Shards of mirrored glass glinted at him from across the bathroom floor. He could hear voices calling him but there was a blanket wrapped around his brain, muffling anything that tried to get through. He grabbed at his hair, struggling to twist his fingers into the short strands, his head felt so small. No, no his head wasn’t small, it was his hands they were-
And his hair, it was wrong, the texture, the consistency, he could hear static crackling as he gripped and pulled at it. The tugging on his skull usually felt soothing, but he couldn’t focus through all of the wrong, it was all wrong.
Jazz’s voice broke through the fuzz in his ears, punctuated by a squeeze to his arm, her hands were so warm, one of them slipped into his fist and pulled it from his head, it felt so small too small.
“Dad, can you squeeze my hand for me?”
Another slightly cooler hand took its place.
“Dad, I need to know if you can hear me, okay? Squeeze my hand.”
Danny’s voice was almost drowned out by the roaring in his ears, but he heard him, he squeezed. Jazz’s warm hands were on his shoulder now.
“Okay dad, can you take some deep breaths for me? Deep breath in-” Jazz’s hands squeezed as she breathed in, he tried to copy her, but his chest was just so tight.
“Slow breath out.” she continued, her hands relaxing.
Jack tried to focus on the pressure on his shoulder, and Danny’s hand in his, both of them squeezing rhythmically with their breathing. He found himself gripping tightly to Danny’s hand in turn, and tried to make himself let go with every breath out. The tightness in his chest began to lessen as he- oh, oh he’d been hyperventilating, he was having a panic attack.
But ghosts don’t need to breathe, do they?
“Dad, c’mon keep breathing with me.”
Did he even have lungs? The image of Danny’s torso, torn open by his own weapon, leapt unbidden through Jack’s mind.
“I don’t think it’s working Jazz.”
Danny had lungs, was that just because he was still part human? Their test subjects never had lungs, they were just full of goop, was Jack full of goop?
He heard a hideous sounding snap and something crunched in his fist.
“Oh my god Danny-”
“It’s fine Jazz it’s fine.” Danny hissed sharply.
Jack was still holding Danny’s hand and, oh god, oh god he’d just-
He tried to pull his arm back from his son’s firm grip, but instead of holding him still, Danny moved Jack’s own hand to his broad chest.
“Can you feel that?”
A steady thump, thump, thump beat beneath his hand, Jack was faintly aware of it thrumming through his ears and down into his feet.
“Focus on that, we need to slow it down.”
A heartbeat, he had a heartbeat, but was it even real? Did ghosts even have hearts?
Yes, he reminded himself, yes they do, he’d seen it. This was his heart, it was his and it was real and it was going too fast.
“Slow it down dad, slow it down. You just need to think about it, focus.”
Things started to drip back into his awareness, as the thudding beneath his palm gradually slowed, the hard tiles beneath him, the door handles of the bathroom cabinet digging into his spine, the light had been turned off but the room wasn’t dark, there was a soft glow emanating from...
The hand that wasn’t pressed tightly to his chest was wrapped around his legs, which were pressed up against his large stomach. Danny was kneeling on the floor in front of him, Jazz wasn’t in the room.
“Hey dad, you with me?” Danny smiled, gently placing a hand on Jack’s knee. Jack was expecting the chill Danny’s hands always carried, but his touch was only cool rather than icy.
“Where’d Jazzy go?” Jack found himself asking, unsure why it was the first thing to come from his mouth.
“She’ll be back in a minute, are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m-” Jack’s eyes grew wide as he caught sight of Danny’s hand, the one not on Jack's knee was tucked by his side, it was black and blue with bruises, the fingers pointing at angles they shouldn’t have been.
Danny’s smile dropped into a tight line as he followed Jack’s gaze.
“Oh, yeah, that.” He lifted his broken hand up in between them. “It’s okay, here, watch.”
Before Jack’s very eyes, the fingers began untwisting themselves, popping back into position with an awful grinding crunch.
“Ta da! Good as new.” Danny flexed his fingers, all back where they should be, they were still bruised, but the deep purples were already starting to fade into a sickly yellow.
“I’m... I’m sorry Danny-boy.” Jack brought both of his large too large hands up in front of his face and sighed heavily. “I guess I just, haven’t got the hang of this ghost thing as much as I thought I did.”
“It takes some getting used to.” Danny reassured him. “I can’t tell you how many pens I snapped when my strength started bleeding through to my human side, my hands were stained blue for weeks.”
“Wait,” Jack’s eyes narrowed, “You told us that was from an art project.”
“Hah, yeah,” Danny chuckled nervously, “I mean, I had to tell you something."
Jack had already come to terms with the fact that Danny had been hiding such a huge secret from them, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to him that it didn't simply stop at a single lie of omission, how often had Danny been forced to lie through his teeth, right to their faces? When did he get so good at it?
Jack wasn’t at all surprised Danny could pull one over on him, but not even Maddie had suspected the truth. She was always the one to call their kids out on their little white lies growing up, neither Danny nor Jazz had ever been very good at it, they’d always crack under their mother’s withering gaze, but even she hadn’t so much as blinked an eye at Danny’s art project story.
A soft knock on the bathroom door preceded Jazz’s entrance, she stepped quickly back into the room, shutting the daylight of the hallway out behind her. The bathroom was still lit up by a soft blue glow, Jack knew where it was coming from, he could see it in the shards of mirror at his feet, accompanied by hints of white hair and blue skin. He’d been trying to ignore the colour of his gloves and suit as he came down from his panic attack, but he couldn’t ignore them much longer.
Danny had been right about his ghost form getting the colours all wrong, everything had been inverted, his suit looked like an XXL version of Maddie’s, and his gloves were white, like his son’s. Jack had been prepared for that, he’d been expecting that, the problem was the other changes.
It had almost been like looking in a funhouse mirror, the ones that played with your proportions, giving you something silly like a big head or tiny feet. This mirror had given Jack arms that looked as though they could crack oak trees in half, attached to a chest three times its normal size and fists he now knew could crush bones. His palms were so large he’d nearly enveloped his entire head when pulling at his hair earlier. It wasn’t him, it was all just wrong so wrong.
His hair was another thing.
It stuck right up in spikes, like a cartoon character who’d just stuck a fork in a power socket. The analogy probably wasn’t that far off, he could hear the crackle and buzz of electricity around his ears.
“Why do I look like this?” He asked, voice trembling. “You said... you said I was supposed to look like how I see myself? This doesn’t... feel like myself.”
“Yeah, I know.” Danny said softly, of course he knew, he probably knew better than anyone. “It’s not really all that straight forward, your ghost form reflects a subconscious self-image, not a literal one. It takes things that you think and feel about yourself and sort of, expands on them. Good or bad.”
Jazz moved away from her place at the door, carefully stepping over the shards of glass, she handed something over to Danny before taking one of Jack’s large arms, holding it up.
“I think you should look at it like this, why would your subconscious want these? What do you think you could do with arms like this?”
Jack thought about it for a moment, still trying to shove down the unsettling twist to his stomach at the sight of his giant palm by Jazz’s head, what if Danny hadn’t swapped her hand out for his earlier? She couldn’t just heal it up within a few minutes like Danny could.
“I’ll give you a hint,” said Danny. “What was the first thing you did with those arms as soon as the spell was finished?”
The first thing he’d done? Well, he’d done the first thing any father in his position would have done, he’d hugged his kids. He’d wrapped his arms around them and held them close, where they could feel safe.
“I think...” Jack took a shuddering breath, very gently brushing a stray hair from Jazz’s face, feeling a deep sense of unease when he could feel the tickle of Jazz's hair against the hand that didn't look like his. “I’ve always done everything I could to keep my family safe. I’d fight tooth and nail to keep anyone from hurting any of ya.”
Jack hauled himself up off the ground. Supressing a shudder, he raised his giant fists in the air, Danny and Jazz stepped back slightly as bolts of electricity arced across his knuckles.
“I think I’ve got these, so if anyone threatens my family, I can pound them into the ground!”
With the crack of his knuckles smashing into one another, came a much louder BOOM and a bolt of electricity shot up into the ceiling light, flashing it on for one blinding moment before the bulb popped and the light fizzled out.
“Hey, what happened to the internet?!” Tucker’s distant voice whined from down the hall.
Jack carefully lowered his fists.
“Whoops.” He looked down at his hands, still tingling from the static. “Guess I knocked the power out again.”
Jazz put a hand over her mouth as she snorted, Danny grinned wildly and gave Jack a friendly backhanded smack to the shoulder.
“Hopefully it’s just our house this time, I'll go flip the circuit breaker later, and by the way, Jazz got you a little something to cheer you up.”
He held out a long, dark bar wrapped in plastic, Jack sniffled as he took the fudge from his son’s hand, tears prickling his eyes, could ghosts cry? More importantly, could ghosts eat?
He was more than ready to find out, he tore the packaging open and took a bite, relishing the soft texture, his shoulders unclenched as the sweetness coated his tongue. His body might have changed, but fudge would always stay the same, the familiarity settled over him like a warm blanket.
He could eat again, he knew ghosts didn’t need food, that they likely didn’t even have the same sort of gastrointestinal system as the living, idly he wondered where exactly the food was going once he swallowed it, but he truly could not convince himself to care. This was the most normal he had felt in days.
“Hey Jazzypants,” Jack spoke around a generous mouthful of fudge. "Is there any of that mac and cheese left?”