Cardism's Exile

Three years.

Three long years,

Three of the longest years of his life, and he wasn't even an adult yet.

Three years he'd been running.

Three years he'd been hiding, dreading, hoping.

Three years that defined him.

Three years since everything he'd everything loved had been taken away from him. Taken away from him in some comically originated explosion that logic and legislature said should never have happened.

Three years since his heart had been ripped out.

What presumably edible mixture of ingredients in some hot sauce could possibly become so volatile as to cause that kind of an explosion when overheated, and what possessed anyone to allow such a thing to exist in the back of a public fast food restaurant.

Why did it have to be a fast food restaurant in his town?

Why did his parents have to be such sweet, embarrassing goofs who cared too much? So oblivious and clumsy that he couldn't even find the tiniest iota of teenage resentment to make their absence seem less.

Why did his sister have to be so overprotective and smart that he couldn't just forget about the way she nagged him, and butted in, and risked everything to keep him safe when he was the one out risking his life for her?

Why did his friends have to be so honest and real, that even with their faults he could find no reason to fault them? Why did they have to be so forgiving and so supportive that even when they knew he was nothing more than the seed of evil, they still stood beside him?

Even when he betrayed them, why did they have to be the ones that put him back on his feet again?

Why did everything he knew seem like one big impossibly ridiculous joke? Even the worst tragedy in his life was just waiting to be some washed up comedian's stage fodder in a rundown bar in some backwater, seedy, ghost town…

…Why did he have to think of ghosts?

Ghost in his past, ghosts in his present, ghosts in his future.

Ghosts in his parent's lab, in his sister's library.

Ghosts in his basement, ghosts in his town.

Ghosts in his friend's computers, and ghosts under their school.

Ghosts whispering to them in the dark, and wailing in the light.

The ghosts in the icy breath of his chest, ghosts in his heart.

The skeletons in his closet… even those were ghosts.

The ghost crawling just beneath his skin, oozing in his veins, skittering across his mind. The ghost that wanted out…

He couldn't take it anyone more. Less than a year after the "accident" he left. He couldn't take the whispers and the sympathetic looks. Dash stopped wailing on him, and Paulina looked away in shame. The teacher's were silent; they didn't call him or speak to him after class...

Oh yeah… he'd forgotten, the only teacher that really knew him, Lancer, he was gone too.

Nick Cassavetes' The Notebook. How could he have forgotten Mr. Lancer. Maybe one of the people who cared the most was always hidden away behind a screen of professionalism and teenage ignorance, or maybe it was just arrogance.


That, made him think of only one person, one person other than himself.

Vlad Masters, or rather, Vlad Plasmius. The ill-begotten half-ghost billionaire that shared his curse. Danny Fenton's curse.

Half-ghost, half-dead, half-lost.

And Danny's least favorite person. The corrupted, bitter, lonely man who used his ghost powers to scam and thieve his way into fortune and power.

Vlad had been his father's best friend in college, though he likely only hung around the boisterous Jack Fenton to get close to the soon-to-be Maddie Fenton. Naturally, Jack never realized this and when Danny was born, in his usual reckless and spontaneous manner Jack had named the pompous man Danny's official godfather.

A month after they were gone, he found social workers on his heels, packing up his stuff and boarding up his home, trying to ship him off to Wisconsin and the awaiting Vlad's Packer festooned castle.

The memory made him shiver.

Those few days, it was like the future was rushing toward him, forcing him onto the path he feared most.

He had been so afraid, so afraid he would give in, break down, let the pain over come him…

And let the monster out, or rather, let the monster in…

That night before they were due to take him away, he left.

It was his last chance to change his future. His last chance to save the world from himself. The irony he found in it. To save the world from himself, he had to run away.

And he did.

He sealed the ghost portal permanently, programming the lock with a password only he could ever know and then, with a few of his parents' spare ghost grenades, he blasted apart the entire bottom floor of Fenton Works, toppling mountains of concrete and timber down on top of the dimensional rift in his basement.

As the sirens wailed and the patrol cars careened down his street toward the crippled building, he slipped invisibly into the night, leaving Amity Park far behind and for good.

He left the North Star State and headed west. Hitchhiking when he was too tired to fly, or walk when he couldn't catch a ride. When all else failed, he'd phase into the trailer of a moving truck and catch a snooze on some loper's couch.

His goal was to reach the west coast, specifically California, the most populous state in the US. All he had to do was pick a city and then just fade away. Fade into the crowds of empty faces where no one would know the name Danny Phantom, let alone Danny Fenton.

After weeks of traveling, he ended up in a city called Jump. It was perfect. Living was cheap and it was just a short drive, or in his case flight, north of LA. It was large, populous, and completely lacking in human individuality.

Except for one thing.

The local gang of super heroes. Jump City was home to the famous Teen Titans, their massive 'T' shaped watch tower occupied a small island at the center of the city's bay, and the five young heroes routinely patrolled the streets, looking to stop any number or level of various crimes committed in the depths of the darkest streets and narrowest alleyways by Jump's less than savory underbelly.

Lucky for Danny, the Titans were relatively new to the city when he arrived, their tower was still under construction and he remembered seeing the pillar of steel jutting up from the barren rock. Its jagged unfinished top silhouetted against the setting sun.

Normally a team of super snoops would be bad news for someone looking for a place to disappear, but it suited Danny just fine. Who would notice one creepy little boy with creepy little powers in a city rampant with heroes and villains all with their own creepy, freaky little tendencies.

Anything he did would be chalked up to the 'Titans Related' category and forgotten as a one-shot novelty.

Again the irony.

He'd always wanted to be popular, one of the A-listers, the cool kid.

Now, he just wanted to be invisible, and for once, not in the literal sense. Although, he could do that too if he wanted.

Whoever ran this existence of his… be it God, or Karma, or whatever force of nature that mixed together the vat of primordial juices that gave rise to his wasted being… they must have had a thing for irony.

But all of that…

That was three years ago. For three years he'd managed to stay out of sight and out of trouble, he'd managed to be forgotten. If any of his past enemies had made it out into the human world from the Ghost Zone, and if any of them had come looking for him, they never showed themselves. If they had found him, they must have sensed the change in him, and just maybe that monster hiding just under his skin, that want of revenge, that longing, maybe that was enough to keep them away. Either way his life had been quiet.

He lied about his age and got a job moving boxes and crates at a warehouse on the pier. He found a cheap apartment with cardboard for walls and some over-enthusiastic newly-weds for neighbors. It wasn't so bad, as long as he had ear plugs. They may not have stopped the walls from shaking, but they kept the noises at bay.

He thought of this life as a kind of penance anyway. The only reason why he was living was to atone for his past sins, and atone for the sins he was destined to commit if he couldn't stop himself.

He stopped eating meat as a start, ultra recyclo vegetarian, but it wasn't as hard as it sounded.

So every day Danny went looking for things that reminded him of his friends and family, of the life he left behind. Every day, he walked home from his job and took a route that took him past a video and electronics store, he made himself peruse the PDAs and computer games. He made himself pick up the newest sequel to Doomed and stare at the all too familiar graphics and characters.

Then he'd leave and walk into the book store next door. He stare at the dusty tomes piled to the ceiling, read a few pages out of the gothic poetry or wander into the literature and science sections to study the cryptic algorithms and theories he could never seem to wrap his head around.

After that he continues down the street past a local high school. As he passes the gate, the bell rings and the doors are thrown open. Students, not much older than him, come flooding into the blinding sunlight. Students with far brighter futures than his.

He'd get caught up in the rush of teenagers heading for their local hangout, a pizza joint a few blocks away near the center of the city. As they filed through the swinging glass doors and spilled into the previously quiet restaurant, Danny would force himself to keep walking, force himself not to just melt in with the kids who were all so much like him, but he could never again be anything like them.

The memories and the pain would rush into him every day, over and over and over again, until any other person would have broke. But for Danny, it just tore the wound open a new, never letting it heal or giving it a chance to scar. He'd pull up his collar or his hood and let the tears stream down his face, and by the time he was home, they would have dried up and blown away, salt on the wind of a seaside city.

However, the one thing he did that hurt the most, concerned more than nostalgia and poetic justice, and sometimes, he wondered if this particular ritual could be classified as masochism.

Whenever, the Teen Titans were out. Whenever, he was around during one of their numerous heroic acts. Danny would force himself to watch. To just stand on the sidelines and take it in. It was his way of reminding himself that he wasn't that glorious hero anymore, that he had failed, that he was weak and because of him they were all dead.

He thought that maybe, just maybe, remembering that would keep the monster at bay.

But no one's Superman.

No one can take that much emotional pain day in and day out.

No one can rip their heart out and stitch it back in over and over.

Something had to break, but it wasn't anything Danny chose to do himself that would eventually do it. It wasn't his trips to the book store that became the feather that broke the camel's back…

What do you do when suddenly all the names sound the same? When the past haunts you with its bastardized, perverted version of Déjà vu?

When you're walking out of work at the end of an extra shift and you step outside to find a sparkling cruise ship in the bay being boarded by bedazzled high school kids? When a vicious girl named Kitten holds everyone's favorite hero hostage in order to make her troubled beau jealous?

How do you react when you're in a video store and suddenly the electronics come to life as if possessed?

When you're walking home on a dark night and a man on a motorcycle blazes past you, waving a loaded gun and shooting at anything that counts as target practice?

When the guy on the bike aims the gun at a couple on the streets and laughs that no one can tell Johnny Rancid what to do?

What do you do?

You break.

And do something you've tried so long never to do.

Author's note: Hiiii I'm Leylia's obnoxious friend who uploaded this... with her consent of course. Anyway, I stumbled on this when I invaded her computer and like the genius I am, I decided to read it. She then laughed at my expense as I slowly died of angst. Anyway, both of us wish for you to enjoy this~