A/N: Hey, guys! So sorry that it took so long to get this next chapter out. Real life's been a bit crazy, and I haven't had a ton of time to write. But I finally got it done, and I'm psyched about it! ;) Thank you all for your reviews, and please keep it up! Enjoy! :D
Blood Blossoms Are Red
Chapter One: Why Ghosts Are Better Than Humans
When Danny woke up, he couldn't move, see, or, apparently, speak, considering that the first thing he did upon returning to consciousness was attempt to declare, "I'm going ghost!" Unfortunately for him, all that came out was a muffled, "Irmf grrrimph grrrrss!"
This was when he realized that he had been gagged as well as tied and blindfolded, and he did everything that he could to stay calm, which was difficult. The fact of the matter was, he should have been able to "go ghost" even if he hadn't been able to say the words. He liked his catchphrase; it was clever, he thought, and every good superhero needed one. But he didn't have to say it in order to change. It was sort of like there was some kind of mental switch that he flicked when it was time to let Danny Phantom take over, and the transformation would follow. The words were just for show (and for fun. Mostly for fun.). But this time, when he tried to go ghost, nothing happened, except he started to panic, big time.
This couldn't be happening. Why the heck was this happening? And, on that note, what the heck was this that was happening? Danny took a deep breath through his nose and tried to remember what had led him here. His ghost sense had gone off, he'd traded threats with the Box Ghost, and then…
The boxes! The drugs. And he'd been caught snooping, which meant that he was probably being carted off to who knows where by a very irritated drug dealer or gang member. But that didn't explain why he couldn't phase, or why he felt so sick and weak. Granted, he had been bashed in the head a couple of times – his killer headache was a testament to that – but this was different. He felt totally off, like he had the flu, and so did his alter-ego.
Danny knew that if he didn't find a way to go ghost soon, his situation was only going to get a whole lot worse. Ghosts, he was used to dealing with, but humans? He knew from watching detective shows like NCIS and CSI and Psych with his sister on occasion that people were essentially crazy, and people in the criminal world were dangerous, deadly, and beyond reasoning. Without his ghost powers, he was dead meat.
He desperately tried to take his mind off of his fear, and instead decided to employ his remaining senses in trying to figure out where he was and what was going on. He lay still and concentrated, listening for any indication of where he might be. All he could hear was a steady rumble, like that of an engine, and that was when he realized that the room he was in was vibrating. No, not a room, a van! He remembered seeing the half-packed, unmarked van by the boxes of drugs before he had been knocked out. He was obviously being taken somewhere, and judging by the smoothness of the ride, he was being driven on major highway or interstate with no potholes. This was a (small) silver lining: He wasn't sure if he'd be able to handle being tossed around in the back of a van like a trussed up rag doll.
Just as this thought passed through his foggy brain, Danny felt a jolt and slid sharply to the left as the vehicle made a sharp right onto what seemed to be a very bumpy back road. Great, he thought grimly as he and whatever was with him in the van – probably those boxes of illegal drugs that the Box Ghost had been so terrified of – apparently the universe can read minds, and it's decided to prove me wrong because I thought something semi-positive!
As he was jostled around wildly in the back of the van, Danny fought the urge to panic. Whatever was wrong with him, it would pass, surely. Then he would be able to go ghost and get out. He thought about how simple ghost-fighting was compared to this. No matter how big and bad his nemesis from the Ghost Zone was, there was a pattern to fighting ghosts. He would go ghost, exchange a few rounds of witty banter, get knocked around a little bit, maybe do some research, come back and BAM! His newly beaten foe would get sucked into the Thermos and be sent back into the Ghost Zone with its metaphorical (or sometimes literal, depending on the ghost) tail tucked between its legs. Simple.
Plus, Danny could kind of see why ghosts lashed out and did what they did. Heck, he could chill in the Ghost Zone as long as the next dead guy, but he certainly wouldn't want to spend all of his time there, what with all the purple and green. Even nice colors got obnoxious after a couple of millennia of staring at them. And, they were ghosts. Haunting people and causing trouble was kind of their job description. So there was a bit of rhyme and reason to their antics. But people, on the other hand…
Danny had always viewed the bad guys on TV shows as just that – fictional characters that existed purely for the entertainment of the viewer. But he was learning very quickly that this wasn't the case. There were people out there – real, human people – that chose to do bad stuff like deal drugs and kidnap cool half-ghost teenage superheroes, and Danny just couldn't understand why. At least ghosts did what they did out of a sense of identity. These people… they did it for profit, or maybe even fun. Danny decided that sometimes he liked ghosts better than humans, and this was definitely one of those times.
About fifteen minutes after the van pulled off onto the bumpy road, Danny felt the vehicle turn again, this time to the left. Instead of continuing on, however, the van came to a sudden stop and Danny was flung unceremoniously into some boxes behind him. He grunted, tensing when he heard a door open and shut up front, and then footsteps on gravel toward the back of the van. Danny desperately thought, I'm going ghost! over and over, as if by mentally repeating his mantra he might be able to convince his on-the-fritz powers that they needed to work.
It was a fruitless effort, as nothing happened except the back of the van swung open. Just a few seconds later, Danny felt large hands pick him up, and he was swung over someone's broad shoulders in a fireman's carry. No one said a word, and the only sound Danny heard was that of gravel crunching under boots beneath him.
It was chilly outside, and the teenager felt the wind nipping at his bare forearms, ears, and nose as he was carried somewhere. A couple of minutes later, the person carrying him stopped, and there was the sound of someone knocking on a door. A voice, high and scratchy, and muffled, sounded from the other side of the door. "Who is it?"
"Me," came a voice from right beside Danny, and it was clear and soft, slightly accented, but with what kind of accent, Danny couldn't quite tell.
Apparently, a simple "me" sufficed for identification, for the next moment, there was a high creeeeak as a door was opened, and as Danny's captor moved forward, the sound of several pairs of shoes on the floor met his ears.
Wherever he had been taken, it was inside – and heated. Despite the terror of the situation, Danny couldn't help but feel relieved when the warm air caressed his skin, warming him up. His head was still pounding, though, and that sick feeling still emanated through his whole body. He heard a soft thud as something – presumably boxes of drugs – was set down on the ground nearby. Danny remained on his captor's shoulders for the time being, as they apparently hadn't gotten around to discussing what they were going to do to him yet.
Finally, the same voice that had questioned the drug-dealing kidnappers at the door spoke up again. "Who's the kid?"
Danny's ears perked up considerably; he knew that they would probably be deciding his fate in the near future. The guy holding him answered, "I dunno. Scrags, Jolt, and I found him snooping around the merchandise after the trade. He'd seen too much, so we had to take him with us."
"This is just great," Baddie Number One growled, and Danny stiffened at the anger in his tone. "We've already got enough to deal with, what with Cougar on our tails for more profit, and now we've got a hostage? We can't afford to be distracted by him."
"See, I told ya we shoulda just wasted him in the alley," the whiny voice of another thug to Danny's left griped.
"He's just a kid!" protested the man who was still toting Danny on his shoulders. "We aren't murderers, anyway!"
"Not yet, anyway," came a new voice, this one deep and strong, from Danny's right, and Danny's stomach clenched tighter in fear.
"So, what are we gonna do with him?" queried Baddie Number Three, or as Danny decided to call him, Whiney.
"We'll take him to Cougar tomorrow," decided Baddie Number One. "Let him decide what we do with the kid. Until then, stick him in the cellar with the loot."
Whiney asked, "Are you sure Cougar's not gonna waste us for letting this kid get so close to our operation? Maybe we should get rid of him now, and Cougar doesn't have to know anything about it. Eh?"
Don't listen to Whiney, don't listen to Whiney, Danny internally pleaded.
"We're taking him to Cougar," Baddie Number Two, or "Me", declared. "It's been decided, so shut it, Scrags."
"Me's right," said the first guy. "Now, lock him up; if he's awake under that blindfold, he doesn't need to hear any of our plans. Get him out of sight and out of earshot. With any luck, we'll be rid of him by tomorrow."
Whiney – Scrags – grumbled, but Danny could hear his footsteps clunking away irritably. The man holding him – whose name was apparently Me, ironically enough, explaining the odd scene at the door – began to walk again. Danny's head spun as he felt himself being carried through unknown territory and down some stairs, apparently to the cellar, and then he was dumped on the floor. Something else – boxes, he was sure – were placed near him by another of his kidnappers. The blindfold was untied, but the gag and ropes around his wrists and ankles stayed in place. Deciding that it would be best if his captors thought he had been unconscious the whole time, Danny kept his eyes closed and breathing as even as possible even after the blindfold was removed.
He was left lying on the cold cellar floor as two sets of heavy footsteps faded up the stairs. The cellar door slammed shut, and Danny heard a lock clicking into place. One thought ran through Danny's frantic mind, even as he finally opened his eyes to better assess his situation: What the heck have I gotten myself into this time?
A/N: What did you think? Please read and review, and I'll update soon! ;)