When Danny awoke he was aware of nothing but the cold – far colder than he, a half-dead teenager, normally was. The entire right side of his body was numb and he tried to push the source of this cold away, but found his hands shackled together.
He shut his eyes tight and groaned as a wave of nausea rolled over him. The cold ground seemed to dip and sway.
"He's awake." The voice sounded distant and muffled.
"Conscious, anyway." Mom, he thought. And Dad was the first one. He heard the familiar whine of an ectogun being charged. He blinked a few times to clear the fog and found himself looking down the barrel of the gun his mother was holding. "Don't move, ghost scum," he heard her spit.
Oh, right. Now he remembered where he was – trapped in a cavern in the middle of nowhere with two of the many people who wanted him dead. Or, at least, all the way dead.
Danny pried his cheek off the window of the RV. "We there yet?" he grumbled.
"Almost, Dann-o!" Jack called back enthusiastically. "Just think! A nice long weekend in the frosty Appalachian mountains with nothing to do but spend quality time with each other and hunt ghosts!"
"Sounds like a real hoot," Danny replied with a level of disinterest to match his father's enthusiasm. No, spending three days cooped up with his ghost-hunting parents hunting a ghost did not sound like a hoot to the half-ghost.
Maddie folded the map back up and pulled out her folder again, flipping through the documents. "Oh, this is so exciting!" she cheered. "Normally the ghosts we deal with are all in Amity Park, but this one's been in the Appalachian for ages! Who knows how different its ectosignature is, given the amount of time it's been out of the ghost zone!"
"Not to mention it's a great chance to see how different environments affect a ghost's electromagnetic field!" Jack offered. His parents grinned at each other eagerly.
Danny groaned and flopped his head against the back of his seat. If only he'd been able to pass that last test in Lancer's class, then the teacher wouldn't have called the Fenton's in for a conference. Danny had tried to study for the test, even read the short story it was about, but of course, he'd had to deal with a ghost the night before. It was a miracle Danny was even awake the entire class but he might as well have been asleep for what he scored on the test.
His "dyslexia" didn't help matters, either. Ghost language was nothing new to him, what with the Ghost Gabber and all. What he didn't realize was that being even half a ghost meant knowing ghost language, and this had been slipping into his speech and writing without him noticing. Half of the answers he did put down were a garbled mess of letters and scribbles that Lancer wouldn't accept, even after Danny translated them.
And so, his parents decided to drag him along to this "expedition" of theirs as a means of building character or something. Now he was strapped into the Fenton RV climbing up into the Appalachian Mountains to chase down a ghost that allegedly lured hikers into the wilderness where they disappeared or weren't heard from in weeks.
The cabin they had rented was cozy enough but Danny assumed every cabin ever was "cozy". It was made of wood with a stone fireplace and metal beds, one bedroom, one kitchen, one bathroom, and one living area with a bookshelf and no internet connection. Danny hopped up onto the bed and pulled the woolen quilt tight around him, still shivering. Going to the top of a mountain in the middle of winter, he thought glumly. Great idea.
"Alright gang, time to hit the hay!" Jack announced, putting away the last of their ghost-hunting equipment. "Tomorrow we wake up bright and early to start hunting that frozen phantom!"
Danny's mouth twitched into a smile at the name. Hopefully this ghost they were hunting wasn't something "Phantom" would have to deal with. He did not like the idea of being out in the isolated wilderness and having to deal with his two ghost-hunting parents, who would undoubtedly be armed to the teeth with ghost-hunting equipment.
He popped the Fentonphones into his ears and turned them on, just in time for his dad to start snoring. Maddie turned the light off and the room fell into darkness. Danny pulled the covers around himself and shivered again.
Upon awakening the next morning Danny knew one thing right away: he had a cold. His nose felt like it was made of stone and his body felt feverish.
"Rise and shine, sport!" his father was saying from beside him. Danny peeked his eyes open and blinked groggily into the faint morning light.
"Sweetie?" came his mother's voice, and she placed a gloveless hand on his forehead. "Oh, Danny, you're burning up!"
"I think I have a cold," Danny replied stuffily.
"Well that happened quick," Jack muttered, walking over to where his son was curled up in bed.
"He's not faking it, Jack," Maddie told him sternly. "Oh, Danny, I'm sorry this had to happen on our vacation. Your father and I will stay here with you-"
"Nah, it's okay," Danny said, rolling over to look at them. They were all suited up in coats and goggles with packs and guns and whatnot. "You're already ready. I just need sleep, I'll be fine. Don't let me hold you back, I know you guys-" He broke off and sneezed before continuing with, "Are really eggsited."
Maddie bit her lip uncertainly so Jack was the first to speak. "Aaaalright," he drawled in a cautious tone, "but if you need us, you call. We'll only be gone a few hours and we'll probably have cell reception where we're going."
"If you feel worse let us know and we'll come right over," Maddie added, ruffling Danny's hair. "I'll make some soup before we go, you eat it when you feel up to it." She planted a kiss on top of his head and his parents sauntered off, their gear making all sorts of clanking noises as they went.
Danny rolled over and sighed. Great, as if he didn't have enough problems, now he had to add a cold to it? His dad was right, though, it did come out of nowhere. Maybe this was another ghost thing? Danny groaned in agitation and folded the pillow over his head.
He was asleep by the time his parents were gone. He had no idea just how long he was out before waking up but the room was significantly brighter. He did not awaken by his own will, though – it was his ghost sense. The cold breath forced itself from his lungs and he had to gasp it out to avoid choking, the blue vapor rolling lazily in the filtered sunlight.
"Oh great," he whined, trying to sit up. His head spun and he nearly fell over again but he propped himself up, looking around the cabin. Nothing he could see. "Alright, Frosty," he declared, "you asked for it! I'm goin' ghost!"
The cold in his chest, not so dissimilar to his ghost sense, now spread throughout his body as the white light exploded. The cool was more than welcome to his feverish body but even becoming Danny Phantom did not free him from the sickish feeling. It did help, though, and that was all that mattered. He leapt up into the air, gave himself a second to recover, and phased out through the cabin wall.
Everything was white and sparkling outside, no signs of a ghost anywhere. The towering pines in the distance were nearly black against the freshly fallen snow on the ground. A few nearby cabins were spewing smoke up into the gray-blue sky. So far, though, everything looked normal.
Or so Danny thought, and it turned out he thought too soon. He was suddenly thrown back against the cabin's façade. A chunk of the snow that had accumulated on the roof landed on his head, which he quickly shoved off of him. No sooner had he jumped up into the air than his assailant revealed himself.
It was a ghost, alright. The ghost had a mild country-bumpkin look to it, with a plaid shirt and jean jumper. However, his skin was green and glowing and his eyes were hollow and red. "Where are you?" the ghost growled, clenched fists glowing.
"Uh, right in front of you?" Danny retorted, shrugging. The ghost only glared at him and bared his teeth, throwing his hands out in front of him. Another wave of snow was sent flying in his direction, which Danny nimbly dodged. "Missed!" Danny called out cheerily. "What, are you blind or s-"
Suddenly he was hit from behind. The ghost had redirected the snow back in an arch and sent Danny sprawling against the ground. Danny lay dazed in the snow pile, his vision swimming. "If only I could take a sick day," he grumbled to himself. However, the hero gig did not allow for any sick days, especially if this was the ghost that was behind all the missing campers. Surely his parents had a Fenton thermos left around the cabin or RV, but Danny didn't want to risk letting this ghost out of his sight to retrieve it.
"I'll find you!" the ghost yelled out, drifting off towards the forest.
"I'm right here, frostbite-for-brains!" Danny called out, pulling himself from the snow bank and dusting his shoulders off. The ghost did not seem to hear him, instead phasing into the vast forest surrounding the camp. "Great, now it's a scavenger hunt," Danny sighed, rubbing his head. His cold was starting to sneak up on him again and he sneezed, falling out of the sky briefly. He picked himself up and flew into the forest in pursuit of the ghost. He just hoped he was able to find it before his parents did.
The forest was maddeningly uniform. It didn't help that snow had begun to fall again and the temperature began to drop. Danny was constantly sneezing now, throwing himself against trees as he went. His vision would blur and darken and his entire body cried for rest. Many times he considered turning tail and heading back to the cabin but the thought of that ghost leading his parents to their deaths in the forest kept him going.
His ghost sense went off twice during the thirty or so minutes Danny spent searching. He altered his flight pattern each time but the minutes began to drag out with no real sign of the ghost. He was beginning to worry about his parents returning to the cabin and finding their son gone. Was it worth the risk of leaving the ghost out there in the forest? If his parents found him to be missing upon return (provided they returned in one piece), he would have a lot of explaining to do. They would definitely think he had been faking his illness, for one. No way a human would stumble around out in the snow with a cold.
Still no sign off the ghost, not even his ghost sense. Danny flew up above the tops of the trees, scanning the area one last time. He would have to take the risk – no matter how ineffective his parents could be, they were still ghost hunters, and he trusted that they would be able to hold their own against a-
"Ghost!" came two voices from nearby, followed instantly by a resounding blast and a beam of green energy zipping past his hip. Well, at least they were alive, Danny thought with amusement, looking down at where the blast had come from.
Looking through the singed hole in the trees they had made Danny saw his parents trot into view, weapons held aloft.
"Phantom?" Jack asked incredulously. "What in blue blazes are you doing in the Appalachians?"
"Uh…" Phantom began, rubbing the back of his neck. "What… are… you doing here?" he countered lamely.
"At the moment, bagging ourselves a pesky ghost kid," Jack replied, firing again. Danny flipped out of the way of the green blast and zipped over their heads. I'll use this as a chance to lure them back to the cabin, Danny decided, dodging a blast (and a very un-ladylike curse from his mother). That way they'll be out of the ghost's reach. Then when they're asleep I can head out again and-
His side flared up with pain and he began to dip down, the tree branches smacking him in the face. He checked his torso urgently but luckily he had only been grazed – the material of his jumpsuit was burnt a bit but the skin underneath was just an irritated dark green. Nothing that wouldn't heal in a day. Danny doubled back around, trying to weave out of the line of fire.
There came a distant, echo-y rumbling that Danny did not recognize. He turned back to his parents to see if they were charging up some new kind of weapon, but then he saw it above them.
A billowing cloud of white was rolling down the side of the mountain straight towards them. He wasn't sure if it was caused by the ectoblasts crashing into the mountainside, but it was no doubt an avalanche was starting.
"You guys have to get out of here!" he yelled when they came into view. They fired at him and he threw himself back into the trees to avoid it. "Guys, listen to me! There's an avalanche!"
"Like we'd believe you, ghost!" Maddie spat.
"I mean it!" he screamed, looking back up at the charging wave of snow. By now the rumbling was more audible and his parents turned back to look. They couldn't see the avalanche from their elevation but from up in the air, Danny could see it clearly. There was no way to avoid it. If anything he could snatch them up and hold them in the air until it passed, but doing that to two well-trained, well-armed ghost hunters was probably the worst idea for him.
Then he saw it, on the mountain behind him. A large, yawning cave entrance tucked behind a crag. Danny figured he could hold them off until he got them there. With one determined push he jumped out from the trees and flew up to his parents, grabbing them by the wrists and banking up. Various gadgets tumbled down to the forest floor as Danny dragged the protesting ghost experts through the air.
He turned them all intangible and shot straight through the crag and into the cave. His luck paid off when he found the cave to be deep enough to hold them. "You'll be safe in here-" Danny tried to say as he dropped his parents on the ground, but the next thing he knew he was a sharp pain in his stomach, then he woke up on the snowy floor, cuffed and peering down the humming barrel of an ectogun.
"Don't move, ghost scum."
"Not moving," he replied tersely. "No way for me to move, anyway." He shifted his hands, the cuffs glinting in the slight glow of his aura. "Can you at least get me right-side up?"
But Maddie was already walking back to her husband, seated on the far end of the cave. "Why is it so dark?" he asked, rolling back a little to follow her movement. "How long was I out?"
"The avalanche blocked us in," Jack replied dryly. "Great plan, ghost boy, hiding in a cave during an avalanche."
"Hey!" Danny yelled indignantly. "I saved you both, didn't I?" Neither of them answered, Maddie's back still turned to him. "I saved you," he repeated, floating up and righting himself, then settling back on the ground. His other powers were scrambled by the Fenton cuffs but at least he could still float. Another wave of feverish nausea rippled through him and he grumbled in discomfort, shivering. "And you're still gonna treat me like an enemy?"
"You're a ghost," Maddie called matter-of-factly over her shoulder. "Ghosts are malignant and not capable of pity or companionship. I don't know what reasons you had for what you did but they can't be good."
"Especially since we're going to freeze to death in here anyway," Jack added.
"Then let me get you help!" Danny insisted. "Let me out of these cuffs and I can phase out of here, fly to a ranger's station, tell them where you are-"
"You think we'd trust you?" Maddie laughed. "We'll make it out of here alive without your help, thank you very much, and we'll have you to experiment on when we get back to Amity. They say when you're lost," Maddie said quietly to Jack, "it's best to stay in one place and wait for rescue. I'm sure at some point the parks will send people out to get us."
"I'm just worried about Danny," Jack said in a soft voice Danny assumed he didn't want "Phantom" to hear.
"If he wakes up and we're not back, he'll call the rangers," Maddie replied soothingly.
"But what if he gets sicker?"
Maddie didn't reply to this and the cave was plunged into silence.
That was when Danny heard it. It was a faint whispering but by the echoing nature he knew it had to be a ghost.
"Hello?" Danny called in the direction of the sound.
"What's he doing?" Danny heard his father say.
"Ghost, quiet down!" Maddie ordered, and again Danny heard the shrill cry of the ectogun being charged.
"Don't you hear that?" he demanded, turning to face them. "There's a noise coming from further in-"
"He's talking in ghost," Maddie said to Jack, looking from Danny to her husband. Danny raised one eyebrow and began to retort, but then he shut his mouth. Oh great, what a time for him to lapse into ghost language.
"If only we had the Ghost Gabber," Jack said.
"Not like the ghost is worth listening to," Maddie replied.
"I can still understand you two," Danny shot back heatedly. This must have also been in ghost, because neither of them replied.
"How's your wrist, honey?" his mother asked his father.
"It hurts. Might've sprained it. Nothing big, I'll live," Jack said with almost as much pep in his voice as usual. Then, comically to Phantom, "No offense."
Danny laughed bitterly and replied, "None taken." Jack whined as Maddie undoubtedly checked over his wrist. Danny bit his lip anxiously. "You ought to put ice on it," he tried to say, praying it came out in English.
"What about ice?" Maddie asked.
Danny sighed in relief. At least he was starting to make sense to them. "Ice. On the wrist."
"I don't suppose you were a doctor in a past life," Jack said sarcastically.
"Uh, no," Danny replied. "I just… got hurt a lot." At this Maddie and Jack fell silent and gave him blank looks, so Danny went on. "Um… it helps to compress the wrist, too. Tie it up, y'know, keep it steady. And don't keep the ice on for too long or it'll hurt your skin. I mean, if you wrap it up first and then put the ice on-"
"We lost you at 'if you wrap it'," Maddie cut in, but her tone was no longer sharp.
"It doesn't matter," Danny insisted, and they seemed to understand him. "Just wrap it first, then put some ice on it until it feels better."
His parents' gaze lingered on him for a moment before they turned their attention to Jack's wrist. They were silent but Danny knew they were following his suggestion, which was a good sign for their relationship at the moment. Perhaps, he dared to think, they would come to trust him.
Again the voice came from deeper within the cave. "Fall…" he heard faintly. "Fallowy."
Danny wanted to reply to the voice but he knew if he did it would probably ruin the newfound trust he'd built with his parents, however faint it was, so he ignored the ghost.
Left to his own thoughts the sickness began to creep back up on him. His limbs were feeling weak and his head began to throb. He could feel the fever build up in his chest and for a horrifying moment he felt like he was going to change back into Fenton. He jerked back as if trying to escape the warmth in his chest and managed to fall over onto his back.
He lay on the floor miserably as his mother yelled, "What are you up to over there?"
"Writhing in pain?" Danny offered listlessly. Maddie only snorted in response. Oh yeah, Danny thought dully. We ghosts can't feel pain. Wouldn't that be convenient, if only it were true. Danny sneezed, his body jolting up and crashing back onto the rocky floor, causing pain to erupt in the back of his head and stars to explode in front of his eyes. "Ooooooow…" he moaned, rolling over and curling in on himself.
"What in the name of Ashmore Estates was that?" Jack asked.
"A sneeze," Danny mumbled irately. "It's like, ten degrees in here or something."
"Ghosts don't sneeze," Maddie said, almost to herself. "They lack lungs – organs in general." She paused in calculating silence before asking in a very cautious voice, "How long have you been dead?"
Danny tilted his head back to look at her in shock. The green light from his eyes reflected off the many weapons his parents had scattered around them as they sat huddled together, his father leaning against the wall of the cave, his mother seated in between him and Danny. They were glaring at him still but this was perhaps the first time they'd expressed interest in him as a… well, not person, but in him. "Two years," he replied calmly.
Maddie and Jack shared a concerned glance. "Well, it would explain why he's still replicating human functions," Jack said pedantically.
"He's still new enough to remember them," she replied with a nod. "A very strong ghost for only being around for two years."
Danny sighed angrily and went back to staring at the ceiling. He knew it was too good to be true.
His parents talked quietly among themselves and Danny switched his focus from their hushed chatter to the distant calling from the other side of the cave. He couldn't make out the words of the ghost no matter how intently he listened, but his parents were discussing all the dissections they could perform on 'Phantom' so they were less pleasant to focus on.
Minutes dragged by in this fashion, Danny lying on the ground, bracing himself against the feverish waves. Too often he felt on the edge of transforming and he had to quash it firmly, causing himself to shake uncontrollably and feel sick in his stomach. The shot he took to the stomach was no walk in the park either.
Danny didn't know how long it had been since they had talked to him so he attempted the first move. "So, what are you two doing in the Appalachians?" he asked, hoping to sound completely clueless.
"Ghost hunting, what else?" Maddie replied after a calculated pause. "And what about you? I thought you haunted Amity Park."
"I go where I'm needed," Danny replied. "I heard about a ghost here that was luring hikers into the woods. I figured I might as well try and solve it so no one else got hurt."
The two ghost hunters shared a disbelieving laugh and Danny bristled. How he wished they would just wise up and believe him for once. "You sure spend a lot of time fighting other ghosts," Jack called over brightly. "All the ghosts much hate you too, huh?"
"Some of them," he replied grimly. "I've got a few friends, though, so it's not all bad."
"Ghosts have friends, now?" It didn't sound like father was genuinely asking.
"Of course they d- we do," Danny shot back, still staring at the ceiling. "You talk a lot of big talk about being ghost experts but you only know about how to destroy them or cut them open."
"What else is there to know about ghosts?" Maddie replied tersely. "Ghosts are a nuisance, a danger. They're fascinating, sure, but they shouldn't exist outside of controlled lab settings. When they do they cause thousands of dollars of property damage." She said the last part pointedly, as if accusing him.
"It's not my fault," he muttered. "I'm just trying to keep everyone safe. A few buildings get smashed up along the way but that's better than getting people killed, right?"
A pause, and then Jack whispered haughtily to Maddie, "He's got one of the most human intelligences in any ghost we've captured."
"It's an impressive display," she agreed.
"It's not a display!" Danny shouted, then grimaced as the pain flared in his head and his stomach turned. He sneezed again, his head swimming with pain as his body jerked. "Ugh. I really want to help people. I would never hurt anyone, and I especially wouldn't kill anyone. Dying, being a ghost…" He bit at the inside of his lip and sighed. "It's not something I'd want to happen to anybody. It sucks."
He stared up into the blackness for what felt like forever. He was certain he'd shut them up when suddenly Jack asked, "How did you die?"
"He's not going to remember that," Maddie snapped at him, but Danny craned his neck to look at them again. Hot damn, he thought, I'm really getting through to them. I should trap them in a cave more often.
"Electrocution," he replied simply. His parents' wide eyes latched onto him instantly.
"Impressive indeed," Jack mumbled to his wife.
"You remember how you-" she tried to ask him, then cut herself off and turned back to Jack. "He probably found out somehow. It doesn't mean anything, it's just a fact to him."
"A fact?" he echoed, and Maddie glowered over her shoulder at him. "I got shocked with God-knows how many volts of electricity. It felt like my whole body just snapped and my heart exploded. I died, how is that something as simple as a fact?" Danny paused, surprised by his own resentment, then tried to continue in a lighter tone. "That's one of the most important things to happen to a guy, right up there with kissing a girl for the first time."
This joke had no effect on Maddie. "You. Are a ghost," she said stubbornly. "You are a collection of ectoplasm held together by an electromagnetic field that is merely a shade of the brainwave pattern you possessed as a human."
"How does me dying erase who I was? How does it make me less than what I was?" He went back to looking at the ceiling because looking back at her was hurting his neck and head. "Well, not less physically, but y'know what I mean. Some ghosts are evil, I won't deny that. Some of them let their obsessions get the best of them, and they forget everything that once made them human. But not all of them. Not… all of us."
"What's your obsession?"
Danny set his jaw and did not reply to his father, and neither parent pressed the issue. Again the cave lapsed into silence. Silence, save for the occasional call from the ghost down the road. Nausea rippled its way through his body and he could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow, despite the cold. He focused all his attention on the voice in an attempt to ignore the heat.
Then he snapped his eyes open. "Follow me?"
"What did you say, ghost?"
Danny looked back at his parents. "The voice. It's saying 'follow me'!"
Maddie and Jack looked at each other in irritation. Was he still speaking ghost?
"Can't you hear it?"
"We don't understand ghost, Phantom," Maddie sighed, turning away.
"No! Listen to me! It's saying 'follow me'!"
"Can't you understand us?" Jack asked. "We just said we have no idea what you're saying."
Danny growled in frustration, the headache returning. The fever was prickling at his chest and again he could feel the warmth where his humanity lay dormant. It surged up again and he grabbed onto it mentally, forcing it back.
"Not now," he hissed through gritted teeth.
"Not now what?"
Danny froze. "You understood that?"
"Now that you're speaking English, yes," Maddie said.
Danny looked back at them with wide eyes. He tried holding on to his human side again, pushing it enough back that he didn't transform. "The voice at the end of the cave. It's telling us to follow it."
Maddie scoffed. "How many times are you going to ask us to trust you? You're still a ghost."
He grimaced. "Yes I'm a ghost, but I feel like following that voice is our best bet."
Jack said gruffly, "We wouldn't trust the likes of you if our lives depended on it."
"Which they do," Danny shot back. "Look, would it kill you to trust a ghost once in your lives?"
"I don't know," Maddie countered, "will it?"
"I don't want to kill you!" Danny exclaimed, floating up to a standing position. His mother instantly pulled a gun from her feet and pointed it at him, so he did not advance. He did not sit back down, however. "How many times do I have to save you two before you'll believe me?"
"As many times as you like because it's not going to happen," Maddie spat back. "You're a ghost. Ghosts aren't capable of caring for anything but their obsessions."
Danny clenched his fists. "Well… mine is to protect people."
Maddie lowered the gun a little, her frown softening quizzically.
He clenched his jaw. "When I… died, when I became what I am, I wanted to use it for good. To protect people from the ghosts that really are evil. But some of us aren't! Some of us really want to help! Like me, and maybe like the ghost down there." He jerked his shoulder back in the direction of the voice.
"So it's another ghost that's telling us to follow it?" Jack laughed. "You want the Fentons to trust two ghosts?"
"Have you got anything to lose? You're snowed into a cave in the middle of nowhere and your only link to rescue is a sick kid." They recoiled in surprise and Danny hastily added, "I heard you talking. Your son, Danny? You said he was sick, right?"
They did not answer so Danny hoped he had covered up sufficiently. Maddie turned to look at her husband but kept the gun on Phantom.
"Well, we've got the weapons," Jack said to her tacit question. "He's got the Fenton Cuffs on so any powers he has are neutralized. We can handle it if things go south."
"But trusting a ghost?" Maddie hissed back. "Jack, we can't-"
"We can't just sit here and do nothing," he interrupted, using his good hand to hoist himself to his feet. "Danny's waiting for us back at the cabin. Keep the gun on Phantom, Mads, and I'll get the rest of the gear."
Maddie watched him with an anxious expression but kept her lips drawn thin and said nothing. Once Jack had shouldered all their materials he turned to Danny and said, "Alright, ghost kid. Take us to your friend."
Danny took a few steps backwards before hopping up into the air, floating along slowly down the cave. Maddie followed close behind, enough that he could almost feel the barrel of the ectogun against his back if he slowed.
The voice stopped as they got closer but Danny continued on. Sure, it was a real shot in the dark, but what did he have to lose? This voice sounded very young, not like the ghost he'd run into outside.
They continued on with no further sounds and Danny began to worry if the ghost had somehow vanished. "Are you-" Maddie began to ask, and suddenly there came a gasp and a motion from up ahead. Maddie instantly cocked her gun in the direction of the movement but Danny threw his cuffed hands up in front of her.
"Don't shoot! That's probably the ghost that wants to help us!" Maddie didn't lower her weapon but Danny assumed she wasn't going to shoot, so he floated over to wear he'd seen the dim white blur go.
"Hello?" he asked, pushing his humanity away and speaking in ghost – he hoped.
A little blonde head poked up over the rocks before him, two wide red eyes glowing in the dark. Danny faltered a bit. It was a kid. A little kid.
"Are you mad at me?" she asked timidly.
"Mad at you? No, we're not mad," Danny said as unthreateningly as possible, floating down to kneel on the ground before her.
The ghost leaned out from behind the rocks. She couldn't have been more than six when she died, and she was wearing a tattered pink nightgown. "You… you can hear me?"
"Yeah, I can," he replied with a smile, bending down to her level. "Why do you want us to follow you?"
"Because you want to get out, right?" she asked, hugging herself tightly. "Everybody does who comes here. I know the way out, but nobody listens to me."
"Well we're listening." Danny turned to his parents, still shoulder-to-shoulder with guns trained on them. "She says she knows-"
"English," Maddie snapped.
Oh, right. Danny took a shaky breath and again tapped at the warmth in his chest. "She knows how to get out."
His parents looked at each other and laughed, Maddie shaking her head. "You seriously want us to trust another ghost?" Maddie inquired harshly.
"Yeah," he replied firmly.
"Yvet?" Jack repeated.
Danny focused more on his humanity, nearly losing his control. "I mean, yeah. Do you have any better options?" Jack and Maddie tensed up so Danny added, "Don't you want to get back to your son?"
Their shoulders drooped a bit but their guns remained on them. "It's okay," Danny said to the girl when he saw her flick a frightened glance their way. "They won't hurt you. Can you show us the way out?"
She beamed up at him and nodded her head furiously, sticking her arms out straight like a plane and scampering off into the darkness. Danny floated along behind her and his parents hustled after them.
"My name's Danny, by the way," Danny introduced himself, making sure he was speaking in ghost.
"I'm Mary Anne," the girl chirped back. "I'm glad you're here Danny. I haven't had anyone to play with in a long time. I guess I'm too good at hide and seek. My friends must've gived up, huh?"
Danny's smiled fell. Oh. He was beginning to see just how this girl had died, and it was a disheartening picture. Danny forced the smile back on his face and said, "Yeah, Mary Anne. We're here now, so you don't need to worry about being alone."
"My daddy's probably really mad at me," Mary Anne said to herself. "He always comes out and finds me and takes me home but he hasn't come yet. I've been gone a really long time, do you think he's so mad that he's not gonna come get me?"
From what Danny had heard from his parents, he doubted if the father was even still alive anymore. "No, he'll come get you," he answered softly. "No matter how mad parents get, they still love their kids more than anything." Danny couldn't ignore the irony of his own parents pointing a gun at his back as he said this. Mary Anne gave him a hopeful look as they continued down the cave. Only the combined light of his and Mary Anne's aura lit the way. Maddie and Jack were booking it to stay within the field of vision.
"Can you tell her to slow down?" Jack yelled ahead.
"Why do they talk funny?" Mary Anne whispered to Danny, throwing a look over her shoulder at them to make sure they didn't hear her.
Danny couldn't help but laugh. "They're not from around here. They're not very fast, too, so could you slow down?"
Mary Anne giggled. "I bet they couldn't beat me at tag!" she proclaimed. "But we're almost out of here anyway so we don't have time to play." Sure enough the cave began to brighten a bit. Mary Anne obediently slowed down but the ghosts' aura was soon joined by the pallid sunlight streaming in from outside. As the four continued up the rocky incline the light became brighter and brighter until finally a little sliver of an exit came into view.
"This is as far as I can go," Mary Anne replied as she came to an abrupt halt. "I've tried to get out but I can't. But now you can!"
Danny looked helplessly back at Mary Anne. Perhaps her obsession had led her to believe she should stay in the cave and wait for her father. Could he really leave this innocent kid's spirit behind like this? Stuck to wander the caves for eternity?
"Thank you very much, Mary Anne," Danny said, floating down to her level. "You're a great big help."
Mary Anne grinned at him with her little gap-toothed grin, her aura bubbling up brighter. "Those are your mommy and daddy, right?" she asked.
Danny cast a frightened glance over at his parents, but they were merely standing by the exit, glowering distrustfully at the two ghosts.
"Yeah," Danny whispered back. "Thanks for helping them."
"If you find my daddy tell him to come get me, okay?" Mary Anne said urgently, gripping his arm.
Danny's smile faltered. "I will," he replied anyways. Mary Anne smiled and released him, and Danny floated over to his parents. "Alright," he said to them, staring his mother in the eye sternly. "The exit's not big enough for you guys to fit through, so you take the cuffs off and I can phase us through here."
"You're really trying our patience, ghost," Maddie retorted.
"Or you could waste your time blasting through solid rock and risking another avalanche," Danny replied with a smirk. "Your choice."
Jack and Maddie passed a look between them before Jack opened one of the sleeve pockets on his jumpsuit, pulling out a little electronic card. He fit it into the slot on one of the cuffs and with a little beep they deactivated and released, falling with a resonant clunk onto the rocky floor. Maddie had the gun pointed at him throughout the exchange and Jack picked the cuffs up off the ground warily, tucking them under his arm. Danny grabbed both their shoulders and sent the intangibility through them. "Alright, let's go," he urged, and the three of them walked through the rocky wall.
The second they were out Danny released his parents, who stumbled onto the snow as their newly tangible fit hit the ground. They reacted instantly, whirling around with ectoguns pointed at him. "Good work getting us out, ghost," Maddie said coolly, "but you're going to put those cuffs back on and come with us."
"Are you serious?" Danny asked sardonically. "I get you out of a life-or-death situation and you pull this on me?" Not that he didn't expect it, but still.
"You're a ghost and we're ghost-hunters, we don't owe you any favors," Jack said shortly, walking up to him with the cuffs out.
Suddenly there came a gust of white snow that toppled Jack over into Maddie. Danny jerked back and looked around. There was the ghost from before, the one he had been chasing before getting into this mess with his parents.
"Where are you?" he screamed, throwing up another surge of snow. Danny ducked out of the way just in time for Maddie to fire an ectoblast at the ghost. It took the hit and recoiled, flying back into the snow. Jack was right there beside Maddie, holding a gun awkwardly with his left hand.
The ghost charged at them with an unearthy bellow, causing the trees around to shiver. Danny flew at the ghost head-on and shouldered it back away from his parents. "Why can't you just stay down?" Danny asked irately. Of course, the ghost did not stay down this time either. Maddie and Jack fired shots that just narrowly missed him, and he was sure this wasn't deliberate. The twin green beams struck the ghost at once and pushed him back into another tree. There was an ancient creaking as the trunk snapped.
He was worried about all this racket causing another avalanche. He was getting weaker by the second from his fever and he couldn't manage saving his parents from a second avalanche – not without falling unconscious and turning back into Fenton, a change he could feel surging up in his chest more and more.
The ghost flew around Danny and past Jack, who swung out with a stumpy mace-looking object that crackled with green lightning. Whatever it was it hurtled the ghost off into the side of the mountain, green smoke drifting off the impact point on his arm.
"We don't have the thermos," Jack panted to Maddie as she reloaded the ectogun. "Should we just cuff this one instead?" The ghost in question began to stir, sifting his way out of the snow and rubble he'd piled up. He looked around frantically and Danny wondered if this ghost really was blind. But what was he looking-
Then an idea struck him. "Wait!" he called to his parents, who didn't look back at him. "Let me try talking to him!"
"Talking to it?" Maddie asked skeptically. "Phantom, you've had us trust two ghosts in the past-"
"Look, okay I get it! You think ghosts are evil!" He flew down in between his parents and the ghost, who had begun frantically churning through the snow. "And if it doesn't work you can shoot all you want. But I kept my word, and so did Mary Anne. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
He didn't wait for an answer from them. Obviously he would get it in the form of an ectoblast to the back but he managed to reach the ghost without feeling anything from them.
The ghost was still calling out, fumbling into the forest as though Danny and his parents were no longer there. Danny squashed the warmth in his chest as far as he could and said, "Mary Anne."
The ghost ceased almost instantly and turned to face Danny, eyes focusing for the first time on him. The bright, angry red of his eyes was now dull, almost black. "You found her?" the ghost asked, its echoing voice thick with worry.
Danny was shocked by the sudden change in the ghost but recovered quickly when he heard his parents coming up from behind. "She's in the caves," Danny said quickly. "She was playing hide and seek but she got lost. She's waiting for you to come get her."
The ghost looked over Danny's shoulder to the mountainside where the little cave entrance stood like a scar. Maddie and Jack flinched when the ghost started to move towards it but Danny threw his hands out towards them hissing, "Don't shoot!"
They followed from a safe distance as the ghost floated back to the side of the mountain, up to the little crevice. "Mary Anne!" he cried.
After a brief, agonizing silence, Danny heard the little ghost's voice again. "Daddy?"
Mary Anne's father phased into the cave, scooping the little ghost up in his arms. "Daddy!" she yelled over and over. "I'm sorry I made you mad!"
"I ain't mad, honey," he replied, but his voice was fading out. "I'm just glad yer okay." There was a sudden, blinding flash of light, and once it died down, the cave was empty. The air around them seemed less tense.
"They must've fulfilled their obsessions," Jack commented to the two remaining people – or, person and ghost.
"How did you know?" Maddie raised an eyebrow to Danny, the gun not pointed at him for once.
Danny again secured his grip on the humanity in his chest before answering in English. "Because I listened to them," he replied. "You ought to try it some time."
While his parents were still looking into the cave, Danny turned invisible.
"Where did that little brat go?" Jack exclaimed, but Danny was already flying up and away from the mountain. They were safe from the ghosts now, and back on the correct side of the mountain. It took only a short flight until he found the cabins again. No sooner had he phased back through the roof that he transformed into Danny Fenton and collapsed onto the bed, rolling up in the comforter. The illness swept over him like a tidal wave and he pressed himself deeper into the pillow, groaning. He felt even worse than he had when he woke up. The smell of the soup beside him, now undoubtedly cold, made his stomach flip and he almost got up to vomit. It passed, however, and he somehow managed to fall asleep.
He was woken up about an hour later by his mother. "Hey, Danny," she murmured, "how are you feeling?"
Danny blinked groggily at her. "Worse," he grumbled weakly.
Maddie sighed. "Sleeping all day didn't help any?"
He laughed shortly, but this made him break out into a coughing fit. "No," he replied once he got himself under control. Maddie had handed him a cup of water which he sipped at timidly, not trusting his stomach.
"Well, the ghost thing's all cleared up," she told him, "so we can head out now. Your father sprained his hand so we need to stop by a clinic anyway. Maybe they'll have some medicine for you too."
"What happened to dad?" Danny asked dutifully, playing into the role.
Maddie shrugged, her purple gaze flickering from his. "Oh, he fell while we were out on the mountain. We took care of it."
His father burst into the room, looking no worse for wear than usual. "Danny boy!" he called. "You're up! We're all packed up and we're gonna head out now. You feeling well enough to move?"
"Yeah," he replied, setting the glass down on the nightstand.
His parents stared at him with wide eyes for a painfully long moment. Danny stared back, unsure of what was going on.
"'Yvet'?" Maddie repeated.
Danny felt cold hands clench his heart. "Uh," he stammered, clearing his throat. "N-no, I said 'yes'."
AN: This is just something I wrote last night, it's just a one-shot set about one year after the show. The tone isn't as mature as "Green Jacket, Red Sleeves" so hopefully I was able to stay more true to the characters. I apologize for any mistakes, inconsistencies, or out-of-character actions. I hope you enjoy nonetheless!
To the guest reviewer, this is not meant to be a revelation fic. I'm sure Danny could explain himself out of this very easily if that is the ending you prefer, but I left it open so that anyone could interpret it how they wish (and if you do want it to be a revelation fic, feel free to interpret it that way). I will not be writing any more for this story, it is meant to be a one-shot.