Two things I have to say before I officially finish:
First, SO sorry for the wait. The computers in the house went a bit wonky for the longest time, and I was having trouble with the actual wording of this chapter.
Also, I'd like to thank ALL of you, readers and reviewers alike, from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to get to know this story. It got more reviews and publicity than I'd ever dreamed, and it's because of you all that I was able to continue as I have. And now, as a reward, here's the end of it all! I hope you all enjoy it!
It was another one of those days when Jack Fenton would simply sit at the kitchen table and stare off into nothingness, oblivious to everything else around him. It was not so strange that someone in their late sixties would do, let alone someone with early symptoms of dementia, but Jack had been having these staring spells for close to thirty years.
To those outside the know, everyone simply thought Jack had finally lost what few marbles he had left. But his wife, daughter, and the Foley and Manson kids knew that it began after he returned from the mess of a visit to the Ghost Zone.
As soon as the portal behind him and what was left of his family closed, Jazz had rounded on him and completely lost it. She began screaming at him about how he had ruined everything, and how could he say such things about Danny and the rest of the ghosts? She finished off by shouting that she would probably never see her baby brother again, and left the house in a fury of tears.
Maddie just burst into tears and ran into the bedroom, refusing to come out for the longest time, leaving Jack alone downstairs to contemplate over his foolish mistake.
But that was just the beginning of his tragedies.
Jazz left back for her university to finish her degree in psychology, and she never spoke to her father again. But from begging from her mother, she finally agreed to come down for Christmas before they all went back up in January for her graduation. On the way back home to Amity Park, not a ten minute's drive from the town, Jazz was struck by a car who slid on ice and was killed instantly.
If Maddie was upset by her son's disappearance, she was now inconsolable by the loss of her only remaining child.
It that wasnt bad enough, Sam and Tucker both died soon after. Tucker was visiting Sam over summer break from college at her parents' house when it caught fire. Mr. and Mrs. Manson managed to get out in time, but Tucker ran back in for Sam and was knocked unconscious by a falling beam en route, and Sam was trapped in the hallway, where she died of smoke inhalation before the fire even reached her.
It was a loss too hefty to bear for their families, and the Mansons and Foleys both left Amity Park, unable to continue living in a town that had caused so much trouble for them.
Just a year later, Jack heard news that the remains of Vlad Masters, who had been missing for several years, had been found in Wisconsin, near the site of his former castle. It looked as though Vlad had died of exhaustion just a quarter mile from the demolished area, and no one could figure out why it looked as though he had been crawling toward it, nor why he had a large X branded onto his skull.
All of these losses seemed too much for Maddie, and one day, while hospitalized for being in an unresponsive, catatonic state, she too died. The doctor said that while she was physically perfectly healthy, she just lost the will to live.
So Jack was left alone, to live in the same house in Amity Park by himself.
There were days where he too just wanted to end it all, just so he wouldnt have to be alone anymore. Just so he wouldnt be plagued with nothing but bad memories of hurting his son and seeing the deaths of his family, Vlad, and Danny's friends. But he always thought, on the off-chance he ended up in the Ghost Zone, what would he do when he saw Danny again? What would he say? Would Danny forgive him, or shun him away, like he deserved?
It was thoughts like that that prevented him from taking his own life, and instead he lived in his personal little Hell, forever plagued by nightmares and doubts.
The clock struck one in the morning, and Jack weakly leaned his head on his arms, which were folded on the kitchen table. He had began feeling so weak these days and didnt know why, unaware that his dementia was debilitating him, and making him think minutes had passed, when in reality hours and even a whole day came and went. And right now, he was tired and weak. He felt cold inside, like everything from his blood to time itself was slowly freezing. What was left of his rational mind was shouting for him not to close his eyes, to stay awake and maybe call for help.
...But something else, softer, yet stronger, was telling him to just relax. To let the cold come, because warmth would be close behind. The voice told him that everything would be alright, and he wouldnt have to suffer anymore.
The voice sounded so familiar...and familiarity was a comfort for Jack.
So he listened to it.
And as the clock's hands turned to precisely 1:15, Jack's heart stopped beating.
...It was just as the voice had said; Jack felt warm. Not the usual 'snuggled under the blankets' warm, but rather a more natural, dozing-in-the-afternoon-sun warm. He also felt stronger, like he did in his youth. Well-rested, too, that was new. Jack yawned and sat up, stretching slightly, before opening his eyes.
And he stared. He stared hard, with incredulous awe.
It was hard to comprehend falling asleep in a dark, cold kitchen and waking up to see a magnificent castle surrounded by grassy meadow and bluer-than-blue sky. He had to blink several times to make sure he wasnt dreaming.
Could this be Heaven, he wondered to himself as he slowly got to his feet. A slight tinge in his heart made him think that he had done nothing to deserve Heaven, but here he was. The million-dollar question was...what now?
As though answering his internal question, he saw someone walking toward him in the distance, and when they came closer, they beckoned him forward, enthusiastically. Confused, Jack tentatively walked forward, still looking around and wondering what was going on.
When he got closer he saw that the person was a young woman with long blonde hair and a kind face. She smiled at him and beckoned to him again. "We've been waiting for you," she said excitedly, taking his arm gently and leading him toward the castle.
"...Who's been waiting for me?" Jack finally said as he found his voice. "What is this place? What's going on?" The woman smiled at him warmly.
"You'll see," was all she said as she walked him through a villa full of people who all gave Jack a smile before going about their businesses. After the villa was a beautiful courtyard full of flowers, especially peculiar red ones that Jack swore smelled like fudge and Maddie's favorite perfume. The smell alone nearly drove him to tears, but the young woman pulled him onward up to the large doors of the beautiful castle, and gently pushed them open.
The outside of the castle couldnt even compare to the inside; the interior looked to be of black obsidian and white marble, with green and blue fires illuminating the fine details of craftsmanship. Jack barely had time to look around properly before the woman pulled him gently forward until they came to another set of double doors, even more elaborate than the front doors.
Before opening them, the young woman turned to smile up at Jack. "Jack Fenton, sir," she said softly, getting his attention. He looked down at her, and was startled to see sad tears in her eyes. "...You've suffered for so long...you've wallowed in your guilt for far too long...and it's hurt us all to see it."
"...Us?" Jack asked. The young woman nodded and let go of his arm, and Jack felt a set of gentle hands on his other arm. He turned around and nearly had a heart attack when he saw... "...Maddie...?"
It WAS Maddie; only, unlike the last time he saw her when she was so ill and weakened with grief, she looked so young and healthy. The only difference was the soft ghost-like glow around her, accompanied by softly-glowing blue eyes. Before he could process what he was seeing properly, Maddie let out a happy squeal and jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly around the neck.
"Oh, Jack!" she sobbed, hugging him tighter. "I've missed you so much...!" Jack recovered slightly and hugged her back just as tightly, afraid that if his hold on her ebbed an iota, she'd vanish again.
"I...I dont understand..." Jack stammered. "How...how are you...?"
Jack turned his head a little to the side to see who else but Jazz standing a small distance away, desperately holding the hand of a young man in a long purple coat. Jazz's eyes were filled with tears, her hand pressing over her mouth in an effort to contain her emotions. The young man next to her gave her a smile and gently nudged her forward, and Jazz ran ahead, hugging him around the middle. "DADDY!"
"Jazz...!" Jack let go of Maddie with one arm to put it around his daughter, his legs growing a little weak from all the surprises all at once. "Oh my god...Maddie...Jazz...how is this happening? You're...you're both dead...!"
Jazz sniffled and hugged her father tighter. "Way to kill the mood, Dad..." she said, her voice wavering from joy. "...Of course we're dead."
"But then how - ?"
"Jack, you're dead too," Maddie spoke up, stroking her hand over his face lovingly. "...Didnt you notice?"
Jack blinked and looked around a little before looking over himself and his family, noticing how all three of them - plus the other two people in the room - had soft glows around them, and how their skin color was slightly off; the man who had come in with Jazz had an ashy hue, the young woman was a greenish color, and his wife and daughter were both in hues of blue. He looked at his own hands and saw that they too were slightly blue.
"I...I died...?" he managed to say. "But...how...?"
"Just because, Dad," Jazz cut in, hugging him again. "The important thing is...we're together again..." She burst into tears again, burying her face into his shoulder.
"...Then...where is this?" he asked. "Heaven?"
Maddie let out a small laugh. "No, but close," she replied, kissing his cheek. "Jack, this is the Ghost Zone."
"Ah, Ghost Kingdom, Maddie," the young man cut in helpfully. Maddie rolled her eyes slightly.
"Thank you, Andrew," she said apologetically, hugging Jack again. "We're all in the Ghost Kingdom, Jack. We just couldnt go ANYWHERE without you. Any of us."
"What do you mean...?"
"Oh hey!" another familiar voice called from across the room, making all of them turn to see Tucker walking into the room, calling to someone behind him. "Hey! Sam, hurry! He's here!"
"Already!" Sam came running in, wearing a short Gothic Victorian black and purple dress that blended in nicely with her incredibly paled skin. She immediately brightened up when she saw everyone. "Oh wow, that was kinda quick...where's Danny?"
Jack was the only one who froze when he heard his son's name; all of the guilt and sorrow came rushing back full force, and he absently thought of leaving this magnificent castle so he wouldnt have to face Danny. Maddie noticed and gently kissed him on the forehead.
"Jack, Danny's been waiting for you too," she said. "He's been hurt the worst, watching you beat yourself up all these years...having to watch you be left alone while all of us were here together...he'll be excited that you're here!"
"How could he even want me here, after everything I said to him?" Jack asked, mostly to himself, as he lowered his head in shame, barely aware of the doors in front of him opening.
"...Because I was the one who called you here, Dad."
Jack's head snapped up, and he was nearly blinded by the nearly-pure-white form in front of him. If angels were real, this would have to be one; snow-white skin, iridescent pure-blue eyes, white flame-like hair that glowed like Northern Lights, flickering around a beautiful crown that shone like a diamond. The only thing Jack could even recognize from this angelic figure was the voice.
The voice that had lulled him from the pain and loneliness and right into the arms of his family again.
The voice of his son.
It took several moments to process that, and Jack lowered his eyes, still ashamed of himself, feeling unworthy of standing in the presence of his own son, whose power Jack could FEEL. He didnt look up until he felt softly-chilled hands touch his shoulders, and glanced up to see Danny standing in front of him, looking him in the eye.
"...Dad," Danny said, crystal-clear tears running from the corners of his eyes, "...it's okay. I forgive you." He leaned forward and hugged his father tightly. "I forgive you, Dad. I've been watching all this time...I wanted so badly to bring you here, but it wasnt your time...!" Danny's voice hitched with tears. "...I had to wait until it WAS your time...and then I could talk to you...help you come here..."
Jack let out a sob and hugged Danny back tightly, feeling every bit of what was left of his guilt and emotional baggage be lifted from his shoulders, the burden gone forever.
They were both joined by Maddie and Jazz, who hugged them both, all four happy they were a family again.
Off to the side, Dora dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief as a black-armored man put an arm around her waist. "No one told me this deathday-slash-reunion would be a sob-fest," he muttered. Dora snorted into her kerchief and elbowed him in his armored side.
"Oh shush, Fright!" she admonished quietly. "You're just as happy for Prince Danny and his family as I, and you know it!"
Fright rolled his eyes, but gave Dora a small relenting smile. "You are correct as always, Dora," he said, leaning down to kiss the top of her head, then turn back to watch his Prince-and-family reunite in tears and forgiveness.
It took the better half of a half-hour for everyone to calm down enough to compose themselves, and Danny to properly announce, "This calls for celebration you know." He gave his father a boyish grin and turned back to the double doors. "Your deathday means our family is all together again!"
Jack hugged Maddie to him and glanced around to see Jazz walk back over to the young man she had come in with and cuddle up to him; Sam and Tucker were hand-in-hand and looking overjoyed at the happy reunion. Jack couldnt help but agree - the family WAS all together again.
Danny pushed the doors open to reveal an enormous dining hall decked out in higher-class party decorations, the whole room filled with recognizable ghosts who all applauded when they saw the Fenton gang all together.
As Danny stepped further into the room, Jack saw the ghosts either bow or curtsy as he passed on his way up to a figure dressed all in black, with a crown encased in green fire atop his head, who Jack recognized as Pariah Dark, the Ghost King. Danny took Pariah Dark's hand in his own and leaned up to kiss his husband before gesturing to the crowd for attention.
"We are all gathered here today to celebrate both the deathday of my father, Jack Fenton, and the reunion of my family!" he said, his voice carrying easily over the room. "For over two decades, my family and I have been divided by life and death, and now, we are all together, all hurts to be healed, and trespasses to be forgiven. This is a new beginning for us." He picked up a filled crystal goblet from the table and raised it in his father's direction. "A new beginning for ALL of us, Dad. Here's to you!"
As he took a sip from the goblet, Tucker called out, "Nice speech, Danny, did you write it yourself?"
That made Danny sputter on the liquid, which dribbled slightly down his chin and pure white clothing, making the other ghosts snicker, Dora fret and rush over to blot at his clothes, and Pariah Dark sigh heavily, as though he had been subjected to this adolescent torture for years now.
And Jack couldnt help but laugh.
True, this was a new, happy beginning for him, to un-live his afterlife with his family.
...But he was happy some things would never change.
And that was the end. *sniffles and dabs my eyes with a tissue* Thank you all, and I hope you loved this story even half as much as I have!