I like future-Danny. Sam doesn't really change in my mind, but I reeeally like future-Danny, so incredibly much more than present-day-Danny. So here's me playing with the future.

This fic was an experiment to see if I can a) write something poetic but not too long, and b) withhold important information until the opportune moment. Turns out I suck at both. Ah, well, I love this story anyway. Read and enjoy!


It was a dream. She knew it was a dream. She was drifting, more than half-drowned in the leaden waters of sleep, but still barely conscious enough to recognize the principle of contrast; she knew instinctively that though her imagination wrapped her warm in someone else's arms, in reality the night was cold; she knew that though her fantasies whispered declarations of love into her ear, in reality not a sound wave stirred; she knew that her mind fabricated the pressure of someone familiar and soothing beside her, while the bed was actually white and open and empty.

Therefore, when the sharp taps at the window came bursting into her consciousness like cannon fire, she should have welcomed it for tearing her from such pathetic fallacies of mind; she had never been one to dwell on the impossible or the absent. Yet she could not help but feel a vast and a leaden disappointment as the dreamscape dissolved and left her stranded, small and cold and alone, on reality's vast white shore.

"Come in," she murmured, feigning sleepy irritation to hide her inexplicable sadness at the dream's loss, but already knowing the one person who could be knocking on her window, three floors up as it was. The invitation had been unnecessary anyway. A moment later the temperature in the room dropped several degrees, and a soft white light made itself known, diffusing through her eyelids and forming white starburst patterns that seared and danced within her mind, eventually settling into a pair of blue rings that jolted up and down, confusing the boundaries between life and death…

Shaking the last of the dream's murky fog from her mind, suppressing the long, winding strings of poetic sentiments that came with sleep deprivation, Sam sat up in bed, turning with a yawn to face the intruder.

And there he was; the annoying tendency to poetry returned, humming about the unchangingness of spirits, ghosts and death and ice statues that live beyond death. The annoying shock of white hair that fell down over his eyes, the sheepish little-boy smile that lit up his bright green gaze and somehow did not seem out of place, even on the face of a ghost that could no longer be called a boy by any means. He was a man, then, she supposed – the thought almost made her laugh out loud, that the little Danny she had befriended and fallen in love with so long ago was now worthy of being called a man.

"What do you want, Invis-o-Bill?" she teased affectionately, pronouncing the nickname with a daring emphasis, a full knowledge that she was the only one on earth who could give voice to that name and live to tell the tale. Danny did not answer, not even with a glare; only a minimal movement of the shoulders, and a flicker of pain flitted across his face, much deeper than the slight digging of an annoying pet-name. "Danny?"

He had not moved towards her. Instead he stood framed by the moonlight flooding through the window, stood with head almost bowed, shoulders hunched forward, in a defeated posture Sam had never seen in him before; almost subconsciously she felt a jolt of worry, of fear, and searched the darkness for the white symbol blazing on his chest as though it were some kind of beacon that would prove that all was well.

He did not answer. Instead, he threw his head back, squared his shoulders, stretched his arms open wide, and took a step back so that the moonlight glared down on him, a floodlight or a scientist's white-gleaming observational illumination. The light was too cruel; it picked out every minute detail, every jagged edge of the wounds that Sam could now see crisscrossing down his chest, lacerating his shoulders, tearing holes in his costume and oozing slow green ectoplasm into the dark indigo night.

"Danny!" and she was moving, more by instinct than by any conscious decision, tearing herself free of the blankets and almost falling to the floor, rooting about under the bed – damn it all, why did I have to go away, I can't find it now, God knows what happened to it, it has to be here! – then the familiar black satchel pulled out into the light, the backpack that had suffered through four years of degrading service at Casper High, and from its pockets the old tools, the old companions of her high school days; the swabs, the bandages, the needles.

"Dear God, Danny, what did you do!" She was directing his movements with her eyes, her voice lost in some inner swell of shock, a burst of memories far too fear-tinged, that cut far too close to the skin. She commanded without sound, and Danny obeyed without thought; it was a well-choreographed scene between the two of them, and the ghost felt sure they both could have accomplished it in their sleep. He relaxed his stiff posture, crossing the room and sitting down on her bed.

"I can't believe you." The reproach was stiff and sharp-edged, belying the movement of her hands as they set about testing, caressing, bandaging, so gentle he could hardly feel it as she worked. "You're, what, twenty-two years old, you should be better at this by now! You always promise me you won't get hurt, and then you come back grinning and wake me up after some ball of goo uses you as a punching bag! I'm getting sick of it, Danny! And tonight of all nights, with tomorrow – Danny, tomorrow! Tomorrow, for God's sake! Did you even think about tomorrow?"

"I never think," Danny chortled, and his voice was deep and low and full of mirth; Sam caught herself shivering with a thrill of electricity on hearing it, caught herself drifting back into memories of sultry summer days spent under trees.

"You're an idiot. You're a big – whining – ectoplasmic – idiot!" With each word, a tug on the bandage around his arm, until it was almost as tight as a tourniquet. "You're lucky I don't finish that ghost transformation for you once and for all! If you want to keep the living half of yourself alive, then –"

"Then I'll what? Save my injuries for the daytime so as to better suit your schedule?" He was grinning, and Sam hated him for it because the grin was light and carefree and cheerful; it did not fit the slashes across his body at all, and it made her heart melt.

"You'll stop getting injured at all," she growled, but fell silent, unable to make a dent in the gentle bubbling warmth that echoed in his voice, that painted itself in every movement of his body, that glowed in his eyes. Sam thought to herself with a grim smile that even his winces and jerks of pain had an element of joy to them. There was a moment of silence; the ectoplasm had vanished from his arms, soaked up by the gauze wrapped around the wound, and Sam caught his eyes, issuing another silent command. They had reached the next stage of the familiar scene, and she fought hard to keep herself from shaking.

Danny's grin grew wider and a hint slyer, as though he had guessed her thoughts – he probably has, damn him – and the white-blue rings grew around him again, racing like electrical signals flung to opposite poles, and Danny Fenton sat grinning up at her, blue eyes reflecting moonlight. He pulled his shirt off with jerking movements of the newly-bandaged arms, exposing the clawed wounds on his chest to the night's harsh glare.

Sam sucked in a sharp breath, wincing in sympathy, but Danny's grin never faltered and by the time she realized her reaction she found that she was already working, binding the bandage tight around his ribs, stoutly ignoring the thrills of electricity that plagued her whenever their skin made contact.

And then the last indignity, the final blow that shattered her frail control, that broke open the walls, demolished the fragile barrier holding back the explosion, the emotion; Danny was humming.

"That's it!" Cutting the roll of tape with a gesture that made it clear she wished it was someone's neck, Sam shoved him hard, still careful her hands landed below the gouges on his chest. "Danny, don't you get it? Going out ghost hunting tonight, of all nights – Danny, if you're hurt his bad, you might not be able to go through with it tomorrow!"

Silence fell. The humming stopped as though cut off by a sudden blow; the echo of Sam's shout was allowed to resonate and fade into nothingness as Danny stared at her, eyes wide and terrified, his entire frame suddenly rigid with shock. The possibility had never occurred to him – it was with a certain bitterness that Sam realized the young Danny, the naïve Danny, still believed that all would turn out right in the end and that good things could not be stopped by something so trivial as a bleeding wound or two.

"No."

It was not a protest; it was a command. Danny's eyes focused again with an almost audible snap, catching and holding her gaze with an iron will she had never seen in him before. "No. Don't even joke about that. Sam – don't even think it. This is nothing, this is – no. It won't interfere. I won't let it."

"You may not have a choice," she replied, and her voice was almost a bitter laugh; he was trying to stand, but his muscles were sore, his limbs stiff, and he winced with every movement. "Look at you! You can't even walk!"

"Yes – I – can."

He was standing now, one hand on the bedpost to steady himself, looking down the several inches that separated them, and Sam saw in his eyes for the first time the blue of ice. She only now realized the sharpening of the familiar color, the transformation into something immovable, unconquerable, implacable. And she realized that his assertion had been the equivalent of: I must. It was a certainty, an absolute, and Hell have pity on the human being trying to make it untrue.

His eyes were blazing, green bursting out with flickers of raw power, then the blue seeming to well up from underneath, swallowing it in daggers and glaciers. Sam found herself fascinated by the transformation, and it struck her just how much energy, how much willpower now stretched across the lines of Danny's form, hardened his face. And the strange thing was, that instead of inspiring fear, this sudden hardness soothed it; seeing how she clasped her hands together, how she looked up at him with awe and recognition of right, Danny relaxed; and when he spoke again it was with the whining, coaxing demand of a child, though a hint of steel still lurked beneath.

"No! I have to go through with it tomorrow! You can't just cancel everything, you can't postpone it, not now – besides, I've waited twenty-two years for this! I've done my waiting! And I want it now!" The spark of electricity again, and Phantom hovered before her, arms crossed petulantly against his chest, even his hair seeming to flop down in a particularly stubborn way. "You think anything, anything, could keep me from it?"

He held the ridiculous pose for long enough that the tension at Sam's core relaxed; she smiled up at him with a sort of harassed affection that she adopted only for him. Reaching over, she grabbed hold of one ankle and pulled him down until he was at a level where she could lean over and kiss his cheek. "No," she sighed, ruffling his hair, "You're right, nothing could keep you from it. You're far too much of a stubborn baby for that."

"Damn right," he said with a grin, shocking her into silence by grabbing her arms and pulling her up, until both of them drifted near the ceiling. She swallowed a scream; laughing, Danny slid his arms around her waist, supporting her, not even wincing as she dug her fingers into his newly-bandaged shoulders in a reflex of panic. "I've waited twenty-two years," he repeated, his warm breath tickling her cheek. "And now, finally, tomorrow's our wedding. It would take a hell of a lot more than Skulker's new battlesuit to ruin that." And he pulled her into a kiss.

It was brief, explosive, dizzying; when he finally pulled away, Sam buried her head in his chest, gasping for breath, refusing to look at the floor below her in case it was spinning the way she felt she was.

"Come to bed," she managed, almost trembling; but she felt Danny's cheek brush against her hair as he looked over her shoulder, the gentle sinking of being lowered to the floor, then the numbing shock of the cold air as he released her and backed away towards the window again.

"Sorry, can't stay," he said cheerfully, as though only walking out of a casual appointment. "Look at the time – bad luck, you know. I guess I'm off to my parent's house – so odd to be back in Amity after all these years, isn't it? If Jazz is as smart as she claims she is they won't even have noticed I was gone." He glanced again at something behind her, then rose into the air with a cheeky wave and streaked away out the window, leaving Sam with her arms wrapped around herself, almost shivering and almost crying at suddenly being without him. With the hurt expression and slow, limping movements of one betrayed, she turned to look at the object of Danny's interest – and almost burst out laughing.

12:32 blinked back at her in neon red numerals, and she remembered the old superstition – that the groom was not to see the bride the day of the wedding. "Danny, you idiot," she murmured fondly to the empty night; but there was no reply, and she swept the clutter off the bed, climbing back under the blankets and drifting off again almost immediately.

This time, when the dreams of cold green eyes and warm, strong hands began again, she allowed them to lift into a tide and sweep her away, knowing that – come morning – it need not be a dream any longer.


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