No Exit

Disclaimer: Please feel free to temporarily exit reality and enter the world of my one-shot; however, all passengers should keep in mind that this author only owns the plot of this story and does not actually own Danny Phantom. Thank you, and please enjoy your flight.

Danny sat quietly in one of the passenger's seats in the speeder as he eyed his parents warily. He couldn't believe it. Although they had built the speeder ages ago, neither one of his parents had ever dared to actually explore the ghost zone. Sure, Danny and his friends had used it countless times, but his parents? Never.

Until today.

Although it was a Saturday and Danny had every intention of sleeping late—it had been a hard week of fighting ghosts and he had, after all, been up late playing the new Doomed—his parents apparently had a much different plan. Barging into his room at nine a.m., they'd ushered him out of bed and downstairs to the lab, the pair of them rapidly explaining how they were finally going to explore the ghost zone and how Danny, as a Fenton and their potential heir since Jazz had run off to college to study something as "useless" as psychology, had to accompany them on their maiden voyage into the paranormal realm.

In a way, Danny supposed it was almost better that he was here. Suppressing a yawn as his mother powered up the speeder, Danny knew his parents were going to run into some kind of trouble and that somehow, he would have to get them out of it. If they'd left him at home, then it just would've made it more difficult since he would have had to track them down first or dealt with one of his enemies holding them hostage in return for his pelt or some other such nonsense, but since he was with them . . . Turning into his alter ego without them noticing would be a pain, but at least he could save himself from wasting hours looking for them when they didn't come back in time for dinner.

"Did you make sure to pack the extra fudge, Mads?" asked Jack for the fourth or fifth time—Danny wasn't sure at this point—and she smiled at him.

"Of course, dear," she replied patiently. "We should be back long before you get hungry, though."

"I hope so. Even the best fudge can only hold a man over for so long," he stated seriously as he took the controls, and Danny had to suppress a shudder. His dad's driving was horrifying at best and deadly at its worst, and how he had ever managed to get a license, Danny never understood.

"Um, dad, maybe mom should drive," he suggested meekly from his seat as he double checked his seatbelt, not willing to take any chances.

"Oh, nonsense, sweetie, your father will be fine!" his mom said, but leaning closer she whispered, "But don't worry, Danny. There's an extra brake by my seat in case we need it."

"That's totally not as reassuring as you think it is," he mumbled, yawning again. Stupid trip. Stupid lack of sleep. All he wanted was to go back to bed. "Can we just get this over with? I'm supposed to be hanging out with Sam and Tucker later."

"Sure, Danny-boy," chimed his father, and pulling on the controls he drove the speeder rapidly through the portal.

They had barely made it a few hundred feet into the zone when suddenly something hit the speeder and his mother let out a terrified shriek. Before Danny could even register why she was screaming, there was a sudden, blinding flash of light as the speeder began to spin horribly out of control and the world faded into darkness.

The first thing Danny noticed was the pain, which was not awesome.

The second, however, was that the pain meant that he was most likely still alive, and that was definitely awesome.

Or at least as alive as he had been before this whole mess, at any rate.

"Ugh . . ." he groaned as he slowly opened his eyes, his head feeling as if it had been stuffed full of cotton, and looking around he saw that the speeder was completely dark and crumpled, the only light coming from the eerie green of the ghost zone outside the window. Miraculously the window itself was still intact, even though the rest of the speeder was a twisted, dented mass of metal that barely resembled the sleek otherworldly vehicle it had once been.

Slowly, unsteadily, Danny climbed to his feet. His whole body ached, and in the green light he could make out dozens of scrapes all over his exposed arms. His pants had ripped a little bit around the knees, and part of his t-shirt was coated with blood, but when he lifted it up he realized that the injury looked worse than it actually was. Touching a hand gently to his head, he pulled it away and his hand was covered in still more of his own blood, and it was enough that if he weren't a half-ghost then he would've been a lot more worried about it. He most likely had a mild concussion, too, but his ghost powers were kicking in and he could already feel himself healing and getting stronger by the minute.

"Mom? Dad?" he choked out meekly as his head began to clear a little, and clambering towards the two unmoving figures in the front, he felt his heart stop for a minute as he considered the unthinkable. There was no way . . . they couldn't be . . . they weren't . . .

". . . Danny?" his mother mumbled softly, her eyes fluttering, and Danny felt his heart start beating again as he let out a long breath. Beside his mother his father also began to stir, his eyes unfocused and bleary.

Looking over at her husband, Maddie slowly managed to come out of unconsciousness, and Danny was all too familiar with how awful that felt—the headaches, the slight dizziness, the flashes of light and the unreal aspect of it all—since he'd just struggled out of it himself. "Jack? Danny? Are you okay?"

"I'm okay, mom," said Danny shakily, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Dad?"

"Ugh . . . I feel like I got in a fight with a badger and lost, and Fenton's don't lose to badgers," he mumbled, and Danny and his mother looked at each other before bursting into a fit of giggles. It seemed crazy to be laughing just then when they'd all almost been killed, but honestly, Danny couldn't help himself. He was just happy that they were all okay, that they were all alive, but then he felt the laughter fade when another question occurred to him.

"What happened?"

"Something crashed into us," mumbled Jack, shaking his head as he tried to come out of it. "A floating rock or something."

Well, at least it wasn't a ghost attack, but Danny didn't remember there being a floating rock so close to their portal, or at least not one that he'd have to worry about since as a real-world object the speeder could pass through everything in the ghost zone. Maybe Skulker or Vlad had set up some kind of trap for the next time he and his friends entered the zone, or maybe it was one of the creepy "living" rocks that seemed to exist in the here and somehow it had the power to affect the speeder . . . Whatever it was, though, Danny would worry about it later. For now, he had to just focus on getting his parents safely out of the Speeder and out of this place. If this was a trap and Vlad or Skulker showed up, then he'd worry about it when it happened.

"So what do we do now?" he pressed, trying to get his parents to focus. "Does this thing have like a backup engine or something?"

"No," his mom sighed as she tried clear the fog from her head and climbed out of her seat, and Danny helped her as she tried to find her footing in the damaged speeder. "We'll have to go on foot. We don't have what we'd need to repair the speeder here, or at least not what we'd need after the severe structural damage it's suffered."

"You mean we're going to have to try and walk through the ghost zone?" gasped Danny, and there was no way this was a good idea. They hadn't come very far before they'd crashed, but it was still just far enough that they might run into trouble if they tried to just casually stroll back to the Fenton portal.

"I don't think we have another choice, son," his father sighed. "Grab the packs over there, will you? And Mads, get the extra ghost weapons. We're gonna need all the fire power we can get if we want to make it home safe. Those ghost punks won't give us a chance if they catch us here."

Although Danny didn't say it, he definitely agreed. Most of the ghosts in the zone hated the Fentons, either because they had actually been a victim of his parent's atrocious hunting skills or because they simply found them to be more obnoxious than the Box Ghost. The few who didn't, though, would still take the opportunity to attack them if they saw them with Danny, since even those who didn't know the elder Fentons knew the ghost boy and his hero complex all too well to let an opportunity like this pass them by.

"Here, Danny," said Maddie, holding out a basic ecto-blaster to her son, and Danny carefully tucked it into his jeans as he handed each of his parents one of the emergency packs. There was some food in each one, but not enough to last more than a couple of days, as well as some water, a blanket, a knife, and a few other basic necessities that would've been better on a camping trip than an outing to the ghost zone.

Still, the few tools and food they had was better than nothing at all, and it wasn't like they'd come so far that they would need any of that stuff, anyway. It was just a precaution in case something stupid like a natural portal opening or a ghost attack derailed their trip home.

"Maddie, can you help me with the door?" asked Jack as he tried to move it. "I think it's jammed."

Walking over, his wife examined it carefully before finally shaking her head. "We can't get it open like that, Jack. The metal's twisted too much."

"What about the emergency hatch?"

"No good, either," his mother confirmed after a moment, and Danny felt himself starting to panic.

"Can't we just shoot out the front window or something like they do in the movies?" asked Danny, and his mom smiled sadly at him.

"That's not normal glass, sweetie," she replied. "We weren't sure what the atmosphere would be like or what type of pressure might exist in the ghost zone, so we built the entire ship like a submarine. The glass on that window is six inches thick and it's also been coated in a specially designed substance that diffuses all but the strongest ghostly energy and the energy from our weapons. Same with the rest of the ship. It wouldn't stop a seriously powerful attack from damaging the speeder, but we wanted to give it some type of resistance that would make it possible for us to get away if the situation here called for it."

Danny thought about this for a moment as he looked around the speeder, and noticing the sudden, hopeless expression on his dad's face made him feel a despair that he had rarely felt before. It was the kind of expression that his father never wore—the man had a solution for everything, even if those solutions were a bit eccentric—and to see him look defeated meant that their situation had suddenly gotten considerably worse than Danny wanted to believe.

"So . . . what you're saying is that we're stuck in here?" he whispered, and his mom gave a tiny nod. "For good?"

"I . . . we don't have any equipment designed to cut through the metal on the ship," his mother said, trying to work out some kind of solution to their problem. "Without that, we can't even create an exit."

"Can't you, I don't know, invent something?" he pleaded as his mom and dad sat down and looked at each other thoughtfully.

"I . . . I don't know, Danny," sighed Maddie, biting her lip. "I need to think . . . can you grab the first aid kit?"

A bit taken aback by the sudden change in topic, Danny thought about arguing with her but realized that it was pointless. They were all tired. All frustrated. All confused and uncertain.

But they were all still alive, too, he reminded himself sternly, and that had to count for something. His mom just needed time to think, and treating their wounds would help her do it. "Sure." Grabbing the kit from his pack, he handed it to his mom and watched as she quietly tended to his father for a few minutes. His dad had a nasty cut on his side that was bleeding pretty badly, but since his mom seemed unconcerned, Danny didn't worry about it too much as he watched her bandage him up.

As his parents helped each other, Danny considered the one option that he couldn't discuss with them. He was, after all, a ghost . . . and that meant that if he wanted to, he could just phase all of them out of the speeder. But that meant giving up his secret. It meant potentially ending up dead or worse when they found out, because with his parents in their current exhausted daze, there was a good chance that they would shoot first and ask questions later if they thought that some ghost had started possessing him, a condition that would be hard to dispute while they were stuck here in the Ghost Zone after getting knocked unconscious in a crash.

"How long before someone notices that we're missing and realizes where to come looking for us?" asked Danny quietly as his mom began examining him now.

"I—I don't know, sweetie," his mother admitted. "Maybe days. Weeks. Jazz is off at college and we didn't tell her about the trip. Other people might realize that we're missing sooner, but they won't know where we've gone." She paused as she dabbed the cut on his forehead with some antiseptic, making him wince. "Sorry, honey. I know it stings, but we need to make sure it doesn't get infected."

"I know, mom," sighed Danny softly.

"Can you lift up your shirt? There's a lot of blood there," she murmured, and Danny nodded, showing her the cut on his side. It was definitely worse than the one on his head, but his healing powers were in overdrive and he knew he'd be fine, first aid or not. His mom and dad didn't say anything as she finished treating his injuries, and when she was finally done, Danny took the first aid kit back and tucked it inside his pack, as if any minute now they would finally be able to leave.

For a while Danny simply sat there while his parents quietly discussed what they could do. Phones didn't work (his mom had finally gotten a cell phone after the whole DALV group incident, but it was useless in the ghost zone), and the speeder didn't have any kind of emergency beacon, either. They talked about salvaging some of the wiring from the speeder and altering their weapons to create a makeshift blowtorch, but every time his father would suggest a way to do it, his mother would simply shake her head and explain why it wouldn't work.

There were a few moments when things seemed hopeful, when it seemed as if maybe they had stumbled onto a solution, but the more they talked, the less optimistic it seemed. At this rate, Danny was either going to have to give himself up or let this place become their coffin. They couldn't just stay here forever, and Danny knew that sooner or later a ghost would come by, especially if this had been some sort of trap. Most of the ghosts that had lairs close to the Fenton Portal probably wouldn't be willing to ask questions before blowing up three seemingly helpless humans intruding on their territory, either, and trapped as they were he and his family would be easy targets even for someone pathetic like the Box Ghost. The more he thought about it, the more Danny knew that there was simply no choice.

He had to do it.

"Mom, dad?" he said softly, interrupting the pair for the first time in hours, and the two of them glanced up at him. "Tell me the truth. We're stuck in here for good, aren't we?"

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sure that we'll think of something," his mother lied, smiling at him.

"That's right, Danny! We can't give up now," his dad added, grinning weakly as he shifted around slightly. His dad was doing okay, but being trapped inside the speeder definitely wasn't doing them much good.

"And will that be before or after some ghost tries to waste us?" asked Danny, rather than calling her on her lie completely, and instantly her smile deflated.

"Honestly, Danny-boy, there's a better chance that we'll run out of air before a ghost gets that kind of chance," admitted Jack as he put an arm around Maddie, and Danny winced. He hadn't actually considered that, but if it was true that his parents had built this place like a submarine, then the speeder was most likely air tight or close enough that the tiny bit of ventilation they might be getting now might not be enough. "But we'll keep trying, son. There's always a solution."

And I know what it is. I need to tell them, he thought.

"I—I think I know what to do," Danny said, forcing the words out before he could talk himself out of it, and instantly his parents' eyes sparkled with renewed hope. "But it means that I'm going to have to tell you guys something, and . . . and I don't . . . I'm worried you might hate me for it."

"Danny, that's absurd," his mother chuckled gently. "We could never hate you."

"Even if you find out that I've been lying to you for years?" he asked, and he saw them frowning, watching him carefully. The amusement that had been dancing in his mother's eyes had been replaced with motherly concern and disbelief. His parents didn't want to believe that he'd been lying to them, or at the very least, they didn't want their belief that their son might have lied to them from time to time confirmed. "Even if you find out that I'm—that I'm not—"

"—not what?"

Danny took a deep breath as he nervously rubbed the back of his neck, his mind struggling to make his mouth form the sentences that he knew he had to speak, and when he finally did, it came out with a kind of harsh finality that he hadn't intended. "Two years ago, I died in a lab accident with the portal."

Silence reigned through the speeder for a moment as his parents stared at him in shock, but after a minute, his mother shook her head.

"That's not funny, Danny," said Maddie darkly, almost angrily. "You're not dead. I've seen you breathing, sleeping, eating, and, as much as it pains me, bleeding. Don't make such a terrible joke."

"I'm not—it's not a joke," he continued, his voice trembling as the words tumbled out more rapidly than he wanted them to, but he couldn't stop himself now. "I—well, I guess I didn't completely died. I'm more like half-dead. I was shocked in the portal when it turned on. I should've died, but instead I just ended up becoming a half-ghost."

"That's impossible, Danny-boy," his father whispered as he shook his head. "There's no such thing as half-ghosts."

Danny knew he couldn't waste time arguing with them about this. They were scientists. Since he knew that they had never considered that such a thing might even be possible before he told them, Danny also knew if he let his parents try to debunk his half-ghost existence for too long then they'd talk him out of telling them the truth. He couldn't let them do that, though, not right now when their lives seemed to hang on learning his secret, so instead, he pressed on, speaking more rapidly now, the words gushing out so quickly that he felt as if he'd opened a locked box and was now dumping out the contents on the floor as quickly as he could, hoping to finish before anyone could slam the box of truth shut again.

"I—I have a ghost form. I can use all of the basic ghostly powers that you guys told me about. Invisibility." He let himself flicker out of sight, the first proof that what he was saying wasn't pure madness, and Danny heard his parents' gasp as he vanished. "Intangibility." Reappearing, Danny plunged his left hand through the floor of the speeder. "And flight." He floated half a foot off the floor, then, not willing to do much more since there just wasn't any room in the speeder and because it was kind of hard to fly when he wasn't in his ghost form. "And I can do other stuff, too, but that doesn't matter right now. We need to get out of here. The other ghosts in the zone—well, let's just say that they aren't exactly fond of me. A lot of them will just destroy the speeder on sight if they think they can end my half-life. And if this thing is really running out of air, too, then we can't stay here. I can get us out. I can make you guys intangible and we can get out of here, and then—then I can carry you home."

The words finally stopped as he sat there across from them, waiting for them to say something, to do something. He had been preparing for this day for years now, anticipating the day when he would finally be ready to tell them the truth. Although today wasn't exactly what he'd pictured, he supposed that in the end, it was as good a time as any to come clean with his parents.

And no matter what else happened, Danny at least felt like a huge weight had finally been lifted from him. The burden that was his secret was crippling sometimes, and there were days when he was just so tired, when the lies just became so hard to keep up . . . if nothing else, no matter what happened he would never have to worry about accepting that weight again. He would not hide the truth from them anymore.

"But it doesn't—it doesn't make sense," his mother whispered softly at last. "You can't be a ghost. You—are you sure that you're not possessed?"

Danny nodded. "You can check when we get home. Do whatever tests you like—it'll show you that I'm not. I don't really understand how it all works. I just know that it does, because, well, I'm the living proof. Sort of living, anyway."

"You said that you have a ghost form?" his father asked uneasily, and from the look on his face, Danny knew that he'd figured it out. He knew who—and what—Danny was.

"Yeah. You've seen it before." The rings appeared around his waist, the light shining brilliantly in the dim speeder, and his parents covered their eyes for a moment as he transformed in front of them. The black-haired, blue-eyed teenager was gone, replaced with a glowing, ghostly teen with white hair and brilliant green eyes. "I'm Danny Phantom," he confirmed, his voice echoing, and the horrified expressions they wore made him feel as if his heart were being crushed. "Look . . . I get it if you can't accept me. I do. Really. You guys have hated ghosts your entire life. But please, just please let me get you out of here. I don't—I don't want you guys to die, okay? Just let me bring you home safe. If you want me to get out or if you never want to see me again, then—then I get it," he choked, feeling the tears building up, but he wouldn't cry. Not in front of them, not now.

"Sweetie, that's not it," his mother said instantly, moving closer to him, and before he knew what was happening she'd thrown his arms around him. "Oh, Danny, I wish that you'd told us. All these years—we hunted you. We hurt you."

"It's okay, mom," he said, for he couldn't deny that his parents had hunted him and, on a few occasions, at least, even hurt him. "It wasn't your fault. Not really. I kept this a secret. I should've told you the day it happened, but I just—I was freaked out. I didn't know how to tell you, and I couldn't prove it at first since I didn't have any control over my powers, and by the time I finally did keeping everything a secret just seemed like such a good idea. I know it wasn't, I always have, but I just . . . I couldn't help it. I'm sorry, mom. Dad. I'm sorry."

Standing up, then, Jack Fenton came over and gave the two of them a massive bear hug, squeezing so tightly that Danny thought he might have to go intangible just to breathe again. "You know, Danny, your grandfather always used to say that you can't dwell on the past. And maybe you should've told us sooner, but then again, maybe we should've noticed something sooner, too. All three of us messed up pretty badly, son, but we can't worry about that now. We just gotta do the best we can to not do it again and to do better from now on, right?"

Danny nodded as his father released him, although he doubted that there would be another accident changing him into a crime-fighting half-ghost again anytime soon. "Yeah. You're right." Nervously, he held out his hands for them to take. "You ready?"

"No," his mother admitted, but she took his hand anyway, as did his father, and then she asked a question that he never expected to hear from his mother. "Does it hurt?"

Danny smiled, shaking his head. "No . . . or at least I don't think it does, since it doesn't hurt me. Sam and Tucker said that it feels really cold, but they've never said it hurts."

"Your friends know?" his father gasped, and then he smacked himself in the forehead with his free hand. "Of course they know, why wouldn't they? They're your friends."

"Let's get out of here, Danny," his mom said. "And when we get home, promise me that you'll tell us everything, okay?"

"Yeah. I promise," he replied as he turned all three of them intangible and flew them out of the speeder towards home.

A/N: Been a while since I've posted anything, eh? This fanfic is actually kind of old-it's been sitting on my computer for months now and it's one of the first Danny Phantom fanfics I actually ever wrote-and as I was browsing through some of my other stuff I came across it. I figured that since it's been a while since I've uploaded and since I still don't have the next chapter of Lost or Ten Minutes to the End or, heck, even my next one-shot for MiniHayden's challenge ready to update, I'd upload this for now instead. (Seriously, sorry guys. Life's been crazy lately and I've had some bad writer's block, but I promise I haven't abandoned anything yet, 'kay?)

The only things I remember about this fic from when I wrote this was that I wanted to do a revelation fic and that I wanted to use a kind of double meaning for "exit"—I wanted Danny to be physically trapped in a situation with no exit (the busted up speeder with his parents) and then metaphorically trapped in a situation that seems to have no exit (in the whole 'the only way out is to tell his secret that he so desperately doesn't want to tell'). The idea sort of came from a discussion with a friend about choices, since I'm of the opinion that we always have a choice even if the options just kind of suck sometimes and she's, well, not. ;)

Anyway, enough of my babbling. Please review! Questions, comments, criticisms, whatever-it's all appreciated. ;)

And, as always, 'til next time!