Asked by: proceedingtophantom
No one was particularly prepared to see Danny Fenton transform into the town’s personal hero. It was one of those things that, in hindsight, clicked for everyone. The disappearances and the injuries and the way he’d slowly cut himself off from the world. No one had realized a person could be both alive and dead at the same time.
The Casper High hostages watched, huddled in the corner of the humid gym, as Danny got to his feet and pointed an ectogun at the ghosts swarming their PE class. His legs were sturdy as rocks, back ramrod straight. Those who could see his face said his eyes were set to kill.
Somehow, the absence of his two sick friends made him bolder.
He kicked off on his back foot as he fired into the three ghost swirling and looping through the air. The beam made contact with one of them. It fell with a sizzling hiss, a small screech of pain. Fenton loosed a thermos from his belt and sucked it up.
The next one dove for him and sliced at his head. Fenton ducked, but not before it mowed a portion of his hair and elicited a streak of crimson red that came streaming down his face. He spun and sucked it up like the first.
It wasn’t until the third wraith dove and rammed its claws through Danny’s side that the boy finally transformed. It happened with a crackle of light and exploding energy. Half the students had to cover their faces from the assaulting brightness.
What emerged was the figure of their idol. He had his hands firmly clamped along the ghost’s arm. Phantom released a jolt of electricity that sent the ghost into shrieking spasms. He phased through it, lowered the thermos, and sucked it up like the first three.
His shoulders slumped. His whole form lost its rigidity like a robot unplugged from the wall. He turned and surveyed the crowd with flashing, spastic eyes. They were wide and so bright. The heroic confidence radiating from his form had vanished and left behind a child in its wake. His legs took a few careful steps away from his peers, shaking this time. His free hand found a hold over his green-leaking side.
"I-I can explain," he stuttered. "Just let me…turn back." His words were drowned beneath a flurry of whispers and breathless gasps. Clips of disbelieving questions assaulted his ears. People stood, stepped forward, hands out and purposeful. They approached like a hoard of toddlers intent on touching an exotic animal to confirm it was real. Danny remained as Phantom, even with his eyes screwed in concentration and his legs stumbling backwards.
A loud crack stopped their approach. Swirling purple and blue manifested in a hazy, oblong circle. It condensed on itself to reveal an near-human figure whose face was shielded by a cloak. The new threat sent the Casper High students barreling back into their huddle with renewed shrieks and yelps.
Phantom spun, hand still clamped to his side. “Clockwork?”
The figure yanked his hood back near the nape of his neck. Tired, fiercely-red eyes looked the ghost boy up and down. “The same.”
"What are you doing here?" Phantom’s attention shot back and forth between the students and the new ghost. He clamped the thermos tightly in his left hand, fingers draining to white. He held the lid down tighter.
"A favor. Well, I am doing you a favor. Usually this is tasked to someone much more impersonal.”
"TAKE HIM DOWN, FENTON!"
Phantom’s head flicked back to the students. Some junior, pitch-black hair soaked in sweat and letter jacket clamped snug over his shoulders, had rallied to his feet and punched the air.
"KNOCK HIS HEAD OFF. SUCK HIM UP LIKE THOSE OTHER GHOSTS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU."
A cry of support followed his outburst. Phantom stood, entranced, at the trusting rallies that exploded out in unison, the battle cries, the backwards apologies from Dash red-faced group of friends.
Clockwork’s hand came down hard on Danny’s shoulder.
"I am not here for a battle," he announced to the students. His head tilted downward until he whispered in Danny’s ear, "That transformation, it wasn’t intentional, was it?"
Danny shook off his hand. “What? Just tell me why you’re here!” He thrust a hand out to the crowd of students, the one holding the thermos. “I’m a little busy dealing with THIS right now.” He hugged his side harder.
Clockwork wasn’t looking at Phantom; he’d refocused on the oozing wound at the boy’s side. “You’ve crossed the line, Danny.”
"What line?" Phantom breathed back.
"KICK HIS ASS, PHANTOM!"
Danny twisted with a flinch. “KNOCK IT OFF. JUST FOR A SECOND. HE’S TELLING ME SOMETHING IMPORTANT.”
"…Thank you," Clockwork answered as the bubbling cries drained to nothing. He floated forward and grabbed the hand Phantom had pinched to his side. Gently, Clockwork eased it off, exposing the hole beneath Phantom’s ribcage that had been drilled through his stomach.
"You’ve gone too far this time. Don’t worry—everyone does eventually. You’ve just done it a little sooner than most."
Phantom tripped backwards, head shaking. He refixed his hand over his side. “No, that’s not it.”
Clockwork tilted his head. “Can you change back?”
Phantom swallowed, stared, and stopped shaking his head. “Am I…a ghost now? Am I stuck like this?”
Clockwork’s eyes flickered to the anxious crowed. “Only if you want to be. I’m here to give you the option out.”
"What option?" Phantom gnawed on the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood. The silence rang louder than the cheers had moments before.
"The option of oblivion. It’s not bad. Peaceful, relaxing actually. Usually an observant is here to explain this, but I figured you’d take my word more willingly…"
Phantom took to shaking his head again. “Are you crazy? No! No I can’t leave yet. You see the absolute mess happening behind me?! I gotta—I gotta deal with that! How’m I supposed to leave now?!” He gestured wildly to the silent students, who were now privy to the ghosts’ conversation in the silent, echoing gym.
"You can stay if you like, but you’ll stay like this. Forever. And when your human mind decays, there will just be a ghost left behind. Not you. Not Danny Fenton. Phantom—who will find an obsession to fixate on and spend the rest of his days disturbing the peace to accomplish it."
Phantom’s jaw trembled. “Can’t you just…fix me?”
"I told you. You’ve crossed the line. This is beyond my powers." Clockwork put his hand out, palm upturned and inviting. "I’m the last train out of the station. Are you coming?"
Phantom unfixed his hand from his bleeding side. His bright eyes shined wet and wide out at the crowd of silent students. There was an apology laced in them.
The students had gone deathly silent. No one dared to breathe.
"Fenton?" Dash finally asked. He sounded ten years younger, more like a kid lost in a grocery store than a teenager held captive in a gym,
Light erupted around Clockwork and Phantom. Most students shielded their eyes. Some yelped in surprise. When the brightness faded, it didn’t leave behind a single shred of evidence that either ghost had ever been there.
Only a leaking trail of green ectoplasm peppered the floor, congealing into puddles, pulsing green. Students watched Dash get shakily to his feet. He walked to the nearest green puddle and tilted his head down. He stared, silently, until his head shot up.
No one answered.
He spun back to the crowd, back hunched and arms out. His attention turned to Kwan. “Help me find him you idiots! He was injured! You just gonna let Fenton bleed out like that after all the times he saved you?”
No one stood. No one even moved.
Dash swung his head down to the puddle again. It fizzled faintly, leeched into the air. The little pool of ectoplasm dried up almost instantly.
He slammed an open palm down into the floor and found only dry wood remained. Not a single trace of green stained the ground.
He balled up his fist and brought it down on the filthy floor. Dash fell back on his haunches and stared, wounded, at the silent crowd of students still huddled against the wall.
No one had been particularly prepared that day to learn Danny Fenton had been their hero.
And no one was prepared to handle the fear that came after.