#Phic Phight 2021
He’s a Fenton (Phic Phight)
PR: Ghosts now being pretty much common knowledge, at least in the Midwest. A lot of colleges are offering ecto-studies as a course. Danny seems to know too much on the first day.
B-dug, b-dug, b-dug. Dug-dug.
Professor Lee Wilhelm is not bothered by the rhythmic bouncing of the ball from the back of his class. In fact, he expects a few from the bunch that wouldn’t take the course as seriously as others. After all, it is Intro to Ecto-Biology.
It’s coming from a black-haired boy, who is skillfully bouncing the ball off of every surface and always managing to catch it. If Lee wasn’t supposed to be teaching a class, he’d be impressed. The boy’s been yawning every five minutes, almost like clockwork actually, and didn’t seem to pay the least but attention. Again, expected.
“And that’s the syllabus,” Lee concludes. “Moving on, bring out your ‘Entry to Ecto-Studies’ textbook. We’ll be doing a light overview.”
Lee hadn’t wanted to teach Ecto-Biology; he wanted to teach Entomology and even had an entire lesson plan planned out. But he, unfortunately, brought the interest of ecto-studies during his interview and they’ve stuck it on him. It isn’t a bad job, he had taken it after all, but he had significantly less passion in it. But he wasn’t lying about the interest, so he’ll try his best to teach the subject efficiently. The ghost wildlife and insect section could fulfill him for his entomologist love.
Ecto-Biology is an extremely new field, only opened as of recent years. It’s only an elective since there isn’t much information regarding ghosts. Leading scientists are carefully studying the molecular distinction of material in the ‘Ghost Zone’ and are baffled by the implication that there is a life after death.
He uses the projector and shows off a PowerPoint. “First and foremost, we’ll be going over Ghostly Obsessions for the next two weeks. As you may or may not know, obsessions are the cornerstone of a ghost’s existence. Most of the ghosts that people have studied have more destructive—”
“Professor Wilhelm?” a voice asks, and Lee’s eyes follow to meet the same disinterested boy. He has his hand raised lazily but a furrow is clear on his face. He didn’t even notice when the ball had been put away.
“Yes?” he points at the student.
“The material’s outdated. Like, super old and almost completely wrong.”
“Sorry?” Lee asks confused, but the student nodded as if it’s an actual apology.
He continues, straightening out his bored stature, “Yeah, the whole ‘destructive obsessions’ theory’s been disproved for some time. It was a stereotype back in the day when the only ghosts that’d come to the human world wanted to cause mayhem and calamity. Nowadays, with the political situation of ghosts and humans being settled, the research shows that the entire spectrum that scientists have yet to study.” The boy speaks with the confidence that Lee would have if this class was Entomology—he really wishes that he’d gotten it—and the steady voice of a diplomat. Some of the other students that shared the boy’s previous appearance (half-asleep and uncaring) now show rapidly increasing interest.
Lee’s mind whirls as he tries to make sense of what was just fell off the youth’s tongue. He hadn’t picked the textbook, you see. It was what was given to him off the bat. There was supposed to be another Ecto-Biology professor, however, they dropped out—which is why the university was desperate to fill the space—but not before filling out the application for the provided textbook and getting it approved by the Board.
“Anything else to add, Mister…?” Lee trails off, half-peeved. He puts a hand on his wooden desk and leans into it.
Even so, Lee had also based his entire lesson plan for the semester on the textbook and is not prepared to rewrite that
The student once again oblivious to his professor’s emotions, nods again. “Yeah, I read a bit into the book before class, and the section with the evolution of a ghost’s appearance is wrong too.” He skims through the book for a second before jutting a finger at a page. “Here it is, ‘A ghost’s appearance grows depending on the increased strength of their obsession.’” He closes the book with strong conviction, gaining the entire attention of the class at this point.
“That’s not true. A ghost’s appearance changes when their obsession branches. A popular example is Youngblood, the ghost only seen by children. His obsession is playing and having fun, but his outfit changes according to what game he wants to play. Sometimes it’s pirates, others it’s cowboys, et cetera.” The student who seemed uninterested only moments ago spoke so inviolable that Lee didn’t believe he could dispute at all.
Lee is not the type of professor that stifles a student if they have more knowledge—his RateMyProfessor made that clear—nor to do confrontations either. However, it mostly small information like how baby bees don’t have stingers or how varroa destructors kill off entire bee colonies. (Again, he’s not an ecto-scientist, he is an entomologist.) He didn’t think that the Einstein of Ghost-Biology would appear to an introduction course.
Lee smiles as kindly as he can—his RateMyProfessor also says that his expressions are an open book no matter what impression he tries to give off—and steeples his hand against the desk harshly.
“It sounds like you know a lot about the subject. But if you had a problem with the material, you could’ve emailed me when you first got the textbook.” He tries to wean off the annoyance, but the uncomfortable stares of the other students say that he didn’t do a good job.
The student sighs, still not noticing Lee’s tone. Lee didn’t know if he’s the most oblivious person in the world or he’s just choosing to ignore it. “Yeah, I guess that would’ve been better,” he says conversationally, losing his authority but also putting too much casualness in his words. “Truth be told, I wanted an easy course—”
Lee can’t help the eye-twitch.
“—But I read enough to know there’s misleading stuff in this and I want others to know the correct information. Especially since Ecto-Biology is new and this might be everyone’s first impression on ghosts.”
Lee hears whispers around the classroom now and his brow knits together. He caught a few that questioned Lee’s credentials and position as a teacher. His teeth grind because he hadn’t wanted to teach this course. Dammit, why couldn’t they just have given him Entomology? Now there’s going to be a black mark on his record and his job is in jeopardy.
Lee knows he can’t blame the student, his intentions are good and valid. He knows he shouldn’t have just taken the job because it was the only position handed to him. But he had to scrap some respect before he gets a whirlwind of complaints from his students. Maybe the sack if they’re determined enough.
“Pardon me for asking,” he tries to be polite. “But what are your sources, if you don’t mind?”
A look of surprise appears and a sheepish smile instantly replaces it. The student puts a hand to his neck as if embarrassed. “Oh! Sorry, Professor, I forgot to introduce myself, didn’t I? I got caught up in the moment. Hi, I’m Daniel Fenton, I go by Danny. My parents are, sort of, Jack and Maddie Fenton.”
The claim punches Lee straight in the gut.
Even some of the students snap their heads to him with gaping maws. The whispering stops and is replaced with shocked silence. Even someone not interested in Ecto-studies knows of the scientists that discovered an entirely new dimension. The married couple is basically the leading scientist in the field and makes discoveries daily.
He looks shy, contrasting with every other impression he’s given off, as his eyes sweep the room. “I should’ve started with that, shouldn’t I? Gosh, I must’ve sounded super pretentious. Sorry, sorry.”
Lee struggles to respond, “It’s fine, Mister… Fenton.” He chokes on the name a bit. “I hadn’t realized you were an expert- an actual expert with ecto-biology.”
“No, no,” Danny shook his head, “You were treating me like any other student. Please, continue. I can contact you later.”
Lee does continue, though he tries no to go too in-depth with the information. He’ll do more research after class and change the lessons to be more according to newer research. He needs to increase his credibility before he makes a complete fool in front of his students. Damn, they probably don’t think he’s credible at all by now. If too many students drop the class, he’ll be out of the job.
He plans to cry when going home. Maybe his wife could say just the right things that’ll make everything alright as she always does. And she does, she says he’s a good teacher and he can bounce up. It fills him with enough confidence to not just quit.
The next day, Lee sees that four students dropped the class. As much as it is discouraging, it’s less than he thought would do so. He managed to study more of the research, even if the public knowledge seems to be between old and new research. The first lesson is rushed, but it’s more up-to-date than before.
He’s in the classroom an hour early, sipping on a coffee thermos and editing the PowerPoint for last-minute mistakes. He hasn’t felt this stressed since his actual college days.
Someone knocks on the door nearest to his desk.
“Come in,” he yells, not wanting to stop the flow of focus he has. It’s thirty minutes before class, but he won’t stop a student from coming a little early. He hears the door creak open and doesn’t look up from the laptop. The student’s steps echo and he could hear them pause right in front of his desk.
“Professor Wilhelm?” a timid voice asks him and Lee immediately recognizes the voice.
He lifts his head and makes direct eye contact with the student. His persistent typing ceases at once.
“Mr. Fenton, hello.” His tone is stiff.
Danny Fenton looks nervous and is wearing more presentable clothing than a hoodie; it’s a red polo and his hair looks combed a little. In his arms is a large cardboard box that looks ten times his weight. It’s so large that Lee could barely see Danny’s nose.
“Um,” he says with a stutter, looking at the ground. “I’m sorry about yesterday, you were right about the email thing.”
“No, it’s my fault,” Lee insists, “I should’ve gone over the credentials of the textbooks beforehand. I shouldn’t have pushed any of my frustrations onto you.”
There’s a clear look of guilt on Danny’s face. He kicks his leg back and forth in a little. “Well, anyway, I asked a friend of mine to express ship something as a sorry. Don’t worry, she was more than happy to help me with this.”
Danny lays down the cardboard box to the side of his desk so Lee could see. Danny proceeds to open it and reveal its contents.
“It’s honestly fine, Mr. Fenton. You didn’t need to…” his eyes catch sight of what’s inside. “Get me anything…” Danny hands him one of the copies of the book from the box, and Lee’s hands tremble a little as he looks down on it.
The Whys and Hows of Ecto-Biology: 6th Edition. It’s the Fentons’ latest book. Actually, he swears that the latest is 5th Edition. He remembers trying to get a copy last night but it got bought out too quickly for him to even go to the checkout. How unlucky.
Danny’s foot continues the move rhythmically, “I hope it’s not a problem that it isn’t officially published.” Thus confirming Lee’s suspicions. “There’s twenty in this box, but there are three more boxes right outside the door. I really don’t know how many students take this class but I hope it’s enough.”
Sincerity riddles his voice and Lee feels tear prick his eyes. He doesn’t ever remember a student that went through so much effort for him. At most, they gave him a trinket or two. He sniffs a little and Danny looks concerned instantaneously. The very face makes Lee laugh a little.
He scoots his chair back and stands up, putting on the widest smile he’s ever had. The suddenness shocks the boy slightly and he jumps a little.
“It’s more than enough. Now c’mon, let’s get those boxes from the hallway. I don’t want them gathering dust already, Fenton.”
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“I want to see your manager,” declared Karen.
The employees’ laughter cut off instantly. Ha. Served them right. These giggling teens didn’t know anything about her, didn’t know what her day had been like. Didn’t know what it was like to be her, with three screaming brats at home and only three days of vacation time.
This stop was supposed to be short. It was supposed to be a rest stop. A place to refuel and pick up her supplements. A ten-minute detour on the way to her spa retreat in the countryside.
But as soon as she’d driven into this town everything had gone wrong. Immediately. It was like the place was cursed. Nowhere more than this garbage hole mini mart. This mini mart which was both too large to easily transverse and too limited in selection.
“Ma’am,” said one of the teens, a girl with an incredibly unprofessional haircut and dye job. Not to mention her piercings. “You really don’t want us to do that.” She licked her lips and some of her cheap black lipstick came off.
Didn’t this store have any kind of dress code? Any kind of professional standard?
“You either get me your manager, or you get me what I asked for.” Drawing a line in the sand was the only way to get things done. The only way to keep people from walking all over you.
The teens exchanged nervous looks.
“Ma’am,” said the other, a boy. “We would, but we’re out.”
“Then you shouldn’t have advertised them,” said Karen, venomously.
“That was last week,” he protested. “It was a sale to make room for new products. We don’t—”
“Unless you’re treating me the way customers should be treated, I don’t want to hear it,” snapped Karen.
The teens exchanged a glance. “Fine,” said the girl. “I’ll get him.”
Karen huffed and crossed her arms, satisfied. About time.
She let her eyes rake over the dismal little store while she waited for the girl to come back. God, it was disgusting in here. She’d be glad to be back on her way.
Three employees, if she could call them that, in this tiny store and it still managed to get this bad. Not to mention the rest of this pothole-ridden town.
If her car didn’t have new tires by the time she got back, oh, there would be hell to pay.
The overhead lights flickered.
The girl jogged back. “He’s coming,” she said.
“Is he too busy to come with you?” asked Karen. Of all the inconsiderate things…
“He has health issues,” said the girl. The lights strobed again, the darkness lasting longer.
“Do you not pay your power bills or something?” asked Karen, annoyed. The flickering was giving her a headache.
“Look,” said the boy, “when your town’s been through as much as ours has, then you can complain.”
“Excuseme? Is that how you talk to a paying customer?”
“You haven’t paid for anything yet, lady—”
“Excuse me. Are you harassing my employees?”
Karen jumped. The young man had, somehow, managed to appear behind the teens while the lights were out. As the lights blinked again, he loomed above her and—
No. He was shorter than she was. About the same height as the teens, in fact. A trick of the light? Whatever. It didn’t matter.
What mattered was getting something to make up for the time she was wasting here. Honestly. This stupid town owed her.
Not that these children would be sympathetic to her plight. No, if life had taught her anything, it was that she had to fight for what she deserved.
So, she presented her case to the manager—And if he knew what was good for this place, he’d let her win. She could and would write an absolutely scathing review and she was in half a dozen Facebook groups that would support her in writing them, no questions asked. There was this one woman on the opposite coast who was practically a genius when it came to reviews.
“Are you listening?” she snapped halfway through, when the manager had failed to respond at all. Usually, by this point they’d tried some kind of spineless, stuttering appeasement.
“Yes,” he said, without any emotional inflection. “Please continue.”
Karen shivered. “Your AC is on too high, too.”
“This is how I like it,” said the manager, voice still flat. “This is how our customers like it.”
“What customers?” sneered Karen. “I’m the only one who’s been here for the past half an hour.”
The manager shrugged. “You should get your prescription checked.”
The lights flickered. The other two employees were gone, nowhere in sight. When had they left? Had they edged out of sight while she was discussing their abysmal performance with the manager.
“You should leave.”
“You should leave. Ma’am.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Dead serious. You’re upsetting our customers. Also, I have real work to do.”
“You don’t have any customers.”
For a long moment, the manager simply stared at her. Then he grinned, the expression not reaching his eyes at all. His teeth… bothered Karen. It wasn’t that they weren’t clean… maybe they were too clean?
She felt herself taking a step back, sweat prickling the back of her neck.
“We don’t have any customers that you can see.”
The lights went out, this time for long enough for Karen’s eyes to adjust. Over a dozen pairs of glowing eyes stared back at her.
She jumped, and the first split second of a scream made it past her lips before she realized the prank being played on her. She scowled.
“I’ll be bringing you and your unprofessional conduct to the attention of your superiors, I’ll have you know,” she said.
“Good luck with that,” growled the manager, looking down at her. “I own this place.”
Growled. Looking down at her.
His eyes burned neon green, brighter and more real than any sticker or glowstick Karen had ever seen.
“Let me spell this out to you, Karen,” rumbled the thing in front of her. “You are not welcome here.”
“That was kind of mean, Danny,” said Tucker, tone entirely judgement-free.
Danny, who was telekinetically reshelving the stuff the woman, a particularly annoying and non-perceptive out-of-towner, had knocked down in her haste to get away, shrugged. “She probably didn’t even pick up the details,” he said, sadly, shaking his head. “Some of my best work, gone unappreciated.”
“I think she appreciated it all right,” said Tucker, an edge of glee creeping into his voice. “Did you see how fast she ran?”
“Yep,” said Danny, inhaling deeply and drinking in the last lingering dregs of the woman’s fear. “Y’know, I think her name might have actually been Karen, considering her reaction.”
“Oof, that almost makes me feel bad.”
“Eh,” said Danny, shrugging. He stood on his tip toes to get a few extra inches over the shelves. “Hey, Sam, you good on the register?”
Sam shot him a thumbs up, not even looking away from the blob-like ghost she was currently ringing up. Danny dropped back to his heels.
“Okay, then, if you’re both good out here,” he said. “I’m going to go finish that negotiation for the ectoplasm cookies.”
“Good luck,” said Tucker.
“And if someone is like that again, call me right away, okay?”
“Got it, boss.”
“Gross. Don’t call me boss.”
“Boss. Boss man. Chief. Mr. Manager. Head honcho.”
“Okay, that’s worse. Seriously. You and Sam are on the deed, too.”
“Ah, but you’re the one our ghostly suppliers will negotiate with. Better get back to that, by the way.”
Danny sighed. “I’m promoting you.” He walked away.
“You- No, you can’t do that! Danny! Wait! You can’t promote me! Danny!”
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Fangs or No Fangs
For Phic Phight 2021. Jack and Maddie know that Danny is Phantom. They saw him transform and they knew they should talk about it with him. But...even after two weeks, that conversation feels impossible. And so Maddie has a plan: a trip to the planetarium to cheer Danny up, to finally see him smile, and to pave the way for the truth.
Word Count: 8,191
Also on AO3 and Fanfiction.net
Note: So this story is a bit of a mess of three prompts. I started with the first one and it veered into this. Part reveal fic. Part post-reveal family bonding (err....Jack and Maddie know and Danny knows that they knew but they haven't talked about it and no one's acting like they know so...?) Either way, it's all an unholy mix of fluff and angst.
Prompt by @amabsis : The Fenton’s notice that Danny isn’t smiling as much, so the only reasonable thing to do is take him out to cheer him up! What happens when they do manage to get him to smile, and they find out he has small fangs?
Prompt by @charcoalhawk: Maddie and Jack find out that their son is phantom and fully support him. Danny and Jazz however did not get that memo.
Prompt by @phan-pheeking-tastic : Post-Reveal Family Bonding
It had been two weeks since Maddie and her husband had found out what the portal had actually done to their son. Two weeks since they learned that their baby boy was a ghost. Two weeks since they saw their ghostly enemy, Phantom, turn into their son.
It was on a normal ghost hunt. They’d been following Phantom, for once not yelling their normal insults but stalking him silently. The pair turned around a corner, to find Phantom standing with his back to them, a ring of light around his waist. Maddie tensed, anticipating an attack. Then the ring passed over the ghost’s head and the woman gasped. Her heart just about stopped, staring at the figure in front of her.
The figure, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and now with black hair, turned around. His blue eyes widened in panicked fear.
“Danny?” Jack whispered in awe beside her.
The boy’s mouth fell open, body stiff with fear. Maddie blinked and the boy in front of them, their son, their Danny, disappeared.
The two went home, numb with disbelief. Maddie thought it was a dream at first; she must have imagined it. Or this was Phantom playing a trick on them except…
Maddie knocked on her son’s bedroom door to check on him. “Danny?” The sound of feet pacing and heavy breathing came from behind the door. Then there was a sudden clatter, a yelp as if the boy had ran into something. The woman frowned. “Can I come in sweetie?”
“Just...just a second.” Danny called, voice echoing but unusually high with obvious nerves.
There was a flash of light, visible from under the door. Maddie paled, wheels turning in her head. Then seconds later, her son pulled open the door, opening it only wide enough to see his deathly pale face. “Yeah? What’s….” He coughed, forcing his voice into a more normal pitch. “What’s up?”
The mother stared into his wide eyes, biting her own lip. “Danny….” She hesitated, suddenly unsure. “Is there...do you want to...Is everything alright?”
The boy paled at the question, shaking slightly. “Yeah. Everything’s...everything’s fine. I’m fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.”
Maddie frowned. “Danny...are you sure-”
He cut her off, starting to push the door closed. “Yeah. Yep. It’s fine. I’ve...I’ve got homework. Seeyouinthemorningbye!” The teenager said the words so quickly, Maddie could hardly understand them. Then the door slammed in her face.
Dread dropped like a rock in the mother’s stomach. Shaking herself, the woman turned back and started down the stairs. She and Jack needed to talk.
“It’s true. Isn’t it?” Her husband said, as soon as he saw her weary face. “Danny’s...Danny’s Phantom. Our son…”
“Our son’s a ghost.” Maddie whispered. Danny’s panicked expression in the alley and just minutes before in his bedroom, flashed in her mind. “It must be true. All the evidence is there.”
How their equipment targeted their son. The injuries he tried to hide, to blame on bullies. Skipping class, the detentions, the missing assignments. Missing curfew, sneaking out. His constant exhaustion. Their equipment going missing, only to end up in Phantom’s hands. Their children’s fervent support of the ghost boy.
Danny was Phantom. He must be. They saw him change. They saw him as a ghost. Danny….he was a ghost, meaning...he was dead. And it was the portal. It must have been. The portal, their life’s work, the machine that he had said just gave him a little shock, must have killed him. Except….did it? It had been two years since then and Danny had grown. Maddie had hugged him since and he was warm. She’d felt his heartbeat. He seemed to be alive so….?
The parents didn’t know. Danny was a ghost...and yet he was not? Or he was still alive but had some kind of ghost powers?
Maddie put her head in her hands. “We should talk to Danny.”
“In the morning.” Jack yawned, rubbing his tired eyes. “I’m exhausted and Danny….” He looked down, guilty.
The mother sighed. “He must be tired too, if he’s not already asleep.” They had been talking for hours at this point, processing what they’d seen and hypothesizing. Both of them needed to lay down and calm their racing thoughts. So the pair went up to bed.
Maddie really had wanted to talk to Danny in the morning. But he’d dashed out without as much as a word to them. He did have school. They could wait and talk to him after, right?
Then after school, he raced up to his room with the excuse of homework before Maddie could even look at him. Soon after, he disappeared from his room and the mother saw a report about Phantom fighting the hunter ghost in the park. Guilt stabbed at her heart.
When he came home after curfew (and luckily uninjured), the woman didn’t have the heart to chastise him. And he looked so tired, so weary. He ran up the stairs, muttering an apology.
Talking to Danny the next morning turned into that afternoon again, turned into the next day, turned into waiting for the weekend. But then the boy was always over at his friends’ house or busy doing homework. He was nervous, flighty, skittish, and tense the brief times he was near his parents. And when he was, Danny wouldn’t look at them, wouldn’t talk to them, could hardly stand to be in the same room.
Maddie cursed herself. She knew they needed to have this conversation. She and Jack needed to talk to their son. So why couldn’t either seem to gather the courage? Why did the thought of talking about what the portal had actually done to their son, about how their work, their words, their actions, had affected him, make Maddie’s stomach roll? Why did it make her heart lodge in her throat, her lungs refuse to take in air? Why did it feel so insurmountable, like the guilt, the secrets would bury her alive?
Part of her wished that Danny would say something himself, that he would break the silence. Hell, she wished Jazz would call them out but no such luck. Instead a few days turned into a week, turned into two weeks.
Maddie sighed, looking down at her coffee. It made her insides squirm anxiously, thinking about all this. All that they’d done before they knew, her continued silence. The guilt was eating the woman up inside and Danny’s sober mood broke her heart. It had been so long since she’d seen him look anything but nervous and distrustful, since he’d been in the same room as them for more than five minutes. The mother’s shoulders fell. He looked so sad, so anxious; she’d given anything to see him smile again.
A soft yawn sounded beside her, causing the mother to look. The boy himself was swaying sleepily, standing at the counter. How had he gotten there without her noticing? He was so quiet, silent as a ghost. Maddie shook her head at the thought.
Then she frowned, letting out a short gasp. Danny’s had his hand through, literally intangibly, through the cupboard.
The boy turned, eyes widening; he suddenly looked very awake. He pulled his hand out, clutching a box of cereal. “Uh…. morning, Mom.” He paled, eyes widening.
Maddie’s frown deepened at that. “Good morning sweetie.” She eyed the coffee pot, trying to wipe the surprise off her face. “Do you want some coffee?”
“No.” Danny shook his head, biting his lip. “I’m good. I’ll just...uhh...bye.”
The mother held out a hand. “Danny. Wait.”
The boy didn’t respond, instead turning and practically sprinting away at almost inhuman speed. Maddie wanted to chastise him for running in the house. Instead, she put her head in her hands. Did Danny do things like that all this time? If he did, how the hell had they not noticed? They were really that bad parents, weren’t they?
Annoyance at herself flared at the thought as Maddie raised her head. She balled her fists. “We need to do something.” The woman looked at her husband. “We have to talk to Danny. Today. Actually….” She stood up, looking in the direction her son had gone.
“Wait Madds.” Jack interrupted. The mother looked down at where he was still seated. “We can’t just spring this on him.”
Maddie’s eyes twitched angrily. “Jack.”
“Just listen.” The man held up his hands. “How about we go out and do something together as a family? The Amity Park Science Center, they have a new planetarium show. Danny will love it. He’ll have a good time. He’ll get to relax and see that...see that we want to spend time with him.” The man worried his lip, his voice wavering with emotion. “I just want him to feel comfortable and safe talking to us, Maddie.”
Maddie’s expression softened and she sat down, grateful for husband’s insight. “You’re right.” She sighed. “Maybe doing something like a normal family will help him relax. And then...then we can talk to him when we get home tonight.”
With that, the parents agreed and informed both of the kids, earning wary but tentative agreement from both. Maddie frowned at that. The distrust stung but both Fenton parents had earned that distrust. They were ready to do what they could to fix that, starting with removing or deactivating all of the anti-ghost weapons in the GAV. They’d already moved all ghost hunting equipment into the basement and discussed dismantling some of the more dangerous-to-ghost equipment. But the ghosts, ones that their son had unbeknownst to them been combatting for the past few years, were still a very real threat to the town. They’d need to find a way to keep their weapons from being able to hurt him (Maddie’s heart ached at the thought) but that was for another time.
Now, Jack and Maddie were waiting downstairs for both kids to finish getting ready. Jazz walked down the stairs, a tight frown still on her face.
The girl raised her brow at the sight of her parents. “What are you wearing?”
Jack glanced at his wife and then down at himself. “Just jeans and a t-shirt, Jazzarincess.” He scratched at his neck, trying to look less uncomfortable than he was.
“But...you’re not in your jumpsuits?” The girl asked, still unsure.
Maddie shrugged. “We just wanted to wear something a little different, sweetie.” And a little more normal, the woman hoped she implied.
If Jazz understood the implication, she didn’t comment. Instead, she turned as Danny came bobbing down the stairs. The two shared knowingly looks, the boy’s eyebrow twitching as he noticed his parents’ clothes.
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, shifting nervously. “Where are we going?” He asked quietly.
“To the Amity Science Center.” Jack beamed. “They’ve got a new show at the planetarium. Doesn’t that sound exciting, son?”
For just a moment, interest sparked in Danny’s eyes at the word planetarium. Then the wary look was back. Maddie sighed. “Come on kids.” Hopefully, he would enjoy himself and this would in fact help him to loosen up.
The fifteen minute car ride to the Science Center was quiet and tense. Danny glanced anxiously around the GAV as if expecting weapons to activate and point at him. He flinched at every bump in the road. Jazz looked worriedly between her brother and her parents, her brow furrowed with thought. Honestly, Maddie wasn’t expecting much better but it still stung. Half-heartedly, she tried to idly chat with Jazz but the teen just looked all the more wary.
Soon enough, the family arrived at their destination. They quickly passed through the queue to pay and then entered the first room, a geology exhibit. The kids wander off, softly talking to each other while passively looking at the displays. Maddie could pick up the worried tones but walked away, deliberately not eavesdropping. They were probably wondering about why exactly their parents were being so ‘weirdly normal’ and taking them out for a family day. But after a minute, the pair drifted apart, Danny wandering to the back while Jazz looked at a large display on the left wall.
Maddie was reading about volcanoes when she spotted her son at the case to her right. His eyes roved over the display, widening at the words. His frown slowly ticked up. The mother raised a brow at his expression, feeling relief.
She then looked into the case wondering what had him relaxing. Oh, of course. These were the meteoroids. They even had one rock from the moon that had mystified Danny even since he was a little boy.
Danny’s eyes lit up at the exhibit, literally. For just a moment, neon green flashed in his eyes. His teeth flashed in a smile. Maddie let out a small relieved gasp at the sight.
It was then, Danny noticed her. His eyes widened and his head turned, hand automatically moving to cover his mouth.
The mother’s expression instantly fell and she wondered at the behavior. But she didn’t say anything, instead allowing Danny to wander off again.
The family continued exploring, slowly moving from exhibit to exhibit. To Maddie’s dismay, Danny was tense at first. She hadn’t seen him smile again since the meteors. His expression was uncharacteristically neutral. It’s not that he was bored (not that he’d even been bored on a trip here) but he was visibly anxious, not allowing himself to relax.
That eventually changed, as the group entered the heart of the museum, the dinosaur exhibit. Life-sized replicas of T rex, Triceratops, and Raptors loomed over them, faux rocks, plants, and wall murals simulating Earth when the dinosaurs walked on it. With the shifting lights, the occasional dinosaurian roars over the speakers, and the excitable little kids running around, it was lively. Danny and Jazz were huddled over a display of replica triceratops eggs while Maddie looked at a fossil of a primitive flowering plant.
“Oh Danny! Stand there. I want a picture.” Jazz’s voice came from behind her and the mother turned.
“No. Jazz. Come on.” Danny pouted.
“Please.” The girl begged.
After a moment, Danny huffed. “Fine.”
The boy moved to stand in front of the replica raptor what his sister had pointed out. He forced a closed lip smile, holding out two fingers in a peace sign. There was a flash of light from Jazz’s phone, leaving the other teen blinking. “Jazz.” He whined.
“Sorry.” She smiled, sheepishly. Then she held out her phone. “Now take my picture.”
Danny wrinkled his nose, obviously displeased but played along anyway as his sister came to stand beside the raptor. “You should stick your hand in its mouth and look like you're screaming.”
Jazz rolled her eyes, instead just smiling at the camera. That is, until a roar sounded from the speaker directly behind her. The girl shrieked in surprise at the noise, jolting forward and holding her hand over her heart.
Danny blinked in surprise before suddenly cackling with laughter and pointing at the now huffing girl. He snapped a few pictures, capturing her undignified face.
Meanwhile, Maddie beamed. Hearing her son laugh after so long was a beautiful sound. She walked forward, wanting to join the moment.
Then Danny spotted her. He blushed, covering his mouth with one hand before his chuckles quieted. His mother’s expression fell again. That was odd. This was the second time he’d covered his mouth once she’d seen him enjoying himself. She raised a brow as if to ask but Danny ignored the look.
Instead, he started leading Jazz away. “Come on. Let’s get some pictures in front of the T rex.”
Maddie turned, watching them walk away and noting the oddity. Jazz had been the one wanting pictures. The girl also wore a disappointed look as she softly said something to her brother, earning a frown from him.
This continued as Danny seemed to enjoy the trip and grow more comfortable. Maddie would catch glimpses of him smiling at an exhibit or laughing at something his sister said. Then he would see her watching from a distance and cover his face. It was deeply bothersome. Did he not want his parents to see him enjoying himself?
By the time they were waiting for the doors of the planetarium to open for their show, Maddie’s stomach was flopping with anxiety over the behavior. Along the walls of the hallway leading to the theater was a display about the history of space travel. Ever since they'd first brought Danny here as a seven year old, this section had always brought her son such joy. He would smile and ramble, often even jumping up and down in eager anticipation for the doors of the planetarium to open.
Now, Danny was visibly trying to contain himself. Even as his wide eyes eagerly roved over the displays, his lips were forcefully pinched closed, almost as if the boy was exerting great effort to not smile. The display broke Maddie’s heart.
Then, the woman’s face set in determination. She wasn’t having this. They come here to cheer Danny up, for some parent-child bonding, so that’s what she would do. Maddie took a step forward, preparing to ask Danny what he was looking at. But then the doors to the planetarium opened.
Danny turned at the noise, meeting her eyes. His mother gave him a comforting smile. “Come sweetie. It’s time for the show.”
The boy nodded, giving her a closed mouth smile. He walked in front of her, into the theater and Jack and Jazz followed.
Maddie paused in front of a group of four seats. “How’s here, Danny?”
“Looks good.” The boy confirmed, sitting down.
Jazz sat to his left and after a moment’s hesitation, Maddie took a set to his right. Briefly, the boy tensed.
“Danny boy!” Jack’s enthusiastic exclamation cut through. “Are you excited?”
The boy blinked, turning. “For what?”
“For the show, dear.” Maddie chuckled.
“The show. Right.” Danny nodded. “It’s supposed to be about blackholes.” The corner of his lip turned up. “The poster looked awesome.” At that, the boy relaxed, letting out a breath.
Beside him, Maddie settled into her seat, relaxing as well. She hoped Danny would enjoy this. Soon, the lights dimmed, an image of the Milky Way appearing onto the dome in front of them.
“It’s starting.” The woman whispered happily to her son.
Danny perked up, his eyes widening at the sight. Music played through the speakers and the image shifted, the stars and clouds of the galaxy moving as if in a time lapses. “Wow.” The boy awed.
But the show was just getting started. Narration began playing through the speakers, the story of blackholes and their discovery. The life cycle of stars and their death. It was mesmerizing, the swirling images above and in front of them in the dark. It made Maddie’s lips part in a pleased smile, the beauty making the breath catch in her throat. Space really was incredible; the woman understood why her son loved it so. Thinking for her son….
Beside her, Maddie heard an excited gasp. She looked to the side, slowly taking in her son’s face. His eyes were wide, staring at the wall as the corner of his mouth turned though his lips didn’t part. He was clearly enamored with the program and therefore didn’t notice the mother’s observation at all. The woman smiled; he really was adorable when...he….was….
Maddie’s thoughts trailed off, her eyes widening. For a second, something flickered in Danny’s eyes before disappearing. The woman’s brow furrowed. A breath later, she saw it again. Ethereal green light flicker in his eyes, circling his iris before disappearing. Slowly, the boy’s lips parted. He blinked. The glow, the ghostly glow returned and Maddie’s jaw dropped. The light swirled like galaxies, overtaking his irises.
The mother stared. At the glowing eyes. Her son's glowing eyes. She recognized that shade of ghostly green. Phantom’s eyes. Maddie tried to shake away her surprise. She knew her son as Phantom. She did. She knew he was a ghost, or part ghost, or...she didn’t really know but….
Danny’s mouth parted into a grin. And Maddie’s heart skipped a beat. He was smiling. Danny was smiling. The ghostly light was swirling in his eyes, the light reflecting off his cheeks, his freckles. His freckles… they were glowy faintly and… shifting across his face, forming constellations. It was almost...beautiful. No, not almost. The boy’s smile widened, his teeth shining in the dark. He looked so happy and it was the most beautiful thing Maddie had seen in weeks.
All too soon, the planetarium show ended, the lights slowly turning on. Danny stayed looking forward for a bit as the ghostly light of his eyes dimmed. But he was still relaxed, smiling widely. At that sigh, Maddie finally noticed something. His teeth were...odd. On the top and bottom, his canines were unusually long and sharp, almost like….
The woman gasped, drawing her son’s attention. He paled, eyes widening in alarm.
Maddie pointed, quietly asking. “Danny? Are those-”
“No.” Danny cut her off, his mouth snapping shut. He covered his mouth with his hand as he rambled. “Of course not. Of course, I don’t have fangs. That’s ridiculous. Why would I have- Umph.” Jazz elbowing him cut off.
The woman frowned, opening her mouth to reply. But she had no idea what to say.
Luckily, Jack came to her rescue. He patted her knee. “Let’s go get some lunch, Madds.” His voice lowered. “And we can talk about…” He pointedly looked at Danny, letting the statement linger.
Maddie nodded in agreement. “Come on kids.”
She stood up and fronted. Danny looked pale and worried again. She offered him a comforting smile. At that, his eyebrow twitched but his anxious expression lingered. Then Jazz nudged him, before standing. “Come on Danny.” She offered her hand, pulled him out of his seat, and started walking out of the room, deliberately standing between her brother and her parents.
Disappointment rose in Maddie at that but she pushed it down. They would talk about all this soon enough but as for now… the woman’s stomach growled…. Getting food sounded like a good idea.
Ten minutes later, the family took their seats at a secluded table in the Center’s cafe. They’d bought overpriced sandwiches and now Danny was taking small, tentative bits of his meatball sub. Maddie looked down, picked up her reuben, and started eating. At the same time, Jack dug in and Jazz nibbled on her chicken salad.
There was silence for a long while, the buzz of the other patrons surrounding them. The woman wanted to make conversation, to ask what Danny had thought of the planetarium show. He’s enjoyed it, clearly. But Maddie wanted to hear him ramble excitedly about it. She wanted to see him smile again.
But Danny looked so tense now, so worried. His shoulders were hitched, almost all the way up to his ears and he was pointedly avoiding looking at his parents. The sight of her son's fangs and his face once he realized that she’d seen them flashed in her mind. She wanted to ask about those. When did he grow fangs? And why? It was because he was a ghost, wasn’t it? Many ghosts they’d seen did have fangs. But did Phantom? Maddie couldn’t remember seeing them before, not that she’d seen that version of her son up close often. Granted...she hadn’t seen him smile in either form for what felt like months. The woman’s heart fell.
Danny’s quiet voice broke through her thoughts. “Are you gonna ask?”
Maddie looked up, the corner of her lips twitching down at the sight. His shoulders hunched, eyes downcast. The mother reached forward, wanting to squeeze his hand comfortingly but hesisted. Instead, she offered him a caring smile. “Do they hurt?”
The boy looked at her, brow furrowing in confusion. “What?”
“When my wisdom teeth came in, I remember my gums and jaw being really sore.” The woman shook her head, focusing on the boy’s closed mouth. “I know it’s not the same thing but…. If they’re giving you problems, we can take you to the dentists.”
Danny frowned. “No. I don’t...I don’t need to go to the dentist.” He wrung his hands. “They don’t hurt or anything. Haven’t at all really.”
Jack raised a brow. “Even when they were growing in?”
The boy opened and closed his mouth before covering his face with his hand again. He glanced at his sister, worriedly. Jazz raised one brow, frowning deeply. She then looked at the parents briefly, her expression all the more confused.
Danny’s forehead wrinkled. After a long moment, he answered. “They... uhh… I just woke up one morning and...my teeth were like this?”
Maddie blinked in surprise, taking in the words. The fangs just showed up overnight? Well…maybe that was better than them slowly growing and causing the boy pain.
With that thought, the woman forced the confused expression off her face. “Can we see your teeth, Danny?” She gently asked.
The boy’s eyes widened and he vigorously shook his head.
Beside the mother, Jack’s expression softened. He reached forward, patting the boy’s arm with surprising gentleness. “It’s alright Danny-boy. You can show us.”
Danny didn’t flinch at the touch, instead looking thoughtfully between the two adults. Slowly he opened his mouth. There on display were his small fangs.
Maddie leaned forward, observing. Unlike last time, she wasn’t surprised. She’d known what to anticipate and to her shame, the woman had expected to feel discomfort or even disgust at the inhuman dentistry. But no such feelings arose. Instead her expression softened. She smiled authentically. “Aww sweetie.... They’re adorable.”
Danny blushed, gapping at the reaction. His embarrassed expression intensified as Jack replied.
“Ah come on Madds. You can’t call him cute.” The man grinned. “Our Danno’s fierce! And those fangs just make him look more badass.”
The boy blinked rapidly, like he could hardly believe what he was hearing, like the words just didn’t compute. Jazz looked equally confused.
Maddie waved the man off. “No one said he can’t be cute and fierce.” Her smile widened. “Our fierce little man.”
Danny facepalmed, whining. “Mom!”
The response was so normal, the typical reaction to a teenager being embarrassed by their parents in public. It made Maddie’s heart sing in relief, so much so, she started laughing. A moment later, Jack did as well.
The kids stared at the adults, both looking embarrassed and slightly tensed. But slowly, the pair relaxed, a soft smile crossing Jazz’s face. Danny’s lip parted as he snorted as well, shaking his head.
After a long moment, Maddie and Jack’s chuckling stopped and Danny’s smile faded. He eyed the adults, with crossed arms and a raised brow. “So...are you gonna ask why….?” He trailed off but Maddie knew what he was asking.
The parents looked at each other before Jack shrugged. “If your teeth aren’t bothering you and you’re happy with them, we don’t need to worry about it. Do we?”
“Um...I guess… but…” Danny still looked unsure, glancing between the two.
Maddie tried to comfort him. “You don’t have to tell us why, if you don’t want to. If you’re not ready.” Her expression was just serious, just forceful enough. Hopefully, he understood what she was really trying to say, what she was implying.
The boy uncrossed his arms, looking at her thoughtfully. “And...you’re okay with me having...having fangs?”
“Of course we are.” The woman’s expression softened. “We love you no matter what you look like.” It was odd wording for comforting her son about his strange teeth but that wasn’t what this was really about.
Something that might have been realization flashed in Danny’s eyes. He might just have understood.
The rest of their time at the museum was much more relaxing after that. The family talked more freely as they finished eating. After lunch, they finished exploring the museum exhibits and visited the aquarium portion of the center.
“Look! The shark feeding’s in ten minutes.” Danny pointed at the tank, his fangs poking just below his lips as he gave his parents a tentative smile. “Come on.”
He bounded forward, positioning himself near the front of the growing crowd. Maddie stood right behind him, the two chatting about the earlier planetarium show while waiting. The corner of Danny’s mouth gradually turned up as he got more involved in the conversation. Then he was actually smiling. For a second, his hand reflexively swung up to cover his mouth but then he lowered the appendage. He smiled unsurely but when Maddie made no comment, nor did her open expression change, he relaxed. Soon, the boy was talking animatedly and Maddie cherished every word.
Minutes later, the shark feeding and subsequent educational talk captured the mother and son’s attention. Or rather, it just managed to wholeheartedly capture Danny’s interest. Maddie’s eyes flickering between the tank, the volunteer answering questions, and her son’s happy face, small fangs included.
The family continued exploring. Danny cheered softly at the touch tank, once one of the stingrays finally paused long enough for him to touch it.
“Yes! Finally! See. That wasn’t so bad.” He talked to the animal, gently passing his fingers along the soft skin.
He smiled at Jazz cooing over the adorable poison dart frogs.
“Awww. I just want to pick it up. Cup the little guy in my hands. It’s so cute.” The girl leaned against the glass.
The boy chuckled. “Jazz. It’s a poison dart frog. You’d be deader than me in five minutes.”
The other teen huffed, blushing before she rolled her eyes teasingly.
Danny and Jack stopped in front of the jellyfish tank, their translucent bodies hovering behind the glass.
“Danno! Ghost jellyfish!” The man pointed excitedly.
The teen shook his head. “There’s no way that’s what they’re called.”
Jack thumped the sign. “Yes they are!” Danny blinked, reading the sign in disbelief. The man continued. “Imagine it son. Ghost jellyfish that came back as ghosts. Ghost ghost jellyfish!”
After that, the family explored the outdoor exhibits. Meerkats, Tortoises, Gibbons, Lemurs, Nile Crocodile, Red Pandas. The zoo’s star exhibits: the tigers and wolves. Yes, even the petting zoo.
They enjoyed all of it. Maddie asked the zookeeper's questions. Jazz took pictures. Jack peered through the glass with his normal boyish excitement. And Danny smiled.
Danny nudged his father. “Hey Dad. Can I have a dollar to feed the goats?”
“Sure kiddo.” Jack fished out his wallet and pulled out two bills. “For you and your sister.”
The boy nodded, handing the bills over to one of the employees and receiving two cups of feed. He handed one to Jazz and entered the enclosure. He smiled as the animals crowded up, eagerly sniffing at the cup.
“Alright. Alright. Here you go.” He grabbed a handful of pellets and held his hand out. An enthusiastic goat ate the food out of his hand. “Hey! Hey! That tickles!” The boy chuckled, scratching the animal on its head.
Maddie watched, enamored. Her son looked so happy, smiling so brightly.
“Oh, do you want some?” Danny asked, holding his feed-filled palm out to one of the sheep. The sheep licked the food out of his hand and he petted the curly wool.
True to what she had said, his little fangs were cute. And what’s more….
His eyes flickered towards Maddie’s face, noticing her attention. He didn’t stop smiling as he finished giving the goats, sheep, and donkey food and pets.
Ten minutes later, he turned over the empty cup. “That’s it guys. I’m out.”
The animals sniffed, wandering away as they seemed to realize they wouldn’t get any more food from the boy. That same enthusiastic goat persisted, nudging and licking Danny’s open hand. “I don’t have any more food for you.” He laughed. The goat bayed. “You can complain all you want. You’re not getting any more from me.” He petted the animal’s head anyway.
What’s more, seeing Danny enjoying himself and not turning away when Maddie noticed him smile, made the woman feel happy herself and hopeful. Spending time with the kids as a normal family did seem to get Danny and even Jazz in a better mood and more relaxed, like she and Jack had hoped. And Maddie found that she had enjoyed herself as well, despite the bumps. Yes, this was a day well spent and the mother wished it wouldn’t end.
But all too soon, the Science Center closed and the family had to leave. They piled into the GAV and as Jack started driving them home, the reality of what they’d have to face, the conversation they’d need to have once they got home, struck Maddie. Her insides flopped with sudden nerves. They needed to talk about it. Danny’s accident and his ghostly abilities. His alter ego, Phantom. The ghost fighting and resulting injuries. All the secrets. Guilt sunk in her stomach like rock. There needed to be apologies. For her and Jack’s part in the accident. For the times they’d ranted about capturing Phantom at the dinner table. The insults. The times they chased him, they shot at him. Danny’s fear filled face when they’d seen him change in that alley flash in her mind. They had terrified him and -
“Can we uh….can we stop somewhere for dinner?” Danny’s nervous voice cut through her thoughts.
Maddie frowned, glancing back at him. He was pale and biting at his lip. The woman furrowed her brow wondering at the sudden change in mood. Maybe he had picked up on her own nervousness. She glanced at her husband. Jack was also quiet and uncharacteristically focused on the road.
“We can.” Her eyes flickered in front of them, spotting a Nasty Burger a few blocks away. “There’s Nast Burger right there.” She frowned. “Wait. That one doesn’t have a dining room. Is eating in the cat alright?”
“Sure, Madds.” Jack nodded and turned into the parking lot less than a minute later. He rolled down the window after pulling up to order.
“Welcome to the Nasty Burger.” Came a voice through the speaker. “What would you like?”
After some deliberation, Jack recited the orders and pulled forward. He paid and then received the bags of food which he handed to Maddie. He pulled away from the window and parked. The woman surveyed the meals and passed Jazz and Danny’s food to them in the back seat.
The family ate in near silence for a while. Music softly filtered through the radio and outside was the sound of traffic but inside the vehicle, no one spoke. Maddie’s mind swirled, going over possibilities for the upcoming conversation. Where to start. How to approach this. Should they apologize first? Hint that they know about Danny’s secret identity. Just come right out and say it? Really, they should have done that long before now. They knew that Danny was Phantom and he knew that they knew. They should have talked to him about this weeks ago but...why was this so hard? How hadn’t they noticed sooner? Why couldn’t she just-
A gasp sounded in the back seat. Maddie stiffened, looking back in time to see a blue mist exit Danny’s mouth. The mother’s brow furrowed. It wasn’t cold enough to...Wait...understanding hit her as the boy’s eyes flickered side to side. Something glowing and green flashed in front of the GAV and there was an echoing roar.
Maddie paled. In front of them in the parking lot was a giant ghostly beast. It was a mix between a bear and a cat, snarling and hissing fiercely. The ghost growled at some teenagers sitting at a picnic table near the ordering window and in response, the kids bolted away, screaming.
Behind her, Danny was fumbling with his seat belt. His eyes widened panickedly as he looked between the scene in front of them and his parents. “I uh...I need to….” His hands were shaking as he fumbled over his words.
The mother glanced between her son and the attacking ghost. Part of her screamed to move; it was her job as a ghost hunter to protect people but….
“Uh...I need to...I need to go to the bathroom?” Danny stood, his knees knocking together even as his eyes flickered from his mom to the spectral attacker.
Maddie’s heart fell; she knew what this was actually about. “Danny.” She said softly.
Jazz bit her lip, turning from her brother to parents. “Shouldn’t you get...get out there?”
“Jazz.” The mother frowned. “Danny.”
“We’ll be fine.” The girl’s pitch rose as she flopped a hand, forcibly casual.
“Yeah.” The boy took a step back, eyes still pinned on his mother. “We’ll be fine. You guys go deal with the ghost.” He motioned behind him, towards the GAV’s toilet. “And I’ll just be in-”
“Danny!” Maddie interrupted. She stood up and turned, standing in the gap between the driver’s and front passenger’s seat. “We know. Danny. We know that you’re Phantom.”
The boy paled, his eyes widening with shock. “What? That’s not-”
Maddie pointed through the front window, forcefully. “Go.”
Danny’s lip trembled. Fear flickered over his face and underneath it, hurt. The mother’s eyes widened at the reaction before it hit her. She’d said the wrong thing. She’d messed up. Why do she keep-
“Go deal with the ghost, son.” Beside her, Jack had turned. His normally booming voice was so gentle. “You can change. Go deal with the ghost and we’ll be here when you get back.”
The boy stared at the man, anxiously searching his face. He was still shaking slightly and...were his eyes watering? Maddie remained frozen, watching. She wanted to speak up, to offer him comfort and reassurance. But the words stayed locked in his throat.
Then there was a roar outside, a boom. Danny’s head turned and he sprinted. Maddie blinked, paling as he literally passed through the closed door. A second later, something flashed out the corner of her eye. Maddie turned, watching as Phantom….Danny flew out in front of the GAV, shooting an ectoblast at the other ghost. Her knees shaking, Maddie fell into her seat. The bear-cat growled and shot a fireball at the ghost boy.
Maddie’s heart skipped a beat, her hand twitching over the door handle. They should go out there. She and Jack should be dealing with this. She reached for the holster on her belt. Her brow wrinkled as she found...nothing. Wait...she wasn’t in her hazmat suit. No belt, no holster, no ectogun. She frantically looked on the floor, before glancing behind her. There had to be something, someway to-
“Mom.” Jazz’s quiet voice came from behind her. “Danny will be fine. He knows what he’s doing.”
Yes. Maddie nodded, trying to agree. She had seen Phantom in action and he was competent. But...this was...this was Danny. Danny was out there fighting the ghost. Her heart rate increased. “No. We need to-”
Jack’s hand was on her arm. “No. We can’t, Maddie.” His voice wavered. “No guns. Not..not after we….”
The woman swallowed, understanding. No. No. They could go out there, wheedling guns, not after….Maddie shivered as the memory hit her. Pointing a bazooka at Phantom….Danny… his eyes wide with fear. Chasing him down while yelling insults. Danny...Danny, her son, even if glowing and floating with green eyes and fangs...Danny dodging their shots.
Maddie felt her breath quicken. No, they couldn’t go after the ghost in their current state. They shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t dream of, pointing any ectogun in Danny’s general direction. Not when they hadn’t made sure their weapons won’t target him, that they couldn’t hurt him. Not when…..Danny’s fearful face, just minutes ago...not when he might think they...they wanted to hurt him.
Another growl and a crash and the mother’s head suddenly whipped up, just in time to see a flash of blue light. Floating twenty feet in front of them was Danny, holding a thermos and pointing it at the other ghost. The bear-cat hissed as it was sucked in but seconds later, it disappeared.
Maddie let out a relieved sigh, as her son caped the thermos. Then the boy’s head turned, his eyes meeting hers through the window. His shoulders were raised, his wide eyes misty. His lip trembled and then he disappeared.
The woman gasped, reaching forward. “Danny. Come back.”
The boy didn’t reappear and Maddie’s heart skipped a beat. Her hand reached for the door again. She needed to find her son, to reassure him, to -
A knock sounded at the side door, across from where Jazz and Danny had been sitting. Maddie flinched, looking back. Another knock.
Maddie frowned, brow furrowing. “I don’t see...anything.” Nothing and no one was visible through the window but...that didn’t mean no one was there.
“Danny.” Jazz called, standing. Warrily, she glanced between her parents. She bit her lip. “Mom? Dad?”
“Danny’s….Danny’s invisible, on the other side of the door. Isn’t he?” Maddie asked.
The girl nodded. “I think so.”
“You can open the door for him, Jazz.” Jack sighed. He looked down guiltily.
Hesitantly, the teenage girl stepped forward. Her hand hovered over the handle before she pulled it open. “It’s okay, Danny.” She whispered. “You can come inside.”
There was no reply as Jazz stepped back. The hair on the back of Maddie’s neck raised as the temperature dipped. Her eyes widened as the door slide closed, seemingly by itself. Then there was the shaky sound of someone sighing. And finally….Danny reappeared.
Maddie’s heart skipped a beat. There he was. The ghost boy. Phantom. Danny. Her Danny...her son, floating in the mind of the GAV. He trembled nervously in the air, his misty green eyes flickering between the ghost hunters. He looked so scared and...something in Maddie broke.
The woman stood up, suddenly. Her hands started shaking, her eyes watering. “Danny.” Her voice shook.
“Mom?” His echoing voice questioned.
Maddie nodded, hesitantly approaching. “Yes, sweetie.” She reached forward, gently touching his arm even as he flinched. “I love you so much.”
Danny’s eyes watered, his voice trembling. “You...you really mean that? Really? Even though I’m…I’m...” He shook his head, unable to force more words out.
Tears started to blur her vision. “Oh, baby. Yes. Yes. I love you so much.” Her breath quickened, a sob threatening to escape. “We...we should have said something sooner.”
“No. I….I should have…told you. I should have...” Danny looked down, sniffling.
Maddie gently pulled the boy into her arms. “I...I should have reassured you.” Danny stiffened before relaxing into the hug. “I should have made you feel safe, like you could trust me with this.”
Footsteps sounded behind him. “Danny boy.” Jack squeezed in beside the two. “I am so sorry, son. I love you so much.” The man wrapped his arms around his son and wife.
With that, Danny finally started crying. A soft sob broke forth from his throat. “Mom. Dad.” He whined. “I just... I’ve been waiting...waiting for the other shoe to drop and you’d see. You’d finally say...say something and…. And...” He sobbed. “You’d see what a monster...what a freak..a freak I...I am…”
“No. Danny. No. You’re not...you’re not a monster. You’re..You’re my baby boy….You’re my baby, no matter what. I’m...I’m so sorry you ever...we ever made you think….” Maddie cried, squeezing him tighter as he cried. He was cold. So cold. But solid in her arms. She could feel the slight fluttering of his heart, pressed up against her own heart. And the ectoenergy swirling under his skin. That was new, something she’d never felt before. And she thanked the heavens that she hadn’t, that she’d never laid hands on Phantom when they hadn’t known the truth, that they had never landed a shot on him. Maddie choked through her sobs. “We messed up. We messed up so badly. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I need to do better.”
“Danny. I’m sorry.” Jack reassured, sniffling himself. “I’m so sorry too. I have so much to make up for. Me and your Mom...we...we will...we’ll make this up to you.”
Danny warbled. “Mom. Dad. I...I love you guys. I love you guys so much.”
The words pricked at Maddie’s heart as much as they uplifted her. All that they had done and he still said that. All the woman could find in herself to do right then was hold her son tighter.
For a second, the woman saw movement out of the corner to her eyes. A flash of red hair and...relief on Jazz’s face. The girl joined the group hug. “I love you little brother.”
Danny sniffled, nodding in acknowledgement even as he continued crying.
For a long moment, the family stayed huddled together. All of them were crying, trembling slightly with emotion. But through the sadness, another emotion broke through...relief. Danny sighed, the corner of his lip turning up slightly as his tears slowed.
Finally, the boy gently pulled out of their hold. He wiped his wet face. “You really...you really mean all that?” He looked between his parents. “You’re okay with….this?” He motioned up and down his body. “You’re okay that I’m a ghost? That I’m Phantom?”
Maddie offered him a watery smile. “Yes. I love you no matter what or who you are.” She placed one hand on his face and Danny’s lips parted just enough to see his fangs. “No matter what you look like, you’re my son.”
Dad nodded. “Fangs or no fangs. Ghost or human or….something inbetween.”
The woman glanced down, at the slow movement of his chest, the glow radiating from his body, the air below where he floated. “We don’t really understand this. But...I know I’d like to.”
For a moment, Danny looked worried. He floated back, away from Maddie’s hand.
Jack’s expression softened. “We want to know what life is like for you now. How we can help and support you.”
Maddie agreed. “We haven’t been there for you for a while but we’re here now.”
Danny nodded. “Okay….Okay...I think..I think I believe you.”
The parents looked at each other and Maddie’s stomach flopped. His tentativeness was understandable but still… it made her heart hurt. They’d lost much of Danny’s trust and would have to work to gain that trust back. They were fortunate he was willing to try rebuilding their relationship at all.
The mother sighed. “We do have a lot to talk about but….” She motioned around the crowded GAV. “We should go home first.”
Danny nodded. “Yeah.” With that, everyone stepped away, returning to their seats. The teenager glanced down at himself, blushing. “I’m still in...ghost form. I’ll just….” He bit his lip, closing his eyes.
Then a ring of white light, the same one that started all of this, formed around his waist. The light passed and Danny, now with black hair and blue eyes, gracefully touched down. He picked up his fast food bag and pulled out his half eaten burger. He took a bit before looking up at his parents, both of whom were standing and marveling at his recent transformation.
He smiled sheepishly. “Uhh...can we get milkshakes?”
Maddie blinked at the seeming random question. Beside her, Jack laughed. “Sure thing, Danno.” He walked to his seat and buckled. “What do you want? Peanut butter and bacon?”
Jazz wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Ew. Why would you eat that?”
Meanwhile, Danny laughed. “Because it’s delicious.” He addressed Jack. “Yeah Dad. That sounds amazing.”
The man nodded. “Madds, what about you?”
The question drew the woman out of her observation. She returned to her seat, answering. “Mint Chocolate chip sounds good to me.”
“I’ll do strawberry cheesecake.” Jazz piped in.
“Okay. Peanut butter bacon, mint chip, strawberry cheesecake.” The man listed off. “And I’ll do...peanut butter banana.”
Jack repeated the list while he pulled back into the drive through line. And Maddie sighed, relieved. Finally addressing Danny’s secret had not gone as she’d planned. But…. she glanced to the back to see Danny and Jazz were eating and chatting with each other, looking as relieved as she was. It went well, all things considered. As she said, there was much to figure out. But...today they’d had a fun time as a family. They’d relaxed, they’d bonded, they’d finally seen Danny smile again, after months. And...the truth was out. Apologies were made. After the fear, mistrust, and anxiety, Danny and Jazz as well knew that she and Jack would fully support Danny, ghost powers and Phantom alter ego included.
Maddie looked back, meeting Danny’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He gave her a fanged smile. Yes, it felt like...everything would be okay
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Stars Burn Out
Phantom looked at Ember. Her eyes filled with tears. She gnashed her teeth and screamed. “You don’t know what it’s like.”
And Phantom, with a heavy sigh whispered. “Yeah, I do...”
Prompt by Hazama_d20!
After a fight gets out of hand, Ember and Danny deal with the aftermath.
She felt everything at once.
Ember didn’t move from her spot on the stage, on her knees with her guitar in her lap, hands stained green and hovering protectively over her injury. She didn’t dare look up at the empty room before her, where the crowd had once cheered her name. Her head hung low, her hair flickering like a candle, a dim blue in contrast to the warm blaze that surrounded her.
Over the crackling, she heard a cough. It was enough to stir her from her thoughts. She looked over in hopes that someone stayed with her- stayed for her.
Someone did, but not someone she wanted. She glowered at Phantom and the thermos in his hands. She hated how he carefully treaded around the flames, how he coughed and rubbed his eyes from the smoke. He limped toward her, stopping only a few feet away. And she hated the look on his face, a mix of fear and pity. His ragged breaths were deafening.
“You just don’t know when to quit, do you,” she called out. She felt a lot of things in that moment, but anger was the easiest feeling. She focused on that. “All you would’ve had to do is mind your own business, but no. You just had to come play hero and ruin everything.”
Ember gripped her guitar tightly, prepared for another fight. She was hoping for another fight, despite the throbbing in her chest, but Phantom didn’t act.
“I was gonna be a star,” she bit, the glow of her hair brightening. “I was gonna be heard. For once, I was gonna be heard. But I can’t have that, can I?”
“Shut up,” She screamed, “Just shut up and listen to me! That’s all I want- for people to listen! To cheer my name and know my voice! I want to be somebody!”
Her voice grew hoarse, and the fire in her hair dimmed out once more. She grimaced when she realized she’d started crying at some point, struggling to wipe away the tears.
She waited for the pull of that stupid thermos, but it never came. Instead, Phantom slowly kneeled down onto the floor. He made a show of setting the container aside.
She hated how small he looked.
After a minute of uncomfortable silence, he took a deep breath and, barely above a whisper, uttered a single “I’m sorry,”
Those words made her tense, like a punch in the gut. “You- no. You can’t- you don’t get to say that.
“Just- don’t pretend to care, ‘cause I ain’t having it.” The look of hurt on his face should have been satisfying. It wasn’t. “You’re not like me. You got lucky. You don’t know how it feels to get your life ripped away.”
Ember was tired, and her words lacked the malice she wanted. She wanted to be angry, but she just couldn’t muster it. She just looked down at the guitar in her hands and held on like it was all that mattered.
“Yeah, I do.”
Her head shot up to meet the halfa’s eyes. They looked as tired as she felt.
“I do get it,” He started. “I may not be... like you, but you think I didn’t suffer from what happened to me? That it’s all fun and games? That I- that I’m happier this way?
“I used to get good grades. I wasn’t a delinquent. I didn’t have to hide cuts and bruises- or worse, broken bones- during gym class. I used to go to the movies. I didn’t have to put myself- and my friends- in danger every night. I didn’t have to lie and tell everyone that I’m okay.”
He hugged his knees and averted his gaze, looking that much smaller to her.
“You wanted to be a star? I... I wanted to see the stars.”
Ember didn’t say anything. She just watched him, taking in the little details she never noticed before. His eyes had too much shine, and his freckles glowed against his skin. He had tears in his eyes, but he didn’t seem to care.
It only then really dawned on her.
This... this was a kid. Like, a real kid. A living, breathing kid, even younger than she was.
“Why do you do it?” she found herself asking. At the blank stare she got, she elaborated, “This hero stuff. You don’t have to do it. You could be normal. You could still have a life... but you threw it away to- what, save people you don’t even know? Why?”
Phantom hesitated, eventually responding with “Who else will?”
She couldn’t find an answer for that.
Neither of them said anything for a time, appreciating the calm that’s settled around them. The fires had started to die out, leaving the area dark save for the pair.
Phantom was the first to break the silence, getting to his feet with a wince. He awkwardly knelt down to pick up the thermos and sighed, “I’m... I’m sorry.”
Ember dismissed him with a flick of the wrist. “Yeah yeah, I get it.”
She hesitated stopping to look down at her guitar. “...Just,” she readjusted her grip, playing a soft melody, “One more song.”
It wasn’t even a song. But it had a tune, and that was enough for her. She went by ear, letting herself play without much thought. The flames in her hair became lethargic with each note, and the heaviness in her core began to lift.
That feeling lifted further when she saw Phantom sit back down. He didn’t say a word, and she didn’t mind.
After all, what more could she want, then for someone to listen?
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Seriously, Take Me Seriously (Phic Phight Prompt!)
“Aww, kid, you waiting for your brother or sister?” coos a pink-clad woman to Danny.
She’s unfairly tall and bending her knees to meet Danny’s smaller stature. They’re in the grassy area of the university, right outside the library and left of the clock tower. Danny had been working on his astrophysics work on a stone bench when the, what looks like, college freshman approached him.
She’s just concerned, Danny chants in his mind. Don’t get angry, don’t get angry.
Danny plasters a smile, knowing she’ll notice the fakeness—suppressing anger doesn’t mean he can’t be petty—and lowers his pencil from his notebook. “No, ma’am,” he says overly sugar-coated, “I’m a student here, third-year astrophysics major.”
The lady immediately straightens up, realizing how condescending her pose is, good. Her ponytail bounces as she jerks back and her eyes widen exponentially. Then she relaxes and punches his shoulder playfully, bringing a scowl onto his face. He swats it away, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
“You almost got me, kid,” she laughs breathily, readjusting her sliding knapsack as she does so.
Danny takes this moment to study his soon-to-be opponent—no, he can’t go making enemies at the first week of the Fall Semester, his counselor made that very clear. She clearly is a freshman; she had a sort of hopeful look and the most ‘I want to make a good first impression!’ clothes imaginable. Her hair is a glossy black and a small dash of freckles covers her cheeks. That youthful appearance is the only thing stopping Danny from blowing up.
“No, no, I really am a student. See, I’m doing my class’ homework right now.” He pushes on because he does want to settle this peacefully.
She peaks over to his wide-ruled notebook—which is super embarrassing that Walmart ran out of college-ruled since it made his kid-factor increase substantially—which had whole pages of the formula for light-years and parsecs. Sections entirely dedicated to complicated calculations and definition riddled it to the brink.
A surprised look crosses her and Danny couldn’t help but well up in pride.
“Whoa! You take advanced math?” She asks without a hint of malice, more of wow at meeting a ‘whiz kid.’
Danny screams on the inside while maintaining a tight-lipped smile.
No lady, this is the culmination of every semester I took to gain my degree. This is years of memorization and hard work, you flipping Business Major. Danny then groans internally as he realizes his unwillingness to curse even in his mind.
“But, seriously, why’re you here? Middle school ends at three, not twelve.”
That does it. It is one thing to mistake Danny to be a high schooler, but a completely demeaning thing to think middle school. He’s going to yell at this girl and probably earn a few rounds with a counselor for making another freshman cry. It’ll be worth it to wipe the patronizing smile off her face.
“Hey, Danny!” A voice from behind calls for him. The blond came trotting towards them with a few textbooks in hand, “Are you coming to Saturday move night? Tucker says he snagged some black and white films we can make fun of.”
Danny happily shifts his attention to his friend. Link is the RA of Danny’s dorm and had the habit of stopping Danny’s rage, even if they don't seem to realize it. They always had some supernatural ability to notice when Danny is in this mood.
However, the pink lady didn’t take this as an out. “Oh, do you know this boy, Link? Do you know who he’s waiting for?”
“Oh, uh.” Link’s hold on their books tightens as they realize the situation they walked into. With the way their eyes shift, probably thinking their next few words, Danny knows that Link didn’t want a repeat of last time.
They look at Danny with any hope that he could help, but Danny’s much too determined to shout if he has to say another thing out loud.
Link physically gulps, “Danny’s actually a junior here.”
She barks another laugh, “Wow, is this some new girl hazing? I didn’t… think that an… RA would..?” Her laughter dies down as her gaze switches between Link and Danny’s serious expressions. “You’re for real?”
They both grimly nod. Though Danny’s is much more enthusiastic.
It’s finally the woman’s turn to gulp. An instant look of regret crosses her and bites her lip a little. “God, I’m so sorry,” she says with the utmost sincerity. Danny giver her credit, she does sound sorry.
“It’s fine,” Danny replies, adding an edge to his voice. He forgives her, it’s an honest misunderstanding. Sue him if he holds a grudge.
The lady shifts her balance from one leg to the other, clearly guilty. Her grip on her bag’s strap tightens. “I, uh, have class starting soon. I have to go. Sorry again.” She quickly hightails out of there, unsurprising.
Link smiles sympathetically at Danny, “There’s some leftover pizza at the dorm, wanna snag a bit?”
Danny crosses his arms, glaring at the floor, “Why? Cuz I’m just a kid?”
They shake their head, “Nah, just know you like free food. Now let’s go, pizza’ll get cold.” The sentence made no sense because the pizza is tucked inside the communal refrigerator, but it made Danny smile nonetheless.
Link starts to walk off and Danny, of course, follows.
This always happens. It’s almost a daily occurrence at this point with how many people mistake him for either a really bright boy or a kid waiting on his sibling. He doesn’t even know if the other students even got past believing he’s actually twenty-one and not a whiz kid.
His dorm had mostly stopped making the mistake, but there’s always an influx when a new semester starts up. Usually, Tucker or Sam wait around to keep Danny from obliterating the new students, but Sam’s at a civil protest and Tucker’s robotics club has a lunch meeting.
“Danny!” Sam calls from a bean bag, she throws a pack of Doritos at him. He fumbles to catch it. “Glad to see you made it. Thought you’d bail like last time.”
It’s movie night now, and Danny carefully buried his interaction with the woman away. He’d spot her a few times on campus and she always had this embarrassed look when seeing Danny. That actually helps him get over it a lot.
They’re in a spare room in the dorms, carefully converted into a movie room. There’s an actual room where most dorm events happen, but the so-called ‘movie room’ became a tradition to watch in.
He falls into the red bean bag beside her. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Tucker snorts from behind them. He’s fiddling with the projector and trying his best to get the old DVD player working. He always complains that he could fix it right up, but Link insists it is campus property and they shouldn’t mess with it unless it’s broken.
“Say that to the last party you missed, dude,” Tucker says from behind the large, metal contraption. “Link was so devastated that you weren’t able to come. They made it ghost-themed and everything.”
Danny rolls his eyes, sinking further into the bean bag. “Well, I’ll tell that to the Box Ghost next time he comes a-knocking. I’m sure he’ll understand if I got to stop the fight short to go to my college theme party.” He’d already apologized to the RA about it and would’ve gone if he really had a chance to. However, he isn’t going to go belly up when his friends are teasing him.
They share a small laugh.
In the dark of the room, Danny takes the time to appreciate how his friends look. They look older and more mature than when they were fourteen. Sam grew well taller than she was before. She still had the vaguely gothic look, but much subtler; A spider headband or spike collar on some occasions. Her hair’s curtain bangs now and she’d put in a small ponytail most of the time.
Tucker grew his hair a little at the top, still keeping the sides shaved. He switched the beret out for a beanie and the blocky glasses for thin frames. He’s grown a good few inches, slightly shorter than Sam. Of course, even with his new look, he’s still the nerdy tech geek he always is. He always has the latest Android in his pocket and his personal, self-made PDA in his other.
Sometimes it gets hard to look at them, even if they were his best friends.
“Danny,” Sam snaps him from his thoughts, “Do you have the notes for sociology? I spent the entire class catching up with my biology work to take any down.”
But they always manage to make him feel his age.
Danny breaks into a smile, “And I thought you were Missus Responsible. What was that about me paying attention in class?”
She laughs with amusement, slapping his shoulder with ease. “Shut up, man! Now c’mon, you know I’m a borderline C in this class.”
“Fine, fine, but you owe me,” Danny says, adding a tone of danger at the word ‘owe.’ Sam completely ignores it and thanks him. Damn—see? He can curse—he needs to work on his intimidation.
Other students funnel in, bringing their own blankets and pillows in tow. Sam and Danny always take the two best bean bags because they’re always early. As the people pass by, some of them ruffle his hair.
It’s a mild annoyance, but its instinctual to accept the ruffles. And he bets that those people also feel to ruffle whatever is smaller than them. It’s the order of the world, he guesses.
As their dorm mates gather and laugh at the crappy black and white, Danny’s small bunch of insecurities practically melt away.
Danny knows he’ll always be accepted despite his young looks, but sometimes it’s hard to think of himself as an adult. But then he remembers he’ll be an adult when he's ready. Right now, it’s college time and he gets to goof off as much as he can. He can flick Dorito chips at Tucker’s sleeping face—he always ends up sleeping through some of the movies—and still feel his age.
The incident is forgotten completely. Well, until Danny enters his newest class.
The professor takes a look at him. “Oh, what’re you doing here, little boy?”
And then Danny explodes.
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Technically Still a Crime
“My dude,” said Danny, “I am really, really sorry about your window, but there are only so many ways to tell you that I’m not going to rat you out to the government for…” He let his eyes roam over the room full of t-shirts. “Honestly, I don’t know what I’d even rat you out for. Did you steal these from the mall or something?”
Danny had been doing his normal ghost hunting routine when he’d been thrown into a mostly empty office building by an oversized mountain-lion ghost. He’d caught the ghost, but by that time the window was a lost cause, and everyone inside the not-actually-uninhabited building was freaking out about the IRS or the police or something.
At least, the people in the room were. Maybe if there were any people in other parts of the building, they were calmer.
He rubbed his head. He didn’t think he had a concussion, but he’d definitely taken a few whacks to his good old noggin and he was having trouble focusing.
“No, no,” said the man (short, round, vaguely South Asian, but honestly could have been from anywhere), “so theft, no stealing.”
“Then I’m not sure what the problem is. You aren’t hiding, like, kidnapping victims in here, are you?” he peered past the man, core flaring.
“No! No.” The man leaned closer to Danny. Danny mirrored him. “We are making…” He let the pause drag on. “Knockoffs.”
“Oh,” said Danny. “Cool.”
“You’re not upset?”
“But you’re, like, a superhero.”
“Dude. Dude. My existence is literally illegal in all fifty states. I am breaking so many laws right now.”
“Being a ghost is one-hundred-percent illegal. Those government agent dudes that chase me around sometimes want to dissect me. I’m not going to report you to anyone.” He paused. “As long as this isn’t a sweatshop or anything. I draw the line at hurting people.”
“Oh,” said the man, as if he’d just been given a revelation.
“Yeah. Also, do my pupils look the same size to you? I think I have a concussion.”
“Because sometimes I prophesy when I have a concussion, and that’s just a bad time for everyone. Also, don’t get a dog.”
Someone deeper in the room, hidden by a rack of clothing called for the man, who quickly ran off. Danny shrugged and flew away. He’d get Jazz to check him for concussions.
Somehow, inexplicably, word got out that Danny Phantom was down for crime.
This led to three separate people asking him to help them break into Vlad’s manor. Which. Danny wasn’t against on principle, but still. He declined.
(The ones who were trying to burglarize non-evil people got rejected with a bit more force.)
“I don’t know why people keep asking me to do crime,” said Danny. “I don’t do crime.”
“Yes, you do,” said Tucker. He showed Danny his card. “What does this one do, again?”
Danny was attempting to teach Tucker, well, it didn’t have an English name. Ghost poker, essentially. With Tucker’s card-counting skills, Danny reckoned they could sweep the literally underground ghost poker tournament. If Tucker could learn the rules.
“For that one, you have to draw from the deck again,” said Danny. “Anyway, this is different.”
“You are wanted by the law in two dimensions.”
“Walker is not the law,” scoffed Danny. “Except, you know, on his own island.”
“You’re illegal by existing. You’ve convinced me to gamble for money.”
“That’s not illegal.”
“It’s a felony, Danny. You blew up Vlad’s house. I think that counts as arson. Or something.”
“That was an accident.”
“Okay, that wasn’t an accident.”
“The ghost weed—”
“Ghost nip,” corrected Danny.
“Ghost nip thing wasn’t technically illegal, but I’m pretty sure that’s because the government doesn’t know it exists. As soon as they know it gives dead people superpowers—”
“Dead people already have superpowers. And that was also an accident. I hate being high.”
“Sure. Anyway. Danny, you live a half-life of crime.”
“I think that swatting Vlad was also a crime.”
“Not swatting. It was the GIW.”
“Still illegal. How about those ectoguns? You have a concealed carry permit for them?”
“They aren’t real guns.”
“They’re real weapons. You bring them to school.”
Danny abandoned his hand of cards to push his face into one of his pillows. “Stoppit. I’m not crime.”
“You are crime. Honestly, I think you should try to see how many crimes you can rack up.”
“Seeing as this is kind of life and death,” said Danny, “I don’t really want to push it.”
“Because you’re half alive and half dead?”
“No, because the GIW will kill me if they catch me, and if the government gets me, they’ll give me to the GIW.”
“Oh. Wow. That got dark really fast.” Tucker fell silent for a bit. Neither of them was paying attention to their card game anymore. “Hey, what about that car we stole, isn’t that-?”
“Hrrrngh,” said Danny.
“The IRS?” said Danny, incredulously. “You’re IRS agents?”
The larger of the two suited men tried to pull himself out of the ectoplasmic web. “Uh,” he said.
“Yes,” said the shorter man. “Did you know, filing a false death report is a crime, as is not filing a death certificate?”
“You were carrying shotguns.”
“Tax evaders can be dangerous.”
“Shotguns full of salt.”
“We aren’t approved for lethal force.”
“It’s cheaper than a taser.”
Danny shook his head. “Just admit that you’re ghost hunters and go home.”
“Only after you admit that you’re committing tax fraud.”
“I’m not committing tax fraud! I don’t even file taxes!”
“Also a crime!”
“I make no money!”
“Or so you claim!”
Danny rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Wait!” said the taller one. “You’re not going to leave us here, are you?”
“It’ll dissolve! Eventually!” shouted Danny.
“I’ve got to pee!”
“Don’t you dare!” shouted the other. “I’m right below you!”
Danny was not paid enough for this. (Or at all, technically.)
Danny stood between Johnny and Technus, staring at the clinking, churring machine that continuously output sheets of thick green paper.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved in a serious crime,” said Johnny.
“I, TECHNUS, MASTER OF ALL TECHNOLOGY, WILL CONQUER THE UNITED STATES ECONOMY USING THE POWER OF COUNTERFEIT CURRENCY.”
“Oh my god,” said Danny. He looked at the nearest sheet. “Are those all ones?”
“THE LEAST LIKELY CURRENCY TO BE CHECKED, ACCORDING TO MY RESEARCH.”
“Oh my god,” repeated Danny. He brought his hands together as if praying, then looked heavenward. “You probably have more of these hidden somewhere, so I don’t want to deal with it.”
“No, this is—”
Technus rammed his elbow into Johnny’s side.
“I don’t want to deal with it,” repeated Danny. “Don’t spend it in Amity Park. Or Elmerton.”
“Gotcha,” said Johnny. “How much do you want for your cut.”
“I want to go back in time to before you told me about this, that’s what I want,” said Danny.
“So, Sam,” said Tucker, “did you hear that Danny’s now a crime boss?”
“I am going to commit murder.”
“That’s a crime, Danny.”
“I have a very good motive.”
“Technically,” said Tucker, now edging away from Danny, “that’s still a crime.”
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Below the Greenhouse
For Phic Phight 2021. Prompt by @ave-aria: Maddie discovers the depths of Vlad's obsessions when she stumbles upon his secret lab. Despite the shock, part of her almost isn't surprised by the stolen Fenton Tech, the ripoff ghost portal, or the eerie Holo-Maddie—but the clone she finds floating in the pod at the back of the room? That's another matter entirely.
Word Count: 7,951
Also on AO3 and Fanfiction.net
Me: *sees a prompt with the word clone*
Me: Oh no.
We all know why this happened.
Maddie knew Vlad Masters was a creep. She did. And she’d known this for a while, even when she, Jack, and Vlad were in college. Before his accident, she had known he'd been preparing to profess his “love” and ask her out, even though he’d known full-well she and Jack were dating. And while, that might have been forgivable back then, when all of them were young and naive and Vlad didn’t hold such bitterness towards her husband, it wasn't now.
Now, Maddie knew Vlad was hopelessly bitter. After his accident, he’d refused to talk to them. He’d shut them out of his room when they visited the hospital and after he’d been released, he’d refused their phone calls and ignored their letters. Eventually, she and Jack gave up and they moved on with their lives.
That was, until Vlad chose to reconnect. And unfortunately, Vlad was worse than ever. More smug. More arrogant. More creepy. He ignored the fact that Maddie was happily married with children and he still insisted that she should leave the love of her life for him.
Maddie really only tolerated him for Jack’s sake. Her husband still enthusiastically loved the man who’d been his best friend in college and she couldn’t bear to crush his spirit, though the woman was increasingly doubting her choice to stay silent now.
And now, Maddie realized that Vlad was much more despicable than she thought.
It started with a series of strange phone calls. The voice was robotic, yet strangely familiar sounding. It reminded her of her mother or maybe her sister? Either way, the sound somehow tugged at her heartstrings just as much as it made her shiver anxiously.
“Please save him.” The woman’s voice asked, an oddly flat plea.
“Tell me who you are.” Maddie demanded, not for the first time.
The speaker ignored the question, continuing. “I cannot get Number 6 out myself. Please save him.”
“You keep saying that, every time you call this number.” The woman sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. This was the fifth time she had gotten a call like this. All from an almost emotionless, staticky voice. All begging her to save someone or something called Number 6. Something she couldn’t seem to get anymore information about. “But who is number six?” Maddie asked, trying, probably futilely to learn more.
The answer surprised her. “Number 6 is just a boy. He should be free. He does not belong in a laboratory.”
Maddie frowned, brows furrowed in confusion “A laboratory?”
“That is correct.” The robotic voice answered.
“I’m sorry, are you talking about an actual child? What is a child doing in a laboratory?” The woman wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Number 6 is physically younger than the age of majority and therefore meets the definition of a child.”
“Okay?” Maddie furrowed her brow and repeated herself more severely. “Why are you keeping a child in your laboratory?”
There was a pause. “I am not permitted to share that information.”
That made the woman’s stomach flop. “And why not?”
“My dearest has forbidden me from discussing the details of his experiments with outsiders.”
Maddie frowned again. “Then why are you talking to me?”
“You are a loophole.” The speaker said without hesitation.
That gave the ghost hunter pause. She opened her mouth to ask more when there was a mechanical whirl across the line.
The fast, choppy words cut through. “Dearest will be leaving on a trip tonight and be away for the next three days.”
“Wait, what are you-” Maddie started.
“The address is 600 North Maple Drive. Enter through the trapdoor in the greenhouse. I will be waiting.”
Across the line, a male voice called from far away. “Pull up the data from the last test, dear. And prepare the subject for sample collection.”
Maddie shivered; there was something familiar-
“Please hurry. Save him.” The robotic female voice whispered before the line cut off.
Maddie sighed, dropping the phone. She put her head in her hands. She didn’t know what to make of that. At first, she had thought these mysterious calls were pranks. Maybe even a ghost trying to trick her. Except…. That didn’t feel right. It had been a week and no ghost had acted against her or her family. No ghost would wait this long to act and no human prankster would continue this charade for this long either.
So who had been calling her and what do they really want? Could the speaker really be asking for her help? The idea made dread pool in her stomach, especially now. Now that she had more information. Now she had a location. And that was Vlad’s address. And that other voice...it had sounded like… Vlad, as if the speaker was in fact in Vlad’s mansion. Her stomach flopped. He’d been talking about data from a test and preparing a subject for sample collection. That in and of itself wasn’t necessarily that alarming. Vlad had a background in science. He could be conducting research, just like she and Jack did out of their own basement. Except…
Number 6 is just a boy. He should be free. He does not belong in a laboratory. The words rang in her head, making her feel sick.
Maddie sat for a long while, staring at the phone. So many questions clashed in her mind and she wanted answers. What was really happening here? And how would she learn the truth?
An idea started forming in her mind. A surely bad, horrible idea. She still had no idea who had been calling her. It probably was a trap. So why did she want to follow the instructions? And the prospect of sneaking onto Vlad Master’s property? She could get in serious trouble. And for what? Vlad would never do anything as immoral as what the speaker hinted at. Except...what if? Doubt grew in her mind. What if?
That was how Maddie found herself pulling up to Vlad’s mansion in Amity Park. The woman sighed, putting the car into park and taking the key out of the ignition. She was really doing this, wasn’t she? The scientist could hardly believe her own actions. But it was the middle of the night and she was alone, in the small forest behind the mansion.
Silently, Maddie got out of the car and started sneaking across the yard. She hadn’t told Jack where she was going. Maybe that was a mistake but the woman somehow knew he’d try to talk her out of this. And he would have a point. Yet the woman was still driven forward despite her better judgement.
Arriving in front of the greenhouse, the ghost hunter stopped. She looked side to side, checking to see if anyone was watching. The yard was quiet and bare, only the sound of night insects cutting through the air. Maddie looked back into the building. To the left of the door was a blinking red light but other than that, inside was dark. Tentatively, Maddie jiggled the greenhouse’s door handle. It didn’t budge at first but then there was a buzz and a click. The door unlocked and the woman frowned, watching the blinking light turn from red to white. Was that a security system? And...had the door just unlocked for her?
Maddie bit her lip. She considered turning back but...she wanted answers. Instead, she pulled her ectostaff out of her belt. A blow to the head from it would be just as effective on a human attacker as it would be on a ghost.
The woman opened the door, quickly stepping though. She closed it and cautiously crossed the room. From what she could tell in the dark, this was a normal greenhouse. She breathed deeply, taking in the wet earthy smell of dirt, the soft perfume of flowers, and… She sniffed. That scent, old batteries, ozone, and citrus. That was familiar. Was that ectoplasm?
Maddie turned, eyes searching for the tell-tell glow of a ghost. Her gaze fixed on something a few rows over. The huntress continued forward, brow wrinkling at the sight. Unsurprisingly, these were plants but….a faint glow enveloped the snow white leaves, the orange and black fruits. Tentatively, she reached forward and cupped one of the fruits. Even through her gloves, she could feel the ghostly chill.
Maddie’s frown deepened. She’d never seen anything like this before. Was this some kind of ghostly plant? And in Vlad’s greenhouse of all places? Where did it come from? How did the billionaire procure it? And why hadn’t he said anything to her and Jack?
With that thought, the ghost hunters’ stomach flopped with nerves. There was actually something here, something out of the ordinary. Her mind turned back to those phone calls, the reason she was here in the first place. The speaker had said something about a trapdoor.
With that, Maddie pulled a flashlight out of her belt and flicked it on. She looked down, searching, and her eyes widened. Oh….well then. There, not three feet in front of her, was the door. The woman approached. Crouching down, she put down her staff and grasped the flashlight between her teeth. With both hands, she pulled the door up, revealing a short ladder leading to a narrow passageway.
The ghost hunter furrowed her brow, hesitating for a moment. She braced herself, forcing her shoulders to relax to dislodge some of the anxiety. Maddie stood up straight. She grabbed her staff and started lowering herself down the ladder. Once she was at the bottom, the woman turned and pointed the flashlight down the passageway. There, maybe ten feet in front of her was a metal blast door.
Dread rose in Maddie at the sight but she tried to push it down. This was probably an old cellar, or maybe even a bomb shelter. Rich people tended to have those, didn’t they? It could be…..
The woman stepped forward. Tentatively, she placed a hand on the opening mechanism. It looked like a wheel that she’d need both hands to open. She moved to return her staff to her belt but before she could, a mechanical whirl sounded. The wheel started turning. Paling Maddie rapidly stepped back. Her heart pounded in fear of being caught.
Then the door swung open with a groan. The ghost hunter registered bright light pouring through the opening. She blinked for a moment, her eyes adjusting to the change. Then she registered the translucent figure floating across the doorway.
Maddie scowled, acting on instinct. “Take that ghost.” She swung her staff but the blow never connected, instead sailing through the blue clad figure without resistance.
“I am not a ghost.” A familiar, robotic voice responded.
It was then that Maddie finally registered what she was seeing. She gasped in shock. It was herself, except floating, translucent, and...glitching around the edges? “What are you?” She breathed.
“I am the MADDIE program, an artificial intelligence meant to emulate Dr. Madeline Fenton.”
The ghost hunter stared for a long moment in confusion. She hadn’t expected a response and now her mind couldn’t catch up, barely processing what she was seeing.
The hologram floated backward, motioning into the door. “Come inside.”
Maddie blinked, registering the words. Her eyes flitted from her strange double to the interior of the room. Concrete floor, metallic walls, sturdy work tables, and….a soft green light. It looked familiar, very much like the Fentonworks lab. The woman’s heart skipped a beat. She’d already come this far….
The huntress took a few steps forward and crossed the threshold, all the while keeping her eyes on the hologram. The other figure was unmoving and silent, not even blinking. After another long moment staring, Maddie warily looked around. As she’d glimpsed, there were shiny metal work tables and shelves. A station with a microscope, centrifuge, and table top incubator. She frowned, eyes falling on glowing vials of ectoplasm.
This was a lab, obviously. A ghost research lab, based on the ectoplasm. But below Vlad’s greenhouse? Her eyes flickered to another table, this one holding familiar looking devices. Ectoguns, slim and silvery with a design Maddie knew intimately, despite the unfamiliar logo and red accents.
The woman walked forward, tentatively hefting the gun. “This looks like our model 35.” She stated seriously.
Maddie then turned, facing the source of the soft green light. Her jaw dropped at the sight of the swirling green. “That’s a portal. A ghost portal.” She muttered.
The scientist took in the design of the frame, of the ecto-filtrater and the control panel. That was her and Jack’s design as well. Her mind swam, information bouncing around senselessly as she tried to make sense of all this. This was a lab. A ghost research lab. A hidden, secret research lab in Vlad Master’s backyard, below his greenhouse. Vlad’s secret lab. But...why?
She bit her lip, her eyes falling on the Fenton Works designed weapons and the portal. Their stolen designs. Maddie could barely believe it, yet she wasn’t as surprised as she should be. Vlad still having an interest in ghosts? The creepy billionaire stealing their blueprints? Why did that seem all too plausible?
“Dr. Fenton?” A staticy voice asked behind her.
Maddie turned, frown deepening as she took in the hologram again. Her mouth felt dry. “He….Vlad...made a hologram that looks and sounds like me.” She felt sickened at the thought, at the evidence in front of her.
“Yes. I was modeled after Dr. Madeline Fenton.” The hologram replied.
The ghost hunter put a hand on her head, feeling a headache grow. It made sense, in a sick kind of way. Vlad had a fascination with her. He was not exactly subtle in his ‘affections.’ Of course he would create this creepy copy. “Why?” She groaned, in rising anger.
“I was created to serve as a digital assistance and security system.”
Maddie looked up, blinking in confusion. She hadn’t been expecting an answer. The woman then frowned, realizing something. A security system? Did that mean… “You unlocked the greenhouse door for me...and turned off the security system.”
“That is correct.” The hologram replied.
The ghost hunter wrinkled her brow. “Why?”
Somehow, almost imperceptibly, the figure’s expression softened. “You came to take Number 6 away from here.”
That gave Maddie pause, her eyes widening slightly as she took in the AI with new eyes. “You were the one calling me.”
It finally hit her. The voice on the phone, the monotone one that reminded her of her mother and sister. It was this AI, this AI which sounded very much like Maddie herself. Of course she hadn’t recognized that. Most people don’t know what they really sound like outside of their own head and Maddie herself was no exception.
“Yes, I did.” The AI confirmed. “Please save him.”
“Him?” Maddie bit her lip, feeling that familiar dread again. “Number 6? Who is this person?”
The hologram floated toward the other side of the room, towards a tall cylindrical metal tube that Maddie hadn’t noticed yet. “Come.” She motioned the ghost hunter to approach.
The huntress did so, fixing a studious gaze on the tube.
“Viewing panel opening.” The AI announced as the whirl of gears sounded throughout the room.
In front of the cylinder, metal paneling slid apart. Slowly a gap opened, making the inside of the pod visible. Maddie first registered neon green ectoplasm swirling in some kind of solution. Then her jaw dropped. There, suspended in the chamber was a lithe figure. It looked male, the form of a young teenager. For a moment, the ghost hunter registered white hair and a black and white garment. Phantom? Had Vlad managed to capture Phantom? No...that….
Her brow furrowed, stepping closer. She examined the glowing body. The figure’s appearance was shifting. Its skin was a mosaic of ghostly blue and a pale, more human color in ever changing, shifting patches. The black and white garment also shifted, seeming to grow and spread over the body before retreating, leaving bare skin. On the head was a mop of black and white hair, the patches rapidly changing color and appearing to move across the skull.
Maddie frowned. There was a resemblance to Phantom. (How? How in the world?) But this wasn’t the same being. “This is a ghost.” Her brow wrinkled in confusion, despite her confidence of the fact.
“Yes.” The MADDIE program answered plainly.
The scientist turned. “I am not letting a ghost out of here.”
The hologram frowned. “Number Six is a boy. He deserves to be free.”
Maddie pointed. “But….that is a ghost.”
“Yes.” The AI confirmed again. “But he is also a boy. Observe.” The translucent figure waved a hand over one of the computers. “Display subject’s vials.”
Instantly, readings appeared on the screen, a rhythmic beeping commencing. The ghost hunter studied the words and numbers. “Oxygen saturation, Blood Glucose, Blood pressure, Heart Rate.” Her brow furrowed. “These are vials for a human.”
“Yes. These are Number six’s vials.”
Maddie scrunched her nose in disbelief. “But...this is a ghost.”
But the sound of the heart monitor pounded in her head. She turned, facing the figure in the tube again. The readings could be fake. But why? And why did Vlad have a ghost captured in his lab? And why did it resemble Phantom? Or at least, it seemed to. Not that she’d ever been this close to Phantom before but the white hair, suit, and lithe figure were the same. She took in the shifting appearance. And what was that? An attempt at shapeshifting?
Maddie turned back to the screen, reading again. At the top, it read Clone Six, 100% stability. “Clone?” The woman questioned. “Clone of who? Of Phantom?”
“Yes.” The AI answered. In response, the ghost hunter turned sharply. The hologram continued. “Subject Six has completed the gestation period and is now viable and capable of living outside the artificial womb.”
Maddie blinked rapidly. There was a lot of information there. “Clone? Vlad cloned Phantom and...it’s ready?”
“Yes. He is stable.” The hologram turned. “Please save him. Take him away from dearest.”
“Look.” The scientist pinched the bridge of her nose. “I am not letting this ghost go.”
“He is a boy.” The AI insisted.
“You say that but-”
“And a ghost.” The hologram continued. “He is a living boy and a ghost.”
Maddie’s heart skipped a beat. “Living?”
She turned back to the chamber, something in her resonating at the word. The strands of black hair, the human colored skin, the patches that did not glow. She looked up into the face and something itched in the back of her mind. It looked familiar, not just because the ghost looked like Phantom.
Maddie took another step. She reached forward until she was touching the glass. The heart monitor steadily beeped as the figure in the chamber twitched.
The huntress shook her head, denying. “That’s just...not possible. Someone can’t be a ghost and a human.” What the AI was saying was nonsensical, completely impossible. So why did Maddie not feel certain?
“Initiate wake up sequence.” The AI declared.
Startled, Maddie’s head whipped to the side. “What are you-”
In the chamber, something thumped. The woman’s head turned to see flailing limbs. The figure’s eyes suddenly popped open, one blue and one green panickedly flickering around the room. The rate of the heart monitor increased. The being thrashed, chest spasming. A hand pounded against the glass.
“What did you do?” Maddie demanded of the AI.
There was no answer, just fearful flailing within the tube. The ghostly figure’s gaze shifted down and fell on Maddie. The eyes widened, silently begging. More pounding of hands on the inside of the glass. The beeping increased, pounding into the woman’s head. The ghost boy blinked and the eyes were blue, icy blue. The gaze, the familiar gaze stabbed Maddie in the heart.
The woman panicked, her own heart race. Her eyes ripped away from the boy. What do I do? What do I do? Her mind raced. Her gaze fell on a large button marked, Emergency release. She acted without thinking, slamming her hand down on the button.
There was hiss and a beep from the chamber. In the blink of an eye, the glass wall of the chamber parted. Maddie yelped, jumping back as water and ectoplasm poured out. The liquid soaked her anyway. Then, the boy inside the tub was falling. He tipped forward and the woman reached out to catch him on instinct.
A surprisingly heavy body fell onto the ghost hunter. Her knees threatened to buckle under the sudden impact. Instead she wobbled and wrapped one arm around the lithe body. Shakily, Maddie lowered herself to her knees, taking the ghostly figure with her.
Numbly, hardly believing what she’d just done, the woman huddled on the floor. She tensed at the being reached towards her. A part of her brain screamed that it was unsafe to be so near to a ghost, yet she didn’t move as ungloved hands weakly grabbed onto her jumpsuit and the ghost pressed into her chest, as if it was hugging her.
Maddie looked down at the being, marveling at the sight. Its appearance was still shifting. Black and white hair. Black jumpsuit and bare skin. Patches of ghostly blue and pale human skin. The woman could feel the ectoplasmic energy, the ghostly chill radiating off the being as well but..... Its glow...there was something off. The glow was dimming. It flickered like a light bulb before cutting off.
In front of her came a whine as the ghost buried its head into her shoulder. Soft cold breath caressed her check. Breathe? Maddie’s heart skipped a breath. She could feel the chest rising and falling with fast breaths, pressed against her as it was. And that beeping. Maddie glanced up at the display. The heart monitor was still keeping pace with a rapidly fluttering heart.
The scientists breath lodged in her throat. No this was...ghosts didn’t breath. They didn’t have heart beats. They didn’t…. She looked down at the shaking figure again and her world turned upside down. The black suit was receding, evaporating. It disappeared off the arms and chest, every part of the body she could see, leaving bare skin below. And that skin, it was changing. Pale peach-tinted skin was rapidly replacing the inhuman blue. A warm breath blew over her check, the ghostly chill quickly vanishing. The weight pressed into her increased, the fingers holding onto her becoming warm and solid. And on the head, black overtook white until she was staring down at the full black head of hair.
Maddie’s mind stopped unable to process. This was...she was...in front...of her...this was... She blinked rapidly, as if the sign would change but...the lack of glow, the human skin tone, the warmth, the breathing, the black hair. That..that damn heart monitor. This...this was...no...no way. The ghost hunter shakily, wrapped her arms around the now hyperventilating figure. She winced feeling the warm, solid skin under her gloves. This was impossible but….
This...this was a human. No ghost...no ghost could fake this. No shapeshifting would give a ghost human warmth and a heartbeat. And she could feel it, the rapidly fluttering heart pressed against her own.
The ghost whined again. No. no. The boy. The boy who had just been a ghost but had changed. The boy who’d just been inside that pod. Who was shaking and hyperventilating in front of her. Another whine. A tear fell onto her shoulder.
Maddie’s mind finally caught up. Her arms shifted into a more proper hug, hands reaching up to run through the black hair. “Shhh. Shh. It’s okay.” The woman whispered. “Breath with me. In.” She breathed in deliberately. “And out.” She pushed the air out of her lungs. “In and Out.”
The boy copied, his breaths following hers. In and out. In and out. His breathing slowed as did the beeping of the heart monitor. Slowly, so slowly, his shaking subsided but the boy didn’t let go of her suit.
Maddie stayed still, questions bombarding her now that the boy was calmed. This boy, who was he? Where had he come from? Why...why did Vlad have a teenager in his lab? And why did he have a ghost that could change into a human? Or was this a human who could turn into a ghost? Her mind raced, her own heart rate increasing with overwhelming confusion. How was this possible? What was this kid?
She looked down, an idea sparking. That ghost disease that all the teenagers supposedly got. The disease that gave them ghost powers. She and Jack had never seen any of the supposedly infected students. They’d dismissed the claims as absurd. Humans could not have ghost powers. Yet Jazz and Danny’s friend, Sam, had both insisted that they’d gotten sick and both had displayed a ghostly ability. And if...if that was true….. She paled, the overheard words from the last phone call hitting her. Tests, sample collection, subject, experiment. If Vlad was experimenting with that disease, experimenting with ectoplasm on...on….
“Where...where am I?” A quiet male voice asked, directly in front of her. Maddie stiffened at the words, roughly pulled out of her thoughts. “What’s happening?”
The woman’s heart stopped. That voice. That voice. Oh god. Suddenly shaking, she unwrapped her arms from the boy. Gently, so gently, she grabbed his wrists and pulled his hands off of her. The boy seemed to shrink in on himself at that, shoulders falling.
He sniffled but Maddie shushed it. “Look...look up at me.” She quietly asked. Slowly, the teenager obeyed and again, the mother felt like her world was turned on its head. Familiar, icy blue eyes met hers. The curve of that nose, the round chin, the slightly chubby cheeks. Oh god, she knew...she knew this face intimately. A trembling hand reached out to touch, cupping the boy’s cheek. “Danny?” Maddie asked, before she could really think.
The blue eyes widened, looking at her with the most pure and innocent hope she’d even seen. “Danny? Is that...is that my name?”
The woman’s expression fell, her mind catching up to the question, to what she was seeing. No, this couldn't be Danny. She had just seen him earlier that night. And on the face in front of her….The freckles….the freckles were wrong, laid out in a different pattern. And the scar above his lips, where was it? The mother glanced down, at his collar bone. The birthmark wasn’t there. And...her heart skipped a beat. No, he was too young, maybe two years younger than her son’s current age of 16.
The woman removed her hand. “No. I’m sorry. You’re not….you look like him, like Danny. So I thought….But you’re not...you’re not him.”
The boy’s shoulders fell and his eyes fixed down. The suddenly heartbroken, lonely look broke Maddie’s heart. “Oh. Then...who am I?”
The ghost hunter frowned at the question, her mind trying to form an answer. Who was this boy who looked like her Danny? Wait…. The words on his vitals display flashed in her mind. Clone number 6. Clone. “You’re a clone.” She blinked, mouth falling open. “You’re a clone of my son.”
The boy looked up, raising a brow. “What’s a clone?”
Maddie flushed at the question. It was so innocent. And his eyes, staring up at her like she had the answer to every question in the universe. “That’s...that’s complicated.” She glanced down, cheeks reddening in a sudden realization. “Let’s umm...let’s get you some clothes first.” The mother blushed for a moment. He’d been naked this whole time, while they’d been hugging and she had been comforting him.
“Clothes?” The boy tilted his head and the innocent confusion, the lack of embarrassment, just about killed Maddie. This looked like a teenager but obviously he wasn’t actually one.
The mother pushed the thought away, head surveying the room for something to cover the child with. She gaze fixed on something white hanging on one of the walls. Lab coats. Maddie started pushing herself to her feet.
The boy whimpered, grabbing her hand. “Don’t leave me.”
Maddie’s expression softened. “I’m not. I’m just going to get you something to wear.”
Shakily, she stood and walked across the lab. All the while, the woman could feel the eyes on the back of her head. But she ignored it, focusing on grabbing a coat. She pulled the white garment off the peg and quickly returned. Maddie then knelt down and held out the coat. The boy looked at it with no recognition as if he had no idea what to do with it. He probably didn’t.
“I can put it on you then. Hold out your arms.” Maddie instructed.
The boy, the clone, (this was a clone, a clone of her son. Her son. How? Why? What?). The clone did as she said and the woman dressed him as if he was a little child. (He probably was). The woman tried to smile comfortingly as she fastened the buttons. “There you go. All covered up.”
The boy looked at the sleeves curiously. They hung past his hands as the garment swallowed him. He waved his arms, watching the ends flap. The child laughed at the sight.
Maddie’s heart clenched at the child-like display. But then she turned her attention to the AI that had been silently watching the entire time. Standing, she scowled. “Is he a clone of my son?”
“Yes.” The MADDIE program replied. “Subject Number 6 is a clone of Daniel James Fenton.”
Maddie looked down again. Somehow, despite how impossible this was, that made perfect sense. The appearance was nearly identical, to perfect for strangers. And….she swallowed. Vlad had a sick fascination with her children, with Danny in particular. She knew the man fancied himself something of a godfather, with his pet names, presents, and advice. And Danny despised it, much more than any teenage boy should even if said godfather had a tendency to flirt with his mother.
The woman paled, all sorts of horrible idea coming into her head. What Vlad must want from Danny, what he must really want from her son. And to do the scientifically impossible? She shivered. Tests, experiments. She remembered the hybrid ghostly appearance, the ectoenergy flowing off of him. From some the ghostly disease? But… “Wait...you said that he was clone of Phantom earlier?”
The hologram’s response was cut off by a scream from the floor. Maddie’s eyes flicked down panickedly as the clone looked up at her. “My...my arm...it’s gone.”
The woman’s eyes just about popped out of her skull. His left sleeve with the hand and arm inside of it were gone. Maddie knelt down, reaching towards where the limb should be. Her hand hit something solid and chilly. She rapidly blinked. “It’s invisible. Your arm is invisible.” Panic rose in her. Ghostly abilities. There were ghostly abilities. He had ghost powers.
“Invisible?!” The boy shrieked.
Maddie’s heart clenched. That sounded just like Danny, her son when he was scared. The boy’s mouth was open with panic, his breath increasing. And all the woman could see was her son. Her son’s face, screwed up with panic and fear. It made her soul ache. She gently wrapped her hand around his invisible one. “It’s still there but you need to calm down. Breath with me. Like before. Okay. In and out.”
The boy copied her action once and his hand returned to visibility. He threw himself forward into her arms. Maddie returned the hug without hesitation. Then a breath later, cold swept over her. The body in her arms disappeared, turning into cold mist. Both the woman and the boy screamed as he turned intangible and fell through her.
Maddie rapidly stood, stepping back. What was happening?! On the floor, the boy returned to solidity, the slightly translucent appearance disappearing. He rolled onto his back, panting. The beeping of the monitor increased with his breathing as his face scrunched up fearfully.
Then a heartbeat later, just when Maddie thought she was done with surprises for tonight, something else stole the breath from her lungs. A white ring of light formed around the boy’s waist. It spread up and down his body and everything the light touched changed. The scientist blinked away the spots in her vision. And there, writhing on the floor with a panicked expression, was Phantom. Or...he looked like Phantom. White hair, black and white jumpsuit, panic filled green eyes.
It suddenly all hit Maddie like a tractor-trailer. He was a clone of Danny.. .and he was a clone of Phantom. Of Phantom. Danny...it clicked into place. Oh god, Danny’s accident with the portal. Him setting off all their equipment. His badly hidden injuries. Falling grades, skipping class, not sleeping. Oh god. Danny was Phantom. Danny Fenton was Danny Phantom. That...that was a pun, damnit. Of course her son would name himself after a pun. And… her eyes fixed on the boy on the floor. His face even stayed the same! No wonder Phantom avoided getting close to them!
In front of her, the clone was hyperventilating again. “What’s happening to me?!” He cried, tears welling in his eyes. His legs were fused into a ghostly tail which lashed in front of him.
The mother’s brain kicked into gear, her motherly instincts taking over again. She knelt down. “Sweetie. Sweetie. Calm down. I’m here.”
She grabbed his arm, intending to pull him into a sitting position but he was so light, as light as a balloon. With the slightest tug, he was pulled into the air, floated. Maddie pulled the ghost boy into her arms. She cupped the back of his head.
“What’s...what’s happening to me?” He cried again.
“I don’t know.” Maddie answered honestly. She had only the barest idea of what all was going on. But still... “I’ll figure it out. I’ll help you. You’re safe. I’m right here.”
The boy wiggled in her hold, crying into her shoulders. “I...I don’t understand. I don’t understand. Who...who am I? Who are you? Where are we?”
Maddie didn’t know. Or rather she didn't know how to answer those questions without making him more scared. She desperately wished she did know. She’d have to have a long conversation with Danny about him being Phantom and about what is actually going on between him and Vlad but for now...she hugged the boy tighter.
A long minute later, light passed over the clone again. He became heavy and warm in Maddie’s arms. His knees wobbled for a moment before steadying as Maddie held him up. “There, you’re doing it. You can stand.” His posture strengthened and the shaking stopped. Finally, the mother asked. “Do you think you can stand on your own?”
“I...I think so?” The boy said, uncertainly.
“Alright. I’m going to step away slowly. I’ll catch you if you start to fall.” Maddie reassured.
The child nodded as the woman backed away. He wobbled, tipping forward but the ghost hunter gently grabbed him. They stood, hands on each other's forearm for a long pause, until the boy steadied himself. He looked down at his feet, lifting one before putting it down and then doing the same with the opposite. Finally, he let go of Maddie’s arms. After hesitating, the mother did the same.
The boy studied her compassionate face, brow furrowed with deep thought. “Who are you...to me?”
Maddie considered, studying his face in kind. Her son’s face. A face so like her Danny’s. He was a clone, a clone of her son. Meaning...he was her own flesh and blood. Her lips pursed in thought. More importantly...he was a child. A confused, scared child who needed her help. And before she was a ghost hunter and scientist, Maddie was and would always be a mother.
“I’m your mother.” She said without hesitation, smiling. “Your mom.”
“Mom?” The boy asked, testing out the word.
Maddie nodded, reaching forward and gently whipping one of his tears away with her thumb. “I’m your mom.”
The child smiled, his eyes lighting up like that was the most wonderful thing he had ever heard. It very well could be. “Mom.” The word rang out with so many emotions, with some much love that Maddie’s heart swelled. The boy stepped forward hugging her again.
The mother ran her finger through his hair. “Yes baby. I’m here to take you home."
“You will take him away from here, then?” A staticy voice asked, beside the pair.
Maddie turned, pulling away to look at the AI. Beside her, the clone tilted his head as he looked between the two but didn’t ask.
The scientist nodded. “Yes. I think I understand why you called me now.” Of course she did. This was an AI made to copy her, something of a digital clone. If Maddie was in her place, she would not so easily agree to whatever Vlad had planned. She would not leave a child here to be experimented on. And as the MADDIE programs 'original’, for lack of a better word, she wasn’t exactly an outsider and therefore a loophole.
The hologram nodded. “I will disable the microchip then.” A light on the monitor blinked out and the beeping of the heart monitor stopped. The AI then turned to the computer. She pointed to a flash drive plugged into one of the ports. “That contains all research data. Take it with you.”
Maddie obeyed, taking the drive. The AI winked. “Excellent. Delete all research data. Command alpha-06-gamma-58-epsilon.”
There was a loud dial tone and the computer fritzed, the monitor wavering until a blue screen reading ‘System Deletion’ in large print was displayed.
Maddie raised a brow, impressed at the AI.
Then the clone asked. “What about you? Are you coming with us?”
The program shook her head. “No dear. I am not like you. My purpose is served.” The AI turned to deliberately look at Maddie. “Number 6 has been saved.”
The boy frowned at the statement as did the mother, considering the statement and the depth of it. She didn’t know what to make of it except...it almost felt like one mother was handing off her son to another.
“Go on.” The MADDIE program encouraged. "You may go out the way you came and I will lock the doors behind you." She frowned. "I will distract dearest for as long as I can."
Maddie wrinkled her nose in disgust. "I suppose you can't just call him Vlad?"
"No." The AI almost sounded annoyed. "My programming is most inconvenient."
The ghost hunter nodded in understanding. Then she turned to face the clone. "Come on then sweetie." She wrapped one arm around the boy and started leading him towards the door. Before passing through, the women turned back to face the hologram. "Thank you."
The corner of MADDIE program's lip turned up as she offered an accepting nod. The pair then turned back towards the still open door. The clone wobbled slightly, progressing slowly as he gained more confidence. Maddie carefully stepped across the threshold with the boy still at her side. Once they were in the tunnel, a gap sounded from beside her.
"What is it?" The mother glanced to the side, eyes wide with concern.
"The ground's cold." The boy muttered.
"Oh." Maddie looked down. "You're not wearing any shoes." She'd have to get him some once they got home and some proper clothes. "Just step carefully, okay? Actually…." With her free hand, she pulled out her flashlight and shone it on the bare ground in front of them. "There."
The pair advanced carefully, Maddie helping the boy to clumsily climb up the ladder. They crossed the greenhouse and the mother pulled the boy along as he eagerly studied their surroundings.
"It smells nice in here." The clone commented, sniffing the air.
"It does." Maddie agreed.
Arriving at the door, she finally opened it and the two found themselves in the open air. The boy suddenly stopped, looking down.
He hummed in the back of his throat, pleased. "I like the grass under my feet." Maddie looked down to find the kid wiggling his toes. Then there was an awed whisper. "Wow. Are those the stars?"
The mother looked up again to find him staring up at the sky in wonder. Maddie smiled. "Yes, they are. Aren't they beautiful?"
"Yeah." He breathed.
Maddie let him look up in awe, as she herself marveled. She couldn't help but be reminded of Danny's love of the stars. But even with the resemblance, he was a different person from her Danny, wasn't he? She could already see little difference. This child-like wonder was something she hadn’t seen in her son very often now. But still she wondered. This clone seemed to know the words for things. He could speak clearly and had good coordination all things considered. How was that even remotely possible? And yet he still had the air of someone who had never seen the world before, like every was new. Because it likely was.
With that, Maddie cut off her musing. "Come on sweetie. We need to keep going."
The mother hated cutting off his exploration, especially as his expression fell. But the boy nodded anyway, taking a step forward. The pair continued, cutting across the yard, into the trees, and to the car. Maddie clicked the fob to unlock the vehicle. She guided the boy to the car, opened the passenger's side door, and helped him sit. The mother then walked around and opened the driver's side door and sat down herself.
Maddie turned to find the clone looking at his seat belt curiously. She reached over. "Here let me help you." She buckled him in.
The boy hummed, fidgeting in his seat while Maddie buckled herself in. She put the key in the ignition and started the engine. Instantly, the radio started, a song from their local eighties station broadcasting through. The clone flinched at the sudden sound before relaxing.
He turned, looking at the woman with wide eyes. "What's that?"
Maddie smiled. "It's music."
"Right. Music." The boy nodded. He tilted his head, listening to the song. After a moment, his head bobbed in time. "I think I like music." He hummed along, wiggling in his seat.
It made Maddie want to laugh so she did. She chuckled as she put the car into drive and pulled away. She turned into the road and started driving back towards Fentonworks. The song ended just as they pulled up at a red light.
The clone turned to face her. "Where are we going?"
She looked at him out the corner of her eye. "We're going home, like I said earlier."
He nodded. "Right yeah. I remember that." He hummed. "What will we do when we get there?"
Maddie paused, considering the question. "Well...we’ll talk to your dad and your….Danny and Jazz….and we’ll figure all of this out.”
She’d hesitated for a moment, thinking to refer to Danny and Jazz as his brother and sister. But Maddie had no idea how they’d take this. Hopefully well. Those two were good kids but living with a clone of yourself….Maddie could hardly imagine. At least Jack would be eager and welcoming. She knew her husband well enough to be sure….Oh boy, she really should have told him something about all of this before she’d left.
"All of this….you mean the….clone thing and…" He bit his lip. "The flashing light and the floating and disappearing and falling through things?"
"Ghost powers." Maddie said, brow furrowing. "You have ghost powers. As far as I can tell, you're some kind of ghost human hybrid? Not that I knew that was possible until less than an hour ago…." She frowned. "Nor did I know you existed."
The boy frowned, looking worried. His lips pursed. "So...you don't know what my name is then, do you?”
Maddie's heart fell. In front of them, the light turned green. The woman turned back, removing her foot off the gas. The car pulled away before the mother pulled into a parking lot.
She took a deep breath, the impossibleness of the situation hitting her. She was sitting in her car with a clone of her son. A clone that she’d found in the secret laboratory below Vlad Master’s greenhouse. A human-ghost hybrid clone of her son who was also a hybrid. She had another son now. A son who she now had to tell that she didn't know his name, because he likely didn't have one yet.
Maddie put a comforting hand on his arm. “I’m sorry.” She gently apologized. “You’re right. I don’t know. And sadly….” She took a deep breath. “And I know this will be hard to hear but...all I know is that hologram called you Number 6 and...that’s not exactly a name, is it? ”
His lip quivered, eyes starting to water. “But….that’s….”
The mother took his hands and squeezed it. “That will change. Your father and I can pick out a name for you; that’s what parents normally do for their children. Or….if you have something in mind, we’ll happily call you that.”
The clone looked down, biting his lip in consideration. “I’ll...I’ll think about it.”
Maddie’s face softened. “Alright sweetie.”
He turned his head up, blinking at her. “Sweetie? Can that be my name?”
The question was asked so innocently that Maddie couldn’t help but laugh. “No. That’s a pet name. I call all my kids that.”
“Oh.” He blushed in embarrassment. “Well that’s...at least, that means I’m one of your kids.”
The mother nodded her head. “Yes, of course. You’re my son.” It should have been surprising how much her heart swelled with love at the statement but well….Maddie had made up her mind. This was her son. Not Vlad Masters’ experiment. Not just Danny’s clone. Her son and Vlad was not taking him away from her.
They would have a lot to figure out. A name for this boy. His complete origin as a clone. How to deal with having a third child, one who’d just appeared overnight. They’d have to deal with the implications of her revelation that Danny was Phantom. And Vlad...what he’d done was horrible. He’d stolen blueprints and her son’s DNA. He’d experimented on a human or...humans. She internally frowned; he was clone number 6. Did that mean that there had been five others?
Either way, Vlad was deplorable. There, in the depth of his lab, below something as innocuous and normal as his greenhouse, Maddie had discovered that and the true depth of his obsession with her and her family. And now she knew, Vlad needed to be stopped. He needed to be punished. But what exactly to do with him, considering how taking him down would likely expose Danny’s identity as Phantom? Yes, they had a lot to deal with but….
Maddie leaned forward to kiss her new son’s forehead. “You have a family now. And a home. And everything else we’ll figure out together.”
A soft smile crept across his face. “I like how that sounds.”
“Good.” Maddie smiled. “Now...are you ready to go meet the rest of your family?”
“Yeah.” He squeezed the hand still holding hers. “I’m ready Mom.”
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Prompt: How does being constantly exposed to high amounts of ectoplasm affect the citizens of Amity Park?
Prompt by: @robotbeowulf
Word count: 2,487
[AO3] [FFN] [more Phic Phight fics]
Danny shrugged, shifting his backpack to lie a little more comfortably on his shoulders, and pretended very hard to be a regular student. It wasn’t easy, but it hadn’t been easy for the last two years. The constant secret-keeping from everyone was wearing on him.
Not to mention the constant ghost attacks, of course. He was pretty sure all of Amity Park was covered in a thick film of ectoplasm by now, considering how much of it he and the other ghosts spilled and fired during the almost-constant battles. Sure, his parents said that the stuff evaporated and then returned to the Ghost Zone, but his parents also said that humans couldn’t have ghost powers, and Danny was the (mostly) living proof that that wasn’t true, either.
He was jerked from his thoughts—literally—by a fist, grabbing him by the shirt and slamming him against the lockers he had been walking by.
“Hi, Dash,” Danny muttered, trying to hide away his weariness with apathy. “Good morning to you too.”
“Fentonia,” Dash growled back, leaning in close to Danny’s face. A little too close, thank you, ever heard of personal space? “Finally.”
Danny bit back the automatic reply—aw, were you waiting for me?—and settled for grimacing at Dash.
Not that that went over well, of course, because Dash’s other hand found its way to Danny’s shirt as well. With Danny well in his grasp, Dash lifted him, slamming him against the lockers again, this time with his feet off of the ground—no easy way of getting out. Not without using his powers, at least.
“What’s wrong, Fenturd?” Dash asked, pressing Danny against the lockers even harder. “Ghost got your tongue?”
Ha ha, how creative. How funny. Danny was sure he’d come up with funnier jokes in his sleep. “Fuck off,” he grunted at Dash as his back was slammed against the hard metal behind him again.
“Ooh, he’s got bite today.” Dash leaned back a bit, a vicious grin on his face, then crowded Danny against the lockers again. “Oh, no, never mind. Looks like he’s all bark.”
Danny snarled back at Dash before he’d really thought about it—before he could stop himself, really. It wasn’t even words, really, just an animalistic snarl and the pulse of his core that meant his eyes were glowing.
Oh, fuck. And Dash was way too close to miss that.
“Hey, there you go!” Dash… cheered? The fists clenched in Danny’s shirt released, and his feet thumped down on the ground before he’d really caught on to what was happening. Dash was already turning away from him, nudging Kwan. “See, I told you Fenton could do it too!”
That… was not the reaction he’d expected to get to ghostly glowing eyes. What the fuck?
Kwan laughed audibly, and Danny wrenched his eyes away from Dash and towards the other boy. The… the laughing, visibly cheery boy.
Seriously. What was going on?
“So, uh… No bullying anymore today?” Danny asked, and then felt like he could kick himself. Absolute moron. Who asks that sort of thing?
Dash snorted, apparently amused (amused???) by Danny’s idiotic question, and waved a dismissive hand. “What’s the point? I got what I was after.”
Okay? Good? That explained absolutely nothing. If anything, Danny felt even more confused. Had Dash seriously been bullying him trying to get him to glow eyes his? To snarl at him?
Apparently he vocalized that last thought, because Kwan’s eyes turned back to him, a hesitant grin on his face.
And then Kwan’s eyes flashed a bright, glowing, cyan.
Danny, still leaning against the lockers he’d been pressed to, froze up automatically. He knew what that meant. Had spent enough time combing through his parents’ research—and with his own experience—to know that briefly glowing eyes couldn’t be caused by ordinary ghostly causes. An overshadowing ghost altered the eye-color of their host, but that was constant.
And, if there had been a ghost, Danny would’ve felt them. He’d grown more than strong enough to sense ghosts even if they were hidden in a host.
“He’s had them for a while.” Dash spoke casually, like this wasn’t a big fucking deal. “We couldn’t find anybody else with that brand of ecto-contamination, y’know, so Kwan was feeling super down about that.”
“Dash,” Kwan groaned, sounding put-upon. As carefully as Danny listened, the only thing he could hear was the undercurrent of care Kwan held for Dash. For his friend.
“Shut up, man.” Dash nudged his friend, then picked up his explanation that didn’t explain anything. “See, but I knew I had seen you do them too. The glowy eyes, I mean.” Dash underlined the latter with a vague gesture at his own eyes. “So I just had to push you into doing them while Kwan could see, to prove that he wasn’t the only one.”
“Uh.” Danny blinked at them, feeling like he missed everything Dash had said after the words “ecto-contamination”. What?
No, seriously, he knew he’d uttered that word a lot these past five minutes—even if only in his head—but what?
“You had to get him angry, though,” Kwan muttered, bumping shoulders with Dash. “You know that’s not the only way to make them glow.”
“Yeah, but it was the easiest to push him into,” Dash easily admitted.
And then, while Danny was still reeling, feeling like he’d missed at least seven steps in this conversation, Kwan stepped in closer and shot him a bright smile. “Thanks, Fenton. I feel a ton better.”
“Uh, yeah.” Danny blinked, watching the two of them wander off like nothing happened. “You’re welcome?”
“Man, what was all of that?” he muttered to himself, staring at the empty hallway for a moment before pushing himself away from the lockers. He desperately needed to talk to Sam and Tucker, see if they had any idea what all of that was about.
Somewhere, he kind of wished that Jazz was still in Amity. She would definitely know what the hell all of that was all about.
Seriously. Dash had just casually muttered the words ecto-contamination, and then suggested that it was common enough for there to be accepted variants of it.
How had Danny missed all of that?
“There’s Val,” Sam whispered, leaning in closer. Danny followed her gaze and, indeed, there was the girl they’d been looking for all morning.
Well, it figured that they wouldn’t manage to pin her down until lunch, but it was frustrating nonetheless. Sam and Tucker hadn’t known what the stuff with Dash and Kwan had been about, either, so they had decided to ask the only person they could reasonably ask: Valerie Gray.
But that, in turn, meant that they had to just sit on the knowledge until lunch.
At least she had picked a distant enough seat that they could talk in private. Small blessings.
“Let’s hope she actually knows what’s going on,” Tucker muttered, before nudging Danny forward. “You go first, dude.”
So quick to sacrifice him to the ghost huntress. Danny shook his head but walked over, slipping into the seat opposite of Valerie. “Hey, Val.”
“Danny,” she greeted him back, raising an eyebrow at Sam and Tucker, who sat down on either side of him. “Well, this feels like an interrogation all of a sudden.”
He shot Sam a meaningful glance, but she just grinned back, pushing herself to sit more squarely on the seat. Rude.
“Danny had a weird interaction with Dash and Kwan this morning,” Tucker started explaining, breaking the tension before it could really go anywhere. “We were hoping you could offer… I dunno, some clarification, since you know them better than we do.”
She snorted, leaning back slightly. “They’re Dash and Kwan. Every interaction with them is weird.”
“Well, yeah, but they were…” Danny paused, briefly hesitant to mention it—what would Valerie think of ghost-powered humans?—before powering through. “They were talking about ecto-contamination, and known variants of it.”
The look they got in response was flat. Flat, and clearly confused.
After a long and exceedingly awkward moment of silence, Valerie cleared her throat and asked, clearly hesitant, “None of you noticed?”
“Noticed what?” Tucker frowned, glancing between the three of them and Valerie.
“That pretty much everyone in Amity Park has ghost-like traits?” She raised a questioning eyebrow at them. “Everyone, but especially the kids here at Casper High, has ecto-contamination so bad that we’re all, well. Becoming a little ghost-like.” She paused, shook her head, then asked. “None of you seriously noticed?”
Danny drew back, considering his words, but before he could really think about it, Sam had already flapped a dismissive hand. “The three of us spend so much time in and around Fentonworks that we’re already contaminated to hell and back,” she dryly explained. “And honestly, Valerie, how much time do we really spend with anyone outside our direct circle?”
“Fair enough,” Valerie allowed with a shrug. “Right, so, it mostly seems to be caused by the Portal and the constant ghost attacks. I mean, obviously, right?”
“Right,” Danny agreed, ignoring the way his stomach was turning. He’d tried so hard to keep everyone safe, but had the presence of ghosts been endangering them all along? Had the spilled ectoplasm really affected people, and so badly too?
“Now, what we started noticing pretty early on is that people generally only display a single ghost power, once they become contaminated enough to actually have a discernible ghost power. Some people consider them distinct variants: people with invisibility, with intangibility, flight, etcetera.”
Sam and Tucker both hummed, thoughtfully. Valerie raised her other eyebrow at that, then shook her head and continued on.
“Generally people don’t get contaminated enough to display more than those basic powers, but exceptions exist, I guess. And your contamination is probably way worse than anyone else’s, except maybe actual ghost hunters like the Fentons.” She made a face. “And that’s assuming their jumpsuits don’t protect them, which I doubt.”
“I’m pretty sure they do,” Danny mumbled, trying to inconspicuously watch both of his best friends from the corner of his eyes. The more Valerie explained about the ecto-contamination that apparently haunted all of Amity Park, the more their expressions twisted into something they usually called “suddenly understanding weird shit that had been happening”.
It was, unfortunately, a somewhat common expression these days. What with ghosts becoming a common thing, and all that.
“I… Some of the plants in my greenhouse grow unusually well whenever I’m near. Some even seem to react to my presence…” Sam admitted, her voice quiet, uncharacteristically reluctant. After a moment of hesitation, she tacked on, “And sometimes, when I really really don’t want to deal with my parents, they just… overlook me, like I’m not there at all.”
Like she was invisible, they all heard, despite the fact that Sam didn’t say the words.
Seemingly encouraged by Sam’s admission, Tucker added on, “I rarely, if ever, charge my tech. Their batteries just don’t seem to empty as long as I have them on me. And sometimes when I’m digging into code, it feels like… like I can alter it directly, like I’m tapping into some inner world that doesn’t—shouldn’t—exist.” Just like Sam, Tucker also paused for a moment. “When I’m running from a ghost or whatever, sometimes I run into an alley that I know has a dead end and never hit the wall.”
Like he was just phasing through it, going intangible before he hit it.
Danny swallowed through the clog he suddenly found in his throat, watching Valerie turn a meaningful look to him. She wanted him to tell her about his— his ghost powers. But he couldn’t just pretend all of his powers came from the contamination of living at Fentonworks, could he?
And he definitely couldn’t pick certain powers as acceptable and others as not.
“I… I guess weird shit has happened to me too, yeah,” he finally admitted, cautiously, hoping she guessed the source of his reluctance wrong. “But I never really thought about it, to be honest. Anything I could blame the ecto-contamination for could just as easily be caused by actual ghosts.” And in a way it was, of course. Anything caused by his ecto-contamination was caused by an actual ghost: Phantom.
“But,” he tacked on, knowing Valerie wouldn’t just let that lie. She was far too stubborn not to investigate. “Dash and Kwan apparently saw me with glowing eyes?”
Valerie hummed, then nodded. “That makes sense, I guess. I know Kwan has the glowing eyes variant as well, so that would explain why they’ve been targeting you.”
“It’s been around that long?” Sam asked, leaning forward, clearly curious despite herself. “I figured it would’ve taken longer than that to show up.”
“Oh, no, that was long after I got kicked out of the group,” Valerie said dismissively. “But Kwan saw me with a ghost scanner one day, and he begged me to scan him. I guess he was seriously worried that he had been overshadowed, even if overshadowing doesn’t work like that.”
“I don’t think he got rid of that fear, to be honest.” Danny shrugged, uneasy. “At least, he seemed pretty cheered-up when I, uh, glowed my eyes at him and Dash.”
Tucker snorted, and Danny could see Sam crack a grin as well, probably at his word choice. Well, fuck them. What did you call it, if not “glowing your eyes at them”?
“Anyway, I can’t help but notice that we all told you, but you haven’t said a word about what you can do,” Sam prodded, nudging Valerie. “Come on, Val.”
“Yeah, that does seem a little unfair.” Tucker leaned forward as well, an expression of genuine curiosity on his face.
And, honestly? Danny kind of wanted to know as well. Her ghost hunting suit probably hadn’t protected her, and her new suit definitely didn’t. If anything, the Technus-made suit probably had just worsened it.
“I…” Valerie visibly hesitated, then gave in. “I can fly, a little. It’s not really all that great, but at least I won’t break anything if I ever fall out of a tree or something.”
She said it with a light tone, like it was just a casual joke. All Danny could think of, however, was all the times he’d seen Valerie fall off of her hoverboard, especially at the start.
He carefully does not wince.
“That’s pretty neat,” he forced himself to say instead. “Less lame than glowing eyes, at least.”
Valerie grinned back at him, but before she could say anything the bell rung.
“Guess we’d better head to class,” Sam said with a grunt, pushing herself off of the bench.
“Yeah.” Tucker got up as well, then nodded at Valerie. “Thanks for the explanation, Valerie.”
Danny followed suit, shooting her a smile. “Same. Thanks, Val.”
She had given him a lot to think about.
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My first Phic Phight fic!
For @ecto-american’s prompt
His name was Danny.
That was the first thing he knew for sure was true, when he had first woken up it was what everyone called him, and it fit just fine, wasn’t something off or uncomfortable so he let it settle over him before he tried to speak.
His voice didn’t come at first, and it hurt to try so the nurses made him promise to take it easy for now, to sit back and listen. So he did.
He listened as the people around him spoke at length about how much they missed him, about how they couldn’t wait to get him home again, about how glad they were he’d survived.
The loudest and most talkative of the people that visited him and called him Danny, was a large man in an orange jumpsuit that went on long enthusiastic tangents that Danny had long stopped paying attention to. He was almost always with a smaller, authoritative woman named Maddie, who insisted He call her Mom. They told him they were his parents.
They told him they loved him.
And then they told him everything else.
The first time Danny remembered something it was with excitement, he was still in the hospital room and between the visits from the men in the starched white suits, his parents, and the doctor, he had been wrestling with the feeling that something was missing.
It had only been when Maddie had finally taken off the hood and goggles of her jumpsuit had Danny gotten a flash of familiar red hair and asked, “where’s Jazz?”
His heart buzzed at the question, sure, so sure that it would get answered, that he had remembered something.
But both Jack and Maddie had just looked at him, disappointed, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask again.
Eventually, once the doctor declared him competent and unlikely to slip back into his coma, his parents had taken him home.
There were streamers all over the house and a giant party banner that read “Welcome Back” in thick black lettering and Danny forced out a small smile as he looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings. Maddie walked up behind him and he flinched, his body acting before his brain could catch up.
She had frowned at his reaction, and when Danny, stuttering, tried to apologize she said it was okay, and with a tightlipped smile, she pulled him into a hug.
He forced himself to relax, frustrated with himself. This was his mother, there was no reason for his instincts to be so afraid. Jack had joined the hug and eventually Danny found himself relaxing for real, sure maybe getting his memories back was a slow uphill climb, but at least he wouldn’t do it alone.
Eventually his parents let him go and told him he was free to walk around the house and reacquaint himself with it. His room was the first door on the left upstairs, the bathroom was down the hall and the basement, apparently, was off limits.
So Danny went upstairs into his room. It looked something like a teenager’s room he supposed. There were the posters hung haphazardly on the walls and they were torn at the corners as if someone had ripped them all off the walls before hastily taping them back up. The bed was made too, and there was a lot less dust than he was expecting after being gone for a whole month.
In fact, it looked like he’d cleaned and organized the whole room before he’d fallen into his coma and Danny didn’t know why, but that thought set him on edge. Maybe he was just an organized person?
It was just… he didn’t feel very organized.
He kept looking around. There was that feeling that something was missing, something important to him, and he walked over to the nightstand by his bed. Placing a hand on the polished wood Danny fought the flash of a model spaceship that appeared in his memories. It wasn’t here though and Danny frowned. Was that something else he’d thrown away and simply forgotten?
Shaking his head Danny headed back downstairs, maybe he should just ask Jack, er, his dad? He should really get used to calling them mom and dad. But before he headed down he went to the room across from his and knocked.
Maybe he was being foolish, but he had expected someone to answer, had a name even come to mind. When no answer came he opened the door himself only to find a storage room, nothing but shelves and boxes and Danny scolded himself for the painful ache he felt in his heart.
It was another week before Danny had another memory, and just like the last two, it didn’t fit quite right. Like a piece from another puzzle jammed where it shouldn’t fit. So he’d asked Maddie.
“Sam?” she’d said, a carefully blank look on her face, “Oh! I remember Sam, she was an old friend of yours you used to talk about her all the time. Shame she moved away.”
And just like that, he’d had his answer as ill fitting as it was. Sam was a girl he knew that moved away, the memory he’d had, of her crying face screaming at him to stay awake just stay awake damnit, was probably from a long time ago. The pain he felt in his chest -just to the right of his heart- at the thought of her not being near and that he’d probably never see her again? That was nothing important.
It was another couple of weeks of sleeping in that house, waking up and going downstairs to eat with his parents, to chat about memories he didn’t have and tell stories he never resonated with, before he woke up screaming for the first time.
Maddie had instantly run into his room, Jack not far behind and Danny scrambled away from them both. His mind filled with images of painful green light and the ominous glint of red goggles twisting his reflection in their lenses as they looked down on him.
His parents had pushed past the barrier of pillows and blankets he’d made and pulled him into their arms, rocking him and shushing him until eventually he’d tired himself out from crying and fallen asleep again. The nightmares returned.
Eventually Danny stopped asking questions about his memories.
Either they were incomplete, fragments of something real that had been twisted in time, or they were wrong entirely, figments of his own active imagination. He’d never had a sister, they insisted. It was his mother, Maddie that had stayed up late some nights to help him with his homework and bake him safe, edible cookies as a reward. Tucker was a kid he knew at school, yes, but he’d moved away years ago and they hadn’t spoken in person since.
He had blue eyes, when he looked in the mirror, not green.
It was frustrating, being unable to trust himself- his own memories. If it was anything more than broken, incomplete fragments he’d have argued, insisted they were real.
But then again, he also had memories of Maddie leaning over him, scalpel in hand to cut away at his flesh. And he knew that couldn’t be true; the woman that smiled every time he came downstairs, called him sweetie and kissed him on his forehead every night, wasn’t the monster in his dreams. She couldn’t be.
So he ignored them.
He ignored the moments of instinct when Maddie or Jack went for a hug or a kiss and he flinched, ready for an attack. He ignored how he never seemed able to give a straight answer when they asked about his day, even if he hadn’t done anything interesting at all. And he ignored his nightmares, stuffing towels under his doorframe to muffle the sounds of his screams. There was no reason to keep waking up his parents like that.
But no matter how much he ignored, he compartmentalized, or he forced himself to smile, to hug back, and to spend time bonding with his parents, he never felt safe. Maddie insisted that he was, of course she did, this was his home. But even as he smiled and agreed and let her hug him again, he wanted to leave.
This time his dream wasn’t a nightmare. No scary, well lit labs with beakers and glowing buttons, or disgusting, painful flowers shoved into his mouth. Instead there was the ticking of clocks, rhythmic and constant. A gloved hand gently soothed his hair back, and Danny’s fear seemed so far away.
It was the first full night of sleep he’d had since he’d gotten “home”.
That morning he’d asked for an analogue clock. His parents had been confused, but they acquiesced easily and took him to the store to pick one out. The one he’d ended up choosing was a large ornate antique with little clockwork gears and a loud tick. He was excited to put it up in his room, right above his bed.
He slept better after that, and some of the tension that had been building in the house eased.
His dreams were still mostly nightmares, attacks by inhuman ghostly figures were the most prominent. But they didn’t leave the same bitter aftertaste, fear and uncertainty as the ones with the table, the scalpel, and the round, red goggles.
But now they were interspersed with better ones, fuzzy hugs and fields of blinding white, sitting in a garden pruning flowers as a soft, familiar voice gave him instructions, playing video games as the player character, confident and excited with a familiar presence at his back. And his favorite ones, the ones in the clock tower with the hooded figure and his soft smiles. The ones where he felt safest.
The ones that couldn’t be real, not if what his parents told him was true.
The next time they went out as a family after that Danny had wanted to go to a garden, and while at first Maddie was hesitant, Jack had insisted the great outdoors were perfect for helping him recover properly. Danny had been thrilled and hugged both of them in thanks, their answering smiles were soft and Danny had the thought that it had been some time since he’d seen those smiles reach their eyes.
Danny had a video game he apparently liked to play called Doom, and he was pretty good at it, judging by the level of his character. When he tried to message either of the two friends he had on his contact list though, the game glitched and his info got deleted. Frustrated he tried to reboot the system but the game itself had somehow gotten corrupted and there was no hope in recovery.
Just another thing that was apparently important to him that he’d destroyed or couldn’t find.
The worst was the time he woke with Maddie sitting next to him in his bed, she had a troubled look on her face and he didn’t know what it was he’d done wrong. Had he screamed in his sleep without knowing it?
“Danny honey,” she had said, looking over to him but not meeting his eyes, “do you remember what you dreamed about?”
He’d answered no, he hadn’t, which was mostly true. The only thing he really remembered about his dream was the feeling of safety and the ticking of a clock.
It took a month for Danny’s parents to feel comfortable leaving him alone in the house in order to go to work. He watched them walk out the door, fending off forehead kisses and muttered reassurances that they’d be home soon to check on him and that he should call if he needed anything, anything at all.
Once the door clicked shut however, the smile dropped off of Danny’s face and he set his eyes on the one thing he’d wanted… no, needed to do since he had that first nightmare.
He went to the basement.
The feeling of going down the stairs stumbled over a vague, blurry memory and Danny felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand. This was just to be sure, just to prove to himself that all those dreams, all those nightmares he’d been having since his parents brought him home, were just that, nightmares.
He opened the door at the bottom of the stairs, confused when there was no lock, no resistance at all. Hadn’t they said he was banned from being down here? Why wouldn’t they lock it? Even Bluebeard locked the door his wife wasn’t supposed to enter.
The basement was…
There were no spooky ominous beakers of strange and unrecognizable fluids, no haphazard lab equipment lying around without safety devices, nothing sterile or blinking and there was certainly no large metal table to strap someone down on.
It was just a normal basement with boxes and a desk, some chairs, a couple of old pieces of random furniture and Danny let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. This meant that Maddie was right, they really were just nightmares, probably some subconscious latent fear of going home with strangers that he couldn’t remember. That was all.
So why did he feel disappointed?
The next week was full of Danny waiting for his parents to leave before exploring the house more thoroughly. More than once he’d gotten caught in a half remembered routine that didn’t actually fit with his surroundings. Like bracing for a fight every time he opened the fridge, or expecting another flight of stairs after the second floor. Once he’d even risked going outside for a walk, trying to find his school based on half remembered directions that only served to get him lost.
It was a new routine that Danny found himself thankful for.
Not that he didn’t love his parents, he did! But for some reason, when they were gone, and it was just him with his space posters and his ornate ticking clock, and the piles of modified schoolwork that was supposed to help him when it was time to reintegrate into school, he felt a lot more relaxed. More carefree.
That was why, when he’d found the picture, it had felt like his world had crashed around him.
His parents had come home to find him sitting in the middle of the basement, tears long dried, and with the picture clutched tight in his hands, crumpled now with how long it had been.
“You lied to me.” he accused once they were within earshot. He didn’t have the energy to speak much louder than a whisper, but it seemed to echo in the silence nonetheless.
“Danny-boy we can explain-”
“No!” Danny shouted, getting to his feet, “You lied to me .”
Jack flinched back and Maddie stepped in front of him, protective, as if somehow, out of the three of them Danny might be the threat. He growled.
“I trusted you to tell me the truth, I trusted you with my memories, memories that were lost to me . I had a sister! You had a daughter . She existed, she was real, she’s in this photo! Smiling! ” Danny couldn’t hold back the tears anymore, it was all too much. To know that the girl in his shattered memories, the one with the soft hugs and the floral scents, that baked him cookies and held him when he cried at night, was real. And that she was gone, erased by the people he was supposed to be able to trust.
He moved to storm past them, to go upstairs or maybe even outside and look up at the sky and try to make something of the twisting, knotted mess that was his emotions, his mind, his everything right now. But Maddie grabbed his arm before he could, tears spilling from her eyes.
“We didn’t want to hurt you Danny.” she said, voice soft and broken, “we didn’t want to give and then take away.”
She pulled him into a hug and Danny didn’t bother to struggle or try and break out of it, just let her cry into his shoulder as he stood there, waiting for his own tears to dry.
The next day Jack and Maddie left for work with more reluctance, neither one willing to leave Danny on his own again. But worry didn’t pay the bills and whatever it was they were doing at their job, it was clearly important. That was something Danny was starting to remember, all the things that were more important than him.
Danny went to the library this time, determined to start figuring things out on his own. His parents had said that his sister, Jazz, had died in the accident that had put him in a coma. They said they didn’t want to hurt him, or risk him not wanting to recover his memories if they were painful and that grief was difficult to deal with even without the head trauma and emotional conflict.
His parents said a lot of things, Danny was starting to realize. And almost none of it could be trusted to be true.
The first thing he did was look for a death certificate for his sister, Jazz Fenton. After hours of searching, reading every single name that existed in every obituary for this town in the entire month when his parents claimed the accident had happened.
But there was nothing. Nothing at all.
So next he looked up phone records. Any Tuckers or Samanthas he could find, but he couldn’t remember their last names at all, just what they looked like.
How they had been crying over him.
He didn’t know if he believed that they’d just moved away. Then again, it was becoming increasingly clear that he didn’t know what to believe, if he believed anything at all. By the time he’d gotten home it was late, and his parents were already there.
At first they didn’t believe he was just at the library “trying to catch up on stuff” but they calmed back down once he’d shown them his library card and snapped that if he couldn’t even do that much why did they bother bringing him back from the hospital at all.
Dinner had been a quiet affair.
It took another week of library visits and recurring nightmares of dissection tables and glowing ghostly figures that attacked him before Danny gave up on finding out anything about Sam or Tucker. But he still didn’t stop searching for Jazz.
There was something almost obsessive about his search for her, he just couldn’t let it go. He had to know where she was, and if his parents, against all odds, hadn’t lied to him about that ... Well that was something he’d have to come to terms with when he came to it, not before.
He started scouring the Internet for her name desperate to find something, anything on her. And eventually he did.
There was an old article, from at least half a decade ago, that had her picture under the title “Four Teens go Missing in wake of Fenton Investigation”.
Next to her were two equally familiar pictures. Sam and Tucker… and then Danny himself.
Scrolling, desperate to find something, anything to add up the memories he was getting into a clear picture, he began to read the article.
In wake of the Investigation into the Fenton‘s possible abuse, Danny Fenton (15), his sister Jazz Fenton (17), and two friends Sam Manson and Tucker Foley (15), have seemingly disappeared.
The discovery came shortly after Jack and Madeline Fenton were released on parol and allowed to return home to spend time with their children since no physical proof could be found of any alleged wrongdoings.
What could have caused their disappearances remains a mystery. The prevailing theory is that they were involved in a cult that may have demonized the Fenton parents due to their controversial occupation as “ghost hunters”. Another popular theory is that the children fled the results of the case, afraid of the alleged illegal experimentation. Other theories include kidnapping, witness protection, the possibility of murder, and tying up loose ends.
Will we ever discover the truth? It remains to be seen.
Ghost hunters …
Danny felt his stomach drop, a wave of nausea rolled through him and he had to fight off the urge to relive his lunch.
Nightmares and half remembered memories started clicking into place, finally , and Danny couldn’t stand it. Why were the only answers that made sense the ones that hurt the worst?
Would it have been better if he’d just let it go? If his memories never returned at all? If he just kept living, eating homemade cookies and flinching from hugs until eventually the itch underneath his skin dulled and he could just be happy as he was.
He closed the tab.
There was no one home when he got there, and it gave him the chance to pack what little belongings he had that held any meaning to him at all. The motions were familiar and he had the faintest feeling he had done exactly this before.
Maybe he had.
He’d made it out the front door by the time his parents pulled into the drive.
There was the urge to run, to go back inside and hide and pretend he hadn’t been doing exactly what they caught him doing. But he was tired. He was so tired of feeling wrong and scared and uncertain and never knowing why.
So he held his head up as they got into the car and approached them with their hands raised, cautiously, like he was a wild animal they were afraid of spooking.
Was that what they thought he was?
“Danny, we can talk about this,” Maddie said, beseeching.
He met her eyes with his own. “Will you promise not to lie anymore? I don’t even know how old I am-”
“You’re fifteen son-” Jack interrupted, lying again.
“I was fifteen five years ago!” Danny yelled, his hand tightening into a fist, “I found the article! I read about the case! Five years ago.”
Oh, he was crying. It was novel almost, Danny had thought he was too tired to cry, that there wasn’t anything more that could hurt him enough to create such a response and he didn’t quite know how to react to it.
He raised his hands awkwardly to scrub the tears away and stepped back, frightened, when Maddie tried to move closer to comfort him.
“Stay back! Stay back…” he looked at his hands, they were young hands, his reflection too, hadn’t changed from the picture in the article at all. Experiments. “What did you do to me?”
“It was an accident.” Jack said, before Maddie stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm.
“We didn’t know Danny. How could we have?” She said, keeping her distance, cautious. “We tried to fix it-”
“Fix what? ” He hissed, “you haven’t told me what happened! You haven’t told me anything!”
“You!” Maddie finally snapped, tears falling heavy down her cheeks. “We were trying to fix you… but it wasn’t working and you just kept getting sicker… weaker… we had to stop.”
It was too much for her, and she turned away, leaning into Jack’s large frame as he comforted her. “We didn’t want to lose you, Danny.” He said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“You already did.”
Danny left his parents there, crying on the driveway of a house that could never have been a home. He had a clock tower to find.
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Solutions to Nonlinear Equations
For @currentlylurking for the Phic Phight. :)
“Ancients, Vlad. I’m not rejecting you because I’m a rebellious teenager and you’re an adult, I’m rejecting you because you’re incredibly creepy.”
Vlad sniffed in what he hoped was an aristocratic manner and raised an eyebrow, minutely adjusting his grip on Daniel to keep him pinned to the floor.
“We’re human-ghost hybrids, Daniel. I’d hoped that you’d have realized by now that we are meant to be ‘creepy.’”
Daniel squirmed and began to mutter into the carpet. “Clockwork never acts like this, I’m fine with him—”
Vlad pulled back as if burned. He hadn’t heard that name in—in—
In a long time.
The thought was almost expelled from his head when Daniel managed to elbow him in the jaw hard enough to make him see stars. Before he knew it, Daniel had slipped from his grasp and zoomed away.
Whatever aspersions Vlad cast on Daniel’s mastery of his ghostly abilities, the boy was fast. When he put his mind to escaping instead of picking a fight, he managed it more often than not, to Vlad’s great frustration. Hence Vlad’s usual strategy of needling the younger half-ghost until fighting was the only thing on Daniel’s mind.
He set down on a nearby roof. There went his plans for the day. Which, admittedly, had consisted of distracting Daniel while his ghostly minions set up a nasty surprise for him at the school, hence making him fail his test, which would, in turn, convince Maddie and Jack to let Vlad set Daniel up with a tutor, something he had suggested to them earlier, and—
Well. Daniel would find them, now, no doubt.
He had more important things on his mind, now. Such as, how in two worlds did Daniel know Clockwork? Because Daniel never just said things like that. He barely knew anything about ghost culture. He wouldn’t know to bring up obscure, secretive, ghost historical figures. He wouldn’t know what that particular name would mean to Vlad.
Tongues of fire flared out of his fingers, bringing a measure of stability to the gyrations of his core and his emotions.
Daniel knew Clockwork. And, it seemed, met him with some regularity. Enough for him to compare his actions to Vlad’s.
Would that ghost never be satisfied with ruining Vlad’s life? Was he not satisfied with—
He cut off the thought, shaking his head. Never mind that.
What Vlad needed to do was find Clockwork. Which meant inducing Danny to go to him at a time when Vlad when Vlad could follow. Which meant determining when he had visited Clockwork in the past. An undertaking to be sure.
He closed his eyes and teleported to his lab beneath his mansion.
“Maddie!” he called out, even before his body had fully reformed.
The hologram flickered to life with a faint crackled from the projector. “What is it, sugarpie?” it asked with a smile.
“Review the audio recordings from Fentonworks,” ordered Vlad. “Search for the term ‘Clockwork.’ Report findings to me.”
“Sure thing, honey!”
Vlad had to review the cheerfulness settings on the Maddie program. Maddie was upbeat, but not that upbeat. This was almost sickly sweet.
He threw himself into a nearby chair.
Clockwork. He thought he’d never hear that name again. Not after he’d been literally and figuratively ghosted by him.
He telekinetically pulled a book off his shelf. He ran his fingers over the leather tooling on the cover. The book had been given to him by Clockwork, years ago, when he was still in that hospital.
Clockwork had been the one to first show him the Ghost Zone, and all the wonders in it. Clockwork had been his friend, his only friend, through that long, agonizing hospital stay. He had been supportive, wonderful, kind. He visited often, though not on a regular schedule. He’d helped Vlad ride out the waves of misery and anger that so often threatened to overwhelm him.
Then, without warning, nothing.
No goodbye. The last time he left, he had even said something along the lines of ‘see you soon,’ although the memory was frayed from age and Vlad could no longer recall the exact words. For a long time, Vlad had worried something disastrous had happened to Clockwork. But then he had finally managed to build his own portal, reach the Ghost Zone under his own power, and, according to every search he did, every line of inquiry that bore fruit, Clockwork was just fine.
Vlad had been furious. He had been betrayed. He had spent the better half of a decade trying to plot revenge against Clockwork, before realizing that was akin to plotting revenge against a god and turning his sights to a more manageable target.
Now, Vlad just wanted answers. Both as to the reason behind his abandonment and as to why Clockwork was apparently repeating history with Daniel.
“Sweetie pie,” said the hologram, with a chime, “audio processing complete. There are over ninety-nine instances where the word ‘clockwork’ is mentioned. Would you like to play the selected files?”
“Yes,” said Vlad. “Include the video portions where available, and the thirty seconds immediately prior to and following the mention.”
He turned his attention to the nearest screen. He had a lot of videos to watch.
There was an envelope pinned to it. It was sealed with wax, impressed with the image of a pocket watch and the initials CW. Vlad attempted, and failed, to suppress the growl that grew in the back of his throat. Was this a joke to Clockwork?
He tore the envelope from the screen, ripped it open with equal viciousness, and began to read.
Three cups sat on the tea service tray next to the teapot.
“Are you expecting someone else,” asked Danny, “or am I going to break one of these?”
Clockwork chuckled as he began to pour the tea. “The former,” he said. “Although you may always surprise me with the latter.”
He handed Danny his cup. Danny inhaled deeply. It smelled sweet. “What is it?” he asked.
“A chamomile blend,” said Clockwork. “For calm.”
“I think Sam drinks chamomile before she goes to bed,” observed Danny, offhandedly. “Who’s coming?”
“You’ll see soon enough.”
Danny made a face. “Do you have to be mysterious all—”
The front door of Clockwork’s lair slammed open, and Danny jolted forward in alarm – the only people who regularly did that were the Observants, who didn’t much care for Danny – but Clockwork put a steadying hand on his shoulder and rewound his tea into his cup.
“Clockwork!” came the expected yell. The yeller, however…
“Is that Vlad?” asked Danny, not quite scandalized, but more than a little surprised.
“Why, yes,” said Clockwork.
“Did you – Clockwork, did you invite him here?”
“Other than the Observants,” said Clockwork, “no one can enter unless I will it.” He took a sip of his tea.
“But,” started Danny.
Clockwork raised a hand. “Don’t worry, he’ll find us soon enough.” He repurposed the hand to pat Danny’s knee. “And even should he prove to be in a combative mood, I will not allow you to come to harm. You are safe here, Daniel.”
“Thanks,” mumbled Danny, looking away, towards the door in the sitting room through which Vlad would presumably enter.
Sure enough, a few seconds later Vlad half-flew half-skidded into Clockwork’s sitting room. He leveled an accusatory finger at Clockwork. “You!” he proclaimed, with a great deal of venom.
“Hello, Vladimir, I’ve poured you some tea. Why don’t you sit down? I understand it has been some time.”
“You under-? No! I will not sit down! I will not drink your tea. Not after you abandoned me for over a decade, just like that bumbling oaf—”
“Hey!” interjected Danny, not only because Vlad had once again insulted his father, but because he could tell that Clockwork, regardless of his stoic façade, was actually quite upset.
“Don’t interrupt me, Daniel,” snapped Vlad. “You don’t know what this, this ghost is. What he does. You don’t know that he gets close to you, makes you think you’re friends, and then drops you without a moment’s notice. Did you think it was funny to string along a man in dire straits? Did you?”
“I did not abandon you, Vladimir, I—”
Vlad scoffed and went on a tirade that Danny honestly found hard to parse. But it sounded like Vlad and Clockwork had known each other in the past and then fallen out of contact in a way that aggravated Vlad’s abandonment issues. Which didn’t seem like Clockwork at all, but Vlad sounded extremely certain and insistent, and Clockwork’s upset was actually finding its way into his voice, now. Danny didn’t—
With all the force and abruptness of epiphany, Danny realized what was going on here.
“Wait, wait, wait,” said Danny, putting down his cup. “Vlad, breathe or whatever. Clockwork, you did tell Vlad that you experience time nonlinearly, right?”
“Of course,” said Clockwork, clearly offended.
“But Vlad, ah, had you gone through natural portals often when you met Clockwork? Or, like, did you ever see him without him initiating contact?”
“I didn’t have my portal built yet, Daniel, so, no.”
Danny turned to Clockwork. “Why did you-? No that doesn’t matter. Haaauuuhh, Clockwork, do you have-?”
Clockwork waved a hand and a whiteboard appeared.
“Thanks,” said Danny, picking a marker up from the little shelf on the bottom. He uncapped it, then recapped it. “Actually, before that. Vlad—” he pointed at Vlad, who looked about one second from exploding “—you have some idea of how old Clockwork is, right? Or at least how old ghosts can get?”
“Yes, Daniel,” said Vlad, managing to overlay his supercilious ‘I know better than you’ attitude over his still obvious anger.
“Okay, great. So, just to establish, Clockwork has been around at least since, uh, beginning of time?”
“Give or take,” agreed Clockwork. “Although I have not experienced it all directly.”
“Right,” said Danny. “Just, already, his perception of time is different from our because of age differences.”
Vlad looked slightly less angry, and slightly closer to curious.
“But, then, there’s the larger issue,” continued Danny. This time his uncapping of the marker was decisive. He drew a flat, straight, horizontal line across the whiteboard. “This is our timeline. We deal with time linearly. We’ve also got, I don’t know, parallel timelines, like this.” He drew several more lines. “You following so far?”
“Yes, Daniel, I’ve read my share of science fiction.”
He was probably rolling his eyes. Curse his solid-colored red eyes. It made interpreting his looks and figuring out where he was looking during a fight much more difficult.
“Anyway, Clockwork isn’t on any of these lines. Because he experiences time nonlinearly.” He drew a squiggly up and down line on the board that resembled the world’s saddest sine wave. Or cosine wave. There wasn’t a y-axis on the not-quite-graph, so it wasn’t like anyone could tell the difference. They were effectively the same.
And Vlad still made fun of him for failing math. Danny knew plenty about math. He just didn’t have time to do the work. Mostly because of Vlad.
“Now, that, that is Clockwork’s timeline. It isn’t always in contact with ours. It’s, like, solutions to a system of equations. Nonlinear equations,” he specified, in case it had been too long since Vlad had encountered basic high-school-level algebra.
“It is somewhat more complicated than that, Daniel,” said Clockwork, exasperated. “It’s more of—"
“Yeah, but this gets the idea across more than the whole parade metaphor, doesn’t it?”
“I would say not. This doesn’t even begin to touch on my abilities.”
“That’s because we’re just talking about your perception of time,” said Danny. He considered for a moment. “And also your ability to interact with our timeline.”
“Which includes my ability to perceive multiple timelines.”
“But that’s complicated, and I still don’t get it,” complained Danny.
“It is less complicated than what you are currently trying to explain.”
“To you maybe, but the whole point of this is that you aren’t seeing things the same way we are. You disappeared on Vlad, what, a decade ago?” He looked to Vlad for confirmation.
“A decade is hardly any time at all,” said Clockwork with exasperation. He sipped at his tea.
“It was fifteen years.”
Clockwork made a somewhat dismissive motion with a gloved hand. “It’s a tiny fraction of your life as a whole.”
“It’s… closer to a third of his current lifetime,” said Danny with a wince. “Or a fourth? I don’t know how old you are, dude.”
“I went to college with your parents.”
“I know, and you were already graying then. Your age is weirdly hard to place.”
Vlad gave Danny a look, but his body language was no longer screaming ‘I’m going to beat the snot after you.’ Danny counted that as a win under the current circumstances. He disliked Vlad, but in a fight with Clockwork… Well, Clockwork could demolish just about anyone.
Not that Clockwork would. Just that he could.
“Please, Vladimir. Just sit down. Try the tea. I made it for you. I knew you would be upset, although I could not see exactly why.” Clockwork was almost pouting, now. “Fifteen years is such a short time.”
“Clockwork, I’m fifteen.”
“I know,” said Clockwork, patting Danny on the knee. “Your timeline is so small. And cute.”
Vlad was now distinctly on his back foot, offput and disarmed. “His timeline is cute?”
“It is. Don’t worry, yours is almost as cute.”
Vlad opened and closed his mouth like a dying fish. Danny pushed the whiteboard away.
“Don’t worry about it too much,” he said. “Like I said, different perception of time.”
“I really didn’t mean to make you feel abandoned, Vladimir. I simply wanted to give you some time to, ah, how should I put this? Have space? Find yourself?”
Vlad sat heavily on the couch.
“You get used to it,” said Danny. “But, Clockwork, do you think you can talk him into having fewer evil plans? Because, really. There are way too many. Like, one a week. They’re destroying my grades. Have you ever seen anyone else who had weekly evil plans?”
“Evil plans, Vladimir? Really?”
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The GIW need ghost samples to conduct experiments. Why capture ghosts when you can make your own? prompt by @mystyrust
word count: 2609
warning: offscreen character death
gosh this prompt
Danny yawned as he walked into the school. He walked up to Sam and Tucker and was just about to greet them when heard Paulina sobbing into Dash’s chest by her locker.
“Woah.” He said. “What’s happening?”
“Star’s still missing.” Sam whispered.
“It’s been a week since her parents filed that report and no one’s seen any sign of her since then.” Tucker looked at his PDA. “No one has anything new to report online. I think it's starting to really wear on Paulina.”
“Maybe when we patrol later we should check up on some other places rather than just the ghost hot spots.” Danny said, looking back at Paulina. “Maybe we’ll be able to find something while we’re out.”
“Maybe.” Sam said. The first bell rang and they started heading to class. “But if we’re being realistic, a week is a long time with this kind of thing. She could be long gone out of Amity Park by now. Or, you know.” She whispered that last part.
“It wouldn’t hurt to try looking around though.”
The three of them walked into Lancer’s class. The empty desk next to Paulina felt like it took up the entire room and many of their classmates were trying not to look at it. The final bell rang and Mr. Lancer turned from where he was writing on the board.
“Alright, class.” He said somberly. “Let’s get started.”
“We’re having no luck down here, Danny. What about you?” Tucker called through the Fenton phones.
Danny flew past the arcade and an ice cream shop and stopped, floating in front of an alley. “Nothing here. I think we can call it for-”
Danny’s head whipped towards the sound of trash cans crashing around. He floated into the alley slowly, looking around. When he came out the other end there was no one there.
“Are you okay, Danny?”
He turned back around. “Yeah, I think some cat was getting into one of the garbage cans over here or something.” He flew back out of the alley.
“Okay, well then-”
Danny stopped listening to her when he saw something laying on the ground. He touched down on the concrete and bent over to pick up a pink clip.
“Hey Sam.” Danny asked. “Dash and Kwan were talking about taking Paulina for ice cream, right?”
“Yeah?” She said, confused. “Why?”
“I found Paulina’s hair clip on the ground.”
A heavy silence settled between the three of them.
“She probably left with them, right?” Danny asked. “They wouldn’t have left her alone here?”
“There’s no way they’d just leave her there. Not with Star missing.” Tucker said.
Silence hovered over them again for a few seconds before Danny spoke. “You guys go home. I’m gonna fly up and down the streets over here again.”
“Are you sure?” Sam asked.
“Yeah.” Danny took off, flying above the buildings and scanning the ground below him. “Be careful getting home and let me know when you get there.”
They both gave him affirmatives and he looked up and down each street. In fifteen minutes he got notice that Sam was home and ten minutes after that so was Tucker.
He let out a deep breath, a bit more relaxed now that he knew Sam and Tucker were safely at home. He had a bad feeling, but he hadn’t seen anything suspicious along the streets or in the alley, so maybe Paulina did leave with Kwan and Dash and she just dropped her hair clip.
He turned around to start heading back home. He dropped down in between his house and the neighbor’s and transformed. Before heading inside, he let Sam and Tucker know he was home and he turned off the Fenton Phones and put them in his pocket.
Danny opened the door and stepped inside, shutting it behind him. He greeted his parents who sat waiting on the couch, his mom reading the paper and his dad cross stitching something. He yawned and started heading upstairs to get ready for bed.
After brushing his teeth and changing in the bathroom, Danny crossed the hall into his room, closing the door and turning off the light. He flopped down onto his bed and pulled the covers over himself.
He hoped Paulina was doing better tomorrow.
Paulina was missing.
She had never come home last night and her parents called all her friends, asking if they knew where she was. No one had seen her since yesterday, and her parents filed a missing person report. It spread like wildfire through the school.
Dash and Kwan in particular looked horrified and close to hysterics throughout the day. They didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t even really look in anyone’s direction when their names were called.
It took until lunch, but soon word spread that one of the underclassmen was missing too. One of the band kids. No one had seen him since last night either and he just happened to live in the area that the ice cream shop was in.
It didn’t stop there either. Day after day, more and more kids were disappearing. Mikey, Dale, Sarah, more underclassmen. It was getting to the point where they cancelled school until someone had some answers.
That didn’t stop Sam from going out and searching for any clue she could find though. The first time Danny had seen her when he was patrolling on his own, he scooped her right up and took her home, scolding her.
When his mom got a panicked phone call from Sam’s hysteric mom, his heart dropped into his stomach. His hands went numb and he stared at his mom until she got off the phone and walked over to where he sat on the couch.
She pulled him into her arms tightly and whispered into his hair.
“Come on, Danny!” Tucker yelled through the computer. “You can’t just walk around waiting to be kidnapped! If you get kidnapped how are we gonna fix this?”
“What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, Tucker!” Danny yelled back. “I can only cover so much ground when I don’t know what I’m looking for and you can’t be out there. I can barely do any patrols as it is, my parents are always coming up to my room to check on me. I don’t see any other way to do this.”
“What if you don’t come back either?”
Danny paused. “I have to come back. If I don’t come back then neither does Sam.”
Tucker sighed. “Just. Be careful.”
“I’ll try to be as careful as I can while being kidnapped.”
Tucker made a face at him just before Danny logged off. Transforming, Danny jumped into the air and flew out the window. He flew around town a bit before dropping off into the alleyway he found Paulina’s hair clip in. The areas that the kids were last seen in seemed to be all over town, but he couldn’t shake the sound that the garbage cans had made that day out of his head.
Pressing his back against the wall, Danny transformed and strolled out, walking down the street. There weren’t many people out most days now. Most of them were too afraid of going outside and getting snatched up like all the teenagers.
He’d been walking for fifteen minutes before he heard the crunch of gravel underneath tires behind him. He didn’t turn around and kept walking forward. Footsteps rapidly approached him and suddenly a bag was over his head.
“Hey!” He shouted.
“Are you sure we should take this one? What about his parents?”
Someone else scoffed. “They’re too dumb to do anything about it. They won’t even know where to find him. Just help me get him in the car.”
They picked Danny up and hauled him back towards the car. He heard the trunk open and they tied his wrists together before shutting the trunk heavily above him. Soon the vehicle was moving and driving away.
Well, he accomplished what he sent out to do. It wasn’t very comfortable though.
They must’ve been driving for at least an hour because by the time they stopped, both of Danny’s legs were asleep. The trunk popped open and he could feel the cold air rushing in. They pulled him out and placed him on the ground, yanking him back up after he almost collapsed from the pins and needles feeling in his legs.
They walked him to an entrance where he could hear key cards being scanned at multiple points. They led him through squeaky hallways until they stopped and were suddenly lifting him up onto a bed? No, a stretcher. They strapped him down and once he was tightly bound they ripped the bag off of his head.
Danny scrunched his eyes up at the white light bouncing off the bright white walls. Looking around, he saw two faces staring down at him. Agent K and Agent O.
“The GIW?” Danny said. “What the fuck? Why are you kidnapping humans?”
They ignored him and started pushing him down a very long hallway.
Rolling down the long hallway, Danny can hear the moans and groans, most of them coming from ghosts. He looks around and sees room upon room, windows letting him see the people inside each of them.
His heart drops when he sees Star. She’s floating inside her room, a small husk of a ghost. When she sees him, her eyes immediately light up with rage and sparks fly off of her as she bounces all over the room.
In the next room is Paulina. It doesn’t look like she’s a ghost, but it looks like she’s sick with ghost powers again. She’s pressed tightly against the wall she shares with Star. She hiccups and a ghost sense floats out of her mouth.
As they push him by, he sees everyone. Mikey, Dale, Sarah. All of the underclassmen that went missing. Even Dash was there. Each one various levels of dead, alive, and sick.
They reach the end of the hallway and his pulse is spiking, his heart hammering in his chest. He hasn’t seen Sam anywhere.
He clears his throat. “So, uh, wanna share what you guys are doing here?”
“Ghost studies.” Agent K clips out.
“Right. Why are you kidnapping humans then?”
“It’s easier to make ghosts than to catch them.”
“What-” Danny stops and his eyes widen. They can’t be serious. Making ghosts? His thoughts go back to Star, bouncing around her room like a comet and his blood runs cold.
They roll through a set of double doors and when they open they’re in an operating room. His thoughts are buzzing and he can hear the click and ping of metal objects being placed on the counter. They’re just about to roll a utensil cart over to his stretcher when he hears a scream that fills his veins with fire.
Without even thinking about it, Danny rips his wrists out of the restraints and punches Agent O in the face. He falls into the cart and all of the tools clatter to the ground. Danny shoots an ectoblast at each belt binding his ankles to the stretcher and hops off the bed, facing Agent K, glaring at him, hands filled with ectoplasm.
“You’re a ghost!” Agent K exclaims before Danny kicks him in the stomach.
“And you’re scum.” Danny snarls. He shoots an ectoblast into the side of Agent K’s head, knocking him unconscious.
Transforming, Danny jumps up into the air and starts flying from room to room, looking for Sam. He finally finds her in another room in a different hallway, another agent sticking a needle full of ectoplasm into her arm. She screams again.
As the agent is reaching for something else from a tray, Danny picks up the tray, sending its contents flying, and smashes it into his face. The agent tumbles to the ground and Danny grabs his keycard. Picking Sam up, Danny phases them out of the room, locking the agent inside.
“Sam! Sam, are you okay?” Danny asks shakily.
She shakes her head. “We can’t worry about me right now. We have to get your parents and the cops.”
Sam shakes her head again. “Some of these kids won’t make it long enough for you to patch me up. They’ve been sick for too long.”
He looks at her for a few seconds before nodding. He shoots up into the air, holding Sam close to his chest as he flew as fast as he could back home.
He flew straight into the living room, halting abruptly when he saw his parents standing there. They stared with wide eyes at Sam in his arms and started reaching for their guns.
“Wait!” He shook his head. “We need your help! I found out where all the kids are!”
Maddie’s gun clattered to the ground. “Where are they? Was Danny with them?”
“Danny’s fine, he’s not there.” He said hurriedly. “They’re in a GIW compound outside of town. We need to hurry.”
“Let me just-” Maddie started reaching for Sam.
“No! We can’t waste any time.” His grip tightened on Sam. “She said she’ll be fine for now but there are kids who won’t make it much longer. They need our help more right now.”
“Okay. Okay, Jack. Get the keys for the van and a couple of bazookas. You take Sam to the van and direct us to the compound. I’m going to get in touch with the police.”
They all piled into the van and Danny directed them toward the compound. Danny kept a close eye on Sam and Maddie stayed on the phone until they reached the compound, giving the police the address. The van slammed through the brick wall surrounding the compound and straight into the front wall of the building.
They all jumped out, Danny still carrying Sam, and he keycarded them through all the locked doors until they got to the wing full of students. Maddie covered her mouth as she looked at them.
Soon the police got there and they began to cart out the agents that remained in the building. Paramedics came in to take care of the kids who were still alive while Jack and Maddie worked on calming Star and the other ghosts down.
Danny let go of Sam’s hand slowly as the paramedics loaded her into the ambulance. He turned around and flew back into the building where he found his parents trying to comfort a distraught Star.
He floated up to her and held a hand out. She looked at it and her eyes darted up to his face, recognition flashing through them. Tears welled up in her eyes and she stood, wrapping her arms around him as she sobbed.
He loosely wrapped his arms back around her and waited with her until she was ready to go.
Danny, Sam, and Tucker sat closely together on top of Danny’s bed. They had just gotten back from the memorial held for all the kids that died inside the compound. Danny and Tucker each held one of Sam’s hands, gripping them tightly.
Sam took a deep breath and let it out shakily, her fingers twitching and going through Danny’s hand before settling back in place.
Danny hoped to whatever deity there might be that this would never happen again. No matter what anyone thought of the ghosts in Amity Park, they had never stooped low enough to kill someone. They weren’t collecting humans for a ghost farm.
He glanced up at the window, looking at the night sky. A ghost flew through the night, sparking brightly like a comet.
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Phic Phight: [REDACTED] “Oh Goddamnit. DANNY!”
Prompt Creator: @mr-lancers-english-class
Even Danny’s school projects cause ghostly issues and Lancer really should have seen this coming.
Alright fine, Lancer knew this was a bad idea. He knew it. And yet... here they all are, with each of his students doing their self-chosen presentations. And as he should have expected, Every. Single. One. has been on Phantom. Sure at least there’s been some variety. Star’s piece on his fashion and how that reflects on his personality and the era he died was actually fairly interesting (if it wasn’t for the fact that Phantom spiced up his jumpsuit with t-shirts and whatnot sometimes then this would have been a very boring one). Kwan also surprised him some, apparently he’s spent the past year or so sneaking photos of Phantom eating and did a piece on Phantom’s rather peculiar food tastes (who dips their pickles in milkshakes???) as well as effectively providing proof for the existence of ectoplasmic food (there’s no way any earth apples are neon green on the inside). Dash’s wasn’t even correctly calculated, trying to figure out how far Phantom could throw footballs based on his known strength and if he could kill someone by tackling them (disturbingly the answer -regardless of Dash’s bad math- was decidedly yes. Daniel seemed particularly disturbed). And Paulina’s was quite literally a badly written self-insert ship fan fic; the added drawings of what their child would look like only made it worse (Daniel left, not that Lancer could blame him. Lancer’s also glad for the ghost fight interrupting the presentation). Emilie’s was... disturbingly about ghost hunger and purposed the thesis that Phantom, for the good of the town, should eat the aggressor ghosts (he actually had to cut her off for getting too graphic).
But the single most interesting thing was that a ghost apparently caught wind of this and literally Every. Single. Presentation so far had words that were permanently replaced with [REDACTED], which, needless to say, caused some chaos when Samantha gave the very first presentation.
Lancer clicked his pen, crossing his legs and resting the evaluation sheet on his thigh, “alright, Samantha. Feel free to start whenever you please, though soon would be preferred”, by ‘preferred’ he had meant required, but no need to be mean. He chooses to ignore the goth teen's eyeroll.
Predictably the projected screen doesn’t work when she opens her file so Lancer has to spend ten minutes fiddling with the outdated tech that they wouldn’t give the school funding to replace. Eventually, he does get it up and running showing Ms. Manson’s title screen reading ‘Phantom And Hate Crimes Against Blood Blossoms’. Lancer’s positive ‘blood blossoms’ are a type of flower, figures she would do something nature-focused. She’d make for a great herbalist or botanist someday. He does catch Daniel and Tucker giving her ‘death glares’, as the kids call it, though; Samatha doesn’t look any less smug. The second page has what he thinks was supposed to be a detailed drawing of a flower but it’s severely pixilated, almost as if it been blurred; Samantha looks visibly upset so he’s going to assume something when wrong with the file or pasting format. He’s not marking on artistic capabilities though, so effort is effort there.
She quickly clicks to the next page, where the actual writing of the assignment is and looks decidedly pissed; Lancer even quirks an eyebrow since at least two-thirds of the words are a very bold noticeable [REDACTED]. Lancer watches her yank out her physical copy while glaring with murderous intent at Daniel -Lancer will have to dock him marks if he messed with another student's project- before looking at the physical copy in bafflement for a few seconds. Half the class shrieking when she drops the papers and basically launches herself over the desks at Daniel, “OH YOU LITTLE FUCKER!!!! HOW THE FUCK!”.
Lancer’s sighs and stands, “language, Ms. Manson”, moving to pick up the papers and quirking an eyebrow over them looking the same. Sighing again and eyeing Daniel, who’s being choked -or throttled perhaps?- by Samantha yet is grinning innocently. “Daniel, messing with other students' work is against student policy”, sighing yet again, “and I’ll let Star go while Samantha fixes her document”, summoning up the blonde while glaring at Daniel. Some days that boy was more trouble than he was worth but he was also insanely bright and had a heart of gold. Lancer knows he’ll do good things someday, and that’s why he still tries with him.
Half the class is snickering or laughing now and Star is very clearly trying not to laugh as she sets up.
However, as soon as it opens up the class is met with a very familiar sight. [REDACTED] litters every single page; he checked. And Star’s physical copy was in the same state.
Kwan blinks, “okay seriously, what is going on”, before scrambling to grab out his own physical copy; the rest of the class going wide-eyed and following suit. Lancer just puts his head in his hands and sighs very audibly while shaking his head. Why could nothing go right? Sighing again as the class erupts into noise.
“Mines all weird too!”.
“Okay there is no way Fenturd messed up everyone’s work”.
“And I actually tried on mine! It was about the merits of Phantom getting armour!”.
“Oh damn do we just get auto hundreds now? Please please please say yes”.
“Oh damn, Phantom would actually look awesome in armour”.
“I know right”.
“Can we just skip class entirely now?”.
“Oh my Zone a ghost messed with or work”.
“Wait! Wait! Wait! You don’t think Phantom did do you?”.
“Why the heck would he do that? How would he even know??????”.
“Oh I hope Phantom was inside my computer. That would be so hot”.
“Oh I don’t know, maybe someone told him or he overheard shit. He’s a ghost, he can be invisible. Heck, he could be here, right now, invisible”.
“Invisible and laughing at us”.
“No! No! Hold up! What if he doesn’t want us writing about him or maybe someone wrote some sus shit and he just nerfed us all for good measure”.
“That would mean Phantom totally read my stuff, aw Hell yeah man. That was some boss shit”,
Lancer sighs and stands up, “alright that’s enough”, sighing again because why did this have to happen to him, “and I apologies for blaming you earlier, Daniel”.
Samantha snaps, “oh no, I still blame him”, and continues glaring at the teen. Lancer suspects Samantha would continue blaming the boy even if it was firmly proven he wasn’t at fault.
Addressing the class again, “here’s what we’re going to do, you’re going to read off what of your projects you actually can and allude to the rest. Please reframe from repeating what you know was there beforehand as I’d rather not have whatever ghost responsible -Phantom or otherwise- come here pissed off”, glaring at few students who look slightly encouraged rather than discouraged by that prospect, “anyone who does will receive automatic zeroes”, ah and the encouraged looks have deflated. Good. Gesturing at Star, “you’re already up here, so do continue”. Better to not bring the clearly infuriated Samantha back to the front until she’s had some time to calm down.
Star nods and clears her throat, thankfully everyone quiets down. “O-okay, well, um”, gesturing at the screen, “I did my piece on Phantom’s sense of fashion and the cover image was one with him dressed in one of the Spook Sense stores meme shirts....”.
Lancer shakes away the memory, he honestly slightly regrets giving this project. But regardless right now is Daniel’s turn and Lancer is honestly slightly fearful of what his file is going to look like. Thankfully all their files were saved to his computer before the [REDACTED] debacle, so no one could go back in and edit theirs to add [REDACTED]’s for an easy grade. Lancer’s still not exactly sure how he’s supposed to mark assignments that were anywhere from one-fifth to one-third [REDACTED]. That word will be burned into his head after this grading period.
Lancer moves to find the boys file, but stares when clicking it crashes the computer. Not once. Not twice. But thrice. The fourth time rebooting the computer he inspects the file and is a bit dumbfounded, “Daniel, your entire file’s corrupted. The file type has even been changed to redacted, which I’m fairly sure, isn’t actually any possible file designation”. Everyone’s silent for a bit before bursting out into laughter.
“Just what the Zone did you write, Danny!”.
“Oh we so have to know what this is now”.
“Danny has the forbidden knowledge! We haft found him! The keeper of things forbidden and Ghostly! Haza!”.
“Ha! It was probably so lame that Phantom wanted to save him the embarrassment”.
Lancer sighs, but Daniel gestures Tucker up, “hey Tuck, feel like trying to fix the file”. Tucker chuckles and walks up, though apparently glaring at the boy. Based on Daniel’s smirk he finds this quite amusing.
Tucker does manage to make the file viewable at least. Lancer nods and leans back in his seat, “thank you, Mr. Foley”, while the file loads on screen.
Tucker sits back down with a head shake while Daniel stands at the front and gestures to the screen, “aight, as you can see from my not redacted title-”, that earns a couple laughs, “I did mine on Phantom’s portfolio of crime. Every single time our dear Phantom broke ghost law. Including such wonderful things as, that time he caused not one, not two, not even three, but five, prison breaks in one day. Or that time he invalidated a Observant spectator duel by bringing an inflatable sword”. Samantha slams a hand on her desk, “IT IS YOUR FAULT YOU DICK!”.
Lancer has some serious questions as Daniel clicks for the next page, the entire class going dead silent as a screen comprising of almost nothing but the word [REDACTED] shows. Lancer sighs very audibly. Eventually the class starts up again.
“Fenton... actually has forbidden knowledge”.
“If it wasn’t for the teacher computer saved thing I’d think he was fucking with us”.
“I mean... he is a Fenton, right?”.
“Okay the fact that this entire presentation is on ghost crimes is concerning alone. But they’re forbidden ghost crimes at that”.
“Shit I wanted the tea. Damnit”.
“Better question, how does Danny know?”.
Daniel clicking the button to go forward is very audible. And, Chicken Soup For The Soul, every single page is [REDACTED] to the point of being completely and utterly unintelligible. There are occasional lines pointing out how Phantom apparently ate confetti at a ghosts third wedding (which is apparently illegal for some reason) or that time he beat someone up with a violin that had a pie inside it (Lancer can see this one, Lancer himself has smacked a ghost with stranger). Literally the only photo that isn’t blurred beyond recognition is one of Phantom in a prison uniform (Paulina was very vocal about liking men in uniform here). Lancer is absolutely positive the end of his conclusion ‘[REDACTED] are a bunch of [REDACTED]’ is an insult.
Samantha chucks a boot at his smirking face, “YOU IDIOT. Of course they were going to block you from talking about them. Ancients, I can’t believe you”. Tucker’s busy laughing into his hand.
“Oh my Zone, they know too”.
“They’re really earning that weirdo trio title, huh”.
Daniel snickers as he sits back down, “they broke into my room and wrecked that epic puzzle I was working on. They shoulda seen this shit coming. Literally”. Tucker snorts, “they probably did but couldn’t do anything else about it. They can’t stop you and your endless bullshit”.
“Damn fucking straight”.
Lancer isn’t going to claim to know what exactly they’re talking about but apparently Daniel effectively orchestrated this entire fiasco just to annoy some ghost. Lancer is honestly more impressed than disturbed. A for effort but an A- for making everyone's work nigh unusable.
Prompt: For the last project of their senior year in high school, Mr. Lancer is letting his class do presentations on literally whatever topic they want. He is very, /very/ sure that this is going to go poorly, but that's a problem for later...
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Part 1/2 (2 will be up later) Word count: 2079
No one Blamed Danny for what happened.
If he had not been there to stop the ghost, things would have been far worse. Yet here he was at the mic, in city hall, apologizing for where he failed.
The world had known who he was for over a year now.
It had taken some getting used to. But over all, Amity had grown to love Fenton just as much as Phantom.
“Danny, if you hadn’t been there, then we would be dealing with more than just 2 city blocks in ruins. The only reason people are alive right now is because of you, son.”
Danny looked up at the city council member with sad eyes.
“But now no one has a place to live; I want to help with that,” Danny explained in a soft voice. “I have a Place in the ghost zone that is mine by right that could house everyone till the city can rebuild those areas.”
A mummer went through the crowd behind him.
“Danny, as much as we appreciate the offer. I don’t think anyone would feel comfortable with that, given what happened.” The councilman stated hesitantly.
“I can promise everyone’s protection and safety, sir, I swear. Besides, it might be our only option. The whole point of this meeting was to let everyone know that amity couldn’t afford to provide housing after all of this, wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” The councilman sighed as he ran a hand down the side of his face; the kid was right. The city was broke.
More murmuring went through the crowd. Danny could feel the anxiety building up in the room. He felt his core pang at the realization.
Maddie could tell her son was distressed, but she didn’t know what to say; she was just as blindsided as everyone else. Danny was still hesitant and very scared about sharing things about his ghost half.
She had tried to get him to open up more, but Jack had stopped her from pressing. He could tell Danny needed space to process. 12 months ago, he was a nobody, and now he was a world-known hero. It was a lot, and that wasn’t even including the fact that he was technically both dead and alive.
Jack was sure there was a lot that Danny had to deal with that he was too nervous to tell them about. It had killed him when Danny had broken down crying in his arms over how relieved he was that they didn’t hate him after they found out what he was.
A kid doesn’t just think up those fears on their own. He knew why his son was terrified. Both he and Maddie had to earn his trust again.
“Danny, honey, what do you mean it’s yours by right?” Maddie asked. She was honestly confused. Danny had explained lairs to her once, but he had never used that verbiage when referring to them. He had also told her that he didn’t have one.
“I won it by combat, so it is rightfully mine according to ghost zone law.” He explained.
Maddie could tell he was choosing his words carefully. He was hiding something about this, and she wasn’t sure if she liked it.
“If it is yours by combat, then how can you guarantee anyone’s safety? Wouldn’t a ghost just need to beat you to take it?” Someone yelled from the back of the room.
The hall was filled with mummers again, with panic. Danny frowned.
“Yes, but I don’t lose fights. And because of that, I am well known in the ghost zone and respected. The ones who show up here are the ones who would be considered criminals even by ghost zone standards. Not all ghosts are bad. A lot of them just want to be left alone.” Danny answered honestly.
That shut the room up very fast.
“What is the ghost zone exactly?”
Danny turned his head in Lance Thunders direction as the reporter continued with his question.
“I mean, I can sort of gather what it is by what you're saying, but you have never mentioned it before? You mean to say there’s a whole world full of ghosts?”
“Not a whole world; it’s a whole dimension.” Maddie clarified, stepping in for her son. “Jack and I discovered it a few years back. We have a functioning portal in our basement that opens right into it. We just have never ventured in yet.”
“But I have, kind of hard not to,” Danny said. “It’s every ghost's home, we don’t do well being away from it for too long.”
That was new information, information Maddie wasn’t sure she liked. Jack was more caught up on the fact his son had used the word we.
Jack could tell from the sudden silence of the room that he was not the only one hung up on that word.
“is it your home too?” Mr. thunder asked. Speaking the question on everyone’s mind.
Danny froze and looked like a deer caught in headlights, but then his face twisted into one of sadness and anxiety.
Jack could tell his son didn’t know how to answer.
“I—yes and no?” Danny questioned out loud. “I don’t know. It feels nice to be there sometimes, but then I miss being here in amity too. I always miss amity for some reason. It's weird sometimes.”
“Weird?” Mr. thunder repeated.
“I think it may be best if we all take a brief break,” Maddie said, pulling a slightly frazzled Danny into one of the halls conference rooms, Jack and Jazz following right behind her.
She sat Danny down in one of the swivel chairs typically found in those types of rooms.
Jazz closed the door behind them and took a seat next to her very pale-looking brother. She grabbed one of his hands and gave it a squeeze in support.
Maddie was towering over her son. Danny looked terrified. He flinched when she reached out to stroke his cheek.
The reaction made her stiffen. She pulled her hand away and tucked it under her now crossed arms.
“I am sorry I didn’t mean to I-.” Danny struggled to find the words.
“It’s okay sweetie, I know things must be tough for you.” She said with a soft sigh; she decided to sit across from him.
Jack followed her example.
“You know, I am honestly so proud of you, Danny-boy,” Jack said with a smile. The comment seemed to allow Danny to get some color back in his cheeks, and the hybrid calmed down a little.
“I thought you and mom were mad?” Danny asked with confusion.
“Why would we be mad?” Maddie questioned.
Danny froze. Maddie could have sworn she could almost see the gears turning in his head. Then he did the one thing no one was expecting. He laughed. Maniacally too. It was contagious.
Soon all 4 of them were in stitches.
“What are we even doing?” Jazz asked; as usual, she was the first one to regain her senses.
“Fuck if I know,” Danny replied with a laugh.
Typically, Maddie would have told him to watch his language, but she decided to let it slide this time.
“Well, you really should know what you’re doing before you go back out there,” Maddie said with a half-smile as she leaned forward to run her hands through her son’s hair. Danny leaned into the touch this time.
“I know,” He replied, his smile wavered slightly. “It’s just hard to explain to people who will never understand till they’re dead too.”
“But you’re not dead, son.” Jack cut in.
“Am I?” Danny asked. “Where does life and death end? Where does one turn into another?”
“You have a pulse, Danny,” Maddie reminded him, all the while placing her thumb on his wrist to reassure herself.
“So do ghosts,” Danny cut in.
Maddie looked up at her son with shock.
Danny let his body slip into his ghost form.
“You can still feel it can’t you?” He asked, nodding his head to where her fingers were still pressed against his now gloved wrist.
“Y-yes.” Maddie swallowed hard and looked up at her son for an explanation. Her stomach was in knots.
“That’s not my heartbeat; you’re feeling my core thrumming.” He said softly as he lifted his mothers’ hand and placed it against his chest.
Maddie could not tell the difference.
“I thought it was a half-ghost thing, but as I hung around other ghosts, I learned that a pulse of sorts is part of their body functions too,” Danny explained cautiously, his gaze not leaving his mother’s now watery eyes. “When a ghost’s core stops thrumming, it means they don’t exist anymore. They just stop being. They don’t know what happens to ghosts after that happens either. Just like for the longest time, we didn’t know what happened after our hearts stopped beating.”
Maddie swallowed back sobs that wanted to creep up her throat; was he admitting to being dead? Not half-ghost. Dead.
Danny let his body slip back into his human form. His mother's hand still pressed to his chest.
“But feel that?” Danny asked softly.
Maddie nodded. She still could not tell the difference.
“That actually is my heart,” Danny explained as he firmly held his mothers’ hand in place, gently stroking the top of it with one of his thumbs. “I have both. But for me to be a ghost or a human…one of them needs to stop working so the other can take over. So, by both worlds definitions…”
Danny had trailed off, but Maddie knew what he was getting at, so did Jazz and Jack.
“It’s uncomfortable sometimes because I can’t always control when it happens. And sometimes I will have both working at the same time and I—I don’t know how to describe that feeling. It’s overwhelming and normally triggered by emotions; it kind of feels like my body tried to take a screenshot and a video at the same time, if that makes any sense?”
“That makes absolutely zero sense.” Jazz blanched.
“And this is what I mean. I can’t explain my existence to people who haven’t experienced both kinds of death yet.” Danny sighed in exasperation.
“Both… wait, Danny-boy, are you saying that ghosts have a hard time understanding you too?” Jack asked.
“Yes, I mean for Pete’s sake. I don’t even entirely understand me. The only one who might have been able to on some level was Vlad, but he was a giant asshole. And I can’t even try to share what my existence is like because it freaks other people out and Makes them Uncomfortable.” Danny half yelled, throwing his hands up in frustration.
“That’s fine, honey.” Maddie cut in, wheeling her chair around so she could give her son a big hug. “It makes sense that you don’t make sense, and that’s okay enough for me. You’re my baby boy, and I will never stop loving you. You are my favorite enigma.”
“Really?” Danny asked; this time, it was his eyes watering.
Maddie nodded and kissed him on his forehead. Danny smiled up at her; all the fears he had been holding in since he came clean about being half-ghost seemed to vanish into thin air.
Jack and Jazz joined in on the hug.
“And if you ever decide that you want to make sense, well, we can help you with that too, Dann-o.”
Danny laughed at that.
“You should head back out there now, little brother.”
“Right,” Danny said as he stood up, the hug had been broken apart. He started to the door with a look of confidence he was previously missing. He knew everything was going to be okay now.
And it was.
The rest of the city meeting went well. And the citizens that needed a place to stay took up Danny’s invitation.
6 hours later, Danny opened a portal into the castle known as Phantom’s Keep.
Maddie Gasped along with the rest of the crowd as they entered the grand hall of the Keep. Taking in the gold and silver detailing and the high arching ceilings. The giant detailed crystal chandler that hung over them glittered with an other worldly light.
“Welcome to my keep.” Danny chuckled lightly from where he was floating in the air above everyone’s head. “Make yourselves at home.”
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Green Sky Highway
Phic Phight Phic for @deuynndoodles
The Fenton Ecto Cell Bettery (aka the Better Battery) was designed to draw power from not only an internal, pre-charged store of ectoplasm, but also from ambient, atmospheric ectoplasm. This meant that it would never run out of juice so long as it was in the Ghost Zone. The Specter Speeder was designed to travel in the Ghost Zone. Thus, the Betteries were the perfect power source for it. In theory.
In practice… Well, that just wasn’t working out, and Maddie didn’t know why. She gripped the underside of the dash and tried to push herself deeper beneath it to get a better view of the machinery.
“Maddie? You see anything?” asked Jack, who couldn’t fit under the dash. He’d been inspecting as much of the engine as he could from the inside, which wasn’t much. The Speeder wasn’t designed to be serviced while free-floating in the Ghost Zone.
Which, now that she thought of it, was a serious oversight.
“Everything looks fine,” said Maddie. “Except that it doesn’t have any power. Nothing’s lighting up, but all the connections look good. You?”
“I can’t get anything to work. Anything. It’s like… we’re in some kind of technological dead zone. But that doesn’t make sense.”
Maddie pulled herself out to see Jack vigorously scratching his head and shedding dandruff everywhere. “Ghosts do tend to disrupt technology.”
“But we fixed that. We designed all our weapons to work with that.”
“We know there are things we don’t know,” said Maddie, “and it’s always good to find new things! Though not pleasant to find them out like this…” They should really test their inventions more, honestly.
But it had been over a year of testing since they opened the portal. They had to jump in at some point, didn’t they? That was the whole point of the portal.
She sighed. “Well, we didn’t have a lot of forward momentum when the portal cut out.” She looked out the window. “We could see if we can get out and engage our jetpacks.”
“Uh, about that,” said Jack. He swung open the door to the jetpack cabinet. The empty jetpack cabinet. “I may have forgotten to put them back after refueling them.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
Maddie massaged the bridge of her nose with her mostly-clean knuckles. This was a repeat of the handle inside the weapons vault. At least he wasn’t pushing the blame for it back onto Danny or Jazz. That would definitely have started a fight.
On the other hand, there really wasn’t any guarantee the jetpacks would even still be functional, so maybe it was for the best. For certain values of best.
There was a knocking sound. “Is that coming from the engine?” Maddie asked.
“No…” said Jack, slowly. “I think it came from the door…”
They both turned to stare. Something moved outside it. They shifted to get a better view out the window.
Phantom was out there, tapping on the door with a ten-foot pole.
“That little unnatural abomination,” cursed Jack under his breath. “He’s going to scratch the paint!”
Phantom apparently saw them and waved. “Hey!” he shouted, just loud enough to be heard through the walls of the Speeder. “Do you guys need a lift?”
Jack and Maddie turned to each other.
“How did he know we were here?”
“I don’t know,” said Jack. “Do you think he followed us?”
“It wouldn’t be difficult, but I’m surprised he didn’t show up on our detectors.”
“He does seem to have the ability to drop off of them.”
“True,” said Maddie. “So, how do we handle this? Fenton bat?”
“I don’t know, Mads. He might be, uh, sincere? That time with the ectofiltrator he did help me.”
“That’s one, single, datapoint. He’s a been a menace every other time we’ve encountered him.”
“I don’t know that we have much other choice,” said Jack, nodding towards the dead engines and the empty jetpack cabinet.
Maddie huffed out a sigh, then looked back at Phantom, who waved again.
“Fine. We still have to decide how to deal with him while we’re cooperating with him. Or if he decides to show his true colors.”
Danny knew this had been a terrible, terrible idea the moment his parents opened the door to the Speeder armed to the teeth. Why did they always feel the need to do that? None of the weapons, with the possible exceptions of the Fenton Bat and the Fenton Crowbar could even work here.
How his parents had, on their first jaunt into the Ghost Zone, managed to run smack into the Time Locked Lands was beyond him. They had to go to the one place in the Ghost Zone that the Speeder wouldn’t work and after coating the Speeder with some kind of anti-ghost spray that Danny absolutely refused to touch again. Ever. Especially in ghost form. Except with a ten-foot pole.
(If they’d left the spray off, he could have just pushed the Speeder back out of the Time Locked Lands. But, no, they had to make everything as difficult and painful as possible.)
“I am not carrying all that,” said Danny, flatly.
(Especially because it would all turn back on once they left the Time Lost Lands, and if there wasn’t a Specter Deflector under all that, he’d eat his own belt.)
“Then we aren’t going anywhere with you!” proclaimed Maddie.
“You’re stranded in the middle of the Ghost Zone. I don’t think you have a choice.”
“I could literally just fly over there and snatch you right now. Plus, again, stranded. Do you even have any food in there?”
“Of course we do!” said Maddie. “We aren’t incompetent.”
Jack looked guilty. Danny decided not to bring it up.
“Okay, but still, you’re going to run out eventually, and then you’ll still be floating in the Ghost Zone with no way to get out. You aren’t going to get another friendly ghost coming by.”
“I’ve never seen a friendly ghost to begin with!”
“I can just leave, you know,” said Danny, planting his hands on his hips and bluffing for all he was worth. He was not leaving his parents here to be used as hostages or who knew what else.
Hopefully, they wouldn’t call the bluff. They shouldn’t. No sane, reasonable person would. He was their only way out of this mess. On the other hand, his parents had never been completely sane, reasonable people.
Danny thought his odds were about fifty-fifty. Which meant he could hope.
Jack and Maddie had an intense, whispered conversation. This, thankfully, lead to them divesting themselves of most of their visible weaponry. Which meant that they still had more guns on them than most professional soldiers during a firefight.
Well, it was better than he’d expected. But it was still too many.
“Take the Specter Deflectors off,” he said. “What do you think will happen if I try to carry you and you have those on.”
There was muttering.
“Come on, come on,” said Danny, snapping his fingers. Which really shouldn’t work through his gloves but did anyway.
Sometimes ghost nonsense was good for making lasers fly from your hands, and sometimes it was good for tiny aesthetic breaks in physics. It was a grab bag, really.
“Alright,” said Danny. “I’m going to fly over and pick you up. Don’t hit me.”
Oh, jeez, he was not looking forward to carrying them all the way over to the portal. Sure, he could bench press a school bus, but there was a difference between holding up a school bus for a minute and carrying two people who hated his guts a mile through enemy territory while flying slowly enough not to give them windburn.
Sure, it’d probably only take a few minutes, even then, but those would be the longest few minutes in his entire life. Not counting his actual death.
Being carried by Phantom had to be the single worst experience in Jack’s entire life.
It wasn’t the speed or the lack of control – he loved carnival rides – or the height – Jack couldn’t tell you how many buildings he’d jumped off in pursuit of ghosts – or even the fact that Phantom was a sinister specter, and ectoplasmic emanation, a putrid piece of protoplasm – he’d been carried by ghosts before, usually ones who were a lot more upfront about wanting to kill him.
Actually, Jack didn’t know why he didn’t like it. He just didn’t.
Maybe it was just how uncomfortable it was? But Jack did way more uncomfortable things. Like interacting with his sister-in-law. Brr.
Maybe it was the lurking feeling behind every interaction he ever had with Phantom that there was something he just wasn’t seeing, some hidden truth that would make everything about Phantom, every contradiction, every confusion, make sense.
Nah, that couldn’t be it. Maddie would have figured it out by now. That’s why they made such a great team. He noticed the things she didn’t, and she noticed the things he didn’t.
“You’re going the wrong way,” snapped Maddie.
Just like that!
Wait. That was a really bad thing.
“I’m not going the wrong way,” snapped Phantom. “I’m avoiding Walker’s prison. I don’t know how he didn’t catch you on your way out, but I’m not eager to be thrown in jail for a thousand years.”
“Ghosts have jail?” asked Jack surprised.
“Depends where you are,” said Phantom. “Walker isn’t really a sheriff, though. There’s no government behind him and he just makes up rules randomly so he can lock up anybody he doesn’t like.”
“Like you,” observed Jack.
“Why doesn’t it surprise me that you’re even wanted by whatever passes for the law here?”
“First, rude. Secondly, there are realms in here that are just as organized and civilized as any country on Earth. Just because you opened your portal into the equivalent of post-apocalyptic Detroit doesn’t mean it’s all like this.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Maddie.
“I could arrange that, you know,” said Phantom, stilling.
Jack laughed nervously. “Maybe another time?” The ghost would do what it would do, but they didn’t need to encourage him to bring them even deeper into the Ghost Zone. They were currently banking on Phantom’s obsession with heroics to get them home, but if they changed the equation… Yeah, Jack didn’t want to deal with the consequences of that.
Ghosts were like computers that ran only one program. One homicidal, destructive program.
It was like that thought experiment about an AI whose job was to maximize the number of paperclips. It’d just keep on making more and more paperclips until nothing was left. Which was why they had to be stopped.
Easier said than done, as Jack and Maddie had learned.
“You don’t have to be so freaked out,” muttered Phantom. “It isn’t like I’m going to kidnap you or anything.” He pretended to sigh.
What was the point of that? He had to know that Jack and Maddie wouldn’t fall for his tricks. Actually, come to think of it, he was miming breathing, too, and had been the whole time.
Maybe that’s why Jack was so uncomfortable. The constant undercurrent of deception.
Hmmm… something to think on.
“What’s that?” asked Maddie, pointing.
“Uh,” said Phantom, who did a double take.
Ooh, that wasn’t reassuring.
Danny clenched his teeth, his parents’ reactions to him weren’t reassuring, and even less reassuring was the way Pariah’s Keep had moved from its usual creepy location and to this new creepy location. Not that there were any non-creepy locations in the Ghost Zone. It was part of the place’s charm.
No, really. Some part of Danny craved the creepiness. He was half-ghost, after all.
(Even if his idea of creepiness was, according to his friends, sort of lame.)
But back to the main point. The keep really, really shouldn’t be here. And it was creeping him out.
It should be okay to just… fly past it, though, right? Just being in its airspace in the past hadn’t done anything bad. So, flying by with his parents in tow shouldn’t do anything either. Right?
Danny put on more speed, just in case. This coincided with a bunch of large ghost ravens (or were they crows?) dive bombing them and forcing him to land to defend himself and parents. The only land around being the rim of the island that supported the keep.
He knew something like this would happen. Maybe not exactly this, but he just knew he’d be attacked and everything would devolve into nonsense, and—
Huh. The birds weren’t attacking him, just his parents. Oh, these were racist (mortalist?) birds. Gross. Trust Pariah Dark to have bigoted birds. He called up a shield to protect his parents. Whereupon they shot him in the back, shouting about how he betrayed them to the birds, because why not?
Why was his life like this?
He pushed himself up off the ground. Starbursts twinkled behind his eyes. Neither his parents nor the crows were in sight. The crows could have gone anywhere. His parents on the other hand…
There was only one place they could have gone.
Well. At least none of the nonsentient traps would work on them, seeing as they were humans. What were the odds that they’d run into one of the sentient defenders?
Well… considering the ravens?
Yeah. That’d be about one hundred percent.
“Maddie, I don’t know about this…” said Jack, examining the tall, vaulted ceiling.
“We had to get away from Phantom. This was the only way to go.”
“But he came here for a reason, Mads,” whispered Jack, tip-toing.
“Yeah, this is definitely a trap. But what can we do?”
“Jack? Maddie? This is not a place you want to wander around in! Oh, holy—” There was a loud thump.
Maddie grabbed Jack’s hand and pulled him forward. “We have to get away from him.”
“Come on! This is a floating island! I’m your only way off! Why are you like this?”
“He has a point,” said Jack.
Maddie stopped. “I guess he does.”
“This is literally the worst place you could have picked to run away!” A sound like a very large door opening and closing reached their ears. “This is Pariah Dark’s place! Where did you even go?”
“Who’s Pariah Dark?”
“I think that was the name of the ghost that sucked the town into the Ghost Zone a few months ago.”
“Please, guys! I’m trying to help you here! This place is ultra-dangerous! You could accidentally – yikes! – wake up Pariah Dark.”
“Maybe we should…”
“Yeah,” said Maddie, “maybe we should.”
“Phantom!” called Jack. “Phantom! We’re over—” The floor opened up underneath them and they fell into the dark.
Maddie woke to a dark room, tied to a chair. She noticed the faintly glowing ghost in front of her and jolted backwards.
The ghost wore a set of painted and engraved plate armor, a pair of lavender-white eyes glowing from behind the slats of its visor. A knight, of sorts, Maddie supposed.
“You…” droned the ghost in a painfully stereotypical ghostly moan. “Enemies of the king… why have you come here?”
That was Jack’s voice. He was tied behind her, apparently.
“We don’t have anything to say to you,” snapped Maddie.
“Uh,” said Jack. Something twisted behind Maddie. “Are you a friend of Phantom?”
“A friend? A friend?”
“I’m going to take that as a no,” muttered Maddie.
The door of the room flew off its hinges. “Fright Knight!” shouted Phantom, pointing a glowing finger. “Wait, you aren’t Fright Knight. Who are you, and what do you want with my- With, uh, the Fenton ghost hunters? Who I don’t know very well at all. Promise.”
“What,” said the ghost.
“What,” said Maddie.
“What,” said Jack.
“Okay, forget everything I just said.” He gestured at the ghost. “Who are you?”
“My name is Paladin, my liege.”
“Okay, okay, cool, cool. I- Wait, what? What did you call me?”
Phantom looked like he was having an existential crisis.
“Maddie was right!” exclaimed Jack, who couldn’t see Phantom’s face. “You did lead us into a trap!”
“What? No? I’ve never even met this guy before! You are a guy, right?”
“Yes, my liege.”
“Right. I’m going to put that on the backburner and freak out about it later. How are you- Why are you—” Phantom shook his head. “Why are you here in Pariah’s Keep?”
“It’s your keep.”
“Say what now?” asked Jack and Maddie at once.
“Look, this is news to me, too. But, back to the question. You. The keep. Why? I mean, you weren’t here before.”
“That is because Pariah sealed me, my liege. When you defeated him, I was released and immediately swore fealty to the true king. You.”
“I am so freaking out right now, but we’ll revisit that. Later. Right now, I have to get these guys home.”
“But they have hostile intentions towards your person, my liege!”
“Everyone has hostile intentions towards me. I’m honestly surprised you haven’t attacked me yet.”
“Ah. My liege, perhaps you should seek the services of a priest, if all your experiences with new people are such.”
“Is that the medieval equivalent of a therapist?”
“I fear I do not know what that is. Why do you ask?”
“Because the last time I talked to one of those, they purposefully picked at every one of my insecurities and then tried to murder my, uh. Someone close to me.”
“An evil counselor, then,” said the knight, gravely.
“I want to agree with you, but somehow I feel like you’re talking about something completely different than the image in my head.”
“That may be true, my liege. Doubtless, you are very wise.”
Maddie was… lost.
Even so, her prerogative was escaping. She started twisting, trying to get to the knots around her wrists.
“Did you, uh, pilot the castle out here?”
“Yes. I sensed that mortal enemies of the king, that’s you—”
“I will debate that as soon as my brain stops screaming at me.”
“—had entered the Realm.”
“Right. Yeah. Thank you. But I can handle these guys. And I need to get them home. Please. I made a deal with them.”
“Hey!” said Jack, offended.
“I mean, I use the term deal pretty loosely.”
“But yes. Please. Just. Dang. How did you tie them up that quickly?”
“It’s a hobby.”
“Do you mind if I take the chairs?”
“They are your chairs, my liege.”
“I’m still not used to that.”
“Are you quite certain you want to take them? And just… Let them loose? The dungeon here is very functional. We even have an oubliette.”
“Raincheck. But thank you. Really, I mean it.” Phantom flew behind Maddie, and she protested as the chair she was in was yanked upward. “Uh… I might have gotten turned around a time or two, so if you could…”
“Of course! The keep does seem to have sustained some damage, so we will have to take some detours.”
“Phantom! Phantom! Put us down and untie us.”
“Nah, I think I like this better. Your kids can untie you once I bring you back!”
“You’re going to drag us all the way through the Ghost Zone?”
“That’s the plan.”
The rest of the flight was surprisingly pleasant. No one attacked, and his parents were much easier to carry in the chairs. Sure, they struggled, but the struggling was much more manageable than the wriggling from before.
They were mad at him. But they were always mad at him. So.
No loss, really.
With the utmost carefulness, Danny set them down in the middle of the lab, still tied up, and then began zapping then tossing their most troublesome inventions into the gaping maw of the portal while they screamed at him.
Normally, he wouldn’t do this, especially after successfully rescuing his parents and hopefully raising their opinion of him, but some of those inventions were painful. Like. A lot painful. And dangerous. Also, he was doing his level best to avoid thinking about the whole ‘king’ thing.
Which he couldn’t do forever.
Especially since Jazz walked down the stairs, probably drawn by the screaming, to see Danny shoving half of the Ghost Catcher through the portal sans-strings.
“Uh,” said Danny.
“Get that ghost, Jazzy-pants!”
Danny vanished and fled upstairs.
Jazz had seen many strange things in her life, but that scene was one of the weirder ones.
It took some time to untie her parents, longer to extract herself from the ensuing rant and their attempt to salvage their equipment from Danny’s all-too-explicable rampage. Honestly, she was surprised Danny hadn’t snapped earlier.
She opened the door to his room. It was empty. She squinted. He was not just leaving her hanging like that, with no context to what happened other than their parents’ ranting. She opened her door.
Danny was lying on his side on the middle of her rag rug, hugging Bearbert Einstein.
“A ghost told me I was king and that I needed a priest.”
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A Ghost in His Bonnet (Phic Phight)
Two prompts this time! Outsider POV of the crazy things that college student Danny Fenton gets involved in & Danny is struggling to be taken seriously later in life (college or work) it probably has something to do with the fact that he still looks 14
For @mystyrust and @bubblegumbeech
uh, and I’ll tag @phicphight cuz why not?
The University knew about Daniel “Danny” Fenton (whiz kid or neanimorphic?), especially after having the ki- student on campus for a good two, going on three, years. He’s that teenage-looking boy you’d see in the corner of your eye and, the next second, disappears. Nobody knows how he does that, but it adds to the mystery of him.
Needless to say, Danny Fenton is the University’s “Ghost Boy.” He’s the scary story you tell the freshman about. The man who gets the most unbelievable rumors that not even his dorm mates know are true or not. And, no matter what, Danny never bats an eye on any accusations. Never confirms or denies. This only gets the fabricated stories to increase.
“He’s a modern-day genius, skipped every grade in high school.”
“Oh, him? He has powers, the professors keep an eye on him so he doesn’t go rogue.”
“Danny’s parents are scientists. He accidentally got infected with a chemical that stopped his body from growing.”
“You see that boy? No one knows why he’s here. People say he’s a hit-and-run victim that haunts the University.”
“He accidentally got buried alive when the campus was first built.”
“He died during midterms from sleep deprivation. Great for the students, terrible for him.”
The most common rumor’s the ghost one if it isn’t obvious. From his messy lopped hair and pale-white skin, his appearance only supports the theory. It’s gotten to a point that his dorm would tease him with the ‘Ghost Boy’ title.
But the mill keeps moving and it’s a fruitful scare for new students. This time, the victim of the grain is Wes Weston, criminal science major and self-named paranormal investigator.
“There’s this boy,” Wes’s student guide tells him in an above whisper voice. “Some say he’s a professor’s kid, but others say he’s the ghost of a boy that died when Infinity Hall was still a small clinic. Nobody knows his name, but most call him Ghost Boy.” She has this smirk that makes Wes roll his eyes, but he still stores the info in the back of his head.
He doesn’t have a reputation here, unlike his high school. Nobody sees him as the person who accused his substitute teacher of being a vampire and his neighbor’s dog as a werewolf. He knows that it must be some new student hazing, but she had just released a bee in his bonnet and it is buzzing loudly.
He forces the bee quiet though because he didn’t want to make that reputation. The University is far away from Wisconsin and he had a chance to reinvent himself. Sure if they do have a Conspiracy Club or something of the like, he wouldn’t mind joining. But he will not stalk- study people anymore.
The student guide shows him more of the campus, the mini-mall, and the rest of the halls. The buildings themselves have a very welcoming appearance; all of them are tall brick buildings with sky-high pane windows and great wooden staircases that lead up the next floors. There are intricate stone canopies along the walkways to the classes and beautiful parapets above. Flowers line the sides. It doesn’t appear to be the site of a place that has a haunting.
However, even with the easing of the beautifully flourishing flowers and architecture, Wes’s bonnet bee hums loudly at the back of his neck. Why did he have to be such a paranoid person?
Days pass and the bee is still. He finds his classes well enough and makes friends with his roommates. One is a greasy-haired guy named Spice—he’s fairly sure the guy’s a junky but he’s only seen him use legal marijuana—and Miles, who has a habit of snarking in a somehow kind manner. They’re fairly cool and he’s glad that he has good roommates in the first year of college. He’s heard enough horror stories about bad roommates to make him fear for his life.
It isn’t long after that he does see the so-called “Ghost Boy.”
It’s in the dead of morning, the sun barely making skids along the sky and the air still chilly from the night. Wes is at the library, accidentally stumbling on a supernatural research paper while trying to find sources for his essay. It wasn’t his fault that the electromagnetic field of the nonliving is more interesting than philosophy.
It’s dark since the overhead lights don’t operate until 10 AM. He’s using a green lamp to read and take notes. No one else is there, mostly because it’s still the beginning of the semester and exams haven’t started up. Well, that’s what he believes anyway.
Wes spots a figure in the corner of his eye, half-expecting it to be Miles giving him an early scare. (The man had discovered Wes’s infatuation with anything supernatural and it has not been a good couple of days.) He has a prepared shout in his throat when his eyes land on a teenager.
He’s beneath the skylight, which is the exact center of the room. The moon’s beam showers him and he almost looks transparent. His white complexion has light bouncing off his skin, and it makes his surroundings glow. Dust motes swirled around and his head tilted up, looking at the stars that stare back. He can’t make much out in the low light but he tries his best to.
His pitch-black hair falls messily and even Wes could notice that his eyes were a chilling green. He’s wearing a faded band shirt that’s so beaten up that Wes couldn’t tell what it used to be. The boy is standing, unmoving. His eyes are knitted together as if in deep thought.
Wes doesn’t know what to make of the scene, it’s almost unnerving.
He’s about to call out and ask why the boy is there until he starts to move. The pale boy does a full-body shudder—unsettling to see a boy start shaking for no reason, even for only a second—and parts his lips. Wes half expects him to say something but, instead, a wispy breath of air escapes his mouth.
Wes looks down confused. It couldn’t be that cold, could it? He cups his hands near and blows a steady stream of air and carefully watches it. Not even the faintest cloud appears in them.
His eyes move back up, but the boy’s not there anymore. He hastily stands up, not caring as the chair is sent crashing to the floor—that’s a lie, he glances very apologetically at the seat and mutters a sorry—and dashes to where he last saw the boy.
No matter where he looks, it feels as if there wasn’t anyone there in the first place. He hadn’t heard the boy move at all.
The clouds above move and close the moon behind it. It’s completely dark right now, the only light coming from the lamp that’s still lit. The darkness reminds him of the boy’s hair and the green lamp are his eyes.
He swears to Miles and Spice that he met the Ghost Boy when he meets with them in their room. His roommates laugh at him instead.
“Dude, c’mon,” Spice giggles, “Ghost Boy’s a legit student here. You probably just saw him for a sec.” He’s on the top bunk, his head hanging upside down off the bed. His hair, which usually is in a ponytail, flows freely down like a river of tar. Wes used to wonder how he does that without feeling a head rush, but it’s pretty much a Spice thing.
Miles nods in agreement. “I know you’re a freshman and I should encourage this behavior to the extreme as your junior—”
Wes scowls which gets Spice to laugh loudly, interrupting Miles for a moment.
“—But Ghost Boy’s seriously just a normal guy. I think he has some chronic illness that makes him look fourteen.” Miles pauses and a no-nonsense expression appears. “It’s noncommunicable so don’t start avoiding him like the plague. And treat him like any other person, the only thing different with him is how he looks, not his head.”
Wes cringes at his own accusation and nods towards Miles. He didn’t want to be a jerk to someone who has a medical problem. However, that doesn’t stop the theories from stinging his brain.
A week goes by and Wes passes the meeting with Ghost Boy as an early-morning hallucination. A combination of sleep deprivation and his student guide’s story made him see things for a brief moment. No matter how realistic it was, it is just his imagination.
And then the right situation comes along that tells him it was not.
It’s around lunch and Wes is heading to the vending machine. He would have had lunch at Infinity Mall—Infinity Hall’s basically closer than twins to the mini-mall, thus dubbing it Infinity Mall—but his allowance had yet to come in. Besides, he’s feeling potato chips and a cereal bar anyway.
As he veers the corner, he is met with the sight of Ghost Boy standing right in front of the vending machine.
He takes a sharp step back, pressing his body against the wall that hid him from the kid- full-fledged adult. Wes doesn’t know why he’s hiding, but he thinks it’s connected to his embarrassment. If he has to ever talk to Ghost Boy—he needed to find out his name, honestly—he’d be awkward as hell. It’s like when he had to hand in his English paper to the teacher he tackled for thinking she was a selkie. Not fun for anyone.
He peeks his head around the corner to see if he left. To his dismay, he stays standing there. There’s an angry look on his face directed to the vending machine. He kicks at the machine a few times.
Ghost Boy’s eyes are clearly blue. Almost as piercing as his library encounter—which did not happen—but not green. Wes feels as if he should be relieved, but a chill runs down his spine at the sudden change of color.
“Stupid frickin’ money eater,” Ghost Boy mutters loudly. Then he takes a moment to think. He looks to his left as if he’s scoping the area and Wes quickly retracts his head.
Oh gosh, is this stalking? Am I stalking someone again? He physically shakes his head. I’m just waiting for him to leave, nothing to do with Ghost Boy. Nope. Not at all.
He waits before he juts a bit of himself to watch Ghost Boy again. He’s crouched down and Wes could barely understand what he’s doing from the angle. One thing’s for sure though, it looks as if he just pulled a bag of BBQ chips through the vending machine.
In his hands were the chips and his annoyed face turns into a knowing, pleased-with-himself grin. He juggles the chip from hand to hand and walks away.
Wes, once again, scrambles as fast as he can to the place where Ghost Boy once stood. Nothing strange seems to have taken, also in a similar fashion as before. The only evidence that anything at all happened is his own eyes. Yet again, an almost repeat scenario.
Kyle, his brother, always said his hair is pulled over his eyes. Metaphorically and physically. His quiff would obstruct his vision sometimes and Kyle tells him that’s why he sees things (unfair coming from the man who has bangs covering the entirety of one of his eyes.) But people always say stuff about his hair—mostly because he’s a redhead—and it never has been in downfall.
He can’t be simply paranoid now, can he? He knows the saying is ‘once an accident, twice a coincidence, and three times a pattern’ but a coincidence is more than enough to get his bonnet in a twist.
He decides to put it to study.
“You wanna know more ‘bout Ghosty?” Spice repeats Wes’s question, pulling his lollipop from his mouth for a second.
Wes nods in affirmation, looking up to Spice from his desk. The older always conversed from the higher platform of his bed, and Wes couldn’t have the faintest idea why. In the end, it’s just another Spice thing to do.
Spice rests his head on the metal railing, the rest of his body belly-flat on his bed. His eyes wander the room lazily as he thinks. “Man, I haven’t talked to the dude in a while. Real cool though. Has the wildest stories, you wouldn’t believe. Pretty sure his name is…” Spice snaps his fingers a few times, trying to recall. “Randy? Tammy? Dah… Daffy? D something I’m sure.”
Wes hums at the new knowledge. Ghost Boy’s name starts with a D. It’s not the best lead and it is coming from a man who looks as if smoked something just before the conversation, but it’s better than nothing. He also had the slightest suspicion Miles would mess with him a little if he’d ask. Love the guy, but he does like to tease his supernatural obsession. And this is an investigation.
“Have you seen Ghost Boy do anything… spooky? Walk through walls? Disappear? Fly?”
“He’s much more unique than the other guys!” Spice smiles to himself in an inside joke sort of way. Wes stares at Spice weirdly but Spice completely ignores it.
He pretends he hadn’t even said anything and answers, “Ooh, one time I think I saw his eyes change color. I also think I took half a joint, and colors are always more,” he mimes two explosions with his hands, “POP! ‘know? Anyway, they turned green for a sec. Not like a grassy or a dark, full-on acid green.” He’s waving his hands comically while he speaks.
Wes thinks that’s all the confirmation he needs.
“Wait, you legitimately believe in the supernatural, no jokes?”
“Yes, for the last time, Miles.”
“Oh, sorry man. Hope I wasn’t mean or anything. But you do know I will still joke about this all, right?”
“It’d be weird if you didn’t.”
“Good. By the way, what’s your take on baby ghosts? Can two ghosts just… get at it?”
“Oh, what the hell-”
Wes actually puts off the ghost hunting business to pay attention to his classes. They started to pick up and he did want to get his Criminal Science degree.
He begins to notice whether or not Ghost Boy—now dubbed D—is around. Spots him on the opposite side of his class, hanging out with friends in the courtyard, and just casually walks by. The more Wes stares the more he’s convinced that D might be a normal student. But then he recalls his experience and his stoner roommate.
Before he knew it, it’s Halloween.
Miles lassos him into some student haunted house that is Infinity Hall. Spice tags along too, just because he likes to.
Wes wears his old basketball shirt that still fits him, adding some fake cuts on his face and arms for extra effect. He planned to go more zombie but the sentimental value of the shirt stopped him. Miles decides to wear a partly faded Captain Crunch shirt with some painted on red streaks. Spice went for a goth lumberjack, which isn’t any different from what he normally wears. Black and white flannel and his hair tied up in a bun.
He had to hand it to the Infinity Hall students, the building is incredible. The once comforting brick aesthetic now towers over them menacingly. The series of windows on every dorm room has not a single bit of light pouring out of them, vaguely impressive to see everyone in the hall work together to give the illusion. Vines coiled up at the sides in a rundown way; Wes finds that they are fake, obviously, but it’s extremely real in the darkness. Cassandra Hall—his own dormitory—pales in comparison to the dorm in front of him. They’d only put up a few cobwebs and tacky decorations.
“I’m pretty sure Danny’s the main planner this year,” Miles says conversationally, pushing past the large metal doors of Infinity Hall. “He makes a helluva good haunted house. He usually co-plans with Link, that’s the RA, but he got full reigns this time.”
A wicked expression crosses Miles as he looks at Wes, “He likes going full throttle, just so you know. Link’s the one that holds Danny back so don’t be surprised if you get a few nightmares from today.”
They’re in the main hallway, at least Wes thinks he is. Up till now, they’ve just been following Miles absentmindedly. Wes surveys the room and realizes that he has no idea where the entrance and exit are. He scoots closer to his friends.
A low fog is at their feet that obscures the ground below. Wes didn’t even notice when it washed in but it settles as if it has always been there. No matter where he looks, he can’t find the fog machine or the glycerine-water combination that’s pushing it into the room.
Spice nudges Wes slightly, he jumps in response and then glares at the taller male. Spice smirks a little and rolls the lollipop in his mouth to his cheek.
“Heads up, I chose Suspense Experience instead of the Jumpscare one. Also removed the Entertainment Package.”
Wes’s eyebrows knit together but Spice doesn’t elaborate. It feels as if Wes is the only one completely oblivious to what he’s going to experience. Even Spice is in on it, choosing the ‘experience’ they’re going to have.
As they keep moving, Wes sees there is a clear direction they need to head. A path lit by hanging lanterns, the type used in camping and at the lowest level imaginable, directs them. The walls are lined with broken mirrors and masks. Broken, wooden support beams scatter around them and the hall gets narrow.
Miles’ face contorts into a tight smile and Spice’s usual blazed, lazy face holds a steady stream of tenseness.
A boy’s giggle echoes behind them.
They snap in the direction, but nothing’s there. The sound of bells clinking together is the only thing left.
They continue into a narrowing path, a doll hung by a thread dropping suddenly at Wes’s face. He yelps loudly and his friends do the same. He pushes past it and leans towards Spice. He’s taller than all of them, even if it’s just skin and bones.
More dolls hang down in a random order, and it spooks them every time. They look to the walls and, sometimes, the masks would jut forward without warning. A clear mop of hair revealing and their heads tilting and following them.
With a few more scares and bells ringing, they make it to an open room. All of their relief is sucked out when they find themselves in a hall of full-body mirrors, numerous mannequins with jet-black hair and dragging white robes scatter it. Wes reaches a hand to touch one of them, hand jerking back as it connects to cold plastic. Yeah, they’re fake. As if the information made it any less scary.
“Dude,” Miles hisses, “Do you have a death wish?”
“Sue me if I’m curious!”
“Heaven forbid you to get curious, lest we all get attacked by a crazy banshee lady!”
Spice pushes them forward, gaining instant protests in the process. “The exit is right there, guys! Can’t believe I gotta be the sensible one here.” He mutters at the end.
They hesitantly walk toward it, jumping every time they see a not-mannequin staring. They never move from their place, but their hands inch towards the group whenever they draw close. It makes a creaking sound when they do, like prying wooden puppets open. With the long robes held higher, the red scratch marks on the fabric clearer in the dim light. It instantly has them recoil, only to almost walk into another not-mannequin.
They’re less than a few feet away from the open doorway when a howl of laughter resounds. It gains their attention.
All of the not-mannequins lift their arms straight and give a crooked point of a finger. They giggle and laugh in unison to create a symphony. The sound blends so much that it’s hard to differentiate who’s laughter is who’s.
Suddenly, a much taller, ganglier figure walks forward. Wes doesn’t remember seeing this one, but it is so tall and large that it couldn’t have gotten in through the entrance normally. It has the same hair and robes as the rest, but its back is hunched forward. Even then, it reaches the top of the ceiling with ease. There’s a clear, sickle of a smile plastered on its face and it creaks another step forward.
“Oh perfect dolls, in my walls.”
Another wooden step, this time the rest of them follow suit. A faint blur is in the background the continued sound of bells chiming.
“Would you let me keep you all?”
They all book it through the door as fast as they can, screaming and yelling and cursing loudly. An increase of masks on the walls blurs by. They catch a breath as the hallway makes a turn.
Spice completely sprawls himself on the floor, his lollipop long since lost. Miles’ hands are on his knees and seem seconds from collapsing. Wes leans towards a wall, taking numerous breaths.
“What… the hell did you choose, Spice?” Miles asks between breaths, glaring at the man.
Spice lets out a quiet laugh, his breathing getting calmer. “I did whatcha asked me to. Choose a scary option.”
“I said scary, not terrifying!”
“Well, I was high! You know better to stick me with something after I take a couple.”
Wes interjects, “Wait, it isn’t always that scary?”
Miles shakes his head, lifting his body back up. “It’s usually milder than this. Man, I did not realize how much Link holds Danny back, damn.”
Wes lifts his head and whips it to the left. He kicks Spice from the ground; he barely sees Spice through the fog but his faint outline is a good indication. Wes points down the hall.
“Hey… that’s the exit, right?”
The hall is long and thin like the rest, but there’s a light at the end. A distant rustle of leaves is distinct enough that all of their heads bend towards it. He knows what they are all thinking: freedom. With shaking knees, they walk as fast to it. There are more puppets and dolls from the ceiling and sides but they’re all too determined to get out.
They’re moments away and are almost jogging at this point, but stop suddenly.
Wes takes an unsteady hand and presses forward.
A large glass pane separates them from the exit. The edges are obscured by the fog and props, but they can all see them clearer now that they are closer. It fogs up just a bit at Wes’s breathing and he sees his own, wide-eyed expression. He can map out every piece of horror and hopelessness in his eyes.
A giggle just like from the beginning echoes again. When they turn to the right, they see what has been making it.
A boy is sitting on a waiting room chair, swinging his legs back and forth. He’s wearing a rugged and crumpled suit and his black hair is gelled back.
“Where are you going?” His voice echoes as he asks.
His mouth doesn’t move. It only takes a moment to see that he’s wearing a porcelain mask. A quick look at the rest of his body and it almost looks as if the rest of his body is porcelain too.
“Don’t you want to be a doll?” He asks another question, standing up. He doesn’t sound as if he’s wearing the mask, instead of talking from every direction simultaneously. His legs clatter together and it makes a high-pitch ding. It sounds like bells.
The ringing bells were never bells.
It’s the sound of porcelain.
They all take a step backward as the boy continues. It’s unnerving how his mouth stays still. “You’ll be perfect. Forever! Don’t you want to be perfect?”
Miles grasps at Wes’s shoulder and they make eye contact. There’s terror in them. He points behind them, another open doorway. There’s also a light coming from there, just as the one next to them promised. The hall is completely dark, with no lanterns at all. The only thing illuminating it is the open door.
“Let’s go!” Miles urges, and it doesn’t take much convincing to run to the new promise of freedom.
Unlike the last time, the porcelain boy doesn't stay in his room. He sprints just as fast as them. The jingle of bells—no, porcelain flesh—reverberates. He laughs like he’s playing a game that nearly makes Spice trip on his feet. Wes grabs at Spice’s arm and drags him faster.
“Stay!” the boy screeches. “Come back! STAY!”
Wes feels like he’s in an actual horror movie, sweat clinging on his brow and adrenaline pumping.in his veins. He still can’t see the sides of the walls, an endless abyss to his left and right. It only makes the end light more alluring.
He nearly trips on a fallen doll, but he’s quick to bounce back up. Within a split second, he sees the boy behind them. Even with the porcelain mask, he can see the eye color.
Wes keeps running to the light, nonetheless. Heavy breaths escaping him and his legs beginning to ache. They’re echoed by his friends’ pants and footsteps.
Then it’s all bright.
He’s through the door and he tumbles into the grassy area right outside. He’s flat on the ground and is willing his body to take more breaths. His hands are free to clamp onto the soil below him. To his sides are Spice and Miles, both equally exhausted.
In a moment of panic, he faces his body towards the door they came from, terrified that the boy will continue to chase them.
He’s standing there right at the doorway, looking somehow disappointed through the mask. He doesn’t dare take a step onto the outside concrete. His chest doesn’t move up and down as rapidly as theirs, doesn’t even look like he’s breathing.
He takes a moment to look at them each in the eye.
“Fine. You’ll never be perfect.”
The wind slams the metal doors.
The echo in his voice never left, Wes realizes with the hammering of his heart. In the broken mirror path, the seemingly full hallway, the straight course of darkness, or even right outside the door, it always sounded haunting. He thinks (and hopes) that it’s a voice modulator, but an old buzz of a busy bee resurfaces.
It’s silence until Miles lets out a large whoop. He pumps his fists high in the air.
“That was amazing! He was all chase-y and we were all screaming!”
Spice shares the sentiment and speaks through deep breaths, “Damn good haunted house.”
Wes gives a queasy smile, “Yeah, yeah… Scary as hell.”
Miles barks laughter, “And Danny as a creepy child? Now that was perfect!”
And something drops in Wes’s stomach. The look of the small boy starts to become familiar. “Wait… does that mean-?” He does his best to iterate the question, even with his mind fuzzy with adrenaline. “Is Danny Ghost Boy?”
Miles huffs a laugh, “Yup, local Infinity Hall resident and Astrophysics major, Daniel Fenton. Also known as Ghost Boy.”
“You’re an actual ghost, aren’t you?” Wes interrogates, crossing his arms.
It took him until mid-November and two weeks of on-and-off stalking studying to initiate a confrontation. He manages to corner D—now dubbed Danny—in a fenced gazebo within the courtyard. Danny had the habit of drawing star maps in it, something about ‘natural lighting’ if Wes’s eavesdropping ears are believed.
Danny looks up in confusion from the wooden seat attached to the gazebo. He has a ruler in one hand, a pen in the other, and a large sheet of paper in his lap. His hair is in an unruly mess and he’s wearing the University’s sweater. His eyes are blue and no matter how hard Wes stares at them, they remain that way.
There’s a re-ignition in the very center of Wes’s being, one he can’t ignore anymore. The bee in his bonnet burrows inside of him and makes a hive of his innards.He wanted to keep his old beliefs back in high school, but this is too big for him to hold back. Ancient determination swarms him and the bees that stung him now hum with tenacity.
Wes can’t help but glare, thinking the question sounded nothing more than mocking. As if his accusation has no basis.
“You,” Wes extends an exaggerated point to Danny, “are a ghost. I’ve seen your eyes change to green. Spice’s seen your eyes green too.”
A grin appears on Danny’s face that appears even more mocking, though in a more purposeful sense. “I don’t think changing eyes mean I’m a ghost. Plenty of studies show that eye color can change according to the season.” He’s twirling his pen in his hand as he speaks.
Wes’s eyes narrow, “But it wasn’t seasonal! Your eyes literally change from blue to green spontaneously.”
“Well, I don’t know else to explain it to you. It’s how my eyes work.”
“How about your disappearances? Care to explain how you can just vanish in thin air?”
Danny puts an elbow to a criss-cross knee and props his chin with his hand. He’s leaning in as if he’s amused by everything. All of his work is set aside to the empty space beside him.
“I just have quiet footsteps,” Danny shrugs. “Trick of the light too. And, not to be blunt, but I’m pretty short. It's easy to look past me.”
The temper inside of Wes bubbles up but he keeps himself planted in his spot. “Your voice echoed during Halloween when you were playing that creepy ghost. Even when you were right outside.”
Danny pokes his cheek with the hand beneath his head. “I mean, I never left the building. And the halls echo like crazy when you clear everything out. It's very effective, wouldn’t you say?”
Wes notes that Danny hasn’t refused the three accusations. He diverts it into something reasonable. It’s a very effective technique. It nearly works on Wes but he recalls a lecture that explains that a criminal does this to gaslight their innocence. But they sometimes don’t refuse because they are guilty and their mind doesn’t want to lie.
“How about this?” Wes roughly takes out a printed photograph from his pocket and shoves it in his face.
It’s a picture of Danny’s arm phased into a rosebush. Wes had taken it when Danny was playing frisbee with some of his friends. It had been such a small moment that Wes barely got it on camera. He’d been studying Danny for a good half hour, calling him obsessed, and it’s the first bit of a coherent lead he’d gotten.
Wes watched Danny like a hawk—not in a stalking way, only when Wes had some time on his hands—and the times Danny shows symptoms of being a ghost were slim.
Danny pokes the photograph down a little, giving it a gimlet look. “The angle’s pretty weird.”
Danny hands it back to him, and he harshly snatches. He examines it closely. And, yeah, the phasing could be passed off because of the awkward angle, but it's still proof!
It’s a sharp laugh that distracts Wes and has Wes scowling more ferociously.
“I’m sorry,” Danny wipes a tear from his cheek. “I’ve been accused of being an actual kid, eternal youth, and some sort of Benjamin Button, but never a ghost.”
Wes’s fists tighten up and his brow forms a permanent knot. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Danny shrugs again, “You’re the first, I guess. Something to be proud about, I tell you.”
It doesn’t sound very taunting, more like it’s something Wes should actually be proud of. But the knowing smirk makes any pride worthless. It's telling Wes that he doesn’t have enough evidence, that he can’t get more evidence.
He pockets his proof photograph and slams his foot angrily to the floor. He spins on his heels to the open entryway, giving one last glare.
“I’ll show you, Fenton! I’ll prove that you aren’t what you seem!”
“Bye guys, thanks for- Wes?”
“Hey, Wes! What’re you doing in that tree? Oh, where are you going? Well, see you during study hall.”
“I’ll get you next time, Fenton!”
Wes starts having a difficult time with his not-stalking.
Before, when it was a casual thing, he had no problem watching out for Danny, but now it’s downright impossible. He points a camera and snaps a picture; Danny looks behind him and throws up a peace sign and a stuck-out tongue. He looks as if he’s turning the corner and is, instead, waiting for Wes to follow him; then he makes some idle conversation that just riles up Wes.
The more determined Wes got, the more it escalated. He starts taking far away approaches, using a telescopic camera that he always keeps in its case to gain more distance. Watching to see if Danny’s shadow stays when he’s out of sight. He’s better at hiding if he thinks Danny is going to spot him.
It’s only increasingly aggravating that Danny seems to be improving at the same pace, yet one step ahead. He moves around fast enough that it takes a good second for his camera to refocus, he still manages to catch Wes off guard, and all with that amusement like he’s playing a game. Some kooked up version of Tom and Jerry that’s very fun to Jerry, but not kind at all to Tom.
Miles sets an intervention after a late-night and returning to the dorm.
Wes is pulled into the desk chair and is half-disorientated by the swiftness of it. He tries to say something against what’s happening but he barely gets a single word in.
Miles’ carefree expression has boiled down to something serious. Spice stands beside him but looks more lazily dazed than anything. He has one of his weed vape pens in his mouth and is keeping up with his left hand.
“Okay, that’s the fifth time you came, like, ten minutes before curfew. What gives, Wes?”
“Yeah, are you off getting high or something? Let me tell you, I can get you better stuff if that’s it,” Spice supports, and nobody in the room bats an eye. They already know it, with how many times Spice has offered.
Wes mimics Miles’ crossed arms. “I’ve been in the library.”
“And I’m a Business Major,” Miles says sarcastically. “Look, you better not have gotten yourself messed up with something-”
“Geez!” Wes waves away the accusation. “I promise I’m not doing any bad stuff.”
“Then what’s got you busy?” Spice asks, leaning against the frame of his bed and taking another inhale.
Wes puckers his lips subconsciously, not wanting the prepared speeches slip off his tongue. His roommates already knew he had an obsession with the supernatural, but will they react if he says he accuses Danny as a ghost? Wes has lost a good few friends in the past with his constant paranoia.
But it’d feel so good to say it. Share his research despite the reactions he gets because being heard is enough.
Wes wordlessly goes to his bed and leans down to take something from underneath it. Miles and Spice watch him curiously and it takes all of Wes’s strength to do the next few moves.
He’s gotten it all out and propped it up onto the chair he once sat on. He snags a ruler from the desk and slaps it at the dead center.
It is a corkboard, full of printed photographs and red yarn connecting points. At the top a push pinned title, “GHOST BOY IS A GHOST.” There’s the photo of Danny posing for the camera, messily written sticky notes, and articles about ghosts from Amity Park. There isn’t much online information about Amity Park online but it’s known for being a ghost-obsessed town and it is such a coincidence that Danny comes from it.
“This is Danny Fenton,” he says with all the confidence of a lecturer with ten years of experience. “I have reason to believe that he is a bonafide ghost.”
Miles tries to say something, maybe point out how insane it is, but Wes continues.
“I’ve caught him on numerous occasions doing actions that can be determined as unordinary,” his ruler moves along the yarn and onto areas with several blurry pictures. “His origins also connect to my theory. A past in Amity Park, self-established as the ‘Most Haunted Place on Earth.’”
“—Also the biggest tourist trap.”
“That’s obviously a cover. Simple hidden in plain sight tactic.” He corrects, glaring at the skeptic-eyed brunet. “But this fact—because this sure as hell went past just being a theory—is exactly why I have been going out later.”
Miles’ face scrunches and he has the biggest look of disbelief. His hands fell to his sides and his shoulders sag down. Spice has pocketed the weed vape pen and does a full-body lean. His face is much more amused.
“Man, I could not have been smoking that much. All of this,” Spice draws circles with his hand, “is not just a weird trip, right?”
Wes nods, taking the question seriously. “No, it isn’t. I, one-hundred percent, know that Fenton is an actual ghost.”
Miles covers his face with his hands and lets out a small screech. It somehow encapsulates all the anguish and the ‘what has my life become?’ energy in the high-pitch noise. Wes is all too familiar with it.
He peaks through his hands to stare at Wes. “You-you’re stalking Danny? Is that what this is?”
Wes rolls his eyes and takes a seat on the desk. His confident appearance drops and he’s just annoyed. “No, stalking would mean he doesn’t know I’ve been following him. That ghost even taunts me a few times when he catches me.”
More shock crosses Miles and he repeats his earlier screech.
Spice steps in, looking halfway to laughing. “Wait, new question: is this some weird kink thing?”
“WHAT? NO!” Wes sputters, almost falling and knocking the cork board off the chair. “This is me proving my research and Fenton… ‘letting’ me for his own amusement,” Wes growls at the floor, the annoyance in his voice more evident.
It is partly true that Danny had been more than lenient when it comes to Wes’s study. Usually, Wes’s subjects report him or threaten to file a restraining order at this point. Danny hadn’t even muttered a single inkling that Wes has been any sort of creep—which he isn’t, he’s a dedicated scientist—because Wes would surely have heard rumors if he did. Not a single soul, aside from the roommates he just told, know about his obsession.
Spice’s amusement increases but he’s leaning even more to the bed. It’s as if he’s moments away from jumping into it. “Ah, gotcha. As long as both parties are cool, I guess.”
Miles snaps back up, a brave face secures on his face, n. He looks Wes in the eye and steeples his fingers. “So this is all… consensual?” Miles pauses and whispers a low, “and crazy?”
“Don’t say it like that, Miles!”
“Well, I don’t know how else to phrase it! Acknowledged following? Look, just answer.”
Wes puts a hand to his cheek, finding it tiring to keep his head up. “Yeah, yeah. Not really negotiated but… understood? I really hate this phrasing.”
Miles stares for a very long time and Spice has wordlessly started to climb into his bed. He mutters a goodnight as he lays completely down. Wes could tell that he is tired—Wes is too—and the guy had an early class. They let him do so freely as they continued their staring contest.
“I’m going to talk to Danny about this,” Miles says with finality.
“Go ahead!” Wes grumbles a bit peeved that his friend would talk to the enemy. “He’ll tell you the same thing.” It doesn’t even sound convincing to Wes, but he hopes it suffices as an end to the conversation.
“Fine,” leers Miles and he rushes over to his bed. He gives Wes one last stink eye before he pulls the covers over his face. Wes could definitely hear him say, “I’m living with crazy people.”
Spice, who so happens to not be asleep, howls in laughter.
“So I talk to Danny—”
“Tell him all my secrets why don’t you?”
“Shh. Anyway, fine. It’s consensual or whatever—”
“And you couldn’t have believed me?”
“Stop interrupting! And yes, I couldn’t have just believed you. Both sides, remember? Back to my point, you’re only going to do your whole stalking thing on the weekends, okay?”
“Wha- you can’t just dictate when I study a ghost!”
“Weekends. Got it.”
“Hey, nearly missed you, Wes. You know, your friend is pretty cool. The whole weekend rule actually works better for my schedule. Ooh, do you want to plan by the hours? I’m the freest on Saturday afternoons anyway.”
“You good, Wes?”
“…you are an absolute menace, Fenton.”
A year passes.
Wes is just about to earn his Associate's Degree in Criminal Science. It would have felt a thousand times better if it wasn’t Danny’s last year in the University. The specter managed to evade everything Wes has thrown at him. He worked to the last day to gain that evidence but nothing became fruitful.
People, miraculously, have no idea about the ‘agreement’ between Danny and Wes. Danny’s friends don’t seem to know either—or if they did and they didn’t make it known—so this whole ordeal felt as if it never even happened.
Wes has bags packed and is ready to leave by the end of the week. He hasn’t said goodbye to Miles or Spice yet but he is when they get together on the last day. One last day at Infinity Mall and buying whatever they want. It doesn’t sound like much, but they never bought more than a five-dollar meal at the Mall in the place. Spice has been dying to buy this one display blender since the first semester.
He’s walking to the library when he feels himself dragged in by something. A hand secures itself on his wrists and another covers his mouth. Panic fills and he thrashes, but the adversary is much stronger than him.
And then he is being pulled through a wall. Shock fills his very core and his movement tenses and stills.
The room is cramped and he could feel cold metal prodding at his sides and several smaller objects. It is completely dark and it makes his heart thump loudly. The hands let him go and he pushes himself to the furthest wall, ignoring as he feels more stuff poke his shoulder blade.
Light fills the room in a second and he’s greeted with the sight of a goofy smiling Danny Fenton. His hand is on a chain connected to a low-hanging light bulb.
“What-!” Wes says loudly but Danny rudely cuts him off. As if kidnapping him isn’t enough.
“Wesley Weston—mega cool name by the way—I gotta say my goodbyes to you. I’m going to miss you, weirdly enough.” Danny has this nonchalant demeanor that makes Wes think it is any normal weekend. He’s gesturing wildly despite the tight area.
Now that Wes could see, he knows that he’s in a janitor’s closet. The metal shelves were what poked his side and he’s slightly leaning into a push broom. He moves a little closer, knowing his assailant isn’t an assailant but a stupid ghost kid.
“You—” he pokes at Wes’s chest suddenly, “—are the first one who’s ever accused me of being a ghost. I’ll say it again, that’s something to be proud of.”
Wes swipes away the hand harshly, bumping into some chemical bottles while he did. There’s that grin on Danny’s face that is scarily similar to the mocking yet amused smile from their first confrontation. Wes’s scowl that he falls back to is another akin to that day.
“Did you phase through the wall? And me?” Wes says accusingly, his teeth grinding together. He expects Danny to divert the blame to something else. Make some sense and say that it isn’t like that at all.
“Duh, I’m a ghost, aren’t I?”
Wes’s brain short-circuits. His mouth drops and whatever broom has been leaning on him is ignored.
Danny snaps his fingers in front of Wes a few times. “Dude, you are so broken right now. Bet I can get you to break further. Okay, okay, watch this.”
Another light starts up, but its white rings around Danny. They flow over Dann’s figure and his University hoodie turns into a black-and-white HAZMAT suit. His hair went from a black to a snowy white. And his eyes. They’re the acid green that Wes had wanted to see for the past year. His smile never changes, like a teenager just amused with life.
“Tada!” Danny exclaims and does jazz hands.
“I—?” Wes wants to say he was right, but he always knew he was right about this. “Why?” He asks instead.
“Like I said, you’re the only one to seriously think I was a ghost.” Danny shrugs, glancing at his gloved hand as if inspecting his fingernails. “Besides, you’re also the only person to never think of me as a kid. Sure, a ghost feels no better, but I’d take it any day from being mistaken as a kid.”
There's a sincerity that warms Wes just a bit. Though it gets overtaken by the fiery burn of knowing he’s right and that the supernatural does exist. A need to know takes over him and he thinks of all the questions that need answering. His obsession has finally met its justification and it’s absolutely perfect.
“Why now of all times?”
“It's consolation, for the both of us I mean. We’ve been playing this game for more than a year for ghost’s sake—and yes I say that unironically. I just had to let you know, you know?”
Wes slowly nods, because he does understand it but it is still off-putting talking to a glowing boy.
“So… can I get a quick picture? Or-or blood test. That’d be good too.”
A sickle grin creeps into Danny’s face and he shows all of his teeth. There’s mischief in his eyes and Wes knows it's because it leaked in through his head. It sends a small shiver in Wes's spine.
“No, no,” Danny chuckles a few times. “I’ve kept this secret for a long time, Wes. I didn’t tell you just to reveal it to the world.”
Wes’s shoulders drop and his brow knits. “Then why…?”
Danny laughs more heartily this time. He floats off the ground, surprising Wes, and leans in close.
“Because no one will ever believe you.”
Danny disappears at that, evaporating in-air. He leaves Wes alone in a janitor’s closet, half-dazed and confused. It takes a second for Wes to compute that he is completely alone. The magnitude of Danny’s asshole-ry then catches up with him.
He takes a small look around him and feels the words bubble from his mouth.
“FUCK YOU, FENTON!”
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Danny's been summoned. But not by who you'd expect. In fact, not by an actual person.
Phic Phight Prompt by @greyheartwriter
For once, he was actually awake and alone when he felt the familiar tug low in his gut. It slithered through his veins like smothering smoke, and his breathing caught as the fabric of reality tore him into pieces and stuffed him through the gaps between atoms at a speed that defied physical boundaries.
Rematerialisation was, somehow, even worse. His core formed first, and then he felt every painful tug as flesh and bones began to melt back into corporeality. His nerves wrapped back around every millimetre of every single layer of organs and muscles in a nexus of screaming, boiling pain, and then skin slipped into place in a final layer of torture…
When he could finally breathe again, his newly-formed ribs felt like they were going to split open his sides, and Danny hunched over and wrapped his arms around himself, blinking in an effort to clear the haze from his vision. He heaved in a few choked, desperate lungfuls of air, bracing his palms on the floor, and realised that as usual, he’d fallen to his knees.
“Alright,” he wheezed, “who the hell are you this time?”
There was no answer.
He coughed, looking around at the… very familiar room.
Danny frowned. There was no summoning circle on the floor, no acrid stench of burning herbs or the flickering of candles, no otherworldly chanting from people in cheap black robes typically made from plastic garbage bags or scavenged from the post-Halloween bargain bin…
No. Instead he was kneeling on his own bedroom floor, the soft afternoon light streaming through the window and falling across his unmade bed just to the left.
He got to his feet, staggering a bit with the residual weakness, and turned in a circle a couple of times as though whoever had summoned him would magically appear. Everything was how he had left it, with dirty clothes on the floor, his window slightly ajar, and homework and birthday presents mingled on his desk.
Something moved out of the corner of his eye and Danny spun. He immediately overbalanced and had to grab the bedpost to steady himself, mouth going dry as the soulless plastic eyes of the toy on his desk blinked with a whirr.
“Danny,” it drawled, and vertigo sent him back to his knees as his core fluttered with the recognition that the thing that had summoned him had just said his name. “Daaannnnnyyyyyy, u-nye-loo-lay-doo?”
He swallowed, mouth dry and throat tight. “Jazz,” he rasped. He swallowed again as the toy’s ears twitched with another tiny whirr, and prayed that it wouldn’t say his name anymore. “Jazz, come here now!”
He heard a heavy sigh through the wall and the sound of her chair rolling on its wheels before Jazz’s footsteps stomped into the hallway.
“What?” she snapped, throwing open his door. “I have a test to study for, and I thought you went out an hour ago!”
He raised his hand dramatically, pointing at the thing on his desk. “Burn it.”
“What?! Danny, why… why are you on the floor?”
He moaned, massaging his chest. “Damn it, Jazz,” he croaked, “I told you those are evil. It summoned me!”
She froze. “It… it what?”
He gripped the bedpost and forced himself back onto his feet, legs trembling with the effort. “It’s evil! I told you I didn’t want it! But no, you thought it was a cute, retro birthday gift, a blast from the past, a—”
His name, uttered by the chunk of plastic and wires, drove him to his knees again, and Danny choked down a cry as his core squeezed painfully.
Jazz giggled. “This summoned you? This?!” She broke off with a truly wicked laugh that Danny felt was entirely unwarranted.
She snorted, but crossed his room and picked the offending item up off the desk before flipping it over and rooting around its control panel. There was a tiny click, and the immense pressure on Danny’s core evaporated like it had never existed in the first place.
He took a deep, unrestrained lungful of air. “Stop laughing. You know that summoning hurts me.”
“You’re still smiling,” he accused, standing up yet again with the help of the bedpost.
She held out the item. “Are you sure you don’t want to do the honours?”
He shied away. “Don’t touch me with that,” he whined. “Just burn it. Now.”
She laughed again and headed for the door. “Sorry. I’ll go do that.”
He scowled as she stepped out into the hallway. “I said it was demonically possessed when you gave it to me!”
Her soft laughter turned into downright cackling, and as he collapsed onto his bed Danny could only hope that none of the other ghosts ever found out that he’d been so thoroughly beaten by the accidental summonings of a furby.
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Danny wakes up in a bed that is not his own, he is covered with big splashes of ectoplasm and he has no memory of the day before. Prompt by @phantomfana
word count: 1033
Danny groaned as he started slipping back into consciousness. What had happened yesterday? All he remembered was playing video games with Sam and Tucker and then suddenly everything was blank.
He rolled onto his other side, grimacing at a pain in his stomach but he ignored it in favor of going back to sleep.
“Oh thank fuck, you’re awake.”
Danny’s eyes shot open at the voice that spoke next to him and he bolted up and then clenched at his head when it started aching. When he opened his eyes again, he looked to his left to see Dash staring at him with wide eyes. His brows furrowed and he looked around the room, which clearly wasn’t any room in his house.
“What happened?” He mumbled, rubbing a hand against his face. “What am I doing here?”
Dash’s brows drew down. “You don’t remember?”
“No?” Danny said, his gaze darting back to Dash.
Sighing, Dash ran a hand through his hair and looked at the floor. “Last night Phantom was in the park doing his nightly patrol.”
“Phantom?” Danny asked.
“Yeah. He was doing his usual rounds when the Fentons got there. I couldn’t hear everything they said, but they sounded like they were trying to ask him something. After a little while they started getting mad and shooting at him.”
“Okay.” Danny said. “He’s usually fine after dealing with them. What happened?”
“They pulled out a new weapon I’ve never seen before and shot him with it. He started falling out of the sky and he landed on the ground near me. I could hear them getting closer so I picked him up and started running here, but…”
Dash looked back up at Danny.
“I saw him, you, transform.”
Danny’s eyes widened and he began trying to scramble backwards in the bed away from Dash. He hissed as a pain shot through his stomach again and stilled when Dash started waving his hands back and forth in front of him.
“No! Don’t do that! I don’t know what they hit you with but whatever healing power thing you usually have going on hasn’t kicked in yet for some reason.”
Looking down, Danny saw a big green stain on the front of his shirt. He lifted up the hem and saw bandages wrapped around his abdomen, green starting to peek through the fabric.
“I would have gotten you a clean shirt but I figured you wouldn’t have liked that.” Dash said quietly.
“You bandaged me up?”
“Yeah?” Dash asked with a frown.
“Why? Why would you help me?”
Dash stared at Danny. “Why wouldn’t I? You're the town’s hero. It’s not like I was gonna leave you there for your parents to find you.”
Danny’s eyes widened in panic again. “My parents- did they see me transform?”
“No.” Dash shook his head. “They were still too far away by the time I grabbed you and started running.”
Danny breathed out a sigh of relief. “Well that’s good. Now I don’t have to worry about going home.”
“Yeah. You know.” Danny paused. “The place where I live?”
“Why would you- Your parents just shot you out of the sky! How can you go back home after that?” Dash yelled.
Shrugging, Danny just looked at Dash. “It’s not like this is the first time that’s happened.”
Dash’s shoulders slumped down and he dropped his face into his hands.
“Doesn’t that terrify you?”
“Well, yeah.” Danny said. “But it’s not like I can just disappear because then they always come blasting at Phantom wondering where their son is.”
Dash let out a short laugh. “I wonder if that’s what happened yesterday when they were talking to you.”
They fell quiet after that. Dash stared at the bed, thinking, while Danny fidgeted with the blanket draped over him. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Danny spoke again.
“Well, I think I should probably go home now before they start wondering where I am. Wouldn’t want them to keep looking for me around town.”
“Are you sure you’re okay to go?” Dash asked. “You’re injury-”
“Isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever had. I’ll be fine in no time.”
Dash huffed. “If you say so.”
He watched as Danny started trying to scoot forward and out of the bed.
“Here, let me help.”
Dash helped pull Danny to his feet, keeping him steady on his feet. They looked at each other for a moment before both looking away.
“You’re not going to tell anyone are you?” Danny asked quietly.
Dash gaped at him. “Why would I tell anyone?”
Danny shrugged. “You’ve bullied me all the time that we’ve known each other. It's a valid question.”
“I guess you’re right.” Dash said. “But no, I’m not going to tell anyone. Realizing it was your parents who have been chasing their son this whole time… I wouldn’t want to put you into that kind of danger. Who knows what could happen.”
Nodding, Danny looked back up at Dash. “Thanks for, you know, helping me.”
“It was the least I could do.”
Nodding again, Danny stepped away from Dash and a bright flash of light appeared around his waist. Dash watched in awe as it split and traveled up and down Danny’s body until it left Phantom in his place.
“Woah.” Dash whispered.
Danny smiled at the look on Dash’s face and gave a small wave before turning to the wall. He was about to fly away when a hand grabbed his wrist.
“Just.” Dash met his gaze and then looked away. “Be careful out there.”
He chuckled and patted the hand that was around his wrist. “Don’t worry, I’ll do my best,”
With that, Danny gently pulled his wrist from Dash’s hand and flew through the wall and up into the air. He took a deep breath. He wasn’t looking forward to the questions and scolding he knew he would get from his parents, but he hoped he’d at least be able to get a clean shirt before they could see him.
He took off and began flying away from Dash’s house and towards the fate his parents had waiting for him for breaking curfew.
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Prompt by @dp-marvel94: As soon as Maddie saw Phantom, she KNEW. It had happened, the thing that she dreaded and feared but in the back her mind knew would happen. Her Danny, her baby wasn’t human anymore….but then again he never had been completely human.
In retrospect, she should have seen this coming from miles away. Perhaps she had seen it, and her surprise now was the result of having willfully turned away. But now, it was being rubbed in her face, thrown up in front of her in gleaming neon letters, staring her in the eye.
The last was literal.
Phantom floated a few meters above the ground, eyes fixed on hers.
Phantom, who was undeniably Danny. Her son. Her baby boy.
He vanished from sight, flying up through the ceiling. Maddie waited ten minutes, frozen and holding her breath, before sitting down hard on the floor. She had thought—She had hoped—
(A memory plagued her. Out with Vlad and Jack after Vlad was discharged, Jazz with a sitter. Red eyes where there should be blue. Panicked apologies. Blood on the sheets and an ache radiating through her whole body.)
She had hoped.
Had hoped that a child born to someone who had been possessed would be entirely human.
(But even as a young child, something had been… not right about Danny. He’d stared at empty corners, spoken to thin air, had a bizarre fixation on clocks. There had been other signs. She’d dismissed them all. But then. Phantom.)
(She couldn’t ignore this.)
She went through the rest of the day, even the kidnapping of the mayor and a fight with a whole horde of ghosts in a daze. Danny was there. Fighting. Doing these… these things. And now she knew.
Did Jack realize? Had Jack put two and two together to realize that the boy he’d raised, the boy he’d taken as his own son, was now… this?
Was now a ghost?
“He’s our responsibility,” said Maddie, hands clasped under her chin. She couldn’t meet Jack’s eyes. “He’s our responsibility, and he’s giving in to his—to his nature. What he did last night…”
“Maddie,” said Jack, reaching across the table. “Just. Stop. Maybe… maybe there’s another way we can do this. Up until now, he’s been fighting the other ghosts, hasn’t he? Maybe we could encourage that part. Guide him to something less, less malevolent.”
“That’s what we thought we were doing from the beginning,” said Maddie. “It hasn’t worked, Jack.”
“That’s when we thought he was still human,” said Jack. “We can—We could invent something. To help him control his—”
“This isn’t a movie, Jack,” snapped Maddie. “He isn’t a vampire we can feed animal blood or a werewolf we can lock up during the full moon. He’s a ghost. This isn’t going to get better. It’s going to get worse.”
“We don’t know that,” protested Jack. “We could at least try, couldn’t we? Don’t we owe him that?”
“He’s our boy, Maddie. We can’t just give up on him.”
“It’s already getting worse. You’ve seen his grades.”
“It might not be because of intellectual degeneration,” said Jack, urgently. “If you suddenly found out about—” he waved his hand vaguely “—wouldn’t you have some trouble focusing on schoolwork? I know I had enough trouble when I was in school…”
“This isn’t the same,” said Maddie.
“I know, that’s my point.”
Maddie covered her face and sighed. “Alright,” she said. She couldn’t let herself hope again. “We’ll… we’ll try it your way, first. What do we tell Jazz?”
“You already know?” asked Maddie, aghast.
“Yes, I saw him transform, once, but I thought it would be better to let him come to me, tell me on his own terms.” Jazz licked her lips. “Does this mean you’ll stop shooting at him? Maybe be more supportive of what he’s trying to do?”
“Jazz, he kidnapped the mayor.”
“I’m not sure he did. A lot of people were possessed this past week. The mayor could have been one of them.”
Maddie closed her eyes and swallowed, suppressing the feelings that rose in her at Jazz’s casual pronouncement.
“I mean, a lot of people at school were talking about how little they remember… Mom, are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She collected herself. “Ghosts,” she said, “aren’t human. They don’t have a human psychology.”
“Danny’s still human.”
“Partially. For now. We don’t want to lose him to this. Will you help us?”
Jazz looked away, frowning. “Even if ghosts are different,” she stressed the word, “that doesn’t mean they’re evil. The wolf ghost helped Danny, didn’t it? And Danny’s doing good. I don’t think you should try to ‘fix’ him. It isn’t right.”
Jack jumped in. “That’s not what we’re doing,” he said, reassuringly. “We just want to make sure that he stays himself. That this doesn’t affect him negatively.”
“But you don’t want me to tell him that’s what you’re doing.”
“Based on recent events,” said Maddie, “we’re concerned that he’ll react poorly and run. We just don’t want that to happen. We can’t help him if he runs from us.”
Jazz bit her lip. “Okay,” she said, finally. “But you can’t do anything to Danny that he doesn’t want. No experiments. No tearing him apart molecule by molecule.”
“Don’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind,” said Jazz, harshly. “You talked about it at the table at breakfast. More than once. I’m keeping an eye on everything you do.”
It was better than her running to the police or trying to free Danny right away because she couldn’t understand.
“Alright,” said Maddie.
It was a good thing Danny’s physiology hadn’t changed enough to give him a resistance to simple sedatives. Watching him nod off in the middle of dinner was as cute as it was tragic.
Jazz was… unhappy. Clearly. But she didn’t say anything.
Danny knew he was in lab as soon as he woke up. The buzz of the overhead lights and the hum of the portal made his hair stand on end and his mouth go dry.
This was bad. This was a nightmare made real.
He didn’t move. Maybe, if they thought he was asleep, they’d hold off on the dissection.
Although… he didn’t seem to be on the examination table. That was a good sign, right? IT had to be a good sign.
His breath caught in his throat and his fingers curled on the surface beneath him. It wasn’t metal. Something… not quite soft. But not hard. Like… a thin air mattress.
“Danny, we know you’re awake.”
He screwed his eyes shut even tighter.
“Please don’t hurt me,” he said. “I’m me. I’m really me. I promise.”
“We know,” said Jack.
That made Danny open his eyes. “You do?” he asked, hopeful despite the fact he was in a box with thick, plastic walls. He pushed himself up on the bench. “Then why—” He was almost hyperventilating.
“Danny,” said Maddie, “Danny, calm down. We’re just- We know you’re Phantom, and we’re here to help you.”
“We know how hard it must have been for you, fighting those ghostly urges,” said Jack. “But we’ll find a way for you to beat ‘em back, son.”
“I don’t- I’m not—” He shook his head. “If you’re talking about the robberies—”
“That’s exactly what we’re talking about,” said Maddie. “But it’s okay. We’re going to keep anything like that from ever happening again.”
Danny bit his lip and felt despair clutch at his heart again. They weren’t going to listen to him. But—Jazz. Jazz would notice he was missing. She didn’t even believe in ghosts, not really. She’d save him. Or Sam and Tucker would look for him.
He just had to hold out. Even if they thought he was… succumbing to his ‘ghostly instincts,’ they wouldn’t hurt him.
“It isn’t working,” said Maddie, head in her hands, surrounded by crumpled by pieces of paper. “He’s getting worse.”
Jack had to admit that he was. It was tragic to watch his son fall to what could only be described as a ghostly Obsession. Just last night Danny had been reduced to clawing at the inside of the containment unit. Crying. Screaming to be let out to fight ghosts and ‘protect the town.’
He… didn’t know what to do about it. Any of it.
“Maybe…” said Maddie. “You remember what he said about the portal. What if he was right? What if he really…”
What if he really died?
“What if he did?” asked Jack. “What would it change?”
“He’s not really alive,” said Maddie. “If he isn’t… maybe we should… let him go.”
“W-what? You mean give up on him?” demanded Jack. “We can’t do that!”
“No! Not give up. Never give up. But- but maybe it would be better for him if he, if he was among like kind. If he was… We don’t have to destroy ghosts after all. We just have to… have to put them on the other side of the portal. Close it. Close it so no more ghosts can get through.”
“You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying,” said Jack.
“Like kind,” said Maddie. “You remember that one Grimm’s fairy tale. The little boy who couldn’t move on.”
“That’s not Danny,” said Jack.
“I know. I know it isn’t. But, still… We… Please, Jack. Just… Tell me, what can we do?”
Danny tumbled head over heels into the Ghost Zone. He stopped, turned around, sending a blast of ectoenergy from his foot to accelerate himself back towards the portal.
He was too late. The portal doors slammed shut, then winked out of existence.
They were gone. Danny was stuck here. In the Ghost Zone.
You know what? Fine.
He was here. He was stuck here, because he didn’t know where or how to find natural portals. He didn’t know what was happening back home in Amity, and he was half out of his mind with worry about it.
They thought he was a ghost. A terrible, evil ghost. Something to be cast off and thrown away.
He was a ghost. And he’d be the best ghost. Ever.
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Phic Phight Oneshot for @deuynndoodles : Jack and Maddie are stuck in the Ghost Zone. Fortunately for them, Phantom's around and willing to help out. However, they'll rather be arrested by a ghost warden and put in ghost jail before they'd allow some teenage menace to help them. Oh wait...
Read on AO3 or FFN
"Should we call Jazz or Danny?" Jack suggested.
Maddie stared out into the unending void of the Ghost Zone. It hurt to think that their voyage, a trip that they had been planning out for months, would end so soon already, but they had barely made any progress when they realized just how much fuel the Specter Speeder was guzzling. Something was wrong.
"...Not yet," she determined. "We should have emergency fuel. We should be able to get back without any problems. Can you refill?"
"You got it," Jack replied, and he got out of the co-pilot seat. She could hear him go to the back, and shuffling around. He didn't say anything for a while, and that immediately began to unnerve her, but she kept her attention on the dashboard, trying to think of what went wrong when building. Was their fuel lines loose? Was there gas leaking everywhere? "Uh, Mads? I'm not seeing it?"
Her blood froze, but no need to panic. Maybe he just didn't see…
Maddie walked to the back and checked. And checked. Moved some stuff around, checked some more.
They had no emergency fuel.
"Why don't we go outside and check the engine?" Jack suggested. "Maybe we can figure something out." With a dry mouth, she nodded, and they hesitantly went outside to check.
There were no ghosts around, thankfully, just an endless green void. They knew that they would be safe breathing in the GZ air, thanks to their prior tests and experiments. They hooked themselves to a rope using a carabiner clip, the other end tied tightly to the speeder. Floating unnerved her, and she kept a hand on the speeder as they went to the front of the speeder. Jack popped the hood, and smoke floated out, making Maddie's heart sink. This was definitely not a good sign at all, or something that could be a simple fix.
"Need some help?"
Maddie looked over her shoulder to see…
"Absolutely not," she scowled. Phantom was floating nearby.
"Are you sure?" he asked. He floated up a bit higher to glance at their vehicle. "Looks like you got. Well, uh, basically car trouble."
Phantom opened his mouth to say more, but Maddie pulled her ecto-gun out.
"We don't want help from some lowlife ghost!" she hissed. Phantom put his hands up in surrender and flew away.
An hour passed, and they decided to take a break working on the engine. Every possible problem that she could think of had been exhausted, and she had to take a break to both cool down and think. She sat on the steps leading into the speeder, with Jack deciding to lay on the floor of the inside.
"Fuel line wasn't broken, none of the lines were cut or had knicks. There's no reason it should be draining so much gas," Jack thunk aloud. "There shouldn't be anything besides the engine that the gas is going to, and there's no weird random connections to anywhere else. The battery's still good."
"And we forgot the emergency fuel," Maddie slumped over. Jack sighed.
"It's my own fault," he replied. "I should have checked to make sure Jazz and Danny had properly put all the supplies in. A proper exploration team always triple checks before a voyage."
Maddie could only give a low hum of agreement as she stared out into the zone. She felt somebody pat the side of the speeder, and she scowled as she saw Phantom grinning at her, giving a half way.
"What are you doing here?" she hissed.
"I brought help this time," Phantom told her, and he jerked a thumb behind him. It was finally then that she noticed the Red Huntress. Maddie raised an eyebrow.
"How in the world…" she murmured, only to trail off as she stared at the two of them. Jack sat up, and he poked his head out of the speeder.
"Oh dope! It's my favorite huntress!" Jack boomed. Red seemed bashful at the comment, shifting her weight onto her other foot and rubbing her upper arm.
"I mean, if you don't trust me or want my help, I figured you'd be willing to let a human help," Phantom explained, motioning towards Red.
"So, do you need help?" Red finally spoke up. She reached down to pat her left calf. "I have some tools with me, but I can always go and fetch more."
Something in Maddie's gut told her that this was very, very odd. Humans and ghosts working together so...willingly like this. She had taken note that Phantom and Red hadn't hunted each other down or fought like they used to, but she just assumed that they didn't quite run into each other that much anymore. Both were unpredictable with odd schedules and routines.
She glanced at Jack, who despite his initial enthusiasm, seemed to share her feelings, and she shook her head no.
"We'll be fine," she insisted. "You two should leave."
Red stared at Phantom, who shrugged his shoulders.
"So, wanna just go get some boba tea?" Phantom asked.
"And just leave them here?" Red scowled, motioning to the Fentons.
"They don't want our help," he replied. Red glanced from Phantom and the Fentons, who studied the two of them. She finally shrugged as well.
The two began to idly chat as they flew off, their conversation becoming more and more distant.
"That was weird," Maddie mused.
"Yeah, I thought she and Phantom were rivals," Jack mused. Maddie shrugged. Right now she wasn't too invested in the mystery. She'd worry about that later when they got home.
Judging by their phones (which they had worriedly learned that they oh-so-helpfully had no reception in the land of the undead), another hour passed since Phantom and Red had left. Jack was deep into the engine, fiddling with a possible solution to the problem as Maddie stood nearby. She continued to think as she looked around. She was surprised that they hadn't been bothered by now.
"Trespassing in an unauthorized vehicle that is also a real world item," a deep southern voice boomed. Well, she absolutely spoke too soon.
They whipped their heads to see a huge, hulking figure, an all white man with a black hat, black gloves and wearing a suit of white.
"Ghost!" Jack squawked. He scrambled to grab his gun, Maddie already having hers drawn. The ghost frowned deeply. Maddie was finally very aware of just how many ghosts were surrounding them. Too many to count, but they all looked exactly like the ghosts that terrorized Amity Park years before, all identical and matching in uniform that resembled a SWAT team. There was also vehicles resembling police cars and police vans.
"Resisting arrest. That's against the rules," he continued. He opened a large green and white book in his hands, flipping to another page. "Assault and battery with a deadly weapon." He glanced up at them with an angry glare. "Y'all are going away for a long, long time."
"We're not going anywhere," Jack frowned. He charged up his weapon.
Maddie looked around, and she shivered anxiously. There was no way they could take on all these ghosts. She nudged Jack, and he side-eyed her curiously. She lowered her weapon, and she used her head to motion around them. Jack blinked as he looked himself, and all of his confidence left him. He also lowered his weapon.
"We'll go," Maddie finally spoke. The ghost smirked, and he knocked on the side of a police van. The back opened up.
"Surrender your weapons," he ordered.
One of the SWAT ghosts came forward with his arms outstretched. Reluctantly, the adults handed their weapons over, detaching themselves from the speeder and getting into the van.
Their cell was a lot like a normal cell, and it was just them. Iron bars, no windows, single toilet, and four bunk beds. Jack was laying on one of the beds, facing the fall, as Maddie laid on the one across from him, staring up at the bunk bed above her.
Of course. Of course they ended up in ghost jail. It was just their luck. Though a scientist part of her was giddy at knowing that ghosts had some kind of legal system! Who would have known!
As she tried to start figuring out what on earth to do, she heard something banging against the jail bars.
She immediately sat up, staring to see Phantom making the noise by banging something in his hand on the bars. He was staring at them with a bright smile, and it only made her mood drop even more.
"Phantom!" Maddie hissed, standing fully and going up to the bars. "How did you find us?"
"We came back to check on you guys and see if you changed your minds," Phantom explained. Jack got up from his own bed to come over, looking surprised to see the infamous ghost teen. "Technus and Skulker were looting your speeder, and they said Walker arrested you. So we came by as quickly as we could."
The Fenton adults could see Red nearby, glancing around the corner. She was keeping watch.
"We're not going with you," Jack replied. Phantom rolled his eyes.
"Okay, and what? Stay here forever? Never see your kids again?" he asked. Their faces instantly dropped. "So do you wanna go home or not?"
Maddie narrowed her eyes at him before noticing that he was holding a metallic-looking cup of boba tea and raising an eyebrow.
"You brought a snack with you," she said. Phantom shrugged, offering it to her.
"Want a sip?"
"No! Just!" Maddie glanced at Jack worriedly, and he mirrored her expression. They, unfortunately, knew that they really...didn't have a choice. "Get us out of here!"
"Danny, you may wanna hurry it up," Red's voice called out softly to them. Maddie did a double take. Oh yeah. Danny Phantom. Huh, she kinda forgot about that.
Phantom nodded, and he dropped the boba tea, letting it float in the air as he phased them out of the jail cell. Maddie stared at him.
"Wait, you can just phase through?" she asked. Phantom shrugged.
"Uh, sorta yes, sorta no," he replied, grabbing his tea.
"Danny!" Red's voice hissed. Phantom glanced to her.
"Okay, so super quick rundown of Ghost Zone rules. In the Ghost Zone, you guys are the ghosts, so you basically can fly and phase through objects, so Red can phase through objects and you guys too, but this is also a human cell that only I can get you out, and speaking out getting out, we need to leave. Now," Phantom quickly explained. As soon as he finished, he motioned for them to follow him.
He began to fly towards Red, and they jogged after him. Phantom peered around the corner before pulling back. Red did too.
"How's our escape route looking?" Phantom asked. He took a sip of his drink as Red pulled up a map on her suit. She studied it for a bit.
"Hmm. We may run into some trouble," Red mused. "Best bet is for me to take Mr. and Mrs. Fenton and phase with them out of here, and…" She gave a weird pause. "We'll uh. Wait for you to escape on your own." Phantom sucked on his drink, and the sound of air coming through as he ran out of boba tea grinded Maddie's nerves.
"Oh would you just!" Maddie scowled, and she slapped the cup out of Phantom's hands.
"Hey! I paid for that!" Phantom cried out. He scrambled to pick it up. "They were having an unlimited refills special if you got that cup!" Red snorted in amusement.
"Danny, they kicked you out for getting too many refills anyway," she reminded him. Phantom made a face.
"Well maybe they shouldn't advertise it as unlimited refills then," he retorted.
"Most people don't drink twelve cups of boba tea," she replied.
"Maybe I should be rewarded for being able to drink that much then."
"Hm, we'll debate it later," Red replied. "Look, I'll get them out and meet you on the other side. Got it?"
"Got it," Phantom replied. To Maddie's horror and shock, Red lifted her visor up, but not all the way. Just enough to expose her lips, and she leaned into Phantom to give him a light peck on the lips.
"Be careful," she told him. Phantom nodded.
"I will," he promised. "If I'm not with you in five minutes. Just." He paused. "Leave without me, get the Fentons home, and then come back for me." Red nodded as her visor went all the way down.
"Grab my hands," Red instructed the Fentons. Maddie blinked, reluctantly taking one of her hands. Jack took the other. Red summoned her board, jumping in the air and allowing it to manifest beneath her. She held onto them tightly and flew through the walls.
Instinctively, Maddie closed her eyes as she flew through. Only to feel no impact. A blur of walls impaired her vision with constant flashes of the darkness of being in a thick jail wall and the light of the prison rooms and hallways. She blinked as the neutral green skies of the Ghost Zone finally greeted her, and Red continued flying until they were a decent distance from the prison. And now that she had a moment to think…
"What the hell are you thinking?" she exclaimed to Red. The huntress snapped her attention to her in confusion.
"What? You would have died if we let you stay in there!" she scowled.
"No, not that!" Maddie clarified. "I mean, thank you so much for helping us, but you? And Phantom?"
"Exactly!" Jack agreed. "He's an absolute menace! He's a danger! Don't you guys fight? What happened to all of that?"
She could see a glimpse of Red's face under her heavily tinted visor, and Maddie was sure that the girl looked embarrassed and was likely turning as red as her suit.
"Oh man, it's a looong story," Red sighed heavily. "Uh, best and easiest and quickest way I can explain it is; a lot of the things that made me angry with him was a misunderstanding, and I found out that he's...actually a really sweet guy. I know it's weird to say, but, um. Well, I've never met a guy who was so kind, thoughtful and romantic. My life's kinda hectic, and he just...he really goes out of his way to make it easier on me."
"How so?" Jack wondered.
"Well, like. He does a lot of my household chores and stuff like laundry, bringing me lunch when I have long shifts at work, listening to me when I have a bad day," she explained. "He makes life a lot easier and better."
How cute. If it wasn't between a dead teenage menace and this poor, obviously manipulated girl. It honestly reminded Maddie a lot of her own Danny and his little girlfriend, Valerie. Valerie told her a few times about Danny doing some of her chores at home since Valerie was so busy working and doing school. It kinda pissed Maddie off, since Danny never seemed to remember his own chores at home, but she never felt like bringing it up to him because, well, at least he was really good to her. She'd be ashamed of him if he was any lesser.
"Hey!" Phantom called out as he zoomed towards them. "Let's go! Quick!"
Red nodded. She passed Jack off to Phantom, and the two teenagers flew the Fentons home.
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Sometimes, being the Master of Time meant that he could be selfish...
Clockwork watching Danny's accident occur was a Phic Phight prompt by @prydoniantrash
One of the greatest perks of being the Master of Time was the ability to personally witness every historical moment that caught his eye. Over the course of his calling he had stood invisibly at the elbows of the infinite realms’ greatest inventors, had floated casually between warriors grappled by the heat of bloodlust, and had drifted on the eddies of time as entire galaxies swelled into being or faded away to oblivion.
Most events were mere curiosities, distractions from the constant demands of the Observants for him to prune a timeline here or trim down a paradox there. Tedious, mind-numbing work that made his core ache with fatigue.
The perks almost made up for the downside of existing outside any single time stream. Due to the nature of his being, Clockwork could only skim his finger lightly over the tantalising pull of emotional attachment, but was never truly permitted to form any lasting bonds. After all, it wasn’t as though there were many other creatures out there that so blatantly broke the rules of reality, let alone broke them in a way that would even allow the person to interact with something such as himself.
So, he immersed himself in the curiosities of the ages, and tried not to dwell on it too much whenever loneliness raked sharp talons through his soul.
Still, it didn’t stop him from wondering if there was even the slimmest chance, out of all of the immeasurable opportunities, that he could find someone with whom to share his quiet existence. He always quickly pushed the thought away and found something interesting to watch in an effort to distract himself, but the unassuming question would eventually come creeping back, and he’d once again have to confront the heavy ache brought on by the shackles of his calling.
He was tending to a tiny wrinkle in the time stream, tenderly ironing out the kinks when a glimmer caught his eye just down the line. It was an irregularity that he had rarely seen before, and he frowned and drew it into the focus of one of his scrying mirrors.
There was a tear in the fabric of reality.
Before he could take a closer look, Clockwork’s core shivered as two Observants materialised on either side of him. He froze in place, trepidation buzzing through him. As always, they’d managed to surprise him by slipping out of time to circumvent his foreknowledge.
“Destroy the abomination,” they said in unison.
Clockwork stayed still, one hand holding the mirror’s frame to keep the irregularity magnified. With a flick of his thoughts the image on the screen zoomed in, highlighting not only the unnatural, reality-breaking portal, but the method of its creation.
There… there was a metal man-made tunnel, boring into the earth beneath sleepy suburban sprawl. He waved his free hand and the interior of the tunnel lit up with the telltale acid green of ectoplasm, punching a hole between dimensions like a bullet through paper.
The terrible, soul-chilling scream of death sent a spike of horror through his core. There was… there was a person in there! A… a child… A child who…
The timeline shifted, and suddenly, Clockwork could see again.
The universe stopped.
The Observants were frozen on either side of him, and the great pendulum in Clockwork’s chest swung with the heavy release that might have accompanied a sigh in someone who needed to breathe. With the realms at a standstill, the very planets suspended in their orbits, and the nuclear fusion of stars paused down to a subatomic level, Clockwork began to parse through every single branch of reality available to one Daniel James Fenton.
The future could be kind to the boy. If Clockwork simply tweaked the timeline to prevent to portal from ever catching him in its grasp, then he could see Daniel as an astronaut, as a teacher, as a musician, or as a million other things that filled his life with joy. He could see partners, marriages, children. There were adventures and heartbreaks, laughter and tears, and more often than not, a long life full of everything that made the human experience worthwhile.
Yes, Daniel James Fenton could have a wonderful life. If permitted to live as a human, untainted by any realm except that of his birth, he would likely die old and satisfied, surrounded by the people who loved him.
The alternative almost didn’t bear considering.
If he was caught inside that portal, misery would stalk him for the rest of his days.
Clockwork watched every option, delved deep into every single possibility, and saw the blood-drenched horror that had likely brought these two Observants to his tower.
In between threads of darkness and despair shone a single gleaming timeline that shimmered with possibility. Clockwork found himself drawn to it, and waded through the mountains of pain until he isolated that fragile silver thread and grasped it in the palm of his hand.
The child could see him. And not only that, but love him, with the eternal bond of parental ghost and their child.
His core hummed, and Clockwork tightened his grip on a future that was so improbable that it would almost be impossible. He’d be playing with the dangerous chance that the darker timelines would converge and overpower this tiny thread of hope. Careful pruning would be required, and even then, the desired outcome might not be certain.
Still, the humming in his core rose until it built into the dreadful weight of yearning, and Clockwork nodded once, his mind made up.
He slipped time back into place, but a little to the left. The Observants disappeared from his tower, or perhaps they had never been there in the first place? Clockwork hurriedly shielded the boy’s creation from view to all but himself and then slipped through his mirror into the Fentons’ basement, severing every alternative and effectively cementing whatever happened as the only timeline that would continue to exist.
His choice here simply caused all other possibilities to melt into nothing.
The tunnel in the ground flashed with the destruction of reality, and as Daniel James Fenton’s screams echoed in his ears, a smile crept over Clockwork’s face.
Usually his job was one of altruism, pruning and guiding the timeline to grow in a way that benefited the continued progression of reality, but as the impossible child stepped into the void between the living and the dead, Clockwork retreated to the tower. His core sang with elation, and he carefully rubbed the silver stand of hope between two gloved fingers.
Perhaps this chosen future would bring more pain than not, but for once, Clockwork didn’t care about other people. He could see a future where he wasn’t alone anymore, where he finally had a child to love and who loved him in return. He watched his mirror, content to observe for the time being as Danny Phantom stumbled out of the Fenton portal and collapsed onto the cold metal floor, and Clockwork couldn’t help but feel that just this once, he was justified in being a little selfish.
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