He didn't remember deciding to go to the park. Nor did he remember why and how he had come to be at the large stone fountain in the center of the massive green haven that existed in Amity. He did, however, remember a time when he could come to the park and not have to worry if he was being followed or not. A time when he didn't believe in ghosts; when he was too young to worry whether or not the world would still be whole when he woke in the morning.
But they were just echoes from a distant past – one that he knew he'd never be able to go back to.
Sighing, he collapsed onto the cold stone that encompassed the water-feature. He'd sat here nearly everyday before he was 14, usually with Sam and Tucker. He gazed into the shimmering surface of the water and stared – just stared – at himself. The night sky above him cast a shadow over most of him, but the ethereal glow that surrounded him illuminated even the darkest areas.
It was useful; even life saving for the first year. He'd outgrown it, however, extraordinarily quickly. That moment was an example: he didn't want to see his reflection in the water. But it was there, mocking him. Teasing him and holding something that he wanted so desperately, just out of reach.
He punched the surface of the water, disrupting the image that reflected in it and the first that were hovering just below the transparent surface. He didn't want to see what he was at that moment in time. He wanted to be…normal. Normal – as in a high school kid that ran late to class every second day because he forgot to set his alarm clock. Normal – that was getting a detention for not doing homework because of sheer laziness, rather than being out all night ghost hunting. Normal, as in not having to come home with your head, side, or leg ripped open. Normal, as in not having to worry about whether or not you'd live to see your girlfriend or best friend the next day…
Something bubbled up inside of him – something that made his chest twist painfully – and it slowly came to the surface. All the heartache, all the losses, all the battles, pain, suffering…he let it all out in one loud scream.
He screamed as loud as he could, as hard as he could. He was pretty sure that he'd let out a ghostly wail at some point, but he didn't care! The world he worked so hard to protect, the people he'd protected countless times tore him down one too many times.
By the time he'd stopped screaming, his throat was raw and he could feel something wet run down his cheeks. He blinked in surprise and held a gloved hand to his face. He could feel the tears through the gloves. He was crying? Since when did he cry?! He furiously scrubbed the salty tears from his face, only to find they wouldn't stop. He coughed pitifully as the tears kept coming – the dam was open now.
Angry at not only everything in world, but at himself, he began punching the hard granite he was sitting on. He kept punching, crying, coughing…but the pain wouldn't stop, the tears wouldn't stop, and he thought resentfully; the world won't stop trying to pin me as the bad guy, no matter what I do…
He brought his hand up again to punch the granite once more, and he felt something splash on his face. Something ice-cold and slimy. He looked over to his clenched fist to find that he had, in fact, busted open all of his knuckles. A mixture of blood and ectoplasm leaked out and obviously flung itself onto his face when he raised his first. He smiled wryly at the reminder that he was a freak, and began pummeling his fist even harder into the stone.
He could feel the fountain's rims cracking beneath him.
He could feel his bones starting to splinter on impact of each punch he landed.
The world around him had become a blur as he continued to pelt the stone.
He raised his fist once more, but when he went to bring it down a strong tug on his wrist. He stopped numbly and turned to face whoever it was that had grabbed him only to be shocked. His mother, Maddie Fenton, stood behind him with her goggles and hazmat hood lowered. She also had a very delicate frown gracing her features – the one she'd always used when Danny had done something wrong, but was more concerned about if he was hurt or not.
"Maddie," He choked out with a broken smile, "What are you doing here?"
"Watching you abuse yourself, apparently."
He looked to where her hand joined at his wrist. A mixture of green and red – just like festive Christmas custard – leaked onto her hand and dripped onto the cracked granite below. However, with the distraction aside, he'd realized he hadn't stopped crying and turned a brilliant shade of red. He went to turn back around, but couldn't fully because she hadn't let go. Voicing his opposition to what she was doing, he yanked his wrist back.
But she only held tighter.
"Let go, Maddie," He growled at her.
She didn't though – she just held tighter.
"I said let go!"
"Not unless you agree to not hurt yourself any further."
"I'm not hurting myself," He taunted sarcastically. "I'm a fucking Ghost-"
"You're hurting yourself. Stop it."
"You can't tell me what to do."
"I can, I will, and you will stop this immediately."
He snarled at her and fazed his hand through her grip. "You can't stop me," he said, voice dripping with pure loathing and resentment, "You hunt me for fuck sake. You run me down; try to force me into that thing-" he said indicating to where a Fenton Thermos rested on her waist "-and you expect me to listen to you? Ha! Don't make me laugh!"
"Stop this," She said in a much gentler tone, "You don't need to do this to yourself."
"But I want to!" He screamed, springing up from his seat on the fountain, "I-I do everything I can for this town, the people of this town, and you! But what do I get in return? Blame! Hate! Loathing! People rallying against my very existence! Why? Because I get beaten up by Ghosts who are stronger than me while they try to take over the town? Because I'm abused, beaten into walls, yelled at! Tortured! All so idiots can tell me what a freak I am?! Tell me! WHY?!"
Instead of a snappy comeback that he'd expect from his mother, what came next was a rather large surprise. Maddie, in the blink of an eye, had wrapped her arms around him securely, motherly, and tenderly. With one hand, she began to soothingly rub his back, and with her other hand, stroke his hair. Shocked at first, Danny slowly began to succumb to the feeling of her embrace and let himself relax.
"It's alright…" she whispered to him with only the voice a mother could use. "You can stop now."
"You're not supposed to hug your enemy," He said dejectedly from within her embrace.
"You're not my enemy Phantom. You're a Ghost, true, but you're not my enemy. I wouldn't trust you around my children, but at the same time, I wouldn't shoot you for no reason," she said.
His anger began to fade, and the feelings from before began to bubble up again. "S-So you don't hate me?"
"No. I don't hate you."
He felt a choked sob bubble up from his throat, and he felt himself began to cry again. How embarrassing…his mind echoed. However, he didn't feel like listening to it at that moment. His mother didn't truly hate him for being a Ghost… He coughed and sniffed as more tears fell. He took two fistfuls of her hazmat suit and clung to them for dear life. He felt her shift him, but only so he could bury his head into the crook of her neck. She made soothing noises, telling him again and again that it was going to be alright. That it was going to be okay. That he didn't have to keep pushing himself so hard.
He didn't stop crying for a good 20 minutes, and even after then he wouldn't let go. He didn't want to. It felt good to be just held, no strings attached. He felt his mother give a sorrowful sigh and realized what had just happened. She, on the other hand, didn't seem too bothered.
He looked up at her in surprise. She chuckled, amused, but didn't remove her arms from the embrace she held him in. "Don't be surprised."
"We do have files. You're a hard one to gather information on, though. Very few Ghosts are willing to give anything. All we know is your first and last name, and that you are half ghost. Danny. Are alright with me calling you that, right?" She asked, looking at him nervously.
"I-it's fine…" he said, "Its better than Phantom, anyway," He added, feeling a little relieved.
"Good. Danny. I know…the people of Amity may seem a little…blunt-" Danny snorted "- But we do appreciate what you do for us," she said, pulling away. Suddenly, he felt himself craving the warmth once more. However, he cringed when he noticed that she was pulling out a small roll of gauze she carried for emergencies. Taking his hand, she removed the white glove and cringed at the sight of his knuckles. She began wrapping and talking at the same time; "you may not realize it, but people are coming around to you. There are people who believe that you are a good Ghost. They're growing in number each day.
"I even saw a plushie of you in a store the other day. My daughter bought one, and it was the last one they had in stock, too. What I'm trying to say is, Danny-" she clipped the end of the bandage into place, "- is that people do see good in you. You just have to give them a chance." She held his hand in both of hers gently. "And from what I can tell, you're still only a child. Well, at least one when you died."
"What's that got to do with anything?" he asked, wiping his face with his free hand while feeling a little annoyed about being referred to as a child, of all things.
She smiled warmly at him, "You still need someone to look after you. Someone you can look up to. And I know you have friends, but you need someone who'll keep you grounded. I'll be more than happy to look out for you, Phan-…Danny. No matter what."
"No buts!" she reprimanded coolly, "This is what happens if you don't have someone like me around to talk to! And If I find you doing anything like this, you will regret it young Ghost. Understood?"
He nodded numbly with a small smile. However, now that everything that he'd repressed was out of his system, the horrible ache in his fingers began to spread like wildfire. He groaned as the painful sensation made him want to vomit. Sensing this, Maddie sighed like a mother would after their child had fallen over after being told not to run around the house. "You brought that upon yourself."
"I know," He winced, "But it still hurts."
"Good. Maybe you'll learn your lesson then."
Danny smile and gave a small laugh; "Your son is lucky to have you, Maddie."
"Maybe I'm lucky to have him. Speaking of which, he should be home by now," She said in a worried tone, "That boy is always out so late…"
"I've got to get back…to the Ghost Zone anyway."
"Maddie," He said with a hurt nod. He launched himself of the ground, but before he started to fly away he gave her a toothy grin – and saw her eyes blink rapidly several times, as if seeing something that wasn't there – and waved; "Thank You!"
Before she had a chance to say anything else back, however, he'd flown off. She frowned to herself, mentally picturing his smile once more in her head. It was an exact copy of Danny's…then again; Ghosts copy traits of the people surrounding them to blend into their environment. Or, at least, in Phantom's case he copied the mannerisms of people in the city. She sighed once again that night for what seemed the umpteenth time. She'd have to add the information she'd gathered tonight to her file and try and figure out exactly what Phantom was.
For now, however, she decided to head home and spend some time with her family, and to especially catch up with her son.