Am I a little obsessed with the Ghostwriter? The answer is probably... shut up, he's cool even if he doesn't get that much attention. ;p
More seriously, this floated around in my head for a bit while I was studying for my exams, so I decided to get it down in my free moments. It's much less cracky than some other non-fanfic related things I'm writing at the moment — you can expect it to be fairly serious, although I'm also aiming for it to have its lighthearted moments as well. How could a story with Jazz and GW as main characters not be just a little lighthearted, anyway?
As usual, PP never happened. Criticism is welcome — I'm 20 (edit note: now 23!), so I think I can handle it. ;) Not sure if I will have any romantic pairings as romance isn't really my thing, but at the same time I'm Not Saying No. I'm sure you writer folk know exactly what it's like to have characters start to run the story themselves rather than as you planned.
The Usual Blanket Disclaimer That Probably Wouldn't Stop a Real Lawyer:
I do not own Danny Phantom or any related concepts or characters.
He knew it wasn't a good idea.
There were traps, said the whisperings. Terrible things might happen to those unable to defend themselves, and those who were? Even they came back nursing their wounds, howling at their failures. Mind you, many of the ghosts who were capable of defending themselves were also seeking death and destruction. The Ghostwriter sought none of that — he just wanted to visit.
But he'd left for this journey far too late. Those wanting to visit the Earth should have done so two years prior, back when Amity Park wasn't laden with painful traps and terrible consequences… back when the ghost hunters were mere bumbling fools. But no! He had to have the urge now, when it was so treacherous, and when the stakes were so high.
Being stuck in that library could do that to you, though. The time he had spent there had become maddeningly long, and surrounding yourself even with endless amounts of fictitious works, it just wasn't enough. The need to see things in the flesh, to be your own story, it seeped into your mind and your soul, crept through your veins — all this while the world outside went on without you, leaving you behind as you entertained yourself into your own little oblivion. This concept, the Ghostwriter knew better than anyone else he could think of. At times he would liken it to a joyful life, but ignoring reality at every point took an incredible toll. The longer his existence stretched on, even as his endless drive to write continued, the more he realised that what he was living wasn't really a life. In more ways than one.
And now the part of him that wasn't truly living was the same part urging him to take that awkward, hesitant step out into the open, into the Old New World. It may not have been dangerous to what he once was, but that was an entirely different story now.
The portal was before him. He could make this venture whenever he wanted, but he could also turn around and go home. Both were viable. Both had reasoning. But some parts of that reasoning were more rational than others. Anxiety welled up inside his chest, but he beat it down, beat it down until there was just enough courage to do the unthinkable.
Eyes wide open, expecting anything, he passed through to the other side.
The ghost was confronted with a sea of ectoplasmic ooze. But this wasn't exactly the same stuff that illuminated the Ghost Zone with its sickening, raw energy — this ectoplasm was refined, different, experimented upon. Granted, none of this was surprising when one considered that it was Maddie and Jack Fenton's basement laboratory, but nevertheless it made the Ghostwriter's blood run cold — if by blood you meant ectoplasm, and by cold you meant freeze.
In spite of that however, it was apparently his lucky day. The ghost alarms didn't go off; in fact it seemed as though they weren't turned on at all. Without the blinding lights or the blaring sirens to alert anyone to his presence he decided to take his time, although invisibly, to absorb the place. In its own way it could be a source of inspiration unlike anything he'd ever seen in person before, every part of it worthy of observation. In the absence of any apparent threat, the Ghostwriter peered in draws, opened cabinets, and inspected a strange piece of equipment he felt wise to never, ever touch. He looked up and down and sideways and then he turned around, and—
"Th-that's an ecto-gun barrel," he stammered, staring into the glowing metallic abyss. The person behind it shoved the end into his nose, knocking the ghost's glasses into a position quite askew. "Oh Gods…"
"You seem awfully scared for a ghost," accused the person behind that awful contraption. Flowing red hair could be seen flaring out from either side of the gun, and just above it a woman's face was twisting with anger. "You didn't think I could see you while you were invisible, huh? Someone hasn't kept up with the times."
"H-how?" the Ghostwriter rasped, mind whirring into Defence Mode. Unfortunately, this consisted entirely of how can I escape, and wasn't particularly useful when that gun would be going off at even the slightest transgression. "Please understand, I'm only here to look around!" he began to protest, which at this point seemed like the only reasonable course of action. "Can't we… how about we just talk about this for a moment? Without the gun?"
The woman, whom the writer suddenly recognised as a much older-looking Jasmine Fenton to what he remembered, did not lower her weapon. "The gun stays," she declared, making no attempt to uncover how she of all people could see onto the invisible plane. "And you're going straight back into the Ghost Zone, where you belong."
No. This wasn't going right. This was his only chance at getting out of there for the moment — he couldn't just let it slip through his fingers! "My only plans are to visit and observe," he begged. "It's been decades since I was last even able to be here, surely you won't begrudge me this?"
"You're a ghost," she said firmly, robotically. "I can't let you through."
That's when he saw it — an uncertainty. A crack in her hardened exterior, betrayed by the quickest flinch that ran across her face. The Ghostwriter pounced on it like a cat on a cornered mouse. "Do you really believe I'm inherently evil? That all ghosts seek to destroy?"
Jazz remained silent.
"I'm not here to hurt anyone, I promise you that. Maybe you don't think of us as people, and maybe I am dead… but I was a person once too."
It was working. Somehow, he'd managed to get through to her just a little bit. Not completely of course, because even as the gun was removed from his face, and as that look of pure hatred devolved into honest insecurity, the barrel was still pointed squarely at him. But it was still progress.
"I let a ghost through once," Jazz began. "She told me she just was wanted to see the sun set."
This time the Ghostwriter remained very, very silent. He didn't like where this was going.
"When I stopped pointing this gun at her, she broke both of my arms, put my brother in a coma, and disappeared."
His mind felt like it had jammed in position. He knew the family well, both through his poem and the rumblings of the ghosts that lived around him. Jazz Fenton had only one brother — the infamous Danny Phantom — and when the ghost thought about it, he hadn't seen or heard of the boy in a very long time.
"… The Phantom boy is in a coma?" he hazarded, carefully avoiding the topic of what had put him there. "I never knew. I always just assumed I'd shut myself in too long to hear about him."
There was a slight pause, as if Jazz was trying to catch up with the information she'd just been given. "Shut yourself in?"
"… I-I don't get out very much," he admitted, trying not to stammer and failing. "Most of the time I just stay in and read and write books. I only came out today because sometimes when you've been stuck in the same place alone for so long—"
"—Sometimes you just need to get outside…" Jazz finished quietly, but it didn't take long for her scepticism to leak through. She lowered an eyebrow. "I've never heard of a ghost that just reads and writes books."
"Well, you're looking at one — It's not like writers are impervious to death. Ghosts aren't all barbarians, although given what tries to get through this portal, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Your brother certainly wasn't a barbarian, was he?"
Jazz's own Defensive Mode leapt to the rescue. "Of course he wasn't!" she rallied. "He was a good person, and he didn't deserve this! He protected all of us!"
The Ghostwriter decided to leave the silence right where it was — an old tactic he'd learnt from reading too many novels. If one was silent for an uncomfortable stretch of time, the other party would often just start trying to fill it all up, as if an invisible vacuum cleaner was stealing the words right out of their mouths.
"Why should I trust you over any other ghost I've caught?" she questioned, right on cue.
Leeway. Not particularly good leeway, mind you — it challenged one to prove the impossible, and he was rather sure the girl was well aware of that. Somewhat defeated, the Ghostwriter drooped mid-air. "I can't prove that to you; there's no way to guarantee my intentions short of you finding some way to read my mind."
More silence. Jazz stirred uncomfortably.
"What if… we made an agreement?"
This caught him. "An agreement?"
"Go back in there and bring back a book you've written so that I know you're not lying. After that you're going to let me tag you with a satellite tracker, so I can come and painfully hunt you down if you step a toe out of line."
The Ghostwriter looked into Jazz's eyes in such a way that suggested he didn't quite believe her; in her current state of mind it just seemed far too good to be true. In fact, it probably was, as that ecto-gun was still primed and ready to cause some truly painful damage — there had to be some other hidden clause to this shaky agreement.
But the world outside… the writer realised that after all these years, he was finally prepared to give a lot just to see it.
"I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Go," Jazz commanded, keeping that ecto-gun trained on him all the way back into the portal, until the ghost was gone. The Ghostwriter, hardly able to believe what was happening, flew back home as fast as he could.
But when it came down to it Jazz could hardly believe this was happening either. What on earth was she doing, giving a ghost a pass with just a satellite tag? Her parents would be entirely against it. Even she was entirely against it, to a certain extent. No, she didn't believe all ghosts were inherently evil, but at the same time, every one she'd ever seen had at least enough power to do some damage to the city or its people. Why was this ghost who looked like a wireframe wrapped up in a coat and glasses any different? The only way complete safety could be guaranteed was if the Ghost Zone was entirely quarantined from the Real World…
When she thought about it, though, there was something about him that seemed a lot more… docile than many of the other ghosts she'd met. Even though that one other ghost she'd let through had seemed docile enough at the time, somehow this one felt far more sincere… trustworthy. Was that a potentially dangerous trait she should look out for when guarding the portal?
Jazz had never felt so confused about herself in her life. Had she just done something incredibly dangerous? Incredibly wrong?
Uselessly, she stared down at the ecto-gun she was supposed to be protecting the city with. Now that the Fenton Portal's genetic lock was near-permanently damaged, guarding the place in shifts was all she and her parents could manage, though this was a duty well-supported by those living in the ghost-ridden hell-hole that was Amity Park. Ironically though, the ghost attacks had died down a lot since Danny had been defeated and left in a coma, as if most of them had simply been trying to get back at him.
"This is such a mess," Jazz growled, more at herself than anyone else. "I should have just told him never to come back."
The ecto-gun was placed gently on the table. Her thoughts threw themselves back to Danny, who still lay lifelessly in a bed in Amity Park General Hospital, with not even the slightest inkling of waking up. None of the doctors could determine why he was even in the coma. A few kept suggesting a knock to the head, but no one could find a shred of evidence for such trauma. Fenton gadgets had even stopped "malfunctioning" around him, too; it was like he'd taken an accidental trip through the Fenton Ghost Catcher and his ghost half had taken all of his consciousness with it, spirited away somewhere by that awful, filthy liar of a ghost. How that ghost had done it, Jazz would never know.
And after all of this, Danny's secret still lay with her, Sam, and Tucker, who mutually agreed not to tell the Fenton parents. In any case they had very little proof — with his ghost half seeming to have completely disappeared, there was no definitive way to show Maddie and Jack who he was. Circumstantial evidence wouldn't be enough. The idea that anyone could be half-ghost was just too far-fetched to hold any water without the proof staring one right in the eyes.
It was times like now that she really needed her little brother back. Danny understood more about ghosts than her parents ever would.
… And suddenly, it dawned on her.
Ghosts would always know a whole lot more about how their world and their physics worked, simply because that's what they existed with. If a nonviolent ghost that wrote his days away could exist, then why couldn't a philosopher ghost? A mathematician? Physicists, scientists, thinkers. They all had to die at some point, right? Hell, if one wanted to almost cross the line, even former ghost hunters did…
The writer ghost, she could use him. Even if he didn't know how to revive Danny or even what had happened to him, even if he was a self-declared shut-in, thinkers tended to know other thinkers. It was like Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain. Perhaps it was a lead. A dangerous lead. Jazz picked up the ecto-gun again and rolled it around in her hands, before flicking the safety on and thumbing the trigger thoughtfully. Just how far was she willing to go with this? How much could she trust this ghost — or any ghost? Trust, after all, could take years to create and just seconds to destroy…
Jazz screwed up her eyes, and with a sigh she told herself "The tracking device will be sufficient."
"Sufficient for what?"
Startled, the girl snapped to attention. The ghost had returned, clutching — apparently for dear life — a leather-bound and untitled book within his cold, grey hands. He was giving her an amiable look; much more friendly, it seemed, when he wasn't being threatened at gunpoint. Jazz decided to put the gun back down on the table. After all, trust went two ways, didn't it?
Oh, these are dangerous waters you're wading into, Jazz's mind warned. She chose to ignore that warning.
"Sufficient to… keep you in line. In case you try anything sneaky," said Jazz, awkwardly. "Aghr, I'm sorry for putting you through all of this, but so many ghosts attack us that it's impossible to determine good from bad anymore — I hate it. My parents think all of you are here to destroy everything but I know that's not true. I've seen ghosts display conscience and morals and all sorts of things that mum and dad refuse to accept. It's all fear, and it's not fair. I feel so awful about it. I've probably turned around and even attacked so many of the good guys…"
The Ghostwriter was utterly taken aback — on the other hand, he now understood far better why the girl was going to let him pass at all. She was doomed to a guilty conscience regardless of her choice, either by failing to properly defend the city, or by refusing entry to those like him, who wanted nothing more than peace and would actively defend it, if necessary. … Or, at least, they would run as far away as they could from the fighting, which made them no worse than most of the hapless citizens, anyway.
She looked like she had something further to say. He locked eyes with her and waited.
"I-I need to ask something else of you," she said, appearing a little sick. "I'll let you through if you try to help me get my brother back."
The words had been uttered quietly, but it would have been a mistake to say that they lacked resolve. He could tell it was a need within her so great that it could completely transcend just about any negotiation; a sister's love for her brother, and her yearning to see him conscious again. She'd give up a lot just for even a chance at that opportunity, and right in line, it would be an opportunity for himself to earn her trust unlike any other.
… Maybe it could mean he would be allowed entry into the human world whenever he liked, rather than just this once. Sometimes stories began with requests like these, the writer mused…
… On the other hand, it wasn't the easiest of requests.
"I suppose I'll help if I can," he proposed, carefully. "But to be perfectly honest, I've not the foggiest clue how to bring someone out of a coma. If my keyboard was working properly, then maybe, but it's not functioning in any normal manner at the moment."
The Ghostwriter stopped himself in his tracks, thinking seriously about what he was going to say. "Err… it's a bit of a special… tool, I guess. As for what it's supposed to do… we can talk about that another time."
"Oh, but I'd like to talk about it now," said Jazz, voice unforgiving. The writer sagged midair and looked away.
"Don't get me wrong. I don't use it in a dangerous way."
Jazz's expression harshened.
"Mostly I use it to fix things, make life a bit more interesting… sometimes to teach certain individuals a lesson."
"But what does it do?" the girl insisted. The Ghostwriter gave up.
"It combines with my power to rewrite aspects of reality," he sighed. "I know how incredibly dangerous that must sound."
Her expression was unreadable again — at least to the writer, who had interacted with precious few people even in his living days. She did freeze where she sat, though. Unfortunately this still gave him little idea of how, exactly, one was supposed to handle people who were reacting like this at all. A few possibilities popped into his mind, but none of them were terribly feasible or even remotely appropriate. If they were both characters in a story he was writing, everything would have been fine — he'd have known exactly what to do! But unforgivingly, this was real life, and he was about as competent at real life situations as a brick lecturing astrophysics.
The Ghostwriter shot her an awkward look, then pretended he hadn't noticed her discomfort at all and skipped ahead.
"You said you wanted to put some sort of tracking device on me?"
"O-Oh yes, I did," said Jazz, standing up with a sudden jolt. "Um, it might hurt a bit. It wasn't designed to be… comfortable."
A reluctant nod came from the ghost. After Walker's hellhole of a prison, he could deal with pain. The prison visit, however, was something he'd prefer to keep out of the discussion.
Jazz circled around him and came to one of the central tables in the room, where all of the much less lethal-looking weapons lived. On the outside this tagging device seemed like a modified dart gun; obviously it stored some sort of technological tracking darts, although the writer would freely admit that he hadn't seen much technology other than his keyboard and what Technus occasionally carted past the library. Hesitantly, the ghost hunters' daughter picked it up. "You ready for this?"
The Ghostwriter nodded, putting the book he'd brought with him down where the strange device had previously laid. "Yes, just try to pick a spot without so many nerves."
"An arm will do," Jazz declared, brandishing the gun carefully but still in a way that made the writer's stomach flutter nervously. "Clench your teeth! … And please try not to scream."