Danny Fenton is dead, he thinks, not for the first time, and wishes he could stop thinking it.
Danny Phantom floats in an abandoned house in an abandoned room, staring at his reflection in a cracked mirror. Familiar ghostly features on a face that doesn’t look a day over fifteen because it isn’t.
Danny Phantom has been fourteen for as long as he’s existed.
And Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Phantom is also dead, and that is ironic, as Danny Phantom still exists, and Danny Fenton does not.
In a way, he supposes, Danny Fenton still exists, but Danny Phantom hasn’t been Danny Fenton in -
Well. He can’t remember.
There’s a squeaking noise from the floor, and a rat scuttles by. Danny Phantom looks around the room for what startled it.
CDs that are scratched beyond repair, a bed that hasn’t been slept on since the death of its owner, pictures spattered with dark stains that had once been either red or bright green, smiling children laughing in every single one of them, astronaut posters that are ripped and faded -
“Did you know they only pick one hundred people every two years for the space program?” Danny Phantom says to an empty room, and thinks that because he knows this fact, Danny Fenton would be proud of him.
Danny Fenton isn’t here to be proud, though.
The house is empty.
And it’s not like he cares, anyway.
Danny Phantom phases through the bedroom floor to the kitchen, where pots and pans lay unwashed in the sink and the table remains uncleared, rotting food long eaten away by rats and flies and bacteria.
Danny Fenton always cleared the table and washed the dishes.
Danny Phantom can’t remember how. He doesn’t even know if he could make himself corporeal enough to turn on the faucet.
He tries anyway, focusing on his hand, watching the white glove become less transparent, and finally he grabs the cold metal handle and turns.
Nothing happens. The water ran out a long time ago. He lets go. He doesn’t know what he expected.
He loses track of time again, floating in one spot, staring at the framed picture in the hallway.
It’s of Danny Fenton and his family - Jack, smiling wide, wearing a ridiculous straw hat with one arm around his wife. Maddie, laughing, leaning on her husband and knowing that he won’t let her fall. She has one hand on each of her children’s shoulders - Jasmine, begrudgingly grinning at her parent’s antics, and -
There’s a spiderweb crack over Danny Fenton’s face. He stares at the crack. He doesn’t know how much time goes by.
Time left when Danny Fenton died.
“Danny,” Jasmine Fenton says, looking straight through him. “Danny, where are you?”
She stands in the doorway to the bathroom, her pajamas threatening to slide off of her bony and gaunt frame. Her red hair is streaked with blood, clumping and matting the once beautiful locks, her blue headband missing and letting strands of hair fall over her face. Her eyes don’t focus, the orbs cloudy, and she takes a shaky step forward, managing to raise herself to her full height before slumping against the wall.
Danny Phantom knows better by now - knows better than to think she can see him, to think that his sister still knows him.
“Danny’s dead,” he says, voice cracking. “You know that, Jazz.”
Jasmine shifts her head to the side. “Liar. I know he’s here somewhere. Danny? Where are you?” Her voice is scratchy, and it’s like nails on a chalkboard to him.
She steps forward - a lurching, desperate gait, her right leg bent at an odd angle. He remembers that - he remembers how she’d been running out in the middle of the night to help him, how she ran into the street just as he screamed, how she flew backwards and her leg caught on a car and stopped but she didn’t, how he didn’t hear the bone snap and there was no way he could hear her screams over his own deathly wail, how she flew back so far and landed straight on her head -
“Stop it, stop it -“ Danny Phantom gasps, holding up a hand and making it burn with green fire. “Danny Fenton is dead!” He yells at her, the sound echoing in the tiled room behind her.
Jasmine lifts her hand and brushes her hair behind her ear. Blood leaks from her ears in a steady stream, the aftermath of being caught off guard three feet from Danny Phantom screaming his ghostly wail. “No,” she says, her face scrunching up. “I have to save him, I can hear him fighting, he’s hurt. Let me help him.”
Danny Phantom doesn’t want to look at her anymore, guilt burning through his chest.
He points his hand at her chest and blasts her backwards. She screams, loudly, a twisted, feral sound, and he thinks he hears the snap of bone before she flies back and cracks her skull open on the bathtub, reopening the wound that bled and matted her hair as she died immediately from blunt force trauma to the back of the head.
She dissolves with a gurgle, green ectoplasm hissing as it vanishes into the air.
“I killed it,” Danny Phantom says, after - pulling his knees to his chest in mid-air. “I killed the ghost. Later, I killed it. I killed it for you, Jazz, even though I -“ He doesn’t finish explaining himself. He’s already done it before.
Danny Phantom killed the ghost and lost Jazz all in one night. But tonight, he doesn’t feel any satisfaction. She’ll be back.
They always come back.
He wonders, sometimes, what happened to Danielle. She flew off and left a long time ago, when Danny Fenton could still smile and needed oxygen to fill his lungs and keep his brain going.
He hasn’t seen her in ages. He misses her.
He wonders if she’s happy.
He wonders if she remembers him.
He wonders if she’d even recognize him.
He wonders if she’s dead.
He stops wondering after that.
“Let me have this,” Tucker Foley says.
Danny Phantom doesn’t even turn from where he’s staring at the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink. “No,” he says, trying to pretend he didn’t hear his best friend’s voice.
“You’re always the hero,” Tucker says, and Danny Phantom flinches - when had he gotten so close?
He turns. Tucker stands, arms crossed, red beret and yellow sweater intact and neatly arranged. His glasses are gone. His eyes burn with fire.
“No,” Danny Phantom says again, knowing that it won’t work. “I’m no hero.”
“Go,” Tucker says insistently. “Go, Danny. They need you. Sam needs you. Let me have this, just this once.” Tucker uncrosses his arms and holds his hands out towards him, like he’s offering to help Danny up.
“Danny’s dead,” Danny Phantom says hollowly, eyes glued to the hands reaching for him. Tucker’s hands are burned, his fingertips merely stubs of bone peeking out from charred flesh. “You’re dead.”
“No, I won’t,” Tucker grins, and now Danny Phantom can see the fear in his friend’s expression that he’d been too blind to see before. “I’ll be fine, Tucker’s not dying for at least another fifty years.”
Danny Phantom knows this script by heart and knows this is his cue to laugh. He can’t. “I’ll come back for you,” he says automatically. “I’ll come back before the bomb goes off.”
Tucker smiles, his lips blackened, and Danny Phantom knows that he did not come back for Tucker in time at all. “I know you will,” he says. His voice is wavering. His yellow sweater begins to smolder.
Danny Phantom raises his hand and summons his fire, eyes unable to look away as he strikes his best friend in the chest. Tucker burns away, outstretched hands going first, an unholy wail rising as he burns alive. It’s over in mere seconds, like a bomb going off, and the sound of his best friend’s dying screams echo through the empty house.
“I’ll come back for you,” Danny Phantom says, an empty promise made in an empty house, knowing that it’ll be Tucker who comes back to him, not the other way around.
It should have been the other way around.
He sleeps, one night, and dreams.
Vlad Masters, leering over him, metal claws digging into his chest. It burns. He screams. His vision blurs. When it focuses again, it’s to his own face, red eyes glaring into his own as he’s torn apart by himself.
He wakes up screaming.
He doesn’t sleep again.
“What have you done to my son?” They ask, and Danny feels like throwing up.
Maddie and Jack Fenton have never done well with separation; neither from their children or each other.
They take a lurching, synchronized step towards him, Maddie in front of her husband, one arm stretched behind her.
She wears her goggles, mouth twisted permanently in petrified anger, and Jack stands behind her, face scrunched up in fear.
He moves when she moves. She moves when he moves. They talk in unison.
”I haven’t done anything,” Danny Phantom says. He stares at the people he used to call parents. He can barely recognize them.
“You monster,” They mutter. Jack’s mouth moves. Maddie’s doesn’t, but Phantom hears both voices anyway. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were my friend.”
Danny Phantom swallows. “It’s better this way.”
“Danny?” they screech, high pitched and frantic. They take another step. “Danny sweetheart, look at me!”
“Danny’s dead,” he says. A broken record. Danny Phantom raises his hand, the fire appearing right on cue.
“No!” Maddie screams, speaking on her own. “No, no stop it! Danny!”
Behind her, Jack flinches.
Danny Phantom looks away and shoots his parents through the chest. They scream and dissolve.
In reality, Danny Fenton had lain unmoving on an operating table. In reality, Danny Phantom had killed his parents, smiling the whole time. In reality, he’d turned on Vlad Masters, making sure to eliminate the man who’d made him this monster. In reality, he’d mauled Masters and his parents beyond recognition, watching, mesmerized as the last ties to Danny Fenton bled out onto the steel floor.
In reality, Danny Phantom floats in his parent’s lab, reliving the moment he killed his parents, and knows that was the exact moment Danny Fenton died.
He looks at his reflection in the mirror again.
Blue skin, white hair, red eyes. Danny Phantom.
Maybe once, Danny Fenton had been young - green eyes and pale skin and laughter, goodness and selfless and loved.
Maybe once, he’d been more than a monster.
But Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Phantom has taken his place.
Caspar High still stands, long after Danny Fenton stopped walking its halls. There’s nobody there, of course. There’s nobody in the whole town.
He killed them all, he remembers. They weren’t prepared, and he killed them all.
Sometimes, Danny Phantom goes and floats in one of the classrooms. He pretends he’s at a desk with a pencil and paper, and he pretends he can hear the boring drone of a teacher, and he pretends he’s dozing off with his head on the desk, black hair falling into his eyes.
He can’t remember the last time he had black hair.
He doesn’t want to remember the last time he slept.
Sometimes ghosts attack.
He doesn’t go out and fight them anymore. The city’s already rubble, and nobody dares to bother him.
Danny Fenton would leap out of the window every time his ghost sense made him shiver.
Danny Phantom can’t bring himself to care.
Sometimes ghosts attack the school.
He cares a little more, then.
To this day, Danny Phantom doesn’t know who Dash is talking to.
“I’m gonna kill you,” Dash says, eyes narrowed, seeing through Danny to a target that isn’t there. “You’re gonna pay for what you called me.”
Danny Phantom lifts his hand and preps a flame, remembering all the times Danny Fenton fantasized about this very thing. He looks at his hand, pointed at Dash.
Danny Fenton never could’ve done it. But Danny Phantom can.
Danny Phantom shoots Dash in the side. Dash throws his head back and screams in surprise, green blood blossoming from the hole ripped through his side that looks exactly like a bullet wound. Eyes wide, he stares directly at Danny Phantom. “You shot me,” he says softly. “Didn’t know you had the guts.”
He’s gone, then - dissolving into the floor - and by the time he’s completely faded, Danny Phantom isn’t so sure Dash couldn’t see him.
“Phantom?” Paulina shrieks. Her clothes are ripped and torn, and she sways in the middle of the football field, her left ankle swollen. Bruises line every inch of visible skin, and blood drips from a cut on her forehead. “Help me! Someone! Phantom?”
She doubles over, coughing. “Please,” she moans, listing dangerously to the side. “Please, I can’t - I can’t get out. . .”
Her feet stay rooted to the ground, like she can’t move, even though she wants to. She stares straight ahead, straight through him, and Danny Phantom sees her hair starting to singe.
He remembers this, vaguely. Hearing someone scream his name from inside a burning car, the desperate realization that he couldn’t save them.
He swallows, looking at her bloody, petrified face, and he raises his hand, aiming for her stomach.
He doesn’t miss.
Paulina screams and lurches backward, feet staying planted even though she’s falling. She erupts in flames, invisible shrapnel ripping though her body, and then her charred remains fall to the ground and disappear.
He doesn’t know why he’s still in Amity Park. He could leave any time he wants. There’s no one stopping him. He can leave and conquer the world, wreaking havoc and destroying cities and causing even more death than he already has.
He can leave.
Any time he wants.
And he can’t understand why he hasn’t.
Valerie doesn’t fight back, surprisingly.
Danny Phantom expects her to. After all - she hunted him for a living for several years.
But here she stands, battered and bruised, broken arm clutched to her stomach and hair falling in her face. Her suit sparks around her, and she breathes heavily.
He lifts his hand. She knows what’s coming.
“You were never human,” she spits. One last stand - one last attempt to get a barb under his skin.
He shoots her through the neck, and her head falls to the ground before her body does.
Danny Phantom tries not to look at her still open eyes, but it’s inevitable. Her head is the last to go, and she stares at him accusingly until she melts into the living room carpet.
Sam Manson stands before him.
Her hair is greasy and her ponytail is messy, like she pulled it halfway out and then forgot to go the rest of the way. Her clothes are rumpled and there are holes in her tights and she’s got cuts and bruises like she’s been in a fight.
Danny Phantom knows he should lift his hand and blast her.
Danny Fenton won’t allow it.
Sam’s mouth opens and closes, and she lifts a hand to her neck, pulling on something imaginary.
He can’t look away. He should. He knows the story already. He was there.
Sam struggles against something that doesn’t exist, twisting in the air, face screwed up in panic and pain. Both hands are scrabbling at her neck now, and dark bruises are beginning to form there.
Danny Phantom lifts his hand. The fire won’t come.
Sam finally gets enough purchase to look up at whoever’s strangling her. She gasps one quick breath before the hand is back to squeezing her neck.
She stops, suddenly. Danny Phantom wants to cover his ears. Danny Fenton won’t allow it.
Sam’s makeup is running down her cheeks as she cries, sobs trying to escape her throat and failing.
“I love you,” Sam gasps, purple eyes wide and face blue. “Danny, I love you.”
I love you, I love you, I love you. It hurts like she’s shot him in the gut.
Danny Phantom howls, hand blazing, striking Sam in the neck. It snaps with a sickeningly loud crack.
Her words echo through his mind for a long time after she dissolves, no matter how loud he screams to get rid of them.
They won’t leave him alone.
Day after day and week after week they haunt him - everyone he used to love before he forgot what the word meant, everyone who ever relied on him.
He doesn’t leave Amity Park.
Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Fenton is -
He tries to change back.
He concentrates, he closes his eyes, he tries so hard it’s almost comical.
“You killed them,” Danny Fenton says.
Danny Phantom stares.
Green ectoplasm mixed with red flakes of blood leak from the lacerations covering every inch of the boy. His clothes are barely recognizable, the white tee stained with gore. The blue eye not covered by black hair stares mournfully at him. “You killed them.”
Danny Phantom can’t move.
Danny Fenton smiles, teeth smeared the colors of Christmas. “Stop killing them. Please.”
Danny Phantom can’t speak.
Danny Fenton steps closer. “You killed me,” he says, calmly.
Danny Phantom can’t back away.
“You shouldn’t have killed me.”
Danny Fenton looks at him. Danny Fenton is everything Danny Phantom used to be.
Everything Danny Phantom wants to be again.
“You can leave, but you haven’t,” Danny Fenton says, still smiling. He reaches up with a hand missing two fingers and pushes his hair behind his ear. There’s a cut across his other eye, viscera leaking from the empty socket. “You shouldn’t.”
Danny Phantom can move again. He gasps in a breath of air, raising his hand.
Instead of fire, his fingers grow and sharpen until his hand is a metal claw. Danny Fenton stops smiling.
“Don’t kill me,” he says softly, almost pleading. “Please. I know you don’t want to.”
Danny Phantom doesn’t want to.
He looks at the claw. He looks at himself - a mirror image, both formed from pain and agony - the only difference being that Danny Fenton came out with a hero complex and Danny Phantom came out inhuman. That’s who he is - that’s who he was made to be - he can’t change that.
“Something has changed,” Danny Fenton coaxes. There’s blood everywhere.
Yes, Danny Phantom thinks. Something has changed. But it’s not enough.
He takes a breath.
“Not yet,” he whispers. “I can’t. Not yet.”
The metal claw stabs through Danny Fenton’s neck. Blood spatters on the walls.
Danny Fenton doesn’t scream. It’s hard to do so with metal claws shredding your throat.
Danny Phantom watches ectoplasm burn off of his bedroom floor.
Danny Fenton is dead.
Danny Phantom is also dead.
This is how it has been.
This is how it is.