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November 26, 2009
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Thank Obi's bribery and the awesome Erik's Protégé, who betaed this for me at least twice… and will have another coming eventually… when I get done being lazy…

Real Life
A Danny Phantom FanFiction by Cordria

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Chapter 16

In Which Families Pay Too Much Attention

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Can we say 'filler chapter'?  *so bored with it*

Danny slumped into the passenger seat of his parents' car, letting his eyes fall closed.  The car groaned when his father sank into the driver's seat and Danny allowed his mind to drift.  For some reason he still couldn't put his finger on, he didn't really want to go home.  But the thought of holding off the coming torment of his classmates over what had happened at lunch, at least for one more day, was definitely a good reason to not complain.

"You okay, Danno?" Jack asked.  

Something tickled against his nerves, a vague warmth, but Danny pushed it away and forced himself to be as human as possible.  He wasn't going to feed on his father's emotions.  Ever.  He slowly pushed himself more upright and buckled his seat belt.  "Yeah," he answered a little belatedly.  "I'm just tired, I guess."

Jack nodded, turning the key and listening to the car growl to life.  "Probably should have stayed home today, huh?  Your mother wasn't too happy when the school called."

Aw, Jack being all parent-y.

"Maybe."  Danny looked out the window, watching the trees start to slide past them, fully aware of the fact that he wouldn't have stayed home even if it have been an option.  He needed to get away from the constant drone of the portal and the worried looks his mother was sending him, and at least attempt to talk to the only two people on the planet who had any idea what was going on.

The whole day had, of course, collapsed around him.  Things seemed to like to do that recently – it was like he was a giant magnet for the worst luck on the planet.  Crossing his arms and slouching back in the seat, he just blinked dismally when his father rolled through a stop sign, his usual quips about Jack's bad driving skills dying deep in his throat.  I'm tired.

The realization struck like a gong inside of him.  It wasn't just physically tired from the lack of sleep the night before or the lack of food – it was an all-over tiredness that pervaded his mind and body.  Emotionally he was strung out, unable to focus, and just about ready to give up.  After nearly a week of everything happening nonstop, Danny was simply ready to be finished with it all.

He couldn't even dredge up much enthusiasm about the fact that the strange man from the woods probably knew what was wrong with him.  The odds of finding one nameless, faceless man in the entire world were stacked against him. Besides, Danny figured as he let out a slow breath, that guy was creepy.  He might know what's wrong with me, but he really hurt me before he vanished.  I'm not sure I'd want to find him even if I could.

His teachers had noticed that something was wrong, his parents were worried, his friends were trying to help but not coming up with much…  Danny had the feeling that the world was crashing down around him and he wanted nothing more than to curl up someplace and forget it all for awhile.  No ghosts, no rotting dogs, no random confusing problems, no uncontrollable powers, no nothing.

"What happened at lunch?"

Danny glanced over at his father and shrugged.  "Not sure," he said honestly.  "Dash was… being Dash and I overreacted."

"Dash Baxter?"

"Yeah," Danny answered softly.  "Dash Baxter, football star."

They were both silent for a few minutes after that, blocks passing quickly by them as they threaded their way through town.  Danny just allowed himself to float in his mind, ready to go home and go to bed – maybe pop a few of those Tylenol in his mother's sock drawer to help him sleep.  He no longer cared what kind of nightmares would come out the darkness of his mind to haunt him, he was simply too tired to worry about it.

And cue Jack's incompetent attempt at helping.

It wasn't until they pulled into the driveway that either of them broke the quiet.  "You know," Jack said, "when I was trying to figure out how to put together the ghost proto-portal, I thought it would be this huge, impossible job.  I gave up before I really got started."

Danny blinked out of his stupor and looked at his father with a raised eyebrow, confused as to why Jack was choosing to bring this up now.  "Yeah?"

"I never would have gotten anywhere with it if it wouldn't have been for your mother.  Mads sat me down and told me that a mile is a long way to walk but each step is easy."  A faint grin was on his father's face as he spoke.  "I can still remember how she looked at me and told me that.  'One step at a time,' she said."

Danny stared at his father in complete bewilderment.  Those strange emotion-smells were beginning to stain the air again, sharp and warm around his father, and Danny was too tired to even attempt to stave them off.  "I've got no clue why you're telling me this," he said, unbuckling his seat belt and climbing out of the car.

"Danny."  

He stopped and twisted around as his father slammed the car door, tipping his head to the side.  "What?"

Jack walked up to him and set a hand on his shoulder, turning him back around and shepherding him towards the front door.  The warm emotions drifting through the air suddenly increased in volume, burrowing under Danny's skin and giving him an unconscious burst of energy.  He fidgeted and shuffled his feet, waiting for his father to make his point.

"Mads is right about a lot of things, that's why I married her.  She said you look like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders or some sort of huge problem you can't figure out, and she's right, you know."

Fighting back a snort at the obviousness of that statement, Danny watched his father unlock the door and step inside before following.  He kicked his shoes off and headed for the stairs.  A very soft bed was waiting upstairs, far enough away from his parents and the portal to hopefully get him a good few hours of sleep.  "I'll figure it out," he mumbled.

"I know you will, you're my son," he said with a smile and a nudge with his elbow.  "But whatever it is, just take it a step at a time, right?"

"Right," Danny said slowly, not entirely following what his father was trying to say.  The large man seemed to take the answer at face value, however, throwing the car keys onto the table by the door and vanishing into the kitchen without another word.

Slipping upstairs, Danny dropped onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling.  Throwing an arm over his eyes to block out some of the light, Danny simply let go of all of his troubles and tumbled into sleep.

Poor Danny.  Sleep well, the world turns without you.

--

Valerie Grey grabbed her backpack from her locker after the final bell and practically raced away from school.  She hated cheeseburger days.  She had long since grown use to the fact that there was something about cheese that simply stank – it was almost unavoidable – but there was something about the cheap lunchroom version of cheese that made it worse than any other variety she'd come across.  The stench had followed her all day and was now clinging to her clothes.

I originally had this section from Sam's POV, changed it to Tucker trailing Val around, then changed it Val being evil and preppy, THEN I changed it to make her more forgiving and more fearful about what's going on.  Lots of revisions.  Her being evil and preppy probably doesn't 'fit' the character as per the show, but I don't care.  I can't imagine a girl that can see dead things would be evil and preppy like the show has her.  So I made her evil and preppy because she's afraid and wants to be normal.

And yes, I keep hitting the cheese thing 'cause it's funny as all get out.  xD  Behold my rather weird sense of humor.


The only good thing that came with cheeseburger day was the lack of creatures that followed people around.  By the time second hour had started, all but the slowest of them had seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth.  She didn't know where they ran off to, but she didn't particularly care.  A day of being creature-free was almost worth the torment of that smell.  As long as she breathed through her mouth, she could pretend that she was blessedly, happily normal.

And then there was Danny Fenton and the small question of what it was that she'd seen.

No, I'm not going to tell you what it is.  Yet.

"Valerie!"  

She hesitated at the sound of her name and glanced over her shoulder.  Her eyes passed over the boy that was calling her name a few times before focusing on him.  It was Danny Fenton's best friend – the one with the red hat.  She waited only a heartbeat more before turning back around and continuing on her way.

After today, she didn't want to talk.  She wanted to go home and take a shower and try to think through what it was she had seen and what it all meant.  Was it possible that-

"Valerie, wait up!" he called, jogging up to her, breathing hard.

Valerie silently picked up the pace, annoyed that he'd interrupted her thoughts.  She had avoided all of her friends for a reason.  There was nothing that was going to stop her from getting home as quickly as possible.

"Hold on, I have to ask you something," he panted.  

"Don't you have someone else to bother?" Val asked sourly, never pausing as the boy caught up to her and had to keep jogging to keep pace.  

An odd look crossed his face and he pushed his glasses up his nose, obviously taking her sarcastic question seriously.  "Sam's in detention and Danny went home early."

Val actually stopped for a moment at this, wondering if he really only had two friends, but then shook herself and kept walking.  She wasn't interested in what he had to say.  She was interested in getting home and getting rid of this stench.

"I wanted to ask you about your drawings," he said.  

The incredulous feeling that fluttered through her made Val's steps falter for a moment.  What drawings does he mean? she wondered, curiosity getting the better of her desire to be alone. I don't draw…  She glanced at him and said, "I don't draw."

Tucker's eyes flickered left and right, then let a little smile cross his face.  "The little animals that you draw," he said softly.  "The dead ones.  The ghosts."

Ha.  The pieces are slowly… achingly slowly… coming together!

"Shut up."  The harsh words were out of Val's mouth before she really knew what she was saying.  Her eyes narrowed and she turned to walk away from him.  "I don't know what you're talking about."

She did though.  For years, she had kept her little doodles a secret.  Her father thought that assignments with pieces of the margins torn out were normal.  No one had ever found out that she saw things that didn't really exist and they weren't going to start now.  How could he possibly know about those? she screamed to herself.

"Rotting little snakes and rats and things."  

Valerie walked faster, her heart starting to beat in her ears, but Tucker's voice was following her, cutting through her defenses.  

"They follow humans around and feed off of them, don't they?  You can see them."

I have to put a stop to this.  Valerie twirled around and stuck a finger in Tucker's face.  He'd been almost running to keep up with her and he skidded to a stop, his nose less than an inch from Val's sharp fingernails.  "Stop stalking me," she hissed.  "And stop talking nonsense."

He blinked at her and looked a little confused.  "I'm not talking-"

Notice how he didn't refute the 'stalking' charge.  xD

"Stop," she snapped.  "I'm not going to talk about invisible little things with you."

His head tipped back a little and his eyes narrowed.  "I never said they were invisible."

Damnit!  Her fingers curled into a fist and Val bit back a growl, skillfully twisting her growing fear into fury.  "If you don't shut up and leave me alone, you will learn first-hand what a black belt in karate can do."  She look the widening of his hazel eyes as all the answer she needed, twirled around on her heel, and stalked up the street.

The terrified anger melted away after just a few steps, leaving her knees feeling weak and her hands shaking.  She crossed her arms tightly, her mind twirling.  There was no way that people were going to find out she saw things that didn't exist.  She was normal, not crazy, and no one was going to ruin that for her.

She caught sight of him one last time, reflected in a store window, before she turned the corner onto her street.  He was still standing where she'd left him, one arm casually hooked around the strap of his backpack, a look of concern on his face.  Finally turning the corner, Val leaned up against the side of a building and took a few deep breaths, struggling to get her emotions back under control.

"Everything's fine," she whispered.  Perhaps that Danny Fenton had seen something – perhaps he could even see the ghosts too.  And probably a couple loner kids like Tucker Foley and Danny Fenton wouldn't tell the whole school about what she could see.

She still had her secret.  She was still okay.  But no matter how many times she told herself that, her hands refused to stop shaking.  

For some reason, she had the horrible feeling that years of lies and pretending to be normal were about to come crashing down around her.

Oh, she's totally right.  I have evil plans for you… should I ever gt to them.

--

This was originally from Danny's POV, sleeping on his bed.  This worked better, thank you beta reader for the suggestion!

Maddie chewed on her lip, staring down at the mess of wires jammed haphazardly inside the Fenton's latest invention and barely containing her annoyed sigh.  "Jack, we've talked about this," she said.  "If you don't keep the wires looking neat, how are we ever going to figure out where the problem lies?"

The large man looked up at her from his pile of blueprints and blinked a few times before mumbling out an incomprehensible answer.  Based on previous experience, Maddie figured he'd either just apologized, explained what had happened, or promised to fix it later.  Or perhaps, she thought, he had slurred together all three.

With a small roll of her eyes, Maddie settled down to start tracing the intricate circuits in the prototype energy weapon.  The goal was to create a sort of TAZER on steroids – a nonlethal weapon with enough punch to short-circuit an armored vehicle.  Never mind the fact that they hadn't yet figured out how to create a battery with enough juice to power the thing and still have it be considered a handheld weapon, if they could get the rest of it working, she was confident that the battery would come with time.

Slowly attempting to build up realistic versions of the weapons on the show.  Behold the proto-eco-gun.

Tracing the interwoven wires was proving to be a maze that Maddie wasn't in the mood to tackle, however.  The eighth time she lost track of the wire she was following, she pushed the device away from her and let out a long, frustrated breath.  "I'm going to go get a drink," she told her husband, not caring that he never glanced up from his sketching.

She slipped off her stool and quietly walked upstairs to the kitchen.  Snagging a clean-looking glass from the sink, she filled it with water before pulling herself up to sit on the counter and sip her water.  Her eyes traced around the familiar lines of her kitchen, catching for a moment on the two tiles under the table that still hadn't been replaced after that last experiment cracked them, before settling on the entry to the living room.

"Danny," she breathed, finally allowing her thoughts to travel in the direction they'd been wanting to go down all day.  "What's wrong?"

He wasn't there to answer and she was positive he wouldn't have answered honestly anyways.  At most, she'd get a repeat of that 'ghost' explanation from earlier.  How could he possibly think that she'd believe that?  Danny was not dead and, even though she knew that she didn't always pay as much as a good mother would, he was not a ghost.  It was a ludicrous explanation.

She ran a hand through her hair and set her empty glass back in the sink.  "What was he thinking?" she whispered.  "Playing with our experiments?  Lying to me like that?  Running away, disappearing randomly…"

This morning, before he'd left for school, he'd looked almost dead on his feet.  He'd refused to eat any breakfast and had slunk out of the house with a pale, depressed look on his face.  It hadn't really surprised her to get a call from the school asking them to come pick Danny up.  

Maddie's eyes drifted over to the phone, contemplating calling the doctor to set up an appointment, but she dismissed it with a shake of her head.  Maybe he just needed to get some sleep – he hadn't been sleeping well lately.  "If he's not looking better tomorrow, I'll call."

The plan setting her mind slightly at ease, Maddie slide off the counter, paced towards the living room, stepped over Danny's discarded shoes and backpack, and walked up the stairs.  She paused outside her son's room, then pushed lightly on the half-closed door and slipped inside.  He was curled up, his black hair messily falling across his face, and he was deeply asleep.

Maddie took a few steps and knelt down beside the bed, reaching up to run her hand over his forehead to move the hair out of his eyes.  Frowning at how cold his skin felt, Maddie gazed at her son, threading her fingers lightly through his hair.  His skin had an unhealthy pale sheen and his lips were tinted a strange purplish color.

She studied him for a long moment more before changing her mind about waiting to call the doctor.  Getting to her feet, Maddie got an extra blanket out of the hall closet and draped it over Danny's sleeping form before walking downstairs to make an appointment for her son to see the doctor.

And it'll be hilarious.  It's already written, it's awesome.  xD

--

I wrote this section months and months and months ago.  I had to fit it in here somewhere!  I loved it too much for it to be mothballed.

"Macaroni and cheese, cheese fries, cheeseburgers…" Danny muttered a few hours later, feeling better after his nap.  He stepped into the kitchen and, after glancing around, let a small smile appear on his face when he found the room empty.  Pacing over to the lab door, Danny pressed his ear against the door and listened for his parents' voices.  "Sister in her room, parents in the lab…  Perfect."  

Danny walked up to the refrigerator and stared at it for a moment.  He shifted his weight uneasily on his feet, biting his lip.  "Oh, come on Fenton," he chided himself.  He reached out to grab the handle to the refrigerator, gritting his teeth in frustration when his hand passed straight through the handle.

Focusing on the handle and the fact that his hand was going to touch the door, Danny extended his arm for a second time, this time catching hold of the refrigerator.  He breathed out once and pulled the door open, studying the insides.  "Where… is…"  His eyes scanned through the shelves.  "Ah."

Danny grabbed the package of cheese, quietly closing the door before walking up to the kitchen table and dropping the cheese onto the table.  He sank into a chair opposite the unoffending package and stared at it.  The thought of actually opening the plastic wrap made his stomach churn.

For a moment, his mind was filled with the memories of the other times he'd tried to eat this particular food.  How his fingers had ached at the Nasty Burger.  How he had felt like he was being jabbed with needles during supper that one night.  How his body had physically rebelled against him at lunch.  How Tucker had held up that small little bit of cheese, proving that it was the source of the smell.

"One step at a time," he muttered.  "Figure out one thing at a time."  Trying to get a hold of everything was just too much.  But this one small thing maybe he could figure out.  Was it, or was it not, the cheese that he was reacting to?

"It doesn't make sense."  Danny's fingers tapped on the table as he stared at the yellowish cube wrapped in plastic.  "It's a food, just like milk.  I had milk in my cereal this morning."  He took a breath and shook his head.  "It's got to be something else."

True, but it's the bacteria in the cheese that's the real problem.  If you got the right bacteria together, put them into some sort of spray, I'm sure you could prevent a ghost-human hybrid from assuming his ghost form…

See?  Lots of forethought.  I've already got the Plasmius Maximus and Foley! By Tucker Foley in the works.  xD


He grabbed the package of cheese and brought it closer to him, his fingers picking at the plastic wrap's opening.  "It doesn't hurt now, and it's not going to hurt when I open it."

He let out a deep breath.  "It's just cheese."

Closing his eyes, he pulled at the plastic wrap.  For a fraction of a moment, nothing happened and Danny felt himself start to relax.  But then pain slammed into him like he'd done a belly-flop into a pool… only it kept coming.  Wave after wave of prickling agony sliced into his body, forcing a gasp out of his throat and his arms to reflexively push at the table.

When the pain finally started to fade, Danny opened his eyes and looked around in startled disbelief.  He was on the other side of the kitchen, pressed up against the wall.  He took a shaky breath, the throbbing ache degrading into something almost nauseating.  His stomach spinning into freefall, Danny struggled to steady his breathing.

"Okay," he whispered.  "Tucker's right.  It's the cheese."

Jazz suddenly appeared in the doorway, worry on her face.  Her eyes took in the toppled kitchen chair before flicking to her brother.  "Danny?  Are you okay?"

Danny let out a small chuckle that he didn't really feel, smiling faintly.  "Yeah.  I just… saw something," he lied.  He swallowed heavily, fighting down a wave of prickling nausea that threatened to bring up his lunch.  

"Danny, maybe you should sit down," Jazz suggested softly.  "You look like you're going to faint."

"I'm fine," Danny said sourly.  

"Yeah," Jazz muttered, "right.  I'm going to go get Mom."

"No!"  Danny took a few shaky steps towards his sister, getting in between her and the lab.  He forced himself to ignore the cheese sitting on the table and the aching sensation that was swamping his body.  "Seriously.  I'm good.  I just… need something to eat."

When Jazz faltered at that explanation, Danny's smile became a bit less forced.  "I didn't get any lunch today, remember?" he continued.  "I'm just hungry.  You don't need to bug Mom and Dad just because I'm hungry."

"Oh," she said.  Her narrowed, suspicious eyes never left his, but she stopped reaching for the lab door.  "Why were you up against the wall like that?" she asked.

"I saw something, remember?"  Danny gave her the most innocent grin he could find.  "A mouse, I think."

"Big reaction for a little mouse."

Danny shrugged and licked his lips.  "Big mouse."

*snicker*  Danny's got bad comebacks.

Jazz blinked a few times and Danny swallowed, worried that she wouldn't take the story he was feeding her.  It was plausible… but only barely.  Finally she took a step backwards, turning to pick up the chair Danny had bowled over in his instinctive bid to get away from the cheese sitting on the table.  "I'll make you something to eat," she said softly, "being that you're so afraid of the mouse."

Danny swore softly to himself.  Based on the tone of her voice, his sister had figured out that Danny was lying through his teeth.  He smiled vaguely when she glanced up at him, but had to keep rolling with his story.  If she wasn't going to call him on it, then he wasn't going to admit to anything.  "No, it's okay.  I can make something."

She quietly picked up the half-opened package of cheese on the table.  "No big deal, little brother.  I'm kinda hungry too.  You want a cheese sandwich?  I know how much you love those."  She turned towards him and held out the cheese.

Before Danny could stop himself, his body had taken a few steps backwards, his back coming up hard against the door to the lab.  Another prickling wave of pain swept through him when Jazz waved the block of cheese in the air and Danny shuddered.  "No… no… I-I-I think I should wait… for supper," he stuttered, unable to wrench his eyes of the innocuous substance that was causing him so much pain.

"But you said-"

"That I'm fine," Danny interrupted, edging towards the freedom of the living room.  "Don't be such a worrywart, Jazz."  Every step made the torture of the cheese lessen.  Danny hesitated by the door, finally able to pull his eyes off the yellow package of cheese and gaze into his sister's confused face.  He smiled once – knew instantly that it had done nothing but cement his sister's belief that something weird was going on – turned and fled up the stairs to his room.

He fell into the relative safety of his bed, cursing in his mind.  Could he have been any more obvious?  What was he thinking, experimenting and trying to figure things out inside of his own house – especially when his nosy sister was home?  It had to have been one of the stupidest things he'd done in a very long while.  

I'll agree with that.  But Jazz gets more fodder so that she can be more of a royal pain later.

A knock on his bedroom door startled him out of his reverie.  Danny looked up, paling a little when he saw his sister standing in the doorway.  She studied him for a moment, the gestured with the plate she was holding in her hand.  "I heard what happened at lunch."

"Yeah," Danny answered wearily, studying the sandwich on the plate and waiting for the pain he figured was coming.

"Must be some invasion of mice you're seeing," she said softly.

"Infestation," Danny breathed.

Jazz dropped the plate onto the dresser by the door and stood silently for a few more seconds.  "Mom said dinner was going to be late today, so you should have something to eat."

"Thanks."  Danny glanced from his sister to the plate, wondering how he was going to get the cheese sandwich out of his room without attracting attention.  He couldn't feel it yet, but he was sure that if he got any closer, the pain would start again.

Nodding towards the plate, Jazz said, "It's peanut butter and jelly."  Then, without another word, turned and left.

Danny sat still on his bed for a few minutes, gazing blankly at his empty doorway.  When he finally got up, he walked over to the plate and blinked down at the messily made sandwich.  It was, indeed, peanut butter and jelly.

He was going to have to be a lot more careful around his sister from now on.  And, he conceded when his stomach growled hungrily, perhaps a little nicer.

Aw…

In real life families pay too much attention.
Yeup. Been too long since I updated. Had this done for awhile and was being lazy. :XD:

Enjoy!

Clean version on fanfiction.net/~cordria

-Cori
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:iconthunderstorm101:
thunderstorm101 Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2009
I love Real Life...It's just so amazing ^__^

I love your stuff SO MUCH!
Reply
:iconcordria:
cordria Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
:glomp: Thanks!!

-Cori
Reply
:iconhands-and-teeth:
Hands-and-Teeth Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2009  Professional General Artist
the mice excuse is amusing, and not very creative on Danny's part. >> poooooor Danny.
Reply
:iconcordria:
cordria Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah, poor Danny. :)

-Cori
Reply
:iconeddie-ka:
Eddie-Ka Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2009  Professional Artist
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH CORI!!!!

I love you!!!!
Reply
:iconcordria:
cordria Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
:hug:

-Cori
Reply
:icondarth-ziggy:
Darth-Ziggy Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2009
Valerie doesn't like cheese much? Hmm... Maybe mediums are slightly sensitive to our favorite rotten milk product as well?
Reply
:iconcordria:
cordria Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Maybe. :XD: There's a reason for it, I just refuse to say yet!

Thanks!

-Cori
Reply
:iconfoxyteah:
FoxyTeah Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Yay, you updated! :D Can't wait to see what happens at the doctor's :evillaugh:
Reply
:iconcordria:
cordria Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
YAY! Thanks. :XD:

-Cori
Reply
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