On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire?

Through the Fire

Chapter Nine: Echoes of Death

-Tropical Land-

Even from afar, Danny could feel thrumming excitement in the air, the frenetic shiver pulsing in time with the flashing lights. In the distance, the screams of young and old rent the air. Closer, his nose was assaulted by the scents wafting in the breeze: the salty sweetness of popcorn, the greasiness of fast food, the delectable lightness of cotton candy—it made his mouth water.

Inside the park, his eyes wandered, drinking in the colors, trailing over to the Ferris wheel, lingering on the many smaller attractions, before finally coming to rest on the park's crown jewel—the rollercoaster, which wound around and through the air like the skeleton of a great serpent. Tropical Land was hardly Disney World, but Danny was not disappointed. It'd been a while since the last time he something for fun with no ulterior motives.

A low whistle broke the half ghost's reverie. "Hey, is that a rollercoaster? Sweet!"

Danny's lips quirked upwards. "Hey, Techie, I thought you did your research."

Tucker shook his head. "Nah, just picked the closest thing with decent rating. Didn't really expect it to be a full-blown amusement park! Floody Waters has nothing on this!"

"This is a land park, Tuck. Totally different species," Danny commented.

Tucker waved him off. "Details. Rollercoaster, here we come!"

Danny barely managed to catch his balance before he was dragged away by his enthusiastic friend. As he looked up at the towering ride, he wondered if it would compare to his skydiving races with Yugure, his peregrine. He bet it wouldn't come close, but it did its best to disprove that thought. The coaster featured an impressively high drop, sending itself in a series of sharp curves, twists, loops, and falls. Its signature appeared to be the dark tunnel at the end, taking a steep plunge into darkness.

A long drop and short stop.

Danny snuck a peek at Tucker's face. That grin against his dark complexion was blinding in the afternoon light. Before he knew it, they were strapped into seats on the coaster and slowly sliding up the first rise. The detective intern resigned himself to it with a wry smile.

That's it, Fenton. Just relax and have fun like everyone else. Don't think about being disappointed.

Soon enough, the half ghost's screams joined the others down the swooping drop. A sharp curve at the bottom clamped his teeth shut, narrowly missing his tongue. It could never compare to true flight, he decided, but the sensation of being out of control shot fire through his veins.

Danny could sense Tucker beside him, laughing manically with both hands flung high into the winds. The momentum didn't faze the tech genius at all, having been subject to far worse from his friend.

"I should take you skydiving sometime!" Danny shouted over the roar of the coaster.

"And watch you lose to that bird of yours? No thanks!" Tucker shouted back as the track thundered into one of its great steel loops. The red cap he wore in place of his beloved red beret seemed to defy gravity and several laws of physics, never budging even at the height of speed.

Danny made a face at him. It wasn't his fault Yugure had the advantage in unaided diving.

He looked forward again, refocusing on the ride. He let himself enjoy the thrill, the air sheering past his ears. Even if this was far from his most heart-racing escapade, it made him feel truly alive. Maybe he was an adrenaline addict.

The next drop made way for another loop. Danny reveled in the forces pulling at his body and plastering him to the seat, resisting the urge to go intangible to reduce the impact.

Knowing the ride would be coming to its end soon, he flung his hands in the air and let out a resounding yell of exultation over another hill, losing himself to the following twist that spun them upside-down.

Blue eyes trailed upward and ahead to light upon the final obstacle.

"Tucker!" he yelled.

"I know!" the tech genius whooped.

The ride crested up to the mouth of the tunnel, allowing them a long moment to view the darkness and unknown depths below before dropping the screaming passengers into its dark maw.

The wind stream slammed full force into their faces. If the other drops had been stomach-churning, this one had the ability to throw their intestines into a haze of endorphins. The blaze sang joyfully in Danny's core, searing his veins with molten steel. He relished the moment, and his eyes nearly glowed with joy.

At the end of the ride, the two grinned in exhilaration.

"So?" Tucker prompted expectantly.

Danny pretended to think. "Well, it doesn't come close to real flight, but it has its good sides."

"Shut up, dude," Tucker admonished playfully. He threw a fist into the air. "Let's go again!"

The half ghost had no arguments.

They ended up riding the coaster two more times, each turn just as thrilling as the other, though both the tech genius and the half ghost agreed on taking a break after the last one.

They eventually wobbled off to try their hand at a few games of skill. It didn't take long for them to get into the swing of things. Danny got a good laugh when Tucker miscalculated the weight of a softball during the wind-up and ended up throwing it into the stall behind him—shame that hadn't been the game they paid for or he would've won the grand prize. Tucker returned the favor later at a paper-net fishing stand by "accidentally" hitting the half ghost in the face with a goldfish.

The two were about equally proficient in balloon darts and the ring toss, each earning their fair share of prizes, though Tucker beat Danny by a few inches in the water gun race. Practice with the Fenton Lipstick and its Phantasmic Marker upgrade definitely paid off. They ended up giving most of their prizes to the little kids who watched them, hero worship shining in their young eyes. Tucker kept a plastic katana for himself and wore it thrust through his belt. Danny favored a medium plush of Swellow, a bird Pokémon.

They passed by a mallet game, where one would use a hammer to ring a bell at the top of a scale. Danny only shook his head with a smile as he watched the line of fathers and boyfriends vying for a chance to prove their strength, the occasional girl adding a splash of variety to the competition. He knew he could win effortlessly, rigged or not. It wasn't worth it.

Hours later, the two friends were still laughing and joking, enjoying the break from the real world.

"I'm never playing tag in the hall of mirrors with you ever again, dude," Tucker said.

"All's fair, Tuck—you have to admit it was fun!" Danny chuckled.

"Yeah, yeah. After you started playing by the rules!"

"You started it, using your tracker on me."

"Cuz I knew you'd be pulling out your intangibility."

"C'mon, I know you got a good laugh out of that one guy faceplanting in the mirror when he tried to follow me."

"He was texting," Tucker said, tilting his head to scratch under his hat. When he came up, he continued with a flawless Oxford English accent. "Child's play, my dear detective. Like taking candy from a kid."

"Or a cookie from a lunch lady," Danny snickered. "Hey, do you know why Hakuba made you swear not to do that when he's around?"

"What, the accent?"


Tucker shrugged. "I haven't the faintest," he said, maintaining the accent.

"I'll bet it freaks him out."

"Perhaps so."

"Like almost every other thing we do."

They shared mischievous grins.

"So…I'm getting a little hungry," Danny said.

"Make it something with meat and we'll call it good," Tucker put in quickly.

"I don't need to be a detective to figure that out," Danny commented, straight-faced, surreptitiously ducking under a swipe from the indignant tech genius. "I think I saw a burger place somewhere around. Try not to wander off if there's a long wait."

"What, think I'll disappear on you?" Tucker said with a quirked eyebrow.

"Nah, I'd be the one disappearing."

"Yeah, and the food would go with you."

"Are you calling me fat?"

"What do you think, detective?"

"It was implied, you insufferable twit."

"Now who's being a jolly old Brit, hm?"

But the snack trip would soon be put on hold.

The police lights in the distance registered first—not usually a cause for alarm. They flashed like a heartbeat, hypnotizing, leading the boys toward them, goaded by the instinct ground into their minds from the past two years.

Curiosity. Instinct. The desire to know what was going on.

The lights were just ahead, and the thought of food was completely forgotten. They were headed toward the coaster. Neither teen questioned their deviation from the path. How could they know where their feet would lead them?

Suddenly, a sharp chill speared up Danny's spine, the familiar tang resting on his tongue like dust after a rainstorm. He stiffened in alarm.

Breathless, he noted anxiously, picking up the pace.

"Danny?" Tucker fell into step behind him.

"Ghost sense," he murmured in reply.

Restricted to more mundane skills in Britain, Danny found that his passive abilities gained strength despite his limited use of his powers. This new aspect to his ghost sense was subtle, but it was no less useful during his time under Hakuba's tutelage. Within a certain radius, he could sense the signature of a violent death. It clung like wet paper to his tongue, the inside of his nose, and anyone who had been in the immediate area of such a death.

Danny had once described it to Tucker to be similar to the scent trails that follow people—only noticeable a few moments after the person passes by. And it faded in the same way. Through time or the presence of a living being…either would dilute or erase the trail. The "scent" around a death, though, didn't fade as easily. It emanated from the corpse in a sphere, weakening as it expanded.

And this sphere was on the very limit of growth.

It happened a while ago. We just hit the edge of the sphere—it registers at the limit of my senses. Faintly. Murder…or accident?

The looping skeleton of steel lay silent where it usually roared with speed and the screams of its innocent victims, red and blue lights pulsing across its hide. One victim, perhaps, was not so innocent, and still another could scream no more.

The crowd around the area had mostly receded, clearing off for the policemen, but the two teens still had to squirm their way to the front, Danny unwilling to use his intangibility so trivially. Once there, he almost stepped back. The ride had been stopped. With that volume of slick crimson staining the seats and track, it was mandatory.

"Too clean. Murder. That must've been some grudge," Danny murmured.

"You call that clean?" Tucker breathed, wide-eyed.

Danny scanned the scene, feeling faintly nauseous.

In the time it took for the coaster to come around… that had to be a major artery. Look at that splash pattern—whoa, neck height. His head got cut right off. Talk about unable to scream.

He turned to the nearest bystander. "Excuse me, but what happened here?"

The man shrugged. "A man was murdered on the coaster. They say he was killed by an ex-girlfriend."

Danny winced. "That…explains a lot. They caught her, then?"

"Hai. It was lucky, though. That famous high school detective just happened to be here. She got caught before she could run."

An unidentifiable emotion shot through the half ghost's brain. "Wait, high school detective? You mean Kudo Shinichi?"

A nod. "That's him."

"Did you happen to see which way he went?" Danny scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, deliberately pulling on his old freshman awkwardness. "I-I'm a bit of a fan, but I've never gotten the chance to see him in person, so…"

He didn't like manipulating people, though the skill came to him far more easily than he liked to admit.

The man shook his head apologetically. "Sorry, but he seemed in a bit of a hurry. He left not half an hour ago, right after his deduction."

"I understand. I guess a guy like him would have things to do," Danny said quickly, letting the subject go, though not reluctantly.

Just as Danny began to turn away, the man peered at his face. "Wait, you look familiar somehow…"

Danny froze, Tucker shifting to deflect the man's line of sight.

"I guess I have one of those faces," the half ghost detective chuckled. "Maybe you do too? That man over there was waving at you."

The bystander looked around curiously. Finding no one, he turned back. But the boys had disappeared.

At a safe distance, Tucker began to chuckle.

"Your face is a lot more trouble than it looks," he joked.

"And don't I know it," Danny groaned. "It's great that the police don't need me for this—not that they'd see me as credible without proof of experience anyway—but seriously, that was a close one."

"No kidding," Tucker agreed. "You get into the funniest situations."

"I know. I stopped asking why long time ago." Danny shook his head distractedly. His ghost sense was still pinging at the same strength, but they'd gone out of range… His gaze trailed lazily over the crowd.

His froze. In the distance, on the outskirts of human eyesight, he saw the face of the platinum-blond man! Danny's eyes widened. Time slowed. The man turned his head, his fedora obscuring him from sight in the colors and dark hair of the crowd.

Time sped up.

"Danny…?" Tucker ventured, wary of the stricken look on his friend's face.

Black coats cold eyes merciless killers murderers-!

Danny shot off, tearing madly toward the spot where he'd lost sight of the murderer, dodging park-goers and personnel, paying barely any heed to other obstacles in his path. Tucker might've called after him, but his voice faded into the distance before it could truly make itself known.

A few blinks of partial intangibility allowed the half-ghost detective to slip through otherwise hindering crowds with the ease of an octopus through a keyhole. Emotions warred within his chest—anger at the murderer who dared walk freely, anxiety that he would lose sight of his target, fear because human monsters were worse than monsters in human form.

He was blind to everything else around him. The colorful stalls of refreshments, amusements, and merchandise turned dark in his mind's eye, each becoming a hiding spot for a dangerous criminal.

Then he was there, right where the man had stood! Cool blue eyes raked over the surrounding crowd, supernatural senses strained to the limit to embrace the chilling presence of a serial killer. One way, then the other, his head craned from side to side, back and around.

Though the man had truly been standing there—the aura of death still lingered faintly—there was no sight, no trail to sense. The crowds of living people had drowned it out. Danny clenched his teeth, cursing that the extension to his ghost sense was useless for tracking in a crowd. Serial killers laid a much stronger trail than single murders, but the trail could still be destroyed.

Buru-buru-buru-buru… buru-buru-buru-buru…

The ghost hunter gripped his phone tightly as it rang, letting the vibrations run through his arm for a moment longer before he answered.


He talked quickly before his friend could dig into him. "It was him, Tucker! I lost him in the crowd—he was one of the guys at Amity!"

"What?! Dude, I swear, whenever something major happens—"


"Chill, First In. I have visual on the exits on my Livewire. Unless they take an unmonitored exit, they won't get past me."

"Good, I'll see if I can track them." Danny exhaled, shivering. His head shot up at the reaction, eyes narrowed on the alleyway to his right. "I might have a trail. Keep me updated."

"Got it. I'll be tracking your location in case you need backup. Second In, out."

Without a second thought, Danny ran. Determination marked his steps, strengthened with the reminder that even if they were monsters, they were only human. And no normal human could hurt him when he was just a bit more than that.

The trail was long set and already fading. Even if it settled and stabilized, without a murder scene as a starting point, Danny had a fifty-fifty chance of tracking in the wrong direction. He couldn't be sure if he would find his prey or a victim at the end of the line. Still, tracing backwards could give him an idea of what that murderer had been up to.

He followed the "scent" to a grassy area near the back of the tall Ferris wheel, a towering block of concrete that was easily twice his height if not taller. Its deep shadow on the hour was a perfect place to lurk away from the milling throng. There was no sign of the black-clad man, but judging from the bent grass, he'd been there.

Danny bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. Wrong guess.

He was expecting a body—the sickly-sweet tang of death was stronger here, pulling memories from a long-ago attempt at the cinnamon challenge with Tucker. The half ghost approached warily, his phone gripped tightly in one hand. Several dark spots dotted the dirt—fresh, barely finished drying. He didn't need to touch to know what it was.

A brief gleam of plastic in the afternoon light caught his eye. Danny knelt, sifting through the weeds to see the crushed remains of a camera. His blood chilled as déjà vu set in. A shattered cell phone flashed over the trashed device. The dark area behind the concrete block was overshadowed by the image of a brick alleyway.

"No way!" he hissed, recoiling.

The half ghost tried to tell himself that he wasn't thinking straight, that he was pulling influence from his memories, but the signs were all there.

Isolation. Broken camera. Blood. Death. Just like then.

Danny hurried ahead, eyes lighting on the crumpled figure on the grass closer to the ride's base. The teenager stumbled over, braced a hand against the concrete block, and promptly choked on a breath saturated with the taste of death, much stronger than the fading trail behind him. He shook his head in regret.

The body was small…too small. Clothes that looked to be comfortably Danny's size draped the figure, but this was no adult or teenager. The face, turned to the side as if in sleep, was pressed against the dirt; dark locks lay flat against a pale forehead, plastered there by the drying blood from a wound on the back of the head. He was too young. Just…too young.

He's just a kid. Why would they kill him? …He must've seen something. How many must've died at their hands just for being in the wrong place? One thing's sure—they stayed here for a while, if my ghost sense can still catch their presence this strongly.

The teen knelt to check for signs of life—all but a formality to his senses. The small wrist against his cooler skin was warmer than expected. A moment passed, then another. Danny crouched there, wide-eyed, fingers frozen over the boy's radial pulse point.


His pulse was racing, and his breathing was shallow, but he was alive!

Overwhelmed with disbelief, Danny shook the boy by the shoulder gently but firmly. "Kid, hey, kid, can you hear me?" he prodded. A groan answered him.

"Alive. How is he alive?" Danny muttered under his breath. "If he was a ghost, he'd be wisping up my ghost sense like crazy. He already feels more like death than some dead people!"

He refocused on the skin contact, realizing there was more to his previous observation.

Hot. That's not just blood—it's sweat. A fever?

He placed one hand on the small forehead, and his cool skin quickly heated up. The too-large sweater draping the kid slid intangibly to the ground promptly after. Danny studied the wound on the back of the small head, whistling lowly at the dried blood that matted hair to scalp.

"Blunt force, superficial. Marks are consistent with a long, smooth object, most probably a metal pole or pipe," he muttered. The blood flow had ceased with the help of a fragile clot—a recent injury.

Why is he alive? They should know that a hit like that isn't a sure kill. So why leave before making sure he was…? Wait. I've seen this. Poison. The situations are almost identical. Why not this way, too?

If it was poison—worse, if it was the same strain as then—the kid wouldn't be in the world of the living for long. Danny could still remember how fast his mother slipped away as he held her in his arms, the light fading from her violet eyes. He trembled for a moment before shoving his mind back to the matter at hand. He quickly dialed Tucker.

The line picked up on the first ring.

"Danny! What did you find?"

"The ravens didn't quite clean out. We have an unconscious kid, maybe about five or six years, hit with a high-speed blunt impact to the back of the head with a long object, maybe a bat or pipe. His heart rate and temperature were up when I checked, but…they're almost down to normal now," he realized, eyebrows furrowing.

"Flash fever? Odd."

"He might be poisoned."

"Poisoned?" the tech genius's voice rang with astonishment. "I've got your location. ETA in five."

"Make it two."

"You got it. Second, out."

Danny pocketed his phone, mind racing.

In Vlad's company, it was all accidental deaths. This was too spontaneous. They were in a hurry—no need to wait around if they were sure it would kill him. If I didn't know better, I'd say they're different groups, but the evidence is against that. That guy was definitely the same man as before.

He shook his head.

Speculation later. Facts now. Firstly, what were they doing here? Easy. There's signs here for three, no—four—adults, two heavyset and two of slight build. That guy, his partner, and whoever they were meeting. Amusement parks are crowded. It's not hard to slip away to a hidden place for a meeting when no one's looking. Second, why the kid? He likely stumbled across their little rendezvous. Then he got caught.

Something had crushed the grass around the kid, but the detective intern could not figure out what. It looked like someone had fallen there—slight build, roughly Danny's height. The space was too big for the kid, and there were no signs of him rolling around.

It puzzled Danny.

Again he concentrated on the boy's pulse. It had slowed to a normal pace under his fingers—even the last remnants of the fever were gone.

Unless he had some kind of lucky poison resistance, there's no way he metabolized it that fast. Poison might not be a factor, but…

The half-ghost detective ran a hand through his hair with a long glance at the child on the ground. "Just 'cause of that, I can't let the police take you. If I kidnap you, well… the law's not the only thing I'll have to worry about. If I had any other actual choice then…" Danny shook his head. "You'll make it home—I promise. We won't let you die."

"You got that right. There's no one dying on my watch. Not today."

Tucker came over to stand next to his friend. True to his word, he'd come with all speed.

"Stand back, First In. It's what I've trained for—I've got this," he said, kneeling next to the prone child.

Danny quirked a smile and obeyed.

None of Team Phantom had expected the tech genius to work with anything other than technology, so when Tucker suddenly entered med school, throwing his time into his studies with an almost feverish pace, they were stunned. Even Danny had no clue what brought it on. He made Tucker take every ghost-detecting test he could think of before he was satisfied that the stranger in front of him really was Tucker. And that was after Hakuba's interrogation (he'd caught on to the boy's hospital phobia early on), which gave no answer, much to the half-Brit's agitation. But his rare, unconstrained show of concern was heartwarming.

When Danny asked his friend about how he got over his fear of hospitals, Tucker smiled then—a secret sort of smile that completely baffled the half ghost.

"I'm not over it, but if someone calls for help, I wanna be able to do something besides be the tech guy. I've always wanted to be a hero—saving people, saving lives. Good doctors do that, and I've got the mind to do it properly. It's not something I have to wish for this time."

Danny hadn't the heart to question him further.

Tucker was steadily working towards a paramedic license and had plans to go through medical school to become a full-fledged doctor. He stayed leery of hospitals, but on the field he made a sharp and willing EMT. On-site situations were his territory.

As Tucker examined the boy, Danny swept the scene for material evidence. A few quick snapshots with his phone captured what he couldn't lift. He was particularly careful with collecting the shattered camera and several samples of dried blood. If luck held out, they wouldn't all be matches to the kid. If they led to the identity of one of the men he hunted, so much the better.

But if it's a dead end, the kid's our last bet. There's nothing else I can do.

Danny frowned, still uncertain about his decision. He heard Tucker shift. "So?" he asked the tech genius, looking over his shoulder.

Tucker straightened with a sigh. "He doesn't even have a concussion. He's one seriously lucky duck. If there was poison, either he metabolized it or there wasn't enough to do him in. Sans a huge goose egg and being unconscious, he seems perfectly healthy. Best case scenario, he wasn't poisoned and the fever's just a reaction to the blow to the head. Anyway, you know more about poison than I do."

"Even if it was a slow-acting poison, the dose would've been made for an adult. Whether he's poisoned or not, we have to hurry," Danny said, striding back over. "Can we move him?"

A blink. "I'd prefer not to, but yes."

"Good. That means we can get out of here."

Tucker leveled a serious gaze at him. "We're kidnapping him, aren't we?"

Danny's tone contained a note of finality. "Nothing we can do about it, Tuck. He could die."

After a beat, Tucker nodded. Danny crouched down and put a hand on the boy, who was wrapped up and bandaged, tied securely in the clothes he'd been found in. The teen shuddered at the sensation of death that hung around the kid and lifted him up in his arms, a queasy knot forming at his core where the source of his ice powers lay.

"We'll take him home," Danny told Tucker, "just not now. After we're sure he's safe."

If he doesn't die.

The unspoken words trailed darkly through their minds.

Danny glanced back down. With a quick flex of his powers, the kid disappeared from view.

"Let's go."

But even as he turned to walk away from the scene, the half ghost couldn't shake the feeling that he'd missed something important.

A/N: Yes, it's been a while. Life has a way of taking you places, and that's exactly what happened to me. I have no promises on when the next update will be, if it ever comes. Apologies in advance, and may we meet again. If this chapter isn't up to par, do tell. As I said, it's been a while.

Cast, meet canon. Too bad canon has officially been altered. I do believe this is the first medic!Tucker I've ever seen. Perhaps someday the story behind this will be revealed along with more on the duo's time in England. I'm no medical student, so please forgive me—I have all respect for medical students.

This story now has a TvTropes page. Check it out! And as always, TtF concept art can be found on Deviantart under the user "Haiku-san" linked on my profile. A couple of pictures of Kenshin's soul-splits are now available for your viewing pleasure.