DISCLAIMER: I do not own Danny Phantom. 'Tis sad, but true.
A/N: Hey, guys! I know I said I would update in a timely fashion, but… look who you're talking to here! LOL!it's time to play: WHEEL OF EXCUSES! Will it be: I got hurt again and haven't felt like doing much at all lately? I'm taking a seminar class with ridiculous amounts of reading and writing and haven't had much time for fan-fiction? I've been spending every extra moment of my time with le boyfriend, whom I will be graduating without at the end of the semester, so I want to spend every second available with him? I've been so focused on my original books that I haven't been able to write fan-fiction? And the wheel lands on… ALL OF THE ABOVE! I am very sorry for the delay! I've got to stop making promises that I apparently can't keep, and just say I'll update as soon as I can! Anyway, I want to thank everyone for their support, reviews, poking, and prodding for me to continue. I will assure you right here and now that no matter how crazy real life gets, and no matter how long of a hiatus might spring up between updates, I will ALWAYS come back to this story! You can count on that! ;) Anyway, I'll shut up now. Please read, review, and ENJOY!
Blood Blossoms Are Red
Chapter Two: The Cougar
Danny was bored.
He had been tied up in this cellar for hours, with nothing to entertain him other than periodically trying – and failing miserably – to "go ghost". Each time he tried and didn't succeed, his already low morale dropped even more, and by the tenth time he was trying to shift forms, he had all but given up, and was just focusing all his spectral energy on changing, while yelling his muffled catchphrase beneath the gag to pass the time.
He had managed to wriggle into a sitting position, which was a bit better than lying down on the hard, cold ground. He was now leaning against a cool cement wall, his exhaustion-hazed blue eyes drifting around lazily for any sight of the only other living creature that was down here with him – a thin grey rat about the length of his palm, not including the tail, that had scampered across the floor about an hour ago. Danny hadn't seen the critter since. He wasn't especially fond of rodents or anything, but it was nice to know that he wasn't entirely alone down here.
He stiffened as he heard a footstep sound near the door at the top of the stairs. A moment later, the door squeaked open, and Danny's heart caught in his throat. He tried to shove down the fear, and tried to tell himself that he was a hero, darn it, and he wasn't scared of anything. Unfortunately, his little mental pep talk didn't quite work, because he knew all too well that Danny Fenton wasn't a hero – only Danny Phantom was.
Still, he screwed up his courage, trying to tell himself that it was silly for him to be so afraid of people when he fought ghosts – entities that most normal people greatly feared – on a daily basis. Then again, Danny was about the furthest thing from normal, and, as he'd already established, he was used to ghosts. Humans, on the other hand? Well, suffice it to say that he could barely get along with the good ones!
His visitor reached the bottom of the stairs. Since Danny had had plenty of time to get used to the dim light of the basement, he was quickly able to determine that it was a tall, well-muscled guy with long black hair pulled back into a ponytail, small, narrow eyes, and some of the thickest, wildest eyebrows that Danny had ever seen. He recognized the voice as Me's when the guy said, "Right, kid. Time to go."
Danny's eyes widened. They were moving him already? He had thought he'd have at least a few more hours to come up with a plan (not that he'd been doing such a great job of thinking up ideas of how to escape and/or jumpstart his on-the-fritz ghost powers as it was). "Mmmgrrrfff plrrfffnerrrgg!" he informed his captor, his pleas lost in the gag.
Me glanced around furtively and then knelt back down beside Danny. "Look, kid, I know you're scared and all, but I ain't no murderer, especially not a kid-killer. I'll do what I can to get the boss to let you go, but make sure you behave. Got it?"
Danny swallowed, wondering if he really had a sort-of ally in Me, or if this was actually some kind of ploy to keep him from causing any trouble.
A voice sounded from the top of the stairs. "Hey, Me, grab the kid already, and let's go! And grab one of those boxes on the way. Boss's gonna want to see some results."
"Alright, alright, gimme a minute, will ya?" Me snapped. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small bottle half-filled with clear liquid, and a cloth. "'Kay, kiddo," the kidnapper said gruffly. "Naptime."
Danny eyed the bottle with contempt, simultaneously trying to wiggle away from Me, but with no avail. Before he could protest, or even try to go ghost again (because maybe even though it hadn't worked for the past five hours, maybe this time, the results would be different! he thought sarcastically), the now soaked cloth was shoved under his nose, a sickeningly sweet odor assaulted his senses, and the world went splotchy, and finally, everything went black.
It was the morning after Danny had left Sam and Tucker to fight a ghost after the movies, and now the whole school new the news – Danny Fenton, that dork who hung out with the geek and the Goth, was missing, and suddenly, the dark-haired nobody was more popular than ever at Casper High.
"You know," Sam griped, fuming as she sat beside Tucker at lunch, "it's really dumb. Danny's finally popular, and he's not around to see it."
"Yeah," Tucker agreed, stabbing his mystery meatloaf with his fork and watching it jiggle. "For once, Paulina can't stop talking about him, and he's nowhere to be found. Speaking of which, tell me again why we're just sitting here at school while Danny's AWOL?"
"We wouldn't be if I had anything to say about it," Sam growled. "My stupid parents thought it would help me deal with my anxiety better if I went about my daily business. 'You're not going to be able to do anything, anyway. The police will find your friend. Knowing that trouble-maker, he probably just, what do you kids say these days? – ditched you!'" she mocked, her violet eyes flashing.
"Yeah, and my folks are the same," Tucker agreed glumly. "But don't feel too bad, because Jazz had to go to school, too, while Mr. and Mrs. F help the police and do some 'ghost hunting' of their own. I think they're on the right track with the ghost angle. I mean, he was going after one last night before he disappeared." He paused, then sighed and added wistfully, "Man, if Danny were here, he'd just be able to go ghost, turn himself and us invisible, and then get past Lancer and ditch this place so we could find him."
Sam gave her friend an odd look. "Hate to break it to you, Tucker, but if Danny were here, we wouldn't need to leave school to find him."
"That'd be one nasty paradox," Tucker nodded. Sam rolled her eyes at Tucker's geek-speak and went back to glaring at her salad.
A couple of minutes later, she looked up. "We need to get to Danny's parents' lab after school, as soon as we can. If Danny was taken by that ghost he sensed yesterday, then the police aren't going to be able to do anything to find him."
"What's the lab gonna do?" Tucker wondered. "Does Danny have some sort of tracking device implanted in his butt that we can track or something?"
Sam raised an eyebrow and wrinkled her nose. "You disturb me," she informed Tucker seriously.
Tucker nodded. "Duly noted. But I still don't get it."
"I think," Sam explained, lowering her voice and leaning closer to Tucker conspiratorially, "that if we can get into the Ghost Zone, we might be able to find some information from the ghosts about where Danny is. Maybe they can tell us. Or, who knows, there might be one willing to help us look for him. Doubt it, since most of them probably want to rip him to shreds for sending them back to the Zone, but it's worth a shot."
"Yeah. Man, I really hope he's all right."
Sam nodded, looking distractedly out of the cafeteria window at nothing in particular, and trying to prevent the tears from coming to her eyes. "Me too, Tucker."
Danny woke up with a pounding head and a mouth so dry that it felt like he had been eating cotton balls. Without opening his eyes, he tried to will himself to go ghost, but, as was the usual lately, nothing happened, other than that his stomach turned dangerously. Luckily, he managed to ride out the worst of the nausea before he opened his eyes once more, happy to see, at least, that he still wasn't blindfolded. Upon further inspection, he realized that the gag was gone, too, although he was now tied securely to a sturdy wooden chair in the middle of a surprisingly clean and bright room with log walls and a high, cathedral-esque ceiling, held together nicely with several criss-crossing support beams.
No one was in the room with him, but one of those mysterious drug boxes was sitting across the room against one of the otherwise bare walls. Even though Danny realized that he had to be out of the public's hearing distance for the gag to be off, his desperation to get help momentarily outweighed his better judgment – which said that if he started making noise, he'd just alert his captors that he was awake – and shouted, "HELP! Anyone out there? Anyone? HEEELLLP!"
Silence. Danny waited for several tense moments, but nothing happened. He slumped back in his chair, defeated, but thinking that maybe he should keep his mouth shut for a little bit, just to be safe. Yelling out and announcing to his kidnappers that he was awake probably hadn't been the best idea.
At that moment, he heard several pairs of footsteps approaching the only door in the room, a high-framed door to the left of him. Danny tensed as he saw the handle move slightly, but no one came in yet. Instead, he heard whoever was out there continue to talk to each other. Danny heard Scraggs's voice, as well as Me's and another man's voice, this one deeper and more gravelly than any of the others he had heard so far since his capture. He had a nasty feeling that the unidentified speaker was the head of the operation, the "Cougar". Fear clenched its cold hand over Danny's pounding heart again, but he shoved it down, determined to be as brave – or almost as brave, at any rate – as Danny Phantom would be in this situation.
"Look, we couldn't just kill him!" Me's voice argued tersely, and Danny silently applauded his sort-of defender. "I mean, like I said, he's just a teenager!"
"We thought you'd know what to do with him!" Scraggs's voice chipped in.
"You two are morons," the deep, gravelly voice growled from right outside the door. "You can't figure out what to do with one insignificant little kid, and now you've left me to clean up the mess! Do you have any idea how much other crap I've got to do right now? And now this."
"Maybe we could let him go. He's been blindfolded, and he doesn't know where he's been."
"Shut up, idiot. I'll figure out what to do with whatever snot-nosed little brat you've decided to dump on me, and you just focus on doing what I've told you to do. Don't worry, Me. I'm one heck of a babysitter," the voice said sinisterly, and Danny gulped at the sheer animosity he heard in it. "Now head out."
"Me, come on, stop being a baby. Let's go," Scraggs hissed, and Danny heard their footsteps receding back the way they had come.
There was a dark, muttered curse from the other side of the door, and then the knob turned, and Danny's new 'babysitter' stepped through the door. When his eyes fell on Danny, the man's mouth dropped open, and he started to laugh. Danny could only stare at the Cougar's next words – because although he had never seen this man in his entire life, this notorious boss apparently knew exactly who Danny was, and was much too delighted about it for Danny's comfort.
"Well, if it isn't Danny Fenton," the voice cackled. "What are the odds? My, my, this is going to be so much more fun than I originally anticipated."
A/N: Cue suspenseful music!
*the Waltz starts playing*
-.- Really? I said suspenseful, not frivolous. Ah well. It's kinda catchy, anyway. LOL.
So, who is this mysterious Cougar? How does he know Danny? Are Sam and Tucker going to be able to find a ghostly ally to help track down Danny? And will Emachinescat ever start updating in a timely fashion? I guess we'll have to wait to find out the answers to those questions… but hopefully, with reviews and love from you guys, I'll be able to update very soon! Thanks for sticking with me, guys, and let me know what you think! :)