When Danny came to the hospital the next morning, the second-floor welcoming desk was a blackened mess, there were Fentonworks staff dusting for ectoplasmic traces, and Vlad wasn’t in his usual room.
Danny blinked in confusion. //What…?// he wondered.
After the Fentonworks staff proved rather ignorant about the whole situation, he quickly went back down to the main reception desk, fully intent on demanding answers. But as soon as he stepped out of the elevator, Danny heard a familiar voice.
“Two staff injuries, an entire room burned down, and you put the kid in the MENTAL WARD?” a dark-skinned man demanded of the hesitant secretary. “In a straightjacket?! Honestly, do you know ANYTHING about overshadowing cases?”
Danny made his way over to him. “Tucker?!”
Tucker glanced around. A smile spread across his lips at the sight of his friend. “Oh, hey, Danny!” he greeted. “What’s crackin’?”
A few inches taller than Danny and built like a mechanic, Tucker Foley had become less of a one-line-slinging, so-called ladykiller and more of a practical individual. He wasn’t dressed in a suit, like one would expect of someone of his position, but just a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, some worn-out, oil-stained jeans, and a pair of goggles strapped up on his head. He wore contacts, not glasses like he had when he was in high school, and had grown up surprisingly handsome and big-boned. Tucker was an inventor, a grease monkey, and a shut-in expert of the Ghost Zone and most of its inhabitants – that is, until Phantom made ghost fighting a more glamorous occupation. Then he quickly rose to the top of Fentonworks. And Fentonworks – within just the past ten years – was on its way to becoming the FBI of ghost activity in the human world.
Tucker looked down at his clipboard. “I’m just here about some fire-core that took over a patient. It looks like everything’s peachy so far… well, aside from a broken rib and a couple burnt people bits.”
“Took over a– Tuck…” Danny franticly muttered, moving closer to his friend with panic in his eyes. “That kid I told you about, the one that built the portal that exploded? He’s HERE! V-Vlad Masters, he was staying on the 3rd floor, room 308, was it him?!”
Danny should have known, should have REALIZED. He KNEW Vlad had been exposed to a lot of ecto-radiation and energy, OF COURSE he would have become susceptible to over-shadowing! He should have thought of that, should have known to call Tucker in sooner!
God, he was an IDIOT!
Danny gripped Tucker’s arm, already gearing to move past him, to confirm it all for himself. “Tucker, was it him?!”
“Whoah whoah whoah, calm down, dude.”
Tucker held him back. “Yeah, it was him,” he said calmly. “Keep your hair on, alright? I’ll take you to him.”
“By all accounts, it’s a basic foreshadowing. It’s just that the ghost doing the deed isn’t very talkative.”
Tucker and Danny stood on the dark side of a one-way mirror, staring into the smoldering red eyes of its single inhabitant. Vlad – or what seemed to be Vlad – shifted restlessly against the straps of the straightjacket they had put him in; the few lights in the room glared off the occasional flash of fangs between snarling lips, and his frightened, scarlet eyes which glowed like burning coals. The room had been modified, the walls lined with heat-resistant foil and a miniature ghost containment field that shimmered in waves of green along the walls, floor, and ceiling.
Tucker glanced down at his notes. “I ran a few samples of its ecto-signature through the main lab and nothing turned up in the system, so the ghost is either extremely old or extremely new. I’d say new, seeing how scared it’s acting.”
Danny rubbed his arms uneasily – not because of the ghost, but who it was looking out from. “Don’t you think you should bring him to the main lab, then?” the halfa asked.
“I thought about that, but the kid’s body is still under a lot of duress WITHOUT the overshadowing, not to mention the ghost has its claws pretty deep and it doesn’t want to leave. Forcing it out might –”
“Cause some real damage to the host if it really doesn’t want to go…” Danny finished at a whisper. “Yeah…”
Tucker glanced at the other man worriedly, but flipped through his clipboard to distract himself. After a few minutes, he sighed and turned back to Danny. “Look, dude, I know this is hard for you. Valerie called me and told me…”
Danny shrunk in on himself.
Tucker hesitated… then looked over at the door. “…Do you want to go talk to him?” he asked. “See if you can’t get the little ghosty goo to migrate elsewhere?”
“I… I have to at least try…”
Danny walked past Tucker and into the containment room, eyes never once leaving the form of his young friend, curled in on himself on the floor.
“Apparently, I’m not the first one to talk to you,” Danny said softly as he approached, those red eyes watching him warily. “But it’s not you I want to talk to.”
He knelt down so he was on eye level with the other. “I want to talk to Vlad. I know he’s in there, I know he can hear me. He’s been through a lot already, and you are not helping him. You’re scared, I know. But if you just leave now, no one will stop you, no one will hurt you. Just go back to where you came from, and leave Vlad alone…”
He didn’t get much of a response, but he had a feeling–just from the look in those eyes– that it understood him. Slowly, Danny reached up… and turned off the containment field.
The ghost’s red eyes widened.
Suddenly, behind Danny, Tucker opened the door. “Dude?!” he exclaimed. “Why’d you–?!”
The ghost hissed angrily and lunged at Tucker; the heat in the room suddenly skyrocketed as the president-to-be of Fentonworks yelped and slammed the door. Before the ghost could get any further, two strong arms suddenly wrapped themselves around the younger man’s waist. Danny held Vlad to his chest, ignoring the heat and the hissing and the screaming. He closed his eyes with a grimace, hiding his glowing green irises, and with one slow breath…
Released his icy frost core.
Steam suddenly filled the room, fogging up the mirror as icy cold clashed with burning heat. Danny shivered, causing him to frown in surprise as he found the heat… to be PLEASANT. Danny didn’t feel much changes in temperature unless they were to the extreme, but THIS. This was something else! It coiled and sizzled over his skin, making him gasp and shake at the sensation…
After a split second, Danny managed to collect himself and force his core to expand, flooding Vlad’s body with the chill of his energy. Danny had only met a few fire core ghosts like this one, and he had learned that his powers had the ability to drive away or calm them. Considering how young this one was, he figured he could forcefully calm this ghost and drive the heat of it out of Vlad’s body. “Hang on Vlad, I’m gonna bring you back to me. Just hang on…”
The room quickly dropped in temperature as Danny’s chilling energy began to pour into him. Vlad squirmed in the older man’s grip, eyes rolling in pain. The fire scorching in his blood shrieked, flickering and trying to fight back against the more powerful chill… but the pressure built up, and like pulling the pin on a fire hydrant, the blockage was suddenly loose. Vlad froze, shivering once violently – eyes flickering back to blue – then…
His head jerked back in a ghostly howl, loud at first, then sad and tapering. “OOWWWAUHHhhhhhhh…!”
The flames struggled one last time, then were finally forced back down in a soft sizzle and a cloud of water vapor – until the young man couldn’t even tell they were there anymore. He felt… normal again.
A pathetic whimper of relief escaped Vlad’s chest. “Oh god… thank you…!” he sobbed.
Hot tears streamed down deathly pale cheeks. “I-It came out of nowhere! I thought… I thought it was gonna…!”
Danny held Vlad to his chest tightly, staring over his head at Tucker through the glass. He could tell the man was angry with his reckless move, but more than relieved to see the kid was okay. Danny combed his fingers through Vlad’s silver white hair, making soothing, shushing noises as he rocked the crying young man gently.
“You’re okay now, Vlad, I got you. You’re safe… you’re safe…”
Tentatively, without Vlad seeing or noticing, Danny’s eyes glowed green as he reached out with his senses, searching for any remaining traces of the ghost they thought had possessed him. All he sensed were weak fragments, likely just lingering energy from its departure. Or so he thought…
He looked back down at Vlad and winced when he saw he was still tied up in the straight jacket, pale and shaken. He wasted no time in freeing him from the jacket, tossing it as far away from the two of them as possible, and rubbed his hands down the other’s back, still trying to calm his frayed nerves. “Do you think you can stand? I want to get you back to your room and checked over, you could be seriously hurt and we wouldn’t even know… Do you feel any pain? Anything at all?”
Danny reached forward and held him again, releasing a shuddering sigh. “God, Vlad, you had me so scared there…”
Vlad let out a half-terrified, half-disbelieving sound. “YOU were scared? Haha…!”
“Of course I was scared!” Danny exclaimed, holding him tighter for just a moment. “Ghost possession is terrifying and I’ve seen the damage it can cause and I would NEVER have wanted that to happen to you! I’m so sorry, Vlad, I should have called Tucker sooner. We might have been able to prevent this…”
The silver-haired boy sighed and rested his head wearily on Danny’s shoulder. “It’s not like you would’ve known…”
Both of them glanced up as Tucker re-entered the room – a little more cautious this time – with a couple of doctors. “Hey, Danny, mind if we take a look at him?” he asked. Vlad blinked, unconsciously tightening his arms around Danny as the doctors came closer, trying to smile at the traumatized boy. “He might have some kind of internal damage, and we need to put him through a few scans.”
“Right… of course…”
Danny looked down at Vlad, quickly realising how scared the younger man still was. His expression morphed to something more determined, and he gave Vlad a reassuring smile. He glanced back up at the doctors as he slowly helped Vlad stand up, holding his hand comfortingly. “Do you mind if I stay? He’s been through a pretty traumatizing experience and he knows me, I’m his friend. Right, Vlad?”
He turned to him, grinning playfully and trying to lighten the mood. “You know I won’t let any big bad ghosties get ya, right~?’
Vlad smiled back – tired but bright. “Not my cupcake!” he teased shakily. “I’m safe around you.”
Danny’s head tilted back with a loud laugh. “Never thought I’d miss one of those cheesy nicknames~! Alright, doctors, lead the way!”