Honestly, if Danny had known, way back in the day, what defeating the Ghost King in single man combat meant, he would have insisted that someone help him, even if it meant someone like Plasmius. As it were, he didn’t know, and didn’t ask for help, and now here he is, three and half years later, barely seventeen, starting his last year of high school tomorrow, and the Head Observant, whom Danny has never met and doesn’t know the real name of, is sitting in his living room drinking tea with a frazzled Jazz and discussing mundane topics without a care in either world.
Danny considers going back to bed before deciding it wouldn’t be worth it.
“Um,” he begins, eloquent as usual, “can I help you?”
The Head Observant swivels to face him with his single eye and Danny sees Jazz slump in relief behind the ghost’s back. “Danny Phantom.” The ghost rises to stand—float—and approaches him. “We have much to discuss.”
Danny leans away, nose scrunching at the disgust in the Head Observant’s voice. (Danny really either needs to learn this guy’s name or come up with a nickname, fast, because even in the comfort of his own mind, “Head Observant” is getting old and annoying quick.) “Can we not?”
“Impudent child!” HO—Danny mentally snorts and decides to keep the shortening—snaps, his monobrow narrowing in displeasure. “Ancients help us, for we are all doomed.”
Danny rolls his eyes. Danny’s heard enough stories from Clockwork to know how dramatic the Observants are, HO especially. “Yeah yeah, double death and all that. Did you just come here to call me names or did you want something?” Danny calls forth just enough energy to light up his eyes, a subtle sign of just how much he doesn’t want HO to be here.
HO huffs and Danny hides a triumphant smirk, pleased with how easy it is to get under the ghost’s skin. “If you are quite finished,” he begins, ignoring the scoff that Danny gives, “you will accompany me to the Infinite Realms at once. The High Council demands your presence.”
“Yeah, not happening,” Danny says, crossing his arms. “See, I got school tomorrow, last first day and all, and I’m not letting any ghost problems get in the way of that. I might not know a lot about Ghost Zone politics, but I do know that these Council meetings or whatever can take days to be done with, so whatever this is, it can wait until Friday afternoon.”
HO starts sputtering and Danny hopes Clockwork is watching. Jazz is wide eyed and anxious, glancing between Danny and HO, and Danny flashes he a thumb’s up at the hip. She squints at him and Danny bites his lip to keep from laughing.
“Now. If you’ll excuse me,” Danny says, stepping pointedly around HO and towards the front door, “I have stuff to do today.” He opens the door and glances over his shoulder. “Feel free to see yourself out.”
The last thing Danny hears as he leaves is a particularly nasty ghost swear. It leaves him laughing for hours.
Friday afternoon, at exactly three-thirty, HO shows up directly in front of Danny, Sam, and Tucker, two lesser observants at his sides.
Danny sighs and palms his face. “I can’t even be mad,” he mumbles. “I did tell you to wait.”
The lesser observants already look pissed and Danny takes pride in the fact that it’s because of him. HO looks mildly annoyed and Danny wonders, spontaneously, if it’s because of Clockwork. (It would explain how the three ghosts were able to appear in the middle of Amity Park without alerting his Ghost Sense, but then again, Danny isn’t quite sure of the extent of the Observant’s powers. Maybe they can teleport or create portals like Wulf. Danny’s never asked because he’s never cared.)
“Danny Phantom,” HO booms, pointedly ignoring Danny’s wince and his attempts to get him to lower his voice, “your presence is requested by the High Council of the Infinite Realms to discuss matter of great importance. If you would follow me—”
“Yeah that’s great, and I’d love to go,” Not, “but I gotta stop by my house first. My parents will wonder where I’m at and I gotta get some stuff.”
HO’s singular eye twitches and the less Observants look incensed behind HO’s back, frantically whispering amongst themselves. Danny thinks he picked up the word “blasphemy” and bites down on a smirk. “You have one hour,” HO practically hisses, and then the three are gone, as if they were never there.
Sam and Tucker blink at Danny and then each other. “Did that really happen?” Tucker asks, nudging Danny’s arm as they continue making their way to FentonWorks. “What do they want?”
“Is this what you were laughing about all day Tuesday?” Sam adds, raising a brow. “The supposedly hilarious thing you couldn’t tell us about?”
Danny shrugs at Tucker while nodding at Sam. “Yeah. The Head Observant showed up at my house Tuesday morning and wanted me to go with him then, but I told him to wait. Didn’t think he’d listen. They must really want me to be there.”
“Yeah, but for what?” Tucker asks again, giving Danny the puppy eyes. “C’mon dude, spill!”
“I don’t actually know,” Danny says, shoving Tucker away by the face, heedless of the other boy’s squawk of outrage. “What you guys heard is pretty much all I know, too.”
“Need us to come with you?” Sam offers.
“Nah. I need you guys ready to cover for me in case the meeting or whatever runs long.” Danny shakes his head. “Clockwork and Frostbite have both told me that the Zone doesn’t really have much of a concept of time compared to here, so the meetings can last until they eventually work out whatever they were trying to figure out or they get tired of arguing about it.”
Tucker whistles, already over his manhandling. “Sucks for you, dude.”
Danny waves his off. “It’s fine, I have an overnight bag ready just in case. Loaded it full of snacks and some stuff to do in case I get bored—which I will. But yeah, that’s why I need you guys here. My parents have lightened up a lot, but if I’m gone all weekend they might start to worry.”
“No problem, Danny, we got your back!” Tucker swings and arm around Danny’s shoulders and ruffles his hair, startling Danny into a screech of his own. “This is revenge, short stack! Take it like a champ!”
Sam rolls her eyes. Idiots.
An hour and a half later, Danny is following HO and a couple lesser observants through the Ghost Zone at a pace Danny would considering a casual stroll. After saying goodbye to his friends, Danny had gone straight to Jazz to fill her in before he left for the Zone. It didn’t take long, but the problem came twenty minutes later when he realized he had no idea where he was going.
He wandered kind of aimlessly for a while, asking passing ghosts for directions to a place none of them knew how to get to, before he decided to do the smart thing and ask Clockwork. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, HO and his posse found Danny on his way there.
Needless to say, HO was not happy.
Finally, the four of them arrive at what Danny can only describe as a clusterfuck of observatories. It would be pretty cool, he thinks, if not for the giant eye at its center that seems to follow their movements as they approach. HO and the lesser Observants ignore it, so Danny does his best to not look at it, lest he make a fool of himself in front of who knows how many ghosts.
Danny follows HO to the interior of the place, and he grimaces at the sheer number of eyeballs all over the place. HO eventually leads them to a room that looks kind of like a stadium with seats arranged in a bowl shape, leaving the middle empty and giving the entire audience a clear view of the center. Hanging from the ceiling are what look like actual eyes, optical nerves and all. Looking directly at one, Danny can see that where the iris and pupil should be, there’s either a window or some type of screen, allowing for more viewers.
Danny is half expecting to see the seats filled with more of the one-eyed wonders, but instead, there’s a huge assortment of all kinds of different ghosts from all over the Zone. Amongst them, Danny spots Dora and her advisor, Pandora, Frostbite and his second in command, and Clockwork. Danny gives each of them a smile and a wave, and the HO is ushering him to the center of the room, chiding him to be quiet.
HO and his lackies take up a position behind a podium where at least a dozen other Observants wait for their leader to return. The crowd of ghosts looks impatient and Danny almost feels bad for making them wait on him.
Oh well. Too late now.
“Order! Order!” HO shouts, raising his voice to be heard above the idle chatter of the gathered ghosts. “The High Council of the Infinite Realms tribunal is now in session!”
“Wait,” Danny says, eyes blowing wide. “Am I on trial? For what?”
“Be at ease, Great One,” Frostbite calls down to him, his voice a balm on Danny’s suddenly electrified nerves. “You have done nothing wrong.”
“Nothing wrong!” a ghost that Danny doesn’t know snaps, amidst a smattering of agreeing grumbles. “He’s just a boy!”
“Silence!” HO demands, raising his hands. The noise dies down and Danny frowns, wishing he could be anywhere else. “We are here today to discuss the fate of the Infinite Realms and what this means in regard to Danny Phantom.”
Danny’s brow furrows. He has no idea what he has to do with the Ghost Zone as a whole but he has a feeling he’s not going to like it.
“Perhaps it would be best to be forward with Sir Phantom,” Dora suggests from across the room, raising a pointed eyebrow at HO as he gestures with one hand to Danny.
HO grumbles to himself briefly, then straightens to his full height. “Danny Phantom’s defeat of the former Ghost King Pariah Dark nearly three years ago means that he, by the Right of Conquest, is to be crowned the new King of All Ghosts.”
The room immediately bursts into cacophonous noise, but Danny hears none of it. His vision tunnels and he hears his heart pounding in his ears and the next thing he knows, he’s sitting outside and Frostbite is rubbing soothing circles on his back with his ice hand.
“Are you alright, Great One?” Frostbite asks once Danny finally looks at him, expression clearing up.
“I—” Danny chokes on his own voice and searches for his duffle bag, digging out a bottle of water. He chugs half of it before he has to stop and catch his breath. “I don’t know?” he asks more than says, clutching the half empty bottle like a lifeline.
“It would be okay if you were not,” Frostbite assures him. “It is not every day that one is named Crown Prince.”
Danny’s breath hitches and he chokes again, curling into a ball. “Oh god.”
Frostbite watches sympathetically for a moment, then shifts to tuck Danny against his side. “Do not fret, Great One. No one expects you to claim the throne right away. That would be asking entirely too much of you. You are young, especially in terms of your ghost half, so you must first be prepared before you are to assume any position of power.”
“Oh god,” Danny says again, voice strained, as he presses closer to the yeti ghost.
Frostbite frowns. “Are you alright, Great One?” he asks again, concern heavy in his voice.
“I can’t do this, Frostbite. I can’t be the king. I don’t know the first thing about it! I don’t know politics or the, the culture, none of it! I barely know how I work as a ghost, and I spend like half my time fighting people!” Danny clutches his hair and stares up at Frostbite, eyes wide and glowing a brighter green than usual in his panic. “I can’t do this!”
Frostbite shushes him gently and hugs him close, carding a hand through Danny’s soft white hair. “You will be a fantastic ruler one day. There is much you need to learn, but you have plenty of time. The Infinite Realms has been without a uniting monarch for centuries. It will last a number more years without you at its head.”
“No one’s gonna be happy about this,” Danny argues, allowing his shoulders to relax as he leans against his friend and mentor.
“You cannot please everyone, Great One,” Frostbite says with a chuckle. “But despite the dissenters, you have earned your title as Crown Prince, and the Ancient Law is to be respected and upheld by all. There will always be those who will oppose your rule, but over time, even the hottest of tempers will cool.”
Danny shakes his head, tense and jittery. “But there’s so much I don’t know! I’m gonna offend someone or something and start a war and then everyone’s gonna hate me even more than they already do because I’m always fighting them and I’m half human and I’m not a real ghost and I do nothing be get into trouble and start shit with my big mouth and I haven’t even finished high school yet and—!”
“Danny,” Frostbite says, startling him to silence as a large, clawed hand delicately captures his chin, “you are going to be amazing.”
Danny blinks once, twice, and on the third, he feels his eyes burn with unshed tears. He takes a deep, shaky breath, and then another. “You really think so?” he asks, voice weak.
Frostbite smiles, the expression warm. “I know so.”
Danny smiles back and shoves the heels of his hands into his eyes, giving a shaky laugh as he watches the stars behind his closed lids. “Okay.” He swallows hard. “Okay. I believe you.”
“Good!” Frostbite says, pulling Danny to his feet with a booming laugh. Danny laughs with him, more a single huff than true laughter, but it’s something. “Now! The High Council is waiting for us to return!”
Danny sighs. “Yeah.” He slouches for a moment before straightening up, a slow smirk drifting across his face. “Hey, what if I don’t go back in there?” Frostbite tilts his head and allows Danny to explain. “It’s not just because I don’t want to, even though that’s also true, but also… I really don’t like the Head Observant.”
Frostbite laughs again. “Clockwork has mentioned that you have taken on his habit of doing your best to annoy them.” A mischievous glint enters his yellow eyes and he grins. “Who am I to deny you this simple pleasure?”
Danny grins and hugs his mentor. “Thanks Frostbite! You’re the best!”
Frostbite hugs him back and then gives him a nudge. “Such high praise!” He gives a dramatic sigh. “It is such a shame that you were feeling unwell and had to return home immediately. Goodbye, Great One. We will see each other again soon.”
Danny laughs and waves as he flies off, duffle bag strung over his shoulder. He can’t wait to hear the story from Clockwork later. It’s a good distraction from the whole King thing.
Eh. He’ll deal with that later.