Chapter 1 - On the Brink
Continuity: Canon compliant through season two. Set when Danny is seventeen.
A deceptively small gun lay open in three pieces. Jack brandished his smelting pencil and tweaked the design of his latest masterwork. The rest of the world was complicated and hard to follow, but the lovely circuits of his gadgets made sense. Unintelligible shouting crept in on his invention space, and Jack pushed up his welding mask to see what was going on.
"I don't care if the Box Ghost is tormenting the guys at the UPS store, you have to finish your college applications, before the deadline this week. I will put you in a Fenton Thermos with them if you make me," Jazz lectured.
"A ghost at the UPS store?" Jack cried. He slipped the three parts of his new weapon back together. "This is the perfect opportunity to try out my new invention, the Fenton Finisher!"
"Great Dad," Danny said. As soon as Jack was out of sight, he elbowed Jazz. "You need to watch what you say when there are people around. If that had been Mom, she might have noticed the implied ghost hunting, genius sister mine."
"Sorry, being away at Cornell so much of the time, I'm just not used to the minefield of your life anymore," Jazz said. "If you want to go to college and get out of this house a little, you have to finish these." Jazz fanned out the applications and waved them. "I won't be here to push you after spring break."
Danny snatched them out of her hand. Jazz wasn't taller than him anymore. He'd shot up over the last year and he was nearly as tall as his dad these days. He had filled out in other ways too. The fine sinewy muscles honed by constant ghost battles had elevated him from scrawny to somewhat less than buff. He was going to be a heartbreaker, if he could stop with the ghost fighting long enough to have a life, Jazz thought.
"Fine, I'll finish them tonight, promise." Applications firmly in hand, Danny headed for the stairs. Hunting ghosts was so much simpler than real life anymore. Tucker and Sam had chosen different schools far removed from Amity Park, and Danny was sorely tempted to follow them. How could he leave his hometown in his parents' hands though? Sure, Mom had skills, but Dad could barely be trusted to handle the Box Ghost, much less the Fright Night or worse. As depressing as Amity Community College sounded, Danny pushed that application to the top. He had responsibilities and college wasn't a good enough excuse to leave them behind.
A fire crackled low in the pristine gray marble fireplace, chasing the early spring chill from the room. Vlad Masters sat quietly at his roll-top desk and put the finishing touches on his letter. A ghost bug hovered at his shoulder. Vlad folded his letter into neat thirds and slipped it into the bug's sticky fingers. "Deliver this to Jack Fenton, not Maddie, not Jasmine, and most definitely not Daniel." The bug buzzed affirmatively and flew away.
For years he had been trying to find his way back into Maddie's life, to claim the family that was meant to be his. Time had slipped away. Daniel and Jasmine were nearly grown now, not that he ever had any real attachment to Jasmine. Daniel had been different. He bore the same scars of Jack Fenton's obsession. What relation they lacked in blood, they made up for in experience and pain.
Somehow, that bond of experience had never translated into the mentoring, father-like relationship, Vlad had tried on more than one occasion to establish. A relationship with Daniel would have been a road to Maddie after Jack was removed from the picture.
Vlad sighed and massaged his temples. Lately he had come to think that killing Jack wouldn't ever really satisfy him. He needed Maddie to reject him as thoroughly as she'd rejected Vlad himself.
Finding a way to end their love took careful planning, and there were risks to the endeavor, but Maddie had always been worth every risk.
And this plan was going to work.
"She works hard for her money!" Maddie danced her way around the kitchen, a pair of iPod earbuds securely in place. "So hard for her money. She works hard for her money so you better treat her right."
Moving with quick efficient grace, she set the table, took the roast out of the oven, and ended with a lovely 80's style boogie down that any member of Wham would have been proud of. She popped her earbuds out and sighed. "Danny! Jazz! Jack, dear! Dinner is ready!"
Jazz then Danny took their seats at the table, but Jack, usually the first to arrive, was notably absent. "Is your father still down in the lab?" Maddie asked. "I can go get him."
"Actually I think he went after a ghost at the UPS store." Danny checked his watch. "It's been over two hours since he left."
"He went after a ghost without me?" Maddie frowned and pulled the hood up on her blue haz-mat suit. "I'm going to go check on him."
The front door opened and closed with a slam. "Sugar plum, I'm home!" Jack strode forward into the kitchen, the small weapon from earlier smoking in his hand. "The Fenton Finisher works great. That pesky spirit won't be harassing any more postal employees."
"Wonderful then." Maddie pulled her hood down and smiled warmly. "Lets have dinner."
Danny stared at the small smoking weapon, while his dad attacked the roast. He was curious about how it functioned. It paid to know what his parents' arsenal could do since they tended to turn it on him at the most inopportune moments. "What does the Fenton Finisher do anyway?"
"Yeah," Jazz echoed. "It's a bit of a strong name."
Maddie smiled at Jack, who was entirely to busy with his meal to answer. "Well dear, the Fenton Finisher pulls a ghost apart, molecule by molecule. It simultaneously rips a hole through reality and the ghost zone to the next level of realm."
"The Phantom Zone!" Jack declared between bites.
"Exactly dear. The ghost is drawn into the Phantom Zone where it can then slowly reconstitute itself. But after the dematerialization it should be rather disoriented and two whole dimensions removed from our world. It's meant to slow some of the repeat ghost business we see all the time."
Danny stared, open-mouthed. "That's extreme."
"It's efficient!" Maddie said. "Now eat your dinner while it's warm"
Upstairs in his room, Danny settled in front of the computer to see if Sam or Tucker were online, but his buddy list was empty except for the GHOSTH8R, Valerie. He considered IMing her but he closed his buddy list and moved on to the phone. He really needed to talk to someone who knew about his secrets and could commiserate with his full compliment of problems tonight.
He snatched up his phone, but before he got a chance to decide between Sam and Tucker his door creaked open. "Yes Jazz?"
"Hey little brother. I need to talk to you about something." Jazz slipped inside and shut the door securely. "Have you considered that maybe it's time you told Mom and Dad about Danny Phantom? I mean, just think about Dad's newest toy. Not telling them is dangerous. I think they'd understand. There is more to them than you give them credit for sometimes."
"I know they'd still love me, Jazz. I like having parents, not researchers who want to dissect me but can't quite because I'm their son."
"Just think about it." Jazz leaned in for a quick hug. "I worry about you all the time."
"You shouldn't worry. I'm rather good at the ghost hunting stuff at this point, and avoiding our parents has always been the easy part."
I'm nursing an irrational Danny Phantom obsession. This fic is supposed to exorcise me. Romantically I'm a fence sitter. I haven't decided who belongs with who.