Need to know: I took out or moved a lot of the episodes to play with the timeline. Here's the basics: No TUE, Reign Storm, Maternal Instincts, My Brother's Keeper, Million Dollar Ghost, or Public Enemies. In other words, Maddie doesn't know Vlad's in love with her. Jazz doesn't know Danny's secret, Amity has no idea of the existence of Phantom, and Ultimate Enemy and Reign Storm didn't happen. This is around the beginning of the Fenton Menace (not really important, just giving you a sense of where it is, if you want to know. Danny is fifteen, Jazz is seventeen and graduated early.

Thanks to my amazing beta, Rosalind2013, and my writing buddy, Rajana Stacey. Without them, this chapter wouldn't be finished right now, or half as good.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Danny never knew what to do with his hands. They were always so excited, wanted to touch everything. They could get him into trouble when they grabbed something they shouldn't, like one of Daddy's 'experimince' or a cookie before dinner, but sometimes they could be helpful. Sometimes, Daddy told Danny that he needed a pair of five-year-old hands and, even though Danny was five and a quarter, he would help Daddy with 'experimince'. Sometimes, he could watch beakers of green 'exoplastic', as long as he didn't touch them because the 'exoplastic' is too hot when it boils (which Danny knew because he wasn't four), and make sure they didn't turn funny colors, like purple. It never did, but Danny was happy to help, anyway. Sometimes, his hands even got to stir stuff. It was so cool to have a Daddy who was a ghost hunter!

Then Danny was eight, and he watched his Daddy pour ectoplasm (only six year olds thought it was exoplastic, and Danny was eight) into beakers for experiments (not experimince) and sometimes he wanted to help. Sometimes he just wanted to go outside and play with Daddy, and sometimes Daddy would say yes. Other times, Daddy would yell at Danny and tell him to leave him alone and don't touch those! Danny would feel as big as his thumb and go upstairs. Then, when it was time for bed, Daddy would come take him outside and they would lie down and look at the stars. He would pull Danny next to him, close, and tell him about the stars and their constellations, which Danny couldn't always say right. Danny would feel so safe and he wouldn't feel thumb-sized anymore, and he would fall asleep, so happy.

When Danny was eleven, he didn't see Dad the same way. The man who he had seen as some superhero was embarrassing. His job was weird and not like anyone else's dad's jobs. Kids made fun of him for it. Danny didn't know why his Dad couldn't get a normal job – even Jazz wanted him to! Besides, believing in ghosts was for little kids. There were no such thing as ghosts and everyone but Danny's parents knew it. He didn't understand why they had to act so weird. He hated when kids laughed at him because of Dad. He stopped talking to Dad for a few days. It wasn't fair.

At fourteen, Dad built finished the ghost portal. It didn't work, of course, and was kind of creepy. It shouldn't be creepy – it was just useless junk – but it was. Dad had spent three years on it, and it was huge. Danny could fit in it, and Sam convinced him to go in. His hands got him into trouble again, hitting the 'on' switch as Danny stumbled. Dad had put the button on the inside. Excruciating pain flooded him and changed him. He couldn't tell Dad. He just couldn't see that disappointment in his eyes at the fact that his only son was one of the things he hated so much. He may have been frustrated by his Dad, but Danny never wanted to let him down. He still loved the man, after all.

Fifteen years old, everything was different. Danny still had his hands, still had his powers, but he was missing something much more important than that. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. How was he supposed to keep going when the world had stopped around him? It wasn't fair. He wanted Dad's stupid jokes and rambling lectures on ghosts. He wanted to watch Dad work on experiments, inventing and refining. He wanted Dad. He would even wear the stupid orange jumpsuit, if Dad was there. He would tell Dad his secret and help him go after evil ghosts and ask his advice about girls. He would do anything. He just wanted Dad. Unfortunately, Dad was the one thing he wanted that he couldn't have.

The rain poured down, matching Danny's mood. It pounded softly on the window panes of his bedroom, a simple, steady cadence. The teen rolled over in bed, pulling the pillow over his head. He pressed it down harder over his ears, as if to muffle everything he could hear, from the rain to the murmur of voices downstairs. He swallowed, or tried to around the lump in his throat. He wasn't going to cry. He wouldn't. Pressing it down until the fabric had no more give, the pillow didn't help any. His knuckles turned white, the creases of the pillowcase making red lines in his palm. He should go downstairs and see everyone. His mom would probably be missing him. A bitter, muffled laugh escaped him into the mattress. No she wouldn't. She hadn't looked at him for three days. He didn't want to walk into the living room with Jazz and his friends and so many people and see her and Vlad. See her avoiding looking straight at him and Vlad looking at him sympathetically as he tried to get Maddie to turn to Danny, to see him. To look at him. No, he was just going to stay here, with the rain pounding harder and overwhelming his senses. Thunder rolled, quieted by the glass in the window and Danny shoved himself up. Even with the thunder, he could hear them talking. Crossing the room, he threw his window open, a gust of wind hitting him in the face. The rain poured inside, dripping onto the carpet. He leaned out, feeling the rain soak his face and hair. He still wouldn't cry. He wasn't. It was raindrops. It was. It was, he convinced himself as his hands gripped the sill and his arms shook.

He wasn't crying. Not for anything. He was a guy. He wouldn't cry. After all, he had never seen Dad cry. Slowly, Danny sank to his knees and rested his head against the wall. No, he'd never seen Dad cry, had he? Dad laughed, Dad talked, Dad yelled, but he never cried. Danny clenched the windowsill as he heard a knock on the door. He didn't answer.

"Danny?" Sam's voice came through the wood and Danny could hear her clearly, even over the rain. Stupid hearing. "Danny, can we come in?"

"Hey, man," Tucker's voice joined the goth's, "You all right?"

After a moment of silence, interrupted only by the rain, the doorknob slowly turned. The door slowly creaked open, and two sets of footsteps padded across the floor. He could hear their clothes rustle as they crouched down, Tucker squatting on one side with Sam kneeling on the other. Danny didn't turn to face them, didn't say anything. Tucker settled into a seat on the carpet and Sam sighed sadly, but didn't say another word. Danny didn't know how long they all sat there before Sam pushed herself to her feet and closed the window, stopping the water that soaked Danny's hair and clothes. In the sudden almost silence, Danny swallowed. "I can't believe he's gone."

The words escaped his mouth, and, suddenly, he couldn't stop talking. "It's not right. He shouldn't be gone. He can't be gone! I can't drive and I don't know how to fish and he just left! He left me! He's gone, he left, and now I'm all alone. What am I supposed to do now?" He'd left Danny and now Vlad was there and he wasn't acting like he was supposed to. He shouldn't be nice or normal or not creepy. He should hit on Mom and try to recruit Danny and not be like that! "He – this – it shouldn't be like this! Everything is different and it's all wrong and it's all my fault!" Danny pulled in a shaky breath, his voice quieting. "It's all my fault. I should have been there. I should have been there to help him or something, but I was stupid." He'd gone out his window that night because his ghost sense had gone off and he shouldn't have left and if he'd been there he could have helped him. "I didn't save him! Now, he's gone and there's no one around that – nobody to – I'm – Augh!" The wordless cry expressed everything he couldn't say, couldn't put into words. His pain and despair, his loneliness and pain. His anger at the world and at himself. Nothing was right anymore. He barely registered Sam and Tucker's arms around him and their overlapping voices.

"C'mon, man, that's not true-" Tucker reassured.

Sam shook her head, rubbing his arm. "Oh, Danny, listen-" She comforted,

"Not your fault-" Tucker continued.

"There was nothing you could do-" Sam whispered.

Tucker shook his head. "Dude, you couldn't've stopped it-"

"It isn't your fault-" Sam soothed.

"No way-" Danny tuned their voices out.

Their reassurances murmured around him, mixing with the sound of the rain and the soft conversation from downstairs, deafening him. He swallowed hard, trying to tune it all out. He stared at the water dripping off of the cuff of his button up onto the already soaked carpet the his knees pressed into. The knees of his black dress slacks were sopping from the moist carpet. He shivered slightly. It was a little surprising, considering he didn't get cold easily. His shivering increased in severity, the shuddering rattling his teeth and making his eyes water. He dragged in breaths and felt his friends' arms tighten around him. After a few seconds, he pushed himself up, Sam and Tucker's arms falling away, and turned towards the door.

"I'm going to dry off. I'll see you guys downstairs." Danny's voice was emotionless and flat. After a moment, he heard a reply.

"Danny… we're here for you."

Swallowing again, Danny walked out of the room. Grabbing a towel out of the closet in the bathroom, he toweled off his hair before looking at himself in the long mirror on the back of the door. His collar and the tops of his shoulders were soaked, along with his sleeves from the cuffs to halfway between the elbows and shoulders. He could feel the shirt damp on his back from where the water had dripped down his neck. Dark patches spread over his knees, but the rest of his shirt and pants were fine. He just needed his suit jacket and he could cover the wet spots; the ones on his shirt, anyway. No one would be looking at his knees. Sighing, Danny tossed his towel in the hamper and exited the bathroom. Snagging his jacket on the way, Danny headed down the stairs. From the top, he could see everyone, a mass of black with faces on top. His mother stood between the kitchen and the couches, Vlad at her side. Danny swallowed hard. She looked so tired and sad.

His gaze moved to find his sister. Jazz was standing listlessly near the hall, a few friends around her. Sam and Tucker hovered around the middle of the room, looking uncomfortable with all the older strangers around them. Slowly, he began to walk down the stairs, as quietly as he could. He scuffed his shoe against a stair, near the bottom, and caught himself from falling. The halfa straightened himself, his eyes meeting Vlad's as the man turned to look at him. Mom's eyes followed Vlad's gaze, glancing to Danny. The teen looked down, not wanting to see Mom look away from him. It was with a spark of surprise that he heard her footsteps moving towards him. His head snapped up as she stopped in front of him, her eyes glancing over him.

She frowned slightly, before slowly carding her fingers through Danny's damp hair. "Danny, why is your hair all wet?"

Danny just looked at her as she stared back into his blue eyes. He half smiled.

Mom laughed and pulled him into a hug, her laughter hitching as she held him tighter. "Oh, Danny."

Carefully, Danny returned the hug, leaning into her as she began sobbing in earnest. Her arms tightened and he felt another arm around him. Glancing over his shoulder, he caught sight of Jazz's red hair, pulled back with a black hairband. Quietly, he extracted one of his arms and wrapped it around his sister. They clung together with Vlad standing to the right side and Sam and Tucker to the left of him. He squeezed Mom and Jazz tighter.

After a moment, Danny's grip relaxed and Jazz straightened. Mom took a step back and leaned into Vlad, who put a comforting arm on her shoulder. Jazz turned to her friends and Danny walked away with Sam and Tucker.

Danny had originally been very opposed to Vlad's presence. He had come home, arms loaded down with shopping bags, to see an unfamiliar car in the driveway. Assuming it was a new detective, Danny just continued to the door. Jazz had been sitting in the kitchen, looking through a Harvard booklet. He'd put the bags down and had started to put the stuff contained inside away, before asking Jazz who the car out front belonged to. Jazz had barely glanced at him. "Remember Mom and… and Dad's old college friend, Vlad Masters?"

Danny'd stiffened. The car had been nice, he could tell that. If it was Vlad's… Almost robotically, Danny turned towards the table. "Jazz, where is he?" His sister's eyes kept skimming the information in the packet and it was all he could do not to incinerate the papers with a careful ectoblast. But, no, he wouldn't do anything like that anymore. He was done with his ghost half. He raised his voice instead. "Jazz!"

Starting, she looked up at him. "Danny! What is it?" Her face was lined with concern containing the slightest edge of annoyance. Danny took a breath to calm himself down. Jazz didn't deserve his anger – she didn't know why he was so opposed to Vlad being at their house. That being said, though…

"Where's Vlad?" The tone of his voice was tight and controlled. He was going to keep his temper. Vlad just better not be causing any problems for his mom, because she didn't need anything else. If he was… Stopping using his ghost powers or not, Vlad was going out of his house and he was not coming back. Mom didn't need some rich, lonely jerk hitting on her right after Dad… died. Danny's fury flared. "Jazz?"

She scrutinized him. "Danny, what is it?" He let out a breath. Vlad was probably with Mom right now. Eyes narrowing, the teen started towards the stairs. "Danny!" Jazz leapt in front of him as he passed the table. "Calm down!"

Calm. She wanted him to be calm. "Why did you let him in here?" She was the only one who would've answered the door and she would've made the decision to let him in. Why in the world would she do that? Didn't she see Vlad last time? When they went to the reunion? Sure, she didn't know that he was Plasmius, but she saw him flirting with Mom. Didn't she think it odd or suspicious or convenient for him to show up now? Why did she let him in!? More agitated by the second, Danny made to move around her, but Jazz cut him off again.

"Danny, they're friends! Maybe Mr. Masters can help her!" Danny almost laughed. Since when had Vlad been interested in helping anyone but himself? From what Danny knew of the man, Vlad was selfish and self-serving, only doing things and using his powers to get ahead. If Vlad had had his way, Dad would have died long ago, the day of that reunion. Why should he let Vlad spend another moment within fifty miles of Mom? Shaking his head, he tried to move around her.

"Help her? Jazz, last time Vlad was around Mom, he was hitting on her. I don't think she needs that kind of help right now." Danny spat the last words. He knew he was being crueler than necessary to Jazz, but he was so angry. Vlad shouldn't be here, especially not with Mom, in her room, right now.

"Danny, stop! Mom doesn't need you barreling up there and charging in right now, either! I don't think Mr. Masters would do something like that, Danny. Have some trust." Trust? He did trust Vlad. Right up until the moment he captured Danny and admitted to trying to kill Dad so he could have Mom. The man wasn't worth the time. "Leave them alone, Danny!" She trusted Vlad. Vlad didn't deserve it.

"How long has he been here?" He asked, as the ominous thought occurred to him. How long had he been up there, alone with Mom, poisoning her mind and twisting words and coming off as everything he wasn't, as something other than dirty, lying scum? Danny had been gone for nearly an hour at the store. What if Vlad had gotten here just after Danny left? What had he been doing to Mom? Closing his eyes, Danny fought to keep them blue and utterly normal. The last thing Mom and Jazz needed now was for Danny to show them that he wasn't totally human, that half of him was something they – Mom. Something Mom hunted. They didn't need that right now, any more than he did. And he was stopping using his powers, stopping going ghost. He wasn't going to do that anymore. It was his fault and his ghost half's that Dad was gone. If only Danny had been better, the son that they wanted, that they deserved, everything would be completely and totally different. Dad would be here and he wouldn't be dealing with Vlad.

"Danny," Jazz continued to say something appeasing, but he tuned her out. If she wasn't going to move, fine. He was getting over to the stairs, one way or another. He wasn't going to hurt her – he would never – but he could always jump over the table, slide over the counter, or duck past her around her chair… The table sounded like the best option, the quickest. Without another word, he turned towards it, only to stop in his tracks as his eyes fell upon the bottom of the stairs, barely visible outside the doorway, and the slippers that were descending onto the carpeted floor of the living room. He took a step forwards, barely noticing Jazz moving to mirror him. Was it really Mom? Had Vlad really gotten her to get up, out of bed?

"Mom?" On the edge of consciousness, he noted the abrupt end of Jazz's monologue as she, too, turned to the doorway. Mom stepped through it, her smile tired and worn, but it was there. Her hair was combed and she had a robe wrapped around her pajamas that hung loosely on her. Focusing on Jazz, Mom smiled, then glanced towards Danny – for a split second before she shifted her eyes to a spot barely to the right of Danny's ear, eyes moistening. Danny frowned slightly, before putting it to the fact that she was tired. Maybe she was having a hard time focusing. He wasn't sure how it was possible to lay in bed for three days and be tired, but she seemed exhausted. Not that he blamed her – Mom had the right to curl up and not move. He was so happy that she was up, though. She wasn't hurting herself in a circle of depression, like she had been since she returned from identifying Dad's body at the morgue.

Danny took a step forward before noticing another pair of footwear coming down the stairs, fancy, black, dress shoes. He swallowed. Vlad. A moment ago, he had been ready to go off on the man, throw him out and expose him, but now the teen was unsure what to do. Vlad was standing behind Mom, looking genuinely worried. Mom was out of bed, and she wasn't crying. She wasn't crying right now. At that thought, Danny wanted to worship Vlad, thanking him for that. Mom wasn't crying. She was even smiling. Maybe Vlad could deserve a chance. Maybe he wasn't all bad. If he was there for Mom, if he was helping her… maybe he was okay. Maybe Dad's death had changed him as much as it had changed the Fentons. Maybe… maybe Vlad was okay. With a deep breath, Danny steeled himself to accept Vlad's help for as long as the man behaved. If he did one thing wrong, though, Danny wouldn't hold back.

Vlad's eyes met Danny's own, careful but full of honest concern. After a moment, Danny nodded. Vlad inclined his head, and, breaking eye contact, Danny moved forward to hug Mom. He ignored the way she hesitated before hugging him back, and pretended the slight stiffness in her embrace was from being still for the better part of three days. That was it. It was. It had to be.

It was cold. Goosebumps ran down Danny's arms as the wind swept through the streets. Mist came from his mouth and he shuddered, watching as Sam and Tucker didn't show any sign of chill. He knew what that meant. His friends leapt to their feet, alarmed, but Danny stayed sitting. He'd stopped using his powers in the month since Dad died. It was because he had been using his powers, and not home when he should've been, that Dad was dead. He wasn't going to let anyone else down because he had been playing 'ghost hunter' with his powers. He had real responsibilities, human responsibilities, and he needed to concentrate on those.

"Danny! Come on!" Sam turned to him angrily. "Aren't you done with this yet? That could be Skulker or somebody else dangerous! You need to face your responsibilities!" Tucker touched Sam's arm, to stop her tirade. The words had already been said, though, and the damage done.

Eyes flashing green, Danny pushed himself off of the park bench, the anger that constantly ran under the surface bubbling up. How dare she? "What? Done with what? Done with not endangering people for my own stupid, exciting adventures? Done with actually doing the right thing for once in my life? Done with making sure no one else gets killed because of me? No. I'm not. And I don't have a responsibility to do that. No one gave one to me, we just decided on our own. Did you ever think, for one minute, that this is wrong or unnatural or not supposed to happen? Or do you just think about how cool it is to be half ghost? Well, you know what? If you want these powers, fine! You can take them!" He whirled around, not wanting to give Sam a chance to argue or apologize.

"Danny, wait!" Freezing, Danny only stayed still long enough to reply.

"Leave me alone!" Then he was running, and if his ghost side gave him an extra edge in speed and stamina, he ignored it. It wasn't him. He wasn't a half-ghost-boy any longer. He was just Danny. Another burst of frigid air came from his mouth and he skidded to a stop. He wasn't trying to run right towards it! Spinning, he halted as he came face to face with the ghost. He felt his eyes glow green. It was Youngblood. The young ghost shot a ray at Danny's feet, and Danny took a step back. It looked like the kid had finally escaped from the Ghost Zone. It didn't look like his skeletal sidekick had escaped with him, as the animal was nowhere in sight. The boy was dressed differently than he had been when Danny last saw him. Chaps and boots replaced breeches and a peg leg, and a fringed shirt with a neckerchief was where the pirate's coat had been. He also now had both hands and a cowboy hat. Last time Danny had seen him was the night that Dad died. It was Danny's fault Dad was dead, but if Youngblood hadn't been there, then maybe Dad could have been saved. The teen took a half step forwards, then paused. What if he was needed somewhere else? What if Jazz or Mom needed him? He shouldn't do this. He needed to learn from history. He shouldn't do this. There was no possible way for this to end well. He should walk away. His hands shook with suppressed anger, but he calmed himself with some difficulty.

"Howdy, y'all!" Rage filled him again at the young ghost's smirk, but he pushed it away, though it was so much harder this time. He wasn't fighting Youngblood again. He just needed to walk away. That's what he should do. That's what he needed to do. Closing his eyes, he let out a breath and turned away, silently seething. When he opened his eyes a second later, it was to find that Youngblood had swooped in front of him. Danny scowled. The young ghost poked him in the chest, hard.

"Come on! What are you doing?" The young ghost's face was confused as he squinted at Danny, and poked him again. "Ain't there supposed to be a high noon, shoot 'em up showdown?"

Danny stiffened and clenched his fists, the blood leaving his face. Was Youngblood doing this on purpose? Was he choosing the right words to make Danny want to blast the mouth right off of the kid's face? Restraining himself forcibly, though it was harder with every second, Danny took a few breaths through his nose and took a few steps back. He turned again, starting to walk swiftly away before he did something he didn't want to do, before he let his anger get the better of him. He shouldn't fight this battle, though he wanted to. He wanted to – he should walk away.

In a second, Youngblood was right in his face, leaning forwards until his nose nearly touched Danny's. The kid scowled and poked him in the chest. Hard. "What? You yellow bellied coward! Running home to your mommy and daddy?"

He saw red.

Without another thought, Danny transformed. Launching himself at the other ghost, he saw the uncertainty flicker on the spectre's face for a split second before Danny barreled into him. They flew for several feet before slamming into the ground. Panic was in Youngblood's eyes as he turned himself intangible, but Danny just held on, turning intangible as well. After a second, the young cowboy-dressed ghost slipped out of the halfa's grip and flew upwards. Danny flew faster than he ever had before and smashed into the ghost from the side. They tumbled for a moment before hitting the ground once more, Youngblood pinned beneath Danny. Pain ripped through the teen as he pulled back a fist lit with ectoplasm and threw it into the younger ghost, not aiming, nor caring where the blast hit. He hit the boy again, then again.

How dare he? How dare he? What was his problem? Did he think it was funny that Dad was dead? The next blow was harder. Was he seriously taunting Danny about his failure!? What was his problem? That stupid idiot! What in the world did he think he was doing? Oh, yeah, let's laugh at the fact that your dad is dead because of you!? Danny hated him! That little, stupid, know-it-all, freaking jerk! What the heck was his problem?! What, since he was already dead, he thought that people dying, Dad dying was funny?! Did the kid have some sort of issue with sadism, or was he part of the 'Let's Make Life Miserable For Everyone, Especially Danny!" club, like every single other stupid ghost in this stupid town was? Did he hate Danny, or Dad, or did he just have some sort of death wish!? Well, if that was what Youngblood was looking for, then Danny could give it to him. In fact, he might even be happy to grant the wish! Then no one would ever be hurt by the stupid ghost ever again! Then no one would have to lose a family member, no one would have to die, and no one would ever have to be failed by Danny again because of Youngblood. Maybe it would be best to destroy the thing, stop it from killing anyone else!

Heedless of what were now whimpers from the young ghost, Danny continued pounding into him. Again and again, his ectoplasm-enhanced fists tore into Youngblood until the kid's begging penetrated Danny's haze.

"Please, stop, please, please, please, please, please, stop! Please, stop! Stop it, please!" Danny drew back to hit the boy again. "I'll do anything, please!"

"Anything?" Another wave of fury and pain, despair, rocked Danny. "Anything?! It's too late for that. It's too late, because he's already dead! You want to do something?!" Danny roared, "Bring him back!" The ectoplasm flickered over Danny's sore, prepared fist.

"I can help you, please!" The terrified ghost pleaded, his voice rocketing to a higher pitch at the end. Danny paused.

"What?" He shook his head, voice hitching, "Don't lie to me! You can't help me, or him. You can't bring him back!"

"Please, I know who can!" The kid could barely speak through swollen lips, "I can help you, please, I can!" He sniffed wetly as tears mixed with ectoplasm streaked his face. "Please, listen to me!"

Danny stayed still, fist still raised, breathing heavily. Shudders wracked his body. What if Youngblood was right? He didn't think the ghost was lying, not now. He sat back slightly and really looked at the kid. Guilt ran through him, pooling in the pit of his stomach. The boy's lips were swollen and split and he couldn't open one eye. Burns from the flaming ectoplasm and bruises decorated his face, and Danny averted his eyes. He swallowed and got to his feet, off of the kid. Still looking away, Danny rubbed away the traces of wet that he hadn't realized soaked his own cheeks, trailing in streams from his eyes. It was from the wind, he was sure. He hadn't been crying. Taking in a deep, shuddering breath, the teen glanced back at Youngblood. The boy was still lying there. Danny hadn't noticed it before, full of anger and hatred and hurt, but Youngblood was paler than the halfa had ever seen him, a shade away from invisible. As he stood there and watched, Youngblood flickered. Fear bolted through Danny. What if he had killed the younger ghost? Was it even possible? The kid still didn't move and a bitter, sour taste slipped into the back of Danny's mouth. He killed him. He killed him. He killed Youngblood. He was a murderer. Wide eyed, Danny stumbled back. His stomach rolled and he gagged. He killed Youngblood. Before he could do anything more, movement out of the corner of his eye drew his attention. Youngblood was slowly, carefully, sitting up. He was alive – well, sort of. Danny sagged in relief. He had been so frightened, so scared of becoming just like those men who broke into his house to get stuff and money and ended up shooting Dad. He never wanted to be anything like that.

The streets were empty and soundless around them. The overcast sky let loose a flash of lightning, followed minutes later by a crack of thunder. Danny swallowed, shamefaced, as, with some effort, Youngblood floated up into the air. The childlike ghost was definitely looking the worse for the wear and Danny felt revulsion towards his actions as he looked at the kid. He was fifteen, he should know how to control himself. He should know better than to let himself go crazy.

For a long time, neither ghost spoke. Finally, Youngblood opened his mouth. "Clockwork."


Youngblood didn't look at him. "Clockwork is the name of the ghost. …I'll take you to him tomorrow. Today, I… I can't…"

Danny opened his mouth to protest, but another look at the boy killed the words in his throat. Instead what came out was a strangled, "Okay."

Youngblood kept his eyes away as he flew off, and Danny closed his own. He shouldn't have done that. His eyes caught sight of the pavement where Youngblood had been lying. It was actually cracked and indented. Green ectoplasm stained the sidewalk in several places, pooling most severely in the deepest depression. The breath caught in Danny's throat and his stomach roiled as he realized that that dent was where Youngblood's head had been. Danny bent over, clutching his stomach and gagged again, dry heaving. He would never hurt someone like that again, Danny decided firmly, guilt and regret rolling through his entire body. How was he going to face the young ghost tomorrow?

Ah. Tomorrow. Did Youngblood really know someone who could help him fix everything? Maybe tomorrow, everything could be changed. Dad could be back, and everything would be okay again. He opened his mouth, testing out the name on his tongue and teeth, "Clockwork."

Let me know what you liked, didn't like, would change, etc. =) Hope you enjoyed!

Don't own DP, TT, or the song 'I Will Follow You Into the Dark', whence the title comes. Check out Kurt Hugo Schneider's version (that's what I was listening to as I looked for a title =) )

Next time:
Danny visits Clockwork.