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The Ghost of Heroes

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It happened on a Thursday. If Peter was ever asked about what the worst day of the week was, he’d tell them it was Thursday. Because everyone knew Monday’s sucked, thanks to Garfield’s influence, and that mutual understanding made it suck less. Tuesdays were better because they weren’t Mondays and you’d gotten used to it not being a weekend. Wednesdays were fine since you were halfway through the work week and there’s was usually nothing very important due on a Wednesday. Thursdays just sucked because they weren’t Friday but you wanted them to be Friday. Plus a lot of things were due on Friday which meant that if you procrastinated, all that work had to be done on Thursday. Ergo, the worst day of the week.

On this Thursday in the middle of summer, Peter was working on a Lego model with Ned when a bright green portal opened up right in the middle of Manhattan. Something that was unusual enough, even in a place that the Avengers called home. All of the Avengers now, thanks to the immigration of Thor and the other refugee Asgardians, as well as the return of the Rogue Avengers from Wakanda. Peter still wasn’t sure how he felt about that. The only reason he wasn’t completely against it was that Mr. Stark seemed okay with it.

Anyway, the portal. Most people didn’t notice it until the glowing dragon popped out of it. Peter noticed it about 3 seconds before the dragon because his Spideysense went off and told him something really, really bad was about to happen. Then there was the sound of a roar booming across the Hudson. Peter was reaching for his suit before he even knew what was happening. Ned was looking out the window and screaming about a dragon. Which…not good. Really bad. Of course it happened on a Thursday.

“Ned. Stay here with Aunt May.” Peter said, pulling the suit on. “If I text you to run you get her and your family out of here? Okay.”

Ned nodded as Peter wrenched open his bedroom window and shot a web out to start swinging towards Manhattan. In the tens of seconds it had taken to get dressed and moving, what seemed like thousands of strange green creatures had burst out from the portal and were now descending onto Manhattan en masse.

“Karen get me, Mr. Stark.”

“Connecting now, Peter.”

“Kid!” Tony’s voice come over the speakers. “You seeing this?”

“I’m already on my way.” Peter said. “Who else is here?”

“All of the Avengers and Loki.” He answered. “We’re assembling as we speak, meet at the tower.”

“Got it.”

“Be safe, Underoos.”

The thing was that Tony, Happy, Pepper and the Iron Patriot were the only people who knew his secret identity. Under the new Accords Peter wasn’t required to give his identity up as long as he wasn’t an Avenger and if he didn’t cause property damage above a certain amount. As long as Spiderman stayed the friendly neighborhood hero he’d started out as, he could keep his secret for the rest of his life. He’d told Tony that he didn’t trust the other Avengers yet and so Tony hadn’t told them anything and even helped him cover up his tracks. Today would be the first time he’d worked with all of the Avengers, and the first time he’d been in the same area with them since the so called Civil War.

Peter tried not to think about any of that as he swung across a bridge and made his way towards the chaos. It took longer than it would have normally to get to the tower from his apartment in Queens. Mostly because he had to keep stopping to protect people from falling debris and attacking aliens. As he traveled though, he listened to the other Avengers, mostly Thor and Loki, tell them what they were facing.

Ghosts.

Apparently, those were real.

Fuck Thursdays.

Loki warned them that ghosts were difficult foes, the undead were immune to most classic weaponry and even most kinds of magic. What they needed to do was find a way to close that portal and then work on containing the undead hoard. Ghosts were an enemy that you couldn’t touch, and sometimes that you couldn’t even see. Once Peter got there, he was immediately put on evacuation duty while anyone with magic (Read: Wanda, Loki, and Stephen Strange) was put on portal closing and containment.

It was hard work. His webshooters were practically useless as the ghosts were intangible most of the time. Not to mention the fact that the dragon seemed content to destroy buildings with his tail and talons just for the shits and giggles. Peter did his best focusing on his quadrant and regularly checking in with the team at large.

“Peter, a kid to the south being targeted by a green rat.” Karen said.

Peter immediately change direction by shooting another web and flipping himself around. He hurtled towards the ground and spotted the glowing green rat in question. It was standing over a small little boy who was holding up a baseball bat, clearly trying to defend himself. Peter let go of his web and let himself drop in between the boy and the rat. He pulled the boy to his chest to protect him and prepared to get hit with razor sharp claws.

Only for his ears to pick up the sound of something slamming against glass and then a voice.

“You know, for some reason I don’t really think that this is what they meant by New York City’s rat problems.” The voice said.

It echoed strangely against his ears, like it was speaking to him from the other end of a dark cave. He turned his head to see a teenager about his age standing between him and the rat, his hands outstretched and a bright green shield between him and the ghost. The teen was entirely monochrome, with bright white hair and wearing a jumpsuit made up of black and white parts. One his back was a large black dufflebag that looked like it was filled to the brim. His skin was a vampiric white that nearly matched his hair. The only thing that had any color on him whatsoever were his eyes, they glowed the same green as the rest of the ghosts out here.

“You get the kid out of here.” The teen told him. “I’ll take care of this infestation.”

Then the teen dropped the green shield and fired a beam of green energy from his right hand. The energy hit the ghost rat dead on and sent it flying. Peter watched for a moment as the teen fought off the ghost with ease and then pulled a silver cannister from his bag and pointed one end at the disoriented ghost. A bright bluish white light burst from the cannister and then literally sucked the ghost rat inside and away. Peter didn’t move until he heard the boy in his arms ask him if he was okay.

“I’m fine. Let’s get you out of here kid.”

It took only a few minutes to find the kid’s parents and get them moving to safety. Once he did that Peter made his right back to where he’d seen that strange teen.

“Uhh, Mr. Stark?” Peter said.

“What is it, Spiderman? You okay?”

“I’m fine but…I think we might have a ghost fighting on our side.”

“Impossible.” Thor interrupted. “Ghosts hate the living.”

“Yeah well one just saved my life and made a joke about New York’s rat problems.”

Silence over the radio. Peter waited for a few seconds but when it seemed like no one was going to say anything he continued.

“He looks like a teenager but he’s glowing and has bright white hair.” Peter told them. “Wait! There he is! Hey ghost!”

“Spiderman do not engage with an unknown hostile.” Captain America said sternly, as if Peter was going to listen to that guy.

The white-haired teen flipped around from where he was sucking up another ghost. He pointed at himself, as if to ask if Peter was talking to him, Peter nodding and swung towards him. Peter landed on a ledge, near the floating teen.

“What’s the cannister you’re using?” Peter asked.

“The thermos? It’s a ghost containment device that can also be used to keep your soup warm.”

“Handy.”

“You’ve no idea.” He said. “My name’s Phantom by the way. Danny Phantom.”

“Spiderman.”

“Obviously dude.”

Over his comm he was being berated for talking to an enemy, when it was obvious he was anything but. The ghost showed absolutely no hostility and was actively helping them.

“Look.” Phantom said. “You guys can’t fight ghosts with the weapons you have. I brought some for you to borrow, if you want. Here.”

The ghost reached into his bag and pulled out an odd silver wrist watch with a green bent antenna. He floated over to Peter and held it out.

“Put it on. It’s a wrist blaster, it produces the same energy that I do, it’ll hit ghosts no matter what. Just try not to shoot me okay?”

Peter took it and put it on easily. Then he extended his wrist and pointed the blasted at a nearby glowing creature. It hit it dead on and sent it tumbling to the street. There was a bit of kickback from the blaster but it was manageable.

“Sweet, dude. Thanks.”

“Right yeah.” He said. “Look, here.”

He took off the duffle bag and held it out. It was obvious now that it was filled to the brim with different kinds of weapons. Peter took the handles of the bag.

“I need to stop Prince Aragon, that’s the dragon, before he goes too far. Give these to the rest of the humans and tell them not to attack me. I’m not a ghost cat I don’t have more than one afterlife.”

“Spiderman, you will report right now.” Tony ordered right as Phantom started to fly away.

“I’m here, Mr. Stark.” Peter said. “And that ghost is definitely on our side, he gave me a big bag of weapons that work against ghosts! I’m on my way over to give you guys some. Phantom just asks that we don’t shoot him.”

“We will be talking about your complete disregard of orders, Spiderman.” Captain America said.

“I’m not an Avenger, Captain. I don’t have to follow your orders.” Peter said very snippily. He started webbing his way towards Mr. Stark. He knew he’d pay for the sass but he didn’t really care. He could feel Mr. Stark’s disapproval. He swung around a corner and fired off a couple of shots at some ghosts, that blaster felt really satisfying.

He found Tony first and showed off the new weaponry by shooting at the two flying ghosts that were chasing Mr. Stark.

“Alright. I want one of those.” Tony said, not telling him off for his actions. “Guys these things really work against the ghosts. I think Spiderman was onto something with this good ghost.”

Tony gave him a thumbs up, a silent way of telling him he had his back. Peter grinned beneath the mask and webbed off to find another Avenger. Thanks to Tony, or maybe the situation at large, they all took a weapon from the bag without question. With new weapons it became significantly easier to take down ghosts. Sometimes if you hit them hard enough, they just disappeared in a puff of smoke.

What was the real game changer was Phantom though. That guy was a beast. Spiderman watched him plow through ghosts with nothing but his fists and a pun. Once he finished passing out weapons he made his way back towards the ghost teen, this time with a gift in hand. Captain America, in his gracious wisdom, had decided that they should give Phantom a comm unit so that they could work with him.

“Hey! Phantom!”

“Spiderman! Do you see this guy’s teeth?” The ghost asked pointing to a ghostly skeleton with really bad teeth in its skull. “I think he might be here to give his dentist a piece of his mind.”

In response the ghost skeleton swung a glowing sword at the ghost. Phantom dodged and punched the skeleton’s head off.

“More like an ortho-don’t-ist, right?” Peter found himself asking.

Phantom looked over at him, his green eyes wide with some unnamed emotion.

“Where have you been all my afterlife?”

“Uh…Queens?” Peter said awkwardly. “Wait. No. I’ve got a comm unit for you so that you can work with us. Here put it in your ear!”

He tossed the Stark comm unit and Phantom caught it with ease. He put it on without hesitation.

“Do I just talk now?” He asked. His voice echoed through their radio and it sent a literally shiver down his spine.

“Holy shit your voice sounds terrifying over the speakers.” Peter told him.

“I’ll have you know, that’s because I died doing what I loved, mining coal in the 1800s.”

Silence over all of the comms as it occurred to everyone simultaneously that this person was someone who had been alive, and who now wasn’t. Peter spoke first.

“Wait, really?”

“No. Actually it turns out that there are a maximum number of McRibs you can eat in a day.”

Peter giggled a little at that and over the comms he heard some of the other Avengers make noises of disapproval or laughter.

“Okay so they can hear me.” Phantom said. “Good to know. Hey, I guess? I come in peace?”

“What can you tell us about this attack?” Captain America demanded.

“Not much, other than that it’s probably the dragon’s fault.” Phantom said. “The dragon’s name is Aragon, Ex-Prince of the Kingdom of Kera. He knows a lot of magic so I have no doubt that he’s the reason that the portal is still open. If you defeat him, the portal will close on it’s own. Probably.”

“How can a dragon be a prince?” Thor asked.

“Well, Aragon isn’t a dragon.” Phantom said. “At least not all the time. He’s sort of like the hulk, he turns into that when he’s angry. Which was a great look during diplomatic events.”

“Why is he even here?” Tony asked.

“He’s looking for a new kingdom to terrorize the asshat.” Phantom said. “He escaped from prison and is on a rampage. This is not the first place he’s destroyed today. I’m pretty sure he’s still operating under the impression that humans are easy targets, which honestly that level of stupidity at this point is more on him than anything else.”

“How do we take him down?” Loki demanded. “We need this portal closed as soon as possible.”

“Leave that to me and Spiderman here.” Phantom said.

“What?” Peter yelped right before Phantom flew at him, grabbed him around the waist and lifted him into the air. The ghost’s hands weren’t as cold as he expected, they felt odd but not icy cold. Iron Man was demanding an explanation. Phantom ignored him and flew them up so that they were on a roof, near the dragon. The dragon was black with a bright purple belly. He was blowing purple fire into the air and destroying things.

“Spiderman, I need you to do one thing for me. You see that gold amulet around Aragon’s neck?”

“Yeah?”

“Get it off of him while I distract him. You’ve got the webs you shouldn’t have to get too close. Once you get that amulet, I need you to move as far away as you can. Got it?”

“Why?”

“That’s the source of his power, at least some of it. If you get it off, I can finish him. But he’s going to be really pissed off once you’ve stolen it. Can you do it?”

“No problem.” Phantom nodded and dropped him onto the roof and then immediately flew right towards Aragon’s face. Yelling at him. Aragon turned his large head and roared at the sight of the ghost teen.

You! You will pay for what you’ve done!”

“Trust me dude, seeing your ugly face is more than enough punishment.” Then Phantom literally dodged a plume of fire and punched the dragon in the chin.

Peter decided almost immediately that he and Phantom worked well together. Mostly because they immediately went into a pun-off, much to the chagrin of the adults. By the time Peter had managed to web off the amulet, he’d made 15 different jokes all of which were puns about ghosts. Phantom had made 16. The moment the amulet left the dragon’s neck, the dragon immediately began to shrink down to a person sized ghost. A ghost with blue skin and a forked tongue that kept stretching out of his mouth whenever he yelled.

Which honestly? Gross.

Phantom had no problem beating Aragon up and sucking him into his thermos. The moment he did the portal snapped shut. Phantom whooped in excitement and did a flip in mid air. Peter tossed him the amulet which also went into the thermos.

“No time to celebrate.” Captain America said. “We’ve still got a lot of ghosts.”

“Right. Hey Spiderman, you ever see that movie, The Two Towers?” Phantom asked.

“Of course.”

“Remember the battle of the Hornburg?” It only took him half a moment to understand the reference and then what the ghost teen was proposing.

“Oh dude you are so on.”

Phantom tossed him another thermos, where he got it Peter had no idea, and then they were competing. Tony and Hawkeye almost immediately joined in once they got their own thermoses out of the bag that Phantom had brought. People were calling out ghosts captured by the number. It was honestly so much fun, no matter what Captain America said. It took three hours to gather up the rest of the ghosts, and part of that was Phantom using his ‘ghost sense’ to look around for any ghosts that might have been hiding.

“There. That should be the last of them.” Phantom said.

“Regroup around Avengers Tower, now.” Captain America ordered.

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

“Come on Phantom it’ll be fun.”

Phantom didn’t look like he believed a word of that but he went with Spiderman back to the tower. When they arrived, Spiderman decided that the destruction wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. He’d expected a lot worse. Phantom floated along next to him as the entire team grouped up.

“So…” Phantom said. “I’ve never actually done the whole…group meeting before? Is it anything like a group project in school? I’ve heard those are terrible.”

“It’s not like that.” Peter promised. “And where did you hear that?”

Sitcoms.”

“Ghosts have TV?”

“The house I haunt has great cable.”

“Right…”

“You haunt people?” Mr. Stark interrupted sounding disappointed.

“I mean…technically any place I go I’m haunting.” Phantom answered twisting to look at the adults. “But my personal haunt is an old lady who’s like 80% blind and deaf and only has cable for when her grandkids visit. I live in her attic and make sure her dishes are done.”

“Sounds sweet.” Peter said. He was having a hard time imagining the ghost teen actually doing the dishes.

“Right? It’s like I’m a little elf or something.” He deadpanned. “Except instead of her knitting me little itty bitty shoes I get to feed my addiction. I need to know if Ross is as much of an asshole as I think he is.”

“Oh he is.” Peter confirmed.

“Hey! Spoilers!”

Mr. Stark flipped up the face plate on his suit to give the two teenagers an examining look as Captain America neared them. The man looked like he was dripping with righteous indignation. The rest of the team was grouped together by the time Rogers got there.

“Spiderman, you disobeyed direct orders.”

“I never agreed to take orders from you.” Peter said right back. “I’m not an Avenger remember?”

Greatest decision of his life really. The man’s cheeks reddened at the sass.

“Spiderman is right.” Mr. Stark said. “He worked with us today because he is based in the city, you have no jurisdiction over him Captain.”

“If he’s going to work with us then he needs to follow orders.”

“Do you guys need me here for this?” Phantom interrupted, totally derailing the beginnings of a huge argument. “Cause this seems like something you living people need to do amongst yourselves.”

Right. Phantom was a dead person. An actual dead person who was just floating there like it was normal and not at all terrifying. Peter didn’t know how to feel about it at all. Phantom, if one ignored the glowing and the floating, didn’t look dead. He didn’t act like how Peter thought a ghost should act.

“Right.” Steve said. “We’ll discuss this later, Spiderman. For now, who are you ghost?”

“Okay. Just one thing. Calling someone like me ghost like that is rude. Just…pointing it out.” Phantom said awkwardly before continuing with more of a smirk. “I prefer the term living impaired. And the name is Danny Phantom, you can call me Phantom, that’s what everyone else calls me.”

“Phantom.” Thor rumbled. “Why have your kind attacked Midgard?”

“Hey! I’m not with them.” Phantom corrected. “I came to help you guys!”

“That remains to be seen.” Loki said. “Answer our questions.”

Phantom’s cheeks colored green in offense. Peter couldn’t blame him. The ghost had come and helped and given no indication that he meant any harm.

“This is why I never work with adults.” He said turning to look at Spiderman. “All of you are so condescending, just because you managed to live into adulthood. I’ll just take my stuff back now.”

The ghost’s hands glowed green and all of the weapons he’d gifted them flew out of their hands and back into the dufflebag that Mr. Stark had brought with him and placed on the ground. Then the filled bag floated back to the ghost in question. All of the adults had tried to grab their weapons but they’d literally turned intangible. Phantom threw the bag over his shoulder, turning the strap intangible so it passed through his neck and the whole thing was slung diagonally across his back with the strap on his chest.

“Hey!” Mr. Stark said. “you can’t just…”

“If you’re just about to tell me that I can’t take back my tech then I only have to remind you about a certain congressional hearing.” That made Mr. Stark shut up, his mouth closing with a click. “I mean seriously people. I’m dead not a pushover.”

“Do you have to keep bringing that up?” Hawkeye asked.

“What? The dead thing? I don’t see why I should stop when you all are going to judge me poorly for it.”

“Okay. Look, We’re sorry.” Natasha said, ever trying to be the diplomat. “We just have some questions is all.”

“I came here to help you, not be interrogated. If you’ve got questions, google it. Don’t bother asking the Asgardians they know less about my kind than they do about their own assholes.”

Loki and Thor both made very offended faces while Peter found himself trying not to laugh at the whole thing. Phantom flipped to look at Peter.

“It was nice working with you though, Spiderman. You seem cool.”

“Uhm…thanks you too.” Peter said awkwardly. “Do you like…need a place to stay since the portal’s gone?”

Phantom grinned a little and floated closer.

“Thanks for the offer but you really do not want to be roommates with a ghost. Besides I can make my own portals, I’ve got to be getting home anyway.”

“I thought you lived here?” Peter asked.

“I do but I have to go to the Ghost Zone or as those guys would call it Hel occasionally.” Phantom said. “I am technically from there. Don’t you go home for the holidays?”

“I live at home.”

“Well your home isn’t in Hel. Not a vacation spot I can promise you that.”

“Really? It sounds so nice.” Peter deadpanned.

“Oh riveting. Everyone is dying to go.”

And that actually made Peter start to laugh. Phantom laughed with him and then slapped Peter lightly on the back. His hand still felt warm and cold all at the same time.

“We should hang out sometime.” Phantom decided. “Next time I’m in New York. I’ll show you the best ghost hangout spots. There’s this one spot that’s still an actual speakeasy.”

“Dude, really?”

“Yeah. So cool.” Phantom promised. It honestly sounded like a fun time. The more he spoke with Phantom the less frightening he seemed. Phantom waved a hand causing a portal to pop open like it was nothing. “I’ll call you.”

“Son you can’t just…”

But Phantom was gone before Captain America could even finish his sentence, the portal snapping shut right behind him. The Captain turned his indignation towards Peter and Peter looked at the same face that did those same stupid high school videos and decided screw it.

“Mr. Stark, I’ve got to go check on my family. If you need anything send me a message.”

“You can’t leave.” Romanoff said. “We have to debrief.”

“Actually.” Mr. Stark pointed out. “Avengers need to debrief with the Accords Council. Spiderman isn’t required. If the Council has questions he’ll be contacted directly. Tell your family ‘hello’ from me, alright?”

“You got it Mr. Stark.”

Then Peter was off, swinging away from confrontation like he always wished he could do with Flash Thompson. Peter was vaguely aware that most of the Avengers suspected he was young, maybe not as young as he actually was but young. He knew that he should act more mature, less like a kid, but honestly Captain America was just so annoying. To think he used to idolize the guy!

Peter climbed into his window once he was sure no one was looking, to find Ned and Aunt May waiting for him.

“Dude. You fought a ghost dragon!”

“Oh Peter are you okay?”

Typical Thursday really.

Chapter Text

Tony sighed as he listened to Steve ream into him for letting both Peter and the ghost kid go. As if he'd had any say in that at all. I mean honestly what did the man expect him to do? Pull some ghost tech out of his ass to keep Phantom from disappearing after they all treated him like a criminal? Phantom hadn't done anything but help them, even Tony could see that.

Peter's trust of him was, while naïve, probably the right call.

"And another thing Tony, you can't just let your pet project talk to people like that."
"Spiderman isn't a project. He's a hero." Tony said, finally speaking up.
"He's a kid!" Clint broke in. "We all know he's got to be like 19 or something."

19? Tony wished. He'd placed down a bunch of false trails for those on his ‘team' to follow if they tried to uncover Pete's identity before he wanted them to know. The 15-year-old would be safe if it was the last thing that Tony did with his life. Loki, ever the chaos maker, spoke up.

"Captain. I have to ask, why is it that you treat Stark with more suspicion than me?"

Silence. The awkward tense kind that made Tony wish he had some tools to fiddle with or a drink to down. Loki joining the team had been a bit of an odd thing. Mostly because he was an addition, along with Dr Strange, that Tony had made on his own while the fugitives were still being fugitives. Thor had brought his brother, along with thousands of refugees, to earth with a story of the Mad Titan, the man who'd Tony had seen all those years ago during the invasion. Loki had offered his services helping them prepare and Tony had brought it up to the Council.

Loki was an Avenger, a decision made after weeks of debate. He didn't really get along with anyone but Thor, Bruce, and sometimes Tony. Bruce had come back to earth with Thor and Loki and got along best with the Asgardians. Which, honestly? Couldn't blame the guy after the adventure they went on. Things worked in the tower. At least it had worked for the few months before the Rogues found out about it. Steve had, in his infinite wisdom, decided to come out of hiding and discuss things like an adult because he thought Loki was mind controlling everyone.

He hadn't been happy after signing the Accords to find out the truth. Clint, even less so. Not that Tony could blame Clint for that shit. Even though Clint was more than happy to blame Tony for his less than charitable feelings for Wanda. It had been Thor that had settled the debate about Loki by telling the Rogue Avengers just what exactly had been done to Loki by the Mad Titan. There was very little complaining about the man's presence after that.

In fact, much to Tony's internal annoyance, the torture the man had undergone had given Loki a sort of a free pass when it came to his asshole behaviour. What would get Tony raked over the coals would result in Loki being offered a slightly stern word or even nothing at all. Loki knew this, he enjoyed lording it over Tony. Or at least he had…

"I mean honestly Captain," Loki said. "Stark has been nothing but steadfast in his dedication to protect this planet while I'm still deciding."
"Loki you were tortured and…"
"So what happened to Stark in Afghanistan was just a good time then."

"You were coerced to attack this planet." Romanoff pointed out. "Stark's Ultron was just his pride."
"And here I thought Scarlet Witch's magic had coerced him," Loki said lightly. "I'd recognize that sort of magic anywhere."

Clint tensed but didn't say anything at all to debate the point. Good on him.

"You don't understand the whole situation." Steve told him sternly.
"Exactly why I asked the question, Captain."

Tony knew this would only end badly, probably for him. He broke in before people got too angry and Bruce had to stomp off to work out some of his anger.

"Look. Steve." Tony said. "I let Spiderman go because he wanted to check on his family, his non-spider-powered family. Besides he doesn't need to debrief, he's not an Avenger. I'm following the accords that you signed and agreed to follow."

Steve's fist clenched for a mere moment before nodding. Steve had signed the accords both out of a sense of duty to save the world from Loki's supposed villainy but also under a certain level of duress. Barnes was still mentally unwell. Wakanda, now that it had opened its borders, couldn't keep him without facing political backlash. The Accord's Council had worked out a deal that if Steve and the rest signed the Accords that Barnes would not be sent to jail but be allowed to remain in Wakanda and get help.

Steve had signed.

"He still needs to have some respect."
"It's the 21st Century, Cap." Tony shrugged. "Spiderman shows respect to the people who give it to him. You aren't treating him as an equal member. He is allowed to act when he sees something you don't. Phantom, ghost or not, was an ally that we needed."
No one argued with him on that point. Without Phantom, they would have had a much longer, much bloodier fight on their hands. The ghost had saved lives. He already had FRIDAY researching what she could about ghosts and Phantom in general.
"Ghosts are temperamental," Thor said. "A friend one second and an enemy the next."
"So, Loki basically." Clint pointed out.
Loki didn't even look offended. He only grinned with teeth that were a little sharper than normal.

"I am not going to treat a child like an adult."
"When he has that suit on you treat him like it," Tony ordered. "Spiderman does good work for the city and he is capable of a lot more than you think."
Tony wouldn't have picked him up if that wasn't the case. Even now he regretted his actions during that whole Vulture Fiasco. He hadn't made that mistake twice.

"I get that you're protective of him Tony," Natasha said. "But how are we supposed to trust Spiderman if we don't even know who he is?"
"This again?"
"Yes, this again," Steve said. "Spiderman is an unknown."
"G-d you sound like Fury."
And so the argument continued. Tony wished desperately he hadn't quit drinking because at least if he drank enough he could numb his senses to the tirade. It probably would have gone on forever if Thor and Bruce hadn't stepped in.

"Spiderman will tell us who he is when he chooses to." Thor rumbled.
"If he's as young as you guys think then we should treat his right to privacy as important." Bruce cut in. "I mean honestly. What 19-year-old needs his civilian life to be hounded because he's choosing to do the right thing?"
"We can argue all day but Stark isn't going to tell us," Loki added. "You're wasting all of our time."

"Indeed." Strange drawled. "I do have other responsibilities."

So finally, blessedly, the debrief ended. Tony was only thankful that Vision had been out of town for this whole fiasco. The android was exploring earth and ‘taking a break' from hero work. The last thing Tony needed was more reminders of Ultron hanging around. They sent their reports off to the Council and called it a freaking day. Tony went immediately down to his lab to start studying the energy readings he'd gotten off of the ghosts. There had to be a way to fight them with his suit. Ghost weapons existed, he'd used one. He just had to recreate them. He worked for about an hour before FRIDAY broke up the monotony.

"Hey, boss?"
"Sup Fri'?"
"I've got some results about Phantom. I think he's based in Illinois."
"Illinois?" That was the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Which now that he thought about it was probably the point. Ghosts probably liked finding cabins in the middle of nowhere and setting up shop.

"Amity Park, America's most haunted town," FRIDAY added. "At first I thought it was a tourist trap but the more I look into the more legit it seems. Let me show you some clips."
One of his holographic screens popped up to show a news clip. It was of a weatherman named Lance Thunder. Behind him, a huge ghost fight was raging in the middle of an intersection. The fight was between what looked like Phantom and another ghost that looked like a vampire from a terrible 1930’s movie. Blue skinned with the worst hair do of all time.

"As you can see Tiffany commuters this morning are going to have to call into the office. A fight between resident ghost hero, Inviso-Bill and the Wisconsin Ghost, has broken out on the intersection of Smith and Washington."

The Wisconsin Ghost? Inviso-Bill? Hell, even the name Lance Thunder was ridiculous. Behind the weatherman, he watched Phantom get tossed, hard into the asphalt. This video was over a year old according to the time-stamp. It looked like Phantom had gotten better with time. The Wisconsin Ghost's gloved hands glowed pink as he flew down to supposedly blast Phantom to bits. Phantom dodged at the last second and jumped into the air, resuming the aerial battle.

"Ooh. Lance, that looks dicey. You stay safe out there!"
Phantom and the Wisconsin ghost both fired energy at each other. Phantom's bright green ray slamming into the other's bright pink one. It sent a blast of air away, sending Lance Thunder to the ground. The man screamed about his hair.

"This is Lance Thunder and I'm…once again regretting getting a degree in meteorology."

The clip ended there just as the video was changing back to the reporter in the studio.

"Damn. You have any more of this Friday?"
It turned out she did. He figured out why the newscasters were calling Phantom Inviso-Bill, apparently, the ghost teen hadn't told anyone his name. He just flew in, saved the city, ran from the town's ghost hunters, and disappeared. It wasn't until about 11 months ago that he actually spoke to a reporter and gave his real name out. More important than that though was the twitter account.

That's right. A fucking twitter account.

Phantom's twitter was a thing of beauty. His photo was an image of him floating in the middle of the air with the stars and a full moon in the background. His handle was @RealGhostBoy and his profile description was just the phrase ‘Only the good die young'. Which was honestly funnier than it had any right to be.

The tweets ranged from actual warnings to his followers about a ghost attack in progress to the just plain weird. There was one tweet with a video of him being beaten up by a ghost lizard with the caption ‘Do insurance companies provide coverage for ghosts? Asking for a friend.' The tweet after that was ‘Is being dead considered a pre-existing condition?'. Tony was starting to sense that Phantom made more ‘dead' jokes than anyone else combined. At first, it had unnerved him but now? Now it made things seem a little less awful. If Phantom wasn't upset about being dead why should he be?

He followed the account immediately and then sent out a tweet.
@RealGhostBoy Thanks for helping us here in NYC. We owe you one.
Once the tweet was sent Tony scrolled down further into the ghost's feed. The tweets came seemingly at random with no real schedule involved. Then again he was a ghost, why would he even need a schedule. Tony chuckled at a few of them.

Playing Luigi's Haunted Mansion. Would rate the hauntiness a 2/5. Needs more spooks.

I could totally do a better-haunted mansion than freaking Luigi.

Starting a Go-Fund-Me to build a better mansion. Go carts will be allowed.

"Friday send this account to Peter. He'll love this."
"On it boss."

Tony put his phone down and started putting together a report on Amity Park and Danny Phantom to the Accord's Council. While he doubted Phantom would ever be someone to sign the Accords, even as amended as they were, the Council would still want to know about a new player. Tony didn't like working with the Council. He hated the accords. But then again when was responsibility something a person liked?

The Accords were shitty. The idea of tagging metas like some sort of vermin for extermination hadn't been well received by him no matter what Steve thought. He hated that he felt he had to support them.

But what other options were there? He'd spent so long bucking authority in every way he could, and it had led him there. Maybe if he'd spent more of his time schmoozing people like Ross it wouldn't have been so terrible but…well, regret was just one of Tony's constant companions now.
There was a knock on the glass door to his lab. He looked up to see Steve standing there, looking…well, nervous. This was the first time in a long time that someone had come down to Tony's lab. Even Bruce avoided the place, preferring to have Tony come up to his lab if they were going to talk science. His lab was where his suits were stored. It was the most heavily guarded place in the tower.

Tony frowned.

"Let him in, Friday."
"You sure Boss?"
"Just do it."

The glass door slid open and Steve sighed in relief, or at least what looked like it. He took one step inside, almost hesitant as if he thought something was going to jump out and bite him.

"What is it, Cap?"
"You've been down here for a long time."
"Just…four hours," Tony said, how had so much time passed already? "You didn't come down here for that."

Steve winced a little but didn't deny it. In all their long history Steve had never been the one to come check on Tony when he was in the middle of an invention bender. Tony waited in silence, he knew the man had something he wanted to yell at Tony for. It took about 15 seconds, which was an eternity in his brain, for Steve to speak.

"I was just talking to Thor."
"And? If you're just here to gossip, there's the door I've got things to do."
"No, damn it, Tony. I'm trying to tell you something important."
"Then do it!"
"We need to stop this! I don't know how, but you can't keep fighting me!"
"So this is my fault? You don't share any of the blame at all?"

Steve looked about half a second from growling but he stopped himself and lowered his head.

"No. You're right. I'm sorry. We need to stop this." Tony pursed his lips, he wasn't sure exactly how the man wanted him to respond to that.

"I know you're angry about what I did," Steve said. "But I have a right to be upset too! You signed the Accords! You just agreed to this hit list of metas, you're not even a meta!"
"You lied to me about the murder of my parents, Rogers. I'm not really seeing the moral equivalent." Steve flinched at the reminder.

"Bucky didn't…I needed to protect him. I didn't know what you'd do and I…"

"That wasn't your choice to make Rogers," Tony told him. "Damn it. You let me live for years with the thought that my father had killed himself and my mother with his drinking. You didn't trust me to listen to you, to be reasonable about Barnes. I could have helped you. When SHIELD was falling, I could have been there helping you take down the carriers and flush Hydra out. Do you really think I couldn't have found Barnes faster?"
Steve still looked stubborn about it. Tony couldn't blame him.

In all honesty, he had no idea how he would have reacted if Steve had told him straight off. There's a part of him that would've wanted to kill Barnes immediately, who would have sent Jarvis out into the world on a manhunt. Tony wanted to play the moral high ground, wanted to say that he would have done the right thing. But he couldn't because he didn't know.

"I was wrong not to tell you sooner. Especially once we got closer to catching Bucky." And like that, Tony felt like he'd entered the Twilight Zone. Steve admitting he was wrong? Surely that was a sign of the apocalypse.

"Look, Tony, I made a lot of bad calls. I'm sorry but we can't keep fighting like this. The world still needs our protection. We can't give it that if you and I can't even be in the same room without a fight."

"We do just fine in the field."
"Do we? We spent half of today arguing about Spiderman and Phantom."
"Look, Cap. I don't have any reason to play nice with you. You made it clear exactly what you thought of me when you left me bleeding out in Siberia. I'll behave myself as long as you don't try the same shit you pulled with me on Spiderman. Got it?"
"Tony, we're friends." He did not just say that.

"Get out."

Steve left. He looked like he didn't want to but he seemed to realize exactly what he'd said. Tony found himself collapsing onto his stool, silence filling the lab. He didn't want to deal with this. He shouldn't have to. Just one drink would help he thought. One drink to calm his nerves and his brain, help everything slow down. Tony moved to get up when his phone buzzed. He picked it up off the table.

A reply to his tweet.

@IAmIronman I've got venmo and a paypal. Your choice.
Tony snorted. That was not at all what he'd meant. He tapped out a reply.
@RealGhostBoy What kind of hero takes money for a good deed?
@IAmIronman Come on man, I'm trying to get a Nintendo Switch for my haunted house.
Well, who was Tony to get in the way of such a noble goal? He decided to humour the ghost kid, emphasis on kid.
@RealGhostBoy Convince me

So instead of breaking his sobriety streak, Tony found himself haggling with Phantom over a Nintendo Switch. It sort of reminded him of talking with Peter, except Peter would never be so bold. It was usually ‘Mr. Stark you don't have to' this or ‘I couldn't possibly take this Mr Stark' that. Phantom, on the other hand, was more than willing to demand the 400 or so dollars he needed for a video game console in return for helping save New York City.

In the middle of negotiations, he noted that Peter had gotten onto his official Spiderman account and started tweeting puns at Phantom. Which did not surprise him at all. The entire thing was now being noticed by Twitter at large and pretty soon the twitter hashtag #GetPhantomASwitch was trending. Because of course it freaking was. The internet was a weird place.

It was better than yelling at Steve some more at least.

Chapter Text

Things at home had been tense for a few weeks now. Danny hated to say that he was glad that New York had been attacked by Aragon but he was. Any excuse to get out of Amity for a bit. His parents were getting near to the end of their rope with him. The constantly broken curfew, the low grades, and the lies were trying them. His parents kept asking him for the truth.

The truth? They wanted the truth? They wouldn’t handle it well and Danny couldn’t deal with that. Nothing would be worse than them knowing the truth. The message from Queen Dorathea about her brother escaping jail and going on a rampage was a godsend. Danny had grabbed a bag of ghost hunting equipment and he’d shot into the Ghost Zone away from his parents and away from his troubles.

After the invasion and the near failure of a conversation with the Avengers he’d gone back into the Zone and helped locked Aragon up again. He took a few selfies with the prisoner as well as a few videos where he quoted vines or other memes at the ghost while the ghost swore revenge. Danny did this both because it was fun but because he liked to have video evidence of his enemies for his ghost files.

When he’d gotten back to Amity, his parents had been more focused on Phantom’s appearance in New York, not to mention the whole ghost invasion thing, to notice he’d been gone. Which was for the best. The sooner his parents dropped their whole truth crusade then things could go back to normal. They could stop noticing how weird he was and he could pretend that he was still the son they’ve always known.

While Danny’s parents argued about how exactly Phantom had gotten a hold of so much of their tech, again, Danny spent his time tweeting. He couldn’t freaking believe that Tony Stark had found his dumb Ghost Account. But he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially when Spiderman jumped on the train too.

Then there were the followers! Danny wondered if fame was finally getting to him. Then he got more followers than Vlad and he decided that he really didn’t care. Really. The next morning Danny walked down the stairs to find his parents looking over the security schematics of the house. He walked past them with a mumbled ‘good morning’ and opened the fridge to get some milk.

“I just don’t understand it!” Mom said, her voice conveying her frustration. “A ghost shouldn’t be able to get through the walls of our house let alone get into the lab.” What about a ghost going through the front door?

They always seemed to forget the freaking ghost portal they had down there. Too many ghosts got in there on a daily basis.

“We’ll figure it out, Mads.” Dad said. “For now, let’s see if we can figure out what all he’s taken.”

As his parents went down the stairs towards the lab, he heard Jazz make her way from the living room to the kitchen, where Danny was making himself a bowl of cereal.

“You did good yesterday.”

“Thanks.”

That five word exchange was the most he and Jazz had had in three days. After he’d gotten into an argument with his parents, he and Jazz had gotten into one too. She demanded that Danny tell their parents and she refused to listen to his concerns. She swore that mom and dad would accept him, as if she could be so certain. Ignoring of course the fact that she had a lot less to lose if she was wrong than he did. She’d still be able to live here, call mom and dad family, and well not risk being some science experiment gone wrong.

Speaking of which, time for a new tweet. Danny pulled out his phone from his pocket and typed out a new thought for his…holy crap was that 1 million? Danny blinked but the numbers on his follower count didn’t lie. He ignored that and sent the tweet out.

If I’m finally captured by scientists for study will they be vivisecting me or dissecting me?

Danny slipped his phone back into his pocket, ignoring the buzzing it was now doing. Jazz pulled out her own phone and snorted at the tweet.

“It’d be a vivisection.” She said.

“Right. Thanks.”

“You need to tell them Danny.”

“I don’t.” He said. “It’s better if they don’t know.”

“You can’t really believe that!”

“Jazz! Just stop it! For once in your life will you just butt out?”

“You’re tearing our family apart.” She warned. “Mom and Dad deserve the truth. It’s been almost 3 years.”

Danny poured the milk into his cereal a little bit rougher than he needed to.

“Did you hear what they were saying like three seconds ago?”

“They only say that stuff because they don’t know any better.”

“Jazz you said it yourself it’s been almost three years. Three years of data and evidence about Phantom. They’d know he wasn’t evil if they…They’re not going to change their minds about it.”

“So, they’re not being objective. You’re their son.”

“And that’s going to make a difference? Just leave it Jazz. Please?”

She sighed but nodded. Danny knew this conversation wasn’t over, not by a long shot but at least he had a reprieve for breakfast. His phone was still making a lot of noises so he pulled it out. A few texts from Sam and Tucker, who he hadn’t been allowed to see since his fight with his parents, and a lot of twitter notifications. He’d been retweeted a bunch of times and a lot of people were tweeting him.

As the day went on Danny’s fame online only grew. The Avengers released a statement confirming that ghosts were a thing and had attacked New York and that Danny Phantom had helped them. News Reporters started reporting on him, using his tweets! Tucker messaged him about increasing the security of his account and Danny agreed. So, he went up to his room and worked with Tucker over a video call to get everything as unhackable as they could. Sam also had some suggestions for some tweets, all of which were about the terrible western meat industry. He was not politicizing his twitter.

Well not yet at least.

Especially when he could spend his time responding to things. People kept tweeting him asking how he died, well that was simple enough to answer.

@Natalie45 You know those weird statistics that say more people have been killed by vending machines than lightning? Well someone has to have met an evil machine in an alleyway.

@PartyHard420 I died of mesothelioma and my family is entitled to compensation.

@ILoveLily3 Someone dropped a penny off the empire state building while I was walking below it.

@HPFan999 The cable in my elevator broke and I jumped right as it hit the bottom to avoid getting hurt. Physics doesn’t work like that.

@FashionPolice5 I was shot on sight for wearing socks with crocs

On and on it went. Danny was in a sense grounded so there wasn’t anything to do but tweet and text and play video games. His parents moved around the house like judgmental silent ghosts. Which was ironic since he was the only ghost here. Jazz tried to act as the mediator, but she wasn’t very successful. The tension in the house was broken by a phone call on the house phone.

Danny picked up the receiver on the wall and spoke.

“Fenton Household, this is Danny speaking.”

“Hello, this is Tony Stark.”

Danny squeaked. Did he know? How did he know? Danny had been so careful!

“I know, you’ve got to be honored. I’m calling to speak to the Doctors Fenton. I think they were the ones who produced the ghost equipment my team and I used during the invasion yesterday.”

Right. Of course, he was calling about that. There was no way in hell tOny Stark had figured out anything else. How would he have? Calm down Fenton, your secret identity is safe.

“Yeah those are my parents.” Danny said. “Phantom manages to break into our lab, and he takes stuff. It drives them nuts.”

“That explains it! Can you get your parents on the phone kid? I’m calling on behalf of the United Nations and the Accords Council to see if we could purchase some tech from them.”

“Shit. Yeah hold up one minute! Mom! DAD!”

“What’s up Danny?” His dad asked from down in the lab.

“You have a call from the Avengers! They want to talk about ghosts!”

“Danny. We’re in the middle of some delicate wiring! Bring the phone down here on speaker phone okay?”

“Sure thing mom! Mom and Dad are working on a project and can’t use their hands right now. Is it cool if you’re on speaker phone Mr. Stark?”

“Call me Tony and sure. Far be it from me to complain about the needs of science.”

Danny moved over to the wireless phone and picked it up. Then he cared the phone down the stairs to the lab. His parents quieted down some of the louder machines, but their hands were busy rewiring their security. Not that it would help.

“Alright Tony.” Danny said. “My parents can hear you now.”

“Great! Hello Dr. Jack and Dr. Madeline Fenton, I’m Tony Stark. I’d like to talk to you two about your research on ghosts as well as the security equipment you’ve invented.”

“Call me Maddie, Mr. Stark.”

“And I’m Jack! None of that Doctor nonsense!”

“Then call me Tony.”

Stark went on to talk to his parents about the ghostly invasion and how unequipped they were to deal with the attack, at least until Phantom showed up with their tech. This of course led to a rant from both of his parents about that no good ghost boy and how they were going to tear him apart molecule by molecule once they got a hold of him. Tony not so easily changed the subject and brought up the fact that the Accords Council wanted to have the Fenton scientists fly out to New York to meet with them about a possible contract.

“All you’ll have to do is give a few presentations about what you can do and about what you think we’d need. I can send you a full itinerary about what the Accords Council expects. But I can promise you that any contract will be well paid for you. I wouldn’t dream of allowing your work to not be properly compensated.”

“Well I just don’t know.” Mom said. “I don’t like leaving Amity Park undefended. We get attacks here so often.”

“Come on Mads!” His dad cajoled. “A free trick to New York and we can blabber on about ghosts!”

“It will on be for a few days, five at the most.” Stark added. “We really do need some experts. The attack yesterday made that clear.”

“Jazz and I can watch the lab and the town.” Danny offered. “We’ve done it before.”

“If you think we’re leaving you alone, young man, you’ve got another thing coming.” His mom said. “You are still in trouble. You will be coming with us while Jazz watches the lab and don’t think for a moment, we’re going to do anything fun. We’d be happy to come to New York, Mr. Stark. The three of us.”

“Great! I’ll work out an itinerary and send it over for your approval. Of course, the entire trip will be paid for, so don’t worry about that.” Stark said, thankfully skipping over their family drama entirely. “Can I have an email to contact you with?”

His dad gave Stark their business email and ended the call with excited promises about how fun it would be to talk about ghost hunting. Danny eventually managed to end the call, saving Mr. Stark the headache.

“Danny.” His mom said, her face serious and only her eyes showing how upset she really was about the whole situation. “Going to New York is going to be a lot of work. You are going to be our assistant while we work on getting this contract. There will be no souvenirs and no tourist traps. You are still grounded.”

“Right yeah.”

“We don’t want to be doing this son.” His dad said, his voice uncharacteristically serious.

“I know dad. I know.”

Before anything else could be said Danny retreated back up to his room. He got up to his room and immediately pulled out his phone. Part of him wanted to text his friends and ask them for advice but something held him back. Maybe it was because they were all so close to the situation. He didn’t know. He cleared off all of the notifications from his twitter and then got a crazy idea. He opened the app and opened up a DM chat.

Why did you tell everyone you were Ironman?

He didn’t know if Tony Stark would respond. But in all honesty, he couldn’t think of anyone else in the world who had openly declared who they were. With Captain America, it had never really been a secret. And the other Avengers had had their secret identities discovered. Spiderman still had a secret identity. Tony Stark had called his own press conference and told the world exactly who he was. Why?

Why are you asking?

I’m trying to decide whether or not the dead talk.

Danny had started making jokes about the whole dead thing a long time ago. It made everything feel less weird.

You have a secret identity?

Do you think my parents named me Phantom? They must have had a weird idea about my life expectancy then.

Honestly Danny wondered why this was so hard to understand. He was a ghost which means he must have come from a living person. It took Stark a while to respond and when he did it was with something not at all applicable to his situation.

If I kept the identity of Ironman secret then people could control it, the government really. I announced who I was and what I’d made because I was proud of it and because I wanted to be free.

Danny didn’t know how to respond to that at all. He let his phone drop to the bed and groaned burying his face in his pillow. Danny didn’t know whether or not he was proud of what he was and he didn’t worry about being controlled like a piece of tech. The secret identity protected him. That was the point of it! After a few minutes of groaning his phone buzzed again.

I might regret asking this. But why?

Danny looked at his phone and decided the man deserved something, even if his advice had been useless so far.

I’m keeping a secret from people I love. I’ve lied to them for years now, hurt them but…the truth will either hurt me or it will hurt them more. Either way someone gets hurt. I can’t win.

Radio silence. Danny wondered if maybe that was too deep or too much. But after thirty minutes where Danny alternated between opening up the DM and scrolling through his feed he finally got a reply.

Tell them. Now.

But what if it hurts them? What if it hurts me? What if they hate me? I’m a ghost it’s not easy to find friends!

Didn’t Stark understand? He couldn’t lose his family, he wouldn’t.

You saw how me and Rogers fought each other right? During the invasion three days ago?

Course I did. I thought it was weird.

Danny knew about the so called Civil War, at least as much as the rest of the world did. Which wasn’t a whole lot if he was being honest. He probably could have learnt more if he wasn’t so bogged down by ghost attacks.

If you want your friends to treat you like that then keep lying to them.

Right. Thanks for the advice.

Danny still wasn’t sold but for the first time he really considered what that would mean telling his parents. What would it be like if they weren’t upset?

Where do I go if they hate me after?

Hell kid. I still have that Nintendo Switch waiting for you. Just come pick it up.

You might not be too bad for an adult, Stark.

Who told you I ever grew up?

Danny actually laughed. He let the phone screen go dark and looked up at the ceiling. So he could go to New York if his parents went crazy. Then he could go back to Amity when there was an attack or to visit friends. It wouldn’t be ideal, it would actually suck, but maybe it wouldn’t be too terrible. But was Danny really willing to risk his parents’ love? How would he live knowing they thought he was a monster?

Part of him was frightened of the idea. Maybe…maybe his parents were right about Phantom. Maybe they always had been. Danny could have just been playing at being good this whole time and eventually…eventually the truth would come out. In one timeline Danny had already become Dan. Maybe that was inevitable.

He didn’t know. He didn’t even want to know if he was being honest. Everyone but his two best friends had always seen the worst in Phantom, right from the beginning. Surely there was something to that? After all the only other half-ghost in existence was an asshole, maybe Danny was like Vlad.

He made a face at the very thought.

Danny didn’t leave his room until the day was over. He skipped dinner, despite knowing it was a bad idea. He had to think, come up with some sort of plan. He couldn’t keep things as they were.

Danny just laid in his bed and thought about all the ways his life could go wrong. What if he told his parents and they hated him and then they told the Avengers or the Accords Council? What if they ruined any chance of him helping people on a larger scale? What if they managed to capture him? Jazz thought they’d vivisect him, but his parents would certainly see it as a dissection. Tear him apart molecule by molecule.

Once it was dark, the stick on star stickers on his ceiling started to glow. The barely there light fuzzily outlining everything in his room. His dad had helped him put those stickers on over 8 years ago. It had taken hours to put them up in just the right way. Danny had been too short, so his dad had had to do it, but Danny had insisted that they had to match real constellations. The memory of his dad taking off the stickers when Danny corrected him about Andromeda and Orion made him smile.

Right. That probably settled it then, didn’t it?

Danny got up and phased through his doorway. It was dark in the hallway, probably because Jazz had already gone to bed. He walked carefully down to the kitchen skipping over the steps that creaked. On the table was a plate of now cold chicken and rice. A peace offering maybe. Danny sighed and picked up the plate. It was easy enough to heat with his powers so soon it was steaming again. He carried the plate down to the lab.

His parents weren’t there, probably up in their bedroom or maybe in the Ops Center. Didn’t matter, he was here to look at the portal. Danny didn’t know how other ghosts felt about the place they’d died in. Was it weird that he lived in the same place he’d died? That his parents had him do chores mere feet from where his soul had left his body? Danny wished he knew how to feel.

He settled down on the ground of the lab right in front of the portal doors, plate of food in front of him. He focused on using his telekinesis to lift bites of the food up to his mouth. Did he like that he could do that now? Were the powers he now wielded in such a mundane way worth dying for?

Danny knew that technically he wasn’t dead. But by that same logic he really wasn’t alive either. “Danny?”

His father lowered his ecto gun as Danny turned to look at him in the low safety lights.

“Hey dad.”

“Son. I thought you were Phantom for a moment! I nearly shot you!” Danny barely kept the flinch back. His dad frowned and made his way over to where Danny was seated. Without asking the man settled down right by him, his bulk barely fitting in the space.

“I remember when you and mom started building this.”

“That was a long time ago.” His dad noted. “You were around 10 when we decided to try it again.”

“It was the first time you guys stopped noticing me.” Danny said. “You and mom were obsessed with getting this together.”

“I…Your mother and I might sometimes get distracted by ghosts but we still love and your sister.”

“I know dad.” Danny sighed as the childhood memories came rolling back. “I just…I was more excited for you and mom to get that portal working than you were. I thought maybe things would go back to normal once it was on. Guess that was stupid, huh?”

The man next to him was unusually quiet, and thoughtful. While Danny knew that his dad was capable of deep thought and reflection, it was so easy to forget. He’d seen it only a few times in his entire life and it always surprised him.

“Sometimes I wonder if this thing was even worth the effort.” His dad admitted. “It cost me my best friend for 20 years and…ever since you got it working for us, you’ve been pulling away too.”

“I didn’t mean too I just…” He trailed off, the guilt and the fear clogging his throat. “I was scared.”

“Scared? Danny you know nothing would ever make me stop loving you. You’re my son. My baby boy.”

Danny bit his cheek for a moment, not arguing the point. He’d heard his dad yell the exact opposite at him more than a few times in the last three years. But in that moment it didn’t matter, or it did but he was pretending it didn’t.

“The day after you turned on the portal and it didn’t work, I took Sam and Tucker down here to see it. I was…frustrated and annoyed. The stupid thing had taken you and mom away for four years and it didn’t even work. It was just an ugly hole in the wall.” Danny told him. “Sam convinced me to go inside. She thought it was cool, the idea of a portal to another world.”

His dad didn’t say anything, which was also not necessarily in his normal patterns. Danny was still grateful.

“I put on the safety suit dad. I swear I did.” Danny told him that because he felt he had to. He didn’t want his parents to blame themselves. He’d followed the safety precautions, he had.

“Of course, you did, Danny. We taught you and Jazz better than that.”

“It wasn’t enough.”

“I don’t understand…”

“The portal was fine dad! I lied to you and mom about the wiring problem!” Danny shouted, his voice slapping across the metal walls of the lab. “I went inside, it was dark and I tripped over something. I reached out to steady myself and then…then…I touched the on switch.”

It took a moment for Jack Fenton to understand what Danny said. On switch? The on switch was on the terminal outside the lab. Danny watched the series of faces his dad made as he recalled the secondary switch he’d designed on the inside of the portal.

“But…that would have killed you!”

And out came the last secret.

Chapter Text

There was radio silence from the ghost kid for hours after Tony’s last message. He tried to tell himself not to be worried. The kid was a very powerful ghost and dead which meant that he could handle himself. This wasn’t like Peter, a 15 year old self-sacrificing living spider person. Phantom probably wasn’t even a kid! He might look like one, but Tony’s research showed evidence of Phantom showing up on earth all the way back in ancient Rome! The ghost kid was shown as a gladiator in some ancient frescos. A ghost that old couldn’t possibly be a kid any longer, no matter what he looked like.

But Tony itched to know what was going on with the ghost. Even if he doubted Phantom looked his age it didn’t change the fact that he looked 16. The ghost looked like a glowing version of Peter in his head. A version of Peter that was a bit bolder and a lot more sarcastic but still, a young face with a desire to help people. And Tony had given him advice. Advice! Him! As if Tony had any idea what he was doing with his life. What did Tony know about secret identities anyway?

His mind whispered all the ways his hastily given advice could go wrong. Phantom had mentioned secrets and his issues with Cap had made him overreact. Tony had revealed that he was Iron Man in the world to be free of SHIELD’s machinations. What if revealing whatever secret Phantom was hiding got him hurt? What if he got imprisoned or experimented on? All because he listened to Tony? It was impossible to remain calm and collected thinking about things like that. So, Tony had gone down to his lab and tried to purge his anxiety through some good old science.

Which was where he was when the source of said anxiety burst through the wall of his lab like it was even there, his face stained with tears and his eyes inflamed green from crying. At Phantom’s entrance Friday immediately went on the alert, readying the weapons she had access too and blaring the alarms in the lab to let Tony know someone was in there. Tony and Phantom both yelped in shock at the same time. Tony from his position at his lab bench and Phantom near the ceiling.

“FRIDAY! False Alarm!” The bright lights and the loud alarm immediately stopped. Tony looked up at the teen who was shaking with tension, nearly vibrating with it. He looked as if he’d seen a ghost. Wait. Tony needed to come up with a better metaphor, damn. “Phantom?”

“S...S...sorry.” He stumbled over the two syllable word. “I…You said I could come and…I didn’t think to knock.”

His voice was thick and had that strange hoarse sound that could only come from a lot of crying.

“What happened kid?” Tony asked standing up and moving around to the other side of his bench. “Do you want to come down here and talk?”

The ghost’s head jerked a little and then he lowered himself down so that they were eye level. Phantom made sure that they were just far enough apart from one another that Tony couldn’t easily reach out and touch Phantom. Right. Tony’s eyes skittered trying to look for evidence of an injury, but he couldn’t find any. Could ghosts get injured?

“I…I told them.” Tony’s eyes snapped to Phantom’s face and his confusion must have shown because the teen tried to roll his eyes before giving up and explaining more. “I told them I was Phantom, that…that I was fighting ghosts this whole time trying to protect people and…and they…”

“What did they do?” Tony asked, his mind raced trying to figure out who Phantom was talking about and how they could have reacted to knowing that a ghost was trying to be a hero.

“He…He just said, no. I knew that he might get…get mad with me but I thought, I hoped that he’d still love me.” The teen’s voice broke terribly, and Tony had the terrible urge to hug the ghost. It was the same urge that Harley and Peter gave him. He was having that desire with alarming frequency if it was spreading to dead teens.

“Oh kid.” Tony said instead, scrambling for comforting words to share. “I’m sorry. Sometimes friends can…”

“No. You don’t understand I can’t go home, ever. I don’t know what to do.” And like happens sometimes, Tony spoke without thinking at all.

“Kid. I meant it when I said you could come here. If you need a place to…haunt, then I can get a guest room together. The other Avengers might complain but…” “Could I stay here, just for a while?” Phantom said motioning to the lab. “I don’t want anyone to know where I am right now.”

“You know your way around a lab, Phantom?” That caused the teen let out a very strangled laugh, he hugged himself around the middle.

“Trust me dude. I’m an expert at lab safety.”

Something about the way he said it made Tony really look at Phantom. He looked at the material his suit was made of and remembered the look of the safety suits he used to wear in college classes. It was odd how he’d never noticed before how much like a jumpsuit Phantom’s outfit was. If you took away the insignia on his chest, he’d look like a student in a chemistry lab wearing a safety suit. Why would a ghost be wearing something like that?

Unless…

Tony swallowed and shut off that line of thought immediately.

“Great. You can stay just don’t touch anything without permission. There’s a chair over there.” He pointed to the very rarely used chair in one corner of his lab with his thumb. Phantom thanked him and settled down in the chair.

They fell into silence. Tony wanted to play music, like he normally did but it didn’t feel right. So it was silent, except for Phantoms choked breaths and sniffles. The ghost kid had managed to fit his entire body into the seat of the chair, holding his knees close to his chest. Occasionally a tremor would wrack his frame and Tony pretended not to notice. Hours passed like that, eventually the shaking eased, and Phantom began to drift off.

It turned out that ghosts could sleep. Who knew?

Friday automatically readjusted the lights so that they weren’t so blindingly bright while Tony found a blanket that he’d stashed away months ago and unfolded it. In sleep the ghost looked even younger. If Tony ignored the odd glow that surrounded his body then he’d looked no more than 14, a young face marred only by dried tears on his cheeks. Hoping the teen would remain asleep for this Tony reached out and touched the sleeve of his clothing.

He knew in that moment that this was a lab safety suit. All of the one’s he’d encountered over the years had that same thick rubbery feel. Tony closed his eyes and told himself not to cry. This wasn’t proof that the kid had died in a lab accident, it just strongly implied it. Tony wondered, in his head, what sort of lab he’d been in and why. How had the suit failed to protect him? With his curiosity roused he put the blanket down and looked over the ghost kid for any clue.

But the suit looked totally intact. There was no damage to it, no failure of the material. Somehow the suit must have failed since the kid wearing it was dead, but it looked perfectly functional. He somehow doubted that if he asked the kid would tell him. Tony picked the blanket it up, shook it out, placed it over the sleeping ghost.

“Friday? Keep an eye on him.”

“Of course, boss.”

In the morning when Tony went down to his lab, a plate of breakfast he had no intention of eating in hand, he found Phantom gone and the blanket refolded and waiting on his lab bench.

“Where’d he go?”

“It appears that Phantom is still in New York, based on the current trending tweets, he’s helping an old woman with her groceries in the Bronx.”

“What?” What the hell was the kid doing in the city after a breakdown like that?

“Before that he was seen walking a group of school children safely through the subway system and to their school. Phantom is doing random acts of kindness throughout New York.” Why? Why? Why? Nothing this ghost did made sense!

“How’s the press handling that?” Tony found himself asking.

“Not well sir. They can’t seem to move fast enough to catch him and ask questions. I’ll let you know if anyone manages to get a hold of him.” Good on Phantom then. The image of Phantom getting yelled at by some crazy reporter made him wince a little.

“Have a suit on standby. If he gets into any trouble I want to be there right away.”

“Got it, boss.”

For the next four hours Phantom was seen sporadically throughout the city. Just as Friday had described he’d do a small good deed and move on. It wasn’t until lunch time that someone managed to snag Phantom for an ‘interview’. Tony put that in quotations because the people asking the questions were a group of high schoolers in summer school that were on their lunch break. The videos went almost immediately viral. Each one was a short video, only about 7 or so seconds long and it just involved Phantom answering a question that was written in white text at the bottom of the screen.

Tony watched as many as he could find.

Why are you helping so many people today?

Phantom was floating above a lunch table in the clip, sitting in a lotus position, surrounding him were the messy heads of about 30 teenagers. In the background Tony could hear the chatter of a lunch room, based on the noise there were probably way more teenagers surrounding the table than he could see. Phantom looked directly into the camera and spoke.

“Didn’t anyone tell you? Chivalry is dead!” The video cut off right as the group began to laugh and screech.

Did you ever get your Switch?

Phantom was grinning at the camera, and supposedly at whomever had asked the question. Unsurprisingly all of the students were waiting with bated breath to find out if the viral twitter hashtag had done anything. Tony could barely see any of the students since most of the frame of the video was taken up by Phantom’s glowing face. Abruptly Phantom reached into his pocket, Tony hadn’t even noticed there were pockets on the safety suit and pulled out the Switch Tony had purchased for him. The students cheered loudly at the reveal. Phantom had to shush them multiple times.

“Of course, I did!” Phantom did, pulling back from the camera so that the switch was totally visible. “Stark totally pulled through. I just want everyone to know I do accept donations, I want to but the new smash game! My patreon is-” The video cut off right before Phantom could finish fishing for donations.

Who’s the coolest ghost you’ve ever met?

This time Phantom was floating mere inches above the table on his stomach. His green eyes looked thoughtful. If Tony hadn’t known better, he’d think that the ghost didn’t have a care in the world. In the lower left corner of the screen there were two teens all in black, who were looking like Danny was the fulfillment of all of their goth dreams.

“That’s a tough question.” Phantom hummed. “But I think I’m going to have to go with Schrodinger’s cat. I met him in a bar a couple of months after he got put in that box, poor guy.”

Phantom shook his head while the students began to laugh and make ‘Dead or alive’ references. The video cut off right as Phantom began to giggle at one of the nearby students when they asked if all physicists were cat killers.

How long have you been dead?

Phantom was now holding a tray of lunch room food. Obviously one of the students had either purchased him a lunch or given him their own. He had the tray balanced on one knee and was using his powers of telekinesis to slowly float a fry into his mouth. Once he’d chewed and swallowed the fry, he answered.

“I’ll give you one hint as to my age.” Phantom offered. “And it’s this. Julius Caesar was a twink.”

Immediately all of the students began yelling and laughing so loudly that they attracted the attention of a teacher. The video angle changed to show a teacher approaching the group looking very stern. Phantom pointed at the teacher and shouted.

“Everybody scatter!”

Chaos broke out as students scrambled, the video cut off right as the owner of the phone started running.

Favorite Meme?

The scene had changed completely. The group wasn’t in a lunch room anymore. Instead the students had settled in a classroom. Based on the posters in the background, it was an English classroom. Phantom was in the front of the room chatting with a teacher who looked to be in her mid-thirties. The teacher was nodding along with Phantom, clearly agreeing with whatever he was saying. The room was packed full of students, but it was impossible to say if that was due to poor funding causing overcrowding or Phantom being far too popular.

“And Let me tell you. Anyone who says that William Shakespeare wasn’t one of the most flaming bisexuals to exist clearly doesn’t care about historical accuracy. Trust me I took one look at the man and I knew he was a bo-”

“What’s your favorite meme?” The student holding the camera asked. Phantom stopped mid-sentence and flipped around to face the camera directly.

“You know those news articles that say millennials are killing this or that corporation?” All of the students made noises of affirmation. “I love those because they let all of us ghosts know when we can finally do stuff. When millennials killed off the diamond industry you better believe your boy got himself some ice.”

The video stopped mid laugh.

Why’d you become a hero?

Phantom was in front of the chalkboard, his hands held a piece of chalk. He was drawing a cartoon showing Aragon, the ghost who’d invaded New York just days previously. He was in a jail cell, screaming out swear words at the heroically drawn Phantom. These swears were helpfully drawn in speech bubbles as a bunch of random symbols. The would-be invader looked rather angry and helpless. Phantom was explaining exactly where he’d placed Aragon in the Ghost Zone and how he wouldn’t be a problem to anyone else ever again.

“Why did you help us?” One of the students asked, just as Phantom finished the last stink lines on the unflattering drawing.

“Oh that’s easy. I heard that Captain America had a theme song and I decided I wanted one too!” Phantom said brightly. “By the way, anyone who wants to give me an awesome theme song will be paid in ghost bucks.”

“Ghost Bucks? How much are those worth?”

“It’s more of a status thing.”

How did you die? Pt. 1

They were still in the same English classroom. The teacher had moved back to her desk, clearly trying to pretend to do work on her school computer. But the way her eyes kept tracking back over to the ghost gave away the game. The camera had been moved slightly to reveal that the classroom was absolutely packed. Dozens of students were also filming the ghost at the front of the room.

“I played hide and go seek in the Wrong Murder Woods.”

How did you die? Pt. 2

The room was filled with laughter. Phantom looked like he was trying very, very hard not to grin.

“Seriously Danny! How did you die?” Another student asked.

Phantom overacted his thinking process, filling it with hums and mumbles, and then began to speak very dramatically.

“Well, you know. This is very personal and if I share it with you all, you have to swear you won’t try and follow my example.”

All of the students swore to be safe and smart. Phantom nodded, sniffed and then spoke again.

“Well, you see, it turns out that geese really do not like it when you touch their babies.”

How did you die? Pt. 3-10

The video began, zoomed in on Phantom’s face, it was clear now that the editor of this video was cutting out all parts of the video that weren’t Phantom’s answer to the question ‘How did you die?’. The video cut off and began again slightly different angles between each of Phantom’s responses. There was a lot of giggling in the background.

***

“I kept getting ghosted on Tinder and eventually I mutated into this.”

***

“You know that new sushi place down the road? Would not recommend.”

***

"While mattress surfing down a grand staircase is like...super fun, it should also be forbidden fun."

***

"I died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail."

***

"You ever wonder who the last guy to be stoned to death was?"

***

"I got dared to play chicken with an oncoming train. My friend still owes me 20 bucks!"

***

"I remember it all so clearly, I was crying in the second floor girl's bathroom at Hogwarts..." Phantom began only to be interrupted by a student.

"That's moaning Myrtle's death!"

"She and I have a lot in common."

***

"It was the day to run the mile at school and I said 'I'd rather die'."

***

Tony was damn sure there were more videos. It’d be insane to think that there weren’t. These high schoolers were moving way too quickly for his liking. Most of the interview videos had happened during lunch and by 3pm they were all posted online, complete with musical accompaniment in some cases. He didn’t have to wonder what Phantom was doing anymore either. It was the same thing Tony had done in his youth.

You get bad news and you do whatever you can not to think about it. Tony had drank, partied, and slept with anyone who was willing. Phantom told puns, made high schoolers laugh, and helped old ladies cross the street. It was probably a healthier coping mechanism overall so Tony wouldn’t complain. Even if some people, Pepper mostly, thought it was smarter to talk about the things that hurt you. Phantom clearly disagreed. Tony was the only person who knew he was hurting, and Phantom was now avoiding Tony as much as he could.

Tony, in a spirit of comradery, avoided his teammates as they conversed about Phantom’s random appearances all over the city. Thor was warning anyone who listened that Phantom, no matter how funny and nice he seemed, was hiding a dark soul inside. Loki, conversely, had completely changed his opinion of Phantom and decided that the ghost was a little mischief maker and should be trained and mentored. The trickster god approved of him, which was more than a little terrifying.

There were conversations about how Phantom died, and why was everyone so obsessed with it? Now that Tony actually knew the truth, he only had a sour taste in his mouth when he thought about it. He didn’t blame Phantom for his flippancy on the matter anymore. Tony shook his head, he needed to stop thinking about lab accidents that went too wrong. Bruce had been fine. Peter had survived that bite. It was fine.

By 6 pm Phantom had totally disappeared from the internet and any cameras Friday could hack. Tony even helped her look but the last glimpse they could find was Phantom being shouted out by three teenagers in a very suspicious, armored RV. Phantom had obviously recognized them and joined them in the RV. Then the RV drove around a corner and literally disappeared. Tony told himself not to worry. He failed to follow simple instructions. By 7pm Tony was getting ready to start hacking into government databases to identify the three teens.

Thankfully before he did anything too rasg, he got another DM from Phantom. Tony pulled the message up on one of his holograms and read the simple words.

Hey. Sorry for ghosting you.

Really kid? Is everything you do a pun? Besides you already used that one today!

It still works!

Are you doing okay? I was seriously worried when you disappeared this morning.

Phantom didn’t respond right away. Tony fidgeted in his seat waiting for the message to pop up on his holographic screen. Had his message been too forceful? Where was Peter when he needed him? That kid probably knew how to talk to another teenager, undead or not.

I’m fine. I just…some good people found me and took me home.

And? G-d it was like pulling teeth!

I misunderstood some things. Its…well it isn’t great, but they’ll get there you know? Thanks for letting me stay last night. I couldn’t think of any other place I’d be safe.

You thought you’d be safe with me?

That didn’t sound needy did it? Tony hoped it didn’t. Phantom barely knew him, there was no reason for the ghost to have placed that much trust in him.

I knew I would be. You’re Tony Stark!

Don’t you mean Iron Man?

Same difference.

Attached was a GIF of Tony at the press conference where he’d announced he was Iron Man. Something lodged in his throat at the simple words on the screen. He blinked a little too quickly. Phantom messaged him again.

You’re a good scientist, a good person. I knew you wouldn’t hurt me, no matter what sciencey goodness I’d produce.

Well, thanks kid.

No, thank you. I owe you one. Really. Anything, you name it! If you need me to haunt someone all Charles Dickens Style, I’ll be there.

Tony laughed at the offer before typing out a response.

I’ll keep that in mind. I’m glad things worked out for you with the whole super hero secret identity.

You’re a great guy, Tony Stark.

Tony had no idea how to respond so he didn’t. He just sat there in silence for awhile wondering what he was supposed to do with information like that. When was the last time someone had told him he was good, great, kind? He couldn’t remember. Had it ever happened? Sometime sour squirmed in his stomach at the emotions he was feeling. He was broken out of his thoughts by a message from the UN. The Fentons’ trip to New York had been settled, they’d be flying out in five days to present their inventions and the UN wanted Tony to house them in the Tower so that the Avengers could talk to the Fentons directly about their weaponry needs.

Tony found he didn’t really want the Fentons there. He remembered how they’d spoken about Phantom on the phone. Would a great guy like Tony Stark work with people like that? They might have been the best in their field, but they were idiots if they couldn’t see that Phantom was a good guy. There was nothing for it, they were coming. The least Tony could do was figure out how to hack into their stuff to make sure that if they ever did catch Phantom, they wouldn’t have him for long.

“Friday, get two guest bedrooms set up for the Fentons.”

“On it, boss.”

It was time to get back to work.

Chapter Text

Danny woke to the sensation of a hand circling his wrist with fingers pressing into the inner part of his wrist.Checking for a pulse.

“It doesn’t go away when I sleep.” The hand stiffened but didn’t let go. Danny’s eyes opened partway to see his mom looking down at him, guilt poorly hidden in her eyes for being caught. “What time is it anyway?”

Danny looked around the dark room and saw that is was 5 in the morning. He groaned in protest at being awake at all at this godforsaken time. His mom started to let go of him and he reacted by grabbing at her to keep her there. She was halfway bent over his bed, wearing thick fuzzy socks, obviously in an attempt to move more silently than she usually did around the house.

“I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Mom. I told you that I’m fine.” The following days since Danny’s attempt at running away to New York, like he was the star in some terrible teen coming of age movie, had been filled with moments like these. Scenes so awkward that if someone distilled the atmosphere into a bottle it could be used to poison a town’s water supply.

“I know you’ve said that but…” She trailed off and looked away for a moment. When she tried to pull her hand free again, Danny didn’t stop her. He could guess as to how his mom wanted to end that sentence. Maybe her problem was that he’d spent the last two and half years lying to them, how was she supposed to believe him now? Or her issue could be the fact that he’d died in one of her inventions. Another possibility was the fact that she’d nearly killed him on more than one occasion with a Fenton Bazooka.

To his surprise she didn’t leave, or step back so that she was closer to an exit. Instead she settled in the free space on his bed right where his knees were bent bringing his feet closer to his back than the end of the mattress. She was completely out of her jumpsuit, a rarity, Danny sometimes wondered if his parents slept in their matching teal and orange safety suits. She was wearing a light blue bathrobe instead, something Danny had gotten her for her birthday when he was 10. He hadn’t even known she still had it.

“Are you okay?” Danny found himself asking. Danny’s night vision was much better than the average human and so even in the near darkness of his room he could tell she looked anything but okay. His mom’s lower lip trembled for a moment and he could hear her swallow.

“I shot at you. I shot at my baby boy.”

So, it was option three then. Danny sat up, phasing through his warm blanket, so that he could get closer to her.

“You didn’t know mom, you didn’t know.”

“I should have!” She ran a hand through her hair, a mannerism that until this moment Danny hadn’t realized he’d inherited from her. “What kind of ecto-biologist am I if I can’t even recognize my own son?”

“I hid it from you! How were you supposed to figure out I was hiding something so impossible mom?”

In the dim light of the stick-on stars on his ceiling he saw her face break a little.

“And no wonder with how we treated you.” Her voice cracked on the last word. “You must hate us…”

“No. No.” Danny reached out and grabbed his mother’s hands as gently as he could, cupping them within his own. “Mom I love you.”

“Then why…” Danny bit the inside of his cheek, wondering how to answer such a difficult question. Why had he hidden it all this time? Part of him wanted to side step the question. A huge part of him wanted to turn invisible and float out of the room. He remembered Stark’s advice and swallowed. The truth, they deserved the truth.

“At first I didn’t want to get into trouble.” For a moment the stomach churning look in his mom’s eyes disappeared as she blinked at him. “Remember? You and dad had a strict no touching policy with the portal.”

“You didn’t tell us you’d been turned into a ghost because you didn’t want to be grounded?”

“Well at first I didn’t think it was…you know permanent.” Danny admitted. “I thought it would be like that thing that happened to the milk that got shot with the ecto-ray gun. It acted weird for a few days but then it was fine, well mostly fine.”

She actually smiled a little at the memory of the milk incident as it had been referred to by the Fenton Family for the past decade. Then the smile faded as she looked back down at his hands.

“But it didn’t go away.”

“It got worse.” Danny said. “And…and then I fought my first ghost.”

The Lunch Lady still filled him with a sense of fear that no other ghost could truly match. This was probably because she was the first truly formidable ghost he’d faced. Sure, there had been a few ectopusses that had snuck into the lab but those only took a punch or two to take care of. The Lunch Lady had nearly killed Sam more than once. His mom’s thumb started rubbing on his hand in a comforting circular motion.

“I knew that the portal working was my fault. I’d gotten it working and now ghosts could come into Amity whenever they wanted. I…I had these powers now and it was sort of fun at first. I mean I could be like Captain America or something. And I wanted to help people and I thought that maybe you and dad would… stop me. It was like a secret identity or something. I didn’t think you’d understand.”

She looked almost calm at that explanation. She gave him a small, understanding look.

“You and I are alike that way. We’ve never liked being kept from doing what we think is best. I started studying ghosts in college, I didn’t tell my parents that I’d switched majors to a made-up field until my graduation because I didn’t want them to stop me.”

“Really?” Danny asked, a laugh escaping him at the idea. “What did they think you were studying?”

“Medicine. They wanted me to be a doctor like dad and I don’t think I would’ve minded that if I hadn’t met your father and Vlad all those years ago.”

Danny hadn’t told them about Vlad because that was not his secret to tell. He knew that one of them would figure it out eventually, they’d be way more stupid than they actually were, not to.

“So, is that why you haven’t told us? You didn’t think we’d let you keep protecting the town?” Danny so wanted to leave it at that.

“It didn’t…really sink in that I was a ghost at first mom.” Danny admitted. “I mean like I knew I was. I knew that when I changed, I changed into a ghost but, I guess I just assumed that since I still felt so alive when I was a ghost that it was just a trick. Other ghosts probably didn’t feel anything. That’s what you and dad always said. Since I could feel I might’ve looked like a ghost, but I wasn’t one.”

Realizing that he had in fact died in that portal hadn’t been a fun thing. It had hurt in fact, if that sounded at all surprising to anyone. Hurt in everyway that one could hurt. He hadn’t realized it until he’d met Vlad and seen that Vlad was just like him but not. He hadn’t wanted to understand why Vlad hated his dad so much. But on the drive home it had hit him. Jack Fenton had killed Vlad, Vlad had died a slow painful death of radiation poisoning alone in a hospital. Just like Danny had died a quick painful death in his parents’ lab.

“And I realized I was a ghost and…it frightened me, and I didn’t know how to tell anyone at that point. I knew you guys loved me, I’ve always known that but part of me was so afraid. All my life you’d told me ghosts were monsters and suddenly I was one and…and if I told you and you still thought that then…then I really would be one and I didn’t want to be.”

“Oh Danny…” Danny shook his head. He’d mostly worked through that mess. There were still times that he feared becoming a monster, especially when he thought about Dan too much. But…well there wasn’t any buts. He just had to try his best to do the right thing and trust Clockwork to take care of the rest.

“Mom. Part of me has always been afraid about how you and dad would react. When I started getting more famous in town and you and dad started hunting me it got scarier, but I always, always hoped that you’d accept me. I even let dad catch me once, so he’d feel better about his skills as a ghost hunter. I figured that if I couldn’t get out of his trap then…then I’d transform back eventually, and it’d be okay.”

“But you waited so long to tell us.”

“The longer I waited the more reasons I found to keep it from you. Most ghosts wouldn’t kidnap you and dad as leverage since you didn’t know who I was. I didn’t want you to get hurt.” Ghosts had an odd respect for his secret identity which he suspected dealt entirely with the fact that his identity was his death and no ghost ever poked fun about how someone else died. “Then when I got better at dodging you guys, I realized that you’d feel bad when you found out who I was, and I didn’t want to hurt you. I just…it’s hard mom and hearing you and dad talk bad about Phantom all the time made it harder but that wasn’t my only reason.”

They fell into an odd sort of comfortable silence for a few minutes, their hands still holding one another. The blinds were up on his window and slowly light began to filter in as the sun started to rise. The pale pink light revealed how tired his mom looked, tired but less heavy than she’d looked when Danny had gone to bed the night before.

“I’m sorry Danny, so sorry.”

“I know mom. I know.” He gently pulled and his mom followed so that they arranged themselves more comfortably on the bed. Their backs leaned up against the wall, his mom resting her head on his thin shoulder. The door to his room creaked and he looked up to see his dad standing there. Danny sent him a smile and his dad took that as an invitation.

The bed groaned and creaked as he dad sat down on Danny’s other side. The cheap thrift store frame hadn’t been meant for this much weight, but it held together anyway. In the growing light of day, Danny’s tongue felt oddly stone-like. He wasn’t sure what else to say or if he even had the bravery to even say it. So, he didn’t say anything as his dad awkwardly wiggled his thick arm between his neck and the wall. He only shifted so that he was leaning more comfortably into his warmth.

Danny woke the second time that morning to the smell of fresh waffles and a bright light blazing right into his cornea. He groaned and shifted. At some point they must have all fallen asleep sitting there because they were all still there, and it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as it had been. He opened his eyes to see Jazz standing there with a plate of waffles, Danny’s favorite food, with a teary look in her eyes.

“It’s fine, Jazz.” He whispered.

“Did you finally talk?”

“Maybe we did.” She gave him a very unimpressed look for his silence on the matter. “Just…it’s fine. I swear.”

She pursed her lips but didn’t argue. His dad started shifting, the smell of waffles waking him just as surely as anything would.

“Jazzy Pants! You made breakfast!”

“There’s more downstairs.” She said. “Studies show that a family that eats together has stronger bonds so…”

“Say no more! Come on let’s get up.”

They woke up mom and then made their way down to the table. Sure enough, Jazz had cleaned off the table and prepared plates for each of them. It was obvious now that she’d planned some sort of one-person intervention this morning for them, but it wasn’t really necessary any longer. The haunting tension that had filled the house had dissipated leaving fresh air to breath. They all sat down and tore into their food.

The conversation over the table was light and nearly meaningless until more than half the food was consumed. Mostly it was compliments on Jazz’s food and predictions for the weather. They’d had similar conversations in the past few days but this time the words weren’t spoken to try and break the choking silence. Instead that morning, they were shared with smiles and warmth.

“So, are you guys packed for the trip?” Jazz asked.

Immediately the calm that surrounded the table broke as all three of them realized that they’d forgotten that they were supposed to leave for the airport within the hour.

“Shit!” Danny rocketed up from the table and phased into his room. He scrambled around wrenching his battered old suitcase out from under his bed and using his telekinesis to throw as much clothing inside as he could. Below him he could hear his parents rushing to do the same. His mind raced grabbing for mostly clean jeans, t-shirts and underwear. Jazz yelled up from the kitchen for Danny not to forget socks again. Right. Socks.

They always had to leave for the airport hours earlier than their flight because inevitably something his dad packed got them detained by the TSA for three or more hours. It was just a fact of life. A fact they’d forgotten in the wake of Danny’s reveal. Danny grabbed at the pile of mashed up, unmatched socks he’d stuffed into his drawer and crammed it into the already over filled suitcase. What else did he need?

Shampoo!

He floated through walls directly to the bathroom and started grabbing at the random things he used when he showered. Fifteen minutes later his suitcase was packed to capacity and Danny had been forced to use some of his ghostly strength to close it. He dragged his suitcase down to the garage and tossed it into the Fenton Ghost Assault Vehicle. Then he rushed towards the lab. Sure, enough his dad was trying to find all the weapons and devices he wanted to bring.”

“Let me help.” Danny offered. “Tell me what you need, and I’ll get it.”

“I’m not sure.” His dad said. “Tony is a weapons guy! What do you think would impress him the most? The Fenton Creep Stick?”

His dad held up the bright, slightly glowing green bat, and Danny shook his head with a sigh.

“What about the Fenton Exo-suit? That’s like an Iron Man suit right? You guys can compare nanotech.”

“We’re taking the Fenton Creep stick too!”

Eventually they got down to an acceptable number of inventions to pack, mom helping nearer to the end as she’d finished packing her and dad’s bags. They couldn’t take everything, partially because they’d never get through security if they did, but also because they needed to leave enough weapons just in case something happened while Jazz was the only left to guard Amity.

They put the thousands of blueprints they had on a flash drive and Danny volunteered to protect it. He also grabbed another flash drive and put his own two projects on it. He finally explained to his parents that he’d been attempting to map the Ghost Zone when they were out of the house and that he’d been compiling a codex of all the ghosts he’d seen. He’d been almost afraid they’d be upset but they were scientists at heart and the amount of data he’d collected was far more interesting than the broken house rules.

Jazz ended up driving them to the airport so that Danny could go over the codex on the screen in the back of the RV for his parents. For the first time in his life he could freely share what he knew about ghosts. His parents were in full science mode, they read through his data and asked insightful questions. Gone were the looks of anger and threats of violence when ghosts were involved. They were replaced by curiosity and awe.

Occasionally Danny saw Jazz send looks of pure love and relief back at them through the rearview mirror.

Danny always smiled right back.

His parents asked about the list of friends he created, and he explained that a lot of ghosts didn’t have it out for the living at all. They just wanted to live in peace, working on their obsessions and be left alone. The Dairy King for example was quite a friendly man, he just liked making good cheese and as long as he had access to dairy to make said cheese, there wasn’t ever going to be a problem from him. He’d even help you out from time to time. That and his Gouda was absolutely fantastic.

They were amazed by the fact that ghosts weren’t all inherently violent.

“The reason you think that is because the only ghosts you notice are the ones who want to be violent. I mean think about it. If they have the ability to be entirely invisible and unnoticeable when they want to be then…”

“Then that means they’re only seen when they want to be! There could be hundreds of haunted locations that have peaceful ghosts that we’d never even find!” His mom finished sounding awed. “I can’t believe we never considered that.”

“Call it an internal bias.” Jazz said from the driver’s seat.

“This is fantastic!” His dad said. “Mads, think of the papers we could finally get published! There’s a whole ghost society out there and we’ve never even thought about it!”

“Does that make me like a…ghostly anthropologist?” Danny asked.

“I think it’s sociologist actually, but whatever you want to call it sweetie, if we’re publishing anything, you’ll need to be the one to write it. You did the research.”

“You think I could publish?”

“We’re a family of scientists.” Jazz said. “I’ll handle the psychology. Dad’s got the engineering, mom the biology and chemistry. I don’t see why you can’t handle human-ghost relations. You could be the diplomat!”

Danny giggled at the very idea, but his parents jumped on the idea. For the past few years it had seemed like Danny hadn’t had a future but now things were looking up. It might not be the dream career of being an astronaut, but ecto-sociologist/diplomat might not be too bad. By the time they got to the airport his parents had psyched themselves up about his future field of study. Danny wondered if it would be a little too on the nose to become Danny Fenton, Ghost Expert at the same time as being Danny Phantom, Ghost.

But if no one had figured it out yet then he doubted they ever would.

Jazz parked at the drop-off of the small regional airport and got out of the driver’s seat. Danny moved to the back and started pulling out the multiple bags they’d hurriedly packed. When he pulled out all of the bags his parents had finished hugging Jazz goodbye. She hadn’t been happy to stay behind, if only because she thought the psychology of superheroes was fascinating and being able to see them up close would have been an incredible opportunity.

But she was busy with her undergraduate research at college and someone did need to watch the town and protect the lab.

“I’m proud of you.” Jazz said. “Really.”

“Shut up.” Danny grumbled, looking down at his feet.

“Behave yourself in New York.”

“Me? Cause trouble? Perish the thought.”

She pulled him into a hug. She’d been in college for a year now, she’d was back in Amity for the summer, but he was thankful she’d been there in the past few weeks. Once their goodbyes were done, they went inside to print their itineraries. Getting through security was a lot simpler than usual. Something on their tickets let them bypass most scans entirely. Apparently when one’s trip is being paid by the UN there are certain perks.

They didn’t talk about anything important until they were seated on the private jet that had been sent personally to pick them up. Which was just…bizarre. Well at least it was at first glance. The more Danny thought about it the more sense it made. His parents were the world’s leading experts in this field and one of the largest cities in the world had just been invaded by ghosts. They needed knowledge and they needed it fast.

Danny made sure there were no recording devices before letting his parents say anything about his secret identity.

“Can’t be too careful.”

“Are you really that worried?” His dad asked. “We’re not going to try and capture you anymore, son.”

“I know but not all scientists are so ethical dad. I’m an impossibility. I don’t want to be experimented or hunted. That means no one can know, not until I know I can trust them. You have to swear you won’t tell anyone and you won’t talk about it where it can be overheard. I could be seriously hurt if the wrong people figure this out. Don’t you remember the Guys in White?”

His dad grimaced at mention of that group. His parents had never liked the GIW, even they thought that they were unnecessarily harsh.

“We see what you mean.” His mom said. “We’ll keep it to ourselves, but we want to help you.”

Danny shook his head seriously, making his parents frown and get ready to argue.

“No. Think about it. For the past two years you’ve told anyone who would listen that you hated me, and you wanted to tear me apart molecule by molecule. What are the going to think if tomorrow you started singing my praises?”

“They’re going to think we’re possessed.” His mom said. “Or something worse.”

“This is impossible.” His dad complained. “We can’t hunt you anymore and we can’t help you either.”

“It’s not impossible. We just have to slowly change. Think about it. Before you guys explained Phantom’s defense of Amity as a territory thing, right? Well now that he’s been seen way outside his territory doing the same thing, what could that mean?”

“We’d need to reevaluate. We’ve been doing that constantly since Phantom’s first appearance. He’s never fit in with the expected behavioral models but going all the way out to New York is way out there.”

“All this time you guys have been fitting facts to your theory and not the other way around. For now, you guys need to treat me the same you always have but you have to admit that you need to reconsider your hypothesis.”

“If we act the same, we’ll shoot at you.” His dad reminded him.

“I know how to dodge dad.” Danny said. “Just aim like you always do and I know where you’ll fire. If you’re that worried, set your weapons to the lowest setting and it’ll barely hurt, I promise. Eventually, you can decide that while you might not understand Phantom’s motivations, they’re clearly not hostile.”

It took time to convince his parents that they had to follow along with this plan. By the time the plane landed in New York City, they had a game plan and his parents knew exactly what they had to do to keep his identity secret. It felt more amazing than he could imagine having them totally in his corner again. He felt like he could fight Pariah Dark again but this time without the power armor. As they got off the private jet, they found themselves being greeted on the tarmac by a man who introduced himself as Happy Hogan.

“I’ll be taking you to Avengers Tower. Your bags should be coming off right now. Let me get them in the trunk.”

“I’ll get them.” Danny said before the guy could take more than one step towards the ship. “Some of the equipment is…touchy.”

Not to mention one of the bags he’d packed was close to 200 pounds and he didn’t want to subject anyone who wasn’t super strong to having to carry it. Happy easily let Danny take care of the bags while his parents distracted him with questions about the tower, the avengers, and his opinions on ghosts. By the time Danny had gotten all of the bags in the trunk, his dad had already started blabbering about ghosts.

Poor Mr. Hogan.

The entire ride to Avengers Tower was filled with his dad’s excited word vomit about the different inventions he was working on. Hogan held on like a champ, white knuckling the steering wheel and keeping his mouth shut. New York City was a little bit more intimidating when you were forced to remain on the ground. Flying it looked like a fun cityscape to explore but the buildings loomed from the street in a way nothing in Amity could.

They pulled into the parking garage of the tower. Danny told his parents to go on ahead and that he’d take care of getting their luggage to the right place. It was his job as their assistant after all. They agreed because according to Hogan, the Avengers were waiting for them. Hogan led Danny, while carrying two of the smaller bags, to the guest rooms they were using. Then he left him alone, clearly going to go down some aspirin for the headache his dad had given him. Danny put everything away and then took the elevator to the top floor where the AI of the tower told him his parents were.

He walked out of the elevator to see his parents standing in the middle of a very tense situation. Tony Stark was glaring at them while his parents looked close to wilting. The other Avengers looked majorly confused.

“Mom, Dad?” Danny called out. “I got our bags put away.”

Everyone turned to look at him and he forced himself not to turn invisible. He heard a barely repressed strangely noise and made eye contact with Tony Stark. The man’s face was twisted into a strange mixture of horror and realization.

Shit.

Chapter Text

Tony considered himself a man of science, first and foremost. Being a superhero, being a CEO, being a politician, being a mentor. All of that came second to being a scientist. Science was something he could do. In his youth he would have believed himself to be the best scientist in the world but then he started working with Bruce Banner and that idea went right out the window. Then of course there was Shuri, and woah that girl was smarter than both of them combined.

In fact, Tony took great pleasure in the knowledge that he wasn’t the smartest man on the planet. He was a futurist after all, and the more people alive who could keep up with him and even surpass him, the better. After all, the world needed as many smart minds as it could get if they were going to survive the incoming challenges. The point of all of this was that Tony loved science. Loved creativity and innovation and curiosity.

The Fentons were curious, creative, and innovative. According to Thor and Loki both, no one in any of the nine realms had managed to build weapons that would work without fail on ghosts. Magic worked for the most part, but inevitably there would be a ghost that could weild magic too and then it was a real fight of magic vs. magic and the ghost very often came out on top. Mostly due to the fact that they were dead and didn’t feel physical exhaustion 15 hours into a magic fight.

But the Fentons had done it. Their research was totally unique and cutting edge. Their inventions were the kind of thing that Tony dreamed of discovering himself. And if he didn’t do himself, then hiring the people who did because that kind of genius deserves good funding and the Stark Brand. Tony loved science and he adored kooky scientists who created awesome inventions.

Which was why he had felt so damn conflicted when it came to the Fentons. He wanted to like them. He wanted to show them to his lab, and he wanted to have fun swapping facts and knowledge and creating something totally new. But then there was Phantom. Phantom who didn’t fit in with everything the Fentons had published on ghosts. Phantom felt pain, Tony was still trying to forget the sound of the ghost’s half stifled sobs echoing in his lab. Phantom loved and lost and had a sense of right and wrong. The ghost told jokes and wanted to play games.

The Fentons were wrong about ghosts. They had to be. For all their creativity and innovation, they were still so blind. Because if Phantom could act like he did and be the kind of person he was in front of them everyday for years then…well Tony didn’t want anything to do with them. This was bad science. Which is what he’d explained to Bruce.

Bruce, a better scientist than Tony, a better man even, agreed. Phantom didn’t fit with the Fentons beliefs. It was unethical that they were trying to hunt another sentient being. Tony had had plans. Bruce had been on his side as Tony had gotten ready to explain to the Fentons that if they didn’t agree to stop hunting Phantom for the purposes of experimentation that the Avengers would refuse to work with them.

At least that had been the plan until their son walked in looking exactly like Phantom.

What the fuck.

Really. What The Fuck?

Tony stared at the raven haired teenager who stared at back him, icy blue eyes wide in astonishment and horror. The conversation about secret identities floated through his head. Oh No. Oh G-d. Tony’s eyes slid over to the parents and the jumpsuits they were wearing. The same smell, the same texture as Phantoms. Something like bile rose up in his throat and it took everything he had not to gag.

The rest of the team was looking at him like he was nuts, even Steve looked concerned which was just…no. Inwardly he gave himself a few slaps and then swallowed back the bile.

“Look.” He said. “You two scientists need to reconsider your methodology if you’re going to paint all ghosts as evil. That’s not how this team works. We need to be openminded to the different and unique. If you two won’t agree to cease hostilities with Phantom until he proves himself to be an actual danger to anyone then I suggest you pack up and leave.”

Slowly the teenager edged over closer to his parents. Tony wanted to grab him and pull him someplace safe and far away. He wasn’t safe with ghost hunters. Tony ignored the small Pepper-like voice in his head that told him he was being crazy. He wasn’t. He wasn’t! The woman, Maddie, exchanged a look with her husband and then spoke.

“Phantom’s actions in New York opened our eyes some, Mr. Stark.” She said. “Once we got over the fact that he’d managed to break into our lab again and steal our weapons we realized just how much…good he’d done.”

“Maddie’s right.” Jack added. “We have a long history with Phantom, and a lot of it involves shooting at each other but I think maybe we shot first more often than not.”

“That’s…very good of you.” Bruce said stepping in, while shooting a worried look at Tony. Tony realized he’d been staring at the teen too hard. “Now who is this?”

“That’s our son, Danny.” Jack said. “He’s here to help with our presentations.”

Danny? His name was Danny? No. There was no way that was a coincidence. Tony would eat his arc reactor if it was random. Danny shot Tony a look, begging him to stop being weird.

“Really?” Tony asked. “He helps you with your inventions? Works in your lab too?”

“Yes! Danny’s an excellent scientist.” Maddie said sounding so proud. Tony wanted to hiss at her.

“Then why isn’t he wearing one of your jump suits then?” He asked, the taste of rising stomach acid on his tongue. His fingers still itched with the sensation of Phantom’s jumpsuit.

“Have you seen them?” Danny asked, jerking a thumb in the direction of his dad’s bright orange outfit. “Not exactly fashion forward, dude.”

The tension in the room broke with the joke while Jack turned to his son and began to deny that his jumpsuit was ugly. It was stylish, comfortable and it had plenty of pockets. All Tony could think about was the fact that the kid’s voice was the same. How was no one else seeing this? How could it not be the most obvious thing in the world? He looked hard at Danny.

It was true that Phantom was bolder, literally glowing and full of brash puns and attitude. Phantom held himself in a way that made you want to look at him, take him seriously. Fenton on the other hand looked like an average skinny teenager. Not very smart or talented, just an average teen with poor posture and a deadpan sense of humor. Based on the thinness of his frame Tony doubted the kid could take a punch let alone throw one. Phantom on the other hand didn’t look thin and weak, he looked lithe, powerful, and quick.

Was Tony being crazy?

No. No he wasn’t.

“Well then.” Steve said. “I think that’s settled. How much time do you three need to show us your weapons?”

“Yes. I think it would do us all a world of good if you’d show us your inventions.” Loki said. “After all, it is not everyday that someone manages the impossible.”

“Right.” Thor agreed. “Show us your great weapons!”

“Well if Danny can go get the weapons and you show us someplace appropriate for a demonstration then we can get started right away.” Maddie said. Tony finally had an opportunity. He stepped forward, enough that his body was between the adults and Danny.

“I’ll show the kid to the training rooms, I know my way around tech so I’ll help him carry it.” He turned and continued to word vomit a justification that wouldn’t be too suspicious to the others while forcibly ushering Danny out of the room. He made sure to tell the team to lead the team down to the training room too. He ignored the bewildered looks he got and the fact that Danny kept giving him confused perturbed look. The moment they were in alone in an elevator Danny turned to look at him. At first his face looked frustrated but then it turned worried.

Danny reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You need to breathe, Mr. Stark.”

Was he not? The elevator started going down, leading them away from the group of heroes.

“You’re…YOU’RE DEAD!”

“I mean…not technically?”

“What the hell does that even mean?”

“It’s…complicated?” Tony must have looked very fierce then because Danny lifted up both hands up in surrender. “I’m half dead, sort of. I’m not really sure on the science but like…sometimes I’m a ghost and mostly dead and sometimes I’m human and mostly alive. I’m Schrodinger’s teen basically.”

“That is not what that means.” Tony said focusing on the least horrifying part of that explanation.

“Tony, breathe. You’re hyperventilating.” He realized abruptly that the wheezing sound in the elevator was him and took in a huge breath. “Good. Now let it out.”

He sent the kid a look at his tone but Danny only grinned in the same way Phantom did when he thought he was being clever. It took Tony a few moments to get his breathing under control and by that point the elevator opened to reveal the mostly empty guest floor.

“You okay now?” Danny asked as he stepped out of the elevator.

“I’m fine.” He said in a tone that made it clear how much he despised the implication that he was anything but fine.

“You know it’s normal to freak out when somebody dies.” Danny told him in an appeasing tone.

“Shut up, kid or tell me what happened.”

“The last time I was here or…the dead thing?” Tony gave him a look and Danny sighed. “Fine. But it’s not a fun story.”

“Do I look like I’m having fun?”

“Whatever. So this happened like….two weeks before I started high school, which was almost three years ago now.” Danny said. “My parents had finished what was supposed to be their magnum opus, the greatest invention ever. The Ghost Portal.”

“I read their proposal funding that thing.” Tony said. “Before meeting Thor, I would’ve said it was far-fetched. I didn’t know they’d gotten the money to do it.”

“They didn’t not really.” Danny said. “No one would fund it so mom and dad did side jobs and things and squirreled away every penny they could to get the thing together, it took years and years. They started building it when I was 10 and it felt like…like suddenly nothing mattered but that stupid portal. Not me, not my sister. Nothing we did could keep them out of the lab for hours at a time.”

Tony told himself sternly not to think about Howard. That was different. It was totally different. Danny started walking towards the guest rooms and Tony followed.

“When I was 14, they finished, turned it on and nothing happened.”

“Not surprising we’re decades away from interstellar travel like that, no way the portal would’ve worked.”

“Oh, the portal works.” Danny said. “But dad had made a mistake with the wiring. He’d put two on switches into it. One on the outside and the other on the inside. Once both were on it worked perfectly.”

“You guys have a portal to hell in your basement?” Tony squeaked.

“Are you going to have another panic attack?”

“I did not have a panic attack.” Danny rolled his eyes but kept telling the story of his death. It was by far the oddest ghost story Tony had ever been told. They got to Jack and Maddie’s room and Danny began unpacking gleaming silver and green weapons from two huge canvas bags. The story in the end was simple, being pushed by his two best friends Danny had gone into a portal that supposedly didn’t work only for it to turn on while he was inside it. The subsequent electric shock had immediately killed him while the radiation and ectoplasm that ran through his body bonded with his DNA and brought him halfway back to life.

“So, yeah.” Danny said. “Now that the portal is working every ghost to ever ghost wants control of Amity so that they can have free unlimited access to earth. They started attacking the town and I realized it was my fault the portal ever got turned on in the first place. And now I had super powers.”

“So, you went superhero, at 14.” That was even younger than when Peter had started.

“So, I went superhero.” Danny confirmed before looking a little sheepish. “I admit, I wasn’t the best at it at first ,but I’ve gotten better. There’s hardly any property damage anymore and most of the town has stopped screaming when they see me.”

Tony’s face immediately soured as he remembered the fact that the Fentons were loud opponents of Phantom. Danny immediately stepped forward and held out a few weapons for Tony to carry, giving him a look as he did so.

“They didn’t know. I hid it from them and…and they know now. That’s why I came over, I thought my dad was angry with me, but I hadn’t understood. They’re not going to try and hurt me anymore Tony. We’ve worked it out, thanks to you.”

“Kid they shot at you.” How many times Tony couldn’t accurately say, but one time was one too many.

“So have dozens of other people. Hell, the US government has tried to hunt me down a few times. I’m not angry about it.”

“You should be! They could have…” Tony trailed off right before he finished the sentence, the words caught in his throat. Danny gave him a look.

“Tony, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the past three years it’s this. Death isn’t the worse thing that can happen to you. It’s not even in the top ten.”

“But they’re your parents…”

“They’re not perfect, but they love me. Tony, trust me. I wouldn’t be with them right now if I thought they were going to hurt me. I’d still be hiding out in your lab. Knowing I had a place to go gave me the courage to finally tell them what happened in their lab. Can you take a minute to think about that from my parents point of view?”

Tony did and then abruptly the image of Peter, alone in his lab and making a mistake and dying. No. No. Stop thinking about it. He pulled back before Danny could start ordering him to breathe again. Once in a lifetime was more than enough.

“Okay fine.” Tony said the anger he felt at the Fentons disappear. Not only had their lab killed their son but then they’d tried to hunt him. The guilt and horror they must be feeling would be overwhelming. There was probably very little Tony could do to add onto it and absolutely nothing he should.

“You were right when you told me they needed to know.” Danny said. “Thank you, things have never been better with them. I’m glad I met another hero I can ask for help from. You’ve no idea how hard it’s been doing this on my own.”

“NO. No way kid. I am no one’s mentor.”

“Sorry Tony.” Danny said. “It’s too late. I’ve already imprinted on you.”

It might have been said in a joking manner, but Tony knew the kid was serious. Which was like ten different kinds of a bad thing to be serious about.

“This is a bad idea. I’m not going to have any part in this.”

“Oh, come on! Don’t you want to see a demonstration of my powers and figure out how they work, maybe find applications for your own suit?” The teen suggested slyly. “Only my mentor gets to do that.”

Tony did love science.

“Damn it. Fine.”

“You won’t regret this.”

“I’m already starting too.” Danny only grinned, gave his back a pat and told him they had to go and get ready for his parents’ presentation. They walked together and Tony got to learn what these weapons felt like when you were on the other end of them. Apparently, the Fenton Thermos felt like being sucked into a sleeping bag that was slightly too tight. It was comforting to know that the containment device didn’t hurt.

“Danny.” Maddie said as they went into the training room. “What took you two so long?”

“Mr. Stark was talking up his lab. It sounds pretty cool but there’s no way it’s as awesome as ours.”

Tony was immediately offended. It didn’t matter that his parents had built a lab with a portal to another dimension out of scraps, Tony’s lab was a work of art. He told Danny so in his most serious tone.

“Classism at its finest!” The insinuation that Tony’s lab was state of the art because of his money and not because if his skill couldn’t stand.

The less scientific Avengers watched as all of the nerds in the room got dragged into an argument about science and money. Could someone be a good scientist without funding? Was science at its core only available to the wealthy? By the time all of the weapons had been set up on the table, the projector turned on and running to show an archive of data on ghosts Tony found himself halfway starting to plan out some sort of mentoring program for disenfranchised scientists without money.

Which. Okay so maybe he was taking this mentoring thing too far.

“Alright.” Steve said, cutting into the scientific babble. “Could we maybe see this presentation?”

“Right!” Jack said clapping his hands. “So, Danny here’s going to show images of the most common ghost types we’ve seen and then Mads and I will show you the weapons we’ve designed to work against them!”

“This is the codex of ghosts.” Danny said, taking a seat at the table in front of the old junky laptop that the family had set up. “For the past three or so years I’ve recorded every ghost that’s been spotted in Amity, creating lists of their abilities and motivations.”

“Do you have an entry on Phantom?” Bruce asked.

“Sure. Although it’s…funky.” Danny said shaking his head. “Somehow he found out what I was doing and insisted on making his own.”

Tony snorted. He could just imagine what a teenager like that wrote up about himself. Natasha leaned forward and looked at the categories, they were listed in groups labeled 1 to 10.

“How have you organized these?”

“Based on Ecto-Level.” Danny said, he started typing on the laptop, bringing up the group 1 ghosts. It revealed a series of tabs of ghost types ice, fire, and the like. Some of the ghost names were in blue while others were in green, a majority were in red. “Level 1 is the weakest ghosts, they have so little energy that they’re barely able to hold onto a form. So, one or two hits from any of these weapons will take care of them easily.”

Images of green ghostly blobs, sometimes with red eyes and other times with just gaping black mouths came up onto the screen. Some of them looked almost cute, but the majority just looked weird and creepy. The two parents showed off their most basic ray guns and the Fenton Creep Stick. Which honestly just looked like a hand me down baseball bat they painted. When Tony said that, Jack confirmed it, telling him that it was the paint’s special properties that were important.

After all the paint was designed to ensure that a ghost couldn’t turn in tangible through it.

And Tony could admit that was pretty cool. Most of the Fentons’ work was really DIY but there was solid science behind it. Part of him itched to know what they were going to produce with actual funding. Based on the look Bruce was giving their tech Tony could tell the man was thinking the same thing.

Danny moved up through the ecto levels, defining each of them as he went and showing them examples from Amity Park. Without a doubt Amity Park deserved the title of America’s Most Haunted Town, because holy hell, did they see some shit. With each subsequent ecto level the ghosts got more distinct and personalities began to shine brighter. The lower ecto levels were mostly animals and Tony remembered them distinctly as the ground soldiers from the invasion a week ago.

It wasn’t until they got into the higher ecto levels that they saw ghosts that were familiar to them. Aragon, without his magical amulet, had a level of six. With the amulet he was a 9. The larger and more complicated weapons on the table were for ghosts who could actually make a plan and stick to it. Jack showed off his Fenton Suit which was basically nanotech armor that made Tony start to drool a little and said it was perfect for fighting large groups of low-level ghosts in a swarm or one on one with a more powerful foe.

And the suit could keep your lunch warm.

A lot of the Fenton inventions doubled as odd food containers. Come to think of it.

“Why are some of the names in red and others are in green and blue?” Bruce asked.

“Those are…loose alliances I guess?” Danny said. “Any name in red is a ghost who has consistently attacked people in Amity Park. Blue is variable, sometimes they’ll attack but for the most part they’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone. Green is friendly.”

“We haven’t gotten to level 10.” Natasha said. “Show us.”

Each of the higher levels had revealed ghosts of terrifying power and ability. Ghosts that could perfectly shape shift into any person or being. Ghosts with magical instruments that could mind control with magic and grew in power anytime someone said their name. Ghosts who were expert hunters. Technus in particular made a shiver run down Tony’s spine. There was no way the tech ghost was getting anywhere near his suit. The level nines alone had been terrifying to even think about facing.

Vortex, a ghost who could control the weather far better than Thor could. Undergrowth, a gigantic plant loving ghost that could swallow cities whole in vegetation using the humans inside as plant food. Nocturn, the ghost of dreams who could put any being to sleep so that their dreams could feed him for eternity. Behemoth, a guardian ghost the size of fifteen tanks put together who would eat any being who neared what it was set to guard. The Fright Knight, the literal incarnation of fear with a magic sword that could send any victim to a dimension of their worst fears.

“I don’t think you need to see that.” Danny said. “Besides my parents…”

“We don’t have the supplies to create anything that could truly defeat a level 10.” Jack said. “We can slow them down and potentially contain them, but only after they’re weakened. Maybe with more resources and time…at this point if a level 10 were to attack…”

“The only time it happened we were practically helpless, hiding behind our ghost shield and trying to contain the hoards.” Maddie said. “It was Phantom who saved us.”

“Level 10s have the power to destroy entire planets.” Danny said. “Phantom told me the best thing to do when a level 10 attacks is to run.”

“We do not run from danger.” Thor said. “Midgard is ours to protect.”

“Hela would’ve been a ten.” Danny told Thor. “She was from the Zone, Phantom never met her, but he heard rumors about her.”

“Do you talk to Phantom a lot?” Steve asked.

“He hangs out at school a lot. I mean…He was a teenager before he died, I guess he feels comfortable there.” Danny shrugged, sounding almost sad. Tony had to admit the kid was good.

“So, Hela, she was…she was dead?” Thor asked.

“I don’t know what she was. All I know is that Phantom seemed nervous even talking about her.” Danny said. “She definitely drew on the same sort of power that ghosts do.

“Very well.” Loki said. “Show us the others.”

“They’re not all bad.” Danny warned. “Just most of them.”

Then he pulled up the list. There were only a few names. Clockwork, his name was blue. Pariah Dark, red. Plasmius, red. Phantom, green.

“Phantom’s a level ten?” Tony asked. His voice sounded strained to his ears.

“I sort of organized this list based on who would beat who in a fight.” Danny said. “So far Phantom’s beaten everyone who’s ever attacked Amity. So, yeah, a level 10. Mostly I think he’s up here because he’s smart, he plans and he’s not afraid to cheat to win.”

“Something at least we agree on.” Loki said. “Are you sure his name should be green? According to our research Phantom has stolen from Amity before, not to mention the attack on the Mayor.”

“If you want to tell me I’m wrong then you spend three years watching Phantom protect Amity and make your own decision.” Danny said. “I’ve already had this argument with my parents, I’m not interested in having it with you.”

Which, okay fair. Even if the kid wasn’t actually Phantom in disguise, Phantom had saved Amity hundreds of times. It made sense that a high schooler would be a supporter. Loki lifted up his hands in a show of acceptance.

“Pariah Dark.” Thor said. “That name…I have heard it before. Loki?”

“Odin spoke of him once, in our youth.” Loki allowed. “I did more reading on him later, I did not think he still existed.”

“Oh, he exists.” Jack said. “That bastard nearly killed my son.” Danny blushed and looked down at his laptop.

“I was just trying to get some good footage of the invasion and I got pulled to the other side of the ghost shield.” He defended.

“Invasion?” Steve asked. “What invasion?”

“Over a year ago Pariah Dark invaded Amity.” Maddie said. “He used his power to literally pull our town from earth and into his dimension. We were there for three days.”

“Maddie and I had used our extra money to put shields around the town, we were lucky they held as well as they did.” Jack said. “About 60% of the town was covered, people had to live in close quarters while as many adults as could took our weapons and watched the border.”

“How did we not hear about this?” Steve demanded before faltering. At the same time that a small town in the middle of America was being invaded by ghosts, Steve was on the run form the law after having nearly left Tony dead in Siberia.

“Pariah Dark is the king of Hel.” Loki said. “The undisputed ruler of the realm just as Thor is the ruler of Asgard. Long before we were born, even before Odin was born Pariah Dark roamed the realms destroying planets to add them to Hel by literally using his power to pull them into his dimension just as he did your town.”

“I remember now. Bor, our grandfather, was afraid that he would destroy the entire universe. But one day he just…disappeared.”

“And you’re saying he just attacked Amity like 5000 years later?” Tony demanded. “How are we still alive?”

“Phantom.” Jack said. “No one saw the fight, and Phantom’s never said what happened. All we do know is that he went out into the zone with one of my newest inventions and within an hour we were back on earth.”

“Are you trying to imply that Phantom, that spindly little teenager defeated one of the most powerful beings in existence?” Loki asked.

Tony reminded himself to breath, he was having way too much trouble with that today. He made eye contact with Danny who gave him a slight nod. No way. He gave Danny a look that said very clearly ‘you’re shitting me, right?’ and Danny only responded with a grin that told him that it wasn’t a joke.

“It’s the only explanation we have.” Maddie said.

“Well, maybe we can get an explanation from Phantom.” Tony said. “He responds sometimes when we message him on Twitter. I’ll see what I can do to bring him by.”

The presentation came to a somber end. Despite the look at the most dangerous of ghosts in existence, Tony was still very impressed by the ingenuity before him. He told the Fentons so and all three of them beamed right back at him. Steve took control of the meeting by inviting the Fentons up to the penthouse for a dinner. So, the weapons were picked up and packed away again, everyone’s mind on dinner instead of dead people.

Tony found himself, once again, alone with Danny Fenton.

“Pariah Dark?”

“Not something I like talking about.” Danny said simply. “Trust me. It was…not a good day for me.”

“But you defeated him?”

“He’s back in stasis. As long as no idiot wakes him up again it’s safe.” Tony decided to take that for what it was.

“Right. So…You’re like what? The most powerful ghost ever?”

“Some people call me the Great One.”

“That is…so dorky.”

“Your super hero name is Iron Man. Don’t talk to me about dorky, dude.” Tony scoffed and rolled his eyes. Iron Man was a great name.

“Well at least I know you’re powerful enough to handle most things, not like…”

“Not like who?” Danny asked. “There aren’t any other teen heroes you’re mentoring are there?”

The look on Tony’s face said it all.

“Who?”

“I’m not telling you anyone’s secret identity…”

“It’s SPIDERMAN!” Damn, Tony forgot that Spiderman was the only hero that Tony directly interacted with that still had a secret identity. “OH MY G-D! I thought he was cool during the fight but now…Do you think he likes me?”

Tony thought back to all of the messages he’d received in the past five days from Peter, all of which revolved around Phantom. Do you really think he was around during the Fall of Rome? How old is he? He hasn’t messaged me about hanging out, Mr. Stark, should I ask him, or would that be weird? Mr. Stark, do you think Phantom will be in New York for very long? Mr. Stark, I think it’d be really neat if Phantom got to help us sometimes too! But only if you think so, do you think so?

Before Tony could even begin to tell Danny anything about the issue the ghostly teen spoke.

“Wait!” Danny said. “Never mind! I’ve got an idea, I’ll make friends with him on my own.”

Tony decided, smartly, that no matter how much he loved science sometimes there were things he didn’t want to know.

Chapter Text

Peter was woken in the middle of the day by Ned desperately banging on his bedroom door while MJ laughed in the background. He groaned and grabbed for the nearest item of clothing he could find. His hands picked up a once worn blue t-shirt with a molecule cartoon on it and he pulled it over his head. Next, he grabbed some sweatpants, ignoring the pain in his muscles.

Last night Doc Oc, as Peter had taken to calling him, had used his crazy metal arms to throw him through a wall. It had hurt and Peter had been very lucky that he hadn’t broken anything. The fight had almost gotten bad enough that Karen had threatened calling Mr. Stark. Peter had just barely kept her from doing it, Peter knew that Mr. Stark was busy with the ghost scientists, they’d been keeping all of the Avengers busy for the past five days. Peter didn’t want to get in the way of that and besides the fight with Doc Oc had been in an abandoned warehouse, no one there to get hurt but Peter.

Peter hadn’t gotten in till late, he’d been working with the cops to help take the villain in, trying to make sure that they could keep him in containment once they got him in there. Peter didn’t hold out a lot of hope, chances were the villain would escape within three months and then reappear in Queens to cause more trouble by Christmas. And Peter would be waiting for the mad scientist when he did.

The banging on his door didn’t cease as Peter pulled on his sweat pants. He groaned and told Ned to just come in already. The door swung dangerously fast on its cheap hinges and Ned and MJ both wandered in. MJ was looking at her phone and snickering while Ned looked almost wild with energy. He could see his Aunt May fondly shaking her head from further into the apartment.

“What? Ned I told you I needed to sleep today.” Peter said.

“I know, but dude this is an emergency! You need to get on Twitter, now.”

“He’s not joking.” MJ said. “I’m only here to document your emotional journey.”

Sure enough, she was getting ready to take pictures of him. Peter rolled his eyes but grabbed at his phone that he had thankfully remembered to plug in before passing out. His eyebrows scrunched together as he saw the sheer number of notifications, he had on his Spiderman account. He heard the click of MJ’s camera but ignored it as he opened up the app. Immediately, he was assaulted by the number of times he’d been tagged in something and it became clear that he, Spiderman, was trending.

“Is this about the fight last night?”

“No dude, go to Phantom’s twitter.”

Phantom? Was something the matter with him? Had he gotten hurt or something? Peter heard MJ’s camera take another snap shot. Peter tapped his way to Phantom’s twitter and the series of tweets, tweets that seemed to deal with him.

Hey, living people of twitter. What’s the best way to make friends with someone who’s alive? Asking for me.

The tweet had tens of thousands of likes and nearly triple the number of replies.

“Friends? He wants to make friends?” Peter asked looking up at his two friends.

“Keep looking dude.” Ned said as MJ took yet another picture. She then moved to get a better angle and lighting on his face.

The next tweet had a twitter poll attached to it.

After reading through your replies I’ve made a poll of the most pertinent suggestions. Everyone vote, I want to make a living friend without being all Casper about it.

Peter clicked on the poll and read the four suggestions as well as the percentage of people who had voted for each.

Just be yourself and talk to them! (14%)

Invite him to hang out. (15%)

Give him a gift. (8%)

Make a 90s style infomercial to show off your friendship skills (52%)

Possess him. (11%)

The infomercial suggestion was lit up in blue showing it to have the majority of votes. Peter didn’t waste any time going to the top of Phantom’s twitter feed, ignoring MJ’s camera and Ned’s excited breaths. There was a video, that had been tweeted out only an hour ago that was being retweeted so fast that the numbers kept flipping around on the corner of the tweet. It was hard to tell if the numbers were in the hundreds of thousands or the millions. The caption of the tweet was simple.

The people have spoken!

Peter looked up at his friends and Ned urged him to press play while MJ looked way too pleased with herself as she documented his confusion and anticipation. Peter felt a quick stab of jealousy as he thought about Phantom wanting friends. Hadn’t they connected during the invasion? Phantom had said he thought that Spiderman was cool. Why didn’t Phantom just be friends with him? MJ took another picture right before he pressed the play button on the video.

His phone speakers burst out producing a tinny noise as the video began. The first scene in the video was Phantom sitting in a really cheap Spiderman costume. The kind that came with a poorly made cotton onesie and an uncomfortable plastic mask that barely covered any part of your face if you were bigger than a ten-year-old. The mask was attached to Phantom’s face was a thin strip of black elastic that stood out quite starkly against his glowing white hair. Phantom’s green eyes glowed eerily through the circular holes in the red and blue plastic. Phantom was sitting in a café, a steaming paper white cup of something in front of him. He was sitting alone at a table for two, looking mournfully sad at the empty seat across from him.

There was background music playing as Phantom sat there for a few moments, then a girl with dark hair walked up to the table making Phantom, still dressed as Spiderman, look up hopefully.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” She asked.

“Uh no, no it isn’t!” Phantom said.

“Great, then do you mind if I take it for my friends?” Phantom’s excited posture was immediately replaced with downturned shoulders and a defeated tilt to his neck. The scene turned black and white as a voice over spoke.

“Has this ever happened to you?”

The scene changed to show Phantom, this time not in the bad Spiderman costume, but instead as himself. He was carrying a large gallon tub of Cookies and Cream ice cream along with two spoons and a remote. Phantom walked towards a couch and quickly got settled down, pressing a button on the remote. The TV turned on and began to play music from the movie ‘Mamma Mia’ as Phantom began to open the ice cream container. Phantom reached out with his extra spoon and the camera zoomed out to reveal he was alone, with no one to share the ice cream. The scene went black and white again while dramatic music played.

“How about that?” The deep voiced narrator asked. “Or how about this?”

The scene changed again to show clips from news reports, some that were of Spiderman getting thrown around by a villain and some that were of Phantom going through the same thing. MJ took a picture each time Peter had to watch his own body get slammed into something. The narrator voice spoke, stopping the clips.

“Don’t let this sort of thing happen to you any longer!”

The scene changed again, this time it was showing what looked like a high school gym that was built in the 1960’s, in the center of the gym was a folding plastic table that was yellow-brown with age, the table was filled with what looked like junk at a distance. Phantom walked quickly on screen.

“Danny Phantom here and I’m going to talk to you about the most amazing product, friendship.” Phantom said as the camera zoomed in on him and the table. “That’s right you heard me, friendship. If you’re a superhero working in Queens who isn’t a member of the Avengers then this product is for you!”

Peter made a choking noise as his face filled with heat, MJ literally giggled as she took five pictures in a row.

“That’s right. Now come here, let me show how great this product actually is.” Phantom motioned the camera closer to him so that his glowing face was in the screen. “I mean look at how much this product glows, honestly you don’t even need a flash light anymore because when you have this as your friend! It’s never dark!”

The camera panned back out and Phantom continued to speak. The camera shot went down the table where there was a bright pink, small car that clearly was meant for a barbie doll to sit in. Instead of a barbie doll there was a Spiderman figurine.

“And that’s not all friendship with me can do. Not by long a shot. Just imagine it, bam there you are driving to work but traffic’s terrible, call up Phantom and bam!” Phantom moved the car forward down the old table where it ran into other cars, then the car turned translucent the moment he said bam. “I’ll turn your car intangible and you can just drive straight through the traffic.”

The car sure enough drove straight through the other plastic cars. The camera moved to the side with Phantom to show another set up. This time there was a figurine of the Green goblin and two large groups of lego people. The first group of lego people were laid out on a platform surrounded by plastic lego pieces that were shaped like fire. The second group had been dumped into a poorly made paper boat that was floating in a plastic tub of water. The paper of the boat was so thin that it was starting to sink.

“But wait! There’s more!” Phantom insisted, placing down the Spiderman figurine into the middle of the mess. “Surely you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’re fighting a big bad guy and he makes you choose between saving two groups of people! Before today this was a huge dilemma but not anymore with friendship!”

Phantom placed down another figurine, this one of himself, standing right next to the Spiderman figurine. Then he used both of his hands to move one towards the lego people in danger of being on fire and the other towards the boat.

“As you can see with friendship, you can be a hero in two places at once! All with the added benefit of not having to deal with the Avengers! I don’t need to tell you how revolutionary a concept that is! But it’s true, with my product, any hero in Queens can really get the job done!”

The camera panned back to Phantom’s face as he walked further down the table.

“Let me show just how versatile this product is.” Phantom said as bright yellow letters appeared on the screen next to him. The words read Benefits of Friendship:. “Friendship with me will provide for so many of the needs of superheroes based in Queens that aren’t Avengers. Companionship. Trust. Loyalty. Jokes! It’s all there!”

With each thing that Phantom listed it appeared in a bulleted list in bright yellow on the screen.

“I’m telling you, this product does it all. The moment you have this in your life you’re going to wonder how you ever did without it. Just a splash of this in your life is going make you come back for more.” Phantom said. “Now wait! I hear you thinking to yourself, you already have friends, you even work with the Avengers sometimes but I promise you my product is different. Friendship with me is more than just a working relationship. My product is so strong that if used properly it will withstand political and social hardships. That’s right! With my product you never have to worry about betrayal! That’s a 100% guarantee!”

Bright yellow text appeared right in front of Phantom’s face that read RISK FREE!. Peter was so focused on the video that he failed to notice how many pictures MJ was taking.

“Now obviously, this product is normally difficult to get your hands on. But I’m here to offer you a once in a lifetime deal!” Phantom said. “That’s right, for a limited time, all of this can be yours for free! You heard that right folks, free! This kind of deal doesn’t last long so act now!”

Phantom paused and then looked a little thoughtful for the camera.

“In fact, I want you to have this product in your life so much that I’m going to sweeten the deal. Act within the next 24 hours and not only will you get a friend for life, but you can have one for anything that comes after that.” Up until that point the entire video had been almost a joke with background music playing that made the entire thing feel like the infomercials Peter had watched as a kid with the flu. But now Phantom was looking at the camera, green eyes hopeful. “Because I think, I think we could be great friends Spiderman.”

Abruptly the screen went black and was replaced with bright text that said ACT NOW!. The video ended with a narrator telling Spiderman to act now to get his hands on this one in a life time offer. Peter looked up right as MJ took the last photo. Peter found that he had no idea what to say.

“Dude, can you believe it?” Ned asked. “This is like the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”

“It is pretty great.” MJ agreed, looking down at the photos on her digital camera.

“I can’t believe Phantom thinks I go to coffee shops alone.”

Well those weren’t the words Peter had wanted to come out of his mouth. MJ snorted and finally looked at Peter.

“You do that all the time during your patrols, if things are quiet and you need something to keep you up until you head home.” She told him. “And dude, it was getting sort of sad spotting people taking pictures of you alone in Starbucks on instagram.”

“It wasn’t sad! I was on serious hero business!” Both of his friends turned traitors gave him a look and Peter huffed. “Look, the video probably wasn’t even serious anyway. If he really wanted to hang out he would have messaged me.”

“You really are clueless, aren’t you?” MJ asked. Peter made a noise of protest, but MJ only rolled her eyes and sat down on his chair. Ned sat down on the floor, careful not to disturb Peter’s unfinished lego project. “Since you don’t have the time or mental brain power to read the ten-page literary analysis I published about that video, I’ll give you the spark notes.”

How had she already written ten pages about what looked like a meme video? Peter knew better than to ask out loud, although he did exchange a frightened look with Ned.

“The first scene shows you with your embarrassing sad Starbucks habit.” Peter wanted to argue that it wasn’t embarrassing but MJ shut him up with a look. “But, only people who follow dedicated Spidey-Spotter blogs know about that. Most people only hear about what’s published in the Daily Bugle. Ergo, Phantom knew about you before the invasion and liked you enough to go down deep into the dregs of Instagram to follow your lonely exploits.”

MJ was such a terrifying creature. Mr. Stark had tried to give Peter grief about letting her find out about his secret identity. But after one meeting with the girl, Mr. Stark had given him a pat on the back and congratulated him on keeping it a secret from her at all.

“The next scene revealed even more about Phantom. He has no one and nothing to do when he’s not protecting Amity. Watching campy jukebox movies with a tub of ice cream screams loneliness. Which makes sense, he’s a ghost who lives among living people, probably hard for him to connect to anyone here.”

Peter had wondered if Phantom had any friends. The research he’d done implied that he didn’t, that he wasn’t like by ghosts and that a lot of humans were scared of him. What a lonely life that must be.

“Finally, we get to the actual infomercial, now on the surface it looks like a funny homage to Billy Mays, may he rest in peace, but think about the order that he presented himself in. First as a flashlight, then a joke, then as an ally in a fight, and finally as an actual loyal friend. He’s seriously trying to warm you up to the idea. I mean come on Peter, a joke to disarm the listener, a logical argument, and then the gooey emotionalism. That’s not even getting into the whole exclusion of the Avengers.”

“Phantom and them…didn’t really get off on the right foot.” Peter defended.

“It’s more than that!” MJ said. “He’s distancing himself from the Avengers because he doesn’t want any friendships he makes to be like theirs.”

A beat of silence as Peter and Ned both looked at MJ.

“I don’t get it.”

“Ugh!” MJ growled. “The Avengers first met because of Loki’s invasion right? They practically didn’t know each other until they got shoved into a room and told to save the world. But that didn’t work, they fell apart and nearly killed each other. Your first meeting with Phantom was pretty much the same.”

“But he doesn’t want the same ending.” Peter finished. “He doesn’t to be my teammate he wants to be a friend.”

“Hence the Billy Mays infomercial. It’s practically poetry.”

Anything could be practically poetry if MJ was any source of true authority on the subject. Peter looked back down at his phone, where the replies to Phantom’s video were growing by the second. A large of them were messages that tagged Spiderman in them so that he’d see. There were others that told Phantom that they’d be his friend if Spiderman wasn’t willing. A lot of the replies were calling Phantom a Mad Man for actually doing it.

“Well how do I say yes?” Peter asked. “Cause…well I do want to be Phantom’s friend. I think Spiderman could use a friend.”

“Yeah no kidding.” Ned said. “It’s just me and MJ and we can’t fly or shoot lasers from our hands.”

“You’re my guy in the chair!” Peter never wanted Ned to think he wasn’t like super important to him.

“Yeah but maybe you need a guy who isn’t in the chair.” Ned said. “Don’t worry dude, I know I’m always going to be the best friend.”

“Obviously.” MJ said, totally stepping over their manly declarations of friendship. “You need to find a way to respond in kind. Prove that you’re compatible as friends. I’d suggest something flashy, something relatable.”

She was already starting to mutter different ideas, all of which sounded too dark or artsy for Peter. Peter looked over at Ned and suddenly an idea hit him.

“Steve Irwin.”

“What?” Both of them asked at the same time.

“I’m gonna do a Steve Irwin, a whole thing where I hunt for a friend.” His friends gave him a look as if that was the most stupid and the most brilliant thing, he’d ever said to them. Which was unfair because Peter knew he’d said much stupider things in the past. This idea was perfect. Because if Peter did this right it would show that Peter had heard the call for a friend. Besides, he loved doing an Australian accent.

“Dude.” Ned said. “You have to let me help with the editing.”

“I’ll help too.” MJ offered. “No need to keep Phantom waiting too long.”

Peter got up from his bed, ignoring his very sore body and grinned at his friends.

“Let’s get to work.”

It took time to get the footage they needed, mostly because it annoyed the Avengers in question. Mr. Stark had taken the explanation as well as he could and allowed Peter entrance into the Tower to do his nonsense but refused to help him film. In order to get the camera angle that he needed Peter ended up getting help from Loki of all people. The god of mischief hadn’t even asked for an explanation, beyond being told that it would probably make the Avengers look silly online and definitely bother them in person.

Loki was more than happy to cast a spell so that the camera floated behind Peter in his Spiderman costume, perfectly replicating the iconic Steve Irwin set up. Once that was done, Peter recorded his opening. He stood on top of a building in Manhattan, directly behind him was Avengers Tower, the modernist design gleaming in the afternoon sun.

“Alright.” Peter said, completely covered in his Spiderman costume and speaking in a thick almost comical Australian accent. “It’s Spiderman and today I’m going to take you deep into one of the most unexplored parts of New York City. That’s right Avengers Tower, home to some of the most mysterious creatures on earth, superheroes. Superheroes are by far the most diverse group of creatures on planet earth, and little is known about their habits and diets. Despite the danger, I’m still going to go inside and hopefully find a new friend.”

And then in Peter went. With the camera following him and recording Peter crawled along Avengers Tower until he ran into a superhero. It turned out to be Captain America first, who was reading something on a tablet. Fine.

“Oh look, we’ve spotted a good one first off. Captain America is one of the first variants of the superhero breed.”

Immediately the man looked up from his reading and looked around until he spotted Spiderman on the ceiling. Peter continued to talk about Captain America’s attributes like he was making a nature documentary.

“Spiderman, Avengers tower is for Avengers only, what are you doing here?”

“As you can see, the older variations of superhero like Captain America tend to be territorial. Don’t worry, I’m in no danger thought as long as I’m up here and I stay smart.”

“Why are you talking like that?” Captain America said. “Is that camera? Why are you recording? Spiderman this is extremely…”

“Now you can see some of the failings of the oldest variants. They question everything and tend to grow agitated when presented with the unknown. Not exactly the best friend material.”

That made the good captain look thoughtful.

“Is this your way of asking to join the team?”

“Uh oh, folks, looks like we might need to get out of here. This is when this species is at its most dangerous, when it starts to give a recruitment speech.”

“Is there someone on the other side of that camera? Spiderman!”

Peter managed to get away quickly enough to where Steve couldn’t follow thanks to Friday.

“Crickey mates that was a close one! Once Captain America starts to recruit you, you’re stuck!” Peter said. “Now let’s go and see what other creatures we can find!”

He crawled through the tower and found a few more Avengers, each of them being less than pleased with his antics. While filming Black Widow, Peter lasted all of about 23 seconds before her glare had him scampering off. Hawkeye just crawled through the vents to get away from Peter. Bruce calmy pointed out that currently he wasn’t a superhero as he wasn’t hulked out and therefore didn’t belong in the video. It was Thor that gave Peter the clip he needed.

Thor had more patience for shenanigans than most, probably because he’d grown up with Loki as a brother. Which meant that the King of Asgard, upon figuring out that Peter was on the hunt for a superhero to be friends with, not only began to list out his own attributes, but when that didn’t suit looked very thoughtful.

“Ah! I know! The ghost child!” Thor said. “He was rather clever wasn’t he? And you two bonded during battle! Perhaps you should seek him out!”

“Ah, I’m afraid Phantom is a creature too difficult to find, no matter how much I explore. I think he’d be an absolute beauty though.”

“I wish you luck on your quest.”

Peter crawled off and made his way back to Queens. Ned and MJ were there, snacking on some of Aunt May’s mini sandwiches. Together they quickly put together the perfect video, complete with voice overs, music, and effects. Eight hours after Peter first saw Phantom’s infomercial, he was uploading his own response right onto Spiderman’s twitter account. The video ended up being over five minutes long, but that was fine if the amount of likes he was getting was anything.

Peter moved around like there were spiders in his costume as he waited for something to happen. MJ told him to chill and Ned tried to calm him by pointing out that the video was awesome and there was no way Phantom wouldn’t like it. But what if Phantom thought it was stupid? What if it offended his ghostly sensibilities? Peter was just about to work himself up into a panic when his phone buzzed with a text.

He snatched it before MJ could and opened it up. A text from an unknown number.

It’s Phantom. Iron Man gave me your number.

Peter frowned and quickly typed back.

Prove it.

Selfie exchange? Well that was a reasonable suggestion. Peter made sure his mask was totally on and took a selfie of himself. He sent his off right as he received one in response, one that was definitely of Phantom, the ghost teen was holding up the peace sign.

So. You free tomorrow? We could hang out in NYC.

“He’s asking to hang out!” Peter hissed. “What do I do?”

“Say yes!”

“Don’t mess it up. I worked hard on those screen transitions.” MJ ordered.

“Okay. Okay. I can do this.” At least he hoped he could.

We could meet on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. 10 am?

Hell yeah dude. See you then!

“It worked.” Peter said staring at his phone screen in disbelief. “We’re going to hang out tomorrow.”

“I’m happy for you dude.” Ned said.

“Try not to cause too much trouble when I can’t be there to make fun of you.”

“No promises.”

Chapter Text

Peter halfway expected not to see Phantom that next day. Sure, they’d exchanged friendship videos on twitter, but what if it was a joke? Peter hadn’t spent the rest of his evening looking at videos and pictures of Phantom because he was stressed about not knowing everything for their so-called play date. And he didn’t gush about how cool Phantom was to Ned because he thought that the ghost would expect him to know his biography.

Was it a biography if the guy was dead?

Peter had at first only got into studying Phantom because Mr. Stark had sent him the twitter account and it became clear that the internet was full of information about Phantom. There were even conspiracy blogs! Images of Greek frescos of a being that looked suspiciously like Phantom riding in a chariot lined up next to images of journal entries from the 1600’s describing a ghost under a little boy’s bed that fit Phantom’s description exactly. How old was the teenager? Was it even fair to describe him as a teenager if he’d been around in ancient Greece?

Who was Peter kidding really? Phantom was cool. He’d been around for probably thousands of years, he had these amazing powers, and had excellent banter skills! Not to mention how great his video had been! Why would someone like that want to hang out with Spiderman? For all Phantom knew Spiderman was a two-bit hero who only protected New York because he wasn’t good enough to be an actual Avenger. Sure MJ said Phantom liked him but what if she was wrong? What if he ended up waiting alone on top of the Brooklyn Bridge all morning? Phantom didn’t even get along with the Avengers!

This was the same thing Peter had done with Mr. Stark after the trip to Germany. He’d put so much into the idea that he and Mr. Stark were going to be partners, that getting the suit and helping (and failing) Iron Man stop Captain America at that airport meant great things. He’d been so desperate for his expectations to be met that he’d inadvertently pushed Mr. Stark away, resulting in him losing his suit and getting a building dropped on him.

He could learn from that! Phantom had made one casual promise to hang out, in the middle of a tense situation. And then he’d scheduled a meet up over text. Phantom was already willingly interacting with him, that was way more than he expected. He needed to stop assuming that Phantom was going to pop out of a green portal and ask him to help him fight some ghosts or hang out in a ghost speakeasy. He was going to be cool and smooth.

“Hey.” Peter yelped, slipping from his perch on top of the bridge, before he could try to web his way back to safety, he felt a cold and yet not so cold hand grab his wrist. “Woah. You okay there Spiderman?”

Phantom was holding him with one hand like he didn’t weigh anything, his green eyes bright with concern. Peter could be cool, wait was it cool to let the other hero hold him up like he was a damsel in distress?

“Put me down!”

“Jeez sorry!” Phantom said plopping Peter back down on the roof. Be cool Parker. Be cool. “I just thought that…”

“Wait.” Peter said. “I just got startled. Usually my senses warn me when people are sneaking up on me.”

More specifically it warned him of danger but maybe his sense didn’t consider a ghost dangerous? Maybe it didn’t work on ghosts at all? Phantom looked a lot less hesitant, he’d been floating away earlier. Inwardly Peter breathed a sigh of relief. He could do this.

“What do you mean your senses?” He asked. “Cause if you’re trying to listen for a heart beat then…”

“No. No. I’ve got this like sixth sense for danger.” Peter explained. “My spidey sense.”

Which Peter was just now realizing was a really stupid name, he prepared for Phantom to make fun of it.

“I’ve got a ghost sense!” Phantom told him. “It doesn’t want me about danger, just…other ghosts. Which is almost the same thing. How does yours work? Mine is just like a breath of cold air.”

“I just get like a warning, like my brain screaming ‘danger’ but it never tells me what.” Phantom looked fascinated by that and Peter wondered why. Should he be suspicious? Was this some sort of ploy? Mr. Stark was always telling him to be more careful.

“So, do you…” Peter started to ask.

“How have you…” Phantom began at the same time.

They both stopped talking and looked at each other before looking away. Okay so this probably couldn’t get more awkward.

“You first.” Phantom offered.

“I was going to ask if you had any plans…?”

“Right yeah, I’m not…sure? I mean this is your turf.” Phantom said, making himself look more serious.

“I have…well there’s my patrol of the city! You could…join me if you want?”

Maybe he was stupid to invite the ghost, why would he want to go on patrol? He probably had way more important things than helping out the little guy.

“Really?” Phantom asked, brightly. “I’d love to!”

“Gr…great! Come on! I’ll show you what to do.” Peter figured it was a safe bet that Phantom didn’t actually know how to fight living people. All of the videos he’d seen online it looked like Phantom ran from human combatants like the ghost hunters.

Peter got his webshooters ready and Phantom moved to follow. Karen took the unspoken hint and brought up an image of Queens that showed where there was evidence of trouble. Peter looked around for a moment before nodding.

“There’s a convenience store getting robbed a few blocks from here. You protect the clerks while I take down the shooter.”

“Got it.”

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Two Weeks Later

It was going to be the greatest competition ever. They had planned for everything down to the tiniest of details. Danny floated around making sure that the camera set up that Spiderman had provided would be able to follow him even when he was going fast. It seemed that Loki’s magic was good for something at least.

“Looks good.” Spiderman said. “I tested mine out with my webs already!”

“Great!” Danny said turning to look at the red and blue hero. “Is everybody ready on your end?”

“My two friends are ready.” He confirmed.

“So are mine.” Danny told him, grinning with delight. “I’ll start the livestream then!”

It had been two weeks since he and Spiderman had first hung out, during that time Danny had managed to sneak into Queens to hang out with him three times in total. But now that his family was back in Amity, it was harder to get away for hours at a time. Not because he was lying to his parents but because ghost attacks didn’t just stop because Danny had a new friend. Most of their interactions were through texting. Which just made it easier to exchange memes so no one was really complaining.

But today! Today he was in Queens to do more than just hang out with the friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Today he was here to win. He turned on the camera and pressed a few buttons so that it was connected. Within seconds he got the all clear and he knew he was now livestreaming to the internet. Thanks to Tucker’s genius he knew he was streaming both on his twitter as well as on youtube.

“Hey everyone!” He said. “I hope this works and everyone can hear me alright. I’m in Queens today with the one and only Spiderman!”

Behind him he heard Spiderman greet the camera. Danny grinned, his excitement making his green eyes glow brighter.

“As most of the internet knows, lots of people on twitter helped me figure out how to make friends with him and it’s going great!”

“Yeah it is!” Spiderman agreed. “In fact, you could say it’s going Phan-tastically! Get it? You know, phantom fantastic.”

“I spy-dered what you did there.” Danny confirmed very seriously. “We’re here to give you an update.”

“Update is that we’re both awesome.” Danny lifted up a hand and gave the other teen a high five in agreement.

“So awesome. Like the most awesome you’ve ever seen.” Danny said affecting a Valley Girl accent.

“Totally.” Spiderman agreed in same tone.

“Today, we’re going to prove who is the most awesome.” Danny said, speaking in his normally ghostly voice. “That’s right it’s competition time.”

“It’s simple.” Spiderman told the camera. “We both have cameras that are enchanted to follow us around as we move throughout Queens. We’re going to split up, I have the east side and he has the west half.”

“The goal is to see who can help the most people, the true indicator of awesomeness.” Phantom continued. “We created a point system, we get ten points for every person we help, double that if we stop a crime! We found two groups of judges. A group of people I know from Amity are going to be watching Spiderman’s feed while a group of people Spiderman knows here in Queens will be watching mine. That way we have impartiality.”

“We can lose points if we go out of our designated areas, or if we ask for help finding people to help. The goal is to find as many people on our own as we can.” Spiderman added. “The judges will apply points live and the number of points we have will be in the bottom of our screens. That way anyone watching can keep track.”

“For the next six hours, we will be moving around the city and helping anyone we can find.” Danny said. “Then we’ll meet back here to see who won.”

“We decided that whoever wins gets to pick what our team name will be. Since we’re superheroes and we need a team name.” Danny said. “So, we picked pretty high stakes.”

“The highest.” Spiderman insisted. “Now, I’m going to get my stream going and then we’ll start the countdown.”

“Right.” Danny said. “May the best hero win.”

“Shoot! We forgot! What if like aliens invade or something?”

“How often does that happen, really?”

“It’s New York.”

“Okay. Fine. If there’s some sort of invasion or something, we’ll put the contest on hold to work together. Obviously, the city’s more important. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

“Cool. Then let’s get this party started.”

It took moments for Spiderman to get his stream going. Danny could already see that they were both trending on twitter and the number of live viewers on his youtube was almost worrying. He hoped that they didn’t crash anything. Once Spiderman confirmed he was ready, they started counting down from ten. Once they reached one, both of them shot off in opposite directions. Danny’s flight powers gave him a slight advantage on speed over Spiderman, but the other teen was far more familiar with the terrain than he was.

It took a few minutes for Danny to spot someone in trouble. A young college aged man carrying way too many books. Danny flew down, and spoke.

“Hey, you need any help?”

“AHH!” The books went flying and Danny quickly used his telekinesis to keep them from hitting the dirty sidewalk.

“Sorry!” He shouted. “Didn’t mean to scare you! I just wanted to help you with your books?”

“You’re that Phantom kid!”

“Yes I am. Where do these books need to go?” The guy looked a little sleep deprived and lost, which could mean a lot of things, but Danny was going to blame the number of books that had post-it notes sticking out of them on it. Slowly he pointed at a row of apartments down the street and Danny quickly helped him get his books to their rightful location. He flew off before the guy could thank him.

The next person he helped was an older woman who had dropped her purse, spilling the contents everywhere. Danny efficiently helped her clean up while she talked to him, totally unaware that he was dead. He kept dropping more hints about it, but she was also sort of deaf so she kept mishearing him Once her purse was set to rights and Danny had helped her cross the street and get to the nearest subway entrance, he flew off. The last thing she heard washer calling him a nice young man.

Next, he helped a group of kids get their basketball out of where it had gotten stuck, and then when they asked, played a game with them. In his ghost form he was actually pretty good at sports, even when he wasn’t actively using his powers. Once the game ended, he signed the basketball with a broken sharpie.

“Make sure to buy something cool and not illegal if you sell this on E-Bay.” He told them. “That’s what I’d do.”

“You kidding man? This is going give me so much cred at school.”

“A worthy goal. Now. I’ve got to go, there’s a competition I need to win.”

The kids wished him good luck. Danny kept flying, helping people on the way. Between him helping people, Danny kept up a running monologue to the camera. Mostly it was silly things, observations about the living world from the perspective of a dead guy. Once Danny had gotten over the fact that he had died, he was able to fully accept that he saw the world differently too. Jazz, much to her smug pleasure, had been very helpful in that process.

Anyway, all that meant was that Danny could confidently say crap like this.

“Why do racist people always say that racism is dead?” He asked, the camera, flying on his back towards destinations unknown. “Cause like, I think that’s offensive to ghosts everywhere.”

He turned to the left, his eyes scanning for anyone who looked like they could use a ghostly hand and then continued.

“Most ghosts aren’t racist. We discriminate solely on fighting ability. It’s a dog eat dog world as it were. People who win fights are better than those who lose. Your skin color or what place you were from before you die doesn’t mean anything. The only question is if you can throw down.” Danny said. “Now some ghosts are racist, but that’s because they were so racist when they were alive that it’s like the one defining characteristic that carried over when they died. And most of the time those racists get beaten up because they suck.”

He floated down a bit closer to the road, twisting around and checking again. He nodded to himself again and spoke.

“So yeah. Racism isn’t dead. That’s alive, more alive than a lot of people want to admit. Dead people aren’t dealing with it. But living people are dying because of it.” Danny nodded to himself. “So like, get yourself together living people and stop foisting your problems on us dead people. We’ve got enough on our plate. Oh look! Someone’s trying to put up some flyers!”

Danny then floated down and helped a volunteer put up flyers advertising a blood drive. During that time, he made at least five different vampire jokes, much to the amusement of the pimple faced 20 something year old. When he finished with that, he told the camera that anyone eligible in Queens should definitely go donate because living people needed blood. He was sure of it. Plus, you’d get free cookies!

He went to an animal shelter next and to see if they needed any help today. The teenaged volunteer, looked up from her phone where she was watching Spiderman’s stream, when he opened the door caused a bell to ring.

“Holy shit!”

“Why are you watching Spiderman’s? I’m much cooler.”

“I…he saved my life once?”

“Can’t argue with that. Is there anything I can help with real quick?”

“The dog cages need to be cleaned out and the kitty litter boxes should be emptied. If you’ve got the time.”

“If I have the time.” Danny scoffed. “Watch this.”

It took in total fifteen minutes to get everything done. This was mostly because he split himself into four copies and worked invisibly so that he didn’t startle the animals. Before he left he played with one of the bigger dogs that didn’t startle at the sight of a ghost and asked the gobsmacked teenager if this shelter needed donations.

“Hell, yeah we do.”

“Cool, give me the details so people can start sending money in and stuff.”

So, he tweeted out the details on where and how to donate and also some pictures of the cute St. Bernard named Joan who’d been such a good girl. The dog pic got retweeted by @WeRateDogs, which meant that Danny had truly peaked in his social media career. Nothing he did would ever top that, nothing. He left the animal shelter and continued on his merry way. This was the best idea he and Spiderman had had yet. That included the time they had a coffee drinking contest to see how insane amounts of caffeine affected their powers. Tony Stark was still repairing parts of Avengers Tower.

After two hours of helping out random citizens of Queens, Danny took a moment to check in with Phantom using the open comm channel they’d worked into their streaming system.

“Hey, Daddy Long Legs! How’s it going?”

“Please don’t call me that.”

“It’s too long isn’t it?” Danny asked with a grin. “I’ll shorten it for you, Daddy.”

“That’s so much worse. Please stop.”

“It’ll grow on you.” Danny said confidently. “But seriously, how are things on your end?”

“Great! I helped a little girl find her mom!”

“Dude. Nice.”

“So nice bro, you have no idea.”

“Bro.”

Bro.

“Wholesome, bro, So wholesome.”

“You know it!” Danny laughed and flipped upside. The camera followed so that it was now showing the busy traffic below him. “How about you?”

“It’s pretty good. I learnt how to play basketball today form some kids. Humans have so many different games.”

“Do ghosts not play games?”

“I know a few that play chess. But for the most part our only game is the game where we see who can beat up who.”

“Harsh.”

“It’s fine cause no one can beat me up better than me.”

“Oh worm.”

They talked for a while longer, mostly just razzing the other about the competition. But eventually Danny found another person to help and so they ended the call. Danny enjoyed moving through the city and finding different people to help. It was such a different atmosphere than Amity. Even after two years of trying to help a lot of people in his town screamed when they saw him. To the people in New York, he was just another hero in a suit. It was great!

He was asked by multiple people to take selfies which was super fun. He didn’t do it often because he needed to win this competition. But Danny reveled in their welcome, their lack of fear. He supposed he had the Avengers to thank for getting New Yorkers used to nonsense. Danny helped old ladies with their groceries and a few kids with their summer assignments. Danny may not have been very good at math, but boy did he love science, astronomy especially.

It took three and a half hours for Danny to stop his first crime. He stopped a mugger and used some of his ectoplasm to stick him to the ground. After fighting ghosts, it was almost too easy to take down normal humans. In fact, most of what he was doing that day was easy compared to how things were in Amity Park. In Amity Park he had to fight ghosts who knew his home address and used that to their advantage. He also had to deal with Vlad in Amity, which made things way more difficult than they had to be.

Stupid Vlad.

Danny found himself veering off, exploring deeper and deeper into the city. People would occasionally shout at him, asking for help or telling him he could do it. Eventually, entirely by accident he ended up near a hospital. Mostly the outside grounds in the back of the hospital. A place where patients and doctors could walk along stone paths surrounded by trees. It was nice, but definitely not a place for a ghost. It was super inappropriate for him to be here, in fact. He tried to sneak off without being seen but he heard the sound of crying and couldn’t ignore it.

Sitting on a stone bench was a young woman, her cheeks were stained with tears and her eyes red.

“Uhm.” He hadn’t meant to say that. The girl’s head shot up and she stared at him.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I…got turned around? Look are you okay?”

“Obviously I’m not.”

“Right, yeah.”

“Isn’t it weird for you? Being near a hospital? You’re a ghost!”

“Funeral homes are weirder. That actually startled a laugh out of the woman. Danny moved a bit closer. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her wrist and took in a deep breath.

“How are you so…normal?” She asked.

“Normal. Lady I’m a glowstick.”

“No, I mean. You’re dead, shouldn’t you be like traumatized? Shouldn’t you be miserable? You’re dead! And alone and you left everyone you knew behind! How are you so happy?”

There was a lot she left unsaid there. Danny could almost hear those secret questions in his brain, mirroring the ones he had asked himself so many times before. He licked his lips and then sat down on the grass in front of her.

“Dying was scary and…well painful. It’s not something I like thinking about. And yeah, I am sort of alone now. The family I used to have before is gone and I don’t really get along with most other ghosts.” Danny swallowed again and spoke. “But I know I loved my family. I can feel that love every day. Even if I can’t remember much from my time being alive, I know I loved my mom and dad, and my sister. How can I be unhappy knowing I was loved so much?”

She looked at him, her chocolate brown eyes wide and almost hopeful. Danny decided to continue.

“When people die, I don’t know what happens for most of them. Because I decided to linger on instead, but, what I do know is this. Strong emotions endure everything. Love continues on even after death. Those we loved who’ve died still love us, no matter where they are. That love connects us to them. I could be a ghost for 5000 years and I’d never stop feeling that love.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Do you get what I’m trying to say?”

She looked at him for just a moment, the tension mounting between them. Had he made a mistake? Why was he even here in the first place? No one wants comfort from a ghost, right? Abruptly, she fell down onto her knees and pulled him into a hug.

“Thank you.”

Maybe a hospital wasn’t a bad place for a ghost to be?

Danny spent the rest of the competition in the hospital. He went to the children’s ward and he did tricks and told jokes. He signed casts and even picked up a few of the children and carried them around so that it felt like they were flying. He almost didn’t realize the time was up until one of the kids pointed it out to him. He thanked him and rushed off back to the starting point.

“I totally forgot about the contest!” Danny said, as he spotted Spiderman waiting impatiently for him.

“It’s cool dude. How many points did you get? I got 1600.”

“Let me check.” Danny looked at his phone and sure enough there was a number there. “Well looks like I won.”

“What?”

“Oh yeah. I got 1605.”

Spiderman immediately began complaining about losing by such a small margin. But it didn’t matter, Danny was still going to pick the team name. He turned to the camera while Spiderman ranted in the background.

“Hey everyone, I’ll announce our team name tomorrow! For now I’m going to go rub my victory in Spiderman’s face!” Then the camera went dark.

Chapter Text

Danny woke up to the feeling of a post-it note on his forehead. It was ecto-green and it glowed slightly. He groaned and grasped at the paper, pulling it off of his forehead with a thwip. He flipped it around and read the words scribbled on there with the now annoyingly familiar print.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Why couldn’t the ghostly keeper of the timeline ever just say what he meant? Danny was pretty sure that Clockwork was just messing with him because it was funny at this point. He got up and dressed wondering what in the hell he was supposed to do with the message. Obviously, there was something, there always was. Clockwork only left notes for Danny when there was something in the timeline that needed fixing and Clockwork was too busy to do the grunt work himself.

Ever since the ‘Dan Incident’ Danny had been under the employ of the Master of Time, in the sense that Clockwork had saved him and his family and that had left Danny under Clockwork’s care. Clockwork’s version of care was throwing Danny random clues that ended up with him in some time in human history trying not to ruin the timeline while also saving it. It was annoying and happened way more frequently than anyone knew. Generally Clockwork would ensure that when Danny went on these timeline adventures that he always ended back up right when he started so that no one noticed he was gone.

It was sort of annoying. Danny had stepped up as Phantom to protect his town, not to become the time police.

He picked up his phone and carefully typed up the message and pressed send. Within seconds he got a message back from Spiderman.

Yes…?

So it’s not you then. That would have been too easy!

Dude what are you talking about?

It’s a ghost thing. I got a cryptic message and I have to give it to someone, but apparently it’s not you.

Does this happen often to you????

Ghosts are weird, dude.

So what? Are you just going to go around saying that to everyone on earth?

No. It’s always someone I already know. I thought it might be you since we just started being friends and all. But that’s too easy.

Do you have to give the entire message or is it like coded?

I’ve always just said the whole thing and it works.

Really? Can I help?

Well I got the message so that I can prevent the collapse of the timestream, seems like a superhero job.

There was silence for a moment and then his phone began to ring with a request for a face time. Danny yelped and immediately turned into a ghost and then flew straight through the ceiling so that he was sitting on the roof of his home. He carefully angled his body so that nothing but the morning sky showed in the background. He slid his thumb across the screen to reveal Spiderman sitting in his room, mask on.

“Dude. You’re joking right?”

“No?” Danny said. “I’m actually a member of the time police. I do time police-y things.”

“I thought you said the other ghosts hated you.”

“No one likes the cops.”

“Do you need help? I can call the Avengers?”

“No. the more people the harder it is not to break time.” Danny said. “If you want to help I don’t see why not. I just need to figure out what the problem is first. Like I said all I have is the message. I’m going to try a few prospective people in Amity but if that doesn’t pan out I’m going to bother the Avengers about it. One and at a time. If we do this right, no one will know we did anything.”

“Got it.” He said. “I’ll meet you on top of Avengers Tower in like…30 minutes?”

“Sounds good.” Danny said. “Thanks Spiderman. Team Nirvana out.”

Team Nirvana was a great name, no matter Sam said. After all, Nirvana wrote the song ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. Spiderman would grow to like the name, Danny was sure of it. Danny floated back down slowly through the house until he was in the basement.

“Hey mom, dad?” His parents looked up from their inventions they were working on for the Avengers.

“Danny-boy! What’s up?”

“Sweetie? Have you had breakfast? There are still some waffles left over for you.”

“Does the phrase ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ mean anything to you?” Danny asked.

“Well…other than the normal meaning, no. Why?”

“Weird ghost message. I have to tell this to someone to figure out how to help.” Danny explained. “Remember that ghost I told you about? Clockwork?”

Danny had told them a lot of things about the past three years, including the stuff with Dan. Which had been nothing short of a very painful conversation on all sides.

“Do you have to go on a time travel trip?” His dad asked seriously.

“Yeah I do. I should be back soon, I promise I’ll be safe. Clockwork doesn’t send me on missions I can’t handle.”

“Well, if you have time, I think we have a something new for you.”

He landed on the ground and walked over to his parents. His dad lifted up a…suit. Danny blinked in confusion. It looked like the suit he was already wearing, right down to the white insignia that Sam had designed for him. But the material looked different, tougher.

“What…?”

“We’ve been working with Tony.” His mom said. “The lab safety suit isn’t very good at protecting you in your fights. But you can’t just wear anything because you’ll phase through it in your ghost form.”

“So, we made something that should work with your powers and Tony here helped us make it tough that way you won’t get hurt.”

“You sure it’s going to work when I phase and turn invisible?” Danny asked, he was a little dubious about the claim, but his parents looked very confident and pleased with themselves.

“It should. Try it on sweetie.”

The suit was heavier than the safety suit. It wasn’t made of rubber but instead it was almost…metallic? It sort of reminded Danny of what Spiderman’s suit looked like. It didn’t take much work to put on the new suit, even going so far as to take off the one he’d always worn. It felt sturdier on him, less like he was going into battle without anything on.

“The belt has some portable ghost weapons and a miniaturized thermos!” Jack said. “That way you’ll always have some weaponry, you can clip a bunch of things on it if you need! If there’s anything you want us to add, just let us know.”

“Tony also added in a communication system that will let you connect to the Ops center here and to him if you need it.” His mom added. “We want you to use that, Danny. Anytime, you need it. Or even just want it. We’re a team on this.”

“I know mom.” Danny said. “Mind if I try the suit out?”

“Be our guest!”

As it turned out, the suit was much better than his old one. His parents had specially designed the gloves so that they focused his ecto-beams more. They were more powerful, and he had a really fine control about exactly how strong he wanted them to be. On top of that, the gloves helped him spread out his energy more easily to make shields. He could turn invisible and phase and he didn’t lose the suit.

“It’s great! I’m going to go test it out right now! Thanks mom, dad!” He pulled his parents into a hug and they didn’t hesitate to hug him back, ghost form and all. “I’ll be back really soon. I’m just going to take the portal.”

The last thing he heard was his mom reminding him to eat.

It didn’t take long after that to fly over to New York. Distances between places on earth when traveling through the zone were very variable. Danny, thanks to Clockwork and Wulf, had learnt how to confidently move through it. Which meant that he ended up right on top of Avengers Tower, right when he said he would be.

“I’m never going to get used to that.” Spiderman said.

“I did.” Danny said shrugging. “Now come on. Time to make fools of ourselves.”

“Do we really have to say that to everyone?” Spiderman asked dubiously.

“The timeline is at stake, Spiderman.” His friend narrowed the white eyes of his mask to show his dubiousness but didn’t argue.

“Your suit looks…different?”

“I don’t know how Tony figured out where I live…”

“Say no more. He did the same thing to me. You found all of the cool tech in there? I promise you there are surprises.”

“Really?”

Spiderman nodded and started telling him about Karen, his AI, as well as a few other interesting tidbits. Danny looked at his suit in curiosity but figured he’d have time to play with this gift later. Danny held out his hand and Spiderman took it without hesitation. Danny used his powers to pull them into the tower. It had taken Spiderman a while to get used to phasing through things, but he was a pro at it now. He didn’t even complain about the weird sensation anymore.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” Hawkeye asked.

They froze. Danny floating in the air and Spiderman sticking to the ceiling with his left hand.

“Uh…An apple a day keeps the doctor away?”

The archer glared at them for a moment before scoffing and turning away, declaring that he absolutely did not want to know. They stayed there for a moment before Spiderman turned to look at him.

“How did that work?”

“Uhm…luck? Come on. He’s obviously not the guy we need.”

“Is it even an Avenger?”

“No idea, but I have to start somewhere. Let’s go see who else is around.” Spiderman dropped down to the floor of the penthouse and they started moving around. The next person they saw was Vision. He didn’t react to the phrase at all beyond asking if either of them required the aid of a medical professional. Which was not at all what they wanted or needed.

Fortunately, they ran into Tony next.

“Tony!” Danny said. “Thank you so much for the new suit! You have no idea how much I owe you!”

“Are you kidding? The amount of stuff I learnt trying to make a material that would work with your powers has given me at least four new patents!”

“Right, you know what they say. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Tony narrowed his eyes as he looked at the two of them. Danny and Spiderman exchanged a quick look and then looked back at Tony.

“Is this some sort of new meme? I swear to g-d if you are recording me right now I will…”

“No! Not a meme!” Spiderman said. “I swear Mr. Stark, we wouldn’t do that to you!”

“You both are menaces! I wouldn’t put it past you. Go do some mischief out of my earshot please? I have a meeting with the Accords Council today.”

Danny winced at the tiredness in Tony’s tone and wished him luck. Spiderman did the same and they quickly left the genius on his own. They took the stairs down a few floors, as they moved Spiderman started to talk.

“You know Phantom, you don’t have to make up a reason to meet up.”

“What?” Danny asked.

“I’m just saying, we’re friends, you can just come to Queens and hit me up. Making up a story about the timeline isn’t necessary-”

“Spiderling!” Thor yelled in greeting as they entered the room. “And Phantom! I see you are both in fine form today.”

“Well, you know Thor.” Danny said looking at the tired looking King of Asgard. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Immediately Thor frowned, a look of hopelessness stealing over his face. Spiderman froze next to him as Thor huffed out a laugh that didn’t even sound like a laugh.

“Apples. It seems no matter what I do I can’t forget about those for a moment.”

“What’s wrong?” Spiderman asked.

“Oh it’s…my people, well, we lost everything when my sister destroyed our home. But nothing as important as the golden apples of Indunn.”

“Golden Apples?” Danny asked. “We have gold on earth. I’m sure Tony could…”

“They are not literally gold.” Thor chastised. “They were fruits of great magical power. When an Aesir ate one on the seventh day of their birth, they were gifted with immortality and strength. Without the apples, any children we bear will wither and die within months of being born on this planet.”

“Seriously?” Spiderman demanded.

“We are a people of magic, who gained our strength and health from Asgard itself. Now that the realm is gone and without the apples to replace it. I know that our children will die. Loki is working trying to find some sort of replacement but…”

He sounded so helpless and lost. Like he was about to give up.

“These apples.” Danny said. “How did you get them?”

“Oh, there was a grove of them just outside the royal city, protected by Indunn herself. They were beautiful trees, with golden twisted bark and leaves the color of blood.” Thor said recalling them fondly before shaking his head. “Why?”

Danny reached down and grabbed Spiderman’s shoulder.

“No reason! Just trying to learn more about our new alien neighbors. Come on Spiderman, let’s go…do that thing!”

He pulled the stunned hero out of the room much to Thor’s bewilderment and soon they were alone in another room. Spiderman looked up at him, his eye covers wide and white.

“Holy shit. You really are the time police.”

“I forgive you for doubting me.” Danny sniffed. “Now come on. We’ve got to save Thor’s people.”

“But how? Asgard is gone, the apple grove is destroyed.”

“Yes, in this time it is.” Danny said.

“You’re not saying what I think you’re saying are you. Because if you are, then holy fu-”

“You know Back to the Future didn’t get it all wrong.”

Spiderman made a noise that sounded like he was screaming with his mouth closed. Danny lifted up his left hand and opened a portal to the Ghost Zone, before Spiderman could react Danny grabbed him and pulled them both in. That time Spiderman screamed with his mouth open. Danny laughed as his friend started splaying out his limbs and spinning randomly in the green and purple sky.

“Oh my g-d. What happened? Why is the sky green? Why am I floating? Why can’t I stop! Danny! Am I in hell? I’m in hell!! Did I just die? Mr. Stark is going to kill me if I just got murdered!”

“Spiderman.” Danny said grabbing onto his friend and stabilizing him. “You’re not dead.”

“Oh. That’s…that’s good.”

“And depending on what you define hell as you may or may not be there.”

“Where am I?”

“The Ghost Zone.”

Spiderman didn’t scream that time but it was probably close. Instead he looked around a bit. They were floating quite high in the air. Far below them you could barely see the dark brown ground of the GZ where all those creepy bone hands were waiting to grab at you. More clearly there were doors of various colors and designs floating around along with large blocks of rock and dirt.

“This is where you live?”

“Well not here specifically.” Danny said. “My haunt is…that way.”

He pointed out the direction of Pariah’s Keep. Because he had defeated Pariah Dark one on one technically the guy’s castle belonged to him now. Not that Danny ever used it.

“Are we going there?”

“No, we’re going to go to Asgard and steal a golden apple.”

“You can do that?”

“Anyone can do that if they come here.” Danny said easily. “In the Ghost Zone time doesn’t work like it does in every other realm. You just find the right place and you can open a portal to any time, both past and future.”

“Dude.”

“I know right?”

“So, like…do you time travel a lot?”

“Yeah, anytime I know I can be of help.” Danny said. Clockwork had made it very clear that you didn’t go time traveling for fun or for profit. Although Danny still did sometimes sneak around to go see cool historical sites.

“Everyone thinks you’re like a thousand years old because you keep showing up in historical records.”

“Dude, I died three years ago.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So, you…I mean you died and you just became a superhero?”

“What else was I supposed to do?”

“What about your family?”

“Most ghosts don’t remember anything from before.” Danny said. “And it’s kind of…painful to try and think about it.”

“I’m sorry.” Danny shook his head, it was fine. His relationship with his family was better than ever.

“They live in Amity.” Danny said. “That’s why I protect the town. I’m trusting you not to go looking, or tell anyone. I don’t want people going to my grave or bothering my family.”

“I won’t. I swear.” And Danny trusted him.

“Come on, let’s go find a portal to Asgard. I need you to steal the apple, since I’m dead the magic on the apple would probably get all messed up if I touched it.”

“Right, and then we’ll just give it to Thor?”

“No, I think we need to make sure it grows into a new tree. That way they can plant it in New Asgard and within a year or so they’ll have apples for their kids.” Danny decided. “I know someone who’s really good with plants who’ll help me with that part. It’s best if Thor has no idea what we’re doing.”

“Why?”

“Time travel can be dangerous. If Thor or anyone finds out how easy it is, then they’d be tempted to go back in time and mess with things, thus destroying the timeline and all life in the universe.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah I only time travel when I get messages from the guy in charge of the time line telling me it’s okay. Like today.”

“There’s a guy in charge of the time line?”

“For ghosts at least. He makes sure we don’t destroy stuff.” Danny said. “It’s complicated.”

“Got it. Alright, how do we find Asgard?”

“I’ve never been there, but…I’m pretty sure Asgard is above earth.”

“Above?”

“Yeah, let’s fly up until we see stuff that looks Asgardian floating around. Be careful. Don’t open any doors without me, they always have eldritch horrors inside them.”

“How pleasant. I can’t fly.”

“Here you can. Just, feel like flying.”

“Like Neverland?”

“Think happy floaty thoughts.”

It took Spiderman a moment to get the hang of flying on his own but once he did, they started moving straight up. It took a while, much longer than anticipated before Danny started spying floating pieces of detritus that reminded him of Thor and Loki’s stuff. He’d been warned by Clockwork to avoid the Asgardian part of the Ghost Zone because of Hela’s presence there but now that she was gone, it was safe. Thankfully the long flight was much less boring with Spiderman there to keep him company.

“This looks right.” Spiderman said pointing at a piece of concrete that had a painting of a man with an eyepatch on. “I think that’s Thor’s dad, Odin.”

“Then we’re definitely here.” Danny decided. “Come on let’s find a place to rest our feet before I open a portal.”

They floated around until Spiderman spotted a rather large rock, at least the size of a football field on its top surface. It had a throne made of green bones on it. Just sitting there in the center, not at all looking just like the worst thing he’d ever seen. Were those skulls on the seat? Gross. But it also had some decently sized boulders that were much less creepy to sit on.

“Is all the décor here like that?” Spiderman asked pointing at the glowing throne.

“No. I’m pretty sure this was where Hela was stuck. She was a huge creep. A bunch of ghosts warned me not to come up here because she enslaved every ghost she caught.”

“She sounds awful.”

“Yeah. When Thor killed her by destroying Asgard, he freed millions of ghosts from an eternal lifetime of slavery. It’ll be good to help him back.” Danny decided. “I think I can swing this golden apple thing as like a…thank you for freeing us sort of thing.”

“That’s a great idea! The only thing better would be if we could find his hammer!”

“His hammer.” Danny said. “I thought that got destroyed.”

“Could Hela have really destroyed it? It’s supposed to be made of the strongest material in the universe and forged in the heart of a dying star.”

Okay so Danny could admit it sounded a little far fetched that she would destroy it. Not that she could. He firmly believed that she could do it. But it was a powerful weapon, something any villain worth their salt would want to keep. Danny got up from his boulder and floated around the rock face, inching closer to the throne.

“I think she could destroy it. She was like…ultra world destroying powerful.”

“Oh.”

“But. I don’t think she did.” Danny said. “I think it would have been easier just to hide it and use magic to make it look like she destroyed it.”

“So, where’d she hide it then?”

“Someplace only she could get it.” Danny said pointing at the throne.

“No way.” Spiderman said scrambling up from his resting spot. “You can’t get on that! What if the moment you sit down the bones come to life and grab you!”

Danny had to admit that had a pretty high likelihood of happening. This was the Ghost Zone after all. Was it worth the risk?

“It could also like glow and electrocute me a bunch with magical energy.”

“It’s definitely cursed dude! This isn’t Buzzfeed Unsolved!”

“Obviously! I’m an actual ghost!”

“If you sit in that chair you will die twice!”

“That’s not how it works!”

“What if it turns you evil?”

Danny paused. That was a risk he was willing to take at least slightly seriously. He didn’t think it would, but it could. He had a feeling Hela hadn’t cursed her own throne.

“If it turns me evil, just make me good again with the power of friendship.”

“That’s not how it works!”

“It worked last time.”

“LAST TIME?”

Danny laughed and floated over to the chair, right before he landed in it, Spiderman spoke again.

“If you end up cursed or something. I’m not to blame.”

“Deal.” Danny said and then sat down.

Nothing happened. Literally nothing.

Danny frowned and moved around. He crossed and then uncrossed his legs. He put his hands on the bones that acted as the arm rests. He wiggled his butt a little. Nothing.

“Well…that was anticlimactic.”

“You think?” Danny sighed and put an elbow up on the arm rest and put his chin in his hand. “Speaking of. Buzzfeed Unsolved, we should totally do a cameo.”

“A cameo?”

“Yeah, figure out what ghost story they’re doing and then start actually haunting the place before they go there. We could totally freak ‘em out.” Spiderman actually laughed at the idea and they began to plot out how they could freak out the Buzzfeed guys. Eventually Danny started acting out what he’d say to scare the guys while they were in the haunted house, while sitting in the chair. “I AM PHANTOM! DEFEATER OF PARIAH DARK AND RIGHTFUL KING OF HEL! GIVE ME YOUR HEART THAT I MAY FEAST UPON IT’S POWER!”

Immediately the throne began to glow with green fire and Danny screamed in fright while Spiderman jumped back about ten feet in shock. The bones began to creep up and grab at him as the fires encased him in a circle. Danny shut his eyes trying to pull away as the light increased to the point of pain. Abruptly as soon as it came it stopped. Danny opened his eyes to find that he was trapped by boney hands and in front of him, still smoking slightly was Thor’s hammer.

Spiderman stared at the hammer and Danny did the same.

How did that work?

Why did that work?

“Dude?” Danny asked. “Could you…get me out of this?”

“Shit!” Spiderman scrambled over, totally ignoring the hammer. He used his surprising strength to snap the bones into pieces helping Danny get free. Danny jumped out of the chair as if it was still on fire.

They both stood there, clinging to each other, breathing way too hard for a few moments.

“So.” Danny said. “That…worked.”

“I can’t believe that worked.”

“Me either.” Danny admitted. “Come on. I’ll take the hammer, and you can focus on getting an apple. Try to get a good one, large.”

“Are you sure we should take an apple? Maybe that’s not how they grow the trees in Asgard.”

Danny frowned as he knelt down and picked up the hammer. A strange sensation tingled pleasantly down his arm. He carefully clipped the hammer onto his new belt where it rested comfortably against his hip, almost humming.

“There’s one person we could ask who would know.” Danny said. “But he’s kind of a bad guy that I put in ghost jail.”

“And he’ll help?”

“He should. He’s obsessed with plants. If we tell him we’re trying to save an extinct plant and give it a new place to thrive where it will be well cared for, he’ll tell us what we need to know.”

“Okay. How far away is he?”

“Actually, not far I don’t think. The Observants kept him locked up and their place is only like thirty minutes of flying from here. I’ve never been there but…it shouldn’t be too hard to find.”

“Then let’s go.”

It was actually closer to fifteen minutes. Danny had a feeling that Clockwork had moved the Observant’s Council Hall closer just for that reason. Thankfully they got in without problem, also probably due to the Master of Time’s meddling. In fact, Danny knew the ghost was helping because he found a green post-it note that had a map of the Council Hall drawn out with a black ‘X’ showing where they had to go. Danny showed Spiderman the green notes and explained that this was a sign they were on the right track.

“So, if I ever see a note like that should I just…do whatever it says?”

“Text me first.” Danny decided. “I wouldn’t put it past Clockwork to pull you into stuff but we should back each other up. Besides, it could be a fake note, so always double check.”

Spiderman nodded and then they hurried down a few flights of stairs until they found the prison block. Thankfully Undergrowth wasn’t frozen or anything, just shrunk down and trapped in a glass tube. Danny hadn’t seen the guy since the ghost’s attempt to take over Amity and turn every human there into plant food. He hadn’t missed him and apparently that feeling was entirely mutual. He growled and slammed on the glass when he saw Danny.

“You! You stopped me from freeing earth of its animal oppressors.”

“Right. I…” Danny said preparing to get as intimidating as needed.

“Can you help us, Mr. Undergrowth sir?” Spiderman asked, right over Danny. His voice was ever so polite and earnest. “We’re trying to grow an apple tree, but we don’t know how.”

Undergrowth blinked, his red eyes glowing a little less insanely as he looked down at Spiderman.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Spiderman sir!” He said. “I just found out about this apple tree that got destroyed cause of Hela and we want to try and save the species, but we don’t know how!”

Undergrowth looked almost kind as he hummed.

“Oh yes. The golden apple tree. A wonderful tree, the first and only of its kind in the entire universe. A pity Hela allowed them to burn.” He said. “If you swear you are going to go and grow a tree, and protect it with your worthless lives, I’ll tell you how to grow it.”

They both nodded eagerly. Danny couldn’t believe that Spiderman had gotten the ghost’s compliance.

“First you must take a knife made of pure gold, then you should go up to one of the fully grown trees. Pluck three apples from the tree, make sure your skin, undead or not, does not touch the apples or they will wither and be useless to you.” Undergrowth said. “Then you must find a proper cutting place.”

They listened as Undergrowth described in almost obscene detail where to cut off a branch from the grown tree and how to cut it and care for the now removed branch. There was a special type of mush they should create using two of the golden apples that they need to coat the bottom of the branch in and mix into the soil they are planting into so that it will produce apples on its own. Finally, they needed to let it take root for three weeks in partial sunlight while it is watered every six hours with a special mixture of water and the pressed liquid from the third apple.

“Once it has taken root, it need only be watered once a week with normal water and it can be replanted anywhere. They are sturdy plants past that point.” Undergrowth finished. “Do you understand? I know Phantom you can be quite ham handed with…”

“I was going to have Sam do it.” Danny admitted. “You remember her right? The human girl you possessed to be the mother of your garden?”

Immediately Undergrowth perked up, he no longer doubted the survival of the tree.

“If you want the tree to produce fruit I suggest planting at least three.” He added. “That way they can cross pollinate one another and begin to grow a new grove on their own.”

“So, three cuttings from three different trees and nine apples.” Spiderman said. “We won’t let you down!”

“Go before the Observants catch you causing trouble.”

Danny nodded and pulled Spiderman away so that they could get out of there as fast as possible. They went back to Hela’s rock as Danny had taken to calling it in his head, and sat down on the rocks once more.

“Alright. I think you should handle the apples.” Danny decided. “You’re covered head to toe so there’s no way you’ll touch the skin. I can handle getting the cuttings.”

“Sounds good. You going to open a portal?”

“Yeah.” Danny said. “Let’s hope this is a good time.”

He closed his eyes and focused. Carefully he sent out a pulse of energy and forced a crack between the realms to open. He heard Spiderman gasped and opened his eyes to reveal the portal opened to a golden city.

“That’s Asgard.” Danny said. “Come on let’s go.”

“Holy shit I’m going to an alien world.”

Danny grinned and pushed his friend through before the portal closed on them. The air tasted sweet in Asgard. Literally. Danny didn’t know that air could taste sweet, but it definitely could. They’d ended up in someone’s backyard. Thankfully no one was in the backyard at the time. That would have been really awkward. The home reminded Danny of something you’d see in a Viking movie. It was awesome.

“Dude.” Danny said. “This is sick.”

“Agreed. Where are the apples?”

“Thor said they were just outside the royal city.” Danny said. “We have to assume the huge glittering palace is the royal palace.”

“So, we just have to explore around it?”

“First we blend in.” Danny said, nudging Spiderman to look over at the drying clothes that fluttered in the wind. The people who lived here had recently done their laundry it seemed.

“We’re going to steal clothing?”

“Do you want to get chased by royal guards and thrown into jail?”

Soon they were dressed in Asgardian cloaks, with the hoods up to hide Danny’s glowing hair and Spiderman’s bright red mask. From there it was much easier to move around. Danny had the large war hammer on display and people looked at it with respect, which meant that no one gave them much trouble. Soon they found themselves in a forest, hoping beyond hope they’d run into some trees with blood red leaves.

They didn’t expect to run into two very familiar princes.

Thor didn’t look older than 8 human years old and Loki looked closer to 6. They were play fighting in a clearing with two dull swords that they’d clearly stolen as they were a bit too large for their childlike forms. Spiderman and Danny just stood there watching the child versions of the two most powerful people they knew.

“They were cute kids.”

“Yeah.” Spiderman said. “We…we really time traveled.”

“Would I lie to you?”

“I thought maybe it was a prank almost, this is so insane.”

“Just stay cool, we’ll be back in our time soon enough.”

They watched for a little while longer as Thor and Loki pretended to be great warriors and fight off invisible foes. It was all terribly adorable. Unfortunately, Loki spotted them.

“Who are you! Come out or I’ll call the guards!” Danny grabbed onto Spiderman’s arm and mouthed the words Follow my lead and then led them both out into the clearing.

“Remove your hood!” Thor ordered. Danny quickly did so.

“Please don’t ask my friend to remove his. A witch cursed him with a terrible cursed. Anyone who looks upon his face is turned to stone. He wears his hood and a mask to protect those he loves.” Danny said solemnly.

“What an awful curse!” Thor said believing it immediately. “Loki don’t you think mother would be able to lift it?”

“Of course, she could.” Loki said without hesitation, even if he looked like he didn’t believe Danny’s hastily made up story. “She’s the best magic user in the nine realms!” “Thank you.” Spiderman said, quickly thinking on his feet. “But…if it’s removed, I fear that the witch will attack my family and I am very far from home.”

“You are very brave and honorable.” Thor said.

“What brings you to Asgard?”

“We wished to see the finest realm in all the nine!” Danny lied. “We are just exploring. I wonder, would you two happen to know if there are any places we should not go?”

“Indunn’s garden is forbidden.” Thor said. “It’s that way, if you walk that way and see a golden fence don’t cross it! The fence guards the golden apples of immortality!”

Loki slapped his brother and told him to shut up.

“Look at him. He’s glowing. That’s not normal!”

“They must good people, after all he wears a mask to protect people.”

“Or to hide his identity. They could be criminals.”

Thor looked at both of them.

“Are you criminals?”

“No of course not!”

“See brother! You’re worried for nothing.”

“A criminal wouldn’t admit to being one.” The young child trickster said. “We should call for father.”

Danny could tell this situation was rapidly getting out of control. So, he decided to do some damage control before Loki called for people who would definitely know a ghost when they saw one.

“Please. We don’t mean any harm. Honestly. How can we prove our good intentions?”

Loki stared at Danny for a moment before nodding.

“Tell us your names and where you are from. That way if anything should happen our father can have you locked up.”

“I’m Danny Jackson.” Danny said. “I’m from a small place called Amity.”

“I’m Pete Mayson, I’m from a large town called Queens.”

Loki narrowed his eyes and then nodded.

“They’re not lying.”

“Good! Then they must be friends! Tell me, what sort of hammer is that?”

Danny quickly started telling stories about his amazing hammer that enthralled the two young princes. Spiderman helped and soon enough the two young boys were dozing in the afternoon sun, having been lulled to sleep by their voices. It was clear that the two princes had forgotten about this day as they aged, maybe they thought it a dream. It didn’t matter they hadn’t seen any bit of Spiderman’s costume and even if they did remember it was unlikely they’d equate a white haired person in Asgardian wear with the jumpsuit wearing ghost that bothered them over a thousand years later.

“Come on. Let’s go get those apples before we run into any more trouble.” Spiderman said.

They rushed through the forest in the direction Thor had pointed and soon enough found the golden fence in question. There were powerful magics protecting the place but with Danny’s ghost powers it was easy enough to bypass them. Spiderman started collecting apples while Danny turned invisible and found Indunn’s garden shed. He phased through and stole one of her golden knives as well as a bucket with water inside it and then started floating among the trees.

It didn’t take Danny long to find the proper branches for his three cuttings. After all, he could fly and the trees were in a constant state of spring with a bunch of new sprouts. Danny knew the only reason they hadn’t been caught was the fact that he was a ghost and Spiderman was human. It was unlikely that the warding magic considered ghosts or humans as threats they needed to protect against. Which was really very lucky, because Danny did not want to fight any Asgardians today.

Not even Clockwork would be so cruel.

Once they had what they needed, which was three cuttings sitting in a stolen bucket of water and nine apples stored in Spiderman’s new Asgardian cloak. Danny carefully opened a portal.

“Come on let’s go.” Danny said.

They left Asgard, with no one the wiser.

Getting to Amity and in the right time didn’t take much work either. The moment they were there, Danny called Sam and told her they needed her help growing a plant. She told them to hurry.

“Who is Sam?” Spiderman asked.

“She’s one of my first human friends. I met her…pretty much right after I died. She’s nice, loves plants.”

“Did she…know you before?”

“That’s a long story. Come on, let’s get to her greenhouse.”

They moved through Amity, Danny pointing out the interesting sights in the town. Including the high school, the mall, and the Nasty Burger. It was very different from Queens and Spiderman had only ever lived in the huge city center. A small town like this was totally foreign to him. Eventually they got to the outskirts where Sam lived. He took them around to the backyard where Sam had her personal gardens.

“Woah.”

“Yeah Sam’s family is rich. Not Tony Stark rich, but up there. Sam loves gardening, and all things goth. She’s a bit of an activist so don’t say anything too…”

“Controversial? Trust me I know the type. One of my friends. Let’s call her M. She’s insane. I love her but like…”

“She can be the most terrifying creature you’ve ever met?” Danny guessed.

“Yeah.”

“Then you already know how to deal with Sam.”

“Why would he need to know how to deal with me?” Danny yelped in shock as he saw Sam standing there in her steel toed combat boots. She glared up at him.

“He was just telling me how smart and talented you were.” Spiderman said, his voice a bit too high pitched to be believed.

“Yeah, sure he was. Get inside you two before my parents see. Tell me how you expect me to grow golden apples of immortality.”

Danny lifted up the bucket of cuttings and Spiderman pulled out a shiny apple. She rolled her eyes and motioned them inside. Danny explained the adventure they’d been on and what Undergrowth had told them. Sam didn’t ask if he was lying. If there was one thing Undergrowth respected it was plants. He wouldn’t lie about it. Especially when there was nothing to gain. They all quickly began working together, preparing everything so that the trees would grow.

“So. Spiderman.” Sam said. “I’ve got a question for you.”

“Uh, sure.”

“Why didn’t you sign the Accords? I though they were for all superheroes?”

“For that matter.” Danny said. “Should I be worried about the accords?”

“That’s a long story.” Spiderman said.

“Dude.” Danny said motioning to the preparations going on around them. “We’ve got the time.”

So that was how Danny learned about the Avenger’s Civil War. Which was like super messed up. Spiderman described the whole thing, including his part in it. By the time the three cuttings were planted in their own deep pots, Danny had come to the decision that he was glad he hadn’t had to be a part of this. It didn’t seem like there was a right side to it at all.

“Alright.” Sam said. “I’ll watch over these for the next few weeks, make sure they’re watered and doing well. Then you should take them to the Asgardians, they’re more familiar with them.”

“Thanks, so much Miss Manson.” Spiderman said.

“My friends call me Sam Spiderman.”

“Right. Well thanks Sam. Seriously.”

“Any time.” She said. “Now go. I’m supposed to be with my mom looking at dress options.”

They both cringed out how awful that sounded and escaped before they got trapped into anything similar. Danny told his friend he’d take him back to Queens using a portal since it’d be way quicker right when his ghost sense went off. He gasped almost pained and Spiderman asked what was wrong. A moment later Spiderman gasped and then pulled Danny roughly to the side. A huge electrified harpoon embedded itself into the street right where they were. Danny looked up to see Skulker.

“Ghost Child.”

Danny looked down at the bulky cloak he was still wearing and then at the same one on Spiderman.

“Let’s get out of these cloaks and kick his ass.”

“After you.”

It was like art, the way they worked together. They might not have had much practice fighting ghosts together, but they were good at anticipating the other. When Danny went left, Spiderman moved right. They synced with each other. Spiderman’s spidey-sense was perfect for dodging all of the crap Skulker had on his mech suit and Danny’s new suit worked like a dream. It was different than fighting with Sam, Tucker, and Jazz. His friends were great but they couldn’t move as fast or as agilely as his spider friend could. On top of that his friends had to hold back to hide how good they were at fighting so that no one could suspect his secret identity. Spiderman had no limitations.

It was awesome.

Spiderman used his webs to grab at moving projectiles and pull them down onto the street to keep them from hitting anyone, as well as moving citizens out of the way as Danny kept Skulker occupied. Danny’s moves were quick and graceful as he flew through the air dodging blasts of energy and trading quips with the ghost hunter. At the same time Danny managed to distract Skulker enough that he stayed corporeal. Which made it perfectly easy for his living friend to hit him with a web and pull him down onto the ground hard.

Dazed it was easy for Danny to pull out the portable thermos and suck the ghost right up. Once it was done Danny flew right down to Spiderman and pulled him into a hug.

“We did it!”

“Yeah!” He hugged right back, and they spun around, in the air. Danny abruptly realized how weird that was and pulled away for a moment. His cheeks turned slightly green and he wished for a moment that he was wearing a face mask. Danny gently lowered his friend to the ground.

“Right. Let’s get you back to Queens.”

“That…that sounds good.”

When they got back to Queens, Danny thanked his friend for the help and promised to let him know when the plants had taken root. Spiderman wanted to be there when Danny presented the gifts of both the hammer, and the tree saplings to the king of Asgard.

“Thanks for helping me today.”

“Dude, anytime. Pun intended.”

Chapter Text

“We’ve got to face the facts.” Loki said, for what felt like the 100th time. “There’s no way to rebuild our people here.”

“What other realm would take us?” Thor shot right back.

Loki glared right back at his brother, his king, and tried not to grind his teeth. Thor kept giving him looks that seemed to imply that the man thought that Loki wasn’t trying hard enough. As if Thor’s request had been oh so reasonable. Just find a way to recreate the key to immortality and godhood. It shouldn’t be too hard. Loki knew damn well that it was impossible, especially if Thor had his heart set on building Asgard here on Midgard, such a magicless planet.

Oh sure it produced a few wizards and sorcerers every once in a while but this planet didn’t create enough magical energy to support the growth of an Asgardian. It just didn’t. And there was no way Loki could recreate the golden apples. They were screwed to use a Midgardian turn of phrase.

“You’re a king, be a diplomat Thor and find another place.”

“No. No we must be here.” Thor said seriously. “You and I both know that evil is coming to Midgard. We both have a duty to defend it.”

Now that was technically true. Which, generally, was Loki’s favorite kind of truth. But still. Thor must have read the look on his face.

“I know, brother. I know it seems impossible but we must keep trying.” His voice was so desperate. “Please I cannot do any of this without you.”

“Fine.” Loki said. “There’s a library in Alfheim I can try next.”

It was a long shot, not that Thor needed to know that. Odin and Bor had both done everything in their power to ensure that no knowledge of the golden apples even left their realm. If Alfheim had ever had a book about it, it was likely burned, destroyed or stolen on Asgard’s orders. But Loki would still go and look for any clue or hint. He’d not find anything and then he’d return to earth and to Thor’s disappointed face.

How tedious.

Currently they were in New York. Which wasn’t always the case. The Asgardian refugees had been given land on another part of the planet. A country called Iceland had offered them up a safe place with picturesque views. Norway, Sweden and Denmark had all offered supplies to help them rebuild. That on top of the aid from Stark himself had ensured that the Asgardians had practically everything they needed to make a home. Although the amount of people Loki had run into in Iceland who had the name Thor Thorson was rather…untenable at times.

Granted there was still more than enough Loki themed things to let it slide. Overall Iceland was quite wonderful and if they weren’t having to worry themselves over these damnable apples it would be quite perfect. It was perhaps a good thing that they were in New York today for a meeting with Stark. A meeting that had just ended. Loki always enjoyed coming to New York, especially since Phantom had appeared. The ghost caused so much trouble every time he appeared that Loki couldn’t help but giggle.

Phantom was an enigma all things considered. He acted like no ghost Loki had ever known or read about. He interacted with the living in a way that most ghosts never would. Not just the heroic thing. Ghosts would do that if it pleased them. No Phantom went around and helped people put up posters and gave dogs scratches under the chin. Phantom didn’t do it for the publicity either. He was notorious for avoiding news reporters. The only time Phantom was seen on camera was if it was Phantom’s own camera doing the recording.

He was fascinating and Loki always looked forward to the chance of seeing him more. Even if Thor and the other Asgardians weren’t as sure. Thor, by far, had been the most open minded. Mostly due to Stark vouching for the ghost. Brunhilde on the other hand was very, very suspicious. Especially after Hela had used ghosts in her attack so viciously. Hiemdall was suspiciously quiet, but that was just that man’s way most of the time. The gatekeeper couldn’t see into Hel very well, he probably wasn’t pleased to know so little about Phantom.

“Excuse me.” Friday said. “King Thor and Prince Loki, you’ve been asked to come to the penthouse of the tower. Spiderman and Phantom want to speak with you.”

“We are busy.” Thor said. “We don’t have time for games.”

“If the ghost wants to speak with us I highly doubt we’ve got a choice.” Loki said. “Come on, Thor, we’ll argue more later.”

Thor sighed and got up. No one had seen the ghost for about three weeks. Ever since he’d bothered Thor and some others with a ridiculous apple game, Spiderman on his tail. Loki was only a little disappointed that their game about apples and doctors never went anywhere. It had seemed like the set-up to a glorious prank. They took the elevator up to the penthouse. They were met by the elevator by Spiderman almost immediately.

“You’re here!” he said. “Danny’ll be here in a couple of minutes!”

“Why did you want to see us?” Loki asked, his voice hopeful. Please let them say a prank, please please please.

“It was Danny’s idea mostly.” Spiderman said. “We were talking about the ghost zone and what it’s like in his home and he told me about Hela.”

Their sister? That Hela? Had Phantom known her?

“What about her?” Thor asked.

“Apparently, she was like super mean Mr. Thor, I mean Your Highness.” Spiderman said awkwardly. “Phantom told me that she used magic control on like every ghost she met so that there were like a million ghost slaves before she invaded Asgard. Once she was killed everyone was free and it was safe to travel around!”

Loki had to admit he had never considered just where Hela had gotten her army of dead. It hadn’t mattered. But now Loki was forced to consider how willing that army had been. Hela had been confined to Hel for well over 2000 years, he tried to imagine the tyranny she would have caused in that time. No wonder ghosts like Phantom spent their time on Midgard instead of their own realm.

“And Danny’s real happy now that she’s gone. A bunch of ghosts are!” Spiderman added. “But Danny was also sad cause you’re home got destroyed and he felt bad being happy that she was dead because of what happened.”

“Is there an end to this story?” Loki asked dryly.

“Me and Danny found you guys some gifts!”

“Gifts?” Thor repeated dumbly.

“Yeah! Danny told me that when stuff gets destroyed sometimes it ends up in the Ghost Zone so he thought we could go exploring the parts of the Zone near where Asgard used to be and see if we could find any cool stuff for you to have! As like a thank you for freeing a bunch of ghosts and also a sorry about losing your home thing!”

So that was where Phantom had been. Loki had to admit the idea had some credence. It was doubtful anything truly useful would have survived the trip intact but judging on the watery look in Thor’s eyes the man didn’t much care. Just the fact that the two children had gone out of their way to bring the King of Asgard a gift meant the world to Thor.

“And is Phantom bringing the gifts here?”

“Yeah! He should be here really soon! He’s going a bit slower so he doesn’t break the stuff we found!”

“And was it enjoyable?” Thor asked. “Traveling through Hel itself?”

“It was awesome! The sky is green and purple and anyone can fly there!” Spiderman said excitedly. “Plus it’s always awesome hanging out with Danny.”

Loki wished that he could see the Spider’s face when he spoke.

“Phantom, he’s a good friend?” Thor asked, his voice hopeful and suspicious all at once.

“The best! You guys should really be way nicer to him!”

“And it doesn’t bother you that he’s dead?”

“If it doesn’t bother him why should it bother me?”

Well who could argue with that. A moment later a green portal opened up and Phantom stuck his head through.

“Woah! You’re here!”

“Spiderman told us you had gifts for us.”

“Turn around so I can pull them out! It’s supposed to be a surprise!”

Loki rolled his eyes and merely lifted up a hand to cover his eyes. Thor immediately turned around, still just as trusting as they had been as children. The idiot. Loki listened as Spiderman helped Phantom pull out three objects from the portal. Just three gifts for a king and prince? Really where were their manners? It took them a few awkward moments to get everything set up to their liking. Both of them fussing at the other about how and where best to place the three items. It was almost too silly for Loki to keep a straight, uninterested face.

“Okay. Happy?” Spiderman asked.

“Yes. Go ahead and turn around!”

Loki lowered his hand and opened his eyes while Thor turned on his heel. Loki’s jaw dropped mere moments before Thor’s did. Sitting right there were three stone pots filled with rich dark earth. More importantly were the three happy saplings with gnarled golden bark and blood red leaves. It couldn’t be. It was impossible.

“Loki.” Thor said.

Loki immediately knelt down and reached out, his magic pooling out of his hands in green fire. He scanned them to check what they were. To prove his eyes wrong. The trees were gone. It simply wasn’t possible. But his magic told him that it was. Sitting there were three perfectly healthy, golden apple trees. Perfectly prepared and taken care of, the magic in them was strong. Loki could taste just a hint of Phantom on them, from where he’d helped care for them, but instead of damaging the trees, it had only strengthened them.

How odd.

“It’s real.” Loki said, his voice sounding far too shaky. Next to him Thor also fell to his knees, carefully the king of Asgard reached out and caressed the leaves of the plants that would save his people.

“I can’t…how?” Thor asked.

“We just looked.” Phantom lied. “And then we asked around to see if anyone knew how to make them grow. Spiderman helped so that my whole…ghostliness wouldn’t hurt the trees too much.”

Loki decided that he didn’t care that Phantom was lying. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that the trees were here.

“In a couple of weeks you should be able to plant them somewhere in New Asgard.” Spiderman said. “And then you’ll have all the apples you need!”

“You…you have saved my people.” Thor said.

“Well you saved mine.” Phantom said.

“And mine.” Spiderman added.

Tears were running down Thor’s cheeks now and the blonde was desperately trying to find words. Loki took pity on him.

“You have our undying gratitude.” Loki said, his voice serious. “Both of you are allies of Asgard forever more.”

“Indeed.” Thor said finally finding something to say. “Your enemies are our enemies.”

“Right back at you.” Phantom said almost too informally for the occasion.

“Phantom.” Loki said. “The king of Asgard just offered you the use of all the warriors that Asgard still possesses to fight your battles for you.”

“Yeah I know. I’m offering the same.” Phantom said.

“You have an army?” Thor and Spiderman asked at the same time.

“Well technically yes.” Phantom said, floating around thoughtfully. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m sort of worrying about it dude. How can you have an army if like literally every ghost hates you.”

“Not all of them, just like…95% of them.” Phantom said. “The 5% that don’t hate me are pretty awesome. I should take you to meet them sometime. I think you’d love the Far Frozen, we’d just need to get you a coat.”

“The Far Frozen?” Thor asked.

“Yeah, it’s the part of the zone that connects most frequently to Jontunheim.” Phantom explained. “It’s basically just snow and ice everywhere but if you know where to go there’s a great huge city filled with ice ghosts who just want to chill out.”

Loki ignored the pun while Spiderman snickered.

“And that’s your army. A bunch of ice ghosts.” Loki said.

“Yeah! There’s Jontuns and yetis and polar bears and all sorts of people! The Ice Cores gotta stick together you know.”

Loki hide his disgust well while Spiderman asked another question.

“So you can make ice?”

“Hell yeah dude. I’m not gonna right now cause we have these plants but like…I totally can.”

“Yes, best keep any icy demonstrations away from the incredibly rare and important plants.” Loki said.

“We should celebrate!” Thor said clapping his hands together. “A grand feast in New Asgard! Wait…do you eat?”

Phantom looked taken aback for just a moment before swallowing and speaking.

“I think so?”

“Have you never tried?” Spiderman asked.

“Well you saw the Ghost Zone, where would I have?” Phantom asked. “And then here on earth I don’t want to take food from people who need it so I just…”

“That settles it.” Loki said. “A feast, for all of us.”

Phantom smiled a little in excitement while Spiderman whooped.

“Wait!” Phantom said. “I’ve got two more gifts! I totally forgot about ‘em! They took me forever to find!”

And then Phantom reached behind his back and pulled out from nowhere a book. He held the book out to Loki who took it almost warily.

“It’s a book on magic.” Phantom said. “And ghosts.”

“You do realize that with this book I have an actual chance at hurting you?” Loki said after taking a quick look at the very damning title.

“I mean yeah.” He said that as if the thought had occurred to him and had been dismissed as irrelevant. Loki couldn’t decide if he was offended or awed. The book was incredibly rare and important. Ghosts just didn’t reveal their secrets to anyone. He was leaning towards awed. Phantom then reached behind his back and pulled out something else completely impossible. “Here!”

Mjolnir was being held in Phantom’s hand and the grin on his own was one of absolute childish delight.

“It was Spiderman’s idea to go looking for it!”

“Yeah! We went to where Hela used to live and searched her haunt for it! It was so creepy! Danny almost got eaten by a bone throne.”

“Ah the bone throne.”

“Mjolnir.” Thor sniffled, lifting up a hand. The hammer came flying in and landed in Thor’s hand like it always did. The man was openly weeping now, holding the hammer to his chest like a teddy bear. Outside a small thunderstorm brewed, a light wind sending spatters of rain against the large windows.

“Right.” Loki said. “Let’s get these trees to New Asgard and begin preparations for the feast.”

Because tears of joy or not, Loki couldn’t stand it when Thor cried. The man did this sniffling thing that tugged on even the stoniest of heart strings. Everyone picked up a tree, aside from Thor who was still cuddling his hammer, and Loki used magic to teleport all of them all around the world to Iceland. They arrived moments later inside the small home that Thor and Loki shared. It was in the center of the small town that was still growing and it had Thor’s ‘throne’ in it.

He used the word throne because it was indeed a chair and it was indeed where Thor saw to the needs of the aesir who came to him for help. But it looked absolutely nothing like the throne that both Loki and Thor had trained to be worthy of as children. Gone was the gold and glitter. Instead the throne ‘room’ was a largish room with a large wooden chair and table. Some expert craftsmen from Iceland had offered to carve the chair and table for Thor. It had been graciously accepted.

It was made of a dark wood and very well made. Along the legs and back carved inside were Asgardian runes. Loki himself had overseen the carving to ensure that the runes were the correct shape. They read very clearly ‘They who sit here do so with a great weight on their shoulders. Let them carry that weight with honor.’. Which was a far cry from the calls for obedience and war that had littered the throne room in Asgard. There were no armed guards decked out in gold here, just a lock on the door that Loki had enhanced with a bit of magic.

The table was finely made and ornate but in a way so different from Asgard that it seemed foreign. It was sturdy and perfect for angrily banging one’s fist upon in frustration. It also had a lot of space for storing documents and other items. For the most part Thor didn’t even get to sit in his throne, he was far too busy standing at that table and working over the problems found within his small kingdom.

“Loki, find a place that will be good for our trees.” Thor said. “While I tell everyone what we’ve been given! Come Phantom, Spiderman!”

Loki rolled his eyes as Thor pulled the two teenaged heroes out of the throne and into New Asgard at large. Loki carefully used magic to levitate each pot and led them to his bedroom, by far one of the best warded places on the planet. It took about fifteen minutes to get them situated in a place where they would get optimal sunlight as well as everything else they’d need until a greenhouse could be built for the trees.

By the time Loki left the ‘palace’ which wasn’t even a close to accurate name for the place. Everyone in Asgard was already in a flurry readying themselves for a feast. There wasn’t yet a feasting hall so the feast would have to be held outside. The weather was bright and clear, thanks to Thor’s self control, so there shouldn’t be a problem with rain. It felt wrong in some ways that there wasn’t yet a feasting hall. But there were more important things to be built. Homes, places of business, healing halls, and farms just to name a few. There had been little time and resources for frivolity.

Most adult Asgardians got their entertainment by going to other human villages and playing their games and drinking their weak drink. But today, today they would resurrect the traditions of old. Perhaps the feast wasn’t too foolish of an idea. New Asgard might not look anything like Asgard but if they could still throw a feast perhaps it would still feel like home.

Loki found himself helping to pu up the large tables in the center of the village as well as putting up the traditional decorations. The air was soon filled with familiar scents that Loki had missed in a way he couldn’t believe. Many Aesir crops had been saved from the destruction because of their presence on other realms like Vanaheim and Alfheim. Loki had travelled there and taken some of the crops back so that they could be grown again. Now the familiar spices and scents hit his nostrils and all of the effort of sky travelling seemed worth it.

Not that Loki would ever tell anyone that.

It took two hours to get everything ready, which was down to everyone’s excitement about the fact that they were going to have a feast. Thor had certainly done his duty as hype man and everyone was nearly buzzing with joy. Children chattered amongst each other, many of them talking with Phantom and Spiderman with wide eyes. It was one thing that humans and aesir had in common. A love for heroes.

The older aesir were just as happy to be gathering together at the long tables, their voices booming together as they laugh and joked with one another. Voices booming over one another as they celebrated something for the first time in what felt like forever. Everyone there might have been able to measure their lifespans in centuries but a year was still a terribly long time to go without having a home.

Loki would know.

There was something fragile about the joy being spread around. As if one piece of bad news would shatter it completely and no one would ever be able to recreate it again. Even Thor, for all his blustering, was moving as if walking across a floor made of glass. One wrong move and everything would be in shards again. Spiderman seemed hesitant and nervous, but that was likely more due to his age than any solemn feelings for the occasion.

Phantom, on the other hand, was completely jovial and uncaring as the feast was prepared. He kept asking people what feasts were like and if it was going to be different from feasts held in Asgard. Of course, it was. Was the ghost an idiot? But surprisingly, the ghost’s inability to read a room wasn’t breaking the atmosphere. It was strengthening it. Different Aesir were slowly, ever so slowly warming up to talking about the home they’d lost.

One of Asgard’s greatest bakers told stories of the greatest pastries and breads he used to make and how they compared to what he made here on earth. Phantom asked what the baker liked about the food he made on earth and the baker took a moment before saying thoughtfully that he liked the kind of sugars he had access too. It was different but a good different. A woman who’d worked as a seamstress spoke fondly about her workshop but admitted that she liked the sewing machine she’d been given. On and on it went, with each part of the preparation coming together more adults found themselves fondly reminiscing over what was and looking favorably on what is.

The children told Phantom of the games they used to play and how they missed them. Phantom told them about games here on earth that they could learn and also whispered to them that eventually the games they used to play will be playable here on earth. Which was true enough, given time the supplies needed for children’s games could be remade. But until then Phantom insisted that the children learn how to play a game called ‘Red Rover’.

Spiderman was also intimately familiar with the game so an hour into the preparations there were two teams of children playing in one of the clear fields. The game as far as Loki could tell was just two teams standing in straight lines, holding hands as tightly as they could and having members of different teams run in between the bodies to try and break the line. It involved a lot of screaming, laughter and oddly enough chanting.

Loki would never admit it but the sight of Phantom being knocked on his ass by a toddler running at him at full speed was downright adorable. Spiderman seemed to agree since he’d managed to film it and put it onto the internet.

The longer Phantom frolicked among them asking about Asgard in his own oblivious way the less things seemed to hurt. Loki wondered why the ghost kept bothering with it all. He was dead, surely that would give him some sense of tact? Phantom was lucky his questions hadn’t resulted in a punch to the face from some of the warriors. Eventually the feast was ready, Thor called the children back from their games and Phantom and Spiderman were seated at the head of the table with the king and prince, a place of honor.

“My friends.” Thor said, his voice quieting the crowds of people sitting at tables large and small. The sun was just about to set in the perfectly blue sky. “My people. We’ve gathered to celebrate a great gift and two new friendships.”

Everyone in the crowd cheered and Thor waited for the fervor to die down a little. Then he continued.

“Phantom and Spiderman have given us back the golden apples of immortality and with it they have given us our home! Asgard will grow here with these three young trees, we will be a strong people again!” Thor lifted up his hammer and everyone cheered and roared again. “Our people have a history of blood and war. But here on Midgard we can begin again and become something better, something greater! As your king, I am honored to lead our people to a place of prosperity and peace. We welcome Phantom and Spiderman with this feast. Let us show them what it means to be friends of Asgard!”

That cheer was by far the loudest. People began to grab for the food and the feast began in earnest. Someone pulled out their instrument and began to play songs and ballads from home. Thor grabbed all of the best food and pushed it in front of the two guests of honor. Spiderman had pulled up his mask halfway so that his mouth was free but his identity was secure.

“Dig in, before it’s all gone.” Loki warned.

The feast, as all good feasts should, lasted for hours. People ate and told bold heroic stories to the crowds. Everything was full of joy and nothing about it felt fragile or soft. People were just genuinely happy to celebrate a new age for Asgard. Phantom and Spiderman were both taking pictures on their phones to share with the world. Thor seemed more than happy to encourage that behavior by taking selfies with both of them.

There was dancing and singing too. A few people managed to get a true dance going and soon everyone was trying to teach their two visitors traditional Asgardian dances. Thor pulled Loki into it as well and Loki had to pretend to be annoyed. People ate, drank, danced, and talked until they reached their absolute limit. Children and adults alike just falling over themselves as they stumbled into their homes, tired smiles on their faces as night fell.

When the feast was completely over, every single Asgardian having crawled back home, Loki took the two heroes back to New York so that they could sleep off their food comas. Apparently, ghosts could eat after all.

It wasn’t until Loki had tended to the apple trees and prepared himself for bed that it struck him. Phantom wasn’t an idiot at all. He was a ghost, of course he understood loss. Phantom had just…helped them grieve. The feast they’d just had hadn’t been a celebration feast, it had been a funeral one. Asgard had said goodbye to it’s first home and with that feast welcomed in the new one.

Loki huffed a disbelieving laugh.

Phantom was a genius.

Loki had to mentor him. With manipulation skills like that. Not to mention the powers. Just the thought of the pranks they could pull off together. Oh yes that was certainly going to happen. Loki clambered into bed plans circulating around his head. He waved his hands so that the lights turned down low and put his head down on his pillow. A moment later his eyes slammed open and Loki scrambled out of bed.

He rushed out of his room, tripping on a rug and banged on Thor’s bedroom door. He kept banging until Thor got up and opened the door, glaring at him.

“What?”

“Phantom.”

“What about him, Loki it’s well past midnight!”

“He wielded Mjolnir.”

A beat of silence.

“Shit.”

Chapter Text

Steve shifted awkwardly on his feet. He knew that there was no point standing by the door, but he found that sitting made him too jittery. Once a month, every month, he had these meetings, but he still couldn’t be calm for them. He was always torn between the fear of being given terrible news and the hope that things were going perfectly.

“Captain. Princess Shuri is on her way.”

“Great! Thanks Friday.”

The door to the conference room opened a moment later to reveal Princess Shuri. She was alone this time. Usually she had three to five guards with her, escorting her as she moved about on foreign soil but today, for some reason, she was alone.

“Captain.” She greeted. “Please sit.”

“Thank you so much for coming all this way.”

“I have to be here anyway to work on the student initiatives that my brother put me in charge of. Meeting you is not out of my way.” Implying in a not at all subtle way that she wouldn’t be here in person if it were. Steve knew that the girl would have just done a video call if given the option. Probably at a time that was good for her in Wakanda, meaning at about 3 in the morning for Steve.

“Well still, thank you.” Steve said sitting down. “What can you tell me about Bucky?”

“Working in his mind is exceedingly difficult.” She said. “Removing the trigger words without damaging his memory is time consuming. He is still frozen as a I experiment.”

So, nothing new. Steve tried to hide his disappointment. Shuri seemed to recognize that.

“If you are unhappy with my progress you can of course have Barnes back. You have Tony Stark on your team, despite him not being as good as me I am sure he could still make some progress.”

“No. No. I don’t want Tony involved.”

They’d had this discussion before. When Shuri had first began the project, she’d told Steve that it would take time. She wasn’t a neuroscientist for all her many capabilities. She could learn it, she would learn it in time, but given her other responsibilities as a Princess, helping one white man wasn’t high on her priorities. She’d told him simply that if she could work with Tony it could probably be done in weeks instead of months. Tony’s BARF invention could provide the basis that she’d improve upon to fully help Bucky.

Steve had forbidden it then as he forbid it now. Shuri frowned at him.

“I do not understand.” She said. “Surely you don’t think that Stark would harm your friend? Or that he could sneak something past me that would hurt him? I do not know if I’m offended on my behalf or his.”

“No. No it’s nothing like that.” Steve insisted. “Tony…Tony doesn’t deserve to help.”

The teen’s eyebrows lifted up high onto her forehead and Steve realized what that sounded like.

“Bucky killed his parents. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to help Bucky. Tony’s been through enough already, he doesn’t deserve the headache.”

“Stark is a scientist, he is able to separate his emotions from his work. At least I assume.”

Steve remembered the ion beam that Tony had fired at Bucky in Siberia and shook his head.

“We leave him out of it. I won’t hurt him anymore.”

“Fine. I should have some real progress by next month if my tests go well.” She said. “If that is all, I must be going. I have a spider to catch.”

“A spider? You mean Spiderman?”

“Him and Phantom have insulted me for the last time.”

“Insulted you? Princess if you need I can get Tony to…”

“The two of them, making a team of teen heroes and not inviting me? The greatest one?” Shuri scoffed. “It’s time I make it clear who is truly the Meme Queen.”

Something, probably his stomach, sunk to his feet as the horror of what Shuri was implying reached his mind. She wanted to…befriend them? Steve remembered clearly the jokes and trouble the young princess caused in the time that he’d lived in Wakanda as a refugee. Just imagining her intelligence and love of chaos combining with Spiderman and Phantom made Steve want to call King T’Challa and beg for asylum again.

Shuri got up from the table and began to leave the room. She paused at the doorway and spoke to Steve again.

“I suggest Captain that you speak to Stark about your Barnes. Everyone is getting tired of the drama. You’re both worse than two teenage girls.”

Before he could defend himself, she’d laughed at his offended face and left the room. Out, unaccompanied, into the city of New York to go terrorize Spiderman. Steve almost felt pity for the web crawler. Eventually Steve got up from the table, wondering why his meeting with Shuri always left him feeling a bit lightheaded, no matter how short they were. He sighed.

The young woman was right about one thing.

He needed to talk to Tony.

“Friday? Where is Tony?”

“Boss is currently in his lab.”

“Is he free to talk?” Steve asked, there was a slight pause as Friday asked Tony. After a few moments she spoke again.

“Boss says he’ll meet you in the penthouse.”

“Great.”

Steve left the conference room and took one of the tower’s elevators up to the top floor of the tower. He found himself shifting nervously on his feet again waiting for Tony. Eventually the man arrived, and Steve found himself looking over the other man. Tony was in one of his dirty band t-shirts and he looked tired. It was a common enough look on the genius’ face that Steve almost wanted to call it the man’s default expression. How much of that exhaustion was because of Steve?

“What do you want, Steve? Aren’t you supposed to be gabbing away with the Princess?”

Tony’s relationship with Princess Shuri was odd. Every time they talked it was Shuri showing Tony how much smarter she was and Tony being delighted by the challenge of it. The two geniuses sometimes got so deep into science talk that no one could understand them for hours at a time.

“It was a short meeting. She just wanted to tell me about…well…”

“You can say his name you know. I’m not going to explode.” Part of Steve doubted it. Tony sighed. “What do you want?”

“Shuri says that her progress on Bucky isn’t going as fast as it can. She’s not putting her full mind it.”

“You expected her to? Rogers she has a country to help run.”

“I know that. She just said that it would go faster if she had help.”

“Well I don’t know what you expect from me. Obviously, you don’t want my help. I can ask Bruce or maybe even send a message over to that asshole Strange.”

“What? I mean…why do you think I don’t want your help?”

“Apart from the fact that you’ve shut down every mention of me even going near your precious Barnes?” Tony asked, sarcasm dripping from the words. “Maybe it’s the fact that he killed my mom while under mind control and you think I’d kill him instead of help him.”

“That’s not what I think!” Tony paused as Steve’s frustration, waiting. “I didn’t want to burden you! You shouldn’t have to help the man who killed your parents even if he didn’t do it willingly!”

Silence between them. Tony stared at Steve as if he was trying to X-Ray him.

“That’s why you didn’t ask me?”

“I’ve caused enough shit for you haven’t I? I do know something about boundaries.”

“Right. Boundaries.” Abruptly Tony straightened out. “Let Shuri know she can call me when she’s free and I can send over the BARF AI and schematics.”

“Really? You don’t have to do that Tony.”

“I don’t have to do anything.” Tony scoffed. “Just don’t keep me out of the loop this time.”

“I won’t. Tony, I am sorry about…” Tony finally met Steve’s eyes.

“I know.” Then Tony left, turning on his heel and beelining straight for the elevator. Steve didn’t try to stop him.

Steve left the penthouse a few minutes later wondering exactly how he was supposed to fix his relationship with Tony. He knew he’d crossed way too many lines over their Civil War, not that Tony was innocent either. It didn’t justify the mistakes and decisions Steve had made over the past few years and it felt like it was going to be impossible to fix things. Everyone looked at Steve as the de-facto leader and blamed him for not smoothing things out with the genius.

As if anything could be smooth sailing with Tony Stark.

Tony had taken their fight very poorly. He refused to share information and held himself apart from the other Rogues as the media had called them. Tony had refused to allow the Wanda back onto his property and instead had rented out an apartment for her and Vision to use that was far, far away from Tony. Gone was the Tony that would compromise over anything that made him uncomfortable. Part of Steve respected it and part of him hated it. It sometimes felt like Tony was making no effort at all to repair their broken team.

But then Steve would remember Zemo and the security footage and he wouldn’t have to wonder why.

Steve respected Tony so much, over the years he’d learnt that Tony was an honorable man and a hero. Even his mistake with Ultron had been done with the absolute best of intentions. For the most part Steve had thought that he trusted Tony’s judgement. But learning that Howard and Maria had been murdered by Bucky had…well it had been difficult. As great as Tony was, he was also unpredictable. Steve had hesitated, had failed to trust his teammate and now it hardly felt like he even had a team anymore.

Eventually Steve found himself in the gym and got onto one of the treadmills. Normally he’d just go for a run through Brooklyn but he decided against it. He ran for close to two hours, his feet pounding against the black rubber and sweat staining his t-shirt. During his run he tried to think about nothing at all.

He failed.

His hunger forced him off of the treadmill and to one of the many team kitchens. The greatest downside to this serum was how much food he had to eat on a daily basis. Tony had always ensured that the kitchens were stocked well enough to feed him no matter what he’d been doing that day. Just a quiet way to show that he cared and that he remembered Steve’s needs. Steve ignored the little pinprick of guilt he felt and made himself a very large lunch.

He remembered to have Friday send a message to Shuri about Tony’s offer and Friday said she’d already sent it. Shuri hadn’t responded. Steve did not want to know what was distracting her. Sometimes ignorance was truly bliss. Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t allowed to be ignorant of internet shenanigans any longer. Ever since a video had gone viral of Phantom and Spiderman playing Red Rover with Asgardian children it had been decided that Friday would carefully monitor all of Phantom’s internet activity. If anything remotely interesting happened she was supposed to alert the entire Avengers team as well as PR just in case it was something that was going to blow up in their faces.

Which meant that about 8 hours after Steve’s meeting with Shuri he found himself being told that Phantom had just retweeted a new video from Princess Shuri that that team needed to watch as soon as possible. Couldn’t the ghost give it a rest? He was dead! He didn’t need to be an internet sensation every other day.

“I’ll be right up.”

Steve, Tony, Bruce and Clint were the only one’s in the tower so they all gathered together to watch whatever monstrosity the three teens had created. Steve had no doubt they all had a hand in it. On one of the large TV screens Friday had pulled up Phantom’s twitter. He was a verified ghost account now, something Phantom had boasted about to no end. The tweet that captioned the video was simple.

Introducing the newest member of Team Nirvana: Shuri the Science Gal

“Alright.” Tony said. “Friday, play the video.”

The video began with what looked like a graveyard strangely enough. In the distance Shuri was moving towards the camera wearing what looked like a white lab coat. The speed of the video had been sped up so that she was moving a bit quicker than normally possible. With each one of her footsteps the video played a weird chime. Tony had a look of almost horrified awe on his face.

The video slowed down to normal when Shuri was comfortably close.

“This” She said flinging out her arms. “is one of the most fascinating places of study on planet earth.”

The scene changed again to the same graveyard but deeper in. Again, Shuri’s movement towards the camera was sped up and her movements were given chime sound effects. Shuri stopped in front of the camera.

“Just kidding! This is just a graveyard! But it represents a gateway between one world and the next! I’m here to talk to you today about something that’s rocked the world for the past few months! That’s right! Ghosts!”

Immediately the video changed to what looked like a title screen. He heard Bruce mutter something about not believing what he was seeing while music played. It wasn’t something Steve recognized but it was a simple enough song. A male singer that Steve thought might have been Spiderman sang ‘Shuri the Science Gal!’, then the same phrase was repeated but the voice was deeper and stretched out and then a chorus of the word ‘Ri’ on repeat happened acting as the beat. At one point a female voice said ‘Science rules’. The title sequence showed a bunch of equations floating around in fun text along with clips of Shuri in a lab coat doing different science-y things. Then the name Shuri was stretched out by the same male voice until the song ended with the repeat of ‘Shuri the Science Gal’.

The scene changed again, and Phantom was voicing over the scene it showed an old abandoned house.

“Shuri the Science Gal was brought to you by The Haunted House Corporation. Bringing Spooks, Specters and Spirits right to your door since 1883.”

The scene changed again to show a plastic 3D model of a green blob ghost. Shuri rushed in from the left with a wacky sound effect and motioned at the model.

“Take a look at this. It’s a ghost! Ghosts have been around on earth for billions of years but because of some very special skills it’s taken humans a long time to even notice them!” All of Shuri’s hand motions were emphasized with a sound effect, including when she spun the ghost model causing a recorded squeaking noise to play. “Ghosts form when a living thing dies in a special way! How spooky!”

Shuri’s acting and voice were over the top, but it seemed to match the décor and the editing of the video meaning that Steve knew it was on purpose.  

“Don’t worry, this isn’t a real ghost! It’s just a model! Ghosts have a bunch of different abilities that let them go unnoticed. Most notably they can turn invisible. Now if I turn this on here you’ll see what I mean!” Shuri reached out and flipped a big red switch. “Ghosts when provoked will just disappear! Vanish!”

A voice form off camera, which had been augmented somehow to sound very deep spoke.

“When?”

“Soon!” Shuri answered.

“Really!”

“Any minute now!” Abruptly the model vanished and Shuri cheered! “See! Ghosts are amazing. But they don’t call our earth home. They come from an entirely different planet. Let me show you.”

Shuri stepped back and Steve realized that they weren’t in a lab. She pushed open the fake metal door to reveal the ghost zone. It had a violent green sky with swirling purple stripes that seemed to go on for an eternity. The camera panned out to follow Shuri as she walked along a barren rock motioning to the vastness of the dimension she was in.

“Ghosts live in a place called the Ghost Zone!” She said. “It’s a limitless space that under the right conditions will open portals to earth or any other planet in the universe! The Ghost Zone is filled with a unique energy. This energy, if enough of it gets out of the Zone and onto another planet, can cause a ghost to be born! Here let me show you how it works!”

The scene switched again to show Shuri standing in a lab, an actual lab this time, Steve hoped. She motioned, complete with ridiculous sound effects to a cartoon diagram. She had a plastic pointer stick that had a white glove with one finger pointing out. The diagram showed three things. The first was a green portal with green cartoon lightning bolts escaping it, the next was an almost cute dead rabbit with the green lightning bolts surrounding it. The third image was a ghost rabbit with lines drawn around it to show energy being released.

“You see, when a portal opens on earth ecto-energy is released.” Shuri said dramatically with her pointer stick swirling around the green lightning bolts. “And if that energy groups around a dying animal then viola! You get a ghost!”

Triumphant music played and once it stopped Shuri pointed the pointer stick at the camera.

“But it’s not so simple! There are dozens of different ghosts out there!”

The scene changed to show Spiderman in a lab coat standing in front of a table. Spiderman also had safety goggles on over his face mask. Somehow Steve got the impression he was grinning maniacally. On the left side of the table was a plush rabbit sitting next to a clear large bucket filled with green goo and on the right, there was another plush next to a small glass cup filled with the same goo.

“We know that the more ecto-energy around the more powerful the ghost! So, what do you think would happen if this rabbit was surrounded by this huge bucket of ecto-energy and this rabbit was surrounded by this tiny cup? Do you think they’d be different?”

The same deep voice from earlier spoke from behind the camera.

“Uhm.” The screen abruptly turned black with white letters in bold across the screen that read ‘DO NOT TRY AT HOME’. Then the screen went back to Spiderman.

“Come on! Guess!” Spiderman insisted pointing to the two partially submerged rabbits.

“Well…” The deep voice said right before the screen cut to the same warning.

“I can’t do everything for you! More energy, less energy!” Spiderman insisted motioning to each rabbit when the scene went back to him. “Ugh fine! Here!”

Spiderman removed both plush rabbits from their baths and then some cartoonish animation replaced the plush rabbits. Both turned into green red-eyed ghosts but the ghost rabbit on the left looked more complex and seemed to be able to control lightning while the ghost rabbit on the right looked like a very simple child’s drawing of a ghost.

“Wow!” Spiderman said right before the scene changed to another black screen with large white block text.

SERIOUSLY DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, OR AT ALL

WE ARE SUPERHEROES

WE WILL BEAT YOU UP

The scene changed back to Shuri still in the same lab. This time she was standing in front of a huge crank that looked like it was about as long as she was tall.

“Now that we know how ghosts are formed let’s talk about what they can do!” Shuri said. “Ghosts can fly, turn invisible, go intangible…”

She paused dramatically as the deep voice behind the camera asked what that was.

“Hmm. Intangibility, it’s when one thing goes through another!”

“Like your hand moving through air?”

“No!” Shuri said before snapping her fingers. “I know I’ll show you! Let’s go to the Interdimensional Travel Crank of Science! I just twist this, and I can call a ghost right here!”

She moved to the crank and tried to push it. She overacted how heavy it was, trying in multiple cartoonish ways to make it turn on its axis. This was of course coupled with funny sound effects that Steve thought would belong better in a Looney Toons Cartoon. Steve knew that the girl was much stronger than she looked and highly doubted a crank like that would give her any real trouble outside of a joke video. Eventually she gave up, breathing heavily against the crank, looking dramatically defeated.

“Oh! I can’t push it! It needs two people to push! Wait! I’ll call my friend Spiderman!”

Spiderman sunk down from the top of the scene hanging upside down on one of his webs.

“You called?”

“Spiderman! Help me push the Interdimensional Crank of Science so we can call our Ghost Friend!”

Together the two of them, still very dramatically, pushed the crank and started it spinning. In the center a light appeared until it was in the shape of a green portal. From out of that portal flew Danny Phantom. The music in the background was dramatic and almost sounded like Rock and Roll.

“It’s me! Danny Phantom, Ghost of Heroes!”

The video continued in the same strain. Shuri, clearly the star of the show, told Phantom that they needed him to show off each of his powers. First, they started with invisibility. Shuri defined invisibility while in the background Phantom turned invisible and made Spiderman look for him frantically. Shuri then defined what the electromagnetic spectrum was, using another cartoonish graphic and then pulled out a bunch of Wakandan equipment that would show the viewer the different spectrums of light.

The scene was Spiderman and Phantom playing Marco Polo. Different filters would replace each other to show the different spectrums like Infrared and Ultraviolet. Phantom remained invisible in each spectrum. But when Shuri pulled out a thermal camera, you could see that the area Phantom was in was colder. The entire scene had music and sound effects just to make it very, very silly.

In between each power, there would be a cut to Shuri and Spiderman inside what appeared to be a house pretending to be part of the Haunted House Corporation talking to a homeowner about what kinds of ghosts and spooky services they could offer for a house like this. The homeowner was Phantom in a long wig and wearing a trench coat.

It was bizarre but also oddly endearing. Tony, Clint and Bruce knew exactly what the three teens were doing and seemed to be having the time of their lives just watching.

Next, they showed flying. Following a similar pattern Phantom floated around the screen without a care in the world while Spiderman tried to catch him. Shuri defined what flight was and explained how it worked in ghosts, her hands moved dramatically as she spoke and each movement had its own wacky noise.

Then they asked Phantom to show how high he could fly. A camera followed Phantom as he flew straight up through the atmosphere and into space. Of course, then Phantom made a joke about being out of this world before the clip ended. Next, they asked Phantom to show them how fast he could fly. Which he did by out flying a commercial jet, in the corner of the screen green text showed his speed in both miles and kilometers per hour.   

Finally, they got back to intangibility. They actually let Phantom explain that one.

“Intangibility is when something moves through a solid object. Like if I were to walk through walls!” Phantom said before doing right that, the camera following his every move. “It works because I’m made of energy, not matter!”

Spiderman was the one who explained that difference and then using a simple metal block and a bright lamp showed that energy can move through a solid surface. The heat from the lamp hit one side of the block and then slowly radiated to the other side. Of course, Spiderman touched the other side of the block with his gloved hands and pretended it was hot enough to burn his fingers.

“So!” Phantom said. “I do the same thing. I focus and let my energy move through the matter of solid objects! Let’s see how Shuri wants to test this!”

The video speed sped up as the two ran from the lab and outside to show that Shuri had set up a whole track of different objects for Phantom to phase through. The first objects were walls of thin glass but slowly the materials got thicker and denser. Shuri explained what density was and then told Phantom to fly through each of them one at a time.

It was over dramatic with opera music playing as Phantom flew through each one, the camera zooming in and going at slow motion as Phantom touched each object and phased. When Phantom got through to the end of the objects, Shuri motioned to the camera to look at a huge button she had hidden behind her back. She lifted a finger to her lips to indicate quietness. Then right as Phantom went through the last wall of vibranium, a green energy shield popped up. Phantom couldn’t slow down and flew headfirst into it.

A huge crashing noise play as Phantom splattered against the energy shield. Shuri and Spiderman laughed and walked over to their friend.

“You see!” Shuri said. “Ghosts can move through solid matter but energy like this? It’s impossible. But for people like me and Spiderman?”

As one the two walked through the energy shield and helped Phantom, who was still rubbing his head in pain.

“It’s science!”

The camera zoomed in on their faces for a moment before the scene changed once more. It showed Shuri back in her lab, this time with models of ghosts and she explained the three basic things ghosts could do once more. Then the scene changed again with Shuri rushing towards the camera back in the graveyard from the beginning.

“SCIENCE!” She yelled.

The scene changed one final time as music began to play. It was back in the ghost zone all three of the teens were standing on a rock. In the bottom corner in white text it read ‘I’m Still Ghosting’. Steve listened to the music and he could have sworn that this was an Elton John song. He looked over at Clint who explained it was a parody. Sure enough the three teens were singing a parody of a familiar Elton John song but about ghosts and science. They even had a choregraphed dance combined with videos of ghosts doing ghostly things.

When the song ended the credits rolled. Most of which were pun names next to made-up jobs. When the video finally ended it was Tony who broke the silence.

“I can’t…I can’t think of anything in my life that’s more beautiful than that.”

“They really captured his essence.” Clint agreed.

“It was also very informative.”

“Would anyone mind telling me what that was?” Steve asked. Tony looked at him and then smirked.

“I’d suggest putting Bill Nye the Science Guy on your list, Cap.”

Chapter Text

The warm soapy water slopped back in forth in the sink as Danny dumped more dirty dishes into it. He picked up the old but still usable blue sponge and began to scrub away at the red spaghetti stains left over from dinner the night before. He could hear his parents chattering away at each other over how to design a few of the requested weapons for the Avengers. From up the stairs he could hear some classical music was playing, Jazz was working on one of her summer research projects.

Things were calm in a way they hadn’t been in the Fenton House for years. And Danny was reacting positively to all the good vibes. He knew ghosts were slightly empathic creatures, but he hadn’t realized how much he was affected by those around him until now. His parents’ complete acceptance and affection, combined with Jazz’s pride and peace, had elevated Danny’s own state in ways he couldn’t have imagined. He felt calm, less divided.

There were times, ever since the accident, that Danny would feel as if he was being torn in half. Two types of beings pushed together into one body and desperately trying to be free again. But that pain had faded away to practically nothing. He was a more confident teen and a more stable ghost. His friends had noticed of course. Sam and Tucker had been there from the very beginning, they’d been the ones to point it out to him in the first place.

He lifted up the now clean dinner plate and put it in the second sink to be rinsed off. His phone buzzed from its spot on the counter. He turned his hands intangible and let the soap and water phase off and into the sink. The message notification on his phone told him it was from Tony. He frowned and swiped at the screen.

Video call me now.

Danny let himself transform into his ghost form and carefully started a video chat with the billionaire. He didn’t know why Tony wanted to talk but after all the headaches Danny had caused the man thanks to his mischief, he figured he owed it to him.

“What’s up Tony?” Danny asked as the call connected. Tony was in his workshop, there looked to be motor oil in his hair.

“Kid. How busy are you…say Friday night?”

“Why?” Danny asked suspiciously.

“Wait are you washing dishes right now?” Tony asked ignoring Danny’s totally reasonable question. “In my suit, the suit I designed so that you wouldn’t die a second time? You’re using it to wash dirty dishes?”

“And?” Tony made some sort of a pained noise but got back to the subject at hand.

“Kid, I’ve got News Reporters up my ass about you. They all want a piece, an interview, anything.”

“I do have a twitter. Most people don’t seem to have a problem with that.”

“It’s not good enough.” Tony said. “I don’t care how internet famous you are, there’s a world outside the internet.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be the face of the future or something?”

“A futurist.”

“Right, well wouldn’t a futurist applaud my use of modern technology as a means of public outreach?” Tony glared at him, which wasn’t very frightening seeing as it was through a cheap phone screen. “What do you want from me then?”

“Just a couple of interviews, easy stuff.” Tony said. “Let the public see you interacting with someone who isn’t a superhero or literal royalty. Go on Ellen or something.”

“Ellen? Really? You think I belong on Ellen?”

“What? Do you think CNN would be better?”

“I’d rather not do it at all! Me and the Media do not have a good history.” He said, shivering as he recalled the name Inviso-Bill. Tony laughed, probably thinking of the same thing.

“I know, but I’ve got a good PR team. I can help make sure you’re portrayed fairly.” Tony said. “But the longer this goes on the more likely it is that News Agencies are going to start making up their own stories about you, and if you leave it to them alone there’s no telling what they’ll say. Inviso-Bill.”

“Don’t.” Tony smirked and Danny sighed.

“So, you want me to do an interview and talk about what?”

“That’ll be up to you and whomever the host is. You can’t just make a video with Spiderman pretending to interview you either.” Tony said sternly. “Because as funny as that would be, it would defeat the purpose.”

“And what exactly is the purpose? I’m quite popular on the internet. I don’t get as much hate as I expected too and there’s been plenty of support.”

“Yeah but it’s…it’s a meme kid. You’re a meme. You need one serious interview, with a normal human, something that the pearl clutchers of America can watch and feel better about. Old People don’t get memes and the last thing I want is for people who don’t understand you to try and make legal decisions about whether or not you’re allowed on the planet.”

And that was something Danny couldn’t argue with. He sighed and ran a hand through his currently white hair.

“Fine.” Danny said. “I’ll do an interview, just one to start out with. On a few conditions.”

“Name them.”

“I don’t want to be asked to do any demonstrations like some sort of show pony.”

“Totally reasonable.”

“I want to know what they’ll ask me about before I go out there and I want to be able to veto anything that makes me uncomfortable. No pop quizzes.” Danny said. “And I want to be able to share a new video.”

“What? Kid, you just finished that one with Shuri. Do you really need to make a video anytime you do anything?”

“Well no.” Danny said. “I’m dead technically I don’t need to do anything. But I want to. The videos are fun and they make people relax. If I go out there just as myself I know there will be people in the audience who’ll get the creeps. Playing a video before hand might, you know, warm ‘em up.”

Tony looked thoughtful for a moment before sighing and nodding.

“You’ve got a point. Fine. Who do you want it to be with?”

“No clue.” Danny said. “I trust you to pick someone who isn’t an asshole. Just send me the details about where I need to be and when. I’ll get together with Spiderman and Shuri and we can start making the video as soon as possible.”

“What’s the video going to be on?”

“No idea!” Danny said pleasantly. “But I promise it’ll be kid friendly.”

“I’m holding you to that. No swearing, no nudity, and don’t make it political.”

“That leaves me so much room for mischief Tony.” Tony snorted and said he was willing to take that risk.

“I’ll send you the details in an hour or so. I’ll also put you in contact with the host so that you can start talking about what you’re comfortable with.” Tony said. “Thanks for doing this kid.”

“No problem.” Danny said.

His first thought as the call ended was to send a text to Tucker and Sam, asking them for ideas. He’d made a lot of effort to make sure that his friends weren’t being left behind as he rose to fame for lack of a better term. He spent a lot of time watching movies, playing video games, and hunting ghosts with them. If he were to make a chart he likely spent more time with Sam and Tucker than he did with his own family.

So, Danny sent a text.

Almost immediately Tucker responded.

You’re seriously doing an interview?

Yep

Dude!

I know!

Do you two have to text so fast before I can respond? Sam butted in before sending a second text.

This is an awesome opportunity Danny! You should be excited! This is an excellent platform to spread your message!

My message? Since when do I have a message?

You need a message Danny, you’re like…the voice of all ghosts now!

No. No way. I am not now, nor will I ever be a ghost spokesperson.

I’ve got to agree with Danny here Sam. Ghosts don’t want him to speak for them.

The group chat continued with Sam and Tucker arguing about whether or not Danny should or even could represent all ghosts, or even a few ghosts. The very idea of taking any sort of representative or leadership role among ghosts made something shift uncomfortably in his gut. Danny Phantom was a lot of things but a leader wasn’t one of them. He couldn’t even run a school group project! He remembered those flour babies and their unfortunate end all too well.

Thankfully they got back to the discussion at hand eventually and he and his friends shot ideas off of each other about what Danny should talk about and what he shouldn’t talk about. His secret identity was important, and Danny didn’t want to accidentally blab his home address on live TV. By the time Tony sent the information about who he was interviewing and when, Tucker and Sam had helped him come up with some good boundaries.

The next step was contacting Spiderman and Shuri. He opened up the Team Nirvana group chat and sent out a message.

We need to make a new video.

What for? Shuri asked.

Stark’s having me do an interview to prove to you living people that I’m not going to hurt anyone. I want to play something funny before the interview starts so at least one part of it doesn’t suck.

Oh worm. Spiderman said.

What video do you want to do?

I dunno, something that’ll be like a good introduction I guess.

Maybe like…your origin story? Not your death but why you decided to become a hero!

I agree with Spiderboy. Why did you decide to become a hero?

Because it was the right thing to do? Because what the hell else was he going to do after he literally died and created a portal that endangered his entire town? Just because? Danny took a moment to think. Would he have become a hero had he died entirely and become a full ghost?

Yes. Yes he would have.

I did it because I wasn’t a very good ghost in all honesty. I can’t purposefully scare anyone to save my afterlife.

I HAVE AN IDEA!

Let’s hear it, Spiderman.

*****

“And now, as you all know, here on the Tonight Show, we have a very special guest!” Jimmy Fallon said to the huge crowd.

The audience cheered, most of them filled with young adults wearing black and white Phantom merchandise. The camera panned to show the excited crowd before going back to Jimmy Fallon who was sitting behind his desk.

“That’s right, for the first time in history, we are going to have an undead guest!” Fallon said to another very loud cheer. The man clapped his hands together a few times and laughed with excitement. “Danny Phantom first made headline news when he helped our very own Avengers stop a ghostly invasion at the beginning of the summer. From there he’s risen to internet stardom making viral videos one after another. Most famously was the video he released parodying Billy Mays in an attempt to befriend New York’s favorite web crawler, Spiderman.”

The screens showed a clip from the insanely viral video. The crowd cheered again and the camera changed back to Jimmy. The man continued his introduction.

“So, Phantom, asked us here at the Tonight Show if he could share a video with us to introduce himself. What do you think? Do you want to see something new?” The crowd went wild and Fallon grinned, clapping his hands again. “I’m serious guys I have no idea what’s in this video. You sure you want to see it? Could be spooky.”

When the crowd said yes, they really wanted to see it, Jimmy nodded and told someone to start rolling it. The screen changed to show a red background with a cartoon icon of the stylized D that was on Phantom’s chest combined with Spiderman’s symbol and the Wakandan royal crest. It looked rather nice and flowy. Music that sounded suspiciously like ragtime piano played in the background. The icon flew into the center of the screen and grew in size a little before being replaced by white cartoony text.

A Team Nirvana Production:

How to Haunt the Living

The scene changed again to show Phantom standing on a cliff. He was wearing a brown wig and had an overcoat on to hide his suit. He looked almost alive. He was happily walking up a path towards the top of the mountain.

“The following presentation will demonstrate how to haunt the living!” A voice that everyone in the audience was about 90% sure was Loki’s said. “But of course before we begin, one must be…”

Loki trailed off as Phantom comically slipped on a banana peel and fell off the side of the cliff. Phantom flipped so hard he phased through his coat and the wig flew off of him, both items remained floating in mid-air as Phantom fell off screen and screamed in a very cartoonish way. There were a few crashes with the camera shaking with each one until Phantom’s long drawn out scream ended.

“…not living.” Loki finished. There was pleasant elevator type music playing in the background. Phantom, now floating in mid-air, was humming to himself as he dusted off his suit and picked up his coat. He put the coat on his body, where it promptly phased through and fell off screen. The wig had a similar fate. As Phantom moved, Loki continued his almost pleasant narration. “The fine specimen observed here is commonly known as a ghost.”

“A ghost?” Phantom asked so frightened that he flew quickly to the left and hid behind a very large and obviously fake boulder. He stuck his white head up from the top. “Where?”

“Why you my friend!” Phantom slowly stood up.

“Me?”

“Yes you!” Loki insisted. “You, my friend, have just joined the ranks of the supernatural.”

Phantom gave the camera a goofy smile and phased through the rock before trying to take a seat on the top of it.

“Well that explains what happened to my wig! Wait! I’m not ready to be dearly departed yet!”

“Don’t worry. There’s plenty for you to do now, for instance you can help me show everyone how best to haunt the living.” Loki said while Phantom slowly phased through the rock despite his best efforts to stop it. “Come on, get up! It’s time to show everyone…”

The camera changed to a spooky graveyard with a gravestone. The words How to Haunt a House were carved inside. Lightning struck dramatically in the background. Loki read out the gravestone dramatically as organ music played. Then almost immediately the ragtime music came back, and Loki said in a genial tone.

“Step one: Choose a House to Haunt.” Loki said. “Finding the perfect house is all about location, location, location. And what better place to look than the internet?”

The newest scene showed Phantom in what appeared to be a public library on a computer that was probably over 10 years out of date. It was making angry noises more closely associated with an angry fax machine as it brought up Zillow.com, pixel by pixel.

“Hmm.” Phantom said, looking at different options. “Let’s see. This one’s got hardwood creaking floors, a fog covered breakfast nook and an informal dying room! It’s perfect. Let’s see.”

Phantom clicked once using a thick white mouse and then winced.

“No. Way too pricey. Especially in this housi-”

“You don’t have to buy it.” Loki interrupted in his dramatic narrator voice.

“I don’t?”

“No!”

“Then let’s do it!” Phantom jumped up from the library excitedly. From off camera an old woman angrily shushed Phantom. “Sorry.”

The scene changed to show Phantom happily skipping up the steps of what looked like a haunted house you’d only see in a corny Hollywood movie. Complete with strange yellow light coming in from the dirty windows and more cobwebs on the wooden exterior than in the entire state of Rhode Island. He was actually singing as he moved towards the steps.

“Oh a haunting I will go! A haunting I will go! Heigh ho the merry-o a haunting I will go!”

As he floated through the front door, the scene changed again to show another gravestone. This one read out Step 2: Selecting a Hauntee. Loki carefully read out the title before the scene changed again. Gameshow music that really was only in style during the 1970s began to play. Sitting on stools were three different people. The first was Captain America, the second was Princess Shuri and the third was Spiderman.

“Hauntee number 1 is a classic well known American Icon with a love for justice!” Loki said.

“Who wants to talk about freedom? The only two things I’m hungry for are democracy and apple pie.” Captain America asked, at least it sounded almost exactly like Captain America.

“Hauntee Number 2 is a princess from the powerful country of Wakanda.”

“You try it and we’ll see if ghosts can die twice.”

“And Hauntee number 3 is everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spiderman!”

“Why am I here again? I thought this was about finding a secret base!”

The camera panned over to Phantom who was studying the three contestants with a serious eye. He hummed and nodded, then he lifted his hand covered the left side of his face to keep his words from reaching the three contestants.

“I know who I’m gonna pick on!”

The camera focused on Spiderman’s face, even though it was completely covered by the mask the hero managed to convey his confusion and worry.

“Huh?”

The scene changed to the graveyard again, complete with lightning and thunder. Thor must have been having way too much fun. The gravestone in the center of the screen read Step 3: Being Creepy. Loki read out the title and then continued his narration as the scene moved to the interior of the haunted house. There was a spider weaving a web in the foreground.

“There is nothing quite so creepy to someone as a creaky front door that opens by itself.”

Phantom rubbed his hands together excitedly before tip-toeing over to the front door and pushing it open. He turned invisible the moment he did. Standing in the entry way was Spiderman, with two large suitcases.

“Automatic doors? And they said this place would need some work! This is going to be great for a secret base.” Spiderman waltzed in, dragging his two bags behind him. Phantom turn visible once Spiderman passed, looking rather confused and put out.

“Now that you have um…successfully creeped your hauntee out.” Loki said, sounding far more amused at Phantom’s failure than he had any right to be. “It’s onto the next step! Looking like a ghost!”

The next scene was in a different room. Spiderman was happily putting away clothing into an old dresser, muttering to himself about how great his secret base was going to look. Phantom began to sneak into the room, a white bedsheet draped over his body.

“With an ordinary bed sheet draped over your body carefully sneak into the room.” Loki instructed. Phantom walked, overacting his every movement. The camera panned and followed him. First, he tripped over a corner of the sheet sending the ghost tumbling to the floor, then he ran head over heel into a lamp. The cord of the lamp twisted around Phantom’s body like a snake and by the time Phantom stopped moving he was forcefully tied to the old lamp by its cord.

He tried to get up again and wiggle out of his self-made trap, but this resulted in him crashing into the wall. He jumped up and down and eventually mostly freed himself of the lamp, although the cord was still tied around his foot. He hissed and made a bunch of pained noises as he slammed his back into a bookshelf. About twenty books tumbled to the ground, three of which smacked Phantom on the head. Phantom tried to walk past the bookshelf, moving dizzily around as the large oak wood trembled back and forth.

Phantom just barely cleared the bookshelf as it slammed onto the ground but unfortunately the lamp cord got caught beneath it. Phantom took one step forward, got caught on the cord and was sent tumbling face first in a large stuffed bear. His head, still totally covered by the sheet, ended up stuck in the bear’s teeth. Phantom hollered in pain and tried to free himself, walking around the room.

The camera zoomed out to show that Spiderman had finished putting his clothing away, all of which had been spider-themed.

“Continue this macabre dance.” Loki ordered, his voice strained to hold back laughter. “And watch as terror and fright overpowers your victim.”

Phantom, tied up in about four different things stumbled around the room as Spiderman left it with a pleased whistle. He tripped one last time and ended up falling out a nearby window. Thankfully there were bouncy lawn chairs at the bottom. Phantom landed in one with a boing, free of lamp, bear, and sheet. The lamp landed on its stand a moment later along with the bear. Phantom looked around in relief. Only for the sheet to slowly float down and land on his head.

“This unique method of haunting is made possible by the eye holes that are cut into the sheet.” Loki said, his voice finally showing off his true glee.

“Eye holes?” Phantom demanded, still covered by the sheet. “Now you tell me!”

“Yes well.” Loki said not sounding at all apologetic. “Let’s try something else yes?”

“Fine.” Phantom said, although he didn’t sound enthused.

“Step 5! Things that go bump in the night!” Loki said, his words emphasized by a flash if lightning and some rumbling thunder.

The next scene was in the bedroom. Spiderman walked in wearing an old styled night hat that looked more appropriate on Ebenezer Scrooge than it did on Spiderman. He climbed into the large fluffy bed with a sigh of relief and then easily revealed he was holding airpods. He somehow managed to stick them to the sides of his face mask and hummed in pleasure.

“Finally, some peace and quiet.” He shuffled down further into the bed, clearly making himself comfortable. The last thing he did was set a cell phone on the nightstand and plug it in to charge. Once he was still, Phantom walked into the room. His entire body glowing with an eerie light.

“A ghost has a wide array of ghostly sounds with which to frighten their victims.” Loki narrated. Phantom nodded and then moved his face very close to the hero's face. The airpods were hidden beneath Spiderman’s night cap.

“Booooooooooooooooooooo.” Phantom shook his head back and forth and made what he had clearly hoped would be a scary face. Nothing. Not even a twitch from the twitchiest superhero of all. Phantom scowled and pulled back.

The camera zoomed out to reveal the entire bedroom. Phantom walked in on one side the camera all decked out in chains and moaning. Each step dragged a metal ball along the floor and made the chains clack and crack together.

Nothing.

From the other side of the screen Phantom tried again, this time he looked like a drowning victim, covered in seaweed with cement shoes on his feet. He made bubbling gurgling noises that might have been pleas for help. His feet sliding the cement along the ground and scratching up the old wood.

Nada.

Next Phantom, this time from the left side of the room, floated along the air. But he was missing his bottom half. He tried the same boo-ing noise as the first try, but this time his legs chased after him. Spiderman didn’t even snuffle in his sleep. Phantom paused, his face just in the upper right hand corner of the camera, he looked very annoyed.

He came back on the left side of the screen with two large brass marching band Cymbals. He banged them as loudly as he could as he stomped across the room. Spiderman remained still and completely at peace. Phantom growled and threw the cymbals to the ground in frustration. He flew off screen and appeared a moment later, having attached two accordions to his feet. He jumped and skipped across the room filling the space with an awful off tune noise. His next try was literally using a leaf blower. Phantom even blew it on Spiderman, but the web-slinging hero was unmoved.

Phantom flew through one of the walls and came back a moment later holding an actual crying baby. The baby was screaming right into Spiderman’s face. Nope. Nothing. Zilch. Not even a miniscule reaction. Spiderman remained stiff as a board. Somehow Phantom managed to get an entire motorcycle into the room next, after presumably returning the baby from where he’d taken it. He revved the motorcycle and reversed it making a horrible backing up noise.

It failed.

Phantom screamed in frustration, pulling at his white hair. He marched up to Spiderman’s bed and looked down at the red and blue clad hero.

“I just don’t understand it! That should have worked!” Phantom said. He leaned in close trying to study the hero. His hand reached out and pulled on the night cap. With it gone the white airpods were on clear display. “What?”

Phantom turned around and grabbed at Spiderman’s phone. The camera angle changed to show the screen of the phone. It showed that there was something playing.

“8 hours of relaxing thunderstorms to sleep and meditate to?” Phantom read out loud. His only answer was a snore from Spiderman. “COME ON!”

Phantom threw the phone on the bed and spun around in frustration.

“I’m tired of being a ghost if it means I have to haunt people! This sucks! I give up!” Phantom floated over to Spiderman and poked the hero in the face. “Spiderman! Wake up!”

Spiderman sat up and yawned stretching his arms out fully. He carefully removed his airpods, which had still somehow magically remained attached to nothing, and then turned to look at the person that had woken him up. Spiderman’s white eye covers widened comically, and the hero screamed. He jumped directly off the bed and stuck himself the ceiling.

“GHOST!”

“Wait!” Phantom said.

Spiderman was already crawling on the ceiling as fast as he could manage. Phantom gave chase. The next scene had the camera facing down a long hallway. Spiderman appeared scrambling along the walls and ceiling as Phantom flew after him trying to get the hero to calm down. Spiderman jumped into a doorway on the left and Phantom followed. Spiderman appeared running out of another door on the right side of the hallway.

The scene continued with Phantom chasing Spiderman through various doorways. Sometimes resulting in them coming out of different doorways altogether despite going into the same one. Eventually Spiderman, looking behind him at the ghost who was chasing him, ran head-first into the ghost. He looked forward, screamed ‘GHOST!’ one more time before he fainted dead away onto the ground. Phantom stared down at the unconscious hero with a frown.

“I only wanted to tell you that I was a ghost, dude.”

“And that,” Loki said. “is how you haunt the living.”

The screen went black with an iris shot.

*****

The room was filled with riotous laughter. Jimmy Fallon had actual tears running down his eyes, his body scrunched in on itself from the laughter as he leaned back in his chair. His hands clapped together in front of his face. The Roots were sitting in the chairs leaning on the walls or each other as they laughed helplessly, their instruments in disarray. Eventually the room calmed down, Jimmy still clapping a little as he got his giggles under control.

The man wiped his eyes, readjusted his suit jacket, and stood up.

“Ladies and Gentlemen! Danny Phantom!”

The crowd erupted with cheers as the Ghostbusters Theme Song played. Phantom phased through the curtain, wearing a bed sheet. This one thankfully had two circular eye holes cut into it. Jimmy stumbled as he walked over to greet his ghostly guest, his laughter could be heard slightly over the crowd. The music slowly faded out as Jimmy clapped Phantom on the back and told him he couldn’t believe what had just happened. The crowd was eventually quieted.

“I just…I’m so excited you’re here Phantom.”

“Um. Call me Danny.” Danny said. “And the Ghostbusters song really? Couldn’t think of a better song choice?”

Just as Jimmy was about to apologize Phantom phased out of the sheet to reveal a grin. Jimmy laughed and slapped the ghost on the back again, telling him to take a seat. Phantom did so and Jimmy settled back behind his desk.

“Now, about that video. Tell me everything.”

“Well it was actually Spiderman’s idea. He was a huge fan of old Disney cartoons as a kid and that video is spoofing one about Goofy and Donald Duck.” Phantom said. “Loki helped with the narration and Shuri helped with the camera shots as well as the editing.”

“What about Captain America?”

“Oh, we couldn’t get him.” Phantom said.

“No wait! Don’t tell me! That was Loki, in the video?” Phantom nodded and Jimmy erupted into giggles, clapping his hands again. The audience following suit. “That video was too funny! Tell me, why’d you make it?”

“Well in all honesty that was sort of like what I was like when I first became this.” Phantom said. “I was terrible at being a ghost. I couldn’t control my abilities and I had no clue what to do. I tried to do what the other ghosts were but as it turns out I’m like the Mike Wazowski of the ghost world. Can’t scare anyone on purpose to save my afterlife.”

“Really?” Jimmy asked laughing a little at the joke.

“Yeah. I’m objectively like the worst ghost to ever ghost. I don’t haunt things, I’m not obsessed with something. I don’t even dislike the living like most ghosts do. When I realized that I didn’t want to try and be like every other ghost, most of the rest of my kind decided I was too weird to be acceptable.” Danny explained. “That’s how all of this got started. I tried to be like other ghosts and knew it wasn’t for me. So, I forged my own path and here I am.”

“And here you are. Isn’t that great everyone?” The audience cheered excitedly agreeing with the sentiment. “Now, tell me about how you got a twitter.”

As Danny settled more comfortably into his chair it occurred to him that this wasn’t so bad. Maybe he could do this interview thing after all.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up with a headache, which was unusual. He didn’t get headaches unless something terrible had happened. That realization made his eyes pop open as his hands reached up to check for a mask. Mask still on, good that’s good.

“Finally, awake are you?” Loki asked making Peter let out a little ‘eep’ of shock. Which of course made the two Aesir in the cell with him chuckle. Holy crap he was in a cell.

Had he been kidnapped?

Dude.

He’d never been kidnapped before!

“What happened?”

“As far as we can tell.” Thor rumbled. “All three of us were kidnapped through an unknown means and taken here to this cell. Last I remember I was flying from New Asgard to New York.”

“I was…just about to start my patrol in Queens.” He recalled fuzzily. “And then my spidey sense went off and then…nothing.”

“I was working with the trees in New Asgard, I’d just finished locking up and warding the greenhouse.” Loki said. “And then my memories fail me.”

Carefully Peter got up, checking for injuries. Other than the odd headache there was nothing. He looked around the cell. It was a medium sized room with walls made of thick stone that looked vaguely familiar. He stared at the slightly green hue of the rocks and then it clicked.

“We’re in the Ghost Zone.”

“What?” Thor asked. “We can’t be in Hel!”

“How do you know that?”

“These rocks! They look just like the rocks in the Zone. All of the rocks have this same hue to them, every single one I’ve seen when I’ve come here with Danny.”

“Well that explains why the three of us were taken then.”

“What?”

“All three of us most frequently appear with Phantom on the internet.” Loki explained. “Whatever ghost did this obviously did some research, even if it was a pitiful amount.”

“So what?” Thor asked. “You think we were taken as bait?”

“Oh, far more than just bait, gentlemen.” The only reason Peter didn’t yelp at the entrance of the ghost was that he was used to those sorts of entrances thanks to Danny. Thor reached for a weapon that wasn’t there and Loki conjured and threw two knives that just flew straight through the intangible ghost.

And what a weird ghost he was. He had skin that was a sickly orange, a color Peter didn’t even know ghosts could have. He’d thought they all had green, blue or white skin. Was that racist? His ears were long and pointed like an elf’s and he wore an oddly fashioned helm to cover the fact that he was totally bald. His eyes were dark red and they lacked pupils of any kind. He was wearing armor, although there was a huge hole in the center of it. An obvious clue to how he’d died.

Peter had learnt a lot about ghosts in the past two months. Danny was always willing to answer his questions about ghosts and how they worked, sharing what information he himself had been able to gather over the three years he’d been dead. This meant that the glow that emanated from the ghost’s body told Peter far more about how dangerous their kidnapper was. (Here’s a clue, very.)

“Now now Odinson.” The ghost said looking at Loki with an almost amused glint in his eye. “Is that anyway to treat your host? Although, I must admit a weapon to the chest is very Odin like of you. He gave me this one after all.”

Loki literally growled, his magic pooling into his hands. The ghost seemed totally unconcerned with the threat of a pissed off chaos god.

“Our father is dead.” Thor rumbled. “You will gain nothing from killing us.”

“Oh I stand to gain quite a lot, but not against Odin.” The ghost said. “My revenge was gained when Hela destroyed Asgard. Just as Odin destroyed my home once so long ago so too was his home turned to ash. I served Hela willingly in exchange for her agreement to destroy Asgard. I have no quarrel with you or with your kind anymore.”

Strangely enough Peter believed him. Danny had told him multiple times that while ghosts were crafty and cunning, they were also, overall, pretty terrible liars. They could manipulate and trick people and they often did but bold face lies about themselves were rare. Ghosts were beings built upon nothing but an identity. In death they had clung to an idea or an emotion so tightly that a piece of themselves lingered into the afterlife. A ghost lying about who they were only weakened them in the long run. Delusions about who they were and what they wanted literally diluted their power.

“So, if you don’t want revenge on them, then why?” Peter asked.

“An excellent question little Spider. I’m after a bigger fish now. Hela’s death left me with a grand opportunity to take the power of her throne.” Peter was starting to get a terrible suspicion that his ‘time adventure’ with Danny was going to come with consequences. “For the past year I’ve struggled in vain to discern her secrets and yet, you and Phantom manage to pilfer her throne in less than a day.”

The ghost loomed so close that Peter had to stumble back so that he was leaning against the wall. He tested the wall to see if he could phase through it but found it to be disappointingly solid.

“You will tell me how Phantom claimed Hela’s throne or I will punish you. I will take my elven blade and I will rend your limbs from your body one by one to see if they grow back like a true spider’s do.”

“I don’t know!” Peter said, feeling guilty about saying so even though he knew Danny wouldn’t mind. They’d talked about what was and wasn’t okay to reveal about the time adventure and getting Mjolnir wasn’t on the ‘no’ list. And yet revealing this information to this so far nameless ghost was nauseating. He didn’t want to tell this ghost what he’d had for breakfast this morning, let alone anything to do with his friend.

“Do not lie to me.” The ghost said conjuring a scary looking sword from nowhere and putting it up to Peter’s throat.

“I don’t know. We were playing around. He sat in it and we told a few jokes, then it just…turned on. I swear that’s all that happened.”

“What words did he say? When it turned on?” He snarled.

“He just said his name!”

“Which name? The fool has dozens.”

“Danny Phantom.” Peter said, simplifying down the whole spiel Danny had said. The ghost growled but stepped away giving Peter some much needed space.

“Useless.” The ghost spat. “I should have known you disgusting organic beings would’ve been useless.”

“Why are we here?” Thor demanded.

“Phantom will come here to rescue you and when he does, I’ll learn how he took Hela’s throne and then I will destroy him and take that power for my own.”

“Danny didn’t take the throne, he just sat in it and then he got Thor’s hammer from it.” Spiderman said. “He didn’t grow more powerful or anything.”

“Of course, he did you fool.” The ghost spat. “Phantom gained an entire kingdom, all of the undead aesir that have ever known sentience followed Hela’s command and now that she is gone they look to a new leader, whomever could sit upon Hela’s throne and activate it.”

Peter was absolutely 100% sure that Danny had no idea about that at all. Like none. When Danny talked about the other ghosts for the most part he told Peter that they hated him and they never wanted to talk things out, even if Danny tried. Most ghosts saw him and immediately tried to fight him. Thor and Loki both looked confused and the ghost laughed.

“You truly don’t know?” He asked. “Oh how delicious. I’ll tell you because then you can truly fear what I am about to become.”

Peter moved away from the ghost as it began to literally monologue like they were in some sort of g-ddamn Shakespeare play.

“When eight of the nine realms formed along the Yggdrasil’s branches there was an imbalance of energy. The beautiful living fruits of the World Tree sparkled with energy stealing everything they could from the roots. Eventually the fruit grew too heavy and fat. The fruits began to leak, dripping that energy down to the roots. That is how this realm, the ninth realm was formed.”

Okay that made like…literally no sense but Loki and Thor seemed to be following along so Peter figured it was just an ignorant human thing.

“Each of the eight fruits created its own place to hold its droppings and slowly these realms of the undead reached out and knitted themselves together as one, a root system so vast that it traverses the entire universe.”

Now Peter did know that! Danny had explained that each planet/ realm was connected to a specific part of the Ghost Zone and that generally ghosts who come from Planet ‘X’ tend to live their afterlives in Section ‘X’ of the Zone. In fact, pretty frequently entire kingdoms would pop up that were made up of only ghosts from a realm or planet. Danny was from earth and he spent most of his time fighting other earth ghosts and his haunt was in the part of the earth ghost zone.

“And so it was decreed by the norns themselves that each realm of the undead would need a king.” The ghost hissed. “The most powerful of each realm would rule their realms with unyielding power, able to command any ghost beneath them and amass armies of undead.”

That was what Hela had done! She’d been able to command all of the undead and she’d been known as the Queen of Hel.

“I am the King of the Forgotten Realm and of Arvandor.” The Ghost hissed. “I am Katar the Unending, and I am the most powerful of the elves, both light and dark. I have ruled the elven undead for a thousand years and I seek to increase my reign, my power. With Hela leaving Helheim I knew I could take her power for myself, but Phantom beat the puzzle of the throne and for that I must destroy him.”

“If he’s taken Hela’s throne.” Loki said. “Then how will destroying him solve anything?”

“What we ghosts want we take with force. If I defeat him, I gain all that he claims to have. His haunt, that measly town he protects, and his claim to any of the thrones of the dead.” Katar said his condescension dripping from his tongue.  

“Thrones? I thought you were just after Hela’s?” Thor asked.

“Phantom defeated the King of the Ghost Zone, Pariah Dark and became king of all the human undead.” Katar said. “In that fight he also gained the throne to the Far Frozen and the undead Jontun and ice mages, as the Far Frozen swore their fealty to him. Of course, his defeat of King Aragon, not once but twice, gave him the ability to claim the throne of the Vanir, although he has left a puppet on the throne there to act in his stead. Four thrones! Four and the little pissant does nothing with them! I will defeat him and then I will be the ruler of six realms. I will be unstoppable!”

“But what if you lose?” Loki asked. “What of your kingdoms of elves?”

“I will not lose to that child, that hybrid freak of nature.” Katar spat. “Phantom should not even exist, he is weak and sentimental, you three will be his downfall. Now just stay here, don’t bother trying to escape your magic will not work and your strength means nothing against these stones.”

Then he was gone, phasing through the rock as if it wasn’t even there. Spiderman looked over at the two gods before sliding down to sit on the hard stone floor.

“Where did you two find my hammer?”

Spiderman swallowed and told them about finding Hela’s throne. Both gods listened gravely at the story.

“I cannot believe it.” Loki said. “Phantom has more power than I could have ever imagined.”

“I don’t think he does?” Peter said. “Danny’s never mentioned anything like this.”

“So he lied.”

“No. I don’t think he knows.” Peter said. “Most of everything Danny’s learnt about ghosts has been accidental, it’s not like they have a school for ghosts or anything.”

“He has been around long enough.” Thor said. “Your human records show he has been a ghost for over 2000 years.”

Peter shook his head in denial.

“Danny died three years ago.” He knew it was a secret, but it had to be known, now. Danny probably had no idea he was a king. Peter had heard him make jokes about it, but that’s what they were jokes. “The records are all coincidences, or he just made them up.”

Peter wasn’t telling them about the time travel. No way. Thor and Loki both looked shocked and maybe even a little bit sick. Peter couldn’t blame them. He’d been horrified when he’d learnt that Danny had only been a ghost for three years. It made Peter feel like he’d failed his friend somehow, as if he should have been there to save him. Which was ridiculous he didn’t even know how he died! Danny could have died of a disease or a car accident! It could have been a totally random thing that no one could have prevented.

He also could have been murdered.

Peter closed his eyes against the memory of Uncle Ben’s final moments.

“Three years? He’s only been dead for three years?” Thor asked. “But he seems so calm…so accepting of his death.”

Peter shrugged, he didn’t really understand it either.

“Are you sure?” Loki asked.

“That’s what he told me. He protects Amity cause that’s where his family still lives. He’s trying to protect his loved ones, even if he is dead.” Peter said softly. “At first when he died ghosts just attacked him, it took over a year for him to meet one who didn’t immediately hate him. He talks about the Far Frozen but he doesn’t talk like he’s their king, he told me Frostbite was the king. And Aragon! That kingdom is ruled by his sister Dorthea, Danny’s not the king!”

“I think.” Loki said. “That he is.”

“No.” Thor said. “You can’t be king without knowing it.”

“How did Katar define a king? It’s the power to command other ghosts in a realm.” Loki said. “Phantom spends so little time in the Ghost Zone, how would he even know that his word is law? Has he ever even attempted to give an order?”

“He tries to talk it out.” Peter said. “Sometimes with jokes but I don’t think he’s ever…ordered anyone.”

“He very well may have command over vast forces of the undead.” Thor said. “But if he never commands them then he may never know that.”

“Danny wouldn’t.” Peter denied. “He hates the idea of enslaving other people and that’s what you’re talking about.”

“It’s the way of ghosts, to command and to oppress.” Loki said.

“It’s not Danny’s way.”

“So then what? The best-case scenario is that Phantom defeats Katar and then he becomes king over two more realms. 6 out of the 8 will answer to him. Do you honestly think that Phantom can just leave them to themselves?”

“Well why not? Ghosts aren’t stupid.”

“There is no point in arguing about this.” Thor said. “We don’t know truly if Katar was even speaking the truth about ghosts. He seemed quite mad to me.”

Despite Thor’s words about the pointlessness of the conversation they continued to have it, bickering and debating about whether or not Danny was King and if he was what that meant. Loki was of the opinion that Danny was a king of four realms and that he was being irresponsible in his duty. If Danny were to call himself a hero of the living, then he should use his power to force peace between the living and the dead. Make a decree, order the ghosts to keep them from harming anyone.

Peter was of the opinion that there was no way Danny could be king without knowing and even if he was king he probably wouldn’t want to remain that way. Ghosts had rights just like any other sentient being and having a king that could enslave you wasn’t a good thing. Danny wouldn’t ever use his powers to force the ghosts into anything and it was unlikely that he even could. Danny wore no crown, he had no throne. The examples Katar had given them were flimsy at best.

Well except for the Pariah Dark thing.

Thor merely said that it made sense that Danny could weild Mjolnir. A weapon made for a king, wielded by kings. If Danny wasn’t king now, he probably would become so and when he did he would have to lead in what way he saw best. It was a complicated discussion that soon devolved into bickering as hunger got the best of them. Peter had never been very good on an empty stomach, and that was before the spider bite.

There was no way to tell time in the windowless cell. They were literally in a stone box without any doors. Peter did his best not to think about air supply. His suit had been deactivated and so all it really did was cover his face. As the hours passed his need for food made him grumpy and slightly short-tempered. He was just thankfully that he didn’t need to pee yet. Loki, it seemed, dealt with captivity with very little grace if his own attitude was any indication. Fortunately, before any blood could be shed in a pointless argument about nothing, they had another visitor.

It was a young woman, an elven ghost wearing a pretty flowy dress that just screamed Lord of the Rings. She had a pretty face and long brown hair that contrasted nicely with her glowing orange skin. She floated into the room, carrying some bottles in her arms.

“I cannot stay long, if King Katar were to catch me we would all be punished.” She said, her voice sounded like the wind. “I brought you water. I know it is not much, but we do not normally have living guests. It took time enough to find this.”

She placed the glass bottles on the ground.

“Who are you?” Loki demanded.

“I was once known as Queen Volaris. I ruled the ghosts of light elves in Arvandor, But I am not that any longer. I am now only a consort to the king.”

Dude. That sucked.

“Your highness.” Peter said making the pretty elven lady look at him with surprise “Thank you for the water. Can…can you help us get out of here?”

She frowned.

“I wish I could but Katar is far too powerful. He defeated me soundly 1000 years ago and every attempt I’ve made to free myself and my elves has been for naught, believe me I have tried.”

“We could help.” Thor said. “Free us and we will fight with you.”

“He will just possess you again and send you back.” She said. “It was how he kidnapped you to our realm in the first place. You’ve no protection against him. No one has.”

“Have you heard of Danny Phantom?”

“Sir Phantom?” She asked, an actual blush staining her cheeks red. “Who has not heard of him and his heroics? His defeat of King Aragon is whispered about even here!”

“He’s on his way.” Peter said. “To rescue us but Katar’s set up a trap. If we can get out we can stop him, with Phantom’s help.”

“Truly?” She looked like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Similar to a child being told Santa Claus was on his way.

“Yes.” Loki said.

“Phantom is very brave, he will be able to save us all.” Thor added.

“Is he…as handsome as the stories say?” She asked, a hopeful tone tinging her voice.

“Yeah.” Peter said, easily agreeing to the strange question. “Totally.”

“Describe him for me? None of the rumors that have reached us have ever described him. We elves have always admired beauty, if he is truly handsome then I could find him and help him to you.”

Okay that was…weird but Peter had probably dealt with weirder. He looked over at Loki and Thor both of whom looked a little discomfited at describing a ghost’s beauty. Because they were cowards.

“He’s got hair as white as snow.” Peter said, starting with something simple. “And it’s soft like cotton. His eyes are the brightest green and they always show exactly what he’s feeling. He’s got a long, lean body but it’s deceptively strong. He can lift tons of weight as if it were nothing and maybe it is to him.”

Volaris sighed in appreciation at the description, Peter continued with more confidence.

“He moves with grace through the air, like he was born on the wind instead of on the ground. His hands are strong and steady and yet gentle all at the same time. He jokes all the time and laughter transforms his face into something close to perfection.”

“He sounds very lovely.” She said dreamily. “I will try to find him for you if only to see him with my own eyes.”

She floated up and hurried away without even saying goodbye. Peter breathed a sigh of relief and fell back against the wall of the cell.

“Soft like cotton?” Loki asked.

“Shut up.”

“Oh no I don’t think I will. Not after poetry such as that.”

“I have to agree.” Thor said. “Spiderman is there anything you would like to share with us. How do you know his hands are strong and gentle all at once?”

“I just made it up!” Peter’s entire face was red hot and he’d never been so grateful for his full-face mask.

“Oh.” Loki said. “It was only in his imaginings then. Regale us then, in your mind does he hold you tight? Whisper sweet nothings in your ear? Does his laughter caress your skin?”

“No! Stop it!”

“Oh, his protests just strengthen his pining.” Thor cooed, sounding far too amused. “Young love is so precious.”

“He is my friend! I just said that stuff so she’d go get him and so we wouldn’t die in here!”

“And from strong friendships do not the most beautiful loves flourish?” Loki asked ignoring Peter’s perfectly reasonable justification. Why the two had started talking more and more formally as they continued to tease him, Peter didn’t know.

“It’s not like that!”

Of course, that denial only added more fuel to the fire. The twin maniac grins on the two Aesir made Peter want nothing more than to web their mouths shut.

Danny please save me.

Chapter Text

“Alright!” Danny said brightly, floating inside Shuri’s lab. “Ready for test number…what number are we on again?”

“15.” Shuri said before throwing up the newest set of Kimoyo beads for Danny to test.

Shuri had been fascinated by Danny’s ability to open dimensional portals at will. Danny couldn’t blame her, it was very fascinating after all. She’d invited him to Wakanda to use this power as well as others as a means of testing the limits of her inventions. Currently Shuri was trying to create a set of Kimoyo beads that would work if Danny was in another dimension. Danny had been slightly doubtful it was possible, his parents had been trying that for years and he gotten nowhere, and Shuri had taken that as an insult against not only herself but the entire royal family.

Which was why Danny had been there for three hours and been unable to see anything of the amazing royal city except for Shuri’s lab. Shuri had a point to prove.

“I’ll start the call now.”

He manipulated the one of the beads on the bracelet so that it started a video call with his friend, carefully holding up his wrist to balance the thing. Once they were sure the connection was strong, Shuri had him open a portal and fly in. With the previous 14 tests the call shorted out when Danny entered the portal and closed it behind him. If he reopened the portal the connection would immediately snap back as if it had never been lost.

Which is what Dany had expected to happen.

But Shuri did so love shocking him. When he closed the portal the video didn’t fail, instead it went really strange. The image floating in front of him of Shuri sitting in her lab started randomly switching colors around like a psychedelic trip. The image started to distort and Danny blinked.

“Is it working?” Shuri asked, her voice much deeper than it should have been on the first two words and then abruptly shifted too way too high pitched on the last one.

“Sort of? I mean I can hear you but it’s…”

“It’s what Ghost boy?”

“Distorted?”

“Are you asking me or telling me.”

“I wish I knew.” She rolled her eyes the image twisting so hard it was hardly recognizable as human.

“Get back in here.”

He reopened the portal, the image immediately went back to normal. Danny floated back into her lab and tossed the beads back to her. She took them and rewound the recorded image and watched the few seconds he spent in the Ghost Zone from his perspective.

“Hmm, yes as I suspected.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Don’t question me.” She said almost playfully. “I know much more about this than you do.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that.” Danny agreed. “But that doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. You’re literally trying to design a walkie-talkie for the dead.”

She snorted at his description of her high tech vibranium beads and then started to jokingly lecture Danny on her complicated designs. Danny was halfway able to follow her, his parents were inventors after all. Danny floated beside her and listened to her scientific ramblings with wonder. All jokes aside even if Danny only saw Shuri’s lab while in Wakanda he couldn’t find it in himself to be upset, this place was amazing, and it was all Shuri’s creation.

“So, calling it a Walkie-Talkie for the Dead as if it were some sort of children’s toy isn’t accurate.”

“Well aren’t we building it so that you can call me for a playdate even if I’m back in my own dimension.”

“To call you for research.”

“And to make memes?”

“I didn’t say what kind of research.” Danny giggled and then sighed as he looked down at the rest of the perhaps forty designs Shuri had for him.

“I have an idea.” Danny said. “Can I try it?”

She lifted up an eyebrow but stepped back from her lab bench. Even as high tech as it was compared to the one that Danny was used to, he still knew how to use the tools. He floated down and started carefully building an ectoplasm powered battery. The design was one of his parents, but Danny carefully made it as small as he could to fit inside the beads. It took about thirty minutes to craft and the entire time Shuri just watched him, occasionally offering sarcastic commentary.

“Okay.” Danny said. “Do you have like…a knife?”

“A knife? What for?”

“I need one to finish this thing, then you’re going to add it into one of these beads as an alternative power source. Don’t worry about making it look pretty right now, just connect the two.”

“Alternative power source? That’s not necessary the battery powering the kimoyo beads is second to none, it is far more powerful than what you’ve made.”

“Oh I know.” Danny said. “You managed to keep a really freaky connection going with these batteries across dimensions. That’s way better than this thing.”

“Then why?”

“Call it a hunch. Please, a knife?”

She rolled her eyes but pressed a button calling for a servant in her native language that sounded like music to Danny’s ear. After a few moments a bald woman in a warrior’s uniform strode in carrying a knife. She bowed to Shuri and then held out the knife. Shuri thanked the woman, took the knife and then carelessly tossed it to Danny. Danny managed to catch it but stupidly cut his finger while doing it.

Which was just as well since that’s what he wanted the knife for in the first place.

“You can’t tell anyone about this.” He said.

“About you cutting yourself?” She asked grinning.

“No about where this alternative power source came from.” Danny said, his parents had machines that filtered ectoplasm in the air but that version of the stuff wasn’t nearly as potent as Danny’s blood. “You’re like the only scientist I’m going to let play with this stuff because I trust you not to go hard into unethical science. Can you do that?”

Shuri’s face went truly solemn for a moment and then she nodded.

“I swear I will not tell anyone.”

“Good.” Danny lifted up his cut hand and carefully let some of the dripping green blood drop into the device he’d made. It only took a couple of drops before it was full and then Danny pulled back and with his other hand carefully close it up, tossing it to Shuri. “There, attach away.”

“Your blood? You’re asking me to use your blood?”

“My blood is one of the most powerful sources of energy in the Ghost Zone. All ghosts are made of that stuff, it’s the most potent version of ectoplasmic energy.” Danny said. “I think that we need power from both dimensions in order to maintain a connection. Right now all the earthly stuff is spazzing out in not earth space, but if we give it a little bit of a push that’ll help bridge the connection from this side then…”

Shuri’s eyes brightened and she started to work, pushing him out of the way while babbling about the potential uses of his blood for her other inventions. Danny grinned and rolled his eyes at how delighted she sounded. The more she talked, the less brilliant his grin was.

“Could you like…not make weapons?”

“What?”

“With my blood. Don’t use my blood to make weapons.” Her face immediately took on more understanding. “I’m serious Shuri, if this gets out then organizations around the world will be hunting ghosts to make powerful weapons and most of those groups aren’t going to be nice about it. The only ghosts they’ll be able to catch are the ones who are too weak or too nice to fight back.”

“Danny, I successfully helped hide an entire technologically advanced country from the world.” She said. “I promise you that no one is going to find out about your blood.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, stop looking at me like that and let me get back to work, you’re such a distraction.” Danny rolled his eyes at Shuri’s joking censure.

 It didn’t take her long to make the connection to the beads and then she handed Danny them to test again. The video call between them started up easily and Danny opened the portal without prompting. He floated in and closed the portal. The connection fizzled for three seconds before the ecto-battery pumped into action and then it stabilized.

“Dude.” Danny said looking at Shuri.

Dude.” She repeated. “Go…go fly at least 100 meters away.”

Danny did and the connection held strong, the entire time they were joking with each other as Danny flew further and further away inside the Ghost Zone.

“How did you know we needed ectoplasmic energy?” She asked.

“I didn’t, it’s just…the Fentons, the best ghost scientists on the planet have tried to make this thing before and they had the same problem you did, except they weren’t powering it with vibranium but with ectoplasm. I figured…well ectoplasm already naturally moves between our dimensions so…”

“Using ectoplasm to let the connection pass through while having my vibranium power it. That’s genius! Since when were you so smart?”

“Trust me, I’m not.” Danny said. “I was basically a C student when I was alive.”

Shuri laughed at him and then ordered him back telling him that she and enough data to create the perfect communication devices for their team. Before Danny could do so he his ghost sense went off, he flipped around to see a weird ghost staring at him like she’d never seen him before.

“Uh…Hello? Miss Ghost?”

“Oh, you are just as wonderful as he said!” She said looking at him like a cat would a canary. “You’re hair glows like snow in the moonlight!”

“Who is that?” Shuri asked and Danny sent her a look to imply very clearly that he had no clue.

“Uhm…thanks for the compliment.” Danny said. “And what’s your name?”

“I am Volaris.” She said, bowing her head to reveal elven like ears behind her long hair. Danny had never seen a ghost like her but then again that was true for almost every ghost he’d ever met for the first time. They were quite a unique bunch. “I was once Queen of Arvandor, where all the fallen light elves find their rest.”

“You were once?”

“Yes.” She said. “My throne was taken from me by King Katar, he who rules the Forgotten Lands of the Dark Elves.”

“Elves?” Shuri asked. “Am I hearing this correctly?”

“You have many living companions.” Volaris said looking at the video call with interest. “I have met three of them already within Katar’s dungeons.”

“What?” Danny yelped. “What do you mean three?”

“A boy in a red and blue suit told me to find you to lead you to where Katar has hidden him and the Aesir princes he kidnapped. Were you not aware that Katar had kidnapped your friends and declared war on you?”

“No!” Holy shit! Spiderman got kidnapped.

“Ah, I see the messenger Katar sent to your haunt in Amity was unable to find you.”

“Danny.” Shuri said rushing around the lab. She was grabbing ecto-weaponry she’d previously designed and had Danny help her test. “I’m getting my weapons, open the portal once I’m ready, we’ll go rescue Spiderman together.”

“Alright.” He said. “Volaris, can you help me get there without Katar knowing?”

“It might not be possible. Katar wishes nothing more than to fight you.”

“Why? I have literally never heard of him before!”

“Katar wants to rule over every realm of the dead and to command a numberless army that he may use in a conquest against the living. He conquered first his own people and then mine. You are the king of the undead humans as well as the Jontuns, Vanir, and Aesir are you not?”

“King? I’m not a king!” Danny said making Volaris look very confused.

“Did you not defeat the Great Pariah Dark?”

“Well yeah but…”

“Then that would make you King!”

“I abdicated! I put the ring of rage and the crown of fire back, I’m not the king.”

“Abdicated? No ghost has ever done something like that before.”

“Well… I did.” Danny said panicking at the very idea of being king, of wielding that sort of power. “Shuri are you ready?”

“I am.”

Danny opened the portal and Shuri jumped through without hesitation, holding out a free hand that Danny caught to keep her floating for a moment. The portal snapped shut and Danny ended the call between the beads in the same moment. It only took Shuri a few seconds to get flying on her own power, well aware that she could do that since Spiderman told her, even though she’d never been in the zone before.

“Lead us to Katar.” She said. “If this King wishes to take our friends then a fight is what he will have.”

“Of course.” Volaris said. “I hope that if you defeat him Phantom that you will be kind when ruling my people.”

Danny blinked and looked at the woman, she reminded him of Dorathea. The Dragon Queen had asked him the same thing after he’d defeated Aragon.

“Look, Volaris.” Danny said. “Do you really only want your people to be safe?”

“Yes.” She said.

“Okay. Then we’ll make sure that happens.” She gave him a bright smile and complimented him again on his beauty and grace. Then she turned and started to fly.

Danny immediately started to follow the elven queen and Shuri didn’t hesitate to do the same. They flew quickly in a direction Danny had never gone before in the zone. Which was unsurprising since there were literally an innumerable number of directions he could go in the zone and he’d only been exploring the place for two years. She took them downwards towards the ground of the zone and into a dense forest. Danny hadn’t even been aware that the zone could support this much plant life.

Volaris explained that the light elves had long loved to grow and protect these trees which were the essences of trees lost to time over the millennia. The elves would live in them, using their abilities to grow them into comfortable shapes. Not that Katar allowed that anymore. It was hard to keep control of the light elves if he couldn’t find them hiding in the trees. Danny and Shuri flew past empty homes looking in through the open windows with a sad sort of curiosity.

When they got out of the huge forest filled with odd towering trees, they landed outside a huge citadel made of black stone. This was where the elves, light and dark, now lived.

“So.” Shuri said. “Do light elves hate dark elves?”

“In life we were the bitterest of enemies.” Volaris said. “But in death we find that we have more in common, especially because Katar has forced us together so closely. If my people are free I know many of them will miss the Dark Elves. Now come, we must be stealthy now lest we be caught.”

Danny reached out and took Shuri’s hand turning them both invisible just as Volaris did the same. It was difficult following her when she was invisible, but they managed. She took them on a wandering path through the dense city to avoid every ghost citizen. They were all under Katar’s control for the most part and a lot of them would have to snitch on them even if they didn’t want to because of it.

Danny was liking Katar less and less as time went on.

They snuck into the monolith of a castle in the center of the city and Volaris told them in a hushed tone that their friends were in the basement.

“But if any ghost enters there that Katar does not know the alarms will sound.”

 “Okay.” Danny said thinking quickly. “Shuri, Volaris you two will go down to the basement and free Spiderman, Thor, and Loki. Since Shuri’s a human the alarms shouldn’t trip when she goes down there with you.”

“What will you do?” Shuri asked.

“Katar is enslaving people for an army. That’s a punchable offense.” Danny said. “And you know I believe in a swift justice system.”

“You will fight him?” She asked. “And take his kingdom from him?”

“I’ll take him down, but you need to get my friends out of here, safely. Can I trust you?”

“Of course, Sir Phantom.” She breathed and then bowed a little before turning to Shuri and holding out a hand. “We will go to the basement, Katar should be in the throne room, it is that way.”

“Sounds good. Shuri, good luck.”

“You too Ghost Boy. Once they’re all free, I’ll give them some weapons and we’ll come help.”

Danny nodded. He had no idea how powerful Katar would be and help would always be nice. He flew off in the direction Volaris had pointed and got ready for a fight. The ghosts who saw him didn’t bother trying to stop him, they knew what he was here for. Danny burst dramatically into the throne room where King Katar was being fed wine by a ghostly woman wearing almost nothing who held the golden goblet to his lips.

“KATAR!” Danny said, his voice bursting into the room. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to take things that aren’t yours?”

“Oh Phantom.” The orange ghost said looking at him as if Danny had amused him. “Finally decided to answer to my invitation?”

“Yeah and sorry I know the invite said no guests but I brought two.”

“What?”

“Yeah.” Danny said lifted up his right arm and flexing off his arm muscle. He pointed at his bicep. “Guest one.” He repeated the process on his left arm. “Guest two.”

“Oh how droll. The stories of you didn’t say you were an idiot.” Katar got up and his right hand burst into flames, the flames transfigured themselves into a wicked looking sword. The woman who’d been feeding him scurried away, frightened of her king.

“They didn’t?” Danny asked frowning. “I’ll need to flog my PR guys when I get back then.”

Danny lifted up his right hand focused his eyes glowing blue. A sword made of ghost ice grew in his hand and he pointed it at the king.

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You kidnapped my friend, prepare to die.”

“Enough with these games.” He snarled. “Face your fate and lose your power you halfa.”

And finally, the fight began, Danny made three puns about being a halfa as they traded sword blows. Left, left, parry, jab. Danny didn’t have much sword fighting experience, but he was always good at improvising. Danny swiped at Katar’s chest and Kataer blocked the blow, leaving his right side open. Danny fired an ectoblasts at the man while he broke Danny’s ice sword with his fire sword.

They both stumbled back, Danny’s sword quickly re-growing to its proper length and Katar gripping his wounded side. They flung themselves back at each other and began to fight as furiously as they were capable. Danny knew he had to get the guy to drop his sword and so he started working to enrage the guy that he’d lose his concentration on his fire powers.

Puns were pretty enraging.

“Did you become such a crappy king because you don’t like yourself? You need some more elf-confidence.”

“Have you tried meditation to work out those anger problems? You know what they say. H-efy mind, h-elfy body.”

“You know I’m only here to fight the bourgeoise and redistribute the w-elf.

“Why aren’t you laughing? I’m just trying to d-elf-fuse the tension!”

“Do we really have to fight? I’d hate to destroy the palace of Elf-ghanistan.”

“Current Elve-idence would suggest your people don’t like you that much.”

“ENOUGH!” Katar roared his sword disappearing from his hand as he rushed at Danny to punch his lights out. Finally, Danny had been running out of elf puns.

Danny was ready with an ecto-shield to block the punch and sent one out of his own. His powers lit up his eyes and he started firing blasts of ice and ecto-energy putting this elven king on the defensive instead of the offense. Danny blasted the king so hard he flew through three walls, too injured to phase thus destroying them. The man yelled out threats for destroying his palace and fired back a huge wall of flames that almost destroyed his shields.

They continued into an aerial battle flying out of the palace to fire at each other. Neither of them held back as they fought. Danny thought the two of them were pretty evenly matched but that didn’t stop him from making jokes about how short on power the elf was. Which only pissed the guy off further. That rage powered a particularly powerful fire blast that sent Danny tumbling to the ground.

He might have overdone it on the jokes that time.

He landed with a crash on his back in a courtyard somewhere in the city. Katar landed a moment later, grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear. His sword had returned to his hand.

“I believe I’ll cut your head off as punishment for your insolence.”

Danny groaned a little, his mind scrambling telling his hurting body to get up and move. Katar stood over him.

“If you survive this halfa, do remember that I own you now.”

“Wait.” Danny coughed. “You’re really going to kill me with that shitty of a line? I mean seriously, saying ‘sleep with the fishes’ would have been better!”

“Shut up you little-”

“No. I don’t think I will, my voice is my best quality after all.” Danny said before taking in a deep breath and letting out a ghostly wail. The blast of supersonic noise sent Katar flying and blew back all of the nearby buildings. Green shockwaves sped from his mouth destroying everything pointed his face towards. Danny ended the wail before it exhausted him into unconsciousness and got up.

Katar was groaning on the ground, holding his hands to his ears.

“Hope I didn’t make you d-elf.” Danny said pulling out the thermos on his belt and pointing it at the guy. “Because that’ll make it hard for your court hearing.”

The man growled and Danny sucked him up in the thermos before he could attack again. He was breathing hard as he put the thermos back on his belt. Slowly all around him elven ghosts with skin colored like fall leaves came crawling out from wherever they’d hidden themselves. A little boy who looked like he would have been about five had he been human with ears far too long for his head walked over to him.

“Is he…gone?”

“He’s not going to bother you anymore, I promise.”  Danny’s words made the boy break out into a toothy grin.

“KATAR IS DEFEATED!”

A cheer broke out over the still swelling crowd. He heard them cheering for him, for the new King, and Danny knew he had to cut that nonsense out right now. He wasn’t king material. He looked around and spotted Shuri and the others. He flew over to them.

“Oh my gosh! Are you guys okay?” Danny asked. “Spiderman, tell me you’re not hurt.”

“Oh, he’s hurting with something.” Loki said making Spiderman elbow him harshly in the side.

“I’m fine. Loki’s just being a dick.”

“Good. Thor, Loki? Are you two good?”

“We are well, thank you for coming to our rescue.”

“Anytime. But don’t like…make it a habit to get kidnapped by crazy ghost elves.”

“We will do our best.”

“You defeated him.” Volaris said. “You freed us of him, your highness.”

“Volaris.” Danny said. “I’m not a king.”

“But you are! You defeated our ruler and now you will take his place.” Danny shook his head.

“No. No, if I became king, I wouldn’t be a good one for the elves.”

“So, you are just going to abandon us without a leader, without protection?”

The humans and aesir were watching the conversation between the ghosts devolve into an argument with varying levels of amusement and confusion.

 “They already have a ruler.” Danny said looking at the woman. “You.”

“I…what?”

“You led the light elves before you can do it again. You want your people to be safe and you’re the best person to actually see it done.”

She looked at him like she couldn’t believe he existed.

“You are asking that I rule in your place?”

“Yes. Just promise me that you won’t start wars or hurt anyone. That you’ll only fight to defend yourselves. Be kind to other ghosts and I think you’d make an amazing leader of the elves.”

“What of the Dark Elves?”

“Can you promise to treat them fairly? Like the Light Elves?”

“I will.”

“Then lead them both.” Danny said simply. She looked dumbstruck by the very idea.

“But…but what if we are attacked? Without Katar we are vulnerable.”

Danny looked down at the beads Shuri had just designed and then over at the princess in question. She smiled and nodded her head. Danny popped one of the beads off the bracelet and held it out.

“This can be used to call me, wherever I am. If you need help protecting your people call me and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

She looked near tears.

“Thank you, Sir Phantom. Thank you. Your kindness and beauty truly knows no bounds, even half as you are.”

“Right.” Danny said. “Let’s go tell your new people about the merger. Guys, we’ll be free to go back to earth in like…ten minutes I promise.”

“It’s cool.” Spiderman said. “Take your time.”

Danny turned and led Volaris back to the crowd of ghosts. The last thing he heard form his living friends was Peter muttering to Thor and Loki ‘I told you so!’.

What was that all about?

Chapter Text

“Alright!” Phantom said clapping his hands together. He was currently wearing a bunch of ghostly finery. The elves, both light and dark, had gifted their new king with all manner of things. Weapons and jewels and magical artifacts. For the last hour Phantom had been trying to convince them that he didn’t need these gifts while also not offended them. Based on the literal trunks of gifts surrounding him, the poor ghostly teen hadn’t been very successful. For all his talk about abdicating the throne to Volaris, it seemed that no ghost but Phantom believed it. “Are you guys ready to go home?”

Loki nodded, pleased to be going home. From the moment he’d regained consciousness in the ghost zone he’d felt terribly cold. Which was odd because Loki never ever felt cold. He admitted if he thought about it for the past month or so he’d been feeling progressively chillier. He’d explained it away by spending time with Phantom and living in Norway a land much colder than Asgard. But in the zone the cold had increased to the point that it was undeniable.

“Please dude.” Spiderman said. “I am starving.”

“Starving.” Thor said. “Is that what they are calling it these days?”

Loki smirked at the hunched shoulders Spiderman now sported. This really was going to be too much fun, the poor spider had really done this to himself. He was going to be holding this over the teen hero’s head for years, perhaps even decades to come. It was a nice distraction from the cold growing in his chest.

“Uhm.” Phantom said, looking at Thor as if he was slightly loony. “Right, I just need to drop all of this stuff back at my own haunt and then I can take everyone back to earth.”

“Your haunt?” Loki asked. “I was led to believe you live on earth.”

“I do, but I have a place here where I store stuff. It’ll be a quick side trip.”

“Let’s go.” Shuri said. “There is no telling when someone will notice I am no longer working in my lab. I do not want to explain todays adventure to my mother.”

“Right yeah. Spiderman, Shuri? You two ready to fly?”

“They can fly?” Loki asked.

“All living people can in the zone.” Phantom said. “You just have to feel like flying.”

It took both Thor and Loki a moment to even understand that explanation let alone attempt it, but they managed in the end. Once they were air born, Phantom closed his eyes and focused. The ten trunks of gifts all glowed green and began to float in air behind them. Phantom opened his eyes and sighed in relief. He reached up and readjusted the golden circlet on his head and then jumped into the air.

“Okay! Welcome Ghost Zone Express! I’ll be your tour guide today on our journey through one of the universe’s most unique environments!” Phantom said in a faked cutesy voice. “If you’ll follow me this way you’ll be able to see the entire Elven Forest.”

Shuri and Spiderman both laugh and began to joke about tour guides while Thor and Loki felt slightly confused. They followed Phantom anyway who was kind enough to point out things on their journey. Loki had always been an explorer at heart, even as a young boy he’d loved being able to use his magic to open passageways to any number of places in the universe. He had never before been in Hel however and it was far less frightening than all of Frigga’s warnings had made it seem.

But then again their guide was the practically uncontested king of the entire realm. Who was going to bother them?

“So um…Danny?” Spiderman said breaking Loki out of his thoughts.

“What’s up?”

“Katar said some really weird stuff to us while we were locked up.” Spiderman said. “Could you explain it?”

“I can try. I don’t really know all that much about elves dude.”

“It’s not about elves.” Loki interrupted. “It’s about ghosts.”

Phantom flipped around so that he was flying backwards and looked at Loki, the question clear in his raised eyebrow. So, Loki indulged him and explained in detail what Katar believed about Phantom and how many domains he could lay claim to. The more Loki spoke the more alarmed Phantom looked. This was the first time Loki had ever seen the ghost look afraid of anything.

“No way.” Phantom said. “No way in hell, I am not King of anything.”

“I don’t know.” Shuri said. “Even as we were leaving Volaris seemed pretty certain that you were…”

“And that’s not on me. I told her she was in charge, I can’t control if she has shitty listening comprehension.”

 “Why are you so against this?” Loki asked. “Think about the power you could wield.”

“I don’t want power. I want to have fun with my friends and occasionally save the day if my town gets attacked.” Phantom said firmly. “Besides! I have no idea how to be a king, I died before I even got to kiss someone! You can’t be a king if you haven’t kissed someone before. That’s a rule.”

“Really?” Thor asked. “Since when?”

“Since right now. So there. I’m not King and I’m probably never going to become King because no one wants to kiss a ghost.”

Loki could think of someone who’d want to kiss the ghostly teen. He and Thor both glanced over at Spiderman who was looking away from them very, very hard. He ignored the pang he felt at the death of someone so young. Young enough that they measured things in milestones like first kisses. Phantom truly was a child, a child who was also the king of six ghostly realms.

“So…” Shuri said. “If we find you someone to kiss then you’ll agree that you could be king?”

“I’m not just going to randomly kiss someone! That’s not how it works. A first kiss has to mean something.” Phantom said. “I’ve done fake kissing before.”

“Fake kissing?” Loki asked.

“It’s called a Fake-Out Make-Out and it’s saved my afterlife more than a few times.”

“Dude.” Spiderman said. “I thought those only existed in legend.”

“Oh no. They exist.” Phantom said. “And they are a powerful tool only to be used in the most extreme of circumstances.”

“Could someone please explain what a Fake-Out Make-Out is?” Thor asked sounding just as mystified as Loki felt.

It was Shuri who explained in gleeful tones what all teenagers on earth apparently knew. A diabolical plan full of cunning that pulled the wool over the eyes of almost any adult. Loki was almost impressed by the whole thing. Phantom insisted very strenuously that there was no way that, even if said Fake-Out Make-Out was enjoyable, it counted as a kiss. Especially a first kiss. Why Phantom qualified that as the requirement for becoming King Loki couldn’t fathom.

Of course, Spiderman and Shuri seemed to understand in that way that teenagers only could. When Thor asked why a kiss was necessary it was Spiderman who said that it was just like Sleeping Beauty, or Beauty and the Beast, or any other number of fairy tales. Princesses and Princes didn’t become Kings and Queens until they found True Love’s Kiss. Loki thought that sounded like an excuse from Phantom to avoid even thinking about the responsibility on his shoulders. Thor was just mostly amused by the idea of True Love’s Kiss.  

 They had no such equivalent concept in Asgard, not truly. The idea that there was one person and only one person meant for you made very little sense when you lived for eternity. Asgardians believed that you were meant to have many great loves over the millennia of their lives. As time passed, people grew and changed. Who could be your great love one century might no longer fit you in the next. It was sad yes, but it was natural. There were of course people who decided to grow together, Odin and Frigga had been two such people, sticking together through the eternities, but it certainly wasn’t common.

“First Kiss aside.” Loki said. “I don’t think the other ghosts are going to take that into consideration.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Phantom said. “They’d never let a halfa be king.”

And there was that word again. Katar had used it and Volaris had implied it. Phantom sounded so frustrated when he said it. Shuri had a shrewd calculating look in her face.

“Volaris said you were half formed, said it like it was some sort of a disability.” She said.

“It’s what I am.” Phantom said in the same tone that Loki used whenever he called himself a Jontun Runt. “I’m a halfa.”

“What…what does it mean?” Spiderman asked.

“When I died something went wrong, it was painful way more painful than it should have been. I should have lost consciousness halfway through but I didn’t. Whatever happened to me as I was dying meant I didn’t…I was half a ghost, deformed. I look like a ghost but I lack all of the head stuff.”

“The head stuff.” Loki repeated.

“Ghosts are created already knowing everything they need to know. They know how to use their powers, they know what their obsession is, they know where they should haunt, they know how to haunt. They know all about these ghost politics that I have no clue about. They just know. But I didn’t come out right and I didn’t know anything and they know I’m half-formed. They hate me for it, for being less than them.”

“You’re not less!” Spiderman denied immediately. “You’re like the coolest ghost ever!”

“Not to other ghosts. I can try as hard as I want but I’m always going to be a 2nd class citizen. I can’t be King, if I even tried there’d be a million ghosts going for my throat.” Phantom said. “So just leave it alone, okay? I’m happy where I am. I’m not collecting crowns or kingdoms or whatever else. I’m just a ghost kid trying to do some good in the world.”

And that was a very difficult thing to argue against. After all, Loki would have never been allowed to be King of Jontunheim, heir to the throne or not. His chest grew colder at the thought. In the distance a huge black castle loomed, floating on a large rock. The entire place just screamed danger and Phantom was flying towards it without a care in the world.

“What is that?” Thor said.

“That’s my haunt.” Phantom said. “I live there.”

“That? It looks awful!”

“Oh, thank you, I’m really feeling the love here.”

“I did not mean that… I just…”

“No. No. I know.” Phantom said. “It wasn’t mine originally, I won it in a fight and it’s just scary enough that most ghosts won’t dare go up to the front steps.”

“Who did you win it from?” Loki asked.

“Pariah Dark.”

Loki didn’t want to go in there.

Who was he kidding? Of course, he did!

“Just wait one minute.” Phantom pushed open a gigantic door and levitated the trunks into the entryway, he then pulled off the finery he’d been dressed in and tossed it in too. He pulled the door shut with a slam and then turned back to them. “Alright, let’s get to earth.”

“Seriously?” Shuri demanded. “You’re not going to invite us in?”

“It’s not a nice place.”

“Oh, come on.” Loki cajoled. “Just a little peek.”

“No way dude!”

“Danny?” Spiderman asked. “Do you like…have any food in there? I’m really not feeling good.”

“Your metabolism!” Phantom said. “Oh! I think I might have some living safe food in here. Come on in, I’ll go look.”

“Living safe?” Thor asked.

“Uhh yeah.” Phantom said while pushing open the doors again and ushering them inside. “Ghosts have food, we grow it just for fun. But if a living person eats it then they’re trapped in the zone forever.”

“Really?” Shuri asked.

“Yeah, the food changes something in your body, makes you reliant on the high concentrations of ectoplasm in the zone to stay alive. If you eat ghost food and try to return to earth, you’ll die. So, don’t like accept any food from a ghost, except for me. I’m cool. Now. Stay here and don’t touch anything! Our group literally only needs one dead guy in it, okay?”

Then Phantom was flying away down the hallway of the large cavernous entry way. He left them standing in the dark, the only light coming from the outside zone. Slowly the door began to swing shut on it’s own hinges, putting them fully into the darkness. Loki cursed and cast a few mage lights that floated up and filled the air with an eerie green glow.

“I can’t believe Danny lives here.” Spiderman said. “It’s awful.”

“I’m sure it’s not so bad further in.” Shuri said. “Maybe Danny just wants the front door to be really scary so that no one tries to sneak in?”

“I don’t know.” Thor said. “A castle this large? It would require a lot of work to keep clean and cared for. More than one ghost child has.”

Loki shivered from the growing cold in his chest. He looked over the empty place and swallowed. With a careful wave of his hands the iron sconces on the walls were filled with torches, a snap of his fingers and they were on fire. Even with the warm comforting glow, the place was still dreary.

“Well come on then.” Loki said. “Let’s make sure the boy doesn’t live in a hovel.”

“Danny said for us to stay here.”

“And you thought we’d listen?” Shuri asked Spiderman, shaking her head at his naivety. “Come on, Spider-boy, let’s go see if we can find something interesting.”

Of course, it didn’t take the boy much convincing to start exploring, although he did insist no one touch anything. Loki resisted the urge to tell the boy that they’d leave the touching all to him. He didn’t want to make the boy die of mortification so soon after all. He did exchange a very amused look with Thor though so that was a bonus. They walked past the gifts that Phantom had tossed inside and down the hallway.

The place was empty, a true ghost town. Each room they opened was filled with decaying furniture and torn fabrics. The entire place smelt musty and old, as if no one had been there in 5000 years. Which ironically when Pariah Dark had been defeated the first time. It took about five minutes to find the throne room and when they did Loki almost wished they hadn’t. It was by far the most destroyed room in the entire place.

The walls were dented in and there was evidence of a huge great battle. Broken sconces and glass littered the cracked and broken stone floor. In the center of the chaos was a throne that had a sarcophagus leaning against it. The thing was black with red and glowing green accents. Along the legs and feet of the coffin were painted human skulls and bones. The face of the sarcophagus looked like nothing Loki had ever seen. Ghostly and terrible.

There were two floating glass boxes on either side of the king, one with a bright red ring and the other with a crown that was literally on fire. Loki walked past them and up the dais to the sarcophagus. In the center was a large keyhole. He reached out to touch it.

“Holy shit what are you doing? Get away from that!”

Phantom flew down at them at high speeds, a brightly colored box that had the label ‘Lucky Charms’ on it in his arms. He tossed the box at Spiderman who caught it and immediately ripped it open and began to devour the small strange shapes inside.

“Get away from him!” Phantom ordered.

“Him?”

“That’s Pariah Dark!”

Loki yelped and jumped off the dais.

“What?”

“Seriously dude, we’re in his castle, who’d you think would be on the throne?”

“You!”

“I’m not the king!” The boy’s voice was loud, so loud that Loki clapped his hands over his ears even as he stumbled back further form the force of it. Spiderman dropped his food and Shuri fell to her knees, pained. Immediately Phantom slapped his hand over his mouth, horror overcoming his features. “Sorry!”

“What was that?” Spiderman hissed.

“My…my powers” The boy explained, his hands still mostly covering his mouth. “aren’t always easy to control…they got away from me. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Spiderman said. “We all make mistakes, dude.”

“What power was that?”

“A ghostly wail. It’s like a sonic attack.”

“Dude that’s so awesome!”

Slowly Phantom lowered his hands to reveal a hesitant smile. Ah, young love.

“You think so?”

“Totally!”

“It’s very cool.” Shuri decided. “Why haven’t you used it before?”

“It’s pretty powerful. Mostly it just destroys whatever I point it at. No point in using it around living people. I am sorry, I got carried away. This room always freaks me out a bit.”

“What happened here? Why isn’t Pariah Dark…you know dead?”

“He is dead, he didn’t get dissipated because that’s pretty much impossible. When he tried to destroy earth I fought him and pushed him into this. It’s the sarcophagus of eternal sleep. As long as no one unlocks this thing, he’ll never bother anyone ever again. Which won’t happen because I hid the key somewhere no one will ever look for it.”

He sounded very sure of himself and his hiding place. Loki looked at the young boy and spoke, his voice very deadpan.

“It’s hiding under your pillow, isn’t it?”

“What? No! No way! I’d never hide something so important…I can’t believe you’d even think that!”

“Danny.” Spiderman said. “Please tell me you didn’t hide the key to earth’s destruction under your pillow.”

“It’s not! It isn’t!” The ghost insisted, his cheeks blushing green.

“Then where is it?” The ghost mumbled something in return and so Loki repeated his question.

“It’s in my closet!”

“Really?” Spiderman yelled. “Come on dude!”

“It’s not that bad!”

“Not that bad?” Thor said. “Pariah Dark could kill us all and the only thing stopping him is a closet door!”

“Hey! I guard that closet!”

“Oh that’s comforting.”

“Look, you don’t know where I live on earth. Nobody does and even if someone did figure it out, they’d still have to get through me. Trust me. It’s fine. Now can we get the hell out of here and back to earth?

“We will be discussing this later.” Loki declared, the sheer carelessness the boy displayed made the ice in his chest grow a bit larger. Odd. Loki coughed into his hand and pointedly ignored the frost the appeared on his skin.

“Are you okay Loki?”

“Fine. This…air isn’t agreeing with me.”

“Then we should go.” Thor said. “I find this castle to be…less than pleasant.”

“Don’t pull your punches dude. There’s a reason I don’t live here full time. My place back on earth is much cozier. I have stick on stars that glow in the dark on my ceiling.”

“Dude.” Spiderman said. “Seriously? Those are so awesome!”

Children. They were children. They followed Phantom out of the castle, shutting the door to the throne room firmly behind them. The two mysterious objects mostly forgotten. Mostly because Loki knew magic when he saw it and couldn’t help but be just a tiny bit curious about what they did and why they were there. It took about twenty minutes of flying to get back to earth. Phantom dropped Shuri off first back into her lab, no one the wiser. Next he took them to New York, where Loki was going to teleport he and Thor back to their people.

Hopefully nothing dreadful had happened while they were gone.

“Thanks for the rescue.”

“Well…it was sort of my fault you were taken in the first place yeah?” Phantom said looking at the three of them. “You should talk to Tony about getting some anti-ghost wear. He can work with the Fentons and make like a belt for you to wear so you won’t get taken like that again.”

“But won’t that stuff hurt you too?” Spiderman asked.

“Uhmm…most anti-ghost wear tends to electrocute ghosts so…”

“I’m not wearing it. No way.”

“Dude! You just got kidnapped! Who cares if I get zapped again?”

“Again?” Thor asked.

The boy looked stricken. Far more than he had when he’d accidentally yelled a little at Loki. This wasn’t a guilty look. This was a traumatized look. Things began clicking together in Loki’s mind.

“Just…talk to Tony okay? If that ghost had been a little less stupid, he would have killed you three. I mean it.”

“Danny.” Spiderman said.

“Please. I can’t let you get hurt, trust me. Dying isn’t…”

“Phantom.” Thor rumbled. “How did you die?”

The boy didn’t answer. No quip, no joke to deflect. He just looked at Thor, the embodiment of lightning and thunder with something strained in his eyes.

“I…I gotta go.”

Phantom disappeared into the portal he’d made, it slammed shut behind him leaving them all standing on a rooftop in Queens. The jokes about Spiderman’s crush forgotten in the wake of all that had just been said, or rather had not been said.

“He…he got electrocuted?” Spiderman asked. “But…what would that have felt like?”

“Don’t look it up.” Loki warned. “Somethings are best left alone, child.”

“Did…Mr. Thor sir…do you think it hurt?”

Spatters of rain began to fall from the sky and Thor clenched his fist slightly.

“Yes. Yes I think it did.” Before any of this could go more wrong, Loki took Thor’s hand and with his other pushed the little spider slightly towards the edge of the roof.

“Come on. Go on home little spider. Thor and I need to check on our people.”

“Right. Of course.” The boy sounded nauseous, but he did as he was bid and activated the devices on his wrist and began to swing on scientifically conjured webs. Loki wasn’t sure what to say to comfort himself and Thor about what they’d learnt albeit accidentally.  

Before he could figure it out, the cold in Loki’s chest grew again and he coughed, this time Thor noticed the cold. Frost formed on the ground around him, even going so far as to cover their shoes. He kept coughing so much that Thor had to hold him up, ignoring the ice crystals that formed on his arms.

“Loki! What’s wrong?”

“I…I don’t know.” He said once he got most of his breath back.

“Is it to do with your…”

“No. It isn’t that, don’t even say it. It’s probably something to do with being in that blasted realm for too long. It’ll pass.” Thor didn’t look convinced.

Which was appropriate because Loki didn’t really feel convinced either. It didn’t matter, Loki would will the problem away. It certainly had to do with ghosts not…not Jontuns.

Right?

Chapter Text

Danny wasn’t ignoring his phone. Really, honestly he wasn’t. That would be immature of him and Danny was 17 now, practically a mature functioning adult. And adults didn’t ignore their phones that kept ringing with messages. By that logic, it meant Danny couldn’t possibly be ignoring his phone. In fact, the phone probably wasn’t even ringing that’s how clear it was that nothing was going on with it.

The phone made another annoyed buzzing noise, rattling slightly against the grass beneath it.

Danny clenched his jaw and looked up at the sky. He was laying on a hill just outside of Amity, looking as human as the day he’d been born. He’d been, not ignoring because that would be silly, not touching his phone for three days now and he would probably continue to do so. Whoever was trying to get a hold of him could wait. It probably wasn’t even that important anyway.

Frankly whoever was trying to talk to him was getting a little pushy about it. They should learn to take a hint. For the past three days he’d stuck to Amity, no trips into the zone and no exploring different parts of the world. He worked with his parents on their inventions and threw himself into spending time with his friends. They weren’t any attacks from ghosts during that time, so Danny didn’t even bother transforming.

Not that he was afraid to do it or anything.

Why should he be bothered? He’d transformed thousands of times by now. There was no reason to be even slightly perturbed by it. So, what if Thor, the literal incarnation of the thing that had killed him, had asked a pointed question! Danny had come to terms with it! He had! What did he even have to worry himself over? That they knew? It didn’t change anything, nothing! He was the same half ghost he’d always been.

“Fame not all you expected it to be, Little Badger?”

Danny jumped up at the voice, his hands glowing bright green. A moment later, Vlad appeared. He was in his ghost form and Danny still wasn’t sure how the Fruitloop managed to evade his ghost sense so effectively.

“What the hell do you want, shouldn’t you be getting back to your cat?”

“Oh Daniel. Cease your pointless quips.” Vlad said floating closer. “We both know why I’m here.”

Danny looked around, checking for witnesses and then let the transformation overcome his body. He floated up into the air to be eye level with the billionaire half ghost.

“I’d suggest you get out of here Vlad.”

“I don’t think I will Daniel.” Vlad said smirking at him. “And stop with the glowing eyes, we both know I’m far more skilled than you are. You wouldn’t need to lower yourself to such base threats if you’d accept my offer.”

“Will you just shut up and go away, Fruitloop? I don’t want to work with you and my mom doesn’t want to date you, you’re gross.” Ah yes a very mature and adult thing to say.

Vlad barred his teeth and fired a bolt of ecto-energy at him. Danny immediately dodged it and fired one back. Immediately they engaged in an aerial battle. Danny flipped around and fired a barrage of shots at Vlad, all of which the other halfa blocked with ease.

“You need to see some sense Daniel!”

“And you need to stop being a Grade A creep.”

Vlad split himself into four Vlads who didn’t hesitate to spread out and start attacking him from all directions. Danny sent out a blast of ice right at the Vlad he thought might be the original Vlad, it hit the ghost dead in the chest causing it turn into a puff of pinkish smoke. Damn, not the right one. The Vlad to his right shot out some electricity right at him.

Something in Danny froze at the sight of the pink lightning bolts and he froze just long enough for him to hit. His body arched in pain as the energy coursed through him. Each and every nerve in his ghostly form screeched out its displeasure. His neck muscles twitched so hard that his neck was thrown back and he screamed. He stopped flying and landed with a thud onto the ground. There was now a slight indentation around where he’d landed.

“Pity Daniel, and here I thought you were getting better. Or perhaps you’re only better at charming the humans.”

Danny groaned in pain and forced himself upright as Vlad landed next to him.

“You really shouldn’t be bothering with the Avengers, Little Badger. It’s a waste of your time.”

“Is that…jealousy I hear, V-Man?” Vlad shot him with electricity in response making Danny scream again and fall back down.

“They’ll never accept you Daniel. You’re nothing but an amusement to them. A tool for them to exploit.” Vlad snarled looking down at him. “All of these ridiculous internet things you’ve done and that interview! You’re nothing but a toy, something they’ll discard when they get bored.”

“You’re wrong.” Danny said.

“Am I? They don’t respect you Daniel. All they do is pester you about your powers and your death. Not a bit of sense in any of their heads is there? The moment they know what you are they’ll have you flat on your back on a surgical table.”

“Shut up Vlad!”

“Stop being a fool, Daniel.”

Between Vlad’s feet his phone started to ring again. This time it was the ringtone Danny had saved for Tony. Vlad reached out and grabbed the phone as Danny scrambled for it. He answered it while firing a blast of energy at Danny and sending him tumbling over and over and landing at the bottom of the grassy hill.

“Now now Little Badger.” Vlad said holding the phone up to his ear. “Let me explain what the new arrangement is going to be with your little human friends.”

“Who the hell is this?” Tony said his voice crackling over the connection. Danny forced himself up and flew right at Vlad. Vlad tutted and cast an ecto-shield keeping him from getting close enough to do anything. Danny yelled and started punching and attacking the sphere of energy.

“Mr. Stark was it?” Vlad asked as if he didn’t know. “I think you’ve called at a bad time. You see I’m a bit busy disciplining a foolish child. But since you are here I think there’s something we should discuss.”

“Discipling? Look whoever the hell you are…”

“I am Plasmius and I own Phantom. You would do best never to contact him again. Or else…who knows what would happen?”

“Shut up Vlad!” Danny yelled firing the most powerful ecto-beam he could at the shield, finally shattering it. “Give me that phone!”

“Silence Daniel!” Vlad said punching Danny hard in the gut with a fist crackling with electricity. The energy pulsed through him and caused him to scream again. “I’m sorry about that Mr. Stark, sometimes children just don’t know how to behave.”

“Listen here, you little shit stain. You’d better stop what you’re doing or you’re going to regret it when I show up.”

“Aye.” Said Thor, holy crap was Thor on the phone too. “You would do well to listen to our warnings ghost.”

“How delightful. A god and a mechanic think they can take me on? Thor I heard about your little jaunt with the elves a few days ago, I highly doubt you could do anything to me.” Plasmius said. “But your presence does give me an idea. After all I can’t think of a better way to cow Phantom than with some good old-fashioned lightning.”

To prove his point Vlad fired again and Danny just barely managed to dodge.

“Do you think it’s too on the nose?” Vlad asked as if he cared what the two Avengers thought. “No, never mind. It’ll be a perfect reminder for the boy exactly what brought him here.”

Danny didn’t manage to dodge the next one. Mostly because Vlad was still split into three versions of himself and one of them hit him from behind. Danny screamed out again, trying not to but knowing there was no point to it. He always screamed just a little when he got electrocuted and Vlad’s powers always hurt the worst. When the lightning stopped Danny fell to the side, a halo of light appeared around his torso and he pushed it back.

“Stop fighting me Daniel, you belong with me.” Vlad ordered, one hand still holding up the phone. “Not with these living creatures. If you don’t give up right now I can’t be held responsible for what I’ll do to them. I mean they got taken by Katar of all ghosts. Imagine what I could do to that little Spider of yours if I tried.”

The other two Vlads floated down so that they flanked the one with the phone. Danny groaned and got to his knees. On the phone Thor and Tony were both yelling a lot of threats and warnings.

“Now Daniel.” All three of them spoke at the same time, echoing together. “Just tell me what I need to hear, and this won’t have to happen anymore. I promise, I’ll put the lightning away.”

“Go away.” Danny growled, his voice low and deadly.

“What was that, Little Badger? The words I want to hear are ‘I surrender’ or perhaps a ‘You were always right Plasmius’.”

“I said.” Danny said looking up at the ghost, his eyes glowing brighter than they ever had.

“GO A…WAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

Sonic waves emitted from his mouth and hit all three Vlad’s dead on. Danny’s phone was flung forcibly from the ghost’s hands and began flinging up and down into the distance. Vlad’s two copies popped out of existence in the same moment that the black ring appeared and transformed him back to his human form. Unlike the ghostly wail Danny had used against Katar, he didn’t hold back.

Vlad fell to his knees and curled into the fetal position, his hands covering his ears. Behind him the tall grass on the hill was flattened or ripped out of the very earth from the force of Danny’s wail. Clods of dirt were lifted up and sent flying, his voice carving out a channel in the very earth. Trees in the distance were pulled up by their roots and flung into the trees behind them. Danny pulled back before he lost his ghost form and fell onto the ground. He laid there and just breathed, his chest heaving in and out even though there was no point to it.

Ghosts don’t need to breathe after all.

Eventually Danny got himself together and looked up. Vlad had disappeared, probably teleporting away at the first opportunity. Good. He lifted up a hand and focused. His telekinesis activated and found his phone. The device, now with a terribly cracked screen, was still working. He put it to his ear and spoke.

“Tony you still there?” His voice was gravelly and painful sounding but Danny pretended it was normal.

“Kid? Holy shit what happened?”

“Just some jerk.” He said coughing a little. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Didn’t sound like nothing.” Thor rumbled.

“Seriously. It’s fine. What do you need? You wouldn’t have called unless it was serious.”

“Danny, we should talk about what this Plasmius guy…”

“What do you need?”

“It’s Loki.” Thor said after a moment. “He’s sick, been growing worse these past few days ever since we returned from Hel.”

“Of course, he is.” Danny muttered. “Well what’s wrong with him?”

“He’s…cold.” Thor said. “Everything he touches is getting frozen over. He almost killed the trees! Did the ghosts poison him with anything?”

“Does he have any other symptoms? Or is it just the ice?” Danny asked thankful for the opportunity to focus on anything but the lingering pain in his limbs and the words Vlad had said that were echoing around in his brain. Who cares if the Avengers didn’t understand him? He didn’t need them too! He didn’t need anyone to understand him!

“Just the ice for now. But it is growing worse.”

“It doesn’t sound like a ghost thing.” Danny mused. “If I didn’t know better I’d say it was an ice mage thing but I’ve never heard of an Asgardian ice mage. You guys usually do the fire thing.”

“Ice mage?” Tony asked.

“Yeah some magic users tend to get…distinctive cores.” Danny explained. “I’m not sure on the biology of it for living beings but I think it’s pretty similar. Some ghosts can have cores that develop like…an affinity for something. Like ice or electricity.”

Danny paused for a moment his fists clenching together. Before anyone could say anything else he continued.

“Eventually the core develops enough that the power to control that element or whatever activates. Sort of like elemental puberty I guess.” Danny said. “But that doesn’t really apply to Loki, I mean he’s Asgardian and they don’t get ice cores.”

“My brother…is not Asgardian.”

“He’s not?” Danny asked at the same time Tony did.

“No he was adopted by my father from another realm.”

“Which realm Thor?” Danny demanded.

“Jontunheim. But I swear he is nothing like those creatures!”

“Creatures!” Danny shouted, offended. “The Jontun are delightful people! Ever single one of them I’ve met has been super chill.”

“I’m going to pretend that wasn’t a pun.” Tony said. “Thor buddy, it sounds like your brother’s just going through alien magic puberty.”

“It doesn’t make sense. If your brother is Jontun this should’ve happened centuries ago, when he was a kid!” Danny said. “Jontuns no matter how small have cores that are almost fully developed by the time they’re born!”

Thanks Frostbite for those biology lessons!

“Odin placed a spell on Loki, locking away and hiding much of his heritage. No one but he and our mother knew of Loki’s origins until less than a decade ago.”

“And let me guess.” Danny said. “The spells that kept Loki’s powers at bay didn’t drop until Odin died a year ago?”

“I believe so yes.”

“Then your brother is in serious trouble.”

“What?”

“He’s got an icy nuclear bomb in his chest about to go off.” Danny said seriously. “That thing has been waiting to blow for 2000 years! If he doesn’t get control of it soon, he’ll freeze himself and everyone around him to death.”

“Shit.” Tony said. “New Asgard is gonna be toast.”

“No it’s not.” Danny said. “I’m on my way there right now.”

“What? Why?”

“Thor, I’ve got an Ice Core. I may not use my powers much but it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use them! Get your brother out of the city and somewhere far away from any people. We’re going to be letting out enough energy to cover everything in hoarfrost. And don’t touch him with your bare skin! Frostbite is not joke.”

“Right. How soon can you be there?”

“Fifteen minutes, max.” Danny decided. “I’ll find you.”

Danny hung up before they could ask any questions. He felt exhausted and his body was still twitching with phantom pains. He ignored all of that and opened a portal to the zone. He flew right in and sped towards where he knew New Asgard would be. It took him longer to get to where he needed to be, his speed was slower than normal thanks to the fight he’d just had. Even when he won against Vlad he still lost somehow.

When he got to a place that he thought looked enough like Iceland in the zone, he focused and opened a portal. This one opened right up in the time he said he’d arrive at and he floated out. Immediately his sense went off and he knew which way the ice magic was coming from. He shot out to the east and within minutes saw Thor holding a shivering Loki. They were about 30 miles away from New Asgard and much farther from any other human settlements.

Thor was covered head to toe in a thick coat, gloves, scarf and hat. The only part of him visible were his eyes. Loki by contrast was only wearing what Danny assumed passed for pajamas in Asgard. Danny touched down lightly, he knew he must look a mess based on Thor’s expression when he saw him, but he ignored it.

“Thor. How is he?”

He” Loki seethed. “thinks this is a bunch of nonsense.”

“Right. Didn’t you explain it Thor?”

“I did but he doesn’t believe me.”

“I am a master of magic, if this is some sort of magical power then I have control over it!” Loki snapped. “I will not lower myself to even entertaining your nonsensical ideas, ghost.”

“Dude you’re really harshing on my vibe.” Danny said. “And trust me, it’s definitely Ice Mage puberty. Nothing to be ashamed about.”

“Shut up!”

Danny stepped forward and motioned for Thor to move away. The thunder god did but only reluctantly. Loki almost immediately crumpled but Danny was there to catch him. Upon contact Danny hissed at the sheer amount of energy bubbling away inside of Loki.

“Loki, you are literally going to explode if you don’t do something.”

“I have it under control!”

“Just use your powers! Let out some ice! Make it snow!” Do not think about Frozen, do not think about it. Now is not the time.

“No! As if I would ever…ever…” Loki’s denial devolved into hacking coughs that made shards of ice grow around their feet. Danny groaned in annoyance and held the god up by his armpits.

“Thor, go back to New Asgard. Tell people to get inside and stay there.”

“What? No, I’m not going to leave!”

“It’s either that or die. Loki’s not going to be able to hold back much longer. Trust me, we’ll both be fine. He won’t kill me, and I’ll make sure he doesn’t kill himself.”

Thor hesitated and that made Loki look up from his coughing fit.

“Just go, you idiot!” Thor swallowed and nodded.

“Good luck brother, Phantom.”

Thor hefted his hammer and jumped up into the air, using the hammer to fly back towards his tiny kingdom. Both of them watched Thor go for a while before Danny turned back to the god.

“Come on. It’s not hard. You’ve used magic before. It’s the same thing you just have to use the cold energy in your chest.” Danny said.

“No. Never.” Loki hissed. Ice started forming along the guy’s legs and torso, it looked painful and sharp.

“You’re turning into an ice cube!” Danny said trying to will the ice to melt with his own power. It wasn’t listening to him, Danny’s own ice magic wasn’t nearly as powerful as Loki’s. And it wouldn’t be, the guy was a Jontun for Clockwork’s sake!

“If that is what will happen then so be it.”

“Stop being such a drama queen and use your powers!”

“You don’t understand!” Loki howled. “These powers are nothing but a monster’s ilk. You cannot comprehend my suffering! You have no idea what it is to become a monster!”

Danny had probably never felt more offended in his life. He was so offended in fact that he dropped Loki like a sack of potatoes. The god fell to a heap on the ground. Around them the wind start to whip up. Loki’s powers were reaching out calling down a snow storm that would no doubt blanket the entire country soon enough. Danny only hoped the spells Loki had placed on Asgard’s crops would protect them from the weather. Shards of frost flew through the air scratching at his skin as the god of mischief looked up at him.

“I don’t understand?” Danny demanded. “Are you really telling me? The ghost! That I don’t understand what it’s like to become a monster?”

Loki’s mouth opened a little and Danny didn’t care that he saw realization in the god’s eyes.

 “You! Have no idea what it’s like!” Danny told him. “You found out you were a different race sure! But you don’t even know anything about them other than what you learnt from Odin’s shitty propaganda machine! The moment I died my parents tried to kill me a second time!”

“I…”

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Danny screamed. “The ghosts hate me because I’m half formed and literally every race in the universe thinks I’m a monster! But at least I’m not throwing a hissy fit about it!”

“Well…You sort of are!”

“Loki! Just use your damn powers! Stop letting that asshole Odin control how you see yourself! He’s deader than I am!”

Loki just stared at him, his blue eyes wide. They closed for a moment and then when they opened again, they were a bright ruby red. Cobalt blue skin spread out over the pale color that Danny had always known. Black clan lines appeared along Loki’s cheeks and chest and they looked vaguely familiar. Once the transformation was complete Loki looked away and down at the ground. Danny reached out for the god’s hand and he flinched. Danny grabbed it anyway.

“Okay.” Danny said. “Now, just focus. Think about something icy, something you like about the cold. Anything. Then make it real. You have to use your powers before they explode out of you.”

“Very well.”

It took close to an hour to get Loki’s powers down to a manageable level. It started snowing hard almost immediately, fat wads of snow that landed on the ground with almost audible thumps. Loki started making knives and other weapons out of ice but when they proved not enough of an energy drain, Danny showed him how to shoot bolts of ice, make ice walls, and even sculptures. By the time they were done, both Danny and Loki were shaking with exertion and laying in a veritable winter wonderland.

They were laying there and Danny was trying to explain to Loki how to make a snow angel. Loki seemed dubious at the very idea but still willing to hear Danny out. Loki was laying in the opposite direction as him, their heads right next to each other and their bodies parallel in the snow. Eventually though, as the sky cleared and the storm ceased, Danny stopped talking altogether.

“Phantom?” Loki asked. “Does it get better?”

“The ice powers? Sure, just make sure to use ‘em like once a week and…”

“No not that.” Loki cut off. “The…being a monster.”

“Oh.” Danny said swallowing. “Sometimes?”

“Sometimes.”

“Well some weeks I don’t even feel like a monster.” Danny admitted. “When I hang out with Spiderman or when I save some people, I feel like a hero and it’s good. But then… sometimes a kid will scream at me when he sees me and it’s not so good.”

 “I see.” Loki’s voice was monotone.

“You wanna know what I think?” Danny asked after a few more moments of silence.

“Hmm?”

“A monster is a person who does bad things and never tries to be better.” Danny said. “So…maybe we’re not monsters at all? No matter what we look like.”

“Perhaps.” Loki said, lifting up one of his hands to stare at the blue skin and thick black nails. “Perhaps you’re right.”

Chapter Text

“Ugh.” Phantom said. “I do not want to go back home.”

“We’ve been out here for hours.” Loki pointed out. “And you look exhausted.”

Did ghosts get tired? Apparently teen ones did because Phantom looked like a wreck. Loki hadn’t noticed when the ghost had first arrived but now that he wasn’t literally freezing from the inside out he could see the weariness leaking out of the ghost. The boy’s glow was a mere flicker compared to it’s normal torch like status.

“Right.” Phantom said. “Doesn’t change what I said.”

“Why ever would you not want to go home?”

“I got the call about you right in the middle of a fight with like…my nemesis.” Phantom said.

“Your nemesis? People have those?”

“Let’s make one thing clear. He came onto me. I did not put out an ad looking for someone who wants to ruin my entire afterlife at every possible moment.” Phantom snapped.

Well. Loki could hardly argue with that. Slowly he stood up from his place in the snow and focused. His blue skin bled away back to the form he’d always believed to be his own. Now that the ice magic within him had stabilized he was now able to actually feel the bitter cold in his aesir form. A problem easily remedied by conjuring a coat.

“And you think this rival of yours will be waiting for you?”

“No. He’s slunk back to the hole he lives in. He’ll crawl out eventually but I won’t see him for at least a month.”

“Then why not return home?”

“Because I literally got the call during the fight. Plasmius is the one who answered my phone which means that Tony and your brother heard the whole stupid fight and…and I do not want to talk about that. Ever.”

“Hmmm.” Loki said. “Well I am an expert at avoiding conversation, you can stay in my room for the night, I’ll magic you up a bed. That is if ghosts even need a bed.”

“A bed would be nice.”

“Then a bed you’ll have.” Loki said. “You can rest and then tomorrow decide how best to avoid Thor and Stark.”

“And Spiderman. And Shuri. And well…” Phantom trailed off floating next to Loki and looking rather miserable. Loki knew then that the boy would disappear with nothing but a puff of green smoke left behind if Loki questioned him even a little.

“Turn yourself invisible and follow me.” Loki ordered. “I’ll tell Thor you disappeared into Hel, then you can just float up to my room.”

“Thanks man. Really.”

Loki made a disparaging noise that implied how much he did not want the boy’s gratitude. Phantom disappeared and Loki started the snowy trek back to New Asgard. They were a fair distance away and while Loki could teleport himself he didn’t really trust his magic to take him there without any additional ice. Besides, there was something comforting about walking through the snowy plains.

“So.” Phantom said. “Frost Giants.”

“What about them?” Loki asked.

“Have you ever met any?”

Loki thought about stabbing through the heart of his biological father while Odin watched. He thought about tricking Frost Giants into being killed by the Destroyer in the vault.

“No.”

“I haven’t met any living ones.” The ghost said. His voice implied that he was floating a comfortable distance away on Loki’s left. Loki couldn’t see the boy so he just had to trust his ears as he glanced over at the air that probably held the boy’s frame within it.

“How fascinating.” Loki drawled.

“Ugh! What I’m trying to say is that the dead frost giant ghosts I’ve met have been…well they’ve been pretty nice.”

“Yes thank you for that glowing recommendation.”

“Loki.” Phantom said. “It might be a good idea to talk to some of them. I have no idea if living ice cores work differently to you know dead ones and if you’re so against talking to living Frost Giants then a ghost one is going to have to do.”

“Out of the question.”

“Oh, come on dude! What if your magic goes all wonky again?”

“Then I will fix it.” Loki said simply. “And I will do it without interacting with those brutes in anyway.”

“Brutes? They’re not…”

“They threw me away!” Loki hissed, unable to hide his disgust for very long. “They threw me away to die.”

“Is that what Odin told you?” Phantom asked.

Loki stumbled a little in his walk and tried to pass it off as having slipped on some ice. That was exactly what Odin had said. He thought back to Phantom’s words earlier in the day about Odin’s shitty propaganda and wondered, not for the first time, why he still believed anything Odin ever told him. Why, even now that the man was dead, Loki took his words to heart.

An invisible hand reached out to help steady him and Loki shrugged it off.

“What else am I meant to think then?”

“I think you should try to find the truth, whatever that is.” Phantom said. “Don’t take my word for it, don’t listen to what Odin said. Just go and learn for yourself. Because even if Odin wasn’t lying to you at least learning the truth for yourself means you don’t have to rely on him.”

Now that did sound appealing to Loki. Not relying on Odin was a very attractive idea. He sniffed a little and then spoke.

“So then I just waltz up to the next frost giant ghost who comes my way?”

“Dude. I’ll just take you to the Far Frozen, it’s where all the coolest ghosts hang out.”

“Phantom.”

“Okay fine fine.” He said. “Most ghosts with an Ice Core live there under King Frostbite’s rule. It’s peaceful there because the place is literally so cold that without an ice core you’ll just freeze, ghost or not. The only ghost who ever managed to invade the place without an ice core was Pariah Dark and even he only managed to wage war there for a few decades before he was locked away in his coffin.”

“Katar told us that you were King instead of this Frostbite.”

“Katar doesn’t know shit. Frostbite’s my friend.” Danny said. “We’ve never fought so there’s no way, even under ghost law, that I could be King. And would you just forget about the king stuff already?”

“Excuse me.” Loki sneered. “But I don’t understand why you’re so against it.”

“I told you that they’d never accept a halfa…”

“Oh shut it.” Loki told the invisible being floating next to him. “With the power you wield you could make them accept it. You’ve defeated every foe that you’ve come up against, so even if they all tried to end you for becoming king, they wouldn’t manage it. Try another lie.”

“Well maybe, I just don’t want to! Ever think of that?”

“But why?” Loki asked. “It’s not like you have to be Thor. You’d be a king of a people who need nothing from you, you wouldn’t have to broker trade deals or protect your people from famine or war. You could have all the power and none of the work.”

“Power’s overrated.”

“I can assure you it isn’t.”

“Weren’t you just saying I was already powerful enough to handle my enemies?” Phantom argued. “Why would I need more?”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Loki countered. “Who’s to say there aren’t potentially more world destroying monsters around the corner?”

“Pariah Dark was kind of a… one of a kind sort of deal.” Phantom said calmly. “As far as I know there are no other ghosts like him.”

“I didn’t say the monster would be a ghost.” Loki corrected remembering purple skin and cruel burning eyes.

Phantom became visible right in front of Loki forcing Loki to freeze mid-step. He slipped a little on the snow but managed not to fall right into the ghost.

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing to concern yourself over right now Phantom.” Loki said.

“Right now?” The ghost said. “What about tomorrow? Or next year? Or the next decade?”

“If things go well, hopefully it will be never.”

“Because you’re so optimistic. You wouldn’t have brought it up if there wasn’t something.”

Loki glared at the ghost and then stepped forward, the ghost was forced to turn intangible as Loki walked straight through him.

“Hey!” Phantom flew around to try and stop Loki again.

“Tell me about this Plasmius fellow then.” Loki insisted.

“Do not try to change the subject.”

“Oh, there’s nothing trying about it. Plasmius, tell me, is he as annoying as you?”

The boy growled and then disappeared, clearly very willing to do anything to avoid the subject. Good. The rest of the walk back to New Asgard was done in silence. Loki wasn’t even sure that the ghost boy was following him at all. Thor was waiting for him at the city limits still wearing the entire ridiculous winter getup he’d thrown on his body before dragging Loki out of the city.

“Loki?” Thor asked.

“It’s fine now.” Loki said. “My magic has settled, Phantom helped me get it under control.”

Thor whooped and pulled Loki into a hug, Loki choked as the air was roughly pushed out of him and his ribs were almost bruised. Thor put him down and then started looking around.

“Where is he?” Thor asked.

“Left, said something about a fight he had to get back to.” Loki lied easily.

“Oh.” Thor frowned. “I do hope it wasn’t with that ghost he was fighting when I called him.”

“What? Why?”

“He…He knew how Phantom died.” Thor growled. “And he was using it against him, threatening him. I have never heard such screams.”

Discovering the truth of Phantom’s death had been disturbing for all three of them. Thor had taken to leaving his hammer in their house instead of carrying it on his hip, as if the mere presence of the lightning-summoning hammer would be offensive to the poor ghost. Thor had also refrained from making any storms, at all, no matter how bothered. Spiderman had been seen listlessly swinging around New York, fighting crime but with none of his usual spunk. Loki himself had done his best to not think of it at all. So what the boy was dead, it wasn’t like Loki had been the one to kill him or anything.

At least that’s what Loki told himself.

Then Phantom had shown up again, saving Loki’s life and most of New Asgard in the process and it had been very easy to forget. Phantom acted so alive, even as ghostly as he looked he hardly resembled the dead as Loki knew them to be. Now Loki was forcibly reminded that the child he had just been trying to convince to become king over an entire realm was for all intents and purposes three years old and had been killed. He’d shared his greatest weakness with a dead child.

When Loki had first met Phantom he had been disinterested and untrusting. A ghost protecting the living must have had some ulterior motive. As time went on Phantom proved himself to be a mischievous spirit and Loki had felt a kinship with him. He’d wanted to mentor the ghost child, teach him how to maximize the fallout of his shenanigans. Discovering the boy was also powerful enough to weild Mjolnir and defeat literal ghost kings had made the teen all the more interesting as a candidate.

But now the idea of trying to mentor and mold the boy felt wrong. What right did Loki have to try and guide someone who had been through more than Loki had? For all of Loki’s adventures, Loki spent more of his time cheating death than actually experiencing it first hand. For in person kill counts, Thor had killed more creatures and enemies than Loki had. (Thanos-induced invasions aside of course.) Loki didn’t know death, didn’t know that trauma.

What he did know was that some asshole had used such a painful thing against a child with a pure heart. A child who had looked at him in his true form and declared him worthy of help and friendship. A child who had helped Asgard and Loki and the world in more ways than Loki cared to count.

Loki’s hands fisted themselves and his jaw clenched.

“I see.” He said. “Hopefully Phantom is safe from him.”

“Stark is trying to track him down, but we don’t know who it was. I thought to ask Phantom but he’s gone.”

“Don’t worry.” Loki said. “I’m sure it’ll all work out.”

A sentence he had every intention of making true.

“I hope you’re right. Come on, let’s go home, you need to rest.”

Loki didn’t argue and let Thor mother-hen him all the way back to their ‘palace’. Thor ushered Loki the entire way up to his bedroom and even went so far as to bring Loki some tea while Loki got himself ready for bed. It had been a long few days with his magic as out of sorts as it had been and Thor had bore the brunt of that strain. Once Loki had convinced Thor to leave him alone to sleep, not an easy task, Phantom became visible.

“We’re not talking about Plasmius.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Loki lied. Loki had had a lot of rapid fire day dreams about what he would do to this Plasmius should they ever ‘cross’ paths.

“Good. Now…about that bed?”

Loki waved his hand conjuring a bed out of thin air right in the far corner the room. The ghost thanked him for it and fell right onto it. Phantom phased through the blanket, using his powers to pull it over his body. Soon there was a lump with nothing but a tuft of white hair sticking out as to indicate who the lump was. Loki rolled his eyes and laid down himself.

“I’m turning off the lights, you best not glow too brightly.”

“I’ll turn off my mega-watt smile, don’t worry.”

“See that you do.”

Loki snapped his fingers and the room was immediately bathed in inky darkness. The parts of Phantom that were visible were the only source of light, a sort of comfortable glow that spread out softly over the room in the same way a candle wick would. Loki closed his eyes and let the sleep of the truly exhausted claim him. Loki was so exhausted that he didn’t notice the involuntary transformation of a sleeping ghost that sent a flash of light through his room.

Loki slept through the subsequent second transformation back that happened about three hours after he passed out when Danny woke up and realized which form he was in.

Perhaps a few important things might have become clear to him if he had been awake to know the true nature of the ghost but he wasn’t.

When the morning broke it was to Loki waking up to find an empty bed and a note that merely said ‘Thanks for the bed! Call me up whenever you want to explore the n-icy side of life!’. Loki rolled his eyes and pocketed the note. He’d take the boy up on the offer eventually, but it was best not to seem too eager.

After breakfast in which Thor asked no less than 5 times if Loki was truly alright, Stark invited them to New York for a ‘meeting’. As it had nothing to do with the Accords or with Rogers it wasn’t very difficult at all to determine what that meeting would be about. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Stark wanted to talk to them about Phantom. More specifically about Vlad Plasmius.

Not that they had much knowledge to share. Thor and Tony had both listened to Plasmius torture and threaten Phantom but they had no idea who he was or where he was stationed. Asking Phantom resulted in him stonewalling them completely. Likely in an attempt to protect them from danger.

“Honestly.” Loki said. “The only way you’re ever going to figure this out is to drag Plasmius out.”

“Drag him out?”

“Plasmius was threatening Phantom because he was spending time with the Avengers yes? Well if you bring Phantom to New York, making it seem very permanent then…well Plasmius will be forced to appear again. And when he does I do believe we’ll all be quite ready for him won’t we?”

“Phantom wouldn’t leave Amity unprotected.” Thor said.

“So provide it some protections. Throw enough money at those ghost hunters, maybe even build them some sort of AI that’ll track ghosts for them so that they can defend the town instead of relying on a dead child to do it for them.” Loki said. “Then Phantom can start haunting this tower instead.”

“That’s…actually not a bad plan.” Tony said. “If Danny’s here, even for a month or so, we can learn more about ghost fighting and tech while also laying a trap for that asshole.”

“Do you think you can convince him to come?” Thor asked.

“Oh.” Stark said grinning. “Trust me that’s not going to be a problem. I’ve got a trump card on the kid.”

“Trump card?” Loki asked.

“Blackmail.” Tony corrected. “Top secret blackmail in the form of a phone number. It’ll get Phantom here in New York for the next month at the minimum, no muss no fuss.”

Loki didn’t bother to ask what the blackmail was. He wasn’t stupid, blackmail was only effective if no one but the victim knew what it was. Instead he hummed and then looked over at his brother. His plan to get Phantom to New York was a good one but it just didn’t feel quite right. What if Plasmius moved quickly once he heard of the ghost’s relocation?

“Thor?”

“Yes Loki?”

“Would you mind terribly if I relocated here to New York for a time? Things are going quite well in New Asgard and…”

“And you want to protect Phantom.”

“No.” Loki lied. “How dare you imply I have any thing close to a good intention. I want to annoy Rogers some more.”

“If that’s why you’re here then trust me.” Stark said. “The tower will always be open to you.”

“Excellent.”

Loki added ‘Annoy Captain America’ to his mental to-do list. It was right below ‘Teach Phantom how to block magical lightning’.

*****

“Hello? Jack! It’s Tony! I’m calling about Danny. I have a great idea for the kid! You were talking to me about how much his grades have suffered because of his hero gig. I’m thinking of offering him an internship, just for the summer! It’ll look great on his CV and then I can write letters of recommendation for him. He’ll get into college with a snap with me backing him!”

“…”

“I know right? Just send him here for the next month or so. He can help finish up the creation of those ghost weapons we ordered and help train the team on them. He can also learn some engineering tricks from yours truly!”

“…”

“Don’t thank me Jack! That’s what science bros are for!”

“…”

“Great! And don’t worry about Amity, I’ll make sure the town’s protected so that Danny doesn’t strain himself trying to be two places at once. It might be good for him. Who else can teach him how to balance the work of being a hero with their personal life better than me? Trust me. Danny’s going to learn so much.”

“…”

“Have fun telling him the news! Iron Man out!”

Chapter Text

Peter tapped the glass of his phone hoping that the screen would light up to show he had a message. Unfortunately, all it showed was the time and his background photo (a picture he’d taken of the Queens Skyline while in his suit). Damn.

No messages.

“I told you to wait.” MJ said. “He’ll respond when he wants to.”

“Yeah man.” Ned said. “Phantom’s fine. It’s been what? A week since he rescued you from evil ghosts?”

“Exactly! A week! Danny’s never waited this long to respond to any of my messages! He once answered a Facetime from me while he was fighting Skulker!” That had been a very interesting video call that involved Spiderman shouting insults at Skulker while Phantom punched him.

“You accidentally figured out how he died and then confronted him with it.” MJ said. “He’s allowed to want space.”

“But what if he’s hurt? Some of the Phandom twitters posted he got into a huge fight against Plasmius outside Amity a few days ago! He could be seriously hurt.”

“Can a ghost be seriously injured?” Ned asked. “I mean he’s just a bunch of energy with some sentience, any injuries he gets should just fix themselves right away.”

“I don’t know!” Peter whined.

“You’re worried he’s angry at you, Peter.” MJ said giving him a look from over her sketchbook. They were working on a new idea for Spiderman together, something to keep public opinion high. There were some new articles being posted about him on websites like the Daily Bugle and Peter wanted to try and counteract them. His friends were helping him with PR ideas that didn’t directly deal with making memes with Danny.

“Well shouldn’t he be? He trusted me not to push him about it and I…You didn’t see his face. I don’t know how to help him.”

“Can you?” Ned asked with a frown. “I mean he died dude. I don’t think there’s a card for that.”

Abruptly Peter’s mind was filled with the image of a Hallmark card made up of stiff yellow paper with a watercolor painting of some flowers and maybe a butterfly. Almost the same card someone had sent him after Uncle Ben’s funeral. Blue text on the front of the card would read ‘An after-life well lived leaves behind a bouquet of memories’ and then the inside of the card would have the words ‘Hope you get over dying.’

Yeah no. A card was out of the question.

“Phantom’s your friend.” MJ said in a tone that was far too heavy with meaning. “He won’t just drop you. He just needs time. So stop checking your phone.”

Peter grimaced a little and put his phone down again.

“Now. The Daily Bugle.” MJ began again. “I think tha-”

His phone started buzzing and Peter lunged for it at the same time he pulled on his mask. He immediately unlocked the phone and answered the Facetime request without checking who it was from.

“Danny!”

“Not quite.” Tony Stark said. “You expecting a call from the ghost kid, Pete?”

“No… What did you need Mr. Stark?”

“A favor, from you and your nerd friends. Probably best to start with just you but if they want in too, I’m not going to say no.”

MJ and Ned both perked up and Peter swallowed before removing his mask and speaking.

“They’re with me right now. What sort of favor?”

“Great, I’ll tell all three of you at once. It’ll save me time. I’ve got a new intern.”

“What?” Peter squawked.

“Relax, Pete. He’s not replacing you. He’s only going to be in New York for the next month or two.” Tony said giving him a far too amused look. “I’ve actually only got him on loan so…”

“On loan? Mr. Stark, I don’t understand.”

“Remember those ghost hunters, the ones we brought in from Amity to help us build ghost tech for the Avengers? They’ve got a son, he’s 17 so only a year older than you. Kid is brilliant with ghost tech and there’s probably no human alive who knows more about ghosts and ghost culture than him.” Tony said his voice filled with amusement. “I convinced his parents to send him to the Tower for a month to finish up the touches on the ghost weapons as well as be there to answer any remaining questions we have. He just got in yesterday.”

Oh. It wasn’t anything like his internship with Mr. Stark. Good. MJ gave him a look to tell him to learn to hide his jealousy better.

“So, this guy…what about him?”

“His name is Danny Fenton.” Tony revealed before pausing dramatically. When Peter continued to look blankly at the genius the man sighed and continued. “He didn’t want to come to New York, wanted to stay in Amity and work on his own research where the ghosts are actually present. So, despite me being so gracious as to set him up with his own lab space and a beautiful place to live, he’s a little tetchy. I’m thinking that you could come over to the tower and maybe…cheer him up?”

Peter blinked stupidly for a moment as Tony continued to explain that he knew that Peter would be a great friend for Danny. They were both nerds and had a lot of things in common. Peter should just swing over to the tower and do some science with Danny or maybe look at memes. Or whatever it was that teens did these days. Peter wasn’t convinced that he could have anything at all in common with Fenton and when he said so Tony actually laughed and told him that Peter had no idea how wrong he was.

“Please kid. I’m really counting on you.”

“Fine. I’ll swing by today.” Peter said. “But if he’s a jerk then I’m not bringing Ned or MJ over ever.”

“Sounds fair! I’ll let Danny know that my personal intern is coming by today. Thanks Pete! I owe you one!”

Tony’s end of the call shut off and Peter frowned at his own reflection in the glass.

“So that’s going to be lame.” Peter decides.

“What?” Ned asked. “You’re going to do science with someone that Tony Stark thinks is a genius.”

“He’s only complaining because if he’s with this Fenton guy he won’t be able to check his phone 40 times a minute for a message from his ghostly boyfriend.” MJ said. “Don’t pretend if this was any other day you wouldn’t be excited to meet another engineering nerd.”

“He is not my boyfriend.”

“Not yet.” Ned grinned at MJ’s tone while Peter glared at both of them. That wasn’t funny. “Oh don’t look like that Peter, a crush is nothing to be ashamed of. I think it’s very progressive of you.”

“Progressive?”

“Yeah I mean not only are you crushing on a boy but you’re crushing on a dead guy. Goths everywhere wish they could be you, you bisexual mess.”

Peter threw a pillow from Ned’s bed right at her. MJ swatted it away while Ned laughed at Peter’s embarrassment. First Loki and Thor and now his two best friends. Would his suffering ever end?

“Dude are you still denying it?” Ned asked. “You haven’t been this obsessed with anyone since Liz. Trust me, MJ, you’re lucky you weren’t around for the Liz phase.”

“Shut up Ned.”

“Oh don’t shut up Leeds.” MJ said. “Tell me everything.”

Peter decided he’d better leave before he died of mortification. He left Ned’s place with his friends’ laughter at his back. MJ’s last words to him were about how he could be the first openly out superhero and all it would take is him planting one on Phantom. It took about fifteen minutes to swing from Ned’s to Avengers Tower. The entire time Peter had an out loud conversation with Karen about how he didn’t have a crush on Danny, definitely not.

“I’m afraid I do not understand Peter.” Karen said. “Are you afraid of the social repercussions of being seen in a romantic relationship with Phantom?”

“No. What? No.” Peter said. “If we did get together, which we won’t because I don’t like him like that, I wouldn’t care what anyone would say.”

“Then do you find the fact that he is dead distasteful?”

“Karen! That’s awful!” Peter said. “There’s nothing wrong with Danny being dead. I mean it sucked that he died, and I try not to think about it because oh my gosh he died and that must have hurt. It reminds me of Toomes and Uncle Ben…well I just don’t like to think about it.”

“So, if you don’t find Phantom distasteful and do not fear society’s expectations then what is your problem?”

Peter frowned and didn’t say anything. He shot a web out from his left shooter and took a wide turn in between two buildings. Avengers Tower gleamed in the distance.

“I don’t have a problem Karen. I just don’t have a crush on him. He’s my friend, and friends don’t date each other.”

“Studies show that healthy long term committed relationships require strong feelings of friendship.” Karen recited in the same tone she did to ask Peter if he wanted her to activate Instant Kill Mode.

“Karen!”

“What Peter?”

“Never tell me what studies say ever again!”

“Of course, Peter.”

And that was the end of that conversation. Peter crawled up the side of Avengers Tower until he found an open window. It didn’t take long at all to change into some normal clothing. Namely a t-shirt that had a pun about the Higgs Boson on it and a pair of jeans. Tony had started storing some of Peter’s clothing at the tower in the, now more than likely event, that he needed to change into something after a fight.

“Friday?”

“Yes Peter?”

“Where’s Tony’s new intern? David Franklin?”

“His name is Danny Fenton and I’ll take you to his floor if you go to the elevator.”

“Thanks Friday!” Peter said wondering why she’d emphasized the guy’s last name like that.

Tony hadn’t been kidding about giving the guy his own lab. This was on the same floor that Bruce Banner’s lab was. The lab Tony had set aside for Fenton was filled with tools and equipment. Peter was pretty sure that Tony had even installed one of his fancy hologram tables inside there. Peter peaked at all of this from the hallway before going to the door and letting it slide open.

Peter finally spotted Fenton when he took five steps into the room. Fenton was sitting on a chair at one of the tables with a laptop open. He had a scowl on his face.

He was also damningly hot.

Shaggy dark hair that half covered his forehead in the same artful way that only boy’s in pop punk bands could manage combined with icy blue eyes made for a very striking face. Fenton was hunched over his laptop, and Peter could see how tall and lean the guy was. Peter’s fists clenched for a moment and he ordered himself to get under control. Peter saw hot people every day, he was the guy who managed to look Thor in the eye without becoming a drooling mess. Peter could be cool.

He couldn’t but that was beside the point.

“Uhm…” Peter said. “You’re Fenton, right?”

Fenton looked up from his laptop the scowl on his face only softening a little.

“Yeah, you’re…Tony’s intern? Parkinson or something?” His voice was deep and smooth and Peter cursed the fact that puberty had yet to gift him with something similar.

“Parker. Peter Parker.”

“Cool.”

“So…you’re like a ghost hunter?”

“I prefer the term Ghost Sociologist.” Fenton said. “I study the culture and history of ghosts, not into their biology or anything.”

“That’s really cool!” Peter said brightly stepping further into the room. Danny looked a lot less annoyed now which was good because that’s what Tony had asked Peter to do. “So like…that means you know Danny Phantom right?”

Danny’s face did a really weird thing for a half a second before it smoothed out and he spoke in a disinterested tone.

“Yeah I mean he’s around Amity all the time. Kind of hard not to know him. He’s sort of lame though.”

“Lame?!?”

“Yeah. Lame.” Danny said looking at Peter seriously. “He’s not nearly cool as say like Spiderman.”

“Are you trying to say that Spiderman is cooler than Danny Phantom?”

“Not trying, doing.”

“No way! Spiderman is the lame one! You’re crazy if you think anything else.”

“Spiderman is the coolest Superhero on this continent.” Fenton said stubbornly. “He’s got amazing powers.”

“You wanna talk amazing powers? Phantom can fly!”

“So, can half of all superheroes. It’s like saying a woman name Kathy wants to speak to the manager.”

“He can turn invisible and intangible!”

“Spiderman can lift up to 8 tons and he has hyper senses!”

“Phantom can shoot lasers out of his hands!”

“Spiderman has a healing factor that’s just as good if not better than Captain America’s!”

“Phantom can control ice!”

“Spiderman can stick to any surface!”

“Phantom can open portals to the Ghost Zone!”

“Spiderman’s webs are one of the greatest scientific innovations of this decade!”

On and on it went. If Peter was in any other situation the fact that someone thought so highly of him would have made Peter feel really gooey inside. But this guy was nuts. How dare he think that Peter was in anyway better than Danny Phantom? Fenton had no idea how cool Phantom was, that was for sure. It was Peter’s duty as Phantom’s friend to defend his honor. Especially against unfairly hot guys who should honestly know better.

Fenton seemed to believe that Spiderman was the best hero New York had to offer. Not only had Spiderman supported the Accords early in his career unlike literally every other superhero who was in that conflict, but Spiderman made consistent positive changes to his community. From participating in charity events to actively patrolling his city multiple days a week to ensure people were safe.

Spiderman, Fenton argued, was the shit™.

Peter argued that Phantom defended his town from an entire dimension. Phantom might not have as great a track record as Spiderman, but Phantom had been doing it longer without any support. Beyond that Phantom fought beings that could wipe out planets singlehandedly like it was nothing. So what if Phantom wasn’t perfect? He was awesome and he was defending a world that most people didn’t even think he belonged in. What was a better example of a hero than someone who defended a people who hated him just because it was the right thing to do?

Danny Phantom, Peter argued, was that bitch™.

The argument got so heated that they were nearly nose to nose, eyes blazing with certainty.

“Look, if you’re going to make that sort of an argument then I can’t take you seriously!” Peter said. “I mean I’m starting to finally understand the Jedi Council’s decision about Masters.”

“Did you just compare me to Anakin Skywalker?” Fenton asked, his face draining of any irritation.

“Well… if the shoe fits!”

Fenton lifted up a hand to his mouth but not before Peter heard him snort with suppressed laughter. Peter realized abruptly how ridiculous the entire situation was and started to giggle. This in turn made Fenton stop trying to hide his own laughter. They laughed together for a good five minutes since whenever they’d manage to calm down they’d look at each other and start laughing all over again.

“I just…we need to stop, my stomach hurts.”

“Right. Right.” Fenton said. “You like Star Wars?”

Love Star Wars.”

“Same.” Fenton said. “They were my favorite movies as a kid. I just loved the idea of space travel and aliens.”

“And now there are aliens living in New York.”

“I know.” Fenton said. “It’s so awesome.”

“So awesome!”

Fenton grinned and then looked around the room as if to check for an eavesdroppers. Then he motioned for Peter to come over to his side. Peter did so as Fenton closed down whatever program he was working on and brought up some blueprints.

“Check this out. It’s an idea I had for some ghost hunting equipment.” Fenton said. “It’s not done yet and obviously my parents would flip if they found out but…what do you think?”

Peter looked at Fenton for permission to touch the laptop which the guy gave with a nod. Carefully Peter looked over the intricate image, his mouth slowly opening wider and wider in awe.

Dude.” He breathed. “Is this…?”

“Yeah.”

Duuuude.” Peter said. “Why isn’t it done?”

“Well the handle is overheating too much and I can’t figure out how to fix it.”

Peter looked closer at the design his mind already whirring around ideas. Within a few moments he spoke, while using the touchpad to zoom in on some of the wiring.

“What if you rerouted this to over here? And then you could place the trigger there? It’ll open up space for some sort of coolant. You could design something to stay in the handle, sort of like what Mr. Stark does with his arc reactor.”

“But wouldn’t moving that there decrease the energy output? Plus moving the trigger makes it less ergonomic.”

Within fifteen minutes the two teen boys were drawing out different ideas on some paper they found stored in the lab, spit balling ideas. Within 10 minutes after that they’d come to a solution they liked.

“Dude.” Fenton said staring at the new and improved design.

“Dude.” Peter repeated. “Are we…actually doing this?”

“Yeah, yeah man I think we are.”

“I can’t believe I’m about to say this but…let’s go build a lightsaber.”

They got to work immediately, but not before asking Friday to order them some pizza. And also asking Friday not to tell anyone what they were building. It wasn’t against the rules right? After all Fenton was here to build ghost weapons and this, in the loosest of senses, was a weapon that could be used to fight ghosts. It was after all going to be powered by ectoplasmic-crystals, or kyber crystals as Fenton had insisted on calling them.

“My parents only use liquid ectoplasm in their inventions. I’ve figured out how to make it a solid you can touch which means I get to name them whatever I want.”

“You can’t call them anything but Kyber Crystals dude.”

The ‘crystals’ were bright green and they glowed with the same sort of intensity that Phantom’s eyes did. Peter looked at them as they rested on the table with curiosity.

“Does this mean all of our lightsabers are going to be green?”

“Hmm…” Fenton mused. “We could put refractors inside to control what color they are?”

“Genius dude! Genius!”

And so they continued. Friday agreed to only tell Mr. Stark they were having fun if he asked and she told them that their pizza would be there in thirty minutes. The next thing she did was play music for them in the lab as they worked. Music, which Friday picked based on what she thought they’d like, slammed into the walls as the two of them started welding and shaping metal.

 The music Friday picked turned out to be awesome too.

“Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting.” Peter sang as he carefully placed down some wiring. “Your mind becomes fast as lightning. Although the future is a little bit frightening.”

“Little bit frightening!” Danny sang right after him as he carefully shaped the handle of the first lightsaber.

“It’s the book of life that you’re writing!”

“Life that your writing!”

Needless to say, the two nerdish teens were having far too much fun. They took a break to consume heaps of pizza. Peter was just glad that Fenton hadn’t noticed how much pizza he’d eaten, it was hard to explain away his super metabolism. He didn’t notice that Fenton had eaten just as much as him. When they finished their late lunch, they went back to the lightsabers. It was lucky that Tony had really stocked the lab to the brim, or they might not have managed to build the two of them in just one afternoon.

Peter did a lot of the wiring while Danny did a lot of the shaping and putting together. They both had a hand in the visual aesthetics of course. Their weapons had to be true to the source material but who said they couldn’t add their own flare? In the name of their favorite heroes, Fenton suggested that Peter design his lightsaber with a Phantom theme and he’d design his with a Spiderman theme.

Which was a galaxy brain idea if Peter had ever heard one.

Peter might have had a little too much fun designing a Danny Phantom themed lightsaber. He even made the button that activated it have his friend’s symbol. The metal of the handle was a matte black with green and silver accents to highlight the intricate swirls that were vaguely reminiscent of what Peter had seen in the Ghost Zone. The blade of light was of course ectoplasmic green, but you could also change it to an icy white if you twisted a hidden notch on the bottom.

Fenton had done a stand-up job on his own design. It was so good that Peter almost wondered if it would even look that out of place on his actual suit. The handle was a shiny red, the same color as Spiderman’s suit. It had raised black lines on it that provided a comfortable grip and looked like webs. The on button was dark blue and it had the shape of his eye mask engraved on it. The color of the blade was the same satisfying dark blue, but of course Fenton had allowed for it to change it to red using the same trick as Peter had.

The two hilts were laying, finished and gleaming, on the work bench. Fenton and Peter stood there staring at the finished products almost unable to believe they existed. Peter’s phone lay long forgotten in his pocket, he hadn’t checked it once since arriving at the tower.

“They’re…the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

“I think I might start crying in a minute.”

“I’ve never been more happy than I am in this moment.”

“Same dude, same. I feel like we should…sing a hymn or something. We have to honor these blades.”

“Well you know.” Fenton said. “The best way to honor a blade is to test it out.”

Peter froze for a moment, his mind going to the thousands of youtube videos he’d seen of guys with swords chopping through various random junk. His heart hammered in his throat for a moment.

“I know where Mr. Stark stores all the recycled cans.”

The two teens exchanged wide eyed looks as they somehow had the same question at the same time. Would a lightsaber melt an aluminum can while cutting through it?

Two hours and about 300 destroyed cans later, they had their answer.

Hell yeah it would.

Chapter Text

“If you were going to kidnap me couldn’t you have done it someplace you know…more vacation-y?”

Tony sighed and looked at the ghost teen floating along the ceiling of his lab. Danny hadn’t gotten over the fact that he’d had his parents used against him yet. For the last 45 minutes he’d been complaining loud enough to keep Tony from his work. The teen had taken ‘haunting’ to a whole new level. That level of course being mind-crushingly annoying.

Thor and Loki so owed him for getting the kid out here.

“This isn’t a kidnapping. It’s an internship.”

“An internship would imply I was getting paid. This is kidnapping and forced labor.”

“I’m not even making you do anything!” Tony defended. “You’ve been here three days and all you’ve done is complain and mess around with my intern!”

Danny stopped, a fond look passing over his face at the mention of Peter. Tony wanted to scream. He didn’t understand how two teens could be so stupid. They’d spent hours together messing around with some sort of invention, which Tony was not allowed to know the name of until it was done, and they still hadn’t figured it out! The only thing that kept him from losing his mind was the sweet, sweet vision of how embarrassed the two would be when the truth did finally come out.

“Parker?” Danny said thoughtfully. “Just because he’s alright doesn’t mean I’m over this Tony. I ought to possess your Tower and haunt your ass for real.”

“Language.”

“You did not just say that.”

Tony closed his eyes in embarrassment. These weird urges when it came to Danny and Peter and Harley were only growing stronger. Just three days ago he’d called Harley only to ask the kid about how his homework was going. Harley had laughed at him and called him an old man.

“Look.”

“Oh no we’re not changing the subject. Did The Ironman just tell me to watch my language?” Danny demanded his voice gleeful.

“If I pay you will you stop complaining about coming out here?” Tony asked. “I’ll give you the same pay I give the other interns for your work as Fenton and I’ll add in a bonus for anything Phantom related.”

The teen’s face looked very thoughtful. Danny was unlike Peter or Harley. Peter was often still too starstruck to think of asking Tony for things. Peter was the kind of kid who was given one thing and wouldn’t stop thanking someone for it. It had taken Tony literally months to convince the kid to let him pay him for his internship. It was all ‘I couldn’t possibly’ and ‘But you already do so much!’. Harley had seen Tony at his lowest and the kid never let him forget it. Not to say that the kid was rude or anything but Harley mostly saw Tony as a mechanic who was slightly out of his mind. Made it difficult for the kid to ask for things, although he did when it came to things he thought his mom needed.

Danny was far more pragmatic.

The first thing he did when Tony contacted him was ask for free stuff. Nothing too expensive. Just a Switch. The ghost kid played on the thing quite frequently, far longer than the battery should last. Tony was pretty sure the kid was using his own ghostly energy to extend the playing time on the console. And now Danny was asking for a salary, on top of the free access to his own lab, and free room and board.

Danny saw their relationship in a unique way. Tony wasn’t a down on his luck mechanic, Tony wasn’t a god-like mentor who he didn’t want to disappoint. Tony was a man who had resources and Danny was a ghost who had skills. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for the both of them. Combined with that Danny did seem to genuinely admire him and the other Avengers. Before his death Danny had watched the Avengers fight bad guys off on his family’s small TV. They’d been his role models when he’d first gotten his powers.

Admiration didn’t necessarily mean that the guy wasn’t willing to mess around with them though. Which Tony appreciated.

“Sure, fine.” Danny said, his glowing green eyes crinkling a little in amusement. “I’ll stop whining.”

“Great. Friday set that up with the kid’s bank account.” Tony would have paid millions to get the kid to shut up at this point. Earlier in the day he’d played the song ‘Holiday’ by Greenday over and over again, but only the beginning riff. That riff, over and over again. It was enough to drive him to drink. Screw his sobriety.

“On it, Boss.”

Phantom floated down a little closer to Tony. There were some holograms up for one of the Fenton’s ecto weapons. Tony was studying the design. He had permission from Jack and Maddie to change up the design however he needed to best fit his suit. It was nice actually. Most scientists were really uppity about what Tony did or didn’t do with their work. Even after he paid them for the rights to it.

Tony could still remember the most recent guy. What was his name again? Beck something or other? Maybe it was Ben? No. Anyway the guy had designed some really good hologram tech and Tony had paid him really well for the patent. Insanely well. Tony wasn’t about to shortchange the guy. But something about him had set his teeth on edge so after paying him Tony had cut ties and moved on. Tony was pretty sure the guy still held a grudge. Even though there wasn’t really a reason for it. Tony had purchased something Boajck was selling and paid him the agreed upon price. What Tony did with his purchase after that wasn’t hardly that guy’s concern.

 Most of the scientists Tony worked with, barring people like Bruce and Shuri, tended to be a bit obsessive and protective over their work. Tony had never met any scientists that were as free with their inventions as Jack and Maddie. It really endeared him to the funky jumpsuit wearing couple.

“So, you’re trying to get an ecto gun inside one of the suits? You do know you’re going to need ectoplasm right?”

“My arc reactor should be able to power it.”

“It won’t.” Danny said shrugging. “Sorry dude, any energy that’s not from the zone isn’t going to bother a ghost. That’s just how it do.”

“Okay fine. Then where do I get ectoplasm?”

“Well there’s two ways to have a reliable source of it.” Danny said. “You can do what most ghost hunters do or you can go my parents’ route.”

“What do most of them do?”

“They catch a ghost and bleed them dry. Vampiric bastards.”

“Really?” Tony squeaked. “Why the hell would they do that? Aren’t ghosts made entirely of the stuff?”

“Did you know that the general consensus among the scientific community is that ghosts can’t feel pain?”

“What?”

Danny nodded his face dark. He began to explain that ghosts could most certainly feel pain. But it was different than what humans felt. Humans had mass, an injury on a limb was a pain that would linger around wherever the wound was. But a ghost’s body was just a manifestation of their psyche.

“We’re just beings of ectoplasmic energy tied together with a consciousness. So imagine that every wound is like…a brain injury. Every one of them. Sure we can reform around a physical injury but it still hurts our minds.” Danny explained. “When I get punched in this form, I feel it both in my gut as a punch and in my head as like this mental wound. It’s hard to explain.”

Tony’s mind raced over everything Danny had said and what he’d purposefully left out. He thought about trauma and triggers. How, for Tony, on some days a splash of water on his face could be more painful than a broken bone. For ghosts it was just more literal. They engaged with the world solely with their mind, with their emotions, only being physically present when they put effort into it.

He looked over at Danny and remembered the teen’s screams over the phone when Tony had called him during that fight with Plasmius and something ran down his spine.

“No, I get it.” Tony said calming the teen down. “Can some attacks hurt more than others? I mean for each ghost?”

“Figured that out did you?” Danny asked. “Well congrats we’re not talking about it.”

“Danny.”

“No.”

“You can’t keep avoiding this forever.”

“I damn well can!” Danny said. “Ghosts don’t talk about this dude! What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?”

“What do you mean ghosts don’t talk about it?”

“The Ghost Zone isn’t a prison where you sidle up to the nearest ghost and ask what they’re in for, Tony.” Danny scoffed. “No one talks about what happened to make them this way. It’s the most taboo thing you can do. Even implying something about that is enough for a ghost to attack you without mercy! Asking a ghost about their death is asking for that ghost to show you personally what death is.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah oh. I mean think about it. For a lot of ghosts that event was so traumatic that even being accidentally reminded about it feels like they’re being stabbed 30 times. We can be injured through emotions just as well as we can through weapons. You don’t bring up a ghost’s death, not unless you want them to really, really hurt.”

“But you get asked about it all the time and I don’t see you…going nuts.”

“I do have manners you know.” Danny told him. “Even though it hurts every time a stranger lobs that question at me I know that they don’t mean harm.”

“So you just take it?”

“Isn’t that what I did when we first met? You asked me in my human form what the hell happened and I told you.”

Tony felt a little sick.

“Oh, don’t look like that. Maybe just stop asking me about it from now on, okay?”

“But I…”

“Didn’t know any better.” Danny said, his voice firm but not cruel. “Ghosts don’t ever take the time to explain and living people are too curious for their own good. Seriously dude. Just stop poking at it?”

And so Tony didn’t ask if being electrocuted hurt Danny more than any other attack. He decided that was the sort of question that would do far more than just toe the line.

“So, obviously I’m not going to go all Dracula.” He said. “How else can I get ectoplasm?”

“You could ask me for some or you could build a portal to the ghost zone. Portals are dangerous because any ghost worth their salt will try to take over your tower and the entire city for ownership of it. Easiest way would be just to ask, I can go to the zone and get some for you.”

“How much would I need for my suit?”

“Now, that’s the sort of question that requires math. You know how I feel about math.”

Tony rolled his eyes and told the kid not to worry about it. He’d figure out how much of the stuff he wanted. Danny told him that Tony could send him the amount and he’d send him back a quote.

“Do I have to pay you for everything?”

“Capitalism thrives by not fully compensating the lowest class for their labor.”

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I take cash or check.”

Tony held back a grin but only barely. He started working out the calculations for how much ectoplasm he wanted to play around with and Danny floated down to his bots and gave DUM-E a pat on the head, calling him the ‘goodest of bois’. DUM-E chirped with happiness at the praise and Tony pretended not to notice.

“Uhm…Tony? Have you like…talked to Spiderman recently?”

“What?” Tony asked looking up from his math. “You talk to the guy way more often than I do.”

Danny’s face took on a look of guilt and Tony inwardly groaned.

“What happened.”

“Nothing happened!”

“I’m not buying it. What did you do?”

“Why do you think I did anything? Maybe he did something.”

“Yeah pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.” Danny groaned and Tony folded his arms over his chest. “Danny.”

“Okay fine! There might be a more than probable chance that I may be ignoring him.”

Why?”

“He figured it out.”

“Your secret identity?”

“No! The…you know it.” Danny said. “And I didn’t tell him, not really. He and Thor just…figured it out and now they know and any time I see Thor he gets this awful look in his eye and I just…I can’t look at Spiderman right now. What if he gets all weird? What if he…what if he doesn’t want to be friends now that he knows?”

“Why the hell would knowing…that… matter?” Talking about this topic was going to get annoying really quickly if Tony couldn’t even use words. He tried to use his hands to imply they were talking about death but he was pretty sure it just made him look stupid.

“Before it was a joke Tony!” Danny shouted. “Before he could just imagine that I…passed away in my sleep or died doing what I loved or something! Now he knows and it’s not funny and it hurts and what if it bothers him? What if he can’t get over it? What if he doesn’t want to? What if when I call him he wants to talk about it? I’ve only ever talked about it with my friends back in Amity and they were fucking there!”

“Woah! Kid, Calm down.” Tony said. The ghost teen was practically hyperventilating, the questions tripping over themselves as they escaped his mouth. Danny’s mouth snapped shut and Tony ordered him to take a breath. Carefully Tony reached out and pulled on the ghost kid so that he floated down to eye level. “Good. Now. I just need to tell you that it’s going to be fine.”

“You can’t know that.”

“I can.” Tony said. “Trust me, I know who Spiderman is behind the mask.”

Danny would too if he wasn’t apparently the stupidest ghost teen on the planet.

“Do you know everyone’s secret identity?” Danny asked.

“Yeah pretty much.” Tony said. “There’s this one guy called Daredevil that I haven’t quite gotten worked out but I haven’t really tried either. Most of the time it’s not that hard to figure out. Honestly I’m not sure how everyone doesn’t know who you are.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t hide your face or do much to change your voice. Your ghost form is literally just a color swap with your human form. Danny Fenton and Danny Phantom.” Tony listed out. “It’s not like you’re hiding it at all.”

“Well you’re the only human to have figured it out without me transforming in front of them so…” Danny shrugged. “I think it’s sort of like Superman.”

“Superman.”

“Yeah you know. Superman is Clark Kent right? All he does to hide his identity is put some glasses on and move the curl from his forehead to the top of his head.”

“That’s a comic book. We’re talking about the real world.” Tony told the kid.

“Yeah but the same principle applies right?” Danny asked. “No one figures out Clark Kent is Superman because it’s absolutely insane. We think it’s obvious because we read about it but think about it from the perspective of a character. Clark Kent is a dork. He’s from the middle of nowhere Kansas. He can’t talk to Lois Lane without stuttering. You expect me to believe that guy fights aliens? No way.”

Tony had to admit that when phrased like that it made a bit of sense. Why would Lois Lane expect her dorky farm boy coworker to also be the guy who could leap tall buildings in a single bound? She wouldn’t.

“Do people even think Superman has a secret identity?” Tony asked. “I mean he lives in that fortress on the north pole and he’s an alien.”

“Exactly!” Danny said. “People don’t expect me to have a secret identity either. I’m a ghost! Sure I was a living person before but records of me have been around for literal centuries so people think I died like forever ago.”

Tony still had no idea how the kid managed to make so many fake historical accounts of himself and he was honestly a little afraid to ask.

“If they don’t think you have a secret identity then you don’t have to even try to hide who you are.” Tony couldn’t believe it was that simple. Danny was quite literally hiding in plain sight. “So…is Fenton a Clark Kent too?”

“The number of times the football team has stuffed me into a locker should count as a world record.”

“That happens outside of movies?”

“Welcome to Illinois. Taking stereotypes from the 80s to the extreme since forever.”

Tony snorted and decided to go back to the topic at hand.

“I promise you that Spiderman won’t be weird about it, well not too weird. He’s an odd guy but he won’t purposefully make you feel bad. Since you’ve been ignoring him he’s probably afraid that he’s ruined your friendship.”

Was it friendship? The look on Danny’s face was all sorts of worrying. Tony, wisely, decided not to ask.

“Really? I just…You have no idea how important this is to me Tony.”

“What do you mean?”  Tony asked almost instantly breaking his resolve not to ask for details about the teenager’s feelings.

“I’ve never had a friend like him. No one in the entire universe gets what it’s like to be like this!”

“I get it.”

“No you don’t.”

“I’m a superhero too. Most of the Avengers can relate to you kid.”

“They didn’t get their powers when they were in the middle of puberty.” Tony winced. “I mean come on dude! I don’t even have my driver’s license yet and I have to make decisions about how to save people’s lives. You have no idea what that’s like. All of you became heroes when you were adults, when you didn’t have parents or a curfew or hell, a high school schedule to work around!”

It hadn’t really occurred to Tony that they were kids. No. He knew that. He knew that the two of them were children because he lost hours of sleep each night worrying over them. What if they got hurt? How could he protect them? Tony knew damn well that Phantom and Spiderman were kids.

But it hadn’t occurred to him that they were teenagers.

That was a hard enough world to live in but adding in the pressures of being a hero? It wasn’t any wonder Danny claimed Tony couldn’t understand. He was getting a headache just trying to imagine it. Tony, as a teenager, had been drunk off his ass and getting his head pulled out of toilets by Rhodey at MIT. He would’ve been an awful hero. The pressure alone would have made him lose his head.

“I can’t mess this up.” Danny said. “But I have no idea what to tell him.”

“Has…Has Spiderman told you why he became Spiderman?” Tony asked.

“No.”

“Well it’s…it’s for sort of the same reason you did.” Tony said. “Somebody died. It’s not my story to tell obviously, but just trust me. Spiderman isn’t going to push.”

“Thanks Tony.” Danny said. “I’ll…I’ll message him then.”

“You wanna do it in here? You know for…moral support?” Wow that sentence even tasted awkward.

“Boss?” Friday interrupted. “Captain Rogers would like to speak with you.”

“I’ll go handle it in private.” Danny said. “You go take care of Old Red, White, and, Blue.”

With that Danny Phantom disappeared and Tony had no idea if he was even still in the room. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“What does Cap want?”

“It deals with your work on Mr. Barnes.” Right. He’d just sent over his suggestions and work over to Shuri a few days earlier, right before Danny had been flown in and proceeded to try and drive him to insanity.

“Right. Tell him to come down here then. I need to finish up these calculations.”

So Tony worked out the math, calculating exactly how much ectoplasm he could actually store in his suit and how much extra stuff he wanted to have just for fun and experimentation. By the time he finished placing the final decimal point on the number and sent it to Danny’s phone, Steve arrived. The super soldier looked awkward.

“Open the door, Fri.”

The door to the lab, something that had failed to keep Danny out for even a moment, slid open and Steve stepped inside. The two of them hadn’t actually had any meaningful conversations since Tony had first agreed to help Barnes out. Tony hadn’t actually known what to say to the guy. He still didn’t.

“I got a message from Shuri.” Steve said. “She said the…BARF invention is working. Is it really named BARF?”

“I regret none of my naming decisions.”

“Right.” Steve said with a small laugh, the laugh trailed off and Steve swallowed. “So…Bucky is doing really well.”

“That’s…that’s expected.” Tony said holding back a wince. “I mean…the BARF system is good, one of mine, so of course it’s going to…”

“I got what you meant.” Steve cut him off. “I’m glad you were willing to help Tony.”

Tony’s jaw was a little hard and he forced himself to relax it and nod a little. He wasn’t sure what to say. His hands picked up a nearby doodad and started fiddling with it. The lab was filled with a suffocating air that made it difficult to put words out there. He wondered if Danny’s conversation with Peter was going any better than this one was. Inwardly he snorted. No the kids were probably already quoting Vines at each other.

(Tony would be surprised to know that the two were actually talking about taking on the mantle of a hero in the wake of a loss as incalculable as death. If he’d been there he would have been brimming with pride to know that Peter spoke about his Uncle for the first time since the funeral with anyone but his aunt.)

“I…I even got to talk to him.” Steve said finally breaking the tension. “It was really him too. He didn’t sound…distant or confused. He was there.”

Tony looked up from his fiddling to see that Steve was in fact near tears. Tony looked away almost immediately again. His eyes focusing the on the blue lights of the hologram in front of him instead of at Steve. Steve who was crying over having his friend back. Steve who probably would have never cried over Tony like that. Had Steve cried? When the two had left him there bleeding and with a dead suit in Siberia? Had Steve cried over him like he was crying over Bucky now?

“Look, Cap. I’ve got a lot of things to do so if this is just a status report then don’t bother. Princess Shuri keeps me well informed on…”

“That’s not…Tony.” Steve sighed his name. “Tony I need to…Well you deserve to know this.”

“I already know how Barnes is doing.”

“Not that! Just… let me finish please? Then I’ll go and you can go back to doing whatever it is you need.”

“Okay. Fine. Talk.”

“You were right about…about a lot of things Tony.” Steve said. “I…I don’t agree with everything in the Accords and part of that was because of the time I’m from. A lot of the things that people like Ross were saying reminded me of things I fought against back in the war and I didn’t really want to listen to it. I couldn’t agree to anything that was like what I saw in those camps…I mean some people were talking about registering supers and I just…I didn’t disagree with you because I think you’re lesser than me Tony.”

Could’ve fooled him. Steve stepped forward a little more, his face tense.

“You wanted the accords because you wanted to be responsible. You wanted to be accountable and I can’t blame you for that. I should have been more…flexible.” Steve admitted. “Bucky got after me today about that. Told me I was acting the fool again. He used to do that a lot you know? Pull me out of trouble that I got into for being too hardheaded.”

Tony put his invention down and let his hands tap on the glass tabletop in front of him. His fingers made little staccato noises as they twitched against the tide of emotions Tony was feeling.

“I just…Tony I know our team hasn’t been what it used to be since Ultron. Maybe even before that. Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake all those years ago not taking you up on your offer after the invasion. Would we be a better team if I’d stayed here? Would we have saved more lives? Would we be fighting right now?” Steve asked before shaking his head. “I can’t say but what I can say is this. I don’t blame you for Ultron, you were trying to protect the world and it got out of hand and I don’t blame you for what happened in Siberia or in Germany either. That was…it wasn’t anyone’s fault alone. We all made mistakes. You moved too quickly for me and I wasn’t willing to compromise.”

It was a strange sort of absolution. A kind that Tony hadn’t even realized he needed. He hadn’t known he wanted to hear Steve say he didn’t blame him for Ultron. He had thought he’d gotten over Steve’s snuff when Tony had invited him to stay in the tower after the 2012 invasion. But hearing Steve say so plainly that he regretted not taking him up on that invite and that he didn’t think Tony was solely to blame lifted a weight off of Tony’s heart.

Tony looked at his childhood hero and wondered when the man had become so human.

“I should have told you about your parents and about Bucky. I should have been willing to listen to you about the Accords, should have worked with you to get them amended into something I was comfortable with. I should have been here when Thor came back to help you welcome the Asgardians and calm people down about Loki. I should have moved in here with you, made the rest of the team come with us back then.” Steve said. “And I’m sorry. Real sorry, Tony. You’re Earth’s greatest defender and I’m sorry if I made you think otherwise.”

Tony held back whatever noises he felt trying to rise up from his stomach. They’d sound pathetic and the last thing he needed was to sob in front of Steve. He forced the noises down and then spoke.

“Why…why didn’t you? Move in here?” It was a question that had haunted him for over 7 years at that point. Steve looked down at his feet.

“You move really quickly Tony.” Steve said. “I only knew you for a day and I already knew you’d be too fast. I’d been stuck in a SHIELD facility for months before the invasion. I didn’t know anything about the future and suddenly you were there, you were everything I didn’t understand. And then you asked me to move in and I wondered…well I thought maybe I should learn some more before I tried to keep up with you. And…and well I realized I’d misjudged you Tony. I thought you were…well it doesn’t matter what I thought. I was wrong and I knew that when you opened your home to me and I didn’t deserve that did I?”

“Didn’t deserve it? Steve I said some nasty things to you too.”

“Yeah but…none of it was untrue it.” Steve said. “My powers did come from a bottle. Your suit came from you and I didn’t feel like I could accept your help. You were a better man that I thought and you were…you’re a lot Tony and I didn’t think I could handle it then.”

All this time Tony had secretly thought Steve had said no because he didn’t like Tony. But Steve’s tone, his words, implied the opposite. It wasn’t Tony that had been at fault it had been Steve. Steve had felt overwhelmed and had backed off, deciding to learn about the future in his own way. Tony closed his eyes for a moment and then looked back at Steve.

“So…that’s it then. We both messed up?” Tony asked. “What am I supposed to do with that?”

Tony had never been very good with emotions. He didn’t even know what to name the feelings he had for Peter, Harley, and Danny. It was so out of his realm of experience and he was afraid to even examine it too closely. It was similar to the feelings he had when he dreamed about marrying Pepper. But now wasn’t the time to think about that.

“What you’re supposed to do is decide what we do next.” Steve said. “I should’ve trusted you 7 years ago. I should have trusted you to help me acclimate to the future and help bring our team together. We should have been working together from the start and….and I’m ready to start now if you are. Whatever you’re working on right now, if it’s the accords or something with New Asgard or anything. I’ll follow your lead.”

“You’d do that?” Tony asked, disbelief coloring his face. “You’d do what I told you to.”

“I trust you.” Steve said it with the same fervor he’d told Bucky he’d be there till the end of the line and it hit Tony’s ears like a gunshot. He felt breathless. He didn’t know if he could handle this. This was unlike every conversation he’d ever had with Steve. Any real emotions they’d ever shared before had always been couched in sarcasm and biting words. But Steve had removed his masks and forced Tony’s off in the same action. He felt almost naked. An emotion he didn’t particularly like to experience inside his lab.

“Okay.” Tony said. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah.” Tony said. “Okay.”

He didn’t have any other word other than that one for a few moments. Steve thankfully waited. Tony bolstered himself and then spoke.

“I’ve got some intel about one of Phantom’s enemies.” Tony said.

“Phantom?”

“He’s an important ally Steve. The only ghost one we’ve got and I trust him.” Tony said. “Not to mention he’s a kid who needs some help. This other ghost, Plasmius, is bad news. Threatened the Avengers and a bunch of humans if Phantom didn’t cave into him.”

“Sounds pretty serious. How’d you learn about him?”

And so Tony told Steve about the phone call he made with Thor. He had to sidetrack to explain that Loki had been having some magic issues that Phantom was somehow qualified to help with. He got back on topic quickly and described everything he heard about Plasmius, what he did to Phantom. The cruelty and callousness.

“I got Phantom to agree to stay here for a month or two so he’ll be in the tower but…he’s not talking to me about Plasmius.”

“Well he wouldn’t. Plasmius told him he’d kill us if Phantom told.” Steve said. “What’s the game plan?”

“We need to know as much as we can, start prepping the team for fighting ghosts.” Tony said. “I’ve got the Fenton’s kid, Danny, here to help us for the next few weeks. If you can get to work with Fenton on training the team I can focus on outfitting the tower. Maybe even ask Fenton if he knows anything about Plasmius. You remember the kid? He had that whole codex of ghosts, he might be able to help. When Plasmius comes I want us to be ready to kick his ass.”

“That” Steve said with a smile. “is something I can do.”

Chapter Text

There were few ghost hunters, outside of his parents, that Danny had any amount of respect for. Part of this was because he had a pretty overall negative history with them, ghost hunters tended to take an ‘ask questions while shooting at you’ approach that left nothing to be desired. The other reason for his dislike was because a bunch of them were just so stupid. They’d stand in an abandoned graveyard or something with nothing but a camera and a microphone and expect things to go their way.

Which was why Danny had a hobby, when he wasn’t actively fighting ghosts he liked to actively frustrate the plans of ghost hunters. He wouldn’t hurt them, but helping another ghost escape custody or ruining their equipment? That was fair game. It got him a bit of a reputation amongst the ‘Earth-Bound’ ghosts and spirits. Ghosts like the Dairy King who remained on earth full time for various reasons. Those ghosts always knew that if they were having problems with a ghost hunter or an exorcist that Danny was more than likely to help them.

It had taken a while to build this reputation. Honestly Danny wasn’t even sure where it had come from. Perhaps Cujo had been telling tales. Or maybe Wulf while on the run liked to tell the other ghosts he met about his amigo. Danny doubted it was the Dairy King that had started it but who could say. But over the past three years Danny had been slowly and steadily gaining a reputation of someone who would protect ghosts just as freely as he would humans. 

The visitors were new though.

Sitting there on the bed Tony had set up for him was a ghost Danny had never met before. She was dressed as a nurse from the early 20th century if Danny had to guess. Danny had just returned from a session of dodging Captain America’s questions as Fenton. He had not been expecting this upon his escape.

“Uhm.”

The nurse looked at him, her skin wasn’t green but instead white, she was more translucent than solid. Danny thought he saw blood on her apron. She opened her mouth and the room’s light flickered angrily.

“Danny?” Friday asked. “Are you alright? My sensors indicate that there was a sharp temperature drop.”

“It’s fine.” Danny said. “Nothing’s wrong. I just have a visitor. Hello. I’m Danny Phantom.”

Danny hadn’t interacted with this type of ghost very often before. These were ghosts, spirits really, that had formed from very violent painful deaths but didn’t have access to large enough amounts of ectoplasm. They were still ghosts, and they still had powers, but they tended to be stuck to the location that they died in and were notoriously difficult to talk to. Sure enough the nurse ghost spoke and filled Danny’s ears with a painful static noise. He didn’t cover his ears and instead he focused as best he could to translate.

CrEedMoo r .

“Creedmoor?” Danny repeated, the ghost nodded thankfully. “You want me to go to Creedmoor? Why?”

hU n T e rs

That one took a bit longer to decode but eventually Danny guessed it.

“Hunters? There are ghost hunters there? Are they bothering you, are there other ghosts there who need my help?”

The nurse nodded, her face showing something akin to relief. Danny wished he spoke Ghost more fluently than he did. He really should get around asking Frostbite for lessons.

“Okay.” Danny said. “I’ll find Creedmoor and I’ll go there and scare those hunters off right away. Can you tell me your name so I can call on you when I get there?”

A Me li a

“Amelia?” He asked. “That’s a nice name. You look like you’re fading pretty badly. Go back home and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

It was true the ghost’s form was flickering pretty hard so far from her home. She nodded and disappeared with nothing more than a near silent pop. The room returned to its normal temperature and Danny finally noticed the goosebumps on his arms. He rubbed at them trying to bring some heat back into his skin.

“Do you require assistance, Danny? I can tell Boss there was another ghost here.”

“No. No it’s not dangerous. I’ve got some research to do though.”

“Of course.”

Danny grabbed his laptop and started his google search. He had no idea where in the world Creedmoor was, he had to guess it was some sort of hospital based on what Amelia had been wearing. A few quick searches revealed that there was a Creedmoor psychiatric hospital in Queens, but it was an active hospital. Weird. Thankfully Danny knew someone who knew Queens like the back of their webbed hands. He transformed into his ghost form and picked up his phone. He held the phone up and requested a facetime. It took a minute for Spiderman to answer, probably getting his suit on.

“Hey Danny!” Spiderman said brightly. “What’s up?”

“Does the name Creedmoor mean anything to you?”

“It’s…there’s a hospital with that name in Queens I think. I’ve hung out on it’s roof more than once.” Spiderman said.

“Don’t you do any research at all?” Another voice, female, asked from off screen. “Give me that phone.”

Spiderman’s phone was snatched away and now Phantom was face to face with a girl he’d never met before. She had dark skin and attractively messy brown hair. She was wearing what appeared to be a jean jacket and a scowl.

“There was a ward in Creedmoor that got shut down in the early 80s after a couple of patients died. It was open for decades before that.” She said.

“And…you are?” Danny asked.

“Call me MJ. I’m Spiderman’s friend.” She said. “I helped with your stupid good-off contest a few weeks ago.”

“Oh right!” Danny said. “How do you know so much about Creedmoor?”

“Did an extra credit project on the corruption in the Mental Health System in New York.” She said. “Creedmoor had some messed up shit going on behind closed doors, I used it as a case study. Why are you asking about it?”

“MJ give me my phone back!” Spiderman said moving so that he was also visible within the shot. “I’m sorry about her.”

“Don’t be.” Danny said. “I just had a visit from a ghost who needs my help.”

“I thought you fought ghosts.”

“I’m an equal opportunity hero.” MJ seemed to accept this answer.

“Are you telling me Creedmoor is haunted?” Spiderman squeaked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” MJ drawled. “The hospital closed after someone found one of the patients strangled in their bed, they think it was an orderly who did it. But there were probably more deaths before that. It was a mental hospital for so-called violent patients.”

“I got a visit from a ghost named Amelia, she looked like a nurse from the 1940s or something.” Danny explained. “She said there were hunters in Creedmoor. Some humans are bothering her and the other ghosts who live there and she asked for my help.”

“So you’re just going to go to Creedmoor and ask the ghost hunters to leave?”

“No.” Danny said. “I’m going to scare the shit out of them so that they run with their tail between their legs and never come back.”

“Dude.” Spiderman said. “I thought you didn’t haunt stuff.”

“Not professionally.” Danny said. “But hunters are mean, Spidey. Either they’ll use weapons against us without provocation or they’ll yell out our cause of death at us while asking really personal questions. It’s degrading at best. I figure if those humans were dumb enough to go into someplace haunted they might as well get a taste.”

“Why doesn’t Amelia just haunt them herself?” MJ asked.

“She’s too weak.” Danny said. “She’s a spirit. It means she died in a really traumatic, painful way but there wasn’t enough ectoplasm to give her lots of power. She and the other spirits there are stuck in Creedmoor and they don’t have the power to defend themselves. Sometimes they’ll manage to actually make something supernatural happen but it exhausts them. So mostly they just have to suffer whatever pain ghost hunters want to inflict on them.”

“Ouch.”

“Have fun haunting then.” MJ said in a tone that implied that not only did she accept his explanation she also supported his endeavors fully.

“I could…come with?” Spiderman asked hopefully. “Maybe if I go I can ask the hunters to leave, for like official hero reasons. Then you won’t have to haunt anyone and the spirits can have some peace.”

It wasn’t…a terrible plan actually. Besides any opportunity to spend with his friend was one Danny was going to take. If these hunters refused to leave surely Spiderman would have fun learning how to scare them off. Danny hummed thoughtfully and found himself agreeing.

“Alright. Meet you at the normal spot in fifteen minutes.” Danny said. “Remember we’re here to protect the ghosts and their home.”

“Got it.” Spiderman said. “See you then.”

Danny grinned and ended the call. It was nice having his friend back. They’d been talking almost nonstop via text since they’d worked out their issues two days ago and Danny had felt less depressed and frustrated with his life. He was still annoyed at being here, especially with Captain America bothering him in both his identities about Plasmius. But he had his friend back and he was getting paid.

Things were looking up.

“Tell Tony I’m going out to hang with Spiderman. Don’t mention the ghost who came by.” He told Friday.

“Of course, Danny. Have fun.”

Danny flew out of the tower and towards the bridge where he and Spiderman always had their meet-ups. He wasn’t surprised to find the hero waiting for him when he got there. Danny grinned brightly and waved at the red and blue hero who waved back excitedly. He landed right next to his friend.

“Alright.” Danny said. “Let’s get out there, and scope out the place. These guys might be armed so we should be careful.”

“Got it. Follow me. I know how to get there.”

He sent out a web and slung away. Danny immediately started to fly after the swinging hero. He wondered abruptly what his friend looked like beneath the mask. Not because he wanted to know his secret identity, but because…well it didn’t matter why he was curious. It didn’t because Danny liked Spiderman for who he was, not what he looked like. But still, curiosity was killer wasn’t it?

“Hey Spidey?”

“Yeah?”

“What color are your eyes?” The question shocked Spiderman so much that he missed his next web shot and started to fall. Danny yelped at the same time the other teen did and he reached out and grabbed the other one by the waist to keep him airborne. Maybe Danny should’ve timed his question better.

“Why do you want to know that?” Spiderman demanded shocked.

“I just…I dunno! It doesn’t matter forget it. You ready to go send out another web?”

Spiderman nodded and fired his webshooters at a nearby building. Right as Danny was prepared to let him go, the teen spoke.

“They’re brown.”

Danny watched the web-slinger move farther away for a moment before huffing a laugh. Brown huh? Danny had always liked the color brown. When they finally got to the abandoned building, Danny phased them inside and they snuck around until they found the humans. The two teens took one look at the two ‘hunters’ and Danny burst into a grin. Here were the only other ghost hunters in existence that Danny liked.

“Please?” He whispered. “Pretty please?”

They had to. They couldn’t just go up to those hunters and ask them to leave. The hunters deserved more than that and so did Danny. Spiderman looked at him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“We have to.” Spiderman said right back. “There’s literally nothing else we can do.”

“You’re so amazing.” Danny sniffed, finally someone who understood him. “Let’s do it.”

And so the two meme teens moved to give two other internet famous gentlemen the haunting of their lives.

*****

“Alright big guy, we’re finally here.” Ryan said walking up to the old metal doors. In front of them was a huge tall building, it looked worn down and there was a strange tension to the air around it. They’d been to plenty of places with that same sort of tension but today it felt new and crisp.

“This is a big moment for you isn’t it?” Shane asked.

“Of course, it is! It’s our first episode since the ghost invasion of New York.”

“Which you have not shut up about.”

“Vindicated Shane! I’ve been vindicated! All these years of searching and we finally know the truth!”

“I’m still not convinced.” Shane said. “That this so-called Danny Phantom is actually a ghost.”

“Oh come on man.” Ryan said. “He literally said he was! Isn’t that all the proof you wanted?”

“He’s probably a…a mutant! Or an alien!” Ryan looked over at the nearby camera.

“This is the same argument we had after the first alien invasion.”

“We’ve been looking for ghosts for years and we’ve never had any proof. And suddenly some teenager in a fake wig shows up and you’re convinced? No. No way.” Shane argues. “Besides, it’s not like this Phantom guy has any cred. No credible hauntings. No witness accounts of him doing anything ghostly. All he does is make twitter puns. I’m telling you, the guy is way too up to date on memes to be that old of a ghost.”

“Look, just admit you were wrong.”

“Not gonna happen. Not until we interview Phantom ourselves and check the little sucker for a pulse.”

“Let’s just go inside and look for a ghost that isn’t likely to kick our asses.”

The camera man followed them inside as they pushed open the doors. Ryan started talking to the camera describing the specific descriptions of ghosts and hauntings that had been witnessed in Creedmoor Hospital. Everything from a bloody nurse to three children with missing, scratched out eyes. They went to the first sight of a haunting, one of the offices for the doctors that supposedly had the ghost of a murdered orderly in it.  

They went through their normal routine, calling out to the ghost and asking if they were there. He turned on a few devices and even placed two flashlights down to try and tempt the ghost into turning them on and off. Ryan had put a lot of stock into this trip. New York was now a hotspot of spectral activity and this hospital had a long standing and well known history. Surely the ghosts here would be active enough to provide some evidence.

And yet they were getting nothing but static. It made no sense. Everyone had seen ghosts in New York. Phantom had a twitter. And yet they couldn’t get one ghost to turn a flashlight on and off on command. It was infuriating and Shane kept crowing about it. Eventually they left the room and moved onto the next haunted stop, the cafeteria where a dead nurse supposedly lived. Ryan listened to Shane’s jokes as Shane yelled out against the walls begging the ghosts to come at him.  

They got to the cafeteria without incident. The room was oddly silent, no creaking or the sound of wind. It was in fact the quietest room any of them had been in a long time. The hairs on their arms stood up perpendicular to their skin.

“Hello?” Ryan asked. “My name is Ryan and this is my friend Shane. We just want to talk.”

Before Ryan could even turn on his Spirit Box it shrieked to life, harsh static and screams filling the air. Ryan was so shocked he dropped the box, which was now glowing with an unearthly green light.

I…hear…

“Hello?” Ryan asked. “What do you hear?”

The… drums

The words were broken up by static and crackling but were still mostly understandable. Above them the broken lights hanging on the ceiling began to shake and vibrate. The air escaping their mouths became visible as the temperature dropped suddenly.

“Drums?” Shane repeated. “You hear drums. Come on really?”

Echoing… tonight….

The Spirit box exploded in a shower of green sparks at their feet and both men jumped back and swore looking down at the mess on the floor. The abandoned tables and chairs began to move and creak, some of them sliding on the concrete floor, scraping and scratching along.

“Look. We’re not here to hurt you! We just want to talk!” Ryan said.

“This is more like it!” Shane said. “Come on ghost! Possess me! Straight up stab me!”

“Shane! Not right now!”

In the room a strange voice echoed, almost too inaudible to understand.

But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation

“Did you hear that?” Shane asked. “Something about a conversation?”

“Yes!” Ryan said. “That’s what we want, just a conversation! No one needs to get hurt.”

The room was still shaking and rumbling, moans could be heard from the hallways and it sounded like pipes were bursting below their feet. Ryan reached out and grabbed onto his friend. The floor literally rippled as if it was made of liquid and both men stumbled forward. An unseen forced roughly pulled them even faster and they fell into some of the chairs that had been moving around.

She's coming in, 12:30 flight

“Who is coming?” Ryan asked.

“And on a 12:30 flight? Redeyes are nasty things.”

“Is that you Nurse Amelia? We really only want to talk.”

Both men grabbed onto their chairs as they spun around and moved away from the camera man, who was oddly safe from all the carnage and chaos. The shaking on the ceiling got so bad that the lightbulbs in the fixtures exploded in showers of glass. Every table and chair, except for the ones holding Ryan and Shane split off and began to slam themselves against the walls on either side of the men.

The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation

The voice was still quiet and full of so much reverb it was hard to understand. The chairs carrying Ryan and Shane slid along until they were in the center of the room. Both men were seated facing each other, both looked frightened and only one was attempting to hide it.

“Salvation? You want salvation? Well you’re not getting it from me!”

“Shane!”

Then Shane’s head was thrust violently back as if he’d been punched in the jaw, his mouth opened wide and his eyes to the ceiling. The taller man arched his back in an almost perfect yoga pose and his body gained a faint glow. Shane began to seize and shake and Ryan called out for him. Every single light in the room brightened so much it blinded him and then went out all at once. In the total darkness there was silence. Ryan swallowed and tried to reach out to find his friend while with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out the bottle full of holy water.

The lights all turned on immediately to show Shane sitting in his chair without a care in the world his eyes glowing green.

“Shane?”

“Not exactly.” Someone said using Shane’s body, his voice echoing. “You’re Ryan right? From Buzzfeed Unsolved? The show with the goal of proving ghosts are real?”

“Uhm.”

“Dude, breathe. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

Ryan quickly opened up the cap on the bottle and flung the holy water right into Shane’s face. The being possessing Shane immediately began to sputter and cough in shock, but there was no burning or screams of pain.

“Seriously dude? Water? Come on what are we in 2nd grade? He asked to be possessed. Multiple times! And now you’re gonna fling water in his face?”

“Holy water.” Ryan croaked. “It’s holy water.”

“Well either way some of it got in this nose and that’s not pleasant.” The ghost said rubbing Shane’s nose onto his jacketed arm.

“Who are you?” Ryan asked his voice shaken.

“Oh right.” The ghost said. “Name’s Danny Phantom and I heard you guys were talking shit about me.”

And that was how Danny Phantom got his very own episode on Buzzfeed Unsolved.

Chapter Text

Danny readjusted the camera on the dashboard. Everything had to be perfect if he was going to do this. No one would ever forgive him if it wasn’t.

“Okay. And I think we’re live. Let’s just make sure we’re in focus.”

“Honestly, kid.” Tony said. “Why do we have to stream this?”

“For posterity.”

“Yeah Mr. Stark.” Spiderman said. “It’s for posterity.”

“Right. Here I am offering to teach you two how to drive, an important life skill and-”

“See and that’s where you’ve lost me.” Danny whined. “Why would I need life skills?”

“And I live in Queens. Nobody needs a car in Queens, you can just take the subway. I swing everywhere.”

Tony glared at the two teens. The ghostly one was sitting in the driver’s seat of a very expensive vehicle, one of the one’s from Tony Stark’s personal collection. Tony had driven them out of the city and to a nondescript location in upstate New York where they could learn to drive without risking running anyone over.

“Look. You both agreed that you wanted to know how to drive a real car. You only know how to drive cars by possessing them.”

“I can also drive assault vehicles.” Danny added thinking of the lessons he’d had with his dad in the RV. The Fenton RV had been built by hand by his parents and Danny was pretty sure the thing wasn’t street legal. “But the one I learned on is nothing like this.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“I want to know.” Spiderman said.

“Well you see…” Danny began.

“No.” Tony cut off. “We’re here for a driving lesson from yours truly so that, in the event of an emergency, the two of you can drive a car.”

“Okay fine.” Danny gave up. “I’ll tell you later Spidey.”

“Yes.” Spiderman said pumping his fist excitedly.

“Good.” Tony said, his voice already strained even though the lesson hadn’t even begun yet. “Now. Put your seat belt on.”

Behind them Spiderman took his seat in the middle where he could easily be seen by the camera and also interject himself in the conversation. He quickly snapped on his seatbelt while Danny looked incredulous at Tony.

“My seat belt?” Danny asked.

“You heard me.”

“Dude. I’m dead. I don’t need a seat belt.”

“You are setting an example. For posterity.”

“Fine. Fine.” Danny grumbled. He snapped his fingers and used his powers to levitate the seatbelt. The expensive fabric strap glowed green and moved in front of his chest and then clicked itself together. “There, happy?”

“Immensely.”

Danny grinned and snatched the keys from where Tony had been holding them. A little of intangibility had been used making Tony yelp.

“Okay! So, it’s simple right? You put the key in the key hole.”

“Ignition.” Tony interrupted. “It’s called the Ignition.”

“The key hole.” Danny repeated. “I’ve seen it in movies, put it in there and turn. Then you put your foot on the go pedal. Holy shit why are there three down there? There should only be the go and the stop! What the hell is that one?”

“It’s the clutch.” Tony said, leaning over his seat and pointing towards Danny’s feet. “That one is the accelerator, that one is the brakes and that one is the clutch. You know you’re lucky you glow, it’s going to make it easier to see what you’re doing down here.”

Danny looked over at Spiderman, the two of them exchanging confused and slightly frightened looks as Tony began to lecture about gear shifts and the clutch and how a manual car worked.

“Don’t most cars nowadays not have that…gear thingy?” Spiderman asked.

“Don’t talk to me about that kid.” Tony sniffed. “The only true way to drive is with a manual and if you’re going to learn from me, you’re going to learn the right way.”

“Uhm…okay.”

“Now pay attention. When you need to switch gears you have to push down on the clutch, all the way down to the bottom. Geez kid are your legs even long enough to get down there? Here, push your seat forward.” Tony fussed.

Tony explained how the gears in the car worked in relation to the engine and transmission and the various other parts of the car and then he explained how clutch worked and what Danny had to do to get the car moving. Danny and Spiderman both listened as best they could while also telling jokes.

“Wow Tony.” Danny said as the man finally finished his mini-lecture. “You sure you’re a superhero and not an underpaid high school teacher?”

“Shut up.”

“Come on Mr. Stark. The low salaries and overall low level of funding for our country’s public education system is a serious issue.” Spiderman broke in. “You shouldn’t shut down conversations about something so important.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” Tony demanded. “Pay the teachers myself?”

“No! That’s- I’d never try to…”

“I mean if you want to. Might be better for you to support the Teacher’s Union though. Remember kids, you have nothing to lose but your chains.” Danny said the last part directly toward the camera. “I mean honestly Tony. It’s in your best interest to see that schools and teachers are well funded. How else are you going to find little geniuses to fill Stark Industries if nobody learns anything in school?”

Tony sighed, lifting up a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“I’m not discussing this while that’s recording.” He said. “Pepper would literally kill me in our bed if I made anything close to a political statement on twitter. But I will say this, teachers should get better pay if they have to spend day after day dealing with kids like you two.”

“You wound me.” Danny said holding a hand over his heart.

“I am a model student.” Spiderman said.

“I was never a student.” Danny told Spiderman. “Back when I was alive school wasn’t really a thing and based on what I’ve seen in movies, I can only be grateful.”

“How did you learn to read?” Spiderman asked.

“You know, when I was alive my name was Jared.”

Both teens started snickering and repeating the vine while Tony groaned in pain.

“Look. Just try to get the car into first gear and drive it down this road.” He said. “You can do that.”

“Okay. Right.” Danny said shifting around in the seat so that he was actually facing forward. “Let me check my mirrors.”

“The mirrors are fine. Key in the ignition.”

Danny took in a deep breath and put the key inside. He twisted if forward and felt the car engine burst into life and begin rumbling.

“So I…?”

“Push down the clutch and move the gear shift from neutral into first.”

“Right.” Danny said, pushing the clutch down and moving the stick next to him as he was instructed.

“Good. Now slowly lift up the clutch while also pushing down on the accelerator.” Tony instructed. Danny started doing it and the car lurched forward angrily. “Gently! Gently! Gently!”

The car died.

“You killed it.” Tony said.

“That’s what my executioner said.”

“Ooh kinky.”

“Just. Just try again.” Tony nearly begged.

For the next fifteen minutes Danny attempted to get the car moving forward. He killed the engine about once every minute but did eventually manage to start driving. Tony critiqued his ability to keep the car going straight which caused Danny to start purposefully weaving. Every time he had to switch gears the car lurched, a complaint about Danny’s lack of gentleness on it’s poor gears. Any time the car made a noise or moved in an unexpected way Spiderman would yelp. Every. Single. Time.

It sort of got better as time went on. When the frequency of his engine murders lessened he actually got the opportunity to learn how to speed up and slow down appropriately. Tony had him driving around on empty country roads, some sort of nondescript farmland around them, up and down over rolling summer green hills. It would have been a peaceful drive if Danny hadn’t been stressed out of his mind trying not to kill the two living passengers in the car. It was an insane amount of pressure because oh my gosh what if he killed them???

“Good.” Tony said placing a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “You’re doing great, relax kid. Nobody’s going to get hurt if you go over 15 miles an hour. Come on. Speed up a little. It’ll feel like flying. And relax the grip on the steering while, you’ll hurt your fingers.”

Danny stopped his white-knuckle grip on the wheel and pressed down on the accelerator for a bit before switching into a higher gear. The car only lurched a little.

“Great. See you’re a natural!”

Abruptly Tony’s phone started to ring, and Danny flinched the car turning sharply to the left. Danny corrected quickly while slamming on the breaks. Spiderman yelled and gripped the seats in front of him to keep from flying anywhere. The car skidded to a stop sending up a plume of dust behind them.

“Jeez kid.” Tony said his chest heaving a little. “It’s just a phone call. Shit. It’s Pepper, I better take this. I’m pretty sure my lovely girlfriend slash CEO is upset that I’m on your little video. Put the car into neutral, there just like that and now turn the engine off. I’ll be right back. Do NOT drive while I’m not in here.”

Tony quickly snapped off his own seat belt and got out of the car answering the phone as he did, calling Pepper the light of his life. He kicked the door shut behind him.

“That was…informative.” Danny decided.

“Yeah. I’m not looking forward to my turn.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad Spidey. You’ve handled more complicated tech. Besides can’t you stop speeding buses with your bare hands?”

“Doesn’t mean I could drive one.” Spiderman pointed out making Danny giggle.

“I almost had it. Honestly now I think I just have to practice a bunch. Although…I don’t know if I’m technically allowed to drive.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I died when I was 14. If we’re getting really technical then I’m not old enough to get a license. I think, legally, aging stops when your heart does. Sure I’ve aged up some since then but I dunno if my ghost body is sixteen yet or not.”

“You sort of look 16, maybe a bit older? I dunno, hard to tell.” Spiderman said. “Wait did you say aged? Can you age?”

“Some ghosts can.” Danny said. “If they’re powerful enough. It sort of depends on how you feel I guess.”

“How you feel?”

“Yeah. I know a ghost who’s been around for centuries longer than I have who still looks 8. His name’s Youngblood. Last I heard he was pretending to be a cowboy, or maybe a pirate. It varies. Youngblood is always young because he feels like he’s a kid. He could grow up, he’s powerful enough, but he doesn’t want to. Hell, Youngblood is so childish that literally only kids can see him.”

“Woah.” Spiderman said. “He sounds cool.”

“Yeah he’s alright, when he’s not being a little snot nosed brat.”

“So you…you feel like a teenager?”

“Yep.” Danny said confidently. “I guess since I’m learning how to drive right now, I must feel 16 or so. Maybe a bit older.”

“And you don’t have to be a teenager forever?”

“I guess not.” Danny said, leaning back in his seat and looking over at Spiderman. His cheeks turned a little greener and he coughed. “I guess, well I’d just need a reason to grow up.”

Spiderman looked away for a moment and then his face actually focused on something.

“Woah. It looks like Miss Potts is mad.”

“No I’m sure it’s fine. We haven’t done anything too political on here. Maybe Tony forgot he had a meeting or something.”

“Oh g-d!” Spiderman said. “What if we made him miss a meeting? I’d hate to do that! Mr. Stark’s time is so important and we could…”

“Chill dude.” Danny said. “It’s fine. Tony can make his own decisions and if he did skip a meeting then that’s because he likes us more than his executive board or whatever.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah why else would he spend so much time with us.”

“He does spend a lot of time with us.” Spiderman mused. “It’s nice. Sort of like…having a dad I think.”

“I don’t remember much from being alive.” Danny said. “But…yeah Tony is like a dad from what I remember. I don’t have a dad, not since I’ve been like this.”

“Well you know that I don’t…” Spiderman trailed off. “I like it. He showed me how to shave once.”

“Really?” Danny asked.

“Yeah he saw me without my mask and saw what I’d been doing. I’d tried to teach myself off of youtube years ago when I first started growing peach fuzz.”

“Naturally.”

“And you’ve seen how he keeps his facial hair.”

“I have.”

“He said it was shameful that I was going around looking like that, I thought it was fine personally, but he taught me. Made it seem like I was twisting his arm to make him but I didn’t even ask.”

“You’re telling me you got a beard under that mask?” Danny asked. “Come on be descriptive, don’t spare me the details.”

“Dude come on. I’m being serious here.”

“So not a beard. A handlebar mustache.”

“Obviously. I am a distinguished sort of young adult.”

Danny and Spiderman both giggled. Danny knew Spiderman wasn’t a so called ‘young adult’ just as Spiderman knew Danny had only died three years ago. Both of them were comfortable enough with the white lies. Outside Tony was pacing, having what appeared to be a disagreement with Pepper. He looked a bit stressed. Danny winced in sympathy.

“Okay so. He taught you how to shave and he’s teaching us how to drive.” Danny said. “He gave me an allowance.”

“What?”

“Well it’s not like I can make any money or anything. I’m dead. He’s technically paying me to be a ghost security consultant for the Avengers but I think that’s just an excuse.”

Granted Danny had basically extorted money out of Tony in exchange for not annoying him anymore, but Tony did not have to pay him that much. Not to mention the random extra bursts of money that got put in there without explanation. Those bursts of money tended to appear whenever Danny tweeted about a new Switch Game he wanted or whenever he and Peter complained about being hungry when he was being an intern.

“So, he’s giving you an allowance.” Spiderman mused. “And he designed these suits for us. He even put a few safety protocols in mine so he could come help if I got in trouble. He knows I’m not gonna stop being a hero so he tries to make it as safe as possible for me.”

“Me too.” Danny said pulling at the material of his new suit. “This one is also bullet proof even though I can turn intangible to bullets.”

“He’s protective. Proactive even.” Spiderman decided.

“I can’t believe I never noticed how ‘dad’ he was being. I’m a ghost, ghosts don’t have dads.”

“Superheroes don’t really have ‘em either, I guess. None of the Avengers have living parents.” Spiderman said.

“Really? Weird.”

“I like it. He’s like a superhero dad. A dad for superheroes maybe?”

Danny froze as an idea hit him hard right in the middle of his mind.

“He’s Iron Dad.”

“What?”

“Spiderman. He’s our Iron Dad.”

“Oh my G-d.” Spiderman breathed. “You’re right. He is our Iron Dad.”

“Iron Dad. Iron Dad. Iron Dad.” Danny said jumping up and down in his seat a little.

“I love it.”

“We should get him a t-shirt.”

“No. We’ve got to get him a tie! Dude! Fathers Day is in like…two weeks!”

“A tie and a macaroni art card then. He’ll need both.” Danny decided. “We could use glitter.”

“Internet.” Spiderman said seriously looking at the camera that was still recording. “Let’s keep this between us for now. We should surprise Mr. Stark with our gifts. If you don’t tell him then he won’t know.”

“I’ll keep him distracted. I’ll possess his computer and stuff. Make sure he doesn’t see this part of the video. We just have to make sure the Avengers and stuff don’t say anything.” Danny decided. “What else should he get? A tie and a card? Are there other Father’s Day traditions we’re forgetting?”

“A mug?” Spiderman suggested. “Like a World’s Best Dad one.”

“Well he is the super dad. He’s a superhero being a dad to two other superheroes. He just started being a dad cause he knew we needed one, not because we’re his kids. He’s Iron Dad.”

“You don’t think it’s not gonna weird him out?” Spiderman asked.

“Nah. If he wants to act like a dad then he should treated like a dad. Which means being gifted ugly ties and everything.”

“You right.” Spiderman decided nodded wisely. “Do you think we should give them to him separately or together?”

“I dunno, maybe he’d…”

The door to the car opened and both teens froze.

“There.” Tony said. “That’s taken care of. Sorry about that kids. Pepper wanted to remind me to watch my mouth while on camera again. What…were you two talking about?”

“Nothing.” Danny said.

“Memes.” Spiderman said at the exact same time.

“Right.” Tony said, looking between the two of them. He looked like he was going to ask for more details and then abruptly decided against it in the name of his own mental health. “Then just…switch seats. It’s Spiderman’s turn.”

Danny phased through the driver’s seat and into the back while Spiderman stuck himself to the ceiling and crawled upside down and then dropped into the seat. Tony watched the whole thing with amusement.

“Do you kids ever do anything the normal way?”

“No.” They answered at the same time.

Tony snorted and then told Spiderman to please buckle up and try getting the car into first gear. Danny leaned back in his own seat and carefully got into a seat belt. He looked at the back of Tony’s head with a thoughtful look. Danny Fenton might have a dad, a dad he loved very much, but Danny Phantom didn’t. The closest he had was Vlad and well…ew. This was an opportunity, he decided. Danny would just give Tony a Father’s Dad gift, same as he did for his own dad. Spiderman had had his uncle and now he could have Tony.

 It was going to be great.

Chapter Text

It was National Flip Flop Day when all throughout twitter,

not a creature was stirring not even a bullshitter.

The tweets had been sent online with much flair

All in the hopes that someone, somewhere would care

 

The users were all nestled snug next in their beds

While visions of verified check marks danced in their heads

When out on the web there arose such a clatter!

Everyone rushed up to see whatever was the matter.

They clicked on the notifications quick as a blast

It appeared that Phantom had started a live stream at long last.

 

At first no one actually knew what to make of it. The only thing that had been happening on Twitter before had been three corporate accounts paying for enough bots to get #NationalFlipFlopDay to trend. This was obviously fake right? It had to be fake. And yet somehow it appeared that it wasn’t. The video had begun with Phantom in the Ghost Zone. Which was new as he’d only ever taken selfies in the Zone and posted them later. But it wasn’t necessarily alarming. The camera he was using to livestream was floating a couple of feet in front of him, giving a nice action shot as he flew through the realm of the dead. In Phantom’s hands was a glowing scroll.

“Alright! We are live! I wasn’t honestly sure this was gonna work. Princess Shuri seemed confident. I should stop questioning her tech prowess. Hey twitter and the internet at large!” Phantom waved at the camera still flying at high speeds towards destinations unknown. Phantom looked away from the camera and down at the open scroll in his hands. “Okay, I need to take a left at the obelisk.”

Sure enough Phantom veered left and in the background of the shot instead of swirling mass of green and purple there was a very ominous looking black obelisk. A certain small subset of archeologists and Egyptologists would later lose their entire minds at the sight of a long thought to be lost obelisk that documented the life and victories of the pharaoh Userkaf. The six second clip of the obelisk would be slaved over by researchers for weeks to come trying to sketch out the markings on its surface.

Phantom didn’t even give the obelisk a second glance, instead he continued to fly for a few more moments glancing down at his map until he was happy with his direction.

“Great! Just a few more minutes at this speed and I should be there. That is, if my map is accurate.” Phantom said. “Now I’m sure you’re all wondering where I’m going today. After all, I don’t just live stream for anything. You should know this is probably the most important mission I’ve ever undertaken. I am doing this with the upmost seriousness. You see today is a rescue mission. I am going to save the greatest hero the world has ever known.”

Well that was ominous. It was frightening. It was exciting. The Avengers who had all gathered to watch the livestream were now arguing with each other trying to determine what hero Phantom was talking about. Loki who was watching it from his room in New Asgard was reminded of the Greek myth of Eris and her golden apple and wondered if the Avengers were arguing over who the fairest was.

Phantom stopped talking as he had to do a tricky flight maneuver around some debris that did not look human in origin at all. Once he was through that he stopped flying.

“Okay! We’re here!” Phantom said. “Now I just need to make sure I’m properly dressed. We’re going into a pretty harsh environment and safety is key. Even if you’re dead.”

Phantom then removed his backpack, it was neon green, and large enough to be considered a hiking backpack. The kind you see people who haven’t showered in three weeks carrying as they stand in a gas station buying a protein bar. He rummaged around the bag and pulled out a large helmet and what appeared to be a suit of stretchy fabric. Phantom quickly phased inside the suit, wearing it over the suit he already had on. Although he did phase out of his boots and then put them back on over the new suit. The suit was white with a strange textured pattern over the entirety of it. On the chest was a fabric patch that looked like the insignia for Team Nirvana. On the left shoulder there was another patch that had the Wakandan Flag on it, below that was the American Flag.

In all the suit appeared to be some sort of high-tech version of a space suit. The image was complete when Phantom carefully put on the helmet. Once it connected the entire suit lit up green for a moment and the right forearm lit up to reveal some sort of hologram that Phantom played around with getting his suit into full functionality. The helmet connected to the livestream and abruptly you could hear Phantom talking again.

“Alright. Communications are up.” Phantom said. “Shuri, am I connected to you back at Central Command?”

“We hear you loud and clear.” Princess Shuri’s voice said. “Over.”

“Awesome! Spidey how are my vitals? Over.”

“Your oxygen levels are good, and the suits temperature controls are working as expected. The pressure in the suit is good too. Over.”

“Okay then! Twitter. Internet. NASA. This just in but I’m about to go into Space. Space!” Phantom said. “On a rescue mission, like I said before. When I open this portal I’ll open it into the vacuum of space itself. Hopefully right outside the planet I need to go to. If I lose communications then know I will continue on until the mission is complete.”

“Rodger that.” Spiderman said. “Please secure all of your stuff before opening the portal. Over.”

“We are ready to proceed when you are. Over.” Princess Shuri added. “Don’t forget to say Over. Over.”

“Sorry. My bad. Over.” Phantom said before grabbing all of his things and stuffing them into his backpack. The last thing he grabbed was the camera which he held so that it showed a close up of his face. “Right. I’m ready. I’m opening the portal in T minus 5…4…3…2…1…!”

Phantom’s face was lit up by an almost blinding green light and then he shouted as he was sucked violently forward. The ghost lost his grip on his camera and was sent flying wildly into the very void of space. The only noise the camera could pick was over Phantom’s coms. The camera flipped wildly over and over looking at nothing but an endless spinning blackness, the only break up of the monotony were the stars that were stretched out into thin white lines from the spinning.

Phantom managed to close the portal and fly forward catching the somehow still magically working camera in his hands.

“Okay. I’m in space.” Phantom said breathing hard. “Over.”

“Are you alright?” Spiderman asked. “Over.”

“I’m fine. Just wasn’t expecting it to go that fast.” Phantom said. “And I’m in the right place too! Look Twitter! There he is!”

Phantom rearranged the camera so that it was no longer facing him but was instead facing outwards. Right towards a familiar looking red planet.

“Mars.” Phantom said. “The god of war and our next door neighbor! Let’s see I bet I can spot Earth from here.”

Phantom moved the camera around until he was satisfied and carefully used his hand to point out a bright steady looking blue star that was actually the planet earth.

“Hello earth!” He said waving. “Oh look and there’s Venus too! Right over there!”

Phantom moved the camera so that it was centered on the other planet. His gloved finger carefully pointed out the steady light.

“I can’t see Mercury right now though…” Phantom said. “Probably a bad angle. Let’s turn around and see if we can see any of the others…”

“Danny.” Shuri said. “The Mission. Over.”

“Right!” Phantom said. “The Rescue Mission! I nearly forgot! Sorry I’m just so excited! I have all of the constellations and stuff back on earth memorized but it all looks so different here! This is brilliant! I wish you guys could be here too! Over!”

“We’ll come next time. Once we know the suits work.” Shuri said. “Although we might want to find a safer way to open a portal in space. Over.”

“Well I didn’t want to open one on Mars. I’ve never been there before and I could have opened it 10 miles underground or something.” Phantom defended as he readjusted the camera so that it was once again floating a good distance away from him, his entire upper body was now comfortably visible. Phantom then began flying towards the planet.

“Do you know where you’re going? Over.”

“Of course, I know where I’m going. I’m going to the Meridiani Planum.”

At this point pretty much all of the scientific community was buzzing. The younger generations of post docs and grad students who’d already been following Phantom for the irony of it all were now rushing towards their advisors and committee members, shoving phones and laptops into their faces to reveal the wonders of the universe. Employees at NASA were arguing about whether or not this was real or if it was some sort of prank video. Texts and emails were being sent en masse between organizations.

Was it real?

If it was, what could that mean?

“And where exactly is the Meridiani Planum?” Spiderman asked.

“It’s 2 degrees south of the mars equator.” Phantom answered almost idly. “I know how to find it. First I’ll find Olympus Mons, it’s this gigantic volcano on Mars. I’m not kidding this thing is over twice the height of Mount Everest! Look it’s right there!”

The camera turned slightly to follow Phantom’s order. Sure, enough on the surface of Mars there was a huge gigantic circular formation. Southeast of the gigantic volcano was a line of three smaller volcanos. The middle one of which was nearly directly on the equator. Phantom spoke about the topography of Mars with the competence one would expect of a man who’d been studying Mars for his entire career.

“So if we look this way along a straight line then right there! There’s the Meridiani Planum!” Phantom said gleefully. Phantom rushed forward closer to the planet, at breakneck speeds. There was no air to slow him down in space.

“Phantom.” Shuri said. “You seem to know a lot about Mars.”

“Duh! It’s only the second coolest planet in the solar system!” Phantom said. “Don’t get me wrong Venus is great too. Love her. But Mars? Mars is amazing! Oh! Do you think we’ll have time to go visit an asteroid? No. What am I talking about? That’s way too far away.”

The planetary science community was losing its mind. There’s no way this could be real. How would they even cope if it was?  A teenager was live streaming the first ever crewed mission to Mars. A dead teenager. Phantom continued to fly unaware of the insanity he was wreaking on the entirely of space nerdom that called the planet earth home. As Phantom entered the thin atmosphere of the planet the camera began to finally pick up the noises of air moving past. It got so loud that Phantom had to manually grab the camera and mute the microphone.

Phantom spent most of the descent telling his two friends what he loved most about Mars and all of the interesting facts he knew. Which were plentiful. Phantom’s body, usually always letting off a soft glow, was practically brimming with excited energy. Bright enough to be distracting. He sounded younger and more vibrant than he normally did. An ironic teenager being replaced with an enthusiastic child. The closer he got to the planet the better able he was to orient himself towards his goal.

A goal that a certain group of scientists knew too well.

Perseverance Valley.

“Opportunity!” Phantom called out. “I’m coming!”

“Oppy!” Spiderman called. “Don’t worry! Phantom’ll come clean off your panels! Shuri made him pack a bunch of repair tools too, just in case you need a tire change!”

The internet, which had mourned the loss of Oppy over the last month very seriously, exploded once again. It couldn’t be. Was he actually doing it? Was he really going to save the adorable rover? The one that had discovered evidence of water on Mars? The one that had found that meteorite? The rover that had successfully moved the distance of a full marathon, the first ever, on Mars?

He was!

Phantom flew down to the surface of the planet carefully, not touching it as he flew along the flat planes dotted by crater impacts. His eyes were looking, scanning the ground with intent. He was mostly silent as he searched, leaving the entire internet to watch his flight in silence too.

“I’m gonna find her.” Phantom said. “I just…it’s a lot bigger than all the pictures I’ve seen and it’s all so…dusty.”

“You’ll find her.” Shuri said. “I think you’re close anyway.”

It took ten more minutes of Phantom flying along the surface of Mars until he gave a triumphant shout. He turned the camera so that it revealed the rover. The poor thing was half buried under dust and debris. It looked lifeless, cold. Phantom flew forward until he was mere feet from the rover then he paused.

“Wait! I’m about to be the first being to step foot on Mars. I should say something!” Phantom said. “Armstrong said something cool when he stepped onto the Moon!”

“Really Danny?” Shuri asked. “You forgot to come up with something cool to say?”

“I….Well…” The ghost rubbed the arm of his suit. “Come on guys help me think of something! I can’t just land on Mars and not say anything!”

Perhaps this is why teenagers weren’t sent into space.

The three teens argued about poetry for a few minutes much to the internet’s delight. Eventually Phantom interrupted.

“Wait! Okay I’ve got it.” Phantom said. “I’ve got it.”

“Alright.” Spiderman said. “Then let’s hear it.”

“The last time something like this happened the world was at war with itself. The race to the moon was more about proving superiority than it was about the thrill of discovery.” Phantom said. “I don’t want this to be like that. I’m landing here because in my heart, in the heart of every human out there, there’s a bit of us that will always wonder ‘what if’. We sent these robots out here before us and we named them Spirit and Curiosity and Opportunity and Sojourner. This is what we are as people. We have strived for decades, centuries, to get right here where I am. So…So as the first person to step foot on Mars. It might just be one small step for me, but it’s made up of a thousand giant leaps from humanity.”

And then he landed. A puff of dust bloomed out beneath his feet. He walked forward leaving small foot prints in the dust behind him.

“Hey girl.” He said gently to the rover. “I’m gonna get you out of there and back on track.”

Phantom removed his backpack and let it drop to the ground. He began to shuffle around the rover wondering how best to dig it out without damaging it. Eventually he came up with a plan. The entire time there was silence over the coms. Eventually Phantom spoke again.

“Did you guys know that NASA sent songs to Oppy here?”

“Songs?” Spiderman asked his voice slightly choked from where he’d definitely not been crying at all thank you very much.

“Yeah, like all the time. They’d send her songs to call her up I guess. When this dust storm that buried her first settled they sent her a bunch of songs to wake her up. I bet she loves music now.”

“Well then.” Shuri said sounding far more composed than Spiderman had. “Sing for her.”

“What?” Phantom squeaked.

“Yeah sing!”

If Twitter had thought they’d seen it all by this point they’d be wrong. As Phantom got to work carefully uncovering the rover, the internet watched in awe as the three teens argued about Danny Phantom singing to the robot. The scientific community was still in disbelief. Was he actually on Mars? Had he really just done that? Was Opportunity going to be saved? Phantom eventually gave in. The Avengers were practically catatonic from shock. Tony was itching to call Phantom and yell at him for being so reckless as to go to another planet. Alone.

“Okay fine! I’ll sing! But I swear if you guys make fun of me for this I will haunt you for weeks in response.” Phantom said. “I’m gonna take off my helmet. That way she can hear me.”

With that Phantom did indeed remove his helmet. The suit continued to function applying unneeded pressure and heat to the ghost as if he were living and required it. The system that provided oxygen immediately shut off to conserve on the precious resource. Phantom stood there on Mars, his white hair billowing in the light Martian wind. The camera’s microphone was gently unmuted by the ghost with a wiggle of his finger.

“You know.” He said licking his lips. “The air tastes different here. I didn’t even know air had a taste. But it does.”

“Sing already!” Shuri ordered from over the coms, her voice could be heard on the livestream both directly from its source and also from Phantom’s discarded helmet.

“Fine. Fine. Fine. I’ll sing the last song they sent to her. It’s a pretty one.”

I'll be seeing you

In all the old familiar places

That this heart of mine embraces

All day and through

In that small cafe

The park across the way

The children's carousel

The chestnut trees

The wishing well

Phantom’s voice was a lovely high tenor. High enough that he could potentially sing an alto part if he warmed up. It had all the qualities a voice stuck in mid-puberty could have although it didn’t crack too much. Still it was lovely to listen to for all of its roughness. There was emotion there, pure and strong as the ghost carefully dug out and around the rover. It was nice enough that a certain spider-enhanced individual made sure to record it. To make fun of him later, and for no other reason.

I'll be seeing you

In every lovely summer's day

In everything that's light and gay

I'll always think of you that way

I'll find you in the morning sun

And when the night is new

I'll be looking at the moon

But I'll be seeing you

Was it strange that Phantom knew the words so well? Perhaps not. The internet of course was unaware of this but when the announcement of Opportunity’s death had been made, Phantom had spent days listening to that song and bemoaning the fate of the rover in every form he could.

I'll be seeing you

In every lovely summer's day

In everything that's light and gay

I'll always think of you that way

I'll find you in the morning sun

And when the night is new

I'll be looking at the moon

But I'll be seeing you

Phantom used his powers to carefully levitate the rover up and out. He gently placed the rover on a flat smooth surface. He continued to croon the chorus of the song at the rover as he gently dusted off her solar panels. He only stopped singing when he needed to talk to Shuri about diagnostics. He worked confidently, touching and fixing up anything that had been damaged or moved out of place from the storm.

“Now.” Phantom said. “Let’s help get her motor running again. I think I need to jump start her battery.”

Phantom moved around the gigantic rover. The camera was still floating behind him. Held up by Phantom’s own power. Twitter watched as he placed his hands on the chassis, a look of severe concentration on his face. His hands and eyes lit up a bright green and then the entire Rover started to glow green as well. Phantom removed his hands after a moment. The rover stopped glowing.

The entire internet held its collective breath.

Opportunity beeped.

A cheer erupted over the coms and Phantom floated into the air his arms thrust up in excitement as he cheered too. The rover started running its own diagnostics and making an attempt to reach out and contact earth.

It can of course take anywhere between 3 and 22 minutes for communication from Mars to reach earth. That is as long as you aren’t using tech created by Princess Shuri and powered by ectoplasm. Which is why Phantom knew he had to wait. He explained as much to the internet, and then pulled the camera away from the rover and towards the planet he was on. He started to explore Mars, never far from the Rover, picking up rocks and stuffing them into his backpack.

15 minutes after Opportunity beeped, a cheer went up in an office space on Earth. NASA scientists hugged and cheered and even a few shed a tear or two. It was real. He really was on Mars telling jokes and picking up rocks to keep. The scientists began to scurry around, yelling at one another in their excitement. Trying to figure out what to do. They had to contact Opportunity, get her back to work.

They needed to talk to Phantom.

15 minutes after that. Opportunity began to move, extending out her solar panels and recharging.

Phantom’s suit buzzed a moment later. The ghost teen paused and then started messing around with the hologram apparatus on his forearm. The ghost gasped at what he saw.

“Oh my g-d!”

“What is it?” Spiderman asked. “Is something wrong?”

“The Director of NASA just slid into my DMs!”

Chapter Text

“This week we’re investigating Amity Park as the home to the ghost known as Danny Phantom as part of our on going investigation ‘Are ghosts real?’.”

The words voiced over the shot of a strange looking town, there was a destroyed sign that said ‘Welcome to Amity Park’ with a giant hole on one side that looked like a body had been thrown through it. Covering the hole was an extra wooden board that had painted on it ‘A safe place to live’.

“Amity Park has in the past five years gained a reputation as a ghost infested town but only recently has it become considered the most haunted place in the world.”

“Number 1?” A voice asked.

The scene changed to show three beings sitting behind a desk. The being in the middle was a glowing teenage boy with white hair. It was assumed he was sitting in his chair but as he bobbed up and down slightly in the frame he could have just as well been floating in mid air. To the left of the teenager was Ryan Bergara and to the right, Shane Madej. Ryan looked slightly ill being so close to the glowing teen while Shane was sitting next to Phantom looking absolutely delighted.

“Yeah. Number one kid.” Ryan said.

“You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” Shane asked.

“Would I know anything about a town being haunted? What a silly question. Of course I don’t. Besides, we’re here to prove if ghosts are real or not. Amity Park could just be an elaborate hoax.”

“Are you seriously playing the role of the skeptic right now?” Ryan asked.

“Look, I’ve been on Shane’s side since the very beginning. You need to give me definitive proof of ghosts before I’ll believe.”

“Your name is literally Danny Phantom!”

“So maybe I had really awesome parents. That doesn’t prove anything.”

“Yeah Ryan. A name’s not proof. It’s circumstantial at best.”

“Okay fine. You want proof that Phantom here is a ghost that’s haunting Amity?” Ryan said. “Then let’s get into the history!”

“Oooh history.” Phantom said rubbing his hands together.

“Let’s get to it.”

The scene changed from showing the three men to a black screen with a white timeline in the center. Ryan’s voice narrated as visuals popped up to support his words.

“Phantom’s first recorded appearance was in 81 AD, during the incredibly short reign of Emperor Plasmius. Phantom was recorded in this wall fresco as being a chariot racer within the Coliseum, ordered to race for the amusement of the emperor.” Ryan said as a picture of the aged wall fresco appeared.

The fresco showed a figure in all black with white feet, hands, and hair. The figure also had bright green eyes. The figure was painting riding on a chariot. Further along the fresco there was also a painting of a strange blue skinned man sitting on a chair surrounded by luxury and servants.

“Ancient Greek records differ on the events that happened that day but all that is known is that only a year after construction was finished on the coliseum Emperor Plasmius appeared and staged a coup against the Emperor Titus. Plasmius ruled for a total of three months before Phantom appeared and fought in the coliseum. A fire broke out in the coliseum and both Phantom and Plasmius disappeared, leaving Rome in chaos. Some historians believed Phantom to be a myth until recently. Others argued that Phantom was a loyal follower of Titus who dethroned Plasmius in Titus’ name.”

As Ryan talked there were images of ancient Greek scrolls that recorded the events. The scene went black as Shane interrupted Ryan. Words on the right side of the screen in blue appeared to match Shane’s voice.

“So what’s the deal with that Phantom? Seriously.”

“The fire was a total accident.” Phantom said as words in green appeared in the center of the screen. “I mean I totally meant to punch Plasmius in the face and everything but I didn’t expect him to start that fire.”

“Were you seriously there?” Ryan demanded. Words in red on the left side of the screen popped up reading out his words. “Why?”

“Plasmius duh.” Phantom said as if it were obvious. “I mean like…come on. The fresco over there paints him as like a vampire and nobody ever wondered why he looked so weird?”

“Are you saying…Plasmius is a ghost?” Ryan nearly yelped.

“Yep.” Phantom said popping the ‘p’ noise on the word. “I’ve been fighting ghosts like him for a long time, buddy. It’s alright.”

“But why was Plasmius an emperor?”

“Cause he wanted to be? I mean it’s not like it was hard for him to use his power to dethrone, who was it? Titus, right. I could have dethroned the dude no problem. But I don’t see the appeal, I didn’t then either. Plasmius wanted power, he wanted to tell people what to do, he wanted people to fawn over him. I wanted to punch him in the face for hurting people.”

“Okay.” Shane said. “So is Plasmius like your…”

“He’s the Tom to my Jerry.” Phantom answered causing Shane to giggle and Ryan to groan.

“Let’s just keep going on the time line.”

And the time line continued. They moved from 81 AD forward to other seemingly random points in history. Phantom had been spotted in monasteries, in castles, in small villages, in cities. Empires that had long since risen and fallen had recorded Phantom in random places, doing inexplicable things. Well inexplicable till now. Phantom usually interrupted Ryan at some point to defend himself.

A story of Phantom appearing under a little boy’s bed in the 1600’s?

“I was lost! I didn’t mean to pop up there, it was so dusty!”

Phantom at the Salem Witch Trials?

“I knew a couple of those girls and you expect me not to help them get out of there? Come on! I’m not a monster!”

Phantom spotted at the Apollo launches by three astronauts who’d not believed what they saw?

“In my defense, it was the moon landing. I wasn’t going to miss it!”

And so it went, as the time line went on the visual evidence grew better. From worn out frescos and ancient Greek texts to latin scrolls and old English diaries. When the modern camera was invented there were even a few grainy pictures of Phantom. The time line finished with Phantom’s long term appearance in Amity Park as the town’s so called defender.

“So called? I’ve saved Amity like a billion times. Have some respect!”

“Yeah Ryan. This is a superhero here. The genuine article.”

“A superhero who possessed you.”

“Yeah. It was awesome.”

The video cut off then to show the beginning of another episode. Ryan and Shane narrated over the beginning of the video to explain that they’d flown out to Queens to investigate a haunted insane asylum and had ended up catching the interest of Phantom. The now edited video showed a series of clips of Shane demanding to be possessed or attacked while Ryan looked on in despair and fear. Then there was the full clip of the lunchroom haunting, complete with Ryan and Shane being pulled into chairs and dragged into the center of the room.

Then Shane got possessed.

Ryan flung Holy Water into Shane’s face.

“Seriously dude? Water? Come on what are we in 2nd grade? He asked to be possessed. Multiple times! And now you’re gonna fling water in his face?”

“Holy water.” Ryan croaked. “It’s holy water.”

“Well either way some of it got in this nose and that’s not pleasant.” The ghost said rubbing Shane’s nose onto his jacketed arm.

“Who are you?” Ryan asked his voice shaken.

“Oh right.” The ghost said. “Name’s Danny Phantom and I heard you guys were talking shit about me.”

Ryan whined a little while Phantom shook out the limbs on his new body.

“You know, it’s been forever since I’ve had a heart beat. What’s a good BPM for a human? I’ve forgotten and I don’t want to give this guy an accidental heart attack.” Ryan continued to stutter words out that made no real sense. “Dude. Breathe. I promise you it’s fine. You’ve spent the last what? 3 years doing this show trying to meet a ghost. And now you’re meeting one. Surely you had like a plan. You kept saying in the show that you wanted to talk. So talk.”

“You…you’re possessing my friend.”

“He asked for it. Like five times.” Phantom pointed out. The scene changed once again to a montage of Shane asked for ghosts and demons to possess him over the history of the show. Eventually it cut back to Ryan and the possessed Shane sitting in those chairs. “I’m not hurting him either, he’s just sleeping right now. I’m not even going to do any of the freaky shit where I make his head spin on his neck, I’ve heard that leaves the neck sore for weeks after.”

“You can do that?”

“Probably? Not like I’ve ever tried it before.” Phantom said leaning back in Shane’s body. The entire posture of the body, the facial expressions were so different to Shane’s that it caused an almost uncanny valley effect. “Now’s not the time either. Come on, ghost hunter, ask your questions.”

And it seemed with undeniable evidence that ghosts were real, and that they’d possessed his friend. There was only one thing left for Ryan to do.

He fainted.

“Shit!” Phantom shouted. “Spiderman, get out here, help me out with this!”

The video changed back to the office space. Phantom was pointedly not looking at Ryan or Shane while Shane was giggling to himself.

“I can’t believe you fainted!”

“You got possessed Shane!”

“I really didn’t mean to scare you that badly.” Phantom muttered. “I just thought it’d be fun.”

“Once Ryan woke up again.” Shane told the camera. “They worked out a deal where Phantom would come down to our office for an interview. Of course then Ryan had to convince Phantom to stop possessing me.”

The scene changed again to show the same poorly lit cafeteria in the asylum. Spiderman was now standing next to Ryan looking between Ryan and the still possessed Shane. Ryan was trying to compel Phantom to leave Shane using various occult means.

“Dude.” Spiderman interrupted. “Can you possess anyone?”

“Sure. I can possess people, animals, cars, electronics.” Phantom answered still using Shane as a meat puppet.

“You can possess electronics?” Spiderman asked.

“Sure phones, cameras, laptops.” Phantom listed out. “I figured out I could even do it when I possessed a video game once.”

“Dude. You never mentioned this.”

“Oh it happened like two years ago. I was fighting a ghost named Technus, who as you could have guessed by the name, is obsessed with technology. He was haunting that online MMORPRG Doomed.”

“I’ve heard of Doomed! It’s supposed to be the like the indie version of World of Warcraft right?”

“It is so fun, Spidey. You’ve got to play. I’ll show you around once you get an account, you would not believe how awesome it is.”

“Could we get back to the whole ghost haunting an internet game thing?” Ryan interrupted.

“Right. Sorry. Well anyway Technus was trying to beat the game, gain all seven keys and everything. He figured if he beat it, he’d get access to the online score boards and from there he could infect like the entire internet. I’m not really sure how he thought it would work but I didn’t want him to break my game so I possessed my version of it and played the game as myself. Then along with the help of some other pretty great players I trapped Technus in Level Zero which is a glitch that once you go in you can’t get out of.” Phantom explained in the same tone one would use to list out a grocery list.

“Dude. Your life is so awesome.”

“My afterlife is awesome.” Phantom corrected causing Ryan to make a sort of pained whining noise. “Anyway I don’t possess games much, especially online games cause it’s sort of like cheating, but I can.”

“Danny.” Spiderman said. “We have to play. We have to.”

Phantom laughed using Shane’s body and agreed to play. Ryan watched as the two teens discussed if they should start with Fortnite for the meme of it all or if they should work their way up to that.

“Can you get out of my friend please?” Ryan shouted interrupting Phantom and Spiderman’s plans.

“Oh right. Since you said please.” And with that Phantom flew out of Shane’s body, as if he’d slid out of a tight suit. Shane almost immediately crumpled to the ground with a groan but Spiderman jumped forward and caught him.

“Such pretty unicorns.” Shane muttered drunkenly into Spiderman’s neck. “Sparkly.”

“Shane!” Ryan said. “Buddy, stay with me.”

“He’s fine.” Phantom promised. “He won’t even have a headache.”

“I have a question.” Spiderman said as he helped Shane to his feet.

“Shoot.”

“If you possessed me would you have your powers only or yours and mine? Would you become like Ghost Spider?”

Ghost Spider.” Phantom said his voice awed. “Dude I have no idea what happens if I possess someone with superpowers but it would be so awesome if we got to share our powers!”

“This is the weirdest conversation I’ve ever gained consciousness too.” Shane said.

The scene changed back to the office space. Phantom was now sipping on a mug of something. As he wasn’t vibrating out of his seat, it was safe to assume it wasn’t caffeinated.

“I was fine.” Shane insisted. “I don’t remember any of what was on that clip but I haven’t felt bad since.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you dude. Leaving you with any symptoms of me would be most unwoke.”

“So now we’re going to do the actual interview.” Ryan said ignoring Phantom’s smirk at his phrasing. “Ask you a few questions about ghosts and your history with Amity Park.”

“Sounds good. There better be treats there though.”

The scene changed again to show Phantom sitting in a comfortable looking armchair, the background behind him was a faded gray wall. The entire focus of the scene was Phantom’s glowing body.

“Okay I’ve got a question, Phantom.” Shane said from off screen. “Why are most ghosts from like the 1800s? Like 90% of the haunted houses we’ve gone to have been filled with ghosts from 200 years ago.”

“Well. There’s actually an equal number of ghosts from each century.” Phantom said. “You just don’t notice the one’s from more recent periods of time because they don’t look weird yet.”

“Weird.”

“Yeah like for instance a ghost from a factory in the 1850s. They are going to look obviously from that time period. You know nobody goes around cosplaying as an orphan factory worker so your brain is like…something’s up here right?” Phantom said. “But if there’s a ghost who died in the 1980s of like a cocaine overdose at an ACDC concert and you see him on the street? What’s the first thing you’re going to think? That’s a ghost or that pale guy sure does love Rock and Roll?”

“So basically we only notice ghosts because they look out of place?” Ryan finished.

“Sure if I were to put on some skinny jeans and a t-shirt and go out into New York City in the middle of the day, I’d just look like a regular teenager who uses way too much hair bleach. Plenty of modern ghosts just blend in with society until they can’t anymore and then humans start noticing them and causing a ruckus about it.”

“Aren’t ghosts supposed to haunt humans? Why go stealth?” Ryan asked.

“That’s a very human-centric viewpoint. Why is it that you immediately assume that ghosts are there for human consumption? Most of us were here before you, we’ll be here after you. From a ghost’s perspective, the one’s who live full time on earth at least, it’s humans who do the haunting, not us.”

“But there’s been thousands of recorded cases of ghosts attacking people. Just take the invasion last month!”

“That’s true. Some ghosts are assholes. So are a bunch of humans.” Phantom pointed out. “Overall, ghosts on earth just want to be left alone. They don’t want to have Spirit Boxes shoved in their faces or cameras documenting their homes. They just want to be.”

“Alright. Next question. If someone is living in a house they think is haunted, what should they do?”

“Step one. Record all the evidence of your haunting.” Phantom said. “Just write down everything you notice. Flickering lights, cold spots, doors opening on their own, all of it.”

“Why should you record it?” Shane asked.

“So you can check for mundane causes. If your lights are flickering call in an electrician. If there are weird cold drafts, call a house inspector to check for causes. If your doors are opening, make sure they were installed correctly and that the lock isn’t broken.” Phantom said. “Like 80% of all supposed ghost hauntings are done by things that just happen naturally in older houses. Make sure to especially check for methane leaks, those can kill you and they cause hallucinations so be smart about it.”

“That’s not a very ghosty answer.” Shane pointed out.

“Eh. I’m a realist. Don’t waste your money calling ghost hunters until you’re certain that you have an actual ghost in your house. Ghosts are real, don’t get me wrong. But it’s cheaper and easier to get a methane leak fixed than it is to do an exorcism. Hope it’s a methane leak.”

“Okay so we’ve done all that and we’re certain there’s a ghost. What next?” Shane asked

Phantom hummed thoughtfully for a moment before shrugging.

“Ask them to start paying rent.”

Shane burst into laughter while Ryan groaned.

“Okay but in all seriousness. If you feel in danger, if you have been attacked or harmed in anyway. Get out.” Phantom said. “Some ghosts are malevolent and getting offed by one isn’t a fun time. Call a ghost hunter with experience, The Fentons from Amity Park are actually really good. Hell send me a DM on twitter and I’ll swing by to see what I can do. But if you haven’t been attacked? If nothing bad has happened, just weird things that have creeped you out? Then you’ve got a ghost roommate who’s just trying to get by in the big city. We’re people too you know. We just have like. No rights.”

“No rights?”

“You think I can get some loans as a dead guy?” Phantom asked. “Or buy property? No. Ownership ends with death, dude. In the eyes of all the earth’s governments I am ‘not their problem’. It’s true now and it’s been true for centuries. Ghosts on earth just have to get by as best they can in a world that changes too fast and doesn’t care about them. It sucks but that’s the afterlife for you. So if you’ve got a ghost living in your attic and they’re not causing any problems? Just leave ‘em be. Maybe ask them to do the dishes every once in a while.”

The interview continued with Ryan and Shane asking more questions about how ghosts should be interacted with. Phantom explained why asking a ghost how they died was a bad idea, much to the embarrassment of Ryan who had asked that question far too many times.

“Did you ever possess Spiderman?”

“No. Not yet. He hasn’t asked me about it again and I’m not going to jump a guy. Consent is important. Although I am curious if I’d get any of his spider powers or not.”

“What’s the deal with you and Spiderman?”

“The deal? We’re friends.”

“Word on the internet is that it’s more than that.”

“You mean like best friends?” Phantom asked while wiggling his eyebrows up and down.

“Phantom.” The ghost rolled his eyes and then shifted awkwardly in his seat. Up until this point the teen had been confident and sure. Now his cheeks were slightly greener than normal and he had a more curled in posture.

“No, we’re not dating.” Phantom said rolling his eyes in attempt to make it seem like a joke. “I don’t have a pulse dude so it’s kind of difficult for anyone to get my heart racing.”

The interview ended abruptly there although Shane and Ryan did start teasing Phantom about Spiderman for ten minutes after that question. After the interview with Phantom the video changed to a short excerpt on the history of Amity Park. Ryan and Shane interviewed the mayor briefly, who said that he had the problems within the town under control and then asked them to leave his office. They also met with the Phantom Phan-Club as they were called, a group of local high schoolers who’d been fans of Phantom for over two years.

They investigated the high school with an English teacher who swore using book titles as well as the mall and the town park. Areas well known for ghost attacks. Every place they went showed evidence of huge fights. Broken asphalt and burnt up grass. It was a strange sort of battle field. Phantom said he wouldn’t be with them on the town tour but viewers would catch glimpses of the ghost in the backgrounds of shots. A grainy figure in the distance, or a snatch of white hair and green eyes in a corner.

They finally went to Fenton Works where they met Jack and Maddie Fenton, ghost hunters. The Fentons offered scientific reasoning on the high amount of ghost activity in the town as well as a tour of their lab. The overly excited Jack Fenton talked Ryan’s ear off about the various ghosts they’d both investigated while Maddie and Shane had a slightly calmer discussion about skepticism in the ghost hunting community.

“It’s important to be skeptical.” Maddie said. “That’s what makes a good scientist. We should always question our first assumptions about things. That’s why my husband and I went into this field. We knew we’d be seen as silly but we also thought it was important. If ghosts are real then we need to know how to deal with them.”

“And now you and your husband are considered some of the best in the world.”

“Well. We are very good. Even if we never did manage to capture Phantom.” She said with a small almost rueful grin. “Probably for the best we didn’t. Jack and I know better now that Phantom was never a threat to our town. It took us three years to figure it out but we have.”

Once the tour of the town and all the interviews were done the scene changed back to the office. Ryan, Shane, and Phantom were all sitting in their respective seats.

“So.” Phantom said. “You’ve seen the town now. What do you think? Are ghosts real or nah?”

The video ended with Ryan slapping himself in the face in exasperation.

Chapter Text

Peter pulled up on the web barely managing to dodge the swiped claw of the giant lizard creature that was currently trashing Queens. Peter had fought this guy once or twice before, he’d been calling him The Lizard in his head because he was excellent at naming villains. As far as Peter could tell The Lizard was a science experiment gone wrong but instead of being ashamed for his bad science practices this guy had decided to double down and attempt to make everyone else in Queens a lizard person too.

Not that Peter had anything against lizard people. He’d played Skyrim after all.

But turning a million people into lizard people without their permission was so uncool.

The Lizard had a gun. Yes Peter was seeing that right. It was this strange almost alien looking gun that had a nasty glass jar of blue chemicals as the ammunition. That was all sorts of bad.

“Karen. Scan, tell me how many civilians are here.”

“Of course Peter.”

Peter swung back down and tried to hit The Lizard with a kick. The Lizard dodged it and Peter’s senses went haywire, he tucked into a ball and barely managed to dodge a head crushing blow.

“There are approximately 234 civilians on this block who are unable to escape due to blockages on both ends of the road.” Karen said. “I believe that was The Lizard’s intention to trap these people here.”

“I can’t get that many people out of here.” Peter said looking down at the twisted masses of cars that The Lizard had trashed before he’d even gotten there. Parts of the cars were on fire. That wasn’t moving any time soon. His mind raced as he swung around looking for a solution.

Oh!

“Karen! Call Danny!”

“Right away, Peter.”

Peter used his webs as best he could to distract The Lizard and get the strange looking gun away from him. The Lizard roared and grabbed a giant chunk of asphalt and chucked it at Peter, screaming about crushing a bug. Danny picked up just as Peter shot a web and pulled himself out of the way.

“S’up Spidey?”

“Lizard… attack.” Peter gasped. “Civilians in…danger.”

“I’m on my way.” Danny said his tone had switched from jovial to serious with just those five gasped out words. This was the first time that Peter had actually requested back up. Before anytime they fought bad guys together it was because they were already hanging out when something happened. “What street you on?”

Peter told him the address and Danny told him he would be there in a few minutes. Peter sighed in relief and had Karen drop the call. He didn’t think he could be on the phone and fighting The Lizard at the same time. Especially not on the phone with Danny of all people.

“What are you even trying to do, man?” Peter demanded landing on the street in front of The Lizard. “You know people use this street!”

“You’ve fallen into my trap, Spider-Man.” The Lizard snarled. “And you will suffer for it.”

“Sorry dude. I might swing both ways but not like that.”

The Lizard charged at him and Peter jumped to the left to dodge. The two combatants circled each other, Peter using his webs as much as he dared to try and capture and trap The Lizard. Around them most of the civilians were either retreating inside buildings or cowering behind cars waiting for someone to save them. Once Danny was close enough he reconnected to Peter’s suit over the coms.

“Where do you need me?”

“Get the people out of here. Even the buildings. The Lizard can take those down if he’s angry enough.” Peter told him right before he took a punch to the gut that sent him flying. He landed on top of the car with a groan.

“Ouch.” Danny hissed. “Sounded like that hurt.”

Peter just groaned again as he pushed himself up. It was important to always get back up, no matter what. Thankfully Danny did as Peter had asked. The brightly glowing ghost flew around and helped people get towards the far end of the street. As Peter continued to fight The Lizard, Danny turned the wall of cars and debris intangible and urged people to run through.

“You know you should really scale back on these attacks man!” Peter shouted. “I’m starting to think you’re compensating for something!”

“Maybe he’s got a-reptile dysfunction!” Danny shouted loud enough to be heard from the other end of the street. That caused Peter to cackle and The Lizard to roar and change his focus from Peter to Danny. He fired his strange gun right at Danny but the ghost merely conjured a shield of ice that lodged the strange looking cylindrical darts inside it.

Most of the civilians had been evacuated by this point. They had practice with these sorts of events and once given a way out most New Yorkers took it. Unfortunately, there were always the ones who’d been scared stupid and the kids. Kids always managed to stumble right into danger no matter what Peter did.

“Hey! That wasn’t very nice!” Danny shouted as if he’d been bumped into on the subway instead of shot at. “If you’re not going to be polite about this then I guess I’ll have to take Jurassic measures.”

“Dinosaur puns? Really?” Peter asked as he fired another web and started to look for any stragglers.

“I’m working with what I’ve got.” Danny said as he flew forward and started fighting The Lizard in Peter’s place.

Peter managed to snag and save four different people while Danny popped off eight puns about dinosaurs much to the annoyance of The Lizard who looked torn between correcting Danny’s misunderstanding and attempting to crush in the ghost’s rib cage. He picked the crushing option. Danny was sent flying by a hit from The Lizard’s giant tail, the ghost forgetting to turn intangible to dodge. His friend had a hard time remembering he was only solid when he wanted to be at the strangest of times, Peter had noticed.

Carefully Peter picked up an elderly woman and gently carried her over the barrier. Behind him, he heard Danny get up and fire a few ecto-shots in retaliation. Once Peter was sure the woman was alright, he used a web to hop over the barrier.

“Why! Won’t! You! Stay! Down!” Danny shouted firing an ecto-blast between each word. The blasts didn’t seem to bother The Lizard all that much. Peter shot a web trying to aim for the eyes hopping to slow the guy down.

“Hey!” Peter said as an idea hit him. “Lizards are cold blooded!”

“Yeah this dude’s definitely cold.” Danny said. “Hasn’t laughed at a single one of my jokes!”

“No! Danny! It means he’s weak to the cold!”

Danny actually froze for a moment in mid air before he slapped himself in the face and grumbled about paying more attention in biology class. Peter grimaced too, he should have thought of this way earlier. Maybe he should design some new webs, ice webs. For fighting Lizard people.

His life was so weird.

“Alright. Let’s finish this.” Danny said, his gloved hands now glowing blue.

It didn’t take long after that. Danny’s ice powers slowed The Lizard down enough that Peter was able to use his webs to subdue The Lizard and get him stuck to the road. Once it was done, both teens landed on the street and exchanged a complicated hand shake made up of high fives, fist bumps, and hip wiggling.

“That was awesome!” Peter said. “The way you dodged that shot from his gun by making your legs all whispy!”

“Not as awesome as how you landed that punch to his face!”

“And! And! And! That move you did! He swiped and you just popped out of the way!”

“You totally killed it with that last shot! Your webs are amazing!”

As always fighting with Danny Phantom was way more enjoyable than fighting with any other superhero. No one else got as excited as Danny did. Most adult heroes were more focused on being cool and mature. It always made Peter very nervous because he knew he wasn’t cool or mature and he tried to pretend he was. It made him stutter and stumble and mumble far more than he should. With Danny things were far less stressful.

Something crawled up his spine warning him of danger at the same time that Danny’s eyes widened and he flew forward, pushing Peter to the ground. Danny grunted in pain and Peter saw one of the cylindrical darts sticking out of Danny’s side.

“Danny!”

“It’s fine. Not like I can die twice dude.”

“Not funny!” Peter pushed Danny up and off of him and whirled over to the still semi-conscious Lizard. The guy had managed to grab onto his gun and fire it. Peter shot out a web at the gun jamming it from the front before he could fire again.

“Ohhh. I don’t feel so good Scoobs.” Danny groaned. Peter turned around to see that Danny had removed the now empty cylinder. The teen’s cheeks were a distinctly odd puce color that Peter was pretty sure he’d never seen in nature before.

“Oh no.” Peter said rushing forward as his friend started to sway dangerously. Peter grabbed him around the waist and held him up. “Come on man. What’s wrong?”

“My…my powers? I can’t…” Danny trailed off as his pupils began to dilate to the size of quarters. The ghost’s head tilted forward until his forehead hit Peter’s chin. Then Danny jerked back, blinking rapidly. “Do you think whales like Jazz?”

This was really really bad.

“Danny we need to get back to the tower. Mr. Stark will know what to do. So don’t freak out.” Was Peter saying that to keep Danny calm or himself? Didn’t matter. “Can you fly?”

“Fly.” Danny repeated, his voice taking on a strange lilting tone. “Flies. Honey. Honey. Honey. Hey! Do you like ABBA Spidey? It’s…It’s a band. They sing about so much stuff…like flies.”

Okay that was definitely a no on the flying. There was no way Peter would trust Danny to fly like this. Carefully Peter used a web to grab the gun just in case they needed a sample of whatever Danny had been hit with. Then he rearranged Danny so that his arms were around his neck.

“Alright. Hold on okay? It’s going to be just fine.”

To Peter’s surprise the ghost teen blinked at him three times slowly, looking a bit like a lost kitten. Then he leaned forward until their faces were only millimeters apart. Peter held himself very stiffly, not even daring to breath. Then Danny poked him in the stomach. Peter gasped at the slightly painful sensation causing Danny to giggle almost drunkenly.

“Gochu!”

“Yeah. You sure did.” Peter muttered, gripping Danny’s waist a bit tighter. He checked once more to make sure the gun was attached to his belt and then he used a web to take off. Immediately Danny properly latched onto Peter, going so far as to wrap his legs around Peter’s waist. Peter thanked everything that had helped result in the fact that he was wearing a full face mask because he was pretty sure his cheeks were tomato red.

“Woooo!!!!” Danny yelled wiggling a little as they swung into the air.

Peter shot out another web and began the descent, this caused Danny to spasm in fear and start begging Peter to stop falling because they were going to ‘get splatted like Wile E. Coyote.’.  When they began to swing up again he went back to ‘woo-ing’ thankfully. It took far longer than Peter wanted to get to the Tower on the way he had Karen send a message to tell Mr. Stark that Danny was hurt.

By the time they got to the tower Danny was now trembling in Peter’s hold and most of his normally pale greenish skin was flushed. The ghost was even sweating liquid that was slightly greenish. Peter jumped through the open window of the med-bay to see Bruce Banner and Mr. Stark waiting for him.

“Heya Tony! Tony! Tony!” Danny chanted. “Look! I got no legs!”

Danny pointed straight down where his legs would be if he were standing. As his legs were still wrapped around Peter, they weren’t there.

“I miss legs. Leggy legs. Eggs.”

“Mr. Stark.” Peter whined.

“What happened? Get him over here, onto the table.” Tony ordered.

Peter told him stumbling over his words. He jumped over to the table and tried to gently push Danny onto it. Danny fought against that and literally nuzzled into Spiderman’s neck. Peter made a strangled squeaking sound while Tony and Bruce both grinned at him.

“Come on Danny. Onto the table. Please?”

“Nuh uh. Stay.”

“Dude. Please?” Peter asked before sighing. “Okay what if I hold your hand? That way you know I’m not going anywhere.”

Danny looked up from where he was rubbing his white hair onto Peter’s neck and clavicle. One of his pupil’s was so large his eye looked mostly black while the other one was so small his eye was nothing but a bright toxic green.

“Kay.”

So Peter got his incredibly drugged friend onto the table and took his left hand in his own. Danny gripped it with his full strength and Peter winced beneath the mask at the pressure.

“Let’s see this gun and start scanning.” Tony said. “Bruce?”

“I’m on it.” Bruce said having already taking out a sample to work on.

“Friday. Scan Phantom and tell me what’s different with him.”

Peter listened as Friday listed out symptoms. Fever. Delirium. Body spasms. Core fluctuations. Power instability. With each word his heart sank more and more. Danny was in pain, he could be…well not dying but something else. What happened to ghosts who got poisoned anyway? Was there a second sort of death they could go through? Or would Danny be stuck like this drugged and confused mess for the rest of eternity?

“Hey Tony?” Danny asked looking slightly to the left of where Mr. Stark was actually standing. “I can’t turn back.”

His face was pained and Peter was pretty sure he’d never heard his friend sound so terrified. Not even the conversation they’d had about death had made Danny sound this bad.

“It’s your core kid. Something in that dart is messing with your powers.”

“But I don’t…I don’t want that!” Danny cried. “Please Tony. I can’t be a ghost forever. Don’t make me be a ghost. Please I’ll be better. Please. Please. Please.”

Mr. Stark’s face spasmed with pain and Peter closed his eyes for a moment to try and keep his own reaction at bay. He gripped Danny’s hand a bit tighter, hoping to offer some comfort.

“It’s going to be okay kid. I promise. Brucie and I will fix you up, no problem.”

Peter wanted to tell Mr. Stark not to lie. It wasn’t like the man could cure death, but the look of naked relief on his friend’s face made him keep quiet.

“I’m going to check on Bruce, you two stay right here.” Mr. Stark said patting Danny’s arm just a little before rushing away.

“Spidey?” Danny said. “Do you like clowns?”

“Uhm… no?”

“Oh.” The ghost frowned. “Cause there’s one right behind you.”

Peter flinched and turned around only to see nothing. Right better add hallucinations to the symptom list. Danny turned to look around the room, never letting go of Peter’s hand. The ghost was muttering about stars and constellations and Peter dutifully listened to his friend’s rambling. After about five minutes both adults came back looking far more relieved than they had when they left.

“Okay so we found out what that stuff was.” Tony said.

“It’s a DNA destabilizer. If you or any other human had been hit with it, it would have killed them within minutes.” Bruce said. “It’s a pretty nasty way to go.”

“But Danny…?”

“It’s the ectoplasm, it’s acting as an… immune system fighting against the drug and breaking it down into something safer. I did a couple of tests and it looks like it’s breaking it down into an opiate. I’m pretty sure it’s an opiate at least, never seen anything like it before. I’d like to get a sample before Danny’s body uses it all up if that’s alright.”

“Opiate?” Peter repeated before looking down at his friend. “Do you mean… he’s high?”

“Higher than a kite.” Mr. Stark grinned. “It should wear off in a few hours, no muss no fuss. All these weird symptoms are just his body’s reaction to breaking down the destabilizer and then immediately getting really high, really fast.”

Danny giggled a little and tugged on Peter’s hand.

“What?” Peter asked.

“I’m gonna possess a fidget spinner. I’ll make it go whoosh!”

Okay yeah Peter could see it now. His friend was totally plastered. Relief swept through Peter and he fell forward until his forehead touched Danny’s. He pulled back when he remembered that Mr. Stark and Bruce Banner (Yes the Bruce Banner) were in the room.

“Right.” Peter said. “So a few hours?”

Mr. Stark lifted up an eyebrow as if to ask if Peter really expected him to ignore that. Peter looked over at Dr. Banner who rolled his eyes and saved him.

“Danny? Would you mind if I took a blood sample? I just want to see if I can isolate the opiate in your system.”

“You’re the Hulk.” Danny said. “That’s so awesome.”

“Thank you. Now, about that sample?”

Danny lifted up one arm, it flopped around like that horrible CGI scene from the second Harry Potter movie and Peter winced. Dr. Banner only took the arm and cleaned off Danny’s inner elbow. Carefully he took a small sample while Danny asked him why he’d gotten 7 PhDs.

“That’s a lot of school. You must be a million years old Mr. Hulk.”

“I got most of them at the same time. I was only a grad student for 12 years.” Banner defended.

“Wow. I was only in school for 9 ‘fore I died.” Danny said making Bruce wince. 

“That’s…right.” Bruce said awkwardly. “Thank you for the sample.”

“No problem Mr. Vampire! Come back whenever you want! I got lotsa blood!”

“Thanks for checking him out Dr. Banner.” Peter said. “I was really worried about him.”

“I can tell.” The man said in a suggestive tone making Peter frown. He was allowed to be affectionate with his friend without it being inherently sexual! Honestly all of these implications were reeking of toxic masculinity.

At least that’s what Peter would say if he thought it would get him anywhere.

“Look. Kid. Just watch him. His powers won’t work until most of the drugs have left his system so make sure he doesn’t hurt himself trying to walk through walls. Have fun with it though.”

“Fun?”

“Your friend is off his face. It’s your duty to record it in the name of posterity.” Tony said. “Don’t tell me you’re that much of a nerd kid.”

“He’s off his face because he saved my life.” Peter pointed out stubbornly.

“What happened to my face?” Danny asked. “Is it gone? Do I look like David Hasselhoff?”

“Okay I see your point Mr. Stark.” Peter said trying not to laugh at the hopeful tone of that last question.

“Glad you saw it my way. Have fun you two.”

“Love you Tony!” Danny sang making Mr. Stark stumble a little as he walked away. Danny giggled at the man’s now stiff retreat.

“Hey Danny?” Peter asked. “How about we play a game?”

“A game! I love games!”

Fifteen minutes later Peter was playing what was by far the funniest game of hide and go seek he’d ever played in his life. Danny kept forgetting he couldn’t turn invisible and so when it was his turn to hide, he’d just stand in the middle of the room, his face scrunched up in concentration once Peter finished counting. Peter’s stomach hurt from trying to keep in his laughter. When it was his turn to hide, he just stuck himself to the ceiling and watched Danny stumble around the room and look beneath couch cushions.

Eventually Danny grew bored of that game and told Peter they should do something else.

“Like what?”

“Theme songs.”

“Theme songs.” Peter repeated.

“You! Need a song! I’ve been thinking a long time ‘bout it. Theme songs are awesome.”

“Okay this I have to record.” Peter decided.

Danny got up and demanded a pencil and some paper so he could write out Spiderman’s theme song. Peter got him his materials and then settled down to watch. It was pretty funny listening to the guy ramble about words that rhymed with ‘bad guys’. Eventually Peter thought they were far enough along and carefully he started to livestream to his official twitter.

“Hey everyone.” He whispered focusing the camera on the drugged out Danny Phantom sitting on the ground and scribbling onto some paper. “Spiderman here. I hope everyone in Queens is alright after that fight against The Lizard today. Phantom got hit with some of The Lizard’s newest attack. Thankfully instead of hurting him his ghostliness turned all of the poison into something else. Dr. Banner said it’s some form of opiates.”

Peter zoomed the camera in on his friend’s face to show how blissed out and ridiculous it was.

“What I’m trying to say is that Phantom is so stoned right now.” Peter said barely holding back his snickers. “Right now, he’s trying to write me a theme song. I don’t know why but I’m not going to stop him!”

“Spidey!” Danny said looking up his face joyful and sparkling. “I…I got it. It’s totally ready. It’s not…no music but words! I did the words!”

“Okay! Let’s hear it, Danny.”

Danny picked up the paper, dropped it, and then picked it up again. He shook out the paper a little and then cleared his throat.

“Okay. You listening?”

“Yes I’m listening. Promise.” Danny licked his lips and nodded. Then he squinted at the paper and began to read out loud, elongating the words to replicate singing but missing an actual tune.

“Spiderman Spiderman does whatever a spider can!” Peter snorted a little from the behind the camera but Danny didn’t hear it. He merely continued. “Spins a web, any size. Catches thieves- just like flies. Look out! Here comes the Spiderman.

“Wait a minute.” Peter said. “That’s actually good.”

Danny frowned and lowered the paper a little to look at Peter accusingly. His entire pout was so adorable that Peter focused the camera on it completely to get it in full affect.

“Of course it’s good! It’s gotta rhyme in it! And! It’s about you! Now shush! I got more!”

“Sorry.” Peter said.

“You should be.” Danny sniffed. He wasn’t acting like the cool internet guy he normally did. Gone was the protective layers of irony. He looked younger, closer to 12 than the 16 Peter assumed he was. The ghost squinted at the paper again. “Where was I?”

“Here comes the Spiderman.” Peter said.

“Right!” Danny cried before wiggling his shoulders and continuing with his ‘song’. “Is he strong? Listen, bud.”

Upon saying the word bud he actually lowered the paper and shook his finger at Peter.

“He's got radioactive blood.” Danny said despite the fact that Peter was pretty sure that wasn’t how his powers worked at all. “Can he swing, from a thread? Take a look overhead. Hey, there! There goes the Spiderman!!”

The last four words were said very dramatically with Danny drunkenly giving Peter spirit fingers with his one free hand.

“Wow! That was amazing Danny.” Peter said his voice still so full of humor.

“Its’not done.” He said. “I got more!”

“More? Danny how long have you been thinking about this theme song anyway?”

“Five.”

“Five?”

“Yeah. Five.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, NASA’s newest acquisition and astronaut!” Peter said waving his hand to motion to the entire high and swaying figure of Danny Phantom.

“I’m gonna be an ‘xplorer!” Danny announced proudly. “Always wanted to be an ‘stronaut. Talk to Houston ‘bout my problems.”

“What sorts of problems are you gonna talk about?”

“Pluto. I miss him. We barely found him and we threw him away!”

“Okay let’s not get into that.”

Danny lifted up his free hand and formed it into a fist, he shook it angrily at the ceiling and shouted very loudly.

“NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON! YOU ARE MY ENEMY!”

“Danny. Danny. Danny.” Peter said. “The theme song?”

“Song? Oh right! The song! It got more words for you. You should have a good song Spidey, you do lots of cool things and…and songs are cool.”

Peter told himself not to cry and asked in only a slightly choked voice if Danny would like to finish. The ghost nodded and carefully read out the final verse.

“In the chill of night, at the scene of a crime, like a streak of light, he arrives, just in time! Spiderman, Spiderman friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Wealth and fame? He's ignored. Action is his reward. Look out! There goes the Spiderman!”

Was the song childish? Yes.

Was it silly? Most certainly.

Were the lyrics juvenile? Duh.

Did Peter absolutely love it? Of that there was no doubt.

“Dude. I love it!”

Peter ended the live stream by showing Danny’s brilliant and excited grin. He put his phone away and hopped over to his friend to ask him he wanted to play Mario Kart. Danny did but the opiates in his system made him sluggish and slow, it wasn’t any surprise to Peter that once the ghost sat down for more than a few minutes he fell asleep.

Unbeknownst to Peter the internet took to his short video like a spark to dry grass. It was trending within 15 minutes with the hashtags #SpideySong and #HighPhantom. Within two hours people were posting their own versions of Spiderman’s theme song. Including a jazz cover that sounded so good that when Danny heard it later he stopped being mad at Peter for recording him. The song was awesome and real recognizes real after all.

Chapter Text

Things had been undeniably weird in the tower for the past two weeks. Granted he had literally invited a ghost to live in said tower so a bit of weirdness was to be expected. But that wasn’t this. Tony had gotten used to Phantom just appearing through literal walls and casually possessing small pieces of tech just to freak people out. He’d also gotten used to the lectures and training sessions he had to attend with Fenton and the rest of the team.

The longer Tony had to watch his entire team not figure out that the two teens were the same the more disappointed he became.

Literally they had the same sense of humor, although Fenton was far more subdued than Phantom. They styled their hair the same. Everything was the same except for the colors and the fact that Phantom generally flew and Fenton was stuck to the ground.

(Well not stuck. Tony had made it a rule that Danny had to be in his human form to be in the lab, wrongly thinking that that would mean the teen wouldn’t have access to his powers. That had been such a fun day.)

Anyway things were weird. Just…so weird. Sometimes he caught the team whispering about things, the whispers stopped the moment he walked into the room. He asked Friday about it and his AI told him she couldn’t hear! She lied to him! Sometimes he’d catch Clint smirking at him and other times Steve would look at him like Tony had done something too adorable for words.

Once he’d stopped Phantom from leaving a meeting by asking him if he had everything he needed in his bedroom and the ghost teen had assured him that he had everything he could ever think to want. The rest of the team had looked like they were doing everything in their power to hold back laughter.

Tony didn’t see what was so funny about making sure a literal child had a comfortable place to live.

Then there was the internet. Tony didn’t consider himself vain, although many people would disagree with him there, and so he didn’t put too much stock in his online presence. Of course being who he was, generally Tony’s name was being bandied about by someone online. Someone was posting think pieces about whether or not Tony Stark should be stanned. Was Tony Stark #Cancelled?

Honestly Tony knew better than to think that anything that happened online would long term effect his standing within his company or his life at large. Of course, any and all attacks from the internet could make his life very annoying and painful, so he didn’t ignore it. Part of not ignoring the internet was checking frequently on his online presence. He had an immaculately created social media and he was active enough on all of his accounts to smooth over any problems before they could erupt.

Tony had a twitter @IAmIronMan, he had a facebook page, he had an Instagram, he had a Snapchat and people don’t even use Snapchat anymore. Hell! Tony had had an account on Vine back when it had been a thing because he’d thought it prudent to take his handle before any enterprising teenager did. He pretended like he had no idea what Vine was, and in some ways he didn’t, but he wasn’t a complete ignorant, not like Bruce or Thor.  

Tony knew when people were talking about him online. Tony knew when people were talking about Pepper, or about Stark Industries, or about Howard. He even knew when Cap accidently trended again for doing something. And Tony knew his own analytics. Which was why when almost abruptly after he’d taken Peter and Danny out for their first driving lesson, it was so disorienting to have disappeared from the internet entirely. There were no threads talking about his war mongering past, no buzzfeed articles talking about which suit of his is the best. Nothing.

And Tony looked. He looked for something, anything, to explain the strange two week silence.  But there was nothing. Sure there was buzz about the Avengers. Most especially there was buzz about Spiderman and Phantom. It seemed like every day one of those teenagers did something to break the internet. Looking at it more honestly it was more like a weekly thing. Once a week those teens would get together and…well give Tony PR headaches.

It made him feel bad for Pepper and all the crap he’d put her and Happy through. Every time Peter or Danny did something particularly stupid he ended up buying Pepper another pair of shoes and sending Happy a new watch or tickets to a football game.

Anyway. The silence. The silence on the internet was haunting him. The internet didn’t just stop talking about someone as famous as him. Tony wasn’t a one hit wonder pop star. No he was Tony Stark! He was literally making headlines on the day of his conception! Most people would consider the silence a positive. No news is good news and all that right? No, Tony knew better. This felt like the build up before a volcanic eruption. On the surface the mountain looked calm of course but one day…Boom.

The boom, for Tony, came on a Sunday. The third Sunday of June in fact. To Tony, this Sunday was just the same as the Sunday before. His schedule was more open than other days of the week. He didn’t have any meetings to do with Stark Industries or the Accords. All he had was Avengers business, specifically they were going to have their weekly group training that Tony was supposed to take part in. Beyond that he was pretty sure he and Pepper had agreed to have dinner together.

It was not the day for a boom, it was meant to be a calm Sunday.

The moment Tony stepped out of his penthouse and into the more common areas of the tower he knew something was off. Natasha was sitting on the counter, watching him. Thor and Loki were even there which was rare, the Asgardians didn’t like to leave their little kingdom without either of its rulers. Loki had a terrifying smirk on his face and Thor looked absolutely delighted to be there, as if he were about to go ride on a roller coaster.

Steve was making pancakes.

Steve never made pancakes.

Alarm bells started ringing and Tony froze just a little mid-step as he looked around the room.

“Good morning Stark.” Loki said, giving him a smile that sent a chill down his spine. “I trust you rested well?”

“Did you put something in my shampoo?” Tony nearly shrieked. “I swear to…”

“No no.” Loki interrupted his smile only growing wider. “I promise I have done nothing to you or your kin, not today.”

“He hasn’t.” Thor confirmed. “We just decided to drop in. No reason.”

Bullshit. That was the absolute biggest pile of bullshit Tony had ever had the unlucky fate to be handed. He glared at Thor and then looked around the room trying desperately to spot what prank had been planted. He refused to be played for a fool. Not today.

“Tony.” Steve said. “It’s fine I swear. Come in and sit down, I made enough for you. I even put blueberries in them.”

Cap’s blueberry pancakes? They might as well have put a jar of honey beneath a cage that was propped up by a stick. Tony shuffled into the room, tense and ready for a trick. Nothing came and Tony ended up sitting on the edge of his seat. Cap settled a plate in front of him that had three large fluffy pancakes with small round blueberries inside, just like Tony liked.

“Here’s your coffee.” Nat said placing a mug on the table with coffee that Tony knew from smell alone was exactly how he took it. He sent a glare to Natasha who only smirked in response. He wasn’t going to drink that witch’s brew. It was probably poisoned.

“Tony.” Steve said making Tony stop his staring contest with Nat to look over at him. The man was holding up a glass bottle of pure Canadian Maple Syrup. “You want some syrup?”

“What, the fuck, is going on here?”  

“Nothing!” The American Icon lied. “I just decided to make breakfast and you…”

“It’s ten in the morning.” Tony hissed. “You go for your stupid morning runs at 6 in the morning and have breakfast at 7. You don’t just randomly make breakfast at 10, especially not pancakes.”

Steve winced at Tony’s rancor and suspicion, he looked over at the others in the room for help and Thor came to his aid.

“Tony, we don’t mean any harm. We are trying to show you appreciation.”

“Appreciation.”

“You have done so much for us, my people and I.” Thor said. “You provided for us and cared for us, like a…well Loki and I just came by to give you a gift in thanks.”

“Yes.” Loki said. “A gift.”

The god of mischief stood up and waved his hand, conjuring without much fanfare a box wrapped in green paper and a box wrapped in red. He placed the boxes next to Tony on the table with only a slightly sarcastic bow.

“So what? You all just randomly decided to do nice things for me today?”

“Randomly?” Thor asked. “But I thought-”

Loki reached out and slapped a hand over his brother’s mouth and gave Tony a tooth rotting sugary smile.

“Yes. We all discussed it of course and well any day is as good as any other to show appreciation for a friend.”

Tony’s suspicions ratcheted to new heights and he edged his chair a little bit farther away from the two very suspect boxes.

“Oh honestly.” Loki snapped. “I swear to you on my magic that neither of those two boxes contain anything that is meant to embarrass or upset you.”

“But…”

“Now. Thor and I do have work to be doing. If you have any questions do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be in New Asgard.” Loki said that in a way that made it clear that any questions Tony did ask would likely not be given an answer. Loki and Thor disappeared with a plume of green flame before Tony could curse them out.

Today was just going to be one of those days wasn’t it?

“I figured breakfast from me wouldn’t be too weird as a gift.” Steve said. “I also made eggs and bacon so…”

“Well gimme.” Tony said, because if they were going to be weird then Tony was just going to roll with it. Steve grinned and produced another plate that was filled with Tony’s favorite breakfast foods. Tony dug into the food, the two boxes sitting on the table menacing him. To his disappointment and surprise Natasha got up and picked up two more boxes from behind the counter she’d been sitting on.

“This one is from me, and this one is from Clint.” She said placing the boxes next to the ones Thor and Loki had produced. “Prank free as well. Clint’s back at the farm today so he couldn’t be here to give his to you himself.”

“Right.”

“I’ll leave you to it.” She said. “I’ve got things to take care of before training at 4.”

She left before Tony could even figure out if he should thank her or not. He looked over at Steve and the man only gave him a small smile.

“I’ve been talking to Fenton recently.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah the moment I bring up Plasmius he clams up. Same with Phantom. Whatever that ghost has done to these two boys it must have been pretty serious.” For half a moment Tony had hoped that Steve had figured it out. But no. Of course, he hadn’t. “But I do know that Phantom’s concerned about how quiet he’s been. The longer the kid goes without being attacked by him the more paranoid he gets.”

“Yeah I noticed that. Yesterday he attacked everyone in the tower and forced them into Fenton Specter Deflectors.” Tony drawled. “Thankfully he had redesigned version that didn’t look like eyesores or I would have used a blow torch to melt mine off.”

“It’s been weird.” Steve said. “Now the ghost kid is practically glued to the ceiling to keep from accidentally touching any of us.”

“I’m working with the Fentons on designing a new version that will filter out Phantom so that we don’t attack one of our own on accident but it’s slow going.” Tony promised. “For now we just have to be careful. I mean Spiderman, Thor, and Loki all got kidnapped like it was nothing a while ago.”

His heart could not and would not ever handle that level of stress well again. The moment Peter’s suit had gone offline he’d panicked like he’d never panicked before. He’d almost given himself a panic attack four separate times. Steve frowned for a moment before leaning back against the oven he’d been using to keep Tony’s breakfast warm.

“We’ll catch this Plasmius. We’ve all been trained by Fenton and had some practice with Phantom.” Steve said. “When he makes his move we’ll be ready.”

“I know I just…Phantom’s secrecy is giving me hives. There’s something we’re missing.”

“Boss.” Friday said. “Excuse me but I have a message from Miss Potts?”

“Hit me.”

“She is being held up in a meeting with the board and will not be able to leave for her next meeting with Vladimir Masters. She says it would be a huge favor that she would repay to you tonight if you’d be willing to go to the meeting in her place and I quote ‘Play nice’.”

Tony’s face went on a journey as Friday talked. Concern flitted across his face first as he learnt she was stuck in a meeting, disgust joined it next when Masters’ name appeared, then something smug at the promise of repayment. Finally, a grimace finished it all off at the prospect of playing nice.

“Who is this Masters guy?” Steve asked.

“Just another self-made billionaire. Came out of nowhere like…10 years ago making deals left and right. Each deal he made ended up destroying the company he worked with while building up his own. The guy’s ruthless, I refused to meet with him like…8 years ago because Stark Industries only really made weapons and I knew the guy’s reputation. I think since Masters owns DALV the only company in the world right now that makes commercial anti-ghost tech that Pepper agreed to meet with him. Lots of Masters stuff is under a patent but we’re working with the Fentons and they have all their own stuff as well, which was patented way before Vlad’s was. Maybe the meeting is about legal concerns I don’t know.”

Tony sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“So he’s a business rival now?”

“I guess. I dunno. I never liked that guy. He has a weird fake British accent and lives in a cheese castle in Wisconsin for reasons I cannot comprehend.” Tony shrugged a little and then spoke. “Alright fine Fri, tell Pepper I’ll be there and I’ll be good because Masters is at least not as dumb as Hammer.”

“Got it boss. The meeting is in 35 minutes and is being held in the office portion of the tower.”

“I guess I should get dressed.” Tony mumbled.

“I’ll leave you to it. Finish breakfast and open your presents.” Steve said, the super soldier got up and then paused. He reached out and placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder. He gave him a light squeeze and then let go. “Thanks Tony. For everything.”

Why did today have to be so weird? Tony finished his, frankly delicious, breakfast while doing his best not to think about anything at all. He failed of course. Price of being a genius. Once his plate was clear and his coffee gone, he looked over at the gifts. Might as well get it over with. He opened the one up from Nat first.

It was a pair of novelty socks. Made of cashmere and Iron Man themed.

Socks?

Clint’s gift turned out to be a fluffy cotton bathrobe, bright red and soft.

Loki’s gift was a tie.

Granted it was the softest tie Tony had ever felt and clearly not made of earthly material but a tie nonetheless. A golden tie that Tony could see himself wearing at practically anything that required a tie.

Why would Loki give him a tie??

Thor’s gift was a hammer. Not like Mjolnir just a regular looking hammer, although the metal was a type Tony didn’t think he’d ever actually seen. Tony looked at the pile of gifts a frown marring his features. A tie, a pair of socks, a bathrobe, and a tool. What did they all have in common? Why were they gifted to him?

And why today of all days?

Tony thought about the mysteries of the gifts as he got ready for the meeting. He put on a suit and paired it with his new tie because, confusing as it was, it was very stylish. He also wore the socks because that was just the sort of thing he’d do when going to a meeting with another billionaire that he hated. He left the other two gifts on his bed to puzzle over later and made his way to the elevator.

“Alright. Friday. Give it to me.”

“Mr. Masters is already in the meeting room. He arrived ten minutes ago and seems upset that he will be meeting with you and not Miss Potts. When I told him he was meeting with you, he scowled and then excused himself for the bathroom. He’s just gotten back from that.”

“Well tough luck buddy. I’m the sort of man who supports his scary overworked girlfriend.”

“The meeting is about a potential deal with DALV Co. Masters already owns factories that can produce commercial ghost weaponry and the deal on the table is for us to use his facilities for a fee.”

“Cheaper than building our own I guess. But how does he get that much ectoplasm?”

“That I’ve not been able to figure out.” Friday said.

“Hmm.” Tony mused as he readjusted the insanely soft tie. The elevator opened up and Tony waltzed out of it. Within a few seconds he’d gotten to the doorway that held one of the nicer meeting rooms. Tony pushed open the door and saw Masters, ugly ponytail and all, sitting there.

“Mr. Stark. I was beginning to think I’d been forgotten.” He said while standing up.

“So sorry about that.” Tony said. “Miss Potts is busy wrangling the board. You know how it is.”

“No.” Vlad said. “My companies are all privately owned. I’ve not had to deal with a board of directors in some time, not since I first started out.”

“Well. Still.” Tony said. “I’m here in her place, so let’s get started.”

Tony held out a hand and Masters didn’t shake it. Right. It was going to be one of those meetings. Tony took a seat across from Masters in front of the large oak table and leaned back almost carelessly.

“So, what makes you think Stark Industries would be interested in working with DALV?” Tony asked bluntly.

“Your company lacks the resources mine has. I have been the leader in this field for far longer than anyone else. No one can do it better.”

“You do have a monopoly as of right now.” Tony agreed, he pulled out his phone and started almost carelessly flicking through it. “But isn’t the free market all about healthy competition?”

Masters frowned at his phone before clearing his throat.

“Mr. Stark we are in a…”

“Look you’re not saying anything interesting.” Tony interrupted. “You know how many people come up to me on a weekly basis and say I have the resources you need? It’s like the worst sort of pick up line.”

“Be that as it may it is still true. I highly doubt you’ve yet to discover a way to farm ectoplasm on the scale you would need to in order to produce the sort of quantities you are after. That is why Miss Potts came to me in the first place.”

“Farm?” Tony asked. “Is that how you do it then?”

“Oh I’m afraid that is a trade secret.” Masters said making Tony inwardly roll his eyes. He put his phone down and gave the man a very disinterested stare.

“You produce ghost weaponry that you’ve sold to groups like the Guys in White. Arguably the government is your biggest supporter for your weapons manufacturing.” Tony said. “And I don’t do weapons manufacturing. We’re after defensive devices that are cheap and effective for the general public.”

“You’re not thinking big picture Mr. Stark. Defensive devices only go so far and honestly if a ghost is determined enough they will work around them. The only way to properly defend the public is to arm them.”

“Even if that wasn’t the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day it still wouldn’t change the fact that Stark Industries does not and will not be part, even tangentially, of weapons manufacturing. Working with you and paying you for upkeep of your facilities would fall under that ban.”

Masters eyes literally flashed for a moment and Tony froze. Had that really happened? The man’s face immediately went back to the smarmy look it’d had the whole time, fast enough to make Tony think he’d imagined it.

“Mr. Stark your money would only be used for production of the products you wish to put onto the market. Although frankly I do wonder at your business acumen. The prices Miss Potts suggested for some of the devices are frankly ludicrous.”

“You want to talk prices? Masters, your ecto guns run at minimum 500 dollars at retail.” Tony pointed out.

“The prices I set have everything to do with the quality of the product.”

“Your company may lack the ability to produce quality goods without literally bleeding the public dry but that doesn’t mean that mine does.” Tony pointed out making the man’s eyes narrow at the insult. “Beyond that this line of products isn’t about making a huge profit. It’s about protecting the public.”

“Oh yes. The public.” The man said with a slight sneer in his voice. “We mustn’t forget about doing the heroic thing must we?”

Tony rolled his eyes outwardly that time. Before he could snap back at the man the door to the room opened to show Danny Fenton. The teen poked his head in and then literally beamed at Tony.

“Mr. Stark!” He said brightly. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

“Kid. I’ve got…”

“Oh it’ll only take a minute! I’m having a problem with the wiring on this gauntlet. Could you please look at it?” The teen bustled into the room wearing a Stark Industries t-shirt that Tony was pretty sure the kid had bought as a joke. He held out the gauntlet to Tony who took it, not even bothering to apologize to Masters.

“Daniel.” Masters greeted.

“Heya Vlad!” Danny said right back. “I didn’t know you were in New York! Did you hear? I’m here for the summer on an internship! Mr. Stark is the best. I’ve been learning so much from him about how to be a businessman and a scientist. Honestly I can’t think of anyone better to learn from.”

Tony looked up from where he was studying the gauntlet, which had perfect wiring, to see that the teen and the billionaire were staring at each other. Vlad looked half way to incensed.

“How do you know Mr. Masters kid?”

“Oh didn’t he tell you?” Danny asked. “Vlad’s best friends with my parents! They knew each other in college. Vlad visits Amity Park all the time to spend time with my dad.”

“Really? You’re friends with Jack?” Tony asked a genuine smile coming onto his face. “I love that guy! He’s a real party animal in the lab. Honestly the two times I’ve worked with him have been a blast. Literally.”

Masters’ face twitched violently and Danny grinned almost maniacally. Tony realized abruptly that he’d missed something big. Danny took a seat, without asking, and planted his elbows on the table.

“You know Vlad. Being here with Mr. Stark has been…just so enlightening.” Danny told the man, adopting a very dreamy tone. “He’s so smart, and just the best scientist.”

Just yesterday Danny had made fun of him for nearly burning his hair off with a blow torch. Tony’s eyes narrowed as Masters sent him a very murderous glare.

“Plus he’s just so strategic! He’s been teaching me chess.” Danny lied. Tony had never once played chess in his life and he wasn’t about to start now. The strength of Masters’ glare increased.

“Is that so?” He asked through gritted teeth.

“Uhh. Yeah.” Tony agreed feeling like he was losing track of this conversation fast. “Me and Danny here have loads of fun over the chess board.”

“It’s awesome! It makes me wish I didn’t have to go back to Amity. Mr. Stark is way better than anyone back home.”

“Daniel, you shouldn’t let a bit of showmanship blind you to…”

“And, get this Vlad, just yesterday Mr. Stark outfitted all of the Avengers and the entire board of directors for Stark Industries with Specter Deflectors. Just because he thought it’d be a smart idea for the future.”

At that Vlad froze completely, an honest showing of shock on his face for more than three seconds. Then the man blinked and looked at Danny.

“This isn’t over Daniel.”

“Yeah. We should meet up again sometime.” Danny agreed, his face way too gleeful for a casual agreement to hang out with someone who was theoretically a long time family friend.

“Mr. Stark. I do believe our meeting has reached its conclusion. I will be in contact.” Masters said standing up and straightening his suit.

“Right yeah. Good meeting.” Tony said standing up at the same time. He didn’t bother to try and shake the guy’s hand. Masters walked towards the door and opened it. Right before he stepped away entirely Danny spoke again.

“Better luck next time Vladdie.”

Masters left hand, the one not holding a briefcase, fisted and he froze mid-step. Then the man forcibly relaxed his back and stalked away, slamming the door behind him. There was a beat of silence and then Danny burst into delighted giggles.

“That….was…amazing!!!” He cackled. “Thank you so much Tony you have no idea how much I owe you!!!”

“Kid. What the hell was that?”

“Oh just me getting one over on Vlad. Don’t worry.” Danny said. “That guy is a creep you know. A whole bowl of fruitloops.”

“Yeah he never gave me the best feeling. I’m going to tell Pepper we’re going to have look elsewhere for a business partner.”

“Good choice.” The teen said before his expression changed to one of remembrance. “Wait! I had something for you. I wanted to give it to you before I left for Amity for the day. I’ve got stuff to do there too.”

“You’ll be back for training?”

“That’s in like…three hours, right?”

“Yep.”

“I’ll do my best. Man we really need to invent teleportation already.” The kid complained before reaching into the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a small green box and held it out to Tony. Another gift. “Here, for you.”

“I…”

“Oh come on dude, take it.”

Tony took it.

He lifted up the lid on the box to reveal a pair of glowing cufflinks. He looked over at the kid who looked only slightly abashed.

“Wasn’t actually sure what to get you for today. The stuff I’d normally get was a bit…normal.” The teen said. “I just want you to know that I mean it. I might have been a bit over the top with Vlad in the room but it wasn’t a lie. You really have been great. So thanks.”

Tony desperately wanted to ask the kid what was going on but even he could sense that that would ruin the serious emotions in the room. Instead he looked at the ghostly cufflinks, they were made of gold and shaped like little cartoon ghosts, they had a slight green glow to them that made it clear they weren’t normal.

“They’re…ecto-powered.” Danny said. “Its just a bit of extra protection against ghosts.”

“Thanks kid.” Tony said. “Really I like them. They match my new tie.”

“Great!” The kid said stepping forward and hugging Tony tightly for just a moment. Tony froze as his body locked down in shock. He watched as the teen turned into a ghost and told him he’d see him at four. The teen opened up a ghost portal and left Tony there, standing stupidly with his mouth half opened.

It took Tony a while to reboot himself and get back to his lab. He had a few hours before he was supposed to be at the training. That was enough time for a genius to brain to figure out what the hell Danny had against Vlad Masters and why he’d been getting these weird gifts all day. He settled in his lab and started to mutter to himself. An hour passed. And then another. He did research on Masters, on his past and his business history. He tried to research to see if there was a new meme where you pranked someone by giving them weird innocuous gifts with no explanation.

Nothing made sense. He was starting to go crazy.

“Boss?” Friday said.

“Why are they giving me gifts Fri? I mean ties? Cufflinks?”

“I think there is something you should see boss.” Friday said.

“What?”

“The video of your driving lesson with Phantom and Spiderman.”

“I was there for that.”

“Not the entire thing.”

Tony frowned and started tapping away on his computer. It didn’t take long to open up the video and fast forward through the parts he remembered until it got right to the point where Pepper had called him, and he’d left the car. He pressed play at normal speed and sat down to watch.

Then he watched it again.

And again.

And again.

“Friday? What day is it?”

“It’s Father’s Day boss.”

Oh. Right.

No not right! This was bad! Terrible! Tony wasn’t a father figure! He wasn’t even a father! Those two kids were crazy if they thought he was acting like a dad. Danny had a dad. He didn’t need Tony butting into his life and Peter surely wouldn’t want anyone to replace his Uncle Ben. Especially not a messed up guy like him. Tony was incompetent and awful and a terrible role model.

Tony ran a hand through his hair, scraping harshly on his scalp. His heart beat so frantically it felt like it was butting up against the reactor. Before he could work himself into a full on meltdown there was a knock on the door. Peter was standing there, his brown hair messy in the way it always was when he’d just pulled his mask off, and his eyes wide and nervous.

Oh no.

“Open the door Fri.”

“Hey Mr. Stark.” Peter said walking in, holding an object that was poorly wrapped in blue paper. “I uh…just wanted to….um you see the thing is that I…well you’ve been really…”

“Peter.” Tony said softly. “What’s up kid?”

He did his best to pretend that he wasn’t panicking. That Peter’s presence wasn’t tearing down walls he’d put up when he was 17 and never looked at again.

“I…well Mr. Stark you…I owe you a lot.”

“You don’t owe me anything kid.” Tony said.

“But you gave me the suit and you help me all the time and you listen to me when I have a problem. You do so much for me Mr. Stark.” And the kid sounded so damn earnest that it hurt. “I mean before you I wasn’t anything and I…”

“No.” Tony interrupted. “Kid you were not nothing. You’ve never been nothing. You are a brilliant kid who decided to use his gifts for good. That wasn’t me kid, that was all you. I just gave you a suit, I didn’t make you a hero. You already were one.”

Because Tony wasn’t going to let the kid tear himself down. Even if Tony was just about the shittiest person on the planet to be a role model (which he was) that didn’t mean he could be actively negligent. Peter looked at him with watery eyes which stabbed him in the gut about 40 times.

“Here you go Mr. Stark.” Peter said holding out the awkwardly wrapped gift. “It’s not much but I made it myself.”

Tony pushed away visions of his past, of his own father sneering at him the smell of whiskey on his breath. He reached out and took the gift. He knew immediately was it was, it could be nothing else. He pulled at the paper and opened it to reveal a mug, large enough to hold a good enough amount of coffee. The mug was red and had the words World’s Best Super Dad painted on the side. He looked down the middle of it and saw that the words  I am Iron Dad had been painted on the bottom of the inside of the mug.

Tony blinked a little, refusing to recognize the wetness on his eyes as something that existed. The kid was still talking, so earnestly explaining to his broken brain that Peter knew Tony wasn’t his actual dad and this mug didn’t have to be a big deal not really. It was just an idea and if Tony didn’t like it that was fine. Tony heard himself in those words, a young boy shoring up against a rejection he was so sure was coming.

And still he couldn’t make himself move. But for the spasm of the hand hold the mug.

“It’s not…? Danny said you liked his gift. You hate it don’t you? You must have a billion mugs I should’ve…”

Tony stepped forward and pulled the kid to his chest. Peter’s arms spasmed.

“Uhm Mr. Stark is this a…”

“We’re there kid.” Tony said.

“Oh. This is…this is nice.” He said hugging Tony back.

“Yeah.” Tony said. “Yeah it is.”

It wasn’t until fifteen minutes later after Peter left that he realized why the rest of the team had given him those seemingly random gifts.

“Oh those bastards.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t know about this Spidey.”

“Oh come on! It’ll be fun!”

“But what if it hurts? I mean I’m going to be insi-”

“You’re not going to hurt me. It’ll be great!”

Danny sighed and looked down at his eager friend.

“Okay fine. But I reserve the right to say I told you so when this all goes wrong.”

“You’re being too negative. Now come down here.” Spiderman said. “And be gentle. It’s my first time.”

“You already got possessed when you got kidnapped by the creepy ghost elf.” Danny said.

“Hey! That doesn’t count! I didn’t consent to that. This is my first time in my heart.”

“Are you two done being idiots?” Shuri asked. “Because I have a limited amount of time to spend with you today and I don’t wish to waste it watching you two poorly flirt.”

“Poorly?” Danny demanded.

“Flirt? We are not flirting.” Spiderman said.

“I don’t do anything poorly.” Danny added, feeling rather offended. He knew that if Sam or Tucker were there they would argue with him. But his childhood friends weren’t here which meant Danny could be as cool as he wanted to be.

“Hopeless. The both of you.” Shuri said. “Now I’ve set up the equipment. If we are going to do this properly then we should record everything. Spiderman come over here and let me attack the sensors.”

Danny had been dragging his feet with the whole idea. Spiderman had brought it up when they’d been hanging out with the Buzzfeed Unsolved guys and Danny had pushed it aside. He’d thought the matter had been forgotten but…well Spiderman was always full of surprises. Apparently Spidey had contacted Shuri and talked to her about this relatively unexplored part of Danny’s powers and now here they were, inside Shuri’s lab, doing something ill advised.

Spiderman hopped over to Shuri and allowed her to attach a bunch of sensors that would give her data on what happened to a living person when a ghost inhabited them. Going so far as to remove the gloves and boots of his suit for better access.

“Why are you so against this anyway?” Spiderman asked. “You didn’t have a problem doing it to Shane?”

“Because Shane has been asking for that for years.” Danny said. “And it was being filmed, there wasn’t anyway Shane would ever have to stay up wondering what I did with his body.”

“And how is Shuri recording this any different than that?”

“You mean to tell me you’re never going to bring this up after we leave here? You expect me to believe that?”

“It could be useful!”

“In what world?”

“Well what if we have to get into someplace that has a ghost shield around it? Or if there are really dangerous ghost hunters you need to hide from?”

“Okay. One, I can get around ghost shields, being doing it in Amity for years and no, Shuri, I won’t tell you how.” Shuri’s mouth closed and she rolled her eyes. “And two, if these ghost hunters are that bad, they’ll figure out you’re possessed pretty quick.”

“It’s going to be useful Danny. I know it will.”

“Look, I’m only agreeing to this because Shuri could actually use this data for something important.” Danny said. “It’s not happening after that. Possession is like…not great dude.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Shuri asked. “It’s just a power like any of the others you have.”

“It’s bad!” Danny said, knowing he sounded childish. “It’s…I’m stealing someone’s body and doing whatever I want with it. That’s not a good power. I don’t like using it.”

He’d started to hate it after seeing what kind of awful shit Vlad had done with his power. Then…well Dan had happened and Danny had become hypervigilant of how he used his power. He would never be like Dan. Never.

“This isn’t like that. You’re not like that either.” Spiderman said. “You wouldn’t do terrible things with someone’s body, I know you wouldn’t. Besides I’m asking you to. I want to know what it’s like and to know if you have access to my powers when you take over my body.”

“I already agreed, didn’t I?” Danny asked. “Shuri, you almost ready?”

“I need a few more minutes.” She said. “Just to get some base levels. Tell me, what is possession even like, from your perspective?”

Of course she’d ask him that. Danny sighed for a moment, looking up at the ornate ceiling of Shuri’s lab. He might as well try and explain what it felt like.

“So like…you know when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?”

“Uhh yes?” Spiderman said.

“Right, so you get out of bed, do your business and go back, and there’s like that outline of warmth right where you were? It’s fainter and maybe a bit smaller than when you left, just an imprint.” Danny described.

“What does this have to do with possession?”

“Well that’s sort of what I feel like when I try to remember what being alive was like.” Danny told Shuri giving her a look. “I can remember this…echo of having a body. So I know what it felt like to be alive, sort of. I have a memory of it anyway. And when I possess someone, my memory doesn’t match that reality. It’s sort of like… putting on a stiff coat that’s the wrong size. Maybe the arms are too tight and the shoulders are too broad. I dunno, it just feels off. Not painful or bad, just weird.”

“That’s…interesting.” Shuri mused. “For each person you’ve possessed has it been the same amount of weird?”

“Uh…I guess not?” Danny said thinking back. “Sometimes it feels really uncomfortable and once, it only felt a bit itchy. Depends on the person I guess. It’s not like I do it all that often dude.”

“What do you mean it depends on the person?” Spiderman asked. “Am I going to make you uncomfortable?”

“Well some people can fight a possession. I saw Jack Fenton do it once. He wrestled control back from Plasmius a few times when the ghost took over his body and tried to make him attack a bunch of people.” Danny said, floating around so that he was better facing the two other teens. “I imagine that was anything but comfortable for Plasmius. You know it’s weird. I possessed Jack once and it was probably the most not weird possession I ever did. You’d think a guy who could fight Plasmius would’ve given me the boot immediately.”

“Is Plasmius that much stronger than you?”

“Oh yeah. He’s got like seven times the amount of experience doing ghost stuff than I do.” Danny said. “He’s got more control, more powers, and more resources than I could even dream of. Plasmius possesses people all the time too, it’s like his go to thing.”

“So this Fenton guy could fight Plasmius off but he couldn’t even touch you? Either you are much more powerful than you are telling us or there is something more complicated going on.”

“I’m not.” Danny said honestly.

“What did you do when you took Jack’s body?” Spidey asked.

“Made him agree to chaperone a school dance. Don’t ask. Long story.”

“So…nothing that he’d find objectionable?”

“I mean he sure wasn’t glad to be there but he did get to embarrass his son so that’s something.”

“Maybe it’s only uncomfortable if you’re doing something with the body that the person wouldn’t like?” Spiderman suggested. He looked a little silly he’d taken off his gloves for Shuri to attach things to, as well as rolling up his sleeves and undoing parts of his face mask for the same purpose. In short he was dressed as much as possible to hide his identity while still letting Shuri get her data.

Don’t look at his lips.

“But I can’t sense anything from the people I possess and they basically go into a coma thing when I do it. How would they know?”

“It’s an interesting hypothesis to be sure.” Shuri said. “And one we can test now. I’m ready when you are Danny.”

Danny sighed and nodded.

“Okay Spidey. I’m going to posses you, walk around the room, and then try to stick to the wall like you do.”

“Got it.”

Danny floated up to his friend and with one more look to give the guy an out, flew right into his chest. Just as always there was a moment that sort of felt like he was transforming back into a human but wrong somehow. Taking control of someone’s body meant feeling what they felt, which included the heart beating and blood racing aspects. But no body felt like Danny’s body, which meant possession felt awkward. Usually that first feeling of wrongness transformed into a vague sense of discomfort that increased the longer Danny remained in the body.

This time the sense of awkwardness faded into almost nothing. Danny blinked a little shifting around inside Spiderman’s body.

“Fascinating.” Shuri said. “Danny, you’re in there now right?”

“Uh, yeah.” Danny said, Spiderman’s voice ringing into the room.

Shuri was staring at a few holograms, her brown eyes rapt with delight. Danny rolled his eyes, or rather he rolled Spiderman’s eyes. He started to walk forward. Maybe he should possess teenagers more often, it was easier to walk in a body that was similar to his in size.

“Stop!” Shuri ordered making Danny freeze. “Now, lift up your right arm and hold it for thirty seconds.”

“It’s not my arm.” Danny said doing as Shuri ordered.

“What’s the square root of 576?” Shuri asked instead of responding to Danny’s comment.

“I’m not good at math!”

“Do it anyway!”

Danny’s mind raced as he attempted to work out that math in his head. Eventually Shuri interrupted his thinking by ordering him to lower his right arm and lift his left one. Danny did so, grumbling the whole time. Eventually it came to him.

“Uh…24?”

“Good.” Shuri said. “Now, sing something for me. Anything.”

“Sing? Can Spiderman even sing?”

“He cannot.” Shuri said. “Can’t carry a tune to save his life. But you can.”

“Wasn’t the whole point of this to see if I could use Spiderman’s powers?”

“We are getting to that. Now sing.”

Danny lowered Spiderman’s arm and sighed. He opened his mouth and began to sing.

“Hey I just met you. And this is crazy. But here’s my number-”

“Not that!” Shuri said. “Anything but that!”

“Should have been more specific.”

“Never mind. I got the data I wanted. Go try to climb the wall.”

They ran into their first problem then. Danny didn’t actually have any idea how to use Spidey’s powers. He tried to stick to the wall by placing his hands on it but nothing happened. He did the same thing again but focused really hard on being ‘sticky’ which did practically nothing. After about ten minutes of trying to stick and failing, Danny was about ready to give up the ghost and leave his friend’s body.

Then the most spine crawling sensation went down his back. It felt like literal spiders were crawling up and down his body with legs made of ice.

Duck!

Danny nearly flattened himself to the floor with a yelp. A moment later a rubber ball more appropriate for a game of kick ball hit the wall behind him.

“What was that for?” Danny shouted.

“Trying to test something. Spiderman has enhanced senses that warn him of attacks, you don’t. It looks like his powers are available to you, you just don’t know how to use them.”

“Well excuse me for not being an expert on all things spider-y.”

“He is your boyfriend. One would think that meant you’d know how his powers worked.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s my friend.” Danny said.

“Look if you two are still closeted that’s fine but maybe you should be less obvious.”

Shuri. We’re not dating.”

“Very funny Danny but…No you’re not serious. You two…Bast, Save me.” Shuri said looking up to the sky for a moment of deliverance. “How are you two not dating?”

“Because we don’t like each other like that!”

“You’re an even worse liar in his body than you are in your own.”

“I’m a ghost, ghosts don’t date.” Danny said folding his arms seriously.

“And you are such a paragon of what ghosts do and do not do.”

“Shut up.”

“Someone save me from stupid men. Tell me, are you not gay?

“We are not talking about this!”

“I don’t see why not. You are literally inside another man’s body, surely this is the best time.”

“Ugh! Gross!” Danny said stumbling back a little in Spidey’s body. “Never say those words to me again.”

“Don’t be such a baby.”

Danny used his powers to float into the air, curving Spiderman’s body in the same way he did with his own when he wanted to pout mid-air.

“Seriously, if you’re not gay I’ll drop it.” Shuri said. “But if you are then there is no reason for me to suffer through the tension you two are putting off.”

“Because it’s all about you right?” Danny snapped.

Shuri lifted up her hands, only half sarcastically surrendering the point. He caught her muttering about teenage boy melodrama and how she wasn’t paid enough to deal with it. After a few moments Shuri asked him to turn invisible so she could see that on the scanners. Danny did so his mind still revolving around the question Shuri had asked. He wasn’t all that open about his sexuality, as confusing at it was. Never had been. Came with being from a town as small as Amity.

“I mean.” He said, floating slightly above Shuri, still totally invisible. “It’s not like he’d want to date me anyway. I mean, I’m dead. I’m icy cold which is a problem if you have DNA that makes its hard to thermoregulate. So we couldn’t you know…cuddle or anything.”

Not that Danny had thought about cuddling. He was a very tough masculine half ghost after all.

“That’s your concern? Spiderman getting a bit chilly?” Shuri asked, not looking up from her scans. “Although I suppose your temperature might affect his performance somewhat.”

“Oh my g-d.” Danny shouted. “We cannot talk about that while I’m in his body!”

“Why not? It’s not like he’s ever going to know. Now’s the perfect time to get this off your chest without him ever finding out.”

Why did that make sense? That should not make any sense at all. Danny groaned and became visible, floating down slowly to look at Shuri’s work. He wasn’t going to give in. There was nothing to talk about.

Quick, look for a subject change.

“Is that his brain?”

“Hmm yes. Although it’s yours as well.” She said tapping a few things on her fancy keyboard. The image changed to show the same brain shape but with different colors lighting up different parts. “See this is what Spiderman’s brain looked like moments before you took over, then watch.”

She pressed the enter key and all activity on the brain went dark only to be replaced by a new, far stranger pattern.

“See normally there is some activity in these areas as the brain automatically takes care of bodily processes. But you’ve shut down most everything that isn’t actively required for him to live and, assuming your brain works the same way ours do, you are consciously controlling nerves that we cannot.”

“What do you mean?”

“You can control what nerve signals reach the brain. Whether or not he can feel cold or hot or pain.” She said. “You could break all the bones in his body and turn off his pain receptors so that you could keep using his body as a meat shield without problem.”

“I’d never!”

“Yes that much is obvious. Anyway what I’m far more interested in is this moment right here.” She said pulling back the recording a bit. “There’s a moment right as you’re entering him where both your brain and his are active at the same time.”

“Really?”

“Yes look.” She said finally finding the spot she was looking for. Sure enough it looked like there were two brain patterns going on at the same time. It was sort of freaky looking. “I’m wondering if you could reach that point without leaving his body.”

“Why?”

“Curiosity I suppose.” She said. “I assume this is the beginning of the process, when you haven’t completely asserted your dominance over him.”

“Please never describe it like that again.”

“How about you try pulling back on your power, not enough to end the possession, but just to lighten it.” Shuri suggested.

“I don’t even know if that’s possible. I’ve never heard of anyone only halfway possessing someone.”

“Just try it!”

Danny did as he was ordered, he floated down so that he was standing in front of Shuri and then focused. He slowly drew back his powers, in the same way that he’d control the size of an ecto-blast. At first nothing happened, but then slowly a pressure began to build. It started in the base of the neck that he and Spiderman were currently sharing, then crawled up the back of his head and spread inward.

“Fascinating.” Shuri said. “Spiderman? Can you hear me?”

“What?” Spiderman’s body said without Danny telling it too. “Shuri? Is the test over? Wait. Holy shit. Spiderman? Are you awake? Why am I talking to myself? Am I talking to myself? No. No it’s me Danny. I’m still in here! Seriously? But how? I don’t know! It was Shuri’s idea. This is so weird. I was just about to say that!”

Spiderman’s right hand lifted up while his left hand did some weird spasm. Danny tried to assert control on both limbs while it seemed that Spiderman was more interested in looking at his hands. This resulted in a seizure like spasm that made the body they were sharing crash to the floor, their legs splaying out violently like they’d been trying and failing to be dipped during a waltz. Danny, or perhaps Spiderman, yelled out and tried to get up. But with two minds trying to control the same body, it resulted in them rolling around on the ground doing a poor representation of The Worm dance.

Shuri was laughing at them.

“Danny! Let me! You’re doing it wrong! No you’re doing it wrong! It’s my body! Technically right now it’s our body! Well I don’t like our face being smacked into the floor so let me! Ugh! I’ll just!”

Danny used his powers to lift them off the ground so that they were flying and no longer rolling on the ground like a drunken infant. Of course, this made Spiderman scream in shocked delight and spin their arms around like two pinwheels. Their body tilted forward, spinning around head over heels. Danny tried to right them, but Spiderman’s excitement made them fly forward way too fast towards a wall.

Danny tried to pull them up while Spiderman pulled them to the right. This resulted in them finally coming apart. Danny flying out of Spiderman’s body, straight into the air while Spiderman began to drop like a rock. Danny shouted and reached out, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop Spiderman from going splat onto the hard white floors of Shuri’s lab.

“Are you two done?” Shuri asked, still halfway laughing at them.

“Yeah.” Spiderman groaned, lifting up a shaking hand to give them a thumbs-up.

“That was…weird.”

 “The scans were certainly fascinating.” Shuri said. “If you two were better able to share I might have gotten some very good data off of that.”

“I’d like to see you do better.” Danny muttered while Shuri just gave him a look.

“We have to do that again.”

“No. We really don’t.”

“It was so cool!”

“Spidey…”

“We are doing this!”

And somehow Danny knew Spiderman was right. When had he lost the ability to tell Spiderman no? He sighed and lowered himself to the ground. His friend got points for persistence at least.

“Alright. Fine. One more time.”

“Yes! Operation Ghost Spider Begin!”

Chapter Text

It had been a relatively quiet week on twitter, well sort of. There had been callouts and drama, and in fact a bunch of geologists were holding a month long mineral cup contest that was resulting in some pretty harsh arguments about mineral superiority. But other than that, twitter had been calm. Business as usual. Phantom and Spiderman had been less active than normal since the ‘High-Phantom’ incident.

Stark had broken the internet by posting a picture of him sipping out of a Father’s Day mug the day after Father’s Day and tagging the two teens in it, which had been fun of course.

But other than that? Nothing.

Then of course Phantom posted another livestream, sending the internet into an absolute tizzy. The camera turned on to reveal Spiderman walking through what appeared to be a large parking lot. He was looking at a list on a piece of dirty notebook paper.

“Okay.” Phantom said from behind the camera. “We’re rolling.”

“Really? Already?”

“With the amount of times we’ve done this you shouldn’t be surprised I’m so good at it. I didn’t need your help and we’ve agreed that you’re not allowed live streaming privileges anymore. I still haven’t totally forgiven you for posting that video of me high off my ass.”

“Dude, you wrote me a theme song! An entire song about being spiderman! I couldn’t not share that with the world.”

“Whatever.” The camera’s view flipped around to show Phantom flying above the ground, high enough so that he was eye level with Spiderman. “Hello internet at large! I’ve gotten a lot of DMs in the past week or so asking me how Spidey and I plan out our wacky hijnks, your words not mine. So I figured I’d show you a part of the process. We have a fun idea for something to do in New York together in about a week and we need supplies.”

“I’ve got a list!” Spiderman said from off camera. “We just need to get like…three things.”

“I figured we could go to Walmart for our shopping and then store our supplies back at the tower.” Danny continued looking at the camera. “But you all wanted to see how we go about our planning, this is it. We get an idea, we make a list of the stuff we need, we get the stuff, then we act silly for the internet.”

“And in between all that we fight bad guys!”

“Oh yeah that too.”

“The reason we haven’t been super present online recently is cause Danny’s been busy back in Amity.”

“The past week has been crazy. I’ve had triple the amount of ghost attacks that we normally do in that town. No one got hurt thank g-d but there was a lot of…let’s just say I haven’t gotten much sleep in the past week.”

“You sleep?”

“Yeah. It’s nice.” Phantom said. “I don’t need too but I like too and I’ve gotten used to it over the years.”

“Huh.” Spiderman said. “We should have a sleep over!”

“What?”

“I’ll come visit your lair in Amity Park, we can watch movies and eat ice cream and if any ghosts show up we can fight them together!”

“You want to paint our toenails too? Talk about what boys we have crushes on?”

“Zac Efron?”

“Oh hard same.” Phantom agreed making both boys break out into giggles. The camera was jostled around a bit so that it was now floating in front of the two boys, following them as they walked towards the large automatic doors of the superstore.

“We could have a pillow fight too!”

“Dude. We could have a pillow fight back at the tower. Maybe get the other Avengers in on it.”

“Dude.”

“Dude.”

Dude.” Spiderman said as the automatic doors opened wide and they stepped inside the highly airconditioned store. “Can you just imagine Black Widow and Hawkeye going at each other with pillows?”

“Not to mention Thor and Loki! We are so doing this!”

“We’ll need extra pillows.” Spiderman said. “I can add it to the list.”

“Let’s get a cart and get the pillows first!”

The camera followed them as they grabbed a cart with a squeaky wheel and pushed it excitedly towards the Home Goods section of the store. They chattered between themselves about how awesome their ultimate pillow fight would be. The internet of course went a bit crazy at the very concept and a few artists, desperate for an excuse not to work on their actual projects, jumped at the chance to draw fan art depicting the ultimate Avengers battle. Sleepover Edition.

They made it all the way to an aisle filled to the brim with pillows and were pulling pillows off the shelves to determine their density and calculate their maximum ‘pillow fight potential’ or PFP. The boys were seemingly coming up with formulas on the fly to determine the ideal pillow for a pillow fight, not so soft or wide that it caused too much drag in the air but not too dense as to risk injury if someone got hit in the head or between the legs.

Then Danny got a text. The ghost removed his phone from the pocket he had on his utility belt and rolled his eyes.

“Got a text from Tony.”

“Really? He’s watching the stream?”

“Apparently him and the rest of the team are. Want to make sure and I quote ‘that we don’t break any federal laws’. As if I could break federal laws, I’m dead, legally none of those apply to me.”

“I’m sure he’s finding that comforting.” Spiderman said.

Phantom’s phone buzzed again.

“He did not.”

“Is he not gonna let us have this pillow fight? I thought he wanted us to spend time with the Avengers, wants us to ‘bond’.” Spiderman said making air quotes with his hands on the last word. Phantom’s phone buzzed once more.

“He says the pillow fight is fine but we don’t need to buy any. He’ll order some good ones for us.”

“Mr. Stark is so cool.”

“He’s the number 1 super dad that’s for sure.” Phantom agreed, he looked down at his once again buzzing phone and then rolled his eyes. “Yes, Tony I brushed my teeth last night and no I’m not saying that out loud. Me and Spidey came to this fine establishment for serious business.”

 “That’s right! We almost forgot our mission! To the craft section!”

“Wait. I want this one.” Phantom said grabbing at a decorative pillow that had a bunch of shiny green sequins on it. When Phantom rubbed his hand over the sequins they flipped over to reveal black on the other side. Phantom quickly drew an awkwardly shaped smiley face on the pillow’s surface. “See it’s awesome!”

“I want one too!”

And so two unnecessary pillows were added to the cart. No one on the internet actually knew what the two boys had actually come for. They made their way out of the pillow aisle, moving around gaping customers who were either looking horrified at the literal ghost in their store or staring at Spiderman in awe. A nearby retail worker didn’t even blink an eye as they continued to stock soaps.

“Oh my gosh! Bath bombs! Walmart sells these now???” Phantom asked.

“You use bath bombs?”

“Look. I remember the public bath houses of Ancient Rome.” Phantom sniffed. “And I can appreciate decadence in bathing.”

“What was like that anyway?” Spiderman asked.

“It was really gay and I mean that in the sex way.” Phantom said.

“Huh. Gay Rights I guess.”

“Yeah well, bath bombs are better anyway. Look this one smells like roses!”

“I’ve never used a bath bomb, my apartment doesn’t have a tub.” Spiderman said.

“You are so missing out. A bath bomb is self-care dude.”

And so about ten different bath bombs were thrown into the cart along with the pillows. The majority of watchers noted they still hadn’t made their way to the craft section, which was supposedly what they had come for. Some people tweeted out that it was good that the two boys had gone to Walmart for their crafts instead of Michaels. If they’d gone there, they would have never escaped. They still might not. They passed the hair care aisle and Phantom gasped out and swerved down towards the hair dye.

“SPIDEY LOOK!”

“What?”

“Hair chalk! It comes in like every color. We are so getting these.”

“Why?”

“Have you seen my hair? It can’t dye for shit, anytime I’ve tried it ends up not sticking, but I bet I could color it with this!”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Might make it easier to blend in.” Phantom mused. “If I spray my hair brown I’ll look pretty much alive.”

“Only if you stop glowing.”

“That’s what a baggy hoodie is for. Think about it! We could go places without getting stared at!”

“I’m still in a full body spider suit.”

“Hmmm.”

“You should get fun colors instead.” Spiderman decided. “Wait! I’ve got an idea! We can do your hair for the thing! The thing we’re planning!”

And what exactly was that thing? The entirety of twitter was desperate to know.

“You’re a genius! I can see why you were chosen to be mentored by The Tony Stark. Only an intellectual of the highest caliber would have come up with a way to make our plan even better!”

“Yes thank you. I know.”

And so the two teen boys grabbed about six or seven boxes of colorful hair chalk. They finally made it out of the beauty section. The internet was arguing, trying hard to determine what Walmart in the world they were at. But it was impossible to figure out. All Walmarts looked the same on the inside.

They still hadn’t made it to the craft section.

The boys were moving through the clothing section when Spiderman slowed down, and tilted his head.

“Phantom, do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Is this Walmart playing Jolene?”

“Holy shit. I feel Dolly Parton in this Chili’s tonight.”

“Have you ever actually been to a Chili’s before?”

“I haunted one for about three months in 2003.”

Why?”

“They know what they did.”

Phantom glowered at the ground, as if remembering some bitter past grudge.

“You are such a drama queen Phantom.”

“Rude. You know, sometimes an episode where you haunt a restaurant for three months is actually something that can be so personal.”

“We never should have watched Queer Eye together.”

“You take that back!”

“Yeah, that was an excellent Saturday night.” In the background the camera picked up the song Jolene slowly playing out and going silent. The song was then replaced with the next song on the Walmart playlist that played the same twelve songs on repeat for a month. It began with a chorus singing these simple words.

“Can anybody find me somebody to love?”

The two teenaged superheroes looked at each other as the piano played on and seemed to know exactly what the other suspected. Phantom immediately struck a dramatic pose and sang along with Freddie Mercury.

“Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little. Can barely stand on my feet!” He declared while using his powers to slip and then float an inch from the floor. Meanwhile Spiderman had forcibly shoved their cart full of things they hadn’t planned on buying into a space between two clearance racks of t-shirts.

“Take a look at yourself!” Spiderman sang, slightly off tune, doing his best to match the background singers.

“Take a look in the mirror and cry!”

“And cry!”

“Lord what you’re doing to me!”

“Yeah yeah!”

Phantom flipped around so that he was on his knees, praying up to the off white ceiling of the Walmart. Spiderman dramatically motioned behind him.

“I have spent all my years in believing you. But I just can't get no relief, Lord!” He sang out, loud enough to attract the attention of yet more customers. In the background of the shot you could see people removing their phones to record the scene. “Somebody!”

“Somebody!” Spiderman repeated.

“Oooh Somebody!”

“Somebody!”

“Can anybody find me somebody to love?”

A certain subset of the internet was happily pointing out to their friends that it would be quite easy to find Phantom someone to love. The someone in question was right behind him jokingly being his background singer during an impromptu Queen cover in the middle of a dingy Walmart. That subset had been born the day Phantom had posted that Billy May’s parody and had only grown in size since.

“I work hard!” Phantom shouted.

“He works hard!” Spiderman agreed.

“Everyday of my life! I work till I ache in my bones!” Phantom sang making a very pitiful face for the camera while showing off his ‘sore’ muscles. “At the end!”

“At the end of the day!”

“I take home my hard-earned pay all on my own!” Phantom shouted to the skies. “I get down!”

“Down!”

“On my knees!” At this point Phantom wasn’t even attempting to be on the same note as Mercury, going for a more dramatic and comedic reading of it. Spiderman’s voice was filled with half-suppressed laughter.

“Knees!”

“And I start to pray to ‘til the tears run down from my eyes!” Phantom said faking rubbing away tears that weren’t there. “Lord somebody!”

“Somebody!”

“Ooh somebody!”

“Please!”

“Can anybody find me somebody to love???”

At this point both teens burst into laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. Phantom actually lost control of his powers and fell to the ground in a heap. Spiderman leaned on a nearby shelf that held plastic packets of white socks, his chest heaving with laughter. The song played on as the teens tried to get ahold of themselves.

Most of the internet felt rather disappointed that they didn’t finish the cover. There would be a Change.Org petition with over 20,000 signatures formed later that would demand that the teens redo and make a complete version of their cover.

“I went to a Queen concert once. There was a ghost there that was trying to use music to do mind control stuff and I fought them before they got very far.” Phantom said.

“Mind control with Queen?”

“Uh. Yeah. Why do you think everyone on the planet knows the words to Bohemian Rhapsody?”  

“Because it’s a bop!”

“That and ghost magic. At one point that ghost was able to get an entire stadium of concert goers to start a riot when that song played.” Phantom said. “I beat the ghost up and got rid of most of the magic. I didn’t realize I’d missed some until I noticed that pretty much everyone will sing that song when they hear it.”

“Danny. Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re making shit up.”

“This time I swear I’m not.”

At this a new internet conspiracy was born relatively overnight to explain Freddie Mercury’s brilliant talent. It was a bit sad because most of it was all him. The musician was the best of his kind and his music drew people in because it was his. The ghostly interference, which was kept to a sharp minimum thanks to Danny, was the exception not the rule.

“Dude.”

“I know.”

“Your life is so weird sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?” Phantom asked jumping off the ground and floating into the air. “Wait. Why are we here again?”

“We need craft supplies! I have a list!”

So they were here for craft supplies. That was at least one mystery solved. Phantom pulled the cart from where Spiderman had stuffed it and started pushing it towards the craft supplies. Spiderman mentioned that he used to ride in carts when he was a kid. Phantom then picked Spiderman up and dropped him in the cart. They moved away, Spiderman whooping for joy, as Freddie Mercury sang the final words.

“Find me somebody to love!”

The two teens finally made it to the craft supplies, much to the excitement of the millions of people who had time to watch their nonsense at 5:40 in the evening. They grabbed poster boards, paint, glitter, and duct tape. Soon the cart was filled with enough supplies that it was unclear if the boys were planning some sort of crafting war.  

In a tower in Manhattan most of the Avengers were beginning to fear that something terrible was afoot. They were partially right. The Avengers who weren’t worrying about it were more concerned about how oblivious two teens could truly be. Their best estimates were still lowballing it a bit.

When Phantom and Spiderman felt quite confident that they’d found everything they needed, they immediately got distracted by the toy section of the store.

No one watching was surprised by this turn of events at all.

Spiderman was almost immediately distracted by the lego sets available for purchase. The camera followed him as he talked to Phantom about how fun that one had been to build or how he’d always wanted to get this one too. Back at the tower Tony was wondering why he hadn’t figured out that his nerdy…protégé, was into legos of all things. Phantom was suspiciously silent on the matter, silent enough that eventually Spiderman looked up and somehow conveyed a frown through his full face mask.

“Danny?”

“It’s Nerf or nothing!”

Then Spiderman got hit in the side of the head with a nerf gun dart, his spidey sense failing him.

“Hey!”

Phantom apologize to the teen for his head shot, by throwing him another one of the guns. Spiderman caught it and growled out a promise for revenge. Which is how the two teens ended up making quite a bit of mess in the toy section. Dolls overturned, dozens of orange foam darts hidden in crevices, and so much more. At one point Phantom was literally using boxes that contained Barbie Malibu Dream Houses as shields against Spiderman’s onslaught. The camera flew between them, somehow managing to capture the best shots of the nerf carnage. Both teens phones went off, texts from Tony ordering them to stop being stupid. They were ignored.

Then a retail worker came by, telling them they were going to have to leave if they didn’t stop.

“Oh my gosh!” Spiderman said. “We’re so sorry! Dude look at this mess we made!”

“Yeah. Didn’t think that one through at all. Here. Let me.”

The teen closed his eyes and scrunched his face in focus. All of the upturned items began to glow green and levitate into the air. Slowly each toy floated to their rightful places, although some of the boxes were upside down and sideways. The young adult who was wearing a blue vest watched all of this with the same sort of apathy one would expect from a cop who’s been on the force his entire life. Phantom managed to get everything back into place. When he did he groaned and immediately lifted his hands to head.

“Ow.”

“Danny! Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He said. “Just…wasn’t expecting the strain. Been a while since I tried to levitate that many different things.”

“Do your powers hurt you?” Spiderman demanded.

“What? No. Dude. I just overworked it a bit. Like going to the gym without warming up. I’ll be fine in a few minutes.”

“Good.” Spiderman said. “Now let’s go check out. We got what we came for.”

“But we could also get two nerf guns.”

“You’re the best friend a Spider could ask for dude.”

“Speaking of which. Are you going to grow extra legs?”

“What?”

“You know you’ve got Spider DNA in you right? So like…Spiders have eight legs. Are you going to grow some extra limbs?”

“What? No! That’s…that’s insane! I could never…I mean…”

“You don’t know? Dude you regularly go to a tower that houses The Bruce Banner, DNA extraordinaire and you never bothered to ask him to check and see if you were going to grow a couple extra legs?”

“I never thought about it?”

“Well I’m texting him.” Phantom said. “Because if you’re going to grow some more legs we should be prepared for that. You’ll need new pants and we’re at Walmart so we can just get some now.”

The ghost teen pulled out his phone and began to text again while Spiderman explained that he highly doubted Walmart sold jeans that had more than two leg tubes on them.

“So we’ll get you a skirt!”

“I’m not going to grow more legs! What about you? Are you going to grow fangs?”

Phantom froze, his fingers stiff over the keyboard.

“What?”

“Fangs! A bunch of the ghosts we’ve fought have had them, mostly adults though. Are you going to grow fangs? Is that like a ghost puberty thing?”

Phantom, if anything, looked more terrified and distraught.

“Don’t. Don’t joke about fangs.” He said.

“I…” Spiderman trailed off, finally seeing Phantom’s face. “Sure of course. Sorry I even brought it up. We should check out.”

It took about thirty seconds of awkwardly moving their, now excessively full, cart towards the front of the store before Phantom shook himself out of whatever funk he’d gotten into and immediately went back to joking. Spiderman easily followed along and the rest of their trek through the store was filled with Vine references.

They checked out, much to the entertainment of the cashier who looked to be the same age as Phantom and made the same references they did as they scanned their items. They then argued about who would pay for it all, both insisting that they should be the one to do it. Eventually Phantom won that argument by turning the card reader intangible anytime Spiderman tried to use it. They then gathered their white plastic bags and carried them out of the store. It was comical watching the two superheroes walk with their arms absolutely filled with bags. They stopped together right outside the entrance to the store, both seeming to frown at the same time.

“Hey. I think we forgot something.”

“Yeah, me too.” Spiderman agreed.

The entirety of the internet waited and wondered what it was the boys could have forgotten.

“How are we gonna get home?”

Chapter Text

It was a bright sunny day in New York, courtesy of Thor who had been easily convinced to chase away few rampant summer thunderstorms for this nice June day. It was in fact the last day of June and there were about 3 million people who had plans about exactly how they were going to spend it. In fact, it wasn’t a coincidence that all 3 million of them had the exact same plans.

Of those 3 million people there were two superhero teenagers who were making their final preparations.

“Alright Catherine!” Danny said, setting up the final poster on its stick. “How does that look?”

“Perfect Phantom! Spiderman, where are those donation tubs?”

“Coming right up!”

Catherine Reddings was a volunteer at the Trevor Project, a no-nonsense woman in her 70s. She’d been living in New York her whole life and had been working as an activist for much of that time. When Danny had contacted her, much later than anyone should contact anyone for an idea like this, she had taken it in stride. She’d agreed to see what she could do, but she expected Danny and Spiderman to do most of the work.

“I’ll provide some of people and the booth but I expect you two to be the entertainment and to get the word out!”

Danny and Spiderman had eagerly agreed which is how they’d ended up at Walmart buying an army’s worth of craft supplies. Now it was the big day and Danny was hopeful that they hadn’t forgotten anything. Catherine, who’d been doing things like this for 20 years at least, didn’t look worried. Spiderman landed on the ground and put down a series of colored plastic tubs. Six giant tubs, each one a different color of the rainbow, below the gigantic posters that Danny had set up.

They were in a prime spot for this, Catherine had assured them. They’d get plenty of traffic throughout the day, hopefully that combined with their presence would ensure favorable results.

Danny resisted the urge to run a hand through his hair. He and Spiderman had spent way too long putting colored chalk into it for him to ruin it now. His normally glowing white hair had been painted into a rainbow and then had glitter added to it as a final touch. Even with his intangibility he had a feeling that he’d never get all of it off.

“There.” Spiderman said. “You sure you’re ready for this? I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to back out.”

“This is for charity.”

“You can do this without coming out.”

“So, could you.” Danny pointed out. “We decided we’d do this together.”

Danny had accidentally outed himself at the same time Spiderman did, during a fight and by using a pun. The two teens had looked at each other for one breathless second and then given each other high fives. They hadn’t had much discussion about it, beyond sending each other relatable memes, since. Well at least until they’d come up with this idea for charity.

“Dude its Pride and its 2019.” Spiderman said. “It’s time the world had some out superheroes, right?”

“Best time for it.” Danny agreed. “Come on. We announced on twitter that our live stream would start in a few minutes, we need to get into position.”

“Spiderman! Phantom! Get your butts over here!” Catherine ordered. “The crowds’ll be here soon and you need to be in place and working.”

“Yes ma’am!”

“Right away Miss!”

The two heroes swing and flew respectively to the booth. They clambered into the chairs they’d stolen from Avengers Tower and pulled out the large headsets they’d borrowed from Tony’s lab. Why he had headsets so similar to the one’s sports commentators wore they didn’t ask. It was perfect for their needs. In front of them was a nicer camera than the one’s they normally used for their videos.

Tucker and Ned were seated at another table, also wearing headsets. The two computer nerds had agreed to help out with all the tech stuff together and they had immediately gotten on like gas and a wildfire. Behind them Sam and MJ, were talking with one another about the ethics of veganism, wearing volunteer t-shirts. Danny had invited his friends to New York to help with their plans, and Spiderman had done the same. It was nice to see that they all got along with one another. Danny had made sure his friends knew not to mention his human form and he trusted them not to reveal anything.

“Ready Ned? Tucker?” Spiderman asked.

“We’ll be going live in T minus 30 seconds!” Tucker said.

“Mods are up and functioning.” Ned added. “Karen’s also connected up.”

“Great.” Phantom said. “Wait! We forgot something!”

Phantom flew up out of the chair and towards where he’d stashed their bags. He rummaged around until he found two little flags and then flew back. He tossed one to Spiderman who grinned and used his webs to affix the pink, purple, and blue flag to the table in front of him. Then he did the same for Danny’s flag, which was pink, yellow, and blue, in front of him.

“Okay! We are live in 3…2…1!”

“Hello Internet!” Danny said. “And Happy Pride! I’m your host, Danny Pan-tom.”

“And I’m Bi-derman.” Spiderman said, a grin in his voice. “We’re here today at New York’s Pride Parade, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and all the amazing history that’s come after it!”

“Bi-derman and I decided to come out and do something to really show our excitement.”

“So, we partnered with the Trevor Project, a charity that helps LGBT teens across the country get the aid they need.” Spiderman said. “And we’re fundraising money all day today to help them. Every single dollar donated today will go directly to the Trevor Project! Our booth is being run totally on volunteers and we’re super excited to see how much good we can do today.”

“Exactly.” Danny agreed wiggling a little in his seat. “For those of you watching online you can donate whenever you’d like using the link attached to this stream. As for those who are here today in New York, you can come by the booth and donate in person!”

“But what exactly are they donating for Pan-tom?”

“Excellent question Bi-derman. We are here to answer a question as old as time itself.” Danny said motioning to the left of them. The camera dutifully turned to show the series of posters. Each one featured a picture of a male Avenger, standing in a way that was only slightly suggestive. The sixth poster was of Loki because it only felt right to include him. Spidey and Danny had ensured the images were tasteful of course.

“Which male avenger is hottest.”

“Scholars around the world have argued about this for years.” Spiderman said. “And it’s no wonder they’ve not been able to come to a conclusion with such stiff competition.”

“So we’ve decided to gather data.” Phantom continued. “Here today is the largest gathering of the LGBT community in the world and who better can answer the question, which male avenger is hottest, but them?”

“The rules are simple. Anyone can vote as many times as they want. All you have to do is put your money into the bucket corresponding with the poster of you chosen Avenger.” Spiderman explained. “If you’re online the link will take you to a website where you can donate a chosen amount of money to any of the options, and the totals of our online donations will be added to the numbers gathered here.”

“At the end of the day, whichever Avenger has the most money wins.” Danny finished.

“Oh two more things before we get started!” Spiderman said. “Avengers I’m sorry but you can’t vote for yourselves. You are encouraged to donate but your votes won’t count because one of you is a billionaire who could buy the win without blinking.”

“But if you want to win, you can come down to Pride and do some campaigning!” Danny added. “Come on down, wear some booty shorts and show off your assets! It’s for charity!”

Were they going to get in trouble for this? Probably.

Was it worth it? Definitely.

“Okay? Great! Voting starts now!”

“Come on people! Come one, come all! Tell us, which Avenger was part of your gay awakening?” Danny asked.

“I would say who mine was but I have to work with these people later.” Spiderman said. Danny gave him a look, he knew damn well it was Thor. The guy had the perfect arms for hugging after all.

“Oh look! We’ve got our first donation!” Danny said pointing to a man wearing a rainbow shirt who held 20 dollars in his fist. He stopped in front of Hawkeye’s poster and stuffed the money into the hole they’d carved out on the top of the giant tub’s lid.

“Yeah.” The man said. “I said it! Have you seen that man’s ass?”

“Riveting stuff.” Spiderman said.

“A really strong start that’s for certain.”

From there the crowds began to form, people laughing and joking as they put money into various bins. Each bin had been outfitted with counters that Karen was monitoring for them. She alerted the volunteers to how much money was in each bucket, so that they could move the brightly colored numbers, 1-6, up next to each poster to show how the Avengers ranked against each other. It didn’t show amounts though, it made it all the more exciting. Karen also kept track of the online donations to make sure things were as accurate as they could be in real time.

At first Spiderman and Danny just commentated on the rising numbers, talking like they were commentators during the Superbowl. They’d both prepared puns for this occasion and were using them liberally. The internet didn’t fail to immediately start making their live stream viral and donations were pouring in from all corners of the internet. It was sort of exciting knowing that people cared that much about it. They’d both agreed to avoid looking at the internet during the day, they had no idea how positive or negative the response to their coming out would be after all.

They could worry about it tomorrow.

The first hour passed by swiftly. People came and put money into the bins. They also got their first message from the Avengers.

“I just got a text from Tony!”

“I got one from Mr. Barton.”

“What’s your say?”

“He says that he’s on his way and he’s wearing a sleeveless shirt.” Spiderman said. “He’s got to show off his archer arms.”

“Good for him.”

“What does Tony say?”

“He says it’s not fair that he can’t vote for himself but he won’t need it anyway.” Danny said holding back a giggle. “All he needs is his suit and sunglasses and he’ll have this in the bag.”

“Do you think we should have warned the Avengers about this?”

“Nah.” Danny said. “It’s probably fine.”

“Alright.” Spiderman said. “I’ve got to know Pan-tom. Who do you think is going to come out on top today?”

“I’m not sure. There’s a lot of strong competitors out there. I mean take Bruce Banner for instance.”

“I’m listening.”

“The guy is a super genius, a literal star in the scientific world. He’s a doctor seven times over.” Danny said. “That means you know he’s well read and probably full of interesting conversations.”

“But what about his looks?”

“You’re telling me you don’t think you couldn’t get lost in those warm brown eyes?” Danny asked. “And what about his hair? It’s curly, it’s cute, it’s perfect for running your fingers through. Bruce is known for his preference for quiet nights in and relaxing. He’s the perfect candidate for a good cuddle and conversation.”

“You know, when you’re right, you’re right.”

“And not to mention the Hulk!” Danny continued. “Picking Bruce Banner is like a two for one! You get the sweet, soft guy and the protective, tough guy all in one. The Hulk hasn’t had a negative incident in years and is obviously here to use his rage to protect the world. We stan a man who learns how to channel his aggression in healthy ways.”

“We do indeed.” Spiderman said nodding slowly in agreement. “Personally I’m really interested in seeing what sort of support Captain America will pull in.”

“Really?”

“Sure. The guy got his start selling war bonds. If there’s anyone who knows how to sell a pretty face it’s him.”

“He’s got more than just a pretty face going for him.”

“That he does Danny, that he does.” Spiderman said. “Captain America’s got a body that was literally engineered to perfection. He’s strong, he’s handsome and he’s got a sweet interior. Cap’s artistic skills are the talk of the tower as you well know. Beyond that Cap’s known for his strong morals and principles. Political opinions aside you can agree that a man who knows what he believes in and is willing to do anything to back that up is an attractive one.”

Danny knew that must have been hard for his friend to say. Spiderman had been working through his dislike of Steve over the time Danny had known him. It was slow going but at least he wasn’t spitting his name anymore.

“Plus, everyone likes a man in uniform right?” Danny joked making Spiderman giggle. “Okay, personally, I do have my eye on Loki.”

“Loki? Really?”

“He’s a prince with a tragic past.” Danny said lifting a hand to chest dramatically. “Everyone knows he invaded New York while being mind controlled and now he spends his free time protecting earth against anyone who would try to do anything close to what he did. He’s got icy blue eyes and legs for days. Loki is literally the misunderstood bad boy from every romance novel ever.”

“Not to mention style. Whether in leather or in Armani, the prince of mischief can pull off styles from any planet.”

“Loki’s spent the last year on earth trying to make better the hurts he’s leveled against this city.” Phantom said. “I know not everyone is ready to forgive but, trust me on this one; Redemption arcs are sexy.”

“Truer words have never been spoken.”

“Alright.” Danny said rubbing his hands together. “We’ve discussed the first three competitors. Who do we have next?”

“Of course, there’s Hawkeye.” Spiderman said. “The team’s archer and overall regular guy.”

“He’s definitely relatable.” Danny agreed. “He’s the sort of guy that makes you feel comfortable. Hawkeye is the every man superhero. He’s real and he’s got an adorably handsome face. It’s not rugged, it’s the sort of face you’d expect Mr. Rogers from PBS to have when he was younger.”

“And in his own words he’s got the body of an archer. Limber, lithe, and in control.” Spiderman nodded wisely. “I don’t need to tell you why that’s attractive.”

“Indeed, you do not.” Phantom agreed. “Now, of course. There’s King Thor.”

“God of Thunder and giver of the best hugs of all time.”

“Thor’s arms were literally made for hugging, I’m certain of it.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more. Thor is sensitive, forgiving, and loyal. Literally the golden retriever of the Avengers. He’s brave, he’s got amazing hair, and his muscles are perfect for hugging, I cannot stress that enough.”

“As you can see we rate hugging ability really highly here.”

“But can you blame us?”

“Thor’s also the god of thunder. That means he can give you sunny days for dates, and also provide romantic rainy nights. If you’ve ever dreamed of cuddling up in bed with your sweetheart while thunder rolls overhead then Thor is god for you.”

 “There’s the final competitor.” Spiderman said. “Iron Man.”

“Neither of us are the right people to describe why Iron Man has a real shot at winning this thing. So we asked someone we knew to do it for us. We’ll play that video now.”

The camera cut off the recording of them and then Tucker played the video. Spiderman and Danny both listened through the headsets as Pepper Potts, CEO of Stark Industries, spoke in a tone that was far too amused describing why her partner would be attractive to the masses. It had been Danny’s idea to ask her and she’d agreed because she knew it would rile Tony up for days to hear compliments like that. Besides it was for charity.

Pepper finished with this.

“Tony’s a billionaire, playboy, genius, philanthropist and now a mentor. That’s something for everyone.”

“Thank you, Ms. Potts.” Spiderman said as the camera returned to recording them.

“Yes, we’re grateful you gave up some of your free time for that.” Danny agreed. “Now we’ve had a rundown of each avenger.”

“We should try to remain as impartial as possible. We after all are running the competition, favoritism could skew the results.”

“This is for science and for charity, lest we forget.”

“Now let’s check back in and see how the competition is going.”

Things were going well. Really well. Both of them were surprised at the amount of money that had already been collected. This was different from the normal good they did. Fighting bad guys and saving people from burning buildings was all well and good, but there was something very nice about seeing the dollar amounts jump up so rapidly. This also had the benefit of meaning that neither one of them got punched by gigantic lizards. Or thrown loony toons style into asphalt.

They continued to joke with each other, and Avengers began to arrive on the scene. Tony, being able to fly in his suit, was first. He landed in the crowd and then made his way over to them.

“What did I tell you kids about making spectacles of yourself online?”

“To ask Pepper first.”

“We did. She even helped.”

“Of course, she did.” He scoffed. “You didn’t think to warn me?”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“Hellions the both of you!”

“Love you Tony!”

“It’s for Charity, Mr. Stark.”

“I know it’s for charity, that’s why I’m not threatening to ground either of you.”

The next Avenger was actually Loki, who teleported right next to them already seated in a chair that looked like a golden throne. Danny shouted in alarm while Spidey managed to keep his cool, his Spidey-sense warning him ahead of time.

“Gentlemen.”

“Loki.” Spiderman said. “It’s great to see you.”

“Is that so?” He asked. “Do you not think I’m here for retribution?”

“Retribution? Dude we talked you up just like everyone else!”

“’Redemption arcs are sexy?’ That’s all you can do? I’m a sorcerer and a shapeshifter! I won’t have you two malcontents misrepresenting me!”

“Well fine. What would you have preferred?”

“I am Loki of Asgard. A being of magic who can be anyone they wish to be.” Loki sniffed. “I can be a woman, or a man, or a being in between. Redemption arcs have nothing on me.”

“Totally get that.” Danny agreed. “But if you want to win you should go out there and convince everyone else of it. You’ve got a silver tongue, go use it.”

“Perhaps I will.”

He disappeared and took his golden throne with him.

“Look’s like the competition is really heating up now.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more Bi-derman.”

 Captain America showed up in full uniform with a smirk in place. Hawkeye wasn’t far behind, with his bow available to show off his arm muscles. Even Bruce showed up but that was mostly because Tony had blackmailed him. Danny had comforted the man by pointing out he was the hottest nerd of all time, he represented geeks everywhere. Thor was the final man to show up, and when he did, it was with hugs.

He bribed people with hugs.

It was the most beautiful thing Danny had ever seen. All of the Avengers were there, including Natasha who seemed more interested in making fun of her male coworkers than helping any of them. They were, to Danny’s delight and surprise, more than willing to do anything in the name of winning the competition. They spread out to different parts of the parade, signing autographs and taking selfies.

At one-point Steve managed to sneak up their table and answer a few questions.

“I haven’t ever really spoken up about this.” Steve said. “I went under in the 40s, 20 years before all of this really started. Of course, there were people like this in my time, lots of them ended up in the army. Plenty of the women in the military during the war were there because it let them be with their gals. But it wasn’t open, it wasn’t…something to proud of. That’s one of the things I love about the future. I couldn’t have ever imagined this sort of change. I think what you two are doing is really brave. This is just as great as vaccines!”

“Vaccines?”

“Yes. Vaccinate your kids!” Steve said, looking directly at the camera. “I can’t believe everyone here has access to life saving medicine and they’re not using it! I almost died from the measles as a kid, not to mention the flu!”

“Anything else you like about the future?”

“Microwaves.”

The parade continued. People online donated in small and large amounts. Spiderman and Danny only took quick breaks to get something to drink and snack on. There was no clear winner for most of the day. Surprisingly most of the Avengers managed to keep even with one another. Each one of them had the lead at some point, which resulted in them talking a lot of smack that was recorded for posterity.

But things can’t last forever and slowly the parade began to end. The crowds around them didn’t dwindle though. People began to congregate around their booth as other things closed down, everyone seemed to be invested in finding out who would win.

“Alright everyone! The link will shut down in one minute and we will stop taking donations for votes at exactly 5pm!” Danny said. “Get your final votes in now!”

“Oh this is going to be a close one.” Spiderman said.

“I’m on the edge of my seat.”

They counted down together, when the clock struck five, they rang a bell loudly using the speakers they’d set up around the booth. The crowds quieted in anticipation. The Avengers had all gathered close by, looking more together and unified than they had in years.

“Alright.” Phantom said, standing up. “Let our moderators tabulate the final results and cue the victory music.”

Ned and Tucker quickly tapped away at their computers before nodding to each other, writing a name on a piece of paper, folding it and handing it over to Spiderman. The two teens stood together, their headsets had been connected to speakers around them so that the crowds could hear them. Spiderman unfolded the paper and they both looked at it.

“And the winner…”

“For hottest male avenger…”

“By a margin of just 16 dollars and 36 cents is…”

“THOR!”

Immediately the speakers began to blast out the song ‘It’s Raining Men’ while the crowds cheered. Thor lifted his hammer in triumph and gave a warriors shout while the other Avengers yelled out their dismay.

“That’s it for us here in New York! Thank you so much for donating!”

“We’ll post the full results of our fundraiser on twitter as well as full stats on how much each Avenger gathered!”

“And thank you to the Avengers for being such good sports! Better luck next year guys!”

“I’m Danny Pan-tom.”

“And I’m Bi-derman, signing out!”

Chapter Text

Danny Fenton sat in front of a computer. His laptop specifically. He was typing away at the keyboard in random fluxes. One moment he’d type like a madman, furiously tapping out word after word, sentence after sentence. And then he’d stop, glare, and then stab the backspace button without hesitation and a large amount of disgust. It was a position, a face, that Bruce knew too well. It was a face he had worn too many times to count over the years, it was the face he had seen in his peers and colleagues. It was a face of struggle and tribulation. Of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

“Hey Fenton.” Bruce said stepping fully into the lab. “Having fun?”

“What? Oh. Hello Dr. Banner.” The teenager said.

Bruce had originally come down here to ask the teenager a few questions about ghosts. He’d been in New York for a few weeks now and he had been exceedingly helpful. Giving them ghost fighting tips and explaining the science of it all as he understood it. Bruce hadn’t been certain at how helpful the teen would be but he’d been surprised. The teen didn’t come off as a genius, not like Bruce and Tony did.

Bruce and Tony both had these magnificent minds that took in so much information from across disciplines and branches of science. There had never been a topic that Bruce hadn’t been able to understand and revel in. Danny was different, he wasn’t good at school, he struggled with a lot of subjects, and yet Bruce knew he was terribly bright. He knew so much about ghosts, ecto-biology, ecto-engineering, and more. If it was about a ghost then Danny knew it.

It was easy to look at the slouching teen who looked at his phone way too much and see a delinquent. By his own admission he frequently skipped class and regularly failed his exams and quizzes. The kid broke curfew and had a look in his eye that screamed troubled. He had a dark sense of ironic humor that Bruce could appreciate but if you approached him correctly, then he was actually quite friendly.

“What are you working on?” Bruce asked taking a seat on the other side of the lab table from Danny.

“Just this paper.” Danny said frowning. It was just as expected. Bruce knew the ‘’I’m writing a scientific paper please kill me to end my misery’ face anywhere.

“You writing something for a class?”

“No. I’m not in summer school this year. Barely managed to get out of it.” The kid said. “No it’s this ghost thing. My parents found out about the stuff I’ve been doing and now they want me to write it all up. It’s impossible.”

“Stuff?” Bruce asked with pure sympathy in his tone.

“Yeah. My parents are calling it research but that makes it sound so lame. I’m not a scientist or anything I can’t even get more than a C in math.”

“Well then what have you been doing?”

“Stuff like my ghost index and mapping out the Ghost Zone.” Danny said shrugging. “I’ve recorded a lot of the stuff I’ve learnt about ghost culture. Sort of like a survival guide for the GZ.”

“So research.”

“Ugh. I guess.” The teen said. “Well my parents say that I need to write it up and they sent me examples of stuff they’ve written and I’m never gonna sound like that.”

“The first paper is always the hardest.” Bruce promised. “I remember my first research paper back in graduate school. I spent months on it, writing sections over and over again, it was brutal.”

Months?” The boy asked. “I can’t do this! I can’t. I’m not a scientist I don’t know what half these words mean and I just…why can’t I write it normal? Just tell people what I learnt using regular words?”

“The reason scientific papers are written like that is to get rid of as many misunderstandings as possible.” Bruce said. “The more exact the language the less room there is for the misinterpretation of your results and data. That’s important when you’re writing about something that could potentially save lives. Granted a lot of the older researchers are just bad at writing or purposefully make their writing nearly unintelligible for people who aren’t world experts but that shouldn’t be the norm.”

He had taken on a lecturing tone he hadn’t used in almost a decade, back when he’d been a TA during his time as a PhD student.

“I just…I can’t even write the first paragraph without getting myself confused.” The boy said. “This is never going to work.”

“Danny, do you think its important that more people know about this?”

“Course I do.”

“Then you need to write it.”

“But I can’t.”

Bruce suddenly thought about the conversations the team had when Phantom and Fenton weren’t around. The times that Steve had tried to get information from either of the teens about Plasmius and the threat he presented. He’d seen a look of frustration and anger in Phantom’s face whenever they asked about Plasmius. It was the exact same look that was in Fenton’s face right in that moment.

Wait.

Here, don’t worry about using the thermos on ghosts, Dr. Banner, it feels like being pulled into a too tight sleeping bag. Why had Fenton spoken as if he knew from experience?

Images of Phantom’s ectoplasm, how it had looked exactly like a human’s but bright green. The other ectoplasm samples Bruce had looked at hadn’t had that structure at all.

Brucie, are you sure you haven’t noticed anything weird about Danny? Come on, Science Bro, no weird observations to share? Tony had been so earnest, trying to hint at something.

Hey Bruce! You’re being safe in this lab right? I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you about wearing safety equipment! Phantom had looked so worried about him.

I’m sorry Steve I can’t tell you. Refused to ask for help or accept it.

I can’t write this stupid paper! Won’t ask for help from someone who understands.

I can’t!

I can’t!

“I just hate all this school stuff anyway.”

“You seem intelligent.” Bruce said, feeling a little awkward, even as his mind reeled from the revelation he’d just had. School had been his safe haven, his home. He’d spent far too long in grad school because he hadn’t wanted to enter the real world. And even now he had a hard time imagining not liking the environment school created. The teen gave him a look.

“It’s not about being smart. School sucks. It stresses me out and it’s so pointless anyway.”

“But you’ve been doing all this research right? You like learning.”

“Learning’s fine I guess. I love space. But I just can’t stand tests and stuff.”

Phantom loves space too.

Bruce ordered himself not to think like that. It was crazy, impossible.

“Tests?” Bruce pushed. “You don’t like the tests?”

“Tests are basically the end of the world.” The teen said in the typical over dramatic fashion.

“I can see why you’d think that.”

“No. No you definitely can’t.” And that was what cemented the idea in Bruce’s head. The dark brooding look on Fenton’s face matched Phantom’s perfectly.

“Danny.” Bruce said, his almost a gasp.

“Uhh. Yeah?”

“I have a few questions about ghosts.”  

“Sure.” Danny said easily pushing his laptop to the side. “Hit me with it.”

It was impossible, there was no way. Bruce told himself that he was being crazy. That he was over thinking it. That it was a coincidence. But his mind kept pulling more and more coincidences together. And well…the universe was rarely so lazy.

“I’ve been looking at a few samples of ectoplasm under the scanning electron microscope and I’ve noticed some interesting discrepancies between the samples.”

“Discrepancies? They should all be the same. Ectoplasm is just…one structure mostly. At least it is in its inert state. It’ll change once it’s been energized but once that energy is released it goes back to the default state.”

“Yes that’s mostly what I found as well.” Bruce said, the kid seemed all about pretending not to be good at science up until the actual science came up. “And I understand that a ghost’s energy can leave a unique imprint on ectoplasm for weeks after coming into contact with it.”

“Most ghosts don’t leave a trace for longer than a week.” Danny said. “If you’re looking at samples that are older than a week then they should all look the same.”

“Well one sample I have isn’t following that pattern.” Bruce said. “It’s the one I got from Phantom.”

The boy stiffened a little and Bruce knew without a doubt that he was right. It was fantastic and impossible and strange. There was truth here and Bruce was going to figure it out.

“His ectoplasm looks exactly like human DNA.” Bruce said. “And it still does. It’s been weeks and it hasn’t degraded at all like the rest of the ectoplasm. In fact its degrading in a pattern eerily similar to DNA.”

“Bruce…”

“And it’s just gotten me thinking. Phantom’s whole biology is so different from any other ghost you’ve described to me too.”

“Bruce.”

“And I can’t help notice how human Phantom looks. Most of the ghosts we fought and seen images of are humanoid, only a few can completely pass as human but even they have off putting features. Phantom is totally in a class on his own.”

“Bruce!” Danny yelled. “Just ask your question!”

“I think you know what my question is.”

Danny seemed to cave into himself. He slouched onto the table top, letting his cheek rest on the glass.

“What gave it away?”

“I’m not even sure what it, is.” Bruce admitted. “Are you…I mean obviously you and Phantom are connected. But are you…”

Dead?”

“Yes.”

“Sometimes.” Danny said. “I was in a lab accident, in my parents’ lab, about three years ago. I won’t go into details, but I came out of it with an alter ego. I have the ability to become a ghost, to die, and then revive myself again. Right now, I’m alive, well mostly.”

“So you and Phantom are the same person.”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.” Bruce said. “You…you look exactly the same! It’s just a different hair color and a new outfit!”

“My eyes change color too!”

“Oh, like that makes such a huge difference! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Why would I tell anyone? It’s a secret identity for a reason Bruce! My parents didn’t even know until the invasion! Besides Tony figured it out.”

“Of course, he did.”

“I can’t honestly tell if you’re mad right now or not.”

“Trust me, you’d know if I was mad.”

“You know what I mean.”

Bruce looked at the teen, his body was taut and Bruce knew if he wasn’t careful the kid would blast out of there and never be seen again. Bruce felt a welling of sympathy and he put aside his frustration for not seeing the truth sooner. For someone’s sake, Phantom and Fenton were never even in the same room together!

“I’m not…Danny I get why you’d hide this. Trust me I do. And it explains why your sample was so weird. I promise not to tell anyone.” Danny instantly relaxed.

“Thanks Bruce.”

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Sure?”

“Is your identity part of the reason you won’t tell us about Plasmius?” And the tension was back in the kid’s frame.

“I can’t talk about this.”

“Just like you can’t write that paper?”

“What?”

“Danny no one writes their first academic paper on their own. They have to ask for help from other people. That’s the point. Dealing with these problems is about learning from other people.” Bruce said. “And no one should deal with someone like Plasmius on their own. We’re here to help you.”

The teen looked trapped even though there were three normal escape routes and who knew how many ghostly ones. Bruce had given him plenty of personal space, and was trying to look as calm and not judgmental at all.

“If I tell anyone, he’ll kill them. He will.”

“If we know the truth then we can defend ourselves. If we don’t know then he could attack us whenever and we wouldn’t be able to do anything. Knowledge is power Danny. You’re trying to write that paper to give other people that power.”

“Aren’t you supposed to leave the mentoring to Tony?”

“Tony isn’t getting through to you, neither is Steve although why either of them thought you’d spill the beans to him is beyond me.”

“Steve’s not the most subtle.” Danny agreed. “But it doesn’t matter. I have it handled, I don’t need help.”

“That’s what I said about five minutes before I had my own lab accident.”

“That’s hitting below the belt Bruce.”

“I’m not playing fair. You have information I need if I’m going to protect my friends.”

Danny folded his arms over his chest and his mouth twisted into an angry snarl. Bruce reflexively tapped down on his frustration. He hadn’t planned on having this conversation, the plan had been to ask about ghosts’ ability to control certain things like water or electricity. But now he’d discovered the truth that apparently Tony had been hinting heavily at everyone to figure out. And now it looked like he had a chance to solve the Plasmius mystery.

“I’m not going to tell you anything.” Danny began, voice still stubborn and frustrated/

“Danny…”

But.” Danny continued as if Bruce hadn’t interrupted. “If you were to happen to go talk to Tony, and maybe ask him about my parent’s lab, you might find out about what happened to me.”

“I know what happened to you, you-”

“And who knows, maybe you’d look into my parents history of research, see how long they’d been working on this ghost stuff, maybe where they went to college. You might even find out if they were in any clubs. There’s no way to say what you’d find. Maybe Tony might notice something, he’s always noticing things anyway.”

Bruce finally got it. He kept his tongue quiet as the boy closed his laptop and fit it underneath his armpit so that he could walk away.

“I can’t tell you anything about Vlad Plasmius. Just like I don’t know anything about Danny Phantom. Remember I’m just a dumb C student who can’t write a paper to save his life.”

“Right.” Bruce said. “About that paper. I’ve got some outlines I can send you, it’ll help you format it so that it’s easier to write. And if you’d like, I can read over your first draft, give you a few tips.”

“Really?”

“I’m a scientist, when I’m not hulking out, I’m quite good at it too.”

“I know that. Spiderman’ll sing your praises for hours if you let him. Your picture was in his high school.”

“What?”

“I know, weird right?”

“Well…I’ll send you that outline and let me know when you’re ready for me to look it over. We’ll get you through this.”

“Thanks. And…good luck Dr. Holmes.”

And then the teen literally disappeared into thin air, turning invisible in the same way Phantom always did. Bruce rolled his eyes and then spoke up.

“Friday, is Tony in his lab?”

“Sure is, Dr. Banner.”

“Tell him I’ve figured out Danny’s identity and that we need to talk, ASAP.”

“Boss said ‘Thank G-d, one of you guys isn’t a complete idiot, please come save me from my misery.’.”

“I’m on my way.”

When Bruce got to Tony’s lab, the excitable engineer was waiting for him, already babbling about his relief at no longer being the only avenger who’d figured out the truth. Bruce let his friend ramble for a few minutes, taking the time to settle down in his own seat and get some tea from the little coffee maker Tony had in his lab.

“Tony. Danny gave me a clue about Plasmius.”

“Wait what? Really?”

“He refuses to tell us, but I don’t think there isn’t any rule against us figuring it out on our own. He told me to ask about his parents’ lab and what happened to him in there, and then to research when his parents had started working on it.”

“Oh well, that’s the portal. His parents created a stable portal into the Ghost Zone. It’s their pride and joy, at least it was until they figured out that their son died inside of it when it first got turned on.” Tony said grimacing. Bruce grimaced too. He thought about the sort of energy that would go through a portal between parts of the universe and winced a little. He knew the math on that and he knew how much that must have hurt. The radiation alone… “Jack told me they first got the idea back in college.”

“Danny mentioned college! He said something about a club?”

“Hmmmm.” Tony said tapping his fingers against his arc reactor. “Hold up, let me send Jack a message. Guy texts like a beast, sends about three emojis for every word but he’s fast.”

Tony grabbed his phone and sent off a quick message to the man, sure enough within seconds they’d gotten a very excited message back that was filled with exclamation points and smiley faces. Jack and Maddie had been in a club in college. They’d formed the Ghost Hunter Club with themselves and their good friend Vlad. Vlad had helped with the original prototype of the portal. They’d stopped working on it after Vlad had gotten hurt and only started again over a decade later.

“Wait Vlad?” Bruce asked.

“Yeah.” Tony snorted. “Vlad Masters. He’s another billionaire, got all of his money in the last decade, came out of nowhere too. Guy gives me the creeps. Why Jack likes him I have no idea. Jack talks about him like he put the sun in the sky though.”

“No. No, Tony. Vlad.”

“Wait about him?”

“Vlad Masters.” Bruce said slowly. “Vlad Plasmius.”

Tony froze mid move. He was so still it was as if time had been frozen completely.

“Holy shit.”

 

Chapter Text

The problem, Danny thought as he looked at the various spears tipped in green light that were being pointed at him with a fair amount of menace, with being friends with a genius, was that they always had to invent things.

“I see the Dora Milaje have been treating you well.”

 See when Danny had asked Shuri not to make weapons using his ectoplasm, what he had meant was that she shouldn’t make anything that could be used to harm ghosts. What Shuri had heard was don’t tell anyone about his blood and also, don’t make weapons of mass destruction. Outfitting the Wakandan Army with ghost weapons? That was fine though.

“If by well you mean I’ve almost gotten stabbed five times then sure.”

“Only five? You all have been very gentle with him, haven’t you?”

Danny sent a glare at the King of Wakanda. He hadn’t really ever talked to T’Challa, why would he? Shuri had contacted Spiderman and him and they only went to her lab when she invited them there for some weird science shenanigans. All told, Danny had seen absolutely zero of the country of Wakanda and he was totally okay if it stayed that way.

Who knew how many ghost weapons Shuri had spread out to the public by this point?

“You wished to speak to the ghost boy while he was conscious my king.” One of the warriors said, putting her spear over her chest in a sign of respect Danny had seen the other Wakandan servants give Shuri over the years. “He was easy to subdue.”

Hey!” Danny whined. “Just because there are five of you and only one of me doesn’t mean I couldn’t have taken you if I wanted too.”

“If you could have fought us why didn’t you?” Another one of the women asked with a derisive sneer.

“Because I know Shuri made those spears and anything she made I definitely don’t want to mess with. I’m dead not stupid.”

Danny thought he could see one of the guards smile just a little at that. Most of them had excellent poker faces, something he hadn’t liked dealing with as they’d prodded him through the Wakandan palace like cattle. The spears, when used together, created a ghost shield that kept Danny from simply turning intangible and running away. Damn it Shuri that’s an awesome invention, why the hell was it being used against him?

“Put him in the containment shield.” The king ordered.

“Hey! Buddy! I think there’s been some sort of misunderstanding.” Danny said as the women used their spears to force Danny into yet another one of Shuri’s brilliant anti-ghost inventions. The containment unit was in the end a box of energy that formed around Danny the moment he stepped between two of the sensors, trapping him in a cube.

“There has been no misunderstanding.” T’Challa said. “And I suggest you speak to me with respect, I am a king.”

“You’re not my king.”

“Do you not realize I could have you locked up here for the rest of your existence?” T’Challa asked.

“No. I hadn’t realized that.” Danny snarked. “Because if you think this shield is going to keep me in here for longer than I want to be here then you’ve got another thing coming.”

The king glared at him and then ordered his guards to leave them. Danny floated in his tiny cube feeling only slightly claustrophobic. Not that he would show that to this guy. No way. T’Challa looked at him and smirked.

“I do hope you’ve enjoyed your time here in Wakanda.” T’Challa said. “We pride ourselves on our hospitality.”

“Hasn’t it only been like a year and a half since you opened your borders?” Danny asked, tilting his head.

“You have entered my country illegally.”

“Dude. I was invited. By your sister. Speaking of your sister, does she know you kidnapped me? Cause like I don’t think she’d be happy if she knew.”

“Foreigners are not allowed inside the royal palace without a direct invitation from the king. That is the law.”

“I’m dead. You guys got laws about dead people here?”

“And even now you show me disrespect!”

“You started it.” Danny said in a very whiny childish voice.

The King of Wakanda’s fists clenched and Danny remembered that the guy did have super strength. According to Spiderman, who had seen him fight, it wasn’t a joke either. Okay fine, maybe he could take this slightly more seriously.

“Look, your highness, I haven’t gone anywhere in your kingdom but Shuri’s lab. I haven’t taken anything that Shuri didn’t gift me freely. I honestly have no idea what you’re upset about.”

“That is exactly the problem! You think you can see my sister without permission?”

“Dude. Your sister is her own person. She can talk to whoever she wants. And she wants to talk to me.” Danny said, he reached into the pocket of his suit and pulled out his phone, the signal was unsurprisingly dead. He opened up the messenger app and tapped on Shuri’s messages. He flipped it around to show off the series of ridiculous memes that he and the girl genius had exchanged. “See?”

“Messages can be easily faked.”

“So that’s what this is going to be? I’m disappointed man.”

“Are you aware of why our father appointed Shuri to be my country’s lead scientist?”

“Because she’s awesome at what she does?” Danny asked. “Honestly this shield is something else. I’d be really stuck in here unless I got super desperate.”

“Shuri assures me that no ghost can escape our shields.”

“No normal ghost sure.” Danny agreed knocking on the shield as if it were made of glass. The shield zapped at him and he hissed and pulled his hand back. T’Challa smirked again.

“I have called you here to ask you one question. If you answer that to my satisfaction, then I will let you go. If you don’t…well I suppose you should just enjoy the view.”

“I’ve heard children give better threats dude.”

“Do you want me to ask the question?”

“I want you to let me go.” Danny corrected. “But sure I’m willing to play along.”

The King brought himself up right to Danny. He looked the floating ghost in the eye as if to see into his very undead soul. Danny wondered why his day had to be so weird. It had been normal when he’d gotten up. He’d had breakfast in the Tower as Fenton, then he’d gone through the zone to see Shuri, because the girl had invited him over for science time. He’d planned on going back to Amity to have a late lunch with Sam and Tucker after and maybe do something with his parents before going back to New York for the evening.

It was going to be a normal day.

Normal!

And now he was having a staring contest with the King of Wakanda!

While trapped in a ghost shield created by the smartest human alive.

(A part him pointed out that this was sort of normal for him, he ignored that.)

T’Challa continued to stare at him and Danny folded his arms over his chest. He considered what would happen if he used a wail right now. He focused on the energy shield and decided that was probably a bad idea. Who knows, this thing could be a sonic echo chamber. Knowing Shuri it probably was.

“What are your intentions with my sister?”

Wait what?

“What? Wait What?” Danny said blinking stupidly. “My intentions?”

“You are a young man, you’re trailing after the lab coat of my beautiful sister. It’s only natural that I ensure you have no untoward plans for her.”

What?”

“If you intend to try to date my sister then you will need to gain my permission.” T’Challa said.

“Seriously? You think I want to date Shuri?”

“Are you implying that my sister is undesirable?”

“Yes!” T’Challa growled. “Wait no! I mean she’s not desirable to me.”

“What does that mean? How dare you insult my sister like that! She’s far better than you!”

“I totally agree! She’s the best!”

“So you are attracted to her?”

“Gah! No!”

“Then what is it? Are you with someone else?”

“No! I’m not dating anyone! I’m a ghost, who would date a ghost?”

“Hopefully not my sister.”

“Hey. Hurtful.” T’Challa didn’t apologize. Danny groaned and the only reason he didn’t throw his head back dramatically in frustration was because he’d probably hit one of the walls and get shocked again. This was impossible. If Danny claimed they were just friends it was obvious T’Challa would never believe it. And Danny wasn’t going to fake a relationship either, that would just be bad. Which meant…

The truth.

“Look. I have a crush on someone else!” Danny said desperately. “Shuri’s great but I liked this person way before I met her, so there.”

And finally, the king relaxed a little. Thank Clockwork. Then before Danny could even physically sigh in relief the suspicion returned to the man’s eyes.

“How do I know you’re not lying?” He asked. “Tell me who it is you like.”

“Seriously?”

“I won’t let you out until you tell me.”

Well Danny wasn’t going to tell the truth! He’d die a second time before telling this dude about his…less than platonic feelings for Spiderman. No way. But what to do?

“His name’s Danny.”

“That’s your name.”

“No. Danny Fenton.” Danny said as his mind screamed in agony at how stupid this idea was. “He’s a guy from Amity, works as a ghost hunter. He’s…really cool.”

“WHAT?”

From behind one of the brightly patterned curtains in the room Shuri stepped into view, looking shocked and betrayed.

“Shuri?” Danny demanded. “You were here this whole time? Why?”

“To get you to admit your feelings! That way I could tell Spiderman and finish this! Even T’Challa agreed it was getting ridiculous. And now there’s this Fenton boy! I had no idea Spiderman had competition for your heart!”

“No! You can’t tell him!”

“I’m going to send him this recording right now!” Shuri lifted up her arm to activate the communication device in her bracelet.  

“NO!” Danny lifted a hand and focused all of his energy on the bracelet. His powers extended past the shield, invaded the bracelet, and broke it into 20 individual pieces.

“Hey!”

“That’s my personal information excuse me if I don’t want you blasting it to the world.”

“It’s just to Spiderman. He won’t tell anyone.”

“You’re not going to tell him.”

“I still have the recording. I’m going to send it to him once I get to my lab and you can’t stop me.”

“Do you honestly think I can’t get out of this stupid shield?” Danny demanded. “Have you forgotten that I can literally rip open a portal to another dimension whenever I want?”

It only took Shuri a moment to realize the flaw in her design, but she didn’t let that stop her.

“Race you!”

Danny screamed, out loud this time, and opened up the fastest portal he ever had. He shot through it and the last thing he heard was T’Challa wishing him goodbye and Shuri’s maniacal laughter. He had to get to New York ASAP, find Spiderman wherever he was in Queens, and get his phone before he saw whatever message Shuri was going to send. He wasn’t going to let Spiderman find out about the fake crush he just made up about himself.

This was impossible!

His first thought he had as he rushed through the Zone was to call Tony, beg the guy to take down communications in Queens for like 10 minutes so that Danny’s life could be saved. Of course, the man would ask why and Danny could just imagine that conversation.

“Oh you know Mr. Stark, T’Challa confronted me about my feelings and instead of admitting I have a crush on the coolest guy in the world who definitely wouldn’t want to date me because I’m literally half dead and admitting that I like him would destroy our friendship. So instead of telling the truth I lied and said I had a crush on my human half and they believed it and now Shuri is going to tell the guy I actually have a crush on that I have a crush on someone else and I do not need to explain to you why that’s a terrible idea.”

Yeah. That would go over swimmingly.

Danny flew faster through the Ghost Zone than he ever had before. Spiderman could not know about this fake crush. He couldn’t. Because even if Danny could never tell Spiderman his feelings, that’d be insane, he also didn’t want to lie about them. Part of him desperately hoped that maybe Spiderman would reveal that he had a crush on Danny. He knew it was crazy, impossible, but that’s what dreams were for right?

If Spiderman admitted that he had a crush on him, that it didn’t matter that he was a ghost, then Danny could freely reciprocate! Danny had learnt his lesson about dating people who couldn’t accept his ghostliness from Valerie, he knew better. He wouldn’t admit to anything unless Spiderman did it first. But Spiderman would never see him that way if he thought Danny was crushing on someone else! Damn it Shuri!

He got to the New York portion of the Zone in record time. (Literally, he’d time himself later and be extremely impressed with himself.) He wrenched open another portal and popped right outside Avengers Tower. Okay he had to get to Queens. Maybe Spidey was doing an afternoon patrol. Please let him be on patrol. He didn’t check his phone as often if he was patrolling, preferring to let Karen scan any messages he got and only alert him if something was urgent.

Hopefully Karen wouldn’t consider Shuri’s incriminating video an emergency.

He flew through the windy summer air as fast as he could. Oh Clockwork was he sweating? He didn’t even know he could sweat in this form! He had to find Spiderman now and then figure out if he could wash this suit or not in a washing machine to get rid of the sweat he was accumulating at a rapid rate. He dove straight towards the busy streets of Queens. He knew roughly where his friend liked to go for his patrols and so it was simple to go to each one of his favorite hot spots.

Danny told himself that it wasn’t weird that he’d memorized the 37 spots that were Spiderman’s favorite. It used to be 38 but that café had changed its hot chocolate recipe and it didn’t taste right anymore so Spiderman didn’t hang out there as much. It wasn’t bad that he knew that! Of course, it wasn’t! Spiderman knew where his haunt was in the Ghost Zone and his favorite spots in Amity. At least Danny had told him where those were. The guy probably didn’t even remember. It wasn’t like he felt the same as Danny anyway.

He zipped through the city, looking in alley ways and on comfortable roofs and on conveniently wide window sills.

Nothing.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

He kept looking, going from place to place, ignoring the crowds that were taking his picture and yelling at him to ask where he was going. He didn’t have time to pander to the crowds, not when his heart was on the line! He went to group of apartment buildings that he knew Spidey spent a lot of time around, not to patrol, but to chill.

Oh, Clockwork what if he was in his civilian identity?

No. Don’t even think that! He’d be patrolling, he had to be patrolling. If he wasn’t patrolling then Danny was going to go back in time and stop Spiderman from seeing that message himself, even if Clockwork wouldn’t approve of it. This was that serious of a situation! He went down to the buildings and started flying around, calling out for Spiderman hoping to draw him out from wherever he was hiding.

“Well, well, well.” said an unfamiliar voice from right behind Danny. “And here I thought I was going to have to track you down.”

“Wha-” Danny turned only to see the unfortunately far too familiar business end of a Fenton Thermos right before it activated.

Shit.  

Being inside a Fenton Thermos was never a pleasant experience if you were a half ghost. By design you had more mass than any decent ghost could even imagine and all that extra material made already tight spaces even tighter. This was of course made so much worse when your mass was covered in fear sweat. Something Danny would have liked to have lived his afterlife never knowing.

He banged around as best he could despite the force pushing him into a microscopic size in every conceivable direction. He yelled as loudly as he could begging to be let go. Any other time and he’d be happy to be kidnapped but he was in the middle of an emergency. The woman who’d taken him just told him to be quiet and that if he behaved she’d let him go soon enough.

Was he cursed? He had to be cursed!

“Please lady! Please let me go! Where did you even get a thermos?”

“Just give me a minute! I wasn’t expecting you to come by the house! I have to prepare!”

“Prepare what? The torture equipment?”

“Torture? No! I’m just going to ask you some questions! I’ve been trying to set up a meeting with you for some time now.”

“Who are you?”

“That’s not important.”

“In what world is the identity of my kidnapper, the second one today mind you, not important?”

“The second? Kid do you always get into this much trouble?”

“If people like you wouldn’t kidnap me for no reason then I wouldn’t!”

“I have a reason, Phantom!”

Danny groaned and tried to wiggle out of the thermos again. If he had hoped that his sweat would help ease the way out of the thermos then he would have been severely disappointed. He refused to admit that he’d been in the thermos for too long and that even if Shuri had crawled down the halls of the palace instead of walking at a sedate pace she would have already sent that message to Spiderman. That wasn’t what was happening. It wasn’t. Spiderman had lost his phone and Danny would find it for him and everything would be perfect.

He’d figure out how to hack into Wakandan tech on his own and destroy that footage. Then he’d get revenge on Shuri and T’Challa both. He’d remind them that he was a ghost and that ghosts weren’t to be messed with. He would haunt them so hard.

“Okay!” The woman said, her voice only slightly muffled through the thermos. “Now I’m going to let you out into this trap I’ve made. I’m using a bunch of ghost hunting equipment so if you use your powers they’ll activate and you’ll get hurt. So just behave!”

“Really Lady? I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“Well I have work in about an hour so I’ll make it quick.”

And then Danny slid out of the thermos, which felt like he was being blasted out of a tube of toothpaste. He landed with a thud and heard the whining whir of multiple ghost weapons activating all at once to the presence of his ectoplasm. Danny immediately pulled in his energy, which was sort of like sucking in one’s gut except you were doing it with your back too for whatever reason. The lady had really done the job well, much better than Shuri had. It was far more low tech and smacked of inexperience but it was still going to keep Danny here unless he wanted to get shot by five different ghost weapons.

Speaking of…he glanced around the room he was in. It looked like a living room. A tiny apartment living room that had an old couch and a TV on a stand. Messy but livable. He finally spotted the woman only to see that she was wearing a mask.

A Spiderman mask.

In fact, Danny knew that mask anywhere because it was the same one his friend wore.

“What did you do to him?” Danny snarled. “I swear if you’ve hurt him then I’ll-”

“I’m just borrowing it. I know he hasn’t told you his identity and seeing my face would be too big of a clue.” The woman said lifting up both hands. She was wearing a nice beige and white dress beneath the full-on face mask and Danny abruptly realized where he was.

“Is this Spiderman’s house?”  

“That’s why I put you in the thermos. I didn’t want you knowing where he lived until he told you, but we need to talk. I’m…Spider-Aunt I guess?” She hazarded. At any other time Danny would have felt nothing but sympathy for the woman. After all he’d messed up big time when he’d been asked for his superhero name the first time. He could claim that he was trying to emulate Superman all he wanted but the truth was that he’d panicked when trying to come up with a hero name.

But he was racing against a very unforgiving clock right then.

“You’re his aunt? Spidey told me he lived with you after his uncle…” Danny trailed off when he remembered how that ended. “I’m sorry about that by the way. I know death can be hard.”

“Thank you.” She said. “Spiderman and I only have each other now and I’ve seen a lot of changes in him since he started spending time with you. Good changes! He’s almost like he was before…all of that now. The same carefree boy that I love.”

“If things are so good then why did you kidnap me?”

“I just want to ask you something. Spiderman refused to let me talk to you, claimed I’d ruin his secret identity. As if.”

Danny didn’t point out that he was currently sitting in Spiderman’s house and that he now knew exactly which neighborhood his friend lived in as well as the décor of his apartment. If he was really determined, he could find this place again with an afternoon of searching. And now that he knew what his aunt sounded like it would be even easier to lay in wait, invisible, for Spiderman to unmask himself.

He didn’t think that would get him anywhere.

“Okay fine. Please make it quick because I have…ghost things to do.” Danny said.

“I just want to know.” She said. “What your intentions are with my nephew.”

Seriously?

Danny felt like he could cry. He might actually start crying. Before he could either decide to burst into tears or take his chances against the weapons the woman had set up his phone’s ringtone went off. He reached into his pocket and removed his phone again to see it was from Spiderman. He winced as he opened it up.

Hey, Danny! I just got a video message from Shuri about your crush. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed dude. Fenton’s actually in New York right now, maybe I could help you talk to him?

And just like that, any hope Danny had allowed himself to grow withered. Of course, Spiderman would be excited about his crush. They were only friends. Nothing more.

“Ma’am.” Danny said his voice full of defeat. “I promise you that I’m not going to date your nephew. I’ve got a crush on someone else.”

“You do?” She said in disbelief. “But I could have sworn…”

“He’s from Amity and he doesn’t like the spotlight. That’s why you’ve never heard of him.” Danny explained. “I…just really want to be Spiderman’s friend, more than anything.”

“Well…in that case, I guess my whole speech about giving you my blessing isn’t really necessary is it?” She said and Danny barely kept himself from flinching. “Alright. I’ll put you back into the thermos and take you away from the house so that you can get back to what you were doing without getting hurt. I hope you won’t mention this to Spiderman, I don’t want him to know that I went behind his back.”

“Trust me. I won’t tell a soul.”

Chapter Text

It was time.

He wouldn’t be inconvenienced or ignored any longer.

He would not be denied that which was his right.  

20 years he’d stewed in agony and pain. Two full decades of rage to power him through to the murder of the man who’d killed him through sheer stupidity. Everything had been perfected over years of planning. He’d known exactly what to do and how to do it. Jack’s life would be ruined, and Maddie would come to him with open arms, the man she should have loved all along. Jack’s children would be sent off to a boarding school where he didn’t have to think about them, and his life could finally be the way it was always meant to be.

But no. In the first in a long line of failures, Danny Phantom appeared to ruin his plans.

Oh, at first Vlad had been pleased by this teenaged wrinkle in his life. He could see the burden already on the boy’s shoulders. The trauma he hid behind sarcastic quips and thin smiles. The boy knew exactly what Vlad was and he understood. No one else in all of creation understood, no one ever could. But that boy…

Well sometimes plans change for the better, don’t they?

At least that was what Vlad had thought at the time. Except, every time he interacted with the boy, to show him the truth, to remind him that it was his father’s invention that had killed him, that had made him into this, the boy fought him. He tried to show him that Vlad understood, that they could rule the world together. But that damnable boy…

Time after time he’d flaunted Vlad’s threats and derided Vlad’s warnings. And to add insult to injury, now he was prancing around like a ghostly show pony for the Avengers. Those stupid internet videos and that mentorship with Tony Stark. The utter gall of it all to be upstaged by a hero wannabe who gave up control of his company to a woman. No. Vlad wasn’t going to allow it any longer.

He would have Phantom under his control, or he would bathe New York in blood.

He’d probably bathe it in just a little blood anyway just to cement his point. You can’t have an Eggs Benedict without cracking a few shells after all.

His plan had been born the moment Daniel had stood up to him in that meeting with Stark, had made it clear that the boy was willing to fight him on it, to use his head to protect those idiotic heroes. Daniel had chosen them, and he had chosen wrong. And oh the boy would pay for that.

And Vlad was going to start with Tony Stark and Spiderman.

He smirked from his place in his lab. Surrounding him were the very tools he would use to bring about the destruction of the Avengers and shackle Daniel to him for eternity. Everything had been built by him by hand in his lab, he knew each piece of his plan better than anything and he knew none of them would fail. He closed his eyes and let the painful trickling transformation pass over him.

“Now.” He said his voice echoing. “Let’s begin.”

He began to split himself, not into duplicates but into shades. Dark shadow like creatures that shared his shape and some of his powers. Weaker than a fully fledged duplication, but they would do his bidding and he could create a near unlimited number of them as compared to duplicates. And what he needed was numbers, not brute force. First there was one, then two, then four, then eight, then sixteen, then thirty-two, then sixty-four, then one hundred and twenty-eight, then two hundred and fifty six, and then…

Well you get the idea.

The swarms of vampiric black shades swelled in the room, quickly becoming innumerable. The hissed and snarled at each other as Vlad created more and more of them, ordering them to split themselves as far as they could go. Every bit of open space in his large lab was taken up by shades, pushing and shoving against each other, fighting for room, a rapidly disappearing commodity.

When the room was at capacity and Vlad could hardly breathe for all the shades, he’d produced he stopped. He mentally sent out the commands, the shades were a part of him, they knew what he wanted them to do. When they didn’t move, he snarled.

“Go if you know what’s good for you.”

And then like a murder of crows bursting out from a tree, the shades fled from him and right towards New York. Vlad himself left the lab at a more sedate pace after ensuring all of the devices had been taken. He whistled as he strolled through the secret entrance of his lab and into the library. A bright merry tune echoing down the stone hallways of the castle walls. He clasped his hands behind his back as he strolled, feeling quite pleased with himself.

His ghost sense went off and he groaned.

“Ah Hello there!” The Dairy King said floating through the walls. The fat ghost in the royal red robe looked only slightly perturbed. “A fine day for a fly ain’t it?”

“Leopold.” Vlad glowered. “I thought I told you to get out of my house.”

“Was my house first sonny.” The ghost said waving his cheese staff at Vlad. “And we share just fine now, least we would if you didn’t send those shades o’ yours into my attic! You need to respect my space, doncha know? What were you even trying to do?”

“That is none of your business.” Vlad said before smirking. “But perhaps you should go back up to your attic, you after all want to be left alone and I promise you, there will be a new guest in the castle by the end of the day.”

“Oh really? And who might that be, a new kitten then?”

Vlad snarled and jumped forward, slamming the ghost against the stone wall.

“Do not test me. I’ve let you scrounge around here as a cover for any of my own doings but if you step out of line, I will have you melted down and used in batteries. Do you understand me?”

“O’ Course! Never better!”

Vlad let him go and then readjusted his white suit.

“Good. Now, I’ve a job in New York to do and some humans to intimidate.”

“Right.”

“Be a good ghost and do as you’re told.”

Vlad didn’t listen to the oaf’s reply. He continued his exit from the castle, whistling all the while. When he finally got to the front doors, he cricked his neck and checked with the strained mental connection he had with his innumerable shades. They’d gotten to New York faster than expected which pleased him. He looked at the sun rising over the farms before him and smirked.

After five minutes of watching the sun complete it’s ascent, Vlad knew it was time. It wouldn’t do to delay anything, not now when he was so close to his goal.

“Show time.”

He grabbed his black cloak and pulled in on his power, clouds of pink swirled around him, and he pushed his form 700 miles to the east. He appeared right in the center of Manhattan. The familiar New York City Skyline in front of him and beneath him was Time’s Square. Of course, he could see Avengers Tower gleaming in the distance. Good, it wouldn’t do for his pitiful enemies to have to travel very far.

Among the crowds of people going around in the morning traffic, Vlad could see three near shapeless black beings finishing up the final touches on the first stage.

“Begin.” Vlad said snapping his fingers. His powers flowed through him and down to the three shades, who each touched a part of the cube like machine. Immediately it turned on with a bang loud enough to be mistaken for a bomb going off. The crowds of humans screamed in fear and dropped to the ground.

But it wasn’t a bomb, no it was something far better.

Jack and Maddie Fenton had created a ghost shield. A portable power source that would create a sphere of energy that a ghost could not travel through. The shields varied in size from small enough to cover one person to large enough to protect a majority of Amity Park. They were useful enough as a defensive measure, but Vlad knew potential when he saw it. Why create a shield when you can create a weapon instead?

From his machine burst out a violently red colored ring of energy. It spread out from the epicenter of the explosion, traveling at the speed of sound in every direction possible. Any ghost who was touched by Vlad’s shield was violently ejected away from it, if they were spirits who were tied to a location then they were sent into spasms of pain so terrible that they were catatonic. Any ghost who attempted to touch the shield would be given the same treatment.

And halfas?

Well if a halfa in his human form used his powers he’d be given quite the nasty surprise.

Only Vlad was immune, the energy of the shield passing over him like it was a harmless breeze. Just as he’d designed. He smirked as the shield extended far in multiple directions, powered and directed by the other machines he’d had his shades place strategically throughout Manhattan. Within tens of seconds the entirety of Manhattan was covered by his weapon. No ghost could enter, and one halfa would be unable to fight.

Vlad began to lower himself to the ground amidst the clamor and terror as everyone who’d been close to the blast zone looked for damage and called for emergency services. He landed right next to a man in a suit who’d been using his body and briefcase to cover the body of a young child and whom Vlad assumed to be their mother.

“What the fuck are you?” The man demanded.

“You don’t need to worry about that. In fact, I think you’ll find that you won’t have to worry about anything at all.”

“What are you-”

The shades that had hidden themselves in alleys and beneath the concrete and asphalt, burst into existence flying into every living person they could find. Shades phased through buildings and skyscrapers, scrounging for every single living human they could sense. Children, the elderly, men and women, no one was immune. Screams were cut off painfully quick as Vlad possessed more than a million people simultaneously.

He smirked as the humans in the town square stood there, stiff and awkward, his shades wearing their bodies like ill-fitting coats. Limbs too stiff, eyes too flat, and necks bent at angles far too awkward.

“Now. How about we all form some orderly groups, I’d like the children up front here, best to use something small and cute for this next step. Hurry up, I imagine the Avengers are going to be here quite soon.”

The crowds shuffled around, zombie like and stupid. Children, small and vulnerable, neared him and he spotted a tiny girl in a pink dress that would do perfectly. Vlad smirked as a few of the adults began setting up for the next phase of his glorious plan. He had almost complete control of Manhattan, and the world needed to know after all. More specifically Daniel needed to know what his new situation was going to be.

Just as things were setting up Vlad sensed an attack. He immediately formed a translucent shield that stopped the arrows and blasts from the Iron Man suit that had been fired at him. He turned slowly to see the Avengers converging on him, and oh look, the gods were here too. He lifted up one dark eyebrow.

“Plasmius!” Tony Stark yelled. “Take down this shield and release the people you’ve possessed!”

“Why should I?”

“Because if you don’t, we’ll make you.” Captain America said. “You can’t fight all of us.”

Vlad was quite certain that he could. He had 23 years of experience as a halfa and he was far more powerful than anything these heroes had ever come up against. But Vlad had no intention of killing them, at least not yet.

“Ah. Ah. Ah.” He said, as if he were a teacher about to correct them. “But if you attack me, what will I do with all 1.8 million of my hostages?”

“What are you talking about?” Thor demanded.

“Perhaps a practical demonstration is in order?” Vlad asked before pointing at the cute young child with tight curls. “Kill yourself.”

Without hesitation the shade controlling the child forced the child’s hand up to her throat and began to squeeze. From the child’s mouth came a squeak of air and the child’s lips began to turn slightly blue.

“Stop it.” Thor said. “Before I send my hammer through your chest.”

“Oh. How frightening a thing for a ghost, how ever will I function without a chest?”

The blue in the child’s face was spreading out further.

“What do you want?” The Captain demanded. Good, someone knew how to play.

“Put down your weapons or the child dies.” Vlad said. “And then I’ll kill, another and another and another. I can kill the entire population of this city with a snap of my fingers. Then I can move to the next city and the city after that. How many people do you think I could kill in an hour, a day? If you don’t put your weapons down right now, then you’ll find out.”

 The child’s body began to sway due to lack of oxygen, just as the girl was going to collapse, the good Captain dropped his shield. The other Avengers followed suit and Vlad smirked.

“Good. Stop dying now.” The controlled body immediately stopped choking itself. “Now, I’m so glad you’re all willing to play along.”

“What are you after?” Tony Stark demanded.

“What belongs to me.”

Vlad forced the Avengers into specially made cages. It had taken a few deals and far more threats to get a cage that would contain Loki’s magic and Thor’s thunder. Not to mention Captain America’s strength and the Hulk. But it was so worth it to see them in such a humiliating position. He stared down at them, his red eyes shining with contented malice as they were locked inside and trapped. Who knew when Vlad would let them out?

He walked in front of the cages.

“I warned you.” Vlad told them. “I told you to leave the boy alone or face the consequences.”

“You don’t own Danny.” Stark snarled.

“Daniel is mine and mine alone. No one else can understand his unique…position in the world.”

“I know what you are Masters.”

That actually gave Vlad pause, but just for a moment. He turned to see that the Avengers, at least most of them looked incredibly confused. So, the boy hadn’t spilled his guts then, just a nosey genius over thinking things.

“Does the little genius want a cookie?” He asked, nearing the cage that held Stark within its confines. “Or perhaps a pat on the head? Whatever reward I’ll give you for figuring me out I’m sure it’s more than you ever got from your father.”

Stark snarled and slammed his hands against the bars of his cage.

“I’ll ruin you for this Masters.”

“No. No you won’t.” Vlad smirked. “Tell me, Stark. How much of the truth have you discovered? That I was murdered by the same man that killed Daniel, 23 years ago? That one man’s idiocy condemned both of us to an afterlife of deformity, of isolation? Do you even know what your little pet ghost is?”

“He’s a kid. A good kid.” Stark said. “Nothing else matters.”

“He’s a liar and he’s no better than me, he just hasn’t realized it yet.”

“You’re wrong.” Thor growled. “Danny is noble and kind. He is worthy of…”

“He’s WEAK!” Vlad roared. “Wasting his potential for silly videos and fighting for the greater good, pretending to be a hero to a people who will turn on him in a second if given the opportunity. The stupid boy needs to learn that there are consequences for his actions. And here’s the first one. The boy’s been lying to you from the beginning, conning you into believing him to be an innocent pitiable ghost. He’s deceived you, kept important information that could have stopped me if he’d shared.”

“You’re lying.” The Captain said.

“No.” Vlad said letting the black rings of his transformation pass over him. “I’m not.”

He stared down at the heroes looking entirely human and harmless.

“Vlad Masters.” He said in a sing song voice. “Vlad Plasmius.”

It didn’t immediately click so Vlad continued beating the truth over their heads like it was a bat.

“Danny Fenton. Danny Phantom.” And then finally realization washed over their faces. “Oh good. Very good. Finally you see. The boy’s lied to you from the beginning. That’s all he ever does. He’s concocted 2000 years of lies about himself and he’s only been dead three. He lies and cheats and steals for his own gain, he just won’t admit it.”

“No.”

“Oh yes. Just think to yourselves. What else has he lied to you about? How much about ghosts has he misinformed you of? And all of it led to this, unprepared in the face of a real threat.”

They were silent and Vlad smirked, he let the transformation pass over him again. Mentally he ordered some of the shades to begin setting up his camera. It was time to get the word out, after all. He’d defeated the Avengers and taken control of a million people in less than ten minutes. That had to be some sort of record.

“You won’t get away with this.” Loki warned, his voice smooth and dangerous.

“Oh but I will.” Vlad said. “And you all are going to ensure it.”

“We’ll never help you.”

“You already have. All I’m missing is one irritating spider and I’ll have all I need to take Daniel for my own.”

“What are you going to do?” Stark asked.

“First. I’m going to use this lovely camera to announce to the world at large that I Plasmius, have taken control of Manhattan, and that if any government or individual tries to act against me I will kill every living being inside this place without hesitation. I don’t want any interference. But of course, I do expect two beings to try something. First that irritating Spiderman will come swinging in, expecting to save the day. He will be captured by the very people he’s sworn to protect and dragged here to be locked up. Daniel will of course follow shortly after, but the shield will short out his powers making him entirely useless. He’ll keep going anyway, because he’s a fool, and once he gets here… well he’ll see his heroes in cages and find himself in no position to bargain.”

Vlad smiled to himself as the camera was turned on and the humans, he’d possessed in various buildings began the process of connecting his stream to every source they possibly could.

“And then Daniel will be given a choice. Watch everyone die or give in and come with me. No one will rescue him, no one will care, not truly.” Vlad said before turning to look at the Avengers again. “And do you want to know the best part?”

It was very clear based on the rage in their faces that they didn’t. Vlad particularly enjoyed the green in Banner’s skin.

“Once he gives in and has been sent to his new home, I’m going to kill Spiderman anyway.” He said. “The boy hardly needs the distraction.”

Chapter Text

7 Days Before Vlad’s Invasion

Peter was laying face down on the floor of Ned’s room. He’d gone over to his best friend’s place with the intention of spending the day marathoning Star Wars movies, in preparation for the new one that was coming out in just about a month, and building a Lego Millennium Falcon. Less than an hour before Peter had settled into Ned’s room, manual open and ‘A New Hope’ playing on the screen. It had been awesome.

Things now felt decidedly less awesome.

“It’s not so bad Peter.” Ned tried, which only made Peter groan in despair.

“He likes someone else!”

“You don’t know that.”

“Video evidence Ned! I’m pretty sure I do!”

“Right.” Ned said. “At least you don’t have to worry about him not being able to have crushes on people anymore. Cause you know, he’s a ghost and you didn’t know if ghosts could feel stuff like that?”

“This is worse!” Peter groaned while flipping around so that he could yell his pain to the ceiling. He saw that Ned was looking at his phone still, a frown on his face. “If he can have a crush on someone that means…that means I’m just not good enough Ned.”

“Oh, dude that sucks.”

“Yeah.”

Peter felt like his world was falling apart. He’d thought after their stunt at Pride that there had been…something there. Why else would have Danny brought up the idea of them coming out together? That had to mean something right? Except no…it didn’t. Peter had just gone too deep into the shipping community online and had read way too much into the whole situation. He was thankful that with Karen’s help he’d been able to avoid anything explicit during those midnight deep dives. He didn’t need that sort of stuff in his head, not now and not ever apparently.

Not that he’d ever admit to having looked at all.

No one but Karen knew about that.

Hopefully Mr. Stark had stopped checking his search history.

“You know Fenton dude. Is he even gay?” Ned asked. “Cause he might not be. This crush could be totally unrequited.”

The agonized frown on his face lightened a little as he considered that. Fenton, the hottest teen scientist in the history of ever, was a little hard to get a read on. Peter had had more than a few lab sessions with the guy, both of them working on their own projects. Fenton was in New York on a job, helping the Avengers learn how to fight ghosts and use his parents’ tech. Peter had helped him a few times, mostly by providing an extra set of hands when needed. Peter normally went to the lab to work on his web fluid or any other invention he thought of.

His sessions with Fenton were…distracting because of that. He was constantly on edge, worrying that Fenton would notice what he was working on and become suspicious. Fenton was one of the biggest fans of Spiderman, outside of Flash Thompson, that Peter had ever met. What if Fenton figured him out like MJ had? But Fenton always seemed more focused on his own work, keeping his back to Peter when they weren’t working on their lightsabers together or helping each other.

It didn’t help that Fenton looked hot no matter what angle Peter had of him. Peter’s favorite look was him hunched over a table, on a stool, using a soldering iron. Fenton got such an intense look of concentration on his face and the glow from the tool made his face look…

Well either way Peter had always been more focused on not being caught staring or working on Spiderman stuff that he’d not gotten to know Fenton as well as he might have liked to. And Ned’s question had given him a bit of hope.

He didn’t know if Fenton was gay.

“Maybe that’s why Danny never talked about it.” Peter said. “If Fenton’s straight then it’s just like…sad and sort of embarrassing.”

“Yeah!” Ned said. “That’s great news!”

“It’s not great news Ned.” Peter whined. “That means one of my friends is heartbroken. What even happens to a ghost who gets like that? They take psychic damage.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Ned frowned. “So…if Fenton’s gay then he and Danny might start dating and Danny probably won’t spend much time with you anymore because he can fight ghosts better with a boyfriend who is an actual ghost hunter than he could you.”

“Ow.” Peter said while Ned continued his speech as if Peter hadn’t made that noise of pain.

“And if Fenton’s straight then Danny is going to get his heart broken and that emotional harm could cause actual long term damage to him, which could result in him withering away into nothing. Which means he still won’t be able to hang out with you.”

“Wow. Thanks Ned.”

“I’m just trying to see what the options are.”

“This is hopeless.”

“I guess you gotta hope that Fenton’s straight and that Danny can handle that. I don’t think there are any ghost therapists out there.”

“There’s one.” Peter said. “Her names Spectra and she feeds off of the pain of people. So she uses her skills for like…evil. Danny fought her a couple of times, she’s nuts.”

“Ghosts are awful.”

“Hey!”

“With apparently one exception.” Ned corrected. “So maybe Danny gets his heart broken but then you’re there to help him get better with ice cream or something. Then he’ll fall in love with you.”

“That only happens in the movies Ned.”

“Dude, you’re a literal superhero. I think we’re past the whole…realm of the reasonable outcome.”

Okay Ned had a point there. But still, that wasn’t a risk Peter was willing to make. He’d had some serious conversations with Danny in the past about what sort of harm emotional trauma could do to a ghost and that was the last thing he wanted for his friend. No. He had to be supportive, he had to hope that this would work out the best for Danny. There was no other good outcome, no matter what Ned said.

“I gotta get them together.”

“What?” Ned shouted. “But you…”

“Ned. I won’t let Danny get hurt from this. I gotta make sure Fenton is good for him, and that he knows to treat Danny like he deserves. Then once I’m sure Fenton won’t hurt him, I have to get them together. A broken heart could destroy Danny. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take.”

“But that’ll break your heart dude.”

“I can handle it. I handled it with Liz.” Peter said jutting his chin out a little to make himself feel a bit braver.

“This is different from Liz and you know it.”

“Are you going to help me or not? Danny’s your friend too.”

“I don’t like this.” Ned said in the tone that meant he was agreeing to help regardless.

“Thanks dude.”

“What are best friends for?”

 

5 Days Before Vlad’s Invasion

Peter readjusted his t-shirt as he walked towards the lab where he knew Fenton would be. He’d spent the entire day before preparing himself to meet with Fenton. He needed to get some reconnaissance on the guy. Figure out if he was gay and, more importantly, if he was a jerk. He told himself he was doing this to protect his friend, not because he was jealous or insecure. That was ridiculous.

There was nothing to be insecure about.

Absolutely nothing.

Oh, who was he kidding?

Peter sighed and walked into the lab. Fenton was sitting in his customary spot, laptop open and playing some sort of grunge music Peter had never heard of before. Peter snuck a glance at the playlist that was going.

Dumpty Humpty’s Greatest Hits

Was that what Danny liked? Was he into guys with goth and grunge music taste? Fenton certainly came off as a little bit of a goth even if he didn’t have the aesthetic to match. His dark sense of humor and interests took care of that for him. It would make a bit of sense if Danny was into goth guys. He was a ghost after all. Even if Danny himself wasn’t a goth, maybe he wanted to date someone who was into the creepy and crawly sort of stuff.

Peter wasn’t into that stuff at all. He was actually sort of scared of spiders despite everything. He still didn’t like killing them or other people hurting them, but he would still jump five feet in the air if one snuck up on him. Graveyards gave him the creeps and the only reason he didn’t freak out in the Ghost Zone was because he was with Danny and he trusted him to take care of him. Maybe Danny wanted to date someone who was fascinated with that sort of stuff.

“Hey Parker.” Fenton said, tapping on the space bar of his computer to stop the music. “Didn’t know you were coming by today.”

“Something came up and I’m free.” Peter lied, he’d actually cancelled plans he’d had with Danny to do this. A difficult decision but the correct one to make.

“Oh?” Fenton said, looking over at him. Fenton looked oddly disappointed. “Well I’m in sort of the same boat. I was supposed to be doing stuff in the city today but the guy who was going to show me around cancelled on me. So now I’m here getting some extra work done on Captain America’s weapons.”

A guy? Had this been a date or something? Peter perked forward a little.

“You were going out with someone?”

“Yeah just…a friend.” Fenton said shifting a little awkwardly. “I’m not going to be here much longer, and I wanted to do some tourist stuff before I went back to Amity. But doing that sort of thing by yourself isn’t as fun.”

This was perfect. Exactly what Peter had needed.

“Well I’ve lived in Queens my whole life. I could show you around? I mean if you want.”

“Seriously? We hardly know each other.”

“Anyone who makes a lightsaber as well as you do is in my good books.” Peter lied. “Come on. I’ll take you to Coney Island.”

“Alright but I’m paying.” Fenton said. “Stark pays me way too much for what I do here so I’ve got money to burn.”

“Can’t argue with that.” Peter said while internally wondering why he didn’t get paid for his internship. Granted Mr. Stark had given him a free multi-million dollar suit, and he also bought him stuff randomly. That probably evened everything out.

“Cool. Let me get my stuff.”

And so they left Avengers Tower together, talking to each other about normal teen things. They exchanged notes on how they dealt with their bullies. Fenton had the more 1980’s style of jock bully. A football player who got F’s on every exam and liked to stuff nerds into lockers. Peter had Flash, a nerd who wasn’t as big a nerd as Peter and had a dad with a lot of money.

“Why is it that all bullies have daddy issues?” Fenton asked as they walked towards the nearest subway entrance.

“The world may never know.”

Peter led the only slightly overwhelmed Fenton through the crowded subway, at multiple points they were forced to be pushed up tightly against each other and Peter insisted to himself that that wasn’t weird at all. No tension here, nope not at all. He took Fenton to a bunch of his favorite spots, maybe not the most traditional tourist destinations but they were as good as, if not better.

Throughout it all, Fenton joked and laughed and talked with him. Peter found himself slipping frequently, forgetting why he’d invited Fenton out in the first place. He was doing this for Danny. For his best superhero friend. He needed to make sure that Fenton was going to be a good boyfriend for Danny, that he was worthy of it. But it was just so easy to forget the point of the day when Fenton acted like he did. Fenton was nice. A terribly nice semi-goth. Who paid for everything wherever they stopped.

Just like a gentlemen would.

No. Peter. No. Do not think like that. You are here on a mission.

They had lunch together, which Fenton paid for, and ended up building a 3 foot tall structurally sound tower out of straws at their table. He and Ned had only ever managed to get up to 2 and half feet before. They took silly selfies in front of monuments and Danny unironically bought a ‘I survived my trip to New York shirt’. Peter couldn’t even be annoyed that it was the same shirt that Tony had bought him after the Ferry Incident because Fenton made it look good.

By the time they got to Coney Island Peter was beginning to suspect he was in trouble. It wasn’t until they were in the aquarium and Peter saw Fenton looking into one of the exhibits with awe, his face lit up blue and green, that he realized he was well and truly screwed.

 

4 Days Before Vlad’s Invasion:

Peter was once again laying face down on the floor. This time it was his own floor in his own bedroom. His door was shut and locked and he was playing music from his laptop.

My God, I'm so lonely

So I open the window

To hear sounds of people

To hear sounds of people

He was so stupid. He was the stupidest boy on the planet. Who did this to themselves? Who got a crush on one person, only for that person to have a crush on someone else and then, in the fit of ultimate idiocy, got a crush on that person too? He should just lay here for the rest of his life. He couldn’t be trusted with anything.

Venus, planet of love

Was destroyed by global warming

Did its people want too much too?

Did its people want too much?

Peter had definitely wanted too much. He’d wanted too much with Danny, the first superhero to want to be his friend and take him seriously. He’d gotten too comfortable with it. Assumed that Danny might feel the same way. He’d been wrong and now he was going to be raked over the coals for the rest of his life.

And I don't want your pity

I just want somebody near me

Guess I'm a coward

I just want to feel alright

And I know no one will save me

I just need someone to kiss

Give me one good honest kiss

And I'll be alright

Was one kiss too much to ask for? Peter could probably survive if he’d just had one chance at dating Danny. Just one chance. He’d never even gotten the chance to hold Danny’s hand or, touch the tip of Danny’s nose with his own. Not that he’d thought about that too much or anything. The music continued to play, and Peter didn’t move from his position. Not when his phone buzzed again, probably another message from Ned.

He couldn’t face that right now.

He was so stupid.

Nobody, Nobody, Nobody, Nobody, Nobody.

 

 

3 Days Before Vlad’s Invasion:

“So let me get this straight.” MJ said. “You found out that Danny has a crush on Fenton. He told you this himself.”

“I have video evidence of him admitting it.” Peter said. “And when I texted him about it, he didn’t deny it.”

“Okay fine. That’s enough for now.” She said. “And then you went to go figure out if Fenton would be a good boyfriend for Danny.”

Yes.”

“So you took Fenton on a date.”

“It wasn’t a date!”

“You went to the Aquarium together.”

“Okay so maybe it was an accidental date.” MJ smirked at him.

“And you found out that you also have a crush on Fenton.”

Peter groaned and let his face fall first into the pillow on his bed. This was humiliating.

“So now. You have a crush on two different guys, both named Danny, one of whom likes the other.”

“Yes MJ.” Peter said, talking through the pillow. He refused to look up and see whatever face MJ was making. He hadn’t even wanted to tell her what was happening. Ned had blabbed about it though after Peter hadn’t responded to any of his texts for a full sixteen hours. The traitor.

“This is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“If you’re going to laugh you can just leave.”

“I can’t believe I ever had a crush on you.”

“You what?” Peter demanded, lifted his head up to stare at MJ incredulously.

“I know. I know. Not my best moment.” She said, giving him a jokingly embarrassed look.

“I did too. I mean…before all of…”

“I figured.” She said, taking a seat on Peter’s bed near where his thighs were. “Once I saw that Billy Mays video on twitter I knew I missed my chance. I wasted a lot of time pretending I didn’t like you that someone swooped in and stole you before I got my shit together.”

Peter sat up and looked at MJ, his own fracturing heart forgotten in the face of a friend in pain. He looked at her, concern written in his features.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“I got over it.” She said shrugging. “Besides, it’s clear now I dodged a bullet. You’re way too stupid for me.”

That actually made Peter laugh, a snort escaped him and then a giggle when he looked at MJ’s face. Soon both of them were laughing, leaning against each other for support. Peter hugged his gut as he laughed, far too hard, about his situation. When the giggles finally died down MJ sighed and spoke again.

“Look. Peter, you can do what I did and do nothing. You’ll move on from this and there will be other people to like. I’ve already got my eye on this girl I met online.” MJ told him. “Or, you can do something now before it’s too late.”

“Do something?”

“Yeah. Pick a guy and confess your feelings.” She said. “Shoot your shot Parker.”

“Huh.” Peter said. “Shoot my shot.”

 

1 Day Before Vlad’s Invasion

“Mr. Stark?” Peter asked. “Can we…talk?”

 He was in his suit. He’d swung over to the Tower on a day he knew Danny was going to be in Amity. He didn’t want to risk his friend overhearing this conversation after all. He’d found Tony with the rest of the Avengers. Lately the team had been trying to build back trust in one another with team exercises. Exercises that were more like board games and less like trust falls. He had yet to be invited to any of these events thankfully. Mr. Stark knew that Peter still wasn’t the biggest Captain America fan after everything that went down in Germany.

This was the first time Peter had ever interrupted them.

“Sure kid, what’s up?” Mr. Stark said, from his position at the table. Peter was pretty sure the Avengers were playing DnD and that Bruce Banner was the DM. He didn’t know how to feel about that at all.

(Of course he did and that feeling was ‘Holy shit this is the coolest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life’.)

“Uhm.” He said shifting a little. “It’s sort of…personal?”

“Personal?” He asked. “Is there something wrong with your suit?”

“No. Nothing’s wrong with the suit! I swear.”

“You and you’re friend…what’s his name Ted? Ted hasn’t been messing with the programming, has he?”

“It’s Ned and no. He hasn’t touched it since the Toomes thing.”

“Right.” Tony said. “And this isn’t another Toomes thing is it? You can tell me if you’ve got a villain problem, that’s what I’m here for kid.”

“It’s not a villain Mr. Stark, it’s just-”

“I know we didn’t handle the Toomes thing well, but we learnt from that and I know better. You just tell me what happened, I can review what you saw with your suit and we’ll figure this out.” Tony continued as if Peter hadn’t even spoken. “Plus, I’ve got the team back and if anyone is giving you problems, we’ll get this squared away before any ferries are lasered in half.”

Peter tried to interrupt the man’s monologue three more times to explain that he had the villain fighting under control thank you very much, but Tony was rambling, rushing to assure Peter that he could handle this conversation better this time. Which Peter appreciated on some level, but this was hard enough as it was. The Avengers were watching the whole thing with varying levels of amusement which was making Peter’s cheeks even redder than they already were.

“How do I tell someone I like them?!!” Peter shouted as loudly as he could.

Tony made a noise that was very similar to a computer internally exploding or perhaps a car’s gears grinding together. He was frozen, mid-hand motion, staring at Peter in mounting horror. The other Avengers looked near tears, holding back laughter around the table.

“Uh…Mr. Stark?”

“I think you broke him.” Hawkeye said, gleefully. The man leaned forward and waved a hand in front of Tony. “Yep. He’s gone.”

“This was a mistake.” Peter whined.

“Why did you even ask him?” Bruce Banner asked.

“It’s not like I have anyone else to ask! Besides he got Miss Potts to date him and none of you guys are in relationships.” Peter pointed out. He was only thankful Loki and Thor were in Asgard and unable to tease him about this.

“I have no idea how I did that.” Tony said, his voice a bit too high pitched. “The Pepper thing. I think she just took mercy on me.”

Oh.”

“Kid, why would you even need my help?”

“The last time I tried to date someone I ended up standing her up on our date and getting her dad arrested.”

“Right.” Tony winced.

“Well.” Captain America said. “We might not be in relationships but maybe we can help? Come on kid, sit down.”

Peter tried to run, really he did. He hadn’t realized how dumb of an idea this was until the Black Widow cornered him and forced him to sit down at the table. All of the Avengers, sans Loki and Thor, were staring at him, looking far too amused to be trustworthy.

“Now. Who’s the lucky girl?” Hawkeye asked. “Anyone we know?”

Could someone attack New York please?

 

Five Minutes Before Vlad’s Invasion

Peter stood in front of a mirror. He was wearing his suit, but his mask was off. He switched between fixing his short hair, looking for any sign of a pimple, and practicing. Yesterday had been one of the most humiliating experiences of his life but at least he had some idea of what to say to Danny now.

And it was Danny. Fenton might have been hot, and funny, and nice. But Peter had liked Danny first. Danny had been his friend first. Danny understood the pressures of heroics while being a teenager in a way no one else in his life did. Besides, trying to make a move on Fenton while knowing Danny had a crush on him was not cool. So, Peter was going to confess his feelings, he was going to tell Danny Phantom that he thought he was the greatest guy and that he wanted to give dating a shot. Because Peter thought they could be good together.

He had this whole thing planned out in his head. He would leave it up to Danny, make it clear that he understood his chances were low but that he had to try anyway. And if Danny didn’t like him that was, that was okay. They were still friends and Peter would move on from his feelings without making a huge deal out of it. MJ had done it, Peter knew it was possible. If Danny did like him, then Peter was going to take off his mask and lay it all out there.

A good relationship was built on trust and Peter trusted Danny with both sides of him.

Which is why his hair had to be perfect.

“So. Danny.” Peter said. “I know I’ve been…sort of avoiding you for the past week. Sorry about that.”

He scowled. No, he shouldn’t start out by bringing that up. That was dumb.

“Hey Danno.”

Nope. Nopity, Nope.

“Danny! Long time no see! Get it, cause you turn invisible sometimes?”

What was he? 14?

“Danny, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Worse. So much worse.

“I accidently spouted poetry about you when I got kidnapped by that ghost elf!”

Okay, those words should have never been said out loud. Peter took in a deep calming breath and let his shoulders straighten up. Steve, Peter had been told to call Captain America Steve, had told him to be honest, to be straightforward. Clint had told him not to be too straightforward. Tony had warned him against poems. Bruce Banner had suggested compliments. Natasha had been the one to point out that he should be thinking about what he thought Danny would want to hear.

He could do this.

“Danny. You make me feel like I’m flying.” Peter said. “Even when I’m on the ground. It’s different than swinging around, you make me feel weightless. It’s not just the fact that you can make me fly, no it’s just…Being a hero is hard. And even with Mr. Stark and the others, no one has ever been my equal, no one has ever understood me before you. We have this connection that I just don’t want to lose.”

Okay. That was a good start. Peter swallowed and continued, still looking at himself in the mirror but pretending he was looking at Danny’s glowing face instead.

“I fly when I’m with you because everything about you makes me happy and light. I don’t know when it all started but all I know is that right now I’m crazy about you.” Peter said. “And if you…if you want, I think we could be great together. I don’t want to pressure you, I know that you like Fenton, I just had to tell you know so that you knew I was an option. Whatever you choose, I’ll support you. Because we’re friends first before we’re anything. Just…be gentle?”

Peter sighed and let his forehead fall forward until it touched the glass of his mirror. It had been perfect until the end. What was he even doing? It was madness confessing a crush to a person who was crushing on someone else! He never should have let MJ and Ned talk him into this! He should just give up now and not risk ruining his friendship forever.

No. No. This was his last chance! He had to do it! He had to!

He pulled back from the mirror and squared his shoulders again. Peter grabbed his mask and pulled it onto his head, making sure everything was in place. He had a plan and he was going to stick to it.

He just had to find Danny.

A gigantic terrifying shock ran down his spine and Peter shouted. Before he could recover he heard a huge explosion and then a blast of red light burst to life outside his window. He rushed over and he saw in the distance a huge dome of red energy over Manhattan. That couldn’t be good. His Spidey Sense was going wild.

“I have to find Danny.”

Chapter Text

“Attention. I am Plasmius and I have taken over New York and captured the Avengers. They are now locked in cages as you can see and unable to do a thing against me. I own this city and every living person within it.”

He laid there, Vlad’s words washing over him from his phone, face down on the ground. He knew what Vlad was going to say before he said it. He was, after all, listening to the message on loop.

“If anyone acts against me or any government works to oust me, I will kill every human within Manhattan with a snap of my fingers. Death will be instant and then I will move to the next borough and then the borough after that.”

He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even bring himself to breathe.

“I will kill millions. I will invade airports and nuclear facilities. Destruction will follow my every movement.”

Agony crashed through him like serrated knives digging into his very soul, the core of his being. He was breaking, falling apart with every word.

“I want no interference. Not from the living and certainly not from the dead. The shield of energy I have placed around the city will null the powers of any ghost but myself who passes through it. Any living being who passes through the shield will be brought under my thrall.”

It was too much. All of it was too much. Millions of lives on the line and he couldn’t do anything. He was weak. He was worthless. He should have known Vlad would do this. He should have been more open with the Avengers. He should have taken Vlad out before this. He should have done something more than act like some dumb kid.

But it was too late. And now the world was ending.

“I only want one thing.” Plasmius said. “I want Phantom to give himself up.”

This was it. His world was ending. No matter what he did it would end in destruction. He curled into a ball trying to stop the pain from leaking out of him. Every part of him felt weak and disconnected.

“Daniel. The time for games is over. You will join me, be my son as you should have been, and you will never attempt to leave me.” Plasmius said. “Come now and I might just let your precious Avengers live to see another day. Make me wait and we’ll see what sort of dances a spider can do before it disintegrates.”

A fresh wave of paralyzing pain. A sob stabbed its way out of him and into the earth beneath his face, a choked painful thing that brought tears to his eyes. He rocked back trying to deny the threat, what his future was about to become. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t. If he ran then the Avengers would die and Spiderman would die and then millions of people would die. If he went he’d…he’d kill the world himself.

“Attention. I am Plasmius and I have taken over New York and captured the Avengers. They are now locked in cages as you can see and unable to do a thing against me. I own this city and every living person within it.”

The message played again. Danny laid there, trying to block it out but unable to truly ignore the horror of it all. The dreadful savagery pushed down at him from every angle and he felt like he was going to explode and fall apart at the same time. There was nothing he could do. Nothing he could say. The world was going to end and the people he loved were going to be the first to go.

He only hoped he’d trained the Avengers well enough that they’d kill him when he was still weak enough to die.

“If anyone acts against me or any government works to oust me, I will kill every human within Manhattan with a snap of my fingers. Death will be instant and then I will move to the next borough and then the borough after that.”

And who would act against Vlad? Who even could stand up to him? No one. Not when he had over a million human shields at his disposal. Danny couldn’t even bring himself to contemplate fighting Vlad. The barbarity of the idea, it would be an atrocity to see, all those civilians he’d have to hurt. No government would stand up, no hero could. He had already captured most of them.

“I will kill millions. I will invade airports and nuclear facilities. Destruction will follow my every movement.”

Another aching sob rushed through him. Another ghastly panged thing that hurt his throat as it escaped. So many lives, so many people. Everything in his core begged him to go and do whatever he could to protect them. He had to protect. That was what he was made for. In the back of his mind he remembered the screams of his friends as he died, the explosion of electricity and energy that had wiped out all conscious thought.

All thought but one.

My friends are in trouble.

He hadn’t known then that they’d been screaming for him. He’d thought the portal was exploding, destroying the lab, and that his friends had been in danger, that they were dying. After all they weren’t wearing a safety suit.

“I want no interference. Not from the living and certainly not from the dead. The shield of energy I have placed around the city will null the powers of any ghost but myself who passes through it. Any living being who passes through the shield will be brought under my thrall.”

And that was his darkest secret. These powers shackled him to a never-ending aching desire. His last living thought had been of Sam and Tucker, fear for them, trying and failing to protect them from the explosion that had only killed him in the end. His first ghost fight had been prompted when Sam had almost been suffocated by meat.

Protect. Protect. Protect.

Every time he used his powers the urge grew and grew and grew. First his friends, then his family, then his school, then his neighborhood, then his city, then New York and then and then and then and then.

It was all so much. It raged within him, screaming and howling out for him to move. To act. But how could he act knowing that going to Vlad would condemn the world he so wanted to protect?

“I only want one thing.” Plasmius said. “I want Phantom to give himself up.”

It would be so easy to save New York. To save the world. All he had to do was walk into New York, it wasn’t far, and give himself up. The ghost in him, the dead monstrous thing he spent so long trying to control clawed for release. It had to protect. It had to save. It was mindless, all that mattered was protecting the world. That’s all that mattered. That’s all that had ever mattered. From the moment that ghost had burst into existence that had been its mission.

“Daniel. The time for games is over. You will join me, be my son as you should have been, and you will never attempt to leave me.” Plasmius said. “Come now and I might just let your precious Avengers live to see another day. Make me wait and we’ll see what sort of dances a spider can do before it disintegrates.”

The human in him recoiled and punched and fought and wailed against the idea, against the ghost within. They knew the consequences of giving in. It would mean Dan. There would be no Clockwork to save him. There would be nothing to stop the world from being decimated by him. Not just one world but two. The Asgardians wouldn’t be spared and Danny would be there to tear each and every refugee apart, limb by limb. Twisted beyond sanity from the loss of those he loved.

No. No. No.

“Attention. I am Plasmius and I have taken over New York and captured the Avengers. They are now locked in cages as you can see and unable to do a thing against me. I own this city and every living person within it.”

He was being torn in two. Pain ripped through him, shredding everything he’d ever been until nothing was left but jagged pieces. Everything hurt. There was no end to this torment, this anguish. Vlad had won.

The world had lost.

“If anyone acts against me or any government works to oust me, I will kill every human within Manhattan with a snap of my fingers. Death will be instant and then I will move to the next borough and then the borough after that.”

Slowly Danny pushed himself up using human hands. Hands that were covered in red marks and gashes. He’d been flying towards New York when the message had first come through and he’d fallen in his shock, landing on a deserted road. Chunks and pebbles of asphalt and grit had dug their way into his skin. In a way that pain was better than the misery of his soul.

“I will kill millions. I will invade airports and nuclear facilities. Destruction will follow my every movement.”

His knees wouldn’t stop knocking together. His feet didn’t want to hold his weight. He picked up his phone, nearly dropping it with his trembling hands. The world tilted sharply, and he stumbled forward, nearly collapsing again.

“I want no interference. Not from the living and certainly not from the dead. The shield of energy I have placed around the city will null the powers of any ghost but myself who passes through it. Any living being who passes through the shield will be brought under my thrall.”

This was it. He had no choice. He couldn’t let Vlad kill those people. He just had to trust that the Avengers would kill him.

Please let them kill him.

Please.

That’s all he wanted, for this agony to stop.

He couldn’t go on half alive and half dead.

He needed to be erased.

“I only want one thing.” Plasmius said. “I want Phantom to give himself up.”

This was why he’d told the Avengers as much as he had. Helping them learn to use the ghost weapons, understanding ectoplasm. Giving Loki that book of ghost magic. All of it was so he could be destroyed, wiped out of existence if it came to it.

He would not destroy the world.

He would die first.

“Daniel. The time for games is over. You will join me, be my son as you should have been, and you will never attempt to leave me.” Plasmius said. “Come now and I might just let your precious Avengers live to see another day. Make me wait and we’ll see what sort of dances a spider can do before it disintegrates.”

Danny’s hand clenched so hard it snapped his phone in half. The two pieces fell to the ground and left Danny alone, with nothing but silence to keep him company. He felt strangely disconnected from his body, nothing mattered. Not anymore. He straightened his back, ignoring the bruises forming along his spine.

“I’m coming Vlad. No more games.”

The transformation from human to ghost passed over him without any pain. It had hurt at first, the first few months after the accident. A painful tingling reminder of his death, of what had happened in his parents’ lab. But slowly the pain had receded until there was nothing left but a slight twinge. As a ghost the obsession was even stronger and he lurched into the air. He began to fly towards New York City.

Once he was high enough in the air, he could see the red dome of energy. It reminded him of one of his parents’ shields, but he knew it’d be much worse. Vlad was sadistic like that. He welcomed the pain that would come. If he was lucky the energy shield would weaken him so much that when the time came for the Avengers to fight him, it’d be easy for them. Maybe Tony or Shuri could study how Vlad made the shield and recreate it.

That’s what Danny would do.

For every foot and every mile that he flew towards the shield the less his ghost half clamored for relief. His human half agonized over every inch though. He didn’t want to die. The world was a beautiful wonderful place. And that was why he had too. He had to die. He didn’t just have to die, he’d already done that once and it didn’t take. He had to stop existing. He had to be nothing more than a smudge on concrete, words carved into marble that was all that should be left of him.

He flew carefully over the city of New York. He couldn’t help but do one last flight around the different sections of the city, looking over at the places he’d visited with Spiderman and…and bid a silent goodbye to the world he was protecting. It hurt as he entered Queens, it hurt both sides of him. The ghost that screamed they needed to find Spiderman and rescue him and the human that screamed they needed to warn Spiderman, protect him from themselves.

Because even if Spiderman didn’t love him. Danny adored him. Every single part of himself did. It was the same adoration that he had for his friends, for his sister, for his parents. But it had a new flavor, a new tint, that he would never get to explore. It paled in comparison to the crush he’d had on Valerie and it was nothing like the sort-of love he’d felt for Sam. It was new and wild and…and too much to look at all at once. Especially when he felt like this, spaced out on his obsession and hyper aware of danger.

His eyes blurred with tears and he violently rubbed at his face. No more delays. Vlad wouldn’t wait forever for him. He flew flow down to the ground, falling between the buildings in Queens. The streets were eerily empty. New Yorkers having gone into buildings and the subway system for cover. Danny passed by windows, seeing faces looking outside back at him. Worry and fear echoing between them.

Nothing but the pain felt real.

He neared the shield, he could feel the energy prickling his skin. Painful needle pricks of energy warning him what would happen when he crossed it. Slowly he let himself drop to the ground, one white boot after another. He landed right in front of the buzzing shield. On the other side he could see overshadowed humans, wandering about, but they paid him no mind. They probably wouldn’t notice him until he took that final step.

 Just one more step.

That was all he had to do.

One tiny step.

His lips trembled and he could feel tears pooling in his eyes. He screwed his face shut, took in a deep breath and lifted up one foot.

“DANNY!”

A body flung itself into Danny’s side sending him skidding along the road and away from the energy shield. The body, familiar in shape, wrapped itself around Danny tightly, a full body hug.

“Let me go.”

“No.”

 “Spidey. You have to let me go.” And there were tears in his voice, jagged and pained.

“You’re not going in there.”

“Don’t make me fight you.” Danny begged, his voice breaking in his desperation. “Please just let me give myself up.”

“I’m not going to let you go in there.” Spiderman insisted, hugging Danny tighter. Half of Danny wanted nothing more than to cling to his friend. To bury his face in his neck and forget about what was about to happen if only for a moment. But it wasn’t to be. Instead of clinging, Danny phased away. “No!”

Danny jumped up and rushed towards the shield. His boots skidded across the black and cracked asphalt as he lunged towards his own destruction. He felt something slap his back and then he was being roughly pulled back. He tried to phase but the force stuck.

“You don’t have to do this!” Spiderman shouted, tugging hard on the ectoplasm enhanced web.

“Yes, I do!” Danny said reaching for the web and using his ice powers to freeze it so quickly it shattered. He tried to run again but Spiderman fired three more webs, desperate to trap him.

Danny cast a shield to block the webs but Spiderman only let them stick to the shield and pulled himself forward. His momentum caused him to crash into Danny again, they landed on the street and began to wrestle against each other. Danny kicked and kneed and punched, trying to distract Spiderman long enough to get through the shield, Spiderman dodged or blocked as best he could. Danny tried to push Spiderman away, desperate and feral. He was beyond logic and reason. There was nothing but that need to protect. The other teen was insistent., he matched him in intensity. Every time he got free and neared the shield Spiderman pulled out another trick to stop him.

“Just stop it!” Danny yelled. “Let me do this!”

“I won’t! I’ll put you in a thermos if I have to. You’re not giving yourself up.”

“I have to.” Danny cried. “Please. They’re in danger. All of them.”

“And we’ll save them.”

“I have to protect everyone. Please Spidey. It hurts.” He was past caring what he sounded like. He was past rationality. Spiderman still held him tightly, his own hands covered in his ecto-enhanced webs so Danny couldn’t phase out of his grip, no matter how hard he tried.

“We’re going to save them. I don’t know how.” Spiderman said, his voice cracking and strained from their fight. “But we’re going to do it together. You don’t need to give yourself up. You gotta trust me, Danny.”

He held himself so rigidly in Spiderman’s grip. His entire mind threatening to fly apart. He quivered, Spiderman was torturing him, holding him there against his will, keeping him from fulfilling his purpose.

“Please Danny. Stay with me.” Spiderman said. “I need your help.”

And that?

That made him collapse. Danny fell boneless into Spiderman, all of the fight leaking out of him in one huge flood. He couldn’t do it. Not when Spiderman sounded like that, not when his friend begged him. Spiderman immediately pulled him closer. He didn’t notice Spiderman carrying them both further and further away from the shield and deeper into the maze of Queens. He didn’t notice anything in his disassociation until Spiderman helped him sit down in a bedroom.

There were Star Wars posters on the wall and an unfinished lego project on the floor.

“Where are we?” He croaked.

“My home.” Spiderman said. “We’re alone for now. No one should look for us here, no one knows where here is.”

“Oh.”

“Danny what was that? You totally freaked out.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have fought you.” The haze of his obsession was fading, slowly but surely.

“No. Danny you were trying to kill yourself by going in there. That shield shorts out your powers and then Plasmius would’ve had you right where he wanted you.”

“I…He’s going to kill so many people.”

“And we’re going to stop him. Without giving ourselves up. I almost got caught too. All of those possessed people are looking for Spiderman. The moment I went through the shield they were on me. I barely escaped getting captured.” Spiderman explained. “Then I saw you and I knew I had to get over there. Why didn’t you call me? I’ve been trying to contact you since the shield went up.”

“Phone’s broken.”

Spiderman reached out and took his hand, anchoring him to reality.

“Are you still with me?”

“Yeah. Sorry. It’s never been this bad before.” Danny admitted. “My…my obsession.”

“Your obsession? I didn’t know you had one.”

“All ghosts do. Mine’s…Mine’s protection.” Danny coughed out. “I have to protect people and when I saw Vlad’s message I just…freaked.”

“I swear we’re going to protect everyone.” Spiderman promised, immediately comforting Danny’s aching ghost form. “We just have to come up with a plan. Somehow we have to get in there without getting caught, then we have to take down Vlad before he can hurt anyone. Are there any ghost weapons you think that could work?”

Danny shook his head.

“Vlad’s stronger than most weapons.” Danny said. “He can block ‘em.”

“And you can’t fight him, as long as he stays in that shield. We have to get rid of it somehow.”

“You’ll get taken if you go in there.” Danny pointed out. “Bright red suit isn’t the best for going unnoticed.”

Spiderman leaned against the wall of his room. He’d placed Danny on the bed, gently depositing him there amongst the soft sheets and rumpled blanket.

“How’d he expect you to get to him anyway? Karen did a scan of that shield. The pain it’d put a ghost through would’ve paralyzed you.”

“I uh…” Danny said, looking around at the room. There was evidence of who his friend was beneath the mask everywhere and it made him ache. “I have a way to…to avoid shields like that.”

“Really? What way? Maybe we can use it to…”

“No. The moment I use my powers the shield’ll work, even when I’m cloaked.”

“Oh.”

He felt exhausted. He wanted to grab onto Spiderman, curl up under the blankets in the room and sleep. But his mind was racing ahead. He knew Vlad had wanted him in his human form, at his most vulnerable. He’d never been a good fighter once his powers were taken out of the equation and Vlad knew it. In his human form he could get as close to Vlad as he wanted, no one would stop him.

Spiderman was talking to himself but Danny couldn’t really hear. It was time to come clean.

“I have to tell you something.” Spiderman and Danny said at the same time. The two teen heroes looked at each other in shock.

“You go first.” Danny said.

“All of those possessed people are looking for Spiderman. But none of them know who I am…beneath this mask.” Spiderman reached up, his hand pausing for only half a second before grabbing the mask and pulling it off in one smooth motion. Danny gasped as the face he’d daydreamed about was revealed for the first time.

“PARKER?”

Peter Parker stared back at him, his mouth opened in shock. His brown hair was messy and his cheeks slightly red.

“You uh…know me?”

Wordlessly Danny let his transformation pass over him, changing his form seamlessly from ghost to human. Peter’s eyes and mouth opened in wider.

“Okay I’m confused now. Really confused.”

“I uhm…lied about what a halfa was.” Danny said. “Remember I told you about halfas in the ghost zone after you got kidnapped?”

Peter nodded earnestly, moving forward to stare at Danny in awe.

“It means half ghost.” Danny admitted. “I’m…When I had my accident I only died half way. I have the power to die and become a ghost and then…resurrect myself.”

“Wait…so does this mean you have a crush on yourself?”

“What? No!” Danny said sitting up. “T’Challa had me trapped in that dumb shield and he wouldn’t let me go. I lied so that he’d stop bothering me! It’s not like he knew who my secret identity was!”

“Oh.” Peter fell back, an odd look on his face. “That…that makes a lot of sense actually.”

“Hey…” Danny said. “Last week you cancelled on me! You said you had a family emergency but you just came to the lab and hung out with me!”

“I was on a mission!”

“To the aquarium?”

“No! You said you liked yourself and I had to find out if you were good enough to date you!”

Abruptly a snort escaped him and then a disbelieving laugh. He lifted a hand to his face.

“We’re such idiots.” He giggled out. Peter starting giggling too. He fell forward, landing on the bed next to Danny. He held his arms around his chest as he laughed loudly at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. Danny leaned against his friend, howling with laughter.

“Mr. Stark introduced us! And we didn’t figure it out!”

“He…he must have been in…in agony!” Danny gasped out between laughs.

“We’ve been torturing him for weeks!”

“We’re so stupid!”

So stupid!”

They laughed for a little while longer, until they were finally out of breath. When they calmed down Danny fell backwards onto the bed.

“What are we gonna do?”

“Everyone is looking for Spiderman.” Peter said. “But no one cares about Peter Parker. I can go into the shield without the suit and no one should notice.”

“No.” Danny said shaking his head.

“I can do it!”

“It’s not that. They’ll be able to tell you’re not possessed. The moment you do something Vlad didn’t order, once you act outside of the hive mind…they’ll take you in and he’ll have to suspect who you are.”

“Damn.”

They fell into thought, trying to come up with some sort of plan. Everything Danny came up with was discarded as too risky for the civilians or unlikely to be smart enough to trick Vlad. The longer it took to come up with a plan, the more likely it would be Vlad would take out his aggression on one of the Avengers. Time was of the essence. Abruptly, Danny’s ghost sense went off. He shot up off the bed, coughing up a storm.

“Get your mask on!”

Peter didn’t ask questions and he didn’t hesitate. He pulled on the mask as Danny transformed into his ghost form. They stood next to each other, back to back, waiting for the ghost enemy to come burst through one of the walls. They held their breath as one, web shooters active and hands glowing with energy.

“Ope!” Said the ghost as he floated in and bumped into Peter’s desk. “Sorry ‘bout that! Oh! Phantom! I come in peace.”

“Dairy King?” Danny asked letting the energy in his hands die down. “It’s chill Spidey, this is the Dairy King. He…haunts cheesy establishments.”

“A friend of yours?”

“Sort of. He got me out of my first jam when I fought Plasmius. Why are you here? You don’t normally leave your castle.”

“I know.” The Dairy King said. “But I just…I can’t stand by anymore! Plasmius has gone too far with me this time. Pushing me around in my own home! Getting rid of my dairy making tools! And the cows! I used to have so many cows and he sold ‘em off! Like they weren’t family! Put me up in my own basement and threatens me every other day. I’m tired of it!”

“You’re here to help us fight?” Peter asked.

“Ah no.” The Dairy King. “I’m sorry sonny but I’m not much good in a fight. But…I went down to Plasmius’ lab.”

The ghost reached into the pockets of his royal robes and pulled out a flash drive.

“Took this thingy. Thought it might help you, Phantom.”

Danny reached out and took the flash drive, feeling a lump in his throat. Even if every bit of data on it was useless, he felt so touched that the Dairy King had left his haunt, risking his safety, to give it to him. The Dairy King had been the first ghost to ever show him kindness, to show him that there was another way to be. He’d been so frightened, so aggressive before him. But the Dairy King had freed him, hadn’t asked anything in return, and was doing him a kindness once again.

“Thanks.” Danny said. “Seriously. Thank you.”

“Anytime.” The Dairy King said. “Just try and get Plasmius outta my house! I just want to live in peace ya know?”

“I do.” Danny said. “You should head back. I promise, I’ll do my best.”

“I’ll hold you to it.” He said. “And remember! Try the Gouda!”

And the Dairy King flew away with his familiar catch phrase. Peter relaxed against him once they were alone.

“That was…odd.”

“He’s a cool ghost. Makes excellent cheese.” Danny said. “Now, you got a laptop? We should see what’s on here.”

Peter nodded and pulled out a slightly beaten up laptop from his backpack. He opened it and typed in the password before taking the flash drive and inserting it into one of the ports. Danny looked over Peter’s shoulder as the file folder opened up.

“Click on that one.” Danny said, pointing to a file near the middle. Peter did so. The two of them stared at the file for a few moments. Danny felt something that was very close to hope bubble up in his chest. “Peter.”

“What?”

“I’ve got an idea.”

Chapter Text

Despite everything Tony didn’t consider himself murderous.

Despite his time in Afghanistan and Obie’s betrayal.

Despite flying a nuke into the void and seeing world ending destruction on the other side.

Despite the murder of Jarvis by one of his own creations.

Despite Steve’s betrayal and lies.

Despite everything, Tony didn’t feel like a killer.

Had he killed before? Yes, sometimes in self-defense and sometimes in the name of defending the world. That wasn’t even getting into the amount of death on his hands when he was inventing and selling weapons to the US Military. Tony was aware that if there was a god, and there were pearly gates to get into, he probably wouldn’t be allowed up to the front desk for all the blood staining him.

For all his sins, Tony had deep down comforted himself knowing that he wasn’t a murderer. All the death’s he’d caused directly had been due to someone else forcing his hand. And yeah, while he should have realized how messed up his weaponry was much sooner, he did realize it eventually and he’d stopped it immediately. Even the fight he’d had with Barnes and Steve in Siberia had been different somehow. He would never kill in cold blood, never commit a premeditated murder.

Tony was ready to throw all that shit out the window.

He stood in his cage, glaring at Plasmius. He’d been doing that for the last hour. Ever since that asshat had sent out his message he’d started monologuing to them, lording over his victory. A victory that hadn’t even happened yet because Peter hadn’t shown up to get captured and Danny was still MIA. Something that Tony was eternally grateful for.

Part of him knew it was pointless to hope that Peter would be smart enough to stay out of the city without backup.

But he also knew that Peter’s idea of ‘backup’ would be Danny so.

Things were going great.

Tony was planning exactly how he’d murder Vlad Plasmius and his mind wasn’t being skimpy on the gruesome details while also looking for any evidence that the two teenaged superheroes he’d taken under his wing weren’t about to go suicide bomber on him. He had literally never been better.

“Perhaps I should have set a time limit.” Vlad murmured. “The boy must appear within the hour or I kill one of you and every ten minutes he’s late after that another Avenger kicks the bucket. I could still do that anyway but it lacks the drama I was going for with the Little Badger.”

“You will pay for this.” Thor growled.

“Will I truly? I’ll have exactly what I want and once I’ve broken the boy, he’ll be far more powerful than any of you.” Vlad said.

“Broken him?” Loki pushed., like he hadn’t been squeezing details out of Vlad for the part hour.

“Oh yes. It’ll start with Spiderman’s death of course but I won’t stop there. His family will have to go. I’ve been planning on killing Jack for decades now and once Daniel is locked away in my castle, I’ll be able to do so without anyone stopping me. I don’t want to kill Maddie but I’ve come to accept that the woman is a lost cause, her beauty’s been corrupted by Jack. And just to make sure the boy doesn’t have anyone to run back too, I’ll kill his sister and his two best friends too. It’ll have to be done quickly. Then once he’s got nothing left to live for, taking control of him will be a snap.”

“You’re going to put him under mind control.” Loki finished.

“Nothing so uncouth. I prefer the term recalibration.”

“But why?” Steve demanded. “You can already do all this! He’s just a kid.”

Plasmius, blue skinned and terrifying, gave Steve a very condescending look.

“Both Daniel and I were killed in an accident involving a permanent portal to the Ghost Zone.” Plasmius said. “The portal that killed me was 1 foot in diameter. A prototype. The blast of energy to my face resulted in years of hospitalization as I transformed from human to ghost one cell at a time. Near the end I began injecting myself with energy packets just to speed up the process.”

Vlad floated between their cages, his glow sending chills down spines and causing hairs to stand on end. It was so different from Danny’s glow. It was impossible to categorize those two as the same species, let alone the same anything else.

“During that time I learnt something highly important. The amount of ectoplasm a ghost is surrounded by is directly correlated to how powerful they grow.” Plasmius told them. “A fact that Daniel shared in one of those insipid videos.”

Tony immediately recalled the Bill Nye the Science Guy spoof video and inwardly rolled his eyes. Could the guy just get to the point?

“I was killed by a high dose of ectoplasm, but only to my face. Subsequent injections increased the amount of ectoplasm in my system resulting in me being one of the most powerful ghosts in existence.” Vlad said. “But that has nothing on Daniel.”

Tony’s murderous thoughts paused mid-stab at that. Danny had, for obvious reasons, never gone into detail about his accident. Tony had never pushed. He had asked certain things from Maddie and Jack but they were even less interested in thinking about the details than Tony was, for the same obvious reasons.

“The final portal, the one the Fentons built in their basement, the one that killed their son in less than a second, was 8 feet tall.” Plasmius told them. “The boy was killed by an entire dimension’s worth of energy passing through his body. Every single one of his cells was packed with enough energy to power a small city. From the moment I saw the boy I knew he had the potential to destroy worlds.”

Oh. Tony felt something in him quiver. Fear. That’s what it was. Fear for Danny. Fear for the world. Fear for his team. Fear for all of it.

“And what does the boy do with that power? He plays games and acts like a child. Under my guidance he will train to his full potential and then we will take what is ours. We will rule this planet and all of the undead. Power like never before witnessed is within my grasp. The moment Daniel arrives, the world will be mine.” Plasmius said. “If you think what I can do now is bad, you’ve no way of imagining the future.”

“If Danny is so powerful then he’s going to be able to kick your ass!” Clint shouted.

“Oh, will he? When the lives of those he cares for are at stake? When he has the discipline of an infant?” Vlad pushed. “Besides, I’ve spent the last three years proving to the boy time and time again that I outclass him. He believes it now and that belief is all I need.”

“I’m going to end you.” Tony growled.

“Oh Stark. Face the facts. You lost and I won. The world is mi-”

Vlad paused at something only he could sense. He turned away from Tony and waved his hand in a slightly jerky motion.

“It looks like we are about to have a visitor.”

Oh no. No. No. No. Tony tried not to let the panic show on his face. He expected to see either Spiderman or Phantom rushing in to get the crap beaten out of them. Maybe Danny would come in human form due to the energy shield. What Tony didn’t expect was to see Peter Parker, without a suit, and tears running down his face. The boy was being held up by two adult men in suits who Tony was pretty sure worked in his accounting department back at the Tower, and not fighting his way free.

Instead Peter was stumbling in their hold, sobbing. He looked terrified. More terrified than Tony had ever seen him. Something clenched in his chest. What had happened to Peter?

“What do we have here? You were in Avengers Tower.” Vlad said.

“I…I…” The boy sobbed.

“Speak up before I lose my patience. Why aren’t you possessed?”

“I don’t know! The creepy black thingy tried to fly into me but it…it popped out! Please don’t kill me!”

“Hmmm.” Plasmius floated around the shaking teen. “I had theorized that there could be a human naturally immune to possession. Why were you in Stark Tower?”

“I…”

“Speak up boy!”

“I was trying to find something! To…to help the Avengers.” Peter cringed, his voice hoarse and terrified.

“Oh? A little hero in training are you?” Vlad sneered. “How adorable.”

Vlad reached out and grabbed Peter by the jaw, making the quivering teen whimper as he lifted him up.

“You leave him alone!” Tony shouted, Vlad smirked but ignored him as he twisted Peter’s head around. He was holding him so tightly by the jaw that his feet were hanging off the ground. Peter looked like he was having a hard time breathing because of Vlad’s grip. The choked off sobs felt like knives in Tony’s ears.

“You want to be a hero then?” Vlad pushed, the boy just whimpered again which made Tony’s blood boil.

“I…I…”

“Pitiful.” Vlad spit letting go of Peter. The boy dropped to the ground, landing hard on his knees. “Very well. If you want to be a hero, then you get the hero’s treatment, boy. Lock him up.”

The two mind-controlled accountants picked Peter up and dragged him towards the nearest cage, which just so happened to be Tony’s. Tony stepped back as they opened the cage door and caught Peter as they tossed him unceremoniously inside. The boy immediately clung to him shivering like a leaf. Tony held him close as best he could. They may have only hugged once, on Father’s Day, but Tony couldn’t bring himself to even worry about hugging the kid wrong. Peter sobbed into his neck seemingly frightened out of his mind.

“Isn’t that sweet.” Tony glared at Vlad trying to pull the boy protectively away from Vlad’s gaze. The man had already threatened to murder Peter, they were incredibly lucky the boy hadn’t worn his suit. Why had he been trying to sneak into the Tower anyway? There wasn’t anything there of use as far as Tony knew.

“Don’t touch him.” Tony growled.

“Oh don’t worry your little head Stark. As long as the boy behaves himself, he can stay with you. I could always use more hostages after all. He’ll be interesting to keep around. A human naturally immune to ghosts. I wonder what I’ll find when I cut him open?”

Tony growled, his lips curling over his teeth in a snarl. Vlad smirked again and then strode away.

“I’ll be back momentarily. I believe some of my drones have spotted Spiderman near the perimeter. No need to let the boy get away again. Behave yourselves.”

And then Vlad took off, taking his fake stupid accent with him. Tony kept holding Peter protectively to him until the guy was nothing more than a dot in the sky. The people under mind control lumbered back to their positions, leaving the Avengers alone with nothing but Peter’s slowly quieting sobs to break the silence.

“Pete?” Tony asked. “What happened to you kid?”

“You know him?” Thor asked.

“He’s a Stark Industries Intern. You might have seen him around the tower in the engineering department.” Tony explained.

“I’m okay Mr. Stark.” Peter croaked.

“You’re still shivering.”

“It’s fine. I promise.” The kid said.

“Peter you should never have come under the shield. This was incredibly stupid, I can’t believe how reckless-”

“Mr. Stark. Please-”

“Tony is right.” Steve cut in. “Son I appreciate you were willing to try and help but you took an unnecessary risk.”

“That’s rich coming from you Steve.” Natasha said. “The kid tried something, it didn’t work out, give him a break.”

Tony felt Peter roll his eyes from his position in the hug, the kid moved up a little so that his mouth was near Tony’s ear.

“I found Danny.” He whispered. “All four of us have a plan. I can’t say what just in case people are listening. Play along. If Plasmius thinks I’m a baby, he won’t suspect anything.”

Oh. Tony forced a grin from forming on his face and he squeezed the spider kid in his arms a bit tighter in agreement.

“You’re going to be okay kid. I’ll protect you.” He said out loud as the Avengers bickered with one another in an attempt to break the tension.

They all quieted when Vlad came back. Peter was cowering beneath Tony’s arm, pretending to be frightened out of his mind.

“A false alarm.” The man said, forced delight in his tone. “No matter, both of those boys will show up eventually. They won’t be able to help themselves.”

“Listen, Vladdie.” Tony snarled. “If you touch my kid I’ll destroy you.”

Plasmius turned to look him in the eye, eyes glowing a malevolent red. He smirked wide enough to show off his sharp fangs. He stopped right in front of Tony’s cage and placed a hand on the slightly glowing bars. He leaned forward until he was nearly nose to nose with Tony.

“Empty threat will get you nowhe-”

A bang echoed sharply down the street and a bullet shredded through the air, cutting right in between Vlad and Tony. Tony hopped back, falling until he found the other side of the cage. Vlad’s white suit was torn, a sharp line from one part of his chest to another where the bullet had grazed passed his body. The white suit melted from the heat of the bullet and the blue green skin below charred and began to well up bright green blood. The bullet embedded itself in a wall on the other side of the street, missing every single civilian in its path.  

Vlad snarled, looking around to see who the hell had made that shot. Before he could spot anything another bang filled the air. Vlad brought up a shield to block the bullet but the bullet was bright green and it tore through Vlad’s shield like it was cotton candy, the bullet continued shredding up along Vlad’s arm and leaving a painful gouge in it’s wake. Tony immediately looked for where the bullet landed and then did some quick calculations in his head.

His head flipped to one of the nearby buildings to see a dark figure standing up.

Who was that?

Peter shifted up and said loud enough for the Avengers to hear without Plasmius, who was looking for the person who’d shot him, to notice.

“Wait for the signal.”

All of the Avengers tensed. The figure on the roof fired a different weapon that sent a spear into a wall nearby, allowing them to zipline down towards the group. Plasmius snarled and rushed towards the careening figure. Tony spotted a glint of silver and knew immediately who that was.

“You went to Barnes?”

The Winter Soldier was in full form too, wearing full combat gear complete with the face mask he used to wear. When Vlad neared he fired a gun, filled with ecto-bullets Tony assumed, at the man. His unerring aim hitting the ghost flying at him in the thigh and on the other arm. Vlad lunged at the guy, who dropped out of the air and landed on the ground with a thud and a roll. Barnes’ arm had a faint green glow to it and the red star had been replaced with the familiar Team Nirvana Insignia.

Barnes and Plasmius squared off. Plasmius’ ecto rays were dodged by Barnes and his physical attacks were blocked with his arm.

“Now?” Tony hissed.

“Not yet.” Peter shook his head.

Barnes landed a punch on Vlad’s gut, the ghost grabbed Barnes by his real arm and picked him up and threw him up and over his head. Barnes was flung through the air, but managed to curl up and land properly. He immediately pulled out a knife made of green metal and jumped at Vlad’s back. Vlad turned intangible and Barnes passed through, the knife managed to slash through the ghost’s ugly ass cape.

“Can we do something now?” Thor asked.

“You’ll know the signal when it comes.” Peter whispered.

Vlad roared and fired a wide array at Barnes. The guy did his best to move out of the way, but one of the blasts hit him in the side. Barnes was sent flying, Steve made a pained noise at the sight of Barnes rolling over the cement and asphalt like a loose tire.

“Now?” Steve pleaded.

“Just a little longer.”

Plasmius stalked towards Barnes who was trying to push himself up to fight again. Plasmius kicked him back into the ground, a feral snarl on his face.

“What did you hope to accomplish with this?”

Barnes pulled a knife out from somewhere and threw it. Plasmius dodged the throw and then planted his foot roughly onto Barnes’ chest forcing him to the ground.

“Did you think you’d succeed in defeating me?”

No.” Barnes choked out, his voice nearly incomprehensible.

“What?”

A smirk formed on Barnes’ face.

“I’m just the distraction, punk.”

“Now.” Peter said grinning. The boy reached into his pockets and pulled out a gleaming handle that was black and green. He pressed the button on the handle, turning it into a lightsaber. At the same exact time the energy shield began to break apart. The bright red light sizzling and snapping and breaking up in a tessellating pattern. At the same time as that, Barnes pulled out a can from one of his pockets and broke it with his mechanical arm. Immediately bright red colored gas escaped from it in a huge plume. Plasmius immediately stumbled back lifting up a hand over his mouth and coughing harshly.

“Is that a lightsaber?” Tony demanded as Peter stood up fully. Peter gave him a grin that looked like it belonged on Danny’s face, and reached into his other pocket. He pulled out a handle that was red and blue with black webs and handed it to Tony.

Peter then told Tony to duck and used the lightsaber to mercilessly cut through the bars of their cage. The moment the lightsaber touched the metal, it liquefied it a centimeter from the blade. Once Peter had gotten all the way around, he used his strength to literally push the top of the cage to the ground. Plasmius was still coughing in the smoke but it was beginning to fade. Barnes had gotten up and rushed over to them.

“You ready kid?” Barnes demanded.

“We got it from here.” Peter said.

“We?” Tony asked.

“Come on Tony.” Peter said, his voice strangely echoey. “You didn’t think I’d let Peter come in here on his own right?”

“Danny?” Tony breathed. In response, Peter’s brown eyes flashed green for half a moment and then he winked. He then handed Barnes his lightsaber who took it with a nod.

“Come on, Stark. Let’s free the team and get to work.”

“Bucky? What’s going on?” Steve demanded.

“It’s the plan. Currently there are a bunch of machines releasing that anti-ghost gas into the air. Soon people are going to start coughing up the shades possessing ‘em. It’s our job to pop ‘em before they cause trouble.” Barnes explained. “The kid’s going to take on Plasmius to keep him from hurting anyone.”

Peter (or was it Danny?) was walking towards Plasmius while Barnes explained their part in the plan.

“Why are we letting a kid fight him?” Clint asked.

“That’s not just any kid.” Bruce said. “Look.”

“Hey V-Man! Miss me?”

“Daniel!” The man snarled. “You think you can trick me with a human shield! Come out and fight me.”

“We’re going to fight you alright.” Peter said, his voice taking on two tones, one that echoed and warped around the other.

“Wha-”

“That gas you’re breathing? It’s made from blood blossoms. All around the city, more and more of it’s being released. The longer you stay in New York the more poisoned the air is going to get.” Peter continued, his voice warping and shifting between Danny and Peter’s own at random.

“Blood Blossoms affect all ghosts.” Vlad shouted. “Any pain it deals to me it’ll deal to you!”

“That’d be true if I was inhabiting just anybody.” Peter/Danny agreed. “But did you know? Spiderman’s got an excellent metabolism.”

Then from a bracelet on the boy’s wrist a black suit began to grow up and over his arm and down his hands. The suit covered his body in seconds, a new Spiderman suit this one black and white with ecto-green accenting but with the same exact pattern.

“Now. Let’s dance.” The strange combo of both teen heroes said, jumping forward and punching Vlad clean in the jaw.

“Well?” Loki said. “Let me out! Come on! We’ve got work to do!”

Tony immediately jumped to action. Using the Spiderman themed lightsaber he helped free Avengers from their cages, cutting through locks that previously could only be opened by Vlad. Barnes did the same. When Steve was freed the man immediately pulled his best friend into a hug that Barnes reciprocated. Then he messed up Steve’s hair and pushed him off.

“Are we on our own with this?” Steve asked immediately.

“Nope. We got hunters from Amity Park, T’Challa, Shuri and plenty of Wakandan Warriors. Not to mention Wanda and Vision.” Barnes said. “It’s the full crowd. We just have to play a lot of wack a mole as fast as possible. Then we can help the kids take down Plasmius. Here are some communicators. Okoye is team leader.”

They moved into action immediately, putting the communicators in their ear and taking instructions from General Okoye on where they were to go in New York. Wakandan warriors were fighting against civilians taking them down nonlethally with canisters of the Blood Blossom spray. There were machines littered throughout the city that were pumping out the stuff like it was oxygen filling the air with a reddish haze that tasted like cinnamon. Tony only paid half a mind to his own work, letting Friday have more control of the suit than normal, to follow the fight between Peter/Danny and Vlad.

He really needed to come up with a better name for them.

Deter?

Panny?

Danter?

Focus Tony.

Whatever the combination of the two heroes was meant to be called, they were holding their own decently well against Vlad. Much of the battle was aerial in nature. Plasmius using his full flying abilities to smash and claw at his enemy. Peter/Danny used a combination of flying and webs to keep Vlad occupied and avoid getting hit too hard. Over the chatter in the coms Tony could of course hear some truly terrible puns.

“What did you not expect us to show up? You know what we always say Vlad, if you’ve got it, haunt it!”

“We’re going to punch you so hard you’re going to be the color of a boo-berry.”

“Don’t be such a wraith-est against us, Vlad.”

“I really think this next attack is going to be a dead-ringer.”

“This really has been an emotional roller-ghoster.”

At least it sounded like the kids were having fun. Tony watched as the teen(s) failed to dodge a grab from Vlad and was flung towards a building. His body spasmed a little but he managed to turn intangible in time to avoid crashing into the glass windows of the sky scraper. He flew out from the other side of the building, hands glowing green and firing high powered blasts at Vlad. Vlad created a pink shield that blocked the shots but still sent him flying backwards in the air from the force.   

“The air is at 43% saturation.” Shuri said over the coms. “A majority of the hostages outside should be expelling their ghosts now. Outside team forces be prepared for the first assault. Indoor groups, the air saturation needs to increase by 16% before it should penetrate most buildings, you have more time.”

It was true, moments later the people around Tony who had been attacking him began to violently cough. They were coughing so hard they began to fall to their knees, a black viscous fog seeping out of their mouths. The fog stayed together and began to take on the shape of a shadowy version of Vlad. Tony decided to take out his anger on these shadows Vlads with everything he had.

“Fri? Let’s give ‘em hell.”

“Of course, sir.” She said before letting loose the full capabilities of their ghost hunting suit. On the other end of the street was a girl with bright red hair that Tony knew to be Danny’s older sister, the girl was a sophomore in college. She was also using an ecto-enhanced multi-tailed whip to literally wrap the ghost shadows in barbed wire and squish them till they poofed. Tony began to fire hundreds of weapons targeting each shadow in front of him with its own personal flying ecto-bomb.

Tony had designed them to be relatively harmless to humans so he wasn’t worried about casualties.

In the air Vlad hit Peter/Danny with a bolt of pink lightning. The teen began to fall to the ground, Tony shifted getting ready to blast over to the kid and catch him. Before Tony could, the teen got a hold of himself and used his webs on the side of a sky scraper to change his momentum back into the air and right towards Vlad.

He planted his feet right in the jerk’s gut sending him flying back.

To Tony’s left, he saw the Fenton Assault Vehicle driving through the streets. Behind the wheel was Jack Fenton. Next to him was Tucker Foley, who was operating a padded claw like machine that was attached to the top of the outfitted RV. The claw picked up humans who were still possessed and tossed them through what looked like a green giant glowing dreamcatcher. The dream catcher forcibly separated the humans from the ghosts. The humans then landed safely on a mattress where they slid inside the RV. Meanwhile the GAV as Tony knew Jack called it automatically fired at the newly exposed ghosts, destroying them.

Tony continued to fly, he saw Sam Manson breaking windows inside buildings to let more of the gas in while also fighting off possessed people like a champ.

Maddie Fenton was working alongside Nakia, both of them using Bo Staffs to take out ghosts in hand to hand combat.

Wanda and Loki had teamed up in a terrifying combination of magic and malice. The green and red spells combining to look like Christmas was exploding all over the shades.

Steve had blatantly refused to be separated from Barnes and the two of them were working in tandem with the sort of smoothness that only came from knowing another person for decades. Steve’s shield had a coating of ectoplasm on it that allowed him to use it to its full effect. Barnes was firing his ecto-bullets at a rapid pace, dissipating shadows with each shot.

The freed humans were disoriented. Some of them seemed unable to even walk, weak from their ordeal. Those who could walk were trying to help others out of the way but there didn’t seem like anywhere for them to go. The shades were teeming throughout every inch of the city.

“Okoye?” Tony said. “We’ve got a lot of confused civilians in the streets. Permission to call some of my suits to help corral people to safety?”

“We’ve a safety barricade set up near the Midtown tunnel.” She said. “Direct citizens there and they will be given medical treatment if needed.”

“Friday. Send out the army.” As if in response to his command, Thor sent out a huge bolt of lightning that separated into 36 different forks, the electricity stabbing into ghosts and destroying them while avoiding the humans they’d just vacated.

Above them, the fight against Plasmius continued. Plasmius had split himself into two copies of himself and was attempting to hit Peter/Danny from behind. However, no matter what angle the punches or attacks came from, the teen was able to dodge out of the way with unerring accuracy. Eventually Peter/Danny managed to hit one of the copies with a blast of ice so sharp it cut the copy in half, leaving only the real Vlad behind.

“Air saturation is at 54%.” Shuri said. “Most humans on the ground floors and within the subways should be free. 5% more until building penetration begins.”

“Anyway we can speed that along?” Clint asked. “I’m running out of ecto-arrows here!”

“Take out as many windows in the upper floors of the skyscrapers as you can.” Shuri answered. “Thor do you think you could bring in some wind? No rain though, it’ll weaken the gas.”

“You want wind?” Thor asked, his voice full of that joyous battle rage that only Thor could pull off without sounding like a creep. “I’ll give you wind!”

A huge wind began to whip itself through the streets. With doors being opened and windows broken it sent the dense fog higher and higher into the air, penetrating the office buildings around them. The groups of people inside began to work even harder to help expunge the ghosts outside for extermination.

“Do we need back-up?” Loki asked. “I know some Asgardians who would love to join in the fray!”

“If you can call them here.” Okoye said. “And if they will follow my orders, then bring them.”

“I’ll return momentarily.” Loki said. “This is our realm to defend now and Plasmius is not welcome here.”

Tony spotted T’Challa fighting next to his baby sister. The Wakandan Royal Family was a fearsome duo, watching each other’s back. Shuri was switching between checking her on the ground readings and firing complex weapons at ghosts. T’Challa preferred to use the claws on his suit to do his damage.

“Anyone have eyes on the Hulk?” Clint asked. “I’ve lost track of him!”

“Hold on!” Tony said. “Let me get some air.”

He flew up higher, closer to the elevation of the two fighters. He scanned quickly and spotted the Hulk near the Hudson River. The big guy was with Vision who would help move people out of the way of the Hulk as the Hulk smashed every shadow he could see. His green fists glowed in the special paint Tony had designed for the Hulk to dump his hands into to make smashing a possibility. Vision probably hadn’t spoken up over the coms because a majority of his mind was focused on his telekinesis.

“He’s with Vision near the Hudson! They’re good!”

“Gotcha!”

The fighting continued. It wasn’t that the shades were hard to fight it was just that there were so many of them. Literally over a million. They were like rats. Whenever you took out some, swarms appeared to replace them. When the air saturation got to 64% the shades began to melt and drip when they were forced out of their human hosts. The blood blossom gas made them hiss and shriek in pain.

Good. Tony had very little sympathy for these extensions of Vlad. He hoped it hurt Vlad just as much.

Tony turned back to chance a look at the fight between Peter/Danny and Vlad. Vlad was looking a lot worse for the wear. The gas was beginning to reach high enough into the air to be doing him direct damage. Meanwhile Peter/Danny remained seemingly unaffected. Vlad wasn’t giving any ground though. He used his electric powers without hesitation, knowing the damage they did to Danny. However, as far as Tony could tell, anytime any of Vlad’s electric attacks got too close, the voice mixture of Danny and Peter switched to be predominately Peter’s voice and the teen’s fighting style moved to more closely match Spiderman’s.

In the same vein anytime Vlad fired an ecto blast or similar attack, the voice mixture change to something that more closely matched Danny’s voice alone. It was weird certainly. But Tony couldn’t complain. The suit the kid(s) was wearing seemed to self-repair after hits to it and Tony knew that meant it was vibranium based. He’d have to thank Shuri later for outfitting them with something like that. Suits like that were normally restricted to the Wakandan Royal family alone after all.

The two continued to dive bomb at each other. Using every power at their disposal to attempt to get the other one to fall out of the sky. As the red fog climbed higher, Vlad did his best to avoid the caustic material. Peter/Danny used that to his advantage by staying in the fog and only popping out to deal damage before going back down into it as cover.

Meanwhile Loki returned with a few dozen Asgardian warriors who were in full armor and carrying enchanted swords that cut through ghosts like they were paper. The warriors burst through a magical portal Loki opened up and immediately began to break into groups of two and rove down in between streets and into buildings looking for stragglers. Loki had also conjured more communicators for them so that they could follow Okoye’s orders.

Tony’s suits were moving around helping people get towards the safety barricade. Slowly but surely the ghost count in the city was lowering to a more manageable level.

“Air saturation at 69%!” Shuri shouted into the coms.

“Nice!” Said Tucker, Danny, Peter, and Clint all at the same time.   

Tony rolled his eyes and was thankful his suit hid his delighted grin.

Peter/Danny shot a web at Vlad. Vlad grabbed the web and used it to sling Peter/Danny around like a lasso. He used that momentum to send them flinging towards the ground, right smack dab inside Central Park. Tony flung forward as Vlad descended into the fog, pain flexed across his blue face as he got deeper and deeper into the toxic air. Peter/Danny had landed in an open field, creating a crater where his body landed. The boy(s) was moving though, already getting up to his feet.

Vlad landed on the ground.

“You won’t win Daniel.”

“Yes I will.” The boy said.

“Even if I fail today, this isn’t the end Little Badger.”

“You’re not escaping today.” Peter/Danny insisted. “This is the end for you.”

“Is it really Daniel? Even if you defeat me that won’t change what you are.” Vlad snarled. “You’re alone. An oddity in the universe. No one but I can understand you. Do you really want to lose that? Throw away what we could become together for a group of humans who’ll never truly accept you?”

“They accept me!”

“If they’d accepted you, you would have told them who you were. But you knew they couldn’t be trusted, Daniel. None of them can. We can only trust each other.” Vlad insisted, stalking slowly towards the swaying teen. Tony floated in the air, ready to jump forward and take Plasmius out if need be. “Give yourself up now, Daniel. Stop this nonsense and come with me. I’ll leave the Avengers and this precious city alone.”

“No, you won’t.”

“I will. I promise Little Badger, come with me and everyone will be protected.”

The teen(s) body twitched a little and even took one step forward towards Vlad. He seemed to clear his head though and a voice that was about 90% Peter spewed out.

“You’re a liar! Stop telling Danny that he won’t be loved and accepted for who he is! He’s my best friend and I accept him! I’m not going to let you hurt him anymore!”

“Oh how sweet.” Vlad said lifting up a hand and letting it glow bright magenta with deadly intent. “I’m going to enjoy ripping Daniel out of you boy.”

“Let’s end this Vlad.” A voice that was nearly all Danny said. “No more fights. No more murder attempts. You’re done. Give up now.”

Over the coms Shuri shouted that the air saturation was up to 75% and most buildings should have been penetrated by that point.

“There is no surrender Daniel. You will join me or everyone you love will die by my hands. It’ll be your fault.”

Peter/Danny violently twitched, pained by the accusation. Then his back stiffened and he lifted a hand up to his ear to connect fully with the coms.

“Everyone. Cover your ears and get down low.” Tony didn’t hesitate to lower himself to the forest floor. Peter/Danny widened his stance, digging his heels into the dirt beneath his feet. Vlad conjured a very thick powerful shield in preparation for the attack he knew was coming. Peter/Danny lifted up the bottom of this mask to reveal Peter’s mouth.

He opened his mouth.

And screamed.

The noise was ungodly. Like the voices of a thousand damned souls screaming out for release, for anything. Friday, out of self-defense, shut off Tony’s comm unit and tried to block the horrible, awful noise. The sonic attack was so brutal, it picked up trees and dirt and sent them flying at hurricane speeds away. Tony was pelted with clods of dirt and rocks from his hunched position. Vlad’s shield failed almost instantly, shredded into nothing by the sheer force of that awful scream.

Vlad was flung back so hard he slammed into an ancient oak with probably the strongest root system in existence since it was still standing. Danny/Peter stepped forward out of the crater, walking towards Vlad the scream still going strong. He reached to the side of his suit and removed a silver disk. The disk expanded out into a thermos.

The scream began to stutter out and weaken, Vlad didn’t seem to notice. A ring of black formed around Vlad’s torso indicating he was about to lose consciousness and turn back into a human. Before the transformation could start, the scream stopped and was replaced by the white light of the thermos. The thermos sucked a mostly unconscious Vlad right in, with only Vlad’s last shout of denial to be heard.

Tony got up and looked around. This portion of Central Park was truly destroyed. Everything was steaming from the excess energy, the leaves and grass that remained charred. It looked like a small explosion had gone off and in the epicenter was Peter/Danny swaying awkwardly.

“Kid?” Tony asked. “You alright?”

“We…did it.” He said, looking down at the thermos in his hand. Both voices sounded terribly shattered and hoarse. That scream must have hurt. “We…it actually worked.”

Tony made it all the way to his side, carefully he reached out and supported some of the kid’s weight.

“Did you think it wouldn’t?”

“I thought we had a 50/50 shot.” He admitted, sounding like Danny.

The coms went off, Okoye letting them know that the final shades had disappeared, dying the moment Vlad had been sucked into the thermos and his power was cut off. Peter/Danny leaned onto Tony, his body beginning to shake with exertion. Tony sighed and carefully picked the kid up, bridal style in his arms.

“Come on. Let’s go find the others and get some clean air. I’m tired of breathing in cinnamon toast crunch.”

 The kid nodded against his chest and Tony pretended that he wasn’t about to cry in relief. Instead he hiked up the kid a little in his arms and got ready to fly out of there. At the last moment, Tony realized he’d forgotten something important. He let the face plate on his suit open up and he looked down at the shivering, exhausted spider-ghost combo.

“You did good kids. I’m proud of you.”

Chapter Text

For Shuri, the insanity had begun only a day after she’d done her tests on Spiderman and Phantom and discovered partial possession. Spiderman kept calling it fusion during their tests but Shuri wasn’t going to call it that in her notes because she had some level of professional pride. She’d spent the morning going over her readings and results from the experiments and making observations and notes about the changes in brain activity.

She hadn’t expected a visitor.

Let alone one so haggard.

A ghost portal opened up in her lab, in the space she had designated for Danny to use when it became clear this would be his preferred method of entering Wakanda. A funky beat played throughout the lab, pausing her music, and she turned to look at the green portal. She expected to see Phantom and perhaps Spiderman coming in for an unplanned visit. They had done it a few times in the past month, aware she was busy but always willing to try and visit her anyway.

It was incredibly sweet to Shuri. She hadn’t had many friends her age in the royal palace. She was friends with plenty of the Dora Milaje and there were people she had met at University that had been wonderful. But all of them had been at least a decade her senior. Phantom and Spiderman were the first teens to be her friend, not because she was a princess or a scientist but because she was…herself. It was such a wonderful thing that even Okoye was willing to forgive the security breach that Phantom represented.

When the portal opened completely, Phantom popped out. He looked terrible. His hair was matted with sweat, his skin was gaunt and waxy, and he was shivering with exhaustion.

“Danny?” She asked alarmed. “Are you alright? Were you attacked?”

“I’m fine.” He said, shaking himself a little.

“You don’t look fine. Come in here.”

“I can’t stay long.” He said. “I have a…meeting with Spiderman soon.”

“Right. Finally going to tell him how you feel?”

“Shuri. Just. No.” The ghost teen said. “Seriously. No.”

“Why not? Spiderman is willing to share control of his body with you. Surely that counts for something in your brain, right?”

“We’re not getting into this right now.” Danny decided. “I have a huge favor to ask. I know you have like a dozen other projects right now, but there’s something I need you to do, no questions asked.”

“What’s going on?” She asked seriously. Danny looked strained and almost sickly. If he wasn’t already dead, she’d be worried that he was about to keel over.

“I can’t tell you. I need you to trust me that’s it’s important.”

“Is anyone in danger?”

“No. Not right now.” He said. “Here, I have this for you.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a black flash drive. He tossed it to her, and she immediately took it and plugged it into one of her many ports. Danny floated behind her as she opened the files inside and immediately began downloading them. The different folders popped up along her hologram screens. She read a few of the titles.

MindCtrlTsT1

EctoSHIELD

JFMurder

CntainUnitTsT34

“What is this?” She asked.

“I can’t tell you.” He said. “But that one. The Ecto-shield, look at the designs.”

She opened it up, frowning at her friend’s odd secrecy. She stared at the machine designs stored within, her mind immediately distracted by the intricate design.

“Danny?”

“I need you to invent a way to disrupt this thing.” He said.

“Of course. It might take me a few days, this thing has a surprising number of fail safes.” Shuri said.

“That’s fine. No time limit.” He said in a tone that implied he definitely thought that there was a time limit but wasn’t going to tell her that.

“You are acting very odd.”

“I know.” He said. “Just…Can you do me one more favor?”

“That depends.” She said turning to look at her still shaking friend. She realized he’d left the portal open.

“Can you start making ghost weapons?”

“Danny. You told me not to do that. I haven’t even begun research into weaponizing ectoplasm because you trusted me not to do it. I’m not going to go back on my word without a bit of…”

Shuri.” He said, his eyes looking watery. “Please.”

He looked wrecked and she found her worry outweighing any other concern she could have.

“What is going on? You can tell me Danny.”

“I literally can’t. You just have to…”

“To trust you.” She finished with a sigh. “Fine. How many weapons?”

“As many as you want. Go crazy. Although I do have one specific request.”

“And that is?”

“There’s a plant called Blood Blossoms, incredibly rare, almost extinct. It lets off a scent that’s like a natural ghost repellent. In high enough concentrations it can cause a ghost to destabilize and stop possessing someone.”

“Is this about Ghost Spider?” She asked. “I told you, you didn’t need to worry about harming Spiderman, he consented to it.”

“Shuri I promise it’s not that. I just…you’re studying to see how humans brains look different when they’re possessed right? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a failsafe way to free a possessed person?”

“I suppose.” She said. “I could build a few machines that produce a gas from plant material.”

“Great. Do that. Build a thousand of them. Enough to cover Wakanda.”

“Is my country in danger?”

“No one is in danger.” Danny insisted. “Just trust me?”

“Will I ever get an explanation about this?”

“Yes. I promise.”

“Then I trust you.” Danny nearly crumpled in relief. He reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t tell anyone about this? It’s important no one knows I was here today.”

“You really expect me to believe you’re not in danger?”

“Yes. Because you said you trusted me.”

“Doesn’t stop me from being a genius. Am I supposed to give these weapons to you once they’re done?” She asked.

“No. Give ‘em to people you trust.” He said. “People here in Wakanda.”

“This is not like you. You didn’t want me to mass produce anti-ghost weaponry.”

“I know. Things change.” Danny said. “Now. I’ve got to go, okay? I’ll see you soon.”

“Of course.” She said. “We have plans in three days to do more tests with Spiderman. Do you want me to update you on the progress of my work then?”

“No. This meeting should never be spoken of again. Got it?”

“Understood.” She said. “I’ll see you in three days.”

“Thanks Shuri. Seriously. You are literally the only person I could trust with this.”

And with that the ghost boy flew back into his portal and disappeared. Shuri slowly turned back to the files she’d been given a thoughtful look on her face.

Why had Danny changed his mind?

It was clear that her friend was in danger. As she looked through the other files in the flash drive she came to a lot of very startling conclusions about the threat Danny faced. Whoever had designed this tech was actively malicious and likely insane. The designs seemed to be done by a human, someone who wanted to control Danny. Shuri wanted to ask her brother to send out a few spies to look into who would do this and why. But she refrained, keeping her promise of secrecy to Danny against her better judgement.

She began working first on a weapon that would destabilize the ghost shield. First, she had to make a miniature model of the angry machine and then she had to test her various prototypes against it. She managed to perfect the design by the time her friends visited again. She left the weapon out in the open, a large monstrous gun looking item that would destabilize any ecto-shield for up to an hour. Danny didn’t even spare it a look.

In fact, her friend acted like he hadn’t burst into her lab looking like a mess and begging her for her secrecy. She’d no idea he was that good of an actor. The boy couldn’t hide his feelings for Spiderman for shit but apparently, he was Oscar worthy when it came to whatever the hell was going on with that flash drive. She tried to hint at it in her own way during the visit, but every single hint was ignored hard enough that it seemed to sail right over his fluffy white head.

She continued to keep her promise. She felt insane doing so without any justification. Especially since when she brought up weaponry to Danny, he kept asking her if she’d kept her promise, a harsh reminder not to bring it up at all. She made weapons for the Dora Milaje and in a fit of pique created ghost weapons for the White Wolf, the man needed a new prosthetic anyway and if Danny wasn’t going to give her any more details then she could do what she wanted.

Danny’s silence on the matter annoyed her to the point that she decided to push him into admitting something. She hatched the plan with her brother, on the surface it would appear like a plan to get Danny to reveal his feelings for Spiderman, but truly it was a method of showing Danny her work on the ghost weaponry in a way that was obvious without giving away the secret. She could follow instructions and if Danny didn’t want her to use the weapons, she created he should have said.

In hindsight, it was perhaps not the best plan she could have come up with.

Especially, when afterwards Danny refused to talk to her. She sent message after message to him, trying to explain her thinking but all she got in return was.

I trusted you.

And Shuri had trusted him. But nothing made sense anymore. She’d spent the past month building enough machinery to launch an invasion on the Ghost Zone itself and she had no idea why. Why had Danny looked so terrible the day he’d begged her for this favor? Suspicions began to grow in her mind.

What if the ghost who had visited her that day hadn’t been Danny? He’d acted so different than normal. What if she’d been taken in by some sort of shapeshifting ghost? She immediately began pulling up files of scans she’d done on Danny’s ecto-signature. She’d gotten a good read on it, good enough to act as a fingerprint. She then compared it to every visit she’d had from him in the past two months that her scanners had recorded.

Every single one was a match.

And Danny still wasn’t talking to her.

Had she really ruined her friendship with him over this? Over doing what he’d asked? Spiderman wasn’t talking much to her either and she feared he was taking Danny’s side. Unease churned in her stomach. She refused to feel guilty, even if her plan to coerce Danny into recognizing their conversation hadn’t been well thought out. Her brother noticed and tried to ask after her but she stayed in her lab and continued to build.

She had to build something amazing, something wonderful, a peace offering. Something to help ease the tension between them. She wouldn’t lose their friendship, even if she had to deal with their ridiculous pining for the rest of her mortal existence. So, she began to create a suit. A specially designed suit to help the two of them keep together when Danny was half possessing Peter.

It took a lot of work, staying up late, and obsessing over it. But eventually it reached perfection. The suit was layered with ectoplasm on a microscopic level, carefully embedded in a way that wouldn’t trap Danny within it but would help him ‘stick’ inside when something happened to weaken his concentration. The suit also offered a few things to help protect Peter’s body from the strain of ghostly possession. Danny’s ecto-rays could burn human skin if they were powerful enough, and Danny had burnt Peter once while testing it out. The gloves on Shuri’s newest invention would cool Peter’s hands and keep them protected. Not to mention the added insultation she put in the suit for when the boys went flying together.

She finished the invention and was planning on figuring out a way to force both teens to her lab when she got the news.

“Shuri!” T’Challa shouted running into the lab. “The Avengers are in trouble!”

“What?”

“Look at the news!”

The news was grim. Grim as hell. The entirety of Manhattan had been invaded by a single ghost named Plasmius using a shield that looked terrifyingly like the miniature model she had in her lab. Not to mention the cages the Avengers were locked in matched the schematics of cages that had been on the flash drive Danny had given her.

Had he known this was going to happen?

“We need to contact Danny.”

“Of course. I will also contact the Accords Council to see what they would permit for us to do.” T’Challa said. “The world requires our help.”

It took about 25 minutes since Plasmius’ announcement to the world for Danny to contact Shuri.  

“Spiderman and I are en route to your lab.” He said. “We have a plan.”

“Good.” She said. “What’s you’re ETA?”

“Two minutes. Get everyone to your lab for a meeting.”

She nodded and ended the call. Danny sounded stressed and strained just like he had on that day over a month ago. She sent out a message across the palace and wasn’t surprised when Nakia, T’Challa, and Okoye all came running to greet the two teens. Both of them looked like complete messes. Danny looked just as poorly as he had when he’d begged her to build ghost weapons without telling her why. Spiderman looked hardly better, his suit was torn in places and she wondered if he’d tried to go under the shield.

“Phantom, Spiderman.” T’Challa said. “The Accords Council has given Wakanda free reign to work on freeing Manhattan. If you two have a plan or any information then please share it now.”

“We have this.” Spiderman said pulling out a flash drive.

The exact same flash drive Danny had given her over a month ago.

What was going on?

“It’s got a copy of the machine Vlad’s using to keep that shield up.” Phantom said. “We need to make something that can disrupt it.”

But Shuri had already done that! She glared at Danny who was pointedly not looking at her.

“Then we need to develop a machine that can force the shades to leave their hosts. Danny’s friend Tucker had a cologne that could work but Vlad’s shades are more powerful than that.” Spiderman continued. “There’s a plant called Blood Blossoms that’s the most powerful natural ghost repellent in the universe. We get the plants, put them in a mister, and the people are freed.”

Shuri felt her blood begin to boil as neither boy addressed her, fully focused on her brother instead of their friend who had already done all of the things they’re asking for.

“Then we have to arm enough people to attack the shades before they can harm anyone.” Danny said. “I know Shuri’s been playing around with ghost weapons even though I told her n-”

“Yes, you did!” She shouted. “You told me to build weapons five weeks ago!”

Danny turned to look at her looking totally stupefied. She had completely lost her patience.

“You have been driving me insane Phantom! You burst into my lab looking like you’d just been run over, begged me to study that stupid flash drive in your hand, and develop weapons and create a machine that would disrupt that shield. For five weeks I’ve been pushed into full paranoia because you ignored all of my hints and my work and, and…you have been a terrible friend!”

“Shuri.” Danny said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just got this flash drive like ten minutes ago.”

“No.” She growled, motioning to her lab table where the flash drive remained plugged into her system. “No ,you didn’t. Because you gave it to me five weeks ago while being stupidly vague about everything.”

“Time Police.” Spiderman breathed.

“What?” T’Challa said.

“It’s the Time Police!” Danny said. “Oh my gosh! Shuri what have you built?”

“You already know! Exactly what you asked!”

“Pretend I don’t.”

She growled but told them. The weapons she’d built for the Wakandan Warriors, herself, her brother, and the White Wolf. The flower-degasser which had taken far more time than she’d wanted. She’d even made a bunch of portable ones just in case! Then there was the shield destabilizer. She showed all of her work, that she’d stored away in the lab, hidden in secret places because Danny had impressed upon her that no one could know, and it had been driving her up the wall.

“Shuri. I am so sorry.” He said when she finished. “But I didn’t tell you to build this stuff.”

“Yes, you did! I checked later to make sure it wasn’t a shapeshifter, it was you.”

“No. I haven’t done it.” He insisted. “But I will.”

“I don’t…” She looked over at Spiderman and had a thought. “Time travel?”

“The Ghost Zone…exists outside of linear time.” He explained. “Which means I can open a portal here, go into the zone and open another portal into the Triassic if I want to. It’s why I appear in so many historical records, I go back in time, fight a ghost, and get seen. I truly had no idea that we’d had a conversation because for me it hasn’t happened yet.”

“Oh.” She said. “Why didn’t you just tell me you were from the future?”

She listened as Danny earnestly explained to all of them the dangers of time travel, how one wrong move can send the entire universe careening down a different time line, a different future that could be widely destructive. Ghosts, all ghosts, are incredibly careful when traveling through time to avoid doing damage. They even have a ghost in charge of ensuring that no one ruins the timeline and destroys the universe. If Danny had told Shuri about what was happening, she would have had dangerous knowledge of the future that would have put her at risk and also endangered every single person on the planet.

“You had to do exactly what you did in order for us to be in this time line. If I gave you anymore information you probably would have been more proactive, and it could have…”

“Ruined everything.”

“Yes. Especially if you told me what was going to happen. I’m pretty…erratic when it comes to Plasmius, if I’d known this was coming, I could have ruined the whole thing. I’m sorry for being a jerk.”

“I’m sorry for tricking my brother into locking you in a cage.” She said. “Friends?”

“Friends.”

“While this is all very heartwarming.” T’Challa said. “We still have to get to New York in time with all of this equipment and also gather the blood blossoms.”

“Dude.” Danny said. “I can time travel. Trust me, time is the one resource we don’t need to worry about.”

And so, the rest of the story came out, piece by piece. How the Blood Blossoms would be gathered. And more importantly, how they’d get everyone to New York in time. Identities were revealed, and Shuri was incredibly frustrated that she hadn’t seen the Fentom/Phantom thing coming (she comforted herself with the fact that she hadn’t met Fenton before this point), and the final plan was worked out with the help of Okoye running strategy.

T’Challa contacted the Fentons and the two other heroes they wanted for help, urging them to prepare. Danny and Peter disappeared for only a minute to return with pounds of bright red flowers in airtight bags. Peter told her as he helped her put the plants into the misters that they’d spent six hours collecting. Danny disappeared again, taking one version of the flash drive with him and returning empty handed. The warriors gathered in ships, armed to the teeth. Peter put a Team Nirvana Sticker on Barnes’ arm. They worked until late into the evening and even into the night, long enough for Danny and Peter to take a nap which they sorely needed. Danny had them shut off all communications from the outside world, to protect them from knowing the outcome and ruining the timeline with fear or pride.

Danny had been afraid of so many people knowing the fact that he could time travel. T’Challa, to ease his worries, ordered a vow of silence for all those who would fight. Wakanda was very familiar with keeping secrets of such importance, even to death. The adults who knew his identity promised to keep it secret as well, along with Peter’s. Shuri had helped both boys feel confident in these vows.

When the boys woke up Shuri gave them her newly designed suit as a final gift, a final show of her support. Both teens hugged her, and she felt better than she had in weeks.

This would work.

She knew it would.

Danny opened a portal and led them through the zone, the head of an armada. Halfway through their trip, Danny stopped outside a large hexagonal portal that led to his home in Amity Park and opened a portal right beside it. The stable portal would open to sometime in the future and Danny needed to open one hours in the past. From the portal came out two Fenton vehicles, one was the GAV and the other was what Jack Fenton lovingly called the Ops Center. They were filled with ghost weapons, thermoses, and ghost hunters ready to help. To them it had been only about 50 minutes since Plasmius had laid down his ultimatum.   

Danny opened the final portal, taking them outside of New York City. Far enough away not to be spotted by any of Vlad’s shades. Okoye immediately began to take control of the situation ordering troops into moving. Vision and the Scarlet Witch met them as promised an hour after Plasmius’ ultimatum, ready for battle. Barnes left the group first to sneak into the city, he was followed quickly by warriors who were armed and ready to fight ghosts. Shuri stood next to her two friends as they prepared the final part of the plan.

“You ready, Spidey?”

“Yeah, and you Danny?”

“I’ll stick with you, I promise.”

“The suit should help.” She reminded them. “It’ll help you stay together.”

“You mean it’ll help us fuse.”

“I’m not going to reference that silly show.”

“I knew you got my references!” She rolled her eyes as Danny grinned at Peter’s smile and then stepped forward into his body. Peter’s body lurched slightly before Danny settled completely. Peter’s eyes flashed green a moment and then returned to their normal brown.

“How do I look?” Peter asked.

“Human.”

“Good. Do you think…? Do you think it’s going to work?”

“I know it will.” She promised before pulling her friends into a hug. “It’s going to go perfectly.”

And it did.

Shuri decided as she watched Tony Stark land carrying the precious burden of her two exhausted best friends and a thermos with the biggest asshole in existence that she could accept time travel. But only if Danny took her on his next adventure.

It was only fair after all.

Chapter Text

The first thing Danny knew was soft.

The sensation of softness all around him.

His body was sore, and exhaustion ebbed and flowed around him, a tide threatening to pull him right back into unconsciousness. He was being cradled oh so carefully in that softness. It was practically bliss for his injured and tired body. He had just enough awareness to note that he was in a bed and that that bed was wonderfully soft before he slipped back into a warm, comforting nothingness.

The next thing Danny noticed came many hours later and it came in the form of a conversation overheard in the distance. Danny shifted a little as understanding filtered in.

“Thank you so much for having us. Again.” His mom said. She sounded relieved and also slightly strained. The same tone she used whenever anyone did a favor for her that she thought was too much. Most frequently, Danny had heard that tone whenever his dad’s parents came to visit and gave the family an expensive gift.

“Oh, it really is no trouble.” Loki soothed, using a tone that made it clear they’d had this conversation before and that he knew they’d be having it again. “Obviously your son couldn’t stay in New York to recover, it’ll take weeks for the gas to dissipate completely. Thor and I were happy to welcome him and his family into our home.”

“Well. Still.” She said. “This has been very nice. Jack is having a great time.”

“I had wondered where your son learnt to be so Asgardian from but it’s clear now it’s inherited.”

What had his dad been doing? How long had they been there? Why were they even there? What did Danny need to recover from? Why was everything so soft?

“Ah yes. It’s just one of the many things I love about him.”

“Do you believe your son will wake up soon? It’s been hours since we returned from New York.”

New York? Oh, that was right. Danny’s mind flashed through memories like a movie reel that was burning at the edges from the heat of the light bulb behind it. Vlad. He’d fought Vlad and won. He and Peter had done it together, literally. But what had happened after? Danny’s face scrunched up trying to remember.

“I don’t know.” His mom said. “I’ve never seen him so exhausted. Well, there was the time he defeated Pariah Dark. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, thought it was shock from being caught outside the shield. But he was sluggish for weeks after and for the first days he did nothing but sleep. My poor baby’s going to be wrecked after the amount of energy he used today.”

Danny was wrecked. His parents had really taken to knowing his secret identity well. They’d done tests with him and looked at samples and done everything in their power to understand how he was developing as a person and how they could help keep him healthy. He was glad they were there. He was glad he’d told them.

“Hmm.” Loki said. “At least he has company in that.”

Company? What did that mean?

“Aren’t they sweet?” His mom cooed.

They? Danny shifted around trying to figure out what his mom was talking about. It was in the act of moving that he realized there was a weight on his chest.

“I don’t suppose you’ve taken pictures of them yet?”

“Pictures? Why would I…oh I see what you’re saying.” His mom laughed. “No, I’ll leave Danny alone this time. Although it is very cute.”

What was very cute? Danny couldn’t make any sense of it. He moved around again, trying to get the weight that was pinning him down to slide off. In response the weight moved, and Danny realized it was a person at the same time that that person kicked him in the shin and hugged him around the waist a bit tighter than was humanly possible.

Spiderman?

Danny fell asleep, lulled back into it by his mother’s soothing voice, before he could investigate it further.

In the end both teens slept for 20 hours. They slept cuddled up in the same giant bed, Thor had been kind enough to give his up for the two of them to use. Although, based on the size of the bed, they could have shared it with him without a problem. They were in New Asgard, protected under the most powerful magical wards on the planet, holding onto each other like their lives depended on it. So closely entangled that they were using one of Thor’s pillows and the gigantic fur blanket was scrunched up around them, dwarfing them in comparison. They slept and they slept, and they slept some more.  

They slept because Peter had exhausted himself near the brink of a coma trying to keep his metabolism high enough to filter out the blood blossom gas. His lungs and liver weren’t normally that high functioning but with Danny’s help they’d been able to push it into overdrive. Peter had burnt through most of his energy reserves in the fight with Plasmius in an attempt to keep any of the gas from touching Danny. And being a spider-person meant that his energy reserves were always pretty low to begin with. That’s the trouble with having a heightened metabolism while also going through puberty. What’s more Peter had been injured in the fight, electrocuted and punched and hit with ecto-rays.

Tony had forced a bunch of high caloric bar things down their throat, when they were still them instead of two people. The bar thing had felt like it had enough energy in it to power a small city for a day and it had barely been enough for Peter not to collapse into a pile of bones from overworking his body too harshly.

In the same vein Danny had used his powers more in that day than he had in the past four months combined. Not only had he suffered what was essentially a mental breakdown followed by shock, but he had then time traveled multiple times in a row, opening portal after portal after portal to save the day. He had then had to struggle to maintain the correct energy balance to possess Peter’s body without completely taking control. If he had taken complete control, then Peter’s metabolism would have slowed down too much to protect him and all of Peter’s powers would be inaccessible to him. Then Danny had fought Vlad Plasmius of all people, ending the fight with an incredibly draining ghostly wail.

By the time Tony had carried them both away Danny and Peter had been holding onto each other and to their consciousness by their fingernails. They had been largely unaware of anything going on in New York except for when Tony had forced them to eat three of the weird bar things and then Thor had picked them up, and Loki had opened a portal and next thing they knew the air was clear and there was a wonderfully soft surface beneath their heads.

Danny had immediately phased out of Peter and turned human. He would later recall that Loki and Thor had tried to separate them, but Peter had stuck onto Danny with his sticky powers and Danny, in a show of solidarity, had turned intangible whenever anyone tried to pull him from the spot he was in. They’d only been semi-aware of anything at that point, but they were still quite certain that they were exactly where they were meant to be.

So, they’d been left there to recover together.

And step one of recovery was sleeping for nearly a whole day.

Which is exactly what they did.

They stayed curled up in bed, the world around them soft and hazy. They didn’t really move much, shifting around only occasionally as their body demanded. They just stayed tangled together as their bodies attempted to slowly knit themselves back together.

Danny was the first to wake. Probably because, despite all that he’d had to do he hadn’t overloaded his metabolism and therefore at least had some stored energy in his body to use. When he woke, truly woke, for the first time it was to the sensation of being cuddled quite tightly. It wasn’t a sensation he disliked either. He was laying on his side his head resting on a comfortably thick pillow. He had his arms wrapped tightly around Peter’s back. He noticed, with some amusement, that the arm that was lying below Peter was slightly intangible allowing him to sink it into the bed so that his circulation wasn’t cut off.

Peter had his face mashed into Danny’s collar bone and he had both arms wrapped as tightly around Danny as Danny was holding him. Which was rather tight considering they both had super strength. Their legs were tangled together with their ankles hooked around each other for an extra place to anchor to one another. They were so tightly wound that only Danny’s phasing powers would have allowed to him escape if he tried.

He felt pleasantly warm like this. His slightly colder body temperature had ensured that they hadn’t overheated beneath the thick blanket that had been pulled over them. It was also very nice feeling the rise and fall of Peter’s body and the light sensation of Peter’s breath tickling his chest. Danny hummed a little, making a noise he had never actually made before. It sort of sounded like the vibration of a phone, but much more pleasant on the ears. The noise didn’t come from his throat but instead seemed to wiggle out of his chest, right where his core resided.

It took Danny a moment to place the noise but when he did a slight smile worked his way onto his face. He’d heard Frostbite and some of the other ghosts in the Far Frozen make that noise before. A ghost noise that let out a vibration that helped a ghost regain lost energy quickly. The frequency of the vibration stimulated ectoplasm production in ghosts as far as Danny could tell. Sort of like how cats could purr to help heal from injuries. When Danny had pointed out this similarity to cats to the ghost, Frostbite had been very offended.

Clockwork later told him that ghosts would also make that noise when they were content.

Just like a cat.

Danny hadn’t been able to stop giggling about it for weeks. Even now it made a smile come onto his face as he hummed.

If asked Danny would claim he was doing it because he was exhausted and he’d depleted his core of energy, any little bit would help him recover. But that would be something of an untruth. Carefully Danny looked around the room. They were alone, in New Asgard. Based on the angle of the light coming in through the window it was the evening, that or early morning, which side of the house did this bedroom face?

Either way the sun was interacting quite closely with the horizon.

Danny shifted a little bit deeper into the bed, he felt very comfortable in that place. Comfortable and safe. Peter was there, they were protected from danger and he knew his parents were safe too. He knew he should move, his stomach was already making complaints for food, but he couldn’t bring himself to do anything but lay there. Everything had happened so quickly the day before and he couldn’t bring himself to let time speed up from the molasses pace it had taken on in this room. So, he let his head fall completely into the fluff of the pillow and he just breathed.

They’d done it. Vlad was locked away, truly trapped in that thermos. He wouldn’t haunt Danny anymore, wouldn’t threaten to murder his family and destroy the world. Danny’s worst nightmare had been cut short because of the person in his arms. Because Peter had found him before he’d given himself up, because Peter had been willing to go along with his crazy plan, had been willing to risk his life to protect Danny with his body.

“Are you purring?” Peter asked, his voice hoarse from sleep. Danny jerked a little in surprise at the sound, he hadn’t noticed Peter waking. The purring stopped.

“No.” Danny lied. “It’s a ghost healing technique.”

“So, like a cat?”

“Cats got it from us.”

Sure.”

“Whatever.” Danny muttered.

Were they not going to talk about it?

“Where are we?”

Okay so Peter wasn’t going to mention they were clinging to each other and he had his nose pushed up against his chest? No? Cool. Cool.

“New Asgard I think. I heard something about being taken here since New York is basically poisoned still.” Danny answered.

“Right.” Peter said. “How long is that gas going to stay in the air anyway?”

If Peter wasn’t going to mention it then Danny certainly wasn’t. Because he was cool, and he didn’t feel awkward about this at all. Besides talking about it would make it a big deal and it wasn’t a big deal.

“No idea.” Danny answered. “Probably won’t be safe for me to visit for the rest of the summer.”

“Oh.”

“And then school will start again, and I’ll be busy.” Danny continued. “It’s my senior year you know, and I probably should actually give a shit this year.”

“So that’s it?”

“Huh?”

Peter scrabbled up and away, sitting up in the bed and looking down at Danny. Danny let him go even though he really didn’t want to. Hadn’t they just been having a simple wonderful time cuddling in bed and pretending that was a thing they did? He was clearly upset though but even with that knowledge all Danny could focus on was how messy Peter’s hair was, it was freaking adorable.

“You’re just going to leave, go back to Amity?” Peter asked. “After everything?”

Danny blinked trying to understand what Peter was getting at. Of course, he was going to go back to Amity that’s where he lived. When he was living at least. As Phantom he didn’t really tend to stay anywhere in particular, equally hanging out in Queens or with the Avengers or in Wakanda or in New Asgard or anywhere else that took his fancy. But as Fenton he had a home, family he had to go back to, and the summer was nearly over. Only a few more weeks until September came and with it, school.

“I don’t…Spidey what are you talking about?”

“When you were just Phantom it was easier.” Peter said making Danny flinch. “No. Not like that! I mean, you were dead! You didn’t have a life.”

“Yeah I get it. But now that you know I’m some weird hybrid thing you’re not interested that’s fine.” He moved to get out of the bed completely, but Peter jumped forward and grabbed his hand.

“No! No I just, you can’t come to New York anymore, the whole city’s been poisoned. How are we going to hang out?”

“Oh.” Danny said stupidly. He had really misinterpreted that hadn’t he? “I guess you could come to Amity.”

“What?”

“Well I mean, it wouldn’t be hard to set up a meeting place that’s far enough out of the city that there’s no gas and you could take a bus or something to get there.” Danny said. “And then I could pick you up in a portal and take you back to my town. You’ve been there before. It’s not as busy as Queens and there’s not much to do but we could figure something out if you wante-”

“I want.” Peter said before blushing and trying again. “I mean I do. Yeah that sounds awesome.”

“Cool.” Danny said swallowing a little awkwardly. His throat felt dry all of a sudden. He pulled his hand away from Peter’s and sat up so that he was facing his friend better. “So…Peter Parker.”

Just saying the name felt special. Peter Parker. Peter Parker. Peter Parker.

“Danny Fenton.”

They hadn’t really had a chance to actually talk about it. It being the whole secret identity reveal. There had been so much going on and now Danny didn’t even know what to say. He looked at his friend, the guy who’d been a friend to him in both his forms and decided to just go for it.

“Are you still having trouble with that Flash guy?”

“Uhh yeah? Why?”

“Well Peter Parker can’t take on Flash but…I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that says that his friend Danny Phantom, whom he met at his Stark Industries Internship, couldn’t help smooth things out.” Danny said, Peter burst into a grin.

“Yeah! And…and I bet that Dash guy who’s always giving you problems won’t know how to deal with your new friend Spiderman, who you met while in New York on your Stark Industries Internship over the summer.”  

They grinned at each other, giggles hidden behind their teeth. Suddenly it didn’t matter, and everything felt terribly easy. They both knew why they hadn’t told the other their secret identity, they’d had the same reasons after all. And they both understood the other and accepted who they were when they weren’t being their alter egos. Everything felt soft and hazy. The light from the setting (or was it rising?) sun giving everything a warm glow that made complicated things seem smooth.  

He kept looking at his friend. Peter did indeed have brown eyes, just like Spiderman had admitted to him long ago. He also had brown hair that was sticking up in almost every direction thanks to a bad case of bed head. His skin was dewy, and he was still wearing the clothing they’d worn sneaking into New York, ash and debris from the fight still clinging to it and to him. Danny had known what Peter looked like before, but now looking at him and knowing it was Spiderman?

It took his breath away.

He looked at his friend and found himself leaning in just a bit closer.

And closer…

And closer…

And…

Their stomachs both let out unholy growls at the same time, Danny leapt back in shock so fast he flung himself off the bed. His powers kept him airborne though, so he didn’t land flat on his back. That would have been mortifying. Peter had fallen back himself, there was color high on his cheekbones now.

“We should probably…”

“Yeah. Food.” Peter agreed. “Let’s go get some food.”

“That’s a good idea.” Danny said lowering his feet to the ground. He knew the Avengers knew his identity now. He’d transformed in front of at least a couple of them after falling out of Peter, so it was likely they all knew by now. So, he didn’t bother transforming back. He always preferred eating in human form anyway.

He glanced over at Peter who was not looking at him as he got out of bed. He couldn’t believe he’d almost done that. What was he stupid? Nothing had happened though, he’d been stopped before he did something that ruined everything. Thank Clockwork for superhero teen metabolisms. Danny walked around the giant bed and joined Peter at the door.

“Hey Spidey?”

Peter paused, his hand hovering over the intricate doorknob.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For saving me.” It took Peter a moment to place what Danny was referencing, their fight outside the shield. When he realized it, a small grin took over his face.

“What are friends for, Billy Mays?” Danny laughed and rolled his eyes. He reached up and punched Peter lightly on the arm.

“Oh, shut up Steve Irwin. Come on, let’s go raid Thor’s kitchen.”

Chapter Text

Jack couldn’t stop looking at the thermos in his son’s lap.

His son was currently seated in the throne room of the King of New Asgard. Plenty of chairs had been conjured by Loki for all of them to use so that they could all sit in on the call with the Accords Council. Jack wanted to be proud. He wanted to sit next to his wife and hold her hand as they watched their son’s glowing face as he spoke to the government council like a little diplomat.

But he couldn’t stop looking at the thermos

It was based off of his design nearly wholesale. The same color scheme and look to it. The only difference being that before it was used it could collapse to fit into the utility belt their son had on his new suit. Jack had never been very good at making things collapsible. The closest he’d gotten was his ghost hunting suit that was stored in the handle of a gun and grew out to cover the wearer. But that had taken a lot of work and it still pinched on occasion. This was far sleeker. Jack made a note to ask his son’s friend Shuri about how she’d done that. What a smart girl she was.

The thermos was currently active. Glowing green to alert everyone around them that it currently held a ghost inside, safely ensconced away from the people it had tried to threaten.

His best friend.

“Plasmius’ current obsession was with the Fenton Family.” His son said. “He believed that Jack Fenton had stolen everything important from him. He had something of a friendship with Jack and his then girlfriend Maddie. When he and Jack separated, Plasmius grew bitter. He believed that Maddie belonged to him and that Jack needed to die so that he could take what was rightfully his.”

Hadn’t Jack? Hadn’t he stolen Vlad’s life from him? Jack had been so eager, so…caffeinated. He’d spent the last three days feverishly working on the newest design of the portal. It had been their 17th prototype and Jack had been so excited to try this one out. In truth he wanted it to work but he also would have been unsurprised if it had sparked and done nothing like every other prototype. And Jack’s excitement combined with a lack of sleep…

Maddie reached out and looped her fingers in between his. Loki had insisted they not wear their jumpsuits for the meeting and they were now wearing suits, uncomfortable itchy suits. Normally Jack would be complaining up a storm about wearing something so stiff but all he could do was sit there and stare. Stare at the silver cylinder his son was holding with a fair bit of care.

“I had placed the Fentons under my protection when I started living in Amity. They were good ghost hunters and they had the town’s bet interests at heart, even if they…saw me as part of the problem.” His son continued. “So, when Plasmius made his first murder attempt by inviting the Fentons to Masters’ home in the guise of a 20 year college reunion I went along with them.”

“And how were you able to do that?”

“Their youngest son Danny has always been a good friend to me. It’s not something I’ve advertised because until recently Maddie and Jack saw me as a villain and I didn’t want to put Danny in any trouble with his parents for being nice to me. Danny helped me remained mostly unnoticed on the trip up to Wisconsin and he helped me outwit Plasmius before the ghost could go too far.”

“And where is Daniel Fenton now?” Another government agent said.

“He was injured pretty badly during the invasion, he was inside Avengers Tower having volunteered to guard some of the Avengers more…dangerous equipment for us.” Tony cut in. “Plasmius didn’t spare him because he was young. He’ll be free to talk to the council on another day, once his concussion has mended some more.”

It had been decided that no one needed to know that halfas existed. The Accords did not protect the dead and any unscrupulous governmental body could try to take Danny in for anything and he wouldn’t have any legal recourse. For now his human identity would be a way for him to defend himself against people who would want to study him or lock him away. The Avengers had agreed with this, had even helped come up with the cover story. It had been such a blessing that Jack hadn’t had to try and discover a way to protect his son from forces he had no way of truly comprehending.

Jack was still reeling from the sight of that thermos.

“Very well. We will schedule that with the help of his parents, Dr. and Dr. Fenton?”

“We will want to be there.” Maddie said. “My poor baby shouldn’t do this alone.”

“Of course not. You have the right to have a lawyer appointed for your son as well as to be there with him.” One of the women on the council assured in a thick German accent. “Please contact us once you feel your son has recovered from his injuries enough to speak to us. From all accounts he was very brave and integral to ensuring that this attack was not worse. We don’t intend to interrogate him, just ask for a few clarifications and thank him for his service.”

They both nodded and agreed to that. Their son purposefully did not look at them, clearly trying not to give the game away. But Jack could see the way he held the thermos to him, nervous and fidgety.

“I have a question.” One of the other agents. “Phantom, why did Plasmius want you to give yourself up?”

“Plasmius was obsessed with power, with having what he thought was his due.” His son answered. “He wanted me to be his son, his…apprentice really. He wanted to have Maddie Fenton as his wife and myself as his son to complete the picture. He wanted to groom me into a ghost like him. We have had a lot of arguments and fights over my desire to use my powers to help people instead of control them. Plasmius thought it was a childish thing that he should…correct me on.”

“You keep using that word. Obsessed.” Captain America said. “What do you mean by that?”

“Ghosts have obsessions.” Danny said. “It’s usually related to their deaths, or something that happened to them in life. When we died, we died with enough emotion to be tied to the surrounding ectoplasm, whatever that emotion is usually becomes our obsession. It can be a framework for a ghost to build their afterlife on. Lots of ghosts after they die tend to be…directionless. I mean you died so it’s a bit, it’s hard. And since they have this thing, this obsession within them, something they already know, they tend to fixate on it.”

“Do all ghosts fixate?”

“All ghosts have a choice. We don’t fade away into nothing if we don’t fulfill our obsessions. We suffer nothing at all in fact if we go against them. Of course, ghosts of animals don’t necessarily have the sentience to make complex ethical choices, but ghosts like Plasmius and I definitely do.”

That was a cold comfort. Knowing that Vlad could have moved on from that day and had chosen not to. Jack knew he was responsible, for all of it. If he hadn’t been so eager, so careless. If he’d tried harder to reach out to his friend. If he’d been smarter.

“So, you believe Plasmius and his accomplice Vladimir Masters were fully in control of their choices?”

“I do. Masters got as much out of his interactions with Plasmius as Plasmius did with him. Masters entire fortune was gained through using Plasmius’ ability to possess people. Everything Masters currently owns was tricked out of people who couldn’t defend themselves against someone as powerful as Plasmius.”

“How did their association begin?”

“After a lab accident. Jack and Maddie in college were friends with Masters. During a test of a prototype device there was an explosion that resulted in Masters being hospitalized for radiation poisoning. Maddie and Jack were not legally allowed to visit Masters for health reasons for the first six months of his stay in the hospital because the CDC was unsure of the health risks of the ectoplasmic radiation. During that time Plasmius made contact with Masters and they formed their alliance to get revenge against Jack.”

“Mr. Stark, is there any hint of Masters?”

“He’s still MIA unfortunately. We found a portal to the ghost zone in his basement so we think he might have made his escape to the other dimension. Finding him there is probably impossible.”

The conversation continued. The Accords Council was rehashing everything for the 4th time. Forcing the Avengers, the Fentons, Spiderman, and Danny to sit in meeting after meeting answering question after question. Jack felt himself tune out even further as he looked at the silver cannister. His son had kept hold of it after the invasion, in his near unconscious state he had given it to Jack, begging him to keep it safe and to not let anyone take it from him.

So, Jack had kept it, carrying it with him as he explored New Asgard. He tried, desperately, not to think of the implications but they had hit him full force soon enough.

He had killed his best friend.

He had killed Vladdie. He had turned on a machine that had blasted a high concentration of ectoplasm into Vlad that had killed him slowly over the course of years. Jack had never forgotten the accident, the guilt had never lessened over the years. He had kept reaching out, time and time again to his friend. Trying to apologize, to make amends, to fix what he had broken with one careless act.

Jack had told himself Vlad was okay. Vlad had become a billionaire, he was more successful than almost anyone else on the planet. If Vlad didn’t want to make amends, then at least Jack knew he was well.

But he wasn’t well.

He never had been.

Vlad had died. Had died alone and angry at everything, had fallen into a pit of bitterness and resentment that was well deserved. Jack had deserved his rancor, his hatred. The attempts on his life had been…

“I am not going to give up this thermos until the Accords Council comes out with a document stating how they will be treated ghosts under their care.” His son cut through Jack’s thoughts. “The United Nations needs to decide whether or not people like me have rights and what those rights are. Until then, I won’t agree to allowing any ghost to be kept in captivity by a human.”

“You are being unreasonable. Plasmius put the entire world at risk with his invasion, he must be punished.”

“He will be. But not by you, not until I know his rights as a sentient being will be respected. I have seen what the government has done to mutants, what some have considered to do to metas. I won’t let any ghost, no matter how awful, be subject to the same treatment.”

“You are just refusing because you don’t want us to discover your kind’s weaknesses.”

“So, you admit you’d experiment on him then?” His son asked lifting up an eyebrow.

“I, well I never.”

“I have offered myself up as an option for knowledge. I have given that information freely to both the Wakandans and the Avengers and by extension this council.” His son said seriously. “The weapons work, you have the means to fight ghosts. You don’t need to know what we look like when you cut us open.”

“The United Nations cannot just make up a whole new law.” One of the council members said.

“Then I cannot just let you have him.”

“Mr. Stark please explain to this…this child why he must turn over custody of the criminal into our care.”

“I’m afraid I agree with him Madam Councilwoman.” Tony Stark said. “I want the rights of our undead friends here to be as protected as every other race that exists on earth. All of our laws only deal with the living, as a dead person he won’t be protected from anyone who has far less moral scruples.”

“Mr. Stark is correct.” T’Challa said. “Wakanda is prepared to help draft a legal document that extends rights to all ghosts who act on earth. I believe I have King Thor’s support on this as well.”

“You do.” Thor rumbled. “The UN was kind enough to offer me and my people equal rights and citizenship of earth despite our alien status. I wish to see the same courtesy given to all realms.”

A version of this argument had been held five separate times with the Accords Council. Each time Jack’s son had remained firm, refusing to hand over Vlad before knowing that Vlad wouldn’t be experimented on or tortured. The Council and the UN at large had been shifty on agreeing to it. Tony had told them he wasn’t surprised. Ross, a member of the Accords Council, had been after this sort of thing for ages. First it had been with Bruce Banner, and when that failed it had been with his own Iron Man suit, and then things had spiraled from there. Ross wanted power and he was willing to do what he had to to get it.

Danny’s stance was not making him many friends with the governments of the world.

Jack wished he knew how to help but he felt so useless. So terribly useless.

“Plasmius is a long time criminal, by your own admission, and yet you keep insisting on protecting him against any form of punishment.”

“If you want to put him in jail that’s fine. Pass a law that says that torturing ghosts is illegal just like it is for living people and you’re free to have him.”

“Phantom if you do not cooperate then you will be held in contempt of the Accords as well as-”

“You can’t hold me in contempt of anything.” Danny interrupted. “I’m dead. Your laws don’t apply to me right now. That’s the whole point. You can’t only apply the law to me when it’s best for you. Either they all apply all the time or none of them ever do. I am trying to make sure that all ghosts can be held responsible for their actions on earth. I want to be subject to the same regulations and expectations as anyone else and I also want the protection that comes with that.”

“So what? We are supposed to create a set of laws entirely catered to you?”

“I’m just asking you to promise me that you won’t start cutting open ghosts and experimenting on them. I’m not being insane for asking that.”

And so the conversation went. Danny, his son who had gotten a ‘D’ in English for the past three years somehow managing to articulate himself passionately and clearly in front of the Accords Council. Loki, Thor, and T’Challa supported him, adding on their own skills as kings and leaders to help bolster his son’s arguments.

Jack wanted to be proud. He wanted to be squirming in his seat trying to hold back all of his joy at seeing his son so confident and passionate.

But he couldn’t.

He’d killed his best friend.

It was worse somehow than finding out that Danny had died. Not that that hadn’t gutted Jack completely. Jack had nearly destroyed his own lab in his despair after Danny had told him the truth and then run off in fear. Jack had been inconsolable, knowing it was his invention, his lab, his hands that had led to his son’s death. It was Jack’s safety suit design that hadn’t been good enough. It had been Jack’s decision to not outlaw the kids from the lab.

He’d wanted to be a good parent, to make sure that he was always available to his kids even when he was working. He thought teaching his children lab safety and keeping the more dangerous chemicals out of reach when his children were young enough to not know not to eat unidentified things was enough. He’d designed safety suits for both his kids, made them himself by hand to ensure they were as good as they could be.

And Jack had been an idiot, hadn’t he?

An idiot who killed his best friend.

When Jack had learnt of his son’s fate it had been awful but at least…at least he had the comfort of knowing that Danny had been the one to step into the portal, had been the one to make the mistake of breaking the lab safety rules they’d set up. It was a cold comfort and it did very little to help him with his guilt and horror but it still existed, a tiny sheet protecting him from the buffeting winds of his guilt.

He didn’t have that this time.

He didn’t deserve any comfort either.

He’d killed Vlad.

“If you declare Danny an enemy then you declare me an enemy.” Spiderman said seriously. “I supported the Accords because I believed in them, I believe in oversight and I believe in rights for people like me, alive or dead. I know I’m supposed to be the prime example of what a hero can be under the Accords, I want to be that. But I won’t work with any of you if this is what you really believe.”

Spiderman was sitting next to his son, Jack had met him before the fight. His name was Peter Parker and he had the same spark in him that his son did. Seeing the two interact had made Jack beam with happiness. It was so good to see his son being accepted for who he was, for all that he was, by someone who understood.  Jack wanted to be happy about it. He wanted to nudge his wife and point out how close his son was sitting with the boy, how connected the two were. He wanted to hold back laughter as they gossiped together.

But…but he found he couldn’t.

“Look.” His son said. “There are ghosts who are capable of locking Plasmius up and keeping him away from earth.”

“You could be lying. For all we know you’re going to set the ghost loose the moment we agree.” Secretary Ross accused making his son color in offense.

“That was uncalled for.” Captain America cut in. “Phantom has been nothing but open and honest working with us. This is not how we should treat our allies.”

That had been a twist. When his son’s identity had been first revealed a few of the Avengers, the Captain included, had been incredibly upset by the secrecy. They had not known his son was truly a child, believing him to be centuries old, knowing the truth had hurt them. But despite this, they had still rallied together to support Danny as he fought for Vlad’s protection. Danny had explained it to them after he’d woken up and cleaned out Thor’s kitchen with the help of Spiderman.

“My parents used to threaten to rip me apart molecule by molecule, they knew it would give them the answers they wanted. I knew they wouldn’t, if they ever caught me, I’d transform and they wouldn’t continue. I knew that. But the UN isn’t Vlad’s parent. They won’t stop especially if he transforms in front of them. No one. Absolutely no one, deserves that.”

And so the heroes had agreed to protect the man who had threatened to murder them, the entirety of New York, and then take over the world by torturing Danny. They agreed to protect Jack’s best friend. The person who’d been trying to murder Jack and destroy his family for the past three years.

Jack leaned against Maddie and felt the woman stiffen up to bear his weight, always willing to be his rock, even when he was a complete fool.

How had he not seen it?

Jack didn’t notice when the call finally ended and they were left alone, with only Thor, Loki, his son, and Spiderman inside the throne room.

“Well.” Loki said as Danny transformed back into his human form. His son had in no way completely recovered from the fight and was still incredibly weak, holding his ghost form for the calls had been a challenge. “I think we’re getting through to them.”

“You do?” Spiderman asked, taking off his mask to reveal a young 16 year old face. “Because I thought they’d just threatened to lock up my best friend in the same cell as Vlad.”

“No. Those are just their final death throws before they give in. The only reason they haven’t given in completely is because the public is unaware of the reason behind the delays. They know the longer this goes on the likelihood that someone will leak the truth increases.”

“This is the worst.” Danny whined. “I don’t want to keep this thing on me all the time. It creeps me out.”

“Patience.” Loki said. “We’ll make a diplomat of you yet, Phantom.”

“Ugh.”

“Come on.” Maddie said. “It’s time for dinner, we should all eat after that call.”

“An excellent idea Lady Fenton!” Thor boomed.

They all agreed, and Jack pulled back from his wife so she could stand. Jack remained in his chair as people filtered out of the room. His head fell back to land against the wall behind him. He looked up at the dark wood of the ceiling and sighed.

He’d killed his best friend.

He couldn’t undo that. He couldn’t make it better. The guilt that had dyed his soul black would never leave. Jack knew that. He would never forgive himself for this. Not for doing it to Vlad and not for letting it happen to his son. There was no forgiveness for this.

A knock on the door frame.

“Hey dad?”

Jack looked up to see his son standing there, the thermos was now attached to his hip by his belt loop.

“Hey kiddo.” Jack said.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m…I’m fine, just a bit confused you know! Your dad was never made for all this politics stuff!” Jack said infusing his voice with a lot of false cheer.

“Right…You’ve been off since I woke up though.” His son said. “Dad. Is this about…”

His son motioned to the thermos a bit awkwardly, trailing off and unwilling to actually say it out loud.

“That’s my best friend in there.” Jack said.

“Pretty sure mom is your best friend dad, has been for 20 years.”

“I killed my best friend.”

His son sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“Sam killed me.”

“What?”

“Sam. It was her idea to explore that portal. She bothered me about it all day when I told her about it. Hours pestering me to take her and Tucker down there and show it to her. You know how Sam is, she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I wouldn’t be…it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been so stubborn.”

“Danny…”

“Dad. It was Sam’s fault and I forgave her.” Danny said. “I had every right to be angry at her and Tucker. No ghost would have blamed me. I went through the most painful experience of my life because she thought ‘it’d be fun’. I became a ghost because of her.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Did you know that prototype was going to blow up in Vlad’s face?”

“Well no.”

“Sam didn’t know either. She might not have pressed the button but we all know it was her idea.” Danny said. “I’m not telling you not to feel bad. It’d be terrible if you didn’t. But don’t blame yourself for what Vlad became. That was his choice. Obsession or not, all ghosts have a choice.”

“Oh.”

His son pushed himself off of the door frame that he’d been leaning on and walked over to Jack. He held out a hand.

“I forgave you Dad. Long before you knew what had happened.” Danny swore, his hand outstretched. “One day you’re going to have to forgive yourself.”

After a moment, Jack reached out and took it.

Chapter Text

The greatest thing, from the internet’s perspective, that came from Plasmius’ failed invasion of New York were the memes.

There was a picture someone had managed to take of the Winter Solider using a Spiderman-themed lightsaber which became a meme. The first example of this meme was posted by a Spiderman fan account who went by the username @Spider-Stan. The caption of the meme was simple:

Some Pleb: Everyone knows Spiderman is a danger to the community.

Then the image of the Winter Soldier cutting through a ghost with the red and blue lightsaber with white text in the bottom that read ‘BEGONE THOT’.

It was of course an overnight sensation that resulted in about 1000 iterations within 24 hours of it being posted.

There was also the fact that people had edited Plasmius’ threatening video, taking and rearranging sound clips so that Plasmius was making fun of himself. There was also the obligatory ‘Ok Boomer’ response to Plasmius’ threats. The ‘Ok Boomer’ thing had spread so far as to have infected every post that had ever been made by Dalv Co., which was owned by the human who had allied himself with Plasmius. No amount of PR on Dalv Co.’s part could survive the onslaught of the ‘OK Boomer’.

A meme was formed about who would win between Plasmius and Ghost Spider. In fact, there were thousands of memes about Ghost Spider defeating ridiculous things like ‘my depression’ or ‘that beam of sunshine that wakes you up on a Saturday’.

There was the possession meme about Ghost Spider. Which mostly consisted of describing ridiculous situations in which the combined powers of Phantom and Spiderman could be needed. Situations like trying to open a pickle jar or finding the toothpaste brand that 10 out of 10 dentists recommended.

There were also the obligatory images of Ghost Spider having been photoshopped into various situations with the caption ‘My last two brain cells combining to save my dumb ass’.

But the crowd favorite was the Wail Meme.

Some insane New Yorker who didn’t fear death or god (which, since he was a New Yorker through and through was valid) had been in Central Park and had been able to film the final confrontation between Ghost Spider and Plasmius. The guy had been too far away to pick up much of the dialogue between the two combatants, and it didn’t help that the forest was filled with that red haze that made the whole thing hard to focus in on.

The most beautiful clip from that brave man’s phone came when Ghost Spider let out a sonic scream attack that tore Plasmius a new one. The sonic attack was so powerful it actually caused wave like vibrations in the red fog. Overall the whole clip was practically art. The audio was pretty bad though. The first part of the video before the wail was just this guy talking to himself explaining how the Hulk had smashed his ghost an