Disclaimer: I don't own DP.

Thanks to the follow for reviewing last time: Invader Johnny, Fear the Fuzzy Bear, Sophia the daughter of Nyx, CyberFlow, MyPencilRanOutOfInk, MasterOfAwesome1, AmandaSkittles7, pikachucat, neeniya, Luxh, iroc2much2, RATTLEHEAD414, anonymous, iB3LIEVE, spatterson, Beakers47, Maximumni, Totes awesome, Specter14, AlyssPotter, CrazyCartoonistOtaku, Guest, Guest, iwos, HaiJu, and Up-In-the-Clouds1285. I really appreciate the support, the questions, the constructive criticism, and the praise. You are all amazing.

Summary from last chapter: The leader of the Ghost Council regrets that putting to death Danny Phantom's obsession (Sam) is the only way to destroy Phantom, who has already killed many in his bout of insanity. Valerie and Danielle also realize that Sam is a target, and they close in to protect her. But Sam believes that speaking with the Ghost Council is the best way to stop the battle. Meanwhile, Danielle chooses to help an injured Vlad to safety, and the CGIA closes in on shooting Sam, as they also know that killing her is the death of Danny Phantom. But Danny flies her to safety. The Ghost Council decides at that time to put Sam to death to end Phantom's life. But before they can act, Clockwork swoops in and holds a knife to Sam's throat. He does so to convince Danny to stop fighting and submit himself as a prisoner for trial and review of his crimes. Danny Phantom, in an attempt to keep Sam alive, agrees to the deal. The Ghost Council's leader, the Master of Knowledge and Wisdom, warns Clockwork that it's still possible Sam might have to die if Phantom's sentence is death.


Chained

Chapter 31


The Ghost Council was a terrifying group. Not only did their bodies crackle with a sort of ancient energy, but several of them appeared in the dimension like lightning. Heavy-stone thrones materialized in a row. Dark robes hid their features but for the odd green or blue hand as they sat down and beheld the dimension with glowing eyes.

There was a total number of twelve Council members, counting Clockwork and the two others who'd entered the dimension first.

Danny Phantom stood rigidly before the thrones. His face was in a dark twist of displeasure, red eyes narrowed as he watched the Council. His wrists twitched in their restraint, as if he were seconds away from attempting to break out. "How hypocritical," he hissed. "Pretending to be so civilized andfair now that you can't just look away from me."

The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom, as the Elder and the leader of the Council, took a seat in the center of the throne row. "Let us begin," he called, his voice a deep, thundering gravel. It stormed through the whole dimension. "We have been called to trial to review the crimes of Danny Phantom, who is now a prisoner under our jurisdiction."

Those in the dimension had already gathered around the powerful display. Several ghosts who had fought to stop the CGIA, including Valerie and her small human band, stood off to the far right. The remaining survivors of the CGIA stood off to the left. Surrounding on all sides were the Council's skeleton army. No one dared to strike against the other in fear of the Council's ire.

In the crowd, Valerie winced as she held scrunched rolls of gauze against her side, desperate to keep her wound from bleeding. Her battle suit's nanoparticle technology had already begun to rebuild again. "So let me get this straight," she huffed to Danielle, who floated beside her. "That Clockwork guy used to be Danny's mentor?"

The half-ghost nodded, her green eyes wide with awe. "He still is. He is very terrifying sometimes."

Valerie looked displeased and worried. "He almost slit Sam's throat." She turned to the side, eyeing the woman in mention, who'd sat down on a pile of debris while Maddie Fenton worried over her. Sam still looked pale and shaky. Her shirt collar had darkened a bit with dried blood. The small, shallow cut on her throat had already clotted up, and Maddie had helped her clean the wound. Now, there was just a thin red line.

Danielle's voice was hardly above a whisper. "Clockwork wouldn't have killed her. He loves us. He did what he had to do to stop all this."

"And now what?" Valerie whispered back. There was a pain in her voice, not just from her physical injuries. "These grim reaper dudes don't look happy to help." She glanced about in paranoia. CGIA soldiers stood not too far away. "I overheard the leader talking to Clockwork. He said they might still decide to execute Danny. We need an exit strategy."

Danielle swallowed hard. "There is no exit strategy from the Ghost Council. They can do anything."

The hunter pulled the gauze away from her side, wincing. She looked at her side and the raw, broken flesh that peeked out through her battle suit's fibers. "Well dammit, I can't take on these guys if hell breaks loose." She pressed her lips together tightly to fight a pained moaned. Now that the adrenaline of battle was wearing off, she was starting to feel a deep throb of pain. Sweat had begun to break out along her temples.

The half-ghost steadied her. "Maybe you should sit down," Danielle said worriedly. She swung Valerie's good arm over her shoulder to take on her weight. "And then I can run to the doctor and get you some pain meds or something."

Valerie groaned, only to wince. "I don't want to miss anything." A crowd had begun to form around them—full of ghosts, both fighters and bystanders, all curious to watch the Ghost Council's trial of Danny Phantom.

"Then that rock pile over there. You could lean against it and watch?"

The woman grabbed onto Danielle's arm tightly. "No, you don't understand." Her teal eyes were hard with guilt. "All of this is because of me. If they're gonna try Danny like he's a criminal, then I have to speak. I have to get to the front."

Danielle was speechless. "What? But—it's the Ghost Council! You don't talk to them unless they ask you something."

Valerie's face twisted in irritation. "Forget that. This is life or death here. I won't let Sam or Danny die."

"Wait, wait. Sam?"

"The leader guy talked about destroying Danny by ending his obsession. It means if they don't think Danny's innocent, then Sam's gonna die with him."

At that, Danielle paled. "Oh."

"Yeah. Oh." Valerie gritted her teeth as she forced herself to stand straighter. She caught the tense gaze of Danny Phantom, who'd turned away from the Council to view the gathering. "So I'm gonna tell them the truth, that this is all my fault. And I'll die in their place if I have to."


The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom called out, "On behalf of Clockwork, the Master of Time, Danny Phantom has submitted himself to trial. But we shall hear the voices of the humans first—this Central Ghost Intelligence Agency who has invaded our sacred lands. Send forth your leader to me, and explain why you war with Danny Phantom."

The ghost in mention snarled at the leader. "Oh sure. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Pretend like you don't know what they've done."

"Quiet," the Elder demanded. "Or I shall muzzle you as I see fit."

The threat made Phantom's face falter, the insanity in his red eyes dimming with a hint of fear. He knew now the power of this Council. He'd been unable to break his chains.

Clockwork eyed his charge hard, as if to plead, Don't make this worse.

At that time, Agent M broke from his group. He held his chin high despite the hesitance in his step. All of his people's instruments had buzzed with alerts that these ghosts were of something too great to fight. "I am the acting leader of the Central Ghost Intelligence Agency."

The Elder tilted his head. The human before him seemed disciplined in the military fashion, his age affording him an experienced air. "Your name."

"I am Commander Agent M." His clouded, old eyes sized up the ghost. "Our previous Commander, Agent O, is suffering injuries no thanks to Danny Phantom."

Phantom muttered snidely, "He deserved it."

The Elder's face twitched in displeasure, but he ignored the commentary. "Tell me, Agent M. Why have you conspired to war against ghosts by invading our sacred lands and annihilating several of our subjects?" He waved to the remaining Convoy ships. "Your display of power is both disturbing to us and an active declaration of war upon our kind."

Phantom seemed almost pleased at the accusation underlying the Elder's tone, but Agent M had been measuring his opponent for long enough to calculate a response. He wanted to protect his soldiers, even at the risk of seeming compliant with the Ghost Council. "Our people have been victimized by Danny Phantom and his lot—our cities are constantly damaged from his violence. We sought to control his violence by imprisoning him, but he got away. We came to retrieve him as our prisoner, and his allies attempted to stop us." He waved his hand about the land, where various still forms of GIWs rested in death. "Their handiwork."

"I am aware of Danny Phantom's…handiwork, as you call it," the Master of Knowledge and Wisdom narrowed his red eyes in curiosity. "Were you aware that bringing weapons of mass destruction and using them on hallowed grounds is considered an act of war against the Council?"

The agent swallowed hard. "No."

The Elder seemed to enjoy watching Agent M squirm. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. But given your rather pathetic ability to resist us—will you force my hand to annihilate you, or do you surrender now and relinquish all weapons to the Council?"

Agent M paled. His wrinkled face twisted with a light panic, and he turned to his people. The surviving soldiers had huddled together protectively. Many of them were frightened by these previously unknown rulers of the Ghost Zone. Until now, they'd thought the world was an anarchist establishment with no central force of power—especially not with beings of this magnitude. This changed things. He turned back to the ancient ghost sitting before him. "We surrender," he said, voice strained. "Our remaining weapons will be provided to you. I ask only that we keep one ship for our return home."

The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom pondered that. "Very well," he said. "I accept your surrender and will later decide a fitting punishment to deter you from invading again."

If it were possible, the human's face paled even more. The tall, acetic man struggled to maintain composure. "A fitting punishment?"

"Yes. A parting gift on behalf of my subjects you annihilated." The Elder waved him off. "Now go. I would speak to others."

Agent M seemed as if he would try to argue, but then he looked about at all the other Council Members, who sat in steely silence and gazed at him as if he were nothing more than an insect. He straightened his shoulders to save face and turned around to walk away, defeated.

"Wait," called another Council Member. It was a male with a deep voice that boomed—the Master of Strength and Power. "Tell me, human. I sense the power of Danny Phantom from your weapons and your odd-looking ships. Were you in some kind of…alliance previously?"

The agent turned around, clouded eyes guarded. "I'm afraid not," he said with a strained voice.

"You amassed quite the storage of an enemy's power, then. Explain how this was done."

Danny Phantom nearly opened his mouth, but his red eyes simply followed the agent. He was waiting for the man to incriminate himself.

Agent M said, "Danny Phantom was our prisoner. Since his power destroyed our city so many times, we thought it fair to use his power to make our city better."

The Council Member of Strength and Power tilted his head. "You did not answer my question. Explain the method through which you obtained and came to wield the power of Danny Phantom."

"Simple collection of his ectoplasm," the agent said vaguely.

That set Phantom off. "Simple?" he repeated in disbelief. His handsome face twitched with hatred. There was a furious ring in his voice. "You call what you did to me simple?"

The Elder looked bored, but the gears were turning in his head. He already knew what the CGIA had done. "For the record of those witnessing this trial, further explain your method of collection."

Agent M looked caught. "Our initial attempts at collection were…less sophisticated, but we created an energy siphoning system that fed off his ectoplasm more efficiently. A wire-based generator."

"You son of a bitch," Phantom snarled. Whatever remnant of Danny Fenton he had, it had been fully twisted by pain. "You tortured me. You laughed about it." His voice broke. "Don't even pretend like it was civilized."

The older man gave the ghost a dark look. "As if what you did with your powerwas civilized."

"Enough." The Elder did not look away from Agent M, miserably intrigued by how the human was trying to skirt around the truth. "Did you torture your prisoner, and to what end?"

"We did what was necessary to stop him," the agent said. "It was for the safety of our people."

"I usually don't care for human events, but you say Phantom destroyed your cities. What were the damages prior to his imprisonment? How many of your people died? How many did he torture?" The Elder, having seen the past and been accosted for it by Clockwork several times, knew the answers already.

At that, Agent M began to sweat. "Several millions of dollars in damages. Families lost their homes and sources of income. But to my knowledge, no one died or was tortured."

"And Phantom was not this…violent prior to imprisonment?"

"No, but we knew he was waiting to strike."

The Elder's strong voice went flat. "I'm sure." He could smell the hypocrisy off the human and found it displeasing. "Return to your people now. I am done speaking with you and will detail an appropriate punishment at the end of this trial." Then his cloaked head turned, and his aged eyes landed on Danny Phantom. "As for you."

Phantom raised his chin and sniffed, as if to challenge the Elder. "Don't pretend to be so mighty and righteous with me. You knew what they were doing. You watched it happen."

"And it seems that no matter the challenge in your way, you always turn out to be a raging force of insanity." The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom waved a skeletal, green hand. "I would have Council Member Clockwork, the Master of Time, speak on your behalf first. It is by his intervention alone that you still exist."

Clockwork floated up from his seat, his scepter hitting the ground with a solid force. "Thank you, Elder."

"Do not thank me yet," the old ghost responded. "Tell me what you hope to gain by intervening on this human affair and thereby perpetuating the existence of an abomination such as Danny Phantom."

The mentor did not take well to the insult of his charge, but he said nothing of it. He floated before his fellow Council Members, raising his chin. "Council," he greeted, aging his body into that of an old man's. His red eyes clouded, his voice deepening with the rumble of centuries. "As you well know, Danny Phantom has been under my guidance since he turned fourteen. It was at that time the Council first marked my charge for death, by proxy of his volatile nature. I stand here today as his advocate once more."

The ghost in mention stood stiffly to the side, lips in a tight line of displeasure and fear. Clockwork was the one who had denied his requests for salvation. Clockwork was the one who had turned away his face and then returned only to nearly slit Sam's throat.

"Clockwork," one of the female Council Members called tiredly, "did you not already alter the time stream for this boy once?"

"I did," he confirmed.

"And do you not already maintain oversight of an evil, alternate version of Phantom, stuck inside a soup thermos from the human world?" the Council Member said dryly.

"Yes."

"So you are therefore asking that we give this half-breed not only a second chance, but a third one?"

Clockwork did not blink. "Yes."

The Council Member of War leaned back in her throne, leaning a green hand against her cheek. "The odds are not in your favor, Clockwork. A pattern exists here."

"The pattern exists because of the pressures placed on him," Clockwork declared. "Danny Phantom is already a very powerful warrior-class ghost—and yet at every turn, he has received condemnation from those he might have called teachers. You even barred me from intervening on his torture because you fear his existence. You fear what he is."

"All the more reason to eradicate his existence while we still can," said the Master of Strength and Power. "His abilities were a mistake and attract too much attention. They should have never happened."

Clockwork was not deterred. "I disagree. Danny Phantom represents the very chaos that defines our existence. His abilities are no more of a mistake than our own abilities. How we turned our eyes from him was the real mistake."

The Elder cut in after that. "Clockwork," he said tiredly. "We understand your position on the matter. You feel that Phantom has received unfair treatment from us."

"And can you deny it?" Clockwork asked. "Two years ago, we stood in these same positions, looking at time streams. The probability that Danny Phantom would survive the CGIA was less than five percent. You assumed that probability was better than the one-hundred percent chance that he would eventually fall to darkness. Now here we are, the time stream having taken that five percent turn, with a slew of dead in our path that would have never happened had we simply invested in him to begin with."

"There are never better options," the Elder clarified. "Only different sacrifices. Why not tell the court the cost of investing in him? That even if we were to do so, he would unfailingly still become evil?" He waved his hand. "And how many of those thermoses can you handle before you realize it is a futile endeavor?"

Clockwork's scepter clinked against the ground as he paced, his old eyes staring at his mentor with great determination. "We all carry the capacity for evil. And it is not unfailing odds. There is a minor probability that Danny Phantom could become a valuable asset for the Council, if we were to guide him."

"Yes, less than one percent," the Elder scoffed.

"And we could increase that probability if we were to try." Clockwork's voice hardened. "The future carries many possible, dark turns all the time. It does not behoove us to claim defeat before we've done anything."

A different Council Member, the Master of Peace and Diplomacy cut in. His voice was a smooth and soft tone. "Fellow, Master. I understand your advocacy for the boy. But the creature that stands before us now is not the same person. I do not see what you hope to save in this one. He murdered countless humans—his own kind—in cold blood."

"Unlike the Danny Phantom currently imprisoned in the Fenton Thermos," Clockwork replied, "this Danny Phantom can still be reasoned with. A part of Daniel Fenton is still informing his decisions and maintaining emotional attachments. Whether or not his human side will resurface, he is the first Warrior-Class Level One ghost in existence since Pariah Dark. He is far more useful to us as an ally than as an enemy. And if we can rebuild him as such, we will see a brighter future for us all."

"Sentiment," warned the Master of Empathy, "is dangerous." Her dark eyes, nearly black, turned to Phantom. "Emotional attachment makes him more unpredictable than the Phantom locked away now. The fact that he is a Warrior-Class Level One only heightens our suspicions that he is an oddity that cannot remain."

"He is too strong," agreed the Master of Strength and Power. "We should eliminate him before he can grow to challenge us."

At that, Sam stood up, her hands clenched so hard, her knuckles were bloodless. "Who are you people?!" she cried out. She moved up past the crowds, pushing her way through. She walked before the Ghost Council with little thought of her own safety, or of her own half-crazed appearance. "Are you really just going to write him off like this? Like he's not even a person? Do you realize what you made him live through because of your stupid fears about him?" Her voice hitched. "They tortured him. They made him bleed and cry, and all you can think about is yourselves."

Danny Phantom watched her silently, almost in surprise that his obsession would put herself in even further danger to protect him. It appeared that Sam still kept her distance from Clockwork.

The Elder eyed her. "Our primary concern always lies with the affairs of the Ghost Zone and our people."

"Oh, so you just didn't care that the CGIA was torturing your subjects in the human world?" Sam scoffed, voice raising higher. "You didn't care to stop them? Didn't Danny and the others count?"

The Elder responded, "All ghosts who cross into the human world are no longer under our protection. If they chose to risk another world, it is their decision." His red eyes stared deep into Sam's unflinching ones, and he raised a brow. "You are bold to speak like this to me, human."

"Oh, you have no idea," she said. Her voice shook with a righteous fury. "None at all. If you're the reason why Clockwork didn't save him, then—"

"—Do not mistake me as a villain," Elder's lip curled in irritation. He tapped his fingers. "You think I am narrow-minded, short-sighted. I am simply attempting to stop history from repeating itself."

Sam, worn with anger and pain, set her jaw. "And what history is that?"

The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom slid his eyes to his other Council Members. "One you probably wouldn't know. The Council once contained thirteen positions instead of twelve. Our thirteenth member was Pariah Dark, a ghost with great skills—warrior-class, like Phantom. He ruled with us as the Master of Justice. But he one day grew jealous at the limitations of his station. So he rebelled and began to call himself the Ghost King." Something pained crossed the Elder's face as he turned to Sam. "We sacrificed much to seal away the ghost we once called our brother. He ravaged the Ghost Zone, eliminating citizens he felt were unworthy of afterlife. Had we not stopped him, he would have overtaken the human world as well and decimated your race. Are you incapable of seeing the resemblances, having seen his insanity for yourself?"

Sam swallowed hard. "Danny's not like Pariah Dark."

"Not yet," the Elder challenged. "In sealing away Pariah Dark, we did what was best for the many. In executing Phantom, we would achieve a similar result." He tilted his head. "Now, what is it that inspires you to challenge me so? Humans are inherently self-interested. Do you defend Phantom out of concern for him, or simply out of concern for your own life? To execute him would mean to execute you."

Sam stood her ground. "If my death meant that Danny could live," she declared confidently, "I'd give myself up in a heartbeat. But if my death means that Danny dies too, then I'm gonna fight you with everything I have. Don't think I won't."

The Elder raised a brow to that. Then he turned his searing gaze to the crowd and narrowed in on Valerie. "And you," he called. "The one known as the Ghost Slayer. You are human also, employed even by this…CGIA… and yet I saw you command ghosts against your own kind. Why do you protect Phantom?"

Valerie stood up from the rock with a grimace. "You mean I gotta spell it out for you?" she complained. She tried to hide her injuries from sight and raised her chin. "I saw what they did to them. I knew it was wrong. I captured him in the first place, so I did stuff to make it stop." Her words were curt. "If anyone deserves to die here, it's probably me."

Next to her, Danielle tried to talk her down in sharp whispers of fear. Valerie shrugged it off with an irritated twitch of her face.

The Elder stared at her, intrigued. "You would trade your life for Danny Phantom's?"

"I owe him that much," Valerie agreed, voice hard. "And I don't let anything have power over me if it doesn't deserve it." She gave the Elder a harsh look, as if to say that she was measuring him too.

A different Council Member, the Master of Mischief and Chaos, cut in. Though his cloak hid most of his features, his form was slim. Something about him seemed snake-like. "As much as I love a good death by substitution," he said with boredom, "I would rather hear Phantom defend himself. Let the poor creature speak."

Danny Phantom raised a brow at that, a twitch of glee and irritation glinting from his eyes. "Yes," he agreed. "Let the poor creature speak."

The Elder turned to the ghost. "And what is your defense? Given that you have also incited war on hallowed grounds and spilled the blood of your own people."

The younger ghost's strong hands clenched in the cuffs. His thin lips were in a tight line that stretched into a bitter laugh. "You all sit there like you're some higher moral power, when you're no better than I am. If you can't have me gone, you'd have me controlled, wouldn't you? Like some slave to your will."

Clockwork intervened, "This is not about control. This is about ensuring the safety of the future. And your safety as well."

That did it. A furious hatred came over Phantom. "I'm just a chess piece to you," he whispered, voice shaking with emotion. "Don't pretend like you care."

"Daniel—"

"—Don't use that name," he whispered hotly. "He's dead because of you."

A real pain crossed the Master of Time's face. "I would have saved you if I could."

"No," Phantom cried. "You came back to end me. That's what this is all about."

"I am here to save you now."

"No!" Phantom shouted. His red eyes began to water, and his voice broke. "You're bastards, all of you! You'd rather destroy me than deal with me, and now that I'm still here, you're just trying to clean up your mess! But I didn't ask for any of this!" His true emotions, a tumult of pain, spiraled out of him in a flurry. "I'll kill you! I'll destroy you all, and then I'll—!"

The Elder rolled his eyes and raised his skeletal hand. From his fingers stormed power that flew through the air. It wrapped around the boy's face and locked into a muzzle, dimming into sleek, cold metal.

Phantom's red eyes widened, and his muffled voice strained against the muzzle. His nostrils flared in panic and anger. He looked as if he would try to shake it off, but it would not budge. He tried to move his jaws to no avail.

"Your…charge, Clockwork, is exceptionally unstable," the Elder swept his hand to them. "I shall spare the court his obscenities."

Tears of anger streamed down Phantom's face without shame as his body shuddered with harsh breaths. It was happening again. All over again. He looked out at the surrounding crowd in desperation, and he landed upon Sam. She was silent, but her gaze locked in on his. Her eyes were bright with tears, and she stared at him with full understanding.

The cuffs upon him dampened his power, but she could feel his pain. In every fiber of her being, the remnant of his consciousness remained.

She moved forward again. "You need to listen to him," she argued to the Council. "Don't you get it? He's like this because you didn't help him. We've all got the potential for evil. But no one can fight that alone." She blinked, and the tears that had watered her eyes slipped down her face. "No one."


As Sam argued on behalf of the wayward Danny Phantom, a shadow slipped from beyond the CGIA's convoy ships. It was a man in a white suit who limped hard. He'd been lying in the CGIA's infirmary, listening to Agent M command the battle. And now he knew it was up to him. Blood stains had dried down his shoulder and back, and he held a shaking hand to the back of his wounded head. A gun was in his other hand.

His breath shuddered quietly as he trudged forward. "N-no," he snarled in a whisper. The bodies of his dead comrades were skewed on the ground before him. And he could hear the voices of his enemies—Danny Phantom and his lot of rebels—still disgracing the air.

And that woman. He knew that woman. It was the one Agent M had ordered to die because she was Phantom's obsession.

Agent O raised his gun, arm shaking from the exertion and the pain. "I w-will end this," he promised. He stepped forward to lean against a pile of debris and steady his arm. "I'll d-do it n-now."

The woman turned around to look at the crowd in desperation.

He pulled the trigger.

Bang.


A second later, Sam's body jerked back, her life's blood spraying out in an arc.

Phantom froze. And then he screamed beneath his muzzle as he watched her fall. He bolted forward to catch her, stumbling in his restraints. "Ngh!" he cried, voice muffled. Her barely managed grab onto her shoulders, falling hard to his knees.

The entire crowd jerked into a frenzy.

The Master of Knowledge and Wisdom stood up in a blur and raised his hand. A strong force shot through the air as a bright light. It hit the rogue agent dead in the chest and cast him backward.

Agent O's body fell to the ground, and it did not get up.

The Elder's red eyes darkened at the now-dead human, and then he turned around. Chaos had erupted amongst the crowds—the CGIA soldiers suddenly running to their fallen leader, the humans and ghosts lurching forward toward in a panic or running away in fear of more violence…

…and a gasping, bloodied Sam in the arms of Danny Phantom.

The Master of War raised her hand and recalled the metal bindings that held Phantom's wrists together. The instant he was free, he wrapped his arms around Sam more tightly, his gloved hand pressing against her wound to staunch the blood.

Already, Sam's shirt had soaked through. She'd been shot near the heart.

"Ngh," Phantom cried in great panic and rage, his voice still muffled by the muzzle upon his face. He pressed his hand against her chest, her blood rushing up between his fingers. Tears blurred his sight. A moan broke from him. "Mmm!"

Her purple eyes were wide and dazed as she trembled in his arms. "D-Danny," she gasped, her voice hardly a gurgled breath. The scabbed cut across her throat had torn open as well, dripping blood down her neck. She inhaled with a shuddering breath, eyes unfocused. Her purple lips tore open in strange gasps.

With his shackles gone, Phantom's powers had returned full force. His mind connected to hers in in a blur. Her thoughts were a scattered mix of pain and panic, and he gently cradled them as he did her physical body.

The Elder watched the exchange and the reverence with which Phantom held the girl. The psychotic ghost's actions were instinctive and…human. He cradled her in a way that surpassed a simple obsession. His every action was an attempt to comfort her and not himself.

"Mmn," the boy's muffled cries tore through the upraised noise of the crowd. He was panicking at the weakening twitches of Sam's breath. His tears streaked hard down his face. Sam was dying in his arms. And despite all his powers, he could not save her or himself.

And so the Elder suffered a sigh, and with a tilt of his chin, the muzzle about Phantom's mouth dissipated into nothing.

The boy looked up at the Council leader, his red eyes wide and blurred with tears. The hatred that had born his entire being wavered with fear. And for the first time since he'd gone full-ghost, a remnant of Daniel Fenton shined from him with horror.


A/N: I keep thinking about how, when I first began this story, I meant it to be only three chapters or so. Now here we are with ten times the chapters. Wow. I had fun with this chapter and hope you enjoyed it too.

Please review with your ideas, questions, critiques, or thoughts! Thank you all for the support.