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Childhood

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Children tend to imitate the adults around them, especially those whom they admire. Mannerisms, personality traits, hobbies, and style are all up for grabs.

Does that change for children who are dead?

Why, yes.

The tendency grows stronger.

.

The changes were small, at first. Small enough that Danny didn't even notice them. No, Tucker was the first one to say anything.

The specific thing he said was: "Hey, Danny, can you turn back for a second?"

Danny, who had just then returned to human form in the safety of Tucker's attic raised an eyebrow. "Okay?" he said, complying. "What's up?"

"Your hair," said Tucker.

Danny ran his hand through the mentioned body part. "What about it?"

"It's longer," said Tucker, reaching up to tug on a lock.

"Huh," said Sam. "You're right, it is."

"Longer than what?" asked Danny.

"Than when you're human," said Sam. She grinned. "Want me to cut it for you?"

"No," said Danny. "It isn't bothering me yet, and I don't want an undercut."

"I can do more than undercuts," said Sam.

"It is sort of weird, though," said Danny. He dropped back into human form and collapsed into one of Tucker's beanbags.

"Anyway," said Tucker, "how was your trip to the Far Frozen?"

"Oh, it was great," said Danny. "Frostbite taught me some new ice things, do you want to see?"

.

The next change Danny noticed were his lips. He rarely wound up in front of a mirror as Phantom, but when he did, he found himself doing double take after double take.

Today, it was because he had gotten a fairly nasty cut and wanted to patch it up in ghost form before switching back. He had just finished that, when his reflection caught his eye.

He made a face at it, then froze.

The inside edges of his lips were faintly blue.

He floated closer to the mirror to get a better look, and pulled back his bottom lip. Danny knew he had unusual coloring for a ghost, even a young one, and that Vlad certainly hadn't kept a human coloration, despite being a half-ghost, but Danny had been hoping that he'd be an exception. Especially after the whole incident with Dan.

Danny didn't want to look anything like his so-called future self.

On closer inspection, however, the color of his lips was darker, more violet than blue, and the inside of his mouth was more or less the same color it always had been in ghost form. There were thankfully, no fangs.

Was this a side effect of his cold core? To make him look hypothermic? He wouldn't particularly mind if that was the case.

He stopped playing with his lips and put his hands down. If that were the case, where else would it show? Fingers? Toes? Ears? He pulled back his hair, which was now, admittedly, rather shaggy.

There was a very faint purple-blue blush on his ears.

"Great," he whispered. He pulled off his gloves. The discoloration was there, too, on the tips of his fingers and under his nails.

But there wasn't anything he could really do about it, other than hope it didn't spread. He sighed. At least none of this was visible in his human form.

.

"Your freckles are coming back," said Jazz.

"Ugh," said Danny, hanging upside-down on the couch. "Really?"

"Yep," said Jazz. "You should think about wearing sunblock more often when you're flying."

"I don't think that would really matter," said Danny. "My ghost half and my human half don't line up in detail."

Jazz closed her textbook. "Have you checked?"

"Checked what?"

"Whether or not your ghost form has freckles."

"No," said Danny. He somersaulted off the couch.

"Where are you going?" asked Jazz.

"To check the freckles thing!" said Danny. He climbed the stairs to the bathroom he and Jazz shared and shut the door. He locked it behind him before going ghost.

Jazz was right. His ghost form did have freckles.

Wait a moment. Those patterns... Were those constellations?

.

After the fight was over, Danny ran a hand through his hair and- Wait. What was that?

Hidden in his thick hair were two small, cold, crystalline lumps. Were those horns?

Danny swallowed hard and flew back to the school bathroom. Yes, he had grown a small set of icy horns.

That settled it. He couldn't ignore these changes anymore. He had to figure out what was going on.

Horns. He couldn't believe it.

.

He arranged cover with Jazz, Sam, and Tucker, because he didn't know how long he'd be gone. His destination was the Far Frozen, as they were his allies with the greatest medical knowledge. Clockwork would probably know what was going on, too, but he had all these weird rules about what he could and could not tell Danny.

As he flew through the green mists of the Ghost Zone, Danny mused that he was lucky to have so many allies to help him, now. So many people he could be safe with. He remembered back at the beginning, where the only people at his side were Sam and Tucker. They were great, of course, and he couldn't have survived without them, but they were kids, too.

It was good to have adults on his side.

.

The Far Frozen was as cold and snowy as ever, and Danny's core hummed happily at the hospitable environment, shifting into purring as he was greeted by the yetis. They laughed, smiled, and patted him on the shoulders.

It made Danny hesitant to bring up his problem.

But it was the reason he'd carved out time to come. So when Frostbite asked what had brought him to the Far Frozen, Danny showed them.

All the yetis went silent for a moment, and then began cheering.

Danny scowled, confused and not liking it. "What's going on?" he asked.

"Forgive us, great one," said Frostbite, chuckling. "We are simply flattered that you have chosen to imitate us."

"I didn't do this on purpose," objected Danny.

"It's a subconscious process," explained Frostbite. "Child ghosts tend to partially imitate the adults they like, the adults they spend time with."

"Oh," said Danny. "Oh. So, it isn't a thing I should be worried about."

"No," said Frostbite. "It's quite normal."

Danny nodded. "I've, um," he shifted closer to Frostbite, almost laying on the larger ghost's arm. "The horns aren't the only thing, though, and I'm not sure where everything is coming from," he said. "Some of it is happening to my human form, too. Should I be worried about that? The horns haven't transferred over, but..."

"We'll look into it."

.

Danny had a thorough medical check up, courtesy of the doctors of the Far Frozen, and was given a squeaky clean bill of health. Literally. They had given him a laminated medical report, for future reference.

After the exam, several yetis volunteered to teach him how to use the horns to help direct his ice powers. They were brave warriors, unafraid of being frozen by Danny's still-growing ice powers.

This was followed by a huge feast in his honor (Danny suspected that the yetis just liked having an excuse to throw a party). Danny did his best not to overeat and drop into a food coma, but was, sadly, unsuccessful.

Frostbite carried him from the feasting hall half asleep, and tucked him into bed in a lavish guest room. Among the thick, warm furs of the bed, Danny let himself become human and fully fell asleep.

.

He woke up feeling rested and much more at ease. Knowing what was happening, that his ghost form was just copying his friends, took a lot of stress off of him. True, he wasn't sure where the star freckles came from, and there were two culprits for the blue skin, but, overall, the changes were no longer a mystery.

He crawled from beneath the heavy covers, stretched, and went ghost.

Whereupon he noticed that his ghost form abruptly had four arms.

.

"Most likely," said Frostbite, "your subconscious was blocking this particular transformation, as it is somewhat more extreme than the others."

Danny tried to cross his arms, and blushed furiously as they collided with each other, highlighting a frustrating lack of coordination. "Yeah," he said. "Do you- do you know how I can undo this? I don't know how to deal with having," he gestured with all of his arms, "four arms."

Frostbite didn't bother to hide his amused smile. "I don't know any way that would be healthy for you, at this stage of your development. I would suggest that you go to Pandora, and ask her for advice. I am assuming she is the primary four-armed ghost of your acquaintance, yes?"

"Yeah," said Danny. He sighed. "I'm going to be gone for so long. Jazz is going to go mental."

Frostbite patted him on the knee. "I can take you to Elysium with the Infinimap," he said. "That will shorten your journey, at least."

.

Pandora was as excited about Danny's new appearance as the yetis had been. She spent nearly an hour alternately cooing over his extra limbs, showing him off to the various citizens of Elysium, and giving him sandwiches.

Danny... liked the attention, honestly. Sometimes, he forgot what it felt like, for an adult to be proud of him. His parents and most of his teachers only looked at him with disappointment, nowadays.

When the hour was up, however, Pandora was determined to teach him how to fight with four arms. She put a staff into each of his hands, and off to the training grounds he went.

As it grew late, Pandora extracted a promise from him to come back regularly, for more training. Danny didn't think he had coordinating four arms down, yet, but he thought he was getting the hang of it.

There was one more place he wanted to stop before he went back home.

.

Danny was expected. The tall, dark doors of Clockwork's lair were open. He drifted inside.

"Hello, Daniel," called Clockwork, pleasantly.

"Hi," said Danny, rounding a corner to find the older ghost, in child form. "I-" He stopped, he had no idea how to phrase this without sounding stupid.

As far as he could tell, he hadn't picked up anything from Clockwork, beyond, maybe, the blue spots on his skin, and he felt weirdly guilty about that. After all, he spent more time with Clockwork than the others, and after seeing them so happy, he didn't want Clockwork to feel left out.

Clockwork took off his gloves and started rolling up his sleeves, shifting to elder form as he did so. Danny blinked and flew closer, curious. Clockwork hardly ever took off his gloves, and Danny had never seen him with his sleeves rolled up.

There were, Danny noted with surprise, symbols inlaid into Clockwork's arms in gold and silver. He looked at them, his head tilted. Some of them looked familiar.

"Oh," said Danny, eyes wide, "they're astronomical symbols."

"The sky was humanity's first clock," said Clockwork. He shifted age again, to his middle form, and pulled back his hood, revealing long, white hair.

"Oh," repeated Danny, hunching sheepishly. He felt rather foolish, now.

"You don't have to worry about these things," said Clockwork, patting Danny on the shoulder. "Would you like a snack, before I send you home?"

"Sure," said Danny.