Sam turned her head and flashed Danny a smile, giving him a short wave. "Come on!" She nodded when he fell into step on her other side. "Have you ever been to Nasty Burger, Danny?" she asked. The nickname had been the one she was about to try out earlier when her father had interrupted. She thought it suited him rather well.
Danny faltered, missing a step. He caught himself, but the action had not gone unnoticed – the other two were looking at him strangely. The slave didn't care. His new master 'Sam,' he thought happily, had just used his preferred name. Whether she had stumbled across it by accident or not, Danny knew he was just happy to hear someone use it. He allowed a tiny smile to cross his face as he walked.
Disclaimer: Oh, if I was as talented as Butch Hartman… Sadly I'm not, so here's my latest offering in homage to him.
Chapter Three: Fear Adds Flavour to the Soul
The walk to the Nasty Burger was awkward for all three teens, though the light-hearted banter Sam and Tucker exchanged made things bearable. From what the half-ghost had been able to deduce the pair were almost polar opposites. How they'd even managed to become friends, let alone stay that way, was a mystery to the slave.
When they arrived, Tucker held the door open for Sam. He looked expectantly at Danny once Sam was inside and the slave realised that the boy was going to hold the door for him as well. It was a novel experience for Danny and he hesitantly went in, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on his shoes. He felt guilty for not being the one to grab the door in the first place and resolved to watch out for things like that in the foreseeable future.
Inside the Nasty Burger was noisy and crowded with teenagers milling about everywhere. Chatter, both dull and excited, created a constant buzz of background noise that was almost impossible to tune out.
"I'm getting a Veggie Veggie. What about you guys?" Sam asked as they joined the back of the queue.
"I'm having a Mighty Meaty Meal," Tucker replied, sniffing the air appreciatively.
Sam turned to Danny after a few seconds of silence. "Earth to Danny! What do you want?"
Danny had been trying to figure Sam out, wondering how she would react to anything he said. She seemed to take offense to anything he said that reminded her of his status in the world. He decided to test this theory. "Thank you, but...I'm...not hungry," he said, hesitating a little at the informal speech.
She raised an eyebrow and looked at him oddly. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," he said with a nod, biting back the 'ma'am' and hoping it didn't cost him.
Sam continued to stare for a few more seconds before she shrugged. "Okay, suit yourself," she said. Her eyes roved around the Nasty Burger and she frowned, tutting in disgust as what she saw.
Intrigued, Danny took a quick look around himself, wondering what she disapproved of. All he saw were normal people hanging around chatting about whatever they thought important. There were the typical societal divisions among the teenagers: jocks and cheerleaders, the middle people, geeks and nerds. As he watched, one of the jocks walked past a table where two nerds were sitting and knocked over one of their drinks. The jock laughed and walked off as the beverage spilled all over the poor boy and the seat.
A couple of the middle class teens had something akin to sympathy on their faces, but only the nerd's friend seemed upset about the unfair behaviour; the rest of the jocks and cheerleaders were all laughing nastily for a minute before the novelty wore off and they switched to a new topic.
He didn't get much time to dwell on this before Sam and Tucker were at the counter. They ordered quickly, grabbed their trays and found a table in an out of the way corner. Danny gingerly sat next to Sam as Tucker sat opposite, and focused on a partially scrubbed sauce stain that marred the table's otherwise clean surface. A cardboard packet of thin fries was shoved under his nose and he glanced up in shock, sky blue meeting lavender for a split second before Danny hastily averted his eyes.
"Just eat them. I've already paid for them and I don't want them to go to waste," Sam said, looking away awkwardly.
"Thank you," he replied quietly. The slave plucked one fry from its perch on top of the pile and took a bite.
Danny had never tasted anything quite like it. It was hot and salty. Hot meals were a rarity in his life along with any kind of seasoning, even salt. To have both in one go was a novel experience and it tasted so good! He finished the fry as fast as he could without appearing rude and snatched up three more, forcing himself to eat them one at a time as he could feel Sam and Tucker's eyes on him. Finally, after what seemed like ages to the slave but was only a few seconds, the two turned their attention from him to each other.
"I take it you had a fight with your parents. Did anything get broken this time?" Tucker asked casually, raising an eyebrow.
"No, although I did rip up the instructions for the slave leash my dearest daddy handed to me. The leash itself was solid metal, but maybe if I threw it in a fire...?" Sam said before trailing off.
Tucker shook his head helplessly. "Try not to burn your house down, okay?"
Sam flashed a smirk. "No promises," she said with an evil chuckle.
"GHOST!" someone screamed. People looked around in confusion, wondering if it was a prank.
A small green blob-like creature, about the size of a fist, was hovering in the middle of the building, desperately flapping its stubby wings to stay aloft. It had one red eye that took up most of its 'face' and was flicking its attention all over like it was looking for something.
Danny's gaze zeroed in on the tiny thing. 'Why does it bother flapping? It's a ghost, it can float without them.' He tensed slightly. If the tiny spectre made any move towards Sam then he wanted to be ready to defend her.
It suddenly swooped towards a young couple that had yet to vacate their table. The tiny spook emitted a shriek that forced the couple to clap their hands over their ears and screw their eyes shut in pain. With the humans out of commission for the moment the ghost took the opportunity to hover close to the girl and bite the air next to her neck.
"It isn't touching her. What's it doing, sucking thin air?" Tucker asked after he peeked over the back of his seat.
Danny's eyes began to glow a faint green as he focused on the ghost. Now with his vision enhanced by his ghostly powers, he could see slight wisps of a dark purple-black smoky substance being sucked from the girl straight into the ghost's maw.
"It looks like it's feeding, but on what?" Sam added.
"I think it's feeding on her fear, ma'am," Danny answered, still watching the spectacle.
Sam and Tucker both turned to face him and gasped when they saw his eyes. It was creepy and a bit unnerving to see someone's eyes glow, let alone glow a different colour.
"How do you know that?" she asked warily. Did this half-ghost boy feed on emotions? Judging from the way he had been demolishing the fries it seemed unlikely, but was his ghost half different?
Danny picked up on her tone but decided to puzzle over it later. "I can see this dark wispy substance it's sucking off her. She's starting to slump like she's tired from feeling mentally or emotionally drained. I can't think of what else it could be, ma'am," he answered.
"Whoa..." Tucker said, stunned.
"Do all ghosts feed on emotions?" asked Sam.
Danny shook his head although his gaze never wavered from the spook. "No, it's mostly the animalistic ones that feed off emotions – usually fear. Any ghost sentient enough to speak more often than not acquires its power from fulfilment of its obsession."
The gothic girl wasn't sure what to make of his answer. Did that mean Danny had an obsession? If he did, what was it and how did he fulfil it? She shoved the questions aside for the moment. "Can you stop it?" she asked him. Sam didn't know the girl being attacked, but she couldn't just sit there and watch.
"Yes, ma'am, I can," Danny said. He fell silent, waiting somewhat expectantly.
It took Sam a couple of seconds to catch on. "Danny, I want you to stop that ghost!" she said firmly.
"Yes, ma'am!" he replied with the barest hint of a grin. He lifted his right hand and aimed his pointer finger at the ghost like a gun. Without any warning, a green and white light appeared at the tip before blasting towards the ghost like a laser beam.
The beam hit the tiny spectre, sending it tumbling back almost eight feet. It let out an angry and pained shriek, forcing the few people that were still inside to clap their hands over their ears. Its big red eye swivelled around frantically before coming to rest on Danny. Its gaze narrowed and it shrieked again, shooting forwards much faster than one would think.
Danny ducked just in time – he felt the spook's slipstream ruffle his black hair. His eyes, which had faded back to sky blue, now blazed glowing green as he glared at the ghost's back.
It quickly swung around for another pass and spotted Sam. It grinned and veered to one side, opening its mouth and aiming for Sam's neck.
Sam's eyes widened and she ducked her head, instinctively curling and putting her arms over her head to protect her neck. She shut her eyes and waited for the creature to fly past or try to get past her arms.
Danny, seeing Sam in trouble, growled. His eyes brightened until the glow was almost yellow. With a rage-filled shout he lifted a hand and fired a ray of ectoplasmic energy.
The ray was larger than the ghost and hit it full force, driving it an inch deep into the wall. The spook fell to the floor. It lay there for a moment before it gave out a half-hearted cry and vanished into wisps.
Danny slowly lowered his smoking hand. "Are you okay? It didn't get you, did it?" he asked Sam, checking her over with his eyes as he didn't have the nerve to lay a hand on her without her express permission.
"No, it didn't get me, I'm fine," she said while quickly uncurling herself. She crossed her arms and frowned, daring either of the boys to argue with her. "Thanks," she said after several seconds, her eyes flitting briefly to Danny.
Tucker raised an eyebrow but stayed silent. There was no way he was going to dispute Sam's tough girl image at the moment. He could tell that if he opened his mouth, Sam's combat boots would come into play.
"Let's get out of here," she said, shooing both boys out of their seats. On an impulse she grabbed Danny's unfinished packet of fries and the three teens made a quick, silent exit. Once they were a couple of blocks away Sam handed the fries to Danny, all but shoving them into his hands and pulling back, leaving him no time to protest in any way.
"There's no reason you can't finish your fries," Sam said with a shrug.
Danny ducked his head. "Thank you, ma'am." As soon as Sam and Tucker turned their attention from him he started eating the fries one by one, uncaring that they were growing colder.
The three walked in silence for a while until Tucker read the time aloud from his handheld computer. "Whoa, I was supposed to help Mum! I have to go help her in the kitchen or she'll raid my room for my tech! I hope you've had your daily dose of sanity 'cause I gotta get goin'."
Sam put a finger to her chin as if she was seriously weighing up his words. "Yeah, I guess so, but you better not be busy tomorrow after school," she said with a mock glare.
"Nah, I'm free," he said with a smile. "Catch you tomorrow morning!" He walked quicker though didn't jog, turning his torso around just far enough to wave a quick goodbye before he disappeared around a corner.
Sam let loose a disgruntled sigh as her shoulders slumped. "I guess we should head back before they notice I'm gone," she said in a sour and resigned tone. She spun around and headed for a street that would take her very close to home.
Danny followed her automatically. He raised a brow as she ducked into a lengthy alleyway and shifted a step or two closer. Alleys were a huge risk – everyone knew that. All slaves took a special training course on dealing with any unpleasant situations that may arise from wandering down one of these backstreets. Danny kept his head bowed, but his eyes were constantly roving and scanning, just waiting for some unsavoury character to jump out and confront his new mistress.
Sam glanced sideways at her slave. "Don't worry, nothing's ever happened here," she said reassuringly. "Relax a little."
'That's what they all say,' he thought, nodding in an effort to appease Sam. He let his shoulders slump deceptively, though he was as tense as a coiled snake. They walked slowly down the alley, each echoing footfall sounding too loud to Danny's strained senses. To his great surprise they exited the alley without incident.
"There, see? What did I tell you," Sam said a trifle smugly.
Danny maintained his silence but nodded, keeping up his sweeping vigil though he let his muscles relax. They reached Sam's house without any trouble and he scaled the trellis first at her insistence. He waited on the roof until Sam joined him and opened her window with barely a creak. The two teenagers ducked through the window and Sam shut it behind her, just as quietly as she opened it, the almost silent house giving no indication that their impromptu absence had been noticed.
The sun was starting to sink, tinting the sky a brilliant mix of blue, dusty purple and yellow. Sam flopped down heavily on her bed, locking her hands together and stretching her arms above her head. She eyed the half-ghost cautiously as he stood inconspicuously in one corner with his back against the wall like a guard dog.
"I don't suppose my parents gave you a room to yourself?" she asked awkwardly.
"No ma'am. It's my duty to guard the Manson property starting from twenty-two hundred hours until seven hundred hours," he promptly replied.
Sam's eyes widened. "What?" she spluttered. "When do you sleep if you're guarding me all day and the house all night?!"
"I am allowed up to six rest breaks during each shift, each exactly fifteen minutes in duration," he rattled off in a dead tone.
"That's not sleep!" Sam exclaimed, throwing her arms in the air and waving her hands about in agitation.
Danny bowed his head. "I apologise for being unable to answer your question," he said with a tiny internal wince. 'This is it; she'll take her anger out on me.'
"Ooh, I hate my parents…!" she growled out, grabbing fistfuls of her bedding and attempting to puncture it with her lilac-painted fingernails. After several moments and deep breaths she calmed down and released her death grip. She glanced sideways at her clock. "Ten is still a fair way off. Did you want a shower or something? I think I have some old boy's t-shirts and stuff I used to wear to bed if you want to try some on?"
The slave shook his head swiftly. "Oh no, ma'am, I couldn't."
Deciding that arguing was useless, the goth started rummaging through her drawers and wardrobe, plucking a few things out and tossing them roughly behind her onto the large bed. When she had amassed a small pile she shut her drawers and inspected what she had gathered. With a satisfied nod she bundled them all up into her arms and handed them to her completely bewildered slave.
"Here, take these. I want you to go have a shower and try them on afterwards. You can keep whatever fits you. Do you know where the bathroom is?" she asked.
"No ma'am," he replied a little belatedly. "I had planned to familiarise myself with the building's layout on my first shift tonight." With his head still bowed, he was staring directly at the clothes he now held, his mind busily trying to figure out any hidden motives behind the gesture.
"I guess I'll give you a head start," Sam said with a soft sigh. "Come on then." The girl led the way out of the room and down the hallway, stopping at the second door on her right. She opened it and walked in, the half-ghost right behind her.
The youngest Manson stood in front of the shower with her arms loosely folded. "Here you are. Take all the time you want – enjoy the hot water. If you need anything, let me know, okay? Oh, don't touch this; it's my mother's and no one else is allowed to use it," she added, pointing to a pastel pink floral-patterned bottle.
"Yes, ma'am," the slave dutifully replied. Without further ado he pulled his rumpled t-shirt over his head.
Sam's eyes automatically fell upon his bare chest. He was thin, which was to be expected, but he was lean rather than skinny. He had some muscle definition – not over the top, but enough to betray the fact that he obviously worked out. He was not scrawny or a big football-obsessed jock. She felt herself blush bright red and she hastily turned away just as he was about to reach for his pants.
"I'll, er, l-leave you to it then," she stammered out. Sam all but ran for the door, almost slamming it shut behind her in haste. It took some willpower, but she forced herself to walk back to her room. Once there her blush faded as she thought of something.
'He didn't even hesitate to undress! Do they beat modesty out of them or is it just him? I don't want him whipping off his shirt like that again, even though the view was great-'
Sam groaned and threw herself face down on her bed. This slave thing was bad enough; she didn't need his good looks thrown into the mix.
"What am I gonna do at school?" came a muffled moan from the sheets.
A/N: Yeah, the whole 'keep chapters shorter to update quicker' strategy seems like a total failure. I'm so sorry! I've been beyond busy working on an MMO(RPG?) game with a friend. It's just us two working for the most part so most of my time goes into that. There's a link in my profile if you want to check it out.
I am so glad I finally got this finished. I got stuck at one point for quite a while. ^^; A HUGE thank you to Kree Minory for helping me out! I might not have finished this for another year without your wonderful help~
I did say there'd be a bit of action. I have my own theories concerning the ghosts (sentient or otherwise) of Danny Phantom. I'm always up for a discussion if you're interested. ;) Constructive criticism is always appreciated!