Disclaimer: Danny Phantom is the property of a bunch of people who are not me. I'm just having fun with their world.
A gift fic for Zalein. Merry Christmas, and thanks for all your help.
The box sat there, amidst the sparkle and shine of tinsel and lights, looking so pleased with itself, so perfect. Every fold of paper was crisp and clean, mocking the careless wrapping of its neighbors. Danny didn't even need to read the tag to know who the gift was from.
His hands clenched into fists.
Great. As if he didn't need another reason to dislike Christmas.
The house was quiet - eerily so for someone who had become far too used to ghosts interrupting his sleep with irregular bouts of mischief. But then, it was Christmas, which meant the truce was in effect. This was the one day in the year where he wouldn't have to worry about putting a stop to any ghostly antics, the one morning where he could have slept in like a normal teenager without worrying about some ghost taking advantage of it.
And Vlad just had to go and give him a Christmas present.
It ate at him. He didn't even know what it was, but he already knew it would be better quality, more expensive, and possibly even more appropriate for him than anything his family might have picked out. Vlad Masters had money and knowledge, knowledge of a side of Danny that he'd done everything he could to keep his parents from finding out. Even Jazz didn't know everything. But Vlad...
Vlad had fought with him, manipulated him, spied on him. Who knew what kinds of things he'd discovered about the teen? And... what kind of gift would a man like that give to him?
The curiosity was the worst part of all. He hated Christmas, hated the gifts, wanted nothing to do with the holiday at all. But he wanted to know. He wanted to know what Vlad had given him. Guilt twinged in his gut because he didn't feel the same curiosity about any of the other gifts under the tree, not his mom's soft, squishy package or the one from his dad that glowed a faint green, or the boxy one from Jazz that he suspected was a book. No, Vlad's gift was the only one that really held his interest.
His stomach flipped again. That was just wrong. And yet, he found his hands reaching for the gift anyway. It was Christmas, he wasn't opening it early. It could be a trap for his dad, for all he knew, which meant it was better if he opened it now, before everyone else woke up. His eyes skimmed the tag attached to the ribbon, reading the elegant script once again.
From: Your Uncle Vlad
There was so much wrong with that he didn't even know where to begin to list it off. It was easier to just ignore it entirely and go straight to opening the package. He resisted the urge to rip the paper. As satisfying as that would have been, it would have been over too fast, and some part of him still screamed that he didn't want to know. But still his fingernails sliced the tape that held the paper in place, and when he pulled the paper off, he found a box decorated in holly leaf designs. He rested his hand on top of it and took a breath.
The lid came off easily enough.
And there, settled into a nest of soft, green tissue, was a black silk tie and a gold pocket watch. Danny stared. That... wasn't what he had expected. To be fair, he hadn't really known what he had expected. But it certainly hadn't been that.
There was another note inside the box, this one obviously in Vlad's handwriting and not the work of a professional calligrapher. Danny plucked it out and unfolded it, unconsciously smoothing out the crease in the middle. It read:
This watch belonged to my father, and to his father before him. It was passed down to me when I was your age with the instructions to give it to my own son one day.
I have no children of my own, as you know, and my prospects in that regard are unfortunately dim. So, in lieu of a son, I feel it is only appropriate to give it to one who could have been. I ask only that you carry on the tradition and give it to your own heir when he or she reaches a responsible age.
As for the tie, I'm sure you'll find a use for it this evening.
Warmest holiday greetings,
The line about the tie should have worried him. Vlad was up to something, he just knew it. His mind stayed stuck on the watch, though, and on the note that had come with it. It was the sort of thing a father gave to his son, but this time it didn't feel the same as Vlad's other attempts to make him his heir. This was more honest, more personal, and had no hint of sarcasm or his usual play for power. Heck, Vlad had even hinted that he might not succeed in winning his mother away from his dad. What was up with that?
Danny bit his lip.
It was just a gift. Just a stupid Christmas gift. He hated Christmas. He hated Vlad. And he especially hated when those two things mixed. But...
The tie would go in the trash. He had plenty of ties of his own - he certainly didn't need one from Vlad. But the watch...
His conscience rebelled. He didn't know what he would do with it, but he couldn't throw that watch away. Feeling almost guilty as he did so, he slipped it into his pocket, then quickly disposed of the rest of the package. He hated himself as he went back up the stairs to pretend that he'd never come down in the first place. He was such a traitor.
It was the first time in years he'd kept someone's Christmas gift.