Inspired by 'If Today Was Your Last Day' by Nickelback.
I completely and totally forgot this story existed. Thank you, Fiddlehoffer, for a great review to get this going again.
LOTS changed since the first draft uploaded five years ago. Please reread, especially since you likely don't remember the first bit anyways. If you DO remember the story from five years ago, your brain and mine need to meet and have a chat about how to remember things. Mine needs a few (lots!) of pointers.
A Danny Phantom Fanfic by Cordria
Each Day's a Gift and Not a Given Right
I slowly stirred the cereal in my bowl, staring out the kitchen window of my apartment. It was also the dining room window, living room window, and - ever since my father blasted a whole in my wall in a misguided attempt to catch a non-existent ghost - a second bedroom window. I hadn't minded too much. The landlord was a bit ticked.
Without a doubt, it was a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the ghosts were staying quiet for once. I'd even gotten a complete night's sleep. The feeling of being totally and absolutely awake brought a little smile to my face.
"We're going to be late. Again."
I glanced at my breakfast partner. Sam had shown up fifteen minutes ago, ready to yank me out of bed like she usually did. She'd been relatively impressed that I'd already been up and dressed. Her pleasant demeanor had vanished again, since I'd been eating for fifteen minutes and really hadn't made a dent in my cereal.
"Sorry," I muttered, making a show of taking a bite even as my eyes drifted back to the morning sunshine. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her eyeroll and huffed breath from behind the book she was reading. Her stocking feet hadn't left my table and her nose hadn't left the book, however, so I knew she wasn't planning on going anywhere soon. Besides, neither of us had class until ten.
A bird flickered past the window - red and bright and fast. I grinned. My mornings never went like this. Normally, I was shaken out of bed by a girl only slightly more 'morning' than me, then spent the day tracking down the ghosts stupid enough to get too close to me. Maybe I was still dreaming.
I shook my head, absently chewing my cereal. The fact that I actually had to go to class today ruined that plan.
"Eat. Faster," she said. There was the sound of her book hitting the table and I could feel her eyes fixate on the side of my head. "I've already missed Lit Comp twice this semester and I can't miss again today."
I did try to eat faster, but I kept finding myself slowing down and staring out the window. I could just feel it: today was going to be the perfect day. Everything was going to go my way. A once-in-a-lifetime morning. I wanted to savor it, frame it and hang it on my wall, or capture it in a jar and never let it go.
When the world around me slowed to a standstill, Sam frozen in a moment of brushing her hair behind her ear, it took me a moment to even realize time had stopped. I studied her, the way the sunlight glinted a strange blue in her dark hair. The deep color of her eyes, almost purple in the morning sunrise. Her long, violet-painted fingernails - currently decorated with little red flowers - that she was so proud of.
Not that I'd ever tell her any of those things. She still wore steel-toed shoes and had powerful leg muscles to back them up.
Eventually, I sighed, set down my spoon, and reached up to finger the time medallion sitting against my chest. I glanced up towards the old fridge in the corner, not too surprised to see an old, wizened ghost standing there. He was leaning against his staff, looking worn down and tired.
"Clockwork," I greeted, getting to my feet as my eyebrows furrowed in concern. He looked like the eons were weighing on him this morning, an unusual sight that sent a chill down my spine. "What's wrong?"
He stared at me with deep red eyes. Eternal energy swirled behind them. The strange elasticity of time around the ancient ghost bent my perception of how long it took him to speak. It felt like hours. When he finally shook his head, his fingers tightening around his staff, he said, "I'm sorry, Danny."
I felt my perfect morning evaporate around me. "For what?" I asked slowly.
Clockwork's mouth tightened into tense line. His eyes drifted away to stare at the window I'd been entranced with earlier.
"Clockwork...?" I took a few steps forwards, worry starting to whittle into my chest. It felt like my heart was in my ears as I waited for an explanation.
My hand came up to touch his arm when his head turned back to face me. From this close, I could see the pain and sorrow in his eyes. His voice was soft and compassionate when he spoke, but it was full of a cold sense of finality. "You're going to die today."
I stared at him blankly, not quite comprehending what he'd just said. My hand fell back to my side and my head felt dizzy. Staggering backwards a few steps, I collapsed back into my chair, staring at my socks. "What?" My brain felt numb. I didn't question his statement for a second; I knew he would never say something like that as a joke.
My brain suddenly jump started. Hundreds of questions swirled through my mind, loudly demanding answers or trying to tell me I hadn't heard him correctly. I blinked and looked up at the old ghost to ask questions, at the pained expression on his face, and felt a brief flash of fury - why had he told me this? It drained away quickly, leaving me feeling empty.
"How?" I whispered.
"A thousand different ways," Clockwork answered. "I've watched, hundreds of times, as your actions changed the course of events. You've always been the catalyst, Danny. You've always been able to affect the things around you. But this…" The old ghost sighed. "This is inevitable. Not even I can stop it."
My eyes trailed down to my hands lying limply on the table, staring at the small veins and creases as my mind fought to understand what I was hearing. My mind was still running around in circles, but they were pointless circles getting me nowhere.
"No matter the choices you make today, your death... is today. How is a matter of the choices you make today."
A shallow nod was all I could manage in response, feeling eternity pass between each of my heartbeats. It wasn't that I was afraid of dying – I put my life on the line every day to save other people – but to be told point blank that today was going to be my last day…
My eyes closed tightly, one hand coming up to clutch at the medallion around my neck. I focused on breathing in and out. My breath shuddered.
"Time will stay stopped until you take off that medallion," Clockwork said gently, a cold hand touching my shoulder as he gripped it tightly. "Take a few minutes to get a grip on it."
I couldn't open my eyes. I just nodded in response. Something cold was leaking down my cheeks and splattering onto my hand.
"I'll miss you, Danny."
I was silent for so long that by the time I managed a whispered, "Goodbye," the ancient ghost was long gone
I sat there, alone in my own little bubble of stopped time, the hands of time ready to count down my last day on Earth. I just let myself breathe and wait, my mind slowly setting down from its chaotic spinning. I had no idea how much time passed, letting myself get used to the idea that I was going to die today.
I thought about getting mad at the universe. I wanted to break down in tears. My hand shook as I contemplated giving in to the desire to never remove the medallion. Time wouldn't ever move on and I wouldn't ever have to die.
But slowly I opened my eyes. I stared at the medallion clenched in my fingers, admiring the soft glow of the ghostly technology and the play of the morning light on the smooth metal. For some reason, something as simple at that suddenly meant more than it used to. I looked up, my attention drawn almost irresistibly to the window, gazing silently out into the day waiting for me.
The sun was still shining. The birds were waiting to chirp. My cereal was still waiting to be eaten. It was still a perfect morning; nothing had changed.
My gaze slipped to my best friend, frozen in the act of brushing her hair back. I had never truly contemplated telling her how much I wanted to do that for her, to feel her silken hair in my fingers, to accidentally brush against her soft cheek.
A strange, sad little laugh left my lips. Now I'd never get the chance.
A deep breath slipped into and out of my lings and, without letting myself contemplate it any more, I yanked the medallion over my head. It melted from between my fingers as time started to tick. Sam completed the movement she had begun forever and moment before, never knowing how much time had passed for me.
Maybe she felt my eyes on her, but she chose that moment to look up and ask, "You ready?"
When I nodded and said, "Yes," I meant it in so many more ways than one.