A searing flash of light, a roaring 'whoosh,' and I suddenly found myself solid again, just in time to crash face-first into a cold, wet concrete floor. The light and sound ceased abruptly as Valerie clamped the lid back onto her Thermos. We were in a dark, confined space that reeked of mildew and Lysol and. . . something else I couldn't quite identify. I groped around and my left hand bumped into a cool, smooth, curved. . . .

"Oh, gross!" It was a urinal. I'd just planted my face into the floor of a public bathroom.

"Shhhh!" Valerie's voice was at the same time forceful and nearly silent. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could just make her out, weapon at the ready, crouched beside the door about three feet to my left. It took me a moment to get oriented. One second I'm pondering the mysteries of the universe inside the Thermos, the next I'm sprawled out on a wet floor—no, please don't think about that—in a men's room with Commando Valerie.

I wanted answers, but I wanted to get the hell off the floor even more. I floated upwards about a foot, then made myself intangible for a few seconds to shed any lingering. . . ugh. . . dampness. "Okay," I whispered, "that's better. Who're we hiding from?"

"Skulker," she said, the sound of her voice tight with frustration even though it was as faint as a sigh. "Bastard snuck up behind me— I'd turned the damn ghost alarm off, thank you very much. I didn't have enough time to grab anything, I just dived into the bushes and booked out of there as fast as I could. Fortunately, he seemed to be more interested in the stuff we left behind than in capturing me."

"The stuff. . . ?"

"Of course, he didn't know that I had you."

"What stuff!"

"My rocket sled and helmet, your backpack--"

"My Thermos!" Somehow I managed to keep my voice low despite the panic. Skulker, in possession of a working Thermos, would be a catastrophe. "Jeez, Valerie, we have to get it back! Let's get out of here–"

"Hold on! We need a plan. For all we know, he could be waiting for us right outside."

I shook my head. "No. He's not close enough for my ghost sense. How far are we from the picnic area?"

"About five hundred yards through the trees, maybe a little more."

"How long was I in the Thermos?"

"Only about ten minutes."

Only ten minutes? It had seemed like hours. I held my hand out to her, palm up, as an invitation. She stared at it, puzzled and a little suspicious—as though I had offered her a dead fish. "What's that for?"

"Trust me."

She shook her head with resignation and clasped my outstretched hand. I gave her an encouraging smile and whispered, "Take a deep breath, stay calm, and whatever you do, don't let go of my hand."

"Just get it over with," she hissed.

I turned us both intangible, then floated us up and out into the open air. She shivered a bit when we phased through the bath house roof, but I have to give her credit: she didn't struggle or make a sound. Moments later we were fifty feet up, Valerie crouched on a branch of a towering tulip poplar, me floating right beside her. From this vantage point we could just make out the hulking form of Skulker, who was hovering a few feet above our picnic table while making a close but cautious inspection of my Thermos.

"Can you recall your sled?" I whispered, pointing at the controls on her wrist.

She glared at me. "Not without giving away our location."

"Right. Of course. Okay, then give me your Thermos." There was no way I was going to let her lack of mobility stop me from nailing Skulker and getting my Thermos back–or, failing that, destroying it so the ghost couldn't use it.

She started to hand it over, then snatched it back. "But. . . doesn't he have a ghost sense, too? Can you get close enough to use it without him knowing that you're there?"

"I don't know, to both questions. But the Thermos is only good for about twenty yards, and my ghost sense is a lot better than that."

"And he has your Thermos, which means if you get close enough to catch him, you're close enough for him to catch you. Here's a better idea: a two pronged attack. You draw his fire from above, staying out of range of the Thermos, and I'll get him from behind. He doesn't know you're here, but he can't sense me and he doesn't know I have this." She brandished the Thermos like a club. "We'll surprise him twice."

For a moment, I just stared at her, open-mouthed. "You're right, that's a better plan," I admitted, and it felt good to let her make the call. "Just. . . please watch where you point that thing."

She grinned wickedly. "You just stay out of my line of fire, ghost."

I returned the smile, eager for a fight.

"Let's go!"


Author's Note: What's next? I can tell you this much: there's not going to be a sequel. I don't write sequels. I do hope to write more Danny Phantom fanfic, but I don't have anything in the pipeline right now except a couple of vague notions that have yet to develop into actual plots. Even when I was very active in the Due South fandom, I was never very prolific. I have to be seriously inspired before I can write.

In the mean time, I am available to be a beta reader, something I'm quite good at, and I hope to be active on this site by participating in the Theories and Musings forum.

While I wait for the muse to arrive I am working on an Episode Guide, which will feature detailed episode reviews, nitpicks and other trivia. I'm writing up the episodes reviews in a semi-random order; that is, I'm doing them in the order that they appear on my video tapes. So far, I have three episode pages complete, so I can offer these samples of what is to come (hoping I do this right to fool the 'bot, delete the spaces in the URL):

geocities .com / bluemoonalto / brother

geocities .com / bluemoonalto / teacher

geocities .com / bluemoonalto / thirteen

Do please let me know if you think this is a project worth pursuing, or if you would like to participate in it. If there is a lot of interest, I may start posting these reviews on one of the episode-related forums here on or I may open a new forum specifically for episode reviews.

I'll archive A Thermos for Valerie on my new site as well, and as soon as I have an index page built I'll put a link to the site on my profile page. (Right now my profile page link will take you to my Due South site, which has a similar Episode Guide for that show.) I'd appreciate it if you would let me know of any other places I should archive this story.

Again, a thousand thanks for your attention and encouragement, it's been a ball!


Melanie (bluemoonalto)