A/N: Set somewhere between Claw of the Wild and D-stabilized, this is one of those stories where you see a bit of the climax and then you're taken back to see how it all began and how things could have possibly gone so wrong. So, this first bit is a short teaser before the real story begins. Well, actually, it's already begun; we just need to catch up….

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!

"Please let this be a dream, please let this be a dream, please let this be a dream." It wasn't a prayer, at least not in Danny's mind. It was…more of a mantra, or something like that. "Please let this be a dream."

Danny was in his phantom form. And, normally, that was great. He liked the freedom being a ghost gave him. He'd always wanted to fly as a kid. Mind you, he'd thought about flying in rockets rather than just flying, but this worked, too. It didn't mean he couldn't be an astronaut when he was older. And, heck, though he hadn't particularly liked the reasons why, his ghost form had given him the chance to go into space and to fly a rocket.

But now?

Now, it was dark. Now, it was quiet, except for his own muttering and quiet breathing. Now, he was the prey. And not Skulker's, not this time. That was just easy, even if the self-proclaimed Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter did occasionally get inventive. No, he was the prey, and, admittedly, there was only one hunter, but he was also the only target. And his ghostly glow was enough of a beacon in the dark, but he needed to stick to the dark. His white hair would be just another giveaway in the moonlight.

To top it off, he was having trouble remaining invisible for extended periods of time. He wasn't used to it; he didn't have much endurance, for all the practice he had. He usually just went invisible long enough to get away from whoever was chasing him or to get around them or behind them or whatever he needed. He was used to fighting back.

But this time, he couldn't. Because the person who was hunting him wasn't just another ghost. The hunter, or rather, huntress, was human.

And it wasn't Valerie, and he wouldn't really be worried about any of the out-of-town ghost hunters that had shown up to the First Annual Fenton Ghost Hunters' Convention, not even the Guys in White when it really came down to it. Trouble was, the person who was hunting him was his mother.

Granted, she didn't exactly know who she was hunting. She thought Danny Phantom was just another ghost who terrorized the town, that evil ghost kid which some of the townspeople mistakenly thought was a hero. She had no idea that she was hunting her own son, Danny Fenton.

Danny held his breath and listened hard for a moment. It shouldn't be this hard. There was hardly a breath of wind, and his mother certainly wouldn't have the advantage of floating a few inches above the ground. He should be able to hear her coming.

The faint whine of a weapon priming caught his attention, and he finally caught sight of his mom crouched in the bushes, the Fenton Bazooka aimed at him. He dodged the first blast as it came and went intangible to avoid the next one. "Please let this be a dream," he muttered. Then, hovering in mid-air halfway up the school wall, he called out to his mom, "Wait! Stop! I don't want to fight you!"

It didn't work, of course. How many times had he said the same thing to Valerie? That hadn't stopped her, either. The Red Huntress still had it out for him. He was just a ghost. An evil ghost, because all ghosts were evil.

Maddie Fenton left the relative safety of the bushes, but her aim didn't waiver. "What have you done to my family, ghost?" she demanded.

"I haven't done anything to your family, Mo—uh, Maddie!" Danny shouted, dodging the blast she sent at him for that response.

"Don't lie to me, ghost," she ground out. "First you took my son—"

"You don't understand!"

"—then my daughter, then my husband—"

"I didn't! It wasn't me! I'm not doing this!" He waved a hand around him. "I don't even know how this was done." He drifted back down to the ground. His mother kept her weapon trained on him, but at least she was letting him speak. She probably wanted answers he couldn't give her. "I'm caught in this, too," he said. "Just like you."

"You're lying," Maddie said quietly.

"I'm not," Danny insisted. "Why would I put myself in a situation where you could catch me again? I don't want to be ripped apart 'molecule by molecule'," he said, quoting his father. He shook his head. "We're the only ones here. We need to work together."

She narrowed her eyes and her lips thinned. He knew that look. She wasn't going to listen to him. Before she could get off another shot, he turned heel and dove through the wall of the school. He needed to find some way to get her to listen to him, and that wasn't going to be easy to do when she thought he was behind this, whatever this was.

Danny groaned. To think he'd thought the ghost hunters' convention was going to be his major worry for today. Considering how things were now, that had definitely turned out to be the least of his worries.