For those looking for a new chapter of 'Coming Home', it's in the works: only a couple pages to go. In the meantime,have a 'Danny is a Grim Reaper' story. The idea has seized me and won't let go, dangit. Enjoy …

In Ego Vitae

Chapter 1: In Mortem Iunxi, In Mortem Scindamus

The young man knew he was dying. It was oddly pain-free; he wasn't sure he could feel anything from his neck down, actually. He certainly couldn't move, but being pinned between a building and a car probably had that effect. Mostly he was panicking, a reflex reaction to being completely unable to breathe.

There was smoke and chaos and screaming, all a distant roar in the boy's ears, when a thin figure with stark white hair appeared, utterly calm. He was dressed in black from head to toe – gloves, pants, shirt, shoes, even his belts – topped off with a worn Neo-esque coat.

The dying young man didn't notice any of these things, although his eyes were drawn to the figure. It might have been the flashing silver scythe in his hands, though.

The figure walked right up to the dying man, his caste pale, and swung the scythe over his head once, then into the young man.

The first thing the man heard in his afterlife was the screaming silence.

"Better?" asked the Neo wannabe, pressing the scythe butt-first to the ground and leaning against it like a steady pillar. There was writing on the blade; the man read it absently. Freedom and Redemption.

"Uh …" the young man got to his feet, glancing back at the slumped body crushed between wall and building. When he looked back, he realized he was actually taller than the kid with the scythe. "Did I just die?"

"Yep," confirmed the kid.

"Did you just kill me?"

"The car crash killed you," answered the kid, with the tone of long practice. "I just make sure it's done properly."

The young man stared at him. He coughed. "You know, the whole 'Matrix' look went out of style years ago."

The boy's mouth twitched. "Well, it was this or a cloak." He straightened, lifting his scythe again, and brought it down through the air. The young man found that somehow, he wasn't surprised when it looked like reality itself split in the middle, opening towards something either wonderful or horrible – the man couldn't tell what.

It occurred to him suddenly that he was looking at the Grim Reaper himself.

"Gregory Matthews, twenty-two years, two months, seventeen days," the boy said, waving his hand as if swatting something away from his forehead. "We are going to skip the ceremony because I have someplace else I need to be. So – un-live long and prosper, or something like that." He waved the young man towards the portal in space, and compelled, the man stepped through to a fate only known to himself.

The portal folded in on itself with a pop, the entire exchange unnoticed and unseen by the rest of the world. If Clockwork had the power to bend time, Reapers could bend space.

This particular reaper, however, panicked slightly. "I am so late," he groaned, whirling away from the accident scene. With a burst of power he flashed up into the sky, disappearing over the horizon.

&

In another town (although the same state), there were much happier tidings.

Samantha Manson, twenty-three years old, faced Tucker Foley, also twenty-three years old, closed her eyes, and let him kiss her – a chaste kiss, but it was in front of an audience.

"It's Samantha Foley, now," Tucker teased when he drew back, and Sam thumped his chest even as her grandmother cheered 'Mazeltov!" and everyone else in the room (mostly people Sam didn't know, but she had to make allowances for her mother at some point if she wanted to have a traditional Jewish wedding) also cheered. After all, the wedding party had moved into the far more enjoyable reception portion of the hoopla, and they were on their third toast.

"I'm just glad the ceremony part is over. Now we get to be carried around on chairs for a while," Sam confided with a smirk.

"Are you serious?"

"I warned you about this months ago!" Sam rolled her eyes. She had agreed to wear white on the condition that she got to design the dress (nine years had somewhat mellowed out her Goth 'thing'; the statement was losing its impact thanks to Hot Topic stores), and she was dressed in a white corset top with long white gloves, a long multi-petticoat dress, and just to annoy her parents, white boots. Not that you could see them under the dress.

Tucker looked handsome in a tux. When he'd filled out, outgrowing the awkward stages of early adolescence, he'd managed to develop broad shoulders suddenly. Who would have guessed it? And the red beret had gone long ago, replaced with a favored black baseball cap when Tucker wasn't at work. Unsurprisingly, he was an IT guy.

Sam was headed towards a promising career as a spokesperson for PETA.

Sam took a deep breath, then, looking at Tucker. "All right, doing this," she said softly, raising her wine glass and standing. She and Tucker had promised each other this particular toast less than a month after getting engaged.

Everyone started to quiet upon seeing the standing bride. Sam cleared hear throat. "Thanks for coming, everyone," she started. "I have one last toast to make before the caterers go crazy trying to keep the food warm for all the talking.

"This toast isn't to Tuck, great as he is. Nor is it to anyone else that's here. It's to who isn't here." Sam took a deep breath and let it out, lifting the glass. "This is to you, Danny. We all miss you."

It was a sober toast as everyone drank, and Sam sat down, staring into her wine cup.

Tucker knew as well as she did that if Danny were still alive, this wedding would likely never have happened.

She still had no idea what had actually happened that night four years ago: she remembered being bitten by the huge poisonous ghost snake, but after that … she drew a blank. There had been pain, and then it had slowly ebbed, and when she woke up, Danny Fenton was on his back and cold to the touch.

Dead.

Sam and Tuck had spent months scouring the Ghost Zone for Danny Phantom, fully expecting that Danny would never let death get him down, that being already half-ghost would surely mean that dying was only a step onwards into full ghost. But Danny was gone. They never saw him.

"I really do miss him, Tuck," Sam said.

"I know, Sam," Tucker answered gently, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and squeezing gently.

It was around the time the entrees appeared that Sam suddenly had the feeling someone had turned up the air conditioning several degrees. Goosebumps rose on her arms. "Tucker, do you …?" she asked slowly.

"Hmm? Seems a little cold in here …" Tucker said.

"I'll go speak to the managers about the air conditioning," Mr. Foley said, leaving Sam and Tucker to listen to Mrs. Foley gush about how fantastic this was.

That was when Sam saw something she didn't expect to see.

Sam looked up from her carrots, and on the far wall was a figure with white hair and green eyes. He was dressed in black from head to toe. The figure looked young, as if he'd never quite escaped adolescence – but it only strengthened the resemblance.

Sam froze. "…. Danny …?"

Those green eyes swiveled towards her as if she'd shouted his name.

"Sam? Are you okay?" Tucker looked at Sam curiously, and Sam glanced over to him before looking back at where she could have sworn she saw Danny Phantom.

There was nothing.

"I'm … fine …" Sam said slowly, shaking her head.

"Ah, the room's temperature is improving. Dean must have talked to the super already," Mrs. Foley said cheerfully. "Sam, don't look so glum!"

Sam forced an overly cheerful smile for Mrs. Foley, and Tucker snickered. "Mom, she's a Goth. She doesn't do 'happy'."

Sam rolled her eyes, her smile settling into something more genuine. "Yeah, yeah … put a sock in it, Tucker. As if you could understand the subtleties of a dark culture."

I'll tell him what I thought I saw later.

&

So, they had gotten married. Danny studied the 'Just Married!' car in the parking lot, deep in thought and regret. There were days when Danny wished he hadn't made his choices quite the same way; why didn't he fight the Reaper that had come for Sam with more vigor? He'd been panicking, of course, and resorted to cheap movie tactics. Stupid, he reminded himself for the umpteenth time. A stupid trade.

Well, he'd made his bed and he'd lie in it.

He was sorry he'd missed the ceremony, as bittersweet as it was to see Sam marry Tucker. I will never get over that. Ever. I am going to go around wondering what on earth happened for years. As close as the three of them had been in high school, he would never have imagined them together.

And now he had something else to worry about. Sam had seen him.

Technically this was a breach of his contract. Sworn into this business, as it were, for another 184 years, six months, and thirteen days, Danny could see Sam as often as he wanted, as long as she never saw him. Most people couldn't see him – at least when he was on business: only the dead and dying, and those who had close encounters with Death (You've seen one Reaper, you'll see them all).

He felt a sudden, terrible chill, interrupting his thoughts.

Danny pushed back his coat sleeve on his right arm and began unwrapping the bandages around his forearm. Writing was burning into the skin on the inside of his forearm even as he watched, smoking slightly. Danny kept his fist clenched; it hurt, but it happened several times a day. It read:

Fredrich Issak Showenhower

38 years 2 months 9 days

Danny grit his teeth slightly. "Freakshow," he muttered.

What could have killed the ghost-controlling freak?

&

He needed no directions. For these things, flying wasn't necessary; he cut a swath in reality with his staff and stepped through it – right into a wall.

Danny bounced off of it with a sound of frustration. "What the …?"

He pressed his hand against the wall and got a crackle of static that made him wince. Ghost Shield? No; something stronger …

He was standing in a white hallway that was empty except for himself; Danny went to the door of the room he was outside of, peering through the small window there. Freakshow was laying on his side on a bed in an otherwise perfectly white room, visibly twitching. A heart attack? Epilepsy? Geez, what a snooze.

But it was a painful way to go out. Danny may have despised the man, but the faster he ended this, the better.

Danny attempted a short-range teleport into the room – and this time it reacted violently, throwing him back through the wall behind him. Danny sat up, dazed, in a room full of …

"Lydia?"

Indeed, the one ghost that had stood by Freakshow through everything – the Reality Gauntlet, the Gothica Circus in Amity – was in suspended animation inside a test tube. Danny didn't like her, but part of him grimaced at her fate. It was akin to being locked in a Fenton Thermos for all eternity (and there was only one ghost Danny wanted to see that fate). He looked back towards the wall he had been thrown through, then he looked around the room.

It screamed 'Guys in White'. Danny groaned to himself at the sight of all the ghost-dissecting equipment scattered around the room, feeling slightly ill. Why did he always get the hard assignments?

Oh, right. Because Death hated his guts.

Technically Danny couldn't be seen. But Guys in White had brushes with death more often than most people, which meant the risk of exposure was higher … and to top it off, it was apparently impossible to get to his quarry.

Danny's arm was beginning to hurt in earnest; it would continue to burn until he either sent Freakshow on, or failed, leaving him to become a ghost. It would serve him right, but I really don't want anything added to my sentence, thanks. He rewrapped his arm hastily and phased through the wall, floating through the building. There had to be a way to deactivate the shield around Freakshow's room.

Actually, come to think of it, why wasn't there a Ghost Shield this powerful around the entire Guys in White complex …?

"I've got him! Target acquired! Engaging according to protocol A, section C page 119 of the Third Edition of the Level Seven and Above Engagement Manual!"

A rocket fired.

Danny had frozen at the voice, but he yelped aloud at the sight of a missile streaking towards him. He went intangible –

And the missile detonated right about where his heart would have been if he had been tangible. Danny went tangible again but remained invisible, a cold fury settling in his stomach. A setup? Was this a freaking setup?

"No effect! Firing second cold-spot seeking missile!"

Danny flew away this time, snarling under his breath. How did they know he was still there?

The missile was making chase.

Danny looked over his shoulder to see the missile streaking at his heels. "Aaaugh! What the hell is this?" He zoomed up through the ceiling, and the missile shook the floor as he alighted on the next level. "That! Is! Not! Normal!"

"The spectral anomaly has escaped to the thirty-third floor!" This time Danny could see the Guy in White, his impeccably white suit almost glowing in the lights. "Engaging according to—"

"Oh, put a sock in it!" Danny snapped, firing off an ectoplasmic blast that sent the man flying. His fingers began to cramp; he was running out of time. There had to be a way into that room!

Danny dropped back through the floor, furious now, and fled back into the room where Lydia was. A distraction. "Sorry, Lydia, but I need you for this."

He found the controls to open the test tube she was floating in and engaged them; the liquid drained out, and Lydia's eyes slowly opened, glowing a deep, dark red. They focused on Danny even as the glass started to open, and a scowl materialized.

"Fredrich," she said.

It was the first word Danny had ever heard her utter. He swallowed hard. "He's going to become a ghost if I don't do something," he said flatly, glancing towards the door. "And you're going to keep the Guys in White busy."

Lydia's lips curled into a tight smile. It was not a friendly one.

The door banged open. "The ghost subject is no longer in containment! Repeat, the ghost subject is no longer in containment!" cried the man who flung open the door, even as GiWs began to flood the room. "Cold spots everywhere!"

Danny fled, no longer certain whether the Guys in White could see him or not. He slapped through several walls and screeched to a halt when he found himself face-to-face with another missile.

Great.

It slammed into his face and exploded.

Danny was flung down the hallway, bouncing several times across the floor and finally fetching up against, of all things, Freakshow's cell. He jerked away from the prickly wall, coughing in the smoke instinctively, although he no longer needed to breathe. There was chaos by this point; Lydia's tattoos had leapt to life and were harassing the Guys in White, who couldn't fully shout out their protocols with the annoyances.

"Cold spot near Freakshow's cell! Fire!"

Danny floated to his feet, summoning his scythe. He'd had about enough of this, protocol be damned.

He cut a swath in reality. The missiles streaking for him disappeared into the void, and Danny sealed it with wave of his hand. Alarms went off.

"Ghost exceeding level 10. Ghost exceeding level 10."

Well, Danny was the equivalent of a demi-god. "Time to act like it!" Danny growled. Somewhere around this box of a room was a power source or machine that controlled the ghost shield, and he was going to destroy it. He started to phase through the ceiling – when a hand grabbed his leg, jerking him back down.

It was Lydia. "Let him," she said.

Danny stared at her. "I can't," he answered, gently grabbing her wrist and pulling it away. "Sorry."

He popped through the ceiling – and banged his head on yet another ghost shield.

With a groan of pain, Danny clutched his head and floated carefully around and up. There it was – the generator, half-buried on the floor above Freakshow's and completely missed in Danny's haste to find a set of controls. Naturally, it was protected by … drumroll please, Danny thought … another ghost shield. He growled, his scythe bouncing off the shield in a flash of sparks. Smoke was starting to curl around the sleeve of his coat; Danny flung it off in frustration, revealing manacles attached to broken chains and bandaged arms. He glared at the words burning straight through the bandages. "I know, darn it! I know!"

"I have the cold spot in my sights! Firing!"

And suddenly, Danny had a flash of inspiration.

As the Guy in White that was apparently still on the thirty-third floor fired off his missile, Danny hunched over the generator, turning intangible again.

It exploded right over his heart – and right through the shield.

The Ghost Shield disappeared as the generator was shattered.

"Thank you!" Danny sang, dropping through the floor again and into Freakshow's cell.

The man was drooling and in his final death throes. Danny licked his lips. He might have been a fool, evil and cold, but no one deserved this.

"Goodbye, Freakshow."

He lifted his scythe.

He never saw the ectoplasmic blasts coming.

Danny was flung across the room and into the wall. He groaned, knocked senseless, and was hit again – and again—he phased through the wall instinctively and collapsed on his back. Backup ectoplasmic guns. I forgot the government is all about redundancy.

His arm abruptly stopped burning.

If Danny's heart had still been beating, it would have stopped right then. He lifted his arm, staring at the fading lettering in horror, then up at the wall he had just phased through. There was a cry, a familiar, pained cry, and then Freakshow's ghost was careening through the wall, helped along by the very guns that had been meant to keep any ghost from coming to save him. He landed on Danny's chest, and the reaper grunted at the impact.

Freakshow floated off of Danny, whirling. His spectral form was weak, almost see-through. "What just happened?" he demanded. He looked at Danny. "Who are—oh. No, it can't be." He started to chuckle, then laugh. "Danny Phantom? The pathetic half-ghost? You've had a costume change!" He took in the scythe in Danny's hand, and his laugh rose. "A Grim Reaper? Oh, this is just too rich! Chained for all eternity to death!"

Danny's temper was starting to rise, but before he could issue a snappy retort, Lydia phased through the wall.

"Lydia!" cried Freakshow. "My dear. You're free."

She looked at him for a moment, then back to Danny.

"Thank you," she said.

"What are you thanking him for?" Freakshow snapped.

Danny pressed his hand to his forehead. "For letting you become a ghost, which I did not intend to do."

Freakshow stared at him. "A what?" He looked down at himself. "A what?"

Danny opened his mouth to explain, but the Guys in White were suddenly barging through the door, instantly creating chaos as they shouted protocols and edition numbers at each other furiously. Lydia grabbed Freakshow's hand and phased them both through the wall. Danny made to follow them –

But the ground swallowed him up before he could do so.

&

It was a quick descent, so to speak: the portal that had opened under Danny led straight to the Ghost Zone. In particular, it led to the lair of a ghost named Mortem.

Mortem was better known as Death.

Danny thudded to the ground with a grunt, the weight of the manacles around his wrists unbearably greater here. The light was low. Danny's eyes seemed to glow here, as did his entire form.

A dark shape, hooded and cloaked, materialized from the shadows.

"My dear Daniel," Mortem said. "You have some explaining to do."

Tbc?

Theoretical translations:

In Ego Vitae: In Me, Life

In Mortem iunxi, In Mortem Scindamus: In death we united, In death we separated

Reviews are always appreciated; I'll do my best to reply to them in a timely manner!