Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom nor do I make any profit from this story.
Summary: After years of living in Amity Park, Jack and Maddie Fenton finally manage to capture a ghost. The results of their findings lead to startling new discoveries in paranormal science in general and one ghostly teen in particular. (No Phantom Planet.)
Interview with a Ghost Boy
Slumping in his seat, Danny flipped through an outdated copy of Happy Haunts, a periodical that listed the most haunted places in America. (Amity Park always made the top five.) He and his dad were waiting in the doctor's office for his annual back-to-school check-up. It was the summer before senior year, and while Danny actually liked his doctor, he was also blessedly relieved that he would never have to do one of these again. It was disturbingly normal in the waiting room with coughing kids, grumbling teenagers, and weary adults. Danny was constantly on alert for something bad to happen—a ghost attack, his doctor discovering his secret, or his parents embarrassing him—the latter was particularly nerve-wracking.
A piercing scream disturbed the peace of the waiting room, and Danny nearly leapt out of his skin. A quick glance around the waiting room revealed a fussing mother and two small children. One child had bitten the other and was receiving a fierce scolding. The biter was looking appropriate remorseful as the bitee let out a few sniffles. Danny relaxed back into his chair. That was one situation where he was definitely not needed. He reached the end of Happy Haunts and tossed it onto the table. Looking over the selection, Danny was debating between Greater Homes & Gardens or Seventeen and a Half when he heard his name being called.
"Danny Fenton," called the nurse again.
Danny jumped to his feet and waved a hand at his father. He did not need his dad to go with him to see the doctor. He was nearly eighteen after all. Jack Fenton looked a little disappointed but sat back down and returned to his knitting. He looked to be making a wool jumpsuit for winter. It was very orange.
The nurse took Danny's weight and height. He had gained some muscle since his last check-up but still weighed less than the average teenage boy. He was also shorter than the average almost-eighteen-year-old having not experienced a growth spurt. He grew at a steady rate of two inches per year ever since the accident. Danny wasn't worried. He knew how tall he would be in the future. However, he did regret that he wouldn't reach that rather impressive height until after he graduated college.
The nurse took his temperature and blood-pressure and threw him a startled glance. She was new, he could tell, because the new nurses always looked surprised at the readings. Still, she was doing better than his last new nurse and hadn't run screaming out the door calling for the doctor. Instead, she marked his measurements down and told him the doctor would be there "in just a minute" and left.
Danny snorted as she closed the door. Doctors were never there in "just a minute." He grew a small glowing ball of ectoplasm of ectoplasm in one hand—a ball that would definitely not explode if he dropped it—and entertained himself by tossing it between his hand at increasingly difficult angles. He had tried juggling the balls once, but they had a nasty tendency to get out of hand. Of course, his attempts at juggling had led him to discover ecto-bombs, which were particularly useful against large, slow targets.
Someone jiggled the doorknob, and Danny quickly reabsorbed the ectoplasm shivering slightly as he did so. The door flung open to reveal Dr. Faust, a pale man with wispy blond hair and dark shadows under his bright blue eyes. He was very, very tall, very, very thin, and looked more than a little terrifying; not that that was anything unusual in Amity Park. His family had immigrated from Germany to America when he was a boy. The town rumor mill said they had been driven away because of accusations of black magic. But Dr. Faust was the friendliest person Danny had ever met and had been the Fenton family doctor for as long as Danny could remember.
"How's the ghost hunter-in-training doing today?" asked Dr. Faust with a grin.
"Same as ever," said Danny grinning back. "School check-up."
"Of course, because somebody never gets sick," said Dr. Faust."B.P. low, but normal for patient. Ninety-four degrees Farenheit, still as cool as ever I see." He whipped out his stethoscope and slid it under Danny's shirt. "A few deep breaths for me."
Danny breathed as he was told then breathed normally as Dr. Faust checked his heartbeat. After a battery of tests adjusted to his unique physiology, Danny waited patiently as he could for Dr. Faust to check against the past few years of records and fill out the school-provided health form. He had a lot of exceptions that school needed to know. Ever since the accident, Danny's core temperature had plummeted. Ninety-four was at the low end of the average body temperature. Ninety-five degrees was officially hypothermic. In fact, a lot of things had changed ever since the accident. Especially…
"And how's the vitiligo doing?" asked Dr. Faust casually.
"It's spread some," admitted Danny. "All of my hands and feet, most of my forearms and shins, and some random patches." Which weren't quite so random, if one matched them against the locations of Phantom's more serious injuries. Thankfully, no one did.
"You and Michael Jackson," said the doctor. "We could get you a shiny glove if you wanted."
A horrible image of Danny Phantom fighting ghosts in a sequined jumpsuit filled his vision. Over the battle, he could just make out the tune of Thriller. Danny shook his head vehemently.
"No way. I'm enough of a freak already."
"Everybody's been treating you okay?" asked Dr. Faust. "No bullying?"
"I've been okay," said Danny honestly. "Dash doesn't even stuff me in the lockers anymore. He picks on freshmen instead. Besides, who cares about a pale kid in a town full of ghosts?"
The vitiligo, depigmentation due to the death of melanocytes, had developed during the summer before sophomore year. Danny hadn't really noticed it at first. He was pretty pale anyway and spent a lot of time as Phantom during the summer. Of course, the first time he had gotten a tan and had tan lines around his eyes, mouth, and finger tips, it wasn't hard to figure out that something was up. It was, like every other quirk in his medical file, a presumable side-effect of being blasted by the ghost portal.
"And the depression and mood swings?" pressed Dr. Faust.
"Under control," said Danny firmly. "I think it's those good-vibe machines around the school and sticking to my schedule."
Danny's rough freshman and early sophomore year had been attributed to depression due to his accident. He couldn't very well tell his teachers or his parents that he was skipping class and sleep to fight ghosts. Jazz worked out a schedule for him that limited his ghost duties from 9pm to 1am on weeknights. She had also included sleep, meals, school, homework, and hang-out time. He followed it as best as he was able, but Danny couldn't just ignore ghosts when they appeared during the day.
The real breakthrough came at Christmas of sophomore year. His parents had realized that ghost attacks decreased during the holiday season. They had assumed, falsely, that the good cheer was keeping the ghosts away and had devised a machine that simulated happy emotive output. Surprisingly, the machines really did keep most ghosts away. Unfortunately, they were prohibitively expensive to make, especially without the financial support of Mayor Masters, who found them distasteful, and therefore could only be found at areas with a high volume of ghost traffic, namely Casper High, Nasty Burger, and Fenton Works.
Danny, unlike most ghosts, got power from positive emotions rather than negative emotions. For him, simply being around the Fenton Emo-Emitters was the ghostly equivalent of drinking energy shots without the eventual crash. He had more energy, needed less sleep, healed faster, and lacked the distraction of near constant ghost attacks. Of course, they made his battles with Ember truly epic, but those were limited to every few months, whenever she released a new single.
"I'm glad to hear it," said Dr. Faust. "Anything else you think I ought to know?"
"No," said Danny. "Am I good to go?"
"You are A-OK," said Dr. Faust. He waved a yellow slip of paper in Danny's direction. "Take this to the front desk, and you're done. I'll see you later, Danny."
Dr. Faust bustled out of the room, and Danny jumped off the examination table with a sigh of relief. He did like Dr. Faust, the man was awesome, but he really disliked the exams. It always made him think of his mom and her desire to dissect a ghost. He picked his father up in the lobby, and together they made their way to the Fenton RV.
Jack was babbling happily about get back to the lab and testing a new containment field. Danny was content to let his dad babble. In his opinion, nothing worked quite so well as the Fenton Thermos which was both easy to use and transport. Just when Danny was working himself up to ask about the new invention, his ghost-sense tingled, and he shivered.
"Hey, you're not getting sick are you? We were just at the doctors," said Jack.
"No, Dad, I think it's just—GHOST!"
Jack looked up and cussed. He put on the brake and steered hard to the left. Danny braced himself as they skidded to a stop near the foot of what appeared to be a ghostly Godzilla attacking the city. Danny stared up at the giant ghost with a sigh. It was a completely new ghost, probably not very powerful for all its size. Normally, Danny would let his mom and dad, who had gotten pretty good at dealing with less powerful ghosts, deal with the newbie. But right now it was just his dad, and this ghost was pretty big.
"Danny, I've radioed your mother. Get out of the RV!" said Jack.
Danny took his father's advice and dove out of the car just in the nick of time. A giant, ghostly, reptilian foot smashed the front of the RV. Danny scrambled to his feet and looked desperately around for his dad. He quickly found himself crushed in a pair of orange, latex-coated arms.
"Danny, are you okay?" asked Jack.
"Need air!" said Danny only somewhat truthfully. He took a deep breath when his father released him and said, "Dad, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. It looks like we're going to need a new RV though," said Jack surveying the damage. "Maddie's on her way. You'd better get out of here, Danny. This looks like a tough one."
"Yeah," said Danny looking at the crushed RV. "I'll go to Tucker's his house isn't too far from here. Be careful, Dad."
"I'm always careful," said Jack brightly. "I hope it didn't get the new Fenton Bazooka."
Danny rolled his eyes and sprinted around the corner. As soon as he was out of sight, he shifted into Phantom and took off. Turning in visible, he zipped over the roof, and flew around to the side of the monster opposite his dad. The ghost was blue and scaly with evil looking purple spikes along it's spine and tail. It walked on two rear paws but had four additional arms with which it was happily destroying the town. It had a long, thin snout and three pairs of yellowed eyes positioned around its head like a crown. Vile green ectoplasm dripped from its jaws to the roof tops below. Danny was dismayed to see the ectoplasm sizzle through the stone work. He hoped all the humans had gotten away safely.
"Hey, ugly!" he called turning visible. "I hope you know who's town you're tearing apart! Amity Park is my haunt! "
It did not work with all ghosts, but some that had found their way through the portal by accident really did not want to deal with the infamous Phantom. Unfortunately, this was not one of those ghosts. The long tail whipped around faster than lightning and knocked Danny from the sky. Danny went intangible and slipped harmlessly through the street into the sewer system.
Ignoring the smell, he didn't need to breathe when he was ghost after all, Danny floated down the pipes to about where he thought the ghost was standing. Then he flew straight up at his top speed. He pegged the ghost in the jaw, snapping its head back, and halting its progress. The ghost roared in pain and let out a ghostly green flame. Danny quickly countered it with his ice breath not willing to risk the flames hitting anyone else.
Zooming around the ghost's head he realized there was no real blind spot. With the ghost's three hundred sixty degree vision and aggravatingly flexible tail, it was becoming a serious nuisance to fight. Danny charged up a few ecto-bombs and chucked them at the ghost's broad back. The tail moved to intercept them but was blasted by the first bomb and exploded. Two actually hit the ghost. One blew up a spine, but the one that his the scaly hide just left a burn mark. Its armor was too thick for the bombs to do any good. That was a bit of a problem as the bombs were concentrated bursts of ectoplasm and stronger than a regular ghost ray.
Too busy thinking about how to injure the impenetrable ghost, Danny failed to noticed that the tail had reformed. He did notice when the tail hit him and flung him into a nearby building. He was too stunned to go intangible and made a visible dent in the brickwork. Groggily, he looked up and found himself staring into the ghost's gaping maw and saw a few flickers of green flame. Thinking quickly, he charged up a few more ecto-bombs and flung them into the ghost's gullet.
"Eat this!" he called and followed the bombs with a few ghost rays.
A rumble gurgled up from deep within the ghost's stomach. The spectral dinosaur-lizard-dragon-thing shot Danny an reproachful look and exploded in a geyser of ectoplasm. Danny spat out a mouthful of ghost slime and looked around.
"Not my idea of a balanced meal. But it seemed to have done the trick," said Phantom.
Catching sight of something moving in the heart of the sludge, Danny flew down to street level. There he picked up a tiny ghost chameleon. He frowned at the little thing that had caused much trouble.
"Next time, I hope you think about what you're doing before you go attacking Amity Park," he told it.
"The same can be said for you," said a disturbingly familiar voice.
Danny dropped the lizard and turned on his heel just in time to see his mother holding an open Fenton Thermos. A white light shot out of the Thermos, and then Danny knew nothing.
Maddie Fenton, wife, mother, scientist, and ghost hunter was practically bouncing with excitement. After years of research, she and Jack had finally nabbed a ghost. Not just any ghost, oh no, they had nabbed Phantom, the most unusual ghost in Amity Park. She had been a bit concerned, true, when Jack had called her about a ghost-sighting on Broad Street and had arrived fully armored and ready to kick some ectoplasmic butt. She had never imagined anything like this.
She watched in eager anticipation as Jack carefully aligned the Fenton Thermos with new containment unit and pressed the eject button. There was a flash of bright light and suddenly Phantom was there in the containment. She could see it clearly through the charged bars of the containment egg. Its hair was white, of course, and its skin was very, very pale. It looked young, perhaps seventeen or eighteen. Danny's age, she thought idly, then shook her head. Ghosts did not age once they died. It was probably much older than Danny, maybe even older than her or Jack. Probably not too much older though. That jumpsuit it wore was definitely from this century.
"Jack, bring up the images we have of Phantom," she ordered briskly. "Is the spectral recorder on? We'll want base line readings to compare his aware versus non-aware states."
"Already up and running, Maddie," said Jack. "Bringing up the images now. Check your screen."
Maddie looked down at her computer. The camera inside the cage was taking photos and comparing them to the ones they already had. She did the same with her own eyes taking notes to type up later.
"This is just amazing, Maddie. You can see a physical difference between the photos from a few years ago and now," gushed Jack. "It's taller for one thing. Its jaw has filled out some. If it were a human, I'd say it was growing just like a teenager. What do you think caused the changes?"
"I don't know," said Maddie. "Experience maybe? Energy? We know so little about ghosts. I didn't realize it was possible for them to change."
Jack stared at her in surprise. "Come on, Maddie. Haven't you ever watched the fights between Phantom and the other ghosts? They don't just do the same thing over and over. If they did, they'd certainly be easier to catch."
Maddie stared at her husband and blushed. "You're right, Jack! I don't know why I didn't think of that before. I guess because we've never caught a ghost, I thought it was just too difficult. But we've certainly gained experience since the portal opened, I guess they have too."
A sharp groan from Phantom cut off whatever Jack was going to say. Maddie shivered at the sound but watched intently as the ghost "woke-up" and processed its location. It caught sight of Jack and Maddie and jumped into the air. It floated backwards, away from them, until it hit the bars, when the charge in them disrupted its powers, and it fell back to the bottom of the cage. The ghost looked around at the large, egg-shaped structure that was the newest Fenton Works containment unit. It curled into itself, pulling its legs into its chest, and locking its arms around its knees, a purely defensive position. It looked at them again, its green eyes filled with panic that morphed into wary caution.
"What do you want with me?" asked Phantom.
"To study you, of course!" said Jack. "Good luck getting out of there. It's as solid as a rock."
"It's got holes in it," pointed out Phantom sardonically.
Maddie quickly scribbled down "humor/literalism(?)" on her notepad. "Not as far as you're concerned," she told it.
Phantom flinched and stared at her saying nothing. Maddie had to admit that she had she had some pre-conceived ideas about ghosts. The first step in the scientific theory was hypothesis, after all. But Phantom had not reacted in any way that she expected. It was not afraid of them but appeared to be cautious. It had certainly not threatened them and showed no signs of anger. Most ghosts were supposed to be obsessive about a place or thing. Phantom seemed perfectly rational. Of course, they might not have access to its stimulus in their lab, which might calm it down or infuriate it faster.
"You're pretty weird for a ghost," said Jack bluntly.
Phantom's lips twitched briefly, but it remained silent.
"You call yourself, Phantom, right?" asked Maddie. "How about Ghost-Kid or Inviso-Bill?"
"My name's Phantom," snapped the ghost. "I can't believe they still call me Inviso-Bill that's so stupid."
It definitely showed signs of aggravation and possibly embarrassment. "How about Halfa?"
Phantom narrowed its eyes. "How did you hear that name?"
"There are transcriptions of dialogue from when someone gets close enough to hear your fights," said Maddie. "Most of the ghosts call you that, especially the Hunter Ghost."
"His name is Skulker," said Phantom. "It's something other ghosts call me because…because I act so human. They say it's like I'm half-ghost, half-human."
"Fascinating," said Maddie jotting down plethora of notes.
"So you really are weird for a ghost," repeated Jack.
"Yeah, I am," said Phantom actually smiling at him for a second. Its gaze drifted back to Maddie. "Are you going to dissect me?"
"No," admitted Maddie.
She was surprised to see the ghost relax instantly. It was still regarding them with a certain wariness, but it had let go of its knees and was sitting Indian-style at the bottom of the cage. Careful observation told her that the ghost was actually floating a few inches above the bottom of the cage. She decided not to tell Phantom that they weren't going to dissect it because they hadn't figured out how yet.
"Phantom doesn't seem like a very original name for a ghost," said Jack.
"It's Danny Phantom. It's a play on my human name."
Maddie's eyes widened. She exchanged glances with Jack. This was a terribly exciting development. It meant Phantom was mentally developed enough to create jokes. Not that his clever word play when facing down other ghosts hadn't been a clue, but that could have been a sign of a boy who read too many comic books before he died.
"You know," Jack said without thinking, "our son is named Danny."
"I know," said Phantom.
Maddie felt a chill run through her blood. This ghost, this very powerful, very strange ghost knew their son. She suddenly wished she had told him they wanted to dissect him.
Phantom was still talking. "He and Jazz, and Sam and Tucker too I guess, since they use your stuff, are a real credit to your ghost-hunting legacy."
"You know Danny's friends?" asked Maddie numbly. The Masons were going to kill them once they found out their daughter was on speaking terms with a ghost.
"Well, yeah," said Phantom. "Those three are pretty much attached at the hip. Besides, it's always helpful to know which humans won't panic during a ghost attack and who could potentially take out the small fry."
"Small fry?" blustered Jack.
Phantom raised a single, dark brow. Maddie hated to admit it, but Phantom was the one that dealt with the more serious threats to Amity Park. If there was more than one ghost attacking, she and Jack always went after the less power ones. This afternoon was a perfect example of them sitting back and letting Phantom do the hard work.
"We have some questions we'd like you to answer," said Maddie over Jack's sputtering protests.
"If I answer your questions, will you let me go?" asked Phantom.
"Of course not," said Maddie sharply. "That would be terribly irresponsible."
Phantom crossed his arms and pouted. "Then I guess I don't have any incentive to answer any more of your questions."
"You'll be stuck in there with nothing else to do," said Maddie.
Phantom did not respond. Obviously realizing that saying anything would provide them with more data. She had no idea that getting him to talk would be this difficult. Of course, if she were honest, she had anticipated the first ghost they captured to rant at them or try to escape so they could gather data. She never expected a ghost known to be violent to sit and do nothing.
"Maybe, depending on your answers, we might be able to let you go," Jack said cautiously looking to Maddie.
Phantom was looking at Maddie too. "You'll only agree to let me go if you ask the right questions. You're going to be all scientific."
Maddie frowned at the ghost. "There is nothing wrong with scientific method."
Phantom hummed and floated a little higher. He was rotating slowly in place. Maddie glanced at the monitors but saw no change in ectoplasmic output. Apparently floating and spinning while floating were not too different.
"What if we treated it like an interview?" asked Jack. "That would be fun right? Not too scientific. And you can talk a lot more in an interview than you can in an inquiry."
Phantom regarded them both carefully. Finally it said, "I wouldn't mind an interview."
Now Phantom and Jack were staring at her with an eerily similar expression of pleading. Maddie was still suspicious of Phantom. It was a powerful ghost, and she was not happy that it knew her son's name. But if Phantom did answer only a handful of questions, it would be equivalent to years' worth of research.
"An interview would be acceptable," she said.
"Oh goody!" said Jack. "Let me get my hat!"
Jack sprinted to the back of the lab leaving Maddie and Phantom waiting in awkward silence. Maddie walked over to a computer and printed off a list of questions she, Jack, and Vlad had used as the basis for their ghost theories. They weren't quite appropriate for an interview, instead being a list of things they wished to learn from observation, but it would be a simple enough task to adjust them. Jack returned just as the questions finished printing. He was carrying two tall bar stools and an equally tall table with a plate of cookies balanced on top. Perched on his head at a jaunty angle was an old fedora with a press pass sticking out of the rim. He set the chairs and table down and passed a notepad and pen to his wife. Maddie gratefully took the paper and a seat.
"Would you like a cookie?" asked Jack. "They're oatmeal raisin."
"Sure," said Phantom.
Jack slid the cookie between the bars of the cage, careful never to let any part of his body through the protective field, and beamed as Phantom took the offering. The sensors recording energy output from the ghost flashed in the corner of Maddie's vision. Clever boy, Jack, thought Maddie. He had gotten them more data to work with in a completely innocuous manner.
Phantom finished the first cookie and declined a second. Jack shrugged and nibbled on the treat instead. Maddie tried to reign in her disappointment. One cookie did not an experiment make, but it was a start.
"Are we ready to begin?" asked Maddie. At Phantom's nod, she continued, "First question. How do you see yourself?"
"As a person?"
Phantom sounded hesitant. Maddie wondered if he had interpreted her question literally. "Seeing" himself as a person might indicated why his appearance looked so human.
"I meant…you are a ghost, yes?"
"Yeah," said Phantom slowly.
"So you are aware of the fact that you're dead," prompted Maddie.
To her surprise, Phantom gave this question some serious thought. It crossed its arms and frowned at the bottom of its cage for several minutes in quiet contemplation. Maddie ignored the computer showing fluctuations in Phantom's energy readings. She could review those later. Right now she wanted to study the ghost with her own eyes.
"The short answer is yes. I know that I am dead," it said eventually. "But I don't think about being dead very much. For example, humans rarely think of themselves as alive except when confronted by their own mortality. The reverse is true for ghosts. We don't think about being dead except when confronted by the living."
"That's amazing!" said Jack.
Maddie nodded her agreement and scribbled down a flurry of notes. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to know next when Jack barked at the ghost.
"Why do you keep staring at her like that?"
Maddie looked up just in time to see Phantom's gaze slide from her to a surprisingly irritable Jack. Its ducked its head in what might have been embarrassment. A ghost could not blush of course, but Maddie imagined Phantom would have if it could.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," it told Jack. Its eyes slid invariably back to Maddie. "You remind me of my mom."
Jack looked mollified by this answer. Maddie perked up in excitement. They had all sorts of questions about what ghosts remembered of their lives as humans.
"How much can you remember from your life? Can all ghosts do that?" she asked.
Phantom stiffened at the question. His back straightened and his muscles tensed beneath his jumpsuit. When he turned to look at her, his usually animated face was uncharacteristically blank, and his eyes had darkened to a deeper, more solemn green.
"It is generally considered," here he hesitated briefly presumably over his wording, "impolite to ask a ghost about its death or its life before. Most ghosts remember very little. For some, what they do remember is painful. I would prefer to avoid that topic."
Maddie's stomach twisted with guilt. Ghosts were a collection of energies left behind after the death of a person. For those ghosts which were powered by anger or sorrow, their deaths would likely have been terrible. Even though she knew Phantom wasn't human, she was still embarrassed for being so thoughtless as to ask Phantom about its past. At the same time, a small part of her desperately wanted to ask how Phantom had died. Instead she held her tongue and hoped Jack would have the sense to do the same.
Phantom smiled at her somewhat sadly and, as if he could read her mind, said, "My death was an accident. My parents were scientists, and I wasn't as careful as I could have been around one their experiments. There wasn't a body. I don't think they knew what happened to me."
Maddie felt tears form in the corners of her eyes. She would feel awful if she lost one of her children like that. She and Jack had raised Danny and Jazz to always use caution in a laboratory setting, but sometimes things just happened.
"Our Danny had a lab accident," said Jack quietly.
"I know," said Phantom.
"He told you?" asked Maddie in surprise. Danny never spoke to anyone about his accident. She, Jack, and Jazz knew, obviously. Dr. Faust, who was their family doctor, had to know. She was sure that if Tucker and Sam hadn't been there, then they wouldn't know about it either. Danny hadn't even wanted them tell to the school why he missed a week. In the end, they had comprised by telling the principal and the nurse the truth. The rest of the staff and the students thought he had caught the flu.
"Not exactly," said Phantom. "The accident made Danny sensitive to ghostly activity. He can tell when ghosts are around, but it makes him a target too." Phantom's eyes grew comically wide. "But don't tell him that I told you!"
"Why not?" demanded Maddie. "Why did he tell you, but not us?"
"He's worried you'll dissect him or something," muttered Phantom refusing to meet their eyes.
"How dare you say that!" screeched Maddie.
At the same time Jack yelled, "We would never hurt our son!"
Phantom held up his hands either to placate them or unconsciously ward off blows. He floated as far away from them as the cage would allow. He stared down at them accusingly.
"Don't tell me that! Tell him!" protested Phantom. "What is he supposed to think, when you're so gung-ho about hunting down and dissecting ghosts? Maybe he's worried that you'd do the same to a human with ghostly abilities as you would a ghost."
"He's our son," Jack said again more quietly this time.
Maddie glared down at her notepad. To think that their son was scared of his parents, and that a ghost knew it before she did. That hurt her deeply, but she was a professional and would not let whatever the ghost said upset her. It might be making things up to throw her offer her game. The more she thought about it, the more she liked that explanation.
But how did he know about Danny's accident? Asked her inner scientist. Her inner mother squashed the other voice flat with a sledgehammer.
"In your more recent fights, you've referred to Amity Park as your haunt," she said stiffly. "What does that mean? Does every ghost have a haunt?"
Phantom floated a little closer, presumably encourage by the neutrality of the question and the lack of yelling.
"A haunt is a ghost's territory in the human world," explained Phantom. "Not all ghosts have haunts, but any ghost that stays in the human world for a long time tries to find one. Some ghosts work together and haunt the same place. In theory, a stronger ghost could kick a weaker one out of its haunt, but usually those ghosts will try to find a bigger, better haunt anyway."
"And what's the purpose of a haunt?" asked Maddie.
"Well, it's the place you haunt," said Phantom. "It's your territory, and you get power from interacting with the humans there. More powerful ghosts have better haunts. Less powerful ghosts have smaller haunts. The more power you get, the more you can spread your haunt."
"You must be really powerful, if Amity Park is your entire haunt," said Jack his temper back under control.
"Sort of," said Phantom. "But my lair is in Amity Park too, which makes things a little complicated."
Maddie paused in her note-taking. Her pen balanced delicately above the page. Haunts had been pretty much what she and Jack theorized. She had never heard of a "lair" before. This was exactly the kind of breakthrough they were looking for.
"What's a lair?" asked Jack.
"A lair is kind of like your house. It's the place you go to rest, relax, and recover. You can invite other ghosts there, but they'll leave when you ask them to. Have you ever been in the Ghost Zone? All those doors are lairs. The islands are too, but those are usually kingdoms with lots of ghosts and have different rules, more like haunts," explained Phantom.
"But your lair isn't in the Ghost Zone," said Maddie carefully. "You said it was in Amity Park. Why is that?"
Phantom closed its eyes. "I think it has to do with…with the way I died. There was this energy and it…did some stuff. I didn't get sucked into the Ghost Zone and was already fully formed, so I had an advantage over most ghosts. I made my lair here in Amity Park. It was my hometown…before. My lair is here, and the whole city is my haunt because I'm strong and because I was here before that."
Phantom opened its eyes and glared over its shoulder.
"The Ghost Portal?" asked Jack. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"It has to do with everything!" protested Phantom. "Don't you know what it is?"
"It's a stable portal between our world and the Ghost Zone," said Maddie.
"Exactly," said Phantom. "Before this, there weren't any stable portals from the Ghost Zone to Earth, at least not permanent ones. Some ghosts can make portals to travel through. But most ghosts can't and never even find one. Ghosts that did find one were always taking a huge risk. The vortexes were rarely stable and could close unexpectedly in the middle of a journey. A ghost might be stripped of most, some, or all of its energy. That meant weak ghosts and strong ghosts never came to Earth unless summoned because they were afraid of losing their powers. But now, now they all come here because this is the easiest place to get through, and they all want to haunt Amity Park because controlling would make them top dog. And, with this portal active all the time, it stabilizes the other natural portals in the area, making it even easier for more ghosts to slip through. It's a mess!"
"Are you saying the ghost attacks are our fault?" asked Maddie.
"Er, if you look at it…well, I really meant…um…yes, basically," stuttered Phantom. "Amity Park would still be haunted but only with lower class ghosts and apparitions."
"And you," said Jack. "Can't forget about you."
Phantom looked thoughtful. "I don't know. I really have powered up since all the fighting started. Without the Ghost Portal, who could say if I'd even be here now?"
"We have noticed some changes in your physique since our first recordings of you four years ago," said Maddie. "Are those primarily mental changes? Or a result of you get stronger? Exactly what does it mean for a ghost to change shape?"
"Asking the easy questions first," said Phantom with a laugh. "Not all ghosts change shape. Some are shape-changers and that's part of their power. But for everyone else, a significant shape change comes about from a combination of experience and power. Skulker gets new weapons to become a more effective hunter. Technus updates with technology. Ember's hair gets longer the more fans she gets. I age some. Change is pretty common, but mostly only happens to ghosts that have come to Earth."
"So you have grown more powerful, especially recently. Is that unusual for a ghost of your age?" asked Maddie.
Phantom stared at her. "You don't know how old I am."
Maddie hesitated. "I know you said it's rude to ask about a ghost's life before. But could I guess?"
"Go ahead," said Phantom crossing its arms.
"Your clothing indicates you're from this century. Your parents were scientists. You said the accident destroyed your body and that there was a lot of energy. I think you were probably born in the late 40s or 50s and that your parents were experimenting with alternative energy sources, maybe nuclear, maybe even ghostly in origin, since they had chosen Amity Park."
Phantom uncrossed its arms. "That's a good guess," it admitted grudgingly. "I can't tell you about how fast or slow other ghosts develop. I just know what happened to me. I'd never been to the Ghost Zone until you opened the portal."
"So how did you develop?" asked Jack. "If you don't mind telling us."
Phantom sighed and started to spin again. This time it kept its back to the portal and tipped over on its side. It was a lot like watching a human-shaped pinwheel. Maddie grabbed a cookie, they were almost out, and nibbled until Phantom started talking.
"At the beginning, you couldn't pick me out from a line up," said Phantom. "All ghosts have the same basic powers: flight, intangibility, invisibility, and a ghost ray. The rest develop in accordance with its personality as the ghost gets more powerful. I was pretty lucky. With the energy from the accident, I didn't have to make a solid form for myself, so I started off as a medium-high level ghost right away. Never an apparition or anything. When the first ghosts started coming through the portal, they were the usual suspects weaker, animal, shaped, no overtly developed powers. I had a tough time with them though. I'd never had to fight to defend my haunt before.
"Sam and Tucker and Danny were a big help. They gave me a Thermos so I could catch the other ghosts. They cheered me on, which gave me a power boost. And they helped with tactics and stuff. By the time Skulker, who was the first really powerful ghost to come through portal, came around, I had gotten pretty good at fighting. After that, I just got better and better. So then I had to deal with the ordinary ghosts that came through, but then I also had to fight super-powerful ghosts and ghost hunters too. I wish they'd just leave Amity Park alone."
"If you care about Amity Park so much, why do you keep destroying it?" asked Jack.
"It's not like I go out with the intention of causing property damage," snapped Phantom. "Fighting is a messy business."
"Well, what about the mayor?" countered Jack.
Phantom rolled its eyes. "I didn't just randomly attack the mayor. He was being possessed by another ghost."
"Oh yeah, well, what about the stealing?" pressed Jack.
"It wasn't me. It's not ghosts have much use for money. I was being controlled by a human," said Phantom. "I don't want to talk about that, okay? Stupid Freakshow."
"Mom, Dad, have you seen Danny?" Jazz called from the top of the stairs.
"He went to Tucker's," called Jack. "Sweetie, you won't believe it! We caught a ghost."
There was a disbelieving silence from Jazz. She thundered down the stairs, caught sight of the ghost, and gasped.
"Danny! Phantom!" she shrieked. "Mom, Dad, I can't believe you caught him."
The two ghost-hunters and the ghost stared at each other awkwardly. Something about Jazz's tone made that particular situation highly embarrassing.
"I doubt it's going to happen again anytime soon," said Phantom wryly.
"Course not," said Jack. "We've already caught you. It's not like we're going to need to go out and catch you again."
Maddie glanced at Phantom, who seemed put-out at this assessment of Jack's but did not appear too surprised. It must have known that the ghost-hunters would not let it go, interview or no. She returned her attention to her only daughter and noted that Jazz seemed upset by Phantom's capture. She had even referred to the ghost as a "he." Maddie would never make that mistake no matter how human the ghost seemed. She and Jack agreed that gendered-pronouns were meant for the living and to think of ghosts as research specimens and not the people they had once been. Maddie had thought they had instilled the same scientific objectivity in their children. Then she recalled that Phantom had praised Jazz's ghost fighting talents. She wondered how close the two were.
"Was there something you wanted, sweetheart?" she asked.
"I just wondered where Danny was," said Jazz. "It's nearly dinner time, and he needs to follow his eating schedule."
Her eye bright blue eyes were wide with wonder and never left the ghost's face. Maddie was not sure it was a good idea to have Phantom and her daughter in the same room, even the ghost was contained.
"You know, it might be a good idea for us to take a break, Jack," said Maddie.
"But we were just getting to the good stuff," protested her husband.
"Yes, well we can continue the interview after dinner," said Maddie snagging the now empty plate of cookies. She shooed her family up the stairs. "Come along, Jack, Jazz."
"I'll just stay here, then," called Phantom.
"You do that," said Maddie and closed the door firmly.
Danny waited five minutes after the door closed for his parents to burst into the room. As soon as he felt sure that they would not be coming back, Danny powered down into human mode. The containment unit shut off instantly as so many Fenton electronics did without ectoplasm to power them. The door of the cage was unlocked. Danny casually pushed it open and jumped out.
Sauntering over to the computer terminals monitoring the containment unit, Danny quickly brought up the data for the video and thermal-imaging cameras. A few clicks and the footage Phantom shifting into Fenton was gone forever. Feeling satisfied with the way his capture had gone, Danny turned both invisible and intangible and floated up to the first floor.
Danny watched his mother preparing supper, his dad snacking on fudge, and his sister pressing for a copy of notes from the "interview." He had done his best to tell the truth—when a ghost as powerful as himself lied, there were nasty consequences—and thought he managed it pretty well. He attributed his success to those long hours of conversation with Clockwork in the Ghost Zone. The Ghost of Time could obfuscate with the best of them. There were some things he would have liked his parents to ask more about things like politics, power, and ways to keep more ghosts out of Amity Park, but maybe Phantom could pass on that knowledge through Danny.
He also thought himself pretty clever for giving his parents some insight into his unique situation. The interview combined with Dr. Faust's health report, might one day lead them to figure out that he was in fact Danny Phantom. Though his mother's too brilliant brain had definitely delayed them realizing the connection for another few years. It was hard to connect dead ghost from the fifties with living son, but his genius parents could manage it.
Tweaking Jazz's hair as he passed her seat, Danny walked through the door onto the stoop and dropped the invisibility.
"Mom, Dad, Jazz, I'm home!" he called. "How was the ghost this afternoon?"
"Danny you won't believe what happened!" said his dad. "Your mom caught Phantom! Isn't she amazing?"
"Really? Can I see him?" asked Danny.
There was a brief pause as his parents recalled exactly what Phantom had told them. "Maybe after dinner," said Mom. "How was Tucker?"
Danny skirted the question and slid next into the seat next to Jazz, giving her a cheery smile. She smiled back, clearly relieved to see him out of the cage. Danny let himself be soothed by the warmth of his family. Ghosts and ghost-hunting would always be a part of their lives, but for now he was content to be just Danny.
And he couldn't wait for his parents to find Phantom had disappeared. That was going to be a blast.
I like playing with different shows and giving them elaborate back stories—as do so many other fan fiction authors. I hope you enjoyed this look into the (after)life of Danny Phantom. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Some things that might bother things that might bother the casual reader:
(1) I am operating under the assumption that Phantom is 100% dead with some human traits, and Fenton is 100% alive with some ghostly ones. So he did die in the accident, but he's also still perfectly alive.
(2) I am assuming that Jack and Maddie know there was an accident of some sort in their lab that led to the Fenton Ghost Portal becoming operational. I can't imagine how Danny could hide something like that.
(3) This is the summer before Danny's senior year. Jazz is back for the summer from college. She's studying (para)psychology.
(4) Dr. Faust is based on the Faust from Shaman King, who is based on the fictional German character.