The Art of Conversation
A note: Okay, so I sat down this weekend and thought up an entire storyline past the original twenty chapters! This chapter is the last of the first arc, so we'll start shifting into some new territory…which is going to be really fun to write, lol.
There will be four arcs, possibly five, including the one I've already written; which is chapter one to twenty one. I think though, that they will be split into four, or five, different stories, all entitled with "The Art of ….."
This also means this will be the last chapter of AOC, quickly followed by the first chapter of…:
The Art of Science
Should be exciting, no?
Anywho, not as long as the last few have been, but I've definitely gotten this out a lot quicker. I actually wrote it all in one go, so don't blame me if there are too many errors or anything. You know I don't edit, lol.
PS-It's still summer so don't expect me to be an updating fool like I normally am. This has just been a small reprieve in which I've had time, and capabilities, to write and post.
Chapter Twenty One: Confide
"Good morning Casper High," here the intercom crackled and in two different classrooms halfway across the school from one another two students and a teacher winced and were reminded that a new system was still desperately needed for the sake of bleeding ears, "We hope that you all enjoyed the End of Year Dance and had a safe and fun weekend."
'Yeah, real fun,' Tucker glanced down at his watch as one of the members of the Student Council continued with the morning announcements, 'Ran around town all day Saturday looking for a gift for my Mom's birthday, which was that night, then ended up running around all night looking for a ghost with Danny. Sunday was just wonderful too…'
"Tuck," Danny leaned over and poked him hard in the back of his right arm, earning a glare and a mumbled 'ow' from the other boy, "Dude, what's up with you? You and brood don't work well together in the same sentence."
"Just reliving the exciting, fun weekend we had," the other boy groused, though he was truly more upset about Sunday than about the ghost chase with his friend, "Not to mention that I actually had a chance at a date with a girl on Sunday, but got blown off when her friends showed up."
"Who?" Danny frowned heavily, trying for all the world to figure out who Tucker had met on Sunday, "At the mall or something, right?"
"Yeah, at the mall," both students studiously ignored the announcements as they continued their hushed conversation, "The girl who works the register at GameHalt. I wasn't even trying to pick her up or anything and she started flirting with me. Then her friends all came in and drug her off to lunch right before I could ask if she wanted to go grab a bite to eat…"
"Sucky," Danny sympathized with his best friend, knowing all too well how hard it was for someone of their social standing to get a date, let alone a steady girlfriend, "But at least you learned something."
"What?" Tucker sighed heavily as they stood for the pledge of allegiance, the entire class tiredly repeating the well worn words. As soon as they were done, the students sat back heavily in their chairs and listened with disinterest as Principal Ishiyama began to speak on some presentation to be held in the auditorium later that week, "What the heck could I have possibly learned?"
"To be yourself," the halfa leaned back cheekily in his chair with folded arms and a grin plastered on his face, "She liked you because you weren't flirting with her."
"Whatever," and Tucker just laughed as the day began, a few thoughts stirred up by Danny's observation, 'If it's really that simple, I think I just might drown myself in the world of technology and hide from the stupidity of me…'
"Alright," Jack rubbed his hands excitedly, readying the newest version the Fenton Ability Detector. This was the fifth version, and by far the most advanced as it could pick up the most basic of ghostly abilities as well as the more advanced. The more advanced were what they had been after, as they had often seen this ghost split himself into four or more copies and had yet to be able to detect this particular skill, "Time to give this another go."
"Jack," Maddie's voice echoed worriedly from the stairs as she paused to look down at the ghost who was looking at her, "He's testing the field around the containment area again. I think we need to start thinking about more safety precautions and a few more containment fields, just in case…and I think I'd like to do the planning and work outside of the lab."
"Whatever you want, baby," he moved to block her from the ghost's line of vision, helping her down the stairs as he did so, "I've got the F.A.D. all fired up, so let's give it a go. Then how about we work upstairs like you said for a while, and I take you out for an early dinner?"
"That sounds wonderful," the woman smiled lovingly up at her husband, much to the disgust of the ghost kept in confinement, who was sneering for all he was worth at the open display of affection in front of him, "Do you think the kids will mind fending for themselves this afternoon?"
"Jazzy-pants is home," Jack leaned in for a quick kiss, then turned back to shoulder the large machine, "Besides, Danny is old enough now to really start taking care of himself. If he'd just stop staying out late…"
"He is a teenage boy, dear," Maddie laughed and watched carefully with her weapons at the ready as Jack approached the ghost and the ghost approached the front of his 'cage', "You were one once too."
"I know," he shook his head, then aimed the gun and fired, a light blue scanning the ghost thoroughly and slowly, beeping every few seconds as another and then another skill or ability was found, "It's showing the ability to transport instantaneously, creating upwards of five copies of himself, lasers out of his eyes, and several other capabilities it didn't find the first time. Maddie! We've done it, we've finally created the perfect ability scanner!"
"This is just perfect," the woman clasped her hands in front of her, ignoring the red eyes that followed her every move and the sigh that had just issued from the creature over her happiness, "Jack, we'll be able to more accurately file the ghosts now, and know just which ones are in our skill range to take down, and…and there's just so much work to be done!"
"But first!" the man brought his wife around for an elated kiss, their happiness visible in their actions, "Fudge break!"
"Afternoon," Tucker chirped happily as Sam slid into the chair across from him where Danny usually resided, "You look tired."
"Just a long night of being bothered by my parents about something I'd rather not discuss," Sam let her backpack hit the floor with a solid 'thunk', not caring if anything in it was hurt by the action, "Let's just leave it at a rather ugly argument and my parents going nuts. Besides that, the world has been alright."
"Get back here Ghost Child!"
"Or at least it was," Sam's forehead hit the table with another 'thunk' that rivaled her backpack's just as Tucker pushed back his chair to stand, "So they don't show up at all to cause havoc at the dance, but Sunday and Monday are fair game?"
"Saturday too," Tucker replied a bit too brightly for Sam's taste as he dug a Fenton Thermos out of his backpack and watched Danny appear in the middle of the cafeteria, flipping up a table to take the impact of a rocket launched by an unseen foe, "Three seconds and the cafeteria will be completely clear…"
Three seconds later and it was exactly as Tucker had said; the entire cafeteria was empty of both staff and students. Danny's enemy was in plain sight now, and was recognized by Sam as Skulker, based solely off of descriptions Tucker had given her as they talked over Danny's old fights, "Skulker right? The one who likes to hunt Danny and wants his pelt to lay at the foot of his bed."
"Yeah," came the halfa's reply as he was thrown backwards and sailed passed the pair on the ground, stopping himself on the opposite wall of the cafeteria, "Either there or on his wall. I don't like the idea personally, but I'm a little biased I guess you could say."
"I'd never guess why that is," Sam replied sarcastically as the Fenton Lipstick was pulled from the front left pocket of her skirt, "Then again, I can't say I've ever been in the same situation."
"I got chased down by Paulina and Star once," Tucker added in thoughtfully, pulling Sam down with him behind a knocked over table as the two ghosts continued their fight, "I kinda' got out of control about being a king with this one mummy ghost and made them my handmaidens…Danny kicked butt like usually, but that time I really got to help."
"You always really get to help," the boy scrambled behind their small barricade suddenly and took a second to breath before throwing up a shield around all three of them just before a laser split the table in two and bounced harmlessly off the shield, "Right now would be one of those most appreciated times though."
"Okay," Sam shrugged and stood as Danny let the shield drop, taking aim carefully with the lipstick, 'Breath, then fire…and try not to fall on your butt like Tucker keeps saying you will the first time you shoot this thing."
"Is she really…?"
"What's this?" Skulker paused as he found himself being threatened by a young woman holding a tube of green lipstick, with the ghost child and his human accomplice standing with amused smirks on their faces behind her, "You think that will scare me, human?"
"Not yet," Sam replied, then jumped slightly when she felt two pairs of hands on her, one set firmly against her lower back, the other pair holding her shoulders, "Guys, seriously, let go."
"You're gonna' fall over," Tucker warned, but didn't move his hands, Danny not moving his either as he just laughed silently and watched Skulker, ready to throw up a shield in front of them again, "You'll thank us after you shoot."
"Shoot?" Skulker was standing with his arms crossed, in slight disbelief that she was going to shoot lipstick at him, "What would lipstick do to me?"
"I dunno' yet," Sam replied with a shrug, then squeezed the small tube, giving a startled yelp as she was literally shoved backwards into Danny and Tucker's waiting arms, "That…that would have…"
"Right on your butt," Tucker nodded sagely and took his hands from her back, grabbing the Fenton Thermos off the floor and whistling in awe of the shot she had made, "Dude, you took his helmet off!"
"That's what I was supposed to do right?" Sam pulled herself away from Danny's hold and the laughter that he was desperately trying to hold back, peering forward to see the body of Skulker laying uselessly on the ground, a small green creature cursing from the open helmet, "That's Skulker, world's and ghost zone's greatest hunter?"
"You got it," Danny slung an arm around her, still laughing at her shock over how strong such a tiny weapon could be, "Glad that Tucker insisted that we hold you up?"
"A little," she frowned down at the tiny laser in her hands, wondering at the power behinds such a small ecto-gun. Tucker shook his head and pulled the lid off the thermos, trapping the nuisance seconds later with a tiny grin on his lips.
"So, have fun with your first official ghost hunt?"
"So that's what this was?" she shot both boys an odd look and caped her lipstick, sliding it quickly back into her pocket, "I think I did enjoy it, and I think I did pretty well."
"Yep, yep," Danny moved away, glancing around to determine if he was safe or not in changing. A flash of light later and Fenton stood in place of Phantom, shaking his head at the mess that had been made, "You know, the cafeteria isn't too messed up…though the rest of the hallway and the driveway leading up to the school is a different story. But I guess it could have been worse."
"More messes?" Sam shook her head, then turned back to Tucker, remembering the start of their earlier conversation, "So what happened on Saturday with ghosts?"
"Just Youngblood again," Tucker shrugged and moved to stand beside Sam, both watching as Danny picked his way through the cafeteria, searching for their backpacks for them, "He decided he wanted to take over a candy shop and play Willie Wonka. Me and Danny had to chase the hyper little jerk all over town after that, and the worst part was it was my Mom's birthday. I got to stay for the party, but then I ended up sneaking out. She found out and I was grounded."
"If it's any consolation, I've been grounded for the rest of eternity," the halfa walked up with both of their satchels in his hands, still intact, if not a bit dirty, "Then again, what's new?"
"Well, then let's have a giant pity party because I've been grounded too," Sam sunk heavily into one of the only chairs still upright, the boys relaxing on the floor beside her, "And no, I'm not gonna' say why and please don't ask."
"Alright," Danny shrugged, knowing full well that Sam was being stubborn for a reason. He tried calling her over the weekend and had been immediately hung up on. Trying again found him listening to a yelling match between Sam and her mother before Sam answered with a hasty, 'What do you want?' He'd of course decided that perhaps it hadn't of been the best time to call her and apologized, hanging up with the sound of her parents still ringing in his ears. They hadn't talked since.
"Anyways, since lunch is obviously over, I say we head to our lockers and get ready for the rest of the day," Tucker stood with a stretch, "Hey Sam?"
"What's up, Tuck?" she turned with a small smile, making Danny's heart clench in a rebellious show of jealousy. They were friends, of course she'd smile at him, but it still made Danny feel strangely about how close they'd grown without him ever really realizing it.
"Do you think it's better if a guy flirts with you to get you to go out with him, or if he's just himself?"
"Um," a look was shot towards Danny, though Sam quickly caught herself and focused all her attention on Tucker and his question, "A little of both, I guess."
"Yeah," she shrugged and started walking, her boys faithfully trailing her on the hike down the torn up hallway, 'Wow, Danny wasn't kidding, I can hardly walk through here.'
"How do you mean both?" Tucker caught up to her and walked with her, rather than behind her, a curious look causing his brow to scrunch cutely.
"Most girls like it if you're just yourself around them the first time you meet them. Make you seem more genuine if you're interested in her," Sam shrugged, then gauged the distance across a rather massive hole in the ground. Taking a step back, she jumped, and made it with a few inches to spare, "I guess after that, then flirting is a good thing so she'll know you're interested in being more than friends. Flirting between friends isn't a bad thing either, but I'm pretty sure with the way you flirt with most girls she'll be able to tell the difference."
"Right," Tucker and Danny were both still on the other side of the hole, one wondering just how he was going to get across, "Think I can climb down and then back up?"
"Probably not," Danny shook his head, then started to walk down one side and back up the other, "I don't think I could jump that either, so I guess I'm in luck that I have my own personal transportation device built in."
"You suck," Tucker bit out, then wearily approached the edge, much to Sam's amusement. Taking several steps back, Tucker got a running start and put the full strength of his legs behind the jump, praying that he'd at least make it to the edge, which he thankfully did. Sam laughed as she caught him by the shirtfront and pulled him forward, his arms still flailing as he caught his balance.
"Nice, Foley," she let one side of her lips turn up in a grin and let his shirt slip from her fingers, "Now all we got to do is work on your form and you'll be ready for the Olympics in no time."
"If it means going on another run with you like on Sunday, you're nuts," Tucker shot back, and winced as he watched Danny turn his head sharply towards them, 'Damn it, I forgot to tell him that me and Sam hung out before I went to the mall and she headed home. She must of seen a ghost on the way then, since she mentioned Sunday.'
"No more runs on Sunday for me," Sam shook her head, a grimace washing over her features, "When you split for the mall, I got buried in boxes on the way home, then teased by that crummy ghost for 'getting in over my head' for like ten minutes."
"The Box Ghost is out?" Danny shot Sam a confused look, tinged with hurt that she'd spent her free day with the other boy in her life, "Why didn't you call or something?"
"For one thing I was supposed to be grounded and had snuck out for a run," the trio finally made it to the hall which held their lockers, several students milling around as they awaited further instructions over where to go now that their lunch had been interrupted so severely, "I got re-grounded for that, and my cell phone was taken away. He had the butler sit in with me after that for the rest of the evening."
"So we all had bad weekends," Tucker looked around the school with a shrug, hoping that Danny wasn't thinking up horrible pranks in retaliation for hanging out with his almost-girlfriend, "At least I got to hang out with my two best friends, even if it was at really random, separate times."
"We still need to work on your running time," Sam finished in her locker and closed it, turning to lean against it as the two boys were already doing on either side of her, "For chasing ghosts all the time, you're still pretty slow."
"Not everybody is a presidential health exam winner like you are Sam," Danny cut into the conversation with a tight smile, "I doubt I'd be able to keep up with you running either if I didn't have, you know."
"Then maybe you should work on it," Sam shrugged, "You never know what might happen."
"Actually we do," Tucker yawned, then continued, "He got shrunk once and started losing his powers. He had to fight Skulker, then take the presidential exam freshman year, and we were both nearly dead by the end of it."
"Aw, so wimpy?" Sam turned laughing eyes to where Danny had been standing, only to find air in his place, "Danny?"
Sitting up off the lockers, the pair looked around for the missing halfa, finding nothing to indicate where he'd gone. A frown settled across Tucker's features just as Sam turned to ask if he knew where Danny was, managing only a quiet, "What?" before lines appeared across her forehead from her worry.
"What's going on?" Sam looked between Tucker and the empty spot beside her.
"You might have hit a nerve," Tucker shrugged, "I mean, no guy wants his girl to think of him as weak or anything."
"That's so…," Sam shook her head, then rounded on the boy beside her, "You didn't get upset when I told you that you were a slow runner and probably couldn't throw a text book across the hall if your life depended on it!"
"Yeah, but," Tucker shrugged and tried to impress upon her the difference between himself and Danny, "You're not my girl. You're a friend, so it doesn't really bother me. It's a little different for Danny, who actually did sorta' start working out after that…just in a really different way."
"Oh," a blush scattered across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, "So…"
"Yep," Tucker sighed and stuck his hands in his pockets, just as the announcement system sent a piercing screech through the hallway, "He thinks you think he's a wimp."
"Good afternoon students."
"That's the stupidest…"
"Because of the ghost activity on school property this afternoon…"
"…most shallow, idiotic, pigheaded…"
"…we will be releasing school early today and ask…"
"…nonsense I've ever heard! I can't believe he'd think I think that after…"
"…that you stay in the hallways until the bell rings. The phone in the office, as well as several others…"
"…all that I've seen him do; what's he want? For me to stroke his ego?"
"…will be available if needed. Thank you all, and please be safe on your way home."
"Well, here's FentonWorks," Tucker looked wearily up at the brick building before him, Sam on his left practically burning a hole in the front door with her glare, "Have fun ripping Danny a new one. I'm gonna' see if Mrs. Fenton has any food around…"
Marching in with Tucker meekly following behind her found Sam staring down Jazz sitting alone in the living room, reading a book as was usual for her when she was actually home, "Where's Danny?"
Her tone brooked no argument, and Jazz quietly pointed to her right, the wall being the only thing there, "He went that way."
"Stupid, ghost imbued powers, and stupid boys with their stupid egos," she slammed her backpack down on the coffee table and marched back out the door, "If he comes back tell him to wait."
"You got it," Tucker laughed out, then winced as the door slammed shut, "He's about to get an education in what Sam thinks is shallow and pigheaded."
"What'd he do now?" Jazz flipped another page in her book, glancing over at Tucker as he sank into the couch tiredly.
"She said something about the both of us needed to get in better shape and he disappeared. I think she hit a nerve after that whole Fenton Crammer thing," the boy shrugged as Jazz nodded her agreement, "Plus he was probably upset with me because I got to hang out with her on Sunday and he didn't get to talk to her all weekend…and I forgot to tell him I got to hang out with her…"
"Ouch," Jazz sat her book down and looked around nervously, on behalf of the boy beside her, "Are you going to hang around here?"
"Definitely," Tucker nodded, his nervousness coming to the forefront, "It was bad enough that you and me went to the dance together…he's going to be seeking retribution any second now…"
"Well," Jazz stood and patted the boy's head, "Good luck with that. I'm going to be upstairs, safe in my room. Mom and Dad are out tonight so good luck with any ghostly problems you might have!"
"Thanks Jazz," Tucker pouted, then turned on the television and yelled so she might hear him upstairs, "Way to abandon a friend in need!"
"Good afternoon, Mr. Masters," a pretty brunet smiled graciously at the man before her, taking his hat and jacket from him as she handed over a cup of perfectly made coffee; two sugars, no cream, just the way he enjoyed taking it, "I hope that the flight went well for you."
"Yes, thank you my dear," he nodded congenially to the woman, sipping at the strong liquid and enjoying the aroma around it, "Wonderful coffee, as always."
"You've had three messages already Mr. Masters, and the suite you'll be staying in is ready whenever you'd like to go up," she handed over a cardkey and smiled once more, "If you'd like, I'll have someone send up selection of our finest wines. I know you enjoy a glass every now and again."
"Not tonight, thank you," he took the assigned key, noting his room was number four thirty seven just as he'd asked for, "The messages, however, would be greatly appreciated, though please just list the names of who called and I'll know what priority to take them."
Watching the man tiredly rub at his temples, the young woman, who's name happened to be Suzie and who happened to be one of his personal assistance, winced in sympathy, "Two were from Mr. Stenson, and one was from…Maddie Fenton? I've never taken a message from her before, but I am fairly new…"
"Ah, Maddie," Vlad smiled fondly, though the feelings of longing that usually accompanied her name were dulled greatly because of his separation, "A good friend from college, as well as her husband. He's a bit of an imbecile when compared to her though, and I'll never really understand their unusual relationship. She left a message you said?"
"Just something about dinner at the Fentons', Thursday night at seven thirty if you could manage," her notebook was opened quickly to the correct date, and she scanned the page, "You have an appointment with Iris then, sir."
"Then it will just have to be cancelled," the man smiled congenially, and moved off towards the elevator with Suzie in tow, remembering a time when he would have stepped inside by himself, only to fly up to his room, 'That is no more, thanks to Daniel. Clever boy…and that is unfortunate for you, isn't it?'
The elevator finally reached the appropriate floor and with Suzie taking notes as he talked, Vlad made his way to his room, his things having already been brought up by the hotel staff, "And I think that perhaps I shall take dinner at the Risto tonight."
"Yes sir," came the immediate response, and Suzie was backing away from the door he was about to open, "I'll call right away and reserve your table in the backroom."
"Ms. Florence?" his voice stopped her just as she was about to turn and head back to the elevator to make the proper arrangements for her boss, "Have you checked into your room yet?"
"Actually sir, I'll be staying at the Best Southern down the road a bit," she bit back a grin at the grimace that crossed his face, "It honestly isn't that bad."
"I had assumed that you always booked a room in the same hotel as I," he glanced sideways at another member of his staff that had been with him for far longer than Suzie had, "Was she not informed to do so, Sutherly?"
"Yes sir," came the immediate reply, a small nod being given to the man as well as the verbal response.
"It's not exactly in my budget at the moment sir," Suzie shot back, "I understand that we're well paid, but I'm still paying off student loans. I'd rather stay there and save three hundred dollars every night, if you don't mind."
"A wise choice," the older gentleman nodded, a smirk crossing his lips, "Keep impressing me with your good sense and you'll move up the ranks quickly."
"Thank you," and she back into the elevator with an embarrassed, if not pleased blush, on her cheeks. As soon as the elevator doors closed, Vlad and Sutherly were rewarded with a crowed, "YES! That rocks!"
Both chuckled gently at the youthful girl, then sat down at one of the tables to discuss a new business venture…one that could be profitable to Vlad in more than one way. Still, that was a long way off, and torturing his Little Badger would provide a good distraction while he was in town to meet with Mr. Sentson, his head researcher at Axion Labs.
The evening was rapidly ending, with the sun beginning to sink and only thirty minutes more of the golden light to be enjoyed until evening turned to twilight and twilight swirled into dusk. It was the perfect evening for a jog in the park, or maybe even a quick walk for couples, several of which Sam had already passed as she kept searching for a certain phantom boy.
'Hm, Phantom,' Sam mused silently to herself, going over all the different ways the word applied to Danny, and how well it fit him, 'I wonder if he came up with it or Tucker? I guess that's another one of those stories that hasn't been shared yet…I'm sure that there's tons. Like Danny said, Tucker doesn't know everything. I'd bet my boots that Danny's had plenty of fights that Tucker and Jazz don't even know about.'
Sam's walk had slowed after the first thirty minutes of purposeful striding, letting herself slip into more of a meandering amble as she thought over the past few months, everything that had happened or been discovered folding and unfolding in a tangled mess in her mind. There was still so much to learn, as she had found out earlier that day. Tucker congratulating her on her first successful ghost hunt had been a bit of a shock as she'd seen and been involved in several already.
'He was kinda' right though,' she tilted her head in salutations to a jogger as he passed, then stopped beside a curbed walkway, scuffing her boots on the raised concrete and stuffing her hands into her pockets, 'I actually fought the ghost and beat it this time, I didn't just distract it. Wonder what Danny thought?'
Her thoughts started to drift back to the hallway then, and what had brought about her search. A heavy sigh of regret sounded as Sam thought over his reaction and the circumstances explained to her by Tucker. Her anger at him just disappearing had passed, and now she just felt guilty, 'I guess I'd be a little self conscious too if everyone at school thought I was the wimp who got shoved into lockers. He isn't weak or anything, but he is a little shy about that fact…'
Turning quickly, Sam found herself face to face with the jogger who had just passed her, his hand wrapping strongly around her arm as he jerked her forward with him. She struggled for a second, wrenching her arm away from the man and was about to chew him out for daring to assault her when a rather loud explosion behind them made Sam focus on the absolute fear on the man's face, "Get out of here, girl, there's a huge fight going on right over there! C'mon!"
He grabbed for her once again, but Sam held her ground and deftly moved away from him, walking as calmly as she could manage in the opposite direction and away from the well meaning, if not creepy, man who was calling out a, "It's your life!" as he ran.
'Well, this is certainly convenient and makes my life easier,' Sam let herself slip into a light jog, conserving her energy just in case she had to high-tail it away from danger, 'Wonder who he's…fighting? What the hell?'
"C'mon Kitty. Kitten? Honey?"
"Don't you Kitty, Kitten, Honey me!" a girl with wild green hair was glaring up at the much taller Johnny 13, whom Sam had encountered a few weeks earlier, "Just what did you think you were doing, not showing up for our date when you promised you would, then running away here when I found you? You weren't going to pick up girls again were you? Were you?"
"Aw, sugar, no," he cajoled with hands in front of him in a placating manner, "I'd neve-"
Sam smirked wickedly and enjoyed the tackle that brought Johnny down, with Danny pointing a thermos in his face, "Mind if I take out the trash Kitten?"
"Go right ahead," the girl ghost folded her arms, her head turned up and away in a very harsh snub as the other boy disappeared inside, "You can keep him in that thing for all I care."
"You don't really mean that," Danny stood and dusted himself off, frowning at the girl before him, "You're gonna' start missing him, and I'd never hear the end of it if I didn't give him back."
"Probably," an eyebrow was raised, then the ghost looked down at her fingernails to check for chips or other such things, "You've gotten smarter when it comes to girls, huh?"
"I doubt it," Danny looked between the girl and the thermos, "I really don't want to suck you into this thing. I feel kinda' bad about it, since Johnny was the one causing trouble again."
"He's always causing trouble," she sighed heavily, a sad look crossing Kitten's face, "But what's a girl to do, right?"
"You could always dump him," the halfa shrugged, something in the corner of his eye catching his attention, but not enough to take him away from the ghost in front of him lest she try something, "Go for someone better."
"If I didn't know better, I would say you're sweet on me," Kitten laughed prettily, then glanced towards what had caught Danny's eye, "but then again, you look like you've got yourself a girl. Besides, I love him too much to give him up, so don't get any ideas."
"Hey, no ideas here," Danny backed up, much like Johnny had done earlier with his hands up, "Just head back to the ghost zone and I'll let him out later tonight, alright?"
"'Kay," she leaned over a bit, smiling cutely as she did so, "Thanks Danny."
"Whatever," Danny turned to walk away, a clear dismissal on his part, "Hurry up and leave before I change my mind."
A rather flirtatious laugh was all that Sam heard as the young ghost melted away, supposedly heading back to the mysterious ghost zone that she so often heard about. Watching Danny walk reminded Sam of when she thought of him as Phantom, always so tired with no real explanation other than fighting constantly, which was actually almost true. He fought, and often, but his exhaustion was from more than that. Friends, girls, school, his social life, his home life; it all came together and drained the energy from the boy faster than Sam thought possible.
Casting a critical eye over him, she scrutinized his body physically, with as much attention to detail as she could possibly get at the distance she was at. Tall, wiry frame, with muscles, certainly. His legs looked fairly well built, though he was probably right about being able to keep up with her. His shoulders, chest, and upper arms were very developed, more than likely from all the upper body work he put himself through blocking, punching, lifting things and people, and throwing energy and objects, 'He's definitely not out of shape, he just uses different muscles and probably isn't used to running because he flies around so much. He's got stamina in his fights sure, but they don't usually last more than five to twenty minutes…'
"More sprint than long distance," Sam mused out loud, finding her eyes locked in Danny's own startling green gaze. He'd drawn closer as she watched, allowing her the opportunity to study him in motion, 'Is that possibly a four pack? I didn't think…'
"Hi," the young man finally stopped his walk when he was about arm's length from Sam, not sure how to approach her after he took off that afternoon, 'Yeah, way to not be an emotional, teenage wreck and let a little teasing hurt your feelings. She probably thinks I really am a wimp after that. And why is she looking at me like that?'
"Hi," she responded in kind, her eyes still roaming his body a little more freely than she might have normally let herself, 'This is for his ego…it won't hurt to give him a little confidence boost, and then I'll give him a little piece of my mind too.'
"Um, what are you looking at?" he glanced down and started to look at his jumpsuit, checking for tears or dirt or something that might attract her attention, "Sam?"
"I just…," but she blushed not really sure how to word what she wanted to say, 'I could always just blurt out 'You're hot, with muscles, so stop being all pout-y about it,' but I doubt that would give me the outcome I want…'
"Just…?" Danny coached her gently, glancing around nervously as people started to pop up from their hiding places and migrate back to the scene of the earlier fight. He tried to not often be seen in public, especially around the people who knew him in both worlds, as Phantom and Fenton, "Sam…I think I need to go."
"I just found you," the girl frowned heavily, her tone bordering on pout as she folded her arms sharply, also noticing the gathering people, "I've been looking for you since we got out of school, Da- Phantom."
"Then you should start walking home," he said pointedly, glancing quickly towards the path through the trees, "There's too many ghosts out tonight for me to stop for an interview and play Spanish Inquisition with a schoolgirl."
'All of this code talk is really ridiculous,' Sam heaved a sigh and blew hair from her face, causing Danny to almost smile, "Fine, whatever. I'll get an interview for my school paper eventually…"
"Good," and he was out of sight, though somehow Sam knew he hadn't really gone far. Several other people had gathered and were chuckling good naturedly at the ghost boy's abrupt dismissal of the girl. Sam, however, didn't think it was that funny and marched off towards the indicated meeting place, 'Forget what I thought earlier about giving him a confidence boost, he's going to get it.'
A gentle, gloved hand was on her arm, sliding down to her hand as she entered the tree line and sending shivers skittering across her skin from both the shock of the cold and the unexpected, intimate gesture. Allowing his hand to enfold her own, Sam soon found herself in the air and invisible, the coolness settling in her body far more easily now, though it still felt strange.
"So, now that your stalker finally caught you," Danny's voice echoed slightly with the influence of his ghostly form, almost making Sam laugh at how silly he sounded when Phantom and nervous, "Um, can I take you somewhere really neat?"
"It depends on what neat is to a stalker," the girl shot back, looking down at the park as they flew over it, then over the buildings, then part of the town. He was streaking across the sky now, with Sam held more securely in his arms, and Sam felt sure her heart would burst from the adrenaline of such a recklessly fast flight, "Danny? Where?"
"That hill, right in front of us," his flight slowed, as did Sam's heart. Her belly felt as though it had been left behind and was just now catching up, something she'd always particularly enjoyed when on roller coasters, "I like coming up here to think sometimes. Besides, you're a girl, and you can see the sunset…I always was under the impression that girls liked stuff like that."
"Don't you?" Sam shot back, enjoying the much slower flight as he twisted them in and out of a few trees before hovering in front of one particularly old oak. Sam stepped lightly onto the large branch in front of her completely visible, with Danny's hand never leaving her own lest she lose her balance.
"Yeah," the boy laughed, then winced as Sam shivered, "Sorry I'm so cold, I'll turn back in a second."
"It really doesn't bother me so much," the girl leaned back against the tree's massive trunk and looked out across the entirety of Amity Park, awed by such a beautiful sight, "You know, you'd really make some money if you took some pictures from up here. I never even knew this hill existed."
"The only reason I know about it is because Johnny 13 once tricked my sister into dating him," he rolled his eyes and pointed off to their left, "He took her to the other side of the hill, over there, and tried to get her to wear some of Kitty's clothes so she could possess Jazz permanently. I found it after I came back to make sure I took care of everything."
"Does everywhere you go or visit have a ghost related story?"
"Yeah," Danny laughed, then sat and looked up to where Sam was still standing, "Do you want to sit down?"
"Yes," she nodded, with a rather sarcastic tone to her voice, "but for one, I don't think the tree will be that comfortable for me with a skirt on, and two I have a skirt on and I don't want you…seeing anything you aren't supposed to."
"Well," the young man was up and walking in the air next to their branch, pushing Sam forward and further out on the branch, "You sit there, and I'll sit behind you, that way you can sit however's comfortable and not worry about me being a pervert. Plus, that way you won't fall."
"Did anyone ever tell you that somewhere in that C average student an A student is hiding?" she grinned to herself as she sat on the branch, knees bent slightly and her hands planted behind her for better balance. She jumped a bit when she felt warm hands on her wrists, lifting her arms a little to push them forward, "Danny, I can't sit like that, I'll lose my balance."
"No you won't," he chuckled, sliding his legs up on either side of her and wrapping one arm around her waist, "See? The hiding A student had a plan, albeit it was mostly to get to sit really close to a pretty girl, but it was still a plan…"
"You're such a guy," Sam eased back into him, enjoying the warmth of his now human body and the security she found in his form behind her, "but you're right. This is…nice."
"I like it," the boy admitted, looking past her to enjoy the view he so often found relaxing, "I didn't mean to ditch you at school, you know."
"I guessed, but I didn't know," Sam turned her head slightly to find his chin hovering over her shoulder, "I probably shouldn't have said what I did, but I really was just teasing. I mean, I've seen you with your shirt off, and anybody who's done that knows you aren't…out of shape."
"I overreacted," the boy shrugged, finally taking a deep breath and letting his chin settle on her shoulder, enjoying how closely he was holding her, "No big deal, I wasn't really upset."
"I am sorry," Sam apologized despite his assurance, feeling that he wasn't quite being honest with her about the whole situation, "Earlier at the park, when, uh," a blush settled over her and she felt Danny smile against the side of her neck and face, "Yeah, I was looking at you so I could tell you what I thought about how…in shape you are."
"So how 'in shape' am I?"
'What was that tone about?' the girl swallowed hard, the husky timbre to his voice causing butterflies to well up in her stomach. She viciously stomped the feeling down and continued, determined to be as professional about this as she could, "Pretty in shape. Your upper body is really well developed, probably from all your fighting, and you have at least a four pack as far as I could tell, which means that you've worked on your stomach and obliques. Your arms are nice, especially your biceps, again from all the fighting I'm sure. You're probably right about keeping up with me when I run though. Your legs are strong, yeah, but not made for long distance like mine have been trained to be. I run a lot, and you run a little. I figure you'd fall more under the sprint category than the long distance one."
"So you got all that out of staring at me at the park?" he leaned over her shoulder a bit, causing Sam to pull her head back and to the side awkwardly, "Just how long did you stare at me?"
"Not that long, Mr. I wear a skin tight jumpsuit that shows off everything," Sam retorted with a blush, knowing full well that she'd both saved herself and cursed herself with that one sentence.
Okay, maybe more saved than cursed, especially since the halfa behind her had squeaked the question more than asked it. A giggle broke from her lips before she could help it and Sam let her head fall back against Danny's shoulder, nodding and mouthing a 'Yes' in answer to his question as she did so.
She kept her eyes closed for a moment, enjoying the feeling of his chest rhythmically rising and falling as he breathed and breathing deeply as a tiny hint of his normal scent wafted over her. Danny carefully pulled his other hand from where he'd rested it against his thigh and slowly wound it around Sam's waist, shifting back to lean against the trunk as he pulled her to lean with him, 'So far, so good. Now for the really hard part…'
"Hm?" she was sounding like she did the other night, halfway asleep and at peace with the world around her. Danny figured as long as she didn't reach back and start playing with his hair, he'd be fine.
"I sorta' got jealous this afternoon too," he leaned his face more fully into her shoulder, and turned so that his nose was resting against her neck, "I'd been wanting to see you all weekend, and then out of nowhere Tucker and you say you saw each other on Sunday…I kinda' got angry for a few minutes. I left more because of that than because of what you said."
"You were jealous because I took Tucker on a death run?" she wrinkled her nose in a happy grin, trying to keep the blush off her face at his admission, "Seriously Danny, I saw him in the park while I was jogging and got him to jog with me…after I stole his PDA and made him run with me to get it back. I was bored of running by myself and kinda' forced Tucker to."
"Poor Tuck," the halfa shook his head, and inhaled gently, enjoying the light scent of whatever perfume Sam happened to have on, "I guess I should feel sorry for him, then, instead of jealous…"
"Probably," and again the conversation lulled as they sat in the tree watching the sun sink further and further, the stars beginning to shine overhead as the last brilliant golden beams winged their flight over the rapidly darkening sky.
"Sam," Danny held her tighter all of a sudden, turning so his lips were brushing against her neck in a rather alarming manner, though it certainly wasn't a bad thing in Sam's mind, "I really…I mean really like you. I know I just broke up with Valerie a couple of months ago, but it wasn't like I was looking for someone. You just…you found me."
"I…," but Sam had to pause to collect her thoughts, wondering just what his whispered confession that she had found him meant, "Danny, I was the one who was lost."
"I've liked you for a long time," the young man admitted with a wince which Sam felt against the delicate skin his breath was washing over. His whispered confessions were coming out in a rush, as though he was desperate to get it all out before he messed up again, "I liked you before we really got to know each other, and then I really liked you after that. I didn't know why I was doing it, but I couldn't stop myself from dropping hints about who I really was when I was Phantom. I wanted you to know that it was loser Danny Fenton who wasn't all that much of a loser. That I was the one that saved you and was your friend and you thought was strong or brave or whatever you thought about me…"
"Danny," Sam twisted herself a bit, sitting sideways on the branch between his legs and still wrapped in his arms, "You don't have to explain anything. You already explained who and what you are…I'll figure the rest out on my own. Besides, it'll give me something interesting to do when I'm bored, right?"
"Heh," he laughed once and looked up towards the heavens, his blue eyes darkened by the emotional high he was on at the moment, "I'm just glad that you found me, Sam. I'm not so…I dunno', I feel better."
"Does it help if I say I feel the same way?" she pulled his head back down with a hand to his cheek, "It was really weird falling for two different guys, one dead, the other alive and feeling like it was somehow okay that I liked both of you…Phantom and Fenton. I thought I was going crazy or something."
"Then you figured it out," his forehead was cool against her own, but the hands around her waist felt entirely too warm through the thin material of her tank top, "I'm really glad you did."
"I am too," Sam chuckled and enjoyed the smile that was given to her from Danny in that moment, "I was really glad that you two were actually just you…as weird as that sounds. I really did fall you Danny…pretty hard actually."
"And pretty fast too, if you were like me," the halfa laughed and tilted her chin up a bit, stopping just before he kissed her, "I did the same thing."
"Fall," his eyes were glowing just the tiniest bit and at Sam's questioning look, the boy blinked and looked away, then back with a shrug, "I can see a little better in the dark if I let some of my power slip…its some weird ghost thing…but back on more important subjects besides ghosts, which I absolutely do not want to have anything to do with right now," here Sam chuckled and Danny ignored her in favor of continuing his little speech, "I'm glad I was sent to the office that day and got to talk to you."
"Me too," Sam grinned, then reached up and pulled his head down to her, stealing a kiss of her own as he had so often done to her over the past few days, "I'm glad the art of conversation isn't dead."
"Sam," Danny chuckled out, caught between his surprise at her forceful kiss and the humor of what she'd said, "You're a riot…"
"Alright, whatever," she smirked and pecked his lips again, "Halfway not dead."
The laughter of one very amused halfa ended abruptly as Sam reached up for her third kiss of the evening, happily scooting even more closely to the boy holding her as his arms tightened and forced her to. Her shirt was riding further up as she moved, and soon the skin of her sides and stomach was laid bare against Danny's arms. The contact of skin to skin that was not usually touched by anyone besides herself had Sam taking a deep breath and pulling back for a second.
Danny pulled back as well, wide eyed, worried at what had occurred, and hastily removing his arms from her sides, reminding Sam of a conversation of weeks past. Leaning into him, she caught one of his hands, which was oddly transparent because of the shock he'd suffered, and set it back around her waist, her shirt still raised from their preceding activity and her skin still bared to the cool night air, causing goose-bumps to crawl across the skin of her arms and legs until Danny's hand reappeared and warmed her once again, "As long as those hands don't wander too much until I'm ready for them to, I don't mind."
"So…," Danny cutely brought his free hand up to rub at the back of his neck, a charming smile plastered on his face as he addressed the girl he had been previously making out with, "Does this mean we're dating?"
"Danny?" Sam turned fiery eyes on the boy, leaning in until they were nose to nose, one of her fists twisted in the material of his shirtfront.
"Yeah?" he nervously chuckled back, trying to lean further away but failing because of the tree trunk behind him, not even remembering his ghost powers at the moment.
"If you can't figure that out, then you really are clueless," she reached up and flicked his nose with a finger, "But I'll give you a hint: If I catch you flirting with other girls, you'll find out first hand what the Fenton Lipstick feels like, even if it knocks me on my ass."
"Right," he nodded hastily, then leaned back down for another soft kiss, "Girls besides you are off limits…I think I can handle that."
"You'd better or el-," but she was silenced much as she had silenced him earlier, and their conversation was effectively ended for the evening as the moon took the place of the sun and the stars watched over the unusual pair in the tree.
"Are you ever going home, Tuck?"
"Are you kidding me?" the boy shot back from his place on the couch, a specter detector firmly set about his waist, "I ain't going anywhere until Sam gets back with Danny in tow so she can tell him to leave me alone."
"So, if Sam doesn't find him and he shows up by himself," Jazz leaned over the edge of the chair she was perched on, grinning at Tucker and talking with a sweeter than sugar voice, "what are you going to give me to save you from my little brother?"
"The real question is, why does Tucker need saving from me?" Danny kicked off his shoes as he shuffled inside, Sam behind him with a rather glazed look and very ruffled hair, "And why are you bribing him?"
"Yay, it's Sam!" Tucker's eyes lit with hope as she rolled her eyes, shook her head, and moved towards the couch he was on, "Don't let Danny hurt me…"
"Why in the world would Danny hurt you?" she shot the boys a confused look, then heaved a sigh as she remembered the halfa's earlier confession of jealousy, "Never mind, I already know. Danny's over it and won't kill you, and you can thank me for that because I sucked it up and told him he wasn't wimpy or out of shape."
"Not out of shape at all," the boy echoed arrogantly with his eyes averted innocently and his hands behind his back, causing Sam to blush at the tone of his voice, "Did you know, she gave me a complete rundown of all the attributes that show that I'm not out of shape? Nice arms, nice shoulders, killer abs…"
"Danny," Sam cut in, beet red and ready to pummel the boy she had been having…quality time with a scant ten minutes before, "Some conversations aren't really that great to share, because they sound really wrong the second time around."
"I'll say," Tucker finally got up from the couch and shot Sam a look as he took in her frazzled appearance, "Danny start doing loops when you two were flying?"
"Something like that," Sam shook her head to clear it and hopefully rid herself of her red cheeks, "It wasn't that bad, but I wasn't expecting to go from zero to sixty in two seconds…"
"Heh, see, we actually went about seventy on the way there," Danny helpfully pointed out, "And about ninety on the way back."
"Back from where?" Jazz cut into their conversation, looking surreptitiously over at the clock, "It's already nine, just where have you two been for the past oh…eight hours?"
"In a tree."
"At the park."
"I mean at the park."
"Erm, in a tree?"
Tucker and Jazz both broke out laughing at the situation the other two teens found themselves in and Sam finally got fed up and threw the nearest pillow at the pair, "It took me forever to find Danny, and by the time I actually checked the park it was almost dark. He caught Johnny what's his face, there were too many people around to talk, and we ended up going to this hill outside of town and sat in a tree to talk. Nothing happened."
"Much," Danny mumbled under his breath, so only Sam could hear it, causing her to blush again. Danny secretly enjoyed it and figured he might as well help her out so he didn't get pummeled, "Anyway, we just talked and watch the sun…set, shut up Tucker. We lost track of time, sorry Mother Jazz."
"So long as it doesn't happen again," she cast a knowing eye over her brother, reveling as he squirmed under her scrutiny, "I won't tell Mom and Dad you broke your grounded curfew."
"Crap!" and Tucker and Sam were both at the door and hurriedly pulling on their shoes and boots respectively, as well as pulling on their backpacks. Danny stood shaking his head, as he too remembered that all three of them had been grounded at some point during their weekend.
"See you around, Phantom," Sam grinned along with Danny at their private joke, then turned to head out the door, Tucker hard on her heels, "Bye Jazz!"
"See you two later!" she sweetly answered, then rounded on her brother, "Now about that hill…"
"Hold that thought, I have to let Johnny go!" and Danny was off to the lab, ignoring his sister's calls and the menacing glare sent his way by Plasmius. He wanted some slight reprieve before what was about to happen.
It was about to turn into one long night of lots of embarrassing sister, brother heart to heart talks, but Danny didn't really care at the moment as he released the ghost from his thermos and headed back upstairs. His head and heart were still on a hill above Amity, and as far as he was concerned, until he saw Sam again, it could stay right there.