I think I am far too in love with present tense. I mean, I would never use it to write a novel, or anything, but for all these little drabbles, it's perfect.

I suppose this could be a companion drabble to the first chapter of this fic, although you can take it as a standalone if you like.

This one is more so about Danny and Vlad, rather than Valerie, although she does make an appearance and plays a key role in the themes of this one. Although she certainly isn't aware of what she's really done.

I think I really like this drabble simply because I got to mess with Vlad's deterioration/breakdown of character. It's not like I think I write his character the best (Far from it, really), but it would be nice to see some more writers on this site giving him more character (Come on, guys, he isn't always an evil asshat).

Although most of the of the time he is.

Disclaimer: Butch Hartman owns Danny Phantom. Although for Christmas, I wouldn't mind if he gave it to me.

Warnings: Major character death.

"He's dead...I...I did it." Her face lights up, and she grins up at him with a cruelly ignorant sort of euphoria.

Vlad inhales sharply as he lifts the white sheet with tentative fingers once more, and bites back a hiss as his eyes lock with the boy's cold stare.

Valerie's look of bliss melts away momentarily, as she gazes up at her employer with concern. "Mr. Masters? Are...are you ok?"

"I just..." He turns to shoot her a strained smile, and says, "I just can't express how...proud...I am of you, Miss Gray." He's thankful that she doesn't seem to realize that the words don't quite reach his eyes.

The gleeful look returns instantaneously, and she throws her arms around him, as if he's family. "I told you I wouldn't let you down." And then she shoots one last triumphant glance at the covered body, and darts out the door. However, her head pokes back into the room, and, catching Vlad's eye, she exclaims, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Masters!"

Vlad crumples to the floor just as she exits. His hand, clutching onto the white sheet with an iron grip, drags the cloth off of the dead body as he falls, showing the corpse of none other than the ghost boy.

Danny awakes, inhaling deeply.

Only, he can't inhale.

Looking down in confusion, he sees the black and white form of Phantom, and feels his chest, his white fingertips slowly ghosting over the black surface. Where there is normally the faint beating of a distant human heart, now there is only silence.

Hollow silence.


"Daniel..." Danny looks up in shock, only to find his eyes locked on Vlad Masters, who stands in the doorway, immersed in shadow.

He shoots the man a confused look, and asks, "What's going on? Vlad, I don't under—"

"Danny..." Right then Danny knows something is very wrong. Vlad is the only person who adamantly refuses to call him by anything other than 'Daniel'. Vlad steps forward, the muted glow coming off of Danny's ghost form falling across his pained features. He bites his lip as Danny continues to stare into his eyes, and whispers, "Danny, you're dead."

The words rush at Danny like a brick wall to the face, his chest compressing and his head feeling as if someone's taken a hammer to it. "What...what do you mean?" But his words sound strange to him, almost like an echo.

Like a ghost's, he realizes, horror staining his features.

Vlad's eyes soften, and he moves forward, arms outstretched. "Daniel, I—"

"No! Don't touch me!" Danny screams, his weightless form floating upwards off of the metallic slab, out of the man's reach. "You killed me! You killed me!"

The older ghost sighs, and transforms into Plasmius, ghosting upwards to meet Danny. "Daniel, you know that, despite all of our differences, I would never...never..." But even he can't seem to bring himself to say the words, for his eyes have started to dampen, and his expression is dripping of guilt and fear.

"I would never," he repeats, his voice breaking.

And now Danny is beginning to remember.

The last face he recalls isn't Vlad's, but...but hers.


Danny's fists burst with spheres of vibrant green energy, and he rushes at Plasmius, crying out in hatred and terror. "Why? Why couldn't you just leave us alone? Why couldn't you just go away and let me be happy?"

Throwing ectoblast after ectoblast, he pushes Plasmius, who for some reason has refused to fight back, into the corner, hitting him repeatedly as he screams out his fury. Danny stops when he realizes that he's no longer attacking Plasmius, but Vlad, who has shifted back into his human form, cringing into the metallic wall.

Unable to shed the tears he feels building up inside, Danny drops to his knees, his chest aching with this hollowness that he is so unused to. "Why?" he whispers, staring up at Vlad's crouched form in sorrow.

"It was a misfire, were supposed to kill her." He covers his face with his hand, his shoulders shaking, and Danny knows that he's holding back a sob. "She was holding you back."

Vlad reaches out to draw the boy into an embrace, but his hands ghost through the boy's shoulders as he attempts to pull him into the hug. He swallows, and whispers in a harsh tone, "Your love was holding you back."

And as he kneels in silence as he watches the older man break down into quiet sobs, Danny realizes that he isn't the only one being held back by love.