Chapter 24

"I don't have to wear one of those, do I?" Pamela questioned, frowning severely as she looked over the woman standing beside her at the table where the snacks were laid out for everyone to grab whatever they wanted. As strange as it might have seemed prior to everything that happened, Pamela and Maddie became something close to friends. Maddie seemed happy to have another sparring partner, and occasionally Vlad and Danny would also volunteer to practice fighting against her.

As talks with the mayor continued, Maddie suggested that Pamela assist them, even part time, to fight against the more violent ghosts that came into the real world. Being an assassin, Pamela was adept with quite a few different types of weapons. Training her to use ecto based weaponry wouldn't be too difficult. With her good standing in the community, Pamela joining with Maddie and Jack also gave them more credibility to the public that was in doubt of their skills as ghost hunters. If Pamela Manson, of all people, was supporting the Fentons, then they couldn't be as bad as what public opinion said of them.

There was, of course, the looming threat that the Guys in White might try to use her past against her. If they said anything about her past, however, the Guys in White would have questions to answer. How did they uncover Pamela's history as an assassin? Why were they looking for that information in the first place? If they even hinted at what they learned about her, Pamela could easily turn around and expose the truth about their corporation, testifying to the public that the Guys in White threatened her and her family to coerce her into following their orders. It wouldn't be a wise move of the Guys' in White part if they tried to expose Pamela's past to the public.

After they released her from the ghost containment unit, Pamela returned to her family and explained everything to her husband. From what Vlad overheard Sam telling Danny once, her husband Jeremy didn't take it well at first, but after several long talks, Sam somehow managed to convince her father to forgive Pamela for the lies and deception. It was, after all, the only thing that Pamela had lied about to him.

The other assassin was another matter. They showed the man written proof that the Guys in White called off the hit on Jack. The man was furious when he saw it, and Vlad actually worried that the assassin would still try to kill Jack after they released him from the ghost containment unit. Other than a few angry grumbles, the man left with no trouble, though they all remained on guard and tense until he disappeared. They didn't hear anything further from the assassin. Vlad worried about the hit man passing on information about the Portal in the Fentons' laboratory or about their conversation with Technus, though the assassin couldn't overhear the details of that, to the Guys in White. He had Technus keep watch over the information passed through the Guys' in White network in case anything popped up about plans to build their own Portal, but so far, there was no news on that front.

"It isn't a requirement," Maddie answered with only a hint that the questioned upset her. "Though if it would make you feel better, I'm sure we can find a jumpsuit in pink."

Pamela pursed her lips in consideration. "I might wear it then."

"Sounds like our wives are talking shop again," Jeremy commented before biting off one end of a carrot stick. Looking at him now, Vlad never would have guessed that the man had any trouble accepting that his wife used to be an assassin.

"There's nothing hotter than a woman that knows how to wield ecto based weapons," Jack said, hugging his arms around his wife, "and bakes a mean cookie."

"I'm guessing that new recipe was a keeper then?" Maddie questioned, smiling as Jack nodded enthusiastically.

"I must thank you for the contribution to this year's bake sale," Pamela said. "I think you helped push us over last year's total by a landslide."

"I was happy to help." Maddie tapped her glass against the one that Pamela held, the two women toasting to their success at the bake sale.

Vlad smiled at the interaction, happy to see the two sets of parents getting along. He was certain that Danny and Sam were glad their parents weren't at each other throats anymore too. At the thought of the teenagers, Vlad left the kitchen and stepped into the front room where the three friends were sitting on the couch, sharing sweets and drinks. They were laughing about something, and though a thread of jealous crept up in him, Vlad was happy to see Danny relaxing after many stressful days of studying for the GED. They had only scratched the surface of everything he needed to learn, but it was good for him to have a night off to relax his brain and enjoy himself.

"Man! I can't believe you two didn't say anything about it before." Danny shook his head as he twisted his cup around in his hands.

"You had pretty much just come back from the dead," Tucker said as he scratched at a flushed cheek. "It didn't feel like the right time to announce that Sam and I were a couple."

"That and, well, you know." Sam shrugged as she stared down at her feet. "I always thought you liked me, and I did like you, but then-" She frowned, unable to continue with her comment.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't like you back then." Danny flushed lightly as he ran his hand through his raven locks. "But hey," he dropped his hand and spread his arms out before him, "I'm not going to get angry. I'm really happy for you guys!" He wrapped his arms around his friends' shoulders and hugged them. "And anyway, I kind of, um," he glanced away from his friends, his gaze somehow finding Vlad standing in the doorway, and his cheeks darkened several more shades, "have a boyfriend."

Vlad couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face, almost mirroring the one that Danny wore after he mentioned the word boyfriend. Their glances at each other seemed to go unnoticed by Danny's friends.

"What?" the other two teenagers shouted together, shock making their mouths drop open and their eyes grow wide.

"How come you didn't say anything?" Tucker asked, sounding a bit hurt that Danny didn't tell him anything.

"Who is it? When did it happen?" Sam questioned, wanting details about everything.

"Wait. Wait. Wait!" Tucker threw out an arm before Danny. "When did you decide you were gay?"

"Well," Danny's cheeks remained dark red as he shifted uncomfortably between his friends, "it kind of happened unexpectedly. I mean, it's not like I planned for it to happen or even gave any real conscious thought to, you know, 'oh my god, I'm gay!' or anything like that. It was just something that sort of hit me suddenly, that I really liked this guy." His eyes darted toward Vlad again, holding the older half ghost's gaze. "A lot."

"I'm happy for you." Sam hugged an arm around his friend as Tucker patted Danny on the shoulder. Vlad was happy to see that the other teenagers weren't going to reject Danny based on his sexuality, and Danny looked rather relieved by that fact too. His shoulders sagged somewhat, and a slight sigh slipped past his parted lips.

When the doorbell rang, Jack was down the hall before Vlad could even turn away from the front room. How a man that big could move that fast and that silently, Vlad couldn't fathom the answer. He stood back, leaning against the doorframe as he sipped from his glass of wine and waited for the announcement of whom was at the door.

"Jazzy pants!" Jack exclaimed once the door was opened. He drew the woman standing on the doorstep into a big hug.

"It's nice to see you too, Dad," Jazz said, patting the underside of one arm until her father released her. When Jack stepped aside, Vlad got a better look at her. She shared a lot of physical traits with her mother, almost reaching the same height as Maddie already. She wore a teal head scarf in her short auburn hair, reaching to her shoulders with her bangs swept to one side. She set her bags down, and her aqua colored eyes looked bright and eager to learn as they glanced about the front hall. "The Mansons came over?" she questioned in confusion, catching sight of Pamela through the kitchen doorway.

"A lot has happened recently," Jack said awkwardly, and Vlad wondered how much Jazz knew about the hit on her father's life. Jack and Maddie might have felt it best to keep her in the dark so that she wouldn't worry and could stay focus on her studying at college. "Oh! And this is Vlad Masters. He was my roommate back in college. My best friend." He grinned proudly.

"A pleasure to meet you," Vlad said as he stretched out a hand toward her.

"Nice to meet you too," Jazz said numbly as she shook his hand.

Out of the corner of his eye, Vlad could see Danny hesitantly getting to his feet. They hadn't told Jazz anything about him yet, and now was the moment that Danny had anxiously awaited since his mother announced that Jazz would be coming home for Christmas. For days, Danny was a nervous ball of energy that could hardly sit still long enough to focus on his studying. Now Jazz was finally here. He would get to see his sister again, and she would know it was him. Vlad could almost hear the quickening of Danny's heart as he worried about his sister's reaction. Tucker and Sam remained sitting on the couch, leaving Danny to face his sister alone.

"Jazz," Danny said with a slight waver in his voice as he stepped into the hall, appearing before his sister for the first time in four years. His hands wiped nervously at his jeans as he waited for her reaction.

Jazz gasped, hands flying to her mouth. Her head snapped around toward her father, disbelief shining in her eyes. A hint of a smile grew upon Jack's face as he nodded to her. When she turned back, tears were gathered in her eyes. "Danny?" She stepped over to him, hand shaking as she reached out to touch his face. The tears fell the second after his fingers brushed his skin, felt warm soft flesh beneath them. "Danny!" She pulled him into a tight embrace, eyes clamped shut as the tears fell. "How is this eve possible?" She didn't release him, burying her face against the crook of his neck.

Danny wrapped one arm around his sister's body. The other hand reached up, and his fingers threaded through her auburn hair. "What happened four years ago," he said, keeping his voice quiet, "the accident with the Portal, it didn't kill me. I guess you could say it only halfway got the job done." His mouth twitched, almost trying to smile, but the seriousness of what happened was no laughing matter. "I really did think I was dead. I woke up in the Ghost Zone, and I had the appearance of the ghost. It wasn't until recently that I discovered I was still alive."

Jazz's arms tightened around him, her fingers curling and grabbing hold of his sweater. "Do you have any idea how much it hurt all of us to think you were dead?" She sobbed against his neck.

"I'm sorry," Danny said sadly, rubbing his hand over her back in a soothing motion. "I wish I had known the truth sooner so that I could have saved you all from suffering like that."

Jazz shook her head, clinging to Danny like she feared he would disappear from her if she released him. "Please tell me this isn't a dream. Please tell me I haven't cracked and I'm suffering hallucinations because I so desperately want to believe you're still alive."

Pain filled Danny's blue eyes, knowing his family had suffered a great deal when they were forced to announce his death and bury an empty coffin. "I'm here. I'm real. I'm not going to leave again."

Vlad and Jack stood back, allowing the siblings to stand there holding each other while Jazz cried against her brother. No one interrupted them. No one complained that they were being overly dramatic about their reunion. Most of those gathered that night at Fenton Works had gone through the same emotional reunion after discovering that Danny wasn't dead, wasn't just another ghost. They waited patiently until Jazz cried out the four years of sorrow over the loss of her younger brother. When she was done, Jazz pulled back, wiping her eyes dry.

"You better not give us a scare like that again for a long, long time." Jazz gave her brother a stern glare, but the smile that kept trying to break across her face ruined the look. "So," she smirked a little, "I never would have thought my little brother would have a thing for older guys."

Vlad nearly choked on his drink, coughing a few times before his airway cleared again. Danny, meanwhile, glanced away with darkening cheeks.

"It was obvious by the way you couldn't stop staring at him," Jazz said, glancing Vlad's way, and he remembered that she was studying psychology. Naturally, she would be observant and pick up on things, body language and such, that other people wouldn't even think about noticing.

"It's not like I go around checking out every guy in his forties," Danny argued, folding his arms. "It's only Vlad."

"Well, so long as he treats you right," Jazz smiled at her brother before turning back to Vlad as her aqua colored eyes narrowed and her mouth pursed into a thin line, "then he won't have to fear for his life."

"Duly noted." Vlad bowed his head to her. The Fenton family certainly wouldn't sit back if anyone threatened harm, in any manner, upon another member of their family. "I do care for your brother very much."

"Jazz!" Maddie came down the hall and drew her daughter into a hug. "Now that everyone's here, we can start dinner."

They had snacked on vegetables and sweets for the past hour while waiting for the final guest of the night to show up, but they were all hungry and ready to get to the main star of the night: the turkey, and though Christmas wasn't for another two days, they decided to have a big festive dinner the night Jazz returned home from college. They headed into the kitchen to move aside the snacks and prepare the table for the large gathering to sit and enjoy their dinner. For the Fenton family, this would be perhaps the best Christmas they had had in quite some time as their family was finally reunited. For Vlad, it would be the happiest Christmas he could recall in over two decades as he finally had a family with which to celebrate.

Author's Note: Thanks everyone that has sat through and read this story from beginning to end! =D Thanks akiwitch for always being there to listen to me whine. Thanks gothiethefairy for inspiring the idea by mentioning the idea of Vlad being a successful hit man! I hope you've all enjoyed the story. =) I know that the ending might seem somewhat disappointing with the lack of fluff, but~ I'm tempted to write a sequel to this. Once I, you know, come up with a plot idea and such. I have little threads of thoughts, but nothing concrete at this point.

Some Weird Chick: Danny was sure he was going to get punched or something by Dash! XD But yeah, it was definitely like a wake up call for Dash.

sohrem666: Sort of the winding down portion of the story. XD;; I think most classes suck. D8 But then, I pretty much hated all of my classes. orz

Phantom Trainer: What if the fist is shaking in a forward motion? Into a GiW's face? *whistles innocently* Oh, sword! I can definitely use that~

Dr. Strawberries: Sadly yes. =( But there's always room to play some more in this universe. XD;; Oh no! Who left the door open to the plot bunny cage!? They're multiplying like crazy now! XD;; I was about to say that has some same elements to A World Unseen. I probably wouldn't use Freakshow again for something like since I've already used him quite a few times like that. But there's also not a lot in the way of human villains beyond Freakshow and the GiW. =( Hm, I can't remember if I have another Dash x Danny one planned just yet. I do have a Phantom x Fenton idea that's been sitting on the back burner while I try to pin down a full plot for it. XD;; That would be a pretty hilarious scene to see written! XD They've probably kept Danny very hush hushed from the town. He's got a lot of work to do for the GED and stuff, you know, so they don't want the press and stuff hounding him for a story.

TearsDrippingDown: It's mostly the GiW though, and sometimes Skulker. XD;; I do like my GiW OC Darren though. XD;; But it wasn't meant to be a narrow minded idiot like the other GiW agents. XD;;;

jelloshots99: It's so sad when I story finally comes to an end! *cries over the story being finished* If I do the sequel, I'll try to have more fluff in there! XD

Sammi: Yup, Dash had a bit of a turn around after Danny "died." It wasn't a complete personality change, and he still acts a bit like a jerk, but he's much less mean to other students. I don't know about that though~ XD It's not like Danny died, and Dash suddenly went "but wait! I loved him!" XD;;;

maltese: Maddie can be quite scary. And I think Jazz inherited some of that too. XD;; Ah~ But if they got distracted by things, Danny would never get anywhere studying for the GED. XD;; I don't think Vlad's going to risk pissing off anyone in the Fenton family. XD;; He finally has his friends back, and he doesn't want to lose them again. D: