Phic Phight oneshot for @datawyrms: Danny Phantom's jumpsuit is hiding a secret he'd rather not reveal to anyone.
“Shit,” Valerie cursed, deactivating her hoverboard and gently placing the figure on the ground. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Bright green liquid soaked the ghost’s body, dripping off his waist and painting the grass in a steady stream. It was ectoplasm, something inhuman and twisted, and yet when Valerie looked down, all she saw was how closely it resembled blood.
She raised a shaking hand and attempted to brush away some of the green on her suit. But she looked more green than red at this point and all she could think of was how much ectoplasm was outside the ghost’s body.
It was too much.
They’d been ambushed after a ghost fight, the Guys in White having caught them in one of their special nets. Valerie had tried to yell out that she wasn’t a ghost, she was human, but it was no use. They zapped the net, and her vision was shrouded in darkness.
The next thing she knew, she was in a van, trapped with her biggest rival in Amity Park. Phantom was awake, but he didn’t know how long they’d been in the van for. Hours passed before the van stopped at last. But at that point, they had a plan.
As soon as an operative opened the back, Valerie was on him. She knocked him out, stole his gun, and bolted.
Apparently, Phantom wasn’t so useless without his powers either. By some miracle, he managed to find a way to remove his inhibitor collar and take flight.
But that was when all hell broke loose. Right as he’d paused to free Valerie from her inhibitors, someone landed a shot on him.
And he fell.
Valerie didn’t have time to think. She just grabbed his body, activated her hoverboard, and flew, not sure where she was going but unwilling to stop until she was sure she’d lost the agents.
“Fuck.” She threw off her helmet and looked down at Phantom’s unconscious form. There was a hole in the stomach of his suit, and ectoplasm bubbled and sparkled in the harsh sun.
He was going to die, Valerie realized. What happened when a ghost died? Could they even die?
“Stay with me,” she whispered.
She shoved a hand in her belt for her emergency supplies, but her glove was too slippery, and her hand trembled too much. She couldn’t do this. She ripped off her glove and tried again, trying to ignore the way the ectoplasm trickled between her fingers.
She had a bit of gauze, a tube of instant clot powder, a few butterfly clips, and a few large bandages. It wasn’t much, but it would have to work.
Because the alternative…
She set the supplies down and turned back to the unconscious ghost. His glow was almost nonexistent, and for the first time she could see his face clearly. All the grooves of skin, his pores, the individual hairs on his eyelashes and eyebrows. He had freckles. That tiny, human detail Valerie would have thought impossible for a ghost.
Even the more humanoid ghosts always had some slight haze to them, something that just made them more like a realistic doll than a person. But not Phantom. If it weren’t for the white hair and ectoplasm, she would have thought him to be just a regular teenager.
“Stay with me.”
She needed to take his jumpsuit off. Could she even do that? Was it attached to him? Would taking it off just hurt him more?
For a moment, Valerie knelt there frozen, unsure of what to do. She felt lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous. Her nostrils were filled with the scent of burnt battery acid and lime, and she could only stare as the Phantom’s face slowly grew paler and paler.
She pinched herself. “Snap out of it.” She’d dealt with worse, this was just a ghost. A ghost that she didn’t even like. A ghost that she’d spent the last two years chasing out of Amity Park.
She could do this.
Grabbing her swiss army knife out of her belt, she began carefully slicing through the fabric. Her damp hands were immediately filled with green goo, and for a moment she panicked, thinking that her fears were correct and that the jumpsuit acted like a second skin for Phantom.
But then she saw a black t-shirt peeking out underneath the jumpsuit, and she realized with a shaky breath of relief that the suit simply melted if it wasn’t attached to the host.
Of course, that made sense. She’d seen Plasmius rip off his cape before and it had dissolved in thin air. How could she have forgotten?
She made quick work with removing the jumpsuit, and had started on the undershirt as well when Phantom groaned.
She froze, unable to move the slightest muscle, as she watched Phantom’s drunk green eyes slowly flutter to life.
“Don’...” he slurred.
“I’m sorry.” Her voice cracked. “You’re hurt, I’m sorry.”
She tried to resume cutting his shirt, but he lazily swatted her hand away. “Don’...”
“Phantom, stop. I need to get this off you.”
“I gotta do this,” she said, tearing his t-shirt. “It’s just a shirt.”
“S’ugly,” he mumbled, his eyes rolling back. His head lolled to the side, and he was out again.
Valerie rolled her eyes. “Oh, don’t be—”
Her voice cut off, and she sucked in a breath. Tattooed on Phantom’s skin were glowing lightning figures that branched from his shoulder, snaking around his chest and stomach as if they were alive.
Valerie had never seen anything like it before, and she could have dismissed them as just ectoplasmic tattoos. But from Phantom’s reaction, she had a sneaking suspicion that these were something much more serious. Much more personal.
Something that she didn’t have time to think about right now. Something that was getting covered by ectoplasm, something that was losing its bleak glow as the aura around Phantom faded to nothing.
Time was up. She needed to act now.
Ripping off the packaging, Valerie got to work.
The sky was clear, glittering with thousands of stars. It was one of those rare nights where the milky way was visible, arcing the sky with its brilliance.
Valerie had never been one to care about nature. Growing up rich in the city, her focus was always materialistic. She just wanted to fit in with the other girls, so she’d been more than willing to follow along with their hobbies and model her life after their trends.
Nature? Space? Stars? She never gave them a second thought.
Until her life was turned upside down, that was. Suddenly, Valerie went from hardly spending time outside to now soaring through the sky every night, weather be damned. It didn’t take long for her to appreciate the beauty of a clear, warm, night sky.
She landed on top of a building and collapsed her hoverboard. It had been quiet thus far, with only a few ambient blob ghosts roaming around a warehouse. Although at the beginning of her ghost hunting career, Valerie had spent each night painstakingly capturing every ghost in sight, she’d grown since then. She wasn’t so angry, so vengeful now.
And aside from being completely harmless, even Valerie had to admit there was something almost cute about the tiny bulbs of ecto energy.
Her suit dinged, signaling a ghost nearby, and Valerie groaned. There really was no rest for the weary, it seemed.
She raised her radar watch to her eyes to see a familiar ecto signature reading pop up in the corner.
One that was heading towards her.
She hadn’t seen Phantom since that day. He’d been avoiding her. And maybe a few months ago she wanted him to avoid her, but now...
That day had changed her.
It was terrifying the way the government had so easily lumped her in with the ghosts just because they detected ectoplasmic readings from her suit. She woke up not knowing where she was, where she was going, if she’d ever see her father again.
Part of Valerie had insisted that once they saw her without her helmet, they’d call her dad and drive her back. It would have all been a big misunderstanding.
But a different part of her, one deep down inside, knew she was just lying to herself.
The government operated the way she did when she first started ghost hunting. All black and white, no room for grey. Ghost were evil and all ectoplasm needed to be destroyed. Period.
After she patched Phantom up in that grassy field, she flew and flew until she stumbled across a nearby town. She hid Phantom in a warehouse and sat with him for hours, forcing herself to stay away and stand guard in case the GiW found them.
He didn’t wake up until the next morning, taking one look between Valerie and his exposed torso before panic struck his features and he simply disappeared. Before Valerie could gather her wits to hunt his ungrateful ass down and kill him again, he reappeared, suit intact, and began leading their way back to Amity on instinct alone.
Phantom refused to look her in the eye for the entire trip home. And when they finally got to Valerie’s apartment, left her with a “get some sleep” before disappearing once again.
Her watch buzzed lightly against her skin, signaling that he was close. Valerie leaned back, waiting. Seeing if he’d actually come to her, or if he’d bail and pull the vanishing act he was so famous for.
But then he appeared. Right in front of her. His glow was vibrant against the night sky, covering his body in a shimmery aura. His acidic green eyes glistened in the dark.
He really looked no worse for wear after his injury. That kind of hit would have landed Valerie in the hospital. And yet, Phantom was back the next day, full of bright smiles and puns for the people of Amity.
She wondered how often this kind of thing happened to him. Just how many times had he been nearly slaughtered only to pop back into the public eye pretending like nothing happened?
He gave her an awkward wave. “Hey, Red.”
“Phantom.” She greeted cooly.
Just because lately she’d been seeing Phantom as someone who didn’t have an inherently evil Obsession didn’t mean that she liked him. At best, he was cocky, arrogant. At worst, he’d dumped her back at her apartment and left her by herself after the complete shit show that was their kidnapping.
So yeah, maybe she was a little bitter. Sue her.
“Uh, do you mind if I…” He gestured to the roof.
She pretended to mull his proposition over, watching as his ghostly tail flickered in anxiety.
He was ready to bolt, and she didn’t blame him. They’d never really talked before.
“Do what you want. I don’t feel like fighting tonight,” she finally conceded.
Relief spread across Phantom’s features, and Valerie was once again reminded of how human he was. She once thought that ghosts couldn’t feel any emotions. While it was doubtless that the way they experienced emotions was different than how humans did, there was just no way that Phantom was able to nail all those tiny details so accurately. Even if he was one of the more powerful ghosts out there, it would have been near impossible to mimic the full range of human emotion so quickly and precisely.
He settled down next to her, his tail morphing into legs positioned criss-crossed against the concrete. He turned to her, rubbing the back of his neck.
Valerie said nothing, just allowing the blanket of awkwardness to settle over the pair. If he wanted to say something, he could say it. Valerie wasn’t going to hand-hold him through a conversation.
When the tension was reaching the point of unbearable, Phantom finally broke the silence. “It’s a nice night.”
“I haven’t—uh, seen any ghosts. Tonight, I mean. Like outside. Or inside, too. Uh...it’s a quiet night. Ghost free. Well, except for me, I guess.”
He ran a gloved hand through his white hair. “Not that I’m really complaining. It’s kinda nice to have a break for a change.”
Valerie grunted in agreement, even though she was sure Phantom was lying through his teeth. Ghosts lived for their Obsessions, and Phantom was no different. She knew that deep down, he reveled in ghost hunting even more than any human ever could.
The duo was lapsed back into another tense silence, one that Valerie didn’t try to break. She didn’t understand what his goal was with the petty chatter. Did he think they were suddenly friends now? After he discarded her back at her apartment like she was a used rag and disappeared without a hint of remorse?
After she carried him hundreds of miles away from the Guys in White compound, bandaged his wounds, and then stayed up all night just to make sure he was safe?
She could have left him there. She could have been home before her father had woken up the next morning in a panic because his daughter was nowhere to be found. She could have avoided the phone call to the police, the missing child report, the whole mess that had followed.
And he couldn’t have even been bothered to say thank you afterward. Just dumped her and left.
So if he thought she was going to help him out now, he had another thing coming.
“How have...um, how have you been? Since…”
“Fine.” She said. “My dad’s been better.”
He winced. “Yeah…”
“Not that you care.”
He jolted up, turning around to face her. “What?”
“You know what I’m talking about, spook.”
“I thought we were over the whole ‘spook’ thing,” he said, his face twisting in annoyance.
“And I thought you were over being an inconsiderate jerk. But I guess I was wrong.”
“Don’t call me that,” she snapped.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. “Okay, Red. Listen, I’m sorry. Okay? I got freaked out that you—you saw…” He let out a shaky breath. “I didn’t know what to say. I’m sorry you got caught up in my problems, I’m sorry they thought you were a ghost, and I just...yeah.”
Valerie sat there for a moment, glaring out at the night’s sky. “It was a big mess, you know.”
“The police were involved and everything.”
“And you know the worst part? I couldn’t even tell them the truth.” She let out a bitter laugh. “I got kidnapped by my own government and I couldn’t even tell my dad. I had to lie and say I got lost while out on a nature hike. How stupid is that? I nearly got killed by the freaking government and I haven’t been able to say a damn thing to anyone.”
“I’m sorry.” His voice was quiet.
“Yeah, well…” Valerie swallowed the lump in her throat. “You know. Hazard of the job, I guess. Still would have been nice if you hadn’t just left on me. After everything.”
Phantom lowered his head, allowing the white strands of hair to cover his eyes. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“It was a dick move.”
“I just wanna know why.”
He looked up, startled. “Why? Why you were captured, or—”
“Why the silent treatment? Was it because I saw those glowing lightning tattoos under your jumpsuit?”
He flinched back as if he’d been struck, his body lifting to hover over the cement. He stared at her open mouthed, as if he didn’t think she’d even dare to mention it.
But Valerie couldn’t find it in her to be joyous at his hurt expression. “Seriously? You were mad about that? Like I care about what you put on your body.”
“No, no.” Despite looking like he wanted to take flight, he managed to lower himself back onto the roof. “No, they’re...it’s complicated.”
“Oh, wonderful,” she said sardonically. “So let me get this straight, ghost boy. I save your ass from the government, pull an all-nighter guarding your lifeless body in a warehouse, and the best you can give me is an it’s complicated? Thanks a lot. It really makes me feel better.”
“No, it’s…” He trailed off, rubbing a hand over his face. His eyebrows were pinched and he looked almost sick. When he finally spoke, his voice was small. “They’re not tattoos.”
“Oh? What, an unlucky birthmark?”
He didn’t respond.
Valerie turned to him, realization hitting her with full force. Unable to keep the surprise out of her voice, she said, “Really? That’s it?”
He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs. His eyes were distant, far away. Lost in some other world.
He’d been electrocuted. Struck to death by lightning, or something similar. And now it was branded on him, as some twisted reminder of the ugly creature that extended its spindly claws and ripped his humanity from his body.
“Damn.” Valerie blew out a breath. “Of all the ways to go, huh?”
She couldn’t help herself. “Do all ghosts have one?”
Valerie didn’t know if that made it better or worse. Questions swirled through her brain, but she bit her tongue. She didn’t know much about ghost culture, but she was fairly certain that there was a taboo against asking ghosts about their deaths.
So she stayed silent, pretending to focus back on the stars but stealing glances to the teenage ghost beside her. His brows had furrowed, as if he were having an internal war. Whatever it was, Valerie didn’t pry. Even if her curiosity burned brighter with each passing moment.
Finally, he sighed, dropping his forehead into his knees. “It’s fine,” he said, though his voice sounded anything but. “You can ask.”
She hesitated for a brief moment before relenting. “Why do you have a mark?”
“They’re called Lichtenberg figures,” he explained. “They just happen. If the shock is bad enough. But they, uh, are supposed to fade in a few days. You know, if you’re...human.”
“But yours didn’t.”
“No, mine didn’t.” He raised his head, opening his mouth slightly, before slamming it shut.
This was unmarked territory she was stepping into. Hell, she doubted even the Fentons had ever talked to a ghost about their death before.
“Do you remember it?” she tried.
That surprised her. She’d read some of the Fenton’s papers, and even they were uncertain of how much a ghost remembered about their death.
The question must have shown on her face because Phantom added, “Not everyone does. I think...I think it has to do on their power level. And, uh, how old they are. I think some of the more ancient ghosts just kinda...forget. But I don’t know much. We don’t really talk about it.”
Phantom nodded, staring down at his gloves. He sighed, and then started pulling one of them off.
Valerie froze, her eyes locking onto the movement. She’d never seen Phantom remove them before, and frankly she wasn’t even sure if they could be removed.
The glove left his skin and dissolved into ectoplasm, splashing onto the concrete roof. And there, left on his otherworldly skin, were the cobwebs of the lightning scar that covered his torso. It was brighter, glowing with more precision than Valerie remembered from before.
He pushed his sleeve up to his elbow, revealing more of the Lichtenberg figure. It traveled up his wrist, spiraling throughout his arm before it disappeared into his suit. The branches were thin, glowing with the same ectoplasmic energy that ran through the ghost’s core.
Valerie didn’t know what to say. Here Phantom was, her biggest rival in Amity Park, revealing his creation, the moment that turned him into what he was today.
“It was an accident.” He finally spoke. “I was being stupid, I don’t know. My friends and I were fooling around with this...this machinery, I guess, that we knew we weren’t supposed to be near. I grabbed a malfunctioning piece of equipment—I didn’t realize it was plugged in—and that...was it.”
“Yeah, well…” Phantom pushed his sleeve back down. He closed his eyes, willing the glove to materialize back onto his hand. He looked at her and offered a feeble smirk. “Teenagers, am I right?”
Valerie forced a polite smile in return, hoping it didn’t look too pained.
He cleared his throat. “But, you know,” he said, allowing some of that familiar cocky energy back into his voice. “It’s in the past now. I’m over it.”
Valerie doubted that much. After all, he was still a ghost.
“I mean, I get to do really cool things now. Like helping people. Protecting the town. You can’t exactly do that as a human.” He froze, his eyes flickering to her. “I mean, aside from you. You’re great at it!”
Valerie flipped him off. “Whatever, ghost boy.”
“No, I’m serious! You’re really good as a ghost hunter.”
“I know I’m good! I don’t need your flattery to give me self-esteem.” Her voice sobered. “But really, Phantom. I’m sorry that happened to you.”
He frowned, and looked up at the sky. The brilliance of the stars reflected on his form, giving his body an almost ethereal presence.
“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.”
Thanks for reading!
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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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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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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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Phic Phight: Good Parents
Maddie Fenton nearly kills her son trying to take down Phantom. Jack Fenton nearly kills him again, trying to tear the ghost from him.
Clockwork, one of the most powerful ghosts in existence, is tired of the people he cares about getting hurt.
(Based on a Phic Phight 2021 prompt by @five-rivers. And also the same Phic Phight 2020 prompt. Part 1 here.)
When Danny was fourteen, he would never remember to dodge.
It wasn’t his fault entirely - human instincts would say move, and ghost instincts would say turn intangible. He’d get confused and overwhelmed in the split second he was expected to make a decision, and would do nothing but take the hit. It was a normal reaction for someone as newly half-dead as he was.
As far as his friends were concerned, they could fix this by throwing small things at him - erasers, pencils - to train him to avoid the bigger, more dangerous things that were thrown his way. The main thing this taught Danny was how to smack the small objects out of the air, which the trio considered a victory nonetheless. At fourteen, they hadn’t found any real groove with their ghost hunting, but didn’t want to seem weak - so they laughed, lied, and pretended.
A week before his fifteenth birthday, Danny caught a mink ghost in the thermos. Half distracted by it, when he saw something small fly towards him, he smacked it right out of the air.
He didn’t see it burrow into his palm. But he felt the pain, and he saw his parents high-five. That was more than enough to spark panic, and Danny fled.
He almost went to Sam or Tucker’s place - almost. A block away from where he’d been shot, Danny fell out of the sky. He hit a sloped roof and rolled, shoulder getting caught in a gutter and flipping him face down when he headed for the ground. His shoulder caught a fence, and in the split-second before he turned intangible it jabbed his shoulder out of its socket. He fell to the ground, a cry of pain only silenced by how deep his face ended up in the bags of trash.
“Mads!” His father shouted, too close. “It’s over here!”
Danny ran again. He thought about flying, but the rush of pain that hit his core when he tried to lift off kept him firmly grounded. His chest felt as if it was about to cave in, and he barely ducked between two parked cars in time to avoid the GAV barreling out of an alleyway, past him, and down the next street before his parents could stop.
He reached his own house before he reached either of his friends’. Had he had a clearer head, he would have contacted his sister and begged her for help - but in this panic, all he could think was that he had to get away.
So Danny destroyed the window to his parents’ lab with the lid to a tin garbage can and a few harsh kicks, and slipped into the lab amongst the broken shards. He stumbled, fell on his battered face, but forced himself up and through the open portal. He slipped off the metal edge, and fell into the Ghost Zone.
And strong arms grabbed him tightly, snatching him out of mid air and urging him, gentle but intense, to stay awake.
Danny failed the ‘stay awake’ request. When he woke up, it was in a double bed with simple, thin purple sheets. An ectoplasmic bandage on his hand went all the way up his arm, keeping it bent at the elbow. He was still in his ghost form, but most of his jumpsuit was gone. The room smelled sterile, with an overtone of purified ectoplasm. Soft ticking echoed off the blue-grey brick walls, and Danny found the source easily - Clockwork, in his elder form, sitting right beside him.
“You should see the other guy,” Danny said through a raspy voice and a forced grin.
“I have,” Clockwork said. The chair he’d been sitting on scraped against the stone as he stood - well, floated, Clockwork never had legs - and reached out an ungloved hand to press against Danny’s forehead. “Your temperature is still too warm, I’m afraid - the nanobots have severely damaged the cooling factor of your core.”
“Nanobots?” Danny repeated, “Ugh, so ew. How long have I been here?”
“Approximately four days,” Clockwork said, “breathe in deeply for me, please.”
Danny rolled his eyes, but did as he was asked. “Oh, ha-ha, you stole that joke from Tucker. Come on, how long has it really been? You’d better use your time travel powers so I’m not late for class today.”
Clockwork said nothing.
“...Kinda spooky there, Clockwork,” Danny said slowly. “Are you... going to tell me, or...?” He laughed awkwardly. His ribs hurt. Clockwork floated back a bit, and changed to his adult form. “‘Cause - cause four days is a while, and I was - I was kind of out of it, yeah, but - but that’s too long. It’s too long.”
“I’m sorry,” Clockwork said gently, and took Danny's hand. “You were suffering from a severe ectoplasm deficiency. I did everything I could, as fast as I could, but you were delirious and your form was deteriorating. I know you’re not comfortable spending this long in the Ghost Zone.”
“Yeah no - no shi -” Danny cut off, panting. “Oh no my parents are gonna freak.” He rolled out of the bed.
Clockwork caught him. “What are you doing?!” He scolded, and tried to place Danny back on the bed - he pushed against Clockwork, scrambling to get up. “Daniel, I’ve just barely gotten you stable! You are not leaving this room!”
“But my parents -”
“They tried to kill you!”
Danny stared at him. The tears welled up, and Clockwork immediately leaned in, apologizing for shouting as he rested a hand on Danny’s back - Danny barely registered the words, but leaned into the touch.
“They didn’t know,” Danny said, wiping his eyes on a bare arm before the tears could run down his face. “They didn’t know.”
“Daniel,” Clockwork said softly, “I know you don’t want to -”
“My parents love me,” Danny said. “If they knew, then they’d understand everything about ghosts, and - and I’m going to tell them, when I’m ready, but they’ll just feel so bad about the stuff they did when they didn’t know... but they love me.”
“You can love someone very much and still hurt them,” Clockwork said. “Your parents nearly killed you with this, Danny. We were both very lucky you managed to find me so quickly - this is the best possible outcome you could have reached. Those nanobots were specifically calibrated to destroy your ectoplasm. Not anyone else’s, yours. This was a murder attempt, Danny - regardless of everything else, that is fact.”
“It’s not,” Danny’s protest was weak, even to him. “My parents love me. B-besides, they’re my parents, I can’t - I can’t turn my back on my family. I need my family. O-otherwise,” He swallowed and looked at the floor.
Clockwork hummed. He was silent for a long while, switching to his child form for a moment before he returned to his elder one. “Daniel, there is... a potion, of sorts, that is available in the Ghost Zone. All of its required ingredients are guarded by the Observants, but I could grab some and brew a small batch. It is called a Miamenso Draught. Have you ever heard of it?”
“No,” Danny said, and wiped the last of his tears away. His throat still felt dry, and he could feel the tears holding place by his eyes. “What’s it do?” He looked up at Clockwork, “is it some kinda love potion thing that makes people like ghosts?”
“No.” Clockwork reached around with his other hand to brush Danny’s bangs out of his eyes. He wasn’t wearing his gloves, and Danny could see the patchwork of old scars that covered Clockwork’s hands. “A Miamenso Draught removes memories.” Danny paled. “There’s a targeted version, which only removes specific memories, and a more general one. I know you feel responsible to your parents, but -”
“Whoa, whoa,” Danny pulled away. Clockwork dropped to his adult form for a second, then to his child form. “You’re going to drug me?”
Clockwork frowned. “Of course not. Nor your parents - not without your consent.”
“Yeah, well, I do not consent.” Danny huffed. His ribs hurt again. “My parents love me. When I tell them, they’ll - they’ll accept me. I know they will.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Danny,” Clockwork said, back in his elder form, “the Miamenso is reversible. If the worst did happen, and you were severely injured like this again, we could give them a chance to prove to you and themselves that they are capable of looking after a half-ghost son despite everything. A few simple tasks - you could decide which ones - and you all would be reunited. Until then, you could stay here - my home will always be open to you, no matter what.”
“But... I’d get drugged. Or they’d get drugged.” Danny shook his head and tried to ignore how dizzy that made him. “No. No. Absolutely not. My parents love me.”
“I believe I already made this point, but you can love someone with your entire being and still hurt them with your lack of understanding.” Clockwork sighed. “It’s just something to consider. A way for you to be safe from being hurt again while they still don’t fully understand.”
“But they will.”
“And if they don’t?”
“They will.” He tried to sound as sure as possible, though Clockwork kept watching him with sad, wide eyes. “I know they will. My parents love me. Even if I agreed to your amnesia drug plan, we’d never use it, so - look, if I agree will you shut up about it? My parents love me.”
“We’ll have to set conditions,” Clockwork said calmly, “but I’m not going to wind you up any further. I promise that will be the last we speak of it, if that’s what you want. At the very least, my door will always be open to you.”
“Nope. Never have to set anything. Won’t happen. No promises, either, because we don’t need them.” Danny said, shaking his head. His vision blacked out for a second, and he caught only a flicker of concern from Clockwork before the other ghost was trying to lay him back down. “My parents love me. They’re good parents.”
“I know, Danny,” Clockwork said gently, “I know.”
That was two years ago.
Currently, Clockwork had taken the chance to give Danny some pain killers. Despite his initial loopy reaction, he was now sleeping soundly and had been for the past hour.
Good. He could sleep as much as he wanted. He had almost died, after all. For the time being, Clockwork had something else to prepare.
When Jasmine had left for university, Danny had smuggled her a small portal generator. While it was still imperfect and took hours to recharge between portals, it was functional. Given the time Clockwork had left his message about her brother’s state, and how long the generator would take to recharge between portals, it should be ready right about -
The front door opened. Clockwork greeted the three in his entrance way with a grim look.
“Danny,” Sam said.
“Upstairs,” Clockwork replied, “asleep.”
“Alive?” Tucker asked.
“As much as he was before.”
The three of them relaxed, and Clockwork floated aside to let them in. Danny’s friends ran past him, but his sister held back.
“Did you do the... you know,” she mimed taking a drink.
“Miamenso Draught?” Clockwork clarified, “I did.” Jasmine nodded, lips tight. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s better he doesn’t know what they did to him.” She sighed, and Clockwork kept pace with her as she started swiftly up the stairwell. “He probably didn’t make any conditions, did he?”
Clockwork shook his head. Jasmine sighed again. They came to the edge of the stairs, the door to Danny’s room open, with Sam and Tucker already in place at the sides of his bed.
“I’m going to kill them,” Sam hissed, her hands wrapped around one of Danny’s. “Tucker, I swear to whatever ghost god there is, I am going to kill them.”
“As long as I can help, I’m not protesting.” Tucker said.
“Don’t talk about murder next to him,” Jazz scolded, and lowered her voice as she approached. She waved a hand over Danny’s face - he continued to sleep soundly. “Don’t talk about our parents, either. He took a Miamenso, he won’t remember.”
Sam and Tucker’s confused looks were quickly swapped for glares at Clockwork.
“What’s a Miamenso?” Sam asked.
“Mia menso...” Tucker said, “that’s just ‘my mind’ in Esperanto.” Their glares got stronger. “What did you do to Danny?”
“He didn’t tell you?” Clockwork asked. He had, admittedly, seen that was a likely possibility but to be actually confronted with it was... strange. He’d genuinely thought that Danny would tell his friends.
“Don’t threaten Clockwork,” Jazz said, “Miamenso is a ghost thing. Just let me explain, okay?”
She took the lead, and relayed everything Danny had told her - the suspicion and judgement in Sam and Tucker's eyes was quickly dismissed. Clockwork’s tense posture relaxed a fraction.
The group lapsed into silence, Sam and Tucker absorbing the information. It would be difficult to process for anyone - Clockwork could still remember when he first learned of it. The Observants had not been pleased. Though admittedly, when it came to him, they never were.
Sam broke the silence with a bitter laugh. “Well, damn,” she said, “I wish I could forget my parents.”
Clockwork frowned. “The Miamenso Draught is a process to brew. For total erasure of memories, it would take a month to brew. With how specific Danny’s was, it took closer to a year.” Sam opened her mouth. “We would also have to confront the issue that unlike Danny, you’re not technically my responsibility. We’d have to go through the Observants, and they get... irritable whenever I broach the subject with them.”
“Okay,” Sam said, “I was joking, but okay.”
“Oh,” Clockwork said. “I knew that.” He hadn’t.
Thankfully, Danny started to wake up again before that conversation could continue. Clockwork backed away as Jazz sat down beside him, holding his left hand with both of her own. “Little br- Danny?” There was a collective wince at her correction. “Can you hear me?”
“Jazz?” His voice was still raw. “What are you doing here?”
“Visiting you,” she squeezed his hand.
“But you have college,” Danny said. His head lulled to the side, looking to Tucker. His eyes moved to the right, looking at Sam. “You guys have school.”
“And you almost had a funeral, dude,” Tucker replied. He and Sam sat on the bed as well, pressed close to him. “So, what do you remember? Drink anything weird lately?”
“Tucker,” Jazz said, the warning written all over her face.
“No...?” Danny frowned. “Uh, Dad gave me some water?”
Three teenagers stared at Clockwork. The fourth vaguely looked his way, not really focusing.
Clockwork swallowed. “Yes, I did.”
“Hi, Dad,” Danny said. “I didn’t see you.”
“Hello, Danny,” Clockwork said gently, “Sam, could you give him some of that water please?”
“...Sure.” She reached over slowly to grab the glass. “Danny, do you think you can sit up?”
“Maybe?” Danny pulled his hands back from Jazz and tried to force himself up. The heels of his palms pressed against the mattress and his arms shook, but he didn’t make any headway until Tucker helped him. Sam held the straw to his lips as Tucker shoved the pillows behind his back to prop Danny up. It was a touching sight. Clockwork’s arms ached as he held his staff too tightly, trying to resist the urge to rush over to help them. Danny was in relatively competent, well practiced hands, and he would just get in the way.
The glass of water hadn’t been more than half-full in the first place, and had been sitting out for hours at this point. Danny finished all but a few drops within seconds. Sam passed it to Tucker, who held it out for Clockwork. He took it back.
“Do you think I can have something that’s not water?” Danny asked.
“If you think you’ll be able to stomach it,” Clockwork replied. “We could try a simple soup, if you would like?”
Danny nodded - then he winced, a trembling hand moving to his head. “Oof,” he said. Sam rested her hand on the small of his back. “Sorry, I’m just dizzy.”
“You don’t have to apologize, little brother,” Jazz said gently. She sucked in a breath. “I mean, Danny.”
Danny lowered his hand and frowned. “Why are you being weird? I know you’re my sister, Jazz.”
It was like a weight Clockwork hadn’t registered was lifted from the room. Jazz’s movements were lighter. “Oh,” she said, “and I know you’re my brother, of course! And Clockwork...?”
“Adopted me when I was small,” Danny said slowly. “Seriously Jazz, I’m the one who got messed up. Why are you being so,” he pulled a lopsided face and gestured vaguely at his ear. Jazz covered her mouth with her fist and looked away from her brother.
“Because she’s worried,” Sam said, “Obviously. You scared her, Danny. You scared all of us.”
It was Danny’s turn to look sheepish and uncomfortable. “Yeah,” he said, “but I’m fine, I survived, and Dad’s looking after me. You guys can go, you don’t have to worry about me.”
Sam scoffed. Tucker laughed. “No way,” she punched his arm.
“You’re stuck with us, dude.” Tucker said with a grin, “no exchanges, refunds, or store credit.”
Danny gave a crooked grin back, and the four humans seemed to pull tighter together. Unfortunately, Clockwork couldn’t take the time to enjoy their happiness. There was a loud crash downstairs as they threw the door open, and the Observants shouted in fury.
He rolled his eyes. “I’ll be back in a moment,” he said, and smiled at Danny before he left. “I’ll bring the soup with me once I return.”
The Observants were waiting for him in the foyer. Clockwork paused on the stairs, looking the trio of them over. Normally they only came in pairs.
“You left the door open,” he said, and gestured to his front door.
“Where have you been?” One snapped.
Clockwork stayed on the stairs and made an effort not to roll his eyes. “On the second floor. These stairs are not just for decoration, you know. They go to another level.” The Observants glared. He continued, “You do know what stairs are, don’t you?”
“This attitude will get you nowhere,” Two said, her voice cold. Clockwork’s lip twitched - she normally only showed up when the Observants decided to pretend they cared about him. It was wholly unpleasant. So Clockwork ignored her.
“There has been a growing anomaly for the past several hours!” Three shouted. “What could be more important than fixing that? No excuses!”
“No excuses!” One repeated.
That... hm. Clockwork flew past them, into a mirror room.
“Answer us when we speak to you,” Two said, and was doubly ignored out of spite.
Using the mirror, it wasn’t difficult to locate the anomaly - it wasn’t a major one, just a simple issue where a natural portal had pulled someone from their time by a week. All they knew about the future were three digits of a lottery draw. Clockwork froze time and got to work - they were back in their own time within a minute. Simple, really. He returned to his tower and set time back in motion to see three Observants still floating there.
“Yes?” He said.
“Why did that take so long to get to?” Three asked.
Clockwork raised an eyebrow. “I believe you said ‘no excuses’ twice. Are you aiming to get a third in before you leave?”
“If it was really such a quick fix,” Two said, “then you would have done it without prompting. You have proven yourself capable of that, at the very least. So why the delay?”
“And why are you suddenly pretending to care about my reasons?” Clockwork replied.
“Why are you so resistant to tell us them?” Two pressed.
Clockwork held her glare. “I fixed the anomaly. You can leave now.”
The Observants stared at him for a few moments longer before, mercifully, they did just that. Clockwork waited until the door clicked shut before he moved. It was simple enough to prepare a simple broth for Danny. He moved it from the pot to a sturdy, wooden bowl, retrieved a spoon, filled the glass of water back up, and started back to Danny’s room - though, he did pause at the mirror room for a moment to retrieve three medallions.
He entered Danny’s room in the middle of Danny desperately trying to convince his friends and sister that they should be in school.
Danny half sat up in his bed, making stiff gestures as he talked. “You guys can’t miss stuff - Dad, back me up.”
The other three teenagers stared at him. Clockwork’s core twisted, and he set the soup down. He looked back up to Danny’s desperate blue eyes.
“They can stay for a bit longer,” Clockwork said, “but yes, they will have to leave eventually. You still need rest, Danny. That is why I would like to give the three of them these.” He handed Jazz, Sam, and Tucker each their own medallion. “You may put those on, and when you take them off, you will be transported back here.”
Tucker nodded. “Right, right, just like with -” he cut himself off, staring at Danny. “That time with the thing.”
Danny gave an unimpressed look, spoon of soup halfway to his mouth. “You mean with evil future me? Seriously, stop being weird.” He blew some frost onto the soup before he put it in his mouth and automatically pulled a face. “Eugh, now it’s too cold.”
“Would you like me to blow on it for you?” Jazz offered.
“Uh, no? I’m not a baby.”
Clockwork shook his head at the bickering and reached a hand over to cradle the edge of the bowl. Focusing on the contents inside, he aged the soup by a few minutes in under a second. “It should be better now, Danny.”
Danny tried another spoonful before he nodded - which seemed to make him dizzy. Sam, Tucker, and Jazz returned to silently trying to help in small ways. Clockwork returned to trying to keep his distance.
“I have work to do,” he said, “but I won’t be far. Call me if you need anything.”
“Got it, Mr. Danny’s Dad,” Tucker said awkwardly. Danny frowned at him and Sam punched his shoulder.
“We will,” Jazz said.
“See you later, Dad,” Danny said, “thanks for the soup. Love you.”
Clockwork was not an emotionally expressive being. With the Observants, showing any emotion other than mild annoyance had never gone well for him. Typically, he was very skilled at keeping his feelings under a metaphorical mask. But every word, every movement, every ‘Dad’ and ‘love you’ from Danny had already chipped it away. Clockwork was nearly crying when he turned away.
“Of course,” he said.
At 3:14 am, Vlad was awoken by his cat losing her mind at something outside his window. This was followed by floodlights and the beeping of industrial vehicles.
He barely had the time to put on anything more than a robe and concealer before several crashes and a car alarm were added to the mix.
Vlad made his way to his front gate at 3:32, where much to his unfortunate lack of surprise, Jack Fenton was unloading several incredibly dangerous antighost weapons.
Vlad pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “What in butterscotch’s name is this?”
Jack turned to face him, holding something that would certainly violate the geneva convention if ghosts were given proper rights. “Vladdie! You’re up! I tried to call you for ages!”
“Yes,” Vlad said, and did not unlock the gate. He’d had the man’s number blocked for months, how had Jack not realized that yet? Stupidity could only go so far. “What is this?” He asked again, “If I wanted anti ghost equipment, I would ask for it.”
Thankfully, at that moment Maddie stepped off the truck. Haloed by the floodlights, she looked every bit the angel Vlad knew she was. She set some sort of oversized dreamcatcher down beside a bazooka. “We’ve written up a fake bill of sale,” she said, “we need you to pretend to buy all of our ghost hunting equipment so we can get Danny back.”
Vlad raised an eyebrow. “Maddie, my dear, you know I’m always willing to lend a hand -”
“See!” Jack interrupted, throwing an arm around the woman he did not deserve, “I told you he’d help!”
“-However,” Vlad continued, “given that it is barely passed three thirty in the morning and I received none of the fabled calls Jack placed, I’m going to need ever-so-slightly more than that.”
“A ghost took Danny,” Maddie said, “it won’t give him back unless we get rid of our weapons. Vlad, please.”
Vlad frowned. While he wasn’t surprised - something like this was bound to happen eventually - he was annoyed. Any self-respecting ghost should know that he had repeatedly claimed Daniel. That boy would be his, and he wouldn’t settle for any less. He unlocked his gate and stepped out to join Maddie and (unfortunately) Jack. “Which ghost?”
“It called itself Clockwork,” Jack said.
“...Ah.” Well. Hm. That was... certainly something. “Where was this bill of sale you created?”
Maddie smiled and went to retrieve it, abandoning Vlad with Jack. Fortunately, Vlad was well practiced in ignoring him.
He knew of Clockwork. Most ghosts with more than a trace of self preservation did. They were a being who could see all of time itself and had united the original Ancients who dethroned Pariah. The concept itself would be terrifying enough if Clockwork was a neutral party. Instead, they worked for the Observants - the near-tyrannical council who had declared themselves judge and jury of the Ghost Zone in the absence of a King. Clockwork was their weapon, their pet attack dog and bounty hunter who could quite literally delete anyone their masters disagreed with.
Vlad had attempted to track them down once, when he was young and foolish, and was thankful he hadn’t succeeded. He had plans, and the last thing he needed was the Observants to take notice of them - like it appeared they had taken notice of the Fentons.
They must have something that posed a danger to the poor Council, and sent Clockwork to steal Daniel so they had some sort of leverage. Since now Jack and Maddie were clearly not acting in the spirit of the decree to ‘get rid’ of their ghost hunting weapons, it was likely Clockwork would respond to this by simply destroying Amity Park in its entirety. Yet again, Vlad was stuck dealing with the mess Jack Fenton had made.
Maddie returned before Jack could ramble any further about the specifics of his triangular laser knife, which would certainly hurt a human regardless of what he claimed. She offered Vlad a piece of paper and a pen. He read over the contract twice before he signed it, just to be sure.
“Thank you, Vlad,” Maddie said with a brilliant smile.
Jack slapped Vlad on the back nearly hard enough to knock him over. “Good job, V-man! Maddie, scribble on a witness signature and let’s finish unloading.”
Vlad watched Maddie switch to a different colour pen and forge a signature. He said nothing. Jack grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him to the truck. Vlad pulled his arm away and began to examine the weapons which had already been dumped at his front gates. Some he recognized, some he didn’t. Many were clearly fire hazards that had been haphazardly thrown together. Honestly, it was a miracle it had taken this long for a ghost to take Daniel away from them - malicious intent behind the action or not. Mature ghosts got a bit strange when child ghosts were involved.
Vlad took a moment to examine some of the weapons piled at the base of that horrendous oversized dreamcatcher. It appeared that the bazooka was one of their oversized portal guns, just a different model. It also had a bayonet attached, for some unknown reason.
“Think fast, Vladdie!” Jack shouted, and Vlad made the mistake of raising his head in time to see Jack throw a vacuum at him. Vlad ducked and raised an arm to shield himself - not that it did him much good, when Jack’s terrible aim instead slammed into the dream catcher and flung an avalanche of trash around him.
Thankfully, nothing actually injured him. Vlad scoffed and straightened up. “Do you mind not trying to kill me -”
Jack had a gun pointed at him.
Maddie had a gun pointed at him.
Vlad looked down, and his hands - ghostly and translucent. He looked down at his normal human hands, and the frame of the dream catcher around his feet. He looked at himself, normal and human. He looked at himself, wispy and ectoplasmic.
His two halves rushed back together and fused instantly, before either half of Vlad could consider what he was doing. He - a full hybrid in human form - took in a deep, ragged breath, and placed a hand to his chest. His core churned within it. He looked up.
Maddie and Jack still had their weapons raised.
This was not ideal on any level. He’d have to salvage it as best as he could. He tried to form a duplicate and cast them out, a story about possession on the tip of his tongue when -
“You’re like Danny,” Maddie said.
Vlad stopped. He stared at her. How do you know that?
“The portal -” Jack started the blabber, his gun still raised. “The portal! You and Danny were both hurt by portals! Vlad, I’m sorry - I’m so sorry. If I had known - Vladdie, I’m sorry.”
“I would appreciate that more if you lowered your weapons,” Vlad said. He wasn’t sure what else was appropriate to say. “How do you know about Daniel? Did he tell you?” That didn’t make an ounce of sense.
“We can fix this,” Maddie said. She still had her gun raised as well. “Vlad, we got so close with Danny. We can remove the ectoplasmic mutation, and you can have a normal life!”
Vlad could only stare. “What.”
“We couldn’t save Danny,” Jack continued, “That ghost got to him - Vlad, please, let us save you.”
It clicked, then, in a way it should have before. “Oh.” He knew why the Observants had sent Clockwork to intervene. He understood.
“Vlad?” Maddie said, “Please -”
They didn’t move, and at not-quite-four-in-the-morning, Vlad decided he didn’t care what they saw. He screamed at them, the blacklight rushing over him until Plasmius stood in the middle of everything that had killed the only other being truly like him.
He teleported, then, back to his home, to his cat, and slammed on the button that would trigger every sort of human or ghost shield he possessed. They sprung up around the edges of his fence, barely pushing Maddie and Jack away an inch. He could still see them now, from his window, as they stood there, likely in the same clothes they had worn to kill their son. The window frame Vlad gripped burned under his palms, pink flames jumping from the wood to his curtains.
He couldn’t bring himself to care.
Everything he had worked for - everything - meant nothing if he was alone again. If the woman he had worked so hard for had killed the only other person who could possibly understand him.
And she didn’t even care.
Actual prompt: Clockwork gets sick of how Jack and Maddie treat Danny and spirits him away. Jack and Maddie have to prove to Clockwork that they’ll do better by completing his challenges. Whether or not they succeed is up to you. (Bonus: Clockwork does something to Danny so he no longer recognizes Jack and Maddie when he sees them in order to make sure Jack and Maddie have to follow through.)
I saw this prompt get resubmitted, looked at how many people wanted a continuation of this, and went like ‘I think legally I have to write this.’
417 notes · View notes
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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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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Lightning Scars and Listening Ears
Phic phight prompt by @datawyrms : Danny Phantom's jumpsuit is hiding a secret he'd rather not reveal to anyone. (feel free to be metaphorical if you want.) l
Team Human: @currentlylurking
Most citizens of Amity Park often forgot that Phantom wasn’t human. Sure he would fly through the skies, turn invisible, and shoot ectoplasm at the ghosts who would attack the city on a daily basis, but the way he acted when not saving the city always seemed so alive. That’s where the problem lied though. The ghost kid wasn’t alive, a fact that Amity Park never actually thought much about.
Phantom was playing around with some kids in the park when it all happened. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence to see the boy play with the younger citizens of the city, under their parents supervision most of the time. Seeing him give them piggyback rides and playing tag was actually a common sight when there were no ghosts to fight. Phantom had six different kids hanging off of his arms and legs, apparently trying to tackle him and get him to fall down. The group of parents laughed at the sight as the teenage hero fell to the ground admitting his defeat in a dramatic flourish.
“Ahh you got me! Foul villains, you will regret this!” He laughed as he lunged at the closest kid and launched a tickle attack. Childish squeels rang out as the uncaptured children ran trying to avoid being tickled. The little girl in his arms was finally released from her attacker when she turned on Phantom and started to tickle him back. His laughter attracted the other kids who scattered and they joined the counter attack.
“I yield I yield!” He flailed his arms as a dozen little hands tickled any spot they could reach. The kids slowly let up their assault leaving the teen gasping for breath.
One of the children, the girl who started the attack on Phantom, pulled on his arm. “Mr. Phantom? What’s that did you get a owie?” She asked pointing to his neck where part of his jumpsuit wrinkled down revealing a few red raised streaks maring his skin.
Phantom froze eyes jumping over to the adults just a few feet over who had stopped their conversation to try to see what the young girl was asking about. He quickly pulled the collar of his suit back into place. He gave the girl and the other kids surrounding him a pained smile. “Yeah I did get an owie. Don’t worry though I’m fine, doesn’t even hurt anymore.” Suddenly blue frost escaped his lips, the adults sitting nearby never saw him more relieved to have a ghost show up than in that moment. He gave quick goodbyes to the kids before shooting off to find the day's threat to the city.
All the adults gathered waved over their respective kids. While they trusted Phantom to get rid of the threat it was always smart to stay inside during a ghost attack. A loud boom sounded in the direction where Phantom flew off, shaking the ground. They all gave each other uncertain looks. “My house is closest we can take shelter there.” One of the men said leading everyone away.
After a block of running the group was almost to shelter when the ghost fight moved over their heads. The adults grabbed onto the children doing their best to shield them from the flying debris. They held the kids against their chests as they watched the sky in horror. They didn’t recognize the attacking ghost, but it was certainly doing a number on Phantom. The rest of the battle lasted at most a minute when Phantom managed to suck up the ghost into his thermos before he seemed to wobble in the sky and falling to the ground creating a small crater where he landed.
The man who was leading the group passed off the kid he was holding to the man next to him. “David what are you-?”
“Brian just hold her.” He ran over to the fallen teen and picked him up in a fireman's carry and rushed the rest of the way to his house.
Once he arrived he kicked open the door and placed the teen onto the couch in his living room. He looked down trying to assess the situation. Phantom’s jumpsuit was torn in numerous places exposing spots of his arms, neck, and chest that had splatterings of green ectoplasm across the exposed flesh. He started taking the rest of the jumpsuit off of the teen wanting to make sure there were no hidden injuries underneath. Behind him he could hear his husband and the other parents come through the door. “Get me a wet rag and some warm water!” He yelled behind him.
Once he was handed the items he started working on cleaning up the cuts and wiping off the ectoplasm. He silently thanked any higher being out there that he took a first aid class a few years back. The wounds actually seemed less severe than what David initially thought, that or the kid had some seriously advanced healing. One of the parents led the kids upstairs while the rest of them crowded around David and Phantom.
Once Phantom was as patched up as he could be David finally sat back and actually took a full look at the boy. His breath caught in his throat as he examined the body infront of him. In the end all he could get out was.“Oh my god. He’s- he’s dead.”
“What the hell do you mean? Of course he’s not, I can clearly see him breathing right now.” One of the parents protested.
David shook his head. “No.” He went to run his hands down his face before spotting the blood- no the ectoplasm covering them and settled for grabbing onto his husband for support. “No, I mean he’s a ghost.”
“Well yeah he’s a ghost it’s not like that’s news now is it?” Brian said running his hand up and down his husband's back.
“You guys don’t get it.” David pulled back. “Think! Look!” He ran his hand through his hair, staining it green. “Look at him.” He pointed at the teen’s unconscious body.
There were lightning shaped scars running all over the boy’s body, from the base of his neck trailing all the way down to his ankles. Those weren’t the only scars marring his body though, small scars were scattered all over his body, there was a rather large one on his abdomen in the same spot where he was hit the other week fighting off a ghost who was attacking the high school. The gathered adults looked back at Phantom’s face. As he slept he almost looked like a normal teenager, there were small bags under his eyes, his closed eyes hid the toxic green color, and the glow surrounding him was almost nonexistent.
Three things seemed to dawn on the parents all at once.
1: Phantom at some point had died
2: He died young, at most he was just out of middle school when it happened.
3: From the looks of it he didn’t die in his sleep but painfully. They all silently hoped that at least it wasn’t drawn out.
As they all looked at each other they couldn’t help but think of their own children who were just upstairs. Did Phantom have a family? Did his parents miss their little boy? Do they know that Phantom was their son? Even worse, the boy had a jumpsuit on when he died, was his parents the cause of his premature death?
Of course if Phantom was conscious, didn’t have to worry about the whole identity thing, and could read their minds the boy would quickly put their minds to rest responding; yes, no he sees them daily, god no, and sorta it really was more of a case of teenage stupidity than his parents fault though.
Two of those issues though were quickly resolved as two white rings shocked the group out of their grief for a boy they hardly knew. The rings traveled across the boy’s body replacing bare skin with street clothes and white hair with black. Everyone looked at Phantom(?) confused, the boy in front of them was very unghost-like and the scratch on his face that was previously bleeding green now had a red where the scab was forming.
“What the fu- wait isn’t that the Fenton kid, Danny I think?” David asked looking back at the other parents who were in the same amount of shock that he was. Actually he was positive it was him, his older sister Jazz used to babysit their daughter and he would sometimes come along.
If someone was going to respond they were cut off as the boy in front of them started to stir and open his eyes. He sat up almost falling off the couch in his panic, thankfully David was quick enough to catch him. “Woah there Danny, be careful you took a pretty bad beating out there. Hell I’m surprised you’re already awake to be honest kid.”
Danny gave him a thankful smile as he steadied himself. He froze once he caught a glimpse of his hair, his eyes shot down to his clothes. He looked back up and noticed the group of adults in front of him. “Now before you jump to any conclusions there’s a very reasonable explanation for this, or there will be just give me a few minutes.”
“Wait so does this mean you’re not dead?” Brian asked.
“Brian you can’t just ask that! What if it’s a sensitive subject?” David scolded his husband then looked over at Danny. “Sorry about him.”
Danny looked over to the men who for some reason had hope in their eyes. “What? It’s fine. I mean I guess no- well yes- no- sorta- it’s complicated.”
As Danny looked at the numerous questioning eyes he sighed. It’s not like he could convince them that it was a trick of the light or something. And he did owe them since they patched him up better than he would have been able to at home in his bedroom. But before he could start he turned to David. “I’ll tell you guys everything but first um… is that my ectoplasm in your hair and on your hands? Because if so you probably should wash that off, prolonged exposure isn’t harmful per say but you could start to glow or something if you don’t wash it off soon.”
David looked down to his hands, apparently just now remembering he was still covered in the boy’s ectoplasm and rushed to the bathroom to wash it off. He’d worry about why the sight of his own blood- ectoplasm didn’t phase Danny at all later.
Once David returned, now free of ectoplasm, Danny sat down and started from the beginning. At one point in the story he must have started to cry because he was handed a tissue box, which he accepted with a thanks. By the end he wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes, one of the adults had to go into the kitchen to compose themselves. Danny didn’t really understand why though, sure he sort of half died, but he didn’t see why it would affect any of them. “Hey! It’s fine, I’m fine it’s not a big deal! I mean it’s not like it only happened to me. Vlad went through it too like 20 years ago.” Danny seized up after he said that. “Don’t tell him you know about him though! Me not telling anyone about him is the only reason he’s not trying to fully kill me when we fight. That and he has a weird obsession with my mom and me.”
David paused at that. “So you’re telling us that not only did you go through a highly traumatic situation at a young age, but the only adult that even knows about it has tried to kill you multiple times?”
“I mean I guess but Jazz, my sister, knows about it too and she’s older than me and my friends.”
“Danny she’s also still a kid, an older one sure, but she is not an adult. Even if you didn’t go to your parents, was there no one else you could have talked to about it with? A therapist maybe?” David asked.
Danny laughed. “Ah no, Jazz tried having me go to the school therapist but she turned out to be a ghost who wanted to try to cause as much pain as possible. She even almost killed Jazz in front of the whole school.”
“Dear god.” David sighed. “All right, we will all keep your secret on one condition.” Danny cringed and looked down at his lap, of course there was a catch. He just hoped it wasn’t anything too bad like letting them run a bunch of experiments on him whenever they wanted to. His ghost injuries were bad enough to hide from others, he didn’t need to have to explain away needle marks or something. “You’ll see Brian once a week for therapy sessions. He’s a licensed psychiatrist.”
“Wait what?” Danny looked up confused.
“Oh don’t worry I won’t charge you of course since we are forcing you to do this, and obviously you can choose the day of the week. I usually don't work fridays or the weekends but if those are the only days that work I’m sure we can rearrange some of our family time to make room for you.” Brian smiled. “Now it’s getting pretty late isn’t it? I’m sure it’s about time everyone here starts to head home now hmm? Of course if you aren’t feeling well enough Danny I can call your parent’s up and just let them know you’ll be staying here. I’ll just tell them you were injured in a ghost fight, not exactly lying now is it?”
“Um no I’m fine enough to walk home thank you though.” Danny said. Everyone started saying their goodbyes and calling the children down to get them ready to leave. Danny was the last one left, he was almost out the door when he was stopped by David handing him a piece of paper.
“Here are our numbers, I also wrote down where Brian’s office is, you can set up your appointment over text. As well as our address, you can stop by or call us for any reason Danny and I mean it okay, any.”
Danny looked down at the paper and pocketed it with a nod. As he left he felt almost lighter for some reason. Maybe having adults who knew and didn’t want to kill him but actually wanted to help him wasn’t so bad after all.
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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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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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Phic Phight: Transformation Troubles
For @heroine0ftime: Danny has to go to school with a very ghostly problem.
Word Count: 3806
This was bad.
This was really, really bad.
As much as Danny stood in his dorm trying to change back into a human, he couldn’t.
It was a weapon from Skulker that had hit him. One that had been—as loudly declared by Skulker himself—a gift from Vlad. The mechanical ghost had caught Danny by surprise, landing a lucky shot on his back. But aside from some minor stinging, the weapon didn’t seem to actually do anything, which if Skulker’s despondent expression was anything to go by, was a surprise to them both.
As a result, Danny wrote it off as just a faulty weapon. But he should have known better.
Yeah, he really should have known better.
Because it wasn’t until they completed their normal song and dance of Danny capturing Skulker in the thermos and then flying off to his room did Danny realize what was wrong.
He couldn’t change back.
He mentally poked around his chest, probing for that internal warmth, but all he felt was the coolness of his core.
Stupid Vlad and his stupid tech.
He grabbed his phone off his desk. Class was starting soon, and he had no idea how long this weapon’s powers would last. A few minutes? Hours? Days? With Vlad and his sadistic sense of humor, anything was possible.
“Oh crap, oh crap.” Danny’s head fell into his hands, panic striking through his body. He couldn’t miss class today, there was a quiz at the beginning of the lecture. And of all classes, it had to be chemistry.
He needed to calm down. To think this through. Technically, everyone already knew he was Phantom. True, his revelation was a somewhat...recent development. He hadn’t known that there was a reporter hiding out in the alley that he’d transformed in, and of course his senior year of high school had turned into a complete media circus that had been so bad, he nearly ended up finishing out the year in online school rather than at Casper high.
But now he was just a regular freshman at college. His classmates had seen Fenton, and the public had seen Phantom, but Danny still worked hard to keep those identities separate. Fenton was never seen fighting ghosts, and Phantom was never seen at school.
His phone screen lit up. A text from a peer asking him if he was ready for class.
Danny was so screwed.
“It’s not a big deal,” he tried to reason with himself. “Everyone knows your Phantom already. So what if they see you in class as a ghost? They’ve already seen you on TV, it’s not a big deal. It’s not.”
But it was.
Phantom was a ghost. He was dead. He had super powers, he flew and shot laser beams from his hands. His eyes glowed—hell, even his freckles glowed.
While Fenton was...a student. A normal, average student.
Well, not entirely average enough. The school had suspiciously not sent him a housing form, instead choosing to send him an email stating that they had already selected a solo dorm in the freshmen building for him.
And then when he’d arrived on his first day, there were phones constantly flipped in his direction when people thought he wasn’t looking. Shy glances his way. Nervous voices whispering around him.
On his first day of class, people didn’t approach him. They seemed nervous, as if they didn’t know how to act around him.
Of course, it hadn’t been all bad. It took some warming up, a few instances of Danny inserting himself into study groups and a few weeks of him hanging out in the common room getting to know people before anyone seemed to realize that Danny was just...Danny. Just a regular, lost freshman student.
And from that point, it had been good. Really good.
But none of them had met Phantom yet. Not in a casual setting, at least. Maybe they’d seen him flying through the air, but none of his new peers had ever interacted with Phantom.
Not like this.
There was a pounding on his door, followed by a deep voice shouting, “Hey! We gotta go!”
Danny jumped in the air, startled. He glanced out the window and for a moment he debated flying away hiding out on a roof until the weapon wore off.
But then he remembered the quiz, and his brain came crashing back to reality.
“Uh…” He forced his feet to touch down to the floor. “It’s unlocked.”
The door swung open to reveal Carter, a lanky Asian boy that lived on Danny’s floor. The duo bonded one night over a seemingly impossible problem set assignment, and from then on out they’d shared an unspoken agreement to tag team this chemistry course.
Behind him stood Star, someone who Danny would never have guessed in a million years would join the ranks of the STEM department. However, Star quickly proved herself after scoring the highest grade in the curve on their first exam.
The two teens took one look at Danny and froze, jaws hanging open. For a few agonizing moments, no one said anything. They just stood there staring across the room as if Danny was a drug-induced art display.
Star recovered first. “Um...Phantom? Fenton? What…?”
“I—I can’t,” Danny stuttered, wringing his wrists. “I can’t change. Back. I can’t turn human.”
Carter’s jaw snapped shut. “What the fuck?”
Danny huffed, breaking eye contact with the two. “Listen, okay, Skulker was hunting me and he had this new tech from V—Plasmius, and he landed a lucky shot. I was distracted, okay? He went invisible, which he literally never does, and I’m still not used to this new environment and I was distracted and he got me. Except then what I didn’t realize was that the weapon was designed to short out my transformation ability, and I know it’s because that asshole incel old man designed it that way on purpose, and he probably is at home in his chair laughing his ass off at the fact that I can’t—I can’t change back.”
He caught a breath, his head whipping up to the two bewildered teens still standing by his doorway. At some point during the rant, his feet had left the ground again. “I can’t change back. I’m stuck. I don’t even know how long! Oh my god, this is a disaster. I’m so dead.”
“Uh…” Carter blinked. “I mean...it’s not so bad? You don’t...look...I mean, I’m sure it’ll be fine?”
“Are ghosts even allowed in the classroom?” Danny pulled at his hair with his fingers. “Oh Ancients, this is so bad.”
“It’s fine,” Star said suddenly, snapping herself out of her stupor. She strode into the dorm, opening Danny’s bureau and rifling through the wrinkled clothes like she owned them.
“Uh, what are you doing? Star?”
She pulled out a hoodie and some jeans. “Well? We have a quiz in fifteen minutes, and you’re in a hazmat suit.”
Danny looked down. “Oh my god.” He pulled at the suit. “Shit, shit, shit. This is so weird.”
Something hit his face, blinding him. He pulled off the offending fabric to reveal a smug Star standing in front of him with her arms crossed. “Hurry up, ghost boy. I don’t wanna be late.”
It only took a little more prompting and words of encouragement to get Danny into the human clothes and out the door. And now that he’d changed, Danny could almost ignore the fact that he was still obviously not human. He could ignore the glowing, the white bangs in the corner of his vision, or the way his voice had a slight echo when he spoke.
But as soon as they stepped out of the stairwell and into the lobby of their building, Danny was once again reminded that he was still very obviously a ghost.
All eyes were on him.
He must have stopped moving, because Star’s hand was on his back, propelling him forward towards the people. He walked as if he were in a trance, desperately trying to ignore all the faces and phones pointed his way.
And then beams of sunlight hit his face and he knew he was outside.
Which meant everyone on the street could see him.
Him. Danny Phantom. A glowing ghost. Wearing an APU hoodie and jeans.
As if sensing his panic, Carter threw him a thumbs up. “You can hardly even notice! Honestly, I didn’t even know your gloves could be removed. I figured they were just like attached to your skin or something.”
“Uh…” Danny surveyed his hands. In his distraction, he’d completely forgotten about the Lichtenberg figure that started from his left palm.
He drew his hoodie over his hands. It was fine, he could just hide it. Ignore anyone who asked.
“No, they’re just...I don’t control what my clothes look like as Phantom. But they’re just clothes.”
They walked further down the road, ignoring all the whispers of “Hey, is that Phantom?” “No way!” “Look, it’s Phantom in a hoodie!”
He knew he’d be all over the news by that evening. All thanks to Vlad.
A flash of anger overtook him, and he jammed his hand into his pocket, bringing out his cell. He unlocked the phone and opened a new message to a ‘Fruitloop.’
‘Go to hell.’
Carter peered over his shoulder. “Who’s that?”
His phone buzzed, and Danny nearly blasted his phone into a wall at the response.
‘I’m quite sure I don’t know what you mean, Little Badger.’
He took a deep breath, counted to five, and then stuffed the phone back into his pocket. “Just the clown that did this to me.”
Carter’s eyes bugged out of his skull. “Wait, ghosts can text each other?”
“Some can,” Danny answered stiffly.
“Some? Like which ones?”
“Never mind that,” Star cut in. “Are you guys ready for the quiz today? I feel so unprepared for the structural question.”
Danny had never been so relieved for someone to bring up classes.
“Didn’t you do well on the p-set though?” Carter asked.
“But that doesn’t mean anything. I still feel super shaky on the electron configurations.”
“You’ll be fine, Star,” Danny reassured her. “I, on the other hand, am totally gonna fail.”
“Nah, we got through the last assignment together!” Carter said.
“Yeah but…” Danny rubbed a hand on his chest over his core. It felt alien to not be able to feel any warmth whatsoever next to his core. “Stoichiometry’s still gonna murder me. I’m no good at math.”
“Aren’t you studying astrophysics?”
“That’s different math.”
“Whatever you say,” Star said sarcastically.
The trio reached the STEM building, and Danny could see curious faces peering at him through the window.
Ancients, he felt like he was a zoo animal.
He took a deep breath, opened the door, and entered the building. Only to be immediately assaulted with emotions of panic and confusion and stress.
Ah, nothing like a group of students before a test.
Emotions were one of his least favorite powers as a ghost. Thankfully, like the rest of his powers, his ability to sense and taste emotions were muted in human form. But stuck as a ghost, that just meant he had no way to block the onslaught of anxiety surrounding him.
And he was likely just making it worse. What, with him standing in the middle of the hallway as a ghost.
“Phantom?” a student’s confused voice sounded from behind him.
“What is he—”
But Danny ignored the voices and stepped forward, deeper into the hallway. He kept his head down, relying on his muscle memory to guide him around the building.
It was small blessings that the people around him seemed too confused to approach.
“Stairwell or elevator?” Star asked from behind him.
“Stairs,” Danny said immediately. Like hell he was going to be trapped in an elevator as Phantom.
They moved up the stairs, ignoring the double takes and whispers as he walked by.
Ancients, this was awful. This was terrible.
Vlad could go fuck himself for making Danny go through this. The bastard. Danny could only imagine how he looked right now, watching the internet flooding with photos and images of Phantom in real time. He was probably twirling his wine glass between his fingertips with one hand and stroking his stupid cat with his other hand, chuckling in that dark, smug way that he did like some B-list comic-book villain.
A hand grabbed his arm, and on instinct Danny nearly phased away, whipping around with an ectoblast at the ready.
But thankfully, his self control was just good enough for him to not nearly take out whoever was behind him. Which had been Star, who was now staring at him with a mix of bewilderment and concern.
“We’re here?” she said, motioning forward.
Danny looked over to see a crowd of students standing in front of a locked door, all either openly staring at him or politely pretending not to.
He was so screwed.
Danny moved closer to the wall, hoping to use the other students as a shield. Unfortunately, he wasn’t counting on them immediately moving to give him a large bandwidth of space.
This was just like the first day of class, when everyone realized the half-ghost kid was in their lecture. And how nobody would stand near him, no one would talk to him.
But everyone would stare at him.
He anxiously tugged the sleeves of his oversized hoodie over his hand and grabbed his notebook, desperately looking for any excuse to ignore the sea of eyes piercing through him.
Fortunately, that seemed to do the trick. As if a magic spell was broken, everyone else snapped out of their trance and redirected their attention to their notebooks and textbooks as well.
“See? It’s not so bad,” Star muttered next to him. “Nobody cares. There’s a quiz.”
“Yeah,” Danny breathed. “Okay.”
Several agonizing minutes passed before the door clicked open and a line of exhausted and stressed looking students filed out of the room.
“It’s go time,” Star said.
“Shit,” Carter said.
Danny had to agree.
His heart was pounding as he entered the lecture hall. He tried to convince himself it was due to the quiz, but he knew he was lying.
Would his professor kick him out? Would he be written up? Would they fail him?
Calm down, he tried to tell himself. It’s okay. Calm down. Nobody cares, nobody cares…
The air around him was dropping in temperature, and a few students around him shivered, glancing his way.
Get a grip.
“You good?” Carter lightly touched his shoulder.
Danny attempted to offer him a reassuring smile. “Just nervous for the quiz.”
Carter didn’t look convinced, but thankfully followed the bro code and went along with it anyway. “Oh yeah, don’t even get me started. On one hand, the TF told me that it’s only five questions so it should go by quick. But on the other hand, it’s only five questions. So that’s pretty much a guaranteed D.”
“Or a guaranteed A if you studied,” Star said in a singsong voice.
“Oh, shut up.”
Danny tried to shake off some of the nerves as he found his usual seat towards the front of the lecture hall. He glanced up, but his professors and TF’s were in a deep discussion, their backs turned to the students.
So they hadn’t seen him yet.
Danny didn’t know if that was for the better or worse.
More and more students filed into the classroom, and Danny noticed how nobody sat near him. Well, no one aside from Star and Carter.
He put his head down, trying to read the absolute mess that was his notes. But his eyes wouldn’t focus on the paper and even though he didn’t need to breathe, he felt like he couldn’t get enough air.
Was it just him, or was the room colder than usual?
Calm down. It’s okay. It’s—
“Phan—Danny? Danny Fenton?”
The room went silent.
Danny meekly picked his head up to see the face of his extremely confused old professor.
“I don’t suppose ectoplasm has any special properties of electron orbital configuration, does it?” asked Professor Biggins.
Nervous giggles echoed around the classroom, and Danny could feel the burning stares more prominently than ever before.
He opened his mouth, but his throat refused to cooperate. His mouth was dry, his tongue was frozen in place. But despite the embarrassing frost that was beginning to creep around his hoodie, his face burned with ectoplasm.
Star gave him a worrying look before coming to his aid. “He can’t transform back, professor.”
Professor Biggins leaned back, blinking in astonishment. “Can’t transform back?”
Mutters broke out around the classroom.
“Another ghost shorted out his powers earlier today and now he temporarily can’t transform back to a human.”
“Huh.” The professor ran a hand through his thin white hair. “Well, I have to say this is a first for me. Can you—are you okay for the quiz, Danny?”
“Yeah.” Danny nodded slowly, his voice returning to him. “It—I’m good. Yeah.”
“You sure? Tell me, what group of elements are categorized as having p orbitals?”
“Um…” Danny’s eyes darted down to his notes. “Groups thirteen to...eighteen?”
“Except? Which element’s the exception to this?” he pressed.
Professor Biggins surveyed him for a moment more before crossing his arms and nodding approvingly. “Yeah, you’re all right.” He turned and strode over to the chalkboard. “Alright, class! Notebooks off the desk, only pencils and calculators. The TF’s are going to pass out the quiz to start right now. You’ll all have fifteen minutes, and then we’re going to get right back into our continuation on molecular structure configurations. Remember, your lab this week is on configurations, so you want to make sure this stuff is crystal clear before Wednesday. I highly recommend taking advantage of office hours tomorrow if you’re confused at all after today.”
The room was filled with the shuffling of paper as everyone stuffed their notebooks into the bags. Carter tossed a stack of quizzes on his desk, to which Danny took one and then continued the chain of passing them down. Before he knew it, all the students in the room seemed to have gotten over the glowing teen seated in the front of the room in favor of the intimidating sheet of paper flipped over before them.
“Okay, everyone ready?”
Danny nodded, staring his paper down. Phantom or not, he was ready for this.
“So you really can’t transform back?” Sam asked from the phone screen.
“Nope,” Danny said, popping the ‘p.’
Tucker bursted out laughing.
“It’s not funny!” Sam scolded. “He could have seriously been hurt!”
“Oh man!” Tucker dramatically wiped his eyes. “Are you kidding? That’s hilarious.”
Danny rolled his eyes and shifted his phone to his other hand. He was sitting on the grass by the river that bordered their school Facetiming his two childhood friends who’d spread out across the country to their respective schools. Although the trio typically saved their Facetime sessions to the weekend, social media worked fast. And when Danny had woken up the next morning still stuck as Phantom, that was enough for Sam to demand an emergency Team Phantom meeting after classes that day.
“Shut up, this is serious! Danny, did you get a hold of Vlad?”
“Yeah.” Danny glanced up at a couple that was walking by, staring at him mouths agape. “He said it should wear off in a few days and told me to enjoy the attention. Cocky asshole.”
“He’s such a dick,” Sam growled.
It made his heart sing to hear her say that, but he didn’t need to let her know.
“Dude, have you seen reddit today?” Tucker cut in. “This is amazing. The meme templates, Danny. Oh man, this is about to be a great month of internet culture.”
“Here, let me—” He broke off, his voice devolving into maniacal snickers. “Hang on!”
Soon enough, an image popped up in their group chat of Phantom, dressed in his human outfit, looking abundantly stressed as he poured over a notebook and textbook over his desk.
He recognized that image from his physics class that morning. Of course, it had to be from a morning class.
The caption over the image read, “When you’re dead but remembered you have homework to do.”
Danny snorted. “Okay, very funny. How many reddit awards has this gotten you?”
“Oh, too many to count! Thank you for asking.”
“You guys are ridiculous,” Sam groaned.
“You’re just jealous that my memes are funnier than yours.”
“And you’re just making up for the fact that I kicked your ass in Doomed last weekend.”
“You always kick my ass in Doomed. Danny, tell her that she’s trying to deflect from the fact that she’s jealous of my internet fame.”
“Oh yeah? Well Danny, you can tell Tucker that Reddit points are worthless.”
Tucker gave a dramatic gasp, putting his hand over his heart. “Well I never!”
“Alright, alright!” Danny waved them off. “You’re both funny. Do you feel better now?”
“I think I can live with that!” Tucker said.
Sam’s mood sobered. “But seriously, Danny. Are you really just going to go to class all week as Phantom?”
“I mean, what choice do I have?” he said. “I can’t exactly skip a week of classes. And you know, it’s not like I’m using any of my powers in class. I’m just...you know. Half the students show up to morning lectures in their pajamas. So what if I’m glowing a little bit?”
“Touché,” Tucker agreed.
“Besides, I have lab tomorrow.” Danny glanced over at the time. “Ugh, speaking of. I have to go to my study group for the pre-lab assignment. Talk to you guys this weekend?”
“Okay, yeah. I should get back to homework. Text us as soon as you can transform back, okay?” Sam said.
Tucker waved him off. “Thanks for the memes, Phantom!”
Danny rolled his eyes again and casually flipped his best friend off, though he was unable to hide the grin on his face. “Oh, fuck off.”
“Bye! Stay safe!”
Danny clicked out of Facetime and surveyed the field around him. Groups of students huddled together, some doing homework and others just enjoying each other’s company and the fresh air. Some people glanced his way, and he could still feel a mixture of confusion and concern in the air from those around him, but Danny was miraculously able to shrug those people off.
Well, maybe he was still a bit self-conscious. But hey, it was college. Weirder things have happened.
Thanks for reading!
check out some of my other fics
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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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“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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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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Half a Decade Late
Valerie was finally promoted to the main headquarters of the Guys in White. There she finally comes face to face with Phantom, who disappeared five years ago, locked in a cell.
For Phic Phight 2021, @lexosaurus' prompt!
Nothing proved ’harder workers get ahead’ was only a capitalist lie than the absolute hassle getting promotions within the GIW. Of course she’d gone right to them for employment, it was the only organization large enough to actually pay people that took her resume of ghost hunting seriously. She had experience, actual knowledge and even her own gear but had still spent years getting jerked around to various small operations, basically just using her to train all their useless recruits while still just considering her a ‘fellow’ field agent. It wasn’t like she had the option to quit in protest, no one else was in the market for ghost hunters. As far as most people knew ‘ghost intelligence’ was just a joke cover story that the agents were very attached to. They didn’t want any more Amity Parks, so if she wanted to live somewhere new and still do her job...these guys were it. She’d been very clear, she wanted to be in the main office, where everything happened. That didn’t stop them from constantly assigning her literally anywhere but the actual headquarters. Maybe they finally ran out of other places, she still half expected to get stopped at the door and be told about a new field mission they absolutely needed her on immediately.
It didn’t happen. Valerie Grey finally got to clock in as an Ecto Containment Officer at the main branch. Where they kept the strongest creatures, developed the new anti-ghost equipment and did more than just splattering a ghost down to nothing.
Sure, she liked a good ghost obliterating, but it got boring after a while. There were only so many ways a ghost could beg for it’s useless afterlife before it became white noise. It didn’t stop any new ones from showing up, or tell her anything new. Just got rid of one pest, permanently. That wouldn’t help explain some ghosts, the powerful ones that showed up again and again. It wouldn’t explain the one that stopped showing up either. There was no way that life ruining ghost just got ‘bored’ and vanished without notice. It was still out there, plotting something. She just knew it in her bones. She had to be ready for it. There were traces of that ghost, hints of his ectosignature that she came across in the field, he was still out there. The GIW was just a means to an end, she didn’t trust them to be ready alone.
Sterile corridors and simplistic signs were expected, but even the break area was doing its best impression of a frozen tundra. Fantastic for morale? Probably not. Made the coffee pot easy to spot, at least. Even if she preferred to avoid the stuff in uniform. It stained too easily, and just made her wish for her red battle suit. She took a cup to at least have an excuse for her scoping out the place, she could pass it off to someone once she got to the containment area. A quick double check that everything was in place at the mirror before heading right back out to the winding halls. She wasn’t going to be late, she didn’t have time for that. Maybe a red tie was against protocol, but no one had been stupid enough to bother her about it yet. Judging from the deferential nods from her latest coworkers, that wouldn’t be changing. No one who worked here couldn’t know who she was. The only Ghost Hunter who got out of Amity Park without getting corrupted by the ectoplasmic monsters. It was a shame, Jack and Maddie Fenton used to be a serious force for humanity. Five years ago they suddenly flipped the script, denouncing their work and calling for peace with unreasonable fiends. Their daughter Jazz likely had something to do with it, but Valerie had her own theories. Danny, her friend and once boyfriend had gone missing around that time. Leverage to ensure the Fenton’s ‘good behaviour?’ The whole thing reeked of ghosts. To think she might have gone the same way. Back then she was actually listening to the pest, starting to really consider them a ‘good’ ghost. Like that was actually possible, when he’d just been playing to emotion and her own desire to give up in fighting a dangerous foe over and over. So much for that. That monster showed it’s true colours, sure enough. Something the GIW never bothered to look into, even as she wrote report after report about the incident, how unlikely it was for the Fentons of all people to change that drastically without constant possession. Not worth the resources, even when it was easy to see what tech was built on the foundations the couple had laid. They were throwing away so much to focus on little outbreaks of ghosts instead of making more of a lasting change. Stupid. That was what the funding was ‘meant’ to go towards, as if helping the Fentons would be less productive than making a slightly different ectogun.
She almost hoped there would be a problem, just to prove this is where she should have always been.Even if it seemed distinctly unlikely. She had to swipe to get into the lab, then yet again to actually get to the cells. Or the ‘vault’, as if the higher ups wanted to pretend the creatures in there were inert materials instead of cunning and dangerous beings. Even though they had someone posted at each door, and someone on guard inside as well, herself today. To get acquainted with the place mostly, she had more than enough training on ‘proper handling’ procedures.
“Hey, you can swap with me today, if you want.”
Valerie blinked, eyebrow already raised at the posted guard’s suggestion. “I can handle watching caged ghosts.”
They had the sense to look embarrassed, taking their hand away from the oversized ectogun to loosen their tie- which was tied rather poorly now that she got a better look at it. “I’m sure you can, it’s just, well.” They wouldn’t stop fidgeting with their tie now, eyes checking that no one was really paying attention to the guards. “H0G02 is awake today. No one likes those days.”
“Then all the more reason to get used to it early.” She didn’t give them time to sputter another excuse, swiping her card and striding past without another look. As if people should be worried about a captive ghost being awake. Maybe some of the people here never got a spine before joining up.
It wasn’t as cold as she expected it to be. Or as dark. It was actually brighter, thanks to the extra row of fluorescent lights. On some level she expected the room to reflect the monsters kept here, a shadowy icebox of a space. Of course it wasn’t. These were defeated creatures under human control, of course their cages would be bright and clean, the air warmed for human comfort. The ghosts might not like it, but why care what they wanted? It wasn’t like there were many to begin with, mostly green oversized vermin with blank red eyes. Most had the sense to cower back as she walked past, but a fair few didn’t even twitch. Calling a ghost of all things lifeless was foolish, but it was the only word coming to mind...she had to focus. She didn’t pity these things. Why so many creatures though? The real dangerous ones, the most monstrous ones were the ones that could play human, the ones that had conniving minds that only worked to cause destruction and terror. These were just feral things, annoying but hardly more impressive than a coyote when you knew what to do. Half of them she’d barely rate above ‘feral cat’.
A light near the back flickered. Strange. When it flickered a second time she was already releasing her helmet to pull it on. Not nearly as easy as just willing it on, but at least she could carry it in a pocket without needing to rely on some ghost’s power. Three steps and her gun was ready, not that she expected to need it. Really, she worked on autopilot, legs still moving as she stared at the largest glass cage at the back of the room. Or more accurately, at what was in it.
“Oh, newbie. ‘Sup.” The ghost rasped out, blank green eyes watching the ghost hunter. A teenaged boy with a shock of white hair, a black jumpsuit, but the voice of a seventy year old chain smoker. Just sitting in a painfully bright cell, watching. Not exactly as she remembered him, but close enough.
“You.” The disgust was easy to voice, even as her brain struggled to catch up. He was here? Looking practically exactly as he had when she was still a soft hearted freelancer?
He only gave a sputtering laugh at the aggression. “Me? You’re not that mad about the light, are you? I’m bored, Tie.”
“What are you doing here?” That wasn’t the important question really, she should be more concerned that he apparently was able to manipulate light fixtures from his cell...but she’d been hunting after this ghost for five years. Protocol could go shove itself up the director’s ass.
“Same thing I do every day Tie, being some government property!” His laugh was wrong, not from amusement like she remembered. A desperate cackle that didn’t fool anyone. “You new enough to still have your soul in there?”
“Answer the question, Phantom.”
The smirk slid off the ghost’s face. “Wh’ad you call me? Like I’m only calling you Tie cus the red sticks out, I can call you Shooty if you don’t like it, newbie.”
The response made her insides run cold. It had to be Phantom, and the terrible sense of humour was just like him- but the ghost wasn’t quite right. What was this? It couldn’t be some copy of the ghost kid, could it? “I called you by your name, ghost.”
“Never heard of em.” The ghost crossed his legs and looked away, apparently bored of the person holding a weapon. “What day is it?”
Surely he was playing around. “What do you think your name is, then?”
He didn’t take his attention off the ceiling, looking more bored than anything.“Day first, Tie. Gotta know how much of a head start I’ve got.”
“Like you’re in any position to bargain.”
“Hm? Whatcha gonna do Tie? Let me be unconscious for a few hours? Scary. Day first.”
There was the Phantom she knew, snide and sarcastic when he really had no business being so. “I could do worse than that.”
“Doubt it. You gun grunts gotta listen to the freaks out there, remember?” His shoulders shook with a silent laughter, but it looked more like spasms. “No more mishandling the goods, yeah? Day Tie, comeonnnnnn”
Since when was he so interested in the calendar? Not to mention how weird it was how he kept referring to himself...and pretending he didn’t know his name. “It’s Monday.”
That got his attention, the casual rocking halting as he looked at her again, disturbingly still. “Monday, really?”
“Lying is your thing, not mine.”
He grinned. “I like you Tie, so you’ll probably be fired in like a week. Maybe it’s the red.” The tension left the ghost completely, she hadn’t even noticed how stiffly he’d been sitting until his spine relaxed as his elbows rested on his legs. “Pretty sure I’m H0G02. Least that’s what all your creeps call me.”
There was no way Phantom of all ghosts would call himself ‘H0G02’. He had to be a mimic of some sort, a ghost that modelled himself on the once well known Amity Park menace. “You like me because I told you it was Monday? Seriously?”
“I like the Mondays more than you, if that helps.”
“Sounds like a you problem.” He was watching her again, more curious than anything. She shouldn’t be glad to see a spark of something in those eyes, but he was far less creepy this way.
“What’s so great about Monday? You’re a ghost.” She didn’t really care. She should be asking important questions. She was just...playing along to see if it really was Phantom. That didn’t stop her for being grateful for the helmet.
“Monday is the farthest day away from Friday.”
“Wouldn’t that be Saturday?”
“It hasn’t been Saturday or Sunday for...like four years? Those days don’t exist, I think you humans made ‘em up to prank me.” Phantom shrugged, sounding completely serious. Not even a hint of amusement or a grin. “Pretty good one, all you new guys keep it up.”
He was going to be completely useless if he kept saying nonsense. How could he be useful in finding out what happened to the Fenton’s son if he couldn’t even talk about the days of the week sensibly? “Fine, what’s so bad about Friday then.”
“Ohhhhh, you’re really new, Tie.” the ghost flopped onto his side, bored of sitting up apparently. “You know, the day they keep me around for? That day.” He wasn’t quite still, his right shoulder moving very, very carefully. Hiding something.
She didn’t have the patience for this.“What are you hiding there.”
“Tie has good eyes. Gotta remember that.” Phantom muttered, getting onto his back, a blue shard of ice melting off his arm.
“You don’t really think that some ice would help you out of there?”
“Out?” He looked mystified by the suggestion, but that could more be seeing his face upside down. “That glass doesn’t break for anything, I should know.”
Which didn’t explain why he’d been trying to hide the fact he’d made ice at all. He knew it too, but apparently playing stupid was still one of his favourite tactics. “Knock it off and just answer me.”
Phantom’s frown didn’t change, green eyes staring intently at her helmet as if hoping to see through it. “I could show you why?”
It didn’t sound like a threat. “Sure, why not. It’s gonna be a long day.” If it was? Then she’d show him that she wasn’t someone he could mess with.
Ice wrapped itself around the ghost’s lower arm alarmingly quick, a wickedly sharp blade of ice with serrated teeth jutting from the scrawny arm at an awkward angle. It was practised, something this ghost must have done often in all the time he’d been gone from her life. Yet it was so different from how Phantom usually chose to fight. That was a weapon to tear and maim, not to shock, stun or bruise. It looked wrong on him. The idea that this ghost wasn’t Phantom at all only grew more credible with that thing on his arm, even if ice powers were to be expected. His eyes flicked back to green, still fixated on her as he lifted the arm and stabbed down hard.
Right into his other arm. Didn’t even blink.
“What are you doing!” She couldn’t remember the last time Phantom had ever been frightening on some primal level. This- with the disturbing snap of bone as the edges of the blade caught and tore made her hair stand on end. “Stop that, Phantom. What’s wrong with you!?”
“Cancelling Friday.” Phantom was laughing as the blade melted away into the pool of green rapidly spreading from his self inflicted wound. “I said you’d probably get fired Tie.”
“Forget Friday you idiot, cover the wound so you stop splattering everywhere!” He was just a ghost-a ghost messing with her. A ghost she’d fought with and had heard scream in pain. This...thing wasn’t him. Her heart didn’t care what her mind thought, insisting he needed help.
The ghost sat up, his left arm holding on by a shred of his suit before splattering into the puddle, but the left behind stump stopped dripping almost as quickly as he’d lost the limb. “Aw. Maybe Tie does have some soul left. You actually sound worried.”
“Of course I am! You slashed your arm off!”
He didn’t seem to be in pain. If it wasn’t for the mess of green and the lack of a limb, she’d almost say she imagined it. Why did she care? “You wouldn’t do this sort of thing.”
“Uh. Yes I would? You just saw me do it. I’m down for an encore.”
The idea just made her feel ill. “Don’t.” Did she want this to be Phantom or not? “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Well I’m down an arm. So the coats are going to be very whiny about how much ectoplasm they can get out of me.”
“You must have felt that.”
“Sure. Isn’t nearly as bad as when they start ripping as much ectoplasm as they can out of you. Every single Friday.” He actually rolled his eyes, like she should just know this.
Why did they bother keeping Phantom around if they just wanted ectoplasm? He might be strong, but no ghost had limitless amounts. They’d just fall apart and stop existing. That’s why the weakest ones never even left the Ghost Zone, they couldn’t survive without constantly being around the stuff! “What makes you so special then? Not your attitude.”
“I’m just lucky enough to make my own ectoplasm. Who knew food was easier to get then high grade ectoplasm? Not me.” His remaining arm pointed to her weapon, his smile stretching. “Bet ya your weapon’s fully powered from Fridays. Yours and every other thing they use in this hellhole.”
“Ghosts can’t do that.” The lie was absurd. It went against everything they knew about ghosts, even before food entered the equation.
“Y’know, Tie. I think I knew a ghost hunter that wore red once.” the ghost’s eyes went unfocused, unmoving as he looked listlessly into space. “It’s a good colour.”
“You knew me. Quit fooling around with this not remembering crap.” Valerie threw her helmet aside, no longer caring. She had to know who this ghost really was. She had to know if everything he was blathering about was a lie. So what if it wasn’t ‘safe’.
His eyes didn’t change. “Y’know how hard it is to remake a brain? Cut me some slack Tie…”
“I mean it. Look at me Phantom. If you’re the ghost I know, you can stop pretending to be something else.”
“You lose the details. Arms and legs are easy. The brain though? Way too hard.” He kept rambling to himself, not reacting even as she put a hand to the glass to get his attention. “Y’know how many times they’ve cut it open? I don’t. I lose track after like. Eleven. Maybe. Pointy Shoe said my best was fifteen but I sure don’t remember that.”
She wanted him to just stop talking. She wanted this ghost to be some strange creature she didn’t know. To not have the only possible link to someone long lost a shattered husk. “Phantom. Do you remember the hunter in red’s name?”
He finally blinked. “I’m not this Phantom guy, Tie.”
“Okay, whatever, forget that part. The ghost hunter in red, what do you remember?” She insisted, knocking again in hopes it would keep the ghost’s focus.
“Wish I’d told em something.” he held up his gloved hand as she opened her mouth to speak. “Don’t remember what that something was, don’t ask.”
So he was Phantom? He couldn’t be. That was so non-specific it could be anything. “You never explained how you’re the only ghost that can make their own ectoplasm.”
“It’s in my name Tie! Come on. Thought you guys were smart or whatever.” He did a very awkward one armed attempt at crossing it, eyebrow raised. “The H? The feeding a ghost food thing?”
She didn’t really get the whole naming scheme they used here. The fact it mattered wasn’t making her gut unclench either. “What about the H?
“Hybrid? Might have been Human. That might have been a joke.”
Valarie’s mouth was drier than any desert when he said it that easily, that casualty while kicking his own arm aside. “You’re saying you aren’t all ghost.”
“Yup. Not yet! Trust me, I’ve tried,” the bubbly high pitched laugher clawed out of the ghost at that. “I tried so much. Guess it’s another thing I’m a failure at, eh Tie?”
Something told her not to ask. She had to know. Five years she waited, five years apparently knocked Phantom clear from reality.“Does Danny Fenton mean anything to you?”
He just laughed harder at the question. “Really Tie?”
“That’s the name I scream at em. Don’t know why. Feels good though.”
“Is it your name?” Had he had contact with Danny? Been part of whatever made him go missing from everyone’s lives? He couldn’t be, there was no way.
“They get reallllll angry when I say it is.”
There was no way the GIW had a human captive for five years. There was no way Phantom could be the Danny she knew. The ghost was just lying. He had to be, she desperately needed him to be. “Were you fused with a human or something? Got stuck when possessing someone?”
“Nah. Been like this before I got here, pretty sure. You can check your fancy gear though. There’s some non-ghost DNA in it. Lucky lucky me,” he lay back down in the mess of ectoplasm, ignoring how it clung to his hair. “Thanks for the Friday off! I hate those.”
There was no reason to need air. Talking to a ghost she didn’t even like shouldn’t make her feel like she was being crushed under a boulder.
Panting for air, outside the room would make her look pathetic and weak, but she needed the space, needed to be away from that...mockery of a ghost.
“He does that to everyone. He’ll repeat the whole thing in a week or so, but he’s a really good copy the first time you see it.” The guard gave a comforting word, apparently unsurprised by her sudden unscheduled departure.
Oh, there would be no ‘next time.’ Not if he was right about her weapon. But she nodded instead, letting her ‘coworker’ think she was just overwhelmed. Even if all she could think of was how many ways this place would burn if that ghost- that thing had been a human once. She was good at telling when ghosts lied. Phantom didn’t sound like he had. No matter how much she tried to convince herself he did.
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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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Phic Phight 2021: The Reluctant Apprentice and The Mentor Frenzy
Prompt: New ghosts often get under the wing of older ghosts. After the accident, Danny is approached by each trying to convince him join them as a very promising ghostly apprentice.
Note: I changed "After the accident" to "after Danny's first Death Day" and I hope that's alright!!
Team Ghost: 2,173 Words, Complete.
It started with the Box Ghost. It was always the damn Box Ghost.
Danny would agree that the fight between the two in the mall storage room was pretty standard. They fought, Danny obliterated him, the Box Ghost got sucked into the Fenton Thermos, and Danny would call it a day.
This time the Box Ghost shouted: "wait!!"
Foolishly, Danny complied.
"When is your death day?"
Danny furrowed his eyebrows.
"My what-y what now?"
The Box Ghost looked aghast.
"You've never celebrated a Death Day before?? YOU'RE A BABY," the Box Ghost wailed.
Danny could barely suppress covering his ears and quickly scooped him into the thermos.
"Jeez, what was that about," Danny said to himself and scratched his head.
Danny shrugged it off. It was just the Box Ghost after all. Nothing would really come of it.
Sidney Poindexter popped his head out of a locker in front of Danny suddenly, who was returning from the bathroom, and Danny yelped.
"Jesus Christ, why would you do that, Sidney?"
Sidney waved him off.
"Now the Box Ghost is not the most credible source but is it true you've never celebrated a Death Day?" Sidney used his thumb to push up his glasses.
"What is a Death Day?"
Sidney's eyes widened comically.
"I knew you were young but not this young. Umm, alright so a Death Day is a celebration on the anniversary of your death."
"Why would I want to celebrate my death," Danny asked incredulously.
"Why would you celebrate your birth," Sidney pointed out.
"Touché," Danny said with a nod. "What do you even do on your Death Day?"
Sidney tapped his finger against his chin as he recalled the information.
"Well, typically it's a day of truce and there's a party held in the Zone."
"Is that all?" Danny asked with interest. A day of no Ghost fighting sounded nice.
Sidney hesitated and chewed his lip before nodding quickly.
"Yep," he said, his voice cracking at the end.
Danny narrowed his eyes, it was obvious that he was lying.
"So, when is your Death Day?"
Danny hummed as he tried to remember.
"Like a few months from now."
"Well, I'd expect a visit from the others around then," Sidney said as he slipped back into the locker.
Danny was about to ask him what the hell he meant by that when the bell gave an aggressive ring. Lunch break was over and Danny was going to be late soon. He didn't even get to finish his food.
Sidney was right. The other ghosts did come for him on his Death Day. They tore him from his bed and dragged him to the Ghost Zone through a portal Wulf made. The celebration lasted all day and well into the night. Danny didn't know there was such a varying amount of ghost cuisine.
Danny hadn't realized how unknowledgeable he was in Ghost Culture. Apparently Ember, Johnny, and Kitty were doing "Ghost Nip." The Lunch Lady had told him he wasn't old enough to have any.
The only downside was everyone kept referring to him as an infant or baby. Especially Skulker, it was probably the highlight of his night.
Danny assumed that his first Death Day would get rid of any of the lingering weirdness the others had around him but he was wrong. So wrong. In fact it increased.
Unsurprisingly it started with the Box Ghost. Again.
"It is I, the mighty Box Ghost," he proclaimed as he appeared out of the floor of the cafeteria.
The students looked up from their trays with a sigh as the ghost alarm sounded off. Idly the students evacuated, only moving when the staff members ushered them out.
The Box Ghost waited impatiently. Slowly Danny came back this time as Phantom.
"It is I, the mighty Bo-," he began again before Danny cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. What ya want this time Boxy?"
"I come with a proposal for you, Phantom," the Box Ghost yelled with an exaggerated point of his finger.
"You didn't even buy me dinner, let alone finish my lunch," Danny joked with a tilt of his head.
The Box Ghost scoffed.
"Silly child–," Danny rolled his eyes, "my proposal is for you to become my apprentice!"
Danny slapped a hand over his mouth.
"I know it is a great honor that comes with great responsi-"
Danny couldn't take it anymore and let out a caterwaul of a laugh that had him doubling over.
"You laugh at the offer of apprenticeship of the strongest ghost–" he was caught off by the whirring of the Fenton Thermos.
Danny capped the lid, his shoulders still shaking from his giggles.
Man, he couldn't wait to tell Sam and Tuck.
The second time was less humorous than his first and happened during his nightly patrol.
Danny was lazily floating through the park when he felt the cold vapor flee from his lips and the air vibrate with the force of the oncoming ghost.
What weapon would he have this time?
Danny reluctantly turned around and went into a fighting stance. He faltered in surprise at the gun in Skulker's hands.
The gun shot off and Danny was easily caught in the net in his distraction.
It wasn't difficult to disentangle himself from the net but when he was done Skulker was standing over him with an oozing smirk.
"Wow, you're losing your touch. How are you going to skin my hide with this," Danny asked with a raised eyebrow and gesturing with the net in his hands.
"Your hide would be better and more valuable being my apprentice," Skulker said proudly.
Danny furrowed his brows and groaned. Not Skulker too.
The fight that ensued was an interesting one. It mostly consisted of Danny shooting ectoblasts and Skulker shooting nets while loudly stating why he would be Danny's best bet of survival if Skulker became his mentor.
The fight eventually ended much to Danny's relief.
He went to bed with questions on why ghosts wanted to be his mentor all of a sudden.
Danny was excited. He had woken up on time and the breakfast table conversation was barely about ghosts and ripping his alter ego "molecule by molecule" wasn't even mentioned. He ate his favorite chocolate chip waffles and a rich cup of coffee. Jazz must have noticed his good mood and offered to drive him to school.
The grin on his face was big and easy. He walked out the door with a bounce in his step, so much so he had to concentrate on not floating. Jazz giggled at this as she trailed behind him.
Though as soon as Danny caught sight of what was across the street he deflated.
Johnny and Kitty were leaning against Johnny's motorcycle and were wearing matching black, square sunglasses. They smiled widely at him and Danny knew exactly where this conversation was going.
Danny quickly crossed the street looking both ways before tackling the pair into the bushes.
"What do you think you're doing just hanging out in front of Fenton Works?? Are you asking to get caught?"
"Nah, little dude. We wanna mentor you," Johnny replied.
Kitty nodded eagerly.
"Yeah, the both of us as we are a package deal." Kitty pulled herself up into a sitting position and crossed her legs. "We could be like your cool Aunt and Uncle!"
"No," Danny said vehemently, horrified at the thought.
Kitty pouted and Johnny threw up his hands pleadingly.
"Please, dude. We'd do a good job, promise."
Danny rubbed his eyes and he felt Jazz put a soothing hand on his shoulder.
"I can't deal with this right now. I have to go to school."
The siblings left despite the ghosts' protests.
The rest of the day carried out similarly.
During fourth period science Ember showed up.
Danny flew out to the parking lot and eyed Ember warily.
"Let me guess. You want to offer me an apprenticeship?"
"Spot on," Ember said with a smirk. Now I love, Skulker, I truly do." Her voice filled with fondness at the mention of her boyfriend. "But there's no way in hell am I letting him have you for an apprentice."
"Why is this so important to you people!?" Danny charged his hand with an ectoblast.
"So, that's a no then?" Ember punctuated this with a scowl.
"Yes, that's a no," Danny shouted in exasperation.
"Oh, come on!! Your Ghostly Wail would go so well with my guitar," She whined as energy gathered at the head of her guitar, pink and angry.
He was so interrogating Sidney later.
Danny unfortunately had to wait until after school before hobbling over to Sidney's locker.
He knocked on the locker door and rubbed at his sore thigh.
Shyly, Sidney poked his head out with an abashed expression.
Danny glared at him with impatience.
"Something to tell me, Sidney?"
"Okay, okay!" Sidney put up his hands defensively in front of him.
"So after a ghosts 'survival' to their first Death Day they are considered safe enough for another ghost to take care of them, so to speak. It's regarded as an apprenticeship as the mentor ghost teaches the younger ghost how to fight and fend for themselves and of course Ghost Culture as a whole.
"This is a very important occurrence for ghosts. They're asking not only for an alliance after your maturity but also a familial relationship with you. Think of it like adoption." Sidney fiddled his thumbs.
"Huh," Danny replied as he absorbed the information. "That's why everybody is hounding me for? An alliance?"
"Everybody assumed you were older because of how tough you are in battle so we were very surprised that you weren't even a year old yet. Very much a thing of personal gain." Sidney cleaned his glasses nervously and put them back on his face.
"Makes sense, unfortunately," Danny said with a sigh. "Thanks for telling me Sidney."
"No sweat," he said as he watched Danny turn away.
Danny turned back around and looked at Sidney curiously.
Sidney cleared his throat and slightly averted his eyes before continuing.
"I know I said most ghosts are offering you apprenticeship for an alliance but… not all of them are like that.
"Basically I'm offering you an apprenticeship. I know that we might not be that close and well, we died at the same age so that might be strange but I've been around longer and… I guess I could sortamaybementoryou?? Just putting it out there. You don't have to accept it of course!!" Sidney waved his hands in a panic flurry as if he was trying to dispel the words he just said from the air.
Danny chuckled at Sidney's reaction.
"Thank you, I appreciate it. I'll think about it."
"Sure why not," Danny said with a shrug.
Sidney nodded to himself a little dazed.
Eventually he came back to properly say goodbye to Danny before he left.
Danny thought he could just tough it out and that the other ghosts would soon lose interest. They didn't. They also had infinitely more patience than he did.
After a few weeks and a few too many times being caught in Skulker's net and half-dragged to his lair, Danny had finally had enough.
Danny decided that he could find reprieve in Clockwork's tower.
The tower was the same as always: a black and green looming mass that emanated power (and a strong, constant ticking noise). Modeled like a Grandfather Clock surrounded by gears most ghosts didn't think of just appearing on the Master of Time's doorstep. Most ghosts that weren't Danny that is.
Danny knocked three times on the double doors before letting himself in.
Clockwork hovered over a chair that was placed near a table with a teapot and cookies on it.
Danny zoomed over to the empty chair across from Clockwork and tucked into the cookies with an enthusiastic "Thanks!"
"I see that the others are giving you trouble about your apprenticeship," Clockwork asked as his form shifted into an old man.
Danny nodded, not speaking because of his full mouth.
Danny downed his swallow with tea and licked his lips.
"Yeah, I just need a minute or I'll tear my hair out." Danny ran a hand through his messy hair as if to demonstrate.
"Hmm. Apprenticeships are very important, so, it is highly advised that you choose wisely."
Danny groaned and hid his face behind his arms on the table.
"Do I have too?"
"It is customary to do so, yes," Clockwork said as he took a savoring sip of his tea.
"Aww, man," Danny whined, lifting up his head.
The conversation soon lapsed into silence as Danny finished off the cookies and tea.
"You know," Clockwork eventually said, "it would be beneficial to possess an apprenticeship with me."
Danny slammed his head onto the table again and was almost on the verge of screaming.
Maybe Danny should just give in and take Sidney up on his offer.
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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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Deep Wounds Ch. 1 - Who's to Blame?
Phic Phight | Next | AO3 | FFN
Submitted by @q-gorgeous: Identity reveal. Dash finds out Danny is Phantom. Could be swagger bishie or not, either or is okay.
Submitted by @aj-itated: Dash catches Danny changing after gym, and spots a huge (poorly stitched) wound on his side. Dash is now convinced Danny is either abused or part of a gang, and has no idea how to deal with either - or how to interact with Danny, now that he can't bully him.
Summary: Dash didn't mean to see it, not that it was his fault. If Danny didn't want anyone to notice the bloody mess on his side, then he shouldn't be checking his bandages in the middle of the boy's changing room. But it's too late, and Dash has no clue what to do now that he thinks Danny might be getting hurt at home.
Word count: 4253
“He’s gonna know.”
As Tucker's shadow falls over him, Danny starts, rudely yanked out of his daydream. The hand cradling his chin drops to his lap, fingers brushing the grass, and he fixes Tucker with a confused glare. "What?"
"You are super unsubtle," Tucker says. "He's gonna knooow."
Tucker and singsong aren’t two words Danny would normally use together, but it is the best way to describe the lyrical bounce in Tucker's voice as he drops onto the grass. Too bad his musical prowess seems limited to teasing jabs and not the screeching caterwaul Danny usually associates with Tucker and singing.
"What are you talking about?" Danny asks, his annoyance mounting.
"Oh, come on." Tucker leans back and sweeps his arm out to the field, motioning to the warm-up game some of their classmates are playing, which Danny had been watching fervently until he was interrupted. His gaze skims over the scuffle taking place over the ball, settles briefly on Dash lounging in front one of the nets, then goes back to Tucker.
"I don't know what you mean," Danny says.
"Tucker, be nice. Don't tease the oblivious," Sam cuts in. Sitting on Danny's left, she is flipping through a book rather than watches the scrimmage. How she got the book past Tetslaff, Danny has no idea. Magic, maybe. The more likely answer is that Tetsflaff saw it and just didn't care since Sam one of the best students in their class.
Danny could never get away with it, though. "Seriously. What are you guys talking about?"
"Oh, poor Danny." Tucker tsks and shakes his head. "In time, you, too, shall mature enough to understand your own emotions."
"I'm mature enough to ectoblast you in the face," Danny says.
"That is literally the exact opposite of mature."
"You're the exact opposite of mature."
"Game time!" Tetslaff's bellow cuts off what surely would have been a clever retort from Tucker. Her booming voice, powerful enough to challenge Danny's father's, echoes across the field and brings the scrimmage to a halt. At the far net, Dash rises to his feet and brushes the grass from his shorts.
"Captains!" Tetslaff calls. Valerie and Dash's hands shoot into the air, faster than anyone else's. Sam, still focused on her book, raises her hand half-heartedly, then lowers it to turn the page. No one else offers to be team captain, but Tetslaff doesn't seem to mind. This is how their classes usually go when they do team sports. "You know the drill. Pick your players, take your positions, and for heaven's sake, someone take Fenton."
Snickers break out through the class. Danny drops his face into his hands, muffling a groan against his palms.
He hates gym class for a lot of reasons. For one, sports aren't really his thing. He might be strong, thanks to his ghost half, but that doesn't make him any better at sports. Because of that, he's usually the last picked when it comes to games like soccer. And then there's Dash, who sucks sometimes, but he used to suck more. A lot more. He has mellowed out since freshman year, although he's not opposed to jostling Danny in the hallway now and then.
But the absolute worst thing about gym class is playing when he's injured; it doesn't happen often. Danny's been ghost fighting for nearly three years now, and he doesn't get hurt as much as he used to. Experience has wizened him up to the wonders of dodging. His enemies still get lucky sometimes, though, and last night, Technus got him good. Hacking and slashing isn't usually Technus' thing, but the rabid dishwasher the ghost sicked on Danny was damn good at it. He has the deep slash across his left side to show it.
It's healing well, but a wound like that needs more than a few hours before he is back in peak condition. Sam, whose house was closest after the fight, stitched Danny up as best as she could. Both she and Tucker had gotten good at that over the years, but for all Sam's skill, she was still just a high schooler who learned off YouTube tutorials. Before bed, Danny bound the wound tight, took a couple of Advil, and slept with an icepack slapped against his side.
It still hurts like hell, though.
A sharp whistle pierces Danny's thoughts. He winces at the noise, along with most of the class. Dash and Valerie, the victims of Tetslaff's ire, actually flinch.
"Baxter, Grey, stop bickering," Tetslaff says.
Caught up in his thoughts, Danny hadn't noticed their argument, but it's impossible to miss the tight anger in Valerie's crossed arms or the annoyance in Dash's glare.
"Baxter, Grey made her pick. Mr. Cheong goes with her." Tetslaff points at Kwan, then jerks her thumb toward Valerie. With a despondent sigh, Dash pats Kwan on the back, watching his best friend trudge to Valerie's team as if he was going to his grave.
"They're so dramatic," Danny says.
Tucker nods in agreement. "I know, right?"
Sam lowers her book to stare at them. "You cannot be serious."
"What did we say?" Danny asks.
Sam sighs and rolls her eyes but doesn't elaborate further.
Back on the field, Valerie gestures to the dwindling number of classmates yet to be claimed. "Your next pick," she says to Dash.
Dash scans the lineup, his gaze lingering on Danny for a few moments before skipping right over Tucker to Sam. "Manson, you're with me."
"Ugh, of course." Sam marks her page and passes the book to Danny. "You gonna be okay? How's your side?"
He holds back a grimace. "I'm good. I'll tell Tetslaff I'm sick or something so I can sit out."
Sam nods, satisfied, and joins Dash's team.
"Tucker!" Valerie calls.
"Good luck, dude." Tucker gently pats Danny's shoulder before stepping onto the field.
With his friends gone, and the rest of the class distracted by the team pick, Danny shuffles over to Tetslaff. "I don't really feel good. Can I sit out?"
Tetslaff looks him up and down. "You gonna throw up?"
"I don't know. Maybe?"
"You got a fever?" Before Danny can even answer, Tetslaff slaps her hand against his forehead. He flinches back, wanting nothing more than to peel her warm palm off his skin. She holds it there for a few seconds before finally drawing away. "No fever. got a doctor's note?"
"Uh... no? I've been at school all morning."
"If you feel like you're about to throw up, book it off the field. Otherwise, you're playing."
"Fenton, do you really want to be the only kid in Casper High history to fail gym class?" Tetslaff asks.
The threat might have been more effective if Danny hadn't spent half his high school career one bad grade away from flunking out, but he doesn't have the energy to fight her on it. "Okay, Coach."
"That's the spirit! Now get out there and show me some hustle!" Tetslaff slaps Danny on the back. He bites back a cry of pain as he stumbles forward, one hand shooting to cradle his side. Tetslaff's hand, though broad, missed the actual injury, but the sheer impact made his bones rattle and his wound flair with pain.
"Okay," Danny mutters. Just stay out of Dash's way and move enough to escape Tetslaff ire. It can't be that hard. He presses a hand to his side, feeling the thick gauze through his shirt. Closing eyes so that no one sees them glow, he phases his palm through his shirt and ices over his injury. The numbing cold helps, somewhat, and it should hold up for the whole class.
"I can do this." He falters when he steps toward the field. It looks like Valerie and Dash finished picking their teams while he was busy with Tetslaff and the game is already underway. He hovers on the sideline, unsure where to go.
"Getting worked up already?" Valerie's voice startles him.
Danny flinches and twists toward her, sending a sharp twinge across his ribs. He hisses, regretting the sudden move, and squeezes his side once more.
"You okay?" Valerie asks.
"Just fine. Sorry, what did you say?"
"You look like you're stressed out already. It's just soccer."
Danny rolls his eyes and nudges her arm. "Sure. Tell me that when Dash's team is up by five and I have stop you from kicking his kneecaps in."
Valerie laughs, no denial falling from her lips. "Oh, please. We both know I'd go for the throat. You're with me, by the way."
"Oh, thank God."
"Don't kid yourself, Danny. We both know you'd love to be on Dash's team."
Danny's mind blanks for a moment, his cheeks growing hot against his will. "Uh... what? He literally used to beat me up every day."
"Keyword, 'used to.' And I never said you had good taste." Valerie shrugs. "Except for me, at least. But don't worry about it. Now come on; I want you on defence. You suck at scoring, but at least you can take a hit."
Danny hopes he doesn't need to.
No hits come his way, to Danny's immense relief. At least they are playing soccer and not football. Or floor hockey, God forbid. Danny's ankles still smart from the last time they played that. With soccer, there's not a whole lot of opportunity for Danny to get knocked around. Stuck on defence, he even has an excuse to hang back, hold off on all that "hustle" Tetslaff wanted to see. His teammates charge up and down the field, shouting and jeering as they fight over the ball, and Danny gets to trail behind, halfway between the throng and his team's net. He spends most of his time watching Dash. Purely so that he's ready if Dash decides to go after him, not for any other reasons.
"Suuure that's the reason," Tucker says when he notices Danny staring.
"It is!" Danny's protest falls on deaf ears.
Dash catches Danny's gaze more than once. Rather than looking away, Danny can't resist offering a shit-eating grin and a friendly wave every time. If he had any self-preservation skills, he would stop immediately. But there's a reason he's half-ghost now, and it's definitely not because of his critical thinking skills.
He manages to stay out of the action, for the most part, only rushing in when the ball comes close to him. Otherwise, Tucker and Elliot handle the rest. Tucker knowingly spares him the pain of ripping his stitches. Elliot, meanwhile, likes to swoop in at every opportunity to show Danny up. It might have gotten a rise out of Danny any other day, but right now, when his side throbs every time he takes a step, Elliot is welcome to do whatever he wants.
When they have class outside, Danny can't tell how much time is left. He guesses they are about halfway through, and nothing bad has happened yet. Maybe he can get through this, after all.
That's when he jinxes himself.
"Heads up!" Valerie's warning shout comes just in time. Danny ducks instinctively, hissing when his injury pulls. The soccer ball flies over his head, skimming the top of his hair. Then, Dash collides with Danny, his shoulder digging into Danny's side. He cries out as he goes sprawling, hands shooting to his side. It burns, searing across his ribs, almost as bad as when he first got the wound. The pain makes his head spin and his breath ragged.
He must blackout for a moment, because one second his face is pressed against the cool grass, and then suddenly he's staring up into Tetsalff's concerned face, Valerie, Sam, and Tucker hovering behind her.
"Deep breaths, Fenton," Tetslaff says.
It would be great advice if breathing didn't make his chest expand, and his chest expanding didn't make the gash on his side strain against the few stitches that hadn't popped when Dash rammed into him at full speed. What the hell. That was such a dick move.
"Okay, Fenton. You're out for the rest of the class. Go to the nurse if you need to," Tetslaff says.
He nods but makes no move to get up. He doesn't know if he can.
Tetslaff sees his plight, whether she understands the reason for it or not, and barks over her shoulder. "Baxter! Your fault, your problem. Help Fenton inside."
"We can take him," Tucker says. At the same time, Dash whines, "Come on, Coach. There's no way I hit him that hard."
Tetslaff sticks out an arm, holding Sam and Tucker back. "Get to it, Baxter."
Dash groans but relents and steps into Danny's field of view. Rather than kneeling, or doing anything actually helpful, he bends down a little and sticks out his hand.
Danny stares at it.
"Well? You're holding up the game, Fenton."
Danny almost gets up on his own, just to spite Dash, but the second he tries to lever himself up, his side screams, and Danny has to bite back another cry of pain. Reluctantly, he grabs Dash's hand. Dash hauls him upright, far from gentle, and sets Danny down on his feet. Dash starts forward, but Danny hangs back.
"Hurry up," Dash says.
"Just... hold on a second." Danny squeezes his eyes shuts and clamps his hands against his side. The pressure helps, a little. If he's bleeding, it'll at least hide the evidence. He really hopes he put enough gauze on the wound. He didn't exactly think he'd be dealing with this today when he wrapped it.
"Dude, we can take you," Tucker says. He and Sam haven't moved away. Even Valerie still hovers close by, giving Danny a concerned look over his friends' shoulders.
"Manson, you're team captain until Dash gets back. Foley." Tetslaff shakes her head. "Your grades aren't much better than Fenton's here. Let's go, back on the field. It's game time.
"It's fine, guys." Danny tries to smile, but he is sure it comes out like a grimace instead. Neither of them look like they believe him.
"Ms. Tetslaff!" Valerie steps in front of the teacher. "Danny's on my team. I want to make sure he's okay. Kwan can take over as captain for me."
"Okay, fine. Now let's get back to the game, people!" Tetslaff puts a hand on Sam and Tucker's shoulder each and pushes them toward the field. Over her shoulder, Sam mouths "Thank you" at Valerie.
"Can we just hurry up?" Dash says. Before Danny is ready, Dash's hand clamps down his shoulder and starts driving him forward. Danny stumbles, nearly tripping over his own feet, and is forced to open his eyes or else go tumbling all over again. Valerie appears on his injured side, walking fast to keep up with Dash's pace.
"Are you okay?" she asks. She reaches toward Danny, but holds back, her gaze flitting down to the hand over his ribs.
"Yeah, totally fine. I, uh, got caught up in that ghost fight yesterday, got a little bruised," he says.
"You should have told Tetslaff. She would have let you sit out," Valerie says.
"Yeah, I should have." Too bad Danny hadn't thought of that lie before. And it wasn't even a lie, technically.
The walk to the gym doors feels much farther than it did at the start of class. Dash yanks the door open once they're close enough and deposits Danny on the nearest bench. "There, you're fine. Whatever."
"Don't be such a dick, Dash," Valerie says.
Danny wobbles, bracing himself against the wall as he sits down. While Valerie helps, grabbing his arm and keeping him steady, Dash doesn't make a move.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asks.
"Yeah. I'm just gonna sit for a bit."
"If you say so." With one last concerned glance, Valerie leaves the gym.
Danny sits, one hand pressed against his side, feeling the deep, pulsing ache that won't leave. The ice he applied earlier hasn't faded yet, but if Danny's stitches are ripped as he suspects, a little numbing cold won't help for much longer.
Dash clears his throat, reminding Danny that he hasn't left yet.
"What?" Danny glares at him through half-lidded eyes.
"Sorry, or whatever. I thought you were gonna move, okay?"
"You sure sound sorry."
Dash bristles. "Whatever, Fenton. I was trying to be nice, but I guess I'll just fuck off then."
"Yeah, you do that."
Dash stomps out of the gym without looking back, slamming the door behind him. The bang echoes through the empty room. Alone at last, a whimper slips through Danny's lips. You would think that, over the years, he would get used to getting injured so much, learn to adjust to the pain. Whoever first said that was such a liar. It never stops hurting. Dizzying pain is dizzying pain no matter how often you experience it.
Danny sits for a few minutes, breathing slow and even, bracing himself for what he knows is coming. Peeling his hand away from his side, he checks his shirt. Faint pink splotches greet his eyes, not a lot, but enough to make him groan. He reaches under his shirt, slipping his fingers underneath the bandages, and probes the tender skin. His fingers come away slick and red.
"Shit." He applies a fresh coat of ice, enough to seal over the wound, and pushes himself off the bet, slick hand sliding against the wood. The entrance to the boys' changeroom lies only a few feet away, but it feels farther. He shuffles inside, bracing one hand against the wall. The hall leading in stretches for a good ten feet before cutting into a sharp right angle and opening into the main room.
The silence inside is just as oppressive as the quiet of the gym. Even though it's the middle of the school day, being here without the chatter of other boys as they change feels odd.
Danny lets himself slump onto the bench, breathing heavily
"I'm gonna kill Dash," he says to the empty room. But knowing his luck, Dash would come back as a ghost and haunt the hell out of him. It seems like the kind of asshole thing he would do
Danny fumbles for his bag, hooking his finger around the strap and dragging it close. It takes him a minute of digging to find his phone, which he stuffed inside at the start of class. He quickly checks the time. There are ten minutes left of class. More than enough time to check his side and get patched up before Tetslaff dismisses everyone to get changed.
The smart thing would be to go into one of the showers, make sure he has complete privacy, but he doesn't want to put in the effort of walking that far.
"It'll be fine," Danny says and gets to work
Dash doesn't return to the game. As the gym door slams beside him, he leans against the wall and stares down at his shoes. Outside, he looks composed, but in his head, his thoughts tumble about. He can't shake the image of Valerie's glare. Fenton couldn't take a hit, so what? It's not like Dash actually didanything. He's gotten Fenton a lot worse than that before. It's not his fault the guy was already banged up from some dumb ghost fight. Not his problem.
And yet, the pained cry as Dash bowled Danny over, the sight of his crumpled body on the grass... it makes Dash shudder.
"I apologized," he says. There's no one around to hear it, to justify him. He wonders what his therapist will say about this, if Dash bothers mentioning it at their next appointment.
Valerie's glare flashes through his mind again.
"Okay, fine!" He throws his arms up and shoves away from the wall. One quick moment to check on Danny, then he'll return to the game. He's only doing this so that his therapist doesn't give him that look on Monday; the look that isn't quite disappointed, because she could never be disappointed in one of her clients, but comes pretty damn close.
Dash only receives that look when he does something dumb, like shoving nerds in lockers or taking his anger out on someone else.
Dash eases the door to the gym back open and peeks inside. The bench he left Danny on is empty. A smear of red stands out against the pale wood. Dash creeps inside, closing the door quietly behind him. His heart sinks as he nears the bench, and comes to the unmistakable conclusion: blood.
Not my fault, Dash reminds himself. It does little in the way of reassurance. Walking briskly, he heads for the doors leading further into the school. If Danny is bleeding, he must have gone to the nurse. Which means he will be fine, but Dash needs to be sure.
A low groan stops him in his tracks.
For a moment, he thinks he imagined it, but then it comes again, accompanied by a pained hiss. The sound comes from the changing room. Holding his breath, he turns from the door and enters the changeroom.
Short, sharp breaths greet him, growing louder as he nears the main room. A shaky whimper cuts through, followed by a gasp.
Dash peeks around the corner. He sees Danny's shirt first, discarded on the bench. Next to it is a pile of wrappings. It looks like the ace bandages Dash uses whenever he gets a sprain, although he doesn't remember seeing Danny wearing any. And then, he looks to Danny himself and pales.
One arm drawn back, head tilted forward to see his side, Danny peels a stained gauze pad away from his bloody ribs. Suddenly, Dash can't breathe. His throat feels clogged. His heart hammers in his ear. The gash in Danny's side is easily the length of Dash's hand. It rips across his ribs and curves up toward his armpit, ending just under his arm. Dash doesn't know much about first aid, but the stitches holding the wound together look sloppy. They pull in different directions, turning what appears to be a clean cut into a wobbly mess. Around it, Danny's skin is stained red. Blood seeps between the stitches.
A few small drops slide down Danny's exposed skin as Dash watches, pooling briefly against the waistband of his gym shorts before they are absorbed
"Fuck," Dash whispers.
Danny jumps back, spinning mid-air to face Dash. In his horror, Dash doesn't think to question the impossibility of that action. Danny drops the gauze pad, which lands bloody side down on the floor, and clamps his arm down over the injury.
"What are you doing?" Danny's voice hitches, caught between an accusing growl and a startled squeak.
Dash gapes, mouth opening and closing as he searches for something to say. His mind comes up blank. "Danny, what... what the hell? What happened to you?"
Dash's voice seems to snap Danny out of his shock. All at once, his body goes rigid and his expression turns cold. "Get out."
"You need to go to the nurse!"
"DASH!" Danny bellows.
Dash stumbles back, falling against the wall. Tetslaff's laugh voice is loud. Jack Fenton's voice booms. But just now, Dash felt the floor shake under his feet. Danny's voice rumbled in Dash's chest, knocked him off his feet. The whole school must have heard it, they had to.
"I won't say it again. Get the hell out right now," Danny says.
Dash obeys. Whether it's out of fear or a genuine desire to follow Danny's will, he can't tell. He books it out of the changeroom, across the gym, and bursts outside, only to come face to face with Kwan and the rest of the class.
"Whoa!" Kwan reels back in surprise. "You missed the rest of the game. Val's team won."
"Oh, the game. Right." Dash takes a deep breath, struggling to get himself under control.
"So... you gonna let us in?"
Dash doesn't move.
"Get out of the way, Dash," Valerie says. Pushing to the front of the group, she tries to shove past him.
Dash leaps in front of her. "No!" He can't let anyone else see Danny.
"Dude, not cool. We want to check on Danny," Tucker says.
Dash wavers. Danny's friends have to know what's up with him, right? There is no way he could have stitched that up himself, not with how much struggle it took to even look at the injury. When Tucker and Sam slip by Dash, he makes no move to stop them. Their entrance opens the floodway, and soon enough everyone is pushing past Dash into the gym.
"Wait!" He latches on to Kwan's arm as his best friend passes.
"Did something happen?" Kwan asks.
Dash swallows, unsure how to answer. "Sort of?" Now isn't the right time to tell Kwan, though, not with their classmates around them, and the rest of their friends absent.
"Let's go get changed." Kwan pats Dash's shoulder and guides him forward. Every step closer to the change room, Dash's anxiety mounts. Danny reacted so poorly to one person finding him. Dash can only imagine what will happen—what stricken look Danny will wear—when half their class walks in on his shirtless and bloody.
Except, when they turn the corner into the change room proper, Danny isn't there. His stuff is gone, too. Tucker's crumpled gym shirt covers the spot where the gauze pad landed. There are no signs Danny was there at all.
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