Valerie felt gentle, cold arms wrap around her. At first she fought back. What was he doing? Attacking her? Then she heard his soft, comforting voice in her ear. "I'm so sorry." Valerie eventually returned the hug, tears streaming down her face.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she choked out, sobbing.
"I was afraid of how you would react. I thought you would hate me," he explained, stroking her hair.
"Do…Do your parents know?" she gasped.
"No," he conceded after an agonizing silence.
"They don't?" Valerie pulled away, shaking. "You hypocrite! Your telling me when you haven't told your own parents! Oh, and I assume you've told Sam and Tucker as well."
"Valerie, just calm down. I can explain," Phantom – Danny – Fenton – urgh! said, his hands raised defensively.
"Calm down? Calm down! CALM DOWN! Sure, I'll CALM DOWN when I've just heard my friend is a ghost… kid… THING!" Valerie screamed.
"Valerie, please. Someone will hear. Look, if it'll make you feel better…" Valerie watched in shock as a flash of light enveloped Phantom. His blue shirt turned into Danny Fenton's signature red and white T. The baseball cap disappeared and the white hair changed to black. Valerie blinked and stumbled backwards.
"Get away from me! You're not even human, are you? You're a ghost!" Valerie screeched, before running out of the alley. She activated her ghost hunting equipment and hovered, staring back at the boy who was her worst enemy and only crush.
Hiding her tear-stained face, she kicked her jet sled into high gear and zoomed towards home as fast as possible.
"Valerie, wait!" Danny called after hr. But it was no use.
She was gone.
Valerie lay on her bed, sobbing. She stared at the two photos on her pillow. One was of the hateful, evil ghost, Danny Phantom. The other was of the sweet, kind, clumsy Danny Fenton. Her mind wanted to separate the two, make them into two different people. But they weren't. Danny Phantom and Danny Fenton were one and the same.
Why hadn't he told her? More importantly, why hadn't he told his parents? She hadn't really given him time to explain, but it was just too much. She just couldn't take this all in. All this time, she had been hunting her only true friend? It didn't make any sense. She wouldn't do that. But she did. Did this make her the bad guy?
She scrunched the two photos together and threw them in the trash. He was right. She did hate him. All of him. At least she did right now, sitting on her bed, hiccupping.
"Danny," she sniffled.
The doorbell rang. A fresh set of sobs broke out. He wasn't going to talk to her, was he? She wasn't sure she could handle it.
Her worst fears were realized. "Valerie!" Mr. Gray called up the stairs. "It's Danny! He's coming upstairs!"
Valerie jumped up and quickly locked the door before returning to her bed. She wiped her eyes as quickly as possible, but she only succeeded in spreading the moisture over her face. Valerie Gray was strong. She wouldn't cry in front of him. She wouldn't.
"Valerie?" She heard his voice, on the opposite side of the door. "Valerie, it's Danny."
"Danny who?" Valerie asked, darkly.
She heard him sigh. "Valerie, please open this door."
She didn't answer.
"Valerie, if you don't open this door, I'll just phase through."
"Don't you use your powers on me, ghost." She heard a noise, but couldn't place it. He said he still had human emotions. What was he feeling right now? What was she feeling? Hurt? Betrayal?
She had never told Danny she was the Red Huntress. Maybe that was unfair of her. After all, he probably went through the same things she did, as a ghost hunter. It wasn't fair that he had told Sam, Tucker, and Jazz, though, and not her.
"Please, Valerie. I can explain everything."
Valerie nodded. Then, realizing Danny couldn't see her, she jumped up and unlocked the door. Then she rushed back to her bed.
Danny opened the door and stepped through. "Valerie, I'm sorry."
"No," she said. This was mostly her fault anyway. She wiped away the last of her tears. "No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have called you a ghost and I shouldn't have run off like that. It's just a lot to take in, that's all."
Danny smiled weakly. "Yeah, tell me about it. Try waking up one morning a human and a half-ghost the next.
"You never really explained how that happened. Or why Sam, Tucker, and Jazz knew and I didn't," Valerie muttered accusingly.
"Okay, I'll start at the beginning. You remember around the start of freshman year, I was out of school for a week?"
"Well, my parents had just built this ghost portal. Only it didn't work. They were crushed. Sam dared me to go in, and I have to admit I was pretty curious myself. Anyway, I went in and it somehow turned on while I was inside." He paused, biting his lip.
Valerie's eyes narrowed. "Did it hurt?"
Danny nodded, almost imperceptibly. "I died, sort of. Ectoplasm got into my DNA and I came out…" He let the white rings pass over him, leaving Phantom in his place. "That's why Sam and Tucker knew. They were there when it happened. Jazz found out on her own." He changed back. "You were the first person I ever told."
"And your parents?" All the doubt had left her voice.
"They've hated ghosts all their life. They make daily threats to rip me apart molecule by molecule," Danny said mimicking his dad's deep bass.
Well, maybe that was something different between them. At least Valerie's father didn't want to kill her. And he knew her secret. And before she knew it, Valerie was reaching out and hugging him. "Oh, Danny. I'm sorry I fought you and thought you were evil. I'm sorry I yelled at you. You've been through the same things as me and so, so much more." She sighed, nestling her head in the crook of his neck. "Can you forgive me?"
"Only if you forgive me," he said, pulling away.
Valerie smiled and touched his hand. "I guess I should be grateful. I mean, Dad is. Now he has more free time, time to study for a better job. More time to spend with me. I guess my stubbornness didn't let me see that. I forgive you."
"I forgive you, too."
The two sat there, for once enjoying a comfortable silence.
The silence was broken by a gasp by Danny. Valerie watched, surprised, as blue mist left his mouth. A few seconds later, her ghost alarm went off.
Danny sighed, then smiled. "Friends?"
Danny changed into his ghost form and Valerie activated her suit. They stood there for a second, and understanding passed between them. So the ghost and the ghost hunter flew off into the sky.
But this time, they were allies.