So I know I said I was planning on taking a few days off, but...the idea of doing a spin-off from Danny's point of view was just too tantalizing. I couldn't resist.

Anyways, this story is gonna show, eventually, Danny's POV on the major events of They Had Lights Inside Their Eyes. It is, essentially, a companion piece to THLITE. Except it'll start off as little blurbs showing the progression and evolution of Danny and Sam's relationship, starting with the hours after the Disasteroid to the days before the start of THLITE. And then the events of THLITE, and maybe even a little DxS wedding goodness. Who knows?

I still haven't forgotten those other pieces, don't worry. I just really needed to establish this story before I return to those other ones.

The title is yet another line from Dead Hearts, which served as the inspiration to THLITE.

As for this chapter, it started off as a very different beast. It had a mind of its' own. But I'm happy with it.

I don't own Danny Phantom.

They Were Kids That I Once Knew

Chapter One

September 13, 2012

To say that Danny was busy would be an understatement.

From the moment his plane landed at the Amity Park airport, he was dragged off in a million different directions. News reporters and paparazzi and even a few celebrities were waiting just outside the gate, all waiting to bombard him with questions.

They were not the only ones with questions. Danny realized fairly quickly that questions would become part of his new life. His parents had questions. His teachers had questions. His neighbors had questions. Lots and lots of questions, and within one hour of stopping the Disasteroid, Danny grew quite accustomed to answering them. Questions about his safety. Questions about his enemies. Questions about the accident, and the powers it both blessed and cursed him with.

"I can't believe you never told us." Was a common phrase as well. Most of the people on the plane murmured it several times each, sending Danny ino a spiralling fit of guilt. He feebly attempted to reason that he did not want to put them in danger by exposing them to his secret, which they waved away. Then there was the question of how Jazz come to know the secret. She quickly stepped in, gracefully explaining that for a while, Danny did not even know that she knew. She found out by accident, seeing something she was not supposed to see. It was not Danny's fault. Danny leaned back in his seat, wanting nothing more than to sleep.

But the questions kept on coming. His safety was discussed, and his parents informed him that he would no longer be fighting ghosts with nothing more than a thin layer of spandex protecting his body. He griped and complained long enough to talk them into letting him keep the jumpsuit, promising that he would allow them to enhance the fabric and make it a bit more protective, so long as the symbol over his chest was kept intact. That seemed to satisfy them, at least for a moment.

Then came questions about Tucker and Sam. At first, about their involvement in the accident. These quickly morphed into questions about their participation in Danny's ghost-fighting escapades. And then their safety came into question. Tucker and Sam flanked Danny on either side on the plane. Sam reached over the armrest and took Danny's hand in hers, neither moving their gazes from the concerned faces of the authority figures before them. Danny reached on his other side and grabbed Tucker's forearm.

"I would never let anything happen to either of them." He spoke the promise in a voice so low, so dangerous, that the adults fell completely silent. The three were nothing more than children, no older than fifteen years old, and yet, the expressions on their faces and the body language they spoke to each other suggested they were matured far beyond their age. No one dared to suggest that Tucker and Sam stop helping Danny, not with the look Danny gave them.

The conversation quickly shifted to Vlad. How long had he been evil? When did he become a half-ghost? How long had Danny known about this? Surprisingly, Jack was mostly silent during these questions. He merely gazed blindly at the floor of the plane, his face a mask of pain. His so-called best friend honestly tried to kill him and steal his wife, his family. Danny tuned the questions out, waiting until his dad glanced up at him again. Their eyes met and Danny smiled tentatively. Jack chuckled.

The hours spent on the plane were full of random spurts of questions that exploded in the space between long stretches of silence. Danny revelled in the silence when it came, knowing that now those moments would be harder and harder to come by. Tucker dozed off with his head against the window of the plane, his glasses and beret askew, leaving Danny and Sam as the only conscious souls on that row. Danny closed his eyes and relived that kiss, that wonderful, spectacular, earth-bending kiss that they shared before he left for his possible doom. He felt her shift beside him and he opened his eyes, to find her gazing past him out the window, partially obscured by Tucker's head. She tore her gaze away from the clouds rushing by beneath them and smiled sleepily at Danny. He took her hand and squeezed.

Briefly, he wondered when he would get to kiss her again, and for a moment he considered leaning over and doing it right then and there. But that would be wrong. It would be strange to share such an intimate thing with her in front of their parents and teachers and the other adults. So he settled for bringing the back of her hand up to his face and kissing her fingers. She laughed a little before leaning over to him and resting her head in the crook of his neck. He laid his cheek on the crown of her head, closing his eyes at the feeling of peace that wound through him. He heard Mr. Lancer clearing his throat to ask a question, and he cringed. He did not want this moment he was having with Sam to be broken just yet. Thankfully, for some reason unknown to Danny, the question died in Mr. Lancer's throat. The last four hours of the flight were spent in silence, Danny using the time to wonder exactly how Sam got her skin to be so soft and smooth.

This silence was completely shattered, however, when the plane landed. Danny was immediately mobbed upon exiting the gate, cameras flashing and blinding lights leaving him completely disoriented. Hands grabbed his shoulders and pushed him forward, through the deafeningly loud mob, and for a moment Danny thought he might just collapse from sensory overload. He lost his grip on Sam's hand in all of the commotion, and he desperately missed its' warmth now. He tried to glance back, to find her in the crowd, but the forest of bodies blocking his vision made it impossible to tell friend from journalist.

He was pushed directly into a black town car, and as he scrambled across the seat, Tucker was thrown in shortly after. Danny felt a moment of panic as the door slammed shut and the engine revved, his displeasure with leaving without Sam blatantly obvious in his face. But the car did not move and eventually Danny's panic faded. Faces and cameras were pressed against the glass, shouting his name, and in that moment Danny finally understood exactly what Sam was talking about when she ranted against the treatment of purple back gorillas. He felt caged, and his heart seemed to be bounding out of his chest in an effort to escape the terrible feeling.

Suddenly the crowd parted, allowing Danny and Tucker to get a clear view of Sam nose-to-nose with a reporter. She appeared to be screaming, her arms flailing wildly as she swung at the man. A large man in a black suit seized her by her upper arms and carried her to the town car as Sam kicked desperately. Tucker was laughing hysterically at the scene, wiping the tears from his eyes as the door swung open and the man in the suit dropped Sam in the last empty seat beside Tucker. The door swung shut immediately after and the car lurched forward.

"That son of a bitch called me Sammy!" Sam screeched, pressing her face and hands against the window as the mob grew more distant. "He actually called me Sammy!"

"You were about to murder a guy, live, with about a million cameras on you, for calling you by a stupid pet name?" Tucker asked, still chortling. Sam shot him a withering glare.

"I don't even let you two call me Sammy. Why would I let a complete stranger call me that?" She demanded. "I can't believe...just, the nerve of that guy...why he thinks..."

Even Danny had to chuckle at her grumbling. "C'mon, Sam, let it go," He said, reaching around Tucker to brush his fist lightly along her thigh. She glanced at him, still looking annoyed, but softened considerably under his gaze. Danny grinned at this new ability.

"Dude. You're suffocating me." Tucker said, shoving Danny's arm away from his chest. "You and your stupid body heat have me dying of heat exhaustion over here."

"We just got back from Antarctica." Sam dead-panned. "You're complaining about heat exhaustion? You're lucky you still have your fingers and toes. Frostbite is a bitch." She paled, glancing out the back window. "Not Frostbite the ghost, obviously. I meant frostbite the sensation." Tucker was snickering behind his hand. "Oh, shut the hell up."

Eventually Tucker's snickers faded, leaving them in a comfortable silence. Unvoiced questions welled up between them; when would Tucker start as mayor? How would his secret being out change Danny's life? How would Sam fit in to all of that? Would the three of them ever get to be Team Phantom again?

The town car dropped Tucker off on the sidewalk before his house. Danny and Sam watched in silence as he scurried up the steps to his home, the door of which was flung open. His parents were just inside the door, their eyes on their son, and just before the town car pulled away from the curb, Danny could see Tucker's mother's arms winding tightly around the beret-clad boy's neck.

Sam's house was next, just a short three-minute drive from Tucker's house. Danny had to act fast; he knew his parents would never let him out of the house now, especially not after everything that happened. So he would have to act fast.

He reached toward her and took her face boldly in one hand, bringing her face up to his and crashing his chin down toward hers. She made a little noise of surprise beneath his mouth, which quickly turned into a moan as the tip of his tongue traced the outline of her lips. Danny felt a rush of pleasure at the realization that he was the one drawing that amazing sound from her. He hungered to hear it again.

But there would be time for that later, he was sure. An endless amount of time, if he played his cards right. He pulled his lips reluctantly from her, chuckling when she tried to follow him. He kept his forehead flush against hers, breathing in the scent of her perfume. The car was already slowing, to his dismay. He peered over her shoulder and almost groaned at the sight of her house coming into view.

"Meet me in the park tomorrow night." He urged her. Her eyes widened, in confusion, he thought.

"What about your ceremony?" She murmured.

He shrugged. "Screw the ceremony. I still have some stuff I wanna talk to you about."

She smiled. "Okay," She whispered. the car was completely stopped now, and Danny could see Sam's parents waiting anxiously in the doorway for their daughter. He leaned away from Sam, watching as she turned to peek at her parents as well. "I'll see you tomorrow night, then?" She asked, turning back toward Danny but sliding toward the door.

"Seven o'clock. Don't be late." He grinned cheekily as she rolled her eyes and climbed out of the car. He chuckled when Sam's mother rushed out of the doorway and enveloped her daughter in a bone-crushing hug. The car pulled away as Sam's father joined his wife and daughter, the three of them traipsing toward the front door with arms slung around Sam's body.

He leaned back in his seat, sighing in content. Everything, it seemed, was finally falling into place. Vlad was gone, hopefully for good. The world knew his secret and had not shunned him, either of his identities. His parents were supportive and excited, his sister seemed much less high-strung now that she did not have to make excuses to protect Danny. All in all, life seemed pretty good.

Though, it would be a lot better if that class ring with Sam's name etched into the surface was no longer burning a hole in his pocket. He grinned to himself.

Something told him that this would not be the last ring he would slip onto Sam's finger.