Okay, so here is that one-shot that takes place six months after Checkmate, at the end of Season three, but one year before Endgame. I had not been sure about where in the timeline I wanted to write this. I had a lot of ideas, but finally settled on this one. So, this takes place at the end of Phantom Planet. Remember how we were left off with Danny and Sam getting away from the celebration and doing their own thing? Well, this is the continuation of that same day. I don't know about you, but I noticed a lot of unanswered and unresolved things in that ending, which I will be addressing in this one-shot, and of course, tying it in with Checkmate and opening the way for Endgame, which I hope to update on its scheduled date.
One last thing. This is first-person narration by Danny. Yeah… never tried Danny, but I told myself I would try first-person narration at least one time for the three most complicated characters on the show: Clockwork, Vlad, and Danny.
So, I now give you Danny. *gulps* I hope it's not a total fail….
Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom. Episode quotes and all belongs to Mr. Hartman and Co.
My Last Lesson from You
You know that nervous-excitement-kind-of-feeling that you get when you have accomplished something big, but know that what's next will be even bigger and more challenging?
That's how I felt as I flew with Sam—my girlfriend—across the setting sky of Amity Park.
It was such a relief in some ways that my secret was out in the open—that my parents and the whole world knew the truth and that I wasn't being rejected or hunted down! Quite the opposite, actually. I was now viewed as the savior and hero of the world! Who would have thought that this was how things would end?
But no, as I had told Sam, it wasn't the end; it was a new beginning.
And speaking of my girlfriend… Yeah, I really liked thinking of her as that. Just the thought of that title was thrilling! It felt so right. Heh. I bet it sounds even cooler sayin' it out loud…. I'll have to try it before the night is over.
"You okay, Sam? You're pretty quiet…," I said, looking down at the girl I held in my arms in bridal style. She had protested to being carried like this at first –you know, typical Sam and her dislike for vulnerability or something like that. But, she eventually gave in, much to my enjoyment…
She startled a bit before her eyes drifted up towards mine. "Oh, what?" She paused when I raised a curious eyebrow and she added with a sheepish smile, "Sorry, I was just thinking of everything that's happened…"
I smiled back to let her know I wasn't bothered, and replied, "Yeah, I still can't believe it all myself, either, Sam. I mean, everyone knows I'm Danny Phantom and their okay with it!"
"You really are surprised about that, aren't you?" she said, raising an eyebrow at me now.
"Well, yeah. You remember what happened with the Reality Gauntlets? I was being hunted down after everyone found out. I mean, I knew from that experience that my parents would accept me, but…" I frowned. "I can't help to think that if things would've been any different… I would be running like last time… I would be hunted down… like…"
My eyebrows creased and I unknowingly slowed to a stop as something hit me, and I whispered more to myself than Sam, "…like… Vlad."
My eyes widened as I realized that in all the commotion and relief and all the other stuff, I had completely forgotten about Vlad! All I knew was that he had failed to turn the asteroid intangible. But I hadn't even had time to talk to my dad about him—about what happened up there… About where Vlad was…
Where was Plasmius anyways?
"Vlad?" Sam suddenly interrupted my thoughts. "Danny, since when do you compare yourself to that creep? We both know Vlad deserves to be hunted down. You don't. That's why what happened with Freakshow that one time was wrong, Danny. But it doesn't matter anymore. So, forget about the 'what ifs', okay? Just enjoy the fact that things came out alright—that you're the hero and that… you're with me now, alright?"
Sam pulled me a bit closer, so our faces where inches apart. I smiled at that little smirk on her face. Did she even know how tightly she had me wrapped around her finger? Er, I mean, figuratively speaking—although, she did have her hands around my neck. Heh.
"I guess you're right….," I conceded, my smile growing. For some reason her own smile grew, but I still continued, a bit cockier now, "But, you know, being the hero and all, I can get pretty distracted… And I can only think of one solution for that 'problem'… Think my girlfriend could help me out?"
Yes! I said it! And it does sound awesome! Ha!
Sam blushed a little and I gotta say I liked it, too. "Well, if 'your solution' is reasonable… I'm sure I could help out my… boyfriend…," she replied, a mixture of shyness and smugness in her voice.
I immediately grinned like an idiot. Oh, I could definitely get use to this.
"Here's the solution then…," I said quietly before pulling her in for a kiss. Yeah, I know. Very smooth, Fenton. But, hey, I wanted an excuse to kiss her again. I never said I was the most subtle superhero, now did I?
I don't even know why I didn't do this sooner—asking Sam to be my girl, that is. Ever since I realized my true feelings for Sam, I had been dying to tell her, but I guess I was afraid of being rejected… I should have known she liked me back, though. Sam had always been there for me. I should have seen her protectiveness and even… jealousy at times.
I really am clueless.
And to think, I realized my feelings at one of the hardest moments of my life: when Vlad had forced me to leave everything behind in order to save Jazz from the nanobots in her body just over six months ago. It was in that absence that I realized how much I needed and missed Sam…
I guess I somehow have the fruit loop to thank for me finally realizing my feelings…
"I guess you're right," I said with a small smile. "I do like her."
"Oh." Vlad cleared his throat, and added with uncertainty, "Well, I suppose your next step would be to tell her…"
I rubbed my neck. "I don't know…Hey, what if I first try to win her over before telling her?" I questioned with a small smile. But then I frowned, adding, "But I don't know how to do that. A lot of the pretty girls already think I'm a loser and Valerie dumped me a week after we started going out…"
Vlad just arched an eyebrow at the news.
"Hey, wait…," I said with a widening grin, before I suddenly exclaimed, "Why don't you teach me?"
"Yeah!" I continued. "I need advice on how to get a girl to like me. So, since you're such a charmer with the ladies, I'm sure you can give me a few pointers! …You are now practically my teacher, after all, oh wise mentor...," I added with an expectant smirk.
I did not even realize I had pulled away from Sam as that memory surfaced from the depth of my mind. I didn't get it! Why was I thinking of this all the sudden? All that with Vlad was six months ago; and in those six month, all that jerk had done was make my life miserable—as if it had been a goal of his from then on.
No, I was not going to think about this now! Darn it! Even when he's gone, he manages to ruin my good times!
I focused on Sam and I mentally cringed at the concerned frown on her face. Her next question didn't surprise me since she had always been able to read me like a book.
I sighed and gently lowered her down, though I held her by the waist so she wouldn't fall—we were still hovering in the darkening sky, after all.
"I don't know, Sam… You're gonna think I'm crazy, but… I suddenly can't stop thinking about Vlad…."
Her face scrunched up instantly.
"Let me finish," I said before she could begin to protest. "I… I feel sorry for him." My eyebrows creased with my troubled emotions. "Sam, he lost everything. He won't even be able to show his face unless he wants to be captured by the Guys-in-White!"
"Danny," she said with a frown. "Vlad brought this on himself. Why do you feel sorry for him when he's responsible for his own end?"
I said nothing. I knew she wouldn't understand, and I didn't blame her. Even to this date, I haven't told her and Tucker everything that happened six months ago between Vlad and me. And ever since then, I've been trying to bury it all under my resentment and anger. I honestly thought I was over it, and now, on the same day my life becomes so much better, the memories are trying to come back.
I don't understand why. It's like… I think of Vlad and how he ruined his life, and I feel like it hurts me, too—as if I have lost something, too…
"Come on, Danny," Sam suddenly said with a small sigh. And once again, I was reminded I could not keep anything from Sam as she said next, "Vlad's been such a jerk to you and all of us. But if the idea of him being captured by the Guys-in-White and dissected bothers you so much, then let me tell you that I wouldn't worry about it too much. Vlad's too quick and smart to be captured by those idiots. Wherever he is or goes, I'm sure he'll go hide somewhere, like the coward he is, but will keep himself one step ahead of any authority."
I stared at Sam for a bit. Her talking about Vlad being dissected had sent a chill of fear up my spine. I would never let that happen. Vlad being locked up was one thing, but no one deserved to be dissected! It was just… eww.
I suddenly realized, I needed to go talk to my dad right away or these thoughts were not going to leave me alone. Yeah, I think that's what it was. I just needed some closure. I needed to know where that fruit-loop was and then I would be fine. After all, I should be happy about this. No more arch-enemy to make my life difficult.
That was good, right?
"It's getting pretty late," Sam suddenly said, smiling weakly at me. "I'm sure you have a family to go talk to and… my parents are probably getting worried since we both did kind of sneak out of your celebration…"
I forced a smile on my face. "Yeah, and I don't want your parents mad at me again for 'kidnapping you' when I just got them on my good side."
Sam laughed a bit, but didn't reply.
Changing directions, I finally moved again. I got to Sam's in no time. I lowered her down and was about to look around to make sure no one was around, when I paused. Oh, right. I didn't have to do that anymore.
Sam seemed to notice my automatic reaction because she smirked a bit in amusement.
I rolled my eyes and turned human again. "Yeah, I know. It's gonna get some getting use to…" But when she grabbed one of my hands, I added more warmly, "But this won't…"
She looked warmly at me, but it was forced this time. I was about to ask her what was wrong when she said more seriously, "Danny, I'm really happy that we're finally taking our friendship to the next level, but… we're still 'friends', you know? Like, you can tell me anything. And, well, I might not always understand, but I'll listen."
Knowing where this was coming from, I sighed and grabbed her other hand, replying, "Sam, I just need some closure. Vlad… He was the only other half-ghost. I mean, there's Danni, but it's not the same. Believe me, if there was anything worth talking about, I would tell you. So, don't worry, okay?"
She smiled a bit and nodded. But still seeing her concern, I smiled back and added with helplessness, "I guess some things will never change. But I'm glad. But, really, I'm fine. I couldn't be any happier right now…"
I grinned as I pulled her close, and further said, "I mean, the world is safe, my ghostly enemies probably will give me about a week before they start bugging me, everyone has accepted me as I am and think of me as a hero, and I have the love of my friends and family… And… I have you, Sam."
She smiled genuinely this time before she pulled closer and kissed me. I didn't hesitate to kiss her right back.
Eventually, we broke apart and we said goodnight. Naturally, we would be going on our first official date tomorrow, which I was thrilled about. Reluctantly, I turned 'ghost' again and left her house. But as I flew over the rooftops of Amity Park, my speed reduced when the flickering lights of cop cars caught my attention.
I hovered above the commotion for a moment, realizing it was Vlad's house.
I frowned, not sure what was stronger inside me: the sadness or the anger.
"You're an idiot, Vlad," I whispered with my mixed emotions. It was still hard to believe he had done what he had. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that he had revealed himself!
I still remember the one word I had cried out: 'NO!'
Somehow, I had known from that moment that Vlad had just destroyed his life.
It seemed that after our time together, everything he would do was thoughtless and reckless. Ever since then, Vlad became someone completely different. The man I had known as a determined mastermind had vanished; and in the past six months, all I had seen was some spontaneous and uncreative villain that didn't seem to care that he was risking it all—when before he would not dare to do such a thing! His goals had turned from obtaining love to conquering the world when I knew he never had been interested in something so shallow before!
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he had turned into a self-destructive person and that… things ended as they have. He had promised me one thing when our bond broke that day in his lab… And every time I have seen him since then—and now that I am alone, watching as his house is being invaded— that promise he made to me still rings in my mind…
"You wanted a villain, Daniel? …Now and from here forth… you will have one."
Suddenly, my anger swelled over whatever sympathy I had been feeling.
"What am I doing?" I chided myself. "He chose this. I gave him a chance and he threw it in my face!"
I glared down at Vlad's former home before I took off, heading towards my house. By the time I got there, I had calmed enough. I decided I would just talk to my dad about what happened to Plasmius and be done with it.
As usual, the front door was unlocked and I walked in. Instantly, I was greeted by TJ and he jumped up on me with his usual greeting.
"Hey, bud!" I said in an excited voice, which got him even more excited.
He was no puppy anymore. Well, he was only eight-months-old, but in terms of size, he wasn't that little thing I found inside Tucker's destroyed room on my birthday. Heh. The look on Tucker's face had been priceless.
I scratched his head a bit before asking him to calm down. As I walked into my house, TJ wagging his tail after me, I realized the house was quiet. It didn't surprise me since it was pretty late.
I guess my talk with my dad about Vlad would have to wait until tomorrow. I'm sure he and Mom were gonna want to know everything, too; but knowing them, they would let me tell them when I was ready.
I sighed as I headed up the stairs. It was funny how 'normal' it now all seemed. It felt as if I was walking to my room on any other day, secret still intact and exhausted from a long night of ghost fighting. But I knew nothing would ever be 'normal' again—at least not my normal.
But I would later discover my life would be more different than I could have ever imagined…
And yet, as I thought about it now, I focused on the positives. There would be no hiding. There would be no trying to excuse my missed curfews and bad grades—not that my grades were all that bad now. Ever since I had Ms. Thomas, I had been able to keep a low 'B' average in the past six months. And, yeah, it might not seem impressive to most, but when you ghost fight full-time, it's really good.
But now with everyone knowing, maybe my teachers would take it easy on me… I could only hope.
It was also going to be weird going back to school with everyone knowing. Luckily, I had time to get ready for whatever awaited me at school because Tucker had added a new holiday in celebration of me saving the world. Starting now, we would have one full week off around the day of the Disateroid event to remember it and how 'Danny Phantom' prevented the earth's destruction.
It was pretty cool, actually, because after all the craziness with this asteroid in the past days, I sure needed a few days off…
The thoughts had definitely put me in better spirits, but my good feeling suddenly faded when my sensitive hearing caught the sound of my parents' quiet and troubled voices coming from their room…
I wasn't the type of person who eased-dropped, especially on my parents, but because they sounded so upset, I stopped in my tracks at the top of the stairs; and instead of heading to my room, I quietly went towards their room… The door was slightly ajar, so I didn't even have to get all that close to hear them.
I realized that they were talking about something so serious that they didn't even hear all the commotion TJ had made when I got home. And speaking of my dog, he was standing next to my door on the other side of the hall, clearly wanting me to open it so we could go to bed.
Sorry, buddy. You'll have to wait a bit more…
"Look, Jack, you did what you had to, just like I did what I had to," I heard my mom say, and I quickly turned my full attention to their voices.
My dad's voice was tired and serious. It was so strange to hear it as he said, "I wish you would've told me from the beginning, Maddie. All those times I put you and the kids in danger—"
"Jack, you didn't know," my mom comforted him. "And if I didn't tell you about the type of creep Vlad was it was because, well… Honey, I didn't want to give you such hurtful news. I know how much he meant to you, and I thought that as long as he didn't disrespect me, it was best to just forget about it. I thought it was the right choice, especially after that time with the Ghost King and how he saved Danny!"
"I now doubt he did that, Maddie," my dad replied, his voice filled with resentment.
I bit my lip and lowered my gaze to my feet. In a way, I knew it was my fault. If I had told my parents about me—and about Vlad—sooner, maybe a lot of this could have been prevented. Maybe even Vlad wouldn't have…
I quickly shook my head, not letting myself finish that thought. I could blame myself for a lot of things, but Vlad's fate was not my fault.
But I did owe my parents a huge apology, and it would be something I definitely would have to do tomorrow…
"To think all our son had to endure with Vlad as his enemy. Maddie, he was fighting against him all this time and I was constantly inviting him here for tea and cookies!" my father suddenly exclaimed. "I was letting in my son's worst enemy into our house!"
"Jack…," my mom said sadly. She then sighed. "Honey, we both owe Danny a big apology, but he knows if we would have known, we would have never done all those things. We should focus on the positive of all this. Our son's a hero, Jack!"
"He sure is…," my dad agreed warmly, and I blushed and smiled. "I'm thrilled and proud of Danny, Maddie, but I can't help but feel sad, too. I… I made him the way he is…"
My smile instantly vanished.
"He has suffered so much because of me…. I also feel like I don't know him enough anymore, you know? Like, I have so much to catch up on."
"And we'll have plenty of time to do that now that we know the truth, Jack," my mom assured him.
My dad sighed, and I realized I suddenly wanted to walk into their room and tell them not to feel bad; but I resisted, knowing they needed time alone to deal with all this—just like I would need time to get use to all this, too.
"Do you think he's happy, Maddie?" my dad then asked, and I frowned even more. Since when was my dad so insecure and troubled by things? He didn't sound like himself at all at the moment. It was as if Vlad's betrayal was now making him think about everything.
"What do you mean, Jack?"
"Vlad… He hated me because of what I turned him into, Maddie."
I swallowed hard, not missing the past-tense in which my dad was speaking about Vlad. Why was he talking like that?
"What if Danny resents me for turning him into what he is?" my dad continued.
My eyes widened in alarm. No! How could he ever think…?
My eyebrows quickly creased in determination and I made a move to walk into their room. We needed to talk right now! I couldn't let my dad think he was responsible for what happened to me!
But just when I was about to do that, a hand on my shoulder stopped me and I jolted. I quickly turned my head and saw it was my sister.
She silently shook her head at me, before gesturing towards my room.
I glanced back at my parents' slightly opened door, struggling with the need to go in and talk with them; but if Jazz was stopping me, it was for a reason.
Reluctantly, I turned and followed my sister towards my room.
Once inside, I closed my door. I ignored how TJ jumped on my bed and focused on my sister.
"Jazz, did you hear what they were saying?" I asked, distressed. "I need to go talk with them!"
"No, Danny, I couldn't really hear what they were talking about, but I can imagine," she replied as she took a seat on my computer chair. "I know you want to go talk with them, but dad needs some time, Danny. Discovering everything about Vlad really affected him, especially after whatever happened in space. Just let them talk things out between them before you approach them, okay?"
I didn't reply and just looked away as I stood next to my door. I was quiet for a moment, afraid to voice what I wanted to know; but I needed to know.
"Do you know what happened to Vlad?"
I dared to look up at my sister when she didn't reply, and instantly, I knew she knew, but didn't want to tell me.
"What do you know, Jazz?" I asked seriously.
"Everything. The space shuttle had a video feed. It recorded what happened between him and Dad," she replied, looking at her fiddling hands.
"I want to see it," I immediately said turning towards my door, only to freeze with my sister's next words.
"I deleted it, Danny."
I slowly turned towards her, confusion and disbelief in my eyes. Why would she do that? But the answer hit me almost instantly: she didn't want me seeing it.
"Why, Jazz?" I asked quietly.
Jazz sighed. "Because, Danny, having dad upset about Vlad is enough. I didn't want you to get upset over what happened up there, too."
I would later find out that that wasn't her only reason for not letting me see the feed.
"Jazz, whatever happened I could've handled it," I replied with an irritated frown. "But if the video's gone, then at least tell me what happened. Do you know where Vlad is? Tell me what happened to him at least."
I suddenly paused and asked more apprehensively, "The Guys-in-White didn't catch him, right?"
Jazz quickly shook her head. "No. I mean, I don't think so. Danny…" She sighed. "Danny... Vlad was stranded in space… He never came back. And… it's possible he never will come back. I mean, how could he?"
I stared at my sister for a long moment before I exclaimed, "What do you mean he got stranded in space? Jazz, he's human! He can't survive up there forever!"
"Danny…," my sister began, but I didn't hear her because I suddenly began to pace.
"No, that can't be. But Vlad has ghost powers! He could easily get back, right? Maybe he opened a portal," I mused to myself. "I know at least he was working on that. Did he ever learn to do it correctly? At least, I know portals open up in space thanks to the Infi-Map. And that he could open one with help. But there's no one there to help him! And… what if he ran out of oxygen? I know we can survive up there for an hour or so without a mask since we don't need as much oxygen in ghost form… But…"
"Danny!" my sister exclaimed, getting my attention.
I looked at her with distressed eyes, and she frowned back at me.
"Danny, I don't get it. You haven't shown this amount of worry over Vlad since… since the whole nanobot thing. Why now?"
I shook my head and sighed to calm myself. "I… I don't know, Jazz," I confessed tiredly. "I'm so angry at Plasmius for everything… But, I feel this is my fault somehow. Why? Why would he reveal himself like that, Jazz? I know Vlad. He must have known he was risking everything by doing that! So, why would he do it? I just can't believe he wanted to rule the world that badly!"
Jazz lightly shrugged. "I don't know, little brother. But since when does the things Vlad do make sense?"
I remained quiet, but I knew they did make sense. I had learned in my time with Vlad that everything he did had a reason behind it. Or… it used to. It used to six months back…
"Danny, do you remember what I told you all that time back when you returned from Vlad's?" Jazz suddenly asked. But she quickly answered for me, "I told you that you couldn't blame yourself for how things ended. And you can't blame yourself for how things ended for him now. He made every one of these choices. And you did more than enough for him. It's sad, but it's time you accept the truth, little brother: Vlad never wanted to be saved…"
I looked at my sister as a realization swept over me… One-by-one, the dots began to connect in my mind…. All these months—all of Vlad's crazy and reckless schemes and the constant attacks against me—it suddenly all made sense.
I had thought for the longest time that Vlad had started doing all this out of spite against me—out of revenge for leaving him like I did back then. But with my sister's words, I realized that although that was probably one reason for all Vlad had been doing in these past six months, I could now see—knew—it was for another important reason—for a purpose.
All these months… he had been teaching me a lesson.
"Jazz," I said quietly, ignoring her concerned look. "Could we finish talking tomorrow? I… I have some things to… sort out."
Jazz seemed reluctant to leave me like this, but she then sighed in surrender and nodded. She stood from the chair and walked over to me.
"I don't want you to be upset about this, Danny," she said after a moment's silence. "There really was nothing you could have done." But then she looked away and added, "And whatever happens, just know Dad did what he had to—what he thought was right."
I blinked at her, not getting why she would say that last part to me. But I quickly remembered how our mom had said something similar to our dad. I finally understood something really bad had happened up in space between Dad and Vlad. And although I wanted to know, if Jazz thought it was bad enough to not let me see the video and delete it, then I decided it was not something I wanted to ask dad about, either.
Maybe he would tell me, but if he didn't… I wouldn't force him to tell me if he didn't want to.
"Don't worry, Jazz. I won't ask him," I assured her, and when she smiled in relief, I realized that's what she had wanted to hear.
I watched her leave and close my door before I walked over to my computer chair and fell into it.
I let out a long tired sigh before spinning my chair and looking at the only thing I had of my time with Vlad:
The water globe from Germany.
My sister and my friends didn't understand why I kept it, but they had eventually realized I would never tell them why. Nothing against them, of course. I usually shared everything with them, especially Sam. But I had decided a long time ago I would keep to myself everything that had happened in my time with Vlad. It was just… personal.
But the globe, I had kept it for many reasons. One, of course, being so I wouldn't forget about my time with Vlad—so I wouldn't forget all I had learned and experienced. I also felt unusually attached to it—as if it was all that remained of my tangible bond with Vlad. I had wanted to destroy it out of spite so many times in the past months, but I never could.
But I had also kept it as a sort of hope—hope that Vlad could change. That I could save him…
I suddenly raised my hand and lit it with ecto-energy and aimed it at the water globe. There was no reason to keep it anymore. I don't even know why I was so upset. Vlad didn't deserve my pity or sadness or even anger. He didn't deserve anything after all he had put me through, especially in these past six months. He had turned into a complete jerk. Sure, before then he would use me as his pawn and mess with my head and make plans to kill my dad and marry my mom. But after our time together, everything had changed. I suppose he had warned me…
"But fear not, dear boy; unlike you, I will keep my word to you: I will no longer make deliberate plans to harm your father or wed your mother. You see, Daniel, if I have anything to thank you for, it is that you made me open my eyes to the truth. You were right. I have spent too long fighting for something that will never be mine. It is time to let go… But I vow to you this…"
Vlad suddenly leaned closer again, his eyes narrowed as he said, "If I cannot have what I want, then I will have… everything else."
His goals had completely changed, but although he had promised to leave my parents alone, his focus and his attacks were then directed at me. His attacks had been aimed straight at my heart. There were no more mind games or plans of getting me to join him. No, everything he did from then on had been for the sole purpose of hurting me; of proving me wrong; of defeating me.
It had turned personal.
I lowered my glowing hand as I began to think of all that happened between us in these past six months…
Okay, yes, I sent the Guys-in-White after him that one time, which was what brought Vlad over to Amity—though, I bet he already had 'plans' to move closer to me to make my life a living nightmare.
Still, most don't know what happened before then—why I acted so spitefully. See, he had done something worst to me before I pulled that prank on him…
I had been flying around Amity, patrolling the area. It was probably over a month since I had seen Vlad after that whole nanobot incident and me being forced to be with him. But it was only about a week after my last whole mess with Freakshow, so that was fresh in my mind.
It was probably why I didn't notice the signs until now.
I had not noticed the increase in stronger ghosts. I usually dealt with the same ones—Johnny 13, Kitty, Spectra, Skulker, etc. But they came around to cause trouble here and there. The ones I would hunt every day were weak ones—usually animal ghosts or formless blobs that didn't know any better than to come and try to terrorize my town.
I had never really understood why I hardly saw new 'smart' ghosts come to my town until Vlad explained to me the whole 'energy hierarchy and territory' thing among ghosts. Apparently, most specters in the Ghost Zone knew Amity Park belonged to 'Danny Phantom'. Even if I still did not know how to officially 'mark' it as my territory—yeah, it sounds weird—or how to establish my power in the Ghost Zone—even creepier—the ghosts still knew Amity was where I lived. It was my home.
So, most ghosts with common sense thought twice before coming to mess around here. But lately, not only had the senseless ghost activity increased, but I was finding newer 'smart ghosts' invading my home.
There was also this strange feeling in me every time I passed by a certain part of Amity Park. Honestly, it would freak me out because it almost felt like… Vlad. It made me feel like I was back in Wisconsin or something—as if I didn't belong in Amity. As if… I was invading his territory…
But it was a feeling I would only get when I was in ghost form, flying over this area. So, I still didn't understand what this was.
Ironically, I was chasing after the Box Ghost late at night when I learned the truth…
"Okay, seriously, Box Ghost, can we skip 'the chase' part and just let me suck you into the ghost thermos? I have a test to study for and we both know how this is going end anyways," I said, annoyed, as I paused in mid-air and crossed my arms.
The box Ghost, seeing I had stopped chasing him for the moment, laughed loudly and proclaimed, "I WILL NOT RELINQUISH THAT EASILY, MY YOUNG FOE!"
"I swear…," I began, rubbing my aching head. But then I sighed and said, "Fine, but if I fail my exam tomorrow because of you, I'm going to kick your butt extra hard the next time I see you!"
"YOUR EXAM IS THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES WHEN I AM GOING TO TEST YOU TO YOUR DOOM!" he yelled back.
"What? That doesn't even make any sense!" I snapped, but quickly lunged forward.
He yelped and took off again, heading towards the east outskirts of Amity Park. I knew its direction because there was a large pond—or more like a lake—there.
But as I approached the area, I began to feel that… 'feeling', and it got stronger the closer I got. But right then, I quickly discovered I wasn't the only one who felt it, because Box Ghost slowed down a bit, almost hesitating.
I quickly pushed back the weird feeling, and flew faster. And knowing Box Ghost was going to flee again, I pulled off one of my recently learned tricks.
I still couldn't do it for more than a few feet, but that was all I needed to get in front of Box Ghost and surprise him.
"See? If you had given up back there, you could've avoided this…," I said before punching him in the face. But I gave him no time to recover, and quickly flew at him grabbing him by the overalls.
"YOU MIGHT FORCE ME INTO YOUR CYLINDRICAL TRAP, BUT I WILL BE BACK ESPECIALLY NOW WHEN YOUR OLDER CONTERPART HAS ALLOWED US FREE REIGN OF HIS TERRITORY!"
I frowned, before quickly grabbing him harder by his overalls and pulling him closer. "What the heck are you talking about? What older counterpart?"
"VLAD PLASMIUS, OF COURSE! THE OTHER HALFA LIKE YOU!" Box Ghost boomed back.
But I still was confused, and my grip loosened on Box Ghost as I argued back, "Plasmius' territory is in Wisconsin!"
"THAT IS TRUE, BUT SINCE YOU VANISHED ALL THOSE MONTHS BACK, HE CLAIMED A SECOND TERRITORY—YOUR TERRITORY!" he answered before laughing in glee for some reason.
My grip on him completely went slack as I stared back in utter shock.
"What? Vlad… He marked Amity as his own? But… He can't do that! This is my home!" I abruptly yelled defensively, some kind of primal instinct swelling the anger in me. I had never known I was so possessive of Amity Park until that day.
"THE ENERGY SIGNATURE BRANDED INTO THIS PLACE SPEAKS OTHERWISE, MY CLUELESS FOE! AND SO, IF THE OWNER OF THIS TERRITORY HAS PERMITTED OUR ENTRANCE, THEN YOU CANNOT STOP US!"
"Oh, yeah?" I growled, and quickly pulled out the ghost thermos.
Box Ghost gasped, and quickly evaded the energy beam of the thermos. "I SHALL BE BACK!" he proclaimed before he suddenly took off towards the large pond up ahead.
But to my utter surprise, he dove right into it and disappeared.
"What the heck?" I muttered and quickly flew over there. I floated over the water's surface and it's when I saw it…
There was a dim ghostly green glow coming from the water. In fact, it was so barely noticeable that if it hadn't been night time and if it wasn't for my ghostly enhanced vision, I would not have seen it.
I hesitated, but needing to know what it was, I took a deep breath, turned intangible, and dove into the water.
The lake was deep but as I moved deeper into it, the glow began to intensify until it turned into something recognizable. I gasped, and in my alarm, lost intangibility.
In an instant, I felt the pressure of all the water above me hit me, knocking whatever remaining air I had out of my lungs. I panicked, and quickly struggled back to the surface.
I reached it just in time and coughed loudly, barely keeping myself afloat. I was finally able to pull myself upward out of the water and get my breath. But I still stared down in shock, all the while ignoring the chilled air biting against my soaked flesh.
I couldn't believe it! There… There was a freaking portal at the bottom of the lake!
But… how long had it been there? Clearly, it was a permanent portal, because temporary ones closed in seconds—a minute at most—and I have been here for longer.
There was no freaking way. This portal was new! I didn't know how I knew, but I did! It… felt new…
I floated there for a moment, trying to make sense of all this. But as I thought about it, something my friends and sister had told me came to my mind… They had said something about witnessing a big fight amongst many ghosts in this area while I had been at Vlad's… They said Fright Knight had been there, saying something about Plasmius owning Amity… and a brand in the sky…
A brand like Box Ghost had just said…
I felt the blood drain out of me, as my eyes drift upward into the sky, and saw another eerie glow up there, just barely noticeable, too.
Except…, this was a red glow.
I fearfully flew up, moving higher past the dark clouds, and I realized with dread that that familiar feel of Vlad's energy was growing stronger and stronger.
I soon saw it. The unmistakable letters branded somehow into the sky in red ghost energy.
I closed my eyes as I forced the memory to stop flashing in my mind. But I couldn't at the moment... After I had discovered that Vlad had taken over Amity Park, I began to learn a few more things. I had first concluded that that natural permanent portal had been created by him somehow. I knew he knew how to create them, but according to him, he never did without the help of something else, because he was afraid it would harm his core. It was very possible Fright Knight might have helped him make that portal in Amity. And with it, the ghosts had free access to Amity whenever they wanted. And that was another thing: Ghost Box had been telling the truth.
Vlad had proclaimed in the Ghost Zone that Amity was open to all specters. It was no wonder I had been fighting so many new and powerful ghosts in these past six months!
Oh, and soon after that, I learned he had hired Valerie to do his dirty work—and naturally put her even more against me! But what really overflowed my cup of anger was when I learned Vlad had opened my private ghost files and stole all my information on there!
I knew that because when I had been editing his profile to add some of the newest things I had learned about him, I saw a little added note on there from him. And it said:
"Honestly, Daniel? Is this all you really know about me after a year?"
It had been a taunt—to let me know and rub in my face that he now knew now everything about me!
I was furious! He had betrayed my trust in him!
It was why I had to get back at him. I had to do something to make him sorry for such low blows! I had to knock him off his high-horse once and for all! First, he knew I did not want him knowing about my ghost files. Heck, I had Clockwork in there! I had never wanted Vlad to know about him! And secondly, he knew I did not know how to 'mark my territory', so I had no way of taking back Amity Park from him. I didn't even know how he could permanently keep that energy signature in the sky!
He could 'control' ghosts—get them to do his bidding. But even though I could not do that, I knew what I could use against him.
I had called the Guys-in-White and sent them after Vlad. I purposely ruined his hard-earned reputation.
It was one of my most impulsive things I've done. But I had been so determined to make him pay that I didn't think of the danger I was putting Vlad's ghost servants in. I know none of them were captured since the Guys-in-White had found nothing incriminating on Vlad, but it still had been unfair to them.
Oh, and let's not forget the mess that led to.
I think Vlad had already had plans to move to Amity Park, but I probably forced him to move ahead of schedule. But with everything so raw in our minds, what probably would have been a normal fight between us became an escalating fight of cruel pranks and embarrassing attacks.
I had tarnished his reputation because I knew how important it had been for him. I had used the weaknesses I had learned in my time with him against him.
And… he had not hesitated to do the same.
I think what hurt and angered me most was that when we had parted, he had seemed to care, to really wish things had turned out differently. So then, why had he taken Amity away from me and turned into a 'free-for-all' kind of place? He had used my weaknesses against me first!
Till this day, I wonder if Vlad's 'kind' words that last night had been a set up to lower my guard. It would make sense after all, since he never hesitated before to use any kind of warmness or guilt he knew I still felt for him against me. And how ironical. Perhaps he even wanted me to find out…so it would hurt even more.
I now know he was aiming at my heart so that I'd hate him—so that it would be easier for him to forget his own feelings and hate me back.
As I said, from there, it all became personal. And he made this all too clear during that whole prank thing. After a while I couldn't take any more of the pranks and grew desperate; so I'd gone to see him in order to apologize for ruining his reputation. I still remember that day and how much hate and resentment rumbled behind his words…
"How nice… a gentleman's handshake. But you forget, where you and I are concerned, I am no gentleman!" he yelled at me.
"Oh come on! Can you even pretend to have a heart?! I'm making an effort here!"
"I know! And even though the apology is a welcome departure from your usually childish arrogance, it belies a greater truth: You had this coming!"
"No buts! Trust me when I tell you that your life has just begun to become a relentless nightmare beyond your feeble imagination!"
I think it was at that moment that it really hit me that things would never be the same between Vlad and me. Before, we had been enemies because I didn't want him to hurt my father—the person he swore destroyed his life.
Now, we were enemies because of my betrayal.
But like my father, I had never meant to hurt Vlad. But he, Plasmius, began to hurt me on purpose from then on.
It was one thing after another, too. He became mayor and ran my town and controlled the ghostly activity just to spite me—to show he had control and power over everything in my life, and that I had nothing.
Then, there was the whole thing with the Infi-Map. It didn't surprise me that he'd been spying on me, but it still upset me. I never understood his need to 'find his destiny', but I'm sure it led back to having to prove some stupid thing to me again. I didn't really care; though in the end, all he kept showing me was how much of a jerk he could be.
I still can't believe the guy actually threw me into a circle of flowers meant to hurt ghosts! That was just plain evil.
Then again, if I think back to a while ago, I had once snapped the Specter Deflector belt on him. I'm sure it must have been just as painful.
I paused in thought and frowned.
"He really doesn't let even one go, does he?" I muttered spitefully.
I wish I could say it ended there, but it didn't.
I still remember the whole thing with Vortex. If I had not been sure Vlad had stolen my ghost files before, I was certain now. He had not known before how to get to the Realm Beyond Time, but he'd had no problem getting in for the Vortex thing. It was how I knew he had stolen my ghost files. He had gotten into the Timeless realm thanks to the map I had of it!
Once again, he had used my time with him against me. And, naturally, he went and freed another dangerous ghost and threw the mess on me.
I'm an idiot, though. I always fell for his crud. And this time, he toyed with my emotions. He knew deep down I still cared. And sadly, he was right, too. Even now—in spite of the anger and 'hate' I showed him in the end—I still care.
So, it was of no surprise when he manipulated my feelings again…
"Daniel… I need your help."
The way he had said that, with so much pleading in his tone for me to help him with Vortex, was enough for me to drop my guard again. I felt everything come back to me. It was probably part of why my emotions were so out of control when I accidently ended up with Vortex's powers.
I had to help him, because it had reminded me of his words to me before we parted at the end of our time together…
"We are enemies, Daniel—and you would do wise to not forget that. But I will not hesitate to momentarily push aside our rivalry in order to help you. I will not allow you to ever fear yourself again. Do you understand me?"
I had promised to my own heart right then and there that if he ever needed me, I would also be there. I would also help him. So, of course, I couldn't say 'no'.
But, incredibly, he abandoned me to my luck once we got near Vortex. I knew Vlad wasn't a coward in spite of his actions sometimes, so I knew he had purposely left me on my own. It had been a slap in the face. He was probably laughing at the fact that I had actually believed his little act of 'needing my help.'
I swore to myself after that day that I would never let him trick me like that again. He had toyed with my emotions… just…
"—just like I did to him that time at the Rockies," I finished out loud, my hands fisting with pain and anger.
One by one. He had gotten me back for everything.
All along, he had been using that bond I had felt between us against me. How could anyone get crueler than that?
Apparently, Vlad could.
However, I think what really did it for me was the whole thing with Danielle.
Then again, I should've known he would keep his promise he made that day when we were fighting in his lab and Danielle came to help me…
"Mark my words, girl! You will wish you had stayed away! I will make sure you are forever hunted for what remains of your wretched existence! I will find you!" Plasmius furiously assured Danielle.
I had asked him to take Danni in when I was with him. He knew how much I cared about her. I realize now that trying to destroy Danielle was never about her. He didn't care one way or the other.
It had been an act against me.
His intentions were all so clear to me now. He had been attempting to teach me the same lesson he had succeeded to teach me now.
"But he failed to do it by using Danielle, so… he found another way," I whispered, sadness mixing in with my hurt and angry voice.
But he did succeed in one thing that time with Danielle, and that was that I would give up on him. I know he knew it, too.
I had asked Valerie to get Danielle out of Vlad's house so I could speak with Vlad alone.
But when I saw the look on his face, I knew. I knew he was doing all this to hurt me…
"Man, you really know how to work the system, don't you?" I said with disgust as I cross my arms.
"It's my specialty," he replied, joining back with his clone and giving me this knowing smirk.
"Now Valerie blames Vlad Plasmius for trying to destroy Danni, leaving Vlad Masters in the clear. If only she knew you were one and the same…" I said, letting my threat hang.
I wasn't surprised when he returned my threat in his usual arrogant voice.
"Well, you could always tell her, but I'm afraid I'd have to counter such slanderous accusations by revealing your little secret…"
Whatever else I had wanted to say right then died off as I stared back at him—as I saw the triumph and mocking gleam in his eyes.
I knew right then that this wasn't about Danni. I had been about me. He just wanted to hurt me.
Fearing that the hurt and betrayal would overcome my anger, I quickly warned him with the last ounce of fury in me, "Don't come near her again!"
I didn't even give him time to reply and had left. I had to leave before he knew how much his actions had gotten to me…
I clenched my jaw as that memory faded and the present thoughts of the Disasteroid and Vlad pressed back into my mind.
"So, we come to your 'grand finale'…," I said, glaring at the globe.
Little by little, he had gotten me back. Little by little, he had been shattering our bond. So, it should've been of no surprise what he did to me now.
He further shattered all I had believed to be true. He turned me back into what I had been before my time with him.
Once again he reduced me to being a confused half-ghost kid, afraid of myself and uncertain of the goodness of my powers. It was the ultimate blow, too, because he had assured me that he never wanted to see me afraid of who I was ever again… He had helped me push past that; he had freed me of all that fear and insecurity… only for him to bring it back into my heart again.
He had lied.
He had tricked me into stripping myself of my ghost side—of the 'hero' part of me. And he had thrown it in my face.
"And where are you, Danny Phantom?" he had sneered into my face. "Looks like my plan to shame you into hiding was more effective than I hoped!"
And you know what the worst thing is? Perhaps he never had the intention of succeeding in his schemes, including this Disasteroid one. No, I now realize that he had an even worst intention behind those schemes.
Like I said, he was trying to get to me. And the worse of it was that he succeeded every time.
Even in his defeat now, he had succeeded. He had defeated me in the worst way possible…
"Defeating you was only the first act of my show. Get ready for act two!"
I raised my hand again, and my energy returned, brighter and hotter than before. I aimed at the globe and I swear I have never wanted to destroy this globe more than I wanted to now. But… that same attraction to it stopped me yet again!
The energy in my hand instantly extinguished and I stood from my seat. I crossed my arms and looked away from the water globe, all the while glaring remorsefully and resentfully at nothing in specific.
I hated him for what he had just done! That jerk!
Suddenly, I heard a whine, which pulled me from my thoughts and dark emotions that I was feeling. I turned toward the sound and looked up at my dog. TJ was sitting on my bed, staring at me and wagging his tail, looking a bit scared.
Great. Now, I was scaring my own dog.
I sighed my emotions back into control and passed a hand through my hair. I then walked over to my dog and petted his head. "Sorry, TJ," I muttered.
He just wagged his tail and licked my hand. But I wasn't feeling any better. I glanced at my window; and although it was pretty late, I decided I needed to get some fresh air.
I lowered my hand from TJ and morphed. My transformation used to scare him; but I could see that this time he was clearly excited since he was wagging his tail even harder. He knew I was going out, and clearly he wanted to come.
"Sorry, buddy. You need to stay," I told him. I patted his head one last time before I turned intangible and flew out of my room.
I honestly still wish I had not left that room. Maybe I would've avoided all that came next. I didn't even get the chance to clear my head before things got worse…
I jolted in mid-air when I heard a voice behind me. I quickly turned around and my eyes widened when I saw… Valerie standing in her ghost-hunting suit on top of my roof.
"Valerie?" I questioned as I flew closer and landed in front of her.
She removed her helmet, and there was an unreadable frown on her face.
"How long have you known?" she asked soberly.
I blinked, still caught off guard. What was she doing here?
"I, uh… what? Known what?"
"That I was the Red Huntress," she elaborated, crossing her arms. "I know 'Phantom' knew when 'he' revealed my secret in front of my dad during the whole 'Ghost King' thing. But when did you find out?"
I resisted the urge to cringe and quickly rubbed the back of my neck before confessing, "Since the beginning…"
"And about Vlad using me as his little pawn?"
This time I cringed.
"Uh, since the 'Ghost King' thing…," I answered a bit more quietly.
When she kept quiet, my eyebrows creased in worry and I quickly said, "Val, I'm sorry. I just couldn't tell you. You would've hated me."
"And what makes you think I don't hate you now?"
I instantly froze, looking at her with an even wider stare. It hadn't hit me how Valerie would react to knowing my secret. Man, I really had forgotten about a lot of things with the 'whole saving the world' thing over my head.
But did she hate me? She hadn't acted that way when I finally revealed myself! But the cold way she had asked that question…
"Valerie…," I began sadly.
"I don't hate you, Danny," she interrupted me with a sigh, dropping her emotionless act, though she remained serious. "How can I? You saved everyone."
"So… you don't think of me as your enemy anymore?" I asked, hopeful.
"I considered 'Phantom' as my enemy," she replied soberly. "But you've shown that he's a 'good ghost', so… don't worry. I won't be hunting you anymore."
I smiled in relief, but then added, "Maybe now that you know the truth we could partner up…? Two teen ghost fighters are better than one, right?"
But to my surprise, Valerie shook her head. "No, Danny. Among other things, that's something I came to tell you. I'm not hunting you anymore, but I'm not hunting any ghost. I'm quitting ghost fighting," she said soberly.
I stared in shock. "But… But you're really good at it!"
"I was driven by revenge, Danny," she said, her face tensing. "Vlad tricked me into this life to get to you! That jerk played me like a violin! I... I almost wasted an innocent girl because of my hate and resentment towards ghosts! And now… now I find out I've been trying to waste a good friend all this time… and that that 'good friend'… knew it all along."
I frowned uncertainly at her. "Val, I'm sorry. I don't know what else I can tell you. I couldn't tell you the truth because if you didn't accept me, you would've revealed my secret. I would've been hunted down by the Guys-in-White! And then there was Vlad, I couldn't tell you about him without him revealing me, too!"
My excuses sounded selfish even in my ears, but I knew they were valid reasons all the same.
"I found out about Vlad since the whole 'Danielle' thing," Valerie confessed, stunning me into silence again. "I was planning on getting revenge on him and even turning him into the Guys-in-White once I revealed him… But obviously he beat me to the punch. Good riddance to him," she growled out the last part.
I could only stare at her.
Valerie sighed again. "Look, I'm sorry for all the grief I gave you. I realize now you didn't deserve it. Vlad made me think you were responsible for all my bad fortune when it wasn't true."
"Don't worry about it," I told her with a small smile. "Really, it's okay. You didn't know, so it's not your fault. But, hey, now you know the truth, and we can be friends again like before."
Valerie lowered her gaze before she quietly answered, "I can't be your friend, Danny."
My eyes widened all over again. "But… I don't understand."
Valerie looked at me again and gravely said, "I don't hate you, Danny. But I can't be your friend. You lied to me. You've been lying to my face all this time. You let Vlad trick me all that time when you knew! You might've had your reasons for it, but right now, I don't feel they're enough. Maybe eventually we'll be friends again… I don't know. But I do know that right now. I just can't. I'm too hurt about it, Danny. Right now… I can't help but feel that you tricked me—just like Vlad."
That one hurt. To be compared to Vlad in such a bad way really hurt. But she was right. I had lied to her. I had tricked her. I had fought against her, knowing she didn't know the truth when I did! And although in my mind, I had all the reason to do everything I did, I could also see how it didn't make it right.
"I'm sorry, Valerie," I said sadly again. "I really am. I… I hope you can forgive me someday."
Valerie nodded. "I hope so, too," she replied soberly. "There's one more thing I came to tell you."
"Yeah?" I asked, though my eyes were lowered and my shoulders were sagged with sadness. I had just lost a good friend. Funny how only a few hours ago I had been the happiest guy in the world, and now….I felt like the lowest one.
"I'm sure you noticed the police have surrounded Vlad's house. But I learned that they can't get in because Vlad's ghost and human shields are up. So, they're gonna call in the Guys-in-White tomorrow."
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked, looking at her with a sad frown.
"Because, you know those quacks are going to confiscate everything when they manage to break past the shields. I thought that you knowing Vlad and all, you would be able to get in before them. I don't know about you, but I think letting the Guys-in-White get their hands on Vlad's ghost things would be dangerous. Just… my opinion. I'll... see you around, Danny."
And before I could even reply, she activated her jet and took off.
I remorsefully watched her fly off. I seriously wanted to follow her, but I knew already how stubborn Valerie was. She wasn't going to change her mind about me until she was good and ready.
I sighed and shook my head. I should've known revealing my secret wasn't going to be all fun and games. And now I was presented with another problem.
Valerie was right. It would be bad news if the Guys-in-White got a hold of Vlad's ghost supplies, and worse, if they discovered his portal!
"Oh crud!" I whispered in growing alarm.
All thoughts of flying around to clear my head were forgotten, and I flew right back into my house. I didn't even stop until I got down into the lab. I immediately activated the portal and dived in.
As I flew towards Vlad's ghost portal in Amity, I began to think about his other portals in Wisconsin and possibly at the Rockies. How was I gonna get to all of them in time? How was I gonna get all his ghost stuff?
I groaned in distress, not knowing what I was gonna do. But, for now, I focused on getting to Vlad's portal in Amity Park. I could at least start there and figure out where to go from there. Maybe my parents could help me out…
I smiled a bit at that thought. It was really nice to know I would be able to count of them from now on.
But realizing I was getting distracted, I shook my head and picked up speed.
I made it to Vlad's portal in no time, but it was locked.
"Oh man…," I muttered in worry. How was I going to get in?
I took a step forward and realized the metal doors had a sort of scanner on the upper left side. I don't even know why I did, but I placed my hand against the scanner.
And to my surprise, the doors opened!
I stepped in and warily looked around the dark lab. In fact, I was so jumpy I startled when the portal's doors shut behind me.
"H-Hello?" I called out, not sure why I did that. I mean, who could be here? Not Vlad. The police were surrounding his home. And… I doubted his ghost servants were around, either. In fact, I didn't even think they ever were at this place.
The few times I had come to Vlad's house here in Amity, I had not once seen any of his servants or even sensed them. Were they at Wisconsin? Or… had Vlad fired them all when he moved to Amity?
I had wondered for a long time—and still wondered—what had become of them all—George, Carl, Derek, Bennie, Jasper, Jim, Martha, Patricia… and Niane…
"Niane?" I called out, walking further into the lab. Where was Vlad's sister? Even if Vlad had left his servants in Amity Park, somehow, I was sure Niane wouldn't leave Vlad on his own. But… where was she? Did she know about her brother? Would she… help him now?
I sighed against the dead silence. I would never know, would I?
One part of me wanted Vlad to show up. I wanted him to return and continue being a jerk because it would then mean he hadn't won—it would then mean I had not… failed. But the other part of me didn't want him back. I knew what awaited Vlad if he did show up, and it's not like it would change anything between us if he returned. But not knowing what had happened to him… if he was still in space or if he had… died.
No, that was too terrifying to even consider.
I was so troubled by my thoughts and unanswered questions that I didn't see a red light beeping above me. I didn't even see Vlad's mainframe activate behind me until the lights in the lab suddenly came on, revealing from the shadows Vlad's pristine and high-tech lab.
But that wasn't what surprised me.
"Ah, Daniel… I knew you would come."
I yelled in alarm and whirled around. And at the sight of Plasmius, I quickly raised a hand, ready to fire an ecto-blast at my enemy.
That is, until I saw his form flicker and I realized what it was…
"A projection," I muttered, relaxing a bit and frowning at it.
The projection of Vlad in human form chuckled, as if he had known I had been caught off-guard. But then it sighed and looked around a moment, which was odd, because it made the projection seem so real.
"So, here we are…," he finally spoke up, smirking back at me. "At the end of our game. And if this recording has been activated by your presence, then I'm sure it ended as you wanted: the hero triumphant and loved by all, and the villain… defeated and lost." He chuckled bitterly. "You were such a quaint boy, Daniel. Maybe this world was meant for you. After all, who doesn't love such a classic ending, hmm?"
I couldn't move. Couldn't blink. I felt like my chest had constricted, not allowing me to breathe. Had… Vlad wanted to hurt me so badly that he had purposely destroyed his own life?
"And yet, if there's any consolation for me, it is that deep down, I have also defeated you in some way," he continued, his eyes narrowing and voice darkening. "You remember our pact, yes? I surely never forgot it. So, you see, you have lost, Danny Phantom. And yet, I did this for you, Daniel. After all, who else could be more fitting to teach the hero the hardest lesson for him to learn than his arch-enemy?"
I looked away and said nothing as Vlad confirmed my previous belief. But I felt my anger and a new form of resentment coil around my heart. How could he?
"Oh, don't be too angry, my boy," Vlad said smugly. "Surely you didn't think your betrayal wouldn't have consequences? I told you: nothing would ever be the same. I knew how this would end sooner or later. It's how every villain story ends; so the day I choose to follow that path, I knew. And I prepared for my end, too."
I looked up at the projection and saw as he waved a hand toward his mainframe.
"With this recording's activation, a virus has been inserted into my mainframe. In a matter of seconds, all the knowledge and secrets within them will be no more."
I stared in disbelief as he looked back at me and added coolly, "I recommend you destroy everything in this lab, including the ghost portal, unless you want the Guys-in-White to get their hands on it. Oh, and do not worry about my other labs, I have dealt with them myself. I only leave one thing unresolved, and if you bother to check, I'm sure you'll find it…."
The projection suddenly began to flicker wildly, and I realized the mainframe was about to crash, but what the projection said next would forever be like a wooden stake to my heart.
"Good-bye, Daniel. It is with my destruction and your defeat that I shatter whatever lingered of this painful bond between us. And whatever my fate has been, I can at least say I have freed my heart of you at last…."
The projection suddenly vanished and smoke began to come out of the mainframe, before the lights that had been turned off went out and I was left in complete darkness again.
I stood there shaking with restrained emotions. I honestly had never felt so defeated in my life. I was so broken at that single moment that I couldn't even cry.
The sad and quiet sound slowly turned my attention towards the lab's exit, and my eyes widened a bit when I saw a large cat with blue eyes sitting in front of it.
"Maddie," I whispered, suddenly understanding what Vlad had meant when he had said he had left 'one thing unresolved'.
I couldn't believe it. He had kept Maddie—the cat I had rescued with Annie while I was at Vlad's! Yeah, I had come to Vlad's house here in Amity a few times, but I hadn't once seen the cat here. Either she'd been somewhere else, or Vlad had hid her, not wanting me to know he had kept her.
I was so sure he would have done away with her after I left…
But here she was. Yeah, her eyes had changed colors, which wasn't unusual for kittens when they grew up and she had gained a lot of weight. But it was her. The same fur-ball.
And she seemed to remember me, because at the next moment, she meowed again and ran over to me. I squatted down and petted her as she rubbed against me, meowing and purring.
I finally felt tears prickle against my eyes.
"Maddie… I'm so sorry," I muttered sadly, realizing she was now homeless. But, I think my apology was for another reason, too—I just didn't want to admit it right now.
My thoughts began to drift to Annie and Stephanie… Did they already know what happened? Did Annie know the truth about Vlad now?
I swallowed hard. I still kept in touch with Annie via online chatting. We didn't talk often, but… I know I would have to talk with her about everything eventually.
I just hoped she didn't end up upset with me, too, like Valerie, and also stopped being my friend. I don't know if I could handle losing two friends. I could barely handle the thought of the one I had just lost.
Suddenly, a loud 'bam' came from somewhere in the house, pushing me out of my depressed thoughts. I gasped when I remembered the police. Of course! The mainframe had been fried, which meant the shield was gone!
Rising to my height, I looked around frantically. But then knowing what I needed to do, I grabbed Maddie and tucked her under one of my arms.
The cat meowed with displeasure at my sudden and harsh treatment. And if I would've been looking at her, I would've seen her eyes flash red.
But the cat was the last thing on my mind right now; and instead, I raised my free hand and aimed it at the lab. I instantly released a wave of cold energy, freezing everything on contact.
And hearing footsteps nearing, I switched energies, and fired several ecto-blasts around the lab, shattering the frozen ghost weapons and machinery. But when it was time to destroy Vlad's portal, I hesitated. Somehow, doing so drove the truth of Vlad being gone forever deeper into my heart.
Still, I swallowed my emotions, and did what I had to do. The portal was gone an instant later. And just in time, too, because at that moment, the police reached the lab.
With a gasp, I turned myself intangible and invisible before they could spot me and bolted out of Vlad's house with Maddie in my arms.
Once I was a safe distance away, I stopped and looked back at the mansion. The Guys-in-White wouldn't arrive until tomorrow and they would definitely destroy everything in an attempt to find something ghostly; but at least I knew if they found anything, it wouldn't be significant.
I finally turned away, not wanting to risk being spotted by anyone. I knew the police wouldn't do anything against me. But I didn't want to risk them telling the Guys-in-White they saw me around Vlad's place. Obviously, they couldn't do anything to me, either, especially now that I was considered the world's hero. But I had a feeling the Guys-in-White still didn't like me. In the whole thing with Freakshow, they had not cared at all that I was part human and still wanted to experiment on me… it was better to play it safe and not cross them in any way.
But that thought quickly triggered an earlier one…
I hope Sam was right. I hope Vlad was wise enough to stay away and not get captured by those guys…
As I took off into the sky, I looked down at Maddie. I smiled sadly at her round face and muttered, "I told him not to feed you table scraps…"
But when that brought forward more painful memories, I shook my head, banishing them before they could take root in my heart again. I had already spent too much time thinking about everything with Vlad.
I stared at the cat again to get my mind off the guy; but now I began to wonder what I was going to do with her…
I couldn't take her home. TJ hated cats.
But the shelter was out of the question. I had never wanted her to go there in the first place. But where could I…?
A small smile curled my lips and I switched directions. I knew who could keep her… I just hope she was awake.
Being that I was closer to Vlad's house and she lived closer to him than me, I got to my destination in no time.
I floated outside her window and knocked. It took a minute, but she finally greeted me with a curious smile.
"Danny?" she asked.
I smiled with embarrassment. "Hey, Sam… Heh. I bet you weren't counting on seeing me so soon… But, I have a small problem…," I lifted the cat a bit higher for her to see and my smile grew more sheepish.
She opened her window and allowed me to step in as she asked with a raised eyebrow, "What's this? Are you now rescuing cats from trees or something?"
"Very funny," I deadpanned, but she just smirked at my annoyance.
"Actually…," I said hesitantly, and glanced down at the cat still in my arms, and I felt the heaviness in my heart again. "She's… Vlad's cat."
I didn't see Sam's eyes widened in shock, but I heard her response loud and clear.
"What? Danny, what were you doing in Vlad's house?"
I sighed as I replied, "I know what you're thinking, but it's not that. I just… Can we talk about this tomorrow?" I gave her a pleading look. "I promise to explain everything. I just came to ask you if you could keep her. You know I can't take her home and… I didn't just want to leave her at Vlad's when there's no one to take care of her anymore."
Sam frowned in displeasure, but it almost immediately melded into a worried look. I could tell she knew I was holding something back. That there was something seriously wrong with me. And for a moment, she looked like she wanted to ask, but I just stared back with a pleading look. I just couldn't talk about this now. I would break down, and I did not want to do that in front of Sam.
To my immense relief, Sam lowered her gaze to the cat, and said with another kind of frown, "She's so fat. What has Vlad been feeding her?"
I smiled a bit, knowing that was Sam's way of saying she would give me until tomorrow to explain. I was so thankful, too, but I answered, "I'm sure you'll get her back in shape."
"So, you seriously want me to keep her?" she asked, even as she took the cat from me. "I'm surprised you didn't take her to a shelter? Why are you so attached to a cat you don't even know anyways?"
"Um…" I rubbed my neck. "I actually do know her. She's kinda… my cat, too."
Her eyes widened in surprise; and when I saw that she was about to start questioning me again, I quickly raised my hands in a pleading way and reminded her, "Tomorrow. I'll explain tomorrow."
She frowned in displeasure again, but still nodded.
I then continued, "And as for your first question, even if I had wanted to, you wouldn't have let me take her to a shelter anyways."
She smiled a bit, and reluctantly admitted, "I guess you're right." She lowered the cat on the ground and watched as the cat just sat where she placed her. "Oh, you're definitely going on a diet," she told the cat before looking back at me.
I grinned at her. Just her presence gave me some sense of hope within the dark sadness that was consuming me within. "Thanks, Sam," I said, and I don't think she knew I meant so much more by it.
She rolled her eyes, though she couldn't hide the little smirk on her face. "Yeah, well, I'll just have to find a way to convince my parents to let me keep her…" But then she suddenly turned serious and raised a finger at me, and said, "And you better explain all this to me tomorrow."
I nodded and quickly moved closer to cup her chin. "Promise," I replied before kissing her. Even I could feel it was more like a desperate kind of kiss. I just needed a small comfort, even if only lasted a few seconds.
We were so focused on each other that neither of us saw the cat's piercing red eyes staring at us. But we also never saw the red smoke that had suddenly came out of the cat. And as Maddie was left disoriented for a few seconds, the red smoke phased right out of Sam's room...
When I pulled away, I could see the worry in Sam's face again. She had no idea what was going on in my head, but she still suddenly pulled me closer into a hug this time.
"It's gonna be okay, Danny," Sam whispered, and I hugged her right back, feeling so close to falling apart.
I was like a cracking glass figure about to shatter. I couldn't let her see that.
"Good night, Sam," I whispered before pulling away and abruptly flying out of her room before she could stop me.
I took a slow breath to keep myself together for as long as possible. But as the silence surrounded me once more, I found my eyes drifting upward to the twinkling night sky.
"I have never seen anyone look at the sky the way you do, Daniel.."
I squeezed my eyes tight, fighting against the painful memories threatening to return...
But it was hopeless.
"You would make a wonderful dad, Vlad," I quietly told him with all sincerity.
Vlad gently pulled away before he suddenly kissed the top of my head and finally replied with a sad smile, "Just your father, my boy. It is all I ever wanted; but… I now know that will never be. So, for my own sanity, I need to let that go, too…. I need to let you go, my little badger."
"Well, I am not letting you go," I replied sorrowfully.
"Yes, you will… sooner or later."
"No," I whispered, my voice and limbs shaking as I tried to push down what I knew was coming…
"Good-bye, Daniel. It is with my destruction and your defeat that I shatter whatever lingered of this painful bond between us. And whatever my fate has been, I can at least say I have freed my heart of you at last…."
The tears finally came, and I sorrowfully asked within the dark emptiness, "Why didn't you just take your second chance? Why did you waste it, Vlad? Why?"
But I knew the answer, and it hurt all the more.
"Do you regret your choice of betraying me and returning to your life of secrecy and chaos, Daniel? If so…, my offer still stands; except that, it will not be… should I say, 'free of charge', this time? There are strings attached to my offer now, many more than before…"
"My offer still stands, too, Vlad."
Vlad's eyebrows rose up, clearly surprised by my sudden change in attitude; but seeing that defiant and hopeful fire in my eyes was somehow extremely pleasing to him.
A daring grin spread across the older hybrid's face as he asked, "Is that a challenge?"
"Yeah, it is, Plasmius," I answered, matching the man's look.
I flew faster, trying to escape the heavy defeat in my heart.
"Don't try to deny it, Plasmius. I've seen that there's still good in you, and I know all I have to do is keep fighting against you. So, go ahead. You can keep resisting all you want, but eventually, I will win. I will save you from what we both know you're not. And you know how I can be so sure? Because you want it, too. You want badly what I'm still offering you. And this… bond we have in here," I said, pointing at my chest, "will serve to remind you of that fact each and every day."
I leaned closer and assured Vlad with a growing smile, "You are not a villain. You are a good man that just wants to be loved and accepted. And you might try to prove otherwise, but you won't be able to ignore that side—the real side—of you forever. I will save you—whether you want me to or not."
"I will save you…"
I reached my room and instantly turned back to my human form as I fought against my swelling and swirling emotions.
TJ whined anxiously as I switched forms and stumbled towards the water globe. I picked it up and raised it above me, wanting to shatter it—to shatter the pain out of my heart!
But once again… I couldn't.
I choked back a cry of pain and just dropped to my knees with the globe still in my hands. I barely realized I placed it down and gripped my hair as my tears grew heavier.
"Alright, Daniel," Vlad answered with a grin as he rose to his feet. "I accept your challenge. So, then," He extended a hand as he teasingly said, "May the best human-ghost hybrid win."
I grinned back and quickly got to my feet and shook his hand. "May the best half-ghost win," I repeated back.
Through my blurry vision, I looked back at the water globe, which once represented such hope for me—hope that love conquered all. Hope in that the hero always saved the day and those in need. And hope that someday what Vlad and I had shared—our bond—would not be lost…
But all that was gone now. And so, as I looked at the water globe, I would forever remember my arch-enemy and how even in his darkest and destructive hour, he had taught me one last lesson:
A lesson that would probably haunt me for the rest of my life…
"I'm going to win, Vlad. The hero always does."
I had been wrong. The hero doesn't always win, because there comes a time in every hero's life when he fails—
—fails to save a life.
That was his last lesson for me—his purpose in all these six months.
I now know what it feels like to fail to save a person, because… I failed to save the only other person like me:
I failed to save Vlad Masters.
"I guess you won, after all…," I whispered as I pressed my hands into my bedroom floor and bowed my head in utter defeat.
I could then only cry—cry like the broken hero I was.
Heh. I actually bought the online episodes for season three to write this oneshot. Talk about dedication! Then again, my Vlad muse threatened to disown me if I did not do so. I needed to rewatch the Vlad episodes and also get some quotes, to tie all this together.
Yeah, this came out more depressing than I had anticipated. But with Danny having a hero's heart and all, I imagine all this with Vlad would catch up to him. It was also odd for me to write as Danny thinks and talks. You would think I'd be use to it, since I write him and Vlad all the time. But it's probably because I don't talk at all like Danny. I suppose I speak more properly, which is why Vlad's tone is easier for me than Danny's. Or… it could be because I have a Vlad muse and not a Danny muse. Lol! Anyways, I hope I did a good job over all and that it's believable. I'm sure you'll let me know either way!
So, on to some news. I am working to have the first chapter of Endgame posted by my promised date of April 28. I have faith I will manage it! But I also wanted to say that I would love to chat with you all after I post. So, it will be a Saturday post, so how about a chat on Sunday at 2pm NY time, eh? Please join me at the Hidden Pearl! I can answer any questions about this oneshot and the first chapter of EG. And then we can go on tangents about life as usual! Lol! No, but I enjoy talking with you all! So, see you the 28th and 29th!
Ta for now, my dear readers! And, heh, bless me with your thoughts!
*teleports away with Vlad muse*