Disclaimer: Butch Hartman owns Danny Phantom, I do not. Believe me, I wish I did... This short is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America, TV-Y7 for fantasy violence, and E by the ESRB. Just some musings following the events of Public Enemies

Nor Iron Bars

"Hold it right there, ghost!" Jack Fenton bellowed, voice bouncing off the brick walls of the alley. Still running, Danny rolled his eyes.

"You've GOT to be kidding me," the white-haired teen muttered, feet skidding slightly as he took the corner. Flying was out of the question-- he'd seen his mother's aim with the Fenton Bazooka, and getting sniped out of the sky wasn't on his list of favorite things to do. So he was reduced to running through the back streets of Amity Park, trying to lose his ghost-obsessed but very stubborn parents as they tried to capture "Ghost Enemy #1." And while they might not have been the most attentive parents, there was no denying they were VERY good at their chosen career. Maybe a little too good for his continuing health.

His dark thoughts were interrupted quite abruptly as he quite literally ran into the dead end of the alleyway. Rubbing his aching nose, Danny stared uncomprehendingly at the brick wall that now blocked his path. "That wasn't here a minute ago, was it?" he asked rhetorically. "Oh well... if you can't go over, go through!" Acutely conscious of Jack's heavy footsteps drawing nearer, he shifted to his intangible form.

And smacked into the wall a second time.

"What the HECK?" Danny looked down at his hands, frowning as they remained white-gloved, but very solid and opaque. "Oh, for crying out loud... why do my powers have to pick NOW to go on the fritz?"

The unmistakable whine of an energy weapon powering up reminded him that this wasn't a good time to think about it. Spinning around, the young hybrid came face to face with his unusually grim looking father, already clad in the white armor of the Fenton Peeler.

"End of the line, ghost," Jack announced, aiming the barrel of the Peeler at his much smaller target.

Swallowing hard, Danny pressed himself back against the wall of the alley, willing either it or him to suddenly melt away. "Look... can't we talk about this? I mean... this whole thing really is just a big misunderstanding..."

His only answer was a burst of emerald energy that surrounded him, pulling at him, ripping him apart layer by layer. And it hurt, just as he'd imagined it must, that first time watching it take apart Spectra. White hair, black fabric, both fell away, leaving only black-haired Danny Fenton on his knees on the concrete, screaming from the pain.

"... D.. Danny?" The sound of his father's shocked voice cut through the haze in his mind, and Danny looked up to see Jack staring in slack-jawed astonishment.

"Dad..." he croaked, before his voice faded out completely.

"My son... is a ghost?"

And now Spectra's voice seemed to come from nowhere, hissing in his ear. "You're a freak! Not a ghost, not a boy? Who cares for a thing like you?"

Danny shook his head frantically. "I'm not! I'm not a ghost, I'm not a freak, I'm not, I'm NOT!"

But his father wasn't listening, and the barrel of the Fenton Peeler was glowing again, in preparation to fire...

And Danny slammed hard into the floor of his room from where his nightmare had had him hovering five feet above his bed.

"... Ow." Danny thought about trying to get up, then rejected the idea in favor of just trying to remember how to breathe.

I suppose I should just be thankful I didn't phase through the floor and land on the kitchen table, he thought bitterly. From that height, one of us would have broken, and I don't know that I could explain either outcome to my parents.

His sleep the past few nights had been extremely poor, ever since Walker's invasion of Amity Park. He'd spent his dreams wondering about Wulf's fate back in the Ghost Zone, remembering the fear of having everyone in Amity Park turned against him, and being assaulted with too-vivid images of what could have occurred if things had just gone a little different. But this... this one might have been the worst.

"My parents will accept me," he'd told Vlad during their stand-off, and at the time, he'd believed it. Now... now he just wondered if he was being naïve. A shiver ran through him as he remembered the damage he'd seen his parents' inventions do to the ghosts that threatened Amity Park. And he was only half-ghost... at least for now.

Wincing slightly, Danny pulled himself off the floor and headed for his window. The stars were brilliant, and despite everything, he had a sudden urge to just go ghost, slip out the window and fly, forgetting his fear, his problems, everything... But he couldn't. One sight of "Inviso-Bill," (man, he hated that name) and Amity Park would be in a city-wide panic. Again.

"There are all kinds of prisons," Walker had told him, and Danny was beginning to understand what he meant. The smart thing for him to do would be to just stop. Let Danny Phantom go, go back to his life of being Danny Fenton. It would be like chopping off an arm, but he could do it. Animals escaped traps that way all the time.

Except... the ghosts would still be there. The portal would still be there. Heck, at this point, even shutting it down or destroying it wouldn't keep the ghosts away. Too much energy had come through at that point. The dimensional fabric was weak there, might always be. Whether he stayed or went, ghosts would still keep coming. And while his parents' weapons would let Danny Fenton take out, say, the Box Ghost, someone like Desiree would be beyond his human strength. And Vlad... he'd barely stopped the older man the first time. Without Danny Phantom, Jack Fenton would be overpowered and outclassed.

Danny sighed. He couldn't do it. He couldn't walk away from this, no matter what it cost him. Besides... Walker was wrong about one thing. Danny hadn't lost. He still had his family, and he still had his friends. And Sam and Tucker, he knew, would always be beside him, no matter what. And as long as he had them... no matter what his secrets, he still had his freedom.

End

"Stone walls do not a prison make/ nor iron bars a cage." -- Richard Lovelace