A/N: I... have no idea what happened. I was perusing Danny Phantom fanfictions and I happened upon a metric ton of them where Phantom and Maddie bonded... I read one that really made me think (though I admit I've forgotten the title and author), and I decided I wanted to take a stab at this bonding thing too. I thought that maybe if Phantom made Maddie see that he wasn't a bad guy, she would be able to accept the fact that her son was half-ghost and there could actually be a revealing fic with a happy ending that wouldn't make me want to vomit from the choking sweetness that seemed far too sudden. I had hoped that I could write one, and in doing so get myself out of the mindset that happy endings in the DP fandom just couldn't satisfy me.

I was wrong.

At any rate, I hope you'll enjoy my little story. If you'll read it my rambling might make sense to you. 2,650 words typed out late at night. My second Danny Phantom fanfiction.

I don't own Danny Phantom. It would be pretty sweet if I did though.

So don't let me waste the rest of your time. Enjoy~

Sitting on the roof of the school – so cliché, he thought with a small, humourless laugh – Danny Phantom gazed at the stars, one foot dangling over the edge, as if he were on a pier and dipping it into clear waters below. There were no ghosts out tonight, and he felt almost serene.

Almost.

There was nothing keeping his mind from wandering back to the fact that his parents didn't know who or what he was. The fact that if they did, they could kill him or worse. Yes, there was far worse. They could experiment on him, call the government, throw him in to the Ghost Zone, make his life… afterlife …existence a living, or… Well, effectively just put him through hell.

Truthfully, even he didn't know what he was. Was he ghost or human? He was just some freak, some hybrid, neither dead nor alive. He was not human. He was not ghost. Danny was just a filthy hybrid, belonging to neither world. To no world at all. He called the human realm his home, settled in Amity Park, but even when he was alive he never fit in.

"Damn…" he grumbled to himself. He had to endure bullying from the very people he saved. They tormented him even though he didn't let anything torment them. They loved him as a ghost, hated him as a boy… They would be terrified if they ever found out that he was both and neither.

Why did his existence have to be so confusing? Why did he even have to exist?

Of course, as all clichés go, he was interrupted in his thoughts by footsteps and the charging of an ecto-gun. Danny sighed, not really in the mood for a fight right now.

"Look, I'm not even going to turn around," he stated, continuing to gaze at the stars. "I'm not causing any trouble and I'm not going to fight back. Go ahead and shoot your Goddamn enemy while he's defenseless. I'm not even gonna bother moving."

The person behind him frowned. "What are you playing at, Ghost Boy?" She seemed mildly irritated, as if she was being cheated out of her prey.

"Oh, so it's Maddie Fenton." He rolled his eyes, tone becoming a bit moody. "I'm not playing at anything. I just wanna watch the stars. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to fly up there. Now that I can, it's kinda lost its appeal. I never wanted to do it like this."

"You're rambling," she said, coming up beside him. Her gun was still charged and at the ready, but it wasn't pointed at him. Her guard was going down a little. At least it was promising.

"Look, Mrs. F. I just wanna forget my problems for a little while, and you're one of them. Would you shoot at me if I were alive?"

"No, but—" She didn't really have a comeback, so he cut her off.

"Then why do you shoot at me now? I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm not hurting anyone. I was possessed by that guy Freakshow when I stole that stuff before. I was framed by a ghost warden for the mayor's kidnapping. But you don't believe me no matter what. Why?"

"Because you're a ghost!" she immediately replied. He wondered if it were a trained response.

"So if I were alive you'd believe me? If I were your son?"

She seemed to visibly wither at that, flinching sharply and trying to glare at him. "My son's not a ghost, Phantom!"

He chuckled darkly, another humourless laugh. "Yeah, I know." She didn't understand the joke. Most likely she never would. He certainly hoped so. "That's not the point, though. You'd believe him. I'm not evil just 'cause I'm a ghost. I know a lot of good ghosts, and I'm one of them. I just wish you could put your hate aside…" He trailed off, gazing once again at the stars above.

Maddie's mind was reeling. Phantom seemed to have feelings… But that couldn't be right. Ghosts don't feel. It had to be a trap. Then she saw something that completely shattered her resolve.

Phantom was crying.

It wasn't all out sobbing, or tears streaking down his face. His eyes weren't red, but he didn't look like he was trying to hold it in either. There was just… a tear. Two. Many of them were gathered in his eyes and only a few had escaped. Still, it was mind-boggling. Ghosts didn't cry. It was impossible.

So what was this?

After a decidedly indecisive moment, she depowered her ecto-gun, dropping it to the ground. Danny looked up in shock to see her sit down next to him.

"Now what are you playing at?" he asked suspiciously. Maddie shook her head slowly.

"I just… I can tell you're not evil. I don't know. I shouldn't believe it. There's just something about you, the way you present yourself and the way you do things… I don't know. Just don't make me regret this. Got it, Phantom?"

He nodded, then flinched slightly. "I… Thanks. Just, do you think you could not call me Phantom? I just wanna… I wanna pretend for today, just for a little bit, that I'm human. All my enemies call me Phantom or Ghost Boy and I hate it. It makes me feel like I've lost all my humanity."

"What else is there to call you?" she asked, feeling a small amount of sympathy for the boy. He was so young when he died. He looked so fragile, and it was a little disturbing for a kid that was young enough to be her son to talk so casually about his enemies. It hurt a little, she realized with a small jolt, to think that she was one of them.

There was a long, awkward pause. Should he tell her to call him Danny? Would that make her see the truth? Finally, he broke the silence with a small sigh and a broken-sounding, "I don't know."

Maddie bit her lip. Had he forgotten his name? How long had he been dead? She had seen him around for about two years now, but she had seen a lot of ghosts when the portal opened. There was another pause that seemed to go on forever before she continued. "Well… what was your human name?"

There was really no backing out of this now, Danny thought to himself. "I… My name's Danny." This caused Maddie to frown.

"I don't know if I can call you that," she admitted. "My son's name is Danny. It would be weird to think…" she trailed off, not knowing how to end that sentence. Fortunately, he put up his hand to signal that she wouldn't have to.

"I get it," he said. "I know what you mean. I just don't know. I don't have any nicknames or whatever."

"What about Dan?" she asked. He shook his head frantically, a look of pure terror invading his iridescent green eyes.

"No. God, no. Just no." A quizzical glance from Maddie made him explain further. "I know a guy… worst ghost you could ever possibly meet. Nightmare-inducing guy. He… I don't wanna be compared to him."

"Daniel?" she offered. This time his reaction was less extreme. A look of discontent ran across his features.

"I hate being called Daniel," he admitted. "The only person who calls me that is the one enemy of mine that doesn't call me Phantom or Ghost Kid or whatever. He's a total Froot-Loop." Maddie snorted, and he looked at her. "What?"

"My son calls Vlad Masters that, and I can't help but agree," she said in laughter. "I would never tell him that though… Still, he's a creep."

"You're telling me," he said, starting to laugh as well.

The atmosphere soon got awkward again, though admittedly less so. Here they were, hunter and prey, sitting side-by-side and laughing about something they had in common. It was both unnerving and relieving.

"So what should I call you then?" Maddie asked again, breaking the silence.

"I don't know," he replied again. They were back to square one.

"I can't call you Danny," she said immediately. After some thought, she added, "Do you have a middle name?"

"Actually, yeah," he said. "Maybe you could call me Jimmy?"

"Your middle name is Jimmy?" she asked, casting him a sidelong glance. "That's quite the coincidence. My son's middle name is James."

He laughed. "I actually don't remember my middle name," he lied smoothly. "Nobody's said it a long time, and you always forget part of your life after you die. It's completely inevitable. I just remember it started with J. If that's weird too, you can call me something else. Like Leroy or something."

"I think I'll stick with James," she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "Or Jimmy." He told her that James was fine and she nodded. "Do you remember your full name? I mean, your last name and everything?"

"Actually," he said awkwardly, "yeah. My parents don't really know I'm dead."

Maddie looked completely shocked. "How? How could anyone be so oblivious that they don't notice their own son is dead?"

He shrugged. "I'm good at hiding it, I guess," he answered. He was going to have to invent more lies, but that would be okay. He could get some of this off his chest. "I mostly just conceal it. I do stuff like wearing contacts and using makeup to make myself look, y'know, not dead."

"What about the glow?"

"I can actually dim it down to almost nothing. The jumpsuit can come off, too. But I have to do it a lot. I always have to conceal who and what I am. It's like I'm half-human, half-ghost. It's so disturbing to me. I don't belong in either world. I'm not human enough for this world, but I'm too human for the next."

Maddie placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. This poor boy had to go through so much. He was just a scared little boy.

"I know this is a horrible question," she said, "but I feel like I have to know… How did you die?"

He was quiet for a moment, wondering how much he should leave out of his story. Tonight he was going to tell his mother as much of the truth as was possible. About everything. Maddie gave him this time to himself, thinking that he was dealing with painful memories, or perhaps trying to dredge up the memories that were difficult to recall.

Finally, he spoke."I was in an accident. It was painful." He paused, unsure of where to go. "It was kind of an explosion, but I was electrocuted too. Electrocuted half to death. I felt like I was being ripped apart, molecule by molecule." Maddie winced, now seeing how much it probably hurt Phantom – James – Danny – the boy in front of her, when her husband spoke of 'ripping him apart molecule by molecule'. She would have to tell him to stop that.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly.

"It's not your fault," he said, half-believing his own words. Yeah, it was her portal, but he turned it on. He listened to Sam to impress her and turned the damn thing on. "I actually… It was pretty much my fault. I was trying to impress a girl I liked. My parents are scientists and they make all kinds of weird weapons that usually don't work. I wanted to see if I could get one working, do something cool. She egged me on and… it blew up. She was out of range of the explosion." He added the last sentence quickly, explaining away the fact that he was the only one harmed. However, it also sounded like he was a little bitter about being the only one hurt. "Before I fiddled with it I was wearing a jumpsuit which was supposed to keep me from harmful radiation. Least of my worries." He shook his head, bitterly laughing, before he continued.

"I screamed so loudly I'm surprised the neighbors didn't notice, but I guess since our basement is soundproof… Anyway, my parents were out that day. When I came to, I was dead. My body wasn't anywhere, so I guess it was blown to bits or something. The girl was standing there with my other friend. They were both staring in horror. I wanted to know what they saw… They saw this." He gestured to himself, frown etched on his face at the painful memory.

"I'm glad they were my friends. They still are, and they've helped me through this. One of them had some colored contacts in her bag and she gave them to me. We told my parents that my hair changed because of the trauma. It's possible. I read about it.

"Of course we told them about the accident, and I was scolded for it, but I insisted that I was fine and convinced them not to take me to a hospital. If they ever knew I don't know what would happen."

As his story finished, Maddie looked on with tear-filled eyes. Her son was in an accident from one of her inventions too. She was so lucky that he was okay. This boy, however… So young. So very young. And his parents must be so negligent to not notice, yet it seemed that he would fake his own life just for their love and acceptance. It was just wrong.

"I'm so sorry, James," she said, giving the Ghost Boy a tight hug. "I never knew. You went through all that and we hunted you. I'm so sorry."

"It's alright," he said, feeling a little awkward in the hug. "You didn't know, and it doesn't matter. I'm just a ghost. Plenty of us have tragic pasts. Plenty of humans do too. You were just doing your job." Inside of him, however, he completely disagreed with what he was saying.

"You're so much like my son," she said, noticing when he flinched. Misinterpreting that, she added, "I know I said I wouldn't compare you two, but I can't help it. All the good things you do for the town. You do your best no matter what and nobody cuts you enough slack. I never noticed what a good boy you really are. You're caring and headstrong and even your voices and looks are the same."

He just nodded through her speech, waiting for her to make the connection.

"You two would get along," she said. "You might even get along with my husband, if I could get the two of you together without any violence breaking out. You know Jack Fenton, right?" Maddie smiled. "We won't hunt you anymore, so you've got two more enemies to tick off your list."

She never made the connection.

He knew that he should be relieved. After all, his secret was still intact.

But she was his mother. She was supposed to know. To see him and make the connection, especially after she listed the similarities.

That was when he realized it. She couldn't see both halves of the whole. She may accept Phantom, understand him a little more, but she would never make the connection between Phantom and Fenton. She could never love him completely, no matter what.

Because Danny Fenton was her son.

Danny Phantom was just another ghost.