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The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:41 am ]
Post subject:  The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Yep. Still writing. =P

Title: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom
Author: Mabaroshiwoou
Rating: 'Extremely High' PG-13
Ships: DashxSam, TuckerxToph, a lil' DannyxVicky, and SatoshixJazz
Original Summary: Danny’s feeling incredibly depressed as Danny Phantom the TV show’s fourth season is drawing to a close, and he and his friends and family come closer and closer to returning to nomadic unemployment, losing the shelter and safety of the Nickelodeon Studios, sanctuary Danny once put his life on the line to protect. In addition, the boy can’t help but dwell on the issue of his fandom, of which he is very aware. Any fan is better than none, his mantra has always been, but deeper down, he can’t help but realize that while most preteens and young teens rave about Danny Phantom, the older, smarter, more educated and more desirable fans can’t get enough of Vlad Plasmius, and especially the albeit non-existent Dan Phantom. Even the younger set can’t seem to stop raving about The Ultimate Enemy. Danny’s emotions about all of the elements of his life, especially those beyond his control come to a boil as he works himself into a frustrated fit. Finally, he comes to the conclusion that: “If it’s Dan Phantom they want, Dan Phantom they’ll get!”
Current Summary: Hoo-boy, um...ummm...hey, you know Danny's backstory and his relationship with Jazz and stuff that I've been hinting at for a while now? Yeah, this goes into that. With some extra stuff at no extra charge. XD;

By the way, the top font for the title is called 'Kaufmann Bold'. Heck yes, that's intentional.

Posted image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

PREFACE

“Feel sorrow…agonize…the nightmare never ends…ever!”

With a dark malice in his face despite a seemingly content smile, a white-haired Danny sat back leisurely in the seat of a tall red throne. His weight was slightly shifted to the left, his fingers lightly curled around the spotted pink shell of a light teal ‘toon snail, whose lids hung low over his large, hazy yellow eyes.

Hunched over on the cold obsidian floor, the small creature’s owner wept visibly but quietly, arms wrapped around himself. “What did Patrick ever do to you?” Spongebob asked in a breathless whisper. Slowly rising to a straighter kneel, pausing, the yellow one turned, looking up at the boy with a frighteningly uncharacteristic scowl, with a sharp bellow to match. “WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU?!”

Danny’s face seemed to light up, eyes widening as his smile spread to a grin. “Nice eyes!” he remarked, adding, “Do you hate me? Then hate me more — turn around.”

The sponge held his angered gaze for a few more moments before slowly turning his head, then twitching with a gasp, eyes even wider.

Squidward and Mermaid Man. Pearl and Mrs. Puff. Mr. Krabs and Plankton. Sandy and Larry. All trapped and seemingly frozen behind the narrow glass of eight hanging containment chambers. A ninth stood out prominently between them, empty — reserved for the yellow one, who stood staring up in silenced horror, only squeaking out, “Everybody…!”

“All your friends, everyone that followed you fell to ME,” Danny exposited coldly but calmly, “Now you’re the only one left.”

“Why did you do such a terrible thing?” Spongebob asked, barely above a whisper.

“Everything is my revenge on you!” the white-haired one spat eagerly, as if he’d been waiting for just such a question, and added with audible bitterness, “To make you feel the same way I did.” His voice faded for a few moments, then resumed, eerily quiet, “How is it? Hard? Painful?”

Danny’s eyes keened even further, top lip quivering as if to pull back and bare a mouthful of fangs. “You’ve been loved by everyone, execs AND fans — almost unconditionally! — ever since you got off the ground…and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop anytime soon. Must be pretty tough!”

The yellow one didn’t answer or move, though he discreetly glanced over his shoulder. With a snort, the boy went on.

“Before I had my show, I was…really alone…” he exposited, the edge off his voice for the moment, “Sure, my parents loved me, and my friends would stand up for me any day of the week…but…I still felt trapped, held down. The cartoon saved me, kept me from going crazy…” his tone began to waver, the emotion trickling down from the memories he’d uncorked, “The show promised me —” he cut himself off, audibly searching for a word, “hope! With a few dozen fans, with some-kinda career…my character was my inspiration, my driving force, my sanity!” His voice grew louder. “I wasn’t on top of the world, but I was on top of MY world!”

His words bounced off the walls in lingering echoes. The temperature had begun to drop further, revealing both their breaths.

“I wanted…” the boy began again, softer, brows nearly convex, “I just wanted to be a Nicktoon forever. To stop myself from ever going back to…THAT. I needed a fanbase like yours…” He looked and sounded on the verge of tears. However, his brows angled fiercely again, reflected in his rasping. “But I wasn’t good enough, was I?! You bumped my timeslot, you bumped everybody’s timeslots!” Another tense pause. “Without my show, I don’t know what I’m gonna do…BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER TO YOU, DOES IT!?”

Suddenly, Danny sprang to his feet, arm extending as his figure straightened, fingers fanning back as he unleashed a thick ectoplasmic blast from his palm that struck Spongebob square in the back. The yellow one cried out as he was knocked off of his feet and into a faceplant.

“YOU NAÏVE JACKASS!” the white-haired one roared, firing off another at the fallen sponge, sending him bellyflopping sideways into the far wall, at which he grunted and squeaked. He’d barely slid to the floor before the boy shot at him again. And again. And again. And again. Finally, after another forceful shove to the wall, Spongebob toppled backward.

His rage satiated for the moment, Danny held a lightly clutched fist at the level of his stomach. Gary remained on the arm of the throne, still in a daze.

“And now my revenge’ll be complete,” he said, his look of maniacal glee subsiding slightly as he slowly walked toward the other blue-eyed one, who weakly rolled over and rose to a shaky, splay-kneed crouch, “This is for EVERYTHING,” Danny said with a plain menace, almost casually reaching down and clamping both hands around his fellow ‘toon’s neck, pressing in with crushing force, making the yellow one wince. “Die,” the boy bid in a deep, unworldly tone closer to his so-called dystopian future counterpart, “slowly. Suffering.”

Spongebob uttered a few choking noises, but remained strangely quiet. Slowly, he opened his eyes, gazing across at his would-be killer. Tears welled and flowed, his brows convex. It wasn’t a look of sad self-pity, however, but one of sympathy.

The white-haired one shivered, his own eyes widening, a small gasp escaping his throat as his grip unwittingly lessened. “Stop it,” he said, “Stop looking at me like that!” His fingers curled even tighter as his brows lowered again. “STOP!”

The yellow one flinched in pain again, but only for a moment, as more squeaks escaped from both his porous body and his restricted throat. Was he crying for him?

Danny felt his heart pound coldly. “Dammnit, will you STOP THAT?” he hissed again, grunting as he put every last ounce of Phantom strength into his resentful assassination attempt.

Still, Spongebob stared. A little too deeply.

“Stop it. STOPPIT!” the white-haired one growled, though he’d begun to sound almost fearful, “CUT IT OUT!” he cried before switching to “GO AWAY!” and giving the square one a hard fling toward the wall. Burying his face in his hands, sounding as if he’d started to cry as well, Danny reiterated, “Don’t look at me like that! I can’t hate you if you don’t hate me too! Hate me! Why don’t you hate me!?”

“I can’t imagine how you feel,” Spongebob offered, slowly lifting his gaze from the floor, tears still dripping, “But it sounds like I’d probably hate me too, if I were you…”

“You always gotta be a…stupid…SAINT…!” Danny choked, raising his head and rising to his feet again.

“I’m not trying to,” the yellow one said, “But what’s getting all angry and wearing yourself out gonna do?”

The white-haired one uttered a few syllables, but ultimately forfeited a retort. Spongebob slowly picked himself up, using the wall to keep his balance.

“You want to get rid of me? Well, that’s okay…” he said earnestly, “But let all my friends go, first!” Pausing, “And then they can be your friends — no sense wasting perfectly good friends.”

From where he hung, Squidward’s lids seemed to have lowered, one of his famous snorts ringing out faintly, echoed by Danny.

“Don’t worry; every’toon will understand. It’s never too late to start over…”

The green-eyed one shuddered at his words. His unquenchable resolve was suddenly fading as the temperature seemed to rise quickly in its place.

“Go ahead. Do wha’cha gotta do.”

“You GOT it!” Danny sneered, raising an arm straight up, cradling a large, crackling ecto-sphere. He drew his arm back — but froze, the energy ball bobbing harmlessly away like an oxygen-inflated balloon as he heard a small, crying meow from behind him.

Gary blinked, looking far more awake. He crawled forward on the throne’s arm, meowing again.

Danny glanced over his shoulder, lips twitching. “What the heck —?” He whirled around again at the sound of the glass chambers shattering. Their containees didn’t fall, however, but seemed to warp from midair to a wide circle; including the yellow one, they surrounded the boy, whose eyes darted, more frustrated grunts slipping from his throat.

Beside the throne, the pink one appeared in a glimmer of light. Glancing aside, the snail held out an eyestalk, which the starfish gently took.

Spongebob smiled beneath weary, misty eyes. “Patrick…Gary…everybody…”

“We know, boy,” Krabs said with a smile of his own.

The square one turned his head as Mermaid Man spoke. “You can still make it,” he encouraged.

“Before dawn,” Pearl clarified happily.

With a quick nod, Spongebob faced forward, facing Danny. “If we work together, we can definitely make it happen!” Bowing his head slightly, he let his eyes close. The others did the same.

A bright light filtered down, warming the color of the walls and floor. “What are you DOING?” the white-haired boy snapped, looking around at the eleven of them, his pulse still drumming. “Go AWAY!” he shouted again, flinging out an arm and blasting at all of them in turn.

While they cried out, not one barely budged — the yellow one didn’t even seem to come out of his new mellow trance, and the snail quickly turned, somehow donning a high-collared purple cloak that shielded both him and Patrick from the beam.

“Don’t be scared,” Sandy bid softly.

“You’re not alone now,” Larry added.

“No one can stay alone without having a cold heart,” Plankton said rather sagely, adding, “and I should know!”

“Come on, Danny boy, open your heart,” Krabs coaxed.

“You can make up for the things you’ve done,” Mrs. Puff said rather cheerily.

“Be strong, Danny!” Pearl said.

“Believe in yourself!” Mermaid Man chimed.

“Couldn’t hurt to try…” Squidward added, not so reluctantly.

“Believe in all of us — especially my best buddy, Spongebob,” Patrick piped up.

“Can’t you feel it?” the sponge asked, looking across at the boy once more, spreading his arms, “Everybody’s feelings…the hope you used to have…all the happiness we’ve brought for you!”

By this point, Danny stood still, still shaking a bit, staring across at Spongebob, looking as drained as he felt.

“Think of the thing, that one thing you’ve always wanted more than anything in the world!”

“The one thing…I wanted…more than anything…” the green-eyed one repeated, slowly craning his head back, becoming transfixed by the warm radiance, finishing almost timidly, a lump audibly in his throat, “I wanted…to mean something, to make a difference…I want to go back, I wanna make a difference…”

The light poured in thicker, obscuring every’toon and everything, wrapping around the boy like a thick cotton blanket, fresh from the dryer. When it began to fade, he found himself leaning against the door of a moving truck. With a light groan, he sat up, rubbing his eyes.

Suddenly, the door opened, cool night air rushing in. Butch looked up at him with a grin. “Hey, you’re not gonna spend all night out in the car, are ya?”

“Sorry, I guess I fell asleep…” Danny mumbled.

“Well, Julie’s got dinner almost ready, and I want to talk some more about your show, come on inside.”

“Okay.” With a yawn, the boy pulled off his seatbelt and pushed himself out onto the driveway, following the human as he turned and headed for the front door.

“Boy, I tell ya, Danny Phantom is gonna shake the entertainment world to its core, you just watch!” Hartman said, an almost childish sort of excitement in his voice.

Danny chuckled, smiling broadly, finally arching his eyes at the thought.

And then, like a jump cut, the boy found himself staring up at an old familiar ceiling, dimly lit by the morning fluorescents. Slowly, stiffly, he rose to a sit, yawning widely and stretching. The air and the sheets felt chilly.

As he looked around, a fact from his consciousness came flooding back to him like a sudden realization. Today was literally his last day at the studio. As Butch had painstakingly explained, he’d exploited every last loophole in every clause in his contract — but now, he would have to leave. For good.

The personal touches in his trailer, the things he’d brought and set up had been all packed away. Only the bare bones of the living space remained, onto which some’toon else would soon graft their stuff. He’d heard it was going to be a dog named Dudley, the star of Butch’s brand new cartoon. Danny wondered briefly if they’d get a chance to meet, though wasn’t even sure if he wanted to.

For a moment, he recalled his dream, and felt a hot pulse of animosity. Spongebob had some miraculous equivalent of tenure, and would never have to leave — or worry about a job, or money, or anything ever again. At least not for the greater part of a century. The boy briefly wondered what he could be up to, imagining he was either still sleeping or out doing some stupid thing or another.

Slipping on his sneakers with a sigh, Danny gave his soon-to-be-former room a final sweeping glance to make sure he wasn’t about to leave anything behind, then picked up his purple backpack, now a genuine daypack for the who-knew-how-long R.V.-ride, and walked to the door.

Spying a yellow square wedged beneath it, he bent down, grabbing the nearest corner and tugging to reveal an envelope.

The card inside was rather plain; white, with a flower on the front. However, inside it read:

DEAR DANNY,

SO SORRY TO HEAR YOU’RE LEAVING. YOU’VE BEEN A REALLY GREAT FRIEND. WE HAD A LOT OF FUN TOGETHER AND I’M REALLY GOING TO MISS YOU. I WISH YOU THE BEST LUCK EVER!

P.S. PATRICK, SANDY, SQUIDWARD, MR. KRABS, PEARL, LARRY, PLANKTON, MRS. PUFF, MERMAID MAN AND GARY ALL SAY “GOODBYE!”


Danny snorted and shook his head.

“Besides, what kind of selfish hypocrites would we be if we stood here and let you dip Danny!?”

“Darnit, Bob…” the boy muttered, “Stop making it so hard to…not like you.” A pause. “And I’m gonna miss you, too, man.”

Strolling down the hall, he was soon tailed and joined by the brunet, who looked up at him with a raised brow. “Where’re you going?”

Looking down, Danny said, “I don’t really know. Just…away.”

“What?”
“Today’s my last day, runt.”
“…What?”

The taller boy snorted, though he smiled. “I’m leaving, Tim.”

Timmy chuckled as well, saying, “You’re not leaving!” then when the elder boy didn’t slow, added more anxiously, “You’re not leaving,” finally throwing himself in the black-haired one’s path and clinging to his ankles, “You’re NOT leaving, I won’t let you! Cosmo, Wanda! I wish for something ghost-proof! I wish for a feather duster! Something, anything! HURRY!”

The fairies appeared, but only gave Danny a nod and a smile. Timmy frowned up at them, brows sharply convex.

“You CAN’T leave!” the smaller boy insisted, trotting after the older boy, “Who am I gonna do stuff with? Who am I gonna annoy and get in tickle-noogie-fights with!?”

Laughing, Danny shrugged, saying, “Well, you’ve got Cosmo…”

The green-haired one arched his eyes and poofed up a sizeable gloved hand that noogied Timmy quite deeply into the carpet. However, the brunet bounded out, “It’s not the SAAAME!” chasing the taller boy and again ensnaring his ankles from behind with a dramatic, “NOOOOOOOOO!”

“GNnnh!” the elder boy grunted as he was dragged into a belly-flop. “Let GO of me, runt!”

“Need some help?”

Looking up, Danny saw the redhead leaning down with an outstretched hand. Taking it, he let her tug him back to his feet. Vicky quickly bent down and scooped up the pink-hatted one, holding him tight as he struggled, freely kicking and punching her.

Pausing, the small boy switched tactics to tickling her midriff with both hands, hopping to the ground when she squeaked, doubling over and shielding her stomach. Timmy hadn’t taken two steps, however, before Vicky grabbed him by the collar, yanked him up and gave him a furious fling down the hall.

As he tumbled head over heels, the brunet cast a quick “WINDY SHIELD!” and encased himself in a glowing air bubble. Raising his wand, Cosmo poofed up an arrangement of pins which the sphere quickly plowed through.

“Strike!” the fairy noted happily, “Two more and you get a TURKEY!”

Vicky looked up to see a plump plucked bird appear over her head, holding her arms out to catch it. Blinking at it for a moment, she smirked and snap-cast a “FIREBAAALL!” and thoroughly cooked the fowl in a matter of seconds before tearing off its left leg and taking a large bite, which she savored with eyes arched.

Danny chuckled at the sequence, shaking his head lightly, and sighing deeply. “Hey, listen, Vicky…”

The redhead blinked again, tossing the turkey aside. “Yeah, Danny?”

Shrugging, the taller boy said, “I just wanted to say that…well, go figure I want to try and start over with you and then I don’t have any time left.” They shared a quiet chuckle. “But…I had a lot of fun, and…I’m gonna miss you. Say goodbye to Tootie for me, okay?”

Nodding, Vicky replied, “Sure thing — and I had a lot of fun with you, too,” giving him a quick hug, “Good luck!”

“Thanks, you too.”

As Timmy came trudging back into view, the fairies both gave the taller boy a squeeze.

“It’s been a wild ride, but we had a great time,” Wanda said on their behalf, “I really hope you find something good out there.”

“Me too,” Danny said, “Thanks.” Feeling a warm pressure on his leg, he looked down to see the brunet clinging it to it once again — but this time, he looked up with a smile, albeit with glassy eyes.

“I’m sorry, Danny…I’m gonna miss you…SO much…” he leaned his cheek on the elder boy’s shin. Gently lifting Timmy up in his arms, Danny gave him a tight squeeze, a small kiss on the head, and a light noogie.

“Miss you so much, too, Tim,” the taller boy echoed, setting him down, “Hey, you take care of yourself, okay? And keep an eye on the Boss for me.”

“Okay,” Timmy said, sniffling and wiping his eyes. He seemed to smile, but only out of politeness, damming back more hysterics and a flood of tears.
Giving them a wave, Danny tugged on the straps of his backpack and forced himself to face forward and keep walking. The others watched, Vicky walking up beside Timmy, who sniffled again.

With a hand on her hip, she glanced down at him and mused, “Well, looks like it’s just you and me again, little pink twerp…”

“I know,” the brunet whimpered, “but…I need a big brother, not a sister,” and blotted up his tears with his hat. Wanda poofed him a tissue into which he blew his nose noisily.

Danny tried to keep his eyes ahead, not get caught up looking too long at anything along the way. The lounges or cafeteria or even the bathrooms; places he’d spent so much time, so many memories. As he passed the offices, he couldn’t help diverting from his path and peering in the room he normally reported to, to find his boss at his computer, behind his desk, or even lying on his couch.

“Lookin’ for Hartmook, Fenzer?”

Turning, the boy saw Dash standing behind him. The two shared another masculine embrace before the black-haired girl joined them, the blond boy putting an arm around her lightly.

“So, Dash, where’re you gonna go, now?” Danny asked, smiling.

Sam answered for him, explaining as they exchanged a glance, “We’re going to fly down and stay with his parents.”

“Oh, cool,” the scrawnier boy said, “Have fun.”

“Thanks, we’ll try,” Dash spoke up again, “How ‘bout you, Fen?”

Shrugging, Danny glanced away as he replied, “Oh, y’know, Mom, Dad, Jazz n’ I’ll just pile back in the FFGAV and go back to our never-ending cross-country trip. Might head back toward Lakeville, I dunno.”

“Well, hey, just don’t keep quiet for another three years, huh? I was beginning to think you didn’t like me anymore or somethin’!”
“Sorry, D-Bax.”
“No worries.”

A pause.

“Hey…Sam?”

“Yeah, Danny?”
“I know that things haven’t always…been the best between us — but…I just — I —”

With a knowing smile, the goth girl said, “Apology accepted…and I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean to hurt you, either — and…I hope that after everything we’ve been through, we are still friends…right?”

“Of course,” Danny said with a knowing smile of his own. The two of them also shared a hug; not quite as quick as the one with Vicky, not quite as chummy as the one with Dash, but nothing beyond the realm of platonic, as they withdrew after only a few moments.

“Come on, babe, let’s jet,” the burly boy said, walking behind the girl and giving her a swift casual slap as he passed.

Sam twitched, tensing with wide eyes that quickly angled into narrow half-circles, hair fraying and teeth gritting as she uttered a growl not unlike Shadow, raising an index finger as she turned — then seemed to relax, letting out a sigh, shaking her head. Looking at Danny she bid “Catch you later, Boggy!”

“Boggy?” the scrawnier boy repeated, “Since when did you start calling me that?”

“Just now,” the girl replied plainly, before jogging to catch up to the blond boy. Just before they headed out the door, she managed to give him a light boot to the butt.

Dash was thrown a bit off kilter, but Danny only heard him chuckle, and watched as they walked outside with their arms around each other.

Throwing one last glance over his shoulder, the black-haired boy pushed through the door and walked around to the parking lot. Gazing up at the nearly cloudless sunny sky, he was caught completely off guard as the asphalt jutted up under his foot, knocking him to a firm though none-too-painful fall onto his side.

Grunting, he looked up to see the boy in the red beret standing over him, holding out a hand. “Sorry, dude,” Tucker apologized as he helped the blue-eyed boy to his feet, “I was trying to knock you onto the grass, but I guess my aim was off.”

“Darnit, Tuck, now I have to take two trips,” Danny joked. The dark-skinned boy chuckled, as well as the short blue-eyed girl with long black bangs that stood beside him. “Oh, hey, Toph.”

“Hey, Danny,” she said, brushing said bangs out of her face, “Sucks that you hafta leave. But Kwame and I’ll miss the heck outta you!”

“Miss you guys, too,” Danny admitted, giving Tucker the same sort of hug as he’d given Dash, “Where’re YOU gonna go?”

Putting a hand on the hip of her dark blue jeans, Toph said, “My friend moved across town and left me her apartment. We’re gonna crash there for a while until we can find some jobs,” turning to the bespectacled one, she asked, “We oughta have enough cash to last us that long, right?”

“Sho’ ‘nuff,” Tucker said with a grin. Looking at Danny, he said, “Hope I see you later, but if not, best of luck, dude. Where the heck are you gonna go, anyway?”

“Thanks,” the blue-eyed boy said, “And…I dunno. Just gonna cram back into the R.V. with Mom, Dad, and Sis and see what happens…”

“Don’t let it get ya down.”
“I’ll try not to…oh, and…thanks for saving my butt last time.”
“No problem, thanks for saving mine all the times before that. See you later, Danny!”
“See you later, Tuck.”
“Bye-bye, ghost kiddo!”
“Bye, Toph.”

Hearing the Turbokat’s scraping roar, Danny looked up to see the black jet rise into the air, wings sweeping back as it swooped off into the sky like a projectile from a slingshot. Lowering his gaze, he saw the boy in the red beret and the girl in the olive-green tank top stroll away arm in arm.

“Danny?”

With a small gasp, the boy turned again, back toward the main gate. Hartman came jogging, meeting him halfway. “Boss!” Danny said happily, then frowning, “Or…I guess I can’t call you that anymore.”

“Sorry, were you looking for me? I was looking for you!” Butch said, a bit breathless, “Danny, I’m really sorry…”

“For what?”
“For not finding another loophole. Or something.”
“Don’t worry about it, Butch. We both knew the show wasn’t gonna last forever…”
“I just wish it’d lasted a little longer.”
“Hey, if the fans hated Danny Phantom Season Three, imagine the uproar at a Season Five!”

Chuckling sheepishly, Hartman chimed, “I guess so, huh?” With a broad grin, he leaned forward, putting his arms firmly around the boy, giving him a small kiss on the head and ruffling his hair. Frowning as well, he professed, “I don’t know how I’m gonna go through with T.U.F.F. Puppy and all the other cartoons I’m lined up to do; no offense to them, but I can’t replace you! You’re my b —!”

Seeing Jack walk up, the human quickly withdrew, finishing a bit nervously, “best…actor!” However, the burly ‘toon man only smiled at him.

“We can’t thank you enough, Butch!” Maddie said, giving him a small squeeze before standing beside her husband, “It’s been amazing living here and working for you.”

“It’s been amazing having you,” Hartman said with a smile.

Stepping forward, Jack said, “I know we haven’t always been around for Danny, and I just wanted to thank you so much for helping him out!” Trapping the human in a crushing bear-hug, he went on, “You really are the greatest guy I’ve ever met!”

Grunting, still half-flinching, Butch managed to smile, saying, “Thanks!”

“Danny, do you have everything?” his mother asked.

Nodding, the boy replied, “Mm-hm.”

Giving Hartman a back-slap that nearly knocked him off his feet, Jack declared “Well, we better get rolling before it starts getting dark — come on family, everybody into the FFGAV, ASAP!”

Danny glimpsed his sister’s long red hair out of the corner of his eyes before hearing her say “Well, it was nice while it lasted…”

He tried not to look at her, but as she walked past him toward the R.V., she glanced into his eyes, her gaze piercing beneath perpetually drooped lids. She may not have been the Medusa of myth, but the boy felt as if he’d been literally petrified. Those few seconds seemed to last an hour.

“The cartoon saved me, kept me from going crazy…”

The words he’d spoken to the dream-image of the optimistic yellow square, not a lie or even a single tweaked truth among them. His dreams were usually more than just coincidence, why would last night’s have been any different?

“Danny…you gonna be okay?”
“I don’t know — what if Jazz’s right? What if I AM going nuts?”


Seeing Jazz disappear into the vehicle, the boy felt just as reluctant to go into it now on this family trip as he’d emoted in The Fenton Menace. Only this family vacation wouldn’t be staged or chopped up into takes separated by some downtime and doughnuts, and it wouldn’t be over in just a day or two.

With a sunken stomach, Danny approached the open passenger’s side door. Grabbing the edge of it, he lifted his foot onto the front of the tread fender, pushing himself up and in, followed by Jack, and Maddie, who pulled the door shut.

“I want you to bring ME with you!”

Hartman felt weighty yet weak as he watched the R.V. pull around and roll toward West Olive, never to return. Seeing Danny peer out of the back window, pushing it open and waving, he raised an arm to wave back, smiling.

Hearing his ringtone blare, Butch dug a hand into his pocket, glancing at the number. It was Kitty Katswell, likely calling to confirm their appointment — which, according to his watch, was in approximately half-an-hour. And, of course, Season Seven of the Fairly Oddparents had to march on, and there were scripts to approve. Sighing, he turned and walked back to the door, dragging his feet with every step.

Danny kept waving, his own faint smile fading as the studio grew smaller and smaller. The swings of his hand shortened as he stretched it out the window, fruitlessly groping the air, clawing desperately at the past.

His battle with Redstone hadn’t just been a stand for his own well-being, but one for all ‘toons, everywhere. Still, with his future now uncertain at best, it almost seemed worthless. Had it all been for nothing? Had Danny Phantom done nothing at all?

“Think of the thing, that one thing you’ve always wanted more than anything in the world!”
“I wanted…to mean something, to make a difference…I want to go back, I wanna make a difference…”


Oh, sure, there had been rallies in New York City, and he’d read several anecdotes, testimonies of fans who swore he’d changed their lives for the better. But most of the internet, let alone the world, seemed to think said fans were strange and naïve, and generally sided with the late Tom Freston.

“You’re just another ‘toon…why can’t you go quietly like all the rest!?”

Danny had insisted he wasn’t — but maybe he was, after all. The show was over, his eleven-hundred and sixty-six minutes of fame were up, and he doubted he’d ever see another person who’d gush at the mention of Danny Phantom, or even recognize him. He’d be just another ‘toon, a slave in all but name to the system, and its regular corrupters.

Suddenly, the window slammed shut, and he recoiled, feeling a pinch on his fingertips. Turning, he saw Jazz looking at him, and felt an icy pulse. Maddie looked over her shoulder, bidding gently but firmly, “Danny, sit down and put your seatbelt on. You know how your father drives.”

As Danny obediently turned around and slid back down into the seat, tugging the strap across him, Jack glanced in the rearview mirror with a smile. “Hey, kids! Since it’s our first night back together under one roof again, how about we celebrate? You guys both decide on a place to go for dinner, anyplace at all, and we’ll be there like…uh, squares! …wait…oh, nevermind! Isn’t it great to be on the road again?”

And while money wasn’t an issue now, depending on what new jobs they could all get, or not, it wouldn’t be that long before dining out was limited to dollar menus, and after that, ketchup packets, then dumpster digging. For humans, it was an eccentric hobby; for ‘toons, it was far more common than it should have been. He flinched at the thought.

“You know, the studio was certainly nice, but I have to say, I kind of missed the togetherness,” Maddie proclaimed.

“Me too,” Jazz said quietly, glancing at her brother.

“Me…not…” Danny quipped in a low croak, averting his gaze once again.

“Come on, now, Danny,” his mother coaxed, “I know you had lots of fun and some crazy adventures with your friends and Butch, but I think taking a break from all that will do you some good.”

Sighing, the boy leaned on the door; chin in hand, lids drooping. Wonder what the runt’s doing right now? Wonder what the B — er, Butch’s doing right now?

“Are you all right, little brother?” he heard Jazz ask softly, feeling her hand on his shoulder.

Glancing back, Danny replied, a bit short, “I’m fine, Jazz, thanks.”

“You’re upset, I can sense it,” she pressed, “Please tell me what’s wrong?”

“Um, no. Thanks.”

Her brows sweeping into convexes, Jazz faced forward and called out, “Mom, Dad! Danny’s being obstinate!”

Both of them looked back. “What’s wrong, Danny?” Jack asked.

“Nothing’s wrong!” the boy insisted, tone rising, “Jazz is just bugging me!” And if you weren’t here, she’d probably torture me.

“Don’t be mean to your sister,” Maddie said, “Just talk to her, please?”

“I don’t want to talk to her.”
“Why on Earth not?”
“Because…”
“Because…why?”
“Just…because!”
“Danny, that’s not an answer.”
“It’s MY answer.”

Jazz sighed, gesturing. “You see?”

“C’mon, Danny, you know how Jazzy likes being a psychologist and picking your brain and…all that other…psychological stuff,” their father said.

“Yeah, well, she’s a psyCHO, so I guess she’s halfway there,” the boy quipped, arms folded. Jazz uttered a small gasp, blinking in half-genuine surprise.

“DANIEL NATHANIEL FENTON!”

Danny winced at his traditionally-given rhyming first and middle names, opening an eye to see Maddie glaring back at him.

“Hey!” Jack said sharply, “Just for that, you’re eating out of the Fenton Fridge tonight, mister!” Pausing, he added, “And maybe you won’t even get any dinner at all if you keep that attitude up, you hear me?”

“Jack, that’s enough,” the woman said, though she gave her son another rough stare. “Danny, apologize to Jazz. Right. Now.”

Sighing with a pained flinch, Danny gave the redhead the quickest of glances, saying quietly, “I’m…sorry, okay?”

“A real apology,” Maddie specified.

“I’m sorry,” Danny repeated, this time summoning all the genuine-sounding humility he possibly could.

“That’s better.”

As the R.V. rumbled past a flashy eatery façade and onto a barren stretch of the I-210 East, Danny heard his stomach croak bitterly at him. Clutching it, he leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling. God, get me out of here…!

Putting her hand on his shoulder again, Jazz said, “He’s probably just cranky because he’s tired — why don’t you take a little nap, little brother?”

Danny raised his shoulders. It was probably no coincidence he swore he could hear an echo of Vlad’s voice saying, ‘little badger’ when she called him that. With another sigh, lids drooping beneath convex brows, he resigned himself, and admitted, “Yeah…I guess I didn’t get my normal thirteen hours last night…pass me a Fenton pillow. Please!”

Smiling — though with a hint of the one she’d flashed at about seventeen minutes and twenty seconds into Fenton Menace — she handed him a logo-emblazoned pillow, which the boy took, shoving it vertically against the door and leaning on it, letting his eyes close.

The redhead gave him a pat. “Sweet dreams, widdle bro.”

Again, the Fentons turned to look at their children. “Aww, Jazz is such a sweetheart…” Jack mused quietly.

“She is,” Maddie agreed, “I have NO idea why Danny’s been so aloof to her lately.”

Her husband shrugged with convex brows, returning his gaze to the long road ahead.

Author:  Karnelia [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

I have been SOOOO looking forward to this and it does not disappoint~! X3;;

The parody/dream is pretty intense and revealing about the turmoil of Danny's subconscious and then the secondary dream/memory really sets the bittersweet and, well, melancholic mood.

I know it's been a few years, but until reading this, it never really hammered home that that was it for DP -- prolly 'cause your other fics held me to the illusion that Danny was still working for Butch ... but seeing him saying goodbye to Butch is so hard and so final ; -; And then Butch has to go back to business as usual and it's so hard on the guy to see Danny go, it just makes me think about how he must have really felt while typing that post on the BH forums and wrapping up the last episode....

Even with the usual 'toonish antics and humor, you managed to sustain a weighty atmosphere that can only be described as melancholy through Danny's attitude, and his thoughts, and the specific callbacks to past fics. Reading through it a second time, I was honestly on the edge of tears throughout, especially at the Butch part. ...I hate when you can do that to me XD (No, not really, I luffle you~! <3)

And gosh~! The tension between Jazz and Danny is so tangible, and their parents are so oblivious!! I can't wait to see more of how the Fenton family interacts together after all this time in this universe of yours~!

I love how Danny's first and middle names rhyme by the way, I hadn't thought about that before XD And the way he asks for a 'Fenton pillow', it's reminiscent of canon X3;

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Fri May 21, 2010 4:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

I am just SOOOO glad about that. X3 <3 Thank you, thank you, THANK YOUUUU!

Well, ack, it took me a whole month and a week or so, but finally, here's the first chapter. Hope it's just as good, at least. ^.^;

Also, the moral of today's chapter is: go read Pokewing Z: Dimension Rifters by ThatGuyWhoLikesJazz Jazzypants my awesome friend Dustin! It's wonderfully crossover-ly. X33

CHAPTER I

"You knew it wouldn't last forever…"
"Yeah...I know…Ash..."
"Goodbye, Jazz..."


A Japanese ‘toon boy with jagged black hair sat hunched over a kitchen table, asleep with his jaw on his wrist, echoing “Jazz…” quietly as his eyes twitched beneath their lids.

"Got it! Hang on, Jazz!"
"Oh God…Ash, listen up! I was hoping this wasn't going to happen to you for another two years, but you're finally growing them!"
"Them?! GYAAAH!"
"The next thirty minutes will be more painful than anything you've ever experienced, but do NOT sink into unconsciousness!"
“AAAAAAAAH!”


The pain was enough to jolt him from his dream. Breathing audibly, he sat up, looking around in a daze, slowly regaining his bearings, repeating, “Jazz? Jazz!”

The orange-haired girl in the chair across from him frowned, reaching a hand out to gently grasp his arm.

Satoshi,” she said softly, “Daijobu? Unasaretta ka?” (1)

Satoshi blinked rapidly, then shook his head. “No…” he replied in near-perfect English, “Was strange…but good dream…” He could speak the language fairly well, but he was far from fluent — and yet moments ago he’d been speaking it as if it was his native tongue.

Now girl only blinked at him. “Eigo no renshuu wo shitai desu ka?” (2) she asked.

Kasumi,” the boy said, looking into her eyes, “Yume ga genjitsu no mono, to omou?” (3)

Frowning, Kasumi said, “Nani wo imi suru no?” (4)

Yume ga iru baai…” Satoshi began again, eyes darting away, hazing a bit, “Kokoro wa betsu no uchuu no doko ka ikiru ka?” (5)

Kore wa…” the girl began, eyes widening a bit. (6)

Sore ni kani te, soko ni atta!” the boy said, grinning, “Ore wa…Supiritto Diitekutibu —” almost tripping over the foreign words he’d spoken so easily moments ago, “datta…Diimenshionaru Riifuta ga atta!” (7) he finished loudly with a flourish, springing to his feet as if he’d just witnessed Pikachu dealing a sensational final blow in a critical poké-match.

Kasumi shrunk back a little. “Satoshi, kowagara seru shite.” (8)

“…soshite, kanojo wa soko ni,” (9) the boy added, sitting back down.

Now the girl raised a brow. “Hn? Kanojo wa?” (10)

Ee, kanojo: Jazzu.” (11) Satoshi closed his eyes, seeing the other redhead’s face clearly, looking at him and smiling, glaring at him with arms folded, looking at him with sad eyes as he turned to leave through the Ghost Portal.

Dare ga kono ‘Jazzu’ to wa?” (12)

Anata wa Amerika dewa Heisei Juu-Nen ni itta koto komikkon wo oboete iru ka?” (13) the boy asked.

The pair sat at a long table beside some of their co-stars, as well as a few of the humans who had been involved in the show’s production, both the North American version and original Japanese. Having finished a slew of signings and photographs, Kasumi rested her chin in her hands and sighed, lids drooping as she stared out at the crowd.

The boy glanced up at a nearby wall clock, noting “Almost time.” It was somewhat rude to clock-watch and let their fatigue show, but with the Pokémon boom still echoing ‘round the world, in addition to filming, they’d also been carted off to almost every other country and continent across the world in under forty-eight hours straight; a dent in even the most strongly will-powered of ‘toon staminas. It was all Satoshi could do to keep from fully slumping over the table and dozing.

Glancing down the table again, he saw that Takeshi clutched a Pocky stick in his teeth like a cigarette, while Shigeru tipped back a tall energy drink can. Facing forward, the group saw one of the last waves approaching, and braced themselves — straightening themselves and donning polite smiles.

“C’mon, Jazz!”

The black-haired boy watched as the English-speaking one jogged toward the table, wearing a striking replica of Satoshi’s costume, having even combed his hair into the same fanning jags. Besides his breed, the only distinguishing feature now between them was his large circular eyes with bright blue irises.

“Hi!” the Japanese boy said with a smile, “Wow, that’s a great costume! What’s your name?”

“Thanks!” Danny said, slightly breathless, “I put it together myself — I-I’m just a really huge fan of yours. My name’s Danny, Danny Fenton, and I’ve played the game about a million times — of course, it took me a while to beat it, but I love playing it and I REALLY love the show! After I watched episode five, I REALLY wanted a pikachu, but my parents said…”

Satoshi nodded, chuckling. He tried to concentrate on the other boy’s gushing, but couldn’t help staring instead at the longer-red-haired girl he’d towed across the floor. She stood there, arms folded, lids slightly drooped, as if she would have rather been anywhere else — and yet, even with her sour mood, there was something about her.

Feeling the sharp jab of Kasumi’s elbow, Satoshi grunted, knocked from his daze, giving his head a quick shake and looking up at Danny again, who had taken off his cap, asking, “…would you sign my hat? Please?”

“O-Oh, sure!” Grabbing a pen, the Japanese boy carefully inscribed his name in kanji — then, realizing his mistake, wrote it in romanized letters, paused, then made a more calligraphic scribble of his American moniker, ‘Ash Ketchum’. Smiling again, he held out the hat, brim forward, hoping he hadn’t overdone it.

Danny grinned. “Wow, COOL, thanks so much!” he said, carefully taking it back and donning it with visible pride.

Letting out a small relieved sigh, Satoshi said “You’re welcome!” Feeling sheepish, he asked, “So…how many pokemon have you caught so far?” with a smirk.

“Uh…uh…! Well, I still need a Pinsir and a Jynx — but I JUST evolved my Poliwhirl into a Poliwrath yesterday, so once I finally get to Cerulean Cave and my friend finally trades me a darn Scyther I should be totally set!”

The Japanese boy laughed, nodding, “Good luck!” and shook Danny’s hand firmly. Seeing him take a step back, Satoshi quickly added, “I-Is this…your girlfriend?”

“Huh?” Danny said, brow raised, then glanced in the direction his idol was once again looking. “Oh, no, no — this is my sister.”

Jazz blinked. The blue-eyed boy quickly walked around behind her, giving her a light shove toward the table, saying, “Go on, say hi!”

“U-Uh…” the tall redhead began, then managed to smile, holding out her hand, “Hi, my name’s Jazz. It’s…nice to meet you.”

“Jazz…” Satoshi repeated, “Nice to meet you, too.”

Her lids drooping again, though her smile remained, Jazz grabbed Danny lightly by the shoulders, saying, “C’mon, widdle bro, I think it’s time we went home.”

Danny seemed to twitch at the touch, his brows in convexes for a brief moment, before he turned to Satoshi again, grinning and waving. “Thanks again! It was so great to meet you — keep up the awesome work!”

“Bye-bye…!” the Japanese boy bid, raising his hand and waving as well, though his vigor and smile faded as the two made their way back across the floor.

It hadn’t been the first time he’d seen her, but after coming face to face with her at the Con, his elseworld dreams had picked up their pace.

Dakara, kangae wa ikaga ka?” (14) Satoshi asked. The lighter-red-haired girl snorted.

Amari Amerika no terebi wo mite iru,” (15) she replied plainly.

Mou, Kasumi, kono shinken da!” (16) the boy protested, frowning.

Ja, atashi mo yo!” Kasumi rebutted sharply. For a moment, Satoshi pouted, resting his jaw on the heel of his hand. “Mata…nani ga to wa supiritto diitekutibu to diimenshionaru riifuta wo motte desu ka?” (17)

Ore wa…” Satoshi began, his gaze falling like the corners of his mouth, “Wakaranai —shiranai da yo…” (18)

As 10:23PM turned into 10:24, Danny’s head was still on the pillow — only now he lay on his back, under a large light blue blanket on the vehicle’s floor with his sister to his left, his mother to her left, and his burly father wedged up against the right wall. However, Jack was no less jovial than he’d been the entire day.

“Rest up, kids,” he bid, “Day Two of Fenton Family Togetherness starts tomorrow at 8AM sharp!”

Jazz chuckled. “Okay, Dad!”

The boy made a face at the left wall, rolling his eyes. Sighing, he let his lids droop, trying to relax. Maddie had closed her eyes, though she said, “Danny, I know you slept for a while earlier, so just try to lie still and be quiet, okay?”

“Okay, Mom,” Danny echoed, lids drooping, eventually closing as he fidgeted, curling further. Then suddenly, he felt something brush down the length of his back. Shivering, he tried to ignore it, but barely five seconds later, he felt it again. Opening his eyes to a squint, he glared softly over his shoulder. “Jazz, quit it!”

“Quit what?” came her quiet bluff.

“Just stop it, okay? I’m trying to sleep…some more…so knock it off!”

However, her deft vertical strokes were then replaced by a series of prodding from one side of his lower back to the other. Danny twitched, snorting as he held back chuckles of his own. Brows lowering, he slid away from her.

“Stop it!” he hissed again.

“Danny…” his mother bade, sounding roughly half-asleep.

“Mom, Dad!” the boy piped up now, purposely echoing the redhead’s tone, “Jazz’s…touching me!”

However, Jazz was quick to add “Well, of course I’m touching you: the RV’s only five-and-a-half feet wide!”

“Just settle down over there, you two, all right?” came their father’s calm plea.

Danny’s mouth opened again, but no coherent words rose from his throat. With a frustrated sigh, he closed his eyes again, letting his mind go blank and block all thought of the presences beside him. With a yawn, he half-consciously slid onto his back.

Suddenly, he felt something spider across his ribs and onto his stomach, feeling the unwavering wiggle of a pointy finger in his navel, causing him to bolt to a sit, with wide eyes and a “HAHAHA!” far shriller than he’d have liked to utter in present company.

“Danny!” Maddie had now opened her eyes, rising on her elbow and peering across at her son. “What is going ON?”

Jazz, now resting in the same position, merely glanced over her shoulder with a small frown and a shrug. She and her parents now all looked over at the boy, who finished giving his stomach a firm rub, opening his flinching eyes and looking back at them, blinking. His brows swept into convexes as he stuttered. “I-I-I —!”

“What’s bugging you, son?” Jack asked genuinely, brows also convex.

Danny looked directly at Jazz, but still, struggled to answer. Finally, he sighed again, saying, “Nothing — nothing, I’m just…I…I’m fine. I’m fine.”

His sister looked particularly pleased as their gazes crossed again. The boy’s hands curled into fists. On an impulse, he cast off the covers and practically leaped to his feet, turning and grabbing the door’s handle.

“Where’re you going?” his mother asked, no edge in her voice.

“I just…I can’t sleep,” Danny said, “I’m just gonna…go for a walk. I’ll be back.”

“Are you okay, little brother?” Jazz asked with a bit of dramatic flair, having the audacity to add “Did I do something to upset you?” knowing full well he wouldn’t be truthful.

Biting his tongue and wincing again as he faced forward, her brother remained silent, slowly stepping down onto the parking lot asphalt, gently pushing the door shut as he did so.

In a daze, he stumbled toward the small, neon-lit diner beyond the scattering of cars, trucks, and a motorbike or two. The air was warm and humid, and he knew he couldn’t be dreaming because Jazz wouldn’t let him sleep. However, as he pushed through the door and walked inside, seeing the thin crowd of patrons, it felt like a dream. The calmer part of a strange nightmare he’d had years ago.

Nightmares and dreams were supposed to release their grip at the break of consciousness, and flap away like startled birds, fading out of memory and broken down by wakeful logic. Yet, somehow, this scene and others that made far too much sense stayed with him, seeping back into his forebrain from time to time.

As if he’d rehearsed it, he approached the counter, placing flat palms on a clear stretch of it and calling out, “Excuse me…”

“You’re excused!” said a voice on cue, followed by chuckles. Nearly seeing the printed stage directions, the boy turned his head, adding a nervous chuckle of his own and as polite a smile as he could manage at the humans perched on the stools beside him.

“Something I can get you, squeaker?”

Realizing he’d left his watch in the RV, Danny looked up, past the red-haired waitress, scanning the wall for a clock; seeing none, he turned his head again. Before he could ask for the time, he heard her speak again.

“You all right, there?” He faced her again as she continued, “Well, go on, sit down —” doing so, “I’ll get you something – what would you like?”

A faint echo of Butch’s voice bidding ‘Good, good…!’ rang in his ears as he replied, “Uh, water! a-and…uh, I dunno, anything you’ve got to eat…nothing big, though, please.”

“No wonder you’re skin and bones! …but all right, all right…” With that she disappeared into the kitchen, and the boy let out a sigh. As he spun around slowly, however, he saw nothing and no one. No cameras, no crew, no Butch; nothing but the very same people and atmosphere. The fourth wall had been boarded up, trapping him behind it.

As the notion sunk in, only the clunk of a plate and the savory smell of freshly fried eggs lured him in another one-eighty. “Thanks…” he bid as his sense of rote slowly slipped through his fingers, lightly clutching the fork he’d been given, and clipping off an edge of the browned albumen, lifting it to his mouth. It was quite bland, but he became preoccupied with chewing, like suckling on a pacifier, his lids drooping. “What time is it?” he finally asked.

“Seven minutes past eleven,” the woman answered, noting, “You look tired, squeaker.”

“I am.”
“Then you should probably get to bed soon.”

“I should,” Danny agreed, “but I can’t…” Slurping down the last bit of yolk-soaked egg white, he held up the plate, “Please, ma’am, could I have some more? Just…just a little more…?”

Doris smiled. “Sure thing. I’ll have it right out.”

As she headed back through the kitchen door with his messy plate, the boy quickly dug into his pocket and pulled out a few bills, eyeing the menu, and calculating a hefty tip.

Gobbling down another serving of fried eggs and quickly guzzling his second glass of water, he laid the money on the counter, saying, “Thanks so much. I really needed that…”

“No problem. You going home now?”

The boy threw a glance over his shoulder. The night sky was dark, making the far, unlit end of the lot and beyond look like a slowly encroaching abyss. “I guess so,” he muttered as he slid down from the stool, turning and heading for the door.

“Just be careful out there, squeaker — all right?” he heard her say.

Looking back at her, he gave her a last smile, agreeing “Okay, I will. Goodbye!”

“Good luck!” she said, also smiling.

Danny was almost to the door when he heard a deep voice speak up as he passed. “You’re not going to walk those roads at this hour, are you?”

Jumping out of his tired daze, he stopped and looked down to see a dark-haired ‘toon man in an off-white suit and blue shirt that matched his eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” the younger blue-eyed one insisted, “but…thanks anyway.”

Pausing, the man said “You just look like you’ve got something on your mind — and you look like you don’t have anywhere to put it or anybody to talk about it to…I don’t mind, if you can spare the time.”

How oddly specific, maybe he was dreaming. Sighing with a visible shoulder shrug, Danny slid into the booth across from him, plunking his elbows on the table’s edge.

“It’s just…” he began raising his head, “For the past few years, I’ve had this show…and it’s been great — but now it’s over, and now I’m back with my family… we have this RV, and I’m kind of stuck with them. Literally.”

The elder blue-eyed one chuckled, but said nothing.

“It’s like…I mean, they had trailers right next to mine, and it’s not like we didn’t see each other EVER — but…I was on my own a lot. I was doing my own thing, I finally had my own life…but now I’m back home, just like when I was a little kid, and it’s just…like…” he raised upturned palms with slightly clawed fingers “What did I do wrong? What did I do to go back a space and lose a turn? I love my family, but…”

“You’ve gotten used to having your freedom,” the man finished for him, adding, “That’s perfectly normal.”

“I know,” Danny said a bit sharply, “but…it’s not just that…”

“Oh? What else?”

Flinching, the boy let his temples sink back into his palms, his fingers curling into his hair. “It’s…my sister…”

“Ah, sibling rivalry, huh?”

Straightening himself, brows unwittingly lowered, Danny looked into the man’s eyes, asking “I’m sorry, who are you, again?”

“I’m the sorry one, I never introduced myself —” the elder blue-eyed one said, holding out his hand, “My name’s Tony. What’s yours?”

“Danny,” the boy said, giving his hand a shake, “Nice to meet you.” Pausing and leaning back, he gave the place a lazy visual sweep. “So…what’s a high-class guy like you doing in a place like this?”

Shrugging, Tony said “Oh, I was just passing by, got a little hungry and decided to stick around…” now mirroring Danny’s glance, “it’s not the Plaza Athénée, but it’ll fill you up if you’re just looking for a good burger and fries.”

“Or eggs,” Danny added, chin in hand.

The man gave a nod and tipped back the last of his coffee. “Y’know, I used to have a cartoon, too,” he mused, “Back in nineteen-sixty-six, with a reboot series in the early nineties —” correcting himself, “mid to late nineties.”

“Wow, pretty impressive. So what was it called?”
“Oh, it’s not important…”
“Huh…sounds more like a sitcom than a Saturday morning deal.”

Tony laughed.

“So what’d you do when the money dried up?”
“Learned to bargain shop and did a lot of favors for a lot of people.”
“Party favors or the other kind?”

Now the two of them shared an albeit self-conscious chuckle. Leaning on the heel of his hand, the man said, “So what were you going to say about your sister?”

Danny snorted, looking away. “Don’t you have REAL problems to deal with?”

Tony sat up straight, though he didn’t seem piqued. “And there’s the breed card,” he said, still smiling as he withdrew his round fingers from the mug’s handle. “Listen, if I’ve crossed a boundary, I’m sorry, and I respect that — but my ears are still open, and heck, you’ll probably never see me again, anyway, so what’ve you got to lose?”

“What do you have to gain?” Danny asked, brow raised, “Why are you so intent on having me emo-dump to you?”

“Just the sense of having helped a fellow ‘toon, that’s all,” the man insisted, “I’ve been here since the lunch rush —”

“What’ve you been doing at a middle-of-nowhere greasy spoon for nine hours?” Danny interrupted, though Tony wasn’t deterred.

“And you’re the first one I’ve seen besides myself in the men’s room mirror! When you’re on a set, it doesn’t seem like it, but we’re few and far between…”

I NEVER SHEE TOO MANY OF USH AROUND THESE DAYS…YOU’RE THE FIRST I’VE SHEEN IN WEEKS.

Danny blinked, brows sweeping into convexes as he frowned. “True…” he said, the thoughts in his head trailing off like his voice. “I s’ppose we gotta stick together, huh?”

Tony nodded again. “And that’s my guess as to why your folks might be smothering you — and your sister, if that’s the case.”

The boy only nodded, smiling.

“If you’re looking for a good segue from TV cameras, have you tried auditioning for comics?” the man asked, “I’ve done quite a few myself —”

Smirking, Danny summoned a speech bubble. OH, REALLY?

YES, REALLY. HAHA, Tony replied in kind, with a smirk of his own. I WAS GOING TO SAY, IF YOU CAN’T SPEAK MARVELIAN, THEY HAVE TUTORS FOR NO EXTRA CHARGE -- BUT I SEE THAT’S NOT A PROBLEM. YOU SPEAK VERY WELL, IN FACT!

THANKS, Danny said, grinning a bit, I LEARNED IT PRETTY YOUNG, I GUESS…IT’S NICE TO GET A LITTLE MORE PRACTICE.

As they continued their noiseless conversation, several of the human patrons turned their heads and shifted their gazes, watching with discreet interest. Like products of the ‘toonish gag reflex, they hung in their air for only a minute at most before fading. An average human, unused to reading a conversation in person might have been slightly lost — but both ‘toons knew by instinct at what level to look and how long was polite before forming another bubble.

SERIOUSLY, YOU SHOULD GIVE DAVE GABRIEL A CALL, HE’S THE HEAD OF ‘TOON RESOURCES AT MARVEL, the man pressed, I COULD PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR YOU, IF YOU WANT…OR GO TO THEIR WEBSITE, THEY HAVE APPLICATIONS ONLINE.

WELL, I MEAN, I DID DO SOME COMICS FOR NICK MAGAZINE, the boy noted, AND THANKS, BUT…I DUNNO. I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO RIGHT NOW.

FAIR ENOUGH, Tony said, BUT JUST DON’T LET THIS LITTLE LIFE SHIFT GET YOU DOWN, OKAY? I KNOW IT CAN BE TOUGH, BUT IF I CAN STAY ALIVE AND SANE THIS LONG, SO CAN YOU. HEHEH.

Tucker has said something along the same lines, the last time Danny’d seen him. Nodding again, and a bit spent from the text-talk, he echoed verbally, “Thanks…you’re right, I guess I —” Suddenly, the boy’s lids dropped shut as his frame drooped for a second, followed by a violent twitch back to semi-upright consciousness. “Wha — what time is it?” he asked.

Tony quickly rummaged through his pockets for a timepiece, pulling out a cellphone, whose screen he peered at. “12:43,” he revealed.

“Darnit!” Danny exclaimed, pushing himself out of the booth, quickly scooping up the man’s hand and shaking it again with both of his, “It was really awesome to meet you, Mr. Tony, but I really gotta go! Thanks for the advice! See you…maybe! Bye!” and with a vigorous wave, he bolted out the door, making a mad ‘toonish sprint for the RV.

“Bye, Danny!” the man bid, raising a hand to wave at him, then slowly lowering it and sighing as the boy disappeared into the night. “Hey, Doris!” he called over his shoulder, “Irish me up another coffee and bring me another one of those big blueberry muffins, will ya?”

“That’ll be your third one tonight, clanker,” the woman called back from the counter, “The next time you suit up, you’re gonna be a pot-bellied stove!”

With a guffaw, Tony said, “You’ve been talking to humans too long.”

“Maybe I have — but that IS what they pay me for.”

Approaching the RV, Danny made a phasing leap through the front of it, touching down as discreetly as possible between the two front seats. Pausing, he looked down at his parents, fast asleep, and his sister, lying on her side with one arm lying across the spot where he’d been lying. It looked as if he’d secretly sneaked out from under her, but the boy had a sharply sinking feeling that it was a trap of sorts: to subconsciously alert her to when he returned, so she could easily resume driving him insane.

Muffling a snort, he whisked past the three on undulating tail, slipping into the small bathroom, where he touched down again and sank against the far wall between the sink and the toilet, sliding his knees up to his chest. Settling his chin on his forearm, he let his vision haze as his lids drooped, both from mental and physical fatigue.

What would he end up doing in the near future? What kind of work would he get? What kind of work could they all possibly get? He didn’t imagine they would all get a chance to work together again. If he could get some dish-bussing job that would give him time away from his sister, then he would be grateful.

Losing the struggle to keep his eyelids open, his mind began to wander further, stumbling in a daze toward the bright colors of his earlier memories. Before he’d ever been uncertain about anything, or rather, before he’d taken it to heart; when the unknown was one elaborately wrapped birthday present after another, and even the disappointments were shruggable at worst.

Part of him tried to keep the rapidly approaching conclusion at bay, holding out a rigid arm fiercely — but was quickly plowed past. Things had slowly spiraled downward ever since he’d left home, his real home, surreal home: Cartun. He didn’t want to think ill of humans as a rule, and couldn’t with memories of Butch, his family, friends, and the rest of the show crew.

Still, his happiest memories, and even pleasant memories of his sister only existed against the bright backdrop of Tumnau. And yet, until two years ago, he’d been largely unaware of its existence at all, all a messy blotch of repression. Blocked by the turmoil of his childhood, and Turmoil herself: Jazz.

In the darkness of the small room, a scent caught his nose. It was the floral fragrance of the soap in the dispenser, drawing out a vivid sight of flowers in an expansive garden. His small child-form hand reached out to grab the wide-spread petals when a voice from behind rang out.

“Danny! We’re not supposed to touch anything!”

Turning with a pouting frown, he looked up at his sister.

“How come?”
“Because Mom and Dad said so.”


Together, they looked up, past the flower rows at the closest wing of the castle, for a moment both looking on in the exact same awe.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
“It’s cool. Hey, wanna go inside?”
“How? All the doors are locked.”
“I’ll use my en…en-tan…en-tange-bill…— I can use my powers! C’mon, c’mon!”


Jazz looked over at her shoulder, putting a hand to her eyes, watching as Jack and Maddie continued their peaceful stroll farther down the path, turning to one another and talking about something, though neither he nor the redhead could make out their words.

“C’mon, Jazzy, pleeeeeeeease please please?”

Facing him with a sigh, the girl smiled, holding out a hand.

“All right, let’s go.”

Grinning, he grabbed her hand, flashing them both invisible, and intangible shortly after, silencing their rustling through the irises, poppies, and peonies.

Fingers only curled around his kneecap now, he could still feel the warmth and pressure of her equally excited grip. But he could never get that back — he could never undo what Earth had done, because a person or a ‘toon’s psyche wasn’t like a tightly-knit tower of building blocks. It was akin to a cake, and once baked, he couldn’t simply reach in and pluck out two whole eggs; he couldn’t pull their happy sibling friendship back intact out of the past twenty-three years.

Burying his face deeper into his arms, tears beaded and ran down the lines of his jaws like raw yolk.
___
(1) Are you okay? Did you have a nightmare?
(2) Do you want to practice your English?
(3) Do you think dreams are real?
(4) What do you mean?
(5) When you dream, do you think your mind goes to an alternate universe somewhere?
(6) That's...
(7) I felt it, I was there! I was a Spirit Detective — I was a Dimensional Rifter!
(8) You're scaring me.
(9) And she was there.
(10) Hm? Her?
(11) Yeah, her: Jazz.
(12) Who's this 'Jazz'?
(13) Do you remember that comic convention in America we went to in 1998?
(14) So what do you think?
(15) I think you've been watching too much American TV.
(16) Aw, I'm being serious about this!
(17) Well, so am I! Besides...what's that got to do with spirit detectives and dimensional rifters?
(18) I...I don't understand it — I don't know.

Author:  Karnelia [ Sun May 23, 2010 3:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

I love the idea of Danny cosplaying Ash >w< It just works so well~! (random thought interjection: Hmm, I just realized both Danny's and Vicky's idols are Japanese 'toons XD) And, holy wow, AshxJazz never even would have ever crossed my mind ... not that I think about crack!ships like ever ... but I like it for some reason XD The whole flashback to the convention is cool~ =3

And moar deliciously angsty sibling interaction is luv~~ > w> But I do feel bad for Danny .... and Jazz too ; -;

Mweeeee, Tony Stark cameo~~~ X3;;; Are we gonna see more of him~? > w>; I gotta say, the whole diner sequence really flows for me; when you sent that segment to me I didn't see it till I was at school and I had a bit of time before class, but when I started reading, I completely forgot about the time and it just swept me into the scene and into Danny's feelings, especially when he asks for more eggs ; 3; .....I had to hurry to class, but it was worth it XD

Such a bittersweet memory, I'm really looking forward to seeing more of their childhood~~ Love everything, as always~! ^0^

Author:  Jazzypants [ Mon May 24, 2010 5:20 am ]
Post subject: 

Unless I'm just forgetting off the top of my head, this is the first big mention of Jazz you've done in your TDPS Saga, correct? You managed to convey her wonderfully, and like Karnelia before me, I am looking forward to seeing their childhood unravel even farther. An amazing start to the latest fic in your saga, Maba. Smile

Also, OMG YOU REFERENCED MAH STORY. =D

I need to finish episode 37 on that note. XD

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thank you both so much! ^0^ I'm SO glad you're liking this story so much so far. <3<3 And yes, this is the first time Jazz has been seen outside of a dream or a flashback. I'm relieved that you think she's relatively in-character. X3

Ugh, this chapter took me a MONTH and two days — but here it is, at freakin' last!

A few notes, SYK: Sujigami is the god of drama (technically "plot"; he would've been 'Gekigami', but unfortunately, that name was already taken. FUUUUUUU —) and Taimigami is the god of, well, comedy in general, basically (technically "timing", after the essence of all comedy). The last scene on Cartun is a more fleshed-out version of Danny's memory-dream from PGDP Ch. 10.)

Umm...so yeah, please to be enjoying. ^_^

CHAPTER II

“Danny…Daaanny, I’m gonna tickle you!”

The boy rose to a sit with a small breathy gasp, hands sliding across the kitchen counter. Blinking, he turned, looking over his shoulder at his sister, who gazed back with an equally startled expression — that quickly turned to a sheepish grin as his brows lowered slightly, mouth in a pouting frown. “Don’t scare me like that, Jazz…!”

“Sorry,” she said, walking around him and the edge of the counter, “I didn’t mean to SCARE you…” Danny watched as she headed toward the fridge, pulling it open and bending down as she reached in. “You want some juice?”

“Sure,” he said. Within a few seconds, she’d placed a second box with a loosely glued on plastic straw within his reach. Taking it, he threw another glance over his shoulder. The setting sun streamed in thickly, casting a bright glow on the cupboards and fridge, cutout with silhouettes of the flowers on the dinner table and the kitchen faucet. Blinking again, he mumbled, “Man, how long was I sleeping?”

“Only a little bit,” Jazz informed him, already sipping her juice and climbing into the tall-legged chair next to him. Both idly kicked their dangling legs as they drank.

After a long sip, Danny asked, “What’s Mom making for dinner?”

“I dunno,” the redhead replied, staring at the magnets and various notes scattered across the fridge door, “She said she wasn’t sure but she’d think about it when she got done with her work.”

Chin in hands, the boy muttered, “It’s probably gonna be something yucky and boring, like peas and…um…uh…meatloaf…or something — hey!” he sat up with a smirk, “Wanna go to that Papavero place?”

“Sure!” the girl said, smiling — then frowned, “But I don’t think Mom or Dad will wanna go tonight…”

“Sure they will, if Mom thinks Dad wants to go, and Dad thinks Mom wants to go.”
“How do we do that?”
“Like this! Okay, listen, ‘cuz we gotta do this JUST right…okay?”

“Okay!” Jazz agreed, leaning toward her brother as he began whispering the details of his elaborate plan.

Minutes later, a breathless Danny ran into the office, phasing through the closed door and skidding to a stop behind Maddie, who looked up from her paperwork and down at him. “There you are, Danny!” she said happily, “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, but…” Danny began, glancing back at the hall, “I went to find Dad and I was talking to him and he said he wanted to go to Papavero for dinner tonight. So can we go?”

“Huh,” his mother mused, “I could’ve sworn he had his heart set on meatloaf tonight — is he still working on the weapons vault?”

Jogging through the back door of the house and into the side door of the detached garage, Jazz slinked past the Fenton RV and down the stairs into the lab, stopping a foot away from her father, kneeling beside an open vault door with an electric screwdriver. As the noisy whir died down, he turned to look back at the presence he sensed. “There you are, Jazzypants!” he said cheerfully, “Wanna help your old man with something so he doesn’t accidentally lock your mother in the weapons vault and get in really, REALLY big trouble again?” and grinned, though his brows were convex.

“Oh, um, hey, speaking of Mom,” Jazz began, glancing away, “I JUST talked with her, and she was saying how she really liked Papavero last time we went, and she wanted to go again — tonight, in fact. But she said to ask you, is that okay with you?”

Jack rose. “Really? And I thought she was gonna make her special meatloaf tonight…welll did she finish up all those patent applications?”

Both Fenton children burst out of the house and garage doors, respectively, stopping before they passed one another.

“Okay, Mom wants to know if Dad’s done with the vault yet.”
“And Dad wants to know if Mom’s done with those patten things.”
“Got it!”
“Okay!”

With that, both continued in their current directions, Jazz now bounding into the office while Danny dove down the steps in a legless glide, both again coming to a skidding, breathless halt.

“Dad says he’s all finished with the door and he’s really hungry!” the redhead proclaimed, “He said he wanted to go to Papavero, can we go?”

“Mom just finished with all that patten stuff and she said she wanted to go to Papavero again for dinner ‘cuz she REALLY liked it last time we went. Can we go? Can we go?”

“All right, what time does she want to leave?” Jack asked.

“I don’t see why not — what time did he say he wanted to eat?” Maddie asked.

Roughly one hour later, the family of four sat around a table at Tumnau’s finest albeit only Italian restaurant, Alto Papavero. Danny and Jazz grinning happily as they pored over their menus. Peering over them, they saw Jack looking over them.

“You guys are sneaky!” he said playfully, at which they both ducked down out of sight, giggling.

“Of course this is only the fourth time you’ve done this,” Maddie said calmly.

Lowering his menu, Danny said, “Well, if…the third time’s the charm, then…the fourth time is…super-awesome, right?”

Jack said nothing, pushing back his chair, walking around and scooping the mischievous pair into a double-bearhug, giving their sides a stealthy tickle before executing a two-handed noogie, and lastly, planting a separate but equally large kiss on both of their heads. Looking up, he announced, “I’ve gotta hit the little ghost-hunters’ room, I’ll be right back!”

“I’ll get a drink for you, okay, hon?” his wife bid as he turned.

“Thanks, Maddie-pie!”

“And what are you two going to get tonight?” the woman asked, looking over at her kids.

“I want a BIIIG cheese pizza —” Danny said, throwing his head back and flinging out his arms to illustrate, lowering both as he went on, “And-and a grilled cheese! And some mashed potatoes —”

“I was gonna get a grilled cheese,” Jazz said as Maddie’s gaze shifted to her, “or maybe try the chicken ca…cacka…ca-kye-a —”

“It’s catch-y-a-tory,” her mother pronounced.

“Catch-y-a-tory,” the girl repeated, looking down at the word again, “Catchy-atory…” looking up and proudly reiterating, “yeah, I’m gonna have the chicken catch-ya-tory.”

“Catch-a-tory?” Danny repeated, idly leaning to one side, “Is that like…a museum for baseball gloves? Or a baseball glove factory? Or both?”

Chuckling, Maddie said, “No, sweetie — it’s Italian, and it means ‘hunter’.”

“Weird,” the boy declared, “So what’s it got in it?”

“Tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers.”
“Yuck, no way.”

Jazz glanced at her brother, straightening herself. “Well, I think it sounds kinda yummy.”

“Whatever,” Danny said, “I want a soda! Can I have a soda now?”

In a blur, a waiter appeared beside the table, setting down a glass with a bendy straw from which Danny eagerly gulped. “Are you folks ready to order?” he asked.

A warm breeze wound its way along the street, carrying a few leaves with it, tugging on Jazz’s long hair as she adjusted her grip on her schoolbooks. Turning to her friends, she asked with a smile, “So what d’you guys think we should do for our project?”

The brown-haired girl adjusted her large black-rimmed glasses, saying, “I think we should do a diorama. What better way to show her that we understand the message of the book than to bring it to still life?”

“Well, I think we should do handouts,” insisted the blonde with the narrower glasses, “That way everybody can follow along — and we can just staple our question and answer page to the back of Ms. Boldecke’s copy.”

After only a second of further thought, the redhead piped up “Wait, what if we do a diorama AND handouts? Extra work for extra credit, what do you guys think?”

“Perfect idea, Jazz!” exclaimed the brunette, “She never said we only had to pick one way to present the book — but we’d have to spend SO much time in the library, we’d have to, like…have a sleep over in it!”

“That would be so cool!” proclaimed the blonde, “We should totally do it!”

“I’ll bring snacks,” Jazz said, “what else do you guys want? And when should we go?”

As the peppy trio prepared to cross the street, two cars came barreling toward one another and collided head-on with a loud crash, their hoods condensing like accordion bellows. Very shortly after, the drivers emerged, ranting and shaking their fists, gag reflexes flying.

The redhead, brunette, and blonde stepped carefully around the accident, eventually tearing their curious gazes away. Giving the scene a last glance over her shoulder, Jazz snorted with a subtle smile and shook her head.

“…so then Dina said we’d have to spend the night there, and Cadee thought it was a great idea, so tomorrow we’re all going to her house after school, and then we’re gonna head over and spend the WHOLE weekend hanging out and working on our final project!” Nearly out of breath, the redhead paused to sip her milk and take another bite of chicken.

Looking on with a proud grin, Jack said, “That’s great, princess!”
“Well, you three just be careful, okay? Have fun — but…be careful,” Maddie bid, though she smiled.

“Mooom, we’ll be fine,” Jazz insisted calmly, “It’s just the library, and it’s just for one weekend.”

“I know but, still —”

“All done!” came Danny’s sudden, arch-eyed declaration as he hoisted his clean plate high, slipping down off of his chair and striding happily toward the sink.

“No, you’re not,” his mother said plainly, “Danny, sit back down and finish your food.”

“C’mon, champ, we know you’re just turning your veggies invisible,” Jack expounded.

Letting his head hang with a light flinch and a “Darnit…”, the boy slid his thumbs out of their strategic position on the plate, revealing a slightly scattered mound of peas that jostled slightly as he trudged back to the table. However, once he’d climbed back into his chair, he merely folded his arms with a pout, staring moodily at nothing in particular.

“Aw, come on, Danny,” the redhead tried to coax, “Peas aren’t so bad…”

Her brother only made a face with a far-protruding tongue. “Blehhh!”

“Well, if you don’t eat them, you’re not getting any dessert,” Maddie stipulated. Uttering a frustrated groan, Danny let his face plunk flat on the plate, squishing several of the little green seeds.

Leaning over, Jazz informed him via excited whisper, “Mom got you Rocket Pops!”

As he bolted to a sit, the boy simultaneously inhaled the veggies, looking like a chipmunk moments before he downed them all in a single, throat-expanding swallow, eyes as wide as his grin. “Can I have one now?” he asked.

“You can have ONE,” his mother instructed, watching as Danny slid off his chair again, slipping under the floor and reappearing in front of the sliding freezer drawer, tugging it open and burrowing a hand in, quickly finding the box.

Ripping it open, he yanked out one of the novelties, tearing away the thin white wrapping to reveal a long, carefully crafted vanilla fuselage with wild cherry fins and little blue raspberry port windows. Giggling, he held it high while making “Fwssh! Fwssh!” noises and laps around the table.

Giving the little red knob a few quick twists and punching in a well-memorized pattern of buttons, Jack caught the little glass cylinder without even giving it a single look. Turning, he smiled over his shoulder and asked, “Danny, could you go grab me a clean filtrator from the top drawer there?”

“Sure!” came the boy’s eager reply, as he bounded up to the workbench, reaching intangibly through the drawer before pulling out another glass cylinder, “Got it!” which he clutched in both hands as he bounded over to his father and held up. “Here y’go, Dad!”

“That’s my boy!” the man encouraged. Once he’d put it in place, however, he added, “You want me to show you how to put in the new filtrator?”

“Okay!” Danny replied. As Jack turned to face the device again, his son transformed, latching onto his shoulder and peering over it with an undulating tail.

“You watching?”
“Uh-huh!”
“Okay, now…you just loosen this little knob right here…then you push this button here, then this one, just like that, one-two — well, seven-one, actually, but you get the idea —” Danny gave several nods, “and then ohp! See? It pops right out…”
“Cool!”
“Now you try!”
“Okay!”

Leaning farther over Jack’s shoulder, the little white-haired boy stretched out his arm as far as it would usually reach, imitating his father’s gestures, grunting as he dove to catch the empty filtrator, and with a tumble, landing belly-up in the man’s arms, blinking, and slowly grinning with a chuckle.

Grinning as well, Jack leaned down to give his son a quick zurbit which got him giggling again. Setting him down gently, he took the empty cylinder, giving the boy the full one.

Pretending to sneeze, Danny put his lips to one end of the filtrator and expelled the ecto-goo into a puddle on the floor. Wiping his nose, he uttered a stuffy, “Excuse me…” which got a chuckle from his father.

“So, Danny…” the man began, grabbing a towel to mop up the mess, “What do you wanna be when you finally spurt up?”

Perching himself on the top of a nearby box, swinging his legs as he reverted, the boy said, “Um…ummm…well, I kinda can’t decide between an awesome ghosthunter like my dad —” at which Jack beamed, “orrrr…astronaut.”

“Well…why do you think you wanna be a ghosthunter and why d’you think you wanna be an astronaut?”
“Well, like…being a ghosthunter would be cool, ‘cuz I’m part ghost and I could help a lot…and stuff…but like…being an astronaut would be awesome ‘cuz I’d go into space, and help make the stars all shiny, and meet aliens, and fly around in cool rocketships…”

“Hey, just remember this, kiddo,” the man said with an unwavering calm confidence, “whatever you decide to do — whatever it is, at all, EVEN if your mother doesn’t think it’s such a great idea…I’ll always support you,” giving his son a tap on the nose as he said it.

“Even if Mom doesn’t like it?” Danny repeated, chuckling, “Cool!” Sliding off of the box and hopping up and down, he begged, “Can you swing me around by my tail? Pleasepleaseplease?!”

“Oh, okay,” Jack agreed, “But only for a little bit ‘cuz we’ve got work to do, all right?”
“Okay, okay.”

As Danny transformed again, his father took him firmly but gently by the tail, raising him to the level of his chest and making wide circles.

“Faster, faster! …FASTERRR!”

Smirking, the man sped up his swings, finally whirling the boy around as if he were a lasso, letting go and watching as his son phased through the ceiling. Arcing over the width of the RV, Danny phased back through the garage floor and came spiraling down toward his father, onto whom he latched again.

“I love you, Dad,” he said, leaning against his chest.

“I love you, too, Danny. Now come on, let’s get to work!”
“Yaaay! Okay!”

Hand in hand, Jazz and Danny stepped off of the bridge back onto the dirt road that bended beneath the Valdivi Forest canopy. The boy turned, tugging his sister to a halt as he looked back at the hummingbird trio.

“Bye, Danny!” they chimed in perfect, chipper unison.

“Byeeee!” the little black-haired one echoed, waving vigorously with his free arm.

“Come on, little bro,” the redhead bid sagely, giving him a tug forward. Eventually, Danny yielded, trotting beside her once more. Looking up, he began recounting his most recent experience with his great-uncle for about the fifth time, sounding no less hyper than before.

“…and then — and then!” Jazz nearly tripped as he popped in front of her. “Uncle D’Artacan said that my eyes are ah-zull —” he began, butchering the Spanish a bit; blinking and making them glow, “and in my ghost mode they’re verr-day!”

His sister chuckled. “That’s neat!”

“And my ghost hair is —!” He cut himself off, smile fading to mirror his sister’s rather shocked face. Turning, he followed her gaze to see what she was staring at, before backing up and hiding behind her leg, peering out. “Umm…Jazz, what’s THAT?”

A strange creature lumbered toward the forest’s edge, its form flickering between the tree trunks. Finally, it emerged, pausing as it caught sight of the pair, looking down at them and snorting lightly. Its body was oddly dim, its hair in a thousand wiry strands that shone in the sunlight; its eyes were small, though its nose was large and round, nostrils angling out to the sides like airplane wings above its thick lips — a reddish-pink, despite the fact that it appeared to be male — and wide, round chin.

“I think Dad said it was a…human,” Jazz explained in a hushed voice.

Danny’s brow rose as he lifted his head again “But WE’RE humans…” then looking over at it again, “…aren’t we?”

“No, that’s a REAL human.”
“What’s a REAL human?”

Giving the siblings a faint smile, it resumed its walk past them toward the bridge. The boy emerged from behind his sister’s leg, taking a few steps, then stopping, simply watching it in awe before it became a blur among the crowd on the cobblestone street, disappearing behind a building.

“Weeeird…!” Danny concluded.

“Real humans come from a place called Earth —” Jazz began.

“Where’s ‘Urth’?” her brother interrupted, “Is that like near where that Ginn-zuh is? ‘Cuz I heard they do lots of experiments there and stuff…”

Shaking her head, the redhead answered, “No, Earth is…” pausing, “Um…it’s…uh…” finally professing, “I forget. But Dad said that a lot of ‘toons go there…for different stuff…”

“But why do real humans come here?” Danny asked. “Is that Earth place bad or something?”

“I dunno,” the girl admitted as they headed deeper into the forest, “I guess kinda, because Mom once said that sometimes a lot of them come all at the same time, and that means a war happened.”

“But…Dad said the war happened already a long, long, long-long, long-really-long time ago! Do real humans have wars all the time?”

“Not ALL the time I guess, but…sometimes…”

The boy was quiet for another few moments before looking up and asking, “But…if real humans already had their war, then why would they need more wars? Did they not all finish yelling at each other and stuff the first time?”

“I guess not — and Mom said humans war about different stuff.”
“What kinda different stuff? Like-like…do the animal-real-humans —”
“There aren’t any animal-real-humans. All real humans look like the one we saw.”
“Then…why do they war?”
“Because some of them are really mean, and they want to have everything and have everybody to do what they want. And they’ll hurt everybody just to get their way, and they won’t listen to anything anybody says. So sometimes the other real humans have to fight them so they’ll listen, ‘cuz they won’t listen to anything but fighting. That’s what Mom said.”

Danny blinked, looking down at the path as they walked. When they came to the Asonsse Crossroads, he looked Jazz in the eyes again, reaffirming plainly “Real humans are weird.”

Gently pulling open her son’s bedroom door while knocking on it lightly, Maddie peeked in, asking, “Danny, do you have EVERYthing you’re going to want tomorrow?”

Stuffing another toy into his backpack, the boy looked up, “Yeah — but…” frowning, “Mom, I don’t wanna go to Earth. I mean, I know I said I wanna see more real humans and stuff…but Jazz said that you said that there’s lots of wars there.”

“Oh, sweetie, there are no wars on Earth now,” the woman assured him.

“Well, just the Cold War, anyway,” Jack added as he stopped behind her. Maddie looked over her shoulder with a sigh.

“Jack…”

“A cold war?” Danny repeated, then ran to his closet again, “I’ll bring my Nterwi jacket!” pulling a fluffy-hooded red coat off of a hanger and squeezing it into his already-bulging pack with a grunt. “There!”

His parents exchanged a glance and a soft chuckle.

Arms stretched around the backs of both Dina and Cadee, Jazz squeezed them as hard as she could, feeling them hug her equally tight. Finally, they all withdrew, the blonde and brunette frowning.

“Jazz, we’re gonna miss you SO MUCH!” the girl with glasses said.

“Do you know when you’re coming back?” the blonde asked.

Looking at them in turn and managing a smile, the redhead said, “Well, I don’t know — but I’ll miss you guys, too! SO MUCH!” For a moment, they all came together in another crushing group hug.

“Call me when you’re on your way home,” Dina said, smiling, “And I’ll have my Mom make us a ton of brownies and milk, and we’ll all sleepover and then you can tell us what it was like living with real humans!”

Jazz chuckled, her eyes arching. “Okay, can’t wait!” Pausing, she went on, “Hey, will you guys take notes for me while I’m gone? I’ve got all my books, but I don’t think I’ll be able to even take a makeup quiz if I’ve missed more than like, five classes…”

“Sure thing, Jazz!” Cadee said, grinning.

“We’ll take such good notes, we’ll make sure you do better than everybody else on even the finals!” Dina assured her.

“Great, thanks!”

“Mom, what’s going on?” Danny asked with a hint of nerves as Maddie carried him to the middle of the town square, laying him down gently on what appeared to be a stone bed; a slab of smooth rock with one end raised slightly.

“Just relax, Danny, Uncle DM and his friends just want to see you before we go,” his mother said, smiling, “You’re going to go to sleep for a while, but it’s okay, I’m right here. You’ll be all right.”

“Okay…” the boy acknowledged, though still looked anxious as his eyes darted around. A small crowd had gathered, and several ‘toons were staring at him. Looking back at Maddie, he let his gaze rise to the faint gray cloud cover; a rare occurrence for the skies over Tumnau. Fidgeting for a moment, the boy let out an impatient sigh. He could feel his mother’s hand around his, her thumb lightly petting his fingers.

The red-and-gold-robed old man made his way through the throng, standing on the opposite side of the stone, with the two diminutive Elders perched on his shoulders. After raising flat palms and magically putting his great-nephew to sleep, he, Wise Paw, and David looked over the boy for several moments in silence.

“Are we decided then?” the gnome asked.

The small bear shifted his weight, giving his ear an idle scratch. “The Prison Mogul informed me that a band of humans came through this very village in a raid only a few days ago. They are not as violent as they have been, but still…it would be best if we closed our doors to them for a time.”

“If we close our doors to them, we’re also closing them on ourselves,” David noted, “There are too many ‘toons on Earth already — even if we had a royal mandate, we couldn’t bring them all back in a day. Not to mention, some are happy where they are, despite everything.”

“And that is why we must give them a spare key, a spare gate back in case something even more horrible arises.”

“And Danny is the best way to do that,” Dungeon Master said with a smile, “He’s a brave, smart boy and a budding hero…if anyone can be trusted with such a responsibility, it’s him.”

A small silence, then David spoke again, “But of course, we won’t be telling him any of this when he wakes up, will we?”

“Of course not.”

“He must find out on his own,” the bear added, “praise Sujigami!”

Craning his head back, the tallest mused, “Sujigami seems to be favoring us today,” and looking down at his niece “Maddie, if you would pray to him and Taimigami, then I think we can get started.”

Nodding, the woman briefly withdrew her hand from her son’s, clasping both in prayer, touching her knuckles to her forehead and closing her eyes, lips twitching in recitation.

“Wise Paw, do you have the pearl?” Dungeon Master asked.

The small bear pulled out a smooth dark sphere from the folds of his robe, holding it up. “I shall seal the gate within this gem, so that all our brothers and sisters may one day come home again.”

Grinning, the gnome noted “Nice and poetic, there, Wise Paw.”

“Thank you. Dungeon Master, do you have the gate?”

Raising his hands again, closing his eyes, the long-white-haired one uttered a quiet, deep-voiced chant. A black hole with wavering edges appeared in the air above the sleeping boy. As the red-robed one lowered his arms, the bear raised his, casting the now-floating pearl directly beneath the bottom of the portal, hovering inches above Danny’s face.

As the tiny chief closed his eyes, the pearl acquired a glow, and slowly, the black hole began to stretch and sink, as if being sucked down by the gem through an invisible straw.

Very slowly and carefully lowering his hands, Wise Paw brought the pearl down until it rested on the boy’s lids. Suddenly, it became enveloped in a radiating flash so bright, even bystanders on the far edge of the crowd had to shield their eyes.

Raising an arm with a half-flinch, the gnome grunted “Watch it, Wise-guy, or you’re gonna blind the poor kid! Not to mention us!”

Undeterred, the bear replied, “Contrary to your belief, David, I know EXACTLY what I’m doing…”

“Yeah, and Taimigami’s having a field day…”
“I imagine he is.”

Having also raised an arm to shield his eyes, Dungeon Master coaxed, “Fo-cus…!”

Danny winced, letting out a grunt and a groan. Maddie clutched his hand in both of hers, squeezing it tight.

When the light faded, there remained only a glowing outline of the sphere, which then, too, disappeared. The woman let go of her son’s hand and gently combed her fingers through his hair, bending down to give his forehead a kiss. After a few moments, the boy’s lids fluttered, and he opened his eyes.

“Danny, are you feeling okay?” his mother asked, adding, “It’s time to go, sweetie…”

“Okay…” Danny echoed, a bit dazed. As Maddie picked him up again, the boy slid his arms around her neck, smelling her perfume, which distracted him from the aching throb in his eye.

“Travel safely, all of you,” the red-robed one bid, “just as we have come to be wary of the humans, they will be ever warier of us. Thirty/Thirty will be waiting for you when you arrive, and he’ll help you find a place to stay.” Looking at the boy, he went on, “I have faith that the boy will find his way back and embrace his newest gift when the time comes. Danny has great powers granted to him, and I have all the confidence on Cartun that one day he will use them as the gods intended.”

Jack nodded, saying, “We’ll be sure to keep a close watch on him, D.M.!” with a brief salute, affirming, “I believe in my son one-hundred-and-twenty-five percent.” Pausing, he glanced around. “Boy, we sure are gonna miss you guys…but we’ll find a way to hang in there on Earth. We Fentons are a resourceful bunch and we always stick together!”

The Elders shared a chuckle, Dungeon Master giving the others a quick ‘I told you so’ glance before lifting his gaze to his nephew-in-law again. “I’m very glad to hear it, Jack.”

Jazz finally stepped away from her friends, jogging toward her mother and tugging on her jumpsuit. Maddie looked down, still cradling her son. “There you are — Jazz, do you have everything?”

The redhead nodded, asking with wide eyes “What did they do to Danny?”

“He’s all right, honey,” the woman assured her, glimpsing her husband nod his head toward another portal that her uncle had conjured, “Come on, let’s go…”

The girl walked alongside her, until they caught up to Jack, who took his daughter’s hand, holding it tightly and giving it a squeeze as they all approached the black hole, giving their world and all their friends and neighbors a last smile and a wave before stepping into the dark space.

Maddie felt Danny shiver and cling to her more tightly as they floated through the emptiness before finally touching down on the other side, on dim, papery blades of real grass beneath the Gateway Arch. The Terran sky was covered with clouds as well, but these were thicker and darker, and the air around them — while warmer than that of the gate — was much cooler.

The woman finally set Danny down again as they crossed onto the concrete and walked along the riverside road. Jack handed him his backpack, into which he quickly reached, tugging out his jacket and pulling it on, zipping it up snugly to his chin. Sliding his arms through the pack’s straps, he tugged on them, breaking into a jog to catch up to his father, whose hand he now took. Jazz had let go, and now hung back to walk beside her mother. The black hole behind them slowly faded into the real air.

It wasn’t long before the siblings saw another human — then another, and another, and another. Unlike before, they blended in well with their surroundings, and while some stared in awe or smiled genuinely, more than a handful gave them dirty looks.

Thirty/Thirty met up with the four at a hotel in downtown St. Louis, where he told them that the rest of their belongings had been shipped north to the state of Minnesota, where there were a few potential new homes to choose from. Danny and Jazz sat on the bed getting their first eyeful of human television while the Equestroid sat down with Jack and Maddie, laying out sheets of paper and photos of potential new homes. The Fentons finally came to a decision, and made their signatures.

One day and several bus trips later, the family reunited with their R.V. at the Illinois-Minnesota border, from which Jack and Maddie took turns driving to the city of Lakeville, and into the Dakota County suburb known as Antlers Park.

It was 4:19AM when the treads finally rolled onto the driveway. Though weary himself, Jack carried both of his kids into the house, with Maddie behind him lugging the first batch of equipment. Once the ‘toon man had deposited both the boy and the redhead in their new beds, he headed back outside to finish unpacking while Maddie came in and pulled up the covers, giving them both kisses and their favorite stuffed animals — in Jazz’s case, Bearbert.

All four slept late the next day, though, the kids were up before their parents, pressing their noses against the windows and jogging out the door to marvel at the strange new world around them.

Zipping up his jacket again and pulling his hood over his head, Danny wrapped his arms around himself, muttering, “Stupid war…” before his teeth began to chatter. Cupping his hands, he formed a sizeable ecto-ball between them, holding it close and huddling over its warmth.

Jazz watched him, slowly turning as she felt a presence behind them. A human girl was standing on the lawn of the house to the right of theirs. Her small, dim eyes were locked on the ‘toon boy, but her gaze shifted to the redhead as she came jogging over. “Hi!” Jazz said with a wide smile, “My name’s Jazz, what’s yours?”

The human blinked, saying nothing, only continuing to stare. She took a few steps back before turning and running as fast as a human child could toward her house.

“Wait!” the ‘toon girl said, frowning, and starting to run after her, “I just —” slowing to a stop, “…wanted to be friends.”

As if she’d heard, the human slowed to a stop as well, looking over her shoulder before turning and walking back toward the redhead, who smiled again, eyes arching briefly.

“I really like your shirt,” she said, “It’s pretty.”

“I like your hair-bow…” the human girl said, though she didn’t smile much. Suddenly, she reached up to grab it, taking a good chunk of the redhead’s hair in her fist as well. Jazz cried out, reaching up and trying to grab the bow. The two of them struggled for a moment before the human gave the ‘toon a hard shove to the ground, quickly absconding with the ribbon.

“HEY!” came a shout as Danny came running, nearly tripping himself as he barreled past his sister, brows sharply angled, aiming and firing an ecto-blast in the human girl’s direction. “Leave my sister ALONE!” He missed her, making a divot in the neighbor’s lawn. As he aimed another, he finally stumbled, tumbling to a belly-flop with a grunt.

Seeing the other girl duck into her house and slam the door, the boy sighed, picking himself up and walking back to where Jazz had risen to a sit, staring out with hazy eyes.

“You okay, Jazz?”

The redhead was quiet, letting her gaze fall as her head hung lightly. “Yeah, I’m fine…”

Author:  Jazzypants [ Thu Jun 24, 2010 4:48 am ]
Post subject: 

I really felt sad for Jazz in that last scene. It goes to show you that the cutthroat nature of the majority of the human race exists even within small children at times.

Wonderful chapter. ^_^

Author:  Karnelia [ Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Ahh, goodfic~<3 It's always so refreshing to read your stuff after an onslaught of badfic. Hehehe, Danny and Jazz were so mischievous together X3; It's such a contrast seeing the whole Fenton family so tight-knit and happy and loving compared to the 'present', and the scenes with Jazz especially really show how hard-hitting the move to Earth was for them. As always, I love it all, but the father-son bonding scene really tipped over the cuteness scale X3;; And it's really cool to finally see the whole scene about the pearl (and LOL about the not-telling-him-about-it bit). All I can say is I'm bouncing for moaaaaaaaar~! ^0^ *bouncebouncebounce* <3

Author:  KDH [ Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:58 am ]
Post subject: 

Wow, this is good. Well, better than the others. Not that they weren't good too but... Oh you know what I mean. I hope.

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Wow, thanks, guys! You's awesome. <3<3<3 ^_^

So this next chapter took me one month, one week, and SIX days. A month or so to be a lazy butt and not write anything, and six days to struggle through another fifteen pages. And I really hope they don't suck, because I'm getting major suck-vibes (CHILDREN DO NOT TALK THAT WAY!/SCHOOL DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! à la Morbo) — buuuuut that could just be me. XD;;

CHAPTER III

“Jasmine Fenton?”

Arms flat on the desk, Jazz looked up. “Here!” She blinked as the human woman’s gaze seemed to linger on her, lips in a sort of frowning pout before her eyes returned to the student list.

“Marvin Gellarson?”

With a sigh, the girl looked down at the mildly shiny surface, her eyes hazing. Memories of her old classroom, sitting between her best friends, and smiling up at her buoyant, friendly teacher swept through her mind like a faint breeze.

After some searching, Maddie and Jack had settled on an educational institution for their children — each of them; while Danny was enrolled in the all-‘toon Marion Melodies Elementary, Jazz was signed up for classes at the mostly-human Lake Marion Elementary a few minutes’ drive away. Why her parents had decided to split them up like this, she couldn’t tell. From what she’d experienced so far, it almost felt like some kind of punishment.

“Do you want to ride in the RV or take the bus, Jazz?” Maddie asked as she finished packing the two brown-bagged lunches.

The redhead looked down at her plate again, lazily dragging her fork through the remainder of her scrambled eggs. After a few minutes, she looked up. “Umm…could you drive me, please?”

“Well, sure, sweetie!” Leaning down to wipe a chocolatey milk goatee off of her son’s chin, “Danny, are you ready for your first day of school?”

Exuberantly, the boy pumped his fists. “Yeah! And I can’t wait to learn why Earth is so weird. And dark.”

Maddie chuckled, smiling at him. His sister smiled, too — though it faded.

Jazz outright frowned when the RV pulled up to the curb in front of her new school, glancing anxiously up at her mother and father before pushing open the door and sliding out of her seat.

“We’ll be back at four to pick you up, okay?” Maddie said.

“Have fun, Jazzy!” her father bid from behind the wheel.

“Hey, Jazz!” Danny spoke up suddenly, climbing toward the door and stretching his seatbelt to ‘toonish lengths, “Don’t make too many new friends, okay? ‘Cuz I still wanna do stuff with you when you get back!”

Grinning, the redhead nodded “Okay —have fun, Danny!”

“Okay!” the boy echoed, whereupon he lost his grip on the door, the belt yanking him back against the seat. “Gaah!”

“Danny, stay in your seat,” Maddie said a bit firmly.

“Okaaay…”

The three of them waved at Jazz as she waved at them, watching as her mother pulled the door shut and both parents faced forward, the RV pulling away and rolling out onto the main road.

Turning, the redhead walked slowly toward the main entrance, looking around at her soon-to-be fellow classmates pouring out of buses and other vehicles, as well as several of their parents milling around. Most didn’t see her or just didn’t look back at her — but those that did consistently stared for a moment, then quickly averted their gazes. She didn’t spy any other ‘toons among the crowd so far.

She’d glimpsed the hallways and a few of the classrooms before, but they still had an exciting sort of novelty to them that got her smiling again. Her teacher was standing in the doorway, smiling and warmly greeting everyone — until her eyes met the girl’s. The woman looked as if she were watching a stray raccoon with a foamy mouth slowly amble its way toward her.

Jazz put on a polite smile, but couldn’t help flinching as the human rather bluntly declared “You’re late.”

“I am?” came the redhead’s kneejerk reply, “I-I’m sorry…”

“It’s all right…just…don’t let it happen again,” the woman said, only to turn around as a human boy rushed through; her smile returned as she cheerfully bid, “There you are, Jeremy! Slow down!”

Mrs. Eckersall, as she’d introduced herself, resumed her agitated disposition when Jazz entered the classroom and sat down. Sorting through papers on her desk, she’d found the list of students and rather aloofly began the roll call. When she finally came to the end of it, she plucked up her lesson plan and instructed the lot of them — the other humans utterly bored and seemingly as confused as Jazz was — to get out a piece of paper and start writing about “your favorite things to do over the summer.”

Garnering a few more stares as she pulled a few sheets out of her pocket along with a sharpened pencil, the redhead gave the first line a few taps before beginning to write. Looking up, she saw the woman striding toward the door, opening and shutting it quietly. Letting her gaze fall back to the loose-leaf, the ‘toon girl continued to write, glancing up every so often.

As she reached the top line on the back of the second sheet, Jazz heard muffled talking, and could make out Eckersall and an older man standing just behind the classroom door. Though she tried to keep her train of thought going, she swore she heard the woman say the words “…little scrap girl…”

Blinking, the girl’s eyes began to haze. Was she talking about her? The redhead had heard others mention and use the word ‘scrap’ back home; mostly those who’d been to Earth, but mostly as a sort of term of endearment. It must have been a word humans used, though by the sound of the teacher’s voice, and the demeanor she’d seen, they didn’t mean it the same way.

Looking around at the others again, Jazz realized she was still the only ‘toon among them. Slowly, the tense silence loosened to an array of overlapping conversations, laughter, and even a few shouts.

After a brief, snicker-filled huddle, one of the three boys sitting in front of her turned, looking her in the eyes and asked plainly “How did you get out of the T.V.?” This seemed to break whatever barrier had previously limited the rest to short, curious stares.

Drawing back with a raised brow, Jazz said only “Huh?”

“How did you get out of the T.V.?” he repeated, sounding impatient.

“But…I didn’t —”

“Who made you?” asked a blond-haired girl, drawing the redhead’s attention.

“Um…I don’t know …” was the only thing she could think to reply, mind reeling from the strange questions, and all of the now-unwavering gazes surrounding her.

“All right, that’s enough!” came Eckersall’s voice above the din as she stepped back inside the room. Everyone pivoted in their seats, facing the greenboard again, all eyes on the adult. Smiling with a sigh, the woman began, “Why don’t we all share a little about ourselves and get to know each other better?”

The kids smiled. Now this sounded more fun. Jazz’s eyes lit up as the teacher looked at her.

“Jasmine?”

“Yes, Mrs. Eckersall?” The girl tried to think of what she wanted to say first.

“Would you do me a favor?”
“O-Okay…”

Glancing at the door, the woman said “Why don’t you go stand at the door and watch for anybody who might be coming in late?”

A bit of a strange request, but the redhead swallowed her objections. “Sure!” she agreed, rising and jogging through the doorway, stopping a few inches from the hinges where she could get a clear view in both directions. “Here?” she asked, looking back at the woman.

Eckersall nodded. “Very good!”

The girl smiled again, feeling a bit proud. That small swell faded, however, as she watched her classmates plop themselves in an uneven circle around the teacher. Though she obediently stared down the empty hallway, she couldn’t help looking over her shoulder, and listening.

Peering in at the clock, she watched the time tick down from eight to eight-thirty to minutes from nine o’ clock. The woman seemed to be in full spirits as she happily regaled the other humans with the tale of the Velveteen Rabbit.

“The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like…”

Taking a few steps back into the room, Jazz spoke up quietly “Mrs. Eckersall? I don’t think anyone’s…coming…”

Finally, the bell rang for recess, and the other kids clamored out into the hall, pushing her back as they brushed past, like a burst of water. The redhead gave the room and the teacher one more look before turning and following the herd toward the double-doors out onto the blacktop.

She certainly stood out from her peers from a literal standpoint, but with the exception of her brief interrogation earlier, she’d gone back to being more or less invisible. At that thought, she wondered what her brother was up to.

Danny stared down at the blank sheet of paper on his desk, crayon tip poised above it. His teacher had just asked them all to write down ‘one interesting thing about humans’ — and yet, while there were at least a bajillion things he’d noticed and still wondered about, he couldn’t pick one to scrawl out.

Another boy finished rapidly scribbling, and flung up his hand, blue crayon and all. “Miss Loffredo?”

“Yes, Dylan.”

“Um…” Dylan took the paper in both hands, reciting from it “I think it is interesting that humans can’t light up their eyes so if they are in a dark place or it is at night they can’t see anything,” before looking up.

“Very good!” the woman said sprightly with a genuine smile. Turning her head, she pointed to the girl frantically waving an orange crayon. “Emilee?”

“If-If humans twist their arm too much or hit their head too hard they hafta go to the hospital for a real long time…— and then sometimes, they hafta wear a-a cast or lots of bandages…”

The teacher lightly frowned, noting “That’s very true.”

“And if it gets REAL real bad, sometimes they hafta cut their arms and legs off and then sometimes they give them doll arms and legs and —!”

With a nervous chuckle, Loffredo interrupted with a firm “Thank you, Emilee,” giving the room a visual sweep for another raised hand. “Yes, Pete?”

“Humans look weird,” the boy — an anthropomorph, as it so happened — said plainly.

Again, the woman — human-form, herself — frowned. “No so weird…” she countered softly, spying another lofted crayon. “Richie?”

“If humans don’t have any outlines then how come they do good things and don’t fall apart everywhere?”

Pausing and finding her smile again, Loffredo said “Isn’t there anything nice about humans that you think is interesting? Anything you like about them?” Her eyes met Danny’s briefly, but the blue-eyed boy quickly looked away, his mind still reeling.

Finally, another girl raised her hand. “If a human says ‘no’ and you say ‘yes’ and then you say ‘no’ you can’t get them to say ‘yes’. I know ‘cuz my Mommy and Daddy were trying to get a car and he wouldn’t let them get the car they wanted…but he was nice and he gave me some candy.”

At that moment, the bell above the door rang — spreading its arms as it did so with a cry of “Iiiiiit’s RECESS time!”

With happy whoops and hollers, the entire class bounded out of their chairs toward the hall and the blacktop outside, albeit none-too-disorderly.

After zipping around the playground a few times, and climbing to the top of the monkey bars and back, Danny crawled over toward the wall, sitting against it and pulling out his lunch: a crustless peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, a juicebox, and, to his delight, a tightly-plastic-wrapped fudge walnut brownie. Grinning, he began clawing at the clingy clear folds when he glimpsed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up.

“Hey, can I sit here, too?”

The blue-eyed boy smiled. “Sure!” and scooched over a few inches, watching the gray-eyed penguin in bright red sneakers. He was a strange sort of ‘toon — segeus, or threedesian, unknown to Danny; a breed of ‘toon native to Earth. However, the little ghost boy was more curious than anything. “Hi, my name’s Danny,” he offered, “What’s yours?”

“Casey,” the penguin said, smiling as well, “Hey, I didn’t see you before — are you in Missus Melley’s class?”

“Uh-uh. I got Miss Loffredo.”
“Ohhh, okay. Cool.”

For another few minutes, the two were quiet. Casey dug a hand into his own lunch bag and pulled out a very different-looking sandwich.

“What’s that?” the blue-eyed one asked.

“Ham n’ cheese,” the gray-eyed one replied, pausing, “Wanna try some?”

“Okay, sure! …and…you can have some of mine, if you want…”
“Okay.”

Danny grabbed the bottommost point of Casey’s sandwich half before holding out his own sticky triangle. The human-form boy recoiled a bit after his first bite. “Gluh, it’s all spicy!”

Licking his beak, the penguin explained, “That’s ‘cuz Mom put mustard on it…like Grandpa always did when she was a kid…” Watching as the blue-eyed one continued to devour it anyway, he added with a chuckle, “My sister hates it, though.”

“I have a sister, too!” Danny said excitedly. Before either of them could say another word, however, more segei penguins appeared, all looking down at Casey. These four were all a bit plumper, and had flippers instead of fingers.

“Casey, THERE you are!”
“We’ve been looking all over for you!”
“Eating on the job, huh?”
“You’re gonna sabotage the whole operation! …are you sharing food with the enemy?!”

Danny leaned back a bit with one arm protectively raised, looking quite anxious as the dark blue-eyed bird had his new friend by the shoulders, pressed up against the wall. The gray-eyed penguin only laughed, however.

“Aw, come on, guys…” he coaxed, looking down at the human-form boy, “Danny’s my new friend!”

“Friend, huh?” the dark blue-eyed one echoed, withdrawing, then pulling Danny to his feet as he shook his hand vigorously, “Well, any friend of the Sergeant Major’s is a friend of mine.”

Danny raised a brow, which only rose when Casey clarified, “That’s COMMAND Sergeant Major. And…” he looked at the human-form one, “sorry.” Gesturing to the others in turn, “This is Rico, J.P., C.J., and Skip,” continuing, “We like to pretend we’re ex-army guys who got hired by a super-secret agent boss to be —” whereupon he joined them in a fighting pose, “Super Secret Penguin Spies!”

“Cool!” Danny exclaimed with a grin.

“Wanna play?” the gray-eyed one asked, getting a nudge from Skip.

“But he’s not a penguin!”
“So? He could be…like…working for the bad guys or something!”

The dark blue-eyed one looked back at the lighter blue-eyed one. “You wanna be a bad guy?”

“Sure, I don’t care,” Danny said, “So who’s your secret agent boss?”

“His name’s Tommy and he’s a human,” J.P. piped up, turning to Skip, “but maybe we could go to his house after school today!”

“I’ll hafta ask my Mom,” the dark blue-eyed one admitted.

Casey smirked, scoffing “Spies don’t ask! We sneak!”

“True…”

“Hey! If Skip’s mom doesn’t wanna take us, I could help you guys sneak over,” Danny offered with a smirk of his own, flashing invisible and walking around behind the five, who followed his voice, pivoting as he reappeared.
“How do you DO that?” C.J. asked.

“I’m part ghost,” Danny said plainly — only to get tightly hugged by Skip, who glanced dramatically from side to side. The lighter blue-eyed boy blinked.

“There’s no way we can let this amazing super-sneakiness fall into the wrong hands…” pausing, “We’ll have to inish-ate you into Penguin Tech SOMEhow…”

“I can fly, too,” the human-form one added. Skip held him at flipper’s length, looking him directly in the eyes.

“No…WAY…!”

Danny laughed, nodding vigorously. “MM-hmm!”

At four o’ clock, Jazz walked out the front door slowly. She hadn’t had the ‘privilege’ of hall-monitoring the whole day, but even sitting in class, Eckersall had barely acknowledged her. Her classmates had tried talking to her some more, but only with more confusing questions and bizarre accusations.

Finally, behind the convoy of buses, she spied the familiar sight of the RV as it pulled up against the curb. Quickly soaking her tears into her sleeve, she bounded toward it.

Jack shoved open the door, smiling down at her. “Hey, there, Princess! How was school?”

The redhead smiled as she climbed inside, though seeing both parents looking back at her, it faded. “It was…” she began, trying to think of what to say, starting again, “Well…it…”

Her gaze slowly shifted to her brother, who had that eager look on his face as if he were about to explode. He’d stopped bouncing in the time it had taken to drive from his school to hers, but still had the energy to shake as if he were in withdrawal.

His happy face was infectious. Knowing that his day had gone far better than hers and eager to hear about it, Jazz finished, “It was okay. How about you, Danny?”

The boy then retold his story for the fourteenth time, with Maddie and Jack smiling and chuckling in all the same places. Now Jazz grinned and chuckled, too, completely absorbed by the warmth and camaraderie she’d missed

“All right, class, naptime!” Ms. Loffredo announced — before pulling a pillow and a sleeping bag out of her drawer. Laying them across her desk, she climbed on top of it and quickly dozed off.

Danny looked over at the doorway, seeing Skip and J.P. peer past the frame, the former giving a fins-up. Snickering to himself, the human-form boy effortlessly slipped beneath the floor, reappearing amidst his friends. Joining hands and fins, the lighter blue-eyed one turned them all invisible, phasing them through the main doors.

“Sorry we’re late, Boss!”

‘Tommy’ J. Watts looked up from the blacktop behind Lakeview Elementary to see the penguin bunch clinging to one another and Danny’s tail, effectively parachuting down toward him.

Splitting tail into legs, the white-haired ‘toon let gravity pull him the last few inches to the ground, and did his best to pose among the others — who parted as Tom approached the new recruit. “Who’s he?”

“This’s Danny,” Casey spoke up, “He’s our new friend from school, and he wants to be a spy, too.”

Danny nodded vigorously, straightening himself and sweeping his bangs out of his face. The human looked him over, seemingly impressed by his matching color scheme.

“Hmm…well, okay,” Watts said finally, “but you gotta have an inish-aysh’n first.” The rest of Penguin Tech glanced at one another, nodding.

“Is it gonna hurt?” the ghost boy asked a bit timidly.

“Only for a few days,” Skip reassured him with a sly smile.

“If you don’t throw up it’s not that bad!” J.P. added cheerfully, making Danny half-flinch.

Pressing his jaw against the wall, the white-haired one strained to see as a member of Killer Whale Corp. — P.T.’s rival organization — opened the safe containing all of their most dearly-guarded secrets, including top-secret ideas they’d stolen from Watts and co.

Danny quickly flashed invisible when the enemy agent passed, waiting a few seconds before turning the corner and gliding leglessly up to the safe, hovering as he reached a hand intangibly through the combination lock and clutched the folder inside, pulling it out. Opening it, he quickly scanned the printed pages it contained.

“Aha! Caught you!”

Twitching, the green-eyed one tensed, pivoting as he flashed back to visibility, seeing himself surrounded by guards and the head of the organization himself, simply known as ‘Mr. Kit’.

“How’d you see me?” Danny asked, incredulous.

One of the mooks held up a colorful telescope that Kit grabbed, turning idly to and fro. “We got special technology that lets us see ghosts.”

“That you STOLE!” the cornered half-ghost corrected with angled brows, eyes aglow.

“Well, Tommy didn’t keep it secret enough…” Kit mused, pocketing the scope and walking closer to the ‘toon, “…you say you’re super-secret, but we’re way super-secreter than you.” Pausing, “So why don’t you come join us?”

“What? Why?” Danny uttered, recoiling, “No way! You’re the bad guys!”

“Yeah, but we’re better,” the human insisted.

“I don’t care, I’m outta here!” the ‘toon started to phase through the floor, but was suddenly grabbed by two grunts with special gloves that seemed to thwart his intangibility.

“You’ll never get away now,” Kit informed him, “We got ghost-catching gloves, too.”

One was a catcher’s mitt, the other one of two toy boxing gloves originally belonging to Kit that his younger brother Tom hadn’t lost; the safe, an old plastic lunchbox, and the hallway deep inside the evil corporation merely a corner of the ten-by-twelve grassy yard behind C.J.’s house.

Watching the boys from the sliding glass doorway on the back porch, C.J.’s ‘Uncle’ Pablo smiled, musing, “Ah, kids…” as another, pink-spotted anthropomorph in similarly-pattered overalls appeared with a lemonade glass in hand. “Remember when we were that age?” the blue penguin asked, turning.

Leaning against the rail and taking a sip of her drink, the woman chimed, “Yeah…just hanging out, and pretending the world was…whatever we wanted it to be…real simple.” She threw a glance over her shoulder at their redheaded friend on the couch in the family room.

“This week — this week, we received from the Republican administration, health and human services, that department, this week — has had being the best in the region, taking —”
“I don’t care about the awards, all I’m saying —”
“No, this is important — oh, yes it is —”
“With help —”
“You have to have someone OBJECTIVELY looking at what a state is doing…”

Tyrone shook his head. “How about what you’re doing, Perpich?” he said loudly, “The National Guard, what were you thinking?” The moose began wildly gesturing at the screen. “I mean…we knew the strike wasn’t gonna change the whole industry, but at least it still meant something! You gonna call them in to stand around your office, too, if the protesters get too close?!”

Turning to Pablo, the pink-spotted one said, “If we ever had a show someday, that’s what we oughta do — just the three of us having adventures in our own backyard.”

The blue penguin’s eyes widened as he plainly declared, “Uniqua? You’re a genius.” Another pause. “What about Tasha? If she’s not still busy…”

“Oh! And Austin, I haven’t talked to him in YEARS — but I know it’d be right up his alley…”
“Now all we hafta do is convince some studio exec that we’re worth more than just a few movie shorts.”
“Hey, you never know, right? If nobody else steps up, we could be the first.”
“I…don’t think I could handle that kind of pressure.”

Uniqua laughed, “Pablo, you haven’t changed in twenty damn years,” and tipped back her lemonade.

Jazz sat at the kitchen table, staring down a homework sheet. Giving her pencil a few taps, her gaze hazed and wandered out the window. For a moment, she watched with chin in hand as her brother played with his friends, all laughing as they ended up in a snow-covered dogpile. Sighing, she forced herself to look back at the printed paragraphs.

“Jazz, honey?” The girl looked up to see Maddie walk in. For a moment, the woman looked out at her son before returning her gaze to her daughter. “Why don’t you call some of your friends and see if they’d like to come over and play?”

“Oh, well…” Jazz looked away, “They said they’re busy this weekend.”

“What about Jennifer?”
“She got sick.”
“And Sarah?”
“It was her grandma’s birthday, so…”
“How about Tina?”
“She went out of town with her Mom…and…hurt her ankle.”

There was a slightly tense silence as the ‘toon woman slid into the chair next to her, putting a hand softly on her shoulder. “Sweetie…” The girl looked up to see Maddie’s brows sweep into convexes. “Is everything okay? Did your friends tell you that you couldn’t play with them? …or anything like that?”

They’d said that and more, but Jazz only began filling in the blanks on the sheet. “No…everything’s fine, Mom.”

“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.”

Rising, the woman said “Okay,” then smiled, “Your dad wanted me to make macaroni n’ cheese for dinner — is that okay or did you want to eat something else?”

“No, mac n’ cheese sounds good.” Pausing, the girl added, “Hey…Mom? When are we going home?”

Another tense silence. Frowning, Maddie admitted “I don’t know…not for a while,” adding, “I’m sorry, Jazz.”

“It’s fine…” the redhead said, facing the window and flinching at the pang of tears. When she’d finished with her first page of homework, she looked up to see that her mother had left. Quickly, she pushed her chair back, hopping to the floor and dashing down the hall, up the stairs and into her room.

Tossing her school supplies onto her desk, she leaped onto her bed, grabbing a piece of stationery paper and a pen, and started to write.

DEAR CADEE AND DINA,

HOW ARE YOU GUYS DOING? I MISS YOU A LOT. LIVING ON EARTH HAS BEEN KIND OF EXCITING, BUT REALLY HARD.


Pausing at another eyewatering pang, she continued.

I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO MAKE ANY FRIENDS, ESPECIALLY ONES AS AWESOME AS YOU GUYS. THE OTHER DAY WE HAD A QUIZ, AND I ONLY GOT A 6 OUT OF 10. I WAS SO SURE I DID BETTER THAN THAT BUT MY TEACHER DOESN’T LIKE ME VERY MUCH. SHE NEVER CALLS ON ME AND ALWAYS YELLS AT ME IF I’M LATE TO CLASS OR BACK FROM RECESS. I TRIED TALKING WITH SOME OF THE REAL HUMAN GIRLS HERE, BUT THEY DON’T LIKE ME EITHER.

With a blink, a teardrop dotted the paper, then another. Grabbing a tissue from her nightstand, she blotted her eyes dry.

I WANT TO GO HOME, BUT MOM SAYS SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHEN WE’RE COMING BACK. TELL MISS BOLDECKE I MISS HER. DINA, TELL YOUR MOM I MISS HER BROWNIES, TOO. I WISH I HAD SOME RIGHT NOW.

Taking a deep breath, Jazz signed her name and folded the paper up, sliding it into a matching envelope, licking it and pressing it shut. Letting the pen roll onto the bedspread, she clutched the envelope in both hands and lay back on her bed, staring at the ceiling.

Closing her eyes, she could faintly hear the voices of her father and brother from downstairs. The smell of dinner soon followed.

Hearing her door open, she opened her eyes and sat up to see her brother leaning in. “Hey, Jazz! Dinner’s ready!” For a moment, he stood there blinking, likewise she at him. “You okay?”

“Uh-huh,” she replied, swinging her legs over the bed’s edge, “Tell Mom I’m coming!”

“Okay!” Letting go of the doorknob, he phased through the floor.

As she walked past her desk, the girl pulled open a drawer and carefully slid the undeliverable letter inside, laying it flat before pushing the drawer shut and heading out into the upstairs hall.

As Jack headed into the basement with an armful of boxes, his son called down after him “Hey, Dad!” before floating down the stairs, touching down beside the man.

Setting the armload down, the man smiled, asking, “What is it, Danny?”

“Um, um…how come you haven’t started building a new lab or ghost portal yet?” Jack followed the boy’s curious and confused glances at the bare walls around them.

“Well, kiddo,” his father began, “Y’see…here on Earth, it…well, it’s not as easy being a ghosthunter.”

“How come?” Danny echoed, trotting alongside Jack as he headed back up the stairs. “Is it ‘cuz the ghosts are harder to catch or something?”

Chuckling, the man mused, “Kinda, yeah.”

“I’ll help! ‘Cuz I’m half-ghost, and…I can help you find ‘em better!” the boy declared, transforming and zipping in circles around his father’s legs like an excited dog. Floating up to Jack’s shoulder and latching onto it, Danny asked, “But what about the Portal and stuff? You can’t find any ghosts if you don’t have a way into the Ghost Zone and they don’t have a way out!”

“Yeah, but the Earth Ghost Zone is VERY hard to open up,” Jack explained. Danny frowned. “Almost nobody’s ever done it before. So there aren’t that many ghosts around — some humans have never even seen one, and lots think they aren’t real.”

Now his son giggled, nearly tumbling off his shoulder. “That’s silly! Everybody knows ghosts are real…”

With a simper, Jack said, “Not everybody, son. Not around here, anyway…”

“So…you’re not gonna hunt ghosts anymore?” Danny asked with another frown.

The man was quiet, seeing his son’s convex brows. “Not for a little while, anyway,” he finally professed.

“So what’re you gonna do, Dad?”
“I don’t know, Danny…I don’t know.”
“But you’ll find SOMEthing to do, I know, ‘cuz-‘cuz —”

Grinning, Jack chimed in along with the boy “Fentons always find a way!”

“Jasmine?” Mrs. Eckersall called out again. Jazz let out a quiet sigh, knowingly rising from her chair as the human woman held out a piece of paper. “Would you take this to the principal’s office for me?”

“Sure,” the redhead acknowledged, taking it and heading out into the hall as her classmates took brightly colored scissors to equally bright and colorful paper. The ‘toon girl didn’t give them a second glance. For most kids, an important errand like this would have been something special; for her it was almost all she ever did. It would have been more of a treat for her to stay at her desk for more than a quarter of the day.

“Thank you, Jazz!” the assistant principal said with a smile as she took the printed sheet. While Jazz didn’t speak with her that much, she saw the woman often enough that she’d started calling her by her preferred nickname. It was certainly more than Eckersall ever bothered herself with.

“I don’t wanna go home!” came a shout, making both females turn their heads.

A human boy rose from the chair he’d been sitting in, looking up at the woman, who said firmly, “Arnold, lower your voice.”

“No! You can’t make me! You can’t send me home!”
“Young man, I WILL call your mother and I WILL have her take you home. And you can stay there until you’ve thought about what you’ve done.”
“No! I don’t wanna go home! I DON’T WANNA GO HOME!”

The principal said nothing more, picking up the receiver of the phone on her desk and dialing, which sent Arnold into a complete rage. He kicked the desk, pushed over the chair, and started prying books off of the shelf behind her.

Jazz blinked, brows convex, while the woman at the desk behind her only sighed and shook her head.

Another human girl had stopped to watch the scene, also sighing. The ‘toon girl turned her head. “I can’t believe she’s letting him go home again.”

“Letting him?” Jazz repeated, one brow rising again.

“Yeah, he hates school — but he always makes everybody think he doesn’t, and Ms. Piskor always falls for it and always sends him home.”

“Weird…” the redhead muttered, watching as Piskor finally grabbed the tantruming blur by the wrist.

“Yeah…it’s r…rever — reverse psychology,” the human girl said, “and he’s really good at it.”

Jazz looked at her, blinking rapidly, echoing “Reverse…psychology?”

Author:  KDH [ Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:40 am ]
Post subject: 

So... Jazz is going to use reverse psychology to make friends? Devious. But awesome.

More. Please?

Author:  Jazzypants [ Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

And so we see a little more of the tragic backstory of Jasmine Fenton. I just wanna reach into the fic and give her a big ol' hug. Sad

Excellent chapter, Maba. Very Happy

Author:  Karnelia [ Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Even though I knew on some level, I'm beginning to really see why TDPS!Jazz turned out the way she did. It's really amazing how much depth you augment onto already beloved characters -- which is prolly why they seem so alive to me when we RP XD; And OMGosh, the letter bit really demonstrates the loss and isolation she's feeling ; 3;

I knew we'd see Casey, but the Madagascar Penguins were a fun surprise~! X3 I so wanna sketch Danny as part of Penguin Tech with them now >w< Oh, and Danny's absolutely adorable in every bit of the chappie~<3 <3 (On a side note, I only got 'segei' on this latest read-through *facefaults* Man, I'm slow....) Oooh, oh, and is that a Backyardigans reference? Clever~! I dunno much more than commercials about them XD *wikis*

The differences between the human and 'toon schools is interesting to see~ I love how the 'toon bell's sentient, I kinda wanna do a sketch of that too XD

So overall, this chappie's angsty, funny, and cute all in one~<3

And to Jazz learning about reverse psychology? DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks so much, guys. I really appreciate all your kind, encouraging words. ^_^

CHAPTER IV

“Yeah, it’s where you act like you want something but it’s the opposite of what you really want,” the other girl clarified.

The redhead blinked. “Isn’t that just lying?”

“No, ‘cuz…lying is just saying you did something when you didn’t or you didn’t do something when you did — but, like…with reverse psychology you try to get somebody to do something or get something you want. Except you act like you don’t want it, or, like, you act like you want it if you don’t want it…”

Jazz flinched as she attempted to absorb the technique, mumbling, “Huh…weird…” and looking at the principal’s office again — though the woman had since closed her door.

Intrigued and inspired, the ‘toon girl attempted it herself the very next day. Not a minute after class had started, she rose from her desk, asking with a smile “What do you want me to do, Mrs. Eckersall? Do you have any more notes you want me to take to the principal for you?”

The woman seemed surprised, and replied a bit impulsively “Just sit down, Jasmine.”

Putting on a frown, the redhead sank back into her seat — it was all she could do not to grin. For the rest of the day, she struggled to appear distracted, uninterested and unprepared. Like clockwork, the teacher noticed her and called on her several times. Of course, the girl also put a damper on her enthusiasm, so as not to reveal her ruse too soon.

Over the next few weeks, while she always did her homework just the same, she deliberately misplaced it or left it at home; she kept her hand down as much as she could, and she gave wrong answers to both hard and easy questions. It was a fun new game to pretend to be, well, most everything she wasn’t. It went against every fiber of her being, and she did slip-up several times, but at least she wasn’t just the teacher’s gofer anymore, or the ‘toon elephant in the room.

Nobody suddenly went out of their way to be her friend, and though she tried, she couldn’t seem to make it the trick work on any of her classmates. However, one day before summer vacation, she tracked down the girl who’d enlightened her to the idea.

“Hey, Janie!” she called out with a wave.

“Hey!” the human echoed, turning and pausing long enough for the ‘toon to catch up to her. “What’s up?”

“You know how you told me about ‘reverse psychology’? Well, I was just wondering, like…is there a ‘forward psychology’? Or a ‘sideways psychology’? Or anything like that?”

“Umm…I dunno,” Jane professed, “But my Mom works at the university, and I could ask her about it.”

“Okay, great, thanks!”

Several minutes later, the two girls stood at the driver’s side door of a white Pontiac Grand Am, looking up eagerly through the lowered window. “You ready to go home, Janie?” the woman asked, looking at Jazz. “Oh, hi there!”

“Hi, Mrs. Berscheid!” the redhead said cheerfully.

“Mom, this’s Jazz — she wanted to know if you could tell her about, um…all the kinds of psychology and stuff. Y’know, like the ones you teach?”

“So you’re interested in psychology?” Jane’s mom asked with a smile, at which Jazz arched her eyes, vigorously nodding. With a chuckle, the woman continued with a concerned sort of tone, “Well, that’s awfully ambitious of you…”

For a moment, the ‘toon girl genuinely frowned.

“You’re a little young to be in my classes, but if you like, I can lend you some of my old books for you to read. Would you like that?”

And then promptly tried to keep herself from having an utterly ‘toonish reaction. “Yes! Thank you so much!”

The very next day, Jazz and Janie waited together again. They sat in silence for a while; then slowly started a conversation, beginning with how nice of a day it was and how nice it was not to have any more homework. The human girl had just started to tell the ‘toon girl about her favorite restaurant when the white car pulled into view again. Both raised their heads like deer.

Pushing open the door, the woman reached back to the right-rear passenger’s seat, plucking up a single book which she extended to the redhead, saying, “Jazz, I’m so sorry. I had to get to work early today, so I didn’t have time to get you all of my books — but I ended up with an extra one from my Intro class, so you’re welcome to have it.”

With a quiet gasp through a wide grin, Jazz took it from her with both hands. It was a decently thick, heavy hardcover; its shiny case was a pale taupe, with a faint sketch of a human head in profile. The name ‘GLEITMAN’ was printed in the upper-lefthand corner in bold bole capitals, with the words ‘Basic Psychology’ in Prussian blue beneath it.

Waving goodbye to Jane and her mom, the ‘toon girl sat on the curb; carefully pulling back the cover and leafing through the first few pages. Beyond ‘The Contents in Brief’ there were the ‘Contents’ in detail: a ten-page list of chapter titles and subsection headers with intriguing short summaries and taglines in black and blue print. ‘Motivation’, ‘Perception’, ‘Memory’; ‘The Scope of Psychology’, ‘The Origins of Knowledge’, ‘The Scope of Psychopathology’.

Although she didn’t understand all of the words, Jazz kept reading, sentence after sentence, struggling to keep the long paragraphs from blurring together, tracing each line.

Under ‘THE READER AND THE BOOK’, a particular passage caught her eye:

Psychology deals with the nature of human experience and behavior, about the hows and whys of what we do, think, and feel. Everyone has perceived, learned, remembered and forgotten, has been angry and afraid and been in love, has given into group pressure and has been independent. In short, everyone has experienced most of the phenomena that psychology tries to explain. This being so, psychology cannot fail to be relevant.

Feeling a small chill, she finally reached the first official page of the book, where the author’s sentiments were reiterated albeit a bit more objectively under ‘Introduction’:

What is psychology? It is a field of inquiry that is sometimes defined as the science of the mind, sometimes as the science of behavior. It concerns itself with how and why organisms do what they do. Why wolves howl at the moon and sons rebel against their fathers; why birds sing and why moths fly into the flame; why we remember how to ride a bicycle twenty years after the last try; why humans speak and make love and war. All of these are behaviors and psychology is the science that studies them all.

Why her classmates asked her such odd questions, why her teacher seemed determined to make her miserable, and why the neighbor girl had stolen her headband without a second thought; the book gave her hope that she could finally know all the answers, and more. Drawn also to the handful of colorful pictures and diagrams on the following pages, she almost missed the R.V. rolling up.

“Did you have a good day at school, sweetie?” Maddie asked as her daughter climbed into the backseat, barely lifting her eyes from the page she was on.

“Mm-hm,” the redhead replied.

Her brother leaned over, grabbing the cover and tugging on it. “What’re you reading?” he asked, peering at the page Jazz was looking at. “Hey, dogs!”

“It’s a book Janie’s mom gave me,” the redhead explained, pulling it out of the boy’s reach, making him frown.

“What’s it about?” Danny asked, undeterred. When the girl didn’t answer, he tugged on her sleeve. “Jaaazz…c’mon!” Glimpsing Figure 2.12A on page 26 he asked “Are those boogers?” trying to grab the book again.

“Danny, let go!” Jazz said, giving it another sharp yank away from him.

“Jazz, be nice to your brother!” their mother piped up, looking back at them, “He’s just interested in what you’re reading, that’s all. Can’t you share for just a few minutes?”

“But Mom, it’s stuff he wouldn’t understand…” the girl said, glancing at him. The boy pouted.

“I bet you don’t understand it,” he quipped, leaning back in his seat. Jazz ignored him, mesmerized by the paragraph on ‘NEUROTRANSMITTERS’.

For the rest of the day, the redhead sat on her bed reading Gleitman’s opus, flipping back to more thoroughly scan the parts she’d admittedly skimmed over a bit earlier. While she wasn’t late to dinner, she ate quickly, practically running back upstairs and tugging her door firmly shut.

After finishing his dinner, Danny went upstairs, and intangibly sneaked into his sister’s room. Hovering invisibly at an undetectable distance, he eagerly peered at the strange book, and while he found some of the pictures weird and interesting, he couldn’t make out most of the text — and what he could read, he found confusing and utterly boring.

Phasing back out the door, he touched down, letting out a frame-wilting sigh and trudged back into his own room, pulling out some of his toys and playing with them.

That night, Maddie walked into the room, seeing her pajama-clad daughter cuddling with the thing. With a chuckle, the woman said “That doesn’t look very huggable — are you sure you don’t want Bearbert to sleep with you?”

“Bearbert’ll be fine,” Jazz insisted, giving Gleitman another squeeze and glancing at the white-haired teddy on her dresser.

“All right,” her mother conceded, bending down to pull up her sheets and give her a kiss on the head, “I think it’s great that you’re reading. Just don’t stay up too late, okay?”

“Okay,” the girl echoed, smiling. “G’night, Mom.”
“Goodnight, Jazz.”

As the woman stepped back into the hall and pulled the door to, the redhead let her eyes close, hearing her brother and father’s voices for a moment, then heard her parents talking to one another.

“…still a little worried about her…”

Jazz opened an eye, looking at her parents through the small space left between her door and the frame and listening more carefully.

“What’s wrong, Maddiekins?”
“I can’t help feeling like something happened to Jazz, and she won’t tell me…”
“Something happened? Like…?”
“I don’t know, maybe something somebody said to her. She just seems so…sad lately.”
“Aw, she’s probably just worn out. Human school is pretty tough, from what I hear.”

As the two headed downstairs, Jazz slipped out from under her covers as quietly as she could, tiptoeing to the door, then to the top of the stairs, crouching and peering down through the rails.

“You don’t think it was a bad idea to split them up like that, do you?” Maddie asked, sitting on the couch and leaning back. Jack continued to stand, grabbing a mug from the nearby table and taking a swig from it.

“Well…no,” he replied, “After all, they spend so much time with each other at home, they’re probably glad to get a little time away. And Danny’s so young still…he really oughta be…someplace safe. Someplace with people and things he’s familiar with, y’know?”

Maddie nodded, echoing “I know…”

With a light swing of his arm, her husband added “And especially after all your uncle’s hocus-pocus! I mean, I know a thing or two about portals, Mads, and this is serious. With that and the way ‘noid kids can be sometimes, I…well, I feel like we oughta have him in one of the lab cupboards in some bubblewrap.”

His wife laughed, sighed, and repeated “I know, Jack…” glancing away.

The redhead pivoted, ducking back behind the wall as her father’s gaze swept toward her. Flinching, she felt a tightness in her chest and pushed herself to her feet, running back to her room and diving into bed, clutching the book even tighter. So they had done it for Danny’s sake — but what about hers? What about her? Didn’t they care?

“I just wish we could afford to send ‘em both to Melodies,” Jack lamented, finally sitting, then smiling, “but I know my Jazzy — she’s strong and smart, and she can take care of herself better than…well, better than I could at her age. Way better!”

Again, Maddie nodded. “That new book she’s got — it’s for COLLEGE FRESHMAN, Jack. She just got it today, and she looked like she was almost a third of the way through it.”

“I know!” her husband chimed with arched eyes, adding, “I just wish she was a little more into ghosts…”

“I just wish Earth was a little more ghost-friendly,” the woman noted, folding her arms, looking up with convex brows, “Jack, what’re we going to do when the money runs out?”

“I don’t know,” the man admitted, frowning, “I don’t know about you, but I’m not trained to do anything else.”

“Me neither,” Maddie said, “but…we’ll find a way, right? For Danny, and Jazz?”

Taking her hand and giving it a squeeze, Jack affirmed, “Fentons always find a way, Maddie.”

Grinning, she leaned closer. “Well, then I’m glad I’m a Fenton.”

Mirroring it, Jack said, “And so am I,” before they kissed.

Upstairs, Jazz finally fell asleep with visions of wolves and moths and multicolored human brains dancing in her head.

The girl continued reading over the summer, though paced herself a little more, taking breaks and re-reading previous chapters, and quizzing herself with the ‘Study Objectives’. Professor Berscheid had given her a few more books to read, but none of them were as special as Gleitman’s; none of them intrigued her as much, and if anything, seemed like mere mimics.

September and the rest of the following school year came and went. Jazz paid close attention to her English classes, if only to try and learn more words in order to better understand the paragraphs on obesity, and the ‘Disruptive Effects of Autonomic Arousal’. She’d discovered the glossary on page A36, but even some of those descriptions were still fairly cryptic in terms of her current vocabulary.

Lake Marion’s library was certainly plentiful for most of its attendees, with titles like Love you Forever, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and The Baby-sitters Club. However, picture books and tales of adventure were trifling in comparison to the eerie wonder of ‘split brains’ or Sheldon’s odd ‘somatotype theory’.

There was another archive not far away, a branch of the Dakota County Library on Heritage Drive. Barring a few intrusions by her brother and chores, the girl had plenty of time and personal space to read at home, either in her room or occasionally in the kitchen. Still, she wanted to go to the Heritage Library not only to see if it had any of the works Gleitman had listed in his ‘References’, but also because it was the proverbial reading place, and she’d heard good things about its “beautiful small rooms”.

“Can I go, Mom?” the redhead asked, looking up from her lunch.

“Sorry, I’m a little busy today, sweetheart,” Maddie said as she pulled dishes from the washer’s rack and slid them back into the cupboard, “But your father could probably take you tomorrow.”

“It’s not that far,” Jazz pressed, “I could walk there — It’s like right next to the school! Pleeeease?”

“Well…” her mother trailed off, walking to the sink and refilling the rack, “Why don’t you take Danny with you, then? It’ll be a fun little trip for both of you.”

Sighing, the girl added, “Do I HAVE to take him?”

“Do you have to go alone?” Maddie countered, though no edge in her voice, “Can’t you call up one of your friends and make a day of it? You just spend so much time by yourself in your room —”

Unwittingly, her mother’s comment invoked memories that, while pleasant before, now came up bitter, like vomit. Flinching, Jazz said, “I’m FINE…” pausing, “I thought you liked that I was reading. And learning!”

“I do, Jazz!” Maddie insisted, brows convex, “I just…” trailing off again, and sighing when the right words escaped her.

Looking down and picking up the remaining half of her sandwich, the girl said, “I’ll…ask Dad if he’ll drive me tomorrow.”

Naturally, Jack’s first reaction was “It’s not that far! Why can’t she just walk there if she wants to?” much to his wife’s chagrin.
Elated, the redhead set out early that Saturday morning. Clinging tightly to her favorite book, she walked southeast along Kenwood Trail on the strip of grass between the asphalt and the Soo Line tracks. When she got to Dodd Boulevard, she moved like a knight across the crosswalks, continuing on the north side of 202nd Street West.

Minnesotan weather was in general cold and cool, though its warmer days weren’t far off from temperatures in Tumnau. The strangest thing was that, with the exception of extreme locales, the climate actually shifted, cycling between those of all four towns around Valdivi. Jazz and Danny had always enjoyed yearly visits to Nterwi for holidays and vacations, so Antlers Park’s six or seven months of snowfall were a treat.

Still, while the girl would have gladly trudged through four feet of snow to get to Heritage, she enjoyed the sunshine. She enjoyed the walk, the exercise; it seemed to ease her stress.

Just across from Lions Park, there was a small patch of trees surrounded by a divided reservoir, which the redhead stopped for a moment to look at. She heard the sound of a car driving up behind her on the main road, thinking nothing much of it — until a sizeable bag of garbage came flying out of its rear window, smacking her in the shoulder and knocking her off her feet.

The bag wasn’t tied too tightly, and some of the wet, hideously odorous contents spilled onto the girl’s shirt and hair. As she picked herself up, Jazz thought it was just a sort of ‘toonish instance of bad luck to be pegged by a random thoughtless litterer. However, as she gazed up through a half-squint, she could see the young men looking out at her and hear their derisive guffaws before the window slid back up.

Wiping gunk out of her eyes, the girl picked up her book and cleaned it off with her sleeves. With a little ‘toonish will, she managed to wring the trash drippings out of her hair and clothes, though some of the stench remained. Determined, she resumed her walk to Holyoke Avenue, turned on Heritage, and made it to the library’s main doors.

Thankfully, the librarians either didn’t notice or chose not to bring the lingering smell to her attention, one showing Jazz to one of the reading rooms, where the redhead curled up and reviewed the chapter on ‘Sensory Processes’. It was especially fascinating for the way that human eyes were so dependant on outside light, and the mechanisms of human ears were so tiny and fragile. Deafness, blindness, and color-blindness — humans were able to exist quite fruitfully with these conditions, and yet, it was still such a blow to their usual societal tendencies, such a large missing piece of their biology. Or so it seemed.

For the next month, the ‘toon girl made the two-mile trip at least once a week, at most as much as four or five times. Even her mother seemed more at ease about it, her tone less stern as she bid her luck and instructed her to be back by dinnertime.

Then one day at summer’s end, Jazz headed out the door, with Maddie calling out behind her about going to Casa Nostra for dinner, and Jack coming to pick her up early. The redhead looked over her shoulder, nodding as she voiced her acknowledgement — then faced forward and dashed off. The woman stood in the doorway for a moment, watching her daughter; hearing her husband call her from down the hall, she turned and headed back inside.

Ten pages into Chapter Six, Jazz tore her gaze away and lifted it to the wall clock, now seeing its second hand in motion as it clicked, normally a calming background noise that usually helped her focus. 5:42PM. Her mother had said that their reservation was for six o’ clock, and since the library was a stone’s throw from the pizzeria, it would be easy enough for her father to drop Maddie and Danny off before going to get her. That way, also, she would have more time to spend reading.

Cringing inwardly at the thought of her dad driving up in the RV, honking, and drawing all sorts of attention to the ‘toonish tank of a vehicle, she quickly closed Gleitman, tucking him under her arm and walked toward the main doors.

It was surprisingly warm outside, and with a sigh, the girl paced lazily, glancing around at the lot, the bushes, and the trees. Before she knew it, she had started walking home; figuring that she might even have enough time to get there before the rest of her family had even left the driveway.

In a bit of a mellow trance with ‘Empiricism and Nativism Revisited’ still dancing through her head as she crossed Holyoke, Jazz heard the sound of rushing cars as usual — then a deafening boom made her look up in time to see the immediate aftermath of two real cars smashing into each other. The force of the impact literally crushed the noses, ripping open the hoods as the metal bodies skidded and flipped, grating along the asphalt on their sides and roofs.

The redhead screamed and crouched on the sidewalk’s curve, pressing the hardcover to her jaw, wincing tightly. There was a short spray of blood and glass. Red drops spattered the book, clinging to the figure’s cheek looking aptly like tears. Feeling the small shards’ sting on her fingers, Jazz kept holding up Gleitman until her arms ached.

As she slowly lowered it, the first sight that came to her eyes was a human head and most of its body that had pierced the glass. The man’s face was covered in wounds, yet his eyes were open wide, seeming to stare pleadingly at the girl before the rest of his body slowly failed him. The ‘toon girl clawed further back on the curb; screeching again, and again, and again, as the image branded itself in her mind.

In shock herself, Jazz didn’t hear Jack calling out to her as he leaped out of the RV “JAZZ!” rushing to her and scooping her up in his arms. “Jazz! Jazzy, are you okay?” As her howling segued into full sobbing, he squeezed her as hard as he could without hurting her. Petting her hair, he tried to reassure her “It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay…”

Still clutching the book as if her fingers were glued to it, the girl let her head rest on her father’s shoulder. She tried to close her eyes, but all she could see was the wreck, and the bloodied human — his face, those eyes, just staring. It wouldn’t go away.

She settled for staring at a blurry patch of orange as sirens mushroomed, lightly clinging to her father as he carried her back to the RV. She felt him stop, hearing another voice. One of the police officers had approached them, asking if the girl was hurt, and if she needed any medical attention. Jack thanked him, but said he would rather get her home as quickly as possible.

One phone call later, and the four Fentons were back home, much to Danny’s disappointment. He tried to talk to his sister as well, but Jazz said nothing, to him or even her mother. Cocooning herself tighter in the blanket her father had provided, she rolled over to bury her face in the couch cushion.

As the boy threw a fit, bounding up the stairs to his own room and slamming the door, Maddie spoke a bit harshly to her husband about letting their daughter walk to the library alone. Jack retorted that the crash or anything like it hadn’t ever happened before, and reminded her that it wasn’t Jazz’s fault — or his, for that matter. He then suggested that if she was so worried, she ought to accompany the girl. The woman then reminded him that if she wasn’t busy with income-accruing work, housework took up most of her time, and she couldn’t afford to take as much time out for long leisurely trips to Heritage as much as Jazz always wanted. Jack then pointed out that he worked equally hard and long, but would gladly take the time to do something with his daughter.

The conversation took a decidedly murkier turn from there. This was not their “old Christmas quarrel.”

Jazz stayed home from school for a couple of weeks, some days literally sick, others not so — but all still reeling from the incident. Having carefully cleaned the book’s cover, she dug deeper into its text, trying to forget, while also searching for something to explain what had happened, what she’d seen.

In the last few pages of Chapter Fourteen, there was a table of ‘Erikson’s Eight Ages of Man’ with several paragraphs discussing his ‘moving account of the human odyssey through life’, with which Gleitman seemed to disagree. Still, to the ‘toon girl, it emphasized one thing: human mortality. The concept of death existed among ‘toons and Cartuns, but it was an adopted and diluted concept with which only a few were truly familiar. Human cultures in general were more ‘serious’, and this was why. The very word ‘deadline’ defined the notion — though, as she’d observed, and knew now, it wasn’t merely the end to a set amount of time but a perpetual possibility.

With Kit sick in bed, Penguin Tech’s finest had to settle for a day of training and office hijinks. The bunch was pulled from their reveries when another Lakeview Elementary student trudged up to the end of the driveway, brandishing a stapled packet and a few other disheveled sheets. “Hey, Watts! Tell your brother he’d better get better soon ‘cuz I’m not his delivery boy!”

Tommy jogged up to the blond ‘toon boy, taking the papers. “Thanks, I’ll let him know.”

“Whatever. See you later, birdbrains.”

Having instinctively followed their leader, the penguins and the black-haired boy stood quietly, looking on. While Danny marveled that the other boy was the same breed as him, Casey jabbed “Don’t have a fit, Fitz!”

The blond one flinched, glaring softly over his shoulder as he walked away. Seeing the black-haired one running toward him with a smile, he stopped, turning and blinking. “Fitz, wait!” Danny called out.

“It’s Dash, okay?”

With a brow raised, the shorter boy asked, “Well, then, why’d Casey call you that?

“It’s ‘cuz of my last name, Fitzgerald.”
“Ohh…”
“What’s yours, anyway?”
“My name’s Danny — Danny Fenton.”
“Fen’n, huh?”

“Hey, you wanna play with us?” Danny asked, looking back at the group, who seemed hesitant, Casey and C.J. shaking their heads, Skip drawing a flipper across his throat, while J.P. gestured frantically, eventually pulling out a pair of Semaphore flags.

With a chuckling snort, Dash smiled, saying, “Maybe…catch ya later, Fen.”

One Friday afternoon after lunch, Jazz sat on her bed, clutching Gleitman and reading deeply about ‘The James-Lange Theory’ once again. Suddenly feeling a hot tingling in her fingers, she looked down — to see that they were glowing brightly white.

In the safety of her room, the girl quickly dropped the book on the bedsheets, staring at her hands. However, the panic on her face wasn’t one of confusion; she understood full well what she was beginning to see, as much as a human girl would in seeing blood or a boy chest hair. She hadn’t been consciously thinking about it recently, though, and hadn’t expected it to happen at this very moment. As the glow spread down her hands, past wrists, and arms, and elbows, she flinched, unwittingly uttering a small scream.

When her face felt cool again, she lowered her arms, blinking and rubbing her eyes. Staring at her hands again, she saw that her fingers were now sharply tapered, long black sleeves clinging to her arms.

Pushing herself off the bed, she stumbled toward her mirror, managing to stand relatively still while she looked at the rest of herself: longer hair, slightly shorter pants, and overall a taller, slenderer figure. Her headband had lost its tall Queen’s bow.

Hearing her mother’s voice utter her name breathily, she whirled around to see Maddie standing in the doorway looking just as shocked as she had, before a beaming grin spread across her face. With tears beading and falling down her jaws, she embraced her daughter tightly, Jazz returning it, lightly clutching at her mother’s back. Tears rolled down her cheeks as well.

When Jack appeared, the woman let go, turning so that he could see his grownup daughter — or rather, spurted, in all literality. “Isn’t she beautiful?” the redhead heard her mother say.

Jazz saw her father smile proudly, hearing him agree and lunge forward to hug her as well. The ‘older’ girl was still too dazed to think beyond the moment, leaning into her father’s squeeze, silently crying more.

Danny’s first words at seeing his sister now tower over him were “Whoaaa…no fair!” There was some genuine jealousy to be seen in his expression, though that wasn’t the only emotion behind his pout.

That night before dinner, Maddie sat Jazz down in the living room, looking across at her with a serious mien as she spoke quietly but sternly. “Jazz, your father and I have been talking about this for a while, and now that you won’t be going to school anymore, we really need you to look after your brother.”

Brows convex, the girl said “What? But…why? Why won’t you be able to look after him?”

On a well-crafted cue, her mother explained “Because we’re going to start working longer — to support both of you, but that means we’ll be out of the house more, and we need you to be there for Danny when we can’t.”

“But — but — I…I can’t!” was the first thing that came to Jazz’s mind and directly to her mouth.

“Why not?”
“Because, I…— if I’m at the library when he gets home from school —!”
“Well, you’ll have to wait, or maybe not go at all. Even if Danny goes to one of his friends’ houses, he might need you.”

The girl’s heart pounded. “But Mom!”

“Jazz, please!” Maddie countered, brows convex as well, “We’re trying our hardest, we really are, and I feel awful putting this on you so soon, but…we don’t really have a choice.”

“Can’t you just hire a babysitter or something?!”

“No,” the woman answered in all blunt truthfulness, “and why don’t you want to take care of your own brother?!”

“Because!” Jazz spat, “Because…because I —!”

Clutching the kitchen doorframe, Jack leaned out looking worried. “Hey, Mads, I took the rice off the stove but I think the chicken’s burning!”

“Thanks, Jack!” the woman uttered, leaping from the chair and diving into the kitchen. Her daughter quickly rose as well, though only stood there, staring with wide eyes and a slacked jaw before letting her legs collapse beneath her, slumping back down onto the couch and burying her face in her hands.

Most human children were ecstatic about finally climbing into the driver’s seat of the family car. Jazz did enjoy it, but still felt more uneasy than not, knowing that it wasn’t merely a part of her adulthood, but a facet of her new role as her brother’s keeper.

Danny gave the grass a more-than-idle kick as the RV pulled up, Jazz leaning over and pushing open the passenger’s side door for him. The boy turned, waving goodbye to Casey, and chose instead to phase through the side and sit behind the driver’s seat, arms folded.

Sighing, the redhead leaned over again and tugged the door shut. As she turned out onto the main road, she glanced in the rearview mirror and put on a smile. “So how was school today?

No answer, except for a small audible snort and a turn of his head to the empty seat beside him.

Frowning, the girl ventured “What’s wrong, Danny? Mrs. Kimbrell give you guys a ton of homework for the weekend?” No answer. “Rico throw up on you again?” No answer, though she managed to get a chuckle out of him.

In the kitchen, she made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, putting it down on the table for him along with a juice box. Danny stared at them, but didn’t eat or drink.

“Danny, what’s WRONG?” his sister asked. Pushing away from the table, the boy slid out of the chair, heading for the hall. “Where’re you going?”

Pausing, turning, he finally spoke. “I’ll be at Skip’s house.”

“You went to Skip’s house yesterday,” Jazz noted, slowly approaching him, “Why don’t you just eat your lunch and do your homework and…then maybe we can do something together.”

Looking down he said “No, we can’t…”

“Why not?”

His brows were angled as his eyes met hers. “Because all you ever wanna do is read that stupid Glutton book!” he shouted, “You go in your room and you never talk to me, you never want to play with me anymore — and now it’s too late because you’re all big!”

Feeling the wind knocked from her, Jazz tried to answer. “Danny…I…I never —”

“And maybe you don’t have any friends anymore —” he went on, making her flinch, “but I do! And I’m gonna go play with ‘em now.”

“Not today,” the girl said firmly in a low tone, her voice quivering like her hands, “You’re gonna stay here so I can watch you until Mom and Dad get back.”

“No!” came the boy’s vehement response. Jazz grabbed for him as he broke into a run, but her fingers slipped right through his intangible form.

“Danny!” she hollered, chasing after him, “Come back!”
“No! Go read your stupid book!” he echoed, easily phasing through the door as well.

Unlocking the door as fast as she could, Jazz tore down the sidewalk after him, willing her legs to blur but only able to top out at a human sprint. Breathing hard, she slowed to a stop, sinking to her knees.

Glancing over his shoulder, Danny skidded to a stop as well, turning and staring before slowly jogging back toward her. “You okay, Jazz?” he ventured, more curious than remorseful.

Lifting her head, she replied “Yeah, I’m fine…” though her eyes said otherwise.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

Wow, 'toon growth spurts are something else. :O

Not much else to say except, again, poor Jazz. Sad

Excellent chapter. Smile

Author:  Karnelia [ Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Dang, there's so much going on in this chapter and each scene is so significant to TPDS!Jazz's character development. It's impossible for me not to sympathize with her; she's been thrust into a world of hardship, hate and death, all of which she's now gotten up close and personal to, and has no friends to lean on. She even believes her parents are more concerned about Danny's well-being than hers. Yet, if she'd be more open about her problems with her parents and not shut Danny out of her life, she'd understand that she's loved just as much and wouldn't feel so isolated. Discovering psychology and Gleitman gave her a powerful tool and was the only thing that made her feel any semblance of control in her new life, and after her spurt, she's losing her freedom even with that one escape. It's tragically ironic that she clings to psychology to help her cope and all of these experiences are leaving deep psychological scars....

...Holy crap, I feel like I'm writing a character study analysis XD But this 'history', if you will, is so intriguing~! And so sad! ; 3; That car crash in particular...*shudder* I can only imagine the trauma of being so close to such a tragedy, especially for a young 'toon girl in which car wrecks she'd previously witnessed led merely to comical fist-shaking and gag reflexes.

Awww, but man, Maddie and Jack had it hard too =< They sacrificed so much and struggled to support their children. As sad as it is, I do like how you contrast a lot of things between the 'toon and human worlds and how it's affected the Fenton family, like their vehement but silly Christmas quarrel and the more serious argument they had in this chapter.

A few cute things managed to slip in with the angst~ X3 I dunno how you convey such powerful stuff and still have lighthearted moments, I wish I could write like you~! *siiiiigh* But yeah, Jack feeling like keeping Danny wrapped up in bubble tape in the lab, d'awwwww~! And Danny meeting Dash for the first time~! >w< (And the penguins reactions, hahaha~!). Jazz's comment about Rico getting a chuckle out of Danny, even in his justified toddler anger. And Danny calling Gleitman that 'Glutton book' XD

As always, I loved the whole thing, and though I also always look forward to more, I feel a little guilty about how much I'm looking forward to breaking the cutie, round two...> w>;;

Author:  DannyPhangirl [ Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

That's awesome! Very Happy

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

D'aww, so glad you guys are still likin' it so much. Kar, have I mentioned how much I love your rambly-ambly comments/reviews? 'Coz I do. SO MUCH. X33 *GLOMPSQUEEZE* <3<3 Not that I don't love everybody else's comments, too! Believe me, they're all equally appreciated. ;w;

This chapter is just...made of horrible and sad. D= And the ending feels rushed to me, probably because I WAS rushing to get it done before another month passed me by. But hope you all think it's good enough, anyway. ^.^;

CHAPTER V

The boy albeit reluctantly returned to the house with his sister, eating his sandwich, and concentrating on his homework for a bit. After that, though, he grew restless, fidgeting on the couch while Jazz tried to read some more.

“Hey — knock, knock!” Danny said, leaning on the arm and looking up at her.

Glancing at him over Gleitman’s cover, the redhead humored him. “Who’s there?”

“Ecto.”
“Ecto who?”

“Ecto-beam!” the boy responded gleefully, firing one from his fingertip. Jazz flinched, ducking as the short green blast grazed the chair’s corner.

“Danny, knock it off!” the girl bade with lowered brows.

Clinging to a pillow and flopping down on his back, the boy whined “But I’m bored!”

Not looking up this time, Jazz said “Well, then why don’t you go upstairs and play with your toys?”

“I don’t wanna.”

“Well, then…” The girl trailed off with a shrug, lost in the text again. Her brother rolled onto his side with a sigh. After trying to get comfortable on the pillow, he hopped down from the couch and climbed up onto the back of the chair, not so stealthily trying to peer at the pages that fascinated his sister. It still looked like boring gibberish.

Jazz sighed. “Danny, get down from there.”

Sliding to the floor, though hoisting himself up on the arm, he looked up at her, asking, “Hey, you wanna do something together?”

“No, not right now,” the girl replied plainly, adding “I’m taking your advice and ‘reading my stupid book’ some more…”

The boy frowned, looking down. Part of him wanted to apologize for his outburst — but the rest of him wasn’t sorry. After thinking for a few moments, he asked quietly “Hey, could you maybe read some of your book to me?”

“You wouldn’t understand it.”
“Well…maybe you could tell me what the big words mean and stuff?”
“Maybe.”

Ten minutes later, she hadn’t budged or said another word, however. With a half-sigh, half-growl, Danny picked up the pillow and chucked it at her. “Pillow fight! Let’s pillow fight!”

Plucking up the thing and tossing it back on the couch with one well-aimed ‘toonish swing, the redhead said “We can do that later.”

The boy gave another whine, this time with a few angry hops. Once again, he tried to grab the book’s edge, this time with a lunge and fiercer tugs. “Gimme it! Lemme see!” he said, though was more interested in getting it away from her.

Jazz, as before, protectively tugged right back on it. “Danny, let GO!”

“NO!” he shouted again. Brows lowered, he turned the thing intangible, easily ripping it out of her hands.

“DANNY!” the girl screeched, lunging for it herself as her brother hopped down, tearing off across the living room floor as fast as his little legs would carry him without blurring — eventually segueing to a legless hover as he headed for the stairs. His sister followed, hotly on his heels, brows angled sharply.

Phasing through the door of Jazz’s room, he locked it from the inside, throwing the book aside and beginning to yank open drawers and frantically paw through everything he could reach.

After rattling the handle, the girl managed to kick open the door in a fit of ‘toonish rage, standing in the doorway and glaring down at the intruder. Danny whirled around, but only phased through the floor.

Hollering his name again, the redhead pivoted, rushing downstairs though not in enough time to prevent him from wreaking the same sort of havoc in the kitchen and the dining room, the basement and the living room. Every time she tried to grab him, the boy flashed intangible or warded her off with a short blast that nicked more furniture.

Jack and Maddie didn’t come back through the front door until a few minutes after nine o’ clock; at first, so tired they didn’t notice the five hours’ worth of sibling rampage aftermath. However, seeing their children sitting at the kitchen table with frayed hair, ruffled clothes, and drooped lids, the messy backdrop slowly came to light.

“Whoa…” the man mused.

“What happened in here?!” his wife finished on their behalf, looking and sounding more alarmed than anything else.

Wearily and wordlessly, Jazz and Danny pointed at each other, the latter still clutching the juicebox from which he sipped.

Now the woman’s brows lowered, though her daughter was the focus of her glare. “Jazz Fenton!” The redhead blinked, brows quickly convex.

“What did I do?!”

“All we asked was that you take care of your brother. How could you let this happen?”

“It’s not my fault Danny wouldn’t control his stupid powers!” the girl reflexively shot back in a high, tense pitch.

“Why was he using his powers in the first place?”
“Oh, so now everything he does is my fault?”
“No, but he’s your RESPONSIBILITY — Jazz, he’s still just a child!”

The boy, meanwhile, couldn’t help a small smirk as he sat just out of blame’s way, still quietly drinking his juice.

“I KNOW, but he’s not —!”
“Nevermind. Look, it’s been a long day, let’s just all go to bed and we can clean this up tomorrow.”

“Your mother’s right,” Jack chimed, “And I don’t know what went on with the two of you, but —” he looked straight at his son “next time, don’t get so excited. Take it easy and just…talk out…your feelings, okay?”

Danny pulled the straw away from his mouth. “Okay, Dad.”

Jazz glared softly at him. That was it?

It wasn’t the last time the two crossed swords. And while Danny did curb his power-usage, the two ‘toons still managed to all but tear the house down, with Jazz getting chastised most by their parents every time.

One night, the Fentons sat around the kitchen table as Maddie served dinner. The redhead let the binding of her book rest on the table’s edge as she drew near to the end of Chapter Fourteen, which she’d been rereading since shortly after lunch. At first, both her mother and father had tried to coax her into being more talkative at mealtimes; after a while, they’d picked their battles, and that wasn’t one of them.

Full of unbridled energy, Danny had slid out of his chair, now running around the kitchen. Ducking under the table, he phased through its legs and zipped leglessly around them, poking his head through the tabletop like an arcade game mole.

Disappearing just before his mother set another pot down, he popped back up in front of his father, who grinned and gave him a playful tap on the nose. Giggling, the boy vanished again, reappearing in another spot — but phased back through before Jack could touch him.

Jazz glanced at him, but quickly returned to her reading and one particularly interesting paragraph on page 428:

In all cultures, humans reach puberty, mate, have children, begin to age, go through female menopause or male climacteric, age still further, and finally die. But the kind of crises that confront persons at different points of the life cycle surely depend on the society in which they live.

Now Jack playfully grabbed for Danny as he began circling the table again, teasing “I’m gonna get you, ghost!” After evading him several more times, the boy turned and stuck out his tongue, blowing a raspberry. In those few seconds, however, the man quickly latched onto his tail, hoisting him up with a “Gotcha!” before cradling the boy in his arms and delivering a belly blow of equal measure.

His son’s tail split back into legs, pedaling as his eyes arched, bubbling over with laughter again. Almost dizzy, he slid off the man’s lap and bounded away toward the family room, still chuckling.

“Danny, get back here and eat your food!” Maddie called out, though she smiled.

Tummy still tingling, the boy picked up speed — and slammed headfirst into the bars of the wrought iron railing. Knocked back by the impact, he fell to a sit.

His mother gasped, darting to him. “Danny! Oh, sweetie, are you all right?” As she picked him up, hugging him and petting his forehead, it seemed to break his shock. His blank stare turned to tears, his quiet stutters turning to long bawls.

Brows convex, Jack rushed to the freezer “Here, put some ice on it,” pulling out a family-brand icepack and handing it to his wife who applied it gently to Danny’s head and rocked him.

Jazz observed the scene silently, peering over the cover. Her brother could be obnoxious, but he wasn’t that stupid — obviously he’d intended to go intangible. What’d happened?

Slowly, she put the pieces together. The conclusion seemed ridiculous, but was a little tickling really her brother’s Achilles’s Heel? Or stomach, so it seemed. But one instance was hardly proof, certainly nothing worthy of the notable names Gleitman indexed. If she was going to make her new brother-sitting job bearable, she’d have to experiment.

The next day after she brought Danny home from school, after she’d made him a snack and helped him with his homework — much to his surprise and delight — she asked “Hey, Danny, wanna help me with something?”

Eyes wide grinning, he said “Sure! Whatisit? Whatisit?”

“C’mon upstairs, I’ll show you,” she replied, heading into the hall with the boy trotting eagerly beside her. He followed her into her room, where she pulled out her desk chair. “Sit right here and close your eyes, okay?”

“Okay!” Danny agreed, climbing up onto the chair, closing his eyes and scooching up against the back. “How long do I hafta keep my eyes closed for?”

“Just a little bit longer…” the redhead bid, opening her drawer and pulling out several spare headbands.

Feeling a tight pressure around his waist and arms, the boy couldn’t help opening his eyes, looking down and blinking. “Um…I know I wasn’t s’pposed to look yet, but…” looking up “why am I tied up?”

“It’s okay, you can look now,” Jazz said, “And I wanna test something.”

“Okaaay…”
“See if you can phase out of that.”

“Okay,” Danny repeated, doing so, and sliding down off the chair. “Is that it?”

“Okay, now phase back into it.”

Quickly and obediently, the boy ‘toonishly slipped back into his bonds, looking confused. “Now what?”

“Now this,” Jazz said calmly, kneeling and wiggling a finger under each of his feet, making him curl his toes and kick.

“HahaHAhahaha!”

Withdrawing, the girl said, “Now try to phase out of it again.”

Eyes still arched for a moment, Danny nodded. However, after flinching and struggling, he looked up at her and shook his head. “Uh-uh.”

Jazz smiled, holding back a grin. “Okay, all done!” she announced, untying him. “Thanks, Danny, you were a big help.”

As he slid off of the chair again, the boy smiled back. “Okay, cool. That was kinda fun…”

“Uh-huh,” Jazz agreed, eyes arching as she mentally checked off Step One of Three.

The following day, the redhead let him watch as she secured him snugly to the chair. Idly kicking, Danny looked up at her and asked “So whaddaya want me to do now?”

“Try…making an ecto-ball,” Jazz suggested.

“Okay!” Leaning his head back a little, the boy formed a glowing sphere on the end of his nose, balancing and bouncing it like a trained seal. It popped like a balloon, however, when the girl slid her fingers under his arms. Pinning his chin to his chest, he kicked and squirmed. “Hahahahahaha! Hahaha!”
“Try it now.”
“I can’t.”
“Okay, all done!”

Danny wasn’t quite as gung-ho the next day, but he still submitted himself to the chair. “Now what?” he asked, fidgeting a bit.

Having sensed his anxiety, Jazz sweetened her tone a bit. “I just want you to try and ‘go ghost’, can you do that for me, please?”

“Okay.” In a flash of blue, the boy had donned his black-and-white suit, turning his headband bonds orange-red in the process.

“Now change back.”

“Okay,” her brother echoed in a light bleat. As soon as he had, Jazz quickly began tickling his ribs and the top of his stomach. Danny’s eyes arched but his brows were convex as he giggled, wriggled, and squealed.

Finally, she let up. “Just try going ghost again one more time.”

Catching his breath, the boy flinched and grunted, but professed with a whine “I can’t!” looking as if he were about to cry again.

“Aw, don’t be upset, little bro,” the redhead bid, giving his head a pet and untying him, “You did a really great job!”

“Uh-huh…” Danny mumbled as he slid off the chair, moving quickly toward the door. He gave his sister one last glance before dashing off toward his room.

Jazz realized he’d never willingly do that again — but then again, he didn’t have to. She’d done her research, and proved her hypothesis.

The boy curled up on his bed, clinging to one of his stuffed animals. He’d been puzzled by the incident in the kitchen, too, wondering why his powers failed and trying to come up with an answer. His sister’s trials had just confirmed it: he was weak to tickling.

Wincing, he squeezed the toy tighter and kicked. “No…nononononooo!”

And by all ‘toonish coincidence, somehow he’d never attempted to use his powers so close to being tickled, as well as the tickles from his parents and friends never being more than a few light, playful jabs. And Jack’s belly raspberries, but he’d liked those, and he knew his father had no intention of making him miserable.

His sister on the other hand, well, now he wasn’t so sure. Come the next day, he was leery of her as he climbed into the RV, again, sitting in the back seat. Jazz seemed just as casually chipper, trying to start a conversation, which he chimed into.

Once home, however, only seconds after he’d sat down at the table as usual, he felt the redhead’s tapered fingers flurry up his sides. Wrapping his arms around himself, he curled and kicked. “HAHAhahahahahaHA!” As he sat up with a few audible breaths, he watched the girl put a glass of milk down next to his plate as well as a small stack of cookies.

With an arch-eyed smile, Jazz said “Eat up, little bro! If you need any help with your homework, I’ll be in the family room, okay?”

Danny pouted, reaching for the cookies. A sort of backhanded generosity, hardly making up for what he knew she was doing. Holding up a hand, he tried to turn it invisible. After a few seconds, a small patch of it flickered for the briefest of moments, but then nothing. Pouting with a muffled whine, he pounded his fist on the table.

Whenever the boy fell under her sole supervision, Jazz found a way to sneak in a few good tickles, making sure that if Danny did try anything he couldn’t escape her grasp or blast her out of the way. As a result, the few and fewer tussles that they did have did far less damage than before. As a result, their parents were usually impressed.

“Aww,” Maddie cooed one night as she and Jack came through the door around ten, seeing their children sitting together on the couch. “Did you guys have fun tonight?”

“Yep!” Jazz replied with a broad smile, sliding an arm around her brother and pulling him closer, “Danny got all his homework done; then we played some games and watched a movie with dinner.” Turning to the boy, she added, “It was a pretty funny one, wasn’t it?” discreetly wiggling her fingers under Danny’s right arm.

“Yeheheaha!” her brother said, unable to help laughing, squirming a bit in her grip.

The adults exchanged a smile. “Jazz, I’m really proud of you,” Maddie said, “I know it’s been a big change, but you’ve really come through for your brother —” the siblings exchanged a glance “and us.”

“Aw, thanks, Mom,” the redhead said, “Hey, I know you’re really tired from work, you want me to help Danny get ready for bed and tuck him in?”

“That would be great, honey! Sure!”

“Okay! C’mon, little bro…” Rising, she grabbed Danny’s hand, firmly but not too tightly, and led him toward the stairs. As they passed, Maddie bent down to give her son a kiss and a pet.

“Goodnight, sweetie, love you!” As she straightened herself and turned back to her husband, she didn’t see the boy pulling away from his sister, flinging out his free arm and trying to grab his mother’s hand. With another sharp tug, Jazz managed to drag him off.

Jack wiped a tear from his eye with a sniffle. “It’s so good to see our kids bonding with each other again…”

“I know!” his wife said as they walked toward the kitchen, “I was worried when Jazz got so caught up in that book — but I guess Danny must’ve finally gotten through to her.”

“They’re good kids, and they love each other almost as much as we love them,” the man pointed out, “they couldn’t stay away from each other forever.” Maddie chuckled, nodding.

Clutching the covers, Danny stared at the ceiling and sighed. He threw a pout and a glare at the door, wishing Jazz would take her book and go away forever. Rolling over, he let his arms flop out across the mattress. Seeing his curled fingers in the dim glow of the ghost-shaped nightlight, he cupped the air, drawing his right arm in and trying to form an ecto-ball.

It took a while, a few grunts and flinches, but finally, he saw a tiny speck of his own green glow in his palm again. Grinning, he focused on it, wiling it to grow. When it finally mushroomed into its usual size, he pressed his mouth into the pillow to muffle a happy chuckle.

Throwing a glance over his shoulder, he saw that the hall was still empty. Sighing again, more relieved this time, he returned his gaze to the glowing ghost energy, staring at it until his lids slowly drooped shut as his jaws spread in a wide yawn. Only then did it go out.

He’d known that his powers would return eventually, but hadn’t been able to gauge how long it would take. Recalling fonder memories of being tickled, he’d tried to figure it out, but the numbers were hazy. Now, he realized, it took a far lesser toll than he’d begun to think. Not an entire day, but mere hours; fewer depending on the intensity.

Albeit still wary of Jazz, he began to feel less frustrated. Granted, he would have to now effectively hide his powers from her, but he could still call on them more or less when he wanted behind her back.

One Saturday after Jack and Maddie had left early, Danny got a call from Dash asking him if he could come over. Jazz offered to take him, but since the Baxters’ house wasn’t all that far, the boy insisted on going by himself.

As soon as he’d walked out the door, he quickly ducked around the side of the house and into the backyard, slipping behind some bushes where he was sure Jazz couldn’t see him. Flinging up his arms, he whispered “Goin’ ghost!” and transformed. With a smile and a laugh, he leaped into the air and glided off over the rooftops.

Watching silently from the back door window, the redhead folded her arms. Obviously her control method wasn’t effective enough. True, he hadn’t used his powers much around her, but he’d somehow figured out how to get them back much quicker than she’d have liked.

Sitting back down at the kitchen table, the girl leafed to the ‘Subject Index’, as another idea occurred to her. On the same page as ‘death’ — a subject briefly touched on in Chapter Fourteen — was ‘learned helplessness and’, in the ‘depression’ subset.

Chapter Four was simply titled ‘Learning’, and included a section on ‘Instrumental Conditioning’. Within that was a segment from the Seligman and Maier tests. Basically, the pair had taken a shuttle box and a couple kennels of dogs and created a setup in which the canines would be electrically shocked unless they jumped over the barrier in the middle of the box. However, they first subjected the non-control group to inescapable shocks. When they ran the experiment, they discovered that the control group consistently made the jump while the other did not. In fact, as Gleitman summated:

They lay down, whined quietly, and simply took whatever shocks were delivered. They neither avoided nor escaped; they just gave up trying. In the hammock setup they had been objectively helpless; there really was nothing they could do. But in the shuttle box, their helplessness was only subjective, for now there was a way in which they could make their lot bearable. But they never discovered it. They had learned to be helpless.

If this process could work on real dogs, and by extension, humans, could it possibly work on her brother? Danny had been pinned and tickled before, even by their parents — but it had never certainly been truly ‘inescapable’. But what if it was? Could she still do it? Could she teach him to be helpless?

She’d already unwittingly started down that path in her first three-step test. Now she was committed to it.

When Danny got back, the redhead was sitting in a chair in the living room, casually skimming the section on ‘Behavior Therapy’. Lowering the book into her lap, she looked up at him, asking “Danny, what were you doing?”

Raising a brow, the boy answered “Uh, I was at Dash’s house…” Grinning, he went on, “Oh man, you shoulda seen it, they just got a new puppy, and —!”

With a soft snort, Jazz said “You flew there, didn’t you?”

Visibly stiffening, Danny stuttered. “No, no, I — I didn’t —”

“It’s okay, little bro,” his sister said calmly, “Did Dash’s mom make you guys any lunch?”

“No, but —”

“Well, c’mon, I’ll make you some soup.” Setting the book down on the coffee table, the girl rose heading into the kitchen with the boy following at a cautious distance.

Pulling out the can opener and a can of chicken noodle soup from the cupboard, Jazz looked over at her brother, still standing in the doorway. “Why don’t you get the milk out of the fridge and I’ll get you a glass?”

Feeling another cold pulse radiate in sharp tingles, Danny stepped toward the fridge. Opening the door would mean turning his back to her, something he was extremely hesitant to do. Also worried about what she might do if he didn’t, he grabbed the handle and tugged open the door.

As he reached into the cold space, he heard her footsteps, but didn’t move or flash intangible in time before he felt her fingers crawling on him again, digging into his stomach. Bursting into laughter, he doubled over, trying to protectively cover himself.

“HAHAHAhahaha! HahahaHA!” The room became a blur as he felt her grab him and hoist him up. He squirmed and flailed, but she kept a strong grip on him, still managing to tickle his back and neck as she carried him over her shoulder. “Jahazz, no! StahahaHAp! Haha! Lemme go!”

Having already crafted a headband rope, she easily bound him to the chair again, making a few extra loops and knotting it tight, making him grunt. As she turned, walking back to her dresser and reaching the drawer again, Danny struggled, flinching and desperately trying to phase through his bonds.
“Jazz, I don’t wanna help you test anything anymore!” he whined, looking up at her.

“Well, then, just close your eyes.”
“I don’t wanna!”

“Then I’ll close ‘em for you,” the redhead said, walking back toward him with a dark blue headband that she tied around his head. “C’mon, little bro,” she coaxed, “you’re such a good sport. I just wanna know one thing…”

“What?”

“Does this tickle?” she asked, lightly flitting a feather under his bare foot.

The boy jumped, curling his leg and wiggling his foot. “YeHEHEahaha! It tickles! Can I goho now, plehease?!”

“I’m not done with my experiment just yet,” Jazz insisted — far truer than her brother knew —, switching to his other foot. “How about here? Does it tickle here, too?”

Squirming, Danny cried “HahahaHAHA! Yeheah! Jahazz, you know I’m ticklihiHIsh! Stoppit!”

“I don’t know just how ticklish you are, though,” the girl replied with a chuckle of her own, “Or what tickles you the most. So I’ve got a lot to do!” Weaving the feather between the toes of his right foot, she tickled his left with her fingers.

“NooHOhohoHAHAhahaha! Please STOP! AhahaHAHA!”

“How about here?” She spidered her fingers over his belly again, “Does this tickle? Tickle, tickle, tickle!”

“HAhahahahaha! HeheheHEHEhehe!”

Unable to see anything, he could only hear her falsely sweet voice and feel the power-shorting tingles — even more vividly than usual. He wriggled and squirmed, screamed and kicked, and helplessly laughed, but it wouldn’t stop. She wouldn’t stop.

Danny didn’t know how long it was before she decided to let him go. Scooping him up, she carried him into his room and set him down on his bed, giving him a few pats before walking back out. Tired and dizzy, the boy quickly cocooned himself in the covers, curling up tightly and closing his eyes.

When he opened them again, the sky outside his window was dark. He could hear his parents’ voices from downstairs. Stretching out his arm, he lightly cupped the air and tried to form another ecto-sphere. Nothing. He willed it the same as before, but couldn’t even get a tiny speck to show.

Cringing, he felt the tears drip down his cheeks, lips quivering as a whine seeped from his throat.

“Danny’s in bed already?”
“Yeah, he started feeling sick earlier, so I put him to bed.”
“Aww, the poor thing — I’ll have to go check on him.”
“I peeked in a few minutes ago. He looked like he was sleeping okay.”
“Oh, good. Thank you so much, Jazz.”
“What a sweetheart, you oughta go into babysitting full time!”
“Aw, well, thanks…but I dunno if I could get along with anybody else’s kids as well as I do with Danny.”

Upstairs, the boy winced again, sticking his fingers in his ears before nestling deeper in his sheets and pulling the pillow over his head.

When she wasn’t abducting him to her room, Jazz occasionally chose to pin him under the couch cushion, practically kneeling on him as she mercilessly tickled his feet or reached under the sides of the cushion to get at his ribs and belly. It was better than the chair, but not by much.

“JaHAzz, no! STAhahaHAppiiiiiiiit! HahahahahahaHAHA!”

The redhead now rarely lifted her lids from their droop. She’d become the face on the cover of her book, carrying all the knowledge, the weight of the Earthly science, and embodying all of its most twisted ends.

The masquerade marched on for the next four years. Danny could have — should have — found a time and a way to tell his parents about his sister’s ‘experiments’, but her attempt to dishearten him had mostly succeeded. In addition to barely fighting back, he, too, chose to keep it a secret. Not only because he feared her retribution, but still because of his deep embarrassment of his odd weakness. He didn’t know if they knew by now, but he didn’t want to talk about it. Ever, if possible.

One night as the boy lay sleeping, an even more inherent glow shone through his sheets. He grunted softly, lightly flinching and twitching. Walking past his door, Maddie and Jack noticed the light and stopped, watching quietly.

“Oh, look!” the woman whispered gleefully, “Our little Danny’s about to spurt!”

“I know!” her husband chimed with a grin; he then crossed both fingers, muttering, “Not an old man, not an old man —” before getting elbowed.

“Jack!”
“Sorry…”

Finally, the glow spread, enveloping the boy, who opened his eyes and gasped, pushing himself to a sit with larger, flatter-fingered hands and ganglier arms. Unlike Jazz, his clothing didn’t alter much, with the exception of his shorts that grew to full-length jeans.

As his mother and father rushed in to hug him and congratulate him, his sister watched from the doorway of her room. Folding her arms, she lowered her brows and gritted her teeth behind closed lips, making a subtle pout.

It was just as much chance that they’d have witnessed his growth as hers, but somehow, it had been his. Once again, precious little Danny won out. Turning, she flung her door shut.

“Danny!” Jazz called out, a hand to her mouth as she strolled through the house, “Danny, where are you?” casually stalking her brother like a cheetah to a gazelle — an already wounded gazelle, at that. “Danny…Daaanny, I’m gonna tickle you!”

With audible breaths, the ‘older’ boy ducked into the upstairs bathroom, pressing himself against the wall. He gasped and stumbled back across the tile floor when she burst in, grinning widely.

“Found you!” she said sprightly, though her brows were angled. “Why’re you hiding, baby bro?”

“Jazz…no, please, don’t…!” Danny begged, crab-walking away from her, ending up cornered in the bathtub, writhing and flailing as she danced her fingers from his armpits to his hips and slid them under the hem of his shirt, wiggling a fingertip in his navel. “PleHEHEhehehease! HaHAhaha! AieeheHEhehehehehe!”

Finally, she let up, leaving him to lie there, struggling to catch his breath. Weakly, he grabbed the tub’s edge and pulled himself over, thudding to the floor, crawling between the sink and the tub, he pressed up against the wall, clutching his knees to his chest and burying his face in his arms.

Hearing a set of sharp knocks, the boy raised his head with a short gasp, staring out across the small dark space.

“Danny! Danny, you in there?” It was his father.

Danny picked himself up and trudged toward the door, unlocking it and peering out to see the rest of his family looking in at him. “Jeez, can’t a guy get two minutes of privacy?” the boy muttered groggily as he stepped out, walking across the RV floor and heading for the door.

Watching him with convex brows, Jack quietly followed him outside, pausing for a few moments before gently putting a hand on his son’s shoulder, feeling him twitch. “If something’s bothering you, well, I wish you’d tell me…you can trust me, I promise.”

The boy looked up at him, brows sweeping into convexes as well. “Dad, I…” he began, trailing off, and sighing as he faced forward. “I know we all just got back together, but…but I…I wanna go — off on my own again. Who knows? I might find us some more work, some more big money…”

“I’d really like you to stay,” the man said honestly, giving his shoulder a squeeze, “It’d be nice if you hit the jackpot again, but…I think it’s important we stick together now.”

Another small silence. Danny’s gaze fell.

“You told me one time that…whatever I wanted to do, you’d back me up on it —” looking up, “even if Mom didn’t like it.” With a snort, Jack gave a slow nod. “Well, this is what I wanna do.”

Shoulders shrugging in a deep sigh, the man nodded again, facing forward for a moment. “I just wish…” he began quietly, “I wish I could have done a better job keeping our family together.”

“Dad…”

Suddenly, with a smirk, Jack wrapped an arm around his son, lifting him up off the ground and partially onto his shoulder for a moment before setting him down.

It was so sudden and silly, Danny chuckled. “Dahad! Seheriously…!” Still smiling as his feet touched the ground, he and his father looked one another in the eyes before the boy leaned against him as the man gave him another reassuring hug.

In that warm moment, he considered staying — he wanted to stay under Jack’s wing, badly. But the cold prickle of a presence behind him pulled him out of their embrace. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see Jazz staring at him out the window. Frowning, he took a few steps back, seeing his father’s face fall as well.

“I’m sorry…” he said, turning away.

“Danny…” It was his mother’s voice this time. Looking back, he saw her step down from the RV, eyes wide, brows sharply convex. “Please, honey, just tell us what’s wrong…don’t leave us.”

“Mom…” The boy’s lips quivered as he felt a pang of tears. He could do the human thing, bite his lip, turn his back to her, and head off into the night; or the ‘toon thing, whirl around and run into her arms, letting his tears flow, and cling to her.

In a blur, he ran back to her. “Oh, Danny…!” she said, voice near-to-breaking as she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tight, petting his hair. However, in another ‘toonish zip, he’d resumed his distance.

“I HAVE to go,” he said, as solidly as he could, feeling his heart crack and shatter. “I love you guys, very much,” he added, trying to swallow the lump in his throat, “Don’t think this means I don’t.”

Standing together, Maddie and Jack smiled at him, albeit misty-eyed. “We love you, too, Danny,” his mother said, “wherever you go, just be careful, okay?”

“Goodbye for now, son,” his father added, “and good luck!”

“Goodbye,” the boy echoed, transforming and swooping into the air, tail zigzagging as he went.

His parents watched, their smiles slowly fading. Seeing Jazz turn and disappear from the window, the man and woman looked at one another with long frowns, asking each other the same desperate question.

“Where did we go wrong?”

Author:  Jazzypants [ Wed Sep 15, 2010 2:32 pm ]
Post subject: 

This went from "Poor Jazz" to "Poor Danny" real quick. Now I see what you were talking about last night. Geez, Jazz became rather sadistic, didn't she? :O

Awesome chapter.

Author:  Karnelia [ Fri Sep 17, 2010 4:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Yush, you have~ > w> *GLOMP* <3

HOMGosh, I've been anticipating reading about the Fentons' past and this entire flashback has not failed to intrigue and satisfy~! I love seeing stuff that was shown in part in our RPs too~ >w< I feel bad for the whole Fenton family though....they were so close on Cartun and that just makes Jack's lament about wanting to keep the family together all the more heart-wrenching ; 3;

And poor Danny! D= He did tempt Jazz's mounting frustration, but he was acting like a kid really would in such a situation =< He certainly didn't deserve what Jazz put him through and the psychological scars he retained from those childhood memories. ...I still feel a bit guilty for enjoying this chapter as much as I do, but I do, dangit~! XD And, oh man, the hypothesis testing/Steps were done brilliantly~! Danny's reaction to figuring out his weakness was so angstily cute o 3o; I wonder if he would have had the same reaction if his weakness was different; if it was something that he didn't find embarrassing and previously even enjoyable, or if just the thought of having a weakness and simply knowing that means he can be powerless/helpless? (though I'm sure both play parts in that anyhow). When he discovers he's not totally sapped from a little tickling, he gets a bit of control back and feels much better, but then Jazz totally crushes the spark of rebellion in him with learned helplessness and years of abuse, poor guy.... ; -; It's no wonder he feels he can't stay...I mean the imagery near the end of the chapter of seeing her face looming in the RV window being like a threat of the past, a reminder of their broken family...*shivershiver* ; 3;

On the note of him heading off, I'm really looking forward to reading what's gonna happen next~! *bouncebounce* I knew some of what to expect from this and the previous chapters, but now I'm not sure what's gonna happen and I can't wait to see moaaaar~! X3; <3

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

OMGosh, I should have been in bed five hours ago. But I managed to throw my butt into high gear and WOW finished this next chap in a little more than ONE DAY. It's kind of only a little filler 'What's everyone else been up to?' chap, but I still feel accomplished. X3; If you'll notice, Butch says 'about nine years ago' — yes, it's set in 2010, or roughly a year after the Fenton clan leaves.

Yeah, this fic is getting a little timey-wimey-jumpy-aroundy. XDD; Anyway...

CHAPTER VI

The Nickelodeon Studios cafeteria was quiet and mostly empty, except for one small group of ‘toons all sitting around one long table. A short black-haired ‘toon woman in a white shirt and green plaid skirt carried a stock pot brimming with hot lamb stew, setting it down next to the soda bread and stuffed herring. A red-haired man in a blue striped vest and gray slacks flashed her a loving smile as she sat next to him.

“This all looks so delicious, Mave!” Timmy’s Mom remarked from across the table, “You always make such beautiful dishes. I’m jealous!”

“Oh, thank you!” the black-haired woman said, “Well, I hope you like them.”

“Never been disappointed yet,” the red-haired man chimed, eyes arching. “Let me just get the blessing out of the way, and then we can all dig in!” Clasping his hands together lightly, he recited, “Like the goodness of the five loaves and two fishes, which God divided among the five thousand men, may the blessing of the King who so divided be upon our share of this common meal.”

Eyes arching, his wife added “That was so nice, Rick.”

Sitting between his mother and Vicky, Timmy griped with rolling eyes “That was so BORING — can we eat now?” His chin thudding to the table, he asked “Does blessing food really make it tastier?”

“To the soul,” Rick mused as he began plating up the herrings while his wife served the stew. “And we should be counting our blessings that we’re all still under this one prosperous roof and able to have another nice dinner together.”

“It’s just a shame the Fentons can’t join us this time,” Mom said wistfully.

The Iverses frowned, exchanging a glance and nodding solemnly. The red-haired man raised his water glass. “A toast to the Fenton family; may they find nothing but peace and happiness, warmth and togetherness on their journey — and may our paths cross again with theirs someday.”

“Hear, hear!” the other six agreed, also raising their glasses. After tipping back a sizeable swig, the pink-hatted one reached for the basket of bread, taking several slices.

Vicky gave him a look. “Don’t be such a hog, runt,” she said, switching sobriquets on a whim. However, Timmy quickly grabbed her shirt collar, pulling their faces close together, their eyeballs nearly touching.

Brows angled, he instructed quietly though firmly “DON’T call me that. EVER,” before sliding back down onto the bench and slurping up spoonfuls of stew.

The taller girl blinked; then looked down at him with a brow raised. “Okay, jeez…” pausing, “I miss him, too, y’know…” Lids drooping, the brunet frowned into his bowl, spoon hovering, though he said nothing more.

Finishing her portions early, Vicky rose, reaching down and lifting a violin case onto the seat, unlatching it and gently plucking the instrument from its red felt lining. Sliding it onto her shoulder, she set bow to string and sounded out a few strings of notes.
The others, but especially her parents, looked on with pleasantly surprised smiles. “Vicky, that was great!” her father gushed, “You haven’t picked up that old thing in years, what’s the occasion?”

Shrugging, the girl said, “I dunno, I guess I just felt like it…” Pouting for a moment, she tweaked the pegs, “It keeps going out of tune, though.”

Timmy blinked “Whoa, you played the violin?” brow rising, “Since when?”

“Oh, Vicky used to have all sorts of wonderful hobbies when she was little,” Mave explained, “She played the violin, the clarinet, AND the piano —” frowning as her chin settled into the heel of her hand, lids drooping. “Then she discovered the internet and all hope was lost.”

“Mom!”

“And that goshdarned Japanese television!” Rick added.

“Daad!”

The brunet snickered.

Brows convex, the black-haired woman looked at her daughter, asking “Honestly, what has that LINA INVERSE ever done for you?”

“Uh…taught me how to fly?” the girl retorted, “And shoot fire from my hands? And other techniques that have totally helped my babysitting career?!” To prove her point, she put down the violin, closed her eyes and began to recite a spell. “Subete no chikara no minamoto yo…”

Smirking, the pink-hatted one reached over and attacked her midriff with swiftly raking fingers.

Kagayak — EEeeee!” reflexively curling up, the redhead tumbled backward off the bench with a ‘toonish thud, the glow vanishing from her hands, while the brunet guffawed unrestrained. Picoseconds later, Vicky rose to a sit again baring gritted teeth and bluntly pounded the small boy’s face into his stew bowl.

Rick’s brows lowered as he flung out an arm. “Vicky, go.”

The taller girl looked up, brows sweeping into convexes. “But Dad —!”

“Go,” the man repeated, “Go to your room. Now.”

Glaring at Timmy, the redhead rose again. Picking up the case, she turned and strode away from the table at a bristled pace. The small boy watched, though still smiled. The black-haired girl then stealthily slid under the table, filling her sister’s spot. She and the boy high-fived, chuckling.

Frowning, Dad said plainly, “Timmy, don’t gloat at the table. It’s not nice.”

To his left, the green-haired fairy piped up, “How can you NOT gloat at the table? That’s what eating is for!”

“He said ‘gloat’, not ‘bloat’,” Wanda pointed out.

“Oh…” blinking, he arched his eyes, lightly pounding the butt of his fork and knife on the table, “well, bring on that apple cake and the rhubarb pie!”

Sitting at her desk, Vicky sighed, idly tapping the head of her Gourry Gabriev figurine. On a whim, she stood up, walked to her bed and gently pulled out her violin again, working through another random melody that came into her head.

Glimpsing the pink-hatted one peering in her window, she stopped, looking over at him. However, the small boy quickly said “Hey, Vicky, I’m really sorry for getting you in trouble with your dad…”

“It’s okay, twerp,” the redhead said with a sigh, “I just didn’t think trying to do something they’d like would get them complaining about all the stuff they didn’t like.”

“Yeah…parents can be like that sometimes,” the brunet admitted, glancing down, then smiled up “But…y’know, if you hadn’t learned to fly from Lina, then you wouldn’t have been able to teach me, and I wouldn’t have been able to fly with Danny.”

Vicky smiled. “Thanks, Tim.”

“Poof, poof!” came a chirp as two doe-eyed, spheroid ‘toons in lavender pajamas squeezed in beside the small boy. While many ‘toon babies had more stamina on set and on camera than human tots, the role of Cosmo and Wanda’s loudly-heralded Fairly Oddbaby had been filled by twins: the adorable Gary-Keith and Ashton Ewing. No relation to the pink- and green-haired ones, although on occasion — and not just for the cameras — the pair would tend to them like parental figures.

“Hey, what’re you guys doing here?” Timmy asked, though he smiled at them, the only response another high-pitched echo. “Hey, I think they like your music,” the pink-hatted one mused as all eyes trained on the girl, “keep playing!”

Chuckling, the redhead nodded “Okay!” and struck up another bouncy tune, her bow literally hopping from string to string in staccato. She hit several off-key notes, but it didn’t deter her tiny audience from swaying and bobbing their heads to the tempo anyway.

In the garage of the pink house on Orangedale Lane, Dash lay on his back half-under the white golf cart, gripping a socket wrench. “Okay, go ahead!”

Kneeling, Sam began twisting the handle of another socket wrench. “This stupid thing’s not coming off!”

“Counter-clockwise, babe, counter-clockwise!”
“You said clockwise last time!”
“That’s ‘cuz we were tightening ‘em! Like Dad said, you just gotta listen and feel for the clicks…”
“Can’t we just hire a mechanic?”
“What, and be like YOUR snooty parents?”
“Good point.”

Inside, Mr. Baxter leaned back on the couch, tucking his arms behind his head, feet up on the coffee table, sighing and glancing over at his wife. “Isn’t it great to have the kids home?”

Molly blinked. “The kids are home? My boy’s home?!”

A couple hours later, Ed tossed his son a pair of long-handled shears, instructing, “Go trim the crape myrtles — but don’t cut ‘em too short so they look like hands—” upturning a palm and clawing his fingers to illustrate his point, “that’s ‘crape murder’!”

“Don’t murder the crapes, got it, Pop,” the blond boy acknowledged, heading out the garage door again.

“I’d rather be eating crepes,” the goth girl muttered, “With blackberry jam and a little whipped cream…”

Snorting, Dash said “You’re such a princess…”

“Am not!” Sam insisted, making a grab for the shears, “Gimme those!”

From the second-to-top step of an old aluminum ladder, the burly boy reached out and began snipping off smaller branches “Wonder what Fen’s up to right now…”, which the black-haired girl dodged before picking up and neatly piling.

“I dunno,” Sam said, a bit lost in the thought herself, “Probably wishing he was still a ‘big star’…”

“Hey, Dash! Sam! When you guys’re done, give the palms a trim, okay? Love you!”

Pausing to glance in the direction of his father’s voice, the blond boy sighed, resuming his work. “Who doesn’t?”

Sam flinched, but managed to catch the next falling branch. “Yeah…”

Back in Burbank, Toph came trudging up the stairs with ‘toonish armload of double-bagged groceries. Tucker pulled open the door for her, relieving her of some of them before pulling a gallon of brightly colored punch out of the fridge and pouring her a glass.

“How was shopping?” he asked, beginning to pull out frozen dinners and deli meat.

“Lousy,” the blue-eyed girl replied flatly, plunking herself on the couch, “Place was too crowded, they didn’t have the right cheese, and now we’re down another two-hundred and thirty bucks.” Grabbing the glass, she tipped it back.

“You look tense,” the boy noted, “Wanna go to the park and bend?”

“Don’t feel like goin’ to the park,” Toph said, gazing up at the ceiling, “Wish we had a backyard…”

“Wish we could afford a backyard,” Tucker said, glancing out the window at the city street.

The blue-eyed girl gave him a look. “Yeah, well, maybe we could if you weren’t always updatin’ your stupid gadgets every twenty minutes.”

“Hey, if I didn’t keep on top of things, you wouldn’t have found out our EBT benefits went way up!”
“True…”

Joining her on the couch, the boy in the red beret mused “Wonder what Danny’s doing right about now?”

“He’s probably fine,” Toph said with a smile, “But don’t you ever wonder what your old bossman’s up to? I know Dee Dum-Dum never really recovered from us. They still mostly go to cons and stuff, and now they’re workin’ on a whole sequel or somethin’.”

Nodding, Tucker said “Yeah, well, I bet Butch’s on a roll with a handful of new shows already…he’s probably way past Danny Phantom.”

A tall slender feline anthropomorph in a wide-collared teal suit sauntered through the main door, craning her head before her eyes darted in every direction. “I am going to love this…!” she said to herself with hushed excitement. Turning to the burly white dog in nothing but a short-sleeved black shirt who entered behind her, she said “It’s like a museum, isn’t that so cool?”

Mirroring her gaze, the dog chimed “Yeah, one of those museums that let you touch everything —” raising a finger, “but you should never touch anything without knowing what it is first!” Ears drooping, he professed “I learned that the hard way…” and flinching. He recounted the memory of his first trip to such a place as a little puppy and discovering a wonderful new chew toy before eyeing the text that read ‘HUMAN ANATOMY’. It had actually been the first time he’d made his mother faint in public.

Kitty blinked several times before softly glaring at Dudley. “Thank you — and later I’m going to set the Brain Scanner to ‘ERASE, ERASE!’”

“Hey, it was an accident! How was I supposed to know the awesomely chewy thing was supposed to be a —?”
“Just SHUT UP and help me find Mr. Hartman’s office!”

Walking down the first carpeted hall, Kitty knocked gently on the door before trying the handle and finding it open. Peeking in, she saw the human, venturing “Ahem…Mr. Hartman?”

With a jump, Butch turned, looking up. Blinking for a few moments, he finally said “Oh, hi! Hi, you must be Ms. Katswell — come in, come in!” rising and walking around his desk. Shaking her hand, he insisted as always “Please, call me ‘Butch’.”

“And for the record, you can call me ‘Kitty’,” the cat said with a smile.

“And I’m Dudley!” the dog added happily, grabbing the man’s hand seconds after Kitty had let go of it, tugging the human toward him and shaking vigorously. “Pleased to meet you, sir!”

Hartman’s eyes hazed slightly. Beyond the muzzle, those blue eyes below black brows. Too familiar. Giving his head a discreet clearing shake, he headed back around the side of his desk while the pair sat in the chairs in front of it.

“So…Danny — I mean, Dudley, I haven’t really gotten a good chance to get to know you. Tell me a little more about yourself…did you say you’d been in front of a camera before?”

Kitty raised a brow at his slip, though Dudley wasn’t fazed. “Well, I did try out for some commercials when I was a kid,” the dog replied, “And I’ve always wanted to be on T.V.! My Mom always told me…”

As he went on, Butch nodded, though still seemed to be in a trance, and sinking a bit deeper.

“Darn, okay, scratch that – hrmm…wait! Have you ever ridden a motorcyle before?”
“No, but I could learn…I guess…”
“Okay – that’ll go on the back-burner then…ummm…are you good with animals?”
“I like dogs, and cats…”


“…I’d like to cite Johnny Bravo as one of my personal heroes,” the dog said, slipping on a pair of sunglasses and executing a series of poses. “Hoo-hah! Huuh!”

Chuckling weakly, Hartman mumbled “That’s great, Danny…”

Tugging off the shades, Dudley lightly frowned. “It’s Dudley, sir.”

“Right, right…so Danny, did you finish reading the new script?”

Now Kitty facepalmed. The dog glanced at her, looking back at Butch with convex brows and a deeper frown, though it was more sympathetic than disappointed.

“Great, just great,” the cat griped, “ANOTHER director who’s still way too attached to his last golden boy!” Looking at Dudley, she asked “How does this keep happening?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” the man spoke up, sliding his fingers into his hair as he buried his face in his hands. “I just…” looking up at them “…well, I know you don’t want me to go on and on about it —”

Leaning forward, the dog smiled. “I bet you do, sir,” he said softly.

Smiling, Hartman said, “Well, i-if you really wanna hear about it, then…it all started about nine years ago…my family and I’d just moved to a new home in L.A., and it had a guest house…and…my Mom was still living by herself in Los Vegas, and wanted to get out of there. So, we decided it’d best if she came and lived with me for a while. I took a plane to Vegas, packed everything up for her in a moving truck, and headed back out to L.A. …”

Kitty shifted her chin into the heel of her hand, but Dudley seemed intrigued by the lengthy tale of the man’s adventures with Danny and co. He gasped at the suspenseful moments, laughing along with Butch at the funnier ones.

Finally, the three returned to a discussion about T.U.F.F. Puppy, and the studio’s accommodations, and other relevant things. Hartman stood up, shaking their hands firmly again. Looking at the dog, he said quietly “Thanks for hearing me out.”

“No problem, Boss,” Dudley said with a grin.

“Please…call me ‘Butch’,” the human insisted.

Looking sheepish, the dog said “Sorry about that, Chief — er, Butch…”

As the two continued down the hall in search of their new trailers, neither spoke, looking around at the architecture and making a note of where the bathrooms and surprising number of lounges were.

Finally, Dudley broke the silence. “I think that went pretty well, don’t you?”

Kitty sighed. “Could have gone better…but…not the worst interview we’ve ever had,” she admitted.

Nodding, the dog bounded ahead a bit, grinning as he spied a directory on the wall. Tail wagging, he peered at it carefully, tracing a few of the lines with his nose — however, he couldn’t seem to pinpoint the one location he and his gurgling stomach sought.

Ears rising, he turned, seeing a small brown-haired boy in a pink hat standing a few feet behind him. The two exchanged blinks before Timmy asked “Can I help you?” with a slight edge in his voice.

“Actually, yeah — d’you know where the cafeteria is in this place? I’m starving!”

The brunet suddenly stiffened, eyes misting, lips quivering before he broke into tears, turning and running back up the hall he’d come down. Watching him, Dudley’s ears and the corners of his mouth drooped again.

“Dudley!” the cat cried, walking up to him, “What’d you DO?!”

“I didn’t do anything!” the dog insisted, facing her, “All I said was ‘Where’s the food?’ and the kid went ballistic!”

“Are you sure?”
“Yes! I’m positive!”

“Can I help you?” Vicky echoed, appearing with the brunet in her arms, quietly sobbing into her shoulder.

“Yes,” Kitty answered, pivoting to face her, “We were wondering if there’s someplace we could grab some lunch…?”

The redhead locked eyes with the cat; then glanced at her outfit. “Gadget girl, huh?” she mused, “I knew somebody like that once…”

“O…kay…” the feline uttered, raising a brow.

Still supporting Timmy with her left arm, Vicky extended her right, upturning her palm and mumbling a chant. Looking up with a mischievous grin, she cast a “FIREBAAALL!” in Kitty’s direction.

With a shriek, the cat drew a high-tech gun, widening her stance and blasting at the spell. The resulting explosion singed the newcomers, while the redhead held up a Windy Shield, letting it drop when the air was clear.

“Is that all you got?” she asked. Kitty stared with wide eyes, breathing audibly.

“That was awesome!” the dog proclaimed, shaking himself free of soot.

“Cafeteria’s that way,” Vicky said, gesturing, “Second doorway on your left.”

“Thanks!” Dudley said, though the girl didn’t break her soft glare, turning without another word and walking back up the hall, disappearing around the first corner.

Putting away her weapon, Kitty let out a loud, exasperated “JEEZ! What the —” hearing a loud beep from her cellphone, she grabbed it, glimpsing a new text message from their diminutive chief, continuing “is wrong with these people?! It’s like Peter Parker got brutally murdered and you show up the next day with a Spider-Man costume on!”

With a gasp, the dog said “That reminds me, I really hope Mom remembered to pack my Spidey jammies! Gimme your phone, I wanna call her…” making a swipe for it.

“Hey!” Kitty said, but let him have it as she pressed a few fingers to her temple and rubbed with a long sigh.

Pulling open the door to his trailer, Dudley stepped inside, looking around before letting the duffel slide off of his shoulder and drop onto the bare mattress. Unzipping it, he pulled out a bundle of shirts, hangers, a full-length mirror, and bedsheets; in a ‘toonish flash, he’d hung the shirts, the mirror, and made the bed.

Setting his alarm clock on the nightstand, he plunked the pillow down against the wall and lay back on his new bed, sighing and staring up at the ceiling before closing his eyes. “Dudley, my friend, you’ve finally got it made…hit the big time, cruisin’ down easy street, conducting the gravy train!” As his nose twitched, his lids rose again. “What IS that smell?”

Sitting up, he sniffed the air again, rising — only to drop down, furiously searching for the source of the strange scent on all fours. Eventually he squeezed into the far right corner of the room between the bed and the wall, yanking out a forgotten pair of jeans.

Uncrumpling them with a shake, the dog wagged his tail again. “Hey, pants!” Looking around again quickly, he slipped them on, observing himself in the tall mirror. “Now if I just had a pair of shoes, I’d look just like Johnny!” Putting on the sunglasses again, he curled his hands into fists and ‘danced the monkey’.

Suddenly feeling and hearing something rustle, he stopped, pushing up the glasses and reaching into the pocket. Pulling out the paper, he saw that it was a stapled packet. On the front was:

DANNY PHANTOM

“Bitter Reunions”

Episode #7

Story by Steve Marmel

Written by Sib Ventress and Steve Marmel

FIRST DRAFT: 6.3.03
SECOND DRAFT: 6.12.03
THIRD DRAFT: 6.18.03
FOURTH DRAFT: 6.30.03

“Ooooh!” Eyes wide, Dudley climbed onto the bed and flipped the page, eagerly reading the next thirty. Engrossed in the story, he made faces, gasped, laughed, and imitated voices and sound effects. “The End!” he narrated, throwing up his arms and flopping back down on the bed “That. Was. Awesome!” — then bolted back up. “I wonder if there’re any more of these? I gotta read ‘em!”

He made another thorough, nose-to-the-floor search, but came up empty-pawed this time. Standing in front of the mirror again, he tugged on the waist of the jeans, giving the baggy cuffs a kick, and frowned.

“I guess I do have some pretty big pants to fill…” he mused quietly.

Stepping down from the trailer, he walked into the hall and back toward the offices. As he passed the Fairly Oddparents trailers, he paused, hearing a haunting violin melody. When the music ceased, he could hear the voices of the girl and the boy he’d seen earlier.

“Play it again…PLEASE?”
“Okay, ONE more time, twerp, but that’s it.”
“Aw…”

The song started again, and the dog stayed to listen, quietly moving along when it finished. He found himself humming it minutes later as he spied the door to Butch’s office.

Finding it locked, he ‘toonishly squeezed himself under it, idly sniffing around until his nose bumped the bottom of a small picture frame, knocking it over. Picking it up, he saw that it was of Butch, standing on a set of some kind with a broad smile. Under his right arm were two human girls — his daughters, so the dog understood — and under his left, the pink-clad brunet as well as a taller black-haired, blue-eyed boy in a white shirt and the same jeans Dudley had donned.

The photo was a Polaroid, and in the white space, blue-inked handwriting identified the five as ‘Butch and kids’. The dog’s brows swept into convexes, his ears drooping. Certainly the man had spoken well and fondly of the ‘toon, but even then, he hadn’t quite implied just how much he’d obviously meant to him. Enough to consider him a son; a closer bond than Dudley had ever experienced with anyone or any’toon else, even his own father.

Respectfully, the dog unzipped the pants, folding them neatly and laying them on the desk, setting the frame back down carefully in its original position. Sighing, he turned, squeezing back out under the door and walking back toward the T.U.F.F. Puppy trailers in a daze.

About halfway, he ran into the Chief, hopping along in a nightcap. “Agent Puppy!” he said loudly, ripping Dudley out of his trance.

“D’yaah!” the dog cried as he jumped, losing his balance and thudding into the wall. “Chief! What’re you doing up?”

“I’m going to take a leak,” the flea answered bluntly, “but I was about to ask you the same question.”

“Oh, well,” Dudley began, dusting himself off, “I just couldn’t sleep. But I could use a little hydrant-action myself, if you know what I mean…”

“Suit yourself.”

Standing a urinal apart, Dudley lifted his leg and stared at the wall for a minute before speaking up. “Say, Chief…”

“What is it, Puppy?”

“Well…Kitty and I talked with Mr. — er, Butch today, earlier…”
“Oh? How’d it go?”
“Pretty good, but…
“What happened? Get tongue-tied again?”
“No, no, it’s not that…it’s just…he started calling me ‘Danny’, and —”
“Well, it’s closer than ‘Noodley’.”
“No, Chief, that’s not it — see, Danny was the last ‘toon he worked with.”
“Ahh, I see…well, not the first time you’ve auditioned for somebody with emotional baggage, either.”

“They were really close, too,” the dog added as he walked to the sink, “The guy even considered him like a son to him.”

Joining him, the flea washed his hands in the puddles of soap and water on the counter, drying them with the bottommost corner of the paper towel Dudley was using. “So what?”

“Whaddaya mean?”
“I mean ‘so the heck what’? You may be a magnet for these guys, but it’s not your fault they’ve become so attached to one ‘toon or another. These things happen.”
“But, Chief…I…I just don’t want to…ruin that kind of relationship.”
“Poppycock! How’re you going to ruin it? You might ruin a lot of other things, but T.U.F.F. doesn’t have a time machine. Well, we would, but Keswick can’t seem to get the bugs out of it…you get what I mean, right, Puppy?”

Nodding, Dudley said, “I think so…but —”

“And besides, you’ve spent some time with Hartman and you’ll spend more over the next few months. It may not ever be the same as with him and this ‘Danny’, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything, too.”

The dog blinked.

“Heck, you might even outdo that punk,” the flea suggested, “I doubt it, but…well, if that man didn’t want anybody taking his place, he wouldn’t have agreed to helm this new show. You get me?”

“Gotcha, Chief,” Dudley said, smiling and nodding. “And…thanks.”

“Now come on, let’s both get back to bed and get some shut eye,” the Chief insisted, hopping down from the counter, “So I hear we’re going to be doing some read-throughs tomorrow, and for that we’ve all got to be awake and alert.”

Nodding again, the dog said “I found an old script from that Danny show. It was really amazing, I think it’s still in my room and I can show you if you want?”

“Maybe tomorrow, Puppy. It would be nice to see what we’re up against.”

With a sigh, Hartman tucked the new bundle of scripts under one arm, slid the key into the door of his office, unlocking it, and pushing it open. Preoccupied with mentally reviewing the day’s schedule, he dumped the packets on the desk — not noticing the denim square until he sat down and spied bright ‘toonish blue poking out from beneath the real white paper.

Clawing the scripts off of the pants, he picked them up, turning them to and fro, and blinking rapidly in his confusion. How had these ended up here? For a moment, he felt his heart pound, thinking perhaps Danny had come back, even for a few minutes.

Why he had left his jeans on the desk was a bit puzzling. Still, it wasn’t the first time Butch had ended up with his clothes.

“Well, I wasn’t supposed to get the memo either, but I did…and I got another one saying they were coming after you tonight, so I decided to get to you first…”
“They were? …well, thanks…”
“Here…get dressed…”
“What do I do with these?”
“I’ll keep them here for now…sure, it’s suspicious, but I don’t think they’ve got cause to search my office just yet…”


Pulling open his drawer, he set the jeans down on top of some folders before slowly pushing it shut, eyes completely hazed. It took more than one hand to count the times Danny had risked his life and almost died to save others, or avenge them, or do some other heroic thing. And of course, the man would never forget the time the boy had almost chosen to stay in the Cartun universe, reducing him to tears.

“It’s okay, Danny…it’s your life…it’s your home…”
“No…I may have been born there, but…you were right: I was raised on Earth…and my home is…here, with everybody…with you…”


Now he wasn’t even in another universe, but still out of his reach. And there was just about nothing he could do about it.

“I don’t know how I’m gonna go through with T.U.F.F. Puppy and all the other cartoons I’m lined up to do; no offense to them, but I can’t replace you! You’re my b —! …my best…actor!”

‘My boy’, is what he’d meant to say, like he’d said so many times before. “My boy…” he mumbled, vision blurring before he’d even grabbed the small picture frame. “MY boy…”

“Because you’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I’d rather be mad at you than not have you at all.”

Collapsing over the desk with his face buried in his arms, the grown man cried again.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:58 am ]
Post subject: 

Aww, it's sad to see the reactions that everybody is having over Danny's departure. D:

Excellent chapter.

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Sat Sep 25, 2010 2:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks, Dustin. You rock!

OH. MY. @(^%^#$%#. GOSH. I HATE this chapter. With a burning passion. I thought Six was filler? This one is fill-y and rambly and just...UGH. KILL IT WITH POISON!

Erm...but yeah, I finally finished it and am posting it anyway. XD; Enjoy, maybe?

Also, wow, I really need to stop using quotes from other fics. If this fic was animated, it would be about forty-five percent clip-show. >.>;

CHAPTER VII

Slipping through the air, Danny gave his eyes a rub, noticing that the sky had begun to lighten ever so noticeably. Glancing down, he could still see the I-15, which he’d been subconsciously using as a guide.

Once past the Arizona border, he veered away from the road for a more scenic glide across the Mojave Desert and through the Grand Canyon National Park. Seeing the Hualapi, Huvasapi, and Navajo Reservations only cemented his decision on his ultimate destination. For a moment, it gave him a burst of energy that propelled him kitty-corner into Colorado, though he’d returned to a slow coast as he crossed what was now the I-80 into Nebraska and from there headed straight east to Iowa.

However, as the sun hung above him at its midday mark, the boy found himself clutching his chest as it lightly heaved. Normally, one of the perks of his ghost mode was the lack of a need for oxygen — unless he exerted himself too much, whereupon his lungs kicked in like a propane generator. This usually occurred under his sister’s brand of duress, but apparently he’d worn himself out more than he’d realized.

Holding one vivid image in his head like a carrot on a stick, he willed himself to keep going, but his breathing grew louder, and with a wince, he couldn’t stop his descent. Crying out as his flight completely gave out, he tumbled earthward and splashed into the Mississippi River.

Sputtering and flailing as he broke the surface, Danny managed to keep his head above water as the current washed him up on the northernmost curve of Credit Island. Crawling onto dry land, he coughed, and spit up more water before half-willingly reverting and promptly collapsing.

Yet unseen, he slept surprisingly well on the grass, the only thing wresting him from his much-needed nap being a stray golf ball to the head. “OWww…” he muttered with a woozy flinch, opening his eyes as he pushed himself to a sit, yawning and stretching.

Looking around at the foreign landscape, he called out “Tuck? Butch? …Mom? Dad?”

“You lost, son?” came a voice.

The ‘toon watched as a human in golf clothes approached him, still carrying the culprit club. Rising, Danny admitted, “Yeah, actually, I kind of am…where am I, exactly?”

“Depends on where exactly you came from,” the man said with a joking tone.

“Uh, well, I know I’m…somewhere in Iowa,” the boy professed.

Chuckling, the man said, “Oh, well, then welcome to Davenport! This’s Credit Island, a great retreat for biking, birdwatching, and of course, hitting some balls.”

“Heheh, cool,” the boy said, “Uh, is there any place to grab a bite?” his stomach croaking on cue.

“Not here, but if you like Mexican, there’s Dominga’s about a mile away on South Concord,” the human replied, gesturing.

Muchas gracias, muchacho!” Danny said with a grin. He jumped — blue sparks fizzling at his waist before he bellyflopped back onto the grass with a “Gnnh!”

The man blinked down at him. “What was that all about?”

“Nevermind,” the boy said weakly, “How do I get to South Concord?”

“Well, I just finished up. Why don’t I take you? You look a little rough around the edges…”

“Thanks,” Danny said, picking himself up again and giving his hair a quick comb with his fingers, “Y’know…you seem…REALLY nice. Do you open your car door to every stranger you find lying around? Or you just like ‘toons?”

“I’ve got kids who do, anyway,” the man mused, “And…I guess I’m just a generous sort of guy.”

“Guess I’m just lucky, then,” the boy said quietly as they walked.

“It’ll probably come back to bite me one of these days, but…hasn’t happened yet,” the human went on, smiling as he echoed, “Guess I’m just lucky. Oh, and I’m also Isaac —” holding out a hand, “pleased to meet you.”

Grabbing it and shaking it, Danny said, “I’m Danny — and very pleased to meet you, too.”

Watching as the ‘toon sawed off a large chunk of enchilada and stuffed it in his mouth, eyes arching as he chewed, Isaac paused to sip his water, then asked “So I take it you’re from out-of-state…where are you from, originally?”

Gulping down his food, Danny said “Originally? C— uh, California.”

“California? I have a sister who lives out there. What brings you halfway across the country?”

“Well, I’m trying to get all the way across it,” the boy explained, pausing to scoop up a forkful of refried beans and orange rice, “But I got tired and had to make an emergency…stopover.”

“Got tired?” the man echoed.

“Yeah, I-I can fly,” the ‘toon said, realizing his assumption.

“Oh,” Isaac said with another joking smile, “Of course.”

“Heh, sorry,” Danny said, “I’d show you, but…I think I’m gonna need some more sleep, or —” turning to their waiter as he reappeared “more comida, por favor! Me gustaría probar el pollo poblano, y tal vez un tamale.”(1) Pausing, he said to himself “Huh. I guess some of Uncle D’Artacan’s Spanish is FINALLY sinking in…” picking up his fork again “RIGHT on cue!”

Chin in hand, the man said “I think I’m beginning to see why my kids like watching you guys on TV so much.”

Blinking, then smiling sheepishly, Danny said “Thanks — a-and tell them we appreciate it very much. I know sometimes we distract ‘em from their homework and stuff, but…well, knowing we’ve got fans out there means a lot to us.”

“I will,” Isaac promised with a nod.

Giving his potbelly a satisfied pat as he leaned back for a moment, the ‘toon asked “Hey, uh, I know you’ve already done a lot for me, but…d’you think you could do me one more favor?”

“Sure, you name it!”
“Is there an airport anywhere nearby and if so, could you drive me to it?”
“Quad City International’s right across the Mississippi. Heh, decided to let somebody else do the flying for a while?”
“Uh…you could say that.”
“Hahaha!”

Danny grinned. Making people laugh wasn’t a ‘toon’s greatest purpose in life — just as women didn’t exist solely for childbirth. Though, like the ‘miracle of life’, joking and bringing smiles to others was rooted a little deeper than culture.

The boy let his eyes close, snoozing on the way to the airport. Pulling up to the curb, the man grabbed his shoulder and lightly shook him awake. With a yawn and a stretch, Danny pushed open the door and stepped out. The sun was still in the sky, albeit much lower, though the air was noticeably cooler, almost cold. “Thanks again, Mr. Ferland!” he bid.

“You’re welcome, Danny,” Isaac said, “If you ever come back this way, feel free to stop by — for now though, best of luck on your trip!”

“Thanks,” the ‘toon echoed, “I’ll need it.” Shutting the door, he waved goodbye and headed into the lobby.

Jogging up to the nearest departure board, he scanned the rows, looking for the name of a very specific city. Unfortunately, he realized that there were only eleven cities anyone flying out of Moline could hope to reach. The furthest east was Detroit, in his old boss’s old home state of Michigan.

With a sigh, the boy said, “Well, Detroit it is, I guess.” Making a note of the gate and time, he made his way toward the runway, slipping invisibly by security phasing into the belly of the plane and nestling among the luggage.

Transforming, Danny could feel that his need for oxygen had diminished. Smiling, he let his eyes close again and let his mind drift, slowly falling asleep again. Sleeping and dreaming were always good things, quintessential or not.

As the bird, plane, or superhero flew, Detroit was only a half-hour from Moline, at worst. Still, it was plenty of time for another quick power-up nap. Again, the boy slept surprisingly well for his surroundings. When he awoke, however, he found himself in the company of men less trusting and open than Isaac.

Squinting and half-flinching in the flashlight’s glare, the ‘toon said “Hey, what’s going on?”

“You tell me,” came the voice of DTW’s chief security officer, “Who are you and what were you doing stowed away on that plane?”

“Sleeping,” Danny answered truthfully, squirming a bit in the grip of the two other officers that held him by the shoulders. Attempting to phase away from them, he discovered that the gloves they wore were ‘toon-proofed.

Snorting, the first man grabbed his hair, raising his head. “You know how much plane tickets cost these days?” he asked, adding, “You know how much it costs to keep an airline up and running?” Locking eyes with the ‘toon, the man added “Why should a scrawny, scrappy little thing like you get a free ride? Huh?”

“Okay, I’m sorry!” the boy blurted, fidgeting again.

The officer snorted. “Sorry isn’t gonna cut it, kid!”

“I’m not a KID — I’m thirty-seven!”

“You look fourteen to me,” the man scoffed, letting go of him a stepping back, though not breaking his gaze, “Just who are you anyway? Answer me, already!”

“No’toon you’d care to know about,” the boy grumbled, “Just lemme go!”

“You sound like you got something to hide…”
“I don’t have anything to hide, I just don’t think this is that big a deal! So slap me with a fine, slap me on the wrists and lemme go!”
“Just tell us your name and where you’re from and what you’re up to, and we’ll give you your fine and send you on your miserable little way!”
“No way!”

“What do we do?” asked the security grunt on Danny’s right.

“We can’t keep him here forever!” the one on his left pointed out.

“We’re not — and we won’t have to,” the chief assured them, “Everybody knows there’s one surefire way of getting ‘toons to talk…”

The ‘toon raised a brow. That particular arrangement of words never prefaced anything good. True to his anxiety, he saw the first man disappear into an adjoining room as the two others and two more with the same gloves pinned him to a nearby table.

Danny’s eyes widened as he spied the security chief reappear with a tall ‘toon feather in hand. “Didn’t wanna have to do this nonsense —” the man muttered.

“Then don’t do it!” the boy said a bit shrilly, struggling.

“— but if it’s the only way to get you to cough up the information we need, so be it.”

“No! NO!” Danny protested, writhing more frantically in the grunts’ strong grip. “Get away! Lemme GO!” If I wanted to get tortured, I’d have stayed in the RV!

Suddenly, the boy realized that while the gloves may have prevented him from phasing, they otherwise didn’t hinder him. With a wince and a small roar, he flattened his palms and blasted energy from them.

While he didn’t do significant damage to his captors, the attack was enough to startle them back. Still charged, he rolled off of the table and made a dive for the front wall, avoiding the grunts’ last-ditch grabs and phasing through it.

Looking around, he decided to phase through the floor under the crowd, reappearing closer to a set of boards. Finally, he spied the proper noun he’d been looking for: BOSTON. There was a Delta flight from Gate T-MA27 that was scheduled to leave at 5:30PM. According to his watch, it was 5:20 now.

Danny made another visual sweep for any signs of airport security, or at least the team after him, then ducked behind a wall and quickly reverted. Pushing his bangs out of his face, he tried to get his bearings; then jogged down the terminal.

Hurdling moving escalator steps two at a time, he picked up speed toward the concourse — then came skidding to a halt, seeing the line through the metal detectors and luggage scanners. 5:25PM, and the security chief and his grunts had just walked into the picture, passing the information along to their peers. Soon enough, a woman began announcing the situation loudly from the overhead speakers.

He’d been reluctant to take what was otherwise a perfect escape route, but feeling his heart pound, the boy realized he would have to attempt the impossible: overshadow a real human being. Taking a deep breath, Danny lunged for the closest inconspicuous-looking human male. When the crowd turned their heads, the ‘toon had disappeared. The head of security looked immeasurably peeved, barking at his men and some of the women to keep up the search.

“Boy, I sure hope they find that ‘toon,” Danny mused casually to a woman in line next to him, while straining to keep control of the human body. Just transferring his invisibility to a human Butch had been more exhaustion than it was worth.

Nodding, the woman added “I hope so, too. The poor thing, he must be lost, all alone and scared…”

“Just a little,” the boy mumbled absentmindedly.

“What?”
“Oh — nothing, nothing.”

“No, you said ‘just a little’,” the woman pressed, “What’d you mean by that?”

Danny gritted the man’s teeth behind closed lips. Why did humans have to be immune to quick and suspiciously specific denial? “I said, uh…they left us just a little time to make the flight! It’s 5:29 now!”

“Oh, well, don’t worry,” she said, smiling, “with all this hubbub, they’ll probably delay the planes just a little so we can all get to where we’re going. Or they’ll give us reassigned seats.”

“Oh…right. Thank you, thank you…”

“No problem — you seem stressed, are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, it’s just…y’know, work.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I…uh…a…ccounting — accounting.”
“My sister’s an accountant! She’s been with Mitchell & Titus for about three years now. Who d’you work for?”
“B-Bialystock & Bloom.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Yeah, they’re…kinda new.”

As they pulled off their shoes and emptied their pockets, the woman asked “So, where are you headed?”

“Boston.”
“On business?”
“No, I have…cousins there. I’m staying with them for a week or so. Get a little R n’ R, y’know…”
“I hear you!”

“May I see your ticket please, sir?” one of the security officers asked.

“Sure, sure, lemme just —” Danny began, frantically digging in all of the man’s pockets “figure out where I put it…”

Finally, he pulled out the professionally printed rectangle, which revealed his name as Bob Harper, who was apparently taking a 7:00 flight to Fort Lauderdale. The boy’s heart pounded again as he stepped through the tall frame. Fortunately, nothing happened, and after another minute or so, he was able to pick up the man’s things and headed down the corridor, waving to the woman.

“Bye, and good luck!”
“You too!”

Sitting down in an empty seat, Danny finally phased out of the man’s body, barreling toward the nearest wall.

Regaining his consciousness slowly, the human raised his head, blinking, clutching his temple and looking around the concourse. “…the hell?”

Passing painstakingly through it, instantly reverting and stumbling on the ground. Clutching his chest, he could feel his heart still thumping heavily, chest pounding out audible breaths again. “Darnit…!”

Danny pressed on, away from the airport until the last of his ‘toonish strength gave out, legs buckling beneath him as he slid down against the wall of a nearby hotel. With a frustrated sigh, he drew his arms around his knees, pulling them to his chest as he rested his chin on his arm.

Staring blankly out at the road, it took him a while to notice that three human girls of varying but close ages had gathered in front of him, simply looking at him with quiet childish awe. Blinking, the boy sat up. “Uh, hi…” he said, smiling despite convex brows.

The trio smiled, but said nothing, still staring rather intently. Frowning, Danny rose slowly — seeing them rise as well. As he turned his head and took a few steps back and forth, the girls followed him with their eyes, cocking their heads and leaning from side to side.

With an incredulous chuckle, he shook his head, albeit still smiling. Turning he began to walk away from them, glancing over his shoulder only to see them in tow like naïve ducklings. Stopping and facing them again, he said “Will you…stop watching me?!” Adding, “I mean, I know I said that we really like knowing we’ve got fans out there, but…” Trailing off and letting his arm drop, he saw that the children — while likely having understood his words — were not fazed, let alone deterred.

Walking back toward them, he sighed, continuing “C’mon, guys — er, girls — you’re gonna attract unwanted attention. Like strangers, or the police…or a director with a cheesy script!” Lightly grabbing their shoulders, he turned them around and gave them a gentle push. “I’m sure you’ve all got parents who’re starting to get worried about you. Go on…” Feeling the tallest dig her heels into the concrete, he pushed a little harder, his own feet ‘toonishly slipping as he readjusted his grip. “Go on, go! Gooo!”

The other two had turned around, the smallest looking curiously up at his stomach which she wordlessly reached up and tickled. With a yelping laugh, the ‘toon recoiled, clutching it. “Youhou’re not helping!” He stared at her with slightly lowered brows, then blinked rapidly, eyes widening for a moment. “…but maybe you can!” he thought aloud.

Sighing, he muttered “This is probably gonna look REALLY weird, but…” and lowered himself a little to their eye level. “You guys wanna do me a biiig favor?” he asked with a broad grin.

The trio nodded vigorously, watching as he slid onto his back, yanking back the hem of his shirt, asking with brilliant soft eyes and a kittenish mouth “Rub my tummy? Pleeeeeease?”

Naturally, the children were delighted, kneeling around him and fulfilling his request. Danny’s eyes arched for several moments before he let out a long, breathy sigh, letting his body relax what little it could on the concrete.

Inevitably, his tongue lolled, and as his powers flooded back, his legs melded into tail. When the girls stopped, he wagged it, prompting them to giggle and resume their petting.

This playful cycle continued until the ‘toon felt fully recharged. Phasing through the sidewalk, he poked his head out; then emerged in ghost mode. Cupping the air with both hands, he formed an ecto-sphere, clasped his hands together, then pulled them apart again, tinier spheres forming at the end of his fingertips, prompting faces and sounds of awe.

Wrapping arms and tail around the humans, he said “Thank you, THANK YOU! You’re all awesome, y’know that?”

With chimes of “Mm-hm!” the girls nodded, returning the squeeze.

Chuckling, he said “Well, I’d better get going, but I’ll see you again sometime, okay? Bye-bye!” and waved before darting away — hovering on the rooftop out of their view, watching as they collectively turned and ran around the side of the building, ducking back inside the hotel.

Sighing again, Danny frowned. He certainly wasn’t going to look a power-boosting gift horse in the mouth, though he couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about the whole situation, especially after his unusual bout of honesty in the custody of airport security. Wondering if anyone else had witnessed his rub down, he muttered “I dunno which’s more embarrassing: the way I usually lose my powers or getting them back in a pinch…” Pausing, he raised a finger, proclaiming “Weaksauce, it only tastes humiliating!” before letting his brows and lids droop.

As he sprang further into the sky, he slid his arms out in front of him, glimpsing the nearly-set sun and adjusting his direction due northeast. “Now to get to Boston…” he said, then gave his head a clearing shake. “Wait a minute — duh! New York is just over the last two Great Lakes from here! …and I was really hoping to grab an authentic bowl of clam chowder, too. Guess I’ll have to settle for the Manhattan version, heh.”

Flying low over Lake Erie, he held out an arm, palm flat, and skimmed the water with his fingers before swooping back up to his previous altitude. Even though his ghostly abilities were second nature to him and barely required a second thought, he did understand that, for the most part, they made him unique. ‘Much more unique than the other guys’, as his theme song had boldly declared.

He enjoyed using them for fun, and knew that he had the unspoken superheroic responsibility to use them for the good of others, ‘toons, humans, or whatever other species he might encounter. He’d also been without them, both willingly and un, and had gotten a feel for doing things ‘normally’, humanly, even.

In Butch’s slapdash ‘finale’ script, he remembered reading a certain exchange:

DANNY
Oh, come on, you guys. Don’t you realize what this means?

SAM
Yeah. That you’re just an average, everyday, not special human again.

DANNY
Come on, Sam! Think of how great this is gonna be. I won’t have to fight ghosts anymore. Now we can all just be normal teenagers and hang out as much as we want.

SAM
Yeah. Normal rocks.


This was why he wasn’t dating Sam anymore. While in real life, she could have taken or left his powers, their effects on his attitude remained a sore subject between them — ticklish subject, rather. Still, the bird on his other hand wasn’t exactly singing the praises of averageness along with him.

“Vicky…would you ever wanna…give up your powers? Er, your…spells?”
“What?”
“I mean…would you…would you become human with me?”
“What?! No! …no, Danny, I’m sorry…humans are cool, and that’s cool if you wanna be human and all, but…I really like my spells, and I like being a ‘toon…I’m sorry…”
“It’s…okay. Sorry I asked.”


On a whim, Danny swooped upward, piercing the clouds and skimming the tops of the water vapor the same way he had with the lake’s surface before climbing higher. Glancing over his shoulder at the sun’s glow, he let his gaze fall, glimpsing patches of the world below, looking like an expansive model.

Lost in his thoughts, the boy failed to notice another airplane heading toward him, letting out a startled “D’eaah!” and diving out of its way, back down through the clouds. Spying a tractor-trailer, he steered himself toward it, landing on the roof of the cargo box in a crouch.

With another sigh, the ‘toon slumped to a sit with his back to the cab, laying down and tucking his arms behind his head. He watched the sky as it passed him by, leaning his head back — and seeing an overhead highway sigh, rolled onto his stomach and flattened himself a bit. Once out of harm’s way, he sat up again and looked at the green signs, deciphering that by incredible luck he was still heading east, currently on the I-90, a few miles past the towns of Medina and Pembroke.

Danny shivered, wrapping his arms around himself. Deciding he didn’t want to fly anymore for the night, he phased through the trailer’s roof. Fully expecting crates, he was delighted to find mattresses albeit snugly plastic-wrapped. With a yawn, he stretched and sprawled out on top of one, letting his eyes close. Before he let his mind off its leash as the rumble of the trailer put him to sleep, he made one silent plea: Hey, truck, please be going where I’m going!

When the truck came to a stop, the high pitched honk of its brakes jolted the boy awake. Opening his eyes, he pushed himself to a sit, yawning again, rubbing his eyes and sweeping his bangs back before partially phasing through the roof for a peek at his new surroundings. According to more signs, he was now a stone’s throw from Exit 39 to Syracuse and Fulton.

The driver had pulled into a rest stop and was apparently still using it, as the ‘toon peered into the empty cab. Sighing through pursed lips, he knelt on the roof, trying to figure out which direction to go from here — doing a double-take when he spied the logo on another truck parked more or less right next to him.

Three-quarters of a red circle with white stars, with the blade of a red axe buried in it, nestled between the words ‘Price Chopper’ in thick blue font. There had been a grocery store by that name in the plaza only a few feet from the Swiss Acres Inn in Lake Placid. With a triumphant laugh at his ongoing lucky streak, Danny made a small jump to the northbound truck’s box, and phasing through the roof before its driver also returned from the restroom.

The boy tried to make himself comfortable among the boxes, but couldn’t sleep for more than minutes at a time. Also, he felt his anxiety growing as the eighteen wheeler rumbled closer and closer to his destination.

As he played the day’s events through his mind again in an attempt to distract himself from his discomfort, he realized something: back in Detroit, while he’d panicked at the sight of the feather, he hadn’t just lay there helplessly and let the disgruntled human sap his powers — he’d made an effort to escape and succeeded. Feeling a smile spread across his face, he thought Take that, Jazz!

Adjusting his position again, Danny’s eyes hazed as he thought about what he’d come all this way to do. It wasn’t unlike his dilemma two years ago.

“Come on, guys…”
“I…I’m not going with you…”
“Huh?”
“I’m sorry…I have to stay…”


Barring the life-altering decisions that had been made for him in his youth, there hadn’t been too many pressing crossroads in his life so far. Certainly, he could have left Redstone to his plotting, left Yanchitis well enough alone, and let Bill Gates and Microsoft throw Cartuns into slavery — but as a superhero, the choices were obvious.

And what now? ‘Toons were no more American or world citizens than they’d been before the latest genocide attempt, but with Napolitano and co.’s apologetic treaty in place, perhaps human prejudice and violence against ‘toons had plateaued off to a mellow misery; no better, but no noticeably worse. Nothing that called for an epic battle of Danny Phantom versus the baddie of the week.

There was roughly a seventy-five percent chance that any given hero who decided to hang up his cape, or some such metaphor, would in some manner be called on again; a twenty-four percent chance that another hero of some kind would eventually take his place, and succeed; and the remaining one percent chance that the world and the universe could be satisfied with his ‘selfish’ decision. The percentages varied from ‘verse to ‘verse, world to world, and one hero’s jurisdiction to another’s, but in general, those were the odds. In a strange way, it put superhumans on the same level as illegal immigrants, quote-unquote doing the jobs that nobody else wanted to do — or in the former’s case, could do. Thankfully, superheroing lacked the same controversy.

Giving his head a clearing shake, the boy tried to focus. Back to the more important subject at hand, this would be a life-altering decision, but both forking paths were shrouded in mist. This time he did feel a bit more of a pull toward the one with less responsibility, but it wasn’t a clear-cut save the world or let evil fiddle while it burned sort of decision.

The fence was still far off, but it was getting closer, slowly. He would have to pick a side; either jump or swerve. Having left his family, again, he’d put it upon himself — though staying too close to his sister for too long was a clear-cut no-no. Jumping the fence would mean leaving her behind for good. And a good handful of other woes he always seemed to face. Without rest, without end.

I will become human…

Still, there were men like Butch. Men like Isaac Ferland. Humans that weren’t doormats but still made an effort to make the face of their species a happy, welcoming one. Hartman in particular was one reason he’d forgotten the twelve years of torture at home, and took the uglier side of the human race with a grain — to a point.

I won’t become human…

But then, it wasn’t merely a matter of changing to avoid the travesties of ‘toonhood as it was to fulfill the sheer desire for humanity. It was a curiosity, and one that he’d only explored twice. Twice, in the span of three years. Butch switched between human and ‘toon every other week, albeit that ‘toonizing potion was much tastier than human blood. And still, the man would rave about the things he hadn’t done yet, the things he hadn’t tried. Even when he’d said he’d had enough, he’d gone back and had more, because he could never get enough. Danny’d barely had any, and was beginning to go mad with hunger.

I will become human…

Yet, there was the small part of him that clung loyally to his responsibility, to the challenge of navigating a rocky life, and even better, helping to make that of others’ more bearable. Even just turning on the charm and the ecto-glow for a couple of bright-eyed five-year olds — or three. He didn’t enjoy being odd, or the odd one out, per se, but he liked being a go-to-guy, an entertainer, and a friend with ghost powers. The fear Jazz had put in him of being powerless was amplified by his fear of not being able to help those he wanted to, those he liked and loved. Ghost or not, he’d go out of his way to help people, but sometimes his powers gave him that extra boost to do extra good. Not to mention his ‘toonish abilities.

I won’t become human…

Unable to stop fidgeting, he floated to the roof and phased halfway through it, feeling a refreshing wind on his face and tried to get his bearings. For several minutes, he couldn’t see anything besides trees and the long stretch of asphalt ahead.

Then, just beyond a lake called Portaferry, he saw another road sign, but unlike the previous ones, this was a pale brown with yellow text that read: WELCOME TO THE ADIRONDACK PARK.

With a grin, he rested his chin on his arm, taking in a deep breath and letting out an equally long sigh. Crossing the legendary Blue Line, he remembered when the territory had been sealed by Tahawus’s barrier, making every breath and step within it painful. Now it seemed to have the exact opposite effect. His lids drooped; then slid shut as an almost nostalgic peacefulness swept over him.

Phasing the rest of the way out of the roof, he was too excited to sleep, despite now finally feeling able to. He hovered above the truck for another few miles before soaring higher and veering away, though keeping an eye on the NY-3. Spreading his arms, he flew faster, more of the thick, clean air rushing past him, breezing through his fingers.

As he flew a little closer to the ground near Cranberry Lake and the town thereof, he saw something pleasantly surprising: a ‘toon car, fully-packed with a family and vacation gear, including a couple of canoes and bikes. Blinking, he felt himself broadly grinning again, and as he continued on, he began to notice more ‘toons. Walking around, dining on porches, or sunning themselves on beaches and lakeshores, it was quite an influx from three years ago.

“Why can’t you just take the barrier down?”
“I refuse to open this land to ‘toons again until it is safe for them…”


Maybe Danny Phantom had done something, after all. Maybe I won’t…

Flying over Tupper Lake and diving down to skim it, he remembered first staring at his human reflection in a puddle at the foot of Mount Marcy, and the sound of his human voice as he’d called out to Timmy. It had been disorienting at first, but it hadn’t taken long for it to grow on him. He grew used to the weight of his limbs and the thin strands on his brow, the way that food tasted and how tickling didn’t, well, tickle so much. Not to mention he had no powers to lose, beyond villain-detecting sneezes. But if he was off the hero roster and under the radar, he’d probably never even catch that much of the sniffles.

My human place.

True, he’d turned human in Savannah as well, but it hadn’t been the first time, and the less memorable of the two. Also, as nice as it had been — with the minor inconvenience of de-shelling shellfish —, it had been strictly business: to get back at Butch, and nothing more. In the barricaded Adirondacks, as Tahawus had said, he’d done it simply to stay there. To enjoy the place while on what was supposed to be a vacation, while also looking for the Hakani’s ancient, sacred, presto-change-o staff.

“If you ever wish to come back, you will be a most honored guest…”

Guests came, they saw, and they left, occasionally overstaying their welcome. He wanted to be more than a guest. ‘Toons were welcome, but all ‘toons were essentially guests, everywhere. Danny wanted to sit back, relax, blend in and disappear into the foliage. And where better to do that than in this great American Arcadia?

“And really, I’m a hero, what good am I gonna do in some great age of peace? My powers’ll get all…goopy…”

That had been before the show’s run had ended. Before he’d been kidnapped as a part of Egon’s plot to turn men and ‘toons against each other, and before he’d restored Disney’s kingdom — well, mostly.

“I came here to experience real human life… human life isn’t always like cartoons or the movies…”

No, sometimes it’s even better. Even King Mickey had wholeheartedly advocated the human life, even after all of the tragedy he’d witnessed. And he and his late Queen had given up their thrones and almost all of their Cartun wealth for it.

After they’d run out of scripts, Butch had started bending backward just to keep him in Burbank — but there’d been nothing to do. Before the TRAGIC Act and the battle with Nates, his powers had gotten more than ‘goopy’. He’d used his ecto-energy more for a flashlight than fighting.

“You’re just another ‘toon…why can’t you go quietly like all the rest!?”
“Because…I am NOT…just another ‘toon!”


He may have been more powerful than most, but this wasn’t Metropolis, it wasn’t Marvel’s New York, and it wasn’t Amity Park. There were plenty, if not too many superheros and heroes and courageous, chivalrous ‘toons to go around. On the grand scale of things, he wouldn’t be missed — if forgotten in all subsequent headcounts. Heck, there were five legit Supermans last he’d checked, and that wasn’t counting all of the B- and C-List heroes, who, while less well-known, were just as reliable and capable.

And then he saw it. Beyond where the NY-3 met the NY-45, there it was: Upper Saranac Lake. Or the southern end of it, anyhow. Gliding over the trees lining the shore and glancing down at his reflection, he headed north up the lake. He took long, leisurely swoops around the islands and waved at people in boats, the majority of who waved at him first.

In the midst of hamming it up for one boatload of grandkids, Danny nearly collided with a low-flying helicopter, letting out another cry as it clipped him with its skids. Spiraling downward, he narrowly avoided taking out a parasailer in the process. Plunging into the water with a splash, he quickly dodged the whirring blades of a boat motor before swimming toward the surface.

Giving his head a clearing and drying shake, he looked up to see an island and front crawled toward it, climbing onto its stony shore. Reverting, he slumped up against the trunk of a pine tree and sighed, staring out across the way at the boathouses.

“I’ll just catch a little breather here,” he mumbled to himself, “then I just have to find —” turning his head “oh, DUH!” and seeing the big white house not even three feet to his right.

Standing up, a blue spark ran a glowing ring around his waist. However, he let it hang there for a moment before making it vanish in a small puff of smoke. Walking to the edge of Tommy’s Rock, he pressed his hands together, raised them above his head and dove off into the water again.

Crawling up onto the grass, he shook himself off again and ‘toonishly wrang his clothes completely dry. Taking a deep breath, he walked around the yard and up to the front door, taking slow steps and staring at the bell for a moment. Finally, he reached out and pressed it firmly.

“Danny!” Jomaoni said happily, pulling the door open wide, “What are you doing here?”

“Just…was…in the neighborhood,” he fibbed with a quiet chuckle and a sheepish smile.

“It’s been years,” the Native ‘toon emphasized incredulously, then stepped back, waving him on, “Come in, come in!”

Smiling, Danny lifted his foot off the porch, but let it fall on the threshold, letting his gaze fall, his bangs draping in his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Jomaoni asked, “Are you feeling all right?”

It’s now or never…

Locking his eyes with hers, he said unwaveringly “Princess, I want to be human.”

The Hakani girl blinked. “For —?”

“For the rest of my life.”
___
(1)...food, please! I'd like to try the poblano chicken, and maybe a tamale.

Author:  KDH [ Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:02 am ]
Post subject: 

You may hate it, but I rather liked it. Especially the bit at the hotel.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:49 am ]
Post subject: 

I'm fucking awesome. :3

Also, I likes me the plot twist at the end, can't wait to see what happens in the next chapter.

Kickass chapter. Very Happy

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks again, guys! ^-^ *GROUP HUGS*

Well, this chap took me a tiny bit under two weeks, and some of it was harder than other bits, but overall, I liked it way more than Seven. X3; Also, HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, KAR~! *GLOMP* <3<3<3 This one's DEFINITELY for you. ^_~

...and is it just me, or have I set the record for the most happily married couples in one fanfiction series? I mean, there's Butch and Julieann, Cosmo and Wanda, (Timmy's) Mom and Dad, Vicky's parents, Sam's parents — even if they are 'snooty' to everyone else XD — Jack and Maddie, Danny's great-uncle and great-aunt...

CHAPTER VIII

Closing the door, the princess followed the boy as he walked to the couch and collapsed to a sit. “Danny, why?” she asked, with a small frown.

Sighing, he flinched. He couldn’t possibly begin to explain to her all of the reasons he’d cycled through from Nevada to New York. Looking up at her, he opened his mouth, paused, and replied “Because.”

“Because…of what?”
“Just…because!”

With a weak smile, Jomaoni said “Well, what kind of an answer is that?”

Mirroring it, Danny asserted again “It’s my answer.”

“You do realize —”

“I know!” the boy interrupted, “Believe me, I know…but…please —” standing up “make me a human.”

Pulling the staff from her sleeve and cradling it with a downward glance, the princess said quietly “Danny, if anything were to happen to this, nothing in this world or any other world could change you back.” Pausing, and locking eyes with him, “And you know that humans don’t live forever — and not only that, but the tiniest crack in a bone or a blood vessel…could kill you.”

“Look, I told you, I know what I’m getting into — I really DO,” the boy said, “But…I want this. I’ve done a lot of thinking, and…well, yeah.”

After another small silence, the Hakani girl asked “Do you want to be human, or do you just not want to be Danny Phantom anymore?”

Twitching, Danny glanced away, admitting in a near-whisper “Maybe a little of both.” Expecting a lecture, he was taken a bit aback when she only nodded, taking a few steps back and holding the staff just below the head in her right hand, at arm’s length, the end of it hovering above her left palm, fingers outstretched

“You may have questioned my father’s errand, but you did it without fail,” Jomaoni conceded, “And with this, I repay our debt.”

Grinning, the ‘toon boy uttered a breathy, relieved “Thank you…!”

Drawing her left arm back, knuckles resting on her hip, she turned to the right, holding the staff out, left knee bent; pausing, she turned to the left, then made a complete turn. Facing forward, facing Danny, she widened her stance, grasping the staff below the head and several inches below the article.

And at that moment, a last objection came dashing through his mind like an out-of-shape marathoner, with a sentiment straight out of a Disney movie. If I become human, I’ll never be with my parents or sister again.

He’d left them half a subcontinent away, true, but hadn’t quite imagined never seeing them again. As for Jazz? Well, this is definitely a good news-bad news moment…

A strange gale whipped up, blowing past the Hakani girl. She spoke two Native words, raising the staff so that its head was above hers, making a slow right circle. The staff head suddenly lit up with a brilliant glow, flashing. Continuing the phrase, she spun with outstretched arms to the left and right again, finally coming to a stop with the staff at an angle horizontally above her head, clutching it tightly with both hands, uttering the final word in a shout.

Too late now!

Danny winced in the bright rays’ glare, raising his arms to block his face as he felt the ‘toonish blast of wind and sparkling dust. “Ghnn…aaAaah!” Opening his eyes to a squint, he found himself mesmerized by the magic. It distracted him from the prickling and numbness, the weighty wooziness, and sharp pulses that wracked through him like successive lightning strikes. Seeing the colors twist and scumble before his eyes, he let his arms drop; throwing his head back, he closed his eyes, still seeing the wildly dancing patterns as the painful transformation peaked. It’s…so… “Beautiful!”

Knees thudding to the thinly carpeted floor, the boy fell forward with a groan. He felt the princess grab him and gently lift him up onto the couch, laying him down. Her hands felt strangely soft and warm. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

Remembering Butch’s script again, the boy said on cue “Human…” with a tired smile, twitching at the sound of his voice.

“You should rest for a little while longer,” the princess bid, tugging a blanket over him, “But then…I suppose you’re free to go wherever you like and do whatever you wish.”

“Thank you…” Danny said again, sighing and rolling onto his side, “Could I…could I have a mirror?”

Finding a purse she had used in her own guise, Jomaoni pulled out a compact, opening it and handing it to the now-human boy, who stared at himself, turning his head and running his fingers through his threadlike hair.

Yawning, he set the thing down on the coffee table, rubbing his waxy eyelids with his knuckles, and laying his head back down on the pillow. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. Somehow even in his new body, he could feel the aches of his cross-country journey.

When he woke up, it was early morning. A gray, cool 6AM with mist still rising from the surface of the water, like the contents of a giant teacup. Yawning and stretching, Danny pushed himself to a sit and cast off the blanket. Walking down the hall, he reached the back door, continuing in a steady daze across the back porch and small stretch of yard until he reached the same shoreline he’d crawled up the day before.

The water felt cool on his feet as he slid to a sit, submerging them, wiggling his toes. He’d certainly dunked his feet in a lake before, but even that felt different, new, and giddily soothing. Just above his fully rounded toes on the water’s surface, he could see his reflection; thin and transparent, a colored shadow of his former self.

While his clothes hadn’t fully changed, the neck and sleeves of his shirt were wider, the red and the blue of his jeans far dimmer — if someone spotted him they might have assumed he was enroute to a comic con.

This is me… he thought, reaching down toward the image with both hands, scooping up two tightly cupped palmfuls of water and bringing it closer to his face. This is…ME…

“Danny?”

Turning, the boy saw the princess, having somehow regained her elderly human form as well. Letting the water drop, he rose to his wet feet, lightly jogging toward her. “Princess! …how’d you do that?”

With a smirk, Jomaoni dodged the question with a light shake of her head, only asking, “How are you finding your human self? Is it what you’d hoped for?”

“Finding it?” the boy joked, “I’m practically tripping over it! …but yeah, definitely: it’s everything I remember and more…” for a moment, he rubbed his rounded thumbs and fingers together, “Way more…” then gave his thin hair another comb back.

“Good, good,” the woman echoed. “So what do you want to do now?”

Danny’s stomach was oddly quiet, only emptily panging. And even so, it wasn’t nearly the same call to voraciousness that he usually felt. He gave it a glance and said “I…guess I’m a little hungry — but could we…take a little walk first? Or something?”

Joan chuckled. “Well, if you’re really itching to test those human legs, we could go for a hike, but —”

With a twitch, the boy said “Uh, no thanks. I’m…not ready to try climbing another mountain yet…but…” he slowly turned, “Y’know what I WOULD love to try?” then grinned over his shoulder. “Swimming!”

The woman mirrored it. “That sounds like a great idea. Let me go get you a pair of swim trunks. Do you want to just swim out from here? Or I can take you out on my boat to quite a few good bays…?”

With a firm nod and a smirk of his own, Danny replied “Yes.”

It was only fifty-seven degrees and cloudy, but for the locals, this was just below balmy. Pressing his palms together again, he sprang off the edge of the rock island, breaking the surface and kicking over to the sloping side before ambling up it, pine needles clinging to his legs.

After he’d swum laps around Back Bay, Joan ferried him off to Saginaw Bay, Square Bay, Crescent Bay, and Bottle Bay. By noon as they floated near Green Island, the boy rose from his resting sprawl on the floor, sitting and wrapping a dry towel around himself. Joan sat across from him, offering him a bottle of water and a paper plate full of cheese, crackers, and a few pigs in a blanket with a dab of mustard.

Scooping one of the small franks into his mouth, he uttered a muffled “Thanks!” chewing, swallowing, and taking a swig of the water. At first bite, he’d relearned the limited radius of a human throat, taking care to mash the tasty things well enough before he sent them careening toward his sluggishly digesting stomach, whose bulge even the heartiest of belches did not immediately dispel.

Leaning back with a short content groan, Danny closed his eyes. “This is…perfect.”

The old woman laughed. “All swum out? Now what do you want to do?”

Thinking for a moment, the boy lowered his head. “This is gonna sound weird, especially for a human guy, but…I kind of want to go shopping — get some new clothes.”

“You want to look the part as well? Of course — and the best place to do that would be Lake Placid.”
“Placid, I remember that place…”
“Let’s see how well.”

Leaning his head out of the car window, Danny mused “Not too good a name…with all these tourists, they oughta call it ‘Lake Hectic’!”

At the wheel, Melissa chuckled, while her mother added “Don’t mock the tourists — you were one once yourself, you know…and besides, as much as any of us hate to admit it, the annual floods do keep the towns alive around here.”

The boy nodded, his gaze catching on the tall store coming up on his right. THE ADIRONDACK TRADING COMPANY. “Joma — er, Joan, I wanna go in there, too,” he said, glancing back inside the car.

“We can go in any store you’d like,” Joan reminded him.

At that moment, Danny caught sight of two ‘toons exiting the main doors, heading for the street. Locking eyes with them for the briefest of moments, he could sense their thought of ‘Why are you staring at me?’ Remembering it all too well, the human boy smiled wide and waved cheerfully. With relieved smiles, they waved back, watching as the car rolled by.

Watching as they darted across the faded white stripes, Danny realized that, apparel aside, they probably had no inkling that he was one of them — or had been. The thought made him shiver with a mesh of shock and glee.

After trading in his ‘cosplay’ clothes for a light blue T-shirt with the words ‘No Looking Back’ on the front, a pair of ‘indigo washed’ jeans, and sporty tan sneakers, he strode down the sidewalk at the head of the group. While the sweet scent from the ice cream shop was enticing, he still felt full enough from the snacks to pass it by.

Seeing the large Palace marquee, the boy announced that he deeply desired to see a movie “with human eyes” and so the three spent ninety one minutes inside the old stage theater-turned-modern movie cinema. After they descended the stairs, Danny spent a few minutes simply admiring the architecture and taking in the savory scent of popcorn from the nook of a concession stand.

Heading back toward the pay-per-parking lot, Joan teased “You’re hungry again, aren’t you?”

“Not really, not that much,” the boy insisted, “I mean, if…” pausing, and making another effort to leave his past behind him, “before, I would’ve been totally starving, but right now…yeah, I’d like something else to eat, but I’m not gonna die.”

“Good,” the old woman chimed again, “Then you won’t mind waiting until we’re back in Lake Clear. There’s a little place I want to show you that I think you’ll like…”

“What’s not to like?” Danny said, chuckling, “I mean…right now…I’m in heaven,” he finally declared, spreading his arms and gazing skyward, slowly pivoting before slumping down into the back seat of the car, “Unless it involves getting meat out of a crab, I REALLY doubt there’s anything you could show me that I really wouldn’t at least like a little bit.”

Just before the post office at the Lake Clear Junction, Melissa made a right turn, rolling over the railroad tracks before making another, sharper right. The boy glimpsed the large green-and-yellow wooden sign before Joan spoke again. “Charlie’s Inn — it’s a bit of a hole in the wall, most popular with snowmobilers coming up the tracks in the winter. No matter what the season, though, it’s always a great little place for a bite.”

Said establishment was painted white with green trim, with the words ‘CHARLIES INN’ in plain green letters above the awning of the upper wooden porch, from which ‘icicle’ lights dangled unlit. To anyone else, it might have come off as highly unimpressive; however, for a ‘toon looking to explore all corners of the mountain town and its suburbs, it was greatly inviting.

The first visible sight beyond the screened door — aside from the sparse early dinner crowd— was the glossy curving bar, with red-leathered, spindly metal-legged chairs pushed close. Toward the pool table by the far wall, and in the adjoining dining room was a scattering of small, white-clothed tables.

“Well, hi there, Joan!” a bearded man greeted them from behind the bar, smiling, “Haven’t seen you out this way in a while, what’s the occasion?”

Gesturing to Danny, the older woman said “Just showing my grandson around town. We went to Placid today, so I figured we’d go someplace quieter for dinner.”

The man chuckled, nodding. “Another grandkid?” he mused; then looked down at the boy, extending a hand, “Pleased to meet you, son. The name’s John.”

“Hi, John,” Danny said as they shook hands briefly but vigorously, “So what happened to Charlie?”

“Charlie was my grandfather,” John explained with a beaming grin.

“Oh, gotcha. Well, he…left you a heck of a place, here,” the boy asserted, glancing around again.

“Thank you,” the bearded one said, “So’d you guys come hungry?”

“Very,” Danny said truthfully, putting a hand on his stomach which now began to genuinely gurgle, albeit much more quietly than usual.

“Well, good, good! Lemme show you to a table and I’ll grab you some menus, pronto.”
“Thanks!”

Other than the usual bar food, the menu was short but concise: spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, steak, and a host of burgers and sides. There were also “Fridays only” prime rib and French onion soup. However, with memories of his last human meal flashing through his mind, he instead opted for the ‘Fisherman’s Platter’ — easily accessible, easily eatable seafood.

As the dinner crowd grew thicker, the boy sighed, setting his utensils down and leaning back in his chair, allowing his stomach to slowly but steadily digest the first third of his meal. His wandering gaze meandered through the sea of ceiling kitsch until it stopped at a small sign that plainly stated ‘I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW TO SUCCEED, BUT I CAN TELL YOU HOW TO FAIL: TRY TO PLEASE EVERYBODY.’

Half-wittingly nodding in approval, the sentiment seemed to be another sign that he’d squeezed into that top one percent. Stretching with a breathy groan, he returned to his fish and fries.

“How’s your dinner, Danny?” Melissa asked, spearing another forkful of her salad.

“It’s…just…GREAT!” the boy replied, “I mean, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever eaten, and this place isn’t exactly the Ritz, but…it’s still pretty much heaven for me. I love —!” Glancing around and lowering his voice, he reiterated, “I love being human!”

“Sometimes the best pleasures in life are the simplest,” the princess concurred.

With a slightly scoffing chuckle, Melissa added “But not all of the simplest things are pleasures — like the fifty-mile drive to Plattsburgh.”

“What’s in Plattsburgh?” Danny added, blinking with as much of a raised brow as his human temple would allow.

“Nevermind, dear,” Joan said, “Do you think you’ll want any dessert?”

Unable to help thinking of Timmy, the boy said “Heh, well, a little runt once told me, When someone asks you if you want dessert, you say —‘…whoa…”

Sitting at a nearby table was a young woman who couldn’t have been more than twenty at most. With dark brown hair draped neatly over the shoulders of her white-and-silver-pattered top, she ate her steak silently, pausing to glance around anxiously and fiddle with her necklace.

Without another word, Danny slowly pushed his chair back, rising and walking toward her. Following his fixated gaze, the women blinked. The elder then smiled, musing “And the mating dance begins…”

“Oh, M’ma, stop being so dramatic,” her daughter lightly scoffed with a roll of her eyes, “She’s probably got a boyfriend in the bathroom.”

As he came within a foot of her, Danny stopped, whereupon the girl looked up at him like a deer caught grazing. They exchanged a few blinks before the boy mustered a smile and said “Hi.”

“Hi,” the girl echoed, putting her fork down and straightening herself a bit.

Looking around for any significant others emerging from the mens’ room or other corners of the restaurant, the boy lightly grasped the back of the chair directly across from her. “I…uh…this…seat…taken?”

“No — no, you can take it,” she replied, smiling politely. It faded for a moment as she watched him pull it out and sit in it. She glanced around again before looking back at him, but didn’t say anything else.

“So…uh…” Danny paused, trying to come up with a legitimate-sounding conversation starter, deciding on one of the things he wanted to know the most “What’s your name?”

“Kate,” she said, adding in a nervous blurt, “Kate Westmore.”

“Oh…so…you from out West? …more?” the boy asked with a weak chuckle, inwardly flinching at his lame pun, even by ‘toonish standards.

“Yeah,” she replied, “Washington, actually.”

“Cool, so…what’re you doing all the way over here?”

“I’m just visiting…a friend of mine —” clarifying with a grin “like, best friend ever. She’s at work now, though.” Pausing, she asked “So what’s your name?”

“Uhh…” the boy stammered again, eyes darting. He didn’t want to use ‘Jack’ again, it would remind him too much of his father; he didn’t want to use ‘Ken’ either — it would remind him too much of his other father. Oddly enough, at that moment he spied a small yellow band around the wrist of another diner. Looking back at Kate, he blurted “Lance!” Now he needed a surname as well. J, K, L, why not M? A quick peek at the liquor shelf sufficed. “Lance Morgan,” and also smiled weakly.

“I like that name,” the girl said, gaze falling back to her cooling steak.

“Thanks. I…I like yours,” Danny admitted, leaning forward a bit.

“Thanks,” Kate echoed, “So…are you from around here?”

“N-No, I’m just visiting, too,” the boy said, glancing back at Joan and Melissa; the former offered him a thumbs-up while the latter waved briefly, “I’m staying with my…grandma…and my aunt.”

“Oh, cool,” the girl acknowledged. However, silence crept in again, leaving them to stare at one another for a while before she seemed to cautiously sip her water.

It was essentially an out-of-the-blue question, but after what felt like ten minutes, he had to ask. “So…d’you like Danny Phantom?”

“Oh my gosh, I LOVE Danny Phantom!” the girl gushed, grinning again, “I watch his show all the time, even though it’s not on T.V. that much anymore. He’s so cute…”

This pleases me. “Heh, yeah…” Danny said. When Kate gave him an inquisitive look, he quickly explained “I — I mean, it figures you’d say that. I…hear he’s real popular with the ladies…and all.”

“I guess so,” the girl said, eyes hazing a bit, “A couple of years ago I was down in Georgia visiting my best-friend-ever, and I ALMOST met him…”

“Yeah?” the boy gently prodded, resting his chin in his hand.

“Yeah — I saw his cousin in church, but I guess he was sick that day…” she continued with a frown, “It would’ve been so awesome just to see him even for a few minutes.” Looking up, she professed, “He’s really my hero.”

Aw, shucks. “Mine, too,” Danny said, “I mean…he just seems like such a cool guy, even if he’s not really like he is on the show.”

“You met him?” Kate asked, wide-eyed.

“No, no — but I mean…y’know, he’s probably not EXACTLY like that. Most actors, even ‘toon actors, aren’t the same on screen as off.”

“I bet he is,” the girl said, “Just as brave and funny and…and nice.”

And as socially awkward as the fourteen-year old boy he’s supposed to be, Danny thought glumly, coming up empty for any subjects for non-egotistical small talk. While he racked his brain, he kept looking back at Kate, and into her deep brown eyes.

He remembered Michelle, and while she had certainly been pretty, his attraction to her had been primarily her humanity. However, now, human himself, he felt a strong tug toward this girl.

“I dunno…I really haven’t found anyone since I broke up with Jenn…well, I mean, so many girls practically throw themselves at me day in and day out, but…I just don’t feel a real connection with any one of ‘em, y’know?”

Kate certainly wasn’t throwing herself at him; in fact, she was doing quite the opposite. He felt himself having to pull on her a bit, slowly prying her out of an invisible shell she cast around herself. And with each gentle yank, with each question and short answer, he only felt more intrigued.

“Sorry to keep you from your dinner,” he said, looking down at her steak, which looked almost plastic in its dried frigidity.

“That’s okay, I was pretty much done with it, anyway,” she said. It sounded like a fib, making Danny frown.

“Hey, uh…you in the mood for dessert?”

“Sure. I was just gonna get some,” she admitted with a chuckle.

Recalling the last page of the menu, the boy asked “D’you…like chocolate cake?”

“I do.”

Smiling, the pastor took a breath. “By the authority committed unto me as a Minister of the Gospel of the Church of Christ, I declare that Lance and Kate are now husband and wife, according to the ordinance of God and the law of the State of New York, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

‘Lance’ smiled broadly, staring deeply into his new wife’s eyes beneath the veil. The thin, lacy cloth barely hid her face, smiling back at him, just as beautiful now as it had been six years ago in the dim dining room light.

Since then, Danny had grown into his human skin quite a bit. He still had memories of being a ‘toon, but they were fewer now, farther back, hazy and blurry. He’d discovered the staff’s true potency, far beyond that of blood or potion, dulling and curbing his ‘toonish sixth senses. Not one sneeze produced a mist-cloud, and his instinct to respond to axe-related puns had fallen by the wayside and died there — as had his body’s tendency to slip into sleep at the sound of ridiculous lyrics.

Neither needed prompting, but the pastor finished with “You may now kiss the bride,” anyway. Gently brushing back the veil, Danny leaned forward, lids sliding closed, pressing his lips against Kate’s as he cradled her jaw. As cheers and applause rose from both rows of attendees, the couple withdrew; turning and facing the pews they stepped down from the altar and headed for the doors, hand-in-hand.

Chapel Island was similar to Tommy’s Rock, with its stony shores rising out of Upper Saranac Lake. The only difference was its southeast location, larger size, and of course, the non-denominational church that sat on top of it among the pines, along with a tall wooden cross made of birch. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan posed for a few photos before stepping onto Joan’s pontoon boat, smiling and waving to the crowd.

Less than a half-hour later, they arrived at the Hotel Saranac, wherein the Grand Ballroom had been reserved for their reception. Catered by the Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Company, the long tables were laden with everything from a tall pot of Adirondack Clam Chowder to Scampi Stuffed Maine Lobster. One smaller table showcased the cake, three telescoping layers of finely chocolate-frosted cake with white frosting beads and an apropos leaf pattern.

Since ‘Lance’ had introduced Kate to Melissa and Edgar as his aunt and uncle, Joan had roped in some of her other children to stand-in for his parents. Today they sat opposite the bride’s parents, their real son having played the part of Danny’s best man. Luckily, in six years, they’d all rehearsed their stories so many times the words came as naturally as the truth. The groom sat listening to his ‘best friend’ make his toast, waxing a web of little white lies. Still, he beamed and laughed all the same.

‘Lance’ put an arm around his wife’s shoulders, both listening to very real and very emotional toasts of Kate’ father and brother. The young man wiped a tear or two from her cheek — only to feel the pang of tears when he stood up and delivered his own speech. While his anecdotes were also false, the feelings he expressed for her were as real as anything.

The soup was poured, the lobster was shelled; the cake was cut and served. Shortly after that the music and dancing began, and Danny watched the young woman and her father dance in slow circles before approaching his father-in-law and giving him a gentle tap on the shoulder.

Mr. Westmore turned, giving him a smile, and joking “Aw, c’mon, just five more minutes?” before adding “Nah, I’m only kidding,” and stepping aside. Before he left, however, he shook ‘Lance’s hand, looked him in the eyes and said “In case I haven’t told you before, Lancelot, I think you’re one swell guy and couldn’t be happier to have you as a son-in-law — but still, you take good care of my Katie, all right?”

“Yes, sir!” Danny said promptly with a nod. “And…thanks. I…I’m glad to have your blessing.” Hearing his wife giggle, he turned to her, losing himself in her eyes yet again as he slid his arm around her and resumed the slow waltz.

As the sun began to set, the couple returned to their new home on Saranac Inn Lane, just across the small private road from Joan’s. While ‘Lance’ insisted she looked more than ravishing in the dress, Kate quickly changed into more comfortable plain clothes, her husband following suit.

Pushing open the sliding glass doors to let in the cool summer’s eve breeze, the pair slumped down on the couch, putting their feet up. After sharing another kiss, they leaned on one another, neither saying a word, simply nuzzling and enjoying each other’s company. They had plans for a week-long honeymoon in Savannah starting the day after tomorrow, but for now, it was a chance to unwind a bit and soak in the start of their new life together.

The moment was interrupted by a small meow. Opening one eye, Danny watched as Kate turned, looking up a mostly orange-and-black cat who’d climbed onto the arm of the nearby chair. “Hey, Panya!” she said sprightly, holding out her arms, “C’mere! C’mere…”

Eventually Panya hopped down from the chair and sauntered over to the foot of the couch where Kate picked her up and set her in her lap, petting her. The cat mewed again, purring. After a short while, as cats were wont to do, she got up and wandered over toward Danny.

“Hi, there, girl,” he said with a smile, scratching her behind the ears. She licked his fingers, meowed, then crawled across his lap to the leftmost arm of the couch and hopped down. Snorting, Danny gave his head a shake, musing “Just wish she’d stay put for a while, y’know?”

Laying back into his lap, Kate looked up at him with a smirk. “I’ll stay put for you.”

Grinning, the young man gave her a pet and combed his fingers through her hair. “Good kitty…” he cooed. She closed her eyes and sighed, mustering a purring noise that made her husband chuckle.

The clock read 7:10PM. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and leaned back, letting his head thud softly against the cushion. Opening his eyes after what he was sure was at least eight minutes; he looked at the clock again to see that a single minute had only just passed.

Sights and sounds from his ‘toon days may have begun to fade away, but the feelings remained. He remembered the yearning clearly, wishing he could be human forever — or at least for as long as his body would let him. Numbered years had always been one thing that had made him hesitate. However, now he understood.

Perception of time’s passage was, of course, nothing new — but humans embraced the illusion like any one of their deeply-steeped traditions. In their minds’ eyes, they contracted unpleasant periods of time while dilating pleasant ones, like well-practiced craftsmen. Or at least, this was their goal, in addition to archiving as many lengthy happy, accomplished memories as possible. There was the old adage ‘life is a journey, not a destination’, and yet in truth, it was a little of both. Mortality was not a guillotine to be dreaded, but a brightly-painted white finish line to spark ambitions.

And nothing better spurred a race runner than a partner, whether friend or friendly foe, someone to pace oneself with. Kate was certainly far more than that to him: his closest friend and partner in the great human race. And he couldn’t have been happier; she was the best and most beautiful running buddy anyone could have hoped for, and now she was his, and he hers. His lips curled back in a grin that barely expressed the burst of joy that exploded like a firework finale in his chest.

For the first time in his conscious lifetime since the move, he was happy. Indescribably, utterly, truly happy.

“What’re you smiling about?” he heard her ask, looking down.

“Oh, nothing,” he answered first, instinctively, then admitted, “Well, okay, you.”

She grinned and laughed again. “You’re so sweet.”

“Yeah, well, so’re you.”

Reaching a hand up, she traced a heart on his stomach. “I love you,” she said.

“Hmhm…I love you, too,” he echoed, leaning down to kiss her again for several moments. “Whaddaya wanna do now?”

“I dunno,” she said, “What we’re doing now. That’s something, isn’t it?”

This made him laugh. “You never know,” he teased, “When the pastor was asking us all those questions, I’m surprised you didn’t keep saying ‘I dunno, I dunno’!”

“Hey!” she said, though she giggled, poking him in the stomach, which got him chuckling.

“Hehey!” he said, poking her right back. Sighing, he suggested “Would you wanna go for a little walk, maybe?”

“Mm…I’m too tired to walk,” Kate professed.

‘Lance’ looked at the clock again, then out the screen door. “How about a little evening boat ride?”

“Okay,” she said, sitting up, “That’d be pretty nice. And since we won’t be back on the lake ‘til Thursday, I guess we should get a last look at it, for now.”

“Okay, I’ll go start the engine. Go grab us a couple of sweatshirts.”
“Okee doke!”

Dusk had set by the time Danny backed the white-and-tan fiberglass boat out into the bay, but the red-orange glow silhouetting the clouds and the mountains around them was just another breathtaking sight. There were a few other boats on the water, and the glow of the split bow lights only seemed to add to the atmosphere.

The air was cool, made cooler by the wind that ruffled their hair and baggy sweatshirts. When ‘Lance’ shivered, Kate leaned on his arm, wrapping hers around it and nuzzling his shoulder. Giving her a pet, he slowed the boat down, pulling into the nearest bay and shutting the engine off. Arm in arm, they looked up and watched the rest of the sunset.

Gliding back into Back Bay in the moonlight, Danny parked the boat and gave his wife a gentle shake. “Hey, you sleeping?” he whispered.

“Mmm…yes.”

Chuckling, he gave her a prod under the arm, making her jump and squeak. Before she could get him back, he climbed up onto the boathouse floor. After he finished mooring the boat and carefully lowered the sliding door behind it, he held a hand down for her. “C’mon, it’s late.”

When she took it, he pulled her up — and into his arms, scooping her off her feet. She giggled and lightly kicked, before sliding her arms around his neck and leaning her cheek on his shoulder yet again. Giving her a nuzzle and a peck on said cheek, he continued to carry her up the stairs to the walkway through the yard, onto the deck and across the threshold for the second time that day.

Panya followed them up the stairs and into the bedroom, jumping onto the bed as ‘Lance’ lay Kate down. She gave the cat a pet while he pulled off his sweatshirt, tossing it on a nearby chair and grabbing his pajamas out of the dresser drawer.

While she changed into hers, Danny put another few small logs into the pot-bellied stove. Rising and brushing off his pants, he flicked off the lights, turned and made a flying leap for his side of the bed. Once under the covers, the couple spent another few moments simply enjoying each other’s presence, nuzzling and kissing and whispering sweet something-or-others.

“G’night, Lance. I love you."
“Love you, too, Kate — so much!”
“Aww…”

Letting his eyes close, the young man yawned and rolled over, giving the covers a tug and wiggling his toes against the taut, clean sheets. As one long loon wail after another floated through the open back window, he heard the words of his old voice dart through his mind like a skipping stone.

“I guess…the future…isn’t as set in stone as you think it is…”

No, it’s definitely not, he concurred. The unearthly wail that rang faintly in his memories was soon drowned out by another loon call. Letting his mind wander, he was lulled to sleep by the haunting ‘Marco Polos’ of the Great Northern Divers.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:15 pm ]
Post subject: 

Aww..our little Danny is all grown up. *SNIFFLE*

Wonderful chapter.

Author:  Karnelia [ Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

-Chapter VI-

Dangit~! One paragraph in and you've already got my mouth watering! XD Anyway, it's cool to see everyone else and their thoughts on the Fentons. Each character is shown to be affected in their own ways, some more subtle than others. I really feel for Timmy and Butch, it's especially hard on them since they had the closest bonds with Danny as a surrogate family =(

The highlight in this chapter for me was Kitty and Dudley's appearance~ X3 Even before watching the premiere, you seem to really have a handle on their characters enhanced with your own spin that really fleshes out their characters (DO LOVE that Johnny Bravo is Dudley's hero XD). But their arrival also signifies, and even cements, that things are really changing in the Nickelodeon Studios; even though Dudley has similar physical features and unintentionally elicits memories of Danny, he is NOT Danny, and nobody seems willing to accept this yet. Butch's slip-ups are heart-wrenching evidence of this. I do like that Dudley's optimistic in the face of all this; he seems a bit naive (and he probably is on some levels), but he really seems to understand how much Butch is hurting. Kitty and the chief treat it purely as business as usual, but Dudley wants to connect on a more personal and emotional level, and at the same time, keep his distance so as to not tarnish Hartman's memories and relationship with Danny. And wow, I'm really rambling on this particular point, aren't I? XD

So, yeah, this chapter shifted the focus, but I really enjoyed getting the perspective of the other characters.

-Chapter VII-

Aaaand, back to Danny X3 He's clearly got a personal mission to fulfill from the get-go, and after checking some maps ('cause I suck at mental geography) it wasn't too hard to guess where he was headed and why. He's so set on getting there, he doesn't care how much of a toll the journey's having on him, as long as he's moving. It's nice to see, well, a nice guy to help him out XD And ooooh, Danny had a breakthrough in his learned helplessness! I'm glad he later realized it too, he needs that boost of confidence in himself~<3 And the hotel scene is so adorable >w< Power-recharging belly rubs are always cute X3 <3

Seeing Danny battle with himself over becoming human is rather sad =< He's giving up so much of himself. He thinks his life will be so much better as a human and he feels uneeded as a hero when in fact we saw in the previous chapter how much he is loved and missed, and the previous installments of the Saga have clearly shown him to be "not just another 'toon", and he's not just another hero either.

The last line, "For the rest of my life" is actually a deeper statement than at first glance because it implies he's accepting, and even embracing, mortality.

-Chapter VIII-

HOMGosh, my birthday is refusing to end! XD; It's not even done YET because I'm actually gonna be treated to dinner tonight, lol. But, just wow, I totally don't deserve such a sweet cameo/role~! I mean the dinner was surprise and sweet enough, and while I liked the "I do" transition, it was just such a shock XD; But anyway, while it's sad that Danny is so adamant about turning his back on his 'toon self, it's nice to see him happy, and he's just so adorable rediscovering the pleasant experiences of life >w< <3

I love, love, LOVE your descriptions of the settings~<3 <3 It sounds so beautiful, I hope I get to really watch the sunset on the lake and fall asleep to loon calls on the East Coast someday~ ^_____^

Hahaha, there's so much irony about Danny and I becoming a couple here, the most obvious being that I'm marrying my hero without knowing it, the least obvious being a rather meta reason XD Thanks for the treat >w< <3 *GLOMPHUGSQUISH*~<3

Again, I'm so glad about Danny's total elation, but I can't help but feel bittersweet about it. I don't expect this condition to last, especially considering the title of the fic. It may be a rather dark curiosity on my part, but I can't help wondering how this is all gonna fall apart for the poor guy *protectively HUGGLEpets him*

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

^ Best. Comment. EVER. *TACKLEGLOMP* <3 But many, many thanks also to Jazzy and KDH for still reading and commenting, too. You guys have really kept my spirits up.

This chapter was another one I struggled with — the last four pages were TOTALLY phoned-in DX —, hence, another one I despise. For now, anyway. But I hope you guys like it. ^^;

Also, if you don't get the 'Desmond-Penny' reference, well...you haven't been watching ENOUGH American T.V. X3;

CHAPTER IX

Sun shone through the bedroom window, casting a skewed rectangle of light onto the plush green carpet. A small fluffy brown kitten hopped down the stairs, trotting over to the foot of the bed. Leaping up and sauntering across Danny’s legs and chest, she leaned down and lapped at his face.

With a flinch and a snort, the thirty-year old opened his eyes, grunting “Hey, Panya…”

While the original — and the aged Kesa as well — had sadly passed on, when Kate had finished mourning them, the couple had made a trip to the Tri-Lakes Humane Society. Out of a litter of four from a Tabby who’d been struck by a car, the Morgans had adopted two, one brown, one gray. They acquired the same names less so out of tribute than the fact that Kate insisted she was terrible at coming up with names. ‘Lance’ disagreed, but said that it was just as well, since he’d gotten so used to ‘Panya’ and ‘Kesa’.

“Hey, Kesa,” he bid now to the gray kitten that came crawling up to him, also seeking affection. Petting them both and giving them a scratch behind the ears and under the chin, he rolled over and looked at his sleeping wife. “Hey, you…” he bid with a grin, reaching out to pet her as well.

With a groan, she awoke, opening her eyes, and rolling over to face him, smiling broadly and running her fingers through his hair, echoing “Hey, you…” followed by whispery chirps of “Hey, Panya! Hey, Kesa! Heyyy…” as the kittens climbed over their ‘father’ and nuzzled up to their ‘mother’.

It was a Wednesday, but Danny had the day off from work as requested, since he’d not only dutifully remembered their anniversary, but had plans to make the day an unforgettable celebration of their ten years together. And of course, Kate knew nothing of it — yet.

“You want me to make you some breakfast before you go?” she asked, cradling Kesa as she leaned against the headboard.

“Sure.”
“What do you want?”
“How about some scrambled eggs and sausage?”
“Sounds good to me!”

As the story went, ‘Lance’ was a none-too-distant relative of J.P. Morgan, who, as many rich men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had, made a second home out of the Adirondacks. Specifically, he’d stayed in one lavish bedroom of William West Durant’s Great Camp Uncas, in the Town of Long Lake, the aorta of the Adirondack Park. While still secretly wanting to, Danny had several tales in reserve of visiting the place, always catching the interest of anyone he told.

By more incredible luck, Joan knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who owed the previous someone a favor. Pulling strings like a well-trained puppeteer, the woman had managed to snag ‘Lance’ a teller job. Since then, he’d wowed his way up to branch manager. Soon, he began treating the Mahoneys on occasion and quietly repaid all of their generosities.

Shaking a hearty dose of pepper over his eggs, the man looked across the table at his wife, asking “So…what’re you thinking of doing for dinner?”

“I just made breakfast!” Kate said with an incredulous chuckle, “And you’re already thinking about dinner?”

“I-I know, but…y’know, just trying to plan my day,” he explained, half-truthfully, “It’s a big part of my job — it’s how I operate.” Simpering, he added “They hard-wired it into me years ago.”

“Yeah, but usually you at least wait until lunch,” the woman joked back, pausing for a moment. “Well…I dunno, whatever you wanna do. Since John’s leaving early for his vacation today, I probably won’t have that much to do. Especially since I already did most of the ones I was supposed to get done today.”

By ‘did’ and ‘ones’ she meant teeth molds — having followed in her mother’s footsteps, taking a job as a dental assistant after a turn as an office assistant at her husband’s company. While she had enjoyed it, and running into ‘Lance’ during the day, she’d reached the decision that it simply wasn’t for her, and said she wanted to do something she was used to doing. As a teenager, she’d accompanied her mother to work countless times, helping with the molds and various other things. It wasn’t a ‘dream job’, but nonetheless, she’d said that it brought back pleasant memories, and it was easy for her.

“Well, I’ve got a luncheon to go to at one,” her husband bluffed, “and you know how the catering is…just don’t slave too hard over that stove or anything, okay?”

“Okay,” Kate echoed, smiling. Tipping back the last of her milk, she picked up the plates and walked to the counter, tipping the scraps into the garbage. Peering at the brimming plastic bag for a few seconds longer, she mused “Well, one of us is going to have to make a trash run either tonight or tomorrow…”

Quickly grabbing his glass and taking another gulp of his orange juice, Danny glanced over his shoulder, saying “Well, since you’re getting out early, you could probably make it to the transfer station with time to spare. Besides, I’ll be totally swamped…”

“You’re always swamped,” his wife rebutted, along with an unflinching, unswayed gaze, “Besides, you’ve been filling them up the most lately.”

“But I always do that,” ‘Lance’ said with a blink. In addition to being generally true, he hoped the comment would throw her off a bit.

“True…” Kate admitted quietly, glancing away. Then their eyes locked. A smirk curled onto her face, mirrored on his.

Most couples approached chores as a team, especially in their earlier years, or designated them — whether by choice or an unspoken agreement based on traditional gender roles or merely preference. Most couples had fights, sometimes based on these things. Not the Morgans.

Slowly rising from his chair, Danny lunged for Kate, who let out a squeak as he chased her in a semicircle around the small kitchen. Darting around the beam, she led him once around the coffee table before he caught her at the loveseat — but she struck first, coyly, like a cat, digging wiggling fingers under his arms. With a yelp, he pinned them to his sides, quickly counterattacking her ribs in kind, trying not to flinch as they both burst into cackles.

The Morgans had tickle-fights. Deliberately. It was the new coin-flipping, and it sorted the ‘To Do’ List quite nicely every time.

The ‘kids’ climbed onto the arm and back of the leftmost easy chair, watching casually as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ tumbled onto the two-cushion couch. ‘Lance’ wound up topside, but by no means had the advantage — swiftly proven when his wife slipped both hands under his shirt and scrabbled her fingers down his belly.

“AHAHAHA!” She’d weakened his hold, but it was the pinky wiggle in his navel than sent him crashing down on top of her. Glimpsing his watch, he realized that time was running short on his grander plans, and with his faced buried in her shoulder, he conceded “Okay, you win, I’ll take the trash.”

Kate had a penchant for tickling him, which had eventually turned into their normal routine. Danny could never remember quite why, but knew that he’d always hated being tickled. Somehow, though, in her clutches, he actually liked it — dare think, even enjoyed it. This didn’t make him any less ticklish, however, and while he was thousands of leagues less sensitive than he’d been in a previous life, a few prods and finger wiggles in the right places always got him laughing.

“Aww…” he heard the woman coo, feeling her gently petting his back. “You usually put up more of a fight than that.”

“Yeah, well…” he grunted, pushing himself up on his elbows, “You usually don’t go for the gusto that early.”

With a giggle, she reached up and ran her fingers through his hair. “I love you…”

Their method wasn’t completely foolprool, however. One late spring afternoon when they were in the midst of deciding who would mow the lawn, little Panya had made her way onto the man’s back, affectionately licking his nape.

Lifting his head and raising his shoulders, Danny insisted “HahahaHA! No, wehehe need a do-over! That’s — that’s ‘cat interference’!”

Regardless, an hour later, he was the one pushing the mower. As he stood at the top of the small hill that sloped down toward the small deck by the boathouse, carefully lowering and pulling up the decently heavy machine, he felt Kate’s arms slide around him from behind.

Releasing the lever on the handle, he turned his head, saying “Honey, this really isn’t the time!”

“Oh, so you don’t want hugs and kisses? Fine,” she said, withdrawing. Uttering a chuckling snort, he grinned.

Then, as now, he gave her a nuzzle and a smooch, echoing in a near-whisper “I love you,” — now adding “too.”

“Good luck at work, you,” Kate bid, sitting up as ‘Lance’ rose, brushing himself off a bit.

“Thanks, Kitty —” her inevitable nickname — “and you have a good day today, too.”

“Thanks!”

Hearing a meow, Danny scooped up Lil’ Kesa and gave her a nuzzle as well. “Aw, I love you, too, sweetie! Yeah, I do! Yeah! Daddy’ll be home real soon, okay? Huh? Who’za fuzzy lil’ kitty-cat?”

Seeing his wife flop back down on the couch in a fit of giggles, he considered it point, set, match. For now.

He gave her one last smile and wave through the guest room window as he made a three-point turn out of the driveway and down the narrow back road past Back Bay, past the tall red house behind the boat launch, and out onto Route 30.

For six years, the two of them had more or less grown up here; spending bits of summers, falls, springs, and winters on the lake together. Once she had graduated from college, she’d moved in with her best friend — who had sold them the house on Saranac Inn Lane, boats and all, before following a job to the South.

Having both grown up in small towns, ‘Lance’ and Kate had a nostalgic fondness for their charm, trekking southwest to Tupper Lake for dinner in the tiny but pretty pizzeria, strolling down the sidewalk to see a movie at the modest theater. Or navigating the Wild Center hand-in-hand. To the southeast, they spent lazy afternoons on the benches at the edge of Lake Flower, and walking down Placid’s busier Main Street, shopping or sharing ice cream.

It was the tourist hot-spot he was headed for again today, instead of his usual forty-minute commute to Plattsburgh, just outside the Blue Line, where chain stores and his branch and others sprawled.

A light gray veil of cloud hung over the shops today, but no rain dripped, and a warm breeze still blew. Driving around the southern tip of Mirror Lake, Danny parked in the small lot, walking briskly toward the tucked-away tavern. Its trademark bright red Adirondack chairs and umbrellas on the small patio deck contrasted the deep brown of the walls and forest green of the roof and railing.

Formerly P.J. O’Neil’s, the building had entered life as a church, an era from which the faded stained glass windows remained. Climbing the stairs, ‘Lance’ pushed open the door to the barroom, walls strewn with classic posters and numerous pennants. His eyes swept the familiar sight, until they settled on one small table in a far corner.

“Lance!”

Jerking his head over his shoulder, the young man spied another, grinning bearded fellow who ducked out from behind the bar. Pivoting, Danny met him halfway, taking his hand and reciprocating a vigorous shake. “Josh! What’s up, man? Working hard, I see…”

With a chuckle, Josh said “Don’t tell me you’re planning another office party…?”

“No, but I was kind of hoping you’d have some space —” the clean-chinned one nodded in the direction of the table “here, tonight. For two, at least.”

“Sure! What’s the occasion?”

“THE occasion,” Danny echoed with a grin of his own, flashing his band, “The big one-oh.”

“Shit!” the bearded one promptly proclaimed, still smiling, “Congratulations, man!”

“Thanks.”
“But why here? I mean, I’m all for sharing a tall glass of Ubu and steak sammie, but…isn’t Kate gonna want something a little more…y’know, fancy?”
“Yeah, well, I can’t take her to the Steak and Seafood every year.”

Josh laughed. “I getcha — you want some chili fries with a candle in it or something?”

“Save that one for October — but I do have a few ideas, if you guys wouldn’t mind…”
“Lay it on me. Hey, for you guys, we’ll take up the violin and put on a one-act play!”

Laughing, ‘Lance’ said “Good to know…”

Jogging back to the car, Danny popped the trunk, fetching and carrying various items up the stairs. With the added help of Drew, Justin, and Gilly, he spent the afternoon preparing rather meticulously. Even lapsing into a few practical jokes and beer breaks, the five finished with time to spare.

Making a quick dash back home to empty the trashcans, ‘Lance’ dialed his wife’s cellphone enroute. “Don’t pick up, don’t pick up…” he muttered as the trills dug into his ear. Sighing in relief when the voicemail kicked in, he put on a crafty smile and recited “Hey, hi, honey — I guess you’re not home yet. Don’t worry, I got the garbage, but I gotta go back into work for a bit. We’ve got some new recruits and some new accounts, and I’m up to my ears in forms…I’m just completely…well, like I said, swamped — but…hey, wanna do dinner at the ol’ L.P. P. n’ B.? I’ll try to get over there around seven…oh, and could you feed the kitties before you leave? Love you! See you later, my Kitty!” and made a kissing noise into the mouthpiece.

Pulling into the driveway, Kate wearily turned off the ignition, sitting and listening to the rest of her husband’s message. Twenty-five models. Even with the progress she’d made the previous day, the unexpected extra workload had kept her in her office for a few hours, calling on the front desk for help.

Part of her was relieved at the idea of going out, though, the other part had been hoping for a quiet, snuggly evening at home. Sighing, she walked into the side-garage and poured food and water for the Tabbies, who came scampering. Giving them loving pets and scratches, she headed upstairs to shower and get dressed.

Though she certainly loved nights on the town, she was still mostly the shrinking violet she’d been since her days in Bothell. It wasn’t that she was terribly anti-social — she just preferred smaller groups to larger ones, and sometimes none at all, holing up in the loft to play videogames and talk with friends online.

An introvert as such, she’d struggled with the bank’s office work. Not the work itself, but the near-constant exposure. It wasn’t all filing and typing in some back room — people worked around her at all times, and she found herself going here and there and ending up in lengthy conversations with more people more often than she’d have liked.

In John’s office, she felt more like a stagehand, moving about diligently behind the scenes. Sure, she’d certainly see several people, smile, and make a little small talk. Most of the time, though, the patients lay back in a sort of meditative state while she or the dentist wedged themselves between their jaws. The whirs and buzzing of the tools were less monstrous hisses and roars than a sort of strangely pleasant tune, a metallic whistling while one worked.

Many, many people had tried to get Kate ‘out of her shell’, for as long as she could remember. Few had succeeded; more had only succeeded in pushing her back into it. ‘Lance’ had never seemed interested in changing her, any more than she had been in changing him — but somehow, he’d made her feel more comfortable than just about anyone else ever had, anywhere, at any time. Even if they were in the thick of a fresh mob swarming Main Street or leading the Wood Boat Parade, he could make her feel as if they were invisible to the rest of the world. Looking into his eyes, seeing his smile, she felt as if she could do anything, say anything. It was almost as if he radiated courage, for her, at least, as silly a thought as it was.

The sky had darkened, though the cloud cover remained, like an enormous cozy blanket, or Kesa’s fur. Seeing her husband’s car, the woman parked as close to it as possible, walking toward the pub’s entrance. It was a Wednesday night, but still, the place seemed a bit unsettlingly quiet.

The lights still shone warmly through the windows, and Kate could just see, almost feel the warmth from the fireplace. Her husband had first taken her here as her boyfriend, fifteen years ago, shortly after he’d gone to it with his Grandma Joan, whom he was admirably close with.

Her grandmother-in-law was well beyond a century old, yet, she seemed to have quite a bit of wit left about her. The younger woman remembered the first time she had seen her, giving her grandson a thumbs-up from the table where she sat with his Aunt Melissa. Joan was always very encouraging, but especially to ‘Lance’. She was the first one to give him a hug and congratulate him at news of an accomplishment — and upon harsher news, to tell him “Well, now you won’t make that mistake again, will you?” all with a smile.

She was so personable, obviously where ‘Lance’, and his mother, had gotten it from. Where Kate had felt uneasy in the bank’s offices, her husband seemed to thrive, chatting it up with account holders and other managers alike, spurring on newbie tellers and other junior members; he created and moved on such a wonderfully lively energy. It was small wonder, then, why he’d come so far.

While a handful of regulars still crowded the first floor, beyond the stairs, the stone fireplace burned brightly into an empty second floor — well, not completely empty. Her husband sat at a table in the near right corner by the window. Gazing down at some printed sheets obviously from work, he’d already ordered a glass of the staple ale by his side, casually lifting the remaining fourth to his lips.

Walking quietly toward him, Kate bid “Hi, honey…”

Looking up, he grinned at her, that ‘I’ve been waiting to tell you something great’ sort of grin. Feeling a bit of it rub off on her lips, she smiled wide. “Hi, you,” he said, putting down the papers. With a quick aside glance, he asked “Whaddaya think?”

Sitting down, the young woman said “I think there must be something going on in town, because I’ve never seen this place so empty…” ‘Lance’s lips only curled further. Glancing at his beer, she mused “You didn’t get me a drink?”

“I got you a drink,” he insisted, still brimming with some sort of childish mischief, his eyes darting ceiling-ward now. “But, c’mon, you gotta tell me what you think!”

“About what?” she asked, frowning, following his gaze; then looking over her shoulder. She’d noticed that the decorations seemed different, and in turning back toward her husband, saw a familiar face on the wall next to her — her own. With a small gasp, she did a double-take.

Peering at it closer, she remembered the scene of them in the sleek wooden canoe, the first time they’d paddled across the bay into the lily pad-strewn Spring Pond. Above that was a small window back into the day they’d hiked up Panther Mountain. A fond moment from the Hotel Saranac’s Grand Ballroom hung above the others like the star on a Christmas tree.

Slowly pushing back her chair, she made a slow visual sweep of the entire room, carefully plastered with glossy memories of all sizes. The photos on the back wall were mostly either of ‘Lance’ or her alone — a few U.W. pennants scattered among the latter —, but as they wrapped around the walls, like time itself, the pictures contained more stills of them both.

“Oh my gosh…” Kate uttered, looking at her husband, then back at the surprise collage, only repeating “Oh my gosh — oh my gosh…!”

Danny couldn’t help chuckling, beaming broadly. With another quick, craftly glance toward the bar, he knocked on the table twice and put his fingers to his lips for a disyllabic whistle.

Swearing she heard a hiss of “That’s the signal!” Kate whirled around again to witness Josh, Gilly, Justin, and Drew jive in like waiters doing a copyright-ducking ‘Happy Birthday’ song-and-dance — except with Gilly on the trombone, Drew plying an accordion, with Justin and Josh belting out a harmonic, if somewhat impromptu-sounding, tune of a different celebratory nature.

Oh! Happy Big One-Oh, Lance and Kate!
We can’t tell you how much we appreciate
You guys, you’re awesome — for ten long freakin’ years
Here’s to many, many more, and many, many more beers
!”

The quartet ended on a triumphant cry, segueing into chuckles along with the pair. “Oh my gosh,” the young woman reiterated yet again, joking “did you guys write that yourselves?”

“Yep,” Drew said with a nod, explaining “The beer helped.” She laughed, shaking her head.

“Speaking of brew, more Ubu for you, sir,” Justin announced, setting another tall glass down on a fresh dry coaster. Quickly raising it, Danny gave his server’s glass a clink.

“Thanks, guys, I owe you one — big one…”
“Good to know.”

“And for you, madam,” Drew began similarly, setting another dark, bubbly glass down beside Kate, “Brewed right here in our own barrels, from the finest…Sassafras…roots…”

“Thanks,” Kate said, eagerly taking a sip.

Only a few minutes later, Josh reappeared with a large serving tray, handing down a bowl of House Ale & Onion Soup for Danny, along with a French Dip Au Pub, and for Kate, her favorite, the oddly-named ‘Ecto Wrap’ and a Caesar Salad. With the positioning of the plates, the vertically laid wrap and the salad plate seemed to resemble the number ’10’.

“Wait…’the big one-oh’…” she repeated, “We’ve been eating here for ten years?”

“Well, yeah,” ‘Lance’ replied coyly, “We’ve been doing a lot of things for ten years…” Still seeing her puzzled look, the young man slid out of his chair and down on one knee. “Kate, will you marry me?”

“Ohh my GOSH!” she repeated yet again, eyes misting, “It’s our anniversary?! …but I thought it was Friday!”

“No — Friday was our first full day in Savannah,” Danny corrected gently, sitting back down.

Burying her face in her hands for a minute, she said “I’m so sorry! Work today was just so crazy…”

Sliding his hands around hers, her husband grinned again. “Well, you’re off work now. And John’s on vacation now, right? So you’ll be on vacation for a little while, too…you can relax and have some fun…”

Locking eyes with him, she tittered, nodding and clutching his hands tightly. “Mm-hm…” Pausing, she said, “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” he echoed, “I do…that’s why ten years ago, right here, at that moment…I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you — because…because you just make me feel like I can do anything. Like whatever crud happens, it’s all worth it because at the end of the day you’re there for me.”

“You make me feel like I can do anything, too,” Kate admitted, blotting her eyes with a napkin, “I’ve never been that good at anything, and I’ve always been so shy…but with you…with you there, I don’t panic as much. I don’t have to. You just…you just give me so much strength.”

‘Lance’ rubbed his eyes, feeling the pang of tears. “You’re a lot stronger than you think,” he said, putting his hands on her shoulders.

“Thanks,” she said, leaning closer “You’re so sweet.”

“So’re you,” he said before pressing his lips against hers.

The others took a few pictures, and while the couple sensed the flashes and clicks, they easily ignored them, lost in the moment. Finally, they withdrew, turning their focus to their food — though even then, they shared, passing leaves of lettuce, offering spoonfuls of soup, and bites of each other’s sandwich, not unlike they had at the reception.

When the fire had burned down to cinders, they went around the room, recollecting the photos and things, talking, joking, and sneaking in a few playful tickles. As they walked back to the cars, Danny checked his watch. 9:21PM. With the Palace Theater only two minutes away, they decided a movie would be the perfect way to end the night.

Back home, he carried Kate up the stairs, laying her gently down on the bed before happily shedding his good clothes. Once they were both lying snugly under the covers, however, his wife tossed and turned a bit.

“I’m too excited to sleep now,” she professed.

“What? I thought you said you were exhausted!”
“I WAS…but…I dunno, now I guess I’m overtired or something. I’m just…really happy and I don’t wanna go to sleep because I wanna stay up with you.”

“Aw…well, I’ll be right here,” he assured her, sliding an arm around her again, “And I’ll be here when you wake up.”

“I know,” she said, “Well, if you’re tired I don’t wanna keep you up. You’ve got work tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t go in ‘til later. I can afford to sleep in…and…I guess I’m still pretty excited, too.”
“Aww!”

Sitting up a bit, he leaned back against his pillow and petted her hair, giving her head a kiss. Closing her eyes with a content sigh she leaned on his arm and gently rubbed his stomach, something he’d always found equally soothing.

Staring up at the barely discernible ceiling in the wee morning hours’ darkness, he thought about his life so far, all of his accomplishments, failures, and everything in between. Letting his lids droop closed, he let out a happy sigh, fingers still lightly curled around her shoulder.

This was another of those moments that seemed to stretch on forever. Opening his eyes, he glimpsed the clock —the same four numbers staring up at him.

Suddenly, Danny twitched, jolting awake. Had he forgotten something? No, the boathouse was closed up for the night, the doors were locked, and all the ‘To Do’ paperwork was in his briefcase, which was downstairs on the far end of the dinner table.

Raising his free hand, he began to rub his thumb over the tips of his fingers. A strange feeling invaded him now, the feeling that he shouldn’t be here, that everything he knew was a lie. That other life he barely remembered, he felt it catching up to him, slowly.

Unsure if he’d slipped into a dream or not, he found himself on the deck of a large white yacht as it turned slowly into the sunset on the ocean’s glistening horizon. While the wind and water ahead was calm, behind him he saw the edge of a storm — and bearing its brunt, clawing desperately through its tall crashing waves was a barely discernible figure.

Staring at the resolute swimmer, his gaze fell to a rope coiled around his wrist. Twitching, he gave it a tug, taking a few steps and following it to the aft, where it ran down to a makeshift wooden raft that trailed behind the ship.

‘Lance’ acknowledged that Joan had done him quite a few favors — but if she’d felt more obligated than not, she could have easily given him the sage advice without the help. Besides, even if she had more or less gotten him his first job, he’d been the one to keep it, and work hard enough to move up.

It was his own savings that had bought their house and paid for most of his wedding. His wife’s moral support aside, it was his own will that got him up and into work with plenty of time every morning. He genuinely found the job interesting, even fun, though when things got rough and tangled, he’d got himself through those spots. Sometimes only with the skin of his teeth.

Looking back at the resolute swimmer, however, he realized that his stamina was another trait he’d carried over from that old life. Glancing over the rail, he saw that while the sunlit water lapped at the boat’s sides as it split, the maelstrom behind didn’t fall back, the thing was following it — following him. And though by only inches, his old self seemed to be getting closer.

Stepping back, he looked again at the rope and the raft he carried. If the figure caught up to it, it could easily catch him. If he caught himself, then he would remember the things that had faded deep into the back of his mind and he would lose the rest of it. He would lose himself, his current self, and his bliss.

Only then did he notice the glint of the axe blade tucked away under the gunwale. Grabbing it off its hooks, he held it high with the same sweep of his arm. Lowering it, he stared down at it, the rope, then back at the figure in the water. The sense of having been at a very similar crossroad washed over him.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to render the situation as one of the many decisions he came across at work. Would it be better to lose who he was, or who he used to be? Which part of himself could he afford to lose? And ultimately, which loss would be easier to work around and fill in for afterward? Would this deter current accounts and/or potential new accounts?

Shaking his head quickly and sighing, he turned the axe to and fro, feeling the weight of it in his hand. Given the thickness of the rope, it would take a few chops to completely sever it. ‘Lance’ found himself looking back into the tumultuous waters again, eyes hazing. Why was this decision proving so difficult? Wasn’t the metaphor clear enough?

Seeing the white hair on the figure’s head, he shut his eyes tightly, turning away. He didn’t want to know anything more.

“What’re you looking at?”

Opening his eyes, he saw Kate standing only a foot or so in front of him, glowing even more than usual in the setting sun. He took a few steps toward her, feeling the rope drag him to a halt.

“…because you just make me feel like I can do anything. Like whatever crud happens, it’s all worth it because at the end of the day you’re there for me.”
“…with you there, I don’t panic as much. I don’t have to. You just…you just give me so much strength.”

Losing himself now would mean losing her. The skin on his arm prickled at a cold gust from behind, and a tremendous feeling of frustration and loneliness crashed over him, making him shudder. If the pursuing figure, that relentless white-haired boy, would ruin his relationship with Kate, then so be it. The choice was clear.

Whirling around, ‘Lance’ flung the axe up high and brought the blade down swiftly on the rope. As it began to fray, he hacked at it again, and again, until finally, it snapped, snaking through the air as it careened over the aft rail.

He thought he could hear the boy cry out as he was swept up on a wave, disappearing under it. Finally, the storm began to dissipate, widening the gap at last. The wood slowly floated off.

Kate put her arms around him at the same time that he turned again, putting his around her. They hugged and kissed, nuzzled and sighed, and rested their chins on each other’s shoulders.

“I love you,” he told her again, repeating “I love you.” He tried to find more words, but it was as if his entire vocabulary had been deleted down to those three. Yet, they were all he needed.

“I love you, too,” he heard her say, “So much!” Her voice seemed to waver, as if she were tearing up again. He felt the sting in his eyes, a few warm beads tracing his jawlines as he shut his eyes tighter, squeezing her closer.

Though his vision was still blurred, he felt her lightly cradle his arm and pet it. “You feel cold, are you okay? Lance? …Lance, honey?”

Feeling stiff, he found himself back in his bedroom with her still at his side, still leaning on him. Fumbling for the lamp switch, he looked over to see her rubbing the feeling back into his arm.

“You okay?” Kate asked again, reaching a hand up to his cheek gently, “Oh my goodness, are you crying?”

With a grunt, he gave his eyes a quick rub with the heel of his free hand, wiping away the same drops. “Yeah, I guess —”

“Did you have a bad dream?” his wife asked.

“I guess,” he echoed, “but I’m fine.”

“You sure?”
“I’m all right, promise.”

Giving his shoulder a few squeezes, she prodded “What were you dreaming about?”

“Nothing,” the man answered, pausing, adding with a tired smile “Well, okay, you. But you weren’t the bad part, you were the good part — no, you were the best part.”

He heard her giggle softly, feeling her fingers combing through his hair. “You’re such a sweetheart, you know that?”

“Heh…so I’ve heard,” he replied, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Hmhm…hey, what time is it?”

Turning the nightstand clock back toward him, the man said “3:36.” Giving the covers a tug, he clicked the light back off. “That’s still plenty of time to catch some shut-eye.” Frowning, he asked “I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“No,” she said, “Did I wake you up?”

“Well, kinda,” he admitted, “but trust me, I don’t mind AT all…”

Chuckling, she leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the lips, withdrawing slowly. “Well, you go back to sleep and get some good rest so you have a good day at work tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” he echoed, “And you sleep good, too. Have dreams as sweet as you are and have a good day tomorrow.”

“Aww…okay. G’night, honey!”
“G’night, Kitty.”

With a grunting sigh, Lance slid back down under the covers, tugging them over his shoulder and closing his eyes. Kate yawned and did the same, rolling over to face the back window.

Slowly, her husband slid his hands between the sheets, lightly wiggling his fingers at her ribs, making her squirm and giggle. When he tickled her under the arms, he felt her curl and pedal her legs. With a satisfied snicker, he put his arms around her fully and pulled her close, giving her a kiss on the back of her head before letting his mind drift.

The last noise he heard was her happy sigh as she relaxed in his protective cuddle.

Sighing, the Japanese boy casually slipped the jagged gold blade of a sword into an unseen sheath at his side, whereupon it disappeared. Opening his eyes as he looked up, he stared down the apartment door, and his route and destination beyond it.

Satoshi?”

Turning, he saw Kasumi standing behind him. “’ Dezumondo’ wo yobidashite, tte ba,”(1) he said with a smirk.

Hai, hai, ‘Dezumondo’…” the redhead conceded, “Ima doko ni iku no?”(2)

Ikanakereba naranai doko ni iku,” he said, clarifying, “Ore no ‘Penni’ wo mitsukeru tsumorida.”(3)

With a sigh and a weak smile, Kasumi said “Mada amari Amerika no terebi wo mite iru…” Pausing, she added “Demo…gambatte ne.”(4)

Arigatou,” the boy said, “Anata mo.” Facing forward, he strode toward the door, grabbing the handle and tugging it open. Mid-step, he paused, giving the girl another glance. “Kasumi wo…wasurenaideshou.”(5) And with that, he was gone.

Matte!” the redhead cried, reaching out as the door loudly swung shut. Sinking to a sit on the couch behind her, she clutched a pillow in her lap, staring down as her eyes hazed. “Itsumo watashi wa anata no ‘Penni’ da to omotta…” Raising her head slowly, she added with a delirious sort of smile “Demo… dare ga watashi ga uchuu no ishi o gimonshi suru desu ka?”(6) as tears beaded down her cheeks.
___
(1) I told you, call me 'Desmond'.
(2) Fine, fine, 'Desmond'...Where are you going now?
(3)Where I have to go...to find my 'Penny'.
(4)You've still been watching too much American T.V. ...But...good luck.
(5) Thank you. You too. I'll...never forget you.
(6) Wait! I always thought I was your 'Penny'...But...who am I to question the will of the universe?

Author:  KDH [ Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:34 pm ]
Post subject: 

The only reason I don't watch "enough" American TV is because British Telly is so much better right now, thank you very much. Razz

I liked this chapter overall, just hope Danny cutting off his past doesn't come back to bite him in the ass. Assuming it wasn't genuinely a dream that is.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:19 am ]
Post subject: 

Haha, the Rift Sword makes a small, yet triumphant entry into the TDPS. Anything you need to know about it, be sure to let me know. :3

Also, looks like married life is the life for "Lance". Very Happy

Excellent chapter. Very Happy

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks, guys. X3

@ KDH Okay, okay, I see your point. XD But when has a dream been 'just a dream' for, well, anyone in the TDPS? Okay, maybe once in PGDP, but still...

@ Jazzy Yes and yes. But not for long — yes, to both. And you'll see what I mean come Chapter Twelve.

For now, though, enjoy Chapter Ten, because I did. And I would have posted it days ago if work hadn't eaten up my time and energy.

CHAPTER X

“Your time is up, Danny…it’s been up for ten years!”

Various comic book-like panels spun and panned across the forty-eight inch flat screen television. At the turn of the millennium, the box had been a jarring adornment to the stained oak walls and otherwise very ‘Adirondacky’ living room. Today, while still newer than most of its surroundings, it was at home as a dated piece.

From the far end of the dinner table, beneath the antler chandelier, Lance sat at his computer, clicking and typing, pausing and sighing, fingers sliding into his hair as he rested his temple on the heel of his hand.

Glancing over at his wife, watching the classic animation with the cats at her side, he said “Do you have to watch that now?”

Turning her head, she said “Aw, come on, it’s Danny Phantom! You like Danny Phantom — and it’s the time travel episode!” Facing forward, she lifted a meowing Panya into her lap, cooing back like clockwork “Yeah…yeah! You think it’s awesome, too, huh? Yeah you do!”

Letting out a puff-cheeked sigh, her husband looked at the screen again. As the eponymous hero lay seemingly-unconscious at an angle in the lower lefthand corner of the screen, the big bad demanded “What makes you think you can change my past?”

Now struggling to his hands and knees, the white-haired boy replied “Because I promised my family!”

“HA! HAhahaaoh, you are SUCH a CHILD! You ‘promised’?”
“YES! I PROMISED!”

Lightly masking a yawn before pressing his fingers to his brow, the thirty-one-year old spoke up again “If you’re gonna watch it, could you at least turn it down?”

“Fine,” Kate said with a bit of a pout, lowering the volume. Frowning, she turned her head again. “Do you HAVE to work today? It’s the weekend! You’re off, aren’t you?” Smiling weakly, she added “You can relax, and have some fun…”

After a tense pause, her husband said “Y’know…I would LOVE to be able to just ‘relax’ and ‘have fun’. I would. But unlike YOU…and DANNY…and PANYA…I have THIRTY accounts to sort through and verify today. I have to digitally hand-pick —” he raised his hand, making a walking motion with his fingers “through the website and fix everything that our code guy screwed up,” letting his arm drop with a thud. “And that’s not even what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing — that’s on top of EVERYTHING else that I have to do that’s due by 8AM Tuesday. And this isn’t high school, this isn’t a cartoon, I can’t just ‘get an extension’. If I don’t get this stuff done on time…we’re screwed.” He flung out an arm. “Community Bank is gonna chew our butts!” With a shoulder-shrugging, frame-drooping sigh, he added “And mine’s gonna be gristle by the time Tom gets through with it…”

Hearing her name, Panya sat up straight, watching the man as the woman petted her. Neither made a sound, however.

Looking across at the television, at the frozen image of a scratched-up ‘Dark Danny’ with a rather incredulous look on his face, Lance quipped “What’re you looking at, ugly?”

With a snort, his wife turned off the television. Taking a gulp of his cooled coffee, the man returned his gaze to the laptop screen. Quietly, Kate got up and walked into the kitchen, pulling open the fridge door. “We’re almost out of milk,” she mused, “One of us is gonna have to go shopping…”

“I’ll get it,” Lance said plainly. His wife frowned.

“You’re not even gonna let me fight you for it?”
“I’m not in the mood.”
“But…it’s—”

With another, gentler swing of his arm, the man finished “Gonna have to wait, like EVERYTHING else.” After typing for a minute or so, he looked up. “Don’t you have all those episodes on —” But she was gone. “…HVD?”

“No,” he heard her say; now from behind him, “They’re all on my old harddrive. I downloaded them years ago.”

Tilting his head back, then looking over his shoulder, the man said “Whoa, vintage.” He felt her arms slide around his ribs.

“You really need to relax,” she persisted, “Just…just be happy!” With a smirk, she tickled his stomach.

Lance twitched and tensed, lips curling and quivering, but without a single chuckle, he albeit gently pushed her hands away. “Not now, okay?” Grabbing his mug and hoisting it up, he asked “Could you zap my coffee for me, please? Twenty-two seconds.”

With another frown, Kate looked down at him, saying softly “You’re not yourself lately…” and walked back toward the couch.

Frowning, her husband lowered his arm and set the mug back down. Rising, he jogged to her, taking her hands. “Okay, you’re right,” he managed to say, “I’m sorry — I – I’ll make it up to you. Tonight…I’ll take you to the Steak and Seafood. I promise.”

Without missing a beat, the woman echoed “I’m not in the mood,” and sat back down on the couch. With a long, defeated sigh, Lance pushed the laptop lid closed. As his wife turned the television back on, though now began flipping through the regular television stations.

Facing the sliding glass door and staring at the floor like a child in the corner, the man muttered “Not myself…what does she mean ‘not myself’? When have I ever not been myself?!”

“You are —!”
“Danny —”
“—Phantom!”
“—wake up —”
“—Danny…”
“Fenton…”

With another twitch, the thirty-one-year old raised his head, blinking, and glanced over his shoulder at the screen.

“...this historic Michigan town. The Wolcott House looks like an ordinary bed-and-breakfast — but behind these faded brick walls a few ghosts-and-ghouls have been seen still enjoying a Victorian Tea, or taking a walk through the Train Garden…”

Giving his head a clearing shake, the man turned, grabbing the keys off the counter and heading for the side-garage. “I’m gonna go for a walk…” he announced, sounding dazed, “…to the store — to the Trading Post, they have milk, don’t they?” and didn’t wait for an answer.

That Monday, Lance stood watch over a younger man sitting at one of the computers behind the main desk, guiding him through a few digital routines. As an error message appeared on the screen, the teller-in-training griped “Why are we still using Wipple ’25?” gesturing toward the screen as the machine rebooted, flashing the logo of a pie cooling on a sill, “That OS’s for geezers!”

“Yeah, well, those ‘geezers’ are some of our best customers,” the elder man countered calmly.

“You want me to print out the refund ticket?” The mega-corporation had programmed the software to legitimately offer a refund of five cents every time the system crashed. However, even if said crashes occurred five times a day for an entire year, the refund total would still fall short of the four-digit floor price.

“No, just…log it. Okay, now pull up the transaction archive…”

“Danny!” a voice called out from behind them. Both ignored it until the older man felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he saw one of the newly transplanted managers. “Danny — it is ‘Danny’, right?”

“It’s ‘Lance’,” the thirty-one-year old corrected.

“Oh, jeez, Lance, I’m sorry!” the white-haired, moustached man said, giving the branch manager’s hand a shake, “Don’t know why I thought it was ‘Danny’…”

“Neither do I,” Lance muttered, glancing away. This made five of the same misnomers in just three days. It addition to being odd, and slightly grating, the young man began to think it was some sort of conspiracy.

“Looking forward to working with you, Lance,” the moustached-man bid with a smile, “Oh, and if you see Tom, tell him I got his message, and the carbon copies are on his secretary’s desk.”

“Sure,” the thirty-one-year old said with a nod, checking his watch, “He’s in a meeting and Liz’s at lunch — but they should both be back in about twenty minutes or so.”

“Super! Hey, speaking of lunch, how about you and I hit the Koffee Kat this Thursday? Go over the checking and debit revamps?”

“Sounds great, I’ll see ya there, sir!” Lance agreed, with a wide-swinging salute.
As the eldest man disappeared, the other two faced forward — looking up as the door opened, a blue-eyed, blond-haired ‘toon man in a blue suit and tie walking toward them.

Giving the younger man a pat on the back, Lance said “All right, this’ll be your first bit of on-the-job training — greet the customer.”

“Hello, sir,” the teller said plainly.

“Smile!” the manager urged in a whisper. When the younger man put on a weak smile, he said “Smile bigger!”

Turning his head, the teller showed off an exaggerated, somewhat possessed-looking grin.

Lightly slapping him upside the back of the head, Lance began “Don’t be a smart—!” pausing to flash a smile of his own as the potential account holder approached the desk, “Ask him what you can do for him today.”

“What can I do for you today, sir?” the younger man repeated, though still audibly uninterested.

“Hi, I’d like to open a savings account,” the ‘toon informed them. The young manager’s smile broadened.

“Great!” he said, “What type of account would you be interested in? We have a basic savings, money market, plus, and a retirement money market account.”

Pausing with a thoughtful look into the manager’s eyes, the ‘toon asked “Say, have we met? I feel like I know you from somewhere…”

With a chuckle, Lance said “No, I don’t believe so, sir.”

“Uh, just a basic savings account, please — what’s this ‘money market’ business, though?”

Leaning on the desk, the young man replied “Well, it’s just that: business. Heh. But actually, it’s a risk-free type of account that earns dividends. It’s got limited transaction privileges, but the account can be liquidated at any time.”

“Okay, no thanks,” the ‘toon said.

“That’s perfectly fine, sir —”
“What’s your minimum initial deposit and minimum balance requirement?”

A lever clicked in the manager’s mind, as he began to recite “Well, the initial deposit for the basic is only twenty-five dollars. There is no minimum required balance, although, if you keep a minimum daily balance of three-hundred dollars, the four-dollar monthly service fee is automatically waived. It can also be waived if you’re signed up for the Automatic Savings Program — but…that requires a checking account. Orrr…if you’re under eighteen years old…”

The young man felt the urge to tug on his collar. He didn’t have that much experience with ‘toons, but knew even an offhand mention of age was potentially a huge insult. He kept a polite smile on his face, regardless.

“Are you sure we haven’t met somewhere before?”
“Very positive, sir.”

The younger man, now sitting with chin in hand, seemed unaware of this fact, and many other things, given the dull haze in his eyes. As he let out a snort, the blond-haired one gave him a look.

“Well, that sounds reasonable,” the ‘toon said, “I’m not exactly looking to hide away a fortune, just try and scrape some cash together.”

“Well, that’s what we’re here for: to help you. With that. As much as you need,” Lance said, genuinely beaming.

As another snort escaped the teller, the blond-haired one turned toward him fully, brows lightly angling. They didn’t exchange any harsh words — until the ‘toon dropped a bombshell in form of a passive-aggressive inquisitive. “What? Is it because I’m ‘toon?”

This, ironically, coaxed the younger human out of his slouch. The first retort out of his lips was another question “You wanna fight? Bring it!”

His superior’s eyes widened as he saw the fuse spark inches in front of him. Trying to put his arms’ width between them as gently as possible, he exclaimed “Whoa, easy!” This didn’t deter them as he’d hoped however.

“You think you’re the first self-righteous jerk I’ve had to deal with today?!”
“Funny, I was just gonna say the same thing!”

Tugging on the teller’s upper arm, Lance growled “You! My office, now!” Struggling to smile politely, he said “Sir, I am terribly —” glaring briefly at the younger man, “TERRIBLY sorry about this…” and lastly uttering a genuine plea, “please don’t hold this incident against us.”

“I’d like to speak to your manager, if you don’t mind,” the blond-haired one said sharply.

“Speaking,” the young man said, looking sheepish, inwardly bracing himself.

After another long pause, the ‘toon asked yet again “Are you SURE I don’t know you?”

“I’m very sure, sir.”
“Really, very, absolutely sure?”

“I’m absolutely certain, sir,” Lance insisted, voice wavering as he strained beneath the ever-burgeoning stress of the moment. “Is there anything else we can do for you today?”

“Well, is it all right if I take my hard-earned twenty-five bucks and come back another day?”
“Yes. Thank you, sir — I’m so very sorry, sir.”

Back in his office, the branch manager tossed the ill-mannered teller into a chair and gave him another slap.

“What the hell were you THINKING?!” he bellowed with a frustrated fling of his arms.

“Oh, come on!” the younger man insisted, “So I have to sit there and get accused of being a racist — which I’m NOT —!”

“YES!” Lance howled, “And maybe if you’d tried a little harder to look like you gave half a crap, he wouldn’t have felt inclined to say that in the first place!”

“He just didn’t look right to me.”
“HE DIDN’T —?!”

Before his mouth began to froth, the young manager felt a firm hand on his shoulder. Slowly turning, he saw his boss’s face. With a wince and a shudder, his rage quietly left him.

“Tom!”

“Relax, Lance, I heard what happened…” Letting his arm drop, the senior manager even smiled, that sort of weathered, all-understanding smile. “I know you’re gonna hate me for even suggesting this, but you really ought to take a break.”

Sighing, the young manager echoed “A break?”

“Yeah. A week off or so — or maybe two.”

With a groan, Lance slapped a hand against the wall to support himself as his legs buckled a little. “Aw, Tom, y’know I can’t…so much’ll fall apart if I’m gone that long…”

Tom chuckled, patting him on the same shoulder. “Have a little faith in the rest of us! Barring any more faulty cogs —” he glanced down at the teller “we ought to be fine by two Tuesdays from now. I mean it: go home and unwind a little.”

“But —! …okay…” Combing his hair back with his fingers, the young man walked around behind his desk and set his briefcase down, packing it. Looking up at the teller, he started to say “You —”

“Can just go home,” Tom finished for him, adding “Well, I’ve got some emails to read and some decisions to approve, but I’ll call you later, all right?”

“See you — er, talk to you later, Tom,” the branch manager said as he grabbed his jacket, “And…thanks.”

“No problem, kiddo,” the area manager said with a wink, “And say ‘hi’ to Kate for me.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

It was still light out as Lance pulled into the driveway. Sorting through the mail, he found a couple letters oddly addressed to a ‘Danny’ who apparently lived in the Brown Cottages. Tossing them, a few magazines, and the Adirondack Daily on the pool table, he glanced at his watch.

Only 11:59AM. A note on the refrigerator told him that his wife was out on the town with friends. Giving the cats a pet, he headed upstairs to change.

Not feeling like going outside, or even watching T.V., the young man decided to simply take a nap. Setting his water glass down on the nightstand, he lowered the blinds, fluffed his pillow and collapsed on the bed.

The pressure in his chest and sinuses seemed to slowly hiss out as he lay there, feeling the cool autumn breeze through the windows, his limbs sprawling, his mind drifting like a fallen leaf on the bay waters.

Recognizing the old fire tower with the bottom section of its long ladder removed, Lance realized he was standing on St. Regis’s summit. He made a slow, full circle. The air felt strange, temperate, yet almost as though the mountaintop before him was an illusion being cast around him.

Looking over his shoulder, he saw the eerie sight of nothing beyond the summit’s edge but pure sky, like something out of a video game. Staring at it for another minute or so, he took a breath and headed toward the anomaly. He only gave a passing glance down at the thin air beneath his feet.

Not looking back, he continued, slow-but-confident-step after step. He wasn’t sure why he’d started down this invisible path, but felt an inexplicable pull toward its end.

Finally, he reached it, lightly bumping up against a wall he could feel but not see — looking through it at a tall, ivy-topped rock cliff that seemed to jut out of nowhere. Being only a foot away from the solid ground, he wondered why he’d been stopped short.

Peering more closely, Lance saw that there were people on it — well, ‘toons. One was that white-haired ‘toon boy, kneeling at its edge, looking down at a burly white dog wearing only a black shirt, hanging from one vine which he clutched for dear life in his four-fingered hand.

Sliding both hands against the unseen barrier, the human tried to find a passable spot, wanting to help the poor canine. He wondered why Danny Phantom, so-called hero, was merely crouching there with a solemn mien.

Suddenly, the man heard the ghostboy chuckle. The dog, already looking up at him with his head craned back, asked “Hey, what’re you laughing at?”

“You were just thinking…even if Butch said it was no big deal, you could never come to grips with taking his oldest son’s place…” the ghostboy said, sounding almost like a recording. Then the human-form ‘toon sprang to life, brows angling sharply as he barked “You overestimate yourself, dude!”

The dog’s eyes widened as he audibly gulped.

“You play the ‘easygoing nice guy’ bit, but you’re every bit as conceited and cocky as any’toon ever was,” the white-haired boy expounded, “And then you pretend you have this great respect for me.”

“P-Pretend!?” the dog echoed in a squeak.

“You act like I was so awesome and everything I ever did was gold, but deep down you’re mad that Butch can’t let his memories of me go. You think I’m a pain in your butt — and that’s what’s going through your head when you talk about me, or listen to anybody else talk about me.”

“What the — what are YOU talking about?!” the dog sputtered.

“Do you really think I’m that stupid? That I wouldn’t pick up on your crap?”

“Dude, you…” the dog began softly, then hollered “YOU REALLY NEED TO FREAKING CHILL, OKAY?!” With a sharp sigh, he added “Jeez, I shut my trap for five seconds and you start tearing into me like a really juicy T-Bone? The heck?! What did I ever do to deserve your stinking wrath?!”

Lance continued to watch in silent awe, trying not to make a noise though he wasn’t sure if they could see him or sense him or not. He was captivated by the conversation now; what had the dog done to provoke the boy?

“If you and Butch were so tight, well…I can’t help that, can I? You think I’ve got an ego, what about you?! You think I could never do anywhere near as well as you ever could? You’re scared I’ll be better than you!”

“Me, scared?” the ghostboy reiterated, though not in a scoff.

“Heck yeah!” the dog said, without missing a beat, “You and Butch had some great times together that I’ll never match — dude, I freaking get it! BUT HERE’S THE THING! I’VE ALSO SPENT TIME WITH BUTCH, Y’KNOW?! I BET I KNOW STUFF ABOUT HIM THAT YOU NEVER EVEN GUESSED!” Pausing for breath, the burly 'toon repeated to himself “Whoa, I know stuff about Butch that Danny didn’t?” then audibly realizing “The Chief was right, I’m in the same place Danny was…”

Strangely, the white-haired boy hadn’t moved an inch, and still wore that somber expression. He was dead and all, or half dead — or something — but still, it was off-putting.

“So we’re cool?” the dog ventured more calmly, “I’m not trying to take your place and I DO think you’re awesome. I’ve got no reason to lie to you!”

At that moment, the ghostboy morphed into a what appeared to be a black lizard with a pattern of glowing green stripes and glowing red eyes. Rising on its hind legs, the creature showed its face — a highly googly-eyed, green-skinned ‘toon amphibian. “Well done, Agent Puppy,” it said in a breathy, accented voice “You have passed the test, and your heart has been freed from your troubled feelings…”

With a gasp and a broad grin, the dog said in a small voice “I did?”

“And now, you’ve been freed from this cliff!” the lizard said happily, pulling out a pair of shears and slicing the vine in two, “Happy landings!”

“THANK YOU!” the dog shouted happily as he dropped through the clouds.

The floating rock face disappeared, leaving Lance alone to solidly wonder what the heck he had just witnessed, and more astoundingly, why. He figured that the image of Danny Phantom had come from catching glimpses of his wife’s episode collection, but he had never seen the dog or the bizarre lizard in his entire life, even for a moment on television, that he could remember.

And who was this Butch, whose approval and fatherly affection both Danny and the dog seemed to be vying for? He sounded like a human, and the young man made a note to research him once he woke up.

Just as he was considering backtracking to Regis somehow, he found himself staring at his bedroom ceiling. Light still seeped through the blinds, but it was the reddish-orangey glow of the sun just beginning to set. Sitting up, Lance found Panya curled up at his feet, spying Kesa snoozing on the arm of a nearby chair.

As he yawned and stretched, the cats did the same, both bounding over to rub up against him and purr. Scratching them behind the ears, the man pushed himself off of the bed and headed downstairs.

He fed the cats and cleaned their litter boxes, then fixed himself an early leftover dinner. Pushing open the lid of his laptop, he pulled up Amazoogle and typed in the name ‘Butch’. Realizing he didn’t have a surname to go by, he went with ‘Butch Danny Phantom cartoon dog’ and hit ‘Search’.

The second result to show was titled ‘TOONZONE NEWS INTERVIEWS BUTCH HARTMAN ON "T.U.F.F. PUPPY"’ from September 9th, roughly sixteen years ago on a now-defunct website. After reading it through the cache, Lance went back to the Amazoogle main page and searched for ‘T.U.F.F. Puppy’.

The eponymous Puppy was Dudley, the dog from his dream — or the dream, anyhow. The more Lance thought about it, the way he had trekked across miles of sky from Mount St. Regis, it had almost felt as if he’d nearly invaded someone else’s dream. Possibly Dudley’s.

Cartoons, on average, ran for three years before new ones took their timeslots. Unless there was a high-grossing demand for related merchandise, or in rarer instances, the sales of the show on in-home media ran a high curve. By all technical standards, Danny Phantom had been a very average show.

T.U.F.F. Puppy, on the other hand, had apparently been something of a wunderkind even in its heyday, catching on like a forest fire. Small wonder, then, as the thirty-one-year old discovered, that it was still in production —currently in the sixteenth year of its run on the youth-oriented network, and by all evidence that he could find, just as popular. Though, the young man wasn’t surprised. Even from the little he’d seen of the dog, he was — as some dogs were — just inherently likeable. And his rebuttal to Phantom’s accusations was courageous and endearing to boot.

On Nickelodeon.com, Lance found several video clips, not only snippets of the episodes, but little in-betweens, tidbits of interviews and promos featuring Dudley, his co-stars, and Hartman. The first video in the archive was dated ‘October 2, 2010’ in which Butch and his protégé chatted and joked about the nature of the show and goings-on behind the scenes.

The hyperlinked thumbnail above that was from two years later, and while it featured clips of other T.U.F.F. personalities, the majority of it was, again, footage of Dudley and Butch. They yukked it up just as much, now talking openly about several episode plots.

By the third video, however, it didn’t take a well-trained sociologist to notice that something seemed to be bothering Hartman. The elephant in the room seemed to have poked its trunk into the shot, and much of the human’s energy was sapped. In the next clip from 2014, which included close-ups, he’d begun to look physically weathered; his hair was thinner, as if he’d been clawing his fingers through it in anguish and tearing at it.

Age not withstanding, his transformation by the following clip was quite thorough: graying hair, lost weight, and tired, baggy eyes. Dudley was still as gung-ho as ever, though, he seemed in-tune to Butch’s condition, putting his arm around him gently for hugs and pats along with clearly enunciated encouraging words and contagious smiles.

“Hey, everyone!” said a young black-haired woman in her early twenties, sitting to Dudley’s left in the next video, “My name’s Carly Hartman —” she glanced at the dog with a smirk, “Heiress to the awesome that is T.U.F.F. Puppy. Just wanted to remind you guys that this fall, the show’ll be celebrating its TENTH birthday! And thank you all for watching and all of your support, it’s really been amazing…and we’ve got another super-exciting, hilarious one-hour special in the works. Stay tuned, guys!”

After another shared glance, her grin faded as she looked into the camera again.

“Unfortunately, my dad hasn’t been feeling too good lately,” she professed, “but he did get all of your emails, and it made him so happy to know that so many people are still watching and enjoying the show. Please, keep sending stuff in!”

“Butch’s birthday is coming up pretty soon, too!” Dudley chimed, smiling again, “This January 10th! Send him some cake — he likes chocolate cake — and some ice cream, too!” Pausing, with brows convex he added “And a few cans of chicken soup wouldn’t hurt either.”

“Dudleeey!” Carly said through a chuckle, a smile back on her face as well.

“Whaaat?” the dog asked, looking at her, “We wouldn’t feed it to him all at the same time!”

Then the small screen flashed to black again.

From what Lance could glean, Carly was Butch’s oldest daughter, and for as young as she was, her father had apparently let her take over most of his role as executive producer. What had been intended as a temporary power transfer ended up lasting up through the present day, if he was reading the credits right.

Noting the show’s airtimes, the young man checked the local listings, and by the time his wife walked in the door, was lounging on the couch with the kittens and a bowl of popcorn, intently engrossed in a mini-marathon of reruns.

“Hey, you!” Kate called out as she walked into the family room.

Hitting the ‘Pause’ button and swallowing his current mouthful of popcorn, the man turned his head with an echo of “Hey! How was your day?”

“It was pretty awesome,” she said, sitting next to him, “I would’ve been back sooner, but we ended up seeing a movie. How was yours?”

With a sigh, Lance began “It was…okay…”

“Aww, what happened?”
“Well, I told you I’d really hear it from Tom, and…”
“What’d he say?”
“Well, he…he said, uh…”

Finally revealing a sheepish smirk, the thirty-one-year old said “He told me to stop stressing…and…take the next two weeks off.”

“Oh my goodness, really?”
“Yep.”

Giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, Kate laughed. “That’s awesome! So you don’t have to worry about any deadlines or anything until next Monday?”

“Next Tuesday, actually, but…yeah.”

Giving him a playful shove, his wife said “I TOLD you! Didn’t I tell you you should relax more?”

Shoulders raised, though he still smiled, Lance said “Yeah…yeah, you did.” Flopping down into her lap, he reiterated “You were right, and I’m sorry for being so crabby lately…”

“Aww…” the woman cooed, giving his hair a pet, “Well…now you can be happy.” Pausing, she curled her fingers and grinned “The Kitty Claws will make you so happyyy…” pulling back the hem of his shirt.

With an anticipatory chuckle, the man playfully cried “Nooo, not the Kitty Claws!”

“Yush, yuuush…!” his wife teased, dancing her fingers across his stomach.

Lance twitched, but quickly bubbled with laughter. “HahahahahaHA!”

Lifting the cats up onto her husband’s chest, Kate prodded his belly. “What’s this? Panya, hey! Kesa, c’mere! What’s this?”

“Whahat’re you dohoing?” the man asked, watching as the kittens started lapping at him where she pointed “HAHAHAHAHAHA! NOOho fair! You didn’t say anyHEHEthing about Kitty Tongues!” the brown tabby even nudging her muzzle into his bellybutton. “AAHA! HAHAHA!”

His wife giggled, and after a few minutes, finally gave his belly a rub and pulled his shirt back down. Despite being red-faced and breathless, Lance felt tremendously content. It had been said that while people smiled and laughed as a result of being happy, the expressions in themselves could shift dour moods. The thirty-one-year old found himself undeniable living proof of this, as any remaining shreds of stress had completely melted away.

Looking up at the T.V., Kate asked “What’re you watching? This isn’t Danny Phantom…is it?”

“No — actually, it’s called T.U.F.F. Puppy,” her husband explained, sitting up, “but it’s by the same guy that did Danny Phantom.”

“Ohhh yeah, I remember seeing that when it came out…I never really watched it, though,” she admitted, leaning back as Panya crawled into her lap. Kesa, meanwhile, had climbed onto the back of the couch and was now lounging comfortably with her tail occasionally batting the man’s ear.

“Wanna watch it now? They’re still showing highlights from the sixth season until ten.”

Leaning on his shoulder, the woman said “Sure, if you want to.”

Facing forward and gesturing to the screen, Lance explained “This episode’s called ‘Silver Stars’. D.O.O.M. — that’s the bad guys, the Diabolical Order of Mayhem — is trying to blackout the city of Petropolis — that’s the…main place where stuff happens. T.U.F.F. — the good guys, the Turbo Undercover Fighting Force — figures out that the only way they can beat the bad guys is to infiltrate their headquarters by zapping themselves into a ROM of Lunar: Silver Star Story.”

As a violin melody began to play, the shot panned down from the full-moonlit sky through the clouds to the main mast of an old wooden ship. A cat in a yellow-and-white dress stood in the crow’s nest, surrounded by fireflies. Gazing up off-screen left, she started singing “Wishing on a dream that seems far off, hoping it will come today…into the starlit night, foolish dreamers turn their gaze…” as the wind ruffled her long black hair tied up in a red-and-white bandana.

After a few moments, Kate looked up at her husband, asking “Wait…if those D.O.O.M. guys shut off all the electricity, how the heck is a ROM going to do anything?”

Blinking, the man said “I dunno…I think it was just an excuse to have this scene where the sexy female lead sings,” adding “Her name’s Kitty Katswell, and she’s the one that kinda recruited Dudley, a.k.a. ‘T.U.F.F. Agent Puppy’.” He paused. “She’s not nearly as sexy as MY Kitty, though…” he said, putting his arm around his wife and giving her a quick lip-smooch.

“Hmhmm…” She returned the kiss with a longer liplock, putting both arms around him and giving him a tight squeeze, which he returned twofold.

By the third hour, the Morgans were snuggled under a blanket with another bowl of hot buttery popcorn, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the theme song as the opening sequence began yet again.

Dudley Puppy was a plain old mutt…
Plain old mutt!
He'd scratch and dig and then he'd chew his butt!
Chew his butt!
But when bad guys got too rough,
He went to work for T.U.F.F.,
And now he's doin' secret agent stuff!


With another chuckle, Kate mused “Y’know, I can see why this stayed so popular…I mean, that song is kinda dumb, but it’s so catchy! And Dudley is just…well, he’s kinda naïve, but he’s cute, y’know?”

“Yeah…his character started out a bit ‘bag of hammers’-ish in Season One, give or take a few episodes, but by Season Three he really got into his groove.” Pausing, with a chuckling snort, the man added “And from what I’ve read and stuff, he’s all-around a really great guy…”

His wife nodded. “If his show’s been on this long, he must be a real role model for a lot of ‘toons…”

The thirty-one-year old nodded, looking back at the screen. However, his eyes hazed a bit in thought. If it had been Dudley’s dream that he’d accidentally walked in on, was it one the dog was having at the same time? Had he stepped back into a dream from years ago, still floating around? And what did the lizard mean by ‘your heart has been freed from your troubled feelings’?

Was the Danny of the dream the leering image of him that hung in Dudley’s subconscious? To this day — or, at least, until several hours ago? To think that a ‘toon who had the world on his leash crouched in a puddle of piddle at the thought of another ‘toon whose show had fallen into apathetic obscurity. Save for a few diehard fans, like Kate.

Snuggling up to his wife and stuffing his gullet full of more popcorn, Lance wondered what Danny might make of all of this. That is, if anyone could find him. The human-form ‘toon had apparently just vanished; without a word and without any trace.

The man didn’t blame him, though. Unfortunate as it was, ‘toons whose spotlight had dimmed usually didn’t have any motivation or means to stay in the public eye. Wherever he had ended up though, the thirty-one-year old sincerely hoped he was still alive and happy. Maybe even found a nice ‘toon girl to settle down with. Who knew?

Author:  Jazzypants [ Thu Nov 25, 2010 3:12 pm ]
Post subject: 

Silver Stars...I C WUT U DID THAR Maba. XD

Love the dream sequence, but the ending does raise a question... at this point, does Lance even still remember being Danny?

Anyway, awesome chapter.

Author:  Karnelia [ Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

-Chapter IX-

IT'S SO FLUFFY! Seriously, it is XD Danny, er...*cough* 'Lance', is so adorable and energetic and fun and sweet >w< He and Kate (ROFL, I) seem so happy ... BUT I KNOW IT'S NOT GONNA LAST, I JUST KNOW IT!!! ....Yeah XD

So, anyway, on a personal level, it's interesting to see someone else's perspective on how I communicate and stuff~ =P I don't think I mentioned about the previous chapter that you really got a lot of my mannerisms down without ever having seen me in real life, and it still holds true for this chapter X3 But, enough about me! (as much as I can get with me being in the chapter and all XD)

I love the Morgan's method of deciding chores~ > w> That's ANOTHER irony to boot as well, haha~! And on that note, it's right at that point that we start to see exactly how far Danny's past life has been recessed because he can't even remember why he hated tickling so much. By the chapter's end, he can't even recall what about himself he's forgotten until his symbolic dream hits. It's so, soooo sad to see how desperately his past persona wants to hang on, even with all of the strife it will cause him to remember and go back to what he once was, he's hesitant to let it all go. Right now, he's got quite an ideal human life and he's integrated pretty far into it as he calculates his options like a bank manager, but letting go of his past means letting go of HIMSELF, his very essence, even more so than when he took on humanity. With the foundation of himself gone, things'll start going downhill for sure....and I know Kate won't like it because she fell in love with Danny, when he was closest to his true self! ....Nuuuu, I got the case of the ramblies again! So to sum it all up, the chapter's beautifully written in both it's sweet and tragic moments, and I adore the nostalgic feel of the anniversary celebration scene you've invoked~<3

I'm guilty of not watching enough American tv too ... but then I haven't been watching much tv at all XD

Moving on now......

.................> w>; Also, yaaaay, I get rootbeer~! XD

-Chapter X-

Mwahaha, this chapter's full of iiiiironyyyy~! And gosh, do I love it! XD But, awwww....I AM starting to notice that Lance hasn't been himself, but he's still a genuinely caring, hard-working guy~<3 In the previous chapter, he recognized that his former self gave him his stamina, and now that he's cut off his past, it seems like he can't handle the mounting stress as he perhaps once could. At least everyone who cares about him understands without...well understanding what's going on~ ^w^

ROFL, I seriously love Lance Thunder's cameo! XD Even if the trainee teller was a complete jerk to him > 3> The third time Lance asked 'Lance' if they knew each other struck me as particularly amusing X3 Aah, 'toons~<3 Speaking of 'toons, the way Danny's real name keeps cropping up is incredibly 'toonish! The channel flipping namedrop was my favorite XD Your past seems to be catching up to you, 'Lance'~ > w>

It's so heartbreaking that Danny doesn't remember who Butch is ;___; The guy was like a second dad to him! But Butch has obviously not forgotten Danny, he's STILL in anguish over losing his 'son'. On the other hand, Dudley's been doing quite well! And after all the heartbreak, it is conversely heartwarming to see how much Dudley cares about Butch and understands what he's going through~<3 I spotted MORE IRONY in the fact that T.U.F.F. Puppy really got going at Season Three, where Danny Phantom's fizzled.

BWAHAHA, Kitty Claws! >XD

So, yeah, I was gonna say more obvious stuff about irony, but I'm getting all rambly again, so, in short, the chapter's simply freakin' awesome, you're simply freakin' awesome and I can't wait for more~! >w< *bouncebounces*

(And yay, a throwback line of 'just be happy!' X3)

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks guys. >w< <3

If the ending of this chapter seems super-rushed, it's because for the first time since I started writing this thing, I actually had more scenes than allotted chapter length. XD; Also, this part turned out less serious than I had intended it in most places, and thus has some serious Mood Whiplash.

In any case, I hope it makes some kinda sense. Please to be enjoying.

CHAPTER XI

It was a lazy Indian summer morning. Lance jogged around the curve where Back Bay Road met Route 30, meditating to the sound of his own huffing and puffing. Yesterday, the whole office had gone out of their way to celebrate the man’s twentieth anniversary at J.P. Morgan-Chase. Tomorrow, his wife had insisted on orchestrating a special occasion for his thirty-seventh birthday. Today he was making room for more cake.

The camp signs, the trees, the telephone poles, the same bends in the cracked asphalt — the landscape had barely changed since the turn of the millennium. It had always been an escape, a peaceful woodsy niche for railroad barons, among others, but somehow the Adirondack Park had grown even more resistant to the society modernizing around it. It was almost eerie, if not for the siren songs of nostalgia.

Sinking deep into thought, Lance remembered his honeymoon. After a carriage ride and a filling dinner, he and Kate had retired to a beautiful suite on the fourth floor of River Street’s Bohemian Hotel. Consumed by passion, they’d slipped under the silky sheets, kissing and nuzzling and endlessly professing their love for each other in breathless whispers.

But suddenly, everything had stopped. The warmth and the mood were still there, but the man found himself unable to follow through. Eventually, what was supposed to be a memorable night of marital consummation became him leaning back against the pillows. Trying to hold back tears, he took to gazing at the window while his wife consoled him with rubs, kisses, and comforting words.

After one instance became two, three, five, Lance had sought out a doctor. Several visits and tests later, he sat at the edge of an examination table, staring at the door and willing it to open — moments later wishing it hadn’t.

“I’m sorry, Lance,” Dr. Lieb said solemnly, glancing down at the chart paper again before lookin into the man’s eyes, “I can’t find anything wrong with you…well, nothing major anyway — nothing that should keep you coming back here.”

The twenty-year old sighed sharply, wincing. Lieb frowned.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor echoed, glancing away before adding, “Sometimes it can be psychological…the mind is a very powerful thing.”

“Psychological?!” Lance repeated with a fling of his arms, “Why would I not wanna have sex with my beautiful wife?”

“I – I don’t know,” Lieb replied, “But if the medications aren’t working and you don’t want to try a marital aid, all I can tell you is…just keep exercising. It’ll keep you in peak physical condition anyway, and maybe one of these days…you’ll figure it out.”

“Thanks,” the twenty-year old said quietly as he pushed himself off of the table.

As the thirty-seven-year old reached Hickok’s Boat Livery, he decided to turn around, crossing the road and heading back up the hill. Aside from his private problems, he felt fine, both mentally and physically. Dr. Lieb’s words rang in his head again and again. Seventeen years and he still hadn’t ‘figured it out’.

“Happy Birthday, honey!” Kate bid with a wide grin, lowering a stack of wrapped gifts into her husband’s lap.

“Wow, all these for me?” Lance asked, grinning as well.

“Yep — and when you’re done with those, I’ve got another surprise for you…” the woman teased, leaning down to give him a big smooch on the cheek. “Go on, open ‘em!”

Shirts, gadgets, a few office knickknacks and “The T.U.F.F. Puppy 20th Anniversary Collection on HVD! Thanks, Kitty!”

Giggling, she admitted “Actually, that one was kinda for me, too — but I’m so glad you like it!”

“I’m definitely watching it after dinner,” Lance said, “By the way, what is for dinner?”

“Pizza!” Glancing at the clock, she clarified “That I’ll be picking up in…fifteen minutes!”

“That WE’LL be picking up in fifteen minutes,” the man corrected with a smirk.

“Nooo, you shouldn’t have to deliver your own pizza on your birthday,” the woman insisted.

“Well, I don’t wanna sit around all by myself for half-an-hour on my birthday,” Lance countered, still smiling.

Putting a hand on her hip, Kate asked “Are we gonna hafta fight about this?”

“Is that an invitation?” her husband shot back, fingers already clawed and twitching.

The woman only had time to let out a playful shriek as the thirty-seven-year old came bounding off of the couch, chasing her around the coffee table, up the stairs and down. His wife tried to get the jump on him, but Lance wound up pinning her on the guest bed, tickling her mercilessly under the arms.

“EEEhehehe! Okay, okay! HahahahahaHAHA! You can come!” she relented, as did he, sliding onto the bed beside her, nuzzling and kissing.

“I love you, my Kitty,” he said softly.

“I love you, too, Lance,” she chimed, making a purring noise. Peeking at the clock on the nightstand, she added “Oh gosh, we’re gonna be late!”

“If being late means a few more minutes of this, then I don’t care if we pick it up cold…” the man mumbled.

“Awwwww…”

Leaning back in his chair, Lance put a hand on his stomach, closing his eyes and sighing as he let the cardboard lid fall to a close. “Ohhh…that was great,” he said, “I am STUFFED!”

“You look stuffed,” Kate mused, “Buuuut I’ve still got one more surprise for you…”

“You bought a cake, didn’t you?”
“I BAKED a cake.”
“Aw, jeez…well, I’ll have to have some, but…just gimme a few minutes to unwind from the pizza pie.”

Picking up the half-empty boxes, his wife stood in front of him, asking “You want me to give you a little belly rub?”

“That would be fantastic,” the man said, looking up at her, “I should probably move to the couch, huh?”

“Unless you want me to sit in your lap,” Kate said as she walked into the kitchen, pulling plastic bags from the drawer.

“That’d work, too,” her husband said with a chuckle. However, once he’d slid the tray tables back into the closet, he collapsed and sprawled onto the longer couch. Raising his head while his wife sat down, he lay back in her lap and breathed deeply while she made slow sweeps over his stomach with a flat palm. “Ahhhhh…” After a few more rubs, he felt a belch billowing up his throat. Before he could raise a hand to mask it, Kate cupped hers over his mouth.

“Happy Birthday, sweet guy,” the woman reiterated, leaning down to give him a kiss on the lips.

Finally, around 10:07PM, the pair had polished off four slices of Kate’s homemade chocolate ice cream cake and sat through two seasons of T.U.F.F. Puppy. The roaring fire Lance had lit was now down to a weak lick of flames.

With a yawn, his wife said “I feel pretty sleepy, I think I’m gonna head to bed — you coming?”

“I’ll be up, I promise,” the man said, “But…I think I’m gonna watch a little more T.V. right now.”

“Aw, okay. I’ll see you in a bit, then. Night, honey…and happy birthday! Again!”
“Heheheh…thanks, Kitty. Love you, I’ll try not to wake you up.”

With a sigh and a stretch, the thirty-seven-year old lay back on the couch again and began flippantly flipping through the stations.

“October 21st, 2032…this is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart —”
“Inception 4: Dream Diamond, coming to theaters this December—”
“—next on Idol Chef, can Bianca keep hitting the high notes without burning her béarnaise sauce?”

Pausing to tip back his water, Lance hit the ‘Channel Up’ button again.

“—creator of the incredibly popular cartoon, T.U.F.F. Puppy, died this morning at the age of sixty-seven…”

Giving his head a clearing shake, the thirty-seven year old mashed the ‘Volume Up’ button. Hovering to the news anchor’s left was a photo of the animator from a few years ago— Lance recognized it as one from the last T.U.F.F. Puppy promo he’d been well enough to be in —, with ‘1965-2032’ superimposed at the bottom.

“T.U.F.F. Puppy star Dudley Puppy will be talking with Piers Morgan about the beloved animator and the secret to the longevity of his show, tonight at 10:30.”

Lance checked the clock. 10:40PM. Quickly, he flipped the channels again.

“—cause of death is still unknown. Based on what you know, on what you saw, if I may, what do you think could’ve happened to him?”

‘Toonish tears welled in the dog’s eyes, and with a big sniff, he whimpered “Well, Piers…’twas heartbreak that killed the awesome…” before bawling loudly.

Heartbreak? The thirty-seven-year old stared at the screen, blinking in silent puzzlement. Butch had been happily married for forty years with two successful daughters, not to mention his own successes. Where was the ‘heartbreak’ in that?

Though he’d promised Kate he wouldn’t watch more of the HVD without her, Lance put it back in the player and navigated to the Extras sub-menu, watching all of the behind the scenes clips, interviews, and bloopers. Every last video featuring Hartman that he could find, over and over. He rose, stepping around the table and putting his face inches from the T.V. Unlike the clips he’d seen online years ago, these had been finely groomed and edited. In any case, he was left just as clueless as to what the dog could have possibly meant.

Rubbing his eyes as he stepped back, the man then suddenly wondered to himself why he was so concerned with the matter. Granted, he and Kate had become quite the T.U.F.F. Puppy fans, and had admired Butch for his ideas and creativity, but he was just another B-List celebrity.

With a sigh, he put the golden disc back in its case and set it on the table, putting the remote on top of it. The room was still warm from the fire, the smoky scent of burned wood still lingering. Barely able to keep his eyes open, Lance grabbed a blanket and cocooned himself on the couch.

Half-awake, the thirty-seven-year old felt the room’s temperature drop off sharply. Opening his eyes to a squint, he looked out the sliding glass doors, swearing he saw deck thickly coated in snow. With a slight chattering of teeth, the man pulled the blanket more tightly around him, up to his neck, and nestled into the cushions again.

Lance was fast asleep by the time 6AM rolled around, cool, and gray, with mist still rising from the water. Mist also seemed to pour from his lips. With another shiver, the man opened his eyes again, fully now. There was no snow, but it certainly looked like the typical icy northeast fall had finally arrived.

Pushing himself to a sit, the thirty-seven-year old flung his arms up in a stretch before giving his eyes a rub as a groaning sigh escaped him. Unwinding himself from the blanket, he swung his legs over the couch’s edge. Slowly, he stepped toward the sliding door, putting a hand to the chilled glass, gazing groggily at the lake.

As his vision hazed, suddenly a reflection besides his own appeared: a man only a few years his senior, standing just behind him between the coffee table and the couch. Instinctively, Lance jerked his head over his shoulder. At a glance, the room was as empty as it had been the previous night.

Blinking in confusion, the thirty-seven-year old slowly faced forward — as the transparent figure stepped through the door and past him unseen into the room, leaving Lance staring at his reflection again.

The apparition stood still and silent, merely watching for several moments, as if unsure. Seeing the even-fainter out-of-place reflection, the man turned again. As his eyes met the spirit’s, the latter’s widened, while the former let out a flustered grunt of shock and jumped back, thunking his head against the glass, wincing, and sliding to a sit.

“You’re…you’re…” Lance stuttered, struggling to stand again, at last blurting “Butch Hartman!”

Grinning wide at the recognition, the ghost lunged for the thirty-seven-year old, pinning him against the glass in a tight squeeze. With a grunt, the man looked down, uttering a monosyllabic chuckle as he attempted to pat the spirit on the shoulder.

“Looks like Casper’s not the only friendly ghost…” he mused.

Withdrawing, Hartman stood looking into Lance’s eyes with translucent tears in his own, though he still smiled. His lips began to move, though the man heard no sound. The thirty-seven-year old smiled politely and nodded.

Butch frowned. After he spoke again, the man twitched anxiously, admitting “I – I’m sorry, I can’t read lips…”

‘I missed you, Danny,’ Hartman mouthed more clearly, ‘Didn’t you miss me?’

“Ohhh — oh…I…I’m sorry,” Lance began, with a shake of his head, “I dunno what your ghost-dar said, but…you’ve got the wrong guy. My name’s Lance Morgan. I’m…I manage the Chase bank in Plattsburgh…”

Looking sad and confused, Butch shook his head slowly. ‘No…no…it HAS to be you…the last wish I made with my last, dying breath was to see you again,’ he protested.

“I’m sorry…” the man echoed softly, reiterating in a whisper “I can’t help you…”

Lips quivering, the ghost stumbled toward Lance, making a slow circle around him as the thirty-seven-year old followed him with his eyes. Standing in front of him again, Hartman reached out and poked him gently but rather determinedly in the stomach.

Moving back with a jump, and a yelp to match, the thirty-seven-year old protectively crossed his arms over his belly. “What was that for? Do I look —” before getting prodded again in the ribs, nearly tripping as he ducked out of the spirit’s reach again. “Will you quit poking me?!” Feeling another jab to the small of his back, the man sat down on the couch and pulled the blanket around himself again. “Quit it! Leave me alone! MY NAME’S NOT DANNY!”

“Honey?” Looking up, the thirty-seven-year old saw his wife at the top of the stairs, leaning over the railing. “Are you okay? What’re you shouting about?”

“Uhh…” the man began, glancing at Butch, who had also craned his head back, “N-Nothing, just…woke up from a bad dream…kinda…violently. That’s all.”

“Aww…” the woman coaxed, descending the stairs, walking obliviously past Hartman and putting her arms around her husband. “You fell asleep in front of the T.V. again, huh?”

“Yeah, I know, I’m sorry…” Lance said, glancing down, “It just got so nice and warm down here, I —…”

“It’s okay,” his wife said with a smile, “You want me to make you some breakfast? Maybe bellyrub the rest of that bad dream away?”

The man chuckled, “Well, actually that —”

Butch made an unheard clap of his hands, grinning again. ‘I KNEW it!’

“…won’t be necessary — I-I’ve got a…big meeting this morning. Y’know what, I’ll just grab some…food there. And some coffee.” Pausing, he added under his breath “And maybe some ghost repellant.”

“You’ve got a meeting today?” Kate echoed, “I thought you just had one Friday.”

“Well, y’know, you remember — we business-types always have lots of meetings. Always moving forward and…moving on, y’know — ahem, MOVING ON…” Hartman only rolled his eyes and folded his arms.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” the woman mused, “We dental hygienists just…take it one tooth at a time. Or a whole mouthful — oh gosh, yesterday I had a nightmare there was this whole room stacked floor to ceiling with molds and I had to do them all in an hour. Oh my gosh, it was awful!”

Lance frowned. “Yikes…and…kind of eww…” Putting an arm around his wife, he asked “What time do you work today, Kitty?”

Butch raised a brow. ‘Kitty?’

“My usual — but I’ve got a haircut this afternoon, so I’ll be a little late getting back,” she replied, chuckling, “You’ll probably beat me.”

“Heh, well, we’ll see about that. Probably not, but…you want me to start dinner if I do?”
“Sure!”

As he pulled the car door shut, Lance turned to see the ghost sitting next to him with an eager sort of face, as if to say ‘Where’re we going?’

Burying his face in his hands, the thirty-seven-year old let out a muffled groan of “Mr. Hartman, please get out of my car.”

Butch gave his head a shake. ‘Don’t call me that!’

Letting his arms drop, the man snorted, pointing at the door. “Fine — ELMER, get out of my car!”

Hartman flinched, giving Lance a soft glare that remained on his face as he faded from sight.

Blinking, and looking around, the thirty-seven-year old muttered “Huh…well that was easier than I thought.” His sense of relief vanished when the car suddenly peeled off in reverse, stopping just short of the large rock at the driveway’s edge behind it.

Still tightly clutching the wheel, Lance got exactly a second to catch his breath before the car shifted into ‘Drive’, the needle reaching forty as the man struggled to maneuver the sharp turns around thick tree trunks. He winced sharply, desperately slamming on the brake— and luckily, the car screeched to a halt before he drove through Joan Mahoney’s fence.

Digging his fingers around his pounding heart, the thirty-seven-year old leaned back in his seat, his crown thudding a bit sorely against the headrest.

At his desk, Lance paused his typing to look up at Butch, hanging over his shoulder. “Go away!” he hissed.

The white-haired figure striding by took a few steps back, leaning in the doorway. “Something wrong, Lance?” It was his old coffee buddy.

“Martin! Hi…no, no, nothing’s wrong…” the thirty-seven-year old insisted, “Uh…just…just a pesky fly that wouldn’t stop buzzing around my head.” The man softly glared at the ghost again, who had risen to give the elder man a wave.

“Ah, I hate it when that happens…” Martin said with a brief dismissive gesture. “You working on the website again?”

“Yeah, yeah — er, no…well, technically, I’m emailing Joe the data I gleaned for the ’30 archive, so he can put it up.”
“You went through fifty pages in ten minutes?”
“Actually more like nine, but I had two years’ worth of email attachments to copy from, too…”

Giving the frame a light slap, Martin grinned. “Where would we be without you?”

Smirking, the younger man replied “Hey, I have complete faith that the rest of you guys would do just fine…though Tom’s Minesweeper breaks might go into overtime.”

As the other manager chuckled, the Branch Manager glimpsed his cursor slowly moving across the screen. This occasionally happened due to system glitches — but at the moment, Hartman had the mouse.

Grabbing it and struggling to pull it out of the ghost’s grip, Lance tittered, saying “Well, I should probably get back to ironing out this email —” uttering a grunt “I oughta get it to him before he goes to lunch.”

“Fine, fine, this fly’ll leave,” Martin joked, “But we’re still on for Thursday, right?”

“Thursday, seven-thirty, I’ll buy you a biscotti,” the thirty-seven-year old said with a smile, though his tone and eyes betrayed a bit of budding stress.

Once the elder man was out of earshot, the man whirled around, rising to his feet and tearing the wireless pointing device off the table. Butch only smirked when the button clicked, pressing the ‘Send’ button on screen, and whisking away the open window.

Facing forward, Lance let out a short flustered cry “Ah!” then “Haha…” glancing at the ghost. Wipple had since programmed several failsafe layers to prevent such awkward or unintentionally hilarious transfers.

However, in a blink, Hartman reached through the man’s protective cradle and clicked the button twice more. MAIL SUCCESSFULLY SENT!

Glaring at the ghost again, the young manager said flatly “I hate you.”

Sliding down into the wheeled chair, Butch pushed himself into a backwards glide. Lance snickered when the chair hit the wall behind him, knocking him out of it and halfway through the wall.

Fading, the ghost reappeared at the desk’s edge, pulling up Word 2027 and a new document in which he began to type.

WHY DID YOU LEAVE, DANNY?

Peering at the twelve-point font, the thirty-seven-year old let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not Danny,” he said for the hundred-and-umpteenth time, folding his arms “And…I dunno, if you were half this annoying in life, I probably need some space for my sanity…”

WHY DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE?

Apparently he had intended the initial question as a more philosophical one, though it was still clunky as such. In any case, Lance replied again “I KNOW who I am: my name is Lance Morgan, Branch Manager of J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., Plattsburgh Office. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business, and a Master of Finance degree from Stanford. I’ve never been this ‘Danny’…” pausing, he went on “What…Danny do you think I am, anyway?” before guessing the answer. “You think I’m —?”

DANNY FENTON. DANNY PHANTOM.

With a burst of laughter, the man countered “You’re out of your mind! I have NEVER been a ‘toon…”

YOU WERE ONCE. WHY DID YOU CHANGE?

The thirty-seven year old laughed again, sighing, and shaking his head.

“Hey, Lance, what’s so funny?”

Jumping, the young manager turned to see his boss peek in. “Tom! Uh, nothing! Nothing…I just…” trailing off as he walked over to drag the chair back in front of his desk and sit back down in it.

“What’re you working on?”
“Oh, uh — um, this? Is just a…it’s a little sorta…role play for the orientation Friday.”

Stepping closer, brow raised, Tom mused “Looks more like a soap opera.”

“I — I sent Joe that email. I haven’t heard back from him yet, though.”
“I know — I just did. He said it was fine, but it looked like you sent it in a hurry.”
“Well, I just —”

Gently putting his hands on Lance’s shoulders, the Area Manager spoke quietly. “Lance, you are a wonderful guy — my wife loves you, my kids love you, my grandkids love you…and you’re one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen under this roof.”

Smiling weakly, the thirty-seven-year old said “Thanks, Boss.”

“But I know that…a man can only give so much, before it starts to take a toll on him. Eat away at him, y’know? If this keeps up, though, I might just have to ask you —”
“Oh, c’mon, Tom, I can’t go on another surprise vacation.”
“I wouldn’t ask you to go on a vacation — I’d just…ask you to go.”

His words ripped the breath out of the Branch Manager’s throat, his heart pounding coldly in its absence. “Wh-Wha…what? Tom, I —”

“You just seem like you’re headlong into one of those mid-life crises.”
“I’m not having a mid-life crisis — I’m not even forty yet!”
“You’ve worked an extra ten years into yourself, I think.”
“Boss, please —! I – I– I…I need this job!”
“I know, and I need you, too, Lance — but…but I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was slowly killing you. If you don’t want to go soul-searching for a while, you could always try finding a position that’s a little quieter.”

Butch stared frowning as well, now flinching from the tension that even he could feel.

“…a-are you firing me?” the thirty-seven-year old asked in a choked whisper.

Keeping his eyes level with Lance’s, Tom said “No. Not right now — but if it comes down to that or your brain blowing a fuse, as a friend, I’m going to grab you by the collar and pull your sawed-down face away from that grind.”

The young manager tittered again, flinching at the pang of tears.

Stalking into the house, Lance flung open the closet door, yanking out the old canister vacuum cleaner, jamming the plug into the nearest socket and thrust the hose at Hartman, bellowing “Almost get me fired — that’s it! Famous producer or not, you’re spook spam!” as he clicked the machine on.

The two of them stood there as the machine whirred noisily, sucking up only dust particles. Butch looked down, raising a brow. After a few minutes, the man turned the vacuum off, sheepishly professing “I…don’t know why I thought that would work…” Shaking his head, he muttered, “Darn you, Kate, and your cartoons…” As his stomach rumbled ever so audibly, he voiced his next thought. “And why am I suddenly craving soup?”

As Lance opened a can of Minestrone, the ghost smirked widely, bubbling with chuckles. With a shake of his head and a brief upward glance, he said ‘I love it…’

Sipping on another piping hot spoonful, the man mused “There’s gotta be a way to get rid of you…I wonder if there are any ghost hunters in the Adirondacks?” Finishing his soup, Lance sat down at the table, putting the question to Amazoogle in three keywords: ‘ghost hunters Adirondacks’.

“A-G-H-S, ‘We believe you’,” the thirty-seven-year old read “Adirondack Ghost Hunters Society was founded in 2008 by Franky Porcaro. Our Society is dedicated to those who are in need of help with their paranormal problems. YES! We take pride in our work and will do everything we can to provide you with only the facts. We use the most up to date equipment in your investigation. We do not charge and feel as though it is unethical. AWESOME! We will debunk as many claims as possible, so that you may live with peace of mind and feel comfortable in your own home or business. Wait…” Pausing, “Oh, forget it! I am SO calling these guys…”

Kate arrived home to find a pickup truck she didn’t recognize parked in the driveway, and walked into the family room to see four men and three women in stagehand chic that she didn’t know maneuvering around her family room like police at a crime scene.

Squeezing in next to her husband, she tapped him on the shoulder, whispering “Honey, who are these people?”

“They’re the A.D.K. Ghost Hunters’ Society, and they’re gonna help us with our ghost problem,” the man replied, sending another small glare in Hartman’s direction.

“Ghost problem?” the woman repeated, “Goodness, our house is haunted?”

“Now where did you say you last saw this ghost, Mr. Morgan?” the red-haired woman interrupted.

Without missing a beat, Lance pointed to the near corner of the couch “Right there — he’s sitting right there,” where Butch was casually sitting, giving the crew a friendly wave as all eyes unwittingly focused on him.

Checking her EMF Meter, the blonde said “Well, I’m not getting that big of an energy spike for this area…”

“…but the infrared cameras ARE picking up a significant pocket of spectral-level temperature,” the brunette added, checking the feed on her laptop.

“Who is it? The ghost, I mean?” Kate asked, looking at the empty couch and back at her husband. “Or what, I guess…”

“It’s a ‘who’, and you’re not gonna believe this, but it’s Butch Hartman —”

“Butch Hartman!?” the blonde, brunette, and the man in the baseball cap blurted in more-or-less unison.

“Man, I always watched that Danny Phantom show when I was a kid,” the man explained, “That’s what inspired me to get into this business in the first place!”

Hartman smiled broadly with a calm pride, gesturing to him with a mouth of ‘Thank you’. Lance brought his hand to the level of his eyes with a resounding smack.

Flipping her notepad to a fresh page, the brunette approached the couch with a timid awe, “Mr. Hartman, I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you — but I’ve always been a big fan of your shows, I think they’re really incredible and funny and creative…” holding out the pad for a minute, then setting it down on the coffee table, “Could I have your autograph?”

“I can’t believe this is happening…” the young manager muttered flatly.

To the amazement of everyone minus the thirty-seven-year old, Butch lifted a pen off of the table and held it over the pad. When it seemed to freeze there, the redhead asked, “What’s wrong?”

With a brief fling of his arm, Lance looked at the blond-haired woman and translated “He — He wants to know what your name is.”

“It’s Debbie! Debbie Mason!” The young woman leaned closer as the ink began to appear on the paper.

“Oh, kill me…” the thirty-seven-year old added, putting his hand to his face again. Then letting his arm drop, he cried “You guys are supposed to be HELPING me, here! He’s been stalking me and annoying me all day, what are you — don’t — don’t ENCOURAGE him!”

Butch stuck out his tongue as he slid the pad back toward the blonde who picked it up and stared at it with typical fangirlish awe.

Twenty minutes later, the crew packed up their equipment and left — the three fans with a couple of personalized signatures and a drawing of Danny Phantom fighting a ghost weasel to show for it. Watching the truck drive off, Lance folded his arms and looked at his wife, griping “Well, good thing they don’t charge…” with a snort.

“Aw, well, I can’t say I blame them for getting excited,” Kate admitted as they walked back through the side-garage, “It is pretty cool that THE Butch Hartman decided to come to our house.” Pausing, “Any idea why he came all the way over here?”

“I dunno,” her husband fibbed, sighing as he grabbed the railing, “I guess I’m gonna get to bed. When you come up, PLEASE change in the bathroom — with the door shut!” His wife nodded.

As he glowered over his shoulder at Hartman, the ghost turned up his palms with a face that said ‘Hey, I’d never peep at your wife!’ with a sideways dart of his eyes that added ‘Unlike SOME people I know…’ Lance only raised a brow, but shook his head and continued up the stairs.

The next day, the thirty-seven-year old called in sick to work, roosting on the longer couch and watching television with baggy eyes. Turning to Butch, he asked “You’re never going to leave me alone, are you?”

With a firm shake of his head, Hartman playfully tugged the remote out of his hand and changed the channel to the Nicktoons Network, the so-called ‘Nicktoon Graveyard’. On which a rerun of Danny Phantom was currently playing, much to his pleased surprise.

“So…even with everybody thinking you’re a bad ghost, you’re still gonna try to be the hero?”
“Well…SOMEbody’s gotta. Hey, if not me, who’s gonna protect this town? Besides, it’s…not like I can ignore a scream for help.”

Lance only blinked, taking the opportunity to yank the remote back. However, Butch had lowered his head, wincing as if he was in some kind of pain. The man frowned. “What’s wrong now?” feeling a small breeze of guilt.

Mouthing nothing, the ghost turned, giving the young manager a shockingly hard shove. The thirty-seven-year old quickly grabbed the couch’s arm to steady himself.

“Hey! What gives? You were all smiles last night, where did this tantrum come from?” he asked.

Hartman only pushed him again. Lance fell to the floor, quickly scrambling out of the way and to his feet before the ghost attacked again.

“HEY!” the man reiterated, brows furrowing, “If you’re gonna get violent, I’ll…I’ll find myself another pack of non-smitten ghost hunters to kick your sorry ecto-butt!”

Picking up a pillow, he managed to raise it and counter Butch’s next tangible blow. He tried making one himself, but of course, the stuffed fabric only passed through him.

Their spat continued, with the ghost phasing through the sliding glass door, and Lance smacking into it before unlocking it and throwing it open with a roar. As he stepped out onto the back deck, however, still engaging Hartman, he felt a chill that wasn’t the cold air.

Eyes hazing slightly, he mumbled “Why does this feel so familiar?”

The next thing he knew, he felt the ghost’s tight grip on his ankle, Butch pulling him off of his feet and giving him a strong toss over the railing.

At that moment as he sailed through the air, a strange memory pierced through his mind. A dimming blue sky. A restaurant window. A splash, a plunge.

Though swept up by the memory, the thirty-seven-year old felt his leg strike the rock among the flowers, grunting as he landed in a heap, the air knocked out of his lungs like compressed bellows.

Dazed and disoriented, Lance bent his knee and clutched it, the pain intensifying, shooting up his leg and unthinkingly out of his mouth.

Staring with visible horror, Hartman lowered his head again, bringing his hands to his face. He’d faded by the time Kate came running down the stairs and across the grass, kneeling at her husband’s side while dialing the Adirondack Medical Center.

Later, lying on the hospital bed with his bandaged leg in a sling, Lance reached up to take a printed sheet from his nurse, his wife leaning forward in her chair to read it with him.

Tears finally welled in the man’s eyes. With a weak, incredulous smile, the thirty-seven-year old let the paper drop into his lap from his shaking hand. As it turned out, Tom wouldn’t have to fire him after all — HSBC had finally struck its much-negotiated-deal to buy out the Chase in Plattsburgh. And it had since appointed a new branch manager, offering Lance only a cordial bid of luck for the future.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

Oh shit, look's like Lance's world is turning upside down. At first i was gonna ask why Butch's ghost got so violent, but then as soon as I read the scene of Lance flying out the window, I realized why.

Kickass chapter, Maba. =D

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Thanks, Jazzy. ^-^ So glad you like.

Wow, I guess this chap only took me about a week. A pivotal buttload actually happens, though for some reason, it still feels short. Hope you guys enjoy, anyhow!

CHAPTER XII

“Wake up, jackass!”

Feeling a sting on his jaw, Lance flinched, and slowly opened his eyes as he fumbled for the lamp switch. The silhouetted figure standing over him turned out to be a Japanese ‘toon boy with spiky black hair, enormous wings, and a sizeable sword sheathed at his side.

“WHOA!” the thirty-seven-year old exclaimed, jumping back against the headboard, wincing again as he smacked his crown against it, and pulled a little too hard on his healing knee. “Oww…”

The winged one only blinked. Giving his head a rub, the man looked up at him, saying “Look, my wife and I celebrate the heck out of Christmas, okay?” Glimpsing the desk calendar, he added “And it’s not even November, what gives? …who are you?!”

With a sigh and a brief downward glance, the boy finally spoke. “Just call me Desmond.”

“Okay, ‘Desmond’ — so are you…are you an angel?”

“Kamoa, actually,” ‘Desmond’ corrected, “and the last one of ‘em, too — but none of that’s important right now.”

Now Lance blinked rapidly. “Why are you here?”

“Shut your trap! I’m getting to that,” the boy hissed, “I’m here to take back where you belong.”

“I AM where I belong,” the thirty-seven-year old insisted, with a raise of his brow. “This is my house — and could you keep it down? My wife’s been sick, and I think she’s finally stopped coughing long enough to get some sleep.” Kate had retreated to the downstairs guest room, and indeed was sound asleep, though the sounds from upstairs echoed faintly in her ears.

Glancing over his shoulder, ‘Desmond’ snorted. “This ISN’T your house, and she’s NOT your wife — okay, maybe she is, but…you’re not who you think you are. Right now, anyway…”

With an exasperated groan, Lance lowered his brows, locking eyes with the Kamoa, explaining in a sharp-edged voice “My name is LANCE MORGAN —”

“Millionare, you own a mansion and a yacht — yeah, yeah, yeah, bullshit,” the winged one retorted gruffly, “You think I’m here for my goddamned health?” Pausing, “You think about a hundred people could be wrong?”

The strange tongue-slips, the emails, the junk mail, the telephone calls, the dozens of irksome misnomers. The thirty-seven-year old gritted his teeth. “YES, I think they can all be DEAD wrong. Because they are! And you and whatever crap you and the rest of the world is pulling can just…go to heck! And leave me alone!”

“Go to heck?” ‘Desmond’ echoed, brow raised though his lids were lowered, “Jesus, what happened to you, man? You used to be…somewhat not totally lame.”

“Hey!” the man said, pointing, “We can say ‘hell’, but we do NOT use the Lord’s name in vain in this house.”

With another, more profound snort, the boy muttered “Wow, there’s pussywhipped, and then there’s you…”

“Will you KNOCK OFF the profanity?!” the thirty-seven-year old growled, pushing himself off of the bed and taking a few steps closer to the intruder.

“Now who’s the one that needs to keep it down?” ‘Desmond’ quipped.

Glancing at the door, Lance growled again. “Get out of my house. Right. Now. Or I will MAKE you go.”

“There’s really no way we couldn’t have ended up fighting,” the boy noted, smirking as he unsheathed his jagged golden sword, striking a readied stance. “But I’m kinda used to fighting. Bring it on, you little bitch.”

Heart pounding with mixed feelings, though pumping adrenaline regardless, the man whirled around, searching for a weapon. Darting behind the boy and picked up the floor lamp by the tall-backed chair in front of the television. Adjusting his grip and widening his stance, he dove at the winged one, swinging.

‘Desmond’ grinned with a “Heh,” before raising his sword. The males sliced and dodged before finally binding blade and rod. Leaning their weight into their weapons, each struggled to push the other back before they disengaged and started their dangerous dance again.

Finally, the boy knocked the thing out of the man’s hands, cornering him at sword-point. Lance breathed audibly, but continued to glare at the winged one. “Fine, kill me, or whatever it is you came to do…”

Taking a few steps back, the Kamoa said “Why the hell would I kill you? That would defeat the whole —” with a roll of his eyes “EFFING purpose.”

“What PURPOSE?”
“Just shut up and hold still, will ya?”

Lance bit his tongue and watched as the boy sheathed his sword again, pushing back the flaps of his bright blue vest to reveal several colored glass orbs. The thirty-seven-year old unwittingly leaned forward trying to get a better look at them, though the boy didn’t notice, as he’d closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“Stones, hear my beckoning! Return to the olden days, and reunite!"

As he lifted his head, the five orbs floated off of his belt, circling and weaving as they glowed and warped, eventually coming together as if they were magnetized, expanding into a life-sized chunk of gemstone.

At first glance, the thing seemed to be nothing more than a roughly cut slab, but as he stared at it longer, the man realized that it had a sort of vague shape to it. It was as if Michelangelo had lazily doodled — so to speak — on a hunk of opal. Lance’s eyes hazed. It was Kate’s birthstone. His as well, though she had more occasion to wear it than him. He’d bought her several necklaces and bracelets and earring pairs over the years, whether for birthday or anniversary gifts, or simply on a whim as a tangible token of his love.

Lightly pressing his fingers to the rock, ‘Desmond’ looked at the distracted thirty-seven-year old and mumbled something. When his lips stopped moving, the tall stone flashed and glowed.

The light snapped the man out of his trance, helped by the strange warm prickling he suddenly felt on his skin. Raising upturned palms and lightly clawed fingers, he gasped at the sight of himself glowing as well. With a shiver, he looked up at the Kamoa again and asked in shaky voice “What are you doing to me?”

Checking his watch, the boy only said “You’ll see — in a minute, I guess…” and gave the rock a pound like a quirky jukebox.
At that second, Lance felt a sudden surge of pain, like a tremendous electrical shock. The glow brightened to a hot white light that rendered him in illuminated silhouette. As he collapsed to his hands and knees, that silhouette began to slowly shift. His limbs grew thinner, the tips of his fingers and all but two of his toes spreading into squares. His hair rose into thick jags, and even his clothing changed: from his favorite pajamas to a plain white, red-dotted top and ‘toonish blue jeans.

Groaning as the light faded, leaving his outline last, the wingless boy craned his head back on a stiff neck, blinking as his vision cleared. The Kamoa looked down at him with a broad, calm smile.

“Welcome back, Danny…”

“My name’s not —!” the non-Japanese boy began in a rasp, cutting himself off as he clutched his narrow throat. “What’s…wrong with my voice? What did you…?” Pressing a hand down on his now-pointy, uninjured knee, he pushed himself to his feet with a grunt. He looked down with wide eyes, then up at ‘Desmond’ with angled brows. “Why’d you turn me into Danny Fenton?”

“Because you ARE Danny Fenton!” the winged one replied with a chuckle, all but adding ‘Duh!’

“No, I’m NOT!” the boy bellowed, picking up the lamp, whose bulb had amazingly not broke yet. “Now CHANGE ME BACK and GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! “

“I DID change you back, you retard!” was the Japanese boy’s rebut as they started another mini-swash-battle. This time, Danny found himself a little stronger and more coordinated — though at the same time, it seemed as though the Kamoa was, too. As if he’d been holding back. Now, he dodged more easily, blinking into thin air for a moment before reappearing out of the lamp’s range.

Raising the rod horizontally, the non-Japanese boy flinched as the winged one’s sword collided with it, pressing him up against the wall. While Danny struggled, ‘Desmond’ only smirked, raising his wings against his body like a second set of arms, the primary remiges poised like pointer fingers. “Oh, by the way, your sensitivity just went up by nine-thousand…” he mused, poking the feathers into the other boy’s red-cuffed sleeves.

“Gyaaah!” Eyes nearly popping, Danny twitched and flung down his arms, partially wrapping himself around the lamp and falling over with it. Giving his sides a quick rub, he rolled over and picked himself up again. “What do you WANT?” he asked, no other words forming in his mind.

“You to come with me,” the Kamoa said, “It’s time to go…”
“The only thing it’s time for is you to leave, without me!” Danny snapped, unwittingly thrusting out a palm and sending a bright green blast at the winged one’s head.

“Whoa!” ‘Desmond’ cried as he ducked, looking over his shoulder at the divot it made in the wall. “Careful with those powers, you haven’t used ‘em in twenty-three years.”

“Powers?” the non-Japanese boy echoed, looking down at his hand, a wisp of green smoke still rising from his faintly glowing palm. “Oh, right…”

“Dude, you wanted a human life…and you got one,” the Kamoa pressed, seeing the other boy’s unsure daze. “You had your time. Now you gotta come back.”

“I don’t — I’m not —…” Danny began, trailing off with a frustrated sigh. “Okay, fine, I’m Danny,” he said in a huff, “But…just…wait…— Kate!” Tensing, he looked over his shoulder. “I can’t believe she didn’t hear all this…”

With yet another cocky snort, ‘Desmond’ said “There’s been a magical sound barrier up ever since you started putting on your tough guy act. Now, c’mon, can we get out of here already? …hey!”

The non-Japanese boy bolted for the door, fingers phasing through the knob as he pushed it shut. “Whoa!” he uttered, raising his hand to look at it for a second before letting out another cry and sinking halfway into the floor of the loft. Grunting, he dug his now-tangible fingers into the carpet and dragged himself out of his self-made hole, leaping to his feet and nearly tripping down the stairs.

He slowed to a walk as he approached the guest room door, gingerly opening it. There in the bed against the far wall was his wife, bathed in moonlight. Tip-toeing toward her, he stopped at the near side of the bed, trying not to breathe too loud as he gazed down at her.

“I thought you didn’t want to wake her up!” came the winged one’s hushed gripe as he came through the doorway as well. Brows lowering, Danny turned, pointing a finger at him and firing another beam of energy. This one struck ‘Desmond’ on the mouth, forming a small undulating seal over his lips.

The Kamoa’s eyes widened with genuine surprise, his brows lowering as he reached up and tore it away; though he refrained from making a remark. At the firm wave of the other boy’s hand, he stepped out of the room with a sigh and stood with his back to the partially shut door.

Brows in convexes, Danny slowly reached down and gently combed his fingers through her hair. She shivered a little, but smiled in her sleep, nestling more snugly under the covers and mumbling. The boy smiled, feeling the pang of tears. “Oh, Kate…” he said under his breath, “I’m so sorry…”

He was halfway to the door when he stopped, turning again. ‘Desmond’ peeked in again, hissing “Are you done yet?”

“No,” the wingless boy admitted, walking back to the bed’s edge, “I HAVE to talk to her…”

“Well don’t take all damn night!”
“Shh!”

With a sigh and another roll of his eyes, the Kamoa slipped back outside the door. Danny sighed and looked back down at the woman. Though she showed her age somewhat, as humans did, to him, she still looked as radiantly beautiful as she had in her wedding gown, or the clothes she’d been wearing when they’d met.

Flinching to dam his tears, he gave her cheek a pet with his knuckles — twitching when she stirred, lids fluttering. “Mm…Lance? …honey?” Blinking and sitting up, she corrected herself. “Oh my goodness, Danny?”

The ‘toon boy smiled sheepishly as she looked up at him. “Kitty…”

Staring at one another for what seemed like minutes, Kate drew in a tiny gasp, with a quivering-lipped grin. “I knew it was you…” she said, grabbing his hand and squeezing it.

“Suuure you did,” Danny teased, lids drooping as he returned the squeeze.

“Oh, Danny, I —!” she began, suddenly flinching as she coughed again.

Frowning, the boy coaxed her back down on the pillow. “You’re still sick, you should go back to sleep.”

“Okay,” the woman agreed, still clinging to his hand though she could feel him begin to tug away. “But…what happened? Where’re you going?”

Glancing over his shoulder, Danny saw ‘Desmond’ checking his watch again, letting out a short, sharp sigh and walking back into the room, making a grab for his shoulder. “Back…I guess.”

“Back where?”

“Back…to…where I belong.” He exchanged a glance with the Kamoa, who nodded.

Kate frowned “I don’t want you to leave,” then smiled weakly with a snorting chuckle “but I guess you’ll have a job again, huh?”

“What job?” Danny asked with a soft snort.

“Being a superhero, of course.”
“Oh…yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Feeling a sharp tug on his collar, the wingless boy grunted, giving the Kamoa a push and taking Kate’s hand again, giving her hair another pet as he took one last dive into her eyes.

“I don’t wanna leave you, either,” he said, a lump audibly in his throat, “You take care of Kesa and Panya for me, okay?”

She nodded. “I will.”

Wincing harder as the tears flooded his eyes, he leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. His teardrops dripped onto her cheeks, hers trickling onto the sheets. When they withdrew, both could barely see each other.

Sniffling and rubbing his eyes with a sweep of his arm, Danny managed to pry his quivering lips apart. “I love you, Kate — my Kitty…very much,” he said, sniffing again, “Don’t think this means I don’t.”

“I know,” she said, sounding equally choked up, “I love you so much, too…”

Both kept looking at one another, taking quick breaths and gulping, but neither said another word. Danny couldn’t think of anything else, feeling his heart sinking into his stomach like the sun setting behind the trees.

Even the Kamoa bit his lip, visibly foregoing another curse for a small sigh. “Come on, let’s go before you guys need to call your flood insurance…”

The wingless boy nodded, giving his wife’s hand a last kiss before setting it down gently, stepping back before turning and walking toward the door just behind ‘Desmond’. Pausing for one last longing glance, he bit his lip and pulled the door to a close.

With a broken sigh, Kate pulled tissues from the box on the nightstand to wipe her eyes, reaching for the bible she kept in the drawer. Opening it, she leafed to 2 Kings, reading verses two through twelve.

“As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you,” she read aloud, repeating it each time. Closing her eyes tightly and clasping her hands, she made a silent prayer. Feeling the small book begin to slide off of her lap, she grabbed it, lifting it up. Where she’d hastily pressed her thumb was the start of another verse.

Psalm 30:5 Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Smiling, she took a deeper breath, whispering “Thank you.”

“You’re a monster!” Danny spat at the winged one, still tight-throated. Keeping his keened eyes and angled brows locked on ‘Desmond’, he barely noticed as the Japanese boy mumble-chanted something else before slicing the thin air with his strange blade, giving no heed to the tear in time and space that he followed him through with gritted teeth. “So Danny Phantom’s gone missing — so you pick me to be his stand-in, you come and make me leave MY LOVING WIFE OF SEVENTEEN years just so he can exist? So little kids and fangirls have some… dead young SANTA CLAUS to look up to?!”

The Kamoa brought his hand to the level of his eyes quietly. Putting his knuckles to his hip as he turned, he said “Look, Clarence may have been into the parroting shtick, but I’m NOT telling you again, numbnuts, you ARE —!” and cut himself off with a sigh.

“Oh, yeah?” Danny snapped back, “Well, if I’m Danny Phantom, then how come I don’t have any MEMORIES of being Danny Phantom? Huh?!”

“Do you have any MEMORIES of getting that degree at Stanford, huh?” ‘Desmond’ shot back, mocking him down to the inflection, “Or doing anything with your ‘best friend’ besides saying ‘Hey, when Kate asks you who the hell you are, tell her we’ve been friends since high school’?”

The wingless boy’s eyes hazed and slowly fell as he uttered a breathy “I…”

“…and I’m not exactly who I say I am, either,” ‘Desmond’ admitted softly, glancing down as well, then raising his head with an amiable smile, “But I can help you get your real memories back. Just hold your arms out like this…” raising his parallel at the level of his chest with fingers outstretched.

Danny frowned, raising a brow. “Why? Are you gonna tickle me again?”

“Just do it!”

Letting out a shoulder-shrugging sigh, the non-Japanese boy obeyed. Staring at his hands, he now realized that he wasn’t in Saranac Lake anymore. Elbows lightly bent, he glanced around, asking “Where ARE we?”

“It’s called the Sea Between Time…” ‘Desmond’ answered with a dramatic air as he mirrored his last gaze — then looked down at him with a chuckle. “Nah, I’m just kidding; I have no idea what it’s called. Pretty trippy though, isn’t it?”

It looked like a night sky in the far north, complete with Aurora Borealis. However, while there was some perceivable solidity beneath their feet, there were no snow-covered horizons, and the colorful phenomena moved much more than its Earthly equivalent, dancing from star to star.

Taking a deep breath and letting out a puff-cheeked sigh, the wingless boy straightened his arms and spread out his fingers. “Okay, now what?”

“Now close your eyes,” the Kamoa bid, “And don’t think of anything. Just stand there and let the sounds of the multiverse come to you…”

“Okay…” Danny echoed.

At first, he only heard silence, tinged with the rhythm of his and the other boy’s breaths. Eyelids and fingertips twitching, sound mushrooming to his ears. It was a jarring sound, somewhere between radio signals mired in static and a distant alarm with no set pattern. His mind seemed to lift, like a boat rising off of a submerged trailer, and the sounds grew louder, clearer.

Voices. All his.

“I've seen things and done things that nobody should have to do…”
“I can’t…I can’t kill you…”
“Well, seems like this place is just about the only place the two of us can really fit in…”
“Guys…up ahead…we made it…”
“If you’re planning to dissect me while I’m awake, can you at least give me some anesthetic?”
“Sorry but that is my business and my business alone…”
“There was more than usual this week….Jazz grabbed as many as she could…”
“You know, he has a point.…”
“Because it's none of your business…”
“Something tells me we'll...be okay…”
“Cheated? How did I cheat?”
“It doesn't matter….everyone's got that bit of darkness in them…it's what makes us human….”


As the boy’s trance deepened, he leaned his head back, letting out a sharp breath. The wildly whisking colors broke formation, sweeping out to his hands; they wound around his arms and swirled up around his neck, clothes ruffling, bangs bouncing on his brow.

Finally, the phenomena dispersed in a sudden snap, with an echoing chime that vaguely hinted of shattering glass. Lowering his head, Danny opened his eyes slowly. “That was…” he began at a whisper, holding his tongue, and adding only “…cosmic…”

“So now do you remember?” ‘Desmond’ asked, with folded wings to him.

“Yeah…” the wingless one admitted with a weak smile, “Thanks…” that spread to a solid grin “Sahto-shee.”

Eyes widening, the Japanese boy uttered a few breathy syllables, his body glowing hazily as his wings and his sheath vanished into points of light with a similar chime. “Ee…” he muttered with a fatigued smile of his own, turning again, “Ima…ano....kono toki, hontou ni okaerinasai, Dannii.” Pausing, he added “Soshite, ore no hoka no jiko no burei wo oyurushi, kudasai.” (1)

Blinking, Danny said “Uh…thanks,” raising a pointed finger to his ear with a light shake of his head, “Sorry, no comprende…”

“Oh! …sorry, I forgot,” Satoshi added quickly with raised shoulders, darting glance, and a clutch of his hair all in one brief, fluid movement. “So…you remember everything now?”

Nodding, the non-Japanese boy said “Pretty much.”

Mirroring it with an “Mm,” the other boy went on, with accent deepening for the moment as he made a wide swing of his arm. “Every dimension, every universe, you exist…but you disappear — not good. So I need to bring you back.” He raised two fingers. “Two reason: one, bad thing happen —”

“Someone set us up the bomb,” Danny jabbed with lids drooped.

Nani?!” Satoshi blurted with a wide-eyed twitch, then winced, digging his fingers into his cap with a grunt of “Mouuu…” Taking a deep breath and giving his tongue a discreet flexing wiggle, he went on “Something bad is going to happen,” he reiterated, “Two…” Trailing off, he glanced away again, mumbling “Anata no oneesan.” (2)

“O…kay…” the non-Japanese boy acknowledged, face slightly blank, “Who’s this ahnahtahno-ohnaysahn and what kinda trouble are they in?”

Tittering, Satoshi said “Iie, iie, daijoubu…” (3) then “Come on, let’s go.”

“Coming!” Danny said, following the Japanese boy — and flinching as he stumbled. Satoshi pivoted, grabbing his arm before his knee hit the unseen ground. “Whoa, what…what just happened?”

“Careful, you’re older now…” the other boy explained, helping him stand steadily.

Clutching his temple and rubbing it, Danny nodded again “Yeah…my head does kinda feel like a bowling ball…” Looking up, he asked “Hey, didn’t you use that weird-looking sword to get us here? Aren’t you gonna need it to get us out?”

“Not yet,” Satoshi said, smiling knowingly again, “First we have to go back in time.”

“Go back —…right…but to where? When?”
“You’ll see. Follow me, and be careful.”
“Got it, sehn-say…”

A jagged golden edge pierced the dusk sky several feet above a skyscraper’s roof. The pair emerged from the tear, which faded back into the cool evening air.

“Where are we? When are we?” Danny asked, looking around.

“New York, 2010,” the Japanese boy answered succinctly, sheathing his sword.

Leaning over the roof’s edge, the non-Japanese boy peered at the busy street below. “Where are all the electric cars?” he wondered aloud, then pointing “Wait, there’s one! …and another, and another…gas-guzzler, gas-guzzler, gas-guzzler…and I think that one’s a hybrid…”

Raising a brow, Satoshi muttered “What are you doing? You’ve gone completely nuts…”

“Sorry,” Danny said, walking back toward him, “My head’s still spinning a little…I think that last therapy session seriously messed with my brain…”

“Connecting with your selves can do that,” the Japanese boy noted.

Putting a hand to his ‘toonishly gurgling belly, the non-Japanese boy mused “I think my stomach wants to connect to some food — please tell me there’s a not-so-greasy spoon around here? I’m craving a burger!”

“Same here — and I know JUST the place…” Satoshi said with a smile and a nod.

Not much farther away was a simple-looking brick building, with a single green awning, the white font on its flap echoing the plain red neon sign jutting from the edge: CORNER BISTRO.

“Ohh…PERFECT!” Danny exclaimed as they walked through the door — himself literally through it with the Japanese boy quietly grumbling as he tugged on the handle.

Sliding into a booth behind a chopping block table facing a now-wingless Satoshi, the non-Japanese boy snatched up a copy of the menu; it had nine items all in equally bare bones print. “I’ll have the cheeseburger — no, chili burger! And extra fries if you’ve got ‘em…” he recited, spying a strangely silent waitress appear in the corner of his eye.

After a few seconds of only background chatter, an all-too-familiar voice rose above the din. “Danny…”

Tensing, Danny looked up with wide eyes. “…Mom!”

“Danny!” Maddie repeated, voice shattering where it had trembled before, reaching down and throwing her arms around her son. Turning her head, she hollered “JACK!” albeit grinning.

Glancing at the Japanese boy, the blue-eyed one asked “You knew about this?”

Arch-eyed, Satoshi replied “Hai!” then pressed his fingertips together “…narabe kae.” (4)

“What’s wrong, Mads?” bellowed the burly man, a worn-in apron tied over his usual jumpsuit. Seeing his son’s head peeking out his wife’s arms, his lips spread back in a grin as he dashed from the kitchen doorway.

“Whoa!” Danny cried as he was yanked from his seat, unable to help a laugh while being slung over his father’s shoulder and spun, beaming as his feet touched the floor again, whereupon he felt the full pressure of Jack’s loving squeeze. “Dad, I can’t breathe…” he admitted in a grunt, though added “…but that’s okay,” and returned it as much as he could.

Giving him several cheek-tugging kisses and a hair-combing pet, Maddie professed “My baby, I was so worried we’d never see you again!”

“Aww…c’mon, Mom…” the boy said with convex brows, glimpsing the few remaining sympathetic smiles from fellow diners before they, too, returned to their lunches. “I said I was gonna go look for more work, not…that I’d never come back.”

“I suppose you’re right,” the woman said, wiping away her tears, “It’s just…the way you left, I — oh, nevermind, it’s all in the past now…” then looked at the Japanese boy. “Who’s your friend?”

“Mom, this’s Sahto-shee,” Danny said, mirroring her gaze.

“Suh-toshi,” Maddie repeated, “Well, it’s very nice to meet you.”

Hai, Dannii no okaasan, douzo yoroshiku —” (5) twitching, and correcting himself “o-oh, I mean…hi, it’s nice to meet you, too.”

“Hey, where’s Jazz?” the blue-eyed boy found himself asking, making several more sweeps of the room. It seemed as if she wasn’t around — although she could have easily been avoiding him.

“Jazz’s working at the Comfort Inn over on 38th Street, sweetie,” his mother informed him, “You should go and see her, too. I bet she’ll be just as surprised to see you!”

Surprised? Yes…happily surprised? Maybe not so much… Danny thought with darting eyes. “Sure, we’ll head that way now —” then at the protest of his stomach “Uh, well, after we eat. Can I still get that chili burger and fries, please?”

“Jack, go make our son one chili burger with extra French fries,” Maddie commanded. Her husband nodded.

“One burger with extra chili and extra fries for my favorite kiddo!” the man acknowledged, giving his son a half-noogie, half-hair ruffle.

“Heheh! Thanks, Dad…Mom…” Danny said, eyes arching as he smiled.

“Your parents are very nice,” Satoshi noted.

“My parents are awesome,” the blue-eyed boy corrected. My sister? That’s another story…that I’m not looking forward to reading right now.

Craning his head back to gaze up at the hotel’s façade, Danny entered the lobby of the Inn along with the Japanese boy. Approaching the main desk, the blue-eyed one caught the attention of the clerk, who smiled and welcomed him.

“Hi, uh, I’m looking for a — Miss Jazz Fenton,” he began, “I – I’m her brother, and…I was told she worked here…?”

“Oh, so you’re Danny,” the woman said sprightly, glancing toward the elevators, “Jazz came in earlier today, my guess is she’s somewhere on the fourth floor by now. Do you want me to call her down for you?”

“Oh — no, no…that’ll be fine,” the blue-eyed boy said with a polite smile, “We’ll just…look for her ourselves. Thanks though!”

“You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping in, just let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you today. Have a great day!”

Waving over his shoulder, Danny said “Thanks, Cindi!”

The non-Japanese boy watched the floor numbers closely, staring at his reflection in the doors before they parted. Exchanging a glance with Satoshi, he stepped out into the hall with his heart in his throat.

“Jazz?” he called out as they wove their way through the carpeted labyrinth, repeating slightly louder “Jazz? You there?”

“Look!” the Japanese boy hissed, pointing to a cleaning cart parked just outside of a door at the end of the hall. Nodding, the blue-eyed one broke into a jog toward it, the other boy following suit.

Knocking on the door, Danny called out again. “Jazz? You in there?” Trying the handle, he found it unlocked. Letting the door swing open, he took a step, then looked back at Satoshi. “Sorry, Sahto, but…just stay here, okay? I…kinda need to do this alone.”

“Oh…un,” the Japanese boy said with a sharp nod, “Naraba, gambatte zo.” (6)

“Thanks,” the blue-eyed boy said, facing forward, “I think…”

The room was small, one bed with pillows that had already been fluffed and a shiny tan comforter that had already been turned down. There was a faint scent of cleaning solution in the air. Holding his tongue, Danny walked toward the bathroom, from which he could hear the sounds of someone working.

Seeing her long red hair made him twitch, and step back. She’d tied it back in a ponytail, her headband looked as though she’d wrapped it closer to her brow. Kneeling on the tile floor, she scrubbed diligently away at the toilet.

For a moment, he watched her, only blinking. Had she been doing this sort of thing for several months? She looked quite calmly engrossed in it, as if this was far from her first week. Opening his mouth, his voice immediately wedged itself in his throat, like a ‘toonish doorframe gag. Finally, he managed to push it out.

“Jazz?”

In the second that followed, he flinched. Several reactions from her flashed through his mind, as they had since he’d crossed the hotel’s threshold, though still, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Hi, Danny.”

Opening his eyes, he blinked rapidly. A simple, nonchalant response had been at the bottom of his mental list. Looking down, he saw she’d barely moved.

“Hi…” the boy echoed, little else springing to mind. “Did — Did Mom and Dad call and…tell you I was coming?”

“No.”

“O…kay…well…I — I just…I just ran into them at the burger place —” jabbing his thumb over his shoulder along with a quick glance “and…they…told me to come see you.”

He saw her nod. “Okay.”

Letting his arms drop, he stared at her in a mellow bewilderment, eyes wide, brows sweeping into convexes, then one rising high. She seemed so collected, despite her sparse words. Had she resigned herself to her current job and let go of the past? Would it be that easy?

Suddenly, she stopped, letting her sponge drop into the bucket beside her. Her head turned slowly, chin touching her shoulder. As her eyes met his, their gazes bound. Danny felt the same cold stiffness spread through him, though he twitched and shuddered.

Her lids hadn’t lifted; her heavy, half-open eyes piercing him like an arrow, pinning him where he stood.
___

(1) Now...um...welcome back, Danny, for real this time.
(2) What?! Arrrgh... Your sister.
(3) Nevermind...
(4) Yes! ...sort of.
(5) Yes, Danny's mom, please think well of me.
(6) ...okay. In that case, good luck, dude.

Author:  Jazzypants [ Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:32 am ]
Post subject: 

REDEAD JAZZ IS FUCKING OWNAGE. The mental taser needs to do that from now on. I'm thinking of making it a DR in-joke. XD

Anyway, nice to see DR!Satoshi/Ash. You captured him awesomely. Very Happy

Amazing chapter.

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Mon Dec 27, 2010 8:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Haha! Thanks much. ^___^ <3 Mweee...

CHAPTER XIII

Once again, the boy felt helpless to move as his sister approached him in a slow stride that seemed to span hours in the space of a few seconds. With a hard gulp and a flinch, he finally wrested himself free, stepping back.

“Jazz!” Danny blurted out, as if calling the name of a slowly advancing Rottweiler. “Listen…” he began as she stopped a foot in front of him, “This goes against every fiber of my being right now, but…” flinching, “You’re my sister…and I…I love you — the way that family does even if…they still hate each other…”

She said nothing, though her brows slowly swept into convexes.

“So…can we just…let it die now? Forget about all the bad stuff that’s happened in the past and…hug and make up?” His eyes panged with tears. “Be the kind of sneaky little brother and sister duo we used to be? …sorta?”

Smiling weakly, the girl opened her arms. For a moment, Danny blinked, rubbing his eyes — preemptively drying them, and making sure he wasn’t hallucinating. His body almost seemed to move on its own, walking toward Jazz and putting his arms around her. He twitched, tensing as he felt her hug him back, glancing down at his exposed sides.

She’s not tickling me… he realized. She’s really not tickling me…I don’t believe it! With another flinch, tears beaded at the corners of his eyes. I didn’t think it’d be like this, but it’s really happening…maybe I was letting my bad memories get to me after all these years…

“Jazz, I’m sorry…” he mumbled with a waver in his voice, “I’m sorry I —”

“It’s okay,” he heard her say softly as they withdrew, though still lightly clutching hands, “I’ve missed you…little brother…”

His stomach tightened with a quick gasp of breath. That cold classification. When he reflexively tugged on his arms, she tugged back, grip tightening around his wrists. “Let go, Jazz,” he bid, panic mushrooming. “Lemme go!”

“Let him go, Jazz,” Satoshi echoed, fingers curled around the door frame.

“Why? You just got here…” Her smile curled into a near-trademark smirk as her brows settled at familiar angles above her heavy lids.

“Let go!” Danny shouted, pulling away from her again. This time, she did let go of his left wrist. When he whirled around, flinging an arm out toward the Japanese boy. “Sahto, help me!”

Satoshi reached an arm out, his fingertips brushing against the other boy’s before he grabbed a firm hold of his hand. “Stop it!” he bellowed to the redhead.

Before her brother could remember his intangibility, Jazz tickled him under his outstretched arm. When he wrenched his own hand out of the Japanese boy’s with a yelp, she yanked him back against her, digging wiggling fingers into his side, making him squirm and flail.

“HahaHAHAHA! LeHEt GO! Ahaha! Ahand stop tickling me!”

Before Satoshi could come charging in, the redhead lunged for the door, pushing Danny up against it and slamming it shut behind them, using both hands to tickle him mercilessly from shoulder to hip, slipping her fingers under his shirt and focusing all ten on his belly, making him double over.

“AIEEhehe! HAHAHAhahahahahaha! Stoppit, PLEASE!”

Finally, he managed to stumble past her, falling to the floor. Lying on his side, he stared down at his lightly clawed fingers, testing his powers for a spark, a glow, a flickering patch, anything. Slowly, he curled his fingers into his plain, unaffected palm.

Looking up at his sister, she was still standing up against the door, watching him with a casual grin. He was down a peg now, or three or five; to her level, she could take her time.

As he picked himself up, he heard her ask “So where did you go this time, little brother?” with her usual fake sweetness.

“Jazz, please stop this!” he begged, “You’re not babysitting me anymore, you don’t have to do this!”

“Aw, why’re you so upset, baby bro?” she asked, stepping away from the door as he stepped back.

“I’m not a baby — I’m not a kid anymore!” Danny said firmly, voice rising, “So stop the cutsey-wutesy…crud!” His lips quivered as he felt himself growing smaller and smaller before her “I wanna talk to you and reason with you like…a-an adult!”

“But we are talking,” she insisted, “You look tired, little bro, maybe you should lie down for a little bit, hmm?”

The Japanese boy grunted as he rattled the handle, ramming his shoulder into the door, pausing to listen to the muffled conversation inside.

“Jazz…NO! Lemme go! Leave me ALONE! StAAHAppiiiiit!”

Mou, Jazzu, open the door!” Satoshi rasped, pounding on it, “Come to your senses, please!”

With a grunt, the blue-eyed boy found his wrists and ankles tangled tightly in the corners of a bedsheet that the redhead had somehow slipped under the frame, pulling him taut across the mattress. Tugging on his limbs, he looked up to see his sister standing over him, holding up slowly wiggling fingers in a sort of cutely menacing fashion.

“Don’t fight me, Danny,” Jazz said, quietly but coldly, “Be a good little boy…” looking even more possessed than usual.

“NO!” her brother spat back, struggling as she lowered her arms, “I’ll fihight you! I’ll NEVER staHAp trying to gehet awAHAy from you! Aha’ll fihight ahand I’ll fihihight…hahahahahaHA! Uhuntihil the hahaHAHA! Ahaha! HAHAHAHA! Ahahahehehehehehe!”

His eyes arched thickly with streaming ‘toonish tears as she concentrated her flurrying fingers on his stomach, his pitch jumping as he writhed and tried to curl. Before he could catch his breath, she darted away from the bed, grabbing a brush from her bucket and scrubbing his feet with it.

“AHAHAhaha! PLEHEase tell me you hahaHAHAHAHA! Dihidn’t hahahahaHA! Didn’t just HAHAHA! CleHEan the toilet with thaHAHAt!”

Finally, she withdrew for a moment, looking down at him with a satisfied, pitying smile as he panted, laying his head back. “Did that tickle, Danny?” she asked, smirking again, making him wince and bare gritted teeth, “Oh, yes, I think my little baby brother has very ticklish feet…”

“SHUT UP!” Danny growled with a thrash. Opening his eyes, he saw her slowly draw a plain white ‘toon plume from her pocket. It was undoubtedly the same one she’d used on him many, many times before. “Jazz — no!” he begged with wide eyes.

“Tickle, tiiickle…” she taunted, flitting it inches above his stomach.

“WAIT, PLEASE!” he cried, managing to tear his gaze away. Looking out the window and back, he locked his eyes with hers. “Jazz, the Gate — I can open it — YOU can open it! We’re so close…you can go back now — and I’ve been there, nothing’s changed! Your friends —!”

“I LIKE it here,” the redhead said sternly, keeping the feather in midair, “And no, I can’t go back…I’VE changed. YOU’VE changed — everything’s changed!”

“Earth DOES that!” Danny said, “Everybody would understand! And they’d still be your friends — they’d probably even think it was cool!”

“I don’t care, Danny!” Jazz snapped back with a risen pitch and a light shake of her head, as if to add ‘There’s nothing you can say to make me let you go’. “It’s too late…Earth has already taught me so many WONDERFUL things…about the human body, the mind, the psyche…and how easy it is to pull the strings if you know where the balancing rod is…” waving the feather “…and this is yours.”

“Listen to yourself! You sound like…” the boy pausing, blinking at the ceiling “VLAD!” looking at her again “With a side helping of SPECTRA!”

“Now where were we, little brother?” the redhead mused, smirk settling on her lips again as she lowered the feather, twirling it in her fingers.

“Jazz, PLEASE, don’t do this! I hehe! I don’t wanna HAHAhahahaha! AHEHEHE! PLEHEHEHEheheheheHEHE!”

With a raspy sigh, Satoshi muttered to himself “Mudada…” looking up and down the hall, adding “Minna doko ni!?” (1)

Finally, he spied a lone human walking down the hall. Waving his arm and taking only a few steps away from the door, the Japanese boy called out “Oi! Tasukete! Help! Help, please! My friend is in trouble! We need your help!” (2)

The man’s eyes widened, and he drew back before bolting the way he’d come.

“Wait!” Satoshi yelled, then with another quick, frustrated sigh “Send help, okay?!”

Danny’s head began to swim when she withdrew again, his breaths audibly tinged with whines. Staring up at the blurred ceiling, it looked gray and cloudy in the light from the overcast sky outside.

“Conceal your dramatic forces, Sujigami, hold back your power…I invoke thee, Taimigami…”

“Soo-jee…gah-mee…” he found himself uttering in his daze. Feeling a deep dry pang in his left eye, he remembered his old prayers, and mumbled one now, each to the same two deities his mother had once called on. “Help me out, Sujigami…” Then “Comedic forces, heed my call! Unleash your power, Taimigami!”

With a few more grunts and a small roar, he curled his hands into fists, pulling on his arms and legs again and imagining himself fighting against one of Skulker’s nets. This time, he managed to tear the top of the sheet, giving him the room to lurch forward — unfortunately, the rest of the fabric still held, resulting in him tipping the entire bed into a forward flip, being mostly squashed beneath it. The headboard gave him enough room to raise a pointed finger with the weakly-voiced revelation “Should’ve prayed to Taimigami first…”

The redhead stepped back with a gasp, lightly shielding her face with her arm. Lowering it, she tried to tickle her brother’s feet while they were still bound, but now he pried them free, scrambling out from under the other side of the bed and dashing for the door. Unlocking it, he tugged it open — to reveal Satoshi in the middle of a charge.

Danny reached out to grab the Japanese boy by the collar before he tripped over Jazz, still crouched on the floor. “Uwaah!” Satoshi grunted, “Nani ga okotte iru no ka?” (3)

“No idea what you just said, but no time! C’mon!” the blue-eyed boy said, taking his arm and rushing toward the hall — and banging his elbow on the doorknob in the process. Clutching his own arm with a wince, he added with a teary half-flinch “THANK YOU, Taimigami, but your services are no longer needed!” before breaking into a run.

Hotel security and a few police officers were among the crowd the pair plowed through in the lobby, followed hotly by Jazz. Despite the humans’ protests, the ‘toons barreled out onto the street, the boys sprinting north.

A bit breathless, Satoshi turned to Danny, asking “Where are you going now?”

“I don’t know!” the blue-eyed boy admitted, glancing over his shoulder, “Away from HER!” After a few moments, he turned his head again. “Hey, didn’t YOU bring me here? Don’t you know what we’re supposed to be doing? Or something?!”

Oi! I brought you here because I had to, because I knew something bad was going to happen — I didn’t say I knew what it was!”
“Well —! Then how do we know it didn’t ALREADY happen?”

Mirroring Danny’s second glance, Satoshi said “That is not a bad thing — that is a crazy weird thing, but not a bad, bad thing…”

Brows and lids drooping, the blue-eyed boy said “Thank you for clearing that up.” After another few minutes, he winced, slowing to a stop and doubling over. “I can’t…run anymore…I’m way too tired…!”

“She’s catching up!” the Japanese boy observed.

“I KNOW! …but…I — wait a minute, we’re in New York!” Flailing an arm, Danny hollered “TAXI!”

An iconic yellow cab came to a screeching halt as Danny unwittingly stepped into the road. Pulling open the right-rear door, the blue-eyed boy squeezed inside, followed by the Japanese boy who tugged the door shut. Blinking stares abounded for several seconds.

“Where’re you going?” Danny asked, looking between the startled passenger and the cabbie.

Jabbing a thumb at the former, the latter said “He was havin’ me head to Herald Square. You got a different route in mind, sonny?”

“Nope, that sounds fine,” the blue-eyed boy said with a smile, then pinched the air “But just try to get there a LITTLE faster, like…uh, what’s the speed limit?”

“Whaddaya got?”

The ‘toon boys dug into their pockets, Danny clawing out a wad of bills first. “Two hundred…?”

“Two-hundred it is.” Whereupon the taxi peeled out down the rest of 12th Avenue.

Stepping out of the cab, the ‘toons stood in front of the statue-cum-clock tower; the human paid his fare and left quickly, with a last curious glance at them.

“I think we lost her…” Danny said with a sigh. His gaze fell to the street, then skimmed across it, and up the façade of the famous corner store. “Hey…this is it…this is where the Gate is…” Walking into the road, he turned, and took a few steps forward. Reaching up into thin air, he pushed his fingers through where he vaguely remembered the portal to be.

Satoshi watched him closely, as did a few humans standing nearby. “Geeto, ka?” he muttered, twitching with a yell of “Abunai!” (4) before grabbing Danny’s collar and yanking him out of the way of three oncoming cars and a bus.

“Whoa! …thanks, Sahto,” the blue-eyed boy said sheepishly.

“Ancient Gate?” the Japanese boy repeated, “The Japanese government has been trying to make another one…but so far, no luck…”

“Yeah…well, I hope they get lucky,” Danny said, “It’d be nice to have another way into Cartun in at least one other corner of the world…again…”

Un…”
“Why HASN’T it been working out for them so far, anyway?”

Satoshi opened his mouth to reply, but tensed, saying only “No time!” The blue-eyed boy pivoted to see the redhead jogging up the street adjacent to them.

“Darnit!” Danny hissed, “Oh, man, what I wouldn’t give to go invisible right now…” Looking at his hand, he could only get the heel of it lightly flickering. “Well, better than nothing, but not much…”

“Come on,” the Japanese boy bid, heading for the famous store, “we’ll hide in there!”

Danny jogged after him. “Good idea — we can lose her easy with some classic shopping hijinks, right?”

Fortunately, the place was roughly as packed with ‘toon locals and tourists as it was those of the human variety. Glancing over their shoulders again, both began tightly tailing a ‘toon family as they stepped onto an escalator.

Jazz had sniffed them out and into the lobby, but her glaring visual sweeps thus far missed them. Suddenly, Danny heard a strange whooshing sound, almost like a long deep gasp. Looking down, he saw a young girl with an ear-to-ear grin and sparkling eyes to match, seconds to exploding.

Twitching, the blue-eyed boy crouched down and pressed a finger to her lips with a “Shhh!” Talking as quietly as he could, he leaned closer to her and said “I’ll buy you a cookie — a big cookie, tons of ice cream, but just please ‘Shh!’!” Seeing her parents and elder siblings turn and give him a wary look, he rose, saying “Hi, Mister and Missus, uhhhh…”

“Are you being chased by the Guys in White?” the girl asked in an excited whisper, looking at Satoshi. “Or Team Rocket?”

“Something like that…” Danny said while the Japanese boy clutched his hair and sweatdropped.

“Can I help?” the girl asked with a bounce, “And can I have an autograph? And will you tell me you love me? And can I maybe get a kiss, too?”

Satoshi pouted lightly at not being bombarded with questions as well. Danny smiled, replying “Yes, actually; yes — and if you help me, yes, and VERY yes.”

“Ee!” the girl squealed, albeit softly.

Minutes later, Danny zigzagged off toward the fifth floor with the Japanese boy in tow, throwing a smile over his shoulder at the girl and her family, who gave him a wave before returning to their ice cream cones. With a happy sigh, the white-haired boy mused “Thank all thirteen gods for fangirls!”

Un,” Satoshi chimed with a nod as they breezed through the Ladies’ Shoes and Sportswear. “Now where are you going?”

“I dunno, I just wanna keep moving,” Danny admitted, looking at him.

“Why not go to the roof? We’ll be safe there, won’t we?”

Twitching, again catching sight of his sister on their trail, the green-eyed boy muttered “It’s worth a shot!” before flashing intangible and quickly ascending into the ceiling.

The air was even colder now, the early night sky still hidden behind a blanket of cloud. Touching down on the rooftop, Danny let go of Satoshi and sighed. If Jazz had followed them this far, she surely wasn’t too far behind now. He had to face her — again, but it would have to be as a hero to his antagonist rather than a brother to his sister. It still crushed him, but after his previous attempt and capture back at the hotel, he struggled with the unwavering fact that she had no intention of repenting, of returning to who she had been from who she’d become. It hurt, but he managed to raise his head, standing firmly in his morals.

“Daaanny…” came her echoing taunt. Biting his lip, the green-eyed boy braced himself, waiting for her as she walked around the corner into view, stopping only a few feet away. “Aw, there you are, widdle bro…for a moment there, I thought you’d gotten lost.” She had truly become some possessed thing from any number of horror movies; the spine-tingling presence of the Grady sisters combined with Freddy Krueger’s sneering condescension, minus the slasher claws.

“I’m not your 'widdle bro', anymore, Jazz,” he said firmly, “And…you are my sister, and I still love you — but if you’re going to hurt people —”

“I don’t want to hurt anybody, Danny,” the redhead rebutted calmly.

“— if you’re going to hurt ME, tickle me, whatever,” the white-haired boy corrected with an edge in his voice, “Then I’ll fight you.” Widening his stance, he summoned a pulsing sphere of energy into his palm for emphasis.

Jazz’s mouth curled a little more. “You CAN’T fight me, because I know your —” she raised her hands, wiggling her index fingers in time with her voice “silly little weakness.”

“You can’t freak me out with that anymore,” her brother declared, “and you can’t control me with it!”

“You can’t just wish it away,” she countered, “You can’t act all brave and think it won’t affect you like it ALWAYS has…”

And suddenly a line from Nocturn joined the din in his head.

“Ah, but you should be, ghost boy…and if you were smart, you would be…”

Giving it a vigorous clearing shake, he flinched, lightly clutching it and lowering it. Stepping closer, the redhead seemed to take pleasure in indirectly reading his mind.

“You don’t want to fight me, Danny…and you won’t. What would Mom and Dad think? Unless you want to tell them…make them lose that last bit of hope for our family…is that what you want? To ruin our family?”

Teeth gritted, the boy growled back “YOU ruined our family…!”

“No, this is all YOUR fault…” the redhead countered frigidly.

“MY fault?! How is it MY fault?!” Danny echoed, flailing and gesturing ‘toonishly. “I didn’t ask for this! Do you think I went up to Uncle D.M. and said ‘Hey, why don’t you put a big shiny STONE in my eye so my whole family has to move to an entirely different UNIVERSE and make my sister miserable? Because that would make me happy!’ …Jazz, what are you ON?!”

“I’m on top of the world!” his sister said with a sudden forward lean and grin that made the boy’s eyes widen and blink rapidly as his arms dropped to his sides. With a slow spin, Jazz went on “You think I’m miserable? I might have been upset at losing my friends at first, but, Danny…this world is full of such wonderful things…the biology and chemistry…the psychology of it all…the sociology, the culture! Humans live such short, pathetic little lives that they try to understand everything they can about them and this dark little rock they cling to like moss…and in a world of mayflies —” adjusting her headband “the dragonfly is queen.”

There was a small silence as Danny stared, brow rising high. “Oh, bullCRAP!” were the first words out of his mouth, followed by an incredulous chuckle as he pointed “Okay, I take that back, you’re completely OFF your rocker!” Pausing, he added “Jazz, we ARE humans — we’re not REAL humans, but…you’re not some…great watcher-over everybody, destined to eternally ponder the meaning of life and drone on about it. You’re just a ‘toon, like me, trying to get by, and trying to get the most out of life that you can…nobody said it was easy, but…well, it doesn’t have to be hard! It doesn’t have to be this way…just…snap out of it, okay?” He raised flat palms. “You’re right, I DON’T wanna fight you, really…but when you get all creepy and completely psycho you leave me no choice. I’m a superhero, it’s what I DO!”

Satoshi continued to watch silently, with a quiet sigh, fingers curling into fists. He hadn’t said or done much at all, but Danny had made it clear earlier that this was a personal matter, and with both only lobbing long-winded speeches at one another, there wasn’t much room or reason for him to interfere.

“You keep telling yourself that, little brother,” the redhead said with a smirk, “You want this all to be so noble, you’re the victim and I’m the villain, you just want to ‘make things right’ — but real life doesn’t work like that. There aren’t ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’, just people with power, and people with less power — that’s all. One person’s hero is another person’s villain —”

“I never SAID you were a villain!” the white-haired boy bellowed, “And maybe I do want this all to just go away for a change! So what?! Am I wrong to just want to be happy?”

“Am I wrong to just want to be happy?” Jazz echoed, with appropriate emphasis.

“Why did you just — what the hell are we even talking about?!” Danny cried, tearing at his hair with a violent wince, “Stop messing with my mind!” With a roar, he thrust out flat palms, firing a doubly thick blast at the girl point-blank.

Raising her arms in time to shield her face, the redhead cried out, flung back by the impact, slamming up against a wall, which she slid into a heap against, unconscious.

Aah! JAZZU!” the Japanese boy hollered, eyes wide, jaw slacked. “Hijoushiki ka?!” (5) he hissed reflexively, glancing at the white-haired one.

Danny felt an icy pulse ripple numbly through him as he stared at her, legs trembling. He’d just done something he’d only daydreamed of doing, vented all his frustrations and definitively shut her up. So why did he feel so sick?

“Oh…god…Jazz…” the green-eyed boy uttered weakly, burying his face in his hands for a moment, then stumbling over to her, crouching down. “I’m so sorry…” he whimpered. “I didn’t…I didn’t mean to…” He touched her arm gingerly. “Please be okay…” Is this the bad thing Sahto-shee said would happen? Did I do it?

Her lids fluttered, her eyes opening to their usual droop as she let out a soft groan. “Little bro…”

“Jazz! Are you okay?” her brother repeated, heart pounding again.

She nodded, smiling. Danny knelt there, breathing audibly — before she suddenly pounced, pinning him. Smirking down at him, she said coolly “What did we say about misusing your powers?” before skimming her fingers over his stomach again, sliding a finger into his navel and wiggling with a deft precision.

“YEEHEHEHE! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” the white-haired boy writhed ‘toonishly, rocking and flailing. His sister’s eyes arched briefly as she kept her grip on him.

With another sigh, Satoshi brought his hand to the level of his eyes, muttering “You’re both crazy!”

“HAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! JAHAZZ STAHAP! STAHAHAHAHA! AHAHAHAHA!” Danny begged as she swept the feather over his belly in wild, flitting strokes. He was breathless by the time she withdrew, quite literally tossing him aside.

Rolling to a stop, he raised himself up on an elbow and a hand, glancing away. Great, I just completely wasted that last power-up…well, at least little Amy got something out of it, I guess… Hearing then spying a news helicopter behind him — one of several drawing closer —, he let his face sink into his arms. Terrific…we now go live to New York City, where ‘toon hero Danny Phantom has just been taken down by a feather… and winced again.

Picking himself up, he widened his stance a second time, bracing himself in another pose as the redhead approached him again. “What, now, Danny?” she asked, glimpsing the helicopter as well. “You wouldn’t even think of hitting your big sister, would you?”

Seeing how she’d managed to survive his blast, it had crossed his mind — but people in front of their T.V. sets likely hadn’t been privy to their exchange, or didn’t know about Jazz’s motives, and would indeed crucify him for such a seemingly violent act. Plus, in the public’s eye, even relentless tickling didn’t warrant that kind of retaliation. And what if their parents found out before he could try and explain? Not that he could even force himself to, even before they disowned him.

He and the Japanese boy shared a convex-browed glance. Locking eyes with his sister again, the white-haired boy said weakly “Just leave me alone, Jazz!”

“You should have left ME alone,” she retorted.

“I’m…sorry…I’m just…sorry…for everything…” Danny croaked, letting his face sink into his cupped palms again.

“Aw, it’s okay, little brother — just come home and everything’ll be all right…” the redhead said softly, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t TOUCH ME!” the boy bleated, drawing back — and wobbling as he nearly tipped over the roof’s edge, throwing a glance over his shoulder at the street below. Even in ghost mode, he was now a flightless bird stuck at three-hundred and twenty-two feet.

Hearing the two choppers behind him suddenly veer off in opposite directions, he turned again — glimpsing a brightly colored projectile hurtling toward him in enough time to dive out of its way. Jazz’s eyes widened for a moment before it caught her hair, digging itself into the roof and pinning her there with it.

Stepping closer, Danny saw that it was a ‘toon weapon of some kind — with a bright blue body, red fins, and six red claws with a pale yellow underside, and numerous round gray indents that made it look distinctly like an “…Octopus missile!”

Whirling around, he saw the Turbokat’s burners flip down, the canopy sliding back as it hovered. Lifting her hand away from the panel, Sam said “…aaaand you’re welcome,” with a smirk of her own.

“SAM!” the white-haired boy exclaimed with a wide grin.

Leaning over the side, Dash mused “Good thing you moved, Fenzer.”

“I TOLD you he’d move,” the goth girl noted, glancing at him.

“Either way, great shot, Toots!” the burly boy said — only to get a flick on the ear. “Ow! Hey!”

“Thanks, guys! You really saved my butt…” Danny professed.

“As your best friend, it’s kind of my thing,” Sam said with a grin. The green-eyed boy nodded, eyes arching briefly.

“Hey, hang on a sec — I was doin’ the drivin’!” the blond-haired boy protested with a light pound of the panel. This resulted in another flick. Rubbing his ear, Dash said “Babe, you’re gonna hafta cut that out or I’m gonna start to like it…” Sam rolled her eyes and sighed.

With a growl, Jazz finally pulled herself free, staring her brother down. “Crud!” Danny hissed, tensing.

“Hop on!” the burly boy said, putting both hands on the control stick. Looking over at Satoshi, he added “You too, Short Round!”

Shooto Rondo?!” the Japanese boy repeated incredulously, with a face to match. However, he scrambled onto the Turbokat’s wing along with Danny as the jet pulled away from the department store, swooping across Sixth Avenue and letting the two boys hop down to the roof of the building directly across from the department store.

“You want us to take care of her, Danny?” the goth girl asked, thumb hovering over the red button on the control stick.

“Fine, sure — but just…don’t hurt her!” the white-haired boy replied.

“Fine,” Dash echoed, “Just nab her with a Spider Missile and we can call it a day.”

“Hey, I’M the W.S.O., here, I call the shots,” Sam corrected him, “You just keep the jet straight.”

“Okay, okay, jeez!”

“Spider Missile…” the goth girl announced, “…there ya go!”

Breaking into a run, Jazz narrowly ducked the net, hurdling the building’s ledge and making a midair beeline for her brother.

Eyes nearly popping, Danny let out a wavering “Oh…shit! I forgot we could do that!” Putting his hands to his mouth, he called out “Hey, Jazz! Look down, look down, look down! …CRAP!” before pivoting and darting to the other side of the roof.

Dash lowered his brows, steering the Turbokat between the redhead and her target. Sam leaned over the side, calling out sternly “Leave him alone, Jazz!”

Pausing, Jazz snorted, jumping over the left wing. At that moment, the blond-haired boy flipped the jet, swinging the redhead in a wide arc and leaving her hanging. “Just back off and nobody gets hurt,” Dash said, “but if you insist on messin’ with Fen, I WILL take you for a ride…”

Brows angling, the long-haired girl took to scaling the wing, making a dive for the cockpit. First, she pounced on Sam, snapping her seatbelts out of their buckle and trying to drop her onto the street below.

When the burly boy turned, trying to get the redhead off the black-haired girl, Jazz ducked past him toward the control panel, spying the ‘Engine Shut Off’ button and giving it a jab. As the Turbokat’s burners snuffed out, the cushion of lift vanishing beneath it, it began a very real drop toward the Avenue of the Americas. Both pilots cried out.

“Why do we even HAVE that button?!”
“Plan Z, Babe! Heatseekers!”
“Well, SCREW that!”

Using the jet’s belly as a stepping stone, the redhead made the shorter leap onto the storefront rooftop. Giving her hair a quick comb, she strolled around the roof, following her brother who dashed from one corner to the next like a cornered mouse.

Meanwhile, Satoshi had retreated to higher ground, watching the chase with teeth gritted behind closed lips. “Ima…” he whispered gruffly, “Ima no jikan da!” (6) Clasping his hands together with index fingers raised, he bowed his head and began another low chant, reciting it as fast as he could without slurring the words.

“No — please! Jazz — don’t —!” Danny sputtered. In Secret Weapons they’d gone toe to toe, but even in the show, it had all been an act. This was real, and even without the Ecto-Skeleton, she’d proven to be just as strong and twice as cunning. “I — I’ll go with you — I’ll leave you alone, I’ll…do whatever you want me to do!”

“You are doing what I want you to do,” Jazz mused with a grin that could dissolve steel.

“What? Begging?” the white-haired boy asked, “Suffering?” vising his head again. “Frying my brain?!”

His sister actually laughed, counting off on her fingers “Proving the success of your Instrumental Conditioning, reinforcing your Self-Schemas…and amazingly, not falling for the usual fallacies associated with the Representativeness Heuristic.”

Danny stared blankly at her. With a clearing shake of his head, he drew back further, pointing and stammering “Well…you — you…use big words…because you think they make you sound…smart! A-And…and…you’re just…trying to get attention! …see, I can psychoanalyze you, too! I —”

“You’re falling, Danny.”

Twitching, the boy looked down “I am n—!” seeing only West 34th Street under his boots, feeling gravity suddenly reach up and yank him down. “Aaah!” Jazz chuckled again with a shake of her head.

Flinching as the wind swept up his jags, he willed himself to Fly! Flyyyyyy! but his ecto-energy still only flickered, albeit brighter now, in his hand. It wouldn’t be his last freefall, but it would be a hard landing. Flinging out his arms, he tried to steady himself for it, watching the rows of windows blur by, the skyscrapers seeming to rise out of the Earth, hoisting his sister with them.
___
(1) It's no use... Where is everybody!?
(2) Hey! Help!
(3) What the heck's going on?
(4) Gate, huh? Watch out!
(5) Are you insane?!
(6) Now... Now is the time!

Author:  Jazzypants [ Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

Man, Jazz is an evil bitch. O.o

Great chapter.

Author:  Karnelia [ Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

-Chapter XI-

D'awww, I feel for the poor guy, but actual problems/conflicts for the win! Take that, Gary Stus!

Hahaha, we turned into total T.U.F.F. Puppy geeks! I love it~! XD Ugh, it's so weird saying it when it's me, but I love the dynamic between him and his wife >w< Their scenes are so cute and fluffy and mischievous! >X3

Awwwwww, Butch missed his surrogate son so much, the heartbreak took his life ; -; Even with all that he had, and the T.U.F.F. Puppy cast to work with, he couldn't help worrying about what happened to Danny everyday after he virtually disappeared; that really shows just how strong their bond was. Also, poor Dudley knows exactly what was up with Butch ... I wonder if his reconciliation concerning Danny (if the dream was true) still holds?

Oooh, it looks like the staff's power is weakening! Or at least, Danny's regaining a bit of his 'toonishness (and himself) as his ghost sense is working again~ Butch's presence is obviously having a powerful effect on 'Lance', even if he doesn't realize it. I hadn't really thought about this before, but now the tables are kinda turned as Danny used to make things difficult for Butch on set, and now Butch is the impish ghost and Danny the flustered, but kind-hearted guy XD

Butch's antics and 'Lance's' are really amusing, but the scene where Tom said he'd let him go was truly, heart-stoppingly angsty (the end of the chap too) o ^o And the farther it goes, the more the (somewhat figurative, somewhat literal) fantasy world Danny's constructed for himself begins cracking and crumbling.

-Chapter XII-

Awwwww....I'm actually really wondering how much I knew? XD Would I have been paying enough attention to notice the time around which Danny disappeared and the time I met 'Lance' were so close?

Oh gosh, but how am I gonna explain this one to my parents? > 3>; 'Hey, Mom and Dad, my husband is actually a 'toon superhero in a fourteen year old body! And he had to go back in time because he doesn't belong here with me. *sadface* I'm gonna go crash with my best friend now. Bye!' LOL, no, I'm glad he's finding himself again~<3 Now he's gotta stop running away and face his problems! Hmmm, it kinda reminds me of MoAT, where Clockwork's like 'Stop trying to fix the past, what you need to do is in the present!', though in this case it's more like trying to bypass the present for a 'fixed' future. Mweeee, my brain likes this~ > w>

But the TRUE heart of the chapter is when Danny is reunited with his parents~<3 ^w^ OMGosh, SOOOO sweet!

And then HOLY CRAP, Jazz is unsurprised when Danny shows up, as if she's just been waiting for him this whole entire time...*shiver* And she still has that spine-chilling expression! (LOL, redead Jazz)

-Chapter XIII-

Awwwww! (Yes, MOAR 'aww') Danny's plea to return to their original sibling bond is so heart-wrenching! I so wanted her to really want to let go and change too....but then that woulda been rather anti-climactic and there wouldn't be all this yummy angst~ > w>; (Mwahaha, I just love the phrase 'cutely menacing'~! XD)

Dang, Jazz is actually rather terrifying! owo; Her whole mindset has been twisted and she's so deep within the world of psychology, she doesn't even realize it's the vice for her own issues. She tells Danny it's not about heroes, villains, or victims, but both of them really are victims. Maaaan, I'm getting the whole gamut of emotions from this chapter~! >w<;

And the imagery is AWESOME~! Jazz running in midair toward her quarry (LOL, Danny's all 'LOOK DOWWWWN!'), the scenes with the Turbokat, and the illusion of Jazz rising on top of it all as Danny falls. And, oh gosh, I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS! I've been bouncing on the edge of my seat here all though this >w< Your writing is just so indescribably incredible and I so wish I had the words to tell you how amazing you are~! <3

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

@ Jazzy She can be quite cunning and ruthless when she wants to be. Which is just about every time she's around Danny. XD;

@ Kar *reads again and again* Oh gosh, I just love your multi-chapter comments...;w; You really understand, like, everything I'm trying to get across. It's so awesome...<3<3 >w<

I finally finished this chapter, and...geh, it's not what I imagined it to be, but it's got most of the scenes I wanted in there. I didn't anticipate the last part, and it's basically how I want it, even if it bugs me that I had to fudge a few details from DR to make it fit here.

And yeah, cliffhanger, sorry. XD; Anyway, hope you guys liek!

P.S. I really hope you've been reading PWZ : DR since Chapter One, because you're going to need at least a passing knowledge of it to 'get' any of the little details past Satoshi's "Let me show you" line. ^-^; Besides his big emotional speech.

Oh! And before I forget, that little "tuning in" theory is real, and was explained to me by my friend Gothlark.

CHAPTER XIV

As the Turbokat continued to plunge, Dash shut the canopy and continued to struggle with the controls. Sam leaned forward,

“You’re not gonna eject, are you?”
“Nope.”
“So we’re Wil E. Coyote-ing this, then?”
“You bet!”
“You want me to say —?”

Quickly glancing around, the burly boy interjected “Just hang on a sec, babe!” then raised a fist “Three…two…” and gave the jet’s controls another hard, strategic thump. This time, the gauges and indicators resumed their steady positions, afterburners flaring to life.

With a tug on the stick, Dash brought them to a steep swoop roughly five feet from the Avenue of the Americas. “YES!” Giving it a pet, he mused “You just like raisin’ the tension, huh, sweetheart?”

With a relived grin, the goth girl piped up in a Swedish accent “Ja, she just likes giving us a little scare now and then…” When the blond boy laughed and turned his head, she added “If anyone finds out about that, I’m you’re going to get so much more than an ear flick.”

“Tell everybody, got it,” Dash acknowledged with a smirk, facing forward — then twitched as he saw the scrawnier boy drop. “Fenzer!”

“Don’t worry, I got him!” Sam insisted, pressing a button, “Spider missile, go!” Seeing a flashing red light with an off-key beeping to match, she growled “WHAT?”

The burly boy glanced back, but didn’t turn. “Hey, I’m just over here keepin’ the jet steady, Ms. W.S.O. — whose job is it to refill the missile banks?”

The black-haired girl glared at him, but said nothing, her fingers twitching as they hovered over the auxiliary weapons panel, her eyes darting.

Danny had since squeezed his eyes shut, grunting loudly as he collided with solid ground — however, opening his eyes, he saw that it indeed wasn’t the asphalt he’d hit. With another, somewhat melodic cry, he careened down the strange earthy slide that wrapped around the building’s corner.

“I got him, I got him!” a familiar voice called out, and the white-haired boy found himself flying into the palm of a giant hand that curled its fingers around him. “Got him!”

“Hey, ghostkid! Next time you get yourself in trouble in the Big Apple, could ya at least do it a little closer to Central Park? I’m useless out here!”

“Tucker!” Danny said happily, seeing the boy in the red beret — who gave him a brief noogie with the thumb “Aah, heheh!” before uncurling the fingers. “Toph! Hey!” Sliding down onto the pavement, he looked at each of them in turn. “Well, you guys didn’t have the Ullakat, so how’d you hurry-gurdy over here?”

Adjusting his glasses, Tucker said “Well, we were actually on a trip when we caught the news from NYC. So we made a detour, took a ‘toon plane to the suburbs and then hopped the subways,” gesturing to the nearby entrance.

“Gotta hand it to you, Tuck…” Danny said with a smile, adding “Thanks.”

“You want us to get her for ya?” the girl asked, looking up at the roof.

“No!” the white-haired boy replied reflexively, “No, just…just relax, guys. I’m glad you saved my butt, but don’t do anything hasty!”

Toph’s brows lowered as she looked at him. “You mean I came all the way out to this concrete piece of…dog turd…and I can’t even smack a ho?!”

“Speaking of smacking, how much did you guys see?” Danny asked, brows convex.

“Pretty much everything since you guys showed up on the roof,” the dark-skinned boy said.

“So…you saw me blast her?”

“Yeah — and she attacked you right after!” the girl pointed out, “Why’re you bein’ such a wuss?”

“Because she’s my sister!” the white-haired boy shouted.

“Yeah, but dude, she’s totally beyond psycho to you!” the boy in the red beret chimed, “Why —?”

“SHE’S STILL MY SISTER!” Danny cried with a ‘toonish flail that frayed his jags.

Danny, listen to me…! …I know you’re starting to have doubts…but remember how you felt just a little while ago…! …if they survive, they’ll probably be eager to do the same thing again …they don’t give two cruds about you: they have no heart, so why should you weigh yours down with them…?!

Razor had been talking about the men on Redstone’s payroll, but even after he’d bared his heart to her, Jazz had insisted on luring him in for another torture session. And moments ago, she’d taken one of his stronger blasts to the arms shielding her face and been fine, though she’d acted otherwise — again, to trap him.

“You guys…wouldn’t understand!” he grunted, clutching his head with a wince, speaking to the cat from his memory as well as his friends.

The earth-bending couple exchanged an anxious glance.

The Turbokat landed beside the three, its canopy whooshing back as the goth girl and the blond boy jumped down from the cockpit. “Danny!” Sam called out, rushing over to him, “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said firmly, looking at her, jags still frayed.

Leaning on her elbows, Jazz watched the scene below with her chin on her knuckles. Still smirking, she chuckled monosyllabically.

“Do you want me to rub your belly?” the goth girl asked.

Still hearing the copters’ whir, he looked up, then away. “No! Not in front of the cameras…”

Putting a hand on her hip, Sam said “Oh, so you don’t want your powers back, I see…”

“It’s not —!” Raising a hand, he showed her the solid blanket of energy he manifested on his palm, “They’re coming back slowly, okay? I’ll do it that way.”

“Why? Is it because I’m not an adorable eight-year old?”

“Sam, will you —?!”

Suddenly, another voice echoed through the sky “FIRE~BAAALL!” followed by another sphere of energy that struck the storefront rooftop. Jazz moved away in time not to be knocked off her feet by it, lowering her arms and staring down the spell’s caster.

Tim? Danny thought.

An’ta! Yoku mo sonna koto wo!” (1)

No, Vicky! What’s she doing here?

Jazz chuckled monosyllabically again; then laughed.

Nani ga okashii no?” (2) the darker-red-haired girl asked, brows still lowered. When the lighter-red-haired girl didn’t answer, she growled, and said “What is your problem?!”

“I don’t have any problems,” the lighter-red-haired girl said calmly, “Do you?”

“Well...— no!” Vicky stammered, “What do you —?!”

“Then why did you rush over here?” Jazz asked again, taking a few steps forward, “Why are you confronting me when you have no reason to? …all because you want to be ‘dramatic’. You speak Japanese because you realize how pathetic you sound in plain English.”

“What are you —?”

“You’re just a sad little girl with no friends, who clings to a language and a culture that aren’t hers, trying to fill all the voids in your life.”

The darker-red-haired girl was silent for a moment, head hung with bangs draping over her eyes. Looking up slowly with brows sharply angled, she said “My parents can say that about me, my sister and the twerp can say that about me — BUT YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT ME LIKE THAT!!”

Raising her arms and cupping her hands, Vicky began “Tasogare yori mo kuraki mono, chi no nagare yori akaki mono…” clothes and hair ruffling as the energy grew around her “Toki no nagare ni utsumoreshi, idaAAIIEEE!” (3)

Wincing, she ‘toonishly dropped to the ground in a tight curl, protectively clutching her stomach. Below, the others could see the bright light of her interrupted spell vanish as if a light switch had been flipped.

“Hmhmhmhmhmm…” Jazz chuckled quietly, lightly brandishing her feather, eyes even arching for a moment. “You go down quicker than my brother!”

“Oh, great!” Danny muttered, brows convex, “Looks like her weakness is just like mine…” pausing for a ‘toonish beat before adding with wide eyes “Her weakness is just like mine!” before clutching his hair though his face was lit up brighter than the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. “SHE UNDERSTANDS THE KIND OF CRAP I GO THROUGH WITH THAT!”

With a knowing snort, Sam put a hand to her hip. “You do know that, strategically, that’s suicide, right?”

Looking back at her, Danny said “You do know that, actually, I don’t care, right?” before returning his gaze to the roof, crouching and springing into the air, legs melding into tail.

As the darker-red-haired girl picked herself up, teeth gritted, the white-haired boy touched down on the roof — watching as a little pink blur flew by toward the redheads with a “NO!”

“Ah!” Jazz cried out as the plume was ripped out of her hand, gnashed up, and spit out.

“Ptooey! …leave her alone!” the brunet declared, returning his gaze to the lighter-red-haired girl as he clung tightly around Vicky’s midriff.

“Twerp!” the darker-red-haired girl exclaimed, though she smiled — then punched him in the head with a pout. “You’re late!”

“Ow!” the boy half-flinched, then dropped to the ground, “Hey, if you wanna fend for yourself, fine…” turning and beginning to walk away before she grabbed him by the collar.

“Oh no you don’t, get back here!” Vicky growled, essentially slapping him back on.

“Hey!” Danny interjected, walking up beside her and pointing, “That’s MY stomach shield you’re wearing!”

“Hi, Danny!” said shield said with wide eyes and an enormous grin.

“Hey, you wanna trade shirts, be my guest,” the darker-red-haired girl offered, before casting a “WINDYYY SHIELD!” as Jazz lunged for them with another feather, making Danny flinch.

For a moment, Jazz drew back, though she reminded them in subtle sing-song “You can’t keep that up forever!” again lightly waving the feather.

Turning to Vicky, Danny asked “So why ARE you here, anyway?”

“Why WOULDN’T we be? We’re your friends, we saw you in trouble —”
“Yeah, but Dash and Sam —”
“What? Only two people can help you at a time?”
“No — but…it’s just — it’s only my sister…I —”

The darker redhead let out a winded sigh as her arms dropped. Twitching, the taller boy raised an ectoplasmic barrier in its place.

“Not that I don’t appreciate it!” he went on, looking at her again.

“Can I hug Danny now?” Timmy asked, looking at the older boy and fidgeting.

“No!” Vicky snapped. The brunet let out a whine and pouted.

Danny chuckled at him, then glanced up at his sister, trying not to look directly at the feather, which the lighter redhead was still mockingly flitting in the air. Not able to look away now, the very motions she made got his skin faintly tingling. When she appeared to lunge at him, the boy reflexively jumped back, dropping his shield entirely.

“See? That’s why!” Vicky said with a brief downward glance.

Turning and lunging for the darker-red-haired girl, Jazz purposely fluffed the brunet’s neck, but while he giggled he didn’t budge.

“Hang in there, twerp!” the darker redhead bid, drawing an arm back. “FIIIRE~ —!”

Smirking, Jazz clamped her fingers around her wrist, stuffing the feather down her sleeve. Vicky’s eyes arched tall and thick as she let out another rolling burst of laughter. Dragging her toward the nearest edge, the lighter redhead flung her over it.

“Aah!” the brunet cried, instinctively diving for the roof. He flung a hand out to grab the darker redhead — but missed by inches. “NO!” When he tried to leap down after her, the lighter redhead grabbed him and flung him back across the roof.

“Vicky!” Danny called out. In another second, however, Jazz had wrapped her arms around him, digging her fingers into his ribs and stomach again. “NOOhoho! JAZZ GET OHOHOFF ME!” he howled, pedaling his legs.

Only a few feet down, however, the darker-red-haired girl shouted “RAYYYWIIING~!” before flying back up, soaring past the roof’s edge.

Watching her with a half-flinch and a forced grin, the white-haired boy said “NoHOw THAT’S whahat I’m talking abouhout! Hahaha! Ihif I could HAHAhahaha!”

“Man, sounds like Danny’s still getting his butt handed to him up there!” Tucker said.

“Yeah, well, I’m not letting his psycho sister mess with my jet again!” Dash said, “Plus, Fen’s all ‘Don’t hurt her!’ so what the crud are WE s’pposed to do?”

Pausing, brows convex, the dark-skinned boy said “…just…sit on the bench, I guess.”

With a snort, Toph added “Screw THAT!” with a glance at Sam who returned it and nodded, “I’m not just standing around like some script kiddie forgot to give me enough lines! Ghostkid’s getting our help whether he wants it or not!”

“Guess you’re right,” the burly boy admitted, “So…what DO we do?”

Landing with a dramatic flair, Vicky grinned. “You’re wrong about that,” she said, looking Jazz in the eyes, “I read manga, watch anime, and talk Japanese ‘cuz I LIKE it! I don’t do it to fill a hole or ‘fit in’ — I don’t care! If other people think I’m weird, so what? I like what I do, I like who I am. And I DO have friends, even if it’s just the twerp and everybody I’ve talked with on the East Coast!”

Looking unimpressed, Jazz flung Danny at the darker-red-haired girl.

Catching him, Vicky asked, “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” the boy assured her, flopping down to the roof with elbows bent, hands curled at the wrist. “You know what to do…”

Smiling, the darker redhead crouched down, giving his belly quick firm rubs. Danny sighed, eyes arching thickly, his wiggling leg eventually melding into a rapidly wagging tail. Vicky giggled.

While she was happily preoccupied, the lighter redhead approached slowly, fingers clawed. Timmy made a skidding side-slide between her and the others, arms outstretched with brows angled. When Jazz picked him up and tossed him over her shoulder, he yelled “Vicky, look out!”

The darker redhead turned and the taller boy looked up as his sister crouched down, attacking Vicky’s sides and belly, making her curl up with another squeal. Suddenly, however, a patch of dirt with a flower in it smacked Jazz upside the head, making her wince and withdraw.

“Back off, Jazz!” Tucker shouted sternly from the Turbokat’s wing, stance wide.

Standing beside him, Toph pointed at another windowbox. “Daisies at three o’ clock!”

Nodding, the boy in the red beret eagerly pelted the lighter redhead with them. Lowering her arms, Jazz brushed the dirt off of her face and gave him a look that said ‘How mature…’

“Got some tulips over there…and whatever that is ‘s got a dead pigeon in it.”

“Even better!” Tucker mused, uprooting both boxes and sending them at the lighter-red-haired girl’s head.

“Hey! Guys, GUYS!” Danny protested, picking himself up, “C’mon, I said take it easy!” Seeing his sister smacked by the dead bird, he chuckled. “Okay, that was pretty funny…”

With a light growl, Jazz swept the latest debris out of her hair and grabbed the darker redhead by hers, flinging her out of the way. Danny quickly rolled over and pushed himself up, though she grabbed him by the collar before he could get away.

“All right, that’s enough!” a deep, gruff voice declared as the handle of a giant star-tipped wand lowered, blocking the lighter redhead. Danny tugged himself out of her grip and whirled around.

The brunet grinned with a joyful hop, uttering another line that rarely made it into the scripts. “Yay, Jorgen!”

“And us, too!” Wanda called out as she and the green-haired one floated in. The fairies and their godchild shared the usual tight-knit hug.

“Sorry we’re late,” the muscular fairly went on, “It’s a loooooong story…”

“If by ‘loooooong story’ you mean the clock stopped,” Cosmo added.

Looking down at Jazz with his own complacent grin, Jorgen added “And I’m not ticklish — so your silly little tricks won’t work on me.”

“Oh, okay…” the girl acknowledged — grabbing the wand and lurching forward, yanking the muscular one off of his feet, over her head, and throwing him down, wrenching the enormous star-tipped staff out of his hands in the process.

“Holy —” Wanda started.

“Guacamole!” her husband finished, “She just —”

“Judo-flipped Jorgen!” they exclaimed in unison.

Timmy blinked. “Wow, that sounded…really rehearsed, guys.”

Smirking again, Jazz tightened her grip on the wand and made a flying leap over Jorgen, bounding for the darker redhead. “I feel like I should have seen that coming…” the muscular one said sheepishly as he rose to a sit.

Vicky dashed across the roof, leaping into the air and soaring over West 35th in a “RAYWIIING~!” Landing on the roof of the Atlantic Bank, she whirled around and cast a quick “BURSTO RONDO!” with palms outstretched.

Skidding to a stop, the lighter redhead raised the wand and batted at the incoming fireballs with a short roar. Standing her ground, the darker redhead drew her sword and deflected one, managing to swing at another, sending it arcing back toward Jazz with a like cry.

Running with blurred-legged speed toward the roof’s edge, the brunet cast a “RAYWING!” of his own, darting around and aiming at each of the errant fiery spheres with a “FREEZE ARROW!” before they crashed into walls and windows. Behind many, the denizens of the Big Apple had taken to huddling together on couches and chairs, some even snacking as they all watched the cartoon movie unfold on the roofs. Tongue clinging to the corner of his mouth, Timmy managed to cool a fireball headed straight for one of the parked news copters.

Brows angling, the lighter redhead swung the wand again. She didn’t turn at hearing Jorgen stomp up behind her, even when he tapped her firmly on the shoulder with a boom of “Excuse me, but that’s not yours!” After a few moments of silence, then, finally, pivoted with the wand firmly in hand and collided its five-pointed-tip with the tall fairy’s head — enough audible rage and ‘toonish force in her blow to knock the muscular one completely off his feet, yet again.

“JEEZ, Jazz!” Danny uttered with wide eyes.

“Dayum!” Tucker said, with a sympathetic half-flinch.

“Buffest fairy in the universe or not, he’s gonna be nursing one mega-headache…” Dash observed, turning, “Babe, you got anything else non-lethal we can use?”

“The closest thing I’ve got’s a Pincer Missile,” Sam reported, looking up. Both turned, seeing Danny looking at them with a firm wave of his hand.

Toph curled her hands into fists, hollering “What’s WRONG with you, ghostkid?!”

Casting one last icy arrow, the small boy landed in a crouch behind the lighter redhead. As she turned her head, then fully to face him, he let out a squeak, backing away in a crawl.

“NO!” Danny shouted, flying toward his sister, snatching up the brunet by the collar and landing beside the darker redhead. Seconds later, his fairies swooped in and poofed the three of them back to the safety of the jet’s wing. “Don’t you dare touch Tim,” the taller boy said, mustering an edge in his voice, “Or anyone else! From here on out! Or — or —!”

Jazz snorted lightly, cocking her head with a calm grin. “Or what, little brother?”

Predictably, the wand’s glow sent a wall of large ‘toonish feathers in his direction. With a violent twitch, the white-haired boy raised a spherical shield, at the edge of which the plumes flitted and wiggled like an angered swarm of insects still trying to get at their prey.

“There’s nothing there, there’s nothing there…” Danny muttered to himself. Opening his eyes to a squint, he saw more than a dozen hovering feathertips pointed at him. With a grunt, he shut his eyes tigher, continuing slightly louder “There’s nothing there, there’s nothing there…!” and pushed out the radius of his shield a few inches.

Vicky stepped back frowning. Holding out her hands again, she began “Eien wo suiki yukisugi yuku kaze —!” (4) but cut herself off, seeing several of the things break off and swoop toward her. “Eheheh…” Sweatdropping with arched eyes and convex brows, she lowered her arms, whereupon the plumes returned their full attention to the white-haired boy.

Jazz’s eyes also arched again briefly. “You can’t hold that up forever!” she reminded him in the same sort of self-satisfied coo.

“SHUT UP!” her brother repeated, pouring more glowing energy into his shield.

Suddenly, darts of fire pelted his shield from behind as Vicky unleashed a snap-cast “FLARE~ ARROW!” Each feather struck singed to a disintegrated crisp.

Danny turned his head with a wide grin “Vicky!” chuckling “That was awesome!”

Immediately, however, more of the things appeared, this time targeting the darker redhead, who tugged down her shirt with a wide-eyed whimper. However, in rushing past the white-haired boy, they were left open to similarly aimed blasts which incapacitated them equally. Vicky visibly relaxed with a relieved sigh.

Jazz sent more of the things at both of them, laughing as she watched them scramble to destroy the collective white, fluffy cloud. A bit breathless, the pair looked across at the lighter redhead, and exchanged a glance.

“Okay, on three, aim for the wand, got it?” She nodded. Together, they drew back their arms, a glowing sphere mushrooming in both of their palms. “One…two…”

FIIIRE~…”
“…THREE!”
“…BAAALL~!”

At the last second, like a professional pitcher, Danny put a spin on his ectoball, sending it across at an angle he hoped was somewhat unexpected. However, the lighter redhead didn’t move the wand in its path while trying to keep it away from the spell or bat the fireball away again; and she didn’t even flinch.

“Danny, Danny, Danny…” his sister tsked with a smirk, “Were you really trying to throw me a curveball? I can read you like I can read my OWN mind…”

The white-haired boy gritted his teeth — as did the darker redhead. “Watashi ni makasete…!” (5) she rasped, pushing past him.

“Vicky, what did you — wait!” Danny cried, trying to grab her arm. As both redheads locked eyes again, the lighter-red-haired girl leaped across to the bank’s roof and locked the wand’s rod with the darker-red-haired girl’s blade.

“No one understands you when you talk like that, and no one cares,” Jazz said coldly as they withdrew.

The darker redhead grinned, making another swing. “Sono toori!” (6)

“Man, two girls kinda-sorta fighting over me,” the white-haired boy said quietly to himself, “Just wish one of them wasn’t my sister…still, it’s pretty hot…”

Vicky tried a “MONO VOLT!” but Jazz dodged. Jazz tried attacking her with more feathers, but Vicky cast a buffering “FLARE BIT!” sending the things literally bursting into flames again.

“…wait a minute…hot…” Digging into his belt, Danny pulled out the small slip of paper that he’d buried in his pocket years ago. Pulling it taut, he scanned the small red type again.

FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE.

Looking back at the redheads, while Vicky’s last spell had vanished, her jagged ponytail — and Jazz’s — continued to whip up in their fight, looking almost like Ember’s.

Blinking, the white-haired boy’s eyes widened again briefly. “Wow…” he muttered, though nothing more.

Finally, after another handful of quick-cast spells and dodging and slicing, the darker redhead breathed audibly. Jazz’s next shove sent her toppling backward, before the lighter redhead raised the wand high as if to deliver the same skull-crushing blow she’d warded Jorgen off with.

“STOP IT!” Danny howled.

He stopped mid-lunge, however; he and his sister both looking up as they heard a booming echo of “SPIRIT SLASH!”

The winged Japanese boy careened back into view, landing between Vicky and Jazz, swinging his sword and binding it with the wand. The blue flames around the golden blade rose, and slowly, the rod began to crack before it snapped apart. The lighter redhead screeched as the two halves slipped out of her fingers and thunked to the roof.

Now she cringed as well, raising her arm defensively. Extinguishing the jagged blade with a swift cut through the air, he sheathed it and gently grabbed her hand, pulling it down and holding it. “Jazz…”

The lighter-red-haired girl opened her eyes, facing him. She — and the others — noticed that he’d traded his iconic blue-and-white vest for a black jacket with long, red, flame-decaled sleeves, and black gloves for his green ones. Folding his wings, he smiled at Jazz.

“What do you want?” the girl asked edgily.

“I want to help you,” Satoshi said plainly, though softly, frowning, “You were wrong to lash out at Danny —” brows sweeping into convexes, “but you WEREN’T wrong to feel the way you did.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jazz said.

“Dammnit, yes you do!” the Japanese boy insisted, “Quit fighting it — quit the evil bitch act, I KNOW that isn’t you…”

“I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the lighter redhead reiterated, tugging on her hand.

“…but I know YOU, Jazz,” Satoshi said again, “In every universe, while the body might be different, the soul is the same — you’re still the same brainy, sweet girl I feel like I’ve known my WHOLE LIFE!”

“You’re crazy,” Jazz declared, though with a waver in her voice.

“This world, it sucks, I KNOW,” the Japanese boy went on, “But there are others…you’ve had those dreams, too, haven’t you? You’ve been there, too…you know what I’m talking about…”

“O…kay…my former idol is hitting on my sister,” Danny observed, adding “Actually, I’m okay with that…”

“Just let me SHOW you…” Satoshi entreated quietly. He let go of the lighter redhead’s hand — then held out both of his, palms upturned.

At first recoiling, Jazz paused, then cautiously reached out, putting her hands in his. She watched him grin, then close his eyes — her lids drooping in turn.

Feeling him let go, the lighter-red-haired girl opened her eyes, her surroundings slowly coming into focus. Blinking, and rubbing her eyes, she realized she was staring at a pale green locker door, which the Japanese boy grabbed and gently shut. Again, he grinned at her — a sort of almost smug sparkle in his eyes, as if to say ‘Told you so!’

With a quiet gasp, Jazz turned, looking around, whirling in a one-eighty, then back again. “What happened? Where are we?!” before answering her own question “Wait…this is Casper High…” Satoshi nodded. “...but it’s not real — it’s just a set piece…” She walked across the hall, still visibly dazed, pulling open a door to reveal a spacious empty classroom.

“It’s real here,” the Japanese boy explained, “And that’s not the only thing…”

“Jazz?”

Turning, the redhead saw her brother standing in the middle of the hall. “Danny?”

“What’re you doing? C’mon, school’s over — let’s go home,” the boy said, tugging on the strap of his lavender backpack, “Besides, I need some serious r-n’-r if we’re going to do finally track down that Fire Stone in the Ghost Zone…”

“Huh?” Jazz uttered, then looked down, eyes hazing as memories came back to her like a bundle of laundry from a chute, “Wait…I remember…Vexus…and there was an explosion — and then Ash saved me…” looking up at ‘Ash’ who nodded again with yet another borderline-manure-chomping grin.

“Uh…” Danny glanced away, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good cliff notes version of the past two days — you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine,” the girl insisted, straightening herself; then looked into her brother’s eyes.

“You sound a little shaken up,” came another voice. To her right, three more young men came walking, stopping beside Danny. “Not that I blame you — we’ve been through some serious hell lately…”

“Yusuke,” Jazz said, looking at him, then the others, “Wayne, Riku…” She felt tears welling and trickling from her eyes, though she didn’t know why.

The trio exchanged raised brows, before turning back toward the girl. “Did you just pass out and have a dream about a bunch of weird characters who look like us or something?” Riku asked.

“I guess so…” was all that came to her lips, along with a weak smile.

“Look, Jazz, if you’re stressing out, just…take it easy, okay?” the younger Fenton coaxed, smiling, “We wouldn’t want you to blow a fuse — you’re a big part of our team! And you may be my sister, but you’re one of my best friends, too.”

“I am?” Jazz echoed tearfully.

“Hey, we’re all friends here,” Yusuke reiterated, smiling broadly, glancing at Wayne “Even if we annoy the ever-living fuck out of each other most of the time.”

“Stuff it, Urameshi,” Wayne growled, though he didn’t look too piqued.

“Don’t forget about us!” Looking down, the redhead saw the brunet toothily grinning up at her, along with Jimmy Neutron, and Foster’s own Mac and Bloo.

“Everybody…you’re all here…”

“Yep, the gang’s all here,” Wayne reiterated as the lot of them gently latched onto the girl, the taller boys — minus ‘Ash’, though he stood just behind them — putting their hands on her shoulders, and the smaller ones leaning against her legs.

“Will somebody please explain to me why you’re all standing around doing a goddamned after-school special?!” bellowed a voice from Satoshi’s watch. Blinking, the Japanese boy lifted his arm.

“Enma?” Jazz said, blinking.

“No, Santa Claus — who the hell else d’you think it is? …nobody else’s been hacking this frequency lately, have they?”

“Jazz,” Satoshi began again, taking her hand when she finished wiping her eyes on her sleeve, “All you have to do is say the word and we can come here, live here, permanently…”

The redhead looked around again, seeing the smiling faces, the humble school hallway. A new life.

“…but we don’t have to live here,” the Japanese boy continued, “We can go back, if you really want — or we can go somewhere else, anywhere. I can take you wherever you want to go…I can take you away! From your misery!”

“…but I barely know you…” Jazz whispered, memories of her waking life brimming in the back of her mind.

“You know me HERE — and…” Satoshi glanced down, stuttered for a moment, flinching, and added “Sometimes your whole life boils down to just one thing. Everything you do is all just leading up to one goal, and for me…for me that was meeting you. And you’re right, I DIDN’T know you — but I saw you, and…I knew there was something about you. Then I found this place, I came here and I GOT to know you. And — hell, we even switched bodies! — and — and —!”

Time seemed to grind to a halt, and freeze around them. The air was still warm, as were the expressions on the others’ faces. The redhead kept staring into the Japanese boy’s eyes, feeling more tears pang in her own.

With a frame-wilting sigh, Satoshi looked up at her again. “You moved to a different universe once before, why not now? Third time’s the charm!”

“Second…time, actually…” Jazz corrected, making him flinch again.

“Fuck, third universe, whatever…” he muttered; then smiled, though his brows were convex.

“But…how?”

“Well, the way I crammed it was…that…” the boy began with a scratch of his head, “If you shut down all your senses for just a little bit, for a long enough time, you can collapse the wave function in your perception — or in non-Fudgehead-speak, tune your consciousness out of one reality and into another. More or less.”

The redhead chuckled quietly. “Makes sense to me…”

“So whaddaya say, Jazz?” ‘Ash’ asked, taking her hands again, “Wanna ditch the rotten apple and the rest of that dirtball and…come live on this one? Come back to ‘Condo Ketchum’? Sure, we’ve got entirely different shit to deal with, but…you don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to live with all those years of getting shit on with nobody to lean on because they NEVER HAPPENED.” He shook his head lightly, his eyes still on her. “Not here.”

“So that’s it? I can just…leave everything behind and start over? Get a second chance? With no catch?”

Lids drooping, Satoshi said “Hey, even Wayne got a second chance — why not you?”

Gulping, Jazz glanced down, uttering a few syllables. “W — I…” She flinched to dam back more tears. “You —…”

The Japanese boy only blinked, brows rising for a moment before sweeping back into convexes.
___
(1) You! How dare you?!
(2) What's so funny?
(3) One who is darker than twilight, one who is redder than flowing blood...buried in the flow of time, in thy —! [First three or so lines of the Dragon Slave]
(4) Wind which blows across eternity — [First line of the Bram Gush]
(5) Leave this to me...!
(6) Exactly!

Author:  Jazzypants [ Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:30 am ]
Post subject: 

"P.S. I really hope you've been reading PWZ : DR since Chapter One, because you're going to need at least a passing knowledge of it to 'get' any of the little details past Satoshi's "Let me show you" line. ^-^; "

Oh... I MIGHT have been...Wink

Haha, loved how you captured Wayne in just one little line. XD He may be a good guy now, but he's still kind of an asshole. Razz

And as always, I love your portrayal of DR!Ash/Satoshi. Very Happy

Absolutely fantabulous chapter, Maba. ^_^

Author:  Karnelia [ Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Way to go, Tucker~! ^0^ It's nice to see just about everyone reunite in this chapter for the battle! Though, wow, Jazz sure is dominating the field, and HOLY CRAP, she even took out Jorgen!

I'm totally loving how Danny doesn't want anyone to hurt his sister even when she's like outta-control-evilness~ I know how you feel, Danny.... ; 3; *HUGS* I dunno if it's just a younger sibling thing to feel protective of your older sibling no matter how much they rag on you or what....XD (ROFL at Toph, though).

And things really start to, uh, heat up when Vicky arrives on the scene! o 3o It seems like the two redheads are a pretty good match -- except Vicky's weakness is the same as Danny's....crap! At least she's not psychologically scarred about like Danny. XD

Aaaand, no, I haven't been reading PWZ:DR -- sorry, Dustin! -- so I don't get all the details, but I get the big picture enough to know what's going on. But nooooooo! Don't do it, Jazz! ; 3; Don't run from your problems too! ...I know you're not, but it'd be really funny if you ninja'd another 23+ year excursion, but for Jazz, at this point. XD Except, now my brain kinda hurts trying to figure out that if 'none of that ever happened', did TDPS!Jazz displace PWZ:DR!Jazz because there were obviously events with her prior, and if so, did that Jazz disappear or possibly switch with the other Jazz, or is PWZ:DR a part of the lucid dream world of the TDPS!verse? Gah, the switching universe thing is different from time travel, so it's harder for me to wrap my mind around XD OH, my brain just had a fun -- but tragically sad -- idea! Buuuut, nevermind...it 's not what you're going for, so I might save it as a plot bunny for later....> w>

Dangit, I did ramble a bit, didn't I? > 3>; Oh well.... I just wanna know what's gonna happen next! *bouncebouncebouncebouncebounce* o 3o;;

Author:  Mabaroshiwoou [ Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

OMGosh, thanks guys. ;w; You're the best. *HUGGLEHUG* <3<3

Well, I finally did it. It's not quite what I imagined, but I did it — Melancholy is DONE!

NC: ...OR IS IT?!

Haha, well, you'll see...or maybe not. X3 Anyway, hopefully you can enjoy it even with the massive subs toward the 'end'. Also, anyone with a passing knowledge of physics should probably turn off their brain for this one.

CHAPTER XV

“What are they doing?” Vicky asked.

“I dunno, but…part of me feels like I shouldn’t be watching…” Danny mused.

For the past ten minutes, the Japanese boy and the lighter red-haired-girl had simply stood there closely, holding hands, appearing to be miles deep in some sort of trance.

“Hey, Fol, got any sixes?”
“Eh, go fish…”

Grumbling, the burly boy reached for the card pile. “How ‘bout you be the fisherman for a change?” He idly reached into one of the doughnut boxes the NY1 News crew had set out and consented to share.

Along with the Turbokat, the helicopters had been parked, their pilots and cameramen hanging around, passing the time with cards and similar games while keeping their cameras running, perched in prime positions to capture any action that did resume.

Suddenly, the Japanese boy and the lighter redhead began to slowly fade, their forms flickering in and out of transparency.

“Whoa — going intangible!” Danny exclaimed, “Or…something!”

“You…” the white-haired boy and darker-red-haired girl heard Jazz mumble. Opening her eyes, she drew back and tore away from Satoshi. “You’re just trying to play mind games with me!”

Wincing with a guttural cry as she broke contact, the Japanese boy looked her in the eyes again. “No, GODDAMMNIT, I’m trying to HELP you!”

“Dreams aren’t REAL!” she spat back, “They’re just…products of the mind! They’re just lowered activity in the prefrontal cortex, THAT’S ALL…”

“Then how come you know what you know? Huh?” Satoshi rasped, “How come you and I both came back to the SAME dream, and we both met the same people who don’t even EXIST in this world! This ‘real’ world!”

Jazz clutched her head for a moment; her eyes closed “It’s all…just…” then opened below angled brows “You tricked me!”

“HOW?” the Japanese boy bellowed, pushing back the corner of his jacket to reveal his sheath. “You think this is a trick?” he asked, holding out the bolt-bladed sword, “It’s REAL! How the hell would you even see it if it was a product of my prefrontal cortex?”

The lighter redhead said nothing, but stalked up to Satoshi. Pausing, her hand hovered over the sword before she slipped her fingers through his, grabbing the hilt and snatching it from him.

“HEY! The fuck? How’d you even do that?! …give it back, dammnit!”

“Wow, she’s really a kleptomaniac today,” Vicky said quietly.

Danny glanced at her. “Heheh…yeah, I noticed,” then faced forward “JAZZ, WAIT!”

Skidding to a stop at the roof’s edge, she drew her arm back as if to hurl the blade away like a crumpled up ball of newspaper — then stopped.

In front of the southernmost window awning of the Macy’s façade on Broadway, a bright light appeared, growing into a large vertical circle that spread across the street, with energy rising from it like steam before the portal’s architecture solidified.

“The Gate?” Danny said, “But…why’s it showing up? None of us took the old parade route…” Looking at the darker redhead again, he said “I’m gonna check it out — stay here!” then leaped into the air, swooping closer.

“Be careful, Danny!” Sam hollered across with her hands to her mouth.

Touching down in front of the store’s Broadway entrance, the white-haired boy stepped cautiously toward the Gate, squinting into the open glow that had replaced the blue gradient. Only inches away, he finally discerned what seemed to be disrupting its usual camouflage.

With a trademark deep gasp, he twisted, hollering “THE PORTAL’S COLLAPSING!”

The others, ‘toons and humans alike, all showed similar shock at the revelation. “Crud, Fenzer! Whadda you want us to do?!” Dash shouted back.

“I DON’T KNOW!” Danny replied, voice tinged with panic, “Block it! Or SOMEthing!”

Hitching a platform of solid soil down to solid asphalt, the earthbending pair jogged over, Toph flinging a wave of the monument ground at the ring. It looked sturdily sealed — but seconds later, the dirt was swept into the glow, looking as if it was being inhaled by the anomaly. The blue-eyed girl quickly pulled the stream apart, packing the remainder back into its usual parameters.

“Holy crap, dude!” Tucker exclaimed.

Toph snorted. “What the heck? How’d it even do that?!”

“We can figure that out later once we figure out how to stop it from completely destroying itself!” the white-haired boy urged, pleading again to the others “You guys! HELP!”

“Danny, I think…I think you’re the only one who can fix this,” Tucker said solemnly, brows in convexes.

“What? Me?! HOW?!” Danny sputtered, then pivoted to face the ring again. Taking a deep breath with puffing cheeks, he raised both hands, palms out, and fired a thick double-beam into the portal.

The ‘toonish energy stopped as it reached the crushing walls of the wormhole — but while the boy could feel its pressure, his efforts did seem to slow it down. Only slightly, but it made a noticeable difference nonetheless. Wincing and sliding his foot back to widen his stance and brace himself, he put more weight into it.

After only a minute or so, he withdrew, breathing more heavily. “Well, I can’t fix it, but I can buy us some time…a few seconds or more…” he muttered with a rasp. Sighing, he blasted through the ring again, wincing and grunting.

“Not the only one!”
“Tim?!”

Landing on the street just in front of the taller boy, the smaller spread his stance as well, cupping the air in his hands and closing his eyes. “Tasogare yori mo kuraki mono…chi no nagare yori akaki mono…”* he began, struggling with the foreign words, though doing his best to clearly enunciate them.

“Hey, that’s the spell Vicky’s always using!” Danny noted, turning for a moment.

As with his first attempt at another, lesser black magic spell, the brunet came close to fainting — until the green- and pink-haired ones poofed in beside him, wands hoisted like lit lighters, glowing brightly. They, too, let their lids droop closed.

Finally, what looked like a fireball formed between his fingers, looking as if it was struggling to grow as much as he was stumbling along in the spell. “Tow-kee no nah-gah-ray nee oot-soo-mow-ray-shee…ee —” he flinched, lips twitching before he continued “Ee-dah-ee-nah-roo nahn-jee no nah nee oh-ee-tay…”

“Twerp…” the darker red-haired girl mumbled, brows convex.

“Wah-ray…ko…ko…” As Timmy grew audibly fatigued once more, even his fairies flinched. The stars’ glow held, but flickered in intervals.

“Poof!”
“Poof!

Turning her head, Wanda said “Aw, look, the twins are trying to help!”

The oddly pudgy little baby fairies floated closer, raising their rattles, and making the small boy’s glow just a little brighter.

“…nee…yah-mee…nee…” However, the pink-hatted one’s energy still dragged, lids drooping.

Suddenly, the muscular one sprang to a sit, proclaiming with a glowing grin “My grandbabies!”

Vicky cried out as she facefaulted, the others — humans included — jumping violently at his voice and vigor.

“JEEZ, Strangle-nator!” Dash quipped.

Fingers lightly digging around her heart, the goth girl snapped “WARN somebody when you’re gonna do that!”

“So what’d I miss?” Jorgen asked, walking to the roof’s edge and peering down.

“Oh, nothing — just the end of the world as we know it,” Vicky informed him. The muscular one looked at her, blinking.

“Really? And I feel fine…” Watching the brunet for a minute, he lowered his brows “Hang on, Timmy Turner! I will pump up your puny power!” and dug out yet another oversized wand.

“You mean you had that thing in your back pocket this whole time, von Screwin’-with-us?!” the burly boy bristled.

“I forgot I packed a spare,” Jorgen said with a quick roll of his eyes.

“Heck of a thing to forget!” Sam snapped.

“Hey, I’m over a hundred years old, my memory’s not perfect, okay? “

“Nevermind — just get down there and help them!” the darker redhead interjected, tugging on Jorgen’s arm. Nodding, the muscular one disappeared in a poof, reappearing on Broadway. Holding out his wand, he closed his eyes, Timmy’s opening wide.

Before he could continue the chant, however, Ashton and Gary-Keith began to glow as well, their faces fading into an all-consuming bright-white light.

“Holy cow in a handbasket!” Cosmo exclaimed happily, “They’re spurting!”

As described, when the transformation’s incandescence faded, the fairly oddbabies had grown into fairly odd preteen ‘toons, both wearing very different clothes with lavender jags draping in their faces. Their wands were tall, like them.

“Warp spurting!” the pink-haired one clarified, brows raised.

Taking only a moment to exchange a glance, the pair grasped the gravity of the situation and extended their wands like Jorgen, though cradling them with two hands.

Leaning his head back for a moment, seeming to savor the combined boost, the pink-hatted one lowered his head and adjusted his grip on the undulating energy sphere, brows lowering as he yelled “…CHIKAWAN!” even adding a bit of Vicky’s usual accent. “Warera ga mae ni tachi fusagarishi, subete no orokanaru mono ni! Ware to nanji ga chikara mote, hitoshiku horobi wo ataen koto wo!” With the fireball almost as big as he was, he thrust out his arms, casting it point-blank into the portal with a bellow of “DRAGONNN SLAVE!”

The fiery blast that resulted pierced through the Gate alongside Danny’s beam, striking the falling folds and brought it to a complete halt for the few moments that the spell lasted, if even nudged it back.

“Hey, it worked!” the white-haired boy said with a grin, “Sorta!”

Seconds later, Vicky had joined them, quickly reciting the nine lines flawlessly before screeching “DRAGON~ SLAVE!” and sending another burst through the ring.

Still at full power, Timmy got through the spell’s wording in less time with less trouble. “DRAGON SLAVE!”

Taking a deep breath, the darker redhead cast another. “DRAGON SLAAAVE!”

DRAGON SLAVE!”
DRAGON SLAVE!”
DRAGON SLAVE!”
DRAGON SLAAVE!”

Sinking sharply to her hands and knees, Vicky caught her breath along with Timmy. Even the muscular one’s seemingly brand-new wand was dimly flickering, the five winged ones looking exhausted as well.

On his own again, Danny gritted his teeth and took a step forward, pushing back against the wormhole with all his remaining strength, ghostly and ‘toonish, expanding the ectoplasm to fit the Gate like a cork.

“NNnngh…I can’t stop it!” Danny lamented with a wince, “We’re gonna have to do something else…or else…we’re screwed!”

Struggling to her feet, the darker redhead said breathlessly “The only thing…I can…think of is…a Giga Slave.”

“What’s a…Giga Slave?” the white-haired one asked, now sounding nearly out of breath himself.

“Well, technically, it’s the deadliest of all the black magic spells —”
“DEADLY?”
“Yeah — but it’s also the strongest. I figure if the Dragon Slave can stop this thing in its tracks, then maybe the Giga Slave can…blast it back open! Or…something.”

While the darker red-haired girl dug her fingers into her hair and sweatdropped, Danny faced forward blinking.

“Sounds good to me.”

“But wait!” Vicky added, glancing down, “We’ll probably need two…”

“Two? Why two?”
“Because the Dragon Slave only stops it for a few seconds, so we’d need one to bring It to a complete stop — y’know, cancel out the momentum — and then another to reverse the flow, and open it back up like normal.”

“Like I said, makes about as much sense as anything right now. Give it a shot!” With a grunt, he added “But HURRY!”

“Okay!” the darker redhead said, eyes arching briefly. Turning to the brunet and the winged ones, she said “C’mon, twerp! If you can belt out a Dragon Slave, then, heck, maybe you’re not too tiny and twerpy to cast a Giga Slave, too — whaddaya say?”

On cue, the smaller boy flopped to the asphalt unconscious, followed by the five fairies who collapsed on top of each other in a pile. Vicky sweatdropped again with a ‘toonish expression of panic and guilt.

Danny glanced back with convex brows, but said nothing.

The girl fidgeted for a moment, pivoting back and forth before looking down again. “Well, I guess I could try casting one right after the other really quick…” Gulping, she closed her eyes and held out her hands, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply before starting “Yami yori mo nao kuraki mono, yoru yori mo nao fukaki mono —” **

CHOTTO MATTEEE~!” (1)

Twitching, Vicky opened her eyes, she and Danny both looking over their shoulders. The redhead gasped deeply when she recognized the figures rounding the corner from West 35th.

Chotto matte!” Lina reiterated, slowing to a stop, “Chotto matte! Chotto…” Breathing hard, she doubled over for a moment, still holding up an index finger. Gourry stood just behind her, looking down, then up at the American ‘toons.

Vicky clasped her hands together, eyes in stars. “I can’t believe it’s really you!” she squealed, with a bounce “I can’t believe you’re really here! How — How —?!”

Iya, iya, iya — sonna koto wasurete yo!” the Japanese redhead interrupted, straightening herself. The American girl frowned, shoulders rising slightly. “A-A-Ano…” (2) Lina stuttered, eyes darting before she looked Vicky in the eyes, saying loudly “Giga Slave very bad! VERY BAD!” while making a frantic crossing gesture with her arms.

N-Naze desu ka?” (3) Vicky asked quietly.

“NO TRY! NO TRY!” the Japanese girl went on, before Gourry began tapping her on the shoulder. “Nan da, Gourry?” (4) she asked with a light glare. The long-blond-haired one pointed at the American redhead.

Kanojo ga nihongo ga wakaru to omou,” (5) he said. Lina blinked.

Honto?” (6) she ventured, looking Vicky in the eyes.

Glancing away, the American redhead replied “Hai. Watashi wa anata wo rikai suru koto ga dekimasu…” (7)

Grinning, the Japanese redhead exclaimed “Sore wa subete ga haruka ni kantan ni narimasu!” Taking a breath, she went on “Chuuibukaku kite…Giga Slave wa hijou ni kiken na jumon. Sore wa amari ni mo kikendashi, anata wa sore wo shiyou shinaide.” (8)

Watashi wa anata no mae ni kyasuto mite kita!” Vicky said. “Kuwaete, Lord of Nightmares wa honmono de wa nai. Nani ga okori uru saiaku no desu ka?” (9)

Sono toki, atashi wa atashi to issho ni shiro majutsushi wo motte ita! Mata, kyuukyuu kyuumeishi no mono ga takusan!” Lina countered, “Atashi wa anata ga jumon wo tonaeru tame ni shokuhatsu sa rete iru koto manzoku shite iru — demo, anata ga kore wo okonau baai wa, jibun wo koroshite shimaudeshou.” (10)

Watashi wa sore wo shinainaraba, wareware wa wareware no sekai e no saigo no setsuzoku wo ushinau koto ni naru,” the American redhead pointed out, “Kazoku ga hikisaka reru...” (11)

Demo, mada…” (12) the Japanese redhead began with a frown; then flinched.

“Uh, guys?” Danny piped up, “LESS TALKY, MORE HELPY, PLEASE!”

All heads turned toward the portal. “Sore wa orokana kangae da,” Lina scoffed, then winked at Vicky. “Demo, atashi wa sorera ga tokidoki dousa suru koto wo shitte iru.” (13)

Arigatou gozaimasu!” (14) the American redhead said shrilly with brilliant eyes.

OK~, kore wo dousa sa seru tame ni, atashitachi wa onaji toki ni kono jumon wo kyasuto suru hitsuyou ga aru,” (15) the Japanese redhead explained, emphasizing in English “Cannot be ONE WORD DIFFERENT.”

Vicky nodded vigorously. She gave an arch-eyed smile as she positioned herself next to Lina, fidgeting a bit in her excitement, lifting up her hands — then stared at the white-haired boy for a moment, frowning again, and looking at the Japanese redhead, who had already closed her eyes. “L-Lina-sama?” she said softly.

Nani?”
Danii ni nani ga okoru no darou ka?” (16)

Danny snuck a glance over his shoulder.

Jaa, kare ga idou suru jikan ga aru — kare ga rikai shi, atashi wa omotta.” Lina replied with a frown, adding “Kare ga idou suru nara, atashitachi wa jumon wo tonaeru jikan wo motte inai.” (17)

Lip quivering, Vicky said “Soshite…watashi wa sore wo okonau koto ga dekinai!” (18)

Atashitachi wa mou sentakushi wo motte inai!” (19) Lina yelled, though her voice wavered, her brows sharply convex.

Gourry kept silent, watching the two redheads, looking over at Danny, then down.

“I CAN’T HOLD IT ANYMORE!” the white-haired boy shouted, wincing sharply. “Whatever you’re gonna do, DO IT!”

The red-haired girls exchanged a glance; then faced forward and closed their eyes. Vicky flinched as she lifted her arms above her head slowly.

Yami yori mo nao kuraki mono, yoru yori mo nao fukaki mono… konton no umi ni tayutaishi mono, konjiki narishi yami no oo…ware koko ni nanji ni negau, ware koko ni nanji ni chikau… waga maeni tachifusagarishi, subete no orokanaru mono ni…ware to nanji ga chikara mote, hitoshiku horobi wo ataen koto wo!”

As the words rang out from her lips, the American redhead gazed up at the electrified swirling ball of darkness mushrooming in her hands. While she managed to keep her concentration on the spell, she couldn’t help but think of what an honor it was to be casting alongside Lina Inverse herself. She should’ve been as happy as she’d ever imagined herself being — but knowing the terrible price it was coming at, her dream come true was turning into a waking nightmare.

The lighter red-haired girl stood with a wingless, plain-clothed Satoshi at the edge of the bank’s roof. She hadn’t understood any of the conversations below, let alone heard most of them, but staring down at the two girls conjuring their dark spells and seeing her brother struggling with the Gate, even she felt her stomach drop.

Glimpsing the heap of fairies, Gourry took another look at the boy and the girls and buried his face in his hands, mumbling into them “Kore wa hidoi da. Naze kore ga okotte iru?” (20)

GIGA SLAAAVE~!” the redheads hollered in unison, each throwing the dark spheres like giant beachballs of death.

Danny turned his head at their hollers, seeing the things hurling toward him, whirling around to see the wormhole’s collapse inches away. Somewhere between a rock and a hard place would’ve been a cozy vacation spot in comparison. Glancing down, he saw that he’d unwittingly stepped just beyond the ring’s threshold. Eyes hazing, he took the remaining second to appreciate the tremendous irony.

“Heh.”

The first spell struck him like a proverbial speeding truck, sandwiching him up against the unstable vortex, then the second spell hit. Feeling as though he’d been wedged in a rapidly, continuously tightening vice, he screamed.

“DANNY!” Maddie howled from the Corner Bistro’s bar, reaching for the television as Jack hugged her tightly, wincing.

“Dammnit, Danny! Why didn’t you go intangible?!” Sam cried, punching the wall before letting Dash put an arm around her.

Standing by the monument, Tucker put an arm around Toph, though he buried his face in her shoulder.

Feeling the blood drain from her head, Vicky felt herself collapse. Moments after she heard Gourry shout “Lina!” she felt the long-blond-haired one’s other arm break her fall moments before her lids drooped shut like miniature portcullises.

The next thing the American redhead knew, it was early morning; the sky was gray and the air was cool. Casting off the covers of the cot she’d been put on, she rushed out the nearest door, finding herself on Broadway again.

“Danny?” she called out, walking into the street, still not quite as crowded as it normally was. “Danny?!” Heads turned, several humans stopping to watch her as she weaved her way toward the same spot — the one she had seen the white-haired boy standing in only hours earlier.

The Gate was gone, and she couldn’t tell whether their ‘stupid idea’ had failed or not. Standing in front of the southernmost awning, she reached up into thin air, trying to touch the images in her memory.

Sniffling, she smiled through welling eyes, saying softly “Go figure I want to try and start over with you…” lips quivering again as she flinched, squeezing the tears from her eyes, “and then I don’t have any time left!” Sobbing, she let her head hang. “Danny, I’m so sorry!”

Lina appeared in the department store doorway, running out to her. Turning, Vicky sniffled again.

Tears still falling, the American redhead whimpered “Danny’s dead and it’s all my fault!” Repeating “Danii wa shinde iru! Sore wa subete watashi no sei desu!”

Iie, sore ga atashi no sei da,” the Japanese girl rebutted, lips quivering, “Atashi wa nani ga okoru ka wo shitte ita, soshite, atashi wa anata wo teishi shite inai.” Pausing, she added tearfully “Gomen nasai.” (21)

Demo, ta ni houhou ga nai no deshita", Vicky said again, asking "Sore wa dousa ka?” (22)

Lina nodded. “Gourry wa Geto ga futatabi tesuto sareta koto wo nobeta. Kore wa seijou ni dousa shite iru.” (23)

Turning again, the American girl stared down the street, eyes hazing. “Danii wa sore no tame ni shinu hitsuyou wa nai to omoimasu…” (24)

Danny’s lids fluttered, “Nnn…should’ve gone intangible…” opening to reveal blue eyes once more. “Huh? Whaa? …where am I?” Pushing himself to a sore sit, he rubbed his eyes and pushed his bangs out of his face.

Looking around slowly, he saw a seemingly endless grassy field, with a scattering of trees and single, winding dirt road through it that disappeared briefly behind the knoll a few feet to his right. The sun was shining and the air was pleasantly warm.

“Hello?” he called out, then “HELLO?!” Hearing his voice fade into the strange empty scenery, he added “Is anybody out there? …anybody?” His brows swept into convexes as his face fell into a disheartened frown. Where AM I? And more importantly, WHY? What happened after —!

“DANNY!” a voice called out, jutting into his thoughts.

A figure was sprinting down the dirt path toward him. It was a human, with brown eyes and light brown hair, in a whitish-gray T-shirt and longer white sleeves, jeans, and sneakers.

The boy grinned. “David!”

Posted image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
___
* Full Dragon Slave incantation, translation, and information
** Full Giga Slave incantation, translation, and information
(1) WAIT A MINUTE!
(2)Yeah, yeah, yeah — forget about that! U-U-Um...
(3) W-Why is that?
(4) What is it, Gourry?
(5) I think she understands Japanese.
(6) Really?
(7) Yes. I can understand you...
(8) This makes everything easier! Listen carefully...the Giga Slave is a very dangerous spell. It's too dangerous and you shouldn't use it.
(9) I've watched you cast it before! Besides, the Lord of Nightmares isn't real. What's the worst that could happen?
(10) At that time, I had several white mages with me! And lots of EMTs! I'm happy I inspired you to cast spells — but if you do this, you're going to kill yourself.
(11) If I don't do it, we'll lose the last connection to our world. Families will be torn apart...
(12) But, still...
(13) It's a stupid idea. But I know that sometimes those work.
(14) Thank you so much!
(15) Okay, for this to work, we have to cast the spell at the exact same time.
(16) What's going to happen to Danny?
(17) Well, he won't have time to move — I thought he knew that. If he moves, then we won't have time to cast the spell.
(18) Then...I can't do it!
(19) We don't have a choice anymore!
(20) This is horrible. Why is this happening?
(21) No, it's my fault. I knew what would happen, and I didn't stop you. I'm so sorry.
(22) But there was no other way... Did it work?
(23) Gourry said that they tested the Gate again. It's working normally.
(24) I don't think Danny had to die for it...

Author:  Jazzypants [ Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well shit. Don't know why I didn't comment on this BEFORE I left.

Anyway, holy shit. :O The Gate opening, Vicky meeting Lina and Gourry, Danny's noble "sacrifice" and meeting David Kaufman...jeez. You hit some sort of record for awesome. This blows the other endings to the TDPS saga out of the water. o.o

To use the "LeBron James Defense" here for a minute, what should I do? Should I say it was awesome, excellent, amazing? Should I compliment you on how far your writing's come (It was great in the beginning, but now it's just unspeakably awesome)? Should I offer you a congratulatory handshake for making it this far?

...Okay, I'll do them all. XP

Incredible story Maba, and here's hoping we see the final story in the TDPS saga (One-shots not included) before too long, because I'm dying to see some MOAR of the stuff you've shown me on MSN. Very Happy

Author:  Karnelia [ Sun Mar 27, 2011 12:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Melancholy of Danny Phantom

Gosh, I'm sorry this took me so long to get to, though I've had the chance to read through the fic a couple times now as a whole and I gotta say this is probably my favorite of the entire saga thus far (And no, definitely not because I'm in it, lol).

As for this chapter in particular, I have to start off with a hearty LOL at the Go Fish game in this rather hangover-ish moment of epic battle time. Even the cameramen are taking a doughnut break. Priceless. XD

The bit where Jazz and Satoshi are disappearing kinda changes my former theories about the multiple universes, though I'm not sure if it's some of my confusion could be cleared up in DR. I find it interesting the Jazz from the 'real' world's seems dominant, even if she has access to either her own (?) or this other-universe/dreamworld!Jazz's memories, her rational thinking prevents her from accepting Satoshi's offer of escape. I'm wondering if it's because she's 'awake' or because she's really not that Jazz of that world and subconsciously recognizes this, or perhaps she really, truly believes her speech about being on top of the world and revels in her pseudo-power....

In any case I'm glad she chose not to run away from her problems. I think I kinda talked about that in my last comment, but also, considering what happens to Danny at the end, Jack and Maddie would effectively be losing two children in one day, and that would just be heartrendingly devastating. It's hard enough that Danny appears to be dead after he finally meets back up with his family again. The bit where Jazz is watching Danny struggling with the portal stood out to me because she's felt a pulse of anxiety, but it isn't clear exactly what over. Is she worried about her brother's safety or the collapse of the portal, and what would the reasoning behind it be? I'm thinking based on her mental state, if she was concerned for her brother, it wouldn't be a noble kind of concern, but rather her concern over losing one of her vices. Her power over Danny gives her a sense of control that she can't attain with anyone else. On the other hand, she might not really want to be stuck on Earth forever, and the portal closing would seal her fate (unless she chooses to go with Satoshi to a different universe, though it doesn't appear she will).

Speaking of Danny appearing dead, what will happen to Butch now? He died of heartbreak worrying over Danny's disappearance in the other time line, and every time Danny's been close to death or choosing to stay in Cartun in previous installments of the saga, Hartman's been deeply affected, but he's been relatively quick to recover or change his mind. It doesn't seem like Danny's return to the 'real' world from the dream world will be so quick this time, if he's even able to return at all. Will Butch be able to find him in his dreams, maybe and help get him back? Or will poor Butchie fall into a depression after thinking he's lost his 'son' for good? =( Will Dudley be able to help Hartman this time around with Danny gone so suddenly? Has their relationship deepened enough at this point in time for that to be possible? In fact, what will Dudley think of all this anyway? How will Vicky and Timmy cope with this turn of events? Sorry for so many questions, my brain's merely spamming WMG speculations XD

I've also had a stray theory cross my mind regarding the portal's collapse, and I'm probably way off, but I thought it'd be fun to share anyhow, lol. Danny has obvious connections to the gateways between worlds. Even if the pearl doesn't work as it used to and it's a different portal, he still seems linked to the ancient gate. I wonder if Danny losing his 'toonishness had anything to do with it? I remember it was mentioned the artifact's power was pretty potent and Danny was gradually losing his 'toonish instincts as well as his memories and himself in the other time line. The pearl and it's power and Danny's link would have gradually faded as well, leading to the portal becoming unstable and ultimately failing. Time seems to effect humans and 'toons differently as it does Earth and Cartun, so it would make sense that the portal's collapse would occur earlier in the time stream. So it would seem that with Danny's link to the gates (just in my theory of course) would bind him to his 'toonishness, 'with great power comes great responsibility' and all. He can't just run away with only just the consequences of abandoning the superhero life, he'd also be affecting all of 'toonkind.

Gah, enough with the theories and questions, brain! XD Okay, so Vicky working along side her idol at last, the fairy babies spurting, and the overall working together to stop the portal from closing is all TOTALLY AWESOME~! Murrrrrrrrrr about the cliffhanger, but it just makes me all the more excited to see what happens in Road to Dream which I'm so looking forward to! >w< *bouncebounce* I really hope it has a happy ending and that Danny makes it back to Earth to be with his family and Butch, and try to start things over with Vicky, and that Jazz gets professional help and that Jazz and Danny get at least a moment of true sibling happiness again....~! ; 3; But now I'm rambling and this comment is way too long as it is, so shutting up now XD

Awesome job, Maba, and I love your writing and I love youuuuuuu~<3 <3 <3


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