Author's Note: Heya, heya, heya. It's been quite a while. Coincidentally, this story has been sitting around in my brain for quite a while. I'm sure there are about, oh, a BAZILLION others like it, because it's interesting to wonder just what happens when a half-ghost dies… Well, here's my take on it, introducing James Fenton, completely unrelated to the Danny's Kids of my other DP fic (feel free to read it).
Disclaimer: Everyone seen the newest hour-long? That was a hoot, let me tell you. Haha, the nerd convention (anyone else think a Danny Phantom comic book would be slammin'?) And the teddy bears. Hah! Good stuff.
It was starting to rain. I felt a droplet hit my nose, and my first instinct was to reach up and wipe it away, but to be honest I was kind of afraid to. I wasn't exactly up to date on the whole funeral etiquette thing, considering I hadn't attended one since the death of my mother's father: and at that point I had been about two years old, and not at all aware of why I was forced into the uncomfortable suit, or why everyone around me was so busy being sad they weren't paying me any attention.
I was afraid that if I moved at all, even just to scratch my nose, I would somehow break the solemn spell that encased the small black-clad crowd around the grave. Everyone else was perfectly still, looking with sad eyes at the fresh headstone, or the casket which would be lowered into the earth at any moment, or at the guy who was currently making a little speech. I didn't recognize him. Apparently he was one of my dad's colleagues at Casper High, but I didn't recall him from my high school days.
My mom, Aunt Jazz, Uncle Tuck and Valerie had all refused to make any such speech, despite the fact that aside from me they were closest to the departed. Valerie just looked mad with the whole business. Uncle Tuck seemed bored, and even as he looked intently at the speaker I could tell his mind was elsewhere. Probably on video games, considering that's what he does. Not to mention eats, sleeps, and breathes. (I mean, seriously, who really gets a job designing video games? It makes my internship at the Amity Prosecutor's Office look like grave-digging, midnight shift.)
Grave-digging. I shuddered.
And Mom… well, if there's one thing about my mom and my dad (who was the guy in the casket, if that hasn't been made apparent yet) it's that they're still in love with each other. Even though they're old, and most older couples stay together out of habit rather than actual attraction these days. Not Mom and Dad though. Seriously, it's actually kind of gross how into each other they are. If I was a romantic type, or maybe, you know, a girl, I would probably think it was sweet, and hope I could have something similar someday myself.
Actually, considering the past few days… but I digress.
Mom did not seem particularly angry, or bored. If anything, she did manage to look sad and I think some of it, at least, was genuine.
The Horn of Gondor sounded to my right, that is, Aunt Maybelle (I hadn't been aware I even had an Aunt Maybelle until three days ago. Technically she's my mother's aunt. She had been particularly fond of Dad because I guess when Mom was a kid everyone expected her to run off with some tattoo-ed drug dealer named Fang or whatever, since she was Goth ((which, I have to tell you, I can't picture at all)) so when she fell for a teacher everyone in the family got all excited) blew her nose on a lacy hanky.
This kind of perturbed me because I didn't think anyone actually carried those things anymore, although Aunt May is really old, and it also let me know that it might be okay to scratch my nose after all. That was a relief.
Or it was at least, until I jumped nearly three feet in the air as a familiar voice said "boo!" right in my ear.
I looked sharply to my right, but of course no one was there. Just Aunt Maybelle, crying into her handkerchief as Mr. Who-ever reminisced about some experience or another he and Dad had shared. Still, I knew better than to trust my eyes.
"What are you doing here?" I hissed, quietly enough that no one elsewould hear me. I doubt they could over Aunt May's increasingly loud snuffles.
"What, wasn't I invited?" the voice shot back, wryly. I groaned in response, glancing in both directions to make sure no one had noticed what had suddenly caught my attention. I tried to keep my eyes focused forward.
Really, it wouldn't have made a difference. I couldn't have seen my father unless he wanted me to.
"Don't you think it's kind of morbid to show up at your own funeral?" I wondered in the quietest of whispers. He chuckled in my ear, which tickled and made me wonder just how close to me he was. In his current state, he could have been perched on my shoulder for all I knew.
"Sam looks pretty," he said, which wasn't at all an answer. Sam, meaning Mom. He didn't sound wistful or anything, as you might expect from a guy who had just died when he was talking about his wife. He just sounded, you know like I mentioned earlier, like he was in love. I glanced over at Mom. I guess she did look pretty nice. Black has always been her color. I don't think anyone else had noticed, but the lacy veil that covered her face had tiny bats embroidered in it. That seemed to suit her too.
As if she noticed me looking at her, she suddenly glanced in my direction and offered a small smile. I smiled back, and I tried to indicate with my eyes that the funeral had gained another spectator. She didn't seem to get the message though, as I hadn't really expected her to, and turned her attention back to the speaker, now a teenage girl who had apparently been one of dad's students. It kind of weirded me out that she had liked him enough as a teacher to talk at his funeral. Then again, I'd never had Dad as a teacher so I wouldn't know. I had purposely requested not to be put in his classes, because he has ways to embarrass me like you wouldn't believe, even when we're not in public.
Like right now, for instance, where he was beginning to give me a running commentary on what was going on around us, starting with Aunt Maybelle's hat…
"My God," he whispered, sounding shocked, "What is that thing? How many crows had to die to create it?" It was true, too. The hat sitting atop her artificially red hair was a massive pile of, well, feathers. Not just feathers, either, but what looked like entire bird wings. Some sticking out, apparently in mid-flight. I suddenly got a mental image of the wings flapping and Aunt Maybelle flying away, and just barely contained the ensuing snort of laughter. It didn't help that dad had begun to sing "Twenty-four blackbirds stuffed on a hat—"
I shot a glare in his general direction, although really, I kind of appreciated the levity. I mentioned I'm not really up to date on the funeral thing and it was pretty depressing.
He sounded a lot different from three days ago, that much is for sure. I'll never forget 'til my dying day (and probably not for a long time after that) the phone call I got, or how my father's voice sounded.
I was at the office doing, whoop-dee-doo, filing (I don't get to do much else, except occasionally take lunch orders. Maybe after my second year at law school they'll take me a bit more seriously) when my pocket vibrated. Technically, I wasn't supposed to have my cell phone on in the office, you know, so as not to disturb anyone, but since I was the only one in the record room, I figured it would be okay. I recognized the tone as being from home, and picked up, hoping there would be some excuse to get out of work early.
An excuse, huh? I had no idea just what sort of excuse I was about to get.
It was my father. I found this kind of strange because I knew for a fact he had taken the day off from school to do some work on the Fenton Portal (that's the thing in my grandparent's basement he uses to get in and out of the Ghost Zone… yeah, don't ask) since apparently it'd been acting up lately, and letting more ghosts through that usual.
"James?" he said, his voice sounding odd, "I need your help."
I couldn't imagine why he would be calling to ask for my help, since he knows that I am 100 percentuninterested in Ghost Stuff.
Sure, I know how to work all the crazy weapons my grandparents and Valerie cook up. Grandpa Jack has been drilling that stuff into my head since forever, because really, if you're going to live in Amity Park that's just the kind of stuff you have to know. And then there's the whole ghost powers thing… Dad tries to teach me new tricks now and then, but I don't really like exploring those particular talents of mine…
At any rate, I didn't see how he could possibly be calling me for help since I didn't know anything about the Ghost Portal, nor would I be very interested in learning about it.
Even so, I glanced out the door to make sure no pompous lawyer was going to come barging in to yell at me and make me go get them coffee or something, and then said "Sure, what's up?"
I didn't react to what he said next. I didn't gasp, or drop the phone, or even raise an eyebrow. You might find this kind of strange because what he said was "I think I'm dead."
"Well, yeah," I said after a pause, lowering my voice a little (this wasn't exactly turning into a conversation I'd want overheard, much less in a prosecutor's office) "But you've been sort-of-dead for like thirty years."
He laughed then, but it wasn't his usual laugh. He didn't sound scared exactly, more like bewildered. Like something had happened that he couldn't quite understand. "I know, but I don't mean sort-of-dead. I mean really dead. 100 percent dead. I think I died just now."
That sort of rocked me. Then I wondered, was this some sort of joke? My dad was something of a prankster (not a good attitude for a guy as powerful as him, I can tell you that from first-hand experience. You haven't been a prank victim until your own father decides to make your pants invisible on your first day of high school.)
But he didn't seem to be joking. Actually, he was babbling, something Mom told me he did when he was nervous back when they were kids.
"No, listen to me James. I was working on the Ghost Portal, you know inside it, but not inside it, and somehow it got turned on while I was in there. I think I accidentally hit something. And you know you're not supposed to stand in there when it turns on—"
"I know," I interjected. My parents had drilled this into my head since I was old enough to understand English.
"And I just saw all these flashes of light, and it felt like…well it felt like last time."
I shuddered. Only once had my father recounted to me the time when he had first gotten his ghost powers… I had been assured it was not a very pleasant experience. In fact, he said it felt like dying. Painfully.
"I guess I passed out for a while, because when I came to… well, I was in the lab, and I was me." I knew without asking that when he said "me" he meant his other self. Danny Phantom, as he's called in that form (though in human form he usually goes by 'Dan'). It was something about the inflection in his voice. "But," he continued, "There was another me," this time I knew he meant his human self, "Laying on the floor inside the portal. Dead."
"Dead," I repeated. Suddenly I didn't even have the energy to make it a question.
"Dead," he confirmed.
For a moment we were both silent as he let me process this development. Finding my voice at last, I asked him, "Are you… are you sure? I mean, did you check? Does it have a pulse?"
"Dead people are kind of my thing, James," he said, somewhat haughtily, "I think I know what I'm talking about."
"Well…" It still hadn't completely sunk in yet. I mean, my dad? Dead? My dad couldn't be dead. There's just no way. As far as I was concerned, he was invincible.
And no, I was not just in denial (well, okay, I was, but not ordinary denial). You know, 'no one believes it could happen to them' and all that. Drunk driving lectures. Yeah, got it. But really, this couldn't happen to my dad. He was a halfa. A very powerful halfa at that. Much more powerful than me, anyway, or any other ghosts I've ever seen (which are quite a few, let me tell you).
"Maybe you should call an ambulance," I told him, still doubtful of his verdict, "Maybe you're just in a coma. Maybe they can revive you."
"Yeah," he said, and I could tell he was quite shaken because he was actually taking my advice. "Yeah, I'll call an ambulance."
And just like that, he hung up. I stared at my cell for while after that, my heart pounding in my throat. Part of me kind of hoped that I had just fallen asleep on my feet for five minutes (not completely unlikely in a place as dull as the office) and had a bizarre dream that was a reflection of my subconscious distaste for anything ghostly. That is, I figured Aunt Jazz would say something like that if I told her about it. Maybe I should call her.
I wanted to call her. I wanted to call her and tell her about my bizarre dream and have her give me a nice, rational explanation and then go back to taking notes on whatever client she happened to have on the Couch at that point. Instead, I left the filing room (without even retrieving the folders I was supposed to) and walked straight out of the office.
"Where are you going?" Peg asked. Peg (short for Peggy) is the other intern at the office. She's actually very pretty and I'd been trying to work up the courage to ask her out since the beginning of the summer. I wasn't thinking about asking her out at that point though. I had fallen into a bewildered daze, similar to my dad.
"Just got a phone call," I said, showing her my cell phone (still open) as if she needed proof. "I think my dad's dead."
It was weird saying it out loud. My heart pounded faster and for once not because Peg had a well-appreciated taste for low-cut shirts.
Peg's hand flew to her mouth and she said "Oh my god! Do you want me to come with you?"
I shook my head, still speaking with an oddly blank inflection, "No. Just cover for me, will you?" And I left.
And then I did something I usually avoided at all costs. I headed into the nearest alley and did what my dad refers to as "Goin' Ghost!"
It sucks not having a car, let me tell you, but my crappy intern job isn't enough to buy one and my parents aren't any help. I mean, my Mom has some serious family money but she refuses to touch any of it because she and her parents were never, shall we say, very close.
It's not so bad though, when you can fly.
I'll admit I enjoyed it. The half-ghost thing generally freaks me out, but there is no way you can not like flying. It's just the coolest. And it was the quickest way home.
The ambulance was already there when I arrived. I landed down the street, quickly reverted to my human self, and ran up to it in time to see a man and a woman in uniform carrying my dad's body out of the house on a stretcher. That really freaked me out, let me tell you. I ran up and demanded "What happened?" even though I already knew.
The woman responded, looking at me sympathetically. "Was he your dad, kid?"
It's true; people often say Dad and I are spitting images. It's no wonder she recognized… wait, was? Was he my dad? Is, woman! Is!
Was my father really and truly dead after all?
And then a voice whispered in my ear "I've always told you not to stand in the Portal when it's activated." He sounded sad, but I was so relieved to hear his voice it didn't matter. The woman was still talking to me, but I couldn't really hear what she was saying. Something about whether or not there was some one else I should contact, like my mother (Oh, God, mom was gonna be pissed). I nodded dumbly at her, and she asked me if I wanted to come with them. So I did. I jumped right into the back the ambulance, and rode with them to the hospital. I asked them to leave me alone in the back, so as to have some time with my father. They had no idea how literally I meant that.
"How could you?" I could hardly keep myself from screaming. I had moved on to the Anger Stage, as Aunt Jazz would have called it, I guess, although I wasn't exactly grieving the person who was sitting right next to me, perfectly visible and normal looking.
Well as normal looking as my father ever looked as Danny Phantom.
"Look, I told you I'm sorry," he said, exasperated as if I was making a big deal of him eating the last of the ice cream in the fridge instead of accidentally killing himself. I would have hit him if I wasn't entirely sure he could kick my ass without even lifting a finger.
The next few days were a blur. Needless to say, Mom was really pissed. But also I think, in a strange way, relieved. Dad was always putting himself into danger, often life-threatening danger. I think she had really been expecting him to kick the bucket sooner rather than later all along. Now that it had finally happened, she was relieved like some one who has quickly removed a band-aid. A second or two of pain, but then…
Plus there was the small fact that, despite Dad's body being quite dead as the coroner assured us, due to the excessive amounts of ecto-energy he had been exposed to in the accident (I found this kind of ironic, or something, since my dad is practically a walking being of ecto-energy) it was apparent that his Danny Phantom form was intact (and, to his relief, all of his powers just as strong as they had always been).
But he would never become human again.
This is how I came to be standing in the coming rain that day at his funeral, watching as some sixteen-year-old cried about his death while he invisibly floated beside me and made fun of Aunt Maybelle's hat.
When the speeches were finally done, the casket lowered, and a ceremonious handful of dirt tossed on top by each friend and family member (Dad thought it was funny to toss some dirt at me after it was my turn to do so, insisting it was fair payback. I swear, being half-ghost gives you a really morbid sense of humor.)
As the crowd began to disperse, the Family (I mean the real family, like those of us who had come to the funeral merely for show since, obviously, we had not gotten rid of Dad so easily), gathered closer to the headstone. Mom, Aunt Jazz, Uncle Tuck, and Valerie.
"So that's it then," Aunt Jazz murmured. She seemed the most bummed of all us, but I guess that's because she spent most of her life making sure something like this wouldn't happen.
"Whose up for lunch?" Uncle Tuck asked, yawning and stretching his arms in the air. If there's one thing more appealing to him than video games, it's food.
"Whose buying?" an oh-so-familiar voice asked. And then Dad appeared, right in our midst, his garish DP hazmat looking bizarre with the dull cemetery as a back drop. My mother glared at him. She was still a little mad, I think, about him getting himself killed.
"You are," she said sternly. My father's dark skin (most ghosts are pale and greenish or icky looking, but my dad and I get this bizarre Californian glow) paled visibly. I did not want to be there when Mom chewed him out later.
"Actually," I said, and all eyes flew to me as if all the 'adults' had forgotten I was there. This isn't an irregular occurrence. They all have this, well, for lack of a better word, clique basically because they'd all been through so much even before I was born. "I've kind of got a da—"
"A date?" Uncle Tuck crowed, clapping me harshly on the shoulder. I forced a grin, annoyed that now they were paying attention to me.
"I didn't know you were seeing anyone," Aunt Jazz said, the gears in her head obviously turning. I grimaced, imagining Jazz psycho-analyzing Peg at their first meeting.
That's right; I'd finally up and asked Peg out. We'd actually been out the past two nights as well. I'm pretty sure at first she just said yes because she felt sorry for me, what with my dad 'dying', but we'd really hit it off. Who knows? If things keep going the way they have been I might even let her meet Dad some day…
Let me tell you, they were all getting a kick out of making a big deal about the date thing. I was almost sorry I had brought it up at all. Still, it was weird, the five of them standing over my dad's headstone and laughing and talking just like they weren't all dressed in solemn black and present at the tail-end of a dear friend's funeral.
I told them goodbye, giving hugs where needed, and an exaggeratedly manly handshake to Uncle Tuck. I think all of them believe I'm still ten years old, instead of twenty-one come two months from now. The rain was continuing to get worse and I knew the long walk to the café where I'd told Peg I'd meet her was going to be wet and uncomfortable. Still, glancing back at my parents and their friends, not seeming to mind the rain as they chattered over my dad's grave, I focused on my father. His head was raised above the others, as he was floating a few inches above the ground. It occurred to me that he would never, truly, feel something as simple as the rain on his skin, again.
I guess it just seemed important to make light of the situation. Even so, I could not bring myself to go intangible, where the rain would not affect me. With a final wave to the Family, I walked on, and got wet.