This might have been posted months ago if I'd found a title but it eluded me through my normal channels and the Merriam-Webster word of the day archives (although I actually considered both Etiolate- a: to make pale b: to deprive of natural vigor, make feeble and Footle 1; to talk or act foolishly 2; to waste time: trifle, fool) and even song lyrics until I got to Owl City's Take It All Away.

But as it is, it works out well because perhaps this is appropriate for Halloween. And the DP fic I was planning to write for today never panned out (second year in a row. Ugh. I need to get my act together) so here, have a crossover instead!

And good luck to everyone trying nanowrimo this year! 'Twill be a ghost town without you.

Oh yeah, and this is AU for Danny Phantom... as if you wouldn't be able to tell.

Lonely Gray

October 31, 2013

Sam sat in the precise middle of the couch in their living room. Sitting unnaturally stiffly, she stared at the carpet in front of her and tried not to chew on her fingernails. She had just applied a new coat of dark purple polish the night before in hopes that the strong chemical flavor would deter the horrible habit she'd picked up in the past week, but apparently, even that wasn't enough to stop her when she had nothing to do but wait as the clouds began to gather and darken the graying skies.

"Hey, Gram?" she called out through empty rooms without getting up from her seat.

"Yeah?" a wrinkled voice eventually rolled closer.

"Nobody's going to be home tonight, right?" she wanted to make absolutely sure. And by nobody, she meant her parents. Who could be nobody, given how often they are in this place called home— rarely— and how much they see, and not just look at, and listen to their daughter when they are around— which was never.

Her grandmother smiled, indulgently, so that the crow's feet around her twinkling eyes deepened, before replying. Her answer was still the same one it had been an hour before. "No, sweetie," she confirmed. "Your father is out of the country on a business trip all week, I think. And your mother normally has a meeting for some committee or another and doesn't come home until late. But don't worry!" she added before Sam could say anything else. "If she comes home early for some unknown reason, I'll distract her! Keep her out of the way of your guests."

Sam turned to look over her shoulder at the one member of her family who actually cared about her. Smiling softly, she said, "Thanks, Gram," with all of the gratitude she could muster.

"No problem!" her grandmother replied brightly.

Sam nodded and moved a hand towards her mouth before forcing it down into her lap again. "And remember what I said about—"

"Yes, yes, I remember," her grandmother interrupted with a wave of her wrinkled hand. "I'm not so old that I can't remember something when you tell me ten times."

"I just want to make sure that you'll be okay," Sam said. "I don't know what might happen once they get here."

"I'll be alright, don't you worry. But this worrying business has to go both ways, you know," she said. "Nothing's ever actually happened to me and you're worried about my getting caught in the crossfire that's aimed at you! You need to take care, you hear me? Can't have anything happening to my favorite granddaughter."

Sam snorted. "I'm your only granddaughter," she pointed out.

"True, but that doesn't change the facts," the older woman replied before maneuvering her motored chair to take her back to the kitchen. Before she'd gotten more than a few feet, she hit the button to stop her progress. "When are they coming, by the way?"

Sam looked at her cell phone; the time synched to the atomic clock making her chew a fingernail in worry. "They should be coming in about fifteen minutes. And Tucker should already have been here by now."

Her grandmother caught the underlying tone and rushed to assure her that, "I'm sure everything's fine. He'll turn up any second!"

When the doorbell rang just as she finished her last sentence, she cackled with glee, "See! I told you so. Now go let in your friend," she mock-ordered as she wheeled away.

Sam woodenly got up from her spot on the couch and went to open the door so that Tucker could come in out of the clouds that threatened rain. She stared at the sky for a few long moments without saying anything before closing the door again.

"Sorry I'm late," Tucker breathed. "They're not here yet, are they?" he asked, looking around the corner to find the large room empty.

"No, not yet," Sam replied as she followed her friend to the living room and the two of them walked back to the long sofa. "They should be here soon, though." With a deep breath, she sighed, "I hope so."

She resumed her stiff position on the couch, facing the front door. Tucker readjusted his glasses and, after a moment's hesitation, plopped down on the cushion next to her, saying, "I'm sure they'll be here in just a couple minutes. And then we can figure all of this out."

Sam didn't answer right away, but bit her lip to keep it from quivering. She couldn't hide the new sheen covering her eyes, however, not matter how quickly she tried to blink them away. She swallowed a few times before asking in a thin voice, "You're sure that we're doing the right thing, Tuck?"

He looked at her through thick-rimmed glasses, green eyes softening as he assured her, "Yes. We've been over this, Sam. This is what we need to do. We can't let things go on like this any more. It's getting out of hand."

She nodded without saying anything and he hesitantly reached out a hand to rub lightly against her shoulder, wanting to reassure her without knowing how to do it. But the awkward touch was enough of a comfort for the both of them. She wasn't the only one who was scared.

Neither teenager said anything else until they heard a rumbling engine stop outside the door, footsteps jog up, and knocks quickly following up on the doorbell.

Tucker looked at how frozen in place Sam had become since listening to the litany of her guests' progress, and got up to answer it himself. Opening the door, he saw two men in their upper twenties who looked tall, strong, like they knew what they were doing. One of them had a gun loosely tucked into his leather jacket. Dangerous.

Tucker swallowed thickly and tried not to feel too small. Or nervous. After all, they were here to help them, not to attack them. He hoped.

At the look that must have been on his face, the taller of the two men looked at him with a softly crinkled forehead, expression suddenly sympathetic. "Hey," he said gently, in a voice that persuaded him not to shut them out. "I'm Sam and this is my brother Dean," he gestured to the man in the leather jacket who gave a short wave and put on a smile for the few seconds that Tucker's eyes flicked back to him.

"You called and we came," Dean said with outstretched arms. "You… uh… gonna let us in?" he finally asked when the boy at the door made no move other than to stare at them.

Tucker finally nodded and stepped aside, pointing them into the living room as they walked through the Manson's elegant marble foyer. The Winchesters looked around and Sam knocked his brother in the ribs quick enough to stop the impressed whistle that rose to his lips.

He scowled briefly, then turned to Tucker. "Are you the other Sammy?" he asked. Dean's brother rolled his eyes but said nothing.

"No, I'm Tucker," he said as he shook his head. "Sam's in here. And you better not call her Sammy," he warned with a wide eyed look that spoke of experience.

Dean laughed as he walked behind his brother, stopping as Sam did when they entered the living room. It was expensively furnished and the older Winchester certainly hadn't been in a place that nice for many years, although he figured Sam might have stayed with some rich friends over breaks while he was at Stanford. He glanced around at the cut crystal in the curio cabinet, the pillows artistically strewn on chairs that were never meant to be sat upon, and what he guessed were original paintings in heavily ornate frames along the walls.

But despite the over the top decorations that stank of old money, the most noticeable thing in this room was a long white couch and the single girl who sat there, dwarfed by the furniture that made her look much younger than her fifteen years.

The brothers exchanged a look before walking in.

"Hi," Sam introduced himself softly, always the more friendly of the two. "I'm Sam Winchester and this is my older brother Dean."

Sam's lips pressed into a thin line as she eyed the newcomers but she didn't complete the introductions. Tucker walked between his friend and the brothers, eyes darting back and forth as the silence stretched on uncomfortably.

"Yeah," Tucker said, licking his lips. "This is Sam Manson." The hand he had gestured with soon fell to tap nervously against his side.

"You're the one we're here to see?" the taller Winchester asked with a tilt to his head.

She nodded tightly, then finally added a clipped, "yes."

The corners of Dean's mouth quirked down playfully and he turned toward his brother, mouth opened to let loose a quip, but Sam could already tell what it was— oh wow, look, Sammy, it talks!— and cut him off with a glare before he could start. Dean deflated and they all stood in silence wondering who would break it.

Tucker did, when he pointed to a couple upholstered chairs with intricately carved wooden armrests and asked if they wanted to sit down. The Winchesters dragged the chairs closer and sat, Sam folding easily to fill his expensive antique seat while Dean perched uncomfortably on the edge of his, several beaded pillows piled high behind him. He didn't think Sam would approve if he tossed them on the floor. Either of them. So he shifted his weight around and tried to pay attention to how his brother was getting down to business.

"Well," Sam began with a broad open sweep of his hands. Then he paused uncomfortably. "Look, are your parents home?"

"No," Sam replied.

The younger Winchester huffed as he looked over at Dean. This was going nowhere fast. And he had never been good at dealing with kids.

"When are they going to be home?" Dean asked then, rescuing his brother.

"I don't know," the girl answered and Dean fought hard to keep his hands from running down his face in exasperation.

"Her parents don't know anything," Tucker cut in, trying to disperse the frustration in the air. "They don't know anything's going on."

"So you guys are the ones who called?" Dean asked with a pointed finger, clearly wondering why they weren't explaining themselves and the situation at hand if they were the ones who actually did know what was going on around here.

Tucker nodded and adjusted his glasses again.

"Can I ask how you were able to contact us?" Sam asked with a crinkled forehead.

Normally, they stumbled upon their own cases in the newspaper, but rarely did were they referred to a place through the grapevine unless is was by an already busy, or incapacitated, hunter who needed backup from someone in their general vicinity.

They had come here not knowing anything but a name. And apparently it was the name of a teenager who, by the obvious body language and clipped speech was scared enough that she didn't know what to do. She wasn't a hunter. Neither was her friend.

So how on earth had they been able to reach out blindly in the dark and touch the Winchesters?

"I have some contacts," Sam whispered. "People who… don't just take the world at face value." She gestured toward herself a bit deprecatingly and the Winchesters noticed her attire for the first time. All blacks and deep purples to set off her violet eyes. Metal studs in the choker and matching leather straps around her wrists.

She was a Goth. Which made sense. Those interested in the occult or who wanted to practice witchcraft were veering on the rim of the supernatural world. Most of them never found it, of course, but merely spouted Hollywood inspired nonsense and alchemic equations that had never worked even when they were state of the art.

A few of them, however, stumbled onto something a little more real, and that's when they normally found themselves in contact of some kind or another with a hunter. If they managed to live through the encounter, they normally kept an eye on things in the Winchesters' world, and often became some of their most useful contacts in whatever their particular specialty might be.

If this Sam had asked questions of enough people in her dark circles, eventually, one of them would have known to pass on the job and that was how they had found themselves here, at the beck and call of a teenage girl.

"So then," Sam began again. "Could you tell us what…" he sighed before switching to what he hoped might be a more tactful line of questioning. "Why you wanted someone to come out here?"

Sam and Tucker locked eyes for a long moment. When he nodded, she dropped her eyes to the floor and collected herself by breathing in deeply.

"There's a guy. That I know. Who won't leave me alone." Her words were short, her tone clipped, and both Sam and Dean stared at her when she had finished.

"That's it?" Dean asked, clearly flummoxed. "There's a guy? Who keeps coming after you?" He looked at his brother and his expression was an eloquent mixture of impatient and absolutely fed up with the situation.

"Oh come on!" he said. "You call us all the way out here because there's some guy bothering you? Let your boyfriend here take care of it!" He gestured to Tucker while pinning him with a glare.

"I'm not her boyfriend!" Tucker protested with a voice that squeaked.

"Tucker's not my boyfriend," Sam confirmed in a calm, low voice. "Danny might have been, though," she added.

"If… he wasn't so creepy?" Sam asked, feeling sure that this was the guy who wouldn't leave her alone.

She nodded and chewed desperately on a fingernail for a second before her brain caught up with her actions and she forced her hand down again.

"And…" he took in a deep breath. "What… exactly did you want us to do about it?"

"I…" she faltered, looking to Tucker. "I want… you… to make him go away," she finally managed in a very small voice. She seemed to be speaking to the carpet more than to the Winchesters.

"Oh that's it," Dean protested with upraised hands. "This is ridiculous; I'm outta here."

Sam sighed helplessly as he watched Dean stand and make his way back to the front door. He had obviously had enough. But the girl was clearly in distress and if she needed help and they were already here, they might as well help her out even though it wasn't their normal kind of gig.

That didn't seem to be the train of thought running through Dean's head, however, as he cursed under his breath and clomped toward the exit in heavy soled boots.

But then he stopped short of the door and whirled around, eyes scanning the entire room before landing again on the girl. He looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it.

That's when Sam felt it too. A wave of cold air washing into the living room, too cold and too powerful to be air conditioning. It had undertones of ice. He could almost hear it crackling.

He sniffed the air as he leapt out of his seat and found the expected tang of ozone filling the room.


He pulled out the knife in his jacket's breast pocket but had a moment of panic when he realized the blade in his hand wouldn't do anything against this non-corporeal target.

"Dean!" he called, voice barely controlled. "It's silver."

Dean looked over at his brother and took in the situation in an instant, barely hesitating before he tossed over the knife that he had been holding at the ready, this one made of solid iron that would work against ghosts just as well as anything with a body that could be stabbed.

He needed a weapon now, though, and his hand jerked reflexively behind his back toward the gun he always kept tucked inside the waistband of his jeans. But with the traditional bullets in his handgun, he ran into the same problem Sam had come across. It wouldn't do a single thing against a ghost.

Dean swore loudly this time, not caring who heard him. "Damn it, Sammy! You should have let me bring in the weapons," he groused in a strained voice.

They had thought they were just coming here for a quick interview to figure out what was going on. There had been no warning that they might run into trouble and Sam hadn't wanted to scare the civilians right off the bat. Now they were stuck with only one viable weapon between them.

As he scanned the room for possible assets, he blindly dug through his pockets for the tiny packets of salt he kept there by force of habit but rarely needed to call upon. He spread the tiny paper rectangles in his palm. Enough for maybe one dose of ghost repellant. Not nearly enough for a protective circle.

And they had to think of the kids, too.

He spared a glance at the teenagers Sam had taken up a stand in front of, automatically moving to provide protection even when he didn't know where the threat would come from.

Tucker was moaning as he curled up on himself at the far end of the couch. He looked like he was trying to disappear into the cushions and his arms covered his head like he was convinced that no monsters would exist or be able to hurt him if he didn't see them.

Sam hadn't moved from her spot on the couch. She looked stiff and frozen, like she was carved out of white marble. He wasn't sure that any amount of cajoling would get her to help.

"Tucker!" he called. The teenager didn't respond. "Tucker!" Dean yelled again, walking closer with one eye on the boy and the other making sure the ghost didn't show.

This time, Tucker flinched violently and looked up at the older Winchester. "Go to the kitchen and get all the salt you can find," he ordered. "Hurry!"

The kid blinked a couple times at the odd command, but then unfolded himself from the couch and ran out of the room.

As soon as he had done so, the lights all around them flickered. The Winchesters immediately split their attentions to cover different parts of the room, eyes casing all the places where they thought the ghost might make its entrance. Sam found it first as it sprang to life a few feet behind the couch. He turned to face it squarely and Dean, already in synch with his brother's movements before he had even seen what he had reacted to, followed suit a split second later.

The girl didn't even turn her head as the boy with white hair and green eyes flickered in and out of the air right behind her.

She smiled wanly as she locked eyes with Dean.

Then she looked forward again, staring vaguely through the carpet. "Hello, Danny," she whispered.