Here it is! Final chapter!
"Why?" Danny was shocked at how calm he sounded. Inside his head, his thoughts were spinning. But his body reacted on instinct, keeping his appearance collected. "I just want to know why."
Maddie's eyes were on her plate, watching the meatloaf shimmer. "I don't know what you're asking me, dear," she replied, though there was no conviction to her tone.
Placing a gentle hand on her brother's shoulder, Jazz's eyes flickered between her parents with solemn disbelief. She squeezed her hand, and the boy looked towards her. She nodded to him, an unspoken command to continue, so Danny sighed and faced the adults.
"I'm Phantom," he said quietly, the rings forming around his chest unbidden. The light flashed, blue-white, throughout the room, burning into their eyes and memories like an eternal flame. When the light faded, Phantom remained in Fenton's place. "But you already knew that, didn't you."
Jack and Maddie kept their eyes on their plates.
"So, let me ask again- why?" The burning in the pit of Danny's stomach ached a little hotter, and he could feel the energy pushing him into the air, his feet now several inches off the ground. "Why did you do this to me?"
Maddie looked up, surprise flitting across her face. "How..." Her nose wrinkled again, and she glanced over to Jack, who was now watching her carefully. "What makes you think we did thi-"
"I'm not your only test subject." Danny muttered under his breath, dismissing his mother, directing a scornful snarl at his boots. His head snapping up, Danny's voice regained its volume. "Vlad. Remember? I might not understand all of the ecto-capacitance-flow nonsense that you built into the portal, but he does. He's the one who figured it out." The boy inhed a breath through his teeth.
Vlad had turned out to be more trustworthy than his own parents.
The thought was like a hard pane of glass, shattering his thoughts back to earth. All the energy drained from the boy, and Danny suddenly felt very tired. The rings surged around his chest again and he dropped back to the floor once more, now as a regular, exhausted human. "Just tell me why."
"Danny, it's not-" Maddie's voice wavered when Jack reached out and took her hands in his.
The man shook his head, shrugging sheepishly at her. "It's time to be honest, Mads." The man turned to face his son. "It all started back with Vlad's accident. And it really was an accident, son.
"You see, Vlad's condition was not as secret as he would have liked to believe." Jack gave a chuckle, though there was no humor in it. "He was unconscious for five days, all of which were spent in a hospital. In that time, your mother, the staff and I often found him floating above his bed or glowing a brilliant shade of red. It was quite fascinating."
"We didn't know what the protocol for a situation like this was, or if any even existed," Maddie spoke up. "So when the doctors told us they had contacted the government, we didn't know what to expect."
"You have got to be kidding me." Danny's voice deadpanned. He knew exactly where this was going.
His father nodded. "The Guys in White met with us on the third day of Vlad's stay. They informed us of their organization, their jobs, and their goals. And then, after they took a look at Vlad and recorded some data, they requested our research."
Danny's teeth began to grind together. "And you gave it to them?" His parents didn't reply. "Really? Seriously?! Not once did it occur to you that they would use that information to hurt people? They're heartless. That data was probably the basis for them to start human experiments." He could feel the disgust building in the back of his mind. His voice grew soft but dark as the horror of the situation dawned on him, "They probably killed hundreds trying to duplicate what happened with Vlad."
His mother coughed, looking away with shameful eyes. "We had considered... but... we never thought..." Her voice trailed off, her sentence unfinished. She looked up, instead saying, "They hadn't told us that they would be hurting people." Her son shot her a look of disbelief. "You're right, though. We knew very well that they would try to... try to recreate the accident. But," she continued weakly, "they offered us a very generous research grant. We were broke. We couldn't say no to that kind of money."
Outrage boiled inside Danny's skull. "And then what?!" The boy felt Jazz's hand brush against his shoulder once again, and when he turned to look at her, he could see his eyes glowing an angry green in the reflection of her own. The shock of it snapped him out of his rage, and his eyes faded to blue. Turning back to his parents, he repeated, softer this time, "And then what? When they couldn't figure it out, they paid you to do it again? And you picked your son to test it out on?"
Danny gave a dry huff when they still remained silent. "It's like you don't even care."
"That's not what happened!" Jack's voice was booming when he finally replied, and an angry fist slammed against the table. "It was never supposed to be you! We were going to get some other researcher or hunter to take a look around!" Jack's voice began to grow quieter. "But we didn't build in a fail safe." His head dropped, his eyes boring holes into the kitchen counter. "We just programmed it to go off whenever it detected body heat. We didn't know you would go inside. It was never supposed to detect you." When Danny did nothing to reply but stare, Jack added, "They offered us 10 times the amount that they had given us before. Enough for you two to go to college. Enough for your kids, and your kids' kids, even."
Danny's limbs felt heavy and his eyes went dull. "Yeah. At least we're rich." Shaking his head slowly, the boy made his ways to the stairs. "Was it worth it?" He called down as he climbed to his room.
His parents didn't reply.
From up in his room, Danny could hear the muffled shouts of Jazz and his parents beginning to argue. He tuned it out and, with a heavy heart, started to pack up his things.
Ten minutes later, he heard a tapping on his bedroom door. Danny opened his mouth to speak, but before he had a chance to tell his parents off, Jazz stuck her head into his room.
"Oh," he muttered. "It's you."
The girl's nose twitched, and she watched as her brother piled another load of clothes into a duffel bag.
The boy continued to speak. "You know, I think I could have understood, if they'd done it for science. I don't know that I'd have been happy about it, but," Danny scowled at his bag, "at least then I might have believed that they'd been trying to help the world. Create a link to the other side, establish peace, something, anything!" Danny looked up at his sister, and saw the tears pooling in her eyes. "But not this. Not for money.
"And the Guys in White, no less," the boy continued. "You know as well as I do the sort of things the GIW's have done." The boy gave a 'tck'. "Our parents got people killed... for money." Tossing one last shirt into his bag, Danny zipped up the duffel.
The red head gave a tight-lipped shrug. The tears were starting to slide down onto her cheeks. "They never wanted to hurt you, you know." Danny didn't look up from his bag. "Whenever they hunted you, all their shots missed. That's pretty astonishing, seeing as how they've been hunting ghosts for 30 years, right? They were never trying to hit you." Jazz's voice was little more than a whisper. "They refused to give the GIW their data the second time, when they realized you were in danger. Plus, all the times when their weapons targeted you and went off in the house... I think those were legitimate mistakes, Danny."
"I get that, Jazz," Danny muttered as he glanced up to his sister, watching a wayward tear drop from her chin. "But just because they didn't want to hurt me doesn't make this okay." He shook his head. "I don't know what to believe, but I do know that I can't stay here. I need some time away. To think."
"Where are you going?" Jazz asked meekly, even though she already knew. Another set of tears leaked from her eyes.
"Wisconsin." Her brother shot her a pained grin. "You wanna come?"
The girl shook her head. "They're a mess, Danny. Absolutely broken. You didn't see them but they're falling apart." Danny rolled his eyes with a snort. "I know," was Jazz's reply to his nonverbal response. "And I really don't want to stay either, but... I can't leave. They're our parents."
"I know," Danny nodded, smiling a little stronger. "You're too good to walk away. That's just who you are."
"Call me when you get there. I wanna know you're safe."
Danny nodded again and lifted his bag on his shoulder. With a flash of blue light, he was flying through his bedroom wall and into the night.
An hour and a half later, the boy found himself standing outside the large oak door to Vlad's mansion. He took a deep breath, let out a soft, disgruntled groan, and rang the doorbell.
When Vlad answered, his expression was expectant.
"You were right," Danny muttered.
"I know," was Vlad's reply.
"Just because I'm here doesn't mean I'm on your side now. I just... need a place to crash for a couple days. Just until I sort this mess out."
Vlad smirked, though the humor didn't quite meet his eyes. "Yes, I know."
When the boy huffed and shuffled inside, Vlad added, "You're welcome to stay as long as you'd like, though."
Danny pulled out his phone to call Jazz and sighed heavy, though the slight tug of a smile that twitched at his face was the first genuine one of the night.
Alright, this is the end. I hope you all had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. If you did, be sure to review and let me know! I've also got two other DP stories, if you're looking for other short fics to read.
Until next time,