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Willow Tree

Chapter Text

There was a door, under a willow tree.

Danny knew how fluid and ever-changing the Ghost Zone was. The ectoplasm making the atmospheric void that was the zone was constantly swirling, changing,  a mystery to both humans and ghosts alike-- and the floating islands moved with the rhythm of an unknown song. 

He shouldn't be in the Ghost Zone, right now. He'd promised Jazz that it'd be a quick trip in, out. He said he left something in the Ghost Zone at Clockwork's tower, but that was a little, white lie. There was something calling to him in the undead dimension, and he knew he couldn't explain it to Jazz. Jazz would jump to conclusions-- that Danny was finally losing himself to his ghost half, like (she theorized) Vlad. But Vlad was just a fruitloop-- no, this was something different.

It led him to the willow tree.

A tree in the Ghost Zone is a rare sight. They don't grow on small islands, they don't float aimlessly through the Zone, they grow on the larger islands, large like Skulker's lair, or Dora's kingdom. But those trees were dead, usually, dead beyond his years. Danny had never seen a living tree in the Ghost Zone.

Or was it living? He didn't know. The leaves definitely looked alive, hanging off the island and blowing in a nonexistent wind. They were green, but not the toxic green void around them, a bright, lively green. He floated carefully to the tree, feeling the leaves in his hand. They bent, never snapping.

And then there was the door. The door was large, a dark color, either green or brown or black, he couldn't tell. Was it made of willow wood? Could doors even be made with willow trees? Danny didn't pay much to Sam's botany lessons, though wouldn't that deal more with carpentry?

"Stop it, Fenton." He told himself, aloud. He wasn't a stranger to voicing his thoughts aloud, he wouldn't be surprised if a passing ghost heard him mumbling to himself. Of course, he wasn't a villain, so he never needed to keep his thoughts or monologues to himself. That's how being a hero worked, right? That's what Danny thought, at least.

Despite his best judgment, he landed on the small island. It was big enough to hold the willow tree and the door, but not much else, and he noticed a piece of the land drop off and fall into the abyss. 

Danny knocked on the door, ignoring the number-one rule of traversing the Ghost Zone.

Do not knock on random doors.

He knew this door was calling to him-- no, pulling at him. There was either an evil ghost in the door who wanted to kill him all the way, or there was a good ghost behind the door, wanting to tell him something, teach him something. Danny's core was still unstable, despite being a ghost for a year, so he's heard from Vlad's taunts. Maybe this is something good?

Either way, the door swung wide open. Behind the door was darkness, a darkness that could only be described as "advanced darkness". He took a tentative step forward, leaning his hand on the doorframe. "Hello?" His voice sounded off in the lair of whatever ghost called this place home, only to bounce back at him. "Anyone home?" Danny took another step into the darkness. He was in the room now, the only thing lighting up anything around him was the vibrant glow from the Ghost Zone behind him. He let his hand slide down from the doorframe and to the side.

This was stupid. This was pointless. "Okay, wow, leaving me in the dark. I guess this is how ghosts really ghost ya," He commented, turning on his heel. It was stupid-- he might as well just leave, go home, enjoy a warm dinner of microwave chicken nuggets and call it a night. There'd been no ghost attacks that day, and maybe he could finish his homework and get sleep, and above all, it was a Thursday, and a three-day weekend. Which was even better. 

Just as he turned, the door behind him slammed shut, leaving him in the dark lair. The air turned cold-- a different kind of cold from the Ghost Zone, which was cold but also warm with the ectoplasm surrounding you, the usual entropy that ectoplasm usually existed in. This was a dry cold, a wind that blew through the room he was trapped in. Danny leaned forward, feeling for the doorknob. He found it, but it wouldn't twist, or open.

Something was behind him, on him-- he felt like the protagonist of a horror movie, trying to outrun a monster, to be trapped by a door. It raked cold claws on his back, and he felt pain but  didn't feel it at the same time. 

And he 

began

to

    a

                    l

                                       l.

 


His entire body felt like it was underwater, but he was breathing-- ash e came to, he became aware of something hard and cold wrapped around his face. It breathed oxygen into his lungs,  cold like the room he'd last been in. Danny's body felt heavy and tired, but his mind was slowly becoming cognizant of the world around him, a bright white.

If I'm in a hospital, I'm going to scream, was his first thought. Voices drifted in from the white surroundings, and though he couldn't see anything, he could make out human-shaped blobs around him, and people speaking. The language sounded weird and garbled, as much as the native ghost language sounded to humans perhaps, but his mind slowly began to decode it. 

"Never---  so many scars, so young..."

"What kind of villain would torture a child like this?"

You'd be surprised, Danny thought to himself, cynically. The jibe made him laugh, mentally, and then he coughed, twice.

"Oh! Is he coming to?"

"--Slowly. After how much I used my quirk on him, it'll be a while. What happened, again?"

"Fell from the sky. No villains-- database-- have flight, or anything like that." There were three voices, now? Three blobs, three voices, Danny supposed, it made sense. The world was becoming less of a blur, and he could recognize shapes. But what was this talk about quirks, villains, database? Superpowers? Did the weird lair put him into some comatose dream where everyone had ghost powers? Or superpowers?

His eyes fluttered-- one of the blobs noticed, a blob that was slowly forming into a small, elderly woman with her hair tied tightly above her head in a bun. "Easy there, don't work yourself too hard."

Whatever language barrier had been put in place was broken, because that sounded perfectly clear. A little loud, but perfectly clear. He winced at the sound, but now he was able to see more details of the people surrounding him. There was the old woman, probably some kind of nurse, a tall, skeletal man with blond hair (who looked like he needed to be in the place Danny was in, to be honest), and a small...rat. Bear? Mouse? Thing. This really was a weird coma dream, wasn't it? Or was it a different--

Pain shook his body for the first time that he stirred. Danny was no stranger to pain, but his bones ached, and his molecules felt like they'd been rearranged again. But he felt his heartbeat, and he was still breathing, so he was in his human form. The pain wasn't segregated to one spot. It was all over his body, deep in his muscles. Almost like he'd fallen at a great height. Is that what they were talking about?

"Well, is he awake?" The skeleton-man asked, looking at the elderly lady with concern.

"He's getting there." The woman said, and Danny felt the mask around his face be untied and removed. "His pulse hasn't gone up much, though..."

Low pulse? Was he hooked up to a machine? Was he in a hospital? They didn't-- they didn't take blood samples, did they? It'd been almost a year since Danny had been in the hospital. First was the accident, the other time was with Spectra infecting all of his school, but that was an abandoned hospital and didn't count. There was no distinct smell of disinfectant, no sterile smell of needles, nothing that gave off the hospital feeling... The bad memories of being in the hospital for three weeks after being electrocuted enough to kill him came back out and he shuddered. No, this wasn't a hospital, he could tell.

"There you are..." The elderly lady said. She wore a weird pair of goggles, Danny noticed. "Can you tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?"

That's a weird question, Danny thought. He hadn't gone blind, he could see perfectly well. "...Three?" His voice croaked out. The language, just like he'd heard, felt familiar but also not at the same time. It wasn't like his first time speaking in Ghost, it was something entirely new. Like, speaking Spanish but not knowing Spanish.

"Good, good..." The lady smiled. "Are you alright to answer a few questions, or do you want to rest a little more?" 

Danny shifted in his bed-- the numbness of his legs had gotten to be too much to bear, and he finally felt his healing kick in. Something else had been blocking it, it seemed. "Yeah, I think I can."

"Alright, just tell me if you can't." The lady turned to the two other people in the room-- mainly, the small rat-mouse-bear thing. 

"Hello there!" The rat-mouse-bear thing said. "I hope you're feeling better, I heard you took quite the fall. Do you remember anything about it?" 

Danny thought, for a moment. There was the door in the Ghost Zone, there was the thing on him, and then there was...  Nothing, until waking up in this bed.  "N-No." He shook his head. "I fell?"

The creature nodded. "Yes, you fell right from the sky, into the middle of one of our training gyms here!  If it weren't for one of our staff members, you'd be a pancake right now."

This creature was too chipper about talking about Danny's demise. Then again, he met ghosts who wanted to be the cause of his demise-- and humans, too, for the matter-- so he wasn't phased much by it. Ha, phased. Ghost pun. "Oh."

"Oh, pardon me. My name is Nezu, I am the principal of this fine establishment. I'm sure you recognize Recovery Girl, and this is a colleague, Toshinori Yagi. What is your name?"

Recovery Girl? Danny didn't recognize the elderly lady who sat pleasantly next to his bed. But, oh, his name. "Danny." It probably wasn't wise to give out his last name wherever he was. Plus if this really was a coma-dream from a ghost monster then it would definitely not be the right idea. Then again, most ghosts knew that Phantom was a halfa, so... 

"Danny...?"

"Danny." He repeated, a bit harsher. 

The creature took the hint. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Danny. Do you have any parents that we can contact, or someone we can get in touch with that will help you get home?"

Danny thought for a moment. This place, where he'd woken up, was weird-- there was a talking thing that was talking to him, apparently, superheroes and supervillains, if he heard correctly, and whatever the hell "quirks" were. If this wasn't a coma-dream (and he pinched himself twice already, making sure it wasn't one of Nocturne's doing), this wasn't his world. He knew the Ghost Zone could lead to different times, could it lead to different dimensions, too? What was with the willow tree?

"No, I don't think so."

"You are safe with us, young Danny." The other man-- Toshinori, was it?-- said, his voice was much deeper than his skeletal appearance showed. "If there is something wrong, or your situation is not safe, you can say so, safely."  His voice was the same one, Danny recognized at that moment, who was talking about his scars. He felt his skin crawl at the thought, and on instinct, covered his right hand.

"I... No, there's no one."

The three others (Danny couldn't say Nezu, the rat-bear-mouse-whatever thing was a person, but he definitely had intelligence way beyond humanity) gave each other a sympathetic glance. Nezu cleared his throat. "Alright. Do you have a last name that we could use, to find someone for you?"

Danny shook his head. Fenton was staying a secret, for now.  

Nezu wrote down a note on the piece of paper he was scribbling on. "And may I ask, what is your quirk?"

Quirk-- that word again. He'd heard it thrown around multiple times. Danny nervously laughed, "What's that?"

The room immediately became silent-- Danny felt the worried eyes of all three of the other people in the room looking at him. Even Nezu, who was the least person-like, had a twinge of worry across his face. Toshinori and Recovery Girl took a few steps back, whispering to themselves, while Nezu cleared his throat.

"A 'quirk' is what we call a superpower-- though, that's common knowledge for everyone, isn't  it?" He laughed.

No, it wasn't. As Nezu spoke, Danny listened in on the other two, who had withdrawn for a moment.

"Were there any signs of a concussion?"

"No, not that I know of. If it's amnesia, then, that's a different and more worrisome story."

Okay, Danny, time to play their game. "Oh, a quirk!" He laughed, nervously, hoping that his acting was coming across well. The two humans froze when they heard his laugh, both taking a sigh of relief. Nezu wrote more stuff down on his notepad. "I thought you said, like, a quark, and I was confused." Stop laughing. You're going to give yourself away, he thought, coming to a stop of his nervous laughter. What could he tell them? He couldn't lie and say he didn't have one, can people without quirks, can 'quirk-less' people exist? "I can, um..." Basics. He turned his forearm invisible, waving it around. "I can turn invisible... And intangible. Yeah."

"What do you call this quirk?"

Shoot, a name? Uh, think, think... "Ghost."

That's the worst name you could think of.

"That ends my bout of questions, for now!" Nezu announced. "Of course, we will be having police and legal authorities come in and question you, as well, but that will be in a little while, still."

"Yes. For now, I think you should rest a bit!" Recovery Girl interjected. 

Danny nodded, probably a bit too enthusiastic. He had a part to play, but he didn't need to overplay it, right? He already was, at that point. Maybe he shouldn't have played into it. He could've told them the truth-- the whole truth, that he was half-ghost, that he definitely wasn't from around here, his low heart-beat was definitely due to being mostly but not completely dead, but he didn't. Old habits die hard, and the habit of keeping secrets like your life depends on it dies the hardest. Because, even though he'd seen a reality where his family, his parents accepted his half-ghost status before, he saw it only briefly, distracted by traveling across the country to save them. And he undid all of it, because he wasn't ready. 

The other two were ushered out of the room, and Recovery Girl turned around to him, a kind smile on her face. "My office is right over here, if you need me. My quirk has probably taken a lot out of you, so rest now."

Quirk? Did she use her quirk on him? Danny didn't consent to that! But if it had been what kept him alive (to his degree, at least), that would be fine. He nodded, though he didn't feel particularly exhausted physically, a nap never hurt. If this was a strange fever-dream, maybe he'd wake back up in the room by the willow tree, and find out this was a strange concoction in his head. One he definitely should profit off of, if it is a dream, though his half-life could be considered a blockbuster, too.

Despite his racing thoughts, Danny closed his eyes and allowed sleep to overcome him.