It's... done. Finally... done?

Fred: Afraid so, Gem.

George: You knew this day would come, though!

Yeah, I just... can't believe I'm already done with it...

Well it's been fun! I'd like to thank the reviewers yet again, since they always end up making my day. Without further ado, I, Gemini, give you the final chapter of Survival of the Fittest! So, please enjoy; I'll see you all at the bottom! Let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: I don't own Danny Phantom.

Chapter 20

Daniel, if you don't hurry up you just might miss all the fun... Vlad thought dryly as he split into five and surrounded Melania, effectively confusing her for the moment. He brushed the back of his gloved hand across his forehead, wiping off a bead of sweat. Cheesecakes! He still wasn't in the best shape for this! However, he hopefully wouldn't have to deal with this ghost for that much longer. They were probably less than a block from the trap anyway. He could tell that it was so since they were nearing the water-tower, which was just on the corner of the park.

"You know, you're pretty good at this." Vlad casually swooped to the side to avoid a dark blast of ecto-energy.

Melania grinned proudly, chuckling as she raised both of her energy-engulfed fists. She blinked and appeared a little closer in radius to the elder half ghost, as a result evading another blast that the other had shot. The ghost girl smiled somewhat as she realized that the man was looking straight at her. Had he learned nothing? She was sure she'd left at least a small amount of energy within the Gem...

The ghost floated backwards as Plasmius lunged after her, arms folded as she concentrated. Vlad paused as he noticed that the girl was not trying to attack anymore. However, once he saw that her eyes were intensely boring into his own, he grinned widely. Ah, so she was going to try that again, was she? This was going to be priceless...

She narrowed her eyes in bewilderment as Vlad began to laugh quite loudly. What? No! She didn't drain all of the energy! She had made sure that there was still enough for the Gem to function! Melania immediately raised a hand to her head, but felt nothing where the circlet had been.

"Missing something?" Plasmius taunted from several yards away.

Impossible. How could it be gone? How? When did this happen? Melania looked around in dismay. On the outside she maintained a somewhat calm demeanor, but inside she was panicking. Now she had nothing to lean back on. That crystal was her ace! Sure, she could fight fine on her own, but now without the Gale Gem, she was now starting to slowly lose the little energy she had gained by wielding it. And more importantly, she didn't know if she had dropped it, if it had been stolen... where was it?

Vlad watched complacently, wondering if he should continue trying to lure her onwards or pause to relish in the ghost girl's fear. However, he decided on giving her a moment, since she didn't look like she was quite ready to continue. He himself needed a break as well...

He slouched his shoulders, finally showing how exhausted he truly was. What he needed was more energy... wait. All he needed was... more energy! Plasmius straightened up as he reached inside a pocket, withdrawing the small round jewel in his clenched fist. The Gem was lacking in the brilliant blood red hue that he had heard it had; sure, it was still the color of blood—just dried blood. How fitting. Vlad rubbed the dust off of the dull brownish gemstone and tightened his grip on it, allowing the rest of the energy to flow from it to him.

He sighed with relief, smiling at the now pitch black stone as he slipped it inconspicuously back into his jumpsuit. Melania apparently didn't fail to notice, seeing as her bright red eyes widened with a twinge of fear. But, that fear quickly morphed into fury.

"How dare you, you... you inferior...?" the ghost girl hissed before lunging towards him.

When did that half-human freak get his hands on it? She didn't recall any moments where he had gotten close enough to it to snatch it, not to mention without her noticing!

Vlad flew upwards to avoid the ghost's attack with ease thanks to his newfound energy. Melania stopped as soon as she passed through the point that Vlad had previously been and turned to face him. However, it was still too late as Plasmius shot a really powerful blast that hit her straight to the stomach, knocking her backwards a hundred yards or so into the base of the water-tower. She, who hadn't been expecting something like this to happen, didn't have the time to phase or even brace herself as she careened into the structure.

Several rivets popped out from the metal plating due to the potent force of the ghost girl's impact, allowing her inside the water-tower. The metal limbs holding up the supply of water bent and then snapped under the pressure that was pushing against the structure, causing the water-tower to topple over and crash on top of the grocery store that stood next to it and roll off of the roof and crash to the ground, knocking down several more power lines in the process. Water began to pour quickly from the gouges that were in the base, flooding the street.

Plasmius flew downwards towards ground level, yet kept from landing. After all, there were live wires lying on the pavement, and the half-inch of water surrounding them wouldn't help when it came to conducting the electricity. Sparks flew from the wires and flickered dangerously as it conducted all throughout the street when the water touched it.

Melania groaned and heaved herself out of the hole she had crashed through, rubbing her head sorely. She clambered out of the hole and splashed to the ground, almost instantly regretting it. Electricity flowed from the wires to the water to her feet and all the way up her body, causing her to scream out in pain once again. The ghost's legs seemingly turned to jelly for a second as she slipped and landed into the water. Vlad watched amused for a moment as she composed herself enough to fly back up into the air, really flustered as she straightened the folds of her now wet and singed gown. Nearly a fourth of her sopping wet hair had come out of her ponytail and was messily plastered along the side of her face. Plasmius chuckled as he saw what a mess she was when her ego was bruised. It was quite amusing, really.

"Oh, I'm sorry... that must've been really embarrassing, wasn't it?" Vlad asked mockingly.

The ghost scowled and flushed angrily at the question. "You're. Dead." she uttered jerkily before swooping towards the man again.

Danny appeared in front of the man suddenly, "I'm back," he said, pointing out the obvious. "What've I missed?"

"Incoming, Daniel..." Vlad warned irritatedly through clenched teeth, gesturing behind the ghost boy towards the charging ghost. Danny turned to see what the elder halfa was indicating, but flinched when Vlad conjured up a shield in front of the both of them. Melania bumped into it, seething as she kicked ruthlessly at the shield, causing Vlad to sway from the force.

"Ah; I see. So that's what I missed. You ticked her off even more, I presume?" Danny asked conversationally.

"Mm hm-mm!" Vlad sharpened his breath as the ghost continued her barrage of attacks against the ectoplasmic shield. Although, it's probably not for the reason you think…

"Great, and she looks like a total mess already." Danny commented as he noted the singe marks in her dress, smiling with a mixture of nervousness and smugness. Her eyes were shining even brighter than before, even in spite of the now rising sun. Wow, was that actually right? The sun was already beginning to rise! The sky was a dull blue instead of its previous black; only the tiniest sliver of sun was peaking over the horizon.

Melania backed away long enough to turn intangible for a split second, effectively letting the water that covered her slip off. Then, solidifying once again, she continued the onslaught.

Danny recoiled as the pink shield flickered for a brief moment from a powerful blast the ghost had shot. "The girl doesn't give up easily, does she?" Vlad muttered to Danny.

"You've gotta hand it to her that she's persistent," Danny replied in agreement, while said ghost seemed oblivious to the conversation that the two halfas were having; she struck over and over again, all the while yelling insults at the two of them. "But I'm afraid that the show's going to end soon." He and Vlad nodded in understanding. Now or never, right?

The elder halfa lowered his arms and let the shield disappear. Danny didn't hesitate to lash out, kicking the ghost girl backwards several feet. Melania shook her head a little, somewhat recovering from her rage enough to get back to her senses; she started to fly towards them again. Vlad grabbed the younger halfa by the hands and swung him around in a three-sixty degree turn. The younger hybrid stuck out his foot as he neared the target and successfully connected with Melania's side, this time knocking her down all the way to the ground in the ball park. Fortunately for Danny and Vlad, she ended up landing right smack in the middle of the baseball diamond, near the pitcher's mound.

The two hybrids couldn't help but cringe as the automated guns that were mounted to each of the tall lampposts immediately began to assault the spectral entity that just hurtled into the vicinity. For several moments all of the blasts kicked up a thick cloud of dirt, hiding Melania from view.

Danny straightened up and spoke loudly to be heard over the blasts with a slightly indignant tone to Vlad, "You know, you should've warned me if you had decided you were going to use me as a baseball bat on her!" His eyebrows creased as he frowned faintly and put a hand up to his chin thoughtfully, all the while watching the scene below him.

Plasmius waved off the comment, "Oh, come now, Daniel; you always take things so sensitively! I saw the opportunity so I took it. I trust you're not disappointed with the results, hmm?"

"No, no, not at all…" Danny commented as if the two were discussing the weather. "In fact, I think you literally hit a home run with that one. But… do you think she's had enough yet?" He started forward slowly to intervene, hands wandering down to the Fenton Thermos at his waist; but Vlad placed a hand in front of him, stopping him from acting.

"Mm… Not just yet, little badger. I think a lesson still needs to be learned here!" Nobody makes a fool of Vlad Masters, after all.

Several dark blasts of energy came up from the cloud of dirt, aimed wildly at any of the guns that were rapidly shooting down at the pitcher's mound (which was now surely reduced to a crater by this time). The fourth or so shot actually managed to knock off one of the weapons. However, Melania's aim was apparently getting more and more sloppy as she was being struck so many times. The blasts shifted across the field as the girl tried to move around. She'd remained fairly silent though—not counting the occasional cry of pain and/or surprise—in regards with this unexpected trap. That is, until now! The Fenton Ghost Grappler, which was tied up to the tree had apparently gotten her, disabling her powers so she couldn't even shoot wildly in the dark anymore. A desperate and heart-breaking wail could be heard from the cloud of dirt and rubble.

Danny decided that he'd had enough. Evil or not, he wasn't just going to sit back and watch this ghost be destroyed by all of the pressure. All he needed was for her to be weakened enough to be captured; and, well, something told him she was probably already at this state. He forced his way past Vlad and hovered overhead for a moment, starting to take out the ecto-guns one by one.

The weapons finally seemed to sense his ectosignature and some tilted upwards and began shooting at him, but he evaded and continued knocking all of the weapons out of commission until they were all taken care of. However, before the last one was taken out, it once again shot at the subdued ghost and nailed her in the torso, blasting her backwards into the chain-link fence of the backstop. One of the poles bent and snapped, bringing part of the fence thudding to the ground along with the tied-up ghost girl.

The halfa grimaced as he surveyed what was below him once the dust settled; well, the weapons certainly did a number on the field! A huge crater had replaced the grass that had lied within the diamond. That'd have to be fixed—well, he'd just let Vlad deal with that. As well as all the other repairs that Amity Park would need once everything was over and done with!

His attention went to the ghost girl, who was lying face-up near home plate, head leaning back against the fence, red eyes wide open as she panted heavily. She was forced into a fetal position due to the fact that she was contained within the glowing green net that was still connected to the Fenton Ghost Grappler. The net had snagged on some of the links on the backstop, which was also partially sagging over her because of the broken pole. She was all tangled up in the mess and exhausted. There were many rips and tears in her black dress, which was also stained with green ectoplasm to the point Danny was sure it was almost more green than black.

She groaned miserably as she dabbed at her bleeding lower lip with the tip of her index finger. "...You... planned this, didn't you?" she asked, still drawing in air like a fish out of water.

"Well, it turns out you two hybrids actually do make a good team... What do you know?"

"Yeah, we—!" Danny began enthusiastically, grinning, but then the actual words that the ghost had spoken seemed to sink in. His smile faded into a confused expression as Melania gave him a peculiar look. "I mean... yeah... I guess we—do..."

Danny flushed, embarrassed as he pulled out the Fenton Thermos. "You'll regret doing that." Melania uttered forebodingly.

"Yeah, yeah, that's what they all say!" Danny scoffed, lifting up his other hand to uncap the Thermos.

"No, Danny Phantom... this time I'm not thinking about me... This time it's about you." Melania darkly replied in a whisper.

When Danny gave her a puzzled look, Melania looked up at the sky to check for something, then began to elaborate in a quick hiss, "He has it. He stole it from me..." Danny's eyes widened when he understood what 'it' was. "And if you continue with trapping me in that soup container of yours and everything returns back to normal..." she smiled cruelly as Danny gulped nervously at what she was indicating. "After all is said and done, he will stab you in the back after all that time working together and use the Gem on you... He'll completely brainwash you when you least expect it. But, that needn't happen if you release me. Then, together we could take Vlad Plasmius down before he has the chance to take the advantage! This time I have your best interest at heart, because while I may not see eye to eye with you, I believe that no one deserves to have their free will taken away from them—don't you agree, Danny?"

"Why that jerk!" Danny hissed, looking up but seeing no sign of the man.

"I know..." Melania clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "But things don't have to end that way. Help me; that's all I ask of you, and I'll help you in return."

Danny seemed to be struggling with his emotions in the meantime; his arm that was holding up the Fenton Thermos in front of him was shaking slightly, like it was battling with itself on whether it wanted to lower itself or not. It seemed that he was trying to get past the concept of what the other hybrid was most likely to do with the Gem once all of this was over. However, it was hard, especially when Vlad had the nerve to... to appear right behind him!

He heard Plasmius land light-footed on the charred grass and then turned around swiftly, punching him in the jaw. Plasmius staggered back, having not expected such a move. At least, not from the teen! The elder half ghost resentfully glared at him, opening his mouth to speak, "Look, Daniel, if this is about how I used you as a quote unquote 'baseball bat,' I—"

"I told him that you've stolen the Gale Gem from me!" Melania called up in a now surprisingly strong voice from the glowing green net.

Vlad lost his composure for a split second before he straightened up, which Danny didn't fail to notice. He glared angrily at the older half ghost. Plasmius took on an angry expression and cried out indignantly, "That's not true, Daniel! Don't believe her! Who are you going to believe here?"

Melania looked back to Danny, "Yes, Daniel," she sneered mockingly as she spat the name. "Who are you going to believe? The man who's only ever manipulated you?" She scathingly asked.

The ghost boy looked between the two, confused and angry at the same time. "Yes, I—I mean... No? Argh! Look," he pointed to Melania with an accusing finger, "I don't know you! I don't trust you! You sure haven't done anything to make me trust you! And I won't be any time soon!"

Then he turned to Vlad, "But you know, she has a point! I may know you, but you've never given me any reason to trust you! All you've ever done is plot and scheme! Why should I trust you now?" Danny's right eye twitched, paranoid. Melania's claim sounded so believable; it just sounded like the kind of thing Vlad would do! But, he still had his doubts since the source wasn't exactly the perfect definition of honest and faithful to the word. Frankly, neither did Vlad. Who should he trust here?

"Because this is all a ploy! A ploy devised by that brat to distract you from doing what we were planning to do all along! Now, I'm not asking you to trust me—just to finish her off already!" Vlad hissed, pointing at the captured ghost girl.

Danny's eyes widened as he heard these words. The man was right! He needed to first take care of the ghost. After all, he could always just kick the fruit loop's butt later if what Melania had said turned out to be true. He turned back determinedly to the ghost girl, but was surprised to see that she was no longer trapped in the Ghost Grappler. She had phased out of the net and was standing on the ground straight and tall. In her hand was the pole that had broken off of the backstop. The broken edge was pointed towards Danny and Vlad, and though it looked pretty blunt, their guess was that it could easily skewer either them with enough force. There was a slightly manic look that glittered maliciously in Melania's eyes. She quickly shot an ecto-blast at Vlad, which knocked him down into the other side of the fence.

"I've had enough of this! I'm going to get rid of you once and for all and take back what you stole from me!" she shoved the edge of the pole forwards with all her might.

Danny didn't know what exactly went through his mind at this point. Maybe the realization that someone was in deep trouble was enough to make his mind go completely blank and give him a sudden adrenaline rush! But, he suddenly found himself standing in front of the man…. He felt a stab of pain in his right shoulder and something wet trickling down his arm. He choked on a cry of agony, exhaling shakily as he looked down and saw that instead of impaling Plasmius, the jagged end of the pole had stabbed him brutally in the shoulder as he began to move in front of him.

"You always get in the way, don't you?" Melania sighed heavily, withdrawing the end of the pole and casting it aside carelessly as she pinned him to the partially downed chain-link fence.

Danny gasped in pain as the ghost's pressure increased on his heavily bleeding shoulder. He raised up his left fist feebly in defense, squirming restlessly. He couldn't raise his right arm at all; the dull edge of the pole had sliced through the rotator tendon, rendering the arm nearly useless in regards to raising it any higher than his waist. While the pain in his shoulder was nearly overwhelming, the rest of the arm had gone numb. Oh, that's wonderful... Danny thought, disgruntled. It must've gotten my nerves, too.

"Are you trying to win? Still?" Melania brushed another flyaway hair out of her face breathlessly. Yet, even though she was incredibly battle-worn, an amused and triumphant grin was plastered across her face at her apparent victory. "You might as well just give up. Then I might even end your suffering afterwards... Don't you want that?" she chuckled lightly before ending, "Now be a dear and lower that shield for me..."

Vlad was still lying dazed on the ground, shocked at what had just happened. Had Daniel just done what he thought he'd done? The boy was looking a little delirious from the pain and blood loss; there was no telling if he'd be okay or not, especially while being handled so roughly by that ghost. He needed help, and he needed it quick! The elder hybrid began trying to sit up with some difficulty, leaning on one of his elbows as he shifted his position inconspicuously. Luckily, Melania was so focused on Danny that she didn't notice.

The teen managed to growl, "Sorry, but I don't help crazy ghosts. Especially crazy ghosts that stab me in the frickin' shoulder with a pole!"

"It's not my fault that you got in the way; kind of like when your uncle got in the way two weeks ago. None of that was my fault!" Melania grinned complacently before flipping to a scowl. "Now, you obviously have an overgrown sense of 'heroic' ethics. They're going to get you in a lot of trouble someday... for the last time, give up."

Phase three... Danny thought wryly to himself before looking at her sadly, beginning, "It's not too late, you know."

"For what? To give up?" Melania asked scathingly.

"To change. Come on, Melania! You don't have to do this; you can still walk away from this," Danny reasoned with the ghost, who had a puzzled expression on her face. He took this as his chance to slip the small package in the back of her belt. "I know you're not all the way bad! You just feel hurt, and I understand that; we can work this out civilly, right? This doesn't have to end in violence! Well... what do you say?" The young halfa was suddenly hit by a cold sweat as nausea was swelling up in the pit of his stomach. Man, the pain in his shoulder was killing him so much that he was on the verge of throwing up! He forced aside the urge and held his hand out of view behind the girl's back, allowing green energy to slowly build up in his grasp. Well, this was the bottom line, and he was giving the ghost a way out. However, something told him that she wasn't likely to take it.

Vlad squinted in confusion as he tried to see what the boy had sneakily slipped onto Melania. His keen eyesight allowed him to read the words on the packet: NASTY SAUCE. He almost started to laugh out loud; oh, the irony! He knew where the boy was going with this. After all, he owned the Nasty Burger and knew facts about its workings. But, as he stifled his chuckle, his eyes quickly widened in worry. Danny hadn't told him exactly what the last part of the plan had been—he wanted to keep it a surprise... Wasn't it extremely... erm... flammable?

The man caught eye contact with the boy as Melania was silent for a minute. He shook his head; from being that close to the source in this form, there was no way that he would live! Yet, as Danny gave a resolute expression and intensified the green energy in his hand, Vlad widened his eyes even more in fright. He was delirious! The pain was interfering with the boy's common sense! It must've been! Well, if only he were the one with the Thermos, he'd be able to probably use it on the ghost before she could do anything about it. As for with Danny, he was probably in too bad of a condition to use it quickly enough on her. She'd be able to stop him before he could uncap the device, even being in the condition she was in. Vlad violently shoved himself up into a kneeling position, not breaking eye contact with the teen. Then, Danny gave him a pointed look, and Vlad disappeared, moving invisibly closer to the two.

The ghost girl narrowed her eyes slowly. "No." she slowly and flatly stated. "I like revenge. It makes me happy…" she smirked as she whispered the last statement.

"I figured just as much… But, you have to admit that it was worth it to distract you enough to trigger the last phase of the plan. Wouldn't you agree, Smelly?"

Melania gave him a baffled look, her eyes widening so fast from their previous narrowed state that it looked nothing short of comical. Danny felt a jerk around his waist as the invisible Vlad took hold and ripped him away from the ghost. As he flew backwards, Danny twisted around in the elder hybrid's grip and fired the final blow.

The resulting explosion shoved both Danny and Vlad backwards even faster than they had been going before. The dust subsided as two crashed to the ground, and Danny seemed to be too out of it to act, lying close-by to Vlad with his eyes shut tight in pain, grasping his arm. So, acting quickly, Vlad scrambled over to the boy and grabbed the Fenton Thermos from him, turning quickly to the unresponsive ghost who was now around twenty yards away from them, receiving the full blow of the explosion; Vlad uncapped the Thermos.

The nearly unconscious ghost made a feeble attempt to resist against the current that was dragging her in, but finally gave in as she was far too injured to keep fighting.

Vlad capped the ghost-capturing device, breathing heavily as he changed back to Masters. "And that'll teach you to mess with us..." he whispered triumphantly. However, his gloating smile faded to an exhausted and worried frown as he leaned over with his hands on his knees. He heard a moan from behind him.

"Daniel!" Vlad's attention snapped back to the boy, who had reverted back to his human form as well looked like he was about to hurl. "Are you alright?" He rushed back to Danny's side, pulling him up into a sitting position. Danny was coughing severely from having the wind knocked out of him.

"Mm... brilliant," Danny grimaced, cringing as the billionaire accidentally bumped his shoulder. "Just don't touch the shoulder unless you want me to throw up all over your fancy shoes..."

"Why the blazes did you do that back there? You could've gotten yourself killed! I had everything under control—" Vlad began scolding him, ignoring the prior statement.

Danny turned his pale green face back up at him, wobbling as Vlad brought him back to his feet. It took all his concentration not to succumb to the urge to heave, since the pain in his shoulder was starting to intensify so much that it became hard not to. "Sure you did; I just didn't want to see the unpleasant image of you being shish-kebab-ed! By the way... you soooo owe for that. Well, the sauce was my last option—and don't give me that look, it got the job done! And how am I going to explain this to my parents?" He pointed angrily at his bloody shoulder.

"How am I going to explain all of this to everyone is more like it," Vlad muttered, gesturing around them at the crater where the park used to be. He sighed before lifting up the Fenton Thermos and handing it to Danny. "Here's the ghost."

The teenager accepted it with his non-injured arm, sighing. Well, he wasn't about to just do what he normally did with ghosts that he captured and release her back into the Ghost Zone. Perhaps he could trust Clockwork to watch over this one as well as...? He'd think about it later, when the stupid pain in his shoulder was taken care of.

"Thanks," Danny replied simply, sighing and leaning onto the man for support at this point. He was so tired and achy that it was all he could do to keep from sinking back to the ground again. He closed his eyes, his exhaustion showing on his features fully as the nausea began to swell up even more in the pit of his stomach.

Vlad raised an eyebrow in surprise for a moment, but smiled wryly before saying, "Come, Little Badger... I think it's time that we get that shoulder of yours taken care of, hmm?" He placed an arm around the boy, careful not to touch said injured shoulder.

Danny, however, stayed silent as his face turned an even deeper shade of green when they began walking slowly away from the park. They had hardly taken two steps when he halted suddenly, "I think I'm gonna be sick..." And, without any further ado, the teen doubled over in front of the man.

The billionaire sighed, turning his gaze upwards from the sight of the sickened teenager, "Ginger snaps..."

Several days had passed and the town of Amity Park was in the works of repairing itself. It wasn't really far on the road to recovery just yet, and already the stress of fixing what that ghost had wrought was taking its toll on Vlad Masters. Melania Dark may have been defeated in the end, but she had definitely left her mark on the city. First of all he had to deal with the cracked asphalt caused by her blasted earthquakes (and they had only recently been repaved before this incident!), and also with the power lines that were knocked down, the toppled water-tower, the damage on all the buildings caused by the earthquakes and tornado, and also the trees that were uprooted by the tornado... Not to mention the press coming with all their prying questions and demanding answers... However, none of that was currently on his mind.

What should he do?

That was the choice that was nagging at Vlad. What should he do? Should he just follow through with his original plan and use the Gale Gem for the purpose of getting himself his own son? Or should he try once again to persuade him? If Daniel knew what he was about to do, he was certain that he wouldn't approve. That was a huge understatement. Heavens, he'd be furious!

But with all due respect, the teenager had run out of second chances! He had his chance to join him willingly; he had more than his fair share of second chances, and he had rejected every single one of them! Whatever Daniel would say, Vlad knew what was best for him and where he belonged—and that was by his side! Perhaps it was best to force him!

But, perhaps it wasn't fair to take the boy's free will from him this way. The man lowered his gaze sadly to his feet. Daniel risked his own blasted life! For his! And even though Vlad wanted this more than anything, he knew it wasn't right to do something like that to him. Especially when the younger hybrid had just saved his life. If the boy did join him, he did want it to be of his own choice. Besides, the past few weeks with Daniel—even with the constant stream of witty banter exchanged between them—had not been counterproductive.

He remembered how great of a team they had made in that last battle between them and the Ghost King's daughter. Tucker Foley and Samantha Manson hadn't been there—it was just him and his little badger, taking on that ghost. Ever since that evening, the younger hybrid had been acting much less... how would he say it?... aggressive? Vlad didn't really know how to express it in words, but in either case, there was a much more pleasant attitude about him. No scowls, no glares, not… anything of the sort. Things could have been looking up between them, and with time Vlad was sure their relationship would grow to something much more ideal than enemies. Perhaps the boy would finally see him as a friend, a mentor, or... dare he think it... father?

Calm down, Masters... let's not get too far ahead; after all, his pride won't let him see you as his father any time soon, most likely. But—it is only a matter of time... Vlad's hand wandered down inside his suit pocket and felt the walnut-sized crystal, stroking the facets of the stone lightly with his thumb. He would... think about it. If anything, the Gem would still be useful in other ways if it weren't needed for that purpose.

He came out of his thoughts as he came to a stop outside of the room that he was heading for. He smiled guiltily as he poked his head into the room, blinking at the unexpected brightness of the morning sunlight pouring in from the window at the opposite end of the room.

There were three teenagers already inside the room, one of which was lying on one of the beds while the other two were sitting on the edges, talking. However, once Vlad entered they abruptly stopped. The man raised an eyebrow as he opened his mouth but paused.

While Danny had a look of indifference at his appearance, the Goth girl who was sitting next to him on the edge of the bed frowned with a twinge of annoyance. She was sitting stiffly, bandaged from all the burn wounds (which were all fortunately only of the first degree) she had received to her arms and neck. Tucker, who was lying on the bed with his leg propped up in a cast, didn't really seem to notice, so great was his nervousness at being in a hospital. He was staring ahead blankly, whimpering slightly.

"Daniel? Wonder if I might have a word?" he asked, somewhat hesitantly.

Danny looked from Tucker to Sam, who rolled her eyes. "Er... I'll be back. Stay with Tucker, he'll try to escape if he's left alone!" he said, giving an amused glance back to his invalid techno-geek friend.

"Your mother told me that you'd most likely be here. I take it that your shoulder is recovering well?" Vlad asked conversationally as Danny walked with him down the hall.

Danny chuckled as he looked down at his arm, which was heavily bandaged and put into a sling. "Yeah. It doesn't hurt too much anymore. The doctor was kind of surprised by how fast it's healing when he saw how deep it was. He said that wounds like that take more than a month to heal, but now he says that it'll probably take less than that."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," Vlad smiled.

As they continued walking, a silence came between the two as they fell into their own thoughts for several minutes. Finally, once they had exited the building and were walking outside the building, Danny stopped at the corner of the building, where no one else was nearby. "Well, I just... wanted to thank you. Er, because I don't think I would've been strong enough to finish her off. So, um, thank you for... helping."

Vlad paused in surprise, but then nodded and smiled. "You're welcome,"

Danny leaned against the building and folded the one arm that he could and cleared his throat, as if expecting something.

Vlad gave him a questioning look, which Danny responded to with a sly question, "Okay, what was the reason you dragged me out here for?"

"Ah," Vlad said, shifting his gaze over to the surrounding trees and the scenery. "Well, I suppose I... wanted to thank you as well. Well... for saving my life. It was very noble."

Danny smiled and opened his mouth to say "You're welcome" but was cut off as Vlad unexpectedly started talking again in the "but on the other hand" tone. "But..."

"Oh, boy. Here he goes again!" Danny muttered irritatedly in the pause before Vlad continued.

"Very foolish. Does caring for yourself not register in that head of yours? You're so focused on helping others that you never stop and think about yourself! Did it occur to you that getting run through by the end of a pole would not benefit you?"

"Duh!" Danny loudly exclaimed. "Can't you just be grateful?"

"I am grateful. For your impetuosity!" Vlad replied smoothly.

"I don't expect you to understand why I do what I do! But, I'm not just going to sit here and let you criticize me!" Danny said coolly, frowning.

The man sighed, "I'm sorry, Daniel."

Danny rolled his eyes. "Whatever... well, I guess I'll see you next time you start scheming again..." he said mockingly, turning back towards the hospital's entrance to get back to Sam and Tucker.

"I guess so..." Vlad smirked.

While Danny didn't see the smirk with his back turned, he heard the mischievous tone quite well. He straightened up and whipped around, giving the man a look of mistrust before turning back again.

Vlad exhaled vehemently, leaning his head back against the seat in the limo. Were things going to go back to normal? He supposed so. That boy still seemed to be just as stubborn as ever now. Well, at least he still had a certain trinket to rely on... The man slipped his hand into his pocket once again to pull out the Gale Gem again. But, his fingers felt nothing.


The billionaire's eyes widened slightly. Perhaps he put it in his other pocket? He stuffed his hand into the other pocket, but withdrew it empty-handed once again. He breathed heavily for a moment; he didn't have holes in those pockets! So then how—?

"Fudge buckets..." Vlad muttered under his breath... Ah. His eyes narrowed in anger as his face slowly flushed to a blotchy red. That little... He may not have been planning on definitely using it any time soon, but no one—stole from Vlad Masters!

"DANIEL!" he roared before clambering out of the limo and marching angrily back after the boy.

Danny was beginning to slowly walk back towards the hospital doors. He sighed, letting his head fall back as he soaked in the morning sun. The teen was trying his best to ignore the pain that his still blistered feet were giving him. Once he got home, he'd get some more well-deserved rest! That is, assuming that Lancer wouldn't attack him with all the schoolwork he had missed in those two weeks. Something told him that just because the school was in disrepair from a savage ghost attack didn't mean that he'd get a break.

And, well, he hoped that he'd be able to at least catch some rest before Vlad realized anything was amiss... Something also told him that he'd be quite ticked once he noticed that the Gem had 'mysteriously' disappeared from his jacket pocket. He could only imagine that having to deal with the cost of repairing the town would already have put him in a foul mood.

Oh well. It'll be worth seeing his face once he realizes that I've thwarted his plans... again. Danny smirked at this thought, tossing the small crystal up and down in his usable hand as he walked. And, seeing as it would be safest, I'd better get rid of this... Then, once Vlad came back for it, he wouldn't be able to snatch it from him again.

He caught it again and looked around; after concluding that no one was around, he summoned some green energy to the palm of his hand. The crystal seemed resistant at first to the energy, but then slowly began to heat up as the energy intensified. Then, Danny clenched his hand into a fist and increased the pressure on it. The crystal crackled in his tight grip, and then he stooped down and slammed it onto the cement; it shattered instantly into miniscule pieces.

Danny stood back up slowly, smiling satisfied.

There was the sudden sound of the slamming of a car door. Danny flinched at the sound, but relaxed again; it was most likely not who he thought it was!


Danny looked up suddenly, his face paling as he swallowed nervously. You just had to say it, didn't you, Fenton! He knew it would come sooner or later, but he was sort of hoping that it would at least be later than now! The younger hybrid brushed the rest of the dull reddish-brown grit from his hand on his pant leg and morphed, taking off to the sky. He'd have to just explain what happened to Sam and Tucker later, he guessed...

"YOU COME BACK HERE RIGHT NOW YOU LITTLE RAT!" Plasmius's voice called from below.

Danny paused to give a glance back to see what the man was doing, only to have to quickly duck to avoid a blast of pink energy.

The ghost boy grinned mischievously as he turned his back on his archenemy and bolted off, not even checking to see if the elder hybrid was coming after him. Yep, things were definitely starting to go back to normal...

*blushes* I know that moment after they beat Melania was totally spoiled by Danny's stomach, but... you know how things work. It was Fred's idea.

George: Actually, it was mine *sniggers*

Heehee, I know Vlad wasn't being very watchful at the end! He knew that Danny knew that he had it, but he still let his guard down, lol! Well, I find that that's typical for the cheesehead whenever his emotions get the better of him. See Maternal Instincts. XD Enough said!

Okay, so now that this is done, I have important news. I guess I'm glad that I got done with this when I did, because I'm going on an out-of-state tour with the symphony I'm a part of and won't be able to get my hands on a computer for a while. So, it might be a while before you hear anything from me again. Well, I might just upload a one-shot or two (since I'm not going to start any multi-chapter stories until I get back) before I actually go, which is the last week of this month, but it depends! I've already got several ideas for both one-shots and multi-chapters, and if any of you are interested, go to my profile page and there are summaries for a couple of them. Now I'm not going to be doing them in any particular order, but it'll be any one of those that are listed there. Okay? Okay.

Well, I just wanted to thank all of the reviewers and their comments—lovely as usual! Thanks for helping get me out of my shell, peoples! Your support really means a lot to me! I'm not nearly so private about my writing anymore! And... and... *eye twitches*

George: Uh-oh... she's getting a little teary-eyed, Fred.

Fred: *shudders* Neeeeeeeeh, we can't have that... Come on, Gem, time to go!

*drags Gemini offstage*

See ya! Please let me know what you thiiiiiink!