Just a quick note: I have no consistent head canon in these crossovers of mine. Relationships and the efficacy of salt will change in each one, so assume nothing, but enjoy everything! :D
Becca's got a theme-a-day calender for May over on tumblr (#phanniemay) for anyone who wanted to take part. I'm not writing anything for it specifically, but will be occasionally posting things that coincide with her prompts. As today's is "crossover," you get this a little earlier than I was planning on putting it up.
On the Nature of Ghosts
May 4, 2013
They had decided to hold conference in Danny's room, the one place in the house he assured them that his parents wouldn't actually drag them out of in order to show them a new set of blueprints or beaker full of bubbling green ooze in the basement. Probably.
Danny sat at the head of his bed, leaning back against his pillows and feet dangling carelessly over the side as they swung.
Sam Winchester happily co-opted the swivel chair at the teenager's desk, folding his lanky frame into the seat and seeming perfectly at home amidst the piles of textbooks behind him.
Dean, on the other hand, hadn't been at ease since he entered Fenton Works. It wasn't that weapons made him nervous, no, he was the most competent hunter either of the brothers knew and knew his firearms and assorted blades inside and out, but that easy confidence was reserved for when he was the one handling the weapons. That was not the case here and he did have problems with whole friggin' weapons systems laced through the house he was standing in, operated by hunters he barely knew and whose reputations, which preceded them, did nothing to calm his fears. The paranoia had increased about four fold when one of the alarms had gone off around an obviously human Danny, whose exasperated expression as he danced away from the green laser beams told him that this sort of thing happened all the time.
He thought it was perfectly reasonable that he found it hard to put down his guard at all while staying in a house that could blast him to pieces for absolutely no reason, so he stood, arms crossed, leaning against a wall between his brother and the son of their hosts, occasionally shifting his weight or pacing a few steps to find a new place to stand when the restlessness became too much.
Sam huffed softly at his brother's actions, understanding the reasoning behind them perfectly well, but also assured by Danny's promises and a lifetime of honed reflexes that they were safe from being attacked in, or by, this particular room, at any rate. He threw a somewhat apologetic grin at Danny after glaring when his brother muttered something inappropriate under his breath and checked the room's strategic entrances and exits for the fourth time with narrowed hazel eyes.
Danny grinned back at Sam, understanding both the reaction of any sane person to seeing his house's weapon's system in action for the first time as well as the interplay inherent to any sibling relationship, and finding it all pretty amusing.
"Okay," he said, breaking the silence and drawing attention from both of his guests, "so you guys have been hunting for a while, right?"
Dean's face automatically tightened as his first reaction to the question was to remember that they'd been hunting for nearly as long as he could recall. At the reminder of how and why they had been brought up in the life, came memories of that night that the younger Winchester had never remembered but had seen parodied in his California apartment. It was Sam who eventually answered when it became clear that Dean wasn't ready to. "Yeah," he said with an easy nod of his tousled head, "that's right. Been doing this as long as I can remember. Sort of a… family business, I guess."
Danny grinned self-deprecatingly. "Yeah, I understand where you're coming from there." He went silent for a moment as he recounted his own twisted family history and snorted at what must have been a particularly outrageous moment before clearing his throat and continuing, "So… you guys any good?"
At the question, Dean's face lifted. While both Winchesters might not either have liked the fact that they were part of the minority that saw what was out there in the dark because of how they'd gotten their start in the hunting world, but once they were in the life, they knew how to handle themselves. There wasn't a lot they could take for granted and they didn't have all that much, but hunting was one thing they excelled at. And while Sam knew that at an intellectual level, it was Dean who could revel in the fact, take pride in their work for the both of them.
"Yeah," he drawled. "We're the best."
Sam smiled at his brother's attitude. He knew that for as cocky as it sounded, it was still the truth. Danny, apparently, didn't quite believe the claim and pursed his lips to try to hide a smirk of his own.
"Okay," he said in what was trying not to come across in a condescending tone, "so how come I've never heard of either of you?"
Dean bristled and unknowingly straightened up to his full height as he jerked his head to the side and muttered something that Sam frowned at him for under his breath. Then he turned to the kid on the bed as he explained in clipped tones, "Look, we keep a low profile. Most people in the country are actually normal and don't believe in the stuff that goes bump in the night. If we go around telling people that we hunt ghosts and monsters, they'd lock us up in a nice padded white cell, okay?" He nodded to himself, a distant expression in his eyes that told Danny the situation probably wasn't as hypothetical as he was making it out to be.
For the first time, Danny wondered what it must be like for people who believed in ghosts but didn't live in Amity Park. Most of the time his family traveled, it was to family or friends who already knew and accepted their oddities or to scientific conventions where his parents were so well regarded they were honored guests if not speakers themselves. But he guessed that, yeah, most people probably didn't believe in ghosts. A couple years ago he didn't either, and thought his parents were crazy until jump starting the first hand experiences by becoming a half ghost himself. Which was something that even the ghost-jaded citizens of Amity would find stretching the limits of their already incredibly wide capacity to believe in the weird and wacky.
He was drawn back as the hunter concluded, "So no, you've never heard of us, but that doesn't mean anything. Why haven't I heard of your parents if they're so good, huh?"
By the time Dean saw the teenager's face shutting down at his words, he knew he had gone too far and probed too deep with the callous jab, but it was too late to take back what he'd said. Not that he didn't mean any of it, but, perhaps he could have spoken with more tact, especially since they were guests in the kid's house. Normally Sam was able to discreetly kick him in the shin before his mouth ran off with him, but, as they hadn't been standing next to each other, his brother had only been able to manage a glare. Which he had somehow missed in the course of his ranting. Freakin' town was getting to his head.
He took a deep breath to try to back peddle as best he could when Sam came to his rescue. His younger brother was looking up at Danny with a soft smile. "You'll have to forgive Dean," he said in a low voice as his smile grew wider, like he was letting the kid in on a secret. "He's not a big reader and doesn't really keep up with the latest findings in Paranormal."
Dean understood what his brother was doing and appreciated it on some level but couldn't automatically take kindly to being put down like he had been. It wasn't that he didn't read, he was just… selective in what publications he chose to pick up. And when it was researching for a case, he preferred to get information from a source that was actually reliable, not… wait…
"Hold on, Sammy, you said Paranormal? Like the editors-off-their-rocker journal Paranormal?" Dean asked with a disbelieving arch to his brows.
"Shut up, Dean," Sam said, not taking his eyes off of Danny, who was considering him closely. Wisely, Dean heeded his brother's advice and snapped his mouth closed. Sam must have been working some of his dewy eyed trust-me mojo on the teenager, because after a minute of silence, Danny nodded with downcast eyes and told his bedspread that it was, "no problem."
Then he even smiled knowingly over at Dean, who was rigid as he waited for reproof since, apparently, he had cause to have heard of the Fentons before starting this job in Amity Park. "You're right about Paranormal, though. Most of the stuff in there is pretty ridiculous. You wonder how people come up with that stuff sometimes, let alone get published."
Dean knew then that his previous outburst and dig at the Fenton's reputation wouldn't be held against him and allowed himself a grimace that was nearly a smile as he grudgingly agreed, "Yeah, some of that stuff is pretty crazy."
"I was wondering about that, actually," Danny said, sitting up straighter so that he could look at both brothers at once. Then, taking a deep breath, he braced himself and took the plunge by broaching the subject he had been wondering about ever since the hunters had arrived at their front door. "What you were asking about earlier downstairs…" he trailed off, not exactly knowing how to broach the subject.
The Winchesters locked eyes long enough to realize that neither one of them knew just what Danny was referring to.
"Which part?" Sam asked as he began replaying the conversation in his head. They had talked about a lot of things with the Fentons. Or, at least, they had asked a couple questions and the Fentons had done a lot of talking. Danny could have been referring to any part of it.
"The whole thing… you know… about the weapons and the whole you guys acting like you'd never seen a weapons system like ours before."
"Well," Sam said, shifting around in his seat as Danny eyed him carefully, "that's because we hadn't ever seen a house like yours before."
Danny sighed sharply. "Okay, I get that because our house is really weird," Danny conceded, "but I mean, you guys looked like you hadn't even heard of an ectoplasmic based weapon."
"That's because we haven't heard of those either," Dean said from the corner of the room. "Only time we've ever seen any ectoplasm is coming from a seriously ticked off poltergeist and then it's black and didn't look like it could have powered a weapon. I mean, the stuff is like tar."
"That's really weird," Danny said under his breath, his brow furrowed as he tried to reconcile his version of ectoplasm to theirs and think about what that meant. "So, like, none of the ghosts you hunt have even bled ectoplasm?"
Sam eyed the boy warily before slowly replying, "We've never seen a ghost bleed."
"Kind of hard for them to since they don't have bodies, you know?" Dean continued.
Danny thought about that for a moment. "Yeah, okay, maybe if you weren't using ecto-based weapons, you wouldn't be able to actually do anything to their bodies because of the intangibility and everything. That makes sense," he said, nodding to himself.
Sam and Dean exchanged a glance.
Then Danny suddenly canted his head. "Then what do you guys use to fight ghosts?" he asked, puzzled.
Dean gave him an almost bewildered smile as he tried to find the words to such an obvious question. "Well, the normal stuff. Shotguns full of rock salt and iron and…" he broke off as big blue eyes started staring at him like he was crazy. Then, turning to his brother. "Come on, help me out here man."
Sam quickly took up the explanation. "Our entire weapons system is all based on ancient lore. You see, all spirits and ghosts and other various monsters react badly against elemental forces of nature because they themselves are twisted forms. So for what you use, the purer the better. And salt and iron are some of the most basic ones. They're so strong that you can effectively trap a ghost in a closed circle of iron."
"And blasting it full of rock salt makes it disperse, gives you some extra time before it regroups."
Danny still looked at them skeptically, even though what they said sort of made sense on some really bizarre level. "So, you guys just always carry around salt shakers and iron bars, is that it?"
Sam smiled sheepishly as he pulled several salt packets out of his jacket pocket and Danny snickered. Then Dean pulled out a knife from one of his boots and held it out handle-side first to the teenager who looked at it warily.
As he offered it up for examination, Dean said, "It's a bit easier to just carry around a knife instead of an iron bar."
"Sounds like it," Danny replied, eyes never leaving the weapon, but not leaning forward or moving to reach for it. "I guess I'll just take your word for it that it works."
Shrugging to cover the disappointment that his rarely made offer for anyone else to handle his weapons had been rejected, Dean focused instead on answering the doubt that had nearly made the last statement a question. "It's a perfectly functional knife. Sharp blade. This way it will work on ghosts and anything corporeal."
"Corporeal?" Danny repeated with a snigger.
Sam looked like he was about to join in when Dean pinned him with a somewhat playful but very effective glare. Then as he slid the iron blade back to its hiding place, he muttered only half under his breath, "Shut up, you geek."
"I guess I must finally be rubbing off on you," Sam grinned. "You jerk," he belatedly added.
Danny watched the exchange knowing perfectly well that it was full of in-jokes that he wouldn't understand. After the moment seemed to be over, he tried to get the conversation back on track. "It doesn't sound like the salt holds the ghosts off permanently and the iron only trapped them. So… how do you actually get rid of ghosts when you're hunting them?"
"Salt and burn," Dean proclaimed, savoring every word as he said it as he turned back to Danny.
The teenager blanched a little. "You… burn the ghosts?"
"If you salt and burn the bones of the person who's died, it normally neutralizes the ghost. Puts them to rest, you know?" Sam explained.
"Oh," Danny nodded a little. "Okay," he said as he processed. "Then what do you do if there isn't a body to burn?"
"Yeah, that's happened a couple times," Sam replied. "Like when the person was cremated. If that's the case and they're still around haunting people, it means that they're still linked to this world through something else, normally a lock of hair, or sometimes it's a prized possession like a doll or something."
"Right," Danny drawled as he shifted uncomfortably. "Because a possessed doll isn't creepy at all."
"No," Sam rushed to explain, "it's not that the doll is possessed, it's just something that the person loved so much that part of them is still in it, still here, which makes it too hard for them to move on. But if you burn whatever that thing is, it's just like burning their bones."
"Poof!" Dean motioned with his hands. "And they're gone. Just like magic."
"And what if there isn't an object that they're attached to?"
"That's… never happened," Sam replied. "That's impossible. There has to be something linking the person to their life here. I mean, there can't just be a ghost wandering around," he chuckled uneasily as he considered the extremely unnerving prospect.
"There can be here," Danny said, clarifying at the incredulous looks, "I think Sydney Poindexter is the only ghost I know of that actually lived in Amity when he was alive."
"What?" The question came to him in surround sound.
"Yeah, but we destroyed the mirror in his locker. I guess that was his link here, like you said, so now he can't come out into the real world. But nobody in town has ever recognized a ghost as someone they knew or heard of. And it's not like the ghosts around here actually go by whatever their names were in real life. They all have names that fit with their obsessions. To be honest, I'm not sure that half of them were ever human to begin with."
"Wait, wait, back up," Dean said, holding up his hands. "What do you mean, 'obsessions'?"
"I mean… obsessions. Whatever the ghost really likes. It's something that links them to their specialized powers," Danny glossed as if the information was obvious. "The Box Ghost controls boxes. And bubble wrap," he allowed. "Technus can get into computers and control anything that runs on electricity if he wants. Ghostwriter's got a magic keyboard that will make you do anything he types out… That sort of thing."
There was a stunned silence from the two hunters. Dean kept squinting as he tried again and again to say something while Sam sat on the chair with his mouth partway open and looking like someone had dropped a bombshell somewhere nearby.
Dean finally started stuttering out some sounds that began to coalesce into words just as Danny was starting to worry.
"That… that is not normal," he finally stated with a finger accentuating each syllable. After another minute of silent finger jabbing, he whispered, "Dude, that is so freaky."
Finally Sam shook his head as if to clear it of cobwebs and looked over at the teenager sitting across from him. "What do you call these things?"
Danny stared at them both like they had lost their minds. He would have suspected that something ghostly had influenced their responses if he hadn't been sitting there the entire time without having had any triggering of his ghost sense.
"Uh… ghosts?" he said very slowly so that hopefully the brothers would be able to understand the word since they were clearly having problems figuring out what anything meant at that moment.
"Dude, those aren't ghosts," Dean said, shaking his head. "I don't know what they are, but they're not ghosts."
Danny smiled indulgently. "I don't know what to tell you…"
By this point, Sam has started wracking his brain for possible other candidates and dismissed them just as soon as he rattled them off on his fingers. "But they don't fit the modus operandii of a spirit, or a specter. They're not powerful enough to be poltergeists or half the town would be dead by now. Imprints wouldn't even be a problem. And there's no way that an entire town would be seeing the same phantasms; there couldn't be this many." He faltered for a minute before looking at his brother. "Dean, this doesn't make any sense."
"Wait a second," Danny cut in. "All the words you were just using, I thought those were all synonyms for 'ghost.'"
"To most people, maybe," Dean said. "But they're not interchangeable in our line of work."
"Okayyyy," Danny said as he blinked and tried to understand that there were different kinds of ghosts in the world. To some extent, it made sense, but knowing that ghosts actually existed was one thing. Finding out that there were all sorts of other crazy nasty creatures out there, ghostly cousins, that these guys had gone up against? Kinda freaked a person out. Just a bit.
"So tell us more about these 'ghosts' of yours. What can they do?" Sam asked, curiosity piqued now that he was confronted by an entirely new kind of creature.
Danny paused a moment, then began with the basics. "Well all ghosts can turn invisible, go intangible…"
"Intangible?" Dean asked.
"Yeah, it means they can pass through stuff in the human world," Sam helpfully supplied, although he seemed as interested in an explanation as his older brother.
"I know what it means, genius," Dean shot back. "But I wanted to know if it was at will. I mean, can they go anywhere, pass through any walls?" he was asking Danny now. "They're not bound to a single house or the original blueprints of the city?"
"No," Danny drew the word out as he answered, clearly not aware that this was the normal standard or procedure for most of the spirits Sam and Dean usually faced.
"Huh," Sam huffed. "That's interesting."
"Yeah, no kidding," Dean scoffed from his corner. "What else can they do?"
"Um, they can fly, fire ecoblasts, form shields…" the teenager ticked the abilities off of his mental checklist uncomfortably.
"Wait, what?" Dean leaned forward with his head canted to the side as if he had misheard.
Danny licked his lips and started to repeat the list, really starting to feel odd that the things he took for granted in a ghost were apparently completely new to the guys who hunted them around the country for a living.
"So yeah, they can use their energy to shoot at things or pull it up around them to form a shield in case another ghost starts trying to blast them. We've even got a ghost shield that we can put up around our entire house and the ghosts can't get through it. My parents have made all kinds of weapons based on an ectoplasmic power source already and they're looking into making more. They're really effective; it's like fighting fire with fire, you know?"
"So these ghosts," Sam said, trying to take it all in, "they use their ectoplasm as energy?"
"Yes?" Danny said, surprised that it had even been a question. "That's what ghosts are made of. So they can use the energy however they want."
"Okay, that's it," Dean said, pushing off of the wall and walking to the other side of the room. "There is no way these things are ghosts. Just… no way." He turned and looked at Sam. "I'm calling 'em 'ectos.'"
"Dean," his brother said with amused long suffering. "You didn't discover them. You can't name them."
"Well," Dean countered with a jerk of his thumb toward the rest of the town, easily visible outside the bedroom windows, "these guys are calling them ghosts and they can continue to call them ghosts for all I care but they're going down as 'ectos' in the journal."
"Yeah, okay, whatever you say, Dean," Sam agreed as the older Winchester began to prowl about the room. "These 'ectos,' your ghosts, they'd have to be extremely powerful to be able to use ectoplasm like that."
Danny snorted. "You got that right. But," he drew in a shuddering breath. "No casualties yet, thankfully."
Sam and Dean each gave him an incredulous stare.
"How is that even possible?" Dean asked after a too-long pause.
"Well, we've got weapons," Danny replied. "Containment devices. The humans around here can fight. And they, well usually, know when to run somewhere safe if it looks like it's getting too bad."
"Containment devices?" Dean asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Yeah, the Fenton Thermos," Danny answered.
"A thermos?" Dean parroted in a skeptical tone. "Like a soup can holder thingy kind of thermos?"
Danny grimaced before finally admitting that, "Yeah, it's been altered to hold ghosts, obviously, but that's basically all it is."
"And what do you do with the ghosts after they've been contained?" Sam asked curiously.
"Oh," Danny said, pulling his feet up onto the bed to let Dean pass him so he could lean against a different patch of wall. "We stick them back in the Ghost Zone."
Dean paused before he turned around. "The what now?"
"The Ghost Zone," Danny offered. "It's where they all come from."
"You mean there's a place where the ghosts…" Sam paused to search for an appropriate word before finally just using, "live?"
"Yeah," Danny confirmed. "It's a huge green place with lots of floating doors to different ghosts' lairs. It takes them a while to regroup and come back out again."
Dean held out a hand to interject before putting it over his mouth and closing his eyes tight. "So… you guys just face the same ghosts who come out over and over and over and over?"
Danny swerved his head from side to side as he thought about the question before confirming the startled question. "We get some new faces occasionally, but yeah, pretty much."
"And you don't kill 'em?" Dean fumbled a bit. "Er, you know what I mean? Gank them? End them? Cut short their afterlife?"
Danny looked at him in vague surprise, like the thought had never really occurred to him before. "No," he said simply. "They haven't killed anyone. And most of them aren't actively trying to be evil." He paused. "Mostly." Then scrunched his face. "Sorta. Look, it's complicated, okay?"
"Sounds like it," Sam spoke up from his place on the chair.
Danny sighed. "No, I mean there are good ghosts too! Like Danny Phantom hunts ghosts too."
"Excuse me?" Dean asked incredulously. He had heard of somewhat neutral supernatural entities like will-o-the-wisps that shone wherever they wanted no matter who was watching or death omens that predicted but did not bring about death, but a ghost that actively hunted more harmful ghosts? That was one that he'd never heard before. And even though there seemed to be a lot in this town that he'd never heard before, this was one thing that he wasn't so easily inclined to believe.
"It's true!" Danny protested, though. "He's one of the good guys. Town hero. Makes the front page sometimes and everything."
"The town hero is a ghost," Sam repeated with distant eyes. "Huh. That's new."
"Yeah, okay, so what does he do with the ghosts that he hunts?" Dean pressed.
"He puts them back in the Ghost Zone too."
"There's…" Danny paused for a minute before finally admitting, "a portal in our basement."
Sam's eyes went comically wide at the information. "You mean to tell me that there's a door to another dimension filled with ghosts trying to take over the world… and it's in your basement?"
Danny rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. "Yep. That's about the size of it. My parents will probably show you tomorrow when they drag you around on the grand tour of the place."
There was another pause before Dean began to chuckle and shake his head like he couldn't believe any of it. "Dude, do you know how messed up that is?"
Danny looked at him with an odd gleam in his eye. "Yes, I do," he nodded with a strange humor. "Yes, I do."