Humans and Ghosts
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."
It was only eight seconds long, but those eight seconds were enough.
The protest, the Fentons aiming into the crowd, the phone swinging around a second after the shot fired to catch the tail end of a blue light, the scream, and a student being held tightly.
It cut off there.
The student who recorded it posted the video almost immediately, and within half an hour everyone in Amity Park had seen it. It was as good as going viral in this town and there was outrage.
When something bad happens to a child, a parent is asked to accompany them in the ambulance, but the police had Danny Fenton on the way to the hospital in seconds with only the man who carried him. The Fentons had tried to rush through the crowd to their son sooner than the police, and if the officer who beat them there hadn't bothered to pick up the white card that fell out of Danny Fenton's pocket, they might have let the frantic, crying parents join him in the ambulance.
But if a student has a card for seeking help for child abuse in his pocket, then things need to be handled a little differently.
Seven officers dealt with the people left behind and one drove two of Danny Fenton's best friends to the hospital. Witness statements were taken from two students who watched the entire incident through the Casper High doors, and more than a number of people asked what happened.
Problem was, nobody who knew anything was talking beyond what was absolutely necessary.
There were whispers of a ghost showing up and the Fentons missing their target, or the hunters being overshadowed before accidently shooting the wrong person.
(Would that make them awful people if everyone wished that was what happened?)
The ghost – if it could be called than anymore – was released. Absolutely no one was terrified when it floated upwards as an indistinguishable blob of green, quickly joined by a black blur before heading towards the Fenton's home. The people hoped the ectoplasm from wherever the Fenton portal led would heal it.
As for the Fentons, despite their worries, panic, and anguish over not being allowed to see their son who might be "–dying right now, damn it!" the officer who found the Robinson's Child Abuse Out Reach Program card was adamant that the Fentons walk down to the station with her.
Jazz Fenton stood tall and followed them.
From within the ambulance, Edward Lancer held his composure together poorly. There were two other women with him shoving a tube down his student's throat, connecting him to an IV, and preventing their patient from bleeding out.
"–sir, SIR," shouted one of the women, mask drawn tightly over her face. "His blood isn't clotting. We need to know everything you can tell us."
Lancer blinked at her panicked eyes. They were brown.
"Sir, we are not equipped to handle this," she tried again, "we need you to focus."
Handle a patient who was bleeding out? Was that not their job? The other woman said something quickly and the one yelling at Lancer turned to change the bandage to something heavier. That was when Lancer noticed the green tint to the soaked piece of cloth.
Danny was unconscious, strapped down on a gurney, but the blood-covered bandages he wore looked like Christmas had come early. When the woman moved to add another bandage, Lancer unwilling received a full-frontal view of Danny's chest cavity, missing skin, pushed aside muscles and all. The veins on his arms, face, neck, and currently slow beating heart were pulsing bright, neon green.
"Sir!" yelled the EME. "This type of blood is not clotting."
"You think I know what to do?" Lancer said a bit hysterically. He hadn't known. He hadn't known. He hadn't known.
The second EME suggested the Fentons forcing Lancer to slam a fist against the metal box he was sitting on. "Not an option."
"They are the only experts on ghost related activity," the first EME argued.
"They're the ones who shot him."
"We need the Fentons' notes."
"You really think they'd have something that could save a ghost? You could be just like them."
The EME's eyes flashed and she pulled down her mask to shout at Lancer, "Sir, we are trying to save his life."
The ambulance buckled slightly under the weight of something heavy landing on top of it. Lancer moved to block the door when the Red Huntress tapped on the back window. The woman in the suit tapped on the window again, clasping her hands together in the form of prayer. Or maybe it was 'please.' The EME suggested opening the door.
"She hunts ghosts," Lancer reminded them.
Outside, the Red Huntress tried pointing them towards the left. It was difficult to tell through the small window, but Lancer could see as they turned the corner that she was pointing towards the hospital they were pulling into.
"Keep driving," the teacher said.
"Sir, we have to get the kid inside or he won't make it."
As much as Lancer didn't want to open the door, he knew there was very little time, so he grabbed the mini fire hydrant and raised it above his head as the EMEs rushed to move Danny's gurney. Lancer jumped from the ambulance when they parked and shoved the Red Huntress back, looking over his shoulder once he landed to make sure they were rolling Danny into the hospital. The women must have called ahead because several people rushed forward from the building to meet them.
Lancer turned to glare at the ghost hunter. "Stay where you are. I won't let any of you hurt him."
The Red Huntress made a noise of distress, trying to see past him, but the man wasn't taking any chances.
"I am through with these lousy ghost politics and I am done listening to people who don't have a clue what they're talking about," he said, voice-wavering as he became aware of his red-stained hands. "My student needs me, and I am never–"
"–Lancer," the Huntress cut off, breathing deep. She pressed a button on her neck and the helmet she wore collapsed. "Mr. Lancer, it's me. God, it's me."
Out of pure shock, the teacher dropped the fire hydrant. "Ms. Grey!" he breathed. The only thing Lancer could focus on about his student were the bags under her eyes and her face that couldn't look more stressed if she tried.
"You need to let us in, I have to see him," she said, holding the front of her suit.
Lancer automatically went to block her. Valerie stopped to stare into his eyes. "Is he okay? How bad is it?"
"How did you know about this?"
"It's all over the news. I was at Mayor Master's place when we heard and–" she cut herself off, looking at the sky for some reason. "I actually can't believe I beat him here."
"I am getting old, darling," came the voice of Vlad Masters. He walked calmly around the corner of the hospital, seemingly appearing out of nowhere and looking as impeccable as usual in his suit. "Not all of us can have the energy of teenage superheroes, now can we?"
Valerie made a face.
Lancer didn't know whether he should bow or run. There was something very dangerous about Mr. Masters at the moment.
Vlad approached the two of them, smile tight across his face. "Now, we have not a moment to lose."
"What if someone tries to stop us?" Valerie asked, eyeing the closed door behind Lancer where they took Danny.
"That's the brilliant thing about being in charge, no one would dare." Vlad walked calmly towards the door, followed by Valerie. He was right. No one tried to stop them when they entered.
Lancer realized what was so different about him. Vlad Masters was angry.
Valerie had been thinking lately.
It was rather uncommon for her and she knew it. She knew she was known as the hunter who shot first, asked questions later – and boy did she wish that title had never passed to the Fentons because nothing about this situation was okay – but these past two weeks she knew that thinking was a very critical skill to use.
Valerie liked Phantom's cousin. She was a sweet little girl who wanted nothing more than to live, and didn't she have the right to? After all, she was still part human. Then there was Vlad Masters, the man who had been deceiving her since day one and really deserved a good punch in the nose. He was a jackass who treated people like pawns, who also happened to be the same weird hybrid mix that Danielle was.
The teenage ghost hunter had barely a week to come to terms with this before the Fentons threw another wrench in the whole thing.
Valerie was adamant that ghosts were fundamentally different from humans. Phantom had tried to tell her there were good and bad ghost and she believed him, which was why the Fentons' theory made sense. Ghosts weren't here on purpose and they were all waiting around to move on. If humans could help them move on, wouldn't that solve everyone's problems?
According to Danny Fenton, no.
Valerie remembered thinking what the fuck was up with people named Danny because she'd only met two in her lifetime but for some reason they both were the most stubborn people she had ever had the pleasure of knowing.
If she ever adopted a kid, she'd be staying far away from names that started with D, just to be safe.
Then came the incident outside of Town Hall. Valerie hated the way the Fenton parents smiled at their kids, she hated the way Tucker and Sam kept their wrist weapons locked on them, she hated the way Jazz stood between Danny and their father, she hated the way Danny looked like he wanted to become one with the floor, but most of all she hated what it implied.
There was something going on in the Fenton household and a lot of people were going to get hurt when that particular can of worms was pried open.
Valerie visited him every so often. She'd finish patrol – picking up Phantom's slack without complaint, knowing it was probably better he stayed hidden in whatever hole he found until this blew over – and head to his house to peer in the window. Sam and Tucker usually slept with him on the floor in a giant pile. The first time she saw it, she deactivated her helmet and placed a hand over her mouth. She thought it was kind of sweet. At the very least, it was nice to know the two of them would always be there to protect Danny.
After another week, Valerie sucked it up and visited Mr. Masters.
It went as well as expected.
"Yeah, hey, Mr. Masters. I've always known you were a pretentious, egotistical jackass in a suit, but guess what? Now I know you're a pretentious, egotistical jackass ghost in a suit. Isn't that amazing?"
Vlad Masters apparently liked to shoot first ask questions later as well. It was a long while before they'd both calmed down enough to hold a discussion. A lot of things were said, and Valerie found out more than she'd ever wanted to know.
At least there was only one Danny in her life causing her grief.
"Does he know?" Valerie asked after almost a minute of silence. There were quite a few broken items on the floor and it took her a bit longer than expected to catch her breath.
Vlad didn't look much better. He'd transformed back after their little spat, but his eyes burned red. "Of course. The boy wouldn't even be alive if it wasn't for me," he replied.
"I highly doubt that."
"Watch your tongue, Huntress. You have no idea the things I do to keep him out of trouble."
"I'm pretty certain you're the one who gets him into trouble."
"All under controlled circumstances," Vlad said, crossing his arms and staring right at her. "You really think if ghosts who had hundreds upon thousands of years to harness their abilities were really going all out against a newly formed half-ghost teenager that Daniel would stand a chance?"
Valerie really didn't want to answer that because she herself was a teenager who had no idea what she was doing and would probably be dead if not for Vlad's suit.
"I don't have to justify my actions to a teenager," Vlad sneered, "but Daniel was inside the portal when it turned on. My accident merely marked my face." He left it at that and Valerie really did not want to think about what that could mean.
"With his power comes enemies," he continued, clenching his fingers into her suit jacket. "Daniel is something very unique and I am more than thrilled to not be alone in this universe. I would just like to make sure the boy lives to reach adulthood."
The mayor grumbled under his breath and rubbed his face, "Why he chooses to use said abilities to be a vigilante in tights, I will never know."
It was almost pleasant to be around Mayor Masters when he went on about hybrid theories, ghost analysis, and human morals. He shared that he, Maddie, and Jack – wow, Maddie and Jack? Okay, it was way too weird to refer to Danny's parents as such – studied the paranormal in college but had a falling out after his accident.
"I will be honest with you," Vlad said, clasping his hands together and leaning on his knees. "I was terrified when I heard they had children. I loved Maddie more than any man could ever love a woman, but she was far from perfect. Did you know they didn't visit me once while I was in the hospital?"
Valerie shook her head, feeling something tight gather in her throat.
"I was their best friend. All those years spent in therapy trying to get my life back and they should have been by my side. It wasn't like they didn't care or were being rude out of malicious intent." Vlad laughed. "God, no. They'd forgotten."
"They would ask me how I was doing every so often and I reassured them I was fine–" Vlad cut off to catch his breath. "I told them I was fine, but I was not fine and they believed me. Who believes a man who has been hospitalized for basically the rest of his life is actually okay?"
Vlad sighed, avoiding looking in Valerie's direction. "They sent a wedding invite, birthday invites, and even baby shower invitations, but I burned them. Their lack of neglect towards their old best friend could only mean this was normal for them. I can't even begin to imagine what it's been like for Jasmine and Daniel."
"If you knew all of this, why didn't you tell the authorities? Get Danny and Jazz away from all this?" Valerie asked.
Vlad looked at her like she was crazy. "And have Daniel hate me for the rest of his life? Teenagers hold grudges like toddles hold teddy bears. Daniel may be the only other person on this planet who understands what happened to me, not to mention it's his damn parents' fault for turning him into this–the two of us are both mistakes of their negligence and I–"
Valerie wanted to comfort him. She didn't. "What about Danielle?"
Vlad looked floored for a moment. He probably thought she wouldn't bring it up. Valerie knew Vlad Masters was an excellent manipulator, but there was truth in everything he'd shared. Now she wanted to know something.
"I will apologize for that," he said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. "I do not view people the same way you do. I could blame it on many things, but my actions are my own. For that I am sorry."
Seeing the usually put together man so uncomfortable and out of place made Valerie feel like she'd stepped into an alternative dimension. In fact, these past couple of weeks felt like everything had been turned on its head.
She'd never forget the look on his face when the news alert came in saying the Fentons had shot a child.
(Please, God, please don't be Daniel.)
The face Vlad made now was carefully blank. Valerie marched beside him through the hospital halls, watching everyone step out of the way to let him pass. One of the EME's was running down the hall towards them and Vlad stopped her with a gentle hand.
"Daniel Fenton was just admitted; I would like to acquire as to where he is right now," he asked, tone gentle.
"Sir, I need to grab blood"–
"I understand, ma'am, that you are having trouble treating Daniel. I have something that can help. I'm his emergency contact."
If the mayor of Amity Park had walked up to Valerie and suddenly told her this, she probably would have taken a moment to blink at him in disbelief. First responders, however, were crazy prepared for anything.
The woman grabbed Vlad by the shoulder – just straight up wrinkled his expensive suit and everything – to drag him down the hall towards the surgery rooms. She shoved him through the first set of doors and turned around to startle at Valerie, red suit on and helmet off, looking absolutely terrified.
"This is the weirdest fucking day of my life," the women said after a moment. "And I am going to pretend like I understand what's going on because the alternative is admitting I have no idea what is happening."
"Can I see him?" Valerie asked, voice weaker than she intended. She cleared her throat. "I can stay out of the room. I can stay here in case anyone tries anything."
The EME eyed her suit. She was thoroughly unimpressed. "Ecto weapons are banned from the hospital."
Valerie was ready to deactivate her suit when the woman asked, "You do realize who we have in there, right?"
"And you think I should let a ghost hunter in there after what happened today?"
"He's my friend."
"They were his parents."
Valerie felt that one deep in the gut.
The woman must have seen the flinch and sighed. "Stay outside, look through the windows of the second room."
Valerie threw a rushed thank you over her shoulder, pushing the door open and finding Vlad arguing with a very tall looking man. He looked frustrated.
"It still won't work if"– the man said, mouth covered in a surgical mask and glove-covered hands facing straight up. There were three people inside the other room leaning over someone and Valerie was not prepared to look in that direction yet.
The surgeon noticed Valerie's entrance and stiffened. Vlad gave a frustrated cry and called attention right back to himself by forming a ball of pink ectoplasm in the palm of his hand in the middle of the hospital in front of several humans.
The surgeon rushed backwards and inside the three people looked up to gasp. Valerie interjected, "It's alright! It's alright!"
Vlad stood there with a glowing fist, looking less and less thrilled with the man who was probably overseeing Danny's surgery. "Daniel's blood will not clot with an injury so severe. He will continue to bleed out unless he is given a transfusion of blood that is both human and ectoplasm based," he explained, coldly. After a moment, he allowed the glow to melt away.
"I am the only other person on this planet capable of donating. Do your job and save the kid or I will end you."
The surgeon looked like he wanted to cry.
"Oh, for Christ sake, politically."
Valerie watched from the window when they drew the odd mix of colors from Vlad to heal Danny. Apparently, Vlad and the surgeon had been arguing that they couldn't give Danny more blood with a gaping hole in his chest. He'd just continue to bleed it out. Vlad was now trying to explain to the very eager doctors – who were following his instructions to fix Danny's insides – exactly how ectoplasm helped heal people like them.
As she watched their interactions, Valerie wondered what Danny would think of all of this. His parents had shot him, Amity Park pretty much knew who he was – or were still gathering the pieces – the EMEs were taking the fact Danny Fenton was a ghost in stride, the police protected him, and now Vlad was protecting him.
Vlad literally threatened the surgeons with a glowing ectoplasm ball. If he wasn't careful, his secret would be out too.
Honesty, Valerie thought Danny would be pretty upset he was the one who needed protecting. Valerie herself was upset Danny need protecting. If his parents were better people, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
There was a lot going on that she didn't know. There was a lot going on that everyone didn't know. In time, she hoped Danny would feel comfortable enough to talk about it, but for now she would do her best – like everyone else – to protect him.
Officer Joel watched the teenagers through the rearview mirror. They sat in complete silence the entire way to the hospital. He'd seen a lot as an officer of the law, especially as an officer in the most haunted city in America, but the way these kids clamed up after the incident at the school worried him.
"You can talk about it, you know," he told them when the hospital came within sight. They didn't look up. "It might help."
"My friend was shot," the boy replied.
"And how does that feel?"
The girl let out a startled laugh, leaning against her hand and looking out the left window. "God, we're not in therapy. You know who's going to need therapy after this? Danny."
The boy gripped the hand she wasn't resting on, drawing the officer's attention to the fact they hadn't let go of each other since he agreed to drive them.
When screaming came from the back of the crowd, Officer Joel was one of the first people to cut through everyone. His coworker, Officer Ann, reached the scene before him and cried, "BACKUP, NOW. BRING AN AMBULANCE." He listened and radioed in the second he heard her tone.
Joel and another officer grabbed the student and hauled him to the front when the ambulance arrived.
"Danny," came the panicked voice of the student's mother. She had rushed forward, trying to catch up to them. She looked absolutely distraught with tears running down her flushed cheeks. Behind her, the husband wasn't doing much better.
"T-that's my son. That's my son."
Joel did not know what to do in this situation. Thankfully, Ann intercepted the frantic mother and father, holding up a white card and giving them the glare of the century. Whatever she said must have worked because they had no problem handing the kid off to the EMEs.
"Please!" the teacher from before yelled, panting from behind them. His shirt was still damp with blood. "He's my student. I don't want him to be alone."
"Family only, sir," one of the women said, reaching to close the door.
"His family is right there!" the teacher shouted, pointing at the Fentons who were arguing with Officer Ann.
The EME paused, eyes wide. She looked down at her patient, up at the Fentons, and then to her partner. The teacher was allowed to join.
"Jazz said they made it to the station," the girl said, suddenly. Officer Joel looked up to see them smiling at each other.
"I want her to be here."
"Yeah, but she's totally going to tear them apart."
"Think this is the final straw?"
The girl slammed a fist against the cage in the back of the police car. "The final straw was two weeks ago. We're six feet under now."
Officer Joel pulled into the hospital parking lot, making sure to keep the doors locked. When the kids tried to jump out the second he parked, he hid a smile. "Don't rush, I'm coming with you."
"Look, buddy," the girl said, eyes pinched, "thanks for driving us, but I kind of want to make sure my friend isn't a corpse right now."
"You're minors without guardians and it is my responsibility"–
"Oh my God, let's just go!" the boy shouted, pulling at the door handle. Officer Joel unlocked it, pausing to lock the car again and racing after the teenagers.
He assumed the news hadn't arrived yet as the hospital was just as busy as it always was. Officer Joel wasn't kidding himself; with the way everyone was acting, this was big. He saw the kid's hair. There was no mistaking that color.
The two teenagers yelling at the person working the reception desk had probably known the entire time. Officer Joel prayed that the Fentons hadn't known – or worse, been the cause of whatever their child was – because if the situation wasn't messed up before, whatever Officer Ann was dealing with down at the station would probably make it a lot worse.
"I cannot allow– HEY!" the receptionist yelled when the girl and boy took off down the hall. Officer Joel wanted to take a nap, but the receptionist was giving him the glare of the century so he followed them.
"This way!" yelled the boy, and seriously how the heck did he pull up a map of the hospital so quickly? The two of them were unbelievably fast – ah, to be young again – turning yet another corner and disappearing behind two doors.
Joel leaned over his knees to catch his breath, feeling the room spin. Chasing ghosts was easier than this. A scream came from beyond the door and duty called, again.
The officer walked in to find the Red Huntress, sworn enemy of Danny Phantom, being held at gun point by the two teenagers he escorted here –with her mask off wait holy. Inside the glass stood Amity Park's Mayor, Vlad Masters, talking on the phone and hooked up to several machines with at least four very confused people in masks and one prone figure laying on a table.
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" the girl shouted. She moved closer to the Huntress who put her hands up and stepped back. "You let her in here. ARE. YOU. KIDDING ME?"
"Sam! On your right," the boy yelled. When the girl, Sam, turned to find Vlad Masters, she adjusted her aim.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, voice lower but far deeper than when she screamed at the Huntress. "Get away from him."
Vlad Masters hung up on whoever he was talking to and had the most unimpressed look on his face, the kind that made it seem like he was used to being held at gunpoint by a pair of teenagers. "If you want me to continue saving Daniel's life, then I suggest you stop threatening everyone in this room. Our surgeons here are very weak-willed."
"I will when someone explains to me what the hell is going on."
"Ah yes, of course," Mayor Masters said, clearing his throat. "Valerie here was worried, the surgeons here are doing their jobs, and what am I doing again? Oh, yes, that's right. Saving Daniel's life as the only other person capable of donating fully compatible blood. How are you two doing? It's been so long since we've had a chat."
"I have never wanted to shoot the smug out of you as badly as I do right now," Sam growled, fingers tightening around the button on her wrist.
"Tucker?" the Huntress said, suddenly. She stepped forward but paused when Sam turned to point at her again.
"Are you here to hurt Danny?" the boy, Tucker, asked, head tilted to the side and watching her carefully.
The Red Huntress shook her head. "I promise, and I swear I'm so sorry. If I'd been less harsh, maybe given him less pressure… with his parents always… I could have done something."
"This is not your fault, Valerie, just like it isn't Danny fault, or my fault, or Sam's fault, or Jazz's fault, or – as much as it pains me to admit – Vlad's fault. We know who is at fault and Jazz is taking care of it."
"She isn't eighteen yet."
"We'll figure it out."
Tucker turned to find Sam still locked and loaded. "God damn it, Sam, put the weapon down. We're in a h-h-hospital for Christ sakes."
Sam dropped the weapon with a snort. "Don't think about it too much. I'm not cleaning up after you if you puke."
Officer Joel was very satisfied with remaining a bystander, as long as none of the kids actually started to fire at one another. There may have been a lot of people who could take everything going on today in stride, but he was not one of them.
One of the surgeons inside the glass made a noise of surprise. "Incredible," a woman's voice said, and suddenly the others crowded around the prone form on the table.
"What's happening?" Sam demanded. She, Tucker, and Valerie moved to cover the window, prompting Officer Joel to move farther in if he wanted to see. "Vlad, what's going on?"
Vlad was smiling at the doctors who couldn't stop looking at Danny in wonder. "Incredible isn't it? Imagine what kind of things we could accomplish if our blood could counteract disease or force antibodies in normal humans to adapt to even the toughest conditions."
"You sound like a business pitch," Sam grumbled, pressing her fingers against the glass with an annoyed expression on her face. "Leave the sucking up for after Danny's healed."
"Probably trying to cover his ass; make himself useful," Tucker said under his breath. "Secret's out. Halfas are real."
"Have either of you heard from Danielle?" Valerie asked, sounding worried. Sam and Tucker turned to look at her in surprise.
"You care?" Sam said at the same time Tucker voiced, "No, she kind of wants to travel the world. No contact."
Valerie looked disheartened. "So that means the only person who can really help is standing right in front of us."
The three pressed their faces against the glass again, watching as Mayor Masters and the surgeons worked to keep their friend alive, if he really could be considered alive in the first place.
Behind them, the door opened quietly, and an overweight man stepped through. Joel's hand moved to his gun, but the man quickly whispered, "I rode with Daniel in the ambulance. I'm his teacher." The children were too engrossed with watching their friend to notice, so Joel and the teacher stood behind them in silence.
After a moment, the teacher asked, "Is he okay?"
"No idea," Joel answered. "Honestly, I have no idea what's going on."
The man chuckled. "That makes two of us."
Officer Joel decided he was going to stay very, very quiet until someone explained to him what was happening because at this moment he wasn't sure about anything anymore. All he knew was that he hoped the kid pulled through.
The media was in a frenzy. It was like someone baited the water and waited for the sharks to take a bite.
Officer Ann separated Jasmine Fenton from her parents the minute she demanded she follow them. Separate cars, separate entrances, separate offices. They arrived at the station fifteen minutes after that damn video went viral and Officer Ann, who guided Jasmine through the swarm, couldn't help but admire the young girl.
"Jasmine, can you verify the claim your parents shot a weapon into a crowd of people?"
"Are the Fenton parents under arrest?"
"Can you make a statement on what happened?"
"Was Daniel Fenton the child who was shot?"
No one mentioned anything unusual about the incident. Officer Ann knew everyone saw the video and despite the fact Daniel Fenton was shot, it was Danny Phantom who was wheeled away in an ambulance. More than likely, no one wanted to assume anything as, in Journalism, putting words into someone else's mouth made the claim unreliable information. They needed Jazz or her parents to mention it first.
But Jazz was unrelenting in her pursuit – of what, Officer Ann had no idea, but she wasn't going to be the one to stand in her way.
Ann watched out of the corner of her eye as the Fenton parents were directed to a back room. Not a holding cell or anything too over the top, but a place where Jazz couldn't be influenced by them and vice versa. The media was told to wait in the lobby, just out of range of hearing anything they discussed, and thanks to the cubicles they wouldn't be able to record any expressions Jazz made. They would just have to wait.
The officer led Jazz to a seat and waited for her to finish what she was doing on her phone. "Sam and Tucker are on the way to the hospital," Jazz offered, looking up. "They're Danny's best friends."
Officer Ann nodded and sat across from the teenager. Inside the office, her coworkers pretended they weren't paying attention and she almost smiled at how badly they were trying to hide their interest. She paged the chief and waited.
"Do you need anything?" Ann asked.
Jazz looked up again. She breathed deeply. "Water… if it's alright."
She handed Jazz a cup and pointed her towards the fountain in the corner. Ann was right in her assumption that Jazz wanted to get up and move around as opposed to sitting still because she jumped at the chance. On her way back, the girl looked at the lobby where the press watched.
"I never thought this day would come," Jazz said, sitting down but continuing to look where the reporters were huddled. "Sam, Tucker, and I prepared lie after lie after lie, but now we have to tell the truth."
Ann wanted to approach this very cautiously. "You don't have to do anything, Jazz," she reminded the teenager.
"If we want to get away from Jack and Maddie, then yes, I do."
The casual use of her parents' first names was definitely being written down in the notebooks of her coworkers listening in. At the very least, this meant Ann could focus on comforting Jazz instead of writing down every bit of damning evidence.
Her Chief arrived, crouching next to Jazz but making sure he didn't place an arm over the chair. He wanted to let her know they weren't here to make her feel trapped. "Hello, Jasmine, how are you feeling?" he asked gently.
"I'm scared and I want to see my little brother more than anything, but this needs to be done," she answered, looking comfortable in Chief Dawkson's presence. The man usually had that effect on people.
"Is there anything we can do for you? Is there someone we can call?"
Jazz gripped her cellphone tight and said, "Actually, give me a second." She unlocked her phone and dialed a number. "Have you–?" A pause and then Jazz looked relieved. "Oh, thank God. Vlad, just stay with him, wait is that Sam? Why is she yelling? Okay. Please try and be nice."
She ended the call and the two officers shared a look of poorly hidden interest. There were very few people with the name Vlad in Amity Park.
"Don't get him involved," she said, noticing their silence, "I don't know how much he's willing to give away yet, but Vlad is… Vlad is… well, I don't know what Vlad is but he's safe, and he's with Danny so I know he's going to be okay."
There was a lot buried there, but both Ann and the Chief let it be. Ann reached into her pocket and pulled out a white card. The title Robinson's Child Abuse Out Reach Program was on the front with a handwritten number on the back.
"Jazz," Ann asked, making sure her tone was soft, "can you tell me why your brother had this in his pocket?"
The teenager looked confused and took the white card to turn it over. She smiled at the number on the back. "Dash," she said, affectionately. "Of course."
The name sounded familiar. Next to their cubicle, a coworker who had returned only moments after they did said, "He was one of the boys we talked to; one of the ones next to the teacher and the kid."
The Chief nodded. "Has anyone tried to get in contact with the teacher?"
"Last I heard he went with Daniel Fenton in the ambulance."
Jazz's shoulder relaxed even farther. Ann imagined she was worried out of her mind right now. That only meant if she was choosing to be here rather than where she really wanted to be, it was important.
"I'm going to be completely honest with you." Jazz looked the Chief in his eyes and said, "I want Danny and I out of that house."
"I don't think anyone is going to fight you on that, Jasmine," he said, smiling.
"No, I mean, I want to be emancipated. I'll be eighteen in a couple of months, I can take care of Danny"– their thoughts must have shown on their faces because Jazz started to sound desperate – "we can't stay in that house anymore. Not just that, we can't call them, or I can't call them our parents."
The Chief moved to kneel directly in front of Jazz. "We know you're a smart girl, highest grade on the C.A.T. since it was created, but that doesn't mean we can legally allow you the right of guardianship over your brother."
"With probable concern and evidence, we can place you with another guardian. Foster care is also an option," Ann explained.
"I have an album," Jazz said.
"An album. I've been keeping track. Pictures, dates, notes, Danny's schoolwork, everything. They know about it – I've told them countless of times I was keeping track, but they just ignored it."
Ann paused. She could see even the Chief was taken back. "Jazz, what are you… are you saying whatever this is has been going on for years?"
Out of her backpack, the seventeen-year-old genius pulled a pink album filled to the brim with paper and pictures. "I've kept it on me ever since that stupid broadcast," she admitted, holding the thing between two clenched fists. "Not a single day has gone by in the past two weeks where I haven't been forced to add something."
She handed it to Ann to flip through. Delicately, Ann opened the first page to a stick figure of a redhaired person smiling back at her.
Jazz ignored the unease around her. "I started it when Danny was in Kindergarten. He drew me for Parents' Day."
In Kindergarten. Jazz would have been no older than eight or nine.
There were hundreds of papers, notes, and pictures she collected over the years. Her younger brother drew pictures and made projects that always had to do with his older sister. His work reflected a lack of parental figure other than Jazz. When Danny hit about ten years old, Jazz started pasting articles and research papers about the effects of neglect and abuse. She wrote lists – she had god damn lists – on how to counteract the damage her parents were causing by providing her little brother with love and comfort. There were reports of Danny running away, getting sick because the house was unsanitary, going hungry because they didn't have food.
She flipped the page and came across a picture of Danny Phantom smiling awkwardly at the camera in front of what looked like the Fenton portal.
Ann froze. Then, after a moment, she forced herself to close the book.
"I have all the proof you could ever need," Jazz begged, leaning her elbows on her knees and hiding her face in her hands. "Danny cannot stay in that house any longer."
The Chief looked like he was at a loss. Around them, the officers hadn't said a word, but continued to watch the situation unfold. Ann noticed the face of the person who worked next to her and saw nothing but shock. This was so much worse than they thought it was.
Ann needed to ask the question. She knew ever since she saw the kid sprout white hair that someone would need to ask the question.
Was Danny Fenton the way he was because of something his parents did?
(Did his parents kill him?)
There was shouting down the hall and the Chief reached for the gun on his belt. When the Fentons came around the corner, not even the press dared to approach them with the Chief casually aiming his gun, safety still on, in their direction.
"You were told to wait in the other room," he warned. Ann noticed he blocked Jazz from their view.
"You need to let us see him," Maddie Fenton said, sounding very small.
The Fentons looked, for lack of a better word, exhausted. They could barely stand on their feet. Ann hoped it was the guilt weighing them down like a fucking anvil.
The Chief obviously didn't want Jazz and her parents to interact, especially in front of the press like this. In order to keep them from influencing each other, they needed to be separated. Ann kept her eye on Jazz who sat in her chair with her shoulders tense. The defensiveness made her want to kick the Fentons where it hurt.
Officer Ann thought the worst part about all of this was the fact the Fentons really did care about their kids, when they remembered to care about them, at least. They were obviously distraught over what happened and probably knew exactly what they'd done and who their son was. Their entire world was falling apart at their feet.
Ann was more than happy to let it happen.
Jack Fenton noticed his daughter and his eyes brightened. "Jazzy-pants," he whispered.
Jazz looked like he punched her in the face.
The Chief moved between them again. The press was obviously interested because this was the first anyone had seen of the Fentons since the incident; how they reacted would make great news. "You need to wait in the other room until we're ready to speak with you. Mr. and Mrs. Fenton, we just want to sort this out."
"I can't wait," Maddie said. Her hands were shaking. "Danny, is Danny okay?"
"Ma'am, we don't know."
"But you can take us to him."
"I don't think that's a very good idea right now, Mrs. Fenton."
"He's my son," she said, repeating it over and over. She stepped forward, only to jerk back when the Chief flipped the safety. "He's my son. He's my son and you won't let me see him."
Jazz spoke, "Do you want to know how he died?" and the office went dead silent.
Breathing was suddenly too much for Ann and she let out a startled puff of air that sounded more like a wheeze than anything. Jazz didn't move, she stared past the Chief into the eyes of her parents and asked again, "Do you want to know how he died?"
No one said a word. Maddie looked stricken.
"Danny was worried because you shut down when the portal didn't work. He took Sam and Tucker to explore and leaned straight on the "on" button you put inside." Not once did Jazz take her eyes of her parents who began to fall apart.
"You're lucky the portal did something to him that didn't take him from us. Danny's alive, but I will forever blame you for being the ones who killed him."
Maddie burst into tears and clutched the side of her husband's suit. "We never would have – we never meant to… this wasn't – my baby boy, my poor baby."
"Don't act like you raised him, I did," Jazz finally screamed, rising to her feet. She stalked forward and shoved past the Chief. "I raised my little brother, I kissed his boo-boos, I tucked him in at night, I fed him, I clothed him, I helped with his school work, I held him when he cried, I was there waiting for him when he came home every single day.
You were never there, you were too busy in the basement. Do you know how big he smiles when he sees there's someone waiting for him? Or when I cook his favorite meal? Danny likes Mac N Cheese by the way, he has for the past eight years.
His first picture day in preschool was an absolute disaster because Billy Yen kept throwing sparkles in his hair. His last baby tooth fell out when he attached a piece of floss to one of his toy rockets and launched it into the sky. He still carries around the stuffed ghost you gave him when he was three because it reminds him of you. He wants to be an astronaut not because he likes space but because he loves the stars we used to watch together on top of the OP Center. His favorite color is blue because the sky has always felt like freedom. He was twelve the first time he asked about girls and I gave my baby brother, at the age of fourteen, the best damn birds and the bees talk available on this god damn earth. His first day of middle school he cried in the bathroom because he lost his favorite rocket ship sticker, so I ran to school to bring him another one. He likes flying because despite all the other amazing stuff he can do, flying is the closest he feels he will ever get to the stars because his grades are falling because he never gets sleep because he's always fighting because he died."
Jazz took a single breath in the utter silence of the lobby. She held their attention on the end of a very sharp hook.
"These past two years – these past two years – Danny started to pull away, started showing up with bruises, started losing sleep, started getting nightmares, and you did not notice. I did. I figured it out and I protected him from you.
Do you know what it did to him to have to listen to exactly how you would dissect the remains of a ghost? Or how much you hated him on principal? Do you know more than half of his nightmares are about his own family?"
Officer Ann was beside her in a second because Jazz had begun to cry at the stricken faces of Maddie and Jack Fenton, and really, no one should have to face that alone.
"I know you love us and that just hurts because you've always loved us, but please, please, please let us go. Let me take care of my brother, let me help him heal from this, let me find someone who can give us the time and distance to figure this out, and for the love of God let me see if either of us can even forgive you."
Jazz continued to cry, and Ann decided now was a good time to wrap her arms around her. Maturity did not mean someone was capable of handling stressful situations, and the teenager before her was so mature it was hard to realize she was a child. The Chief had long since dropped his gun, Maddie and Jack stood frozen, her coworkers hadn't added a single thing to their notebooks, and the press stayed in their corner.
The silence wasn't awkward, it was paralyzing.
Jazz's hiccups calmed down quickly. Ann wondered how long it had been since she last cried.
"I get it, you're good people – I know you are – but you're terrible parents and that's not okay," Jazz continued, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. Her face mirrored her parents' and she knew this was painful for both of them.
"I don't want you to go to jail, I just want Danny and I to have a better life. I love Danny, I love my little brother so much, but I lost my childhood because I had to take care of him and he lost his life because you couldn't take care of us." Jazz covered her face. "I'm tired. I am just so tired."
Ann made the decision and guided Jazz out the door. They passed the press, reporters watching them with wide eyes, they passed the other officers, they passed the Chief, and they passed the Fentons.
There was nothing anyone, not even the Fentons could say to fix this. Jazz had said everything she wanted to. It was about time she visited her brother.
Danny woke slowly.
Something hurt, and it hurt an awful lot, so he tried to hold onto that last bit of unconsciousness. He lost the battle with nature and opened his eyes.
He'd always heard in books that when people woke up the first thing they'd see was the blinding ceiling light. Danny didn't get that privilege. No, Danny got to see Vlad's face and so badly wanted to question if he was in hell.
Vlad jerked when Danny shifted. He blinked down at him and then yelled, "He's awake!"
Someone crashed into the open doorway in their haste to enter.
"Call a nurse," came Sam's voice, "and damnit, Tucker, watch out for doorways."
Tucker was in a hospital.
Danny was in a hospital.
"I'm in a hospital?" he asked, loudly, trying to sit up.
"No, this is a graveyard," Tucker said, jumping up on the bed. "Can't you tell by all the tomb stones and really old people hanging around?"
Vlad's glare set Tucker's hat on fire. Tucker put it out like it was a minor inconvenience.
"Danny," Jazz breathed, smile blinding as she shoved Tucker to the side to hug him. Danny looked down at her back in shock.
"Jazz? Jazz, what's going on? Why is Vlad here?" he asked.
Squeaky footsteps ran past their window then doubled back to peer inside. "Oh, thank God," Valerie said, steeping in and collapsing in a chair. "I swear, Danny, your name is cursed."
"All Danny's," Valerie continued, despite his bewilderedness, "are automatically troublemakers and I will have you know my child will be named Benjamin."
Jazz pulled back, placing her hands under his chin. The atmosphere felt light, but Jazz's gaze was heavy. "How are you feeling?"
If Danny was being completely honest, fucking confused would be a really accurate answer. Tucker and Sam stood by the left side of his bed while Vlad leaned on the wall by his right. Jazz sat comfortably on the bed with him and Valerie was in one of the many chairs that surrounded the room.
Almost subconsciously, Danny touched his chest. His heart raced, and he knew his veins lit up because the room gained a green glow. He ripped open his hospital gown to run over the course skin covering his ribcage.
"Don't touch it," Vlad said in a tone he had never used on him before and Danny would like to wake up now, please.
It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. There was a hole, or there had been. He was bleeding – he had bled – on Lancer and everyone was screaming. He dropped the card. Dash was going to be upset. There was a lady and then a man and then a lady and then a hard surface and then Vlad and it stopped hurting.
Danny was breathing so fast he began to choke.
"Move!" a human nurse said, and she approached him in a rush and he was breathing too fast and he was glowing.
He shoved her hard enough that she might have gone through the window if Vlad hadn't caught her. "Stop," Vlad said, but he wasn't talking to him. "It's the ectoplasm. He still thinks…"
Jazz blocked his line of sight. "Danny, just breathe. You're safe." His sister grabbed his hand, veins still bright green, and placed it over his heart.
(Thump, thump, thump.)
She smiled. "Feel that, little brother? You're alright."
His sister was okay, and he was okay, and his friends were okay, but everything was not okay.
"Jazz," Danny whispered, hands shaking. He let out another panicked breath and leaned forward to press his forehead against her shoulder. "Jazz. Jazz. Jazz."
His big sister made a noise and pulled him closer. "I know. I know."
"They shot me."
Danny did not cry. He sat there in his sister's arms with wide eyes and a dry throat. His parents had shot him. There had been a hole in his chest. He'd almost bled out on his English teacher because his parents shot him. "Lancer?"
"He left an hour ago to grab food."
"The police wanted statements from them. We haven't seen either since yesterday when they visited."
He didn't want to ask, but Danny felt tense, worried that he'd see orange or blue fly around the corner of the hallway and rush towards him to apologize for everything and try and make it right. "Mom and Dad?"
Danny regretted the question because the tension felt tangible. "It's handled, Danny," Jazz said, voice stiff.
He jerked in her arms and turned to Vlad. "We can't"– he choked, the C.A.T.'s flashing in his mind and His dark, sick laughter.
"I offered, but your sister was very adamant about not staying with me," Vlad answered. He didn't sound angry, but he didn't sound thrilled with it either. "That doesn't mean I can't be a financial provider for either of you."
Jazz sounded exasperated. "We'll talk about this later."
"Of course, my dear."
Danny looked over Jazz's shoulder and grabbed Tucker and Sam's hands. They squeezed back tightly and smiled at him. Tucker, the poor sap, tried to wipe his eyes. "Fuck you, Danny Fenton," he choked. "Don't you ever, ever, ever make me come into a hospital again."
Danny couldn't help his startled laughter.
Valerie hadn't moved from her spot on the chair. Danny slowly peeled back from Jazz and watched her. She wouldn't look up.
"Val?" Danny whispered, eyes growing wide as he realized he had glowed in front of her and some random nurse. "Oh my God." Not only had he glowed in front of Valerie and the nurse, in the left corner by the door stood two police officers he hadn't noticed in his panic.
"Hey, kid, good to see you looking alive," the man said with a grin. The female elbowed him in the ribs.
"Heh, alive," Tucker laughed. "Good one."
Danny gaped at him. "Tucker!"
It was Vlad who leaned against the bed and turned his attention. "You reverted to your ghost form in order to protect yourself, Daniel," he explained, looking back at the police officers. "There are really no more secrets left to give."
"Secrets?" Danny said, hysterically. "But you–?" Vlad nodded his head. "No way. No way you would do that."
"You were dying," he said, simply.
"And you didn't let me die?!"
"Danny!" Jazz cried.
By the door, Danny heard Valerie explain to the police officers, "They didn't really like each other before."
The woman rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Are you joking? There are only two people like them in the entire world and they hated each other?"
"For the record, Vlad used to be a gigantic dick," Tucker said.
"Used to?" Sam added in disbelief.
Danny stared at Vlad for a good minute. Vlad's face looked weird, less hard and edgy like he didn't plot world domination and killed babies during his free time. "I won't stop," he said, finally crossing his arms over his chest. "I know you hate it, but I won't stop. Especially not now."
Vlad raised a silver eyebrow. "I'm surprised you wish to continue heroics after everything that happened."
The police officers were right. Danny and Vlad really were the only Halfas – besides Danielle who he assumed his friends left out – on the planet. This was the man who knew exactly what it was like to count your breaths, hear your heartbeat, and feel like your skin didn't fit.
(Thump, thump, thump) – (Thump, thump, thump).
"Are you going to try and stop me?" he asked because even if Vlad said to, he wouldn't stop. Protecting Amity Park was everything to him.
"No," Vlad answered, and the wrinkles on his face deepened when he smiled. Vlad laid a hand on the back of Danny's head, pressing the teenager into his chest. "Never stop being a good person because of bad people, little badger. I dare say this world would be a far worse place without a glowing vigilante in tights defending everyone's honor."
This time, when Danny's chest hurt, it was the good kind of pain.
Lancer took that moment to walk in and gasp at Danny, almost dropping the food in his arms. "Mr. Fenton," he laughed, looking like world peace had been achieved and Danny held all the answers to the universe.
He rushed forward, set the food on the chair next to Valerie, and crushed Danny against him, replacing Vlad's position. Danny felt something settle within him and realized Lancer was the one holding him when he got shot.
"Lancer," Danny said, squeezing tighter when the man started to shake.
"Oh, Daniel," his teacher said, pressing his hands against Danny's back and curling his fingers into his shirt. "You were in my arms."
"It's okay," Danny forced out, hiding a smile into Lancer's shirt. "You were, uh, a bit too human to help there."
Lancer laughed. "I suppose that's true. I hope that you will allow me to make up for it. I don't suppose I make a good shield, but I can make a good guardian, at least for the time being."
Danny leaned back to blink up at him. Jazz was making encouraging gestures behind his back and the police officers gave her a look that said they didn't want her to influence his choice. Lancer, on the other hand, looked worried. Did he think he wasn't going to accept?
"Living with my teacher may be weird, sure, but the bar is set pretty low guardian wise," Danny encouraged, feeling shy.
"Well, damn," the male officer said.
A lot of people had cried these last two weeks, so much so that Danny was sure he'd be put off from crying ever again, but seeing his friends cry because they were laughing was the greatest feeling in the world.
He missed this feeling of being safe.
If this were a story, perhaps Danny would have been forced to reconcile with his parents. Maybe they would have met coincidently one day and screamed at each other or tried to fix the hurt each side felt. Maybe Danny would have had a lot left to say to them. Maybe Danny would have wanted them to pay and see them behind bars. Maybe Danny would have wanted to give them a second chance.
But this wasn't a story, Danny didn't have anything left to say to them, and the Fenton parents, despite paying for their neglect, wouldn't suffer in jail for their wrongdoings. There were no more secrets in Amity Park, which was pretty terrifying for the teenager whose past two years had centered around a secret identity.
At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not your life, and a whole new life waited for Danny behind the walls of the hospital, without Jack or Maddie Fenton in it.
If there was one thing Danny Fenton perfected since receiving his powers, it was how to pretend.
(And he no longer had to pretend his parents were good people).
A/N: AND THERE'S YOUR HAPPY ENDING! (I promised I would make one, see!?) If anyone wants to know why they keep making jokes after Danny woke up its because that's pretty much the only way they're going to be able to move past this. Keeping the situation light and fun does wonders. This was the first chapter not in Danny's POV because the boy was a bit preoccupied with dying.
Don't know about you guys but sitting in the back of an ambulance is uncomfortable. Granted, I was drugged and the person lying on the gurney, but seeing my mom sitting on a metal box right next to an EME guy didn't look like much fun.
I disappeared off the face of the Earth because of work and school. Finals are next week, and I want to cry. I'm trying to keep my 4.0, but college is freaking difficult. I'm graduating next year which is awesome, at least. This chapter was SUPER long (almost 10,000 words) as an apology.
I'm also getting dragged into different fandoms… I have a lot of ideas for Boku No Hero, Harry Potter, and Naruto. Yikes.
Please, please, PLEASE tell me what you think! I love your comments so much! I'll try and reply to all of them. THIS IS MY FIRST COMPLETE STORY. Wow.