The Ring: Part II
Five years after the accident
They stopped in front of Sam's apartment about a block away from the Purdue Calumet campus, but waited inside the Specter Speeder for Valerie to catch up with them. They hadn't heard from her on the Fenton Phones and were a little concerned, so they monitored her progress on the Speeder's GPS. About ten minutes after they got there, they heard the whine of her jet sled, and then it shut down and she appeared in the Speeder's open hatch.
Tucker threw himself at her. "Valerie! We were getting worried! You didn't call, and we couldn't get a hold of you…"
She embraced him in return, then backed off. "Yeah, the Guys in White got off a lucky shot and fried my com system."
"What?" Tucker gaped at her. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but I've got some bad news." Then, she spotted Danny in one of the back seats. A relieved smile crossed her features briefly, until she schooled them into something resembling reproach. "I see we saved your ghost butt again, Phantom. That's another one you owe us."
"Yeah, yeah, put it on my tab. So what's the bad news?"
"They got Wulf and about a dozen of the Thralls. They managed to get their plane off the ground, even in that cornfield, and they're headed west again."
"What?" Danny jumped up, nearly hitting his head on the Speeder's roof. "The Guys in White captured Wulf?"
"Pretty much. I tried to stop them, but the rest of the Thralls bugged out, and I was too outnumbered. That's how they fried my com system, so I couldn't even call you guys for help."
Danny clenched his fists at his side. "I gotta go after them."
Jazz was already starting up the Speeder's engine. "Way ahead of you, little brother."
"No. Not all of us. Just me."
"Uh…" Sam put her hands on her hips. "Let me think about that for a minute. No!"
"Yeah, I'm with her, dude," Tucker said.
"I'm not giving you guys a choice. I want you to stay here, or go back to Amity Park if you want, but I'm taking the Specter Speeder and going after them."
"No." Sam glared at him.
"Sam… you guys took way too big a risk coming after me. I'm not gonna have you get arrested—"
"Yeah, well, we're not too big on you getting arrested, either. Hence the coming after you."
"I won't get arrested. I can stay a step ahead of them."
"Like you did back in Amity Park?"
"I was trying to fight off a whole gang of Walker's Goons at the time! If it's just me and the Guys in White—"
"Sam, think about it. I'm already on their wanted list, but if you guys get caught? How long before they come back to Danny Fenton? And to Danielle?"
His "cousin" scowled at him. "Would you quit worrying about me? I'm fine."
Sam let out an exasperated huff of air. "The Specter Speeder has cloaking. We can stay hidden."
"We've already taken too many chances with the cloaking. I want you guys to report it stolen as soon as I leave, and then it's just the Ghost Boy being the nuisance they already think I am."
Valerie put a hand up to stop her. "It doesn't matter. It's a moot point, anyway—they're already gone. How are we gonna find them?"
Danny frowned. "How did you find them before?"
Holding up his PDA, Tucker replied, "We tracked your ecto-signature."
"Can we track Wulf's?"
"We could, if I had it programmed in."
Danny slammed his fist into the back of the seat he was standing beside. "Dammit! I can't just leave him to the Guys in White! They're worse than Walker! And he's in this mess because of me!"
Jazz's eyes widened. "Wait a minute. The Specter Speeder has a DNA sampler. Wulf's DNA would carry his ecto-signature, right? Tucker, you can program the Speeder's GPS to track him, can't you?"
"Sure, but where are we gonna get a sample of Wulf's DNA?"
Jazz pulled off the scarf that was around her neck. "Between him pouncing on me, slobbering on me, and being crammed next to him in here while we chased Danny, there must be something on this we could use." She pushed a few buttons on the control panel, and Tucker and Nick both climbed up front to help her.
Sam, meanwhile, continued her argument with Danny. "I still don't like you going alone."
"It's a lot less risky than you all coming, too, and you know it."
"I can go with you," Valerie offered. "I'm in the same boat as you. The Ghost Hunter Girl's already on their list. Then you wouldn't have to take the Speeder."
Danny shook his head. "They've got too big a head start, Val. You'd never catch 'em on your sled, and they already got a shot off at you once. No. I'm doing this alone."
She nodded, but Sam clenched her jaw in irritation before finally relenting. "Okay, fine. You go alone. But I'm giving you a time limit." She looked outside the Speeder's windshield to see the gloom of dusk settling around them. "You've only got until midnight. If you're not back by midnight, I'm coming after you."
"No arguments, Danny. That's more than six hours. If you can't get him back in six hours, I'm coming after you, period."
"We all are," Valerie agreed.
Now it was Danny's turn to concede. "All right. That should be more than enough time. Zip in, grab Wulf, zip back out again."
Sam arched an eyebrow at him. "Yeah, and it always works out so well when you say that."
"It'll be fine, Sam."
"Okay, got it!" Tucker turned around. "Looks like they just crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. Dang. That's a huge head start they've got."
"The Specter Speeder's faster than their jet. I'll catch up with them." He looked around. "Okay, I'll be back in a couple of hours—with Wulf and the Thralls."
Sam gave him a look of warning. "You'd better be."
One by one, they wished him luck and exited the Speeder, until Sam alone was left inside with him. She tugged at the green and gold University of Wisconsin-Madison class ring on her left ring finger, pulling it off and holding it out to him. He met her eyes a moment before accepting the ring with a nod of understanding.
It was an established ritual between them since Antarctica. Whenever he had to do something dangerous on his own, she would give him the ring. His acceptance was an unspoken promise to return it when he came back. It was her way of reminding him to be careful, and that she needed him to come back. Pocketing the ring, he leaned in and kissed her.
"Midnight," she told him as she turned to go. "If you're not back here at my apartment by midnight, I'm calling your parents and we're coming after you with the Fenton Jet. Got it?"
He smiled at her. "Got it."
Sam awoke with a start in pitch darkness, disoriented. It took her a moment to realize why she was confused—she was in her bed, fully clothed except for her boots, but the last thing she remembered was sitting at her desk, where she'd been… what? Checking online for wire stories about Danny's arrest…
Gasping, she sat upright as everything came flooding back. After Danny had left in the Specter Speeder, the others had taken a cab back to Amity Park to check in with Danny's parents and find out if Walker and his Goons were still causing trouble. Sam, meanwhile, impatiently waited for Danny's return at her small, one-bedroom campus apartment, filling the evening by eating, watching TV—Danny's capture had made both local and national news—and checking the various news feeds online to see what they were saying about Danny's arrest and if word of his escape had gotten out yet. She also checked to see if the pundits and commentators were weighing in, but apparently it was too soon. The way the anti-ghost rhetoric had been heating up over the last few months concerned her. It was exactly that sort of climate that made it possible for the Guys in White to do something like this without fearing a massive public backlash.
She must have somehow fallen asleep while online, however—though how she ended up in her bed with all the lights off, she wasn't sure—and now it was… what time was it, anyway? Glancing at her alarm clock, she gasped. 1:37! An hour and a half past Danny's midnight deadline, and he hadn't returned! Fighting back panic, she reached over and turned on her bedside lamp. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she started to get out of bed, but something glinting in the light caught her eye, and she stopped.
On the pillow next to the one she'd been sleeping on lay a gold and green ring. Her ring. Beneath it was a note written in Danny's lazy scrawl. Slipping the ring back on her finger, she picked up the note.
Everything's fine. Got Wulf and thirteen Thralls away from the GIW—they hardly even put up a fight.
She made a small sound of disbelief, knowing him well enough to know a whitewash when she saw one, but she continued reading.
Got back at 11:53. 7 minutes to spare! You were asleep at your desk—didn't look too comfortable, but I didn't want to wake you, so I moved you to your bed.
That raised an eyebrow, too. How had he moved her without waking her? Unless… She scrunched up her nose. He probably just overshadowed her.
I'm gonna go take Wulf, the Thralls, and the Speeder back to AP so Wulf doesn't have to claw open his own portal to get back to the GZ. Don't worry—I'll go as DF and stay clear of any lingering GIW. I wanna check in with everyone, pick up my car and the stuff I brought home for the weekend, etc. I need to see how Dani's doing, too. She didn't look great when I left.
Sam felt a twinge of guilt at that. She couldn't really tell if there was an accusation between the lines—she had promised to look out for Dani, after all. But the next few sentences reassured her that he wasn't mad at her.
If you wake up before I get back, stay here. Unless Dani's really sick, I'll come straight back here from my parents'. I know you'll worry until you see for yourself I'm okay. Which I am. Promise. If I need to stay in AP for Dani, I'll call you, no matter the time.
I love you.
Sam folded the note and put it on her nightstand. She was looking at her phone, debating whether she should call his cell just to make sure he really was okay and to find out how Dani was doing, when she heard keys rattling in her apartment's front door. She rushed out into the living room just as Danny was locking the door behind him after letting himself in with the spare key she'd given him when she'd first moved in.
"Oh, hey. You're awake. Did you get my—?"
He was cut off when she threw herself into his arms and kissed him.
"—note?" he finished when they came up for air a moment later. But before he could say anything more, she was kissing him again, relief turning into desire at the need to feel him in her arms and to really know in every part of her that he'd dodged yet another bullet; that he was here, safe once more.
Her hands twisted into his hair, and she drew him even closer, her mouth covering his as she tugged, teasing, on his lower lip. He dropped the duffel bag he'd been holding, leaving his hands free to roam down her sides, then slip under her shirt to glide along the skin on her back. Everywhere he touched her was electric, and she shivered, craving more. Wanting to return the favor, she yanked off his jacket, then broke off the kiss so she could pull his t-shirt off over his head and toss it aside. She let her hands explore his bare shoulders and chest, her lips following behind. There were the usual old scars, with which she was well acquainted, and also some new bruises that were already beginning to turn varying shades of purple, along with one nasty cut across his shoulder that looked like it had some antiseptic smeared on it. Determined not to let worry overcome her again—he was here, and safe now—she worked her way around the injuries and back up to his neck, her tongue sampling the slightly salty taste of his throat. He leaned his head back against the door, his eyes half closed as he whispered her name, sending another thrill down her spine.
Then, with something almost like a growl, he turned them both around so that she was the one pressed back against the door as his lips claimed hers once more. She'd never felt so hungry for him before, so desperate to feel him everywhere, his skin on hers, with nothing between them. For three years, they'd been so cautious, but the only risk that seemed real to her right now was the risk of losing him. The fact that she hadn't, not this time, made her long for him, and not just in the ways they'd settled for up until now.
Abruptly, he wrenched himself back, breathing heavily, his eyes dark and full of desire as they met hers. "I think… if we keep going like this, it's gonna be awfully hard to stop."
She held his gaze for what seemed like forever, and when she finally spoke, it was a hoarse whisper. "Then let's not stop."
His eyes widened, and he gave her a questioning look, which she answered by taking his face in her hands and pulling him back into another long, breathless kiss.
The sun was up, filtering into her bedroom through half-opened purple velvet drapes, when Sam awoke to find blue eyes looking into hers. She and Danny were both curled on their sides, their faces inches away from each other. He looked like he'd been awake awhile, watching her with a content smile.
"Hi," she said, feeling oddly shy.
"Hi." He made no move to back away now that she was awake, instead taking his hand and stroking her cheek. "You are so beautiful. I could so get used to waking up like this."
She blushed, a smile curling on her lips. "Yeah, me too. It's almost enough to make a morning person out of me." She closed her eyes as he bridged what little distance there was between them to kiss her, but only for a moment before she pulled back, opening her eyes to look at him once more. "Except for the morning breath."
"I meant me. But I guess we both could benefit from a toothbrush right about now." She started to sit up, but his hand on her arm stopped her.
"Don't go. Not yet."
She relented, staying in place on her side, while he raised himself up on one elbow to look down at her. "You are so amazing. I…" He shook his head, slightly dazed, as if he'd run out of words. "I just hope you're not… that you don't regret… anything. Do you? I know you've been taking birth control pills for a while now, but we still don't know for sure—"
She put her finger to his lips to silence him. "Absolutely no regrets. Well, the morning breath, maybe."
"I'm serious, Sam."
"So am I. I think we're probably safe, but if not… I know we're only nineteen, and it wouldn't exactly be ideal right now, but we are adults, and it's not like money's an issue. There are worse things that could happen. Bigger regrets." She swallowed. "Like pretending we don't live dangerous lives, and missing the chance to ever—"
This time he stopped her, leaning in for another kiss. She responded, morning breath be damned. It was softer and much less heated than the night before, but she could have easily gotten back there pretty quickly if he hadn't pulled away after a moment to meet her gaze once more. "I love you. And I'm not going anywhere, okay? I… I have too much to come back for."
She looked up at him. "Promise?"
He took her left hand, his fingers interlocking with hers as he showed her the class ring on her finger. "That's the whole point of the thing we do with the ring, right?"
"I know, but… I want to hear it in words, Danny. Promise you'll always come back to me."
"I promise, Sam." He kissed her again. "I will always come back to you."