A/N: The previous chapter was my real ending, but this should tie up at least one of those pesky little loose ends. And, just a heads up, bit of a lengthy author's note at the bottom.
"Hey, Jazz?" Danny asked after he'd pulled her out of their parents' earshot. It was Friday, and after Rotwood's visit, he'd spent the morning doing the rounds with Jack while she had stayed with Maddie at the FentonWorks booth. They'd taken lunch in shifts, and the few moments between finishing eating the overpriced convention food and starting their afternoon booth-watching duties was the first time since their conversation after Rotwood's accusation that she and Danny had had a chance to talk alone. "You don't happen to know who the organizers of this convention are, do you?"
Jazz cocked an eyebrow at her little brother. "Why would I know that?"
"Well, you just happen to know lots, so I thought you might know this, too."
Jazz sighed. "Better question," she amended. "Why do you want to know that?"
Danny rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm, uh, just trying to do what you keep telling me to."
Jazz snorted. "Really? That'll be the day, Danny. With the messes you get into—"
"I'm well aware of my track record," Danny broke in. "And I know you're still not happy about the thing with Rotwood—"
"For good reason. You know how much trouble that could have gotten you into."
"—but I thought you'd be willing to help me redeem myself and head off something that could be worse?"
That got her attention. "What could be worse?"
"Okay," Danny said, holding up both hands as if to ward her off or calm her down, "let me just preface this by saying that it shouldn't be a problem and I'm probably home free anyway. I just don't want to take any chances."
Jazz crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows. Danny got the message. "It's Jake's dad. He might, well, come to…visit me here. And meet Mom and Dad. And you, I guess."
Jazz got the implications immediately. Jonathan Long wasn't aware of the magical world. He didn't know Jake's secret, let alone Danny's. And he'd met Danny Phantom and knew him as Danny Fenton. To meet Danny Fenton as he was now? Not good, but likely controllable. To tell their parents anything that remotely hinted at Danny being a house guest for the better part of a week? Infinitely worse.
"First things first," Jazz said. "Why do you think he might be coming? Or why did you think he wouldn't be?"
"Well, with everything that happened, he kind of thought he got the flu or something." Danny winced at Jazz's look. "I know, I know. But he's not questioning it, okay? I'm counting my blessings. Thing is, he said he probably wouldn't be coming. But if he decides he feels better—"
"He will be," Jazz concluded. "And you need to avoid that."
"Or at least do some major damage control. Any ideas?"
Jazz frowned. "Well, let's start with your ideas first. What's with wondering about the convention's organizers?"
"To explain why I look different before Mom and Dad wonder if there's anything to Rotwood's claims and pull out the Fenton Foamer. Back when I first got to Jake's house, I was just in ghost mode. I got stuck for an excuse and told him it was a costume. For this."
"A costume that you just happened to wear all week?"
"Well, you know, getting used to the contacts and the wig?"
"Neither of which you can produce."
"Well, he won't know that. Or Mom and Dad. I got the hang of partial transformations, Jazz. I could pretend to go put the stuff on or even change completely if he wants."
"That's just asking for Mom and Dad to shoot you. Do you know how many inventions you'll set off? And that's not even counting what other people might have."
Danny shrugged, clearly not impressed with anything he'd seen so far. "Only a handful more than I do now. C'mon, Jazz. If I can just convince them to hold a costume contest, I've got my first excuse right there."
"By 'convince', you mean 'overshadow', don't you?"
"If they don't listen to reason," Danny said slowly, "then, yeah, I'd have to resort to that."
Jazz looked at Danny for a moment. "All right," she said. "I'll help you track down the people behind the scenes. We'll get this costume contest of yours organized even if we just have to spread the word and hold it ourselves with no prize other than bragging rights. But don't expect a lot of people to participate with practically no notice, Danny. You're still going to stick out."
"You can be in it, too," Danny said. "As, I dunno, Ember or Kitty or someone. There's got to be some people here besides Mom and Dad who recognize a few of Amity Park's ghosts."
Jazz rolled her eyes. "At least you didn't suggest Dani Phantom."
"I think parading one secret beneath Mom and Dad's noses is enough," Danny said, "and as far as I know, they don't know about her. Besides, you've been possessed by Kitty before."
"Yes, and I remember so much from that time."
"Then what about Spectra? You guys even have some things in common. Psychology and red hair and stuff."
"No." Jazz's answer was swift, and she knew Danny really couldn't blame her. Spectra had tried to incinerate her, after all, and she hadn't been too happy with her before that.
"Just dress up as someone. Please?"
Jazz, like she usually did when she didn't want to continue a particular vein of the conversation, changed the subject. "You don't think Mom and Dad will be suspicious of the fact that you suddenly have a costume that looks amazingly like Danny Phantom's when they're acting on the assumption you hadn't heard of the contest until you came here?"
"The internet's a wonderful invention, Jazz. I can pretend I heard about it there."
Jazz couldn't help but scoff at that. "You didn't know about the convention until very recently, Danny, and you didn't even know we were coming here. Do you think Mom and Dad would believe that you, who manages to complete so little homework, would devote enough time to making a Danny Phantom costume of such calibre—"
"Okay, it's a stretch. I'll admit it. But it's not the worst thing they've believed. I mean, I could say that it's something for school—"
"Which won't reflect in your grades."
"Or for next Hallowe'en, then, or some other future costume party."
"Right. And they'd be so happy that you chose to go as the ghost who is practically the bane of their existence."
"I could pull it off if I say I'm doing research," Danny countered.
She had to hear this one. "Research?"
"Like a poll. Keeping a tally of people's reactions. Figuring out, unofficially, the latest stats on how many people think Phantom's good as opposed to bad."
It was pushing it, but it had a chance of flying with their parents. "All right," Jazz agreed. "You made yourself a Danny Phantom costume. What about everything else?"
"You mean explaining being in two places at once, don't you?"
"That is the far more pressing problem, yes."
"You don't, er, have any brilliant ideas, do you?"
"Oh, by all means, let's hear yours first."
"Well, there's overshadowing Jake's dad, for one," Danny said. "You know, to convince him not to come at all. Or maybe to make sure he doesn't bring up my, uh, stay. Or maybe duplication, except that wouldn't necessarily solve the me-in-two-places thing unless I overshadow him anyway. It'd just help me avoid Mom and Dad jumping to conclusions. And—"
"Danny, I should probably stop you there. You're heading for an out. You've got two strikes already."
Danny stopped, blinked, and said, "What? How?"
Jazz grabbed his arm and tugged him along, searching for a slightly more secluded corner. She wasn't worried about being overheard, not with all the background noise and conversations around them, but she didn't want to risk being caught out in the open. Even a few stray words could arouse suspicion, and she didn't want anyone to realize where they had come from.
Talking about a costume contest was one thing. Talking about overshadowing and other ghostly abilities was quite another.
"Last I checked," Jazz said quietly, "you're still having a lot of trouble with duplication. With Amorpho as Phantom in Amity Park, we don't need to have him appear here, too. And there's no sense in attempting to duplicate Fenton unless you intend to make sure Mr. Long never finds Mom and Dad, something I doubt you can pull off if that's what he's intending to do anyway."
"Technically, I wouldn't have to try to duplicate if I did that."
"True," Jazz allowed, "but you can't overshadow him for the same reason."
Danny frowned. "What? I don't have trouble with overshadowing like I do with duplication."
"That's not what I mean. If Jake's dad wants to meet our parents, don't you think he's going to make sure he does that?"
"I'm not following you," Danny admitted.
Jazz sighed. "Memory loss, Danny. He just went through this. If you overshadow him, you might fool Mom and Dad, but won't he keep trying to come back?"
To her surprise, Danny smiled. "I can't believe I got one up on you," he said. "Power of suggestion, Jazz. That's a benefit of overshadowing. Remember?"
"Suggestion won't be enough," Jazz pointed out matter-of-factly. "Not if he's that determined or stubborn."
"But he is that gullible," Danny reminded her. "I mean, the flu?"
Jazz made a face. "That might not just be because it was convenient, you know. What that ghost—"
"What he did," Jazz continued, "wasn't overshadowing, and you know it. It might have had other effects. For all we know, nausea's one of them."
Danny sighed. "Let me guess. Take what I can get and don't ask questions?"
She smiled. "Something like that."
"But then I'm back to square one. How do I explain being in two places at once? Unless I overshadow Mom and Dad?"
Jazz almost burst out laughing but caught herself and managed to keep it down to one short bark of laughter. "Oh, come on, Danny. Do you really think you can sustain two duplicates and overshadow both Mom and Dad at the same time? I know you're good, little brother, but you're not that good."
"I'd only need one duplicate," Danny muttered.
"Not if Jake's dad expects to see you there."
"Then what I am supposed to do?"
"For starters?" Jazz asked lightly, ruffling his hair. He immediately pulled a face and ducked away from her. She laughed. "Phone Jake."
"You need to start working on your alibi."
Danny raised an eyebrow. "Jazz, he's not any better at this stuff than I am. Why do you think I resorted to asking you?"
"Because Sam and Tucker aren't here and because I'm readily available and am completely aware of the mess you've gotten yourself into?" Danny gave her a look, and she relented. "Just find out if you can spend the night."
"But how will that—?"
"Just think about it."
"But it— Oh."
"That'll work, you figure?"
"It's better than your ideas. Give me some credit here, little brother. You didn't exactly give me a lot of warning. You can just be glad I'm a lot better at coming up with excuses than you are." It was hardly surprising. She'd had to tell her fair share of lies and excuses since she'd begun covering for Danny, well before he'd become aware of the fact that she knew his secret. "You handle that problem. I'll take care of the other one."
A smile, small but genuine, was her reward. "Thanks, Jazz. I owe you one."
"Technically speaking, you owe me a lot more than that," Jazz said. "To be honest, I stopped counting sometime after a hundred and forty-three. But considering what you do while I'm trying to sleep or study or otherwise be a normal teenager, I think I can let it slide."
The smile broke into a wide grin. "Let me know if you need any help."
"Will do," Jazz said, smiling herself. "Good luck. Try not to mess things up this time, all right?"
"Har de har har."
"I love you, too, little brother."
"Remind me," Jake said to Danny under his breath, "why we stopped trying to head this off at home?"
"Well, how often can you talk your dad out of something?" Danny asked. "Jazz was right. This is the best option." He paused. "Heck, Haley was right. She's the one who warned me this would probably happen."
"Sounds like Haley," Jake muttered. "And Jazz said she's got this costume angle covered?"
"She had the entire thing organized before she went back to the hotel on Friday," Danny said. "The posters went up first thing yesterday morning. I don't know what she said to convince them, though. I didn't ask. I just know she's good at twisting people's arms if she needs to be."
"So it's, what, dress up as your favourite ghost? You know there's gonna be a whole lotta people under white sheets, right?"
Danny shrugged. "Any paranormal thing goes, but ghost is probably going to be one of the more popular things. Knowing Jazz, she said this would be a creative outlet for those attending the convention. From there, she could've spun it any way she needed to. You don't bury yourself neck deep in psychology and not know how to use it."
"And you're sure your parents aren't going to freak when they see you, you know, like this?"
With white hair and green eyes, Jake meant. He'd kept Fenton's clothes otherwise, trading the shirt he normally got when he pulled a partial transformation with one of his usual ones that Jazz had packed for him. "It was this or introduce your family to Danny Fenton and explain why I kept wearing the stuff for my so-called costume all week. Besides, Jazz said she'd warn Mom and Dad that I was going as Phantom and that I hadn't wanted to tell them because I didn't want an argument about it."
"And who's she going to be?"
"Beats me. No one I suggested, from the sounds of it. But it doesn't matter. She'll come up with something. She knows I'll take a lot less heat from Mom and Dad if she does this, too."
"And you don't think they'll put two and two together? It's kinda a big risk, isn't it? Fenton being Phantom?"
Danny shot Jake a wry look. "I was stuck with that risk the minute you introduced Phantom as Fenton. Besides, Mom and Dad have seen Fenton and Phantom side by side more than once. The truth isn't going to be the first conclusion they jump to."
"What are you two talking about?"
"Haley!" Jake gave his little sister a shove. "Mind your own business for once!"
"Easy there, buckaroos," Jonathan said, coming up between Jake and Haley. "We're here to have fun. Meet Danny's parents and see what they do for a living. You two don't need to squabble." He grinned at them and ruffled their hair. "You should be thankful we're going. We wouldn't have been able to bypass the lines if it weren't for Danny-boy here."
"I'm sure they're grateful, honey," Susan said. Looking at Danny, she said, "Why not run ahead and let your folks know we're coming? We never were more specific than 'after lunch'."
Danny smiled. "Sure, Mrs. Long. I'll be back soon." Ignoring the call that she should just be 'Susan' to him, Danny ran off to talk to Jazz. Against his better judgement, he found a dark corner to change back first. Best to remind his parents that he was dressing up as Phantom himself before showing up as him. Just to be on the safe side.
"Danny-boy!" Jack called as he skidded to a halt in front of the booth. Jazz was nowhere in sight, so he'd be cutting it pretty close if he needed to bolt before the Longs showed up. "What's this Jazzy-pants was telling us about you dressing up as that putrid piece of protoplasm?"
"You mean Phantom?" Danny asked. "Yeah, it's true. Look, I know you guys aren't happy about that—"
"It's not that we're not happy, sweetie," Maddie said. "We just hoped that you'd pick a different ghost."
"I told him he should be Phantom."
Danny spun around. "Jazz?" he asked, eyes sweeping over her figure. After all this, he should've figured she'd pick that ghost.
A frown. "Don't look at me like that, Danny. I've got time to put on the green paint. You should go get into costume." Her eyes darted to her left, where he could see the Longs rounding the corner, and she hissed, "Sooner rather than later."
"Uh, right. Look, Mom, Dad, I'll be back in a minute, but the Longs are here, okay? They want to talk to you. Jake, uh, told them enough that they wanted to meet you in person, too." He hesitated for a second before adding, "Mr. Long doesn't think all the stories I told him about the ghosts back home are true. I think he wanted to hear what the country's best ghost hunters have to say."
"He wants to hear about ghosts?" Jack asked, brightening.
"Here, Danny," Jazz said, stuffing a bag into his hands. "Go change."
At Jazz's insistence, Danny went off to the washroom. He knew Jazz could run damage control between their parents and the Longs in the time it would take for him to get back. The bag she'd given him was stuffed with a change of his usual clothes. The ones he'd worn yesterday, from the looks of them. She'd slipped a note inside, too, to remind him of the precise details of the costume contest. Just like Jazz to think ahead.
A flash of light later, and Danny very carefully left the washroom, holding tightly to the bag containing his other clothes and being very thankful that the harsh fluorescent lights made it really hard to realize that he was glowing just ever so slightly. He waved as he approached and Jack reluctantly dropped the Fenton Bazooka he'd snatched up the minute Danny had come into sight.
"Danny Phantom, at your service," Danny said, grinning.
Jake smirked, then looked at Jazz. "And who are you supposed to be?"
"Princess Dorathea," she replied. "Dora for short." She fingered her necklace and winked. "Also known as the dragon ghost, so don't test my temper."
"Except Dora has blonde hair, not red," Danny pointed out.
"So I couldn't be bothered to find a wig on short notice. The only ones who'll know are you, Mom, and Dad, anyway." Jazz shrugged. "It's not like anyone else has read the ghost files Mom and Dad keep."
The adults were still ignoring them and chatting amongst themselves. Susan and Maddie seemed to hit it off immediately, talking about everything from ghosts to Amity Park to their kids. Every once in a while, their conversation would swell to include Jack and Jonathan, for which Jonathan usually seemed grateful. Jack was regaling him with tales of ghosts otherwise, hardly pausing for breath, and Jake's dad seemed a bit…stunned. Danny had seen ghosts he'd just hit with an ectoblast look less dazed than Jonathan Long. At the same time, however, he had to admit Jonathan seemed genuinely interested, however overwhelmed he might be. There were a couple times he even managed to get a word in edgewise and ask a question. Admittedly, he tended to have better luck when he jumped into the women's conversation, but he still managed to break into Jack's tirade on occasion.
Haley took advantage of their parents' inattention. She stared at Danny, eyes narrowed, and asked in a low voice, "Where's the real Danny Fenton? Because you're not him. You're the real Danny Phantom."
"He owes me a favour," Danny answered easily, "so he's hiding out."
"Drop it, Haley," Jake said, elbowing her. "This ain't really a good time."
Haley made a face at him and rubbed her arm but got the point. "I'm going to figure it out, you know."
Jazz smiled at her. "I'm sure you will. Now, Danny will show you around for a while, and I'll stay here, okay?"
"Oh, don't run off yet, honey," Maddie said as Danny turned to go. "Jonathan was just saying how nice it was to have you stay with them."
Danny forced a smile onto his face. "Yeah, they were great. I'm glad you let me stay there."
"It's almost a pity it couldn't have been for longer, right, Danny?" Jazz asked brightly.
Susan smiled, too, although hers was genuine. "You've raised an extraordinary son, Maddie, Jack. You have good reason to be proud of him. It was my pleasure to have him spend some time with us."
Jazz shot an alarmed look at Danny. He just gave a small shrug that the adults missed; that Susan hadn't mentioned he'd spent the better half of the week with them was pure luck and nothing else. Susan's praise was already drawing beaming smiles from his parents, anyway, and they'd missed a lot more non-verbal communication between their kids than things like this.
Although, as the conversation continued, Danny had to admit that Jazz had a point. He was doing less covering for him than she was, which wasn't unusual, but Susan managed to cut off her husband whenever he got close to blowing the whole thing. He never got in a mention that Danny had actually spent more than one night at their house.
Good luck and coincidence didn't last that long, right?
Danny raised his eyebrows at Jake, who in turn looked baffled and gave a quick shrug. Even Haley was frowning, and as she leaned forward to Jake, Danny heard her hiss, "You won't tell me but you told Mom?" That was about all the confirmation Danny needed that Jazz's suspicions were right: Susan Long had figured out his secret.
He really hoped that she was the only one. Of course, judging by the way she was dealing with his parents and her husband, she very well could be. She was good at this hiding thing, easily cutting in and smoothly talking around anything potentially incriminating. Granted, she was probably used to it after growing up in the family that she did, and this wouldn't be the first time she'd kept a secret from her husband and, he'd bet, newfound friends.
In one way, it was just as well. She was doing a better job of covering his tracks than even Jazz would have.
"Come on," Jazz finally said, touching his arm. "I need you to help me with the face paint. We've got less than twenty minutes until show time. We're not the only ones in costume anymore." He could read the rest of it in her eyes: We're obviously not needed here.
Apparently making sure his secret wasn't blown in the first half hour of conversation was a quick way to gain Jazz's trust, since Susan Long obviously had it.
Danny glanced at Jake and Haley. "Wanna help? I'm not exactly good with anything that remotely resembles makeup."
Jazz snorted. "It's not makeup, Danny. It's face paint. There's a difference."
"Um…." Jake made a face. "I don't think I could help."
Jazz rolled her eyes. "Boys," she muttered, snatching her bag. "If you don't want to get your hands dirty, I'm sure Haley will help me, right?" At Haley's grin, Jazz added, "See? Besides, it's our last time together. Your last time together. We should make the best of it."
That was the plan. It always had been, right from the minute Jazz had told him to phone Jake. Spend Friday night with him and have an explanation for the time he'd spent with them, help Jazz with the last-minute details of the costume contest Saturday morning, back with the Longs that afternoon, and head back to the FentonWorks booth to meet up with his family just in time for supper. Out bright and early on Sunday to help out at the convention before meeting the Longs for lunch and bringing them here. Now, there was the costume contest, visiting and looking around the convention, and then one last supper with new friends before they hit the road.
He hadn't been home in a week. It didn't really feel like it had been a week. He wasn't entirely sure whether it felt longer or shorter—it felt fairly short now but had seemed to stretch on painfully long when he'd been locked in Rotwood's cage—but it was almost surprising to think that, this time last week, he'd been in the Ghost Zone.
He'd learned a lot in the last week, anyway. He'd discovered a whole new world that had been hidden in the Real World right under his nose. He'd made friends. He'd had fun, hadn't gotten vivisected or killed and dissected, and his secret was still safe from his parents. Aside from the mountain of homework and all the ghosts out for his head that awaited his return, he'd actually come out of this mess ahead.
And now his free time was almost over.
But that was all right. He'd make the most of the time he had left. It wouldn't be the last he got, and he certainly wouldn't wish the consequences of ignoring the ghost-related responsibilities that waited for him in Amity Park on everyone else. Any purely human hunter ran a greater risk of getting hurt than he did. He didn't know what he'd do once he finished high school, but he'd figure things out by then. No situation was static. Something would come up sometime. When Jake left, Haley would probably take over. When he left…. Well, if the ghosts were still attacking, Dani might be willing to cover for him for a few years. He was sure she'd turn up between now and then. He hoped she'd come by to visit at least once.
For now, though…. He wasn't sure if he'd ever get a chance to come back here and visit. He might as well enjoy every minute he had. "Right as always, Jazz," Danny murmured, flashing her a grin. He turned his smile on Jake and Haley and added, more loudly, "C'mon. Let's go."
A/N: To all those who have asked (or have been wondering but haven't asked) about a sequel, all I can say at this point is a definite 'maybe'. If it comes, it won't be for a while because I plan out most of what happens in my stories before I write them (which generally means I can update fairly regularly) and I haven't done any planning yet. (Plus there's another completely unrelated story idea that's been niggling at me and IS in the current planning process, and I don't want to put that off quite yet for fear I can't get back into it.) But if a sequel comes, chances are it won't be as long as this is (this I say solely because my average story length isn't quite this long, though it really depends on what idea I end up running with) and it may not be as related and sequel-y as you may like, but I won't know that for certain until I attack an idea. Then there's also the possibility that I'll write a shorter story or two rather than a real sequel, just as 'tags' of sorts to follow this…. I don't know at this point. If you have any strong opinions, by all means, share them, but I can't say how much (if at all) it will influence me. I need to start with an idea first and see where it goes from there before I can say anything. If you're still burningly curious and not one of the handful of people I've mentioned this stuff to already, feel free review/PM me and ask questions. Or wait a month and then ask me; I might know more then.