Author's Notes: Short prologue here. I'm hoping it sets up the typical dark fic downward spiral without coming across as too contrived. Also, this is my first attempt at slash in this fandom, which makes me a touch nervous because, while I'm no stranger to slash and femslash, I haven't attempted this pairing before. And then Danny's probably going to be OOC, and then I've never focused on Vlad at great length either - this is very much a experimental thing for me. Here's hoping it works and everyone doesn't become wildly OOC. And yes, Vlad comes in next chapter. Please feel free to tell me if I mess up, since I can't improve unless I know my failings.

Peer pressure.

If everyone else was jumping off a bridge... God, what an over used cliche. Like he'd never heard that spiel before.

What a load of crap. What a load of self righteous, self congratulatory crap. He didn't care if no one he knew ever did this in their entire life. He didn't care if it ruined his reputation. Let it. Let his reputation crumble out from under him the same way everything else had, the same way everything else had rotted right in front of him. Everyone was gone. He was alone. Even in this crowded house with it throbbing music and people pressed close, he was completely isolated. These people meant nothing to him. He meant nothing to them, too, so he supposed in some sick way it was all fair in the end. Truthfully some of them had tried reaching out to them, but he was in no state of mind to be helped when everyone who helped him only ended up worse off. It was better for them if they never got too close. That way they wouldn't be burned. At one point he'd have been afraid of retaliation from his friends and family. Back then, though, he wouldn't have wanted to dabble in it, because they were his support network, his soft place to fall, a team of people he could count on. Without them there, what more was there to lose?

Jazz was across the country at college. She needed to keep herself sane and had differences with her parents. A lot of differences. The kind where screaming and arguing late into the night was involved. Sam was... he didn't know. She was somewhere with her over protective parents who were tightening the noose around her more and more. One day they'd kill her with their ignorance. One day she'd snap and break free of them entirely. In the mean time it was as if she'd vanished into thin air. She barely had a chance to say goodbye before she was whisked off. Tucker was dead. He didn't think about that too much, not if he wanted to get through the day with a facade of normality in tact. He was still trying to keep himself together out of habit. It wasn't hard to fool his parents into thinking he was doing just fine when he was actually falling apart. Technically he was okay. He did his best to keep from becoming a mess in case Sam came back one day, but they'd blocked her off so completely that his hope was fading. With it did the will to pretend things were fine or even try to maintain any semblance of order in his life.

The curious thing about falling apart was that he'd thought it would be dramatic. An explosion of anger, disproportionate sorrow, things like that. Instead his life was devoid of sensation, devoid of meaning. The grades that once made his stomach churn were instead just a part of life, as routine as a Monday morning. Without anyone there to hold him back he made short work of Dash with his powers. Amazing what a weekend locked in a janitor's closet could do for a man's temperment. And Danny wasn't rejoicing, because he was barely aware of anything. This world, this life, was both barely real and too much to take. All he wanted was to survive. He wanted to get through the day, to sleep, where things were mildly okay for a moment. He wanted to go sit in front of the TV and watch meaningless garbage while drawing pictures of space. He existed. He did these things. They brought him nothing other than brief relief no one was attacking him. When the attacks came he handled them and went back to holing up in his room, listlessly trying to get through life.

He drifted. He slept through his own life. He barely managed to turn anything in during class. He had no one to talk to, ever. Ghosts were a burden he had no choice but to keep shouldering, keep fighting pointlessly against. All his work was in vain. His life was in vain. If he'd thought about the future it would be depressingly bleak and devoid of options; he had to stay here and keep his parents' portal from destroying them all or unleashing the end. His life was laid out for him before he was even out of high school. His isolation was going to be permanent. He tried not to think about it.

The spike in normal crime wasn't something he technically had to do. It was something he handled because... he didn't know why. He just did. He did it out of some mix of altruism and desperation. He wanted something, somewhere, to go right, and it was enough to keep him doing it but would make a poor argument had anyone called him on it. Had anyone been left to call him out. Of course, there weren't any, and that was probably never going to change. He wasn't sure he wanted anyone else in his life. He'd drag them down. This life, the things he was seeing when he fought humanity's scum, they were draining on the spirit. He had never been tired before now. He knew something was wrong when he took a knife to the shoulder and all he did was gasp. The injury didn't hold over to his human half, which was a shame. Pain brought everything into perspective, made everything clear and crisp and real. He liked it as much as he hated it. He wanted it to sharpen reality even as he sought out a way to push reality farther away. He was, he confessed to himself, a mess. And it mattered as little as everything else did as his blue eyes sought out the familiar form of Andrew Dejoi, dealer and dabbler in the lesser known drugs, the things they didn't get PSAs and assemblies about. Andrew was a dry-humored guy of about 17 years who knew how to avoid the wrong questions with people. He knew what to offer to who. Danny wouldn't question why Andrew was certain he'd pay for it, because Andrew was totally right in guessing Danny's needs.

Peer pressure? Please, he didn't even remember who his peers were anymore. He just wanted the briefest reprieve from this, from the nightmares of everyday life. He wanted to be able to sleep without waking up screaming, kicking or drenched in cold sweat. They were just pills, stronger, more potent than was over-the-counter because Danny's half-ghost body processed medicine differently. Sometimes he couldn't take a normal dosage of certain things without it being too much. Sometimes nothing short of doubling the dosage would make it possible for him to get normal effects. These were dealt out by a dark blonde haired boy whose mother ran a pharmacy. His eyes were warm and kind, a cool toned brown that reminded Danny of Tucker's skin. Manipulative bastard, he'd heard Andrew called before. Emphasis on the manipulative. But he was offering a way out. Danny had sought him out in the first place. Nobody was being manipulated. If Danny wanted to he could still turn it down and leave, go home and wait for sleep to come the old fashioned way. He didn't have to take anything. He wanted to, though. He wanted it and that surprised him. Was this unrelenting exhaustion why other people took these kinds of things? All it would take was Danny's allowance, which he scarcely touched anymore. It would be so easy to hide it.

He looked into the eyes of Amity Park's youngest dealer and even though a year ago it would be unthinkable for him to even know there was a party tonight, he reached out and took the bottle. In the orange plastic he caught a glimpse of himself. Lengthier, less taken care of care, too-pale skin, swathed in his customary jacker - Tucket's jacket, once, a gift - and if he had any dignity left he'd berate himself for sinking this low. He'd hate himself if he had any energy left to use to hate with. Instead he handed the man his money and went on his way. So much for 'Just Say No', he thought as he pushed open a side door and felt the cold air swallow him up, grounding him to reality. That works off the assumption some part of me wants to say no.

His witty one liners were left to the realm of thought as he walked home, the snow crunching under his feet, not caring who had seen him do this or what they thought. His parents would never know. They were so involved in their work they hadn't even bought groceries since October. There was no way these would affect his grades anyway. In the end it was all harmless, anyway, because the only purpose his life served was that of an unpaid policeman against the ghosts. So long as he could do that, he could be on anything, have any grades, and technically he'd be fine. That was all he was needed for, in the end. People needed Danny Phantom.

Nobody needed Danny Fenton, so it didn't matter what he did.