WARNING WARNING WARNING!!!

I'm starting this story out as a 'T' story, but I don't feel like really working on keeping the dark, twisted, haunted-ness of this story to a minimum. So there is a possibility that this will become an 'M' story at some point. If it does, I will post a big note at the beginning in warning. Please don't worry about smutty stuff or lemons – I've never written those into my stories – but it will get dark and disturbing. You've been amply warned.

WARNING WARNING WARNING!!!

Second warning: I'm twisting the characters (and the settings) a little bit to make them more realistic and my own. This makes this story a little AU. If this bothers you, please stop reading and don't complain to me. I'm not going to 'fix' my changes. I happen to like them, but I also respect your opinion to not – I just don't want to hear it. Flamers without just cause WILL be hunted down and used as mulch in my garden.

Oh, and let's get one thing straight right now. I am not Butch Hartman, nor am I rewriting the Danny Phantom series. This is my story and will happen on my timeline. My story and Hartman's story diverge at the end of this prologue – from there on out, everything is game as I write my story. And I'm not getting any money from this, so this is also a blanket disclaimer for the entire story.

WARNING WARNING WARNING!!!

*edited 12/2008*

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Real Life
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria

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(Prologue)

In Which Heroes are Not Born, They are Made

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In real life, there is no such thing as a superhero.

In real life, the innocent get targeted more often than not.

In real life, people can't be put into nice, little categories of good or evil.

In real life, the line between right and wrong blurs into nonexistence.

In real life

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Sam flicked the light switch with one chipped, black-painted fingernail and gazed down into the depths of the Fentons' basement with an arched eyebrow. A single light bulb had sizzled to life to illuminate the steep stairwell. The basement door she had just opened was painted a startling Day-Glo orange, the words 'Fenton Laboratory – Keep Out' stenciled in black letters across its surface. "The infamous lab," the Goth said with a sarcastic tone, "you're finally going to let us see it?"

"There's nothing to see," Danny muttered as he pushed past her and clumped down the stairs. "It's just a basement."

Sam bit back a tiny smile as Tucker brushed past her excitedly. She had seen the tiny flush that had crept onto Danny's face at the mention of his parents' laboratory. She wasn't entirely sure why Danny was always to uncomfortable with the idea of his parents working in their basement, but up until this particularly sunny Tuesday afternoon, he'd always been adamant about them not going down into the lab.

"But it's the basement!" Tucker was almost stepping on Danny's heels by this point, craning his head to try and see around the corner at the bottom. "You've been dropping hints about this place since elementary school – I'm dying to see it!"

Danny shot Sam a glance and rolled his eyes as she finally started to follow them. She carefully made her way down the steps, just as excited as Tucker to see the 'insane' inventions, but not nearly as willing to risk tripping and falling down the stairs. Danny stepped off the bottom stair and twisted to his right, reaching out and flipping a light switch. Brilliant lights burst into existence in the lab, spilling into the shadowy recesses of the stairs.

"Come on," Tucker continued as he tripped down the last few stairs, "it's got to be interesting; your parents design secret weapons for the government…" he trailed off as he stepped around the corner, his eyes widening despite the blinding glare of the lights.

Sam grinned at his speechlessness for a moment before she glanced around the wall that separated the stairs from the lab. "Whoa," she whispered.

Illuminated by dozens of mismatched lamps and fluorescent bulbs, the walls and ceiling were covered in aluminum foil that had been stapled and duct-tapped and was peeling in places. Rickety garage-style metal shelves lined the walls and formed narrow aisles along the left side of the room. Huge tables took up most of the open space in the middle of the room, and to the right was a large circle of steel built into the wall. And everywhere there were things: blenders, toasters, fans, televisions, radios and computers, boxes of wires, old phones, broken toys, and at least one ancient refrigerator. Everything was piled haphazardly on the shelves or stuffed into overflowing boxes. Cascading from the tables, the wiry corpses of the least-fortunate electronics sat in half-taken-apart chaos.

"We never come down here because it's a death trap," Danny sighed as his friends stared at the tons of junk his parents had collected over the years for their experiments. "Watch out for the black shelves – they tend to collapse if you breathe on them wrong."

Sam snorted and folded her arms. "I guess I can't complain about you not recycling anymore. Your parents are doing a wonderful job."

"Let's just find that stupid game and get out of here. We're not supposed to be down here." Danny slipped between two folding tables covered in the remains of what looked like at least two vacuum cleaners and carefully made his way over to the side of the basement that was filled with the shelving units. "Where do you think they put it?"

He gazed between two rows of teetering shelves for a moment before grabbing a stepstool and making his way nearly down the narrow aisle. As he set down the stool and climbed up to study the boxes on the top shelf, Sam walked over and leaned against the end of one of the old shelves, dust accumulating on her black shirt from the long-forgotten boxes. Wrinkling her nose and brushing herself off, her elbow knocked against an old thermos that had been perched precariously on one of the shelves. It wobbled, crashed to the floor, and rolled under a shelf.

Danny glanced down at where the thermos had vanished. "Sam? Can you make sure that gets picked up?" He yanked a box off one of the rickety shelves in a small shower of dust. Carefully balancing it while he dug through it, he searched for his game, apparently unconcerned by the thick layer of dust growing on his dark blue shirt and jeans.

"Why?" Sam raised a skeptical eyebrow. "This place is a disaster anyways."

"My parents are on an inventing streak. If you leave it on the floor there's a chance they'll try to make it into some kind of rocket or inter-dimensional container or something and we'll end up drinking radioactive hot chocolate next winter." He shuffled things around in the box for a moment. "Anything on the floor is considered fair game."

She stared down at the shelf that hid the thermos. "It's that bad?"

He laughed softly, not seemingly to be paying attention to what he was saying. "Last fall my parents messed with the stove, and do you remember what happened to the turkey we had at Thanksgiving? Same thing."

Tucker sighed happily and nodded, but Sam shivered and grimaced. She remembered that dinner fiasco perfectly. "That's one of the reasons why I chose to become a vegan last year."

"What was wrong with it?" Tucker muttered as he picked up a half-together radio and fiddled with the wires, "It was delicious."

Danny looked over at him for a second, blinking, before shaking his head and putting the box back on the shelf. "It was glowing and levitating, Tucker. You and Dad were the only two people that dared to eat it."

He shrugged. "So? It was good."

As Danny grabbed another box to look through, Sam bent down to pick up the fallen thermos. Crouched on the floor, her fingers reaching under the shelf to grab the thermos, a sparkle caught her eye. Squinting through the densely-piled junk that littered the lab, Sam studied the large, round object that was built into a wall on the other side of the lab. It was a hole in the wall about six feet around and about six feet deep. Jumbled with wires and metal bits, it was surrounded by thick metallic plates and electronics. Sam, finally retrieving the thermos from its hiding spot under the shelf, stood up. "What's that?"

"What's what?" Danny asked distractedly. "Yes!" He pulled the dusty game out of the battered box and held it up in triumph. Balancing it carefully on his head as he tried to put the box back on the shelf, he knocked into another box sitting dangerously close to the edge and sent it tumbling to the ground. Old fishing equipment clattered loudly as it fell into a jumbled mess at the base of the stool. "Darn it!"

"That." Sam interrupted his furious glaring at the mess, pointing at the portal.

The game perched on his head teetered dangerously as Danny glanced up at the round hole and sighed. "Oh, that. My parents are working on it. It's supposed to be some kind of TV thing where you can see the 'other side'." He grabbed the game before it could fall and held it.

"Other side?" Sam asked. Her eyes glittered in the brilliant light of the mismatched lights. She knew that Danny's parents were part-time 'ghost hunters' – the thought that this might be one of their paranormal inventions caught her attention. She loved spooky ghost stories.

"You know: ghosts and stuff."

Tucker set the broken radio back on the table and squinted through the brightly-lit mess. "Does it work?"

"No," Danny snorted. "Of course not. It's one of my parent's ghost inventions. You know how well those things work."

Tucker shrugged, craning his neck to see the portal better. "Come on, Danny – your parents are brilliant inventors. They get into all sorts of science magazines and their 'secret' government stuff works really well. Didn't they get that hovercraft thing working?"

"The speeder? I suppose that worked okay, but none of their ghost stuff ever works. Besides the fact that there're no ghosts to find, their ghost inventions all use psychotropic triggers – you know, the idea that if you believe that something will work, it will." Danny chuckled softly.

"I'm still surprised you know what psychotropic means," Tucker grinned.

Danny jumped off the stool, scowling down at the pile of fishing equipment on the floor. "Well, I had to look it up..."

"And then you had to have Jazz tell you what you looked up," Sam added, snickering. Her grin only grew when her best friend switched his glower from the mess on the floor to his friends.

"Still. None of their stupid ghost inventions work."

Sam shook her head at the annoyed look on Danny's face. She took a few steps towards the portal and asked, "Can we go look at it?"

Danny gazed at her for a second before glancing down at the mess one last time and began to work his way out of the aisle with the newly-found game in his hands. "You know my parents don't really want us down here. We'll get 'the speech' if they get home and find us in the lab." He slid out from between the rickety shelves and glanced around.

"The speech?" Tucker asked.

"It's dangerous; you'll get electrocuted; you might die; etcetera, etcetera…" Danny muttered in a horrible impression of his father. "It takes about three hours, depending on who gives it."

Sam nodded, still gazing at the portal. "But can we see it?"

Danny looked dubious, obviously wanting to head back upstairs, but Sam and Tucker both started to beg at the same time. "Please?"

Sighing, Danny gave in. "Sure, fine."

Sam threaded her way over to the portal, still absently holding the thermos she had picked up in one hand and brushing a lock of her frizzy black hair out of her face with the other. "It'd be so cool if it really worked, you know. We'd get to see ghosts and dead people and…" she trailed off.

"You are so Goth," Tucker pronounced, following a step behind her.

Sam glared at him and punched him in the shoulder. "Why doesn't it work?"

Shaking his head sourly, Danny said, "You mean other than the fact that it's got that psychotropic trigger… which means that you have to believe it'll work in order for it to turn on?" He paused with one eyebrow raised, studying the mess of wires. "Come on, Sam – no amount of belief will make this thing work. You can't make a portal that'll show you the afterlife."

Tucker nodded, leaning back against a table. "But it'd still be fun if it did work."

"Yeah, totally," Danny said with a quick smile. "To get to see what's on the other side? That'd be fantastic. But it's never going to work."

Sam studied the portal carefully before a small grin flickered across her face. "So it'll never work… but you definitely have to go in so I can get a picture for my scrapbook."

"Me?" Danny asked incredulously.

Sam nodded, her smile firmly in place. "It's your basement." She gestured with the thermos.

"It's my parent's lab."

Tucker crossed his arms and joined the argument. "They're your parents."

Danny looked from one to the other. "I'm not going to get to go upstairs and continue pretending my parents are normal until I do this, huh?"

Both shook their heads, identical smiles on their faces. "Picture, picture, picture," Tucker chanted.

Danny scowled and thrust the game at Tucker, making him wince when a corner dug into his chest. "Hold this," he muttered as he turned to dig through a discarded box next to the portal, pull out a set of ugly white clothes, and shake off a layer of dust.

"What's that?" Tucker asked in horror.

Sam winced. "Yeah, it's a fashion disaster – and that's saying something coming from me."

Danny held it up and sighed. "It's called a 'clean suit' or something. If I get any kind of dust or hair or something on their 'precious experiments', I'll never hear the end of it. The 'contaminating the lab' lecture was last timed at over five hours, and they've probably come up with some new stuff since then. So shut it." He yanked the white pants on over his jeans and threw the jacket over his shirt, not bothering with the myriad of buttons.

While Danny snapped a black belt around his waist to hold the baggy pants up, Sam was busy studying the dirty disaster of a lab with an odd look in her eye. There was dust and debris everywhere. "They care about dirt?" she asked.

"Don't ask," Danny muttered. "Trust me on this one: it's not worth asking."

Tucker snickered. "Well, if you die, at least you'll look stupid."

Glaring at his best friend, Danny carefully stepped onto the small bit of floor left inside the portal that wasn't covered in dangling wires and cords. He looked around at all the bits and pieces before turning around to pose for the picture.

Sam set the thermos down on a nearby table and brought the camera to her eye, but hesitated. "You've got your dad's head on your jacket."

Glancing down, Danny wrinkled his nose when he spotted the cartoon-ish face of his father stuck to his jacket pocket. "Ever since he got these stupid stickers, he's been sticking them on everything." He ripped off the Fenton sticker, wadded it into a tiny ball, and threw it in the general direction of the trash can on the other side of the room. "Better?"

She nodded, and grinned. "So? Do you think they'll ever get it to actually work?"

Danny shook his head. "I don't think they even know where to start right now. They were really depressed that it wasn't working. I think they gave it their best shot already."

Tucker chuckled the other side of the table as he rested his elbows against the cluttered top. "Maybe you have to believe that it'll work."

Danny laughed, shifting his feet around in the mishmash of wires inside the portal. "Yeah, the great Danny Fenton," he posed heroically with his hands at his waist, taking on a dramatic tone, "fated to save the world by turning on his parents' crazy, lame-ass ghost portal!" He grinned, letting his hands drop and shaking his head in disbelief. "Got that picture yet?"

Tucker quickly snapped a picture with his camera phone as Sam raised her camera. "Yeah, and it'll be all over the school by the end of the week." He grinned down at the thumbnail that appeared on his screen. "Maybe sooner."

"Hey!" Danny lunged at Tucker just as Sam's camera flashed. His feet caught on the wires, unbalancing him and making him fall against the portal wall. Pushing himself back upright, his hand pressed against a small button on the side of the portal.

As he heard the small click of the button, a worried thought jumped up from deep within his mind. Could a ghost portal really work? And, for just a split second, he truly believed that one could.

That was all it took.

The greatest invention Jack and Maddie Fenton would ever build whirred to life amongst the startled screams of the three teenagers. Danny was swallowed in a flash of painful light.

--In real life, heroes are not born, they are made.

(end prologue)