Tucker’s only on question three of his algebra homework and already wants to go back to grinding out a few more levels on Doomed in lieu of finishing when his phone goes off. The 8-bit Ghostbusters theme means it’s Danny, which hopefully means a fun—albeit potentially life-threatening—distraction. He’ll take what he can get.
He tosses his pencil down, flippin his phone open with a flourish. “Tucker Foley speaking. If it’s the Box Ghost again I want a divorce. Also, all my DVDs you keep hoarding. It’s been like three months since you borrowed—”
He blinks, takes a second to mentally untangle the panicked syllables—garbled even more so by the ear-prickling fuzz that means Danny’s in ghost mode. “Uh. Have you tried thinking happy thoughts?”
“Okay, okay. Loop me in, ecto one. What happened, where are you, do I need to come charging in to rescue you triumphantly at the last second, et cetera.”
A painful crackle of static makes him pull the phone away from his ear. Sounded like Danny breathed an exasperated and loud sigh into the speaker. Rude much? “No, I don’t need RESCUING. I’m home, alone. Jazz and my parents are at that conference-luncheon thing for gifted academics or whatever—“
“Which you’re still not jealous about.”
“—shut up, bigger problems—“
Tucker rolls his eyes, leaning back in his computer chair. “Uh-huh.”
“ANYWAY. I promised my dad I’d clean the lab but I kinda spaced out, so I went ghost to speed things up but I accidentally knocked some stuff off the junk table and when I picked it all up one of their gizmos shocked me and now I can’t change back and they’re gonna be home any minute now and I don’t know what to do—“
“Whoa, stop, slow down. It’s cool.”
“It’s REALLY not.”
“Sure it is. Text Jazz, tell her there’s a ghost emergency at the house, make sure she stalls your folks any way she can. I’ll be over ASAP to look at whatever you zapped yourself with, see if I can’t find the undo button you’re too spazzed to notice. You call Sam yet?”
“No. Her mom dragged her to that thing at the country club today, remember?”
Oh, right. She’s probably dying for any excuse to get out of small talk hell, but this doesn’t sound like something that warrants busting out Plan E. “Alright, just you and me then. See you in fifteen. Don’t just float there and panic ‘til I get there, dude. Finish cleaning the lab or something.”
“Yeah. Yeah, okay.”
“You’re not, like, blistering or turning weird colors and not telling me, right?”
“What? No. I’m just stuck. It feels kinda weird when I try and change back, but that’s it."
“Okay, just checking.” He hums. “Sounds like some kind of anti-Specter Deflector.”
“Sure felt like it. It looks like a friggin’ Bop-It though.”
Tucker snorts as he slams his algebra textbook shut, getting to his feet. “Your parents are gonna get so sued when their ghost hunting tech goes mainstream.”
“You mean my dad is. He does most of the original designs. My mom’s just the one who makes ‘em work.”
“Like I said, so sued."
“If I touch this and a recording of your dad goes off ordering me to ‘flick it,’ I will die and I will haunt you.”
Danny, hovering the usual two-and-some-unnecessary-feet off the ground, rolls his eyes. “Gross. It’s not gonna say anything. At least, it didn’t when I touched it.”
“Maybe you didn’t flick it right.”
“Gross. I’m pretty sure the original Bop-It didn’t have a ‘flick it’ option anyway.”
Tucker picks the wandlike device up, careful of the frayed wires dangling out of its spherical hilt. It’s done up in the usual slick neon green and polished chrome of Fenton tech, surprisingly free of any Jack Fenton-themed stickers. Mrs. F has definitely had her hands on this, which means it’s at least halfway functional.
Color scheme aside, it really does look like a friggin’ Bop It. Hasbro will have words with the family Fenton if whatever-this-is ever goes out with the rest of the gear they pass around Amity Park like slightly corrosive candy. He turns it over, watching it catch the lurid light of the open Ghost Portal. “What’s this bit s’posed to be then?”
“Uh. ‘Pull it,’ I think.”
Tucker snorts. “Oh, because that’s so much better. You try either to set it off?”
Danny loops a little closer, fluid and boneless in the movement even though he keeps his legs as-is. He always reminds Tucker of betta fish when he’s ghost mode, for some reason. Must be the aura; it makes him blurry no matter how you look at him. “No, like I said, I bumped the table and a bunch of stuff fell off. All I did was pick it up.”
“You touch the wires?”
“I dunno, maybe? It shocked me as soon as I touched it.”
“Hmm.” And that’s the trouble with Fenton tech; it’s all brand new. They’re building better mouse traps for mice that can walk through walls, disappear, and fly. Danny’s parents have to get crazy with their designs. “Any idea what it’s supposed to do?”
“No. I only pay attention when they give their inventions names.”
“So what you’re saying is you’re useless.”
Danny throws his hands up irritably. “I’m the one who’s stuck here.”
“Yeah, yeah. What’s the word from Jazz?”
“She convinced my parents to pick up dinner, so that’s bought some time.” He fidgets, nervous. It always makes Tucker’s eyes feel funny when Danny does that in his periphery. “The Specter Deflector lasts twelve hours.”
“We don’t know if this’ll last as long. Even if it does, you’ll still be good before school tomorrow.”
That mollifies him a little, at least enough to stop with the honest-to-god hand wringing for a minute. “Y’think so?”
He shrugs. Sure, he thinks so. He also thinks it could be a half dozen other things, none half so reassuring. “I could try zapping you again, see if it undoes whatever’s keeping you from changing back?”
Danny winces. “Pass.”
Figured not. He gives the device a few cautious pokes and twists to see if he can make it do anything. He gets some humming, a flush of neon green light down the circuitry patterned across it, a few painful sparks off the wires. Danny skirts back nervously when it does that. It must’ve really hurt when it zapped him, because when he’s ghost mode he can shrug off a frankly scary amount of damage no problem. He looks okay, at least. Tucker did a lot of reading up on electrical shock after the accident—not like much of it’d be applicable to a half-ghost, probably, but he can’t help but sympathize a little when Danny shies away from anything that might shock him.
After a couple minutes he gives up. If it’s supposed to do anything specific he can’t get the thing to do it. Maybe zapping Danny used up too much juice? “Jazz can ask what this one does for you without looking suspicious, yeah?”
“Are you kidding? They love it when we ask questions.” Danny drops to the ground with a sigh; as usual, it looks like gravity’s reluctant to notice him. His hair floats a little, his limbs lag like he’s underwater. Betta fish, man. “Guess I don’t have any choice but to hope they tell her something good, huh?”
Tucker flashes him a grin, tossing the Fenton Bop-It back on the junk table. “That, and help me with the algebra homework?”
They retreat up to Danny’s room, but no algebra textbooks are cracked open. They just end up talking, half semi-serious conversation about patrol schedules and what-if scenarios, half gushing over the upcoming terrible Sci-Fi channel marathon, and the next thing they know the front door bangs open. Mr. F’s voice booms out Danny’s name. Danny goes deer-in-the-headlights stiff floating half a foot above his bed. Tucker grabs him by the ankle and swings him toward the wall, hissing, “Hide!”
Danny blinks owlishly. “Uh. Right!” He phases through a NASA poster and Tucker hears the bathroom door shut just a few seconds before footsteps come pounding up the stairs. Jazz bursts into the bedroom breathlessly, eyes falling on Tucker. He points at the wall and she nods, relieved.
“Come on,” she says. “I figured you were going to spend the night. There’s enough takeout for you too.”
It’s about fifteen minutes of the usual awkward pantomime. Oh, Danny’s taking a shower because he got splashed with a little ectoplasm cleaning up the basement, nothing serious, ha ha ha! I’d be happy to take a plate up to him since we’ve got a lot of homework still, but oh, could you come downstairs with me real quick, Jazz? Danny wanted me to grab a folder and I just don’t like poking around down there by myself, you know? Thanks again, Mister and Missus F! You’re the best!
Down the basement stairs he slumps, exhausted. He hates lying. He hates how good he’s getting at it more.
Jazz shoots him a worried glance, all raised eyebrows and puckered mouth. He starts talking before she can pull that teen psychiatrist schtick on him. “We couldn’t figure out what the thing that zapped him is or how to undo what it did. I think it’s just low on power, but I dunno if it’s even got an ‘undo’ button yet.”
She winces. “Junk table?”
“Oh, great. Just show me which one it was and I’ll see what I can get out of our parents.”
He shows her the Fenton Bop It, tells her what he’d tried and what Danny did to get stuck, then grabs an empty manila folder out of a filing cabinet for appearance’s sake and runs back upstairs. It’s a juggling act of weighed-down dinner plates and Coke cans to get back up to Danny’s room, but he manages.
“I come bearing sweet and sour chicken,” he says, kicking at Danny’s door. It creaks open a second later, a suffuse white glow spilling out into the unlit hall. He siddles in, kicks the door shut behind him, and has to lean up against it when Danny’s suddenly about two inches from his face.
“Personal bubble, dude. Take your plate before I drop it. And relax, alright? They just got home. Jazz hasn’t even had a chance to ask about it yet.”
Danny huffs but floats back a little, pulling his Coke and plate out of Tucker’s hands. “Thanks.”
“Uh-huh.” Tucker takes Danny’s desk, leaving Danny to float on over to the trunk at the foot of his bed. It takes a little doing, but Tucker gets him to eat. Of course, some of Danny’s reluctance is because he’s ghost mode; something about it makes everything taste funny, apparently. “Like Pop Rocks,” he’d said once, when Sam had tried to get him to explain what he meant. All snap and crackle no matter what he tried eating or drinking, with practically no actual taste to go with it. Shame, because the Fentons had gone to the really good Chinese place on Singer Street.
They stack their empty plates and finally knuckle down to do homework. Knowing Mr. F, it’s going to take an hour-long lecture before Jazz has any luck finding out something useful about the Bop-It. Danny gripes about trying to write with gloves on a few times ‘til Tucker sighs and points out the obvious thing to do, which is to take them off.
“Oh,” Danny says, sheepish.
Bless him, but NASA’s gonna have their work cut out if they actually decide to take his half-ghost butt.
It’s after six by the time Jazz finally staggers back upstairs, looking a little wall-eyed but otherwise not so bad off after a Jack Fenton Lecture. She shuts the door and sags against it, shooting Danny an apologetic look. “Well it’s not bad news,” she starts.
“Oh, that’s comforting,” Danny says.
“They’re working on a way to stall ghost powers out permanently—“
“How is that not bad news?!”
“Because that thing is just a prototype! They haven’t had any success yet on the little ghosts they’ve tested it on.”
Danny drops his notebook and pencil to float to his feet, gesturing sharply at himself. “Well it seemed to work pretty good on me!”
“I know!” Jazz winces, lowering her voice. “I know. Are any of your other powers affected?”
“Um. I don’t think so?”
“Ghost basics seem fine,” Tucker notes, pointing at him with his pencil. “Flying, intangibility, and invisibility are all the little ghosts are good for anyway.”
“Huh.” Danny flickers out of sight, reappears looking thoughtfully at his bare hands. “Yeah, that’s all fine.”
Jazz manages to look relieved and smug at the same time. Tucker would never say it aloud on pain of death, but it makes her look just like Mrs. F. “That’s what I thought. They’ve only tested it on little guys, nothing strong enough to take on a humanoid form like Spectra or Technus. Those ghosts, well, they don’t change like you, obviously, but they have changed how they look, right?”
“Right,” Danny says uncertainly.
“So maybe that’s as far as Mom and Dad have gotten with this thing and they just haven’t realized it because they haven’t tested it on a strong enough ghost.”
Seems like a sound enough leap in logic to Tucker. “Did they mention a theoretical timer on this power short, or is Danny gonna have to have a very belated parent-ghost son talk on the wrong end of an ectogun?”
Danny shoots him a dirty look. What? It’s a fair question.
“Theoretically? Twenty-four hours. In practice? And on something bigger than a cat?” She shrugs. “No idea.”
Danny groans. “How is that not bad news?”
“They’re positive any power short wouldn’t be permanent?” Jazz offers with a weak smile. “Plus I got Dad excited to work on it some more, and I suggested it might be a good idea to include a reverse switch. Y’know, as a precaution?”
“Well, okay, that’ll be good if they ever zap me with it in the future, but that doesn’t exactly help me now.”
“Sounds to me like you’re gonna come down with a twenty-four hour flu,” Tucker says.
“No way,” Danny and Jazz say at the same time.
“Our parents are total spazzes about getting sick,” Jazz adds. “They’d be all over him.”
“Yeah, that, and I’ve got a makeup history test I can’t miss,” Danny says. “This is the last chance Mr. Caulfield will give me to make it up.”
“You can’t go to school like this,” Tucker says, half-laughing.
“I have to. I’m this close to failing the class and it’s almost the end of the semester.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were struggling so much in history?” Jazz asks, reaching up to rest a hand on his elbow. He fidgets up out of her reach.
“I told you about English,” he mutters, not looking at her. He drags bare fingers through his hair—it flows rather than falls back into his glowing eyes. “I have to go to school. We’ve gotta find a way to fix this.”
Sam texts them both about an hour after that, all caps locked grievance about silver spoons and sleazy old men gloating over the size of their yachts. Normally it’d be funny, but the three of them have been brainstorming and all they’ve come up with is a whole lot of nothin’. Their biggest hope—well, not Danny’s, but options the kid does not have—had been the Specter Deflector. It had shocked Danny as good as ever, but left him just as ghostly as before. Didn’t even short out any powers, far as Danny’s tested. Weird.
Danny scowls at his phone, tapping out a reply. It pops up on Tucker’s phone a moment later. Got zapped by another invention. Come over if you can get away
Tucker adds, for clarification, He’s not hurt and it’s nothing crazy. School’s gonna be a problem tho
Sam texts back that she’ll be over as quick as she can and leaves it at that. Jazz leans back on her hands on Danny’s bed, watching him circle the ceiling.
“Homework,” she reminds him.
“Bigger problems,” he grumbles.
“Putting off homework all semester messed your grades up enough that you can’t take a dive on one test.”
His eyes flash, two neon green flares that sting to look at head-on. “Fighting ghosts all semester messed my grades up enough that I can’t take a dive on one test.”
They’ve been coming back to this in-between trying to figure out if any other Fenton gadgets might help. Goody-good straight-A Jazz and troubled teen might-actually-fail-to-graduate-at-this-rate Danny both have excellent points. Ghosts take priority, definitely, yeah, they all agree on that. But Danny’s a slacker too, happy for any excuse to procrastinate. Still, Jazz is kind of choosing a bad time to rub that in his face.
Tucker is staying firmly out of it. He likes his eardrums intact, thanks very much. He lets them bicker, thinking. If they can’t fix this in time for school tomorrow and it doesn’t wear off in time either, option C is… what? Somehow smuggle a ghost kid into a high school that sees ghost attacks on the regular and hope nobody notices?
Pfft. If Danny had the same tricky shapeshifter powers as Spectra, maybe. Even if he did, it sounds like the Fenton Bop-It would’ve probably shorted it out anyway. They’d have to bury him in like three hoodies and an aviator hat—ha, and a big pair of aviators to match—
“And what are you laughing at?”
He half-heartedly hides his grin behind one hand as they both glare daggers at him. “Nothin’. Just, pictured trying to sneak you into school in a terrible disguise.”
Danny scoffs, but Jazz’s frown turns downright considering. She hums, tapping her chin. “You know, that might be your best option.”
“What? Jazz.” He drops down to land beside her, gesturing at himself with a wide sweep of both arms. “This isn’t exactly subtle. Putting on normal clothes isn’t gonna get me far, and how exactly would you explain Phantom trying to steal my place at school for a day?”
“Ghosts do all kinds of strange things to alleviate boredom when they’re on this side of the Portal. It’s not like anyone knows much about them, right?” She grins. Tucker would definitely never tell her, but it makes her look just like Mr. F. It’s uncanny. “Besides, if you do get caught, you could just fake-scare the class, vanish for however long it might take to fix this mess, and then pretend Phantom kidnapped you or something.”
“No way! I’m not setting myself up as a villain! People finally stopped screaming more when I show up to fight the ghost of the week—“
“Day,” Tucker corrects.
“—whatever!” He folds his arms over his chest. He still looks weird without the gloves on; it makes it easier to tell there’s a green undertone to his skin when there’s more of it to see.
“You might not get found out,” Jazz points out. “If we’re smart about it, you probably won’t.”
“Probably,” Danny parrots. “Real comforting.”
“I don’t see you coming up with anything better, dude,” Tucker says.
“Not you too. Come on, I’m glowing.”
“You can barely tell under fluorescent lights.”
“Nothing a beanie-hoodie combo couldn’t hide.”
“My eyes— “
He sticks up a pair of finger guns and winks. “Sunglasses.”
“We aren’t allowed to wear sunglasses in class,” Danny reminds him through gritted teeth.
“Optometrist,” Jazz pipes up. “Do you have anything important first period?”
Danny shrugs, wary. Tucker doesn’t blame him. Jazz and her Ghost Getter ideas tend to backfire on him nine times out of ten. “I don’t think so?”
“Well, skip first period and show up late to second wearing sunglasses. When anybody asks you to take them off just say you got your eyes dilated and your optometrist told you to keep your eyes covered the rest of the day.”
“That’d work,” Tucker says. “You ever get your eyes dilated? It sucks. Totally believable to wear sunglasses instead of those dumb roll-up things.”
“I really don’t think—” Danny starts, but Jazz cuts him off with a flap of her hands as she crosses the room to stand right up in his personal bubble. He tries to lean away but she leans right along with him, grabbing his chin between finger and thumb. “Augh, Jazz! What—”
“The biggest problem is going to be your skin, I think,” she says. “You’re just too green like this.”
He swats her hand away. “You can thank all the ectoplasm in me for that. This plan sucks. It won’t work, not in a million years.”
“Well not with that attitude,” Jazz replies, cheerfully undeterred. She skirts around Danny over to his bed to snatch up his phone.
“What are you doing? Don’t touch my phone—!”
She smoothly dodges his lunge, elbowing him in the gut with that sibling kung-fu Tucker’s only ever seen on TV and here at Fenton Works. With Danny in ghost mode she may as well have tickled him with a feather, but she makes her point. He floats back with a huff.
“I have an idea, but I don’t have the right supplies for it. Sam should though.”
“That’s not terrifying or anything,” Tucker mutters as she texts out something and sends it. He’s not privy to whatever supplies she’s talking about; she’s switched out of the group chat. He and Danny share a worried look as his phone pings a reply text that makes Jazz’s eyes light up.
Sam’s grin gleefully tap dances the knife’s edge between conspiratorial and downright supervillainous. She’s got her spider backpack on one shoulder, an overnight bag on the other, and what looks like a Goth’s version of a tackle box in hand. “Well Jazz, I have to say I wasn’t sure about this plan at first, but it had a chance to grow on me on the ride over.”
“I thought you’d enjoy this,” Jazz replies. She’s changed into her pajamas and put her hair up in a ponytail. In one hand she’s got a mint green leather bag with black polka dots on it. The other hand is hidden behind her back. Gosh, that’s ominous.
Danny’s the one that’s got both girls looking at him like they just might sink their nails into him and never let go. He, rightfully so, looks nervous as hell. Tucker’s done the smart thing and made himself as small and unobtrusive a target in the corner as he can. Alas, poor Danny, he knew him well. Algebra will be his new best friend.
“Uh,” Danny tries feebly, “What idea is that, exactly?”
Sam and Jazz brandish tackle box and polka dot bag in tandem. “Makeover party.”
Small and unobtrusive, small and unobtrusive, Foley, for your own safety do not laugh—
Danny’s voice cracks. “Excuse me?”
“You heard us, ghost boy,” Sam says with relish. “You wanna take that history test so bad? We gotta make you look convincingly human. Thus: makeover party.”
Danny bounces into the air, legs melting down to an intangible tail so no one can make a grab for his ankles. “Oh no, no no no, absolutely not. I’ll take the failing grade.”
As answer, Jazz reveals what she’d kept hidden behind her back: an uncapped Fenton Thermos. “Daaaanny,” she sings, sugar sweet, “Don’t make me uuuuse this.”
Tucker buries his face in his beret to smother his laughter.
“You’re awful,” Danny tells her. “The worst sister ever.”
“Perhaps,” Jazz agrees smoothly, “but I’m your sister, and I’m older. So get down here and let us at least try to make you look passably human? The worst that happens is it doesn’t work, you wash your face off, and we think of a new plan.”
Danny curls up more tightly in one corner of the ceiling, like a grumpy black and white snake. “No, the worst that happens is you giving Sam prime blackmail material.”
Sam shakes her tackle box. Mysterious things rattle inside. “It’s the 21st century, Danny. Boys are allowed to wear makeup now.”
“Oh yeah? I think I’ll take my chances strolling into class as just Phantom over looking like one of those creepy guys you hang out with at the Skulk ‘n’ Lurk. Shut up, Tucker.”
Tucker waves one hand apologetically, wheezing on the floor. He’s going to sprain something at this rate and the girls haven’t even busted out the concealer yet. If Sam doesn’t take pictures he will, best friend solidarity be damned. Both girls ignore him.
It takes a little more cajoling and threatening, but Sam and Jazz win in the end. Danny sulks all the way to the bathroom to change into some pjs (phasing through the wall again to avoid his parents). He comes back with his jumpsuit and boots in his arms and a mutinous expression on his face, and Tucker’s glad it’s not just him that stares.
Danny’s eyes flare. “What?”
“Nothing,” Tucker says quickly, because he has a healthy sense of self-preservation and respect for the stupid amount of super strength and speed Danny’s got in ghost mode.
“It’s just weird to see Phantom look so casual,” Sam drawls, because her favorite thing in the world is to push a guy’s buttons when he’s already down, apparently.
But okay, yeah, it is weird. The white glow off Danny’s skin doesn’t quite spread to his ratty space camp shirt and gray sleep pants. It’s an older shirt from a couple years back so even though he always gets them oversized it fits him well now. He stands differently when he’s ghost mode, straight-backed and chest out instead of his usual slouch, and this is the first time Tucker’s seen just how fit all that ghost fighting’s made him. Or maybe he’s only this fit in ghost mode? Tucker could swear Danny’s forearms aren’t quite so defined usually.
Danny’s glower could irradiate milk. His jumpsuit, when he tosses it aside to join his gloves and abandoned homework, splashes its own weird white glow on the carpet. “I’m so glad you’re enjoying this.”
Sam just grins, gesturing him over to where she and Jazz have laid out their supplies on his desk. Jazz wheeled in her own office chair while he was changing and Sam’s taken Danny’s, so with one final grumble he picks up the wooden trunk from the foot of his bed with the same ease Tucker might pick up an empty cardboard box, setting it between them. He plops down with a defeated hunch like a man kneeling before a guillotine. Overkill maybe, but Tucker’s not sure he’d be wearing a different expression if it were him facing the makeover party.
“If you don’t stop laughing,” Danny growls through gritted teeth, leaving the threat unfinished to let Tucker fill in the blank however he likes.
“Oh don’t worry, Tucker’s going to be too busy to laugh,” Sam says cheerfully, flashing him a wide smile that’s much more terrifying than anything Danny can cook up. “He’s going to be doing your homework.”
“Aw, what? Sam—!”
“And mine,” she adds. “Don’t worry though, I’ve only got algebra left.”
Tucker keeps his nose to the grindstone no matter what embarrassed squawking Danny makes. If he looks up he will laugh, and then he will die. And that would be an extremely uncool way to go. Worth it, maybe? No, no, Danny’s room is right above the Ghost Portal. He doesn’t want to find out if simple proximity to an inter-dimensional hole in reality would bring him back as a ghost if he died close enough to it. Look what standing in it did to Danny.
He bites his cheek and resolutely does not look up. Ah yes, x equals eleven, definitely.
“Your eyelashes turn white too. C’mon, hold still.”
“Don’t put that thing near my eyes, holy crap—“
“I said hold still!”
...What did x equal again?
Eleven. Right. Probably.
Tucker copies out the work and answer in Danny’s and Sam’s notebooks. He’s gotten about as good at copying their handwriting as he has at lying to authority figures. He’s still not sure how he feels about that little skill either, but hey, he’s almost too distracted to hear Danny whine.
Sooner than he expected he hears Jazz say, “I think that’s pretty good for a first try, don’t you?”
He looks up, furtive. Danny’s back is to him so he’s only got the girls’ expressions to go by. Jazz looks pleased, while Sam’s tapping her chin as she scrutinizes whatever-it-is they’ve done to him. “It’s a little plain,” she says.
“Plain is good,” Danny says fervently. “Please leave it at plain, this already feels really weird.”
“We are aiming for normal teenage boy,” Jazz reminds her.
Sam tosses something into her tackle box. “I know, but it feels like a wasted opportunity to not Goth him up for fun.”
“Blackmail material,” Tucker sings under his breath.
Sam laughs, Danny hunches deeper into himself, and Jazz gestures Tucker over. “Is he still too obvious?”
Prepared to say yes, of course he is because he’s a GHOST, Tucker finds himself briefly speechless once he does get a look at Danny’s face. “...Huh.”
“What does that mean?” Danny demands anxiously. Sam, grinning like a well-fed cat, slaps a hand on his hunched shoulder.
“It means tomorrow’s gonna be a breeze. You might want to bust out some last minute review notes.”
Tucker steps back, snags Danny’s sunglasses off the dresser, and shoves them onto Danny’s face. He leans left, then right, then hums. “Got some spillover on the laser sights that are gonna be a problem.”
“I’ve got a pair of wraparound sunglasses he can borrow,” Jazz says.
“Huh. Problem solved.”
Fed up with the lot of them, Danny jumps into the air and phases through the wall into the bathroom to inspect their work. Jazz and Sam sweep tubes and compacts and who-knows what else into their respective makeup bags.
“Thanks again for going along with this,” Jazz says.
“Are you kidding? I’ve been trying to get Danny to let me experiment on him for ages. The things I could do with that green undertone….” She trails off, a little wistful, a lot ominous. Today is clearly not the last time Sam’s going to experiment. Tucker drains the last of his Coke as a toast to the paces Danny’s spooky ooky undertone is going to be put through.
“He looked normal,” Tucker says.
“That’s the point,” Jazz says.
“No, but he looked normal. Like, normal -normal. How’d you do that?”
“A magician never reveals her secrets,” Sam cuts in, waggling her fingers. “I could make you look like a ghost if you were up for wearing colored contact lenses.”
“Pass.” Still, whatever they’d done had even magicked away that funny blur to Danny’s features that always made Tucker want to clean his glasses. A pair of shades, a hat and hoodie, and Danny’d look like any other sophomore. Hell, he’d probably fit in more than he does usually; Danny keeps forgetting to pretend to notice the fall weather rolling in.
Tucker puts his empty can on the dresser to give them a little golf clap. “I gotta say, I’m impressed. If Danny can keep his cool for eight hours he might actually make it through the school day without getting caught.”
Sam scoffs. “That’s a tall order.”
Jazz hums. “I’m not sure what he’ll do if there’s a ghost attack. He can’t exactly wear his jumpsuit under regular clothes.”
Tucker snorts. Yeah, a polyurethane hazmat suit is a little harder to hide than good ol’ fashioned superhero spandex.
“He’ll just have to take it with him,” Sam says, but she reaches down to pick up one of Danny’s gloves with her lips pursed. “If it keeps glowing like this it’ll be hard to hide any time he has to get something out of his bag.”
“I can put it in this,” Danny says as he phases out of his closet. It’s a testament to how often he rejoins a conversation like this that none of them jump. He’s got a Dumpty Humpty drawstring bag in hand, shaking out the various bits and bobs that had already been in it.
“Oh, so now he wants to contribute to the plan?” Sam and Jazz share a victorious look. It really does not bode well for anybody, how well they’re suddenly getting along.
Danny huffs. “I didn’t think this’d actually look believable,” he says, gesturing at his face. “How the hell did you do it?”
“Don’t bother, dude, already tried. Lips is zipped.” Tucker kind of can’t help but stare as Danny lands beside him. As long as he sticks to fluorescent lights, Tucker’s just about positive no one will be able to tell the difference.
Jazz reaches out, grabbing Danny’s hand to stare at it intently. By this point Danny seems to have given up squirming as a bad job, though he does look nervous. “What now? ”
“Your hands are almost as obvious as your face. Do you have any fingerless gloves?”
“Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix,” Sam says with a matching snip-snip of her fingers.
Jazz, twisting his fingers in weird directions, raises an eyebrow. “Do you want to spend the whole day trying to write with bulky gloves on?”
Tucker, best friend that he is, just manages not to laugh. It’s a near thing. Danny, as always, doesn’t appreciate his efforts.
“I think we should do your nails too,” Jazz says, finally letting him go. Danny slumps, goes to pinch the bridge of his nose, and gets his hand grabbed again for trying.
“Ah ah ah,” Sam teases, “No rubbing.”
There’s a dirty joke that could be made here, about two idiots who both ought to be failing biology for how badly they’re missing each other’s signals and how determined they are to ignore what’s— who’s—standing right in front of them, but Tucker stays quiet. He’s not an idiot. Dirty jokes only end in tears and blackmail.
“It feels weird,” Danny grumbles. “You’re only painting my nails if you paint Tucker’s first.”
“It’s not my secret identity on the line here,” Tucker points out. “Twenty bucks or I walk.”
Sam bites her lip trying not to laugh.
In the end Tucker’s twenty bucks richer and sporting nails done in a fetching combination of raspberry and lime. They all end up with a bit of lime polish—who could resist an inside joke like that?—though Danny’s the only one that gets glitter. Tucker makes a solemn promise to never cross Jazz; she can be downright nefarious when she wants to.
“Just watch,” Sam says as they do a last cleanup now that their nails have all dried. “You’re gonna wake up at four in the morning for some stupid ghost attack and be able to change back.”
“Don’t,” Danny groans. “You’ve jinxed me now.”
“Go wash your face off,” Jazz says. “Tucker, can you take your guys’ plates down? We’ve had a real problem with ghost ants lately; they’re like bloodhounds for crumbs.”
“Sure thing.” Anything to avoid the argument that’s gonna follow Danny being told he’s going to have to get his face all done up again first thing in the morning. He shuts the bedroom door, balancing empty plates and soda cans in one hand (muffling Jazz’s “It’ll smear if we leave it on!”), and makes his way down to the kitchen. Mr. F is there washing out his coffee mug for the night; he beams when Tucker enters.
“Heya Tuckerino. You kids havin’ fun up there?”
“A blast.” He grins, showing off his nails.
Mr. F chuckles, holding out one big hand to accept the plates. “Was there a homework break before you did your toes to match?”
“No pedis tonight, unfortunately, but our homework’s all done.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“Trash needs taking out, if you’re offering.”
“There’s a good lad.” Mr. F’s eyes wrinkle when he smiles fondly. He’s a beard shy of looking like Santa Claus. Or Hagrid. Somebody big and jovial and kind who wouldn’t hurt a fly—so long as it wasn’t a ghost fly, anyway. It’s a shame Danny’s so leery of telling his parents about the accident. Tucker gets it, really he does, but it’s still a shame. He grabs the trash bag and the recycling too, since it’s nearly full.
“Have a good night, Mr. F.”
“Don’t stay up too late curling each other’s hair now!”
“Oh please, and let Jazz ruin a ‘do this good?”
Mr. F’s laughter follows him out the door.