Author's Note: Well, here we are. Yet another one-shot that popped into my head and had to be typed out posthaste. I'm working on a longer story, and once it is completed, I intend to begin posting chapters. In the meantime, random stories like this one might continue to fly out of nowhere. I hope that you enjoy it, and if you feel so inclined, I would love to see a review from you.
Disclaimer: Danny Phantom, and all related characters, plot ideas, locations, inventions, (ect.) are the property of Butch Hartman, Nickelodeon, and their affiliates. I claim no rights to any copyrighted works. I certify that my ideas are all original. Any similarity to actual people, locations, events, books, movies, or other works of fanfiction are entirely coincidental.
Break My Heart
He turned away, only just in time. He had almost seen it.
He knew that something terrible would happen if he saw it, but he didn't know what. It frightened him, so he made every effort to always turn away, to avert his gaze, to let himself be distracted with something, anything else. Even after turning away just in time, he could feel the change inside him. Strange emotions he wasn't used to feeling swirled and pooled and built up like a river against a dam, smashing against his reserve which could only hold up for so long.
His blood felt hot, like acid snaking through his veins. There was a dull, painful pulsation at his temples. His eyes blurred slightly. Every muscle in his body retracted, sending a shiver down his spine and forcing his hands to ball into fists, if only for a moment.
He hated feeling this way. It hadn't occurred often enough for him to be used to it, although if he was honest with himself, he knew that he would never be used to it. But it had happened enough that he knew how unpleasant it was. He knew that he hated feeling this way, but he couldn't do anything about it.
The churning in his stomach, the rapid beating of his heart, the dizziness, and that awful sensation deep in his core that felt like…change. Like he was about to undergo some sort of transformation, and he didn't know what he was supposed to become. It made him afraid, and it made him bitter, and day by day he felt himself falling in deeper, retreating into himself, hoping that he could contain all of this, mask it from the world, so that they could never see the change that was brewing inside him.
Because he knew, whatever he was changing into, it was something ugly.
It was falling apart, and he didn't know how to fix it. That realization was one of the most frightening in his life, and he had been through more than his fair share of horrifying experiences. But none of them, no brush with death, could rival the terror that enveloped him now.
How could he fix something he couldn't see?
They were all worried about him, he could tell. He could read it in their eyes. They told him that he was acting strangely, but that was putting it modestly. In truth, he was being exceedingly more aggressive every time he went out at night. It helped him vent a little, and after three years, his enemies were no longer much of a threat. Just practice.
But they couldn't understand. He wouldn't let them. Especially not her. It was better for him to rot from the inside out than to let her know. He decided to try to convince himself that the source of his change, that dreaded image that he had never allowed himself to see, did not actually exist. His brain knew better, of course, but his heart was fragile and easy to deceive. He would simply lie to himself, and then everything could go back to the way it was. They didn't need to worry. Especially her.
It was working. It seemed that way to him, anyway. He would turn away as always, sooner than before, as quickly as he could so that it was easier to lie to himself. He told himself that there was nothing to see, that if he looked it would be the same as that moment before he averted his gaze. There was nothing there to turn his blood to fire and his eyes to ice. His head didn't buy the lies, but his heart did, and that was the important thing.
He could trick his heart, and everything would be fine. The symptoms seemed to lessen. They stopped worrying so much. It was working.
For a while.
He couldn't let her know that it was killing him.
He couldn't let her know that every time he saw them together, a small piece of his heart crumbled away. He couldn't let her know that every time they leaned in to kiss and he turned away, the image of their faces just inches apart was burned into his mind and tore at his soul. He couldn't let her know that with every passing day he had to try a little bit harder to convince himself that there was a reason for getting out of bed.
He had slipped up, had allowed his heart a moment to accept reality, hoping to see that it would be okay, that it wouldn't fall apart anymore. He had hoped that it would no longer be a problem, that he could stop lying to himself and just not let it bother him anymore. And if that didn't work, he could always deceive his heart again. After all, it had worked before.
But now his heart wasn't buying the lie. The pain, the pressure, the heat, the tension, all of it was back tenfold, and he didn't know how he could stand it much longer. Nothing helped anymore; he had thrown down his only defense in a momentary lapse of judgment, a foolish notion of hope. His world was caving in around him, and his heart was falling apart faster than ever before.
But she was happy, and he loved her, so he couldn't let her know.
He had been excused from class, claiming that he wasn't feeling well and that he needed to see the nurse. In truth, he had sensed an enemy nearby, and he needed to make certain that nobody was hurt. He was just outside the school, looking for the ghost, when he saw them.
He had known that it was only a matter of time. He had always turned away, always managed to avert his gaze at the last moment, but now that he had seen it, he couldn't pull his eyes away. They were cutting class to be together, which didn't surprise him. She had always had a rebellious streak, and he just loved to break the rules.
So skipping class to kiss her under a tree was right up his alley.
He couldn't move. A part of him knew that there was a ghost to catch, but he couldn't bring himself to care. This was the sight he had avoided, the truth he had tried so hard not to believe, and now that it was forced upon him, he could feel the last of his heart breaking. He was dying, and he couldn't pull away. It was too late…
"What are you staring at, you freak of nature?"
Danny's glazed eyes, void of all expression, focused on the face of the speaker. He knew the kid's name, but he couldn't seem to call it forth. All that passed through his mind was enemy.
"Stop staring at us. Why don't you just fly away? Nobody wants you around here!" Danny's eyes sought Sam's, willing her to speak up for him. She had a temper, and those words should set her off. All he needed was a sign, something to show him that, even on the lowest, most platonic level, she felt anything for him.
Sam just stared at him with wide eyes. She didn't say anything. Danny felt his life cave in around him. Everything that he fought for, everything that he struggled daily to protect, all of it seemed to lose its meaning.
With a sickening, nearly audible crack, Danny felt the final fragment of his shattered heart disintegrating, fading to nothing, until all that was left was a darkness Danny could no longer fight away.
Danny turned, fully intending to fly away and never return, but as he ascended he was greeted by the sight of Vlad Plasmius, flanked on either side by Skulker and the Fright Knight. Skulker had an arm raised toward him, a large gun protruding from it. The Fright Knight brandished his sword, and Vlad simply charged both hands with ectoplasmic energy.
"Scared, little badger?" Vlad taunted, casting an evil smirk toward Danny. "I've had enough games, and now it's time that I finish you once and for all. You have stood in my way for the last time!"
Vlad looked momentarily confused at Danny's monosyllabic answer. Danny simply smiled a deranged, venomous grin that made his enemies shiver.
The hatred that Danny felt for the boy down below was boiling within him, and these three looked to him like nothing more than targets for venting his rage. Danny charged his hands which began to glow with blood red ectoplasmic energy. After the momentary shock passed, Skulker surged forward, spinning blades and blasts from his gun flying toward Danny. The Ghost Boy flew to meet Skulker, making no effort to avoid the projectiles. His body felt no pain as the blades tore at his flesh and the blasts burned him.
His glowing fist connected with Skulker's suit, tearing through the metal like tissue paper. He tore the suit apart, mechanical arms and legs and scraps of metal falling to the ground, until only the head remained in his hands. Prying it apart, he held the puny form of the true Skulker.
"I am the Ghost Zone's greatest hunter!" The voice was high-pitch and pathetic. "Your pelt will rest at the foot of my bed! One day I will have my rev–"
It amazed Danny as he crushed the pitiful form in his fist and seared it with ectoplasmic energy that Skulker had never relied more on his natural abilities. Intangibility could have spared him this fate. Danny had no idea what happened to a ghost if its body was destroyed. Nor did he much care.
"If you weren't scared before," the Fright Knight taunted as he galloped toward Danny atop his steed, raising the sword Soul Shredder, "you will be now." Danny moved like lightening, his arm streaking forth and catching the blade as it fell. His palm began to leak red ectoplasm as the blade dug into his skin. "Experience your greatest fear!"
Danny shrugged. "Too late."
The Fright Knight, upon seeing that his attack was useless against Danny, tried to back away, but both he and Phantom had a firm grip on opposite ends of his sword. Danny didn't once grimace, didn't cry out in pain; he simply twisted his hand, flipping the sword out of the Fright Knight's grasp. With serpentine fluidity, Danny spun the blade around, caught it by the hilt, and drove it forcefully through the Fright Knight's helmet. The ghost slid silently out of his saddle, falling toward the earth below, but faded from sight before colliding with the ground. His horse galloped away across the sky, but Danny ignored it.
Instead he turned to Vlad who was hovering a short distance away, mouth agape. The older halfa did not move, did not speak. Danny figured that he was in shock.
"You… you changed. Your eyes and…" The words came slowly from the millionaire's lips as he eyed Danny warily. Danny just grinned.
"I think I know how you feel, Vlad, to have everything that you love taken away from you. To have the one you love turn her back on you. I know why I was never a real challenge for you before. It wasn't because of my lack of experience. It was because you were prepared to kill me if necessary, and I was not prepared to kill you. The only reason I was able to beat you when I did was dumb luck and the help of my friends. I don't have those friends here to rely on, but now I have something else. The same cold heartlessness that helped you steal and cheat and kill until you got what you wanted."
"I've never… killed anyone." He clearly expected a different reaction from the cold sneer Danny gave him, judging by the alarm Danny read in his eyes. "I've lied and stolen, but I've never killed a person. That's why I use ghosts and that ghost-hunting friend of yours. They would kill you, even your friend because she thinks you are a ghost, but I've never–"
"Yet you want my father dead," Danny interjected. "You may be too much of a coward to do it yourself, but you still want him dead. You don't have to kill somebody to be a murderer. But if you have a problem with killing people, this fight should be even easier than I expected."
Danny was tired of trading words. His rage was not yet satiated. Charging his hands yet again, he flew toward his nemesis. Vlad erected a shield to protect himself, and Danny blasted it with ectoplasmic energy until it finally shattered. He flew through Vlad's blasts, ignoring the pain, until his fist connected with Vlad's jaw.
Vlad spun in the air, kicking Danny in the side. His foot connected with a particularly deep gash inflicted by Skulker's weapons, and for a moment Danny was blinded by searing pain. Roaring in rage, he pushed the pain aside, launching out his arms and legs in a series of painful punches and kicks to the older man's torso.
A blast of ectoplasmic energy pulsed from Plasmius' hands, connecting with Danny's chest and forcing him back. From the distance he had created, Vlad began to hammer Danny with blast after blast, until the teen was forced backwards against a tree, the same tree under which Sam and her boyfriend had been kissing. Unless they had run off, they would probably be some twenty feet directly beneath him.
"Do you really think it's that simple?" Vlad asked, summoning a rope of ectoplasmic energy and binding Danny to the tree with it. "After twenty years of bitterness, I have never been able to do more than force others to kill for me, and even then, only with the knowledge that you would stand in their way and most likely stop their attempts! Do you really think that you have enough hate to kill me? You are pathetic, Daniel! You will never be my equal! Just because your little slut of a friend fell for another–"
"SAM…IS…NOT…A…SLUT!" The words erupted from within Danny, blasting forth with a wave of power to form Danny's most powerful attack: his Ghostly Wail. The force of the blast sent Vlad flying back where he collided with the side of the school building. He fell to the ground and lost consciousness. Two magenta rings formed at his waist as he reverted to his human form, and the ectoplasmic rope binding Danny faded away.
In a heartbeat, he was down on the ground, hoisting the limp form of his adversary up by the collar of his suit. His free hand drew back. No more would Vlad threaten his family. No more would any ghost haunt the streets of Amity Park. Danny knew that, since Skulker and the Fright Knight could not die, they would eventually find their way back into the Ghost Zone and warn the others against challenging the Ghost Boy. But Vlad… Vlad needed to be dealt with personally.
Danny punched Vlad, punched him over and over, until blood ran freely down the older man's face, his nose broken, his jaw apparently dislocated, one of his eyes beginning to turn purple. Danny punched him in the stomach, in the chest, abusing the man who had caused him and his family and friends so much pain, not caring when he broke bones or broke skin. Vlad Masters deserved it, and more. So much more. He deserved to die.
Danny drew his hand back once more, charging it with sanguine ectoplasmic energy. The red miasma that surrounded Danny's fist began to solidify, taking on the form of a foot-long blade that adhered to his wrist, protruding over the back of his hand. It was beautiful, lethal, perfect. Danny lips curled into a sinister smile.
His arm shot forward.
He recognized the voice from behind him, and it broke his concentration. He missed Vlad's head, his blade piercing through the brick wall of the school. Before he had a chance to try again, he felt arms pulling him back, making him lose his hold on Masters' suit. The arms turned him around and wrapped firmly around his neck.
"Danny, please," she whispered into his ear as her tears fell onto his shoulder, mixing with the blood-like ectoplasm that spilled from his wounds. "Stop. Don't do this."
"I have to," was his stoic response.
"No, Danny, you don't! You're better than that!" Danny pulled out of her embrace to look at her. Sam's makeup was running down her face with her tears. Her eyes were bloodshot, and he could tell that she had been crying for a while, possibly the entire duration of his fight.
"I'm not the same Danny anymore." He held up the hand with the ectoplasmic blade, a solid, deadly red mass. He let her see his eyes, which judging by Vlad's earlier comment, had also changed color. He knew that she got his point.
"Why?" was all that Sam asked. He looked back at the still lifeless, bloodied form of Vlad Masters.
"The same reason as him." Sam looked at Vlad, then back to Danny. He could see in her violet eyes that she was trying to work out what he meant. He could tell, immediately, when her mind put it together.
"Do you mean… When Ryan said that nobody wanted you here and… Danny, did you think that I agreed with him?" Sam asked incredulously.
Danny turned his eyes away from hers. "You didn't say anything."
"Danny, I was temporarily shocked. As soon as I pulled myself together I punched the jerk. He knows that I hate it when people insult you. Even if he doesn't know that we're actually best friends, he knows that I support you, and he knows that I get upset when people say bad things about you. Did you seriously think that I would turn on you like that? And was that truly all that it took to turn you into this? What about the time when I wished we had never met? This didn't happen to you then."
"It wasn't just that, Sam." Danny wanted to release the hatred that was boiling inside him, to vent his bloodlust, he wanted to kill Vlad, but Sam needed to understand why. "This transformation was inevitable. It's been months in the making. When I said that it happened for the same reason as Vlad, I meant the exact same reason."
Once again, it took a moment for Sam to process what he had said, but after a few seconds, a quick glance at her eyes showed that she understood.
"But he… your mother… Danny, are you saying that you… that you love me?"
Danny searched inside himself for anything, any trace of a feeling other than hatred and rage, to no avail. "I did," Danny answered, "while I still had a heart. While I could still feel love."
"Danny, why didn't you tell me?" Danny couldn't meet her gaze, and was somewhat surprised when she brought her hands to either side of his face and forced him to look at her. Her eyes held no fear of the monster he had become.
"I loved you too much to tell you. You were happy. I didn't want to ruin that for you."
"But I did!" The sudden outburst confused Danny.
"What do you mean?"
"I dated Ryan because we had a lot in common. And he seemed like a nice guy, even if there were times when he said stupid things, like some sexist comment or something, and I had to threaten to break up with him to make him behave for a while. But I only dated Ryan because I thought that you would never want to be more than friends. Do you have any idea how long I waited, hoping that you would come sweep me off my feet? Even when I was dating Ryan, which ended the moment he said that about you, I never loved him. But I've always loved you, Danny."
Her hands tightened around the back of his neck as she tried to pull him down, but he remained rigid.
"Don't you understand, Sam? I'm not that Danny. I've changed into something I cannot return from. I did love you, but I can't love anymore. I can only hate. My heart is gone. Dead."
There were tears in her eyes, but through the tears, Danny could see an iron resolve. Sam removed one hand from the back of his neck and slid it down his arm to his hand. Danny felt the blade that he had created fade away in the moment before her hand covered his. Gently lifting it from his side, she slid his hand over his chest.
"Do you feel that, Danny? Because I do. That is your heart. It is not gone."
"Then why do I feel nothing but hate?" Sam pressed herself up against him, her ear flat against his chest, her nose just brushing his hand which she still held over his beating heart. For a few moments she simply stood there, listening to his heart, as if it somehow held the answer to his question. Finally she pulled away again, looking up to meet his eyes.
"Your heart isn't gone. It's just broken. But I think I know how to fix it… if you'll let me."
Danny didn't understand why, but he wanted that. He couldn't feel any love in his heart, but he wanted to. He didn't want to be what he had become, had tried to fight it while he could, and if there was any way to change back, he welcomed it.
"Please," was the plea that escaped Danny's lips unbidden. Sam smiled and took a moment to wipe away her tears. She released his hand from where she held it to his chest and slid her own up to his cheek. Leaning up on tiptoe, she gently pulled him down and pressed her mouth against his. Danny's hands reached tentatively for her waist. After a brief moment's hesitation, he returned her kiss.
For a moment it was light, soft, gentle, her lips a feather brushing across his. Danny felt the tiniest movement in his heart, as if something dead were breathing again. Sam deepened the kiss, her fingers entwining in his hair, and Danny pulled her closer against his body. Soft and gentle became wild and passionate. Danny could feel Sam releasing emotions that she had held inside for a long time and wondered why he had never seen it in her before.
Danny didn't want the kiss to end. Feelings and emotions that he had thought were forever lost were suddenly rushing back in, flooding and overwhelming him. The hatred that moments before had been festering in his heart was being washed away by the deluge of forgotten feelings; trust and respect and love.
Her lips and tongue sought his, hungrily, like a ravenous tigress. He returned the kiss with vigor, matching her in the way she moved, in the way her fingers curled and grasped at his hair, while his fingers branded her exposed midriff. They were claiming each other, he realized, each determined that the other would be theirs and theirs alone. No one else would hold Sam this way. No one would kiss Sam this way. He wouldn't let them.
After what felt like a blissful eternity they eventually broke the kiss, still holding each other, foreheads resting together, eyes locked. Danny's inhaled, deep and rapid breaths, and not because his lungs lacked oxygen, but simply because of the intensity of the kiss he shared with Sam. His first real kiss with Sam.
"Danny." Her voice was husky, her pupils dilated so that her irises were almost consumed, and what remained of them was darker than he had ever seen before. He found himself kissing her again, unable to resist that sound in her voice, or those beautiful eyes. He held her as close as their bodies would allow, desperate for the contact, desperate for proof that she was there with him, so that he wouldn't have to lie to his heart anymore.
The heart that was beating in his chest, faster than he could ever recall.
She pulled back slowly, her eyes half-lidded, fingers buried deeply in his hair.
"Your eyes, Danny." He watched her for a moment, confused.
"My…eyes?" She smiled, kissing him quickly and softly, and then pulling back before he could think to respond.
Danny pulled a gloved hand away from Sam's waist, allowing just enough space between the two of them that he could see the hand to his side. He let the energy flow to his fingertips, and his hand was surrounded by a ghostly aura. It was green.
The hand found its way up to the side of Sam's face. The face of the woman he loved, the woman he knew he would always love, with every steady beat of the heart that she had given back to him. He grazed the glove across her cheek, and was annoyed that the fabric blocked his contact with her smooth skin.
A ring circled his middle and split in two, one traveling up and one down as Phantom became Fenton. He hadn't bothered himself to look around to make sure that nobody saw, but in that moment he didn't much care. His hand, now glove free, skimmed lightly across Sam's face. Her eyes closed as he traced her jawline with his fingertips, trailed them across her throat, and then wrapped them around behind her neck. He leaned forward to kiss her again.
A grunt of pain, a hand flying to his side and pulled back, covered in blood. Danny collapsed.
It should have taken longer for Danny to recover from his wounds, but once he realized that it was his ghost form that had kept him conscious during his conversation with Sam, his recovery time was supernaturally improved. Of course, Danny knew that Vlad would likely be recuperating in the same way. He would have to reset his jaw and do something for his broken nose, but the gashes and cracked ribs would heal mostly on their own, as long as he didn't move too much.
When Sam had first brought up the notion of an official relationship, Danny was somewhat nervous. He wanted it, more than anything, but feared what it would mean for her with so many enemies. She reminded him of what he had done to Skulker and the Fright Knight, who would undoubtedly warn all of Danny's regular adversaries once they rematerialized in the Ghost Zone. And Vlad, she pointed out, would have to be suicidal to mess with her after Danny had nearly killed him.
That was more than enough to convince Danny, and he immediately made a formal request for exclusivity. Sam accepted, quite vigorously, and the two became a couple.
Little changed at school, as Sam wasn't partial to public displays of affection. She preferred to keep that part of their relationship personal. They did, however, hold hands in the halls, and sat closer together at lunches. Tucker congratulated them, pleased both to see them together, and to see Danny out of his awful funk. They were still called 'lovebirds' although neither made any effort to deny it. They simply smiled, exchanged a glance, and moved on.
Danny's life, of course, remained anything but normal. His enemies either avoided him out of fear or adapted to deal with the new threat. New enemies appeared occasionally, some much stronger than others, and Danny was challenged as always. But the discovery of his newest power, the Ecto-Blade, proved invaluable. It served as a mêlée weapon and allowed him to cut portals that would transport him anywhere in the world or the Ghost Zone. It frightened Danny to use it at first, but it proved highly effective against Skulker's upgrades, and the change in color to green made it seem slightly less ominous.
His brief, albeit terrifying transition to evil made Danny more aware than ever of the continued existence of his darker self, the future Dan Phantom that he could so easily become. He vowed that he would never allow himself to be consumed by hatred again as long as he lived, nor would he submit to hatred after death. Having Sam by his side strengthened him in that resolve.
After all, he loved her, and she had fixed his broken heart.
Author's Note: On the Ecto-Blade: I've seen a huge number of fanfiction authors decide to evolve Danny's powers in different ways. Most choose to give Danny powers that other ghosts on the show have used (pyrokinesis, telekinesis, teleportation, ect.). A few invent original ghost powers, and that always makes me excited. I invented the Ecto-Blade for Danny a few years ago and fell in love with the idea, but this is its first debut in one of my finished, published stories. I affirm that I invented this power from my own creativity, but I acknowledge the possibility that another/others may have had a similar idea at some point in time. If that is the case with you, well, I suppose great minds think alike. ;-) If you read it here first, and like it enough that you would use it, all I ask is that you acknowledge my creative efforts. Because plagiarism is a big bad no-no, hence the fancy disclaimer I put at the top of this story.
Wow, this was a lot of fun to write. Although I had a huge problem with page breaks… All in all, I would say that I am pretty happy with how it turned out. But what I think doesn't matter much. I put this out here for you, not for me. So, I would love to know what you think. Constructive reviews and criticisms are my favorite; they say so much more than a simple 'I loved it' or 'It sucked.' But, if you loved it or think it sucked, by all means let me know. It might convince me to write a sequel, or never to write a piece like this again. And since I'm aiming to entertain you, your opinion matters. Hoping that you enjoyed this story, best of wishes to all in future fanfiction endeavors.