I don't have much to say this chapter, save for yet another bout of thanks for reading thus far. You guys rock -interweb fist bump-
Oh wait, I lied. ALL OF YOU READERS, GO AND FOLLOW ME ON TUMBLR.
Titans, Go! Raven, grab Danny!
The air whooshed out of his lungs as something cold enveloped him and lifted him into the air.
Whelp! Get back here!
His back was burning. Everything hurt so much… He couldn't think, couldn't move.
Where are you going, pretty?
Azerath, Metrion, Zinthos!
So much noise.
Am I dead?
Danny, this is going to hurt.
He was dimly aware that he'd been placed face-down on the ground. He couldn't feel anything, save for something warm and sticky trickling across his skin. Then, cool fingertips brushed against the raw skin on his back, and pain shot through his entire body.
Danny opened his mouth and howled.
All Nexalia could feel was rage.
It wasn't her own. No, the torrent of anger that swept over her mind was erupting from Danny Phantom like an active volcano. It crippled her, left her clutching her head and crying out in pain. She couldn't discern her own thoughts and feelings – they were all completely crushed by the overwhelming force of Danny's pain.
She closed her eyes as memories that didn't belong to her flashed through her mind. A dysfunctional family, but a happy one. An accident. A destiny. Being attacked from all fronts – family, teachers, school kids, ghosts and the Government. Secrets, thousands of them.
Pain. Unbearable pain.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw her brother draw back his open palm and fire. A red bolt identical to her own shot through the air. Then, as it hit – right on target – it all stopped, only to be replaced by a new, physical pain. As Danny's back ripped open, she felt like hers was too, and she screamed. Then, sensing what was happening, Ultio reached out and grabbed her hand, squeezing it tightly until she returned to her own mind. As their hands touched, she immediately felt calmer.
With eyes that stung Nexalia watched, stunned by what her brother had done. Phantom fell from the sky, plummeting to the ground, and Skulker fell with him. For a moment, time seemed to stand still. Then, one of the humans shouted something and they leapt into action.
A black fold of energy enveloped Phantom and flew him to safety, while Skulker still fell. Saevio dove for their friend, his eyes half-lidded against the wind.
"Can you hold their minds long enough?" Ultio murmured to Nexalia, still holding her hand. "At least until I get close?"
Her lip trembled, but she nodded. "Just don't let go." She said, sucking in a deep breath. Quickly, she scanned the air for Saevio. She caught his eyes with hers and gave a slight nod. He had Skulker, and was slowly melting the ice away from his armour so he could move on his own. Ultio murmured her name under his breath, and together they soared to meet the advancing Titans.
Four of them had left the tower – the orange and grey skinned girls, the green boy and the leader with spiky hair. The cybernetic human remained just inside, and it was his blast from his cannon-arm that nearly took her head off. With an animalistic growl, Ultio sent discs of white energy hurtling towards him in retaliation. Knowing that Ultio would protect her, Nexalia retreated into her mind and began to concentrate.
She could sense the minds of everyone within the area, all glowing their different colours and burning at different rates. First, she focused on the leader. His aura was a deep crimson, but filled with sparks of light – dark, but safe. Feeling a dip in her energy reserves as she did, Nexalia clenched her fist and secured his mind. He wouldn't be able to move until she released him. With little effort, she guided him back down to the Tower. Next she took the cyborg's mind, which was really only half a mind. The prospect of someone only having half a mind – not half a brain, for he was insanely intelligent, but half a mind – was too weird for her liking, so she quickly moved on.
Next she held the tall orange-skinned girl. Her mind was bright pink and painfully cheerful. She too was taken in a matter of seconds. Thirdly, she went for the multi-coloured aura of the green boy. For a moment, she was startled by his mind. A thousand different consciousness' swam beneath the surface of the boy's mind – all of them fighting for control the moment he brushed over them. Finding herself being sucked in, Nex quickly bound his mind and searched for the last remaining Titan.
The moment Nexalia tried to touch the grey-skinned girl's mind, she began to scream.
"You son of a bitch!"
"Ultio, please. What happened was just a minor setback."
"I'm not talking about your Phantom. I'm talking about Nexa. Look at her."
Ultio gestured to the younger ghost, lying unconscious in Saevio's arms. Her pale face was twisted into a permanent groan and there were still claw marks that had yet to fade on her cheeks from where she had dug her fingernails in, screaming and trying to repel the evil she had seen in her mind. The sight made Ultio want to strangle Skulker – it was his fault.
"She'll be fine." Skulker said dismissively, staring out over the town. After their failure in Jump, the Four had returned to Amity Park to regroup and plan another attack, now that they knew their enemies better. Ultio shot Saevio a dark look, but he wasn't watching. He was too busy glaring at Skulker's turned back.
"You didn't tell us he would be with the metahumans." Saevio growled. "You yourself were overcome by the Phantom boy without any competition. You were cocky and it nearly cost you."
"What happened today is not important. We know better now. Meet me here tomorrow at sundown." Without even waiting for a reply, Skulker leapt off the roof and flew away into the night, leaving them behind.
Once he was gone, Ultio turned to Saevio. "I don't like this."
Saevio frowned. "I don't either. Nexalia thinks he's changed."
"You think so? Sae, he's not the same as he once was."
"I'll talk to him." Saevio murmured, holding out his arms. "Take Nex. Make sure she's safe." Before Ultio could protest, Saevio placed his younger sister in his friend's arms and disappeared. Ultio watched them go, then looked down at Nexalia. She stirred, her eyelids fluttering open. She moaned, rubbing her head and blinking rapidly.
"What…? What happened?" She croaked. "Ultio… where are we?"
"Back in Amity." Ultio replied, "Can you stand?"
"Of course I can." Nexalia said firmly. She staggered a little as Ultio put her down, so he caught her again and laughed a little. "What?"
"One of the memories I have from when we were alive is of you and I on your sixteenth birthday. Do you remember that night?" Ultio asked.
Nexalia frowned, then shook her head. "No."
"Skulker and I took you out drinking because Saevio was away and he'd never have let you try it if he was home." Ultio smiled, "You couldn't handle your drink very well. You kept trying to convince me that you could stand and walk on your own but every time you tried… well…" Nexalia looked sad, and the smile quickly disappeared off Ultio's face. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"
"It's not that, it's just… I can't remember my own sixteenth birthday." Then, Nexalia began to cry. Feeling completely at a loss, Ultio did the only thing he knew how – he wrapped her in his arms and let her sob into his chest. "Her mind, Ultio… it was so horrible. I've never felt anything so… so dark."
Ultio grimaced. "Not even my mind?"
He felt her shake her head. "Yours isn't like that. Nothing I've ever felt is like that."
"It's okay now, Nexa. I promise. You don't have to do it again." Ultio said, feeling helpless. He could feel the beast in his mind roaring and slamming itself against Ultio's mental cage, and he quickly buried his face in Nexalia's hair to stave it off. He tried to hide his emotions, but by the way she hugged him tighter, he guessed she'd already felt them.
"Is it getting bad again?" Nex asked quietly. Ultio squeezed his eyes shut. The last time it had felt like this, he had lost control of himself and gone on a killing spree in a small town in California. When he'd 'woken up' and found him covered in the blood of a family with three children, he'd flown to the last place he'd seen Nexalia. Luckily, she was there.
"Yes." He sighed. People thought that ghosts killed without a second thought. The truth was anything but. Of course, they did enjoy fear. They fed off it and were more powerful from the emotions of the humans they terrorised. But they didn't enjoy killing. Sometimes, ghosts like Ultio lost control. After being caged and treated like an animal for so many years… he had become one.
He could feel himself growing calmer, and his shoulders relaxed. He knew it was Nexalia, feeding him positive emotions to ward off his negative ones. Oh, God, he had missed her.
Nexalia pulled back a little, and cupped his face in her hands. He saw a mischievous glint in her eye, and knew that she had switched yet again. Because of her mental abilities, Nexalia often had a very loose grip on her own mind. Like him, her experiences had left her scarred. The only difference was that hers were mental, whereas his were physical.
"If you missed me… don't leave me again." Nexalia said, floating into the air and gently kissing him. "Because I missed you too."
For a blissful moment, Ultio felt the beast in his mind disappear.
Danny woke to the smell of blood and vomit.
He woke to olive skin, blue eyes, and jet black hair.
He woke to Robin and Raven sitting by the side of his bed, waiting for him to open his eyes.
When he did, neither party said anything for a moment. Then, Robin shook his head.
"Daniel Fenton." He said simply, folding his arms over his chest and frowning. Danny squeezed his eyes shut once more, and nodded. "We have some things to talk about."
"Don't bother." Danny cut in, his voice sounding dead even to his own ears. "My name's Danny Fenton and my parents are Maddie and Jack. I have a sister named Jazz who is the only one out of the three of them who knows anything about this. My parents are ghost hunters and they built this machine that was supposed to grant them access to the Ghost Zone but they screwed up so I tried it. It went haywire and I guess… half killed me or something. No one knows I'm Phantom. I've spent the last three years of my life being hunted by ghosts, the Government, and my own fucking parents." Danny sucked in a ragged breath. "Nothing I ever do is good enough. No matter how many people I save, I'm still just an unnatural, dangerous, disgusting freak."
Raven shot Robin a pointed look. Robin cleared his throat. "Danny… you don't have to stay here anymore."
But Danny wasn't listening. He just didn't care anymore.