If you ask Danny Fenton about the current on-goings of his life, he’ll say he’s doing his best.
It’s not perfect by any means, nor even good by the same standards, but when you accidentally open up a portal to the dimension of the deceased and somewhat-maybe-probably end up dead in the process, your best drastically decreases in quality.
Personally, Danny’s best goes from being an average B (occasionally A) student to straight Cs and more than a few Fs on his report card. His best goes from a full eight hours of sleep a night to a mere four on a good day. His best goes from having meals with his family (laughing, talking, even if the conversations were a little weird—) to eating his dinners curled up—alone—in his room, and wondering just what, exactly, the phrase tear him apart molecule by molecule means.
His best goes from having two amazing, kind, and wonderful friends to having zero. He goes from having two of his best friends at his side to walking the halls of Casper High alone for the very first time.
Danny tries to tell himself it’s for the best. His friends, as generous and supportive as they are (or, rather, were), don’t deserve to get involved in Danny’s mess. He had turned on the portal some six months ago. He’s the reason the ghosts show up. It’s him who has to deal with the fallout of that particular fuck-up. He can’t risk his friends’ lives for something as petty as moral support.
Some part of him realizes as well, somewhere deep in his heart, that he won’t have a secret if he attempts to keep his best friends as friends and keep his secrets as secrets. Sam and Tucker know him too well, after all.
In the end, it’s easier just to push them away.
(Still, it doesn’t help when sometimes he sees both of them in the hallway, and they give him that look, and he knows, at that exact moment, if they were to ask him what’s wrong, then the truth might find a way of tumbling out anyway.)
There was a point during the lonely six months between the portal incident and now that he really did debate telling his friends—and, by extension, his family—but then he got in over his head. He witnessed their deaths by his own hands (albeit ten years in the future, but his own hands nonetheless). Had Clockwork not taken pity on him and intervened, his friends and family would be gone. Deader than even him—which, frankly, is saying something considering he’s dead a solid fifty percent of the time.
He couldn’t save them.
Any lasting feelings he had about spilling his secret quickly dried up, and he shoved his loneliness to the furthest corner of his mind.
No one could know.
Danny’s carefully built façade of indifference comes crumbling down on a Wednesday afternoon.
It starts and ends when Mr. Lancer stands at the front of the room holding a sheet of weirdly-colored papers and announces, “One Hundred Years of Solitude, class! Settle down. Ms. Sanchez, if you could return to your own seat now—yes, thank you. Mr. Baxter, feet off the table. If we could all quiet down, I have information that pertains to your upcoming grades for the rest of the semester.”
Almost begrudgingly, the class returns to their own seats, and tense silence overtakes the entire room. For the people who actually do care about their grades, it’s probably a rather important announcement. For Danny, who’s been failing every class he attempts since the portal accident, it’s probably just going to get thrown out the window the moment a ghost shows up to wreck his entire day. He still tries to pay attention, just in case.
Then Mr. Lancer says, “For the next three weeks, you all will be working on group projects.”
And Danny’s fucked.
The funny thing about group projects is that they already sucked before the whole half-ghost part of the equation is added in. At best, he’s unreliable with his own work, and adding the frustrations of potential groupmates makes him want to squirm in his seat. Ghosts don’t care about schoolwork or due dates or group projects—an unfortunate fact that he learned very early on during his hero parade.
Mr. Lancer, of course, doesn’t know any of this and dutifully starts listing group members. Danny sits at his desk in the far back and wrings his hands together nervously. The only thought going through his head is anyone but Dash.
Mr. Lancer, apparently, obliges. “—Mr. Baxter, you’ll be with Ms. Sanchez and Mr. Williams. Please attempt to choose a topic other than footballs this time, Mr. Baxter, especially considering it doesn’t match the prompt.” Mr. Lancer flips his page. “And, for our last group, we have Ms. Mason, Mr. Foley, and Mr. Fenton.”
Danny’s so completely and utterly fucked.
His heart drops to his stomach. He very deliberately avoids the looks Sam and Tucker are discreetly sending his way and hopes that today is the day that Clockwork finally strikes him down.
He doesn’t know what it says about his life when Dash is preferable in a group project to his former best friends.
Danny buries his head in his arms and groans quietly.
Apparently not quietly enough, if the look Mr. Lancer is giving is anything to go by. Nor are the expressions on Sam and Tucker’s face. “Is there a problem, Mr. Fenton?”
He feels his face heat up and desperately tries not to intangibly sink through the floor out of pure embarrassment. “No, sir.”
“Very well. If you have a problem with the group assignments, then I would advise you to come to my office after class,” Mr. Lancer drops the subject, but from his expression, the conversation is anything but forgotten. To the rest of the class, he says, “We’ll be starting on this tomorrow. Use this evening to think of topics and presentation types. I want a rough draft on my desk by tomorrow afternoon. For now, I would suggest meeting with your teammates and figuring out a plan of action. One is never too prepared.” The bell rings. The students immediately start packing their bags for their next class. “That will be all for today. Please keep this project in mind as the due date draws closer! This will not be a project you can do on your own the night before. I will see you all tomorrow.”
Danny is a ghost, so, logically, sneaking is something he should be good at, right?
“Danny,” Sam says. “I think we need to talk.”
He doesn’t even make it out to the crowded hallway before Sam grabs his arm and yanks him towards the cafeteria. Tucker walks beside them, occasionally sending him glances as he pretends to be furiously typing away on his PDA. Danny tries yanking his arm out, but he’s unfortunately too keenly aware of his own strength. He doesn’t think any normal human would be able to pry their wrists out of Sam’s death grip.
Today is just really not his day.
“Sam, please let me go,” he says. When she ignores him and continues on her one-man quest across the cafeteria, he says again, “Samantha. Let me go.”
She stops so suddenly that he runs into her back, but she doesn’t let go. When she turns to look at him, he tries to ignore the hurt in her expression, and the wince Tucker gives from his side. They share a glance that’s almost impossible for Danny to discern, just like they used to, but this time he feels no better than an outsider.
A tiny little voice in his head laughs and tells him, you did that.
“Guys, look, can we just—”
“Sit,” Sam tells him. Danny looks around, finds that they’re at their old table. He doesn’t sit.
He says, instead, “I think I really should get going—”
“Danny, sit down,” Sam says, forcefully.
“You can’t keep ignoring us forever, dude,” Tucker adds in, helpfully.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he understands that just as well as they do—he doesn’t know whether that’s a good thing or not, at this point. Unfortunately, he also knows a lost battle when he sees one, and he’d prefer not to invoke Sam’s wrath on the first day of a three-week-long group project. Instead, he focuses his energy on burying long-dead memories, trying not to wince, and sits.
It’s the first time he’s sat at their table in six months.
It feels…nice, almost—the familiarity. The sudden nostalgic feel of a better time before the portal, before the accident, before the ghosts. For a second, he savors it. Then he opens his eyes, feels the hum of his core, and realizes that he really can’t afford to feel anything other than apathy at this point in his marginally messed up life.
(It’s for their own good, Danny tells himself. It’s for their own safety.)
If only they could see that as well.
“Danny,” Tucker says, slowly. Sam nods her head in agreement. Neither of them sit at the table. “Listen, man. I don’t know what’s been going on in your life for these past few months—"
“—Because you won’t talk to us,” Sam interrupts. Danny can hear the way she frustratingly grits her teeth from here and tries to hide his wince. This conversation is going just about as well as he could imagine.
“You can’t keep shutting us out like this. It’s not healthy,” Tucker says. “Consider this an intervention,”
“Oh, god,” Danny says.
Sam holds out her fingers and starts listing away, “You don’t sit with anyone. You’re failing a large majority of your classes. You keep coming to school covered in bruises. You fall asleep in every class you attend. You keep rushing out of class. You keep skipping class. You stopped talking to us completely. None of this is normal.”
Huh. Danny hadn’t thought anyone noticed, but, well, his friends (former friends) had always been more observant than most. This is not a good thing.
Danny doesn’t meet her eyes and opts instead to say, “What are you, my sister?”
“Can you be serious, for once?”
Danny’s head snaps back to narrow his eyes at her. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am being serious.”
Tucker puts his hands up and gets between them before their conversation can be derailed into an actual argument. “Alright, uh, whoa guys. Danny, we just want to know what’s going on. You might not be acting like it right now, but you’re still our friend. We want that friend back.”
Danny wants his friends back too.
(Dan, his family tied up in the Nasty Burger, the explosion, Clockwork, he wasn’t fast enough to save them—)
There isn’t any going back.
“Is there a point to this conversation?” Danny snaps. He needs to get away before he completely loses control of this entire situation. He stands up from the table, lunch being the furthest thing from his mind. He takes a single step back. “Because, if not, I’m leaving.”
“Danny, man, come on, we’re just—”
“Just what? Worried? You don’t need to be! As soon as this project is over, you won’t have to worry about me at all, okay? So let’s just… let’s just finish it and be done.”
He still can’t meet either of their eyes as he walks away. There’s something heavy in his chest. A part of his core wants nothing more than to go back and sit and laugh just like they used to.
“I miss my best friend.”
He’s almost far enough away that Tucker’s words get lost in the general chatter of the cafeteria. Almost being a keyword.
He stops, just for a second, thinks about what lead him to this point in his life, and says, “Yeah. I do too.”
Like per always, he doesn’t make it through the rest of the school day.
Skulker ends up destroying the newly renovated gym just moments before the last bell of the day rings. Danny is forced to embarrass himself further in an attempt to leave the classroom and stop the ghost before he actually hurts someone. Fortunately, Danny has a lot of practice slipping out of class to prevent ghosts from their evil-plan-of-the-day. Unfortunately, it shreds up every tiny amount of dignity he has left.
Needless to say, between the group project, his (former) friends butting back into his life, and the ghosts, Danny is not having any semblance of a good day.
A missile flies just inches from his ear. Danny, floating around twenty feet off the ground in full Phantom form, turns and blasts Skulker before he can get any closer. Skulker takes the hit directly to the chest and is sent catering straight into the gym's brand new wood floor.
Coach Tellstaf will be angry (con), but at least gym class won’t happen for a little bit longer (pro).
“Can we not do this right now,” Danny says and hopes Skulker can see precisely how done he is by the nonexistent humor in his expression.
Skulker stands up from the rubble and shoots off the floor. There’s a knife in his hands now, which isn’t exactly new, but Danny very much does not want to get stabbed today. “I will have your pelt!”
By this time, the ghost alarm is blaring at full volume right in his ear. It’s truly the icing on the cake for this clusterfuck of a day. He doubts it can get much worse.
“Awesome,” Danny says, under his breath. “Fantastic. I love it when people ignore me.” Then, to Skulker, “Can we take a rain check, maybe? I have a really emotionally scarring group project that I need to attend!”
“I’d rather have you on my wall!”
“That is still disgusting no matter how many times you say it!”
Danny dodges the first swipe of the knife and uses Skulker’s momentum to throw him back a couple feet. Skulker raises his arm just in time for more missiles to come out because the ones from before were simply not enough, apparently. Danny manages to shake two of them, but the third one flies right at him and—oh, right, intangibility is, in fact, an ability he has. He turns his entire body intangible just in time for the missile to sail harmlessly through.
“Seriously, can we please do this another time? I’ll even give you a Hunt Danny for Free card if we can do this another day. I am very small, and very tried, and I very much do not have time for this—”
Danny takes a knife to the leg.
He stares—knife, leg, pain, and all and says, “Well, that’s not ideal.”
The first thing out of Sam’s mouth during the group project meetup in Mr. Lancer’s class the next day is, “You’re limping.”
The cool thing about stabbing is it does tend to make people limp.
Danny bites down a groan, having forgotten about that in the haze of trying to get Skulker back into the Ghost Zone and wrap his very much stabbed leg. It still stings but, luckily, the fight hadn’t lasted too long after he'd been stabbed. Giving himself stitches in his room alone is not something he’s unfamiliar with.
He bites back a sigh. “I fell down the stairs.”
“At least look me in the eyes if you’re going to lie to my face, Danny.”
He looks her in the eyes and says, a touch louder and a touch stronger, “I fell down the stairs, Sam. I don’t know what you want from me.”
“The truth would be nice for once.”
“Guys,” Tucker says. He sounds tired. “We need an idea to turn in by the end of the period, so if this could wait until later, that would be great.”
Sam deflates. She almost seems just as tired as Tucker is. “You’re right. Sorry, Tucker.”
“It’s alright,” Tucker says. He looks at Danny, almost like he expects something. Danny thinks he might’ve mumbled something in return. He doesn’t know. Tucker doesn’t respond other than to sigh and say, “Does anyone have any ideas on what we could do this project about?”
For the next thirty minutes, they work only on the project. It’s nice, almost. Simultaneously, working with his friends only serves as a harsh reminder of what he’s lost. To what he did. By the end, they manage to scrape together a halfway decent proposal and hand it in a whole ten minutes early. There hasn’t been a single ghostly interruption the entire period.
Danny counts his stars and considers himself grateful.
(It doesn’t last.)
“I’m putting us in a group chat so we can talk about meeting up at one of our houses after school to work on this,” Tucker says after they hand in their paper to Mr. Lancer. If Danny hadn’t known any better, he could almost think Mr. Lancer had been proud when he handed the paper in early. “Any objections?”
Danny has several.
Firstly, he very much doesn’t miss the implications. They already had a group chat from before. There isn’t a need to make a new one, except that there is. A group chat for friends, and a group chat for school are different, after all.
Secondly, there is absolutely no way Danny is stepping foot in either Sam or Tucker’s house to work on this project. He can only imagine a ghost wanting to cause problems just to get to him. He thinks of the destruction left in the gym yesterday, of all the people blaming him for others being injured during ghost fights, of the property damage he leaves in his wake. Going to Sam or Tucker’s house isn’t an option. His parents and Jazz don’t know how far he’s pushed his only friends away, so going to his isn’t either.
Tentatively, Danny says, “Can we, uh, can we do the work here at school instead?”
“Why?” Sam says. Her voice is just a touch bitter. “Gonna run off again?”
Danny bites the inside of his lip hard enough to draw blood but doesn’t respond. Both of them know the answer already.
Sam sighs and the fight leaves her expression. “If you would just tell us—"
“There’s nothing to tell. I’m fine.”
“You and I both know what bullshit sounds like, Danny.”
Tucker butts in too, of course, because fighting with Sam isn’t enough. Danny just counts himself lucky that the rest of the class is too engrossed in their projects to listen in on three nerds arguing in the back. “You do give us a lot to be concerned about, dude.”
Danny’s losing control of the conversation again. He needs to leave, to get out of here. There’s nothing good that ends from emotional arguments. “There’s no need to be concerned about anything. I just—"
“You just what?” Sam demands.
“I just—” he hiccups down his ghost sense but feels the cool burning sensation crawl up his throat anyway. He has just enough time to throw a hand over his mouth to cover the blue mist and sends a desperate look at the clock. There are still five minutes left in class. He stands up anyway. “I have to go.”
He doesn't want to go.
“You have to go?” Sam says. Danny hears the accusation in her voice loud and clear. “Again?”
“Sorry isn’t enough, Danny! You keep—you keep leaving us! You’re pushing us away!”
His tongue feels like lead and he knows, even if he wants to, he can’t tell them. He can’t. So instead, he doesn’t meet her eyes, takes one step back and repeats, “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes, it feels like it’s the only word he can say these days.
Lancer’s Group Project
[tucker]: have either of you started your parts yet
[sam]: wow what a surprise
[sam]: ive got a rough outline done. ill have it finished in a couple days
[tucker]: cool. im working on my rough draft right now
[tucker]: danny how far along are you?
[danny]: ill have it done by the due date
[sam]: for some reason that doesn’t inspire very much confidence
“You gonna tell us anything today?”
“Personally,” Danny says in response, “I think my life just sucks.”
Sam nearly slams her hands on the library desk out of pure frustration. “If you told us why then maybe we could help!”
They’re persistent if anything. Luckily, Danny has taken time out of his very busy days to plan a way around these conversations, considering neither Sam nor Tucker would drop it like he wants. So while he still would rather not be talking to them to begin with, he’s no longer panicked about what to say anymore. He doesn't feel the need to up and run away in the school library, of all places.
“Ghosts,” Danny says.
For the first time since this whole mess started, he’s not lying. He figures, at the very least, he can throw them a metaphorical bone and see if they’d finally drop it.
Tucker sighs, “Man, I know you’re scared of ghosts—"
“Terrified,” Danny agrees, dryly.
“—You’re terrified of ghosts, but seriously, there has to be something more than that. We can get you in therapy. Maybe that would help.”
For the briefest second, an image of Spectra and her terrifying talons and words come to mind. Danny has to bite his tongue so hard just so he doesn’t have a visceral reaction. There would absolutely be no therapy for half-ghosts.
“Yeah, no, I think that’s just about the last thing I need.”
Tucker looks close to giving up entirely. “I don’t know how to help you, man.”
“That’s awesome because I don’t need help.”
“You obviously need something!” Sam snaps at him.
“Will you just—” Danny bites down his reflexive frustration and tries to discreetly pinch the bridge of his nose. When he speaks, his voice is softer than he thought it would be. “Can we just work on the project? I really need a good grade here.”
Something in Sam’s eyes softens too. Under her biting tone and hard words, she really only says it because she’s scared and worried and confused and hurt. They all are. “Fine. We’ll work on the project.”
It doesn’t stop him from feeling like the shittiest halfa on the planet.
Lancer’s Group Project
[sam]: theres a ghost attack
[tucker]: ik im hiding in the closet rn with star
[tucker]: (eyes emoji)
[tucker]: danny u good?
[danny]: im good
(It makes him smile knowing that they’re worried about him, even with the ghost fight being long over. Not that either of them would know that, of course.)
[sam]: phantom was there so it should be over soon
[danny]: i think its over already
[tucker]: at least phantom is reliable
[sam]: my parents still hate him though
[sam]: think hes a terrible influence and all
[tucker]: they think that about everyone
[sam]: i mean. youre right
[sam]: hbu danny. thoughts on phantom?
[sam]: we know your parents hate him
[tucker]: danny? you there?
[danny]: yeah sorry im here i just
[danny]: i think he could do better
[sam]: how so?
[danny]: there are too many people he cant protect
[tucker]: he is just a single ghost, dude. he cant be everywhere at once
[sam]: he tries his best
[sam]: he saved us, once. i dunno. maybe we’re biased.
[danny]: he did??
[tucker]: yeah, like a month ago. the weird technology ghost thing. he saved us and then i hacked into the mainframe and shut it down
[danny]: that was YOU???
[sam]: why are you so surprised?
[danny]: that was stupid. and dangerous
[sam]: he needed help, danny
[sam]: phantom cant do everything on his own
[danny]: he should
[tucker]: danny literally no one deserves to be doing everything alone
[tucker]: sometimes i just imagine, yknow? phantom looks about our age. i doubt he has any friends to help him out and he still comes out and fights for us every single night. i bet it gets lonely.
[tucker]: even ghosts like phantom need support so it’s a risk we’re willing to take if it means it might help him, even just a little bit
[tuker]: danny you there?
[danny]: im here
[danny]: its just a lot to think about
Two and a half weeks of working on the group project pass.
It doesn’t pass how Danny expects it to.
There’s a longing in his chest whenever he stands next to his (former) friends. It’s a different pain than the longing that aches when he finally decides to start sitting with them during lunch again.
(They don’t say anything to him, not directly, but they smile and laugh and joke, and for once, it feels normal.)
By the first week, Tucker invites him and Sam out to the Nasty Burger after class. Danny should say no. He needs to go home and work on his homework before a ghost inevitably shows up and keeps him awake until four am. He needs to not be in a public place if a ghost attacks because he knows how much harder it is to slip out unnoticed when people already assume something is wrong. He doesn’t want to go back to the very place he watched them die in the first place.
He says yes instead.
The world doesn’t end. Instead, Danny leaves with the same longing in his chest and wonders if they’ll be able to hang out more.
Towards the end of it, he’s more than a little exhausted because any free time he had in the last two weeks was spent furiously writing his part so he doesn’t feel like even more of a disappointment to either of them. For the first time in six months, Danny actually ends up finishing his work early. They end up going to Sam’s house despite his initial protests to complete the project. They sit in her movie theatre, and throw popcorn at one another, and put together their final presentation that’s only a mere three days away.
They don't comment on how much he hurt them. They don't say anything about his new bruises. They simply act like they used to—happy, together, as friends.
(He had missed them more than anything. It makes the harsh reality of his situation hit that much harder.)
It’s almost bittersweet, in a way, because he knows, as soon as this project ends and as soon as things go back to normal, that this rejuvenation of their friendship would have to end as well. He’s gotten too close too fast, and despite the longing in his chest and the humming of his core, he can’t risk their lives just because he misses them.
(But he thinks, just for this moment, he can enjoy their company one last time.)
It’s a ghost that ruins it. That in of itself shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, it’s always a ghost that ruins it.
It starts and ends the day of the presentation.
Danny feels lighter than he has in months. It feels like he's hundreds of feet in the air, flying below the stars and watching the lights of Amity twinkling below him. He’s dressed in formal school-presentation wear, Jazz having helped him pick it out that morning. Sam and Tucker are at his side. Sam’s smiling, for once, and Tucker just laughed at a joke Danny told.
He had missed his friends.
“My house after this?” Sam says.
Tucker doesn’t bother to give a response. After all, they already know his answer. Instead, both of them turn to Danny with identical looks on their faces. They're waiting, just like him, for the other shoe to drop and for the past two weeks to become nothing but history yet again.
He says, “We’ll see."
It’s not a no, even if it should be, and he can’t keep the smile off his face.
“We can play DOOM’d,” Tucker offers. It’s more of a bribe, and they all know it.
“Come on, Tuck, you and I both know we’ll just be getting our asses kicked. I don’t really think that counts as playing.”
They both turn to look at Sam, who shrugs and doesn’t look the least bit guilty. “If you want to beat me so bad, then be better players.”
“It’s no fair,” Tucker whines.
“It’s not my fault you guys suck.”
Danny makes a noise from the back of his throat. “It’s not our fault your unnaturally good at a video game.”
“The best, actually,” Sam agrees.
They’ve already finished all their last-minute preparations for the presentation. Being the last group to go means having the honor of waiting in the empty hallways as the group before they present. For once, Danny can’t really complain about having the extra time to spend chatting with his friends.
Then, Danny’s ghost sense goes off. His expression crumbles.
Sam and Tucker both definitely see the blue mist that comes out of his mouth—it’s hard to miss, actually, and Danny doesn’t have enough time to cover it up. He stares at them in horror for the briefest second. What surprises him most (and perhaps it shouldn’t) is they must see some of the panic in his eyes as well.
Sam takes an abortive step towards him. He clenches his hands into fists at his side and takes a single step back.
It’s selfish on him—to be here, to talk to them like he’s still their friend. He knows, at the end of the day, why he left them to begin with.
The crash that comes from the other side of the hallway and the ghost alarm blaring are eerie reminds of just what, exactly, his life is like.
From somewhere down the hall, there’s a ghostly cry of, “PHANTOM!”
Danny feels his heart drop. “I have to go.”
Tucker sputters out, “Are you kidding me, man? There’s a ghost! And one that sounds pissed off, at that!”
Sam looks at him like she can see all of him. Her expression is more than just accusing. It reminds him of their arguments some two weeks ago. “You’re planning on leaving again?”
Danny takes another step backward. “It’s not what you think.”
He sees the frustration and pain in her expression. Tucker looks no less stricken. It feels like he's losing his friends all over again.
(He did that.)
She throws up her hands and says, “I don’t exactly know what to think anymore, Danny! Because you won’t tell us anything!”
There’s still a part of him, even now, that longs to tell them the truth. Instead, he shoves any feels he has to the deepest part of himself that he can reach. Sometimes bubbles up in his chest, frustration pouring out, burning white-hot, and he finally snaps, “I CAN’T! OKAY?!”
He sees their expressions (taken aback, afraid of him) and struggles to calm himself down. His fists are clenched so hard that his knuckles are turning white, but he can’t stop. Some part of him needs them to understand. “I want to! I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but I don’t have anyone else! You think I want to go through this alone?! You think I don’t miss you guys all the time?! You think I don’t spend every waking moment wanting to tell you?! But I can’t !” He feels bone-tired, the anger leaving him just as quick as it came. Exhaustion pours into every part of his being. The thing about anger is it only lasts for so long and leaves you aching tired but just sober enough to deal with the consequences. “You’d get dragged into my mess, and I won’t—I can’t risk that. I don’t want—I can’t risk—"
There’s another crash. More of the same ghostly voice calling his name in some form of a challenge.
“You can’t risk what, Danny?” Sam says. “What can’t you risk?!”
His façade crumbles. He’s so far gone with the dizzying panic and the hopelessness of it all and he so, so tired. He bunches up every little bit of energy he has left and shouts, “I can’t let you risk your lives for me!”
Then he’s gone.
He feels the cool string of invisibility wrap around his body, and in the blink of an eye, it's like he never even stood there to begin with. In hindsight, it’s the stupidest thing he could have done. However, his mind is working on overtime, the ghost alarm is still blaring loudly in his mind, exhaustion is creeping up his bones, and all he can think is how desperately he needs to get away.
It’s not the first time he’s run from his problems.
Lancer’s Group Project
[sam]: what the HELL was that
[sam]: danny i know youre getting these
[sam]: danny answer your fucking phone
[tucker]: dude please answer we're worried
[tucker]: danny come on this isn’t funny anymore
[tucker]: please be safe
[sam]: we’re going to look for you
[sam]: and when we find you
[sam]: no more running away
Danny runs from his problems because he genuinely doesn’t know how to do anything else. For ghost-related mishaps, a few ectoblasts and a thermos are more than enough to deal with his problems. However, humans aren’t ghosts, and his human issues won’t be solved by his misplaced aggression and ghost hunting equipment.
The clamor of ghost alarm still echoes around him despite the hallway of the school being eerily quiet. If he hadn't known any better, he would almost think the ghost had left. However, thanks to his enhanced hearing and ghost sense, he’s keenly aware of exactly where the rogue ghost is messing around.
He stalks down the halls, still in his human form. He hasn't had time to change in a safe space between running from his (former) friends and finding the ghost before it hurts someone. Luckily for him, he’s still rather adept at hunting down and dealing with wayward ghosts, even in his human form.
He makes it just another couple feet before the door to an empty classroom a few doors down is blown clean off its hinges.
(With his current luck, he has no doubt that Phantom will be blamed for that too.)
Danny tries to push his racing thoughts out of his mind and let the familiar adrenaline of a ghost fight wash over him. He rushes forward, stopping just before the doorway to peek inside. He doesn’t see anything, but seeing ghosts isn’t always the best frame of reference. He already knows exactly where the ghost is, and it doesn’t seem to be moving anytime soon.
Instead of rushing in, he withdraws a few steps back, crouches behind a garbage can, and takes the next few seconds to build some semblance of a plan.
“Today really isn’t my day,” he mumbles under his breath. Then, sarcastically, “Thanks, Clockwork.”
He’s deep in his thoughts, trying to work together a way to get the ghost and get out when something grips his wrist.
Danny whirls around, eyes flashing green, and feeling the beginning of an ectoblast form in the palm of his hand. However, when he actually looks, all he sees is his hand dangerously close to Sam’s face. Tucker stands at her side, staring at him with wide eyes.
Something akin to panic bubbles in his chest. His friends are here, there's a ghost after him here, and he’s here, and oh, god, they definitely saw the green of that ectoblast. Absolutely nothing good will come from any of this.
“What was that?” Sam demands.
“Sam,” he says. He tries to yank his hand away, but she only grips tighter. Tucker grabs his other hand in just as much of a death grip. “Tucker. Let me go.”
They say, in unison, “No.”
“Guys!” He’s desperate, trying to pull his hands free because there’s a ghost—there’s a ghost that’s looking for him, and he’s stuck here, and there are people in danger, and he’s doing nothing—“You shouldn’t have come here. I need to go—"
“NO!” Sam bursts out. “I’m not letting you just—just walk away from us! I would let you push us away again!”
“I can’t let you get hurt!” Danny snaps right back.
“Damn it, Danny,” Tucker says. “You’re not letting us do anything! How about you let us decide something for once?! We’re your friends, we care about you! We don’t want you to leave again!”
“My, my, this is interesting."
It’s not a voice that comes from either of his friends. The voice is static-like and echoes around the empty hall. Danny freezes for just the briefest second before scrambling to his feet and turning to face the ghost that they very obviously drew the attention of.
The first thing he notices is that it’s enormous. Not quite as big as Pariah, but an imposing figure nonetheless. Its body is a stark white with two blue slits for eyes. Its mouth seems to only be a single, crooked blue line that takes up more than half its face. It towers over them, easily nine or ten feet tall with a girth even wider. It doesn’t seem to be entirely solid, either, and instead appears to shift, almost, as it sludges closer to their small group.
Its slit-like mouth stretches just a tiny bit wider. "Hello, little halfa.”
Danny feels Sam and Tucker let go of his wrists and stumble back a step. The ghost watches them, something akin to amusement crossing its inhumane face.
“That’s a ghost,” Tucker says and points a shaky finger at it.
“Aren’t you the smart one?” the ghost croons. “Who are you? I wasn’t aware that halfas had friends.”
“We—I don’t!” Danny shouts at it.
“We’re your friends,” it mimics in Tucker’s voice. “We care about you.”
“Shut up! Leave them alone!”
He feels another hand on his wrist that pulls him back a few steps. He stumbles but doesn’t take his eyes off the ghost in front of him. The ghost just sits there and watches him.
From somewhere behind Danny, he hears Sam hiss out, “What the hell are you doing?!”
Tucker then says, “We need to get out of here. Phantom is going to be here any minute, and we can’t just stay here.”
They try and tug him back slightly, but Danny doesn’t move from his spot. Right now, the only thing standing between his friends and this ghost is him. He’s not about to move for anything less than an attack.
“Riveting,” it says. Its voice still sounds like a static hiss. “I wonder if Phantom will show up at all, actually. Perhaps he needs a little incentive.”
It shoots forward faster than Danny can even see and much quicker than what he would expect a ten-foot-tall blob ghost to move. It flies past Danny and wraps its girth around Tucker, pulling him away from Danny and away from Sam. Danny thinks he might have shouted—he doesn't know, too lost in the panic and adrenaline of watching his best friend be taken right from under his nose.
From there, the ghost flattens its body vertically and creates somewhat of a vestigial appendage, and dangles Tucker by one hand in its grip like a ragdoll.
“TUCKER!” Sam shouts.
“Oh god,” Tucker says and dangles from his grasp. He tries to kick it, but it only laughs and shakes him just a touch harder. Green starts spreading from his neck, and he almost looks like he's about to hurl. “Uh, I actually have a severe case of motion sickness so, uh, if you could put me down and also please don't touch my PDA—"
“You want me,” Danny snaps. “Let him go!”
It bears a grin at him. Its mouth is nothing more than an empty, swirling hole. “Make me.”
He feels the spark in his core and takes a step forward to do just that. Still, before he can even change into his ghost form, Tucker uses his free hand to rummage through his bag, pull out a very obvious Fenton Blaster, and shoot the ghost in the face.
It shrieks and recoils, dropping Tucker some seven or so feet down. Tucker lands sloppily but pops up not a second later with both his hands in the air and a grin on his face and says, “Ha! Take that, you wayward snowball! Don’t you know that TF stands for Too Fine?!”
Danny’s over there and dragging him away much faster than any typical human could normally, acting while the ghost is distracted. The hysteria in his chest is more than dizzying because that had been far, far too close for comfort. Tucker makes muffled sounds of protests as he’s dragged right back to where Sam stands, with Danny back in between them and the ghost.
He’s not making the same mistake a second time.
Sam hunts through her own bag, pulls out an identical blaster, and brandishes it threateningly at the ghost.
Danny stares, dumbfounded. “Where... where did you guys even get these?”
“Your parents had ghost weapons out to anyone willing to ask,” she answers. “It’s a little mainstream, but it does the job.”
“Wha—you know what? That doesn’t matter right now. You guys need to leave.”
“Only if you come with us,” Sam says without ever taking her eye off the still-recovering ghost.
“That’s not—that’s not how this works!”
“Is it? I wouldn’t know.”
“Either we do this together, or we don’t do it at all,” her words have the same sort of finality that Clockwork does when he says all is as it should be. Tucker stands right next to her, his gun also pointed in the direction of the ghost. Their expressions are hard, serious.
He sees them for what feels like the very first time.
The ghost shrieks louder, clawing at its face. Its body shifts and contorts from ball-shaped to square, back to ball. It creates and destroys limbs just as fast. The next time it looks up, its eyes are red and furious under the burn of the ecto-blaster.
It’s at that moment that Danny knows there’s no time left.
“I hope this isn’t a mistake,” he says and senses the cold spark in his chest. They stare at him, startled, as he lets the cool waves of his transformation wash over him in front of his friends for the very first time.
Danny Fenton stands in full Phantom form, hovering a mere foot off the ground, and turns to face the astonished silence. Sam’s there, her eyes off the ghost, and a hand over her mouth. If he hadn’t known her better, he would think those were tears gathering in her eyes. Tucker’s looking at him, his gun lowered, and grabs hold of Sam as if to assure himself that this is real.
Apparently, whatever they had thought had been going on with him had not been this.
“Danny?” Sam whispers
He tries for a smile, but it feels weak to even him. “Hi, guys.”
“But you—” Tucker stumbles over his words, gapping. “What?”
The ghost screeches and charges forward.
“Can we talk about this later, maybe?” he points his thumbs in the direction of big and ugly. “I kinda have a ghost to take care of, and I can’t do that if you guys are here to get hurt.”
It reaches out another limb, but Danny gracefully flips out of the way. Just as it turns to have another go at him, he blasts it just as it gets close. It takes the hit right in the center of its mass and goes flying some twenty feet away, crashing hard enough into the lockers that it knocks yet another door clean off its hinges. It spits and snarls and doesn't once offer any human words again.
Danny stares at both of them to prove his point.
“Okay,” Tucker says, weakly. “You do that.”
Sam stares at him for just a second too long. “And you’re not going to run?”
It’s at that point that he sees the light in her eyes flash for the briefest moment, and he knows, somewhere in his heart, that Sam and Tucker understand the gravity of this situation. And Danny thinks, had there not been the threat of yet another ghost destroying the world, that they might have been at his side since the beginning had he let them.
He sighs and floats just a tad higher. “I don’t think I have that choice anymore.”
Sam nods once. There’s a smile on her face when she says, “Go get that ghost, then.”
They leave him alone just as the other ghost pries its body from the wreckage of the lockers.
It snarls at him, its eyes tiny pinpricks on its white face. Instead of being intimidated, Danny grins and cracks his knuckles. “Since we’re done with that…ready for round two?”
It’s not a long fight by any means, but it still leaves him feeling exhausted afterward and sporting more than a few new bruises. He takes one look at the damage caused by yet another ghost fight, sighs, and leaves. He stumbles out of the building—everyone else having evacuated long ago—and is immediately herded to the rest of his class by his frantic teacher.
“In Search of Lost Time, Mr. Fenton!” Mr. Lancer says. He seems almost as if he’s checking any over for injuries, so Danny makes an extra show of moving around perfectly fine, even if everything did hurt. “You were still inside?”
“Sorry, Mr. Lancer,” Danny says. “I got stuck in the bathroom.”
Dash and the other A-Listers snicker at him from their spot in the parking lot, but Sam and Tucker give him both knowing looks. He smiles at them, reassuring, despite the nagging anxiety in his gut, and they both smile back.
It isn’t much, but it’s a start.
Lancer’s Group Project
[sam]: can we talk?
[danny]: i think we need to
[tucker]: we are talking abt the whole Danny Is A Ghost Thing right
[danny]: its a bit more complicated than that
[tucker]: but you ARE a ghost
[danny]: in a way, i guess
[tucker]: that means i can do THIS
tucker changed Lancer's Group Project to Kindred Spirits
[tucker]: what? its for posteritys sake
[sam]: and maybe for new beginnings
He invites them to his house for the first time since the accident, despite the undercurrent of fear and anticipation that he feels.
He stands in the living room, pacing. His parents and sister are off on a college visit, so no one can interrupt them, but he still can’t help but feel more than a little nervous. For a brief second, he debates leaving entirely—flying away from Amity and leaving his family and friends behind. At least if he isn’t here, no one else can get hurt because of him.
Then he remembers the determination in his friends’ expressions and knows that there isn’t anything in this world that would stop those two from hunting him down for a second time and forcing him to come back to his senses. He remembers Tucker’s how about you let us decide something for once?! and thinks, maybe, that he should give them a chance to make a decision for themselves first.
There’s a knock on the door. Despite knowing it was coming, it doesn’t help the alarm that bubbles up in Danny's chest when he goes to open it.
Sam and Tucker stand there together. Both look no worse for wear after their ghost adventure yesterday. Tucker has his hand positioned to knock like he hadn’t trusted Danny to open the door on the first try. When they see him, they both give nervous smiles.
He stares at them and doesn't say a word.
“Are you going to let us in, or are we talking about this in the door?” Sam says.
“Oh, uh, yeah, come in, I guess,” Danny says and takes a step to the side. They enter, just like they’ve done a thousand times before. Danny closes the door behind him and locks it, just in case. “My parents aren’t home.”
“Sweet,” Tucker says and flops right down on the couch as if he owns it.
“Yeah,” Danny says, lamely. He doesn’t take a seat, instead opting to hover nervously at the edge of the living room.
Luckily, Sam takes charge of the conversation. She pats the couch on the other side of her and says, “Sit down.”
“We're doing this, so no more secrets, alright, Danny?” Sam says and meets his eyes.
Danny hesitates for just the briefest second. His voice is strong when he promises, “No more secrets.”
For once, it’s the truth.
Sam must see it too because she relaxes back on the couch, and Tucker lets out a relieved breath. She nods once and says, “Good. Now, an explanation would be nice.”
They’re the first people he’s told since—well, ever. The story comes spilling out of his mouth from his parents’ obsession, to the portal, to him being a halfa, to the ghosts that come after him, to the reasons why he had to push them away. He explains about the Zone, about Pariah. He hesitates, just for a second, when he begins the story of Dark Dan, but his friends are nothing but encouraging, and he ends up telling them, in haunting tones, about that particular story as well.
(It feels nice, for once, not to have any secrets anymore.)
“That’s…” Sam says. “That’s a lot.”
“Yeah,” Danny says again, still lamely, and they lapse into silence.
By the end of it, both Sam and Tucker are staring at him in disbelieving awe. It makes him squirm because he really doesn’t deserve their looks, nor does he deserve their quiet forgiveness. Everything that’s happened—all of that is his fault to begin with.
It’s Tucker that breaks the silence with a respecting whistle. “I thought you were being poisoned by ectoplasm and slowly dying if we’re being honest.”
“Dude,” Danny says and tries to cover his snort with a cough.
“I told you that wasn't what was happening,” Sam tells him.
Tucker huffs, offended, and says, “You thought he was forsaking his identity and joining the circus so he could move to Europe to get away from all the ghost stuff going on around here. At least I was close.”
Danny chokes on a laugh just as Sam turns bright red and whaps both of them on the arm. He and Tucker share a look before bursting out into unrestrained laughter. It's freeing to be laughing again, and even when it turns a touch hysterical, no one seems to comment.
Sam sits there, blushing up to her ears. “Why are you laughing?! Half ghosts generally aren’t a logical conclusion to jump to!”
“Sorry!” Danny chokes and tried to unsuccessfully swallow down another round of giddy laugher. Sam whaps him again, just for good measure. “Sorry, sorry. I’m not laughing at you, I promise—”
“Speak for yourself,” Tucker says.
“It’s just,” Danny says and reigns in the last bit of his amusement. “I missed this. It feels good, y’know, to not—
“Be keeping a secret that you half died from literally every person on the planet?” Tucker asks dryly.
“Yeah, that,” Danny nods. “You’re taking this remarkably well. Most people won’t.”
Tucker shrugs. “We thought you were dead-dead after yesterday, so finding out that you’re half-dead is a bit of an improvement.”
“I don’t think it fully hit yet, either,” Sam says. “But I’m glad you told us instead of running away.”
“I wouldn’t run.”
“Bullshit,” Tucker says.
“I wouldn’t run far,” Danny amends. Then, he sighs because he really might’ve run, given the chance. He doubts he’d ever tell them if his hand hadn’t been forced. “Sam, Tucker, for what it’s worth, I’m—"
“Not even say it, dude,” Tucker interrupts. “I think you’ve said I’m sorry enough to mean it a thousand times over. We get it.”
“We might not like it, but we get it,” Sam says. “From now on, we're going to be here for you as well.”
Danny feels a lump form in the back up his throat. He coughs and discreetly tries to hide his choked up voice when he says, “Thank you, guys.”
It’s not perfect, in the end, but if you were to ask Danny Fenton about the current on-goings of his life, he’d say he’s doing his best. He's just lucky he doesn't have to do it alone.