A/N: YAY!!! Sorry took me so long...I've had this chappie on meh compy for almost...two weeks now, maybe -shrug- lose count. I've been writing a little bit eveyr dya as much as I can to finish it and ehre it is! Still a tad bit shrot, but I really didn't want to get into the enxt scenes jsut yet...the enxt chapter will be...how you say, shocking.

The Art of Integrity

Chapter Nineteen

"I've been to hell and back,
All the snow storms
And the bathroom stalls that you pulled me out of..."

Tucker, eyes shut tight, tensed his body as he waited for the deep pain that was sure to come soon but instead he got something else. He was ready to die, ready for the worst and yet all he got was a distant shout and the sound of a metal blade clanking against the rock ground. His eyes snapped open and only now did he realize the cold wash of sweat on his face. A drop rolled down the side of his face and plopped onto his collar bone like a tiny piece of hail. He blinked and stared at his cousin, her hollow eyes as they stared at the knife littered on the ground. Her hand was still in the air, as if willing the dagger back into place.

He blinked and slowly followed her glance as she turned to look at the perpetrator. "Jazz," he whispered. She stood there, obviously tired form some sort of exhaustion. She wiped her upper lip with the back of her hand and bounced a rock in her right hand. She flashed a smile.

"Not so fast," she breathed, repeating her earlier shout. The rock fell back into her hand and she held it there. The smile vanished and with a quick thrust, she aimed and threw the rock straight at the ghost holding Tucker back. Cassie's eyes quickly trailed the rock's path through the air and she stared as, with a grunt, the ghost came toppling at the sheer force and concentration of momentum on his forehead. Tucker's feet hit the ground and she delivered a blow to the ghost's gut, knocking him down fully. He stared at Jazz and the girl smiled but reached forth, shouting, "Oh no you don't!" as Cassie readied to tackle Tucker. The younger girl stopped in her tracks and glared daggers at the older one.

Jazz jerked her thumb at her chest. "I'm your opponent now," she growled. Cassie snarled in feral challenge and Jazz clenched her teeth tight. What had Sam done to her? Her look….almost resembled a wild animal.

"Jazz, this isn't your fight!" Tucker shouted.

"Yeah, Jazz, it isn't," Cassie agreed stonely. Jazz flicked Tucker a sparing glance.

"You're a sitting duck against her, Tuck, just go help the others!" Jazz shouted. Tucker started to object. "GO! We've lost one man already, we can't afford to lose another!"

Tucker pursed his lips and stared as Cassie awaited his answer. He stared at Jazz who dared not look at him. He nodded.

"Fine," he said, though hesitantly. He never thought this day would come. The day when he'd be faced with Cassie, of all. He guessed his earlier hypothesis had been correct: he couldn't fight her. He took a step back, then vanished into the crowd.

Cassie sighed, almost disappointedly. She stared at Jazz and Jazz stared back. "So it's just you and me," she said menacingly soft. She made a very pitiful look. "Doesn't seem very fair, does it?" she asked.

"Depends on what you mean by fair," Jazz said. She was almost the same height as Cassie, after all. She'd stopped growing when she turned 17 and even then she had only grown a centimeter since 16. Cassie was a tall, lean girl and definitely could pass as a fifteen-year-old if she played her cards right. It was a fair fight, that is, is Cassie had no other weapons on her. Jazz had none.

Cassie smiled. "Our version of fair should be the same," she said, then slowly frowned.

Jazz's chin lowered a centimeter, but her eyes never left the younger girl's.

"Make your move."

Danny stumbled backwards, hugging his arms to his side. His breathing was ragged and his throat felt raw. Sweat rolled down his forehead and his legs felt like a ton of bricks despite his light composure. He panted.

All the ghosts around him were slowly starting to decrease in number, he was noticing. But it didn't matter to him at the present moment. At that very second, the only thing on his mind was the white-hot pain surging through his body and the images of Sam's fatigued form flying through his mind. With every punch she gave and every kick she aimed she tried to conserve her energy. She may have those mesmerizing eyes, but otherwise she was just human after all. A perfectly trained, hitman-worthy human.

She was starting to breathe hard, though, and her stance rather sluggish and heavy, her shoulders rising and falling quickly. Her jaws never met. Slowly, ever so slowly and purposefully, she brushed a single lock of ebony black hair back into place.

In that single moment that followed, in that next second, Sam did not attack but it seemed that with just that untiring stare she had forced all the breath out of his very lungs.

Danny felt a warm liquid burst from his lips and into the air, glittering there for a millisecond, hovering in his and her vision. The dark blur that had invaded his vision now became apparent to him and Sam before he finally shut his eyes tight. He could just imagine the smirk on that pale face and the glitter in those dull blue orbs. His eyes opened for the amount time a person takes to blink but all the images he took in made up a year. The blurred green and black silhouettes of the fighting ghosts wavering but strikingly clear in the middle of sight was Sam, eyes wide with incomprehension, a shocked expression on her face. Her brows furrowed in confusion and she mouthed out something. A word. A four letter word. A name…


He fell to the ground, arms around his midsection. He felt choked and coughed, blood spurting again form his mouth. The metallic taste grew sour on his tongue and his whole body quivered and shook. He tried to force himself to look up, but couldn't break his gaze form the shiny black loafers that seemed to almost mock him with their ghostly green sheen reflected form his eyes. "B….bas...tard…" he wheezed and coughed again. Vlad had hit a dead spot. Sam had been targeting Danny's gut and face more than he'd been able to block. She was fast but obviously Vlad decided she needed help. And to make things worst, the effects of the antidote Tucker had used had somehow managed to fuse his ghost and human half further. Hopefully, just for the moment. He lifted a hand to wipe the red blood form the corner of his mouth but before he could, Vlad decided to kick him aside.


His body flew off the floor a couple inches before hitting back down against the cavern floor and its rough surface. He felt the rock rip through his costume and across his flesh, leaving parts of his body raw and aching more than ever. His body trembled.

"Vlad, what are you doing?" Sam asked the broad back of the man. Vlad straightened the black gloves of his right hand, paying no mind to anything. Sam growled and touched his shoulder. "Vlad!" she said, and Vlad turned, hand at the ready. She froze.

"Do not," Vlad stated harshly, eyes flashing. "raise your voice at me, girl. You've been at this for nearly ten minutes now and still you have not defeated him. I trained you better than that." He closed in on her and she backed away, staring frightfully at him. He glared and narrowed his eyes. "I thought I told you to let him go…" he said softly, sinisterly. Sam felt tears begin to swell in her eyes. Vlad had never talked to her like that. Never.

"I did," she managed to say weakly but Vlad didn't hear her. He rose his hand and it seemed everything was frozen when--

"Don't….touch her."

"Take these memories that are haunting me
Of a paper man cut into shreds by his own pair of scissors
He'll never forgive her,
He'll never forgive her..."

E/N: First verse: "Weekend Warriors" by Change of Pace. Second verse: "Forever" by Papa Roach