The Ring: Part III
Seven years after the accident
It wasn't unusual for the Fright Knight to cause trouble around Halloween. What was unusual—and much more dangerous—was for him to show up with the Ghost King's Crown of Fire, then to strike a deal with Prince Aragon to retrieve the Ring of Rage, which was still on Pariah Dark's finger in the Sarcophagus of Forever Sleep. Together, they somehow managed to overpower the former Ghost King after opening the sarcophagus, but the ensuing battle over ownership of the Ring and Crown threatened to throw the Ghost Zone into its third full-scale war against would-be tyrants with nearly absolute power in less than a decade. As usual, war in the Ghost Zone bled into the Human World, especially Amity Park, and while Danny's family and friends protected the home front, Danny went alone into the Ghost Zone to help the ghosts defeat the Fright Knight and Prince Aragon and finally destroy, once and for all, both the Crown of Fire and the Ring of Rage.
When he returned to FentonWorks, battered and bruised but safe, he slept for fifteen hours straight. Once he woke up and everyone knew he was fine, Sam took him back to her apartment in Hammond, where he spent even more time in bed, although definitely not sleeping.
The sun had long since gone down outside Sam's window before Danny even considered wanting to get out of bed, but his stomach was growling and he knew she wouldn't have anything he considered edible in her apartment, so a call to the nearest pizza delivery place was in order. That accomplished—all without even having to get up—he leaned over Sam, brushing back a strand of black hair that was still damp with sweat and sticking to her face. Her unique licorice-and-cloves scent clung to his fingers, and he kissed the bridge of her nose, then met her gaze, smiling. "If this is how you're going to reward me for vanquishing every Ghost King wannabe, I'm gonna seriously consider going around stirring things up to make sure we get more Ghost King wannabes."
In truth, it was a pretty typical reception for a return from a dangerous battle, once they'd concluded that birth control pills seemed to work just fine for them.
She glared at him. "Don't even joke. I'm just glad you're back."
"Me, too." He kissed her again, this time on the mouth.
"Which reminds me," she said between kisses. "What did you do with the ring?"
He stopped kissing her and frowned. "I told you, we destroyed the Ring of Rage, along with the Crown—"
She batted at his shoulder. "Not the Ring of Rage, lamebrain. My ring. I gave it to you to take with you into the Ghost Zone, and you promised to bring it back. Ringing any bells?"
"Ha ha. Ringing any bells. You're very punny."
She grunted. "Where's my ring, Ghost Boy?"
"Um. I think I left it in my backpack."
Sam pushed him back so she could sit up. "You brought it back with you from Amity Park, I hope?"
"Yeah. I had it when we came in. I think I dropped it by the front door. You were in a hurry to get back here, as I recall." He flashed her a lascivious grin.
Rolling her eyes, she threw the covers over his head, thus freeing herself from them, and got out of bed. He untangled himself in time to see her pulling on her fuzzy purple robe, belting it around her waist as she walked out of the bedroom toward the front door, where his backpack was lying, forgotten, on the floor.
His heart thumping, he scrambled around looking for his clothes. He found his boxers on the floor next to the bed, his jeans draped over her computer, and his shirt in the far corner of the room by her closet. Nearly tripping as he stumbled out of her room while simultaneously trying to pull on his jeans, he followed her into the living room. He'd managed to pull his shirt on over his head just as she stopped pawing through his backpack and looked up at him, frowning. "I don't see it, Danny. Are you sure you put it in here?"
He swallowed, trying to keep his voice from cracking as he sat down on the arm of the couch next to the door. "It's in there. Look again."
She dug through the bag once more, pulling out a Fenton Thermos, a handful of experimental Ghost Grenades that he and his dad had worked on together, and his Ecto-flage belt. Laying them on the floor, she shook her head. "It's not here."
Danny saw a glint of silver on the carpet among the Ghost Grenades. Swallowing again, he forced what he hoped was a disinterested look and pointed. "There it is. On the floor."
She looked where he was pointing. "That's not my ring. My ring is gold and green."
"Are you sure about that? You might wanna look again."
She looked closer, picking up the object this time. It was a simple white-gold ring with a deep purple marquise-cut amethyst gemstone surrounded by two small square-cut black onyx baguettes. "Danny, this is not my ring."
He bit back the urge to roll his eyes. Was she being deliberately obtuse, or was she so focused on finding a gold class ring that she wasn't really seeing what was in front of her? "Look closer, Sam. It must be your ring. It has your name in it."
Squinting, Sam held the ring up so she could see the engraving inside. Nothing flowery or romantic; just her name in a plain, Roman font. Then, her breath caught as she finally realized what it was. Her eyes wide and round, she looked up at him. "Danny? Is this…?"
He smiled, shrugging. "I know a diamond is more traditional, but I didn't want a lecture on conflict diamonds, and somehow, traditional just didn't seem right for you anyway. Amethyst and onyx suits you better. And this time, I'm the one who had your name engraved in it."
He was proud of that ring, actually. He'd spent months scouring jewelry stores and online sites trying to find the perfect combination of purple and black stones with a white-gold band, but it was hard to find anything other than diamonds. Finally, he'd come across a website that let him design his own ring, and he'd picked out the setting, the stones, and the cut himself.
The engraving had been a challenge, too. He'd wanted it to match the engraving in the class ring as closely as possible, but every place he looked offered choices that ranged from flowery to pretentious. Eventually, he broke down and asked his father where he'd had the class ring engraved so he could take it to the same place, thus cluing his parents in on his plan. They were the only people who knew—he hadn't even told Tucker yet—and it had been a feat to keep them, his dad in particular, from accidentally spoiling the surprise before he'd figured out how to go about giving her the ring. He'd considered a variety of different ways to do it, each more hackneyed and clichéd than the last, and since Sam was anything but conventional, nothing seemed right. Then, the Fright Knight and Prince Aragon went on the rampage, and as soon as Sam gave him the class ring in their usual little ritual, he knew he had his unique and completely them way to propose.
Sam looked from Danny to the ring and back again. "This is an engagement ring?"
He nodded, sliding down onto the floor to sit cross-legged in front of her. "You can't possibly be shocked that I want to marry you, Sam."
"Well, no, but I thought we agreed not until after I finished law school. Or at least not until I know where I'll be going to law school."
"I don't really care where you go to law school. In eight months, we're both getting our bachelor's degrees. I don't want to wait any longer than that. I want to get married after graduation."
"But if I don't get into University of Chicago or Northwestern, I might have to move to New York or California for three years."
"First of all, you got a one-seventy on your LSAT. Chicago's gonna fall all over itself to get you."
"Please." She snorted. "It's good enough to get in, but not good enough to make it a foregone conclusion."
"Whatever. I don't care where you go to law school. I'm going with you. I'm not living away from you for three years, whether we get married or not."
"Danny, be realistic. You can't leave Amity Park."
"Uh… I'm reasonably sure I can. I've even done it before. Gone as far as California, and the chip in my brain never exploded or anything." He rolled his eyes at her.
"Be serious! You know what I mean. You can't live that far from Amity Park. You know you need to be where the ghosts are, and the ghosts are where the Portal is. And your dad is dying for you to start working at FentonWorks. That was the plan. You start working with your folks while you get your chem master's." Although he was double-majoring in both physics and chemistry as an undergrad, he'd decided during his junior year that he'd need to focus more on chemistry in grad school.
He shook his head. "The ghosts will get along fine without me. My folks and Valerie can take care of them. And it's not like there aren't a zillion schools that have masters' programs in chemistry, or that the job at FentonWorks is going anywhere. That's the beauty of going into the family business—the job'll still be here when you've finished law school. Besides, what's the point of marrying an obscenely wealthy heiress if I can't take a couple of years to live the life of the idle rich?"
She arched an eyebrow at him. "So not gonna happen."
He gave a dramatic sigh. "Okay, fine. If you won't be my sugar mama, then I guess I'll just have to stick with the grad school plan."
"Would you please be serious?"
"Sam, I've never been more serious in my life." He took her hands in his, folding her fingers carefully over the ring in her palm. "I have known since I was sixteen that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Since I was fourteen, if I'm really being honest with myself. Knowing that was the reason it was so hard to just admit I liked you as more than a friend in the first place, because I knew once I did that, it would be forever. That's seven years that we've been slow and cautious and taken our time. By the time we graduate next summer, it'll have been almost eight years. My dad and FentonWorks and the ghosts can wait. We've waited long enough."
She gently pulled her hand from his to open it and look at the ring, and he chewed on his lip, feeling nervous again as he tried to get a read on what she was thinking. "Do you like it?"
"Are you kidding?" She looked up at him, her face softening into a smile. "It's beautiful, Danny. Absolutely perfect."
He took it from her palm and held it up to her like an offering. "I love you, Sam Manson. I can't imagine my life without you. And…" He grinned, as sudden inspiration hit him. "And I don't care what's coming next. I just hope that, whatever it is, you're there to share it with me."
She smiled, blinking back tears. "I think I've heard that somewhere before."
"So, whaddaya say? Wanna get married?"
"What do you think?" She leaned forward and, grabbing his face in both her hands, kissed him.
"I'll take that as a yes." He pulled back and slipped the ring onto her finger. "It looks nice on you."
She held out her left hand, admiring the ring. "It really is gorgeous." Then, she narrowed her eyes at him. "But don't think this means I'm giving up my class ring, Ghost Boy. I'll still be wanting that back."