Summary: Or, relationship problems and ghost swords aren't the only things on Danny Fenton's plate today.
Danny Fenton was not having a great start to his day.
For one, it was Monday, which was always a horrible day of the week no matter how brightly the sun was shining or how sweetly the birds were singing. And that was disregarding the fact that Danny woke up before the birds. At two in the morning.
At any other time, he may have marveled at the rate the Box Ghost managed his escapes from the Ghost Zone but, running on two hours of sleep, he wasn't really in the mood for contemplation. Or the Box Ghost. It was only the fact that he had a hero complex the size of Far Frozen that made him get out of bed despite his exhaustion.
The halo of light from his mid-morph rings danced on the edges of his room, illuminating his backpack and the homework he'd left unfinished. In a flash, his pajamas disappeared in favor of a black HAZMAT suit with a peculiar symbol on it, and his hair went from dark black to a startling white. When he opened his normally blue eyes, they were a bright, toxic green.
Danny Phantom stood in the dark of the room, blinking dazedly for a few moments before remembering what he was doing. He scrubbed at the sleep in his eyes before very elegantly stumbling out of the window.
It only took a few minutes of graceless falling to find the Box Ghost. He was in an alleyway, messing around with some discarded boxes from a nearby restaurant. When Danny touched down, he was already in the middle of his usual rant.
"Beware, for I am the Box Ghost, master of containers square and rectangular! With my box army, I shall make the humans tremble!" When he noticed Danny, he pointed his army of floating Chinese food boxes in his direction. "Flee, halfa child, for you will not capture me with your cylindrical containment unit this time-!"
And into the Fenton Thermos.
Danny sighed and shook the thermos experimentally as the boxes clattered to the ground. Part of him wanted to leave the Box Ghost in there for a good week, but he knew how uncomfortable it was. He wasn't heartless. He'd just release him into the Lunch Lady's custody, instead-
Ew. Ew ew ew. He was going to need, like, twenty gallons of brain bleach to rid him of the horrid image of Box Lunch.
And oh, hey. Wow. Look at that- that was his ghost sense. Again. And that was definitely one of his ribs cracking under the weight of a two-thousand pound battle suit ramming into him.
"Skulker." He groaned, rolling out of a pile of trash and floating up to his feet. He turned intangible, letting the leftovers fall off of him.
The Ghost Zone's (self-proclaimed) Greatest Hunter clicked a button and revealed several rocket launchers on his back. He grinned predatorily.
"Ghost Child." He said in greeting.
"Here for my pelt?"
The grin grew wider. "Yes."
Danny, though tired, still managed to lunge into a roll before one of the rockets impacted. He had a vague, fleeting worry that Skulker would blow up some poor person's business, but it turned out that wasn't much of a problem. The rocket followed right after him.
He yelped, shooting up in the air as Skulker let them all loose from their chambers. One of the rockets strained forward just far enough ahead of its buddies to skim his boot and explode viciously.
"Having fun, Ghost Child?" Skulker asked as Danny fell, narrowly missing becoming a ticker tape mark on the pavement by stabilizing his flight a good three inches off the ground. The rockets hissed overhead, coming at Danny from all different angles, and- oh. Oh.
"Me? I'm just peachy." said Danny, avidly pretending that his leg wasn't absolutely killing him. He shot up sideways, then up, the rockets whizzing behind him noisily. Then, he stopped, mid-air. As soon as the first rocket brushed his nose, he dropped out of the sky at an angle too sharp for them to readjust their flights. They converged where Danny's body was, one giant explosion ringing out over Amity.
Skulker groped for an ectogun, but Danny was quick, blasting it right out of his hand before he could so much as touch the safety. After taking a moment to childishly revel in the grunt of surprise he'd received in return, Danny made quick work of disarming Skulker, ripping several of his weapons from his back. Once satisfied that his leg wasn't going to be blown up again, he floated to a stop in front of him. "But what's up your butt, Skulky?"
"Nothing is up my-"
"Did you and Ember have a fight?" The wince he got in return told him he was right. Danny managed a laugh. "I bet she's been getting annoyed since you spend more time with me than you do with her."
"What?" The Ghost Zone's Biggest Idiot grunted, turning away like some sort of giant child.
"Dude, please don't tell me you got into a fight with your girlfriend about spending so much time hunting me, and then went out to go hunt me."
Danny could feel the pout in Skulker's voice. "If I defeat you and mount your pelt on my wall, this whole issue will be resolved."
"Look, I'm not the one dating Ember and even I know she doesn't want to see my dead skin in her living room everyday." He relaxed completely, exasperated and tired. "Go home, Skulker."
"Go home." Danny was not in the mood for this- in fact, all he was in the mood right now was sleep- and he was reaching the point in the evening where he was actually starting to pity his enemies. The Box Ghost should have been a warning sign. "No, seriously. Go make up with her, take her out to dinner, buy her a new guitar- whatever. We'll postpone this for… sometime later. Preferably sometime in late afternoon."
Skulker hesitated. Disappointment clung to the air around him like a needy puppy. "Do I have to?"
"Fine, fine." He crossed his arms, trying to muster a semblance of his usual intimidation. "We'll settle this at a later date, Whelp."
Danny hardly restrained himself from rolling his eyes and making a parting barb. "As long as that 'later date' is some time I'm actually awake, I'm all for it."
Skulker faked being all tough by flying away backwards and keeping a 'watchful eye' on Danny the entire time. Danny humored him until he floated out of sight. Then, he sighed heavily as the weight of his exhaustion dropped on his shoulders like a backpack that had locks on the straps.
Sometimes, when it was late- or early, whatever- Danny found himself hating the whole superhero thing. He was tired and grumpy and probably going to bomb the test he had in the morning and now that he thought about it he didn't even finish reading that book for English, which really, really sucked, since Mr. Lancer had given them three weeks to do it. Two years he'd been fighting Skulkers and Box Ghosts in alleyways at two o'clock a.m., and half the town- and the world, for that matter- was still convinced he was evil. Including his own parents. Who he had to go home to and explain his failed grades and detentions to every night.
Danny was tired.
As if the ghost of spite had heard him, his ghost sense went off for the third time that night. He turned and said, "Skulker, I swear," but it wasn't Skulker. It was a guy in poofy garb and a hat with a big feather on it, and he was a pointing a glowing green sword in Danny's direction.
"Sir Phantom!" The ghost cried, his accent thick and his clothes practically screaming 1400s. Not one of Dora's, then, since they'd caught up to the 1700s recently. "I have come to challenge thee for thy honor as king!"
He stared at his new opponent for a few seconds uncomprehendingly. Then, he cracked his knuckles, each one popping deliberately, eyes glowing a happy green.
"Hello, Misplaced Aggression."
Jazz was startled from her morning reading by a loud thump to her right. She looked up to find her brother lying face down at the bottom of the stairs, legs still propped up on the last step.
Uh. "Danny?" Ah, a response in the form of an unintelligible grumbling noise. Well, progress. "Are you okay?" A groan this time. "Danny, I made eggs."
It didn't really take much for Danny to get up after that, though his movements were sluggish and slow in a way she hadn't seen in a while. He hopped up onto his feet but teetered on his left leg and avoided using his right. His limp was pathetically noticeable.
"No ectoplasm?" Danny asked, though he had already begun eating anyway. Jazz ignored the question and asked her own instead.
"Who did you fight last night?" Danny winced. "Danny."
Nightly patrols were a big no-no- they'd established that last year, when Danny had gone two weeks without decent sleep and had passed out in the middle of gym class. Even Tesslaf had freaked out, since Danny was naturally a little cooler to the touch than normal people and had a heart rate that dropped like a stone when he was sleeping. To this day, Dash still called him Zombnerd.
Danny fiddled with his fork. "It was only, like, three ghosts, and it wasn't like I was out looking for them."
"My ghost sense woke me up! And it was just Box Ghost. And Skulker. And some other guy who had this really sick ghost sword that-"
"Danny. What have I told you about fighting at night?"
"Well, I couldn't just leave them!" Danny protested. "Besides, my ghost sense woke me up. I wasn't patrolling."
Jazz sighed. "Fine. Stand."
Danny groaned. "Jazz-"
"Okay, okay, pushy." Danny pulled himself into a standing position, though he refused to relinquish his plate of eggs. Jazz motioned for him to turn and he did so, fork in mouth.
"Any other burns?"
"Any scrapes or cuts?"
"Any chest pain or trouble breathing or concussive symptoms?"
"No, no, and no."
Jazz gave Danny one more thorough once-over before gesturing for him to sit. "I suppose you look fine."
"Ha. Thanks, Doctor," Danny said as if the word "doctor" didn't hurt Jazz's heart, as if he didn't come home every night with injuries and settled for novice first aid instead of real medical attention for fear of being discovered, as if Jazz didn't have enough field experience to qualify to be a nurse-
"Stuff it, you. You're clear so long as you don't make the burns worse. Take some aloe vera with you to school if it gets too itchy." Jazz watched as he rolled his shoulders and his eyes at her good-naturedly. Absolutely clueless, as usual. "Are you done with breakfast? I'll take you to school since you're actually on time today."
Danny whooped and phased upstairs to grab his backpack. It was a wonder the alarms didn't go off every time he used his powers, if not concerning in that there were loopholes in the house's security, but Jazz wasn't about to tell her parents to up the number of weapons on their property.
A faint explosion sounded from the basement that made Jazz look towards the lab door. She could hear her father's muffled yell of "Sorry, Mads!" through the reinforced metal.
"What was that?" asked Danny, head popping out of the ceiling.
"I don't know. New invention?" Jazz shrugged. Their parents invented things all the time, after all. She turned her attention back to her brother, now back on the ground. "Danny, you're not wearing any shoes."
"Your shoe is untied."
Danny flung his backpack next to the lunch table and huffed. "Shut up."
"Snippy." Tucker grinned saucily. "Does this have anything to do with your limp, Peggy the Pirate?" He paused, reveling in his own wit. "Peggy, like peg leg-"
"We got it," said Sam, pulling out her ultra-recyclo-whatever sandwich. Tucker turned up his nose at it distastefully and pulled out four greasy Nasty Burgers, making sure to unwrap the first of the bunch noisily. Sam wrinkled her nose. "Let's focus on the limp. Why are you limping?"
Danny pulled out his brown bag- because his lunches were normal, thank you very much- and blew a raspberry. "Skulker."
"Could've called us, dude." Tucker tapped his ear discreetly, gesturing to the new-and-improved-T-man-approved Fenton Phones that sat snuggly in it.
Danny shook his head. "It was three in the morning. I wasn't going to wake you up for that kind of stuff."
"That kind of- Danny, being a superhero doesn't fall under the category of 'stuff'."
Danny, resident superhero of three years, tended to disagree. "Eh."
Sam and Tucker shared looks across the table, having a conversation with their eyes that could basically be translated to "he's dumb and stupid and ugh I can't believe we have to put up with this." He felt five years old again, caught red-handed playing with ectoranium in the kitchen.
"Did you at least wrap the burns well?" Sam finally asked, tired.
"Yeah. And I've got no other injuries." Another shared look. "I'm serious!"
"Uh-huh." She turned back to her food, and even the crunch of her lettuce sounded like the words yeah, right.
Danny turned to Tucker for help but Tucker was making his way through burger number three. "Come on. I don't get hurt all the time."
"Just most of the time." Tucker said cheerfully around his Nasty Burger. "Only, like, once a day. On average. Sometimes more. A lot more."
"And that's excluding the ones he doesn't tell us about." Danny winced at the accusation in Sam's words. "Which is probably most of them."
Danny felt sweat gathering on the back of his neck. This felt more like an interrogation than a conversation. "It's only my leg." He said, instead of rebutting. "The Box Ghost obviously couldn't touch me and that new guy was a total joke."
Tucker, having finished his edible heart attacks in record time, slipped his PDA out of his pocket and twirled the stylus between his fingers. "New guy?"
"Dude. Ghost. Sword."
Sam sipped at her water. "Did you steal it off of him?"
"Dude, don't tell me you didn't take the ghost sword. Danny, don't do this to me."
"He didn't take the ghost sword." Sam said, half smug and half awed. "Wow, way to go, Fenton."
"I didn't even think-" Danny's hand flew to his forehead. "I just threw him back into the Ghost Zone! Without taking his super cool ghost sword!"
Sam made a noise. "You're dumb."
"It was three in the morning!"
"Which," said Tucker, "brings us back to our previous argument."
"Yeah, yeah, I get it, I'll call you next time. But, Tuck, it shot ice."
"Dude, I know."
Sam, reaching the threshold of her "dude" quota for the day, rolled her eyes. "You're both morons. He'll come back eventually. You can take it, then."
"Nah." Danny mustered something of a pleased grin, despite his mourning over the sword. "I think I beat this guy so bad he'll never wanna see black and white at the same time ever again."
Tucker hi-fived him. Sam shrugged. "Okay, no sword then."
"Maybe we could track him?"
The pair turned to Tucker. He shook his PDA at them. "Not without his ecto-signature we can't. Lisa here needs to know the guy before she tracks him down."
"Lisa?" Danny asked. "I thought that was Sharon."
Tucker clutched at his chest. "How could you not tell the difference? Lisa's a completely different model, and you broke Sharon last time we were out on patrol by using her as a meat shield!"
"That thing's not made of meat," snarked Sam. "Thought you of all people would know that."
"Don't listen to Sammy, Lisa." Tucker cooed at his PDA. "She's just bitter and lonely."
"And you're delusional."
"And you're stupid."
"And you're going to be alone for the rest of your life."
Tucker paused. "I would say right back at you, but you've already got a love bird, so."
Danny and Sam sputtered simultaneously and Sam lobbed half her sandwich at Tucker. Tuck, the poor, unfortunate carnivore, reflexively snapped it up in his mouth and swallowed the whole thing. He spent the next few minutes trying to throw it back up.
"Serves you right." Sam grumbled, though she made a point not to look at Danny. Danny made to do the same, but as he turned his head away from her, his ghost sense went off.
He groaned. "Nooooo."
Tucker and Sam were already turning on their Fenton Phones. "Call us if it gets too crazy out there."
"Crazy?" Danny barked a resigned laugh. "Ghost fighting? Never."
"Screw you, Fenton," said Sam, waving him off. "Go. And if you come back with another injury I'm going to kick you so far into next week your clone will feel it."
"Aye aye, captain." Danny smiled, saluting her and jogging away towards a nearby tree. Nobody but Sam and Tucker saw the flash of light behind it, nor did anyone else see Danny Phantom's green eyes shoot a wink in their direction before leaving.
The two stared off in the direction of downtown, where the explosions from the enemy ghost causing trouble were already starting.
"That clone thing was nice." Tucker said thoughtfully. Sam made a noise.
"Thanks. I've been waiting to use that one."
Edward Lancer didn't even glance up from grading papers when he said, "You're late, Danny. Twenty minutes late, in fact. That will be three days of detention."
He heard a soft groan from the boy as he no doubt stopped mid-step on his way to his desk. A foot hit the ground, and then another, and another, and then Danny Fenton was in front of him, awaiting his fate. Edward raised his eyes for the first time, greeting Danny with a look as he passed on the pink slip.
Edward, more out of habit than anything else, searched for something in Danny's expression but found nothing other than mild disappointment at the detention. It was one of the things that was so interesting about Danny Fenton: whenever Edward looked for the usual teenage defiance in his expression, there was none there. Just careful neutrality that spoke of compliance in an unavoidable way- as if all of the detentions Danny was given were not so much punishments as inevitabilities. As if they couldn't be corrected so much as dealt with.
Through the years, Edward had observed that Danny's behavior was unusual, at best. Freshman year, he had been so full of promise- his grades were the best in the class, he had been friendly and open, he had been so excited to learn- but after his leave of absence from school due to an accident in the Fenton's lab two years ago, he became a slacker with blatant disregard for his academic standing and closed himself off to his small circle of friends.
That wasn't really the strange part, though. Edward had seen many students in his years of teaching, and he knew that some of them started well and then burned out suddenly. No, the strange part was that Danny wasn't a bad kid. He didn't undermine his authority, he didn't backtalk him, and he didn't cause trouble. In fact, his only offenses were his tardies and the bathroom breaks he often took and never returned from, and he always took his detentions with a tight lip. In every other regard he was completely normal, almost as if he was trying to make himself seem as unremarkable as possible.
There was something missing. Something else there that Edward wasn't seeing. He was a reader at heart, and knew when there were plot holes in a story. He was an unreliable narrator. When he searched Danny's face, he was keenly aware that he was only seeing what Danny wanted him to see, not what was really there. He wasn't getting the whole story, and he desperately wanted to.
"Uh, Mr. Lancer?" He blinked, only to find Danny looking at him strangely. "Are you… okay?"
It occurred to Edward that he had, up until this point, been staring at Danny. He cleared his throat, embarrassed. "I'm fine, thank you. Go take your seat, Danny."
Danny did as he was told and didn't so much as flinch when Dash stuck his foot out to trip him up on his way back to his desk. He just walked right on, dropping into his seat next to Sam and in front of Tucker. Danny turned to smile at the two of them, giving them a thumbs-up. Edward knew that the hip kids used that as a symbol for "it's all good."
He didn't know what could possibly be so good about detention, but he didn't question it.
Anyway, it was a good thing Danny had shown up, because Edward was waiting for him. "Class," he said, getting about half the students' minimal attention. "I have an announcement to make."
The kids stared at him for a few more seconds before turning back to their friends. Time to pull out the so-called "big guns," as they say. "It involves Danny Phantom."
That certainly got their attention. Paulina dropped her nail polish. Tucker Foley dropped his PDA. Valerie Gray dropped her phone. Dash Baxter dropped the pencil he was using to poke Danny Fenton. And Danny?
Danny's expression dropped like a stone.
Edward couldn't stop to linger on this with all thirty of his students actually looking at him at once. He couldn't remember the last time that had happened. Most likely the first day of class.
"As you all may know, next semester Ghost Studies will be available as an elective." Of course they did- nearly everyone who had room in their schedule had signed up for it immediately. "However, Mayor Masters," Here Danny stiffened, and Edward felt that strange sense of his tingle again. "Has decided to generously grant us with an opportunity to have a pre-course field trip in order to inspire more interest in the class. As a result, anyone who has signed up to take Ghost Studies will be accompanying Drs. Madeline and Jack Fenton into the Ghost Zone to explore and test your ghostly knowledge!"
There was a brief moment of silence as the children took this in, and then a roar of approval as they all burst out of their desks, cheering. As excitement swept through the room, lapping at Edwards's feet and coaxing him to join the tide, he caught sight of Danny Fenton within the throngs of celebrating teens. Danny was not standing.
He was slamming his head against his desk.
Okay so it's May 1st, and this story is officially rebooted! Sorry for taking so long with it. When I started it in 2013, I honestly didn't really plan ahead and gave up half way through. But, it's 2015, I'm (slightly) more put-together, and I've got 50,000 words to share with you, thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo. This chapter's been rewritten, and everything following it is brand spankin new.
To all those who stuck with me through these two years of frustrated waiting: thank you! And to those of you that are new: welcome!
Hope you liked this chapter! See you next Friday!