His daemon perched on his backpack, Danny shouldered Fenton Works’ front door open, Sam and Tucker trailing behind. As they passed the living room, no one paid much mind to the jaguar drowsing on the living room sofa besides polite acknowledgment.
Danny’s mother came out from the kitchen to the sound of the door. She was using a screwdriver to dig into the copper guts of some unfinished invention. “Hey kids.”
"Hey, Ms. Fenton," Sam and Tucker chorused.
"How was school today?" she asked.
"Fine," Danny replied gruffly, not slowing his stride as he made his way up the stairs. Sam shrugged apologetically and Tucker waved before they started after him.
Nelvana, the snowy-white owl latched onto Danny’s backpack, fluttered her wings in greeting. “Sorry Mom, he’s in a bit of a mood today.”
Danny looked over his shoulder. “Nels…”
"A grouchy teenager," the jaguar yawned from the couch. "What a rare specimen."
"Oh hush, Ovilus," Maddie scolded him. "Make sure he fits in some homework between the sulking, would you Nel?"
"Will do," she chirped.
At his bedroom door, Danny casually reached for the knob and somehow missed. Frowning, he groped for it again and still couldn’t manage to actually get a hold of it. He blinked and realized he was seeing the pattern of the wood on his hand because it was actually transparent. Ghostly. No matter how many times he tried, it was like he was trying to grasp empty air.
Or more like empty air was trying to grasp the knob.
Growling, he punched at the the door and only ended up hurting his wrist. “Dammit!”
"Hey man, I got it," Tucker offered. Solid fingers turned the handle and pushed the door open. Such a simple action.
"Thanks…" In a gloom Danny heaved his backpack to the floor with the rest of his laundry and threw himself facedown on his bed.
Nelvana flapped over to her favorite spot on Danny’s nightstand. “It’s okay Danny, you see? We’re home now.”
Locking the door behind him,Tucker let himself fall onto Danny’s giant beanbag, Sam claiming the computer chair.
Tucker’s daemon D’Shon, a shaggy brown wolf, circled a spot on the floor a few times and sat down comfortably next to him. “Dude, are you alright?” Tucker asked, absently stroking behind her ears.
"No," Danny grumbled into his pillow. He turned over onto his back, reached for the ceiling, flexed his fingers experimentally. They were corporeal now. "It’s been a month since the accident I still can’t get a handle on these ghost powers. One slip up at school and I’m gonna go from ‘loser’ to ‘the half-dead freak’!"
"Hey," Sam said sharply. "Just because you’re not in the ‘in’ crowd doesn’t make you a loser. And you should feel proud- your powers make you unique, not a freak."
"I mean come on, dude," Tuck added excitedly. "You’re practically a superhero! How awesome is that?"
“You want these powers Tuck? Be my guest. Last night I fell out of my bed and landed in the living room, I couldn’t brush my teeth because I couldn’t see myself in the mirror, my parents’ ghost hunting gear keeps going off around me, I can’t even work a goddamn door right now, and everyone at school takes one look at Nels and thinks I’m a freshman who’s daemon only just Settled! Do you know how humiliating that is?”
D’Shon lifted her head and gently assured him, “Veraj aŭ ne, estas neniu honto en a malfrue Alkroĉi.”
Tucker nodded. “Yeah, I mean, Dee only Settled last spring. It’s nothing to get worked up over.”
"Besides," Sam said crossly. "You’re not actually suggesting that any of this is Nel’s fault?"
Nelvana swiveled her head around to face him, and he felt a stab of guilt seeing the hurt in those luminous green eyes.
"No, no, that wasn’t-I didn’t mean…Nels…" She tucked her wings closer to her body to appear smaller and stared down at her talons. He got off the bed and knelt next to her so their faces were level. "Nels…I’m sorry. I know I’ve been a self-absorbed jerk for the past few weeks, but you know I would never blame you for anything of it.” He tentatively reached for her and she silently allowed him to stroke the top of her head. "Going into that stupid portal in the first place was all my fault."
"Yes it was," she agreed, but leaned into Danny’s hand and returned the caress.
Danny smiled for the first time in what felt like weeks, watching Nelvana close her eyes and turn her head so he would scratch a particular spot. “Y’know, now that I think about it,” he told her. “You’re much prettier with white feathers.”
She perked at that. “You think so?”
"Totally," Sam chimed in. "I don’t even like white and I think it looks awesome on you. Most unique daemon in the whole school."
Danny ringed his fingers and placed them like a mask around his eyes. “Plus, I can’t lose you in the dark now.”
Nel stolidly ignored him. “Thank you, Samantha.”
"Hey…" Danny complained. "How come you’re the only one who gets to call her that?"
"Because she makes it sound like a compliment," Sam gave Nelvana a sidelong smile. "Don’t take it personally, I don’t even let Lisle call-hey, wait,” finally noticing, she looked around the room with mounting anxiety. “Has anyone seen Lisle? Lisle!”
"I’m here, I’m here, where else would I be?" a prim voice answered. A black cat appeared from underneath the bed and sat regally in the center of the room. There was something small, furry, and bloody in his mouth- which he promptly dropped onto the floor like he was presenting a gift. "You have mice," he informed Danny. "You’re welcome."
Sam was aghast at the wanton slaughter innocents. “Lisle! That was a living creature!”
He considered the carcass carefully. “Not anymore it isn’t.”
Tucker and D’Shon both chortled. Hooting excitedly, Nelvana fluttered down to the floor and examined the fresh kill. “Oooh, good catch, Lisle. No one can say no to a good mouse.”
Dee sniffed the dead thing experimentally, then set her head back down on her paws, unimpressed. “Ho jes mi povas.”
Lisle’s tail swiped irritably across the floor. “Is there a reason you’ve taken to speaking in that gibberish since you’ve Settled?”
"Ne estas stultaĵoj, ĝi estas Esperanto." Her forelegs shifted in what was the closest thing a wolf could manage to a shrug, “Kaj mi ne konas, mi nur faras.”
"Well you can obviously understand English. Why can’t you just speak that?"
"Vi evidente komprenas min,” she pointed out. “Kial vi ne simple parolas Esperanton?”
"Should we break this up?" Tucker whispered to Sam.
"Are you kidding? And miss a chance to see that pompous cat finally lose an argument? Don’t you dare."
"I will not have conversations with you in Esperanto because it is a silly, made-up language used by nerds too lazy to learn Klingon!”
Sam decided to jump in, failing miserably to hide her delighted smirk. “Actually, Esperanto was invented over a hundred years by a linguist that trying to create universal language people of any nationality could learn to foster peace and understanding.”
"Du milionoj da parolantoj tutmonde,dankon.” D’Shon boasted.
Nelvana looked between the cat and wolf quizzically. “Lisle, I’m curious. Wouldn’t you have had to learn Esperanto since you can understand her?”
"I…that is…" aware of the expectant looks of every pair of eyes in the room, the cranky cat grumbled, "Well…fine. But I still haven’t forgiven you for Settling into a dog. Traitor."
"Lupo," she corrected him.
"See Danny?" Sam laughed. "Things aren’t so-" she blinked at the empty air where he had been a second ago. "…Danny?"
"Yeah, what?" the air answered.
"…I’m invisible, aren’t I?" he sighed. A few seconds later Danny appeared like a magic trick, still sitting cross-legged on the floor.
"You really do need to work on that," Tucker told him.
"Yeah, tell me something I don’t know."
Nel opened her wings expressively. “I do keep telling you that you need to get a handle on your emotions first. You’ll never get your it under control if you let it control you.”
"Easy for you to say," Danny said bitterly. "You figured them out after the first two weeks."
"She did?" Sam and Tucker asked.
"Oh yes," Nelvana said proudly. "It really is quite simple. I can turn invisible like so…" Humans and daemons both gawked as the little owl disappeared and reappeared like a blinking mirage. "And I can even do this:”
Fading until she was transparent, Nel trotted on her talons through D’Shon’s right side and walked out of her left moments later.
The wolf shuddered. “Bonvolu ne faru ke.”
Tucker frowned. “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. If Nel can use her powers just fine, why doesn’t she teach you, too?”
"Because she can’t," Danny snapped like it was painfully obvious. At their still-confused look, he asked them. "Haven’t you guys ever noticed that Nelvana disappears whenever I go Ghost?"
Their silence told him that they hadn’t. Then again, it took him a while to notice it, too. Everyone on earth had a daemon. The idea of running into something as unnatural as a person without a one hadn’t even registered to them.
"Think about it- the ectopusses, the Lunch Lady; you remember seeming any of them with a daemon, too?”
"Hey yeah," Tucker said. "Never noticed that before."
"I guess that makes sense," Sam reasoned. "If a person’s daemon vanishes when they die, stands to reason a ghost wouldn’t have one, either."
Danny stared down at his hand, flexing the fingers open and closed. “Yeah. Then what’s that make me?”
No one had an answer for him. At least until Lisle broke the silence. “Thought-provoking as that is, I have a more pressing question: can I eat the mouse, now?”