Dun doo dee do

Edited 4/07/16

Chapter 8
Accidental Design

"It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance rather than of contemplation, and of accident rather than of design." ~ Charles Caleb Colton

The human teenager groaned and collapsed onto the couch, bouncing slightly on the cushions. He glared at the TV as it showed yet another clip from earlier that day of Phantom egging the news helicopters on, the hero grinning cockily at the camera as he flew backwards.

Usually Danny avoided those helicopters and treated them like the irritating pests they were when they persisted. But Phantom…he smiled at the reporters, winked at them just before he escaped their trap, and sometimes he came close enough to chat with them—checking that they were all right if there had been a near collision and maybe answering a question or two to entice them into another round.

The first few times Fenton had seen this, he'd just about exploded with nerves, thinking his ghost half was going to blow some important secret, but the ghost handled each confrontation like a pro, answering each question with an easy smile even while he mixed reality with fiction. Naturally his other half had to be a master of duplicity on top of everything else. Jerk.

Always eager to improve their ratings by discussing their local superhero, the press was going crazy over "this abnormal behavior" and kept theorizing over what could have caused it. Some just thought Phantom was being especially playful today, critics warned this was another sign of him being two-faced, and others (the gossips) wondered if the change in attitude had anything to do with Amity's most wanted teen bachelor finally finding a girl to show off to.

Fenton was almost curious himself how Phantom would answer that, what with Val—wait, no, they were going to merge back before that could happen, even if he had to drag his wayward half, kicking and cursing, into the basement by his pretty white hair.

The boy made an odd growling noise in his throat before he stood up and began pacing again. Loud banging from upstairs resumed as his parents returned to fixing the hole in his wall, and Fenton hunched his shoulders, making a face. The noise (plus their dad's random shouts) had driven Jazz away already, and if Fenton hadn't been waiting for the other half of himself to bring his ass home so they could reunite, he would have left too. Gone to Tucker's or Sam's and—


Fenton sucked in a breath and spun around. He caught a glimpse of white hair and luminous green eyes seconds before Phantom slammed into him. They collapsed backwards onto the couch with a shout, but Fenton barely had time to catch his breath or become alarmed by their tangled limbs before Phantom scrambled up his body and sat on his hips.

"What are our parents doing in our room? Where's the Ghost Catcher?"

Fenton gaped at his panicked twin. The ghost's lips pulled back over his teeth and he grabbed his other half's shoulders, shaking him until Fenton's surprise snapped like a taut wire and his earlier anger and frustration came rushing back.

"You would know if you had been here!" he shouted, shoving his hands against Phantom's chest. The ghost's knees squeezed his waist, keeping him from unbalancing, and Fenton glared, heat warming his cheeks. "Where the hell have you been?"

"It doesn't matter." Phantom's fingers clenched around his human half's t-shirt. "Where is the Ghost Catcher?"

"In the basement! And yes it does-"

Phantom spread his energy over Fenton, and the human gasped, his skin tingling. They fell through the couch, the floor, down into the basement. Plummeting as fast as if they had fallen off the OP center's roof.

Fenton scrambled for Phantom's shoulders and wrapped his arms tightly around the other boy's neck. His heart stopped beating, his stomach tight with instinctual fear. Their fall jerked to a halt, but Fenton couldn't stop his rapid breathing or his trembling. He buried his face against his other half's shoulder, clinging to the illusion of stability Phantom offered even as the human's feet dangled in open air.

After a few seconds, his breathing calmed, his chest no longer heaving against Phantom's as he gulped for air. Instead, their torsos moved together as both boys breathed steadily, the ghost's tail swaying between Fenton's legs and the thrum of Phantom's core vibrating against the human's beating heart.

Phantom's arms, situated around Fenton's ribs, loosed. "Fenton?"

The blue-eyed boy jerked his head off the ghost's shoulder, cheeks flushed in humiliation. "A little warning next time, you jerk!" he shouted.

Phantom winced and his grip tightened again, but his eyebrows were still pinched and after a second his gaze wandered off Fenton and began searching the lab for the Ghost Catcher. "I'm sorry, but we don't have the time."

"The hell we don't!" Fenton unwrapped his arms and fit his elbows between their chests, shoving against Phantom and arching his spine away from the other boy. He kicked his legs, but the ghost's tail danced out of reach. "We had plenty of time this morning before you decided to flirt with your adoring fans all day, so you can damn well find the time to talk to me for five fucking minutes!"

"I was not—"

"You were now let go!"

Fenton wrenched himself out of Phantom's grasp, and without the ghost's support, he fell backwards, nine feet above the floor. His eyes widened and he sucked in a breath. Phantom's horrified expression mirrored his, their eyes locking before Fenton pinched his eyes shut, bracing himself. Cold hands seized his ankle and the human's momentum lurched to a stop. Opening his eyes, Fenton saw the metal floor swaying a foot or so below him, and he released a shaky breath.

"You bumbling idiot!" Phantom scolded, his usually steady voice breaking on a few syllables. "There are safer ways to reach the floor, like, I don't know, asking nicely?"

"Oh, shut up!" Fenton extended his arms and set both palms on the floor, managing to stop himself from swaying dizzily above the floor. "You weren't exactly listening, anyway." He kicked his free foot at Phantom, growling to himself when the ghost tightened his grip on his ankle instead of releasing him. "Let go already!" He kicked at his other half again, but Phantom grabbed his other ankle and held the two apart. "Phantom!"

"Is violence truly the only way you know how to solve things?" the ghost asked, and Fenton got the impression he was on the receiving end of a disapproving frown. His ears burned, but it had little to do with the blood flooding his skull.

"Well, maybe if you would listen without me having to resort to violence!" Fenton jerked his legs and wiggled his hips, throwing his whole weight into the movement in an attempt to break Phantom's hold on his ankles. Fenton's t-shirt fell further down his torso, pooling around his neck and armpits. "For fuck's sake, Phantom, let go!"

"And that is another thing!" The ghost wrapped his tail around Fenton's right leg, restraining the majority of his struggles. "Why must you swear so often?"

"Because you keep pissing me off!" Fenton pushed off the floor and swung his upper body up. He managed to grab the tail molded to his jeans like a snake, but the sleek appendage didn't offer much of a handle-hold. He fell back down and had to place his hands on the ground again to stop his momentum. He growled deep in his throat and began thrashing again, throwing all of his weight into the motions. Not that it did much, Phantom being a gravity-defying being and all. Weight meant little to him. "You said we didn't have time for this!"

"That was before you started behaving like a brat!"

"Oh, I'm the bratty one? Who's the one holding me upside down? By my feet?"

"Who is the one cussing and trying to bully his way through a problem?"

"I repeat, you're holding me up by my feet!"

"Because you're behaving like an immature child!"

"Dude, I'm getting light-headed!"

"Apologize and I will gladly set you down!"

"I can't feel my toes anymore!"

"Would you just-"

"I'm going to pass out!"

"You are not-"

"Black spots-"

"Oh for the love of-Fine!"

Phantom released his ankles, and for a second, Fenton balanced solely on his hands. His blue eyes widened, his left arm gave out, and his body inevitably pitched to the side. His body crumbled to the floor, the boy gasping in fear. His knees slammed against the metal flooring, and the human sucked in air through his teeth, his eyes stinging as they watered. Another hiss-metallic, metal grating against metal-sounded in the lab, and he forced his eyes open again.

Phantom lifted his thumb off the genetic Fenton lock, his form lit from behind by the now-open Ghost Portal. "Valerie in full hunter mode will arrive here within a few minutes." Fenton forced himself onto his feet, wincing as his weight strained his bruised knees. "She has gotten it into her head that I intend you harm, for some reason."

"Yeah, wow, I can't imagine how she ever got that idea." Fenton braced his hip against the counter and glared between his ghost half and the portal. "So what, you're gonna run away to the Ghost Zone and try to wait her out? And meanwhile we stay separated for another whole frickin' day?"

"You refused to remerge and I don't have the time to argue over it with you!"

"We had plenty of time this morning!"

"We had plenty of time last night as well!" Phantom shouted, one arm thrown out for emphasis. "The point is we don't have time now." He turned his back on the human and glared at the portal, his spine unnaturally stiff for him. Fenton clenched his jaw and stumbled after him, using the counter as support. "I will return in a few hours. We can remerge then..."

"What's the point? I may be pissed at you, but we're already here and there's no guarantee Valerie will stop hunting you just because you enter the Ghost Zone." Fenton halted about a foot away from his other half. He bit his lip for a second before pressing on. "I don't even care anymore, all right? Let's just merge back already, I'm sick of being only half of myself."

Instead of agreeing, Phantom's shoulders hunched. The gloved hand resting on the counter clenched into a fist. "So it hasn't even occurred to you yet..."

"Obviously not." Fenton's frown deepened. He crossed his arms over his chest and shifted his weight. "You were all, 'Where's the Ghost Catcher, we have to merge back right now, we don't have tiiiiiime for this' just a few minutes ago. What the hell is the matter now?"

"I'm not explaining it to you, there's no point burdening both of us." The ghost shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. Like he was shaking off the unmentioned burden. "We'll remerge once I return and that will be the end of it." He glanced over his shoulder at Fenton before he began his stiff trek towards the portal.

The human scowled, and though his knees sent painful shocks up his legs, Fenton pushed away from the counter and scrambled after his other half, grabbing Phantom by the arm. He tugged on his arm, forcing Phantom to finally face him. "You'll tell me now! I didn't wait all day for you just so you could brush me off a few minutes later!"

Phantom's scowled and jerked his hand out of Fenton's grasp. He opened his mouth to respond, but a second later he closed it. "Say please."

Fenton recoiled as if struck. "What?"

"It's not a difficult request." The ghost crossed his arms and raised his chin, one eyebrow lifted in challenge. "If you wish to know so bad you cannot possibly wait until I'm safe and can afford the time to explain myself to you then I demand you show me an ounce of respect."

Fenton ground his teeth together, glaring into his twin's green eyes. "How about you just tell me now so you can get out of here before Valerie blasts her way down here."

"Gladly. The faster you say please, the faster I'll be out of here."

"I'm not going to say please or apologize or do any of that polite crap when I'm so angry I could punch you!"

"Then there's no point for me lingering here, is there?"

Phantom quirked his lips in a fake smirk, jerked his wrist out of Fenton's grasp, and spun on his heel. Fenton's lips pulled back over his teeth. He launched himself at his other half, but Phantom must have expected it, because he turned intangible at the last minute and Fenton fell right through him. This time the human managed to direct most of his weight onto his hands, but his bruised knees still banged against the floor and were all too happy to make his nerves shriek.

Before he could collect himself, a cold hand grabbed his wrist and flipped him onto his back. He cried out in shock and (not even thinking about it) threw his fist out as he was rolled over. Before it could connect, Phantom grabbed his other wrist and slammed them both onto the metal floor. Fenton groaned and then glared at the ghost as Phantom set his knees on either side of his hips.

"Again you become violent." The ghost teenager tsked and then leaned down until his white hair brushed against Fenton's forehead. "My dear human self, I believe I am sensing a pattern."

"Yeah?" Fenton muttered, his cheeks warming, though it could have been anger or embarrassment. "Me too. How about some personal space!"

Phantom snorted, the cold gust brushing Fenton's lower face. "We went over this before. If we're the same person then no personal space exists between us." It looked as if he were about to add something, but a second later he closed his mouth. He stared down at Fenton, his eyebrows pinching together, and the human half felt his flush spread.

A loud thunk resounded in the empty lab, and the two boys froze. "That's odd. My scanners indicate an abnormality in the ghost child's structure." As one, Phantom looked up and Fenton lifted his chin, straining to see the portal almost directly behind his head. Skulker stared back at them, his metal eyebrows arching higher on his forehead. "Two ghost children?"

Phantom floated off Fenton, and the human scrambled to his feet. He winced as his knees ached again, but he positioned himself between Phantom and their hunter, glaring at Skulker. He held one arm out to hold his ghost half back, ignoring Phantom as he hissed his name. "We're a little divided at the moment, Skulker. How about you leave and we'll try again tomorrow."

The ghost frowned and angled his head to the side, as if he were really considering the proposition. After a few seconds, his lips stretched into a wide grin, revealing uneven metal teeth. "Or perhaps I should just capture you now, while you're weak."

Fenton growled low in his throat. "But we're no longer half human or ghost! There's nothing unique about hunting us now."

"On the contrary, a hybrid with the ability to separate his two halves is indeed unique and unusual." Skulker lifted his arm and a large bazooka rose from the armor. "And I can always stitch the two of you back together later."

He shot a blast of green energy at the two of them. Phantom cursed under his breath and wrapped his arm around Fenton's waist. Before the human could object the other teenager whirled them around, released Fenton and raised his arms, erecting a dome-like shield around them both. Fenton stumbled against the counter and grabbed an ecto-gun off the surface. The blast struck the shield and exploded across the surface. The human dropped to his haunches behind Phantom, and when the ghost lowered the shield, he ducked under his arm. Skulker was several feet away now, flying towards them with his guns primed. Fenton raised his own gun and fired his own shot at Skulker before the smoke had cleared.

The ghost shouted in surprise, but couldn't dodge. The blast struck his wing and his flight lost its stability. He veered sharply to the left and crashed against the counter, sending beakers and weapons flying off the surface. Phantom wrapped his arms around Fenton's waist and launched them away from the exploding chemicals and weapons.

They set their feet on the floor again several yards away from the opposing counter. Fenton winced and leaned heavily against Phantom's chest, his knees aching. His other half's arms lowered to circle his hips and tightened their hold. "Will you be all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'll be fine." Fenton grabbed Phantom's wrist and shifted his weight onto his left leg, scanning the lab for a familiar soup canister. "Where's the Fenton Thermos?"

The muscles against Fenton's back tensed. "In our room."

Fenton's blue eyes widened, and he twisted his midsection and gaped at Phantom, one forearm on his chest to force him to lean back as well. "You didn't even bring it with you?!"

"I wasn't hunting ghosts, I was-"

A sharp whine-different from Skulker's suit, more like the purr of new technology shooting out fire for jet propulsion-entered the lab, and both boys turned their heads toward the lab entrance. Valerie in full hunter get up flew her sled through the stair case and hovered above the floor. Her eyes scanned the lab, taking in the exploded lab equipment concealing Skulker's form and the open Ghost Portal which Fenton remembered their whole self explaining to her could only be opened by a Fenton.

Finally her gaze landed on Phantom, his arms around Fenton's waist and the human's arm on his chest as if to hold him back. Fenton could practically see the huntress drawing conclusions-the wrong conclusions-and he opened his mouth to shout "It's not what it looks like!" of all things, but Valerie beat him to it.

"Get your hands off of him!" she screamed. Phantom swore-the first time Fenton heard him do such a thing-and shoved his human half aside seconds before the blast left Valerie's gun. Fenton twisted to avoid landing on his knees, instead landing on his side, and as soon as his body made contact with the floor, he sat forward. Valerie's attack struck the ghost's attack and sent him across the room where he collided against the opposing wall, his gasp a pained shout.

"Phantom!" Fenton scrambled to his feet and rushed towards his other half, but a hand grabbed his shirt before he could achieve more than a couple yards. "Hey!" Valerie lifted him onto her sled like a potato sack, his stomach pressed against the metallic board at her feet. Before he could try to wiggle off or shout at her to let him go, the hunter whirled her sled around and rocketed up the staircase. Fenton pinched his eyes shut and held onto to the board tight enough for his fingers to turn white and his arms to lose feeling. He felt them take a couple sharp turns (the kitchen, into the living room) before Valerie slowed her board to a stop and Fenton allowed his eyes to open again.

Like he thought, Valerie had brought them to the living room. They hovered several feet off the ground, but that distance was quickly diminishing as Valerie directed her board to lower them down.

The huntress crouched on her board and laid her hand between Fenton's shoulder blades. "Are you all right, kid?" she asked, her voice unusually deep in an attempt to conceal it.

"I'm fine!" Fenton wiggled on her board, inching backwards until his toes found the floor. He shoved his front half off and landed on his feet, stumbling backwards into the couch both because of vertigo and his knees trying to buckle. He spread his arms over the couch's back and stared up at Valerie, meeting her frown with one of his own. "Look, I appreciate the help...Red, but you got it all wrong. Phantom was just protecting me."

Valerie's frown-what he could see of it through the tinted screen of her mask, deepened. Her nose wrinkled-something Danny and Phantom would have cooed at as adorable but which made Fenton think she'd smelled something she didn't like-and her hand tightened around her gun's handle, the material of her glove squealing. "Please tell me you're not honestly falling for his lies like everyone else in this town would."

"It's not a lie!" Fenton shouted, throwing out the arm holding the pistol. "Skulker came through the portal, and-"

"Skulker?" Valerie interrupted, her tone suddenly losing its mask. The grip on her gun loosened and she stood straighter before her eyes narrowed and she leaned towards him. "He's a hunter, what does he want with you?"

"I..." Fenton hesitated, flinching. "I...don't...know..." She frowned at him a while longer before her eyes widened and her face seemed to pale. Fenton rushed to add, "I may have just gotten in the way! He and Phantom seemed to know each other at the time, and I was in the lab when he showed up, so h-he may not even be interested in me..."

"Or maybe he is." Valerie's expression contorted into a furious scowl, her lips pulled back and her teeth exposed. "You're an easier catch than his usual prey, and you're valuable to more people than you realize..."

Fenton chewed on his bottom lip and stared at the space over her shoulder, his cheeks warming. A fortunate place to look, as it turned out. Skulker appeared behind Valerie, his gun aimed at the two of them, and Fenton sucked in a breath. He shoved off the couch and tackled Valerie to the ground, managing to escape the net launched at them by a hair. Valerie's sled, hovering in place where they left it, found itself bound in ecto-proof wires instead and clattered to the floor.

"Skulker!" Phantom's voice yelled, angrier than Fenton had ever heard his ghost half. He slashed his arm through the air, creating a long green arc of energy that would have slashed through Skulker's battle suit had the hunter not gone intangible. Phantom's next attack hit him just as he regained solidity, and the ghost was thrown away from the fallen humans. He collided with couch, flipping it over as he fell. The lamp on the coffee table overbalanced and smashed on the floor.

Fenton cringed and then looked down at Valerie, only then noticing he was laying on her chest, their faces a mask apart. Blood flooded his face. He squeaked and shoved himself off her, stuttering apologies.

"Fenton!" Phantom appeared beside him and grabbed his arm, dragging him onto his feet. Valerie scrambled to hers as well, but at the moment the ghost boy's green eyes remained fixed on Fenton's. "Get the Thermos out of your room."

"But my parents-"

"Are probably going to be here soon, anyway." Phantom turned him around and shoved his shoulder, pushing him forward. "You're Skulker's main target at the moment. Go!"

"What-" A second shove and Fenton stumbled a few feet forward before rushing to the staircase as fast as his knees would allow him. He paused once he was on the stairs and glanced back at them. Valerie and Phantom released each other's hands after completing a handshake, and Fenton felt a hollow pit in his stomach. Those spur-of-the-moment truces with Valerie had always made their heart-or core-race faster, a thrill of excitement and wonder overtaking them whenever they thought back on those moments. That a ghost hunter could trust them, that Valerie had their backs in these fights.

He had just missed out on one of those occurrences. He didn't know how he felt about that...

But now wasn't the time to wonder about it. The boy shook his head and charged up the stairs, leaning heavily on the rail. He heard the battle recommence behind him, Skulker likely having picked himself back up and attacked his opponents. He reached the second landing and raced for his room. Already he could hear his parents pounding nails into the boards criss-crossing the hole (a stand in until they could get the supplies needed for a full repair). A large crash sounded from downstairs, and the hammering finally stopped just as Fenton slid into the room.

Maddie spotted him first. She lowered her arm and frowned at her son. "Danny, what was that noise?"

"No time to explain!" Fenton scanned the room and grinned when he found the Thermos rolled against his desk. He dived for the canister and then raced out of the room with it clutched in his arms, shouting over his shoulder, "I'm absolutely positive it has nothing to do with ghosts though!"

"Ghosts?!" Jack shouted from inside the room, and Fenton slapped his forehead. He'd already reached the staircase when he heard his parents barreling out of his room, their weapons whining as they powered up. Fenton led the charge down the stairs, the Thermos clutched to his chest and his other hand gripping his ecto-pistol tighter. He glanced at the battle as he trotted down the stairs, breathing out in relief when he saw Skulker laying on the floor with Phantom and Valerie hovering over him.

That is until his parents spotted the same thing. Maddie leaped over the rail and Jack barreled passed Fenton, unintentionally shoving his son against the wall. Both parents took aim and Fenton's eyes widened.

"No! Mom, Dad, wait!" he shouted, but neither heard-or cared. Phantom and Valerie turned around upon hearing his shout, just in time for the ghost hunters to fire their attacks. Jack's shot went wide, hitting the wall just behind Valerie's shoulder, but Maddie's blast struck Phantom's chest and threw him against the wall for a second time that day. "Phantom!"

The ghost slid down the wall and landed on Skulker, his expression twisted in pain and his jaw clenched, teeth bared. Before he could regain control of his limbs, Skulker wrapped his arm around Phantom's chest, pinning the boy's arms to his side. "This family's just full of helpers," the older ghost commented, grinning.

Valerie hesitated, but the Fentons had no such reservations. Jack and Maddie fired at the two ghosts again and their son dropped his gun and fumbled with the Fenton Thermos, uncapping it. He stepped forward, but the two attacks were already inches away from Skulker and Phantom. Just before they struck, Skulker turned the two of them intangible and dropped through the floor. The blasts exploded against the wall, tearing yet another hole through the plaster.

Smoke filled the area for a few seconds before fading away. Fenton scanned the living room, his eyes darting around every nook as his feet guided him, spinning, further into the room. Minutes ticked by as they waited for the ghosts to make a reappearance, cold dread numbing Fenton's body with every second that passed and his other half remained missing.

"Aww," Jack groaned. He lowered his bazooka, pouting. "But we only just got here..."

"You know how ghosts are, Jack," Maddie said, patting his arm. "They run away as soon as they feel they're in danger." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a cookie.

Jack's sad face morphed into a wide grin. "Oooh, Macadamia nut?"

"Of course!" She handed it to Jack, and the man gobbled it down.

Fenton gaped at his parents, but he shouldn't be surprised-they didn't care about the ghost boy's wellbeing. He turned to Valerie, relieved and disappointed to see a torn expression on her face. "What about Phantom?" he directed at her.

The huntress glanced at the spot where the ghosts had vanished, but it was his parents who answered.

"Oh, sweetie, don't worry about him," Maddie said, already pocketing her blaster. "I'm sure that mechanical ghost will make quick work of that troublemaker."


Jack sucked in a loud breath and practically skipped over to Valerie, jumping on the balls of his feet. "The Red Huntress! Maddie! Maddie! It's the RH!"

Maddie gasped/squealed and rushed over as well. Valerie drew back in surprise, her eyes wide. "You...know me?"

"Well, of course we know you!" Maddie said. "We make a point of knowing all ghost hunters, and you've certainly made an impression. You can't be much older than Danny and already you're showing us professionals up!"

"I even have your action figure!" Jack pulled said figurine from one of his numerous pockets and held it up for Valerie's inspection. A single proud tear escaped his eye as he chuckled. "Made it myself."

Valerie's lips stretched in a strained smile, but Fenton imagined he could see a slight blush behind the tinted screen of her mask. She glanced at her boyfriend, looking for his reaction, and Fenton realized this was the moment he should boast the red hunter's praises as well, assure Valerie it made no difference to him that she was a ghost hunter because he saw her alter ego was an amazing, kickbutt ghost fighter. But...

"He helped us!" he shouted. "Skulker wanted to...to skin the both of us, and Phantom protected me before you guys even got there, and...and you're just going to abandon him?"

"Don't take that tone with us, young man," Maddie said, her hands on her hips. "Your father and I have always strived to do what's best for this family, and that ghost has made it abundantly clear that he means us harm. If this 'Skulker' intends to dispose of him, then good riddance. This whole tone can rest easy tonight."

"Yeah!" Jack chimed. "What she said!"

"But, Mom-"

"Not another word!"

"But you don't understand!" Fenton bent at the middle and pressed the Thermos and cap so hard against his head he could feel a headache responding. His eyes darted to Valerie, and he stood a little straighter, taking a half-step closer, expression desperate. "You made a truce with him, you've got to help."

"I..." Valerie hesitated, and Fenton's parents returned their attention to her. She kept her eyes trained on Fenton's, but the boy could see in the way her shoulders straightened that the approval of her fellow ghost hunters-older and less skilled than her as they might be-meant as much to her as the approval of her boyfriend.

"The truce had been made on the terms of your protection," she said at last, tone quiet. "So long as Skulker is gone and you're safe, the truce is fulfilled."

"But Phantom-"

"Has been captured by Skulker before, and he managed to escape just fine." She shrugged. "He might do so again, but either way, it's no longer my business. He's not my friend, he's my enemy. I'm not obligated to come to his rescue every time he gets himself into a scrape."

Fenton bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, trying to stop himself from shouting that Valerie had been the one to help him escape that time. And all other times he had been captured, Phantom had had a human to bail him out as well, even if it was something simple like reverting to his human form. Which he could no longer do because his human half was twiddling his thumbs with a group of ghost hunters who refused to do anything useful.

"Fine." Fenton recapped the Thermos and pulled the strap from its hidden compartment, slinging the canister over his shoulder. It settled against his spine as he bent down to retrieve his pistol. "Then I'm going after him myself."

"Oh no you don't, son," Jack said, taking a minor step forward. "Those ghosts are probably long gone in the Ghost Zone by now. We can't let you go running off into that place all by yourself."

Fenton spread his arms out and took a half step back. "Well, feel free to join me then, oh great hunters."

"Daniel James Fenton!" Maddie yelled, scandalized by his tone.

"You would seriously go into that creepy world full of dangerous ghosts to rescue the one that has been terrorizing our town?" Valerie questioned.

"Yes! What part of this is so hard to understand?" Fenton demanded. "I don't care if he's a ghost, human, or vegetable! He saved my life just now, as well as a couple times before this. I'm indebted to him, and I'm not going to abandon him now when he's the one in danger." He looked down at his pistol for a moment, checking that the cartridge was full, if only so he could take his eyes off the incredulous faces of his parents and girlfriend, their disapproval causing his hands to shake more than the thought of going into the Ghost Zone as a complete human did. "And it's more of a Zone really."

Jack crossed his arms and Maddie rubbed her temples with one hand, but Valerie narrowed her eyes and studied him at an angle. "You're serious about this? About charging into hostile territory to rescue Danny Phantom?"

Fenton opened his mouth to respond, but he had already said all that he needed to. He sealed his lips and nodded his head.

The huntress sighed and bowed her head. "Fine. I'll go with you then." Jack and Maddie rounded on her, exclamations of surprise flying off their tongues, but Fenton sighed in relief and allowed his stance to relax. Valerie did the same and offered him a hesitant smile before turning back to the concerned parents. "I've been to the Ghost Zone before, I've navigated its planes and I will protect your son with my life."

"But rescuing the Ghost Boy?" Maddie said, incredulous.

"Think of it more like detaining..." Valerie stroked the barrel of her gun. "Phantom will escape Skulker eventually, you can be sure of that, but if we grab him before then, he'll be our capture."

Fenton winced, but the prospect made his parents hesitate, the pair glancing thoughtfully at each other. He ran his hand through his black hair, breathing deep to try and keep himself calm. He was about to save Phantom from one danger, just to place him in another, just as dangerous situation. He should have just snuck out on his own instead of involving hardheaded ghost hunters. He should have thought it through more, should have stayed downstairs to fight beside his ghost half, should have merge with Phantom when the ghost first showed up...

"Fenton! Move!"

His own voice, but shrill with fear and deep with echoes. The boy spun around and came face-to-gun with Skulker's raised arm, Phantom still held tightly against the robot's chest. Fenton had only a moment to take in the sparks shooting off the gun's charge-a stun gun-before Phantom kicked Skulker's arm and the shot flew passed Fenton's cheek. Black hair whipped around Fenton's face, the boy's heart stuttering in response to his shock and his eyes locked on the similar green pair in front of him. As a result, he only heard a female scream and a crash sound behind him. He only saw Phantom's eyes widen in horror and dismay.

"Valerie!" he screamed.

Fenton looked over his shoulder and saw their girlfriend slumped against the wall, her suit retracting like a frightened spider and her eyes shut tight. Unconscious. His parents whipped out their guns again, and Fenton turned back to the ghosts. Green light surrounded Phantom and the ghost boy blasted his way out of Skulker's grasp. He made a dash towards Valerie, but Fenton grabbed him around his waist and pulled his panicked ghost to his chest. Maddie and Jack opened fire on Skulker.

"I'll take care of her, Phantom, I promise, but you have to get out of here!" Fenton hissed. Phantom struggled against him, uncoordinated kicks and fingers clawing at his wrists in a pitiful attempt to make him let go, but Fenton tightened his hold and dragged him the opposite way, towards the staircase. "My parents and I can help her more than you can, and I'm sure she would rather have her boyfriend and his parents help her than her worst enemy!"

Phantom paused, his chest heaving under Fenton's arms, but his muscles were still tensed and his eyes were still locked on Valerie. Carefully, Fenton slowly began to release him. Skulker finally growled and flew off through the roof, abandoning the chase for now. The elder Fentons turned their gazes on Phantom and Fenton.

The human Danny put himself between the ghost and the hunters and shoved the Fenton Thermos against his stomach, pushing his other half back. "Go! I'll take care of her. Just trust me."

Phantom's eyes darted between him and Valerie-sparring one moment to glance at the hesitating hunters-before he growled in frustration and grabbed the Thermos out of Fenton's hands. He dove for the floor and disappeared through the ground.

"Awww!" Jack moaned again, depowering his blaster.

"Daniel James Fenton, what were you thinking?" Maddie demanded, marching over to him. "That ghost could have hurt you! We could have hurt you. Never get between us and a ghost again, do you hear me?"

"Y-yes, Mom," he said cringing. He glanced around her at Valerie and breathed out a little shakily. There was no pretending he didn't know about her secret identity now. He wiped his palms against his jeans and tried to calm his rapidly beating heart.

Maddie frowned and followed his gaze. A second passed and then she gasped and clasped a hand to her mouth.

"What is it, Mads?" Jack looked at Valerie as well. A huge grin spread across his lips and he pointed both index fingers at the girl. "Maddie, Maddie!" He jumped back and forth on his feet. "It's the Red Huntress's secret identity! Quick, take a picture before our memory is wiped!" He squinted at her face. "She looks like Danny's age. Who is she?"

"That's Danny's girlfriend!" Maddie said, voice high pitched in a squeal. "Danny's girlfriend is the Red Huntress!"

"Danny has a girlfriend?" Jack grabbed fistfuls of his hair. "My son's dating a ghost hunter? That's my boy! Just like his old man!"

Fenton blushed and slapped his forehead.

I love when parents get involved~

Did I trick any of you into thinking this was going to be a rescue story? eh? eh?! ...No? pfft~ Sorry, there aren't going to be any villain antagonists in this story. No main ones, anyway. The antagonist in this story is Self, meaning Man vs. Self, and everything else is just sub conflicts :P Valerie's not going to become an evil, homophobic girlfriend, and neither are Danny's parents. There'll be dissent, particularly between...everyone, but overall the only villain the characters have to overcome is their own prejudice/fear/what-have-you ;3

And yeah, I'm kind of...poop at action scenes xD There wasn't as much actual fighting as I had planned, but then I had planned to use Phantom's POV and instead got stuck with Fenton's, the one who was running around most of the chapter. Tried to make it work, but eeeeehhhh...

...Really just stressed and near tears at the moment though, so I'm just going to end this by apologizing. Thank you guys for sticking with me~