The Devil's Nine
Chapter 6: An Ending
The snow clumped black and heavy, snarled in patchy furrowed snarls and marked with the tread of many booted feet. Near the remains of the front garden fence, Glenn Mills stood from a pile of scorched and waterlogged salvage, arms soot covered to the elbows. He conceded, if only to himself that he had never before been so tested. It was like rummaging through hell.
"We lost everything. Gone," his voice barely whispered across the devastation.
"It's nothin', it's nothin'. Just time to see what the next chapter in our lives is gonna be. Outta my hands now. The reverend's takin' up a collection. Sister-n-law's seein' to the kids. We got what's important."
"Mr. Mills, still, I'm sorry. I can't even imagine…" Glenn didn't turn from the wreckage of his house, and the voice trailed off into a cough.
"Like I said, we got what's important. Nothin' else matters. Kids are safe, I still got my jobs and my car to get there. Got some insurance for the bills an' what not. Family's steppin' up where our neighbors aren't. We'll get there."
Danny limped up to Glenn's side, "Are you staying with Jerri and your kids?"
Glenn snorted, "When I'm not at work or in the hospital. Speakin' of which," He now turned to give Danny a dubious once-over. "I can't imagine why we're talkin' about this here instead of there. Sit down or somethin'. I'm not fit to catch you if you tip over."
"I'm fine, really. I heal quick." Glenn snorted again. Sam chuckled a little and positioned herself at Danny's shoulder, a prop to lean against should he need it.
"He always says that, but it's only mostly true." Danny glared at her, but found that it didn't carry the same weight when delivered from a blackened eye. He changed the subject.
"I haven't heard the latest, what's being done about Mrs. Mills?"
Glenn sighed and started to rub his eyes before he remembered the mess of soot. He sighed again, blinking gritty eyes. Sam handed him a handkerchief. "The docs say she's outta danger. Mostly. From now on it's mostly time an' healin'. Gotta keep a positive attitude. So long as she doesn't get an infection or anythin' else, she'll pull through okay. Then we can start thinkin' 'bout maybe some reconstruction. Doesn't matter to me, but she might…" He turned sharply.
"Don't." His flat rebuke stopped Danny before he'd done more than draw breath.
His voice tore sharply through the chilled air. He was clearly at the end of his resources. "No more apologies. You were here when no one else cared. You went outta your way to see after our Shanna. You came and faced that monster, 'thout knowin' exactly what it was or if you could beat it. An' you still managed to save the day. My Sherry…"
Here he choked a little, but managed to continue, "… she told you we'd walk to the ends of the earth to keep Shanna an' Greg safe. That's nothin' less than the truth. It's worth any price we've paid, worth anything we still gotta face up to. You saved lives, which are the only things as can't be replaced. The rest is just scars an' the next day's work. We can deal with that. So thank you. For everythin'."
Danny's face tightened, but he managed a nod, shaking Glenn's hand gravely. Left-handed, since his right was still in a sling. "In that case, you're welcome. Umm, is it okay if I come and visit? I know the kids are probably gonna be torn up about all this. And I like them for themselves, anyway, so…"
Glenn nodded. "Yeah, yeah, you're welcome any time. If you were their hero before, well, that's gonna be a million times worse now. Could work for us, though. We've all been tellin' them things'll work out all right. Lettin' em know we love 'em. That they're still good kids an' nothin' that's happened is their fault. An' that Shanna's not damned or crazy or anythin'. But they might actually believe it comin' from you." He managed a grin at Danny's blush. "Just one last thing."
"I'll let 'em know you're stoppin' by, but hold off for a couple o' days. Alright?"
Danny looked confused. "Okay, but why?"
"Quick healin' or not, you look awful. Wait 'til you can see outta both eyes an' don't need the sling." And with this Glenn finally managed a genuine, if small, smile. He walked away with a wave.
Danny pouted, there was no other description for it. "I don't look that bad! I'm already better than I was last time Shanna saw me, right after the fight."
Sam just laughed at him and pulled him over to sit on the rear bumper of Mayor Tucker's towncar. "I don't know how to tell you, Danny, but he's right. You look like you got into a fight with a nameless inter-dimensional entity of Evil and got a world class butt-whooping."
"Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Sam. I don't know what I'd do without your daily dose of optimism and sentimentality."
Tucker rounded the back of the car to join them. "Tsk, leave the sarcasm to Sam, man. She does it better." He paused, "You still look like crap. How are you feeling?"
Danny only groaned as Sam chuckled in fiendish enjoyment.
Tucker rolled his eyes at the lovebirds, drawing out his PDA. "Okay, whatever. So, what was that thing?"
"Evil," Sam replied, simply.
"Obviously, but what should we call it? A devil or something?" He tapped rapidly on the PDA, opening a new section of files to augment the ghostly ones.
Danny shrugged his good shoulder. "Why does it matter what we call it?"
"We need a name so when we write this all down, and find all the info on whatever it was and how you're supposed to kill it…"
"Because, frankly, this way sucked." Sam interrupted, stretching her sprains and rubbing at a mild burn.
"…people will know what we're talking about."
Danny looked thoughtful, and nodded. "I guess. Something like this should never be allowed to happen again."
They looked at each other for a minute, but couldn't think of anything sufficient to describe the Thing that had come so close to gaining bloodthirsty freedom in their world. Tucker brightened abruptly. "We could call it Man-Bear-Pig."
They stared at him in mild horror.
"You know, like that cartoon on the Comic Network. They were making fun of the ex-VP and he was all 'conspiracy theory' about Man-Bear-Pig, and that's kind of what this thing was. It was a pig in the tree, then all… man-y… then it went inside and you said it got really big, so there's your bear."
Sam narrowed her eyes at Tucker. Danny was busy looking over his shoulder at a few groups of people who'd gathered to look at the wreckage of the house, shifting uncomfortably and frowning a bit. "Are these the kinds of things you think about when you're playing in the snow? You know, instead of helping your friends fight a not-going-to-call-it-THAT-nameless-evil and/or escape a burning building?"
This brought Danny's attention back. Tucker protested in a shrill, indignant voice, "I wasn't 'playing in the snow'! I heard you yell and was on my way to help when his parents pulled up." He pointed accusingly at Danny. "Jack popped out of the GAV and ran right over me. Knocked me into that snow bank and rescued you himself."
Danny laughed outright. "Sounds like Dad. At least he didn't run over you while he was in the GAV."
Tucker stuck his tongue out and turned back, "And you! You left me holding your purse. Not cool! Almost enough to maybe consider thinking about leaving you in a burning building kind of not cool!"
Sam rolled her eyes dismissively, "It's not a purse, it's my kit. I've already been over this."
Danny brought his attention back from the rubberneckers again. He frowned, "And you said we'd get an explanation after we were done. About your 'kit' and the rest of your good-luck stuff. I'm still waiting."
Sam bit her lip, "I know. Not here. Tonight, if you're free, you can come over to my room and I'll explain everything." She cut Tucker off before he could comment. "Both of you."
Tucker nodded, making a note. He commented to Danny. "Sounds fair. What are you so grumpy about, anyway? You won and you got a new power. You can teleport! I know you've been wanting that one for a while now. Just think of the possibilities!"
Danny shifted again, twisting away from the sound of one of the onlookers murmuring softly to himself. "I didn't learn to teleport."
It was his turn to get the strange look. "Dude, you disappeared. We saw you do it. Don't tell me you turned invisible to save Mrs. Mills."
"No, I teleported, but…"
"But, I didn't learn how to teleport. The house exploded and I could feel Mrs. Mills' fear and pain like she was sticking a knife into me, and I just… went. I was there and she was there, so I grabbed her and got her back out into the snow to put out the fire on her. I don't know how I did it, and I haven't been able to do it since. So it doesn't count." He shifted his shoulders uncomfortably.
Sam nudged him gently. "You'll get it. That was a bad fight. Your injuries were pretty bad; you used up a lot of energy. And your new powers always seem to use more energy than the last set. You probably just drained yourself dry. It would also explain why you're healing so slowly. What do you keep looking at over there?"
He seemed both curious and confused. "I dunno. A couple of those people over there are making me, well… itchy."
Tucker turned to look too. "It's kind of ghoulish that they just came to look and gossip like that, but there aren't any paparazzi. And none of them have come over to bother us."
Sam growled, "For once."
Danny shook his head. "No. It's just that fighting that thing and the sword talking with me left me all hypersensitive to stuff. Even the TV makes me…"
Sam stood abruptly, clutching at her bag. "It talked to you? The sword actually spoke?"
He winced, while Tucker looked on, open mouthed. "No, sort of, not really, but… it's apparently called the Fang of Rahab. It was made from the tooth of a sea serpent and it kind of… remembers that. When I touched it, it showed me. But it doesn't have a brain or a soul or anything. It didn't do more than answer my questions. And it came in pretty handy for getting rid of Big Bad. It disappeared after, so it doesn't really matter."
Sam bit her lip, consciously forcing her fingers to relax and release the bundled shapes within her oversized satchel. "I'm dating a half-ghost. I don't know why I'm surprised you had a little chat with a sword made from a piece of not-so mythological Red Sea dragon."
Danny blinked at her, but continued. "How did we get off on this tangent? My point was that I'm all hypersensitive to energy fields since then. And a couple of the people over there are grating on my nerves like nails across a sunburn."
They all turned to observe the onlookers. Tucker readied his phone to call for police assistance. "You think they're gonna cause trouble?"
Danny seemed thoughtful. "No. I think that maybe if I wasn't so touchy right now it might actually feel kind of nice. Calm. But right now I'm all sunburn and it's really uncomfortable."
Sam stood stiffly, considering. She nodded as she made up her mind. "Which ones?"
Danny pointed. "The priest and the lady in the loud shirt."
They all looked over. Both the priest and the Caribbean-looking woman stood apart from the others (and each other), and both seemed to be doing more than just looking at the debris. "Fine. Stay here."
She started off, but Danny grabbed her arm. "Boyfriend, not pet dog. What are you doing?"
Sam smiled a little bit, kissing him on the cheek. "You're right, I'm sorry." She steered both Danny and Tucker into the car. "I have a better idea anyway. You let Tucker's driver take you home and get a nap. Both of you can come over tonight and we'll have our talk."
"Sounds good, but seriously, what are you doing?"
Sam stepped away to allow him to pull the door closed and reflected on her determination to do anything in her power to keep Danny safe. She answered over her shoulder as she walked towards the two people Danny felt were sending out good, 'calm' energies.
You have answered my questions nine.
(Sing ninety-nine and ninety)
You are God's child and none of mine.
And you are the weaver's bonny.
A/N: Argh. Yeah, so I didn't end up killing anyone. I get too attached to my characters. I'm also regretting the decision to bring Glenn back for a final few words. I forgot how hard it is to write a twangy accent.
Couldn't resist the "man-bear-pig" reference for South Park when I'd realized what I managed to write. Good old Tucker for being the voice of my inner goof.
Yes, Sam picked up the Fang when Danny dropped it to teleport, and she has it stashed somewhere safe. Wouldn't you?
I'm not planning a sequel or any other writing along this storyline, but I can see this 'ruthless' Sam bringing a couple of auxiliary members into Team Phantom, even if they're from other, possibly conflicting religions of Catholicism and Voudun (voodoo). If Danny can feel them, then they're actually doing something. And that something could definitely be useful to the Team. Besides, it made a nice almost-cliffhanger place to end my story.
Thanks for reading.