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Danny wasn’t expecting to find a friend that day. Especially not one so odd.

He had passed out and was left to drift in the ghost zone again. He remembered being pretty hurt; he had lost a lot of ectoplasm. A lot of blood too, when he passed out and reverted back to his human form.
He woke up in a part of the ghost zone he had never been in before with some type of salve rubbed over his wounds.

It was a canyon of some kind; he was in one of the caves along its walls. Tucked neatly in a blue-green ball of some type of glowing energy. It felt nice. Whatever it was? He really did not have any complaints. It felt more comfortable than his own bed did, to be honest.
And something about being here, at this moment, in this place just felt right.

He closed his eyes again; he could feel his core vibrating in his chest. It was a good feeling. One he had never felt before.

“You’re awake little one?”

Danny’s eyes sprung open at the voice.

At the entrance of his cave stood a very tall but pretty woman. She was even taller than Pandora. Which Danny didn’t think was possible?

She had white-blue hair and black skin littered in what looked like tiny green galaxies. Her lips were a deep purple, and her eyes glowed a solid green. She was wrapped in the same green-blue energy that Danny currently was. Only for her, it was clinging to her body like an old dress.

“Who are you?”

The ghost stopped dead in her tracks and cocked her head to the side in both confusion and curiosity.

“You can see me?” She asked.

“Yeah.”

She jumped at Danny’s voice.

“You can hear me too??” She asked. This time she sounded more floored than confused.

Danny wished he could share in her excitement, but he still had no idea what was going on.

“I was wondering why you didn't…” Her voice hitched, and she sounded like she was going to cry.

Danny Immediately wrangled himself out of his blue cocoon and flew over to her.

“Are you alright, is there anything I can do to help?” He asked.

He didn’t know this ghost, but it was pretty apparent that she had patched him up. Which generally meant she was a good ghost in his book.

“No, little one,” She smiled, “Just you being here has made me so happy. Almost no one comes to visit anymore.”

No one comes to visit?

For whatever reason, hearing that made Danny sad.

“Well, I can visit from now on if you want.”

And it was with that fateful sentence a new friendship was born.
–DP–

Danny made a point every week to go visit the ghost that had helped him.

And every week, she was always overjoyed to see him.

He got to explore the canyon with her. It was a beautiful place.

The walls of the canyon were blue and full of nests of non-sentient ghosts.

There was always a halo about the place that reminded him of the aurora borealis, it was gorgeous to look at, and it got stronger the further you went into the canyon.

The canyon center was a large crystal; it was constantly pulsing with energy. It was the source of the halo that only seemed to exist in this place.
The crystal itself seemed to be infused into the canyon’s rocky ground; small veins of the crystal branched out around it.

It reminded Danny of gold veins found in mines back in the human world. The only difference was you didn’t need to shine a flashlight on them to know they were there. The crystal’s veins sparkled with the same fantastic glow as the halo that surrounded this place.

The crystal was so brilliant that Danny started to refer to it as a star.

He liked being around the star.

It made his core vibrate.

Danny absentmindedly placed a hand on his chest, fully taking in the sensation that only seemed to happen while visiting this strange part of the zone.

It was an odd feeling but not an unpleasant one……

It made him feel like this place was his too. That he belonged here.

-DP-

“What is that?” He asked one day while in the middle of a game of Phase 10. She liked it when he brought board games or cards when he visited.

“Mmmm?” She looked up from her deck and then in the direction the halfa was pointing. “Oh, that’s me.”

Danny blinked.

“I am sorry, what??”

“That’s me.” She repeated, “That’s my core.”

“Your core??”

“Yes,” she said slowly. “Why?”

“But,” Danny practically choked on the word. “That’s big enough to be a neutron star’s core??”

“Yes?”

“But you’re not that big?”

“I can be if I want to be.” She explained as she placed down another card. “See all the blue and green energy around you? That’s also me. I am just choosing to remain this way so I can spend time with you, little one.”

Danny’s mouth hung open. He didn’t know how to process any of that.

“It’s your turn to go,” She said teasingly, her purple lips pulled up into a smile.

“Oh, Right!” Danny shuffled through his deck and placed a card down. “My name is Danny, by the way. Danny Phantom. Though a lot of my ghost friends call me Phantom. You can too if you want.”

“Phantom,” She said. Trying the word out on her tongue. She rather liked the name.

“Do you have a name you like to go by?” He asked, breaking her from her thoughts.

“I have had many names over the centuries. But I normally let my new…..” She trailed off like she was trying to think of a new word. “I normally let my new friends pick one for me. It’s an old sign of commitment and respect.”

“I have never heard of that before, but then again, I am not much of a buff when it comes to zone culture,” Danny replied sheepishly.

“That is perfectly fine; trust me, there is not much worth learning.”

She seemed almost relieved by his answer. Which Danny thought was odd?

“Are you going to give me a name, Phantom?”

Danny nervously rubbed the back of his neck as he tried to come up with something. His eyes darting around for inspiration before it finally hit him.

“How about Kora!” He chirped, “it’s a cool name, but it’s also a pun! Cause you’re a giant core! Get it?”

The woman now dubbed Kora smiled.

“I will say that is the oddest name I have been called, but I do like it.”

Danny beamed up at her. Enjoying the praise.

“You lose, by the way.” She said with a chuckle as she placed her last card.

Danny stared down at the game with a gaping mouth before looking back up at Kora.

“You’re getting too good at this.” He mused with a laugh.
–DP–

The year chugged on, and Danny kept his promise.

He would come to visit Kora once a week. Often bringing Games or presents.

She liked to ask questions about the human world and listen to silly stories about his family and friends.

Danny even brought a few of his star-gazing field guides once so he could teach her about planets and constellations.

“Your freckles are glowing.” She said, interrupting him from explaining why constellations were always different in the northern and southern hemispheres based on the earth’s position.

Danny immediately covered his freckles.

“I- I- sorry.” He blurted out as a green blush crept up his neck and spread over his face. “Was I being annoying?”

Kora gave him a sad look.

“No, not at all,” she said as she gently removed his hands from his face. Taking in the tiny stars that now dusted his nose and cheeks. “Never apologize for being passionate, Phantom. I enjoy listening to you.”

“Really?” Danny asked; a megawatt grin spread across his face.

Kora smiled back and nodded.

Danny was thrilled to have someone who didn’t get tired of his space trivia.

And Kora was almost always like that.

She was kind and supportive and seemed to really take an interest in everything he had to say. He could tell that she really did enjoy having him around.
And Danny had to admit. He really liked having her around too. She was like a second mom.

Life was good for once.

He should have known better.
–DP—

He woke to a searing headache and blurred vision. His chest felt like it had exploded from the inside out; white hot pain seared through him every time he took a breath.

“Are you alright, Danny?”

He blinked up in the direction of the voice. Waiting for his vision to clear.

“You are not going to remember me, but I promise you. This is a safe place.” The blurred figure continued, placing a hand on the side of his face. Danny leaned into the touch.

Danny? Was that what he was called?

“I am Danny?” He rasped. It hurt to talk, but he forced himself to. “Is the world always so fuzzy?”

The figure chuckled lightly.

“Yes, you are Danny. And no, the world will seem much clearer in a day or so. Your eyes are still healing. Do you remember what happened?”

“No, I—” Danny doubled over as his mind flashed with images of violence and bright lights, screams echoing as blood splattered. He started hyperventilating; people were hurt, people were hurt, people were hurt, he needed to go help.

Before he even had a chance to move, he was already wrapped up in the firm yet gentle arms of the blurred figure.

“You already helped them, Daniel. You saved a lot of people. A lot of ghosts too,” The figure soothed, pulling him into a tight hug as he traced circles along Danny’s back. The motion was comforting and familiar, but he couldn’t place why.
What was…his brain was suddenly overrun with more images.
These were good ones; fresh baked cookies, warm blankets, hugs and laughter, peace, ticking…ticking…ticking…safe and caring red eyes wrapped in a soft purple cloak.

“Cl-clockwork” Danny sputtered out as he tried to slow his breathing. Grimacing as the pain in his head started to settle again.

“Yes, that’s my name. Do you remember who I am?”

“I-I’m not sure. I know your name; I think I liked being around you. You made me feel happy and safe, I think….” Danny struggled to put everything into words. Panic still pumping through his veins as he tried to understand. “But I don’t think I know you like I used to. Is that bad?”

Clockwork hummed.

Danny did not know what that meant, but it sounded sad. Was he sad?

“It’s expected given what happened. You got very hurt. It’s okay to not remember. It’ll take a while for your full memory to come back.” Clockwork explained as he continued to trace circles along Danny’s back.

“I got hurt?” Danny asked. Not understanding. It was so hard to think, so hard to try and remember. His brain felt like it was full of cotton; he couldn’t get it to focus.

“Yes, remember how I just explained that your eyes need to heal more. That’s why you can’t see well.” Clockwork began.

“So, the world isn’t supposed to be fuzzy?”

“No, Daniel, it’s not. Like I mentioned before, it’ll take a few days for your eyes to heal.”

“Oh.”

“You hurt your head and your core pretty badly too.”

“Oh.”

“You need to give yourself lots of time to rest so you can get better.”

“Are you going to help me?” Danny asked. Yawning, he was tired again. That couldn’t be, right? He just woke up?

“Yes, and you need to go back to sleep.” Clockwork said as he laid the young boy back in his bed and tucked him in. Or at least that’s what Danny thought was happening. What he could gather from the sensation. He had a feeling that he had slept here many times before but couldn’t be sure.
He didn’t like that he wasn’t sure.

“But I don’t want to sleep.” Danny protested as his tired eyes started to fill with tears, grabbing one of Clockwork’s gloved hands. “What if I don’t remember you again the next time I wake up? Like before?”

Clockwork ran his free hand through Danny’s hair before resting it on the young ghost’s cheek, using his thumb to wipe away one of the tears that had been trailing down Danny’s face.

“That won’t matter. You know why?” Clockwork asked softly.

“N-no?” Danny sniffled as he now decided to hug the arm of the hand that was placed against his face. He was afraid to lose the only person that made a little bit of sense.

“It won’t matter because I will remember you,” Clockwork stopped to boop the young ghost on the nose. Danny laughed lightly at the action. “Regardless of whether or not you remember me. And I will continue to love you like a son. Your lack of memories will never change that.”

Danny smiled as sleep overcame him; he was safe here.
–DP—

Clockwork waited till he was sure the hybrid had drifted off into a deep slumber before phasing his arm out of Danny’s grasp and placing a blob ghost in its place.

Danny shifted and hugged his pet tightly.
Clockwork only kept the annoying thing around because Danny loved it so much. Though he supposed it had its uses given Danny’s smile only grew wider in his sleep the moment the blob ghost started purring.

Clockwork would have smiled too if it weren’t for the fact that seeing his charge this injured physically pained him in a way that no other thing in existence could.

He felt tears prick at his red eyes as he took in Danny’s state for the millionth time that day alone.

The entire left side of Danny’s body was still burned.

Clockwork’s core ached.

He didn’t know if he could handle the cleaning and redressing of those wounds again.
He had to wash off the outer layer of charred skin when he first started to treat Danny. Daniel had screamed so loudly that it sounded like he had been in the portal accident all over again.
His shouts of pain only died down once Clockwork was able to rub a salve of pure ectoplasm and Mint oil over the areas and tightly bound them with clean bandages.
He was grateful that Daniel was barely coherent during all of it.

Frostbite had stepped in to stitch the open wound on the boy’s head closed as Clockwork held him still.
The older ghosts could barely keep themselves together as they listened to Danny cry.
The boy would typically bite back the pain for the sake of those around him, but he was barely conscious, barely able to function, let alone think. There was no effort to save his friends and family from worry.

Sam, Tucker, and Jazz had to leave the room because they couldn’t stand seeing him like that.

Clockwork wished he had the same luxury.

He could never leave Daniel like this.

Neither could frostbite. The tears dampening the yeti’s fur as he carefully worked on stitching the hybrid’s injury closed were testament enough to that.

The core Damage is what worried them most.

There was nothing they could do for that other than offering a constant stream of their own energy in hopes it would be enough to help repair the painful cracks.

Clockwork had sat on the floor next to Danny’s bed for days. Continually placing his hand against Daniel’s chest to verify that his core was still thrumming. He did so with the same air of paranoia and worry as a new human mother constantly checking to see if her baby was still breathing as it slept.
There were precisely 468,003,200 timelines where Danny could perish from this, and he was not about to let any of those come to fruition.

Even now, he didn’t want to leave his side, even though he knew that Daniel’s core was now stabilized enough that he shouldn’t have to worry.

He needed to go. He needed to keep up appearances.

No one knew of Daniel’s sacrifice.

If it got out that Daniel had tapped into the power of the ghost zones core itself to bring down Pravus the depraved…….

It would cause panic.

No one was supposed to even be able to stand to be near the core without their form completely falling apart, let alone survive being a conduit for its energy.

Or at least that’s what he knew the Observant council would believe.

Clockwork, on the other hand, was as old as time itself.

He knew better.