I was inspired by AnneriaWings' brilliant fanfiction, Lab Rat. Unfortunately, when writing a story this site doesn't allow you hyperlinks, so I'm afraid you'll have to go, search it out, and read it yourself. That story is just the type to make you - oh god - to - like - I have no words. All I can tell you is that it makes you want to write fanfiction for it. Endlessly. Endlessly. God, she won't update her sequel and it's killing me.
Not to be, like, a...jerk, or whatever, but I just want to write in that universe that she's created. I doubt I'll do as great a job as she has, but one can always hope. One can always dream...There are direct quotes from her stories, sometimes. Be sure to catch them - I find them unforgettable, really.
Kudos to her. And please, support her, and recognize what amazing piece of literary she has created.
a rendition, a moment
is all it takes
for something to change.
Bright light blinded me as I tried to sit up, my ribcage protesting as I did so. I covered my eyes with my hands, wishing that I could reach out a little more and close the window's blinds, but I knew that getting up would mean that I was actually accepting the fact that I would be getting up. Going to school. Two weeks, it's been.
My feet touched the wooden floor and I shivered slightly—it was way too cold for my liking, but nowadays everything seemed cold. The alarm clock beside my bed read in green, blaring letters, '7:02 AM', twenty minutes before the alarm was set. I shut the alarm off beforehand and made myself stand up properly, wobbling slightly.
From the past few days, I haven't been able to function properly. I didn't know whether I was shutting down, or whether this was some sort of psychological way that my mind is doing to protect me or whatever, but whatever it was I was glad for it. Who knows, maybe Jazz could explain it better—my usual autopilot-ing, I never though I'd be so grateful for it until now. I could stop and think. I could somehow figure this out. Somehow. That's what I thought.
But it wasn't working. Because whenever I thought about it, I couldn't. Whenever I tried to bring it up by myself, I couldn't. Cold fear and pure desperation gripped me hard and didn't want to let go, pounded against the walls of my brain and refused to leave. I had rendered myself useless against those memories—despite what I thought I was trying to do, I wanted to forget it all. I wanted to forget it all happened, to forget that it was them (my mother loomed over me, the harsh glare of the artificial fluorescent lights reflecting off her goggles in many hues of red—gleamed on her face like the bloody eyes of a curious monster, or alien, or some other creature—) and most of all, I wished to go to Clockwork and beg him to turn this all around.
Some part of me already knew the answer for that, what he would do. Stare at me with those apathetic eyes, tell me that "it can't be changed" in his soft voice of his, stare at me with sympathy. Because in some twisted game of fate's, this was supposed to happen. It was supposed to—eventually, it would have—no, no, I refuse to believe it—
"Danny?" Jazz's concerned voice floated over, and I turned to see her blue eyes staring at me with worry. "Do you need help in getting dressed?"
"No," I said silently.
She moved into the room completely, still in her own pj's, hair mussed and reminded me why she was doing this all. "Are you sure? You look pretty pale." Slowly walking toward me, hesitant footsteps, the tips of her fingers touching my cheek.
I knew what was going to happen, fought the instinct to run, to get away before she came over. Still, I flinched at her touch and her eyes flashed before she continued, "You know you can tell me anything, right?" With those blue eyes of hers boring into mine, trying to tell me something, anything, to comfort me. I nodded my head and her feather-light touch disappeared.
"I know," I answered her quietly. My eyes looked toward the alarm clock's and she followed. "I have to get ready for school."
Jazz nodded slowly. "Y-yeah. So do I." Slightly abrupt, she got up from my bed and assessed me once more, before turning around and out the door. I saw her look back for a second before she disappeared.
The floor seemed to be cold again, but I held on to various things until I regained my balance. My head started to hurt, like the feeling when you've been shaking a ball filled with water and when you stop, all of it just stops and weighs down heavily. I felt like that. Taking a shuddering breath, I ignored the twinge in my chest and slipped on my clothes.
My backpack was waiting for me downstairs, along with a bowl of cereal and Jazz, looking all ready and as normal as she could be. (we both knew that it couldn't possibly be ever normal again) She smiled at me and I could see the strain in her eyes. "Hurry up and eat, I have to talk to my chemistry AP teacher about something this morning." It was her own offish way of saying, hurry up so we—you—don't have to see mom and dad today.
I was about to protest that I wasn't hungry—and I really wasn't, just didn't have much of an appetite these days—but by the way Jazz's lips were pressed tightly together I followed and sat down on the seat. A hesitant bite or two when Jazz stared at me expectantly, forcing myself to let the cold milk and dry cereal to be sent down my throat. I put the spoon down and started to back away, but she seemed to expect that.
"Danny," she started when she saw that I was trying to escape, "You need to eat. You'll feel horrible later on if you don't."
"I'm not hungry," I mumbled unconvincingly.
Jazz pursed her lips. "Please?" she whispered, almost begging me.
"Please. Don't do this..."
Sheer force stopped me from hyperventilating. I forced out a sharp breath that was caught in my throat. Lights started to scatter in my eyes and I blinked them away rapidly, swallowing thickly. "F-fine," I rasped, disgusted with the way I sounded. Too close. Too familiar.
My sister gave me a weak-willed smile and I shoveled another spoonful of food into my mouth, feeling my stomach grumble—in acceptance or rebuttal, I wasn't sure—and it slipped down my throat while Jazz's eye rotated between watching me, watching the clock hung on the wall, looking out the window to the car. I finished my last spoonful, feeling bloated slightly, and pushed the bowl away.
"I'm done," I said simply. Jazz's head whipped around to look at me, then the bowl. She opened her mouth to say something, but I pointed to the clock—feeling slightly bad, it was a sort of blackmail, wasn't it?—and she sighed, half-sympathetic and half-sounding like she was bordering on hopeless.
Jazz went straight to the car, not wasting time in throwing our bags in the back seat and sitting in the front, leaving myself to trail after her. Once in the passenger's seat next to her, she looked toward me and took a deep breath. Like she was afraid to ask me something. Like she was afraid of the answer.
"Danny, are you sure you want to—"
"Yes." My clear interruption caused a slight wrinkle in between her eyebrows. "It's been far too long, Jazz. I need to go." For at least a bit of normalcy. For something to be right. Anything. I don't know what it was that I craved—but somewhere in the back of my mind, it sounded awfully like the routine days that I had before...something to keep my mind off what happened. Another part of me was saying that it was the guarantee that I wouldn't have to face anything like I did inside the house.
As we pulled away from the driveway, I couldn't help but stare back at FentonWorks, looking so typically same that it sent something clenching in my gut. Nothing looked like it changed. Nobody could assume that something happened there that practically broke apart our family. It was just like everything else about Amity Park— a sort of trademark, knowing that the Fentons were still their wacky selves and it was just so...normal.
But it wasn't.
A lump built itself unconsciously in my throat as I realized that nothing would ever be normal again.
My head bumped against the seat and I stared at Casper High's immaculate height in front of me. Barely, I remembered about how my English homework wasn't done. I didn't read that chapter for history. I didn't write that essay on molecules for chemistry. I forgot to do the problems in the math textbook. All these worries, they seemed so...unreal. It felt like I wasn't talking as myself but as someone else.
Jazz stopped right in front of the school gates. She stared at me worriedly. "Give this to the secretary," she murmured, passing me an off-white piece of folded paper. I took it with numb fingers. "And...Danny, please. Remember, Sam, Tucker, and I are always here for you." Jazz's lips pursed as she stared over me. It seemed like she was more nervous about this than I was, but a part of me was shutting down and shutting down rapidly, rejecting the possibility of human contact. "Anything wrong, just ask the nurse to go home."
"I'm fine." The statement was getting so old it even sounded fake to my ears. "Nothing will happen."
She glanced at me, skeptical.
Jazz sighed and opened the car door. I grabbed my backpack from the back seat—taking care of injuries, I wasn't fully healed yet and it hurt when I bent down—and turned around, walking straight to the the front doors. I barely noticed when Sam and Tucker appeared beside me, each on one side. Tucker stared at me with the same kind of worry Jazz had on her face nowadays, and Sam placed her hand on my arm.
"Danny," she started softly, "Are you—"
I didn't want to hear any of it. Not a word. Because if I did, I would remember (snap of latex gloves, smell of blood and ectoplasm, cold hard surface, thousand volts per second) things that I didn't want to remember about. We walked into the school hallways where there was basically nobody there and suddenly I was wondering if I should have come at all. I never noticed, but there was the faintest smell of antiseptic...of bad memories. I wanted to hurl, to make a run for it, but Sam's grip on my arm tightened.
"You'll get through this day fine," she said, sounding like she was assuring herself more than me. "I share most of your classes, Danny. And Tucker has the rest with you."
Tucker nodded his agreement. "We're right here, man."
I wanted to block it all out. Because even though I recognized them right beside me, it was the same with my parents; like an abyss had broken up between us, I just didn't understand them anymore. Whenever I was in the same room as my...mom and dad, I had to fight the urge to scream and run for my life. All I could see was them, coming at me with the sharp scalpel gripped tightly in her hand, the lights, the fear, the utter horror that settled in the pit of my stomach...and the morbid curiosity in their faces, like they weren't doing anything wrong, like they weren't cutting their son open...
(they didn't know, didn't know, why didn't you tell them?)
And I really had to wonder, would any of it made a difference?
Thoughts hung at the edge of my subconscious as I made my way to the administrator's office, planning to go in and get out as fast as I could. The note was still gripped in my hand. I didn't dare let it go, nor looked at it's quantities—I recognized the paper as mom's stationary paper, and no doubt her handwriting (those hands, slender and familiar, used to ruffle my hair now covered in ectoplasm) was inside.
Wondering if I looked as blank as I felt, I handed over the note to the secretary, who nodded and clucked her tongue. She glanced at me for a second, a bit of sympathy in her eyes (What does she need to be sympathetic for?) before handing me a pass with scrawly letters.
"Show that to all of your teachers, hun," she said, popping gum in her mouth. "And welcome back." Not as if she meant it.
The hallways were completely empty as I walked through them – almost like a ghost town, but I saw no humor in that. It was eerily silent, and I faintly remembered the sound of the second bell going off before Tucker and Sam left me. And they said that they were right there. Unbidden, a something akin to anger shot up in me and I immediately swallowed it down. No way will I let myself think of my friends that way—
"Mr. Fenton," Lancer noticed me while I was entering the classroom. Immediately, I stiffened as many pairs of eyes were sent my way. "Nice to see that you've decided to finally join us the world of learning."
I handed him the pass and went to my seat wordlessly.
He raised an eyebrow at my behavior, but continued on with the lesson. I couldn't focus properly on the words and they seemed to scramble before my eyes; I hoped to dear God that I wasn't getting dyslexia or something of the sort. All throughout the lesson, Sam and Tucker tried to make eye contact or pass notes, and I even heard the occasional "Psst, Danny!" or two. Once they realized I wasn't going to answer, they gave up and slumped in their seats, looking at the copies of Hamlet on our desks and pretending to study.
It stayed that way for the rest of the period—a stony silence between me and them, not gone unnoticed by the rest of the class.
The rest of the day was relatively fine; if you excluded the fact that whenever someone saw me, they either sneered (Dash and Kwan) or sympathized me (the rest of the school population). At first, I didn't know why, but then it got clearer when Sam pointed it out. 'Eyes of the dead', she had said. It was noticeable, even to the most stupidest of students—I wonder if that was one reason why Dash was avoiding me. Not that I complained. My sides ached without him being there to re-open stitches.
Just the thought caused a shiver to go through me. It seemed like where ever I went, whatever I was doing, memories of that night kept repeating themselves in my mind, like a broken record. Over and over, I could hear their distant voices, feel my chest expand to exhaustion because of all the hyperventilating. Crystal clear, I forgot about everyone and everyone else when my mind was plagued with the stained smell of ectoplasm on my clothes and on my body and the drenched slippery texture of blood I found on my fingers.
(Your fault, you should have told them—)
Mom and dad's faces are still imprinted in my mind. It was my fault, I know it was. If only I told them sooner, if only they understood—the only reason they didn't was because I never told them. I should have told them. Stupid stupid stupid... Another part of my mind, darker, barely there, whispered back to me.
(Would it have made a difference?)
I was their son. I was their son...their only son, I thought they loved me...I was sure that they'd listen at least, that they would hear me out. If in that moment I could have told them properly, shown them. But that was my fear back then—what had happened, would it have made anything change? Would they still see me as their son?
It seemed more rational that they wouldn't. No, because I understood—I was not their son. I wasn't 'Danny Fenton', the kid that used to break vases just by walking or hated cold milk. I was never their son, from the moment that I went into the Ghost Portal and came out as Danny Phantom. I was something else all together; half-dead, half-alive, neither belonging with humans and neither belonging with ghosts. My heart was beating, telling me no they still love you but my head was telling me that they were scientists and you weren't human, biologically related or not.
And even though Sam said my heart was in the right place, my mind was slowly infiltrating it. Every beat, every thump that vibrated in my ears told me that I wasn't supposed to be alive. Any longer on that—the—table...I would have died. Danny Phantom would have died for sure, taking Danny Fenton along with him. The worst part about it? I wished that it happened. I wished that I took my last breath on the table. I wished that it would be the last place I would see again.
Because, as I've said before, nothing was worth this. Nothing was worth going through the days like nothing was wrong, pretending that I wasn't broken and scarred, both physically and mentally. In the end, that's all it was—an act, and this was the end of the play. I didn't want to act anymore.
(No more lies)
I stopped as soon as I heard my name, Sam's hand on my arm again. Her fingers burned where they met my cold skin. She was undeterred, though. "We're going to biology," she said slowly, as if the pain flashing in her eyes would tell me everything. "You can stay behind, okay?"
At first, I was confused—I'm not sure if it showed on my face (I still felt so empty) but Sam continued. "W-we're...ah, um...we're doing...d-dissections t-today. Um—" she swallowed thickly, looking around. "Let's go to Mr. Lancer's classroom."
It felt like someone had electrocuted me.
Every inch of my body seemed to be lit on fire as she dragged me away from the biology classroom, where we had made it before I gained notice of the instruments they were taking hold of. Snap. Mr. Falluca pulled on a pair of latex gloves, his voice carrying throughout the classroom. Sam, seeing the look on my face, dragged me away—it was no use, I could still hear the snap, snap, snap of gloves against skin...and the room's bright glare against—
You're evil. A ghost. A lying, disgusting monster.
...most certainly not our son.
"Hold him down, Jack!"
Not again. Not again. Please, anything but this. Why didn't they believe me? Why didn't they try to listen? Fingers on my arm grasped tighter...pain flooded my senses (real or not) I wanted to go, leave, run away (get the hell out of here) I can't breathe (GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE) "...anny! Danny! Wake up!"
Something that could only be described as pure, unadulterated fear dropped like a rock to the pit of my stomach. All coherent thoughts were now jumbled, half-crazed and not at all making sense as I struggled to breathe—like I was there all over again—the floor was cold, so cold, I felt so numb, the whole world seemed to fall at my feet. The single sentence kept spinning in my mind, taking over everything else.
The truth always hit hard, but it always seemed to hit harder back in that tender spot. My back hit against something hard—immediately, panic settled in. This couldn't happen again. I blinked rapidly, fighting off the hotness behind my eyes, something else that was trying to tug at me, calling my name.
The voice was familiar, but I couldn't make out anything properly. Others joined in. My mind started to pound inside my cranium.
No, no, no please no. Not again. Please—
Realization crept along the surface of my conscious again. A cold hand seemed to crawl up and curled it's merciless fingers around my heart in an iron grip and squeezed painfully. They wouldn't understand. They didn't understand. They didn't know, but they were still doing it—why can't you hear me?—but it was obvious that even if they knew they wouldn't forget, because they didn't care, I was their son but I was half ghost and they would never accept it—
Something shook me hard. "Danny!"
I cracked my eyes open, unaware that I had even closed them. "S-Sam?" She was looking at me with a mixture of fear, apprehension, worry and nervousness on her face, and I imagined there was much more behind that mask that she wanted to tell me.
"Mr. Fenton, what in blazes is going on here?" Gruff voice. Mr. Lancer. I craned my neck—painfully, it seemed as though even if that moment wasn't real, I was still stuck in it—and his brown eyes bore into mine.
When I spoke, my voice was hoarse. "N-nothing. I just..." I couldn't find a way to fix this. I couldn't. What was there to say? I couldn't lie. I wouldn't let myself be deluded and stick into that world again. It's what brought me here in the first place.
"Mr. Lancer..." Sam was at a loss for words as well, and he stared at us, waiting.
After a pause, I said, "H-home."
Two pairs of eyes turned my way. I felt like I wanted to die, like there was still the remnants of blood underneath my fingers. Hell, I bet I can even smell the ectoplasm, feel the metal table. My wrists felt heavier, like those restrictions were still tied firmly around them.
"I want to go h-home." It was hard to breathe. It was hard to call that place home.
Sam turned to Mr. Lancer, desperation clear in her voice. Her fingers were clamped tightly around my shoulder, knuckles white. It burned. "Please, can you let him go, Mr. Lancer?" She couldn't tell him why. Don't tell him why.
Mr. Lancer's eyes softened, and he opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off by Mr. Falluca, who had come out of his biology classroom not a few feet away. We turned to him, me doing so out of instinct.
"Dear my, what happened to young Danny here?" he frowned, eyebrows creasing. "Are you okay—" He reached out his hand to touch me, but my eyes widened at the skin-tight covering on his hands and fingers and I scuttled back, tripping on my feet and slipping. My wounds hurt, my fingers fumbled, Sam's grip escaped.
"Mr. Fenton...?" Mr. Lancer was shocked at my sudden movement. Mr. Falluca was jarred by the fear set in my eyes. Sam choked back something akin of a sob. I found myself breathing heavily, practically hyperventilating, but I couldn't get enough air in my lungs. The world started to spin.
"Is he having...panic attack?"
Bright lights danced in front of my eyes, and stars exploded before them. I took one last desperate gulp of air, hoping that it would suffice as I realized what was coming, felt the bright world and familiar faces escape from my notice as I slipped into darkness. The ever-growing fear set in the corner of my mind, however, did not go away.
I had a feeling it wouldn't for a very long time.