Dizgirl: Lookie here, another DP one-shot to add to my growing list! This time, get ready for some Phantom and Maddie action! It's been done before but I hope I bring a unique twist to the typical Maddie meets Phantom plot. I like to think that I did. This fic takes place after "Girls Night Out", in case you haven't seen it still. There aren't really any spoilers, but several references. Please feel free to point out errors or issues with this. Also, as always, enjoy and love!
Disclaimer? In my profile!
The Pursuit of Happiness
Maddie pulled off her protective head gear and goggles, sighing as she inspected her invention one last time for the night. The device was tricky but hopefully the Specter Silencer (prematurely named by Jack) would be completed in a few days. The basics were fairly easy since it was much like the Specter Deflector and the Fenton Phones combined, but that didn't mean it wouldn't take time to work out the kinks. When finished, it would create a blast of energy that would not only block the influence of ghostly noise but also silence the ghost completely, eliminating the source of the problem and making it easier to capture the mute ghost.
She had come up with the idea after those three ghosts had attacked Amity Park and made the whole male population vanish for a few hours. Though her Maddie Modulator had reversed the effects of the ghosts' powers and restored all of the men back to the earth, she wanted to create another invention that would stop an attack like that before it even happened. Unfortunately it was taking a lot longer than she thought to create the right wavelength of ectoplamsic energy that would silence a ghost and not hurt a human in the process.
Breaking from her thoughts before her growing headache worsened, Maddie moved over to where Jack was working on another project. "Jack, I'm going to take a break, and then I'll make dinner. How does that sound?" she asked, resting one gloved hand on her husband's shoulder.
"What? Dinner is ready? What are we having?" he spun around and almost spilled ectoplasm on her from a sample he was holding in a test tube. Maddie jumped back quickly, but a smile tugged on her lips at the grin on Jack's face.
"Dinner is not ready and please don't spill that on me. I'm going to make dinner in a little bit and I don't want it to get up and walk away from us like the hot dogs did."
"Aww…" Jack moaned, placing the test tube back in its rightful place. "I'm so hungry!"
"You're always hungry," Maddie reminded him with another smile. "It'll be quick, don't worry." She kissed him on the cheek.
"Alright…oh, is Danny home yet?"
"Hmmm…I don't know. I'll check, but his curfew isn't for another few hours. I wouldn't be surprised if he stays over at Tucker's for dinner again. He seems to be doing that a lot lately," Maddie answered, frowning slightly. Jack nodded and returned to his research.
"I'll be up in a few," he called after her as she climbed up the stairs. Entering the kitchen, Maddie found Jazz at the table surrounded by books, notepads, and paper. She was feverishly writing something down on one page of a notepad while periodically referencing a book to her right.
"Hey sweetie," Maddie greeted her cheerfully. "Is Danny home?"
"Huh?" Jazz looked up distractedly. "No, he's at Sam's working on a history project they're doing together."
"Oh," Maddie couldn't help but be surprised and pleased with that information. Danny had been struggling with school work for several months now, even though she knew he could do better. Perhaps he was finally coming around. That or the project was just an excuse to be over at a certain someone's house….Maddie chuckled quietly to herself at that thought.
She made her way upstairs and, pausing for a moment, looked down at the end of the hall where the stairs to the roof stood. Maddie hesitated, tempted by the door's silent offer for a brief respite. Dinner could wait a few more minutes, she finally decided. She certainly deserved a break after this last week. Maddie climbed the stairs and slowly opened the door to the roof. With a smile she realized that the door didn't squeak anymore but glided smoothly on freshly oiled hinges. So Danny must have actually done his chores too! He really was improving!
Closing the now silent door behind her, Maddie exhaled and shut her eyes. Peace and quiet at last, excluding the distant sound of traffic of course. Her home was not particularly disruptive—or so she liked to think—but three days down in the lab and the recent ghost attack had thrown a little more chaos than usual into her life. Maddie was grateful for times like these when she could just relax. She tugged on her hood to let more of the cool breeze brush against her sweaty neck and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Life really was good when it was like this...
A noise farther out on the roof startled Maddie out of her reverie and she looked up to identify the source. Breathing in sharply, she froze at the all-too-familiar figure of the ghost boy lounging on the railing that surrounded the roof's edge. What was he doing here? He knew better than to stick around in one place for too long, especially at a ghost hunter's house! She instinctively reached for the small pouch that contained a wide range of ghost weaponry (though it still lacked a cell phone). Maddie pulled out her trusted ecto-staff that glowed with green energy at both ends. She activated it before surveying the boy again.
Danny Phantom remained exactly where he was, oblivious to the danger that had appeared behind him. Instead his attention strictly focused on something in his lap with his shoulders hunched forward and his knees drawn up slightly for balance. His lips were moving soundlessly as if he was reading or mumbling to himself. Maddie slowly inched forward, holding the glowing stick in front of her defensively. Finally she could see what it was that he held. It was a large book, bounded in red and full of small text. What was a ghost doing with a book? Confused, she spoke out loud.
"What are you doing?" Phantom jerked around in surprise. The book snapped shut and he gripped it to his chest as he twisted to face her. His sudden movement unbalanced him and he tumbled over the edge of the building with a small yelp. Maddie would have laughed at the sight if she wasn't more concerned about protecting her home. Instead she remained where she was and pulled out a small ecto-gun from her waist, waiting for Phantom to reappear.
A few seconds later his unnaturally white hair emerged and he stuck his face up above the edge of the roof, his luminous green eyes meeting hers. The rest of his body remained hidden below as he studied her position cautiously. Her instincts told her to shoot him while she could, but the scientist in her was distracted and fascinated by his eyes.
Despite the many theories that ghosts couldn't feel real emotions circulating in the ghost expert realm, which she had avidly believed for most of her career, Phantom had disproved them time and time again. Right now she could see that his eyes were full of regret along with both a trace of fear and defiance. Of course it could all be highly creative acting, but she could no longer be sure; the data was overwhelming.
When Maddie realized he wasn't going to answer her question, she tried again. "I asked you, what are you doing here?"
"N-nothing!" he stammered, rising a little higher. She could just make out the infamous DP symbol on his chest that was partially covered by the red book he held. She kept her gun trained on him as she continued her questioning.
"Is that a book?" Maddie asked, knowing the answer was obvious but still thrown off by the idea of a ghost doing something as harmless as reading a book. Besides, she didn't usually have a chance to talk to ghosts, let alone the notorious ghost boy. He hardly ever stuck around for more than a few minutes after he finished a fight.
"Uh, no!" Phantom answered, but then quickly amended that with, "yes…." He reluctantly floated up and turned the book around to show her the cover, eyeing her gun as he did so. A large eagle and stripes of red, white, and blue made up the background with bold letters reading American History stamped across it. A textbook? Where did Phantom manage to find something like that?
"Whose is it?"
"What?" He looked confused and hugged the book to his chest again.
"It's not yours, so you obviously stole it…" Maddie prompted impatiently. Where else could he have snatched it? It's not like he could have gone to a store and bought it himself.
"I didn't steal it!" Phantom retorted angrily. "I…borrowed it…and I'll give it back once I'm done." Maddie smirked at the hesitation in his voice. Phantom was obviously lying.
"Right, who would let a ghost borrow their book?"
"Hey, I got permission, okay? It's not like they used it much anyways…" he muttered with a strange mix of amusement and remorse on his face. Maddie frowned; she couldn't disagree with that. She knew that her son's history book had been collecting dust on his desk for weeks. Of course, that didn't mean that Phantom could steal someone else's! That was the biggest problem with ghosts; they didn't think about what was right and wrong. All that mattered was what they wanted. But the question remained, why did Phantom want a textbook?
"Why would you be interested in a history textbook?" Maddie inquired, echoing her thoughts out loud. Phantom looked around him, as if searching for an escape. She raised her staff until the end was level with her gun. "Answer me, ghost, or this goes straight through you." His eyes widened.
"Uh…um, well…I wanted to read it…'cause…" he mumbled, licking his lips. Maddie recognized the look on his face. Danny had the same one when he was in trouble with her and was trying to come up with a lie.
"I don't have all day, ghost…and don't try lying to me either. I'm a mother and I can always tell," she warned him. Astonishingly he rolled his eyes at this.
"You can't always tell," he replied, grinning for the first time that night. Maddie's eyes narrowed. Why would he think that? She never took what he said at face value.
"Maybe, but are you willing to try when I can tear you up in a matter of seconds with these?" She indicated the two weapons in her hands. His grin was gone as quickly as it appeared and his expression turned wary.
"Look, I can't tell you why I have this, but I'm not doing anything bad with it."
"Says the ghost who frequently destroys the town and terrorizes its residents," Maddie said coolly. Phantom scowled.
"It's not like I'm trying to do that when I'm fighting other ghosts, but that's just what happens!" he argued defensively.
"Yes!" Phantom's eyes flashed green in the growing dark. Maddie fell silent, knowing that this argument would get her nowhere and especially not where she wanted to go in the first place. Changing tactics, she returned to the original subject.
"So why do you have a student's textbook?" He sighed noisily but didn't answer. Maddie charged her ecto-gun in response. The whine made Phantom tense up and he held the book even tighter to his chest as if it would protect him from an attack. "Answer me, ghost."
"I—I don't get it, okay?!"
"I just wanted to look it up…kinda had to really. And it just doesn't make sense!" Maddie couldn't help but think that it was him who didn't make sense.
"What are you talking about?"
"The whole slavery thing! And the civil rights stuff too. I mean, it's obvious that slavery is wrong, so why did people think it was good in the first place?" Phantom exploded. Maddie felt like she had just missed a step on a staircase. What? Where did this come from?
"How could they do that to people and not even care? How can they think that way?" he continued, the aura of light around his body growing brighter. Maddie blinked in confusion, still caught off guard by the sudden outburst.
"What are you…are you talking about slavery, as in African Americans and the Civil War?" Maddie scrambled to reorganize her thoughts as Phantom slowly floated down onto the roof a few feet away from her.
"Yes! Why would people enslave other people just 'cause they look different?" Maddie's forehead creased as she frowned at him. Phantom seemed truly bothered by this, but why would a young ghost who was most likely not around at that time period (if his clothes were any indication) concerned about something in the past?
"…I don't…really know," Maddie answered finally. Phantom sighed and shook his head.
"Me neither, so how am I supposed to do the…" he trailed off and suddenly looked nervous—why? "I mean, how am I supposed to…understand why someone would do that if no one will explain it?" Maddie tilted her head to the side thoughtfully as he looked down at the ground. He was actually serious about this. Well then she'd give him a serious answer.
"Well," she began, earning his full attention, "some people just don't want to think about what's right and wrong and rather just what they want or what they've been taught." Phantom nodded in agreement, watching her solemnly.
"Yeah…you would know something about that wouldn't you?"
"What are you talking about?" Maddie repeated yet again.
"Wanting what you want and what you think is right instead of seeing what is actually true…." he fell silent, glancing around at the darkened sky where a few stars were beginning to appear. What? What had he meant by that? Before she could ask him to clarify he spoke up again.
"Do you think you're pretty patriotic? Do you think that everyone should be treated equally?"
"Of course," Maddie stated firmly, but Phantom continued like he hadn't heard her.
"Aren't people people no matter what they look like? Even if they're black or brown or, I dunno, Jewish or Catholic…." He shrugged. "They're all people."
"Yes." Where was he going with this? Phantom opened the textbook in his hands and Maddie belatedly realized that she had lowered both of her weapons without noticing it. She propped them up again but Phantom ignored her.
"So they all get rights—civil rights. No more prejudice and racism and all that, everyone is treated the same no matter what they look like," he said, half to himself and half to her. "It even says it right here: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Maddie easily recognized that.
"Yes…that's in the Declaration of Independence." Phantom nodded again. When he didn't speak up she decided to herself. "Where are you going with all this, ghost?" His gaze settled on hers, his emerald eyes distinct against the night sky. The fear and regret were gone, now replaced with uncertainty and…hurt.
"So everyone can have the same rights to be free and happy, even if they are a different race or sex or religion or whatever. But…" he paused and shut the book again. "Not if they're dead. Not ghosts. Why does everyone get these rights in this country except ghosts? So they're dead! What's the big deal? They were human before that."
"But they're not human now," Maddie argued.
"So what?Why does that make a difference? People see a ghost and they run away screaming. You don't see us doing the same thing to humans! Sure some ghosts are bad, trying to destroy stuff and take over the world. They deserve to be hunted. But people decided that just 'cause some ghosts are bad that all ghosts are bad! Well, some humans are good and some humans are bad too! Do you want us to make the same assumptions?"
"You already do! Ghosts terrorize everyone!"
"Not me! I don't! I've never terrorized anyone but they don't see it. They just see me flying and glowing and suddenly I'm declared 'Public Enemy Number One'!" Maddie scowled.
"That's because you kidnapped our mayor. If I hadn't been there to save him, you would've killed him!"
"How do you know that was what I was going to do, huh? I never said I was going to, and I didn't even kidnap him in the first place! He was overshadowed!" He threw his arms up into the air, shaking his head. "That's what I'm saying; you automatically decided that I was the bad guy when actually I was trying to save the mayor!" He exhaled noisily, running his hand through his unkempt hair.
"Doesn't matter, it never matters. They talk about equality and freedom, but they're hypocrites. We're people too, you know. We're just dead people," he murmured, resting the white-gloved hand on his chest. "It's not like we asked for it."
Whatever Maddie had planned on saying died on her lips. His argument had merit…and his expression…. If she ever saw her children looking at her like that, she'd be furious (and potentially violent) with the offender. Yes, she always had to remember that Phantom could be lying but that was hard to believe when she stood there looking him in the face. He was hurt and confused, as anyone would be under similar circumstances. What could she say?
Silence filled the night as the dissonant sounds of evening traffic slowly disappeared. Maddie lowered her ecto-gun and rested one end of her staff on the ground. Frowning, she studied Phantom who was looking at anything except her, though his head turned slightly at the sound of her ecto-stick hitting the roof. He almost looked embarrassed she slowly realized. How odd for a ghost to feel that. Usually ghosts were much too egotistically or prideful to show shame. Phantom was different than other ghosts, but Maddie never thought that he would show this much complexity in emotion. Embarrassment, regret, and a need for public approval were all human things, not ghost. Yet, here he stood, clearly displaying those and other emotions that were all too real to ignore.
And what of his argument that not all ghosts were strictly evil? Was he only referring to himself or did he know other 'friendly' specters. That was hard to believe when he was constantly fighting the ghosts that came to their city, but he wasn't battling all of the time. What did he—and the other ghosts—do when they weren't instigating fights? She, along with most paranormalists, had theorized that ghosts were created by strong and violent emotions that they took out on the human world and each other, but if Phantom said that there were ghosts who didn't do this, then what held them here?
"Phantom…" she called. Startled, his eyes met her gaze. Noticing the strange look he was giving her she asked, "What?"
"You called me…by my name," he whispered. She blinked. She had, hadn't she?
"Would you rather I call you 'ghost'?"
"No! I…like it," he quickly said. "It's just that most people don't."
"Well then, Phantom, if you aren't here to wreak havoc, then why are you here?"
"Um…" he began uncertainly, as if he wasn't sure she actually wanted an answer from him or not, "because some ghosts are bad and people need to be protected from them. I can do that, so…I do."
"Most ghosts wouldn't," she pointed out. He nodded.
"Yeah, but if I didn't, then who would? No offense, but you guys aren't really that good at fighting ghosts." That stung a little, but he was right. After years of studying, tracking, and hunting ghosts, Maddie and Jack didn't have much to show for it.
"But you're good inventors, you know," he continued, waving one hand at the two weapons that rested in her hands. "They really do hurt…a lot." A tentative smile appeared at the corner of his mouth but it vanished as she looked him in the eye.
"So, you're just going to protect Amity Park because you can?" Maddie inquired, wondering how effective their weapons actually were against such a powerful ghost. Did it bother her that she was hurting him when she hunted him? Yes, more than it had before this conversation at least.
"Not much else to do," Phantom shrugged in answer.
"Except steal student's textbooks and reading them on a ghost hunter's roof," she pointed out. He winced, glancing at her ecto-gun again.
"Not my smartest choice," he admitted. "But it's still my ho—uh—it's still got a great view," he pressed his lips together tightly after saying this, self-reprisal clear in his eyes.
"What were you going to say?" Maddie asked, noticing yet again that Phantom kept changing what he said mid-sentence.
"Nothing," he muttered.
"Really, it's nothing," he repeated, the faintest hint of a blush on his cheeks. Was he embarrassed again? By what?
"Yeah, I'll believe that when pigs fly," Maddie countered. Phantom smiled strangely.
"I've seen that you know," he said, his greens eyes dancing with humor. "So I guess you have to believe me." She frowned, but was only partially annoyed at her failure to con him for more information. In fact, she was actually enjoying this conversation with Phantom. It was amazing that only a few minutes ago she had been ready to blast this ghost into oblivion when now she was bantering with him on a decently friendly basis. Was she really throwing her ghost hunting mind-frame out so quickly?
"We'll see about that," she replied slowly. "I don't know if I trust you yet." Phantom shrugged again.
"Hey, I don't know if I trust you," he jerked his chin at her relaxed but still defensive position.
"It's hard to change who you are and what you believe," Maddie said. He nodded thoughtfully and glanced down at the book in his arms.
"Yeah," he began, holding up the book slightly for emphasis, "but it's not impossible."
"True," she smiled and Phantom shyly smiled back. As they fell into silence again, awkwardness seeped between them as both looked away uneasily.
"So…" Phantom finally murmured. Her purple eyes snapped to his glowing ones, both full of uncertainty. She rubbed her forehead with the back of one hand and sighed heavily, knowing that she wouldn't be able to attack him after their conversation…at least not tonight.
"I should go make dinner for my family," she said, and then she sent him a hard look. "As far as I'm concerned I spent a few quiet moments on the roof before starting." A grin slowly spread across his face as her message sunk in.
"A nice ghost-free evening," he agreed.
"Yeah, better not make me liar," she pointed firmly with one hand towards downtown Amity Park. "Go." Phantom leapt into the air, his green eyes dancing, and he started to fly away.
"Oh, and return that textbook, Phantom!" Maddie called after him. He turned and sloppily saluted her. She pursed her lips as he disappeared from sight. Should she have let him go? Doubts crept back into her mind as the thrill of talking to Phantom face to face evaporated. Maybe…maybe not, she finally decided, but there was no point worrying now that it was done.
"Until we meet again," she whispered. She deactivated her staff and gun and slipped them back into her pack. Spinning around, she reentered her home and headed down the stairs onto the second floor. As she passed her son's bedroom she heard the familiar sounds of papers turning and a chair being pushed across carpet. She nudged the half-open door and peeked her head in.
Danny sat as his desk, his black hair its usual messy mop that hung just at the level of his eyes. His blues eyes scanned the textbook on his desk and a pencil was stuck in his mouth. She smiled at the unfamiliar sight, wanting to walk right in and hug him and yet knowing he'd roll his eyes and complain if she did. Just as she turned to leave he looked up and smiled.
"Hey," he called.
"Hi sweetie," she answered, pushing the door open more and walking up behind him. "How was Sam's house?"
"Okay," he replied, shrugging. "Her parents weren't in a good mood though, so I left early."
"I hear you're doing a project."
"Yeah, for history," he pulled his textbook up and showed her the cover, decked with a very familiar flag and eagle. Maddie blinked several times, her stomach flip-flopping as she felt the distinct sensation of deja-vu.
"Oh, that's nice….Do you need any help?" she asked, covering up her surprise.
"Not anymore," he said, with an odd smile on his face. "I already got it."