The end - regardless of whether or not it's the ending you'd like. ;)

Coming next week with Friday postings: an all new 'How to Train Your Dragon' fic - Gargle the Gruesome! Stay tuned!

Enjoy the 4th of July, to those who celebrate this day.

Thanks to Rahne-Aamar, TexasDreamer01, lilyoftheval5, Aurora Marie Williams, sammansonrepilica, Lilly, kirahphantom, Invader Johnny, fanficfantasies, DPfangirl, TooLazy2Login, Oblitus Angeli, RhiDee, MsFrizzle, ShadowDragon357, Phantom Earth, iloveyougiohGX93, Champion3, panfan87, and KaosMoshpit for their reviews!

Last Day
A Danny Phantom Fanfic by Cordria

Chapter 9
If Today was Your Last Day...

-9:14 am, the next morning-

The sound of beeping dragged me out the darkness. It was incessant and annoying. My eyes slowly blinked open. White and bright met my gaze, forcing my eyes closed again. I heard someone groaning in pain.

Something cool brushed against my forehead. "Relax. You're okay," said a voice I'd recognize in my sleep.

"Mom?" I squinted up at her, my eyes slowly focusing on the blotchy colors overhead.

Eventually my mother's face came into view, goggles pushed up and forgotten on her forehead, a relieved smile on her face. "Oh, Sweetie," she said, brushing at my face again. She had a cool cloth in her hand. "Good morning."

"Ow..." I stopped trying to move, content with lying still. My whole body ached. "What happened?"

The hand on my forehead paused. "There are a lot of people who would like to know that," she said slowly. "What do you remember?"

I closed my eyes and thought. I remembered eating breakfast... only Clockwork-

My brain froze as the events of the day flooded through my brain all at once. I sat up, eyes wide and panic curling in my gut. The sharp movement made my body explode in pain. "Sam!"

"She'll be fine, Danny," Mom said. "What happened?"

I blinked at her, trying to put the events into some sort of context she'd understand. As my brain worked, I finally got a chance to look around the room. "I'm in a hospital?" I asked, startled by the machines and the white walls. I looked down, finding myself in a hospital bed, an IV hooked up to my arm.

"Someone found the three of you lying in a street in the old warehouse district, unconscious," Mom said slowly.

I stared at her, completely confused. "But..." What about the truck? And the ghost? And my inevitable portent of death? And... "Three?"

"You, Sam, and Dash Baxter." She settled into a chair next to the bed, her head tipping slightly to the side as she studied me. "What's wrong? What happened last night?"

"I..." I trailed off, shaking my head. "I don't know," I admitted honestly. "I... the last thing I remember is getting hit by a truck." I shifted, but froze when pain pricked at me.

Mom's mouth thinned, but she didn't say anything. "And what were you doing in an abandoned warehouse?"

"A ghost," I muttered, running a hand through my hair to check for the head trauma I'd suffered. Other than a slight pain - nothing. It had healed. I was still royally confused - but the confusion had started to give way to relief. "A ghost had kidnapped Sam."

Mom sighed, got up and walked over to the bathroom, and came back with a cup of water. She handed it to me. "At least you all have your stories straight."

I arched an eyebrow as I accepted it and took a drink. "What?"

"Sam and Dash woke up early this morning. They said the same thing." She reached over to brush at my hair, then let her fingers trace down my face to grab hold of my chin. "I never want to get another call from a hospital at two in the morning saying you're in the emergency room, hear me?"

The relief that everyone was okay made me smile. "Is three in the morning okay?"

She let out a breath, a small smile on her face, and pulled me into a gentle hug. My body shrieked at the movement, but I pulled her closer. After having spent a whole day thinking I wouldn't see her again, a hug was worth a little pain.

When she let go and settled back into her chair, I played with the cup, noticing the logo on the side. "Centennial Memorial?" I asked with a teasing note to my voice, glancing at her. "You came within ten miles of Vlad?"

Mom's face went blank, her eyes distant. "Sweetie," she said slowly, "Vlad died last night."

"What?" I stared at her, not knowing what to think. Vlad, my arch nemesis... dead?

She chewed on her lips a moment. "A massive heart attack right around midnight." She looked out the window, then seemed to freeze in place.

I waited a long beat for her to start moving again, but then sighed and looked around the room. Clockwork was standing on the other side of the hospital room, leaning on his staff, staring at me like I'm some odd kind of bug. His robes hung heavily around him and shadows clung to his face.

I watched him, not sure what to think. I wasn't angry at him, but I certainly wasn't happy to see him. "Inevitable." It was the one word I could get out.

Clockwork just tipped his head to the side and faded into his slightly younger self. The man straightened. "I watched every possible choice you could have made." His voice was strong, twirling his staff a little but never taking his eyes off me. "I watched you die ten thousand times." He took a few steps forwards. "I watched every possible choice your friends and family and even slight acquaintances could have made. And I watched you die ten thousand more times." He pointed the staff at my head.

"Then why didn't I die?" I asked, pushing the end of the staff away.

His lips compressed. "I hadn't thought to watch a timeline where your enemy would trade his life for yours."

"What?" Confusion raged through my mind. "Who?"

"Vlad Masters," the ghost said. "He knew who was targeting you and made a deal with them. A life for a life."

My thoughts raced back to those last few, desperate minutes lying on the floor of the warehouse. The voice I'd heard, making a deal... Vlad? "Why?" I whispered, startled and more than a little disbelieving.

"I don't know," Clockwork admitted. "It was not an outcome I could have anticipated before it happened." The ghost leaned on his stick and turned into his youngest form. "You are a strange thing, Danny. A catalyst for things that shouldn't happen."

"So you were wrong."

The ghost smirked at me. "One in several tens of thousands? You'll have to forgive the rounding error. Those are still inevitable odds for anyone else."

I leaned back in my chair, sorting through the rest of the loose ends in my mind. The mess that was yesterday had left so many questions in my head. But there was one question that was screaming to be answered loudest of all: "Do you know who was trying to kill me?"

"Yes." And with a wave of his staff, he vanished.

"Of course," I muttered, crossing my arms. That was a question I would have to find answer to - and quickly. Something that dangerous, especially one I couldn't sense coming, would need to be tracked down and kept tabs on. Although it seemed as though Vlad had known about the... shadow-light thing. Perhaps Tucker could dig through the old coot's files for me.

Time slowly restarted again. Mom finished her movement, glancing back at me with her lip between her teeth. She looked like she was about to say something but paused. "What?" she asked.

I shook my head, startled by how relieved I was to be alive, even if I couldn't understand the reasons for it. "Nothing," I said.

Her eyes narrowed, but she dropped it. "Jazz is coming for Vlad's funeral."

"Good," I said, nodding. "What..." I paused, not knowing how to frame the question. "What did Vlad tell you on the phone to get you to come see him?"

Mom looked surprised. "How do you know I talked to him?"

"Vlad told me," I said. "What did he say?"

Mom stared at me for a while, quiet, then shook her head. "Something he should said a long time ago." She looked away. Her eyes were filling with tears. "And maybe I would have understood a little better."

"But what did he say?" I pressed. I very desperately wanted to know what would cause Vlad - the self-obsessed, narcissistic, evil half-ghost - to trade his life for mine. I still couldn't process the idea through my head. There was no way that could possibly be true... could it?

Her eyes shone as she looked at me. There was a strange glitter to them when she narrowed them slightly. For a horrifying second, I was reminded of Vlad at his most devious moments. "It's a secret between me and him," she said softly. "And maybe someday I'll tell you. When you tell me your secret."

I stared at her, completely confused. First I get told that Vlad gave his life for mine, then my mom was going on about secrets that Vlad and I kept from her? Perhaps the hit to my brain was making my mind work a little oddly. Maybe I wasn't really awake yet - this whole thing was like something out of a strange dream. Or perhaps I really was dead and this was some odd afterlife. "What?" It was all I could think of to say, my brain turning in dazed circles.

She got out of her chair and walked over to me, pushed my hair off my forehead, and pressed her lips to my head. "Get some sleep, Sweetheart. You went through a lot yesterday. The doctor said you must have taken a rather serious blow to the head."

"Yeah..." I said. That was the understatement of the century.

She pulled something out of her pocket and set it on the beside table, walking out of the room and leaving me alone. I lay back on the bed for a long time, staring at the ceiling, trying to work through what in the world had happened. Vlad died to save me because I got Mom to call him and talk about something obviously really important, but that was only because I was going to die... only I wasn't really going to die because Vlad was, but only because I was going to die and thus did something to change his life? So if I wasn't going to die, I wouldn't have done it, then Vlad wouldn't have died either...

Eventually, I gave it up for a lost cause. Any time Clockwork got involved in something, it generally became too convoluted for me to understand. I'd have to explain it to Tucker later and wait for the understandable explanation.

I sighed and reached over the bedside table for whatever my mother had set there. Grabbing it, I knew what it was. "My phone!" It was fixed and mud free. I pressed the button, watching the screen flash to life. "Awesome." The phone informed me I had thirteen missed calls - and a fully-charged battery.

Flipping it over, I pulled off the battery to inspect my mom's little charging device I'd short-circuited the other day. I was startled to find it cleaned and fixed and back in its proper place. Mom must have done it for me.

But why would she do that? Didn't she remember what it was for?

-3:47 pm, two days later-

Dad showed up at Vlad's funeral along with Mom and Jazz. Sam was there, although she had to sit in a chair instead of having to stand like everyone else. Even Tucker and Valerie had flown in, watching the proceedings with grave faces. I'd filled them both in on why Vlad had died, although neither seemed to believe me. They both simply assumed I'd gotten hit a bit too hard on the head.

Nobody else came, aside from a local pastor and the caretaker running the site and a few paparazzi standing at the outskirts of the cemetery. It was a rather nice day - the sun was shining and there were birds flitting through the trees.

Vlad had chosen to be cremated - although I couldn't decide if it was to prevent Skulker from claiming his pelt or to protect his body from being studied about his disease - so the funeral wasn't so much burying a body as putting a nondescript urn in a small hole in the ground. The priest said a few things, wished Vlad a good and happy afterlife, and sprinkled a bit of holy water on the urn. I watched them lower the urn and throw a few handfuls of ceremonial dirt on top.

"Well, he's dead," Sam said after the priest closed his bible and started to walk away. My parents and Jazz followed him. Sam stood up unsteadily, placing her hand on my arm for balance.

"Yep," Tucker added. He crossed his arms over his chest.

I ignored them, staring down at the hole where my enemy was buried. I once told him I'd dance and spit on his grave when he died. Now, though, I wasn't sure I could. My very straightforward emotion towards Vlad - hatred - was muddled and confused. There was no way I'd ever forgive him for everything he'd done... but he'd apparently died to save me. For some bizarre and inexplicable reason.

I hesitated as that thought dropped into my brain. Vlad never did anything without at least four reasons. Or ten reasons. Or sometimes nineteen reasons. And never, ever, ever had any of those reasons been 'to be nice'. Vlad didn't do charity, unless it came with such wonderful tax breaks that he'd end up making money on it.

"You okay?" Sam asked me, squeezing my arm.

"Yeah," I answered slowly, still turning that thought over in my head. What in the world would Vlad have gotten out of the deal he'd made that would be worth giving up his life for? "Hey, did you read his tombstone?" I asked, changing the subject and trying to drag my mind away from the thought. It wasn't worth trying to figure out Vlad's thought process. Someday, someway, his plans would all come to fruition and I'd end up figuring them out the hard way.

Sam glanced at the words on the stone. "A broken heart mended. An enemy forgiven. A love found. Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind, and always take the path less traveled by."

Tucker let out a little laugh from next to Val. "Just like in life - has to use more words than necessary."

"One final dig at us," Sam added darkly. "I knew he was responsible for that."

I blinked at her, thoroughly confused. "What?"

"Senior prom," she explained. "The ring that possessed me?" She gestured towards the headstone. "It's lyrics from that horrible song they played, the one we danced to on the roof. Remember?"

"I didn't think you remembered that," I said slowly.

She wrinkled her nose. "Of course I do. I just don't want to remember that song. And Vlad knew it too."

I couldn't really remember the song. I turned the words on Vlad's headstone over in my head a few times, trying to work out what she was saying. "I don't get why it's such a bad song."

"Are you kidding?" She looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "I might have gone extreme Goth for awhile, but who really wants to listen to an optimistic song about your last day alive? Could you imagine spending a whole day knowing you were about to die and trying to be optimistic about it?" She shuddered.

Tucker snickered and glanced at me. I narrowed my eyes into glare - a subtle reminder that he wasn't ever to tell Sam about that day. Then I hesitated and glanced back at the tombstone, actually taking in the words. Really? Vlad had chosen that as the words on his grave?

That wasn't like Vlad at all. That wasn't a saying Vlad would put any sort of money in. Why would he have chosen that? Was it some kind of message for-

"You know what else I remember?" she said abruptly.

"What?" I asked distractedly as I turned to head away from the grave site of (former?) enemy.

"You said you loved me the other day."

Tucker and Val both started to laugh as I blinked at Sam. "Yeah, but you were possessed-"

"And you kissed me."

"You had on poison lipstick," I reminded her.

"And you'd better do it again."

I paused in my walk, glancing at her out of the corner of my eye. Tucker started a quiet, "Kiss her, kiss her," chant in the background.

Now that I was not dying, kissing Sam was one of those really hard things to do. Even though I'd already done it - it didn't really count. She'd been possessed at the time. This time... this time it would really mean something. We'd no longer be just friends.

But then again, if I'd learned anything from my last day on Earth, it was to stop waiting for the future. I probably wouldn't know when I didn't have any more of it coming.

I pulled her closer and set my lips against hers. She still tasted faintly of licorice, but I didn't really care. Because she was kissing me back, and holding onto my shirt, and I could hear the soft sigh in her throat. When I slowly pulled away, her eyes were closed. "Like that?" I asked, teasingly.

"I can live with that," Sam said softly.

Throwing my arm around her shoulders, I kept walking back towards the cars and tried to put Vlad and his strange machinations behind me. The four of us had a special night planned - movies and popcorn and too much soda for anyone to possibly drink. The future was wide open. Anything was possible.

And I was somehow still here for it. It simply wasn't worth letting Vlad ruin it. He was dead and gone, after all. Mom had assured me that she'd seen the body.

I couldn't help the smile as I stared around at the gorgeous day. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the ghosts were staying quiet for once. I was one of those patented 'Top Ten' days. And, unlike two days ago, I could wander around and enjoy it.

Until Sam jabbed me in the side with her elbow. She had that glitter in her eyes that generally meant she was on to some kind of secret, was waiting for me to admit what it was, and was going to be evil until said point in time. Her grin was sharp when she drawled, "Soooo. Are you ready for your math test on Monday?"

-11:43pm, that same day-

"When are you gonna tell him?" Skulker asked, watching through the window as the four college students watched the fifth movie of the night. Samantha was already asleep, curled up against the whelp. He'd already calculated eight different ways he could have destroyed the halfbreed by now, but his sworn word (and a solid prepayment) kept those thoughts in the 'planning' stage.

A strange creature, made most of shadow but with strange bits of light in it, seemed to melt into the night. -not yet-

Skulker wrinkled his nose, the ghostly hairs on the back of his neck standing on edge from being too close to the thing. "Is that wise? The boy is meddlesome. I doubt he will just let this go."

-he's not ready to learn-

Unhappy, Skulker stared at the back of the boy's head. "I will uphold my end of the deal," he said. "I will continue to watch him." He cut his eyes towards the mass of darkness. "Although I don't agree with this part of your plan."

-ying and yang, skulker- A tendril of darkness floated towards the window, caressing it in a caring sort of way. -deliver the letter in the morning-

Skulker nodded, double-checking to make sure the letter was still in a compartment of his form. "You're still the boss." He left the 'despite how creepy you look now' unsaid. He'd thought that nothing could be worse than the oozing boils, but he'd been very, very wrong. In death, his insane boss was even worse than in life.

-stay away from the time ghost, he played his part well, he will make everything difficult if he learns of my plans-

"No problem. I'm going to spend some extended vacation time on my new island." Skulker couldn't help the small dig, smirking as he crossed his arms and sent the creature a glance. "Maybe let my pets settle in."

The shadow didn't seem to care. -deliver the letter in the morning- it reminded him as it faded away to nothing.

Skulker snorted. "I spent months helping you set this up and far too many minutes inhabiting that human girl for comfort," Skulker muttered. He'd taken eight baths since that incident, and he could still smell the girl's perfume on his skin. As he stared through a pair of binoculars, he noted with delight that it was one of his favorite movies - Star Wars. He'd always enjoyed the Darth Vader character. "I'm not going to forget to deliver the stupid letter."

With that, he set his computer software to running a ninth simulation on how to destroy the whelp when he had the chance.

...The end?

There was originally a sequel planned titled 'Next Day', but we shall see if it gets written... mostly based upon your feedback. Please let me know if you liked the story!

Thanks so much for reading. I enjoyed getting to write this for you.