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Ceiling Stars

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Danny stares up at the ceiling of his new room. It’s blank, a clean slate, just like the rest of the room is and while that should be a good thing, instead he just feels… empty. There are no model rockets on the desk, no plastic stars across the ceiling, no NASA posters on the wall. If he had the choice, would he have brought the stuff from his old room? 

Or would he leave it all behind like he did now, not wanting the constant reminders of what could’ve been? (What should’ve been, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Jazz says, in the back of his mind.)

Focus on the goods, the Jazz-voice orders, so he tries. The bed is comfortable, and clean. The sheets are a plain navy blue. He has his favorite jacket and some clothes. They grabbed his binders, even the one with little frogs on it that he never wears. He has his phone, even if Tucker never quite managed to figure out how to get it to work in the Zone. He doesn’t have his backpack, but… he doesn’t have to do school work anymore, doesn’t have to worry about failing, so does that really matter?

Danny feels very much like crying suddenly, and he rubs a hand over his eyes in frustration. Not needing to go to school should be a good thing! He has free time now, he can train with Pariah and properly control his powers and- and Amity is protected. 

He doesn’t need to worry about failing all his classes, Lancer will never give him a half-annoyed, half-worried look again, and Amity is safe. 

He’s in the Ghost Zone, with a room that’s clean and even has a lot of the stuff he needs, and Amity is safe without him. 

Danny trails his fingers over the bandages that wrap around his stomach. The Jazz-voice is insisting this is normal, that he’s allowed to take time to process and be upset, but Jazz isn’t here so he tunes it out. 

Jazz is back in Amity Park with Sam and Tucker and Val and… and their parents. Actually, he isn’t sure about that last one — he doesn’t think Jazz would stay, after what happened. He doesn’t know what the media thinks, doesn’t know what the law will say in relation to everything that happened, but he knows his sister’s breaking point and this? This was way past it. 

Even if Jazz was allowed to stay with Jack and Maddie Fenton, Danny doesn’t think she would. 

His fingers press down just slightly and he winces at the pain, stopping immediately before it can start bleeding again. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real. Most of the time it doesn’t feel real, actually. It’s like a bad dream he can’t wake up from, except he knows Nocturne isn’t involved this time. 

The Fentons are a family of three now. Jack, Maddie, and Jazz. Danny Fenton disappeared a few weeks ago, and has since been assumed dead. Danny Fenton was out on patrol with his friends, doing all the stuff their parents didn't know about and making sure Amity was protected. Danny Fenton wasn’t the one his parents saw, and now he’s- he’s right here, he’s not dead, but- he might as well be. 

Danny Phantom got shot by either Jack or Maddie, he doesn’t know which, and fell out of the sky. There were no other ghosts that night, no distractions and nothing Sam or Tucker could do to throw them off. They got lucky, and Danny got very, very unlucky. 

Danny Phantom got a hole in his stomach, just missing his spine, and he has no idea how none of them knew about whatever new weapon his parents brought out that night. It was certainly bigger and more effective than their usual stuff. 

Danny Phantom got whisked back to his parent’s lab as they ignored Sam and Tucker’s shouts, too caught up in having finally caught that damn ghost boy-

Danny Phantom had- has - a hole in his stomach that’s too close to his spine, goes through some of his ribs, and he couldn’t (still can’t) transform back like this. Pain aside, transforming back without healing first would actually kill him. 

He tried to tell his parents, tried to get them to understand to please believe me, I’m your son! I wouldn’t lie about-. They… didn’t listen. 

Time froze before they could do anything- anything worse - but the damage was done. 

Danny Fenton is missing, assumed dead, and only four people know what really happened. Danny Phantom has stopped visiting Amity, and actually does live in the Ghost Zone now. 

Danny Phantom is a goddamn prince by right of conquest or something like that, and he’d been rejecting his title up until now. Apparently, defeating a former king and returning him to sanity does wonders for a ghost’s reputation… and also gives him a certain amount of power, once he actually accepts it. 

He doesn’t need to be in Amity to protect it anymore. He’s the next king, chosen through his own actions and by the Zone, and it’s trivial to prevent anyone with the intention to hurt Amity from going through a human-made portal. 

Well-meaning ghosts can still go through, the ones that just want to visit or see a past loved one. Even Johnny and Kitty can still go through as long as they keep their dates between them and don’t bother anyone else. 

It’s… a good solution. Danny is injured and stuck with a title he never wanted, he’s bound to the Zone in ways he can’t explain, but it’s. It’s good. 

Fenton is dead and his parents don’t even realize it even though they shot him, but. This definitely could’ve turned out worse. He has a room with a bed and his clothes. It’s clean. He doesn’t have to worry about homework anymore. It’s good.

Maybe if he thinks it enough, it’ll magically become true. 

Right. Danny takes a deep breath, and goes back to focusing on the ceiling. The Zone doesn’t follow the same rules as the Mortal Realm, he could probably get the actual night sky projected there instead of the boring white ceiling that’s there currently, but… he doesn’t know if he wants that. 

He doesn’t know when he’ll see the real night sky again — would having a replica help, or hurt? 

He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, just like with everything else. 

There’s a knock on his door, and Danny sighs. If it’s Pariah, training might actually help get his mind off things… if it’s Clockwork, he won’t be allowed to train anyway because he still needs to heal. 

The door opens. It’s… both of them, which doesn’t solve his problem of having too many thoughts and no outlet for them, but does make him curious. He wipes at his eyes again and sits up. 

Pariah is holding a bag, and he sets it down at the foot of the bed. “Ember brought more of your stuff over,” he explains, “I’ve been… informed… that physical training is no longer an option until you heal, so I- we made sure to find something else for you to do. You have much to learn about ghosts and the Zone.” 

He knows they’re trying to help, but he definitely makes a face at that. So much for no homework, huh? 

But oddly enough, the idea doesn’t upset him. If he’s studying and learning about the Zone and the world he’s half-belonged to for over a year now, he won’t be thinking about the reason he no longer just half belongs to it. Plus… it might be good, to learn more about ghosts. To learn more about himself. 

There’s also the small detail that he’s supposed to take over as some kind of monarch as soon as he’s of-power. It’d probably be smart to know more about that too. 

Yeah. Not going there right now. 

Very belatedly, Danny realizes they’re waiting for a response, so he nods. “Uh, yeah. Ok. Thanks.” 

Pariah is frowning now, and Clockwork looks unbearably sad, but he isn’t sure what other response he should’ve had. Did they want him to complain? 

Clockwork floats over and places a plastic container in front of Danny. “We also figured you would like to customize your room. We are… aware, it’s rather plain right now.”

“Kitty and Johnny want to come help, when you’re feeling up for it,” Pariah adds, as Danny picks up the container and opens it. 

It’s filled with little stars that look a whole lot like the ones he had back in Amity, except brighter. Much brighter, actually, practically neon. He suspects ectoplasm has something to do with it, they’re probably not plastic like his old ones even if they feel like it. 

“I can… put these up?” he asks, feeling somewhat lost. Where did Pariah and Clockwork even get these, come to think of it? Danny very highly doubts the former King of the Realms and the Master of Time just keep neon ceiling stars lying around, and there’s no Target or Walmart in the Ghost Zone. 

“You can do whatever you want,” Clockwork replies, “This room is yours. The situation isn’t ideal, but we’ve had a room set aside for you for a long time now. We want you to be comfortable here.” 

Danny doesn’t know how to respond to that. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he’d still been convinced that this was temporary. He knows he won’t be returning to Amity any time soon, but he hadn’t accepted the fact that this room is… well, his . Long-term his.

Long-term his and he’s allowed to stay, no conditions, because Clockwork and Pariah already know who and what he is. They know all the fights he’s gotten into and the enemies he’s made, they know that he’s still half human even if he hasn’t transformed since they showed up and took him away from his- from Fenton Works. 

They know it all, and they… still want him. There’s probably very little he could do to change their minds; he’s already accidentally de-throned Pariah, what worse could he possibly come up with? 

Danny takes a deep breath, wipes at his eyes again, and nods. “Ok. Can… can you help me put them up?” 

The two ghosts share a glance and nod, both of them looking somewhat lighter than they had when they entered the- his room. 

They spend the next few hours together, with Danny telling Clockwork and Pariah where to put each star and explaining the constellations they’re mapping out on his ceiling as they go. 

By the end of it, his chest feels a little less heavy and a little less like it’s going to burst. He lost a lot in leaving Amity, but… maybe it won’t be all bad. He has two elder ghosts that apparently really, truly care about him, a group of younger ghosts that want to visit and help him decorate (not that he trusts Kitty or Johnny’s interior design skills), and bright neon stars decorating the ceiling of a room that’s his and will continue to be his, for however long he wants it. 

Things will probably turn out ok, if neon stars are the starting point.