Gray Ghost 2018

It was their first Christmas together. She wanted to do something to get his mind off the fact, but she wasn't sure what. After much thought and consideration, Valerie Gray decided the best thing she could do was invite Danny Fenton over for a Christmas- free night spent at her place. Money was still tight, so there wasn't much preparation taking down tinsel or the like before Danny got there. She considered everything, moving even the small tree her dad had gotten from the second hand store into his bedroom. Not one thing remained to remind Danny of his least favorite holiday, save for the television programs running 'round the clock. The t.v. would not be coming on for now, if at all.

Danny arrived at 6 o'clock pm. Valerie opened the door for him, glad that he made it on time; it happened so rarely. He was slightly disheveled, snow coating his tousled black hair. His red and white coat was thin, more appropriate for fall or spring than a walk through the snow in the dead of December. Valerie smiled at him; he frowned back.

"Do you know what my parents were yelling about before I left?" he asked with a huff. She knew. It was always the same: Mr. Fenton would fervently insist that Santa Claus was real, while Mrs. Fenton would spew facts about how impossible the mere idea of his existence was unrealistic. Every year it was the same, and every year it would put Danny in the same damn slump. She was sick of it. That's what this night was for: taking his mind off of that stupid fight.

Danny and Valerie had moved to the couch. She had snack foods spread across the coffee table, tediously saved up over the past few weeks. There was all his favorites, including plain tortilla chips for dipping in guacamole.

"Danny, there's no use in getting stressed over what your parents fight about. They're going to do what they're going to do. You can't change that." Valerie paused, seeing that flick of green in his eyes. Now was not the time to ask. "How about we play cards?" She pulled a pack out from seemingly nowhere and offered them to Danny.

He considered them, shirking out of his coat and laying it on the back of the couch. "Sure," he said, reaching for a bag of doritos. "What do you want to play?"

Valerie opened the tattered pack of cards, trying to decide whether the moment called for a calm game like Memory, or a more exciting game, such as Slap Jack. Looking at Danny, fidgeting and antsy, she went with a calm one. "You know how to play Kings' Corners?" she asked, not taking him for a card player.

"Yeah, it's really fun," he responded, momentarily distracted from opening his chips. "Jazz taught it to me a while back. She said that it's a 'good coping mechanism', or something."

Valerie shuffled the cards, pondering how much she didn't know about the pale, skinny boy sitting in front of her. This kid was still so mysterious, so elusive… yet he still managed to surprise her in the softest, simplest ways. It caused an affection to bloom in her every time that fueled her toward wanting to give him a happiness she knew he could not achieve on his own.

"Okay. Since you know the rules, are you ready to lose?" she asked, all in good humor.

"Bring it, Val!" he said enthusiastically. His demeanor did a 180°, going from gloomy teen to competitive card player in two seconds flat. They swiped the snacks to the side of the coffee table, some toppling to the floor. Val swiped 14 cards to her and Danny respectively, each hand totaling to seven cards. She placed four cards face up in the centre, one on each side of the extra stack.

"Alright, Danny, you first," she said, eyeing her cards with a skeptical glare. Her hand was trash. He picked up the mandatory card from the pile, then got to work on dispelling his cards. He placed down two kings, both red, and placed most of the rest of his hand down on the surrounding cards.

"How well did you shuffle these?" he asked, head tilted, eyebrow up and quizzical.

"I'm usually a great dealer," Valerie responded, lips slightly puckered. She glanced back down at her cards. How did he end up with such a great hand? "You done?" He nodded, grin still plastered to his face. Danny never did have a good poker face.

The game didn't last long. Danny quickly disposed of his hand within the next few rounds, Valerie seeming only to collect. This pattern continued throughout their next few games of cards, all passing relatively swiftly. Danny had quite the nice winning streak going, and he wasn't prepared to quit just yet.

"I'm getting tired of Go Fish," Val sighed. They'd played five rounds of it, and Danny was ready for another round.

"Pleeeeease, one more round," he begged. She looked at him, the way his eyes glimmered with those otherworldly green specks that seemed to glow. His clasped hands begging her for one more round. His pitch black hair messy from all the times he ran his hand through it in their previous rounds. She couldn't resist.

"Alright, one more round," she relented. "Then we should do something else. It's already getting pretty late."

"Nine o'clock isn't that late," Danny argued, crossing his arms. "I've been out way later fighting gh-" He cut himself off, mouth still open from forming the word. His eyes grew wide, and he almost seemed to stop breathing. The sound his teeth made snapping shut was awful, and his eyes darted to his right. "I've been out way later... playing fight games with Tucker," he corrected, still uneasy.

Valerie didn't know how to feel about that. He was clearly lying. Should she call him out on it?

She shifted, Danny's large eyes tilting the mood on its head. "You're right," she said quietly, "Nine o'clock isn't that late." She dealt the cards, exercising her patience to the limit. All she wanted to do was release the flow of questions and accusations building up inside her, but she knew that would ruin any chance she had of giving Danny a relaxing night in the midst of the Christmas bustle. For now, they would continue as though nothing had happened, though both knew there was a deeper meaning behind that bumble.

...

"Ha!" Danny shouted, slamming down his final match. He had won almost every game they played, from the initial game of Kings' Corners to Crazy Eights to Go Fish. Valerie wasn't sure exactly what Jazz had taught him, but, whatever it was, she might have to pay her a visit or two.

Looking at the time, Valerie decided what would happen next. She set down her cards, and prepared to take the next step of the night, however much later it was than she'd originally planned. Who knew Danny loved cards so much? "Hey, Danny?" Val asked, almost shyly.

"Yeah?" he looked at Valerie, victory gloat momentarily forgotten.

"I- uh, have a little something for you. I'm gonna go get it, okay?" With a nod of consent from Danny, Valerie rose from the small table perched in front of the couch and entered her bedroom. She passed the corkboard full of wanted ghosts, dodged the ectoweapons scattered on the floor, and grabbed the neatly wrapped present hidden under her bed. It wasn't much, certainly nothing he couldn't acquire on his own, but it's the thought that counts, right? She hoped he liked it.

"I'm back," she announced. The present was held behind her back, it's baby blue paper crinkling with her nervousness. The rocket ships printed on the paper was a special treat, one she had scored from a friend.

While she'd been gone, Danny had cleaned up the cards, placing them back in their worn box- if you could even call it a box anymore, it was so shredded from use. He watched her with expectancy, ice blue eyes trained on what was hidden behind her. "I got you a gift," Valerie confessed. At Danny's frown, she continued. "I know, I know, tonight is supposed to be Christmas- free, but… I wanted to give you your gift early, and… I don't know, it just feels like the right time, and-"

"Valerie."

She looked to the boy across from her. "You're babbling," he said, gentler this time, quieter. There was that soft streak again. The gentle caress in his tone, the kindness shining through those bright eyes. "Can I see it?" he asked, holding out his hands, a small smile dancing on his face.

She handed him the small package. "You can open it right now if you'd like." A nod of acknowledge, examination of where to attack first.

"The paper's great," he said, grinning. He went in with an attack to the paper, small tears at first, turned large as excitement grew.

"I hope you like it." Valerie sat, fidgeting with her hands. This was what took the longest to save up for. She had waited weeks to purchase it, even then she had to count out the exact change. It difficult, but she knew that Danny deserved something great for Christmas. As great as she could afford, anyways.

"You got me Trinity of Doom! I've been wanting this movie since last year!" he looked up at Valerie, a grin as big as could be spread across his face. "Thanks a ton, Val!" He sat, smiling and reading the cover while Valerie checked the time: 10:30 pm. It was getting late….

"Could we watch it?" he asked, startling her out of thought.

"Yeah," she agreed. They moved to the couch, Danny turning the television on and popping the movie into the DVD Player on the way. They snuggled close in the mildly chilly room, enjoying chips, a horror movie, and each other's company.

~~End~~

A/N

This was my first year participating in the Christmas Truce, and it's been a pretty cool experience. This story was for SonySakura over on Tumblr. Check her blog out, it's really cool. This is also the first fanfic posted to my account. I hope you all like it! It's a little late to be saying, considering it's January, but Merry Christmas!

I hope to be posting future Truce stories here, so be prepared for more content come next Christmas!