A Bad Word
Drenched was a good word, Jazz thought, distracted, as she sprinted up the stairs. Her shirt and a good part of her pants had that sopping, clingy feel of being completely soaked through. Her socks slapped against the kitchen floor. She dragged a kitchen chair to the fridge and rummaged through the cabinet above it. They had a first aid kit downstairs, but it wasn't big enough. She needed compress bandages, bigger ones, or maybe a sewing kit, or...
She needed something.
Jazz huffed in frustration when she found nothing but mousetraps and empty cardboard boxes. Danny had burned through Mom and Dad's backup supplies ages ago. She slammed the cabinet shut and flicked a stray hair behind her headband. Her fingers brushed her cheek, leaving an icy smear. The sharp acidic smell of the liquid burned fresh in her nose; surprising, since she'd become almost deadened to it in the past few minutes, when...
Jazz swiped away the smear with the back of her wrist. Smear was a good word.
She hopped off the chair and grabbed her keys from the kitchen counter, running to the front door. The wet socks squelched into her flats; she tried not to wince. It took her three times to start the car, twice to back it out of the driveway. As soon as the tires hit asphalt she floored it.
"Miss?" Jazz glanced up, startled, at the tentative voice. Nobody she knew. An old man holding a carton of orange juice, staring at her with a funny look in his eyes. "Miss, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she responded brightly, hugging the armament of medical odds and ends to her chest and bouncing on the balls of her feet. There were two people in line ahead of her. It was the only register. It would take five minutes. That was longer than the drive home. Five minutes plus five minutes after the five minutes it had taken to get here, a few seconds snatching items off the shelves, and it would have been fifteen minutes since she'd left the basement.
That was too long. She'd have to drive faster.
A hand fell on her shoulder, and Jazz started violently. A package of gauze flew out of her grip and bounced away across the floor. The old man's eyes followed it, then returned to settle on the incriminating packages still in her arms. "Miss, have you been attacked?"
"No sir," she stepped back to remove his hand from her shoulder, and smiled at him, though it felt stretched across her face.
"Are you sure?" His eyes fell lower, on the hem of her sleeve that gleamed a visible green despite the black fabric. "Because you're covered in—"
"My parents are ghost hunters," she interrupted hastily. "Something got spilled, just a little accident. I'll clean up as soon as I get home. Nothing to worry about." The lies bubbled off her lips with all the substance of foam. He didn't look convinced, but at least he stopped asking questions.
Jazz contemplated how crazy pushing aside the man ahead of her would be. The man wore a letterman jacket and had a dozen magazines tucked under his arm, whistling something tuneless as he eyed the candy display. The old lady at the front of the line was paying cash. The cashier counted out her exact change as they chatted about the weather. Jazz decided she didn't care.
Petrified. Petrified was a good word, Jazz thought as she stood on the brink of the laboratory stairs. Her vantage point allowed her to see just how much of the stuff she'd trailed up the stairs in her frantic flight. It looked like the aftermath of a rave, glowing liquid spattered up both walls. Her socks squelched as she rolled on her heels, willing herself to take that first step.
She'd raced her way home, feeling every moment slide away like smoke through her fingertips. But now the reality of all those moments stood in her way like a brick wall.
Jazz had only been down there by chance. With their parents out of town, she'd been tasked with checking on some experiments to make sure nothing exploded. She hadn't even known that Danny had gone to the Ghost Zone. Not until he came flying back through and crashed into a shelf, sending papers and inventions flying, splattering everything vivid green.
He'd collapsed into her arms, wheezing for breath, instantly soaking her in frigid—
Jazz shivered. Frigid was a good word.
That icy coolness had faded, leaving her sticky and hot in the half-dried clothes, but goosebumps still prickled on her arms. What if it had been too long? What if he already...what if he'd changed back? What if all that waited for her downstairs was a still, cold body and a wash of green and red?
"Dangit!" The word echoed up to her, sharp and irritated.
Her feet must have made up their mind, because suddenly Jazz was flying down the stairs, grocery bags swinging. She skidded to a stop at the bottom, heart in her mouth, and looked. Danny, shirtless and human, perched on the edge of one of the steel counters with a rag pressed against one shoulder.
He looked up as she came in, taking in the plastic bags still clutched in her fists. "Seriously? You went shopping? Thanks a lot, sis. Really could have used your help, you know."
"Danny!" Jazz crossed the room in a breath and seized him by the shoulders. He was alive—he was sitting up, should he be sitting up? Should he be moving? He couldn't be human, that was dangerous. He needed to go ghost, maybe that would slow it down—
She instantly let go, eyes racing up and down her brother's torso, searching for the gaping wound that had to be there. Scratches, bruises, a cut on his shoulder that left an oozing trail of red down his arm, a spectacular bruise wrapping blotchy and red across the right side of his chest...
Danny ducked his head to catch her eyes. "Hello, earth to Jazz. Wow, you're really freaking out."
"Of course I'm freaking out!" Jazz pointed at the massive green puddle right in front of the portal. "You come back and you're bleeding out and there's not one first aid kit in this house that hasn't been reduced to bandaids, and Mom and Dad aren't home and there's—" she gasped in a breath and it was half sob, "—there's, it's all over me and the floor and you're—"
"Jazz, relax! It's not mine. Well, mostly not mine." Danny touched the bruise on his ribcage gingerly. "I got dunked in the stuff; that's when I decided that I'd better cut my losses and come back. The creep after me really got a whack in before I could make it to the portal, knocked the wind out of me."
Jazz collapsed against the table beside Danny, half smiling, half blinking back tears. He was okay. Really okay. "You're sure it's not bad?"
Rolling his eyes, her brother stood up, turning around for her inspection. "See? Fine." He punched her lightly on the arm. "Which I would have told you after I caught my breath if you hadn't run off like a crazy person. What was it you just had to buy, anyway? Is it some kind of girl thing?" He pulled the bag out of her hand and peered inside. "Your brother gets hurt and you have a sudden urge to own a new pair of shoes? Or...oh."
Danny looked up from the small medical arsenal she'd brought home, something between understanding and guilt hovering in his eyes.
Jazz found herself blushing. "I panicked, alright?"
He set aside the bag and leaned against the table next to her, their arms just touching. "I really scared you, didn't I?"
She covered her mouth with both hands, but couldn't suppress a high-pitched giggle. Hysteria was a good word. "I knocked down an old lady to get those for you."
"I thought you were...I was..." Jazz couldn't seem to get out an explanation. She gestured vaguely, then gave up. "It's silly now that I think about it. You get covered in this stuff all the time."
Danny bumped his arm into hers. "I'm fine, totally. I promise."
Biting her lip, she glanced at the gash on his shoulder. It really wasn't all that bad; only a few inches long. "You're still bleeding."
"Okay, totally fine except for that one thing." He offered her a lopsided grin. "How's your sewing?"
"Terrible." She wrapped her arms around her brother and hugged him tight.
Jazz could feel Danny chuckle. His warm breath tickled her neck. "What, after all the practice I gave you with Bearburt?"
Alive, she thought. Alive was a good word.
~ end ~
Finally, the final installment of this little trio of fics. Mostly because I'm procrastinating from SoaD at the moment.
This was a little challenge to myself, to try to write an entire story while avoiding a word. It's been posted before somewhere, but I can't for the life of me tell you where. I couldn't quite get this fic where I wanted it to be, but eh, it's not going to get better for me staring at it. There's a remote possibility that this series might be added to in the future, but not terribly likely. For the present, at least, I'm calling it complete.
Thank you for your reviews, everyone! It's been fun. :)