…and death made angels of us all, gave us wings were we had shoulders smooth as ravens claws…
Jazz wasn't used to being devious and underhanded, at least outside of psychoanalyzing her brother and his friends. But she had a decided edge on him unless he went ghost, and the odds of that were somewhere between slim and none. Much as Jazz hated to admit it, Danny had gotten timid about his ghost half since his stint as a missing person. Not that he was timid, not even a bit, but he was just so afraid of wherever he'd been, whatever he'd done—or whatever had been done to him.
And it was time for some answers. After all, Jazz reasoned as she pulled her car back along the curb around the corner from their house and put it into park, it wasn't healthy for him to be holding everything inside like he was. He was just a teenager, not even seventeen yet, there was no way he could possibly be able to cope with whatever it was that had happened without talking about it. And if she didn't force it out of him, then it was just fester inside of Danny until he broke. In Danny's case, breaking could be so much worse than just trying to kill himself.
Now all she had to do was wait for a few minutes for the stranger her brother had become to come barreling down the sidewalk to school. Thank god the attack of the breakfast bits had turned into such a time consuming affair, and Danny had needed another shower. Otherwise he'd have plenty of time to try and avoid her. Now he wouldn't even be paying attention.
It was luck, pure luck, that placed Jazz on the sidewalk right in Danny's path as he turned the corner and barreled straight into her. Her breath went clean out of her as they tumbled to the ground, and it was a credit to his agility that Danny managed to flip them so that he was the one pounding pavement with his face.
She winced as she saw her brother's nose gone slightly crooked, one cheek skinned and his eyebrow split through the middle. It was strange and completely wrong that there was no blood, and Jazz's stomach turned a little as she watched the flesh begin to knit back together covering glistening bone that should have been hid by bright red blood. Sam and Tucker both had told her, but it was so hard to believe them when they claimed that Danny was like super ghost now. and yet, to have it shoved in her face in such a manner made her sick.
"Oh, god, Danny," Jazz breathed as she scrambled back a bit and turned her face. "Do you have any idea how gross that is to see?"
She didn't see the hurt fly across his face at her instinctive reaction, and Danny did his best to cover it, making his tone flippant. "Nope, never watched myself in a mirror."
"We need to talk," Jazz started with no preamble as she got to her feet, brushing herself off and arching a brow as she caught sight of the skin that was missing on one of her brother's elbows. It was knitting back together, but without watching bone and cartilage move of its own accord, of bone disappearing between suddenly perfect flesh, it was easier to look at. "What is this, Danny?"
Her fingers gripped his arm and Danny fought the sudden urge to jerk it back and tell her that he wasn't a lab specimen. The way she was looking at him made his skin crawl, made the wingmarks on his back ache to let his wings free so that he could escape. He shrugged, an answer, he hoped, and a halfhearted attempt to soothe the itch of feathers beneath flesh. "I don't know," he countered as she turned bright blue-green eyes on him. "It wasn't my idea, they just…"
He stopped dead and Jazz let Danny go. "Danny, don't you think it's time you tell us who 'they' are? I mean, it's not like we don't all know that they did something to you. You need to talk about it," she pressed. She's trained for years to make her voice soothing and persuasive, and Jazz poured everything she had into it, watching the nuances on the boy's face, the way his blue eyes went dull and dark and darted to the left, the way his shoulders tensed and hunched at the same time. The way he swallowed convulsively, like he couldn't help it, like he was afraid.
"Danny?" she tried again, another tactic to convince him to confide in her. "Did they hurt you? You know it wasn't your fault, you didn't do anything wrong."
She wasn't prepared for the way he stepped back, arms straight at his sides and hands fisted as he shouted, "No!"
He stepped back again, arms wrapped around himself as he glared at her, backpack left lying on the ground between them as if he would rather be unprepared for school than come near her again, and Jazz's face fell. "I was just trying to help, Danny. It's not good for you to keep everything inside."
"Shut up, Jazz," he ordered her. "You don't have a clue. Nobody hurt me. So just leave it be, leave me alone, I don't want to talk about it!"
His vehemence was nearly violent, and Jazz took a hasty step of her own away from the angry halfa. "But—"
He cut her off without a thought, eyes boring into hers and impossibly blue as he said, "Drop it, Jazz. It's not your business."
He reached between them for his backpack and then shimmered out of sight, which made Jazz glance around in alarm. Either Danny was sure they were alone—which they were, thank god—or she had upset him so much that he didn't care. No, not upset. The only time he actually seemed upset was when she pushed. Angry was closer to what she'd seen radiating off of him. Anger and frustration.
Jazz bit her lip, worrying it between her teeth as she stood alone on the sidewalk. She needed to find answers to this riddle. Danny needed help, whether he could see it or not. More like admit it, she amended silently. That was true; Danny knew full well that he needed help. She'd seen it on his face, in his eyes, in every vehement word he'd said. The only answer Jazz had was that he was trying to protect them.
"Is everything alright?" came a cultured voice from behind her, and Jazz spun to find Aziraphale watching her curiously.
Jazz's eyes narrowed. Here in front of her was one of the sources of her annoyance, one of three people in the entire world who knew what happened to Danny while he was missing those three days. Crowley was her best bet for truth, but Jazz was intelligent enough to know that if she planned on getting answers, Aziraphale was the one who would let something slip. And, Jazz decided as she raised her chin with a haughty glare, the best way of doing that would be to knock the pale man off balance.
"This is all your fault," Jazz accused, sure that he would immediately go defensive. She wasn't sure who, exactly, he was, but she was positive he knew more than he let out. Especially when it came to Danny. "What the hell did you do to my brother?"
She watched Aziraphale swallow and go slightly pale, guilt flashing across his features before he settled his eyes into a semblance of cool dismissal.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," he told her. "I was merely concerned. You were standing here looking so lost." He gave her a winning smile, and despite it all Jazz knew that he was sincere in his concern. Unfortunately for Aziraphale that only made her madder.
"Just who do you think you are?" Jazz's finger drove against his chest sending the angel off balance and stepping back, a hand rising to rub his now sore solar plexus. "You come swooping in and take over my brother's life without so much as a word to me or anyone else, and now he won't talk to me. He won't talk to his best friends." She glared more, stepping forward intending to continue the assault.
The older man threw up his hands to ward her off, his accent suddenly thicker than before. "Peace! Peace, I tell you! There's no need to be a mad woman!"
Arms crossed over her chest, Jazz waited a moment as her brain caught up with her thought process. She had always been smart. Not always capable of the lightning quick connections that were little more than leaps of faith that Danny could make—that was what made him such a good tactician. But a leap of faith was exactly what Jazz took as she realized that the cultured Englishman in front of her wasn't alive. She didn't even take a breath to think of how long he'd been dead, or how he managed to pass himself off as human instead of a ghost, she merely demanded answers.
"What do you and Crowley want with my brother? Why doesn't he trust us?"
Her words were harsh, direct and blunt in the face of her normal poise. But Jazz knew what she was doing. At least she hoped she did, because now she had committed to her course of action and there was no change she could make. The demand given, Aziraphale would either answer it, which she didn't believe would happen, or he would do as she expected and try to evade.
For someone who had been dead at least a few years, he certainly wasn't very good at evasion. She almost laughed as he opened his mouth to answer her and only looked like a fish gasping for water as he tried to figure out a lie quickly enough. Oh, he was one of the easy ones who couldn't lie to save his own skin, she decided. Next step, shock.
"Oh my god," she began, and enjoyed it when he went even paler.
"Wait, what?" he tried, but she ran over his dulcet tones before he could manage more than two syllables.
"You're just like him," she accused. "You're a ghost!"
The answer wasn't what she expected. Anger, or fear, but not this intense compassion that suddenly grew in Aziraphale's eyes and face. "No," Aziraphale answered, with no relief and a bit of pity. "I'm nothing like Danny. I'm merely a Principal, and he… Well, he's a bit more important than that."
"Important? How important?"
"I'm sorry," said the angel. "I can't give you the answers you want or need."
Jazz nearly hissed at him, she was so irate. Her voice was hard when she finally addressed him again. "But you do have answers." Aziraphale said nothing and Jazz looked down to hide the despair she felt. She had answers, they were right at her fingertips. But this man, this stranger, he wasn't going to budge. He was hiding things about her brother and he wasn't going to tell her.
"If you hurt him," she said softly, eyes closed, face still down. "Or if he gets hurt because you've hid something… The three of us will come after you."
"I'd expect nothing less," was the gentle rejoinder.
Jazz didn't say anything, just got in her car and drove away.
Despite his newly angelic origins, Danny had a harder time paying attention in school than before he'd died. Monday's were well acknowledged to generally be the suckiest day of the week (though Danny was sure that Wednesday was a close runner up), and this particular Monday was worse than usual. He was ungrounded, and Sam knew it.
He'd had to tell his friends about it; if they'd found out another way then he was going to be in a lot more trouble than he could handle. Especially from Sam, because given what had happened when she was drunk… Anything that could be taken as rejection would break the fragile truce between them.
In fact, that was the thought that had occupied him the entire day. Habit had allowed him to wander from class to class (and thank God that he didn't share many with either Sam or Tucker). Despite his recent involvement in class and lifting of grades, his inattention seemed a relief to the majority of his teachers. For the time being, Danny was content to go with it; especially when he could answer just about any question the teachers threw at him without pause. But when all was said and done, the entirety of his attention was focused on the fact that he no longer had any legitimate way to avoid Sam.
Eight hours of school—less if one considered the time between classes and at lunch, where he had to focus on Tucker and Sam—and almost an hour wandering in the park hadn't given Danny any clarity on how to handle the dilemma. It was almost laughable. Here he was, a healthy sixteen year old boy, and he was angsting over his girlfriend practically demanding sex.
The thought stopped him in his tracks. Healthy his ass. He was dead. Dead, dead, dead. No wonder he was angsting. Even before this it was a little odd to think about, since he was half dead. But now… No. Danny shook his head, intending to let his wandering feet guide him home. At least by locking himself in his room he was guaranteed some little sanctuary. He was interrupted by two familiar voices from behind.
Tucker and Sam were coming up fast behind him—too close for him to pretend anything and expect to get away. And from the looks of the basket in Sam's hand, there wouldn't be anything other than the excuse of a few ghosts that would let him escape. So he bit the bullet and waved.
"Hey guys, what're you doing here?"
Sam grinned as she came alongside him. "We thought we're celebrate since you're officially grounding free. You didn't eat much at lunch so I packed a basket."
The smile on Danny's face froze in place as he stifled a grimace. He never ate anything anymore, not unless someone was watching. Then it only made him feel strange, so he tried to avoid it. It was odd, the not eating. He never felt full, he just didn't seem to feel anything where hunger was concerned. He did the only thing he could think to do. He lied.
"That's great, Sam." The smile on his face was standard, pasted there as his heart stuttered in his chest at the way she looked at him. He had to steel himself against the sudden surge of desire, and then the overwhelming and ever present guilt that threatened to force him to his knees. Angelic thoughts, he reminded himself, for all the good that it did. But smile he continued to do.
She smiled back, completely unaware that anything was wrong before sliding under his arm to press against his side, the basket banging between them as Tucker pretended to gag at them. It was simply so right to have her there, so close to him. It felt good, and complete, and he hated that anything he wanted to do with her, the way he loved her, was something he wasn't supposed to have anymore.
From in front of them Tucker rolled his eyes. "You guys are gross. And Sam, I'm not eating that crap you packed."
She frowned at him. "You know, Tucker, you're lucky I'm in such a good mood, or else I'd kick you."
He stuck his tongue out at her. "There isn't a single speck of meat in there Sam. I'll die if I eat that stuff."
Danny started laughing at that. "Sure Tucker. And I'm the Virgin Mary." For a moment Danny paused, entire body tense as he realized he'd just completely blasphemed. Oh, he was so going to hell. Then again, Danny's mind shot at him, he might already be there. How could hell be worse than the hundred little ways he was hurting Sam?
His sudden tense silence was covered when Tucker started laughing at Danny. "Dude, I'd pay money to see you in a dress."
Danny nearly flipped his friend off, but stopped at the last second as he realized that it wasn't a very good thing, and as an angel he should be good. He needed to be good. It was just so hard. Instead he hid the uncertainty he was feeling by turned his head and pressing his lips to Sam's hair, breathing deeply and hoping that it would somehow steady him. Her presence did usually make him feel better, even if it was nearly driving him crazy as well.
Sam seemed to lean into the chaste kiss as she said, "The Nasty Burger is less than a block away, Tuck. Feel free to get a heart attack on a bun."
Danny didn't think he'd seen Tucker move so fast since the fitness test in freshman year. From the way Sam was shaking under his arm he was pretty sure she was thinking along the same lines. The humor was just so easy to come by where Tucker was concerned. A chuckle escaped him as he dropped his arm from Sam's shoulder to take the basket of apparently vegetarian food from her. He nodded his head towards the grass on the other side of the fountain.
"Come on, let's get some grass," he said. She followed with a smile on her face, looking much more relaxed than she had since Danny had returned from heaven. It made him smile, nearly content as he made a show of finding the perfect place to sit. The longer he drew it out, he knew, the less time there would be for meaningful interaction. That was something he couldn't afford right now. As it was, he was halfway to dying (were he not already dead) for a chance to kiss her.
Finally he found a place in the grass and sank to it, taking the basket and Sam both with him. She went willingly and he didn't even touch the basket, simply laid back with Sam cradled against him. Her hair was soft against his neck and cheek, and her breathing was gentle and steady.
"Hey Sam?" he asked, not even sure what he was going to say. His mouth was running away from him again, he was sure, but he was so content to stare at the sky with her beside him. Cloud watching could be his new hobby.
"Are you happy?" It was a mortifying question, but even as he asked it Danny desperately wanted to know the answer.
"What do you mean?" she asked as she levered herself up onto an elbow to look down at him. One of her hands came up to gently brush his hair away from his eyes.
"Are you happy? With me, I mean?" Blue eyes bored into violet with every modicum of seriousness that Danny possessed.
Sam frowned. "Are you trying to break up with me?" The insecurity in her eyes tore at his heart, and Danny wasn't sure whether he should hate himself for putting it there in the first place, or hate himself for the fact that he was about to take it away.
Before Sam could do anything else, Danny pushed himself up on both of his elbows, his mouth meeting hers. As kisses went it wasn't mind blowing. There weren't fireworks, rumbles of thunder, or lightning crashing around them. But it was warm, and full of the love he held in his heart for her. Dead or no, there was nothing that could change the way he felt for her. If it had taken dying again, he would happily have sacrificed himself to take away the lost, almost haunted look to her eyes.
When he pulled away from he smiled, rubbed his nose against hers, savoring the action as though it might be the last time he ever did it. "No, Sam. Not breaking up with you."
She smiled brilliantly. "Then yes, I'm happy with you."
He chuckled a laugh as he leaned in to kiss her again, this time letting it heat slowly as their lips met. It was gentle again, there was no need to clash as they kissed, but she trembled against his mouth. It was deliciously sensual, the way he felt her want to give in, submit to his tender demands, her lips parting to let his tongue dip in and taste her. One of her hands found its way to clutch at his shirt, the motion at his chest pulling the thin material tightly. It only took Danny another second to reach for her with one arm, the other balancing his weight carefully, and pull her against him, the heat suddenly bursting into sizzling flames.
"Oh, I see how it is." The voice that interrupted them was amused and disgusted at the same time as Danny pulled back from Sam's mouth, startled and looking up as Sam did. "You don't pack anything for me to eat just so you can make out with him."
Tucker snorted as he dropped to the grass beside them, his Nasty Burger bag on his lap. The scent coming from it was entirely appetizing and Danny spared a moment from his sudden embarrassment to half wish that he still craved food like mortal humans. Next to them both Sam faked a gag as Tucker pulled a steaming Nasty Burger from the bag, unwrapping it much as one would revere a priceless piece of artwork.
"You know," he said conversationally, "If you make up excuses like this every time you want to play tonsil hockey, you're going to be contributing to my inevitable heart attack."
Sam rolled her eyes and kicked him ungently in the leg. As expected Tucker complained, rubbing his leg and then waving the meat at her. It was all Danny could do to keep from laughing at the ensuing argument. He contented himself instead with lying back down on the grass, one hand still holding to Sam. Contentment; it was a word he'd used a lot in the last half hour, he realized. And after all of the debating and doubting when it came to Sam and where she wanted their relationship to be.
It was an effort to keep the frown that wanted to follow that from his face, but he did it. It was horrible to think that he was becoming so proficient at lying. To everyone else but himself, it seemed. But he could still do that with amazing ease, the kisses he'd given Sam not minutes before were an excellent example. Danny shuddered to think what Aziraphale would say if he knew Danny had done that. The angel was such a goody two shoes. It galled him to agree with Crowley, but it was the truth. The angel was a rigid do-gooder who would most likely avert his eyes if Danny even pecked Sam on the lips in his presence. It was a wonder that the two were such friends—they were so different.
Not so much unlike himself and his friends, Danny figured as a fry came sailing in his direction. Sam had ducked and it landed on his stomach, nearly falling off. He reached for it and sent it flying back at Tucker. "Don't waste good food!" he said out of habit with another sigh for the loss of his appetite.
"Stuff it," Tucker said a little heatedly. "It's not like you've been saving the food these days. You throw entire trays out at lunch."
Danny flushed as he sat up. "I was joking, Tuck. What's your deal?"
Sam glanced back at him, arching a brow. "So you missed the entire conversation?" He shrugged.
"I was thinking. It's a nice day. I thought you two were just having another installment of the Great Meat Debate." He glanced between the pale girl and the dark boy. "What'd I miss?"
Sam started laughing as Tucker glared at her and sputtered denials at the halfa. "It's not either of your business, so just let it be."
"I don't know, Tucker," Sam started only to have Tucker shove a handful of fries in her mouth to quiet her. He turned to Danny and said tersely, unhappiness bright in his clear green eyes, "Girl trouble. That's all you need to know."
"Ah," Danny replied sagely, even though his experience with girls went as far as a few dates with Valerie and the rest of his life with Sam. Not that that was mostly going to happen, but pretending for a few seconds wouldn't kill him. He was so caught up in his thoughts that when the chilled breath worked its way up his throat to hang just past his lips that Danny was taken completely by surprise.
"It's time for you to surrender, whelp."
Danny jerked away from Sam, on his feet within seconds as his best friends scrambled to their own. Even as he heard Tucker complaining about his food being wasted Danny was already wondering where Skulker had gotten another set of battle armor on such short notice, and how he'd managed to get to it and back to challenge him again in such short order. The snappy sarcasm was just reflex.
"Didn't I already kick your ass once this week?"
Skulker's laughter boomed from inside the metal exoskeleton, and Danny wondered for a moment if he had any real need to worry. No, he decided. He was already dead, there was nothing the ghost could do to him that would be worse than that. And so long as he kept the hunter focused on him, then Sam and Tucker would stay safe.
Skulker dropped a little lower in the air, and Danny glanced around taking in the possibility of watching civilians. There were none, so he felt confident in facing Skulker without worry.
"You got lucky last time. Before this battle is finished your pelt will adorn my bed."
Danny just sighed and shook his head. "Skulker, when will you get it into your head that I'm not merely decoration? But hey! The bed! That's what, a step up from the wall?"
He chuckled as he let the silver-white rings that heralded his inner ghost slide across his body to leave the black hazmat behind. He'd never changed in front of Sam or Tucker since actually dying, but the timing for releasing his wings was near perfect, and they only emerged from the wingmarks through the tight black fabric a second or so after the rings passed his shoulders. In the end it was Danny Phantom left facing the other ghost, face severe and implacable, the smile that played on his lips much more dangerous that the laughter of moments before had implied.
The ghost glared at the halfa, and his voice boomed again. "If you're lucky I'll use your skull as a chamberpot."
Danny didn't even flinch at the disgusting prospect, merely clenched his fists in anticipation of the battle. "If you think you can, Skulker, bring it."
Yes, late, sorry, feeling ill. Next update will be quicker I hope.