Danny had to admit, he’d never thought something like this would happen. Usually, the roles were reversed, and he’d be the one bursting in through warehouse doors, guns blazing, ready to kick some ghost butt. Never thought he’d be the one dangling precariously close to a large vat of somewhat familiar bubbling ectoplasm, while the stereotypical villain paced near the lever that would drop him to his doom. That made him the damsel in distress, a concerning idea.
Normally, this wouldn’t be concerning, but he couldn’t phase through the chain that was wrapped around him enough times he resembled a cocoon rather than a hostage. It must’ve come from the Ghost Zone, with the light glow emitting from the mental links and the lack of burning pain associated with anti-ghost coatings and ectoranium. At least he bought local. He liked the energy coming off of the surprisingly large container of ectoplasm, radiating a glow and mist that bathed everything he saw in green, even less than the idea of being chained upside-down over said vat. He didn’t want to find out why.
Who was this loser anyway? The ghost lawyer? He’d never seen, heard, nor smelled this ghost in his entire half-life. His navy suit contrasted awfully with his green skin, violet eyes, and mint-green hair, and those red shoes definitely didn’t match any of it. What a lame villain, couldn’t even dress himself properly.
“Hey! Looser!” Danny called out, and the lawyer ghost perked up.
“Splendid! You’re awake! It would’ve been anticlimactic if you stayed unconscious,” the ghost remarked.
“Should’ve stayed unconscious, it would’ve kept me from having to witness your crime against fashion. Who are you and how’d I get here? Last I checked you didn’t ask me if I wanted to hang out?” Danny quipped.
“I am Wright, a ghost of due process and order, and your darling Valerie Gray has thwarted me for the last time! I boyfriend-napped you to draw her here! Your doom will serve as her punishment,” Wright exclaimed, like a looser.
Danny just stared at the ghost for a minute as his head attempted to wrap around what was going on, and hanging upside down, wrapped in chains, didn’t help.
“’Boyfriend-napped? Seriously? That’s not even a word, and Val and I stopped dating, like, a year ago!” Danny pointed out.
“Irrelevant,” Wright huffed, ”You still hold her affections, and your death will cause her the same grief she caused me.”
Danny scoffed, “What’d she do to you anyways? She shoots at all the ghosts, you’re not special.”
“I wasn’t aware that you knew about her… nightly activities,” Wright stated, and Danny gave him a look.
“Ok, let me get this straight, who am I to you?” Danny asked, confused. Most ghosts were aware that Valerie was the Red Huntress, and Wright had yet to make a remark about having “captured Phantom”.
“Daniel Fenton, the son of the infamous ghosthunters Madeline and Jack Fenton of Amity Park, and the former sweetheart of Valerie Gray, the Red Huntress,” Wright announced.
“Right, ok. What do you know about Phantom?”
“I hold great admiration for the protector of Amity Park! He goes through the process of capturing ghosts with efficiency and never acts without just cause! He’s a powerful ghost worthy of the titles bestowed upon him! He valiantly defends both his haunt and the people who live there, both human and ghost! Truly a pillar of order and process!” Wright gushed and Danny fought the urge to roll his eyes, ”What does this have to do with you, however?”
Danny frowned, fighting off the reflex to claim Amity wasn’t his haunt, but his home. The praise was appreciated, but he really didn’t understand why this ghost held him so high. He was more surprised by the fact that this ghost didn’t know that Phantom and Fenton were the same damn person and that he had just kidnapped someone he held in such high regard.
“What do you mean by ‘order and process’?” Danny asked, just to get a proper definition as to what this poorly dressed lawyer was on.
“He properly maintains a level of organization and protection in Amity Park, protecting the order and in every single fight plays out how it’s supposed to be. A trespasser with malicious intentions shows up, Phantom arrives shortly, they banter and fight, Phantom emerges victorious, and the trespasser is removed from the premises, thus process. Does that make sense to your feeble human mind?” Wright chastised, explaining himself carefully.
Danny rolled his eyes. “Well, aren’t you a ghost ‘trespassing’ in Amity Park? Doesn’t that mean Phantom will he show up to save m, tossing you back into the Zone?” Danny bluffed.
“But we’re not in Amity Park, I may have boyfriend-napped–“
“Please never say that word again.”
“-you from there, but that’s not where we currently are. Red Huntress operates out of Elmertown, and I would never infringe upon Phantom’s haunt!”
Huh, Danny supposed that made sense to a point, he never really dealt with ghosts in Elmertown, since they were usually just low-level specters that usually didn’t mean any harm. If Val was operating out of here, then it made sense that there would be so few ghosts, and also that the ghosts that were afraid or ‘admired’ him like Wright would stick to Elmertown rather than Amity.
“And Val doesn’t follow your version of ‘order and process’?”
“NO! She shows up, never lets me get through my proper monologue or cause the necessary level of chaos, and then threatens my afterlife, completely uncivilized! What an improper lady! Always shooting first, never asking questions!” Wright exasperated.
“Sorry, but that’s Val’s order and process. Guns blazing and ready to kick some ghost butt.”
Valerie burst in through the doors, with perfect theatric timing, her ecto-rifle poised and aimed at Wright.
“Danny!” she exclaimed, immediately focusing on him before shifting her rage towards the ghost in the room.
Oh boy, did she look pissed. Danny wasn’t sure if he’d ever pushed her to the point Wright currently had. Her suit blazed with scarlet energy, read to fire at the drop of a hat, bright enough Danny could see it over the green haze of the pool of ectoplasm beneath him.
“Finally! It took you long enough. I left a note and everything,” Wright complained, unmoved by her anger.
“Let Danny go, or I blast a hole straight through you this time, Wright,” Valerie snarled.
Wright sneered, ”You shoot me, and I drop the boy-toy into a vat of concentrated ectoplasm. There’s not even enough distance for you to swoop in and save him before he’s at least partially submerged.”
Valerie looked over to Danny, and he almost smiled in greeting, but he managed to stop himself as a particular detail resurfaced. Fenton didn’t know Valerie was the Red Huntress, that was knowledge only Phantom was privy to. Damn it. Valerie’s eyes were wide in fear under her visor, and her grip tightened on her rifle considerably. Danny couldn’t make a joke or anything, and he was forced to fill his expression with unfamiliarity and panic, like a proper actor. He met her eyes anyways, cool and calm, before gritting his teeth. He trusted Valerie, she would save him, but he also knew her well enough to know she hated playing along. Valerie hadn’t realized that the Red Huntress wasn’t supposed to know Danny Fenton either, so perhaps it evened out in its own way.
“Dragging a bystander into a personal fight is just like a ghost,” she spat the word, “What is it you want?”
Wright began with a flourish of his arms, “For everything to play out in the proper order of course! For an order to be restored to your haphazard violence! We are going to go through all of the proper motions of this encounter and the winner will always be the hero! We just have to figure out who’s who.”
“I’m not letting you monologue while Da-… while an innocent is hanging over… whatever that is!” Valerie protested.
“I never expected such an aggressive and weak-minded being such as you to understand the importance of doing things the right way! That’s why I needed a hostage.” Wright huffed. “Also, It’s concentrated ectoplasm. like the name implies its densely packed ectoplasm, a powerful source of energy for both ghosts and most of your human anti-ghost technology, but burns through humans faster than hydrochloric acid,” Wright explained, and Danny couldn’t help but pale in response.
Oh… that was bad, and no wonder he recognized it, he’d seen it in small amounts around the lab. Danny also didn’t want to see how he, a half-ghost currently human, would react to it. Valerie also apparently didn’t want to find out, more than she wanted to blast a hole through Wright apparently. Her shoulders began trembling and she grit her teeth, glancing rapidly between where Danny was dangling and where Wright waited patiently for her to make her decision. Danny took a deep breath and called out to her, snapping her out of her internal conflict.
“Don’t worry about me, Red Huntress! I’ll just hang out right here! I’m not going anywhere!”
Valerie sent Danny a look, exasperated and melancholic, most likely due to the pun, before setting her gaze on Wright, who had a large grin on his face displaying way too many teeth.
“Fine,” she spat, “let’s get this over with.”
“Wonderful!” Wright clapped his hands, “As you can see, Red Huntress, I have captured Danny Fenton! And unless you defeat me in the next three minutes, he will get dropped to his doom!”
“Wait, there’s a timer?” Danny asked, and Wright ignored his interruption, hitting a button next to the lever, probably starting the timer.
“Now meet your maker, Red Huntress!”
Wright vaulted over the bars of the platform he was standing on, directly at Valerie. She met him halfway with a crimson blast, energy meeting the sole of his atrocious red shoes in a form of deflection, launching him into the air where he remained suspended. He launched several violet ectoblasts while Valerie charged up her gun again, taking to the air as her hoverboard formed beneath her feet. They began a combination of hand-to-hand strikes and blasts midair, often speeding out of Danny’s view as he craned his neck to witness the fight. There was too much blood in his head for him to focus properly, but there was something off about the way Wright fought.
One, two, three, five ecto blasts, then he switched to close combat, striking 7 times with his fists and ending in a kick to gain some distance before firing ectoblasts again. It was in order…
“Red! He’s fighting in a pattern! Five blasts, seven punches, one kick!” Danny called out.
They careened back in front of him, and Val nodded in confirmation. Wright ended with a kick and floated back into the air.
“I’ve seen you figured me out! But it will not allow you to defeat me!”
Wright fired off his blasts, and Valerie easily countered them, now knowing what to expect. Wright came in close again, attempting to rush her. His fist connected to her forearms 6 times, each blocked easily and efficiently by Valerie’s suit, doing practically no damage. She had positioned herself right near the chain that held Danny above ‘his doom’. Wright had one more hit left, but rather than take it he backed off, just as the timer beeped.
“It seems it’s time for us to end this charade, Red Huntress.” Wright declared and broke the pattern early and fired a clean and precise ectoblast behind Valerie.
The chain went slack, and Danny plummeted. Valerie grasped it in desperation shouting something he couldn’t hear, but it was too late, the upper half of his body dunked below the surface.
It was like getting dunked into freezing water, at least before he became immune to the cold. It sent shivers and rose goosebumps along every single point of contact, he saw nothing but green. It felt like the submerged half of his body had fallen asleep, pins and needles piercing his skin, but never actually hurting him. Danny thrashed despite this, desperate to get out the concoction meant to kill him, not realizing he wasn’t in pain as panic swept away any other rational thought.
“Danny!” Valerie shouted, grasping desperately for the chain.
It skid in her grip, a yard too late and Danny slipped halfway below the surface. His whole body thrashed sending ripples across the surface but making no sound. She screamed, her voice filling the empty void of Danny’s soundlessness. It was already too late, some part of her mind spoke, but she refused to acknowledge it. As fast she physically could, she tied the chain to the closest bar and launched herself on her hoverboard. She snapped the chain Danny was hanging from with ease and a grief-filled ectoblast, and took Danny down to the ground, careful not to touch the green sludge the covered the upper half of his torso.
Valerie’s hoverboard collapsed back into her suit, and then they met eyes, something that her mind could barely register. Even more than that, she wasn’t looking at the face that had plummeted into the vat. Phantom’s eyes stared back wide, bright green and covered in ectoplasm, stared back on her, while the bottom half remained clothed in jeans and battered red converse. Her mind short-circuited, and she was pretty sure her suit as well from the beating it had just taken.
Danny… Phantom… whoever the hell she was staring at seemed to finally realize that he was out, let out a cough, rolling over onto his stomach to purge the concentrated ectoplasm from his lung, and heaved a deep breath of air he couldn’t possibly need once they were clear. He rolled back over and sat up, shifting in the chains, trying to get out of them.
Valerie saw red, and snatched the chains, pulling Phantom’s face close to hers, a snarl on her face. Phantom’s eyes widened and he yelped at the sudden tug.
“Is this what you do?! You teamed up with Wright of all ghosts to get to me?!” Valerie cried.
Phantom’s eyes widened, confused. “I have no idea what you’re talking about! I was kidnapped!” He yelped.
“Don’t lie to me Phantom!”
Phantom froze, looking like a dear caught in headlights. He frantically tried to glance himself over, writhing in place, still unable to move his arms since he was still chained up. Valerie had no intention of unchaining him now. He caught sight of his jumpsuit and shook some of his soaked hair into his face, catching its color.
“What do you mean ‘Oh’?!”
“Just learned what happens when I get drenched in concentrated ectoplasm.” His tone was even and quiet and only served to infuriate her further.
“Answer me, Phantom!”
“I didn’t lie!” He shouted right back, “He really did kidnap me!”
“Then where is Danny?! He’s still missing. Does Wright still have him?” She demanded.
Phantom shifted around in the chains again, and Valerie unceremoniously dropped him to the floor. He grunted by was focused on the chains now. Phantom’s eyes flared ice blue, overtaking their normal toxic green, and the chains froze solid. With enough strain, the metal links shattered and clattered uselessly to the floor. He stretched his arms and glanced them over.
There was a line, clear and definable, where the ectoplasm hadn’t touched him. Under the green substance, was Phantom, jumpsuit and all, but Valerie was fixated on the borderline, as was Phantom, where the jumpsuit transitioned into Danny’s iconic red and white shirt. There were no gloves on his hands, and the jumpsuit ceased existing halfway down his arms, and the skin underneath the goo was the same color as Phantom’s face, but the dry areas were the same pale as Danny’s skin.
“I’m right here, Valerie,” Phantom said, looking straight through her.
Valerie scoffed, “I see you here, Phantom, but where’s Danny Fenton?”
“I’m Danny Fenton.”
Of all the things Phantom could’ve said, that wasn’t the answer she wanted. For the second time that night, her mind reeled to a halt.
"You can’t be Danny, you’re a ghost,” Valerie justified.
“And people can die? I just happen to be caught in the middle.” Phantom said, making no sense.
“You died? Danny’s dead?” Her voice came out quietly, almost a whimper.
“I’m more like half-dead.” He had the nerve to laugh. “A bit of both ghost and human mixed together, I can be either-or.”
“What was the name of the flour baby we raised together?” She pressed, looking for a piece of information Danny would know, but Phantom shouldn’t.
“We… we didn’t name it, did we? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t one of the requirements Mr. Lancer gave us.” Phantom responded with a weak chuckle.
Valerie looked at him, really looked at him. Phantom and Fenton didn’t really look that different, in fact, they were surprisingly similar to the point it was eerie. He had always looked freakily familiar, and now she knew why. They had the same facial structure, hairstyle, and even the awful senses of humor lined up. The only difference was that Phantom was a ghost, and Danny was human.
“How can you be half-dead?” Valerie asked.
“Turns out the portal is really dark on the inside, that is until you turn it on from the inside.”
It took Valerie a minute, but then she understood. She fully understood. Her helmet and visor retracted, revealing her watering eyes. Danny was Phantom, and Phantom was Danny. He wasn’t being overshadowed, overshadowing didn’t look like this, not half-covered in ectoplasm like he was. Danny didn’t make eye contact, choosing instead to collect a bit of it onto his finger, watching intently as his skin sizzled, glowing white and the edges and spreading like a chemical reaction until it reached the edge of the ectoplasm. The skin became discolored, and a bit of white-silver glove appeared, manifesting all on its own underneath the goop. Then he had the nerve to lick it off.
Valerie scrunched up her face in disgust while Phantom seemed to contemplate the taste, still focusing on his finger. The darker skin tone and glove seemed to dissolve away on their own back into pale skin once the ectoplasm was gone. Danny really was Phantom.
Valerie threw herself onto the ground and punched him as hard as she could in her given state, her suit protecting her from the concentrated ectoplasm on his body that could possibly burn her if Wright was to be trusted.
“Ouch!” Danny complained, rubbing his arm where she’d hit, the ectoplasm spreading to his hand forming the glove again.
“I dated you!” Valerie protested, “I dated you, and then broke up with you!”
Danny’s gaze shifted around, confused and sheepish. “Y-yeah?”
“I broke up with you to focus on hunting you!”
“And you knew this entire damn time!”
“Uhhhhhh… yeah.” He admitted, looking down awkwardly and attempting to wipe his hand off on his jeans, but only succeeded in spreading the ectoplasm around. The patch of denim transformed into black rubber.
“You ruined my life!”
“I’ve told you a thousand times! It was an accident!” Danny protested, wiping his hand on the ground again in an attempt to get more off but finally looking back up at her.
Valerie stared at him for a moment, before devolving into a fit of giggles, getting to her feet from where she had seated herself on the floor. Danny looked up at her, even more confused than before.
“You really need to wash that stuff off, or are you going to lick yourself clean?” Valerie teased.
Danny huffed indignantly, climbed to his own feet, and a white ring blossomed around his waist. Valerie watched in awe as what parts were still Fenton transformed into equally an equally familiar jumpsuit and set of silver boots. The ectoplasm that still coated him slowly vanished, absorbed into his ghostly form. The ghostly halo around him grew in intensity, glowing brighter than before. His feet lifted from the floor and he began to float, eyes also growing in intensity. Danny gave a large smile, literally beaming bright enough to light up a good portion of the warehouse all on his own.
“Thanks, Val,” Danny said.
“For what exactly?” she asked.
“Well, you didn’t shoot me when I told you I was Danny Fenton, you saved me from witnessing Wright's awful sense of fashion any longer, and finally for Elmertown,” Danny counted off on his fingers.
Danny put his hands on his hips matter-of-factly, ”Even if I don’t agree with your methods, you’ve been protecting Elmertown from ghosts. So, thank you,” Danny confessed.
He landed on the ground in front of her, boots barely making as sound and bright enough she was nearly blinded by it. He gave her a large, goofy smile, one that she was much more used to seeing on Fenton’s face than Phantom’s, but it only reinforced the idea that they were the same person.
Valerie smiled right back.