"I know what you're thinking, Daniel."

He was staring at me with cold, calculating eyes, eyes that held no compassion, like those of a coroner examining a newly-dead body, one that died of some very rare pathogen—hurrying to understand, rather than mourn for the death itself, young or beautiful or gifted this person might have been. One hand was on his chin, the fingers slightly rubbing his stiff gray beard in that distracted, oh-so-cliché manner, the elbow perched on the wooden desk, the fingers of the other drumming repeatedly on its surface.

"What am I thinking?" I replied, but I already knew…because I knew what he knew. He'd seen my fight with Sam in the halls; there was no denying that, and he had heard me threaten to remove my ghost powers. And now he wanted something. Something I could give him—promise him, because I had already formed a not-so-vague idea of what, exactly, that something might be.

Maybe I was incorrect, but I was not ignorant to the fact that if I had just kept my mouth shut, I would not be here now.

"I heard you and your friend talking in the hallway," he said, affirming my belief…and making my heart sink and my stomach lurch, because internally I was praying he had brought me here to try and seduce me with the same stupid reasons he always did—he could take care of me so much better than my father, give my mother and I whatever we wanted, train me so that I became the perfect ghost warrior, and so on and so forth, etc., etc. As crazy as it might have been, I was hoping sincerely he'd ask me to kill my father or to give him my mother's phone number, waiting for him to ask me to come to my senses and join him. These things, at least, held a strange, familiar quality, one that was almost comforting. But this, the idea of him prodding me for incredibly personal information which derived from my sex life, was just so foreign and unsettling, something I didn't need on top of everything else…and it was only nine o'clock in the morning.

"Sam," I managed, trying to sustain my usual wise-ass mannerisms. "Her name is Sam."

"That isn't the point, Daniel," he said softly, his fingers still drumming on the desk. "My point is I heard you taking."

"And?" I said softly, suddenly struggling to meet that cool stare he had fixed so intently on me, one which seemed so experienced and all-knowing, so completely unavoidable. It was as if looking into those eyes with my own would tell him all he needed, and so I looked down at my hands, clasped in my lap, the fingers of one hand tugging at those of the other nervously.

"You had mentioned you had the notion to tell your parents about what has become of you so they may remove your powers."

"And?" I said, but I already knew, as I always had.

"And," he said sternly, now looking a little agitated at my exaggerated stupidity. "I'm going to advise you now that doing so is not a good idea, Daniel."

"Why not?" I questioned—and this time, I was actually ignorant to his reasons.

He sighed softly, removing his hand from his chin and silencing his drumming fingers.

"Oh, Danny," he said softly, and that cold, calculating expression of a coroner melted away and in its place there was another set of emotions he might normally associate that weakness and that I definitely never expected him to express—a deep compassion, understanding, and above all, sadness. "Do you really believe they would accept you for what you are now?"

"Of course I do!" I screamed at him, jerking my gaze up to glare at him with hatred burning in my eyes. "They're my parents!"

"Yes," he said softly, his eyes dimming and his eyebrows coming together. "But Danny…" he suddenly and unexpectedly reached across the desk and took one of my hands in his. "They hate ghosts."

"But they love me!" I cried, jerking my hand out of his disgustedly…but I wasn't, because his touch had been almost comforting.

"Daniel," he said again with the same concerned and practiced gentleness, "they may love you, but they despise Danny Phantom. Do you remember when I put that money on your head? I've never seen such concentrated hatred for someone radiate off a single person as it did your mother and father when they helplessly went about attempting to catch you. Danny, they wanted nothing more than to dissect you!"

"They wouldn't have if they'd known it was me!" I barked, gripping the armrests of my seat with so much force that I ended up tearing into the upholstery.

"They would, Daniel. I've know your mother and father much longer than you have, and I can assure you, if they were to discover your identity, no longer would they view you as a son. I can guarantee that if you so foolishly reveal yourself to them, they will never let you up off a cold metal slab in the depths of your basement."

"That's not true!" I shrieked, and my fist came down on the desk with such force that it sent a long, splintering crack up its width. Shards of wood flew up and around my hand as it created a gaping hole in the smooth, expensive—at least I assumed—surface of the desk, and flew in all directions, skimming Vlad, who had cringed away, and hitting me in the face, slicing into my skin so deep that I started to bleed. The desk, now split into two, spilled its contents into the newly made pothole in the center, one that was so deep I could see the gray carpeting beneath our feet; notebooks, paperwork, a jar of pens and pencils, picture frames, and a desk lamp with a jade-green shade all went sliding into the hole and crashing on the carpet underneath.

Vlad sat back in his chair, his eyes wide and his mouth open just a little…and I could see something I had never seen in those eyes before—fear.

I stood there and stared at him for a long time, my fist and arms and face embedded with splinters and bleeding rapidly, but I didn't notice the pain.

He was too amazed, much like myself, I could see, to respond to me, or even move to deal with what I did—to do something, anything—and he simply sat there wordlessly, staring at me with eyes that didn't seem to fit his usually so composed features.

After maybe a minute or so of complete, stunned silence from him, I shook my head and turned to the door of his office. "I'm going now," I said abruptly as I walked out.

It was only after I had stepped out of his office and shut the door behind me that I heard him scream.

"Come back, Danny! I'm not finished!"


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