DISCLAIMER: I don't own Danny Phantom; if I did, Dark Dan would have had another episode. The episode "Phantom Planet" never happened, and Danny is still a secret superhero. Enjoy.

Danny's hand clenched around the glass he was holding, his white hair covering his face and shielding him from everything else around him. In the background, depressing music played from the antique jukebox, adding to the atmosphere that Danny was experiencing. He brought the glass to his lips and knocked back what was left of it, then held the empty glass up.

"Need another," he drew out, still refusing to look up. The bartender walked up and immediately poured the halfa another glassful of the glowing lime-green liquid without question; he had seen this situation enough times before to know what it was.

"Must've been a nasty one," he commented. Danny snorted before taking a swig.

"You've no idea," he replied darkly.

Danny couldn't believe it. He was in a good mood. It was Christmas time. And he was actually HAPPY.

Granted, his attitude toward Christmas had improved with the Ghostwriter experience three years ago, but this year, he was ecstatic. Maybe it was because this year, his parents had ceased their stupid argument over the existence of Santa and agreed on a St. Nick truce (whatever the hell THAT was). Maybe it was because his sister was back visiting from college and he had actually missed her. But he thought that the most likely reason of all was the fact that he had a girlfriend, and he had found the PERFECT Christmas present for her.

He looked down into the bag at the gift for her. It had taken some of his part-time job money and a degrading plead to Vlad for a loan, but he had finally bought her something she had been looking at for almost two years now—a black diamond necklace. The diamond itself was round and quarter-sized, embedded on a silver backing with a silver chain. It was the perfect gift for the girl he loved.

Danny wished several people he knew Happy Holidays, catching them off-guard, and left the mall. He walked around to the side of the mall so he could transform, and swore when he found a couple of lovebirds making out against the side of the building. He was about to turn around to find another place to go ghost when he saw the couple part—and he froze.

….No. It couldn't be. He didn't WANT it to be. He prayed it wasn't. But it WAS.

Sam—his GIRLFRIEND—was cozying up to another guy. He had to stare just to make sure it was her. And it was. Shoulder-length black hair. Violet eyes. Dark-yet-festive clothing. It was her. And the guy she was with…the worst part was, Danny KNEW him. Jason Rolfe, another Goth at their high school that Sam had made friends with and introduced him to.

Danny absentmindedly recalled a time when his family was visiting Vlad's place, and his dad accidently knocked over a very expensive, very fragile crystal sculpture; what happened to that sculpture was what his heart was doing now.

Shattering into a million pieces.

His shaking hand dropped the bag, getting the two turtledove's attentions. Sam froze when she saw him, and Jason had the decency to look ashamed and drew back from her. Danny and Sam had a stare-off for a moment before Sam stepped forward.


Danny turned and raced out of there.

He ran faster than he ever thought he could run. He had to get out of here. He had to transform—he had to disappear. He finally ran into some nearby foliage and went ghost, then willed himself invisible before flying away from the mall, away from Sam, and away from his broken heart.

Danny felt his hand clench tighter around the glass and heard a crackling sound. He looked and saw that his ice powers had frozen the glass and the ectohol (ghost alcohol capable of inducing inebriation in ghosts). He let the glass go and buried his face in his arms, feeling the buzz of his underage indulgence weigh heavily over his head.

After he had flown away, he had gone home, wanting to talk to Jazz about what had happened, but he had found a note saying that his sister and parents had gone tree-shopping. He didn't want to be alone here, in case Sam decided to drop by. He didn't think he could handle that without something—or someone—getting blown up. So on a whim, he had transformed again and headed into the Ghost Zone, half-hoping someone would pick a fight with him.

Instead, after floating around a bit, he had been surprised to find a ghost bar. Thinking that this wasn't so strange, considering the Ghost Zone already had a library, a Gladiator arena, and a prison, he went inside and numbly sat up at the unoccupied bar until the bartender—a nice ghost called Vince—offered him a drink.

So here he was—five drinks later and still miserable. He heaved a heavy sigh and prayed that this was all just a bad dream that he would wake up from anytime now…

As he was fruitlessly wishing for what would never come—he was quite sure Desiree didn't hang out around here—he felt someone sit down on the stool next to him and smack the bar twice with his hand.

"Gimme a pint, Vince," he said, and Danny tensed up. Shit, he thought. Skulker. 'Why don't you just stick me in the heart while you're at it, God?' he demanded, keeping his head down. He heard Vince give Skulker his drink and heard the ghost mech down it all in one go and put the pint on the bar hard. "'Nother."

Danny listened to this about three times before Skulker finished knocking them back and calmed down enough to sip them. "Again, Skulker?" he heard Vince ask.

"Yeah," the hunter replied sulkily. "Second time this year. Don't know why I put myself through this again and again…"

"Well, at least you have someone to empathize with," Vince said, and Danny groaned out loud and lifted his head, glaring at Vince. The bartender silently handed Danny a full, unfrozen glass of ectohol. "Enjoy, boys."

Skulker stared at Danny, and Danny tried to ignore him as he sipped his drink. "…So what's your story, ghost child?" the mech finally asked after a few minutes. Danny glared holes into his drink, trying not to freeze this one, too. "…Trouble in paradise?"

"There IS no paradise," Danny replied, resting his head on one hand. Skulker made a noncommittal sound and took another swig of his pint.

"Sounds bad," he said. Danny felt his heart clench again.

"You have no idea," he said darkly. Skulker made a soft growling sound this time.

"…My girlfriend cheated on me for the second time this year," he shot back. "Don't tell me about having no idea, whelp." Danny looked up, feeling a twinge of sympathy.

"…Sorry," he muttered. He nursed his drink for a few moments before putting it down. "…She cheated on me," he finally said. "…After three years together…she cheats on me. Cant even give me the respect of TELLING me it was over."

"And who the hell KNEW it was over?" Skulker added. He snorted. "At least you can have the satisfaction knowing you're not as pathetic at romance than I am…I've been cheated six times already…and I still take her back."

"Sorry," Danny said again. Skulker waved his apology aside.

"Don't be," he replied. "I'm just a glutton for that sort of crap." He downed the rest of his pint and Vince immediately refilled it. "But it had to have been bad for YOU, considering you're underage and drinking ectohol in enemy territory and talking to someone who still wants your pelt on his wall."

"It was," Danny said, ignoring that last part. "I had just bought her Christmas present—after I had swallowed my balls and my pride to ask Vlad of all people for a loan for it—and I walk in on her kissing a guy she had actually introduced me to as a 'friend'!" The glass of ectohol shattered in his hand, and he made his hand go intangible to dry it off. He buried his face in his hands. "…And people wonder why I hate Christmas…"

"Right," Skulker muttered. "…Funny, our girlfriends pick THIS time of year to throw this crap on us."

"No doubt," Danny replied. He brushed his hair out of his face. "I feel like I want to die and kill her all at the same time…!" he suddenly said, clenching his fists. "How could she do this to me! What did I do wrong? I told her I loved her every day! I remember her birthday, our anniversaries, what she likes, what she doesn't like! I try my damndest to put her before everything else, and THIS is how she repays me?" He gritted his teeth, resisting the Ghostly Wail that was creeping up his throat in fury. "…What made ME so easy to throw away?"

"Hell if I know," Skulker replied, drinking another pint. "I mean, I don't wanna complement you or anything, but you're a hero. People love you. People appreciate you. YOU have the powers. YOU are the savior. Her?" He snorted. "She's just a normal human. I know for a FACT that there are ghost girls here that would LOVE to get in your pants, but you choose HER."

Danny buried his face in his hands again. "…Is that why she would cheat on me?" he asked, mostly to himself. "…Because of who I am? What I am? Is that why she went to Jason? Because he's human, and not a half-ghost FREAK like me?"

"Sounds like a main factor," Skulker replied. "But then again, ANYTHING is an excuse with women." He put on a higher-pitched voice. "'Skulker, you care more about hunting than you do about me!' 'You think your trophies are more beautiful than I am!' 'You love your hunt more than you love me!' Oh, and my personal favorite: 'Why cant you pay as much attention to me as you do to that stupid halfa?' All reasons to cheat on me, rather than flat-out TELL me to take a hike. I dunno why women think that men have no feelings when it comes to relationships. No, we don't cry and bitch and sob when they break up with us, but I'll be damned if it doesn't feel like they've sent our nads straight to Hell, overnight express."

Danny nodded to himself; that was what he was feeling, alright. "Yeah," he muttered. He looked up at Skulker, seeing the outline of the mech slightly blurred. "…How do you make the hurt stop?" he suddenly asked. Skulker gave him a sideways glance.

"…Well, you've already hit step one, what with the getting yourself totally hammered," he replied. "After you pass out from ectohol overdose, you sulk in your domain by yourself for awhile, blasting the shit out of anyone who comes near you, then you let off some steam by demolishing anything that reminds you of her. After that's done, you feel better, and you strut your stuff back in public to let her know you got your balls back." He polished off his drink. "I know the drill by now. By this time Christmas Eve, we should both be up, right, and ready for the annual Truce Party."

Danny sighed. "…The Five Stages of Loss, only a little skewed," he replied. "Sounds easy enough."

"Prepare to be surprised," Skulker said. "It's gonna hurt, boy, make no mistake. But maybe you'll take a hint from me and not make the same y I did and still make." He turned to look Danny right in the eye. "Forgive her if you must, but take my advice and don't take her back. Even if she never cheats again, it'll still hang over your head like a bad storm just WAITING to shock you."

Polishing off the rest of his ectohol, Danny focused to make a transformation ring appear just on his left wrist—a power he discovered he possessed—to make his watch appear. "Damn," he swore, standing up a little shakily and then contenting himself with just hovering. "Gotta get home…'s already eleven…"

"You need a lift?" Skulker asked. "I'm nowhere near the limit yet, and Walker likes to stake out the area around this time of year."

"You'd do that?" Danny asked, fighting for coherency. Skulker nodded.

"I call an early Christmas Truce on the principle of camaraderie," he replied. Danny groaned and held his head in one hand.

"Dude…come on…little words…" he said, wincing. Big words made his head hurt right now.

"…We both got our hearts torn out and stepped on with stiletto boots, so let's not make it worse for each other," Skulker reiterated. Danny nodded and held out his hand.

"Truce," he said. Skulker took his hand and shook it.

"Truce." With that, he picked Danny up by the back of his suit and flew out of the bar. "I'll be back for a few more!" he called to Vince over his shoulder. He flew the close-to-unconscious Phantom to the Fenton Portal and poked his head through to check and see if the coast was clear. Seeing that it was, he flew up to the boy's bedroom and dropped him onto the bed. "You might want to transform," he said. Danny mumbled something incoherently and willed the white rings forth to turn back to human.

"Thanks, man," he said, turning over to his side and snuggling into his bedcovers. Skulker snorted, smirking.

"You'll feel like you're dying tomorrow with the hangover, so don't thank me yet," he replied. "See you at the Truce Party, whelp." With that, he went intangible and flew back to the Ghost Zone, leaving Danny to go to sleep.

Just as Skulker had said, Danny felt like shit warmed over—twice. In a broken and dirty microwave. He hadn't felt this bad since he had pneumonia when he was twelve. His mother had initially come in to chew him out about being out late without calling, but when she saw how pale he was, and the dark rings under his eyes—and the fact that he was vomiting when she came to check on him—she immediately thought he was sick and wouldn't let him leave the room for anything.

It took until nine at night for the hangover to ebb away and the vomiting to stop, and by then, Danny felt like Penelope Spectra just finished sucking him dry of everything BUT depression. Even though he felt medically fine, he convinced his mother that he was still sick by refusing to eat and hollering—and shooting an ectoplasm shot—at Jazz for coming in to talk. He didn't want to talk. Ever. He just wanted to crawl under his covers and die. He listened to the most depressing music he owned on his earphones, empathizing with every word he heard. He wrote his feelings down in a notebook in big, bold letters, the words shifting from angsty to angry more and more with each passing day.

After four days, Danny was still holed up in his room, but instead of feeling antisocial and depressed, he was feeling bitter and broody. He listened to his 'angry' music on loud on his headphones, blocking everything else but his fury out. He sat at his desk, angrily writing and drawing out his feelings and tossing various small items at anyone who came into his room, which was mostly Jazz.

On day six, Danny waited until everyone was asleep before filling a box with pictures, trinkets, and other various items that reminded him of Sam and flew across town until he found a clear area, then began tossing them up in the air and shooting them to pieces. He had brought his mp3 with him and was drowning out the cold silence with music as he hit the items with ectoplasm shots, icicle shards, and ecto-disks (one of his new favorites; they cut through most anything).

'This is for breaking my heart!' A picture of him and Sam—gone.

'This is for cheating on me!' A mix CD with 'their' song on it—boom.

'This is for not letting me know it was over!' A small black dog plushie—oh wait, that was a gift from Tucker. Oh well. BANG.

'This is for lying to me!' Another bundle of pictures—rip.

'This is for tearing my soul apart!' He froze the rest of the box of items and tossed it, then shot it with an ecto blast—BAM.

'And THIS is for EXISTING!' He ripped off his mp3 from his suit belt and hurled it into the air, then sent the biggest ecto-bomb he could safely produce at it and watched the fireworks. But it still wasn't enough. He was still pissed. He wanted to scream. Well, why the hell not? He took a deep breath and let out a Ghostly Wail, putting all of his betrayal, all of his anger, and all of his hurt into it.

When he finally stopped screaming, he sat down on the snowy ground and then leaned back, staring up at the night sky.

What do you know, he thought. Skulker was right. He hurt. He felt like shit. He let it all out. And now he felt better. A lot better. He sat back up and stared at the demolition made from the Ghostly Wail.

He had completely leveled the path it took; the trees, the foliage, hell, even the snow was gone. It was just one big trench of earth. He kind of hoped no animals were in the way. Heaving a sigh, he stood up and brushed the snow off of himself, then flew up into the air and back home. He was feeling better, alright, but he was still tired as hell.

Danny woke up to Christmas Eve and smiled for the first time in over a week. He felt good enough to join his shocked family downstairs for breakfast. He said good morning, complemented Jazz on her new haircut, and finally ate a decent meal, trying to ignore the stares of his family and their questioning of his sanity.

His parents left to go last-minute Christmas shopping, leaving Jazz to finally have some time with her brother.

"Okay, Danny," she said firmly, "tell me what's been going on. You've been acting like a paranoid schizophrenic for the past week." Danny shrugged his shoulders, putting another forkful of pancakes into his mouth.

"I've been going through some stuff," he replied offhandedly. "I took it pretty hard…but I think I'm going to be okay."

Jazz only gave him a worried look. "…Danny, I've helped you through your ghost secret and your identity crisis more often than we can both count. I want to help you with whatever you're going through. Please. Talk to me."

Danny lowered his eyes to the table and ran a hand through his dark hair. "…'Kay," he said. He opened his mouth to tell her what was going on, but was interrupted by the doorbell ringing. His common sense told him exactly who it was. "If it's Sam, I'm out shopping with Mom and Dad!" he said in a rush. Jazz only gave him a confused look, but went to answer the door anyway.

"Oh…hi, Sam," Jazz said, debating whether or not to tell her the truth. "What do you need?"

"Jazz, please tell me Danny's here!" Sam pleaded. "I really need to talk to him!" Jazz was about to reply, but she then felt an invisible presence behind her, and knew that Danny had gone ghost and would just flee if she told the truth.

"Sorry, Sam, but I think he went shopping with Mom and Dad," she replied. "Is something wrong?"

Sam groaned and ran a hand through her hair. "Jazz…I did something incredibly stupid, and I just…really need to talk to Danny! Can you please tell him I want to see him?" Jazz blinked, but felt Danny's invisible hand squeeze her shoulder in warning.

"Sure, I'll tell him," she said. Sam nodded and pulled a small box out of her bag and handed it to Jazz.

"Could you also give this to him? He dropped it, the last time I saw him." Without another word, she turned and left. Jazz closed the door and turned to Danny, who made himself visible and took the box and opened it.

The necklace he was going to give Sam was still there. Perfect. Now he could return it and get a refund, then give Vlad back his money so he wouldn't be in any debt. Ode to Joy, indeed.

"Danny, what was that about?" Jazz asked. Danny transformed back into a human and walked back toward the kitchen.

"I'm making some hot cocoa," he said. "…This is going to take awhile."

By the time he was done talking, Jazz looked about ready to both cry and go beat the tar out of a certain Goth girl. So she took the lesser of the two evils and cried as she hugged her brother, who had long since given up on feeling depressed about it. But he let his sister cry for him as he comforted her (just how did that situation get skewed, he asked himself).

"Like I said," Danny finished up, "I'm doing much better now. Stop crying, you knew that my first heartbreak had to happen sometime."

Jazz sat up and wiped her eyes. "I just never thought it would happen while you were with Sam," she replied. Danny sighed.

"Me neither," he said. "But it did…and you know…" He shrugged. "The first heartbreak always hurts the most. I'm…you know…kinda over it." He picked up the box containing the black diamond necklace. "…I gotta go return this and get a refund…I…kinda asked Vlad for a loan for this and I don't want to be in his debt…"

Jazz shook her head. "That stupid girl," she said. "You were willing to stoop so low as to ask Vlad for a loan to get her something special, and she threw that away. She threw YOU away…" She carded her fingers through her brother's hair. "Danny, I know that you say that you're over it, but don't EVER question your value because of her. You're a special guy who puts 150% into everything you care about, and any woman worth her own life would be able to see that." She have him another hug. "I love you, Danny."

"Love you too, Jazz," Danny said, hugging her back. "You wanna come with me? I still haven't found a present for Tucker, and Christmas is tomorrow. Plus, I gotta get ready for the Truce Party tonight and…" He scratched the back of his head. "…I was thinking of getting Skulker a present for helping me out."

"That still kills me, Skulker of all people helping you out," Jazz laughed. "I'll get my coat." She went upstairs to fetch her winter coat, and Danny took the cocoa mugs back into the kitchen and transformed just as Jazz came downstairs with her coat and a small bag. "Here," she said, giving it to him. "I found it at a store near the university, and just HAD to get it."

Danny opened up the bag and smiled as he pulled out a black-and-white-striped scarf. "You're the best, Jazz," he said, putting it around his neck. "How do I look?"

"…Monochromatic," Jazz said, ruffling his white hair. Danny pawed her hand away and turned them both invisible and intangible and flew them both to the mall, where he quickly changed back, noticing that his new scarf vanished along with his suit.

"Cool," he said to himself. He turned to Jazz. "I'll be at the jewelry store. Where are you headed?"

"The bookstore," Jazz replied. "My friend in my dorm let me borrow a really good book, and I really want a copy of it." Danny rolled his eyes at her typical response and waved to her before heading to the jeweler's.

He was heavily relieved to know that complete refunds were possible; he got the money back in exchange for the necklace and decided to give it to Vlad at the Truce Party later as a gift, then headed to the bookstore to look for Jazz. Thinking that she might be somewhere in the mental health section, he headed that way and passed the self-help section on the way, stopping and doing a double-take at a book title that caught his eye.

He took it off the shelf, stared at the title, turned it over, and read the synopsis before bursting into inappropriate laughter, getting funny looks. His laughter brought Jazz to him. "What's so funny?" she asked. Danny only grinned and showed her the book. She stared for a moment before giggling. "You going to buy it?"

"Yeah, but not for me," Danny replied, pulling out his half of the money from the refund. "It's perfect for Skulker." Danny and Jazz paid for their respective books and left the mall, not noticing a dark-clad girl staring after them.

Danny was glad that his parents were going out for a Christmas party that night; he really didn't feel like making an excuse to leave for the Ghost Zone. Jazz was meeting up with some friends for another party, leaving Danny free to join the other ghosts for the Party. He made sure Vlad's money and Skulker's gift were secure in his bag and transformed before leaping through the Fenton Portal.

The party was not hard to find; it was being held at Ghostwriter's library this year. Technus's overload of bright décor was practically a homing beacon. Danny politely knocked on the door, which was opened by Walker. Danny shifted around uncomfortably; he hoped that his gifts wouldn't be considered 'human-world contraband'.

"Merry Christmas, Walker," he said cheerfully, giving the warden a smile. Walker returned it and ushered him in. He noticed that everyone else seemed to be here, including Plasmius, who was chatting away with Skulker about something. Danny noticed that Skulker still seemed to be just a little bummed out. Well, the halfa thought, that may change after the gift.

He walked up to the Lunch Lady, who was handing out drinks, and wished her Merry Christmas when she gave him some eggnog that had a familiar glow to it. He sipped it. Yep. Ectohol-laced eggnog. And it was pretty good, too.

"Oh, I know that I am not seeing underage drinking," he heard Plasmius say behind him. He turned around to see the other halfa giving him a stern look. Danny smirked and took a swig of his ectonog.

"Then you might want to get your eyes checked, V-Man," Danny replied. "Besides, it's not like this is my first time drinking ectohol." Plasmius' eyes widened and Danny laughed, then took out a large envelope out of his bag and handed it to him. "Merry Christmas, Plasmius."

Plasmius eyed the envelope for a moment before opening it, one of his brows arching. "…Money?" he asked. "…Are you trying to be funny?"

Danny snorted. "No," he said. "That's the loan I asked for. I'm giving you the money back."

"Why ever for?" Plasmius asked. Danny sighed and drank the rest of his ectonog.

"Returned the gift I bought with it," he replied. And that was all he really had to say. Vlad didn't ask what the loan was for when he had asked for the money in the first place, and he didn't owe the billionaire an explanation now.

Plasmius looked at the envelope of money for a few moments before handing it back. Danny stared. "…No, I already said that I'd pay back the debt in full, so…"

"Call it a gift," Plasmius replied, sticking the envelope in Danny's bag. "Merry Christmas, and don't blow it on videogames."

Danny gaped at Plasmius for a few moments before smiling. Even for perhaps the most evil, fruit-loopy villain in the Ghost Zone, Christmas could have a positive spin on his demeanor. "Thanks, Vlad," he said sincerely. "And don't worry—it's going towards college." Plasmius ruffled Danny's hair affectionately.

"Wonderful to know you inherited your mother's brains, Daniel," he replied, then turned and went to mingle elsewhere. Danny decided to take that as a complement and pulled out his second gift and walked over to Skulker, who was sitting on a couch with a pint of ectonog and staring into space. Danny sat down next to him.

"Hi," he said. Skulker gave him a sideways glance and nodded. Danny gave him a smile and held out the book. "Merry Christmas, Skulker." Skulker's sullen expression faded into a confused one as he took the giftwrapped book. He eyed the wrapping paper.

"…Little Christmas robots," he commented. "Nice."

"Thanks, I thought so, too," Danny said. "Open it." Skulker tore through the wrapping paper and stared at the book title.

"Bitch Gotta Go"

A 5-Step Guide to Recognizing and Overcoming Bitch Dependency

Danny nibbled his lip as he searched Skulker's face for his reaction. The mech's face was blank for a few moments, then he smiled. Then burst into hysterical laughter. Everyone looked over at Skulker warily. Danny heard Technus murmur to Spectra about how Skulker got into the 'holiday happy stash' again (which Danny took as meaning Skulker had been drinking himself silly).

After a few moments, Skulker got a hold of himself and gave Danny a friendly but painful slap on the back. "You're a good kid," he said, giving Danny the warmest smile he'd ever seen on the hunter. "Almost makes me want to stop hunting you."

"Almost," Danny replied, smiling back. "Listen…you helped me a lot with my heartbreak…I just hope I can help you from going through more."

"Don't get all mushy on me, whelp," Skulker growled, grinning. "Don't forget—even if you do help me, I wont stop hunting you until you're either completely dead or a pelt on my wall. Whichever comes first."

Danny took Skulker's pint of ectonog and raised it. "Here's to death," he said. "May it be swift and painless." He guzzled it down, eliciting an amused expression from Skulker.

"You're alright, kid," he said, leaning back in his chair and flipping the book open. "You're alright…"

"I AM THE BOX GHOST!" Box Ghost sudden shrieked, popping up between them from the couch. "NOW TREMBLE IN FEAR OF HOLIDAY TRADITION!" Danny and Skulker blinked and eyed the Box Ghost like he had gone mad for a moment before seeing what the Box Ghost was holding above their heads.


"…Come tomorrow, your ass is mine!" Skulker growled at the Box Ghost. Danny glared up at the mistletoe, wondering exactly where the tradition to kiss under a parasitic plant came from.

"Gross," he said, scooting away from Box Ghost, only to be stopped by Walker.

"Christmas rules," he said, giving Danny a stern—yet highly amused—look. Danny's eye twitched, and Skulker looked about ready to bash someone's ecto-brains in with his new book. Suddenly Skulker looked over to see Ember just arriving to the party, then looked over at Danny.

Danny realized what Skulker was going to do a split second before he did it. When Ember looked over and saw Skulker, the mech grabbed Danny by the front of his suit and jerked him forward for a quick kiss before letting him go.

Danny gaped at Skulker for a few moments before glaring. "…Come tomorrow, YOUR ass is mine!" he snapped. Skulker just grinned.

"Merry Christmas to you too, whelp," he replied. He smirked over at Ember, who was glaring fire and brimstone at the hunter, then shrank back a little in fear at the homicidal look Plasmius was giving him.

Danny managed to avoid the mistletoe for the rest of the party, and spent the next hour and a half guzzling ectonog to wash the taste of metal and 'Skulker' out of his mouth. He also noticed that Plasmius seemed to be placing himself between him and Skulker at every which-turn, which was a bit amusing to Danny; after three years, Vlad was still trying to play the part of 'father' to him. Touching, but still kinda creepy.

After awhile more, he checked his watch and saw that it was almost midnight. He bade everyone goodnight and managed to weasel away from Plasmius long enough to shake hands with Skulker. "Aside from your little act of revenge toward Ember," he replied dryly, "it's been great seeing you."

"Same here," Skulker replied. "Maybe after every three months I don't kill you, we can have a drink sometime."

"Sounds great!" Danny said. "Well, gotta go. Bye." He turned to leave.


Danny turned around and saw Skulker dig around his pockets before taking out what looked like a metal bracelet and handing it to him. "…What's this?" he asked.

"Wear it next time we fight and find out," Skulker said. "Let's say it'll make things more interesting." Danny stared at it for a moment before putting it in his bag.

"Thanks," he said. "Merry Christmas, Skulker!" With that, he flew out of the library and back toward the Fenton Portal, then flew upstairs and turned back into a human before collapsing on his bed, exhausted and tipsy.

Christmas Day was about as much as Danny expected; he woke up to the aroma of his mom's breakfast feast, ate until he was full with his family, then began opening presents. From his parents, he had received a new custom-made HAZMAT suit in black and radioactive green—something Danny had a feeling he'd be wearing for hero-doing to come. From Jazz, he got a leather-bound journal and a new mp3 player (a quick, last-minute gift, since he told her he destroyed the one Sam had bought for his sixteenth birthday).

He received a few more gifts from friends and family, then he went to go put everything away and happened to look outside his window and froze when he saw Sam standing outside his house, staring up at him through the window.

They stared at each other for awhile before Danny took a breath, sighed, and opened up his window to lean out of it. "…You need something?" he called down to her. Sam flinched a little at the semi-diss, but nodded.

"To give you your Christmas present!" she called back up. Danny clenched his fingers into the windowsill for a moment before making a decision.

"Gimme a minute, okay?" he called back, then closed the window and grabbed a coat. He made his way down the stairs and saw Jazz staring out the living room window.

"You want me to make her go away, Danny?" she asked in her 'protective big sister' voice. Danny shook his head.

"I got this," he replied. "Thanks anyway. Have some hot chocolate waiting for me, kay?"

"Giant marshmallows?"

"Are there any other KINDS?"

Jazz rolled her eyes and Danny stepped outside, sticking his hands in his pockets and trying not to make eye-contact with his ex-girlfriend. "…Hey," he said. Sam shifted uncomfortably where she stood.

"…Hey," she replied.

Awkward silence.

"…Danny, I'm so sorry—!"

"No, Sam…let me stop you there," Danny said, holding up a hand for her silence. He took a deep breath and let it out. "…Sam, there's…no real apology you can give to take back what you did." He looked her in the eye, and she could see a faint glow of green through his natural baby-blue. "You cheated. I found out. That's all there is." He took another breath. "You can apologize all you want…but I don't think you know…how badly you hurt me. I wont even tell you how badly you hurt me.

"I don't want to be hurt like that again…and I don't want to spend the rest of my life with you if I have to be haunted by what happened. If you didn't want to be together, all you had to do was say so. Yeah, I'd've been upset, but…damn it, Sam…things wouldn't have ended on such a bad note." He ran a shaking hand through his hair. "…What I'm saying, Sam…is that we're through."

Sam listened patiently and silently, tears falling down her face the whole time. "…Even our friendship…?" she asked. Danny gave her a level stare.

"…That depends entirely on you, Sam," he said. "I wont say I don't ever want to see you again, because that would be a lie. I still love you as a person, but the love I had for you when you were my girlfriend is over. Done with. You're going to have to rebuild our friendship from the ground up. If you're not willing to do that, then, yeah. It's over. Completely."

Sam let out a sob and put a hand over her face as though to hide her shame. Danny only stared cooly back at her, his time of angst and anger long over with. Now he only had indifference.

"Oh, Danny…!" she sobbed. "…Can you ever forgive me…?"

"…I already have," Danny replied calmly. She looked up, her violet eyes wide with shock. Danny nodded. "…I forgive you, Sam. I forgive you for cheating on me. I forgive you for breaking my heart. I forgive you for everything." He paused. "…But I'm a firm believer in ONLY second chances. If you blow the second chance, then consider us over with."

Sam wiped her tears away, nodding frantically. "I'm sorry, Danny…" she said, trying to dry her eyes fruitlessly. "I'm so sorry…!" Danny sighed and put his arms around here.

"Come here," he said, hugging her. "I know you're sorry, Sam. But next time…don't do anything to be sorry about. To me, or to anyone else."

"I promise!" Sam assured. "I promise, Danny! I promise!"

Danny kept his arms around Sam in the completely platonic fashion for a few minutes, then let her go. "I gotta go back inside," he said. "…I had a present for you, but…all I can give you now is my forgiveness and a willingness to still be your friend."

Sam nodded. "That's all I wanted," she whispered. She dug into her purse and took out a small gift-wrapped box. "…I'll see you around New Year's?"

"Sure," Danny replied, taking the gift. He stepped back. "See ya." He turned and went back inside, where Jazz was anxiously waiting with his cocoa.

"How'd it go?" she asked. Danny rolled his eyes.

"As though you weren't listening," he replied, taking his cocoa. He cooled it slightly with his ice powers and sipped it. "…I forgave her…and I'm giving her a second chance at our friendship…but not as my girlfriend. That time is over with."

Jazz gave him a calculating stare. "…You okay?" she asked softly. Danny gave her a smile and nodded.

"I am," he replied, leaning back on the couch. "…Skulker was right."

"About what?" she asked. Danny gave her a sly smile.

"The steps to getting over a breakup," he replied. He sipped his cocoa again. "And the first step is getting totally shit-faced."

Jazz spewed her cocoa over the coffee table.

Christmas Day ended and the days shifted to New Year's Eve, when his parents were planning on attending Vlad's New Year's party. Jazz and Danny were invited to come over too, but they declined and decided on a night alone in the house.

At a quarter to midnight, Danny and Jazz were busy playing a card game in the living room when a loud explosion from the lab jerked them out of their game. They both ran to the lab to see Skulker standing in front of the Portal, arms crossed and looking for a fight. Danny quickly took the metal bracelet out of his back pocket (where he'd been keeping it just in case he ran into the mech) and put it on.

"Care for a nice ass-kicking to bring in the New Year's?" Skulker asked the halfa. Danny gave him a confident smirk and held up his wrist.

"Just tell me how this thing works and it's on!" he shot back.

"Transform," Skulker ordered. Danny did so, and as soon as he was in ghost mode, the bracelet snapped to form to his wrist, then began to expand across his body until Danny was encased in a body-forming black armor with white accents.

"Whoa…!" he exclaimed, looking himself over. His excited stupor was interrupted by the sound of a cannon charging.

"Ready to be hunted, boy?" Skulker asked. Danny only grinned back, flaring up some power so the white accents turned green.

"Bring it."

WHEW! *collapses* Two in the morning and nearly dead!

NOTES: No, I don't hate Sam, I just needed a plot device. I own ectohol and ectonog. And obviously, Skulker's book title is heavily inspired by A Pimp Named Slickback, courtesy of The Boondocks.