Jazz had never gone ghost hunting with her mother before, at least never with just the two of them. It was uncomfortable, unfamiliar, like when her only friend at a party left her alone with someone she barely knew.
Her relationship with her mother had always been intellectual in nature, they would engage in philosophical debates over the ethics and morality of the ghost hunting profession while eating dinner, the discussions became far more intense after Jazz discovered Danny's secret. She was no longer debating simply for the sake of an interesting discussion, she was trying to introduce concepts that would smooth the way for when her brother was ready to reveal his other self to them.
It was a tactic she had used successfully many years before, albeit for a far more mundane reason.
Going ghost hunting with Maddie wasn't just uncomfortable because it was unfamiliar, it wasn't even because of her ethical disagreement with her mother's tactics.
It was because her father was supposed to be here.
Maddie rarely went hunting without Jack, not if she could help it, they had always been a team, they worked perfectly in synch with one another, but Jack wasn't here. Jazz was, and his shoes just didn't fit.
Jazz didn't have to go, technically, she wasn't even trying to help with the ghost hunting part, but... she couldn't let Maddie go alone.
Maddie was coping with Jack's death far worse than anyone.
From the moment they'd returned home from the hospital, after Jack had been declared dead, Maddie had been out every day and night hunting for the Wisconsin Ghost. It didn't matter to her that he hadn't been seen since that night, it didn't matter that he had always been too powerful for anyone to take on alone.
Maddie would drive around for hours, chasing any blip on her radar and ferociously ripping into any unfortunate ghost to cross her path.
Danny had been running damage control, warning the more agreeable ghosts to stay out of Amity, capturing the rest as covertly as possible, doing everything he could to stay away from Maddie while in his ghost form.
Jazz had been the only one left to do everything else. She had turned 18 just a few months before, so thankfully she had been legally able to sign all the documentation, to plan the funeral arrangements, the cremation, the obituary. All of it, by herself.
She was grateful, in a way. It gave her something to do, something to focus on that wasn't grief, that wasn't the cold empty hole in her life. Jack's presence had always been hard to ignore, his absence even more so.
Danny had tried to help with the preparations, when he wasn't in the ghost zone or cleaning up ghosts around town. He appeared to be holding himself together okay, but Jazz knew better, she knew that the guilt was eating him up from the inside. It didn't matter how many times she reassured him that he wasn't responsible for this, that he wasn't to blame, it made no difference.
It was only when Jazz had run out of tasks to do that she let herself cry.
She knew that sitting around was only going to make her feel worse, she couldn't let herself stew in her grief, she needed a purpose to pull her through. So she joined her mother on her feverish hours long hunts.
It was escapism, she knew that, for both of them. To Maddie, the hunting was something else to focus on so she could ignore her grief, it gave her a sense of control and purpose. Jazz was using looking out for her mother as her own distraction, her own grasp for purpose and control.
She knew these things, and she knew they were not entirely healthy, but she didn't know what else to do.
If this were anyone else she would have told them to seek out professional therapy, go to grief counselling, practice radical acceptance, to use visualisation exercises and grounding techniques to manage intrusive thoughts. Vengeance and fury weren't a healthy release, they would only build, they would only lead to more pain.
But her books hadn't prepared her for something like this, how could she seek help from someone she can't tell the whole truth? How could she grieve in peace when the justice system couldn't touch her father's murderer? He was still out there, he was still a threat. It was only a matter of time before he started working his way into Maddie's good graces, shamelessly emboldened by his successful assassination.
Jazz was furious when Danny insisted they keep Vlad's identity a secret. She understood where he was coming from. Her mother was struggling enough as it was, Jazz couldn't imagine what it would do to her to find out that it had been her husband's best friend all this time. That he had murdered Jack because he wanted her, the guilt alone would be soul crushing, and then there was the certainty that Vlad would reveal Danny's identity in return.
She couldn't even imagine...
Jazz was still angry, angry that Danny had to be the one to say it, angry that he was right, angry that he could be so rational while inside she was falling to pieces. She knew better, she knew how much he was hurting on the inside too, she knew that he was just good at hiding it, much better than she was.
She was still angry, but they both knew she wasn't angry at him.
When she got up that morning, her mother had been in the lab, her weaponry was getting more dangerous, less capture oriented and more destructive. Jazz wasn't sure if working down there was better than the hunting or worse, but at least no unsuspecting ghosts were getting torn to pieces.
Jazz had witnessed a few first-hand, it was bad enough seeing it happen to the formless, barely sentient poltergeists, she didn't want to know what a true spirit would look like, being eviscerated with such malice. She imagined a ghost like Johnny, laying on the ground with chunks ripped from his-
No, no that wasn't helpful, that was an intrusive thought, she needed to acknowledge its presence and move on, it didn't help her, let it go, like leaves on a string, let it go...
It would be back later, she knew.
Her breakfast was suddenly incredibly unappealing, not that that was anything new. She wouldn't be surprised if she'd lost weight over the last week, her clothes already felt just a little too loose.
A sudden and intense pang of longing hit her fast and hard, she missed him. It had only been a week and she already missed him so much. She just wanted him to wrap his big arms around her and hold her close and dig his chin into her hair in that way that annoyed her and tell her everything was okay Jazzypants and... and he was the only one who ever called her that. She hated it. She'd never hear it again...
She pushed her bowl of cereal away and stood, her eyes burning. She had to find something else to do, to keep her mind busy.
She went around the living room, clearing the coffee table and fluffing the pillows, there was a stain on the lounge, probably from a bit of fudge-
The curtains were looking dusty, they could probably use a clean, would they fit in the washing machine or would they need to be hand washed?
She'd started trying to unhook them from the curtain rod when the lab door banged open loudly, Jazz jumped, startled. She ran to the kitchen to find her mother in tears, hand over her mouth like she was trying to hold it all back. Jazz wrapped her arms around her and Maddie grasped onto her tight, like she was afraid she would be snatched away at a moment's notice.
Jazz rocked slightly and ran a hand up and down her mother's back comfortingly as they each cried into the other's shoulder. Maddie hadn't cried like this since the first night, Jazz recognised it as a good sign, she was letting herself feel again.
"Where is he?" Maddie stammered, "W-where'd he go, where'd he go?"
Jazz just squeezed tighter, it was a difficult question for someone who studied the dead for a living, to wonder what happened after. They were never a religious family, being raised by scientists there was never talk of a heaven or hell, just the ghost zone, what lay beyond that was a mystery to them all, even the ghosts.
She sniffed, she could feel tears clinging to her eyelashes, and an odd itch to her scalp.
"Jazz?" Danny's voice echoed down the stairs.
She heard Danny come into the room behind her, he made an odd sound, a quick and quiet intake of breath. Was he trying not to cry? Jazz hadn't seen him cry once, not since he was dragged off of Vlad that night, bruised knuckles dripping red. They were tears of fury then, she would never forget the sound of Danny's ragged screams as he pummelled Vlad into the ground, despite all the hands trying to pull him off the man.
Vlad had simply taken the beating, he'd use it later, she knew. He would forgive Danny, say it that he deserved it for failing to fight off that terrible awful Wisconsin Ghost when it overshadowed him. He would say it was all his fault, that he deserved all that pain and more, he was oh so sorry.
And Maddie would forgive him, because it wasn't his fault, it was that awful awful ghost. Vlad could never do something so terrible to his best friend. Vlad would always be welcome in their home, and welcome he would make himself. Jazz could see it all, and she could do nothing about it.
Danny placed a hand on his mother's shoulder. "Maybe you should do another lap around town, you might find something today." he pressed his head close to hers and spoke softly into her frazzled hair.
Jazz glanced at Danny with narrow eyes, annoyed and confused, their mother was finally making progress, and Danny was going to send her right back to her fruitless obsessive search for vengeance? He had to know it wasn't helpful, he had to.
He looked at her, wide eyed and thin lipped as he gave a quick jerk of the head and flick of the eyes to the front door. He wanted Maddie out of the house, for what reason Jazz didn't know and obviously couldn't ask, but she trusted her brother and did as she was told. Something was going on, but she would have to ask Danny about it later.
The day was warm and only a little humid, they drove with the windows down. Jazz enjoyed the wind on her face, she did not enjoy the silence.
It stretched on, unbroken by the radar as Danny's patrol earlier in the dawn had swept the town clean of ghost activity. It looked like Jazz wouldn't be watching another massacre today, she couldn't be more relieved.
"It's been quiet." Maddie said, out of the blue.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Guess it has," Jazz paused, "maybe you scared them all off?"
"They should be scared." Maddie's tone was low, threatening. If Jazz were a ghost she would be terrified.
There was more quiet, they passed the local park, the sound of kids playing and birds singing were loud for a few moments, until the trees disappeared into the distance behind them and the quiet returned.
"Haven't seen much of Phantom either." Maddie spat. "I'm surprised he hasn't shown up to gloat."
Pain shot through Jazz like an arrow, she would have to warn Danny to make extra sure to stay out of their mother's way, she was very clearly ready to shift a whole lot of misplaced aggression directly onto him.
She considered challenging her mother's assumption, but thought it best not to provoke her right now. Instead she merely hummed an acknowledgment.
They drove past the school, empty for the summer. Jazz's final exams had only just ended before her father's birthday, but she had missed graduation. She didn't want to go without him there, she was supposed to give a speech, she was too busy writing a eulogy.
They passed a group of people she knew from school, they gave her a little wave. Despite Jack's notoriety, everyone had been sad to hear the news, they'd sent a giant card around the school and everyone she knew had signed it, including the teachers, and everyone in Danny's year too. Mr Lancer brought it to the house with an enormous bouquet, he couldn't convince the school to pay for one so he bought it out of his own pocket.
Jazz had gotten texts and private messages, all saying they were here for her if she ever needed to talk. She responded to most of them, but sometimes she just sent a heart emoji. It was easier than writing the same thank you message over and over. She didn't take any of them up on the offer.
The drive wasn't too bad honestly, without any ghosts showing up it was almost relaxing. Maddie hadn't said much else other than a few observations about the traffic or the weather. When Jazz suggested getting some lunch Maddie had opted to use the Nasty Burger drive through so they could eat in the van. Jazz was grateful, she didn't want to run into anyone else from school.
Her phone buzzed, it was Danny sending her a thumbs up, they were safe to go home.
"We should probably head home." Jazz suggested, slurping the last of her drink. "We've been all over town, there's nothing here."
Maddie grit her teeth but revved up the van and turned toward FentonWorks
As soon as they were through the door Maddie headed to the lab, presumably to drown herself in more work. Jazz headed up the stairs where Danny waited for her.
"What's going on?" she asked.
Danny shushed her looking over her shoulder down the stairs.
"It's fine she's in the lab," Jazz reassured him, "what's going on?"
He didn't answer, just grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward his room, closing the door behind them and locking it.
"I'm going to try something," he said, crossing the room to stand before her, "But I think you should sit down first."
Jazz frowned but she sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Is this about Vlad? Did he come here?" A rush of heat spilled over her face, "If that son of a bitch tried anything I'll-"
"Jazz it's fine, it's not Vlad, it's fine." Danny breathed, running a hand through his hair nervously. "It's just, I'm trying something but I need you here to tell me if it works, okay?"
He nibbled his lip anxiously but he also seemed... almost excited about something. Had he developed a new power?
Jazz nodded and paid close attention as Danny took a few steps back and put a hand up, palm facing to the side and away from himself, his fingers curled slightly as if grabbing for something.
He took a deep breath and the heat of the summer air chilled, a trail of green mist flowed over his hand and began to form a shape in the air beside him.
Almost immediately as it began to form Jazz knew.
She leapt to her feet to stand before the large figure revealing itself gradually before her, when the mist crept over a square jaw and close cropped haircut she threw her hands over her mouth to stifle her gasping breaths.
"Dad." she breathed, she reached for him but didn't dare touch, afraid that she would ruin the illusion. Was he here? Was he real? She looked to Danny but his eyes were closed, face scrunched in concentration. He peeked at her for a moment, his grimace lifting into a strained smile.
"It's him." said Danny, through gritted teeth, "Say hi."
Jazz cried as Jack lifted a hand toward her face, he was still a translucent shimmering green, but she was certain she could see tears on his face. He mouthed words that she couldn't hear, but she knew them all the same.
She was sobbing hard as she grasped the hand cupping her face, her fingers went right through it, but she could feel it, like she could feel his palm against her cheek. It was cold, and so light it almost tickled, but she could feel it.
She tried again, very gently feeling for that slight resistance to the air and holding her hand against it, she couldn't touch him for real, she couldn't hold him, but she could feel him. That was enough.
"I missed you dad." She smiled through her tears, "I missed you so much."
His features were still hard to make out, but it was clear he was smiling, he mouthed more words.
"Sorry, I can't hear you." said Jazz, sadly.
"He says he liked the obituary." Danny grunted, eyes still squeezed shut. "He knew you wrote it, he could tell."
Jazz laughed, it was only a little hysterical. Danny's hand trembled against Jack's arm. Jazz wanted to tell him he could stop now, but she didn't want her dad to go, not yet.
She raised her hands to cup his face, only just feeling the whisper of a few bristles on his chin. She didn't know what to say, what could she say?
"I'm so glad you're here," she said quietly with as much feeling as she could, "but, why are you here? You said you'd never... you'd never..."
Jack said nothing, but glanced over to Danny, whose hair had started streaking with white and glinting with crystalline shards of ice.
"Don't get to choose." He growled, his voice sounded distorted, his jaw clenched so hard Jazz could hear his teeth grinding, "Happens or it doesn't."
Danny's lips were pulled back in a pained snarl and were turning blue, his canines were sharpening as blinding flashes of green slipped from beneath his eyelids. A large puff of opaque mist rolled from his mouth upon each laboured exhale.
Jazz gave her father a careful hug, trying to lean into him without falling through.
"We're gonna figure this out dad I promise we're gonna figure it out."
She could feel his arms around her, the slight pressure reminding her of being buffeted by a strong gust of wind.
Danny took that as his cue, he pulled his hand back with a ragged cry and Jack's misty green form dissipated like smoke in a breeze.
Jazz stared into the empty space her dad's face had only just filled moments ago.
"Is he still here?" She asked, voice trembling.
"Yuh- yeah," Danny huffed, he was bent over, catching his breath. "I can suh- still see him, and hear him."
He stood straight as he pulled in a deep lungful of air. Then he laughed, a rough, exhausted laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.
"I'm so glad that worked, oh Ancients. I'm gonna need a minute." he crashed onto the bed face down.
"What exactly did you do?" Jazz asked, eyes still locked on the space where Jack had been, and presumably was still, standing.
"Dad only just formed a consciousness this morning," Danny grumbled into his bedding. "He's still warm, hasn't manifested a core yet. I just loaned him some energy."
"Still warm?" Jazz turned her nose up at the phrase.
"Yeah, it's uh, ghost slang. Means freshly dead, y'know like the body's still-"
"Yeah yeah I get it," Jazz waved a hand dismissively. "Gross."
"That's what dad said."
"Yeah! Because it's gross!"
Danny laughed, but it was barely more than a breathy huff. Jazz eyed him carefully, he was a little more pale than usual, there were bags beneath his eyes, his cheeks were a little hollow and his lips were still tinged with blue. All his usual signs of overexertion, but other than that he looked relatively okay.
"Why was it so exhausting?" Jazz asked. "I would've thought you'd have more than enough energy to share, especially for something as simple as visibility."
"Amount isn't the issue." Danny raised a finger pointedly, "Simple is the issue, imagine trying to fill a water balloon with a fire hose."
"Wait, that sounds unbelievably dangerous!" Jazz glared at Danny and then back at the empty room, "What happens to dad if you lose control?"
Danny groaned and flipped himself over onto his back, an arm flung over his eyes.
"Don't get mad at me it was his idea." Danny glared at the empty space for a beat before barking, "Was too!"
Jazz rolled her eyes, "Oh my god you are both children." She turned to Danny and pointed a thumb over her shoulder, "I can't hear him so you're going to have to tell me, what would happen to him if you lost control?"
Danny pressed his lips together and muttered guiltily, "He... could'a destabilised."
"I told you it was his idea!"
"I don't care whose idea it was!" Jazz alternated between glaring at Danny and at the space behind her. "You're both idiots for trying something so risky! There wasn't some way to practice?!"
"What do think we were doing while you were gone!" Danny exclaimed, "Also he's standing over there now, he moved so he wouldn't feel like you were yelling at him."
Jazz planted a hand over her face, and shook her head in disbelief, she didn't know whether to laugh or cry, her dad had been back for not even ten minutes and she was already yelling at him.
She spluttered a choked up giggle, wiping her eyes and sniffling.
"God I missed you dad." Jazz said, before she started bawling.