Death By

4

"I'm sorry, I don't speak your language," Danny Phantom said to the ghost currently babbling at him with a desperate light in its eyes.

He felt bad at times like these, when a ghost came to him looking for a way to be laid to rest and he couldn't help it because he couldn't understand it. It was so much that he'd been seriously considering hiring one of the local street urchins as a translator on occasion, though he expected he'd wind up with a small flock of them.

There were so many different dialects spoken throughout Africa, and a great many of them in the lower half. There was no way he could do more than what he already was doing and still support himself.

It wasn't like he hadn't dedicated his rare free time to learning the languages of his new home. Granted, Afrikaans was almost self-defense. Sure, English was one of the 'native' languages, but he got a lot further once he started learning the other language. His current focus was on Zulu, but he wasn't getting very far with it.

The ghost gestured widely before latching on to his arm. Danny sighed, settling back in the air as he realized he wasn't getting away quickly. "Praat jy Afrikaans?" he asked hopefully.

The blank stare was less than helpful. He sighed again and scrubbed a hand over his face before brushing his hair out of his eyes. He probably needed to get it cut, he thought absently as he perused what he knew of Zulu.

"Ukhuluma isiZulu na?"

Danny had little hope that this route would go well, if only because his own grasp of the language was sparse. But apparently his sparse grasp would have to do, because the ghost's face lit up and his rapid chatter changed from his own dialect to the almost familiar rolling tones interrupted by the sharp tongue noises characteristic of the languages.

All Danny caught was, "Yebo, yebo," before the ghost was off and running again leaving Danny certain that he was wasting his time with his studies.

He held his hands up. "Stop! Ma!" As soon as the ghost stopped Danny nodded. "Ngicela ukhulume kancane, angizwa." He did his best not to sound like he was begging, but if the ghost didn't slow down Danny would never be able to figure out what was wrong and how to help him.

It took a bit of time, a great deal of effort, and a pounding headache, but slowly the picture began coming together. The ghost, the man, was suffering from a curse set on him by a witch doctor and had traveled from the other coast hoping that the—well, Danny couldn't figure that one out since it was in the ghost's native tongue—could lift it so that he could finish dying.

Trouble was, Danny had no idea how to do that.

Danny also had no desire to get on the wrong side of any of the native shamans, either. He'd seen too much to think that he was immune to whatever they could do.

But he couldn't just do nothing.

Danny sighed, held his head in his hands, and murmured, "Don't worry. Musa ukwenqena,Ngingakusiza na." The promise of help made the other ghost smile. He took comfort in it, because this was his life now.

xXx

"Dalv is moving to declare him dead," Tucker announced as he swept into Sam's room.

Sam glared at him for a moment through her mirror, one eye watering from where she'd stabbed herself in it with her eyeliner. Then she stood, tugging at the hem of her blouse without realizing it. "It's only been three years," she commented as her brain caught up with her. it was the only outward acknowledgment either of them would give the day.

Tucker passed her the newspaper before collecting the ectogun on the end of her bed and shouldering it. "Dalv has its fingers in enough pies that there's a good chance they'll actually push it through."

Sam worried her lip for a moment before hmming through her teeth. "I kind of expected the board holders to move before now," she admitted. "But it's not like we didn't see it coming."

Tucker smirked a little. "Well, they have an uphill battle."

Sam laughed loudly at this and shook her head. "I don't even want to know what they'll do when they find out what's in Vlad's will." She slipped her feet into the heels next to her dresser before grabbing the jacket the matched her blue skirt from where it was draped on her desk chair. "I have to head out if I don't want to be late, Tuck. Lock up for me?"

Tucker nodded as he followed her briskly tapping heels. "Is today hostile takeover time?"

Sam nodded as she grabbed an apple and a slim faux leather portfolio on her way to her front door. "My parents are going to have kittens."

"Better them than us," he called after her.

Sam chuckled as she closed her door behind her and headed for the black Town Car waiting for her. She slid in carefully and ignored her driver as he closed the door and made his way around to the driver's seat. She had bigger fish to fry for the time being, with two of the biggest being her parents. They were aware that her grandmother had left her controlling interest in the family's companies, but she didn't think they realized that Sam now had the ability to take control, which was something entirely different than sitting back and living off of other people's hard work.

It certainly didn't hurt that she was about to announce to her own board that she was taking four of the companies she possessed and stripping them to parts. It was skirting dangerously close to insider trading, but Sam had already spoken with legal. As long as she dissolved the companies she was fine.

She smirked a little though, just as Tucker had. Before the year ended Vlad would be declared dead, and his will would be activated, and Dalv would be dead in the water. It would probably take them another year to appoint a board of trustees to run the conglomerate, but that was no skin on off her back.

She sighed. That gave them four more years to find Danny.

She opened the portfolio that rested on her lap and skimmed slim fingers down the page on top, over the signature scrawled at the bottom. She'd never pictured anything like this happening when she convinced Danny and Tucker to have wills made. It was just a precaution.

Her breathing hitched for a moment and Sam bowed her head. She'd give everything, Dalv, her own family companies, everything, to have Danny back again.

xXx

Eight-thousand-four-hundred-ninety-six miles away, Danny Fenton let himself into his one bedroom flat. He was tired, filthy, and really just wanted to fall into his bed and sleep.

Instead, he locked the door behind him, headed for the bathroom, and showered and shaved. He dressed again in clean pants and a white shirt, combed his hair, and tried not to pay attention to the circles under his eyes or the bruises creeping up just above the collar of his shirt. He remained silent as he pocketed his keys and left the small flat once more, this time headed for St. Mary's.

When he got there, he slipped into one of the back pews, quiet still, hands steady as he took up a prayer book. The evening prayer had only just begun, and despite the many voices around him, the choir at the front singing the evensong, Danny still remained silent.

When it was done and the cathedral had emptied out he moved quietly to the side of the church, eyes taking in the gentle yellow flicker of votive candles. Without conscious thought his hand slipped into his pocket and withdrew a few coins. Dropping them into the offering box he took up one of the long matches and struck it.

The bright flame moved unerringly to an unlit candle near the center of the wall. The wick caught after a moment, flaring to a life all its own, and Danny bowed his head.

"Jazz," he murmured. "Forgive me."

xXx

I'm working, I'm working, I swear!