Chapter Nine: Puzzle Pieces

What is history?

A steady rhythmic beeping sounded in the room. Moonlight entered through the window, bathing the nearest bed in its light.

Its occupant stared at the blank white wall in front of him. He had been staring for hours now but that was nothing compared to the weeks he had spent in this hospital room, in that very bed.

At least he was sure it had been weeks. Everything blended together with all the poking, prodding, and pin cushioning.

The door opened, breaking the room's twilight and the occupant's staring contest with the wall. It didn't bother the patient that much since the wall always won in the end anyway.

Stupid wall.

"Watch your eyes," the newcomer said. There was a click and the room was filled with white brilliance.

When vision adjusted, each individual considered the other.

The patient was a young man, college age. White hair styled in a spiky mullet betrayed his youth, and the bulbous green acne marred his handsome face. He sat against the backboard of the bed with the sheets covering his lower body.

The visitor entered the room, his black shoes clicked with every step. He wore a black with a white shirt and a black tie. There was a black briefcase in his hand.

"Hello, Mr. Masters," the visitor said when he reached the bed.

Vlad Masters blinked as he observed his visitor. He felt as if he had seen him somewhere before. Perhaps on the news or something similar. Surely someone with long black hair that swept the shoulders and covered the right half of the face would be memorable.

The man smiled suddenly, and for some reason, Vlad felt his face get warmer.

Got to call the doctor after the visit, Vlad thought. The ecto-acne seems to be acting up again.

"My name is Morgan Pendragon," the man said. "I'm the-"

"The founder of Industrial Illusions," Vlad interrupted in surprise, "the largest game company in the world?"

"You've heard of me?" Morgan said in amusement, apparently not bothered by the interruption.

"How could I not? Jack and I..." The joy seemed to vanished at the mention of Jack.

Morgan approached Vlad a bit closer and placed a hand on his shoulder. Vlad looked up at him.

"Not all is lost," Morgan said

"What do you mean?" Vlad asked. "There's no cure for this." He pointed at his face.

Morgan withdrew his hand. "No doubt you've wondered why I'm here in the first place if I'm known for making games."

The thought had crossed Vlad's mind when he realized Morgan was the visitor.

"I first heard of your situation," Morgan continued with a sly smile, "when my employees were researching materials for my newest game."

"A new game?" Vlad said with excitement. "First Person Shooter? Role Playing Game? Real Time Strategy? Console, PC, or Tabletop?"

Morgan raised a hand to halt Vlad. Morgan had an amused smile. "Its a Trading Card Game," he said.

"Trading Card Game?" Vlad said. He looked thoughtful. "Sounds bold considering this will be your first such product."

"Kept an eye on me have you?" Morgan said with a raised eyebrow.

Could have been both but only one was visible.

"Yes, well," Vlad stuttered. "Like I was going to say earlier, Jack and I are big fans of your work. You have quite the gift when it comes to science fiction and the supernatural."

"I had some help with that," Morgan said. "The same help that we're offering you."

"I'm listening," Vlad said. He made sure not too sound too hopeful or desperate.

"My company is part of a global conglomerate," Morgan said, "and one of its member companies is interested in your situation." Morgan placed his briefcase on an nearby nightstand. "They might even be able to help you."

"Really?" Vlad asked. There was no hiding his hope now. "Could they cure me?"

The briefcase clicked open and Morgan lifted the top. "I was told to stress a warning in regards to the offer though," Morgan said as he flipped through some papers.

"I need to be a certain blood type or something?" Vlad asked in amusement. It did not surprise him that there would be requirements or restrictions to something like this.

From what Vlad observed, Morgan's smile had no other setting other than amusement. It did not change as Morgan continued to speak.

"The Hellsing Organization requires that you understand that the procedure is high risk and could prove fatal. Another thing that must be stressed is that the illness may simply be suppressed as opposed to cured."

"Your friends need a better name," Vlad said.

"I just informed you that you could die or likely carry this sickness for the rest of your life and your concern is the name of the company?" Morgan said. "Strange priorities. And besides, we can't all have great names, Mr. Masters."

"You're one to talk, Pendragon," Vlad countered.

Morgan simply kept his half smile, making Vlad wonder why Morgan hid half of it. Morgan took out a handful of papers and handed them to Vlad.

"The Hellsing Organization," Morgan said as Vlad read, "are greatly immersed in the supernatural. When they heard of your plight, they immediately offered their assistance."

Vlad scanned the documents as best he could. The contract informed him that the Organization provided funds for independent supernatural studies - which explained why the course that he, Jack and Maddie took existed in the first place. It also informed of the possible outcomes of the procedure; other than death, there was the purging of the contaminant; its suppression, which the paper compared to cancer treatment; and then there was the theoretical adaptation of the contaminant, which could improve his physiology to a superior level.

Vlad blinked at that last statement. He looked at Morgan.

"Improve physiology to a superior level," Vlad repeated. "What does that mean exactly? I'm going to get superpowers or something?" he said with a tone of disbelief.

Morgan shrugged, still smiling amusingly. "Its a possibility," he said.

"I suppose I'll have to get a cape, fight crime, and rescue cats from trees," Vlad said with a sarcastic grin.

Morgan's smile never faltered. "If that is what you wish to do with your abilities - should you get any that is - is not our concern so long as it does not interfere with our interest."

Vlad blinked. He'd been doing that a lot.

No wonder the wall always won. Stupid wall.

From the way Morgan spoke, Vlad was sure that he was expected to obtain superpowers. Or some other type of abnormality.

To be fair though - what exactly was normal in this situation?

"There has to be a catch," Vlad said, putting the papers on his lap.

"Undergoing an operation that you may not wake from not enough of a catch for you?" Morgan asked.

"Not when you're so confident it will work," Vlad answered.

Morgan continued to ooze an amused air as his visible eye connected with Vlad's own.

For some reason, Vlad felt exposed under Morgan's gaze. As if the man could see all that made Vlad Masters who he was. Who he could be.

"The first catch," Morgan started to say, "is absolute secrecy. No one is to know of this arrangement without permission from above."

Vlad nodded shallowly. "Sounds reasonable," he said. And expected if Vlad was honest with himself.

"The second is a payment that will be implemented on the occasion of exposure."

Vlad raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"It means," Morgan said, "that if your secret is exposed without a method to control how far it goes, then the conglomerate will seize most if not all assets you possess at the time of exposure."

"What if I get expose shortly after the operation?" Vlad asked

"Then you won't lose that much now will you? Though should you make something of yourself, I imagine it will be quite a tragedy."

Vlad pulled up the papers and went through them once more. He was being given a second chance. A better chance. He would take it regardless of whether or not he got powers out of it. His health was all that matter.

Though if he did get powers... he was free to do as he pleased so long as he didn't bother his benefactors. Something he was sure he'd get warned about. Something like a This research/company/individual is off limits. Don't touch.

Vlad's gaze went to his left, away from the papers and away from Morgan. His eyes fell on the nightstand. The one with flowers in a small vase and a framed picture of himself, Jack, and Maddie.

He would be free to do as he pleased. Which included winning over the love of his life and get revenge on the big fat oaf that put him in the hospital in the first place.

Vlad turned to Morgan with a steel gaze.

"I accept the term of your contract," Vlad said.

Morgan reached into a pocket inside his coat and took out a pen. He handed over to Vlad.

"Trust me, my boy," Morgan said as Vlad signed the papers. "You've made the right decision."

Vlad held the contract and pen for Morgan to retrieve. Morgan did, and placed the papers back in the briefcase before closing it.

Morgan held out his hand. Vlad shook it.

"Have faith Mr. Masters," Morgan said with his amused half grin. "Everything will be the way its supposed to be."

Vlad grinned; hunger and desire noticeable.

"I'm counting on it," Vlad said.

History is a series of events deemed significant enough to be remembered.

Idle chatter filled a classroom of Casper High until the bell signaled the start of class.

"Alright, settle down people," Mr. Lancer demanded of his students, of his Junior English class which was filled with many familiar faces.

The popular Mister Baxter, and Miss Sanchez; the not as popular but not at the bottom of the barrel Miss Grey; and of course who could forget the commotion centering trio of Mister Fenton, Mister Foley, and Miss Manson.

The rest of the class had other old and some new faces and he was aware of each and every name but they simply didn't gather as much attention and controversy as the ones mentioned.

No doubt those familiar with Mr. Lancer were wondering when they would finally escape him while the new faces are wondering what kind of teacher he would be.

And speaking of new and familiar faces.

"Alright class," Lancer said once they quieted down. Most of them quieted down at any rate. He was sure some of them were on their phones despite it being against the rules. "We have a new student joining us today. She's been home schooled most of her life and this will be her first school experience; so with that in mind, let's make her feel welcome."

Lancer turned to the door. "You may come in now, Miss Wesker."

The door opened. A girl entered. She had a red beanie and black hair set in a pony tail and a gravity defying bang; her blue eyes matched her hoodie; she wore red jeans and blue sneakers.

Elle once again stood at Lancer's desk, and just like a few days ago, eyes shifted between her and Danny.

"Hello," Elle said. It was a standard ice breaker, right next to inquiring about the weather. "My name's Elle Wesker. Nice to be here."

It really was considering the last time she was in Amity Park she was melted into ectoplasm and just barely survived. The class didn't know about that part of her history but it didn't change the fact she was glad to be there. To be alive.

"Are you and Fentina related?" Dash asked. Ah, yes. The jock. Perhaps Elle could prank him again like she did the first time she was in Amity.

"We're distant cousins," Elle answered, shelving her prank idea for the moment. "My dad and I are kind of the black sheep of the family."

"So you've never being to school before" Paulina asked. Elle noticed she was as pretty as advertised, maybe more; but if her attitude is also as advertised then Paulina lost a lot of appeal as far as Elle was concern.

Elle gave a nod to Paulina's question, who asked, "So that means you've received private tutoring. Not to mention that car you drove into the parking lot."

And she had her eyes on Elle's money. No doubt thinking of ways to trick Elle into spending money on her.

Still, Elle had an image to create.

That was why Elle scratched the back of her head nervously as she answered, "Its key was the closest one to the door. Anyway yeah, my dad's loaded. Oh." She snapped her fingers. "Before I forget, I'm having my Sweet Sixteen in my house this weekend. Nothing fancy since it'll just us teens, but be sure to bring pool gear and lots of extra clothes. Spread the word that the whole school is invited."

The class picked up chatter at that announcement. Danny and Valerie thought it would be fun. Tucker was planning on how to give mouth to mouth resuscitation. Sam was scowling at Elle's attempt to buy popularity.

"You sure its a good idea to invite the losers?" Dash asked over the chatter. "You should have only the A-list. Better for everyone that way."

"Nonsense," Elle said with a grin. She threw her arms upwards. "Everyone should have fun at one of my parties." The emphasis on my did not go unnoticed. It sent the clear message that she wouldn't be playing by their rules. "So remember, everyone is invited - no matter the class year, preferences, or social standards. Spread the word; pool party at Elle Wesker's house.

"Yes, well," Lancer said before anyone else responded, "I think that's enough for now. You may take the seat next to Miss Grey, and we'll begin the class."

Valerie waved a hand. Elle smiled.

"Perfect," Elle said.

History is structured as Event A leads to Event B leading to Event C.

"Smile," Sam's voice cheered.

There was a flash.

Danny froze hunched near the inactive Fenton Portal with a white hazmat suit in his hands. His vision was blurry because of the camera flash.

"Okay," Danny said, "I showed you the portal. Can we get out of here now?" He put the suit on a nearby table.

Sam and Tucker stood at a distance in front of the portal looking at the photo Sam took.

"Come on Danny," Sam said as she picked up the suit Danny let go of. "A Ghost Zone? How cool is that? Aren't you curious? You gotta check it out!"

Danny absently grabbed the suit when Sam held it out. His mind racing on how much trouble they would be in if his parents got home, and on Sam's words.

Danny was curious. Very curious. Well... He always wanted to be an astronaut. Maybe the Ghost Zone was like space.

Danny looked at the suit in his hands. Then at the portal. And finally at his friends.

"You know what?" Danny asked musingly."You're right. Who knows what awesome, super cool things exist on the other side of this portal."

Danny slipped on the suit over his clothes. He walked to the edge of the portal. It loomed over him in challenge. Come inside, if you dare, it seemed to say. Danny glanced back at his friends in uncertainty. They gave him a thumb's up. Danny smiled at them, his confidence rising.

He looked back at the hollowed out portal. He would not back down. He stepped inside. His gaze roamed the metal walls, making him wonder - not for the first or last time - why his parents would dedicated their minds to hunting ghosts.

Wires were lying on the floor haphazardly. Danny stepped over them and around them, placing a hand on the wall for balance. Something gave way in his palm and clicked. Danny, eyes wide, looked at where his hand was.

There was a panel there with two buttons: On and Off.

His hand was on the ON button.

Green light surrounded Danny, making look around in panic. He shouldn't have been here. He should have left the genius stuff to his parents and sister. He wasn't a genius; why was he here?

I gotta get outta here, Danny thought.

Before Danny could make use of his idea, the portal activated and electricity invaded his being.

All Danny felt was fire engulfing his body; all Danny heard was his own unending scream.

There are many paths that can be taken after this event. From fame and fortune to solitude and despair. Either way, one thing is certain, for good or ill, this is the creation of a legend.

But history is flawed in its record keeping.

"All that power," Pariah Dark said, "its a burden, isn't it child?"

"The power isn't the burden," Danny responded. "The burden is in how I use it. And I've been using it poorly lately."

"Surrender child," the Ghost King demanded. "You can't possibly win."

"I don't have to win," Danny said. He blasted a far wall. The dust settled, revealing the Sarcophagus of Forever Sleep. "I just have to make sure that you lose."

History does not capture the entirety of how an event came to pass.

It was the day after the Nasty Burger explosion. News had spread fast and now Casper High had cancel classes so students could talk to grief counselors.

Danny Fenton stood in front of his locker, staring at the picture of himself and his best friends.

Best friends that were gone forever. All because of him. Because he had to cheat.

Danny had not bothered to sleep or change clothing. He still wore the soot covered clothes of yesterday.

"Hey Danny," said a familiar, friendly voice. "You okay?"

Standard question. It never fails to be delivered.

"No," Danny muttered, not even bothering to break eye contact with the picture to face Valerie. How could he be okay? How could he ever be okay again? His family was dead, his friends were dead, the only teacher that cared about his education was dead. He would never be okay again.

Valerie pulled Danny into a tight hug from behind. He was intent on staring at the photo and she wasn't sure how he would react to being interrupted.

Not that it was possible to win a staring contest with an inanimate object. She should know; she'd tried it against the poster of a grinning Phantom in her room. She threw a dart at it every time she lost.

That reminds me, Valerie thought. I'm running out of space to throw darts. I got to get another poster later.

"If there is anything I can do, I'm here for you," Valerie said to Danny. Focus on Danny now. Beat poster of life ruining ghost in staring contests later.

Danny didn't respond immediately, but the offer got him thinking. He had to try and move on. Not to mention the ghosts won't give him a break just because his loved ones died in an explosion of highly combustible condiments. Ghosts were selfish that way.

He couldn't do it by himself though. Not when Sam and Tucker had been at his side from the beginning. He definitely won't be able to do it with sorrow and guilt as his companions.

Danny didn't know those two too well but he was sure he didn't them around.

"Actually," Danny said. Valerie loosened the hug, letting Danny turn around and face her, but kept her hands on his shoulders. "Do you think you could meet me later at the park, in a few hours?"

"Sure," Valerie said. "But hey, have you talked to a counselor yet?"

Danny's eyes shifted elsewhere. If he didn't see her face then he wasn't lying to it.

"I was actually thinking of doing that later. Like maybe after we talk." He scratched the back of his head. No way she was going to let him go. It was so obvious he was lying. He was never good at lying.

Valerie drummed her fingers on Danny's shoulders. She didn't quite frown, but it was easy to see she didn't like that idea. Valerie was sure that Danny - having been at the center of everything - needed to see a professional as soon as possible.

Still, Valerie thought. What's a few hours? We'll have our talk and then I'll drag his butt to the nearest counselor. Easy.

"Sure, Danny," Valerie said. "I'll be there."

A few hours later found Danny showered and cleanly clothed at the park. He still felt some doubt about telling Valerie the truth.

Valerie liked Fenton because he reached out on her time of need but she hated Phantom after Cujo trashed her dad's lab and causing that time of need in the first place. Lets see her try and deal with a bipolar dog that went from puppy to tank every five seconds and see how she likes it.

Trusting Valerie was a huge gamble but there weren't many options available to Danny right now. There was no way he could carry on while keeping his secret.

The arrival of Valerie pulled him out of his thoughts.

"Sorry if you had to wait long," Valerie said. "What did you-"

"Follow me," Danny said before turning and setting a quick pace to a secluded area.

Valerie blinked at the rude act before following. She was a ninth degree black belt so she wasn't worried. Besides, it wasn't like she was in danger from Danny of all people.

Once they reached the hidden grove Danny turned and looked at Valerie with pleading eyes.

"Val," Danny said, "before I tell you - you gotta promise me to hear the whole story - please you can't freak out on me - okay please..."

Valerie grabbed Danny's shoulders.

"Danny, calm down!" she shouted. "Relax. I swear I won't freak out. We're friends aren't we?" Valerie gave him a smile.

"R-r-right," Danny said, not entirely relaxed. He took a step back. "Well, you know my parents hunt... hunted ghosts." There was a choke at the correction.

Valerie stepped forward and hugged him. "Its okay Danny," she said.

Danny pushed out of the hug. "You don't understand!" he screamed.

Danny stepped away from Valerie. He swept his hand through his hair and took deep breaths to calm himself. Valerie watched her friend freak out. She felt hurt and confused when he broke the hug, and started acting crazy.

I knew skipping those sessions were a bad idea, Valerie thought.

"There was an accident with the Ghost Portal," Danny said.

"Wait - what?" Valerie said, having missed some of Danny's words.

"The ah, portal didn't work at first," Danny said, "so I, ah, I went inside and -"

"You did what?!" Valerie shouted in surprise and worry. "Why would you.." Her eyes went wide as she recalled his words. She approached Danny and grabbed him by his arms. "You said there was an accident. What happened?"

Danny took hold of Valerie's wrists, surprising her with how strong the grip was. When Valerie let go, Danny stepped away looking like a cornered animal.

"I ah," Danny stammered. "While I was, inside, I sort of, turned it on. I don't really remember much. Just blinding light. And pain. Lots and lots of pain.

Valerie had her hands over her mouth as tears fells.

"There's... more," Danny said.

Valerie widened her eyes to the size of dinner plates at that statement. There was more to that horrible story?

"Please don't freak out, Val," Danny begged. "I could really use a friend right now."

Valerie didn't acknowledge Danny's words. She just kept staring.

Danny took a deep breath. A gust of wind drifted. Danny lifted his arms high and called out, "I'm going ghost!"

Valerie's wide eye almost popped out of her sockets when she saw the bluish-white ring form around Danny.

The ring split and everything changed.

Danny Phantom lowered his arms and waited as Valerie processed what just happened. He could see a mixture of emotions flow on her face.

Then a tsunami swept over them all with the one emotion Danny dreaded.

Murderous Rage.

"You!" Valerie shouted in a feral growl. In the blink of an eye the ghost hunting suit given to her by Vlad Masters formed into existence. She had a cannon in her hand, and aimed at Danny.

Valerie fired.

Danny just barely got airborne before the spot he was standing in became a crater. As it was the explosion sent him whirling away for a few feet before he recovered.

"Valerie!" Danny said. "Listen to me!"

"You lied to me, ghost! You used me!" Valerie shrieked as she fired wildly.

Danny ducked and dodged the hail of pink blasts as he flew away. The chase went on for miles with Danny pleading to Valerie to listen, but the girl was determined to shoot first and ask questions never.

When Valerie's aim began to get more accurate, Danny realized he had to escape. And not just Valerie, but the town. His secret was blown. There was no place safe for him in Amity Park. Danny concentrated on the teleport ability he had once only once before; when he escaped Tucker's crazy ghost self.

One moment Danny was dodging energy blasts. The next, he vanished.

The disappearance of the ghost boy snapped Valerie out of her rage and the momentum had her pass right through the spot Danny had vanished. Valerie noticed her visor was wet. She reached up and wiped the visor clean. She looked at the wet spots on her gloves in confusion. The sky was clear, so why would she have rain drops on her person?

Then, slowly, her hand began to shake as realization came. They weren't rain drops.

They were tears. Danny's tears.

"Oh god," Valerie said with a trembling voice. "What have I done?"

Valerie would end up searching for Danny for days, barely giving thought to anything else.

Valerie would later come to learn that the boy she could have come to love was overtaken by his own rage and self loathing; the first and most personal victim of a monster born from tragedy and betrayal.

This is because history is written by the victor.

"Now do you understand?" a soft voice Observant asked.

"Yes," Clockwork replied. "Danny Phantom grows up to be the most evil ghost on the planet." He faced his employers. "What do you want me to do about it?"

"You're the Master of Time, Clockwork," Soft Voice said. "Isn't it obvious?"

Another Observant, one with a deeper voice than the first Observant spoke up next.

"To save the future, Danny Phantom must perish."

But Time has no such limitations.

Blue sky with white clouds greeted the open air market in a far city. Nearby inside a shadowed alley near the market, a small figure hid from wandering eyes. She was a young girl that looked as young as ten to as old as thirteen with ratty black hair, exhausted blue eyes and dirty blue and red clothes.

"You can do this, Dani," she told herself. "All you need is five minutes." Dani eyed the closest stand; an apple stand.

Dani concentrated and turned invisible. Suddenly, dizziness washed over her. She placed a hand on the wall for balance and the other on her head.

Luckily for Dani, it didn't last long.

"Man, my powers are all over the place," Dani said. Noticing she was still invisible, Dani rushed out of the alley towards the stand before the power wore off. The vendor, a teen boy, had his attention on the girl selling melons. Dani smiled. Too easy, she thought. She picked two apples and made to put them in her hoodie.

Which would have worked had she not turned visible.

The sudden splash of color made the boy turn to Dani with a start. Noticing the apples in her hands, the teen crossed his arms, and with narrowed eyes he asked, "You were going pay for those right?"

Dani turned sheepish and panicked. She considered turning around and running as far as she could when someone interrupted.

"There you are," a velvety voice drawled. Dani and the vendor turned toward the voice. The man was tall and muscled, dressed in black. He had ponytailed black hair and blue eyes that were more vibrant than Dani's.

"So this is where you ran off to," the man said when he neared them. He frowned as he took in Dani's appearance. "And you got all dirty again. What am I going to do with you?" the man said with an amused shake of his head.

"Sir," the apple vendor called. The man turned to him while the girl stared at the older man. The teen was glad the girl didn't run away, he'd get in trouble if he got shoplifted. Or stand-lifted, the boy told himself. "I don't mean to get your relative in trouble-" He really didn't but he figured that the girl being grounded for a week or so was better than him losing his job; no way he was going back to flipping burgers. "But I'm certain she wasn't going to pay for those apples in her hands."

The man gave a thoughtful nod, then looked at Dani.

"Caught stealing," he said with a sly smile as he took out his wallet. "I expected better from you."

Since the moment Dani laid eyes on the stranger, her mind was filled with question. Who was he? Why did he look like her? Would Danny look as push-packed as him when Danny grew up? Would she looked like that when she grew up? What did he mean by expected better? Was he saying that because she shouldn't have stolen, or because she had ghosts powers and therefore should not have been caught? How did he know she had ghosts powers?

A hand on Dani's shoulder stopped her thinking. She looked up to see at the giant's blue eyes - so similar to her's yet different. The man held up a bag of apples. Apparently he had paid for the stolen ones and some extra.

"Come on," he said. "We have a lot to talk about."

Dani let the man guide the way as she stared at his face. There was something about his presence that made her trust him even though she knew she should be on her guard. What could the reason be? His blue eyes? Maybe because he looked like an adult Danny? It wasn't until they reached a park bench that Dani decided to speak up.

"Who are you and what do you want with me?" Dani asked. She sat next to the man, far closer than one would considered normal when next to a stranger - especially since the bench could sit them both without problem.

The man took out a apple from the bag and inspected it, giving no indication he heard Dani. He took a bite out of it, taking nearly half of it. When the older Danny look alike ate his apple without once acknowledging Dani, the girl felt insulted. First he helped her, now he ignored her? Danielle/Dani Masters/Phantom would not stand for that!

The fact that Dani was sitting was completely irrelevant.

Dani had just come to the conclusion of smashing the two apples she still had in her hands over the man's hand when the man spoke up.

"Don't even think about it," he said. He still had yet to looked at Dani as he took out another apple.

"Too late for that," Dani said with a grin as she held up her apples.

"Then don't go though with it," the man countered.

"Why shouldn't I?!" Dani said. She stood up on the bench to get some height equality. It was mostly successful. Her voice rose as she spoke, "I have no idea who you are or how you know me or what you want from me! Why shouldn't I smashed these over your head?!"

Ordinarily if something like that was heard in public, people would have gotten curious, and perhaps concerned. However, the majority of the park-goers had shied away from the path that led to their bench as something compelled them to leave the area alone. No one thought anything weird about it and simply felt bad for the father as he dealt with his bratty daughter.

"My name is Neil Wesker," the man said as he finally looked at Dani. The ignorance was done on purpose since now he had even more of Dani's attention besides simple similarity. "What I want..." He glanced to the side for a moment to ensure his Haunting Aura was still at work. He looked at Dani again. "I want to take you into my family - though it'll be just you and me right now."

"Why?" Dani said as she crossed her arms. People didn't simply appear out of nowhere and offer to adopt someone. No sane or stable person anyway.

Then again Dani was simply a few months old. What did she know?

"My benefactor thinks adopting you will make me less of a troublemaker," Neil answered. He had his third apple on his hand, and bounced and caught it in his hand.

Dani watched the apple go up and down. She made to say something when her stomach got fed up with the talking and loudly reminded her it was on empty. Dani saw a smirk form on Neil's face even though his attention was on his bouncing apple. Embarrassed, she sat on the top of the bench, making sure not to fall over. She ate the apple, enjoying the taste.

As Dani ate, she thought of Neil's offer. Should she accept? It was probably better for her to get back to Danny than live with a stranger - even if they did look alike and she felt like she could trust him with her life. Why was she feeling that way anyway?

After swallowing the last bite of her firs apple, Dani asked, "What kind of troublemaker were you?" She began to eat her second and last apple. If she wanted more, she would've have to take them from the bag.

Neil shrugged. "Mostly I just broke things that annoyed me." Such as the hateful Valerie that betrayed him. His worthless humanity that was too weak to protect those that matter most. And the countless humans and ghosts that stood in his way and kept stalling him from erasing every single trace of his past.

"That's it?!" Dani asked. She was mid-chew which made her spit some apple. "I would have thought you had done worse."

Neil wiped some of the apple on his shirt. In his younger years he would have said that the shirt was his favorite and that Dani had ruined it, only to surprise her by getting a new shirt identical to the ruined one. But he was a weak naive fool in those days. He would never ruin his image with such immaturity.

"People get attached to the stupidest things," Neil said. Seriously, what were a few damaged or lost limbs compared to the pain of losing everything he cared about?

"So," Dani stalled. "Do you thing it would actually work? Would adopting me really make you a better person?"

Neil chuckled. "Of course not," he said. "Its too late for me. Ten years too late." There was a bitter tone at the end.

"However," Neil said in a bright tone, "if I take you in, I won't get tossed back into the small room a bunch of fearful idiots want me to spend the rest of my life in. Not to mention you have no reason to be against this."

"I have every reason to be against this," Dani said, waving an apple threateningly.

"Do you now?" Neil asked as Dani took a bit of her apple. He had an apple of his own. "Then why did you run away from your abusive father?"

Dani choked which made her drop the apple. Neil paused in his chewing. Should he help? She's a Phantom, she'll be fine, he decided and focused on his fruit.

True enough, Dani got herself under control.

"What?!" Dani shouted, looking at Neil with wide eyes. "How'd you know Vlad was abusive?" There was a touch of fear in her voice. If he knew about Vlad, he might know about everything else.

Neil had half an apple left when he responded, "Because I had the same thoughts in my teen years," he said. "Though my parents weren't abusive - not half the time anyway."

Dani paused in rummaging the bag of apples. There were only four left so she wanted to get at least half. Dani thought that if Neil's parents were abusive, it made sense why he became a troublemaker.

"Look," Neil said. Dani took out two apples from the bag and gave him his attention. Most of it anyway as she started to eat an apple. "Its an unusual request, I get it. Not to mention your worldview got shattered to a million pieces when your father betrayed you, and showed he never cared about you."

A sob broke out from Dani's throat as he said that; just when she was about to take a bite. Not wanting to look weak, Dani looked out to the park and slowly sank her teeth into the apple as she held back the tears.

Neil took out one of the last two apples as Dani tried to calm herself. He ate it quick. When he was done, he placed a hand on Dani's shoulder. Dani looked up. She had managed to drown her sorrow by filling her stomach. Now she simply held her last apple in her lap.

"You probably need some time to think about the offer," Neil said.

"Just a bit," Dani said, averting her eyes and tapping her fingers on the apple.

Neil nodded and gave a small smile that exposed a large canine tooth. His eyes shifted to the side.

It was here that Dani realized that Neil seemed nervous. Now that she thought about it, there was a certain forcing in his actions - like his body was not use to moving the way he wanted to. Dani supposed that as a troublemaker, Neil was more used to using a more threatening body language. It would explain his forced movements. Neil was trying look approachable which was the opposite of what his body usually did.

"Tell you what," Neil said, looking at Dani. "What do you say to getting you some clean clothes and spend some quality father-daughter time your fossil of a father never gave you?"

Dani looked at her clothes. New clothes sounded like heaven - actually, Neil's adoption offer sounded like heaven, but new clothes was a great second.

"What if I say no?" Dani asked. "To everything?"

"I have absolutely no idea," Neil said with a grin. Dani looked surprised. Neil smirked. "I only know what will happen if you say yes." He shrugged. "If you say no, I'll likely find you again in a few days or weeks; probably around the same time you get sick of sleeping on park benches or in filthy alleys."

Dani grimaced. Honestly, saying no did not sound like good idea.

"So," Neil said, standing up. "Do you want to get adopted here and now?" He grinned. "Or do you want that family trip to see how well we connect?" He extended his hand.

Dani looked at the hand in thought. Should she accept the offer of a stranger? Did he even count as a stranger anymore? She knew his name, some of his history; not to mention that sensation deep within her core that whispered, assured her that he was trustworthy. The options for declining the offer were not pretty - maybe she made a mistake flying away dramatically from her cousin Danny; even if it seemed like a cool idea at the time. She could go back to Amity Park, but that would only add to Danny's problems. She wouldn't do that tot him.

Dani took a deep breath and looked up at Neil, at the man who offered her a second chance at having a family.

"I guess a few more hours," Dani said, "wouldn't hurt. Lets go to a circus."

Dani grinned; and accepted Neil's hand.

Time is perfect in its record keeping.

Cheers of "Dash! Dash! Dash!" and "Baxter! Baxter! Baxter!" and "Dive! Dive! Dive!" filled the air as the football star stood atop of a ten feet tall diving platform.

Dash Baxter raised his arms, soaking in the adulation. He bounced twice on the board and jumped off with a double forward flip. The teens broke into cheers at the dive.

Just as Elle Wesker had announced, her Sweet Sixteen party was an outdoor pool event. What she didn't tell them was that the pool was actually a lake that was next door to her mansion.

She also didn't tell them the lake was where Vlad Masters used to stay before her father, Neil Wesker, turned Vlad's mansion into a crater, and then a lake.

The area was divided into different sections: The lake section for swimming and diving. The food court where all the food - meat connoisseur and ultra recycle vegetarian friendly - was prepared by servants. The carnival section that had an assortment of games and challenges. A concert section for dancing, karaoke, and talent shows. And finally, a rest section filled with countless tables and benches for everyone to sit down, eat, and unwind.

It was in the rest section, where Danny Fenton, Sam Manson, Tucker Foley, and Valerie Grey could be found.

The ever modest Danny wore a white tank top and blue shorts with white trims.

Sam, who never does normal, hid her violet one piece under a black cloak and wore a veiled hat and sunglasses. she was goth, she didn't do sunlight.

Tucker wore red trunks and his hat and he had been forbidden from bringing his flotation devices. Oh well, he could still save a damsel in distress and give mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Valerie wore a simple orange one piece and unlike Sam, she didn't mind showing off her curves; then again she actually had curves unlike Sam.

"Oh man," Valerie said. "Elle went all out for her birthday, didn't she?" She was currently eating a cheeseburger with fries and a soda.

Danny stabbed his chili cheese fries and ate a forkful. After he swallowed, he said, "Actually, it was her dad's idea." He sneered at the word dad.

"You don't like Neil very much do you?" Valerie asked.

"My feelings for him are similar to the ones you had for my ghost half," Danny said with another stab on his fries.

Valerie paused on her biting. She took her bite and glanced away in guilt.

A piece of lettuce smacked Danny in the face. Valerie and Sam started.

"Way to kill the mood, Danny," Tucker said. He was eating a BLT sandwich - extra B, hold the LT. He ended up with the lettuce and tomato anyway so he set them apart on a plate and didn't give them a second thought.

At least until Tucker decided that lettuce could be used to smack some sense into his idiotic best friend.

"What the heck, Tucker?" Danny demanded after he removed the lettuce and threw it away.

"Why did you compare Valerie to him?" Tucker hissed. "They're nothing alike."

Danny grimaced at his mistake. Although only his family and best friends knew the truth concerning him and his dark future, it wasn't a secret that he and Neil despised each other.

And he just compared his relationship - a word he will never again use in regards to him and Neil - with Neil was the same as his and Valerie's before he told her he was Danny Phantom; something she'd been feeling guilty about for a while now.

"Oh gosh, Val," Danny said, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it like that."

Valerie wondered what other possible way could a shoot first, ask questions never relationship be interpreted. Still, Danny felt bad, he obviously didn't mean to hurt her feelings - he was a C student after all - so with that in mind, Valerie decided to have some fun with her former boyfriend.

"Oh?" Valerie said with a smile. Tucker was at her side and Danny was opposite Valerie; this was going to be fun. Valerie leaned forward, getting close to Danny. "How did you mean it?"

Sam had been enjoying an exquisite salad - she only stopped for a second to mourn Tucker's wasted lettuce - but now she was fuming at Valerie's teasing and the success it seemed to have on Danny as the boy was as red as one of her tomato, and averting his eyes while babbling like an idiot.

Sam stabbed a small tomato and popped it in her mouth. She looked away before she decided to stab something - or someone - else.

Tucker noticed her actions and sent a grin her way. The goth glared at him. Tucker flicked his eyes in Danny's direction and bounced his eyebrows. Sam shook her head. Tucker quirked an eyebrow. Sam took a forkful of salad and averted her eyes. Tucker pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

Clueless lovebirds the both of them, Tucker thought. Maybe I should trap them in a ghost escape proof closet or something. How else am I suppose to win the Amity Park betting pool?

"Hey guys," a voice called out.

The four teens looked to see a dripping wet Elle approaching. The cousin/twin wore a black sleeveless tube bikini top, and black shorts that had a white crown on the right side and a white DP logo on the left side. Her ponytail was undone so her hair clung to her shoulders. Her front bang which usually defied gravity was flat on the left side of her face like a shadow.

"So this is where you ran off to," Elle said when she reached them. "Enjoying the party?"

Danny smiled at Elle, glad for the distraction from Valerie. Sam kept eating her salad. Valerie smiled at Elle; the smile was for Elle, and her own pride at making Danny blush. Tucker was gawking and had a bit of drool.

"Hey, cuz," Danny said. "Yeah, we're having a great time."

"Some more than others," Elle said as her visible eye slid in Tucker's direction.

Danny noticed so he looked at Tucker and saw him staring at his cousin. He kicked Tucker's leg under the table, making him yelp.

"Dude," Danny said. "Don't stare at my cousin."

Elle shook her head and chuckled. She walked behind Danny and drape herself over him. Danny straightened like he was given an electric shock.

"So," Elle said, looking at Danny with her right half lidded eye. "Is my favorite cousin going to win a carnival prize for the birthday girl?" She pressed herself closer against Danny's back.

Danny blushed all the way to his neck. Tucker crossed his arms, annoyed that girls went after a clueless Danny when a stud like him was available. Valerie felt a bit awkward with the scene. She knew they were close but not that close. Sam ground her teeth in a way dentists would not approve of.

It was bad enough that Sam was crushing on her clueless best friend and he was fixated on a shallow wench; then the gun-toting, ghost hating Valerie entered the picture and actually dated Danny - the fact it was part of an evil ghost's plot didn't matter to either of them - but now that traitorous no good cousin/clone/whatever apparently like Danny too. Oh heck no!

"Kind hard to move, Elle," Danny said, trying very, very hard to keep his composure. "Mind letting go?"

Elle nuzzled Danny's cheek with her own. She closed her eyes in contentment. "But I'm so tired from swimming," she said. "I want you to carry me." She half opened her eye and made eye contact with Danny. With a grin, she whispered, "I'm sure a strong hero like you can handle a girl like me."

Danny, overwhelmed by the out of control situation, turned intangible and escaped Elle's clutches. But instead of the expected table face plant, Elle remained upright, hugging air.

"Okay!" Danny exclaimed as he slowly walked backwards. "Wow. This sun is killing me! Imma go get some sodas. Over at the food court. Far away from here." He turned and dashed away.

"I'm coming with you!" Tucker said, rushing after Danny. There was no way he was going to stay in that minefield.

"All right," Sam said. "What was all that about?" If she had super strength, her fork would have bent by now. Valerie was also interested in Elle's answer.

Elle straightened, then turned to Sam. Because Elle was standing while Sam sat on the bench, it gave the impression that Elle was looking down at Sam.

"Well, Sam," Elle said. "You can think of that as encouragement."

"Encouragement?" Sam asked.

"Yep," Elle said. She put a hand on the table and leaned toward Sam, who in turn, leaned back. "If you want to end up with Danny, then let him know you're interested, because he won't figure it out himself." She looked to the side. "Honestly how can someone who saves people everyday have such low self esteem?"

Sam blinked at the blinked at the comment. Valerie furrowed her brow.

Elle focused on Sam again. "The thing is, Samantha -" Sam growled. "That between you, me, and Valerie, the one that has the best chance of being Danny's girlfriend is Valerie, especially once they get past their differences."

Sam's eye widened in horror while Valerie gawked.

"After her," Elle said, "there's me." Sam and Valerie looked confused. "Oh, sure," Elle said, "he'll think I'm just teasing or messing with him, but in time... in time, Danny will begin to take me seriously and consider me a possible girlfriend."

"But you're his clone/cousin/whatever twin," Sam spoke up while flailing her arms which made Elle straightened up to avoid a hit. "How can you date him? And why are you in second place anyway, why not me?"

"Quite easily," Elle said. "After all, how many guys are going to be understanding of my situation? Even without that... what guy is going to be brave enough to even try to date me with Neil as my dad?"

Sam snickered at that despite herself. Valerie laughed.

"As for why your third place," Elle said. "Its because you're too close to him." Sam leaned in interest. "Danny sees you as his best friend first, and a girl second."

Sam frowned. Unfortunately for her, it was true.

"Are you really going to make a competition out of getting Danny's affection?" Valerie asked. It seemed wrong to her. Like it devalued Danny.

"Yep," Elle said, clapping her hands together. "But, unlike other competitions, neither of us is going to interfere or sabotage the other. After all -"

Elle gave a smile; big and cruel like a shark.

"We're all friends here, aren't we?"

Time has neither a beginning or end.

Later at the party, Elle was dragging Danny by his arm.

"Come on, Danny," Elle said. "You have to dive."

"No, I don't," Danny said. They had just reached the ladder for the diving platform. Danny didn't know what the girls had talked about when he ran off earlier but since none of them were visibly injured at least he knew it hadn't turned physical.

In all honesty, Danny wasn't sure who would have won if it had.

"Oh, you don't, do you?" Elle said with a grin. She then showed him a bullhorn. At the same time, multiple screens around the areas changed what they were displaying and showed Elle and Danny in front of the platform ladder.

"Where'd you hide that thing?" Danny said, looking around Elle who only had her swimwear and no place to hide a bullhorn.

Elle got real close and whispered, "Secret."

Elle faced away from Danny and lifted the bullhorn. "Listen up everybody!" she said, catching the attention of everyone in and near the lake section.

Because of this and the screens in the other areas, everyone that could spare attention focused on the birthday girl.

"Who wants to see Danny Fenton dive off the highest platform?!" Elle asked excitedly.

It was so quiet that crickets were heard.

"Foley!" Elle bellowed. "Turn off that blasted PDA or I won't help you make those payments!"

Many in the crowd snickered as the crickets stopped. There was a shout of "Tucker is a good boy!" somewhere in the crowd. The crowd broke into laughter.

Elle face palmed and started snickering too. Danny was stifling his laughter.

Once Elle composed herself, she addressed the crowd again.

"Okay," Elle said. "For the sake of Humpty Dumpty making an public appearance for everyone to enjoy, let's try this again, one more time." She raised a fist high. "Who wants to see Danny Fenton dive off the highest platform?"

"Dive! Dive! Dive!" cried out the crowd.

Elle put an arm around Danny and pressed against him, making him blush furiously.

"You heard the crowd, Danny!" Elle said. She then with a large grin, whispered in his ear, "Let's give the people what they want."

Time does not follow the order it is believed it does.

"He turns evil," Clockwork noted as he watched Danny study, "because he's under pressure for some test?"

"Fine. Then perhaps its time," he said with a smirk, "for a test of my own."

Dan Phantom, in his late teens, rested on a rock platform in the Ghost Zone.

"So, a calm voice said, "you're Danny Phantom, the evil ghost everyone has been talking about."

Dan whirled to his feet, fists blazing. The speaker was an old, slender ghost with long beard. He wore a cloak that left his blue face and red eyes visible; most notably the zigzag scar on his left eye. Overall, the ghost didn't appear threatening, not even with the stopwatch topped staff.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Dan demanded. The ghost might not look dangerous, but for ghosts that meant nothing. Skulker was the size of a fist and he was involved in the creation of his battle suit. Cujo turned from sweet to savage and back again at the drop of a toy. Then there was Dan himself; no one ever suspected a loser C student of wielding supernatural powers.

If Dan's attitude bothered the ghost, he didn't show it. Instead, he suddenly became a toddler. Dan quirked an eyebrow but didn't drop his guard.

"I am Clockwork," the ghost said with a deeper voice than was expected from a baby. "Master of Time. I've heard a great deal about you."

"So are you here to stop me?" Dan asked. His fists glowed brighter, on the verge of firing.

"There are some that would like that," Clockwork said from behind Dan. Dan spun and fired. and missed. Clockwork, now on adult age, floated calmly, apparently unfazed by the sudden attack.

"If you have heard of me," Dan said, another attack at the ready. "Then you know I don't take too kindly to annoyances."

"I'm not here to fight, Danny," Clockwork said, unbothered by the threat. "Only to talk."

Dan narrowed his eyes. Other than changing ages and surprising him from behind - twice! - the ghost made no hostile moves. Dan let his energy blasts fade. If he got double crossed, he'll simply make sure there wasn't a repeat performance.

"So talk," Dan said. He gave the area a quick check. It was as empty as before but if Indecisive Age over here could show up, then so could less talkative ghosts. Well, less friendly ghosts since his enemies never shut up about wasting him or making him pay for some injury or another. It all blended together after awhile.

"Its not too late to change your ways," Clockwork said simply, turning young. "You won't like the results if you carry on as you are."

"Change my ways," Dan said with a fanged grin; one of which twinkled. "I'm doing just fine the way I am thank you very much."

"The future can always be changed," the old ghost said. "'Unless you wish to see everything and everyone you care for destroyed."

The grin on Dan's face changed into a snarl. The growl he made would have chilled the bones of most humans and low level ghosts. Dan narrowed his eyes into slits and gathered energy in his fists.

"A little late for that, old man," Dan said. His tone made it clear that Clockwork had made a mistake. "I already saw everyone I love die. They've been dead for years now."

"I am aware," Clockwork said, perfectly patient in the presence of Dan's growing rage. "And if you continue this path, you will live to see it again."

Events may happen simultaneously or they might happen before they were thought they would.

Danny, Sam, and Tucker huddle together as they get surrounded by Clockworks of different time periods.

"Nowhere to run children," Clockwork said.

Danny glanced at the Time Viewer portal that brought them to this location. He faced the Master of Time.

"Nowhere but the future," Danny declared. He grabbed Sam and Tucker and flew away through the portal.

Clockwork looked smug.

"Then lets see if you have what it takes to face that future."

"We put the answers to the test in his hands," Clockwork said, "and he made the wrong decision."

He pressed the top of his staff and events appeared on his viewer: Danny fighting a mechanical ghost with two faces. Danny fighting his evil adult self. Danny's loved ones tied to a container on the verge of exploding. The container exploding, witnessed by Danny who cried out in loss and despair.

"His future is sealed." Clockwork grinned.

Events in the future may affect events of the past.

Amity Park had been reduced to decrepit buildings and rubble. This was the sight that had greeted Sam, Danny, and Tucker before being confronted by an unexpected danger.

"Sam and Tucker," an adult Dan said to the immobilized and not dead for some reason teens. "Its been awhile. Ten years to be accurate. So, to what do I owe this little blast from the past?"

Dan's eye widened at seeing a gear medallion with CW hanging on Sam's neck.

"Clockwork," Dan growled. "Meddling again."

"What are you doing?" teen Dan demanded of Clockwork. The two of them were in the throne room of Pariah's Keep and Clockwork floated in front of the Sarcophagus of Forever Sleep with the Skeleton Key in his hand and the Crown of Fire in the other.

"The other ghosts have pleaded their case," Clockwork said as he inserted the key. Dan flew at him and fired. And missed. "And I have agreed to their demands."

"What demands?!" Dan shouted as he fired. Why was he missing? The ghost wasn't even moving. Come to think of it, he wasn't getting closer to Clockwork either.

"That you be eliminated," Clockwork said and turned the key.

And just like that, Pariah Dark, King of all Ghosts, had been set free. This time as a weapon to counter the fallen hero that had bested him once before.

"You know," Dan said to Sam and Tucker, "if I had an ounce of humanity left in me, this would be a touching little reunion."

Sam and Tucker shared a look of panic.

"But of course," Dan said, "I surrendered my human half, a long time ago."

"All you wanted," Future Vlad told young Danny, "was for the hurt to go away." Vlad remembered that day quite well: Danny strapped to a table, gas mask on his face to keep him sedated. "I honored your wishes." Ghost Gauntlets held high, claws extended and glowing. "No more painful human emotions to drag you down."

Vlad plunged the claws into Danny and pulled. It took a few seconds, but Phantom was ripped out of Danny. Phantom opened his eyes in surprise, only for them to narrow in anger soon after.

"Unfortunately, that freed you to rip the ghost out of me." Phantom grabbed Vlad and threw him against the wall. Vlad grunted in pain. The gauntlets slipped from his hands and fell on the floor in front of Phantom. Phantom put on the gauntlets, grabbed the dazed Vlad off of the floor and split him in halves. Both sides struck a wall and slumped against it. Phantom let go of the gauntlets and flew inside Plasmius.

"And when my ghost half mixed with yours." Phantom and Plasmius flickered in forms until it settled as Phantom. "And my evil half overwhelmed you." Phantom screamed as cracks appeared of his face and it changed color to a pale blue and his hair shifted into flames.

"What happened to my human self?" Danny asked, not sure if he wanted an answer.

Vlad grimaced and turned away. Danny huddled against the wall, shadowed by the terrifying new form of his ghost half.

"Some things my boy," Vlad said, "are better left unsaid."

"It doesn't matter if I can't go back in time or not," Danny told his future self, defiant in his captivity. "I'll never turn into you. Never."

"Of course you will," Dan said. A ring of light flashed, and he now looked like his weak fourteen year old human self. "Its only a matter of time."

"Come to kick an old man when he's down?" Vlad's voice said when his portal activated. There was only one person that would seek him out nowadays.

"Defenseless?" Danny asked. "Old?"

The chair turned, revealing an aged Vlad with a scruffy beard.

"Whoa!" Danny said. "What happened to you?"

"I could ask you that same question, my boy," older Vlad said. "Or perhaps I should ask what hasn't happened to you. Yet."

"You're not Danny," Jazz said as she stepped away form the ghost that had been disguised as her littler brother. "That's why the Boomerang wasn't homing in on your ecto signature. You're not Danny."

"I was," Dan said, amused at her reaction. "But I grew out of it."

"Where is he?" Jack demanded. "Where's our son?"

"What have you done to our boy?" Maddie questioned.

Both Fentons held a blaster point blank at the flame headed ghost that had pretended to be their son.

Rather than feel threatened, the ghost laughed. He then looked up with a fanged grin.

"I am your boy," Dan said.

The Fentons, Mansons, and Foleys are trapped in a circus cage.

"I can't believe Danny's the ghost boy," Jack said, "and he never told us. But we love him. I wonder why he never saw fit to tell us."

"Gee," Jazz said to her parents. "Let me think."

Jazz then made an impression of Jack, "Come on, Maddie, lets destroy the ghost."

Then one of Maddie. "No Jack, lets dissect the ghost."

Jack again. "I know, lets rip him apart molecule by molecule."

In her own voice she said, "You guys are so understanding."

Jack and Maddie lowered their heads in shame.

"What kind of parents are you anyway?" Dan asked as he flew above the humans he once cared for and now had to eliminate in order to ensure his existence. "The world's leading ghosts experts, and you can't even figure out your own son was half ghost!"

"What are you going to do? Waste me?" Danny asked his future self. Even when tied and face to face with a stronger version of him, Danny would not give up easily.

"You don't get it, do you?" Dan asked, holding his younger self one handed. "I'm still here. I still exist. That means you, still turn into me."

Dan raised his fist and struck Danny. The boy flew and smacked a pole; something that would've broken a human spine.

"I don't have to waste you," Dan said, hovering above Danny. "All I have to do is run out the clock as your entire life falls apart."

"Don't worry," Danny said to his captive loved ones. "I won't turn into that. Ever. I promise."

"Your time is up, Danny," Dan said as he stood over the floored Danny. Dan's expression was the most serious Danny had seen of the older ghost and by far the most terrifying.

Duplicates of Dan formed around Danny and as one they spoke.

"Its been up for ten years."

"What makes you think you can change my past?" Dan asked a beaten Danny.

"Because I promised my family," Danny replied as he got on his hands and knees.

Dan burst into laughter at the sincerity of the absurd claim. "Oh you are such a child," he mocked. "You promised?" he spat. Promises were worthless, useless. After all, Dan owed his existence to a broken promise.

"Yes! I promised!" Danny's shout expelled the green waves of the Ghostly Wail. Dan barely registered the attack before he was slammed by the waves and got sent flying backwards down the street. He ended up digging a trench in the asphalt.

"That power," Dan said, wincing in pain. "Its not possible. I don't get that power until ten years from now."

A battered Danny landed in front of Dan, clutching his ribs.

"I guess the future," Danny said, "isn't as set in stone as you think it is."

Danny took a deep breath and let loose another Ghostly Wail.

"You knew this would happen, didn't you?" Danny asked Clockwork as they floated in the frozen time of the Nasty Burger explosion. "All of it, even this part."

"The Observants see time like a parade," Clockwork said. "One sequence of events after another. But I see the parade from above; all the twists and turns it might -" he winked at Danny - "or might not take."

"We love you, Danny," Jack said after his son saved everyone from Ghostfreak. "Whether you're human, ghost, or something in between." Maddie nodded in agreement.

"I appreciate that guys," Danny said. "More than you guys know. Or will ever remember."

"You manipulated the boy," the soft voiced Observant said. "You influenced his choice."

"That is a direct violation of Temporal Displacement," the deep voiced Observant said.

"In other words," Soft Voice said.

"You cheated!" they both shouted.

"Yes," Clockwork admitted freely. "Yes I cheated. But I assure you, the choice was his own."

"You realize the boy is now your responsibility now?" Soft voice informed.

"As is his evil self, now that he exists outside of time," Deep Voice added.

"Yes," Clockwork said. "Yes, yes I know. But then, I know everything."

Neil and Dani in a carnival riding a roller coaster.

Holograms of giant monsters battling, and dying in a burst of colors.

Technus using a projector as he explained to Princess Dora the benefits of technology.

Skulker in aerial combat against Danny Phantom and the Red Huntress.

Ember rocking out a concert near Phantom Castle as ghosts chant her name.

Neil, Nick, and Damon inside Axion Labs working on multiple computers. A large screen displays the blueprints for a satellite.

Assorted individuals sit on a round conference table dominated by a logo of a three point crown.

Aragon, chained in his cell, watches as a large shadow rises from his own. It has two arms and no other features except a solid gold right Eye. It lifted up the golden Rod in its hand, and the world turned gold.

Maddie and Neil in a meeting with the deputy mayor as they discuss the formation of the Specter Defense Force.

An incarcerated Box Ghost in an isolated corner of the prison courtyard, lifting weights. He is assisted by Tucker's ghost half.

Ghostwriter roams his library in search of a book. He grins as he finds it: War of the Ascendancy. He hurries back to his desk. He gladly hands it to his esteemed guest: the Fright Knight.

In extreme situations, Danny has convinced his enemies to assist him against a greater threat.

When they were all prisoners in Walker's Jail.

When the Ghost King was freed and the ghosts battled his skeleton army while Danny confronted Pariah Dark.

When they ganged up on Ghostwriter for breaking the Christmas truce.

When they helped in stopping the Guys in White from destroying the Ghost Zone.

And in another timeline, when they worked together to saved the planet from an asteroid by turning it intangible.

Now, with a new threat on the horizon - Danny, Danielle, and Dan stood together on the street as a large shadow rose in front of them - one unlike anything they have ever faced before, - there was a golden glove in its right arm; it glowed with red, yellow, and blue energy; the energy of Life, Form, and Fantasy - can Danny form a compromise with his worst and most personal enemy? The silver glove on the left arm swirled with black, gray, and white energy; the colors of Death, Void, and Logic.

Can a monster be redeemed? Does he even want to be?

Both arms were raised and the world twisted and churned as the gloves summoned their ancient and absolute powers. The silver glove called forth Death of life, Void to tear apart form, and unyielding Logic to tear fantasy asunder. The gold glove did the opposite; Fantasy made real, the impossible given Form, Life produced from a void.

Can acceptance and hope rise to the occasion?

The figure howled in laughter as it slammed the gloves together above its head, and the energy swept over the world and beyond, destroying everything that was, and creating all that will be in accordance to its desire.

Or will fear and hatred bring their lives to ruin?

"If any good came out of this," future Vlad said to young Danny, "its that ten years without ghost powers has given me a chance to see what a fool I've been."

"Dude," said Tucker's voice. "You can't blame yourself for this. Its not your fault."

"Maybe not," Danny said. "But it is my responsibility."

"You've given everyone else in your life a second chance," Clockwork said to Danny. "Why not you?"

"Maybe that's all anybody needs," Danny mused. "A second chance."

Only Time will tell, as only Time knows all, for it is eternal, and it is everywhere.


Family Issues is complete.

I'd like to give thanks to my fans for their support. THANK YOU.

The next installment is in the works, but its second priority to Real Life, so it might take some time, but do keep an eye out, I am working on it.

Thank you all, be sure to comment, fave, and follow.