Well it hasn't been a year at least. *ducks rotten fruit*
We have to get home, fast." Danny flipped the phone shut harder than necessary and immediately turned to continue the trip home, ignoring the shocks of pain still traveling through his system, but his mom's hand caught his arm and brought him to an abrupt halt.
"Wait a sec, Danny, what the heck was that all about? What does Vlad have to do with this, and why are you in such a hurry to get home?" his mom demanded. Danny sighed, they really didn't have time to go over the whole story right now.
"We need to get home right now because we're going to have to fly the Fenton Blimp to Wisconsin to get dad and we have to do it quick," Danny responded succinctly.
"What? Wisconsin?" his mother repeated in confusion. "How could your father possibly be in Wisconsin already?"
"Come on mom, don't you get it?" Danny snapped, this new dilemma grinding his already short temper down to a razor thin edge. "Wisconsin? The Wisconsin Ghost? He's Vlad. Vlad is half ghost, like me, only a not-so-cuddly version. He's insane, power hungry, won't let anything get in his way... And there's only one person on this planet he wants out of the way more than me," he finished, voice full of the disdain he felt for the older halfa.
Maddie swallowed down the hurt Danny's tone caused, reminding herself that it was a natural reaction to his circumstance and that she deserved it more than anyone, and only asked quietly, "You mean Jack? Why? Your father has always loved Vlad..."
"And Vlad has always loved you," Danny finished dully, watching comprehension dawn on his mom's face. "He blames Dad for stealing you away and for the accident that made him a halfa. He wants revenge. I've lost count of the number of times he's tried to kill Dad."
"But you always saved him," Maddie stated, voice soft with pride and affection. Danny ducked his head, a small smile blooming and disappearing just as quickly. Maddie felt an *inordinately strong rush of pleasure at seeing that little lip twitch, followed almost immediately by sadness as she realized she could count on one hand the number of times she remembered seeing that expression on her son's face lately. She wondered when that change had happened, but found herself unable to pinpoint the day her happy-go-lucky kid had become so somber and serious, but she bet that if she could, it'd end up being right around the time of the accident. The beginning of his life as a ghost hunting teenager and the end of his time as an innocent child. Danny looked up at her and frowned at the pensive expression on her face, but she just shook her head and said, "Well, we'd better get going. Jack's not going to rescue himself."
They continued the walk home in a tense silence, both of them glancing around constantly, looking for potential ambushes. Danny occasionally stumbled into her, and once he tripped and landed on his knees on the sidewalk, but he just pushed himself wearily to his feet, ignoring her outstretched hand, brushed himself off, and continued without a word. Ordinarily Maddie would be hurt by the figurative brush off, but she was coming to the realization that Danny needed to be tough to do the things he had been doing. that his independence was a cemented part of him now, and that his desire to do things for himself was not meant to be a jab at her, but just him doing what he thought he needed to. Having to keep his secret for so long had only strengthened his independent streak, but Maddie made a promise to herself that she would do everything in her power to let him know he didn't have to do it all by himself anymore. She'd be there for him, and Jack would too, once he was in on it. She hoped.
Finally they were walking up the drive to Fenton Works, and despite her knowledge, Maddie found herself surprised the Fenton RV wasn't in the drive. It suddenly hit her that with Jack captured, the RV was probably back where she and Jack had parked it, a few blocks from where the fight with Phantom and the Wisconsin Ghost had gone down. She could have gone back for it and saved Danny a painfully long walk home. She smacked herself in the forehead and Danny gave her an odd look, but she just pulled him into a quick one-armed hug, smiling at the surprised expression on his face, before pulling out her keys and letting them into the house.
As soon as the door opened, Jazz came bounding down the stairs, exclaiming, "Danny, where have you been?! There was something on the news about a fight between Phantom and some ghost, they said you..." She reached the bottom stair, spotted her mother, and shut her mouth with an audible click. Maddie felt a brief surge of annoyance as she realized here was yet another secret that had been kept from her. Backpedalling frantically, Jazz said, "I mean, they said Phantom..."
"AKA Fenton," Maddie muttered facetiously, wondering how she had never made that connection even as she shared a smirk with Danny at the shocked expression on Jazz's face.
"Uh... what?" Jazz finally said flatly, gaze switching between them like a confused spectator at a tennis match.
"It's okay Jazz. It's a long story, but she knows now," Danny filled her in. The flutter of annoyance in Maddie's stomach was greatly soothed by the expression of sheer relief that crossed Jazz's face. Clearly, keeping Danny's secret had cost Jazz. She was further mollified when Jazz threw her arms around her in an exuberant expression of that relief.
"I'm so glad! I was sure you'd be okay with it once you knew the truth, but Danny was afraid you and Dad wouldn't accept him. I wanted to tell you, I just..." she trailed off, unsure what to say. Maddie patted her on the back reassuringly.
"It's okay, honey, I know Jack and I didn't exactly give you a reason to trust us with Danny's secret, what with the constant talk of dissecting ghosts and what not." Maddie wasn't sure she was actually as understanding as she tried to be for her kids' sake, but she'd just have to work on it.
Jazz turned to Danny then. "Sam and Tucker have been blowing up my phone for the last half hour, why weren't you answering yours?" Confusion crossed Danny's face, as though the idea of having a phone hadn't occurred to him. He fished around in his pocket and came out with a splintered mess of plastic. Apparently his phone had taken his earlier crash even worse than he had. Luckily he knew his friends' numbers by heart. His mother handed over her phone, and Danny fumbled with it, his fingers shaking slightly. He had tried his best to mask the increasing pain and exhaustion on the way over here, but now it was starting to hit him hard again. Eventually he growled in frustration and thrust the phone wordlessly in Jazz's direction, who, after sharing a brief concerned look with her mother, took it and dialed one of Danny's friends. The fact that Jazz not only had at least one of his friends' numbers memorized, but knew exactly what Danny had wanted of her, told Maddie a lot about the dynamics of their little team.
Danny took the phone, and Maddie's curiosity about which friend was on the other end of the line was put to rest by the first words out of his mouth. "Hey, Sam. I..." A long pause where Maddie could hear shouting on the other end, and Danny rolled his eyes in exasperation, although Maddie detected a hint of fondness underneath it. "I'm sorry, look, it's not my fault okay? Vlad was there, and then Mom shot me with some new gun, and I broke my damn phone falling out of the sky." Danny missed Maddie's wince at that statement, and the shocked look Jazz threw both of them. More shouting on the line, this time with a heavy dose of concern behind it. "Sam... Sam, I... Sam!" Danny finally shouted, patience wearing thin. The voice cut short, and Maddie could swear she could feel the hurt radiating from the phone. Guilt flashed over Danny's face but was gone just as quickly, replaced by grim determination.
"I'm sorry, Sam, but we don't have any time; Vlad kidnapped Dad. Mom and I have to get him back, but my powers are on the fritz. I need you and Tuck to be on standby, if we don't get back in 3 days, I want you to go to the Guys in White, tell them all about Vlad and that he has Jack Fenton captive, you know how they like my parents." Another pause, but this time Sam's voice was much softer. "I know what we said, but it's Dad, Sam. I've gotta save him." Danny finally responded, almost pleadingly. "I know, I know. Look, I'll be careful. Just keep an eye out okay?" And with a soft goodbye Danny hung up.
"What do you want me to do?" Jazz finally asked, somewhat impatient at being ignored.
"Hold down the fort, in case Vlad tries to sneak in while we're gone," Danny told his older sister. Jazz opened her mouth to protest but he cut her off. "Come on, Jazz, you know someone has to be here. We'll leave you the Peeler, it seems to work pretty well on him." Maddie had to hide a smirk, watching Danny order around his notoriously bossy sister. But she was again struck by the respect those in the know seemed to have for Danny when Jazz just shut her mouth and nodded stiffly.
Danny turned to Maddie then and she had to brace herself for her teenage son to try to give her orders. She honestly wasn't sure how she was going to react. Instead he just asked her quietly, "What do you think we should do, Mom? I thought maybe flying the blimp but now I'm thinking that going through the ghost zone would be quicker. The only problem would be getting out on Vlad's side. If his portal isn't open, we'd have to get a ghost to cut us an opening."
Maddie's eyes widened slightly. "They can do that?"
"Some of them, yeah. But Mom, you have to understand; if I take you to meet them, you can't come back and hunt them down later." Maddie almost smiled at that, until she saw the completely serious expression on Danny's face. She felt yet another surge of hurt, but fought it down; after all, she had never given him any reason to think any other way.
In the end she just said softly, "If they help us get your father back, they're all good in my book." Danny gave her a searching look, then slowly nodded.
"Alright then, we better get going, we'll have to get there fast if we want to have any chance of surprising Vlad."
"Just out of curiosity, do you have a plan for when you get there?" Jazz put in tentatively.
"I don't know," Danny responded honestly. "Last time, when I had to bust Danni out, I just kinda went in swinging and it worked out pretty well. Should be easier this time too, since all the clones are gone..."
"Clones?" Maddie interrupted. "Do I even want to know?"
"Later, Mom." Jazz and Danny said simultaneously, then sent each other mock glares.
"Well, if the hardened ghost fighter would accept some advice from his old mother, we could discuss strategy on the way there," Maddie offered, trying not to sound petulant. She was feeling a bit left out here.
"Sounds good to me, Mom," Danny replied softly, giving her a look that said that he knew this whole thing still wasn't sitting well with her.
"Well, let's go then," she said briskly, turning toward the stairs leading to the ghost portal. Danny took a second to shoot an uncertain glance at Jazz, and then he followed her down.
Sorry that took so long, I didn't like the way it was going but I couldn't decide what else to do with it, and real life kept distracting me. In the end I just went with it as is. But anyway, suggestions for who they should meet in the ghost zone? Things you want to see in the confrontation with Vlad? Think this entire story stinks? Let me know! :)