It had been like waking from a dream.
"S-Sam?" He looked into her purple violet eyes, the thrum of the shaking train resonating through his core.
She looked relieved. She smiled. She reached a hand out to him –
His hands were shaking. His eyes were angled at his feet, thinking, wondering. Remembering. Frustrated that he couldn't remember.
He had seen the newspapers. Red-eyed Danny Phantom, stealing jewels with a wicked smile on his face. Had his true self finally been revealed? His parents had took it as the final condemnation, the ultimate proof, and it cut through his core like a knife.
said an entirely different part of his mind.
"Dude, are you all right?" Tucker asked, sitting across from him. They were at the Nasty Burger, at the table they usually frequented. In the corner, nice and secluded. His friends wanted to bring him someplace familiar so that they could cheer him up.
He smiled a weak smile. He met their eyes. Tucker's chocolate brown. Sam's purple violet. He remembered staring at those eyes on the train, the cool grip of a metal scythe that had been meant to be their undoing. It's comforting weight, like a tether to the world.
He wished he could remember. He wished he knew how he had arrived to that train, looking Sam in the eyes as she uttered coaxing, angry words to bring him back to life. He wished it wasn't just a story told to him backwards, a story of where he had been and what he had done but no texture, no remembrance.
"I'm fine," he said.
"Danny," her concerned voice spoke, "you can tell us anything. Please."
He shook his head.
His throat was dry. He licked his lips. Didn't speak. Looked away.
"How could I just be controlled like that?" his mouth whispered, unbidden. "I-I can't have been. It's impossible. I don't remember."
I want to remember.
i don't want to remember.
He didn't know what was real. The dream, the dim feeling of vicious satisfaction, or what was called reality, the smooth texture of plastic and red and table against his skin, his friends staring at him with their comforting, skeptical gazes.
He shivered. He felt cold. No, not cold. Antsy. Jittery. Wrong in his own skin.
danny phantom? controlled by a mere human? to steal, kill, commit wrongdoings? he was the protector. it couldn't, couldn't have happened.
a violation of my nature –
His hand clutched his chest, feeling sick, the warmth of his skin conflicting with the chill of his core.
"Do you need us to do anything?" Sam asked, her voice soft. Her eyes were analytical, but warm. Seeking for the best comfort she could possibly give him.
"No," he said, squeezing his eyes shut. "Just... Stay. Please."
"We will." A solemn promise. He didn't say thank you. He didn't need to. They already knew.
A deep breath. In, out.
They wanted to help him feel better. Could he make himself feel better?
He wanted to remember. He knew –
– that much, anyway.
The problem was that in part he was surpressing his own knowledge. Still in shock, maybe, as Jazz would say. Was there a way to accept what had happened as real?
He tried to impress onto himself the terribleness, the wrongness of the actions he had committed. Firmly telling himself yes, yes, I had done this.
a sharp pain in his core –
He gasped, and threw his hand away from his chest. And infinitesimal relief, but it wasn't enough. His head spun. His chest ached. Memories swirled around his being, a waking dream, a sleeping nightmare.
Purple violet eyes.
"Sam," he groaned, unable to hold it within himself any longer. His head collapsed to the table, arms twitching, feeling the cool relief of cold plastic against his core.
"Danny?" Her voice was alarmed.
"What happened?" Tucker asked, panicked. A rustle of cloth, and an unbearable warm hand was shaking his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" More voices entered the crowd. Voices he couldn't, didn't recognize.
Want to know –
no, protector –
He had woken from a dream.
A thief. A protector. He was both. A human and a ghost.
Beeping sounds, white fabric, soft cotton brushing against his skin. He opened his eyes. He was in a hospital.
No, no. He thrashed. I can't be here.
He was both. He couldn't let them know. Had to choose, make a choice. A decision.
protector or thief? he himself so cunningly phrased.
But he remembered. He remembered. He couldn't lie, couldn't keep telling himself he was a protector and only a protector.
Thief, he thought.
The word felt like the call of damnation, and he accepted it as truth.
A ghost attacked Amity Park. He knew by the cold mist that leaked from his mouth. It would be the first time he transformed ever since Freakshow had controlled him.
A flash of light, a chill encompassing him, and now he was Danny Phantom. The protector.
He froze. He felt his limbs lock into place, unable to move. That was right; he wasn't a protector anymore. He had made the decision to remember.
"Danny!" Sam yelled. "What are you doing?"
He stared at her. A green, ectoplasm stare that was reflected in her steely violet eyes, not a shudder or flinch held within them.
protector or thief?
There was a ghost nearby. He couldn't let them be hurt. He couldn't let anybody be hurt for his negligence.
Suddenly, he could move. A fog, a dream, had slipped away. A flaring obsession overtook it, the need to protect. He was a protector. He would protect. It was what he was.
"Pass me the thermos!" he called back. She threw it, a wild, long throw, but he caught it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "Thanks," he grinned at her, and flew off.
The ghost was a mere ectopus. It seemed a trite thing compared to all the effort he had gone through to catch it. A simple press of the thermos, and it was over.
He flew back to Sam and Tuck, transforming smoothly into his human form, collecting the warmth within his core until it spread throughout his body in a white flash. He hummed in contentment.
"Got it," he said, and clapped his hand over the thermos lid. They watched him worriedly, and he felt his smile die off. "What?"
"Danny," she spoke, "are you okay?"
He was confused.
"Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?"
It had only been a simple ghost fight. Hadn't it?
"Well, you were in a hospital yesterday..." Tucker pointed out, and Danny cocked his head to the side, as if to say so what?
"What we mean is," Sam said, taking in a breath, "are you alright? You passed out yesterday, and after... after..."
"After what?" he asked, feeling slightly annoyed.
"After Freakshow controlled you," she said, "we were..." She trailed off, an expression of bewilderment blooming on her face as she took in his expression.
He blinked at her.