Chapter Fourteen

Discrepancies

Phantom found her almost immediately, walking briskly down the sidewalk in the dim light cast off by streetlamps. The relief he felt upon seeing her completely unscathed was marred by the thought of her being dragged away in front of his eyes. Clockwork seemed to share his penchant for sadism. If only she knew there were more dangerous things awaiting her than creepers lurking around the streets before dawn, then she wouldn't have blatantly ignored his warning. He had to bring her to safety as soon as possible. Desperation had enabled him to think of a solution to his problem in a flash. Now he just had to go about it.

He wrapped his arms around her waist, pressing his face into the back of her neck, before she was able to turn around and notice him. Unfortunately for him at that moment, she had some knowledge of self defense, which came as a surprise. She ended up breaking out of his hold, before he could take off with her into the sky, and kicking him to the ground. He winced, clutching his stomach and the wound she'd probably just re-opened again.

Sam towered above him. The look on her face was murderous. "What are you doing here?" she growled, clenching her hands into fists. "What did you do to Tucker?!"

Still cringing, Phantom lifted his hands in an attempt to placate her. This was no time for chitchat. "I didn't do anything. It's not safe out here. We're going back."

She ignored him. "So Tucker just let you go? Are you two working together or something?"

"I don't have time for this," he muttered and reached for her legs. He picked her up and threw her over his shoulder.

"Hey! Let me—" Her voice was lost in the wind rushing past their ears as he flew up into the sky.

He saw the Fenton Works building as soon as he rounded the corner. Smoke was beginning to rise up from the windows. He'd have to put out the fire before the firefighters and policemen came nosing around. He was sick of all the interruptions he'd been getting lately.

He purposely entered the building from the second floor, because of the fire, first of all, and also on the off chance that Tucker was still downstairs. Unlikely, since Tucker could sprint like a professional when he had the right motivation, and a fire was definitely the right motivation, but he wasn't risking it.

They ended up in Jazz's room. He dumped Sam on the bed, quickly dematerialized through the floors into the basement and started up the ghost shield, and then went up to face the growing fire in the living room. Tucker wasn't there. That was a good thing. He wouldn't have known what to say. He'd done what he had to under the circumstances, but he wasn't ready to face the consequences of it yet.

He sucked in one big breath and concentrated on that core of icy cold inside of him. It spread throughout the inside of his body and soothed the dull sting of his injuries, a welcome extra that came with using this ability. He exhaled a stream of frigid air that cleared away the fire instantly. After pausing for a second to make sure there were no residual embers, he flew back upstairs and collided into Sam as she was on her way out of Jazz's room. With their limbs entangled, they toppled over onto the floor. Phantom cradled her head in his hand and wrapped his arm around her waist to prevent her from getting hurt. He banged his elbow on the floor, but after all the torture he'd just endured at the hands of a hundred ghosts, it really didn't faze him.

"Get off of me!" Sam ground out, vainly pushing at his shoulders.

But the sight of her beneath him made all his thoughts and plans disappear. He tightened his grip and stared down at her, mesmerized and in awe. It felt like it had been years since he'd been able to be this close to her. But, in fact, it had only been about a day. Her face was still flushed after flying through the air and her hair was completely disheveled, with strands temptingly clinging to her lips. Did she not realize just how appealing she was? To a man and even to a ghost. Those violet eyes of hers were hypnotizing and ethereal. She must know that. She must know those eyes were the reason they were here together like this now.

He leaned closer to her without realizing it, completely fixated on her eyes. His admiring was cut short when he felt her knee hit the wound on his chest. He grunted and rolled off of her and onto his back. Groaning, he pressed his hands against the definitely re-opened slash across his torso and glanced up at her with a sly smile. "You really know how to kick a guy when he's down, huh?"

She didn't waste any time talking to him. She headed out the door and ran for the stairs. He muttered a curse and scrambled up to his feet to follow her. "Tucker!" she yelled, leaning over the railing. "Tucker, are you here?"

Phantom grabbed her arm and yanked her back from the stairs. "He's not here!" he cried out, exasperated with her already. If only he'd been able to transform into Danny again. Things would've been different. She would've listened to him.

Sam whirled on him angrily, her eyes flashing with a hatred so intense and so familiar it made his shoulders tense up. That was the look he'd seen on the face of a much older Sam when she confronted Dan for the last time. "What did you do to him?" she snarled.

He averted his gaze, reluctant to see those eyes and recall the images of the future he'd seen. "What happened to the working together accusation?" he retorted, still keeping an iron grip on her arm. "What if we were?"

Sam shifted, bringing those blazing purple eyes of hers into his view again. He swallowed back his immediate reaction to flee and instead forced himself to look at her lips, her hair, her ears, her neck, anything but the eyes that loathed him. "You weren't," she said firmly. "If you were, I wouldn't have been kidnapped by the clones. The clones you weren't anticipating to see." She shook her head and took a step closer, again bringing her eyes into his sight. "No, you were waiting for the ghost shield to go down the entire time. And when it did, you made your entrance, you did who knows what to Danny, and before you could move on to me, the clones got in your way."

He narrowed his eyes. So that was what she thought of him. It wasn't like he'd done anything to prove her wrong, aside from saving her life which she seemed determined to ignore. For some reason, it made the anger boil within him, a long-lost friend. In that instant, the uneasy thoughts scrambling around in his brain—Tucker, the desolate future, the memories this house always brought—all evaporated into nothing at all. There was only Sam and the way she provoked him, the anger transforming and melding with desire to turn into heaping, pent up lust.

He straightened his back to loom over her, bringing his face so close to hers he could feel her breath on his lips. "Should I give you a reward?" he hissed, moving his other hand to the small of her back and roughly pushing her body against his.

She didn't fight it, though she sneered at him in disgust. Unwavering, she met his eyes and poured every ounce of hatred, resentment, and fury in her glare. "Give me Danny," she commanded.

His lips curved up in a smirk and he tightened his grip on her. "Oh? This sounds like a confession of love," he murmured, angling his head as though he was about to kiss her.

"He's a friend," she argued. "And get away from me."

"What if I want to confess next?" he breathed against her lips, running his hand up her spine. He moved his lips along her cheek, barely touching her skin, and then pressed his mouth to her ear. "Sammy," he purred and felt her shiver, unbidden, in his arms. He smiled, parted his lips, and bit down on her earlobe, gently worrying it between his teeth, eliciting a sharp gasp from her that sent tingles all the way down his body.

That's when he felt her punch his stomach, avoiding the slash this time, but the threat was still there. She wasn't a very fair opponent, always going for his injuries. He pulled away from her, still with a smirk on his face. Her face, on the other hand, was entirely red. "Too much?" he chuckled.

"You're disgusting," she spat.

He bowed his head as though to thank her for the compliment, then took hold of her arm and dragged her back into Jazz's room. "Let's stay put this time, shall we?" he said, shutting the door behind him and crushing the knob in his palm.

She gaped at him, but her shock at being trapped in the room with him lasted only a second. She rolled her eyes, laughing incredulously, like she couldn't believe any of this was really happening to her. "You love that trick, don't you? Melting doorknobs," she scoffed.

"No," he answered truthfully. "It's cliché. But I'll survive." His brows drew together, momentarily puzzled. "No, wait. I'm already dead, aren't I?" After all, he was a ghost. He laughed shortly and ran his fingers through his hair. That's right. He was no longer human. In a way, Vlad had gotten what he'd wanted. Danny Fenton had been killed. He wasn't as upset by that as he thought he'd be. Or maybe it was just that getting upset about it would solve nothing.

Or maybe Clockwork was right. The ghost in him was pushing out everything that made him human.

No matter.

He shook his head to banish those thoughts from his mind and feigned a bright smile. "Stay here, Sammy. Don't move," he cooed, patting her head. He laughed when she slapped his hand away.

"I'm not leaving until you tell me where Danny is!" she snapped. But he ignored her as he fazed through the wall and into the next room, his room.

He knew exactly what he was looking for and exactly where it was despite not having been in there for the longest time. Focusing on that and that alone, he maneuvered through the room in the dark. The clouds of dust hanging in the air stung his eyes and made him cough. He rummaged through the drawers, drew the item he was seeking out from the very bottom, and swiftly made his escape.

Sam jumped when she saw his body materializing through the wall, even though she'd been staring at it intently while waiting. She narrowed her eyes when he grinned and stomped over to the bed, taking a seat on the edge. Her eyes followed him as he made his way to the window, unlocked it and opened it up, and then brought the whistle he'd just retrieved to his lips. He blew one long, high-pitched note and closed the window again.

Sam gave him a dubious look. "You're calling your pet dog?"

"Not quite." He sat down cross-legged beside her on the bed and gestured to the shackles still on her wrists. "I can take those off for you. It's not safe to have them on."

Her brows furrowed and she stared at him in confusion. "You know what these can do?" she asked, absently placing her hand over one of the cuffs.

He nodded and averted his gaze down to the bed. "Plasmius made me watch," he whispered. He saw her angle her body towards him and glanced up at her from beneath his lashes. Sparks seem to fly between them as emerald clashed with violet. She looked a little surprised, frustrated, and extremely pissed off. It was a start. At least she wasn't looking at him ready to kill. He lifted his hand to her cheek, curled his fingers over the shell of her ear and pulled away with silky strands of black hair caught between his fingers. "You're beautiful, Sammy," he admitted in a soft whisper and leaned forward to press his lips against her hair.

She leaned back away from him with a scowl. Her expression of utter disgust only made him want to tease her more. But he restrained himself, slipped his hand into hers, and stretched her arm across the distance between them. He felt her eyes boring into him as he leaned over and examined the cuff. The sight of her bruised and chafed skin made him clench his jaw together tightly. He hoped Vlad had been beaten to pulp.

He dug his fingers between the cuff and her skin, making her flinch. Green light appeared around his hands and he yanked on the cuff, slowly tearing it apart. Electricity crackled around the metal halves in his hands. He winced and dropped them to the floor with a dull thud. "Ow." He shook his hands and breathed a stream of cold air onto them. "Next," he said and reached for her other arm.

"There's got to be a better way," Sam muttered. Her eyes were glued to his hands.

Curiously, Phantom followed her gaze. His hands admittedly did look pretty bad. Even though the Ecto-Dejecto was acting like a pain-killer and made it a lot easier for him to move around, his wounds still hadn't healed. He would say it was a shame, but the fact that she seemed worried about him made the injuries worth it. "And here I was, under the impression that you didn't care about me," he grinned.

Sam's eyes widened. She growled and shoved her arm out in front of him. "I don't care! So hurry up," she snapped. But even that didn't hide the fact that she watched his hands from the corner of her eye.

He removed the second cuff from her wrist and flicked his fingers. "Feet up, Sammy."

"Would you stop calling me that?"

"No." He rolled her sweatpants up to her knees and swiftly tore off both of the cuffs around her ankles. She breathed a sigh of relief when he was done and started to shift back into a sitting position but he grabbed hold of her legs to keep her still. "Wait. I like this position, Sammy," he murmured. His eyes grazed the length of her leg, moving up to her firm stomach, her breasts, her slim shoulders, the dip of her collarbone, her long neck, her lips, her luminous eyes. Now that she was so close, even though she hated him he couldn't stop himself from wanting to touch her.

"I'll kick you," she warned, glaring at him. "And I'll aim for that cut on your chest."

"Cruel," he sighed. He lowered his hands from her shins to the tender skin around her ankles, causing her to gasp and shiver. He smiled. "See? I can be useful. Doesn't that feel good? Your skin is warm because of the chafing."

Her eye twitched. He found it unbearably cute. However, her foot aimed for his jaw was not cute at all. Since he didn't want to tighten his grip and aggravate her bruises, he jumped back to avoid the kick. He burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. Sam just glared daggers into his skull and drew her legs to her chest. "You only think I'm warm because you're freezing," she grumbled. "What do you want with me anyway?"

Phantom rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Let's see… You're a girl. I'm a guy. What do you think I want?" he smirked and gave her a flirtatious wink.

Sam wasn't amused at all by the remark. She raised an eyebrow but otherwise said nothing.

"Were you expecting something else?" he asked.

"You're a ghost," she pointed out bluntly. "That kind of thing isn't possible."

Phantom's smirk widened and he looked at her through half-lidded eyes. "Shall I prove it to you then?" he murmured in husky voice. He started to crawl towards her on the bed. Her hand on his face halted his approach.

"No, thanks. I'm fine," she said and shoved him backwards.

He chuckled and leaned against the wall, absently running his finger over his bottom lip. Though he was always up for a chase, there was just something missing. And he knew exactly what it was. Fear. Fear would make the pursuit even more pleasurable. It'd been a while since he felt this way, felt this kind of power and control over a situation. He was enjoying it immensely.

"Sammy, you seem to have forgotten something," he said quietly, his eyes burning into hers, flashing with an ethereal fire. "You seem to have forgotten—" his body lifted into the air and he hovered over top of her, placing his arms on her shoulders and resting his forehead against hers, "—who exactly you're dealing with, and what I can do."

Her brilliant violet eyes widened and her lips parted in that expression he knew all too well. She trembled beneath his hands and her breaths quickened and became erratic. Her body exuded fear. He soaked it up like a sponge and slowly pushed her down onto the mattress. He lowered himself to her, wedging his leg between hers and bracing his hands on either side of her head to stare down at her. Though her body revealed her fear, her eyes were hard and unyielding. Smiling at how desperately she tried to be strong, he leaned down and burrowed his face into the side of her neck, inhaling her scent. If he were still human, the smell of her, her essence, would've traveled all the way to his groin. He sighed and pressed his lips against her skin, trailing kisses down her neck.

"Stop," Sam grunted, squeezing her eyes shut.

"Hmm?" He smiled and slowly dragged his tongue up from the dip of her collarbone to her chin. "You don't like it?" he murmured, kissing her cheek, her ear.

She gritted her teeth and turned her head to the side. "I hate it. And something's dripping on me."

"Dripping?" he repeated incredulously. He glanced down and snickered at the sight of ectoplasm from his chest wound steadily dripping down onto her shirt. "Whoops." He rolled off and lay down next to her on his side with their faces only inches apart. "That's what you get for playing unfairly," he teased. Sam opened her eyes. His expression softened beneath the weight of her stare. "What?" he murmured.

"What do you want?" she asked again. "Am I just going to be forced to keep you company like this for the rest of my life? Why don't you just kill me now? I don't want anything to do with you."

Phantom narrowed his eyes. Resigning herself to his whims wasn't the reaction he'd wanted. But what was he thinking? She wasn't going to all of sudden change her opinion of him, and this was technically their first meeting. He was moving too fast. Patience had never been a virtue he possessed. Besides, there were other more pressing matters to attend to.

He sat up and jumped over her to alight quietly on the floor. "I'm just keeping you safe," he informed her, hoping she would finally process his words this time instead of blatantly ignore them. "There are other ghosts after you."

"Somehow I find that hard to believe," she retorted, pushing herself to the edge of the mattress and letting her legs dangle.

He rolled his eyes and rubbed his temples. The girl was maddening. "Because me chasing you down after you left wasn't enough of a clue? Ha! Are you stupid?" he jeered.

Sam clenched her jaw and crossed her arms over her chest. "Then tell me why. You're the only ghost who's been after me, stalking me. Are you saying all that was to protect me? Even destroying the apartment?"

Ouch. Well, that was a low blow. Sheepishly, Phantom scratched the back of his head and shuffled from foot to foot. "Well, no. That wasn't really for protection," he confessed. "I was just getting to know you and… I already told you my reasons for the apartment. Anyway, I attracted some unwanted attention by doing that. I set something into motion that I don't know how to fix."

Sam lifted an eyebrow. "So, because of you, other ghosts are hunting me down. Like Plasmius?"

Phantom shook his head. "No. Plasmius was after you to get to me. The ghosts that are hunting you have orders to kill."

Her jaw dropped at that word, but the shock was short-lived. She still didn't look convinced. "So you're here to save me?" she scoffed.

"Yeah."

"I would've thought you'd be more than happy to kill me. Then we could live together in ghost harmony," she said sarcastically and rolled her eyes.

He rubbed his chin. "Sounds tempting," he mused, earning a sharp glare from Sam. Then he shook his head again. "But not everyone becomes a ghost. Can't risk it."

She eyed him skeptically. "How do I even know you're telling the truth?"

"You don't," he grinned.

She heaved a frustrated sigh. "Why are you doing this? What if I don't want your protection?"

His smirk fell and he only shrugged.

She refused to back down. "Tell me," she insisted.

He glanced at her briefly and shrugged again. "Because you belong to me," he said simply. "I thought I made that clear."

She laughed once and rolled her eyes again. "I'm inclined to disagree," she said.

"Rejected," he replied, flippantly waving his hand. She would've made another witty remark, but his shoulders abruptly tensed up and he whirled around to face the window, thus cutting her off. A familiar sound had just barely reached his ears, a keening howl that traveled across the distance, signaling him to be prepared. His guest had come quicker than he'd anticipated. Sam wasn't able to hear it so she stared at him in baffled surprise. He gave her a salute. "I'll be back soon. Play nice," he winked.

"What? Wait!" he heard her yell as his body dematerialized in front of her eyes and he flew down to the basement. With one hand resting on the console controlling the ghost shield, he waited, listening for that howl again. When it came, he shut off the ghost shield then quickly turned it back on again in the span of a few seconds. Good. Clockwork hadn't tried to tamper with anything, probably because he knew Phantom was still wearing the medallion. After making a quick round upstairs to check on Sam and make sure she was still where she was supposed to be, Phantom went to the living room to greet the guest with hunched shoulders, sharp fangs, pointy ears, and a long black tail waiting patiently for him by the front door.

"Wulf," Phantom smiled, relieved.

"Friend! It has been long since our last meeting," the large bushy-haired werewolf announced loudly and happily in Esperanto with a slight bow of his head. "I was on my way to meet you. The princess Dorathea sent me. They're demanding a message again."

Phantom's smile faltered. They went through the same conversation every time Wulf popped up in Amity Park and yet it still caught him off guard each time. "Right. That," he grumbled, responding in stunted Esperanto. "Make it a good one for me."

Wulf frowned, wrinkling his nose in distaste, though he didn't argue. He knew better than to do that. "I understand. Though I do not agree." Delicately, taking care not to damage it, he lifted the camera that was hung around his neck. "Will there be another picture? They were relieved to see it last time."

Phantom muttered a curse. With his thoughts occupied on Sam, he'd forgotten all about this. The large, lone yellow house in the midst of a field and a blazing sunny sky. The ghosts he'd gathered together for one purpose. The people held captive in that house. The family he tried so desperately to forget. The family whose horrifying deaths he'd been forced to watch in the images of the future. He hated this. He couldn't bear it if they were living, he couldn't bear it if they were dead. The only option was to forget they existed, but reality always had to rear its ugly head and force him to remember. He groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingers. The memories were creeping up on him, making his head pound. He wasn't human anymore. He shouldn't care.

That's right.

He wasn't human anymore. He had no connection to them. He shouldn't care. He didn't need to care. In fact, if he was being honest, he had no right to care. He was no longer a son or a brother. He was a ghost. Their most hated enemy. It was time to give up those feelings of guilt and remorse. They only weighed him down.

He pushed all thoughts of them aside and looked up into Wulf's anxious green eyes. "Put that thing away," he demanded, flicking his fingers at the camera. If it had been someone else, he probably would've destroyed it. But Wulf treasured the little thing, since it was a gift from Dorathea as friends, and he didn't want to be unnecessarily cruel to one of his few allies and the guest he'd purposely been seeking. "I called you here for a reason. Two reasons actually," he explained, putting his hand on Wulf's giant, muscular arm and guiding him to the stairs. "A friend of mine is up there in the far left room. You need to make sure she doesn't escape. In fact, she might try to jump out the window, so let's make this quick. I need to visit Frostbite in the Realm of the Far Frozen. Can you make a portal for me?"

Wulf's eyes widened. His gaze quickly ran over Phantom's body, assessing the injuries and torn areas in his suit. "But you're wounded, friend. Would it be wise to travel the way you are?" he said gently.

"There's no other choice," Phantom snapped, shaking his head roughly. "My friend is in danger and I have to protect her."

"You are in danger as well," Wulf mumbled, absently scratching his long, dark snout. "While traveling, I heard the whispers. They do not like you, friend."

"I don't care. She's precious to me," Phantom said, narrowing his eyes. "And she really might jump out the window, so hurry," he added urgently. He wouldn't put it past her to tie the bed sheets together and throw them out the window. Even though he doubted they wouldn't reach far enough to land safely on the ground, she might just risk the jump to get away from him. As much as it hurt to admit it, it was plausible.

Wulf let out a resigned sigh. "I understand. I will help." With a shink, five razor-sharp green claws emerged from his paw. He raised his arm and sliced through the air, creating a rift that would lead him into the Ghost Zone.

Phantom thanked him with a nod and dove through the portal, leaving Wulf to handle Sam in his absence. He hoped his visit to the Far Frozen would go smoothly and swiftly. As powerful and trustworthy as Wulf was, he wasn't exactly bright. Sam might find some way to manipulate him if she noticed. The thought worried him immensely. He had to remind himself that Wulf had never let him down before.

Still, this visit needed to be snappy. Short, sweet, and to the point. That might be a little difficult considering his reputation amongst the inhabitants. They'd taken to calling him the Savior of the Ghost Zone or the Great One since he'd managed to lock up Pariah Dark after Vlad had stupidly released him to try to steal the Ring of Rage and Crown of Fire years ago. He wondered briefly what had happened to Frostbite and his people in the future, but then dismissed the thought. It was better not to think on that.

The frozen island that made up the Realm of the Far Frozen loomed in front of him, its glacial peaks rising high into the murky green sky. Its stark whiteness was almost threatening in the way that it shone and blinded him to anything else. He flew over the icy, snow-covered landscape, past advanced medical facilities and the stadium where he'd first learned to control the cold core inside him and use his cryokinetic abilities. Some of the Far Frozen creatures saw him and excited murmuring rippled throughout the land below him, gaining the attention of one particular yeti-like ghost with an ice-encrusted arm and two jagged crystalline antlers who stepped out to meet him as he alighted.

Frostbite was just as Phantom remembered him. Big broad shoulders, tousled masses of white fur, a long thick tail, gold bands around his forearm and waist, tattered blue cloth covering his legs and clasped around his neck like a cape, and those striking red pupils in dingy yellow eyes. "Oh Great One! Behold your humble servant, Frostbite, leader of the Far Frozen." The ghost bowed from the waist, though even lowered as he was, he was still much taller than Phantom. "To what do I owe the honor of your presence? It has been some time since we saw each other last," he said courteously in his rumbling voice. His eyes briefly roamed over Phantom's haggard appearance, but he wisely made no mention of it.

"I need to ask a favor of you," Phantom admitted, skipping the pleasantries. "There's someone I need to protect, and I'd like to ask for your protection while I keep her safe."

Frostbite looked taken aback. "Why, of course!" he exclaimed, leaning down so that his huge face was level with Phantom's. "It is my honor to serve the Great One. There is no need to ask." His eyes scanned the area around them. "Where is this someone?"

"On Earth."

Frostbite's thick black brows furrowed in confusion. "On Earth? The Far Frozen do not often travel to Earth."

Phantom frowned. He knew that. But he needed them for his plan to work. Frostbite and the Far Frozen were highly respected and renowned both for their medical technology and their unusual abilities. Cryokinesis was something almost exclusively belonging to the Far Frozen, with the exception of himself. Clockwork wouldn't dare to offend such a venerable race by executing someone under their protection. That was what Phantom assumed anyway.

He lifted his hands out, gesturing helplessly. "Please, Frostbite. I have to protect her. You can bring us somewhere on Earth that closely resembles the climate and landscape here. Antarctica is fine. She just needs somewhere warm to stay. A hut. A log cabin. An igloo. Something. Just…help me," he begged. He never begged for anything. But these were ghosts he didn't rule over by fear. These were ghosts who actually looked up to him in a dignified way for the things he'd done to save them. The rest, like the citizens of Amity Park, had quickly forgotten.

Pensively, Frostbite rubbed his chin. He lifted his face to the glacial peaks rising up from the ground as if they would somehow give him the answer he sought. "She's human?" he asked.

"Yes."

Frostbite glanced down at Phantom, curious. "And important to you?" he added.

"Very important," Phantom stressed.

"Then we will leave immediately. Two others will join me in selecting a suitable location, then they will return to escort you."

Phantom's shoulders drooped as he let out a huge sigh of relief. "Thank you, Frostbite. I'll return the favor one day. Anything you ask," he promised, holding out his hand.

Frostbite merely shook his head and gently pushed Phantom's hand back down beneath his large, clawed paw. "It is my honor to serve you, Great One," he said. "Let us make haste."

Phantom soared up above the ground with Frostbite behind him. Two other of the Far Frozen appeared at his sides as they neared the portal Wulf had left open. As soon as they passed out of the Ghost Zone and into Fenton Works, Frostbite nodded at him in passing and exited the building with the other two ghosts after Phantom quickly shut off the ghost shield, only to start it up again a few seconds later.

Good. Everything had worked out as planned so far, and he was feeling positively giddy. That was rare occurrence. Honestly, he was surprised Clockwork hadn't made a move yet. Not even in the slightest. Was he being given that headstart after all, or was this just another of his games? The calm before the storm was a deadly thing. Slacken your defenses and it was game over.

Phantom hurried up the stairs and passed through the door. He froze in his tracks by the sight that greeted him. To say he was shocked by what he saw was an understatement. Wulf had Sam trapped in a tight hug, practically engulfing her tiny frame in his arms, and he rocked back and forth lightly on the edge of the mattress, muttering in Esperanto. To put it shortly, it was kind of hilarious and slightly disturbing, a little bit irritating and sort of scary.

"Wulf, you should let her go," Phantom said, rushing over to his side to make sure Sam was still breathing. He pried her away from Wulf's arms and set her down on the mattress.

Violet eyes glared up at him furiously. "Play nice, huh?" she spat.

"Oh, good. You're alive," he smiled and patted her head.

She swatted his hand away. "I'm getting really tired of being manhandled," she scowled and crossed her arms over her chest as if that would somehow protect her.

Phantom stifled a laugh and turned to Wulf. "What happened?" he murmured in Esperanto.

"She was so desperate about leaving," the werewolf cried mournfully. "She did want to escape from the window. And then she asked me to help her escape. But I gave you my word, and you said she was in danger. I couldn't let her get hurt when I'd been ordered to protect her."

Phantom grinned and rested his palm against Wulf's arm. His hand was nearly swallowed up in the mess of black fur. "You did well," he assured him. "You can leave now."

Pitifully, Wulf held up the camera. "No picture?"

"None."

The werewolf whimpered and whined like a pet dog. "Not even with her?" he mumbled sadly, glancing at Sam who was staring at them in absolute bewilderment.

Phantom pondered the idea for a minute. Maybe if they—he refused to think on them with any term other than they—knew he had a companion, a female companion especially, they would stop asking for him so often. Maybe they would see that he'd accepted his lot in life, was dealing with it fine, wasn't being tortured and wasn't in any danger. They would know he was living normally and stop pestering Dora to pester Wulf to pester him. It would be the perfect end to the boy they once knew. With that, Daniel Fenton would be no more.

"The picture would have to be edited," Phantom whispered softly on the off chance Sam knew a little bit of Esperanto, though he highly doubted it from the amusing deer-in-the-headlights look plastered across her face.

"On a computer? Technus is adept at manipulating those devices," Wulf pointed out.

Right. Technus. He'd forgotten. Or more like, he'd erased it from memory. "Let him try. If it doesn't work, get rid of the picture," he ordered.

"I'm sure it will work. Technus likes Princess Dorathea, and she is loyal to you."

"He likes her?" Phantom nearly gagged. He shuddered and stuck out his tongue. "Ugh. Whatever. I don't want to know. Get your camera ready."

Wulf showed off his giant toothy smile, frightening enough to make Sam's whole body tense up, and lifted the camera to his eye.

"What's going on?" Sam muttered, glancing from Wulf to him in confusion. "What were you two talking about? And…why are you getting close to me?" she added in a panicked tone, scooting away from him as he approached her on the bed. Her back hit the wall. He grabbed her arms and forced her to sit in front of him.

"Relax, Sammy," he smiled. "Wulf is taking a picture for memories."

"A picture?" she exclaimed incredulously, turning to look at the werewolf.

Phantom put his fingers on her cheek and turned her head to him again. "Yes. All you have to do is look at me," he said and rested his forehead on hers. "If you don't, I'll have to use force."

"Just a picture?" she grumbled.

"He's recently taken up scrapbooking."

"I see." She didn't question him further, only watched his glimmering emerald eyes as they flickered from her lips to her eyes and back again. There was something seriously wrong with her. There had to be. What other reason was there for her current predicament? She was holding sensible conversations with a maniac. Someone who had hurt hundreds of people, had destroyed her apartment, had done something horrid most likely to Danny and Tucker, had run the only ghost-fighting organization—as stupid as the Guys in White were—out of town, had made the Fenton family disappear in the blink of an eye, and had tormented plenty of other individuals before her. So what in the world had possessed her to actually talk to the ghost, allow herself to be touched by the ghost, and now even take a picture together for some weirdo wolf's scrapbook?

There had to be a screw loose in her brain somewhere. Maybe three.

It wasn't just fear for her life that was making her do these things because, honestly, her life wasn't all that great. Not that she had a death wish, but still. And he also didn't seem inclined to hurt her, if his protection story was to be believed. No, it was almost like talking to him felt natural. As if she'd done it before. As if she had some idea as to what to say and what to do in order to push his buttons and drive him into a frenzy and make him listen to her. Was that odd? Didn't that sort of thing only happen in movies or books when the two soulmates finally meet each other? Automatically meshing with another person had never really happened to her, unless Danny and Tucker counted in some weird sort of convoluted way. And she certainly wouldn't put Phantom on the same level as them! Even if they annoyed her to no end, which in Danny's case was almost constant. Oh, god. Not good. The image of Danny's freshly-showered look resurfaced from the depths of her mind.

There was definitely something wrong with her.

Sam flushed a deep crimson and balled her hands into fists.

Phantom chuckled softly and leaned in to her. His lips brushed against her ear as he whispered, "Something the matter, Sammy?"

She jerked away from him and glared down at her knees. "Shut up," she grumbled.

"Hmm. Well, Wulf is gone. Now, we wait." He sighed and leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms behind his head.

Flabbergasted, Sam glanced around the room. "But when did he leave?" she gasped. She hadn't even noticed. She'd been too busy mentally kicking herself for being, well, herself.

Phantom picked idly at the frayed edges of his gloves. "When you were hungrily staring at my neck as though you wanted to devour me." He looked at her sidelong and smirked devilishly. "I know you're a vegetarian, but still, spectral vapor isn't a food, Sammy. You naughty girl."

"I was not—"

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

She growled and ruffled her hair in annoyance. "I hate you," she hissed.

"It's opposite day. I love you too, Sammy."

She sneered at him and slipped off the mattress, choosing to stand by the window instead. She wanted to be as far from him as the room would allow. He didn't protest. She heard him shift on the mattress and let out a soft, pained groan. She chose to ignore it.

The sun was finally starting to rise, steadily making its way up from the horizon. She had no idea what time it was, and really didn't have a desire to know anyway. She was trapped. She was allegedly a target for homicidal ghosts. She had no home. She had no family to turn to. Her only friends were missing, and she used the term friends loosely, and she was hungry and tired and stressed out. In one week, her entire life had been turned upside down, shaken, beaten, crushed, and incinerated. There was nothing left, aside the ghost in the room who seemed to be the victim of some serious PMS. Honestly, when she'd imagined Phantom, she hadn't imagined him to be so…playful and mischievous. Well, she'd expected him to mischievous, but not in that childish sort of way. Gosh, she wasn't even making sense to herself. In short, he just wasn't the cold-hearted, demon-spawned, evil incarnate ghost she'd originally imagined.

But she still hated his guts.

The guts that were spewing out of his many, many wounds...

The guts that had landed on her shirt and left a damp spot where it fell...

Darn it. If she was going to be protected, then her protector at least needed to be able to stand when something came along!

Muttering curses to herself and to Phantom, she rummaged through the set of drawers in the dresser and drew out random pieces of black and white and teal-colored clothing that looked suitable for what she had in mind. She fished a pair of rusty scissors out of a shelf on the desk, sat cross-legged on the floor, and started snipping the clothes into strips.

"What are you doing?" Phantom mumbled from the bed, sounding a lot more exhausted than he had just a little while ago.

"Entertaining myself," she lied, narrowing her eyes at the scissors. She couldn't believe she was doing this. Why the hell was she doing this?

"Do you want me to entertain you instead?" he asked huskily, sitting up on his elbow to smirk at her.

For a brief second, she observed him, running her gaze over the slash across his chest, the scars on his arms, the puncture holes in his leg, the blistered and cut hands. She didn't even want to imagine what his back looked like. "Would you even be able to?" she snorted, turning her eyes back to her task.

His eyes flashed, glowing and burning into the side of her face. "Is that a challenge?"

Honestly. What. Was. She. Doing? He wasn't a wounded animal. He was a ghost. She hadn't made a vow to help wounded ghosts. What was fate playing at here? She heaved a sigh and gave Phantom a stern look. "You're trying to protect me, right?"

His eyes widened marginally. He gaped at her, dumbfounded.

She felt a blush tinge her cheeks and scowled. "Then lie down and don't move. The more you try acting like Superman, the worse you'll feel later."

"So…" He glanced down at the floor then back at her. "You do care—"

"I told you to lie down! I never said I cared!" she hollered. In her rush of anger, she snipped a little too close to her finger and drew blood. Cringing, she stuck her finger in her mouth.

He was at her side instantly, his hands on her wrist. He pulled her hand away from her mouth and watched the blood bead on the tip of her finger, his gaze intent. He glanced up at her from beneath his lashes, his eyes practically smoldering, and slowly drew her finger into his mouth.

Cold. Cold. Cold. That was the only thing her mind processed. Then she felt his moist tongue swirl over her skin and shivered. "I told you to lie down," she hissed behind gritted teeth.

His pale lips curved up in a smile. He dragged his teeth across the skin of her finger as he pulled her hand out of his mouth, sending another shiver down her spine. "I'm a fast healer, Sammy. Just give me a day or two, maybe three, and I'll be smooth as silk."

"I'm bandaging you up," she said firmly. "Once I start something, I stick with it."

"And if I don't want you to?" he asked in a lilting voice.

"That's even more reason for me to do it!" she declared. She grabbed the strips of cloth she'd cut up and pointed at the bed. "So lie down."

He snickered and did as she said. "Yes, ma'am."

She leaned over him, placing one of the strips directly on to the slash running from his shoulder to his hips. Her eye was twitching. She knew it when he continued to snicker and shot him a warning glare. She flicked her fingers impatiently and he complied with her unspoken request, lifting his body horizontally in the air so that she could examine the wound on his back. Definitely the worst out of all of them. She placed wide strips from a pair of cut up pants on the mattress and gestured for him to lower himself again. She tied the pieces of cloth in front tightly, eliciting a grunt from him. "Sorry," she winced. He only shook his head.

She moved on to his leg next, peering at the deep puncture wounds as she chose a wide enough strip to cover them all. "What happened to you exactly?" she murmured, taking care not to look at his face when she asked. She lowered her head, shielding herself behind a curtain of black hair.

Phantom hesitated, long enough for her to regret the question. He made a quick shaking motion with his head that she assumed was his refusal to answer, but then he sighed throatily and covered his eyes with his arm. "Hell. That's what happened to me. I went from one battle to another with those clones. Then I was thrown in an electric cage with a shock collar around my neck that could've killed me. Then I was dragged to a slaughterhouse, literally. Then I had the longest flight of my life, barely able to keep aloft. Then a psychopath decided to mentally scar me since physical wounds weren't enough. Then I had to carry you all the way to Fenton Works when I could barely carry myself. When I woke up, I was tied to another electrical device, which Tucker shocked me with. In fact, if it weren't for the Ecto-Dejecto, I wouldn't be able to move at all."

"What?" she gasped.

Shocked by her outburst, Phantom lifted his arm from his eyes to glance down at her. "What?" he echoed.

"Ecto-Dejecto is supposed to weaken a ghost's powers!"

"Oh." Phantom cringed. "It doesn't, as you can see."

"How did you even know we injected you with that?" she demanded, tying the strip around his leg a little too tightly.

"Ow, ow! Tucker told me! I knew you'd injected me with something!"

Sam growled and tore the knot out of the strip so that she could redo it. "I'm starting to double-guess myself now," she muttered. Tucker had told her it weakened a ghost's powers. Had he known all along that it didn't? But Tucker was too…too…Tucker-ish to be that underhanded! And why would he have been siding with Phantom anyway? Unless…

Sam reached for Phantom's hands and pretended to examine them. "You did something to Tucker, didn't you? Soon after the apartment building fell?" She remembered his odd behavior distinctly. The way he'd flinched when she'd hugged him and tried to keep a safe distance away from her.

Phantom's eyes drifted from her face to the wall. "I may have…told him not to touch you," he confessed in a quiet, barely audible voice.

"And?" she prompted.

"And…maybe…accidentally…left some bruises on his neck."

"You strangled him?!"

"He's still alive, isn't he?!" Phantom shouted. He glanced away from her again. "I was angry. I'm sorry. I didn't know what I was doing," he muttered.

Sam clenched her jaw together and swiftly finished bandaging his hands. Done with her self-assigned task, she stalked over to the corner of the room and sat with her back against the dresser, facing the window. She couldn't believe him. Tucker had done nothing to him. He'd done nothing wrong. Touching her? Why was that such a big deal? Hell, if he wanted to punish every single person who'd touched her in her lifetime, he was going to have a long job ahead of him. Just what was so special about her anyway?

She sat in silence, watching the angle of the light shift as the sun rose higher and higher into the sky. She wished she could think of something poignant and poetic, but all she wanted was the day to be over. She wanted to sleep away the madness, wake up in her own comfy bed, wear her own comfy clothes, eat her own comfy food, and just continue life the way it should've been without Phantom and his world of ghosts spoiling everything. Just because she'd researched occult things in the past, didn't mean she wanted to live it now.

Maybe fate was just playing a prank on her. A really frustrating, life-threatening, infuriating, stupid prank.

"Sammy."

The sound of that voice only made her anger rise. She narrowed her eyes into thin slits and pointedly ignored him. She heard the mattress creak as he shifted his weight. A cool breeze hit her arm. She whirled her head, intent on yelling at him, but he was still on the mattress with his gaze fixed on the ceiling. Puzzled, she looked down at the floor. Her soft gasp seemed to swell in the otherwise silent room.

It was the postcard her parents had sent from Hawaii. Wish you were here! Business is good! Miss you lots! Mom & Dad.

Her eyes blurred with tears at the sight of their smiling faces. She didn't even bothering questioning why Phantom had it. She snatched up the postcard and held it to her chest.

"Dress warmly, Sammy," Phantom mumbled. "We should be leaving soon."

Although she wanted to ignore him, the notion seemed childish in her situation. She stood, turning her back to him, and smoothed the postcard out on the dresser. "Where are we going?" she asked mildly.

"Antarctica, maybe?" he said in a questioning tone. "I'm hoping for Alaska, myself."

Sam sighed and started rummaging through the drawers again. This was going to be the beginning of a most strenuous relationship.


The sound of the main door violently crashing open startled the secretary out of her seat. When she saw the panting, sweating, trembling mess of boy in the lobby, she held her finger over the panic button beneath her desk and narrowed her eyes.

"I-I…I need help," he stammered between large gulps of air.

She glanced at the boy over the rim of her glasses, raising one delicately curved eyebrow as if to agree.

"I…need to see the m-mayor."

"The mayor isn't in right now. Can I leave a message?" she asked, all courtesy and smiles, though her finger was still next to the panic button.

"Ask him…"

The boy's breathing was still erratic, but she declined offering him a glass of water in favor of him giving her the message and getting the heck out of there.

"Ask him if there's…such a thing as a ghost…that's also a human."

Her eyes widened and her red lips opened in a perfect o. "And what is your name, sir? And the number we may reach you at?" she asked, pen poised in her free hand.

"T-Tucker. Tucker Foley."

She jotted the name and number down in her neat cursive. "Is there anything else?"

The boy's face scrunched up as he debated the question. "Ask him…if he knows anything about…the incident with P-Phantom…and the Fenton family."

She nodded her head. "Of course. He'll be with you soon, Mr. Foley."

"T-thanks," he mumbled and fell to the floor, unconscious.


Author's Note: First off, thank you to all my readers and subscribers! The fact that you're actually taking the time to read my work is really something and I greatly appreciate it. Secondly, all my wonderful reviewers! I am always so excited to see your compliments and questions and introspection and everything else. I personally answer most of you, so this especially goes out to my guest readers! You guys rock! And to all the people who've added this story to your favorites list, you're awesome as well. Honestly, all of you are just so amazing. You all motivate me to write, so thank you!

Unfortunately with this note comes a bit of bad news, my summer is ending. Oh, yes it is. I won't be able to update as frequently as I have been with classes starting up again soon. I'm really sorry about that. It's a necessary evil. But I hope you'll continue to stick with me and see this story through to the end! It'll be one hell of a ride, I can promise you that. I even teared up writing some future scenes.

Thank you again everyone! Keeping reading and reviewing! And write your own stories too, since I enjoy reading as well. - Innocent Thief