Author: Well, here we are. The final chapter. I got everything out relatively quickly because, well...it's time to move on.
This chapter has not been shown to a beta because of its nature.
I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has stuck with this story and Daniel even through the massive hiatuses. Every review, every favorite, every alert, meant and means a great deal to me. Thank you for your patronage through all these years. Now, without further ado, I present to you the final chapter of Daniel Masters!
Chapter the Last (#31)
There was a knock at the door, and Daniel briefly wondered if the Martians had come back to return his kidneys, but the energy signature beyond the portal to the Outer-world was disappointingly familiar.
Daniel walked over and wrenched open the door to reveal Danny, whose eyes immediately widened at Daniel's appearance.
"Konichiwa! The Lord has risen!" Daniel said and ushered Danny in before the spies took too many pictures.
Danny began: "Daniel—" but fell silent at the sight of his apartment. Daniel could tell Danny disapproved of his redecorating, but that was okay. The mechanical miniature Godzillas couldn't get in, and that was what counted.
"Daniel, are you okay?"
Danny's tone made Daniel pause and consider the question. "Of course I am," he eventually answered. "Jupiter has jumped over the wolf moon."
"Are you taking your medication?" Danny asked, grabbing Daniel's wrist.
Daniel snorted derisively and the cabinets laughed, their doors opening and shutting like butterfly wings.
"I should've seen it before, that the injections denied me sainthood. Now, I am a god."
Danny seemed afraid, which was both good and not good simultaneously. Good because it was right and just for gods to be feared. Not good because it was Danny, and Daniel didn't want to scare Danny.
"Don't worry," Daniel attempted to reassure the younger half-ghost, "I'm not the kind of god that demands sacrifice."
Danny frowned and concern bloomed in his eyes.
Daniel hummed the Hallelujah chorus from Handle's Messiah as he surveyed his domain. True, it was missing something, but Daniel couldn't figure out what that something was. It was just out of reach, but most things were. It was the government's way of trying to regulate his brain-ing.
"You're bleeding!" Danny exclaimed, panic infusing his voice.
Daniel looked down at his body and shook his head, "No, no, this is baptismal water."
It was odd, however, watching the red smudge on Danny's fingers, and there was something inherently wrong about being blood on Danny's fingers.
Daniel phased his hand through Danny's grip. "You don't need to be purified. Don't touch me or you'll contract cooties."
"What happened to you, Daniel? What can I do to help?" Danny asked, a desperate edge to the question.
"Don't be afraid, this is how things are meant to be," Daniel replied cheerfully. "I'm preparing for him, for when he comes back to me. Everything has to be just so or he won't return, even after the government bigwigs release him back into the wild."
Danny was watching him with wide-eyed horror, but Daniel didn't mind. It didn't matter what Danny thought or felt, Daniel would stand between any challenges to Danny and the boy's righteous heroism. It was the least he could do, given all the trials Satan had in store for him and how badly Daniel had already failed him.
Not that Daniel was sure how he failed Danny. Just that he had.
"Daniel," Danny said, voice carefully neutral.
"Yes?" Daniel replied absently as he debated whether to defang the standing light or not.
"Would you…could you please stay here? Just for a little?"
Daniel laughed. "Where would I go?"
"Okay...yeah, okay. I'll be right back. Just…don't go anywhere."
As Danny vanished into the daytime, Daniel walked over to his laptop, which was tied down to the kitchen table, and opened a browser window.
Daniel had been following the trending of the home video that some foolishly brave soul had taken of the battle with Phantom. It had initially been dismissed as bad acting with marvelous special effects, and Daniel had tried to bury it amidst all the garbage on YouTube and elsewhere; but, somehow, it kept on surfacing, and it seemed that the harder he tried to hide it, the more often it showed up on his social media.
"Never believe anything until it has been officially denied," Daniel murmured. "I should have remembered."
(what are you hiding)
(what do you fear)
(why do you fear)
(who do you fear)
Daniel laughed softly. "I would think that's obvious."
(all your fault)
(if only had been stronger faster smarter)
His shadow lashed out and wrapped its hands around his throat, the pressure a warning and a loving caress. He wasn't supposed to speak, and he knew it. That he had said as much as he did was remarkable. Perhaps the corset-busters were getting lax in their observations.
Daniel trolled a few of the places where the video was posted, a small smile on his lips.
It's oddly fun to be an anonymous asshole.
Although I'm not certain how that's different from a regular asshole.
In his failure to hide the truth, Danny and his family and friends had become internet celebrities. They weren't important enough to gain the attention of major news stations, but the internet latched onto them like leeches.
Tabloids were after them, questions about the super powers demonstrated once people figured out that it wasn't special effects, who they were fighting, why they were fighting, how they were fighting, their history, relationships, etc., etc. Such were questions that Daniel was used to, but the Fenton clan and, by proxy, Samantha and Tucker's families, were unprepared for the sudden onslaught.
It would have been funny if Daniel didn't know that it was a conspiracy to suck out their souls and drain their blood to feed the army of mutants that an international ring of security administrations were creating. He had almost narrowed down the location of their base before his cell phone started to ring uncontrollably.
He watched the phone buzz and jump and clamour for his attention, but Daniel knew better than to answer it. It was most definitely tapped by some kind of secret organization seeking the secrets to immortality.
However, Daniel thought that getting zapped by a Ghost Portal was low on the list of quick fixes of eternal life.
"Danny won't like that," Daniel told the teapot, which shrugged indifferently. "He loves his family and friends too much to outlive them."
(you can always kill them for him)
(kill him for them)
Daniel danced out of the way of one of the many mice that inhabited the apartment complex, and his eyes were drawn to a hole in the wall that abruptly grew ten times its size and sported razor sharp teeth.
But, Daniel knew he was safe because he had—
Because he had…?
Daniel decided to skip over the feeling of lack that had been bothering him for the two days since he crawled out from beneath his bed with no memory of how he got there. He had shoved the Crown and Ring inside his ghost core and promptly set them under lock and key. The only way that anyone would be able to get them was if he gave them to the person. If he died, the artifacts went with him, which was kind of poetic since they were the cause of death for another person.
Daniel took out the vacuum cleaner and fed it the floor until it belched out dust, whereupon he dumped the whole thing, machine and filter, into the bottomless trashcan that burped back a cloud of miasma.
He tilted his head slightly and tried to sneak into the secure channels that the Invaders communicated with, trying to parse out anything that might hurt Danny or his family or his friends. He liked them because they helped Danny, and Danny helped the world, and the world needed helping, but Danny wouldn't be able to do it all on his own.
He'd have to get Vlad to help.
Daniel didn't know how that would happen, since the two of them really heartily disliked each other, but perhaps time and perspective would allow them to find some kind of common ground. It'd probably be scorched and bloodied ground, like how he found commonality with Vladimir over the scraps of black and blue and orange and streaks of red.
(all your fault)
I know, Daniel agreed, the cloth he had been using to clean off the table melting in his hands and dripping onto the floor, burning tiny holes in it, as if it were acid.
"That was a really bad experience," Daniel said, and the light in the kitchen flickered in agreement. "Then again, all drugs were a bad experience. Medicine are drugs too, you know. Maybe that's why I disliked them and loved them so much. They made things quiet, but that quietness was an emptiness and emptiness was boring and bad."
He wasn't sure if he was trying to convince the interfering bastards lodged in his brain or himself. He didn't know why he would need convincing, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
"What do you think Danny is doing?" he asked the kitchen chair, who remained stubbornly silent. "Probably talking to his friends or family. That's what he does, you know, whenever he can't figure something out at all. He'd usually come to me because I'm him but not and smarter than him, but not smarter than him and it all evens out. But, right now, I'm the confusing thing, so he's probably talking to Jasmine. He doesn't trust his parents and his friends are as smart as him, which isn't really smart."
The teapot agreed with him.
"Yes, yes, probably Jasmine," Daniel repeated as he stepped around the lump of coal that used to be a towel. His hand hesitated over the TV remote.
"What if he's talking to Vlad?"
The prospect was both interesting and troublesome. Vlad carried a whole lot more power and influence, and if Danny was desperate enough to go to him, than that meant he was really worried. Daniel didn't mind worrying Danny terribly much, but if it drove him to seek aid from his "arch-enemy", which was a silly concept to start with, that was bad.
Daniel's arch enemy was his own mind, his own spirit, his own self, and that was a perfectly valid arch enemy because it couldn't be defeated like a person could be defeated. It took a whole lot more time and energy and space, and Danny didn't have the same kind of mental fortitude that it would take to manipulate his own mind to do what he wanted.
"Then again, I don't either," Daniel murmured, amused.
Daniel turned the television on, and immediately the people trapped within the screen assaulted him.
"Uncertainty is only certainty, stymies sock trades," one man said.
"Car explosion mistaken for gunfire at local mall," proclaimed a woman.
"Nostalgia rebooting several classic shows," said a younger man than the first one.
"Early season hurricane threatens Gulf Coast," said a weatherman who was lying through his teeth. Everyone knew that the hurricane would turn around and around until it ended up spinning itself out in the middle of the Atlantic.
Well, either that or it would become some kind of super-awesome-mega-terrifying storm that would swallow the whole Eastern Seaboard all at once.
Daniel wondered if he could do that, then decided that South Carolina would taste disgusting, so pushed the idea aside.
He was scrubbing his bathroom with scrubbing bubbles that scrubbed him back so everything was scrubbing each other and everywhere and it was a whole white-washed mess of foaming liquid when he heard Danny knock insistently on the door again. Daniel really wanted to cut off access to the Outerworld, the Otherworld, but figured that would be unkind and he really did like take out Chinese food. So he went to the door, trailing cleaning liquid behind him, and opened the door.
Danny stood on the other side, looking distinctly worried, albeit resolute.
"Why, hello," Daniel greeted. "Do you like watermelons?"
"Daniel…" Danny trailed off, but seemed to muster up courage and caught and held Daniel's eyes. "I talked to Jazz."
Daniel hummed and ushered Danny into his apartment. "Of course you would, she likes jelly donuts best."
"She said you're psychotic."
Daniel scoffed. "Psychotic is such an ugly word. And I am not."
"You're talking in, what did she call it, a kind of, of word-salad."
"Salad is good only with tangerines and almonds," Daniel said. "I'm hungry. Are you?"
Danny rubbed his cheek, frustration evident. "You talk to your furniture."
"They're not very good conversation. The head-mouths aren't much good for passing the time either."
"Head-mouths," Danny repeated cautiously.
Daniel tapped his temple. "They never leave me alone, but they're rather repetitive after a while. 'Hey, Jude' is rather boring, isn't it? All the nah nah nahs. But it's Chicago that has the demonic messages in the records, right? I'm sure there's something in the Beatles somewhere. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is actually LSD. They were on some serious drugs when they did that album."
Daniel could tell Danny was having a hard time keeping up with his leaps of logic, but he figured it was good mental exercise for the boy. Had to keep everything Danny's mind in top-shape, tip-top shape, tip-ship-shop-shape.
"That's a good tongue twister," Daniel observed.
Daniel knew that Danny wasn't looking at him anymore, and that was understandable. It was both humbling and difficult to lay eyes on a god.
"I don't think it's safe or good for you to live alone," Danny said.
"I'm never alone," Daniel replied. "The government watches me 23/6. Then there's also the space Invaders that pewpew my head and the Martians really need to return my kidneys, I'm starting to miss those."
"You miss Vladimir, don't you?"
Daniel's body seized up at the name coming from someone else's lips, and he suddenly knew, with painful clarity, what he had been missing.
He had been scrubbing away Vladimir's scent, had thrown away everything that the man had begun to accumulate, had doused himself in his own blood in an attempt to get Vladimir out from beneath his skin.
Daniel grabbed at his hair, razor-sharp threads cutting into his palms. He groaned and toppled to the floor.
"He's gone and it's all my fault," Daniel whispered, and barely felt Danny's hands fluttering over his body, pulling his hands away from their deathgrip on his hair.
"No, it's not," Danny replied firmly. "Come on."
"Where are we going?" Daniel asked as Danny and a clone of the younger half-ghost hoisted him up between them, the code that ran through Daniel's body deciding that it really shouldn't move anymore, that he was destroying reality with each movement of his limbs.
"To Vlad's," Danny replied. "He said he'd watch you, make sure that you didn't hurt yourself anymore, help you get better."
As Danny phased them out of Daniel's apartment, Daniel couldn't help but laugh.
"Your optimism has always been one of your best and worst qualities," Daniel said as they flew through the air, invisible and intangible.
Danny looked at him and gave him a grim smile. "Thanks."
"You know, I heard once that it rained spiders. Do you think that if they died in the clouds and flew up and down and up and down that there might be spiders trapped in hail-stones? That would be an arachnaphobes worst nightmare, eh?"
"Yeah, yeah it would be," Danny replied, voice tight with exertion.
"I'll shut up now," Daniel said cheerfully. "So that we won't fly into the light of Christmas Past."
Danny gave a huff of something between amusement and disbelief, then turned all his attention and power on getting them from Daniel's apartment in Amity Park proper to Vlad's mansion on its outskirts. Normally, it would have been a short trip.
Nothing was normal anymore, and Daniel wasn't sure if he liked it that way or not.
Daniel was lounging on a couch in Vlad's Amity Park mansion, watching Danny watching him. About two weeks had passed since Danny had dragged him over to Vlad's, and Daniel was resolutely refusing to be denied the sainthood that he had finally found. Doing so was apparently distressing to Danny, whom Vlad had called in as a last-ditch attempt to get Daniel to go along with Vlad's master plan.
Danny was embraced by an armchair, and Daniel was impressed at how well Danny was resisting sinking into the cavernous fabric.
"Vlad said that you're refusing medication," Danny said, breaking the silence that had fallen between them after Danny's greeting had died in his throat.
Daniel shrugged, the slightly-too-small Packers pajamas moving with his shoulders. "It won't work. I know which ones he's going to try and they're not going to work. I heard him talking on the phone, talking to the others who want to control my brain, and I know the drugs they're talking about. We were lucky when one worked. But the dosages had to go up and up and reach into the stars grab them shove them into my brain in spikes of supernovae and we both knew it'd eventually fail, fall like Icharus, melting me. And now even the one that worked doesn't work anymore. It's the half-ghost genetics."
A look of exhaustion passed across Danny's face that was so painfully familiar that panic surged through Daniel.
"No, no, Danny," Daniel said, and stumbled across the small stretch of floor to the recliner where Danny was sitting. He fell to his knees at Danny's feet and reached out to pull Danny close enough that their foreheads touched. "Don't feel that way. I can hear the whispers, can see them written across your face, traced in the lines of your fears and terrors and worries. This is me, not you. You are not me. Other people might think they're me, but they're not. I'm the only one they're interested in. You're not like me, so they don't find you fascinating, manipulateable. There's no need to be sad. Don't you see? They just want to scare you, and you can't let that happen."
(lonely lonely lonely)
(unloved unwanted unheard unseen)
(never alone but always lonely)
Daniel was silent for a moment before he said: "I'm sorry."
Danny gave him a wary look. "For what?"
"I killed Phantom. I should have let you kill him instead. Maybe you wouldn't be so afraid, feel so guilty. But, you never had the stomach for murder."
(bury him bury you)
"Daniel, couldn't you just try the medication? Maybe it won't be so bad."
(kill him be free)
(you are not meant to be caged)
(you are a god he is nothing but a man)
"What do you fear?" Daniel asked, not really sure who he was addressing. Maybe he was talking to the beings who whispered in his soul. Maybe he meant Danny. Maybe he meant Vlad. "What's the weather supposed to be tomorrow? Do you think if a plane crashes and no-one is around to hear it that it still makes a sound?"
"Don't you want to get better?" Danny half-pleaded.
"They're not going to work," Daniel insisted.
"It's worth a try. Maybe you've changed, maybe things are slightly different here and the medication is stronger."
"Why do you want me sane?" Daniel asked, honestly curious. Vladimir had wanted him sane because…well, Daniel had never asked why because he hadn't had the presence of mind to. Not as if he had much of a mind to begin with. Now Vladimir was gone, it was all his fault, and he'd never be able to ask him.
(selfishness he wanted you sane because it would have looked bad)
(all the medicine has done is handicap you)
(better to be free and insane than caged and trapped and mind-raped by artificial chemicals)
-Because he loved you-
The last voice was new, and Daniel wasn't sure what to make of it.
"Because…because you're my brother. Because I need you to get me through high school. You know I'll do really bad without you."
Daniel snickered. "You just need to know how to brain better. You'll get it eventually, since there's nothing and no-one inside your head, your mind, your thinking-matter, but you."
"But, I need help. You saw how bad I was at math."
Daniel nodded absently. It was true. Danny was horrible at thinking in the small, steady steps needed to get math questions right.
"So…promise me, Daniel? Promise me you'll try the medication? Even for just a little while?"
There was more to the questions that Daniel thought Danny realized he was saying. There was, "Stay sane for me," and "I need you." There was also: "Do you think this is what Vladimir would have wanted?" and "You don't have to give up, you'll get through this."
"I won't make a promise I can't keep." Daniel smiled bitterly. "I don't think you understand, Danny."
"This isn't something that I can just will away. I'm…"
Daniel struggled against the order to shut up, to keep quiet, the insistence that no-one needed to know. If he said something, if he told the truth, then he would bring the world crashing down like the Nasty Burger.
Some of his struggle must have been visible, since Danny said, "Look, alright, I get it. I'll—"
"I fight for every word, I pay for every thought, there is no filter to run "unimportant" things through. It's dopamine and serotonin and it's not something I can cure, just control, and even that control is inexact."
Daniel had used up most of his anytime minutes in his speech, and the effort of corralling his thoughts and keeping the government out of his synapses exhausted him.
He wasn't sure if Danny completely understood, but that was okay, since he didn't fully understand himself, either.
"There is never silence," Daniel whispered.
He wasn't surprised when Danny wrapped his arms around him, neither when he felt Danny's tears brush his cheeks. Daniel had never seen Vladimir cry, but he knew he had from how the shadows danced in the man's eyes every time he had come to visit.
It wasn't Vlad's fault and it wasn't Danny's fault, but they both possessed the hubris to think it was.
Daniel laughed at the revelation, and Danny pulled back, wary.
"We're all terrible people, aren't we?" Daniel said. "You…you think you're powerful enough to affect me, change my body and mind, and I'm selfish enough to let you believe that."
Daniel laughed until he cried, a vocalization somewhere between sob and scream wrenched from his gut.
(they won't listen)
(you won't listen)
(end you end them end the world end the universe end the everything)
(one last act of selfishness)
"You aren't the reason Jack binges on fudge, you're not responsible for Tucker's obsession with all things shiny and beeping, and you couldn't control how Samantha fell in love with you. These things you know, Danny," Daniel said, voice hoarse and tired.
He looked over Danny's shoulder to see Vlad hovering in the doorway.
"What, then, causes you think that you're responsible for my traitor mind?"
It was a question to both the billionaire and Danny, since they both felt some measure of misplaced responsibility for Daniel.
How can I erase guilt that shouldn't be there in the first place? Daniel wondered, the three-way silence painfully awkward. How can I show them, make them understand that I'm my fault? That they didn't know their actions were not their own, that they have receptor in their brains that no-one can see or hear or feel except for me? I know the tricks by now, I know. It's not their faults I'm clairvoyant.
In the corner, the grandfather clock ticked: all your fault all your fault all your fault
And it was all his fault, of course. There was no use arguing against the truth. If only he could convince the two stubborn half-ghosts before him that such was the case.
Danny's hands tightened on Daniel's shoulders, trying to find some kind of comfort in the reality of Daniel being physically there still, and the pain in Danny's eyes seared through Daniel's soul.
(You're dooming him)
(You will bring the world crashing down)
(you are good for nothing but death)
Daniel no longer wished to fight, so simply nodded his assent. He knew it would happen, one day. He would destroy the world, starting with everything he loved.
The problem was, he had already destroyed everything he loved. Danny was the only thing left in his life that he cared for. Nothing else held any water. No-one else looked at him with such sorrow and Daniel knew immediately that he'd have to rid Danny of it, somehow.
He was reluctant to kill Danny, though. He knew Danny had people who would miss him, although his death would completely prevent the others from sinking their hooks into his eyes and throat and playing him like a puppet.
Daniel had never actually killed a human. It would be a growing experience.
Daniel distantly heard Danny talking, but it was nothing compared to the cacophony of instructions in his head.
-Danny loves you-
He's the only one, Daniel replied acidly.
"I've been dead for a long time, haven't I?" Daniel mused, ignoring Danny. "Drugs don't work on dead men, do they?"
Daniel looked down at himself and his body went rigid. He had tried so hard, so hard, to get the blood off of him, but Vladimir's imprint remained on his body, traced out in softly glowing ectoplasmic blood.
Daniel cried out in agony and he shoved Danny away. Daniel did his best to rip off his own clothes, but it had stained into him, Vladimir's death was a bruise on his body, it ate away at him, concentric swirls of accusation that he ran from, that he sought to escape, but would never leave him.
"He's gone, oh God, he's gone," Daniel sobbed and easily dodged the grasping hands meant to hold him down, tie him down, keep his mind down. His mind was already splattered on the pavement, though, streaked in the drying blood of the man whom he had come to rely on. Who had, in turn, learned to love again. They had saved each other.
"And I destroyed him," Daniel replied. "I did it, I did it, I did it."
(god of death god of destruction god of wastes and desolation and blights and corrosion)
He tripped on his pants as he shoved his way through reality, and pushed himself back up, trying to escape the words that dragged at his hair, that pulled his spine down and tried to root it the ground. Red and blue and green and black and silver and white swirled around him, and Daniel pushed it all away, but it pushed back, and he slowly sunk to his knees.
(heart mind soul it all shatters into ooze that crystallizes within the earth where you belong)
He fought against his abduction, the government finally sending their agents to seduce him, to bring him in and tear him apart molecule-by-molecule, unraveling the secrets of his unraveling mind.
(do not fight the inevitable)
(there is no such thing as impossible)
(burn it all away)
"No one can control a god," Daniel snarled. He bared his teeth at the four blue orbs that watched him, concern, caution, and terror all warring within their confines.
Ice-cold hands grabbed at his face, but it was a familiar cold; it wasn't the clinical, sterile subzero of the Martians who had taken him hostage and made his skin an ant farm. It was a gentle cold, a scared and caring cold.
The bleary succession of half-remembered corridors melted into warm paneled wood, into green and gold that was familiar-but-not. There was carpet beneath his bruised back, and Danny was hunched over him, straddling his waist, pinning Daniel to the floor with his body-weight, and bright purple ghost shackles chained Daniel's wrists to the floor.
"Danny, you should know the importance of consent. Silence is not a yes," Daniel said, bemusement lacing his voice. "You should ask someone before you go and sit on them."
"Please, Daniel, you're scaring me."
"Of course I am," Daniel answered, voice reasonable and calm. "And I'm sorry. The government has hijacked my brain and it's hard to keep the transmissions blocked. It's all so loud, surely you hear it. They blast it from the rooftops, in the malls it replaces the tacky music, they play it during the seventh inning stretch: Murderer murderer murderer Daniel is a monster sick evil worthless foolish."
(this is a cage)
(break free break free)
He looked at Danny to find his face featureless and writhed against the shackles in horror.
"No, no, they got to you, too! Let go, let go, let go."
Daniel broke out of the shackles, but at the expense of impressive burns on his wrists. He threw the former-Danny off of him and phased out of the clothes that remained on him. It was no good, the Invaders were everywhere, had sunk their claws into everything.
(break through break free)
The newly-minted Faceless Danny chased after him, tried to stop him, but he seemed to have forgotten that Daniel's specialty lay in energy manipulation—their barriers meant nothing, it was easy to slip through or around or under or over; even Vlad's did little to slow him down.
Daniel didn't know where he was, where he was going, but the knowledge that the Faceless was just a step behind him pushed him, causing him to take ever greater leaps of teleportation, just to get away. Daniel eventually came to a screeching halt in front of a large metal construct, a circle, a portal, a gateway, that he knew intimately.
A Ghost Portal.
It was inactive and useless, much like he, even if it was surrounded by a plush environment. However, the barrier between the Human World and Ghost Zone was still thin, easily passed through. It wouldn't even take a thought, if Daniel could form one coherent enough to cross.
Do I want to?
Daniel wasn't sure how long he stood there, looking at the Portal and breathing in the mixture of ghostly-ozone and a distressingly familiar cologne that burned his nostrils with blood and fire and death.
It was long enough for Danny and Vlad to catch up, Danny having recovered his face and identity from the government. He shouldn't have doubted that he as strong enough to reclaim it, but it was hard to trust when everyone was watching you, even if they didn't know it.
"Daniel," Vlad admonished, but Daniel's gaze remained on the subdued Portal, Daniel not feeling the need to confirm their identities. He knew by their energy signatures. He always would.
"It makes sense you wouldn't have it in Amity. It would be too strange, would tug on reality too much, and would let more than just strong ghosts escape."
Daniel felt something placed delicately around his shoulders, and found that Danny had draped a non-descript thermal blanket on him. It had obviously just been bought, it still smelled like a store and not something that either Danny or Vlad had extensively handled.
The stained-glass world Daniel existed in cut into his skin whenever he moved, so Daniel barely dared to breathe.
"How did you know the way here?" Vlad asked, obviously curious in spite of himself.
Daniel let out a long, slow breath, the use of his ghost powers having somehow carved a tiny bit of breathing room in his mind.
"This place was bought after the filter accident," Daniel replied, "but was mostly unused due to its unimpressive appearance and isolated location. The perfect place for a secret laboratory, but not so much for impressing people." Daniel paused, the shadows beginning to deepen around the tools and inventions. "We moved here once I was discharged, and it is here I recovered. The castle was used for formal functions only. It is understandable, that I would run here for safety."
Daniel closed his eyes against the memories and breathed in sorrow and frustration that stuck to the walls.
"Daniel..." Danny began, but Daniel cut in before the younger half-ghost could continue.
"What would you do?" Daniel asked, addressing the question to no-one in particular.
"Stop running," Vlad said firmly, grimly; Danny flailed about for an answer to a question he didn't entirely understand.
Daniel smiled faintly. "Follow your own advice, Vlad."
"Daniel, c'mon, you're gonna catch a cold or something," Danny said. His hand curled lightly around Daniel's wrist and gave an insistent tug.
"I think a cold isn't the worst thing that could happen, all things considered," Daniel replied dryly.
"Yeah, well, still."
"If you want, you can stay here."
Daniel's eyes snapped open and he whirled to face Vlad.
Whatever Daniel had been about to say died in his throat.
(dead and gone because of you)
(preserve the world end yourself)
The tiny bit of clarity that had been brought upon by exercising his ghost powers immediately vanished, consumed with blood and shadows and the faint echo of the voice of the only person Daniel would admit to loving.
Daniel was drowning in agony, the loudspeakers were deafening, the government had found a direct line to his brain and his blood vessels were unraveling. His synapses burned his brain to ashes and he distantly heard himself screaming.
Daniel knew what he was feeling.
He had felt it once before.
Last time, Vladimir had managed to call him back because they had needed each other. They had similar fractures that each could fix.
He and Vlad would end up breaking each other.
Danny needed to grow and Daniel would only hold him back.
Daniel couldn't die, because that would eat away at both Vlad and Danny, and he didn't want to break them, because they were both so fragile, more fragile than they realized.
Daniel's screams turned to howls of laughter as he shattered into a maelstrom of madness.
So…this is how the world ends.