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Homo Ecto Sapiens

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" Alright I showed you the portal, " he said.  " Can we go now before my parents get back?  It doesn't work."

" C'mon Danny, a 'Ghost Zone?'  Aren't you curious?"  Sam walked toward the thing.  She stared into the darkness, eyes wide.

" I'm more curious about why it failed to even open up to a destination. "  Danny heard himself sigh, but was that really him?  " I checked their math, it's just as spot on as ever. "

" As ever? "  Tucker crowed from where he looked over notes that weren't meant for Non-Fenton eyes.  " This math is insane, and that's my whole specialty! "

" We've been to other worlds before ."  And whispers of those worlds, of endless possibilities, rose in the back of his head.  He swore they were right there, just over his shoulder, but when he looked there was nothing.  " This should've worked.  It wouldn't take us to some 'Ghost Zone' - it's a dumb name and ghosts aren't real - but it would take us somewhere new ."  Danny grinned.  " Just imagine the awesome stuff that we could find this time.  Maybe sentient life! "

" Well alien enthusiast, " Sam drawled.  " Head on inside and see what's wrong.  Maybe you can fix it? "

The whispers rose into a crescendo, and they were shouting over Sam's voice, Tucker's voice, Danny's own thoughts were crowded out by the din of world after world demanding his attention.  His head was going to split open, his body was shaking from the sound, each cell in tune with the wrong world and he was falling apart and coming undone-

 

The sun shone.  Danny's alarm was blaring.  Clearly, it was time to get up, but Danny disagreed.  He pulled his cover over his head, hoping to block out the noise and light.  For a moment, it felt like that had worked, for the world was dark and quiet again.  It took Danny a moment too long to realize how unnaturally quiet it had gotten, and he was met with the floor, pajamas partly stuck within the bed.

Danny grumbled under the bed for a moment.  "I feel like all of this is telling me that the day is gonna suck.  Maybe I should stay in bed?" When everything began to haze up and fade, Danny sighed and concentrated.  A blink, the world was back. "Or it's a sign that I have to get out of bed right away. Ugh."

Alarm turned off, teeth brushed, shower taken, other morning routine stuff done, Danny found himself dressed in a white T-shirt with a red star on it.  Down the stairs he tred. His parents were absent. Jazz wasn't. "Good morning Danny!" No one should be so cheery, Danny felt.

"Sup Spazz?"

"The fridge got splashed by Dad last night.  I ran out and bought some milk, and we still have cereal and bread."  Jazz ignored his prodding. How rude. As a comedian, Danny worked very hard at thinking up puns and jokes.  "Dad replaced the toaster the other day."

Danny rolled his eyes.  "Does it burn the Fenton logo into the bread now?"  The teen went about pouring himself a bowl. Dad might actually do that after all.

"No, actually, it presses his face into it instead."  Danny groaned. All of his suffering under the embarrassment that was his father went into it.  The sound wasn't enough.

"Yup."

Danny and Jazz sat in silence while he ate.  Like all quiet times, his existence came to mind.   I should tell them.  Mom and Dad might be able to help understand.  They wouldn't hurt me, I'm their son. Why haven't I told them?  The spoon fell through his hand.   Good question.  Danny didn't want to think too hard on the answer.

The door to the basement lab opened up and hit the stopper on the wall with a bang.  Mom, in her teal hazmat suit. Some device with an antenna was in her hands. She followed the beeping from it and pointed the device at Danny.  Dad came out of the lab a step behind her, an orange jolly giant, and Danny leaned back. "Um?"

"There is a ghost directly in front of you."  The machine droned, and Danny felt every muscle in his body tense up.  How? He was careful! Now they'd think he was a hostile body snatcher or-

"Well that can't be right," Mom said.  She adjusted a few dials, Dad looking down at the machine intently with her.  Danny felt the light in the world fade away again. He forced it back just in time for his parents to look back up at him.  "The Fenton Finder™ must still need a few bugs worked out."

"It's designed to use Fenton Satellites to track down ghostly ecto signatures."

"Dad," Danny asked slowly.  "How many satellites have you hacked into for this?"

"Danny, you know we launched more satellites than just the few you've seen us launch doncha?"  Danny wondered, idly, how legal those satellites were. He'd have to look that up later.

"That doesn't tell me how many-"

"The number of satellites we have in orbit isn't relevant honey."  Mom waved off the question and set the Fenton Finder on the table. "We'll have to dig in and see what's wrong with the receiver."

What better time than when I’m being pointed at?  Danny took a breath.  "Actually, guys, there's something I need to tell you."

"That's not all you need Danny."   Why now?  Danny loved his sister, really, but this was the worst time.  "You need guidance. Parents who can provide it!" Jazz was in front of him now, frowning at their parents.  Danny buried his face in his hands.

"Now Jazz," Mom said.  "I know that what we do doesn't always make sense.  However, you're only-"

"Only 16 physically."  Danny backed away from Jazz a bit.  "But mentally, I'm an adult." That was likely the least mature thing Danny could think of for an argument about maturity.  "And I will not allow your obsession with ghosts to pollute the mind of this impressionable child!" She grabbed him. The most uncomfortable hug there ever was, that's what Danny was experiencing.  "Come you abused unwanted wretch." Did something get in her coffee? Did he pull a prank recently? "I'll drive you to school." She was rubbing her license in his face, he'd done something to her recently.

Once they were in Jazz's car, Danny turned to his sister and stared at her.  "Jazz," he said once they were driving down the road. "What the hell was that?"

"You looked like you were struggling with something," Jazz said.  As though that explained anything. "Whatever it is you were going to say, you shouldn't tell just because you think you have to.  Do it because you want to."

"Listen, my dear false sense of maturity, I appreciate that.  I did want to tell them though." Danny leaned back and stared through the window.  Familiar buildings passed by, other cars going at the speed limit to avoid traffic passed in a blur.  "Thanks though."

"No problem."  There was a quiet din of classical music in the car for a beat.  When they came to a red light, Jazz turned and raised a brow at him.  "What were you going to tell them?"

Did Danny want to tell Jazz about this before his parents?  Maybe. She could help him gauge their parents' reactions better.  At the same time, she might think he's joking. Ghosts don't exist.  Jazz's motto. "I was going to tell them I'm bisexual." Not a lie. It was just less important to him.

"Oh.  That's great Danny!"  Jazz beamed at him and Danny squinted.  How did she keep all that sunshine in those teeth?  Jazz rambled about support for the rest of the ride.  Danny suffered.

 

Danny met with his friends, Sam and Tucker after Jazz parked.  They were easy to spot. Sam was in her usual short-sleeved black shirt with a pair of black shell pants.  Tucker had on simple green khakis and that yellow sweater his mom knit him over the summer.

“Hey, guys.”  The pair greeted him back and they soon walked into the green painted halls of Casper High.  “I’m shocked, honestly, no fights over food, how much tech should be used in the world or anything.  How tired are you guys?”

“Shut,”  Sam growled.  “Or else I will hurt you.”

“Besides, we both know that the world needs better tech to fix the problems we’ve made for ourselves.”  Tucker looked so smug and proud of his claim. Sam kicked him. Tucker hit the ground with a yelp. “Foul play!”

“The warning wasn’t just for Danny.”  Sam rolled her eyes while Danny helped Tucker to his feet.

“I think the foul play here is your combat boots.”  Danny sidestepped said boots, having expected it. The slug to the shoulder still stung a tiny bit.  They chatted like that for a bit until the crowds were gone and Danny’s far too sensitive ears could pick up no other conversations.  “So, I was planning on telling my parents.”

Sam scowled.  “ Why ?”

“Finally.”  Tucker stared at the goth incredulously.  “Um.”

“Parents don’t listen, Danny, nor do they understand.”

“Are we still talking about my coming out here or yours?”  Sam at least managed to look apologetic and Danny counted that as a win.  “Like, I am entirely willing but can I just… vent a bit?”

“Sure Danny.  We’re here for you.”  Sam smiled and Danny gave a small smile back.  He knew it wasn’t a very convincing smile.

“I was thinkin about it.  Mom and Dad made the portal in the first place, right?  And they’ve made several in the past.” So many exotic and exciting places that he could say he was one of the first two kids to go to.  “So maybe they might know how to fix what’s wrong with me.”

“Is it even something to fix though?”  Danny felt Sam’s question was answered when he realized he had walked through a vending machine.  “You can walk through walls, disappear and fly! That’s so much cooler than what anyone else can do!”

“Cooler is an interesting way to phrase it Sam.”  Danny snorted and pulled a notebook from his backpack.  “I’ve been trying to keep track of it all. I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to make sense of all this without help though.”  Everything turned unreal besides himself and the journal. Air wasn’t passing through his lungs, light had blinked out, and Danny was slipping downward.  Then his friends were hoisting him up out of the floor and everything snapped back. “Thanks.”

“Hey, you’ve always got our help, Danny.”  Tucker kept an arm around his shoulders. The weight was reassuring.  “We’re not exactly scientific experts or anything though. I can do some research maybe, and we’ll always pull you out of the floor if we can, but your parents might be able to help you figure out control over this.”

“Maybe they could help build some kind of belt or extra wristband that keeps me tethered to the real world?  This Wristray™ works pretty well.” Though what was even real anymore? Was the earth what was truly real, or did Danny become even more real than that when it all started fading away?

Sam rudely interrupted his existential crisis.  “Yeah, all that’s nice and good and all, but what if that doesn’t go so well?  What are you going to say? ‘Hey mom and dad, remember when your ghost portal turned on?  Yeah, I was inside it when it did that and now I’m kinda ghostly, think you can help?’”

“My voice is deeper than that, I’ll have you know.”

“By half an octave, and that’s not the important part.”

“I think getting grounded is worth it Sam.”  With how he floated off all the time it was actually what he needed.

“Danny your parents are ghost hunters .  They might not believe it’s possible to be Schrodinger's boy like you are and assume that you… that you died.  And that you’re an imposter. Or worse, they think a ghost kidnapped you and has been impersonating you or something.”  The boys stopped and stared at her. “With how your parents think about ghosts, where does that leave you if you tell them?”

“On… on the dissection table... “  Dad hated ghosts.  He ranted and raved about how he’d tear a ghost apart if he saw one.  The Fentons had always been a force against ghosts. Jack Fenton had only one problem with how the family used to deal with ghosts: he didn’t get to figure out better ways to destroy them while he was destroying them.  And that was just his dad.  “They’d never listen to me if they thought I was a ghost.”

“Alright, alright, before we go triggering panic attacks here, let’s think.”  Ah, Tucker. Where would Danny be without him? Tucker pulled Danny closer and messed with his hair until Danny batted his hand away.  “Your parents are scientists. Which means that if given sufficient evidence, they have to change their beliefs on ghosts, right?  After all, what respectable scientist doesn’t base their judgments off of the data?  So, we just have to change their minds about ghosts before you go telling them your secret.”

“With the ghosts attacking us in the middle of parks and the street at night that’ll definitely be easy.”  Sam huffed but managed a smile. “That just makes it a challenge though. And there’s nothing I’m better at than changing people’s minds.”

“Thanks, guys.”  Danny pulled his friends into a tight hug, and they hugged him right back.  “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”



The day passed as usual.  Danny took his notes while the teachers taught.  Lancer nearly bored him completely to death. Danny's pencil fell through his fingers only 4 times, so that was great!  Danny kept phasing out of the real world whenever Lancer's monologuing about some old poet got so dry that he'd normally start daydreaming.   Maybe it was tied to his ADHD? That'd be just Danny's luck. Looking down at his notebook when the bell rang, Danny saw more notes questioning if his meds were even working anymore due to being part ghost than about the assignment.  "Crap."

“What’s wrong Danny?”  Tucker was stuffing his phone back into his pocket.  Some android he’d modified. Danny should get Tuck to help him with his own phone.  It kept dying on him way faster than it should. “You still with us?”

“I think losing focus makes me lose tangibility.”  Danny stood up and swapped out notebooks, quickly writing it down.  He followed Tucker out the door, waved at Sam, and settled between them.  “I kept losing tangibility when Lancer’s rambling had me on the edge of dreamland.”

“That reminds me,” Sam said.  “Danny, have you been keeping up with things pill wise?”

“I think I forgot it this morning.  Which kinda sucks, but that usually just means daydreams almost all day.”  Now it meant a game of Focus, Doodle or Slip Through The Floor. “Think the notes will help convince my ‘rents to reconsider ghosts?”

“It’ll take a bit more than that, Danny.”  The expression on Danny’s face was most certainly not a pout, as he had told his friends many times.  It was a scowl. A scary one at that! “Chill, pouting puppy. I told you, I can convince anyone of anything!  I even convinced the school to change up their horribly unhealthy menu and give ultra-recyclo-vegetarianism a chance.”

“Pardon?  Láojià? Pardonu min?”  Danny leaned away from Tucker as he repeated himself.  “Did you just say you shoved your veganism onto our menu?”

“I wore them down from piling all that mystery meat onto our trays and switching to a new menu for the week.”   Oh, sweet Polaris, this is not going to go well.

Sure enough, once they got into the teal bricked cafeteria, they saw a banner over the lunch line.   This Week, Ultra Recyclo-Vegetarian .  When the lunch lady set a plate on their trays it held… “Sam is this grass growing out of a bun?  I thought bread was made from wheat?”

“I haven’t eaten a vegetable in 14 years and I’m not about to let you force me to!”  Danny could tell that Tuck’s theater classes were going well.

“This is change, Tucker.  Change is good.”

“That’s debatable, Sam.”  Danny sat down at their table and lifted a spoonful of his turfwich.  “I don’t remember being asked if I wanted this specific change. Or if I wanted the menu changed at all.”

“Yeah, and I sure as hell didn’t want it changed like this!”  Tucker pointed at his plate as though it had personally offended him.  Then he lifted his cup. “This is wheatjiuce Sam!”

“Tucker, you’re just mad because now you gotta give healthy food a shot.”  Sam actually took a bite of her grass bread and Danny felt his stomach turn a little at the thought of it.

“Tucker might be a bit hyperbolic here, but I’m not.”  Danny set down his spoon and leveled a flat look Sam’s way.  “How did you wear the school board down about this without a petition?  And why? This is clearly not what anyone but you and a few other vegans wanted.”

“I don’t see what’s so wrong with ushering in some change, Danny.  The stuff on the menu was ridiculously unhealthy for everyone!” Sam pointed her spoon at him as though giving a lecture.  “I’m not sure that mystery meat was even edible.”

Before Danny could get his point across, Lancer set a hand down on the goth’s shoulder.  “Ah, Miss Manson. The school board wanted me to personally thank you for ushering in this welcome experiment to our cafeteria.”   Welcome is the last thing this experiment is and he knows it .

Tucker did that thing he sometimes did to show off his weird sense of smell.  He gave the air a couple whiffs and glared accusingly at Lancer. “If it’s so welcome that we’re eating garbage then why do you smell like steak?”

“The rumors of the all steak buffet in the teachers’ lounge are completely untrue.  We simply all did our part to help with clearing out the meat from the fridges in the back.”  Danny had never heard a more blatant lie. Lancer left with a quick extra thanks to Sam.

Sam grinned before turning a scowl Tucker’s way.  “It’s not garbage, it’s recyclable organic material.”

“It’s garbage,” the boys said in unison, glaring at Sam.  A chill rushed up Danny’s spine and out of his mouth in a cloud of blue vapor.  “Guys, we’ve got a problem.” Something cold, soft, and gross smacked into the back of Danny’s head.

“FENTON!”

“Make that two problems.”  Danny turned to the familiar bellowing of his least favorite person in the school with a cringe.

Dash Baxter stood far taller than a  high school freshman should. The American dream boy.  Blue eyes, blond hair, square-jawed, quarterback that never took off his letterman jacket.  His fist was a big fan of Danny’s everywhere. Mainly his stomach. Dash held up his plate and glared straight at Danny.  “I ordered 3 mud pies. You know what they gave me?” Stars his voice still sounds so nasally.  Puberty isn’t his friend in at least one department.  “3 Mud Pies.  With mud. From the ground!  All because of your girlfriend!”

“She’s not my girlfriend.”  The thing to focus on. Truly, that was the only inaccurate thing Dash had even said.  And now Danny was dragged off his feet and into Dash’s face. Wonderful.

“These are the best years of my life.  After high school, I either get a scholarship or everything is over.  How am I supposed to enjoy my glory days eating mud?” Actually study so that you can get in on more than just a scholarship?  Use your brain for literally anything?

“Actually it’s topsoil.”  Sam was the worst help right now.

“Whatever!”  Dash pushed Danny back into his seat, head banging against the table.  Dash shoved his mudpie plate onto the table regardless and when Danny could see clearly, he growled.  “Eat it. All of it.”

Behind Dash, Danny saw the pale green form of a woman in an apron floating behind the food line area.  What he did next, Danny blamed on the ghost. “Garbage fight!” And Dash’s plate was in his face. It made a satisfying splatter sound.

Under the table, grab Sam from her argument.  Sneak your way under the fire of teens all too easily riled up and throwing gross mud around.  “You’re gonna pay for this Fenton!”

“Wonderful, I’m his favorite.”

They got behind the counter area where the food was and saw a green woman wearing a pink uniform, a pink hat, yellow gloves and a white apron.  She was floating a whole foot off the ground and looking all over the kitchen. “Huh. Shouldn’t be so bad.” On one hand, Danny did want to prove that ghosts weren’t inherently evil to his parents.  Getting a conversation in with one of them was a good step. “She looks as harmless as my grandmother.” On the other, Danny was going to stuff Tucker’s hat in his mouth for jinxing them.

“Shouldn’t she be haunting a bingo hall?”  Danny raised a brow as the woman turned around, red eyes focused on a bowl of salad in her hands.  She looked up and floated over faster than most old ladies could walk.

“Hello, children.”  She sounded innocuous enough.  “Can you help me? Today’s lunch is meatloaf, but I don’t see the meatloaf.  Did someone change the menu?” Something about the way she asked that raised Danny a few goosebumps.  Maybe the inflection. Maybe the green light coming from inside of her. Why am I so nervous ?

“Yeah,” Sam said.  “I did.”

The ghost’s hair turned into white flames.  Her teeth sharpened. Her voice echoed in the least natural way possible.  “ You changed the menu? ”  Emerald flames covered the ghost’s body and she seemed to grow.  “ The menu has been the same for 50 years! ”  Based on the unnatural winds, and the fires, and all of that shit, Danny was rather certain his wrist ray wasn’t going to cut it this time.

Pushing his friends behind him, Danny reached inside of him for that ball of cold buzzing energy in the center of his chest.  He’d been keeping it locked up tight for a while, trying to keep himself normal. Instead, he pushed the energy out, imagined it filling his body up entirely.  “I’m goin ghost!” White light gathered at his core and spread out over Danny’s body. His clothes were replaced with a black hazmat suit, white utility belt, boots and gloves.  Danny’s bangs bleached themselves into a silvery white and the world shifted into something in between real and fantasy.

“Look,” Danny said as he flew up to the lady hovering menacingly over them.  “Leave now, or I’ll have to fight you! And I really don’t wanna have to punch an old lady.”  She raised her hand. The plates and dishes on the sink counter were blanketed in green light and flew at Danny.  “Shit!” Danny zeroed in on that feeling of being unreal, and everything but the Lunch Lady and himself faded away.  The blurs that were her plates flew through him and Danny felt the tingle of when he reached through a hologram. Amazed, he snapped back into reality a moment later.

Clearly a good thing, as the Lunch Lady was flinging plates at Sam and Tucker as well.  Danny zoomed over and caught the plates as best he could, setting them down on the sink counter.  “If NASA doesn’t become a thing I could look into the exciting career of being a busboy.”

The ovens started dancing.  If it weren’t for the green smoke, Danny’s have blamed it on the school’s budget.  “ I control lunch, ” said the increasingly overdramatic dead lady.  “ Lunch is sacred!  Lunch has rules!

“Ok, literally since when has lunch been sacred or had rules?”  Danny kept his hands raised to protect his face. His eyes rolled but his vision never stopped focusing on the lunch lady.  The panoramic view was nauseating.

Since I wrote the menu 60 years ago!

“I’m honestly shocked they haven’t changed it in that amount of time.”  Sam crossed her arms, face paler than usual, shoulders tight, and eyes set in a glare.   Probably mad that she didn’t keep her wrist-ray on like I told her she should.  “This is why it needed to change!”

Rather than contest that with some nonsense about respecting authority or something else Danny expected out of any adult Sam argued with, the ghost left.  And the dancing ovens opened their doors and jets of green fire shot out. Danny, Tucker, and Sam all barely dodged out of the way before the ovens disconnected from the wall and flew at them.

Danny grabbed onto his friends’ shoulders and pushed that feeling of slipping through the cracks into them.  Danny yanked them all through the wall and they landed with a chorus of grunts. Three thuds came from the wall they phased through.

“This is the thanks I get for thinking like an individual?”  Sam griped as soon as she was on her feet again.

“No,” Tucker said, voice shaking along with his body.  “This is what you get for forcing your individual view of what everyone needs onto thousands of children.”

Danny looked around, hackles still raised.  It didn’t feel like the fight was over. At the nearest T section of the hall, Danny was proven right.  The Lunch Lady was floating there, glaring at them. An unnatural breeze blew through the halls. The lights exploded.  The air chilled until Sam and Tucker were rubbing their arms. “Go get your wrist rays!”

“We’re nowhere near our lockers, Danny!”  Sam reminded Danny that only he kept his on him at all times.  They needed to fix that immediately.

Before Danny could think further on that, a piece of steak slapped him in the face.  And then another. A lot of steaks were flying his way, some ribs and burgers too. Danny phased through it all, staring as it adhered to the Lunch Lady’s semicorporeal form.  Soon she was a silhouette of cooked meat and steak sauce. “Wow, just looking at that is giving me cholesterol problems.”

PREPARE TO LEARN WHY MEAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL OF THE 5 FOOD GROUPS! ”  Wonderful.  She was screaming now.  Then she held up a cookie.  “Cookie?” Sam shook her head no.  “ THEN PERISH!”

Danny slid in front of Sam, the obvious target, and readied himself for a fight.  “Forget it lady. The only thing here with an expiration date is you!” Danny tensed, ready to pounce and take out his frustrations on the meat monster.  The world tilted and the energy that was thrumming throughout his body retreated in a wave of light that swept over him. Danny nearly hit the floor, exhausted, and activated his wrist ray.  “Well shit.” Just as he aimed it, he was smacked away by a roaring meat monster, into Tucker. When Danny looked up, he saw Sam being swept away in a whirlwind of meat.

“Change back, we gotta go after her!”  Tucker scrambled to his feet, pulling Danny up with him.  The boys almost ran, but a hand clamped over both of their shoulders.

“You two aren’t going anywhere.”  Danny recognized that voice. Mr. Lancer was glaring at them balefully, Dash Baxter within arm’s reach.

“Told ya you’d pay, Fenton!”

 

Danny and Tucker sat in the vice principal’s office.  On the wall next to the door was an array of monitors that showed security feeds.  Across from it was a desk with a globe and the filing cabinet that Lancer was going through at the moment.  If Danny had to guess the chairs were intentionally made to be uncomfortable. An added punishment for even being there.

“Tucker Foley,” Lancer droned.  “Chronic tardiness. Talking in class.  Repeated loitering by the girls’ locker room.  Danny Fenton. 34 dropped beakers in the last month.  Banned for life from handling all fragile school property, but no severe mischief before today.  So, gentlemen, tell me.” Lancer set down the folders he was reading from on his desk and leaned forward to yell in their faces.  “Why did the two of you conspire to destroy the school’s cafeteria?”

“Dash started it when he threw his mud pie into the back of my head!”  Danny was going to need a thorough shower later, but for now, turning his head to display that he’d been hit in the head with mud was enough for him.  

“He literally tried to make Danny eat the mud.”  This is why Tucker was Danny’s best friend.  He and Danny were on the same wavelength.

“Besides, destroy the cafeteria is pretty hyperbolic, don’t you think?”   Please lighten up on us because I used a vocab word.

“Mr. Baxter, as well as everyone caught on camera participating in the food fight is going to be punished for it.  You two, however, are taking the first of it with him.” Lancer stood and walked out the door. “I’m going to fully map out your punishments when I return.  Mr. Baxter, make sure they don’t leave.”

“We gotta find Sam!”  Tucker got up and went around Lancer’s desk.  By the time Danny was next to him, Tucker was already going through the security files on Lancer’s computer.  “Do not ask why I have his password or how. We don’t have time for that. Oh, thank gods this place has security cameras in the weirdest places.”  On the screen, Tucker tracked the meat sweep through the school until it settled in one place. “Directly below us. Got enough juice?”

Danny closed his eyes and reached inside, stretching into the void of cold winds and vast darkness, and dragged himself into it.  It swept outward over his body in a flash and for a moment he had to reorient himself. Danny grabbed onto Tucker and intangibility filled them both.  He flew them down through the floors and stopped right above the floor of the basement. “Is this… a meat locker under the school?”

“See, this is the kinda stuff that Sam needs to get changed.  Where they store their food, not what food groups are fed to us.”  Tucker started walking, and Danny floated above him.

“This is like the time she convinced our middle school teachers to hold a Sadie Hawkins dance when literally no one felt like doing a dance.”  Danny rolled his eyes and looked around. “Except this time she’s the one who got kidnapped instead of her nabbing us. Also, repeated loitering by the girls’ locker room?”

“I figured that’d be a great place to meet someone to ask for a date.”

“How are you both a genius and a dumbass at the same time, Tuck?”

Before the geek could valiantly defend his honor, they heard a voice of strained cheer.  “My dear child, meat is good for kids. It helps them grow and makes them smile.” The boys looked around the corner and saw Sam stuck in a pile of meat that was definitely inedible now.  The Lunch Lady was floating in front of her, a fish and a chicken leg held up in either hand. “Why won’t you eat it?”

“We don’t need meat.  That’s fact.” Sam never was one to back down when she was championing something.  It was something that Danny admired about Sam. He never thought that food was the hill Sam was willing to literally die on though.

Silence! ”  The ghost’s voice echoed and that wind picked up yet again.  Danny wondered if he could call up special effects like that for Halloween.  “ You need discipline, manners, respect.  You know where that comes from? Meat!  Fish, or chicken?”

“I’ll deal with the ghost, you get Sam out of that meat pile.”  Danny flew as fast as he could. His fist reared back and collided with the ghost’s head harder than he expected it to.  She was launched into the wall. Danny immediately followed up with a kick to the face. The Lunch Lady grabbed onto his ankle and held Danny up while floating upright.

This is why you need meat!  You’re skin and bones! ”  She then tossed Danny across the room, and at the last second, he phased through the wall.  And the ground. It took a couple seconds to get back up to the basement.

There, Danny found shish kabobs beings flung at him.  Going completely on reflex, Danny separated his torso from his legs and the deadly food sank into the concrete behind him.  There were even cracks in the wall. While Danny pulled himself back together, an enraged Lunch Lady ghost let out a furious roar, and all the meat in the storage locker rose up.  Even the meat Tucker was pulling off of Sam in chunks rose up off of her and swirled around the ghost in a storm. Sam and Tucker got closer to Danny until they were in arm’s reach, and the 20-foot behemoth of meat with green torches for eyes roared down at them.

Fuck no. ”  Danny grabbed his friends and the chill of invisibility and intangibility rushed through them all again.  Danny pulled them through the nearest wall and solidified on the other side just soon enough to hear a loud crash.  Danny kept flying.

“Thanks, Danny, Tuck.”  Sam shot them both a big grateful smile.  “You must be exhausted ghost boy. Fighting in ghost mode, yanking us through walls.”

“What would give ya that idea?”  Danny yawned in the middle of that sentence but felt it was irrelevant.  But then, everything went dark as they tumbled into a heap on the grass. And then it went silent.

Chapter Text

Tucker and Sam stare at each other.  For a handful of moments, neither is entirely sure what they should do.  Sam is full of shock and anger and regret and terror. She could've died.  Her best friends could have died. How is a teenager even meant to process that?  She wants to curl up on the ground and hide from everything in that moment, will all the nasty reality that is Ghosts away.  But Tucker is bent over Danny, and Danny is out cold. So she packs away the emotions, cools her shit, and bends down. "You get his legs, I'll take his shoulders.  FentonWorks?"

They get him there.  Danny's parents are downstairs, working on something.  They get Danny on his bed, and Sam slumps against the door.  Tucker and Danny skipped over a detention essentially and all three have skipped school.  So Tucker goes down to erase the Fenton's voice mailbox and sends out a bug to his own. Sam has no clue why he has that ready but asks if he can do it with her folks' line.  He asks for a few minutes.
The silence passes, Tucker gets on Danny's laptop.  He always fled to the tech when he needed somewhere safe.  Eventually, he asks. "You ok? Today went to shit."

"No, I don't think I am.  Like, the worst I've got is some bruising that my make up can handle.  I need a shower, I guess." They both know why she isn't actually ok. Neither wants to bring it up.  So instead, Sam checks Danny's closet and finds something she'd left there a couple months back. "I'm gonna do that actually.  Keep an eye on him?" Tucker grunted in acknowledgment. That was the best she'd get so Sam grabbed a spare towel from the dresser and headed to the shower.

When Sam got back she looked over Tucker's shoulder.  Images of old ladies in familiar looking uniforms were all over the screen.  "Looking her up?"

"If we know more about her then we can talk it out with her right?"  Tucker's fingers paused over the keyboard. He stretched, looking over at her.  "Right?"

"Probably.  Looking to work that Foley Charm on her?"  Sam elbowed him lightly in the ribs. Tucker clutched his chest as though he'd been broken.  Thank gods for that smile on his face. "Tell me you aren't planning to flirt with her. Danny might get jealous."  Tucker snorted.

"I don't think Danny is into old ladies who occasionally burst into flames." Tucker went back to typing and clicking, screen light glaring off his lenses.  "So, my theory is that ghosts draw on ambient energy to sustain themselves. When we went into that fight my phone was on like… 50 percent. When we got here it was at 17.  So maybe we should carry batteries on us?"

"And our wrist rays."  Sam was never letting herself be helpless like that again.  "what've you got on her so far?"

"She said the menu hasn't changed in 50 years and she wasn't kidding.  So I'm looking back at people employed by Casper back when she was alive, and hoping I can recognize her facial structure."

"Impressive."  Sam sighed and looked over at Danny.

 

He zipped up his suit.  Sam made a face at him and pulled off the logo of his dad's face.  "You can't go around with this on your chest."   He agreed. If Danny ever met aliens of the extradimensional kind, he didn't want them to see his dad's face plastered on him.  Danny walked into the tunnel that was his parents' ghost portal, looking all around it. The whispers of those other worlds called out in his head again.  As he walked deeper into the portal, Danny saw nothing wrong. Not a Knut or bolt out of place. He got to the end. It was dark. Too dark to see anything.  Turning back, he kept a hand on the wall to steady himself. His foot hit a raised panel, and Danny leaned to the left for support. There was a click.

Danny opened his eyes and saw Sam looking down at him.  Not unusual. The soreness in his muscles, however, was.  Danny stopped mid-stretch and winced. "Oh. Right. 20-foot meat monster."  Tucker was at his desk, turned around in the chair and giving him that frown he had when Dash had slammed Danny into a locker.  "How long was I out for?"

"Four days."  Tucker reached under Danny's bed and lifted up a bag of Nasty Burger.

"Four Days?!"

"Nah, like, 2 hours dude."  Tuck chuckled and handed him a wrapped burger.  "You need this dude, that fight took a shit ton outta you."

“Don’t I know it.”  Danny unwrapped the burger and sank his teeth in.  He'd been hungrier than he thought. It felt like a blink before the burger was gone.  "Thanks, dude, I really needed that. We basically skipped lunch, didn't we?" That thought had a horrible domino effect and Danny tore the burger wrapping in half.  "Fuck, my parents are gonna kill me!"

"I erased the voicemail from your box, mine, and Sam's.  Don't worry about that."

"Speaking of, how ya doin Sam?"  Danny turned, looking his friend over and wincing at the bruises on her arms.  “Fuck, the meat pile did that?”

“Yeah, turns out being grabbed up by a bunch of proceeded corpses can do some damage.”  Sam shrugged. “It’s nothing I can’t fix with some concealer and sleeves.”

“It’s still warm though,” Danny said.  “You good baking yourself?”

“The heaters in the school barely work, and it’s nearly October, Danny.  Things have cooled down plenty.” Sam frowned and looked over to Tucker. “Do head injuries affect the perception of temperature?”

“I’m sure they can.  If only someone hadn’t summoned up a meat-obsessed lunch lady with a menu change.”  Tucker paused and raised a brow. “Actually, how in the hell did you even get them to change it?  Nevermind the why.”

“The why, Tucker, is that schools need to promote healthier changes in the food we consume.”  Sam had that fire in her eyes. Again. Danny let out a long sigh, which went ignored by his bickering friends.

“And removing an entire food group from the menu was your solution?”

“It’s one we don’t even need Tucker!  Do you know how inefficient the transfer of calories from meat into our bodies is?”

“We need protein, Sam!  If there’s anything that the Lunch Lady said truthfully it’s that!  Look at Danny! He barely gets any protein, you can see how that’s turned out for him.”

“My dude, I’m not the only skinny person here.”

“And whether or not we have meat and protein isn’t your decision to make for us all, Sam!”  Tucker glared balefully at the vegan and stood up from Danny’s chair. “You had to be an individual and have all your individual needs met over what anyone else wanted, didn’t you?  No one but you even wanted this menu change and I’m going to fix it!” Tucker stormed out of the room, leaving the door open.

“Oh like Hell you’re gonna undo all my hard work!”  Sam barged out as well, completely forgetting Danny as she slammed his door shut.  And Danny stared at that door for a moment before groaning into his pillow.

“This is going to be a whole thing, isn’t it?”  For several moments, Danny laid there and stared up at the constellations he’d put up on his ceiling in glow in the dark stickers.  His stomach reminded him of its existence, and Danny groaned again. He still had some allowance left, so he went out and headed to the Nasty Burger.  Considering Tucker’s words and how much he’d done that day, Danny ordered a full meal.

After he’d eaten and walked it off on the way home, Danny let what had happened that day go through his mind.  Even as he fought off a small angry blob with his wrist ray, growling at it. “Ghosts aren’t mindlessly violent beings. I know that.”  He needed to believe that. “So, that means that she can be calmed, somehow. She kept going on and on about the benefits of meat, and she died years ago…”  An email notification popped up on Danny’s computer, and he sighed. “Right, homework assigned by Lancer. What would I do without Tuck?”

 

The next day, Danny pulled on one of his darker shirts - a gift from Sam with some constellation’s accurately displayed - and some jeans.  His parents didn’t come up to join him and Jazz that morning, which was likely for the best. Danny didn’t need their ghost radar pointing at him before he could figure out how to break their biases.  The second his cereal was finished, though, Danny pulled out his journal and attached pencil. “No,” Danny snapped when he heard Jazz take a familiar breath. “It’s not a diary, no you may not read it.  For the 11th time, Spazz.” One weird benefit of super hearing - I can tell when she’s about to speak.  Everyone had different rhythms for when they spoke and when they were thinking etcetera.  Danny knew his sister’s patterns almost as well as Tucker and Sam’s.

Danny wrote into his journal a goal of recording his encounters with apparently sapient ghosts and how quickly he managed to pacify them.  If only he could think of how to pacify this one.

Once the hybrid got to school - later than he would’ve been had those damned blobs not been so interested in fucking with him - Danny groaned as he was dragged to the Vice Principal’s office.  There he found Tucker, who was glaring down at the desk in just the right angle to look like he was glaring directly ahead. A trick he’d developed for gathering valuable passwords while tricking Lancer and other authorities into thinking he was just a semi-rebellious teen.  Danny couldn’t tell what Tucker could possibly be trying to gather from the desk now, but he may have just been scowling. Tucker was complicated that way.

“Take a seat, Mr. Fenton.”  Danny obeyed and took his seat, looking steadfastly at the space just behind Lancer’s head.  “Tell me, gentlemen, how and why did you leave my office when both of you were already being punished for starting a food fight in the cafeteria?”  Before either could come up with an answer, Lancer slammed his hand down hard on the desk, and Danny flinched. “What could possibly have possessed you two to skip school for the rest of the day?”

Danny squirmed a bit, while Tucker took even, obviously measured breaths.  He then looked up at Lancer directly. “We were worried about Sam, sir. She hadn’t answered any of her texts, and she always answers even when we’re fighting to make sure we know she’s safe.”  Not untrue, Sam wouldn’t have been able to answer a text if they tried that. Danny nodded along to Tucker’s story.

“We left out the window to find her, which took forever since she had gone to find a way to help organize something for the school.”  Danny put on his most apologetic face. “We’re truly sorry about ditching you, Mr. Lancer, but we had to make sure our friend was safe, you see.  We wanted to make sure none of the jocks or anyone had gone and done something horrible to her as revenge for getting the menu changed for a week.”

Lancer glared between the two of them for several seconds more, and Danny fought to keep himself still.  “Fine,” Lancer finally allowed. “I will be following up with Ms. Manson to confirm all of this, but you won’t be receiving too harsh a punishment for looking out for your friend.  For endangering yourselves by leaving through the window, however, and for leaving without simply telling me, you will be serving both lunch detention and after-school detention. Do you understand, boys?”

“Of course, Mr. Lancer.”  It amazed Danny, at times, that he and Tucker could speak in unison.  They were like twins.

“Dismissed.  You two best not be late to my class.”

 

On the way to class, Danny brought up his thoughts on trying to appease the Lunch Lady.  “Her name is Agatha,” Tuck said. “Agatha Reece. And maybe you could, I dunno, teach her about the health crisis in America?  Help me organize the school to reform the menu the right way?”

“You want it changed too now?  I thought you were gonna get it changed back early, or something?”

“Oh no, the food around here sucks either way.”  Tucker rolled his eyes. “I just wish we had like, a better storage of better food in general.  I could recommend my uncle and aunt’s farm for fresh, nearby food products.”

“If only we knew how Sam had convinced the school to do this whole ‘vegie week’ thing.”  Danny shook his head. “That’s what really doesn’t make sense to me. We’ve only been in school for like, a month or so.  How the hell did Sam ‘wear them down’ so quickly?”

“No clue,” Tucker growled.  For a moment the hair on Danny’s nape stood on end at the sound.  “But, I’m going to make a petition, and head around the school getting signatures for a better permanent change decided on by the students.”

Danny patted Tucker’s shoulder and nodded somberly.  “Leave some printer paper for the rest of us at least?”

Tucker raised his nose, Danny now straining to hold in the laughter in front of the door.  “Sorry Danny, but a man on a mission has to go to all lengths to complete his quest.”

Danny bowed at the waist.  “Of course, Friar Tuck, how could I possibly forget?”

“You are forgiven, peasant Daniel.”  Tucker laughed and pulled Danny into the classroom.  Things would be alright. Danny just needed to weather the storm and make sure both of his friends were still friends by the end of it.

 

It proved far more difficult a task done than said.  The three had most classes together, but Tucker was busily writing something down every few seconds in a second journal in his desk while he worked.  Tuck had the most fascinating form of ambidextrousness. He barely paid any attention to Danny’s attempts to start a conversation and crumpled up any notes about Sam he slid over.

Similarly, Sam was ignoring him almost entirely.  She took her notes, but every time she caught him whispering to Tucker, she glared and went cold on Danny himself.   Am I not allowed to talk to both of my friends?

Lunch came around, Lancer had them eating in his room, and Danny had never been more grateful to Tucker’s mom than he had been when Tuck handed him an extra bagged lunch.  “Tuck, you are the best.”

“I know it, dude.”

“Gentlemen!  This is meant to be a time of quiet reflection upon your misdeeds.”  Lancer glared at them until the teens went to silently eat, and Lancer went back to whatever he was doing on his computer.  If Danny focused on the man’s headphones hard enough he could pick up the faint sound of… blasters? Weird.

At the end of the day, however, while the two were meant to be heading to detention, Tucker was going around and asking groups of friends who were lingering about something and holding up a clipboard that Danny was almost certain he stole from his dad’s office.  Along with that pen. Never was Danny ever earlier than Tucker to something, but apparently, detention was one of those things. Sam, surprisingly, was also there.

“Lancer got you too?”  Danny asked as he swept a bit nearer to the goth

“I was gone all day.”  Sam shrugged, pushing the few remains of grass and mud into a pile and then grabbing a dustpan.  “Plus I wanted to help clean it up anyway. We need this place to eat in after all.”

“Actually, I heard Jerry and Katelyn at least were eating on the theater stage.”  The two scooped everything up into a trash bag with the dustpan. “They were inviting some other people to bring sandwiches and chips and stuff.”

“Oh wow,” Tucker called out from where Danny was very sure he shouldn’t have been able to hear them.  “No one wanted to eat garbage right from the ground? I’m surprised, shocked even.”

“Had you actually been there to see, Tucker, there were plenty of people eating peacefully in the cafeteria today!”  Sam looked downright murderous and stomped off to clean away from Tucker. Danny sighed a heavy sigh and shook his head.

The detention had gone on for an hour, but it’d felt like forever.  Danny watched both his friends march off in different directions and groaned.  Another friendless night for him. After a trip to the Nasty Burger, Danny did a little walk around the city.  A few ghosts that he could see when the world lost focus skittered away from him, or ignored him entirely. Some attacked, but his wrist ray had yet to run out of juice even though he forgot to charge it last night.  “Maybe something to do with my other self. Gonna have to ask mom and dad about that.” A shiver ran down Danny’s spine, a puff of mist coming out of his mouth and he looked around, letting his senses shift into that surreal state of his ghostly self.  He saw nothing out of the ordinary. Relaxing, Danny sighed and headed home.

 

"Danny!"  His dad, Jack Fenton, only seemed to speak in exclamation marks. Danny wondered if he'd ever had an inside voice.  "C'mon, dinner's ready son!"

Danny raised a brow.  "Who cooked?" He'd eaten his Nasty Burger meal and was pretty sure he got all he needed.

"I did!"  On the other hand, more food that wasn't infected with ectoplasmic residue sounded nice.  Danny set down his bag and headed into the kitchen, where his dad had set out chicken, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, and spinach.  His mom and sister were already sitting and eating, and Danny gave them both a wave.

"Hi, Danny!  Juice is in the fridge.  Jazz reminded your father and I we need to refresh our minds with some air every now and then.  I thought, why not a family dinner?" Mom shrugged as she picked up a chicken leg. "Jack insisted on cooking."

"Mom," Jazz said in her best calming voice, "Dad never mutates the food."

While Mom and Jazz debated who had the bigger mishaps with ectoplasm - Danny felt the Christmas turkey and Dad dragging them into a world of blinding perpetual light ranked as the biggest mishaps period - Danny grabbed himself a plate and fruit punch.  Jazz clearly grabbed some groceries before telling their parents to surface.

Halfway through his meal, a thought struck Danny.  "Hey Dad, Mom? How does ectoplasm interact with electricity in its rawest most natural form?  The ectoplasm not the electricity."

Jazz stared at him in betrayal, Why written in her expression.  His parents, however, jumped on the thought of their son having an interest in their work.  Danny had never seen his dad swallow food that fast.

"Ya see Danno, ectoplasm as it is when we retrieve it is naturally an energy thief.  In relation to electromagnetic radiation, it soaks in any and all of it from the area with the exclusion of green visible light.  That's why it feels so cold."

"If we can refine our engines properly we can utilize the flip side of  that natural state," his mom added, "We could revolutionize energy efficiency in technology around the world!"

"It can store up a lot of power, but once it hits it's maximum?"  Dad held his hands together then spread them out so fast he almost smacked Jazz and Danny.  "It all comes out in an intense burn! Ectoplasm is either plasma hot or cold as space. When it's cold, it'd drain the power out of everything around it."

Danny nodded, letting the info process for a couple of moments while he ate.  "So if, say, a ghost was to eat human food…?"

"Well," his mom twirled her fork around.  "It likely wouldn't, but if it did the ghost would soak up all the energy that could be gotten out of the material in the food, leaving nothing but ashes."

Danny nodded, curiosity satisfied, and steered the conversation elsewhere.  Once he was done clearing off his plate, Danny was struck with a realization.  It was the sort of thing that happened all the time, when a thought lingered in his head, waiting to present itself.  Usually, that was artistic inspiration. Now he knew exactly how to calm down Agatha. Up the stairs, he ran to his computer.

Chapter Text

A cow float, a stage, a ‘meat on a stick’ stand, kids in steak and hot dog costumes, a guy with a grill that couldn’t possibly be legal to just put on school property, and a sign that read “United we eat meat.”  These were the first things Danny saw when he got to school. Then he looked over at the other side of the schoolyard. A replica of the Mystery Machine, the biggest fake sunflower he’d ever seen in his life, and yet another stage were set up with people that Danny could only identify as hippies surrounding that stage with picket signs with “It’s easy being green,” and “Tofu for you” written on them.

“Literally, how?”  Danny groaned as his friends both approached him, looking furiously determined and holding megaphones.  He could feel the cold burn of his eyes flashing brilliant green once they were both in front of him. “ No.  I don’t give two shits about the pettiness of your arguments right now.   No .”  His voice echoed and the teen watched his friends stop in shock.  “I have had frankly enough of this argument. Here’s how it is. Sam, we need vegetables, yeah, we need healthier food than the school was giving us.  Strong-arming them into switching everyone onto your diet, however, is the wrong way to go about it.  What about other people’s dietary needs? What about people who need as much protein out of the lunch they get here as possible?”  Sam had no answer for that.

“You coulda just gotten a list from everyone on what they thought should go on the menu, compile it with what was most common, and then have them change the menu to the healthiest versions of that so that everyone’s needs are met.”  Danny huffed. “Respect other people’s needs and wants before just deciding what you think is best for them Sam. Isn’t that what you hate having done to you?” Sam looked struck, then guilty, and sighed, nodding.

“Yeah, ok, I guess I went overboard.”

“And you .”  Danny whirled around and pointed his finger in Tucker’s face.  “This is going to ridiculous extremes. How did you even do this?  Don’t answer that, I don’t wanna know. This is only a week long change, you know that.  Parents would’ve complained to the school about their kids being forced into someone else’s diets and the school would never do this again.  More importantly!”

Shiver, mist.  The sky darkened, the wind whipped up, and Danny swore he could hear cackling from everywhere.  He looked over at the truck that Tucker had brought in and grabbed his best friend’s shoulder. “I’m going to punch you later for bringing a stars damned meat truck when we’re fighting a ghost who’s focusing in on meat .”

“That was my b,” Tucker admitted meekly.  As the meat ripped out of the truck and flew through the air, Tucker and Sam slipped their wrist rays on and Danny ran to and slid under Tucker’s stage.  The sound of something huge hitting the ground shook it, and Danny reached inside of himself. That humming ball of cold and void and out of reach stars, he plunged into it, and light washed over his body.  The world changed, colors turning vivid and bright, strange colors he had no names for other than non-visible light raced into his eyes. The shadows were no longer black but silvery grey, the vast emptiness between molten starmetal and the blazing suns.  Sounds and smells and feelings hit him that were all too alien to process. He reeled, nearly dropping the form. But he had something to do, he had a job to do.

Danny phased into the ground and popped up in front of the meat monster.  It towered over him, so large Danny could barely see anything else. A check of his wrist showed that his ray was now pretty much melded into his hazmat.  “Weird, question later, ass kick now.” Tuck and Sam were firing off rays while everyone else ran, and Danny charged forward. He lashed out with his foot to the… head, he supposed, of the meat, and it staggered backward away from the student body.  She swung at him with a hand that moved faster than he’d anticipated, and Danny went flying. The world faded into unreality and he passed through what he vaguely knew were trees and the ground before stopping and righting himself. He flew under the ground, legs merging into a tail - also to freak out over later - and he zoomed. He emerged right under her and missed his uppercut as she stumbled backward from the rays that Sam and Tucker fired.  Another fist grabbed him and Danny was slammed into the ground.

After a failed kick to the hand, Danny concentrated on his wrist ray and lined up the trigger that was sitting comfortably under his glove.  Pull and - Agatha screamed from within her monster host, and Danny flew free. His ray was clearly bigger than the others, but he also felt drained.  “Reserve for bigger fights.”

Danny weaved around her next few blows, kicking and punching the construct of processed meat backward away from the fleeing students and his friends.  Flying in circles to orbit the monster, Danny picked up speed and slammed his foot into the head of the meat pile and it toppled to the ground.

Danny took a moment to breathe, glad to find he could if he didn’t think too hard about it.  A fist came into view and Danny went soaring up and up and up. He saw a plane fast approaching and moved into that safe spot between the world and everything else.  He passed through the plane like it was a thin cloud of smoke before managing to stop. Then he dove, turning solid again when Agatha was in sight from within her meat construction.  “Not a lot of mass but anything with this kind of velocity should do the job.”

BOOM

With how deep in the ground Danny ended up it was a wonder he hadn’t splattered.  Picking himself up, the teen rolled his shoulder until it ached a bit less and saw Agatha there, staring at him.  “Oh dearie, are you ok?”

“Surprisingly.”  Danny rolled his neck. When he focused in on Agatha - he really could just see everything couldn’t he? - her face was warped and stretched larger than the rest of her.

“Tough!  You being ok isn’t part of my balanced breakfast of death!”

Smaller chunks of meat came together into constructs about three-quarters of Danny’s size, five of them in total, and they grinned at him.  This was when Sam and Tucker caught up with everything, apparently. Danny spun, heel tearing through the creatures like a knife, and landed to see Agatha being pushed back by Sam and Tuck’s wrist rays.  “Fuck yeah!”

Danny’s celebration was cut short by his grasp on that deathly cold void slipping in the excitement, light washing over him with the warmth of being alive again.  “This is inconvenient.” The meat monsters grabbed onto Danny’s limbs, reminding him that they were mere extensions of Agatha’s will. “This is even less convenient, how about no?”

As Danny was dragged through the air, something smacked him in the face.  Catching it before it could fall out of reach, Danny felt a minor bloom of relief.  “The Thermos! Maybe I can get it to work!” Seeing his family below, Danny hoped to all the stars in the sky that he was just going for a ride.

The ride stopped.  Danny was dropped. A scream flew from his lungs, and Danny reached deeper, desperately grasping, to pull himself into the chill of the grave.  The abyss met his call at the same time that his family looked up at the blur fast approaching. “Thanks for the thermos!” He shouted as he dove into the ground.  Not waiting to see how that was handled he resurfaced to find Sam and Tucker bound in mounds of meat. “Work. Please work.” Danny aimed the thermos, poured his own cold into the thing, and hit the button.  A flash of blue light, a scream of defiance, and he capped the thermos. Gravity and heat washed over him again and Danny let out a sigh of relief, running over to pull Sam and Tucker out of the meat piles. “You guys ok?”

“I have meat and blood everywhere and I was nearly crushed to death.”  Sam shuddered, even as Danny phased everything off of her.  “I am the very definition of not ok.”

“My nightmares are scarred for life after that,” Tucker said.  “That was freaky. What do we do with her?”

Before Danny could answer that he heard footsteps and turned the thermos invisible.  As he thought, his parents thundered toward him with the Ghost Finder in hand. “Just missed em, guys.”  Danny pointed behind him and was relieved when his mom and dad jogged off after a nonexistent ectosignature.  “Well, that was a shitty start to the day. We should go inside before someone makes something out of the crater here.”  Danny, Tucker, and Sam all headed off to the nearest entrance to the school, thoughts going south. “What if the security cameras caught all that?”

“Oh, no, that you don’t have to worry about,” Tucker said.  “I’m all over that in like, a couple hours tops.”

“Good.”  Danny waited until they’d gotten to their lockers, and stuffed the thermos into his bag before punching Tucker in the arm.  “ That is for bringing a stars damned meat truck when there was a food obsessed ghost flying around!”

“Alright, yeah, that was stupid of me.”  Tucker nodded. “I shouldn’t have done that.  But uh, we all agreed not to do stuff that affects literally everyone without consulting each other?”  Tucker and Danny both looked to Sam, who glared at them heatlessly.

The goth sighed and leaned heavily on Danny.  “Alright, fine, ask people what they want first.  Lesson learned. Can we talk about what we’re gonna do with Agatha though?”

“Well, I don’t think she’s a mindless monster or anything,” Danny started slowly as they walked toward their homeroom.   “I think we can reason with her. Show her that change can be a good thing when it’s done right.”

“Alright, we can do that once we’re sure she’s not gonna try and kill us though, right?  Tucker tried to go for a neutral, slightly teasing tone but Danny could hear - could feel a shakiness to him.  “ We are meat if you didn’t notice Danny, and I don’t know if her control over food extends to a cannibal’s diet.  I don’t wanna find out.”

“I’m horrified and grossed out,” Sam groaned.  “I’m all for not getting cannibalized. That’s the wrong kind of macabre for me.”

Danny shook his head, made some crack about how bad either of them might taste, and promised to let Agatha cool down before releasing her.  

 

That cooldown time happened to be the amount of time it took for the veggie week thing to run its course and be done with.  The school was cleaned, though all the vegan students who’d showed up for the rally were questioned about any kind of explosives they may have tried to sabotage the meat truck with and the news settled in on a gas line story.  Saturday arrived, and the trio all met up in the park. Away from all the dog walkers, readers and normal people having fun outside, Danny Tucker and Sam stood in a small clearing of trees, a few chipmunks shifting around above their heads and in the bushes.

“Tuck, you got the reports?”

“Roger.  Sam, got your wrist ray ready?”

“Of course.  Danny, remind me to tell your parents they’re awesome for making most of their stuff solar powered.”

“They hadn’t figured out how to tap the afterlife for energy yet, it’s the most efficient thing we got.”  Danny shrugged. He pulled out the thermos, which hummed beneath his fingers with the contained energy of Agatha inside.  Sam and Tucker couldn't feel it, so he chalked that up to another ghost thing. “Alright, Agatha, if you’re ready to talk to us, I’m gonna let you out now.”  The thermos offered no response. Danny opened it anyway.

The bark on the trees darkened, the leaves turning grey and the branches and bushes rustling as birds and squirrels left in a hurry.  The air turned colder and sharper, and the sunlight dimmed as green spilled out of the thermos and stained the air. Agatha took shape quickly, though her glow was dimmer than it had been before.  Her eyes raked across all three of them and narrowed. “Well, children? You kept rambling on and on about talking whenever I tried to get out. What’s so important that you didn’t put me back in the astral plane?”

Tucking the name of the other side in the back of his mind, Danny offered his best-placating smile.  It disarmed most teachers back when he wasn’t having as many problems, he was hoping it’d work here too.  “Agatha, hi. I’m Danny, this is Tucker and Sam. I feel like we got off on the worst foot before, what with you trying to kill us and all.”  Tucker elbowed him in the ribs and Danny shoved him back. The buzzing in the air grew louder, his skin tingled, and some small part of his brain kept screaming to shoot, to run, to do anything that could get this thing that did not belong away from him.  “So, I understand why you were angry.”

“You, Sam, changed the menu to just one food group!”  Agatha’s voice was rising to those terrible echoes in the mind, and the tiny voice got louder.  Still it was ignored.

“I understand now that it was probably a bad idea.  No one’s been going to the line in the cafeteria all week except fellow vegans,” Sam grumbled.  “Still though, some change needed to happen. The cafeteria wasn’t giving us any healthy foods!”  Sam was a good actress when it came to her voice. She sounded unafraid, ready to argue for hours.  Danny could feel something off though, ripples of yellow in her night grey, black and purple self.

“And healthy diets aren’t exactly easy to come by if you don’t put a lot of effort into it nowadays.”  Tucker held out a sheaf of papers. “This, Miss Reece, is a report on the various health crises around the country because of the food they’re feeding us.”  The papers were taken and Tucker let out as subtle a breath as possible. “I don’t agree with changing the menu to just one food group, no one in their right mind would.  But I think we should still change things up. Is there any way you can help us do that?”

There was a long beat of quiet, where all that Danny could hear was the sizzle of patties on a grill, the crunch of lettuce being pulled apart, the chopping of a knife on a cutting board the came with Agatha’s presence.  It was in the background of everything unless he focused. It was still there though, and it was so distracting with everything else happening. Agatha read, frown deepening as she did before she handed the reports on obesity and diabetes increasing in children of their ages and lower back to Tucker.  “Alright,” she started, then stopped. A superfluous breath. She looked to Danny. “Well, I suppose that I was a tad extreme about everything. How about this?” She held out her hand, and above her glove, the green light that seemed to shine in all directions from her coalesced into the form of a burger.   “I’m not sure they’ll accept me in the school kitchens again but I’m certainly able to make a meal for everyone.”

“That’s amazing!”  Tucker crowed. “I’ve already sent a few texts and set up some online polls to find out what most people actually want out of their lunch, maybe you can help us with finding ingredients around Amity?  Do you have a food sense?”

“Even if they don’t let you into the school’s kitchen you could still probably find a soup kitchen that’d definitely let you in,” Sam offered.  “If you can create food from basically nothing, then I see no reason for them to turn you away.”

“Plus, since ectoplasm draws energy from heat and electricity, you can probably just relax in the sun and be able to pull out a full course meal.”  Danny took in his friends’ curious looks and scratched the back of his neck. “My parents are the world’s best ghost scientists. I just asked them.”

“I’ll certainly look into that soup kitchen idea dearies,” Agatha said with a bright smile on her face.  “For now though, I should be getting back to the Astral Plane. Sunlight is a nice substitute but after all that fighting I need a quick break.”

“I can get you back there without my parents noticing,” Danny offered.

“I only need to be invisible for that, dear,”  Agatha assured them and faded out of sight. The chill and fading of the clearing dissipated, and Tucker and Sam relaxed visibly.

“Well,” Danny said as he pulled his notebook out of his bag.  “That’s one ghost down.” He hoped it wouldn’t be too many till he convinced his parents.

Chapter Text

Danny flew through the skies, soaring high above Amity Park.  The wind stroked playful fingers through his hair and Danny laughed as he dove up into a cloud, dropping out of it a moment later.  "Wet and cold, just like I knew it would be." Concentrating, Danny slipped into that space between the real and unreal. The world became even more vibrant and detailed than it was before, every color saturated with something more than it was.  There were colors and sounds that Danny couldn't even put a name to, but he knew they were beautiful and that he needed to find a way to put those onto paper.

The water droplets fell through his body, a weird feeling of being rinsed on the inside, and Danny shook his head, returning to the real world.  "Does this count as real though? What's the difference between real and unreal? If I can walk through walls, disappear and fly then what if like, cryptids and stuff are real?"  Danny snorted. "I need to bet with Tucker on who'll spot Mothman first. I can see everywhere at once though so probably me."

A few more minutes of flying, gliding on thermals that he should be too heavy to ride, and staring at birds, Danny flew back to his house.   Turning invisible, Danny watched the world grow darker, that infinite void beyond the illusionary constructs of buildings that held true reality and something so much more.  If only he could reach it.

Passing through the walls of his home, the shadows silvery and filled with ribbons of light that stretched in ways shapes couldn't bend filling his sight, Danny grabbed a few clothes from his closet and phased into his bathroom.  Setting his clothes down, Danny focused in on the mirror, and gravity took hold again, dragging him back into the world of light and flesh and stone. He leaned forward, staring at his reflection. "Is that really me?"

His white-gloved hand came up to touch his sky blue skin.  A green flush from the rush of flying faded away from his cheeks, while he pulled his glove off to touch his hair.  It didn't feel right, too soft and flowy like he was underwater - and he could feel his hand as though his hair were just more skin.  Now that he thought about it, Danny could see from his hairs too, the details on his palm blurred by proximity but the scar from the accident still crystal clear no matter how he was looking at it.

Click.  The most damning sound he’d ever heard in his short life.  A button, inside the machine. The whine of electricity he could always hear in the background crescendoed, the buzzing raising his hair.  Green light flooded the tunnel and Danny ran, ran to the edge where he’d be safe. But he was too late.

A flash of light and the world righted itself around him, gravity anchoring Danny firmly to the ground and his scars faint and hard to notice instead of glowing bright electric green.  Everything was right except him, his eyes that glowed with that inhuman light in the dark. Reaching up Danny turned on the light. He held onto the counter for dear life, whatever bits and pieces he had left of it, and glared at his reflection.  Skin tanned from time in the sun with Sam on her nature walks, that scar on his cheek from when Tucker dared him to climb the backyard tree high as he could when he was 8. Blue eyes, black hair, the nasa jacket that Jazz got him for his birthday- it all looked right.  But it still wasn't, was it?

Getting undressed and getting in the shower, Danny willed the hot water to wash away his problem too.  And for the hundredth time, it didn't listen.

"Ghosts aren't monsters, and I'm not a ghost.  Ghosts aren't monsters and I'm not a ghost." Watching the water run over him and even some dripping right through him, Danny hugged himself and let his tears get lost in the spray.  “Ghosts aren’t monsters, I’m not a ghost. Does that make me a monster?  Am I a ghost?  Didn’t I die?”

Danny scrubbed until his skin felt raw, pausing when he reached for his towel.  For a moment, his arm was translucent, water falling through him like he wasn’t there.  When it turned solid, the arm was dry as a desert. The light flickered, and Danny toweled off furiously.

Danny redressed and bolted for his room, grabbing up his notebook and flipping through the pages.  He needed something to focus on, he was riding high on that hyperfocusing for days before reality crashed in on him.  “Ectoplasm is an energy thief, cold as the abyss or hot as the sun depending on energy levels. Can see in the dark for 60 feet, can see infrared light if pressed, also absorbent thereof.”  Science, facts, things he knew about his condition thanks to experiments with Sam and Tuck. These were important things, they were his real now.

“Ultraviolet light appears as a weird color that’s got no name in human language and naming it is meaningless due to the lack of relative meaning.  Therefore I have named the color blurple, though if I concentrate harder and let myself drift further into it, I can see more colors that fit in the blurple range, such as Blae, Torqua, and Grack.”  Sam thought those were the dumbest names he could think of, so Danny needed dumber ones.

“Upon drifting off and transforming into my ghost form, I can see creatures and entities that skitter around, moving around everyone and thing that isn’t ectoshielded in the house.  Sam has spiders made of flowers following her all the time, and Tucker has a wolf constructed from floppy disks and electron cannons and other old computer parts always wandering near him.  I can hear and even sorta feel an odd sort of radiance surrounding people and plants and even inanimate objects that paints them in green shades when in ghost mode.”

Snapping the notebook shut and tossing it to the side, Danny pulled on his hair.  This wasn’t working. “I need normal. I need something totally average and human to do.”

Scrambling to his desk, Danny pulled out his sketchbook, grabbed his pencils, and remembered that beautiful panoramic scene of the sky above Amity.  The scratch of his pencil against the paper filled the silence and Danny let himself get lost in the sky he was putting to paper. Art was good. Art was safe.  “I should make a new compound so I can draw in Blurple.” Art gave him ideas. This was ok.

Tuesday afternoon Danny jogged down the stairs to the main lab two steps at a time, inspiration ringing in his skull as a design vibed in the back of his head.  There was so much potential to be had, so-called laws of physics to bend toward their breaking points and pigments to force into showing him the colors human eyes weren’t equipped for and he had work to do.  Coming to a stop, Danny cursed his ADHD for distracting him, as he saw the eerie Veridian light of the Event Horizon to the Ghost Zone and turned to look at it. The portal spun lazily on, the spiraling vortex of a green galaxy from a supercluster sized birds’ eye view.  In front of that was his father, Wearing his hazmat suit and a soda hat.

All Danny had to do was walk away from this and not question what his dad was doing, and he could’ve just gone back to his work.  But no he had to be dumb things like curious and loud-mouthed.  “Uh, Dad whatcha doin?”

His dad stopped drinking from his soda hat and his eyes flitted over to Danny at his side.  “Shhh, Danny you’ll spook the ghosts.” Spinning the reel of a fishing pole, Dad held up the line, which gave off a vibrant glow to human eyes.  Danny could see it, damningly real and in all three dimensions that his own clay form was meant to be in. It wasn’t like this human shell though, it was real .  “The Fenton Fisher is coated in an anti-phasing resin your mother and I made!  Ghosts can’t break it or phase through it!” Real and dangerous, if put in the hands of a competent hunter with the sense to coat a net instead of a fishing line.

“Coated, but what’s the line actually made of?  Did you and Mom come up with another new alloy or did you guys go into the beige portal and find the ore and then synthesize a new alloy?”  Danny couldn’t think of anything they had on hand as flexible as the metal between his fingers, other than actual thread. “Also why a fishing line?”

“Discovered it in that underground place and synthesized it Danno!  It’s stronger than tungsten and flexible as spider silk.” Dad paused and thought for a moment.  “Well it was a spider made out of rocks that we killed to get the original samples…”

“There’s life beyond that portal?”  Danny dropped the line, staring with his mouth hanging open at his father.  “You mean the rocks are animate, possibly sentient creatures? What if there’s sapient life there?”

Dad laughed, booming with shared excitement but Danny could hear at the edges of his voice where humans couldn’t hear.  He wasn’t excited for the same reasons as Danny. “Maybe! Good thing that portal doesn’t start up unless plugged in. I tried pulling the plug on this one and it just stays open.”  Dad ruffled Danny’s hair. “But if ghosts have taught me and the family anything it’s to not trust anything that comes through a portal.” Dad chuckled and tossed the line into the portal, and Danny frowned.  "I'm fishing for ghosts, Danno! Since they can't escape the line, I'll be able to get them on a dissection table!"

The lights flickered and buzzed louder than before as Danny's rubbed his arms, nose wrinkled.  His father really thought he'd catch anything with nothing more than a dangling hook? Did he truly think ghosts to be so, so stupid?  So ignorant? How could he be so arrogant when he could barely hear the humming of sparks running through their machines, let alone the rivers of light and fire dancing and crackling and snapping their song as they pulled the world along?  There was so much more a ghost could see that humans simply weren't equipped for, so much to hear and taste and feel. When he was a ghost Danny was a cloud of stardust and volcanic ash and comet ice, floating around in the silvery void of the night as the stars sung their lullaby to him- to everything.  Danny was still himself in either form, he knew he was, but how to get his father to see that when he couldn't see?

"This soda runs right through ya!"  Dad said, pulling Danny from his irate musings, and handed Danny the fishing pole.  "Be right back!" Wait, what? Before Danny could voice that thought, his dad was gone.

So, of course, that was when Danny was dragged toward the portal by the line going taught, and he dug his heels in to try and stand his ground.  For a millisecond the line went loose before Danny was yanked a foot forward onto his face. Looking up he saw a blue scaly paw the size of his body exit the portal, talons the size of Danny's arm each.  It pulled the serpentine head of what Danny could only call a blue-scaled dragon out of the portal, the end of the Fenton Fisher in it's maw. Said hooked end proved truly tougher than Danny when it was chewed on then spat onto the ground, still shaped like a hook.  Danny scrambled to his feet and the dragon snorted at him, other paw coming out and grabbing him faster than anything that size should move. "I want to go!" It said the force of its breath blowing his hair back. Danny reached frantically for the void and it filled him, transforming him into his ghost form.  "I have to go!" There was heat in the air now and Danny hated the idea of what came next.

His body became a cloud of green mist and escaped the iron grip, reforming next to it.  "Sorry, my dad's in the bathroom but you can go right after." Danny recognized he was outgunned and lunged for the nearest bazooka.  The dragon took a breath and Danny phased. Everything was engulfed in fire, green flames that burnt and detonated all the chemical vials left out for storage.  Everything burned, even Danny's intangible form burned and when it ended he held the bazooka in two shaking human hands. Taking aim, he pulled the trigger, funneling all his remaining strength into the bazooka.

The dragon was flung back by the force of the blast and into the portal, and Danny slumped against a wall.  He heard footsteps charging downstairs and his father calling his name, but Danny was out cold soon enough.

 

Green on all sides, the whispers and screams and songs of sorrow and rage and joy across an entire plane of existence not his own that echoed in his skull in his blood and flesh and bones.  He tried to run, but it was too late, and light, the explosion that brought all things to form and unform, and pain. White hot pain like a hundred thousand lashes of a barb covered whip against every inch of his body.  Fire consumed him, icy darkness swallowing him whole as lightning raced and arced through every nano meter of his being. Pain fit itself between every muscle, every bone, every cell of his body and no matter how much he screamed it wouldn't stop.

 

Waking up after being burned by a dragon, inside and out, is simultaneously what one does and does not want.  On one hand, it meant Danny was alive! He could feel things in that way his warm flesh body could feel. On the other, most of that input was pain, pain and more pain.  Danny groaned and opened his eyes slowly, groaning louder at the sight of the small medical bay in one of the lower labs. His body had burns on it, felt like, far worse than the iron hitting his arm when he was 7.

“My back is burnt to shit, and these bandages feel itchy ,” Danny mumbled, turning his head to see if there was anything new in the medbay.  He saw his mother jogging over to his side, a glass of water in her hands. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hey baby,” she said softly.  When Danny pushed himself up she stopped him and he groaned.  “Careful Danny, you got some nasty burns. It’ll be a bit before you can just walk around again.”

“Actually, Mom, I think that accident with the portal did more than scar me.”  And boy did it. Looking at his hand, Danny saw the arcs of lightning tracing his veins like blooming flowers.  “I uh. When I scrape my knee or accidentally cut myself in the kitchen or something it heals up in like, an hour.”  There was caution and curiosity in his mother’s gaze - in the faint whispers, he could hear of her aura. Danny didn’t often mention the accident, and his parents were horrified at the news, so the lasting effects were probably a worry to them.  Danny sat up slowly regardless and groaned as he sat with his arms in his lap. Straightening up drew a hiss from his lips but he felt fine enough to sit up like this. “Can I get that water please?”

“Here.”  Mom handed it over, lingering to make sure he could grasp it.  Danny had never been so grateful that his ghost was on recharge, hand staying perfectly solid while he took long sips to clear up the dryness of his throat.  "Sweetie, we found you in the middle of the flaming lab holding a bazooka." Said like that it sounded as if he'd fired at the wrong target. Though Mom was clearly just concerned.  "What happened?"

"Dad was fishing for ghosts, handed me the Fenton Fisher while he went to the bathroom.  A minute later I made a fascinating discovery." Danny took another sip of water. "Dragons apparently existed."  He'd never seen his mother's eyes grow so wide so fast, and the shrill tones of fear echoed in the room. "I managed to shoot it back in the portal and I guess it just flew off to find something better to roast."

Mom took a few deep breaths, each exhale dulling the fear ringing in Danny's head.  "I'm going to have a talk with your father about being careful with the portal," she said.  "You rest up, ok?"

“Can I have a notebook and pencil?  I had an idea for upgrading the Gravity Inverter mark IV, but I stopped to talk with Dad before I could start."  Dragon fire or no dragon fire, Danny needed to get this idea somewhere before he lost it. “Oh, my binder didn’t get too burnt up did it?”

His mother agreed to the notebook after assuring Danny that the binder was undamaged and brought it to him with his sketching materials.  She kissed his head, told him goodnight, and that was the last point at which he noticed any time passing. Danny drew, examined his design, and edited it over and over until he fell asleep.

 

Wednesday morning Danny was up and feeling restored, the shadows filled with silvery light again and beams of sunlight warming his skin carrying echoes of Starsong.  While he got ready for the day, Danny found himself humming those odd tunes he could hear coming from the sun, and noticed that everywhere he hummed it, the lights grew brighter and the room warmed up comfortably.

Grabbing his backpack Danny held up his wrist ray and put an ear in the sunlight.  He listened carefully, and once sure he had some small grasp of the sound, sang three notes to the ray in the barest whisper.  Without so much as trying to see the vibrancy beyond his human eyes, Danny could see the ectoplasmic battery within light up like a tiny star, and it whined with the sound of a building discharge.

Once sure that it wouldn't actually fire, Danny let out a breath.  "Ok, fascinating note to self: singing the sound of sunlight can charge up…" a look around the room showed all his electronics buzzing and humming louder and brighter than before.  "Everything with a battery. Test if it works on dead batteries later."

Breakfast was a tad more subdued than usual, Jazz shooting him looks every couple seconds when she thought Danny wasn't looking.  Danny flicked a piece of cereal at her to make her stop. Jazz denied him any rides that week. Danny munched extra loud on his bacon.

Sam and Tucker responded to Danny's revelation about as well as he could expect.  "You shot a dragon with a bazooka and lived to tell the tale?" Sam sounded so deadpanned shocked that Danny found it hard to not let her walk into a stop sign.  He graciously pulled her out of its path anyway.

"How?"  Tucker half shouted.  "Dragons are like, near indestructible!"

"Lucky shot I guess?"  Danny shrugged. "It burned me so bad I went human again, which was just.  The worst experience." Danny shuddered. "Felt like I was burnt inside."

Tucker wrapped an arm around Danny's shoulder and Sam did the same, pulling him into an odd moving group hug.  "Dude, don't worry. We got your back and the dragon is gone."

"Yeah, I'm sure your Mom had a long talk with your dad about leaving you alone with the open portal."  Sam rolled her eyes. "The most irresponsible thing."

"No, Sam," Danny snorted.  "The most irresponsible thing he did was pulling the house into an alternate dimension where everything was a frozen wasteland."

"How are you still half alive?"  Tucker snorted as Danny elbowed him.  They stopped at a corner and Tucker frowned as Danny shivered.  "Aw c'mon!"

The trio disentangled when from the concrete rose a blob of green with huge red eyes and a mouth made of the same ectoplasm as it's skin - membrane?- body.  Eight green tentacles rose up in threat and the friends had their wrist rays trained on it. To everyone's shock, when each ray struck the ectopus it splattered backward, leaving a stain on the street.

"We should walk around that, ectoplasm is nigh impossible to get out of your shoes and then they animate."  Danny walked calmly around the puddle, making it to the other end of the crosswalk before noticing his friends weren't there.  "Guys?"

"Danny did we just…" Sam stared at the puddle with rising horror and Danny furrowed his brow in confusion.  "Did we just kill that ghost?" Oh. Oh .

Danny shook his head, wondering how he failed to mention that to his friends.  "No. Ghosts are 4 dimensional, we just splattered it's constructed vessel. It'll make a new body in the Zone."  Danny jerked a thumb in the direction of their school. "We're gonna be late."

"… yeah, ok."  Tucker took Sam's hand and they walked around the puddle and caught up with Danny.  After all they couldn't be late again.

 

Classes passed, Danny’s meds helped him keep focused, boring teachers had him slipping out of tangibility and visibility.  Danny was sure he’d not gotten so much sleep in weeks because this was the most lucid he’d felt since the accident. Mr. Falluca was very happy to see him so attentive again and Ms. Harris told him after class that she was glad he’d started getting better.

Lunch rolled around with Danny digging through the food Agatha had given him on the way.  Apparently she stood by her accusation of him being skin and bones. “Oh yeah,” he said, swallowing the last of the meatloaf she’d special made him.  “I made an odd discovery this morning. I’ve been thinkin on it and I guess it involves enhanced sensory reception and processing? Like my ghost finally reached my ADHD and now that’s involved in it fully.”

Sam nodded along, finishing up the last of her salad.  “You didn’t look like you were overloaded this morning so I’m hoping that this was a pleasant bout of stimulation.”

“Yeah, I can hear sunlight.”  Danny took a bite of his sandwich.  “Like, light is a wave particle, so it’s material so i guess it almost makes sense to be able to hear it?  I could always hear electrical currents.”

Sam took a long sip of her shake, staring at him with warring concern and curiosity in her whispers.  “What’s it sound like?” Stars, she had to ask him that .  How could he put it into words that humans could fully understand?  It was a song he could feel echoing in his bones if he listened long enough, he could hear it, feel it now.

“I’ll uh sing it.  But later, when there’s not a bunch of people around.”  Judging the look on Sam’s face he added, “The Wrist Ray got so charged it nearly went off when I sang it earlier Sam.”

“Fair enough,” Sam conceded.  At the same time, Tucker slid onto the bench next to Danny, draping himself over the teen.  Danny gave Tucker a pat on the head.

“Strike three Tuck?”

“Try strike three thousand.”

“I don’t know what the big deal is about going to some stupid dance,” Sam said to the eye rolling of the boys.  “I don’t need someone to ask me to go just to feel special.”

"Sam you literally strong armed our middle school into doing a Sadie Hawkins dance within your second year of being there."  Tuck scanned the crowds of students, looking for a girl he hadn't asked out yet. "And dragged me n Danny into it."

"Yeah, it's equally unequal to say that only the girls are supposed to be asking the guys out," Danny pointed out, half paying attention to the conversation.  The other half was split between the filling feeling of absorbing his wrist ray charge while eating, improving upon his parents' laser rifle designs so that it was made strictly from recyclables and solar powered, and staring into the sea of teenagers.  "Why not just anyone ask anyone out?"

"Yeah, like Paulina."  Tucker nudged Danny's head in the direction of one of the most beautiful girls he'd ever seen.  Tan skin and dark curly hair, strutting in whatever the latest fashionable outfit is - some pink top and jeans - and looking every bit a model as anyone might assume she could be.

"Yeah," Danny said, forgetting his sandwich entirely.  "Paulina."

"Please," Sam scoffed.  "Girls like her are a dime a dozen."

Danny pulled some change from his wallet.  "I got fifty cents in change, what's that get me?"  Sam rolled her eyes, punching his shoulder.

"Can't judge a book by it's cover Danny."

"Only way to find out of if the content is as good as the cover is to go and check out that book!"  Tucker gave Danny a nudge, lifting him to his feet like some madman.

"Are you crazy, Tuck?  I can't ask Paulina, I get butterflies in my stomach around cute girls."

Sam tilted her head at him and deadpanned, "Am I a joke to you?"

"You are 89% likely an eldritch abomination fitting itself in a human meat puppet so as to observe us in disguise until we stop amusing you," Danny pointed out.  "Between that and your steel soled combat boots, only a fool wouldn't be nervous near you Sam."

"Damn," Tucker laughed, "that was a better recovery than I'd've used."

"Kudos to you Danny.  Now go, and try to keep the butterflies in your stomach, not your mouth."  Sam was shoving him like the cruel sadist she was toward the tree Paulina was eating an apple under.  That was fine, movies were unrealistic and everyone who eats apples isn't an asshole.

"Uh, hi," Danny said, leaning an arm on the tree.  "I'm-" think of something funny, think of something suave, Fuck I'm falling.

"Please don't say you've fallen for me," Paulina sighed.  "That's so last year."

"No, actually, I was too busy admiring your hair to notice that root I tripped on."  Danny pulled himself back up to his feet and held out a hand. "I'm Danny. I…" that numbness was isolated intangibility. His pants fell.  Shit. Everyone who was watching like a flock of vultures started laughing.

Paulina was laughing as well, her aura flaring up a bright shade of pink and smelling like junipers.  "A gentleman typically tips his hat, but I'll give you points for originality." Good, he had a chance still.  Danny picked up his pants and oh stars above No, Sam please.

"Kudos, Danny.  You set the record for how fast someone can drown in the shallow end of the gene pool."  What god had he pissed off? Was it death? Paulina's aura darkened, soured, and Danny bit back a groan.

"You did not just call me shallow, did you?"  It had to be Death, he hardly defied any other deity.

"I do believe I could stand in a puddle of you and not get my ankles wet."  Danny would've called that a great burn were he not being murdered, a second time, by the same person.

"Shallow?  I am not shallow!"  Paulina looked pissed, in every way that Danny could pick out.

Sam dragged him away, saying something about his song, and Danny was too busy trying to keep up his pants to fight her on it.  As soon as they stopped, however, Danny fixed himself up and glared daggers at her. “What the hell Sam? I got her to laugh, she was genuinely amused not mocking me!”

Sam crossed her arms, sighing in something that sounded frustratingly like pity.  "Danny, girls like Paulina aren't worth the embarrassment of putting up with her snippy, shallow insults.  She'll dump you immediately upon feeling you don't boost her popularity or something."

"You don't even know that, and I don't care, Sam."  Danny pulled at his bangs and scowled at Sam. "Hell, what happened to 'don't judge a book by its cover' miss 'girls like her'?"

The bell rang and Danny groaned.  Sam was glaring at him, turning toward the school.  “Trust me Danny, she’s just a shallow little rich bitch and she doesn’t care about anything but the latest fashion.  I’ve met plenty of her type already.” Danny rolled his eyes, finished fixing up his pants, and grabbed his stuff for class.

 

After the last three classes of the day, Danny pulled out his phone and started typing on his way to the bathroom.

[To: TuckWiz, Gothica]: going for a fly, the ectopi only take a shot to stop, and apparently 3 to blow up.

Checking to make sure no one was in the bathroom, Danny closed his eyes and reached inward.  His body cooled down, the sounds of the everyday world faded away until the loudest he could hear from it was the buzzing whine of electricity in the walls.  He could see everything all around him at once, all the colors vibrant and full of so much more life than he could see when he was flesh and blood. Unfortunately, he could smell everything even better too.  “Stars, this place stinks.” Untethered from gravity, Danny slipped into that space just on the edge between reality and not, rising through the ceiling to the skies above.

Keeping himself invisible, Danny did a few loops in the air, soaring higher and higher away from the eyes of everyone on the ground.  Everything was so much more peaceful up in the sky. “Stars this is so cool. The panoramic view used to make me wanna puke, but now it’s just beautiful.  I can’t imagine being able to see like this all the time though.” Danny turned into a spin, heading for a cloud. “There’s a lot I don’t need to see in school.”  The cloud was cold and wet and dark inside, whispers of laughter and echoing wishes overlapping each other flowing through the puff of grey. Stopping in the middle of it, Danny hummed a few notes of that song from before, laughing when the whole cloud flared up with sunlight.  “Holy aurora that was beautiful!”

Flying out of the cloud, Danny let the water fall through him and dove for the ground.  He let gravity take hold, watched the world rush by faster and faster. With how high he’d been, Danny was sure he was already at terminal velocity.  So, he removed air resistance from the equation, falling faster as the air passed through him. And with his phasing through even the air, Danny watched as light passed through him as well, the world changing from it’s typical rainbow of variety to a wash of green, purple and silver.  And then Danny was below the earth itself, falling further and further into the crust.

He could just keep going.  Keep falling toward the core of the world, see if it could warm him while he was between it and a whole other reality entirely.  Listen as the molten starmetal sung to him clearer and clearer upon descent. But Danny wasn’t one for going down.

Danny stopped, flipping himself around and looking upward to where his heart, or the ghostly equivalent of it, was telling him the sky rested, waiting forever for all things to come to it.  Ascending to street level, Danny spun around and shook himself, taking in the scene. “I think I’m close to where we asked Agatha to help out. Wonder how she’s doing?” Letting the world fade to silvery shadows and clouds of green again, Danny looked all around through the walls and around humans.  Spotting the light of another spirit, he pushed off in her direction, grinning.

Returning to reality, Danny found a quiet place in the alleyway of the building and transformed.  Shaking off the weirdness that was entering his ghostly state, Danny headed to the entrance. It was a delight to find that Agatha was helping out almost more than Danny had been expecting.  People around the kitchen looked healthy, and Agatha shoved more food on Danny - which no teenager could possibly deny. Danny waved goodbye, unwrapping and taking a few bites out of his gifted burrito, and even made it all the way home in peace.

Danny almost bumped right into Jazz as she left for whatever she was doing.  “Unlicensed psych work again, Jazz?”

“Looking for spots to graffiti, Danny?”  Jazz rolled her eyes, heading to her car.  “Mom and Dad are on the phone with their main contractors in the government and I needed some air.”  Jazz stopped, and that frantic pen scratching noise rang in Danny’s ears like it always did when Jazz worried about him.  “Mom says a uh dragon burnt up the lab while you were in it. Explosion?”

“No, actually, a real ass dragon.”  Danny lifted up his shirt, grinning at his sister as she stared at the burn scars.  “Just barely got outta the way. I shot it back into the Astral Plane like a boss.”

Jazz was on him and inspecting the wound in what felt like milliseconds.  She rushed him into the livingroom and Danny sighed while Jazz fretted. “I’m walking around pretty dang fine, Jazz, I’m handling it.  Thanks though.”

“Danny, I need you to tell me what really happened down there.”  Jazz wasn’t convinced, clearly.  Considering Dad and Mom both had seen him and told him they saw his ghost half, he’d expect Jazz to have seen it too.

“This isn’t some breakdown or me rearranging things in my head to deal with the trauma or something Jazz.”  Danny stood up and pointed at the door to the main lab. “That portal in that lab is the real deal. Ghosts came out of it.  I’ve had to shoot them with my Wrist Ray.”

Jazz stared into Danny’s eyes for a moment, and Danny thought she might actually listen to him for once.  Then she sighed, shaking her head and heading to the stairs. “I’m here for you when you wanna talk about it Danny.”

Danny rolled his eyes and ran upstairs himself.  “First a shower, then that color compound.”

Chapter Text

School was its usual boring self, a tad tenser with Danny feeling less than happy talking with Sam.  He was sure he’d be over it soon enough. Right as it was about to end, Danny found his traitorous mind swinging away from the chemicals needed to reflect a specific part of the ultraviolet spectrum of light and toward his social failings.  School did things like that to the brain after all.

“Thanks to you,” Tucker poked at him with a grin, “I now know the quickest way to a girl’s heart: clean boxers.”

Danny sighed and rubbed his neck, kicking the tile floor.  “Man, I blew it yesterday. Paulina probably won’t even look at me now.”

Moping at the floor like he was, Danny didn’t notice the footsteps of a certain latina cheerleader, who offered a small wave.  “Yoohoo, Danny?”

Danny’s head rose so fast a joint almost popped.  Paulina was back? After everything? Danny nudged Tucker in the ribs and Tuck gave a thumbs up before jogging off.  “Uh hi, Paulina.”

“Hi you,” Paulina chuckled, walking closer.  “I just wanted…”

A crushing blow at his side shoved the too small Danny into his locker, closing the door on him.  “Meet me?” A gratingly familiar voice finished her sentence. “Who doesn’t?”

Danny felt anger buzz under his skin and vibrate him out of the visible rainbow.   Does Dash think he can just fucking shove anyone around? Well, Danny thought, let’s see how he feels about having his clothes fused together.   Sliding through the molecules of his locker, Danny grabbed onto Dash’s back, reaching through the jacket.  But he reached too deep too quickly and suddenly he was being pulled in, filling a space larger than he was normally crammed into, his being humming through muscles not his own.  “I’m… in Dash?”

“Excuse me?”  Right, Paulina.  Think about the new power later, think about the weirdness of wearing Dash like a heavy coat later.  Currently, it was revenge time.

“I’m captain of the resident Geek club and I’ve kept every toenail I’ve ever clipped!”  With all the excitement he could muster Danny leaned in close. “Wanna see?”

“No.”  Sour notes rang in her aura and Danny nearly cackled.  Considering the circumstances, he let the body cackle and got down on one knee.

“Oh well, you should see the guy I just shoved in the locker, Fenton!  He doesn’t rub his mom’s feet like me.” Dash’s hands reached for Paulina’s shoes.  “Which is a shame cause I’ve been tryna teach him how to give foot rubs.”

“Eew, get away loser!”  Paulina took a step back and Danny smirked as he pulled up and away from Dash’s big clumsy form.  Phasing back into his locker, Danny noted that Dash felt a compulsion to rub his mom’s feet and that was a fascinating additional tidbit about the power.  “Hey, Danny? What’s your number?” Danny gave her the numbers and was soon tumbling out of the locker, face meeting linoleum. Danny rolled over and Paulina laughed.  “We have to stop meeting like this.” Her eyes widened, picking up something that must’ve fallen out of Danny’s bag. “Oh my goodness, what is that?” Paulina picked up a necklace, glittering gold surrounding an emerald and held together on a gold chain.  With the way she was looking at it, it could practically be made of real gems and gold.

“That?  Uh. You like it?”

“It’s beautiful!”

Danny got to his feet and rubbed his arm with a smile.  “That’s great cause It’s for you!”

Paulina gave Danny a smile that warmed him up on the inside and her aura was singing with chirping birds.  “Really?”

“Yeah, uh, I got it in case I got the nerve to ask you to the dance and you said yes.”  Danny grabbed his pants before they could fall. “I wanted to get you something in case of that and uh that’s what I was planning on though, now that I look again it doesn’t really do you justice.”

“Well, you are kinda cute, and you have great taste in underwear.”  Paulina put the necklace on herself and flashed another smile Danny’s way.  “I’d love to go with you.”

As soon as Paulina was out of earshot Danny tugged on his jacket.  “What am I doing? That doesn’t belong to me- it could be my mom’s or my sister’s…”  Paulina waved goodbye and turned the corner, that blossom of warmth in Danny’s chest spreading.  “Which is future Danny’s problem, cause she said yes !  Whoo!”  Tossing his arms in the air, Danny barely felt embarrassed when his jeans fell again.  Picking them up Danny heard the grating whine of displeasure behind him on the wrong level of existence to be paying attention to.

“Pantless again, Mr. Fenton?”  The balding pot-bellied vice principal drawled with his hands behind his back.  “That’s the third time this week I’ve caught you,” Lancer paused, pulled out a book titled How to Sound Hip for the Unhip , “dropping trou.”  Danny’s foot nearly dipped below the tiles as he tried to keep his laughter inside.  “I think it’s time I met your father for a Parent-Teacher Conference.” The paper Lancer handed him made keeping the giggles in a lot easier.

“My Dad?”   Orion, how am I gonna handle this one?

“Until then, here.”  Lancer handed him a belt.   How did that fit in his pocket?  “It’ll keep your pants up and you out of trouble with the man.”

 

During class, Danny took down notes on how his power expanded itself.  The flesh had felt wrong, alien when he was inside of it. Dash was bigger than him, heavier and Danny was amazed he hadn't stumbled around when moving the jerk's body.  The feeling of Dash's mind beneath his, pushed under the surface of consciousness, was like wisps of air trying to escape like bubbles but not quite knowing it was trapped.

Mr. Falluca tried to get the slip on a seemingly inattentive Danny, but Science was his Thing, and Danny managed an answer and a tangent on every question shot his way.  Falluca was impressed but reminded Danny to at least look at the board occasionally. Danny made no promises to do so.

When Danny got home, the belt Lancer had repeatedly instructed him to put on nearly forgotten at his waist, he found his Dad monitoring the portal with the Fenton Fisher in his hands, though there was an extra blast shield between Dad and the rest of the lab.  Let it never be said that Fenton's work slow.

Walking through the door of the shield Danny waved.  "Hey Dad, catch anything?" Danny knew the answer, but it was the best way to Segway to the issue.

"Couldn't catch a cold, Danny.  I'm so frustrated I wanna take it out on the first person to give me bad news!  Probably one of those GIW agents…"

Trying to ignore the sound of a hornet's nest coming from his dad on that second level of reality, Danny weighed his options.  Then, he slipped onto that second level, reaching into his Dad and pushing him up to the third layer that Danny saw when he dissociated.  "Mr. Lancer wants to talk to us."

Dad's muscle memory took over for him as Danny directed the body to drive to the school immediately.  Danny had more to do than just fake his way through a PT conference.

Lancer’s office was so much smaller from his dad’s point of view.  The chair especially so. Lancer’s droning voice, unfortunately, was always going to be boring.  “Thank you for coming to discuss your son’s schooling, Mr. Fenton.”

“Well yeah of course!”  Danny never realized before that this was his dad’s speaking volume.  “He’s my little man, gotta know what’s up with him.”

“Well, there’s been a couple of incidents with his pants.”   Sweet Tucana, is this how he describes everyone’s problems?

“Ah, his pants!  I told Danny if he didn’t stop studying so he could eat some more his pants’d fall down.  He forgets ya see.”

Lancer hummed, looking to the side in consideration.  “That would explain some things…”

Holy Pavo, did that work?   “Of course you understand!  No wonder you’re Danny’s favorite teacher.”

Lancer arched a brow at that, leaning forward a bit.  “I am?”

“Yeah, ‘strict but fair and informative’ he always calls ya.”  Danny held up a fist with a grin. “We Fentons, as people of science, understand that teachers are underpaid and underappreciated.  Without you who would be there to educate our future society on how it all works?”

A smile slowly spread over Lancer’s face.  “I like your style, Mr. Fenton.” Hook line and sinker.  “In fact, I’d like you to chaperone the dance.”

Internally, Danny recoiled at the idea of his dad chaperoning the dance in any capacity what so ever.  Remembering exactly how his dad responded to anything he wasn’t interested in, Danny gave as firm and exuberant a, “No thanks!”  as he could. “I’ve got to test my inventions, see what needs improving.”

“Are you sure, Mr. Fenton?”

“That’s Dr. Fenton,” Danny corrected, “and yes.  Now, if that’s all you wanted to talk about.” Not giving Lancer so much as a chance to say otherwise, Danny walked his dad out of the office and drove home.  Portal open, fishing line tossed, Danny whispered in his father’s head that he’d been doing this so long he zoned out and flew out of him. Danny rose up to his room and slumped against the wall.

“Ara, that went better than I expected,” Danny muttered.  “I gotta tell Tuck and Sam about this.”

“So wait, you got Dash to say he scrubs  his mom’s feet?” Sam snorted. “To Paulina of all people?”

“Not only that but he also asked himself - out loud which is a dumb way to ask yourself certain questions - why he wanted to scrub his mom’s feet after I left his body.”  Danny chuckled as he took a bite of his burger.

“So lemme get this straight,” Tucker said.

“Nothing I say is straight, Tucker.”

“You can just walk into people and take over their bodies?”

“Well, when you put it that way.”  Danny smacked away Tucker’s thieving hands from his food.

“No no, I mean, if you could walk into a girl for like, 3 minutes…”  Tucker was then assaulted by Sam’s combat boots directly to the toes, and Danny glared at him.  “Christ, it was just a joke!”

“It was a horribly creepy joke, and you should feel bad about it,” Sam said, stealing his fries.  Tucker looked ready to protest but Sam gave him a challenging scowl and he let it drop.

“You can get a date to the dance on your own like I did.”  Danny rolled his eyes.

“Does he have to take off his pants and act like a dweeb or will either work?”   Sam tilted her head. “No, wait he’s always acting like a dweeb.  Looks like the pants must go Tuck.”

Danny pouted, narrowing his eyes at Sam.  “I do not act like a dweeb, Sam. I act like an intelligent romantic.”  The laughter from both of his friends was frankly rude and unnecessary. “What?”

Tucker leaned over and patted Danny’s hand.  “Nothing Danny, you’re very romantic and understand how all that works.  Definitely.”

“I don’t stalk the girl’s locker room looking for dates,” Danny said as flatly as he could manage.  Tucker winced, then jabbed Danny in the shoulder.

“Touche.”

“Honestly, I’m glad I’m not going to this stupid dance,” Sam said, picking at the scraps left of her salad.  “Saves me the embarrassment of wearing this lame dress my parents bought me.”

Tucker, ever insightful, smirked at her.  “No one asked you, did they?”

“Guess I’m not as standardly pretty as Paulina is,” Sam spat out venomously.

“So she’s pretty,” Danny said, pointing his last fry at Sam.  “It’s not a crime. What’s your deal?”

“Looks are deceiving Danny.”

Before Danny could offer a rebuttal to that blanket statement that answered nothing, his body went cold and he heard a familiar melody at the back of his mind.  The three teens stood up as one, and Danny turned to the sound of screaming. “Shit. Guys let’s see what we’ve got.”

Danny ran to a shadowy corner where he was sure the cameras couldn’t see him and slipped into his Phantom form.  He flew around the corner and pulled up short when he saw the dragon from the other day. “Well fuck. Haven’t I seen you before?”  The dragon roared at him, a line of fire spewing out of its mouth and Danny swerved around it, ready for that this time. “Let’s try that again.  Hi, I’m Danny Phantom, and you are?”

Danny saw Tucker and Sam’s wrist ray fire before he saw the tail coming his way, and dropped to the ground, thankful for his friends.  The beams flew right over the ducking dragon’s head and it swiped it’s tail at Danny, missing by a mile. “Testy got it.” Danny charged at the dragon, tackling it by the midsection.  It flew back when he stopped and Danny grinned when twin wrist ray shots flew and one managed to zap the dragon in the face.

It roared at them all, and pounced at Danny, missing once again when Danny phased through it.  “Must have Tee!” A line of fire shot forth again and Danny dove to the ground.

“Oh, tea?  Good idea! Coffee can make you a mite jittery.”  Danny slipped onto that second level and smirked. “Better yet.”  Sinking into the ground, Danny rose up with an uppercut to the dragon’s jaw.  “How bout some punch?” The dragon flew so far that Danny lost track of it for a second as he flew.  

Lowering down to Sam and Tucker’s level, he noted that the aura of crackling flames had vanished and flew off to a corner to turn back, then walked around a different corner.

“Holy shit, Danny are you ok?”  Tucker was immediately checking Danny for burns and bruises and Danny chuckled.

“Yeah, Tuck, I’m fine.  Except that’s the second time I fought that dragon.  We need to investigate. How are you guys?”

“We’re fine,” Sam said.  “Though Tucker needs to work on his aim.”

“That dragon was moving really fast, Sam, and so was Danny.  I didn’t wanna hit him.” Tucker sighed. “But yeah, I’m fine.  Dateless still though I’ve asked pretty much every girl in school except...”  Tucker turned as Valerie Grey walked by. “Hey, Val?”

“No.”

“Ugh.  Alright, well plan fuckin B I guess.”  Tucker glared as Sam opened her mouth. “And I’m keeping my pants on.”

“Sure you are Tuck.”  Sam patted the geek on the arm.  “Meanwhile, during important business, I’m going to look up that dragon best I can.  Send me a picture of it?”

“Sending now,”  Tucker muttered, already walking off to go find a date.

“Well, while you guys do that I’m gonna go see if I can manage to make blurple into a color I can paint with.”  Danny grinned as he ran off.

“That color doesn't need a name if only you can see it!”

“Yes, it does!”

 

When Danny got home, he ran first upstairs to find something suitable for the dance, and then to find his mother when he found nothing.  “Hey, Mom? Where’s that suit you got me for the Sadie Hawkins’ dance that Sam made the middle school do? I wanna see if it still fits or if I need a new one.”

Chapter Text

Aside from Jazz’s needling about his date - “She’s not my girlfriend on the first date, Jazz, even I know that.” - and his mother doing her very best to make sure Danny’s suit fit perfectly - “I don’t even know what color dress she’s wearing but probably more vibrant than this, Mom.  No, I am not judging your style, this cinnamon suit just isn’t the right color for the first date.” Danny was feeling pretty good about his date with Paulina.

“Suit and corsage - which is likely the wrong color but whatever - Dad’s indestructible fishing line, the Fenton Thermos™, my Wrist Ray™ aand Tuck how’s my-”

“Your breath smells like you found a bush of mint, put it in a jar of water for two days straight, and just downed all the cold brew tea.”  Tucker wrinkled his nose at Danny and took an exaggerated step back. “Seriously if you reach for another mint I’m stealing it.”

“You have breath spray Tuck,” Danny pointed out.  “Hell, I bet you’ll spritz it in James’ mouth yourself.”

“Anyway, Sam, find anything about the dragon in your edgy goth library?”  Tucker raised a brow. “If not I can head to the internet.”

“Matter of fact, Casanova, I found a website digging into the supernatural history of the world.”  Sam sent a link through the skype chat and Danny recognized the dragon immediately. “The amulets of Arragon, prized treasures of the medieval kingdom’s royal family, had the souls of ancient dragons trapped within them.  When a wearer is overcome with intense anger or duress, they would transform into the raging spirit within, only gaining control of this form over time.”

“That… is the amulet I gave to Paulina…”

“Says here that the records of the two amulets remain but the items themselves were burned with the prince and princess’ bodies as they died.”

“It must’ve fallen in my bag when I shot that dragon with the bazooka- wait.”  Danny pulled at his hair. “I’m going on a date with a dragon?”

“You say this as though that makes her less hot.”  Tucker held up his hands in defense when Danny bore down on him with a glare.  “ Literally hotter.”

Sam groaned and rolled her eyes.  “Like I said, Danny, looks are deceiving.  You two have fun at that shitty dance. I’m gonna look into finding out if there are any more magick things out there to get.”  Danny frowned, looking at the screen through the lens of that second realm. The humming beneath and around Sam sounded bitter over something.  And she’d been sour every time the dance was brought up, even though she brought it up most.

“Fuck, I think Sam wants to go to the dance.”

“Dude,” Tucker shook his head.  “It’s Sam. She would’ve said something if it was important to her.”  A look from Danny and Tucker groaned. “I meant she’d have asked someone out.”

“We’re her best friends, Tuck, we shoulda seen this sooner.  Sam is the one to bring up Paulina and she’s mad about how pretty she is but I think that’s just her feeling jealous that all the guys wanna ask Paulina out for who she is on the surface but not Sam.”  Danny leaned back against the table and scratched his head.

“I guess even Sam can be insecure,” Tuck admitted, “but there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Danny hummed, raising a brow at Tucker.  “How attached to James-”

No , Méiyǒu, absolutely not.”  Tucker glared at Danny, clearly ready to charge up the Wrist Ray™.  Unfortunately for Tucker, Danny had yet to make his Dumbass Teenager Decision™ of the month.

 

Tucker woke up to Danny waving goodbye.  Pulling down his suit’s cuff, Tucker took aim at Danny’s backside and, knowing Danny was tougher than an ectopus, zapped him in the back of his hazmat.  Danny rubbed his mildly sore butt and flew off fast as he could, invisibly, and Tucker put the weapon away. “Best punch I can land on him, clearly. Do I tell Sam before or after?”

Sam opened the door and Tucker couldn’t help but stare.  Wild pigtails, purple eyeshadow, a black top with netted sleeves that met with fingerless black gloves, and a lavender bottom half to the dress all seemed to sparkle in the moonlight.  “By the Allspark,” Tucker gasped, not sure how to feel about the entire situation. On one hand, Danny did something fucked up and needed to be taught a lesson. On the other, Sam looked happy to go.  And he could definitely count on her to be cool with him not trying to impress.

“Yeah, dumb I know.  C’mon, let’s go.” Tucker followed as Sam pulled him along to the dance.  “I started looking into like, nature magick and all that, and found some cool stuff on how to make a druidic focus.”

“Sweet!  Tell me more.”  Yeah, Danny was getting off easy this time.

 

Danny rose out of the ground in front of Paulina's house, his midnight blue suit reappearing on him in a pop as he dropped from the void.  "Paulina, that I really like you a lot, and I'm sorry, but that necklace is actually my mother's and I need it back." Danny smacked himself after knocking.  "Stars, that's a horrible pitch."

The door opened and Danny was reminded that he was unfairly short by the towering figure of Paulina's father.  Barrel-chested and clearly a man who worked with his hands. He was also glaring balefully at Danny. "If you hurt her," he said in a deep and gravelly voice, "you and I are going to have a violent talk."

Well, I've never had an adult threaten to assault me before.

Before that could go anywhere Paulina walked out in a form-fitting pink dress that sparkled at the bottom, complimented by the amulet around her neck.  If he listened closely through the second realm Danny could hear the rumbling of a gigantic beast and the crackling of flames. "Papa, you're scaring him!"  Paulina lightly chastised and strolled past them both down the stairs. "We don't wanna be late, Danny."

"Have a wonderful night pumpkin!"  The cheer in the man's tone was like whiplash for Danny, especially when he added in another growl, "I know where you live."

"I'm so glad we had this chat."  Danny turned and followed after Paulina, a smile on his face.  "Uh, you're beautiful. Which is uh, well you're always beautiful but stars, that dress looks amazing on you and I'm not sure what you did to your hair but it looks great."

Paulina paused for a moment and smiled at him.  "Well, you're pretty cute yourself, Danny. That's a nice suit.  Did you pick it out yourself?"

"Mom and I fought on the color of it - she wanted to go with burnt cinnamon of all things."  Paulina made a gagging noise and Danny laughed. "Right? I swear I'm the only one in the house who understands how colors work.  Speaking of," Danny pointed to Paulina's gloves. " The sparkling brown on your nails really works great with your eyes, what color is this ?"

Paulina gave Danny an odd look, eyes wider by a fraction and smile a touch more relaxed.  "It's hazel. You speak Spanish? "

Oh, yeah, my dad's mom was from Spain, she taught me how to speak Spanish a while ago and Dad and I use it from time to time ."  Danny felt his cheeks heating up, directing the hum of impending intangibility into that heat blossoming in his face.

" Delightful!  Aren't you full of surprises? "  Paulina giggled and hooked her arm in Danny's.  " Oh, we're here!  C'mon! "  Danny was pulled along into the crowd of students awkwardly dancing around each other and doing their best not to get in trouble with Lancer and the chaperones.  " So, are you looking into cosmetics? "

Ah, no ," Danny chuckled. " I know what I do about colors from my art.  I uh, I draw, and sometimes Tucker convinces me to sell a commission online or to the guys around the school ."

" That's amazing, Danny!  I'm planning on becoming either a journalist, an actress or a model myself ."  Paulina's aura gave off waves of pink and the lilt of bells.  Danny could, frankly, listen to that and Paulina talking about cosmetics and modeling all night.  But, his eyes and ears strayed to the crackling fire within the amulet and Danny sighed.

Handing the cheerleader a cup of punch Danny rubbed the back of his neck.  "Paulina, about that necklace…"

"It's wonderful Danny!  I haven't taken it off since you gave it to me."  She looked so very happy about it, which made the bandage he was about to rip off so much stickier.  Looking around, Danny spotted Sam and Tucker, and the perfect story spun in his mind.

"I gotta be honest with you, cause I really do like you.  That necklace wasn't mine to give you, and I need it back.  It must've fallen in my bag at some point but it belongs to Sam."  Paulina snarled, sending a shiver down Danny's spine and her tongue stuck out serpentine and green to slurp up the whole cup of punch in one go before shattering the cup.  Plastic cups don't break That easily. "I uh, I can get you something better though! I've really enjoyed getting to know you so far and if I can get that amulet back maybe I can… draw something for you for free?"

Before Paulina could answer, Danny shivered, and power rippled through that second realm like a wave, appearing on that level of reality like fire sweeping over the dance.  It seemed to ignore everything in its path until it bounced off of the amulet around Paulina’s neck. Cygnus, that’s probably the ghost the amulet is supposed to be with.  Danny sucked in a breath and held up his cup.  “I’m gonna go grab a broom to sweep up the shards of your cup.”  Danny handed Paulina his own cup, and then rushed off into the crowd, drawing the light into himself and hiding in the pocket of unnoticeable shadows midway through.

Finding Tucker and Sam was easy enough, he could find their auras anywhere it seemed.  Slipping back onto terra firma, Danny tapped Sam’s shoulder. “Guys, emergency. I can sense the presence of the ghost who that amulet belongs to, I can see pings of ghost fire covering the place and bouncing off of it.”

“Well fuck, that’s just great.”  Tucker groaned.

“Have you gotten it away from Paulina yet?”  Sam arched a brow at Danny’s shrug, which was fair as it was probably the worst answer.  “Do you have any sort of plan?”

“Uh, you keep an eye on Paulina to keep her safe while Tuck and I search for the ghost?  I can’t tell where it is, exactly, which is ridiculous. There’s just so much energy around here that there’s no way to pin down the source.”  Danny huffed. There was some sort of power that came off of everyone at the party, radiating off of the people like light from a bulb, and Danny could feel himself soaking it in.

Sam snorted, pulling out her phone.  “This dance just gets better and better.  Text on sight?”

“Natch,” Tucker said as he jogged off in one direction.

“Remember Sam, don’t make her angry.”

 

Sam scoffed as she found Paulina and followed her into the bathroom.   As if I need reminding.  “Hey, Paulina.  Nice dress.”

Paulina turned around with a smile, gloved hand over the gem.  “Yes, and it goes so nice with your amulet, doesn’t it?” Paulina’s smile was getting close to Thinly Veiled Sneer territory.  Sam had a goal, however. Danny opened up an easy grab .

“Right, about that.  My grandma gave me that amulet and-”

“Forget it, sweetie,” Paulina interrupted with a cold frown.  “I’m not giving up this little trinket, or your boyfriend Danny.”

“Boyfriend?”  Sam couldn’t help but laugh at that.  “And they say pretty girls can’t be funny.  Danny is not my boyfriend.”

“He’s not?”  Paulina sounded genuinely surprised, which made it all the funnier.

“No, he’s my best friend.”  Shrugged, Sam relaxed a bit.  “Maybe that’s why I was so hard on you when you made your joke.  I’m sorry for calling you shallow.”

“Huh.”  Paulina looked thoughtful for a moment, undoing the clasp of the amulet on her neck and Sam felt hopeful.  “Well, it’s a shame that I only agreed to come to the dance with him cause I thought he was dating you.” Sam felt her stomach drop as gold settled heavily on her.  “Here, you take this back. I need to go have a talk with your dorky friend.”

Never before had Sam’s blood boiled the way it did then like a match had been lit inside of her chest and the flame was spreading through her veins.  The metal on her skin hummed and warmed as that skin turned blue and scaly, and Sam’s last fully conscious thought was a snarled out, “ Shallow little bitch !” And then all she saw was red.

 

Danny found himself near the girls’ bathroom when he felt and heard a growl, a roar, and a crash.  Running in, he saw a blue dragon, bigger and more terrifying than before with a human in its grasp flying away from a massive hole in the ceiling.  Danny transformed, eyes wide, and flew after her. Coming down hard, he kicked the dragon in the spine, pushing her to the ground, and landed in front of her.  “Paulina, you don’t wanna hurt Saaam is the dragon.” The dragon rising up from the green and white turf of the football field, furrowed brow covered in a plate of thick scales and spikes on her chin tossing dirt in the air as she shook it, held a latina cheerleader in her paws, not a goth with a wrist ray.

Great blue wings spread to their full 10-foot spans and a deafening roar shook the field.  “ Shallow girl!

“Definitely Sam… oh shit !”  Danny dove under the ground as a line of ghostly fire, much bigger than before, burnt the grass he was floating over.  Rising out of the ground, Danny sailed inches away from Sam’s spiky chin with his fist.  “Sam, friendo, breath mints, I got plenty.” Danny shifted into that safe spot beyond the real a second too late and teeth like daggers cut into his torso, nearly bisecting him.  Even as he slipped past, Danny was sure that he would look down and see a mess beneath him so he didn’t look.

Aiming his Wrist Ray ™ at Sam’s claw, Danny fired off a blast and caught Paulina when Sam flinched from the sting.  “Thank the stars you drop what burns instead of squeezing.” He hoped beyond hope that Paulina could handle the lack of air and slipped them through the vibrations of air and ground and light and slipped under the earth, rising up at the fence behind the bleachers before they were solid again..  Faintly, he noted Dash and some girl - tiffany? - were trembling in fear and huffed. “Get her to safety and go!”

Sam raised the bleachers entirely and tossed them behind her, tearing up the football field.  Danny pulled his trigger and groaned when Sam dodged the ray of hot green light. “Oh please, I might as well be throwing paper balls at you and you fuckin dodge it?  Are you afraid of a little gust of wind?” Danny flew to the side of the innocents and dove underground when Sam shot fire at him again. Rising up from the ground, Danny pulled on Sam’s tail and lifted her off the ground, tossing her into the air.  “Alright Phantom, think. How to deal with her?”

Remembering earlier that day, Danny sang, loud and proud, the sunlight song he’d heard.  Six notes in and Sam turned around. Taking aim, Danny pulled the trigger. It felt like he was bracing a rifle on his wrist thanks to the recoil, pushing him back as it struck Sam dead in the chest.  “Sweet beautiful Astrea!”

Sam got real close real fast, launching three jets of fire, the last of which Danny just barely phased through.  Feeling as though his bones were singed, Danny soared higher and higher. “Is that all? You breathe fire like a girl!”  Danny barely dodged the next bout of flames, but he did finally notice something important. Attached to his belt was the Fenton Fisher ™.

Whipping out the capture weapon Danny sang his song to his Wrist Ray ™ and grinned at his friend.  “What’s wrong Sammy, can’t hit me? I thought you were the one with the best aim!” Sam missed him with yet another fireball and Danny fired off another shot, stunning Sam.  Danny tossed the line and zoomed fast as he could in circles around Sam, pulling the line taught. Wings pinned to her back and too enraged to consider ghostly flight, Sam fell to the ground 20 feet below with a thunderous thud.

Danny descended at top speed and unclasped the amulet from Sam’s neck, watching with absolute relief when her body shined with inner light and the ethereal draconian form folded in on itself until only Sam remained.  Transforming back into his human self, Danny stumbled his way down the dragon indent in the turf and knelt next to a waking Sam. “Hey, you ok?”

“I feel like I just had the biggest fight in my life, then cried all the anger out of myself.”  Sam slowly stood up with Danny’s help. “What happened?”

“You had a roaring time it looks like,” Danny said with a chuckle.  “C’mon, let’s get out of here. I think I hear sirens.” Listening closely, Danny did hear the sound of police sirens, and transformed again, turning the pair invisible and flying away from the football field.

Sam looked down, seeing only darkness but definitely hearing the roar and feeling the heat of flames.  “What… did I do?”

“Wasn’t your fault, Sam.  Paulina did something that pissed you off, I dodged around you till I could get the amulet away.”  This would be hard to explain to his parents though. The green of the flames made their ghostly origins rather fucking obvious.

“Yeah, yeah she did, but this is… holy shit Danny.  I just saw red, ya know?” Danny gave a pat to Sam’s back, hoping it didn’t feel condescending or anything like that.  There was a buzz and Sam pulled her phone from the pocket of her dress - where on Earth did she get a dress with pockets?  “The building was evacuated and Tucker says he’s a block away with the ghostly princess who’s looking for her amulet.”

“Thank the stars.  Sooner we get rid of it the better.”  Danny followed Sam’s instructions and dove into the alley where Tucker stood, a woman wearing a fancy blue gown with bright green skin and scarlet eyes floating nearby with her hands held in front of her.  Danny set Sam down and floated closer to the ghost cautiously. “Um. Hello? I believe this is yours?”

The blond ghost’s eyes snapped from Tucker to Danny and she looked incredibly relieved.  “Oh it is! Thank you, kind sir. I found myself having a rather strenuous day and then waking to find myself floating freely in the Astral Plane without my amulet.”  She floated closer, but Danny held the amulet close to his chest.

“You aren’t going to go burning the town down after I give this to you, are you?”

“Oh heavens no!”  The princess looked aghast at the suggestion.  “I have no interest in destroying the living, sir, only in doing my best for my kingdom.”

Danny let out a sigh and handed the amulet back, smiling.  “I sure hope not, you were hard enough to get into the portal with only the front of you through.”  Danny nodded as the princess shot him a worried look, adorning her amulet. “I'm fine, though your concern is appreciated.”  In a wave of light, Danny was in his human skin and dark blue suit again. “Still alive, after all.”

The princess gasped and turned invisible, leaving the group supremely confused.  

“Weird.  Agatha didn’t react that way at all.”  Sam hummed. “Oh well. I think it’s time for us to head home before our parents think we’re hurt.”  Sam held a hand out and Tucker took it.

“Oh shit, you’re right!  I uh I need to go see if Paulina’s alright.”  Danny reached for his inner void, only for it to pull away from him.  Stumbling from the sensation of being dunked underwater and made to stand, Danny leaned on Tucker.  “What in the name of the stars?”

“What exactly happened, Danny?”  Tucker frowned. “I felt the shaking and then everyone got evacuated.”

Danny looked over at Sam, feeling a tad guilty.  “Well, Sam got the amulet off of Paulina, and Paulina probably said something provocative at best and Sam turned into an even bigger dragon than Paulina did and uh.  Well, the worst hit I took was when Sam almost bit me in half but I’m still whole.” Sam winced and Danny shrugged. “Not your fault.”

“Maybe your ghost half needs time to recover?”  Tucker hummed, pulling out his PDA to add to his notes on Danny.  “After all, do you feel the bite marks on you now?” Danny reached under his suit and shook his head.  “Maybe damage doesn’t transfer over to the other form unless it’s enough to force you into it?”

“I guess that makes… some kinda sense?  Like a self-defense mechanism?” Danny tugged on his hair.  “Whatever, I gotta make sure she’s ok. I’ll see you guys later, ok?”  Danny ran off toward the school, searching the crowd for Paulina. After a few more tries at slipping into invisibility, Danny determined that the best he had right now was sensing things on the second realm.  Keeping an eye out for Paulina’s particular shade of magenta, he found her near Dash and Tiffany, running up to her. “Paulina, oh stars, are you ok?”

Paulina looked at Danny with wide eyes and tear marks running down her face, running with her mascara.  Danny pulled a tissue out of his pocket and raised it in silent offer. “ Oh god, Danny !”  She wailed and threw her arms around him in a tight, desperate hug.  “ Oh my god Danny there was there was this this-this thing and I gave your friend her necklace back and I was telling her - oh god I’m so sorry!

Danny returned the embrace, rubbing Paulina’s back with a deep frown.  “ Hey, it’s ok Paulina.  Let it out, cry it out and then remember to breathe, ok?  Breathe with me?”  Danny took slow deep breaths, counting his rhythms to try and help Paulina calm down.  Thanks to his counting, Danny knew it was exactly a full minute before Paulina’s hiccuping sobs calmed down to something resembling a steady-ish breathing rate.  “ Think you can tell me what happened?

Sam.  The necklace.”  Paulina took a shaky breath.  “ I was in the bathroom and Sam came in and asked for her grandmother’s necklace back and I told her that I only agreed to go out with you to get back at her for calling me shallow cause I thought you were her boyfriend-

Danny felt like he’d been smacked in the face by his mother, or he would have had that ever happened to him before, and he took a staggering step back.  She thought that he was the kind of person to ask someone else out when he already had a girlfriend? She only came with him to hurt Sam? “ What? ” Danny’s voice was a quiet hiss of hurt and venom.

Paulina shook her head rapidly, and Danny faintly worried that her head might pop off.  “ No no no, I didn’t finish!  That’s why I agreed at first, cause I’m a little shallow I guess, but you were so nice and you’re genuinely interesting and I was going to apologize to you for my bad reasoning and tell you that I was having a wonderful night with you. ”  Danny nodded, still scowling but not moving away.  “ I was gonna say that, but then I heard like, a growl and a snarl, and there was this-this this flash and then I turned around and and, it was so big and scaley and-

Danny put a hand on Paulina’s shoulder.  “ Alright, I get it.  I think I know what happened afterward. ”  Danny sighed.  How was he going to do this?  “ Ok, so that amulet wasn’t mine or Sam’s.  It’s something more altogether, and when the person wearing it gets angry or stressed out enough, they turn into a dragon.  A weird rip in the air appeared in the park the other day and I shot the head of the dragon that came through it, knocking it back into the portal.  Its necklace must’ve come off when I did that, cause I seriously didn’t know about it till Sam looked it up.”

Wait… what? ”  Paulina blinked and sniffed, taking that offered handkerchief now to dab her mascara.  “ Really?”

Danny nodded.  He could handle this, he could do this, it was basically the truth.  “ Yeah, portals like that open up all the time and sometimes we have to fight the things that come out of them.  Sometimes they’re pretty cool though, once you calm em down. ”  Danny rubbed the back of his head.  “ I’m sorry for not telling you outright what it was when I realized it, but most people, ” Danny jabbed a thumb at Dash, “ Disrespect and ignore my parents’ work on everything cause of what they do publically.  I didn’t think you’d actually believe the truth without seeing it for yourself. ”  Well, that part was the truth anyway.

Paulina stared at him, her breathing mostly evened out and her aura slowly returning to its usual state - if a bit off and dark still.  “Well, where is it now?” She felt comfortable speaking about this in English, which hopefully meant she wasn’t going to tell anyone.

“With the original owner.  She managed to find us after everything and uh, so long as she doesn’t come back I’m glad it’s with her.”  Danny chuckled. “That was distressing.” Paulina let out a sigh, the buzz around her finally a speedy hum again and Danny offered a smile.  “Are you gonna be alright?”

“Yes, I think so.”  Paulina carefully wiped her face clean and pulled her phone out of her pocket.  “I need to call my Papa so he knows I’m ok.”

Camelopardalis, that’s right .  I need to call my folks too.”  Danny pulled out his phone and turned away.  “Buenos Noches!”

 

Danny’s parents took his revelation about as bad as he expected.  “You gave a ghost it’s cursed weapon back?! ”  Dad sounded like hornets again, lovely.  “Danny, that’s the monster that attacked you in the lab isn’t it?”

“The amulet transforms you during moments of anger and duress, Dad.”  Danny sighed. “She clearly was having a bad day, and she opened a portal back to the Zone right after she put it back on.”

What? ”  Maybe he shouldn’t have mentioned that part.  “A ghost that can make its own portals? That’s gotta be a level 8!”  Dad shook his head and turned to Mom, who was tapping her foot incessantly.  “Mads?”

Mom turned her gaze to them, her aura the building growl of a wolf.  Danny gave her the biggest, widest puppy dog stare he could manage, trying to look as apologetic as possible.  Hold for one, two, three, and look down. “No allowance for two weeks and we’re going to be doing some training in marksmanship over the weekend, young man!”   Thank the stars.  Full on grounding avoided, Danny nodded and sighed.  “Now head on upstairs, your father and I need to discuss how we’re moving forward with this.  And Danny?” Mom pulled him into a tight hug, about the same time that Dad did. “Don’t scare us like that ever again, understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”  On his way up the stairs, Danny turned back to his parents with a sigh.  “She looked pretty scandalized when I implied she might rampage around town.  Pretty sure she’s just going to stay in the Ghost Zone.” And if the princess was telling her handmaiden of a being that shouldn’t exist, Danny didn’t know that.

And if Danny fell asleep unaware of the ghost just outside of his otherworldly earshot, well.  He’d find out later. After all, The Hunt waits for no one.

Chapter Text

While Danny had rushed home to explain to his parents, Tucker and Sam walked first to her house and then Tucker was on his way.  Sam had a large grassy lawn, manicured hedges and shrubs dotting the fence that bordered their entire property. The fresh air smelled of cut grass and flowering plants, a soothing balm to Sam's nerves.  She'd become a dragon, turned into something fueled by her anger and set fire to the football field. "That's definitely not how I wanted to protest favoritism for the sports department at all."

Sam stood in her doorway, thinking back to what she’d read in the book she bought from the Skulk and Lurk.  “If it’s true…” Sam reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out a single red oak seed which she had plucked from the trees in the park at the bend of the creek.  “If it’s true I can learn how to be something just like that, but in control of myself.”  Moving into the grass, she dug up a small depression in the earth. “I could do so much for the environment and my friends.”  Sam whispered to the seed, “I return you to the Earth.” She placed the seed. “I claim the gift that is my right.”

For a heartbeat, nothing happened.  Another and Sam stood, sighing in disappointment.  Before she could even think oh well , electricity ran through the framework of her body, lighting up her nerves and filling her bones with a hum of energy.  The world blurred with impossible colors and Sam staggered backward. When everything stopped spinning, she grinned and flexed her fingers.  “Well, time to test this out.”


 

Jazz looked out at the football field wearing her usual black sweater and a thick jacket her father crocheted for her out of wool.  The chill that ran down her spine could have nothing to do with the Minnesota September chill even if she desperately wished it did.  A construction crew did it's best to move the overturned bleachers off the field to be disassembled and replaced, but the trench dug in when it slid against the ground were still easily picked out scars in the earth, even from her distance.  The grass was charred where the flames - green flames that took too much water to put out to be natural - had reached - maybe even started.

A dragon.  Danny's claim was hard to believe, practically impossible, but with the proof of it all laid out in front of her, Jazz could hardly say it was anything else.  It didn't exactly have to have been a Ghost per say, of course. Their parents were frankly silly for thinking that was possible. But one of the portals, maybe the red portal, opening up and a dragon finding its way out?  Well, opening the portals at all likely created some link between home and the destinations, and if the Stone Henge Incident was any indicator portals could open at any time any place. It was possible they'd simply not looked in the right place for life in the red portal.

Everything beyond it was on fire though so they couldn't exactly be blamed. 

Jazz was struggling to wrap her head around the idea of her baby brother fighting a dragon that could tear apart such a large area in so little time.  How he survived at all, let alone won, was the biggest mystery of Jazz's life so far. He was barely even 5 feet tall, how could he avoid getting hit? How did he even fight the thing in the first place?  Questions Jazz wasn’t sure she wanted answers to.

One thing is for sure , she thought, the media will try to cover this up with the biggest load, and I want to see what lies they come up with for this .  Pulling out her phone while walking away, Jazz opened up CNN to prepare for the chatter at school.


 

Danny didn’t have anything against chorus kids, heck he was one in middle school, but this was downright ridiculous.  Sam had been showing off her coolest find yet - actual magick. She turned herself into a barn owl with ink black feathers and flew around the lab in the eerie silence that barn owl feathers granted them.

As though offended that silent phenomena occurred, the air near the portal rippled and flashed with green sparks.  Sam perched on Danny’s head and Tucker nearly dropped his PDA as the green sparks tore the air asunder into a swirling pane of light.  Twelve ghosts, all singing off key and out if harmony, flew from the portal, and it snapped closed as soon as the last pair were out. Quickly fed up with the noise they were making, Tucker took aim with his Wrist Ray ™ and demanded “QUIET!”  One of the ghosts took exception to that, and Tucker felt like he’d had the life drained out of him directly at his shoulder blade, knocking him onto his knees. “ FUCK!”

Danny was filled and surrounded by void faster than ever before, and the nearest Fenton Ecto Rifle ™ was in his hands.  The discharge pushed him back a little but seeing the offending ghost get knocked back and burnt was worth it. Sam returned to Sam form and light rushed from her hands to bathe Tucker, giving him the look of kneeling in the summer sun.

The ghosts evacuated the lab, fleeing the angry teen and his gun while Tucker slowly stood up.  Danny rushed over, hand hovering an inch from Tucker. “Are you ok? That looked like it hurt.”

“Hurt like Dash punching me three times in a row full force.”  Tucker rolled his shoulder and winced. “Still not so good on moving.  Thanks though, Sam, how’d you do that?”

“I have no clue, that wasn’t a spell I spent time studying.”  Sam checked her pistol and and frowned in concern. “You good to move?”

Tucker stretched himself quickly, testing his range of movement.  All things considered, he gave a thumbs up and picked up a Fenton Ecto Pistol ™ himself.  “Yeah. Let’s go hunt down that chorus and hope we can do it by curfew.” Tucker nodded to Danny and the ghost boy grabbed his friends, who held their breath while they were pulled away from it.  Top side they breathed again and got on their scooters immediately.

It took nearly an hour and a half of following the noise, shooting the pairs of ghostly chiormen into submission and sucking them into thermoses, but they rounded them all up.  Thanks to getting the drop on each pair and offering no mercy, the trio was able to catch them in two coordinated shots. Danny hit one, Sam and Tuck the other, then they switched, and the ghosts were down for Tuck to get in the thermos.

Unfortunately, upon getting the last pair near a warehouse on the docks of the river, the Trio found yet another rip in the air, an odd shifting thing that refused to stay as one shape for Tucker and Sam to see.  Helpfully, Danny supplied, “It’s a tesseract. That’s fucking amazing to see, it’s so cool.”

And because Danny had the sheer gall to be impressed by geometry the universe punished his nerdyness by shoving a ghost out of the portal, ethereal form twisting between sizes and shapes before cubic chunks of green settled as a blue skinned man in denim overalls.  Bright red eyes blinked out at the teens and they sighed. Sam nearly had time to say hi when the ghost lifted his hands over his head, wiggling his fingers and shouted at them. “BEWARE!”

“Ok,” Tucker said as he fired his ectopistol at the ghost, blasting him back a bit.  The blue man dodged out of the way when Sam shot at him as well, right into Danny’s reach.  The punch had the ghost backing up into a wall yet again. “This is ridiculous.”

“The only thing ridiculous is how doomed you all are when I, the Box Ghost, destroy you with the power of cardboard!”  Danny snorted at the dramatics of the guy, and despite knowing damn well how dangerous a ghost could be, he found himself laughing.  When a shipping crate from below was lifted up and nearly slammed into him, Danny thanked the stars he had 360 vision. There was an uncomfortable wrongness as the box sailed through him, covered in Box Ghost’s aura of creaking crates, loud machines moving every which way and the impact of something heavy.

“That was legitimately sad.  Did you forget that we’re ghosts?  Boxes aren’t gonna hurt me dude.” Danny bared a ferocious grin as the Box Ghost reared up, looking ready to twiddle his fingers again.  “Also, Box Ghost ?  Really?”  Twin rays of ionized ectoplasm struck the Box Ghost with enough force to push him through the wall intangibly.  “No points for creativity on this guy.”

Danny slipped through the illusionary construct of the wall in front of him - he could so easily see beyond it, just had to look the right way - and stayed intangible as the box ghost threw someone’s stuff at him.  “Literally someone’s fucking mail, dude, why are you so fucking rude?”

Tuck and Sam busted through the door dramatically and Tucker aimed the Fenton Thermos.  “Seal for delivery.” The blue ghost got bluer and soon was gone. Danny dropped to the ground and flipped onto his back.

“Seal, an aquatic mammal in the arctic.  It uh, barks?” Danny looked hopeful. Sam looked less so.

“Sorry brain boy, that is yet another wrong answer.”

“Hey, I’m an Astrophysist, mechanical engineer and artist, not a biologist.”  Danny grumbled. “Speaking of biology, how you doin Tuck?”

Tucker spun the Fenton Thermos ™ on his finger like a basketball.  “I’m feelin a bit sore still but I’ll be way better once we all get home.  There’s still an hour before curfew and that’s all we need to study, right?”  Danny offered a thumbs up and Sam shrugged.

Then the thermos fell from Tucker’s finger right on the release button and all their hard work filled the warehouse before getting away again.  

“Tucker.”

“Yes, Sam?”

“When you’re feeling better I’m going to hurt you.”

“Right.”

 

Considering it took them over two and a half hours to find and catch - or in Box Ghost's case splatter - all of the ghosts released by Tuck's blunder, everyone got home at around midnight, leaving no study time for Danny.  Running a highly demanding brain and body on only five hours of sleep was Not a fun endeavor. Danny inhaled his breakfast, and if an upward glance was anything to go by spiked the electric bill with his secondary eating.

Jazz decided to be gratingly cheery anyway, like she always was.  “Mom! I just got the news from Genius magazine!”  Jazz was holding up a cover of said magazine and Danny rolled his eyes.  “You’re gonna be on the cover!”

“Genius Magazine?”  Dad grabbed up the magazine and stared at it for a moment before a low and potentially upset tone carried out, “is it the swimsuit issue?”

“Dad, please ,” Jazz rolled her eyes and narrowed them.  “this magazine is for, by and about women geniuses!”

“Firstly,” Danny said, holding up his spoon.  “Is Dr. Saturday in it?”

“…No.”

“Then they missed a genius.”  Danny felt his face twist up. “Secondly, I’m trying to eat and you bring up Mom being in the swimsuit issue of a falsely named magazine?”

Jazz ripped the magazine from Dad’s hand and groaned in frustration, her page flipping now the slamming of book covers.  “I signed Mom up so that the world can see that she’s a genius and not a ghost hunting freak!” Danny winced, rubbing his neck.  Sounded like Jazz heard as much of it as he did. Unsurprising, kids were assholes.

“They’re not ghost hunting freaks,” Danny said with only a touch of offense in his tone.  “They’re Ectologists, contracted regularly by the government. They’re also right about ghosts being real.”  Jazz opened her mouth to challenge that claim but even groggy and under fueled Danny’s brain was quick.  “Just check the football field for proof.” Quick but filterless.

“Well sweetie,” Mom said to fill the ringing silence. “If I’m going to be on a cover - which you should ask me for permission for before you go doing it - then I want Jack right there with me.”  Mom pulled Dad’s bulk to her, impossibly, in a hug. “We’re a team after all!”

The man in question beamed and pulled out… something.  Danny didn’t have the brain power to analyze tech at the moment.  “That’s right! Together we built the Ghost Gabber™! It translates the odd noises that a ghost makes, dissonant whispering sounds and all, into language that you and I can understand!”

“In what language?”  Danny frowned. “If you’re gonna sell this - which please don’t this is ridiculous - then it should be in like, all languages you’re gonna sell to right?”

“Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic so far,” Mom supplied.  Danny nodded and slurped down the last of the milk in his bowl. “It’ll work for any language when it’s done!”

Danny stared at the thing and narrowed his eyes.  “Boo.”

“I am a ghost,” the thing rattled off back to him.  Which, well, fuck. That’s what I was thinking at least.

“It’s busted, responded to human speech.  Or you guys have the worst humor and that’s preprogrammed.”  Danny grabbed his lunch and headed to the door.  “Love you byyye!”

 

School was as mind numbing as ever, some privately funded construction crew contracted to fix up the whole school as fast as possible.  Luckily only one bathroom was quarantined by the construction, the rest of the damage on the football field. Which meant that Falluca's test on biology was still a go.  Yay. Brain sluggish from last night's hunting and lacking on biology knowledge to begin with, Danny was unsurprised yet pissy when he was handed back a D.

Taking their lunches into the library, the Trio ate quickly, everyone still feeling yesterday's activities.  Soon as he was out of food to shovel in his mouth Danny was glaring at his test again. "I can't have a D on a test!  I’m a Fenton!”

“The American Public education system is a relic and fails to accurately quantify intelligence.”  Danny stared blankly at Tucker, who shrugged. “Sam’s activism rubs off when she’s right.”

“If I come home with a D my mom’s gonna put me through martial arts training and have Dad  give me lessons on whatever it is I failed on.” Danny waved his paper aggressively. “My Dad teaching me biology guys, it’s horrible!”

“Well since you need to boost that grade I have an extra credit idea for you,” Sam said at one of the computers.  Danny turned to look at her screen and furrowed his brow.

“A purple backed gorilla?  Why is it’s back purple? That’s not a naturally occurring pigment in mammals.”  Danny turned to Tucker. “Right?”

“While I’m the last person you should defer to for knowledge on organic coding, you’re right.  I can only think of birds and uh butterflies? Those can be purple. Rarely though.”

“Extremely rare, only two males left.  Which is why you’re going to write a report studying it on why it deserves to be set free!”  Sam beamed at him with that smile she used when she wanted something out of him. Her aura sounded oddly like the cooing of an owl, with a hint of a cat’s meow.

“I don’t have time for extra credit, or your agendas, Sam.”  Danny groaned. “Gotta find that Box Ghost idiot before he manages to actually hurt someone.”

“Actually,” Tucker cut in, holding up his PDA.  “You do have time. You just need to manage it better.  Which is why I’ve elected myself to be your time manager.  Least I can do after Sam let all those ghosts out.” Sam glared, that meowing turning to a low growl, and Danny tugged on his jacket.

“I dunno…”  Could Tucker be trusted to manage even his own time, let alone Danny’s?

“It’ll be my job to manage your schedule so that you can do your schoolwork and catch that Box Ghost dumbass that Sam let out.”

“You do remember that I can turn into any animal I’ve seen right?”  Sam’s glare intensified, and Tucker swallowed. “I’ve been to the zoo many times, Foley.”

“Remember what happened when I let you manage the thermos, Tucker?”  Danny arched a brow, crossing his arms.

“I’ve already set a reminder,” the geek held up his PDA which flashed with bright green letters.  “Don’t let Tucker handle the Thermos.”

“What the hell?”  Danny sighed. “I guess we can do a trial run.”

“Sweet!  I’ve also scheduled some time for us to go check out that gorilla once classes are over.”

“Before I even said yes to doing a report on it, yay.  Aren’t you just the best?” Danny jabbed Tucker lightly in the arm and frowned when Tucker winced.  “How’s the shoulder?”

“Getting better.  I think I just need to rest.”  Tucker let Danny tug the collar of his shirt down though and Danny couldn’t hold back a gasp.  The flesh where Tucker had been hit looked to have rotted in the shape of a fist. “What?”

“Sam, that thing you did last night with the light, think you can manage that again?”

Sam walked over and sucked on her teeth.  Holding out her shaky hands, Sam willed that summer sun to her fingertips and pushed it into Tucker.  Danny watched, counting the seconds as the cell death was lit up with that rose gold light, burning away in waves until Tucker had a healthy back again.  It was a good thing he did, too, since Sam’s legs wobbled and Danny barely managed to catch her before she fell. “Well shit,” she croaked like she’d swallowed sandpaper.  “Gotta practice that more often.”

Danny and Tucker helped Sam into a chair and Sam gave a thumbs up.  Rolling his shoulder, Tucker’s gaze flickered between his friends rapidly.  “I feel awesome now and all, thank you, but that was a little extreme for a sore back.  That was a bruise, right?”

“No, Tuck,” Sam said between breaths.  “Necrosis. Don’t look it up. Shouldn’t be able to survive something like that untreated.”

For once, Tucker could tell from his friends’ faces that he didn’t need to have this information.  “Maybe… maybe the portal did something to all of us?”

Danny nodded, taking a seat and hoping his lunch didn’t decide it wasn’t too fond of what all he’d seen.  “I uh. Maybe? The radiation from the portal opening might’ve changed you guys too. I had a hazmat on and look what happened to me.”  Danny zipped up his hoodie, shivering. “Stars guys, I’m so sorry .”

“Said the guy who I pressured into the portal,” Sam countered.

“To the guy who coulda said enough is enough and stopped you,” Tucker added, ruining Danny’s angsty bad times.  He had negativity to feel dangit!

“You guys are dumb.”  Danny pulled the two into a tight hug.  “Thanks. I dunno what I’d do without you.”

“Probably finish dying, let’s be real.”  Tucker earned the punch he got from Sam, he really did.

The bell rang, and the Trio sighed.  “Well shit. Time to go back and do all that school stuff.”  Danny pulled away and grabbed up his bag. It was one of the few classes he had without Sam and Tuck next.  “See you guys later.” A few goodbyes later and everyone left to zone out in class and contemplate what that day in the lab had really meant for them.

While Sam was taking in all the key points of the lesson, she was also noting that she knew this part of history like the back of her hand.  The majority of Sam’s attention was on the spell she had jotted down in her notebook over the weekend but never got to actually go over until now.  She’d thought it could wait but with what had happened to Tucker… suppressing a shudder, Sam decided that learning a dedicated healing spell was wise.  By the time school was over, Sam was pretty sure she had the spell down, having written the words down on a notecard while whispering them until she’d filled it.

Once Sam found Tucker and Danny at the exit, she draped her arms over both boys’ shoulders and kept walking.  They caught up to pace quickly enough. “So, the zoo first or looking for Box Ghost first?” The three joked about that name plenty through the day, along with the ghost’s general goofiness, but Sam wondered what had to have killed the guy to have him fixating on boxes.

“Ghost first,” Danny said after a few minutes of contemplation.  “If we catch him right away we can get to the zoo and spend more time fully focused on it.”

It took them a trip home each to grab their scooters, then two hours of searching four different warehouses before the group actually found the Box Ghost.  When they found him he was going through mail yet again, and Danny transformed in a flash next to her. Sam held up her wrist ray, as did Tucker and Danny, who rose up invisibly to get a better angle.  Sam wasn’t sure how they coordinated the way they did but within a beat of each other, Sam, Tuck and Danny all fired on the ghost.

The Box Ghost tumbled backwards and into a wall, shaking his head and glaring at Danny.  A box was surrounded in a nebulous carona of green and rose in the air. “You DARE to attack THE BOX GHOST?!  IMPUDENT CHILD, SUFFER MY CORRIGATED CARDBOAD VENGENCE!” Danny phased through the thrown box, and with two shots from Tucker and Danny both, the ghost was not simply done, but yet another disturbing stain splattered on the wall of the warehouse.

“I hope you’re sure about the whole ‘rebuilding their bodies’ thing Danny.”  Sam didn’t want to be the person who killed a ghost the second time. That’d be beyond cruel.

“I’m sure, Sam.  That dragon ghost burned my ghost away till all that was left was my human body, remember?”  Danny gestured to his entire self, looking and sounding entirely confident. “Pretty sure I rebuilt my ghost body overtime.”

“True enough.”  Sam was still the first one out of the place though, and sighed in relief when Danny went human.  “Alright, to the zoo.” 


 

Sam looked out from the observation deck binoculars at Sampson, taking her turn on gorilla watch.  “He’s so beautiful, so intelligent, so majestic!” Watching the gorilla pace in his cage Sam was sure he would be infinitely happier in the wild.

“What we’ve learned thus far, Sam, is that gorillas like to scratch their butts.”  Danny yawned, turning to Tucker. “How long have we taken to learn that?”

“Five hours.”  Tucker yawned, sitting on the floor.

“Time flies when you’re majestically scratching your butt.”

“C’mon guys, we could learn something about Sampson no one else has!”  A thought occurred and Sam turned to Danny. “You should try commun- oh.  Wow.” The boys were on the floor, both clearly conked out from the lack of sleep last night.  And Danny rolled over to cuddle Tucker in his sleep, which was sickeningly cute. “Maybe there’s a spell for it in my book… in the meantime…” Sam took a picture of the boys, chuckling.  “To the scrapbook it goes for when these idiots finally get a clue.”

By the time she got to the gorilla enclosure, she heard a loud roar from elsewhere in the zoo.  Presuming it was just a tiger or two waking up, Sam looked into the cage to see Sampson pulling on the bars of the door to his cage.  “You poor creature, stuck in here when you should be in the jungle.” Sampson saw Sam standing there and pulled even harder on the door, howling at her and staring desperately.  “…You want out?”

Sam decided to use her own Dumbass Teenager Action of the month and blame it on her own sleep deprivation.  She also blamed it on the control panel having an easy to get to, easy to use Open Cage button.

Sampson practically flew out of his cage and Sam followed after him.  She stopped, shock freezing her muscles up as Sampson tackled to the ground a… “Is that a fucking robot?”

The man made of steel and wearing black leather and a shoulder pad kicked Sampson off and Sam found herself caught between rolling her eyes at the mohawk and goatee made of green fire and backing away from the glowing ghost robot.

Sampson charged again immediately after being thrown, knocking the robot to the ground and rolling onto his back.  Sam felt herself laugh as the robot was tossed around by Sampson’s feet but it all felt so unreal. Is this what my life has come to?

Sampson was blinded by goo and Sam felt it time to act.  Reaching into her pocket, Sam pulled out a yellow rose she had collected from home for such an occasion.  Holding the rose with the petals in her palm, Sam whispered the spell she’d practiced maybe a bit too much.  That rush of warmth flowed from the center of her chest down her hand and into the rose. It grew, quickly, into a long whip with inch long thorns on it.  Directing it more with her mind than her hand, Sam swung her weapon at the ghost and the thorny vine lashed around his arm. Hooked into the arm, Sam yanked on it with the vine and pulled whatever weapon he had in mind off course.  A net launched out of a compartment too small for it and Sam held up her other hand, which had her wrist ray attached. “Zoo’s closed asshole.”

The shot of ionized ectoplasm left a crack in the shoulder plate of the robot’s armor.  He raised his other arm and the barrel of a cannon sprung up from his wrist. “You are in the way of my hunt, wench.”  Sam jumped to her left just in time, the returned fire striking the ground where her feet were moments ago. “You and that damned ape.  Thought I’d gotten the last one with me.” Speaking of, Sampson got the gunk out of his eyes and charged the hunter again, though the ghost dodged out of the way, phasing through a backhanded swing.

“So you’re the one who went around poaching the furs of purplebacked gorillas?  This is your fault? ”  Sam felt her blood boil and fired off another shot with her wrist ray, leaving another dent in the robot and knocking the ghost back.  “They’re going to go extinct because of you!”

“All the more reason to get the last ones in my home.  Unfortunately, you can put several bullets into something and it can still eat you before it realizes it’s supposed to be dead.”  The robot looked down at his body, which was now beginning to spark up, and growled. “Let’s see how well you can replicate that, shall we?”

Before the ghost could fire his cannon at Sam, Sampson grabbed him up from behind and tossed the ghost hard.  Sam’s whip fell to the ground as a rose once more, stem ripped in half. Scooping it up, she ran to the observation deck to get to Danny and Tucker.  “GUYS, GUYS WAKE UP!” Filling the rose with magick again, the stem grew out into a whip once more and she send it flying to the highest rung of the ladder it could reach.  It wound around the metal, clinging tight, and Sam willed it to shrink back to normal size, carrying her with it. The muscles in her arm burned with the strain of pulling herself up into the air like that, but the teen survived it.  Opening the door she saw the robot ready to pounce on her friends, and fired another shot. “Fuck off!”

Between the sound of her Wrist Ray™ going off, the robot stumbling backward and Sam’s naturally loud voice, it was no surprise when Danny and Tucker jolted upward in each other’s arms screaming.  Sampson leapt in through the open door howling in rage and tackled the robot to a table, slamming both fists onto his back. Sparks and pieces flew everywhere, and the ghost reached back with a strain to it’s hydraulics that Sam could hear even past the boys’ screaming.  Sampson was tossed off of the robot but immediately charged after him again, and the ghost vanished from sight.

“Holyshitholyshitholyshit!”  With that flash of light that Sam couldn’t look directly at, Danny was a ghost and grabbing up a raging Sampson by his underarms, flying off toward his enclosure.  Sam let out a sigh as she watched Danny put Sampson back and lock his cruel cage back up. When her friend came back, Sam waved. “ Why did you think lettin a gorilla out was a good idea?”

“He seemed pretty desperate to get out.”  Tucker had his mouth open and Sam covered it with a hand.  “We should go to Danny’s house immediately. There was a ghost here, a fucking robot with a flaming mohawk, and I think he was after Danny cause he didn’t come back to fight me or Sampson when we threw him in this general direction.”  Danny raised his hand and slowly gestured to the wall that had been destroyed by said ghost crashing in. “yes, the ghost being thrown by a gorilla may or may not have made this hole in the wall.” Thankfully the wall pieces were mostly in the observation deck.  And so, Sam held up her hands and started pulling on her magick. While utilizing the first spell she learned to put the wall back together, she explained what happened.

Danny flew them and their scooters back to his house himself.  While Sam and Tucker both got changed for a sleepover, Danny went down to the basement for something, coming back with a look of relief on his face.  “I hope Agatha doesn’t need to go back to the Zone tonight cause the Fentonworks defense system is primed and ready to fire on any ectosignatures it finds for the next 8 hours.”

“You have a… you know what never mind.”  Sam shook her head. “Of course you do. Let’s just… go to sleep and talk about what to do next in the morning, ok?”  Tucker and Danny agreed with her and the three of them found some spot in Danny’s bed, drifting off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Voices, vaguely familiar and carrying warmth called out to him.  They called his name, the sound distant and irrelevant, so small it is lost to the hearts of stars singing deep beneath the soil.  Lost to the blooming nebulas staining the dark sky with color, miles upon miles of light and rivers of fire and the promise of something new.  Danny can almost hear the words and language they speak; something so close, so distant, something he has never known -- but they ring with such magnificent, terrible truth that he thinks, maybe he has always known them. Maybe they have always lived inside him, alongside the bones. These melodies, these words, that burn with such ferocious clarity that if he just spoke them aloud then the far would become near and he could reach out and pluck the stars from the sky and cradle them in his hands.

 

Danny woke up in his bed, surrounded by the warm press of his friends.  The music of his dreams fading to the farthest and darkest reaches of his mind and leaving Danny grasping at nothing for them.  So instead of the music he could barely hear the faintest notes of, Danny focused on his friends. His ears had grown so capable that with some focus he could hear even their heartbeats, and at the moment he was glad.  His friends’ pulses were a reassuring sound, as much as the feeling of them pressed against his body and breathing right next to him on either side - reassurance that they were truly there.

Slipping between the rhythmic dances of their ever vibrating molecules, Danny got out of the bed and landed on his feet near silently.  A glance at the clock told him it was 7:10 AM and Danny was beyond glad that it was Saturday. Holding in a yawn, he walked straight to the bathroom, did his routine, and headed downstairs in just his binder and boxers, as everyone in the household had seen him in already.

Or so he thought.  There was a woman in a purple suit with a tie and curly hair sitting in one of the chairs in his living room, holding up an electronic recorder.  And his parents and sister were on the couch, everyone fully dressed. And staring at him. In his underwear. Considering he just let loose a string of swears therein, he hoped the lady didn’t speak Mandarin.

Three minutes later Danny came down in a purple shirt bearing the FMA logo on it and some sweat pants.  “Uh, hi?”

“Danny, I told you about this interview already,” Jazz said through grit teeth.  “This is Souda Ayodele from Genius magazine.” Her aura was one of angry bees.

Danny turned to stare at the reporter.  “Hi there.” Ms. Ayodele waved back, and Danny walked past the entire event to the kitchen.  “Eggs, or Cereal?” Danny hummed, before catching his mother’s voice pointing out that her focus was ghost hunting.  “Oh, this will be hilarious.” Grabbing cereal, a bowl, and milk, Danny used his intangibility to speed up getting everything together and grabbing a spoon.  He was on the couch in time to hear Jazz claim that ghost hunting was a hobby.

“What they’re really involved in is inventing.”  Jazz smiled, trying to steer the conversation to somewhere safe and normal.

“True,” Mom said as Danny ate his cereal.  “We do invent a majority of the time. I’ve personally worked on improving the power sources for all of our things around Fentonworks.  Though, we do mechanical engineering as well.”

Dad pulled out one of their holographic projectors and hit the button to let it float.  “I have a full inventory of our inventions right here actually! For instance-”

“Dr. Fenton” Ayodele said, clearly having been here long enough to know that if she didn’t just interrupt then Dad would keep talking.  “Pardon the interruption, but is that...device, um...floating?"

Dad and Mom blinked, looking at each other. Even Danny and Jazz cocked their heads at the question. Their parents had been toying around with hover engines for years, what was the big deal about that?

"Well, yes," Mom began. "That's a patented Fenton Gravity Inverter."

"And...how much can your...um, Gravity Inverter lift?" The reporter asked again.

"Approximately one metric ton, depending on the model." Dad shrugged. "But the Gravity Inverter is only a small part of the FentonWorks itinerary, such-”

"I'm sorry, but just to confirm: your laboratory has successfully created a device which can lift a ton of weight into the air without the energy requirements being prohibitive?" The reporter asked finally.

"Yes," Mom explained slowly as if talking to a child. "It's a relatively simplistic application of physics. Both Danny and Jazz, our children, have been building them for us for years while my husband and I focused on more advanced applications of our research. The Gravity Inverter is, quite literally, 'kids stuff.' In fact, I think Danny built the model that we eventually decided on using for the Fenton Holoprojector."

“A waste of an afternoon since I coulda been working on my paints,” Danny muttered around his cereal.

Ayodele turned to the kids fully.  “Mr. and Ms. Fenton, is what your parents saying true?"

Danny shrugged, clearing his throat as he nodded. "Ah, sure. I mean, those things are pretty easy, I could almost build one in my sleep nowadays. They're not like Physics Cancelers or anything, right Jazz?"

"I guess they're pretty easy," Jazz shrugged, uncomfortable with being the center of attention. "Mom and dad only ask us to work with the safe stuff anyway. None of this is too complicated." Jazz turned to her parents, "If you're using the Model II that Danny built for the Projector, why did you want me to put together a Model VI last week?”

Mom smiled, "Oh, that's for the Specter Speeder, sweetie. We'll be showing that off a little later.  At any rate, though, we would like to get on with the demonstration now. Jack, honey, if you would?"

“Rightio Mads!”  Dad pulled out a remote from his pocket and a projection of an oblong, missile-like object coated in shiny metal and streamlined with a flaming F decal on both sides.  The projection spun in the air at Dad’s press of a button.

"The Fenton Ghost Zone Probe," Mom began, “When finished, will be launched into the Ghost Portal and take numerous measurements including temperature, ecto-thermography, radiospectronomy, and more...of course, this will include video and audio data!"

“Did you say… Ghost Portal?”  The woman looked remarkably uneased by the implications of there being a ghost portal, which was understandable.  Danny wasn’t a fan of the fact himself.

“Yup!  We can’t exactly show ya that one just yet,” Dad said with a sigh.  “We didn’t prepare for a presentation proper. We can, however, describe to you exactly how it works!”

And so Dad did just that and Danny tuned him out, eating his cereal since he’d heard this all before about six times.  Instead, he focused on the look of mounting horror on Jazz’s face and counted the seconds before she interrupted Dad again.

“The portal isn’t what we’re here to talk about, Dad!”  Wow, a full 36 seconds. Danny was impressed. “Can we talk about your work in energy?  A self-regenerating energy source?”

“Ectoplasm, Jazz.”  Danny pointed with his spoon.  “They're converting some of the nuclear batteries to use reactions with ectoplasm instead of the usual stuff.”

“Nuclear… batteries?”  The poor reporter looked so lost and Danny had to wonder why.  Did he say something about ghosts? Well beyond ectoplasm but everyone knew ghosts were made of ectoplasm.  “Do the two of you work at a nuclear facility?”

“No?”  Mom frowned.  “We have nuclear batteries in our ghost hunting technology.”

“The entire facility is powered by a reactor under the labs.”  Danny rolled his eyes. “And solar panels on the roof and a backup geothermal generator.  I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad are just looking for ways to replicate those effects with ectoplasm?”

“As we told you, Danny, it’s far more efficient in storage and output of energy than any material we’ve found on earth or any other dimension.”

“I know Mom, I just… I dunno, expected something new?”  Danny shrugged and slurped up the milk from his now empty bowl, relishing in Jazz’s glare.  “Well, I’m gonna be upstairs having fun.” It was then that Danny spotted Tucker and Sam on the stairs, Sam in her black jeans and a Dumpty Humpty shirt she left last time she stayed over and Tucker in a button up of Danny’s.  “Guys, C'mon, ignore the interview we’ve got funner stuff to do.”

“That’s not a word, Danny.”  Sam rolled her eyes. “This explains why English teachers hate you.”

“Oh please,” Danny chuckled as he headed into the kitchen, waiting for Sam and Tucker to grab their breakfast.  “The teachers love me. Lancer’s just a pain.”

“Dude,” Tucker said as he grabbed a bag of bacon bits like they were chips and started eating.  “You guys have nuclear reactors in your house?”

“Well not in this house specifically but yeah,” Danny shrugged.  “Did you think we were on the city’s power grid or something?”

“Actually honey we’re supplying power to the whole town,” Mom called out, displaying that all mothers were supernatural entities that could hear anything.

“Huh.  Well, there ya go.”  Danny shrugged and headed to and up the stairs.  Sam and Tucker soon followed, Sam holding a bowl full of fruit.  “Did you put that there yesterday?”

“Yes, you need healthier food in this house, Danny - also why am I only just learning that you guys power the entire town?”  Sam was scowling at him, and Danny wasn’t sure what he’d done this time.

“Because I only just found out?”

“What did you mean by This house, Danny?”  Tucker sat on Danny’s bed while Sam got into his desk chair.  “Do you guys have more than one house?”

“Yeah, FentonWorks is the entire block.”  Judging by his friends’ expressions, Danny hadn’t told them this.  “I guess it never came up?” Danny held up a game disc. “Did you think I built our HorrorStations in my room?”  Danny slid the disc into the hand made console, grabbed his controller, and sat next to Tucker.

Before Tucker could respond, Danny felt a chill run up his spine and he looked around on the second realm, but he was too late.  The robot Sam had described appeared, right behind Danny, arm aimed point blank at him. A net shot out and tangled around Danny’s body, throwing him off the bed and into his own console.  In seconds, all three of them were bound in blue nets. “Hello, Ghost Child.”

“Who are you?”  Danny arched a brow.  He needed a moment to pull that power of the void into his muscles.  If he transformed in the house for a fight his parents would not only notice but come up and see his ghost form instead of him.

“I am Skulker,” the robot said, holding up a holographic projection of a cage filled with green abominations unto all gods Danny could think of.  “A collector of things rare and unique. And you, ghost child, are that and more.” Skulker laughed, far more dramatically than he deserved to, and took a step, Danny’s rocket cracking and shattering into pieces.

“That’s my fucking rocket!”  Danny could see his veins light up with green energy as he pulled and ripped the net off of himself.  “I built that!”

“There we go!”  Skulker cheered.  “I had been hoping for more of a fight out of you~”

Danny heard Sam whisper, her net falling away from her body when Danny glanced at her, and grinned.  “Oh don’t you worry about there being a fight!” Danny dove toward Tucker while Sam held up her hand and hissed out … something, he wasn’t sure what.  A beam of crackling blue energy lanced out toward Skulker, crackling along his circuitry. Skulker let out a deep growl but grinned all the same, reaching out to slam his fist into Sam, knocking her back but being pushed back all the same by the arc of lightning that refused to die.

Between Danny and Tucker pulling and pushing at the net around him, the taller teen was released from the torn up net and Danny reached under his bed, shoving an ectopistol into Tucker’s hand.  Tucker pulled the trigger while Danny grabbed another pistol for himself. Skulker was flung back into the wall, leaving a spiderweb of cracks in the purple drywall. “Wow, any hunter worth his gun knows you don’t announce yourself to your prey and monologue.”

“Silence whelp!”  Skulker aimed a blaster at Sam, who dodged out of the way, the lightning between her and the enemy breaking off.  “Arrogant Witch, you think you can defeat the Ghost Zone’s greatest Hunter?” Danny answered this with a shot to Skulker’s face, denting it.  Sam raised her hand to cast another spell but Skulker beat her to the punch, grabbing Tucker by his waist and tossing him into the goth. “Damn you!”

Glancing downward, Skulker saw something on the floor and quickly snatched it up.  Inspecting Tucker’s PDA of all things Skulker…ripped a piece of his own mechanical body off.  Danny felt bile rising up his throat at the implications if the ghost Was the robot. “That’s your fucking arm!”  Danny was ignored as the PDA took the place of the smashed panel, and wires reached out, plugging into the device with green light that flowed like ink into it.

“I had three payments left on that!”  Tucker fired a shot but it missed Skulker’s head by a foot, and Sam pushed Tucker off of her.  Skulker held up his arm and a much bigger gun with about four barrels that Danny could count built itself from the arm.  “Holy shit.”

Then the door to Danny’s room was kicked open, Mom and Dad holding up rifles.  When Jazz looked in and saw Danny in danger, aiming a gun at a robot with a flaming mohawk and Tucker tossed into Sam, Danny beamed at the sight of his sister whipping out her own ectopistol.  “GET AWAY FROM OUR BABY BOY GHOST SCUM!” There was something about that sentence that made Danny relax and tense up at the same time. Perhaps it was seeing Skulker’s body fade out of human sight, into that spot where only Danny could see him if he really looked but he couldn’t.  Danny’s eyes glowed when he focused too hard on the second realm and his folks were on high alert. So when Skulker left the room, Danny could only scramble to his feet, ignoring the cracks and damages in his room and looking around for any sign that skulker had simply begun to maneuver.

For several tense moments, nothing happened.  Slowly, Danny felt the tension bleed out of his muscles, and he groaned, turning around to check on Sam.  “You cool?”

“You think a little punch is enough to talk me down?”  Sam rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, true.  Tuck?”

“My glasses are cool and I’ll be a little sore but otherwise I’m good.”

That was good.  It meant Danny could focus on his room having been trashed.  Or his parents and sister rushing over to check on him. “I swear, guys, it was just a net, he didn’t get a shot on me.”  Or the reporter in the hallway still frozen in what might’ve been shock considering the rapid rise and fall of her chest. “Ms. Ayodele appears to need medical attention.”

Mom took action and control.  Dad was left with making sure everyone was absolutely safe while Mom and Jazz took Ms. Ayodele downstairs to help with shock.  And, ok, Danny realized his hands were shaky, and his friends were both looking around ready to fight again, but they managed this the first two times they were in danger from ghost stuff.  They could handle it this time too right?

Tucker and Sam were talking, and Dad was talking.  Their voices were muffled and Danny wasn’t sure what exactly was being said because he was floating a little bit.  Thankfully his body wasn’t floating but he was, floating away from it a bit. Like a balloon on a string tied to the body.  His Dad was hugging him but it felt… off. Like he wasn’t actually feeling it. But it felt good too so he focused on that part.  And on breathing. And a heartbeat - not his but Dad’s.

Danny blinked slowly several times, and found himself in the kitchen with a cup of hot chocolate.  Tucker had a hand on his back and was watching him take a sip. Valid concern to have since Danny drained the cup in one go.  “Did we teleport?”

“You were in shock, actually.”  Tucker patted Danny’s shoulder, and Danny turned to see Sam and Jazz were also at the table.  And Mom and Dad. “I guess the attack really got to you?”

“I mean it got to all of us,” Sam pointed out.  “We beat him off but no ghost has just gone into one of our houses like that before.”  Sam wrapped an arm around Danny and the blanket that someone - Jazz probably - had draped on him.  “I fixed up your room by the way. Well, the walls. I dunno how to fix your HorrorStation.”

“I’ll do that later.”  Danny thumbed the rim of his cup and tried for a smile.  It wasn’t big but it felt ok at least. “Uh, is the defense matrix up again?”

“Darn right it is, son!”  Dad still spoke in exclamations, which was good.  That was normal. “That ectoplasmic scum will think twice about coming anywhere near Fentonworks!”  Dad was just there all of a sudden, right in Danny’s bubble and pulling him into a tight hug.

“I’ve been told… lungs are important.”  Danny hugged back anyway of course, he wasn’t going to leave this hug ever.

“Mom, Dad,” Jazz piped up.  “The things that come out of the portal are clearly dangerous .  One attacked Danny in his room!”  The squeeze of Dad’s hug got uncomfortably tighter.  “Why haven’t we shut down the portal yet?”

“We’ve tried, Jazzerincess, can’t get the darn thing to turn off.”  Danny felt his blood run even colder.

“What?”

Mom sighed and ran a hand over her face.  “We unplugged it, cut all the power from the portal but it seems to be self-sustaining.  All we can do is block it up with those blast doors.”

For several moments there was silence while everyone digested that they had no solid way of keeping the ghosts out of their world.  Then Tucker turned to Sam. “Hey Sam, think you can spare a spellbook?” When Danny pulled his head away from his dad to stare at Tucker he found his family doing the same.  “You did pretty well at handling Skulker with that magick of yours.”

“That was something I wanted to ask you about, Sam,” Mom said.  She had that tone, that look in her eye she got when she’d found something fascinating in a chemical structure to tear apart and make use of.  “How did you do all of that? I saw it when you pulled the wall back together with a few gestures and… it didn’t sound like Yiddish, what it was you were saying.”

“Oh yeah,” Sam shrugged.  “That was magick. I’ve recently been able to make use of it.”  Mom and Dad both focused in on that, pulling on their goggles.

“Care to demonstrate?”  Mom turned on her multispectrum recording if he remembered that button right on her hood.  Joy.

Sam whispered her words of woodland wisdom and a small ball of light appeared in her palm.  Mom and Dad looked beyond fascinated, and Danny had to agree that managing to do that without tech was incredible.  “If you wanna figure it out we can head to the Skulk and Lurk sometime Tuck, they have good books for this stuff.”

“Incredible!”  Dad kept altering his goggle settings every second and grinned like a madman.  “I’ve never seen radiation frequencies like this before!”

“We’ll have to see if we can pick up any hotspots involving it around town,” Mom noted as she pulled out a notebook.  “Amity Park has a variety of extradimensional energy frequencies flowing around it.”

Danny, not wanting to think about portal science anymore, stretched and groaned.  “I think I’m gonna go finish up on my own bit of scientific revolution. Tucker, Sam, wanna join me?”  Danny walked over to the pantry, pulling out some chips.

Sam agreed, Tuck half a second behind her.  They all went down to the sublab where Danny did most of his chemical experiments, and Danny finally managed to finish that paint of his.

Chapter Text

Danny and Tucker spent the whole afternoon fixing Danny’s HorrorStation, both of them glad that the parts were in the shed at least.  With breaks for snacks, a movie, and all three arguing which monster movie monsters were the most unrealistically used in media - Tucker won because self-improving AI wouldn’t let there be a fight it’d just subtly kill everything all at once - the two managed to finish it by the middle of Sunday morning.

That was fine until Tucker told Danny they needed to go to the library and actually study.  “You won’t focus on it if we’re here when we just finished building a console,” Tuck said as he put his tools back in his kit. “We gotta go somewhere neither of us will be tempted.”

“Tucker’s right, Danny.  I, on the other hand, have a date with the Skulk and Lurk.”  Sam held up her book of magick, all of which had been a bit more nature-themed than Tucker liked.  “Meet up noonish there?”

“Sure,” Danny sighed, setting down his tools.  “I should be able to learn plenty for the report at the library and reference our oh so exciting time with Sampson to do the report.”  Danny rolled his eyes.

“Oh, that reminds me.”  Sam’s aura went dark, a hissing cat at the edge of his hearing.  “Skulker. He said he died putting down the last female purple back gorilla in a hunt.  Name’s Hunter Grosvenor.”

Danny covered his mouth with his hand, curling his fingers into a fist slowly.  Blowing air into it, he resisted the urge to growl. Tucker glared at the sky, daring Skulker to appear so he could dismantle him personally.  “I’ve not felt so incredibly violent in a while. I need videogames to-”

“No.  Let’s grab our sneakers then head to the library.”  Tucker was pulling Danny to the elevator and Danny could just phase out of his grip and play videogames.  But, he needed this grade so he settled for being dead weight.  “What’s so funny?”

“I’m half dead weight but somehow you’re pulling me pretty fast.”  Danny huffed. “Do I weigh anything to you?”

“Yes, you’re a sack of potatoes.”  Sam joined them and Danny groaned. “By the way, I just remembered this but, during that interview that we definitely weren’t listening in on from the stairs, you said something about… Gravity Inverters ™ and Physics Cancelers ™.”

“Yes, yes I did.”  Danny got to his feet as the elevator took them up to the ground floor and he stretched his arms until his spine popped.  “Why?”

“I need an example of a Physics Canceller™.”  Tucker pinned him with a look. “Like… how the hell can you cancel physics?”

“Uuuuh, with science ?”  Danny raised a brow at Tucker.  “My parents came up with em. Like uh, my dad and I made the portapocket I’m using.”  Danny pats all of his pockets and watches as Tucker’s head tilts to the left slowly and Sam’s eyes widen steadily.  “What?”

“What do you mean by portapocket?”  Sam asked. “How much can you keep in your pockets?”

“Uh, 226.796 kilograms?”  There was a long moment of silence as the elevator slowed to a stop and Danny stepped out.  He turned back and Tucker and Sam were staring at him. “What?”

“You know what, he’s half dead and has a portal to another dimension in his basement,” Tucker mumbled to himself.  “Might as well have pockets that can carry fucking 500 pounds.”

“We have other portals around the facility actually, those ones are unplugged though.”  Danny hummed. “I wonder what’s keeping the Ghost Portal™ open?”

“Gorillas, Danny.”  Sam poked him in the cheek and Tucker pulled Danny to the door, ignoring his groan of agitation.  “Explain how your family broke physics some other time.”

Regardless of Sam’s words, Tucker prodded Danny about Fenton Tech the whole way to the library, and Danny watched as his best friend took notes on his info dumping.   “How many of those do you have?”

“I had 2,” Tucker grumbled.  “Can we cut the guy’s arm off so I can get my PDA back next we see him?  I still have payments to make on both of them.” Danny shook his head at Tucker.

“If we can dismantle the fire-haired ghostly robot hunting us down, then yes, we will retrieve your PDA.  Which, wow, it was compatible with his whole ass body. How?”

“Ghosts are weird,” Tucker shrugged.  “Now, onto apes of the silvery purple back kind.”  Danny huffed a long sigh but nodded and headed inside.  The computers in the library were beyond ancient but they managed well enough to get him the gorilla info.  Danny felt like he’d gotten an ok grasp on it all in the two hours they’d spent there, while Tucker looked up anything he could find on Skulker’s living self.

“80 major kills that got him any significant sums of money, had it all given to ‘Whoever gets the biggest catch’ out of his hunting buddies, had a fondness of poison darts on bigger game, loved to go after dangerous shit that was also endangered as hell.”  Tucker closed down his notes with a scowl on his face to rival Sam’s. “The fucking worst, basically.”

“Disgusting,” Danny shook his head.  As they left the library, research notes on a USB, Danny felt the music faintly playing in the recesses of his mind - a melody crafted from the inner songs of all the things around him - shifted to a different tone.  Danny ducked out of the way as a web of glowing blue and green launched at him and Tucker - pinning Tuck to the wall while Danny glared at the air where the net had come from. “Traps now?”

Danny felt the shot at the same time that Skulker came into view.  Gritting his teeth he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a Fenton EctoRifle™ and pulled the trigger, turning to shoot away the goo on Tucker’s right hand.  “You do not understand the way of The Hunt, do you, child?”

Danny stumbled back as twin shots slammed him and singed his jacket.  “Wángbā dàn! This is my favorite jacket you idiota tonto!” Danny’s first shot caught Skulker in his chest, broad as it was, and a shot from his wrist ray freed Tucker’s other hand.  “The Hunter’s code is ‘We hunt those who hunt us’ you waste of dust!” Out of the corner of his eye, Danny saw Tucker carefully shooting away his bonds with his wrist ray. People with proper fear responses were running away from the scene screaming, and Danny grinned.  No civilians to accidentally shoot.

Speaking of, Danny was shot in the chest, and then felt a blade drag across his skin, knocking the gun from his hand.  With a loud scream, Danny stumbled back and threw a punch with his free hand. It dented Skulker’s faceplate by the slightest margin and Danny grit a smile through the pain.  His Wrist Ray ™ went off and left a nice burn mark on Skulker’s face, making the ghost back up. “Like the taste of ionized ectoplasm, asshole?”

Tucker fired off a shot as he hit the ground, which Skulker just barely managed to dodge.  Skulker took aim but a ringtone went off from his arm and Tucker’s pocket. Looking at his arm, Skulker read out, “Go to the newsstand and pick up research on purple back gorillas?”  What looked like the wings of a jet popped out of Skulker’s back, turbines whirring. “No! The Hunt is not over!” The ghost’s wings did not obey him, firing off with enough force that Danny had to cover his face or get a few rocks to the eyes.  When the ghost was gone, Danny ran to check on Tucker.

“Are you ok?”  Danny looked Tucker over, even sliding his sight between the first and second layers of reality to look past his clothes to check for bruises.  Finding none, he sighed.

“Yeah, I’m fucking fine.  What about you? Your hand got cut!”  Danny looked down at his hand and blinked.  There was a line of muddy brown leaking from his hand where it should’ve been red.  If he looked closer, which he did, Danny could see that it was still red, but with a soft green glow coming from within.  Probably from within each individual cell.

“Huh.  It did, didn’t it?”  Danny watched, transfixed as the odd blood slowly pulled itself back into his wound.  “I’m not bleeding anymore. Isn’t that weird?”

“We need to get you home,” Tucker said.  It was the tone he used when Danny wasn’t focusing on the world around him anymore, which was fair he supposed.  Danny wasn’t really paying attention to much but the cut on his hand, and the rifle he was picking up with his other one.  He couldn’t lose those they were FentonWorks exclusive weapon designs after all. Looking up, Danny saw there were people staring at them now.

“We should go into an alley.”  Danny looked, in that same way he looked past Tucker’s clothes, at the various walls around them.  It was less looking through them and more around them but in a way that his brain had trouble making sense of.  It was like crossing his eyes on purpose or trying not to blink. The world slipped into hues of green and silver, and Danny saw a dead end.  He wasn’t sure what was so funny about it, but the thought of a dead end had the boy giggling out of control against his best friend, and even as he pulled him toward the alley in question.  “Don’t worry, I know a short cut.” Danny reached into himself, reached toward that all-encompassing void and searched, reaching around it, and tugging gently. He pulled it outward to fill himself, but also guided it into Tucker, who gasped at the cold of it all.  A numbing cold that left you weightless and set you above laws such as gravity or physical barriers. It was the simplest thing to slip both of them passed the alley wall. Danny could’ve flown them both home but Tucker needed air. Not one to let his friends run out of an essential like that, Danny slipped back onto the first realm and filled his own lungs with a slow breath.

“Danny we’re gonna be like, all over youtube I bet.”  Tucker chuckled. “Local Geeks Fight Glowing Robot in Broad Daylight.”  Danny hummed, reaching into himself once more and tugging on that wonderful void of his.  It welcomed him and filled and enveloped him, a flash of light from the countless stars within Danny’s soul illuminating the alleyway as gravity was unbound from his body and the only thing tethering Danny to the earth’s very atmosphere was his own desire to stay there.  “That does not actually help our situation of not wanting to be captured.”

“It does,” Danny said, though Tucker didn’t look or sound very assured, the mechanical wolf curled at his legs looking far more skeptical than Tucker’s face betrayed.  “When I turn invisible but not intangible I’m absorbing all the photons, not letting them pass through me, so you can like, breathe still.” Tucker nodded and held out an arm, Danny wrapping his own around Tucker’s waist.  The light that struck them stuck to their forms, the extra heat funneling to Danny and warming his cold blue skin. Rising up from the earth, Danny flew off toward the clouds, zooming at speeds even the fastest predators couldn’t achieve unaided.

Holy shit Danny!”  Tucker clung to Danny as tight as he could, which only threw him off balance a little bit.  In this form, everything was a bit lighter, even his heaviest friend. “Don’t fucking take off at high speeds without warning a guy at least!”

“Sorry!”  Danny wasn’t as sorry as he probably should be.  Tucker was safe with him, he’d never let him go. And like this, Danny was able to see so much more than he did when everyone else could see him.  The backdrop of the world fell away, buildings and roads and forgeries of the earth slipping beyond the background until all he could see were rivers of pinks and greens and oranges and so many lights and colors!  “Everything looks so pretty in grack, ya know? But the blurple is a wonderful addition.”

“Danny literally everything is pitch black to me right now.”  Tucker reminded him and Danny nodded, feeling heavier with the realization that Tucker and Sam, and his Mom and Dad and Jazz.  They couldn’t see the world the way he could, stuck inside the clay flesh like they were. Diving down toward his house, Danny remembered the defense grid and landed instead a block or two away from it.  Once his boot touched the ground, Danny took a moment to refine himself, pull himself back into his body. It was a struggle, some part of himself not remembering how it fit into something so small, and part of him not wanting to be so easily defined by the confines of a human body.  In a flash, the conflict was won out by the parts of him that just wanted to go back into his bed and lay down with Tucker and sleep.

“That was amazing!”  Tucker beamed at him and kept holding Danny up.  “How bout when we’re not being dogged by a homicidal ghost we go for a fly together again?  Think you can carry Sam too?”

“Yeah, she’s lighter.”  Danny nodded, maybe a few too many times.  “And that sounds like a great idea. I think I wanna paint you a picture of what I saw.”  What specifically, Danny wasn’t sure, but he was sure as hell gonna do it. And as he walked toward his home, Danny turned to one of the other buildings instead of his home.  In the house directly next to his, Danny ascended the stairs and found himself in his art room.

“Dude, why didn’t you tell me you’ve got a whole room for your art projects?”  Tucker was looking around at Danny’s half finished drawings and paintings and a few comic panel sheets that Danny had tacked to the walls here and there while Danny grabbed a fresh canvas.  “This is amazing!”

“Thanks.”  Danny wasn’t entirely sure what he was painting now, only that he’d finally moved his new paints to the room.  It was only blurple so far but that was ok. He could work with that.

 

[To SpoopyPlants: Got attckd by Sklkr @ library.  @ Danny’s art studio now.]

[SpoopyPlants: r u guys ok? ]

[SpoopyPlants: Danny has an art studio? ]

[To SpoopyPlants: Yeah, we’re fine and its like a fckin master bedroom ]

[SpoopyPlants: ofc.  Parents r mad i stayed ovr @ Danny’s can’t com over till ltr ]

[To SpoopyPlants: b careful. ]

[SpoopyPlants: you too. ]

 

He’s surrounded by fire and ash and the heat of magma rising to the surface blistering his face as the mountain shook beneath his feet, throwing him to his hands and knees.  The humans were all so confused but there, on the third and second realms, Danny could see the twisting warped echoes of the struggle between himself and the dragon. Could the humans see it?  Anything of it at all? Can humans see anything of importance at all?

 

Danny woke up with Tucker’s shoulder in his face and the sound of his alarm blaring like klaxons in his ear.  Groaning he reached out into the cool air of his room beyond the covers and smacked the top of the clock until it stopped making noise.  Danny was tempted, heavily, to simply burrow his face deeper into Tucker - who was an excellent space heater - and go back to sleep. Tucker was cruel, however, and pulled the bedsheets off of him like the horrible friend he was.  “Nooo,” Danny most certainly did not whine. “Comfy.”

“The alarm was set for a reason, Danny,” Tucker grumbled, sitting up with a yawn.  “And as your time manager,” another yawn and Danny’s glare boring a hole in Tucker’s skull.  “It’s my job to make sure you’re on time.”

“Does that mean you’ll just be here every night in my bed?”  Danny meant to make a joke about chores or something, but Tucker’s face lit up that dark shade of red that most people were too blind to notice on him when he blushed.  Danny was then on the floor with a yelp, flailing and groaning into the blanket that fell with him. “You’re evil.”

“I’m chaotic neutral at worst, Danny.”  Tucker grabbed some clothes he’d left over at some point.  An icy blue sweater that read Too Cool For You on it in white and some cargo jeans.  Where Tucker found cargo jeans Danny could only guess.  “Calling the shower.”

“I get food first then.”  Danny could see Tucker doing the math in his head to decide which thing he wanted first dibs on most.  Tucker walked backward out of Danny’s room still holding the clothes, so Danny sighed and accepted his fate of never getting the hot water in the morning.  “I’m making all the bacon and eggs for Fentons only then, I guess. Tuck gets toast, cereal, and fruit.”

 

“He hasn’t attacked the whole way to school,” Sam noted, “So that’s a good thing.”

“Yeah, but who knows when he’ll attack?  He tried to jump me in my own home.”

“And got his ass handed to him in half a minute flat.”

Walking into the school Danny found himself looking all around him in the second realm.  He didn’t see Skulker, but the other ghost had been scarily stealthy before. Thanks to his uneasy search into that part of reality that his friends couldn’t look at, Danny didn’t really pay attention to the more human auras around him and nearly bumped into someone.  Thankfully, Sam pulled him out of the collision course. “Thanks.”

“No problem.  Did you actually, ya know, do the report on Sampson?”  Sam arched a brow. “You went into a secure environment with guns looking for Skulker’s metallic behind.”

“True, and yeah, I did half of it already,”  Danny grumbled. “I’m not slacking off Sam, you know that.”

“Plus he’s got me to make sure-”

“Pester me about.”

“Make Sure that he’s managing his time right.”  Tucker’s chest puffed out like a rooster and Danny snorted, rolling his eyes.  Tucker glanced around, smile dropping minutely, and his voice lowered. “Guys, we’ve got more attention than normal.”  Danny swept his eyes over the halls and nodded in agreement. Several of the classmates they were passing by were giving them looks or - if his ears didn’t deceive him since voices mingled and mixed up so easily - were whispering about them.

Danny silently slipped Tucker $10 and pouted.  “So it appears the youtube video got out.”

“Either that or Genius Magazine released their issue on your family already,” Sam suggested.  “Though, that doesn’t happen so quickly. Editing and approval processes.”

“True, true.”  Danny hissed as the sound of the warning bell met his ears.  “C’mon, we gotta get to class.”

 

Class was boring with Lancer, notes being passed and taken while Danny let his mind wander to his new project to work on: rebuilding his model rocket.  He needed to make the Gravity Inverter for it first and foremost since he wanted to actually fly it around. It'd have to wait till he got home.

When the bell rang, Danny and friends headed to their lockers, Danny pulling a fidget cube from his pocket on the way.  He blinked in confusion when Sam stopped him, since their lockers were still 3 feet away and he wasn't planning to test if he had telekinesis yet, only to look up from his cube and stare.

Curly auburn hair, green eyes, freckles, a green shirt with a black dragon logo on it, and a nervous smile were standing in front of Danny's locker.  Danny didn't quite recognize the boy from any of the sports teams, but he had to guess basketball from how tall the guy was. He was also staring at Danny.  And waving. "Uh Hi, I'm Haddock, nice to meet you."

Tucker nudged Danny in the ribs and he remembered that he was supposed to respond to greetings with greetings.  "Uh, hi? I'm Danny." He tentatively shook the hand and tried for a smile. "Nice to meet you too. Why are you in front of my locker?"

Haddock's eyes drifted for a second and he cleared his throat.  "Uh, I saw that video of you fighting a flaming robot, and I was wondering if it was real?  Like, did that really happen?"

Danny sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.  "Yeah, it happened. I have no idea why it's attacking me, but it's been on me for a bit."  Haddock looked like he was about to ask more before a blonde girl came up behind him and sighed loud and heavy.

"I can't just sit and watch the goober beat around the bush.  I'm too good a friend for that," she said, ignoring a desperate and pleading look on Haddock and simply ramping up Danny's confusion.  "He thinks you're cute. There, it's been said, my work is done." She patted Haddock's shoulder and jogged away.

Danny had never seen a face get that red that quickly but from the heat on his face and neck, Danny bet he was no better.  He heard Sam shaking with poorly restrained laugher next to him and could hear the trilling rhythmic notes if Tucker's amusement blaring loud from his aura.  "Uh…”

"Willyougooutwithme?"  It was blurted and mushed together and a bit squeakier than Haddock had started with, but Danny understood right away and simply nodded.  He didn't trust his own voice at the moment. "Thanks, bye, see ya!" And then his… date was gone. And Danny was left staring at his locker, the rest of the students in the hall snickering at him.

"Smooth, real smooth.  Look at you, Danny, gettin dates left and right."  Tucker ruffled Danny’s hair, earning a light shove.

“Shut up, I got like, 2 dates?  Literally ever.” Danny rolled his eyes, fighting the heat pooling all over his face while he turned the dial of his locker.

“Guess you’re finally getting that popularity you always wanted,” Sam laughed, holding her exposed stomach now that Haddock wasn’t there for her to scare off with her sinister sounding cackles.

Which were cut off when fucking chains and goop flew out of Danny’s now open locket.  Danny was slammed backward, tipping over onto his back as chains coiled around his torso and screams met his ears.  He looked up and saw Sam pinned to the wall in a ball of blue goo and let out a litany of swears.

Fire filled the corridors of the school and coalesced as a hulking body of metal, leather, and green flames.  “Finally, child, I have you now.” Skulker aimed a gun at Danny and Tucker was raising his wrist ray to fire back.  A ringtone rang from Skulker’s arm and Tucker’s pocket, the robot glaring down at his arm. “Go to newsstand for separate magazine article on purple back gorillas?”  The jetpack wings of the robot popped out, turbines firing up, and Skulker ejected himself from the situation, turning intangible just in time to avoid smashing through the roof.

The goop covering Sam vanished, dropping the goth on her knees and Danny’s chains turned to so much ectoplasmic mist.  The boys ran over to Sam, helping her to her feet. “Oh my stars, Sam are you ok?”

Sam let out a few loud coughs, shivering furiously.  “I don’t know… what that shit was… but it tasted nasty.”

Tucker laughed, voice a step or three higher than usual and breathing shaky.  “You’re fine.”

“What the fuck just happened?”  A voice, one he’d just heard and hoped not to hear till at least lunch.  Haddock. Shit, that was him right at the corner of the hall.  Stars, Haddock would be in so much danger if Danny went on a date with him, Skulker would use him as bait.  Danny wasn’t sure when his feet started moving but he was in the bathroom, breath coming in deep gasps and a hand, Tucker’s hand on his back moving in circles.

“That’s it, buddy, breathe.  I want you on this side of that emerald event horizon as long as possible, alright?”  Tucker chuckled, but it was quieter than it was genuine, and Danny could see his reflection.

Green eyes were the only thing that could definitely be seen, the hot parts of his face vanishing from sight as the feeling roiled over his body like water in a boiling lake.  The hand gripping the sink sank through it, a static feeling of wrong wrong wrong shooting through his bones and blood and nerves and skin.  Danny yanked his hands up to his face, his freakout escalating as his skin became transparent and in the now flickering light of the fluorescent bulbs, Danny could see his bones .   All of this is happening because I’m ‘unique’, ‘rare’, a fucking FREAK .   We’re only in danger because I stepped into that stupid fucking portal .  The mirrors shivered and static filled his ears and his vision and covered his skin, green sparks rolling across and throughout him in waves.

Slender arms covered in yellow cotton wrapped around him, pulling Danny’s head against something flat, familiar, and warm.  He could make out a word. “Listen.” The whirring of computer fans working overtime to cool down a hard drive working at maximum capacity, metal grinding against metal as screws were stripped in frustrated bouts of aggression, laughter shaken with nerves, bad puns about cyborgs, zombies, and plants.  Danny pulled away from that second layer of reality, a part he didn’t want, not now not ever again. He listened instead to the soft cadence of Tucker’s heart, the steady and measured pace of his breathing, and let himself get wrapped up in it. Danny counted their breaths until they synced up and he felt himself cooling down all over his body.

After forever, Tucker poked Danny’s cheek.  “You good, space cadet?”

“No, but I can manage from here.”  Danny frowned when Tucker kept poking him and licked his finger.

“Gross, dude, do you know how many bacteria are in this bathroom?”

“Did I lick a toilet, Tucker?”

“No, you phased through the door and nearly blew the lights.”  Tucker patted Danny on the head. “Much more sanitary, I gotta admit.”

Danny chuckled and Tucker smiled a bit wider.  Then everything filled his head again, and Danny groaned, leaning as heavily as he could on Tucker.  “We’re real fuckin late aren’t we?”

“Skulker’s attack prompted the school to let out early in case he comes back and your parents should’ve been-”  A six foot man wearing a dayglow orange hazmat suit - otherwise known as Dr. Jack Fenon, the most embarrassing father known to teen - chose that particular moment to kick the bathroom door open with a BANG.  “Notified.”

“DANNYBOY!  Are you ok?”

Danny should be having a good day.  He was wearing his usual plain red t-shirt, jeans, and jacket.  His hair was a nest of fluffy curls that surrounded his head like a cloud of ink, and he had many plans for the day.  All normal.

He was with the police being tested on gun safety, however, so things weren’t normal.  This was particularly irritating, as his parents were renovating his high school so as to make it safer to be in while he was being hunted by a fucking ghost.  Therefore, it was the perfect time to dedicate his brainpower to plotting a trap for Skulker. Instead, he wasted his whole morning and part of the afternoon in a police station.  Danny and Jazz had been able to pull apart, inspect, clean, reassemble, and fire the ecto-pistols, rifles, and even bazookas almost as fast as their parents could. They went pretty fast with the ballistic handguns too but they hadn’t actually used those much.  Once the cops were satisfied, Danny had to wait and complain to them about the unfairness of how they were treating Tucker.

When Sam pointed out that the power to the city was privately distributed by the Fentons and that they could easily back the Foleys in a legal battle against the APPD, things went rather very quickly.  Jazz and Danny corrected Sam and Tucker’s stances and shooting, and the four of them finally went back to Fentonworks.

Once Jazz was out of earshot doing a report or an essay or something, Danny wasn’t paying attention, Danny turned to Tucker.  “So I’ve been thinking. Your PDA went off when Skulker’s arm went off, and I’m betting your schedule thing showed the exact same thing as Skulker read out.”

Tucker whipped out his PDA while Danny was still talking and nodded.  “I’m guessing he isn’t actually able to overwrite my OS, since I programmed it myself, and while it boosts his armor somehow, it also overrides his own control.”  A smile spread over Tucker’s face, a nasty looking grin that Tucker only got when he was about to ruin someone’s life through hacking. “Oh, I like where this idea is going.”

“Sam, can you get us into the zoo again?”  Danny wasn’t even going to ask how he was just beaming when she nodded yes.  “ Perfect .  I have a plan.”

 

“Where is he?”  Skulker glared down at the purple back gorilla that he planned on dealing with after his primary hunt was finished.  “According to this infernal device that I cannot reprogram the ghost boy was supposed to be here an hour ago.”  Skulker glided down to the ground and shouted over in the direction of the gorilla.  “You were supposed to be the bait, you stupid animal!”

The gorilla turned to him, far calmer than a gorilla would normally be when faced with an unknown entity in its habitat.  As it turned, white and purple fur turned black and muscle and bone folded inward, collapsing and melting into an infuriatingly familiar form.  “Sampson’s not stupid!” The witch glared at him in challenge and Skulker growled at her and the boy next to her.

“He’s also not here,” Tucker said, not even looking up from his PDA at Skulker.  “I can take a message though.”

Activating all of his weapons, Skulker planned on teaching him why that was a bad idea.  It’d make a nice final life lesson. “You’ll pay for this!”

“I don’t think so.”  That damnable sound rang out and Skulker glanced at the message.   10:10 time for pushups.  The servos and hydraulics of Skulker’s suit whirred in protest as he tried to manually resist the command.  To his mortification, he found himself doing pushups on the ground of the gorilla habitat.

“No, Stop!  Damnit I can’t stop!”

“I can help with that~”  The vindictive voice of a hybrid scorned filled Skulker’s ears before they rang from the force of two ectoblasts striking him in the face and chest, knocking him backward.  “This is frankly rare, I’ve never engaged in mental combat with the unarmed.” Skulker could see power ringing through the boy’s voice and growled as it hit him like a dart to the skull.

“Frankly this is karma coming into play.”  The girl raised her hands and beneath his armor, grass grew into vines and weeds that wound around Skulker’s armor.  Getting up as quickly as possible, he snapped and tore through them, aiming a shoulder cannon at the ghost boy. The human in the beret tapped something on his PDA and Skulker’s arm beeped yet again, the canon morphing itself into brushes that immediately began to scrub at his face.  “You died hunting a beautiful creature and now you’re trying to do it again?”

“That’s honestly kinda sad.  I’d be sadder for you if I hadn’t been goo cuffed to a wall in public.  For now, stop hitting yourself.” The scrubbers didn’t stop but Skulker’s own arm began to pound against his skull.

“Tucker quit messing around.”

“Power him down already!”

 The boy was holding up and waving his device around.  Aim carefully. “Re lax guys, everything is totally under-”

 

Skulker’s arrow pierced Tucker’s PDA and pinned it to a tree.  “Control. Shit .  I had four more payments on that!”

“Tucker, you’re fired.”  Danny turned his glare from his friend to his enemy.

“Very well.”   gods above is he monologing?  “I planned on simply capturing you and letting you live the rest of your life in a cage.”   He is monologuing.

“How generous of you.”  Danny patted his head, thankful that his whole body was an eye and he could focus on the white and purple shape at the top of the tree.

“Now, I will rest your pelt at the foot of my bed!”

“Okay, that’s just gross.”  Sam shuddered, hands raised.  

“Well, ghost boy?”  Skulker raised his arm cannon at Danny.  “Any last words?”

“Just this.”  Danny made a peekaboo gesture, then beat on his chest like drums.

As Danny turned around and scratched his butt in Skulker’s face the robot bellowed.  “What are you doing?”

“Calling a friend.”  Danny watched in delight as Sampson came down and bludgeoned Skulker so hard a piece of armor came flying off.  When the second swing missed, Danny fired off a couple of shots from his ectorifle. Skulker stumbled back into Sampson’s range.  Skulker swung backward at the gorilla, smacking it in the face, and lost his arm as a consequence.

“You learned gorilla?”

“All he does is scratch his butt.”  Danny shrugged and floated over between his best friends.  They watched Sampson tear Skulker apart.

“One thing I’m still not getting is why a ghost needed a high-tech mech suit.”  Tucker ducked as he spoke these words, as did Sam and Danny, as chunks of Skulker ended up being thrown their way too.  Danny caught the head and blinked as a small tinny voice came out of it, tiny legs thrashing from the hollow portion between the neck and the shoulders.

“I am the greatest hunter that ever lived!”  Danny grabbed those tiny legs and pulled. “You should be quaking in fear, child!  I shall hunt you down and-”

“You’re a frog,”  Danny said with a laugh that he didn’t even try to contain, laughing steadily harder and harder but his grip only tightening around his diminutive enemy.  Glowing green skin, red eyes, a tiny mouth, legs, and arms. It was like a humanoid frog squirming in his hands and he couldn’t stop laughing. “You’ve been trying to catch me and ruin my life for a damn week but you’re nothing but a fucking frog?  Wow, guess that shows how little soul you ever had in life.” Danny looked over at Sam. “Thermos please before I make a mildly radioactive mess in this gorilla habitat?” Sam obligingly sucked Skulker into the thermos as Danny dropped to the ground.  “Let’s go home.”

“You got anything for your report?”  Sam raised a brow. “Don’t want you getting a D just because of him.”

“Eh, it’s fine.  We stopped the asshole, and saved the gorilla.”  Danny crouched down and picked up Tucker’s PDA, feeling Sampson come up behind him.  “If that’s all I got done, that’s ooooooooooh my stars!”

 

Danny turned his paper in along with the magazine article that was going to be printed about his discovery whenever it came out and Falluca was so impressed he raised the grade to a B-.  Danny, Tucker, and Sam were all gleefully ready to tear into the neglectfulness of a zoo staff that didn’t even check the sex of a member of a dying species while caring for it in the article and in class.  Danny had taken the ghostly armor over to Tucker’s house to let the geek examine it and was planning on going over to help him do so. For now, though, Danny sat at his desk at home, writing in his notebook.

“Skulker was a grade A dick in life and became an even more dangerous one in death, but that’s frankly the first example I’ve seen so far.  Agatha was pissed, but she was consolable, and the princess had just been having a pretty bad day. The Box Ghost dude was pretty annoying but easy to beat at least.  I think Sam is getting creeped out by the splatter when we take down a ghost fully but Boxy came back to bug us just outside the school so that confirms that theory about respawning.”  Danny huffed out a laugh. “Wonder how Sam would react if she knew it was just a hypothesis and not a tested theory? Not like we could’ve tested it before… still, the math checked out.  Still, thanks to Skulker I’m gonna have to be extra careful at school since the guns are gonna target me. And now everyone probably thinks I’m dangerous or something since I’ve got ectoguns on me all the time.”  Danny sighed, combing fingers through his messy hair. “Ugh, school is gonna suuuuck.” Danny felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and flipped it open. A text from Tucker.

Tuckwiz: Hey Danny, got spare metal?  Got an idea, need materials

To Tuckwiz: Tht’s a trick Q right?  Ofc we got metal. I want in.

Tuckwiz: it’s your metal i guess so sure.

“Whatever.  No matter what it is that Skulker did, life continues on and I should too.”  Danny grinned at his phone but frowned when he heard bellowing from downstairs.

“DANNYBOY, HELP ME OUT WITH GETTING SOME TIMBER FROM THE STORE!”  Groaning with 14 years of suffering behind it, Danny grabbed his jacket and headed downstairs.

Chapter Text

Jasmine Metis Fenton was responsible.

She, out of all of her family, conformed.

Jazz had, out of a lifetime of weirdness, managed to cobble together some semblance of normalcy. Granted, she was still a daughter of Jack and Madeline Fenton, which meant she'd never be completely normal. But she'd made her peace with that, no matter how much flack she'd given them over their ghost hunting. Still, if she couldn't be a normal teen, at the very least she'd be as normal as possible.

Good grades.

Volunteer hours.

Club memberships.

Extracurricular Activities.

Jazz was the exemplar student, the one-in-a-million child that every teacher looked forward to in their career. The student who listened attentively did their work and more and asked insightful probing questions about the material. All of which meant…

...she was a nerd.

Not even in her sophomore year of high school and she'd managed to get herself ousted from almost every social group in the school. It had been hard work keeping her grades up through a year of tormenting upperclassmen, snobbish preps, and the roving cliques of popular girls that lived to make her life hell.

...she didn't want to think about what it must be like for Danny.

Her first year of high school had changed her, much more so than middle school. During those years, she had been able to 'hang out' with Danny and his friends plausibly without anyone thinking too much on it. She was glad Danny had never asked her why an 8th grader had spent so much time with a dorky 7th grader and his friends, even if one of those was her brother.

Because…

Because the truth is that Sam and Tucker are the closest things I have to friends , Jazz admitted silently to herself as she stared at the ceiling. And how sad is that? Leaching off your younger brother's friends just for company.

Even now her only real social contact outside of her family was tutoring, which she should probably be paying a bit more attention to.  A glance and she could easily read that Dash wasn’t paying her words much mind anyway.

In a way, it hurt that Danny was more successful socially than she was.  In another way, she was terribly proud of her little bro...because he'd done the impossible and found two people actually willing to spend time in their home.

Even when our parents make everything a thousand times more dangerous ... Jazz thought grimly before sighing. That wasn't fair, to her or them. She'd seen their parents' inventions fail in impossible ways; they'd exploded, caught on fire, disintegrated, simply fallen apart, brought household appliances to life, and sucked the house into an alternate dimension a few times.

But she'd never seen them succeed, not in any way that mattered, at least.

Until she saw a robot with fire coming out of it like hair, pinned to her brother’s wall by lightning and plasma shots from the family arsenal a week ago.

They did it, they really did it, Jazz thought once again with a hint of disbelief. Her parents hadn't spent their lives, their time, their money in vain. They'd succeeded in spite of the biting criticism from everyone around them.  Including her.

She'd deliberately told them, time and time again, that they couldn't find ghosts because they didn't exist. And she'd been wrong. Of course, no one would believe she wasn't a 'ghost nut' like her parents, so she'd known better than to attack her parents' reputation in public. They had always been the kooky ghost-hunters and they were always going to be. It was a fact of life.

A fact of the life of Jasmine Fenton, at least.

And...if she was honest with herself, which she tried hard not to be, there was a part of her that admired the courage and tenacity that it took to get back up after over twenty solid years of failure. So, in a little, dark corner of her mind...maybe she respected her parents.

Just a little.

“In algebraic terms, A squared + B squared = C squared where C is the hypotenuse while A and B are the sides of the triangle.  Got it?”

But with that respect came fear.  She’d seen the damage that the dragon had done to the football field, and the robot had attacked her brother at home, at school, in the street.  Danny said he and his friends had dealt with it, told her parents that as he used the slot on the portal meant to send inert ectoplasm back into the Zone straight from the thermos to eject the ghost back where it belonged.  Jazz knew she was proud of Danny for not resorting to something horrifying like the vivisections that her parents were discussing, but she didn’t like the idea of that monster being free again.

Dash was staring at her, face blank of anything but infatuation.  Not a lick of understanding in him. Sighing again, Jazz wondered if she should just end the tutoring session and go bug her little brother a little.

Danny had been acting slightly odd (not that she could blame him, of course, given the circumstances around their home lately) over the past few days. He'd been a bit too quiet, confining himself to his room a bit more than normal. He'd also been avoiding herself and their parents.

Maybe he could try teaching her how he made cheesecake so well.

“Dash you have to focus.  I’m doing a thesis on tutoring the untutorable, and you’re disproving my theory that no one is untutorable.”

As much as Jazz didn't want to admit she'd was proud of her parents, there was also another side of her that, well...not quite hated them, but definitely resented them. They'd been the two largest and most influential figures in her life, but they'd also been instrumental in making that life very, very difficult for her. And, even if she didn't hate her parents…

There was a part of her that hated the fact that they'd been right.  About ghosts, spooks, specters, phantasms, phantoms...everything. They'd been right about it all, and she hadn't believed them, she hadn't trusted them enough.  And...maybe she hated herself for that, too.

“You know, you’re beautiful when you use the word untu- untut…” Dash’s brow furrowed and his face twisted up with concentration Jazz hadn’t seen on him this whole time.  Frustration over a word, then giving up to generalize. That was something to note, maybe she needed to change up her vocabulary when speaking with Dash.

Danny came upstairs with his water bottle in hand, waving at her with the top to it unscrewed.  “Hey Jazz.” Setting down his bottle, Danny’s eyes widened when he saw Dash and Dash… stopped leaning toward her and started leaning away from Danny.  She heard the scrape of a chair against linoleum and watched the jock scoot away from her baby brother, looking down at the notebook that Jazz had been writing in.  “Dash! What’re you doin here?” In the split second that Jazz took to glance from her brother back to her tutoring responsibility, Danny must’ve slipped on something, his open water bottle spilling juice onto Dash and shaking a few papers into the air.

Dash reared up with a growl and a scowl.  “Watch it Fen-” Freezing mid bellow, Dash stared at Danny and backed up a bit, heading to the paper towel roll to try and pat himself down, back turned to them both.

“Shit, sorry, I can uh grab a uh towel for you if you want?”  Danny was already heading out of the kitchen toward the stairs, unlikely to actually come down again.  “Be right back!” Danny left them alone yet again, and Jazz sighed.

“Danny if you actually come back I promise not to actively analyze you for a whole two days!”

“Four and I’ll bake you a cheesecake!”

“Deal!”

“Uh…” Dash was staring at her now, a purple card in his dry hand.  “Before it gets too wet, I just wanted to be sure you were comin to my party on Saturday.”  He held it out to her, bright yellow letters declaring Da Dash Bash! in all caps.  “Everyone’s gonna be there and you can see me where I don’t gotta struggle to keep up - being king of Casper High.”  And there was that confidence back. What had driven it off though?

“If I’m looking at this correctly it says ‘yelling at someone’s brother and cutting yourself off mid-insult is the last thing you want to do before asking them out.’  Isn’t that something?” Dash frowned at her, as though her rejection didn’t make sense. Glancing down at her papers, a thought occurred to Jazz about motivation. “I’ll go to this party of yours if you invite my brother and actually focus on what I’m trying to tutor you on.  Ok?”

Dash lit up, a poorly trained lab being given a treat came to mind, and he sat down, trying to help organize notes.  “Deal!”

 

A bullseye, as he usually got recently.  Tucker glared at the target 150 feet away and imagined it was the pile of burnt metal in his workshop in the attic, defying him.  “You’d think Fenton Blueprints would help with figuring out the design.”

Sam stood to his side, watching as Tucker landed another bullseye in his backyard.  “It’s pretty complicated stuff, Tucker, it’ll take you more than three days to figure it out.”  She fired a shot on her own target that she bought just for this. “Plus, Skulker’s suit was ripped apart by a gorilla.  I’m shocked you can salvage anything from it.”

The next arrow splits the first in half and Tucker sighs.  “Yeah, I know, I’m just frustrated. Technology bends to Tucker Foley, it’s just how it is, you know?”  Another shot another bullseye. “Plus now I need more parts.”

“You could work on it at Fenton Works, you know?”  Sam nudged him in the side, and Tucker snorted. “We’re always invited, after all.”

“I’m not taking the suit to Fenton Works, Dr. Fenton would snatch it up and he’d never let it go.”  Tucker pouted, firing at the bullseye of Sam’s target. “I could ask Danny for a run down on how the ectoguns can be safely built, stripped and reassembled though.  That’s as good a start as any, right?”

“Exactly!”  Sam flipped Tucker’s beret around and pulled it over his eyes.  “C’mon Legolas, I’m sure Danny is willing to help you out right now.”  Sam chuckled as she holstered her pistol. “Plus I wanna time how fast Danny turns into a flustered mess at the mention of Haddock and their date for tonight.”

“Oh yeah,” Tucker drawled, lifting up his beret.  “That guy. I’m not so sure about him. I mean, what do we even really know about this guy?”

“Oh my gods.” Sam’s voice shook with laughter.  Tucker arched a brow. “And what, pray tell, did you dig up on him, master hacker and information seeker?  Did you bomb his facebook page with a virus?”

“What?  No!” Tucker rolled his eyes.  “I may have looked but he’s not some terrorist in need of eliminating… as far as I’ve found on him anyway.”

“Good, cause I’d hate for your jealous stalking to be productive.”

“Jealous?  Moi? Whoever of, Sam?”  Tucker pressed his free hand against his chest.  “Just because Danny can get a date doesn’t mean I can’t.”

“Of Haddock of course.”

“Sam, I’ve seen what he does in the robotics club, I can build and program a way better arm in my sleep.”

“Oh no, not because of that.”

“Sam just because your precious lovebird is being taken off the market doesn’t mean that I have any reason to be jealous.”

Sam rolled her eyes and punched Tucker in the arm, shaking her head as she walked toward his backdoor.  “Denial isn’t going to help you out at all Tucker. Sail that river all you want to though.” Tucker narrowed his eyes at her and grumbled.  Tucker loved his friends but sometimes they made absolutely no sense. Regardless, he had arrows to collect before he could leave. His mother threatened to take his bow away if she found he’d left his ammo just sticking out of the targets like that again.

Chapter Text

Danny has built three model rockets, all of which can fly, and slipped through the floor fifteen times in the past 90 minutes while he was working on designs for a power source for a spaceship that wasn't nuclear.  He'd made Jazz her cheesecake, wondering absently what was worrying her, but now he was turning invisible as he tried to choose an outfit that didn't scream 'huge fucking geek' for his date with Haddock.

Ok, maybe he was a bit nervous.

Danny had every right to be nervous though, this was literally his second date ever and he didn't even know what kind of place Haddock was taking him to other than 'a fun place'.  People needed to stop being so vague, just because he was a genius didn't mean he was psychic.

Ok, maybe Danny was a psychic but not specifically a mind reader, just an emotion gazer - feeling seer?  "What's the word for someone who can understand someone's feelings but not their thoughts? Like not a telepath but that with emotions."

Sam arched a brow at him.  "An Empath. Like Raven from the Teen Titans."

"Oh my gods, Danny is Raven Roth."  Tucker gasped, tossing a Dumpty Humpty shirt into Danny's face.   "A demon sorcerer in our very midst."

Danny rolled his eyes and pulled the shirt from his face.  "Har Har. Any ideas?"

“Dress casual but actually try to look nice?"  Sam's grin was fiendish and Danny wondered who was really the demonic sorcerer here.  "Literally just brush your hair for once."

"This hair defies all brushes and combs Sam, you know that."  Danny sighed but pulled on his Dumpty Humpty shirt and some jeans.  “Ok, this works I guess. How-” The doorbell rang and Danny’s eyes widened as his body heated up and Sam and Tucker both snorted.  Looking down at himself, Danny groaned and turned visible once more. “Shit, what if I do that during the date? He might find out!”

“Danny,” Sam said as she pulled him into a hug.  “Chill out, ok? He asked you out, he’s got a surprise for you.  Just act like you always do, listen to what he’s saying, and have fun.”

Danny squirmed and smiled, laughing when Tucker draped his jacket over the pair.  “Thank you, Tuck, I knew I forgot something.” Danny hugged back for a second before pulling his jacket loosely on and headed downstairs.  Taking a deep breath, he sighed as soon as the sight of his father blocking the door came into view. Danny jumped from the last couple steps onto his father’s back and whined as pettily as possible in his dad’s ear.  “Daaaaaad, are you trying to intimidate Haddock?”

“Not at all, Danny boy!”  Danny raised a brow at his dad and cocked his head to the side, waiting for one.  Two. three. “Alright, I’m a little protective, so what?” Danny sighed with all the weight of the world that his lungs could carry and slid off his dad’s back.

“Please stop being stereotypical, Dad.”  Danny got himself beside Haddock - who was wearing a black shirt with a blue dragon on it and cargo pants, and it looked like he’d stood in the wind for an hour - and patted him on the shoulder.  “I’m sorry he’s like this sometimes.”

“It’s not a problem, I was uh.  My dad did this to all of my friends to see if they were too easy to scare off to be my friends.”  Haddock shrugged. “I honestly just told him ‘Dad, if they’re not allergic to cats, they can be my friends’ you know?”

“Oh, you have a cat?  What’s they’re name?” Danny unlocked the door and waved at his dad.  “I’ll be back, love you, bye!”

“Waitwaitwait!’  Dad grabbed Danny’s shoulder and the boys came to a halt.  “Do you have everything? ”  Danny nodded and pulled an ectopistol half out of the pocket facing his father.  “Good! Stay safe and have fun! But not too much fun!”

Danny slipped out of his dad’s grasp, even without the use of intangibility, and slipped out the door.  Hearing laughter, he turned to Haddock and felt a bit of heat rise to his cheeks. “Yeah, that’s Dad. But uh, cat, what cat?”

Haddock pulled out his phone as he walked, Danny in step beside him.  It was nice to not be the shortest person in the group for once. Haddock pulled up a picture of a black cat with big green eyes that was staring into the camera.  “This is Tannlos. It’s uh Icelandish for Toothless, cause he was always biting when he was a kitten but it never hurt like, at all.” Haddock chuckled and Danny reached out to take the phone and text the image to himself.  “Rude.”

“See, now I have to come to your house so I can see Tannlos.”

“Are you just dating me for my cat?”

“We’ll see, won’t we?”

 

Blinking lights, old-timey music, rides not big enough for a theme park but not too small to be fun, and the scent of corn dogs and cotton candy all graced Danny’s senses, along with the buzz of all the electricity in the air and the emotions running high in the best way.  “Oh my stars, Haddock, I didn’t realize the carnival was in town!” Danny shook Haddock a bit by his arm and pulled him to the ticket stand.

“Glad you like it.  Where should we go first?”  Haddock paid for their tickets even as Danny rummaged through his pocket for his wallet.  “Tilt-a-whirl, teacups, that strong man hammer thing?”

“Are you trying to barf before you even eat?”  Danny snorted. “Let’s try uh… that !”  Danny grinned and was racing over to a stall with clown targets and water guns.  “Loser pays for the corndogs?”

“Do you plan on eating anything other than corn dogs?”  Haddock laughed as he picked up a water gun. “Cause you’re payin for em and all.”

“Are you challenging me, Haddock?”  Danny heard the bell ring telling him it was time and pulled the trigger, hitting the bullseye right away.  The balloon on the head of the clown began to fill up, Haddock firing a second after Danny. Unlike Danny, however, Haddock’s arm must’ve tired, since his shot went a bit off target a few times.  When the balloon popped, Danny pumped his fist in the air and grinned. “I’ll take that blue dinosaur, please, and also you owe me all the carni food I can stomach and more.”

 

“I’m not cleaning up the ‘and more’ ya know,” Haddock rolled his eyes with a grin that had Danny checking to make sure his pants weren’t about to phase off of him.  It was a good idea to check. “Alright, how about uh… over there!” There was a small roller coaster, which looked like it could be a bit of fun. When they got closer, it was clearly for smaller kids.  “Alright, that’s a bust. Up for tea?”

They went through the teacups and carousel before hitting the tiltawhirl and coming out looking messier than they’d gone in.  Finally grabbing some grub, Danny got a few corn dogs and a funnel cake and plopped down at a table next to Haddock, who had gotten a pretzel covered in cheese and some garlic knots.  “And Tucker had the nerve to claim I couldn’t fly my own model rockets. Can you believe that?”

“The gall,” Haddock agreed with sarcasm galore.  “And did you get them flying?”

“I got them flying right into his face, and he fell out of the tree onto me and that’s how we ended up staying home together with matching sprained ankles.”  Haddock laughed and Danny grinned, lifting up his leg. “I can show you the scar.”

“No that’s cool.”  Haddock tilted his head and hummed.  “Actually, sure, go ahead. And uh, how did you get the rockets to fly?”

“A Gravity Inverter Mark 1™.”  Danny managed to roll up his jeans without toppling over in his chair and grinned.  “There!” There was a small sliver of pale scarred skin along his ankle and up his leg.  “This hurt like… a lot.”

“Gravity Inverter?”  Haddock’s tone made Danny wonder exactly how advanced his family was.  “Like, you have something that can defy gravity?”

“Do you guys not have that in like, robotics club?”  Danny shrugged. “They can be bought, right?”

“Danny, I’ve never heard of anything like that outside of like, sci-fi!  That-that’s amazing! How does it work?”

“Well it’s just uh graviton manipulation, Haddock, you just need the right parts to get one goin.”  Danny chuckled softly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh, what kind of things do you work on in your club if you’re not defying gravity?”  Danny didn’t feel like talking about his parents’ work like this if it was really all that big and important. Skulker had taught him how anyone could be listening.

Thankfully, Haddock got the hint to change the subject.  “Uh, I’m working on prosthetics. I’ve modeled and half-built a leg.”  Haddock whipped out his phone and was scrolling almost as fast as Tucker could.  “I plan on making all kinds for all kinds of people, maybe even dip into cybernetics.  But also prosthetics for like, animals n stuff.” Hiccup turned his phone around to show Danny a picture of a metal leg with a decal of a dragon on the calf.  “I uh have a thing for dragons.”

“Cool.  I met a dragon once.”  Why did he bring that up?  That was the worst thing to bring up.  “I plan to head up to the stars and explore space.  Maybe go visit Opportunity before shooting off to find mermaids on Jupiter’s moons.”  Danny slipped into talking about astrology and astronomy and Hiccup knew a bit about stars because his grandpa was a fisherman and taught him how to navigate with the stars.

When Danny finally managed to realize what time it was, that was entirely because Jazz texted him that Dad was about to drive out and as that was a horrible thought, he had to end their date earlier than he wanted.  And if he avoided his sister’s needling about that when he got there, that was his business.

“Ok, that has to be done again.”

Chapter Text

Danny woke up from blissfully dreamless sleep with a feeling of weightlessness that he quickly ID'd as actual floating.  The air flowed over and around him aimlessly, following paths given by the push of warmth from the grate in the floor of his room.  He stayed there for a moment, boundless in the joy from last night, and stretched his limbs out in every direction. "Negated gravity is good for stretching with only the limit of the spine and joints' ability to bend in certain ways."

Once Danny had twisted himself in every humanly possible pose, he willed himself to float gently down to his bed.  Gravity wrapped itself more tightly around his body, tugging insistently. Danny leaned into the pull, slowly, carefully, and let it take him fully when he was an inch over the bed.

Going through his usual morning routine, Danny headed downstairs and into the kitchen.  Jazz, defying the laws of nature - At least I defy them in a cool way - was already awake and reading a book.  Her hair was up in a bun and she was wearing a shirt as purple as her namesake.  “Hi, Danny.” No one had a right to be that chipper when Danny has only just woken up.  He grunted a greeting and grabbed a cup, filling it with orange juice. I’m already half made of ectoplasm to begin with so I don’t need to watch out for the glowing food.  Though, maybe that’d strengthen his ghostly half?

Cooking bacon and grits had become an autopilot task at some point between learning how to do it at 10 and now.  It gave Danny time to finish booting up higher brain functions. By the time he had sat down, he was elbow deep in an idea and only realized his mouth was moving when he stopped to swallow.  “-room to hide a gun that size in with actual armor instead of a robot arm. Maybe nanobots? How to send the signal to command the bots though, I need to look up specs.”

“Even with Mom and Dad’s generous government grants, nanorobotics is a pretty expensive field to get into Danny.”  The boy looked up to see his sister still hadn’t turned her eyes from her book. “How big a build are you making?”

“If it’s too costly then the mass is irrelevant.  I’m just thinkin of modifying a thing with Tuck.” Danny chased down his bacon with orange juice and hummed.  “It’s all going the same place, Spazz, don’t give me that look. You can’t even cook it - which is sad. Here.”  Whipping his phone out, Danny played Despacito and nearly choked to death on laughter when Jazz glared daggers at him.  “I’m so proud of you Jazz, I didn’t think you’d know what the meme is and that it’d be lost on you.”

“I’ll have you know I’ve seen plenty of vines and memes, Danny.  I just know how to act like an adult.”

“Why on Astrea’s green Earth would you want to?  Being an adult is boring.  And you aren’t one yet.” Danny stared down at his plate when he felt his fork scrape it.  “Stop being boring or you don’t get my biscuits.”

“Did I hear biscuits!?”  The large, day glow orange figure that was Danny's father - or the personification of volume if anyone else was asked - walked through the lab door with a grin.  "Son, have I told you that you make the absolute best biscuits and gravy I've had since my mother's?"

Danny puffed up a bit, grin bright.  "You have but you can say it again. Flattery will get you everywhere."  Danny stood up and stretched. “Might even get you said biscuits.”

“Best biscuits in Minnesota, Danno!”  Dad hugged him and Danny couldn’t tell if that chemical smell was aura or just from Dad being in the lab.  Either way, it was a comforting extra sensation, and it found Danny in the biscuit baking mood.

Midway through making his biscuits and gravy, Mom came down and announced they’d be going back to school, the security system set up now, and Danny was thankful that it was Saturday.  After breakfast, Dad immediately pulled Danny downstairs with him to help build a larger holoprojector than normal.

While they worked, an idea came to mind, though how to ask about it was the real mystery.  Deciding that his dad would prefer to just get into it, and wouldn't pick up on hints if he laid them, Danny cleared his throat.  "Hey, Dad? Got a question."

"Shoot, son!"  Dad handed Danny some parts to put in place.

"Why, exactly, do you presume that all ghosts are evil?"  There was a pause, Dad stilling in his work before he went back to welding a plate into place with a laser.

"Because, Danny, they are.  Ghosts are malevolent entities made of the twisted and darker parts of a person's psyche, following a basic instinct driving them to act."  Dad switched off the laser he was holding and lifted up his goggles, eyes cold and hard with the whine of a charging ecto-weapon in his aura.  "Ghosts don't care about anything but their obsession and will destroy anything in their way be it an innocent person or an evil dictator. If they so much as perceive you as a threat to their obsession, a ghost will go out if it's way to kill you."

Danny never thought he'd be scared of his father before, sometimes went such long stretches of time without seeing him that he forgot his dad could pose a threat to anything or be anything but a goofball.  Right now, he could feel his pulse speeding up, hands growing sweaty, and fought down the charge of power that rose to meet his fear and act on it. "And how do you know that for absolute certain? You sound pretty sure."  Danny adjusted a lens on the projector. "Have you ever met and talked with a ghost before?"

Dad picked up another tool, working almost mechanically.  Danny felt his stomach twisting into knots as his boisterous and louder than thunder dad worked in silence for several moments that stretched on into infinity. "The Fentons are a ghost hunting family, Danny.  Exorcists, demon slayers, ectologists like me and your mom before the field got as much funding as we get now. We hunt down monsters and ghosts and aberrations and other preternatural abominations out to attack and kill humanity and we kill them."

Jack set down his work and stared ahead, his back to Danny.  "I had a brother, you know? His name was Jason. He had done a number of salt and burns, that's how you traditionally get rid of a ghost, by the way."  Jack chuckled. "Cover its corpse in salt, then burn it. Blood blossoms for extra insurance." A huff. "Jay forgot his blood blossoms one day, during his day job.  Worked in a warehouse, lots of heavy things in a warehouse. A box doesn't seem all that lethal until it's filled with junk and dropped on you by a big green monster."

With how long the silence stretched on, filled only with the tightening of screws, soldering of circuitry and the hum of the portal - and the static in Danny's ears that might've been his blood racing like a river - Danny felt suffocated.  Learning a ghost killed your uncle you'd never heard of was quite a mood killer, apparently. Danny would likely never have a chance like this to ask ever again, though, if he didn’t bring it up now. Making sure every part of him was solid and visible, Danny asked, “And what if your brother is a ghost?  What would you do then?”

Jack turned to raise a brow at Danny.  “That’s the thing about us Fentons, Danny.  We don’t become ghosts. We’re better than that.”  Waving a hand to brush away the darkened mood, Dad gestured to the project between them.  “Anyway, lemme tell ya why we’re makin this thing.”

“Oh, so it’s not because of movie night?”


 

Monday came all too fast, and Danny found the wave of lights and sounds and smells from people's auras smacked him thoroughly in the face after getting a break from it all.  Sam and Tucker, when they saw him struggling, wrapped an arm around him each, and Danny focused on the two of them. “Thanks,” Danny muttered once he could finally think clearly again.  “You guys are a whole lifesaver.”

Danny could feel the moment when Sam got the joke and readily took the punch to the shoulder as a punishment he deserved.  “You’re horrible.” Danny laughed, letting the rainbows and neon rave colors spiral around his vision before he blocked it out.  What he saw on Sam’s actual face was a grin that rose a red flag. “So, how’d Friday night go, exactly?:” Danny groaned as Tucker leaned more heavily on him.

“You are evil, I hope you know that.”

“C’mon, Danny, Sam and I are just curious about how weird your date went.”

“Why do you assume it went weird?”

“You no longer blush, your cheeks turn translucent in layers, and it’s really spooky.”  Sam poked his cheek. “We can see your cheekbones from time to time.”

“Stars, I hope that didn’t happen.  It was good, though!” Danny felt himself smiling, and wrapped an arm around Sam and Tucker each.  “We went to this carnival and we played some games, I totally kicked ass at bumper cars, and he won me a stuffed dragon, and I won him one of those big ol huskies.”  Feeling himself grow physically lighter as he spoke, Danny clung a bit tighter to Sam and Tucker and hummed. “What about you dorks? What did you do for the weekend?”

“Project RE, obviously,” Tucker said.  “And also I’ve gotten a few levels further in Crystal Heart.” Tucker grinned.  “Beat the cybernetically enhanced zombies, and got to the boss.”

“I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t notice you when you’re a cat or a random bird.  And also that I can only hold the animal power for like, 2 hours.” Sam shrugged. “Still useful for taking down corrupt businesses.”

“Which businesses?”  Tucker whipped out his PDA, a smirk on his face.  “If you can get a dongle into their servers for me - which I can locate - then a corporate email to police, FBI, CIA, and every media outlet in this country containing all the dirty secrets, in context, might happen to be sent out.”

As Sam rattled off various companies that all had to do with oil mining and destroying the environment, Danny frowned further and further.  “Why are any of these still in business? We’ve got the tech to supply everyone with basically all the energy ever .”  Grabbing a textbook from his locker, Danny could feel the suggestion to his parents building in his head.  “Maybe after the press conference, I can convince Mom and Dad to start producing more clean energy generators or something.  They have the business license to start up like, a power plant running on solar and wind-based energy.”

“Solar panels on windmills?”  Tucker snorted. Then he stopped typing and turned to face Danny fully.  “Wait.”

“Press conference?”  Sam poked Danny in the shoulder until he turned to face her, face passing through the locker door and leaving him with an odd static feeling until he shut it.  “What press conference?”

“The one on like, Thursday, probably about the portal."  Danny shrugged. "I wasn't paying too much attention, I had to help set up a holoprojector big enough to get a quality image onto our whole ass house.  Plus, I was thinking about like, making a hoverboard."

"Do you even have the balance to ride a regular board, Danny?"  Sam snickered, ducking Danny's swat at her arm. "I know you can handle hovering when you have like, full control over gravity but when you actually weigh something?"

"Plus it'll take a lot of materials and a power source that can handle the lift."  Tucker hummed. "Lemme guess, your parents have that covered?"

"No, actually.”  Danny grinned. “I get to design this one all on my own since they’re trying to figure out how to properly turn ectoplasm into an easily accessible, renewable energy source or whatever.  Something about accumulating, conducting and releasing energy more efficiently than any Earthly material known to man.” Danny shrugged. “I saw we open up the red portal every now and then and store the plasma that comes out and then use that for the extra energy they wanna draw in but meh.”

“And is that what you’re going to do?”  Tucker raised a brow.

“Oh hell no, I need to make something that can either handle or resist my passive energy drain.  Can’t have the board run out of juice just cause I didn’t notice my munchies.” Danny flopped down in his seat, flipping open one of his journals.  “I’ve started drawing a few schematics on paper, but I really should grab my laptop next time I come here, it’s a pain to transfer.”

“It’s also more eco-friendly,” Sam pointed out from behind him, nudging Danny’s seat with her foot.  “Also, just make the board run on like, wind or solar energy Danny. Hell, I bet you can do both.”

“Yeah, I could do that, but this is gonna be a step toward like, making my own spacecraft, Sam.”  Danny spun his pencil in his fingers. “Gotta be able to rely on as little external input as possible.”

“Mr. Fenton, Ms. Manson, Mr. Foley,” Mrs. Hilless said with a clearing of her throat.  “If you could save that for after class, I’d like to actually teach some algebra.” Before Sam could raise a fuss, the bell rang, and the teens sighed, slumping into their seats.


 

Dash was confused.  He was used to that feeling, to his displeasure.  Numbers flew around like bees to him, so every math class was nothing but confusion.  But it wasn’t numbers that were confusing him, it was something he didn’t ever get confused about: feelings.

Alright maybe a few feelings confused him but those could be ignored.  This one couldn’t, the brain was hard-wired so you can’t ignore it or whatever.  Fear was nothing new to Dash, he was scared of plenty of things, his dad, Paulina’s dad, failing a class, whatever.  He had ways of dealing with all that. But this wasn’t a situation he could just throw a punch or run away from, not safely anyway.

Walking down the street to the Nasty Burger, Dash tossed the idea of being scared of Danny Fenton of all people in his head.  After all, the geek was scrawny enough that Dash could actually fit him in a locker, like in cartoons. The kid could barely hold up a computer, let alone throw a punch, right?  Except apparently, Fenton was packing heat. Sci-fi ass heat at that. Dash’d seen the video, it was impossible not to. Fenton had pulled out a gun from his fucking pocket, and then that bracelet thing he and his loser friends were always wearing sprung up a laser or something, and he fought a robot till it flew away.

A robot that came to fucking school, set up a trap in his locker and nearly got shot in the face by Foley .

And Fenton had the gall to just say “Oh yeah, him, we beat him.”  like it was nothing. Like it wasn’t a robot that flew through the ceiling like it wasn’t there and nearly suffocated Manson in that goo shit and fucking hell.  Dash had only seen a video someone had had the insanity to take, and he was terrified of the thing.

And Fenton beat it.  “We beat him” meant that the loser brigade fought a robot with fire comin out of its head and won .  How in the hell did Fenton, who could barely lift his backpack, beat a robot?

So Dash’s jumpiness when he was at the Fenton house was justified, if you asked him.  Who knew if the nerd had told his parents what Dash had done to him in the past? His sister didn’t seem to know though, she just kept trying to tutor Dash while he tried to hit on her - after all, he knew he wasn’t going to actually get the fucking pothagoran theory.  He thought he was in the clear. But then Fenton came up and spilled juice on him, and things nearly proceeded normally.

Nearly.

But then Dash remembered the robot and the guns and just toweled himself off.  His dad would be pissed at him if he ever found out that happened! Hell, the seniors on the teams would fuck him up for it.  What quarterback flinched when a goddamn nerd spilled something on him?

Dash could figure this one out.  It just took a minute, like words and numbers.  Fenton hadn’t ever shot Dash in the face with one of his sci-fi lasers, so that was obviously good.  Fenton coulda threatened Dash at any time and no one woulda believed him, too. But he didn’t. Fenton had had that weird bracelet raygun thing on for like, a month straight.  If he was gonna pull it on him or something, he’d have done it by now, right?

Right, so Fenton wasn’t gonna use his weird blaster thing on him, neither were the other losers.  They were too goody two shoes for that. Dash was safe, he was fine.  Opening the door to the Nasty Burger, Dash pulled out the invites to his party.

Nothing had changed, and Dash was fucking fine.


 

Danny and Tucker sat in one side of the booth, against the smudged windows that might need more replacing than cleaning at this point, giving them a wonderful view of the parking lot to their left.  To Sam’s left, there was a long counter with stools spaced just enough to keep people from clogging up the line space. Danny managed to pull his attention away from the greasy smell of meat grilling, onions frying and the sound of orders being called out behind the counter to process what Sam was saying.  “So, Saturday plans. Valleyfair has a new roller coaster that has a freefall that’ll take 3 years off your life expectancy.” Danny snorted at that.

“Price of admission is like $40.  Plus the food?” Tucker shook his head and leaned back.  “It’s ridiculous.”

“If you’re tapped out, I can lend you some cash.”

“Lend?  That means repaying the loan, and that’s not just out of the range of adults, Sam.  Right, Danny?” Tucker frowned. “Hello? Danny?”

The friends turned to see Dash Baxter, crown prince of the douchebags himself, walking around and handing out purple invitation cards to the usual popular crowd of teenagers that flocked around places like the Nasty Burger.  “Great,” Danny huffed, ignoring the minor flickering of the lights that anyone could blame on bad bulbs. “The hottest party of the whole school year and Paulina’s going and I’m not.” Leaning onto his hand until half his face was submerged in the fabric of his jacket sleeve, Danny groaned.  “Again.”

“What exactly do you see in her, Danny, I can’t figure it out.”  Sam narrowed her eyes in Paulina’s general direction and Danny raised a brow.  “She literally went out with you to hurt us both.”

“Then she apologized to me after having a bit of a nervous breakdown because she got attacked by a dragon before she could finish explaining that she’d decided she liked me and was going to explain and apologize to me anyway.”

“Why don’t we get invited to the big parties?”  Tucker cut in before something could be made of all that.  “We’ve got style, charm, good looks.” A pause, looking down at his open, button up plaid shirt, beige cargo pants loaded with every kind of electronic one might potentially need ever, and sneakers.  “Well, I do, I dunno about you two on the style and charm part.”

“Please, Tucker,” Sam rolled her eyes.  “We used to be about as invisible as Danny’s ghost when it came to the social circles, but now that everyone’s seen Skulker attack Danny and us, they’re all too scared to come near us.”  Danny scowled, wondering just how much better his life might be if Skulker hadn’t decided to go after it. “But hey, we’ll always have each other, right?”

Danny opened his mouth to say something, probably something positive even.  Dash sauntered over and shoved a purple card into Danny's hand. "Your sister is makin me invite you or else she won't come."  He paused, looking at Sam and Tucker before jabbing a finger in Danny's chest. "Only you. Show up, shut it, and leave." Dash looked Danny up and down with a sneer and turned.  "And don't dress like a fucking loser." Danny blinked, looking down from the retreating back of the blond bully to the purple piece of paper he had so desired. For a moment Danny looked at it on the second realm, seeing mostly odd swirls of that dark blellow color threaded through it.  Other than that, it was clearly authentic.

"Holy shit," he said softly but with feeling.   Louder, he looked up at his friends with a wide grin.  "Holy shit, Guys! I got invited!" Danny held the card to his chest.  “I’ve arrived!”

“Swell,” Sam drawled.  “Send us a postcard from popularityville.”

“Will do!”  Danny stood up, excited.  “I gotta go tell Paulina, I bet she knows what’s cool to wear to a party like this!”    Waving goodbye to his friends, Danny rushed off to find the cheerleader Queen Bee.

Chapter Text

Teachers in high school always tell their students to never use Wikipedia.  It was an oversimplification of advice that could be so much better put. After all, Wikipedia, like any encyclopedia, had citations for just about every page it had.  This was how Jazz found herself searching for a very specific selection of books at the Library. “It’s just not possible,” she muttered. “Even if ghosts are real, they can’t all be evil.”  At least three dozen lectures from her parents saying otherwise came to mind, and Jazz took a moment to breathe and push those thoughts away.  “Evil is just a concept, a generalized construction of behaviors from one or two points of view.”

That thought was, of course, what lead Jazz to where she was now.  Parapsychology books stacked next to her, smelling faintly of dust, and the first one she had found referenced on articles regarding benevolent spirits open before her.  She, of course, had her parents’ thesis on the psychological makeup of a ghost next to that book. It would be wrong of her to only look at one source for her argument after all.

After hours of research and compiling notes to stitch together later in a properly presented thesis on the existence of benevolent ghosts, Jazz hit a wall of realization.  None of what she'd typed up would be of any use if she couldn't find more solid proof. “I need to go out and actually find a benevolent ghost.  Mom and Dad aren’t going to listen to conjecture.”

Saving the document she’d typed up on her laptop, Jazz put away the various books, ruminating on how she’d go about finding one.    Jazz made a list of search methods. Lists were calming, they gave order to things. First on that list was to check social media for nearby ghost stories, look around to find any apparitions that might be roaming the area.  After heading home and grabbing an ecto pistol for protection, however, Jazz found that there were too many claims to really search through. So, she instead began asking people around town, in neighborhoods where she knew at least one person had died in their house.  'I should've anticipated this being a morbid search, but that's simply disturbing to think about.' As it turned out, her family's reputation was more detrimental than she thought. Walking up to a friendly enough looking teen that she recognized from Casper and waved. "Hey there Calvin!  How are you?"

The brown haired boy turned to Jazz, and he arched his brows.  Dark eyes roved over her form, likely checking for potential weapons since the video of Danny's fight - and gods wasn't that horrible to think about - had circulated pretty well and gotten a thousand or so views.  Once satisfied she didn't have any on her, he offered a quick wave. "Hi, Jazz. Things are alright, I guess. Fewer classes, less homework, more time to have fun and learn stuff from YouTube. What about you? Haven't seen you outside of a school club activity or trying to counsel Wayne-"

"Spike."

"Alright, Weston, in forever."  Calvin chuckled. "Is it even legal to be doin that without like, a degree and license?"

"Well, I had an idea for a project, to make up for all the classes we've been missing," Jazz said, holding up a folder.  "And I was hoping to find - and I know this'll sound ridiculous but - a ghost, possibly. Have you seen anyone that might've been translucent, or giving off a glow of some kind or even an unusual cold spot in one of these houses?"

Jazz had never seen a person close themselves off from her so fast in her life.  Calvin’s smile dropped to a frown so frosty it sent a shiver down her spine, but he quickly raised a smile he must’ve thought convincing.  "Oh? Why looking to shoot some grandparents in the face with your laser guns?" He said with a chuckle, some finger guns even, but his tone was clipped, and Jazz didn’t like it.

“Well, I-”

“Have come to the wrong place if you think that anyone’s gonna give you a chance to try and take out our past loved ones, Jazz.”  Calvin crossed his arms and stood firmly in Jazz’s way. Easy to get around for someone trained in self-defense like Jazz, but she wasn’t out to go hurting anyone!  “I think you should leave.”

Jazz huffed, turning away and walking off to a different place on her list.  Surely others would listen to her long enough to hear what she was trying to do.  Someone had to be open-minded enough to listen, right?

Finally coming home to eat, shower, and lose herself in calming piano music, Jazz found the answer was no.  After trekking around Amity Park all afternoon to six different neighborhoods, not one person would look past her being a Fenton long enough to listen.  They all apparently expected her to blow a hole through their walls, or try to destroy their deceased loved ones if they Had been found.

"This is going to be a pain."


 

When school came the next day, Danny was still giddy with excitement.  He was finally being recognized for being more than just 'the Fenton kid' around school!  He'd gone sunny yellow with a barbed spiral for his shirt and his spare red jacket since the blue one was being repaired.  No one wanted to have a porta pocket on anything with tears in it - that was asking to be ripped apart on an atomic level.

Danny was having to concentrate every now and then on not floating too much while he walked, which he saw was both amusing and annoying his friends to a degree but he couldn’t exactly help it.  “Guys, I feel like I’ve drunk a pack of soda in one go.”

“Again?”  Sam snorted.  “What did you have last night?”

“Did you pour a bunch of Gatorade bottles into one big jug and start chugging?”  Tucker frowned and poked Danny in the side. “If you did, I need video evidence for reasons that totally aren’t me posting it to youtube.”

Danny chuckled, floating a step higher again, only for Sam to tip him over, forcing Danny to flip before landing on the ground.  “Dick move, and uh no, I didn’t drink anything weird last night. I was just thinking about how cool the party is gonna be.”

“Gods, Danny, ever since you got invited you’ve been all about the In Crowd.”  Danny rolled his eyes at Tucker and shook his head.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about.”  Danny stopped, grinning at Kwan and pumping both fists into the air.  “KWAN! Lookin good!”

Kwan turned away from Valerie, looking vaguely confused before grinning right back and shooting off some finger guns.  “Fentonmeister!” He pumped his fists up high. “WOO HOO!” Danny could honestly feel himself grow lighter, and his mood lift.

“That,” Sam said, “That right there.  It’s like-”

“Hey, Fenton!” Dash called out, and Danny arched a brow.  “Come here!”

“Be right back, Sam, hold that thought.”  Danny ran over to Dash.

“If you’re gonna come to my party,” Dash said, holding up a magazine.  “You have to look the part. This is what we’re all wearing Saturday.” He slapped it into Danny’s hand and Danny blinked down at it.  “Very high-end, very hip, very Dash.” The blond pointed at him with a raised brow. “You do have one, right?”

“Huh?  Oh, yeah, sure, I have 2!”   Feet, feet, feet .  Danny felt that warm invisible feeling racing through him and almost sighed in relief when it hit his feet and stayed there.  Dash pointed at Danny making threats about embarrassment, but Danny was lost in thought already. Who the hell says ‘hip’ anymore?  When Dash walked away, Danny sighed down at his paper.  “This must cost a fortune! How’m I gonna afford this by Saturday?”

Sam sighed, and Danny looked up.  “Y’know, I almost hate to offer…” Whatever she was going to say got cut off by Paulina, who’s aura flared up like a rose in bloom and radiated sunshine, drawing every bit of Danny’s attention away.

“Hey, Danny!  Come listen to my new CD!  It’s really crunk!”

“Crunk?”  Danny looked to Tucker, the expert on slang in the group.

“It’s Paulina, Danny-”

“Crunk’s good!”  Danny ran over to sit with Paulina for a moment and take a listen.  And for the day, Danny felt like he was in a bit of a haze, vibrant ultraviolet colors wafting off of the various people who talked to him that day, collecting in a cloud around Danny that didn’t ever seem to get much bigger than his arms’ reach, or too much brighter either.

 

When Danny got home that day it was to some box shaking with the sound growls rumbling from within.  The kid to it was closed, but Danny wasn't sure he trusted that. Placing Dad between him and the device, Danny cleared his throat.  "Hey Dad, I need to get this cool outfit for a party on Saturday - can I have some cash?"

Dad turned to raise a brow at Danny, before grinning and wrapping an enormous arm around Danny's shoulders.  "Now Danny, you know that as inventors contracted by several governments, and the suppliers of power to the city of Amity Park, we have plenty of money."  Danny beamed, ready to head to the mall and-

"As your parents, however," Mom said, raining on Danny's parade, "we understand that you need to under the value of money."  Absolutely the worst time for this, ever, at all. Mom pinched her fingers to her thumb and rubbed them together. "If you want money, you gotta earn it."

"What, like get a job?  In this economy?"

"That," Dad said, "or sell something! Like some of those comics of yours!"

"Dad, the oceans shall dry up and the skies will boil in the heat of the expanding and all-consuming sun before I give up my Spider-man comics."  Jazz shouldn't be laughing at him, Danny was very very serious.

"Danny, don't you draw your own comics?"  Jazz asked. That was actually sort of a good point, almost .

"Yeah, and as the Flash I can draw an entire comic in the time it'd take to rack up $50 by Saturday."  Danny huffed. But then an idea came to him, considering what he'd seen Agatha do with her powers.

That train of thought was cut off as his mother pointed disdainfully at a box full of broken parts covered in ectoplasm.  "You'll have time to do that later, but for right now either Jack, Jazz or Danny needs to be getting that box of failed Fenton Weasel into the shed."  Mom's frown deepened while Jazz left the kitchen. "If there's even any room in there. That shed hasn't been cleaned in months. Frankly that junk should be thrown away."

Dad clutched the goo-covered box of scrap to his chest, and Danny rolled his eyes.  Dad and his busted projects - though Danny could relate. He'd fixed his rocket ASAP.  "Nonsense! It's not junk, I need everything in that shed!"

"Including that?"  Mom pointed at the box.

"Yes!"  Oh wow, ok, now Danny had a box to carry.  "Now Danny, let's get this in the shed. Carrying this Will help build that muscle you're after."  Danny wasn't sure how true that was, but he walked with his dad to the shed and inside, he saw a treasure trove.  His Dad said he might want it gotten rid of, and Danny had no problem doing that for him.

For now, Danny went to his art room, let that icy static rush through him, and focused on the drawing tools he had.

Chapter Text

Tucker was, to say the least, on the edge of falling into shit creek.  It was one thing for Danny to be seen attacked by a ghost robot, his parents were training him directly for that.  It was another entirely for Tucker to be seen in that video, particularly by his parents or any such person that might alert them to it.  So, he called in some help from his fellow hackers, crafting a program in only a couple days that'd prevent his parents' accounts or devices from viewing the video anywhere on the web.  That was easy, though, Tucker could get through his parents' security like scissors could get through toilet paper. The real challenge was Sam's parents. For some reason, the Mansons had thoroughly beefed up security on their cell network, but by Thursday Tucker had set up a big that'd keep devices on the Manson's data plans from viewing videos featuring Sam in them.  That was the best he could do on such short notice.

"Right," Tucker leaned back in his chair and turned to Sam.  "I've got you hooked up. Shall we take a look at that interview the Fenton's are doing, see how bad Danny is gonna be embarrassed?"

Sam snorted, nodding with a grin.  She grabbed Tucker by the shoulder and lifted him out of his chair.  "C'mon, let's head downstairs. If we're there in person we can… comfort him over the scene his parents will make better.  We’ll just come out when he needs us too.”

 

"...yes, and we'd like to thank you all for coming out today!" Jack Fenton cried, his boisterous voice booming across the impromptu street fair assembled in front of Fenton Works. The sun was not quite setting, both Danny and Jazz having to spend their afternoon immediately after school dealing with this, which put them in none-too-happy moods. Enhancing their displeasure was the fact that several dozen reports from the various newspapers, TV stations and even a few internet-based reporting programs had all lined up to watch their parents make fools of themselves.

A hand shot up, belonging to a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair, "Mr. Fenton! Weekly Weird News! Is this related to the Fenton Triangle Incident 3 years ago?"

Both Mom and Dad's faces flushed slightly as their pride turned sheepish. "Ah, no. You see, a few weeks ago, my wife and I made a breakthrough in spectral entanglement breeches, which as you all know-"

Proving that he was every bit as technologically savvy as his wife, if just much sillier, Jack Fenton began the technical explanation of their achievement. His children automatically tuned him out, their 'techno-speak' filters were highly adjusted. Instead, they concentrated on their own rather horrific embarrassment in being made to stand before the amalgamated crowd of news people and townspeople.  In Jumpsuits.

Yes, for this special occasion, the Fenton parents had rolled out teen-sized jumpsuits for Jazz and Danny. Their son wore his spare black and white set, with off-color gloves, boots, and belt. Jazz had been forced (under threat of grounding and cutting of allowance) into a green and black version of Danny’s. Both had forgone the hoods and goggles their parents wore, feeling that their humiliation was already complete enough, thank you very much.

"-And, without further ado," Mom exclaimed proudly, having taken over from Dad at some point, "We'd like to present Fenton Works line of products this year, starting with the Fenton Ghost Portal!"  Danny stiffened.

Sure enough, under a tarp and to the side of the impromptu stage, the Fenton Portal sat, glowing an innocuous green as the event horizon of an inter-dimensional wormhole swirled and twisted in the octagonal frame.

A few of the more gullible reports felt their jaws go slack, even as cameras snapped onto the first visuals of the ghost portal. The more skeptical individuals felt their hackles rise as something none of them wanted to admit, fear of the unknown, the supernatural, began to crawl up their spines.

Another hand shot up, the first of many. "Mrs. Fenton! Yes, Daily Trumpet Milwaukee Office. I was on my way back from the New York office when I found out about this press conference; I called in to the research department and found out your company has a history of...amazing and unbelievable claims. How are we to know that this...portal, is what you say it is?"

Dad grinned at the challenge, "Let me take this one, Maddie! Well, to tell you the truth, we expected this and to prove all of you nay-sayers wrong, here's the Fenton Ghost Zone Probe!"

An oblong, torpedo-like object was unveiled next, coated in shiny metal and streamlined.  "The Fenton Ghost Zone Probe," Mom began, "Will be launched into the Ghost Portal and take numerous measurements including temperature, ecto-thermography, radiospectronomy, and more...of course, this will include video and audio data!"

Several in the audience blinked, having expected the Fentons to get defensive or angry at being questioned.  "Mr. Fenton! National Inquirer! How exactly will we know that whatever is on the other side of this...portal, is going to be 'ghosts,' as you claim?" Another reporter asked, not bothering to wait to be called upon.

Mom and Dad exchanged looks before Dad stepped up to the plate.  "Well, initially at least, you'll have to take our word for it," several people in the audience couldn't contain their snorts and snickers. "But Fenton Works welcomes any scientific board of inquiry to ascertain whether or not our research is valid."

"Well said, Jack!" Mom grinned. "As my husband indicated, we have always welcomed investigation of our research, though few third parties have taken advantage of this offer."

Many of the reporters began scribbling or typing notes as Dad pushed a button on his remote. The assembled reporters' eyes widened as the Fenton Probe rose off the ground, rising to a height of five feet before stabilizing.  "Now we'll-" Maddie began.

"Mrs. Fenton!" A female news reporter cried, "Associated Press! Pardon the interruption, but is that...device, um...floating?"

Dad and Mom blinked, looking at each other. Even Danny and Jazz cocked their heads at the question. Their parents had been toying around with hover engines for years, a magazine reporter had even interviewed them almost entirely on the subject.  What was the big deal about that?

"Well, yes," Mom began. "That's a patented Fenton Gravity Inverter."

"And...how much can your...um, Gravity Inverter lift?" The reporter asked again.

"Approximately one metric ton, depending on the model." Dad shrugged.

“We’ve already been through this with that lady from Genius Magazine,” Danny said with a sigh.  “The Gravity Inverters ™ are able to lift one metric ton into the air without power issues, yes.  It’s a very simple application of physical laws and the manipulation of gravitons.”

‘“I have a feeling I myself made that particular Gravity Engine just last afternoon,” Jazz added.  “It’s much simpler than something like a physics canceller or dimension manipulator.”

“At any rate, though,” Mom said, “we would like to get on with the demonstration now. Jack, honey, if you would?"

"Right-o Maddie," Dad gestured with his remote again and the Fenton Portal turned so that the edge of the portal was now facing the crowd. The Fenton Ghost Zone Probe advanced smoothly and silently towards the green void. "Now, observe as the Fenton Probe disappears into the Ghost Zone. During this time, the Probe is actually suspended between two dimensions across the event horizon of the Ghost Zone Portal that serves as the bridge between the two realities."

Several jaws dropped among the reporters as the two large holographic projectors installed in the stage flickered on, showing a massive expanse of green smog that swirled and twisted about in almost-invisible eddies and whirls. To the audience, it was almost as if the Probe had been dunked into some kind of green ocean.

'Islands' hung within the 'air' of the Ghost Zone, patches of solid rock with various styles and eras of buildings sliding about in the green void. "These are some of the first visuals of another dimension, running live. As you can see, this world is suffused with a green pseudo-liquid psychoreactive substance known as ectoplasm. The ghost zone, as we've learned is full of it, and it is from this substance which ghosts, spirits, phantoms, poltergeists, and other such phenomena are formed," Jack explained, a proud smile on his face.

"The reason why we experience such phenomena in our world," Mom explained, "is because of the unique properties of ectoplasm and its ability to penetrate dimensional boundaries under the right circumstances. Our research has also hypothesized natural ghost zone portals, but as of yet we've been unable to observe these forming."

"As a result of its psychoreactive properties, ectoplasm has actually been proved to conduct neural impulses, strong emotions, and physio-electric activity. This property allows ectoplasm to absorb a portion of what makes a human being both sentient and sapient, resulting in the creation of what is colloquially termed a 'ghost,'" Dad explained, even as numerous partially-translucent shades of human and non-human entities passed by the screen.

Pale faces among the audience shivered violently with fright.

"On the other side of the equation, we have hypothesized that ectoplasm can, in fact, bond with the human soul. Although we haven't observed this phenomena in action, the metaphysics of such a bond are sound enough. Once the soul disconnects from the body, if it were to encounter a suitable amount of ectoplasm, this could result in a paranormal entity found in folktales. Known as 'undead' in the more classical representations of a ghosts, these are scientifically described as 'Phantoms.'"

Danny's eyes went wide, he'd heard his parents' yammering before, but now…

But I'm not dead. I'm not. I can't be- Danny's mind went white, his own footsteps echoing loud in his ears as he stepped into the deactivated Portal. The lightening arching as it used his own body as a bridge.  Trip. Fumble. Click.    Calm down! You know this stuff! Mom and Dad have been rattling on about ghosts for years! Calm down and analyze it, don't freak out in front of a thousand people with news cameras .

Danny closed his eyes and took a deep breath, quelling the panic rising within him.

Now, first question...Am I Alive? As the question resounded in his mind, his parents' basic medical training kicked in and he reached around, hiding his shaking hands behind his back and touched his pulse-point on the inside of his right wrist. A wave of relief crashed over him as he confirmed that not only was his heart still beating, but blood was still pumping through his body, even if both were slower than they probably should be.

Even as his parents continued their speech, Danny continued his impromptu diagnostic of his own body. Alright. I'm alive, that's good. Now...I can't be a Phantom because I didn't...die?  We’ve been calling me a half ghost but do we really know what I’ve become?

"-so the result is that many paranormal phenomena exude a green-tinged light or glow, which is the result of the energy being given off by emotionally or mentally-charged ectoplasm. Of course, this is generally only true of phenomena or entities which migrate from the Ghost Zone. Those which encounter ectoplasm on this side of a portal tend to exhibit less of the standard characteristics, such as a purified form of ectoplasm which we've taken to calling Native Ectoplasm. It tends to give off a whitish or gray-white light. We've also seen evidence that other types of energy might influence ectoplasm, but our research in that venue has not show any definitive results yet." Their demonstration complete, the Fenton Probe slid back out of the Ghost Portal and solid metal doors slammed shut on the green vortex, shimmering with an ecto-protectant material that had been specially developed to block a ghost's intangibility powers.

Maddie took a deep breath and gave everyone in the crowd a broad smile, cheerfully oblivious to the fact that she and her family had casually exhibited cutting-edge technology, posited proof of the soul, established the existence of on form of afterlife, and displayed the ability to travel to and from said afterlife.

There was a long moment before the assembled reports managed to recognize that fact themselves.

Then all hell broke loose.

"Mr. Fenton! Have you thought about the implications for religious communities?!"

"Mrs. Fenton! Have you and your husband made contact with the ghosts of anyone famous?!"

"Is this technology going to be available on the market anytime soon!?"

"Have you received offers on distributing you hover technology?!"

"Have you established the existence of a God, Mr. Fenton?”

And a million other questions. A billion other questions. Questions about the economy, technology, religion, the soul, wild theories and nonsense accusations, witchcraft and satanism were bandied about. In an instant, the world had gone made as questions were shouted ever-louder. Not only the reporters, but the townspeople too, people who had derided the Fentons for years, now hungered for just a few seconds of their attention.

Jazz and Danny staggered back, hit hard by the wall of noise as they hid behind their parents who had, likewise, been caught off-guard by the uproar.

Before they could respond, however, the portal doors and frame began to glow that eerie green that the Zone had.  And smoothly, as though commanded by Mom or Dad’s remote - it wasn’t, they were both looking from the remote to the portal - the doors slid open.  And a whirl of green mist flew out of the event horizon. The gaseous ectoplasm coalesced into the form of a person wearing a white, closed up lab coat, green gloves, black glasses, and sporting bright green skin and white hair that rose up above him, flowing in some unseen current.

“Finally!”  The ghost said with a nasally voice and something of an accent that Danny couldn’t quite place yet because a ghost is right here in front of a crowd please be benevolent .  “I, Nicolai Technus, am free from that infuriating void!  I have risen anew to-” That was the sound of an ectogun charging, and Danny turned to his father and mother aiming at Technus and before anyone could do anything else, twin bolts of plasma flew and struck Technus - The Nicolai Technus - in the back.  He screamed, staggering forward, and whirling around to glare at the Fentons.  “What? Why the hell did you shoot at me?  I haven’t even done anything to you! ”  More ectoplasmic fire flew in the ghostly inventor’s direction and he dodged around them just barely.

“Everybody scatter!”  Dad bellowed, “We’ll deal with this!”

“Get back in that portal you putrid protoplasmic manifestation of post-human consciousness!”  Mom cried, taking shots that forced Technus to hold up his hands and weave a barrier that looked a lot like a motherboard from surrounding ectoplasm.

“STOP, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”  Danny didn’t expect his sister to side with him on this but thank the stars she did.  They messed up their parents’ aim just enough for Technus to get away, fading from sight after diving for a camera that someone had dropped on their mad dash to get away from what could’ve potentially escalated to a destroyed street.

“Mom you just opened fire on a target right between you and a crowd of civilians !”

“Dad your aim is almost always horrible what if you had missed and shot a reporter or something?

“He didn’t even say what he was going to do he just flew out and said his name!”

“That was Nicolai Technus you shot at the father of invention on national TV!”

Danny could see the crowd beginning to gain their wits and build up the courage to rush the stage again.  Danny also, at the last moment, saw Sam and Tucker coming out of Danny’s front door. Sam’s hands were raised, and for a second nothing happened.  Sam glared at her hands before stomping on the ground, The concrete of the sidewalk surrounding Fentonworks rose up, until even the Fentons on stage couldn’t see the street, and Sam leaned on Tucker.

“Well, shit,”  Sam said. “You guys fucked up big time.”

“At least you’re famous, right?”  Tucker shrugged, and Danny sighed.  Why was this his life?

Chapter Text

As a child, Danny Fenton had heard of stalkers, seen them in scary movies he wasn’t technically allowed to watch, but that Sam had a tendency to bring over.  He’d thought, honestly, that people like that were rare, a kind of supernatural phenomenon that would get dealt with by knights in shining armor, or even cooler by robots from space that’d come to stop the stalkers and bring everyone else peace. The truth, though, he was beginning to learn, was something much less pleasant than the fanciful world he had thought up in his youth. It turned out that what the media themselves called a media circus was actually a swarm of stalkers doing their best to violate someone’s right to privacy and dig up every scrap of information on them be it their political opinions or what they had for breakfast three weeks ago. Being the target, in this case, was not the most enjoyable thing in the world.

"Three days."

"Yep," Danny nodded, his eyes focused on the small gaming device in his hands.

"Three solid days."

"Uh-huh," Danny nodded again.

"We haven't left the house in three days."

"Yeah," Danny affirmed as his character triumphed over the boss, raising the banner of the light armies and establishing world peace for millennia to come.  The victory felt hollow.

"Danny focus!" Jazz snapped, even her legendary patience wearing thin after being disallowed the ability to drive, take in a movie, visit the library, or, indeed, leave the house, for seventy-two hours and counting. "I'm going stir-crazy. We need to get out of here and do something."

Danny found it ironic that he had retained his cool much better than Jazz.

"We can't even watch TV, Danny! We're on every channel! You know, I thought it might be cool to be on television one day, but this is crazy! Have you heard what they're saying about us, Danny?" Jazz ranted.

He had, and then he'd turned off the tv after flipping past FOX.  The less said about that, the better. The word 'Fenton' was quickly becoming a byline for controversy, people were alternatively condemning their blasphemous attempt to destroy the foundation of modern Christian society, praising them for their groundbreaking work in confirmation of the eternal human soul, dismissing them as outlandish and insane frauds, and...that was only the tip of the iceberg.

"Jazz, there's nothing we can do about it," Danny sighed, trying to calm himself by tapping into the cool, icy core of energy inside him. It seemed that the ectoplasmic energy was actually slowly building… and that was the true source of his placid state.  If he got excited, panicked, or afraid, the energy tended to express itself. That meant he'd had to stay away from anything that got an emotional rise out of him.

Like the TV, where his parents were being called crazy. Or the windows, where an army of authentic crazy people was trying to get in. Or the internet... Shuddering, Danny took a deep breath and calmed once again, 'venting' some of the pressure that was slowly building in his...body? Mind? Soul? Like Jazz was saying, they really did need to get out of here, if only so he could blow off some steam without a chance of anyone seeing anything.  But for now, he was calm, cool, collected. He was downright fucking chill .

If only because the wall of camped-out reporters which had been steadily growing, not shrinking, prevented him from doing anything else other than holing up in his room and figure out his little problem. After spending the aforementioned seventy-two hours doing little else besides eating, sleeping, bathing, and working on his comic with his powers, he felt he owed himself a break.

Of course, I'd rather have spent the time checking up on Sam and Tucker, but they were both grounded after their parents saw them on the news and the videos of Tucker, Sam and I dealing with Skulker spread like wildfire all over the internet along with the conference.  I wish I could talk to him about this whole...infamy thing or my powers, but by now, someone's probably watching our emails, too.

He wouldn't be so freaked out, save for the fact that he'd had to cover his bathroom window with duct tape after a reporter had figured out how to open the curtains from the outside using a coat hanger. After that, he had discovered an entirely new level of paranoia. "I don't know Jazz, if we could get past the mob, maybe, but..."

Because it was a mob.  Camping equipment had been set up, campers had been brought in, and the entire house had been placed under surveillance. Jazz scowled, "We could always use the-"

At that point, Jazz was interrupted by a jolly orange giant galumphing down the stairs. "Dan-o! Jazzy-pants! I'm glad you're both here, it's time to do a little cleaning! We're gonna' have company!" With that, their father barreled out of the room.

Jazz and Danny exchanged looks.

Thankfully, Mom came down the stairs after Dad. "Oh kids, good! Your father and I were in the Ops Center using the satellite communications network that your father thought was a waste of money." A hint of a smug smirk crossed her face. "Anyway, we got a call from The Secret Scientists and Doc and Drew Saturday are going to be dropping by in an hour to talk about investing in Fenton Works! Isn't this exciting kids?”

Neither teen responded as she practically bounced out of the room.  "Huh," Danny commented, “I bet the Secret Scientists are a bit mad about us going to the press with one of those big ol secrets.”  Then a thought crossed his mind. "I wonder how they’re going to get past the mob? A blimp for a ride isn’t exactly going to go unnoticed.”


 

“Why can’t I have my laptop?  My phone? I need to talk to my friends!”  Sam felt like she’d had this argument a thousand times so far.  “I need to make sure Danny and Tucker are ok!”

“Samantha!”  Her Father simply didn’t listen.  “I have told you time and time again, you are not going to contact that Fenton boy ever again!  Not only has he been a horrible influence on your behavior-”

“Now he’s putting you in harm’s way and in the media’s harsh light just by being near you!”  Her mother cut in.  “Sammy, that robot apparently had you pinned to the wall of the school unable to breathe!”

“And I got out of that just fine,” Sam reminded.  “We beat that numbskulled idiot at his own game.  I’ve gotten better since then.”

“And about that!” Father piped up, clearly hearing but not listening.  “That boy gave you weapons! Weapons that his parents allow him to just carry on his person at all times.  Imagine if he decided to turn that laser rifle of his-”

“Plasma rifle, Jeremy,” Sam corrected with a hiss, eyes narrowed in her darkest glare.  “And don’t you dare insinuate that Danny of all people would ever turn his weapons on an innocent person!”

“How am I supposed to know that for certain, Samantha?”  Her mother put her hands on Sam’s shoulders, likely trying to be calming but really just agitating her further.  Sam shrugged her hands away and scowled further. “You saw how his parents just opened fire without even thinking about the crowd!”

“Danny.  Is not. His parents!”  Sam watched as the shadows in the room stretched, rising off the floor and walls like tangible things, saw her parents shrink away from them, and tried to reign in the magick.  She took a deep breath, then another, and watched the shadows recede back to where they belonged. “Danny isn’t biased like Drs. Fenton are about ghosts, nor is he as trigger happy.”

“In case you two didn’t notice on the clip that’s been up for days now,” Grandma Ida said as she scootered in, “Those kids stepped in to stop their parents as soon as they got over their shock.  They aren’t going to go doing terrible things.”

“Are we just going to ignore that Sammy just moved the shadows?”

“Of course we are, that’s old news by now.”

“No, mother, I think Pamela’s right.”  Her father was looking at Sam like she’d grown a second head.  Certain that she hadn’t, Sam raised a brow and folded her arms over her chest.  “Sammy, how did you do that?”

“Magick.”

“And where in the world did you learn magick?”  Her mother’s screeching was giving Sam a headache.  “I will not have you performing satanic rituals in this house young lady!”

“It’s not satanism, mother,” Sam groaned.  “It’s magick.  I learned about it when we ran into a magick artifact - a real-life magick amulet - and looked up how to gain access.  The magick comes from the Earth, not from Satan.” She narrowed her eyes. “Also there’s nothing wrong with Satanism.”

“Nothing wrong with-”  Her mother’s gloved hand was raised to her pearls while she gasped with all the drama of a theater actor.  “Samantha Manson, what in heaven’s name has gotten into you that you think there’s nothing wrong with worshiping the devil?  He is the embodiment of evil and all those people are just as bad!”

“You don’t even know anything about the religion!  There’s a difference between Satanism and worshipping-”

“I think we’ve gotten off topic here.”  Grandma Ida was always a beacon in the dark sometimes, and Sam was eternally grateful for her presence.  “Sam deserves to speak with her friends when she needs to. Cutting off communication with the only people who she feels understand her isn’t going to do her any good, Jeremy, and you know it.”

“I do believe we know how to raise our child, Ida,” Mother said, her nose wrinkling in that sneer she always got when condescending someone.  It was a look that typically set Sam’s blood boiling.

“If you think yelling at her, punishing her for having friends, and insulting the closest friends she has is proper parenting then clearly you still need lessons, Pamela.  Don’t think you can get on your high horse with me missy, I’ve already done plenty of parenting.” Grandma Ida’s stare was stern and steady, not giving her mother an inch to work with.  “You think Jeremy would’ve kept any friends if I took away his social privileges every time he messed up?”

“Mother!”  It was a sensational experience to see her father’s face redden with embarrassment instead of irritation.  “I hardly messed up all that much.”

“With everything you two call messing up, you’d never have left the house.”  Grandma Ida sat up straight, which didn’t actually add much height. To her son and daughter in law though, it was clear that she might as well have been looming over them.  “Every time Sam expresses herself in a way that doesn’t fit with how you do it, you act like she’s gone and sacrificed a baby to a demon.”

“If you actually care about my well being,” Sam said, “then let me speak to my friends.”

Her mother met her gaze and for a long moment, no one said anything.  Then, “I will let you speak with your friends, but only if you cancel your plans for that rally next weekend.”

Sam felt her eyes widen, and then narrow.  Her arms shook from the force of her clenched fists.  That rally was for the preservation of the rainforests in South America.  It was beyond important to Sam and her mother knew it. The shadows writhed again, the lights dimming and ozone flavoring the air.  “Fine,” she spat out, holding out her hand. “I need my phone to tell my friends at the rally my situation.”

Her mother handed it over, and Sam took a breath.  She could feel the lightning buzzing in her veins just beneath her skin and begging to be let out, but she couldn’t do that here, not now.  So she stamped out the urges and dialed a number. “Hey, Raphael.”


 

Tucker was having a very confusing and difficult day.  It was the third one, actually. On the first day after the interview, Sam put down her sidewalk wall and Danny snuck them back home invisibly.  He came home to parents who had yet to watch the news, as they preferred to do that together with Tucker to comment. And before they even turned on the news, his parents had a big announcement to make to him.

“Did you say you’re pregnant?”  Tucker wasn’t sure if it was happiness or confusion or simply how overwhelming the situation was that made it to his tone, but he severely hoped it was the happiness.  “That’s amazing! Congrats, Mom!” Tucker gave his mother a hug, joined in on by his dad, but pulled away a moment later. “Not that I’m not happy, cause I am, but why now?”

“What do you mean?”  Dad raised a brow and Tucker rubbed the back of his neck - something he’d picked up from Danny no doubt.  

“Well, I dunno, I guess 14 just feels a bit old to become a big brother?”  Tucker shrugged. “I guess I’m just, ya know, a bit surprised. By a lot. But it’s still great!”

His parents laughed at his antics, thankfully, and they had another group hug.  Tucker could process this later. “Oh, that’s right.” Tucker looked at his dad, who moved to the front of the couch and lifted up a long rectangular package.  “Something you ordered in the mail came by.”

“Oh sweet, the parts for the robot!”  Tucker accepted the box and turned it over in his hands.  “Got here faster than I expected.”

“Alright,” Mom said with a kiss to his head.   “You can fix that up later. Sit down, let’s mock some politicians together.”  Tucker sat down, designs flying in his head and his PDA out to make those designs immediately.  Some nagging voice in the back of his head warned that he should suggest a different channel, but he forgot why.

Mom turned the TV on, turning immediately to CNN from the anime that was on, and Tucker felt the temperature in the room drop.  “–tons have refused to answer the questions of the public! It’s outrageous!”

“I’ll tell you what’s outrageous Bob, the people trying to pick the lock on their door to get in.”  Cindy shook her head and Tucker took a sharp breath in, wanting to turn and see how his parents were reacting.  At the same time that was the last thing he needed to see right now. “Some people just don’t know how to respect privacy!  Is this how we thank this family for showing us that the afterlife does in fact exist?”

“And let’s talk about that for a moment-” The chattering of the reporters faded into static in his mind as Tucker’s parents began flipping through the channels to every news outlet they knew of.  The Fentons were on every channel, along with videos of Tucker, Sam, and Danny all fighting Skulker on the street and at school. He couldn’t keep it locked up for even a day after he tried to.

The TV was turned off, silence ringing louder than anything the anchors had to say about his best friend and his family, and Tucker sat there as the weight of everything finally caught up with him.  This was happening. It got out. People knew about ghosts being real, even saw a ghost come out and get shot at in real time.

 

My parents know.  Tucker turned slowly to look at his father on his left and mother next to him.  Dad’s arm was already wrapped loosely around Mom’s shoulders but now he was holding her close to him, eyes staring ahead dazedly at the blank TV screen.  Mom had a hand on her chest, right over her heart, and she was ever so slightly shaking her head, as though saying no to the situation would stop it from having happened.   Gods I wish it were that easy.

“Tucker Malik Foley.”  Mom’s tone was clipped, and her eyes bore into him as she turned to face him.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“How long have you, Danny, and Sam been running around the town fighting dangerous supernatural beings, using dangerous experimental weapons no less?”  There was no way out of telling them that one.

“Since September, ma’am.”

“And do you have any of that weaponry here, Tucker?”  Dad wasn’t looking at him, but there was an edge to his tone that Tucker wanted to avoid.

“No, sir.”

“Tucker, you have the exact same wrist band on right now,” Dad pointed out with a sigh.  “Why would you lie about that?”

Tucker kept his swearing to both a minimum and in his head.  He was already in enough trouble after all. “I have a feeling you’re gonna take this away from me, and I’d rather you not.”

“Tucker, that’s a dangerous weapon !”  Mom did have a valid point, he would admit.  “You have been targeted, and I’m sure being pinned to the wall like that must’ve hurt, are you ok?”

Tucker sighed as his parents started fussing over him, and spent the next five whole minutes assuring them that he was in fact fine.  “That was like, last week. And we beat him.”

“Alone, without supervision from anyone that could guarantee your safety, using potentially volatile weaponry.”

“Dad, I inspect my bow every time I take it out for no more than target practice and competitions,” Tucker said, frown deeper than before and not trying to keep the offense from his voice.  “Do you really think I’d go into a fight with a plasma rifle and not make sure it was absolutely safe to use?”

“Be that as it may, you didn’t involve the Fentons in this takedown of the ghost.”  His mom needed to stop making such good points, Tucker was almost feeling holes poked into his own story.

“I have seen Jack Fenton fire one of his own weapons, and it wasn’t nearly as clean a shot as the one he landed on Technus was.  He might’ve destroyed the area we fought Skulker in - and he would’ve alerted Skulker to our plan halfway through, ruining the trap!  And Dr. Fenton would’ve taken him back to her lab for vivisection.” Tucker shivered as a wave of cold rushed down his spine. “No one deserves that, not even someone as repulsive as him.”

His parents looked at each other for a long moment, and Tucker took a deep breath.  Clearly, the argument was over. When his parents looked back at Tucker, he could tell he hadn’t won it.  “Tucker,” his father started, “I want every Fenton made weapon you have on this coffee table immediately. Consider them all confiscated.”   Skulker’s arm isn’t Fenton Tech so I’m golden on that end.  “I also want your phone and PDA, and I’m changing the wifi password.  You are grounded until further notice, do you understand?”

Tucker sighed, setting down his wrist ray, turning off his PDA and phone - both thankfully password locked so they couldn’t get into it at all - and raised a brow.  “If a ghost attacks me at school, how am I supposed to defend myself? Or even just on the way there or back?” That gave them both pause, and Tucker watched the gears turn in their heads over it.

“Is this the only one of those weapons you have?”  A nod. “Then you may have it on you until you get home, but not a second longer, understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

So yeah, that had been weird.  But weirder still was the first day after the interview.  Stripped of his internet connection and forced to tinker on Skulker’s arm without Danny to consult, Tucker wasn’t in the best of moods that morning.  Maybe that’s why he missed the stares he got on the street while he was heading to school. It certainly didn’t stop him from noticing them at school.  Everyone looked up at him when he passed, noting right alongside him that Tucker was the only one of the trio that made it to school.

Someone asking him if he knew that Sam was rich answered his question of why he was solo.  While Tucker and Danny might not have known, the media certainly did. Danny and Sam’s houses were both swarmed with assholes trying to get in for an interview, though the Mansons at least had a gate.  Sure people were far more subdued and restrained about it in class, most trying to pretend they were paying attention, but in the halls, Tucker had to sprint away from jocks that ‘wanted to talk to him’.   Yeah, I’m definitely dumb enough to let that happen.

Unfortunately, when lunch rolled around Tucker wasn’t quite good enough at grabbing the food and leaving the cafeteria to avoid being mobbed by dozens of students.  Countless questions were being thrown around and Tucker struggled to elbow his way through them tot he door and into the hallways. “Hey, I’m tryna eat here! Save the school from a dragon and you can’t even get out the damn cafeteria as thanks.”  Finally, Tucker managed to shove his way through, though his milk had fallen onto someone’s shoe on his way out. Their problem.

Worse still than that was his way back home.  The reporters had seen the youtube footage of him complaining about fighting a dragon and being stuck, and now they were waiting just outside of school property for Tucker to come out so they could mob him with questions.  “Shit.” Heading to the office, Tucker had to request to use their phone, since his was confiscated, and call his parents. “Hey Dad, I’m stuck at school. No, not a ghost attack, I’d’ve handled that. Yes, I know that’s dangerous - look, no, there’s a crowd of reporters outside the school just waiting for me to come out.  I need your help getting home without getting mobbed.”

The ride back was tense, news vans making no effort to avoid being seen as they followed the Foley men back home.  When they got out, it was worse than before. The urge to flip off at least one camera was irresistible, and his dad looked ready to blow his top when a reporter came out into the lawn.  Being ushered into the house, Tuck slipped out a bird and snorted at the rise of questions, slipping into the house and helping to lock every door and window.

The day dragged on and on, his parents making calls to demand news stations leave their property while Tucker did homework.  Being watched by vultures like they were, Tucker couldn’t even work on Skulker’s arm now! “I’ve done all my homework. Now what?”

“Try cleaning up,” Mom said, proving moms were preternatural and had super hearing.  “It helps pass time in my experience.”

After a bit of groaning and moaning boredom won over and Tucker started doing chores of all things to pass the time.  As it turned out, that was a great way to get him to do just about everything he possibly could.  And yet, after the dishes were done he still had nothing left to do for entertainment.  “Who knew you could run out of chores?” Spinning around in his desk chair was fun enough until he stopped and the room kept spinning.

When the room stilled, Tucker saw the cardboard box from yesterday, unopened in the corner.  “There’s something to play with. I might even make a drone to knock the cameras out with.” One box cutting later and Tucker was not met with his ordered parts.  Instead, he sees a long golden rod, wrapped in violet cloth. One end was shaped like an ankh, leading about the length of Tucker’s arm to a small triangular gem set in the staff before the gold curved upward like prongs to support a lapis lazuli carved in the shape of a scarab beetle and set in a mold of its own.  “This… is not what I ordered.”

The metal was warm to the touch, and when Tucker picked it up he felt something.  A vibration maybe? More like a beat, a pulse coming from the gems and reverberating through the whole staff.  Flipping it end over end, Tucker raised his brow at how easy it felt to move around. “Perfectly balanced it looks like.  Which is impossible given its proportions.” Thinking back to the dragon amulet, Tucker set the scepter down. “Alright, if you’re magick then you don’t do what the dragon necklace did.  So what do you do?”  Tucker rolled his neck around and paced a bit, thinking it over.  Then he snapped his fingers and held one hand out.

The gems within the scepter gave off a faint light and the whole staff flew to Tucker’s hand.  Tucker held it up and fist pumped with a cheer. “Nice! Alright, so you’re not Mlnr but you can definitely fly.  I wonder what else you can do.”

Before Tucker could find out, there was a knock at his door.  “Tucker?” His mom called. “May I come in, baby?” Not sure how his folks would react to a magick scepter, Tucker slid the thing under his bed and opened the door.  Before him, his mother was holding out his PDA, and his cellphone. “We changed the password back. It looks like we’re gonna be stuck here for a while and I think that’s punishment enough, frankly.”

Tucker definitely agreed with her.  After a hug and reminder that dinner was soon, Tucker was left in his room with internet access, his phone, and his PDA.   And a magick golden staff from somewhere.  He checked, of course, but there was no traceable sender, only the logo for the company that he typically ordered his computer parts from.  “Weird.”

One would think Tucker bombarded Danny and Sam with texts throughout the whole night.  And really, that’s what Tucker likely should’ve done. But instead, he got to work on researching.  After all, Technus had been loose a whole day, and he’d also been antagonized. “Why the hell would they be so dumb as to attack the man who practically came up with modern electronics?”  That took him practically all night. Google was flooded with articles holding Technus’ name and filtering through them correctly was a pain in the ass. “Alright, what do I already know? He’s a ghost, he got shot at by biased scientists, he can be hurt by ectoplasmic weaponry, he was likely going to like, explore the world and marvel at our technology and visit family or something.  Where did he go though? What can he even do?”

After several hours of sifting through ripped news footage, Tucker found it.  Right there. The portal doors hadn’t been glowing green themselves when the Fentons opened them, but when Technus came through, they shone.  “Technology, he can control technology!” Tucker slapped himself in the forehead. “Of course he can, his name is Technus!”

After that particular revelation, Tucker showered and headed to bed, passing out as soon as his head hit the pillow.

 

The sun was high, light reflecting brilliantly off of the buildings around the city and the pyramid being built in the distance.  Standing in front of his palace, he took in the feeling of a gentle breeze, warm as the sun on his skin, pass over him and carry sand all around him.  Running his staff against the ground, he could feel the pulse of the Earth thrum through him, and heard whispers on the wind carrying the words of his people to him.  Everything was right in his kingdom, so long as he was there.

 

So yeah, the weirdest dream he’s ever had.  Which was why he was on the phone with Danny right now, having already programmed in a bit of protection against any eavesdroppers.  “It felt like, really real man. Glad you’re ok, by the way.”

“Glad to be ok.  Are you? It sounds like you got mobbed.”

Tucker snorted.  “It was just school, man, none of the jocks tried anything and nobody else is a threat to our safety there.  Although, Dad was pretty pissed at the guys who were - sorry are on our lawn.  Rude assholes.”

“Have they tried to break in yet?  I had to cover up the bathroom window.”

“Gross, dude, that’s fuckin gross.  Think you can hop body to body and make em all go away?”

“There’s an idea,” Danny muttered away from the phone.  “I’ve been so pent up in here I feel like I’m about to blow.  I’ll have to try later though, the Saturdays are on their way here.  Maybe they have proof of those cryptids with them this time.”

“I’m sorry, what did you-”

“Later Tuck!”  And Danny hung up on him, like a jerk.  Tucker rolled his eyes and tossed his phone onto his bed.  A moment of pause, and he called the scepter to his hand, satisfied when it rolled out from under his bed and flew there.

“Alright… what can you do?”

Chapter Text

Danny set down the phone and chuckled, shaking his head.  He’d deal with Tucker’s weirdness later. For now, he was heading up the stairs to the rooftop where he saw The Griffin™, the Saturdays’ small jetcraft, land on the helipad precariously installed on one corner of the roof.  I didn’t need to worry at all - what better pilot is there besides Aunt Drew?   She had been the one who taught Danny how to fly a jet, after all.  Well, he’d gotten to watch while she did the actual flying, and then replicate in a simulator until he was 13.  Piloting on his own had been some of the best fun Danny’d ever had in his life.

Standing on top of the highest level of their home, Danny was dismayed to see that several news agencies had, in response to the sighting of the Saturday Griffon, brought their news 'copters to bear on the situation.

Doc Saturday was a tall man, coming up only an inch shorter than Danny’s father, and wore a black protective suit underneath an orange vest, along with black pants and orange boots.  With his unhealthy appreciation for nature’s warning color and love for science and technology, it was no wonder to Danny that Doc and Jack were friends. The same could be said of Drew’s taste in color schemes, and Danny wondered if he should find some online tutorial on fashion, no matter how cool that sword she always had on her was.

Danny’s favorite person to leave the Griffon was Zak - short, 10 years old, bright-eyed and running at Danny.  The teen crouched down with his arms out and almost didn’t fall over this time when Zak barreled into him. “How do you get heavier every year?”  Danny laughed once he pulled his head up from the concrete of the roof.

“Because I actually have muscles to weigh me down?”  Zak said with a grin, laughing when Danny started grinding his knuckles against his scalp.  “Hey hey, I need this head of mine!” Danny hummed in contemplation from his hold on Zak, and let go.

“You’re right, I need you for when I prank Tuck and Sam.”  Zak rolled his eyes and the boys got up, both suddenly very aware of the cameras being pointed their way and glaring at them.  Danny was tempted to ask Zak to turn on the glow thing his eyes did when he talked to cryptids with his brain, but decided that the press would just eat that up.  “Let’s head inside before one of them starts climbing again.”

“What about the anti-ghost defenses?”  Zak tilted his head. “Shouldn’t plasma cannons trigger and lock on?”

“Those only lock onto ectoplasm Zak,” Danny said with a roll of his eyes.  Another reason to keep his powers bundled up in the center of his chest where they were.  Even still, Danny couldn’t help but look on the second layer of reality at Zak, wondering what he looked like with an aura around him.

F ire, crackling louder than the blades of the chopper overhead, hotter than the worst summer days, surrounded Zak’s head.  A halo, coming not from behind or around him, but from within, singing the song of ancients, a song so very old that he struggled to comprehend it’s magnitude, a song so beautiful and alluring that he would dance to its tune at the simplest prodding if only to hear it better .

Danny blinked, dropping Zak at the bottom of the stairs in a heap.  “Not even a little warning? None? For shame.” Zak laid his head back, eyes rolled.   “Here I lay, fallen and betrayed.”

“You’re psychic, I thought you’d hear me saying ‘think fast’ in my head.”  Danny plopped down right on top of Zak, deciding to use him as a cushion. “Uncle Doc, this pillow you brought is kinda lumpy-”

I am not !”

“Well, we have two more back home but one is pretty hard to lay on.”  Doc shrugged, grinning back at them as the boys wrestled.

Drew smiled. "Jack, Maddie? Maybe we could take this discussion to your lab? I'd love to get an up-close demonstration of your ghost portal.  I’ve had a few thoughts I was stewing on for the past couple of days.”

“You two certainly stirred up Epsilon and his People,” Doc chuckled, before that glint of curiosity, innovation, need more information, have to learn familiarity sparked in his eye.  “And I’ve been rather curious about where your portal leads.”

As Danny’s parents lead the Saturday adults away, Danny caught a fond yet exasperated, “Doc, they have literally found scientific proof of the afterlife, what more do you want?”  He snorted, shaking his head. Uncle Doc had always been a bit too rigid in his approach to SCIENCE. Danny thought it was a bit silly to think the supernatural couldn’t possibly be real when he supposedly dealt with actual monsters.  Then again, I suppose I’m a bit hypocritical for thinking that cryptids don’t make sense.

“You know, your parents successfully ripping open a door to like, heaven or whatever really drove  Dr. Gray up a wall.” Zak was laughing underneath him, that was a thing that was happening and Danny needed to roll away before the small child remembered that he was ticklish.  “I mean, she’s been studying parallel dimensions and the physics behind getting to them for like, ever, and you guys did that and more.”

Jazz shook her head, "When he says it, I suppose it does sound exciting. Still, it gets kind of...dull after the fifth time or so."  Zak’s mouth fell open as Danny nodded and reached over to close it.

“Mom and Dad’s experiments f-mess up often enough, and the house has been sucked into weird Other Places a handful of times.  I’m pretty sure we have a Lady Gaga country CD around here somewhere.”

“And let’s not even get started on British World,” Jazz shuddered.

“British world?”  Zak crossed his arms.  “What, like the world was taken over by the British?”

"When I was...six? Seven?" Danny answered, his gaze distant. "I think, anyway, mom and dad apparently moved the house into a world where America was still a British colony or something. I'm pretty sure there's this painting of King George and George Washington shaking hands in one of our storage lockers."

"And...your parents never told anyone about it?" Zak finally asked.

Jazz shook her head.  "It wasn't anything important I mean, they didn't even have computers or anything and, like we said, our parents do stuff like this on a regular basis."

“We have other portals in the other labs around the block, though those don’t lead to anything with an established set of life forms in it - or maybe, wait no Dad said they’d gotten the Fenton Fisher by killing a rock spider from the Beige portal so maybe the other ones have life in them too.”  Danny was definitely not happy about that particular bit of memory and would have to figure out how to protect extradimensional aliens from his dad along with the ghosts now.

“... You guys are just trying to show us up, aren’t you?”  Zak huffed and stared at Danny. And for a moment, Danny simply cocked his head with a broad grin, wondering what Zak was even doing.  But then he felt heat on his face, and fire rose to Zak’s eyes and coiling interlocking webs upon webs of connections, throughout the world, a link, a collection of streams of veins connecting to the heartbeat of one collective being, an ancient terrible being that would cook the world alive - “All I can do is talk to cryptids with my brain, and you guys have like, hoverboards and portals to other worlds and plasma cannons.”

“You need training to handle the plasma cannons,” Jazz said immediately, ever the mom and saving Danny from having to reply immediately after looking directly into the suns that were Zak’s eyes.  Thankfully the kid put the orange fire away, but Danny knew what he saw Zak wasn’t just some human gifted with a psychic power, he was more than that so much more that he ached to reach out proper and see just what It was .

“I wonder if you could like, open a portal to a specific point in space in our world.  You could probably teleport straight to the moon!” Danny nodded along to that, and Zak’s various other tangents, mentally tallying up all the different things Danny could confirm they definitely could and have done, such as start up a moon base.  It was entirely Danny’s and no one could take it from him.

“Have I shown you the Ops Center?”  Danny felt Jazz say ‘nope’ before she even threw her hands up and walked off to join in on the conversation in the lab.

“No, you haven’t, which is a crime, show it to me.”  Zak could speak rather quickly, but Danny was counting in his head as he walked upstairs.  “What is it?”

"This is the Fenton Ops-Center," Danny explained. "It's not actually a room so much as the main compartment of a dirigible-slash-jet. There's an inflatable gas bag above us and the switch is behind the emergency ham."

Zak looked like he was going to ask for a moment, before he shook his head, muttering 'emergency ham' under his breath and resigning himself to the Fenton brand weirdness.

"In the event of a ghost-related emergency," Danny stated, his voice droning into his parents' lectures on 'ghost safety,' "Fenton Works enters lockdown. If security is breached after that, we make our way up here and detach the Ops-Center, which will serve as an emergency escape vehicle."  Zak raised his hand and Danny shook his head. “No, the Ops Center is not currently equipped with plasma cannons.” The hand went higher. “Yes, we will eventually be installing them. You must ask for your parents' permission to assist in installing these plasma cannons.”  

Zak punched him.  That was fair, Danny supposed.  “Lemme guess, there are height restrictions too?”

“I dunno, I started working on my first plasma cannon when I was like, 11.  Dad supervised.” Zak gave him a very unappreciated Look and Danny pouted, pulling the boy into a quick headlock.  “I’ll have you know that Dad knows the insides and outs of every ghost weapon we have in this house as well as Mom does.  Maybe even better.”

“Ghost weapons,” Zak muttered, rolling his eyes.  "Is everything your parents do related to ghosts?" Zak’s question had a hint of understanding to it as if it had just dawned on him that the Fentons' scientific curiosity had focused so laser-tight that anything beyond the realm of 'Ghost' was considered extraneous research.

"Yes," Danny deadpanned.

"And those are the only 'important' experiments to them, right?" Zak affirmed.

"Yep," Danny nodded, popping the P.

“Wow.  Even my Mom and Dad recognize that the cortex disrupters and airship are marvels of technology compared to what the rest of the world’s got…”

Danny furrowed his brow, poking Zak on the nose.  “Are you sure about that? The Cortex disrupters, maybe, but isn’t your airship just a giant solar-powered blimp with rockets on it?”

“Can your OPs center break the sound barrier?”

“Ye-”

“In blimp form?”

Danny blinked a couple of times.  “Alright, fair enough, we can’t do that.”

“Saturdays for the win!”  Zak pumped the air with his fist and grinned, running his devil fingers up Danny’s sides and forcing giggles out of him like a demented clown.  Danny jumped back about 4 feet. "So, Danny, do you and Jazz work in your parents lab much?" 

"A little, now and then," Danny shrugged. "They want us to know about the lab so that we can inherit it eventually.  Even if we don't have any interest in ghost hunting.”

"Hunting?  I thought they were researchers?"

"They are," Danny nodded, "but the Fentons have always been ghost hunters, first and foremost. If you listen to my dad, we've been hunting ghosts since the Salem days. There was actually a Fenton at some of the Witch Trials validating or contradicting the Spectral Evidence."

"You're kidding? Are you sure?"  Danny let out a long sigh and prepared to tell Zak what his father had deigned to finish telling him about the Fentons’ long history of violently dealing with ghosts.

Jack Fenton took pride in all that he made.  His kids, his weapons, his equipment, all of it.  He was the kind of man to brag to anyone about all of these, usually within the same breath as each other since he had rather impressive lungs.  Right now, he was doing plenty of the talking for four people himself, describing every bit of equipment they passed in the lab.

Doc glanced around the lab, taking in the cluttered, homey feel of the room.  It was almost as though the Fentons lived in their lab, which wouldn't surprise him.  Sure, Doc and Drew were dedicated to their work, but they knew when to leave and have a different kind of fun.  The Saturdays weren't ever obsessed with telling the world their secrets.  

They also weren't obsessed with hunting cryptids, like Jack and Maddie were with ghosts.  

"You know, Jack, Maddie, Epsilon and his People were particularly miffed after your press release."  Drew grinned and Doc felt a smile come on himself. Regardless of how disastrous everything was, seeing stone-faced Epsilon struggling and utterly failing to maintain his composure in light of the world learning about the afterlife being real and ghosts being able to come back at random.

"Oh really?"  Maddie chuckled.  "The big bad secret organization is upset that we've, what was it, 'instigated a broken masquerade scenario' or whatever it was?"

"Epsilon actually mad?"  Jack looked ready to go into a fit of laughter. 

Doc pulled out his phone.  "Showed genuine emotion and everything."  He played the video he'd recorded of Epsilon's rant about the public not being ready for the paranormal, the breach of protocol, the countless coverups that now require triple the effort on their part, etc.  The four of them got a good laugh out of it.

“Ugh, I think I owe you like $50 now,” Jack lamented, draping an arm around Doc’s shoulders.  “Oh well. If they’re so upset by it, then they’d stop buying weapons from us.” A snort. “They’d have to figure out how to make em themselves first though, huh?  Speaking of! Would you like to see our notes for the Portal or the latest Fenton Bazooka?”

Ah right, the unpleasant business.  Taking a deep breath, the Saturdays looked between each other before looking back to their old friends.  Doc put on his best Upset Parent™ look and saw the confusion spark in Jack’s face.

“Maddie, Jack, we’re not here to talk about how pissed off Epsilon is, or how surprisingly cluttered your space is, or the marvels of your portal and research.”  Drew sighed, crossing her arms and the same disappointed look that she gave Fiskerton and Komodo for encouraging Zak’s wild plans was directed to the Fentons.

“We’re here to discuss how you two opened fire in a highly populated area, on the surprised ghost of Nicholai Technus himself.”

Jack shrugged, waving a hand as though to dismiss the concerns.  “We did hit the ghost instead of the crowd so I call that a small success.”

"God, Jack, no.  You can't just open fire when your weapon is aimed in the direction of a crowd.  That's gun safety 101: never aim a firearm at anything you aren't willing to see destroyed."  Doc was mildly relieved to see Jack looking at least a bit guilty at that. "And you didn't even let him finish talking!"  After getting over the shock that Jack and Maddie had proven him thoroughly wrong about at least One mystical aspect of reality that Drew had debated with him over the years, Doc had felt a simmering heat building over the fact that the father of modern electronics had appeared, and hadn't even finished a sentence.

Drew followed him up immediately before either Fenton could defend something like that.  "Not only is that bad press, and morally questionable at best, Maddie, Jack I'm shocked at the lacking tactics here.  You didn't get a chance to find out what his plans were if any, so we have no clue where he went or what his goal is.   You've established yourself in the eyes of the public as more concerned with shooting down your enemies than preserving the safety of the common civilian.  You've shown your hands as hostiles before making sure you could capture your target." Ticking the points off on her fingers, Drew threw a hand in the air. "Maddie, where did all your strategic thinking skills go?"

"I'll admit that it'd be useful to know where the ghost is," Maddie said, "but if we let it keep talking, it might've attacked the crowd or our kids."

"The press'll get over it eventually, either that or we'll simply explain the situation to the sane ones.  If we can find a sane reporter." Jack shook his head and Doc felt a stab of sympathy at the reminder of the mob outside.  But that was swept away by the simple reason of why they were there in the first place.

“That’s another thing: why are you dehumanizing Technus like that?  He’s clearly a conscious being, almost certainly still holds the same gender identity as he did in life.  Calling him ‘it’ is creepy at best.”

The Fentons sighed and shook their heads, only offering patronizing frown.  “Doc, please,” Jack said. “Ghosts are nothing more than manifestations of lingering consciousness.  The last biter thoughts someone had in death. They are angry, violent creatures that will destroy anyone and anything in their path.”

“At best they’re more like reality warping robots, set out to accomplish a single task in the form of unfinished business from life and operating on a highly limited range of emotions.”  Maddie shrugged. “They’ll not hesitate to use lethal force on anything that gets in the way of accomplishing that goal of theirs. They don’t think like human beings do, only focused on their obsession.”

“And how exactly do you know that that’s all they are.  I’ve encountered a ghost before, Jack, and I promise you I had no problems with placating her nonviolently.”

“And how do you know that it wasn’t just waiting for you to leave so it could go on killing, Drew?”

Before Drew could answer that, an alarm blared through the speakers all throughout the house and the boys started screaming just as Jazz’s foot hit the bottom of the stairs.  “I left them alone for less than a minute!

Chapter Text

It amazed Danny how little questions like, "Think your psychic cryptid powers can pick up on a ghost?" Could lead to avoidable, dangerous situations.  Zak pulled out his weird bird talon thing and held it up to the window, the blinds open for just a moment while he concentrated. Orange flames erupted from his eyes and the Hand of T'sul kalu.  Danny buried his ghost as deep inside of him as possible to stop himself from reaching out to touch those arcing flames and do something weird that'd out him to Zak. The little guy looked outside and gasped, pointing his bird talon at one reporter’s phone.

The alarm went off, Danny’s lungs went cold, and outside the one reporter’s phone began vibrating and glowing, rising up into the air until it was level with the window.  “Children! You have discovered me!” The phone’s screen displayed a neon green face with bright red eyes on it and Zak snorted. “I, Nicholai Technus, have found myself able to integrate with this cellular telephone, and connect with the internet through it!  I - wait a moment.” The phone floated closer and then jumped back. “ They told stories of you in the Ethereal Plane, Serpent, but I didn’t believe them!”

Danny pulled Zak behind him, readying the wrist ray with a high pitched whine.  “Who exactly are you talking to? And what about?”

Why the young godling here of course!  It appears you do not yourself know what you are! ”  Technus pulled himself back and green light filled the front yard as the adults thundered upstairs.   “ Perhaps I should teach you?”

Doc, Drew and Jazz chose that moment to enter the room and Danny had never wished his parents were there than he did right then.   If they weren’t there, after all-

A plasma cannon came somewhat into view, aiming itself at the phone and Danny poured that restless energy into his voice, projecting it louder even than the speakers in Technus’ phone.  “MOM DAD DON’T SHOOT AT A PHONE YOU’RE GONNA HIT THE HOUSE!”  The cannon powered down appropriately and Danny sighed in vague relief.

Then he saw what Technus was doing.  Tendrils of ectoplasm lashed out from the phone, connecting with the active recording equipment of all of the reporters, including the chopper that had set down in their other yard.  The helicopter was thankfully vacant when Technus had it levitate upward toward the phone he was possessing, the device phasing through the windshield and merging with the controls while cameras and tripods raced upward to join it, attaching at the sides and underbelly while pointing at Fentonworks, the body growing sleeker and more… advanced.   

Doc and Drew were on their way up to the roof and Danny, Jazz and Zak were on their heels, everyone standing in front of the mech that now had a car attached to it and a humanoid body constructing itself from the parts.   "I see that you Fentons still bear undue hostility towards me!"

"Every ounce of our hostility is due, you putrid protoplasmic conduit of post human consciousness!"  The plasma cannon fired on the robot Technus had built, and another car was pulled up in front of the shot just in time to get melted instead of him. The lenses of each camera gathered - gods why were there so many of the now fleeing paparazzi? - lit up with eerie green light and Danny shoved Zak to the ground, closing his eyes to avoid the flare of light but sadly not the heat of it.  When Danny opened his eyes the plasma cannon was melted on it's mount and Technus was cackling. 

"Fool!  I am the father of electronic invention!  I am master of technology! I cannot be defeated by it!"  

"This is going poorly."  Danny stood up and pulled out his own rifle, took aim, and yelped as the thing was yanked from his grip.  "Shit!"

"What's this?  An admittedly sophisticated design!  If only you would collaborate with me, I might be able to help improve your defense systems!  Or even better!"

Whatever Technus was going to say, and some part of Danny that wasn't panicking was very curious as to what that was, he didn't get to.  Drew's sword was raised in his direction, heat rippling up the blade and gathering in a ball of fire at the tip that flew forward and struck the Fenton Rifle, quickly overheating the already charged up ectoplasmic cell within.  Jazz and Danny were already pulling Zak behind them and toward the stairs when an explosion rocked the area and blew off the arm of Technus' robot, shattering the windows, and flinging Technus himself out of the vehicle and phone, causing it to fall to the ground in a heap of metal.  Danny grabbed onto the doorframe and the collar of Zak's shirt to keep them all from tumbling down the stairs.

"Hi there, yeah, I'd appreciate not having weapons aimed my way about as much as you do.   How about we all calm down and talk this out like the rational adult scientists we all are?"  Drew had the blade of her sword down, but Danny wasn't very reassured by that himself. 

“You all get the hell away from me!"  Technus screeched, turning invisible and zooming away as the OP center's other cannons began to charge.

Danny sighed, relaxing his white knuckles grip on Zak one finger at a time.  Then he let go of the door frame, and shook his fingers until there was feeling proper in them again.   "Is he still here?" He looked down at Zak, who raised his talon and put on the light show again, looking around in a full circle.  Finding nothing apparently, he shook his head. 

"All clear."  Zak tilting his head, tapping Danny on the chest - right where that bundle of cold sat.  Danny's eyes widened but he shook his head calm as he could. Zak gave a thumbs up and ran over to his parents.  "Mom that was so cool! You beat up a robot!"

"Jazz."

"Yes Danny?"

"We're gonna need to keep Mom and Dad from destroying Technus, aren't we?"

“Probably, little brother, probably."

Danny groaned, letting out a heavy sigh.  Louder, he said, "The Saturdays probably shouldn't be here while Technus still is.   I don't wanna know what he might do to the Griffin." Doc and Drew clearly heard him and he sighed.  One complication out of the way.