Sorry this took longer than originally expected, the chapter ended up being longer than originally expected. By alot. Like, almost double.
But I like it. So it's long. Live with it. I do.
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria
October wasn't the best time of the year to spend the night in the park under a tree. Danny didn't really feel the cold – not anymore – and he'd just decided that it wouldn't be so bad when it started to rain. The steady beat of water on his head had nearly driven Danny from the park. Eventually the pouring rain tapered off to a drizzle, but the lingering wetness plastered his hair to the side of his face.
His nose was plugged and stuffy. His eyes felt like they were dry and covered in sandpaper. His cheek was raw from the number of times he'd swiped at falling tears. His back was sore from pressing up against the rough bark of the tree.
At least he could breathe again. And his heart wasn't pounding in his ears. He'd probably notice if a ghost stood beside him now. Nightmare scenarios involving his parents abandoning him, dissecting him, getting hurt because of him, the world blowing up now that they know… They had all finally stopped fluttering through his mind.
Logic was coming back into play. The world still might end up blowing up – he was Phantom after all – but the odds of it being caused by telling three people his secret was slim.
…as long as Vlad never found out about this. Then all bets were off.
Really, in the grand scheme of things, nothing much had changed. The logical side of Danny's mind kept repeating that sentence, but he couldn't find the heart to accept it.
Curling his arms around his knees, pulling his legs close to his chest, Danny glared out into the darkness. A rather large piece of his chest was throbbing in painful humiliation – him, Danny Fenton, hero of Amity Park, had just suffered through a rather extreme panic attack. The rest of him hurt too much to care what other people thought.
A large raindrop plopped onto his head and rolled down his cheek. Danny brushed at it absently, watching cars pass by on the road. There weren't many cars out at this time of the morning. It had always been Danny's favorite time to go on patrol. His decidedly ghostly ability to see in the dark was ruined by bright headlights. Quiet, empty, and dark.
One car slowed as it approached the gate to the park and Danny felt his heart thumping in his chest. Jazz?
His sister had an almost unearthly ability to find him when the world was turning upside down. She had a scary sense of logic, a quiet calm in storms. He had no doubt that if only Jazz were here, everything would end up being alright. Not back to normal – that couldn't be possible – but at least 'okay' again.
The car sped up and vanished down the street. Danny let his forehead drop to his knees. "I wish…" He sighed, cutting off the dangerous words. There was no telling who was around to twist even the most well-intentioned wish into Hell on Earth. If not Desirae, then some other well-meaning, but horribly misinformed person.
Danny let out a huge breath; speak of the Devil and he shall appear. He looked up into the concerned eyes of his teacher. "What?" He flinched at the hoarse, horrible sound of his voice.
Lancer glanced down at the muddy ground, seeming to contemplate sitting, before crouching in front of Danny's curled-up form. "Your sister gave me a clue where to find you."
Eyes narrowing, Danny pushed himself to his feet. After spending hours curled up into a little ball, his still-hurting body loudly protested the sudden movement. Clenching his teeth, Danny growled, "Why are you here?"
"It didn't go well," the teacher said softly, not moving from his crouched position.
Danny stalked a few feet away, resting against the other side of the tree. "You think?" Curling his hand into his hair, Danny stared off into the darkness. "This is exactly why I didn't want to tell them," he whispered.
"So what's your plan now?"
Lonely lights glittered here and there from the buildings around Amity Park. Late-night owls, insomniacs, graveyard shift workers. Danny let his gaze shift from one to the other, his mind quietly filling in possible reasons why other people in the universe would be up in the middle of the night. Certainly he had a unique excuse. "I dunno."
There was a tisking sound. "It sounds like you have two options. One is to go back and talk to them. The other's not to go back. They're not hard options to chose between."
"I know." Danny rubbed a hand over his face. "I know. I just… I can't go back."
"Why not?" Lancer's voice was quiet in the dark.
"Didn't you see the looks on their faces?" Danny felt his body tensing, remembering the few moments when he'd come face-to-face with his parents. He could feel his heart beating faster, his breathing catch, just at the thought of what had happened. "I'm not… who I was. Not to them. Not anymore."
Lancer made a half-cough sound in the back of his throat. "I think it'll be okay-"
"What?" Danny interrupted, spinning around on his heel. His eyes burned, shadows jumping into sharp relief as supernatural power swirled around him. Body tensing, Danny practically vibrated with pent-up energy. "How can this be okay?! My mom thinks I'm dead. I attacked my dad. I abandoned my best friends to… whatever! I-"
"I, I, I, I, I," Lancer mocked. The teacher looked very pale in the dark of the night, but gazed unwaveringly into Danny's eyes. "What about everyone else?"
Mouth snapping closed, Danny glared at the slightly overweight teacher. "What about them?"
"Yeah, what about them." Lancer got to his feet, brushing at his pants. "They're just your family and friends." A roll of thunder curled through the momentary silence. "You'll be perfectly fine without them."
Danny let out a shaky breath. Energy dissipated into the air, leaving him feeling cold and alone. His arms crept around his chest and he hugged himself tightly. Sharp, painful memories sliced through his mind of what happened the last time he was left alone. Explosions. Death. Insanity.
Quite suddenly, Danny found himself chuckling – it wasn't a happy sound, however. Shaking his head sourly, Danny sank back down to the ground, ignoring the newest layer of mud on his clouds, refusing to look his teacher in the eyes. "You realize it was your fault last time too."
"I wasn't aware," Lancer said softly. There was a quiet few minutes of silence as rain started to patter down once more. The sound of the rain against the tree leaves gave the world a syncopated beat. "I am sorry, Danny, that it went so badly. But I'm not sorry that I made you tell them."
Danny listened to the rain, his mind creating endless patterns out of the sound of the drops in the dying October leaves. A roll of far-away thunder growled through the city. Another storm was approaching. It fit his feelings perfectly: it was the lull between the storms.
"What do you think I should do?" Danny's gaze drifted back to the road where another lonely car passed alongside the park. This one slowed to a stop at the gate, idling in place.
"I think you need to give your family a chance."
Unable to comprehend the idea of walking up to his family and talking to them after everything that had happened, Danny just mutely shook his head. His fingers started to quietly tap the side of his arm in time to the raindrops.
"So you're going to run away?"
Someone stepped out of the car beside the road, an umbrella unfolded overhead. Even with his better eyesight, Danny couldn't make out who it was. The person walked around the car and strolled into the park entrance. Finally, Danny shook his head again.
Running away wasn't much of an option.
"Your parents sent me home," Lancer continued quietly, "but I wanted to stop and check in on you before I left." Silence. "I've got to call and tell them you're here." More silence. "Daniel…"
The person at the gate entrance lifted the umbrella enough for Danny to realize it wasn't his sister or either parent. Or Sam or Tucker. Or even Valerie. Heart sinking slightly, Danny let out a low breath. "I'm gonna head home."
"You want a ride?" Danny could hear the doubt in Lancer's voice. The teacher probably wanted to make sure Danny made it without 'getting lost'.
With a shake of his head, Danny lurched to his feet and glanced at his teacher. The man was hunched in his jacket, hands pushed into pockets, trying to hide from the rain. Danny couldn't help but feel a tiny bit of joy at the man's discomfort. "I'll be fine. I know how to get home in the dark."
"I'm sure you do," Lancer said softly. "I'll call and tell them you're on your way."
"Don't trust me?"
Lancer's mouth quirked into a smile. "I trust you, Danny, more than you could possibly realize. But I also trust that you'll manage to get home sometime next week without encouragement."
"Fine, whatever." Danny looked away with a dark sigh.
A hand curled around Danny's shoulder, squeezing for a second. "It'll be okay, Mr. Fenton. I promise. And – if for some reason I'm wrong – there's always a guest room at my house you can borrow."
"Yeah," Danny whispered. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Now go home." Lancer's hand disappeared as the man walked towards the park entrance and the lady under the umbrella.
"You're weird, you know?" Danny called after him. Lancer stopped and glanced back. "I still can't decide if I should hate you or not for all this. You just… you don't act right."
Lancer's mouth turned up into a small smile. "I'll take that as a compliment. Good night, Mr. Fenton."
Danny shook his head. "Good night," he said softly. He stood under the tree, waiting until Lancer was greeted by umbrella-lady and escorted to the car for a ride home. The headlights flared into being and the car purred up the street, leaving the park dark and lonely.
Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Danny started a slow walk towards home. Cold rain pelted from the sky, dribbling cold rivers down every bit of Danny's body. Wet, dead leaves slopped around underfoot. Lightning flared now-and-then, followed by low rolls of thunder and sharp thunderclaps.
It was almost an hour before Danny got up the nerve to actually leave the park.
Danny felt like Clockwork was offering him some sort of freaky do-over. With the notable exceptions of the rain, the time of night, and the lack of a teacher over his shoulder, Danny could have sworn that he'd just been in this situation not ten hours earlier. He stood at the very edge of his parents' property, on the sidewalk, staring up at the brick façade.
Lights were on inside. Beyond the curtains, he could see movement. There were people in there. Waiting for him?
His fingers wound into the bottom of his soaked shirt, his tongue felt like it was the size of an elephant. His feet shuffled on the sidewalk, almost like they were daring each other to take the first step. Lancer had pushed him before – now he'd have to do this walk by himself.
Slowly, each step feeling like he was walking through thick goo, Danny paced towards the front door. The sidewalk wasn't long… it usually only took a few steps to cover, then a jump up the small set of concrete steps. This time, it felt like an eternity. Step after step after step, walking endlessly into a pit he might never be able to escape.
His heart was pounding loudly in his ears when he stepped up the last step to stare at the brown front door. Emotions were sizzling through him, too intense to pick apart. His eyes stung from the rain and tears that were threatening to fall again. Unbidden memories jumped to the front of his mind, treating him to visions of his parents throwing him from the house, experimenting on him, even turning him over to the government.
"Think of it like a band-aid," Danny whispered, thinking back to what his teacher had said.
His fingers shook as they slowly reached up. The doorbell was round and solid under his finger. It took a second for him to actually push against it.
"You'll be fine," he whispered.
His hands came back to rub at his arms, fingers curling around the edges of his shirt as the doorbell echoed through the house. Someone moved inside, the silhouette coming ever closer. Footsteps.
"Don't go invisible, don't go invisible," Danny muttered under his breath as the lock clicked and the doorknob turned. A crack of light shone through, hesitated, then the door flew open.
Danny's heart stopped.
It was his mother. She was still wearing the blue jumpsuit from earlier, her hair messy and her eyes red. Her gaze flickered down to Danny's feet, then back up to his eyes. "Danny," she said very softly. There was something in her eyes. Wetness glistened in the corners.
"Mom." Danny shuffled from foot to foot, arms tight against his chest, uncomfortable. "Can we try this again?"
After a horribly long moment of silence, his mother nodded. Ever so slowly, she reached out and pushed a lock of soaking wet hair out of Danny's eyes. "You're all wet."
Maybe it wasn't the embracing hug he would have normally gotten, but it was like the world restarted with that little touch. There was uncertainty to it, fear and regret and pain, but at least it was. It was a start of something. Danny felt his heart restart, his breath not catch so hard in his throat.
Maybe Lancer was right. Maybe it would be okay. Somehow. Someday.
"It's raining," Danny managed to say around the lump in his throat as a grumble of thunder rolled through the area. He watched his mother glance over his shoulder at the downpour, saw her eyes linger on the rivers washing down the sides of the streets.
Her eyes came back to his. Darkness still lingered in them. Confusion. Hurt. Grief. "Go get dried off, then we'll talk, okay?" she said softly.
Danny nodded, feeling the water squelching between his toes. "Sorry I ran away," he murmured. "Bad plan." His shoulders started to creep up around his ears as his mother gazed at him.
The smallest of smiles. "Go get dried off," she repeated, a little more firmly.
Returning the tiny smile with one of his own, Danny kicked off his shoes, left them out in the rain, and slipped past his mother into the house. He glanced over into the living room, noticing his sister and father sitting on the couch watching him, and headed up the stairs. Water dripped and pooled behind him.
Grabbing a change of clothes, Danny headed to the bathroom. His clothes made a wet pile in the tub as he dried off, then pulled on the warmer, dry shirt and pants. Running a comb through his hair to get rid of the worst of the mess, Danny stared at himself in the mirror.
He couldn't begin to know what his parents saw when they looked at him. Always before, they had seen a normal teenage boy. Now… now would they begin to see the truth about him? Would they see some sort of monster, some sort of half-ghost thing to be feared and pitied?
Green crept into his eyes, glowing and shifting like the mists of the ghost zone. The color gave a strange pallor to his face, making him look partially dead. Eerie. Creepy.
A huge clap of thunder made the house shudder and the lights flicker. Danny glanced around, startled, his heart beating quickly in his chest. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Gazing into his own eyes, Danny said, "You can't put this off any longer. Get downstairs."
The bathroom door creaked. The stairs groaned when he stepped on them. The third-to-the-bottom step made a cracking noise. His feet made little sounds on the carpet as he slowly paced into the living room.
His mother was sitting on the couch, just as she'd done ten hours earlier. His father was back in his recliner, Jazz in the chair Lancer had vacated. It was like time had been rewound, reset, and it was time for a redo.
His heart beat in time with his footsteps, painfully loud in his ears. His breath was fighting its was in and out of his lungs. His hands were starting to shake again, filled with nervous energy.
"Danny," his father rumbled. There was concern in his voice. The black eye was worse than before, the scratches red and swollen. The man looked like he'd been on the wrong side of a bar fight.
Danny stopped and gazed at him, but when nothing more came, Danny slid over to the couch and sat down next to his mother. He was careful not to touch her, not to sit too close. Shoulders tense and hunched over, he couldn't relax against the cushions like he usually did.
His eyes flickered over to Jazz. She smiled calmly at him. "Why don't you try starting at the beginning again."
His parents nodded in agreement.
Danny nodded too, slower, less certain, his gaze training down on his fingers. They were moving, roaming, unable to sit still. "I got caught the portal when I was fourteen," Danny said, his voice not as strong as he wanted it to be, "and it did something to me. I never told you."
"Why not?" His father, again with that strange concern-laced curiosity.
His finger flicked at a fingernail. "At first, because I was afraid of what you'd say. Then, I just didn't have to. I had it figured out. After awhile, it was just too big. I didn't even know where to start."
"You realize how dangerous that decision was?" His mother's voice, calm and quiet.
Nodding, Danny entwined his fingers. "I guess."
"You guess." There was a flatness to his mother's tone that caused Danny to glance at her. "You guess. Danny, you're much smarter than that. Come up with a better explanation."
At the slight rebuke, Danny felt a flush of impatience. "Didn't Tucker tell you all of this?"
"Tucker is not my son," his mother replied firmly.
Danny flinched back from that. "True," he whispered. When no further encouragement seemed to be coming, Danny let out a slow breath. "Maybe it was more dangerous to tell you than to not." He couldn't take his eyes off his fingers.
Danny couldn't – not without unraveling a whole lot more of the past year than he'd ever planned to. His parents weren't going to find out about Vlad. Or the bounty on his head from the Ghost Zone. Or Valerie. Slowly, Danny shook his head.
A hand went over his. The fingers were broad and thick and powerful, scarred with years of equipment malfunctions. "You think it's still too dangerous."
Danny sat silent for a moment, but then nodded once, unable to come up with a better explanation. That was at the root of the problem; the more his parents knew, the more danger they were in.
"Tucker explained a lot of things," his mother said. "A lot of things we don't understand. A lot of things we can't even begin to imagine. I…"
Danny closed his eyes when his mother trailed off into silence.
"Danny, I'm sorry for the way I acted earlier." She didn't reach forwards to touch him. "I… still don't understand what's happened to you. I can't wrap my mind around why you'd hide this from us." His father's warm fingers curled around Danny's, holding tightly. "I need something, Danny. Please."
Danny just continued to sit there, eyes closed, trying to figure out what he could say. "I'm not dead," he finally said. "I'm not a ghost or something."
"We know." His father pushed him a bit, shooing Danny to the middle of the couch, then settled next to him. The one hand didn't let go of Danny's fingers. The other arm wrapped firmly around his shoulders. Danny could feel the bulk of his father beside him, his mother still perched out of reach. "How about you explain the ghost."
Licking his lips, Danny let his eyes open. He couldn't get the courage to look up. "She was bugging me at school yesterday." His eyes flickered to the clock. "Or, well, the day before, I guess…" There was a beat of silence. "Never seen her before, don't even know what her name is. Got a killer scream though. And apparently the ability to take people over." Danny felt a shudder race through his body. Emotions scrabbled to take hold, but Danny shoved them back down. He had enough to deal with right now.
"Why was she at the school?"
"Probably because I was there. She was going on and on about finding the right servants and taking over the world. You know, normal crazy ghost stuff." Danny flicked a glance at his father's face. The man was focused on him, curious and listening. Danny traced over the scratches before wrenching his gaze away. "She left after I… explained… that I wasn't interested in helping." Danny sighed. "Followed me here. You know how that went."
The smallest of touches on his arm. Danny glanced down at his mother's slim fingers, then up into her face. "How much do you remember?"
"After she took over?" Danny asked. When his mother nodded, Danny shook his head. "Nothing. One second there's this ghost here and the next I'm waking up on the couch."
"Has that ever happened before?"
Danny was quiet, then shrugged, looking away. "Kinda. It's the first time I've never remembered anything."
His mother's lips thinned into a line. "And you're okay with this?" There was disbelief and pain in her voice.
"No." Danny's voice was short and sharp. His whole body shuddered at the idea of being okay with it. "Never. But it's not like I'm given a lot of choice."
"You could have talked to us. We could have helped."
Having talked himself around in a circle, Danny sighed and shook his head. "I couldn't…"
Silence fell. Rain pattered against the windows. A grumble of thunder echoed outside. Someone let out a breath.
"Mr. Lancer," his mother said, "says that you're in over your head. That you don't know what to think anymore. That you're not able to make the right decisions. That there are people out there controlling you, in a way, keeping you from choosing other options."
Danny closed his eyes.
"He said he's afraid you've been hurt. That someone's really hurt you. Experiments."
Danny shivered despite the warmth of the room and attempted to stand up. His father kept his arm firmly in place around Danny's shoulders. The man's grip tightened, pulling Danny close.
"He explained to us that you're… different… depending on who you're around. That nobody knows who the 'real' you is, and he's worried about the real you. He's worried that you're scared and lost and confused and have no idea what to do next."
Shifting, Danny pulled his hands out of his father's grip, but didn't try to stand up again. He ran his fingers through his hair, letting out a shaky breath.
"Danny." There, finally, she reached out and grabbed his hands, holding them still. Her fingers were cold and trembling. "Danny look at me."
Danny slowly looked up. Her eyes were rimmed with a new redness. He could see trails from tears leaking down her face. Tears that had been silently shed while talking to him. He felt his heart crack.
"I'm sorry, Danny, for the way I acted. I was confused and scared. I still don't understand, but I do know that you're my son. That I love you very much. And that you need help."
Danny shook his head. "I don't need-"
She gave a little laugh, a little shake of her head. "See? You're sixteen, Danny. You've been experimented on, manipulated by people, controlled, stalked and hunted by God-knows-who else. You realize that's not normal, right?"
"I know," Danny whispered. "But-"
"But nothing, Danno," his father rumbled. His voice vibrated in Danny's chest. "You're a teenager. We're your parents."
Danny stayed silent this time, not sure what to think. He couldn't really tell them anything - not and keep them safe and sane. He knew that, deep down inside his heat. But at the same time, he couldn't help but wonder what life would be like if they knew...
His mother reached forwards and touched his cheek. Strangely, her hand came away from his face wet with tears. "It hurts that you've hid this from us, but I've got to believe you had a reason. It scares me to think that what happened to you that would cause that. It's agonizing to remember some of the things we…" she railed off, shaking her head. "But all that aside, Danny…"
The hand came back, touched his chin, forced him to look up at her. Danny gazed at her nose, unable to meet her eyes.
"I'm terrified to think I might not know you anymore." Her voice was soft and broken. "I want to. I want to very, very much. I need to know who my son is."
Danny found his gaze wandering to his sister, forgotten in her chair across the room, watching with wide eyes. She noted his gaze and smiled, nodding to him.
Danny glanced up at the open, calm face of his father before jumping back to his mother's eyes. "Nothing will ever be the same," he breathed, a last ditch attempt to talk her out of what she was asking.
"That's life," she said softly, holding onto his hands tightly. "Only ghosts get to keep things the same. Danny. Please."
His father's arm was warm and solid around him. His mother's hand were cool and nervous, shaking and fidgeting. His sister was a calm corner of the room, watching and waiting.
His eyes started to burn as power built up in them. He was careful to keep the energy contained to his body, to keep it from hurting his parents. It sizzled under his skin.
It was the endless power of life and death. It hummed and sang to a tune all its own – intoxicating, seductive, deadly. It was to be loved and hated, feared and conquered, both master and servant to those who touched it. All of eternity stretched before it, timeless and effortless.
Someone – perhaps two someones – caught their breath when Danny's eyes started to glow. Their fingers tensed as he slowly let down the walls he'd built – the Son and the Hero and the Loser. Until it was just him.
Just Danny. Nothing more, nothing less.
Only he wasn't alone this time as he threw himself off the cliff into the future, nervously taking the plunge.
Thanks for all the awesome response to this story. I know it took a long time to write four chapters, but I appreciate a lot of you sticking with it, and the new people for joining. I do plan on finishing all (or at least most) of my stories in the near future, perhaps start some more.
When I originally planned out this plot, it came in four sets of four chapters. When my life fell apart two-ish years ago, I kept looking at the story, planning on finishing at least this one. Now I'm contemplating finishing the whole series, as I do like this universe and these last two chapters came out relatively smoothly. The next four chapters would come from the mom's point of view, cover rest of Sunday and into Monday. Dunno when/if I'll start, though. We'll see what life brings. You'll have to chime in your opinion, if you feel so inclined.
All you awesome people rock, simply for reading my work. People that have reviewed rock even more. I love reading my emails in the morning before I drag myself off to work. They always make my day so much better.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! See ya'll on the flip-side.