A little over a day later, the crew of Shuttle B-614 found themselves back on Earth, on the Johnson Space Center landing site. The sky was blue and the sun shined brightly, though many of the astronauts were slightly disappointed that they could no longer look over the beauty of the unknown.
Nicholas and Arthur helped Danny off of the shuttle that afternoon, greeted by the cheers of another crowd outside the landing site. From there, he was transported to the hospital, got a thorough check on his injuries, and once deemed stable with only the need of a few days' rest, Danny and his crew took the next flight to Texas.
From NASA, news about Danny Phantom's space fight with Technus over protecting the space shuttle had quickly crossed over the entire country, and became front page news by the time they had landed. News about the ghost hero rescuing the shuttle's designer and captain reached Amity Park.
News about Danny's miraculous survival reached the Fentons and the mayor of Amity Park, who quickly packed their things and took the first flight out to Houston, Texas, where the shuttle crew was requested to go for reports and to hand over their samples.
Sam and Tucker searched the crowded hall for any signs of their friend, along with Danny's family and Andy. "I don't see him; do you, Tucker?" Sam asked, trying to peer over everyone's heads.
Tucker straightened his glasses after someone bumped him and then looked to the front of the hall. He gasped softly and pointed. "Over there, Sam!" he shouted.
He had spotted the crew and their captain, near the front of the stage where the Lieutenant would welcome them. They had just arrived at NASA from their flight, which was why there were so many people trying to reach them.
Tucker grabbed Sam's hand and began making his way through the crowd. Sam held onto her son while Danny's parents decided to stay where they were, not wanting to disturb the crowd even more.
Danny was busy answering questions from the half of the crew that stayed behind at the command center. His powers had helped him recuperate enough to be deemed a miracle survivor; all he had left were a few bruises and a slight limp in his right leg. Those from the crew on the ship who had witnessed the battle spoke excitedly all at once about the famed ghost and how he had rescued their captain.
"Danny!" Tucker exclaimed.
Danny looked about when he heard his name being called. Once his eyes had met theirs, he smiled.
Sam pushed by Tucker, followed by her son, and ran through the crowd until she was in her husband's arms. "Danny, you're okay!" she cried out as the rest of the crew dispersed and went to meet their own families.
"We heard about Danny Phantom and Technus over the news, dude," Tucker said as he joined them. "You really got us worried."
"How badly did you get injured? How long were you exposed like that?"
Danny laughed softly and placed his hands over Sam's cheeks. "I'm fine," he replied. "He just took me by surprise, that's all. It's all over, now. Technus is trapped in the thermos."
Andy leaped around his father. "Danny Phantom fought Technus! Danny Phantom fought Technus!" he exclaimed. He stopped and squeezed in between his parents, causing Sam to back away a little. He stared up at Danny with bright eyes. "How did you win him this time, Daddy? Huh; how did you catch him this time?"
Danny rubbed his head. "To be honest, Squirt, I didn't actually win this time," he replied. "In fact, I wasn't even the one who caught him."
All three stared at him in shock and confusion. "Then, who did?" Tucker wondered.
Danny looked at him before turning his head upon hearing a shout from the side doors. Dr. Johnson had just arrived, and upon seeing his nephew nearby, shouted out to him happily. Nicholas, who was busy speaking with his parents and his brother, turned and ran into the scientist's arms as the old man laughed.
Sam and Tucker stared at them as well until they finally understood why they were. With clever grins, they turned their eyes upon Danny again.
Danny grinned timidly. "I… had a bit of help," he replied.
Sam raised a finger and shook it in his direction. "I told you so!" she chanted.
"So I guess he wasn't all that bad after all, huh, Hero?" Tucker teased.
"No," Danny said softly. "Not… all that bad."
Andy tugged on his father's uniform. "Does that mean that you've gots another member for the Phantom Crew, Daddy?" he asked eagerly. "If you do, then that makes two who work at NASA wif you!"
Danny stared at him in silence until Lieutenant Jones announced over the microphone that everyone was to take their places.
"You have one heckova story to tell us on our way home, Danny," Tucker said as Sam grabbed Andy's hand. They turned and walked back towards Danny's parents.
The families took their places while Danny's crew sat in the first two rows of chairs. Danny and Dr. Johnson joined the Lieutenant on the stage and stood near the back, waiting for the crowd to quiet down.
Jones looked about before leaning towards the microphone again. "As you all know, our Special Missions A-Team has just returned from the launch site, in Florida," he announced. "They were able to bring back samples for our scientists to study; samples we hope will help us unravel some of the universe's many mysteries. As the General Director of NASA, I'm proud to say that the very first NASA Special Mission… has been a great success."
The hall filled with claps. Andy raised his arm and waved a small NASA flag around.
The Lieutenant waited for the people to silence again before continuing. "I'm sure ya'all heard about the battle between the two ghosts," he said. "Though it continues to slip everyone's mind on how the so-called protector of Amity Park followed our crew out into space, if it hadn't been for him…" He looked at Johnson for a moment before turning back to the microphone. "… If it hadn't been fer Danny Phantom, our crew, our shuttle, and perhaps even our shuttle's captain, would never have made it back to Earth."
Danny waited a moment while the crowds cheered and then leaned over to Dr. Johnson. "How the heck did you get him to say that?" he said with an amused grin, knowing the immense contempt his boss had for the ghost hero.
"It wasn't easy, if you wanted to know," Johnson whispered back. "He initially wanted me to make the announcement because he did not want to be the one to congratulate the ghost."
"How did you bribe him?"
"You do not want me to answer that, Daniel."
Danny chuckled softly and returned to his former position as the crowds settled down again. Jones cleared his throat and raised his head. "However, not all the credit—thankfully," he added very softly, "—goes to the ghost. In fact, if it had not been for the bravery of one of the crew members aboard the shuttle, NASA's youngest Captain, Dr. Daniel Fenton, may not have returned home at all." He looked at the crew. "Please join me in welcoming the crew's co-pilot onto the stage: Dr. Nicholas Stevenson."
Nicholas stood up when the crowd began to cheer again and made his way around the stage and up the stairs that led to it. Once on, he stood as immobile as he could.
"Dr. Stevenson left his post to rescue his commander, and although he did disobey a direct order, he saved the life of one of NASA's best," Jones announced. "He was able to capture the spirit known by Amity Park as Technus, who has been given to Dr. Fenton's family for safekeeping, and he was also able to return Dr. Fenton to the shuttle before his oxygen mask completely failed. Miraculously, the Captain survived, and it's thanks to his co-pilot here, who I will now award the medal of loyalty to."
He turned around and, as the crowd cheered again, walked up to Nicholas. Danny joined him and stood by Jones' side as they face the young astronaut.
Nicholas inhaled deeply and held his breath.
"Dr. Stevenson," Jones said, opening a small box, and holding it out to Danny, "I am honoured to award you this medal, which your Captain will place on your suit. "Loyalty is a very important value at NASA, especially when you're on a mission, and you not only showed it onboard, but also during training and while remaining by yer Captain's side during his hours of recuperation."
Danny held up the small medal and placed it over Nicholas' chest.
"May you wear this medal with pride, Kid. Not every guy gets to fight a ghost and actually win."
Nicholas stared at his medal before looking up at the director and grinning.
Lieutenant Jones nodded his head and then he and Danny saluted the astronaut, who then returned the gesture.
Jones turned and went back to the microphone to announce the lunch they had made in honor of the first Special Missions team. Once the crowds had stirred and got up from their seats, Jones and Johnson left the stage while speaking discretely about the samples.
Danny watched them leave before looking at Nicholas again. Nicholas took another deep breath.
"Although it was a stupid move you played up there, I'm glad you played it," Danny said softly. He looked down at his hands. "It's been years since I've battled in space. And the change of gravity and lack of air didn't do any better." He looked up at Nicholas again. "Not to mention the fact that I decided to unleash two powerful attacks, which just ended up making me weaker."
"That last one was new," Nicholas said softly. "What's it called?"
Danny looked at his feet. "Some things are better left unknown until the right time," he whispered.
Nicholas nodded. "Yessir."
"But…" Danny paused for a moment and then grinned weakly yet gratefully. "If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't be here. I made a miscalculation, Technus had perfected a new power, and it nearly cost me my life. Not to mention have my secret exposed."
"No one will ever know about it, Sir," Nicholas reassured him. "For as long as I live, I'll make sure no one learns about it… I promise."
Danny looked up at him again at these words. He waited a moment before nodding. "Yes. You do," he replied. His eyes filled with guilt. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you these past few weeks, Nicholas," he said softly. "I don't really like being hard on people, especially those who are clearly trying their best to get on my good side…" He looked at the floor once more. "I was… I was just worried things would take a turn for the worse. I've been in situations before where I tried to trust someone with my secret but they only betrayed me and would have let something leak to the world if it hadn't been for my friends and myself taking drastic measures." He waited a moment before continuing. "I was… scared you would do the same thing."
Nicholas grinned weakly. "This old scientist once told me something," he said, catching Danny's attention. "He told me that, though it doesn't seem like it, heroes can be the most fearful beings of us all. Though they've managed to overcome their fears several times, they harbour more than any other person on the planet, due to their responsibilities." He grinned a little more. "Everyone gets scared of something, Sir. Even if they are ghosts."
Danny cracked a grin at these words and laughed softly before looking away again.
"But I'll tell you one thing…"
Danny looked up at him again.
Nicholas waited a moment before smiling wryly. "You sure know how to make an enemy," he said.
Danny chuckled. "It's a bad habit," he replied with a shrug. "The guys in the training game you went through are only a handful of them." He reached into his pocket. "Speaking of which…"
Nicholas watched him do so until Danny's hand came back out. Danny stared at it for a moment before looking at his co-pilot. "Considering you now know my secret and you've passed the trust test," he began while grinning, "I would be honoured if you accepted this."
He opened his hand, and sitting in it was a small pin. It was the symbolic D that represented Danny Phantom.
Nicholas took it in his hands and held it up to examine the black pin. He looked at Danny in curiosity.
"The Phantom Crew can always use another member," Danny added. He smiled wryly. "Not to mention I may need someone to cover me if an attack like that ever happens in space again."
Nicholas smiled and wrapped his fingers around the pin, grasping it in his hand. "Th-thank you," he said. "Thank you, Sir—!"
Danny raised a hand and stopped Nicholas in his words. The red-haired astronaut stared at him in surprise.
Danny raised an eyebrow. "Just Danny will do, Nick," he said with a grin.
Nicholas grinned timidly and nodded. "Of course," he replied.
A few days went by. Danny found himself strong enough to get back into his daily routines in Amity Park, which included having Andy try to leap on him again and then try to gobble his cereal down.
Danny, dressed in his baggy jeans and favourite T-shirt, rushed into the kitchen and stopped his son from choking again. "Gee wiz, Andy; how many times am I going to have to stop you from killing yourself?" he asked.
"Until I'm outa school," Andy replied, although he slowed down and ate at a normal pace.
Danny walked over to where Sam was making Andy lunch and leaned against the counter with a sigh.
"So, you're finally 100% healed?" Sam guessed without looking up.
"Yep," Danny replied. "And to celebrate, Tucker's inviting me over to have a video game showdown."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Aren't you two a little old to still be playing that stuff?" she asked.
Andy turned in his chair and pointed his spoon at his mother. "You still play 'em," he noted.
Sam blushed while her husband chuckled softly. "Touché," he muttered.
Sam grinned amusingly before continuing her work. "So, Nicholas promises to keep things under wraps?" she said.
"Yeah," Danny replied.
Danny smiled slyly. "You just want me to admit that I was wrong again, don't you?" he said.
Sam smiled proudly. "I just relish the fact that girls are still smarter than guys."
"No, they're not!" Andy exclaimed, kneeling on his chair. "They play wif Barbie dolls!"
Danny choked on a laugh while Sam frowned at her son. "Eat your breakfast," she muttered. She continued preparing his lunch. "At least you have someone else you can trust now, Danny; it'll be easier for you to cover DP's trail if anything goes wrong at NASA again." She looked at her husband while raising an eyebrow. "Which, considering your ghost buddies, will probably happen again and again and again."
"If it happens a lot, could I stay up an' watch Daddy beat the bad guys?" Andy asked eagerly. "Please Mommy?"
Sam looked at him. "Absolutely not," she replied firmly.
Andy moaned and sat back down while staring at his parents through the bars of the chair. "I wish I could stay up later and watch Daddy fight ghosts," he muttered.
"It's already bad enough that you sometimes sneak out to watch," Sam said sternly.
His father chuckled and leaned towards his wife. "Kinda reminds you of you, huh, Sam?" Danny said quietly, smiling slyly. "When we were fourteen, huh?"
Sam narrowed her eyes and swatted Danny across the head, making Andy giggled hysterically. "Okay, so he's inherited my rebellious character," she said. "I still blame you on the ghost powers."
"Well, duh," Danny replied while gingerly rubbing his head. "Something that cool could never come from you."
Sam slammed Andy's lunch box shut and held up a dish towel. She twisted it around, held it up and swung it through the air.
Danny immediately turned intangible, causing the dish towel to fly right through his waist instead of snap against his side. He smiled amusingly at his wife, baring his teeth and making his son laugh. "Told you they were awesome!" he exclaimed.
Sam tossed the dish towel at him before turning around and opening a drawer. When she faced Danny again, smiling cleverly, she held up an anti-ghost belt. "You may be awesome," she said, "But I'm the smart one." With that, she leaned forward and attempted to tie the belt around Danny's waist.
Danny cried out in fright and jumped back, just out of reach of the belt. Andy burst into laughter again. "O-o-okay, Sam," Danny said with a nervously laugh, holding his hands out defensively as he backed away from her slowly. "Enough games. You win. Just put the belt away."
"Why?" Sam asked, stepping towards him. "After all those times you played ghost and freaked me out, I think I'll get some payback, Mr. Awesome." She swung the belt out, trying to touch her husband. "Not to mention it'll teach you not to trust girls!"
Danny leaped back again and continued to hold his hands out. "Come on, Sam, I said you win," he said nervously. "Now please put that thing away."
Sam continued to grin slyly and lashed out at Danny again. The man yelped in fright and backed away quicker. "Come on, Sam, we need to get Andy to school!" Danny announced. "Not to mention I don't want to go to Tucker's looking like I've been fried!"
"Fried chicken sounds good!" Sam teased, making Andy laugh some more.
"Where the heck did you get that thing, anyway?"
Andy placed his backpack over his shoulders. "Gramma Fenton gave it to her," he said. "She said it was to whip you back in place!"
"My mom said what?" Danny exclaimed in shock.
Sam swung the belt in circles. "I feel like having a little exercise before we take Andy to school," she said. "Let's start with a little homemade ghost hunting!" She charged for Danny while holding out the belt.
Danny screamed in fright and leaped out of the way before dashing around the table and running into the living room. "Sam, come on! Cut it out!" he cried out.
All Sam did though, was laugh hysterically and chase him around the house. Eventually, Danny began to laugh as well, although he still shouted in fright whenever his wife whipped the belt out at him.
Andy watched them whenever they came into view and giggled behind his hand. "Uncle Tucker was right," he said. "When two best friends get married, love really hurts!"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: And there concludes another Danny Phantom story 8D I'm sorry it takes forever. I don't visit this website very often, even though I read every comment, which I thank again^^ (email is handy, yup) The next few stories are my fave. I enjoyed writing those ones more than this one. THey include Nick, Johnson and Jones, as well as a bit of Andy. THe special Tucker one I had written I gave up on because the ending never came to me... Well, the ending did, but not the middle part. So for now, it's out of commision.
Uni is starting for me again next week. Depending on my availability, I can't promise if I'll be able to post often. I might do it in chunks again. ok, I'm out!