Thrill of the Hunt
They only had a week to spend any leisure time with Danny (heck, less then as the past few days involved Sam cowering around from Danny due to her own set of emotions) before packing up to return home, Jazz, especially, who as much as she concerned herself over Danny to her fullest worried on the loss of homework and tests and she missed during that week ("We had a chemistry test--Oh-No!").
On the second to last day, Sam, Tucker, and Jazz accompanied Danny as he drove them towards the Masters Farm, bypassing the town before it. Seated next to Danny sat a small three-foot tree. When they reached the front gates, Danny parked the car and turned himself to face the three.
"Umm--this is going to sound awkward, but you guys have to do a little role-playing."
"Role…playing?" Sam repeated.
"With double sided dices?" Tucker added his usually jokes.
"No, you just have to refer to me as…Danny Masters."
"EXCUSE ME?" Sam sprang up.
"Look, this is the farm where Vlad's father lives and we're on good terms, but the thing is…he thinks I'm Vlad's son, so thusly he's my "grandfather." Danny answered, much to the look of shocked expression on the three.
"I know it's unorthodox, but for Abraham's sake, just pretend I'm Vlad's son." Danny exited the car before any of his friends and sister could get in a word edgewise. Immediately the three exchanged glances towards Danny and Abraham hugging each other.
"Wow, he looks like a shaggier Vlad." Sam contorted.
"I just can't believe Vlad used to be a cowboy in his youth." Tucker gasped, "It's like a complete paradox!"
"Grandpa, these are my friends Sam, Tucker, and Jazz."
"Actually, I'm his older sis--" Danny quickly elbowed his sister, then whispered, "I'm an only child."
"Friends, ey? Never seen you three around, so I can reckon you're kids from Daniel's private school."
Danny quickly off a quick facial gesture that signified the three to put on their best faces and lie in agreement.
"They're here to visit--and I also came here to see if I can fulfill a special request." Danny said.
"Special request?" Abe scratched his temple. Danny nodded and quickly returned with the tree.
"I was wondering if I could--ya know--plant this tree in your yard somewhere," Danny said, "Maybe in the middle of the plains so that there will be a big tree in the center by years to come?"
"Is there a reason why you suddenly have the desire to plant a tree?"
"Just as a reminder of my time here." Danny practiced this line over and over, having not told him his list of things he wanted to do before he died, another fact Abe didn't know of Danny.
"Well, alright then, we'll plant the tree in the middle of my plains, then afterwards, we can get your little friends into the farm life," Abe cackled, "Lifting, fixing, milking, riding, whatever we got for them."
"Lifting?" Tucker groaned.
Planting the tree merely began the easiest in a line of chores the three struggled through. Danny had grown used to it over time, proving what a surprisingly effective cowboy/farmer he is. Sam, due to her healthy, fit nature possessed no problems getting into the farm work, Jazz proved to be mediocre mostly when it came to heavy lifting, but served the best when working on animals. Tucker proved to be the most difficult to handle as while he's strength improved due to his time of ghost hunting, he hadn't bother training as much as either Danny or Sam, but by farm's end, he generally manage to keep up.
By sunset, Danny taught all three horseback riding with Jazz--again proving she eased with animals the best--rode with great success, improving quicker then Danny did when he trained with them weeks back. Tucker and Sam both took a bit more time, but eventually they manage to catch up, though not to near expert degrees that Danny slowly laddered over.
"Wow, Danny, you're really into this farm stuff." Tucker commented as he handled his horse, "We'd never thought considering you spent so much time over by the city."
"I didn't either, but there's something about this place I like so much," Danny sincerely smiled, "The air is clean, there's always something to do, and every time I finish a chore, I feel so…satisfied."
"You refuse to clean up your room, but you don't mind milking cows?" Sam chuckled.
"Speaking of cows, why are there so little?" Jazz came next, riding next to Danny, "If this is a dairy farm, surely there would be more bovines roaming the land."
"Honestly, you got me," Danny started, "This farm does look a bit ramshackle in appearance."
"Maybe this farm is dying," Jazz pondered, "Not enough money or maybe their lands will be bought off."
"Maybe, I'll ask grandpa about it."
Immediately the three gave stares.
"Dude, you called him "grandpa." Tucker said.
"You've heard me call him that like a gazillion times today." Danny defended.
"Yeah, but only when he's around which he's not, it's just us four." Sam pushed.
"So? What does it matter?"
"Danny, I know you care for that man, but don't let this completely absorb you," Jazz came, "You have grandparents, biological ones--granted they don't visit much for their own reasons--but you are NOT Vlad's son, you're Jack and Maddie's."
"I know that, Jazz, don't you think I don't?" Danny irritated, declared, upset at his infant treatment he recieved, "Someday, I'll tell the truth."
"And when is that?" Jazz continued.
"I--I don't know. Please, Jazz, don't make me decide now, I already have too much on my plate and I don't want this day ruined."
Jazz's only reaction afterwards turned into disapproving silence while Sam remained annoyed and Tucker, mixed signals.
After spending dinner time at the Masters Farm, Danny opt to take the three home when their festive spirits drained out of their bodies after the conversation on Danny's supposed family identity issues. He quickly gave another reassuring hug to his pseudo grandfather, made the note to ask him sometime in the future about the lack of life in the farm, and drove the three home.
The three didn't arrive via Specter Speeder in order to lessen their parents' suspicious and instead on Sam's money to afford airplane tickets to Wisconsin and back, so Vlad drove them all to the airport on the seventh day. There, hearty exchanges came in the form of Jazz's advices, Tucker's relaxed jokes, and Sam's hesitant, yet sincere farewells. All three of them gave Danny a hug before exchanging mixed glances towards Vlad, promised they'd visit over summer, and left home.
Danny waved until he could no longer see their faces, then stayed and watched from the large window as their plane departed. Seven days passed by too quickly, Danny gripped his hands tightly as a hand grazed his shoulder. Gasping, he turned and faced Vlad.
"I'm sorry, Daniel, did I startle you?"
"A little--j-just caught up in the moment, is all." Danny answered.
"Do you wish to stay a little longer?"
"N-No. I'm okay, let's go home."
Waking up at dawn to watch a sunrise, then crossing it off his list, Danny then spent the reminder of the morning writing a rough draft of his will. By noon time, after he ate lunch, Danny figured now would be a good as any time to enter the Ghost Zone and commence making peace. Fearing Vlad wouldn't let him go, he once again had to resort to sneaking, equipping him from head to toe with various anti-ghost gadgets to protect himself.
"Okay, Fenton, you've done this before. You've fought ghosts while in human form before," Danny mumbled to himself, "You can do this. If things get bad, turn tail and run." Easing himself further, Danny dived inside Vlad's portal and entered the familiar green and violet ectoplasmic entity known as the Ghost Zone. Helplessly floating, hardly any roads existed in here and while human; Danny could not fly to his destination. Luckily, he spotted Skulker's floating island lair nearby (unsurprisingly, it kept a relatively close distance to Vlad's portal) and through sheer brain power, Danny deducted that as long as he floated, he could "swim" over. He and Skulker shared little on the same page throughout, but he figured perhaps the ghost hunter could take some sign of sympathy for him due to his illness. He did give him his fabled list after all.
Once on solid ground (much to his relief), Danny explored the tedious flora and fauna of Skulker's island, eventually finding his small cabin home. Smoke poured from the chimney. Good, he's home. Quickly Danny knocked on his door, and then scanned the area. No traps triggered, also good.
"Ember? If that's you, I told you, it's over! Go away!"
"Skulker, it's me."
A pause came before the door open before the giant hulk of a ghost eyeballed the child before him.
"Um…why are you here?"
"Err…can I come in?"
"Not until you tell me why you're here."
"I could use some help. I want to start making peace with the ghosts now--remember, I told you this before--and I could use your help." He quickly answered.
"Well, you're usually associated with the ghosts I've manage to defeat every so often, and I figured since I can't go ghost out of risk, maybe you can be a--"
"Can be a what?" Skulker asked with a mix of irritation and intrigue.
"Be like a…bodyguard?"
Skulker, stunned, glared at the child.
"A-Are you KIDDING me?" He asked, "You want ME, the guy who wants to put your pelt on my wall to baby-sit you?"
"Skulker, I can put up a decent fight as a human, but I can't take on all the ghosts at this form," Danny pressured, "Please, I'm dying, can't you help me out?"
"Look, I already got you that stupid list and brought you back to the manor when you fainted that one time, that's more then enough good deeds towards you I can handle, ghost child."
"Oh, come on!" Danny whined, "Do you want me to tell Vlad you mistreated me? I know you often rely on him and I know for a fact Vlad's going to put ME over YOU."
Skulker immediately mumbled of a set of curses and invited Danny inside. The boy only knew Skulker's cabin purely from the outside, so he gave off curious looks when he entered for the first time. Predictably, the inners resembled greatly of that of Vlad's rustic cabin home, only with familiar Earth animals replaced by various ghosts of different sizes and shapes, either mounted on walls or draped on the floor. Various weapons of different centuries graced any leftover area on the walls (some stacked in a corner), there stood a bookshelf behind a couch and armchair set as well as a coffee table, and a television across. Excluding the row of ghosts as 'wall art', Skulker's place surprisingly felt homely. He'd be lying if he stated he wasn't curious on what the inners of his bedroom looked like.
"Hey, whelp, you want some tea?"
"My name is DANNY--and yeah, sure."
"This could take a while, you know," Skulker started, "Huge animosities just doesn't go away just because you want it to."
"I succeeded with Vlad and we're getting better."
"Yeah, but Vlad's always wanted you as a son and he sorta got the wish, so that rivalry was more one sided then anything else."
"I suppose." Danny observed the area once more, "Don't you have a dining table?"
"No. I always eat in the living room."
"Because I like to watch TV while I do."
"Don't tell me Vlad's already turned you into a spoiled little moneybags. Honestly, sometimes his pompous behavior frustrates me." Skulker ranted.
"Any average being has a dining table, Skulker." Danny sighed.
"Well, I'm not average."
"I guess not, in reality, you're a tiny being," Danny shrugged, "What? Were you a midget in your human life?"
Skulker ceased his tea making and gave a quick glare to Danny, "I was never a human. I was born a ghost."
"Oh…I guess that makes sense," Danny nodded, "…How did you get into ghost hunting anyways?"
"I just liked the thrill and started it, nothing more to say and I advise you to stop asking," Skulker warned, "I don't like to reveal my life to others."
"So, where are your little friends? And your sister? Vlad told me they were visiting."
"They left yesterday."
"Oh, really? Shame, I always did like that Goth chick." Skulker chuckled.
"Excuse me?" Danny retorted, "Sam?"
"Reminds me of my ex-girlfriend: no nonsense, darkly dressed, constantly bitching, and viewing the world in a cynical light. Sounds like that Goth girl, no?"
"You like her, don't you?"
"Then again, you also like that Ghost Hunting chick."
"I…I…" Danny let off a sigh. He's dying, what did he have to hide, "I like them. I really do."
"Do you see a future with any of them?"
"Skulker, I'm dying," Danny sighed, "But I suppose in given time, I'll tell them how I feel."
"I wouldn't mind you getting with the hunter chick. Although she and I share the same goal, I prefer the dark girl. I wouldn't mind getting my hands down that Goth chick's--"
"Oh, my GOD! Either you're joking to psych me out or you seriously have a crush on Sam!"
"Sam, that's her name, right…of course." Skulker placed the teacup down, "Drink up, kid."
Danny gave a quick look of disgust towards Skulker. His ex-girlfriend? How on Earth does Skulker and any girlfriends he dated possibly end up doing the dirty business in their bedroom? ACK! Too much thought! Danny mentally slapped himself before taking a deep breath and drinking. Immediately he slammed the cup down and groaned.
"Wha--What the hell's IN this drink?"
"Sleeping potion." Skulker casually answered.
"W-What? WHY?" Danny stood up, though wobbly.
"Well, I've been thinking recently. You're dying soon and with you possibly entering the gates of Heaven or whatever, I figured maybe if I killed you now, I won't have to live with the fact that I can't kill you later," Skulker deviously grinned, "So when you coincidentally came in, I took my chances, gained your trust, and well--here we are now."
"Y-You bastard." Danny spat out before finally collapsing.
When Danny came to, he found himself outside. Lush greenery meant he still resided in Skulker's lair. Struggling to get up, Danny found his gadgets missing and immediately he let off a curse.
"Damn it, Skulker! I swear I am going to KILL you!" He cried out, despite the irony of the statement. Immediately he heard a loud scream echoing over the trees: Skulker.
"Damn, he must know I've awaken by now." Danny clumsily pulled himself to his feet and ran in what he hoped to be the opposite direction of where Skulker was running from.
"Oh, criminy, I'm a sitting duck!" Danny cried to himself, "I can't use my ghost powers, I'll--I'll faint. God, I have to file this decision under Complete Wankery."
Danny ran like the wind, unaware of where to go, eyeing the area constantly for any hidden traps, which he bumped into in a matter of minutes. Fortunately he was quick to dodge, having survived Skulker's hunts frequently, but he knew his human endurance could not last against Skulker as much as his ghost form could.
Danny eventually ran out of breath after nearly a half an hour of running. Skulker provided silent during the last fifteen minutes, causing an eerie sense of quite he didn't enjoy. His legs eventually gave way and he once more wobbled and fell. Timing couldn't be any worse as Skulker rustled from beneath the bushes and aimed his gun towards Danny's head.
"30 minutes, not bad considering you're in your human form, but now I think it's time to say good-bye, Ghost Child."
Unable to breathe properly, his throat clogging up, Danny flashed over a million different sayings in his head, all of them seemingly contradicting one another, but ultimately telling him to transform. With little choice and time, Danny quickly turned ghost and twisted the nuzzle of his gun at the same time Skulker shot, the bullet blowing a hole clear across his face and revealing the tiny ghost inside.
"Oh, crap!" His tiny voice snapped. Danny quickly picked up the little critter and gave a deadly face.
"Y-You're pathetic." Danny cried out, "Even when I'm weak, I still manage to gain the upper hand somehow. I'll give you points for effort though."
"ARGH! This isn't fair! I'm the greatest Ghost Hunter in the world, GREATEST!" Skulker waved his body around in hopes Danny would drop him, "This isn't FAIR! Why can't I destroy you? WHY?"
"When Vlad gets word of this, he's gonna be making YOU into wall art in his cabin, Skulker," Danny stated, "But I'm willing to keep my mouth shut if you just stop hunting me!"
"I don't have a lot of time and I would like to leave this place under good terms!" Danny continued.
"So it's fair for you to finish up all your goals before you reach Heaven or whatnot but it's not fair of me to uphold my end of the bargain of vowing to hunt you down?"
"You have all but eternity to stay in the Ghost Zone and do whatever the hell you want, I don't have much time on Earth! I'm DYING, Skulker! Hell, all these goals I'm accomplishing might be for nothing because I don't know if Heaven exists or not, but I sure as hell ain't stopping now! Of course, you'd probably never understand that since you never died once in your entire life!"
"LET ME GO!"
Danny did so, dropping him like a hard brick before turning around and flying off. Not only did he used his ghost powers, but he also lost a majority of Vlad's anti-ghost gadgets to Skulker. When Vlad finds parts of his lab missing, the boy would be in for it big time. At the moment, he didn't care. The first thing he did when he returned back to the mortal realm was turn back into a human, struggle his way upstairs, and sleep for the next three days.
Naturally, Vlad got note Danny did something wrong when he found the boy so weary. Instead of berating him, he only gave him as much comfort for the time, vowing to have a small chat with him when the boy could handle moving his mouth without making unintelligible garbles. Time slipped through against the boy's wishes and the last thing both of them wanted would be another heated argument between the two. Danny managed to walk himself out of bed by the fifth day since he barely used any of his powers beyond flying. He eventually confessed to Vlad what he did to end up the way he did.
"You could have told me, I could have taken you."
"I figured you'd object."
"Well, perhaps, but better me then no one, especially regarding your condition."
"Y-Yeah. I'm sorry about losing all your equipments. Skulker must've taken them."
"That's alright. I can always build new ones. It's you I can't rebuilt." Vlad patted the boy's head, "I just wish you'd learn to trust me."
That stung Danny a little. By the sixth day, Danny gained knowledge from Vlad that Skulker returned his weapons and left without saying a word.
"He did seem concerned for your well being, so I suppose it's a small step up." Vlad concluded.
"Hmm, maybe there is hope after all." Danny snickered.
"Hard to say, he's very one tracked."
"Better then nothing."
To Be Continued…
Author's Note: There, I made a friggin' update. I'm just so busy with so much crap to do that's it's getting harder to update. I also admit I'm starting to lose interest in this fic; so whether or not I'll ever finish this fanfic is debatable. That said, don't be surprised if updates are far and few between…well, more so then usually.