The long anticipated, death-threat driven sequel to 'Masks'.
To summarize the previous story: Lancer locked Danny in his office, refusing to let him leave until Danny told him the truth about what was going on. The teenager, or course, refused… until he mistakenly came to the conclusion that Lancer had figured everything out. He then came clean about Phantom, to his teacher's disbelief, and now needs to figure out what to say to his parents.
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria
"You have to tell them."
The Nasty Burger was bustling with life, but the area around the table populated by Danny Fenton and his teacher was almost supernaturally quiet. Danny slouched a bit farther down in his chair and mopped up a few lost salt crystals off his tray with a finger. "I know, I know," he muttered.
Edward Lancer nodded, picking at the fries on his tray that had gone cold hours previously. "I'm sorry, Daniel. I just can't think of a way…"
The teenager kicked at a table leg, his stomach twisting painfully, threatening to let him see his lunch for a second time. "They're never going to be the same," he whispered.
"I know you don't want things to change," Lancer said, "but they have to. You can't handle everything without some outside help." He was silent for a moment. "Everything changes, Daniel. That's the nature of life."
Danny swallowed heavily and didn't answer. The two of them had already been over this at least a half-dozen times in the four hours they had been sitting at this table. Every plan, every excuse, every attempt to try to prevent what was about to happen had come up empty. His teacher had methodically sunk every one of his arguments with devastating and unerring force.
The worst part of the whole deal was the fact that Danny really didn't care about what would happen to himself when he told his family that he was Phantom. He was pretty sure they would accept him and even try to help; he'd be just fine. It was his parents that he was worried about. Both of them would never be able to forgive themselves for what they'd done to him, even if they didn't know it was him.
He could tick the issues off on his fingers without any trouble: death threats, shooting at him, trapping him, hunting him, not knowing who he was, not noticing his problems, not figuring it out sooner, physically and mentally scarring him, plans to experiment on him… he ran out of fingers and stumbled to a depressed halt in his mind.
No, they would never be able to forgive what they had done to him. It would hurt them, slice them open from the inside out, kill them just as effectively as his alternate-future self had. He would lose them – if not physically, then mentally.
He had to admit that there weren't many other options. Now that Lancer knew his secret, his family would have to know. There just wasn't any other way to explain why Lancer had let him leave the school. If only he hadn't jumped the gun and essentially told Lancer that he was Phantom, there could have been other ways to handle this. His secret might have still been a secret.
A hand tracked up to the back of his neck and started to slowly massage the tight muscles, still trying to come to grips with what he was about to do. Although he didn't blame the overweight teacher for the situation he'd found himself in, he still felt a small trickle of resentment. The whole 'trap him at school' idea had come from Lancer's mind. In the end, though, it boiled down to the fact that his parents had simply wanted to know what was wrong with him. Now they were going to find out.
"Could you tell them for me?" he asked, looking up hopefully even though he already knew the answer.
Lancer shook his head. "I'll be there just in case something goes wrong, Danny, but you need to be the one to tell them."
He breathed out slowly. "Yeah. I know." They'd been over this before. They'd gone through everything already.
"You want something to eat before we leave?"
Danny shook his head, scrambling to find a way to postpone the inevitable. "What am I going to say again?"
Danny curled his fingers around the bottom of his shirt, twisting the material until it was bound painfully around his fingers, his eyes tracing the cracks in the dashboard of his teacher's car. "I just don't…" he trailed off as the car shuddered into silence, then glanced over at his teacher.
Edward Lancer pulled his keys out of the ignition and leaned forwards on the steering wheel, glancing once at Danny before looking out the windshield. FentonWorks was glowing in the late afternoon sun. To Danny, the house seemed to loom large and oppressive. Inside, both of them knew, his parents were going about their daily lives, probably inventing some new way to torture their son.
"Think of it like a band-aid," the teacher rumbled, arching an eyebrow. "Get it over with fast."
"Can't we just go back to school?" Danny asked softly. In so many ways, he couldn't wait to tell them but, in so many other ways, he wasn't ready to tell his parents just yet.
His teacher chuckled a little at the excuse, opening his car door and stepping out onto the sidewalk. "No. Out of the car, Daniel."
Danny spent a few precious moments extricating his fingers from the tangle of shirt he'd created and tried to ignore the impossible twisting of his stomach. Finally, unable to come up with any other ways to delay the unavoidable, Danny pushed open his car door and stepped onto the hot tar. He glanced down at his shoes, hoping for an untied shoelace, but there was no such luck. Throat dry, tongue feeling like it was the size of an elephant, he slipped around the car and stopped next to his teacher.
"You'll be fine, Danny," Lancer whispered, a hand touching his shoulder gently.
Running a hand through his hair, coming to rest at his neck, Danny stared at his home. If he were even half the ghost Clockwork was, he'd be able to stop time long enough to count all the bricks, delaying the inevitable for all eternity. No such time-stopping power was jumping to his fingertips, however. A gentle pressure on his back helped to start his feet moving up the short walk, stumbling a little on the front steps, drawing to stop only when the thick front door appeared before him. A hand appeared over his shoulder and Lancer reached up to ring the doorbell.
"It's my home, you don't have to ring the doorbell," Danny murmured to himself, but he didn't raise a hand to open the door himself. His hands seemed to have stopped working, a strange tingling feeling swamping his whole body. He was half-surprised that he hadn't gone intangible and fallen in the basement yet.
He felt his teacher's reassuring bulk behind him. "Just remember what we talked about. You'll be fine."
Danny took a deep breath and licked his dry lips, then the door was wrenched open. His mother, dressed in her normal blue jumpsuit, blinked a few times before a smile appeared on her face. "Danny," she breathed, relief evident in her voice. Her gaze shifted from her son to the teacher and she relaxed a little. "Come on in, sit down."
"Mom…" Danny's voice died when she looked at him. Her eyes were glowing brightly, full of love and happiness and brimming with the relief that the two of them were standing before her. She was looking at him as a mother does to her son... a look that Danny was convinced he'd never see again. From now on, her eyes would be tinged with sadness and regret and distrust. All of the emotions stirred around in his stomach ached for release as his gaze dropped to the floor. "I'm sorry."
Arms, warm and caring and soft, curled around him and pulled him close. "Danny, my baby boy, I love you," she whispered in his ear. "I don't care what you've done. We'll fix it."
Danny relaxed a little in her grip, but his heart skipped a painful beat. It wasn't so much what he'd done that would drive the stake in between them. He knew that his mother would forgive all of his actions and lies in a heartbeat; that was what kind of person she was. It would be her own actions that she'd never be able to forgive or forget. "I love you too."
When she finally let go, he trailed close behind her to the couch. His teacher followed them and picked one of the chairs off to the side to collapse into. Danny sat down and rubbed at his arms anxiously. He wanted to get up and do something, run away, or pace, or fly, or something – do anything but be right here, right now. Talking had never been his strong point anyways.
And she was waiting. Waiting to hear what horrible truths his teacher had managed to wrestle from his psyche. Waiting to hear about gangs or drugs or other things that would give her heart attacks from fear. Think of it like a band-aid. Get it over with fast.
He closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath. "Where's Dad?" he asked softly, trying to say something that would chase away the impending conversation.
"He's coming," she answered as she sat down next to him, pulling him into a one-armed hug and giving him a smile and a light laugh. "You can stop looking like it's the end of the world. It's not that bad."
He leaned into her a little, trying to put his thoughts into order. Although Lancer and he had discussed this whole thing for hours, he still wasn't sure how to start. It was easier to explain to his teacher what had happened; his teacher wasn't his parents. His teacher would go home at the end of the day. "I…"
His dad suddenly bounded into the room, the bright orange jumpsuit almost glowing in the bright sunlight. "Danny!" he said, his voice a soft bellow, and he dropped into one of the open chairs. The normal, open, and friendly smile was on his face as he leaned forwards, his eyes glittering. "I'm putting the finishing touches on that new invention I was telling you about-" Danny's mother shot him a sharp look, making him trail off and grin sheepishly. "Right," he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. "Maybe later."
Danny couldn't help the small smile that drifted onto his lips, but the grin disappeared only instants later as his stomach gave a quiet lurch. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he readied himself for what was about to happen. His mouth opened, but nothing came out. His mouth was too dry, his throat clenching tightly when he tried to speak.
A hand touched his knee, squeezing for just a moment, and he looked up into his mom's eyes. His heart beating loudly in his chest, his words escaping him, his breath rasping in his throat, he raised one hand up, holding it up for her inspection. He watched confusion appear in her eyes as she reached for his hand.
At the last moment he closed his eyes, feeling the cold tingle of the supernatural energy surging through his veins. He struggled for a moment, then willed the energy into existence around his hand. His mother suddenly tensed in surprise when his hand started to burn with an emerald light.
There was total silence for so long that Danny let his eyes slip open again. His mother's hand was still hovering inches from his, frozen with the shock of what she was seeing. He glanced up at her, ready to hear just about anything, his heart pounding in his ears as he waited for some sort of response.
She'd accept this; he knew that. It would take a minute, there would be questions and confusion and hurt over the lies, but she'd accept this. And, true to his thoughts, she slowly relaxed. "Are you okay?" she asked softly, looking at him with concern sparkling in her eyes.
Danny nodded and licked his lips. "I'm fine." He tried for a smile but he couldn't make the right muscles in his face work. "I'm not overshadowed or anything either."
"No, I didn't think so," she murmured, the arm still around his shoulders tightening for a moment in a short hug. "How are you doing that?"
Keeping the energy dancing around his hand, Danny gazed at the flickering green light. "Remember when I got shocked by the portal?" He didn't look up to see if either one of his parents had nodded. "I've been able to do this ever since then."
His father's fingers reached for his hand, but stopped a few inches away, the supernatural energy burning at his skin. "It doesn't hurt?" he asked.
Danny glanced at him, feeling a small piece of his nervousness disappear at the pure curiosity in his father's eyes. Shaking his head, he said, "It just feels cold."
"But…" his mother trailed off for a moment. "But why is this something to hide from us? Why didn't you tell us?"
With no answer – because this wasn't the issue – Danny was quiet for a moment. Then he looked up at his teacher, the only other person in the room who knew the real problem. Lancer didn't say anything, stubborn in his refusal to solve Danny's problem for him but steadfast in his promise to be there for him the entire time. A reassuring nod was all that the teacher was willing to give. Danny felt his heart beating loudly in his chest, wishing for a desperate moment that the teacher could just say it all for him, and he put his next words together.
This was the discussion he and his teacher had practiced at the Nasty Burger for all of those hours. Danny knew what to say and how to say it – now he just needed to spit it out. He licked his lips again and took a deep breath. "What if," he said slowly, "someone was hit with supernatural energy? What would happen?"
"It would dissipate," his father answered instantly. "A couple of hours – maybe a day – and it would be gone."
His mom continued quietly, her eyes fixed on his still-glowing hand as she obviously tried to piece his question and his current paranormal demonstration together. "Unless you were hit with an almost unimaginable amount." The fingers wrapped around Danny's shoulders tensed. She swallowed, her voice thick. "If you were hit with that much, it might not dissipate. It might become self-generating…"
"That's impossible," his dad whispered, shaking his head. "That much energy would be deadly." His eyes suddenly jerked up to Danny's, growing impossibly wide.
"I'm not dead," Danny quickly stressed, finally allowing the supernatural flames flickering around his hand to die and his hand to drop into his lap. "I'm not a ghost." He flinched a little at the half lie, but wrote it off as something that needed to be said at the moment; he needed to get his parents to understand. "I'm just…" Trailing off and shaking his head, he abandoned that train of thought. "What do you think would happen to someone that lived through it?"
Both of his parents were silent for a moment. "According to theory," his father said slowly, "when you have a self-generating mass of energy, it acts almost like a non-sentient ghost; containing all of the abilities of a ghost but not having any sort of consciousness to control them."
Danny waited for them to continue the thought, not yet willing to jump in. They had to be two steps ahead of this discussion already – they might be a bit oblivious, but they were undeniable experts when it came to the paranormal – and his teacher had been right when he said that it would be better for the two of them to figure it out on their own. All he needed to do was hand them enough clues to push them in the right direction.
The waiting, though, was horrible. Sweat was trickling down the back of his neck, his stomach was performing flip flips inside of him, his heart was pounding, and his feet wanted to get up and run away. He wanted his parents to just spit their thoughts out so this whole situation could be over with.
His father sat back in his chair, staring at his son in surprise and, so Danny hoped, understanding. "If you could create a stable mass of energy and attach it to a human form…" the man stopped what he was saying for a moment. Then he took a breath and continued, his voice soft and a little awed, "Ectoplasm reacts to electrical impulses, just like muscles. It'd be controllable."
"So you'd have a human with ghost powers?" Danny asked quietly.
"It's just not possible," his mom said. "You can't fuse a mass of paranormal energy to an organic form without causing so much damage that you'd kill everything first. We went over this years ago when we first created the neural interface for the proto-ectoskelton."
"But we solved that problem." His dad looked up, a small smile on his face and a glitter in his eyes. Danny let a small grin drift onto his face in response. "Organic tissue can withstand small amounts of energy without degrading as long as it's in the right environment and the ectoplasm is filtered correctly. The portal has both of those."
"Enough energy to become stable, though?" His mother shook her head slowly, staring down at the floor. "That might work in a short blast, but the portal stayed on – that intensity of energy for a continued length of time would destroy any organic matter left inside, no matter how filtered the power is." Her eyes narrowed a little as she thought. "It's just not possible."
His father shrugged. "Apparently it is." He was silent, then turned his eyes to Danny. "But why didn't you tell us? We love you no matter what you can do."
Danny swallowed heavily. "I was scared to tell you, at first, because I thought you'd be angry." He had originally thought he'd be babbling by this point, his anxiety to get the situation over with taking over, but now he was having to force every word out of his mouth. "Then I started to get control over it and I figured I could handle it." There was so much more he wanted to explain – about how he knew they would accept him but he never knew what to say, about how he had always wanted them to figure it out without him telling them, about how he really had told them a few times but they didn't remember it – but he couldn't get any more words to form.
"Oh, sweetie," his mother murmured, running her fingers through his hair, but her mind was obviously elsewhere, still struggling to make sense of what had happened to him. As far as Danny knew, her logic was perfect; she was just missing the small puzzle piece about Danny's non-organic ghost form and it was throwing her for a loop. His ghost side was able to survive the energy in the portal.
Danny wasn't sure she'd figure it out on her own and, for a moment, he contemplated not telling them. If he just left it like this – them knowing about his ghost powers but not his ghost side – it would be undeniably easier on all of them. They still didn't know that they had done anything that needed to be dealt with and he would have a lot less lying and trouble at home. He would even tell them about ghost hunting and they'd be able to help.
His eyes flickered up to his teacher's and Lancer looked back at him silently. He could still hear what Lancer had told him the first time he'd suggested only telling his parents half the truth. They're your family, Daniel, they need to know. Besides, they'll figure it out eventually and you'll have to go through this whole this twice.
Dropping his own gaze to the floor, Danny let out a shaky breath. He would have to tell them about Phantom.
"We're a little angry that you didn't tell us," his father was saying, "and I wish you would have trusted us – we could have helped you."
"I know," Danny whispered.
"We're your family. We love you, Danny."
"I know," he said again, just as quietly. After a few seconds of silence, he looked up at his father. The large man was watching him, his face seriously, but his eyes were dancing. "I'm sorry."
"I'm surprised you kept it hidden for so long," his dad said with a grin. "I haven't yet met a Fenton who's good at keeping secrets."
Danny let a small smile drift onto his face. He had been right; his parents – at least his father – had already started to accept this odd facet of his life. He had no doubt that once they got over the strangeness of it, they'd pester him with never-ending lists of questions.
They wouldn't get to do that, though. He still had to yank the rug out from under their feet and completely destroy their neat little world. His father had said it so perfectly: they're his family and they love him.
Only he was really Phantom… and they hated him. And he had to tell them that.
Nervous energy drove him to his feet and he walked over to stand next to his father, his arms crossed over his chest. From here he could see his mom, who was still staring off into the distance, her mind still trying to wrap around the truth. It was obvious that she knew that there was something missing from his explanation; her brain was busy trying to figure out what it could be.
He wanted her to know and he didn't want her to know. He desperately wanted her to figure it out before he told her, and yet he wanted to keep it a secret forever. He wanted his parents to understand who he really was... and at the same time he wanted them never to know the truth.
Slowly, her eyes turned to meet his. Her head tipped to the side a little as she studied him. "What else can you do?" she asked.
"Normal stuff," Danny said, shifting his feet at her steady gaze. "Invisibility, intangibility, flight, control of ectoplasm…" He trailed off before mentioning his ice powers, still dragging his feet to stop from telling them the whole truth. Right now, this was his family - he wanted to keep them just like this for a few more moments. Everything would change once they knew.
"I just don't get it. In order to be able to do those things, you'd have to have a stable mass of energy," his mother said slowly, her head shaking slowly. "But you just can't. If it somehow received a consciousness – even a human one – it would also get some sort of form… They go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other."
Danny nodded slowly, his heart beating painfully as his mother's eyes suddenly widened and she stared at him, blood draining from her face. He didn't have a choice in what was about to happen anymore: his mother had finally put together all the clues.
He still hesitated, just for a second. He knew that after they knew, they wouldn't look at him and see Danny Fenton anymore. They'd still be his family…
But he was about to lose them. Think of it like a band-aid. Get it over with fast.
Fighting down a wave of nervous nausea, he took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and took the plunge.
To be continued…