Disclaimer: I own nothing of this series.
Summary: AU [Public Enemies]. If Walker's plan for Danny had failed, how would that day have ended differently?
Inspiration: "Public Enemies" and a little imagination accompanied by "The First of Me" (Hoobastank), as I wondered what it would be like if Walker's plan had failed.
Author's Note: I took a little liberty here in having Danny use his Ghostly Wail chronologically pre-TUE. I really don't have a good reason for it, other than that I just wanted to use that ghost power of his and my muse was persistant.
The dark and windy evening relentlessly pressed on as a small crowd stood on black asphalt. The eerily glowing green of the ghost shield reflected in the deadened eyes of various overshadowed members of Casper High's population. The tall, brick building upon which a large neon 'FentonWorks' sign hung didn't appear to house anything of importance, but looks could always be deceiving.
Walker knew this very well. The ghost kid had acted rashly, with the instincts of trapped prey desperate to save oneself. The kid hadn't thought in advance, and his quick, desperate decision was going to cost him. A smug smirk spread across the ghost's face, and he muttered to himself, "Time to start phase two of my plan." He was just pulling his influence out of the body he'd hijacked when the soft mutter of one of his guards caught his ear.
Without hesitating, Walker flew up to the speaker and grabbed them around the throat, hoisting the female human body into the air. "What did you say?" he growled in the face of the unlucky spook.
The spirit in question blinked twice in horror, before stammering the comment a second time. "I-I was j-just wondering h-h-how we were g-going to get b-back to the G-G-Ghost Zone."
Walker's eyes narrowed. Truth be told, he hadn't thought twice about that before preparing to set off the second part of his plan. Not that he would ever let this low-level lackey know that. Walker was the law, he thought of everything, and he was in control. These three facts had to be solid, inarguable knowledge if he wanted to keep his power.
But he couldn't deny that the question had merit. Without Wulf to tear a hole into the Ghost Zone, he'd have to rely on the Fenton Portal again. He'd used it for his own passage to Amity Park, but with the shield up it was inaccessible. The ghost kid had not only locked himself up in the house, but he'd taken their only reliable way back to the Ghost Zone with him. And the ghost kid was also part human…would he have to lower the shield to leave, or would he be able to walk right through it in human form? Chances were, he'd be able to leave it up to keep his family and friends safe, and exit the shield without so much as a twitch.
Walker had to think of every possibility, and the chances of not having a sure-fire way back to the Ghost Zone outweighed the benefits of disposing of Wulf. He'd promised that mangy black flea-ball that freedom was coming: all he had to do was make sure the creature knew that it would let him and his men back into the Ghost Zone before it was freed. And then…then he could watch as he took care of one of his most hated prisoners.
The appeal of this slight change in plans was very strong, and Walker smiled to himself. He caught his expression at the last second and morphed the pleased grin into an angered grimace. "I'm not stupid," he said lowly before shoving the guard away. His gaze roved around the rest of his crew as he continued speaking. "For your benefit, I'll repeat your orders—except for something I hadn't planned on," he added hastily, already knowing how to phrase it to serve him best. "The kid acted unpredictably, locking us out and himself in. But he might be able to get out anyway."
His gaze transferred to the house, but none of his men slouched, breathed, or dared to look away from him. He smiled to himself at that as he walked a line, dividing the guards into two groups. Turning to his left, he ordered, "Half of you are on guard duty. At the meeting tomorrow, you're to stay among the rest of the humans to keep an eye on Wulf if he makes an appearance—there's a chance he will if he decided not to make a break for it. You never know, he's just an animal."
The guards chuckled to themselves, and Walker nodded to them before turning sharply on his heel and addressing the second group. "The other half of you is continuing with the original plan. And now that we're all cleared up…" he trailed off ominously.
The guard he'd grabbed before shied back, the feminine frame of the overshadowed body shrinking away from Walker's gaze. He grinned, before extracting himself from the human body he'd taken. One of his guards who had yet to overshadow anyone flew forward to claim the body before the human began to wake up from the post-overshadowing daze.
Walker schooled his features into a glare. "On to phase two of my plan." One half of his guards rose to hover in the air, ready to follow him, while the other spread out along the street and melted into the shadows. Pleased with this obedience, Walker floated up to the sky and went invisible.
Intent on his next destination, he absentmindedly brushed his fingers over the device clipped to his belt. Once the ghost punk was taken care of, he promised himself.
Then he would wrap up the final loose end…
Panting, Danny curled his fingers around his shins and tried his hardest to slow his breathing. The situation he found himself in was exasperating—he'd thought that dealing with his classmates and teachers at school was bad enough, and now they were trying to physically attack him! At least in Casper High's halls, he only had to watch out for Dash's bullying. Mr. Lancer would never have hit him. At least those ghost were taken care of, now.
There were no more of Walker's goons in the pipe maze. With those guards out of the way, there was no reason for Danny to still be there. He'd gone invisible, tucking himself into a small space between the pipes when he noticed his mother's intent of firing on him next. Thankfully, she thought he'd simply run away from her, and watched with bated breath as she darted up the stairs. In the silence of the basement, he could almost believe that all the ghosts really were taken care of. But he knew that there was one left—besides himself—and that he was the most dangerous of them all.
Walker was definitely up to something more than terrorizing the town. The segment of the news he had watched before heading to the scene of the broadcast had shown what Walker planned for Danny Phantom. And if the tyrant ghost had left the basement, too… Danny quickly went visible and threw himself into the air, heading toward the ceiling with a scowl on his face. Why hadn't he just left when his mother thought he had, instead of hiding like a frightened child? If Walker had left the room even a few minutes ago, there was no telling what he'd already managed to—
A familiar feeling billowed from his lungs, flowing up and out to condense in a cold breath of air. He was caught completely off guard at the assault, which hit him almost immediately after his ghost sense went off. "Ahh!"
The speed at which he was hit sent him tumbling head over heels. He barely managed to turn intangible as he was propelled through the ceiling. Surfacing inside the hall, Danny collapsed to his hands and knees among overturned benches. The dusty stone floor swam before his eyes as he pressed one hand to his head, trying to quell the nausea—flipping over violently seven or eight times in quick succession would do that to a person.
Then the ghost was phasing through the floor, grabbing him by the wrists as it went. "Hey!" Danny cried out, struggling against the iron grip while trying to focus his eyes. Recognition was instantaneous and Danny groaned aloud. How stupid was he? Of course Walker wouldn't have just left the basement while Danny was still down there!
The mayor grinned back at him with an evil look in his eye, and then the two were moving with a strange, awkward gait. Walker was holding one of Danny's arms over his—the mayor's—shoulders, and keeping an iron-strong clench on his other wrist. Danny stumbled, struggling against the insanely strong grip the older ghost had on him. They were moving quickly toward…the front doors?
Not understanding at all, Danny grunted, "What are you doing?" as he tried to break Walker's grip.
"There's all types of prisons, kid," the ghost replied with the hint of a smirk.
The doors to the town hall swung open wide.
Danny froze at the sight. His wide eyes numbly took in the mass of townspeople crowded on the lawn in front of the hall. There were camera crews everywhere, and the instant he and Walker appeared, the uproar fell to gasps, spattered with a few random screams. He recognized multiple faces in the crowd—neighbors, teachers, peers…his dad and Jazz, standing beside the Fenton Assault Vehicle. While he stared at them, they stared at him. And all Danny could think was that Walker was holding himself in an awkward position, draping Danny…across him…so that…
In his ear, the ghost gloated in a low voice. "I'm making sure your prison is the town where you live."
Danny hated to quote his sister on anything, but at those words he had a Gestalt moment, born from simple facts. First, the town—thanks to Walker and every other ghost Danny had ever battled—thought all ghosts were evil. Second, Walker had publicly started to discredit Danny on television in the guise of the mayor. Third, the words that Walker had just hissed in a voice too low for anyone else to hear. And, finally, Danny Phantom looked like he was holding the mayor in a semi-headlock.
Conclusion: Danny Phantom was being framed for assaulting the mayor of Amity Park.
The ghost under his arm was wrapping up the rest of his plan with an expression of terror and a smug gleam in his eye. "Help!" he shouted.
Before, Danny had been irritated. Now he was furious, and frustrated, and really wanted to hit something. This was just perfect.
In his anger, his hands began to glow. It was one of those little control issues he had as a ghost, like the way his eyes turned green whenever he was mad as a human. He heard shouts and screams—but none was as loud as the cry next to him, which broke off the rehearsed speech. Walker's clench on Danny's wrists broke, and he yanked his hands away. But the human body moved just slightly out of sync with the ghost inside—Danny saw Walker's hands for an instant. The hands that had gripped him when the ecto-energy flowed from them…
Then he knew what to do. He heard a low thrum behind him, from a weapon, and the start of his mother's voice. "Back away at once, you—"
But he was already moving, and he couldn't stop the energy that surged from deep inside his body. The thrill of electricity raced across his nerves, jumping into his skin and soaking into the bubbles of green around his hands. He pulled one hand back, drawing on his fear and anger—he could feel it swelling and draining and flowing in his veins—to power the ball of green plasma around his fist. It glowed brighter than he thought possible. And then he shoved his hand forward, firing a high-powered beam of energy directly into Walker's back.
The ghost let out an inhuman roar of pain as his true body flew forward, ripping free from the mayor's. His form solidified as it touched the air, the shocking appearance of the ghost stunning…well, pretty much the entire town.
The blast blew Walker all the way down the steps, into a heap at the foot of the town meeting hall.
The whole bizarre incident lasted mere seconds, and Danny let out a heaving sigh with his next breath. The stress of the situation was really catching up to him—he'd been fighting and dodging ecto-beams all morning. And… Wait, ecto-beams. Mini Fenton portal-on-a-gun. Belatedly, his head whipped to the side, body tense as he prepared to dodge out of the way of the ecto-gun he'd heard whining moments before he'd tossed Walker into the air. It was only yards away, and pointed directly at him.
But Maddie didn't fire. She stared, jaw dropped and eyes wide.
Danny could only feel relief. She wasn't shooting, so she had seen what the true story here was: he had to be safe, right? As if to negate the unspoken question, he realized abruptly that his hands were full, propping the mayor up. He quickly adjusted his grip so that the semi-conscious man didn't collapse to the ground in a heap. Well, he couldn't do anything about the mayor—like the townspeople would let him, no matter what they had seen—and he had to put him somewhere. Danny began to drag the man towards his mother, floating slightly to offset the weight.
He moved about two feet when he was suddenly hurtling through the air again, the mayor knocked completely out of his grasp. "Aah!" he cried out, abruptly cut off when his back slammed into one of the white pillars that served no structural purpose to the town hall. He thought he heard something crack, but with the pain that blossomed in his back, he couldn't really focus on figuring out where it had come from. He collapsed to his hands and knees at the base of the pillar, bracing himself with an elbow when he tried to move and the pain lanced through his back.
Through the haze of pain that clouded his vision, he took in the mayor lying in a crumpled heap at the top of the stairs. And, striding towards him, a nine-foot-tall Walker with clenched fists and a hard, inexpressive face. Disregarding the inhuman size of the ghost, Danny noted absently that it was really quiet for a ghost attack in Amity Park. He would have expected more screaming and carrying on.
He had a feeling it had something to do with the aura of menacing power that emanated from Walker. "Oh, boy," he muttered to himself, pushing to his feet. He had to ignore the pain, but he was glad to note that it was easing. Ghost healing was a wonderful thing, although he'd still have bruises for a few days as a human.
The white-suited ghost cracked his neck, then the deep, authoritative, and echoing tone of the ghost warden chilled the air. "You ruined my plan, punk." His eyes were glowing, Danny noticed vaguely. They were glowing very, very brightly—laser-eyes brightly. That was new. And probably very bad. "That's against the rules."
He couldn't help it. "Are you making up more laws as you go along?" He was nervous. As such, his witty banter—and possibly brains—suffered.
Walker flexed his hands, curling them into black-gloved fists. He was floating just above the top step. "Boy, I am the law. And since you already destroyed my plans for this town, I guess I'll just have to drag you back to my prison and have you serve out the rest of your sentence there."
Danny laughed—nervously, feeling as if he were targeted by the Fenton Bazooka—and tried to calm down. He stepped to the side, sliding away from the pillar without getting too much closer to Walker. "Can I organize another prison-break?"
That seemed to push a button. Walker snarled. Really, actually snarled at him, like he was…well, Wulf.
But there was something about that growl, as it echoed through the air, which made Danny bristle. Both of his hands began to glow brightly as something inside him snapped and reacted to the threat. He felt…odd. Defensive, in a way, but also…territorial, in a primal way that partly scared him and partly felt exhilarating.
He'd figure it out later. Focus, now. The warden had decided to actually speak. "I'll make sure you don't get out this time, kid," Walker seethed. "You're one of the worst I've ever had the pleasure of capturing. You break rules just by existing."
"Aw, come on, Walker—I'm not that bad," Danny exclaimed, feigning hurt. "I just exist to torture you, that's all." But he didn't relax as he made his joke, and he didn't release the ecto-energy coiled around his fists.
Walker snorted. "You shouldn't even exist, ghost-kid." A testament to the fact that the Ghost Zone was well aware of Danny's status as a halfa—but one that he certainly did not need Amity Park in its entirety to hear.
He bristled, feeling the icy energy flow more strongly through him as he glared. The world dimmed slightly, but Walker remained crystal clear—which meant his eyes were glowing, as the human world went fuzzy and ghost-creatures gained sharper focus. His teeth were gritted as he choked out, "Nice. Name-calling. What, are you five?"
Walker raised his hand, and Danny prepared to fight—but instead, the other ghost made some kind of hand movement that didn't mean anything to Danny.
It obviously meant something to his goons, though. Suddenly, ghost-prison-guards were soaring out of people, releasing their hold. Danny's jaw tightened: he'd thought that the overshadowed peers and teachers in the basement had been the rest of Walker's goons. "Great—backup," he muttered to himself.
The previously overshadowed people in question collapsed to the ground, disoriented and almost unconscious in some cases. Danny quickly counted the cavalry that Walker had left outside the hall. Twenty guards formed a half-circle in the air behind Walker, and Danny no longer felt semi-confident. Now he felt just plain unprepared.
Danny raised his fists, ready to fight. He blocked out the shouts and murmurs from the human crowd, focusing his attention on—
A ghostly blur leapt to the ground behind Walker. The white ghost whipped around, seeing the black fur and ragged green clothing that Danny had already recognized with disbelief. The creature threw its arms out, extended its claws, and howled loudly. The sound tore through the air, leaving behind a ringing silence.
In the quiet that followed that ghostly animal howl, Danny exclaimed, "Wulf!" He floated off the ground, unthinkingly pushing a little closer to the ex-prisoner.
Walker roared, "What are you doing, Wulf?" The guards looked down at the 'ex'-prisoner grinned at one another, swinging their batons casually. Danny's eyes narrowed, but Wulf looked like he could hold his own. He wasn't too worried…
The Esperanto-speaking ghost hunched its shoulders, managing to look bigger and more threatening. Danny blinked: wow, he hadn't thought that possible. Then the wolf twisted its snout into a lopsided grin. "Mi amiko," Wulf grumbled, pausing for a moment to struggle with the word before adding, "friend."
Danny's mouth broke into a wide grin. Wulf seemed excited, flexing his paws repeatedly and showing off his razor-sharp claws. He was ready, and Danny caught his eye with a sharp nod, a shared declaration that they would both stand and fight.
He had expected Walker to be angry that his prisoner had changed sides. He waited for a shout to start the battle, or another hand signal to the guards to start the fighting. Instead, the white-garbed ghost began to laugh. A chill raced down Danny's spine at the sound. He knew it was two against twenty-one, but there was something about that laugh…There was no hesitation as he pulled something out of his pocket, eyeing Wulf with a mixture of fury and disdain. Then he lifted the cover of the—remote? "Time to wrap up a loose end," the white-suited ghost said, his eyes locked on Wulf.
Walker pressed the button.
Energy surged through the air around the large creature instantly, in pulsing white, electric waves. Wulf screeched in pain—an ear splitting, nails-on-the-chalkboard howl of agony—and his clawed hands tore at the collar on his throat.
"Wulf!" Danny dove. He didn't think, he didn't even notice as he shot past Walker like a bullet.
Fiery pain bloomed from the middle of his back, and he crashed to the ground face-first. Gasping in pain, he rolled over and saw Walker heading toward him with single-minded fury. Seemed that he'd have to fight. He stood, ignoring the ebbing pain in his back, and raised his glowing fists as he faced Walker.
It wasn't every day that years of theory and research were turned on their head.
Maddie had been well aware that it was possible for a ghost to possess a person, taking over their body. But, foolishly, she had thought that she would recognize a victim of overshadowing when she saw one. What exactly had made her think that her extensive knowledge of ghosts would enable her to sense one in the body of a human being was a mystery to her. And yet, she'd been unpleasantly shocked when the young ghost called Inviso-Bill had knocked a powerful, creepy ghost out of the mayor right in front of her.
Well, she had been shocked before that, considering she briefly thought that the teenage ghost had the gall to physically hurt the mayor right in front of the entire town.
But that was another story, and one that apparently had not been true. The mayor had been knocked to the ground before her when the white ghost had blasted the ghost-boy into one of the stone pillars of the town hall. And the mayor had been completely out of it as she scrambled to pull him out of the way and to safety. He'd mumbled something about dinner—which day's dinner, she didn't know. All that it proved was that he had been overshadowed for quite some time.
And if the conversation between Inviso-Bill and the white ghost was anything to go by, the young ghost had been set up, named a danger to the town by a fellow ghost, exposed to them—they knew his name now—and attacked for destroying the white ghosts' master plan.
All in all, not a good day for old scientific theories regarding ghosts.
But Maddie was a scientist at heart. She and Jack had bonded over their love of science, of discovery and innovation and failure. Yes, failure. A scientist was not infallible. A scientist adapted, accepted new information and formed a hypothesis to test out. A hypothesis was not always true: sometimes it was wrong. And then a scientist learned, reformed the hypothesis, and moved on to retest it again and again. Paranormal science was even sketchier than traditional academic styles. She and Jack had gone back to the drawing board hundreds of times.
Yet, one of their founding principles had never been tested. As far as evidence had gone to show, ghosts were nothing more than the remnants of deceased souls, an imprint in ectoplasm that reformed around a central obsession so strong that it took hold of the ghost, shaping their every action and thought process. They knew very little about ghost biology, other than that theoretically, it should be the opposite than that of a humans'. And since the deceased often obsessed over something that had wronged them in life, or had caused their death, they tended to be violent. Evil.
Inviso-Bill was breaking all the rules. He had gone against this ghost, something that should not have happened. Ghosts did not interfere with one another unless their obsessions were at odds and one wanted what they other wanted. Even then, the white ghost was acting…maliciously toward the ghost-boy. He seemed to have a personal vendetta against Inviso-Bill, something that was unique to previously observed ghost interactions. There was babble about rules and laws—there was law in the Ghost Zone? They had a government?
And Inviso-Bill broke a law… She had to wonder, was it because he spent so much time in the human world? Was that against the law in the Ghost Zone? And if so, that made the rest of the ghosts that she and her husband had observed…rule-breakers. Wanted…well, not men, but certainly wanted ghosts, perhaps felons.
That changed a lot. After all, a felon was not a typical, everyday citizen…
Then there was the snide comment that white ghost—'Walker', Inviso-Bill had said—had made that caused the young ghost to glare with a ferocity she had, somehow, not expected to see on his face. 'Shouldn't even exist'? And 'name-calling'—what had the ghost said that was rude or impolite? All he had said was 'ghost-kid' and, well, Inviso-Bill did look like a young ghost. Was he…not? Was that an insult, in ghostly terms of etiquette?
Maddie's mind was whirling at a hundred miles an hour, the scientist in her desperate to solve the equation. But she had far more important things in mind, especially when more ghosts stopped overshadowing townspeople. And then another ghost dove into the mix, howling like a wild animal before speaking in another language. Followed by a single word of English: "Friend." She watched Inviso-Bill's expression as he smiled at the self-declared friend, a clear affection there as he kept one eye on the white ghost.
Despite adamant declarations that ghosts were evil, Maddie had truly not been prepared for the depravity of what that 'Walker' ghost did. The white electricity that crackled over the wolf-like ghost's fur was obviously bound to be painful, even without the nails-on-a-chalkboard howls. Electricity did not mix well with ghosts. She actually shuddered, wishing she could press her hands over her ears.
There was no time, though. Inviso-Bill shouted his friend's name—and how fitting a name it was, 'Wulf'—and Walker… Well, Walker attacked as the ghost-boy tried to fly past him. He lobbed a plasma bolt at the boy's back, throwing him out of the sky headfirst into concrete.
Maddie reacted immediately. Twenty-one ghosts total—twenty lackeys and their leader, Walker—and a group of three against them: the ghost-boy, her husband, and herself. "Jack!" she shouted as she hoisted the gun to her shoulder. "Get that collar off that ghost!" And 'Wulf' would make four.
She was proud of her husband when he replied, "Sure thing, Maddie!" without a hesitation or argument. He was just like her, even though outsiders did not think he was all that intelligent. She was sure that he had reached the same basic conclusion that she had: Walker was the danger. Inviso-Bill was helping them, at least in this fight.
Maddie lifted her cannon and shot two ghosts at once, sucking them back into the Ghost Zone. She heard the howls of the wolf-creature fade, but resolutely fixed her aim on another ghost and shot it out of the sky. One minute passed, three ghosts down, and eighteen to go.
Walker had not noticed her yet. He seemed fixated on Inviso-Bill, who had thrown himself back into the air and faced him with glowing hands and a determined expression. She took the opportunity to shoot a fourth ghost as it hurtled toward the wolf and Jack. Her husband had stopped the electric shocks with a surprisingly well-aimed blast of a gun, and was now peeling the collar off of the creature. It shivered, like a frightened animal, but it wasn't attacking him.
Something hit Maddie from the side and she went down, rolling and pushing back to her feet, only to bend her knees slightly in a ready-to-fight stance. Her grip on the cannon had broken, but the weapon was lying safely in one piece. The ghost who had hit her—who, come to think of it, looked vaguely like it was wearing a policeman's uniform—advanced, gloved hands twirling a baton. She raised her hands and spun forward with a precisely aimed kick.
The baton rapped sharply against her leg and she cried out, losing her balance and falling. The pain on her shin didn't overwhelm her, but it rattled her focus enough that the bolt of energy that raced at her from that same weapon was not blocked. Instead of hurting her, it formed itself into energy handcuffs and bound her wrists and ankles. "You fiend!" she cried out angrily. "I'll get you!" Now, if only she could break free and reach the gun—
The baton swung toward her head.
This whole situation was a horrible mess!
Jazz fumed as she threw herself into the Fenton Assault Vehicle, rooting desperately for the container that she knew was in there somewhere. Whoever that ghost was, it was obvious that Danny had run into him before. And she was betting it was on one of those unauthorized trips into the Ghost Zone that he thought she didn't know about. Well, if he wasn't cleaning the lab, who in the world did he think was cleaning it? She didn't want one of her parents' inventions or chemicals to accidentally zap her brother!
And, okay, maybe she had checked the automatic computer log for the Specter Speeder after she couldn't find Danny that one time. But that wasn't really spying on him!
It was…checking up on him. Because, whether he would admit it to himself or not, the whole superhero gig was bound to take its toll on his psyche. Not only was he an unpopular adolescent who had parents with permissive tendencies, but he was also dealing with extreme stressors that most adults never had to face. She wasn't stupid—she'd heard that mechanical ghost shouting about putting his pelt on the wall. If that alone wasn't enough material for nightmares, she didn't know what was.
But Danny wouldn't appreciate her help. She would be a nosy, overbearing sister if she tried to involve herself in his secret life. He had to be the one to take that step and bring her into it.
Then she could help him.
Until then…she would do what she could. A feral grin spread to her lips as she finally snatched a Fenton Thermos out of a pile of other weapons and gadgets. She took the extra seconds grab an ecto-gun and attached both Thermos and gun to a utility belt that she snatched up from the pile of weaponry.
Throwing herself back out of the FAV, she glanced around the battlefield, taking in the sight. The normal townspeople were running away from the fight, into stores and other buildings across the street from the town hall. She was glad that they were getting out of the way—but, with the curiosity of human beings, she could see faces peering out of windows and doorways. It was stupid of them, but then again, people in a mob mindset were generally foolish.
Her father was removing the collar on that poor wolf-creature that Danny had called, fittingly, 'Wulf'. None of the ghosts had yet to get a hand on Jack Fenton—he shot once as she watched before immediately refocusing on the collar. She was glad to note that it was no longer shocking the ghost-creature. Then her eyes landed on her mother, who was the second-closest person to her.
Jazz immediately uncapped the Thermos and ran towards her mother, watching as the baton the ghost held wrapped green, ectoplasmic bindings around Maddie's wrists and ankles. Her teeth gritted as she watched the ghost raise his baton again, preparing to strike her defenseless mother on the head. She dove forward and caught it in the blue beam of the Thermos just as it began to swing. "Take that, creep!" she cried out, smiling in triumph as the ghost disappeared into the container with a long wail.
Maddie let out a sigh as Jazz skidded to a halt beside her, capping the Thermos. "Thanks, honey," she cooed, smiling as she tugged her hands. "Can you shoot these chains off of me? The medium setting should do the trick."
"Sure thing, Mom," Jazz replied, leveling the gun and firing twice. She'd practiced with her parents' weapons, ever since discovering Danny's secret, and so her aim was precise and confident. "I'm going to go help Dad—I have a Thermos and you can send them straight back to the Ghost Zone, but Dad doesn't have either."
"Good thinking, sweetheart," Maddie replied, snatching her gun back off the ground and leveling it at another ghost that was heading their way. She fired. "Five," she muttered to herself with a slightly scary grin.
Jazz turned and ran to her father as quickly as she could. It looked like her mother was keeping up a tally of the ghosts she dispatched, and if that were so, it meant Maddie was in a competitive frame of mind. She had noticed that this happened when her mother was trying to puzzle over something in her head while busy with something else. It was like a defense mechanism, one that Jazz found fascinating…at any other time.
As she saw Danny fall toward the ground again, she knew that this was not the time to be fascinated by her mother's mind. She watched as Walker flew toward her brother, intent on causing damage. A gasp escaped her lips as the white ghost fired a shot of energy, and breathed in relief when Danny threw up a shield against the attack.
Then she was at Jack's side, and had to capture two more ghosts that were bearing down on her father and the wolf-creature. Jack gazed at her with wide, proud eyes as he held the collar in his hands. "That's my little girl!" he proclaimed loudly, sniffling a little.
'Wulf', on the other hand, happily flexed his clawed paws and turned, back to father and daughter. He faced a pair of ghosts that had converged on the trio, batons ready in hand and carrying the air of smug confidence. They floated closer, lifting their weapons. 'Wulf' threw himself forward, body-slamming one of them and thrusting the claws of one hand through the other. They both cried out, as the wolf-creature slashed his other paw into thin air. Jazz gasped when the air itself tore, and the swirling green of the Ghost Zone appeared. Those claws—they could rip through the air itself, creating a portal!
The creature unhooked one ghost from its claws by tossing it into the hole. 'Wulf' then wasted absolutely no time stepping off of the second, frightened ghost and throwing it into the hole as well. The hole closed up almost immediately after the two ghosts had disappeared into the Ghost Zone.
"Well, there's something you don't see everyday," her father murmured to himself before a wide, childish grin stretched over his face. "Cool! I've got to study that when this fight's over!" Right on cue, he shot another ghost out of the air. Snapping back to the fight at hand, Jazz prepared the Fenton Thermos, placing a finger over the 'capture' button. In her free hand she held the ecto-gun, prepared to use it.
"I've got your back, Dad!"
He grinned over his shoulder at her, as she aimed the Thermos and captured the ghost he'd just shot out of the air. "That's my little girl!" he cried again.
Somehow, Jazz couldn't really bring herself to mind the context of the exclamation—not with the affection behind it.
Another bolt of plasma shot toward him and he threw up another shield, absorbing the energy instead of letting it bounce away to do more damage. He'd learned that trick a couple of weeks ago, practicing it with Sam and Tucker. He still wasn't used to the sensation of ectoplasm flooding through his fingertips, racing to the core of his body and fitting into the power he himself carried. It was a heady rush, focusing his attention and giving him more power to work with.
Danny lowered the shield, immediately firing at Walker. The other ghost simply dodged his attack, with a stiff body and narrowed eyes. It looked like his anger was absolute, and every bit of his attention was focused on Danny. On one hand, this was good—he wouldn't go after anyone else—but on the other, this meant that Danny couldn't help Wulf. He was stuck in a battle against a large, scarily angry ghost.
And he wasn't sure he could win.
Walker pulled out a baton, which matched those his guards carried. Danny dove, swooped and spiraled as the warden fired repeated shots from the weapon. Any of those that struck Danny would have bound him in ghost chains, and he really wasn't looking forward to what Walker would do to him if he were captured like that.
Walker growled, "Why don't you just give up already, punk? You're not going to beat me." He fired plasma from his hand.
"I'm not going to give up," Danny countered with word and plasma-blast. The two energies met in the middle, causing a small explosion that knocked the two of them tumbling through the air.
When the world had righted, a horrible situation presented itself. Walker straightened with a triumphant glint in his eye, while Danny struggled against the arms that held him. Two ghost guards had caught him when he tumbled back, gripping his arms and legs as he struggled to free himself. "Let me go!" he cried out.
The guards used their batons, binding him with green chains and tugging him toward Walker. "No can do, punk. You're coming with us," the warden gloated. The guards released Danny, and he found himself floating amidst six guards and Walker. They surrounded him, keeping him from trying to fly off. Walker leaned forward, one of his hands lighting up with ecto-energy. Danny met his gaze head-on, glaring and gritting his teeth as he scowled. He would not show fear. He would not give Walker what he wanted.
One of the ghost guards disappeared in streaming blue light, sucked down toward the ground. Danny looked down to see his sister holding a Thermos and an ecto-gun, looking right up at the congregation of eight ghosts floating in the sky. Danny was vaguely aware that his parents were fighting four or five ghosts, and realized that the fighters on the ground must have been responsible for dispatching the other guards.
As Danny took in his family with a sudden burst of pride, he neglected to notice Walker's scowl deepening as he turned to his guards. He did notice when the white ghost snarled, "Get the girl. Bring her here."
Danny blinked twice before a trio of guards was flying towards her. "No!" he cried out. "Jazz! Run!"
She didn't. Of course she didn't. Why would she listen to her little bro—oh, right, he wasn't Danny Fenton. He was Danny Phantom. She wouldn't listen to a ghost who, for all she knew, was as evil as their parents had always said ghosts were. Great…
He was happy to note that his parents had gotten rid of the ghosts they were fighting, and were rushing to his sister's side. If he couldn't save her, they would.
Somehow, they were too late to help her. Someone else made it before they did.
A blur of fur leapt to his sister's side before soaring into the air with a ridiculously powerful leap. The guards flew back up into the air, barely avoiding Wulf's claws as he fell back to the ground. He tilted his head back as he fell, letting loose a howl as his eyes locked on Danny. A snarl from behind Danny—"Wulf!"—and a frustrated cry of anger was the only warning he had before something slammed into his shoulder blade.
Pain bloomed on the bone as he was thrown through the air again, hurtling toward the ground. "Aahh!" One of the guards that had flown down toward Jazz caught him by the chains, spinning to throw him back up into the center of the crowd of ghosts.
Narrowed eyes locked on his as he panted, gritting his teeth against the pain. The circle of seven ghosts met his eyes, and he glared at Walker, who was front and center in his field of vision.
The warden never moved his eyes from Danny's face as he snarled, "Forget the girl—get him."
Danny was in trouble.
He managed to get himself surrounded by the greater chunk of the remaining ghosts, plus that Walker one who was in charge. Jazz gritted her teeth as she moved from her father's side, intent on helping Danny any way she could. He couldn't fight all of them by himself. The rest of their family had drawn half of Walker's ghost fighters, as ghost hunters were obviously just as big a threat to them as Danny Phantom. But he was still the main target, and their main punching bag.
She counted quickly, noting the positions and visible dynamics of the group. Danny was surrounded, but some of the ghosts were above him and a couple below. He was bound with green energy around his wrists and ankles, keeping him trapped and unable to fight. Aiming the Thermos carefully, she aimed it at one of the ghosts that was closer to the ground and in a position that was to her advantage. The beam of the Thermos would not hit Danny.
She pressed the button. The ghost disappeared into it. That went according to her calculations. The remaining ghosts all looked down at her. That was not according to the plan, but she could deal with that. Walker's loud, booming voice echoed menacingly in the air. "Get the girl. Bring her here."
That was definitely not in her plan.
Danny shouted at her. "No! Jazz! Run!" But she was not going to leave her baby brother up there. She lifted the Thermos and ecto-gun as two ghosts detached themselves from the group and made their way toward her at a high speed.
Wulf blurred into her vision, blocking the two ghosts from sight as he soared into the air, slashing with his paws. The ghosts backed away and he fell back to earth, letting out a howl at the sky as he did so. They turned and looked at the white ghost, who was glaring with a ferocity that sent shivers down Jazz's spine. "Wulf!" he snarled.
Then he raised one large hand and hit Danny, the strength of his punch sending her little brother flying through the air toward the ground. One of the ghosts that had been flying toward her caught the green bindings around Danny's wrists and used that to swing him back up to the white ghost and the rest of his minions. The two ghosts closer to her floated back up to the group, forming a loose bubble around Danny.
Walker said, "Forget the girl—get him."
And they moved in, batons twirling and little chuckles reaching her ears from where she stood on the ground, bound by gravity and unable to move. Paralyzing fear held her muscles locked in place as the ghosts moved in on her brother—and that her little brother, she had to do something… Their parents weren't, they were just as shell-shocked as she was, and they didn't know that was their son or else they would be acting…but she knew, and she was frozen in fear. Wulf was howling, leaping into the air but falling back to the earth because he couldn't fly and they weren't close enough.
Not for his claws. But she had a Thermos… Snapping out of it, Jazz lifted the Thermos and turned the blue light on the huddle of ghosts in the air—and cried out in anguish when the Thermos' pull couldn't touch them. They had drifted up in the air, floating just out of range. She had to get closer, she had to do something…
But nothing was working. She ran to a park bench, but that wasn't enough height. Her mother fired with her cannon once when she snapped out of it at her daughter's desperation, but it had the same effect as the Thermos. Nothing. They were too far away. Jazz even shoved the Thermos in her father's hands, but Jack—the tallest man in every room, with a presence beyond that of a lovable, childish man—couldn't reach the ghosts from the ground, either.
And all the while, as they scrambled like ants over the ground, she could hear cries of pain from her brother. Once Jack had failed, she collapsed to her knees and stared up at the ghosts in despair. Her little brother… Jazz had the feeling she was going into shock.
Then something happened, and her jaw dropped as she watched the sky.
The guards twirled their batons as they advanced on him, and Danny began to feel mildly claustrophobic.
Walker threw the first punch, and after that it was like being tossed into a blender. He was spun around the sphere who-knew-how-many-times, feeling batons and fists landing on every part of his body that they could reach. He would have so many bruises tomorrow… With the chains holding him, he could cover his face easily enough and curl to protect all major organs and body parts, but the rest of him was more or less 'fair game'.
He couldn't stop himself from crying out a couple of times, though. Especially once he threw up a shield around himself. He had to struggle to keep the shield up and intact, which was hard with fists and weapons hammering on the outside of it. A few times it failed, but he managed to pull it back up again in desperation.
The struggle was trying to hold the shield while he collected energy within himself. He knew that the only weapon he could use against this many enemies was his Wail. The problem was that it usually drained him. And—due to training with Tucker and Sam—he knew that it drained him quickly if he didn't consciously pull together the necessary energy before resorting to its use.
So he accepted the beating without too much complaint, because he split his focus between keeping up a shield and building up energy to use his last-resort weapon.
He could feel the energy building in his throat, around his vocal cords. It was a cold feeling, as if ice were lodged in his throat. Ice that grew with every passing second. He breathed in deeply, working up the nerve to release the shield and let loose with his Wail. One…two…three, and he sucked in a deep breath and pushed the shield out. The ghosts surrounding him were pushed back just enough that he could hit a greater portion of them at once with the Wail, but not too far. They were close enough that the concentrated blast would really hit them.
Straightening as well as he could in the green chains, he opened his mouth and let the energy flow out the way it wanted. He had to close his eyes to slits, only able to see in glimmers as the waves of energy rippled through the air, striking the guards and Walker. They were thrown every which way, hurtling toward the ground with a force that startled even him.
When he was finally spent, his shoulders drooping and eyes half-closed from weakness, he tugged on the chains that held him. To his surprise, they fizzled and broke, falling toward the ground but disappearing on the way. Well, he knew the Wail was a dangerous weapon, but that was still a surprise.
He didn't even notice that Walker was still conscious until it was too late.
Maddie gasped as the ghost boy was surrounded. She tried to help her daughter get rid of some of them, but it was no use. Without being in range, there was virtually nothing that she or her daughter could do to help. And that was a strange thought all on its own, wasn't it? Helping a ghost…
She shook her head as she stared up at the mass of ectoplasmic entities hovering in the air above their heads. The cannon was loose in her hands. The howls of that wolf-creature pierced the air, and she felt tears forming in her eyes as it leapt into the air again and again, coming nowhere near high enough to help its…ally. Friend.
Jazz fell to her knees as she stared up at the crowd of ghosts, and Maddie felt her heart rip a little more. Oh, the compassion in her daughter. Even after hearing her parents babble on and on about how evil ghosts were, she still felt for that teenage ghost who was trapped in what she, as a mother, could only describe as torture. It looked like a gang initiation, the violence of it that she could really only guess at.
She didn't know enough about Inviso-Bill anymore to say whether he was good, or evil. But she did know that those ghosts up there were bad. She knew that the wolf-creature in front of her, acting almost like a desperate pet, so devoted and torn, was not attacking her, her daughter or her husband. In fact, it hadn't hurt her husband as he removed the collar that had hurt it so badly, and wounded animals were always dangerous, even to their rescuers.
As a scientist, she wasn't too proud to admit that her theories could be wrong. That was what made science fascinating.
She bit her lip, wishing there was more she could do—
A faint green bubble bloomed from the center of the ghost mass, nudging them back. As the swirling green faded, she saw Inviso-Bill in the center, curled slightly around himself and still bound in chains. He straightened, and from his mouth came a stream of energy that looked like waves.
It hurled the ghosts surrounding him through the air, hurtling toward the ground and through the sky. She could hear him, hear what sounded like a wail—a long, lonely and angry cry that made her want to clap her hands over her ears and sob at the despair that echoed in every quivering note. The ghost-wolf actually did cover his ears for an instant, as if in pain, before he shook his head and threw himself back into the air, into the energy. She was confused until he sunk his claws into once of the ghosts that had been tossed away from the boy.
Then she understood, and lifted her weapon.
As the ghost-boy relentlessly used this strange new power on his attackers, Maddie performed clean up duty. The nearest two ghosts were quickly sucked back into the Ghost Zone. The wolf-creature had thrown the ghost embedded on his claws in through a hole he'd ripped himself. She saw Jazz suck up three dazed ghosts in quick succession, and Jack fired his gun at one of the remaining ghosts. She zapped that one for him after it was dazed and nearly unconscious—was that possible? For a ghost to be unconscious?
Shrugging off the question, she gazed around and happily noted that the ghost lackeys were all present and accounted for—in either the Ghost Zone or her daughter's Thermos. Her eyes flicked up to the ghost boy, who was drifting, hovering in the air. He'd broken his green, ectoplasmic chains at some point, but looked worse for the wear. He seemed dazed and surprisingly shaky. Weak. Maddie frowned. That ability he had used, he'd never displayed to Amity Park before in all the times he had appeared. It seemed that he was keeping more dangerous powers under wraps, which conflicted greatly with the theory that he wanted to destroy, or take control of, the town.
He was floating just above them, seeming to collapse in on himself, when a roar and a streak of white reappeared. Maddie's face whitened as she realized that the ghosts were not all accounted for. The white ghost, the one in charge, had still been loose. Berating herself mentally, she lifted her weapon, aimed, and—paused.
She bit her lip. Inviso-Bill and the white ghost were locked in what looked like a 'fight to the death'—again. The white ghost had his hands around Inviso-Bill's throat, and though the teenage ghost kicked and struggled, he was obviously still weak. Maddie, or Jazz, could fire—but that would drag both of them into either the Ghost Zone or the Thermos. They were too close to one another, and the white ghost would not release the ghost-boy if he were hit. Maddie was sure of it.
But Inviso-Bill's eyes locked on her over the white ghosts' shoulder, his raspy shout direct. "Do it!"
Still, she hesitated—something nagging in her, reminding her that he would go, too. The white ghost might not be able to see her, but the sound of his laugh and the fact that he didn't turn showed that he thought she wasn't much of a threat. Inviso-Bill kicked the white ghost in the face and pried a little space between the hands and his throat. "Just do it! Now!" he cried out. A tear pricked the corner of her eye, and she re-aimed the gun. Fired.
A howl pierced the air.
Little black spots crowded on the edges of his vision as he struggled, trying to pry Walker's fingers off of his throat. The warden hissed at him, a wordless, mindless snarl that conveyed his anger more accurately than words. He fought not to look at the ghost, trying only to breathe. He might be part ghost, but he did need air.
His eyes sought, and found, his family and a ghostly ally. Wulf paced irritably, whining and indecisive—he didn't know how to help Danny, how to break Walker's grip on his friend. Danny knew that was what his friend thought only because it was what he was thinking: how could anyone save him from Walker? He needed propulsion to reach them—they were still too far away. Wulf couldn't jump that high.
Danny was also sure that his family was uncertain and couldn't help. His dad looking a little bit lost and confused, as if he didn't know what to do. Jazz on her knees, white-faced and with a white-knuckled grip on a Thermos. His mom with the cannon leveled at him and Walker.
His mom. The cannon. She was in range.
It wasn't an ideal solution, but it was better than this. "Do it!" he shouted as well as he could on his last breath of air.
Danny's eyes stayed locked on his mother as she hesitated. Wow, now there was something he didn't see every day. Maddie Fenton, hesitant to shoot a ghost. He kicked at Walker, struggling to get just a little more air… He succeeded in getting a hand between his neck and Walker's hand and pushed, opening a little space to breathe. "Just do it! Now!"
His mom's eyes hardened, and she fired.
But he should have paid more attention to his only ghost ally on the field.
Danny was staring down the green ray that lanced through the air as black dots narrowed his vision to a tiny tunnel. Then the green was blocked by something dark, and he struggled to see what it was—but he really couldn't breathe, and without air he couldn't see what was happening very well. He felt the touch of hairs on his jaw, and then the hands on his throat had disappeared and he fell.
He was sucking in more air by the time the wind was knocked out of him, as his back hit the ground. He gasped and struggled to breathe, to open his eyes, and succeeded.
Just in time to see Wulf struggling with Walker. If Wulf had jumped into the air, Maddie's shot would have propelled him forward—just enough to reach Danny and Walker. The hole to the Ghost Zone had pulled half of Wulf into it—meaning the ray had zapped Wulf instead of Walker—but the wolf's claws were piercing the warden's back and sticking out of his chest. Walker struggled vainly, but Wulf was wrapping his hairy arm around the other ghost, tugging him relentlessly along into the Ghost Zone. They were almost gone…
Walker screamed in rage. Wulf howled in triumph and sorrow.
Danny screamed, "Wulf!" and hurled himself back into the air, ignoring the dizziness and the black dots and how he could barely float faster than a bee when Tucker had clocked him at two-hundred MPH once…but he was too late. He was too slow.
The hole closed up around the two ghosts, with an echoing, "Mi amika," under the echoing cries of Walker's fury.
Danny floated back toward the ground, staring blankly at the sky. "Wulf." His friend was back in the Ghost Zone, and probably far too close to Walker for comfort. He was going to get captured and thrown back into Walker's prison. And for what—to save Danny from suffocating or being dragged into the Ghost Zone with Walker? He didn't have to do that. Danny could have found his way out of Walker's prison for a second time. He could have turned human and Walker wouldn't have been able to touch him. Wulf wouldn't be able to do that…
The faint whirring click of an ecto-weapon sounded behind Danny, and he flinched, instantly turning invisible. It was a reflex by now, being afraid of his parent's weapons.
He debated turning around and facing them. Maybe they didn't hate ghosts as much as they used to, after this whole big fight. And maybe they wouldn't hate him—but he wouldn't tell them who he was, not now. And, in the face of more lies and everything that had happened that day…he just couldn't do it. Danny didn't want run from his parents, but that's what he ended up doing. He just couldn't deal with anyone right now, not after getting his friend sent back to a personal hell in the Ghost Zone.
So he flew away, invisibly and silently.
Jazz gasped when her mother fired her weapon. She screamed when Wulf got in the way. And she felt tears begin to slide down her face when Danny first fell, seeming half-dead, then shot off the ground, screaming his friend's name. And, finally, drooped back to hover a foot above the ground, staring at the sky like Wulf would be coming back any second.
She didn't know what to feel first: she was so mixed up and full with emotion. Her little brother needed someone right now, but would he accept a gesture from her when she supposedly didn't know him?
Well, it was worth a shot. Danny needed to know that people weren't mad at him right now. Seeing his friend take that hit for him probably made him feel guilty and sad, and he needed a hug. She hoped he would take one from her…
As she stepped toward him, she released her tight grip on the gun in her hand. But she had forgotten—the gun was set to charge when the trigger was touched, so it would fire when ready. The whine of it powering down sent a spasm through her brother's back, and he winked out of sight. Her jaw dropped and she opened her mouth to call him back…
Then she stopped. He'd have left by now, flying away in fear. Their parents were ghost hunters. And he'd just been in a fight, and nearly framed for something that Jazz knew he'd never have done. And she doubted he'd spent much time during the course of the battle noticing that their father had helped Wulf, that their mother had been hesitant before firing at Walker for his sake, not because she wanted a sure shot or some other such thing. He didn't know.
Jazz set her jaw. And she would have to tell him, once they got back home.
She turned around, noting that her mother's face was twisted in sadness, and her father was slouching. They hadn't wanted to fire on Danny. They hadn't enjoyed seeing and hearing the desperation in him when Wulf had gone back to the Ghost Zone. They may have been oblivious to the fact that Danny was… "Inviso-Bill", but the similarities were inescapable. In the deepest recesses of their unconscious minds, Jazz knew that her parents were aware of those similarities between Danny and 'Inviso-Bill'. Acknowledgement of that was trickier, and would take a long time coming.
"Come on," she sighed, grabbing her parent's attention as she capped the Thermos and hooked the gun on her belt. "Let's go home."
He couldn't remember what route he'd taken to get home. He'd avoided seeing Tucker and Sam, knowing that they had probably kept a close eye on the news that day. Knowing he couldn't quite face them yet, with what had happened to Wulf. All he remembered was phasing through his bedroom window and turning back into his human self before collapsing on his bed. After that, he'd been dead to the world for a long time. Danny woke up just before dinner to a gentle knock on his bedroom door. "Come in," he grunted, sleepily running a hand over his face.
Jazz entered his room, closing the door gently before walking up to his bed. "Hey, how are you feeling?" she asked.
"Um…fine?" he answered, raising an eyebrow. He carefully leaned back against the pillows, hiding any trace of a grimace as fresh bruises were pressed on. "I was just pretty tired."
"I noticed." She glanced away from him, eyeing the wall as she added, "I suppose you know what happened today?"
"Town hall, mayor, ghosts? Nope, can't say I do." He grinned, playing up the teasing younger brother.
To his surprise, Jazz merely sighed and slouched, falling backwards on the bed. "I know I say mom and dad are crazy most of the time, but that fight itself was just…" She fell silent for a long moment, eyes closed. He watched her cautiously as she sighed and asked, "Danny, do you know anything about that ghost? Inviso-Bill?"
He pressed his hands against the mattress, trying to hide their shaking. "Can't say I do. Why, did he do something?" What was being blamed on him now?
She shook her head, keeping her eyes closed. "I just…it was so sad. And confusing. The way those ghosts beat him up, and then…well, he told mom to fire and she didn't want to hit him with that new gun, you know? But she had to, because that white ghost was a bad one. And then Inviso-Bill's friend, this wolf-thing, threw itself into the line of fire and got sucked back into the Ghost Zone with the white one…"
Danny grit his teeth. He'd been there for all of it, and he didn't need a recap of his spectacular failure to Wulf.
"…and Mom just felt so guilty." He blinked.
Jazz opened one eye and stared at him, her serious expression slightly at odds with story-time. "Well, she shot his friend by accident, because the wolf got in the way and saved him by sacrifice. And Mom hadn't wanted to shoot at Inviso-Bill at all, because she's on a theorizing kick again. By the way, it's make-your-own-dinner night, because they're down in the lab, brainstorming."
"Great." Just what he needed, for them to brainstorm new weapons or something like—wait, what did Jazz mean, about his mom on a theorizing kick? "What was she thinking about when she didn't want to shoot m—Inviso-Bill?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
Jazz sat up, leaning on her hands. "Something about breaking the rules, and if that meant Inviso-Bill was a normal citizen or fighting against corruption in ghost government." Danny blinked. Where had that come from? Jazz nodded, catching a glimpse of his expression. "I know, I didn't get it either, but she said it was something that the white ghost said. Dad seemed to get it, so I'm just going to stay out of it."
Danny wracked his brain, trying to remember what Walker had said that would lead his mom into questions about ghost government. Had Walker, at any point, declared his status as the warden of the prison in the Ghost Zone? That would add a little sense to his mother's theorizing…
"Anyway," Jazz declared, startling Danny out of his thoughts. "I know that you don't want to talk about what's eating you."
Danny blinked. Whoa, Jazz really was smart. Here he'd been, acting pretty much normal, and she still managed to notice that he was bummed. Great.
She raised a hand as if to stop an argument. "Whatever it is, I don't need to know. All you need to know—" she leaned forward, wrapping her arms around him in a surprise hug "—is that you're my little brother, and I'm proud of you no matter what it is you think you've done."
"I don't know what you're—" he tried to deny, stiff in his sister's unyielding grip.
She tightened her arms around him, tucking his head against her shoulder. "Nope. No arguing. I know something's up, so don't try and deny it." They were silent for a long minute, Danny stubbornly resisting the hug. He didn't want to admit that it felt really, really good to have someone hold him and say that they were proud of him. He knew he'd screwed up, that Wulf was probably in a world of hurt now because of him, and he had to fix that somehow, and he knew nothing about his parents' opinion of him now, which was just as bad as when they screamed about the evil of ghosts…
He barely noticed that he was winding up tighter and tighter, holding himself more and more stiffly, until Jazz shook him gently. "Danny," she whispered. "Just take the hug."
So he relaxed, so very slowly, into his sister's reassuring, but firm, hold. And, surprisingly, he felt better in the strong cage of her arms.