Chapter 16: Hospital Visit
It is hard to say what fear truly was, but if anyone would ever know its meaning it would have to be one Rodger Smith. Smith was a god in his past when it came to fear. Hell, he used to rule one of the greatest fears of all time, but he gave it up for a life. Yet, here he found himself in the very same place where it all began: the Ghost Zone. It had been a few hundred years since the last time he had even gotten near a portal, yet, once upon a time, he had owned almost every nook and cranny of the Ghost Zone. In fact, he had made it what it was today.
The imposter sighed as he neared Vlad's gate to the Ghost Zone. He actually prayed that it was true that all the ghosts were leaving this place of residence, because he couldn't hide his true form in the world of the dead. And if he'd suddenly appeared he'd either be blamed or expected to fix the demon problem. Either way … it could be quite unfortunate to be old and powerful.
Smith scratched his dark mane and was about to turn his back on his former residence and forget the whole thing. He didn't really wanted to go in there in the first place, but he needed to see if what he thought was happening was truly happening. If so, the awakening was closer than anticipated. Truthfully, he could try sending Gibgit or the Tucker-boy to visit the ghost child to get the answers he needed, but the clueless godfather was keeping a watchful eye over him all night … like a mother hawk guarding her eggs. Zeus, nothing was going his way. He'd rather deal with the demon himself then go in there.
Smith sighed at the thought of the Ghost Zone calling to him the moment he had stepped into it, willing him to stay. He hated that feeling because it was both warming and depressing, but he had no choice.
Staring at the gate, feeling his old form that he had worn oh-so-many-centuries shiver under his skin, Smith took in a breath and held onto his charade he loved so much: his human form.
Then, turning back to the swirling gate, he was about to step through when suddenly something flew out of the Ghost Zone and right through his form, causing him to shiver violently. He hated it when ghosts flew through him! It was a feeling he loathed more than anything.
Regardless, Smith turned around to see someone he really, really, didn't want to see.
It was a rather ruffled time wizard.
It was true that Clockwork rarely left his clock tower so what Smith had feared most must already be happening. The Ghost Zone was turning into a plane for captured souls; the demon's collection, a pot of horrors.
Shifting his shoulders to seem more regal, Smith looked at the ruffled ghost with a frown. Why hadn't the time ghost seen this coming? That was his job. That was why a time ghost was put in the Ghost Zone when it was created!
I suppose it doesn't matter now. I just hope he doesn't recognize me, bitterly thought Smith. Even in my human form … some spirits just know.
Meanwhile, Clockwork was trying to reclaim his calm composure as he ran his hand over his broken time staff despondently. This was horrible. Why hadn't he seen this coming?
Because he is older than you and that time anomaly helped him thought Clockwork forlornly.
The time ghost then looked back down at the swirling vortex and whispered, "Zeus above. It almost got me, that warmonger. He even managed to crack my staff, but I had to make sure that thing couldn't get into the Clock Tower."
Sighing, the spirit gripping his staff to try and calm himself. It had been a long time since he felt so powerless. Time had always been at his beck and call, a shift into the past was a mere thought and he could pause time to capture sunlight. He had never truly been trapped or part of the time line. He was like an editor of a book that could skip back and forth and edit scenes if need be, but now … now he was part of the story again with no control. He had no omniscient abilities anymore. It was a bit unnerving to be up on the stage again, imperfect. In fact, he was so unnerved that he almost jumped when he heard a soft shuffling in the room.
The timekeeper's neck snapped as he turned his head in a hurry, his gaze finally noticing that there was a human butler in the room looking up, unafraid. He immediately frowned at the other due to its oddity. True, it had been awhile since he had physically been in the current living world, but he was fairly certain that humans would usually run and scream at this moment.
Instead, the human did something most odd:
"My, my, look what the ghost portal dragged in. A half drown rat."
Smith tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He really had. He knew he should have run off and played the good little human, but his rage was just bubbling under his skin. Clockwork was useless! It was his job to keep some balance in the zone, to help keep it together, but he had broken his time staff! It was an ancient artifact of immense power and now the time ghost was no better than any other spirit. Yes, Clockwork had his memories, that much was true, but memories could only carry one so far. It wasn't like the spirit could memorize all of time and guess all its probabilities. As far as Smith was concerned Clockwork had failed at his duties. How had he not seen this coming?
"You," bit out Smith as he tried to keep his loathing out of his voice, forgetting he was in his human form for a moment as he spoke freely, "what are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here."
Clockwork glared at the strange man, a feeling of déjà vu running down his spine as he answered in his own riddle, his eyes taking in just how normal the man looked and just how wrong that was.
"The better question," said Clockwork as he tilted his head, looking around his surroundings," is why you are here? You blend in too easy and yet you should not. A servant, a mere butler, does not belong in a secret lab and yet a deep part of me wanted to look past you, to overlook you. I am too old for such tricks."
Not as old as I, thought Smith bitterly as he straightened his spine figuring he had made the plunge, he just as well swim to the other side of the pool.
His words were cold and bitter, his ancient plans having collapsed on themselves and the only one he could blame was a ruffled time lord.
"You made a promise. You made a vow," the word echoed over the expanse of the lab, Clockwork actually frowning in reaction as Smith spoke, "to watch over time and protect the Ghost Zone, a place trapped in the past, and yet you are here and that thing is in there. Have you abandoned your vows? Have you, time keeper?"
Clockwork, for a moment floated there bewildered. The deepest oldest part of him, before he was given his staff and its heavy burden, wanted to bow his head and ask for forgiveness as if he were a mere servant again. A deep part of him wanted to ask for clemency for breaking his word, his vow and yet … this man was not his Master, the being that placed him in his post. He wasn't even an Observer. He was a mere man.
A knowledgeable man that would need investigation, but a man none the less.
And yet, as soon as he thought it, the last drops of sand inside of his staff told him that that wasn't so. This butler, who faded into the background, there but not really there, was not a man.
"What are you … are you one of his pawns? Are you a thing caught between life and death?" quipped Clockwork, floating closer, trying to catch a fault in this man's disguise.
Smith's gloved hands became a fist. Achilles' heel, Clockwork would break through his disguise at this rate. Curse his big mouth. He could not allow that. He had been playing human for too long, too long to go back. He would not go back. And so, calling on old powers, his eyes glinting an inhuman color, the whispered, "Look into my eyes … and you tell me."
And Clockwork reluctantly did. He looked into Smith's eyes and that was all it took. Yes, he would be exhausted for Clockwork was no mere spirit easily corrupt to suggestions, but it would hold. And so he murmured his next suggestion, form starting to shake from the burden of manipulating a spirit of time, "Clockwork, keeper of time in its stillness and movement, do you not have bigger duties then observing the oddities of a meaningless man?"
Clockwork, his eyes going wide for a moment, seemed lost for words before his red eyes gained a glazed look, turning yellow for a moment as they matched the color of Smith's eyes.
Nodding his head, his tone almost monotone and lacking any of the paranoia it had had moments ago, the spirit murmured, "Yes, I do … I need … I need … to do something about that monster who's taking over the Ghost Zone and stopping its normal flow. I need answers. I need a consul. I need spirits to listen to me."
Smith nodded, his hands shaking as he struggled to keep a hold of the other, almost glad that Clockwork had broken his staff.
"Yes, a consul. You should," Smith hated to make suggestions for Clockwork for the ghost's will was always well founded, but the faster he got the spirit out of here, the sooner he could collapse in near exhaustion. "... find a powerful spirit. One that can track down a consul. Perhaps a huntsman. There is, in fact, one inside this house. A ghost named Skulker. Perhaps you should start with him?"
Clockwork, his eyes twitching, almost seemed to be breaking the manipulator's spell but just when Smith was starting to worry that he had failed, the time keeper nodded his head. And then, slowly, just so painfully slowly, the time spirit floated upward and through the ceiling.
Smith, who had been holding his breath, collapsed against a nearby table, sweating profusely as his hands shook and his eyes faded to their normal color. That was close, that was too close … he might not survive an encounter with Clockwork again. His staff might be broken, but Clockwork was chosen for his position for so many more reasons than for how well he used the staff. He was smart and resourceful … and he would see through Smith's spell sooner or later. Hopefully, when all his plans were done and he was long gone.
Smith refused to be trapped in that Ghost Zone again. He could not survive the aching loneliness again. He would not be shut away from the sunlight again, given a task he did not wish to serve even in the beginning.
Danny rolled over trying to fall back asleep. This was the third time he had stirred from his uneasy rest. He hadn't been able to fall back asleep because the murders kept flashing before his eyes. Sitting up, ruffling the blankets, Danny looked around his darkened room in surrender, noting that his godfather had fallen asleep in a chair in the room. Danny just sat there in a waking daze watching his godfather's head slowly collapse into his chest.
Watching his godfather's chest rise and fall in a hypnotic motion, Danny tried to gather his thoughts.
At present, Danny knew without his ghost powers he didn't have a chance against the demon. And though his trust of Vlad had grown exponentially, he still didn't want the other knowing he was helpless.
Well, mostly helpless. He still didn't know what those powers were on the bridge, and if Tucker and Sam had taught him anything: just because you were human didn't mean you were helpless.
Smiling bitterly at the thought of his two friends while they were both alive and well, he decided that he should take precautions for tomorrow especially since they were going to a hospital. Danny refused to be defenseless especially since Vlad would certainly live up to his promise and take him to the hospital in the morning. In fact, it was a surprise that the man hadn't forced him to go after the waking nightmare at the dinner table. True, he could just tell Vlad about the vision, but Vlad was his arch nemesis! Or at least mostly used to be, but it was best not to place all his trust in the other. Vlad was technically a villain after all.
Sighing at the thought, Danny crawled down the stairs after quietly escaping his room, trying to ignore an encounter with a butler or Skulker. He didn't want anyone to see him about, because that would put a serious dent in his plans.
The teenager smiled when he finally found what he was looking for, about forty minutes of creeping around corners later. It was Vlad's private study.
Looking both ways, Danny tiptoed to the door and opened the door as quietly as he could before he snuck in.
Once he had found the light switch, he asked himself, "If I was a lonely psychopathic fruit loop half ghost in his forties and in need of a cat where would I hide the lever to my secret underground lab where I develop all my evil experiments."
Danny stalled after he heard himself speak, "Wow, I think I have been around the cheese head too long … I'm speaking my inner monolog out loud."
Soon, the teenager was acting like a kid in a candy store touching and pulling at everything in sight. After thirty minutes of aimlessly pulling books off the shelf and then placing them back the teenager sighed, gave up, and leaned against the fireplace.
Only to find what he was looking for.
"Huh … Ahhhhhh!" cried Danny as he fell backwards, the fireplace swinging open as the teenager fell down a set of stone steps.
"Ahhhh! Ouch! Eeek!"
And then a second set of stone steps...
"Help! No! Ahhh!"
And finally the third set…
"Owh! Eeek! CRASH!"
Danny cursed violently as he pulled himself off the cold floor, grabbing his abused head. Then once he was done cursing, the youth quickly checked to see if anything had been broken or if he had accidentally been decapitated.
"Nope, all important limbs are accounted for," grumbled the half ghost as he rubbed his abused shoulder, throwing a glared up at the three flights of stairs as he cursed, "I'm watching you stairs. A bloody death trap you are! Hasn't Vlad ever heard of an elevator?"
Rising to his feet with a slight sway, clutching his scarred arm close, Danny was silently glad he had not smacked it too hard on his way down. Though, he knew he had instinctively protected it as best as he could on the way down.
Wincing at his forming bruises, the teenager looked about. A few blinking lights and glowing tests tubes serving as his only light source in the room. Figuring he just as wells find a light switch, the teenager tried to wandered around the lab but only managed to stumbling over something.
Picking himself off of the floor for the third time, after tripping over one thing or the other, Danny cursed the lack of his powers … though his mind mentally scolded him for being too reliant on them anyway and that he should have brought a flashlight.
Danny slapped his forehead cursing himself again for being poorly prepared … only to have the lights come on.
"Wonderful," grumbled Danny as he glared up at the lights. "Clapping lights, should have known."
Dusting himself off, just glad that he wasn't in the dark anymore, the teenager glanced around the lab. It was impressive, he would admit that, but he was only looking for one thing. Ah, there it was. Just what he needed, hanging on the wall like prizes: ghost weaponry.
Never in his whole life had he been glad to see ghost weapons, but with the excitement of a hyperactive child, Danny began to throw open glass panels looking for the perfect weapon. He needed something small yet powerful. After about ten minutes, a smile formed on his lips. He had found it: the Gnome.
The Gnome was originally Jack's inventions meant to battle gnome ghosts (which his dad was positive were far more powerful than dwarf ghosts), but Vlad had obviously made a few improvements to its design. It promised to pack a punch if looks were anything to go on.
Fiddling with the small weapon for a moment, Danny looked over its golden and lime green surface. It was a pudgy gun with a tiny satellite dish like thing at the end. It even had a huge 'M' trademark on the butt of the gun which secretly irritated Danny to no end. He'd pick it off later if he could.
Finally pocketing the thing, the teenager was about to continue his search when a chill ran up his back. A part of him wanted to call it a Ghost Sense kind of chill, but a hundred times weaker.
Not one to turn down what could be a warning, he turned around quickly, grabbing something off the table to defend himself with as he barked, "Who's there!"
The Dairy King, a few yards away, froze in his tracks and stared at Danny with wide eyes. The plump king looked the other up and down for a moment before he chuckled, "The Dairy King, don't cha-ya-know and … I am not looking for salami."
"Huh?" questioned the teenager as he looked down to see what he had grabbed off the table. "A salami log … Eww and its warm. Why is this in his lab?! Vlad sure has some nasty eating habits."
Danny dropped the column of meat back down making a sour face, partially realizing that perhaps the pig's feet he had found earlier in the kitchen had not been Skulker's. He then looked up at the Dairy King and asked, "It's been a long time … so … what are you doing here?"
"I live here, but I want to talk to the huntsman, Skulker, so I thought it was him making that here ruckus. Someone's been a-looking for him. Something about a consul don't yah-know. Supposed to be an important meeting taking place, yah-know."
"A meeting?" inquired Danny as he wiped his hand on his not-panda pajamas. He personally didn't like the sound of that. Honestly, he just didn't like any sentences that had Skulker's name in it, but that wasn't his present problem. Who was looking for Skulker of all ghosts and why were ghosts having a meeting? Was it to celebrate Danny Phantom's house arrest. He didn't think Vlad would purposely put him in danger now that he was on 'his side', but he wouldn't put it past the other to gloat. Either way, he decided he would be crashing it.
Trying not to smile, the need for adventure always present ever since he became Phantom, Danny asked, "So, any idea where this gathering is supposed to take place or when?"
The ghost looked at him trying to decide if the mangy peasant was good enough for this information, but then he merely smiled and boldly echoed, "Well, they are all going to be coming here, don't-cha-know. It is the nearest stable ghost portal after all. Don't know the time though, but likely soon."
"Oh … that's just great," Danny sighed, wondering if Vlad really was the instigator of this since he just wouldn't invite everyone to his castle. Either way, Danny knew he needed to sleep and gather his strength. If he wanted to get his powers back and get his revenge, he needed to be healthy.
'Though you could always just tell Vlad what happened in Fenton's Works; he would destroy that beast for both of you,' said a traitorous thought him his head.
Danny stalled on the stairs for a moment, actually thinking of it as an option before his arm gave a painful ache reminding him how angry he really was and how he needed to destroy the demon himself. Even if he had to do it while human.
Skulker sat in his attic room which was the tallest tower in the castle. It was the room Vlad had promised him though, in all honesty, it had always been his since he had come into Vlad's service. It was just official now.
It was a large room adorned in stuffed heads, hanging weapons and a few hanging cages with strange little tentacle creatures in them. It was a hunter's paradise, a small little lab included for self-servicing projects.
Currently, said owner of the room was sharpening his weaponry. Not that his knifes collection wasn't sharp enough the way it was, but it just helped him think. Though, he nearly sliced off a metallic finger when a figure interrupted the silence of his thoughts, the cool voice demanding, "Are you the hunter? I require something from you."
Skulker, glaring at the spliced wiring of his finger, slowly looked up, frowning, ready to throw said knife at whatever figure dare interrupt his peace. It wasn't Vlad. The Halfling knew better.
His fingers failed him though, the knife falling to the table, his words choked back into his throat. He had never met the ghost before, the one that floated before him. He was like a legend, like a fairy tale told amongst the dead, though all spirits knew the description of his staff and of his face … and the imposing authority and cool collective that just oozed from him.
And every ghost … knew better than to deny a request from him.
Despite himself, despite how choked and whispered his voice sounded, Skulker replied, "… You're Clockwork, I take it."
That morning, after Vlad spent a half hour fussing over him and asking if it was some type of flash back or attack, Danny managed to convince his godfather that he did not need to be wheeled into the hospital in a wheelchair. He would be allowed to walk.
Danny had been trying to weasel his way out of the checkup all together, but sometimes one had to choose their battles.
Yet, when they pulled up to the hospital, they couldn't help but note that there were cops all around as well as suited detectives. Danny, sinking back into the limo's seat, felt he should have fought harder to get out of a checkup. Now, there was no denying it. Before seeing the cops, there could have always been a shadow of a doubt that he had imagined the murder of the mother and the doctor. He might have never discovered what he had seen had, in fact, been real. And he might not know, right now, that it was unlikely that he would be capable of handling this demon alone without powers.
"Daniel? Are you alright, you look pale," murmured Vlad as he peered out the window. He could have gone to the nearby hospital in the neighboring town of Vermillion, but Raven Heights had a larger population with better doctors. And a very reputable doctor had actually been recommended to him for Danny's health. That arm was obviously the cause of all of Daniel's aliments, be them partially mental or not, and he wanted to fixed.
How could he ever make anything of the boy if he was too ill and tired to even transform? At least that's what Vlad was starting to guess. It was just so odd Danny Phantom hadn't made any really appearances lately.
"I, it's just … I'm nervous. I … don't much like hospitals anymore," whispered Danny as he watched what had to be a tote of evidence being placed in the back of a police van. He couldn't help but wonder if there was even enough of the baby left to be placed in an evidence bag.
Vlad, raising a brow, looked at the teenager for a moment and then offered a sad smile, "I understand Daniel. After my chase of … echo acne … I didn't care for hospitals either. Do not worry though. It's just a few tests. You'll be fine."
Danny, slouching in his seat, glared at Vlad's back as the man exited the car, clutching his ribs slightly before his decorative cane hit the payment. Danny personally felt the older man was milking his injuries just a little with the cane, but then again he had a feeling it just wasn't any ordinary cane. Likely, Vlad wasn't going to let himself be caught off-guard again by a mere man and brought some extra defense.
Too bad it wasn't actually a man that had tried to kill both of them two days ago on the bridge.
Rising after the other and entering the hospital, knowing that there likely wouldn't even be any waiting in the waiting room given Vlad's pull in the public circle, Danny tried not to mope too much as a pretty nurse rose from the front desk and asked them to follow her.
Cane rhythmically clicking against the floor, they slowly walked down the hall. Vlad, feeling it was best to distract Daniel from his coming torment, for he still remembered his great dislike for hospitals to this day, tried to continue their conversation from supper last night … about the private school. He had not given up convincing Daniel that he'd like it. It was an old and proud establishment. It had a top ranking educational facility in the state and it was close to home. There were also some connected people there, and the only way to get into Red Raven Academy for the Gifted was by money or a scholarship.
And yet, as he continued in his spiel, he increasingly became aware that Daniel wasn't listening to a thing he said. The teenager just kept gawking at any passing officers and inside any open doors. It was as if he was looking for something. Yes, Vlad was a little curious as well about why there were so many officers on the premises, but the hospital was not closed down so he figured whatever it was couldn't be too important.
"Daniel? Does that sound good to you?" finally finished Masters hoping that the younger half ghost had caught some of what he had said, especially the last part where he asked if Daniel would at least try the school for a few months before he proclaimed it a terrible school.
"Yeah, yeah, sure. That's fine," agreed Danny as he watched a blond detective pass by the door, holding something. What kind of evidence was it? Could it possible lead back to him in some way?
"Really, well, I didn't think you would agree so easily to go to Red Raven Academy. I didn't even bring out the threat of being homeschooled by Skulker," joked Vlad, a soft smile forming on his lips as he watched his god child sputter and stall in the hall.
"Wait? What? Oh, no, no, no. I am not going to one of those rich kid schools. I refuse to go," ground out the teenager, ignorant that the nurse had finally stopped in front of a door and was just watching the two stare each other down.
Vlad, probably too achy to really want a fight, shook his head and in a no-negotiations tone, grumbled, "I will have no back talk from you today little badger. You are going and that is final. If you ever want to even get within ten feet of NASA's walls, you need this rich kid's -as you put it- education."
He then finished with words that Danny had only heard his mother say, "I'm only looking out for your wellbeing. I'm only trying to take care of you."
Danny, too shocked to even offer a retort, just stood there in complete amazement. Vlad had just sounded … just sound like a parent. Oh sweet Christmas dinner! It was happening. It was happening right in front of him and his injured little bird health hadn't helped manners. Vlad was turning over to the dark side: the DAD side.
"Mr. Masters?" interrupted the nurse, feeling that she could finally interrupt.
"Yes," answered Vlad, his gaze unmoving as he just dared Danny to talk back at him.
"Dr. Monroe's ready for you and your son."
Danny, wincing, wished he could have died right there. People even thought he was Vlad's son … even though he looked nothing like him!
Danny quickly found himself missing Dr. Webking.
Dr. Monroe, at first glance, seemed mostly harmless. She was a tiny framed woman with red, messy hair and squared framed glasses. If someone would compare her to an animal, it would have to be a mouse. One would probably even expect her to be shy or soft spoken, but no … oh no, that woman was the devil. And no the liter of blood she took or the claustrophobic MRI had nothing to do with it.
Okay, maybe a little.
Plus, she also had yeti hands. Cold, freezing, yeti hands.
Regardless, he did not like her. She just looked at him and poked at his organs (that's what it felt like) like an emotionally detached mortician. There was nothing warm or soft about her. In fact, part of him would have been sure she was the mortician from the morgue if the nurses hadn't kept calling her doctor as they assist her in the poking and prodding and blood drawing.
The only good thing about the whole interaction was the paleness that overcame Vlad as she stuck what had to be the eighth needle into his arm.
Vlad really did hate hospitals.
"Well, it looks like it is healing nicely given the circumstances. There is not much we can do for the scarring at this point though," finally finished the woman as she rewrapped his scared and mangled arm. Danny, himself, couldn't look at it. The scarring was terrible and his flesh was sunken in places where they had to cut away dead flesh, leaving his arm looking like it had been clawed by a bear and then later burned for good measure.
He hated looking at it and changed his bandages at home as quickly as he could when he did them himself. Yes, Vlad had called in a few good surgeons to look at it after he had signed the adoption papers, but Danny knew the arm would never be the same. It was defiled now. It was weak.
He was weak.
"He should try using it a little more often now that the skin is healing. He needs to start building up the muscle in that arm again," she continued as she grabbed a pad and started writing something down.
"Nothing too strenuous," she added as he slid back on her stool, grabbing something out of a metal container. It turned out to be a candy apple lollipop and as insulted as Danny felt as he finished buttoning his shirt, he was glad for it. It had been … emotionally taxing being around this woman, especially when she asked for a full recount of what happened during the fire such as where he was standing, what kinds of chemicals were in the lab and if the fire smelled oddly or if it was a strange color. He knew she was probably trying to find out what he had been exposed to during the fire that took his family, but he couldn't even talk to Vlad about that stuff … why would he talk to her?
"Thanks," said Danny softly as he ripped off the wrapper and started sucking on it. "Are you going to add a few more pills to my already confusing pill regiment?"
Danny hated those pills. In truth, he sometimes forgot to take them unless his arm started to ache something horrible. He knew after his episode last night though, Vlad would be tyrant when it came to those pills. It had been so long since he had had an attack of any kind that Vlad almost seemed to forget he was sick … Or had at least stopped treating him like he was going to fall over dead at any moment. Personally, Danny was starting to believe that some of those pills were affecting his ghost abilities.
"I will go over it with your father," she added as she gave him a small sympathetic smile. Huh, she was human after all. Though … she did call Vlad his father, again.
"He's my godfather," pressed Danny moodily as he finished dressing himself.
Dr. Monroe, not the least bit affected by Danny's tone, merely nodded and stated, "I see. Now, there is a waiting room down the hall. Please do not enter the maternity ward. I want to check Vlad's injuries from the car accident. It should only take a few minutes."
Danny, not wanting to be guilt ridden by seeing the bruises Vlad had gotten because of his secrets, was out of the room before the woman could look up from whatever she was writing. Vlad, sighing, soon found himself rising from the visitor's chair and taking up residence on the examination table. He was unbuttoning his shirt before she could even ask, his words tired from the battery of tests he had had to watch for the last two hours.
"So, I take it the episode he had had last night is no cause for immediate concern?" he asked in a tired tone, wincing as he slid his shirt over his shoulder, revealing his bandaged chest and bruised torso.
"Well, I am a bit concerned about the chemicals he could have been exposed to during the fire, but as for the episode last night, from the description of it alone … I think it was best you did leave him at home. It most likely was a flashback of some kind," said the healer as she pulled on a new set of gloves. "It's my medical profession, especially with his trauma, that you get someone professional for him to talk to. I can recommend a good psychologist if you want?"
Vlad could only frown, deep in thought. He'd rather have Daniel talk to him that a complete stranger. Besides, there were just some things a living psychologist just wouldn't be able to understand.
He would not dismiss the thought too quickly though. He hired ghosts with wide skill sets after all.
Danny found he could not linger in the waiting room and so he allowed himself to wander the halls, rubbing his arm after the dozen shots he had received. That quickly turned into a bad idea.
As if on instinct he had wandered to the one place he wasn't supposed to be and didn't want to be: the maternity ward.
True, it wasn't like he had wandered into the ward but he was at the front doors, all color dropping away from his features as the mother's screams echoed in his head. And then, before a rational thought could even lay root in his mind, Danny found himself running as fast as he could in the other direction. He was sure he had run into at least two nurses in his panic and an intern pushing a wheelchair, but he didn't care. He had to get away … he couldn't hear her screams again, he could hear the baby's wails all over again.
Even if they were only in his head.
A few halls later and a few moments of dry heaving into the janitor's sink in a grimy supply closet later, Danny wiped the drool from his mouth and slowly opened the door only to regret it. Where exactly was he?
Danny looked around with a frown. An ugly, puke green paint was peeling off the walls and the youth could have sworn he'd just seen a raccoon scurry down the abandoned hall. How had he gotten here? Was this part of the building abandoned or was something just messing with his head again? The teenager swallowed any panic he had, wishing that at least his tangibility would work, and looked around trying to decide which way to go.
After a few turns that just led to rooms housing old medical equipment, the teenager cursed his blind panic for not paying attention to where he was going.
"Wonderful, just wonderful, I'm trapped in the only part of the hospital where a murderer would probably lurk. Danny you're a genius when it comes to getting into trouble," said the teenager to himself, trying to make his inner worries about the demon seem like a joke. "Not that there is really anyone in here with me."
And yet, he was proven wrong in even that theory.
Danny, his shoes clicking loudly in the empty halls as he desperately tried to find the exit, dwelt on anything he could until a slight whisper reached his ears. Danny stalled in his tracks and nervously pulled out the small ghost weapon he had borrowed from Vlad's not-so-secret-anymore lab.
Delicately, he wrapped his fingers around the handle and tiptoed over to the room from which soft voices were now coming from.
Slowly, adrenaline pumping in his veins, he opened the door and jumped in pointing his ghost gun.
For a moment, Danny just stood there staring at them as they stared back him. After telling his mind that it wasn't ghost (for one their clothes were a tad too modern), Danny slowly brought down the ghost tool and rubbed the back of his head as the small group of teenagers continued to stare awkwardly at him, all their gazes wearily looking at the gun in his hand.
"O-oh hi, I … didn't mean to point that at you. I just thought maybe you were," he didn't want to say ghosts and gain the reputation as crazy kid so soon so he went for the next best thing, "… not alive."
"Really?" choked a teenage boy with a short ponytail; a country-boy-Superman-jock look going on though he was anything from perfect given his current location. "You scared the chimichangas out of all of us. We thought you were the cops … not some kid with a water gun."
Danny looked at the Gnome in his hand, a frown forming on his face as he murmured, "A water gun … this isn't a water gun."
The jock, who seemed like he was trying to open some vents in the wall, turned around and was likely to say something lippy when a scruffy teenager who looked slightly like a hyena jumped in with almost a fan boy squee as he gapped at the thing in Danny's hand.
"Drake, he's right. It's not a water gun. Sweet World of Warcraft, that is a new Masters Corporation gun, isn't it? This model hasn't even come out yet, has it?" said the scruffy teenager as he came closer, plucking it right from Danny's grasp as he grabbed a screw driver out of his pocket and started tinkering with it.
Danny, a little too flabbergasted to do anything at first, watched with horror as the golden covering of the plasma gun fell off.
Finally, gaining back some of his wits, Danny growled as he tried to grab it away. "Hey, don't do that. I need that thing."
"Oh, stop tinkering with that Tech and get up here. We might miss something if we don't start moving!" protested a third teenager. She was a pretty Asian presently trying to crawl up into the now open air vent with the help of another girl who looked like a bookworm. Where were all these dorks coming from? Though, secretly, a part of Danny wanted him to proudly proclaim that he had found his people.
Tech, giving a pouting look to the Asian girl, seemed ready to give into the girl's demands and hand the gun back only to smile and suddenly run towards her, using her back as a springboard in order to get up into the vent. He even had the audacity to laugh hysterically as he disappeared into the ventilation system. The Asian girl took a lesson and used the group's jock as a foot step as she quickly followed after the techy of the group, growling something about killing him with her scarf.
Danny, briskly walking over to the bookworm looking girl of the group, looked up at the vent, only to glare at the mousy girl, "Really, he just took my plasma gun. What is wrong with you people? Why are you even here? Give me my Gnome gun back!"
Danny then stalled, a second thought powered by paranoia hitting him. "Why are you worried about cops anyway? You are not an oddly grouped gang or something, are you? I wasn't just mugged, was I?"
"Pfff … Have you been under a rock?" mocked Drake as he pushed an old wheelchair upside down so the mousy girl could boost herself up. "There is a murderer on the loose. He murdered a mom, her newborn and a doctor here last night. That's why we thought you were the cops, booting us off the premises, again. They've been after us because, all morning, we've been trying to see the murder scene. Thus, why we are now in the abandoned part of the hospital and why we are crawling through the ventilation system to get a peek.
Great, thought Danny, I just ran into the modern version of Scooby Doo Mystery Inc. Now, the only question is who the dog is.
"Plus," whispered the meek-looking girl who Danny had mentally labeled as Velma. "W-we heard that Vlad Masters was going to be here for an appointment. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of him … and his new son."
Danny choked, wanting to groan at the utter horror that was Vlad Master's reputation and how he was inadvertently part of it now. This was not happening.
"His son huh? Really … that can't be that interesting," said Danny, trying not to act guilt. "I'm sure he's blatantly normal and not very interesting and is not abnormal in any way."
"Are you kidding? The tabloids haven't even been able to get a picture of the Master's Heir. He's been keeping it hush-hush," said Drake. "I heard he is a hunch-back and horribly ugly from the house fire he got caught in while trying to bring back the dead."
Danny actually choked at the absurdity of it … and how oddly close it kind of was at the same time.
"I told you that was a rumor," demanded the mousy girl as she showed off the camera hung around his neck. "I hear his name is Daniel and he's supposed to be outrageously handsome."
Danny blushed at this as he sputtered to find something to say, "Well, uh … I'm sure he is … but I still need my gun back and I can't crawl up there."
"What? Need a boost?" said Drake as he started to assist the mousy girl up. "You have noodle arms and can't pull yourself up?"
Sputtering, feeling like his masculinity had just been insulted even though the other teenager's tone held no true contempt, "B-but you are crawling in filthy vents."
Truthfully, that was a poor excuse. For one thing, Danny knew he had no room to criticize. Oh the disgusting places he had ended up when his ghost powers malfunctioned. He still didn't know how those sewer workers had bought the lie that he just looked like a minor and that he really was just a hobo that lived down there… Now what is the way up? I've been trapped down here for four hours now and need to see sunlight.
"Oh, you are one of those kind of kids who were sheltered way too much, weren't you," said Drake, giving him a piteous look almost.
"Wait? What? What do you mean by one of those kids?"
"Nothing, nothing," said Drake as he took a wobbly step onto the flipped wheelchair. "Also … if you get that Gnome gun back at all, it probably will be in pieces. Tech goes to Red Raven Academy on a scholarship because of his unfathomable curiosity … meaning he likes to take things apart. Too bad he's not so good about putting them back together thought."
"Fine," finally surrendered Danny. "I'll crawl into the vent, get stuck and when they are tearing the hospital down they will find our bones, but I want my gun back."
Drake gave him a bewildered look before he laughed, offering Danny a boost as he cupped his hands.
Unknowingly, Danny had just become the newest part of the Scooby gang … most likely in the position of the dog.
Elsewhere in the hospital, Vlad winced slightly as Dr. Monroe ran her fingers over the burn on his neck. She had done it three times already, this confused yet calculating look on her face that Vlad did not quite trust.
Not that he really trusted anyone.
Deciding to interrupt the silence, he asked, "Is there something wrong? Do you think it is going to scar badly?"
Pulling away as if noticing that she had been staring, she murmured, "We have ointments that will help reduce the scaring, I will write you a prescription, but if you don't mind me asking … how did you get this burn mark? I know you were in a car accident, but this mark looks identical to another patient of mine. I was wondering if they are related."
She, of course, forgot to mention that said that patient was now on a cold slab in the morgue, but Vlad didn't need to know how her colleague had died nor the burn marks on his body.
Frowning, not liking the way she was staring at him as if she was listening to a confession, he sat back and pulled on his shirt before he answered, "Honestly, I do not know. I awoke with it after the accident."
The doctor nodded and with the same calculating eyes asked, "And did anyone witness the accident?"
Danny, obviously, even though the teenager had said he hadn't seen anything on the bridge since he was trapped in the car most of the time. He had confessed this while staring at his hands intently like he was in a daze. The cops had dismissed him as a witness almost immediately, but Vlad knew all too well there was more to the story. There was a lot of holes Danny had to answer to in fact, but now was not the place or time to question it.
Opening his mouth, about to state that there was no one reliable that witnessed the incident, a large squeak suddenly came from the ceiling interrupting the silence, making both adults jump as they looked up at the strangely sagging ceiling.
"What was that?" Danny squawked. He could have sworn that vent had just moved below him.
"I don't know. Quiet. It's hard to hear anything with this and the discussion just took an interesting turn," said Tech as he continued to press his stethoscope-looking device to the base of the vent.
"What, did he reveal he is a criminal mastermind and he wants her to join his league of evil doers?" said Drake which made Danny choke again with just how close and yet how wrong he was.
"Shh, no. I think we are about to get an awkward kissing scene," blushed the Asian girl who Danny had mentally labeled Daphne as she leaned in close to Tech in order to hear though his headset.
All the boys, currently in a crossway in the vent's systems, shared a skeptical look.
Well, Danny's was more of a horrified expression especially when a rather large squeak scared all of them, the vent suddenly shaking.
"Um, we will discuss that later and how wrong you were, Lisa," said Drake, aka the Fred of the group, "because I think we have bigger issues than the mystery of Vlad Masters and his godson."
"Oh, thank Sunday Breakfast," whispered Danny as if he had just dodged a bullet, cringing a second later when he realized he had just used a phrase Vlad would.
"Why?" asked the Velma girl as he looked up from her digital map of the hospital's vents.
"Now … nobody panic, but I think the VENT'S COLLAPSING!"
Pulling his jacket on, staring upward at the ceiling as his eyebrows creased, Vlad murmured, "Miss Monroe … perhaps you should call maintenance. That squeaking can't be good."
Monroe, taking a step back when a small amount of plaster rained down on her and Vlad, agreed, "Yes, definitely. It's the ventilation system no doubt. Probably raccoons or something got in them."
"It sounds too big for raccoons," cringed Vlad before a second later the ceiling cave in.
Sheetrock, metal, and teenagers went flying everywhere. White dust filled the scene as someone fell in Vlad's arms, making the man almost stumble and fall forward though the extra strength of his ghost half kept him standing.
Resisting the urge to drop whoever was in his arms, Vlad coughed violently as the dust and debris got into his lungs along with everyone else in the room.
Only after a few moment of coughing and moaning and creative curses, did the dust settle enough to reveal the carnage.
Dr. Monroe, her hair and pretty much her whole form now a white dusty color, actually showed a peak of emotion as she snapped, "Who are you kids and what have you done!"
Vlad, only looking at the huffing one for a moment, turned to his own problem at hand. Literally at hand considering there was a squirming body in his arm. It was some odd looking kid with a crazy haircut and … what was he holding? Was that his modified Gnome Plasma Gun? Where in the great Candy Kingdom did he get that?!
Setting the lanking teenager on his feet, Masters promptly pulled the half dissected tool away, his tone struggling to remain calm as he almost barked, "Where did you get that? Why were you even in the vents? Are you some technology spy?"
The teenager, a look of awe and horror on his face, could only murmur, "So it is yours … it is beautiful. Can I touch your head so that I may know creative genius?"
Vlad, leaning back slightly, didn't know if he should ask again or get a restraining order on the spot, yet he suddenly got one of his answers when a very dusty colored Danny pushed a vent off of himself and stood there a moment, a look of horror morphing on his features.
"Well, at least that answers that question, doesn't it Daniel?" said Vlad as he dusted his shoulder off, the slightest hitch of anger in his voice. "I would scold you for taking prototypes without permission, but I think that is on the bottom tier given the … lack of a ceiling right now."
Danny at that very moment, as he was ogled by the other surprised and gapping teenagers in the room, felt what it was really like to be Vlad Master's heir … and he hated it. He just wanted to be Danny Fenton. Just Danny. Not Daniel. Not the Master's heir. Not a tabloid secret. He just wanted to be Danny. Standing there, feeling the others gape as he rubbed his arm, he felt that Vlad couldn't have thought of a better punishment if he had actually tried.
Not even when Vlad had said how disappointed he was in Danny as they left the hospital, did Danny forget the looks he had received. Here he had thought Vlad would be the bane of his new existence, but it seemed that the man's reputation was just as equally a thing to be feared because those teenagers no longer looked at him as just another teenager wandering where he wasn't supposed to be. They looked at him with a mixture of horror and awe, the secret of a secretive man.
It was not a feeling he liked.
Paw07: What would you do without me? Really, I'd like to know. Also, I just found out that they want to cancel DP. Danny Phantom is one of the few shows that I want to watch on Nickelodeon! I sure hope that petition works… Oh great all this bad news has made me depressed. On a completely different note … I went to a funeral. It was sad … my refrigerator died and I don't think I'll ever be the same without it. I haven't had a glass of milk or a bowl of cereal in two weeks.
Updates: Ugh, why did you suck so much chapter? I practically had to re-write every scene. I even deleted a scene with Skulker and Walker, threw out the original Dr. Monroe introduction, Gatzby the detective didn't even get his brief introduction nor the Mystery Inc. kids original introduction. But this chapter was just so bad and so filler-y. Regardless, I added about 2,000 words to this puppy. I don't even want to know how long this story is going to be when I'm done if I keep adding words at this rate. Probably 300,00 instead of the original 210,000-ish. Ugh, I hate this chapter. I should have just deleted the hospital scene all together.
(Revisions January 2014)