Oh my…

I can't believe I forgot to upload this… I feel rather silly. XD

Thanks to all of you who helped me find my lost jumpdrive so I could upload this.

A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria

Chapter 8: Death

761. That was the number of official missing persons reports turned in to the Amity Park Police Station as of two weeks after the disaster. That accounted for 760 regular humans and one heroic half-ghost.

534. The number of bodies uncovered in the rubble as of the two week anniversary.

227. The number of people that were still missing; most presumed dead.

214 billion. The estimated damage costs to the city of Amity Park and the surrounding area.

142. The number of newspapers around the globe that proclaimed the ghost Danny Phantom/Danny Fenton a hero for apparently sacrificing his life to protect the lives of as many people as possible.

76. The number of newspapers around the world that wrote that Danny Phantom/Danny Fenton was an evil menace who caused the whole mess in the first place.

8. The number of ghost attacks in the past two weeks. All of which had gone unopposed, except for token resistance by the Fentons.

6. The number of signatures required on the form to state that Daniel Fenton, aged 15, a.k.a. Danny Phantom, was officially declared dead based upon the preponderance of the evidence, although his body had not yet been located and the legal seven year time limit had not passed.

0. The number of Fentons that had shown up for the signing of the form.

Sam seemed to stumble through the two weeks following the attack. Everywhere she looked, she could see images of her best friend – her better than best friend, really – and each one brought more tears to her eyes. A few days ago, she had run out of tears to cry. Pictures of him just brought her to a misty standstill, her mind suspending for a moment, before she continued on.

None of the Fentons were willing to admit that their son was really dead. For over a week they had locked themselves up in their basement laboratory, which had surprisingly survived the battle, searching for any trace of Danny's ectosignature in either world. When they had emerged, admitting defeat to that, they had still refused to think of him as dead. Even Jazz – the one in the family with her head out of the clouds – was firmly in denial.

Sam, though, was different. She knew two weeks ago that Danny was dead. She had known the instant it had happened. No amount of searching, praying, crying, or wishing would bring him back… and she hadn't even tried.

Deep inside of her, it hurt that she had given up on him so fully when there were others who still thought that he was alive. She'd always – in her worst nightmares – been the one person who refused to stop waiting for him. She had dreamed that she would be plagued by the specter of his memories, tormented by the question of whether someone who was half-dead could really die.

And in reality… she'd given up so easily. That's what hurt, and that's what brought tears to her eyes.

Which was why, two weeks after the attack, she was wandering blandly towards Danny's memorial service without a tear in her eyes. She was out of tears and Danny was dead. It was as simple as that. There hadn't been any outbursts of rage. No ranting. No fury. No fear. No sorrow. Just… blank understanding.

Tens of thousands of people were showing up for the public memorial at the quickly repaired park. Newspapers from around the world had sent representatives, government officials were being escorted to a special section, and people from all over the nation were cramming through the gates. The memorial was due to start at 12:27 – exactly two weeks, to the minute, after Danny had passed away.

As Sam passed through the gates, people brushing past her as they struggled to find a seat, someone jostled her. Sam stumbled, catching herself with an outstretched hand against the short wall that surrounded this section of the park. She froze, staring at her hand. Someone had – long ago – placed a warning poster about ghosts and, specifically, Phantom on the wall and no one had thought to take it down before the memorial. Her hand was touching his face.

Once again, from beyond the grave, her best of best friends had saved her from falling.

Unbidden and unexpected, a tear trickled down her cheek, making her mascara run a bit. Sadly, strangely tired, Sam felt a small smile pull at the corners of her mouth. Her fingers brushed over his portrait for a moment longer before she straightened and turned to head back to her seat. She hesitated.

There, standing just in front of Sam and glancing at her with a haughty air, was the one and only Paulina Sanchez. Dressed elegantly in black, Paulina and her group of friends were already attracting photographers. Sam, still dressed in her usual gothic attire, couldn't hold a candle to the A-List.

Sam felt a small tremor flicker through her as a photographer walked up to the group and asked for a picture, asking questions about their relationship with Danny. Paulina, fake tears in her eyes, explained to the press how she'd been Phantom's number one fan, best of friends, and how devastated she was that Danny was gone.

All the while, after every lie, she would glance over in Sam's direction.

Each lie, each twist of the truth, each declaration of undying love, devotion, and friendship made Sam's fists curl a little more. Paulina had the reporters dangling on her strings. Strings of lies.

The fourteenth or fifteenth glance over in Sam's direction was the last straw. Danny might be dead, but that didn't mean people could take advantage of everything he'd done. "What do you think you're staring at, huh?!" Sam snarled as she finally wiped the tear off her cheek, pushed through the circle of reporters, and stalked up to Paulina to glare straight into her eyes. "We're not all emotion-faking witches."

Blinking, Paulina took a small step backwards. Then her perfectly shadowed eyes narrowed, the tears still threatening to fall. "Don't you think I care that he's dead? I loved Phantom too."

"No!" Sam startled herself when the word came out as a scream of pure fury. Trembling in rage, words were suddenly bubbling out of her mouth. For two weeks, she'd been so quiet and ghost-like, but now the cork had come out of the bottle and she couldn't stop it. "You didn't. You had no idea who he was and what he went through and how wonderful he was all the time and how he would drop everything to do what was right and just how strong he was to take what you jerks gave him every single day and still be the hero. You couldn't possibly have loved him, and you can't possibly miss him as much as I do." Her rant, quickly escalating in volume to a yell, was attracting attention from all over the park.

Paulina took another step away from the irate Goth in surprise. "Calm down, bruja –"

"Don't you dare call me that!" Sam glared up at the taller young woman, her whole body shaking with the emotions that were threatening to finally boil over.

"Sorry," Paulina murmured, catching Sam by surprise. "I didn't mean that. Sam."

Sam's eyes closed. "I don't want to fight here. I can't fight at his memorial."

"Sam?" Tucker appeared next to her, his red-rimmed eyes worried as he slipped an arm around her shoulders, and wondered what had caused the sudden burst of rage. A bit of him was thankful – it wasn't healthy to keep those emotions bottled up. "You okay?" He could feel the fury trembling in her body and he turned his attention to Paulina for a moment, a bit of protective anger curling in his stomach.

"Yes," she ground out. "I just want to go sit down."

"You sure?" he asked, fully intending to do whatever was necessary to protect his best friend. She always came across as the strongest of the three, but he knew just how fragile she really was.

After a long moment, Sam let out a deep breath and relaxed, setting the lid back on her bubbling emotions. "Yeah," she whispered. "I'll be fine."

Tucker nodded, then started to steer Sam towards the seats reserved for the Fentons. He hesitated when a man stepped in front of him with a smile. "I'm from the New York Times. Can I ask what that was about?" the man asked, his notebook already out to jot notes.

"Tucker Foley," Tucker said pointing a thumb at himself before gesturing to Sam. "Sam Manson. Sam wants to go sit down, so move please."

The tall man, with a flicker of understanding in his eyes, stepped out of the two friends' way even as he turned skeptical eyes towards the young woman who had been professing to be Phantom's best friend. After watching that outburst, and knowing that those two were Danny's best friends, he would have to ask around before he put anything about Paulina into his article.

Finally, at 12:27pm, everyone had found their seats.

The announcer, with one last glance at the assembled Fentons, friends, classmates, government officials, newspaper reports, and various citizens from around the nation, opened his mouth and took a deep breath to begin the memorial service.

"Tucker, what on Earth are you doing?" Sam muttered about fifteen minutes into the program, leaning over to check out what Tucker was typing into his PDA.

He glanced up and let a small smile slip onto his face. "Oh, nothing," he whispered back. "Just starting phase one of 'Operation Payback'."

She raised a skeptical eyebrow. "During Danny's memorial?"

"He would have wanted it that way," Tucker said solemnly, pressing the 'send' key on his digital device and sitting back to pay close attention to the rest of the memorial. "Best time in the world to send out some critical information to five new friends."

Sam studied her smirking friend for a moment before turning back to watch the memorial, surprised at the fact that she was suddenly feeling quite a bit better. Yes, that is what Danny would have wanted.

Settling back to enjoy the memorial, Sam felt a sort of peace settle around her, tears beginning to trickle silently down her cheeks and sorrow curling around her heart. But she knew, deep inside, that everything would be alright in the end.

Vlad scowled at the newspapers, all of which quietly proclaimed his brilliant plan a complete and utter failure. Not only had he failed to secure Daniel as his apprentice – which he still couldn't comprehend how that hadn't worked – but he had almost gotten his beloved Maddie killed and Jack had somehow survived the whole ordeal. The only positive thing to the mess was the fact that the section of town that he had been planning on demolishing and rebuilding as high-priced condominiums was going to come at a greatly reduced price and pre-demolished.

Of course, the knowledge that the whole world now knew that half-human, half-ghost people were completely plausible was going to throw a monkey-wrench into his plans. It wouldn't take a genius to find out about Daniel's accident and his accident twenty years previously and connect the rather obvious dots. Combine that with a set of records that would show – even to a louse – that he'd overshadowed quite a few people to get what he wanted…

In a fit of frustrated anger, the newspaper in Vlad's hands suddenly burst in flames. Vlad tossed the smoking bits of paper into the fireplace with a sigh. Now there was just the question of what he was going to do about it.

He could go into hiding before anyone figured out what was going on. That would be turning his back on twenty years of hard work. Running away. Cowardice. The very thought rankled against Vlad's nerves. There was a better way; he would just bribe the right people, overshadow a few of the denser ones that didn't understand the value of money, and destroy the right records.

It would take only a few days to completed erase any bit of information that could possibly lead from Daniel to him. Already he had a list of things that needed to be completed – it was just waiting to get started. Vlad, however, felt no specific hurry to get it done. In all the fervor over Amity Park, no one in their right mind would be looking into the possibility of other half-ghosts. It would be months before people would start to think about it.

Vlad steepled his fingers and let a small smile cross his face. He was not one of smartest and craftiest businessman in the world for no reason. No ordinary human would be able to catch him.

The doorbell ringing startled him out of his thoughts. He rose from his chair, glancing once to make sure all of the thrown newspaper had made it into the fireplace and wasn't going to start a fire, and made his way through the house. "Another well-wisher," he muttered darkly. "The big idiot must have fewer friends than I thought if everyone is sending condolences about Daniel to me."

Vlad arranged what he hoped was a pleasant smile on his face and opened the door. Five men in immaculate white suits were standing on his front porch. "Mr. Masters?" Talker queried with a small, half-hearted smile.

Vlad arched an eyebrow but refused to respond. As the seventeenth richest man in the world, he should be recognized on sight – especially by these government rejects. His mind was churning about why the Guys in White were on his doorstep. If they were here about some stupid ghost-contamination again, he was going to sue the government harshly this time…

"Or, based on the anonymous information we've just received, should we call you Mr. Plasmius? We have a few questions we'd like to ask you."

"Now what?" Ember curled her fingers a few times, wincing at the ache that simple action caused but not saying anything. Far be it from her to complain about something as trivial as pain. Thankfully, ectoplasm was surprisingly resistant to freezer burn and her hands were getting better by the day.

A stoat, reddish ghost, still nursing a crushed arm from the attack, glanced at her from the other side of the small cave. "What? What else is there to do?"

"Vlad's going to kill us," Ember muttered, "and there's no annoying dipstick to stand in the way."

One of the other ghosts that had taken part in the fight – an overly large green fellow – jumped to his feet. "You afraid of that lousy half-ghost? He ain't got nothin' on us!" He threw his fist in the air and shouted excitedly. "We da bomb!"

Ember scowled. "Da bomb? If you're so powerful, why are you hiding in here with us?"

The large green ghost hesitated, lowering his arm. "'Cause Skulker and Walker are on the warpath after we rescued them two humans." He glanced around at the nineteen other ghosts crammed into the tiny space. "And I'm sick of bein' thrown in that stupid jail."

"Here, here," one of the nameless ghosts murmured.

"So how long do we hide in here?" Ember wondered softly. She, of course, planned to leave as soon as she was healed enough to show those two morons who was boss - a couple more weeks, at most.

The other ghosts exchanged looks, then shrugged. "Eternity sounds good," one of them stated softly and the rest nodded. But, secretly, all of them knew that Ember wasn't going to hang around much long and – since she was by far the strongest of them – each one was planning on sneaking out with her when she left.

Tarot sighed as the last of her figure finally reformed in her lair. She hadn't expected it to take quite that long to pull herself back together. The Fool was a lot stronger than she had anticipated. She stuffed her hands into her pockets and stared about the small, dark, colorful room, a small smile on her face.

Her cards appeared in her hands and she shuffled them absently, trying to decide what she wanted to do next. There were billions of humans she could read, thousands of ghosts, a nearly infinite number of futures.

But, really, there was only one fate that she was really curious about at the moment: her own. She pulled a card from her deck, grinning down at the picture of a woman blindfolded and surrounded by eight gleaming swords. "We are all powerless in the hands of fate, even the strongest of us."

Quietly shuffling the cards, she ordered the candles to relight, giving the room a happy glow. "But everything is for the better, when you finally reach the end."

A card slipped out from between her nimble fingers and fluttered to the floor. Tarot stooped to pick it up. "Death," she said in surprise, staring down at the grim picture. "I know who needs to see you right now."

Then, with a smile, the card evaporated in her fingers. She folded her legs and sat down at her black table to do another spread and learn what was going to happen next.

Sam, still sitting at the memorial service, stared at the Tarot card that had fluttered down out of the sky to land in her lap. A skeletal knight, astride his steed. "Death," she whispered, a shiver running down her arms. The passage from her Tarot book came floating back to her mind, unbidden.

Death is one of our deepest fears – not because of the pain of dying, but because of the fear of eradication, the fear of a permanent ending. As many know, Death is not the end, but merely a transition to a new state of being. Life goes on forever, eternally, in its purest essence, if not always in the same form. To grow, to live, and to thrive, we all must "die" in order to leave the old parts of our lives behind and give birth to the new parts of our lives.

In Tarot, Death represents an ending, yes – but an ending that will bring with it great change. This card brings with it sadness and unwillingness to let go, but also relief that there is a proper ending taking place before something new starts up. So, in a way, Death also represents a beginning.

Death is inevitable and inescapable. But true heroes take that in stride and race alongside fate to see where it takes them. Death is merely another step in the road of life.

Sam wiped a tear off her cheek. "Danny is in a better place." She looked up at Tucker, and, for the first time since the disaster, managed a weak smile.

Tucker nodded. "We'll see him again, someday."

As the sun shown brightly over the memorial service, Sam and Tucker sat quietly and watched a bird fly through the bright blue sky. Danny's memorial gleamed and glittered in the sun. Far in the distance, the leveled section of town was already starting to be rebuilt, powerful machine moving tons of rubble out of the way.

Life would continue without Danny Phantom. And, for the first time in a long while, all was peaceful in Amity Park.

The rumble of a truck grinding up the destroyed road brought a cloud of dust into the air. The driver, intent on missing the largest of the potholes and crevices, didn't even bother to look behind him. He should have – for he would have seen the dust his truck had thrown into the air.

It glowed with an eerie green light.

And, as the normal dust settled back onto the ground, the eerie green mist continued to float, seeming to come together into a ball. Slowly, other tiny specks of green mist left the ground to add to the glowing ball.

Deep in that ball of light, consciousness stirred, stretching.

Death is merely another step in the road of life.

And, after all, what is death to creature who is half-dead already?

The end.

Finally. XD

MyFruitloop, chalicty, Kimimori, AvatarKatara38, dizappearingirl, Kinoshita Kristanite, Wishes for Wings, TexasDreamer01, Silver Shadowbreeze, southernstarshadow, hanyou-half, Nylah, Anne Camp aka Obi-Quiet, Werewolf of Suburbia, KittyGrl24, Frog, Majestic Moon, MutantLover09, Lockblade, Thunderstorm101, DP crazy, dragon of spirits, and Shining Zephyr... thank you for reviewing and bugging me about this not being up yet. I didn't believe you guys at first.

Thanks to these people for adding this story to their favorites list! BleachPhantom, Chaos Dragon, Demon Evangelion, Garnet Sky, Hidden Page, Lady Jarine, MyFruitloop, Nonasuki-chan, Subudabu, Sasia93, Sholay, Wishes for Wings, hanyou-halfa, passionateartist, southernstarshadow, and stringed theories.

And that's all she wrote. Thank you so much for all the reviews! Hoping to update something else soon since I've quit my job and have too much free time. ;)