The Ghost of Christmas Present: Part XII
December 23, 4:30 am CST
Jack, Maddie and Dr. Mihashi came in briefly to check on Danny and take another three more vials of blood, and Sam had to bite back her worry when they still didn't have any answers as to what exactly the Guys in White had done to him to make him so sick, or how they could get him better. He was alert and happy as he chatted with the others, who had dragged in chairs from the storage closet outside the Op-Center and pulled them around his bed to catch up, but Sam could tell he'd grown weaker in the hour and a half since he'd shown up in her entryway. She took solace in the fact that Dr. Mihashi hadn't yet put any limits on the number of visitors he could have although, as she retreated with the Fentons back to the main part of the Op-Center to run more tests, she did threaten to kick them all out in a little while when she would have to examine him again.
Danny grimaced at that. "Great. I get to be the only male in history whose primary care doctor is an obstetrician."
"Hey, don't complain." Tucker leaned in and gave him a conspiratorial wink. "She's hot." This earned him an elbow in the ribs from Valerie and an eye roll from Sam.
As they all talked, Sam sat as close to Danny's bedside as possible, never letting go of his hand. Touching him was the only way she could convince herself that he was really back, and that this wasn't just some dream that she'd wake up from to find him still gone.
For his part, Danny didn't seem to want to let go of her, either, and he kept looking at her as if he, too, needed to keep reminding himself that this was real and that they were finally together again. His eyes would often drift down to her abdomen, still sticking out through the open robe she hadn't yet bothered to change out of. Changing would mean going home, and that would mean leaving Danny—something she wasn't willing to do just yet, not even for a few minutes.
She wasn't alone in her need to stay close to him. Jazz's chair was pulled up against the wall at the head of his bed across from Sam, and she kept her hand on Danny's shoulder as if she were afraid he'd disappear if she didn't keep constant contact with him. Valerie and Tucker were both hovering, too, with Valerie next to Jazz and Tucker next to Sam, while Dash and Nick sat at the foot of the bed like twin sentries, their arms crossed as if daring someone to try to take Danny from them again.
A few minutes after Dr. Mihashi and the Fentons had left with the new blood samples, Patrick came in holding a baby monitor in his hand.
"Charley get to sleep?" Nick asked.
Patrick nodded. "Finally, poor kid. I put her down in the playpen in Jazz's old bedroom."
She gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you so much for taking care of her for us, Patrick."
He waved it off, then looked at Danny. "How's the man of the hour? Think you can handle more visitors?"
Danny's smile was a little more tired than Sam would have liked, but it was genuine. "Sure. We can always make room for you."
"Not just me. Someone else dropped by to say hello."
He stepped out of the way, and in walked Paulina, dressed and made up as impeccably as if it were seven o'clock in the evening instead of four-thirty in the morning. As her gaze fell on Danny, she froze for the barest of moments, a look of raw emotion crossing her features. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone, and what Sam had come to know as the Paulina Mask slipped into place. She flashed him her thousand-watt smile and rested her hand on her hip. "Well, well, look who's back. Inviso-Bill."
Danny blinked, and Sam could tell he'd been taken off guard by her unexpected visit. "Paulina? What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you. Duh."
"But how'd you know—?"
"Dash called me. So… what's with the new look? Haven't you ever heard of a razor?"
He cocked his head as if trying, but failing, to come up with a clever comeback. "Uh… yes?"
Sam rolled her eyes. "Glad to see five months in jail hasn't dulled that witty banter of yours."
Letting go of his hand, she started to get up out of her chair, but Paulina waved her off. "Don't get up. You need to stay off your feet. You're starting to get varicose veins." She came over to Sam instead and placed a hand on her shoulder.
Sam flashed her a sardonic grin. "Thank you for your concern." But she could tell from the grip on her shoulder that, despite the flippant attitude, Paulina was almost as overcome at seeing Danny as the rest of them. Sam covered Paulina's hand with her own in a gesture of solidarity.
Danny just sort of gaped at the two of them. "Did I come back into some alternate universe?"
Dash snorted. "Yeah, that's right. You were only here in the very beginning, when Paulina first started getting involved in the cause. You weren't around when she became Sam's new bestest friend."
Paulina gave a contemptuous wave of her hand. "Please. Elvira and I are so not best friends. She was smart enough to recognize my brilliance and hire me as field manager for her little foundation, but that hardly makes us friends." She made no move to remove her hand from Sam's shoulder, however.
Danny blinked at Sam again. "You hired her?"
Sam rolled her eyes. "Don't look so surprised. I needed someone to run the campaign, and she's good at it so, yeah, I hired her. She's the one who came up with the black-and-white ribbon campaign." She didn't have a ribbon on her robe, so she pointed out the one pinned to Tucker's lapel. "Practically the whole town wears them in support of you and changing the anti-ecto laws, and there's a lot of demand for them nationwide, too. The 'I Believe' slogan was also Paulina's idea, although I guess you really should get the credit for that one."
"The what?" Danny put his hand to his forehead as if nursing a headache. "I feel like I'm about three steps behind here."
She gave him a gentle smile, removing her hand from Paulina's to take his again. "You're about five months behind, but we'll catch you up. Let's just say Paulina's like Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Under that shallow, vain, narcissistic exterior there's… well, more shallowness, vanity, and narcissism. But it almost kind of grows on you when she's actually fighting on your side."
Paulina yawned. "I think pregnancy has made you soft. The shallow thing is so played."
"I like to stick to the classics."
Danny looked back and forth between them. "The words sound the same and, yet, I still feel like I've landed in an episode of The Twilight Zone."
"It does take some getting used to," Valerie agreed.
"I dunno," Tucker said. "If Danny and Dash can be friends, anything's possible."
"I heard that, Foley." Dash gave Tucker a mock glare.
Nick turned to look up at Patrick. "Ever notice how it's like Amity Park 46315 whenever the Casper High alums get together? Kinda makes me glad I grew up somewhere else."
"You and me both." Patrick rolled his eyes.
Danny looked around at all of them. "Okay, now I feel like I'm home."
A lump came to Sam's throat, and she saw another flash of emotion in Paulina as she addressed Danny again. "Well, I just wanted to come by and see for myself…" She trailed off, then coughed, the Paulina Mask slipping back into place as she became all business again. "But I should be going now. This is gonna change the whole direction of the campaign, and there are press releases to write—"
"No. No media, not yet," Sam said. "I don't want a press frenzy right now, especially since we don't know why the Guys in White did such an about-face and released him." She paused, suddenly feeling very, very, tired. "I'm so not ready to deal with this right now."
Paulina's voice softened. "I'll deal with it. Just tell me who I should notify."
Sam considered a moment. "Rob Collins. He'll need to know. Call him in a couple of hours and fill him in, then he can take care of everything that pertains to the case and notify whichever of the lawyers need to know. Oh, and there's supposed to be some conference call meeting with this D.C. lawyer who helped set up the Alliance to begin with. That's at seven this morning. I never did find out what that's about but, obviously, I won't be sitting in. Tell Rob he can decide if he still wants to go ahead with the call or postpone."
She nodded. "Anything else you need for me to take care of?"
"No… yes." Sam looked up at her. "Can you go see David later? I think it would do him a lot of good to know. Just tell him and his mom to keep it to themselves for now. When Danny's feeling better, we'll arrange a visit."
"Who's David?" Danny asked.
Sam gave him a gentle smile. "The kid from the train. He's been a really big help with the campaign. You should hear how he tells the story of how you saved him that night. It's really moving."
He looked like he didn't know what to say to that. "Oh."
"I'll go see him later this morning," Paulina told Sam, then turned to Danny. "Good to have you back, Ghost Boy."
When she left, Danny shook his head. "Still can't wrap my mind around you and Paulina so chummy."
Sam made a face. "We're not chummy. We just happen to have a common goal in this case, that's all. It's what you asked when you…" She swallowed. "When you left. For us to keep fighting. Remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. Thanks." He looked around. "To all of you."
"We're just glad you're back safe and sound, dude," Tucker said.
Danny winced. "I don't know about the 'sound' part. That's what the doctor's here to determine, I guess."
Sam bit her lip at the underlying dejection in his voice, remembering the conversation they'd had the last night she'd seen him, just before he'd rescued David from the train. I miss my powers. I mean, I'm almost twenty-six, which means I've been a ghost for nearly half my life. She knew it was killing him, the thought that maybe they'd found a way to get rid of his powers for good. It was ironic, really, considering he'd never wanted them in the first place and had even tried to make himself "normal" again back when he was a teenager. But after twelve years, they were as much a part of who he was as his penchant for really bad puns, the way he'd stutter when he got excited or nervous, or his fierce protectiveness over those he loved.
Sam, on the other hand, was worried enough about his human life that she'd gladly sacrifice the ghost powers so long as he were alive and well. Still, it wasn't what either of them really wanted, so she squeezed his hand again. "Don't worry about your powers. I'm sure your mom will find a way."
"Not if it's like what Vlad did to Danielle. If—" Then, he stopped, frowning. "Where is Danielle, anyway? Is she still up at Northwestern? You guys called her, right?"
Sam and Jazz exchanged looks across the bed, but Valerie slapped her forehead. "Oh, my gosh! I completely forgot to call Danielle!"
Confused, Sam cocked her head. "Call her? Wasn't she with you in D.C. when Nick called?"
Danny looked even more confused. "D.C.? Why would Dani be in D.C.?"
Ignoring Danny's question, Valerie answered Sam's instead. "It was supposed to be a surprise, but she flew back last night. When Tucker and I couldn't use our plane tickets, we convinced the airline to let us transfer mine over to her. She spent the night at the townhouse and was gonna come over here in the morning." She gave Danny a mock scowl. "She's gonna be so mad at you for trumping her surprise."
Jazz gasped. "Are you serious? Dani came home, too?"
Valerie nodded, beaming, but Danny still looked confused. "I don't get it. Why was Dani in D.C.? Wasn't she in school at Northwestern? Or are they on Christmas break?"
"Uh…" Sam sighed. "She took a year off of school."
"The guidance counselor recommended it. It was just… there was too much on her mind for her to focus on med school right now. She's planning on going back next fall, though. Right, Valerie?"
Valerie nodded again. "That's the plan." She stood up and pulled out her cell phone. "I've gotta call her. She is going to kill me for not letting her know sooner." She stepped out through the plastic curtains so she could talk without bothering the rest of them.
"First Danny, and now Danielle." Jazz pressed her hands to her chin. "Is this is turning out to be an awesome Christmas, or what?"
Danny grunted in frustration. "Would somebody please explain why you're all so surprised Dani would come home for Christmas? And why was she in D.C. in the first place?"
Jazz's hands fell into her lap, and she looked down. "Uh… Dani sorta… hasn't spoken with any of the family since the night you were arrested."
"It's my fault," Sam said softly.
Danny turned to her. "What's your fault?"
She sighed. "I lied to you that night, Danny. You asked me if Danielle was plotting anything, and I told you she wasn't, but it was a lie. I knew she was planning to try to stop them from taking you. Not… not at the house. That I wasn't expecting. But the next day, when you were going to turn yourself in. She wanted me to put the Specter Deflector on you so you couldn't fight back against her."
He gaped at her. "She what? Why didn't you tell me? I could've come back and talked to her before everything happened. I could've stopped her."
Sam shook her head. "No, I don't think so. She would've just thought of something else, something neither one of us would've seen coming. This way, at least one of us was sort of prepared."
"Is that why you didn't tell me?" He looked skeptical.
Sam swallowed. "I… I don't really know. I guess… part of me wanted to leave open the option of stopping it. Of stopping you from going through with turning yourself in. But when it came down to it, I couldn't do it. I saw how scared you were for her when she showed up, and I knew I couldn't do that to you. So I used the Specter Deflector on her instead."
She watched Danny as he absorbed this. Finally, he nodded. "Thank you. For stopping her before they figured it out."
"No." She felt terrible, ashamed for lying to him. "Don't thank me. I should've told you the truth."
"You saved her in the end, Sam. That's all that matters."
"Not to Dani. She blames me for your arrest. She hasn't spoken to me since that night, and she's been avoiding your family, too, because she thinks it's her fault, that you wouldn't have done what you did if you hadn't wanted to protect her. She couldn't face them because of that. She's been living with Valerie and Tucker for the past five months, and when Congress reconvened in September, she went to D.C. with them and hasn't been back since."
Danny grunted in irritation. "That's just stupid. I am so gonna smack some sense into that thick skull of hers when she gets here!"
"Don't, Danny. Just… let it be. If she's come home now…" Sam looked at Tucker. "She really came to see Maddie and Jack and everyone?"
He nodded, smiling at her. "You, too, Sam. Val said she wanted to see you, too."
She let out a long breath, one she felt like she'd been holding since that night. "I'm glad. I've missed her."
"We all have," Jazz agreed, her voice thick with emotion.
Valerie came back into the curtained-off area. "She's not answering her cell or the land line. I'm gonna have to go over there and drag her butt out of bed."
"You want me to come with?" Tucker asked.
"No, you stay here with Danny. Make sure he doesn't go anywhere." She gave Danny a look of warning. "Or else. I'll be back in a little bit."
Before she could leave, however, Dr. Mihashi came in with Danny's parents behind her. She put her hands on her hips and, in a commanding voice that belied her small size, began issuing directives. "Okay, everyone. I know you all have five months to catch up on, but I need to give Danny another exam, and then he should get some rest, so most of you are gonna have to go."
Sam gave her a questioning look, which the doctor answered with a gentle smile. "You can stay, Sam. Jack and Maddie, too, and maybe one other person. But four's the limit. The rest of you, out."
Dash, Patrick, and Nick said their good-byes and filed out after Valerie, who was anxious to go get Dani. Tucker started to get up as well, but Jazz stopped him. "No, Tuck. You stay. I'll wait downstairs. I should check on Charley anyway." She stood up to leave.
"But you're his sister."
"And you're more than a brother. Not to mention the fact that you left in the middle of a session of Congress and flew across the Ghost Zone on the back of Valerie's sled to be here. You've earned it." She smiled at him, then leaned over and gave Danny a kiss on the top of his head.
"Ew!" Danny made a face at her, but Sam knew it was an act.
"You take care, little brother. I'm so…" She sighed, unable to finish.
"I know, Jazz. Me, too."
Once she was gone, Tucker sat back down next to Sam, and Danny's parents pulled up two of the vacated chairs on the other side of the bed while Dr. Mihashi did a quick examination.
"What's the verdict?" Danny asked when she'd finished.
"Well… hard to say. I don't generally treat male patients, obviously, and dealing with ghost DNA and the powers that come with it is still new to me. I really haven't put much thought into the repercussions beyond the fetal stage, actually, so bear with me."
Sam's brow furrowed. She'd known Dr. Mihashi long enough to know when she was concerned, and she looked concerned now. Not wanting to worry Danny, however, Sam didn't say anything, and the doctor left to go back to the main area of the Op-Center.
As soon as she was gone, Danny folded his arms and looked at his mother. "Okay, Mom. What's the story? I can tell something's not right."
Sam sighed. So much for not worrying him.
Maddie hesitated. "We're not sure, sweetie. There's definitely something in your blood that's attacking your system. It's almost like some sort of antibiotic that is treating your ghost DNA like a foreign invader that needs to be eradicated. The problem is, it's not a foreign invader; it's a part of who you are. So whatever they put in your system is not just attacking your ghost half, it's attacking you. That's why you're feeling weak."
"Define 'attacking.' Like a cold? Or like cancer?"
Jack and Maddie exchanged looks that made Sam bite her lip in apprehension. After a moment, Maddie answered. "It's serious. If we don't stop it, you're going to get very sick."
"It'll kill me, you mean."
Sam closed her eyes as Maddie answered. "We won't let it come to that, sweetie."
"What is it? Ectoranium?"
"We don't know. That's why Dr. Mihashi took more blood. We're going to try and isolate it so we can figure out how to treat it."
"Dude, I'm sure your mom'll fix it," Tucker said, but Sam could hear the false cheer in his voice, and when she opened her eyes, she could see it written on his face as well.
Jack put a meaty hand on his son's shoulder. "Tucker's right, son. Whatever it is, we're gonna find a way to fix it. This Dr. Mihashi is a good doctor, and your mother's a brilliant parabiologist. They'll get you better."
"Will you have to give me huge doses of Ecto-purifier, like you give Dani? Am… am I gonna lose my ghost powers for good?"
Maddie gave him a sad look. "Honey, we just don't know."
"I just… I don't wanna take too much Ecto-purifier. I don't wanna risk permanently ruining my ghost powers."
Sam clenched the fist that wasn't holding Danny's hand. "You'll take whatever you have to to get better." She surprised even herself with her vehemence.
"Don't 'Sam' me, Danny Fenton. You are not going to endanger your life to save your ghost powers. You got me?"
He arched an eyebrow at her. "Aren't you the one who read me the riot act when I gave up my powers ten years ago? The one who said I wasn't me anymore without them?"
"Don't you dare throw that in my face! You know why I was mad at you for pulling that back then. It was a stupid, rash, sixteen-year-old-trying-to-shirk-his responsibilities thing to do, not a choice between your powers and your life! I've already gone through five months without you. Five months pregnant without you. I don't care if you have to give up your ghost powers, your hair, two limbs and an eye—you will not leave your son without a father! Do you understand me?"
"I…" He met her gaze, his blue eyes full of pain. "I am so sorry, Sam. I didn't mean… I'm not talking about taking it that far, okay? I wouldn't do that to you or the… or our son." She could tell it felt weird for him to say that. "I just want to make sure we try and find some other way before we jump to something that'll take away half of who I am."
"Maybe Frostbite can help," Tucker suggested. "He's got a medical facility in the Far Frozen, right? You said he was the one who fixed you up when your ice powers first started kicking in and got outta control."
Maddie rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "That might be a good idea, Tucker." She looked at Danny. "Their sense of biology and healing is radically different from ours in the Human World. If it's your ghost DNA that's being attacked, then looking for a ghost solution might be our best option."
"So you won't just give me Ecto-purifier without trying Frostbite or something else first?"
"We'll do whatever we can to save all of you, sweetie. I promise."
Danny let out a sigh and slumped back against his pillow. "Okay. That's all I can ask for."