So. Wasn't going to upload this yet, but I have to sit through jury selection tomorrow and I need something to look forward to when I get home. As my boyfriend is gone for a few days and I'm all alone... I'm kind of hoping a slew of reviews sitting in my inbox will be a good substitute. :) So please?
Story is officially over. 172 pages in Word, 42,000 words, 14 c2s, 265 favorites, 289 watches, 34,000+ pageviews (you realize that's almost one pageview PER WORD? You weirdos need to find something new to do...), and waaaay longer than I'd originally expected this to take. ^^; But it was fun.
Don't hold your breath for the sequel. :p All the plot lines won't complete themselves in twelve chapters, but the story I wanted to tell - of Danny being trapped and finding his new 'life' in the future - is told. What happens after this... the world may never know.
Thanks to Night's Fire, Anne Camp aka Obi-quiet, Garnet Sky, Kitty Ghost, is to lazy to login, Ocean's Nocturne of the COCA, YumeTakato, Zuzanny, Phantom Phantatic, Invader Johnny, Angelus-alvus, starr1095, stick fight3, Completely Different, nuri kadri, bryandachosen1, Pink Fire Phoenix, dragondancer123, Nano Phantom, Super-Berry, Arcellant, The Silver Radio, Random Flyer, Amazing Bluie, Hraclio, Catalyst, DBack47, AnneriaWings, 91Silver, prophetofgreed, Donteatacowman, JLBShecky, irezel, and JackieDanielStark!
Without further ado, and with a huge sigh of FINALLY!, I proudly change the setting in this story from 'in progress' to 'complete'! Enjoy the epilogue!
I'm Still Here
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria
Death was a lot more black than Danny would have guessed. He thought for a moment his eyes were closed, but he reached up with trembling hands and checked: they weren't. They were open and peering into the darkness, searching for something.
He shook his head and touched his chest, feeling a moment of oddness when no steady beat met his fingers. Even in his ghost form, he'd always had an echo of a heartbeat, always felt the need to breathe. Now it was just silence. He snorted out a bit of a laugh, realizing that he wasn't even unconsciously breathing. "So I'm really dead this time."
His eyes closed for a moment, his mouth twisting in a wry smile. "I thought at least there'd be green," he muttered, his voice sounding odd in the darkness and his eyes opening back up to study the abyss. "Or maybe some harps. What a let down."
The voice caused him to twist around, a smile jumping onto his face when he saw his parents standing behind him. His mother – looking older than he remembered – spread her arms with a glowing smile on her face. Danny felt ground appear under his feet and he ran towards her, throwing himself into her open arms. "Mom! Dad!"
"Oh, Danny, I missed you," she whispered, holding him tightly. Two more arms appeared around them, squeezing powerfully, and Danny's father echoed the sentiment. "I'm so sorry..."
"What happened isn't your fault," Danny said, pushing away from them enough to see their faces and feeling like his smile would crack his face in two. "I'm sorry I never told you."
Jack Fenton ruffled his son's hair and laughed. "It's okay, Dann-o. We should have figured it out on our own."
The world was forming itself around them, grass appearing under Danny's feet, trees and bushes fading into existence around them. It was like Danny was standing in the center of the universe and it was being created just for him. Danny felt tears on his cheeks and he shook his head. "I missed you too."
His mother reached forwards and wiped his cheek, her smile fading slightly. "You did a good job."
A scream echoed through the tiny world and Danny spun around, his eyes wide, his back pressing into his parents' forms. A woman was dissolving into existence on the ground, red blood splattered everywhere. Another figure – Dark Phantom – was curled over her, a demented smile on his face.
"Wh-what?" Danny started, but his father interrupted him.
"Just watch, Danny."
Danny did. Beyond that first scream, it was pure silence. The woman, who Danny finally realized was his grown-up clone, had her mouth open in torment, screaming and unheard. The images moved like an old silence film – sometimes faster than normal, sometimes slower, skipping here and there, pausing for moments. "Dad?" Danny whispered, wanting to turn away. He didn't want to see this.
"Watch, Danny," his mother said softly.
Danielle finally died, her eyes staring blankly into space, and Dark Phantom kicked her a few times. He left her body, stalking towards a small child lying curled up under a bush, an evil grin on his face.
"No…" Danny whispered, his eyes wide, stepping forwards with a hand outstretched.
A hand on his shoulder stopped him. "It's just a memory," his mother murmured. "You can't stop him."
Suddenly the evil ghost was tossed backwards into a tree. Danny flinched and blinked, watching in stunned amazement as a bluish portal appeared in the air and Clockwork stepped out onto the field. "Clockwork?" Danny stuttered. "But…" A hand tightening on his shoulder stopped him from finishing the question.
The ghost of time had a silent, jerky conversation with Dark Dan Phantom, the latter ghost sending evil glares towards the first. Dark Phantom shook his head, apparently arguing, but Clockwork raised his hand and Phantom disappeared without another word.
Clockwork stepped forwards, picking up what looked like a cell phone. He paused for a few moments, typing in a text message, then dropped it back onto the ground. The ghost stooped down next to Danielle's body and shook his head, reaching out and closing her eyes. Then the ghost turned around and picked up the child – the one that Sam Manson would soon be adopting and raising as her own – and settled down in the shadow of a tree to wait.
The memory froze, Clockwork staring down at the young child, and Danny slowly shook his head. "I don't understand."
"Most ghosts are tied to the ghost zone – when the ghost zone was destroyed, so were they. Clockwork is different. He's tied to time," Jack said softly. "The only way to destroy Clockwork is to destroy time itself. Besides, do you think he'd didn't see it coming?"
"Why did make me watch this?" Danny asked, unable to tear his eyes off the bloody mess that was left from his clone.
His mother turned him around, looking straight into his eyes. "Because it's important that you understand," she said gently, reaching up to brush some strands of hair out of his eyes. "Do you understand?"
Danny shook his head. "Why does it matter now? I'm dead."
She smiled sadly, her eyes filling with tears. "I know, sweetheart. But you need to understand why this happened, or you won't ever be happy. That creature was created in an alternate reality – a future that never existed and but needed to exist."
"Yeah," Danny said slowly, struggling to follow along. "I knew that. Clockwork explained it to me."
"He can only be destroyed," his father cut in, "the same way. In a future that doesn't exist but needs to."
Danny's forehead wrinkled. "What? That doesn't make any sense."
The two adults laughed softly. Maddie pulled him into a hug, wrapping her arms around him tightly, tears still in her eyes. "I know, sweetie. I know. But it will, I promise."
Samantha Madel stared at the television from her chair, watching her best friend's last moments play over and over again. The camera feed had played out live to audiences around the country during the fight, and now some enterprising individual had taken the 'best' moments and turned it into a video montage.
She hated it. But she couldn't tear her eyes away.
On the screen, the teenage ghost disappeared in a wash of light, leaving a grainy image of Danny Fenton behind. Sam's fingers clenched on the arms of the rocking chair, her body tight. The song playing in the background crooned something about a hero dying to save the world and Sam finally couldn't take it anymore.
The remote control went flying at the television, right through the holographic screen, slammed into the wall, and tumbled harmlessly to the ground. The fit of anger didn't disrupt the image one bit. She pressed a hand to her eyes and leaned forwards, trying to control her breathing.
"Mom?" Daniel said, poking his head into the room. He sighed when he saw her curled up in the chair, coming over and wrapping his arm around her shoulder. "The psychologist said you should just cry and get it over with."
Sam shot her son a glare and pushed him away, turning so she couldn't see the screen. "Danny doesn't deserve tears."
"It's only been a week, Mom," Daniel said softly. "It's okay to cry over someone that died a week ago."
On the screen, Danny Fenton died in a wash of blue light from the Fenton Thermos. Almost in slow motion, it showed Sam running forwards, screaming for help that couldn't come soon enough. Then Daniel, only moments later, pried his mother away from the dead body of her friend.
"Mom, come on." Daniel reached for the remote control to turn off the television. "Sitting here isn't doing you any good. Jazz is downstairs; come and get something to eat."
The video showed the Daniel holding his mother as she cried. Then Danny's body seemed to rise limply into the air for a moment before completely vanishing. The song whispered words about angels coming to pick up the fallen hero and carry him off to Heaven as Daniel finally found the button, the picture and audio vanishing with a soft blip.
Sam moved slowly, getting out of her chair like she was older than she really was. "I'm not hungry," she muttered even as she was lead out of the room and towards the stairs.
With her son's hand firmly in hers, Samantha Madel stepped into her kitchen. Jazz got up out of the kitchen chair, walking over to her little brother's best friend, and wrapped her arms around her. "He died a hero," Jazz whispered. "It's okay. He's happier this way."
Tears suddenly appeared in Sam's eyes. She blinked a few times, trying to keep them at bay, but they became too much. A sob wrenched itself from Sam's throat and, for the first time in seventy years, let herself grieve for Danny Fenton's death.
Then, finally, she moved on.
Waking up alive was probably the one thing Danny had never expected to accomplish. His mind danced around the half-remembered dream of watching his clone die, but as a painful breath made its way into his lungs, he couldn't decided if it had been real or just a pain-induced nightmare. "Ow…" he groaned. He hurt everywhere.
He stifled a moan when he opened his eyes and slowly took in the hotel room he found himself in. The art on the walls was oddly familiar. The bed he was lying in… he'd woken up in it before. He was in Vlad's hotel room.
Danny pushed himself to a sitting position, careful of the hand that was splinted and of the searing pain in his abdomen from where his alternate future self had attempted to disembowel him. "Vlad?" he rasped, but there was no response. "Mom? Dad?" he tried, half-hoping that the dream he'd had was real. He sighed, shaking his head at the silence that answered him. "Stupid nightmare."
A glass of water was next to the bed and Danny slowly reached for it, taking a few grateful sips. The water was warm and stale – it had been sitting out for quite some time – but it washed away the dry taste in his mouth and wetted his throat. "Vlad?"
He set the glass back on the bedside table and spotted the note sitting on the table. He pushed the remnants of the strange dream out of his mind, focusing on the hand-written letter. "Daniel," it read, "this folder contains all the documents for your new life. Daniel Fenton no longer exists."
Danny picked up the folder, quietly running his fingers over the documents inside. Passport, birth certificate, identification cards… even a diploma that stated he'd graduated from high school. All of them made out to a 'Daniel Fen Jameson'. Danny couldn't help the small quirk of a smile at that. Daniel James Fenton. Daniel Fen Jameson. He'd been half-expecting them to read 'Daniel Masters'.
His eyes drifted back to the note. "Samantha and her son found you after the fight. You were most technically dead at the time and they still believe you to be; they have no knowledge of the fact that I took your body and revived you. Whether or not you decide to tell anyone about your existence is up to you."
He stopped reading, quietly staring down at the words written on the note. So like Vlad – direct, to the point, emotionless. "Vlad," Danny said with a scowl, shaking his head. To not have told Sam and Jazz that he was still alive was…
Danny paused his thoughts, his gaze drifting out towards the window. After all these years, they knew he was dead. That he'd finally found peace.
Perhaps he had.
For a long time, he stared at the light filtering through the closed shades, his mind sort of blank. Then he shook himself and gazed back down at the letter. "The room is paid for until you chose to check out. Stay as long as you need." Danny arched an eyebrow, but kept reading. "A debit card with ten thousand dollars and a cell phone are in the box with a change of clothes and the rest of your affects. They are yours to keep with no repayment necessary. Vlad."
Danny turned the paper over, blinking a little at the abrupt ending, but there was nothing else. Setting the note and the folder back on the table, Danny leaned back against the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. His whole body ached, especially his hand and his stomach, but his mind was churning busily enough to keep the pain at bay.
A whole new life. Leave everyone he thought he knew behind, start over, and go do anything he wanted to. Without his future self…
Danny flinched at the thought and sat back up with a pained wince. What had happened to his future self? He'd been sucked into the Thermos, but what had happened after that?
Blue eyes scanned the room for the box Vlad had mentioned in his letter. He finally spotted it on a chair some distance away. "Vlad?" Danny called one last time, even though he knew the fruitloop was nowhere near. His eyes focused on the box. "I need to know if the Thermos is in there," he whispered to himself.
Struggling to his feet – and nearly passing out at the pain – Danny slowly made his way over to the chair. Gripping the armrest as tightly as possible, Danny stared inside. Lying on top of the clothes Vlad had left was one battered (but clean) Thermos. A flash of relief echoed through him and Danny sagged to the ground.
It took a long several minutes before Danny got up the energy to make it back to the bed and collapse against the pillows. The wounds on his stomach were burning after Danny's attempt to move, the pain disrupting all of the other thoughts that Danny would have liked to think.
Eyes drifted back to the glass of water, half-hoping for a bottle of pain relievers. "Of course not," Danny muttered when he found none, closing his eyes and resigning himself to pain until he drifted off to sleep. "Vlad's not that nice."
One week later, Danny was standing outside the hotel, a backpack with a change of clothes and a Thermos slung over his back and a dilemma in front of him. His hand was still in its splint and painfully sore, and he walked with a little limp due to his tender stomach, but he was as good as could be expected. He pulled Vlad's cell phone out his pocket and stared down at it, then up at the skyline.
Seventy years had passed since he'd disappeared. A whole lifetime, really, and there was no going back. Maybe, someday, he'd find a way home… but it wouldn't be any time soon.
Sam and Jazz had their own lives, their own places in the universe set, and – honestly – Danny had no part in them anymore. It couldn't have been more obvious during the time he'd spent with them. Their lives were nearly over, his was just beginning. If Vlad was correct, he had decades and decades of life ahead of him – perhaps even centuries. Sam and Jazz would be lucky to live another five or ten years.
Danny's fingers tightened around the small cell phone, but he felt no anger, no sorrow, no desire to change the decision he'd made in the hotel room that morning. He still wanted his own life back, the one from the past, but he didn't want the one he'd been thrust into in this future. It wasn't his life.
His blue eyes came up to look at Amity Park for the last time, his eyes trailing in the direction he figured Jazz and Sam would be. "Have a good life," he said softly, meaning it with all of his heart, then he turned and started walking down the street.
The cell phone and debit card went into the first garbage bin he could locate. He neither wanted nor needed Vlad's help. This was his life and he was going to make the most of it. Besides, his brain whispered, you've got something that needs to be done.
Danny tapped the Fenton Thermos containing his alternate-reality self and thought back on what his father had told him in that strange maybe-was-a-dream. He can only be destroyed the same way he was created. In a future that doesn't exist but needs to.
There's a reason you were trapped for seventy years; there's a reason you've finally been freed. Everything you need to destroy that evil ghost forever is here, now. And besides, maybe Clockwork was out there waiting to send him home if he could do just that.
A small smile appeared on his face as he vanished from sight and then took to the sky for places unknown. For the first time in seventy years, he was free.
And I want a moment to be real, want to touch things I don't feel,
want to hold on and feel I belong.
And how can they say I never change, they're the ones that stay the same,
I'm the one now and I'm still here.
Inspired by "I'm Still Here" by the Goo Goo Dolls.