One Year Later
The snow crunched beneath the black boots, sinking with the heavy weight.
The air was crisp and chilly, a breeze whipping the nose of the girl to a faint pink that tainted her cheeks.
She sighed, one hand shoved into the jacket pocket and the other shifting the cold cell phone to her equally icy ear. Her breath whisked from her in a white smoke and her lavender eyes shone in the daylight.
"So…will you come?" The voice asked, slightly cackled by the electronic device.
She shifted and was silent.
It wasn't an unexpected question…and her answer wasn't either.
It was quiet on the other end and she felt a hard sinking in her stomach at the awful pause.
The voice began again-- something that was unexpected. "Sam…It's almost Christmas…" She said nothing, the white smoke of her breath appearing rhythmically as she stood.
"I know it's hard for you--I've never argued with you. But please…"
"Tucker--" She interrupted, but he rushed on.
"It's getting bad Sam." He stated and she closed her eyes. "I know you want space…but maybe going through with it instead will help you get over it."
She continued walking, her clunking boots echoing in the electronic background. Her eyes focused on the snow as she followed the memorized steps to the huge mansion looming ahead.
"Just this once. Go tonight and if it's really to hard, you can just leave."
Her pocketed hand reached out and grabbed the metal gate to the enormous entrance of Manson Manor. She looked up at it, the large fountain nearly frozen, the rooftops glistening in the sun.
"Who is it?"
There was a change in the techno geek's voice, a sort of rushed excitement and apprehension. "It's just Johnny--he and Kitty had a spat again and he's blowing off some steam."
She chuckled lightly and the pause was long.
"You'll come Sam?"
This answer was not only unexpected, it was breathtaking, for Samantha Manson had not been ghost hunting in one year.
The blue eyes were wide with shock and wonder, swirling in confusion and fear, and gleaming with a reluctant happiness.
Tucker tried desperately to nonchalantly shrug his shoulders, but the wide grin couldn't be stopped from appearing on his face. "She said she'll meet us at Amity Park."
Daniel Fenton jumped to his feet, stumbling over his laces as he shot a hand out to clutch his best friend's shoulder. "Your positive?" He asked, nearly begging, eyes a pool of emotion drowned in doubt.
"She said so…" Tucker gave.
The black haired boy looked away, dragging his hand through his ruffled locks. "That doesn't mean much…"
"Sam wouldn't lie." Tucker stated, pulling out his PDA from his pocket and slumping to Danny's bed, the room a warm retreat from the cold.
"Do you know what this means Tuck?"
Tucker looked up at the ghost boy, who had taken up pacing along his room, and thought about the question.
Sam Manson was going ghost hunting for the first time in a year.
It was almost one year since the fateful events in Vlad Master's lab. Almost one year since the Phantom had receded to nothing--since Daniel had returned to his normal self after a mere week of lost consciousness. A lost consciousness that had consumed Samantha Manson till the point of breaking.
Tucker still had no idea what had exactly happened on last year's Christmas.
The only thing he could recall was Daniel's blue eyes, wide and panicked as he held Sam's battered and broken body in his arms, demanding answers from Tucker. And from the sight of the regular, normal, half-ghost Fenton and the clutched medallion of Clockwork's in Sam's pale fingers--he had guessed that she had chosen.
He told Danny nothing until Sam awoke-- who refused to see her best friend for two weeks. And then had lied at her request, saying he knew nothing.
The halfa had taken it horribly-- from begging her on the phone, arguing with the Manson Manor's servants, looking for Clockwork and breaking into Sam's home.
Only to find that she didn't answer his calls, that the servants turned him away, that Clockwork had turned him down coldly and worst of all; Sam had put a ghost shield over her house.
When the two had finally reunited, Sam had brought up nothing except that she was sorry.
The lame apology had angered him and they had fought a lot that first couple months.
But Sam still told him nothing and the Ghost Shield still remains.
They finally settled into somewhat normalcy (much to Tucker's credit) and had their content friendship back. They still complained about Lancer, laughed at Dash, shared homework and played video games.
But Sam didn't ghost hunt.
But that small decision had set an invisible distance between her and them.
It had been such a big part of their lives, a huge part of their friendship, that the change was tangible and made them slightly broken.
Tucker knew why, but Danny hated it the most. Confused and frustrated, he had brought it up often, to Sam's immediate pain and Tucker's sorrow.
The year had been hard and cold without the old bonds of the trio. Danny and Sam were his best friends, they would always be, but that fateful Christmas had shattered them and he had thought that it would continue that way…
That they would eventually drift apart….
But Sam was coming tonight.
For the first time in one year, Sam was coming with them again and Tucker knew what that meant. It meant that despite Danny's expectation of an explanation of her absence, Sam would be back and it would finally feel like home again.
It also meant that Sam would see Danny Phantom again for the first time since she had wished him away.
Except this time, he would look on her as Daniel Fenton.
As her hands buried themselves in her pockets, she gave a pant and a grumbled whisper to the cold air.
"This is such a bad idea."
The snow crunched loudly in her chilled ears as she tried hard to see only the moonlight glistening off the ground.
Not the shiny emerald in her mind.
Her lids fluttered and she stopped walking, looking up instead at the moon. The bright orb was a pure white in the dark sky, shifting an eerie wake on the quiet town of Amity.
She thought of the soft glow from his face and the shine in his hair.
"No." She whispered and her head shook, hair dancing around her face as she shook the images from her mind. Desperately, she searched for the memories before then, when ghost hunting had been just that-- and the Phantom was nothing more than a name…
But bringing up those memories only made her heart ache at the sight and once again, continuing her walk, she grumbled.
"This is such a bad idea."
The sky was always welcoming.
It was crisp and sharp to his senses, the cold a loving hug from a dear friend. The winter night was bare of clouds and free to shine its starry glow on his face, like a blessing from the heavens.
He couldn't stop the grin spreading on his face. Couldn't help the warmth of happiness grow in his chest.
It never failed to make him utterly content, flying.
Daniel Fenton gave into the weightlessness of the sky, letting his white gloved hands spread to caress the nothingness. He gave a great sigh as his body drifted, invisible and intangible with the simple will of his mind.
It was times likes these, when the nervousness and frustration, the sorrow and anger, simply drifted away. It was like taking a step back from everything and sorting them all out.
He let the smile take his face.
Everything would finally fall into place. After these long dreadful months, everything would finally go back to the way it should be; with his two best friends there with him, supporting him.
It had been too long, and despite Tucker being a great help, the past year had felt empty, unbalanced. Like a chair with on leg slightly shorter than the rest.
But Sam had been more important than that. Her support had always been a constant. They had a connection that had become like a third hand to him. She had always known what he was thinking, always known when to be there, and when to give space. She knew the right words at every moment…
Had it not been for Samantha Manson, he would have never become half ghost.
Danny had never dreamed that she wouldn't be there.
Oh she was there of course. At school and on the weekends. Even when there were ghosts about and he and Tucker were having trouble, she be there to give advice or encouraging words.
But she hadn't come with them, had distanced herself from them purposefully… had detached herself…
'Had nearly killed me with that ghost shield on her house."
Frowning, his mind once again drew on the reason.
The elusive reason why his best friend had broken from his reach.
It was only one week he couldn't remember. A measly seven days that evaded every corner of his mind that had obliterated years of friendship.
Danny twisted in the air, breathing a lungful of crisp wind before contracting his muscles. Kicking off an invisible force, he let his body shoot through the sky towards Amity Park, gaze lost in thought.
It was his ghost half.
It had to be, he knew it. It was the only conclusion he could come up with. At first he had no idea… begging her those first few months and then arguing with her later-- shouting to be told while she avoided his gaze.
And then when he decided that enough was enough and he would break in her home and demand answered--he had tasted the painful shock of an electric barrier.
Sam refused to go ghost hunting and she avoided him on weeks that she knew ghosts were about, in case of a sudden transformation.
Little by little the hints revealed themselves, even if the memories didn't.
Sam was avoiding him in ghost form. That much he knew.
And he could only come up with the idea that he had hurt her somehow.
A flash of red eyes seared his memory, but it wasn't from the fated week…it was from before… from the future.
Shaking his head of the glaring gaze, he pushed faster to the meeting point.
He would have to take it easy tonight. Maybe he would never know what happened that week… but he wanted his best friend more than those memories…
A cackle snapped in his ear and Tucker's light voice came through the Fenton phones.
"Oi, you might want to head towards the docks instead. Johnny's shadow's showing up on radar there."
He gave a groan at the thought of the warehouse docks. "Again?"
He gave a glare at nothing, speeding up as the wind threw back is bright white hair. Another voice crackled through the earpiece a minute later, a chuckle that made his heart slam in anxious elation.
"The uh, warehouses are in the opposite direction, ghost boy."
His body shivered at the familiar sound of the sarcasm and the air seemed to ripple in a rift of joy. The kind of joy of sliding the last puzzle piece into it's place.
"Honestly, how did you guy's survive without me?"
He laughed loudly, eyes bright in laughter and imagined the sight of her friendly face, eyebrows raised and Tucker shaking his head with a knowing smile.
They couldn't see each other-- but it was enough.
"Thanks Sam." He gave, turning in the air to speed off.
"No prob, Danny."
And as easy as that-- things were the way they should be.
"I get the feeling that went too easily."
The words were spoken with a bit of worry from behind her. Sam jumped only slightly and she and Tucker turned around to face their friend.
Sam made the turn as slowly as possible, a gust of relieved air racing through her when she saw Danny only as the lazy t-shirt and blue eyed best friend, running a hand through his windblown hair.
"They've all been real easy lately." Tucker commented, eyeing Sam's tense face before pocketing his PDA and looking at Danny.
Sam broke her gaze from Danny's, effectively cutting off her worries, to look at Tucker in mild curiosity. "What do you mean?"
"All the ghosts we've fought for the past year have gotten a lot easier." Danny explained, catching Sam's eye again, and trying to hold her gaze.
Sam looked back at Tucker, "Why?"
Tucker shrugged. "Heck if I know, maybe you're a bad luck charm." He teased and the goth playfully shoved him as Danny chuckled.
"Yeah Sam, maybe I'll have to work harder now that you've joined us again." The halfa kept on.
She gave him a farce scowl, "Don't you start Ghost Boy."
The air between the three of them was light and familiar and they all smiled between each other. All feeling the same links in the chain finally click.
Sam started walking first, out of the park as the boys followed her on each side. They were content in their silence expect their shoes crunching through the cold snow. Tucker was eyeing Sam quietly, musing lightly on the good turn out and the odds on her staying with them.
Danny's hands were clammy in his pockets, looking at the ground and wondering if he should say anything to his best and lost friend. His hope and heart were soaring that said friend was even walking next to him! But instead of bringing up the year-ago-week, he decided to let the unknown finally slip away. Maybe someday he would figure it out… but right now, having Sam finally back was all he needed.
Samantha looked ahead, her mind settled, but her heart constricted in pain. She was so relieved she had not come face to face with the emerald-eyed ghost tonight. Yet, her throat was constricted and her walk stiff with the loss. She had shoved the image so far in her mind that she was beginning to forget that tell-tale spark in his eyes… or the soft touch of his fingers…
"Hey, you guys think the Nasty Burger's drive through is still open?" Tucker asked suddenly.
Danny was pulled away from his thoughts, looking at the geek with doubt. "It's almost 2:30, Tuck."
"Yeah, so?" He retorted and Sam chuckled.
"Maybe we should drop by any---"
A loud bang resonated through the park, the noise amplifying it's motor and sounding up a revving engine. The three stopped, taking defensive and instinctive stances and looking around wildly for the source of the noise.
The sound dulled to a hum, just as the wispy cold of Danny's ghost sense chilled the air in from of them.
The blue-eyes narrowed and his hands fisted. "Didn't I just get rid of Johnny?" He asked angrily.
A bright headlight flooded their vision to the right and they turned towards it with hands raised. The roar of the engine filled their ears again and they could hear the ghost biker shouting out cat call's to the ghost boy hero.
"Looks like it isn't gonna be as easy as you thought." Tucker shouted at Danny who gave a huff and bent his legs.
Sam looked away from the bright lights towards the half breed, watching his profile harden and body tense…
A nostalgic cackle snapped through the air, the lights of the headlight merging with the ethereal light surrounding the boy. Violet eyes widened in near horror as the light nearly blinded her, fading away after mere seconds….
Her heart stopped, breath caught in her dry throat even as her eyes welled in moist.
The black hair shredded to the pure white of the light and surrounding snow… the shrouding black contrasting against those bleached gloves… his face a shade paler and body stretched against the jumpsuit, making even his ghostly aura the most real dream…
He turned to her, cutting green eyes slicing through her soul.
"Danny…" She whispered and suddenly the world sped up.
"You and Tuck get back to the lab-- I'll catch up!" He shouted in determination, mind already set on a fight. Green eyes passing over violet almost dismissively….
Even as violet began to weep.
The ghost shot away with a burning crisp wind, tearing through her skin as she watched the spot he had just been.
Not registering the hand tugging her away on her shoulder… or the tears freezing on her cheeks.
Just those emerald eyes…
Cold, unfamiliar and stranger filled eyes.
Not finished! And very, very, immensely late!
Who wants a happy ending? You? Oh, I don't think you do!
3 more chapters to go!