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Dead, Not Mourned

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The camera crew caught him off guard, to think of it, that was how most issues usually start. He gets caught off guard, his parents’ weapons go off; he gets caught off guard and a ghost sneaks by and starts stealing the life and emotions of his friends, cough cough Spectra; now he gets caught off guard after saving a class of elementary school kid’s life, and he has to face the consequences of the news shoving microphones in his face. 

 

Danny stares at the cameras, caught between wanting to run and wanting to scream at the adults that wanted to profit off of anything Danny did. Maybe Sam was rubbing off on him, as the first thing he thought was to tell these vultures where they could shove their stupid microphones. Instead, he stared for a little, unnerving the audiences that had amassed with his unlinking green eyes. 

 

One brave reporter pushed her way to the front and shoved her microphone at him, “So Phantom, the people of Amity Park have been wondering about you- you’re quite the strange ghost!”

 

Danny Phantom stares and then blinks finally, “Ye-up. Strange comes with the territory. I’d be a little worried if you didn’t think I was weird.”

 

His first response of humor seemed to make the crowd lighten up, forgetting his momentary otherworldliness in order to try and pry answers from his cold dead hands. Hah. Dead.

 

“What brought you to help those kids earlier!” A different reporter asks. Danny wonders why there are so many… Why are there so many for such a small place?

 

He shrugs in response, “I mean who wouldn’t help? I was here, I had the strength to fix it and I did. Anyone would do the same.”

 

“You’re quite humble Phantom, what do you say about Scientists Jack and Maddie Fenton’s theories on you and your kind?” The first reporter asks, and Danny’s eye catches her name tag. 

 

“I’d say that their theories could be better, but they’re smart people. Most of their research is like, just bias against ghosts, but their biology of ghosts theories is on the money most of the time. It’s the psychology that gets them.” He defends his parents no matter what, he thinks. They are so smart, they’re classified as geniuses, and so is his sister. They just lacked empathy for the dearly departed and brought back, and he wishes that wasn’t their problem. 

 

The second reporter latches onto it with a fevour, her name tag reads Amanda Reese, “So you’re saying that they’re wrong about most of their work?”

 

Danny clenches his hands, but his moment of silence brings the first reporter to barge back in, “So what makes you different from the other ghosts? They’re malevolent but you aren’t- is that your purpose here? To be a good ghost? I mean time and time again you do something heroic and then your supposed ghostly nature shows through with little bad deeds here and there- so what are you doing saving people?”

 

Something in it makes Danny pause. This pause was interrupted because it was a question that everyone wanted an answer to. Sometimes even Danny himself. He thinks about it, and the more the words turn over in his head the angrier he gets. 

 

He clenches his fists because he shouldn’t have to explain himself to a bunch of reporters. He shouldn’t have to be saving people’s lives, he shouldn’t have to be living a half-life- he should have either not gotten into that fucking portal or he should have died and died peacefully!

 

“I’m not better than any other ghosts because they aren’t bad- I’m a dead kid! I’m a kid! I make mistakes, other ghosts make mistakes because we used to be people just like you! How would a parent feel if you were shoving a microphone in their fourteen-year-old’s face like you own them? Just cuz I’m dead and trying to be a good person does not mean that I owe any of you anything! Especially after how this town treats me- treated me even while I was alive!”

 

He takes a breath and then his eyes widen. Oh. That was more than he meant to say. God, did he really feel that way? Honestly, he couldn’t be that angry, could he? Yeah, the media really did have whiplash on their opinions on him, and they called him horrendous names like who even came up with Inviso-bill? That should be considered a federal crime. 

 

The crowd is quiet and he floats up a little higher. Jazz was going to be all over this interview, as soon as he gets home is going to be psychobabble for the rest of the night. Or it’s going to be his parents saying Phantom is a manipulative evil ghost trying to garner sympathy from the world by pretending he is younger than he is. He wants to scream. 

 

Instead, he floats up and away and tries not to feel a little vindicated by the look of shock on their faces. He has an essay due the next day that he would really like to get at least a c on.

 

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Edward Lancer had watched the live broadcast of Phantom saving those kids, and then heard what he said to the crowd. It was like getting slapped in the face. He knew, in theory, that the ghost looked young. He also must have only died a few months ago when ghosts first started showing up. Still, it hadn’t quite hit him how small the ghost looked, scrawny with a face still trimmed with baby fat, messy hair as if he had just woken up for school and forgot to brush through it, only about 5’1. Lips cracked and bluish-green, teeth a little too sharp, hair that whisps slightly like icy smoke.

 

And he’d most likely stay that way, Lancer thinks with sadness, forever in the liminal stage of being young and taken too soon by death. 

 

He thought about how the ghost he sees fighting on the daily, the ghost who throws himself into danger because of some sense of justice, the ghost that he sees injured just as often as he sees him uninjured, and Lancer is reminded that these ghosts could have been in his class, handing in essays like anyone else. Yet he’s not. 

 

Because that kid is dead. And isn’t that just a painful thought? He was sitting there in that school being protected by the very thing he wanted to protect. Kids.

 

Irony, Edward Lancer thinks as he turns the page of the novel he wasn’t reading to instead ruminate on the origin of their town’s hero, is a bitch.

 

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Dash and Paulina both had a weird hero-crush on Danny Phantom. He was always strong, always saving people, but after that broadcast it made them think. Would they be doing the same thing? People like to think they would choose the right option, that they would put their life - afterlife in this situation- on the line to protect others. 

 

But thinking over it, Paulina suddenly doesn’t have a crush on the ghost boy, because she is reminded that he is not like one of the boys she hangs around at school. He is not Dash, or Kwan, or one of the losers Mikey, or Tucker, and god forbid he’s not Fenton. He’s not solid, and he won’t change with the times. 

 

She comes to terms with the fact that he’s dead, and that's… something she didn’t think about before. 

 

Dash thinks about the other kids he bullies, thinks about the helpless way that his hero yelled at the adults who either hated or idolized him, and thinks that he doesn’t want that. Danny Phantom is a hero, that is true and will stay true, but Dash thinks he wants to appreciate being alive now that he knows. He said his life would peak in high school… But he didn’t want that to be true. So he skipped past Fenton’s locker to go finish Lancer’s essay before sixth period. 

 

Don’t get them wrong, they both still think he’s heroic, he’s doing good work, he’s a good kid. But there's more to think about now than the light shows that he puts on while fighting ghosts.

 

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Jack and Maddie Fenton stare at their son across the dinner table talking animatedly with Jazz, and they think how lucky they are that their son is alive. Because they can’t imagine the pain that came with seeing the ghost of your son having an emotional break on live TV. 

 

Maybe they were wrong about Phantom. 

 

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Danny didn’t know why people started being nicer to him after that interview. He wasn’t complaining obviously, the more people who liked and trusted him the better he could protect them.

 

(And doesn’t that make him glow with joy when someone tells him good job? When people are friendly to him on patrol when he’s not getting shot at whenever he tries to be a general helpful spirit? Isn’t he utterly close to tears the first time his parents tell Phantom that they want a truce and that they think he’s good at what he does? Doesn’t he smile when Dash Baxter of all people asks how he could make it up to the kids he was mean to all year? His face hurts from how much he smiles and how much he feels appreciated. He almost passes out when Valerie offers a truce. He does cry when someone gives him a thank you card, and flowers that he thinks are meant for a grave.)