While his family sat down at the kitchen table for dinner, Danny carried up a red-tinted jug from the lab and set it on the counter like it was nothing more than a gallon of milk. He thrust his hand through the shut cabinet and pulled out a ten-inch tall, clear glass. With a careful sleight of hand, Danny tilted the jug back and poured the gurgling ectoplasm into the cup. He left the jug on the counter and took his seat at the table beside Jazz, who was staring at him with something akin to horror.
He took a sip of ectoplasm before placing the glass on a coaster. Jazz's left eye twitched and she desperately tried to gain the attention of her parents, who were chowing down, visibly unperturbed. After a minute or so, she snapped.
"Do you really have to drink that here?"
Danny's fork stopped inches from his mouth. "Huh?"
"That!" she pointed to the cup. "I can't focus on eating with that on the table!"
"I can't help it, okay?" To prove his point, he took another swig of it. "I'm a halfa—I need this to survive."
Maddie set her own silverware down. "Jasmine, leave your brother alone. You know that he needs to keep a balanced diet."
"But it smells foul!"
"So do your protein shakes, but you don't hear me complaining," Danny said.
She huffed indignantly. "That's totally different! I'm not drinking a biohazard."
"Look, I don't care if you drink it. I know it's good for you, I just don't want it inches from my dinner. Alright?"
Danny grinned, showing off his green-stained teeth. "Tough shit."
"Daniel James," Maddie warned.
"Oh, uh... sorry, Mom."
Jazz gave him a triumphant glare before returning to pick at her food.
"So," Jack spoke between bites, apparently having ignored the prior conversation. "How was school today, kiddos?"
"The usual. I had to ditch English to fight ghosts, but I think I did well on my Algebra quiz, so it evens out."
"Mr. Lancer didn't go too hard on you when you got back, did he?" Maddie asked.
"Nah. He bought my excuse hook, line, and sinker. Things have gotten a lot better since you guys came up with that 'ecto-contamination' condition. He doesn't even give me detention anymore!"
"That's great! Just don't abuse your privileges or they might get suspicious."
"Are you kidding?" he said. "I got this secret thing in the bag."
"You didn't when they found out last month," Jazz reminded.
He kicked her under the table but she only rolled her eyes.
"What about you, Jazzy? Did the psycho-presentation go well?"
She groaned. "It wasn't a 'psycho-presentation', Dad. It's a psychology class, there's a huge difference. But yeah, I'm pretty sure that I aced it."
"That's my girl!"
For a moment they lulled into a silence, perpetuated only by the soft sound of silverware scraping across four plates. After downing the last of his ectoplasm, Danny broke the ice.
"Did you guys manage to figure out how to separate the ecto-markers from my blood yet?"
"Here we go again…" Jazz grumbled.
"Not yet, unfortunately. We spent most of the morning studying your samples, but we're not any closer to cracking the code yet. Once we isolate the markers we'll be able to figure out what exactly keeps your form fluid enough to switch between ghost and human."
"I thought that was what my mid-morph sample was for."
Maddie looked appalled. "Oh, no. Your mid-morph sample is far too unstable to pull any real data from. It would spare us the calculations, but stabilizing your cells between forms long enough to collect that sample would be extremely painful and could permanently damage your ability to switch between the two. That's not a risk we can take."
"We only want to understand you, Danno. We'd never dream of hurting you just for some experiment!"
"Oh, I know. I just want to understand me, too."
After they'd learned his secret, Danny had spent much more time in the lab with his parents. At first, Jazz found his new passion sweet until he started talking like his parents too. Spouting on and on about ectoplasm-this and ghosts-that. Their first project had been figuring out how often Danny needed to drink ectoplasm to keep his energy levels reasonably safe. After a week or so they'd figured out the calorie count for ectoplasm and drew him up a dietary chart. They were all so proud of it that it was still on the fridge.
"If you want, you can help us in the lab after dinner," Jack offered.
"If you've finished your homework," Maddie added.
Danny thought for a moment. "What if I do homework after the lab?"
"I'm glad that you're eager to help, but your studies come first."
His eyes flared green in silent agitation. "Fine."
"You won't miss much. We're just testing last night's blood samples with different ectoplasmic isotopes to see if that has any effects. It's pretty tedious if you ask me."
"Yeah, but you do this stuff for a living. I never get to do it, not even in school since I'm banned from handling all delicate lab equipment for a lifetime!"
"Surely, they're willing to give you another shot?"
"I dropped thirty-four beakers in the month after my accident—I don't think anyone's keen on giving me a second chance any time soon."
Jack whistled. "Was the intangibility really that bad?"
"I've told you about the time I got my leg stuck in the freezer door. What do you think?"
Jazz snorted. "Don't forget all the times you phased out of your clothes in public."
He turned on her. "What did I do to make you hate me, tonight?"
"I asked you not to drink ectoplasm at the table and then you drank ectoplasm at the table!"
"You're just mad because I reminded you of all the times you dropped your pants in front of Paulina—"
He gasped. "Sam told you?"
"I'm sorry, you did what?" Maddie asked.
Danny's cheeks burned bright green. "I—I couldn't control my powers, alright?"
"I'd say! We Fenton men have much more class than that, Dannyboy! You know, in college I—"
"Oh my God, Dad. Stop."
"I think that's my cue to leave," Jazz decided. She stood from the table, placed her plate in the sink, and fled the kitchen without a word.
"What did I say?" Jack asked.
"The direction you were taking that story didn't sound very promising, honey."
"Well, now that I think about it maybe it wasn't..."
Danny coughed. "Can we keep this conversation PG, please? I think I'm set on being scarred for life… and afterlife."
"Good idea," Maddie said.
Danny looked back down at his plate and frowned. "Hey, I can ask you guys anything, right?"
"Of course, Danno."
"Do you also think it's weird that I drink ectoplasm with dinner?"
"What? No. Your sister's just being dramatic, that's all. You know she doesn't mean anything by it, not really." Maddie's voice softened. "Do you feel weird about it?"
He rolled the empty glass around in his hand. "I don't know. Jazz is used to all my ghost stuff, so when she reacted that way… I guess I thought that maybe I was finally crossing the line. It's dumb, I know."
"It's not dumb," Jack assured. "It's something you have to drink."
"But I don't have to do it here. I could drink it in my room and then Jazz wouldn't be uncomfortable with the smell..."
Maddie shook her head. "We're your family. You shouldn't have to drink it in private like it's something shameful. There's nothing shameful about what happened to you or what you are. So, if Jazz thinks ectoplasm smells rank, she should get over it."
Tears welled at the edge of Danny's eyes. "I—thanks. I needed to hear that."
Jack stood up from the table and threw his arms out. "Bring it in, son!"
Before he could protest, Jack had scooped the small ghost-boy in his arms and held him in a firm embrace.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again—we don't care about the ghost stuff. We love every side of you the same and want you to love yourself."
Danny relaxed in his father's grip and leaned his head against Jack's chest.
"I love you, too. But… can I ask you one more thing?"
He met Jack with pleading, blue eyes. "Can I help in the lab after dinner?"
"Eh, you still gotta do that homework."
Danny phased out of the hug and stumbled back into his chair.
Written for Phic Phight 2020!
heartbeatslows's prompt: "I can't help it, okay? I'm a halfa!…I need this to survive."
faedemon's prompt: Post-reveal, Danny has grown much closer to his parents, and—since they've learned ghosts are feeling beings, and have decided to practice more humane science—he ends up taking an interest in their work. Ectobiology/Science Nerd!Danny. How his friends/Vlad reacts to his new passion is up to you!
I really tried tying in the science nerd!Danny prompt, but I feel like I fell a bit short so I might continue this or write something else with that prompt!