This is my favorite DP story I've ever written. Hands down. I know it's long, but I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Clockwork silently observed the ghost in front of him. He may have been seventeen, but he was still a boy in appearance and some would even argue, innocence. In his three years as part ghost, he had yet to give in to the harsh reality that he just couldn't save everyone all the time. He had continued fulfilling his duty to his hometown, despite the injuries and trauma he suffered everyday. But in the end, he lost something quite dear to him: himself.
By some freak accident, Danny Phantom's evil future self escaped from his imprisonment and made it out of the Ghost Zone through the Fenton portal. Danny, who hadn't seen this ghost in over three years but had much more experience under his belt, had fought valiantly. He had saved countless lives in the vengeful ghost's attacks on Amity Park, but after what had to be hours of fighting, the boy could not maintain consciousness and passed out.
With nobody else around to haul Danny Fenton to safety, the cruel older ghost did the unthinkable and killed him.
It was these chain of events that led Danny Phantom, now all-ghost, to seeking refuge with Clockwork. Clockwork didn't need to have a full grasp on human emotions to understand that the boy was in agony. Not physically, but emotionally. Nothing could wash away the sight of his human self lying battered and bloodied in the street as his ghost self invisibly arose from it. The sounds of his friends and family's cries would not leave him, and the look on his sister's face- the last human he would see before escaping to the Ghost Zone- had thoroughly devastated him.
It wasn't even the loss of his human half that bothered him; it was the now scary and unpredictable future in front of him. Would he remain here for the remainder of his after-life, in the Ghost Zone where he belonged? Or would he again, try to live amongst humans even though he was now more alienated than before?
Clockwork understood the gravity of the situation. To help the boy make his decision, he had one small form of solace waiting for him, should he be willing to accept it.
"Danny," he said quietly, choosing to leave off the 'Phantom' part, as this would only be a cruel reminder of his current predicament. "If I were to offer you one last day with your human self, would you take it?"
Danny, who had been holding his head in his hands for quite some time- perhaps crying?- looked up. In the swirling green mass in front of Clockwork, he could see his seventeen year old human self floating. His eyes were closed.
Danny, instead of immediately accepting the offer, felt repulsed by the sight of something he knew to be dead. It seemed like some sort of sick joke to be granted just one last day with his human half, then watch as it returned to its grave once more. However, he knew that Clockwork clearly intended for him to accept, despite the uselessness of the proposition. But going back to something he had seen lying crumpled in the street in front of his house just a few hours ago did not suit well with Danny. If he would see his human half once last time, he wanted it to be a peaceful, even happy experience, if he could manage it.
"How far back can I go?" he replied.
At this, Clockwork looked amused. "I did not specify a timeline."
Danny blocked the sight of his present-day human self floating in the circular time-portal in front of him and looked at Clockwork directly in the eye.
"Take me back ten years."
Danny knew he had other, better options. He could've gone back three years and prevented the accident from ever happening. This would have completely erased his future self altogether, but sacrificing his ghost powers wasn't a chance he was willing to take. He had come to terms with the fact that he was, in fact, Danny Phantom, and would not change that for the world.
Arriving on the same street where he had died, just a decade in the past, was still a strange experience. It would be seven more years until the currently unbuilt Fenton portal would lead to the birth of Danny Phantom, which was why Danny was now clutching to his time medallion as his lifeline. Still, it was nice being able to float around without being recognized. Amity Park had yet to acquire its reputation for being a ghost-infested town, making it perfectly ordinary compared to everything else.
Danny stared up at the building he knew was his house. It looked different without the massive Fenton Works sign on it, but it would be another two years before his dad insisted that they add that embarrassing embellishment.
He had the means of just flying invisibly into the house, but somehow, Danny felt like an intruder in his own home. He was trespassing on something sacred, something yet to be affected by any sort of ecto-energy besides his parents' collection of failed inventions.
So instead of going in right away, he just watched from the street. Some passers-by gave him some strange glances, but Amity Park residents did not believe ghosts existed. Yet.
Danny could see Jazz, tinier than ever, engrossed in a book in the living room. Her hair was shorter and a little curlier, but she still had the same headband. Ah, familiarity.
His parents were undoubtedly busy in the lab- not much of a change from the status quo Danny knew in his own timeline- leaving the only person left to find was himself. His ten years-younger self.
Reminding himself that he was constrained by time, Danny finally flew up to his bedroom window. His eyes lit up with delight upon seeing the rocket ship bunk bed still in his room; he had totally forgotten about that! The rest of his room seemed mostly the same, except there was no computer and a lot more Legos strewn across the floor.
Just as nostalgia was beginning to overwhelm him, a small boy with raven colored hair appeared at the window. Danny's heart- had it still been beating- would have skipped a beat at the sight of his younger self. He had the same blue eyes and messy black hair, and his face held a steady expression of curiosity as he stared at the floating figure in front of him.
Every emotional trigger in Danny clenched painfully at the sight. It was like he was observing his own son, except it was more agonizing to know that the cute, fully-human kid in the window was him.
"Who are you?" he asked in that prepubescent voice that Danny remembered all too well. He had cracked the window open, but just barely.
Danny smiled sadly at his younger self. His eyes were full of wonder, free from the memories and pain that would eventually come with the ghost powers. Strangely, there was also a hint of mistrust behind them, too. Danny took this as a good sign; never trust anyone too openly was a lesson that had taken him years to learn.
"I'm…Danny Phantom," he said, figuring it would be pointless to claim he was from the future if he could no longer transform to prove this statement.
"My name's Danny," the kid said shyly. "Why are you floating? Are you…a ghost?"
His voice had dropped into a whisper, as though the very word would trigger and outburst from his parents if they heard it. Danny chuckled, knowing the fear of uttering the word 'ghost' all too well. He also wondered why his younger self was so sharp if he was supposedly so clueless. Perhaps hours of mind-numbing video games had diminished his ability to catch on to things quickly.
"I'm a friend," Danny said, opting not to answer the question in fear of how his younger self might react. He never believed in ghosts until after the accident, after all. If he were to reveal this information to his younger self, he would need a bit more time to gauge his personality in order to determine the consequences of such a revelation. "Can I come in?"
The kid regarded him carefully for a moment before opening his window. Okay, so in retrospect, maybe he had always been a little too trusting of others, but with a deadline looming over his head, Danny didn't exactly have time to sit around convincing his younger self that he wasn't a monster.
"Cool bed," Danny couldn't help but comment as he landed in his old room.
The kid's eyes lit up. "My dad bought it for me for my birthday last year. I want to be an astronaut someday."
"Seems reasonable to me," Danny smiled, thinking back on the time he had stolen that jet pack from Axiom labs to fight off Technus in space.
The kid stared at him for quite some time, taking in the black and white suit, green eyes, and glowing white hair. Normally Danny would have panicked at this kind of attention, but it was only him, after all.
"Are you sure you're not a…you-know-what?"
"Do you believe in the g-word?" Danny asked, unable to resist messing with his younger self.
The kid shook his head, but still looked uncertain. "But you're…glowing."
"You're smart, kid," Danny said, ruffling his hair. This child was so unlike the Danny Fenton he had been before dying that he couldn't seem to mesh the two together and remember they were the same person.
"And why is your hair white? You don't look that old."
Danny grinned again. Part of him was still hurting from the losses he had suffered, but another part was emerging; a more hopeful, happier side. Any regrets he had been harboring for choosing to come back to this specific point in the timeline immediately vanished. "It used to be black."
"Exactly. But there was an accident and it turned white."
The kid fell silent for a while, as though he was seriously pondering over what Danny had said. To stave off awkwardness, Danny sat on the floor and went through his old toys. There was an action figure that looking startlingly similar to Skulker, and block castle that reminded him of Prince Aragon's castle in the Ghost Zone. He didn't make mention of any of these, as none of it would make sense to his younger self. Not for seven more years, anyway.
The kid wordlessly sat down and joined him. Danny couldn't help but watch him curiously as he neatly stacked the Legos together and organized the rest of the action figures in an orderly line.
"My parents are ghost hunters, you know," he said, keeping his eyes focused on the blocks. "You should be careful."
"I didn't say I was a ghost," Danny yelped, caught completely off guard by his younger self's words. Man, this kid was brilliant! What happened to that?
The kid looked at him skeptically. "Well, you didn't say you weren't. You can float in the air and your body glows. I say you're a ghost."
"Okay, so what if I am?" Danny asked, irritated that he had been outsmarted by his ten years-younger self. It had been rather obvious, but it frustrated him to think that he was once this perceptive and the ability had diminished over the years.
"Show me your powers," he said simply. "Are you like a superhero with super abilities?"
Danny laughed. "I guess you could say that. Watch closely."
The kid gave him his complete attention, then squawked and jumped backwards when Danny turned invisible right in front of him.
"Shhh!" Danny shushed him, turning visible once more.
"How do you do that?" the kid whispered, his eyes full of awe and wonderment.
Just a few more years, kiddo, Danny thought to himself. "It's just one of my ghost powers. I can also fly and-"
"You can fly?" the kid nearly shouted with glee. "Like this?"
He held out his arms and ran around the room, pretending he was an airplane. He even added sound effects.
Danny bit his lip to stop himself from laughing at his younger self's antics. He really was a funny, carefree kid before the whole save-the-town job had taken over his life.
"Yes, sort of like that," Danny chuckled as the kid returned to his side. He checked the special watch Clockwork had given him. Only a few hours left.
As Danny rose to his feet, a sudden flash of inspiration came to him. "Wanna try it?"
The kid's blue eyes widened as though somebody just gave him the keys to a candy shop. "You'll take me…flying?" he whispered. "Is it safe?"
"I won't let anything bad happen to you," Danny promised, knowing that the kid was still full-human and therefore needed alive to guarantee his future existence as Danny Phantom. He held out his hand.
The kid darted an anxious look to the door, as though he knew his parents would not approve. But his desire to live out his lifelong dream of flying overtook the urge to obey his parents and he carefully took the glowing gloved hand in front of him.
Nice, teaching him- me- to run off with ghostly strangers, Danny thought to himself, knowing he was setting a bad precedent but having too much fun with his younger self to fully care.
"Hold on tight," Danny smiled as he turned them intangible and flew through the window. The kid screamed with delight as they raced high above the house and even above the Op Center, which appeared to be a work in progress at the moment.
Danny was flying much slower than usual, just so he wouldn't freak the kid out too much, but somehow it was more thrilling than the solo flights he used to take. Having a kid- himself, he kept having to remember, along for the ride made things so much more exhilarating. His exuberance was well-noted by his yells and hollers as they soared over the houses of his friends and neighbors. Best of all, with the portal still sealed shut, Danny didn't have to worry about a ghost attack.
They flew around the city for what seemed like hours, but in reality it was only about forty-five minutes. For the duration of their flight, Danny managed to forget all about the fact that he was now completely dead, and just focused on showing his younger self his favorite part about having ghost powers.
The kid was horrified when Danny suggested that the return home, but his watch was winding down from hours to minutes, and soon he would have to go.
"That was…that was…amazing," he said, at a loss for words after they returned to his room. "Can we do that everyday?"
Danny felt the familiar pangs of sadness returning. "I can't. I have to leave soon."
"No you don't!" his younger self grabbed him by the wrist and tugged him closer. "You can live with me, I'll protect you from my parents."
Danny, although feeling rather deflated by the chains of reality crushing him on all fronts, smiled at this. Even at the tender age of seven, he knew his parents were crazy.
He kneeled down to face the kid at eye level. "That's not the last time you'll get to fly, I promise."
"What do you mean?" he asked, looking both confused and intrigued at the idea that his first flight hadn't been his last.
Danny felt words die in his throat as he looked into the blue eyes that used to belong to him. The kid seemed to sense that something was wrong, and tears were now welling up in his eyes.
"Stop that. Don't cry," Danny said, knowing that if the kid cried, he would be tempted to cry along with him. "You'll see me again in a few years."
"But why won't you stay?" the kid pleaded as tears spilled down his cheeks. "That was the most fun I've had…in forever."
Danny turned away from his younger self, unable to cope with the enormity of his losses. He missed his blue eyes, his childish innocence, and the capability of enjoying flying for what it was- not just as an added advantage in battles against other ghosts. He closed his eyes and forced himself to remain in control of his emotions- he was seventeen, after all- but still a single tear managed to sneak past his defenses.
"Look," he said, wiping away the tear before turning back to face his younger self. "I can't stay, but this doesn't mean I'm gone forever. I'll come back…and you'll get to fly again. Whenever you want."
"Whenever I want?" he breathed. "How?"
"Just…make sure you listen to Sam when she asks you to go in that portal."
"You'll see. Bye, kid."
Before Danny could take off, the kid ran up to him and hugged him. Danny's breathing became shallow; he didn't know how much more emotional devastation he could handle in one day. Fully human, younger Danny hugged fully ghost, older Danny for quite some time before older Danny broke them apart.
"Bye Danny Phantom," he said quietly as Danny neared the window. He didn't run after the ghost anymore, he just stood there, looking sad and even a little lonely.
Danny waved to the kid. No words would come out, so just the wave would do. He quickly exited the window and flew into the night sky, just as Clockwork appeared to take him back to his own time.
Back in the present, Danny felt numb. Saying goodbye to his human half had been one of the saddest memories in his life. The present had not changed, which meant that the kid had definitely gone into the portal at fourteen and gotten zapped. It sounded painful, but Danny was glad it ended that way. Younger Danny finally got his wish of unrestricted flight fulfilled, and with that, came the enormous responsibility of protecting Amity Park.
"I'm going back," Danny announced to Clockwork after several minutes of reliving the day he had just spent with his seven year old self. "I'm going back to Amity Park."
Clockwork smiled vaguely. "Of course you are. Ghost or human, there are still others that care about you."
Danny smiled. "And as usual, I'm guessing you knew I would make this decision?"
Clockwork didn't answer him verbally, but the smile said it all.
Reviews would be much appreciated to let me know what you thought of this story. Depending on the response, I might write a sequel, but I'm not entirely sure yet. Thanks :)