget my own details. XD Luckily I had a few friends and reviewers catching the imperfections for me!
mrit – No, because I wanted to end that part that way. XP
One Year Later
He knelt on freshly-mowed grass, his arms full of bright flowers; forget-me-nots and tiger lilies. Symbolism, Danny thought to himself. Blue and orange were his parents' favourite colours, and the breeds he'd chosen were particularly appropriate.
"So here I am," he began quietly, laying the bundle of flora on the polished white stones. "Finally coming to see you. If I know you guys, you didn't stick around to see how my half lives, so maybe you can't even hear this, but I had to try."
He took a deep breath. "A lot has happened. I guess maybe now you know that I was a half-ghost all along. You probably know what a coward I was back then, too, leaving you without a goodbye like that. I guess maybe I thought that eventually I'd get to say a real good-bye, but thanks to Vlad, this will have to do.
"Are you watching over me from somewhere, like angels? I wish I knew." The image of his father (as Jack had appeared when Danny had last seen him, young but enthusiastic in an orange Hazmat jumpsuit) as an angel brought a smile to the half-ghost's face. "You'd think that people like us who are supposed to be experts on the dead would know something about the world beyond. I can't say for sure. I'd like to explain everything that's happened to me since I left home, but I'll settle for just saying everything that's happened since I met Sam."
Danny sighed and plucked a blade of grass from the ground beside the grave, rubbing it between his fingers. "It was because her grandma was living in our old house. Sam was in the attic, looking for something when she got attacked by the Box Ghost. It figures that he was the one who 'introduced' us, practically. She'd never seen a ghost before, but the first thing I noticed about her was how brave she was. I'd never met a girl like that before.
"We ended up talking a lot, and Sam wanted to help me get back my memory. Yeah…you'd think a halfa wouldn't be affected by degeneration. I guess I stayed in my ghost form too long, though, and when it started to kick in, I really didn't care. It seemed like it would be easier to just let the older, painful memories go. That was dumb, I know." He paused. "But Sam went out and did the research for me, until we figured out who I was, even though it was getting her in trouble with her family and her nutjob psychologist – who turned out to be a ghost." Danny grimaced.
"My memory came back as soon as I turned back into Danny Fenton, so that solved my big problem, but someone caught me on tape and they put my identity all over the news, just like I'd always been afraid of. It was pretty bad for a while, but then the weirdest thing happened." He'd decided to leave out the details of how he'd made peace with Valerie again, figuring that what they didn't know couldn't make them worry more, unless they already knew. "You know Valerie Gray, my old friend from high school? She was a ghost hunter, and we used to fight a lot…but when I saw her, after my identity had come out, she did everything she could to put the town on my side. Everything from doing talk shows to writing a revised edition of her book, Legends of Amity Park. I never thought Val had it in her." He laughed, twirling the blade of grass around his fingers. "I went from being Ghost Enemy Number One to the town hero. You'd never believe it if you saw it."
He paused, tearing the blade into long, thin strips and letting the breeze take them. "It's so strange. Everyone knows me, but not in the way I'd have expected…people come up to me at the grocery store and tell me that I saved them from one ghost or another over the years. They thank me because I've made an impact in their lives, so long ago that half the time I don't even remember it. But they never forget. I guess I was so self-concerned that I never noticed some people were supporting me all along.
"I'm doing a lot better now, though, thanks to Valerie and – can you believe it? Vlad Masters. Between them and Jazz, they whipped up a permanent cure for my aging problem. I was nervous at first because I still don't totally trust that guy, but he was true to his word. He got enough ecto-impurities into my system that I started changing, but not so much that I ended up with that creepy ecto-acne. I've grown four inches since then," he confided, sounding proud. "I don't heal as fast, but I'm not getting into very many ghost fights nowadays. Jazz is great at managing her portal, and though we unsealed the basement of Mrs. Manson's house, the only one that can get through the genetic lock on the Fenton Portal is me. The ghosts are probably all terrorizing each other now instead of the human world, and I like it that way.
"I still wonder sometimes how things would have turned out if I'd just told the world my secret back when I was a teenager. Though…" He trailed off, smiling. "If not for all of this, I wouldn't have met Sam, and she's the best thing to happen to me. We've got a little house in town now, and she'll be starting college in the fall. Not doing anything ghost related, thank goodness."
Danny rearranged his posture, sitting on the concrete perimeter of the grave with his back facing the headstone. Somehow it seemed more natural to be talking to his parents if he didn't have to acknowledge that engraved marble slab that bore the dates. "She doesn't know what she wants to do yet. Maybe something in design. Since she moved to Amity and started going to the high school here, though, she's made a lot of girl friends and they're all into gothy, punky clothes that they make themselves. Sam would probably really like to do that for a career." He grinned sheepishly. "Not that she really needs to work, between her parents being rich and all the money racking up interest in the bank account Jazz set up for me way back when…our house is right near Jazz's, by the way. It's really funny when we go places together and she tries to introduce me as her 'little brother.' She gets a kick out of it though; you know how Jazz is…"
He turned slightly, looking at the flowers again. "I guess what I'm trying to do here is just let you know that I'm okay. Better than okay, even. And there are never going to be enough 'I'm sorries' to make up for everything I've done wrong in my life, so Sam made me promise not to even try. I just…thought I would come out and see you, because I haven't done that yet, and Jazz has been fixing up everything…I guess I was a little bit scared. I hope you don't blame me for that. For a guy that's been half-dead for most of his life, I don't seem to deal very well with this kind of thing."
Danny stood up and arranged the bundle of mismatched flowers beside the headstone his parents shared. "I guess that's all I have to say for now, but I'll come back to talk every once in a while. After that…I know we'll see each other again someday." He smiled and rubbed away the moisture in his eyes with the back of his hand. "Later rather than sooner, at this rate, but I'll make it to where you are, someday."
She'd been seated quietly for a long while after she gave him her answer, fidgeting with the hem of her black tank top, avoiding his gaze for fear that she'd grin so much her face would fall apart. She was Sam Manson! She was cool, calm and collected, even in the wake of just being asked to go steady (go steady, she thought happily to herself. The sixties had never seemed so romantic!) by the guy she'd been slowly becoming crazy about.
Danny had smiled shyly, wringing his hands with obvious excitement. "So, what shall I wear to meet your parents? Think your mom prefers blue eyes, or green?"
She'd laughed. "I hope you're joking."
"You never know, some people have that superhero attraction."
"I can't think of anybody like that," Sam responded, followed by a high-pitched, fake laugh.
"What a shock!" He put a hand to his mouth, deadpan. "Are you insinuating that a high-born young lady such as yourself might ever find themselves in a relationship with one of those common, muscle-bound types?"
"The superheroes I prefer are neither common nor muscle-bound," she huffed, playing along. "You don't meet ghost boys every day, you know."
"That's true." Danny stood and casually began to stretch, the movements obviously theatrical. When both arms were high above his head he transformed, two blue-and-white rings of energy forming at his waist and washing over his limbs like luminous paint. When the change was complete, he'd crossed his arms over his chest and regarded her seriously. "Of course, girls like you aren't exactly common, either."
"I don't know if I can believe that," she said, laughing.
"Hey, it takes something special to catch a ghost boy."
They fell silent for a moment, as though both had abruptly come back to a conversation that had happened without them. "Everything is going to change," Danny said finally, his false bravado leaving him like an exhalation of breath.
"That's okay, right?" Sam asked, concerned. His face was caught between happiness and distress. "Danny?"
"It's okay," he said slowly. "It's just strange. It's different, but I think it's worth getting used to."
"All changes take some of that. That's life."
"That's ironic." Danny stepped over the low table and she hastily stood up, facing him. They shared the small space between the table and the couch for a moment, close enough that the chill of his ghost form made her shiver – less from cold than exhilaration at his nearness. He didn't speak again, though he looked as though he wanted to. Instead, he shyly put his arms around her and drew her close.
Sam ducked her head to hide her blush. "Green eyes look good on you, but I think we'll show my mother the blue ones first."
He'd laughed nervously and brushed his fingers against her cheek. "I really never imagined that anything like this could ever happen to me. Sam…"
Her fingers tightened on his shoulders. "Whatever happens next, we can handle it, okay? It doesn't matter what my parents or Jazz or anyone says. Even if the cure doesn't work, promise me, it's us from here on in."
"I promise." He'd hugged her tightly, and she breathed in a long, satisfied breath as a lengthy, comfortable silence passed between them. When Danny finally spoke again, his words were a whisper that was cold but pleasant in her ear.
"Can I keep you?"
She'd just smiled and closed her eyes. "You have to ask?"
Author's Note: Let me begin by saying a heartfelt 'thank you' to everyone who stuck with me through to the end, especially those who commented with their thoughts and questions, even if it was only a single review. I appreciate you guys so much and it's you whom I wrote this story for. Even more thanks go out to those who kept supporting me offline; mrit, Akoya and Epyon Zero, for your input and encouragement. See, I told you I was going to fit that last Casper reference in somewhere. Everyone who ever took the time to e-mail me personally, thank you! You wouldn't believe what kind of effect that can have on a writer!
Some people are already asking what's next for me. Some of you probably remember that I'd like to write professionally, sooner rather than later, and I hope to try my hand at novel-writing in the near future. Fanfiction-wise, I have a handful of ideas for Danny one-shots, as well as a short chaptered Fairly Oddparents piece, and I'm going to write a Final Fantasy VI story for a contest entry. If you're interested in any or all of these, feel free to add me to your Author Alert list.
I'm just going where the pen takes me next, I guess.
So this is goodbye for now, and I can only wish that everyone who reads this far will come away from the final chapter with a smile on their face. I hope it's as enjoyable to read as it was to write.