Yay, I have a cold! I know that isn't something to celebrate, especially because I haven't seen my friends all week, but it does give me a chance to write uninterrupted. I think something about being burned in elephant dung helped motivate me also… (insert nervous laughter here) Anyways…
Thanks you so much reviewers! I love you all!
Disclaimer: I'm to busy being broke to buy Teen Titans or Danny Phantom. So yeah.
Strong Enough (A Danny Phantom, Teen Titan Crossover)
Chapter 20: Child's Play
It should have been easy. He should have saved the day and been on his way without a hitch. He should have been able to take the thugs out and disappeared before anyone noticed a thing. He should have been able to hold onto consciousness long enough to get himself somewhere safe.
He should have remembered that, for him, it was never that easy.
It was a small apartment, with white walls and a plastic shade over the one window that happened to be right over the Halfa's head. Danny was lying on a small bed, covered in a scratchy blanket. To his left was a small white nightstand ant a toppled stool. In front of the only him stood Harriet, her bright green suit contrasting greatly with the drab room.
Danny lay as still as he could, his mind whirling. He tensed as Harriet inched closer, his stomach dropping at the smile on her bright oriental face.
What did she want? Did she know what had happened? There was a chance she didn't… but what then? He couldn't lie to her. She had been friends with his parents. He couldn't hide their deaths from her for his own ease. It wasn't right.
So what did he do? He didn't know how she would take it. He didn't know anything about her. It had been a long time since he'd met her at the reunion.
…But it wasn't that long ago, was it? Al the fights, all the terror, all the failures… and all the victories … it had all happened in what? Ten, eleven months? Almost a year? The accident had happened right after his 14th birthday, and he was very close to turning 15. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem as if anything could change so fast… that he could change so fast…
And now what? He was lying on a sagging bed in his parents' old friend's apartment, wondering how much she knew and why she was here in the first place.
"So, how's the head?" Harry asked, her chipper voice bringing Danny back to the present.
Danny pulled his arm from beneath the rough blanket draped over his small form, reaching up and gingerly touching his forehead. A subtle pounding in his cranium reminded him of why he was in this mess, but it wasn't anything to worry about. He'd had worse.
"I'm fine." He growled, pushing up on his elbows. He narrowed his blue eyes when the sudden movement caused the throbbing to intensify, but showed no other symptoms of his pain.
The blanket fell away from his bare shoulders, causing Danny to frown. "What did you do with my shirt?"
"Oh, it's in the wash. It had blood on it, and you know how hard blood is to get out if you let it set for too long. And I didn't think you'll go running off without it, so there's less of a chance of you leaving before we can talk this way."
Danny tugged the brown blanket over his exposed skin and allowed his hand to travel to his head once again, this time feeling the crusty dried mattes of thick black hair created by now dry blood. He cringed. He didn't know if the fact that it wasn't his blood made it better or worse.
"Harriet, what are you- why am I- do you know that-" Danny sighed. "Let me start over."
Harry shook her head, her ponytail swinging behind her. "No need. In order; what am I doing here? Working. I finally found a job, and I couldn't turn it down. As to why you're here, I believe I read somewhere that it's not ethical to leave minors unconscious in alleyways."
Danny rolled his eyes. Sarcasm. Great. Just what he needed.
"And as to if I know what happened…" Harriet's gaze softened, and her shoulders slumped slightly, causing Danny to realize just how small she was. "Yes I know. Vlad called me right after the accident." She pushed a piece of pitch black hair behind her ear. "I went to the funeral. I… visited you in the hospital, but… you wouldn't remember that."
Danny felt his view of Harry soften a bit.
"We were all friends in college," She continued. "Or your mother and I were. Your dad and I…" Harriet gave a small impish smile. "Not so much, unfortunately."
Danny pushed himself to a sitting position, catching at the blanket as it fell away from his bare chest and pressing it to him, terribly self-conscious of the scars he knew ran down his side. "And Vlad?"
She shrugged. "He was your father's pal. I didn't really know him very well; he hung with Jack most of the time. And then the three of them started with the ghost stuff…"
She shook her head. "And I just… faded out of the picture."
Harriet dumped the laundry she had been carrying in an undignified heap on the carpeted floor before smartly snagging a nearby stool with her shoe and pulling it towards her.
She positioned it by the head of the bed, next to the small white nightstand and seated herself upon it. She crossed her legs and scooted forward, her excited eyes on Danny's wary confused ones.
"So what are you doing in 'Haven anyways?" She asked, changing the subject. Her eyes were bright with childish excitement.
Danny blinked. "I, uh, well…"
"I've been living with a bunch of underage superheroes until I got attacked, then I left to protect their town, then I flew until I ran out of strength, hitched a ride in the back of an unsuspecting semi and ended up in this… place."
"I don't know why I'm here. I was in an alley when I passed out. I'm assuming you carried me. Unless you found a way to get a teenager to sleepwalk on command…" He said derisively.
A full fledge smirk bloomed on the reporter's face. Danny frowned. Where had he seen that type of grin before?
"Very smart Danny. You know, it's been a while since I butted heads with someone who owned a head worth butting." The smirk widened, although a tinge of sadness made itself known in the reporter's eyes. "You remind me of your mother."
Danny knit his eyebrows in confusion. The determination, the confidence, the almost playful intensity… he recognized it…
"I do love a challenge kid. I didn't cover the guerilla rising in Rumackistanget that made my career by backing down." Harriet declared.
"So, what do you want from me?"
Harry gave him an innocent look. "What do you mean?"
Danny sighed irritably. "Come off it Harry. If you weren't gaining something from me being here I would be waking up in the nearest police station, hospital, or Social Services building."
Harriet huffed, eyes narrowing. "What, I can't take you in because you're an old friend's son that happened to save my life?"
Danny looked lost. "Um… no?"
"Well a story would be nice, but that's not the reason I didn't turn you in."
"Then what is?"
Danny gave the spunky adult a blank look that sent her into a hardly restrained fit of giggles.
"Wait, so you're not sending me back to Vlad?" He asked bewildered.
She caught her breath, a twinkle still visible in her bright slanted eyes. "Do you want me to?" she asked playfully.
"Well then, you'll just have to be my little secret, wont you?"
"…That's it? You're not sending me back?"
"Oh come on Jr., I'm a reporter, not an idiot." Harry said. She sobered, leaning closer to the teen. "Danny, listen. I was friends with your parents, but… I don't know. Maddie and Jack got each other, Vlad got his money; after the reunion I didn't have anything, and to be truthful, I was sour about that. I can't make that up to your parents now; but I can get their son off the streets."
Danny stared. She was just going to… but wasn't she… how could…
"But you're a crazy reporter!"
"And you're a crazy runaway. We're even."
Danny didn't feel any sting at the words. He almost didn't care that sooner or later Harry was bound to start asking questions Danny really didn't want to answer. Why worry? He couldn't quite believe that Harry was going to accept him that easily, but why not let himself slow down for a while? Danny couldn't help a shallow smile. Vlad, the Titans, Harry… when did he get so popular, anyways?
Harriet smiled at the boy, standing up and retreating to the stack of clothes.
A sudden thought popped into Danny's mind, causing his breath to hitch. "Hey Harry?"
The women rolled her eyes in annoyance at being addressed as such, but didn't say anything.
Danny tugged on the seam of the rough blanket draped over him nervously, the image of himself going intangible in the alley filling his head.
"Did you…" Danny stopped, almost losing his nerve. He tried again. "Harry, in the alley… did you; um… did you see anything, well, um, strange?"
Harriet gave Danny a puzzled look. "What do you mean strange? I saw a fourteen year old beat the stuffing out of a bunch of thugs. Does that count as strange?"
Danny relaxed. Of course she hadn't seen. By some stroke of luck she had been picking up her purse at the time, completely missing Danny's act of desperation.
"Never mind." He said.
The boy allowed himself to sink into the bed, letting the relief wash over him. He didn't know where it came from, but he did know that he was a teenager, barely approaching fifteen, and there was something about knowing you didn't have to worry for your life anymore that made him feel safe. Knowing that someone was there, willing to take the responsibility for him; someone that cared.
It was selfish, he knew, but he didn't care. He didn't care because for the first time in so long Danny found that he wasn't afraid to close his eyes.
Danny looked at Harriet. She tilted her head.
"How did you take out all those guys?"
Danny thought a moment before answering truthfully. "I… I have no idea. Now it kind of seems like something big, but then it was just, well… child's play."
Harry shrugged. "Must have been the adrenaline."
Danny smirked. He couldn't help it. "Yeah, adrenaline."
--------------Amity Park, Illinois ------------------
There are times when Tucker Foley would do anything to get in the spotlight. He had just too much going for him to live his life unnoticed. All he asked for was some appreciation every now and then. Everyone wanted to be noticed once and a while.
Then there are times when Tucker would give up his needs, falling into the background, resigning himself to being the unnoticed party, because that was where he was needed.
Because he couldn't help thinking that being needed was way better then five minutes of fame any day.
"Okay, you've got two on your tail." The tech wiz said, his hands flying over the keys on his PDA. He had Valerie's general location, through her suit, which gave him access to the girl's ghost tracking equipment as well. He watched Valerie's red dot and the green dots signifying ghosts dance around each other on the small screen.
"How are you holding up?" He asked.
"Could you ask me that after I kick the spooks butt?"
Tucker winced. "Sorry." He amended. "And you Sam?" He asked, one dark hand reaching to touch the Fenton Phones in his ear.
"Other then the fact that you haven't gotten the hover-board in working order yet, forcing me to hunt from the back of a motor scooter I'm fine." Came Sam's familiar snarl.
Tuck sighed, sneaking a glance at the pile of tools and half finished metal board lying neatly in the corner of Sam's basement. "I'm working on it. I've got most of the rocket and control elements down, but the hovering is still giving me problems."
Tucker returned to his PDA screen, leaning back on the over plush chair and drawing his knees up.
"Sam, I'm going to need an exact location from you." That was one reason Tucker was antsy to get the board finished. He could easily track Sam using it, an ability he didn't have at the time; though the Fenton Phones were good for many things, tracking was not one of them. To be truthful, not knowing where Sam worried him. A whole lot.
"I'm about two blocks behind Valerie. I can hear her shots."
"Okay Sam, if you're where I think you are you've got two low level specters between you and Val. You think you can handle them?"
Tucker knew better than to doubt Sam's abilities, but he couldn't help it.
His answer came seconds later when the sound of two shots rang through the communication device.
"That answer you're question?" Sam asked dryly.
"Point taken. Um, Val?"
Have you kicked butt yet?"
Several grunts later Valerie gave a slight hum in satisfaction. "You can bet you're PDA on it Foley."
"Never." He replied instantly, smirking into the warm semi-darkness of the Sam's cozy-yet-freakishly-huge basement.
He imagined he heard Valerie chuckle. If he had it was probably the first time he remembered such a sound coming from the fighter's lips.
His neck was a bit strained against the red cushion he was slouching against. Tuck tensed a bit, his eyes on the screen he held between his slightly parted legs.
"Okay guys, you've got another low manifestation somewhere between your current position and the park. Best route would be…"
Tucker stuck his tongue out a bit, his eyebrows knit as he focused on the map of the city displayed before him. "…Down eighth going east. You should probably make sure you-"
Tucker heard a sudden repeating noise, something that sounded like a sharp ticking, or maybe footsteps. "Sam, you hear that?"
Wait, the sound wasn't coming from over the Fenton Phones! It was coming from…
Tucker tilted his head up, meeting a pair of cold blue eyes from over the back of the huge chair.
"Tucker? Are you there?" Sam asked through the Phones.
He chuckled nervously, sliding the device out of his ear and grinning lopsidedly at the woman staring at him from behind the chair he was slumped in. "Um, hi Mrs. Manson."
Pamela raised a displeased eyebrow, still clicking her toe sharply against the ground in annoyance.
"And that is why we can't work out of your basement anymore. Really Sam, when you said your parents smothered you I just thought you were whining. I stand corrected."
It was lunch time, and the three ghost hunters were eating they're lunch at a picnic table in the school's yard underneath a large tree.
Sam shrugged. "Well, things seem to be coming together anyways. After you fix the board and Valerie get the stuff from Starr things will start picking up."
"Yeah," Tuck said. "But never leave me to explain why I, a friend of yours, am around when you, the friend I'm supposed to be visiting, aren't again. I think my brain got whiplash from thinking too fast."
Valerie tilted her head, obviously amused. "How did you get away with it anyway?"
Tuck shrugged. "I made an excuse about my house having no electricity or something. It doesn't matter. What does matter-"
"-Is that we need a new base of operations." Sam finished. "Preferably one lacking parental supervision. We don't need any more snoops."
"You really don't like adults, do you Sam?" Val asked, placing the remainder of the sandwich she was eating in her brown lunch bag, crumpled it up, and aimed at the nearest trash bin.
Sam's purple eyes watched as the brown paper flew through the air and straight into the garbage bin. Mikey and a few other kids without reputations to protect applauded.
"Well, do you have a proposition?" Sam asked, a hint of the old feud in her voice.
Valerie sighed. Seriously, talking with this girl was like cleaning sharks teeth. One moment everything's fine, the next…
"So, anything interesting happen on patrol after our connection was interrupted?" Tucker said, cutting of the impending argument.
"No. a couple low level ghosts, but nothing we couldn't easily beat." Valerie said. "You guys are really good at this you know. I just don't get it. Sometimes it feels like I'm the rookie around here."
At that Sam (who had been glaring at Tucker for the abrupt subject change) gave Valerie a deer-in-headlights stare, and Tuck proceeded to choke on the meatball he was currently chewing. Valerie watched, alarmed, as the tech enthusiast scrambled for a napkin. "You okay Foley?"
"Yeah Tucker," Sam began, hiding her shock with sarcasm. "Any reason why you choke every time Valerie speaks?"
Tuck sent the Goth a glare between coughs.
Val rolled her eyes and decided to get back on track. "You've really gotten the hang of how to sweep a city for ghost problems. Almost like you've done patrols before." The Ghost Hunter commented thoughtfully after Tuck had managed to clear his windpipe.
Val watched for a moment as the two fidgeted. "So have you?"
This time the subject change was initiated by Sam. "So, you said things went well with Starr."
Val scowled, ticked at being interrupted, but let it pass. "She didn't know why I would need it, but gave in ultimately. We're lucky she bought my story."
"Gullible cheerleader." Sam mumbled, agreeing. She rolled a cherry tomato around on her plate in thought.
Valerie frowned. The gothic teen's comment was pretty accurate, but Starr was Valerie's friend. She didn't appreciate this girl snubbing her.
"So anyway," Valerie persisted, resisting the urge to call the other girl out. "She said she'd give it to me after school today."
Tuck sighed in contentment "Am I the only one who's going to be extremely happy with the extended weekend we're getting in a few days?"
"No." Val and Sam chorused.
"I just hope I'll be able to use it as an actual vacation." Valerie grumbled.
Tucker pushed his spectacles further up on his nose. "What do you mean? If you're talking about the ghosts, don't worry. There are three of us now. We can split the work up."
Valerie shook her head, privately touched by Tucks attempt to lessen her burden. "No, it's not that. It's not my other job either. My dad said that his boss has been hinting on sending him on some business trip on those four days. Chances are if my dad goes he'll take me with him."
"His boss? As in Vlad Masters boss?" Sam asked.
"Yeah." Val gave the girl a look. "How'd you know he was my dad's boss?"
"Masters owns Axion Labs, right? Your dad works there. Not that hard to figure out." Sam shrugged.
"Besides," Tucker chimed in. "We busted into that place for the board, remember? We never bust into anywhere without knowing something resembling its history."
"Ow!" Tucker yelled suddenly, dropping his Spork. He glared at Sam, reaching down to rub his shin. "What was that for? Combat boots hurt Sam!"
Valerie's eyes widened. "Wait, are you admitting that you two have done something like that before?" She asked, somewhere between intrigued and alarmed. Come to think of it, they had done amazingly well with the stunt at Axion, just as well as Sam did when patrolling…
Sam scowled. "That's not important. So, do you know why Vlad might want you out of town?"
Valerie paused. What did she tell them?
The bell rang, signaling lunch hour was over. Valerie didn't know if she was relieved that she didn't have to lay her previous affiliation with Masters in the open yet, or disappointed that she hadn't been able to get it over with. She decided she didn't care.
The trio split off to their separate classes, oblivious to the fact that, although they hadn't made a big deal of it, the same question was on all their minds.
"What is Plasmius up to?"
Vlad stood at his desk, his arms behind his back. He watched the cars rush by outside the large office he was standing in, the light from the sun's rays leaking through the glass and lighting up his sober face.
Things were going relatively well. He had had a few hang ups, but nothing serious. He was still in control.
Then why did he feel like somewhere in his calculations he had made a ridiculously large error?
Vlad frowned. It was simply nerves, he told himself. He was off kilter because Daniel had managed to throw a small kink in his plans without even realizing it.
The boy leaving the ghost weapons with the Titans shouldn't have been surprising. Daniel did harbor a hero complex the size of the Grande Canyon after all, and it wasn't as if he himself needed the weapons for protection.
The weapons themselves weren't the problem, nor the fact that Vlad could no longer track his ward, seeing as this could be easily fixed. The problem was what leaving the weapons symbolized. They were Danny's last link to his family, the only thing remaining from the life he had once lived… and he had given them with the Teen Titans, with no plans on retrieving them.
Why? What had Daniel seen in those, those children that drove him to do what he had done? Was he simply giving them a means of protecting themselves, or did the event mean something more?
That bag was Daniels last link to the past. Leaving it, if the boy realized it or not, had revealed that the boy's connection with the Teen Titans was growing strong enough to surpass his link with the past. That despite how much he fooled himself and the Titans with his apparent his lack of trust, he was still willing to give something so close to his heart for the first group to feign acceptance. No matter how he looked at it, Daniel leaving his bag was proof of his trust.
Poor naive child.
Vlad sighed, shaking his head. He felt a certain type of amused disgust for Daniel's clueless ways, but at least they gave him more then enough room to get into the young hybrids head.
"What is it you search for, Daniel? Do you not realize I know what you need better then even you do?" A humorless smile graced the billionaire's face. "So be it then. Since you refuse to see that I am the only one who can understand, I will just have to prove it to you, won't I? Although I wish you hadn't taken such a liking to these amateur do-gooders. It will make cleaning up afterward somewhat… distasteful."
A sharp rap on Vladimir's office door brought the man back to the present. He turned his cold blue eyes to the entry. He had been expecting this.
"Please, do come in." he said.
Vlad sat down, leaning comfortably against the straight backed chair. "What can I do for you Mr. Grey?"
Vlad watched as his employee walked forward. Damon Grey wasn't as much a timid man as a laid back individual. He didn't jump to conclusions, waiting instead for situations to work themselves out. The one exception was Vlad Masters. Damon had always felt a degree of distrust for his employer, and although he attempted to find a reason for his feelings he found he could not. So, he ignored his emotions. It was easier that way.
Of course Vlad knew he put the man at disease, and found Mr. Grey's discomfort a source of amusement.
Maybe Valerie's smarts hadn't been solely from her mother's side after all.
"I don't mean to bother you Mr. Masters, but I was hoping for an update on that merger deal. You've said something about sending one of your men to oversee things."
Vlad smiled at the man, and watched as Damon attempted to copy the gesture. "Yes, well, I must say I almost forgot about that deal actually. I've had… a lot going on."
"Yes, of course." Damon murmured in understanding. "If it's alright for me to ask, are you any closer to finding Danny?"
Vlad's eyes sparked indignantly, but by the time Damon realized his expression had changed the façade was back in place. "The way things are going I wouldn't be surprised if Daniel is back very soon. Provided nothing has happened to him of course."
"I'm sure he'll be alright." Damon assured. "Danny's a good kid."
Vlad smirked. "That he is." "Unfortunately."
Vlad stood. He was done here. "Yes Damon, the merger will be taking place, and yes, I am asking you to provide descent security. And you will be paid extra. Enough to move out of that dismal apartment and into a decent house, hmm?"
A wide grin made its way onto Damon's face. "Yes sir, thank you sir." He turned, walking back through the open door, his questions answered.
"Oh, and Damon? I agree with what you said a month ago. Taking your daughter with you would be acceptable. I'll be sure to get a hold of a second airplane ticket." Vlad said.
Damon thanked the man again before shutting the door behind him. Why had he ever doubted Amity's Mayor in the first place?
Damon didn't notice the one strange thing Masters had said until halfway through his commute home, but when he did it puzzled him to no end.
"And you will be paid extra. Enough to move out of that dismal apartment and into a decent house, hmm?"
Damon frowned. How had Mayor Masters known the conditions in which he lived?
Vlad smirked when the man left. He couldn't help it. It was all child's play, really.
He shook his head, confidence restored. So Daniel trusted the Titans? It was of no consequence. That would fail him soon enough.
Vlad would come out on top; it was all but guaranteed.
After all, how could he not win?
He was the one who created the game.
Kind of weird place to stop it, but it works. Sorry I didn't have the Titans in this one. I'm trying not to overload you with clips from all 3 cities at once. Anyways, seems Vlad's bent on getting Valerie out of town for a while… and Pamela's not to keen on housing the Ghost Getters in her basement. So how did you like Danny's talk with Harry? I tried it multiple ways, and I ended up the most satisfied with this one. I just think Harry's ties to the Fentons outweigh her crazy reporter-ness.
So anyways, reviews are treasured, favorites and alerts are heartily appreciated, and everyone who reads this deserves cookies for having to wait so long. Till next time!