Jack was starting to wonder perhaps if he'd done something wrong.
It wasn't uncommon for him to accidentally say or do something to upset his wife or daughter, although usually when such an event occurred Maddie would glare at him to express her displeasure, and Jazz would always take the opportunity to tell him in exact detail what he'd done wrong and how to make it up to them (something he was honestly very grateful for).
It must have been something pretty bad this time, because both women wouldn't even look him in the eye.
Jack first twigged that something was off that morning during breakfast, when he sat in the empty chair by Jazz's side and gave his usual greeting, "Hey Jazzypants!"
She ignored his presence completely, steely eyes glued to the wall opposite her, they were puffy and red and Jack wondered perhaps if she'd been crying.
It had been a long time since her problems were easily pushed aside by her father's warm hugs and jovial attitude, he had stopped being able to handle a crying Jazz after she'd turned twelve and countered his attempts at humour by insisting that he 'stop trivialising her distress', whatever THAT meant.
Nevertheless, warm hugs and gentle jokes were the only method he knew and so he wrapped a comforting arm around her thin shoulders, noting that she continued to sit still as a rock, not even glancing his way as he tried to coax a smile out of her.
Jazz didn't say a word as she pushed herself away from her unfinished breakfast and left the room.
It was when he walked down to the lab intending to ask Maddie about Jazz that Jack started to suspect he may have been the one responsible, as it became apparent that the two had seemed to coordinate their punishment for whatever transgression he'd made.
"Hey Mads!" his voice boomed over the noise of his wife's current project. He strained to see through the bright light of her blow torch at the large gun-like weapon on the table. Jack whistled in appreciation is he took in the size of what he assumed was some kind of rocket launcher. "So what are we calling this one? Ooh! How about, The Fenton Spectre 'Sploder!"
Maddie's goggles made it difficult to see what expression adorned her face, but her tensed shoulders and the shaky grip on the blow torch told him that she was most certainly upset about something.
"Mads? Are you alright?" his voice quivered slightly as he took a few steps closer, seeing his wife this tense tightened a coil within his chest. Suspecting that he may be responsible added an extra weight to his stomach that he knew wasn't cause by the breakfast he'd skipped.
The light from the blow torch snapped off and Jack had to blink the bright spots it left behind from his vision, trying to peer through the blotches to find any indication that Maddie was going to acknowledge his presence. It seemed as though she'd looked his way for a moment but before his eyes could clear enough to meet hers she'd looked away again.
Jack watched, puzzled as his wife raised a hand to cover her mouth and catch the sob that ripped its way from her throat, she hadn't succeeded as the sound echoed across the lab and tore its way straight through Jack's heart, causing his eyes to sting and his throat to close up.
He reached a hand out to touch her shoulder, intent on giving her some form of comfort. He'd barely brushed it with his finger tips before Maddie stormed right past him up to the stairs, Jack had to quickly stumble backwards to avoid being trampled.
He couldn't imagine what he possibly could have done to elicit such a response from the woman he loved, but he knew for sure that he must have done something terrible for her to not seek him out for comfort like she did any other time she was upset. He just wished he could remember what.
Jack's shoulders slumped under the dim light of the glowing jars of ectoplasm lining the various counter-tops, he dry-swallowed a few times, trying to push down his confusion and distress before following his wife's light footsteps up the stairwell.
He found her in the kitchen, leaning against a counter with her goggles slung around her neck and her wild red hair loose around her head, abundant with the kinks and tangles Jack usually watched her brush out of it every morning.
"Mads?" Jack said, voice rough and quiet, "Look I... if I did something wrong I-" Jack's apology froze in his throat as Jazz poked her head through the kitchen door, eyes once again glancing right over Jack and instead locking onto her mother.
Neither woman shared a word as Jazz crossed the room and wrapped her arms around Maddie, who desperately grabbed at her daughter in return, burying her face in long red hair as violent sobs wracked her whole body.
Jack, at a loss of what else to do, wrapped his own arms around his girls. Nestling his chin on his daughters hair, he expected the annoyed scoff that Jazz usually gave him for his 'chin noogies', but it never came. Neither Fenton woman pushed him away though, so Jack considered it progress.
Finally, after an age of rocking and sobbing, Maddie's muffled words escaped through strands of Jazz's hair.
"Where is he? W-where'd he go, where'd he go?"
A deep chill coursed through Jack's veins, Danny? Had something happened to Danny? Jack pulled away, a million questions thrumming through his mind.
What happened? Was he missing? Was he hurt? Had he run away, been kidnapped, been kill- no. Jack shook his head violently, running a hand through the shorts strands of his thick hair. No he couldn't be. He couldn't be he couldn't be.
Jack's mouth was on the verge of catching up to his brain, multiple questions bubbled at his lips when he heard a voice echo down the stairs.
Jack took a steadying breath and grasped at the counter for support, relief flooding his body as his son rounded the corner and came into view. Danny was fine, Danny was safe. He had been fretting over absolutely nothing.
Then Danny's eyes locked onto his.
A number of emotions flickered across his son's face, the first being a brief moment of sheer relief and delight, but it didn't last. Soon, too soon, Danny's dark brows pulled together and his lips curled sourly in confusion before a new expression swept it away. It was one Jack had never seen before.
He felt as though the air had been sucked out of the room, an icy chill prickled up his arms as the sudden wave of absolute horror overtook Danny's face. Jack couldn't tell if his son was about to break down crying or scream.
And then it was over. The tension in Jack's limbs released as Danny's face flattened into an unnaturally blank expression, he dropped his gaze and continued his way over to Maddie and Jazz. Once again it was like Jack wasn't even there.
Danny placed a hand on his mother's shoulder. "Maybe you should do another lap around town, you might find something today." he spoke softly into her frazzled hair.
Jazz looked at Danny strangely, her brother sent her back a glance that must have held some meaning because she then gripped Maddie tightly around the shoulders and led her straight out of the house, and suddenly Jack recalled that he still didn't know who it was that had gone missing.
"So... is anyone gonna tell me what's going on?" the jovial tone Jack meant to use came out flat and strained, Danny didn't look even remotely amused.
"I think you should sit down." Danny said quietly. He was no longer meeting Jack's eyes as he pulled out a chair for himself and one for his father.
Jack took the offered seat and prepared himself for the worst, obviously someone dear to Maddie and the kids had gone missing, Jack ran a list of all the people they knew, preparing himself for the worst, it was obvious Danny did not want to tell him what had happened. Perhaps whoever was missing was someone that Jack in particular had been close to? Was that the reason behind the horrified look on Danny's face? Because he'd realised he was going to have to be the one to tell him?
Something in Jack's gut told him he was on the wrong track, but try as he might he just couldn't imagine what else it could possibly be.
Jack kept his eyes on his son as the boy's thin torso straightened up in his chair and his icy blue stare bored into Jack's. Danny took a deep breath, then took several more, eventually he seemed almost ready to speak, Jack didn't rush him.
"Dad... you're dead."