Well, here we go with a Danny Phantom and Persona 4 crossover. I'll admit that the original bit that launches Danny into the story is pretty unoriginal and probably a bit contrived, but aside from going the route of the Fentons already being dead, this is the only way I can see him getting to Japan. Anyways, I feel that I should warn you that the first few chapters will probably be a bit rough as I try to get into the flow of the story, I'll try to smooth it out as much as I can, but I always have a few issues as I start a new story. As for the length of the chapters you can probably expect this to be about the normal length, give or take a couple thousand words.
You will notice several changes in the story line to both Persona 4 and Danny Phantom, significantly more for the latter, but they should be relatively obvious. I figure I should mention now that at least for a while Danny will be pretty OOC, though over time he'll slowly drift closer to his carefree attitude you see in the show. The main pairing in the story is going to be Danny and Naoto, though I may play a bit of pair the spares if enough people would be interested in seeing it, otherwise I'll probably just have the rest of the characters remain platonic with each other.
With all of that said, if anybody is genuinely interested in becoming a beta for the story I'd more than appreciate the help. But for now just sit back and enjoy the story, if you'd like.
21/08/2015 Update: I'm going to be slightly editing several of the chapters, mainly to correct a few of the issues that it has in the direction that I've decided to take it, leading up to the release of the next chapter. Namely the express inclusion of the Social Links. They'll still sorta exist just in a more...metaphysical sense rather than a real sense. No more flash of light for Danny and his express knowledge of 'Leveling up' the links and such. Igor, Margaret, and Marie will expressly know of them and speak of them from time to time, but beyond that I just kinda felt like they were a bit tacky.
Anyways, like I said before, Chapter Seven IS coming. I know it's been a long time coming, and I wish that I could give you more than just one chapter right off the bat, but up until recently life has been stubborn about allowing me to have time to sit down and write. No excuses, no bullshit, I just needed to focus on other stuff, and it may well happen again. But I plan on sticking with this story until it's finished. Even if I go a couple of years without updating it, I promise that I will always come back to it.
The Hollow Years
Daniel Fenton was, if you asked nearly anybody who knew him, a perfectly normal young man, who had perfectly normal hopes and dreams for his future. With all due respect to those people, they were painfully unaware of what was right in front of their faces.
The truth was that Danny was exceedingly abnormal. Where many sixteen year olds only worried about their grades and whether or not they would get lucky at the end of their date night, Danny had to worry about whether or not he, and any given person in Amity Park, would live to see the next day. He also had to worry about a variety of other 'normal' people, including his own parents at times, who wanted nothing more than to capture and dissect him.
In short, Danny Fenton lived a very stressful life, which was brought home even further when his brief romantic relationship with his former best friend, Samantha Manson, had been squashed violently by a combination of her parents meddling and her own rising insecurities. At first things had been going wonderfully, but soon enough she began questioning all of his interactions with females outside of his family.
While he had tried his best to work with her to make both of them happy, he eventually realized that it was doomed to failure. In the end the relationship lasted only a few short months before it ended in disaster, taking their friendship down with it. With the end of his friendship with Sam, the clock began on his friendship with what was now his only real friend, Tucker Foley.
Their friendship didn't end with shouting or angry words, but it was no less painful for Danny. He had tried everything he could to preserve their friendship but Tuck had always been on Sam's side when their relationship issues started and, sadly, time slowly worked against him.
Over several months, Danny and Tucker slowly drifted apart, where he used to always be ready to help Danny during his nightly ghost hunting he began to have other business to deal with each night, and it only went downhill from there. After a few months he stopped coming to the house, then he began drifting away from Danny at school, until the final nail in the coffin developed when he and Sam started dating. Danny never held it against him, and he hoped that the two were happy together, but he couldn't face either of them after that development and it seemed that the feeling was mutual.
The end result was that Danny withdrew into himself and concentrated solely on developing both his grades and his powers. Slowly he began to notice that his power level seemed to be developing at an amazing rate, and when he asked Clockwork about it he seemed to only give the vaguest of answers. After failing to get a true answer from the time master he chose to keep a closer eye on his progress, and over time it seemed to stabilize, though he was significantly more powerful than he'd been before.
Before this discovery he hadn't ever thought much about tracking his progress, but after asking several other ghosts that he was on good terms with about it they confirmed it was unusual for such a large amount of growth in a short time-span, but couldn't tell him more past that. Danny had briefly considered asking Vlad about the development but had shot down that idea almost as soon as it occurred to him; he failed to see how asking the man who wanted nothing more than to mould him into a miniature version of himself would help him figure out this issue.
Eventually he decided that if he couldn't get a direct answer from anybody on it then he would just content himself with documenting his progress, and turned his efforts to training his powers again. It seemed as if that was the correct choice because after what he'd dubbed his 'growth spurt' his powers began developing at an amazingly fast rate, and in interesting ways.
He had found that while his ecto-bolts were certainly still his most immediately useful weapon, having gained significant power through the growth, and it seemed like channeling them into physical attacks was a much more viable option now. As soon as he learned this he changed his fighting style to feature more physical attacks once he had closed in on his opponent and, after adopting this style, he'd went to his mother for close combat training in an attempt to refine his technique rather than rely on brute force. Not long after starting his training he decided to change his hairstyle, more for the practical reasons that close combat brought to the forefront of his mind than any cosmetic reason, at least that's what he told himself despite allowing Jazz to style it into a somewhat rough but somehow attractive asymmetrical style.
While his parents had originally questioned why he came to them for training they quickly understood when Danny, after two years of hiding it, revealed his status as a half-ghost. Jack and Maddie had taken it hard, but managed to bounce back after he'd explained everything to them, and why he'd kept it a secret for so long.
Soon after the growth of his powers Danny's uniform began changing as well. While both his human and ghost half had aged and developed physically at the same rate, up until the most recent change Phantom had still worn the hazmat suit he'd been 'born' in. The changes were startling to him at first, his pants had morphed into a pair of well-fitted black slacks with silver pinstripes on them, accompanied by a silver-buckled belt with two medium sized pouches on it, and his boots changed to black snakeskin boots, complete with a polished shine. Just as his lower half had transformed his top had changed to feature a simple ivory-colored dress shirt, a well tailored dark gray vest complete with silver filigree accents and four silver buttons, a black and white mottled scarf wrapped around his neck and shoulders with two intricately carved silver pendants bearing his symbol on them, and a light leather jacket adorned with what seemed to be silver arm bands with intricate designs carved into them along with a black leather shoulder holster for which he had no discernible purpose other than possibly carrying an ecto-gun as a backup.
The end result of the changes was that instead of the slightly ridiculous child he'd looked like before, his image was similar to what he would expect a private detective or explorer from a pulp fiction story set in the early nineteen hundreds to look like...though he was less than thrilled to say that he still looked more androgynous than masculine. At first he had hated the change, he complained that it was impractical, he'd been accustomed to his old hazmat suit and, worst of all, Vlad had complimented him on his fashion 'choice'. Eventually he got used to his new form and even, slowly, grew to appreciate the somewhat 'vintage' look, even going so far as adopting the style in his human form when he wasn't at school, minus the jacket and scarf of course. At first he was somewhat concerned about the similarities between his forms, but he quickly found that school was the only time he was around other people enough to make them curious about the similarities between his forms anymore. As time wore on and Danny continued to grow in power, skill, and reputation the ghosts that had terrorized Amity Park for so long slowly began withdrawing back to the ghost zone, with the exception of those that were coming for the express challenge of fighting him.
At first Danny thought it was karma giving him a break, and was hoping that maybe he would see a similar drop in the human crime rates as well, but when they failed to come back he knew that something had to be wrong. It was just as he was considering going to Clockwork to see what was wrong that the Master of Time himself decided to appear in his home. That, ladies and gentlemen, is where our story truly begins.
Danny paced around his room nervously, desperately trying to decide what to do. While the complete absence of ghost activity had been a blessing at first it had started feeling odd after a few days, after an uneventful week he became rather unnerved that there wasn't even a single sighting of any ghosts, and now at the two week mark he was finding it absolutely nerve wracking. The only times that he'd ever seen the ghost community act like this was either during very brief truces or when something bad was building up. Seeing as how there hadn't been any activity since mid-March he was inclined to believe it was the latter, and he hated the idea of another outburst like with King Pariah.
Finally, after approximately another ten minutes of pacing he sighed and transformed silently, having long given up the ridiculous battle cry he used to favor. If no ghosts were going to come to him then he would go to them, namely Clockwork. Danny knew that it was unlikely that the Master of Time would be forthcoming with the details as to what this could be leading up to, but he had to try.
Danny was about to phase through the floor into the lab when, for the first time in two weeks, his ghost sense went off. He was slightly startled at the sudden sensation, he'd almost wondered if he'd lost the ability, despite the ridiculousness of the idea. Before he could even begin searching for the intruder he was caught off guard, again, by the voice of the very ghost he was about to go looking for, "Hello, Daniel."
Danny groaned inwardly, 'This is going to be bad…Clockwork never leaves his tower unless it's to deliver bad news.' he thought resignedly, before turning to the ghost who was currently locked into his old man form, "Hello, Clockwork. I'd ask how you were doing, but since you're here I doubt you're having a great day either."
Clockwork raised an eyebrow at that, "How do you know that I'm not here to tell you everything will be alright?"
"Because," Danny sighed, "You never tell me how things end, we both know there's an infinite amount of ways this could end. Just me eating eggs this morning instead of cereal could have life altering consequences, or some crap like that."
The Master of Time couldn't help but chuckle as he shifted into his child form, "I see. Well I can safely tell you that what you ate for breakfast this morning will not significantly change the future this time."
Danny rolled his eyes at that, "You know, somehow that doesn't make me feel any better at all. What cheerful news do you have for me today, Clockwork?" He asked in a sarcastic tone.
Clockwork's smile faded slightly at that and he sighed as he transformed into a young man, "As unfortunate as it is, Daniel, I'm afraid you've guessed my purpose correctly. That said, this is something that you will have to inform you parents of as well."
Danny raised an eyebrow, "I see…I suppose this is going to be one of those things where my life is going to be a lot more difficult in the foreseeable future then." He said, rather than asked. At Clockwork's nod he sighed and let go of his ghost half. "Fine…I'll get my parents, meet us in the living room."
Clockwork nodded at him before disappearing, leaving Danny to shake his head and massage his forehead in frustration as he phased through the floor and made his way to the lab where his parents were working on whatever new invention they'd thought up. He knocked quietly against the door frame as he appeared and smiled when his parents jumped a little, "Hey, Danno, what's up?" Jack asked, excitedly.
Danny gave him a small smile before motioning over his shoulder, "We've got a guest, a ghost named Clockwork. He's helped me out in the past and it looks like he's got some new information for me. He says that you guys need to hear it too…before we go though you should know he's the master of time. Whatever he says will or will not happen…that's probably how it's going to be, for better or for worse." He told them, somewhat hesitantly.
Maddie's eyes widened at the implications and she nodded slowly, while Jack grinned at the prospect of meeting another ghost, "Alright, honey…take us to him." She replied after recovering from her momentary shock.
Danny's smile died as he turned around and led them up to the living room, his mind racing a mile a minute trying to guess what Clockwork would be telling them…he knew it was a pointless exercise, even if he managed to figure out some of it then there would be just as much that would still be a surprise. He couldn't help but grumble under his breath as he sat down on the couch after introducing his parents to the older ghost, he really and truly hated these visits from Clockwork.
"Well, now that the introductions have been finished, I'm sure that Daniel has already told you that I'm here to discuss some important matters with you." At Jack and Maddie's nods he turned to Danny and continued, "As you're no doubt aware the vast majority of the denizens in the Ghost Zone both fear and despise you, but due to your recent surge in power many have chosen to withdraw back to the ghost zone."
Danny snorted derisively at being told the ghosts' feelings about him, as if he didn't know, "I've figured that much out on my own, Clockwork." He said, somewhat sarcastically.
Clockwork shrugged and continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, "After much debate the Ghost Council has declared that they want to offer a peace treaty with you. Their terms are simple in that they are to avoid Amity Park and in return you are not to harm them or take any offensive actions against them. Obviously if a ghost were to stray to the human realm then you could deal with them as you see fit and then return them to the ghost zone where they will receive punishment from their own kind, though the treaty does not forbid them from accessing the human world entirely. Only Amity Park is expressly off limits to their incursions."
Danny raised an eyebrow at that, "Okay…I'm not seeing the bad side to this." He said cautiously.
The Time Master sighed and shook his head, "That would be because I haven't got there yet, Daniel. Right now this is just me being the Ghost Council's representative, once you've agreed to the terms of the treaty I will continue with the rest of the news."
"Done." Danny answered immediately, a small wave of relief washing over both his and his parents faces at the news that the treaty was genuine.
"Good." Clockwork replied, letting a small smile play across his face, before frowning again, "Unfortunately that brings us to our next topic…your future."
Danny's eyes widened and he could feel the color drain from his face, he glanced at his parents and saw that they had similar, though less drastic, reactions. "I'm afraid, Daniel, that my hold on your counterpart is growing weak. Dan has been constantly attempting to escape for years and, as you've suspected, it is inevitable that he will. Sometime within the time frame of two years Dan will break free and he will likely attempt to destroy me. He will wreak havoc on the Ghost Zone before he comes to the human world. As much as I would like to say otherwise this cannot be prevented, the most that can be done is to delay the process."
Danny shook his head trying to deny what he was hearing but knew it was true, "You're positive? What am I talking about, of course you're sure." He muttered before drawing in a shaky breath, "What do I do?"
Clockwork grimaced, "Daniel, what I'm about to ask of you will not be easy for you, but you must do it. I know it will be no comfort now, but in the near future you will find yourself the happiest you've been in years, despite this knowledge that will plague you."
Danny stared at the ghost, more than just a little afraid, and tried to swallow the lump that had developed in his throat, "Tell me…"
Clockwork glanced at Jack and Maddie who looked just as fearful as Danny, before nodding. "Very well...before I tell you, believe me when I say that I wish there was another way." At Danny's hesitant nod he continued, "Right now Dan is drawing power from you, there is nothing you can do to prevent it while you are here. The only way to stop him from gaining power is to put distance between yourself and the portal here in Amity Park. Coincidentally this coincides with the plans of an...associate of mine. Your assistance is required in Japan where, if everything goes according to plan, you will stay for two years before returning here to face Dan."
Danny blinked before shaking his head. Alright…that doesn't seem so difficult, we don't have much reason to stay here anyways. He thought to himself and when he glanced at his parents they seemed to be coming to the same conclusions. However that illusion was shattered with Clockwork's next sentence.
"You will have to leave your family behind, Daniel."
Danny's eyes flashed green at that and he shook his head violently as he jumped up off the couch, "Like hell I will! Why the hell would I need to do that?" He asked angrily, jumping to his feet.
"Because, Danny, somebody has to keep watch on the ghost portal. You know as well as everybody else in this room that it cannot be shut off without expelling disastrous amounts of energy into your world." He said calmly, clearly expecting the outburst from Danny.
"Bullshit! Valerie is still hunting ghosts and she's capable enough to keep watch on it." Danny argued.
Clockwork nodded, "Yes…she is very capable, and she will be helping to watch it…but she will need help when the time comes if you are to have any warning at all." He explained calmly.
Danny's eyes widened in realization and he shook his head silently, horror at what he was thinking written on his face. He looked desperately at his parents and saw the same fear reflected on their faces, but also a grim acceptance. "No! I will not let them stay here alone to deal with him!" He shouted, not caring as a sad look crossed Clockwork's face. He was about to continue when his mother spoke for the first time since introducing herself.
"Danny, listen to me." She said softly, though somewhat shakily. Once she was sure she had his attention she gave him a sad smile, "You've made us very proud with the way you've turned out. You're a great person and have proven that you're a real hero, you're willing to put your life on the line to protect others, even if they don't deserve it and, most importantly, you're my little boy. From everything you've told us about this horribly warped future I know you will never be like him. I know you hate running from a fight, but if that's what your friend tells you will help you defeat him then that's what you need to do."
Danny shook his head, "But I can beat him! I did it before when I was fourteen and I wasn't even close to as powerful as I am now…I know I can do it!"
Clockwork shook his head, "No, Daniel. The reason you beat him when you were fourteen was because you caught him by surprise. He severely underestimated you then and he will not do so again. As for you thinking that you're more powerful than him, you are severely mistaken. If I had to guess I would say that you only have three quarters of the power he has, and he has vastly more experience using it. Unfortunately you will never be as powerful as he is, because he is willing to do things to gain more power, dark and terrible things that you can't and shouldn't ever do. In short, if you were to stay here you would die a horrible death, and after that he would ravage the rest of the world because even though you're not powerful enough to defeat him on your own, nobody else has a chance of standing against him, at least not without leading down an even darker path."
Jack and Maddie both stood up and walked over to him, grabbing him into a hug, "It's going to be alright, son." Jack said soothingly.
Danny clenched his eyes shut for a moment, willing himself not to cry, before pulling away from the hug, unable to stand the close proximity of his family…people who he was leaving to face unknown horrors when Dan came through the portal. "Why does it have to be Japan? Can't I just move somewhere in the United States? Besides, I don't even know how to speak or read Japanese, how would I talk to anybody over there, never mind go to school?"
The old ghost sighed tiredly at his argument, "I am capable of giving you that knowledge directly, Daniel. It will be...unpleasant at first, and you will have a very bad headache for a few hours, however afterwards you will be able to speak and read Japanese just as fluently as you can English, though you may have some issues with mixing the languages at first." He explained slowly.
"That still doesn't explain why I have to go to Japan." Danny responded stubbornly, crossing his arms.
Clockwork stared at the younger ghost for a few moments, allowing his annoyance with the argument to show before speaking. "I'm afraid, Daniel, that I don't know the answer to that question." He answered, somewhat coldly, "Whenever I try to observe the outcome of your failure or refusal to go to Japan my screens are entirely obscured by fog."
Danny gaped at him in a mixture of horror and confusion as he took in what the master of time was saying, "But...how can you not see what happens? Does that mean..."
Clockwork shook his head, "I do not know. I see that you are beginning to grasp the importance of your trip though. Even if you were to succeed by staying here, which I assure you is impossible, your failure to travel to Japan would lead to a future that I can not see or account for...assuming there even is a future to be had there."
"I...understand, Clockwork. But still even going to Japan, how do I know where I need to be? Where will I live? I don't know anybody there." Danny replied quietly, though he was met with no reply from the timeless ghost, merely a raised eyebrow towards his mother.
Maddie stared at the ghost in shock as she realized what he was getting at, before sighing heavily, "Danny, honey, that's not entirely true. We do have family there, my step-brother lives in Japan and has made a good life for himself. It's been a little while since I've talked to him but we always had a good relationship, and I'm sure that he would be okay with you going to live with him if I called and said it was an emergency."
Danny looked between Clockwork and Maddie skeptically, "Err, Mom, are you really sure he could do that? And even if he would be willing to, what emergency could possibly be worth sending me to live with a guy I've never met for two years and not only attend but also graduate a school in a country I've never even been to?" He asked incredulously, "Besides, aren't the Japanese decidedly...unwelcoming of outsiders coming to live there? How would we get me permission to live and go to school there, especially on such short notice?"
Maddie sighed and shrugged, "Danny, I understand you're scared, but I assure you that Ryotara will let you stay with him, and he's not xenophobic like you might think, okay? He and his father lived here for a while, Mom married his dad after her and Dad split up and when they went back to Japan she followed, that's why you never got to see her." She explained heavily, before giving him a small smile and continuing, "And for your information you have been to Japan before. We all went to visit your Grandma when you were born, since she hadn't got to see Jazz either, we were there for a few months until we came back."
The surprise at her explanation was clear on Danny's face as he listened to her, "I...well, I guess that explains why he might be willing to take me in if there was an emergency big enough." He replied, trailing off for a moment before continuing, "But that still leaves us with an emergency that doesn't exist yet and doesn't solve any of the issues with the Japanese not wanting me there as a whole."
A calm smile crossed Clockwork's face at the younger ghost's response, "You need not worry about the necessary documentation, Daniel, I'll make sure it gets taken care of and delivered to you in plenty of time for your trip, as for the reason you should tell him that you need his help I recommend a small portion of the truth." The ghost assured him.
Danny raised an eyebrow towards Clockwork, "Alright...I won't question you on being able to get the documents taken care of, even as sketchy as it sounds, but what exactly do you mean when you say a portion of the truth? Somehow I don't think telling him that I'm half-ghost and that my...well that things are going to go south here because of me will help us."
Jack gave a small, sad, laugh as sat down on the sofa across from his son and the ancient ghost, "I think we'll think of something that doesn't involve that, Son. We...we can probably tell him something along the lines of us needing to make needing to make...final arrangements and that we can't do it with you here. It'll be a fragile excuse, at best, but we'll make it work...don't worry."
There was another heavy pause as what Jack suggested weighed on everybody's minds before Danny looked to Clockwork tiredly, "Fine, we've got at least a rough idea of how we're going to go about doing this then. When do I have to leave?"
"You should leave no later than Wednesday of next week." He said seriously, not wavering despite Danny's angry look, "I understand how you feel about this, Daniel, but it must be done if the world has any chance whatsoever of surviving this crisis."
"Alright, fine. Is there anything else we need to know?" Danny asked, doing his best to keep the anger out of his voice. In all honesty he wasn't angry at the ghost…he knew it wasn't his fault, he was just very upset with the situation, unfortunately getting upset wouldn't fix it and he knew that.
"No…I should be heading back to my tower. You are free to tell Jazz about our discussion and what you must do, as well as Valerie and your...friends." He said strictly, before pressing the largest button on his staff and blinking out of existence.
Danny turned to his parents who were both looking at him with badly disguised worry, "I'm going to get ready to start packing. We can talk later, if you want, but right now I need some time to think, I also want to talk to Jazz…you guys good with a family dinner tonight?"
Maddie nodded understandingly, "Of course, Danny…we understand. Tell us when you want to talk and we'll be ready. What do you want for dinner?"
"I'm thinking lasagna." Danny answered with a pained smile. Maddie nodded her head and smiled at him, knowing that he'd chosen it because it was his sister's favorite. "I'll talk to you guys later." He said as he walked up to his room.
Danny spent two hours sorting through his belongings, trying to decide what to take and what to leave with his parents. He found it depressingly easy to fit the few items he was taking with him that weren't ghost hunting gear into his backpack before turning his attention to packing most of his clothes in a suitcase. It wasn't as if he didn't have the money to buy a television or any other luxury items aside from his laptop, which he mostly used for his ghost database, it was just the simple fact that up until recently he'd been too busy between school, ghost hunting, and crime fighting when the ghosts had retreated.
Danny had almost finished packing when he accidentally knocked the little box he kept his smaller personal items in off his desk. He bent down to pick it and the spilled contents up but froze when he grabbed the emerald-stoned ring he'd given to Sam when they were dating. He sat down on his bed and stared at it numbly, his heart throbbing as he looked at her name engraved on the inside of the band.
To be honest Danny wasn't sure why he'd kept the ring for so long after he and Sam had ended their relationship. He knew there was no point in keeping it, especially since she seemed to do her best to completely ignore him whenever she saw him, Tucker wasn't any better now, but he just hadn't been able to bring himself to get rid of it. Perhaps there was a tiny part of him that had hoped that they would eventually be able to work it out, though if it did exist that had been squashed ruthlessly when she and Tucker had started dating.
What probably hurt the most about the entire situation was that it really and truly seemed as if the two of them were better off without him. Sam had moved on past her Goth stage and had made many more friends as she became more sociable, Tucker following suit though he would never give up his technology. And overall they just looked happy together, and while he was glad that they had each other that never helped the dull pain that began eating away at him whenever he saw them.
Danny was so lost in his thoughts that he hardly even noticed the soft knock on his door before Jazz let herself in, "Hey, little brother, Dad said you wanted to talk to…" She trailed off as she saw her brother look up at her, pain clear in his eyes as he held the ring.
When Jazz had heard about what had happened between Danny and Sam she'd damn near went on a rampage, particularly after seeing firsthand how much pain her little brother was in, but he'd been able to convince her otherwise, desperate to just try and forget about the situation. She knew better than to believe it would work like that. She hadn't heard about Tucker withdrawing his support from Danny until almost a month after it had happened and that time she actually did go yell at Danny's former friend, without her brother's knowledge, and had warned the boy that if he or Sam ever hurt Danny again that she would make their lives a living hell. Ever since then both of the teens had avoided her like the plague, which was probably better for everybody.
The bed underneath Danny creaked as Jazz sat down next to him and put an arm across his shoulders, looking down at the ring in understanding, "Are you okay, Danny?" She asked quietly, praying that he wouldn't push her away like he had when he was younger.
Danny let out a cold and humorless laugh, making a shiver go down Jazz's spine. "No…no I don't think I am, Jazz."
Jazz looked at him sadly as she remembered the happy boy he'd been years ago, just after getting his powers…the world had chewed him up and spit him out multiple times over the years until he'd become a sarcastic, bitter, and cynical shade of his former self. Even then she knew that he loved her and her parents more than anything else in the world, she'd known that all along it had just really hit home when she'd become his only confidant. But even in the darkest times of her life she hadn't seen Danny quite so distraught…there was something else going on, something much worse than him having painful memories of unfaithful friends.
"What's wrong, Danny?"
Danny looked up at her, his eyes filled with pain and what she recognized as self-loathing…she'd seen it on his face often enough whenever he'd failed to save somebody, "You know how there haven't been any ghosts coming around lately?" He asked suddenly, after looking at her in silence for a minute.
She nodded silently, she knew that he'd been worried sick about the lack of activity and was almost afraid to hear what he'd found out. "Did something happen?"
Danny shook his head, "Kind of…for once it was actually good on that front though." He said, and she smiled optimistically at that, "I guess that I've been scaring them pretty bad recently…kicked their asses so hard that they've all retreated to the ghost zone. They extended a treaty…pretty simple and acceptable terms, really. They stay out of Amity Park and I don't kick their asses, if I happen to see one of them in our world I get to deal with them however I want and then send them back to the ghost zone to receive punishment from their own kind."
Jazz's smile brightened at that. She knew how hard her brother had been working towards this very goal, though his sour mood made no sense with it, "That's great, Danny!"
"Yeah…that's what I said too." Danny said, smiling wryly. At her curious look Danny ran the hand that wasn't holding the ring through his hair. "Clockwork was the one that came through to deliver it though."
The smile that had graced Jazz' features died a quick death, "Oh no…"
Danny nodded, "Oh yes. He didn't have good news, as I'm sure you can imagine."
"What did he tell you?"
Danny drew and released a shaky breath before looking at her, fear clear in his eyes, "Dan's going to break free within two years...he's going to kill Clockwork and destroy the Ghost Zone." Jazz gasped and tightened her arm on his shoulder. "Apparently I need to leave Amity Park, because he's somehow drawing in some of my excess power which would let him get out sooner. He said I need to go to Japan, I guess to stay with Uncle Dojima, until he comes back."
"You're going all the way to Japan? Did he say why?" She asked quietly.
Danny shook his head, "Not really. He said something about needing help to fight him…I'm not powerful enough to beat him alone. I can't be here when he comes through the portal…but mom and dad can't leave." He said painfully, tears pooling in his eyes, "They…I don't think they're going to make it."
Jazz clenched her eyes closed, much like Danny had earlier, and pulled him into a hug, her shoulders shaking. "Are you sure about that?" She asked, desperately.
"I-I'm almost certain." He answered, hating himself as he found he couldn't lie to her.
"A-and what about me?"
Danny's eyes flared brightly at the question and he wrapped his arms around her protectively, "The bastard won't fucking touch you." He growled, unwilling to accept any other possibility.
"Are you sure?" She sniffled, looking up at him.
"Positive." He said, squeezing her in his arms again.
Jazz managed a sad smile as the two of them sat there hugging each other. Finally she pulled away, "When do you have to leave?" She asked, somewhat subdued as she glanced around his room and noticed the missing items and packed clothes.
"Next Wednesday at the latest, though I suppose that whenever Mom and Dad can talk to Uncle Dojima and Clockwork gets my paperwork taken care of I'll need to go." He answered quietly clenching his fists before opening the one with the ring in it to look at it again.
Jazz looked at him sadly again as he returned to the same position he was in when she'd fist entered, "This isn't fair...why does it have to be so far away?"
He shook his head ruefully, "Apparently one of his 'associates' needs help or something, all the information he bothered to give me about it though." He muttered, somewhat bitterly.
"It'll be okay, Danny." Jazz said softly, resting her arm on his shoulder again.
Danny shrugged, "Maybe." He sighed, before looking down at the ring in his hand again.
Jazz followed his gaze and bit back a comment on how Sam wasn't worth him experiencing so much heartache instead she held out her hand in an offer she'd made several times before, "I can take it, if you want."
Danny looked between her hand and the ring for a moment, desperately trying to decide, before shaking his head closing his eyes as he clenched his fist, "Danny…I understand, but you have to let her go. I love you too much to see you put yourself through this constant misery, I know you don't want to hear it but she isn't worth your pain." Jazz told him softly.
"I know." He replied, his voice pained, "I don't...I don't think I really miss her anymore, I just...I miss having people other than my family that care about me."
Jazz could feel tears stinging at her eyes again as she listened to him, "It's okay to feel that way, Danny, but you'll never get any better if you don't let go."
Danny grimaced as he listened to her make the same argument she'd made for a year and a half. He knew that she was right, but that never made it any easier to accept it. Danny continued listening to her reasoning and slowly nodded his head, his heart pounded violently as he felt his sister's hand on top of his closed fist. Taking a deep breath Danny found swallowing difficult as he felt his hand heating up with ecto-energy and moments later he opened his hand to let the already cooled chunk of gold and emerald fall to the floor loudly.
Jazz pulled her brother into another hug as she watched him melt the ring in his hand. While she hadn't expected that she decided that it was probably better that way, and when the chunk of ruined metal and gemstone hit the floor she squeezed him tighter and kissed the top of his head before standing up with him. "Do you feel any better now?" She asked tentatively.
Danny shrugged non-committedly, much as she'd expected he would, "I'm not really sure."
She nodded in understanding, "You will…I promise. It just takes time."
Danny nodded slowly before beginning to walk out of his room, "Come on, Jazz, let's go eat dinner."
Dinner had been a very subdued affair. After the initial attempts by Jazz and Jack to lighten the mood the table had fallen silent as they all ate, their minds attempting to accept what they had been told. Danny and Jazz had taken it the hardest whereas their parents had seemed to accept the rolls they would play without hesitation, they weren't happy to do so but they understood the importance of it. They had always known that they would pass after a lifetime of ghost hunting and, while they had hoped it would be peacefully, knew that there was nothing that could be done about it. The only thing they regretted about how they would go was the effect it would have on their children, and the fact that they wouldn't be there to see the rest of their lives.
Jazz had trouble accepting both her parents' fate and their acceptance to it. While she knew it was probably for the best that they understood their places so well it still hurt her to see them so ready to die just because the Master of Time said they probably would. She understood it though and didn't press the issue with them. No, her largest issues were all centered on Danny and his uncertain future. In the year since he lost his friends the two had become very close and she worried about him both as a sister and as a good friend. Jazz knew Danny was hurting badly at their parents' fate particularly since it would be Dan that was the one to cut their lives short. She also knew he was worried about her and Clockwork's very vague mention of her, if she was honest with herself she was frightened as well but she wouldn't let him know…he had enough to deal with now.
Danny, for his part, was lost in his thoughts. He constantly replayed the conversation with Clockwork, looking for any small amount of hope that his family could survive the inevitable coming of Dan. As he thought about it he realized that truly the best he could hope for is that they would be out of town when it happened, but somehow he knew that wouldn't happen. He'd decided that he would talk to Valerie and explain the situation to her and even though his parents volunteered to do it after he was gone he knew it was something he needed to do himself.
The fact that he had to leave Amity left him feeling sick to his stomach, but he knew he had to do what Clockwork told him to or there would be no chance for anybody to survive. Over the years Danny had become good at self-sacrifice, Jazz would argue that he'd become too good to the point that it was entirely unhealthy, but he recognized the need for it, being one of the only two heros in the entire city. Hell for all he knew they were the only ones in the entire state.
After dinner had been finished, the table cleared and dishes done, the Fenton family made their way to the living room where they sat and talked to each other for a few hours. They didn't say a single thing about the future that weighed heavily on each of their minds, instead they did their best to keep to lighthearted topics. Jazz told them about a college she'd done some research on in California that had a very prestigious reputation for psychology degrees and that she'd been seriously considering moving there next fall. The closest they came to talking about the situation was when they began speculating what life would be like for Danny in Japan.
After a few hours Jazz had said good night to her parents and Danny walked with her out to her car to talk for a few more minutes before she finally left for her apartment. Once he came back in the house he'd said his own good nights to his parents and made his way upstairs to put his vest back on.
Once he'd finished getting dressed Danny silently transformed and flew through the ceiling to the roof of the ops center, turning tangible he leaned against the railing as he silently raged about the unfairness of what he was about to do, both to himself and everyone else. Finally, after several moments of internal struggle he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, flipping through his phone book until he got to Valerie he hit the call button and put the device to his ear and listened as it rang, almost wishing that she wouldn't pick up.
Suddenly there was a click as the ringing stopped, "Hello? Danny is this actually you?"
Danny shut his eyes tightly, running a hand over his face tiredly before sighing, "Yeah, Val, it's me."
He could almost hear the smile in her voice as he answered her, "Oh my god! It's been so long since we've talked to each other, I didn't know if you even still had my number!" He winced slightly as he pulled the phone away from his ear while she squealed in excitement, it seemed like she was almost as starved for attention from friends as he was. The only difference between the two of them in that regard was that while he had decided to distance himself from his peers, she was still trying to carry on a social life while being what amounted to a vigilante. He realized that he'd lost himself in that train of thought when he realized that she was still talking to him, "Hey, are you still there, Danny?"
He nodded, before realizing how stupid that was, "Y-yeah, I'm still here."
"Okay, I thought I'd lost you there for a second. So what's up, Danny? You never talk to me anymore, hell you don't really even seem to talk to anybody anymore, not since Tucker and Sam started..." She said, before trailing off, realizing her mistake, "Oh my god, I'm sorry, Danny! That was stupid of me, I just...well I haven't been talking to many people recently either and now I'm putting my foot in my mouth."
"I...no, it's okay, Val, I understand." He replied with a strained chuckle.
"Are...I mean..."He heard her let out a frustrated sigh, "Still I'm sorry." She managed to get out before trailing off, leaving the two of them in an awkward silence.
The silence continued for a few seconds before Danny sighed again, "Hey, look, Val, I'm sorry to do this to you and I know that it's starting to get late, but I need to talk to you in person. Can we meet at the park, in front of the statue?"
Valerie was quiet for a few moments before speaking, "I...guess. Danny, is something wrong?"
"No, everyth-" He started, before stopping himself and shaking his head, "Well...actually yes, everything is, Val. I should tell you now, things are messed up, and it has everything to do with ghosts this time." He said, trailing off before picking back up slowly, "Just...when you see Phantom, don't attack him, okay?"
There was silence for several seconds and then, "I can't promise anything..." Her voice was much harder than it was before, and he felt like she might have finally made at least part of the connection.
"Valerie, please just trust me, okay? All I'm asking is that when you see him you don't attack. I promise that everything will be explained."
"Fine...out of respect for our friendship I'll listen to you, but if he makes one wrong move I'm going to blast him." She replied, and before he could say anything else there was a click and all he was left with was the disconnected tone.
"That went better than I expected." Danny muttered quietly as he ended his side of the call and pulled his phone book back up to scroll through the numbers again, finally he came to the name he wanted and reluctantly hit the call button again and listened to the phone ring as he put it up to his ear again.
The phone rang several times, going on for almost a minute until the click came. Danny felt a mixed pang of hurt and anger in his chest as the call was answered. There was a heavy silence for a moment before a voice was heard on the other end, "H-hello?"
His voice brought the pain back to the forefront of his mind, the wound still feeling as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday, however now was not the time for feeling sorry for himself, and he had a very limited amount of time left before he was hung up on. Finally he spoke, and the coldness in his voice surprised even him, "Call Sam, Tucker, we need to talk. Meet me in the park at the usual spot...you do remember, right?"
"Y-yeah...hey, man I don't know what this is about bu-" Tucker started, but Danny didn't let him finish, cutting off his former friend.
"This isn't the time, Tucker. Get Sam and meet me there in half an hour." He told him, before hanging up the phone and putting it back in his pocket. He knew there was a chance that they wouldn't show up and that, even if they did, they might not bother listening to him. Unfortunately he had to at least try because the people he was meeting, his former friends, were among the most experienced ghost hunters in the United States, if not the world, and they had to know what was coming...if for no other reason than to help evacuate the city when the time came.