Fun Fact: The worst part of editing is all the uploading and formating on FFN. I am TIRED now!
Sam looked at the small picture in her hand as she road in the passenger seat beside Jazz. She couldn't stop looking at the black and white ultrasound photo. Jazz stopped at a red light then looked at Sam and smiled.
"It's amazing," Sam said softly. "This is my baby." Jazz nodded her head and continued to smile. The danger had passed and the baby seemed to be developing normally. Sam herself wasn't as tired and apart from missing Danny, was feeling good. She tried to keep her thoughts up beat and positive, but she was worried. He'd been gone a month and it was getting difficult to disguise her condition.
"I'm jealous," Jazz told her sister in law wistfully. "I know it's too soon for Tucker and I to start a family but…" She sighed sadly then pulled into the driveway.
"But you have to tell everyone you're married first," Sam teased.
Jazz sighed again. "That's not so easy," she told Sam. "But we're going to talk to Tucker's parents tonight."
"You're going to test it out on them first?" Sam asked in amusement. "And what are you going to do if they freak out?"
"Run away to Alaska," Jazz answered determinedly.
"I think everyone will be happy," Sam told her as she looked down at the picture in her hand again. "You love each other. You're happy together. Why would they be mad?"
"For keeping such an important secret," Jazz answered. "People don't like to be left in the dark by their loved ones."
"Yeah. I feel like I'm in the dark," Sam said as she got out of the car. "It's been a month since I came to stay with you and Tucker and I haven't heard a thing from Danny. I'm going crazy."
"Do you want me to call him?" Jazz asked kindly.
Sam shook her head. "No," she answered. "I don't want to risk interfering with whatever he has planned." She reached for the door knob and stopped, shivered slightly then stepped back.
"What's wrong," Jazz asked as she looked at Sam who had gone deathly pale. "Is it the baby? Are you all right?"
"Tucker is at work right?"
"Yes," Jazz answered as she looked at the door.
"Someone's in there," Sam told Jazz as a feeling of panic welled up in the pit of her stomach. She took several steps back.
"Maybe Tucker came home early," Jazz suggested as she started for the door.
"No!" Sam said breathlessly. Her wrist was starting to throb painfully. The gash had healed, leaving behind an angry red physical scar and some pretty painful psychological ones as well. She cradled her hand to her chest and Jazz watched her a moment.
"It's okay," Jazz told her as she fished the Fenton lipstick out of her purse. "I'm not afraid of ghosts. You shouldn't be either."
"You weren't almost murdered by one," Sam whispered almost jokingly. Jazz furrowed her eyebrows at Sam.
"True," Jazz admitted. "But that was not a normal situation. You stay here. I'm going in."
Sam grabbed her arm. "I'm going with you." Jazz gave her an almost amused look then started forward.
"Just stay behind me," Jazz told her.
"Hell, if there's a ghost in there, I'm pushing you toward it as a sacrifice and running away," Sam joked.
"Oh thanks a lot!" Jazz pretended to be offended. "I thought you were scared. Why are you joking?"
"Who said I was joking?" Sam asked in a deadpan voice. Jazz gave her a gasp of surprise and Sam smiled. Jazz rolled her eyes then turned her attention to the empty living room.
"Be quiet! This is supposed to be serious!" Jazz hissed.
"Sorry," Sam replied. "I tend to become full of levity in serious situations." Jazz gave her a worried look and they continued to look through the house.
"What are you searching for?" asked a voice from behind them. Both Sam and Jazz jumped and screamed then turned to come face to face with Danny in ghost form.
"Danny!" they both screeched and he jumped back in preparation for attack. All three looked at each other a minute then they began laughing.
"You scared us!" Jazz chastised then paused as she watched Danny and Sam look at each other. She shook her head a little and smiled as she took a few steps away from the pair then disappeared inside her room to give them some privacy.
There was nothing to be said as they both moved forward at the same time, putting their arms around each other and sighing contentedly.
"What took so long?" Sam asked as she buried her face into Danny's chest.
"Long story," Danny answered as he kissed the top of her head. "I don't have time to explain too much right now."
"I missed you," Sam sighed as Danny moved her so he could look at her.
"It's all over," Danny told her as he searched her face. "I just have one loose end to tie up and it's all over."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked as she watched Danny's green glowing eyes.
He shook his head. "Long story." He smiled slightly. "Is the baby…"
Sam smiled happily. "The baby is fine," she told him and he let the breath he was holding out in relief. "Everything is fine, except we miss you." She took his hand and pressed it against the her stomach, which had just recently began to show the effects of pregnancy. The look of pure joy on his face took her breath away and caused her eyes to fill with tears.
"I'll be back soon," Danny promised, his voice thick with emotion. "I wouldn't have come at all, except I miss you too. I needed to see you." Sam stretched up onto her toes and kissed Danny's cheek and he took a deep shuddering breath and closed his eyes. Sam looked at him a moment then slid her hand behind his neck and pulled him down so she could place a kiss on his lips, a small little kiss that became much more than she intended.
Danny tightened his arms around her, not wanting to let go, but knowing he needed to go back and deal with Vlad. He wanted to hold her forever, his wife. His wife! He smiled against Sam's lips. She was his wife, it genuinely hit him for the first time that Sam was his wife and his heart swelled with pride.
"I need to go," he told her regretfully and she nodded her head as she moved away from Danny. He smiled gave her one last quick kiss then disappeared, fearing that if he stayed any longer he wouldn't be able to leave at all.
Sam leaned against the wall and smiled for a moment then put her hand over the swell of her stomach. "I love your daddy," she said to the child growing within her. She closed her eyes for a moment then stood and walked to the door of her bedroom then paused. She reached for the door knob then shivered slightly then stepped away apprehensively.
"Jazz?" Sam called over her should. She knew someone was in her room, she could somehow sense them on the other side of the door. Her wrist began to throb again. She swallowed hard as she bolstered her courage and pushed the door open as she chastised herself, betting that Danny was waiting to surprise her one last time before he went back to deal with Vlad.
"Okay," she said as she threw the door open. "You're not going to….," her words trailed off and her breath caught in her throat, as she was confronted with a wicked pair of glowing green eyes and an equally wicked grin, and they were not those of her half ghost husband.
"Hello Mrs. Phantom," the ghost greeted. Sam gasped as she cradled her wounded wrist to her chest. She would have screamed if she could have caught a breath, darkness was curling it's way along the edges of her vision and she finally sucked air into her lungs.
"What do you want?" Sam squeaked as she backed up against the wall. Skulker walked forward, still grinning like a maniac.
"Jazz," Sam yelled as she edged down the hall. "Help."
"I'll help you," Skulker said as he reached forward and grabbed Sam by the shoulder. Sam managed to squeak out a squeal of terror before unconsciousness claimed her.
Danny flew back into Vlad's mansion, and down into the living room, where he had left the thermos containing Vlad, sitting on the coffee table. His stomach lurched as he caught sight of the ghost of the Dairy King, sitting on the couch, holding the thermos in his lap.
"Well hello there," the ghost said in his thick Midwestern accent. "How are you doing young man?"
"I'm fine," Danny said slowly as he eyed the thermos in the ghosts hands, the last thing he wanted was Vlad released, Danny didn't think he'd be able to catch the fruit loop again.
"I've just been keeping Vladdy here company," the Dairy King said as he shook the thermos. "He's in a pretty bad mood, dontcha know."
Danny smiled wryly as he continued to walk forward. "I would expect that he is."
The ghost cocked his head at Danny. "You want I should let him go like he's demanding, or do you have him locked away for some goodly kinda purpose?"
"Uh," Danny replied slowly. "I think it's better to leave him in the thermos."
"Oh," the ghost said in almost surprise. "Well maybe you ought to ask your friend right there what you should be doin with him. I don't think he agrees." The Dairy King pointed behind Danny who turned and came face to face with Clockwork who was wearing his usual grim countenance.
"Hello, Daniel," Clockwork said emotionlessly.
"Clockwork," Danny replied in a relieved tone, then looked at the Dairy King and the thermos. "I was just about to come see you."
"Yes," Clockwork said as he transitioned from old man to young child. "I am aware of your plans to leave Vlad in my care, but I am warning you now, a place out of time beside that evil creature, who call himself by your name, is not the best option."
Danny frowned heavily. "Are you suggesting I should kill him?" he asked in almost shock. As he turned back to the Dairy King who was looking back and forth between Danny and Clockwork.
"I said nothing of the kind," Clockwork answered almost chastisingly. "I merely stated that putting your old enemy in my care would not be the best option."
"What would you suggest?" Danny asked in exasperation. "Let him go? Let him hurt Sam? My child? My family? Me?"
"Of course not," Clockwork answered calmly. "I was not suggesting letting Plasmius roam free. I offer the option that he can be rehabilitated. As evil as he is, he's not all bad Daniel." Danny made a sound of disgust.
"What's your suggestion?" Danny questioned, he was feeling more and more like chucking the thermos into an incinerator, or maybe just locking it away in a safe. He didn't believe Vlad could be rehabilitated.
"Daniel," Clockwork began again. "It would be dangerous to place Plasmius next to Dan. Imagine if their criminal minds began working together. As a team they would pose more of a threat to your family, to your world, than you can imagine. Do not ask this of me. It is not something I can do."
"Who is going to rehabilitate him?" Danny asked coolly, realizing his options were dwindling.
"There is a creature, an ally, she does not live in the Ghost Zone, but she does have the technology and power to deal with Vlad." Clockwork shifted from the form of a young man to old. "She will care for him, rehabilitate him, and perhaps someday you will be grateful that you didn't throw him in the incinerator as you are considering."
"Perhaps?" Danny asked incredulously. "Or perhaps I will regret listening to you."
"I can assure you," Clockwork answered stiffly. "You may possibly regret not doing as I suggest, but I will not force your hand, you must chose your path on your own."
Danny growled in disgust. "What's her name?" he finally asked. "This creature you want to entrust Vlad to?"
"Marissa," Clockwork said stoically. "Her name is Marissa, but that is all I can tell you."
Danny rolled his eyes and looked at the Dairy King who had the thermos clutched to his chest. The ghost sidled away from Danny a little, then eyed Clockwork who was watching dispassionately.
"Well," the cheese head ghost said as he scratched his head with one hand as he clutched the thermos with the other. "I don't know about these plans you're both makin for my dear nephew."
"Please," Danny appealed the Dairy King gruffly. "Letting Vlad loose would be bad, very bad."
"I don't know," the ghost said reluctantly. "I don't want to see him comin to any harm, I did care for him dontcha know. He may be a lunatic. He may be always up to no good but he's still my family, and I love the idiot, dontcha know."
"And I love my wife," Danny replied angrily. "Who Vlad tried to kill, and my unborn child, who Vlad also tried to kill…"
The Dairy King nodded his head in understanding then looked at Clockwork. "And you say he can be saved? Turned into a goodly kinda person?"
Clockwork smiled wryly. "I do not recall saying he could be transformed into a good person, but rather that he could be rehabilitated from his current criminality. I am not aware of a power in either realm that would be able to turn the creature that he is into a good person, but he can be turned to good purposes."
The Dairy King looked at Danny worriedly then moved toward Clockwork. "I think I'd rather be giving my little Vladdy a chance. I'm a softy at heart dontcha know." He shot an apologetic look at Danny as he handed the thermos to Clockwork.
"Thank you," the Keeper of Time responded as he tucked the thermos into his cloak. Then turned to Danny.
Danny had nothing to say. His shoulders drooped slightly in defeat and he shook his head as a deep ache settled in the pit of his stomach. He wasn't comfortable with Vlad being let out of the thermos, and he knew that's what Clockwork intended to do
"Daniel," Clockwork said sympathetically in a rare show of emotion. "I understand your reservations regarding this course of action…."
"They're more than reservations," Danny interrupted almost angrily. "I'm supposed to entrust my family's safety to some creature I've never heard of?"
"Do you have reservations entrusting your safety to me?" Clockwork asked as he shifted from an old man to a child.
Danny looked at Clockwork thoughtfully. He knew his mentor's actions and words were extremely carefully chosen. Clockwork rarely made concrete statements, leaving his comments about specific situations, open ended and sometimes puzzling.
"My safety," Danny replied, irritated at the feeling that he was negotiating with Clockwork. "Yes, but what about Sam and the baby? What about my parents? Jazz and Tuck?"
Clockwork looked at Danny in consternation. "I'm not trying to negotiate with you between Vlad's life and the safety of your family. There is only so much I can tell you without giving you forbidden glimpses of a possible future."
"Tell me what you can," Danny almost demanded, but then softened his tone knowing that Clockwork's expectations of his patience had grown through the last few years, and that the ghost wouldn't tolerate impudence.
Clockwork's form shifted to that of a young man as he looked at Danny thoughtfully. "Because of who are, there will always be certain dangers for those associated with you, Daniel. I can make no promises, but I can say for certainty that there will come a time in your life when you will be grateful for the grace you have afforded to your enemy."
Danny closed his eyes, hating the darker aspects of his future and the fact that Clockwork spoke of that future in riddles, ambiguous possibilities, and vague warnings. The Keeper of Time had long ago alluded to Sam's return, but Danny hadn't understood the meaning until now, and looking back at the other things Clockwork hadn't told him and measuring them against what he said now, Danny began too feel extremely unsettled.
"Fine,' Danny said bitterly, knowing that the choice really was out of his hands, Clockwork was just allowing him the illusion of having control of the situation.
"There will be joy for you," Clockwork told Danny gently. "Take those moments and savor each one of them as if they were to be your last." Danny closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, Clockwork was gone, leaving Danny standing in the living room with the Dairy King.
"Go to your wife," the Dairy King told Danny. "I can hold down the fort while your gone. I always have, dontcha know. I am kinda gouda at it." The ghost chuckled and Danny nodded his head then left without another word.
Jazz walked out of her bedroom to find Skulker bent over an unconscious Sam. "Get away from her," she yelled as she rushed forward, giving no thought to the fact that she had no weapons with which to fight the ghost.
Skulker moved away and let Jazz bend over Sam. "What are you doing here?" Jazz asked the ghost angrily as she examined her sister in law.
"I was sent here," Skulker answered coolly. "I wasn't going to hurt her."
"Just leave," Jazz growled.
"We heard the little ghost hybrid married his sweetheart," Skulker started. "I was sent to confirm it, when I did I was sent back to confront the whelp and his bride. They didn't invite us to their wedding."
Jazz looked at Skulker a moment then rolled her eyes. "There wasn't time," she told him as she patted Sam's face.
"It was rude," Skulker pronounced. Jazz gave him an exasperated look then turned her attention to the woman laying on the floor.
"Sam," Jazz said softly. Sam's eyes fluttered open then grew wide with terror as she looked from Jazz to Skulker.
"It's all right," Jazz told her. "He's not here for anything but to be a nuisance." She helped Sam up slowly. Sam looked at Skulker with wide eyes.
"Skulker hasn't been an enemy of Danny's for a long time," Jazz told Sam calmly as they headed into the kitchen.
"I got tired of doing Vlad's dirty work," Skulker added as he followed them into the kitchen. "Decided that Danny's friendship was a better gamble than aligning with Vlad."
"When did this happen?" Sam asked feeling a little woozy as she sat at the table. Skulker was sitting across from her while Jazz brewed tea. It was hard to reconcile the hulking hunter as an ally. Sam felt extremely uncomfortable.
"A year or two ago," Skulker answered then scratched his head thoughtfully. "Yeah a little over a year ago. It came down to a matter of honor. Vlad has none." Skulker shrugged one shoulder. "Easy choice."
Jazz gave Sam an amused look as she sat a dainty cup of tea before Skulker and a mug in front Sam then sat herself. Sam opened her mouth as Skulker picked up the cup and sipped daintily at the tea.
"How do you do that?" Sam asked as she looked at the ghost in shock. "You're in a suit…that's not your real…ummm…body."
Skulker blinked and looked at the tea. "Don't question the physics of ghostliness," he replied. "There are some things which just are, that can't be explained."
"Uh huh," Sam said then looked at Jazz who just shrugged her shoulders and sipped at her tea.
Sam was about to say something more when something materialized behind Skulker. Her eyes went wide and she smiled warmly. Jazz put her cup to her mouth to hid her own grin.
"Boo!" Danny said as he snuck up behind Skulker who spun around and fired an ecto shot at Danny who quickly moved out of the way as Sam and Jazz screamed in horror.
Both Skulker and Danny cracked up laughing and then grasped each other's hands and hugged. Danny and the ghost then excused themselves to talk, leaving Jazz and Sam a little stunned.
"These are the types of things you have to get used to now," Jazz warned.
"Tea with Skulker?" Sam asked wryly.
"Among others," Jazz answered. "The Box Ghost, whose name is Brutus by the way and his wife Bertha, or the Lunch Lady as you know her, Dora, Technus, Kitty and Johnny, there are others, but they're not over quite as often."
"But not Ember or Desiree?" Sam questioned. Jazz's eyes grew wide and she shook her head.
Jazz was about to say more, but Danny walked back into the kitchen, in his human form and sat down beside Sam. "Skulker says he's sorry for scaring you," he told Sam as he took her hand. "He won't do it again."
Sam sighed and shook her head. "What happened with Vlad?"
Danny frowned then looked at Jazz for a moment. "Okay," she said angrily. "I'm not wanted in here. I'll go." She picked up her mug of tea and left the kitchen, grumbling something about her brother kicking her out of her own kitchen.
"Her own kitchen?" Danny asked as he turned to look at his retreating sister's back.
"Long story," Sam answered. "I'll tell you mine after you tell me yours."
Danny took a deep breath then pulled her over into his lap. She smiled at him for a moment before kissing his cheek. Danny sighed as his arm around her waist tightened.
"I had just got back from a meeting when Vlad showed up," Danny began.
"Vlad?" Sam asked in shock. "Vlad's ghost?"
"No," Danny answered as he shook his head. "He wasn't dead. All this time he'd just been playing around with us, trying to get me to join in his stupid, twisted game."
Sam sighed and put her head on Danny's shoulder. "What did you do to him?" Sam asked after a long lapse of silence.
"Not half the things I wanted to," Danny answered tiredly. "We sparred verbally for awhile and then I had an idea. I duplicated myself into four, distracted him with three of the duplicates while I went for a thermos."
"You what?" Sam asked as she pulled away and looked at Danny. "You can duplicate into four?"
"Eight," he answered almost proudly. Sam raised her eyebrows and he chuckled. "But I can only manage four."
"So you came back with the thermos," Sam began as she prompted Danny to continue the story.
"And I trapped Vlad in it," Danny told her. Sam's mouth dropped open and Danny continued. "I came to see you. When I got back the Dairy King had the thermos and then Clockwork showed up and…"
"You're going to let Clockwork keep Vlad in the thermos?" Sam questioned incredulously.
"No," Danny answered. "Clockwork has other plans." Sam shook her head, but didn't press Danny to tell her what the other plans were.
"So everything is going to be all right now?"
"Yes," Danny replied. "Vlad is gone. The danger is gone, for now."
"For now," Sam repeated and Danny searched her face. He didn't want to worry her, he just wanted to take his happiness where he could get it.
"Tucker and Jazz are married," Sam told him as she feathered her fingers through his hair. "They've been keeping it secret for months."
Danny blinked, then smiled and started laughing. Sam watched him worriedly for a moment but he continued to smile. "I'm happy for them," he finally said. "Hopefully they'll leave us alone."
Sam raised her eyebrows. "Really? You want them to leave us alone?" Danny gave her a heavy lidded look then pulled her closer and kissed her.
"Alone could be good," Sam whispered against his lips as the kiss ended.
"Want to go now?" Danny asked sleepily in a low growly tone which sent chills all the way down to Sam's toes, which involuntarily curled.
"We need to tell your parents," Sam answered regretfully.
"No way," Danny said as he kissed Sam's neck. "What we do alone together is none of their business." Sam laughed then hugged Danny tight.
"Take me home," Sam whispered. Danny nodded his head as he transformed into Phantom, lifted her in his arms and carried her away.
"Hey guys," Jazz said as she walked back into the kitchen. "Do you think you could tell Mom and Dad about the baby tonight so Tuck and I…." She trailed off as she surveyed the empty room. She let out a sigh of consternation then walked out.
"I am sick of waiting! Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting! This isn't fair!" she yelled at no one in particular then growled in frustration. "Damn it!"
This story is dedicated to my dearest friend Bluemyst19, without whom it would never have been written. She has been kind enough to listen to me with patience and kindness as this story took me over. Thank you Blue, I'm truly thankful for your friendship. What is this marvelous grace which has sent such a friend into my life? How can I be worthy of the love of such a beautiful soul? Thank you Blue. You brighten my life with your dear and sweet spirit. You truly are family in my heart…my sister, daughter.
To all my reviewers and the people who have honored this story with a place on their favorites, I am extremely grateful, I wish I could express to each of you personally, how much each and every review you've sent has meant to me, as well as your support of this story which has gripped me to the exclusion of all else. I love each and every one of you and am so incredibly grateful that you deemed this story worthy of your time and attention. You're the reason I keep writing, your impact on me is incredibly powerful. Thank you.
ArtemisArrows, I sent Vlad to you
This story actually has a bit of a theme song, God Blessed the Broken Road – Rascal Flatts
Now do me the favor of a review, since I worked so hard to get this to you. Thanks.