When I started this story two years ago to this day, I never expected THIS to happen. Just so you realize that. TONS of thanks to my reviewers all through this story – I know there are so many of you who started reading this two years ago and have since vanished off the face of FFN, there are a ton of you who started reading at some point during the past years… and there are a number of you who started reading two years ago who have reviewed every (or almost every) chapter since! I'm just blown away by the response to this story.
I just want you to know that it means a lot to me that you like reading what I write. I love reading your comments, critiques, and odd death threats. :) Thank you so much – without your support, I probably would never have finished this.
I am thinking of doing a short (3-4 chapter – SHORT!) story, post-Final Exam about Danny's new life back home after all of this. It would be dripping with angst (obviously)… I'm not going to ask for a VOTE on whether or not I should do it because I already know what you'll SAY. I'm just mentioning it so you'll be on the look-out for it.
Enjoy the epilogue, and I will see you soon in a new story.
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria
Six weeks later…
I was already sitting in my seat in the back of Mr. Lancer's class when everyone started to file in a few seconds before the bell rang. I barely looked up from the picture I was doodling as Sam and Tucker dropped into the chairs next to me. They were still talking about something that had happened hours earlier – something to do with Paulina and Dash during lunch that I hadn't seen.
I'd missed it because I wasn't even in the cafeteria to see it. But me not being there wasn't something new; this was my fourth day back at school and I hadn't stepped foot into the cafeteria. Sam and Tucker kept asking me why I refused to go in there, but I didn't have any answers for them. All I told them was that I didn't want to and I didn't really know why.
That wasn't true; I knew exactly why I wouldn't step into the lunch room. I just couldn't explain it to them – I couldn't explain it to anyone. The way everyone stared at me…
It wasn't like I looked like a ghost. We couldn't figure out how to undo what LJ had done to turn me into a hybrid, but my parents had managed to invent a device that suppressed the ectoplasm in my body. It did almost nothing for my appearance – I still had eyes that changed color between blue and green depending on the light and my hair was still two-toned– but it did get rid of the supernatural glow.
Everyone stared at me anyways. It sent odd tingles down my spine and cold blood racing through my veins when they looked at me… two feelings that I really didn't like. So I just stayed away from places where people would be able to stare at me. Lunch, gym, the library… just about everywhere really. It wasn't a great solution to the problem and I knew that, but it seemed to work.
Sam touched my shoulder, yanking me out of my thoughts. I sent her a vague smile before my gaze drifted back to the picture I'd been doodling, a small sigh drifting from my lips. Not for the first time, I'd been doodling nothing but bodiless head and dead eyes.
I flipped to the next page before Sam could ask about it, making a mental note to get rid of the picture before anyone saw it. I'd already been to see a psychologist a few times and he had more than enough fodder from Val and my parents – he didn't need more proof of how messed up my mind was.
"Alright students," Lancer said when the bell rang. He grabbed a stack of papers off the desk and swept his eyes over the class. When his eyes connected with mine I shuddered and looked away. Murderer… "The district finally handed me the topic for the final exam."
I took a deep breath, unclenching my fingers from where they'd grabbed the edge of the desk. Calm down. He doesn't know anything. You're fine. I hated looking people in the eyes; I could see nothing but death reflected back in them. My fingers were shaking a little as I picked up my pencil again, not even bothering to pretend to be paying attention.
The point of me being at school had nothing to do with learning. The psychologist had explained it to me very clearly: I was here for 'socialization'. All of the teachers knew it and none of them ever called me on not paying attention. They seemed pleased when all I managed to do was show up for class which, I have to admit, wasn't very often.
Sometimes everything was just too much and I had to just… leave. Everyone wanted me to stay in class, but I was afraid of what I'd do… what I was capable of doing if I ever lost control…
My attention wavered and my pencil started to scratch across the paper again as Lancer explained about the topic. I already knew what it was; this was the last class of the day and people had been talking about it. The topic – traumatic experiences – was achingly ironic.
Instead of listening to him ramble about something I wasn't planning on doing anyways, I turned my attention to the problem I'd been trying to solve for the past six weeks: how to answer a simple question.
The questions weren't really all that simple. Everyone wanted me to talk about what had happened to me while I was trapped in the Pits – my parents, my friends, the psychologist… and I never knew what to tell them. It wasn't that I didn't want to tell them. I just… I couldn't tell them.
I wouldn't be able to stand it if they knew what I'd done. What would I do if they looked at me and saw nothing but the monster I really was?
Letting out a short breath, my gaze followed the pencil lead as it slipped across the page, filling it with more bloody doodles. Images readily filled my mind; those horrible three months lived in crystal clarity inside of me. I could still see everything like it had just happened.
It was so hard to believe that I'd been gone for three months. Three weeks I could wrap my mind around, maybe even a month since I'd been thrown into the Pits sixteen times. But three months? The only thing that made me believe the calendar was how off my own rhythms were from everyone else's. It wasn't uncommon for me to eat once a day – if that – and I rarely got any sleep at night. It was almost like I was stuck living through days that lasted much longer than a real day did.
I wrinkled my nose as another imaged surfaced, my fingers doodling a picture of a headless rat on the page. I watched my fingers move, trying to ignore the images my mind dragged up. There was no reason to keep thinking about death and murder and fights and things like that – I was free and out of the Pits and that was that. It was time to focus on being normal again.
Biting my lip a little, I concentrated on my fingers, driving the other thoughts out. My fingers were bony and skinny, the same as the rest of me. Ten more reasons why I needed to start listening to the doctor's orders to eat more. I was already choking down five different pills every morning and I didn't weigh nearly as much as I should.
Half-ghost murderer… I blinked, shook my head, and focused on my drawing. The psychologist had mentioned – to my parents, not to me, but I'd heard it anyways – that maybe I wasn't eating because I didn't feel as though I deserved to eat. He said it might be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. When I had carefully explained to him later that I was a half-ghost and I didn't need to eat as much as a normal human, he had merely listened, nodded, and told me to eat more.
My eyes narrowed and my pencil scrapped harder on the paper. Stupid psychologist, I can't help not being hungry all the time. The main problem with the psychologist was that he was right too often when he talked to me. It was frustrating to listen to him. Just for a split-second, an image drifted through my head of the man lying on the ground with no head, but I closed my eyes and forced it away. When I opened my eyes, I drew a dark circle on my paper, then sketched a lone figure locked inside, screaming, nobody listening to him.
Lancer dropped a piece of paper on my desk and I flinched a little, startled. I hadn't seen him come up. He hesitated, obviously looking at the picture I'd drawn, then moved on without a word. Scowling, I flipped to the next page in my notebook and set my pencil down, determined to stop drawing. Lancer would, no doubt, tell my parents what I'd drawn and they'd tell the psychologist and…
I just wanted everyone to stay out of my head. I could handle this. If only I could stop thinking about it all the time, I'd just go back to being normal. I was the hero, right? This shouldn't be bothering me like it was.
My fingers itched, twitched, then grabbed the pencil. The psychologist had said that doodling was okay – something about needing to get the images out of me somehow and if I couldn't talk about them, drawing was the next best option. Not that I'd ever give him what I drew. But maybe it was okay to just let my fingers draw, as long as I got rid of the pictures later.
I'd get over this. I'd stop thinking about it, I'd figure out how to talk to Sam and Tucker and tell them things without mentioning that I was a murderer, and I'd put it all in the past. Done. Over with. Finished.
Killer… I dropped the pencil, rubbing the back of my neck and breathing slowly. Those thoughts had been easier to keep down when I was just struggling to stay alive. Now that I was home and safe, they just slipped in whenever they wanted. Murderer…
Shut up shut up shut up, I hissed at my own mind. I closed my eyes and waited, almost taunting my mind to throw something at me. It didn't – it never did, not when I was expecting it.
A scream made my eyes pop open and I froze, just for a split-second seeing a blood- and ectoplasm-soaked arena all around me, a dead little girl lying on the ground in front of me. My breath caught in my throat and my heart sped up in my chest.
Then it was gone and I was back in class, my fingers white-knuckled around the edge of my seat, struggling to get a breath into my lungs. The class was continuing on like nothing had happened – which, in reality, nothing had. I dug my fingers into my hair and closed my eyes, concentrating on slowing down my down my heartbeat. Damn it, why does that keep happening?
The flashbacks were getting worse as the week went on too. Monday hadn't been so bad, but now that it was Thursday, it was happening almost every hour. Suddenly I'd be somewhere else, just for a moment, before everything would go back to normal. I wonder if I'm just stressed, I sighed, crossing my arms and burying my head. Maybe I can stay home from school tomorrow.
The only problem with that was that I'd have to tell my parents why. If they found out I was having flashbacks they'd be even more worried about me. I can handle this. Closing my eyes and tuning out the teacher, I focused on waiting out the rest of the school day.
I can handle this on my own.
The end of the class came sooner than I expected. When the bell rang and I lifted my head, Tucker said, "We're going to the Nasty Burger. Do you want to come?"
I shook my head without even thinking about it. Yes, I want to go… but no, I'm not going to go. The Nasty Burger was just another place where people would stare at me. It was just another place that I had added to my 'must avoid' list.
Disappointment filtered through the air and I tried for a little smile – but I'm pretty sure I failed at it. "Next time, okay? I just…" I trailed off when she nodded.
"We understand, Danny," Sam said softly, smiling even though she didn't really understand. She couldn't possibly understand – I couldn't tell her what was wrong. She grabbed her bag and walked away, Tucker trailing behind her, and I sighed. I wanted to spend time with them, just like I wanted to tell them what had happened to me. I just couldn't.
I didn't dare let them see what I'd become. I knew that if I let them get too close, they would figure it all out. They'd see what I'd done and they'd look at me and I wouldn't be just imagining the fear and the accusation in their eyes anymore.
Slowly stuffing my notebook and pencil into my backpack, I waited until the classroom was empty of everyone except Lancer and me. I picked up the slip of paper that Lancer had dropped on my desk earlier, flipping it over to read it – the final exam topic. I already knew what it was, but my eyes drifted over it anyways, surprised when it didn't say what I was expecting. Everyone in the school had gotten the same topic… except me. My directions said that I was to write a paper about my favorite family vacation.
I studied the overweight teacher busy organizing his desk, feeling a small smile drift onto my face. He'd given me a different topic, no doubt worried about how I'd react to one about traumatic experiences. He looked up at me and I quickly dropped my gaze, shivering at the critical look in his eye. It wasn't really there – I knew that – but my mind kept putting it there. Murderer.
As soon as he turned his back to me, I crammed the final exam topic into my backpack and twisted invisible. Letting my feet drift off the ground, I pushed myself intangible and raced into the afternoon air, headed for my sanctuary in the park.
I loved the park. Lying on the warm grass, feeling the sun beat down on me, my fingers laced behind my head… it was absolutely the complete opposite of Walker's Pits. I'd found this little hill off in a corner of the park where few people ever came weeks ago and had quickly claimed it. This place – it felt like nothing could ever go wrong. Like there wasn't a care or a problem in the world.
Sometimes I wondered what would happen if someone walked up to me here and started to ask me about what had happened with Walker. Most of the time, I imagined that I'd be able to answer them. I'd just tell them, to let them know just what was bothering me all the time, to hear them tell me that I wasn't a monster or a murderer and that everything would be fine…
A sour grin twisted my face at that thought. It's really too bad that I am a monster and a murderer.
I shook my head, sending the thought scattering across my mind. Stop thinking about it. Think about something else. My head tipped to the side and I watched a few of the new dandelions bob in the breeze. Like flowers. Maybe Mom will let me plant some flowers or something. The thought was pretty far out there – I wasn't interested at all in planting – but at least it wasn't dark, tortured, or deadly. Maybe I can get some virtual flowers.
Oddly, the thought set a grin on my face, trying to imaging how Tucker would react when I asked him to develop a virtual flower bed. He'd probably stare at me, stunned and flabbergasted, but would then get caught up in how to get it to work and get excited about it. No doubt he'd be able to do it and there was no doubt that I wouldn't have a green thumb in the virtual world either.
You'd kill them too, murderer…
I breathed out sharply, annoyed, and tightly clamped my eyes shut. Shut up! When nothing but silence met my demand, I rolled onto my stomach and buried my head in my arms. Why couldn't I do anything without thinking about it? Why couldn't I just forget it ever happened?
I flinched, instinctively looking up. The grass melted away, replaced by the ever-present sand on the pit floor. Adrenaline rushed through my veins, my heart almost doubling in speed as I stared into the rat's sapphire eyes. It's just an illusion, just a flashback… it'll go away…
"Where's my key?!" LJ wailed as his head tumbled from his shoulders in a gush of ectoplasm. Scrambling to my feet, I stared down at the small rat's head that had rolled towards me. "Where's my heart?"
"It's just a flashback," I whispered, taking an unsteady step backwards and swallowing heavily.
A hand grabbed my shoulder and I twisted around, staring into two deadly, raisin-like eyes. "Punk. Where's my key?"
I jerked backwards, falling back to the ground, feeling a thick tightness around my neck. One hand drifted upwards, my fingers touching a leathery collar around my neck. "I… I… I don't have…"
Walker sneered. "Is that all you are now? Afraid? Are you that terrified?"
"No," I said, forcing myself back to my feet. "I'm not afraid of you."
"Not of me, maybe," he said with a slow grin. "But you're definitely afraid."
Blades glided out of my arms at the simplest thought, frustrated and more than a little afraid of what Walker was saying. I knew that it wasn't something I wanted to hear. "You're not really here. Go away."
He took a step towards me, his bulk swelling until he was nearly twice my height. Then he leaned over me, forcing me to crane my neck. "It's your own thoughts, Punk, don't blame me for being them in."
I slashed at him but it did nothing – the blade just traveled through his body like it didn't exist. "Leave me alone."
Walker, surprisingly, laughed at that. His voice sounded like a rattlesnake and old bones, but it was definitely a laugh. "It doesn't matter if you attack me – I'm always here, can't you see that? You've built yourself the universe's best prison… one you can't escape from… and you've make me its warden."
With a growl I lunged at him, not wanting to listen to what he had to say. I swiped my blades at him over and over but they never connected. Walker's form wavered and shifted, twisting into Dan – an evil future me. "Is that all you've got, Danny?" he chuckled. "Kill me. Murder me. Go ahead."
I crouched, more than intending on attacking him to get him to go away and leave me alone, but another form appeared out of nowhere and slammed into me, knocking me over onto my back. Glowing green eyes stared into me. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Phantom hissed.
"Leave me alone!" I struggled a little, trying to force him off of me.
"Can you say 'been here, done this'?" Phantom snapped. "Knock it off!" One hand came around and whapped my head. "Idiot. You can't live like this."
My eyes narrowed as I stared into his, still tense and pushing against him. "I can handle this."
"You're explaining this to a separate piece of your own personality!" he exclaimed, a note of frustration to his voice. "It's obvious that you can't handle it."
"I don't want-"
"I know," he interrupted. "But do it anyways. They aren't going to turn their backs on you, you know."
I relaxed, letting out a slow breath. "I don't..."
Phantom leaned closer, his form wavering and twisting into Ember's. Her green eyes burned into mine, her cold breath against my face. "Don't make me hurt you, dipstick."
Then, suddenly, everything was gone. I was lying on my back in the grass, staring at the setting sun rather than a pair of eyes. Sitting up and running a hand through my hair, I looked around. I was still at the park, although I was now surrounded by a patch of decidedly scorched grass. And… I glanced down at my arms, sighing when I saw how sliced up the arms of my shirt were from where the blades had come out.
Curling my arms around my stomach, I took a few breaths, just sitting there, watching the sun set. Birds quietly trilled around me, apparently unconcerned about the half-ghost in their midst. Walker's right. I thought it, almost laughing at how much it hurt to admit. Walker's right – not only have I built the greatest prison ever, but I'm willingly locking myself inside of it.
I dragged my backpack over, dug out my notebook, and flipped through the pages to stare down at the picture of the screaming figure locked away in a circle. I stared at it silently, the light around me slowly dying away.
I can't live like this. My fingers traced around the dark circle. But I don't know what to say. I don't know how to say it. And what if…
What if they… I shook my head. I didn't know what I would do if they were afraid of me, or if they thought I was a murderer too, or if they didn't want to be around me anymore. My family and my friends had been the only things keeping me alive for those three months. I didn't know what I would do if they turned their backs on me.
How can I possibly tell them the truth?
My fingers riffled the edges of the notebook a few times. I wasn't sure what I was thinking, but I had this feeling in my stomach that something was going to happen. I flipped a few pages – reminding myself once more to get rid of the pages full of decapitated bodes and severed limbs on my way home – and ended up staring at an empty page in the notebook.
A pencil found its way into my fingers and I took a deep breath. Licking the tip of my pencil – a bad habit I'd picked up in the Pits and had to stop doing – I let it touch the paper. Across the top of the page, I scrawled 'final exam'.
Even if I never turn it in, what's one more page?
"Five months ago I was captured by a group of ghosts.."
Check out 'Final Exam' – if you haven't yet – for a copy of what Danny churns out for a final project. And keep a look out for the short post 'Final Exam' story as mentioned at the top.
Thank you so much, Kit turned Mighty, Nyghty, musiclover9419, immortalphantom, Synneofthesun, Kiomori, kdm13, Writer's-BlockDP, Anne Camp aka Obi-Quiet, Chaos Dragon, ShadowLord9, Silver Child of the Sea, The Feral Candy Cane, CatalystOfTheSoul, phantomphreak09, KareBare, Invader Johnny, Chopee, oceanabyss, New Ghost Girl, swordbunny4486, MaxRideNut, the weirdo reader, Forget and Forgive, bloodmoon13, skitzofrenic, BlueFox15, Enray, ShatterMyMuse, katiesparks, Nylah, and Hiei's Cute Girl!
THANKS FOR THE 30,000+ HITS, THE 10 C2S, AND THE 140+ FAVORITES! EVERY ONE OF YOU ROCK AND I WISH I COULD THANK YOU ALL!
See you around!
(who is still bouncing over the fact that this story is OVER…)