Darkness spread across the horizon like a lethargic blanket, slowly covering the surrounding mountains and the lake to the north. The air was bitterly cold and would have seeped through the hazmat if Danny was not immune to the temperature.
Jack, however, was not. Danny had tried to get his mind off of his father for the last hour, scanning the horizon for anything. No sign of Vlad, or any of his goons. Just empty forest and the approaching night. Danny scowled and began his decent from the thin air and down into the trees again.
Jack had already built a fire in the ghost's absence. The Fenton fisher had managed to hook a squirrel right out of it's home. Jack grinned as he reeled it in. It good for more than just catching ghosts, he supposed. It would be mighty tasty. Granted, not as good as Maddie's home cooking, but still.
His mind wondered home for a moment. He hoped that Danny was safe. Maddie and Jazz would be home by now, and probably cooking dinner. He wished he could call them tell them he was alright, if in need of a pickup. He glanced skyward with a scowl, nearly identical to his son's.
Of course, Maddie and Jazz had made it home hours ago. Before they had even pulled all the way into the drive, then knew something was amiss. Driving up the street, one glaring detail proceeded to smack them in the face. The front door was wide open, and the signs of a bloody scuffle marking the concrete with blood and ectoplasm.
The mixture of red and green could only be Danny's, but the second splotch was not nearly as large, and was a terrifying human red. Maddie and Jazz exchanged worried glances and ran for the open door. It hung on a cracked hinge, as if someone had bowled it over. Twice, perhaps. Maddie examined it with a trained eye, as Jazz surveyed the damage on the inside of the house.
Papers and magazines were scattered across the living room, as if a hurricane had swept through. The pictures on the walls had either become crooked or had fallen altogether, glass glittered around their bent frames. A scorch mark had blackened the banister, and the wall behind, but left no hole in the plaster. It had to have been an ecto-weapon. Green foam spilled out of Danny's door, covering the hall with bright green ooze.
"Mom!" Jazz called from the hall, staring at the foam with a mixture of confusion and horror. She was desperately trying to piece this puzzle together. The only real option that kept entering her mind, as impossible as it was, was that Jack had attacked Danny. Or something… No, that could not be it. Jack could be an oaf sometimes, but he was not going to attack his son… Unless Danny had not tried to tell him, and it was a misunderstanding. Perhaps Danny had been attacked and had been forced to go ghost. That would explain the scorch mark on the wall, and all the general destruction. What it did not explain was where they had gone, and why the blood. It must have been Jack's blood on the concrete. Who could have taken them? And why?
Maddie had made her way up the stairs to look at the mess in Danny's room. Jazz was afraid to go in there, in case she would find her brother. "They're not down in the lab." Maddie seemed to read her mind.
"Check his room, I'll check yours and mine." She tried to keep her voice from cracking but the fear was starting to creep in. What if something really bad had happened? What if they were hurt really bad and no one was there to help them?
She had to stop in front of her parent's door for a moment. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and put her hand on the door knob. Now was not the time to have a panic-attack, Jazz. She needed to find Danny before she could be hysterical.
She flung the door open with more force than necessary. Only to find it empty. She deflated, half relieved, half disappointed. She turned to her room and did the same. Empty as well. She turned back to see Maddie emerge from Danny's room. She wore a scowl that Jazz knew was probably on her own face. She could not find it in herself to try and wipe it away. In that look, however, her mother conveyed that she had had just as much luck as Jazz.
The house was empty. In the silence that followed their search, Jazz could not help but find that fact so painfully obvious.
Miles away, Danny dreaded the moment exhaustion forced his body to revert to human. Jack was huddled next to the fire, swirling an unfortunate squirrel on a stick. He was as close as possible without being burned, and yet still shivered managed to rack up and down the mammoth of a man. Danny dreaded it not for the secret being blown, but for how cold it was. He knew he was in just his t-shirt and jeans. He could not remember if he was even wearing shoes when the fruitloop attacked.
That all did not seem to matter right at this moment. What mattered was that his stomach clenched angrily at him, demanding it be fed. Flying for several hours without resting could burn through food quickly. The fast metabolism of a ghost. At least Danny did not have to worry about getting fat. It was a pain in moments like this, however, watching Jack cook his dinner, the wondrous smells drifting over to him.
Danny did not dare come closer. He sat in his own huddle just outside the soft glow of the fire, outside of it's warmth radius. The moment he had tried to get closer Jack had growled at him and told him to back off. They were partners in getting out of this damned forest, but they could not rest close to each other. Danny could not really blame the man, he was just trying to protect himself. It still left a sting in Danny's side that would not go away.
Speaking of stings, the wound on his chest was actually managing to bother him. Vlad must have hit him harder than he thought. He probably should take a look at it.
He rose to his feet, ignoring Jack's grunt. The man had been watching out of the corner of his eye since he had first landed, it seemed. The paranoia must have sprouted with the darkness. Danny walked a few paces away, knowing that Jack could probably see his white hair in the moon light as he crossed the clearing to the tree line. Turning intangible, he floated up into the thickest branches.
He knew Jack would not be able to see him, and that would bug the crap out of the man, but Danny was too tired to care, and his ribs were starting to ache as well. Just another thing to add to the list. He rested in the small nest the branches made around him and let his ghost form go in a flash of light. The cold hit him like a swift punch to the gut and he gasped, his breath taken from him. It must have been below freezing, but too dry to snow.
He curled up as tight as possible, knowing that without his white hair and ethereal aura, the shadows would hide him easily. The cold distracted him from the painful throb in his chest, and he was actually grateful. He was exhausted and hungry, but he could ignore the latter for now. He sighed and closed his eyes, shutting out the world but not so naïve as to expect sleep. This was going to be a long night.
I'm sorry this chapter took so long, guys. My lovely beta hit a brick wall called school. I've gone ahead and uploaded this chapter without her.
Anyway, I have a new twitter account where I talk about my stories and stuff, and give updates. I'll try to upload this once a week, but I don't have these chapters pre-written like I do most of the time. Twitter will be where I announce if I'm uploading or not. I have a link in my profile. :3