The Art of Science
By Lacey52

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

A note: AH! Finally I am back! Too many excuses and too little time! And this is the end! Amazing isn't it? You've all been so amazing and I can't believe how quickly I got this story written!

And enjoy you guys. This chapter ties up a few loose ends, and opens some more possibilities as summer draws to a close.

Don't forget that this story was more about stressing Sam and Danny's relationship to a point. Next arc will not be about their relationship either…I mean come on, I'm naming it the 'Art of War', lol. Not that it won't have tons of DxS moments. Don't forget to watch for the third arc, a fourteen chapter mini-series set between AOS and AOW, and:
Please note that I am taking a short vacation from writing over the next two or three weeks or so, so that I might plan the third arc out more fully. It might take a while, but don't lose faith. I'll be back soon!

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

Chapter Seventeen: Conclusions

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"Jazz?" Maddie called as she opened the door to her room, "Did Danny ever come home last night?"

"Um, I don't think so," the young woman sleepily sat up, trying her best to keep from chuckling over her mother's concern, "but I don't really blame him. I wouldn't want to be away from my significant other after something like that either."

"I know," Maddie shuffled over and ruffled Jazz hair fondly, "I'm just a mother though, and mother's tend to worry."

"Why don't I get up and give them a call?" Jazz offered as she slipped out of bed, pulling her mother along with her, "They probably just passed out on her couch watching T.V. or something knowing those two."

"Alright," Maddie conceded, "but if he's not home by lunch, or anything that isn't supposed to be happening is happening, I'll have to threaten him severely and deal out some form of punishment."

"You do that, Mom," Jazz laughed as she headed over for the phone, "You do that."

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"M'ehlo?"

"Sam? It's Jazz."

"Why are you so happy?" Sam got out as she cast a glance at her clock, "It's eight in the morning. In the summer."

"I'm just a generally cheery person," Jazz shrugged on her end, trying not to laugh as she imagined the faces that Sam must have been making, "Why aren't you more happy?"

"Because I was asleep, and now I'm not," Sam pointed out tiredly, not really upset with Jazz, but curious as to why she was calling, "Which brings up the question; 'Why am I not still asleep?'"

"I was just calling to see if Danny spent the night there," Jazz laughed, figuring that's probably what happened and waited for the sputtered denials and rushed explanations, but found herself confronted with a quiet and confused, "No."

"He didn't spend the night?" the older girl needed clarification, just in case she'd heard wrong the first time around, "As in, he's not there now?"

"Um, no," Sam sat up and shook her head, worrying a little over the fact that Danny hadn't returned home at some point in the night, "He was here for a while, then said he had something to do. I did wake up at about four and he was here, but he left again after that…"

"So he's been out all night," Jazz glanced quickly towards the kitchen where her mother was probably starting on breakfast, "Well…he needs to be home by noon, or at least call Mom so she doesn't chew him out too badly. She thinks he spent the night there with you."

"Oh God," Sam laughed humorlessly to herself, "And after the talk on the porch…"

"Which was?"

"A sex talk," Sam nearly choked at having to admit it, though she supposed it was only fair, "We didn't do anything though!"

"Ah, there's the denial and rushed explanation I've been waiting to hear," Jazz teased, then said something away from the mouthpiece, "I've gotta' run, Sam. I'm glad that everything worked out."

"Yeah, you and me both…and a few other people too," Sam sighed heavily, "If I see Danny I'll try to send him home. He was in a weird mood though, so no promises."

"Gotcha'. Bye Sam."

"Bye," Sam answered, then quickly pushed the off button on her cell, thinking over where her halfa could possibly be at. Curiosity was getting the better of her, and her need to move overrode her desire to stay in bed. Getting up and dressing quickly for the day, Sam moved over to her television to see just how heavy the ghost saturation was predicted to be that day.

'Wouldn't be surprised if they all suddenly disappeared for a while,' Sam laughed to herself as she sat on the edge of her bed, watching the weather man report mild levels of ghosts for the next few days. They weren't all gone, but it was close enough for Sam.

"In other news, related to our ghost forecast today, Lake Candice was found mysteriously frozen this morning. It appears that the lake is frozen solid a good ten feet down, making it a perfect skating rink as several have already discovered," Harriet Chin was announcing, shuffling her papers as several pictures scrolled across one side of the screen showing what she had been describing, "We would currently be giving you a live report on location, but any electrical equipment that comes close to the lake and isn't a photographic camera seems to stop working. Obviously this is the work of a very powerful ghosts, and many a speculating that our very own Phantom is responsible. It appears that no matter the temperature applied to the ice that it won't melt, supporting the theory of ghostly involvement."

Sam didn't need to hear anymore as she shoved on her boots and grabbed a jacket. It was probably going to be a very cool, if not cold, morning where she was heading.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"Oh man, Mom," Tucker stretched as he lazily sat up, scratching at his head with one hand and searching for his glasses with the other on his nightstand, "Do I have to get up so early? I was up so late last night…"

"That's enough whining out of you Tucker Foley," he felt his freshly laundered clothes fall on his bed from his mother's arms, "You were out way past curfew young man, I don't care that your best friend's girlfriend was possessed by some ghost something and they had to figure out a way to get rid of it. You never finished your chores like you promised."

"It was an emergency," Tucker stressed, finally getting up and picking out a fresh shirt and pants to wear for that day from the neat stacks in front of him.

"Uh huh, but you had all day," Mrs. Foley's finger waggled in front of his face and Tucker knew he had lost, "If you had just done like your father and I had asked and done your chores, I wouldn't have given a hoot if you'd stayed out all night helping your lost twin's ex-roommates dog's owner's sister get rid of a ferret that was terrorizing a ball of string."

"Alright, Mom, alright," he chuckled good naturedly and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek, grinning as she smiled brightly at him, "I promise next time I'll finish all my chores before a disaster strikes."

"Don't get smart with me, child," she called over her shoulder, teasing her only child fondly, "And get your room cleaned up; I won't tell you again."

"Yes, ma'am," the young man saluted, pulling on his shirt for the day and heading for the bathroom, "Right away ma'am!"

The first thing that Tucker did, after doing the obligatory hygiene thing, and of course jamming his red cap onto his messy hair, was stand wondering in front of the door to his room. He was certain, absolutely certain he had left it closed.

'Creepiness to the max,' Tucker shuffled into his room, grabbing a stray item here and there, tidying up as he went as his mother had asked, 'I hate it when stuff moves and I didn't do it. I never know if it's a ghost or I'm just getting old or what.'

"Man, I hate it when ghosts mess with my stuff," the boy huffed, shivering all of a sudden and glancing to the side as a bottle of soda suddenly began to shake, frost spreading across the inside of the bottle, "Crap…"

Reaching out to his left, Tucker slowly pulled the Fenton Thermos off of his nightstand, glancing around cautiously as he moved, sizing up the situation. Few ghosts were cold enough naturally to cause ice to form, and even fewer could control it. Narrowing his list mentally, Tucker figured he was in for either a really boring fight or something he was totally unprepared to face.

"Danny?"

"What Tucker?" the voice echoed around the room as a rather freaky chuckled rolled from nowhere, setting Tucker's nerves on edge, "What's wrong? Afraid of a ghost?"

"Dude, this isn't even funny," Tucker narrowed his eyes at the room in general, scanning for any little sign of where Danny could be. With the way he was acting last night there was no telling what he was up to or how exactly he was feeling, "Where are you?"

"Right here," Tucker felt himself shoved forward and as he went stumbling across his room, tripping over various items which he should have already cleaned up and cursing himself for not listening to his parents, he ripped the lid off of the thermos, whipping around to find Danny staring in shock at his best friend, holding up his hands in desperation, "Wait! Tuck, no…"

"What the hell?" Tucker spread his arms and took the thermos off of Danny's form who visibly relaxed and heaved a very relieved sigh, "What is your problem, man? You nearly gave me a heart attack, especially after that little show last night!"

"What, like I'd do something?" Danny frowned heavily, settling himself on the edge of Tucker's bed, "You know me way better than that Tuck, if I haven't done anything by now then why in the world would I?"

"I dunno'," the other boy sat heavily in his computer chair, clearing his throat as he tried to get over his scare, "Because you're devious?"

"Yeah, but you gotta' admit," Danny's hand slid to the back of his neck, a smile quirking his lips, "I got you good."

"Hardcore, man," Tucker shook his head as a grin slid across his own lips, "It's on now. You're gonna' get it one of these days now."

Reaching across the gap separating them, the boys bumped fisted hands, knuckle to knuckle, laughing at how ridiculous the previous night had been and generally making fun of one another for their own actions; Tucker's nervous reaction pitted against Danny's drunken display…if one could call it that.

"Man, I really didn't know what to think about how you were acting," Tucker admitted after the teasing eased up a bit, "Seriously, you were creeping me out for a while there. The laughing and that wicked grin you get sometimes, it was seriously freaky. Jazz even looked a little bothered by it for a while, and I was alright at first, when you came back downstairs…but you were still acting weird…and I was a little worried about Sam."

"Sam can take care of herself," Danny flushed a bit, remembering what had happened the night before. It had been strange, stuck in a type of limbo between wanting her as something he could draw energy from, scare, and possess, while at the same time wanting her as any guy would want their girlfriend. They hadn't been able to have time alone for most of the summer and it all came bubbling out with the aid of the overly powerful energy pulsing through him and influencing his actions, "Trust me on that one. Sam's not a pushover and she snapped me back to my senses pretty quick when...well, you know."

"That's good to hear," Tucker nodded, thinking over his walk home, "I was sorta' worried about the two of you…"

"I think we're okay," Danny admitted, though worry flashed across his face and Tucker took notice of the strain in his voice and the blush that crept across his cheeks, "I mean, we didn't really talk much last night…"

"Oh," Tucker got out as he blew out a deep breath, "Um…not that you'd ever…I mean, did you…with Sam?"

"No," Danny shook his head, blushing brighter at his best friend's question, "No, like I said…she…she snapped me back to my senses pretty quick. I just sorta' left before I did anything I'd regret and we never really got the chance to talk. I was hoping I'd catch her today."

"Got a lot to sort out, huh?"

'How does he always know things like that?' Danny shot his friend an odd look and nodded, standing and stretching as he listened to Tucker's mother shouting about Lake Candice from down the hall, "Sounds like I made the news…"

"What?"

"Tucker! You have to see this," his mother's voice could be heard from the living room, "That lake on the edge of town, Candice or whatever, it's completely frozen! In August! They think it was a ghost or something, but it looks like everyone's having a good time down there."

"Oh," both boys rolled their eyes at his mother's happy tone, Tucker leaning back in his chair, "So I guess you had fun last night."

"Eh," the halfa shrugged, glancing around, "It was something to do and it helped get rid of some of the energy. It was making me feel…a little different. More ghost-like I guess."

"Like I couldn't tell by the sudden need to scare your best friend half to death this morning," a wry grin was plastered on his lips as he looked towards the window where Danny had moved to stand, "I'll bet you twenty bucks that Sam's at the lake…if you want to catch her."

"I am so not taking that bet," Danny grinned as he melted out of sight, "You already know you'd win it. Oh, and uh…I spent the night here, okay?"

"You got it man," the boy laughed, knowing full well that Danny hadn't slept at all last night.

"Later Tuck."

"Later man," but Tucker didn't know if Danny had heard or if he'd spoken to thin air. Chuckling, he picked himself up and headed towards the living room where his mother was still watching the television, taking in everything that Danny had done last night, 'He really outdid himself this time…'

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

The air was growing cooler, a light tingle of something otherworldly settling upon her skin as she neared the lake. Maybe, she thought to herself, she was becoming more and more attuned with the spirit world because she'd been carrying part of it around with her for so long. In any case, there was definitely a feeling of the ethereal about the landscape in front of her.

White washed the entire area, making green grass shimmer with ice, tree leaves sparkle with a frozen shimmer, and snow…everywhere there was snow. On trees, benches, the ground, every possible surface it could cover around the lake was covered. A virtual fairytale wonderland of ice and snow that seemed to be holding well against the beating sun that effected every area of town but here.

'It's cold enough,' Sam slipped into the light jacket she'd brought with her, zipping it halfway and shoving her hands into the pockets for the extra warmth it might provide. Her cheeks and the tip of her nose were starting to turn a cheery red, and every second felt more and more like a dream, 'This is…amazing.'

It had taken her a good forty minutes to make it across town to where this particular lake lie, most of it spent walking with people who were heading to see the spectacle as well. They had talked the entire way; some murmuring to themselves, but most talking animatedly with those around them. Sam was surprised to find herself talking as well, keeping the secret of just what had happened to herself and feeling a rise of anticipation the more she heard others relate.

Lake Candice, in all its glory, was really nothing more than a very large lake, situated on the edge of Amity Park. It was like a miniature Lake Eerie, and closer to home, making it perfect for parents to teach their children to fish at, and for skating during the winter months…

…or possibly even the summer months with a little help and influence of the ghostly sort

Sam stood thoroughly impressed, watching children dance past her in the blinding white. Everywhere it was sparkling with white and crystals, though it all looked very haphazardly placed. Piles of snow off to one side, slide-like ice banks where most of the populations was playing at the moment, a completely frozen lake top, and enough ice in some places to make it a little dangerous to try walking.

Sam walked there anyways, feeling daring. Danny had made it, so why shouldn't she risk taking the walk across the slippery surface?

"Ow," Sam glanced around as she moved to stand, rubbing her sore backside as a wince and chuckle forced their way out of her throat, "That's what I get, I guess."

"You know," a hand appeared, helping her stand easily as Sam once again got her footing on the ice patch, "You could get a free tour, but if you just want to walk around and fall on your butt all day, then by all means, be my guest."

A smile passed between the young man and young lady, many older couples smiling at the action. It was significant, yes, but more so than anyone else could have known. Sam accepted his hand, standing steadily beside him and not releasing it. It was just one of the many gestures that would slowly, but surely, repair the damage that their relationship had suffered. There would be no more rejection, of any type, if Sam could help it.

"I'd be your guest either way, as this is your doing," she whispered mischievously, eyes sparkling as she saw the tiniest flash of green in her halfa's blue eyes. Both laughed and moved carefully off the ice, walking towards the edge of the snow where it seemed to be the tiniest bit warmer.

"So?" Danny questioned as he turned to look around, his hands making a small sweeping gesture to the scene in front of them. He was begging for her attention, blatantly fishing for a compliment, but he didn't really care so long as she continued to talk with him. After his little display last night he wondered if he might have scared her off.

"Danny," Sam lay a gentle hand on his arm, giving him the tiniest of smiles before turning to lean against him, "It's amazing. How is it not melting?"

"I just make it not melt," the halfa shrugged, tugging her back towards the grass to sit so they wouldn't land in the damp snow, "I definitely have enough energy to throw at it, and there was plenty of water in the lake for me to use. It really isn't that hard to make things not melt. I'll probably sneak back here tonight when everyone's gone and melt it all. I really don't want to have to keep any more focus on it than I am."

"That's probably a good idea," Sam nodded, then reached forward, scooping a generous amount of snow into her hands to play with, marveling at the radiating cold that wasn't dissipating.

"Hey Danny?" Sam glanced over, watching the boy who was reclining slightly with his arms stretched out behind him.

"Hm?"

"Think fast."

A snowball was planted firmly in his face, snow dribbling down the back of his shirt and sending shivers skittering across his body. It took a full second before he realized that he'd just been attacked and retaliation was in order. He'd been planning on talking with her, here where it was so peaceful, but that could wait. There was revenge to be had, and his current target was running away to gather more ammunition. That just wouldn't do, "You're in so much trouble Sam!"

"That's what you think!"

A full scale snow ball war was instigated and nearly half the people at the lake were involved before ten minutes was out. It was certainly shaping up to be a glorious day.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"Mom!" Jazz's voice echoed down the hall and up the stairs, catching Maddie slightly off guard as she sat on her bed folding clothes, "Danny's on the phone!"

"Coming!" Maddie sang back, rushing down the stairs for the phone, worry over where he possibly could have been and why he hadn't called sooner, 'He'd better have a really good reason and he'd better be okay or I think I might just kill him…he never stays out all night.'

"Danny?" her voice was slightly breathless, relaying the nervousness running through her, "Where have you been young man? Are you alright? Jazz said Sam had told her you didn't spend the night there…"

"Whoa, Mom," Danny sounded worried as well, though more for her at that moment, "Calm down, it's okay. I'm still in one piece and I didn't do anything illegal or that I would regret. I didn't spend the night at Sam's because I knew you didn't want me to, and I didn't come home because…because I had a lot to think over…and I ended up over at Tuckers."

"Oh," the woman let out a heavy breath, wondering why she hadn't thought to call there, "And if I ask Tucker if you were there…?"

"He'd say yes," she could hear the eye roll in his tone of voice and smiled despite herself, "Um, you aren't too mad are you? I know I should have called, but I didn't want to wake you up if you were already in bed."

"Next time, call," she injected as stern a tone as she could in her voice, knowing that if the message got across to him now, it would always be there, "I don't care what time it is or if you wake me up, just let me know you're alright."

"Yes, ma'am," her son answered quickly, and sincerely, pleasing her to no end, "So…would you be mad if I asked if I could stay out today and get something to eat with Sam?"

"Is this a 'date-type' thing?"

"Um…probably," Maddie could just picture him standing there with a phone in one hand, the other sneaking up to rub at his neck, "So can I?"

"As long as you make it back here by dinner, then we're fine," Maddie sighed into the phone, wanting him home much sooner, but knowing it would only push him away if she demanded it, "Why don't you invite Sam?"

"Sounds like a plan," Danny answered, sounds of him waving off Sam as she tried to ask what was going on coming through to the mother listening on the other end, "I'll be home after lunch sometime. Love ya' Mom."

"Love you too sweetie, and I'll see you then."

A click and Maddie gently returned the phone to its cradle, a small smile on her face as she closed her eyes. Relief was quickly followed by a sense of nostalgia, 'If only I could have found a way to keep him my little boy forever.'

With a wistful sigh, Maddie moved off to finish her morning chores. She'd raised a wonderful young man, and watching him grow, though sometimes slightly painful, was amazing. She only hoped that she had taught him well enough to aid him on his way…though she certainly wasn't about to tell him everything.

No…because that meant that there would always be things he'd come back to ask. Advice he'd need from his parents. Reassurances only a mother or father could give. Sometimes…sometimes there were perks where children were concerned, and this was definitely one of them.

Continuing on with a smile, Maddie made the most of her morning, deciding then and there that it was high time she and Jazz had an afternoon out together. It was a beautiful day to investigate ghostly happenings at the nearby Lake Candice, after all.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"Suzie?" Vlad Masters peered through one of the many doors of his lush mansion, making his way from room to room, hall after hall as he searched for his missing assistant. He'd never admit it, especially when Danny was in hearing range, but it did get slightly lonely from time to time, and Suzie was always excellent company, 'Well, Ms. Florence, if this keeps up, I shall have to be highly disappointed…'

"Mr. Masters?"

"Ah, Ms. Florence," Vlad turned to look into the kitchen, which he'd already passed many times, "I've been searching for you. Your cell phone was not on."

"Um, I'm sorry Mr. Masters, I was on a short break," the young woman looked between the older man and the sandwich she had been making on the counter, a maid and a chef chuckling quietly to themselves as they continued their chores, "Was there something you needed?"

"Whenever you are through with your lunch my dear," he plucked a stray white hair from his cat from the collar of his jacket before continuing, "Whenever you are finished, I require you help me plan a trip to the Fentons'. It is time to start the acquisitions that I talked to Mr. Sutherly about earlier this year, and I require all the necessary paperwork be taken care of by him personally before I leave."

"Of course," Suzie sneaked another glance at her lunch with a slightly anguished look, before dutifully throwing out a suggestion, "If you'd like I can get started on that right away."

"Nonsense," the man turned, making his way back to his office to continue writing a rather important memo to all his employees and companies, "At least one of us will be having a fulfilling lunch today, while I am strictly on a diet, according to Mr. Perez."

"Of course," the cook called out happily over his shoulder, winking at the young assistant sitting at his kitchen counter, "We have to keep you healthy and crotchety, Mr. Masters."

The maid, who's name Vlad couldn't remember at the moment, twittered prettily as Suzie tried to stifle a laugh. Walking away before he could suffer anymore indignities, Vlad let a soft smile slip. Just because he could be ruthless didn't mean he was always so.

Twenty minutes later found him putting the finishing touches on his memorandum, and Suzie rushing through his door with a stack of papers and her handy date book in one hand and a plate of chips and a double-decker sandwich balanced in the other. A coke was apparently tucked into one of the pockets on her suit jacket, "Don't ask me what I had to do to get this particular lunch for you or all these old documents on previous acquisitions that I knew you'd need. Just accept them and say thank you, or I'll quit."

"You wouldn't," Vlad didn't even turn, but took a chip from the plate that was set beside him, letting it sit in his mouth for a moment as he happily remembered what real food tasted like, "but thank you just the same."

Silence pressed in on the pair for a few moments, though it was by no means uncomfortable. Suzie sat perusing her date book, working out the earliest date that her employer could possibly manage to make his requested trip, as well as a date before the actual trip that he could meet with his main lawyer, Mr. Sutherly. They had many times where both worked separately, though in the same room. Suzie couldn't help but wonder if it was for the same reason that he so often wanted to schedule trips to see his old friends in Amity Park.

"Mr. Masters?"

The question caught him quite off guard, and he nearly spilled the coke that the young woman had set beside him previously. Ignoring the sudden urge to mutter 'Sugar cookies' under his breath, he gave a small nod that indicated she could continue with her question. He wasn't prepared for her to hesitate though and stutter something about it being too personal and to just never mind. It certainly raised his curiosity.

"Please, Ms. Florence, ask whatever it was you were going to," he turned to face her, an eyebrow arched elegantly as he sat with hands folded in his lap, patiently waiting her response, "I assure you that if it is too personal I will tell you and that will be the end of it."

"I was just…," she twisted a pen cap off and on several times before she made up her mind, "Why do you visit the Fentons' so much? I know they're your friends, but what about your family? Other friends? And why so much interest in their son, Danny?"

"Mm," Vlad nodded more to himself than the girl in front of him. It always got to this point with his assistance, and usually he'd end up firing them. Suzie, though, had lasted far longer and had become something of an adopted relative of some sort in his mind. She was smart, daring, and definitely ferocious when it came to something she wanted. She was determined, and thus he saw a small part of himself in her, "As to your questions…they are a bit personal, but I suppose since you've lasted this long, you deserve to know a small part of my story."

Suzie simply sat staring at him, patiently waiting for him to continue sharing whatever he would.

"I was an only child, as were both my father and mother. My grandparents are obviously not living, I have no cousins to speak of, and my mother passed away when I was thirty three. My father disappeared shortly after and I have not been able to locate him…he always wanted to climb mountains, so I believe that he might have taken up that dream."

"So you don't have any family left that you know of?"

Leave it to Suzie to be straight forward and cut to the chase. Hearing it so plainly hurt a small bit, but he couldn't help but smile. No, he had no blood family, but he still had something, and he was desperately trying to rebuild what little he had left of it.

"No, and so I turn to my friends," he leaned back in his chair, letting memories that had long eluded him wash over his thoughts. How Jack had always been his steady friend, ready to cheer him on or cheer him up at a moments notice. How Maddie had always been kind and would thoughtfully include him whenever she could. Jack had been the perfect best friend and Maddie had been the perfect girl-next-door, "I could never have asked for a better set of friends, and have, of late, been trying to repair my relationship with them. Money, it appears, cannot account for everything in one's life. Try to remember that."

"Of course," Suzie nodded seriously, knowing full well what a person corrupted by power could be like, 'Alone, paranoid, and unwanted. He was almost there, wasn't he? That's why he knows…'

"As for Danny," Vlad turned back in his chair, indicating that this would be the last thing he would share for the day, "Danny is a great deal like I am, and I intend to make him realize his potential…something he will despise me for, but not regret. I only wish I had someone to push me when I was younger."

Taking it all in took Suzie a moment or two, and before she knew it her boss had finished his 'unhealthy' lunch and stood to move from his office. Picking up her things and the dirtied dish, she obediently followed after, doing a balancing act as she tried to write down the numbers that Vlad Masters was rattling off at her. What they were for, she wasn't sure yet, but she was sure to find out.

Suzie Florence could always find things out.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

It felt odd waking up that morning to the television blasting something about a ghost made ice-skating rink, most people speculating it was the work of Phantom as he seemed to be the only ghost with ice powers who was strong enough to try such a thing. She wasn't sure if she believed them or not, until she caught sight of the news, cameras rolling as they displayed the veritable winter wonderland before her very eyes.

No doubt about it, it had been the work of Phantom…but why?

Ghosts were malevolent usually, though this one didn't quite seem to always function that way. How unusual that he would spend his time and energy on creating this play place instead of wrecking general havoc. Those were the only things that Valerie could focus on as she got up and got ready. It was already eleven thirty, so she figured she might as well start the day.

A Nasty Burger lunch sounded just about right, and so, she quickly headed out and hoped she'd run into a friend or two along the way. Eating lunch alone wasn't exactly on her list of things to do, but with her father at work that day, eating out was probably the fastest and easiest way to go.

She'd go check the lake out personally after that. It was her job after all, self appointed as it may be, to be involved wherever Phantom was.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

The snow bank was the perfect place for planning an ambush, or so Sam thought. Hunched down, she quietly waited for Danny to come around the other side where she had been so sure he was hiding. A snow ball in one hand, and a clump of snow in the other, she leaned a bit to peer around the edge of her snow wall. Finding nothing, she stood and turned back around, coming face to face with the boy in question.

She bolted…or at least tried to.

"Hey! Sam," Danny caught her arm and brought her down into a pile of snow as he fell backwards, laughing as the flakes drifted over them in a soft burst as they landed, "Aren't you getting tired of beating me yet?"

"Never," she grinned back, sitting up and dusting off her clothes, "but I am getting a little hungry. Don't you think it's about time for lunch?"

"Oh yes," the halfa stood, stretching before offering a hand to Sam yet again, and smiling all the more widely when she took it for the second time and didn't let go, "Plus, I have a plan."

"At least one of us does," she stood slightly off to Danny's left, before turning to walk, grinning to herself as Danny fell into step with her. Her mind was racing with the questions she had been wanting to ask all morning, but had put off in the playful atmosphere they had both fallen into. Bracing herself, she decided it would be best to just start the conversation, letting their walking diffuse whatever situation might arise, "Danny?"

"Yeah?" he let his thumb run over the back of her hand, smirking a bit as a blush appeared on her cheeks, "What's up?"

"It's just…I have so many questions," she blurted out, blushing harder as Danny's countenance went from shocked to amused to concerned, "I mean…what happened last night? Not that it was bad, it was just…sudden. Not like you, you know?"

"Heh, yeah I guess that would be the easiest thing to start with huh?"

He'd apparently been anticipating this conversation as well and the hand not attached to Sam's swept up to run swiftly through his messy hair, water droplets from melted snow spraying over them both in a fine mist. Danny smiled tightly, relaxing a bit as Sam smiled assuredly back at him, patiently waiting for him to continue.

"It's two fold," the young man finally managed to get out, blushing as he remembered the feelings rushing through him when he'd finally managed to get Sam safely home…and alone, "It's a ghost thing…and a guy thing, I think."

"Care to elaborate?" Sam quirked an eyebrow, then hurriedly glanced to the side as she realized just what she was asking, 'Oh yeah, I bet he'd love to tell me all his sordid fantasies, if he even has any.'

"Well, it's sorta' like this…and don't hit me if I don't explain it very well, alright?" Danny waited for her to nod before continuing with a blush, "Um, the guy part is sorta' obvious I guess. I mean, I didn't get to be around you, alone, very often, and when I did it was usually helping you out with your ghost problem. Then with the whole, you freaking out around me thing…I guess I was getting sorta' desperate to kiss you."

"I could tell," Sam let her fingertips drift back up to her still slightly kiss bruised lips, trying her hardest to not blush and failing miserably.

"Yeah, um," Danny hurried on, trying to ignore the images she brought to mind right then, "Well, when a ghost gets desperate for something and is either denied it or kept from it for too long, an obsession will start to form, or worsen if they already have one. I've never had one before, unless you count protecting the town or its people, so I guess all that extra energy were just intensifying my um…'ghostly instincts'. Making me pick something that I had been thinking of or focusing on, and since my focus was pretty much just on you…"

"You decided that a good old make out session would be perfect, huh?" Sam laughed, lightly slapping his arm in retaliation for the line of his thinking before continuing the conversation, "I'm not going to just be some obsession. I don't like the idea very much."

"No, no," he rushed to assure her, bringing up his vacant hand to gesture with, "It's not like that. I told you I wasn't gonna' explain very well. It was more of a momentary lapse of…sanity?"

"I'll take that," Sam took a deep breath, knowing full well that sometimes it was hard enough to control your hormones when you were a teenager, let alone powerful, instinct driven urges, "Thank you, again. I've probably thanked you a million times already for various things, but I really do appreciate everything you do. For me and for this town."

"Anytime Sam," Danny let his thumb roll across the back of her hand once again and snuck a glance down to her face, wishing that he could just work up the nerve for even a little peck. After his rather abusive display last night though, he wasn't quite sure he wanted to, 'What if I get carried away again? What if she's unsure now?'

"Danny," Sam pulled him from his thoughts, gently tugging his hand to move him from his previous collision course with a mailbox, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, just a little worried about what you think of me now."

"I think," Sam paused in her thought, though she didn't pause in their walk, "I think you're a wonderful person. I think you're intelligent and resourceful for figuring out a safe way to get rid of some of that extra energy, I think you're good because you realized what was happening last night and stopped, and I think you're brave because you took this on for me, without really knowing the consequences."

Her statements were left hanging, though they certainly were not unappreciated. Danny's hand gripped hers all the more tightly as he took in everything she had said, what it implied about her view of him, and what it implied about their relationship. Giving her hand another gentle squeeze, he eased his hold and stopped walking, pulling her off to the side.

"Danny?"

"Thank you," he leaned to whisper in her ear, before ever so gently placing a light kiss on her cheek, his lips lingering as he took in the warmth of her skin and the smell that was hers alone. The pair lingered for a moment more, caught in one another's gaze. Sam broke the connection first and continued on with a blush, biting back a smile as best she could when a catcall from across the street caught her attention.

Danny caught back up and was elated when Sam snatched his hand. Things were definitely getting better and better where Danny was concerned.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"Where did that child go?" Pam Manson wondered aloud to herself as she stood outside of her daughter's room, a few new articles of clothing in hand, 'I was going to make sure she was feeling better and talk to her about excusing herself more gracefully…'

"Is she not still asleep Mrs. Manson?" one of the maids was bustling down the hall and stopped for a moment to speak to her employer, "After she got in so late last night, I would think she'd still be in there."

"Late?" the woman raised a delicate eyebrow, not understanding what the maid could possibly mean, "Samantha left the gala before we did. She should have been home long before ten o'clock."

"Begging your pardon, ma'am," the young maid carefully replied, remembering how she was to address this woman in particular, "I don't mean to get her in trouble, but she couldn't of been home that early. She had to of come in after you did because I was in this hall until almost three in the morning cleaning a very messy stain in the carpet. It had splashed up on the walls and a few draperies as well, so it was taking me especially long to do it. I did see her go down the stairs this morning though."

"I see," the elder woman replied coldly, a frown settling heavily over her face, "Thank you, that will be all."

"Yes ma'am," the maid moved off, troubled lines marring her forehead, 'I hope I didn't get Sam in too much trouble…'

'So, Samantha, you want to skip out on charity events, lie to your parents, and then not come home until well after curfew?' Pam set off to find her husband, the little thought of a punishment for her daughter that she'd had last night now becoming all the more firmly planted in her mind, 'It's high time you take some responsibility and be grounded. I will not have a disobedient brat for a daughter.'

The discussion was short and it was easily decided between husband and wife that punishment was necessary. It was also especially easy to decide on just what that punishment would be. Sam would be sorely disappointed to find that today was her last day of freedom for a while.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"So, lunch at the Nasty Burger?" Sam glanced around as they walked into the building, not noticing anyone they knew, "That's the plan after running around like crazy kids and working up an appetite?"

"Yep," the boy happily nodded towards a booth, indicating that Sam should make herself comfortable, "I'll order…and I know what you want so don't worry."

"How do you know?"

"Sam," Danny rolled his eyes, gently pushing her towards the seat, "You get the same thing every time. A salad and a either a water or a soy milkshake. It's not that hard to figure out."

"Fine, fine," Sam finally moved off, still a little unsure about him buying her lunch, "but don't think I'll let you pay the next time too. This is an age of equal opportunity."

Danny simply rolled his eyes, turning to place his order while Sam grabbed napkins, straws, and a few pieces of silverware. Making herself comfortable, she began to think on how well he seemed to know her, 'He knows what I like…what does he like? He always gets a bacon burger, cheese fries, and…either a Dr. Pepper or a strawberry shake. Ha! I can play that game too, Danny…but that puts us even on the point system. Goth girl thirteen, ghost boy thirteen…'

"What's got that frown on your face?" Danny sat down with their food and drinks in hand, a quirky smile splayed across his lips as he reached out and tickled her arm with the receipt, "Cheer up, it's not like you're the energizer bunny anymore."

"You seriously didn't just say that," Sam pulled her arm back and rolled her eyes rather obviously, pulling a snorted laugh out of Danny, "Danny, we had this talk already. No witty banter for you. You just can't quite seem to pull it off."

"Oh trust me," the boy rolled his eyes as well, though this time it was just a natural reaction, "I'm about fifty times better at it than Jazz is. She even re-named the ghosts once and they all thought she was crazy…until she sucked me into the thermos and then they thought she was funny."

"I remember you mentioning that once," Sam tilted her head, starting to separate their food as she spoke, "back when I still thought you were Pha-"

A loud ringing sounded from Sam's pocket, her cell phone interrupting the conversation just as Danny thought it was getting back on the track of being normal…or at least as normal as any conversation he was involved with could be.

"Hello?" Sam scooted out of her seat, smiling apologetically at Danny, "Hold on Mom. Hey Danny, I'll be right back. Go ahead and eat, this'll only take a second."

"Alright," Danny nodded and off Sam went, leaving the halfa alone at the table. Sam felt bad about it, but she couldn't hear in the noisy atmosphere of the restaurant and headed towards the bathrooms, where she could hopefully hear what her mother had to say.

"Hey, I'm sorry," Sam pulled the door closed, ignoring the echoing quality her voice took on in the tiled room, "I couldn't hear you. What's up?"

"Samantha, we know you didn't come home when you said you would last night," her mother's voice was hard, an edge that Sam found it often when she was in serious trouble ringing out to greet her ears, "Your father and I have already discussed your punishment and we will be having a very long conversation when you get home tonight young lady."

"I was supposed to eat with the Fentons' tonight-"

"Then you'll just have to tell them you can't make it," apparently Sam wasn't getting out of this, even with a social obligation. She was in worse trouble than she thought, "Finish your lunch and then I expect you home. You're going to be grounded until school starts again."

"That's two weeks!" Sam's screech echoed painfully around her for a moment, forcing the young woman to lower her voice, "That's totally unfair, I didn't even do anything!"

"Except lie to me about not feeling well and going home, breaking curfew, walking out on a very important fundraiser, and be rather uncouth about leaving," Pam Manson did not sound pleased.

'When she puts it that way,' Sam sighed heavily, biting her lip for a moment before answering her mother, "Alright, I'll be home. I'm sorry, but something came up last night with a…friend and I couldn't just tell them no."

"Next time, let me know, Samantha, or your father," her mother had softened, worry clear in her voice, "What if something had happened last night and we hadn't known where you were?"

"I'm sorry Mom," Sam glanced back at the door, shaking her head to herself, "Can we just talk about this tonight, I have lunch waiting for me…"

"Alright dear, goodbye."

"Yeah, bye."

Sam turned back to the door and took a deep breath, determined to not let this ruin her afternoon. It was going to be her last chance to spend any time with Danny until school started, and she wasn't about to let her impending imprisonment bring either of them down. A smile firmly attached to her lips, Sam opened the door and stepped out, ready to enjoy every moment to its fullest.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

As Sam spent her time chatting with her mother in the restroom, Danny proceeded with his meal as ordered. He avoided his drink as best he was able so that he would have something to do while Sam ate. He'd ordered himself a strawberry milkshake, figuring that it would make a good drink and dessert. Now it seemed it was going to make a good dessert only.

Danny was more hungry than he realized and polished off his burger disturbingly fast, as well as his fries, all the while monitoring all the activity in the restaurant. It was eerie how easy it was for him to stretch his powers now, a few things feeling odd as he let his mind wander.

The first thing he noticed was a super sensitivity to anything spectral in the area, even the usually non-descript ghosts that couldn't manifest and never caused trouble. He'd never been able to see them so easily, and now, he realized quite suddenly he could feel their presence as well. Almost like the mist that appeared when other ghosts were around, but without the physical materialization.

The second thing he noticed was the amount of energy he still had left. He'd barely used any last night, and that had been quite a shock after he put so many hours into making the winter play land by the lake. He'd been so jittery before hand, and suddenly felt more calm. The longer he was in his ghost form, the easier he seemed to be, no longer feeling as though he were in the wrong skin.

At first he'd thought it was because he wasn't around Sam. Perhaps he hadn't taken all the energy or something about her being the carrier for so long acted as a catalyst to his behavior. Returning at about four that morning had proven his theory wrong. He'd simply watched her sleep for a while, then ran his fingers over her cheeks, marveling at how cold he was compared to her warmth.

She'd woken then, and he worried for a brief moment that something might happen, but a sleepy smile was sent his way and he couldn't resist winking at her and kissing her lightly. He'd left soon after that, worried that she would be exhausted the next day…though so far she seemed to be fairing well enough.

The energy was still there, blatantly noticeable to himself and any other ghost strong enough to feel it, but subdued now. It had been rather wild while in Sam's care because she hadn't even known about its presence. He, on the other hand, realized that as soon as he started using it, he had started to tame it and reshape it to be apart of his own store of energy. The more energy a ghost has, the easier it is to get energy from the world around them. Ectoplasm was, after all, alive and very much a presence in the physical world. People just didn't notice it because only ghosts were effected by it.

Instinct was dictating that this wasn't something that would just fade over time or through use, and that was the most intriguing part for Danny. It could mean so many things, the halfa thought as he flexed his hand and sent the salt sliding across the table to his waiting palm. Glancing around, Danny thankfully found no one watching and set the salt back in its proper place. This was going to take some getting used to.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

'Alright Nasty Burger,' Valerie smiled to herself as she walked through the door, 'Let's get some lunch.'

Heading to the line, which was abhorrently long now, the young woman spared a moment to take a look around, catching sight of Danny sitting in one of the booths alone. A cute smile was splayed across his face, his eyes twinkling in some hidden delight as he sat a salt shaker back on the table's end. Valerie just chuckled to herself at the odd moods Danny could fall into and turned to focus on what she wanted to eat. It was nearly her turn to order and she needed to figure out what she wanted quickly.

She never noticed the bathroom door across the restaurant open or the girl who soon joined Danny at his table.

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"So, did I miss anything while I was gone?" Sam plopped herself back onto the booth seat she'd been on and started on her salad, "You look like you know something that I don't."

"Oh just the usual stuff," Danny grinned widely, lowering his voice slightly as he watched Sam eat her salad, "Realizations about myself, certain powers and how they're not fading, you know. The usual."

"Not fading?" Sam returned, chewing through a bite quickly so she could talk, "You mean all that stuff you did at the lake and it's all still there?"

"Kinda'," Danny looked around, then started talking again while Sam ate more quickly, ready to have this very interesting conversation, "You know when you're a kid, you wear say…size one in clothes? Then you try them on again a few years later, and you're supposed to be a size two and you stretch them all out? Now you can fit in them, and you get used to the way they feel the more you wear them."

"You mean…the powers you got from me made your…storage capacity greater or something?"

"Now how is it that I'm the son of two scientists and you're the one who figures out how to word it so it sounds smart?" Danny teased gently, blushing slightly as she rolled her eyes, "You got it in one though. The energy is still there, and it's making it easier for me to take in the energy around me. Higher level ghosts usually can absorb ectoplasmic energy from their surroundings. That's why they're so strong and they recover so quickly."

"So you're the new energizer bunny," she took her last bite of salad, savoring it for a moment as she thought over her jab to the boy in front of her, "Plus you're suddenly stronger and are staying that way. Bet the other ghosts aren't going to like that."

"It's not like I haven't been getting stronger anyways," the halfa shrugged, watching her finish her meal and wipe her lips clean with a napkin, "The others are just going to be that much easier for me to beat, and I won't have to worry so much when the stronger of the ghosts come around. You have no idea how much easier this is going to make life for me…and the town."

"That's a good thing then, but are there any negatives?" Sam began to pile up the trash on their tray, running a napkin over their table to clean it off for the next person, 'Lord knows the employees don't do it…'

"Um, not that I know of yet," Danny reached for the tray, but found Sam snatched it from his reach and stood, "What? Can't I throw away my own trash?"

"You bought it," Sam quipped as she moved off, "I'll dump it. Fair's fair, right?"

"Right," Danny laughed, then caught the eye of Valerie Gray, who standing at the front and receiving her order number, 'Oh man, now she's going to come over and she and Sam are going to have some horrible stand off…crap!'

"Hey, stranger," Valerie did exactly as Danny predicted, smiling as she sat down with her ticket and a drink in her hand, "Haven't seen you around very much this summer. Can you believe there's only two weeks to school?"

"Not really," Danny nervously glanced back to where Sam stood throwing the trash away, talking loudly to a bus boy about recycling and how they should have bins for different trash, especially papers, "Um…what are you doing here?"

"Uh, getting lunch," Valerie waved her ticket, then sent him a slightly disgruntled half smile, "If you don't want me around, just say so."

"It's not that," Danny's attention was back on the girl in front of him, worried that he'd upset her somehow, uncomfortable with the idea of having a girl upset with him, "I guess I just wasn't expecting to see you."

"Me either," Sam cut in, sitting heavily down on the seat beside Danny and scooting over until their sides touched, "Hi Valerie."

"Hi," the other girl's smile faltered for just a second, her hands falling to the seat beside her and landing on the material of Sam's jacket. Looking down, Valerie realized she'd taken the other girl's seat unintentionally and probably intruded on something, "Oh, um…your jacket."

It was unbearably quiet for about five seconds before Sam sighed heavily and leaned forward slightly, "Look, Valerie, I know that you and Danny dated, and I know that you weren't exactly happy with me when I started hanging out with him. I know you wanted to get back with him at the End of Year Dance, and you probably still do."

"Well, what's it to you?" Valerie shot back, leaning forward as well and casting a strange look between the two, "You two have been on the outs recently, and I really don't think it's any of your business. I can understand if you're worried about your friend, but this is between me and Danny."

"No, it's between me and you right now," Sam shot back, her lips pressed into a thin line in an attempt to keep her cool, "I saw you talking to Danny a couple of weeks ago on the sidewalk when he was going to Tucker's. He'd left something and I was running to catch him up and return it, and I saw you talking around the corner."

"You saw that huh?" Danny nervous chuckle cut into their conversation and was promptly silenced by two glares, 'Right. Boy shuts up, girls talk…'

"We just talked Manson," Valerie indignantly folded her arms.

"Yeah, well," Sam cut a look at Danny, a blush coloring her face before she even managed to get the words out, "I was jealous okay?"

"Jealous?"

The question was echoed between Valerie and Danny, both curious as to what Sam was getting at.

"Yes, jealous. You were flirting with him, and don't try to say you weren't," Sam took a deep breath and felt herself color a little more, though whether it was from nerves or anger she couldn't tell, "And I don't appreciate it when people hit on my boyfriend."

She'd finally said it out loud and Danny was floored, not to mention thoroughly pleased. A slightly dopey grin spread across his face as Sam caught his eyes and they had a quiet moment with Valerie sitting across from them gaping a bit at what Sam had just told her.

'All those times he said he just wanted to be friends, how there couldn't be an 'us',' Valerie sat back a bit, realization sweeping over her as her cheeks darkened with a blush, 'Oh God, I'm not a home wrecker! I just assumed...'

"So, I guess when I say I was jealous I had a pretty good reason to be," Sam could see the shock and weariness playing across Valerie's face. Sam hadn't been pleased with the girl in front of her, but she wasn't a vindictive person either, "You were his girlfriend and from what I've heard you're a pretty good person. I was worried."

"What?"

Valerie had not expected that to come out of her mouth. Sam Manson had every right to be upset with her. She had been flirting with a taken guy, which was a huge mistake in her book, and there Manson was trying to make her feel a bit better. Shaking her head, a wry chuckle slipped from Valerie's lips, "Yeah, well, I'm not a boy stealer, so you don't have to worry. I didn't know…"

"Neither did I," Sam admitted, letting her finger trace a few patterns on the tabletop.

"Well, I guess that's my cue to um…go," Valerie stood quickly, blushing even more heavily at how badly she'd misjudged the situation and the person, "See you two around."

Valerie left in a flurry of embarrassment, not quite sure what the etiquette for leaving such a situation was. She'd already been enough trouble with the social circle of her friends with being so moody when it came to Danny. If they found out that she'd been after him when he had a girlfriend, she'd never hear the end of it, 'Or worse, Paulina will start giving me tips on how to break them up! I am so not that shallow.'

Danny and Sam, meanwhile, sat in relative silence thinking over the strange turns their lives had taken over the past twenty four hours. The unraveling of Sam's mysterious plight, the sudden exchange of powers, making up, the harsh kiss, Danny's use of his new energy, and now the strange showdown between Valerie and Sam. One of the weirder parts was it felt as though Sam and Valerie were coming to some sort of reconciliation, but that was a little much for Sam to think on right then.

It was, actually, almost too much to take in general and Sam suddenly started to laugh, albeit quietly. Her shoulders were shaking from the effort of holding her laughter in and a few moments later Danny joined her, both silently sharing in their mirth.

"Weirdest summer vacation ever," Sam leaned heavily against Danny's side, relaxing against him as he brought an arm up to rest across her shoulders, "Have your summers always been this strange?"

"Pretty much," he shrugged, "If not from my parents, then from ghost havoc. Remind me sometime to tell you about me and Tuck's summer road trip last year. That was one of the strangest things ever."

"Right," the girl nodded, then stood and moved back to her own side of the table, sliding in to grab her jacket, "Not sure I really want to know though."

"Come on," Danny's hand appeared and hauled her up, both smiling at so simple an action as holding hands in the face of how troubled Sam had been just a few days before by the same action, "Let's get going."

The trip from their seat to the door bought Sam time to think, though a sudden question popped into her head quite unexpectedly. She hadn't seen a single ghost since the last fight last night, and that bothered her for some reason. As soon as they were out of earshot, Sam turned to her newly named boyfriend and posed her question, "Danny, how come there weren't any ghosts last night? I mean, with all the energy that went crazy when you grabbed my hand, you'd think they would have swarmed us."

The halfa thought for a moment as they continued on. He wasn't puzzled by the fact that the ghosts hadn't come, as he knew exactly why, but he wasn't sure how to word it, "It was just a transfer of the power, nothing dissipated or was added, so it didn't matter."

"Okay, I know that usually I can understand what you mean, and that you usually really suck at metaphors," Sam frowned, then huffed out a breath to get rid of the hair that always fell into her eyes, "but I think I need one."

"Right, um," the young man reached out with a grin, brushing her hair back into place and relishing the contact of his fingertips on her soft face, "Think of it as two containers filled halfway with water."

"Alright."

"Okay, so if they both have a liter of water in them, then there's only two liters of water in the room right?" Danny grinned as she nodded, "If you pour the water from one of the containers into the other, then one's empty and the other one is full. Still following me?"

"I think so," Sam nodded, glancing sideway up at the boy beside her.

"Good, so now one is full and the other is empty, but," Danny held up a finger, grinning happily at the metaphor he'd managed to come up with, "there is still the same amount of water in the room. There always were two liters, and when you emptied one into the other, there were still two liters. It was the same as the energy. It was my energy and your energy in the room, it just all went into me. No more, no less."

"Okay, but that still doesn't explain why there were no ghosts," Sam frowned, trying to understand what Danny was getting at, "Unless…"

"Unless…," Danny mimicked her, encouraging her to continue her thought, "Come on Sam, I know you got this."

"Unless, since it was the same amount of power the ghosts didn't know it was happening?"

"Bingo," the halfa crowed, pulling Sam into a quick, sideways hug and planting a kiss on her forehead, "They didn't attack you all the time, especially when I was around. Ghosts have their own signature in their energy, and I guess since they could tell I was there, they didn't think it was worth it to attack you. Plus they didn't know what we were doing, so they didn't care."

"Lucky me," Sam sarcastically stated, "Now you're the only one that has to worry about getting attacked more often, and hopefully they'll leave me alone."

"Hopefully," Danny chuckled, "but on the bright side, they probably won't even realize what's going on. I've pretty much made the energy my own, so they won't know what happened, and you don't have anything left, so they'll have no reason to be drawn to you. It'll probably all seem like some weird dream to them."

"And me," Sam sighed, thinking over everything that had happened and the rather anti-climatic happenings of the night before, "Which, by the way, is good because I'm going to be stuck at home for the next two weeks."

"What?" Danny paused in his walk, cute confusion written across his face, "Why? We've only got two weeks until school starts!"

"I know," Sam sighed, "I've been grounded because I wasn't home like I was supposed to be last night, lied to my parents about going home, and broke my curfew. They figured two weeks was a light punishment and I still have a talk to attend when I get home tonight. I can't hang out with you or eat dinner with your family tonight either."

Sam was expecting an outburst on Danny's part, something along the lines of it not being fair, of them unjustly punishing her, of the injustice of wasting her last two weeks of summer. She was expecting righteous indignation on her part, or at the very least for him to be upset or pout. She was, however, not expecting for a quiet chuckle in a rather seductive, lower octave than was normal to come rolling off of Danny as he pulled her closer and kissed her.

"Seriously Sam," he grinned as he pulled back from his kiss, "I think we'll live. I mean, look who you're dating. It's not like they're going to be able to keep me from spending some quality time with my girlfriend…even if she's locked away in her boy- impenetrable room…"

"You are a bad boy in the disguise of a hero, Danny Phantom," Sam dramatically stated as she pulled back from him, blushing slightly at his words and the wink he sent her way, "I always knew there was something off about you."

"Aw, but you still love me," Danny cutely tilted his head as Sam blushed even more at the word 'love'.

"Maybe, but you're going to have to work for that one," and she started off, grinning to herself as she heard Danny chase after her.

"Really? Sam? Sam, come on," he was right behind her, grinning like a fool and matching her pace easily, "Hey, you can't just say something like that to your new boyfriend and then walk off. Sam. Sam!"

She studiously ignored him…

"You know…that kiss was…delicious."

…until that. Then retaliation was swift and sweet as she bopped him playfully on the arm, only to find herself picked up and spun around a few times, her laughter and his mingling in the warm afternoon. The sidewalk beneath them reflected the heat of the summer, shimmering slightly from the wavering air. Both of them took little notice though, and that was exactly as it was supposed to be. Summer was a time for fun and relaxation, and they were taking full advantage of that fact, stretching out their time for as long as they could.

It was the best end to summer, and their problems, that Danny could have asked for. Who knew that things could work out so perfectly? Danny did, and so silently thanked whoever had watched over him and his loved ones for the past few years as he paid close attention to Sam on their trip home. It wasn't often that Danny had someone so special to share his life with, and he planned to not let a single opportunity pass him by.

Sam, as she was kissed thoroughly before they parted ways, couldn't agree more. Summer was definitely turning into one of her favorite times of the year…

.o.O.o.o.O.o.

"So...this patience thing? I am done learning it yet?"

"Patience, Danni," came the humored reply, a large hand resting fondly on her head as he passed behind her chair, "Patience."

"Right," she huffed heavily, settling back down to watch the show in front of her and roll her eyes at the mushiness of it all, "Patience..."