AUTHOR'S NOTE: Welcome Readers, to the eighth story in my Danny Phantom series. As it turns out, this story only took me about a week to write, which has to be a personal best for me. Anyway, for those of you who have enjoyed my stories in the past, I hope that you will find just as much to like here. For those readers to whom this is your first foray into my works, you'll no doubt have some questions by the time you're through. Questions that will be effectively answered by reading the tales that came before. The order is as follows...
"Facing the Future"
"Strength in Numbers"
"Trial By Fire"
"Hearts and Minds"
"A Family Thing"
Well, those are my traditional opening remarks. Time to move on with the show. Enjoy...
Danny Phantom: Stolen Years
The sun was just barely holding over the skyline of Amity Park, which was just as Danielle would want it. After all, she was looking forward to a nice quiet evening in what had become her new life at Fenton Works. Rooting through the refrigerator for an after-dinner snack, she wasn't finding a lot among the leftovers to nosh on…or at least nothing she wanted to take a chance on, anyway. One particular container she wasn't even going to consider on opening. But as she turned toward the kitchen table, her eyes lit up as she spied a bowl of fruit and happily plucked a ripe, red apple, immediately taking a bite. After so many months of living on the streets, with only fruit stands for nourishment, Danielle had to admit, she had developed quite a taste for them.
Walking out of the kitchen into the living room, she chanced to spy Maddie sitting on the couch with Jazz hovering just behind her. On the coffee table in front of them was a small pile of hard binders with Maddie flipping through one. Eventually one sight caught their eye and neither Maddie nor Jazz could avoid regarding it with a loving grin. But almost as quickly as it appeared, the smile fell from Maddie's lips as she let out an almost mournful sigh.
"Hey," Danielle piped up as she walked over to them. "Is…everything okay?"
"Huh? Oh…hi, Sweetie," Maddie replied, reaching over and gently placing her hand against the side of Danielle's face, softly caressing her cheek with her thumb. "Oh, everything's fine, really."
We just started thinking that we need to start putting a few pictures of you in the family albums," Jazz chimed in. "So we pulled them out, one thing led to another and…I guess we got a little nostalgic."
Her curiosity sufficiently piqued, Danielle climbed onto the couch beside Maddie to peruse the albums alongside her and Jazz, hoping, maybe, to learn just a little bit more about her adopted family. Just then, one picture caught her eye of a chubby little dark-haired boy happily hugging Maddie's leg with his little arms and snuggling up against her thigh.
"Whoa," she let out in slight surprise. "Is that Danny?"
"Mmm hmm, right after his first day of Kindergarten," Maddie answered. "Oh, he was such a cute little ball of energy back then, always running here and there. Not that he's not still cute now, of course. It's just…in a different way."
Once more, Maddie looked at the photo with a warm, tender smile. But again, the feeling quickly drained away as another sigh passed her lips.
"Uh, are you okay?" Danielle felt the need to ask again.
"Huh? Oh, I'm…I'm fine," Maddie half-heartedly answered as she reached over, gently caressing Danny's chubby little face in the photo. "It's just…well, I'm not sure you'll understand what I'm talking about. It might even sound a little silly to you at your age, but…well, I know I should be happy that Danny is growing up and starting to find his own way in life. But…as a mother…sometimes I just miss that wonderful little guy who would just run up for a hug and would just get all happy and giggly when I held him in my arms."
"That's easy for you to say," Jazz argued, her mind wandering back to all the effort she had to put in trying to keep Little Danny out of trouble. "You were all about the hugs and the cuddles. But every time you took him down to the lab, who was the one who always had to run around to keep him from climbing all over because he thought everything was a toy?"
"Oh, Jazz, all little boys are rambunctious at that age," Maddie commented dismissively as Jazz gave an annoyed eye roll. "It's just…sometimes…I think I would give just about anything to have that happy, playful little man back, just for one day."
"Maddie! Kids! Come down to the lab, quick!" Jack shouted giggly, running into the living room and jumping up and down excitedly. "There's something you've all gotta see! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"
With that, Jack dashed back towards the lab, murmuring and laughing eagerly to himself. Meanwhile, Maddie and the girls could only look on perplexed, eventually tossing a bewildered glance towards each other.
"Well, look at it this way. At least you've still got HIM," Jazz remarked with a shrug as Jack disappeared down the stairs, causing her, Maddie and Danielle to laugh out loud.
"Somehow, Honey, it's…not QUITE the same thing," Maddie replied in amusement.
Over at the Manson house, Danny and Sam were just getting settled for a quiet movie night in. As Danny popped the disk into the player, Sam was already getting refreshments set up on the table in between the reclining chairs.
"Okay, running down the list," Danny announced. "Giant, big screen entertainment center?"
"Check," Sam replied. "Big budget action flick with lots of explosions?"
"Check. Buttery, lightly salted popcorn?"
"Check. Sodas?" Sam bounced back.
"Check," Danny answered, lightly hopping into one of the large recliners. "Huge reclining chairs to curl up in?"
"Got that," Sam declared before reaching over and turning down the lights with the dimmer switch. And with that, she was over to the chair in a flash, sliding into Danny's lap and gently draping her arms around his neck as she looked into his eyes with a tender smile.
"Not to mention a loving boyfriend to curl up WITH?"
"And a beautiful girlfriend for same," Danny commented, slipping his arms around Sam's waist and grinning back at her. "Of course, now that I think about it, I guess items one through four are kind of optional, huh?"
"Mmmm," Sam simply murmured in response and she and Danny moved in closer, slowly nuzzling each other.
Even as Sam felt her heart beat harder as she savored the soft friction of their noses rubbing together, taking time out for an occasional feathery kiss on the lips, she couldn't help but feel more content right at that moment, than with anything else she could think of doing. And she knew deep down that Danny was feeling the exact same way. Maybe it had something to do with that link that had steadily growing between them. Of course, for Sam, she couldn't possibly have cared less to wonder why.
"Although now that I think about it," Sam added lovingly, pausing for one more gentle peck on the lips, "We probably are going to need item one. After all, we did promise Tucker that we'd check out the news footage of him dedicating the new Cybertron computer system at Axion Labs tonight."
"Yeah, gotta support our fearless leader and all," Danny replied, looking deep into Sam's eyes as they delicately pressed their foreheads together. "But you know…I'm pretty sure we've still got a couple of hours before that happens."
Nearly halfway across Amity Park, at Axion Labs, the local press was already making their final preparations to cover the startup of the rebuilt Cybertron computer system, the central processor having been launched just a day earlier. Valerie and her father, Damon, were both in attendance for the event. And Tucker, having accepted the mayoral invite to dedicate the new computer, was centering himself as he prepared to address the room, with his busty secretary, Tanya, giving him some last minute pep-talk.
"Okay, I finalized your speech," she quietly mentioned as she straightened Tucker's tie. "I kept enough of your draft to show everyone that you do actually care about this, but I cut out anything unnecessarily flowery. I know how much you love this sort of thing, but you don't want to talk people's ears off at something like this. Just get to the point and move it along."
"Thanks Tanya," Tucker responded, centering his top hat. "I don't know what I would do without you."
"Mm, probably gotten kicked out of office in your first month," Tanya answered jokingly while she made a final straightening of his jacket.
"Your boundless faith just gets me right here, you know that?" Tucker remarked dryly, mimicking a stabbing motion to his heart.
"Go get 'em , Boss," Tanya simply replied with a smile as she nudged Tucker's arm with her fist.
With that, Tucker stepped out to the podium in front of the Cybertron Central hub, into a room of hushed murmurs from reporters and scientists alike. After taking a moment to let the blinding wave of light pass from the photographers on the scene, he cleared his throat and then began to speak.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, as Mayor of Amity Park…"
"Okay, not entirely sure what to think here," Danielle noted from the lab as she, Maddie and Jazz noted a small handful of specters and wraiths hissing and moaning from behind the clear confines of the Fenton Works' ghost containment cell. "Aren't those the ghosts Danny and Sam caught last night?"
"Dad, why aren't they in the Ghost Zone right now?" Jazz asked suspiciously as Maddie looked on with a hint of concern herself.
"What better way to test out my latest weapon in the War on Specters?" Jack announced as he pressed a button and a large, man-sized mechanical construct with a metal sphere on top rose up from the floor, much to the girls' confusion.
"I call it the Fenton Ghost Guzzler," Jack added. "This bad boy emits an energy field that absorbs all ecto-energy in the area and renders it inert, thereby reducing any ghost that crosses it to a powerless husk. I just threw it together today."
"Uh huh…riiiiiiiiiiiight," Jazz replied simply, tossing a worried glance in Danielle's direction.
"Uh, Jack, Honey?" Maddie cautioned. "It's not that we don't appreciate the enthusiasm. But…doesn't this sound a lot like a month ago when you threw together the Specter Shrieker that was supposed to cause disorientation with a high frequency sound pulse that only ghosts could hear? Remember when you tried to test it on Danny and Sam…?"
… … … …
"Danny? Sam? Can I see you guys down here for a second?" Jack called from the lab.
"Dad? What is it?" Danny replied as he and Sam came racing down the stairs.
"Oh nothing," Jack answered, rolling his eyes and trying to look as innocent as possible while he reached over to a mechanical construct with what looked like a satellite dish attached to it. "Just wanted to do…THIS!"
With a wild grin, Jack excitedly pushed the big red button on the machine. But his smile instantly vanished as he slapped his hands over his ears and fell to the ground, screaming. Danny and Sam, meanwhile, unable to hear what Jack was hearing, simply stood watching him writhe on the floor in agony before shifting their gaze to each other and shrugging their shoulders in confusion…
… … … …
"The worst part was, after you turned it on, you couldn't even shut it off," Jazz added. "You had half the town up all night because of that screeching. Do you realize that Tucker, Valerie and I were the only non-ghost people at school the next day who weren't out on our feet because we actually got some sleep? And that was because we were all wearing Fenton Phones to bed."
"Oh, Jazz, this is so totally not the same thing," Jack replied confidently. "Trust me, I know exactly what I'm doing."
"Uh, okay," Maddie answered nervously before pulling a lever and causing a thick metal wall to rise from the floor and guiding Danielle and Jazz behind it. "Danielle sweetie, I think we're going to keep you behind here with your sister for right now, just until we know this doesn't have any bugs in it."
"CONTACT!" Jack shouted eagerly, pressing the button on the Ghost Guzzler. For a moment, the machine whirred and hummed, indicating that it was getting ready to do something. But suddenly, all background noise stopped dead and all the lights went out, blanketing the lab in darkness.
"And so, without any further adieu , I turn things over to the Cybertron's head programmer, Damon Grey, who'll now bring this lab's computer system back on line," Tucker announced from Axion Labs.
Another brilliant barrage of camera flashes followed as Damon made his way to the Cybertron's central hub, getting ready to power it up and link to the Cybertron's central processor. But just as his finger pressed down on the power button, the entire lab blacked out, giving way to a clamor of confused shouting and babbling.
Downstairs in the Manson house, Danny and Sam had finally managed to come to a consensus on how to spend their night as they sat watching an explosive car chase scene play out on the big screen home theater system. Of course, it didn't keep them from squeezing at least a little bit of romance out of the moment as well as they held each other tight, snuggling cheek to cheek as the movie played out. The scene was just about to reach its climax, with the hero's car ramping through the air just microseconds ahead of a massive fireball. But just as the car's front wheels met thin air, the TV screen winked out, as did all the lights in the house, leaving the pair shrouded in complete darkness.
It took a few moments for the backup system at Fenton Works to kick in, but while the whole lab was powerless, a wave of ghostly cackling could be heard echoing through the darkness of the room. When the emergency lights finally came on, their faint glow revealed that the ghost containment cell had shut down in the blackout and all the ghosts Jack was holding captive had now escaped and were running free once again.
"Whoa," Danielle commented, peeking out from behind the shield. "Those are some big bugs."
"No, just one," Jazz replied with an annoyed tone, tossing a disapproving glance towards Jack who could only look over his invention and scratch his head in confusion.
"What the…?" Sam exclaimed, looking around as she and Danny each used an ecto-powered hand to light up the room. "Blackout?"
"I'm not so sure about that," Danny remarked with an irritated frown. "Let's just say my 'Father Sense' is tingling."
"Uh-oh," Sam responded, regarding the unhappy face of Danny, who clearly disapproved of this whole situation. But just then, she reached up and slid her hand along Danny's cheek, guiding his gaze to meet hers.
"Well, it's a setback," she added softly, looking deeply into Danny's eyes with a warm smile. "But…do you really have a problem with it?"
It was at that moment that Danny finally looked around the darkened room. A few seconds later, his eyes panned back towards Sam, who still was looking down at him with the same loving grin.
"I guess not," he answered slyly with a tender smile of his own, picking up on Sam's hint.
Sam simply let out a hollow giggle in response as they moved in, gently nuzzling each other. A moment later, the ecto-energy from their hands began to fade, returning the room to darkness just as their lips met. And from there, the blackness gave way only to a loving duet of soft murmurs and gentle kisses…
…That is, until Danny and Sam's ghost sense suddenly triggered, causing them both to snap their eyes open. A moment later, a muffled din of ghostly moans and ominous laughter could be heard from outside, causing Danny's eyes to sink into an annoyed expression.
"Okay," he noted dryly. "I got a problem with THAT."
Back at Fenton Works, Jack was mulling over the Ghost Guzzler as best he could with the limited vision the emergency lights provided, still trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. Just then, a heavy pounding could be heard at the front door, along with the stifled noises of angry muttering coming from outside. Running up stairs with the rest of the family, Jack opened the door and stepped out to see an angry mob of citizens gathered around the building with lanterns and flashlights. Leading the charge were Sam's parents, Jeremy and Pamela, who looked even more annoyed than anyone else, if such a thing were possible.
"Wow," Jack remarked to Maddie with a hint of surprise. "That's got to be their fastest time yet."
"Uh…is this something I'm going to be seeing a lot of?" Danielle asked, peeking out from behind the door.
"Trust me, you don't even know," Jazz answered, quite disapprovingly.
The sharp clap of the gavel hitting the sound block was almost as sharp as judge's words to Jack at his hearing the next day. In fact, Jack was feeling more than a little dejected as he walked out of the courtroom, with Maddie patting his shoulder and trying to be as encouraging as she could. After all, the court had ruled that if just one more of Jack's experiments caused a city-wide disruption, he would be indefinitely banned from any further experiments within the tri-city area.
"Well…that was everything I needed to know about how to issue a restraining order," Danielle commented as she came out into the hall.
"You learn something new everyday," Danny replied, walking right behind her, hand in hand, with Sam.
"You know, sometimes I think these court appearances are the only thing we do as a family these days," Maddie sighed.
"Not exactly board games around the kitchen table, now is it?" Jazz whispered to Danielle. "Still glad you fell in with THIS crowd?"
"Hey, they're still 10 times better than Vlad," Danielle answered with a shrug.
"This is true," Jazz was forced to admit.
Just then, Sam's parents, Jeremy and Pamela, happened to walk out of the courtroom doors, neither one of them particularly happy. While Jack received quite the thorough tongue-lashing, the judge's verdict was still clearly not what they wanted. And as Danny and Sam turned to them, along with the rest of Danny's family, they were quick to toss Jack a stern, disapproving frown before walking off in a huff.
"Oh, don't pay any attention to them," Sam mentioned as Danny flashed a look of concern, "I certainly try not to."
Following up with a fluttery kiss across Danny's cheek, Sam's words provided Danny with a welcome hint of relief as they tossed a tender gaze into each other's eyes. But just then, Danny and Sam's ghost sense triggered, feeling the icy breath escape their lips. As they instinctively looked around trying to detect the position of whatever it was that set them off, it was clear that the pair now had something to actually become distressed about.
"Uh-oh, looks like we missed one last night," Danny groaned before turning back to the family. "Mom, Sam and I will be right behind you, okay? Tucker's going to be meeting us at the house in a little bit. If he gets there before we do, could you just tell him we'll be there soon? Danielle, stay with Jazz. This should only take a minute."
With that, Danny and Sam took off down the hall, leaving Maddie and the others to console a still-dejected Jack. Whipping around into a nearby side corridor, they charged headlong into the wall at the far end. For anyone else, it would have been a clear dead end. But for Danny and Sam, it was just a convenient doorway.
"…Ghost," Sam finished Danny's thought as the two of them exchanged a knowing smirk.
For the briefest of moments, the hallway they had run into was brightened with a white flash. But a split second later, Danny Phantom and Sam Tasma had made their appearance, phasing through the courtroom wall and hovering high above the skies of Amity Park, looking for whatever triggered their ghost sense.
They soon discovered it, fluttering around about 50 yards away. It was a tiny little wisp of a thing, almost beyond their notice. Still, no sense in their letting it float around to cause mischief. Taking off at top speed, both Danny and Sam managed to catch up to it in seconds, with Sam dropping down in front of the little ghost's path to cut it off. Instinctively, the ghost put on the brakes and took off in the opposite direction, only to be cut off by Danny before it got anywhere at all. However, as the pitiful thing whimpered and cowered between them, Danny simply couldn't bring himself to attack it. Instead, he merely sighed as he pulled out the Fenton Thermos and promptly sucked it away.
"You've gotta be kidding," Sam remarked, almost surprised at how the ghost presented absolutely no challenge at all. "That little guy was barely worth transforming for."
"Well, the universe needs its lightweights, too," Danny answered with a shrug before taking a suspicious look around. "Still, something doesn't feel right."
Before Danny had a chance to elaborate, two laser streams shot past right in between him and Sam. Without a pause, the two looked up to see a familiar pair of flying, winged jet skis hurtling towards them. But even more recognizable were the two men riding them…the two unmistakable faces of Operative K and Operative O, both members of…
"The Guys-in-White?" Sam blurted out in shock.
"This turned out better than we could have hoped for," Operative O announced. "We were hoping that puny ghost would be enough to lure in just one of you. But now we can get rid of you both at the same time."
"That's…why this didn't feel right," Danny groaned, slumping his shoulders. "I knew this was familiar."
But Danny didn't have time to feel foolish. As the Operatives unlocked an arsenal of weapons from their vehicles, it became very apparent to both Danny and Sam that it was time to make themselves scarce. And that they did, followed close behind by a salvo of missiles and laser blasts.
"You know, could someone explain to me why I'm actually surprised?" Sam called out over the explosions roaring behind them. "I mean, I guess it WAS too much to hope for that our future selves had put these losers out of business permanently, wasn't it?"
"Well, you wanted someone worth transforming for!" Danny added. "Will THEY do?"
But Danny knew full well that this was no time for jokes as they continued to flee from the Operatives. After all, the longer this went on, the greater the chance that those trigger-happy idiots were going to end up hurting someone. And there was no way Danny and Sam could let that happen. But at the same time, the Guys-in- White were both right on their tail and neither one of them was letting up their attack for a second. If either Danny or Sam stopped to fight, they'd have no chance to counter-attack before they were blown to smithereens.
"This is no good!" Danny shouted to Sam. "We've gotta get some breathing room!"
"Hang on!" Sam replied, looking down and spotting a blind alley a block and a half down the street. "I've got it…NOW!"
Firing a Ghost Ray strand, Sam's ecto-energy morphed into a three-pronged hook, biting into the corner of the building which aligned the alley. Without a pause, she reached over with her free arm and took Danny's hand in hers. The instant, they reached the entrance of the alley, Sam pulled hard on her Ghost Ray strand, turning her and Danny's momentum into a sharp turn which snapped them into the alley and out of the Operatives' sight.
"We have them now," Operative K announced triumphantly. "There's no way out. Commence Dead End Standoff Protocol."
"Urban Edition, Paragraph 4, Subsection B," Operative O agreed as the pair sped to the alley and turned into the entrance, all weapons ready to fire at will.
"FREEZE!" both Operatives shouted in unison. But their posturing was a little premature when all they saw was Danny and Sam in their human forms. Danny was leaned back against the alley wall with Sam pressed firmly against him, their arms wrapped around each other tight and sharing a long, lingering kiss. That is, until they saw the Operatives hovering overhead and let out a yell of surprise.
"Hey! Is it too much to ask for two people to get a little privacy?" Danny shouted up at them.
"Uuuuuuuhhhh, sorry," Operative O responded nervously, clearly caught off guard along with his partner. "Uh, listen…you kids didn't…happen to see that Danny…Phantom kid or his partner…fly through here…did you?"
"Uh, hel-LO," Sam fired back. "Does it LOOK like we've been using our EYES for anything?"
With nothing to say in reply, both Operatives could only look away and scowl before flying off, both feeling very frustrated and foolish. And with the threat behind them, at least for the moment, Danny and Sam were free to let out a welcome sigh of relief.
"Nice going, Sam," Danny complimented. "Quick thinking with the 'Fake-Out Makeout', there."
"Mmmm…nothing 'Fake-Out' about it," Sam replied, pulling herself close to Danny by his shirt and looking deeply into his eyes with a sly grin. But while any other time, her advances would have been more than welcome, Danny couldn't help but have other things on his mind.
"Uh…look Sam, don't get me wrong. I REALLY like where your train of thought is going," Danny pointed out, pressing his forehead to Sam's as he pulled his body away gently. "But I still think we need to keep an eye on those two. Just to make sure they don't hurt someone, okay?"
"Oh…alright," Sam muttered with a sigh as they switched their focus back to the problem at hand and transformed once again. "It would have been nice, though…"
"Like you need to tell ME that?" Danny replied with a knowing smirk.
With that, the pair took to the skies once again, looking for any trace of the Operatives. But strangely enough, the skies were completely empty. There was no trace of them at all.
"Come on, you losers, where did you guys disappear to?" Danny thought out loud, starting to feel a little aggravated himself.
Just then, a fierce gust of wind blew up behind Danny and Sam, causing them to whirl around. And the sight that greeted them was enough to take their breath away. Appearing just a handful of feet away, as if from thin air, was what could only be described as a giant, flying aircraft carrier. Its Ghost Shield must have been equipped with some form of cloaking technology which rendered it invisible to the naked eye. And standing on the edge of the main platform behind a giant laser cannon, both wearing an ominous smirk, were Operatives K and O themselves.
"Oh…THAT'S…where they…disappeared to," Danny remarked nervously as Sam could only float beside him with her jaw hanging open.
"Targets acquired," Operative K declared. "Unleash 'Project: Whitewash'!"
"Firing!" Operative O replied as he pressed a large button on the base of the cannon.
With a wild hum, the cannon began to glow and tremble. Then, a moment later, an enormous beam of white light shot forth, striking a still-stunned Danny and Sam who could only cry out in shock and panic.
But as it turned out, neither one of them had anything to be panicked about. As the beam subsided and everyone's vision cleared, Danny and Sam had appeared to have survived the blast completely unscathed. The cannon had apparently not harmed or affected them in the least.
"It…it didn't work!" Operative O exclaimed, his face a mask of shock.
"That's impossible!" Operative K objected. "'Project: Whitewash" is a prototype weapon designed to eradicate all ecto-molecules within a target's body! It couldn't have failed!"
"Hmmm," Danny called to them, getting his head back into the fight, "Sounds like someone needs to go back to the drawing board."
Before any of the Operatives could think to respond, Danny unleashed a vicious pair of Ghost Rays from his hands, destroying the "Project: Whitewash" cannon. Following his lead, Sam spread out a wave of Ghost Ray strands, each of them forming a sharp-toothed clamp head which easily bit into the carrier's hull. And once all the strands were secure, Danny grabbed onto the strands along with Sam, the two of them using their combined strength to actually pull the enormous vessel and start swinging it around. Little by little, the momentum continued to build until finally, the carrier was twirling at top speed, with Operatives K and O unable to do anything but hold on for dear life.
"And YOU guys…need to…just…go…AWAY!" Sam shouted before she evaporated her Ghost Ray Strands.
Once the carrier was released from Sam's vanishing strands, there was nowhere for it go except hurtling over the horizon with Operative O and K yelling in terror. And now that the threat appeared to be well and truly gone, she and Danny had a moment to clear their heads and catch their breath as they hovered above the city and each put an arm around the other. Taking a moment to share a warm smile, no words really needed to be said as they eventually leaned in and snuggled cheek-to-cheek.
"Sorry about what happened at the lab last night," Jazz said in the kitchen of Fenton Works, offering Tucker a can of soda as he sat at the table. "I hope it didn't screw up your presentation too much."
"It's okay. It was more of a PR problem for Axion than for me," Tucker replied, suddenly lowering his voice. "I gotta tell you, though, Jazz, the office has been getting a lot of nasty letters about your folks. I really don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to keep ignoring them."
Before Jazz could offer up any kind of response, Danny and Sam eyes peeked up innocently through the kitchen floor. Giggling to themselves, they phased up fully into the room before grabbing Tucker's chair and giving it a good shake before turning visible.
"Oh, you guys are hilarious," Tucker remarked sarcastically, recovering from his sudden jolt as Danny and Sam enjoyed their laugh.
"Sorry, man. Couldn't help it," Danny answered, quick to make peace.
"I take it the ghost you ran into gave you a bit more trouble than you thought?" Jazz inquired.
"Actually, the ghost turned out to be the least of our problems," Sam pointed out. "Turns out the Guys-in-White are back in business now."
"Well, we had to know THAT was going to happen eventually," Tucker noted.
"Right now, I don't want to know anything about them at all," Danny stated, tossing the Fenton Thermos into Jazz's hands. "I just want to relax."
With that, Danny and Sam changed back to normal. As they'd done so many times before, they didn't even think about it at the time. But this time, for some reason, when they transformed, Tucker and Jazz both let out a gasp of shock.
"Ahhh, that's better," Sam declared, until she and Danny looked up and saw Tucker and Jazz's reaction.
"…What?" Danny asked simply.
"Mom…Dad…COULD YOU GUYS GET UP HERE RIGHT NOW?" Jazz blurted out, her voice rising to a full-blown shriek.
Within seconds, Jack and Maddie were up the stairs and into the kitchen. Even Danielle, who'd heard Jazz screaming, phased into the kitchen from the upstairs. But all three hit the room and looked over towards Danny and Sam, their faces suddenly warped into the same stunned looks that Tucker and Jazz were wearing.
"What?" Danny exclaimed before he suddenly looked around at got his bearings. "Hey, why is everyone so tall. Am I phasing through the floor? I mean, that hasn't happened in…wait a minute, what happened…to…my…voice…?"
It was then that Danny's gaze finally looked down at his body. And he couldn't believe what he was seeing. His arms and legs, once long and thin, had now become short and chubby. His clothes now looked about 10 sizes too big for him, practically swimming on him. And his voice had risen to a considerable degree. But it wasn't until he whirled around and he and Sam looked at each other that he received the biggest shock of all.
Sam…had turned little. But not just little…she'd turned YOUNG as well. In fact, she looked like she was only five years old. But what really caught Danny's attention was that she was still the same height that he was now…and if that was true…It took another moment for the reality to set in, but once it had, both Danny and Sam could only give one reaction.
"What's going on?" Sam's tiny voice squealed in a full-blown panic. "What happened to us?"
"Guys, quick, go ghost again!" Tucker shouted instinctively. "Maybe that'll reverse it!"
"No, wait…!" Jazz tried to intervene.
Unfortunately, it was too late as Danny and Sam were already in mid-morph. Closing their eyes as they changed, Danny and Sam were hoping desperately that when they opened their eyes, they would be the right age again. But they were in for no such luck as they looked at each other and found themselves still in the bodies of five-year-olds, but now simply in ghost form with oversized costumes.
"AAAHHH!" they both screamed again.
"Alright, kids, CALM-DOWN," Maddie chimed in, trying to take the reins of the situation.
"Uh, 'calm down'?" Danny exclaimed, his little voice a mixture of fear and anger. "Mom…ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION HERE?"
"Danny, she's right!" Jazz yelled back before trying to relax herself as well. "And listen, don't change back. Whatever's going on here, it happened when you guys turned human. There's no telling what another change might do to you. So whatever you do, don't transform."
"Okay…now Danny, Sam, I promise, we're going to find a way to help you reverse this," Maddie stated, getting their attention. "But, you have to start at the beginning. Tell us everything that happened."
"Danny…," Sam whimpered, taking his hand and holding it tight. Instinctively Danny squeezed back and as he looked at her, Sam could see in his big green eyes that he was just as frightened and confused as she was.
"Well, it's a good thing we never got around to giving away your old clothes," Maddie noted as Danny sat on the living room couch, dressed in little jeans and shoes, along with a white T-shirt that had a rocket ship on it. "Oh, don't you just look so cute in that."
"Uh, Mom? Not really the time?" Jazz pointed out as Tucker and Danielle tossed some stern looks in her direction.
"Right, right," Maddie replied, although as she looked back towards Danny, she couldn't help but flash a longing smile.
"Sam, were you able to find something from Jazz's old clothes, too?" Jack called up the stairs.
"A couple of things," Sam answered as she came down the stairs. Wearing a black T-shirt with frilled sleeves and a teddy bear on the front, black short pants and purple-and-black striped stockings with black buckle shoes, she was definitely keeping in step with her personality.
"Can't say I care too much about the teddy bear," she added, looking down at the shirt. "But at least it's black."
"So…what was the deal with this laser you said they hit you with?" Tucker asked as Jazz clipped a strand of Danny's hair for analysis. "Did they say what it did?"
"Well…they said it was supposed to 'eradicate all ecto-molecules within a target's body'," Danny explained as Sam climbed up on the couch beside him and Maddie clipped a strand of her hair as well. "But when they hit us, nothing happened, so we just figured it was another one of their screw-ups."
"Well, so much for that thought," Danielle observed, still wide-eyed at what she was seeing.
"Okay, we're going to check these samples out and get back to you," Maddie stated. "In the meantime, you guys stay here and try to keep calm."
"Wait a minute, you guys want us to just sit here and do nothing?" Sam argued.
"Mom's right, Sam," Jazz debated. "The truth is we still don't know what happened to you guys. This could just be the first stage of an ongoing transformation. It's only affected your bodies for right now, but it could only be a matter of time before it starts affecting your minds, too."
"Well, THAT'S a pleasant thought," Danny mused.
"Don't worry guys, we'll have this sorted out in no time," Tucker declared, trying to sound confident and upbeat. "In the meantime, just…take a little 'time out'."
"You really want to get smacked, don't you?" Sam shot back.
With nothing else to say, Maddie gently kissed Danny's head in encouragement and headed to the lab with the others. Jack and Jazz, however, were quick to notice the thrilled smile on Maddie's face as they made their way downstairs and simply responded by tossing each other a concerned look. Meanwhile, Danny and Sam, now left alone in the living room, were pretty much unhappy with their entire situation in general. But it didn't stop Sam from taking the time to scoot in a little closer to Danny.
"Your mom was right, though," she commented teasingly, reaching over and pinching Danny's chubby cheek. "You are just so cuuuuuuuuuuute."
"Sam, come on, this isn't funny," Danny complained as he pulled himself away.
"I know that, but what else am I supposed to do?" Sam replied with a shrug. "Let's face it. There's no way I'd be able to do what I normally want to do with you when we're alone and have it be acceptable now. So I might as well do this."
"Guys, I think we found something. Check this out," Jazz called over to the others as they looked at the readout on one of the lab's computer screens after what felt like forever.
"Okay, so what are we looking at?" Tucker asked.
"When Mom and Dad rebuilt the Fenton Portal, they included a program which keeps a genetic record for anyone that goes in or out. It's a way to check and see if traveling through the portal has any chance of affecting us physically," Jazz explained. "Now take a look. This is a scan of the last time Danny and Sam used the portal, just a couple of days ago."
"And this is a scan of the sample we just took from them," Maddie continued, pointing at the screen. "Judging by this, it looks as though a percentage of their genes have somehow been erased."
"And that's what turned them into kids?" Danielle chimed in.
"Well, Danny said it himself," Jazz pointed out. "The laser that the Guys-in-White hit them with was designed to eradicate eco-molecules."
"Exactly," Maddie added. "But the weapon alone must not have been enough. When Danny and Sam tried to transform, something mid-morph must have triggered the laser's effect. But the reaction was unstable. According to these readings, the effect only eliminated the ecto-molecules that were attached to certain genes…specifically the ones that control aging."
"Okay, so now we know WHAT happened. So how do we REVERSE it?" Tucker asked. Unfortunately, all his question did was draw perplexed looks shared between Jack, Maddie and Jazz.
"We're…still working on that," Jazz answered sheepishly.
Just then, a loud crash could be heard from upstairs. Surprised by the sound, Tucker and the Fentons raced up the stairs double-time, only to hear the sound of childish giggling and squealing as soon as they hit the kitchen. Immediately, they charged into the living room, only to see Danny and Sam running around and laughing hysterically. The coffee table in front of the couch had been knocked over, as had one of the living room chairs. But to Danny and Sam, this was of no consequence, as they were now both screaming with glee jumping up and down on the couch.
"Danny? Sam?" Maddie exclaimed, instantly getting their attention. Sam simply responded with a pair of innocent blinks. But as soon as Danny looked over in Maddie's direction, a wide smile crossed his face as he let out a gasp of excitement.
"It's my mommy!" he blurted out happily, hopping off the couch and running headlong towards Maddie, tightly hugging her leg with his little arms. "Hi, mommy!"
"Ooooooooohhh, Danny…," Maddie cooed joyfully as Danny, whose mind had now clearly reverted to match his body, simply gave playful murmurs and snuggled against her thigh.
"Uh-oh," Jack and Jazz muttered in unison, instantly recognizing Maddie's motherly nostalgia bubbling to the surface.
"So, uh…do you think we can maybe work FASTER?" Tucker requested, now becoming gravely concerned.
"Okay, let's look at where we are right now," Tucker noted to the group as Danny and Sam sat on the living room couch on either side of Maddie. "At this point, I think we can finally confirm that our worst fears have been realized and that Danny and Sam have now reverted to their childhood mentally as well as physically."
"Mmmm…mommy…," Little Danny murmured as he hugged Maddie's waist and snuggled in close, causing her to squeal with pure motherly delight.
"Mom, FOCUS! This is not a good thing!" Jazz exclaimed, cutting off Maddie's train of thought. "Forget the fact that we have to find a way to turn them back to normal before Sam's parents come looking for her. But Danny was enough of a handful when he was five years old the first time. Now we've got TWO of them here. And if that's not enough, this time, they can fly, turn invisible, walk through walls, they both have the strength of a bull elephant…!"
"Oooooo…" Little Danny noted quietly, noticing his finger flickering with ecto-energy as Jazz was talking. Just then, a tiny Ghost Ray shot from his fingertip, not particularly powerful, but enough to ricochet off the walls and sting Jack in the rear, causing him to leap into the air with a yelp.
"…Oh, and let's not forget THAT little feature," Jazz remarked, with Little Danny clapping his hands and giggling happily as Jack nursed his rump.
Little Sam, meanwhile, was getting some ideas of her own, watching Little Danny fire his Ghost Ray. Watching her own hands beginning to glow, she thought for a moment and instinctively, the ecto-energy morphed into a cute Ghost Ray Teddy Bear.
"Ah…!" Little Sam cooed excitedly before eagerly hugging her new toy, adding soft, giggly murmurs from her lips and little kicks with her feet.
"We've got to find a way to fix these two before they start running wild and tear the place apart," Jazz concluded.
"Well, it's a great plan. But does anyone have any ideas as to how exactly we're going to get that done?" Danielle asked before tossing an uneasy gaze in Danny and Sam's direction. "Or what we're going to do with them in the meantime?"
"Big Brother Tucker to the rescue," Tucker announced confidently as he walked over and picked up the TV remote.
With a simple finger press, Tucker flicked on the television, just in time for a cartoon to come on the air. Almost instantly, Little Danny and Little Sam turned to the screen with wide-eyed fascination; and as they walked over to the TV and sat down on the floor, they both looked to be completely mesmerized.
"What can I say? I've helped my mom do a lot of babysitting," Tucker remarked with a sly grin. "You pick up a few helpful hints."
"Which means we have work to do!" Jack announced boldly, pointing his finger skyward. "TO THE LAB!"
With that, Tucker and the Fentons made a dash for the basement, leaving Little Danny and Little Sam to watch their show in silence…at least at first. After a few minutes, Little Danny looked over towards Little Sam, who was still clinging to her Ghost Ray Teddy Bear, and gave her a mischievous nudge with his elbow, snickering under his breath. Picking up on the joke, Little Sam retaliated with an even stronger nudge, giving a giggle of her own. Quickly righting himself, Little Danny struck back, bumping Little Sam with enough force to knock her over and chuckling in victory. But he wasn't about to feel victorious for long as Little Sam changed her Ghost Ray Teddy Bear into a large Ghost Ray Pillow, walloping Little Danny in the face and knocking him flat on his back, laughing with enjoyment.
But Little Danny wasn't about to leave it at that. Snapping back up, he lunged towards Little Sam, tackling her and sending them both rolling along the floor. After a few moments, though, Little Danny quickly took advantage as he rolled on top, pinning Little Sam's hands to the floor. And no matter how hard Little Sam struggled, she just couldn't manage to break free.
"Got you now," Little Danny taunted playfully.
It certainly appeared that way as Little Danny was clearly the stronger of the two…or at least that much stronger that Little Sam couldn't fight him off. But Little Sam still had a few tricks up her sleeve to come back with. Before Little Danny even knew what was happening, Little Sam raised her head to the side and quickly planted the wettest, sloppiest kiss she could make right onto his cheek.
"Aaahh!" Little Danny grimaced, pulling away and frantically wiping his cheek. But his diverted attention was more than enough for Little Sam to scramble to her feet and run for the stairs, laughing all the way.
"Ha ha! Kissed you! Kissed you!" she teased, sticking her tongue out at Little Danny before running up the stairs.
"You…! I'm gonna get you!" Little Danny shouted, chasing a giggling Little Sam up the stairs just as Jazz and Danielle had come up from the lab to investigate the commotion.
"Well, I should have known THAT was too good to be true," Jazz muttered, realizing that Tucker's brilliantly placed distraction hadn't worked nearly as well as they'd hoped.
Like a shot, Jazz and Danielle were up the stairs, following the sounds of crashing and thumping. As they reached the second floor, Little Sam came phasing through the door of Danielle's bedroom with Little Danny in hot pursuit, both of them running around and around Jazz and Danielle and nearly spiraling them over before passing through the wall into Jazz's room.
Instinctively, Danielle flung open the door to her room to find it completely turned upside down. The bed had been flipped over, her dresser knocked on its side, clothes strewn everywhere. And as Danielle's eyes panned over the devastation, she could only twitch in response as her anger began slowly bubbling to the surface.
"I'm gonna MURDERIZE those little brats!" she hollered, losing all reasoning as she changed into her ghost form.
"Hold it!" Jazz intervened, grabbing Danielle by the collar of her suit just as she was about to lunge into Jazz's room. "Danielle, calm down. Now I know this looks bad, but take it from someone who's had just a little bit more experience at being a big sister. It's not their fault, they just don't understand. They've just got all this excitement and curiosity inside them and they don't know what to do with it all. The trick is to find a good, constructive outlet that will allow them to use all that hyper energy in the most positive way possible. Now, what we want to do is…"
Unfortunately, Jazz was cut off as Little Danny and Little Sam phased back out through her bedroom door. Giggly Little Sam was dragging one of Jazz's pink scarves behind her, still being chased by Little Danny who had one of Jazz's hats on his head, completely covering his eyes. Instantly fearing the worst, Jazz ran into her room, only to see it in the same state of carnage as Danielle's room was in…maybe even worse as some of her pillows and stuffed animals had been torn open and tufts of stuffing were delicately fluttering down like show.
"You know Jazz, I've gotta hand it to you. You just really know how to put things in perspective," Danielle replied with a sly grin as Jazz could only hang her head and groan.
Things only went downhill from there. For most of the afternoon, Fenton Works was filled with a duet of two laughing children and the sounds of bumping and crashing. And unfortunately, Tucker and the Fentons were so busy trying to maintain order that no more than one person could be in the lab at any given time to come up with a solution for Little Danny and Little Sam's condition.
"Danny…son…come down off the ecto-supercollider!"
"Sam, quit hiding in the walls with those cookies!"
"Da…Danny…Danny? Put the couch down!"
"Sam honey, please stop walking on the ceiling!"
By the time it was all said and done, Jazz, Maddie and Jack were slumped, exhausted, in the living room. Tucker was still on his feet, but it was clear that he would soon be down for the count as well, with Little Danny playfully riding on his shoulders while a squealing Little Sam was tugging on his shirt sleeve.
"Uuuuhhhhh, okay…I know when I'm licked," Maddie groaned. "The next time I start pining for Danny's childhood, someone just drop a heavy object on my head."
"Will do," Jack and Jazz replied weakly, both managing to lift a shaky "thumbs up".
"Well…we've been pretty lucky so far," Tucker panted, finally collapsing onto the couch beside Jazz. "But…has anyone given any thought about what we're going to do if those two suddenly decide to go outside?"
"Don't worry," Jack announced faintly. "I've already put up the Ghost Shield around the house. They won't be going anywhere."
Just then, Little Danny and Little Sam ran by, giggling all the way. A second later, they both phased out the door. But instead of being forced right back inside, all that Jack and the others could hear were the sounds of their playful commotion only getting further and further away.
"Oh, wait…that's right…I MEANT to do that," Jack remembered, forcing a heavy frustrated sigh out of Maddie, Jazz and Tucker.
"I'll get them back," Danielle chimed in as she transformed, being the only one who still had any energy left. "But while I'm doing that, SOMEBODY please come up with SOME way to get them back to normal!"
With that, Danielle was out the door and beginning her search for Little Danny and Little Sam. Little did she know as she began her search that she wasn't the only one who was on the hunt. Barreling above the streets on their flying jet skis, Guys-in-White Operatives O and K were back on the scene doing some seeking of their own.
"I fail to see how we're supposed to find anything just flying around like this," Operative K remarked.
"Fair point," Operative O replied. "But this mission has already cost us one prototype weapon and a 20 billion-dollar airship. We can't just swallow that and report to Agent Alpha, empty-handed. We have to bring back SOMETHING."
Just then, the sound of children's laughter echoed in the Operatives' ears. Turning in the direction of the sound, the pair spotted Little Danny and Little Sam running down the block. Giggling happily, the two had no idea that they had even been spotted.
"Two more ghost kids?" Operative K noted with a bewildered stare. "You think they're related to those punks, Phantom and Tasma?"
"No, I think it's more than that," Operative O answered, his eyes squinting through his sunglasses as he observed the pair intently. "Ecto-readings are significantly lower, but the frequencies are completely identical. This is going to sound strange but…somehow, I think it actually IS them."
"You're saying they've been…turned into little kids?" Operative K exclaimed. "But how…? Do you think maybe the cannon…?"
"I don't know," Operative O replied before tossing a sinister grin in Little Danny and Little Sam's direction. "But that's what we have a whole Science Division for."
With that, the Operatives swarmed in to attack while Little Danny and Little Sam remained blissfully unaware of the danger that was bearing down from above. But they were about to receive a frightening announcement as the Operatives fired a pair of laser blasts that exploded into the sidewalk in front of them. Stunned and disoriented, neither Little Danny nor Little Sam had any idea what to do as the Operatives hovered overhead, their weapons trained on them menacingly.
"Alright, you two, that's far enough," Operative O declared. "You're coming with us whether you want to or not."
Little Danny had no way to respond to this sudden threat that appeared. He could only stand rooted to the spot in shock. Even Little Sam was at a loss, almost on the verge of crying as she cringed behind Little Danny.
"What a disappointment," Operative K noted, almost sneering in disgust. "After all the trouble these two gave us, this is just all-too easy."
"Oh, that's a crying shame!" A sarcastic voice called from out of nowhere, a split-second before two full-power Ghost Rays slammed into the Operatives' vehicles, sending them spiraling into the sky as Danielle appeared on the scene. "Let's see if we can't crank up the difficulty level a little bit for you guys!"
Little Danny and Little Sam couldn't be happier to see Danielle as she dove down to the street, scooping them both up in her arms and bursting off as fast as she could. But danger was already following close behind as the Operatives quickly recovered and immediately gave chase, firing an endless volley of laser blasts. Blasts which, for all of Little Danny and Little Sam's panicked screaming and squirming, took Danielle all of her concentration to try and dodge.
"You've got to be kidding!" Operative K shouted over the salvo of lasers. "Now there's a THIRD ghost kid? Is there some kind of epidemic in this blasted town?"
"Look at it this way," Operative O called back, "Just one more guinea pig for the lab guys to play with,"
Meanwhile, Danielle was doing everything she could to stay ahead of her pursuers. But as the chase continued, one thing was becoming clear. There was no way she was going to be able to lose them, as close behind as they were. She couldn't fight them with Little Danny and Little Sam to care for. And she couldn't risk leading them back to Fenton Works. The only way Danielle's options were going to improve was if she managed to gain a little ground. And there was only one way she could think of to do that.
Stopping short, Danielle turned on the ball of her foot and charged into the attack, phasing herself, Little Danny and Little Sam through the torrent of laser fire. Within seconds, she passed right in between Operatives K and O, moving so quickly that the two of them nearly blasted each other out of the sky. Unfortunately, such luck was not to be had as the Operatives both managed to hold their fire at the last microsecond. But the disorientation of the moment was enough for Danielle to turn herself and her precious cargo invisible, flying them into a nearby alley and hiding them behind a dumpster without being spotted.
"Whew…let's not try that again anytime soon," Danielle remarked, somewhat amazed that her plan had worked before turning her attention to Little Danny and Little Sam. "Alright, now I need you two to listen to me. You stay here, you understand? Whatever happens, whatever you see or whatever you hear, you stay right on this spot and you don't go anywhere until those guys are gone, okay?"
Trembling and whimpering, Little Danny and Little Sam seemed far too hysterical to understand anything of what Danielle was trying to tell them. But Danielle knew she couldn't leave without making sure they followed her instructions exactly.
"Guys, listen, it's going to be okay," she added, getting their attention spoke in hushed tones. "I know what I'm about to say probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you right now, but I owe you guys everything. You gave me a real home and a real family…I can never thank you enough for that. And I promise, I am not going to let ANYONE hurt you guys, EVER. But you have to listen to me and stay right here…right where I tell you. Can you do that?"
Frightened as he was, Little Danny managed to find enough presence of mind to respond with a shaky nod of his head. Now confident that he would listen, Danielle simply gave an encouraging nod and turned her attention to Operatives O and K, who had just hovered into sight. No turning back now. Bursting into the air, Danielle slammed her fists into the flyers, sending both Operatives into a dizzying spiral before turning to face them down.
"You two are unbelievable!" she shouted down at O and K as they shook the cobwebs out of their heads. "Attacking a couple of defenseless kids? And you actually think you're the GOOD guys?"
"We're not about to be judged some unauthorized ectoplasmic entity," Operative O shouted back.
"Okay, how about 'executed'?" Danielle challenged, her hands blazing with ecto-energy.
Taking the dare, Operatives K and O streaked forward, unleashing a merciless barrage of lasers. Danielle, meanwhile, managed to respond to the attack by either dodging the blasts or countering them with her own Ghost Rays. For a time, the battle appeared to be evenly matched. And as Little Danny watched it unfold from the safety of the alley, he found himself believing that Danielle might actually win.
But such hopes were quickly dashed as Operative K fired a blast of energy which created a sphere around Danielle's body, like a Ghost Shield. Instinctively, Danielle tried to break out by firing a pair of full-force Ghost Rays. But the beams simply bounced repeatedly off the inner walls of sphere before finally striking Danielle in the back and dropping her to her knees. Sensing an opening, Operative K activated a switch on his flyer and the sphere instantly deflated like a balloon, enveloping tightly around Danielle. And try as she might, Danielle was unable to free herself, feeling like she was trapped inside a rubber glove. A moment later, Operative O opened up what appeared to be a pair of clamps on the front of his flyer. And an energy field burst from them, wrapping around Danielle's prison and holding it in place.
"There. I think that's enough of that," Operative O declared with a victorious smirk.
"What about the other two?" Operative K felt obliged to ask.
"There's no hurry. In their current state, we can hunt them down now, anytime we want." Operative O replied. "Right now, one test subject is better than none."
With that, the Operatives took off into the sky, with a helpless Danielle in tow. And as they disappeared from sight, Little Danny and Little Sam could only look on, saddened, terrified and unable to do anything about it.
"Hey! I think we've got something!" Jazz exclaimed from down in the lab as she looked at a computer readout, feeling a ray of hope starting to shine.
"What is it?" Tucker asked enthusiastically.
"Well, you remember the first time we ran into that awful Johnny 13?" Maddie replied. "Well, that was when we learned something very important about the Fenton Portal. If the portal is closed before someone crosses the threshold, it causes a molecular instability in whoever or whatever is inside."
"Okay…but how does that help?" Tucker inquired.
"Well, there's a chance that we might be able to use that instability to our advantage," Jazz answered, calling up a familiar pair of readings. "We still have the genetic profiles from the last time Danny and Sam went into the ghost zone, just a couple of days ago, before the Guys-in-White hit them with their weapon. The idea is, we close the Portal and create that instability. Then, if we feed these genetic profiles into the control system while Danny and Sam are still inside, it may be possible to 'trick' the Portal into thinking that they're both still in their unaltered state. So once the reopened Portal allows Danny and Sam to rematerialize, it should replace those genes that the laser erased and they'll come back through the portal, good as new."
"You really think this'll work?" Tucker wondered.
"To be honest, we're…not entirely sure," Maddie had to admit. "Right now, this is all just a theory. The Fenton Portal was never intended to be used this way. There's no telling what might happen."
"Well, right now, 'just a theory' sounds a lot better than nothing," Jack announced, not feeling particularly discouraged. "Now as soon as Danielle comes back with Danny and Sam and once we've conducted a few tests, we can…"
Just then, Jack's words were cut off by a series of whimpers coming from the lab entrance. Whirling around, everyone immediately found the source as Little Danny and Little Sam both stood trembling at the foot of the stairs.
"Danny? Sam?" Maddie called over as she and the others ran over to them. "What's wrong? Are you two alright…?"
Neither Little Danny nor Little Sam could bring themselves to look Maddie in the eye. Little Sam could only bury her face into Little Danny's shoulder as she clung tightly to his shirt, choking and sobbing. Little Danny meanwhile, was trying hard to maintain his composure. But even as he clenched his tiny fists and an angry scowl crossed his chubby face, even he couldn't keep himself from sniffling sorrowfully.
"Are we absolutely sure we want to try this now?" Tucker asked worriedly as Little Danny and Little Sam stood in front of the Fenton Portal, both half-smothered inside their full-sized ghost uniforms. "Didn't you guys just get through saying this was all just a theory?"
"I don't see that we have any choice," Jazz answered, surrendering to the urgency of the situation. "Danny and Sam are the only way we have even a CHANCE of rescuing Danielle. We NEED to get them back."
"Yeah, but…," Tucker started to object. But as he gazed into Jazz's eyes and saw Jack's fists tightly clenched as they both looked towards Little Danny, it became clear to him then that they both understood full-well the danger that they were courting through this course of action.
"Okay, Danny, listen to me," Maddie instructed as she knelt in front of Little Danny, trying to remain as calm as possible, despite her voice cracking with worry. "I know you're very little and there's a lot going on here that you don't understand, but Mommy needs you to do a very grown-up thing, okay? When you walk into the portal, we're going to close the door. But don't be afraid. I promise, your Daddy, your sister and me, we're all going to be right here for you. And we're going to do absolutely everything we can to keep you safe…okay?"
"Okay…," Danny answered simply. And his perfectly innocent response pushed Maddie over the edge as she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"I love you so much…," she whispered in his ear before finally managing to pull herself away and join Jack, Jazz and Tucker behind the portal controls.
Looking back over at his family with a pair of blinks, Little Danny then turned back to the Fenton Portal and started walking towards it with Little Sam. But as they got just a few steps from the threshold, Little Sam suddenly broke down, running from the portal as fast as she could, curling up into a ball and huddling behind a computer panel.
"Sam?" Tucker called over gently as he and Jazz cautiously made their way over to her. "Are you scared?"
"Mm…mmmmm…," was Little Sam's only reply, as she hid her face and trembled in the corner.
Clearly, the attack from the Guys-in-White, combined with the ominous nature of the Fenton Portal had been far too much for Little Sam's tiny mind to process. And Tucker and Jazz had absolutely no idea how to persuade her to go through with the plan. In spite of the fact that she definitely needed to be cured, forcing her to go through with this insane plan would have been absolutely unthinkable. But just then, they looked over to see Little Danny walking up Little Sam. And for some reason, Tucker and Jazz could feel something at that moment that made them both back away and give them their space.
"It's okay, Sam," Little Danny perked up, causing Little Sam to look up at his face. "Look, look, see? I'm not scared. I'll hold your hand if you want. You don't have to worry, I'll be with you. And I'll keep all the bad stuff away. I promise."
Without a pause, Little Danny held his hand out to prove that he was brave. And after a few nervous moments, Little Sam eventually reached out and took it. And as she stood up, holding Little Danny's hand tightly in both of hers and looking into his eyes, Tucker and the rest of the Fentons could feel something flowing through the air at that moment. Little Danny and Little Sam might not have been able to define it or understand what was happening at that moment. But somehow, the essence of the love that had blossomed between Danny and Sam over the last few months seemed to be coming into play, flowing to the surface and joining them together, allowing them to share communication almost without the need for words. But at no point was it more apparent than when Little Sam slowly leaned over and placed the softest, most tender kiss she could make onto Little Danny's cheek.
Little Danny didn't seem to quite know what to make of the gesture at first, responding only with a pair of wide-eyed blinks as Little Sam pulled back quickly and turned her head away. Little Sam wouldn't meet his eyes for another few seconds as she squirmed and fidgeted shyly. But finally, she turned to face him again, with a tiny, blushing smile crossing her cheeks.
"I really like you, Danny," she murmured bashfully, causing Little Danny to simply reply with an innocent, happy smile of his own.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWW!" Jazz and Maddie blurted out together, their eyes welling up with emotion. But then they looked over to see Jack and Tucker answering them with dull expressions, neither one of them looking particularly impressed.
"Oh, come on!" Jazz argued, she and Maddie still deeply moved by the moment. "That was A-DOR-A-BLE!"
But now was not the time to be distracted by moments of cuteness. A few seconds later, Little Danny and Little Sam were walking back towards the Fenton Portal, both holding each other's hand tightly and not about to let go. After what felt like an eternity, they finally reached the threshold and stepped inside, both turning to take one last look back at Tucker and the Fentons before Jack solemnly pressed the button, closing the door behind them. And at that moment, there was no turning back. All the chips were on the table and absolutely everything would depend on what happened in the next few seconds.
"Please, Please, PLEASE let this work…," Jazz whispered, taking one of Maddie's hands in hers and one of Tucker's hands in the other as Maddie began uploading Danny and Sam's previous genetic profiles into the Portal's control system.
Again, time seemed to stop as a waving hum began to emanate from the closed portal as the upload progressed. Eventually, though, the upload was completed and the humming subsided. At that moment, with every available finger in the room crossed and not a single person daring to let out a breath, Jack opened the portal. At first, no one could see anything and everyone's heart jumped into their throat with dread…until a single foot stepped out…
And Danny and Sam emerged from the portal…aged properly and good as new!
"Hey kids," Danny muttered weakly as he and Sam could only stand together in a daze. "We're home."
"YES!" Tucker shouted triumphantly before running over with Jack, Maddie and Jazz to give Danny and Sam a warm hug of joy. But just at that moment, Danny and Sam winced violently, both letting out a yelp of pain.
"Danny? Sam? Are you alright?" Maddie asked worriedly.
"Uuunnh…just fine if you don't mind going through 10 years of growing pains in 10 seconds," Sam groaned uncomfortably as Danny clenched his fists tightly in an attempt to bear it.
"Yeah, but the muscle cream is going to have to wait," Danny added with a scowl, his voice lowering to an evil hiss as he and Sam trudged toward the stairs. "Right now…there are a few Guys-in-White that we need to turn black and blue."
"Danny, wait!" Jazz exclaimed, running to the door and cutting them off. "You can't just go running off like this! Look, I get that you're mad. We want to save Danielle as much as you do. But you can't take on all the Guys-in-White by yourselves. You'll get slaughtered!"
"Jazz is right, Dude," Tucker added. "I mean, a handful of them, sure. I'd put even money on you guys any day of the week. But you've gotta believe that they've got Danielle locked up tight at their headquarters and that's storming a fortress. You and Sam alone, you'll be lucky if that gets you even HALFWAY there. We need to come up with some kind of a plan."
Tossing each other a very reluctant look, Danny and Sam finally had no choice but to slump their shoulders and concede the point. After all, it was all too true that the only way they were going to have any hope of overcoming the entire Guys-in-White organization was if they came up with a strategy to level the playing field. But suddenly, after a few seconds of thought, Danny's eyes suddenly lit up before narrowing into a pair of evil slits.
"Hmmmm…" he mused, his lips curling into a sly grin.
"Uh-oh, he's got that look in his eye," Sam noted with an enthusiastic smirk. "This is gonna be good."
"You have an idea?" Tucker asked, eagerly anticipating Danny's response.
"I'm getting one," Danny answered confidently before sending his gaze across the room. "But let's just say this is going to require access to a certain individual's special brand of genius."
Just then, Sam and the others turned their eyes to where Danny was looking…just a few feet away, towards none other than Jack. Jack, meanwhile, could only respond to everyone's stares with a pair of confused blinks.
Parked in an alley half a block away from the Guys-in-White HQ, Danny and Sam, still in their ghost forms hopped out of the Fenton RV with Maddie, Jazz and Tucker in tow. But one noticeable difference was their definite change in clothes. Instead of their usual attire, they were instead decked out in dazzling white suits with black shoes, gloves and sunglasses.
"Your dad ACTUALLY made 'Guys-in-White suits for the whole family," Sam remarked sarcastically to Jazz as they emerged from the alley. "You know, I really have to stop being surprised at these things."
"Well, we may be dressed for the occasion," Tucker pointed out. "But does anyone here think they're actually going to believe that we're real-live Operatives?"
"All these suits have to do is get us to the front gate," Danny replied. "After that, it's not going to matter."
Meanwhile, inside the headquarters, Danielle wasn't particularly enjoying the company she'd been saddled with, being stuck in a large steel room with Operatives K and O. Of course, it didn't help when she was also pinned down to a cold metal table, while ecto-resistant shackles around her wrists and ankles prevented her from escaping.
"You know guys, speaking as a girl who's been strapped to a lab table or two in her time, I've gotta tell ya," Danielle noted simply. "You guys REALLY aren't impressing."
"Well, we'll just see how impressed you are after you've spent some time with our resident ecto-biologist," Operative O replied as a pair of doors slid open and in walked a tall, thin, disturbingly pale man with blood-red goggles, a white lab coat and a smile that was every bit as creepy as the rest of him.
"His Operative name is 'Doctor'," Operative K added. "Once he's extracted every bit of genetic knowledge that makes you ghost kids tick, we'll be able to finally eradicate you menaces once and for all."
"You've got to be kidding…HIM?" Danielle shot back, still unmoved. "Please, you guys don't even LOOK like you know what you're doing."
"Doctor…she's all yours," Operative O stated ominously as the man known only as "Doctor" let out a lisping chuckle and slithered over to a cabinet containing a set of sharp, jagged and thoroughly unpleasant-looking instruments.
"What do you say we start out by testing your pain receptors?" he hissed menacingly, as he took his time selecting which fiendish tool he wanted to use first in an attempt to increase Danielle's fear.
Outside the headquarters, Danny and the others had just reached the front gate. As expected, two Operatives stood watch at the gate's guard post. And neither one looked particularly welcoming as Danny and the group approached.
"Password Authorization," one of the Operatives requested sternly, stepping out of the booth as Maddie made her way to the forefront.
"We're-in-position," Maddie whispered simply as she, Jazz and Tucker each placed a pair of Fenton phones in their ears.
"What?" the Operative exclaimed as both he and his partner prepared to take aggressive action. But that was the least of their concerns when just at that moment, the entire headquarters completely went black, losing all power.
"What the…?" Operative K blurted out as the emergency lights went on before the Doctor could begin his cruel experiments on Danielle. "A blackout?"
"Impossible!" Operative O responded in disbelief. "This facility has enough power for half a city! It can't just 'blackout'!"
But before anyone had a chance to even think of looking for answers, both Operatives O and K, along with the Doctor, suddenly clamped their hands over their ears and fell to the floor, all crying out in agony. Danielle, meanwhile, still shackled to the table, could only look on at what was happening, with absolutely no idea what was going on.
"We're in," Maddie reported through the Fenton Phones, running past the screaming Operatives alongside Danny and the others. Meanwhile, back at the Fenton RV was the object of Maddie's communication as Jack, dressed in his own "Guys-in-White" suit, stood by the Ghost Guzzler, which was draining the headquarters of power. And placed right beside the Ghost Guzzler was none other than the Specter Shrieker, which was incapacitating the Operatives.
"This is the last place I ever thought I'd be using these things," he thought out loud, sounding almost regretful before steadying himself, turning the Specter Shrieker up to an even higher setting. "But heroes or no…NO ONE messes with Jack Fenton's kids!"
Back outside the headquarters' entrance, Danny and Sam were phasing through their "Guys-in-White" suits, letting them fall to the ground. With the two of them feeling a little more battle ready in their traditional costumes, now seemed the best time to show it as a pair of Ghost Rays from Danny and a Ghost Ray Pile Driver from Sam shattered the front doors, letting the rescue team inside.
"Okay, Sam and I are going on ahead," Danny announced as he and Sam fitted their ears with Fenton Phones to maintain communication. "We can cover more ground by phasing through the building. But whoever finds Danielle first lets everyone else know, alright?"
"RIGHT!" all the others replied in unison.
With that, everyone split up to begin the search. Almost immediately, Danny was moving up through the building, checking every room floor-by-floor. Meanwhile, in the lab where Danielle was being held, Operatives O and K were managing to gather enough presence of mind even with the din ringing in their heads to find their way to the doors of the lab and escape outside. Danielle, watching her would be tormentor, the Doctor, still writhing on the floor, had yet to figure out what it was they could hear that she couldn't. But she soon had other thoughts to occupy her mind as Danny phased up into view, turning around to see her.
"Danielle?" Danny exclaimed as he saw her.
"Danny!" Danielle shouted, overjoyed beyond belief.
"Guys, I'm in a lab on the 12th floor. I found her. Let's all rendezvous and get out," Danny reported through the Fenton Phones before blasting away Danielle's shackles with a few well-placed Ghost Rays. "Miss me?"
"Danny," Danielle sighed as she threw her arms around him and they hugged each other tight. "You're back."
"Hey, you didn't think I'd let anything happen to you, did you?" Danny replied, letting Danielle snuggle against his cheek before pulling away and taking her hand. "Come on, we're out of here."
"Not just yet," Danielle objected, turning her attention to the Doctor with a wicked smirk. A second later, the Doctor was sent crashing through the lab door and slamming into the far wall, where he crumpled into an unconscious heap.
"Okay…NOW we can go," Danielle stated as she dusted off her hands, feeling quite satisfied.
With that, Danny and Danielle were off, making their way downstairs to the main floor. At the same time, Jazz and Sam had managed to run into each other and were heading up the stairs just to make absolutely sure that Danny and Danielle didn't need any help. A correct precaution as it turned out. Because just as Danny and Danielle phased through the ceiling three floors down, they were met with a barrage of laser fire. Luckily, Danny was able to throw up a sphere of ecto-energy just in time to protect them.
"Freeze, Phantom!" Operative O and K shouted together, with a handful of other Operative arrayed behind them. Not only had they managed to find weapons, but they were all wearing headphones that apparently now protected them from the Specter Shrieker's effects.
"Wait a minute…he's back to normal? How did THAT happen?" Operative K exclaimed in confusion. But it was a confusion his partner didn't feel inclined to share.
"Attention Danny Phantom and the unknown unauthorized entity!" Operative O announced, "As a duly appointed representative of the United States Government, I declare you trespassing and in violation of ecto-containment and control protocols. And we are hereby placing you both under arrest."
Just then, Sam and Jazz burst through the door of the hall that Danny, Danielle and the Operatives were in. Luckily, the Operatives were too preoccupied to notice. Instinctively, Sam was about to throw herself directly into the fray. But Jazz quickly barred her way with her arm, silently directing Sam's attention to Danny, whose face was flashing a determined glare towards the Operatives as he gently slipped Danielle behind him.
"You know, that was quite a mouthful, there. Now let me make a declaration of my own," Danny replied to Operatives O and K as his eyes glowed angrily and his hands blazed with ecto-energy. "Right now, anywhere that's even REMOTELY near me is not a safe place for any of you to stand…"
"…because nobody…and I mean NOBODY…attacks MY-LITTLE-SISTER."
Slamming his fist into the floor, Danny unleashed a searing wave of Ghost Ray energy which swept all the Operatives off their feet before any of them could even think to retaliate. A split second later, Danny burst forward to press the attack. And as the air echoed with the sounds of screaming Operatives and laser blasts, all Danielle could hear were the last words Danny spoke as she stood rooted to the floor.
"I'm his little sister…," she uttered softly, the warm smile on her face showing just how touched she truly was.
"Uh, don't you want to help?" Sam had to ask Jazz as the sounds of the battle continued.
"In a minute," Jazz replied, leaning against the wall with a satisfied grin. "I'm just really enjoying this 'Overprotective Big Brother' phase he's starting to go through."
"It IS cute, isn't it?" Sam had to admit, savoring the moment just a little bit longer before finally jumping in. "Okay, that's enough. I'm missing all the fun."
With Sam now in the fight, there wasn't much for Jazz to do except enjoy the view of Operatives flying past her in all directions. Within moments, the final Operatives were down, leaving O and K left to face down Danny and Sam. With Danny flashing a glowing-eyed scowl and Sam with a wicked grin and a pair of Ghost Ray Nunchuks to dish out some beatings, neither O nor K had any idea on how they were going to win now. Not that it mattered as suddenly a pair of hands reached up from behind, pinching a set of nerve clusters at the base of their necks and rendering them both unconscious. And with that, the pair collapsed to the floor, revealing that Maddie was the one standing behind them.
"Can we please not keep your father waiting?" She requested simply, pointing at her watch while Danny and the others could only respond with wide-eyed looks.
"I have SO got to get her to teach me that," Sam stated plainly.
Moments later, Danny and the others were heading for the front doors, having accomplished what they set out to do. But at the same time, something didn't feel quite right…almost like something was missing. A second later that something was revealed as Tucker suddenly appeared, running alongside them.
"Where were YOU?" Sam exclaimed.
"Oh, you'll see," Tucker replied with a knowing smile.
Within minutes, the entire crew was off the property and making their way to the alley. In the end, Danielle had just enough time to share a quick hug with Jack before everyone piled into the Fenton RV with all the equipment and sped away just as a large white Humvee drove up to the front gates.
"A…Agent Alpha…," a groggy Operative K stammered as he and Operative O stumbled to the gates.
"I receive a report that you captured a ghost child, and this is what I arrive to find?" Agent Alpha inquired gruffly as he reached the gates, followed closely by two other Operatives. "Is THIS Standard Operating Procedure when dealing with the capture of a live specimen? Speaking of which, where IS the live specimen?"
"Uh…well, Sir…you see…" Operative O tried to explain before something caught his eye.
Just then, Both Operatives O and K went wide-eyed as they looked upward, backing away, much to Agent Alpha's surprise. But he was about to get another one as he whirled around with his fellow Operatives to see Danny floating just overhead, with arms crossed and stern frown.
"You the boss?" he called down to Agent Alpha.
"And just what does an unauthorized entity want with me?" Agent Alpha demanded, his two Operatives drawing their weapons as Danny landed.
"Consider this a singing telegram…," Danny answered.
Before Agent Alpha or any of the Operatives could react, Danny let loose with his Ghostly Wail. Swept up by the pressure and sound, not only were Agent Alpha and the other Operatives sent flying, but every outside window of the Guys-in-White headquarters was completely shattered. And while Danny could have pressed the attack further, he only held it for a few seconds before stopping, confident that he made his point.
"Now listen up! I don't care who you guys claim to speak for!" he warned, pointing a threatening finger in their direction. "But if I so much as THINK that any of your goon squad is in Amity Park ever again, that's just a taste of what you have to look forward to!"
With that, Danny took off into the sky, leaving the Operatives dazed and Agent Alpha glaring in rage. A few moments later, Danny reached where the Fenton RV had parked, phasing through the ceiling and rejoining his family and friends.
"So how'd it go?" Jazz asked as the RV sped away.
"I think I made my point," Danny answered simply.
"Well, if you didn't, this might," Tucker chimed in, pulling out his PDA.
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked.
"Well, you wanted to know where I was, right?" Tucker replied. "While I was looking around, I found one of their main computers. I was actually kind of hoping I'd run into one, so I decided to bring a few toys along, just in case."
"Get our main system back up and running, NOW!" Agent Alpha snarled as he stormed into the main control room.
"Yes, Sir!" the Operative running the computer system replied quickly.
"And pull up all the information we have on this Danny Phantom kid!" Agent Alpha continued. "I'm going to be looking into his capture…PERSONALLY!"
"It's a transmitter I wired into their hard drive," Tucker explained as Danny and the others could see on the screen of his PDA every move the Guys-in-White were making on their computer. "I now have complete access to all of their files and programs."
"So…you're saying you can hack into their system whenever you want?" Danielle asked.
"Oh, I can do a lot more than that," Tucker replied with a smirk, suddenly activating the BACKDOOR program he'd used to send Technus streaming through cyberspace just a few short weeks ago.
"Sir," the computer Operative called from the Guys-in-White HQ, "I don't know how to tell you this…but our dossier on Danny Phantom, it's…well…it's gone, Sir."
"'Gone'? What do you mean, 'gone'?" Agent Alpha shouted as he ran to the terminal. "How can it just be 'gone'?"
"I…I don't know, Sir," the Operative replied nervously. "Just…one second it was here…and the next…it was gone. Just…vanished."
Sure enough, as Agent Alpha looked at the file, there was no trace of any information the Guys-in-White had collected on Danny Phantom. All the information had been removed from the system, courtesy of Tucker's BACKDOOR program. The file was now completely empty. His whole body trembling in anger as he glared at the screen, there was nothing left for Agent Alpha to do except slam his fist onto the control panel with a bellow of rage.
"Yep, what can I say? I'm just that good," Tucker boasted, feeling quite pleased with himself. "Seriously, it really oughta be a crime."
In spite of Tucker's smug pronouncements, it was hard to argue the point. Danny could only let out a hollow chuckle, with Jazz putting her hands encouragingly on Tucker's shoulders. Everyone else, meanwhile, was all smiles as the Fenton RV roared off for home.
"Okay," Jazz stated to Danny and Sam back at Fenton Works, feeling a little nervous, along with Tucker and the others, "We know you guys are okay now. But let's not forget that it was when you guys turned human that this whole mess started. So…we haven't had the real acid test yet."
"Well, I guess there's only one way to find out," Danny remarked, swallowing hard before looking over at Sam. "You ready?"
"No," Sam answered with a trembling sigh, reaching out and holding Danny's hand. "But do we really have a choice?"
"Okay," Danny conceded as he and Sam both shut their eyes, "Here goes."
The physical sensation as they both transformed felt normal enough as it happened. But then, it felt perfectly normal the last time, when the change reversed their age. Still, no turning back now. Squeezing each other's hand that much tighter, Danny and Sam opened their eyes and looked down.
"Well…our clothes still fit," Danny noted, instantly feeling much calmer as he looked up at the others. "I guess it worked."
"Yes…," Jazz uttered under her breath as Maddie breathed a sigh of relief and Jack and Danielle each pumped a fist in victory.
"Alright!" Tucker announced as Danny as Sam hugged each other tightly. "I'm taking you guys out to celebrate. Mayor Foley's buying."
"I can't say no to that," Danny replied as Sam nodded in agreement.
"Well, we might as well let you guys enjoy yourselves…," Danielle granted.
"…Because tomorrow, you two have got a couple of bedrooms to clean," Jazz added, leaving Danny and Sam tossing each other a nervous expression.
Tucker, Danielle and Jazz all got a good chuckle out of the moment. Even Jack looked to be enjoying the camaraderie. Maddie, meanwhile, managed to paste a weak smile on her face before leaving the group and walking off to the kitchen. A move that was hardly beneath Danny's notice as he tossed a serious glance her way.
"Well, I'm off," Tucker declared as he headed for the door. "I've got a reservation to make."
"Yeah, I'd better tell my parents that I'm actually going," Sam added as Danny walked her to the door.
"I'll be right behind you," Danny replied softly, holding her close as Tucker closed the front door behind him and the rest of the family went their separate ways to give the pair a little privacy.
As Danny moved in close, he'd originally only planned to give Sam a tiny parting kiss to tide them over until they saw each other again a little later. But Sam had other ideas, grabbing Danny by his shirt as he tried to break off the kiss and pulling him close for several more, savoring the soft, lingering caress of each and every touch of their lips as long as she could. After what felt like an eternity, their lips finally parted and Sam could only smile in loving satisfaction as she and Danny pressed their foreheads together.
"Okay, I am SO glad I can actually do that again and have it be socially acceptable," she sighed, looking into Danny's eyes playfully and tickling him under his chin. "I gotta say though, you really were quite the little cutie."
"I guess that makes two of us," Danny whispered, nuzzling Sam's nose before sharing one last soft peck. "I'll see you soon."
With that, Sam was out the door, leaving Danny with just one last piece of unfinished business. Walking into the kitchen, he saw Maddie sitting at the table, seemingly lost in thought. And as he looked at her, Danny couldn't help but let out a guilty sigh as he stepped forward.
"Uh, Mom?" he called quietly, getting Maddie's attention as he sat across from her. "Look, I…I just wanted to say…I'm sorry, okay? The thing is, I remember everything that happened…even after Sam and I went…you know."
"Oh Danny, that wasn't your fault," Maddie responded delicately. "There's no way you guys could have understood what you were doing when you were in that state of mind."
"No, actually…that's not what I meant," Danny stated, hanging his head slightly. "I'm saying, I remember the things that I felt when we were close…whenever I saw you…I just…I remember what went through the mind of that little kid…how much he loved you…"
"…Kind of makes me wish THIS kid had said it a few more times…you know?"
It was at that moment that Maddie finally understood what Danny was trying to say. Reaching across the table, she gently took Danny's hand in hers. And as Danny looked up in response, Maddie simply offered him a tender, motherly smile, telling him that absolutely no apologies or guilt was necessary. A message that made Danny feel at least a little bit better as a smile returned to his face as well.
"Well, I think I'd better get ready to hit the town with Tucker and Sam," Danny announced, rising from the table. However, he just couldn't bring himself to leave without leaning in and giving Maddie a soft kiss on the cheek.
"But before I do that, I just wanted to say…I love you, Mom."
With that, Danny trotted out of the kitchen, leaving Maddie by herself once again. But at that moment, loneliness was the last thing she was feeling at that moment as a loving sigh crossed her lips.
"Oh, Danny…He'll always be my little man," she cooed to herself, having quite a blissful moment. Just then her eyes looked back to see Jack, Jazz and Danielle all hovering over her, each with a heavy object perched in their outstretched hands, reminding her quite quickly what she had asked them to do not that long ago.
"Guys, that's not what I meant!"