Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom or any of its characters. I own my own OC's and this plotline. I don't make any money for my fanfiction efforts, but if I did that'd be awesome…
"Miss Lily? Where's Stitches?"
Lady Lily Belladonna was pulled from her thoughts as Danny joined her in the kitchen. She smiled gently at him. "I'm sorry, Danny; she's not back yet."
"It's been a week!" The boy looked exasperated as only a ten-year-old could; his entire body slumped backwards and he let out an over-exaggerated grunt of impatience. "Tommy won't shut up! He just keeps whining and… and… emoing around!"
"Emo?" Lily made a face. "Isn't that Latin? It means 'buy'. What is Thomas buying, exactly?"
Danny stared at her blankly, as if he were wondering how in the world Lily had come to the conclusion that her grandson was doing retail therapy. The more he thought about it, the more it started to make sense; after all, there were grown-ups who would shop after something bad happened to them. Still, Thomas wasn't doing that. He was sitting in corners and brooding. Suddenly, Danny realized he was putting perhaps a little too much thought into the situation.
The young halfa frowned. "I miss Stitch Witch."
"I know you do, little badger." Vlad said, patting Danny's shoulder as he passed the boy. Kissing Lily on the cheek, he explained, "Latin is no longer a spoken language, my dear. These days an 'emo' is a social stereotype… Related to hipsters, I believe?" He looked at Danny, who nodded. "Well! I'm more up-to-date than I thought."
"Do you know where Stitches went, Dad?" Danny looked at Vlad hopefully.
"I'm sorry, Daniel; I do not." It was mostly the truth. Vlad could only guess that Stitch Witch was in the Ghost Zone. If he was feeling paranoid enough, he could even assume that she was gathering her forces and preparing to attack.
Luckily, however, such paranoia was only achievable when Vlad was either awake far too long into the night or if he were inebriated. As it was the middle of the day and Vlad only drank on incredibly rare occasions, he was only barely suspicious that she might be out actively planning against him. Barely.
"Don't worry, you two." Lily spoke up. "Ashley has a habit of disappearing. Even when she was young, she would go off into the woods for days – goodness knows what she was doing, but my point is that she will return. For now, she most likely has answers that she is seeking."
"Answers?" Vlad managed a chortle. "I got the impression that she knows everything… Or, at least, she believes she does."
Lily giggled and both halfas felt a little lighter. "Yes, she does retain a great deal of knowledge, but she didn't get the powers that she has by standing idly by. She searches for information all the time; it's only when waiting for new knowledge to become known that she settles down for a few years."
"So… What's she learning?" Danny frowned, clearly puzzled.
"I don't know that, either, I'm afraid." Lily walked over and placed her hands on Danny's shoulders. He gazed up at her. "But, when she returns, you can be certain that she will tell you – all you have to do is ask."
"Really? What if it's, like… really personal or something?"
"Then she'll tell you it's really personal 'or something' and nothing further will be said. In case you haven't noticed, she doesn't lie outright very often."
"No. Instead she likes to omit certain information." Vlad chipped in flatly.
Lily glanced at him, and with a flash of those dark, rich green eyes he knew she'd just been made aware of his own trouble. Vlad felt slightly alienated, since he still wasn't used to having a woman around that was so sharp.
"Ashley will return when she needs to, and I know she wants that to be as soon as possible." Lily returned her attention to Danny. He now looked even more uneasy – not to mention confused – at his father's comment. She smiled to try and settle his worries. "Lucky for you, my daughter frequently does what she wants rather than what she should do when it's about someone she cares for enough. She'll be back soon. Until then, I asked Aaron to find someone to visit you."
"To visit me?" Danny looked interested, raising his eyebrows.
Lily's smile grew sly. A moment later, the young halfa found himself being pulled up and spun around in a very familiar fashion. Danny's eyes turned bright green as he transformed, a large grin on his face.
"Ember!" The young Phantom spun in the air and threw his arms around the punk girl's neck. "I knew it'd be you! This is awesome!"
"Who else?" Ember smirked, hugging the young ghost-boy tightly.
"I didn't realize that Stitch Witch's children knew where to find Ember." Vlad stepped over, looking pointedly at Ember. "We've missed you around here."
"Yeah, but I'm not one for this 'growing up and becoming mature' junk that you've got set up for my little Babypop here." Ember stuck out her tongue. "Your hair's still grey, old man. Never heard of hair dye?"
Grudgingly, he smiled. "You're lucky Daniel's so taken with you, as ever."
Ember narrowed her eyes at him. "You are such a pom." Turning her attention back to Danny, she set him down and asked, "So, feel like a field trip to the Ghost Zone?"
"What?! Yeah!" Danny bounced a little, trying to contain his excitement. "We're going in the Ghost Zone?!"
Vlad got a dour look. "I'm not so sure that I approve of that."
"Oh, cut the umbilical cord – Skulker'll be there, too." Ember gave a tut. "If anyone's stupid enough to mess with me, they'd have to be really stupid to mess with both of us, especially if it's over your kid."
"She's got a good point." Vlad frowned as Lily took Ember's side. However, the woman then had the audacity to press her lips gently against his cheek; immediately, Vlad knew that he wouldn't be able to argue further. "Danny and Ember miss eachother. She won't be making herself noticeable in the world of the living, and Danny will be able to explore the Ghost Zone in security. If you're the only one who goes with him every time, he may begin to feel he must have you around if there's a possibility of danger. See?"
"I suppose." he relented, albeit begrudgingly. "Very well. I trust Ember would never let him get hurt… nor would she allow Skulker to let him get hurt."
"Yeah; I know just where the weak points in his armor are, no matter how many times he upgrades. He's here specifically because he doesn't want to suffer through another horrible, nasty, fiery explosion today." Ember smiled brightly.
So did Danny. "Hurray!"
Giggling, Ember just hugged him tighter. "Why are you still so adorable?!"
A portal opened in Amity Park and spat out a fireball into the woods before disappearing. The fire, rather than catching onto the trees and grass surrounding her, clung to Stitch Witch's clothes, skin and hair. She was scuffed up and covered in dirt, and the fire was slowly growing smaller and fading as her skin and clothes stitched themselves back into being. As for her hair, it seemed to be trying to devour the debris that several tangles had locked themselves around, but the fire wasn't making much headway in that task.
Stitches stood up and swept the flames off of her back like water, wincing as she moved every now and again. She pushed her left shoulder back into its socket, tried to wipe a smudge of sooty ash from her cheek, and stretched in several strange poses. Her spinal cord let out a rapid firing of pops as her half-human discs slid back into their appropriate places. The feeling alone nearly killed her with sheer bliss, and she let herself drop onto the grass and rolled around for a moment.
She sighed, staring up at the sky. It was blue. Not purple, or red, or smoke-covered gray, but sunny, summery blue. Stitches reminded herself that she hadn't left in summer; Danny and her kids were going to the local school. Her mind had to grasp back a few years to recall why her kids were in the Living Realm.
"Danny is not Dan." she recalled, sitting up. This perked up her mood.
"I know you're here!" a voice shouted nearby. Stitches jumped, eyes wide and alert and very, very paranoid. "Aha! I found you!"
A scarecrow came flying out of the trees and tackled her over in a bone-crushing hug. Kenny was cackling softly like a madman falling asleep, yet cuddling her like a child even younger than Danny. In his 'young adult' body, that made it quite the sight to see.
Ashley let out a gasp, holding her head with one hand and ruffling Kenny's white-blonde hair with the other. "You have got to have the best worst timing in the world, boy…"
"Everyone's coming back today! Yeay! Yeay!" Kenny began hopping around and wiggling his boneless body as a cartoon character might. "First the angry Ember lady, and now my angry Mommy lady… Oo, oo! Is Spectra coming back, too?! Cuz when she's reformed, she's gonna be all crazy and neat and stuff and I wanna play tic-tac-toe!"
"Spectra is not coming back on this side of the decade." Stitches sniped moodily. A dark frown covered her face. "That red-haired, vampire reject Delilah…"
"You little lying… Delilah…?" Kenny's light bulb eyes flickered and went out as he tilted his head to one side. "…Wish I had a mask that covered half of my face… I'll glue one on later… Mommy! Why you jealous of a lady who ain't here?!"
"I am not jealous of that despair-junkie!" With a yowl, Stitches leapt at Kenny and grabbed him by the shirt collar. "Don't you ever say that, Kenny! 'Jealous' and 'Mommy' do not go in the same context when another person is involved, got it?!"
Kenny's manic grin returned. "I married a ninja! His daddy was a fire giant named Loki, you know!"
Ashley stared at him… and let him go with a chuckle, opting to wrap her arms around his shoulders. "Oh, butternut… I missed you. I missed you all. Mommy's been in a potential future for the last three or four years, okay? I want to go home. I need a nap."
"Okay!" Kenny cheered, but paused as his mother pushed her way through the trees. "…Mommy? You usually fly around as a kitty. Or invisible. Why are you not invisible or a kitty now? Look at your hair! It's so looong!"
"Yeah, four years will do that. C'mon, let's go!"
Stitch Witch took off through the air. Flying was something that she had missed, too. Flying had been dangerous in the future, what with Dan buzzing around and all. Now that she had an opportunity, she latched onto it – and flying had never felt quite so liberating before.
Clockwork frowned as the future his goddaughter had escaped into became visible to him once more. As Amity Park became distorted to him in the present, the time ghost let out a rare breath of relief.
"Where did she go?!"
Now on the screens was the future Ashley had investigated. Dan Phantom had found the base of the Guys in White and was tearing it apart with a terrifying rage. If he hadn't seen so many horrible acts, Clockwork would have had to turn away from what the angry specter was doing to the humans.
"Faust has been destroyed! Repeat: Faust has been destroyed! Now destroy the Homunculus!" Clockwork rolled his eyes and shook his head; the Guys in White always did come up with some ridiculous codenames, even if he was impressed with the literary connection.
"I'm no one's sidekick!" There was a scream and crunching. Clockwork frowned; Dan had gotten his hands on someone's… neck… and had followed his sadistic instinct. Then the beast grabbed another agent by the throat and held him high overhead, his free hand curled into a fist and crackling – burning, really – with red ectoplasmic energy just waiting to be dispensed. "Now, let's try this again, shall we?" he asked with an eerie calm, showing his Vlad-like behavior. "What did your despicable little toy do to my woman, hmmm?"
That sinister smile that curled up Dan's face made his victim shudder. Death was coming – no doubt about it.
"It… didn't… kill her, per se… Er, Subject Faust is an indestructible being, and as we could not destroy her, we had to send her… somewhere else." The agent adjusted his sunglasses slightly, trying to maintain a cool demeanor in the face of his own mortality. "Besides, there was no reason to destroy her. She was the only force capable of challenging you, and she only attacked when provoked. If she hadn't started being provoked when you were to be attacked as well, we would have allowed Faust to remain in this world longer. We worried about whether or not you would be able to be sent through with her, but in the end, the government left in this world couldn't bear the guilt of sending you to destroy their families a second time. After the portal sent Faust through, it self-destructed."
Clockwork was aware that he was holding his breath as he watched the scene play in real time. Dan narrowed his eyes at the man, then at the burned-out remains of a piece of machinery. It almost looked like a Ghost Portal, but it had been modified.
"Curse the old badger. I knew I should have killed them both…" Dan muttered under his breath. Then he threw the man straight upwards, lodging him in the cement-and-metal ceiling. With a calm calculation, he prowled over to the device and looked it over.
That's when Clockwork cursed under his breath. It was a Ghost Portal.
Dan stepped through a beam of sunlight that had found a crack to slip through. It was just a brief instant, but Clockwork could see that this wasn't yet the fully-adult killer that he had warned Stitch Witch about. He was much larger than Danny or Vlad would ever become, but he still had a leanness to his body's musculature build – the kind that only youth had. He must have been at least 19 or 20 years old.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to fix it, then, won't I?" Phantom growled, eyes aglow.
Clockwork felt his old, ghostly heart drop into his stomach.
To be continued in: Dan V. Masters, coming soon!
Okay, before y'all start getting angry and killing the kitty, you have to hear me out! 1) Killing kitties is bad luck; kicking or hitting a kitty will cause you to develop rheumatism in the limb. It's an old wive's tale, but I'm sure it's true! 2) More importantly, I had to cut off Vlad's Son after electing to add Dan Phantom into the mythos as a character because I wanted to keep this fanfiction's K+ rating, and Dan is… Dan. Plus, as I still have questions that you humans all need answered, and if you kill me before I can get started on Dan V. Masters, you will not get answers.
Also, I would like to apologize once again for how long this took. I am a college kitty. I got people to pester, teachers to distract and papers to eat. I also have all the catnip I want because people love kitties when they're far away from home, and they will spoil a friendly kitty rotten when given the chance. Yeay!