Hi again everyone! I'm really very sorry this chapter took so long! I know I said it wasn't going to be a long wait, but I kept adding more and more to this chapter. I couldn't help myself! I hope you guys like it though, it's the chapter everyone's been waiting for and I hope the content makes up at least somewhat for how long it took me. This chapter is basically the whole reason I wanted to write this fic!
And a huge thanks to my new beta truephan who looked over this chapter not once, but twice, and really went all out to improve this chapter!
Disclaimer: I do not own DP.
Chapter 4 Dangerous Explanations
Soft. When Danny awoke, although he never expected he would, the last thing he anticipated was 'soft'. However, what he was laying on was very soft, and he was comfortable. The last thing he remembered was a cold ground, so what happened?
His eyes lids were unexpectedly heavy and they refused to open at first. Finally, he forced them to cooperate, and he was greeted with bright light, which only caused his head to throb painfully. After waiting for his eyes to adjust, he realized the room actually wasn't very bright, but that his head was just extremely sensitive. Looking around, he found himself to be on a couch in a living room he didn't recognize. Taking note of the dimly lit house and the black widow, Danny realized it must be nighttime, though he had no way to know exactly how late it was. As he sat up, sharp pain shot from his shoulder to the rest of his chest, making his muscles tense and spasm painfully. Groaning, Danny took a few deep breaths until the pain became bearable once again. Danny slowly proceeded to prop himself on a pillow so he could look around better, clenching his teeth tightly when he had to move his sensitive arm and chest.
Danny was breathing heavily long after he got himself situated. He couldn't believe how much effort it took just to become a little more vertical; this meant he must have been hurt pretty bad. Looking himself over, he realized that he was missing his shirt, and that his shoulder had been tightly bandaged. It was then the whole fight with Skulker came rushing back to his mind at full force. He had lost and was completely beaten, there had been no hope left for him… so how was he still alive? And who bandaged him?
The memory was blurry, but he suddenly remembered the two figures that had appeared at the end of the fight. It was only then did Danny realize he had been in this living room before. Casting his eyes around, he found a sleeping Tucker in the armchair across from him. Danny must have been extremely disoriented when he first awoke to not have noticed him earlier. He realized he was in Tucker's house, and it made sense, since Tucker and Sam had seen a ghost attacking him. Although why they didn't take him to the hospital was beyond him, he was nevertheless immensely grateful they didn't. He didn't need doctors examining him and discovering that he healed at an alarming rate, and that was just one out of many physical anomalies they could find.
Danny wondered how Sam and Tucker managed to find him behind the school. What were they doing out there when they, just like everyone else, knew there was a dangerous ghost fight going on? And he also wondered at what point in the fight they appeared. Was it when he was on the ground as Danny Fenton, or had they seen more than that? Could it be possible that they knew—
No, he mentally shook himself. That wasn't possible. If Tucker, Sam, or anyone else knew what he was, then there would be no way they would take him home to bandage him. Not even Sam and Tucker, who had helped Phantom in the past, would risk themselves like that. Helping a ghost in the spur of the moment is one thing, but taking one home was completely different, especially if it turned out to be some half-ghost, half-human freak. He let out a sigh or relief, knowing his secret was safe.
A few seconds later, Sam startled him by walking into the room. She didn't even glance at the couch where he lay as she walked to an empty chair, but didn't sit down. She had her arms folded around herself in a loose hug, and she looked… helpless. Danny watched her in concern; he had never seen Sam look so uncertain about herself. She had always been strong and confident, but now she just looked small and frail. Seeing her like this disturbed him. Danny couldn't imagine what could have happened to cause that confused and utterly lost look in her eyes. Her gaze was unfocused, and even though she was watching a sleeping Tucker, Danny could tell her mind was elsewhere. Slowly, Sam allowed herself to sit in the empty chair, but her body was still tense against the comfortable fabric. She continued to watch Tucker before turning her gaze out the dark window. Danny got a strange feeling she was avoiding looking at him.
After a few minutes, she got bored at looking into the night, and turned her gaze to her hands in her lap. And then slowly, as if she couldn't help herself, she lifted her eyes to see what she expected to be a sleeping Danny. When their eyes met she jumped, letting out a strangled gasp.
"Danny?" she breathed, her eyes were wide and frozen onto his. Without looking away, Sam leaned over to shake Tucker awake.
"Hmm? What's going on?" Tucker asked sleepily. He looked at Sam for answers and then followed her gaze to the boy on the couch. "Danny! You're awake, dude! Are you okay? How's your shoulder?" Tucker asked all at one once, his voice full of relief.
Danny visibly relaxed at this more appropriate greeting. Sam, on the other hand, was still staring at him like she didn't know who he was, conflicting emotions on her face. Danny tried to grin, but because of the pain in his shoulder it turned into more of a grimace.
"I'm okay… not sure what happened though. I was outside the school when I heard the explosions. Next thing I know I was stuck in the middle of a ghost fight," Danny lied easily, having used this excuse a few times before. There had been a number of times when he had to explain why he had gotten hurt or was at the scene of a ghost fight. "Do you—" he paused, not sure how to ask. "Do you know what happened to that ghost? I remember thinking he was going to kill me and then…"
Danny trailed off when he noticed the weird looks he was getting from both Sam and Tucker. As they listened to his story, their expression grew confused, and then distrustful. Even Tucker's friendly expression was starting to resemble Sam's bewildered stare.
There was a long pause before Sam hesitantly answered him. "We saw you — " she broke off, glancing at Tucker uncertainly. She seemed to collect herself and then look back at Danny. "We saw you were in trouble, but we," her voice wavered slightly, "we didn't know what to do. And at first I thought…" She bit her lip.
Danny finally understood why she was so upset. "Sam, it's okay. I mean, I was hurt, but I'm still alive." He motioned to himself with his good arm and smiled encouragingly at her.
However, Danny's assurance seemed to have no effect. They were still staring at him like they were trying to figure something out, something big that they couldn't get their heads around.
Danny tried again, still hoping for some answers. "So what happened to the ghost?"
"They Guys-in-White showed up, late as usual." Sam's voice was stronger now, but her eyes were still distant. "They attacked the ghost just in time."
"They didn't even seem to notice you, dude. They probably thought you were dead. We… we thought that too, but you were breathing, so we took you to my house and Sam bandaged you up."
After the explanation, the room went quiet. Sam and Tucker watched Danny closely, awaiting his reaction. Danny felt like he was being studied, and he tried to think of some way to break the awkward silence.
"Thanks guys, I'd probably be dead right now if you hadn't found me." Instead of making them smile, his words only seemed to confuse them more. "I know I shouldn't have been out there in the first place, but —"
"Danny?" Tucker interrupted uncertainly, making Danny raise an eyebrow. "What umm…" he glanced at Sam for help before continuing. "What are you?"
Danny felt his heart stop in his chest at those words. His throat closed up and he was unable to speak or breathe properly. Finally, he managed to find his slightly shaken voice. "W-what?"
Tucker and Sam exchanged glances once again, and then Sam stood up to move her chair closer to Danny. Her eyes were worried and hesitant, but more than anything they were curious. "Danny, we saw you fighting that ghost. Well, we saw Danny Phantom fighting, and then… then he was you." Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I-I don't understand. How is that possible? How can you —?" she broke off, a lost for words. She just kept staring at him, like he was some kind of stranger to her, and now Danny knew why.
Danny's head was spinning and his mouth was dry. They know! His mind kept shouting, but he didn't want to believe it. He was always so careful; he did everything he could to avoid this from happening. Nobody was ever supposed to find out; it was a secret to be carried to his grave. But now he couldn't hide what he was, not anymore. His best friends, although he supposed they weren't friends anymore, were now looking at him like he was a stranger. They didn't see Danny anymore, now they would see only Phantom behind his blue eyes.
Danny shut his eyes tightly, trying to accept the loss of his biggest secret, and the two best friends he ever had. He felt intense anger towards himself and towards Sam and Tucker. He was angry because he let this happen, that he wasn't strong enough to win the fight and preserve his secret. And he was angry at Sam and Tucker for ruining everything. If they had just done what they were supposed to and stayed inside, then no one would know and his secret would still be safe. He would still have them, and he wouldn't have to give them up. He was just starting to enjoy his new life, damn it, and now he would watch it fall apart. He didn't have to stare at the back of his eyelids for long before the anger towards Sam and Tucker faded away. He knew it wasn't really their fault, and he could never be angry with them. Losing Sam and Tucker was just something he had to accept, just like he accepted the duty of protecting people against ghosts. Besides, he had always known his friendship with them wasn't going to last forever. However, the anger at himself could not be dispelled so easily. When he opened his eyes again he felt empty, but also a bit calmer.
When he spoke there was a harsh edge to his voice. "If you knew I was a ghost, then why bandage me? Why not just leave me there, or better yet, tell the Guys-in-White what you saw?" he was shaking slightly in fear and helplessness.
Sam and Tucker looked startled by his question.
"You were hurt, dude; we couldn't just leave you there!"
"It would be safer then taking a ghost back to your house," Danny pointed out harshly.
"So… so you are a ghost, then?" Tucker asked hesitantly, and Danny could tell he was fearful of the answer.
The young hybrid looked away. "Not exactly…" He hoped they wouldn't ask any more questions, he didn't know what he should tell them. Hell, even he wasn't sure what he was. All he had to go on were what the ghosts said about him and his own theories.
"Then what, Danny?" Sam pleaded. "How do you look human, but can also look like a ghost?" When he didn't answer, she tried again, "Please tell us."
Danny's head snapped up. "Why should I?" he growled. "It wouldn't change anything. I'll still be this freak of nature, and the only difference will be you'll know why. You already see me as a monster, why should I make it worse?"
There was a long silence where only Danny's uneven breathing could be heard.
"You're not a monster, Danny," Sam assured him finally, her voice unusually quiet, yet sounding absolutely certain.
Danny snorted, finding her dismissal amusing. "You guys wouldn't understand."
"Maybe we would if you tell us," Tucker supplied hopefully.
Danny looked distrustfully at them. "You really want to know?"
"Yes, Danny, we do." Sam unconsciously scooted forward, and Danny was surprised she would willingly be so close to him.
The hybrid sighed. "I've never told anyone before..." he mused to himself, and he couldn't help the fear rising in his chest. He tried to push it back as he took a deep breath. He didn't know why he was telling them, he didn't think it was a good idea; but Sam said they wanted to hear it, and for some unexplainable reason he wanted them to know, too. "It happened about a year ago, I was a normal freshman starting high school. My parents had just finished building the Ghost Portal, but when they turned it on it didn't work. They gave up on it after that. I had never seen my parents so depressed after an invention failed. That day I decided to go inside the portal, I was curious I guess… I wanted to know why they wanted it to work so badly. While I was inside, I accidentally pushed something, I didn't realize the 'on' button was in the inside the machine." Danny grimaced at the memory.
Sam's eyes widened. "You turned the Portal on while you were still inside?"
Tucker seemed to remember the swirling vortex as well. "But all that electricity would have hit you!"
Danny nodded. "It did, believe me, I felt it. But it wasn't just electricity; it was energy from the Ghost Zone, too. I'm no scientist, so I don't know exactly what happened, but when I came out of the portal, I wasn't just human anymore. I could transform into a ghostly version of myself whenever I wanted. I have all the powers of a ghost, but I still have to eat and breathe when I'm in my human form. The best explanation I could come up with was that I was a half-ghost, and it made sense, part-human, and part-ghost. After that, I decided to use my powers to keep people safe from the other ghosts that have been coming out of the portal ever since."
Sam and Tucker were staring at him with wide unblinking eyes and Danny shifted under their gaze, finding it easier to looked at his hand then at them. He knew telling them the truth would make things worse, he just knew it. He should have lied or come up with something better then 'I was stupid enough to play with my parents inventions and it turned me into some sort of half-dead hybrid'. After an explanation like that, of course they would look at him like he was some sort of abnormal creature — that's what he was after all. But what else could he say? There was no way he could come up with a decent lie, and besides, he was just so sick of keeping secrets. Telling the truth went against everything he taught himself this last year, but he just didn't have the strength to fight anymore.
Finally, Sam found her voice, "You've been keeping this a secret? All this time and you haven't told anyone?"
Danny looked at her like she had just grown a second head. "What? Go up to my parents and say, 'Hey Mom, hey Dad, you know Danny Phantom, that ghost you hate and want to tear apart molecule by molecule? Yep, that's me!'" Danny rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that will go over well," he stated sarcastically.
"But — but your half-dead!" Tucker yelled, almost panicking. "How could you not tell someone about that? I mean, they could have helped you!"
Danny's eyes narrowed. "Help me? More like experiment on me. You know how ghost hunters feel about ghosts. Can you honestly see the Guys-in-White giving a damn about whether I'm still part-human?" Danny purposely used the GIW as an example that time instead of his parents. He really did not want to think about his parents experimenting on him even after knowing he was their son.
"But it must have been really hard on you," Sam considered slowly, "to have these powers and not be able to trust anyone."
Danny felt a lump grown in his throat. She had no idea how hard it was; how lonely it could be. "You get used to it," Danny answered at last, looking away.
"And you use your powers to help people, you're like…" Tucker searched for the right word, "Like a super hero." He was grinning at the idea.
Danny stared bewildered at the two people in front of him. Their eyes had completely lost their fear, and they didn't seem to be disturbed by his story anymore. But this wasn't right, it made no sense. They just found out he was half-dead; they shouldn't be so calm about it! And then Danny realized what the problem was; he was in his human form now. They could accept this form, but if he was a ghost, they wouldn't be willing to be so close to him, or smile at him like they actually cared. He didn't want to, but he had to make them see the truth.
Danny shook his head. "You guys don't understand."
"What don't we understand?" Sam challenged. "You were in an accident and gained ghost powers, and now you use them to save people."
"And you have a secret identity…" Suddenly Tucker started to crack up. "Phantom and Fenton! They sound so much alike, that's hilarious, dude!"
"No, you guys don't get it," Danny glowered.
He tried to keep his temper under control so his eyes wouldn't turn green, but maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would help them understand that he wasn't normal. This wasn't some comic book. He wasn't some hero who always wins and does the right thing. He was a ghost, not that much different from the ones that attacked the town daily. He may fight and stop them from killing people, but that didn't mean he couldn't turn around and do the same. He was just as dangerous as the other ghosts, and Sam and Tucker were missing this.
"What don't we get, Danny? Help us understand." Sam placed her hand on top of his, trying to comfort him. But that's just it; she wasn't supposed to comfort him. If she really understood what he was, then she wouldn't want to be so close. He moved his hand out from under hers.
"You want to understand? It's not that hard," Danny growled. "I'm still alive, but I'm dead, too. I don't belong anywhere, most ghosts hate me, and the people in Amity wish Phantom never existed. I have these powers which I can't always control, and I have to hide them half the time. And if I revealed myself, people, even though I save them daily, would want me dead, and you know what? I can't blame them! I'm a freak, a dangerous monster! I have the ability to kill everyone if I wanted to!" And in an alternate timeline, I do.
Danny's breathing was uneven as he glared at them, daring them to argue. They were staring at him in shock, but they still didn't look afraid. If anything, their eyes were full of sympathy, the opposite of what he wanted.
"Danny," Sam breathed. His words seemed to have hurt her somehow. "Don't — don't say that. You're not a freak, your powers make you unique. Unique is good."
"Unique?" Danny scoffed. "Sam, someone with an extra toe is unique, I'm half dead."
"But your alive, too," Tucker reasoned.
"And that just makes me even freakier!" His hands were shaking in frustration. He was going to make them understand, they had to. "People shouldn't be able to do this…" He took a deep breath, and viciously yanked the cold feeling from inside his chest. Rings of light engulfed him, and the bandaged form of Danny Fenton was replaced by the white-haired teen ghost. His bandages weren't gone, but now they were completely covered by his black and white jumpsuit.
Sam and Tucker couldn't help themselves; they gasped and leaned back in their chairs, unconsciously putting distance between themselves and the ghost.
Danny watched them through triumphant green eyes. Finally, they understood. They tried so hard to forget what he was, to be good friends and accept him. However, they weren't accepting him, but what they thought he was, and what they wanted him to be. They had some kind of notion that he was a superhero, someone gifted with extraordinary abilities. But in reality he was a ghost like all the others, and his human side only made him more powerful and dangerous. They had known what he was, but because they were talking to his human side it made it easier for them to forget, to think they could understand and accept him. And now he had shown them how wrong they were.
"Danny?" Tucker asked in barely a whisper. "That's really you, isn't it?"
Even though he already knew Danny was Phantom, there was some uncertainty in his eyes, like now that he was talking to Phantom, he wasn't sure Fenton was still in there. Danny saw fear flicker in Tucker's expression, the same fear he had for Phantom a little over a month ago. Knowing he was Danny Fenton didn't seem to change the fear he held for Phantom, as Danny knew it wouldn't.
"Yes, it's me," Danny's voice echoed in the quiet house.
Fear was evident in Sam's eyes as well, but there was something else behind those violet orbs, something stronger. Whatever it was, it compelled her to actually move closer to the infamous ghost.
She was staring at him intensely, and Danny knew she was trying to find something of his human form in his features. "You look so different from your other self," she breathed in awe, "…except your eyes."
Confusion flashed across Danny's face. Sam had said the last thing he would have expected. If anything, his eye color was the biggest difference between his two forms, but for some reason she thought differently. Did she not see they were now green and glowing?
Sam and Tucker sat there staring at him. They didn't get up and run, they didn't back away, hell, they didn't even glance at the door. Danny didn't understand their reaction, or lack of one. It didn't make any sense.
Suddenly, Danny realized what that look in her eyes meant; she was curious. Confusion turned into anger as frustration began rising in his gut. He understood now, curiosity was the reason they weren't running out the door or dialing up the Guys-in-White. Sam and Tucker were able to overcome their fear because they had never seen another creature like him. They weren't sure if they should be afraid or not.
Even though they didn't immediately freak out when he transformed, Danny still held no hope that they could accept what he was. They just didn't know how to act around him, if they should be afraid or if he was dangerous to them. However, as soon as Danny showed them what he could do, how he was just as dangerous as any other ghost, things would go back to the way they should be. They would be afraid of him, just like they should be.
He felt a little regret for what he was about to do. After all, no one who wasn't a ghost hunter had dared to get this close to his ghost form before, and he never thought anyone would. And now the only people who dared to, who had sat before him as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do, were about to be scared off by him. But he had to do this for their sakes. He didn't want them to have a false impression that just because he was human as well as ghost, he wasn't dangerous. In fact, they needed to understand that this made him more so. He had to get them to understand exactly what he was.
"It's not safe for you guys to get so close to a ghost." Danny mumbled, not really having the heart to sound threatening, but still knowing what he had to do.
"Wha-what do you mean?" Tucker seemed to understand the poorly delivered threat, but he was unwilling to believe it.
"Because all ghosts are dangerous, and they will hurt you." Danny's voice had an edge to it this time. "What did you expect from me? Did you think I was any different from the other ghosts?" Still on the couch, he moved his uninjured right arm and held his palm upwards; as he concentrated, a ball of ecto-energy formed in his hand. His entire hand filled with green swirling energy that gave off an almost hypnotic light. It took a lot of concentration for Danny to keep the energy dense and moving in a circular pattern. Without his control, the energy was erratic and naturally wanted to be expelled into the air, but that would have been dangerous for the two humans next to him. He only wanted them to see him for what he truly was, not to hurt them.
Danny brought his attention from the orb to the faces of Sam and Tucker. The light from the ecto-energy cast a green tint around the room and onto the faces of the two humans. They were both eyeing the energy warily; perfectly aware of how dangerous it was to them. Sadness stabbed though his chest even though he had gotten what he wanted. From the terrified expression on the humans' faces, Danny knew he had finally, finally, got them to understand how dangerous he was. He wasn't the friend they thought they knew, and he wasn't the superhero they were hoping for. He couldn't let them delude themselves into thinking he was anything more than a monster.
It wasn't like he wanted them to think he would hurt them, but this was the only way to keep Sam and Tucker safe. If they were scared of him like they should be, then it would stop them from involving themselves in his dangerous life. He cared about them too much for that.
They remained staring in shock at the deadly energy, none of them daring to move. They seemed to be holding their breath, ready to run if they had to. A ghost had just threatened them, and although they believed he was their friend before, none of that seem to matter now.
Sam was the first to do anything. Ever so slowly, she reached her hand up and leaned forward.
"Sam?" Tucker squeaked, terrified for his friend. "What are you doing?"
Danny's eyes widened, stunned at the fact she was leaning towards him instead of away. There was a determination in her eyes that Danny had only seen once before: when she decided to rescue Phantom.
Sam reached her hand towards the orb of energy. She moved slowly and carefully, uncertain if what she was doing was safe. She was barely breathing as she continued; her eyes transfixed on the light. When she was but a few inches from the energy she suddenly jumped, pulling her hand away slightly as if she had been burned, but then she continued once again, managing to get even closer. She must have been feeling the cold-heat of the ecto-ball by now, and if she wasn't careful, she could easily burn herself on the bitter energy.
"S-Sam, stop it. Are you trying to hurt yourself?" Tucker pleaded with her.
Danny was asking the same question, hoping she would be sensible and stop. It took a lot of his concentration to keep his energy in check; one slip up and the energy would escape and burn her.
"I just want to see…" was her distracted response. The curiosity was back in her eyes again.
She was a few centimeters away from the very edge of the energy now. Her fingers ran along it experimentally and Danny cringed. Putting all his strength into keeping the energy's perfect shape was taking a lot out of him, but he refused to hurt Sam. He couldn't make the energy smaller, because there was always a slight discharge when compressing energy and even that small amount would hurt her. He was also in too awkward a position on the couch to move the energy away from her without risking making a mistake, or losing his concentration. The best thing would be if she moved her hand away, but she didn't seem intent on doing that anytime soon.
Danny couldn't help but sneak a glance at her; he was dying to know what she was thinking. Why would she put herself at risk like this? He had just threatened her, and she had been afraid. He saw the look of betrayal on her face with his own eyes. But instead of running, she reached out towards something she had known to be dangerous. That took a lot of trust on her part, trust in someone that had been lying to her since the day they met. Danny didn't understand. No more than he understood the look of wonder on her face, or the small bit of triumph in her smile.
Finally, Danny couldn't take it anymore. He was already wounded and tired from the fight. He didn't trust himself to keep her safe anymore.
"Sam," he pleaded, "move your hand, I can't… I can't control it anymore." His breath was labored and he felt completely drained.
She looked confused and then pulled her hand away. With a sigh of relief Danny allowed the energy to decompress and then fizzle harmlessly into the air.
After a second, Sam's confused expression dissolved into a look of realization and guilt. "Sorry, I didn't know that was so hard for you to control." She really looked apologetic for torturing him like that; she honestly hadn't realized what she had just put him through.
However, Danny wasn't thinking about himself right now. "What were you thinking? I could have really hurt you!" he snapped, angry and relieved at the same time.
The triumphant smirk was back on Sam's lips once again. "But you didn't, Danny, and that's the point. I knew you wouldn't hurt me."
"A-Are your sure I didn't burn you? Even a little bit?" He reached from his position on the couch for her hands to check for himself, when suddenly he stopped mid-reach. What was he doing? People hated it when ghosts touched them, and even though he was hell-bent on scaring her off a few seconds ago, he was surprised that it was the last thing he wanted to do now.
Sam just smiled and opened her hand, holding it close to his, welcoming him to see for himself. "Nope, I'm fine, see? You should have more faith in yourself."
Danny was relieved to see that she truly was unharmed. Now he was able to concentrate on other matters.
"Why did you do that?" he asked, his anger coming back.
"Well, you were trying to scare us. I just wanted to show you it wasn't going to work," Sam said, crossing her arms over her chest.
Danny jumped when he heard Tucker suddenly laugh. "You called his bluff?" Tucker asked, grinning.
Sam smirked. "Yep. He was trying so hard to scare us. I had to do something."
Tucker looked sheepish, and adjusted his glasses guiltily. "Yeah…I even believe him for a minute there. I actually thought…" but he drifted off, like he was too ashamed to admit it.
Sam nodded; her expression as grim as Tucker's. "Me, too, actually, but then… then I remembered who it was, and I knew Danny would never hurt us."
They smiled up at Danny, and he stared back, stunned. He didn't know what to think, or what to do; he felt like laughing, crying, and tearing out his hair in frustration all at the same time. Why didn't they get it? Why couldn't they understand? Just because he didn't want to hurt them didn't mean he still wasn't dangerous. Anyone else would have known that, anyone else would have been scared to death if not by what he was, then at least by what he could do. But not them.
"How can you say that?" he croaked out at last. "I may have been your friend for a while, but I still lied to you about… well, almost everything. I'm obviously not who you thought I was, so how could you still trust me? How could you be so sure I wouldn't hurt you?" It sounded as if he was begging for an answer.
"You did lie to us," Tucker agreed, "but we always knew you were keeping something from us, even though we didn't think the secret was this big." Tucker grinned like he was impressed. "We were your friends even though we knew you weren't being completely honest, because we didn't care. We didn't need to know everything about you, dude. What we already knew about you was enough. So when we found out you were Danny Phantom… I don't know." He looked for Sam for help. "It just… didn't seem to matter. It doesn't change the fact that you were still Danny, our friend. We were still really freaked out though," Tucker admitted with a laugh. "I think I went into shock when I saw you transform."
"Although, it could have also been the fact that our best friend had a blade coming out of his shoulder," Sam reminded Tucker, shuttering at the memory.
Tucker considered that a moment before adding, "that too, but I think the half-ghost thing was a little more shocking Sam."
Sam rolled her eyes. "How is your shoulder, by the way?" she asked, reaching from her chair to adjust a bandage only to have him lean away. He was still uncomfortable with the idea of a human being close to him in his ghost form.
She retracted her hand, a concerned expression on her face.
"It's fine, it will heal in a couple of days," he assured them quietly, not meeting their eyes.
"A couple of days?" Tucker asked unsure, "You gotta be kidding, that blade went all the way through your shoulder, man. You're lucky it wasn't worse."
"You're sure I didn't break anything?" Danny asked, moving his shoulder slightly only to have pain course down his arm and chest. Danny clenched his teeth so he wouldn't cry out.
Tucker shrugged. "That's what Sam said. She's better at that stuff than I am."
Danny nodded. "That's good then; I'll be able to move it by tomorrow."
He felt weird to suddenly be talking so freely with them, but he was still trying to sort out other things in his mind, so he wasn't fully aware of the information he was giving out.
Tucker finally seemed to catch on. "You're serious? You heal that fast?"
Danny nodded self-consciously, already wishing he had kept silent about his healing abilities.
Tucker whistled appreciatively. "Whoa, that's cool. But I guess it comes in handy if you're in fights like that all the time…"
"Oh, that reminds me!" Sam exclaimed suddenly before getting up and rushing into the other room. She came back with a water bottle and a bottle of pain pills. "Sorry Danny, we were going to give this to you when you first woke up. I guess in all the excitement we forgot." She sat down next to him and opened the bottle. Unexpectedly, she froze and looked perplexed. "Do you umm, need more than normal people? Since your body is so different?"
Danny wondered why she didn't just call him a freak and get it over with. "Umm, yeah, I usually have to take twice as much then you normally would or they don't work."
Sam handed him the pills and he took them numbly. Sam gave him a water bottle next after she opened it for him. Danny downed the pills quickly and drank most of the water. He hadn't realized how thirsty he'd been. It felt weird to drink in his ghost form, but once he changed back he would feel the proper effect.
The room had gone uncomfortably quiet, and Danny wondered how this sudden change occurred. The atmosphere went from being tense and full chaos and confusion to being strained and awkward. He couldn't tell which was worse.
"I guess it's a good thing we didn't take you to the hospital, huh?" Tucker spoke up at last, effectively breaking the silence.
Sam must have seen Danny's confused expression so she clarified. "We were going to take you to the hospital since you were badly hurt and we didn't know what else to do, but then we thought about how you were different, and we weren't sure if the doctors would be able to tell."
"We knew you would probably want to keep everything a secret, and with all the tests the doctors could run…" Tucker shivered violently. "I hate hospitals, but I thought it might be twice as worse for you."
Danny was in awe. They had actually thought about preserving his secret just minutes after they found out for themselves? He was so certain that the first thing anyone would do when they found out would be to call up the Guys-in-White or his parents.
Danny felt a wave of appreciation rush over him. "You-you -" Danny stuttered, not knowing what to say. "I mean, th-thank you. You're right, if I had gone to the hospital, they would have found out something was wrong with me just by taking my temperature. And then they would have done more tests…" Danny flinched. He didn't like the idea of tests whether they were doctors or ghost hunters doing them. "Just…thanks, for helping me, you didn't have to."
"Of course we had to, Danny, you're our best friend" Sam offered with a soft smile, placing her hand on his icy one. "We weren't about to let anything happen to you if we could help it."
Danny's eyes traveled from her concerned violet eyes to her hand resting on top of his. Her skin felt warmer than usual to his icy body, and he wondered how she could touch him so easily, as if it was a completely natural thing for her to do.
"Sam," Danny protested, shaking his head. "Tucker, you guys are the greatest, seriously the best friends I've ever had." The back of Danny's eyes began to sting partly because of the truth of his words, but also because of what he was about to say next. "I never thought anyone would go this far to help me once they found out… and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I tried to scare you guys away like that. You didn't deserve it." He suddenly sounded desperate, wanting more than anything for them to understand. "I would never try to hurt you guys. Ever."
"We know, Danny," Sam replied, squeezing his hand gently, her lilac eyes smiling at him, completely devoid of any doubt.
"Don't worry about it, dude, that's what friends are for," Tucker reassured him, his voice confident, but at the same time lighthearted.
Danny smiled, but there was no joy behind it.
"But you guys… you can't keep pretending I'm your friend. I mean, it's nice to hear you say that and you have no idea what it means to me… but that's just it. It means everything to me and it's not even real." Danny's voice was strained as he tried to hold back emotions so intense he could feel his whole body shaking under their pressure. "You can't just say we are still best friends after everything you found out about me. I'm not the same person you knew, because that person was a lie. Danny Fenton is not real. I pretend to be him so no one would suspect anything, but in reality, you know nothing about me. You don't know what I've been through or what I can do. You don't know how dangerous I am, or what I might do in the future." Danny cringed, clenching his fist at the thought. "You said that my powers don't change me, that I'm the same guy you knew, but you're wrong. They change everything! Was the Danny you knew a freak that had the power to phase through walls or level buildings?"
"Yes, that was our Danny, even though we didn't know it yet!" Sam's voice wavered with frustration, but not with doubt. "And are you trying to convince us that this entire time you've been lying to us, that we never got to know the real you at all? Because you've tried to convince us of some stupid things in that past, like just a few minutes ago when you threatened our lives, but saying that after all this time we don't know who you are? That's absurd, Danny!" Sam glared at him with so much concentrated anger that he didn't dare interrupt her. "So if everything we know about you is a lie then I guess you really don't want to be an astronaut? And I suppose Tucker and I should have run away because if you were a monster instead of our Danny then you would have killed us… which you didn't. And, if I don't know you, then I wouldn't be able to guess your favorite power, which wouldn't be the ability to level a building. No, if you were the Danny I knew, then it would be the ability to fly. But since you're not Danny, then I guess I must be wrong, right?" Sam challenged, her eyes livid.
Danny stared open-mouthed at her. She had been correct about everything. He had told them he wanted to be an astronaut, and that was definitely not a lie, although it did seem impossible. And of course he wouldn't have hurt them even though he did threaten them. But how she had known what his favorite power was… he had no idea. He never mentioned wanting to fly to her before, but somehow she had just known.
"Okay…" his voice was hoarse, "maybe you do know me more then I wanted you too, but —"
"No Danny! No more excuses. Why are you doing this? First you tell us we don't understand, and so we listen so we can understand, but then you try to scare us away! And then once you started to act civil again, you tell us how we aren't really friends, and that we never were? What are you trying to do, Danny? Do you want us to leave? You want to be alone?"
"Yes! Yes Sam, that's exactly what I want!" Danny yelled, a few glowing tears running down his cheeks.
Sam inhaled sharply as if he had shot her in the chest with an ecto-blast.
"I never wanted you and Tucker, or anyone to find out. I was happy to die with this secret." Danny's entire body was weak and completely numb, but his mind was busy with a million different thoughts at once. "But now, all I want is for you to just leave me alone. Stop trying to help me, or understand me. I never wanted that. But if you won't do anything else, then just stop trying to accept me, just stop, please..." Danny hung his head, as if in silent prayer.
What Sam and Tucker were putting him through was hurting him more than they could imagine. It was causing him more pain than if they had just called him a monster to his face and ran away. Because they were just prolonging the inevitable, teasing him with hope that he so desperately clung to in his weakest moments. The same hope that he never admitted he had for fear of what would happen to him if it was torn away. Sam and Tucker were feeding a crutch, making it bigger, allowing him to lean on it in support, but Danny knew how dangerous that was. Because once the inevitable happened and Sam and Tucker found they couldn't accept what he was, then the only thing keeping him up would disappear and he would fall.
"Danny." Sam's tone was sharp, not what Danny expected. "I'm not trying to accept you."
Danny's eye's snapped upwards to meet hers. Confusion was the only recognizable emotion on his face.
"Whether you like it or not, you're our best friend. That means we care about you no matter what. When we found out you were a ghost, nothing changed. We already accepted it instantly."
"We were afraid," Tucker added. "We weren't completely sure what was going on, we thought a ghost possessed you or something… but we knew you were still in there somewhere. Sam's right, it didn't stop us from helping you, because it didn't change anything."
Tears continued to fall down the half-ghost's face. He didn't understand, none of this made sense. His thoughts were foggy and he didn't know what to think or what to do. He wanted to believe them; more than anything he wanted to believe what they were saying was true, but he couldn't. Through all the pain and confusion he was feeling, one emotion dominated them all. Even after everything he had done, from stepping into the Portal for the first time to losing to Skulker this afternoon, never in his life had Danny been more terrified then right now.
As much as he cared about Sam and Tucker, and after all the times they told him they accepted his powers, Danny just couldn't believe them. He just didn't trust them, he just couldn't.
But what could he do? He thought that his life would be over once someone found out his secret, that if one person knew, then they would soon tell others, but that wasn't the case. Sam and Tucker weren't going to tell anyone, well, not yet anyway. So what happens now? He couldn't get them to see him like they should by scaring them away, and they wouldn't be convinced that he was any different from the Danny Fenton they knew. Everything he had tried, they had seen right through. Maybe they really did know him much better than he thought…
And although he didn't trust them, and probably never would, he still couldn't help but like the idea of being accepted. He knew it wasn't possible, he knew this was just his wishful thinking, but the thought was so tempting, he couldn't help but revel in it. He knew thinking this way would make everything so much painful later, and maybe he would never recover from that pain. But the way they were looking at his ghost half… it was like they were truly seeing him, not as a hybrid creature, but as the normal human he used to be. He didn't trust Sam and Tucker, but with every passing second, he was finding it harder and harder to let them go, and this was why he was so frightened. Danny was losing the battle with himself, and even though he knew this could only end in pain, he couldn't help but to at least pretend to believe them.
As Danny's next words left his mouth the hybrid knew he had lost the fight.
"You guys accept what I am? Even though I could hurt you? Even though I'm a half-dead freak?" His voice broke on the last syllable, his head still swimming with unanswered questions.
Sam breathed a sigh of relief. "Yes, Danny, that's exactly what we're saying. Just please stop calling yourself a freak, or a monster. That's not who you are. You're still human, or at least part-human."
Danny's body went tense as his eyes became cold. Without saying a word, he reached out and grabbed her wrist with an icy hand. She looked surprised, but she didn't say anything, allowing him to control her hand. Carefully, he placed her hand on his chest, right over his heart. He stared at her intently, waiting for a reaction.
Tucker stared at the two of them in confusion, unsure of what was going on.
Sam eyebrows were knitted together in bewilderment, but slowly her face began to dawn with realization, and then horror. She stared up into his eyes as her breath caught in her throat.
Knowing she understood what he wanted her to, Danny let her hand go, but she didn't seem to notice. She kept her hand to his chest, as if she was still waiting for something. A second later, she came out of the trance and ripped her hand away, holding it to her own chest.
"You… no." She shook her head. "But you're not — " her voice was suddenly more high-pitched and Danny could hear it wavering in distress. "Please say you're not — "
"Sam, what's wrong?" Tucker asked, placing a hand on her shoulder in comfort.
"No, I'm not dead," Danny answered for her, knowing what she was trying to ask.
"But you don't have a heart beat," Sam whispered, and Danny could tell that once again she wasn't afraid of him, but for him.
Tucker's eyes widened in surprise, and his face took on a confused expression as he looked from Danny to Sam.
"I do when I'm in my human form," he told her calmly, surprised at seeing how upset not having a heartbeat made her, but how easily she had accepted him having the powers of a ghost.
"Show me," she demanded firmly, sounding almost angry with him.
He did what she ordered, transforming back to Danny Fenton. He ignored the increased pain in his shoulder, which gave an unpleasant throb with every heartbeat.
Sam didn't waste any time, and she was suddenly very close to him, her warm hand feeling the pulse in his neck. After a few seconds, she was satisfied and reclined into her chair in relief.
"What was that about?" Tucker asked, still unsure about what had transpired.
"Sorry, I just wanted to be sure…" he broke off, seeming confused about her own actions.
"You wanted to be sure that the Portal hadn't killed me, that to have these powers I didn't have to be dead," Danny clarified easily.
He understood what she was thinking. He felt the same way, being a hybrid was one thing, but being fully dead… that was another. That was a thin line that he wasn't eager to cross.
Sam was suddenly fierce again; her eyes alight with certainty. "It wouldn't have changed anything, Danny, even if you were dead."
Her words were so strong that Danny knew she believed them entirely.
"I was just worried because… because you don't deserve that, Danny. Not because of curiosity or a simple mistake."
"Yeah, because having these powers are so much better," Danny noted sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "What's the difference between having my heart beating only half the time and not at all?"
"That sounds like a big difference to me." Tucker responded, and Sam nodded.
"You can have what other ghosts can't: a life. You're not a full ghost, you're still—" but Sam purposely cut herself off, unable to say the next part with such unwavering certainty.
"Human? That's what you were going to say, isn't it? Sam, I can make my heart stop beating for days and then start it again. Does that sound even remotely human to you? That's why I had to show you. You said I'm human but —" he hesitated. "I'm not so sure about that."
Danny didn't know what he was hoping for, maybe he was waiting for some confirmation, for Sam to say in that confident voice of hers that he was human, and he shouldn't doubt that. But her assurance wasn't what he got.
The Goth looked at her hands uncertainly. "I'm not sure, either," she admitted softly. After a few quite seconds she raised her head and looked him directly in his eyes. "But you still have your humanity, Danny, and that's what matters."
Danny blinked, his throat tightening up. She seemed to know exactly what he had been worrying about. "H-How do you know I still have it?"
She smiled gently at him. "I just do. You're a good person, Danny, anyone can see that."
Danny couldn't help but smile shyly, the first real smile since he woke up. Someone told him he was a good person, and they weren't just saying that, they truly meant it. And more importantly, they knew his secret and they still believed it. Tucker and Sam couldn't even begin to imagine what that meant to him.
"Thanks guys… I can't believe you know my secret and you don't hate me. I don't understand how that's possible, but I'm glad."
"Finally we got through to him!" Tucker rejoiced, patting Danny's shoulder only to have him cry out and pull away.
Tucker looked surprised, and then sheepish when he realized what he did. "Oops, sorry…"
Once the pain was under control Danny couldn't help but let out a small chuckle. "It's okay, I'll live."
Tucker and Sam both grinned at him and he smiled back. He felt his muscles relax as he leaned further into the comfort of the couch. He was just starting to become comfortable when a thought tickled at the back of his mind. Suddenly, he bolted upright in alarm, but in doing so he jarred his left shoulder, sending an excruciating amount of pain down his chest and back. Crying out in pain, he reflexively grabbed his arm, but at the same time lost his balance. He would have toppled off the couch if Tucker hadn't been there, grabbing his right shoulder in support and holding him steady until the pain subsided.
Finally the acute stabs of pain rushing up his nerve-endings turned into a dull throb. His breathing began to return to normal and he was able to think clearly once again. Taking a deep breath, Danny swung one leg over the couch and then the other, he was about to try to get on his feet when he was interrupted.
"What do you think you are doing?" Sam asked him in a stern voice.
He looked up to see her arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
"My parents…" Danny breathed, realizing how much strain he must be putting on his body if he was already short of breath. "I never came home after school, they're probably wondering where I am, I have to—"
"No," was Sam's stern reply as she placed a hand gently on his chest to keep him from standing.
"But it's already late, and knowing my parents, they probably think a ghost kidnapped me or something and will come looking—"
"So, what are you going to do? Walk into your house with a hole through your shoulder? You don't think they're going to notice?"
Danny had to admit she had a point, but what else could he do?
"Not to mention you won't even make it home. You've lost a lot of blood, Danny, and ghost powers or not, you need to take it easy for a bit."
Gently she began pushing him back on the couch, forcing him to lie down. At first he resisted her, but with Tucker's help, they got him lying fully on the couch, propped up against a pillow.
"Guys, really, I'm fine! It's not that bad, I've had worse before!" As soon as those words came out of his mouth and he saw the expression on Sam's face, he knew he had said the wrong thing.
"Worse before? You've been hurt worse than this?" Sam asked her eyes wide and fearful.
"Umm…" Danny began, not sure what he could say that wouldn't worry her more. "Not- not often. Only once or twice before…"
However, judging by her expression he was just making things worse.
"I-I heal fast, Sam." Danny assured her, laughing a little to ease the tension. "It's really not that big of a deal."
She shook her head wordlessly, and sighed to herself in frustration. She didn't seem happy, but she understood arguing about past injuries wouldn't help them now.
"Anyway," Tucker said, trying to move on. "You don't have to worry about your parents, Danny. We already called them around dinner and told them you were going to study and watch movies at my house tonight."
Danny blinked in surprise. They covered for him? Even before knowing the whole story, they anticipated his needs and helped him? "Really?" Danny questioned, stunned by this piece of news. "Th-thanks." Danny smiled softly, finding that he liked the idea of someone helping him. He was so used to having to do everything himself.
"No problem, dude, and like I said at lunch, my parents are out tonight so we have the whole house to ourselves. I still think a party would have been a good idea, but it's a little late now…"
Danny chuckled. "Sorry to ruin your fun, Tuck."
The techno geek waved his had dismissively. "It isn't your fault you were injured in an epic ghost fight today. We all have our bad days."
"Actually…" Danny corrected. He couldn't believe he was going to say this after everything that happen, after his worst nightmare had come true, but he felt like it was necessary to say out loud. "Even with everything that has happened, I have to admit this day hasn't been so bad…" And he was surprised to find this was true.
"So, you're glad we know your secret?" Tucker prompted eagerly.
Danny was hesitant, but tried to answer as truthfully at he could. "I still wish no one knew… but I'm glad that out of everyone who could have found out, it was you guys."
"And I'm just glad we know why you're so secretive and running off all the time." A thought seemed to strike Tucker. "Hey, cool! My best friend is a super hero! Not many people get to say that. Or say that their friend is half-ghost! How cool is that?"
Danny sighed lightly at Tucker's enthusiasm. They really didn't get it. Both Tucker and Sam actually believed that everything was going to work out. They didn't see being a half-ghost much different from being human, but that was because they didn't understand the danger they were in. If they hung around him, they could easily get stuck in the middle of a battle, or even be the target of his enemies. They said they weren't afraid of him, but that was probably the worst mistake they could make. Hybrid or not, he still had the powers of a ghost, and an alternate timeline proved that those powers could be used to hurt people.
He was afraid for Sam and Tucker, and the position they were putting themselves in. He was weary of the trap he was precariously perched next to, the one that held the false belief that his friends might actually be able to accept him. Danny was terrified of falling into that trap, trusting Sam and Tucker to always be there for him, only for them to look at him hatefully with disgust in their eyes. That would tear him apart.
He vowed to never fall into that trap.
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! Please review and let me know what you thought!