Danny waited quietly for several seconds, looking anywhere but at his father. Finally, he took a deep breath, and looked up to see Jack staring at him, unblinking.
"Whoa." The large man shook his head, seeming to snap out of a trance. "I've had some bad dreams lately, but this one takes the cake."
Well, Danny certainly hadn't expected a pat on the back and sudden acceptance, but his dad's words made him realize that this might be harder than he'd thought—which was saying something. He rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration and growled,"Come on, Dad. Think about it! Why do you think I was so scared to tell you? Remember that accident when I got the portal to work? Well, I was inside it at the time!"
Jack's head shot up. "WHAT IN THE NAME OF GHOSTS WERE YOU DOING IN THERE? We told you to stay away from it for a reason!"
Danny blinked his neon eyes for several seconds before what his father had said sank in. "You mean...you knew this could happen?"
Jack scratched his head absentmindedly. "We reconfigured the matrix so that if something like that DID happen, then it wouldn't actually kill anyone. We didn't think it would infuse spectral DNA..." He looked up at Danny. "That's what happened, isn't it?"
Danny shrugged. "How should I know?"
"It had to be," his father continued, almost seeming to forget that Danny stood directly in front of him. "We used the strongest ectoplasmic residue sample we could find...stronger than the one I found in college, even. That's the only reason that prototype worked at all. Well,with Maddie's and Vlad's..." his voice hardened when he said his 'best friend's' name. He cleared his throat, "With their help, of course. That's why Vlad's acne case was so serious, too. The potency of the beam that hit him…the DNA from the sample..." He faded off and shook his head, scooting against the wall and assuming a half-lotus position. "He's lucky he didn't die, especially with the calculations off as far as they were. But you." He looked up at Danny incredulously. "That had to be a full body contact. I can only imagine the pain…I…" He glanced up warily. "Are you sure you're alright?"
A half smile crossed the hybrid's sad face, and he nodded. Silence settled like a down comforter over the room. After a few seconds, Danny sighed, and–still in ghost mode–walked over to sit beside his father. He leaned his head back against the wall, but still could not make himself relax completely. After all, he'd just told a ghost hunter, related or not,his secret.He still wasn't sure what the reaction would be.
Trying to keep his thoughts away from that, he focused on the mess of the lab. He could still see Nora standing at the doorway in his peripheral vision. He held up a finger to ask her to wait a few more seconds, before letting out a heavy sigh and allowing the silence to return.
"It does..." his father said finally. "It all makes sense now. Your grades," Danny winced, "how you always run off, your clumsiness..." He looked over at his son, who looked back with wary green eyes. "But..." he raised an eyebrow warily, "Ghosts are Evil."
"No." Danny shook his head emphatically. "Most ghosts are power-hungry or obsessive. I guess that makes some of them evil, but some of them aren't, though. The Dairy King's a great guy...er...spirit."
"Wait." Jack blinked. "You've met the ghost of the Dairy King?"
Danny couldn't help but smile. "And I've fought off about a hundred others, too."
"But, what about the attack on the Mayor, and us," his expression darkened, "and those robberies a few months ago?"
"Robb–oh, er...the ringleader of that Circus had a staff that controlled ghosts... I really wasn't myself at the time," he gulped. "But his staff got broken, so we don't have to worry about that. And the reason I...er...shot at you guys with the mayor incident, was I thought you were overshadowed. You know, taken over by a ghost? The mayor was... Aghost named Walker was trying to get revenge on me–"
Danny shook his head with a sad smile. "Dad, we have a lot to catch up on...but I want you to know, I am not evil. I made a promise to you guys--although you won't remember it--that I would remain a hero, and I intend to do so, even if it kills me." He suddenly closed his eyes, realizing what he'd just said. "Well, the other half of me, in any case."
A halfhearted chuckle escaped his father's throat, causing Danny to look up at him out of the corner of his eyes.
Suddenly, he turned to Danny and looked him in the eyes.
"Danny, I would't care if you were the cruelest ghost in the universe. You're my son, and you could have ALWAYS come to us with this. We would never hurt you, son. Never."
It didn't feel like a thousand pounds of weight lifted off of Danny's shoulders at that moment; it felt like millions. He actually had to fight back tears at the thought of not having to keep his secret any longer, and of being accepted for what he was. Not a freak, not a human, not a ghost…just Danny. Son of Jack and Maddie Fenton, and a 14-year-old boy who happened to be able to do a few things that most other humans couldn't.
He looked down. "I know, Dad. I…I think I've always known. At first, it was fun to have a secret. After that it became habit, and then…when you guys were hunting me, I could just see you strapping me to a table like that one time with the ghost you guys couldn't see, but with needles and forceps, and knives…. I had a million horrible thoughts every day, and nightmares that I made up whenever I had a moment to think. But I always knew they weren't true.
"I'm sorry I didn't trust you, Dad. Can you ever forgive me?"
If Danny thought a genuine smile was rare for him, he realized, when his father's face suddenly beamed, that he hadn't seen that expression on him for months--not since he'd come home.
"Can you forgive us for chasing you away?" The older man shook his head, the smile still splitting his face delightfully. "You couldn't do anything that would make me not proud to be your father, son. I know I don't always show it, but I do love you." Before Danny could do anything, the large man's orange and black-clad arms wrapped around him in a bear hug. While he felt like his bones were being crushed, he at least felt grateful that in this mode he didn't have to breathe.
That's when he realized that Nora still watched them, and like any normal mother--or woman--she had a few tears dripping down her cheeks. He could almost hear her say "awww", and felt his face grow hot.
"Sorry, son." Jack sat back. "Now…you have to tell me EVERYTHING about ghosts!"
Danny couldn't help but burst into laughter at this. After all that had happened, his dad really hadn't changed a bit.
"Alright, Dad. But first, I want you to meet someone." He nodded towards the stairs. Other than a slight glow, the African-American woman looked completely human and alive at first glance, so he wasn't expecting too much from his father at the moment, who was obviously still trying to process what his son had just told him, despite his change of mood.
"Nice to meet you," Jack smiled hurriedly, and turned back to Danny. "Who is she?"
"Er...the mother of a very...er...of a recent friend of mine."
"You have more friends than Sam and Tucker?" Jack asked.
"Funny," Danny said sarcastically.
"I didn't mean it like that," Jack defended.
Danny smiled. "I know. Sorry, Dad. Anyway," he nodded back towards the dark-skinned woman. "They...er...they're both ghosts."
"Another ghost?" Jack put his head in his hands and sighed. "This would happen to us." Then he looked up, with a familiar gleam in his eye. "Can I catch her?" Nora blinked and took a step back with a gulp.
"No." Danny rolled his eyes, but he still had a playful look to his previously melancholy countenance. He sobered quickly before he spoke again. "You see, after my friend and I became friends, I think she was brainwashed into thinking…I guess I don't know, but something horrible about me...by my archenemy."
His father looked up with a blank stare, blinking. "You have an archenemy?"
"I'm a superhero, Dad. I have a lot of enemies...although this one is a half-ghost, too."
"Half-ghost? How many are there?" The words "kid" and "candy store" came to mind when Danny looked at his father. Still, he couldn't help but cringe.
"As far as I know, two," he said slowly. Jack looked disappointed for a moment before his features hardened in determination again.
"Any ghost that threatens my family..." Jack started, but stopped when he saw his son's look. "What?"
Danny licked his lips nervously. "Do you remember the accident with the prototype ghost portal in college?" he asked, folding his arms.
"Yes, with..." For the third time that night, Jack faded off as realization hit him. Danny couldn't even smile at his expression with the gravity of the situation looming over him. "You mean...?" With that, any happiness in the room vanished.
Danny nodded gravely. "Yep. Vlad Masters. He's been after Mom since college, and he always hated you for, and I quote, 'taking her away' from him. He's been sending me nightmares...and Mom–"
"Nightmares?" Danny couldn't remember his father ever changing moods so quickly or being so angry in his entire life. "You mean, all of this is...is his fault!" Jack stood and began to pace. Danny watched as the black-gloved fists opened and clenched while his almost giant form stalked around the basement; a mood that the teenager knew, from experience, was dangerous.
"Dad," Danny said cautiously, "don't look like that, please. It scares me." He'd seen the look of extreme anger that now twisted his father's face only twice before: once on Vlad Masters when Maddie had rejected him in Colorado, and the other on Danny's future evil self, Dan Phantom. It was a look of pure loathing and utter hatred, and it wasn't an expression that suited his father at all.
Jack ground his teeth as he spoke his next few phrases. "All these years I thought he was my friend. I thought that he hated dropping out of college, not me! I thought that he'd gotten over Maddie when in actuality–"
"DAD!" Danny reached up and grabbed his father's broad shoulders. "Dad, don't," he pleaded. "He's not worth it. And now do you see why we're the only ones that can undo all of this? Please." He took a step back. "If we go into this, don't hate him. I've seen so much hatred since I got these powers...but from you? I've been through things so horrific that I could never begin to describe them, and I survived...but I couldn't handle that. Not from you, Dad. Not from you."
For a moment, Jack looked like he was about to argue, until he slumped back against the wall, looking completely deflated.
"I'm sorry, son," he whispered. "It's just that I–I–" He sighed and looked up. "I won't hate him, for you, Danny. I promise I won't."
For the first time in months, a smile appeared on Danny's face. Not the fake, upside-down frown that he plastered on just to please everyone else, but a true, heartfelt smile.
"Thanks, Dad." He looked over at Nora and motioned for her to come and sit by him as he detransformed and plopped in front of his dad.
"Now, like I said, it's up to the three of us to fix this, so I may as well tell you everything, and tell you what we're up against." The two adults nodded, and he leaned in, running a hand through his black hair.
As he began to speak, though, even he noticed his voice seemed lighter. A weight he'd been carrying around for more than a year had just been thrown off of his shoulders, and all the problems he'd caused, with his immaturity and hasty actions, they'd fix. He knew it. Or maybe he just hoped it, but somehow, he felt confident they would find a way.
It felt good to hope again, and this was the first time in what felt like centuries that he dared to have hope. His father had accepted him, just as he had predicted the first time he'd fought Vlad; and at that moment, the only other thing that mattered was getting his family and friends back. His life had begun to drift back towards good, and for the first time since before the accident, he felt almost complete.
End book 2
Yep, here's the last chapter! If you feel chainsaws will get your frustration out at where I end it, I can't say that I'd be too upset. Just...don't say I didn't warn you.
Thanks again for everyone who's stuck with me this far. It means a great deal to me.