AN: First Danny Phantom fic, and I fought long and hard against giving into the need to write for this genre. I totally blame this on my friend Taka, who was insane enough to look at me after watching Danny Phantom for nearly fourteen hours straight and ask, "So what about Deathdays?"
Someday she'll learn not to say things like that around me.
Not sure if anyone's ever pursued this particular idea before, but it's highly unlikely that they did it in this way, if they did. Then again, random chance being what it is… Anywho, I never read anything remotely like this before writing it. Hopefully neither have you!
And I just have to add: Uploading fics is a major pain. This layout looks nothing like what I wanted! I can't even figure out how to do breaks without those stupid periods! Argh! Foofie! Just...grr!
...Hours later, I just have to say, oh my God, I find a single typo and fixing it is like friggin' brain surgery.
Disclaimer: I'll own him someday, and then the television will be overrun with never-ending new episodes featuring super-hot!Danny (insert maniacal laughter here) Meanwhile, though, I own nothing, not even the original idea, which was Taka's…but I did tweak that first thought quite a bit, and the words are mine, anyway.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the Ghost Child, as good as alone in the middle of nowhere. It's almost like you want to be a pelt at the foot of my bed."
Danny Fenton, sitting under a cherry tree situated in the middle of a large abandoned meadow that was indeed in the middle of nowhere, traded a surprised glance with his two best friends. To Sam and Tucker's amusement, Danny grinned.
"Skulker!" the halfa crowed, leaning back on his arms to get a better look at the persistent hunter. "Just the ghost I wanted to see. It's been really dull here lately—What's with the two-month reprieve, anyway? I was beginning to think I'd finally lost my novelty," he admitted facetiously, grin still in place and unmoved as light climbed up and down his body, starting at his waist and leaving behind something fantastic.
And as he shot a net that wrapped harmlessly around the tree trunk where the Child had been sitting, Skulker wondered if it were possible for a creature like the whelp to ever lose his novelty. Certainly hunting him never would. "Two months is nothing compared to the eternity you will spend as my trophy!"
Danny twisted mid-air, graceful and swift as he shot ecotoblasts near Skulker, forcing the bigger ghost to retreat slightly. "Two months of not having to avoid becoming wall art might not be anything, but even you've got to admit that you've been stalking me a long time."
For a moment, Skulker looked genuinely insulted. "I don't stalk you, I hunt you. There's a difference, impudent whelp!"
"Sure there is," the teenage ghost-fighter conceded with a dramatic eye roll, catching the blast of ecto-energy his opponent threw at him. Danny tossed it up and down like a ball, free hand fisted on his hip while he added just enough of his own power to make the sphere uncomfortably bright and large. Then Phantom held the ball between both hands, squashing it to a super-bright nova about the size of a golf ball. "The important thing is you believe that."
"You sound like Jazz," Tucker complained, playing with his newest PDA rather than watch a fight he'd seen a thousand different times in a thousand different places.
"Traitor!" Danny cried in accusation, the sphere hovering absently over one hand while the other pointed at his friend. "Take that back!"
"Getting back to the point," Sam interjected easily, sprawled out in the grass to get the best view of the ghostly exchange. "I agree that nearly two years of 'hunting' without anything to show for it gets pretty close to the realm of 'stalking'."
"Time does not change the status of the hunt," Skulker insisted with false bravado as he eyed the Child's energy blast nervously. He busied himself with quick calculations, computing how much of his suit might survive something like that. Still grinning, Danny kicked up the intensity of the sphere simply by closing his hand around it, and Skulker decided that a new tactic had to be found. Now. "But has it really been two years?" he added, plowing headlong into the trusty old standby of "distract and run".
"Just about," Danny agreed, musing on the topic as he absently spun the power ball on the tip of his right index finger.
"Actually," Tucker realized, a little startled, "next Tuesday it should be two years exactly since you first got your ghost powers, right guys? And Skulker showed up not too long after that. Remember?"
"Like we could ever forget," Sam sighed, eyelids drooping to a lazy half-mast. "Hurry up and finish, Danny, you've gotta fly us home soon."
"All right, all right," Danny grumbled, winding up for the pitch.
"How do you celebrate your Deathday as a halfa?" Skulker rushed, only needing a few more moments of diversion to ready himself for a strategic retreat. "I've always wondered about your traditions."
All two-and-a-half humans stared at him, the halfa with his arm still cranked back. "What did you say?" they chorused.
Skulker blinked. "Celebrate?" he offered.
"After that," Tucker prompted.
"In the middle," Sam corrected impatiently.
"Eh?" Danny wondered, lowering his arm slowly, his eyebrows arched high in interest. "Deathday?"
Skulker rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, risking a mild glare that the halfa either didn't notice or ignored. "Please, whelp, you can't fool me. If you don't want to share your Deathday traditions with another ghost, just say so."
But Danny looked genuinely befuddled, head tilted to one side. He glanced at his friends to be sure they were as confused as he was before asking, "My what?"
"Your Deathday, you simpering—Wait, you really don't know?"
Now the powerful half-ghost was beginning to get irritated, and it showed in the flare of green spider lightning that crawled over the bright sphere he still held lightly in his left hand. "No I don't know. I think I'd remember celebrating something like a Deathday!"
"You think Hallmark makes cards for this occasion?" Tucker asked Sam.
Sam swiped his PDA and pushed him over.
"All ghosts celebrate the day they died," Skulker told them seriously.
"Even half-ghosts?" Danny prompted.
"Plasmius does, as should you. It goes against our code not to. You might be only half in our world, but that half is bound to the full extent of all the traditions."
"But I don't know how to celebrate a Deathday," Danny protested, startled again by the genuine determination in Skulker's mechanical eyes. "What am I supposed to do? It's a school day!"
Then a terrifying transformation came over Skulker as an excited grin split his face in two and he pounded one fist into the opposite hand. "Never fear, Ghost Child. I'll take care of everything." And, in a flash, he was gone.
The trio of teens stared at the empty space where a ghost had been in mute shock and deep confusion.
"I'm completely lost," Danny admitted, crunching the power sphere into nothingness. The energy rushed away in a silent shockwave that rustled leaves and caused some animals to stumble but didn't destroy anything as it dissipated.
"Well he just saved himself from a serious butt-whoopin'," Tucker groused, snatching his PDA back and scowling at Sam. "I really wanted to see you tear his limbs off, Danny."
The halfa arched an eyebrow at him, landing lightly on the ground. "Again?" he asked, crossing his arms.
"Hell yeah! It's comedy gold!" Tucker laughed a little, wiping away an imaginary tear. "Ah, it just never gets old."
"He's more creative than I remember with his retreating-but-not-running-away tactics," Sam decided, taking Danny's hand when he offered it. He pulled her to her feet, maintaining his hold on her hand even when she was steady.
Sam smiled shyly at him but didn't comment.
Tucker, for his part, rolled his eyes as he stood, stowing his PDA for the flight back to Amity Park. "You two really need to get a room or something."
"Maybe for my Deathday," Danny teased, grinning.
Sam poked him in the side just before Phantom gathered his friends close, coiled his strength, and leapt into the late afternoon sky with them. Flight with Danny was always thrilling with its breakneck speeds and hairpin turns. They enjoyed it without fear because they knew he would never allow harm to come to them, but it also succeeded in chasing all thoughts of Deathdays out of their minds completely.
But only until next Tuesday.
The day began peacefully, quietly—which really should have been a clue. Unsung superhero Danny Fenton tried to ignore his alarm clock when it first started blaring at him, but, as it was built by his parents to be obnoxious on a personal level, curling up and plugging his ears only worked for so long. Eventually he faced the inevitable, phasing one arm through his blankets to flail in the general direction of the irritating wail. When this didn't work either, he gave the whole thing up as a bad job and just shot an ecotoblast, which shut it up pretty efficiently.
Unfortunately, her family being what it was had made Maddie Fenton categorically familiar with the sound of small, controlled explosions. Knowing her, she'd probably been listening for it. Almost before the dust settled and way before Danny could roll over and go back to sleep, the mother knocked on her son's door, calling through, "We didn't give you that Fenton Ecto-gun so you could destroy your things, young man! It's for protection only. You'd better be able to put that clock back together, because your father and I will not be buying you another one!"
Curled up under his warm blanket, eyes still shut and feeling lazy, Danny grinned.
But after sixteen years, Maddie knew him too well. She banged loudly on the door again, jiggling the unlocked doorknob threateningly. "Don't make me come in there and get you up, Danny! You'll regret it later if I do!"
Grumbling now, the ghost boy hauled himself out of bed, responding through a yawn, "I'm up already! Jeez, Mom, try decaf once in a while, okay?"
This didn't merit a response, and Danny sighed as he sat on the edge of his bed and stretched, arms strained to their full extent above his head. He bent his elbows and twisted his torso, encouraging his spine to realign itself. As popping sounds filled the room, Danny began to once again seriously consider the idea of a visit to the chiropractor. Jazz hasn't thought of it yet but Sam was pretty persistent if she wanted—
Hello, what's this?
A twist to the left had brought an odd and unfamiliar object into Danny's line of sight. Relatively certain it wouldn't be anything dangerous (few of the ghosts were stupid enough to try sneak attacks in his home after the last incident with Technus), he picked the small rectangle up, surprised to realize it was a dark green plastic lunchbox with a picture of a plate of cookies on the front.
What in the world…?
He cracked the top open and discovered a chocolate chip cookie.
First thing in the morning? his subconscious whispered guilty, but he'd eaten the confection before the thought processed. Danny turned the lunchbox over, wildly curious as he examined every square inch. No name; no note; no explanation.
"Huh…" The youngest Fenton shut the lid of what appeared to be his new and brilliantly juvenile lunchbox, flipping down the latch to keep it closed. After a moment more of silent thought, he shook it by his ear, even though he knew—logically—it had to be empty.
Something inside rattled.
Eyes wide with surprise, Danny popped the lid open. He munched on the peanut butter cookie sitting inside as he pondered how, exactly, it had gotten there. Something in the back of his mind nagged him, something about the date…
Wait. Wasn't it Tuesday today?
Almost on cue, a sweet old lady's voice said, "Happy Deathday, dear Child!"
Fighting a grimace, Danny turned to face the Lunch Lady, wishing he'd been clever enough to get dressed in something more substantial than black boxers with a green glow-in-the-dark ghost pattern before he'd checked out the lunchbox. "We're not really gonna get into it this early in the morning," he challenged a little weakly. "Are we?"
The Lunch Lady laughed in her kindly way, waving her serving spoon at him as though he were a favored (if unruly) grandchild. "Now, deary, you should know better than that, this being your second Deathday, after all. You just enjoy your gifts and eat up, hmm?" She frowned at him disapprovingly. "You're far too thin for a boy of your age. Just need a little more MEAT on your bones. Bye now!"
"Wait!" Danny cried, putting his lunchbox aside and standing before she vanished. "Tell me before you go: It's just you, right? The other ghosts aren't part of this, are they?"
The Lunch Lady looked surprised. "Why, of course they are! If you don't have any pre-existing traditions of your own planned, it's our responsibility—part of the code, you understand."
"So…" Danny motioned feebly to the lunchbox sitting on his bed, dread and defeat joining the cookies in his stomach. "So ghosts are going to pop up all day giving me presents? Just…randomly show up?"
"Certainly, deary! Well, all the proper ones will. The rest will have to just FACE THEIR PRE-PACKAGED LUNCHES OF DOOM! some other time. Enjoy your Deathday!"
For a long moment, the halfa barely breathed. He took some time to shut his eyes and imagine the various assorted places ghosts could pop up, the wide and vague definition of "present" that could be used against him. At home, at school, during lunch…
Shit. He was really gonna need a bigger thermos this time.
Sam Manson, sole heiress to the Manson family fortune, opened her door to greet her best friends and was startled by the conspicuous absence of a dark-haired boy with ice blue eyes.
"Danny's not here," Tucker said unnecessarily, shrugging as he adjusted the weight of his backpack.
"Thanks for that, Sherlock," the girl replied dryly, stepping fully outside and shutting the door behind her. "Any idea why?"
"Not really. Usually he's the first one here waiting too…y'know, what with his massive unspoken crush on—"
"Guys!" Both teens turned to watch Danny come sprinting up, faster than he pretended to be in school mostly because no one cared how quick he was in the outside world. He skidded to a halt at the foot of Sam's stoop, pausing a moment to catch his breath before showing them what he carried in his arms.
"A plastic lunchbox and an abacus?" Sam arched an eyebrow at Danny, taking the ancient mathematical tool from him to examine it, sliding the beads around until she had the number sixteen. "We grew out of show-and-tell a while ago, Danny. What's up with the toys?"
"Cool lunchbox though," Tucker admitted, admiring the picture on the font. Danny opened the box, taking out a dark chocolate cookie and offering it to the techno nerd. "Sweet!" Tucker crowed, snatching the treat. "Cookies for breakfast!" He devoured his snack, pointedly ignoring Sam's disapproving glare.
"There's always a cookie in it," Danny explained, halfway between amused and harassed. He shut the box, paused, and opened it again. He arched an eyebrow at the result, handing the ensuing oatmeal raisin to Sam, who sighed but accepted.
"Where'd you find a lunchbox that always has a cookie in it, anyway?" The girl narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "This isn't another of your dad's crazy inventions, is it?"
"No," Danny promised, "a ghost gave it to me." He reached out to adjust the number Sam had on the abacus from sixteen to two. "This thing, too." A momentary hesitation was followed by an uncertain, slightly helpless laugh. "They're Deathday presents!"
Tucker and Sam stared for a moment, mouths gaping open. Almost in unison they exclaimed, "Deathday presents?"
Danny hushed them with a finger over his mouth and a gentle hiss, glancing around quickly before motioning for them to follow him. The trio started off towards their school as the halfa explained, "The lunchbox was on my bed when I woke up. After I found it, the Lunch Lady showed up and said it was a present for my—well, you know. She said all the ghosts would be stopping by with presents because of tradition! Apparently it's part of the code, though not any part I've ever heard of before."
"You're gonna need a bigger thermos," Tucker realized, blinking.
"Yeah, that's what I though," Danny agreed, smiling ruefully. "But the Lunch Lady disappeared before I could even think about catching her, and the ghost who showed up in the shower was so happy to give me a present that I would've felt bad to get into a fight. Y'know," he added thoughtfully, "I'm not even sure I ever met her before today. Why would a ghost I've never met give me a—you know present?"
Sam squeaked, "She was in your shower?" but Tucker followed up with, "You're famous in the Ghost Zone, Danny. I've been saying it for months: Ghosts who normally wouldn't bother want to get on your good side. This is a perfect opportunity for that."
"But why would they want to get on my good side?" the ghost boy wondered, both amused and embarrassed by Sam's continuing shock, which was beginning to slowly melt into what looked surprisingly like jealous rage.
"It's a power ploy," Tucker explained, ignoring lovebird undercurrents with long practice as he closed and opened the lunchbox, munching on the cookie that materialized just for him. Mmm, macadamia nut. "You're the strongest ghost in existence. Of course they want to be your ally."
Danny brushed Tucker's theory off with an easy shrug. "C'mon, Tuck, I'm not that powerful. There're plenty of ghosts who could put up a good fight against me."
"Name one," Sam challenged, continuing before Danny had a chance. "You may not have noticed, but we have. All you have to do lately is glare and even Skulker backs down. You only fight now if you feel like it! None of them want to face you if you're angry because you're just too strong, Danny."
The ghost boy looked uncomfortable, shifting his hold on his backpack. He opened his mouth to protest, but a shiver took him instead, and his breath hung visible in the air for a moment. Danny rolled his eyes, shooting his friends a look that said, See? They still attack whenever!
Skulker threw that defense out the window with his opening remark: "Happy Deathday, whelp!"
Danny groaned, turning slightly to face his hunter head-on. "What'd you bring me? A state-of-the-art comfy cage? Or, better yet, an instant pelt remover?"
The ghostly collector gave a barked laugh, tossing a glowing something at his prey, who caught it on instinct alone. "None of the above, Child, and there's more where that came from. I spread the word about today, and ghosts are waiting in line to shower you with gifts. Good luck avoiding them—Enjoy your Deathday, whelp!"
"What is it?" Sam asked after Skulker disappeared, and "Why didn't you catch him?" from Tucker.
"I didn't catch him because he only came by to give me a present," Danny explained weakly, glancing down to examine whatever he held cupped in his hands. "How can I possibly catch a ghost for just wanting to give me a gift?"
"Softie," Sam teased. "So what is it?"
"I dunno," the halfa sighed, "maybe it's a—what the—!" His present uncurled itself, stretching with a toothy yawn before sitting up on his forearm to examine him with brightly glowing almond eyes. It appeared to be some sort of ghost animal, a bizarre cross between a fox and a ferret with a small, sleek body and large ears that twisted around to pick up all the new sounds.
"A pet!" Tucker exclaimed, laughing. "Skulker gave you a pet!"
Danny looked distressed as the animal streaked up his arm to lie across his shoulders, draping around his neck and twitching its massively fluffy tail against his cheek. "What'm I supposed to do with—"
"He's so cute," Sam cooed, leaning close to scratch the animal's head with a finger. "Isn't he just beautiful?"
"But," Danny stammered, "but I have school. How am I supposed to hide it—"
"Hide him at school?"
"You think he likes cookies?" Tucker wondered, collecting a few by close-and-opening three or four times.
The animal liked cookies, swallowing them nearly whole. When Sam tried to dust off the crumbs with a tissue, he ate that, too. He ate nearly the entire packet of tissues and a cloth handkerchief before they began to realize that he would eat anything. Tucker tried to feed him a history paper, realizing that "My pet ate it" could finally be a truthful excuse.
"Can we focus, please?" Danny begged, pulling the animal off his shoulders. The new pet squirmed out of his owner's hold, curling up in the crook of the ghost boy's right arm and falling to sleep. Danny sighed deeply. "What am I supposed to do with him during school? He'll eat my desk!"
"Point," Tucker allowed, producing a Fenton Thermos and sucking the animal into it with a promised, "Just during school," to appease Sam, who frowned but allowed it as long as Danny kept the container with him.
It was, after all, his pet, his responsibility.
They made it to school without any further interruptions, though Klemper showed up to give a Deathday hug to his "best friend ever" as the ghost boy stood in front of his locker. Luckily, they were running late enough that not too many people saw, but those who did gave Danny the strangest looks after Klemper disappeared…
Danny laughed nervously, almost hysterically, and dragged his friends to their first class of the day.
"Deep, cleansing breaths," Sam muttered to him as they took their seats, Danny in the middle with Sam behind and Tucker to the left, closer to the window than Danny, who was set up in a location strategically near the door. "We're in class now. None of them would be stupid enough to show up during class, especially since Fenton Works started selling those portable pocket weapons that all us normal people can buy. Calm down, Danny, you're safe here."
The ghost stared at her, eyes wild as he clutched his pet-filled Fenton Thermos to his chest, and said nothing but a softly breathed, "You jinxed it…"
Halfway through that first class, Technus showed up. The students gasped and screamed, trying to get as far away as possible even as Lancer shouted, "Memoirs of a Geisha, people, remain calm!"
Danny, Sam, and Tucker all ignored the teacher's attempts to herd his students out of harm's way. Technus, for his part, smirked down at Danny, whose face was a mask of distress and fury. "Surely you did not think that I, Technus, MASTER of all things electronic and beeping, would forget a day such as today! The celebration of your second D—"
"Finish that statement and I'll destroy you," Danny hissed under his breath, eyes flashing brilliantly green for less than a heartbeat.
Technus froze completely until ice blue human eyes returned, then let out a quiet breath. "Here," he summarized meekly, dropping his gift in Danny's lap. "Enjoy your D—your day, Child." And the longwinded ghost vanished without another word, causing both Tucker and Sam to shoot the frazzled and stressed Danny matching I told you so looks.
Everyone in the classroom was staring at him, from cheerleader to math nerd, eyes huge and bursting with unasked questions. Mr. Lancer's eyes narrowed in suspicion as he crossed his arms, thought process nearly visible as the wheels turned.
Danny sunk low in his desk, mute with embarrassment and pale with fear that someone would use this to connect him with his alter ego, even though Technus hadn't actually said anything. "It's not my fault a ghost showed up in class in the ghost capitol of the world," he said weakly, voice shaking with a multitude of emotions. "Can we just keep on with the lesson, Mr. Lancer?"
"Very well, Mr. Fenton," Lancer relented after a long, terrifying pause. "Back to your seats, students, and pay attention. Oh, and Mr. Fenton." Danny froze, looking so much like a deer in the headlight that his eyes alone nearly confirmed all the teacher's suspicions. "Be sure you put that…whatever-it-is somewhere safe until your parents can examine it. We wouldn't want you to be injured by a ghostly gag, hmm?"
"No, Mr. Lancer," Danny agreed, sagging in his seat with nearly euphoric relief, eyes shut. He sat and just breathed while the lecture resumed, then twisted to tuck the electronic whatever into Tucker's bag, because Tucker would be able to figure out what it did and how dangerous it was better than even his parents.
Tucker noticed but said nothing, keeping his attention carefully on the whiteboard and Mr. Lancer. Sam, meanwhile, kicked the underside of Danny's seat softly, sympathetically, encouragingly. Neither of them made any overt motions to comfort their friend, believing as he did in the power of simply ignoring situations like these. If they didn't make a big deal of it, no one else could, either.
This tactic worked pretty well, even though it got harder to ignore when Johnny 13 and Kitty showed up during lunch, when Sidney Poindexter appeared in gym, when Dora closed out his school day in math. All in all, Danny faced damages in the form of an uneaten lunch, a failed quiz, and a suspicious gym teacher when Poindexter startled the halfa into an Olympic-level backwards double handspring that finished in an obvious and classic martial arts ready stance.
By the time school let out, Danny was jumpy, paranoid, and nearly devastated. Plus, he was running out of places for his presents.
Tucker and Sam appeared to find the entire situation completely hilarious, fighting a continuous losing battle against giggles. Actually, their view of the looming threat of discovery as something humorous was the only thing keeping Danny out of despair, a side effect of which they were acutely aware.
As he left school grounds, Danny crossed as many fingers as possible and began chanting under his breath, "No more presents, no more presents…"
Tucker looked stricken. "No more presents?" he echoed, horrified. "Who in the world doesn't want presents?"
"No more presents, no more presents…"
"Leave him alone," Sam scolded, rearranging her grip on Danny's lunchbox and a few other presents that wouldn't fit in anyone's bag. (Tucker was busy fiddling with Technus' gift and no one trusted Danny to keep a grip on anything in his current mental state.) "He's faced enough ghosts today. And besides, he doesn't need any more presents—look at all this junk!"
"Quite observant, isn't she, young Daniel? If you'd just give up this miserable small-town life, though, you'd never have to settle for junk again! Come live with me, be my apprentice and heir to billions!"
Danny looked at his friends, face angelic with relief and burgeoning excitement. "Hello," he said softly, blissfully, "misplaced aggression…" He looked around, shoved his bag at Tucker, and transformed. Plasmius grinned, readying ecotoblasts, and Danny gathered his strength to launch a brutal attack that would have landed Vlad Masters in a world of hurt.
Right before Danny took off, Ember McLain popped up, seeming to be genuinely surprised by the pending fight. "Boy," she groused, tossing a signed CD to Danny, who caught it looking cheated, "you halfas really have no manners, huh?"
Vlad frowned. "Excuse me, but I don't seem to be the one interrupting fights to hand out free merchandise."
The teenage singer rolled her eyes dramatically. "Whatever you say, Gramps." Plasmius growled, which Ember ignored. "And it isn't free merchandise, dipstick, it's his Deathday present."
"Thanks," Danny said weakly, still in his Phantom form and eyes trained on Vlad, filled with some remaining hope that the battle would continue.
Vlad ruined all that by exclaiming in a voice dripping with honeyed enthusiasm, "Why, Daniel, is it really your Deathday? This will be the second, then, how stupid of me for not knowing! What would you like, dear boy?"
"I'd like for you all to leave me alone," Danny admitted, voice strained nearly to the point of breaking. His shoulders curved with the knowledge that there would be no stress-relieving fight, and he shifted back to his human guise.
"Now, Daniel," Vlad scolded lightly, "there's no going against tradition! Wait, I know! How would you like to be named my soul heir for your Deathday present? It'll mean billions of dollars and a brand new luxurious lifestyle!"
At about this time, Ember rolled her eyes, said, "Enjoy your Deathday," and disappeared. Danny, for his part, was fed up. He snatched his bag, dug out the Fenton Thermos, and pointed it at Vlad.
But he'd forgotten about his brand new pet. When he pushed the button, the little hungry animal was released. It hovered between the two halfas, shaking to straighten its fur and looking generally disgruntled. Once it was settled, it turned to Plasmius, sized him up, and decided his cape would be a rather tasty snack. It'd eaten nearly the whole thing before Vlad caught it.
"What is this wretched creature!" the older ghost demanded.
Danny shrugged, catching the animal when it was tossed to him. "Dunno. Skulker gave it—"
"Him," Sam corrected.
"Him," Danny sighed, "to me this morning as a present."
"Well." Vlad eyed the animal, keeping his distance. "My offer still stands, little badger. Enjoy your Deathday!" And then he was gone.
"Why couldn't he have just thrown a punch or something," Danny groaned, handing his pet to Sam while he readied the Fenton Thermos. "I mean, he could have at least let me fight him a little. It is my Deathday, after—hey!" The ghostly animal darted out of Sam's arms when the thermos swung in his direction, ears flat against his skull while he made angry noises that settled halfway between a bark and irritated squeaks. "I don't care if you don't like it in there," Danny insisted with a frown, "you have to go!"
"Happy Deathday, Danny Phantom! For your gift, I will grant you one wish! Name your desire."
Danny, Sam, and Tucker all groaned. "Why Desiree?" Sam wondered out loud.
"No, I've got this one," Danny decided, a manic light in his eyes. He turned to the genie ghost, pointing at his pet. "I wish I had a container for that thing to live in that I can carry around with me without drawing too much attention but is comfortable enough that he won't want to break out all the time!"
"So you have wished it, so shall it be!" Desiree held out one hand. Ecto-energy gathered above it, forming what looked like a silver egg, which shrunk until it was no more than an inch long. The egg charm was threaded onto a black cord that twisted through the air until it tied itself around Danny's right arm. Once it was settled, the egg popped open, releasing a light that drew the animal in, protesting all the way. The charm sealed and fell sedately against the inside of Danny's wrist.
"That was simpler than I thought," Desiree mused, smiling mockingly. "Enjoy your Deathday, Child."
And she was gone.
For a long moment, the trio stood in silence. Then, almost tentatively, Sam reached out to rest one hand on Danny's shoulder.
"Maybe," Tucker offered, uncertain but hopeful, "maybe they'll be the last…?"
Danny heaved a long-suffering sigh.
None of them could open the door by the time they made it back to Fenton Works, so Danny, who had the most packages but also the best coordination, shifted his load enough to bang on the door. After about three or four loud knocks, Maddie Fenton opened the door, looking annoyed.
"You know, Danny, it really isn't polite to—oh my! Where did you kids get all that stuff?"
Danny, who had been driven to distraction several times already, forgot himself and answered honestly: "Deathday presents."
Maddie stared for a moment before her eyes narrowed. "And what exactly is that supposed to mean, young man?"
The youngest Fenton froze, realizing his mistake, but Sam covered quickly with, "It's a drama club thing. I talked Danny and Tucker into helping out with sorting through some old props, and, well, you know actors, Mrs. Fenton! Always so dramatic." The teenagers began shuffling past the hazmat-clad Fenton matriarch, looking as innocent as possible. "They call the seasonal dumping of old junk Deathday since there's so much emotion and memory attached to props. It's tedious, but it's volunteer work, which looks great on college applications!"
"Well…" Maddie eyed them suspiciously even as she let them cross through the living room towards the stairs. "If you kids are sure…"
"You bet we are," Danny rushed, "bye Mom!" He hustled his friends along without a backwards glance. "We'll be in my room if you need us!"
"This was so much easier," Tucker groused once the door was shut, "before Jazz went to college."
"Tell me about it," the halfa sighed, dumping his junk in a pile on the floor. His friends added theirs to the collection, and they all took a moment to empty their backpacks as well.
Once they had the total collection amassed before them, they sat back and stared.
Tucker gave a low whistle. "Whoa, man, you sure are popular."
Danny rolled his eyes, making no comment even when Sam began organizing their sorting effort. The Box Ghost had given a box full of boxes, and she separated these, labeling one Good, a second Strange but Interesting, and the final Worthless. The very smallest in the nesting-doll boxes was actually similar in nature to a trinket box, and Danny thought it looked rather useful. It became the first in the Good box. The Worthless box filled quickly, mostly with the unused Box Ghost boxes, and they took a moment to contemplate this issue before Tucker laughed for no immediately apparent reason, reached over to Danny, and flicked open the egg charm. They put his little hungry animal into the Worthless box, where he ate, ate, ate until the box was empty.
"Useful," Danny realized, sounding pleased as he dialed Jazz's number at school so he could fill her in and get her opinion on some of the stranger gifts.
When she first got the hang of what Danny's problem was, Jazz laughed. She laughed for so long that her brother had to threaten to hang up on her, then she asked, "What did you name your pet?"
Danny sighed deeply, shaking his head and making a face when Tucker showed him an object that he couldn't put a name to but that look vaguely illegal. It went into the Worthless box, and the pet swallowed it nearly whole before burping and giving a mewl of content. "I tell you about one of the worst days ever and all you want to know is what I named the little hungry animal?"
"Well," came Jazz's pragmatic response, "you can't just keep calling him 'little hungry animal', can you?"
"Watch me," the halfa muttered, grinning slightly when the pet popped up over the side of the box, watching his owner as though he knew what the conversation was about.
"Why don't you name him Spooky?"
"Spooky?" Danny exclaimed, stroking a hand down the animal's back when it came immediately to perch on the top of his bent knee. "What kind of a name's Spooky? No, Jazz, it's stupid. I'll just call it—"
"Him!" came a chorus of female voices.
"Him," Danny amended accordingly, "Sputnik or something."
"I'm voting for Trash Compactor," Tucker suggested, taking a cookie before placing the lunchbox in Strange but Interesting. "We can call him T.C. for short."
"Back into the box, Sputnik," Danny told the animal, nudging him gently. He received a glowing stare but no action. The halfa prodded him again, slightly more insistent. "Go on, back in the box, that's a good Sputnik."
Sam rolled her eyes and shook her head before ordering firmly, "Spooky, go back in the box."
The animal instantly complied, leaping inside to devour the useless junk that had accumulated there since his absence.
"Oh man," Danny groaned. "Great job, Jazz, now he thinks his name's Spooky. What kind of a lame name is that for a ghost animal, anyway?"
"C'mon, it's cute," Jazz laughed. "And think of the look on Skulker's face the first time you call his present Spooky!"
"Okay," the little brother relented, grinning widely at his best friends, "that's pretty great. But I still hold you personally responsible for any harm that comes to Spooky as a result of his name. The other little hungry animals might never let him live it down…"
"You're such a baby," Jazz sighed fondly at her brother. "Look, I've got a study group I'm gonna be late for, but I also have my cell with me, so call if you need anything, all right? I'm always there for you."
Danny smiled warmly, one of the genuine smiles that melted Jazz and Sam both with their shy beauty. "I know, Jazz. I'm here for you, too, and I've got my top speed up to two-eighty-three, so I can literally be there in no time if you need me. Blow them away with your insane genius, and I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Count on it, little brother."
"Aw," Tucker teased, shoving Danny's shoulder gently because he knew his friend always missed his sister most after a phone call. "It's just so sweet when you two bond."
Danny shoved back, grinning. "Shut up."
Sam, for her part, rolled her eyes and fed Spooky a pair of what she thought were glowing socks. Spooky ate them with relish and sat up waiting for more.
Dinner was a tense affair, since Danny sat in justified paranoia waiting for another ghost to appear and everyone else upon sensing his anxiety felt somehow obligated to stress out as well.
Finally, as the meal drew to its close, Maddie rested one hand on her son's forearm and asked gently, "Sweetie, what's wrong? You've been jittery all night!"
"Nothing's wrong," Danny said in a rush, glancing around nervously. "Why would something be wrong? What have you heard?" He seized his mother's shoulders, crying, "Who's been talking to you? You can't believe them, Mom, it's just a pack of vicious lies!"
Sam smacked the back of Danny's head. "Ignore him, Mrs. Fenton, he had a lot of coffee today."
"No more caffeine for you," Tucker scolded with a grin, wagging one finger at Danny as the boy sat practically vibrating in his seat. Danny stared at him with enormous ice blue eyes but didn't say anything.
"Aw, Maddie, all the boy needs is some good homemade fudge," Jack decided with a wide smile, nudging his wife suggestively.
"All right, Jack," she agreed easily, amused as always with the workings of his mind.
This diversion tactic failed miserably when Danny's breath showed on the air moments before the Fright Knight appeared next to him, holding a perfectly wrapped present topped with an attractive, decorative black-and-green ribbon bow.
Danny looked as though he'd been kicked in the stomach with a steel-toed boot and mouthed wordlessly even as he accepted the gift.
"Plasmius told me it was your Deathday," the knight explained, sounding frighteningly congenial. "Two years already? Congratulation, young Phantom! I'm sure I speak for the entire Ghost Zone when I say it's been an honor fighting you, even though you're only a halfa." He pounded the teen's back once, saying, "Enjoy your Deathday!" before he vanished.
Jack and Maddie, who had sat in stunned silence, turned to their boy with matching looks of stark confusion and dawning shock.
"There's a perfectly rational explanation for this," Danny babbled, petrified, clutching the present so tightly that it began to sag between his hands. "And it doesn't involve me lying to you guys for two years about being half ghost!"
Sam face-palmed while Tucker drew one hand through the air, commenting facetiously, "Smooth, man. Real smooth."
"Daniel Fenton," Maddie breathed, a slight tremor in her voice as a thousand little inconsistencies finally began to make horrible sense, "what is going on here?"
So Danny told them, releasing two years of secrecy in a torrent of words that left his parents gob-smacked. He told them about the accident and the powers, about deciding to defend the town. He told them about being framed as Inviso-Bill, about fighting Pariah Dark and the lesser evils, about sometimes not winning on the first try, about the cuts and bruises and failing grades. He explained about Sam and Tucker being there when it happened, about Jazz catching him mid-transformation, about not wanting to be taken apart molecule by molecule. They listened to it all, eyes wide and faces expressive. When it was over, when Danny's secret lay before them in its entirety, when their son sat at the table and shook so badly he seemed about to fly apart entirely, Jack and Maddie Fenton pulled him into a crushing embrace and whispered into his dark hair, "You're a hero, Danny.
"We're so proud of you."
The teen burrowed into his parents' protective hold, tension bleeding from him almost tangibly as his best friends looked on in relief from a respectful distance.
It was the best Deathday present Danny could have gotten.
A few minutes before midnight, time stopped. Danny had almost been expecting it, and he turned from where he sat in his open windowsill to watch Clockwork materialize in his room, a child for only a moment before he shifted to an adult, smiling in his knowing, crooked, fond way.
"Hi," Danny greeted softly as he stroked Spooky, who slept curled in his lap.
Clockwork responded with, "Happy Deathday, Danny Phantom. I expect you've had a trying day."
"Yeah," the halfa laughed under his breath.
"And yet you never tried to capture any of the ghosts who made everything so difficult for you, not even the Fright Knight, who exposed you to your family."
"They meant well," Danny explained, smiling in an understanding way. "It's not their fault my life's so complicated. Besides, things should be marginally simpler now that my parents know. All's well that ends well."
"A wise philosophy," Clockwork mused.
Now Danny grinned, young and mischievous as Clockwork became bent and aged with his own wisdom. "I learned from the best."
The Ghost of Time quirked a half-smirk, holding out one hand. A glowing green orb materialized over it, which he sent floating over to his protégé with a thought. "Your gift," he explained.
"Thanks," the halfa murmured, examining his new token when the light faded. One eyebrow kicked up when he realized he recognized the shape. "Hey, this is—"
"An alarm clock," Clockwork agreed, smirk growing. "One that ecto-energy can't destroy."
"Thanks," Danny said again, laughing.
"You're one of the most important figures in the timeline," the ghost replied cryptically, fading from view. "It's the least I could do." He disappeared with a whispered Time in, and Danny was left to his own thoughts as the last moments of the day ran out.
Midnight struck. His new clock warbled softly, an eerie, chimed folk melody that caused Spooky to shift slightly and sigh a purr.
Danny smiled, setting the clock aside and turning his attention to the dark sky, where somewhere beyond light pollution stars shown. His Deathday was over; his parents knew his secret and still loved him; he'd accumulated a new pet and set many curious minds to wondering about why clumsy Danny Fenton would receive gifts from most of the town's more prominent ghosts. The world turned again on its inevitable path.
A new day had begun.
AN: And that's really all I have to say about that! Drop a line if you liked… I'm currently working on something quite a bit longer, though not set in this version of the DP universe. It's another one of Taka's ideas, and I'm quite fond of it… Maybe I should post it when I'm done?