My Babysitter’s a Half Ghost
As soon as the front door was pulled shut, the youngest half ghost turned to glare at the person his parents had chosen to babysit him for the night.
"You planned this! I don't know how, but you PLANNED this, old man!"
The oldest half ghost rolled his eyes. "Oh, put the scary eyes away, Daniel. I'm not going to do anything. This was just as unexpected for me as it was for you.”
“I. Don’t. Care. GET OUT!”
The man studied his nemesis for a moment. There was something…off about him. He’d heard murmurs, off-hand comments about the boy from the ghosts under his employ, but he hadn’t entertained any of them himself until now. He knew Daniel hated him, but the boy was looking at him like he wanted an excuse to obliterate him where he stood. Something wasn’t right. Maybe there was a reason Maddie had asked him to keep an eye on the teenager for tonight.
“You know I can’t do that,” he replied calmly, clasping his hands together. “The way I see it, you can either fight me for no reason and wreck the house, or you can accept that I’m here for the night. I trust you’ll make the sensible cho-"
“I choose fighting you.” He punched his palm threateningly, his eyes glowing radioactive green. “An easy decision, really. I need to let out a little steam and, hey, if my parents ask questions, I’ll say a ghost did it.” He smirked, but there was no humour in his eyes.
“That isn’t going to happen, Daniel.” He walked straight past him and into the kitchen.
“HEY!” Danny followed, his eyes going back to their natural blue. "You’re the one that suggested a fight! And and-and-HEY! Don't go snooping around the Fenton ghost lab! I know every piece of tech in that place! I'll KNOW if you take anything, Plasmius!"
"I'm just making some tea." He sighed and flicked on the kettle, watching patiently as it buzzed to life. This was going to be a very long night. He needed to do something about the boy. "Would you like some?"
"No thanks." Danny crossed his arms, glaring.
"Well, I'm making you one anyway. You clearly need to relax." He took a vial out of his pocket and poured the contents into two mugs.
"What the…what the heck is THAT?!" He growled, his eyes glowing again. "Are you really trying to DRUG me?!"
"Oh, do sit down, boy. Not everything I do is an evil scheme." He put his hand on Danny's shoulder and pushed him roughly onto the nearest chair. "It's just liquid ectoplasm. It's good for our ghost halves."
"Liquid...ectoplasm?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Ectoplasm comes in many forms." He sat down opposite him and placed the mugs on the table. "Through my research, I've found that, if I haven't transformed in a while or I've been overworking my powers in human form, my body can get a bit run down. Consuming ectoplasm helps with that." He blew into the hot mug and took a sip. "It's harmless and it tastes fine with tea. I drink it all the time."
Danny took his cup and studied the contents suspiciously. It looked just like normal tea to him. It didn’t even smell that different.
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to,” Vlad assured, taking another sip. “But it’s good for you. You’re looking a little run down, little badger.”
“I am NOT run down!” He glared again. “I’m FINE! And don’t call me that!” He took an angry swig of the tea.
Vlad smirked. “Do you like it?”
Danny swallowed the liquid and, slowly, his appearance began to change. His blue eyes appeared to get a little more life in them, his cheeks got a little rosier, and Danny himself appeared to calm down a bit. He sighed, shutting his eyes for a moment.
“Okay. You’re a fruitloop, but…this is really good. Oh man.”
“See? I’m always right.” The man chuckled, taking another sip.
“Not always. But you know a lot about ghost things, I’ll give you that.” The teenager huffed and leaned his chin against his hand.
Vlad finished off the last of his tea and carefully put the cup back down. “Regardless, now that you’ve calmed down a tad, perhaps you could tell me what has you so bent out of shape, hmm? I know you like to fight, but you’ve been unnaturally aggressive since I got here.”
“None of your business, fruitloop,” he snapped immediately. “I’m not so dumb that I’ll tell you things about my personal life I know you could use against me.”
Vlad made an annoyed hum and steepled his fingers together. “Daniel, like it or not, I’m your guardian tonight, and as such, it is my responsibility to see to it you are doing well.” He looked the teenager straight in the eyes, his expression devoid of any anger or amusement all of a sudden. Just…concern. “Not only that, you’re the only other half ghost in existence, so it is very much my business to know if you’re killing yourself.”
Danny’s hard expression wavered and he turned the empty cup over in his hands, unsure all of a sudden. “I can’t. I mean. You wouldn’t get it. I-I’m not killing myself, I’m surviving every day like I always do. I’m just…it’s been a bit harder lately. I’m getting a bit overwhelmed.”
“Overwhelmed?” He scoffed. “You’re a child. What could you possibly have to be overwhelmed about?”
Danny glared at him again. “I’m Danny Phantom, Vlad. I need to have everything together, like all the time. And survive highschool. And save the world. And graduate. And save people from danger. And survive my own house of ghost hunters. And avoid getting found out. It’s no cakewalk.” He made a weak, pathetic chuckle and shifted his gaze down to the teacup, his expression falling again into one of defeat and misery. “It’s whatever. It’s fine. I’m not gonna…hurt myself or anything. It’s just…a lot.”
Vlad frowned. He’d never seen the boy like this. He wanted him to join his side, but this despair, this faked humour…Vlad recognised it well. He needed to help this kid before he snapped in half from the pressure.
“It appears that this double life of yours is spreading you a bit thin,” he commented. “You don’t need to be the perfect hero all the time, you know, even if you, for some god forsaken reason, feel you need to be. It’s too much pressure and responsibility for one teenager to handle on their own, even if they are half spectral entity. You’re being too hard on yourself.”
Danny picked up his own teacup and chugged down the rest of it. “I can’t help it,” he said after a moment. “I want to help people. I want to use my powers to do that. But I’m really, really starting to hate it. I just don’t know how long I can keep this up.” He sighed, his shoulders slumping defeatedly. “I have to keep running out of class to fight ghosts, which means I’m failing all my classes, and I can’t study at home because I’m usually interrupted by a ghost or too tired from fighting a ghost. My parents are getting way too good at creating those stupid Fenton weapons and they just can’t wait to tell me what it’ll do to Phantom, in excruciating detail.” He looked at the man flatly, though it wasn’t targeted at him. “Sometimes I just wanna eat breakfast, Vlad!”
This made the man chuckle a bit, but he let Danny continue.
“And why am I putting up with all this? Well, HECK IF I KNOW!” He picked up the nearest Fenton invention, which was beeping in response to his presence, and threw it across the room. It smacked the wall and crumbled into pieces, but he didn’t seem to care. He just crossed his arms. “It just feels like, no matter how hard I try, the kids in school will always think I’m a loser and treat me like trash and my parents will always think I’m evil and treat me like an abomination!” His voice began to tremble. “It feels like…n-no matter how many people I save, how many people I risk my l-life for…no-one cares. I was a disappointment before I became half ghost, but I thought, in a weird way, I could change that. Finally show everyone that, hey, guess what? Danny Fenton isn’t a waste of oxygen! He isn’t a genius like the rest of his family, but he’s a hero and he helps people! He’s great!” His small smile fell and he sighed again, running his hand through his hair. “I know I shouldn’t be doing this for praise, and I swear I’m not, but my life is damn hard sometimes. I think I deserve some every now and then. I’m just so tired of it, Vlad.” He looked at the man sadly. Suddenly, his eyes widened. Oh yeah. He was talking to Vlad. His nemesis. He stiffened, preparing for the inevitable mockery.
But the man was silent. Vlad himself had never played the hero, but he was familiar with a lot of what the young halfa was talking about. Balancing two lives was difficult, especially if you had a lot of responsibility in each. He’d never admit it out loud, but he really felt for the boy in that moment. There had to be something he could do.
Danny rubbed his eyes in case he looked as emotional as he felt. "U-um, anyway, that's....uh..." He cleared his throat awkwardly and stood up. "I'm gonna go work on some homework! Later, fruitloop!"
"Daniel." Vlad stood up, his expression unreadable.
Danny straightened his back, looking up at the man's form, which was suddenly towering over him. "Y-Yes?"
"You're overworked and underappreciated,” he informed him. “Those are the facts, and there's nothing I or anyone else can do to change them, so long as you continue your fruitless attempts at playing the hero."
Danny frowned. "Bu-"
Vlad held up a finger to signal for Danny to be quiet. Surprisingly, he obeyed.
"However,” he continued, “there is something I can do to lighten the workload for you." Two black rings ran up and down Vlad's body, transforming him into the vampiric ghost villain, Vlad Plasmius.
A pair of almost identical, but white, rings instinctively looped around Danny, transforming him into Danny Phantom. "What do you mean?" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"What else?" He looked at him seriously. "You’re going to learn how to duplicate."
"WHAT?!” He gasped. “Oh my gosh! But...but I thought I had to join you first?"
"I'm making an exception for tonight. If you won’t give up this superhero charade, I can at least ensure you don’t kill yourself before you join my side.” He turned, his cape swishing dramatically behind him. “Now, come, little badger. We have much practicing to do." He floated down into the ghost lab.
Danny followed eagerly. Vlad was finally going to train him! In the power he’d wanted to learn the most! He grinned. Who knew the fruitloop had a soft side? He’d have to figure out a way to exploit that for future lessons.
“Alright, now focus. Have you made any progress on duplication so far?”
Danny stretched. That tea had seriously relaxed him. But he had to focus.
“Well…kinda,” he replied. “But I ended up with, like, five heads. I tried to copy what I saw you do, so I really don’t get why it didn’t work. The only time I’ve been able to do it right was when my powers were boosted during the fight with the Ghost King.” He shot him a dirty look. “I nearly died that day, by the way.”
“Yes, well, I brought you home safe and sound, so I think that’s water under the bridge now, hmm?” He pat the boy’s head. “You said you were able to duplicate successfully?”
Danny crossed his arms but nodded all the same. “Yeah, with my powers boosted. I think I’m just not powerful enough to duplicate on my own yet.”
Vlad frowned in thought, hovering in place. “Daniel, successful duplication has nothing to do with how much power you possess. It isn’t that kind of ability. Granted, only a ghost of a specific amount of power is capable of doing it, but if you were able to do it once, then you should be able to do it again, with or without that power suit.”
Danny frowned. “I…I don’t understand. So if the issue isn’t that I’m not powerful enough, then…why is it so hard? I’ve never had this much trouble before.”
“It’s so hard because it takes a lot of concentration, dear boy,” Vlad explained, closing his eyes. “You want this duplicate to be a perfect copy, so it’s not enough to just want a second ‘you’ to appear. Even if you somehow pulled it off that way, it wouldn’t be complete. Yes, it may look like you, but it wouldn’t be able to think for itself, it wouldn’t have any of your memories. It would be like some kind of… zombie.”
“Oh.” Danny looked down at his reflection in the floor tiles. “So, you’re saying I have to think about what I want the copy to be like, instead of just look like?”
“Exactly, my boy.” He smiled proudly. “Think of it like self-reflection. Once you’ve decided what parts of yourself you want it to have, the difficult part is staying focussed on that. If you let your mind wander for even a second, it won’t work.” He opened his eyes again and a duplicate appeared next to him. “During the Ghost King debacle, I think you were so focused on saving your little town and the suit had you so confident in your abilities, that you were able to do it without even really thinking about it. You are capable of this, and once you master it, you can use it in so many useful ways.”
“I could use it to take classes while I fight ghosts!” He grinned, bouncing a little as he hovered in the air. “Though I guess I wouldn’t learn anything, huh?”
“Oh, on the contrary. Once your duplicate fuses with you again, you’ll gain all their memories.” The duplicate phased into Plasmius, disappearing.
“WHAT?!” Oh my god.” He grinned wider. “Vlad!! You gotta teach me!!!”
He smirked. “All in due time, my boy. It’ll take time for you to get good enough to use one as a replacement for yourself, but hopefully, now that you know how it works, it will be a little easier for you. Why don’t you give it a try?”
“YES! Okay!” He closed his eyes like he’d seen Vlad do. “Another Danny Fenton. Okay. Looks like me, black hair, blue eyes, loves space, wants to be an astronaut, isn’t great in his classes but tries really hard…” He frowned. “Okay, what else, what else? Ugh why don’t I feel anything? Um…”
“Compulsive, stubborn, unshakable hero complex, childish, quick to anger…” Vlad supplied, smirking.
“It won’t work if you’re not being honest with yourself, little badger,” he teased.
Danny huffed. “Okay. Fine. So maybe he doesn’t care about school as much as he should, he abuses his powers a lot, he, uh, has a big crush on the girl that’s trying to murder him-“
“Miss Gray?” Vlad asked, his tone both curious and amused.
“Yes. Shut up. What else? Oh, I guess I should talk about the fruitloop. Um…”
“Yes, Daniel. Please tell me what ‘Daniel’ thinks of me.” He smirked. “I’m sure it’ll be very positive, considering I’m helping you so much.”
Danny frowned, trying to block him out, but his ghost sense meant he was all too aware of the man’s presence. “Vlad is Danny’s nemesis,” he began. “He hates him. He…” His frown deepened. “Okay, that isn’t right. He doesn’t hate him, it’s…it’s a complicated relationship. Vlad Masters is like that asshole uncle that goes to every family gathering, probably specifically to annoy you. But he’s still family, so it’s fun to annoy him back. Danny wishes he’d stop insulting his intelligence, though, because it’s kind of a sore spot.”
Vlad chuckled. “Noted. But, as much as I wish I could keep listening to you talk about me, I think you should open your eyes now.”
Danny tilted his head and, after a pause, sighed. “So I take it it didn’t wor-“
“AAAHH!!!” Danny was so surprised by the sudden appearance of his duplicate, that he tripped on nothing and fell to the floor.
“You okay?” The duplicate held a hand out for him and he took it.
“Wow, I’ve heard of…helping yourself up, but…” He stared owlishly at the ghost boy in front of him. The resemblance was almost uncanny, except for the fact that his eyes were icy blue instead of toxic green. “Hi. Me.”
The duplicate grinned. “CONGRATS, dude!! I guess the fruitloop isn’t such a bad teacher, huh?” He smirked at the older half ghost.
Vlad smirked back and shook his head.
The real Danny smiled a little. “Hey, do you think you can go on patrol for a bit? There’s something I wanna do instead.”
“Oh, sure! I’ll take the Fenton phones in case I need back up.” He took some from the desk and turned intangible. “Later, fruitloop!” He phased through the floor.
“There’s two of them calling me that now.” He sighed. “The things I do for that teenager, I swear to English muffins.” He looked up at the boy. “Let me know if you need any help with that. Analysing yourself is difficult, especially the not so favourable parts, so you may find you want a little help at first.”
Danny nodded and the white rings appeared, turning him back into Danny Fenton. “I can’t thank you enough for this, Vlad. I’ve been trying to do it for so long, and now that I can, I really think it’ll help.”
“No problem.” He smiled. “What was it you wanted to do instead of patrolling? Homework, I hope.”
“Well…” He laughed a little awkwardly. “Don’t read to much into this, but I was hoping we could…I don’t know, play some videogames? I really wanna see if I can beat you in Fight Fight Revolution. I haven’t had the chance to try the multiplayer mode yet.”
Vlad raised his eyebrows. The boy never ceased to surprise him, for better or for worse. “Videogames?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I think it’ll be fun! I bet you can’t even beat me in easy mode, old man!”
“Alright, I’ll play one game,” he decided, smirking. “There’s not much else to do in this house that won’t set off a Fenton invention anyway.”
“Yes!” Danny grinned and ran up the stairs. Vlad followed at his usual pace.
“Aaaaand I win again.” Vlad put down his controller. “That’s, what, twelve times now?”
“Ugh! This isn’t faaaair!” he whined. “You can’t seriously be good at everything! This was supposed to be my victory!”
He chuckled. “This game is child’s play. The games were so much harder when I was growing up.”
“Did you even have colour TV when you were growing up?”
“I’m not elderly, Daniel.” Vlad shot a weak ectoblast in his direction.
Danny absorbed it with a perfectly timed shield and stuck his tongue out at him.
Vlad grinned. “Would you like to play another game, or are you done embarrassing yourself?”
Danny smiled amusedly back and leaned back on his palms. “Not a chance. I’ll beat you one day, Plasmius.” His pressed a few buttons on the controller, probably to bring the game back to the main menu, but it was clear he wasn’t really paying attention to what was on screen.
“Right, well, I should try to get some work done before you parents return and Jack inevitably destroys everything.” He stood up.
Danny hesitated for a moment, and then sat up. “Um, wait, before you go!”
He paused. “Yes?”
“I just wanted to…to thank you. For listening to me, I mean. I think it helped to say everything out loud. I appreciate you not being a dick about it.” He suddenly smirked. “And it’s nice to know the big bad Vlad Plasmius cares about his little badger,” he teased. “I still hate that name, by the way.”
“You didn’t exactly hate being my protégé for a little bit,” Vlad shot back smugly. “I can’t thank you enough for this, Vlad!” He chuckled. “Oh, you were so grateful. I was almost tempted to pretend it was part of a scheme, just to see how annoyed it would make you.”
Danny huffed and shot an ectoblast at him, but he caught it with one of his hands and squashed it into nothing.
“…holy shit.” He stared, wide eyed. “Have you always been able to do that?”
“Watch your language, boy.” He glared, but it only lasted a few seconds. “And yes. You think I’d show you everything I can do? That wouldn’t be any fun. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He walked to the door, but paused when he reached the door frame. “Oh, and Daniel?”
“Yeah?” He stretched.
“Perhaps check up on your duplicate,” he suggested. “He was your first one, so it’s possible he has found himself stuck somewhere. It’s not healthy to leave your duplicates separate from your body for too long anyway.”
“Oh, okay! GOING GHOST!”
Vlad rolled his eyes and started back downstairs. That battle cry was still ridiculous.
Several hours later, Danny, after absorbing his blue-eyed doppelgänger to save it from being stuck in a tree, had gotten bored of homework and had decided to watch some TV in the lounge instead. Vlad, pretty bored himself, had made them both some more ecto-tea. He wasn’t sure when the boy’s bedtime was, but it had clearly passed, because it wasn’t long before the TV’s background noise, in combination with the warm drink, made the teenager doze off.
Vlad didn’t notice at first, too absorbed in the paperwork he was supposed to be signing, but when he did, he smiled and decided to leave him be. He deserved the rest.
Danny and Vlad both screamed in unison, sitting up in their seats.
“How do you live with this man?” Vlad muttered.
“B-barely,” he muttered back, trying to calm his thumping heart.
“AND LOOK, MADDIE! THEY’RE SO HAPPY TO SEE US, THEY CAN’T EVEN SPEAK!”
“You…” Vlad held back his glowing red eyes and took a deep breath. “Jack. Maddie. Welcome back.” He stood up. “How was the convention?”
“Very busy! It was—”
“It was AWESOME!” Jack boomed. “You woulda LOVED it, Vladdie! You should come next time!”
“Yes, well, I think I’m busy on that day.” He smiled stiffly.
“I do hope Danny didn’t give you any trouble, Vlad,” Maddie said, taking down her hood. “I know you don’t really get along…”
“Hey Mom, hey Dad.” Danny stood up too. “It wasn’t bad, actually. Uncle Vlad helped me with my homework.”
A genuine smile made its’ way onto Vlad’s face. He’d never called him that devoid of sarcasm before.
“Then I beat him at his own videogame,” Vlad teased. “Twelve times. But who’s keeping count, really?” He smirked at the teenager.
“Oh, you’re on next time, Vlad! You won’t have the highest score for long, mark my words!” He grinned.
Maddie sighed. When they’d returned, she’d expected the worst, but Danny seemed to be in much better spirits than he had before they’d left. Whatever Vlad had done, it had worked.
“That’s AWESOME, V-man!” Jack grinned and pat him on the back roughly. “We should ask you to babysit more often!”
“I wouldn’t be against that,” Danny replied. “But for the record, I’m fifteen. I don’t actually need babysitting.”
“We’ll talk about that tomorrow,” Maddie replied. “What are you still doing up? You’ve got school tomorrow!”
“I should really get going too. See you next time, Daniel.” He pat the teenager’s head. “Make good choices. I don’t want to have to…help you with your homework again if I can help it.”
Danny nodded. “I know,” he said quietly. “I promise.”
He nodded back and turned to the one other person in the room he actually liked. “Maddie, feel free to call me again if you need any more help. My door is always open.”
With that, he walked out the door. Jack proceeded to excitedly yell things to him, but the billionaire didn’t acknowledge any of it, choosing instead to disappear into his limo.
“Huh. Maybe he didn’t hear me.” Jack shrugged and headed to the kitchen.
Danny and his mother shared a look. Neither of them had the heart to tell him the truth.
“HEY, DANNY!” Jack suddenly called from the kitchen. “WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FENTON GHOST INCINERATOR? IT’S ALL SMASHED UP AGAINST THE WALL!”
His eyes widened. He’d completely forgotten about that.
“An, um, A GHOST DID IT!”