You're Late

By: Light-Eco-Sage

Rated: Teen for character death and romance. (DannyxSam)

Summary: "People always said I'd be late to my own funeral. Now, here I am proving them right."

Disclaimer: Danny Phantom is owned by Butch Hartman, not me. Starts out in Danny's POV, but then changes to third person at the indicated section.

The whole mess started when I died.

Well, to be honest, death is never very convenient. That's the whole reason that ghosts exist in the first place. That's how natural ghosts are created. You just need a single thought: that you can't accept that you are dead and, just like that; you are tethered to the mortal realm for a couple hundred years until you can accept your fate. Sometimes ghosts can get over it… and sometimes they never do.

It was a ghost… odd that I don't remember who it was. I think it's because they pulled a sneak attack on me. I was occupied with the Box Ghost, who had broken out of the Ghost Zone for the tenth time that week, and when I was distracted enough to not notice my Ghost Sense go off, another ghost shot me in the back.

I remember pain, and I think that I screamed. Then I was getting ripped apart. It was kind of like duplication… except that it hurt a lot worse and was happening against my will.

An eternity passed and the pain stopped… in fact, a lot of things stopped. For a second, I could only float there and grow confused about how unusual I felt, and concerned that it was difficult for me to care about what was going on with me.

I mean… forcing myself to care was like pulling teeth. It was like someone had taken the 'Danny Phantom Cares About Stuff' switch and flipped it off. Then I heard the screaming start.

I stared around, looking for the source of what was causing everyone to scream, but I didn't see it until I looked down. When I did look down at the ground, for the first time since the pain had left me, I felt a real emotion: pure horror.

Lying on the ground below me was… me! Me as a human. But something was terribly wrong, besides the fact that I no longer had my humanity within me. My human body was a broken mess, and he… I didn't seem to be moving at all. No breath stirred my chest… no pulse beat in my neck… there was no indications of life at all.

I lost my ability to fly and came crashing down as well, only able to stare at myself in horror. Even though I was seeing it with my own eyes, I could not process what I was seeing. The Box Ghost and the other mystery ghost had left, because ghosts understood better than anyone the profound nature of this moment.

People ignored me as they closed in around… my human half, bending over and searching for a pulse there. After several seconds, the man with his fingers to my neck pulled away and shook his head. "It's too late. He's gone."

Gone? Gone? How could I be gone? I'm right here! The thoughts came to me without any prompting. But it really sank in when I saw my two best friends rushing forward, screaming my name, and the crowd attempting to hold them back from the scene of their friend's…

But Sam saw me… I'm sure she did. She looked up over the crowd and saw me floating in the air. She knew… somehow… she knew. "Danny! No!" She screamed, renewing her efforts to get closer to me.

"No!" I protested loudly, but no one seemed to hear me. "This can't be happening to me… I can't be dead!"

And, just like that, my fate was sealed. I knew what I had done the second the words were out of my mouth. With those words, I had tethered myself to the mortal realm, unable to pass on as I was supposed to. A portal to the Ghost Zone opened up behind me and began to pull me in… too strong for me to fight or resist. I was able to meet Sam's eyes one last time before I was pulled into the Ghost Zone to begin my existence as a true ghost.

(Third Person POV)

The first days in the Ghost Zone were filled with terror. It was true that none of the other ghosts bothered Danny anymore… even Skulker saw him and didn't fire so much as a single blast his way. Turns out that he was only worth hunting as a half-ghost. As a full ghost, he was not as interesting and too powerful to be messed with.

No, those days were not spent in fear of being in the realm of his former enemies; but rather terrified by what he had become. Danny knew better than anyone what had happened the last time he had my humanity removed. Of course, he avoided Vlad Masters like he had the plague, so he wouldn't become exactly like Dark Dan, but he was still terrified of walking down that path. He was still powerful enough on his own to cause real damage if he turned evil.

It wasn't until a few days later when Danny realized that being good had literally become his ghostly obsession and he came out of hiding in the Ghost Zone. At that point, he realized that he had little to worry about. Being good was his obsession now… the thing that was tying him to the mortal world. If he even started to walk down the path of evil, he would lose his connection to the mortal world and move on.

Of course, that meant that he was now stuck this way permanently. The prospect of being a ghost forever… of never being able to move on was one that terrified him, but if being evil was the price that was required to move on, then it was one that was too high to pay.

As soon as he left his hiding place, he was immediately confronted by Clockwork, who gazed at him with sympathy. "Are you all right, Danny?" He asked.

Danny stared at him in shock. He had almost not recognized his own name. But… I am no longer Danny. From the moment of my death, I had truly become Phantom. "I think… I'm better now. But it's hard." Danny said.

"Yes." Clockwork said. "The first few days are always the hardest, and it becomes even harder to accept when you realize that you are one of the ghosts with no way out."

It occurred to Danny that Clockwork was one of those ghosts were would never be allowed to move on. After all, the only way that Clockwork could find release was if Time itself were destroyed. "Is it… hard to exist forever?" Danny asked.

"Sometimes." Clockwork answered shortly. "But most of the time I realize that my existence is for the greater good of all things. I would not move on to the next realm if I had a choice if it meant complete destruction of space-time, just like you wouldn't move on if it meant leaving Amity Park unprotected."

"You're right." Danny realized. "I can't just leave them all unprotected. I just…" He trailed off, realizing what he needed to do. "I have to get back to the human world."

"Then it's a good thing for you that being turned into a ghost has given you one of the rarest of ghost powers: the ability to create your own portals into the human world and back." Clockwork said.

Danny stared at Clockwork in shock. He remembered that his evil future self had that ability, so it only made sense that he would have it too. However, he would not be using it for evil like he did.

Danny turned around and held out his hand, concentrating with all his might on tearing a hole in the fabric of reality, a hole that lead straight to Amity Park. It took a few moments, because he'd never had a power like this before, but then there was a spark of green ectoplasmic energy that expanded and grew into a portal large enough to allow through a single ghost. He turned back and grinned at Clockwork. "Thanks for all the help. I think I'm doing better now. I'll be back for visits, all right?"

"Certainly. You are welcome in my home anytime." Clockwork said, smiling as Danny phased through the portal, leaving the Ghost of Time behind. Clockwork watched as the portal closed and then sighed. "Give him a few more years… He'll definitely be worthy of joining the Ghostly Council."

Seconds later, a ghostly portal of artificial origin appeared in the air above Amity Park. It stayed open for less than a minute before releasing a single ghost from the Ghost Zone and closing behind him.

Upon returning to the human world, Danny at once felt the effects of it. He no longer had a stable human body with which to hold his ghostly form together. He almost evaporated into ectoplasmic mist before he remembered that most ghosts had to concentrate on maintaining their bodies outside the Ghost Zone. He was able to pull himself back together again, but no matter how hard he tried, he was not able to make himself as solid as he normally would have been as a ghost.

He also felt the energy around himself more acutely. Ghosts needed energy to function, and they gained it mostly from the Ghost Zone. However, in the human world, they had to take it from ambient energy sources: anything from sunlight to human emotions. However, even though he could feel human emotions, the thought of using them was repellant to Danny. So his ghostly form naturally started to soak up energy from the sun, which was abundant that day.

Feeling a little stronger now, Danny glanced down at the town below him. Even though he had grown up there his whole life, it still took him some time before he was able to recognize where he was. Finally, he realized that he was close to his home and decided to head there.

It only took him seconds, but when he got there, it only took him a second to realize that no one was there at all. Dejected, he floated through every room of the house, looking for his missing family. He found his answer as to where everyone had gone when he reached the kitchen and found a piece of paper lying on the kitchen table.

Danny glanced down at it. It was a cutting from the local newspaper… his own obituary. He stared at it in shock, until he got to the announcement for the time and date of his own funeral.

Could it be going on right now? Danny wondered to himself. He truly had no idea what time or date it was. It was hard to keep track of those things in the Ghost Zone, even when he wasn't hiding.

He glanced at the calendar and at the clock before he realized that his funeral had started over three hours ago. With that realization in mind, he flew out of the house towards Amity Park's cemetery.

Looking down on the cemetery from high up in the sky, he could see no obvious gatherings of people. But, then again, three hours was rather late. People had probably all ready left for the most part.

All that was left were individual people visiting the graves of their loved ones. He took a closer look, and saw that there was one person left standing at a grave site that was obviously just recently filled. As he got closer, he realized that it was Sam. He couldn't tell from the angle of his approach, but she seemed to be crying silently. He quickly checked to make sure that he was invisible as to not disturb her, and floated closer to her.

But, apparently, he got to close, because he saw Sam shiver as his cold ghostly aura washed over her. If it were winter, the cold would have been easily explained, but it was in the middle of summer. Sam glanced around her, knowing that there was no excuse for the cold spot except for a ghost being near-by.

After a few seconds, she seemed to relax somewhat, and wiped at the tear-tracks on her face. "You're late." She said simply.

Danny glanced around to make sure that no one was paying attention to the lone teenage girl mourning over the grave of her best friend, and then he let go of his invisibility. Sam recognized him instantly. If he hadn't been masquerading as Phantom for four years, then it would be possible that she wouldn't recognize him with the changes to his appearance. But she knew what Danny Phantom looked like just as well as she knew what Danny Fenton looked like. "How'd you know it was me?" He asked quietly.

"Any other ghost would have attacked." Sam said. "You wouldn't hurt me."

"You don't know that." Danny said seriously. "I don't have a human half to tame my ghostly nature anymore. I could be the enemy now."

"Is that why you've been hiding from everyone?" Sam asked. "Tucker and I must've searched the Ghost Zone a thousand times, but we never found you… and none of the other ghosts would tell us where you were." She paused, noticing the down-trodden look on Danny's face. "I know that you won't hurt me because you care too much about me, even as a ghost… those sorts of feelings just don't… go away."

Danny sighed. "You're right. I'm not going to hurt you. I can't hurt anyone now. I've spent the last few days since my death worrying constantly about turning evil like Dark Dan. I worried about it so much that being good has become my obsession. If I turned against you… or any human, I would cease to exist and… move on."

The two fell silent, staring down at the freshly filled grave before them. Danny could hardly believe that everything that made him a human being was now buried beneath the freshly dug earth. Without his humanity, everything was dimmer… from his emotions to his memories.

"So… I guess you are late… to your own funeral." Sam said conversationally, though Danny could still hear the sorrow in her voice.

"Well… everyone was always telling me I'd be late to my own funeral. The least I could do was prove them right." Danny said jokingly, and then regretted it as soon as the words were out. Maybe jokes and puns had become an obsession for him too… he really needed to learn to watch that now that he was a ghost. "Um… sorry. My emotions have been dimmer since I… well… it's hard to be sensitive."

"I don't blame you, Danny. I didn't blame you for being half-ghost, and I don't blame you for being a full ghost now." Sam said, moving closer to him. "Danny, I wanted to add your Danny Phantom symbol to your tombstone when it is finished, but I don't want to do it without your permission because that will give away your secret."

"Isn't it all ready given away?" Danny asked. "Lots of people saw me split from my humanity."

"That's not what they think happened. They think that Danny Fenton was possessed and used as a human shield by Danny Phantom. Lots of people are blaming you for your death."

"My parents?" Danny asked.

"Jazz. She told them the truth. They've been waiting for you to come back out through the Fenton Portal."

"Well… I don't see the harm in people knowing the truth now that I'm just a regular ghost." Danny said. "You can start telling people the truth."

"There's one more thing…" Sam said slowly, moving closer to him. Without warning, she pulled him into an embrace, and Danny had to concentrate quickly to give her something to embrace rather than just moving through him like mist.

For the first time since he became a ghost, Danny almost felt like crying. Being held by Sam again reminded him of all the feelings he had for her. For that small moment of time, he felt love as acutely as any human. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close to himself, and buried his face against her neck.

"I love you, Danny." Sam whispered. "I don't know if you can feel the same for me right now, but I had to tell you because I didn't tell you before you died."

"You told me hundreds of other times." Danny said. "And I can assure you, Sam, that I love you as well… even if this is the last time I'll ever be able to say it." He kissed her, which really didn't work out like he wanted in his semi-solid state, but neither of them complained about it.

After they pulled apart, Sam inhaled deeply before leaning up on her toes so that her lips brushed against his ear. "There's just one more thing." She whispered, lowering her voice further and whispering two words into his ear, so softly that he felt the message rather then heard it.

Danny's eyes widened and he pulled away from Sam, staring at her in shock. There was no happiness between them at that moment, only regret for the life that they would not share together. But, even still, Sam's message had proven to the ghost that a part of that life still survived, even if he were no longer alive to share in it.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you… before." Sam whispered. "It was too hard to say, and by the time I got the courage, it was… too late."

Danny took her hands in his, staring down at their hands. "I think I have a new, better reason to protect this city besides it just being an obsession." He said. "I swear now that I'll purge this city of its ghosts, even if it takes me years."

"You don't have years, my Phantom." Sam said. "Only six months at the most."

"Then it shall be done." Danny said, beginning to float away from her. "You may not always see me, Sam… but I'm always around." With that, Danny turned invisible and disappeared, heading out into the city to hunt ghosts with a passion like he'd never felt before.

When he had been alive, he'd fought ghosts because it was the right thing to do… because he was the one with the power and ability to stand up to ghosts. After he died, that urge turned into an obsession. But now he had discovered a new reason: he would fight with his whole after-life to defend Amity Park for the sake of those still living: for Sam and for the unborn child that she carried within her. The child that he had given her months before his death.

If that was not worth fighting for, nothing was.

LES: I typically stay away from depressing pieces with character death in it. But I occasionally get the urge to write depressing stuff. This is one of those times. And, when these times do come, I always pay homage to the great Murphy's Law. Sam's pregnancy is my tribute to Murphy's Law in this story. Oh, Murphy, may you accept this humble offering and not make me a victim of your great law.