My Birthday is this month soooo if you want to be super nice and review it would totally be an awesome, awesome present (winkwink).

I claim no ownership of the characters. I don't own the original concept behind a 'dybbuk' either. Try Wikipedia-ing it, they exist ;P



The Soul Sepulchre

-By Sholay


Chapter 32 — Lesson: Malevolent Bodysnatchers 101

"Okay, so, a dybbuk is the soul of a dead person. Dybbukim in plural. It is usually associated with malevolent spirits. Synonyms are: beast, monster, demon and so on. There are a lot of references to hell, and how the dybbuk is an escaped tortured soul whose goal is to complete some unfinished business from its life."

Danny, Sam, Tucker and Jazz were gathered in Jazz's room. The three younger teens were sitting and standing around in various states of idleness as Jazz typed away on her computer, pulling up pages of information on supernatural creatures spotted with the occasional gory image of a demon feasting on some luckless human.

After his detention, Danny joined up with his two friends at the Nasty Burger. Predictably, the downpour that had started at the school dried up the moment he stepped foot in the restaurant. Sam and Tucker had spared a moment to snigger at Danny's drowned appearance before the trio had gone back to FentonWorks. There, they had found Jazz lounging on a couch waiting for them. Jack and Maddie were still out working and the teenagers had collectively decided it was time to get some research done on what had possessed Tucker.

More accurately, Jazz and Sam had decided. Tucker and Danny had thrown in their votes to go out for pizza. Needless to say, the boys were overruled.

The ideal research spot would have been the Fenton Lab, but Tucker's memory of the dissection table was still too fresh and he refused to even put a foot on the stairs to the basement. After that, Danny had suggested his own room.

They had taken one step into Danny's room when he exhaled a puff of fog and shivered, putting Sam, Tucker and Jazz on high alert. Then Sam and Tucker had spotted Youngblood, unconscious and faintly glowing, floating over Danny's desk.

So Jazz's room it was.

Tucker lay sprawled across Jazz's bed, head pillowed on his hands as he stared at the pale green ceiling. Sam sat against the headboard, staring disdainfully at Tucker's bare feet which were getting too close to her side of the bed. Grinning mischievously, he wiggled his toes in Sam's direction and was rewarded with a dramatic eyeroll.

Jazz was seated at her desk, reading her findings off her computer while Danny leaned over her.

"You know," She intoned, looking irritably up at her brother, who was all but perched on her shoulder. One of his arms had gone around the back of her chair and was currently hovering over her hand on the mouse, as though itching to scroll down. "You don't have to lean in so close; I'm going to read it all to you anyway."

Danny's expression was intent on the screen, but when he registered Jazz's words he blinked and looked at her in surprise. "Oh!" He backed away grinning sheepishly. "Sorry, guess I'm just a little impatient." He was practically bouncing on his toes.

Sparing him a raised eyebrow, Jazz turned back to the screen. "Right. Where was I…? Oh yeah, a dybbuk attaches itself to the living flesh of a human. And it overshadows their host until they are killed, excised or until they fulfil their goal."

"Actually," Danny noted. "It doesn't really sound like overshadowing. Ghosts overshadow, and only for a short amount of time. They never want to stay permanently in the body… Although," he looked at Jazz, "there was that one thing with Kitty, but she tried to steal your body and force you out—"

"And I was just trapped inside my own body." Tucker spoke up, a shiver forcing its way over his shoulders and arms. "That thing in me didn't want to force me out. In fact I think it was happy to have me there."

"It was feeding off your fear and pain. So of course it wanted to keep you there. After it finished whatever it wanted with your body, it probably would have tried to drag your soul out to become one of Legion's army." Danny pointed out, and three pairs of eyes turned to him in surprise.

"Legion?" Jazz questioned.

"Yeah, it's the name of that ghost in the museum." Danny shrugged, flushing and averting his eyes.

"Legion… Legion… I've heard that name before…" Jazz mumbled to herself. Unnoticed on the bed, Sam had clearly recognized the name and had leaned forward, covering her nose and mouth with her hands.

"That thing was a beast, man. Did you really fight it?" Tucker looked up at Danny.

The hybrid shrugged. "Uh, no. Not really. I ran like a scalded cat. The first time I ran into it—" 'Them' Danny's mind forcefully corrected him. Legion was plural. But something stopped him from correcting himself out loud. Saying 'they' sounded strange, and the others would just ask him questions that he didn't feel like answering. "—Legion was strong. All I could do was flail ineffectually at the—hm… at it. I didn't feel like repeating the experience." Unconsciously, his hand came up to press against the spot between his neck and shoulder.

"Speaking of which," Tucker shifted on his elbows, propping himself up higher. "You never did tell us what happened—"

"—You knew all along that that thing was in the museum…" Sam interrupted suddenly and her eyes snapped to Danny's face accusingly. She jumped off the bed and approached him aggressively. "You knew, and not only did you not tell us, but you let it roam around free in the museum for weeks! Danny, that demon has killed people!"

'Demon'. Jazz's eyes widened at the word choice.

"We don't know it did!" Danny shot back.

"We don't know it didn't!" Sam returned just as hotly, taking a step toward Danny. "And how long are you planning on ignoring the obvious anyway? Dash's cat was hung. Mr. Talbot is dead! You never hear about murder in Amity Park, and these events only started happening after the ghost attack in the museum! Add it up, Danny. Not even you could be that clueless!"

"I'm not an idiot, Sam." Danny bit out, eyes narrowing.

"Then why do you keep acting like one? You refuse to deal with this ghost, you didn't even tell us about it for weeks! You'd probably still be keeping it a secret if all this hadn't happened!" She gestured harshly down at Tucker, who looked like he would really rather not be dragged into their argument. "You know what, Danny? I thought you had grown up; that, after all we've gone through, you'd have matured and learned how to use your powers responsibly. But no, it looks like you're just as immature and irresponsible as you were a year ago. This isn't the Box Ghost we're dealing with. This beast is dangerous, or can't you see that?"

"Do you think I don't know that?!" Danny's hands were balled into fists as he literally hissed these words at Sam, his eyes flashing a vivid nephrite. "You think I'm not doing everything I can to stop it? Just because I haven't gone and launched some stupid suicidal mission to—oh wait, you already DID that, and see how well it worked out?" He mocked nastily. "Where would you be if I hadn't come and saved you, huh? You going to yell at me for saving your life too, is that it?" He tossed his head, lip curling to reveal a steely, humourless smile.

Jazz looked at her brother in shock, never having heard that spiteful tone from his mouth before.

Sam looked momentarily hurt, but quickly regrouped and her expression turned stony. "Don't you dare turn this around on me. You—"

"Hey, hey!" Tucker had pushed himself off Jazz's bed and now stood between Danny and Sam, holding a palm out to each of them. "That's enough. You," He shoved Danny hard enough to make the half-ghost stumble backward. "Chill out, Sam's been through a lot and we have a right to be frustrated. And Sam," He locked gazes with the girl and his eyes were pleading. "Let it go, please."

Sam huffed, but seemed willing to let it go. Danny however, had one last thing to say.

"You think I'm not worrying about that monster every minute of every day?" His tone was no longer harsh, instead it was pained and he grimaced, looked down at his right hand. It was shaking, and he clenched it into a tight fist. "I haven't been able to sleep, I haven't been able to think since you were taken by Legion. If you guys had been hurt…" He trailed off, leaving the room in an uncomfortable silence.

"Dude, relax, no need to get melodramatic on us. We're all here, still in one piece." Tucker grinned and slapped Danny on the arm. "And man, you really need to start getting control of that temper, I hate being the mediator."

The corner of Danny's mouth twisted downward in a rueful smile and he rubbing his arm. It was obvious from his eyes that he was worried about something even though he responded with a neutral "Thanks, Tuck. I'll work on that."

Again, an awkward silence fell. No one made eye contact and Danny and Sam somehow gravitated to opposite ends of the room. Everyone shifted uneasily as they struggled to swallow their own knot of emotion.

Eventually, Jazz decided she'd given Danny and Sam enough time to sulk.

"If you're quite done." She drew the attention in the room back to her as she spun her chair back to the monitor, pushing her long apricot hair over her shoulder. "We still have some things to discuss." She clicked her mouse, trying to find her spot again. Even as her eyes scanned the writing, her mind was whirling through another topic.

Danny was hiding something. He was hiding something so big that the secret was started to burst at the seams. He was exploding randomly at the drop of a hat, and his temper wasn't the only change. Whatever this secret was, it was making him angrier, more cynical.

There was something else too… Danny was not a patient person. He was impulsive, foolhardy and had a tendency to throw himself headlong into harebrained schemes without thinking through the consequences. But Danny was not jumping into action here. From what Jazz gathered, Legion was not a ghost that Danny could just fly in and battle. The fact that her brother had actually realized this was nothing short of astounding.

It also terrified her.

"What I don't get," Jazz said. "Is what the difference between a dybbuk and a regular ghost is. I mean, they're both dead, they both have unfinished business… what else is there?"

"Well, either way, there is a difference because when Mom and Dad took that thing out of Tucker it didn't set off my ghost sense," Danny said, taking up a new position against the wall near Jazz's vanity. He crossed his arms. "Neither did those things at the museum."

"'Things' at the museum? As in multiple?" Tucker echoed, in askance and Sam also looked up.

"They looked like people: nasty, creepy, black-eyed people with sharp teeth and long nails. They tried to stop me from rescuing you."

Jazz gasped. "You mean that man-thing that bit—" But she couldn't finish before Danny had interrupted.

"I took care of it." Danny said with such a dismissive air that Jazz, Sam and Tucker all raised eyebrows.

"Wait… did you say 'bit'?" Tucker balked, looked first at Jazz, then Danny. The former looked uncertain while the latter simply shrugged.

"No harm done." Danny said, displaying the front and back of his left hand to the room. And Jazz did see that the horrid bite mark from two nights ago had vastly improved. There was still a half circle of puncture wounds curling around his thumb and the sight of it made a cold tingle run down Jazz's spine as it brought back the vivid memory of her brother—his back thrust against the sparking ghost shield, clawing helplessly at the hand encircling his neck, a scream of agony tearing from his throat…

Sam was staring at the mark with something like horrified fascination while Tucker recoiled.

"Dude, you got bit by a zombie?!" Tucker yelped.

Danny frowned and considered the mark. "No… I don't think so. He wasn't undead so much as… well… just dead." Danny's lips quirked with morbid amusement that no one else shared. "And anyway, it's not infected or anything. So I think it was just a regular bite. From a dybbuk. It's good that we have something to call them now. Until now I was just referring to them in my head as 'creatures'. Does it say anything else about what they are, Jazz? I remember one of them called themselves 'the damned'." Danny said in a swift change of topic, lowering his hand and deftly shoving it into his pocket and out of sight.

Jazz looked at Danny, wondering whether or not to push him into explaining more. He was hiding something, she knew it. But Danny had a blank, closed look on his face and behind him Tucker has shaking his head subtly. Jazz sighed. "No, nothing useful…" A mental list of questions was slowly growing in her mind. When she got a moment alone she would have to make a list. All this was getting too confusing. "On another topic though… The Devil's Mark."

"Yeah, that's what Mr. and Mrs. Fenton called this thing, right?" Tucker gestured to his right cheek. The blackness had faded drastically since last night, but there was still an obvious discolouration to Tucker's skin.

"I've heard of the Devil's Mark." Sam suddenly piped up and everyone looked at her. Apparently still sore with Danny, she avoided the half-ghost's eyes and instead looked at Tucker. "It's also called the Witch's Mark. You remember when we used the Infinimap to find a natural portal and ended up landing in the middle of the Salem Witch Trials?"

Tucker nodded.

"Well, one of the ways they'd identify a witch is by searching the body for a Witch's Mark, which was any darkened patch of skin from a mole to a scar. It was said that the Witch's Mark was a seal of obedience and servitude given by the Devil himself." Sam's face scrunched in disgust. "They would drive pins into scars and calluses just to see if they would bleed. According to them, if you didn't bleed or if the area was insensitive then you must have been a witch."

"And… if you did bleed?" Tucker wondered hesitantly.

Jazz grimaced. "You don't really—"

"Then they just kept stabbing until they found an insensitive spot." Sam supplied bluntly.

"But… I'm not a witch," Tucker said worriedly. "And I never made any deal with the Devil, so what the heck did Mrs. Fenton mean when she called this a Devil's Mark?" His voice grew in intensity as he spoke and he waved jerkily at the right side of his body. "I don't wanna be end up the tasty side dish for some horned, fork-tailed creature!"

"Well, I admit, the stories of the Devil's Mark are a bit dramatized. Hello Tucker, are you feeling all right?"

All four teens spun around at this new voice. Maddie Fenton was there, standing with her arms folded leaning on the doorframe of Jazz's room.

"I'm fine Mrs. Fenton." Tucker said awkwardly as the woman strode forward and placed the back of her hand to his forehead.

"Mom! Did you knock?" Jazz cried.

"Sorry dear, but I could hear what you kids were saying from even outside the door." Maddie tried to console them, but the effort was lost on Danny, who literally felt the blood drain from his face.

"What did you hear?" He asked, doing his best to sound nonchalant. From the exasperated looks Tucker, Jazz and even Sam sent him, he must have failed miserably.

Maddie however, didn't seem to notice Danny's anxiousness, and if she did, she hid it well. "Just the last few sentences on your discussion on the Devil's Mark, which, I assure you, has nothing to do with witches, in spite of popular belief."

Tucker sighed in relief.

"It is, however, still a very concerning matter." Laying her fingertips over her lips, Maddie studied Tucker. "The Devil's Mark is supposed to be a myth. I came across it in research, but I never actually believed it existed. To think…" She trailed off, much to the annoyance of all the teens in the room.

"Think what, Mom?" Jazz prodded, twisting over the arm of her chair. "What is the Devil's Mark?"

"It is the symbol of demonic possession."

Dead silence followed that comment.

"Say WHAT now?!" Tucker cried, appalled.

Maddie nodded. "Demonic possession. Demon is a crude definition though, the more correct term would be—"

"Dybbuk." Jazz filled in.

Maddie nodded at her daughter, impressed. "Yes, you've been doing your research, I see. A dybbuk is a wandering soul trapped on earth. It can sustain a metaphysical body, much like ghosts. However, while ghosts are ectoplasmic manifestations of post-human consciousness, a dybbuk is… well…" She paused, thinking for a moment. "Picture two children. Orphans. The first had his parents taken from him when he was young. He then sees other children playing with their parents, enjoying freely what he was deprived of, and grows resentful and jealous.

"Now the second child doesn't remember ever having parents. His pain is resigned, he can hardly even imagine what it would be like but still he reaches out and latches onto affection greedily. In his desperation to find what he lost he sometimes grows possessive, hurting the one he seeks to gain affection from." Four blank stares met her explanation and Maddie, a little surprised that not even Jazz had understood the metaphor, sighed and trying again. "A ghost has regrets and often sustains the memories of its life. A dybbuk is stripped of both these things."

"But regrets are the basis of ghostly obsession, aren't they?" Danny asked, pushing off the wall. "If a dybbuk has no regrets or goals then what's its purpose?"

"That's a very good question, Danny." Maddie said and looked at her son in surprise. Danny, for his part, seemed to have grown suddenly self-conscious. He carded his fingers through his hair, mumbled something and melted back against the wall. "Literature is somewhat fuzzy on the true purpose of dybbuks, though." She answered.

"What do you think?" Danny asked, and the question made her pause.

"Well, if I were to speculate—and since I never even considered that the dybbukim could exist, this really is pure speculation—I would say that since the dybbuk lacks any memory of its own then it will instinctively try to fill that gap. It attaches itself to a human and tries to absorb their mind—"

"Their soul." Maddie thought she heard Danny whisper these words, but, looking up, she couldn't see any change in his expression. She let the comment slide.

"—in an attempt to fill the emptiness inside itself."

"But that wouldn't work, would it?" Danny's voice was troubled, and it seemed like he'd made his comment a question merely on an afterthought: as though he already knew the answer.

Maddie shook her head. "No, it wouldn't work. Two such separate entities could never merge in harmony. At best, the host would come out with only a headache while the dybbuk is exorcised. At worst, the host would die and become a dybbuk himself."

Tucker looked like he was close to fainting. Maddie sent the poor boy a sympathetic smile, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Tucker, Jack and I were able to remove the dybbuk. Its influence over you is gone."

Tucker nodded shakily, and thanked the woman for what must have been the tenth time.

"Mom?" Maddie turned her head back to her son, who was shifting nervously against the wall. Aquamarine eyes flickered up to her, then quickly dropped away. "Do you know what the word… Ahriman means?"

"Ahriman?" Maddie repeated a frown on her face. First he brought up the Night of Abaddon, then demons, now he was talking about Ahriman? "Danny, where do you keep finding these obscure terms?" She asked, confused and a little suspicious. A quick glance around the room showed that even Sam, Tucker and Jazz were looking at Danny strangely. Whatever his secret was, he wasn't sharing it with Jazz or his friends, making it an even bigger concern.

"Nowhere. Just came up in research. Forget it." Danny's shoulders hunched as he tried to back out of the conversation.

Maddie sensed that her son was retreating into himself and hastened to stop it. "No, it is a relevant question. I just wanted to know where you came across it." She said, trying to sound offhanded.

Danny glanced up and unexpectedly met her gaze full on. He raised an eyebrow. "I did some research while waiting for Tucker to wake up. I came across the word on a site, okay?" The 'Okay' at the end of his sentence was steeped in a tone that bordered on rude and his eyes were cool as he stared Maddie down. For a long moment she considered reprimanding him. But she restrained herself. Something was telling her that getting angry would not solve anything right now.

"Ahriman is a very old word. You know the myth I mentioned? The one about the dybbuks?" She received affirmative nods. "Ahriman was also mentioned in that myth. It was the name of the man who allegedly created the dybbuks in the first place."

"Created?" Danny frowned.

"Through vigorous research and… experimentation on the human body. His theory was that a state between life and death could be reached through just the right combination of human willpower and pain. And in this state, a person would gain otherwordly powers and immortal life. He brought his victims to the point of near death in an attempt to create his perfect superhuman. Unfortunately, his experiments backfired: they created the dybbuk—neither a ghost nor a human, but a heartless husk that sought only the destruction everything around it. Eventually, Ahriman—a name synonymous with 'evil spirit'—was consumed by the very monsters he created, forever being stuck in a mindless state of being: not-alive yet not-dead. In life he lured people into his laboratory with false promises and even threats. After he died he received the title 'Ahriman the Deceitful'."

Danny didn't ask any more questions after that. He seemed lost in thought as he cupped the lower half of his face and kept his gaze lowered. Maddie looked around and saw that no one else seemed inclined to ask anything. Sam and Jazz were looking at Danny curiously while Tucker's hand was inching under the collar of his shirt.

Walking up to Danny's friend, Maddie smacked the boy's hand. Tucker yelped.

"No scratching. Now, let me see that." She gestured for Tucker to take off the T-shirt he'd borrowed from Danny.

"But—!" Tucker gripped the hem of the shirt, looking over at the other occupants of the room nervously.

Maddie smiled. "Averted eyes, everyone." She ordered, and checking over her shoulder, she saw Sam was studying her nails and Jazz had her eyes focused on her screen. Danny, it seemed, was still lost following whatever string of thought he'd picked up. "Ok, Tucker." She gestured for him to sit up properly on Jazz's bed and then kneeled down in front of him.

Tucker pouted, but obediently lifted the shirt over his head.

"This is good, it's healing well." Maddie said as she took off the bandage and examined the scabbing around the stitches over Tucker's sternum. She shuffled through the medical supplies she'd brought with her and opened a bottle of alcohol. Tucker hissed as she swabbed the wound. Reacting to the sound, Maddie blew lightly on the wound and Tucker blinked at her in surprise.

"I used to do the same thing with Danny when he was younger." She said by way of explanation with a smile. Although… she glanced back at her son—whose head had come up, presumably at the mention of his name, though he looked away quickly when their eyes met—she hadn't dressed any of his scrapes or injuries for a long time now. And that didn't mean he wasn't still getting hurt. He'd just stopped coming to her whenever he did.

Maddie sighed sadly at that thought.

"Is something wrong, Mrs. Fenton?" Tucker asked innocently.

Maddie smiled and shook her head. "Everything looks fine. Have you decided what you're going to tell your parents?"

"Yeah… I'll just tell them it was a strange ghost attack, but you looked me over and that I'm fine." Tucker shrugged. "They'll ask me what the black mark is, but since we don't really know, that's what I'll tell them. It'll be fine."

"That's a good idea," Maddie nodded approvingly. "I know your parents don't like to talk about ghosts, but it's not wise to hide this from them."

"How'd you know that?" Tucker asked, surprised that Maddie would know about his parents' distaste for anything ghostly.

"I've known your parents for a long time, Tucker" Maddie said with a peculiar smile. "We haven't always seen eye to eye, but Amity was small enough back in the day that everyone knew everyone. Okay." Finished replacing the bandage on Tucker's chest, Maddie stood and Tucker slung Danny's shirt back over his head.

"Now," Maddie's eyes grew serious and she pinned Tucker with a look. "Are you going to tell me what happened to you?"

"I-I…" Tucker's eyes widened with panic. "I don't really—"

Maddie raised a finger sternly. "Don't try to weasel yourself out of this. This is not a game Tucker. What happened to you was very serious."

"I know, I know." Tucker nodded. "But I—"

"It wasn't just Tucker, Mom. We were all there."

As one, all eyes in the room turned to Danny, who had spoken up.

Danny wrung his hands, but when he looked up he met his mother's eyes firmly. Such a change from the skittishness of his gaze just five minutes ago, she couldn't help but notice. "You remember how we went to the museum for that field trip a few weeks ago and there was that ghost attack?" He started and Maddie nodded. Looking around, she saw that Sam, Tucker and Jazz were all hanging onto Danny's words, almost as though they didn't know what he was going to say either.

"Well," Danny continued. "During the ghost attack Tucker dropped his PDA at some point. He wanted to go back for it, but we knew that the museum was dangerous. Then, recently, the human-ghost shield came up and we thought it might be safe just to go and poke around near the shield. Jazz drove. We found Tucker's PDA, but then these… these things started to rise up from the ground." If Maddie had any suspicious about the truth of Danny's story, they were dispelled. Her son was not that good a liar and the disgust and horror on his face was real.

"They looked like humans, but they had claws and black…" Danny waved a hand before his eyes. "Black eyes. But they were still inside the shield, and we were outside and it didn't look like they could get through. But… but something did. It was dark and shadowy and it formed outside the shield. It was a huge shadow monster in the shape of a dog. It struck out with some dark energy. Tucker got hit. We didn't stick around after that. We picked up Tucker and we got away as fast as we could. We got home and waited for you to come back. The rest you know."

Maddie's eyes narrowed as she thought furiously. "This… this is very serious. From what you're telling me, the situation at the museum is much more critical than we first realized. Until now we've been working under the assumption that whatever is in the museum cannot get out, just like we can't get in… But if this is the case: if it can get out… and you say that there is more than one manifestation haunting the museum? This is… this brings up so many more variables. Excuse me kids—there's work to be done!" And in a swirl of energy Maddie swept out of the room.

No sooner had she left, her head and shoulders poked back into the room and her gaze fixed on Danny. "Don't think you're getting out of this free, young man. You left the house while you were grounded. That's an extra week onto however long your Father grounded you for." And then she was gone.

"Still never gave it a limit, Mom." Danny breathed good-humouredly in the wake of his Mother's whirlwind departure.

Then, Tucker laughed.

"Man, Danny, thanks for the save." He looked up at his best friend appreciatively.

"No problem." Danny grinned lopsidedly. "I'm just glad she bought it."

"So it was a lie? All of it?" Sam looked at Danny with interest. "But you can't lie worth beans."

"It was a very clever twisting of words. Most of it wasn't even a lie, just facts mixed up and in the wrong order." Jazz was studying her brother closely. "How did you come up with that story, Danny?"

Danny turned his grin on his sister. He shrugged.

"I was sitting in detention for ages without a single ghost attack. I had to do something with all that time."


Danny sat alone in the darkness of his room, amusing himself by tracing green patterns in the air with one glowing finger. Similar to waving a flaming torch in the air, his ghost powers left a hazy jade glow in their wake when he moved his finger fast enough. Using this, he was trying to complete various shapes in the air. Currently, he was working on a series of figure eights.

He was sitting, legs folded, on his bed. A bed that he'd just finished covering with a new set of sheets after discovering several rather conspicuous reddish-brown splotches staining the old one.

It had taken nearly thirty minutes, and he'd buffed his knuckles to a painful shine, but Danny had finally scrubbed his sheets, his t-shirt, his jeans and Jazz's pink jacket free of blood; all these were now tossed over various pieces of furniture in his room to dry. Actually, he was pretty impressed with himself for pulling that one off. Blood didn't always come off that easily. He supposed he should be thankful for Jazz—her bandages had suffered the worst of his injuries. By the time they'd soaked through, he'd already begun to heal.

It was… tiring. Sometimes Danny wondered if this was the worst part of having a dual lives. The ghost fighting was one thing, and if it was just that it might not've been so bad. But then there was the aftermath, and the consequences. It was these little things that really wore him out. It was all this collateral that he never even anticipated until he was forced to deal with it.

Things like being cheated out of dinner because he'd come home late and Jazz had told his parents he'd eaten at Tucker's. Things like baffling over how to fix his broken dresser because he couldn't very well tell his parents he'd broken the thing again after just having it fixed a month ago.

Things like having to scrub his clothes clean of blood. He'd picked up a few things over the months. He knew now, the proper way to scrub material against his own fingers as he knelt over the side of the tub. He knew blood could keep a few days whereas ectoplasm had to be cleaned immediately or it would stain permanently. Tide-To-Go was his best friend. He carried that stuff everywhere these days.

He would probably be a great Tide salesman. He'd be able to pitch the product like no one else.

'Tired of those nasty, glowing ectopasmic stains? Got into a ghost fight and need a clean shirt for picture day? Just use Tide-to-Go! One minute of scrubbing and they'll never suspect you spent the past hour being beaten half to death!'

It was… discouraging. He went out, risking life and limb trying to save his town and then he had to come home only to scramble to clean up after himself. Once, he'd flown back home after cutting school only for his mother to ask him why he'd left his scooter at Casper High. Once, he'd forgotten to beg for laundry duty and his Mother had found his red stained sheets. He'd… told her they were Jazz's. Danny recalled that excuse with a wince. Surprisingly, his sister had gone with the lie, only mildly chewing him out once they were alone and—…and that was probably because she'd already known his secret, wasn't it?

'Wow, I was pretty clueless not to have realized earlier that Jazz had figured it out.'

His sister and his friends did help out on a lot of things. But they couldn't help with everything.

And Danny supposed that that was fair. He did his best these days not to take his friends for granted—they did have their own issues to deal with.

The afternoon had passed without much incident. Tucker had gone home. His parents were worried since he hadn't called them for over a day and Tucker himself had admitted that he wanted to spend some time with them. Apparently, being trapped under the control of a demonic heart-snatcher made you re-evaluate your priorities in life. Danny could relate, so he didn't tease his friend for the sentiment.

Sam however, had seemed strangely reluctant to leave. Usually, after one of their fights, she couldn't wait to storm off and brood on her anger. But not this time. This time she had hung around, not saying much but not leaving Danny's company either. It wasn't until after the sun had set and after her parents had called half a dozen times that she finally relented and allowed Jazz to drive her home.

Sam was acting weird. Danny thought, as he scribbled his name in the air, the letters fading almost as soon as he wrote them. Maybe she was still recovering from the museum. Or maybe she was still angry at him. Or maybe…

'Oh what's the point? Jazz has already pointed out that I don't understand what goes on in Sam's head. Maybe it's because she's a girl… But then again, Valerie is pretty easy to figure out.' Granted, it was pretty hard to misunderstand homicidal rage. And he hadn't exactly been hanging around her enough as Fenton to know if she still had a life outside of ghost hunting…

Valerie's arm was still in that sling though, and he still didn't know how that happened. Valerie said that Danny Phantom had done it. But that was impossible. He'd been home in bed.

'Argh! Too many questions; too many mysteries! Why can't this all just be simple? Give me a regular ghost to beat up: Skulker, Ember, or the Box Ghost a dozen times over! Heck, I'd even take Vlad, 'cause at least I know what his game is. This… what is this…?'

For what must have been the fifth or sixth time that day, a spark of yellow exploded in the corner of his vision, forcing Danny's eyes to track a hallucination that only he seemed to be able to see. He groaned then, abandoning his idle artwork and flopping backward onto his bed. Fists reached up to rub his eyes tiredly. There were too many incomplete thoughts cycling around his brain; he couldn't even organize it all in his head, let alone come up with some plan of action to deal with it all.

Not the least of his problems was the ever-growing Mark on his shoulder.

Danny hooked a finger on the collar of his t-shirt and pressed his chin down to take a look at what he now knew was a Devil's Mark.

It was five fingers in width and length. It was growing. Slowly. Danny supposed he should be grateful, even if all he felt was apprehension. Tucker had been completely overcome by the Mark in two days, why wasn't he in the same condition? Maybe because he was half ghost? But that seemed like a weak reason, especially since ghosts were even more susceptible to Legion…

Maybe he should just tell his parents about the Mark and get it over with.

The pain hit him hard and mercilessly. Danny sunk his teeth into his lower lip to avoid crying out as his right arm convulsed and he was forced into a sitting position. He gripped his right wrist with his left hand, holding it down as it twitched erratically. The pain originated from the black Mark, then flared outward like fire. It was overwhelming. Danny couldn't think, he cringed—twisted, toes curling beneath him as his knees came up—but there was no way to escape it.

A steady burn: 'Hot. Fire, burning, searing—Hurts!'. A scalding iron pressed to his skin and held there—the pain increased and Danny let out a helpless whine, screwing his eyes shut. Curling forward until his head touched the bed, he rocked himself.

"No… no, I know what you're trying to do." He hissed breathlessly. Squinting open watery, glowing eyes, he snarled at the parasite within him. "I won't let you control me. I won't let you." His eyes closed again as he tried to internalize the battle. He pictured his friends, his family, and his dedication to them. He pictured school, ghost hunting, Mr. Lancer and even Vlad. His life. His. And he would not yield it to anyone—anything.

Danny slowly became aware that the pain was leaving him. From a scalding burn it hissed, fizzling down to until it was just a phantom ache. He gasped, rolling his shoulder backward with a loud pop.

"Well… I guess that solves one mystery. One down, only about a dozen more to go." He mused dryly.

Now he knew what was causing those strange spikes of pain.

His left hand was still stuck to his right wrist and it took some effort to pry it off. An attempt to wiggle his fingers revealed that his right hand was stubbornly frozen in a stiff claw, and that he'd lost sensation in the tips of his fingers. Wincing, he gently kneaded the palm of his hand until it began to tingle with pins and needles. Gradually, he able to regain control of the limb and he squeezed his hands together, sighing gratefully.

He won this round, at least. That was good.

Gingerly, he touched the blackened skin on his collarbone—it hurt, but Danny wasn't sure if it that was because it was still causing him pain or if it was the memory of pain that was haunting his senses.

Suddenly exhausted, he leaned back on his bed, snuggling his face into the soft pillow and drawing his blanket protectively around his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he tucked his aching hands under his chin.

His bed yielded around his sore body. It was comforting. Soothing enough that he rapidly fell into a hazy stupor.

His plan to tell his parents about the Devil's Mark on his shoulder was gone right out of his mind as he sank into the dark comfort of obliviousness.

Within seconds he'd fallen asleep—in his day clothes, no less.

Outside, it was a reasonably pleasant evening, seasonable for early May. But, quite remarkably, one of the windows in the Fenton household was foggy with frost. Ice coated the inside of the window, thick enough to be opaque at the edges, and crusted over the sill, flaking in the corners. Icy spindles bristled outward, like a chilly spiderweb, down toward the bed, over the walls and, most obviously, over the ceiling of the room. In the weak moonlight, the crystallized ceiling gleamed wetly, casting a soft, ghostly light down on the pale face of Danny Fenton.


End Chapter 32

To Be Continued…


A NOTE : Anonymous Reviewers for last Chapter – Hey guys, so it seems like FFdotNet listed a bunch of you simply as 'Guest', which makes responding to you individually a little more difficult. I'm gonna give you names based on your review so I'm sorry in advance for what will follow XD

Filthy Tease: Am I really? :3 Sorry (grins in a totally unapologetic way) XD

Yayyy!: Haha, well, I hope the wait for this chappie wasn't too long :D I'm glad you enjoyed the Lancer-Danny interaction. I'm a sucker for Lancer fics so I just had to include him ;p As for Spike… yep, yep, we'll see!

Ready to read more: Yep, last chapter had less action and this one was more informative than action-y… I hope you enjoyed though. As for your questions… Well, I can guarantee that Danny is not going to be taking his own shirt off any time soon, so in order for his friends to find out about his Mark, they're going to have to take some initiative ('cause as we saw from this chapter, Danny's gonna have some trouble telling the secret on his own). And how do I think they'll react?...'Not well' would be my guess… the word 'violently' comes to mind…XP

Reading too far into things: Nope, you're not reading too far into it. You're spot on, actually :D

Got the binary thingy…but not the joke: Aww, that's too bad. Did you explain it to him in the end or… or maybe the binary was just so obvious to him that it wasn't even a joke… XD

3elizabeth: Ha! Because you left your name at the end of your review you don't have to suffer the made up names I came up with for the reviews above XDD Lucky, lucky. Anyway! Thanks for the awesome review, especially for taking the time to point out the aspects you're enjoying , and I'm really glad you're enjoying the fic! I'm curious though, what was it that originally made you wary about this fic? The name? The summary? I like the way you zoned right in on the dreams, very shrewd eye you got there ;) It's good to know that you like the perspective changes, I was actually wondering if they were too jarring or messed with the flow of the chapter. Yay! Glad you liked the inclusion of Jack's past :D That's going to really become important as time goes on. Sooo… you want Danny to catch a break? Hehehe… careful what you wish for (evil grin).

LexxWolfe: Heya! Don't worry about lateness: review is a review and I'm glad to hear from you anytime :D It's awesome that you find the creepiness fits—I always thought DP had so much potential and the show turned way too… superficial, disappointing both the depth of its characters and its plot. I enjoyed season 1 and 2, but season 3 got me kinda down… At any rate, it's good to know you found the bit about Lancer second-guessing himself believable :D I always thought fanfics have characters put two-and-two together with Danny too quickly ;3 Yay! Glad you liked the addition of Spike! And it's interesting how you draw attention to the way he spoke about Jazz. It is odd that she was, maybe, his student counsellor (at best) or simply an annoying girl following him around trying to psychoanalyse him (at worst)—either way, she wasn't much to him, and yet he still made note of the fact that she has a brother… Hm…

Reviewers… You guys blew me away last chapter. Thank you :) seantriana, supaherolena02, Amber Birch, Jay Rosie, TexasDreamer01, BiblioMatsuri, DPfruitloop, smallvillephantom14, DarkShadowKun, Phantom Rose-3399, MsFrizzle, 3elizabeth, VampireFrootloopsRule, Leonardo DiCaprio (Ha! Great penname! Are you reeeeaaally?), MidnightResWri, Allebasii, One for Inspiration, LexxWolfe, hopeistheway AND all the Anonymous Reviewers who were so indifferently named as 'Guest' by FanfictionDOTnet and whom I renamed: Filthy Tease, Yayyy!, Ready to read more, Reading too far into things and Got the binary thingy… but not the joke! Again, I'm very sorry if you aren't quite partial to the pseudonames (XD).

My Birthday is this month! If you don't review I'm going to be very, very sad! So please Review! (Shameless emotional blackmail is shameless XD)