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Artifact/Nursery Rhyme

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Artifact/Nursery Rhyme

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Danny scanned the ground to either side, looking for caves. It was probably bad to have preconceptions on a search like this, but he couldn't get the picture of the witch, Vivian, hiding out and plotting in a cave out of his head. He was looking for houses, or other structures, as well, but not as hard.

He glanced at Sam. She'd been weirdly quiet this whole time. He hoped she wasn't too upset. He had tried, really tried, to get Vivian out of her, but it hadn't been enough. Sam had been overshadowed for days. That was more than enough to make anyone angry.

But when Sam was mad, she usually didn't get quiet. She was loud, and vocal, and told you exactly what she was angry about. Unless she was angry that you didn't ask her to go to the with you, because she'd called the dance stupid half a dozen times, and then, well...

Quiet Sam was a lot scarier than loud Sam.

At first, it had looked like she was blaming herself for what had happened, and Danny had, using techniques that usually worked on him, tried to maneuver her away from that idea. But what if she hadn't been blaming herself, and now she was angry with Danny for assuming she was? What if he had screwed up, and now she was blaming herself because he'd put the idea into her head?

He was a terrible friend. Why couldn't he have been competent for once, and gotten the ghost out of her?

Well, one way or another, he was going to get them out of this. Even if he did wind up having to do that familiar contract thing. Between Dungeons and Dragons in middle school, and a whole heck of a lot of research into the occult when becoming a ghost, he knew that 'familiar' meant 'servant,' so he doubted it would be a fun thing. But if it was Sam, it wouldn't be too bad.

Probably.

She didn't try to get Danny to use his powers to break animals out of the zoo, or to vandalize car dealerships anymore, anyway. She wouldn't force him to do anything he didn't want to. Convince him? Yes. But not force him.

He exhaled, realizing he had been staring at Sam, and not looking for wherever the witch ghost had hidden her stuff, for the past several minutes.

He looked back up the slope just in time to catch sight of an opening about a quarter of the way up.

"Sam," he said, touching her elbow, and pointing. "Check it out."

She followed his gaze. "Shouldn't be too hard of a climb."

Danny nodded. "I think we might be able to just walk up if we go around a bit?" He made a zigzag motion with his hands.

"Yeah, let's try that."

It didn't take them very long to get up to the cave. Their previous experience climbing down had given them insight into how the ground here behaved. Once there, however, they spent several long moments staring into it, unwilling to go into the dark.

"It's a good thing you still glow," said Sam. "You did test out all your other powers, right?"

"Except for the Wail, yeah," said Danny, running through them mentally once again. "Ice seems to be working a little, and I can still transform," which she had seen, "but that's it."

"Ice?"

Danny pulled off his right glove (his right, never his left) and held out his hand. Frost momentarily blanched the tan surface of his skin before subsiding. "That's all that's happening, though."

"Might be useful," said Sam.

"Maybe. Okay, I'm going in."

His glow illuminated the cave softly, coolly, like moonlight. At first it only played over bare stone, and Danny groaned internally, thinking that the cave might be empty, but he kept going, periodically glancing over his shoulder to see Sam following behind him.

But, at last, when he was about to turn around, the edge of a table and the outline of books came into view. He hurried forward, and entered an area that looked a lot like a study. If a study had been built inside a cave. He picked up one of the books, and frowned at it.

Multilingual he might be, courtesy of ghost nonsense, but interpreting 'creative' spelling was not his forte, especially when it was on top of cramped, curly handwriting.

"Mind helping me find something to light these candles with?" asked Sam.

"Oops!" said Danny. "Sorry." He had forgotten how much better he could see in the dark than normal people. After a minute of searching, he found a pack of long matches in a drawer. He lit one, and started lighting candles.

"Thanks," said Sam, picking up a candle and using it to light others. "That's much better."

Candles lit, they sat down to flip through the books, stopping at any mention of familiar spirits and contracts.

Danny sighed as he got to the end of another one without any luck, and went back to the shelf. He supposed he didn't have to put the books back on, but his book-loving sister had ingrained in him that not doing so was rude.

Then again, kidnapping was also rude.

"I think I found something," said Sam.

Danny walked back and peered over her shoulder. "This is for ghosts that can't talk," he said, after a moment of inspection. "Let's see if there's a better one." Sam turned the pages. "Maybe- Oh, no, this is for natural spirits."

"And you aren't?"

"No, it's a term for ghosts that are born ghosts. Keep going, though, it looks like this is the right one."

Sam turned a few more pages. "Okay, I think this one looks right."

Danny leaned in, scanning it. His shoulder brushed against Sam's, and she jumped. "Sorry! This one looks about right, though. And it doesn't look too bad?"

"Doesn't look too bad! Danny, are you seeing this?" she jabbed the offending page with her finger.

"Oh. Huh. Yeah, I guess it is kind of gross, but that's okay. It's not like it'd be the first time."

"It's talking about putting a needle in your eye."

"Yeah, but I've hurt my eyes before. They heal."

"What if it doesn't heal this time?"

"Then I'll have to get an eye-patch."

Sam lowered her eyebrows. "Don't you think we should try other ways of getting out of this, first? Maybe we can wait out whatever she did to you."

Danny tilted his head, and thought about it. "Are you thirsty?" he asked.

"Well, yeah, but it's not like we have any water, do we? Why are you asking?"

"Because humans can only last three days without water. If Vivian got you a drink before bed, and there's no guarantee she did, you've gone most of a day without drinking. Even if it doesn't go that far, you can wind up with kidney stones from getting dehydrated. That's what Mom says, anyway."

"I think you keeping your eyes is worth me having kidney stones."

"I don't. I especially don't think it's worth you dying." Danny felt himself droop. "It isn't just the water, anyway. I can't protect you like this. Who knows what Vivian will do if she thinks we're not making an effort."

"I hate giving in to people like her."

"It's tactical," said Danny. "Like with Vlad. We let her think she's won, then counterattack when she doesn't expect it."

"Well, when you say it that way, it isn't so bad, I guess." She sucked in her lower lip. "I don't want you to have to do this."

"I don't want you to have to do that, either," said Danny, pointing at a lower line. "But let's read it, and make sure we understand it completely before we start. Side effects, and stuff. And see if there's a way to undo it."

"And if there's another one, with less stabbing."

"That too."

.

"Ready?" asked Danny. It had taken a while to find everything the ritual- and it was a ritual- required, and once they did, they hadn't wanted to do it in the witch's cave.

Sam nodded, rubbing her palms on Danny's jeans. "As ready as I'm going to be."

Danny scooted across the rug they'd stolen from the cave, closer to Sam. He was careful not to disturb any of the chalky markings they'd drawn. Some of them felt... odd.

"It'll be fine," said Danny.

Sam looked down. "I know you think so, but what if it's a trap? What if it turns out like..." she lowered her voice, "the portal."

Both of those options had crossed Danny's mind. But Danny was pretty sure Vivian could have kept him in that bottle indefinitely. Whatever this was, it wasn't about him and his powers. Combined with her behavior back in Amity Park, Danny was pretty sure this was about Sam.

"Then we'll figure out where to go from there. But, right now, the important thing is to get you back to a place you can survive." This island most definitely did not meet that criterion, and Danny would prefer to find out if Vivian was lying sooner than later.

"Fine," said Sam, fingering the tip of the needle. "Let's get this over with."

"Your line is first."

They had actually already written the 'contract,' but actually putting it into effect 'magically' required ritual, rhyme, and a small amount of spilled blood and ectoplasm. The book had had several options to choose from, and they had picked the most appropriate and least dangerous-looking one. None of them were perfect of course, because none of them compensated for the 'spirit' side of things only being mostly dead.

Hopefully, that wouldn't affect things too much.

"Right," said Sam. She cleared her throat, and looked down at the book. "Tell me not a single lie." The words shivered, almost, but not quite, echoing. Sam turned the book so Danny could see it.

"Cross my heart, though I have died," he responded.

"With me for a moment bide," read Sam, her voice cracking on the last word, her hands trembling in anticipation.

Well, Danny wasn't exactly looking forward to this next part either. "Then stick a needle in my eye."

Sam picked up the needle, then froze. Danny nodded at her and the needle encouragingly. She raised the needle to eye level, and paused again.

'Do it,' mouthed Danny. She bit her lip, and stabbed the needle forward.

Ouch. Yep, that hurt. Sam pulled the needle out, and Danny closed his eye, pressing one hand down on his eyelid. Watery green ectoplasm leaked out, dripping down his cheek. Ow.

Shakily, Sam continued on to her next line. "Tell me the price I'll have to pay."

"That is the one and only way," said Danny, before she had even turned the book around. Odd, he had read the ritual through several times, but he hadn't thought he'd memorized it.

"For you to forever stay," continued Sam.

"You'll pay it 'til the end of days." That line was ominous, and the alien quality that had worked its way into Danny's voice made it more so.

Sam held up the piece of paper they'd written their contract on. "On this contract place your seal." All that was written on it was 'We agree to be friends with each other,' which was something they intended on doing anyway.

"Keep the spirit of our deal," intoned Danny. Yeah, the ritual was definitely doing something to him. His core felt way more active than it usually was, even in ghost form.

A dark spot bloomed on the bottom right corner of the page, and slowly resolved into a phantom 'D.'

Cool.

"Be my servant, be my slave." It was this line that had Sam arguing for a different ritual. She didn't want Danny to be her slave. However, the others either required a lot more stabbing, stuff they didn't have, or looked way more suspicious to Danny, from a ghostly perspective. One or two in that book didn't have anything obviously wrong with them, but repelled Danny for reasons he couldn't articulate.

"And aren't you so very brave?" The words tumbled out of Danny's mouth without any conscious thought or permission on his part.

"Be my wisdom, be my sword," said Sam, unaware of Danny's internal difficulties.

Maybe he should try- "Forever, if you keep your word." -Nope, looked like he couldn't stop, or even delay. He hoped Sam wasn't having the same problem, because that would suck.

Then he remembered what was going to happen next, and his core protested at the very thought. But he discovered he was completely immobile.

"I'll give you blood." Sam poised the needle (still covered in the gore from Danny's eye) over her hand, and drew it across her palm, leaving a shallow red line. "I'll give you gold." Sam put a few dollar bills and coins (taken from Danny's wallet), down in between them.

Danny's core suddenly swelled with power, but there was nowhere for it to go and it hurt. Ice, the only outlet, feathered across his skin. His awareness of everything outside himself, Sam, and the ritual dropped to zero.

"I am not so lightly sold." As if his friend's blood was a 'light' price! Stupid ritual. It was priceless!

"Anything for which you wish," said Sam.

"Give me your heart, give me a kiss."

Because of course the blood magic ritual had to be sealed with a- All other thoughts fled as Sam leaned in to kiss him.

Danny had the feeling of something settling on him. Something comforting, like a good, heavy blanket, strong, like ghost-forged chains, and permanent, like death. All the extra energy his core had built up during the ritual flowed into it, and then some, leaving his core weak and trembling.

The kiss lasted a lot longer than was really necessary.

Which was nice. Really nice. But as soon as Sam pulled away, he collapsed.

Sam managed to catch him. "Danny, are you okay? What's wrong?"

"No," said Danny, his head lolling against her shoulder, which surprised him, because he had meant to say, 'Yes, I'm fine.' "No energy."

He felt himself lose hold of his ghost form, which was really embarrassing in this position; he was only wearing his t-shirt and boxers. His eye slipped closed.

Darn.

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The first indication Sam had that the ritual was working was when she kissed Danny. She immediately felt energized, refreshed, all the hunger and thirst she had built up since finding herself in front of that cauldron vanishing. She felt connected. Like she could feel Danny. And she liked it.

She liked it a lot.

She probably let the kiss last a lot longer than she had to. The spell didn't specify, after all.

Maybe this wasn't so bad, after all, if they could feel like this.

But then Danny collapsed. That was bad.

Then he passed out. That was worse.

A wisp of cold air slipped past Danny's lips, tickling the side of Sam's neck. She shivered and tensed, casting her eyes about for the ghost. "C'mon, Danny," she said, shaking him slightly. "Get up, I need you."

Surprisingly, this entreaty roused Danny, and his uninjured eye slowly eased open. "Hn?"

"Strictly speaking," said Vivian, sliding into visibility, "you didn't have to stab him with the needle. That's part of the binding, to keep the ghost from backing out, and he wasn't going to do that, were you, dear?"

She reached out to touch Danny, and he hissed weakly at her. She laughed, tilting back her head, but then leaned forward, pressing her thumb into Danny's forehead. He moaned, and turned his face into Sam's shoulder.

"There," said Vivian, shaking her hand. "He should have access to his powers again." She smiled, teeth sharp. "It will take some time for the two of you to adjust to your new circumstances, but I very much look forward to teaching you once you do, Sam." A larger smile. "Apprentice."

Sam glowered.

Vivian bent down to pick up the book. "I never used this particular ritual," she said. "It requires the spirit to already be invested in the witch, so to speak. Perfect for you. Not so much for me. My mentor was the one who passed it on to me." She snapped the book closed. "He has a good eye, though. One of the ones you were considering would have turned him into a cat."

Sam swallowed.

"Now, I'll leave the two of you to adjust. Don't worry about starving. His power will sustain you until he recovers enough to fly you back home." Vivian's smile grew lazy, indulgent. "Speaking of which, I had a lot of fun there, and I need some way to pass the time. Don't I?" She vanished, cackling.

Danny whimpered.

"Crap," said Sam. Then, more gently, "Hey, Danny, how do you feel?"

"Not great," he said. "Like I just had a marathon fight, and then got beaten with a stick."

"Oh," said Sam. Usually Danny wasn't this honest. Or quite this clingy. He was still wrapped around her. Which, she, surprisingly, didn't mind. "Anything else?"

"I think that maybe I can't lie to you, because I just tried to say 'I'm fine' twice, and couldn't."

"Oh," said Sam.

"It's okay. You're probably going to have side effects, too. Or maybe it's not a side effect?" He giggled. "It's not a bug, it's a feature? I think I just need to sleep."

"Okay, you do that then."

Danny promptly closed his eyes, and his grip relaxed. Sam stared. Okay, no, she wasn't even going to consider that until she had more evidence.

She sighed, and leaned back until they were both lying on the carpet. One thing at a time. They'd figure this out.

Together.