Black and White: Part II
Eight years after the accident
Danny was plotting something. Sam wasn't sure what, but for the whole last week before the wedding, he'd had a look, like how he'd looked before her sixteenth birthday, when he'd hidden sixteen individual gifts in various places where she would find them throughout the day—and it was astonishing the places a boy with intangibility powers could get into. Or how he'd looked while he'd waited for her to figure out that the ring she'd found in his backpack was an engagement ring.
It helped ease the frustrations of the Wedding from Hell a little, knowing that Danny was plotting some kind of surprise. By the time they made it to the rehearsal on Saturday, she was certain he was going to spring whatever he had planned that night when they were alone after the rehearsal dinner, so when her parents insisted she spend the night at their house to make sure she and Danny didn't see each other from the rehearsal dinner until the wedding Sunday evening, she was mildly annoyed. The annoyance grew to extreme irritation when Valerie agreed to spend the night with her, presumably to act as jail warden to keep her from sneaking off with Danny. To top it off, Jazz and Danielle volunteered to come along as well and make it a whole freaking slumber party.
Sam's mother smiled at the three bridesmaids as they dropped their sleeping bags and suitcases on the floor of Sam's bedroom… well, really her former bedroom now. "Thank you so much for offering to stay with Sam on her last night as a single woman."
Sam groaned. "Mom, I'm nearly twenty-two years old and a college graduate. I don't need babysitters."
"Oh, come on, Sam." Valerie grinned at her. "It'll be fun. Girls' night in on your last night of freedom."
"But don't you guys have better things to do?" Sam did her best to make it clear it wasn't a question so much as a strong suggestion.
"Me, neither." Danielle had a broad smile on her face.
Sam tried Jazz. "Come on, Jazz. Don't you have a husband to get home to?"
"He can live without me for one night."
"You girls are wonderful friends," her mother said as she went over to the windows where Sam's wedding gown and four plum-colored, scoop-necked bridesmaids dresses were hanging at intervals from the curtain rod. Sam found it a somewhat eerie sight, like the skins of slaughtered animals displayed as trophies from some sort of ritual hunt.
Valerie followed behind Sam's mother. "We can take it from here, Mrs. Manson."
"Oh, I just want to make sure everything's ready for tomorrow." For what must have been at least the fourteen-hundredth time, she fussed with the skirts on Sam's dress, inspecting for flaws, snags, stains, or creases.
Jazz stepped up behind her. "It looks perfect, Mrs. Manson. And you must have a million things you need to do."
"Yes, of course, but you never can be too careful with white. It stains so easily."
"Which is why another color would've been a better choice," Sam mumbled under her breath. But only loud enough for Danielle, who was standing right beside her, to hear.
Her mother stepped back and admired the gown. "Isn't it beautiful? A little plain, maybe…"
"No, it's gorgeous," Jazz assured her.
Sam sighed. It was a nice dress—if someone else were wearing it. On Sam… well, she looked awful in white. At least it was a simple style, with a scoop halter-style neckline, a plunging back, and a narrow skirt that flared out at the bottom into a train. The veil was simple as well—just one piece that would affix to the back of her head with a comb. Given her mother's taste for ruffles and frills, she could have done much, much worse.
"Oh, Sammykins, you're going to be such a lovely bride." She sniffed. "I'm so glad you gave up on all those weird ideas you had in the beginning, and are going to do a real wedding."
Sam growled at the back of her throat and clenched her fists at her side, but before she could get in a few choice words about "real" weddings, Jazz ran interference. "Uh, okay, Mrs. Manson. Sam's gonna need her beauty rest if she's going to look her best tomorrow." She took the older woman by the arm and started ushering her towards the door.
Valerie had her other arm. "That's right. You just leave everything to us bridesmaids, and we'll make sure Sam gets plenty of sleep before the big day."
"All right. Thank you again, girls." Her mother blinked at Sam, looking like she was trying to hold back tears. "Oh, my little girl…"
Sam gritted her teeth. "Mom…"
Finally, Jazz and Valerie got her out the door. They shut it behind her, then both leaned back against it as if to hold it closed in case she tried to come back in. Valerie twisted the lock on the doorknob, letting out a long sigh. "I thought she'd never leave!"
"Me, neither." Sam instantly headed for the window.
Danielle stepped in front of her. "Whoa. Where do you think you're going?"
"You guys can play slumber party all you want. I am so outta here." She dodged around Dani. "Now, where'd I put that old rope ladder I used to use to sneak out…?"
Dani moved to block her way again, then Jazz and Valerie were at her side, forcibly guiding her away from the window in much the same way they'd guided her mother out of the room. Jazz squeezed her arm. "Oh, no. You can't leave now. You've gotta get ready."
"Get ready? The wedding's not for another eighteen hours. How long do you think it'll take me to get ready?"
They pushed her into her bathroom and down onto the seat by the vanity table, and Valerie held her in place with her hands on Sam's shoulders. "Just fix yourself up how you'd do it if your mom hadn't taken over."
"Why? My mom's just gonna have the salon guy she's got coming out tomorrow put my hair up and do my makeup the way she wants." Sam frowned at her reflection in the mirror.
"That's tomorrow. Tonight, do it how you want."
Sam wrenched herself free and turned around in her seat to look up at Valerie. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing." Valerie flashed her an altogether too-innocent look, but it was Jazz who caught Sam's attention as she pulled out her cell phone and dialed one of her speed-dial numbers.
Sam arched an eyebrow at her. "Jazz?"
Jazz held up a finger at Sam and spoke into the phone. "Hey, sorry we're so late, but Sam's mom was kinda hard to get rid of. We're good to go now, though." She listened to whoever was on the other end, then said, "I know, but what could we do? You know how she is." Another pause. "Okay. We'll take care of it." She folded up her phone and looked at Valerie and Dani. "The Mansons probably turned on their ghost shield."
"I'm on it." Danielle went intangible and phased out through the bedroom door.
Sam narrowed her eyes at Valerie and Jazz. "You two are in on it!"
"In on what?" Valerie asked with that same innocent expression.
"Whatever Danny's plotting. What is it?"
Jazz put her hand on Sam's shoulder. "Just get ready. Danny will be here in a few minutes. He'll explain everything."
"Get ready for what? How can I get ready if I don't know what for? I don't even know what to wear."
"Don't worry about what to wear. Just do your hair and makeup. Think formal. Like Valerie said—like you'd be doing it for the wedding if your mom hadn't gotten involved."
"Formal?" Sam's brow furrowed. "Since when does Danny do anything formal? He proposed to me in jeans and a t-shirt while I was wearing a bathrobe."
Jazz grunted. "Just do it, okay? He'll explain when he gets here."
Burning with curiosity, Sam turned back to the mirror. She wasn't sure how to do her hair "formal," because that would depend on what she was wearing, and since they wouldn't tell her what to wear… Sighing, she decided to start with the makeup. Her face was already done up for the rehearsal dinner, but with very light makeup in rather conservative colors. If she were really going to go formal her way and not her mother's… Smiling, she reached into the drawer beside the vanity and pulled out a black bag that was crammed all the way in the back. It contained the makeup she used for clubbing, or goth poetry slams down at the Skulk and Lurk.
Dani returned while she was getting started, having turned off the ghost shield that surrounded the house. A few minutes later, there was a rap on the window, then Danny, in ghost form, poked his head through the wall. "Mind if I crash the party?"
Jazz squealed. "The wedding dress! Close your eyes, Danny, while I cover it up!"
Sam rolled her eyes as she stood up and stepped out of the bathroom. "Okay. Wanna tell me what's going on?"
"Wait a second," Jazz instructed as she finished pulling the drapes over the wedding gown. "Okay, now you can come in.
Danny opened his eyes and phased all the way into the room. He had something slung over her shoulder that looked like a black garment bag, but she couldn't tell for sure because he was keeping it behind his back. "I thought we'd take a little ride. Tucker's waiting—"
"Tucker?" Sam put her hands on her hips. "Tucker's in on this, too?"
"And Nick and Dash. They're waiting in the Specter Speeder."
"I kinda thought that whatever you had planned, we'd be alone."
Danny grinned. "Nope. This is something we can't do alone. But you need to get ready."
"For what?" Sam was thoroughly exasperated by this point. "I don't know what I'm supposed to be getting ready for!"
Danny's smile only widened as he swung the garment bag off his shoulder. "Jazz? Will you do the honors?"
"My pleasure." Jazz went over to Danny and while he held up the bag, unzipped it and pulled out what was inside.
Sam's eyes widened. "That's the dress I saw at the Black Rose! What are you doing with it?"
"Jazz picked it up for me. She got all your measurements from the bridal shop, so it should be a perfect fit. And there's a little addition of my own." Reaching into the bag once more, he drew out something that looked like black velvet. Handing the bag off to Valerie, he held up the black velvet so Sam could see what it was.
She gasped. "A cloak?" An exquisite cloak, actually, with a voluminous hood that would drape behind the wearer like a veil.
"Do you like it?"
"It's gorgeous, but a little heavy for June."
"Not where we're going." He put the cloak over his arm.
She arched her eyebrow at him. "Okay, spill. Where are we going?"
"The Ghost Zone."
"The Ghost Zone? What on earth would we be doing in the Ghost Zone that would require such formal clothes?"
He smiled at her. "Getting married."
Her jaw dropped. "What?"
"It occurred to me the other day that if ghosts hooked up, like Johnny and Kitty, or Skulker and Ember, or if they had ghost babies, like the Box Ghost and the Lunch Lady—ew—then it stands to reason they probably have some sort of marriage or commitment ceremony, too. So I paid a little visit to Frostbite and worked everything out with him. Since my powers are closely related to theirs, and he's the leader of the Far Frozen, he said he would be happy to officiate our wedding ceremony."
Sam blinked. "Have you completely lost your mind? I did not go through the last eight months of hell with my mother—which was your idea, in case you forgot—just to run off and elope."
"Technically, we're not eloping. We'll be back by morning, before anyone even misses us." He stepped closer to her, taking her hand in his. "In a way, you're kinda getting two grooms for the price of one, right? So why not two weddings? Tomorrow will be for them. Tonight, for us." His smile turned into a smirk. "I even made sure we would do this after midnight so the date will be the same for both. If I'm anything like my dad, I'll have trouble enough remembering one anniversary."
"Are you serious?"
"Absolutely. You think you'd like a wedding in a creepy place like the Ghost Zone?"
Sam grinned. "Are you kidding? Gimme that dress and cloak!"
She took the cloak from him and the dress from Jazz and she went into the bathroom to get ready. When she finished, she looked at herself in the mirror. The dress was shaped similar to the one her mother picked, only in black, with a scoop neckline, a skirt that flared out from a low-waisted purple corset that laced up the back, and off-the-shoulder medieval sleeves of sheer black chiffon that draped from her arms down well past the knee. The cloak hung over her shoulders and could either be worn back like a cape, with the hood draping down behind her, or closed, with the hood resting at the crown of her head and falling around her like a veil. It was a mysterious, gothic look that suited her much better than the white wedding dress, and she had to blink to keep from tearing up and smearing the black liner and mascara that rimmed her eyes.
When she came out of the bathroom, she saw that Tucker, Nick, and Dash had joined them as well, all still wearing the suits they'd had on for the rehearsal dinner. Danny, who had been talking to Tucker, turned toward her when she opened the door, his eyes widening and his mouth going a little slack. "Wow. You look… wow."
The others chimed in their agreement, and Sam blushed. "Thank you. I… I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. This is… it's perfect."
Jazz stepped forward. "Not quite. A bride has to have a bouquet." She handed Sam an elegant arrangement of dark purple irises with long stems, then kissed her on the cheek. "I'm so glad you're going to be my sister-in-law."
Danny shook his head as if to stop himself from staring at her. "Okay. One more thing before we go." He picked up the garment bag he'd brought, which had been tossed across Sam's bed when she'd gone to change. "Someone else needs the right outfit for the occasion. Dani?"
Dani's eyes widened in surprise. "Me?" She looked down at the black dress she'd worn to the rehearsal dinner. "Why? Is there something wrong with my dress?"
He shook his head. "No, but I've got something a little more appropriate for tonight." He pulled one more outfit out of the garment bag and held it up for her to see.
It was a jumpsuit, similar to his, but not quite. It was clearly cut to fit a woman, and where Danny's was solid black except for the collar, belt, gloves, and boots, this one had more white. A line divided the top diagonally from the right shoulder down to the left hip, with black on the wearer's left and white on the right, and the white DP logo Sam had designed for Danny back in the ninth grade center on the chest in the black portion. A black glove capped the white sleeve, and a white glove capped the back sleeve. The legs were also black, with white trim down the side, ending in white boots.
Dani gasped. "My old jumpsuit?"
Danny shook his head. "No, not your old one. You've grown, what? Two feet since then? But it was modeled after it. If I remembered it right, the only difference is that it doesn't have the short crop-top, which Valerie says is so 2005. She took a drawing I made from what I could remember of the old jumpsuit along with your measurements from the bridesmaid dress and brought them to a custom costume shop. She told them it was for some geek convention." He grinned. "Since this is a ghost wedding, and you're a ghost, I thought you should wear the uniform."
She looked a little stunned. "I… I can't wear that, Danny. I'm not… I can't go ghost."
"So? I told you when you came to live with us that you were still a halfa, and you are." He held the jumpsuit out to her. "Whaddaya say, Dani Phantom?"
She took it from him, then threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. "Thank you." Then she turned from him and hugged Valerie. "And you, too."
Danny clapped his hands together. "But you'll have to change in the Speeder. We need to get a move on. Everyone ready?"
Jazz shook her head. "Actually, Danny, only Tucker and Danielle are going with you."
Danny frowned. "What? What are you talking about?"
"The four of us talked it over." She motioned to Valerie, Nick, and Dash. "We think it should just be the four of you."
"But… I want you there, Jazz. I want all of you there."
Sam nodded. "That's right. We can't get married—twice—without all of you."
"Yes, you can. You should." Jazz turned from Sam to Danny. "From the beginning, it was always the three of you—you, Sam, and Tucker. They were the ones who were there when you became a ghost; they should be the ones there tonight. And Dani should, too, because she's a ghost, and this is a ghost thing. The rest of us belong at the human wedding, tomorrow."
Danny blinked, looking at Tucker and Dani. Tucker shrugged. "Don't look at me. I didn't know anything about this."
Danielle looked equally confused. "Me, neither. I'm still just trying to wrap my mind around the jumpsuit."
Danny turned back to his sister. "Jazz…"
"Just go. Val and I need to stay here to keep Sam's mom out anyway. We'll tell her Sam's asleep and keep her away until ten o'clock tomorrow morning. That should give you enough time to enjoy your wedding night and still get some sleep for tomorrow."
"Are you sure?"
She smiled, and Valerie, Nick, and Jazz all nodded in agreement. "That's how it should be." Then she reached over and gave her brother a kiss on the cheek.
Feigning embarrassment, he wiped at his face. "Ew."
"Oh, don't be a baby. Go, get married."
He smiled, turning to Sam and holding out his arm. "Shall we?"
She took his arm. "Let's do it."
Frostbite was waiting for them when they arrived in the Realm of the Far Frozen. After his usual robust greeting—Sam tried not to laugh when he slapped Danny on the back almost hard enough to knock him over—the mammoth snow creature led them through the center of the village to what was known as the Great Hall. When he opened the door and Danny, Sam, Tucker, and Danielle entered the large chamber, they stopped short, and Danny sucked in his breath.
Every ghost they'd ever met—and a good number Sam didn't recognize as well—was gathered in the Hall. Some, like Clockwork and Wulf, were friends. Many others, however—Skulker, Technus, and Ember to name a few—were occasional allies at best, enemies at worst. As if by instinct, Danny took a step forward, putting himself in front of the rest of them, and struck a fighting stance. "I am so not in the mood to fight anyone tonight."
Sam's brain started ticking off things around the room that could be potential weapons, and how long it would take her, or maybe Tucker, to run back to the Specter Speeder for a few Fenton Thermoses. Behind her, Tucker and Dani both tensed, ready for whatever came next. Sam glanced at Danny without taking her eyes off the ghosts. "I don't know, Danny. It could be fun. Kick a little butt, exchange vows… just like the wedding in Pirates of the Caribbean." Although how she was going to fight anything in this dress was beyond her.
"Please, Ghost Child." Skulker gave a contemptuous wave of his metal gauntlet as he stepped forward. The hunter ghost often acted as the unofficial spokesperson for the other ghosts whenever they were gathered en masse. "We didn't come here to fight. This is a wedding! A reason to celebrate!"
"Uh… even though you hate my guts?"
Skulker shrugged as if this were completely irrelevant. "A wedding is a solemn rite. Ghosts take them very seriously. Tonight, we toast your nuptials. Tomorrow, there will be time for kicking butt."
Danny, Sam, Tucker, and Danielle all exchanged glances before Danny turned back to the ghosts. "Is this like the Christmas Truce thing?"
"Exactly!" Skulker beamed.
"I'm sorry, Great One." Frostbite gave him what Sam thought was supposed to be a sheepish grin, although it looked a bit fearsome on a nine-foot-tall snow creature. "Perhaps I should have warned you in advance, but whenever there is a wedding in the Ghost Zone, all hostilities are put aside, and all ghosts—well, almost all ghosts—gather together to toast the happy couple."
"Almost all?" Danny scanned the crowd. "Who's missing?"
Skulker crossed his arms in front of his massive chestplate. "Walker. He thinks marrying a human is 'against the rules.'"
"Even though I am half human?"
"You're still one of us. As will be your bride. Walker… disagrees."
Danny shook his head. "I will never understand Ghost culture."
Frostbite put his ice paw down on Danny's shoulder. "Things are rarely as black-and-white as we would like them to be, Danny Phantom. Friends, enemies, good, evil… these all come in many shades of gray."
Ember snorted. "Are we gonna stand around philosophizing all night, or are we gonna have a wedding? 'Cause I've got places to go, people to control…"
Danny turned to Sam. "This isn't exactly what I had in mind, but…?"
"I think it's perfect. Let's get married, Ghost Boy."