He walked slowly, purposelessly—using that small transitional period to buy as much time as he could as he roamed Amity's now completely desolate streets, void of people who'd been driven in by that cold—at least this is what he assumed, as he was cold—but more likely the late hours of the night; after all, if he recalled correctly it was approaching midnight when he'd left, and the normal person would be by now nestled safely in their beds, sound asleep. He, on the other hand, had an hour and intended to use it, maybe solely to buy time, yes, but there was no denying that he found this time to be cool, liberating freedom, away from Vlad's commanding hand, perhaps some of the last he'd ever experience, especially considering the next day's exciting events and their journey to Wisconsin thereafter; in his mind, he was certain with one-hundred-percent clarity that once he left Amity, he too left his freedom, and became that possession to Vlad, so desperately craved for years since.

So like one on death row who knows their inevitable fate at the poke of a needle, Danny Phantom cherished that cold, haunting air, somehow heavy and repressive at the same time—filled with energy, presence that was not lost on him. And internally he became chilled, and like clockwork, he was instilled not five minutes into the walk to get back to the house, to get back to Vlad. From needing nothing more than to get away, now he internally he longed to have the man greet him at the door and take him into his strong, comforting arms, and tuck him into bed, not leaving until he was fast and securely asleep. He'd make sure the windows were locked—make sure nothing could get in, or out. He'd chase away monsters and divert the focus—Vlad Masters could make the reality flee, and he longed for this more than anything. Maybe, just maybe, that was what he needed—someone to put down restraints, to suck the freedom from his life like sand to a vacuum cleaner. It was abrupt, and sometimes harsh, but it was measured, structured, constant—reliable and it was comforting, therefore. Maybe he need that; after all, it wasn't like anything in his life was constant with his previous way of living after the accident, so why should he freedom be exempted from this? Why not throw that lifestyle out with the corpses of his mother and father, his sister and friends, sad lonely teacher? After all, they'd go in the ground tomorrow—why not bury his freedom with them?

His feuding brain bought him much time away from the man—after all, it took him nearly a half hour before he finally seemed to sadly conclude that either way, it did not matter; that either way, Vlad would still take control of him and proceed to shape him into an obedient, half ghost son. It didn't matter what he did or didn't do to prevent that, because in truth there simply was no preventing it. It, like his loved ones' deaths the minute he picked up the answer booklet to the test, was inevitable.

So when he came to Dash Baxter's unconscious, half-dead body laying sprawled near a garbage can in an alley near Casper High, he thought nothing of it. He stepped over the body and began walking back to his home, scolding himself for the huge waste of time this little trip had been, for not only was he tired but he was saddened by this realization—no, not saddened, perplexed, because his emotions were not clearly printed out before him like ink on paper. In fact he could not tell how he felt about this except that he knew he should never allowed himself this much time to think; thinking was dangerous, wearing like saliva upon a saltlick. It would be better just to trust in Vlad and relinquish any free thoughts—to think what he thought and nothing more. It would be easier that way.

Like an inmate on death row, it would be easier to forget the blessings of life and just give into that beautiful silver needle, to let it drag one down into a deep, peaceful, monotonous sleep. Free will would equal pain; obedience would dispel the task more quickly.

He could have thoughtfully pondered in that hour, the last of his freedom, but he would not; he would not let himself. As if triggered by Dash's unconscious form, the half-ghost child walked mindlessly back to the house, like a robot being ordered home by a press of a button by its master; the sight of his former classmate had called him in, to the house, to Vlad's world where there was no reasonable logic, where it was okay to murder a stupid sixteen-year-old jock, and where most of all it was okay to accept a new father after yours was destroyed in a tragic explosion.

He had checked out of the human world—was done for the night. He wanted to sleep.

~000~

And he would. With a freshly shut down brain, Danny returned to the house, where Vlad was sitting in the armchair near the door, once Jazz's favorite, trying to read a book in his hands but his attention drifting to Daniel and his whereabouts. Just as he had begun to drift into the realm of the book, the door opened quietly and he jumped. Danny entered, his face pale and his eyes rimmed with dark circles; like before, everything on that boy sagged and drooped with fatigue. In the dictionary, he would have fallen beneath exhaustion as the first reference.

Vlad closed his book quickly and stood up, smiling with relief at seeing the child safely returned to him, and—with a quick glance at the clock—a half hour early. The man purred and took Danny into his arms, placating him—this was what he wanted, wasn't it?—as he embraced him with that strong and protective hold of his. But Danny was not present here any longer and was not guilty for the comfort he took from this, and he relaxed into Vlad's arms, intent on falling asleep right then and there; Vlad could deal with him once he was unconscious—could check the windows to make sure the seal was tight so no demons or spirits would enter and drag him back to the cold world of reasoning. He took comfort in this thought.

And watching as the boy dozed off in his arms, Vlad decided their talk could wait until the next morning. It could wait. Longer than he'd originally intended. Until after the funeral. Until after the funeral had passed, because perhaps they wouldn't go. It could wait.

Perhaps they didn't need those little closure type things after all.

Vlad smiled down at his little badger and placed a kiss on his forehead. "Goodnight, Danny," he said, and the boy closed his eyes, and left the further world all together.


A/N:

Hi, yes it's this girly back again. I'm tripping right now.

I feel really bad it's been so long-a year ago today, I think. WOW. So I want to get this story going again with its stupid, crazy, yet somehow heartwrenching slowness. Ah yes, the pace of a turtle. 27 chapters and they're still in Amity Park. lol life the universe and bub.

So I'll keep plugging away. Hopefully they'll be out of the parkly place within two chapters, maybe three, and those should come soon, expect them in the next couple weeks, as well as updates for my other storiiiiiiiiiies wow I'm so grossed out right now do you know there's these things called human bot flies and they basically lay eggs on you burrow into your skin and then a maggot crawls out 8 weeks later? oh shit Im getting chills omg...

0o0 (my face imagining a maggot in my skin) Help me. also please tell me what you thoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhh gross!

~ILIKETROLLDOLLSANDJESUS