Chapter 22

"Why are we going to Grandma and Grandpa Fenton's house?" Lex asked from where he sat between Xander and Elden in the back seat of the car.

"Because Dash and I have something we need to do," Danny explained vaguely, "so my parents are going to watch over the three of you while we're gone."

"That's such a great answer," Lex grumbled. "Can't you tell us what it is you have to do?"

Danny sighed as he rubbed his temples in frustration. He wished he could just fast forward to after the fight with Mr. Baxter, but unfortunately, he couldn't do that without Clockwork's help, and he doubted Clockwork would offer the use of his powers for that. Glancing into the rearview mirror, he stared at Elden. Though he felt he could trust the boy, Danny wasn't sure if he wanted to let another person know about his powers. "Just some grown up business."

"Why are parents always so vague about things?" Lex sat back as he folded his arms across his chest.

Danny noticed a little smirk on his lover's face and felt a grin tug at his mouth. Dash parked the car in front of the Fenton's home, and the five occupants climbed out before walking up to the door. Before Danny could knock, the door flew open, revealing Jack Fenton.

"Did you get kicked out of the laboratory again, Dad?" Danny asked as he ushered the children inside the house.

"No, I was assigned to door watching duty," Jack answered with a proud smile.

"In other words, Mom and Vlad wanted you out of the way from the very beginning so that you couldn't blow something up." Danny smirked, though his father frowned at the statement.

"Need I remind you of the time you nearly blew up the house?"

"Hey! That's not fair! You never told me it was that important to change the filter." Danny took a deep breath before releasing it slowly as he shook his head. "Just watch the boys while Dash and I are gone."

"I'm still not sure I like the idea of you going in there," Jack said, becoming unusually serious. "The man is trying to kill you."

"What?" exclaimed three voices, causing Danny to smack his forehead at his father's slip.

"Thanks, Dad. Real subtle. Try not to tell them too many 'tall tales' please." Danny took Dash's hand and pulled him toward the laboratory.

"Well someone needs to let them in on what's going on!" Jack shouted. Then he showed the boys into the front room to explain the situation to them, which took longer than he thought because they had to explain a few extra details to a very shocked and confused Elden.

"Why didn't we just tell them?" Dash asked as they walked down the stairs into the laboratory.

"Because I didn't want them attempting to make us change our minds," Danny replied with a tired sigh. "This is something we have to do. Your father isn't going to stop, and he has all eternity to keep trying to kill me."

"So you're really going through with this?" Maddie asked with concern in her voice. She wore a worried expression on her face.

"I just said we had to do this. We'll be fine, so please don't worry so much." Danny smiled at his mother, hoping that somehow it would lessen her fears.

Maddie sighed in defeat and led Dash over to one table. She explained to him how to use the Fenton Spectral Speed Board and the Fenton Ghost Vaporizer. She also gave the blond man one more item: the Fenton Ghost Grabber Version 2. Unlike the previous version, this one was made up of two black, seemingly normal gloves. For a moment, Dash almost thought the woman had lost it. But when he put them on, he could tell right away that they weren't normal gloves. He could feel the wires running through the thin fabric when he flexed his hands.

"Have you marveled over my parents' invention enough yet?" Danny asked, grinning.

"Actually, Vlad came up with the design for this," Maddie said. "He's the one who pointed out that the original Ghost Grabber was much too bulky and inconvenient for ghost hunting."

"How nice of him," Danny mumbled. "Well, let's get this over with." He grabbed Dash's hand and pulled him toward the opened Ghost Portal. Before entering, he turned back to his mother. "Don't worry about us. We'll be back before you know it." Then the couple disappeared inside the Ghost Zone as the Portal doors closed behind them.

The two men moved through the Ghost Zone in silence. Danny had switched to ghost form upon entering while Dash had to use the Spectral Speed Board to move around in the Ghost Zone. After about an hour had passed, Danny halted, making his lover stop as well.

"That's what he's been using as a hideout," Danny said as he pointed toward the giant black sphere mere feet in front of them. He glanced at his lover to find an emotionless mask upon the man's face.

Dash said nothing as he flew toward the sphere, and Danny followed after him. On the side of the sphere, they found a small opening. When they entered, the door snapped shut with a loud echoing boom. Danny jumped at the noise while Dash simply ignored it. Dash was too focused on finding his father to notice it. After a long tunnel lit by green lights, they entered the sphere's heart: a large chamber with a domed roof.

Danny sensed another ghost's presence, but he couldn't seem to locate it within this environ. It was like something within the sphere was messing with his abilities. As he scanned the area, he saw an ecto blast heading at him. He leaped out of the way, barely avoiding the blast.

Dash appeared before him, acting like a shield as he fired a blast at the ghost. But the ghost dodged and the beam from the Vaporize crashed into the far wall. Cracks formed in the otherwise smooth wall, small chips of debris hitting the floor with dull thuds. "Remember. This is my fight," Dash whispered as he looked for where his father disappeared to.

Danny didn't need the reminder. He backed up, leaving the battlefield for Dash, but he knew he wouldn't be allowed to simply sit back and watch. Mr. Baxter wanted to kill him and would probably do whatever possible to get around Dash so that he could attack his true target. Danny gritted his teeth as he watched Dash attack his father. Mr. Baxter was surprisingly fast, zooming about the arena as he avoided being hit by the Vaporize. The dome wasn't as lucky, and each blast caused wreckage to their surroundings.

"Dash!" Danny shouted, panic squeezing inside his chest when an ecto blast struck Dash.

Dash hit the ground, knocked off the Spectral Speed Board, which clattered across the floor. The Vaporize dropped from his hold, and Danny jumped into the air and floated there when a stray shot from the Vaporize came at him. Dash tried to get up, but Mr. Baxter appeared before him suddenly. He thrust a hand downward, burying it into his son's left shoulder. Dash screamed as the hand was ripped free, blood splattering onto his face and the floor.

Rage crashed through Danny, and he couldn't sit by any longer. He shot forward, flying toward Mr. Baxter, and he tackled the ghost. They rolled on the floor, and Danny shoved his feet into the ghost's gut and kicked out hard, sending Mr. Baxter flying over him. The ghost landed with a grunt a few feet from Danny. They both climbed to their feet and glared at each other.

"So you're that disgusting boy that ruined my son's life," Mr. Baxter said with a sneer. His ebony hair was slicked back without a single hair out of his place, and his matching mustache looked perfectly groomed. He dressed in a neat white business suit that made Danny a little sick to look at.

"I did not destroy Dash's life!" Danny shouted as his gaze darted toward Dash, who remained on the floor, holding a hand to his injured shoulder. He caught Dash's eyes and knew Dash hadn't wanted Danny getting involved in this fight.

"Silence!" Mr. Baxter barked with a force that seemed to shake the sphere.

Danny returned his attention in time to put up a barrier as Mr. Baxter attacked. His eyes grew wide when the ghost's fist tore right through it. He moved to dodge, but Mr. Baxter's fingers dug into his thigh. Gasping and trying not to shout in pain, Danny hit the ground on his side. He winced as he struggled to get back to his feet. Mr. Baxter loomed over him, smirking victoriously as glared down at Danny. He thought the battle was won, but he didn't know everything about Danny Phantom. After taking a deep breath, Danny released a shout. Mr. Baxter fought against the power of the Ghostly Wail, but he wasn't anywhere close to being as strong as Vlad. The Wail knocked him back into the wall with enough force to send him hurtling through it. Danny dropped back to his knees, feeling drained after using the Wail. Over the years, he had gotten more powerful, and the Wail didn't usually drain him as much as when he was fourteen. But blood flowed from the wound in his leg, making him strangely dizzy. He pitched forward onto the floor, trying to cling to any small piece of consciousness that he could.

Across the room, rubble shifted as Mr. Baxter crawled free from the chunks of the wall burying him. He sneered at the half ghost lying prone on the floor. Danny was perfectly defenseless right now, and Mr. Baxter wasn't going to let this opportunity pass him. He moved toward Danny when a brilliant beam of white seared through his chest. His gaze snapped toward the direction it came from and met with the cold glare of his son. Dash knelt with his left arm dangling uselessly beside him as he held up the Vaporize with his right hand. It remained trained on his father, though a second shot was unnecessary. Mr. Baxter screamed out his rage as his ghostly being dissolved into nothingness.

After the last speck of Mr. Baxter's ghost faded away, the sphere melted away. Dash started to lunge for Danny, but they both started falling after the grounded disappeared under them. Panic surged through him. Danny still hadn't moved since he collapsed and reverted back to his human form. The Spectral Speed Board was too far out of his reach for him to grab hold of it and use it to rescue them both. Then arms caught hold of him. Dash glanced back to see a ghost that looked like a knight out of some medieval era holding onto him. Then he snapped his attention back to Danny. He sighed with relief when Vlad floated toward them, holding Danny in his arms.

"You did well eliminating your father," Vlad said with the smallest amount of praise. "However, I think we made an error allowing Daniel to join you."

Cold terror grabbed at his heart, but before Dash could ask anything, Vlad flew toward the Fenton Portal. The unfamiliar ghost followed Vlad as he carried Dash. When they returned to Fenton Works, Maddie was already examining her son. Dash pulled free of the knight's arms and hurried to Danny's side.

"What's wrong?" he demanded in fear.

"There's something embedded in his leg," Maddie explained, digging into the wound on Danny's thigh with a pair of long forceps.

"What kind of something?"

"It's nothing too serious," Vlad answered, though he looked concerned. "It seems your father had been developing a skill to destabilize a ghost. In a normal ghost, that would be rather dangerous, but still being half human may have saved Daniel from a worse fate. Reverting back to human stalled the process. He'll be fine as soon as we remove what your father left inside Daniel."

The news didn't make Dash feel any better. "He knew about Danny being half ghost." He didn't need to question it. The fact that his father had sought a way to destroy Danny while in ghost form made it obvious. He's been watching and planning this for a while, he thought, fists clenching tightly at his sides in anger. "This is my fault for falling in love with him."

"I don't want to hear you say shit like that again," Danny muttered, cracking open his eyes to shoot a glare at Dash. "I'm going to be fine, and your dad is gone. We don't have to worry about him interfering with our lives again."

"Got it!" Maddie announced in triumph as she ripped the small silver item from her son's leg.

Danny bit his tongue to hold back a shout of pain. Dash took hold of Danny's hand, not making a sound no matter how hard Danny squeezed it as they stitched up the injury to his leg. "Your turn, Mr. Tough Guy," Danny said, glaring at the bleeding wound on Dash's left shoulder.

Dash sighed, but waited patiently as Maddie checked his wound for any similar silver objects like the one that was in Danny's leg. When she found nothing, she saw to stitching up his shoulder. He was glad the woman had such good medical skills because he didn't feel like making a trip to the hospital. "I hope you can survive without pain killers," he said, shuddering at the thought of an overly hyper Danny to care for again.

"I think I can make it," Danny mumbled, rolling his eyes. He put an arm around Dash, who helped him off the table.

"I do hope you are done with the family dramatics now," Vlad said dully, but all present knew the older half ghost was concerned for his godson.

"Yes, I believe we are. And we thank you for helping us," Danny said, offering a rare smile to Vlad. Then he sighed as he turned back to Dash. "I guess we have to go talk with the kids." He almost looked hopeful that they could avoid it, but he knew without Dash even saying anything that it was inevitable.

The ghost that Dash hadn't met before disappeared back into the Ghost Zone while the rest of them climbed the stairs out of the laboratory. When they entered the kitchen, they found two angry glares directed at them. Elden had his head resting on his arms and looked like he had fallen asleep. Jack shifted awkwardly in his seat, and Danny realized his father had spilled the beans about several details.

"Why didn't you just tell us what was going on?" demanded the twins, their voices causing Elden to awaken with a jerk.

"Sorry, boys," Dash replied as he helped Danny into a seat. They could see the worry in their sons' eyes as they spotted the blood stains on Dash's shirt and Danny's pants. "We thought it best not to tell you."

"But it was your father!" Xander argued.

"Pfft! You really think it matters how they were related?" Lex muttered as he slumped in his seat. "Elden's dad raped and beat him. Our mother tried to kill you. Is it really that surprising that Dash's father hated homosexuality so much that even after dying he wanted to kill Danny?"

Xander dropped his gaze with a miserable look.

"We probably should have explained all this beforehand," Danny said, rubbing at his forehead. "I'm sorry that we keep keeping these secrets from you." He glanced at his children, worried he would see hate in their eyes. "It's supposed to be our job to worry about you, not the other way around. And facing his father was something Dash needed to do."

"But everything's okay now," Dash said, rubbing Danny's shoulder. "We don't have to worry about my father trying to hurt our family. And from now on, we won't keep secrets like this from you." He ran a hand through his hair. "I guess when you're in this family, ghost hunting becomes necessary."

"Does that mean we can go on patrols with you?" Lex asked hopefully with excitement bright in his eyes.

"Only on weekends if you've gotten your homework done," Danny said sternly. He wasn't going to allow his children to struggle with their grades like he had because of ghosts. The twins decided that was an acceptable arrangement. Danny's attention turned to Elden, who remained quiet through the exchange. "Have you spoken with your relatives?"

Elden glanced at Xander before turning back to Danny. "Yeah, I got a call from my cousin not too long ago. Her parents contacted their lawyer and are working to build a case against my father." He snorted bitterly. "Which shouldn't be too hard."

"Did they say what's going to happen to you while the case is going on?" Dash asked.

"They offered to let me stay with them. But would it be all right if I stay with you until everything is decided?" Elden smiled weakly with hope in his eyes.

Danny exchanged a quick glance with Dash. "We'd be happy to take you in." He pointed at Elden. "But you're not sharing a room with Xander." Elden nodded quickly, understanding perfectly.

They stayed at Fenton Works for dinner, Dash and Danny feeling too tired to drive the children home and then cook dinner. Vlad decided to join them, helping Maddie with the cooking while the family relaxed in the front room as they watched some random movie on television. The three teenagers got comfortable on the couch while Danny curled up in Dash's lap.

While the teenagers were distracted with the movie, Danny whispered quietly, "Do you regret falling in love with me?" He didn't look at Dash, half scared of the answer.

"Of course not." Dash kissed him, a quick peck on the lips so that the twins wouldn't express their embarrassment of having their fathers kiss in front of them. "I'd regret every day of my life if you weren't in it."

Danny blushed darkly and hoped the teenagers hadn't heard that. "I feel the same," he said softly and kissed Dash before he rested his head on Dash's chest. He only half paid attention to the movie playing on the television as he thought about how glad he was that he had met Dash again after graduating from Casper High School. He wouldn't have wanted his life to be any different.