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Danny had done a lot of dumb things in his life (not the least of which resulted in turning his life into his half-life), but he wasn't stupid. Usually. He supposed that compared to the rest of his family he was a moron, but in the grander scale, he was reasonably intelligent. He had to be, to survive being a half-ghost.

So he knew that he couldn't go home. Not looking like this.

He glared at his milky reflection in the ice, and prodded one of the burn blisters on his face. Yeah. His parents would definitely notice that, and, if they noticed that, they'd take him to the doctor, and it just went downhill from there. Even if the doctor, or nurse, more likely, didn't notice anything ghostly with his system as a whole, they'd give him an exam, and the very first thing they'd notice after the burns would be the incisions along the insides of his arms.

How would he explain those in a way that didn't sound completely insane? I haven't been cutting myself, it was the psychotic psychologist ghost? You know, the one that almost killed Jazz, and then infected the Casper High student body with weird ghost bugs? Even in Amity Park that story would get him committed. Ancients, he hated Spectra. He hated Spectra and her new burning hellscape island, and the fact that her fingers were now literally razor sharp claws.

(He hated how she made him feel, how he had welcomed the pain as a distraction from her voice. He hated that he was almost, almost tempted to pick up a shard of ice and just-)

(Ghosts could not be suicidal. It was a contradiction in terms. Danny had a lot of problems, but that wasn't one of them.)

He really wanted to go home. He really wanted to see his sister, and Sam, and Tucker. But he didn't want to freak them out. He sighed, and poked his face again. This would really hurt once his nerve endings, and their ghostly equivalents, started to grow back.

(At least he had gotten the other, little ghosts away from Spectra. After being barred from her normal haunts on the material plane by Danny, she had turned to what was basically straight-up sadism to satisfy her superiority complex obsession. The results hadn't been pretty.)

His friends would worry, of course. They always worried. He would have called them, but he and Tucker hadn't quite figured out how to get a signal from the Ghost Zone to the real world.

The real problem, though, was his parents. He was already hours past curfew. They'd be furious with him when he got home. Which, judging by how much he had already healed, wouldn't be for several more hours. He sighed. He'd have to stay in ghost form, too, if he didn't want this to scar, or get infected, so it would take even longer. He didn't know why, but his human form tended to heal faster, while his ghost form healed more completely.

He supposed that he could say a ghost had kidnapped him... It was, after all, essentially true.

If he wanted them to get all crazy overprotective.

He resisted the urge to rub his eyes, and started to consider where he could camp out until he was healed enough to go home. He did have lots of allies, at this point, and even some of his 'enemies' would probably be cool with letting him crash on their couches, or whatever, but they were all kind of far away, and Danny was tired. He wasn't sure that he could make a long flight. He couldn't stay here. Here was creepy.

What he really wanted to do was go to Long Now. Clockwork always knew exactly what to say to make him feel better, but Long Now was as far away as the Far Frozen from here. He couldn't get there without rest.

Ember was probably closest. She and Danny had a sort-of truce going right now, but she would want something from him in exchange. Free reign in Amity for a day, probably. Or she'd make him stand in for her kind of flaky keyboardist/ back up singer. That kind of thing. (How Ember had discovered that Danny had taken piano lessons in middle school would be forever beyond him.)

Still, it wasn't as if he had a lot of options. He could feel himself doing that thing where he would just shut down after a fight. If he didn't go now, he wouldn't make it.

He drifted cautiously from the cover of one lavender rubble island to the next. He didn't want to get into another fight. He especially didn't want to get into a fight with someone who used fire. That made his choice to go see Ember sound even dumber, but as he had established, it was that, or try to find a place to hide out here.

Yes, he was feeling sorry for himself. Really, who wouldn't?

Then the air in front of him tore open, and Danny pushed himself deep into invisibility, because, heck, he didn't want to fight someone who could do portals, and he wasn't in the mood to trust strangers.

But the figure that emerged from the swirling tear wasn't a stranger. It was Cujo, and Cujo wasn't terribly bothered by invisibility. He homed in on Danny, tackling him, and licking his tender face. Danny lost hold of his invisibility almost instantly, and was very thankful that Cujo was in his smaller form. He was more thankful when the small dog stopped. Danny knew Cujo meant well, but he was in enough pain as it was.

Once Cujo was situated in a more comfortable position on Danny's lap, Danny started to pet the small dog. He already felt a lot better with a friend at his side. Then, if Danny thought about it...

"I don't suppose that you have a lair, huh boy?" Danny suppressed a flinch at the rough sound of his own voice. Yikes. "Or how to get to Long Now really fast?"

Cujo yipped, seized Danny by the ankle, and took off. Danny wasn't terribly happy about this sequence of events (because that hurts, Cujo!), but he wasn't really upset, either. This was a familiar situation, and Cujo might actually be bringing Danny to his lair. It would probably be full of squeaky toys, but Danny couldn't bring himself to care. He could sleep! He didn't even particularly mind when Cujo dove through a dizzying series of portals. The screeching halt was harder to deal with - it hurt - but it meant that they had arrived and that he wouldn't be getting dragged around the Ghost Zone by his ankle anymore.

Danny blinked dizziness and spots out of his field of view, gently removed his boot from Cujo's mouth, and examined his surroundings.

He was standing in front of Long Now. Danny beamed, even though it hurt his face. He picked up the ghostly puppy, and swung him around. "Good boy, Cujo!"

"He is, isn't he?"

"Grandfather!" exclaimed Danny.

Cujo slipped out of Danny's arms and began to chase after the purple-robed ghost, who was currentlytaking the form of a small child. Clockwork, for his part, chose to teleport (or maybe he was stopping time?) repeatedly rather than get slobbered on. Cujo, however, was undeterred in his pursuit of the older ghost.

Danny had to cover his mouth with both hands to keep from laughing.

"Please come in, Daniel," said Clockwork in his very driest voice, before turning to drift back through the doors. Danny and Cujo followed. Once the reached Clockwork's sitting room, Clockwork pulled a squeaky toy from one of his sleeves, and tossed it down a long corridor. Cujo chased it, disappearing from view. "Very good boy," Clockwork said.

Danny suppressed another giggle. Clockwork shifted to face Danny, progressing into his adult form.

"Let's take a look at you, now, hm?"

"Okay," said Danny, easily. "Thank you."

"Sit down, please, and take off your shirt."

Danny quickly settled on the lavender sofa, and removed his shredded gloves. He had some trouble with the zipper of his suit, however, so Clockwork helped.

Jeez. His chest was all messed up, too.

Did he mention that he hated Spectra? Because he did. He really did.

Clockwork sighed, long and deep and disappointed, and Danny's mind kicked back into high gear, trying to figure out what he had done wrong. Because he must have done something wrong for Clockwork to make that sound. Maybe he wasn't supposed to have fought Spectra? Maybe he shouldn't have gotten hurt? There had to be something.

But Clockwork gave him a brief, careful, embrace. "My poor sweet child," he murmured, just barely loud enough for Danny to hear. "You are so brave, to keep going. Let no one tell you otherwise."

Danny's pulse slowed again, returning to the normal, nearly undetectable rate it generally kept to in his ghost form. Clockwork wasn't angry with him. That was good.

Together, Clockwork and Danny cleaned and bandaged Danny wounds, starting with the ones on his hands and wrists, and ending with his bruised ankle. They left his face unbandaged. Burns needed to breathe.

Then, wounds cared for, Clockwork gave Danny a pair of pajamas to wear. He also offered Danny a bed, but Danny was too tired to get up, and just curled himself into the corner of the couch, quickly falling asleep.

.

.

.

Clockwork draped a thick blanket over Daniel, and sat down next to him.

He was, idly, considering hunting down and destroying Spectra. The act would be cathartic, incredibly so, but the Observants would, undoubtedly, be displeased if he did so. Even though they should have been attempting to capture her themselves. Convincing someone to commit suicide was a heinous crime. Then, too, he was trying to downplay how important Daniel was to him.

If the Observants had any idea of the depths of Clockwork's feelings... Well. There was a reason he was hiding them. But he just had to hide for a little longer, and then the Observants would have no legal recourse, no grounds on which to separate Clockwork and Daniel, or to demand, once again that Clockwork end Daniel.

They could try illegal methods, of course, but that would be incredibly foolish if them.

Daniel whimpered. Clockwork's lips flattened in worry. That would be his nerve endings and silver cord, the ghostly equivalent, starting to regrow. There was, unfortunately, nothing Clockwork could do about this short of heavily drugging Daniel, and Daniel was not someone who enjoyed artificially altered states of consciousness.

Daniel moaned again, this time louder, and Clockwork put a hand on the child's shoulder, and strengthened the output of his ectosignature. It was a small comfort, but it would show Daniel that he was not alone, that this was a safe place. A sanctuary.

.

.

.

Danny jolted awake, breathing heavily. He'd been having a nightmare, but it was already slipping away. He couldn't remember what it was about, except that it hadn't been one of the worse ones.

He raised a shaking hand to his face, feeling the inside of his arms twinge, and ran his fingers over the smooth but tender skin he found there. It didn't have the heat in it that it did when he went to sleep. It felt sunburned, more than anything. A relief.

"Feeling better?" asked Clockwork.

Danny pulled himself up on the couch, and looked over to see Clockwork sitting beside him. He hadn't been expecting that. He knew that the older ghost, the Master of Time, had better, more important things to do than take care of Danny.

"Yes," he answered, finally processing Clockwork's question.

"Breakfast?"

Danny shook his head. "I need to get home. I'm really, really late." He rubbed the remnants of sleep out of his eyes, and frowned at the still-healing cuts on his arms.

"Daniel," said Clockwork, "you have all the time you need."

Danny froze halfway off the couch. "You mean that?" he asked, voice wavering. "You'd do that for me?"

"Of course, Daniel. You will arrive back on the material plane only minutes after you left. We cannot make a habit of this, but in this case, it solves more problems than it causes."

"Oh," said Danny. "Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much." He felt like he was about to cry.

"It is nothing," said Clockwork, giving the young ghost a quick hug. "Now. Breakfast."

Danny perked up. He was hungry. He had skipped lunch, earlier, and fighting, and healing, took a lot of energy. Energy that hadn't been fully restored by the Ghost Zone. "Yes," he said. "Thank you."

Clockwork put an arm around Danny's shoulder, drawing him close. "Right this way."