Hopefully the start of more-periodic updates? Cross your fingers...

Happy April Fool's Day!

Real Life
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria

Chapter 18
In Which Sick People Visit Doctors

Danny crossed his arms and glowered at the flowers sitting in the center of the table. The gentle scent of his mother flowed across his senses but Danny ignored it, slumping into a chair he could barely see.

The flowers were dying. In a world lost to blurs and splashes of color, the flowers were more in focus than most other things. Small waves of light and sensation pooled and poured around the purple petals, the tulips' lives slowly dripping onto the tabletop like mist.

A watery sound made him look up and blink away the dead world he'd been lost in. His mother was standing over him with a bowl of cereal in her hand, an annoyed look on her face.

"There's nothing wrong with me," Danny insisted for the fourth time that morning. "I don't need to go to the doctor."

An arched eyebrow and a disbelieving look was all he got in response. Danny let out a short breath and took the bowl of cereal, staring down at the contents in frustration. All his well-laid plans the night before were blasted to pieces: he hadn't stayed up to practice, he didn't have much control over these new talents of his, and he hardly doubted his mother would stick around to watch anyways.

Besides, after last night did he really want his family to know? Could he look them in the eyes and tell them he was feeding off them? Could he explain to them how dangerous he was, how much danger they were in by being around him, and how little control he had over it?

He shivered suddenly and picked up the spoon, swirling the cereal around. His mother left the room again, her own bowl of cereal in hand and eating as she ran through her morning chores, but Danny continued to sit and stare at the milky cereal. He wasn't really hungry.

After a few moments, he spooned a bite into his mouth and chewed dismally, his eyes drifting back up to gaze at the flowers. He slowly worked his way through the bowl of cereal – the mush tasting bland and unappetizing in his mouth – and allowed his mind to tumble back into the realm of the dead.

For some reason he couldn't have explained, and never could have put into words even if his life depended on it, he enjoyed watching the flowers die.

Maddie bustled through the house, drinking the milky remains in her cereal bowl as she headed to her room. She set the cereal bowl down on a dresser and picked out her clothes, shaking her head at her son's stubborn insistence that he wasn't sick. There was obviously something wrong with him, although she had to give him the fact that he looked a lot better this morning. Perhaps all the sleep he'd gotten the day before had done him some good. But after supper last night and finding him on the kitchen floor that morning, it didn't matter how much he complained.

Pulling on her clothes and peeking in the mirror to make sure her hair was still in place, Maddie smiled at her reflection and picked up her empty cereal bowl. "He's fine," she said to herself, trying to soothe a little worried note in the back of her mind. That's what the doctor was going to say too, she was sure; she was just an overprotective parent and her son was fine.

As she headed back downstairs, her words didn't help. The worry picked and bothered her with each step that she took, cresting when she stopped in the doorway of the kitchen and saw her son staring blankly at the flowers on the table.

She barely gave a second thought to the flowers – Jack had gotten them for her yesterday in an attempt to cheer her up (or so he claimed) – instead, her attention was focused on her child. Her little boy. How pale and drawn he looked, how emotionless his face was, how dead his eyes looked…

An image of her son last night at supper flashed through her mind. How hungry he'd looked when he stared at her, all of the life drained out of his eyes, the way he hadn't even seemed to be focused on her, and how, just for a moment, there had been sparkles of bright green in his blue eyes.

"The doctor appointment isn't for an hour and a half," she said, watching Danny blink a few times and focus on her.

"What?" he asked, shaking his head a little and glancing down at his half-eaten remains of his cereal.

"You still look tired," she said with a small smile, walking over and taking the bowl from his hands. It didn't look like he'd eaten much of it. "The doctor appointment isn't for awhile; why don't you go take a nap?"

He watched her set his bowl in the sink, then crossed his arms on the table and rested his chin on his arms. "I'm not tired. And I don't want to go to the doctor."

"I know." Maddie settled into a chair next to him and brushed his bangs out of his eyes. She felt her heart flutter as she gazed into his blue eyes, for some reason worried that she'd see death and motes of green. When she saw nothing she felt her shoulders relax a little and she tried for a sympathetic smile, amused with herself that she'd worry about something like that. It must have been a trick of the light – nobody's eyes could look green like that. "You're not eating and you're not sleeping well. You're going."

Danny made a noncommittal sound and turned his head away, going back to studying the tulips. His mother watched him for a long moment, then reached out and flicked on the television, settling for a local news channel. "Cloudy with a high around eighty," the weatherman cheerfully reported. "We should be seeing the sun a little this afternoon and tomorrow should be bright and sunny, highs in the low eighties."

"Dang it, I'm late," Jazz said as she burst into the kitchen, and grabbed for a bowl and the box of cereal. "Dad's stole all the hot water so I had to wait for the water heater to catch up and then I couldn't find my report! At this rate I'm going to be tardy for sure." She snatched the carton of milk from the counter and poured it over her cereal, spooning it into her mouth almost before the milk had settled. "Is Danny going to school today?"

Maddie shook her head, smiling at her frantic daughter. "Did you find your report?"

"Yeah, it was under some books." She shoveled a bite into her mouth and vanished from the kitchen. "I'm leaving in a few minutes. Have fun at the doctor Danny!"

Danny narrowed his eyes and shot a glare in the direction his sister had vanished, pulling a small chuckle out of Maddie. Danny's attention switched from the doorway to her, an annoyed look settling onto his face. Overhead, water pipes groaned and floorboards creaked as the two other family members got ready for their day.

Maddie turned her attention to the news, listening to the morning newscasters talking about the traffic in a city an hour away. A special report came on about a truck driver who'd apparently fallen asleep at the wheel and caused some major damage when the sounds of her daughter thumping down the stairs rang through the house. Jazz flashed through the kitchen, almost throwing her cereal bowl into the sink, and was gone with little more than a 'goodbye'.

Shaking her head, Maddie fiddled with the remote control until the next commercial break came. She glanced over at her son.

He was staring at her – or perhaps, she corrected with a bit of a shudder, it would be more correct to say he was staring in her direction. That dead glaze to his eyes from last night was back, piercing right through her heart and making her heart skip a beat.

Instantly seeming to pick up on it, Danny picked up his head and blinked at her, a forced-looking smile appearing on his face. "I'm going to go take a shower," he said abruptly, pushing away from the table.

"Sure," Maddie said, watching her son walk out of the kitchen and head upstairs.

"I think I'm a ghost," he had insisted all those days ago, back when she had first started to notice his strange behavior. "That is the truth! I died two days ago…"

The gentle sounds of the commercials in the background were suddenly too much for her and she flicked the TV off. As quiet fell, she could hear his desperate voice echoing through her mind.

"I can prove it!"

It was insane, really. Her son wasn't a ghost; it wasn't possible that he was a ghost. He was too alive to be dead, too vibrantly real when he'd been sitting next to her.

But there was the dead look in his eyes, sometimes. The way he seemed to be staring at things that weren't there, or the way he reacted to things he shouldn't. The way he'd walked out of a room Jack had insisted Danny hadn't been in. The way he kept dropping things when he shouldn't. The way, when he didn't think she was looking, that he would stare at the floor and look like the world was coming to a complete and total end.

"Danny," she whispered to the empty, silent kitchen. "What's wrong with you?"

Sam glowered at Jazz as the older girl explained to her that Danny was staying home sick today. She crossed her arms and leaned back against her locker, waiting for Jazz to pick up on the hint and leave.

"I wish you'd drop the act, Sam," Jazz finally sighed, rolling her eyes. "I've known you for years and the disaffected scowl just doesn't work on you."

With no answer coming, the two girls stared at each other for a long moment. For a moment, Jazz pulled looked like she was going to ask something, but she just shook her head and headed up the hallway, vanishing into the crowds.

"Great," Sam whispered dismally, finally turning around to grab her first period textbook. It was probably for the best that Danny had stayed home today, but she really needed to talk to him. There were so many questions that she wanted to ask, so many things she really needed to know.

Wrinkling her nose, she headed through the hall towards where Tucker's locker was located, already seeing his hat through the students. She was most of the way there when she hesitated. "Valerie Grey," she said softly, watching the popular girl disentangle herself from a group of students and vanish into the girl's lavatory.

She glanced up at Tucker, then back to the bathroom. "This is a stupid plan," she muttered, taking a few steps before pushing open the bathroom door and stepping inside. The place was empty except for her and Valerie, the other girl gazing at her reflection in the mirror and messing with her mascara.

"Idiot boys," Valerie was saying darkly, narrowing her eyes and studying herself closely. "Why did they do that?"

Sam licked her lips and straightened her back, walking up to the other girl and leaning her hip against one of the sinks. "Hi Valerie."

Valerie looked at her, blinked in confusion a few times, then looked around. "Um… hi?"

Sam stared at Valerie for a long moment, remembering every little thing the 'popular' crowd had done to her best friend while Valerie stood by and watched. Her lips tightened and her jaw clenched, all of her plans to be cautious and friendly running from her mind. "You see ghosts," she said bluntly.

The other girl's mascara wand fell into the sink with a clatter; Valerie's hand was not as steady as it had been as she reached down to pick it up. "That's stupid."

"No it's not," Sam countered, gazing at her steadily. "I want to know what you see."

"I don't see anything," Valerie said, twisting the cap onto her mascara and turning to head out of the bathroom. "Leave me alone."

Sam followed her. As the African-American teen's hand touched the door, Sam said, "I need to know, Valerie."

The other girl paused, her fingers curled around the handle. There were a few beats of seconds, the Valerie turned around to look at her. "I don't see anything," she said slowly and steadily. "Leave me alone." The door was yanked open and Valerie stepped out into the hallway. "But watch out for that friend of yours."

Then she was gone into the bustling of the hallway, leaving Sam staring at the slowly closing bathroom door.

Danny decided that he'd finally found a place he hated more than school. It hadn't taken him more than five minutes to determine that clinics were worse. He slunk a little lower in the uncomfortable waiting room chair and glowered at anyone who dared came close to him.

"Danny, sit up," his mother whispered, but Danny ignored her. For a moment Danny figured that if she was intent on dragging him to see the doctor, she could deal with him slouching. But when she tore her eyes away from the magazine she'd picked up, Danny sighed and sat up.

"Maria?" a nurse called.

Danny watched an older woman teeter through the door to the doctor's office, chatting pleasantly with the nurse like they were old friends. A low breath slipped out from between his teeth and he sank back down into a more comfortable position. Almost unconsciously, his hands came up and rubbed at his arms.

Why was it so cold at the clinic? Danny fought back a sudden shiver and glanced over at his mother. She didn't seem all that cold…

The world suddenly slid out of focus and Danny gazed at the blurry image of his mother for a moment. The sound of the humans had dropped away to a blurry mess; the shrieks and barks of the ghosts crowding the hospital had jumped into focus. When he turned to face back front, he flinched and pressed back as far in his chair as he could.

Standing right in front of him was a ghost.

That was the cold from before, Danny's mind informed him as he clutched at the armrests of his chair, his eyes wide and his face paling, waited for his ghost to appear and stretch out its claws and take control of his mind. Not here, not at the clinic, not right next to Mom.

The supernatural fury didn't come. Alone in his mind, Danny stared at the ghost, his breath rasping in and out of his mouth. When the old ghost leaned forwards, Danny licked his lips and pressing back even harder in his chair. Stay away from me, Danny wanted to scream at it.

It was the ghost of an ancient man, leaning heavily on its cane, an old-style cloak rapped around him. Wrinkles covered its face as the man reached into a pocket and drew out a silver pocket watch. It squinted its reddish-tinted eyes at the watch, then a creepy grin slid onto its face.

Danny shuddered and wished he could get up and run, but the chair effectively trapped him. Besides, with all the people around he would have an impossibly hard time explaining what was going on without ending up in the psychiatry ward.

"Danny," the ghost said, its voice filled with the screams of the damned. The red eyes fixed onto Danny's blue eyes. At the sound of his name, Danny flinched slightly, unable to tear his eyes away from the ghost.

There was something about the ghost that was changing. Danny couldn't put his finger on it – it wasn't the shape of the ghost or the colors or anything.

It wasn't until the old ghost leaned even closer, a rotting stench filling Danny's nose and a hair-raising grin appearing on the man's face, that Danny figured it out. The old man was aging – backwards. At first it had been ancient, perhaps eighty or ninety years old, but now it seemed to be only fifty. With every second that passed, decades were being wiped from the man's features.

The ghost chuckled crazily, its voice echoing oddly, and straightened back up. Now a middle-aged man and not needing to lean on its cane, it picked the cane up and held it in its hand like a baton. "You're late for your appointment," the ghost informed him.

The cane was held out, one end reaching to rap the top of his head. Danny flinched as it hit, feeling a cold thunk, and the world instantly dissolved back to the human world. The ghosts were gone, the quiet sound of humans chatting was back, and the ever-present emotions of the people around him had dimmed down to a quiet hum in the back of his mind.

"Danny," his mother said, exasperated.

Danny looked up at her. She was standing, her magazine tucked under her arm, studying him. After a moment, Danny got to his feet as well and, feeling a little light-headed, looked around. A nurse was standing by the door with a clipboard in her hand, looking over at them intently. The old ghost was nowhere to be seen.

Maddie's hand brushed over his forehead and cupped his chin for a second and Danny looked back at her. She looked concerned, her eyes searching his pale face for something. Finally she let go and said, "Come on."

With a glance back at where the ghost had been standing, Danny hurried after his mother. The little ghosts were flickering in and out of the corners his vision and the little hairs still standing up on the back of his neck. More than a little happy to be out of the waiting room, Danny followed the nurse.


Sam looked up from her assignment, blinking at the brown eyes gazing down at her. Paulina pushed her hair over her shoulder, giving it an 'I'm better than you' flip, and settled a smile on her face. "What do you want?" Sam asked darkly.

"I want to know if your boyfriend is doing drugs," Paulina said bluntly, eying Tucker as the boy slipped into his seat beside Sam.

Setting down her pencil, Sam sat up straighter in her desk. "He's not my boyfriend… and why would you think he's doing drugs?" Sam asked slowly.

"The way he's acting." Paulina looked down at her fingernails, studying them before looking back up at Sam. "Everyone's saying he is, you know, but I'm not going to pass on a rumor unless I know for sure."

"Danny's not doing drugs!" She couldn't really believe that she'd have to say that about her friend.

"Of course not," Paulina said, smiling. "So I was right. He's in rehab." She turned to walk away, but Sam was out of her seat before Paulina made it more than a few steps.

"Sam." A hand grabbed onto her arm, yanking her back down into her chair. "It's not worth it."

Sam twisted to glare at the owner of the hand, a furious heat in her stomach. "Who started that rumor?" she snapped.

Tucker shrugged and looked up at her with a tired smile. "Does it matter? All I know is that the more you react to it, the longer it'll last. Just ignore it."

With a short breath racing through her nose, Sam settled back into her chair and picked up her pencil. She glared at the pencil for a long moment, her fingers tightly gripping it, before purposefully relaxing her hand. "Well?"

Tucker didn't even need to ask what she meant by that. His smile grew a little and he held out a piece of paper. "Phase one of 'Operation Valerie' is complete. Although you wouldn't believe what I had to trade Mikey to get it."

Sam took the paper, carefully opening it and staring down at the piece of stolen notebook paper. It was covered in doodles. Little animals and bugs and things wound around Valerie's neat handwriting – all of the creatures zombie-like and rotting and all of them drawn in creepy detail. "Perfect," Sam whispered.

She hesitated for a moment, staring at the pictures. It was hard to believe that these were the things Danny was seeing every day. No wonder he looked like he was going a little crazy.

Just for a second, the world seemed to spin. It's your fault, something whispered in the back of her mind, but Sam shoved it away. It wasn't her fault at all; she wasn't going to let some nagging thought ruin her day. She carefully folded the paper and placed in a back pocket for later, silently focusing back on the work she was supposed to be doing.

Maddie held tightly onto the steering wheel as she waited for her son to buckle himself into the passenger seat. He crossed his arms and stared out the window, his pale, tired face reflecting back at her, still looking thoroughly annoyed.

"We'll run some blood tests to make sure it's not something more serious," the doctor had assured her, a kind look to his brown eyes, "but it sounds to me like a classic case of teenage depression. Trouble sleeping, not eating, the pale tiredness and stressed-out expressions. It's pretty common among kids his age."

He'd answered every one of her questions with a patient calmness. "Right now, it's a wait-and-see kind of situation. Most likely, it'll go away on its own given time. Keep an eye on him – if he starts to exhibit any behaviors that worry you, bring him back in. If he's not any better in two weeks, we can talk about what to do next. There are all sorts of help we can give him."

She turned the key of the car, starting it and pulling out of her spot without saying a word. Depression. She flicked a glance over at her son, then focused back on the road. It did make sense, she had to give the doctor that.

A huge part of her was feeling a sort of relief that whatever was wrong had been identified and could be solved. The mystery had been cataloged and could be stored away in the back of her mind. It wouldn't be fixed overnight, but Danny would eventually be fine.

The problem was that a small part of her mind was screaming at her that it wasn't the right answer. It had come on so suddenly… but maybe it had been triggered by the shock he'd gotten in the lab. The doctor had said it was a possibility, but that it was much more likely that he'd been developing his depression for some time and that she'd finally noticed it.

She glanced at her son again. He was staring blankly out the window, his arms crossed on his chest, slouching down tiredly in his seat. She felt like she should be saying something, like there was some kind of phrase that one said right about now, but she couldn't come up with anything to say that didn't sound stupid and made up.

Rolling her eyes slightly, she wondered if she would ever be the kind of 'good' parent she knew was out there. Never knowing what to say, not noticing that her son was developing a serious case of depression, and so wrapped up in her work that he had to pull a very dangerous stunt to get some attention. Inventions she could handle with no problem, circuit boards and soldering guns were easy – parenting had never been.

"Danny?" The word slipped out even though she hadn't decided what to say. He looked over at her, his blue eyes clear and focused for once. She smiled a little, letting the first words that came to her mind tumble into the air. "Do you feel up for school tomorrow?"

He looked like he started to shrug, but changed it to a nod. "Yeah, sure."

"Get lots of sleep today then, okay Sweetheart?"

A faint smile appeared on his face. "Kay."

Maddie turned her attention back to the road, stepping on the gas when the light turned green, letting her son drift back to his own thoughts. She'd do what the doctor suggested, she'd wait and see what happened, but she was planning on keeping a very close eye on him for the next couple of weeks.

Tucker hesitated outside his house after school, staring up at the darkened windows. It was Tuesday – the day his mother worked late and, for reasons Tucker really didn't understand, she didn't like Tucker being home on his own even though he was almost fifteen.

Usually on Tuesdays, Tucker and Sam headed over to Danny's, but since he was staying home today sick…

With a suddenly blink, Tucker glanced at his watch and let a little breath slip from his lungs. It was almost the one-week anniversary of the accident that turned Danny into the whatever-he-was. Five minutes from it, give or take. Tucker shivered a little and pushed the thought from his mind, heading up the stairs to his front door. The key slid easily into the door and Tucker stepped into his empty house.

"Hello?" he called out just in case and shrugged at the lack of response. His shoes were kicked into a corner and he took the steps to his bedroom two at a time, a stack of papers clutched tightly in his hands. His backpack was tossed onto his bed, his homework forgotten, and he was already shuffling through the papers Sam had stuffed into his hands.

One was an image of a ferret-like creature, hair falling off and bits missing, with an obviously broken spine. The original drawing had been only an inch long, but the library's photocopier had done a fabulous job blowing the image up to multiple times what it had been. Now the creepy thing was nearly the size of Tucker's hand, snarling at him from the page.

"Perfect," Tucker whispered, shuffling through the pages. More drawings decorated the pages, each one of them blown up to many times their original size.

For a second, Tucker felt a sliver of doubt about the plan the two of them had created. He stared down at one of the images, following a bat's wings with his eyes, wondering if perhaps this wasn't a little cruel.

Shaking his head, Tucker set the papers down on his desk and pulled out his cell phone. It didn't really matter if it was cruel or not – they needed to know about Valerie and this plan was the best they'd come up with. Tucker scrolled through the menu on his cell phone, calling up the pictures he'd taken.

He hadn't taken any pictures since the one he'd taken a week earlier. The time stamp at the bottom proclaimed what Tucker already knew: two minutes until it was exactly one week since Danny had become a ghost. Tucker gazed sadly at the image of his friend, moments before his life had been torn apart, that Danny-patented carefree smile on his face.

"It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't snapped this picture," Tucker breathed as the clock ticked steadily towards 4:32pm. He stared at the image for a second more, then suddenly snapped his cell phone closed and set it down on his desk.

For a quiet moment he sat perfectly still, gazing at his desk before digging through his desk for his notebook and flipping quickly through the pages. He stopped on a page where he'd listed everything he'd learned about Danny so far, circles and lines connecting random ideas. "There's got to be a solution to this," he said, biting his lip and adjusting his glasses.

Just as the clock flipped over to the exact minute that the Fenton Ghost Portal had fried his best friend, Tucker's eyes caught on one of his scribblings. The calculator incident. Infrared radiation.

Tucker's gaze drifted over to a box full of junk sitting in his closet. A broken pair of infrared goggles was laying on top. His eyes narrowed and his fingers tapped on his notebook paper. "I wonder…"

Sam scribbled in her notebook, her legs crossed serenely on her bed, her eyes narrowed as she focused. She wasn't much of a writer – she never had been – but lately she'd been almost cursed with the desire to write. Ever since Danny's accident, poems and stories of the darker variety had spilled from her fingers onto the sloppy pages.

It was therapeutic; at least that's how she passed it off to herself. She needed to write down the thoughts circling in her brain before they became too large and started to eat her alive. Pick them off as minnows; don't let them grow to be sharks.

She silently ignored the fact that she was writing down the story of Danny's 'death' for the ninth time, unaware that she was copying it down almost word for word by this point. It was almost a ritual – each night before she went to sleep, she wrote. She sketched his smile and his happy attitude with her words, then colored over it all with dark letters when the accident happened, her pencil nearly ripping through the page.

As the moon started to shine through the windows, Sam finally quit writing, gazing blankly down at the last few words that had slipped from her mind and through her hands. 'I'm sorry!' it screamed, the two simple words written four times before she'd lifted her hand from the page.

"Why?" she said softly, closing the notebook a bit harder than truly necessary. "It's not my fault, why do I keep apologizing for it?"

Sam tossed her book and pencil to the other side of her bed and buried her face in her hands. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could hear Danny screaming as the electricity fried through him, burning him almost beyond recognition. She flinched and sat up, her eyes darting around her room.

Letting out an annoyed breath, she dropped backwards to stare up at her ceiling. It was driving her crazy to not be able to get over this. It wasn't like Danny had actually died that day, nor had he been he seriously hurt… as long as you didn't count the ghost thing. But it wouldn't leave her alone.

Sam Manson closed her eyes and simply lay there, doing her best to relax. She took a few deep breaths and felt herself relaxing a little. The pictures in her mind, the circling horror, was so far away during the day. She barely remembered that it was even there when she was busy doing other things.

But lying here, at night by herself, she couldn't hold it at bay. The best she could do was chase it away long enough for her to fall asleep. That's what the writing was for – to scare the monsters away for a few hours.

It would go away on its own, she knew it would. She was a strong person and she could get over this, because there really was nothing to get over. The one person on the planet to whom she would ever had admitted the problem had more issues than she did at the moment. She wasn't going to load anything else on Danny's shoulders.

Besides, Samantha Manson didn't need any help.

--In real life, sick people visit doctors.

Thanks to Extant, kdm13, Thunderstorm101, mountainelements, Starburstia, Garnet Sky, disappearingirl, Aytheria, Nano Phantom, Bluefox15, Nylah, tanith-4485, Completely Different, dragondancer123, AnneriaWings, Invader Johnny, Anne Campe aka Obi-quiet, and Pixie dust of doom for the reviews!

Sorry if I haven't replied to your reviews yet... life got very awful for a while. :)

More coming soon? Hopefully?