Danny checked his Ghost Time Zone Adjuster Watch (Patent Pending!) and frowned at the numbers on the dial. It was, in theory, synced to the time on Earth– or at least the time zone Amity Park was in, but he'd noticed it got a little less reliable the further he went from the portal.
He was hoping it was going fast tonight, because if it wasn't, well, tonight had just become this morning. He might have been used to late night and early morning fights, but that didn't mean he had to like them.
He'd wanted to get to the Far Frozen and back before he had to get up in the morning, but at this pace, that didn't seem likely. The Far Frozen was living up to its name, it seemed.
But despite its inconvenient location, the Far Frozen was also the only place Danny knew of that was both willing and able to treat halfas. And wasn't Vlad. Vlad didn't count, for obvious reasons.
Danny passed a set of melting stairs whose banister was slowly mutating into hissing snakes and the icy islands loomed into view. He sighed in relief. Finally.
He zoomed towards the main island, skirting snow-laden clouds and pallid, sinuous frostworms. Briefly, he touched down at the edge of the island, internally debating waiting for the yetis to notice him or going closer. He bounced in place. If he stayed still too long, he might doze off. He'd been having some trouble with that, lately. And he was short on time.
Mind made up, he took off again, but flew more slowly. The yetis should be able to notice him long before he reached their settlement at this rate.
He saw the clouds of ice kicked up by the pair of skimmers before he saw the skimmers themselves and slowed. The skimmers slowed, too, and they met in the middle.
"Hi, guys!" called Danny. "Do you mind if I take a lift with you?"
"Yes, Great One!" shouted the pilot over the engine of the skimmer. "What brings you here today?"
Danny landed on the deck of the skimmer. "Medical stuff," he said, shrugging. "You can call me Danny, by the way. What's your name?"
"Iceplow, Great One! It is an honor to carry you! Why, this is the first time I've had a passenger who wasn't from the Far Frozen."
"Yeah?" asked Danny, stifling a yawn and sitting cross-legged on the deck.
Iceplow nodded, and launched into a story about how he'd learned to drive. Danny, sadly, couldn't pay much attention, because it sounded hilarious. The skimmer bounced and jolted underneath him, but… compared to his dad… sleepy…
They skidded to a stop and Danny forced himself awake.
"Here we are!" announced Iceplow. "Safe and sound, as promised, Great One!"
Danny nodded and smiled. "Thanks for the ride."
Upon hopping off the skmmer, he was swarmed. He was maybe a bit of a celebrity here. Way more than he was in Amity Park, which was weird because he'd never intentionally set out to save the Far Frozen. It had just sort of happened, incidentally.
Usually, he'd love the attention, but tonight, with how tired he was… He started to flag immediately. But the crowd scattered away, suddenly respectful.
"What brings you here, Great One?" asked Frostbite, rescuing him. "Unless I miss my mark very much, this is an unusual time for you to visit."
Danny nodded, a less tired part of him making a note to figure out how Frostbite knew it was a weird time. "I wanted to ask you a few, um, medical questions, if that's okay?"
Frostbite sobered immediately. "Are you ill?" he asked, clearly troubled. "Have you been injured?"
Danny shrugged. "I don't know. I was kind of hoping you'd be able to tell me. I mean, I don't know if this is something normal, or a ghost thing, or a halfa thing, or something else."
"I see," said Frostbite. "In that case, we should go to the infirmary and do a thorough assessment. If it is troubling you, after all, then at the very least it is a change to your normal status."
"Yeah, that sounds good." There were places to sit down in there.
Frostbite lifted Danny to sit on his shoulders. Danny caught himself listing sideways, into Frostbite's horns, which was really quite rude, twice.
The infirmary caves, carved deep into the ice and rock of the Far Frozen, were kept meticulously clean and brightly lit. It would be easy, down here, to forget that he wasn't in a hospital back on Earth.
… At least in some places. In other places, the machines and equipment being used was definitely not intended for humans and the raw walls of the tunnels showed through.
Danny stared at the labeled diagram of a blob ghost on the far wall, his eyes too unfocused to make out the words on it. A sharp buzzing sound rang in his ears. The thought that he could steal a nap crossed his mind and was reluctantly discarded. Or, rather, it wasn't so much discarded as… Well, it would be rude, wouldn't it? To fall asleep like that?
Frostbite cleared his throat, a human habit he'd definitely picked up from Danny, jolting him out of his reverie. "Let's start with the symptoms you are experiencing."
"I've been tired all the time. But when I try to sleep, I just can't. I've tried getting myself to wake up more, and I've tried coffee, and I've tried wearing myself out so I'll sleep, but… Nothing seems to work."
"Well, there are a few different things that could be. Let's start with some simple tests…"
Frostbite started with things any doctor would do. He weighed and measured Danny, listened to his heart, took his blood pressure, tested his reflexes. He also repeated most of Danny's tests in both forms, took 'aural photographs,' and checked the energy levels of his ectoplasm. Then came blood tests, x-rays, an MRI, an 'ectoplasmic resonance scan,' an ectosignature typing, and other, weirder tests.
"Hm," said Frostbite, looking down at the test results. "Interesting."
"Interesting bad, or interesting good?"
"Nothing bad, no. I believe I may be able to do something to help," said Frostbite, finally, "but may I ask a favor of you in the meantime?"
"Sure," said Danny.
"You see, I may have to consult with some of our experts, but they're largely occupied with the children today."
"You haven't met them before, have you?" asked Frostbite. "You have spent most of your time in the warrior's camp."
"The–?" Any other time, Danny would be asking questions, but he knew that if he did now, the explanations would go in one ear and out the other. He shook his head. "You want me to watch them."
Well, it couldn't be any worse than trying to babysit Youngblood. And it would make him feel better to actually do something useful, instead of just waiting for Frostbite to find something to fix him.
Frostbite led Danny down another series of tunnels, then outside and up over a series of hills. Danny started flagging right away, but Frostbite slowed to accommodate him.
They crested one more hill, and then Danny saw it. A wonderful, fantasy play structure that would fill any child under ten with avarice. A finely detailed medieval castle, with slides, swings, climbing walls, and anything else you could think of, down to what looked like an accurate trebuchet and functional portcullis, all made of glass-clear ice. Within the play structure were five small yetis.
Danny gasped and clutched at Frostbite's arm. "Oh my gosh," he said, "they're precious."
They were small. Well, smaller than the adult yetis. Even at this distance, Danny was pretty sure the smallest one was at least as tall as he was and probably had at least fifty pounds on him with how fluffy they were.
"How old are they?" he asked
"Hm, let's see," said Frostbite. "Icepack is the oldest… Snowflake is the youngest… so that would be… They're between fifty and two hundred and fifty years old."
"Between fifty and two hundred and fifty years old."
"Frostbite," said Danny, "they're older than me. How could I watch them?"
Frostbite chuckled. "I did not actually say that, if you remember." He gently pushed Danny forward. "All I said was that I needed to speak with the experts here. We do not have to go anywhere else to do that." Once more, he urged Danny forward. "Please, Great One, go play."
"I don't…" He looked back at the ice castle. The children had definitely noticed him, and they were coming out. Their eyes were sparkling.
He couldn't disappoint kids.
As Frostbite went to go join the other adult yetis, who were sitting on a bench a short distance away, he approached, trying not to look nervous. "Hi!" he said. "I'm Danny."
"I'm Snowflake!" said the tiniest yeti in an adorably squeaky voice. "I'm a girl!"
"Everyone knows you're a girl!"
"Yep," said Danny, giving a shaky thumbs up, "I don't know anything about any of you, so…"
"He's Cryosphere. His parents had to give him a really fancy name to make up for–"
The tallest of the yeti children put their hand on Snowflake's head. "I'm Snowpack," they said. "These two are Featherice and Candleice."
Snowflake beat Snowpack's hand away. "Are you a boy or a girl?"
"Uh," said Danny, who had been prepared for a different kind of interrogation altogether.
"'Cause if you're a boy, then we're even, because Snowpack and Cryosphere are boys, and Featherice and Candleice are girls."
"I guess I'm a boy, then," said Danny.
He got the distinct impression he was being sized up. "Then you can be one of the princesses with me! We can have a girl princess and a boy princess, then, and it'll be fair."
"You can't have a boy princess," said Cryosphere. "He has to be a prince."
"Princes are the ones who rescue princesses," said Snowflake. "Princes get armor, and princesses get crowns. That's how it works."
"I know a princess," said Danny, hoping to at least derail the brewing argument. "She rescued herself, and she ha-aa-aaaawhn." Danny was unable to keep himself from yawning.
"You," declared Snowflake, gravely and with great importance, "are sleepy." She tapped his nose with one claw. This froze the air inside his nostrils and he sneezed.
"Ahhhh," said Featherice, "your sneeze is so cute!"
"Sleepy!" declared Snowflake again.
"No," he said, defensively. At least for human children, being sleepy would be seen as uncool. He wanted to be cool.
The little yetis stared at him judgmentally.
"I think it's naptime, anyway," said Icepack. "So, why don't we do a blizzard, then take a nap?"
Snowflake gaped at him, betrayed. "I don't need to take a nap."
"It's not very fair to tell someone else they need a nap, then not take one yourself, is it?" asked Icepack. "We can all take one together, okay?"
"Um," said Danny, "a blizzard?"
"It's a type of group work," said Candleice, quietly. "You let your ice go together and shape it together. In a blizzard, the snow comes and tucks you in, then you take a nap."
"O-oh," said Danny, "I don't know if I should do that, my ice powers, um…" He glanced over at Frostbite, who gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up. The children were looking at him expectantly. Danny caved. "Okay, we can try it out." He could always just… not put any power into what they were doing.
He was, upon agreement, promptly dragged into the castle's courtyard.
"So," said Icepack, "first, we get in a circle, and we all hold hands."
The yetis lined up in order of height and Danny, the shortest, carefully took the clawed hands of Snowflake and Icepack.
"Now, we start walking in a circle…" Danny mimicked the yetis around him. "And we wave our arms up and down. Then we take cold in through our left arm, and out with our right. Pass it around."
Danny had never done anything like this before, but the momentum the yetis were building made it easy to let the cold wash through him, sending ice feathering up his arms and around his shoulders. The feeling plucked at his core, and, finally, he gave in to the feeling, adding a thread of his power.
"There we go. Good job, everyone."
A few meters above the circle, a storm swirled, building and building.
"Alright, now change directions."
Danny stumbled a step, but fell back into the loose rhythm easily. Snow began to fall from the clouds above, faster and faster, until even the constant movement of the circle didn't stop them from having to wade through snow. Snow gathered heavily on Danny's shoulders, in his hair, his eyelashes. The shifting white in front of him could have been Snowflake's back, but it could just as easily be the snow. He could hardly see his own hands, and definitely couldn't see his feet.
Everyone let go and threw themselves into the high bank of snow that had gathered outside of their circle. More ice energy burst out as the circle broke, the power they were channeling and building escaping into the air and making it just that much colder, the snowflakes just that much larger. There was some muffled giggling as the children flopped around and knocked snow onto one another. Danny was promptly buried.
"Naptime now!" called out Icepack. The other children quieted.
Danny sighed and flexed his hands, which were still bleeding cold energy. He wanted to get up, but it'd be better if he was a good role model, right?
Although… This was pretty comfortable. Nice and cold, the right temperature for his core, the snow underneath conforming to his body, the ever-increasing weight of the snow above, the dark and quiet, also increasing.
Clockwork and the other adults were watching, too. Maybe, just for a moment…
The blizzard cleared. Not too long later, the five little yetis burrowed out from under the snow.
"You were very mature, today, children," said Frostbite, passing out little flavored ice treats. "Thank you for your help."
"He's so little!" said Snowflake. "He's even smaller than me. Did he really fight Pariah Dark?"
"He did," said Frostbite, "that's why it's so easy, sometimes, to forget that he is a child, just like all of you."
"Not that any of you should go off fighting strange adults any time soon!" said Driftice, their main caretaker for the day, swooping in. "Humans age differently, and he had been a human for most of his existence."
"Aha, yes, that is true."
"Chief Frostbite," said Snowflake, tugging on the end of his cape to get his attention back. "I have a question."
"Go ahead, little one."
"Doesn't he know ghosts don't take naps? He's got to know that, if he beat up Pariah Dark."
"Well, he was human."
Snowflake frowned. "How do humans become ghosts?" she asked.
Driftice glared at him from over Snowflake's head.
"Oh, dear, look at the time. You're all late for your hunting lesson."
"No, we're not," said Snowflake, even as the group was hurried along by Driftice and the other caretakers of the day.
Frostbite sighed and made an ice chair for himself. He waited, amusing himself by making small sculptures, not something he got much practice at, with his duties as chief.
Several hours later, the snow shifted and a rather disoriented-looking Phantom dug his way out of the snow. "Huh?" he said, looking around. "What?"
"You fell asleep," explained Frostbite, putting aside his latest sculpture.
Phantom's eyes widened. "Sorry. I didn't mean to."
"Perhaps not, but I meant for you to."
"What?" asked Phantom, bewildered.
"To put it simply," said Frostbite, "you were too stressed to sleep, Great One, and somewhat overheated for an ice core as well. I'm sorry for the deception with the children, but I wasn't sure you would agree to rest, otherwise, and that's the only cure for these things."
"I," said Phantom, frowning. "But–"
"Do you feel better?" prodded Frostbite.
"... Maybe," said Phantom, quietly, guiltily.
Frostbite smiled gently. He handed Phantom one of the ice sculptures. It was a simple thing, a series of spheres within spheres.
"Everyone needs rest, Phantom. There's no shame in taking it."
"But what if…" Danny rubbed his thumb over the sculpture. "What if something happens? How long was I asleep?" He flailed a bit more and freed a hand from the snow. He glared at the small watch around his wrist.
"Then something happens, and you deal with it well-rested."
Phantom, in a way that was far too adorable considering that he had no fur and hardly any fangs, pouted. "Frostbite, I was asleep for over eight hours. I'm going to totally miss school."
"And do you feel better?" prompted Frostbite again.
"... Yes. But I really have to go, now, or else my parents will totally blow up at me."
Frostbite was glad he knew that was a colloquialism. "You can always tell them you were kidnapped by a ghost. It's even true."
"You're terrible," said Phantom. "But… Thanks. I might take you up on that."