PLEASE READ, WARNING AT END OF A/N.
*nervously* Ehehe, hey guys. *cautious smile* I've been away for awhile, haven't I?
*gets pelted with tomatoes*
AHHH STOP! I know this took absolutely FOREVER, but I wanted to make sure it was perfect. Which it's not, but I'm posting it anyhow. I was originally going to stop the chapter at Danny passing out, but it was too short and I wasn't expecting there to be this many chapters. Hm. Anyway, I combined the two, so it's longer and you sort of know what's going on. Well, not really. Anyway, I just want to say sorry about how long this has taken. I sincerely appreciate every single review and fave and follow this story has gotten so far, and especially those who have kept with it even during hiatus'! We're almost to the end, I believe, so be prepared. ;) Now, time for the warning.
WARNING: This scene has some graphic depictions of violence of gore. If you're squeamish, just read to the first horizontal line break. I asked for advice on whether or not I should up the rating just for the violence, but the person said it was fine, so I'm just going to say it's pushing the T rating, so beware. Most of it is just nonsensical dream stuff, but it can still be scary.
Well, that's it! Read on!
The wail, a tempest of green ectoplasm, ripped from Danny's throat with all the power he had left. It hit Aragon squarely in the chest, sending him flying back and slamming into the ground.
Danny didn't know how long it went or how he was going to stop. The only words going through his mind were 'Keep Sam safe.' Nothing else mattered. The pain screaming in his body and his nearly blind vision didn't deter him from his duty – protect Sam.
Aragon was caught in the torrent's explosion. He could feel his power being stripped away, piece by piece, as if it were draining out of him. Like fire. He desperately fought against it with all his mad determination, but it wasn't enough for Danny's wail. He fell to the ground, shrinking to his original size and his ghost form, his scraggly silver hair covering his face as he lay sprawled on the ground, his power drained, leaving only the hollow shell of a heartbroken man behind.
"Danny!" Sam sprinted to where Danny was floating, the wail dissipating as exhaustion hit him. The park was destroyed, trees ripped out of the ground and smoking bald spots where grass used to be. Eyes sliding closed, Danny fell out of the sky, only for his fall to be cushioned by Sam.
"Oof!" Sam lost her breath as she fell under Danny's weight after she tried to catch him, to no avail. Carefully she crawled out from behind his dead weight, glancing over at Aragon to make sure he was still fallen. He was. Hopefully he's passed out. Sam thought, feverishly checking Danny over. She pressed an ear to his chest, heart pounding like a drum. Please let Danny be okay, please let Danny be okay, she chanted, tears sliding down her face without her even realizing it. To her relief she felt a heartbeat. It was weak, but it was there. Thank you thank you thank you she thought, breathing hitched.
Her ears perked as she heard a soft groan. Standing up and spinning around, she saw a broken Aragon struggling to get up on his hands and knees. Her body went on full alert, form going into a battle stance in front of Danny. "Don't come any closer!" She commanded, frightened to realize her voice was shaking. What am I going to do if he tries to get to Danny?
To the Goth's surprise, Aragon didn't move, save for some shaking in his shoulders.
Cautiously Sam moved forward, eyes riveted to the figure. I won't let him near you, Danny, she vowed. Not even if he has to kill me to get to you. It's the least I can do. Tears filled her violet eyes. You saved my life.
She came within a few feet of the ghost, face hard. "It's over, Aragon."
He looked up, and she was shocked to her core to discover tears dripping down his cheeks. His ghostly green eyes were haunted, glaring at her, his bloody lips forming the plea, "How could you do this to me, Delia?"
With those words, Sam knew how she could repay Danny. He wouldn't like it, but it was the only way to rid Aragon of his obsession. It was no wonder he was so bitter – he'd been betrayed by a past love; his death may have even been caused by this 'Delia'. While it didn't excuse him for his acts, it helped form a clearer picture of his obsession for Sam. His sister Dora's words came back to her from years ago – "My brother wants what he can't have... And he always gets what he wants.'
Except that once upon a time, he hadn't.
He stood on shaky legs, clothes torn and ragged. His cheeks were hollow, the bags under his eyes looking like smudges of eyeliner. She searched his soulless eyes, empathy filling her. "You need to forgive." She whispered, and saw his eyes close on a flash of pain.
"Yes, you can." She tipped up his chin and saw the heartache etched into every line. How long had it been since he'd smiled? Since he'd laughed, and loved? She took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she was about to do. "You are not alone."
With those words, she touched her lips to his.
It wasn't a romantic kiss, but a healing one. Forgiveness flowed from her to him, invisibly, like light and sound and music coming back to life, healing old scars and new ones. The darkness in him screamed in agony as it was destroyed, seamlessly, like a solid nuclear blast that had been triggered by a kiss.
And just like the phantom of the opera, it was the only selfless act of love he'd ever been shown.
As they parted, he closed his eyes and clenched his fists. All around them was chaos and disaster. The forest was burnt and smoldering, the school's brick crumbling as the last of the people filtered out, confusion and fear in their murmurs as they watched the beauty tame the beast. Then his green eyes rose to meet hers, thankfulness filling them, and illuminating the soul he had inside.
She'd healed his scars.
"Sam, get away from him!" Sam's head swung to see Danny, struggling to stand, one arm covering his blood-soaked torso, flesh burned and smoking. With a shaking hand he sent a powerful blast at Aragon. Before it could hit him, however, the prince gave them a small nod and a faint smile, as if in farewell, and vanished. With nothing to hit, Danny's blast obliterated a tree.
"Sam," Danny breathed.
It was the last he said before he crumpled to the ground.
He didn't know how long he was encased in the darkness.
At first he wandered aimlessly through it, unaware of where he was but not minding it. At times he was human and at times he was a ghost, but sometimes he was a mixture, the two halves dripping together like neon watercolors on an inky black canvas. Sometimes he was missing an arm; sometimes acid dripped from a gaping wound in his cheek that he never thought to patch up, not that he could. The worst times were when he could feel the emptiness of his chest cavity where his heart should have been, the emptiness consuming him until he fell to his knees and screamed soundlessly at the top of his lungs, hands covering the cavity as if to protect what wasn't there.
But the worst was when the fireflies came.
They glowed a soft blue, and they were much larger than normal fireflies. They flitted around his head, teasing him with little squeaks and giggles. They danced around him, marching to their own beat that he couldn't hear, and he only smiled crookedly in response.
He cupped his hands together and one landed on his palm, suddenly searing his flesh. He yelped, batting the insect off in surprise and pain. Watching with horror, it picked itself off the ground and began to morph into a grotesque human being that resembled Sam. It stretched out inhumanly, the planes and angles too sharp and narrow. Its wings turned to dust and its bug eyes merely got larger instead of human-like. Hair sprouted at the scalp, but it was matted and singed.
"Why didn't you save me, Danny?" It rasped in a tinny bug's voice. It looked like a gruesome Picasso portrait – the face malformed, a cheek nearly swelling an eye shut as the mouth moved where the ear was supposed to be. Its hands were gnarled claws, knobby elbows and knees trembling. The skin was puckered and red like a burn victim. Danny felt bile rise in his throat and fear curl in the deepest part of him.
"You failed me, Danny," The malformed humanoid accused. The blank eyes filled with fury and disdain as it stepped closer, propelling him backwards. "You did this to me!"
Danny stepped back from it and gasped in shock from a searing pain that burned his back. He turned and saw the other fireflies had transformed into similar Sam-like creatures, eyes glowing with betrayal as they formed a circle around him. They were snarling like a pack of rabid wolves, and Danny knew fear.
It wasn't necessarily the morphlings looks. He'd seen far worse in the depths of the ghost zone, spirits too ashamed to return to earth because of how they died – burn victims, ones who'd been crushed to death, ones from medieval times who'd been tortured and showed it. No, it was what they were forcing him to see, to remember…
That he'd failed Sam.
The darkness had been his reprieve, distracting him so he wouldn't have to remember that he'd fallen unconscious when Sam needed him. Aragon had had her in his clutches! And he'd let the darkness consume him! What kind of pathetic hero was he? He couldn't even protect the woman he loved…
The pain in his chest became too much and he fell to his knees, holding his ribs so tightly he couldn't breathe, as if it would succeed in holding him together. "I'm sorry, Sam!" Danny wailed, hot, salty tears coursing down his cheeks. Every horrible situation that could have happened to her while he was under flashed through his mind – being burned alive by the dragon Aragon, being forced to marry him and live in the ghost zone, being crushed to death under his large paw-
He was going insane. Danny knew it, even as he fell to the ground, every cell in his body trembling as the fight-or-flight response to his panic attack flogged him. Fight? There was no one to fight, only the Sam doppelgangers who were hissing at him and shrieking their thoughts about him, and he couldn't fight them. Flight? There was nowhere to go, only the suffocating, unending darkness stretching in every direction.
You're a failure. You failed Sam.
It was the only thought that ran through his mind, ceaselessly, tormenting him. You're a failure. With every pass it burned, hot and blistering, until he was screaming in pain. Failure failure - it wound round and round and round and round failure failure failrue fialrue until it stopped making sense and his eyes were rolling back in his head. He flailed his arms to rid himself of the horrifying sensation, then realized it was the morphlings who were burning him, not his thoughts – they were on top of him, scratching at his face, his hair, screeching his failures, sending bolts of white-hot pain through him at every touch. "Stop!" He tried to scream, but his voice was soundless. "Please!"
At his scream, a barrage of voices pushed into his once-quiet world. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but they seemed to make the morphlings back off, little by little. He heard beeping, commands for assistance, and screaming, a terrible, horrible keening that rivaled that of a banshee being killed, if that was even possible. Logic slyly slid into his brain as he cowered from the creatures who were slowly scurrying away, telling him that he was probably the one screaming outside of this dark place, but he refused to listen to it. He just curled up in a fetal position as the last of the monsters disappeared and waited as the pain dragged itself inch by inch out of him like his clear blue ghost sense, only more foggy and dense, his eyes closing on his exhaustion as the world went dark once more.