By Lacey52


A note: Well, I've had this idea brewing for a while, and in one sleepless night I sat down and outlined it completely, did all the research I needed to do, and set up the basics of every chapter. Not bad for one night. I highly recommend listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest soundtrack if you have it. For some reason, it really helped me get into the mood to write this story, and I listened to it about twenty times straight already. I've really enjoyed the music…Well, this probably isn't going to make much sense until much later chapters, but that's okay. This is more for me than anyone else.

Blanket Disclaimer applies as usual to this and all other chapters: I don't own Danny Phantom, anything thereby affiliated, nor any book, movie, song, character, etc., that might be mentioned in this fan fiction, unless the item or person in question was specifically designed by myself for this story.

This chapter's gonna' be short. It's just a set up with a bit of character analysis to give you all something to base character assumptions off of. Oh, and I'm not stopping Chained Reactions…it's just giving me a headache, and this one was calling me…darn plot bunnies.

Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Prelude: Running


Running and running, it felt like they were running always now. Always a step behind, always a step ahead, it never really mattered. If they were running from, running to, running with, it didn't matter…they were still, and constantly, running.

Puffing, a now seventeen year old Sam Manson pushed herself even harder, rounding a corner just in time to pull out a small ghost gun and blast the spectral figure away from the central power lines. She swung around and to her slight discomfort saw that Tucker and Valerie were both struggling as well. These particular ghosts were not going to give up, nor give in to their demands that they leave.

"Hey uglies!" Sam dared shout, drawing the attention of the other two ghosts, "Go away!"

She shot off three more blasts, but missed every single time. She had gotten lucky with her first shot and caught the ghost off guard. They were extremely agile and even with Valerie's skills they were making little headway in this particular fight.

'I just wish…,' but Sam trailed off as one of the ghosts dove at her. Shifting her weight quickly, Sam leapt to the side, only to be slammed into by Tucker as he pushed her to the ground. A blinding flash swept over their heads. She would have died if Tucker hadn't interfered.

She stood up and shook it off, 'Nothing new there…'

The three began to circle into a more defensive position, waiting for one of the ghosts to grow impatient and make a mistake. This was their best tactic usually, especially with the more powerful creatures. The one Sam had hit with a blast earlier was the first to come at them…without the other two backing it.

Valerie leapt into action, vaulting over the two other humans and slamming her foot into the ghost's chest. She opened fire on it's face less than a second later, and while it was stunned Tucker took the opportunity presented and opened the Fenton Thermos.

With one down and two left, the little group was in for a fight, but it had to be done. The city desperately needed this power station to stay up and running. They had lost the other two earlier this week.

For another ten minutes the fight raged on, Tucker taking a serious shot to his shoulder and Sam earning a cut across her cheek. She was lucky she wasn't missing her head. Valerie was helmet-less by the end of the fight and her right eye was rapidly swelling shut. All three were thankful to have survived the encounter with no casualties and so few injuries.

Wearily, Valerie headed home to get a slab of steak for her eye, and the inevitable lecture from her father. Tucker was dragged back to his house, where in the privacy of his room, his shirt was stripped unceremoniously from him by Sam, and his shoulder inspected.

It wasn't the first time they had had to bandage one another, and it certainly wasn't going to be the last. Shyness had been lost after the first major fight. Someone had to take care of their injuries and they certainly couldn't go to the hospital and explain why they were in such a state.

Sam had gotten amazingly good at stitching people up and taking care of injuries garnered through normal means. Tucker was the expert on just about everything else...meaning anything spectrally acquired.

"It's burnt," Sam wrinkled her nose, carefully cleaning off the wound on his shoulder, "and it smells horrible…"

"You never did like the smell of cooked meat," Tucker teased gently, but patted her on the back none-the-less, "It's fine…it's probably going to blister too, and I bet it's gonna' get infected."

"Not if I can help it," Sam grimaced as she began to apply a salve of burn cream and wrap his shoulder, "I don't need you getting a fever and being too out of it to do anything. Besides, we've got a test in history this Thursday, and if I have to suffer through it, so do you."

"Fine, fine," Tucker laughed, then winced as she pulled the bandage tight, "Ow…"

"Sorry," she sat back to admire her work, reminiscing as she looked at two other scars on his chest. Both had been taken care of by her, both were horrifying experiences, and both had made him, as well as her, stronger, "I need to get home."

"Let's get your face cleaned up first, alright?" he moved to grab an alcohol wipe and cleaned off the cut, blowing on it gently when it showed on her face that it was stinging, "I hate having to do this…"

"Me too," Sam looked down, trying her hardest to ignore the stinging sensation behind her eyes and a suspicious tightness in her throat, "but it's what's right."

"I'm sorry Sam," and he gently wrapped her in a hug, "I just wish…"

But Tucker had to trail off…wishing was one of the most dangerous things to do these days…even more so than it had been before.

Before. What a horrid word in their lives.

'If we just knew,' Tucker thought desperately, looking down at the girl in his arms.

She had changed so much. She was quite, no longer protesting as she once did, no longer caring to voice her opinion loudly and bravely. She was far more introspective, far more level-headed, if that was even possible, and it was all because of before.

Then too, he supposed, he had changed a great deal as well. He was the one who had to come up with the plans now…the one who had to be strong, the one who was comforting Sam. He loved her dearly, and sometimes people thought it to be something romantic.

It truly wasn't. He loved her as his best friend, and as his little sister who was desperately in need of someone to hold her and tell her it was going to be alright, even if it really wasn't. Because telling her almost, sometimes, nearly convinced him it was true. Almost.

But that was something that they were running from too.


"Morning," Valerie intoned from behind dark glasses, "How are you two doing?"

"Fine," Tucker replied cheerfully, "I fell asleep holding a girl for once…"

"Shut it Tuck," Sam smacked his arm, careful of which one she hit, "You're going to get the rumor mills going again, and I prefer the populace to see our relationship as platonic, not smoldering passions."

Tucker just laughed and Valerie joined in, the three of them slipping into their first period just as the bell rang. No one said anything at the sight of their weary countenances, as most of the town knew now that they were fighting ghosts.

Lancer, who had still managed to follow them and torture them through school, also said nothing. He was worried, but who was he to tell them what to do in their spare time. They were keeping the town safe, and two of the three were already eighteen. Even then, there was no chance he'd ever convince Samantha to stop her dangerous activities.

She seemed to be the most determined of them all.

As class progressed, Tucker proceeded to take a nap, having stayed up later than the other two thinking. His shoulder was also starting to throb more persistently, and the beginnings of a fever were coming on. Sam was going to murder him in his sleep for not letting her change the bandage this morning.

A gentle hand on his shoulder roused Tucker at the end of the period, Valerie handed him a few aspirin, and the three parted ways to their next class. He took the pills all at once, no water. He was becoming a pro and it was starting to scare him.

Sam floated through the hall, people still sending her strange glances, sympathetic stares…but then, they still did that for Tucker too, and when Jazz was in town, or when they saw the Fentons…

She tiredly opened her locker, only to pause as she remembered a particularly happy memory, her eyes growing glassy. She would be late to second but it wouldn't matter. Not much did anymore.

Except running.


Second passed, third rolled by, and fourth was slept through. Lunch came and went, as did fifth, sixth, and seventh, and when the bell rang and Sam was not around, no one was worried. It was no mystery where she had disappeared to.

Valerie sat in the bleachers and watched as Sam ran around and around the track. She knew that the girl was in shape, that she had done well on the Presidential Exams in gym back in ninth grade, but not until she and Tucker had joined her in her hunting did she discover how good Sam was at running.

Tucker had started to join her after a while when he realized he couldn't quite keep up with the two girls in the fights, but he was never able to match Sam's stamina. In truth, Valerie doubted she could ever run as hard, for as far, and as long as Sam could.

Out of all of they who ran, Sam was the best at it, but in more than just the physical way.

From the stands she observed the other girl, her once rival now one of her best friends. She was graceful, breathing steadily and her feet pounding out a rhythm that seemed to soothe her soul. Valerie had her martial arts and hunting to throw herself into, Tucker had all of his technology and the hunting to throw himself into, and Sam had the hunt and the run.

She eventually slowed down, and met Tucker at the track's entrance where he'd stood watching, graciously accepting a bottle of cool water from him as they headed back towards Valerie's spot. They didn't start talking until they arrived at her side.

"You didn't run today Tuck," Sam took another sip of water, then turned to grab her bag from where it sat behind Valerie.

"I had detention, apparently I can get away with sleeping in one or two classes, but not all of them," he chuckled wryly, "but even then, Lancer only kept me for twenty minutes."

"He's a good man," Valerie begrudgingly admitted, shrugging her shoulders, "After they started to realize that we were the ones who took over in the absence of…"

But she trailed off as Sam lowered her head with every word that had started slipping from her mouth.

"It doesn't matter," she finally stated after a moment, "After this year it won't matter anymore at all because we'll be out of school and out of this thrice damned town."

Tucker and Valerie shared a knowing look, though both agreed whole heartedly. This town held nothing but heartache for several of the unlucky citizens. If there was no heartache, then there were at least the constant concern of ghost attacks, more now than ever before.

"I'm heading home," Sam sighed as neither answered, though she knew their silence was their agreement, "I'll catch you tomorrow."

"Not that I'm looking forward to it," Valerie smiled tightly, tiredly, "but we might just meet up tonight. Don't forget that tomorrow we're assigned out history paper topics."

"Joy," Sam rolled her eyes, some of the normal flair back to her, "History term papers that aren't due until the end of the year, just what I want to do tomorrow after a test."

"Right?" Valerie laughed, "Anyways, I hope that we don't see one another for once tonight. Sweet dreams tonight too!"

Laughing the girls parted ways, with Tucker calling a hurried, "Wait up and I'll walk you home!" to Sam. They didn't talk for most of the way, but they really didn't have much to say. Tonight would hopefully be a night of rest for them all.

At the door Tucker bent down and kissed Sam's forehead, a silent understanding between the two. When Sam said 'thrice damned' she had meant it, though Valerie still didn't know. She had lost more than anyone had with the exception of Danny's family, and even then it wasn't in quite the same way.

"Thank you," Sam whispered gently, "You really are too good to me. Some girl is going to be very lucky to get you one of these days."

"Ah," Tucker blushed as he pushed her door open and pushed her inside, "It isn't anything that you don't deserve. I just ya' know…I had hoped that we'd figure it all out one day."

"Hey," Sam laughed as she smiled back at the young man in her doorway, "you're supposed to be the optimist, not me. We will figure it all out…just, I guess it isn't time yet."

"Yeah," he smiled and backed out, "I know Sam, I know."

As soon as the door shut, Sam moved to the window and watched him walk home. She was beyond lucky to have had Tucker there to lean on for these two years. He'd always be dear to her for what he had done and what he was doing still. He was her rock to lean on, and hopefully she was just as steady for him when he needed it.

Sam sighed and walked to her room as soon as Tucker was out of her sight. She turned her phone on loud and vibrate, plugged it in to charge, then shoved it under her pillow. She had to keep it near in case Valerie needed her help. She hadn't gotten to turn off her phone in nearly four months.

'It doesn't matter though,' she slipped out of her day clothes and into sweats and a sports bra. She had to be ready to go and this was the easiest way to do it, 'As soon as this year is over, we're killing the portal, putting up a ghost shield over the entire town, and getting the hell out of here.'

'Now if only I could get you out of my head as easily as I can get out of this town,' Sam silently cried, 'then maybe I could stop running…'