That evening found the whole Fenton family curled up in the living room, sleepily watching the television.
When Maddie had first dragged herself up the stairs from her talk with Jazz, all she wanted to do was sit back and think. She was physically burnt out, and even with the warm ember of relief that had been lit from her conversation with Jazz, she was emotionally drained.
The world, however, did not want to comply with her wishes. She had just been making herself a sandwich from the random leftovers in the fridge when Jack had trudged in, saying that there was a news van down the street. Maddie and Jack forced themselves in front of the camera, answering all of Lance Thunder's questions, when all they wanted to do was collapse.
It was the basics, really, and the most infuriating thing was needing to go over things that should be apparent. Maddie knew it didn't matter that any anchor in the studio could have explained it, though; the public was looking for assurance from the people who knew best. That was little consolation to the Fentons, though, as they were forced to explain the simplest things. How many ghosts were there? Have they been spotted before? Were there any casualties?
"What do you believe was the motive of the ghosts' attack?" Thunder eventually asked, and Maddie explained that it appeared to be both a bid for power and revenge from the leader, Aragon. The latter piqued his interest. "Revenge? On who?"
On Danny Phantom and the 'Princess'- whoever she is. Not that Maddie was going to mention her; even if 'The Princess' she wasn't Jazz, the last thing that lady would need was the media sniffing around. So Maddie mentioned only the ghost. Still, that was enough to interest the news-caster; the public never got tired of
information on the infamous ghost boy.
"Oh?" Thunder asked, his eyebrows nearly disappearing underneath his perfectly sculpted fringe. "What reason for revenge could this ghost possibly have against the ghost boy?"
Jack had scowled at the camera. "How should we know? We may not have seen Aragon before, but there are plenty of things ghosts do we never see. Besides, ghosts' actions don't always make sense."
Part of Maddie wanted to sigh at her husband's inability to remain professional. But a lot of her couldn't help but cheer at his response. The press was constantly nosing around; they expected them to know everything on
ghosts, even things that were ridiculous to expect. Maybe that would teach them to know better.
But if Thunder had been put-off by Jack's response, he hid it well. "But surely you must have some clues?"
Restraining a sigh, Maddie explained as patiently as possible Phantom had probably battled the ghost in the past. Of course, according to Jazz, he definitely had, but she wasn't going to say that. From then on, they
interview carried on as normal. By the end, Maddie and Jack were practically pushing the news crew out the door.
There was still no rest after the interview. The whole family managed to steal showers, cleaning themselves off. While the warm water was refreshing, the hot jets and soap seared her new cuts and bruises, and instead of being able to relax, Maddie found herself wincing in pain. She was so thankful to get herself dried off and into a new pair of clothes.
Then it was chores- not for Jazz, though. Maddie figured that she deserved a rest after the battle. But Danny had no such excuse, and the parental figures could hardly skirt their responsibilities. Maddie sent Danny to help Jack out in the lab; she was going to survey the damage to the GAV and their equipment.
First she had to tend to the laundry, though, which was overflowing. When she was faced with the basket filled with stained whites, Maddie almost stopped with a lurch a fear when she saw a dark red stain of blood among the clothes. After a moment she took a deep breath, reminding herself that it was okay. The blood probably
came from something of Jack's or Jazz's. It was only to be expected after a battle.
It was an afternoon filled with hard work; the whole family scurried around the house. Even Jazz, who'd been let off, drifted behind her brother, who seemed a little annoyed by her constant presence. Telephones rang so often that it was almost a constant hum in the background. Worried civilians, the town hall, the school- everyone was calling for one reason or another. At the eighth phone ring in two hours, Maddie stomped into the hall to pick it up, and was thankful to see that Danny just had, and was already chatting away. "Yeah, Tuck, you sure missed a big one..."
Sweeping her hair back, Maddie allowed herself a smile. If I'm lucky, Danny and Tucker will keep the lines tied for at least thirty minutes...
Finally, by six o'clock, everything was done. The entire family, in unison, seemed to collapse onto couches with a sigh.
"I don't want to move," groaned Danny, burying his face into a pillow.
"Well, you won't have to," said Jack, beginning to flick through TV channels. "Your school called- it's closed for repairs."
Danny let out a muffled sound that might have been a cheer. Maddie laughed. "Why are you complaining, anyway? You weren't fighting today!"
The next few hours were warm and comfortable. Somehow Jack managed to find a show the whole family was content to watch, and they settled in for a long evening of doing nothing. Even Jazz, who wasn't going to slow down just because of her impromptu day off, watched, albeit while typing on her laptop.
They were all hungry, though no one could be bothered to cook- of course, there was almost nothing in the house to eat, since Maddie and Jack had never managed to get groceries. They settled on calling for pizza, and soon the living room was filled with the delicious, greasy smell of cheese and pepperoni.
Everyone seemed happy and satisfied. It was at such odds with the adrenaline and fear she'd been experiencing just hours ago. Maddie was just glad the whole family was here and safe.
It was barely past nine o'clock when a strangled snore emerged from Danny's throat. Jack grinned mischievously, and stalked over to the couch where he lay. With careful gentleness Jack lifted Danny up; he was just starting to carry he him across the room, when Danny started to wake. He struggled, looking confused, and fought his way free, falling to the floor. He glared indignantly at them all- though it was difficult to pull 'indignant' off, with his eyes half-asleep and his hair ruffled.
"I can go up to my room myself, thanks." He glared at them once more, and stalked off, with his family chuckling behind him.
Maddie yawned. "I think I'll head up myself, actually. It's been a long day."
She headed up the stairs behind her son, already dreaming of bed.
The next day was equally busy; though, to Maddie's relief, completely free of any ghostly interference. It was good just to get back to the normal routine- although the kids seemed pretty content with sleeping in and pretending school didn't exist. Meanwhile, she and Jack did random chores- they went shopping
for groceries, started processing the newly-caught ghosts, storing data, and re-filling their guns.
Unfortunately, for all the 'cool' jobs, as Jack called them, involving ghosts or outings to town, there were plenty of the mundane chores that plague all families. There was garbage to take out, rooms to vacuum, and laundry to finish off. Maddie got saddled with the former job, and found her mind going blank with all the ironing and folding. She hated all the fuss clothes required- jumpsuits were such a practical alternative. Finally, after what seemed like hours, all the clothes sat in neat little piles. All that was left was to return them to their respective owners.
Maddie was about to barge into Jazz's room with the girl's clothes, when she heard her children's voices on the other side of the door. The tone made her pause- it was the serious, I-don't-want-to-be-interrupted tone understood universally. She was going to back away from the door and come back later, when she caught the thread of the conversation.
"...that you were listening," said Jazz, sounding reprimanding.
"Well, seeing what you were talking about, I think I can be excused. Besides, you're dodging the point, Jazz."
There was a sigh. "Are you sure you want to do this? What did Tucker think?"
"Not much. He's always treated Mom and Dad's obsession like a huge joke. He doesn't see what the big deal is."
Danny's response was delayed. "Er...well, you know Sam. She has 'trust' issues with her parents, so it's kind of hard for her to relate. Besides, why are you so opposed? You're the one who's always going on about how 'lies can hurt relationships' and stuff."
The laundry basket was heavy in her arms, and Maddie knew she shouldn't be listening, but found herself sub-consciously moving toward the door.
"I just want to make sure you're happy," explained Jazz. "I don't want you to feel forced into anything. This is big, Danny, and while it'll have to come out eventually, it should be on your terms."
What am I doing?
Maddie paused, suddenly struck with the similarity of yesterday. Then she'd been hidden in the stairwell, listening to another conversation that obviously wasn't meant to be overheard.
Sure, it had been different that time- she'd just been trying to protect Jazz, to make sure she wasn't hurt by the ghosts that had been in her company. But that was no excuse for now. Jazz wasn't in any danger- she was just talking to Danny, for goodness' sake!
She back away quickly, forcing herself not to listen to the conversation any more. She could give Jazz her laundry later. It was hard, to ignore Danny's response, but somehow, Maddie managed to.
She made it to the end of the corridor, and ducked into the room. She was breathing strangely heavily. Maddie dropped the laundry basket to the ground, and sat on the bed. She felt horrible.
What had she been doing for the past few weeks? Everything Maddie had done was to protect Jazz- but now that she was looking back, it looked suspiciously like invasions of privacy. Okay, they were justified invasions of privacy, but still. Maddie wanted the gap between Jazz and herself to close, for them to no longer keep secrets from each other. She had felt hurt last afternoon when it was clear they still had a long way to go- but what could she expect when Maddie still followed her daughter around, listening to her conversations and betraying her trust?
I can't do this anymore- I don't want to, either.
Maddie nodded resolutely to herself. She realized that if she wanted things to get better, she'd have to take the first step.
She got to her knees, and opened the bottom drawer of the dresser.
Maddie perched awkwardly on the coach, staring down at the scrapbook and
electronic key lying on the coffee table.
She felt like she was at the dentist as a kid again- really not wanting to go in, but knowing she had to. The smell of metal and disinfectant was missing, but there was the same knot in her stomach. Maddie kept shifting in place, looking through the door to see if Jazz was coming down the stairs.
She hated admitting that she was wrong; it was one of the traits her daughter had inherited. Maddie was intelligent and confident, but she made mistakes. That was one of the first lessons she'd had to learn as an adult. Of course, admitting those mistakes to others was hard. Highlighting them- by, say, giving your daughter back her creepy scrapbook you'd stolen from her- felt nearly impossible.
Not that she really minded passing on the key to the spectre-deflector. The image of Phantom's spasm-wracked body careening toward the earth made her shudder. Her plan to protect Jazz with the belt had horribly back-fired, even Maddie could readily admit that. In fact, Maddie was surprised that Jazz
hadn't already asked to have it back. No, it was the scrapbook that she was hesitant to return. It felt like she was willingly giving her son a Playboy magazine.
Still, Maddie knew this was something she had to do, like taking a vaccination. So she'd carefully taken Jazz's scrapbook from its hiding place among Jack's clothes, and found the little electronic key for the spectre deflectors, which she'd kept on her body since. Then she'd gone to Jazz's room
(hiding the scrapbook under a magazine, in some irrational sense of embarrassment). She'd knocked on the door, pushing it open slightly. "Jazz, I was wondering if we could have a –a talk."
Usually Jazz would have picked up her mother's hesitation. But she was still in her pajamas, her hair a complete mess, as she ruffled through the many papers and folders on her desk. In other words, she was completely distracted. "Yeah, sure mom. Just give me a few minutes."
"Okay." Maddie paused, feeling awkward. "I'll be down in the living room, when you're ready."
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The two of them were practically alone in the house; Jack was absorbed with work in the lab, and had a whole pizza to keep his stomach occupied. Danny seemed to have vanished, disappearing as he so often did. It was the perfect setting for an awkward mother-daughter
talk. But as the clock ticked by, Maddie's doubts kept coming back.
You're going to do this, Maddie. Things will be better once you do.
There was a sound upstairs. Maddie tensed and looked up, but Jazz didn't come down.
She sighed, and resumed staring at the scrapbook.
Hesitantly, she reached out a hand, and removed the key from the cover. Maddie then carefully pulled the book towards her, laying it in her lap. She looked covertly around, as though expecting someone to be watching her. There was no one there, of course. Not quite sure what she was doing, Maddie opened the
It was still creepy. Phantom's picture still stared up from practically every page, posing against Jazz and Danny and all their friends and family. Maddie wasn't sure she'd ever feel comfortable seeing the ghost placed next to such intimate scenes. Still, it wasn't as bad as last time- Maddie still wasn't quite sure what was going on between Jazz and Phantom, but it wasn't romantic, at least.
The glowing eyes are still weird, though, Maddie couldn't help thinking.
She wasn't quite sure how Jazz could have ever gotten use to their supernatural light, or the whole sense of otherness. But then, maybe she was looking at this wrong. Jazz wouldn't look through this book and see a strange creature, but someone she knew and cared about among other people she saw the same way. It was probably better that way.
She flicked slowly through the pages, trying to see the pictures as Jazz did. It was difficult. But as she went on, trying to hold down her natural repulsion to the ghost, it got easier.
It helped that this time, as she went through, she tried to keep positive. She read the various headlines about Phantom saving a bus full of children and catching ghosts with more optimism. There were other pictures, too, which weren't from news cuttings, just like that one Polaroid of Phantom in their lab- though none stood out as much as that one had. Phantom seemed more natural, more relaxed in them- and more human. It reminded Maddie of how he'd looked, lying on the ground defenseless.
She breathed out, relaxing. You see? You can do this. A thought struck her, and she perked up. Who knows? Maybe if Jazz is right, I could talk to Phantom...imagine what we could learn from him! There's probably so much he could tell us about- starting with his aging.
Easing back in her chair, Maddie flipped through the book, feeling more comfortable. Now there were all sorts of possibilities. And when you really read the articles, and looked at the pictures, the scrapbook seemed more
interesting than creepy. It was like a nature documentary.
But there was something...off. At first, Maddie couldn't tell what. Something was just niggling at the back of her brain, a sense of familiarity. Then it slowly dawned on her. She'd felt this way the last time she flicked through Jazz's scrapbook. It was that sixth sense, telling her that she was missing something.
But what? Maddie had worked out the ageing thing- it was now so blatantly obvious to her that she wondered how anyone could miss it. But there was something else, she was sure. Maddie hunched herself over the book, examining everything. What is it?
Fully engaged, she retraced the pages again, wondering what possibly could be escaping her. Blue eyes searched everything, the little details and notes. Completely absorbed, she worked her way through the whole book- eventually coming to the last filled page, feeling none the wiser.
This last page was almost blank; there were just two pictures. One was a blurry photo of the ghost boy, looking as cocky as ever, grinning off camera at what was probably some opponent. The other was of Danny and Tucker, in bathing suits, and Tucker's face covered in ice-cream. They were so completely different that it was almost laughable that they'd been paired together.
The feeling in Maddie's head swelled.
What is it? Maddie asked herself, tracing the photos with her fingers. What could I possibly be missing?
Maddie's eyes flicked between the two pictures. Phantom floating in the air. Two teenagers knee-deep in sand. A ghost's cocky smile. Danny's lazy grin for the camera.
The feeling of familiarity buzzed again. Fully engaged, the researcher's brow furrowed. Something was the same in these two pictures, she was sure. But that
made no sense- nothing was alike. The background, the context, the people- nothing was the same. The people especially. I mean, really. One's a dead ghost, and the other two are just a couple of teenagers hanging out.
And that sixth sense in her head seemed to whisper, look again.
Maddie jumped, looking up in alarm. She tried to quickly hide the scrapbook to
the side, out of sight. "Danny! I- I didn't even hear you come home."
Of course she hadn't- Maddie had been so engaged, Jack could've teleported them to another dimension again, and she wouldn't have noticed. Danny seemed embarrassed, and Maddie remembered the kids' conversation that she'd forced from her mind. "Yeah...sorry. Er, mind if I talk with you?"
Thinking about the conversation she'd planned with Jazz, Maddie was just about say it wouldn't be a great time, when she noticed Jazz drift into view, standing close to her brother. Her hand was on his shoulder- and perhaps even more strangely, Danny didn't try to shrug it off. The boy's whole body was
tense, and Maddie found herself wondering what was going on. "Of course you can."
Then Danny stepped forward into the living room, Jazz's arm falling to the side. He just hung there, nervously. He looked back at his sister, who gave an encouraging smile.
Maddie rose to her feet, not really caring about the scrapbook or if Danny saw it. "Danny- are you okay? You seem really nervous."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." But he was rubbing his neck, which of course meant he wasn't.
They stood there, as though no one was quite sure what to do next. At least, that's how the two children looked. Maddie just hung there uncertainly, feeling as though she was missing something important- she hadn't wanted todigest the things she'd overheard, but now she was trying to remember their conversation.
"Yes?" she asked after a few long moments.
"Er...um," Danny stuttered uneasily. "Well, there's something I have to tell you, and..."
He gulped, looking completely lost for words. Then, after a silent moment of self-deliberation, he pulled off his shirt.
Maddie was about to open her mouth and ask something along the lines of 'what are you doing?' when she stopped. Danny had thrown off his T-shirt, leaving his chest bare. Only, it wasn't completely. Wrapped around him, from his shoulder across his torso, was a bandage. Its normally white color was stained the dark brown of old blood.
Questions dried on her lips as horrible cold fear rose in her. She rushed forward, terror in her eyes.
"When did this happen?" she demanded. "Why didn't you tell us? Oh, Danny!"
Anger welled up in her, making her want to yell at Danny. Instead, she pulled off the bandages with careful delicacy, afraid but desperate to see what was underneath. As she unwound the last coil, she felt fear at the amount of blood that had built up. She said, somewhat distantly, "This bandage should have
been changed hours ago."
"I know. I got...distracted," Danny answered very faintly.
Another pair of hands came to help Maddie, taking the bandages from her. Jazz took them easily. Her expression was solemn, though not particularly surprised. Maddie realized that she had known, and added that to the tally of secrets between them.
Finally, she looked over her son.
It was horrible. Almost all of his upper-body was covered in an assortment of bruises and scratches, some worse than others. And under the top superficial layer of wounds there was another, of thin white scars. Maddie has no idea when he'd gotten them, but the bitter panic rose higher in her throat.
The thing that drew the eye, though, was the large gash that stretched from his shoulder across the chest. It wasn't as bad as the blood on the bandages would have suggested, but it was still bad enough. Blood had already begun to clot, disguising the true severity of the wound, but it looked deep and painful.
"Danny! Look at this! You should have told us immediately- we'll need to get to the hospital! It might be infected!"
Fear sparked in the boy's blue eyes. "No- no, not the hospital! And- sorry I didn't tell you. Its-"
"No. No, Danny, I don't want to hear any excuses. That's all I ever get from you. There is no possible way to explain why you didn't tell your father or I about this! You've had it for at least three days, and-"
"I haven't had it for three days, though," protested Danny, looking half-surprised at his own words.
"What?" asked Maddie absently, who was already busy inspecting the wound. "Okay, maybe not three days. But it's definitely several days old, Daniel. Jasmine, get me a phone."
There were odd flecks of green among the congealed blood, something Maddie had never seen before. It was probably a sign of infection. And there was something uncanny about the wound, something which Maddie just couldn't put her finger on...
"Mom." His voice became resolute. "It's not a few days old. I got it yesterday."
Maddie's head jerked upwards, looking at her son. She was somewhat shocked at the blatancy- and pointlessness- of his lie. "Danny, I know something about medical wounds. This has already had several days of healing. Listen, Daniel,I have no idea why you're lying to me, but this is certainly not the time."
Danny's gaze remained steady. "I'm not lying...for once, I'm not lying."
Maddie felt struck by the sense of sincerity in his voice. She looked back down at the horrible wound across his chest, tracing the pattern with her finger. I could be wrong...but how in damnation could Danny heal this fast?
And where'd he get this cut in the first place?
She paused, blinking. She'd seen a gash just like this one, and recently. Struggling to remember where, her mind flashed back to yesterday- Phantom laying in the mud and ecto-plasm, his chest slashed open.
Maddie froze. That's ridiculous, Maddie. It's just a coincidence.
She looked at the wound again. That green- it looks- it looks a lot like ecto-plasm.
The horrible sixth-sense that had hounded her the whole afternoon seemed to become a high-pitched humming in her ears. Random images and memories seemed to get thrown towards her; Danny completely exhausted on the couch, Maddie finding her two children in the lab, a cold bowl of potatoes, Jazz's scrapbook, unexplained behavior and millions of little injuries...
She noticed, suddenly, that Danny wasn't wearing his specter deflector- despite the fact it had been locked on, and the only key had been in her possession ever since.
Everything seemed to floor her head in a torrent, dizzying her. Maddie felt as though she was being pelted with puzzle pieces, unable to put them together.
Her voice was almost non-existent when she said, "Danny, what is going on?"
Jazz, who Maddie had forgotten was there, came forward, and gently led her mother to a chair. If Maddie had been less overwhelmed she would have noticed her give Danny a displeased look. Danny was too anxious to notice it either. Out of the corner of her eye, Maddie saw Jazz pick up her scrapbook, and turn it over in her hands.
"It...it happened a while ago, mom, near the beginning of my freshman year."
"What happened?" She tried not to sound impatient, but she felt as though shewas missing something obvious, and hated herself for it.
Danny gulped. "Remember the ghost portal? How it wasn't working at first? But Sam and Tucker wanted to see it, anyway..."
Jazz had stopped flicking through her scrapbook, and was watching Danny now. Maddie knew she should, too, but couldn't help but notice she'd left the book open. It was turned to the same page she'd been looking at before, with the beach and Phantom. The two pictures didn't look so different at this angle. They were both of smiling teenagers, really, even if the context was different. And if you ignored Phantom's supernatural features, he almost looked as normal as the two boys opposite, with hair falling into his face and a cheeky grin.
"...Sam wanted to get a picture of me inside the portal..."
Danny and Phantom especially. You wouldn't notice it normally, but their body shapes very similar, both lean and lithe.
"...it didn't work anyway, and it was just going to be for a couple minutes..."
Their faces were a lot alike, too, if you thought about it. Their eyebrows, their noses, even their ears seemed to have a remarkable similarity.
Wait a minute.
"You turned it on?" Maddie said sharply, suddenly snapping to attention. "You turned it on while you were inside?"
Danny nodded guiltily. "It was a mistake."
Her mind sped, doing the calculations. That much electricity and ecto-plasm would be enough to kill someone. But if it didn't, if the person somehow managed to survive, the ecto-plasm could possibly react with body's
No. No, that's insane. Nobody could survive an accident like that. And besides, Danny couldn't hide that from me...Jack and I would be sure to notice something like that.
Jack's words from the previous day suddenly rose in her mind; "...there are plenty of things ghosts do that we never see."
"Danny...are you trying to tell me that you're Phantom?" Maddie had hoped Danny would laugh, and look astonished. 'What, mom? Are you crazy? Of course not!' But that reaction never happened; instead Jazz tensed besides her. Danny stared at her, mouth open, like a fish. But almost immediately a look of fear returned to his face. Maddie recognized that look. He'd worn it whenever she or Jack discussed Phantom. They'd always thought it meant Danny was afraid of the ghost- but really, he was terrified of them.
"Mom...I'm sorry. I was just...you're not angry, right?"
Angry? She just felt numb. "Why did you tell me?"
That was the first question that had come to mind; seeing the fear Danny felt, Maddie couldn't comprehend why he'd admit this secret to her. How many times had she ranted and raved against Phantom? Threatened him? Shot at him? But the look on her children's face said that it was the last question they were expecting; Danny answered it all the same. "Because...because, you thought my ghost self might be good. Not just Danny, but Phantom, too."
While part of her mind tried to adjust to Danny calling himself a ghost, the rest of her dealt with everything else. Of course he'd waited until he could be accepted. Last night she'd finally done that; maybe Jazz had told him, or maybe he'd been listening, invisible. I guess he can do that, if he's a ghost.
A ghost. My son's a ghost. She spoke it in her head, and it sounded odd, not quite believable. "Can you show me?"
Danny nodded. But first he glanced around nervously, and when he looked at her again, there was a moment of instinctual hesitation. It came from years of hiding, Maddie supposed. Then there was a flash of light; it hung around the teen's waist like a halo, before slowly splitting in two, traveling along his body, changing him as it moved along. When the light arrived at the head and feet, it disappeared, just as suddenly as it had came.
It was one thing to know something intellectually, another to see it with your very eyes. Everyone knew the Earth was rounded, but it never really hit you until you saw a photograph of a sapphire sphere hanging in space. Similarly, Maddie hadn't realized how real Danny's secret had been until she saw it right before her. Ten seconds ago, a very human, hurt boy had been standing in front of her. Now a supernatural creature was in his place.
But there were little hints, clues here and there, that made him look less mysterious. He was standing, for one, feet solidly on the ground. In almost all of Maddie's memories of ghosts, they were always floating or flying, and the simple act of standing made Danny seem more human. And even though Phantom's jumpsuit had appeared, completely whole, covering the worst of Danny's injuries, you could still see some bruising on the face. Maddie could also see her son in the ghost- before, that had always been hidden by the glow
and white hair, but now the familiar nose and body shape were completely clear to her.
An automatic feeling of mistrust rose in the back of her mind, but Maddie found it fairly easy to push it away. Maybe it was Danny's sweet look of nervousness, so familiar. Or the way his white hair hung messily into his
face, just like always.
"Mom?" Jazz asked shakily, and Maddie realized she'd been staring for a long time. "Are you alright?"
Maddie looked at her two children, and realized everything they must have been through. Suddenly, in one revelation, everything made sense. The behavior, the grades, the secrets...everything.
"Alright?" She gave a hysterical laugh, and wrapped the two of them in a hug. "Oh, God. No, I don't think I'm alright. But I think I'll make it better."
Well, that's that.
This was great fun to write; maybe the most enjoyable thing I've ever written. It helped that I had such great support- all the reviews, favorites and alerts made me smile. I don't have space to thank individual users, since there are so many, but you were all awesome.
I'd especially like to send a big thank you to Kagome51, my wonderful beta. She was there behind me every step of the way, and shaping my story into something legible. *hugs*