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A Ghost in the System

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Alright so everyone can blame Lightning Streak for this and my inability to resist all the Dan and Val vibes I got from watching Megamind.

Also Lightning Streak has some awesome Dark Gray stuff and she is awesome enough to edit this chapter for me, so if you haven't read her stuff, you should definitely do that!

Disclaimer: I don't own Danny Phantom.


After all this time—after all Dan Phantom's planning and scheming—who would have known it was this easy?

Assuming a human form and suppressing his ghost signature was all Dan needed to slip through the infamous Ghost Shield of Amity Park. Pathetic. He was disappointed, as Valerie always hyped up the Shield's reputation.

Now here he was, standing in the middle of the street wearing a leather jacket with a white t-shirt underneath and a pair of matching black jeans. People, actual people, were walking past him, and none of them had any idea they were inches away from the entire reason they were living in a bubble.

A couple of girls giggled as they walked by, clearly checking him out. Dan sneered at them from behind his aviator sunglasses. They were insects. Inferior beings compared to him.

Morbid curiosity—to see if he could successfully slip through the Shield—was really the only reason he was here in the first place.

Now, Dan was at a loss for what to do next. He supposed he could wait for dark and then cause as much trouble as possible. A dark smirk curled his mouth upwards. Having a ghost in the system would certainly make things more interesting.

Yes. That sounded like a good idea.

"Come on, chica! We need to get you ready for tonight!" a familiar, high-pitched voice squealed with delight.

Dan's long black hair swished over his shoulder, just barely restrained by the red bandana tied around his forehead.

Sure enough, the Latino Paulina was there, pushing through the crowd and obviously dragging someone with her. Dan almost pitied the vain woman's victim. Or at least he did until he saw that familiar mane of curly black hair, and a grin slowly replaced his usual scowl.

"Paulina, I can't go out tonight. What if Phantom launches an attack? I have to be prepared in case something happens," Valerie the Red Huntress and defender of Amity Park protested.

The disguised ghost grinned widely. He liked how big of a part he played in her life even when he wasn't directly present.

"Girl, all you worry about is that ghost. Can't you at least for one night forget about him?" the eccentric woman insisted and continued to tow the curly haired woman by the wrist.

As they got closer to where he was leaning against a light pole, Phantom observed them more closely.

Paulina looked like she'd hardly changed at all from the last time he saw her. She had matured, but the air of pettiness still seemed to hang around her. She wore heavy makeup complete with what Dan assumed was the latest fashion.

Valerie was the exact opposite with hardly any makeup. She wore a grey jacket buttoned up all the way with a pair of black leggings and ankle boots. Unused to seeing her in anything other than her red battle suit, it felt strange to Dan to see her in this state.

The grin slipped from his face. He didn't like it. Red suited her, and to see her in anything else was… disappointing.

As she passed him, their eyes met for a brief moment. He regarded her with a neutral stare.

Paulina noticed him immediately, and out of the corner of his eye he saw her look him up and down. But he didn't care about her, the only woman he had eyes for was the Ghost Slayer. She was the only one of these pests worthy of his attention.

As the two women passed, time resumed its natural flow, and the hustle and bustle of the crowd carried them away.

Dan thought he could hear Paulina nattering on about something that sounded suspiciously like, "Did you see that hot guy just now?" and he let a self-satisfied smirk curl the corner of his lip.

Causing trouble to Amity Park could wait, he supposed. After all, no alarms had been raised, yet so where was the harm in having some fun first? No one even suspected that the infamous Dan Phantom, Ravager of Worlds, had infiltrated their one safe haven.

Besides, the Red Huntress was always his first priority.


Oh, for fuck's sake. How long were they going to shop?

Dan had been shadowing the two women all day, and now the sun was setting, but they still showed no signs of slowing down. They had gone into clothing store after clothing store and then followed up with makeup stores. Rolling his eyes, he bit into the large sandwich he had overshadowed a clerk for when Paulina and Valerie had taken a break to go for supper.

So he sat on a bench outside waiting for them to finish, one foot perched up resting on his opposite knee. Now that it was dark, he was no longer wearing his sunglasses, so he'd pushed them up on his head to help hold back the unbelievable amount of hair this form had. Perhaps he should cut it?

A quick glance around at the darkened streets and number of 'closed' signs had him doubting that anywhere would be open right now anyways. Guess he'd just have to deal with it for now. Sighing, he ate the last of his meal and then crumpled up the garbage, throwing it into a trash can near by.

"Oh my god, did you see that eye shadow palette? It was like, totally amazing! The gold is going to look so good with that dress!" The high pitched voice of Paulina echoed over the empty streets, "Chica, you're gonna look hot tonight."

"So are we going to get ready now? I just really want to get this over with," Valerie complained as the Latina continued to drag her towards the rather sporty looking car.

"Don't worry girl, you're going to thank me for all the fun we're going to have!"

As they got into the car and drove off, Dan stood from his seat, dusted his pants and went to follow them.

Turning invisible, he flew off, easily keeping pace with the car. He'd found that as long as he was careful not to be seen, he could use his ghost powers as much as he liked. There were no ectoplasmic sensors inside the city. It was really rather arrogant of them, but he wasn't about to complain.

Eventually, they came to a stop at an apartment building and after gathering all of their many purchases, the two girls walked inside.

Having no desire to listen to Paulina's annoying voice any further, Dan opted for waiting outside in the cool night air. The sun had long since set, and now the only illumination was the steady blue glow of the Shield and the street lights. Already he was feeling claustrophobic and more than a little disappointed he couldn't see the stars.

The constellations were a comforting constant in his afterlife. One other thing was too, but that was a thought for another time.

A sudden warmth on his leg made him look down only to see a black cat winding around his calves. Its green eyes stared up at him expectantly. Smirking balefully, he crouched down and allowed the feline to sniff his hand. Apparently deeming him acceptable, the creature head-butted his palm and meowed a very scratchy yowl.

Flopping to its side, the cat stretched widely exposing its belly obviously wanting to be petted. He indulged it and slowly began to massage its underside. A low purr started up in its throat.

Cats had always liked him. Even before he became what he is now, they would often flock to him. Dan suspected it had to do with ghost energy. He'd noticed Vlad had the same affliction during the brief time he'd lived with the man after his…

The air around him suddenly grew colder, and the black cat rolled onto its stomach and quickly scampered away. Scowling he stood up once again and directed his attention back to the silent apartment building before him.

There were several lights on in various windows up the sides, and the ghost vaguely wondered which one contained Valerie. He could always go check, but the only thing he would want to do with that information would be to scare the living hell out of his arch enemy.

A dark smirk split his face. He could just see it now. Him appearing at her window in his current form and then right before her eyes changing to the one she knew as Dan Phantom. Sighing deeply, he savored the horrified wide eyes and the slack-jawed shock that would no doubt adorn her features.

Movement caught his eye as a yellow taxi pulled up to the building, and two girls quickly hopped in as it sped away. Dan winked out of sight and once again followed Paulina and Valerie.

The car headed into the downtown area. Obviously, they were going to partake in the nightlife, and knowing Paulina's interests, it was likely they were heading to a bar or night club of some kind.

Finally, the car came to a stop outside a neon lit building with a glowing sign reading Ghostly Crue.

Horrified and disgusted at the same time, Dan could only stare uncomprehendingly at the name. Never before had he been so tempted to completely lay waste to a building before in his life. He felt personally insulted that they would name a nightclub, of all places, after his legacy!

For a brief moment, his eyes glowed their natural red from the fake blue they currently were, and his canines extended into fangs. Realizing that he wouldn't be able to go anywhere with his current appearance, Dan calmed himself enough to revert back to his human façade.

It was when the lights of a car flashed into his face that he realized, the taxi he had followed was leaving and it was void of its two important occupants. A quick glance around the outside revealed they were no where to be seen. Assuming that they had already gone in, he huffed and with a scowl he trudged his way inside.

Loud music blared through every crevice and the open doors. Already it was hurting his head and giving him a headache but he had come this far, he might as well finish it.

"I.D." the bouncer demanded as Dan approached the door. Eyeing the rather beefy looking man closely, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wallet he'd obtained at the same time as his clothes. The fake I.D he'd commissioned was in a clear pocket and as he showed it to the guard, when he requested it be taken out, Dan scowled a bit deeper but nonetheless did as he was asked. Afterwards, the bouncer nodded once and directed him inside, "Thanks, have fun."

The Phantom in disguise scoffed. It was unlikely.

The inside was just as loud and obnoxious as he thought it would be. The bass thrummed in time with his power core, making him feel as though he were a drum or a guitar amp.

The décor matched the name of the place as everything was black-lit and a bright ectoplasmic green. Ghosts were displayed cartoonishly all over the walls and dance floor that was packed tight with squirming bodies. White blobs with two black ovals for eyes and nothing but fingerless lumps for hands.

Was this how the last of humanity saw him?

Thoroughly angered and disgusted Dan stomped over to the bar which was bustling with people wanting alcohol.

Scantily clad waitresses wearing white so they glowed milled around the crowd with big smiles plastered to their faces. Their over-joyous moods only soured his even further.

"Heya, what can I do ya' for?" a perky blonde asked energetically as she deftly mixed up a rather fruity looking drink.

"Gin and tonic." One last look at her shirt again revealed some ridiculous image of a smiling happy ghost. "Make it a double," he added, sneering as he slammed the money down on the counter. He decided this was one of the first places he was going to raze once the Shield was down.

"For sure, just give me a sec!" the waitress replied as she finished the colorful, girly drink and set it as well as a beer in front of the guy standing beside him at the bar.

His brown hair was perfectly coiffed and polo shirt collar popped. "Thanks, sweet cheeks," he replied with a wink of his, and Dan could only roll his eyes in response, but not before he witnessed something that made fury run hot through his veins.

The man threw a quickly dissolving pill into the fruity drink.

Before the disguised ghost could react, the man turned and walked away, both drinks in hand. Blue eyes narrowed and watched his path carefully as he casually made his way into the back part of the club where black couches and chairs lay for people who only wanted to socialize.

That was when he recognized one woman in particular sitting on one of the said couches. She was wearing a red and gold halter dress that dipped low in the front revealing a sensual amount of cleavage. It was so short it barely came down to her mid thigh and was even shorter as she sat with her long, bare legs crossed. Her black curls glistened in the strobe lights, and her rich brown skin shimmered with glitter.

Valerie.

Then the waitress snapped back his attention. "There you go, enjoy!" The waitress set the glass down on the counter with a napkin underneath to protect the black wood of the counter. Without saying anything in return, Dan took the glass and followed the man who had been beside him.

Fury turned into rage when Valerie smiled, stood, and greeted the stranger before he held the drugged drink out to her.

Storming over to where they stood, Dan swiped the drink from the man's hand before the young woman could touch it.

"Hey, what are you—?" the man exclaimed, but Dan cut him off,

"I believe you have it wrong. This is your drink, is it not?" A fearsome glare darkened his features and a snarl lifted his lip as he pushed the glass into the potential rapist's face.

"I- I don't know what you're—"

"Then why not take a sip? Or what? Is your masculinity too frail to handle something like this? That wouldn't surprise me if you feel the need to drug women to get them to sleep with you." Finally, at the end of his patience, Dan threw the drink over the man's shirt, earning a surprised gasp from Valerie.

"You son of a bitch!" the other man exclaimed rudely and tried to intimidate the disguised ghost by getting in his face.

Dan held his ground, not moving, and continued to glare at the other man. "Get out of here, before I really make you regret that stunt," he growled deep in his throat. He could feel his teeth extending into fangs once again, but that was going to be the least of his worries here if this developed into something more than just a standoff.

"Why don't we take this outside then, huh? Just you and me?"

"Okay, okay break it up." Valerie shoved her way in-between the both of them, pushing them apart. The young woman put a finger right under the other man's nose, "You, get out of here before I kick your ass myself." He took one last look at Dan, who was still glaring fiercely, before he tried to walk away with as much dignity as he could muster with a ruined shirt. "And you," Valerie turned to Dan with another finger pointed directly underneath his nose, "you didn't have to cause such a racket over this."

"I believe the phrase you're looking for is, 'thank you,'" Dan deadpanned down at her. She blinked once, gold eyeshadow shimmering in the flashing light.

"Thank you?" she repeated indignant.

"You're welcome," Dan replied, smirking devilishly as he took a sip from his own drink. Valerie looked as if she were about to argue only to deflate at the last moment and sit heavily on the couch where she had been previously. The disguised ghost took a seat beside her, discarding his leather jacket over the back of the couch and regarded her carefully. "I would have thought you of all people would be smarter than to accept a drink like that, Valerie. Isn't it the number one rule against being date-raped? Make sure you watch the drink being made to ensure nothing is slipped in?"

Teal eyes observed him very cautiously, "I didn't tell you my name. How do you know me?" Suspicion was heavy in her tone, and Dan inwardly cursed himself for his own familiarity.

"You're Valerie Gray the Ghost Slayer. Who doesn't know you?" he rectified, and the suspicion lifted from her expression slightly, but it was clear she was still being cautious towards him.

"Not many people recognize me out of my battle suit, much less call me by my first name. Usually it's Miss Gray, or Commander Gray." She crossed her legs once again, and Dan couldn't help but follow the action, "But since we seem to be on a first name basis already, what's your name?"

"Anakin," he replied easily redirecting his gaze up to her eyes.

She raised a perfectly arched eyebrow, "Anakin?"

"Yes, Anakin Skywalker."

There was a beat of silence between them until she started to laugh, "You can't be serious!"

"No, my name is Jake Rainier." Of course, he couldn't go by his actual name. She would recognize it and him in a second, which was the last thing he wanted. Playing human like this was already proving to be quite entertaining, plus he still had plans to carry out.

"For the record, I never intended on drinking anything he gave me. I only agreed in the first place to get him to shut up about it. You wouldn't believe how persistent he was! Like holy shit, he couldn't take a hint!" Valerie exclaimed, waving into the air.

"He seemed like the type who doesn't know when to stop." Dan smirked over the edge of his glass, putting an arm around the back of the couch to face her better. His eyes roved over her dress once more. "So, is there a special occasion for tonight?"

"No not particularly. One of my friends dragged me out here for a girl's night, but I don't usually have the energy for this kind of thing," she admitted, sighing.

"Want to leave? I can't stand this place. The music is giving me a headache, and the design is tasteless." Dan downed the last of his drink. Valerie smiled amusedly at him, and the disguised ghost found himself fascinated. He couldn't remember the last time Valerie had smiled at him with such genuine happiness.

"I think you just described every night club in existence, but you're right. This place is pretty tacky." She glanced around him towards the dancefloor. "But I can't leave without my friend. I don't trust that she'll be able to get herself home safely. I appreciate the offer though, thanks." She smiled again, and he couldn't help but return it with a small smirk as he placed his now empty glass on the table.

"In that case, I shall take my leave then. Goodnight," Dan held out his hand for her to take, which after only a short moment of hesitation she did. Obviously she was expecting a handshake, so when he pulled her hand to his lips and kissed it, surprise was clearly written on her features. He smirked in reply, "Miss Gray."

After that he stood up, flipped his leather jacket over his shoulder and left without a second glance.


"How was your experiment, master? Were you successful?" the spooky visage of the Fright Knight greeted the true form of Dan Phantom. Having returned to his lair outside the Shield, he had once again assumed his natural form.

Grinning widely the Ravager of Worlds chuckled lowly, "Oh yes and it will be much easier than we originally thought." White hair flickering brightly, he stood straight, "Begin gathering the faithful, for soon we march on Amity Park."


Alright so there's the first chapter!

Leave a comment if you'd like, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Alright here is the next chapter! Once again it is edited by the wonderful Lightning Streak! I hope you enjoy it!

 


 Dan waited a full day until it was dark again to once again infiltrate Amity Park. This time, he was set on his primary mission: taking down the Ghost Shield.

As he stood in front of his old school looking up at the large antenna as the source to the Shield, a wave of nostalgia wafted over him. The image of walking through those front doors with his friends Sam and Tucker drifted across his vision. All the students crowding towards the doors, laughing and jostling each other as they all waited for the first bell to ring…

Snarling, he shook off such weak thoughts and began to make his way towards the building. It was intimidating, Dan supposed, with its towering silhouette against the electric blue of the dome. The Shield emanated from the top in waves, always sustaining a consistent flow of energy.

Displeasure turning into satisfaction, the disguised ghost began to approach the impressive-looking structure. Once he got inside, the impressiveness of the architecture wouldn't matter anymore. The Shield would collapse, and after he made sure it wouldn't be operational for a significant amount of time, he would gather his army, and Amity Park would bow before him or perish.

As he stepped onto the property, a warning alarm started up.

Halting, Dan looked around and hesitantly took another step.

The beeping increased and little red lights lit up along the grass.

It couldn't be… his ghost signature?

One more step, and what appeared to be sprinkler heads popped up. He knew of course that they weren't loaded with water and immediately backed up a couple steps, snarling viciously. More than likely, they were electric or contained some sort of gas.

As he retreated, the lights went off and the black cylinders sunk back into the lawn, invisible once again.

Cursing under his breath, his eyes started to glow red and his fangs extended.

Of course they had ghost sensors and defenses around the main antenna for the Shield!

Calming himself, Dan regarded the structure in a new light. It would be possible to just destroy the building itself. That would most certainly take down the Shield for a significant amount of time.

A dark grin stretched over his features. No doubt, the amount of time would be long enough to raze the whole city to the ground—starting of course with that horrendous nightclub.

Suddenly, the sound of jet engines caught his attention, and he looked up just in time to see the familiar silver sled fly overhead. Valerie did a loop around the top of the antenna before Dan saw her head turn in his direction, which was followed closely with her sled.

As she flew towards him, Dan shoved his hands in his pockets and did his best to look casual. Shifting his weight onto one leg, he assumed a non-defensive pose, and a small smirk curled his lip.

Valerie came to a stop mid air about ten feet off the ground, and with a suspicious glare drawing her face into angry lines, she directed a gun at his chest.

"What are you doing here? Did you do something to set off the ghost alarm?" she demanded, her black ringlet hair flying free around her head.

The disguised ghost extended his arms outwards from his body, "And what could I have done, Miss Gray? Do I look like a ghost to you?" Dan could see from the tense lines of her body that she still wasn't entirely convinced of his 'innocence.'

"No, but ghosts can assume all sorts of forms. Prove it then. Walk towards the building, slowly," Valerie ordered, and the smirk on his face widened slightly.

Oh, this would be fun, Dan thought. It was a shame the game was up so early on, but to watch the horror dawn on her face when he revealed his true form would be glorious.

…Or maybe it didn't have to end just yet?

Small waves of ghostly energy naturally slipped through his disguise. Perhaps that had been enough to trigger the sensors. Clamping down on his signature, Dan did his best to make sure none of it leaked from the small box he created to contain it.

If the sensors went off, he wouldn't have any choice but to try and destroy the antenna before Valerie destroyed him. It was a battle that would prove most interesting. If it remained silent, however, his smirk threatened to widen further, because then the fun was truly just beginning.

His foot landed on the soft grass.

Nothing.

Another step.

Nothing.

Dan let his arms fall to his sides before he hooked his thumbs into his pockets and grinned widely at his success. "There, you see? No ghost here. How could it have been me, Miss Gray?" False blue eyes twinkled with dark amusement as he walked back towards the still-suspicious woman.

"I guess it wasn't you after all. Phantom must have flown too close. That's happened a couple times before, I suppose…" Valerie admitted, resigned as she reholstered her blaster on her thigh and lowered her sled down to a reasonable height to jump off. Bringing a wrist up to her mouth, she spoke, "This is Gray. Antenna is secure. No ghosts in sight."

Her teal gaze switched back to him. She eyed him warily, and he returned it with a lazy, half-lidded stare complete with a small quirk of his lip. She said, "So since you weren't responsible for tripping the alarm, what are you doing here?"

"I couldn't sleep, so I thought a walk would help clear my head. My path happened to lead here," Dan replied easily. It was a half-truth that flowed effortlessly off his tongue. He no longer actually slept; it was more of a resting or meditative state, but the part about clearing his head was a complete lie. "And what about you? Surely the infamous Ghost Slayer isn't merely reduced to something as petty as patrol duty?"

Valerie continued to stare suspiciously at him, even as he slowly sauntered up to her. "It's not petty if it keeps the city secure from ghost threats. It's not all about the glory of fighting one-on-one with Phantom. Keeping people safe is what's important." She turned away to analyze her sled and the grin fell from his face for a split second. She placed the lives of these insects above fighting him?

"Sounds like you're a true hero, Miss Gray." Those words tasted like vinegar coming from his mouth, "Putting the lives of others above your own. Isn't that a bit reckless though? Surely fighting Phantom is no walk in the park?" Dan ask what he assumed would be rhetorically. Anything less would be unacceptable.

"I'm not a hero. I'm just the only one who has bothered to take a direct stand against him." Valerie turned back towards the disguised ghost, shifting her weight to one hip and resting her hand on it casually. "You seem to take an unwarranted interest in me, Jake Rainier."

"And is that a bad thing? You are very interesting, Miss Valerie Gray," Dan replied easily, staring directly into her teal eyes with his blue ones.

"No, it's not a bad thing just… strange."

"Oh? And why's that?" A dark eyebrow lifted questioningly as the young woman shrugged her shoulders and looked to the side

"It's just… guys aren't falling over themselves to meet me, I guess."

"I find that hard to believe. Why wouldn't they want to be with you, Valerie the Ghost Slayer?"

"Oh they fall over themselves for the Ghost Slayer, but once they meet Valerie Gray, suddenly the glamor wears off."

"And why is that?"

"When they realize she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night from nightmares, she's suddenly not so great anymore," she sighed heavily as she sat down on her still-levitating board.

Once again, Dan found himself in the strange predicament where Valerie was showing another emotion he had never seen before: vulnerability. After all the years of fighting the unflinching, unyielding Huntress, to suddenly see her hanging her head and shoulders drooping was disorientating. He didn't like it.

Dan was jolted out of his reverie when she continued, "Or when they find the injuries from my fights with Phantom, suddenly I'm not quite so attractive. Or how I can hardly ever commit to any plans because I have to be constantly running off to fight ghosts." Her breathing hitched slightly and the disguised ghost found himself becoming increasingly angry.

How dare the insects of Amity Park treat her with such little respect? She deserved to have them bowing at her feet, but instead they treated her like nothing more than a slave. A snarl lifted his lip. Just another reason why the world would be better off without Amity Park.

She sighed heavily once again. "I guess there's just better girls out there. Like Paulina."

"I would choose you over any other woman any day, including this Paulina," he declared honestly and found himself surprised at how much he meant that statement. Valerie glanced up eyes wide with surprise as another triumphant grin stretched his mouth upwards. "Meet me here tomorrow at noon. I want to know more about this Miss Valerie Gray."

"Wait… what? Are you… are you asking me out?" she asked, incredulous as she stood from her sled, eyebrows drawn into a confused frown and accusatory finger pointing at his chest.

"If that is how you wish to see it, then yes," the disguised ghost responded easily.

There was a beat of silence between them while she seemed to consider his offer. "But I barely know you. You're practically a stranger."

"And what is a stranger but someone you have yet to become friends with?" Valerie stared curiously at him, clearly considering his words, "I won't accept 'no' as an answer. I'll see you here tomorrow at 12 pm sharp." And without waiting any further, Dan turned and began walking away. "Don't stand me up!" he called back to her over his shoulder.

After a moment, he heard the jet engines rev up and then fade into the distance as she flew off.


 The true, ghostly form of Dan Phantom touched back down in front of his lair, which was located deep in the mountains, and he entered the cave's entrance. He used a labyrinth of caves to ensure that if anyone were to follow him, they would likely lose their way and fall into one of the many traps he had set through the tunnels.

Easily evading a few of the traps in the tunnel on his way to the main chamber, Dan admired his home base, proud of the construction he had done all by himself.

Stalactites hung from the ceiling menacingly, made all the more intimidating by the ghostly light illuminating them. Their shadows were cast on the floor in sharp relief, making it look as if the ground were full of bottomless holes. The main atrium area had been cleared out of some of the boulders that had been in the way but still contained much of the natural formation of a cave

"Is it done, master?" the Fright Knight asked from his spot beside Dan's makeshift throne where he had been tending to his blade. The black ghost stood respectfully and sheathed his weapon in the holster at his side.

"Not yet, but it will not be long now. There were some… unforeseen obstacles. The insects put extra precautions into protecting the main antenna for the Shield, but it will not be enough to keep me from my goal," Phantom reassured his faithful servant, and the medieval ghost bowed at the waist.

"Of course, my liege. None may stand in the way of your might," he spoke reverently, and Dan nodded, pleased.

"Now, that is all. I will be returning to Amity Park in the morning to continue my plans."

"Very well, master, I shall continue to gather an army worthy of your legacy."

The flame-haired ghost nodded once again as he started to walk away towards his private chambers. A large bed lay in the middle of the room covered with a variety of animal pelts he had taken from animals he had killed. Wolves of varying colors, and even his proudest kill, a grizzly bear pelt, decorated the expanse of his bed.

Taking off his cape, Phantom hung it on a sharp outcropping of rock. After tha,t he proceeded to remove his suit until he was only clad in his pants. Then the ghost sat on the bed cross-legged and fell into his resting state to wait until morning.


 Upon arriving back in Amity Park, he spotted a flyer advertising the sale of a black motor bike, one of those Ninja crotch-rockets. Remembering that Johnny 13 had a motorcycle and also a girlfriend, Dan decided that perhaps also acquiring one would impress Valerie. Plus, it would make getting around this infernal city easier without having to rely on keeping undetected when he flew.

Locating the seller, the disguised ghost overshadowed him into thinking Dan had paid for the bike before grudgingly accepting the matching black helmet and paperwork from the "sale."

Shoving the helmet over his head, he revved the motor on his newly acquired motorcycle, Dan sped off down the street, enjoying the feeling of the wind blowing past him. It brought back memories of the first time he had ridden a motorbike like this back when he lived with Vlad Masters. During the first two months after the… incident, it was the only thing that seemed to drown out the agony was thrill seeking. Recklessly stealing and riding a motorbike had been the perfect balm.

A dark smirk split his face. When he'd crashed that bike, it had been a hefty hospital bill as well as a fine for letting someone without the proper licence to operate a vehicle that had been forced upon his guardian, Vlad Masters.

Ah yes, fond memories.

Speeding down the road, he rapidly approached the Ghost Shield Antenna. There were many people milling about the front, making it difficult for Dan to spot Valerie, if she was even there at all. His lips turned downwards. If she wasn't there, he would not be at all pleased.

Just at that moment, one figure separated herself from the crowd. She was dressed in a red halter top, with a black leather jacket and a short black skirt. Her black hair was pulled back by a red headband and then was left free to cascade over her shoulders.

Smirking widely, Dan fishtailed and screeched into a stop directly in front of Valerie. He watched with satisfaction as she jumped back a step as he pulled the helmet off his head and set his long locks free.

"Miss Gray," the disguised ghost greeted the young woman cordially.

"Jake Rainier," Valerie responded slightly breathlessly, likely as a result of his rather abrupt and dramatic entrance. She eyed his bike warily.

He couldn't help but laugh. "You spend your days flying around on nothing but a flying surfboard, and you're apprehensive about something as mundane as a motorbike?" He revved the engine once again and watched as her eyes widened in surprise.

"Yes, because when I'm on that 'surfboard' as you put it, I have my armor to protect me." She used finger quotes to emphasize her point.

"Am I not a suitable replacement?" A smirk stretched the side of his mouth. "Don't you trust me, Miss Gray?" He held the helmet out to her.

She looked between it and him for a moment before, she hesitantly took it from his grasp. "No, I don't trust you. But if you crash this bike with me on it, I'm going to kill you," Valerie threatened him, and Dan couldn't help his smirk widening into a grin. This was the Huntress he knew.

"I have no doubt that you will, Miss Gray," the ghost replied smoothly as the young woman pulled the helmet over her head.

"So where are we going?" The infamous Ghost Slayer climbed onto the bike, and two knee-high black boots appeared on either side of him. Tentatively, she placed her hands on his sides just above his hips.

He couldn't help but chuckle. "You're going to need to hold on tighter than that," Dan stated before he revved the engine once more, and they shot off like a rocket. Valerie squeaked, frantically wrapped both arms around his waist, and pressed herself firmly against his back.

After the initial acceleration, Dan didn't drive nearly as crazy with Valerie as he had on the way here. Mainly because he hadn't thought ahead as to what they were actually going to do on this 'date' (as she had implied) and now needed to find somewhere to go. Preferably somewhere where they would not be bothered by other people or wait staff— and definitely not that horrendous club.

There on the corner, a small café with tables and people drinking beverages.

Perfect.

Pulling over to the side, Dan parked his bike by the curb, and Valerie practically leapt off the bike. He watched in amusement as she hastily adjusted her skirt that had ridden up as they had travelled. As she pulled the helmet off her head, the ghost kicked down the stand and pulled the keys from the ignition.

"You drive too fast," the young woman scolded him as she tossed the borrowed safety equipment at him, which of course he caught easily.

"I didn't crash, and we arrived safely. What more do you want?" He grinned cheekily and Valerie could only glower, unimpressed. "Come, the café is this way."

Dan led the way to the small coffee shop. It was a quaint place with dark wood furnishings and green accents. Several small two person tables were enclosed behind an iron wrought fence with even fewer people occupying them. Even better.

A bell chimed as the ghost held the door open for his arch nemesis.

Valerie regarded him coolly as she quickly ducked into the shop before him. Dan continued to smirk triumphantly as he followed her inside.

The interior was very similar to the exterior with dark wood and green accents. There was a bar with a glass case full of pastries. Menus of drinks were displayed on large signs behind the counter.

At the register, a blonde, preppy-looking girl waited on them to approach.

"What can I get for you?" the girl asked and for a moment, Dan feels like he has seen this girl somewhere before. His core faltered for a moment when he read Star on the name tag pinned to her green apron.

"I'll get a medium Cappuccino." Valerie ordered and then reached into her jacket pocket to retrieve a wallet.

That was unacceptable. Had all her previous encounters with men had her paying for her own drinks?

"And I'll have a large dark roast coffee," Dan added as he smoothly took the wallet from her grasp and held it above his head while he slid a couple bills onto the counter while the Huntress grabbed for her wallet.

Star eyed him up and down, much to his displeasure, as she took the money.

"Jake, give it back!" Valerie jumped for her wallet, but he easily kept it out of her grip.

"Give what back? I don't know what you're talking about," the ghost stated with false innocence perfectly matching the rest of his façade.

"You have my wallet! I need that!" she cried and jumped for it once again. Her soft body collided into his and forced him to take a more solid stance.

The blonde barista silently handed him his change with a knowing smile that he didn't return.

"Oh, do I?" Dan grinned, finally acknowledging his deed. He glanced down to see Valerie's face inches from his own as she continued to stretch for her wallet. "Well, would you look at that? Now, how did that happen?"

"Just give it back before I decide to get serious."

The disguised ghost lifted an eyebrow that disappeared under his head band. "Are you threatening me with a good time, Ghost Slayer?" He took the opportunity to slip an arm around her waist.

Her cheeks darkened considerably when she realized how close they were. Biting her lip nervously, Valerie pushed against him and broke his hold on her. Still smirking widely, Dan allowed her to create some distance between them.

"May I please have my wallet back." She held out an expectant hand and fixed him with a neutral stare. He considered her for a moment before he offered up the item she had been fighting so adamantly for.

"Since you asked so nicely."

With an indignant huff, she swiped it from his hand.

"Medium Cappuccino and a large dark roast." Star interrupted them, and Valerie looked over to her with surprise. Dan took both drinks with a dismissive nod to the too-attentive blonde and handed the raven-haired woman her drink.

"Thank you," she breathed somewhat disbelievingly as she accepted the steaming beverage. "Was this why you took my wallet? So I couldn't pay for this?" There was the vulnerability again in her teal gaze as she stared innocently up at him.

Taking a sip of his own bitter drink, he let the suspense build for a moment before he deigned to answer, "It might be."

Valerie raised an eyebrow. "You're not going to tell me are you?"

"No, I'm not." He swept an arm towards the doors where the tables lay just beyond the glass. "Shall we sit?"

"I suppose."

They walked outside and chose one of the tables that was closer to the sidewalk, where a multitude of people walked. Some were in a hurry, and others moseyed along like they had all the time in the world. Their days were becoming numbered whether they all knew it or not. This charade he was playing with Valerie was merely a means to an end.

"So, Miss Valerie Gray, the infamous Red Huntress and Ghost Slayer. What causes you of all people to wake up in the middle of the night screaming from anything but pleasure?" Dan waited until right as she took a sip of her drink before he posed his question. Although, he had to admit, he had only phrased it that way to elicit a reaction. And he was not disappointed.

She choked on the liquid, nearly spitting it all over the table but managing at the last moment to contain it and as gracefully as she could, swallowed.

"What did you just say?" she sputtered, face burning red once again.

"I believe I asked what the source of your nightmares is?" h=He took a sip of his own coffee and relished the rich, bitter flavor. This had been a good choice; it had always been what Vlad had drank and now he understood why.

"That was totally not how you phrased it, but I would think that someone as smart as you think you are could guess the answer to that question." He quirked an eyebrow at her snide insult but nonetheless remained silent, waiting for her to continue. She sighed heavily as a shadow seemed to overcome her features. "Phantom. Phantom gives me nightmares."

Her admission sent a thrill through him. He truly so much influence over her that he tortured her even subconsciously? A smirk threatened the corner of his mouth, but he contained it. If he were to smile now, it might give him away.

"Is fighting him truly that terrifying?"

"No one has any idea how insane he is. There is nothing he won't do to get his goal of world domination. No length he wouldn't go to." She sighed shakily and hid her face behind her hands. "There's sometimes when I'm fighting him where it feels like he's just… toying with me. Like he lets me live just so he can have a little fun every now and then."

Her breathing started to quicken, and a slight tremble started in her hands. Suddenly, Dan didn't feel quite so proud that he had such influence over her mind. Clearly, the Huntress he thought he knew was nothing more than a front, and below the surface lay this frightened, feeble woman.

But then from the depths of his core rose a different kind of respect for her. Despite the obvious fear she was displaying over his true form, he had no doubt that the next time he threatened Amity Park, she would be there to stop him.

"Can we talk about something else? I don't want to think of Phantom right now." There was a note of desperation in her voice that Dan didn't like. Was she truly so afraid of him to the point where she couldn't even think his name?

"You surprise me, Miss Gray. Here I thought there was nothing that could get under your skin," the ghost admitted, somewhat disappointed as he leaned to rest on the back of the chair, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"Stop calling me that. Valerie is fine. I suppose you've earned the right to a first-name basis," she admitted as she took another sip of her coffee and seemed to calm down slightly.

"Very well… Valerie."

Dan grinned. Already she was beginning to trust him. This boded well for his plans.


Alright well that's the second chapter! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Leave me a comment with your thoughts if you'd like! I'd love to hear them!

Chapter Text

Hey sorry for the wait on this chapter, but life has kept me extremely busy as of late and even as I'm typing this I am currently in Japan! I haven't had much time to really sit down and write for either of my stories but my trip is coming to an end shortly so I will go back to updating fairly regularly.

Once again, a big thanks to Lightning Streak for editing it for me!

That being said enjoy this chapter!


Soon enough, the café had become boring as more people started to arrive and take seats around them, much to Dan's displeasure. The less he interacted with these insects, the better. But it seemed that Valerie was adamant about not getting back on the bike with him.

"If you think even for some second I'm getting back on that monstrosity with you, then you are sorely mistaken." Valerie eyed the motorbike with intense mistrust as if it would suddenly come alive and try to eat her.

Dan grinned widely in amusement. "You fly around on your jet-propelled surfboard, hunting ghosts with little more to protect yourself than a bit of armor, and you're afraid of a simple bike?" For emphasis, he revved the engine once and watched in delight as she jumped back in surprise. He couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him.

"It's not the bike that makes me nervous." The steel was back in her gaze as she stared him down.

Dan's grin only widened as he sat back in the seat and took the keys from the ignition. "Are you saying I make you nervous?"

Her voice was firm. "Yes."

"Your words hurt me, Valerie." Fake blue eyes stared back at her with innocence that was not genuine.

In response, she raised an eye brow in disbelief.

"Very well," he said, "if you do not approve of my own mode of transportation, then we shall walk." Swinging a leg back over the motorcycle, Dan stood face-to-face with Valerie.

There was a beat of silence before the Ghost Slayer cleared her throat and avoided his direct gaze. "Well, lead the way! Where are we going next?" she demanded. She crossed her arms over her chest as she once again took a step backwards to put some distance between them.

The disguised ghost smirked devilishly as he turned and began to walk away, hands shoved deeply into his pockets. When she didn't immediately follow, he glanced over his shoulder. "Are you coming?"

Her shoulders tightened, and somewhat reluctantly, she began to follow him. Dan's smirk widened with amusement as she walked beside him. This was truly a unique opportunity; he never would have imagined he would be able to walk beside the infamous Red Huntress without her trying to kill him to some degree.

"So where are we going now?"

"That remains to be determined."

She stepped in front of him and put a hand on his chest, stopping him dead in his tracks. "Are you saying you don't know?" Her teal eyes were dark with disapproval as she glared up at him.

Dan shrugged noncommittedly and grinned lazily, "Do I look like someone who has a plan for everything, Miss Gray?"

"No, but I try not to judge people based on their appearances." Her hand removed itself from his body, and he distinctly noticed the disappearing warmth from his being.

"How magnanimous of you, Valerie."

She glared cautiously at him, "If that's what you want to call it, I call it being a decent human being." She crossed her arms one more as she stared him down. "So let me get something straight. You show up at the club, conveniently right at the time I'm receiving a drugged drink from someone. Then you talk with me like we're old friends, even though I'd never met you before in my life. After that, I meet you outside the Ghost Shield antenna right as the alarm is going off. And then you ask me out, but have no plans at all for it?"

The easy grin slipped from his features as Dan's mind whirled trying to come up with some sort of explanation that would sate her curiosity, but he could only draw blanks. Clearly she was putting much more thought into this than he was. That needed to change if he wanted to keep this going.

"The way I see it," the young woman shifted her weight to one leg and continued to stare evenly at him, "you're either some sort of stalker and decided last night was the perfect opportunity to make your move, or you asked me out simply out of pity. Judging by the fact that you apparently have no real plans for today, I'm thinking it's the latter."

This was certainly an unexpected turn. Just when he thought he was gaining her trust, she pulled a twist on him. A smirk threatened to break through, but the thought of her believing he merely wanted this out of pity drowned out any amusement.

"I would never do something like this out of pity. I spoke the truth last night. I want to get to know the real Valerie Gray, not the Red Huntress that everyone is so obsessed with." Dan lifted his head back and looked down his nose at her, "If you believe this to be nothing more than a climax to a long time stalking fixation, or a pity date, then I believe we are done here."

She demanded, "So why me?"

"I think the better question, is why not you? Is there something wrong with being interested in you?"

A dark shadow seemed to overcome her face, and she dropped her gaze to the side, "As long as you're okay with the fact that I could die at any time. There's no guarantee about how long I will live at all."

There was a moment of silence between them while Dan let her words sink in. While it was true, she very well could die at anytime, he didn't like her putting it so bluntly.

As if she were expecting it.

He opened his mouth to offer some reassurance in the form of denial, but he was abruptly interrupted by the sound of an explosion against the dome of the Shield.

"No no no, you idiot! I told you to wait! I have to hack into the Shield's mainframe before it can be brought down!" the irritating voice of a familiar ghost grated itself into Dan's ears and he snarled up at where it had come from.

"Well you had better hurry it up! Or the next one is going through you!" a second, much deeper voice argued back.

"Great, Technus is back thinking he can hack his way through the mainframe again, and it sounds like he brought Skulker with him." Valerie sighed as she adopted the steely façade Dan was so familiar with. Taking out her watch, she pressed a button and then reached over to the silver bracelet she wore on her opposite wrist.

A quick squeeze of the metal between her thumb and forefinger caused it to beep twice in quick succession before it began to spread and cover her arm. It continued to sweep over her entire body, the silver metal shining brightly in the light. Once it had encased her completely, the metal shimmered and then changed to the familiar red once the light in the center of her chest lit up.

"Sorry, I have to go now. Probably best if you don't wait for me. There's no guarantee I'll be back," the Red Huntress stated seriously as her jet sled appeared at her side. By now, she had gained the attention of nearly everyone on the street who was close enough to see the spectacle. Her helmet formed over her head, and the visor glowed the same electric blue as her chest piece.

"Yes, you will, and I'll be waiting. There's something I want to give you, after all." The disguised ghost smirked down at her. While he couldn't see her face anymore, the way she tilted her head away from his gaze told him that she was embarrassed about that. His grin widened further.

Valerie didn't say anything in response and instead flew off on her jet sled. Dan watched her disappear into the blue glow of the Shield.

Now to take care of the two idiots that had interrupted his moment of triumph.


The true form of Dan Phantom floated invisible and undetectable just out of the Huntress's sensor range. He watched, amused, as both Technus and Skulker haphazardly tried to defend themselves against the woman in red.

"Can't you hack into her armor and disable it?" the green=haired cyborg yelled abrasively towards his—supposedly—tech-savvy partner.

"Maybe I could if my hired muscle would do his job and protect me! Now get your electronic rear in gear and kick her ass! Or I'll hack into you and see how you like it!" The sarcasm was heavy in his retort, and Dan couldn't help but smirk darkly as Technus was forced to quickly contort his body to avoid the missiles Valerie fired in his direction.

Skulker snarled viciously at the order but nonetheless did as requested and began to fire his ectoplasmic gun towards the woman in red. She dodged them effortlessly, much to his obvious chagrin.

"You couldn't hack into a grapefruit, Technus! You won't even scratch the surface of my suit!" Valerie spouted, and Phantom chuckled lowly doing his best to remain undetected. Skulker, however, boomed with laughter which was immediately cut short due to the bullet rounds that shot through his core systems.

"I am the great Nicolai Technus! No technology is beyond me!" The electronic ghost was clearly offended by her statement and without any further hesitation, summoned his lightning rod and shot a wave of electricity at the Ghost Slayer.

She cried out in surprise as Technus laughed manically and upped the power a little more until she collapsed fell to her knees on her sled. Dan narrowed his eyes, not liking the direction this was going.

"Now you cower before my awe inspiring might! Soon all of humanity will kneel before me!" he once again started to laugh, his arms thrown above his head dramatically. "I will be the greatest ghost in both the human realm and the Ghost Zone! Phantom himself will bow before me!"

Dan frowned and lifted a lip in disgust. Only in Technus's megalomaniac dreams.

Valerie stood and glanced at the LED display on her arm, "Power at 300%, thanks for the boost." Technus could only stare in muted shock as she fired back a blue beam of energy from her palm twice as powerful as the one he had hit her with.

The grin returned to Dan's face as the white-haired ghost fell from the sky, smoking all the way down to the ground where he landed ungracefully next to Skulker. Valerie heaved a large sigh and did a visual check of the nearby area. Of course she didn't see him as he was still invisible, but he figured now would be the best time to reveal his presence.

"Bravo, Huntress. I do believe you just took out Amity Park's biggest threat." Dan materialized into existence and leisurely floated towards Valerie who was immediately on her guard, weapons drawn and pointed at him.

"I knew you'd show up, Phantom."

"Am I really so predictable?" the ghost lamented as he put a hand to his chest in mock distress. "How disappointing. Here I always strive to be unique and unpredictable. Perhaps I need to change up my routine."

"Yeah, if you suddenly decided to leave us all the hell alone, that would be a shock," Valerie commented dryly as she made sure to keep the barrel of her weapon pointed at his being.

Dan laughed loudly. "Oh, Valerie, you truly overestimate my resolve. Do you truly think I could stay away from you when you just make everything so much fun?"

"What are you waiting for, then? Aren't you going to attack me? Why don't you make this a little more fun?"

"Normally I would, but after having witnessed that sad display of a fight, I can't say I'm up for sloppy seconds." The ghost sneered at his kin laying completely vulnerable on the dirt. "When I fight you, I want you to be at your prime. As it is right now, your weapons are diminished and your aura has been tainted by those two imbeciles."

"So what do you want if you're not going to fight me?"

Dan shrugged and began to float back and forth in front of her, watching in amusement as the barrel of her gun tracked his every movement precisely. "Battling you is not the only thing that I enjoy about you, Valerie. You're one of the few whose mental capacity is close to my own. Really without you, I think I would fade out from sheer boredom." By this point, he had adopted a laidback pose with his hands behind his head and a foot over one knee as he stared upwards at the sky.

"Maybe you should hurry up and do that, then. It would make my life a lot easier," she hissed, voice slightly warped from the speaker it was transported through.

Dan laughed loudly, "Oh Valerie, you're always so blunt and straight to the point. That's what I love about you." He sighed heavily as he appeared behind her, "But lucky for you, I've got places to go, things to destroy, stuff to steal. We'll have to play next time, my dear."

She whipped around just as he disappeared from the visible plane and retreated to the safe distance out of the range of her sensors.

Splitting in two, he left his clone to deal with the two ghosts still laying prone on the ground while he headed back for Amity Park. Valerie had already turned around to re-enter the dome, and he needed to make sure he would beat her there. It wouldn't do if 'Jake' wasn't there to welcome her home after all.

With the terrified screams of Technus and Skulker following him, Dan snuck back through the Shield, masking his ghost signature as he went. His choice of entry was at the back of a dark alley where he was able to transform without fear of being seen.

Leaving the alley, he found he was in a completely different part of the city. Cursing under his breath, he ducked back into the alley before activating his invisibility and then took off to find the correct one. It was at this point that he noticed Valerie zooming across the sky, her red armor reflecting the bright light of the Ghost Shield.

It appeared as though she was making a beeline back down to where they had parted ways. Dan snarled, displeased, he flew faster.

A glint of something metal caught the corner of his eye, and after directing his gaze down to it, he found it was a black motorbike. For a moment it looked familiar until it clicked in his brain that it was the very same bike that he had "bought" only just that morning.

A quick glance to the side had him looking at the coffee shop that he and Valerie had visited just before she ran off to fight the two morons. Confused, he looked back to the Huntress as she continued to dive down, a few streets over.

Not entirely understanding, he landed in another secluded, dark alleyway before he stepped back onto the plane of visibility. The crowd that had gathered on the streets to watch their savior fly back down into the city had dispersed into the area where she was landing.

A dark smirk crept across his face as he realized what she was doing. Clever girl, she knew these insects would flock to her like flies to honey. She had chosen the wrong street on purpose to lead them away. That suited Dan just fine. He felt no affection for those lesser than himself.

Once again taking up residence leaning against a pole, he settled in to wait for her return. She had told Jake not to wait, but he had no doubt she would be back regardless. There was an excited buzz of activity on the streets. People were excited and talking about The Huntress's victory against the two ghosts, that nothing could defeat her, not even Phantom himself. She was their savior in this ruined world.

The disguised ghost lifted a lip in disgust. Valerie had been right. These insects practically worshipped her as a deity, but only when she donned her red armor and rode upon her silver sled. The minute she stepped out of that persona and back onto their level, it was if the illusion wore off. It was as if they realized the object of their reverence was just another person, mortal just the same as them.

As his fury began to boil in his veins, and his eyes darken to a deep shade of violet, a familiar head of curly black hair rounded the corner of an alley. Her teal gaze met his own, and immediately the false blue returned. A satisfied smirk curled the corner of his mouth as he watched her jog towards him.

There was a sheen of sweat on her skin, but that did not surprise him. She had probably run after landing and discarding all of her gear.

"And here you said you wouldn't be back." His tone was light and slightly mocking as he stuffed his hands into his pockets and sauntered up to her, closing the remaining distance between them.

Valerie gave him a mistrustful glance and backed up a step. "I said there was no guarantee I would be back."

"Did you honestly think those two morons would be enough to defeat you, Valerie?" Dan lifted an eyebrow, incredulity written clearly on his features.

"The chances were small, but I always have to be ready for the possibility of my death, especially when Phantom's involved." Her voice was laced with steel resolve, and her gaze did not waver from his. The smirk fell from his face. He did not like it when she talked so bluntly of her death. "I can't stay anymore, though. I came back to tell you—I have to get back to the Antenna and report the attack to my father."

Surprise must have shown on his face because Valerie dropped her gaze apologetically. "Sorry to cut the day short, but maybe it's a good thing you didn't have anything else planned. I had fun, even though we only drank coffee. So thanks."

The smirk returned to his face, less lopsided and more genuine this time, "You are most certainly welcome, Miss Gray. Shall I drive you back?" It stretched further, becoming more mischievous at the knowledge of how she hated his bike.

"I can manage on my own," was her clipped reply.

"Think of it as penance for keeping me waiting, then. Plus, you have yet to receive your parting gift."

Valerie's eyes narrowed at him as he stretched his arm out to vaguely gesture back to where the motorbike was parked. "Fine, for making you wait." She begrudgingly began to accompany him back to the 'monstrosity' as she had called it, and Dan couldn't help the triumphant grin that stretched across his features.

Taking the helmet off the seat, he handed it to her and once again watched with amusement at her grimace as she pulled it over her head. Swinging a leg over the machine beneath him, Dan put the key in the ignition and with a quick twist, started the engine. The bike bounced slightly when she got on behind him and tightly wrapped her arms around his waist.

Glancing over his shoulder, he grinned cheekily, "Hold on tight." And without any further warning, he revved the engine, and they shot off like a rocket into the street. Car horns blared as he swerved in between them, cutting off others and running late yellow lights. Valerie clung to him for dear life as her fingers dug into his chest.

Within only a few minutes, they arrived back at the Shield Antenna, and after stopping by the curb, the young woman couldn't get off the vehicle fast enough. Dan chuckled at her distress as she fought to pull her skirt back down before she ripped the helmet from her head. Black curls spilled down over her shoulders as they were released from their confines.

"You did that on purpose! Driving like an absolute maniac!" There was a blush of fury covering her cheeks and nose, which caused Dan to laugh harder. She chucked the helmet at him, but he caught it with ease.

"You can't deny you liked it, Valerie."

Her blush darkened and spread to her ears, only succeeding in proving that he was right. "I will admit no such thing!" the young woman denied vehemently.

"If you insist on it, then I insist you meet me here at seven tomorrow night."

She blinked, confused. "What? Why?"

"Is it not obvious? Our time was cut short today, and I intend to make up for it," the disguised ghost replied smoothly. Her mouth formed a small 'O' as she finally understood what he was talking about.

"Well... I suppose so."

"Good. Now I have something for you, but it's a secret so you have to come in close."

The mistrust was evident on her face but after a quick glance from side to side, she took a step closer and bent down close to his level. Once she was close enough, he slipped his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her down until her lips crashed against his.

She squeaked with surprise as her hand appeared on his chest as if to push him away only for no pressure to be applied. After another moment to enjoy her warmth, Dan removed the hand from the back of her neck as she broke the kiss. There was a dazed look in her eye as he smirked triumphantly. "Until tomorrow, Miss Gray." He murmured lowly before he pulled the helmet over his own head and drove off without another glance back.

Tomorrow was certainly going to be interesting.


Oh yes, the next chapter is sure to be very interesting indeed. I hope you all enjoyed it! Leave me a review with your thoughts if you'd like, I'd love to hear them!

Chapter Text

Hello, I'm back and with a new chapter once again! This story is so much fun to write. That being said, this chapter is SO IMPORTANT and a MAJOR TURNING POINT so I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thank you to all who have reviewed, fav'd, and followed this story! Your support keeps me going. Also if I have forgotten to respond to anyone's review, I'm becoming really bad for doing that and I'm sorry ;A;

Big thank you to Lightning Streak for editing this and without further ado, enjoy!


 

The true form of Dan Phantom stood in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection. He carefully dragged the razor across his jaw. White stubble was difficult to see when he was in his ghostly appearance, but it was blatantly obvious in his human disguise. Needless to say, scruffiness was not a look he valued, and he still needed to make a good impression on Valerie. It was more difficult than he expected it would be.

But that would only make his victory all the sweeter.

"My Liege, my deepest apologies for interrupting you," the dark silhouette of the Fright Knight appeared in the doorway of Dan's private chambers. The flame-haired ghost snarled his displeasure but did not halt in his task nor turn around. "The preparations for the Amity Park invasion are nearly complete. How soon should we be ready to march?"

"There have been unforeseen complications concerning the Shield. Our invasion will be delayed by an unknown amount of time." Rubbing a hand over his freshly shaven jaw, Dan checked for any patches he may have missed. Finding none, he wiped the excess foam from his face with a towel before finally turning to his subordinate. "Make sure they are ready to march at any time." His tone was clear and final.

The medieval ghost bowed deeply at the waist as he backed out, leaving the Ravager of Worlds alone once again. "It will be done, master."

"Good. I expect nothing less."

Gaining access to the Shield through Valerie had been his plan. Admittedly, he had been sidetracked, but it would not deter him from his original goal. Taking down the Shield was his ultimate priority, and he would not fail.


 

This was a mistake.

A very clear mistake.

This was supposed to be a quick and simple trip to get some nicer clothes than the same outfit he'd been wearing this whole time. Instead, he was now stuck on a pedestal while the dark-haired chatty woman insisted on taking all of his measurements.

More likely, it was actually an excuse to touch him because this wasn't just any woman. Oh no, that would be at least somewhat bearable.

"So, like, what's the special occasion, guy? You taking some lucky lady out for a good time?"

It was Paulina.

"Yes." His answer was short and to the point, just like every one before it had been. But it didn't seem to deter this annoying woman from nattering incessantly at him.

Blue eyes heavily coated in mascara gazed everywhere but his face, and it was beginning to irritate him. If she didn't cease and desist in the next ten seconds, he was going to tear her throat out, disguise be damned.

"Ohhhh I got just the thing for you, chico." Paulina stood up and placed the measuring tape around her neck. "Once I'm through with you, you're gonna be looking so good, this girl's not gonna be able to keep her hands to herself! Don't move, I'll be right back."

Dan was left feeling slightly at a loss when the annoying Latina disappeared without another word. A part of him was screaming to leave now while he had the chance, while another was curious as to what she would bring back. He had to admit, the thought of Valerie being unable to keep her hands to herself was amusing and powerful enough of a thought to keep him in his spot upon the pedestal.

A few minutes later, the ravenette returned and over her arm she had several pieces of clothing. It appeared to be, what looked like, a couple different shirts and pants. "Okay chico, since you seem to be a fan of red and black, I brought these!" The young woman flourished two red shirts. One was a crimson—the color of blood—and the other was a deep maroon with a slight orange shimmer in the light.

His false blue eyes tracked the iridescent shimmer as it rippled across the shirt. Paulina smiled knowingly and moved to make it catch the light further. Dan noticed and narrowed his eyes slightly. He did not like being read so easily, "I knew you would like this one. It's one of the most popular styles." She draped the shirt over her arm as well as a black pair of pants. "Alright, take these and go into that change room over there and don't come out until you're looking better than you already do." She gave a sultry smile and blinked her heavy lashes at him. "If that's even possible."

Dan swiped the clothes from her grasp before he could give in to the urge to cleave her head from her shoulders. His stomach turned uncomfortably at the thought that she would look at him in such a way. At least he would be able to change away from her prying eyes.

As the changing room door closed behind him, he made sure to check for any possible cameras that may record his undressing. A quick glance around the ceiling, reassured his fears that his dignity and privacy were still safe. Breathing a small sigh of relief, he discarded his white t-shirt and black jeans before donning the clothes that he had been given. Much to his disturbance, they fit perfectly. Perhaps all that measuring had been useful after all.

He exited the small room only to find the annoying woman waiting expectantly outside the door. Her eyes widened at the sight of him and gave him a quick up and down that had goosebumps crawling all over his skin. "Dios mio, chico. I didn't think it would be possible, but you look good enough to eat! Who is the lucky lady getting you tonight?"

"Valerie Gray," he grumbled, but the thought of her brought a small smile to his lips.

Paulina's jaw dropped to the floor, and Dan instantly regretted telling her.

"You're the one taking Valerie out?! Oh my God, this changes everything! Why didn't you tell me this before?!" she cried before clapping her hands together excitedly. "We need to make sure you're looking extra fine for little Val because God knows that girl needs someone like you in her life."

Dan could see the gears begin to turn in her head, and a lead weight dropped into his stomach. This truly had been a bad idea after all.

"Okay," she said, "so next we need to get you a vest or a jacket maybe, and that bandana has to go."

"The bandana stays," he countered strongly, even if it was only because it seemed to aggravate Paulina.

The young woman huffed and flipped her hair over her shoulder. "Fine, but you have to pull the rest of your hair out of your face."

"I thought you were only helping me with clothes."

"I was, until I found out you were Valerie's secret boyfriend. Now I'm your personal stylist to make sure that Valerie is gonna get the best quality of man that she deserves."

"I don't need a personal stylist, I just need a nice shirt and pants for tonight. That's it. Anything else is unnecessary," the disguised ghost insisted as he began to roll his sleeves up.

"Ooooh, the rolled-up sleeves give that outfit a nice bad boy touch, and now we definitely need a vest. Give me a minute I know exactly which one." And with that, she disappeared into the racks upon racks of clothing.

Sighing once again, Dan turned to the mirror placed directly outside the change rooms. He should have known that Paulina was like a dog with a rope and that once she had something, there was no getting her to let go. Analyzing his appearance in the reflection of the glass, however, he grudgingly realized that she was right. The bandana was really throwing off everything, but the Ravager of Worlds was nothing if not stubborn. So the bandana stayed.

"Okay, I'm back, and I got the crown jewel of vests!" The young woman returned, her stilettos making hardly any noise on the carpeted floor as she sashayed up to him. "And with those shoulders and that waist, you're going to look so good in this, not even the Red Huntress herself will be able to resist you."

Dan was in stunned silence as Paulina shook out the vest and then held it up for him to put his arms through. Mechanically, he did so, and it wasn't until after the motion was completed and she was smoothing out the wrinkles that he realized he had allowed her to dress him like a doll.

But she was right, the vest looked good and he found himself automatically doing up the three buttons in the front. It was black but had opulent designs in a deep red thread that only revealed its true crimson shade when the light caught it just right.

A slight pressure appeared on his back only a moment before strings tightened and the vest pulled in to fit his torso even more snuggly. It clearly accentuated his broad, muscular shoulders and chest that tapered down to a slim waist and narrow hips. He ran a hand down the silky material of the vest. At this rate, he wasn't going to be able to keep his hands to himself, let alone having to worry about Valerie.

"Okay, now to deal with that headband, since you refuse to give it up. I think I have a way we can make it look good." Without any warning, she was directly in front of his face, and before he could do anything, she pulled the headband down around his neck. Then her fingers pushed back his long thick locks of hair that had fallen forward into his face.

Dan was about to pull away until he was once again momentarily blinded by the bandana passing over his eyes, and the fabric once again settled comfortably on his forehead. After that he took a step back from the young woman in front of him who was much too close for comfort. As he did so, he caught a glance of himself in the mirror once again.

The bandana no longer had tiny bits of hair sticking out from underneath it getting in his eyes and tickling his cheeks. It was all pushed back out of his face, cascading over his shoulders and down his back.

"It would still look better without it, but at least it looks presentable now." She took several steps back and appraised him up and down, a hand on her chin in thought. While he would never admit it out loud, Paulina had done a good job, Valerie was sure to be impressed now. "Damn, guy, I don't think there's anything more than I can do! You better be careful if you're walking out of here like that because you're going to have all sorts of women flinging themselves at you." She fanned herself with one hand, and Dan lifted a lip in disgust at the thought of these female insects touching him. "I'm so jealous right now that she gets you all to herself tonight."

His eyes narrowed dangerously, "You would regret it if you touched me with anything less than pure intentions." His voice was a low growl that had the Latina's eyes widening in surprise and her mouth popping open. It was obvious by her expression that this wasn't the usual reaction she got from men.

"In that case, then I guess you're good to go, chico. I'll ring you up, and then I'm off to do up your date tonight to make sure she's not going to be underdressed." She pulled out a card from her back pocket. It was black with a red rose on it and the words The Blooming Rose in flowing white calligraphy across the top. There was an address and phone number below it. "If you aren't going here already, this is the restaurant you're taking her to tonight. It's the best one in town." She gave him a wink, "Good luck, chico. Not that you'll need it."


 

A little before the clock struck seven, Dan was leaning against a light pole, waiting for Valerie to show up. He had already taken more money from several wealthy looking people so as to not only replace the funds he lost buying this ridiculously priced outfit, but also to make sure that he would also be able to show Valerie a good time tonight.

Paulina had given him a significant discount due to the fact that he was "hot" and that he was "Valerie's secret boyfriend," but it had still cost much more than he had anticipated. That was the last time he ever went to that store.

A silver car pulled up to the curb, and a glance to the side revealed that Valerie was sitting in the front, passenger seat. Switching to the driver, he found it to be a man with broad shoulders and glasses. Dan narrowed his eyes, recognizing the face.

Kwan.

The car door opening caught his attention as his gaze flicked back to the young woman climbing out. "Thanks for the ride, Kwan. I owe you." She called back into the vehicle and the other man nervously glanced between her and Dan.

"Yeah, but are you sure about this guy? He doesn't look… safe."

The disguised ghost was sure that he wasn't supposed to be able to hear him say that, but superior senses had their perks. A grin split his face as he pushed off the pole to approach the car.

Valerie looked up, and her eyes widened a bit in surprise as she gave him a quick up and down. Swallowing hard, she looked back to Kwan, "I can take care of myself. See ya later." With that, she shut the car door and met him on the sidewalk. Her slate gray dress coat was done up to her neck but the red dress she was wearing was visible underneath the left side of her coat. Whether it was bunched up on one side, or purposefully asymmetrical was impossible to know at this point, but Dan hoped for the latter.

"You certainly look nice tonight, Miss Gray," he complimented her but was surprised at the sincerity with which he spoke. As per his usual habits, he took her hand with only minor resistance from her, brought it up to his lips, and kissed it. Then he directed a triumphant glance back to the man who'd dropped her off and had yet to move.

Kwan blushed and immediately drove off with perhaps a little more intensity than was necessary. "Well, that certainly takes care of our bystander." He grinned a little more lopsidedly as Valerie who was raising an eyebrow with an unimpressed expression on her face.

"Was that the whole point of that little show? To scare away Kwan?" she asked incredulously as she shifted her weight to one hip and continued to stare him down.

"Of course not, it was merely a convenient outcome. If he had not left after that, I would have had to resort to more…" his grin turned slightly lecherous, "drastic measures."

Valerie blushed, and she smacked him across the arm. "Don't be an ass." There was a moment of silence between them as he took in her appearance.

Her hair was swept to one side and had been lightened with caramel highlights. The gold eyeshadow from when they had first met in the bar was once again on her eyes, and her lashes were full and thick with mascara. As she turned away from his gaze, there was a hint of a shimmer on her cheek bones as well.

"Oh my god." She whispered, horrified as she hid her face with a hand.

The grin fell from Dan's face as he was suddenly on high alert for anything that might be causing her distress. "What is it?" he asked as he scanned the nearby area, only to find nothing out of the ordinary.

"I should have known she would do this, goddammit," Valerie muttered to herself and Dan suddenly had a suspicion as to what was causing her distress. "Don't look now, but that black sports car across the street is Paulina's. No doubt she's spying on us right now."

"Shall we leave then?"

"Yeah, are we taking your motorbike?"

"No, I was thinking we would catch a cab since I know how much you detest my own method of transportation." He grinned as he remembered how she held tight to him for fear of falling off and how her warmth against his back felt so good.

"No, can we please take the motorbike. It'll be much harder for her to follow us that way."

"Why Valerie, did I hear you correctly? Did you say you wanted to get on that 'monstrosity' with me?" Dan grinned widely and stepped closer and watched with delight as her blush deepened and spread over her whole face.

"Yes, I did, okay? Can we just go, the less I have to look at your smug face the better." With that, she turned on her heel and began to march determinedly towards the black motorcycle parked only a few feet away.

"If you say so, but I think you just want another excuse to put your arms around me." Valerie spluttered at his statement and he could see the blush spread to her ears. "Although if it is your wish to avoid Paulina, I can most assuredly say that we are in agreement. You putting your arms around me is simply an unexpected bonus."

The Huntress stood with her arms crossed while he took the helmet and handed it to her. She swiped it from his grasp with a disgruntled expression that he knew so well. The keys jingled as he put them in the ignition and started the engine with a quick flick of his wrist. The machine roared to life beneath him and the shocks absorbed the impact of Valerie climbing on behind him.

Her arms slipped around his waist, and for a moment he could feel her palm resting against his stomach as she went for a better feel of the fabric his vest was made of. That annoying woman had been right after all. Even if she would deny it, Dan knew that Valerie liked the feel of his new clothes.

Revving the engine, they exploded into the street, reaching the speed limit within only seconds. Her arms tightened around his middle as she pressed herself solidly against his back, and her knees squeezed his hips.

Sure enough, Valerie was right and a black sports car sat on the opposite side of the street with a single female driver in the front seat. She had wavy black hair and a pair of binoculars. Clearly, she had been spying on them.

As they passed by the car, one of the arms wrapped around his waist disappeared for a moment as a dark-skinned hand proudly flipped off the driver. He laughed heartily and sped up further with a jolt. Valerie squeaked in surprise and once again wrapped her arms around him. There was a lighter note to it, however, that revealed she was actually enjoying being with him on the bike this time.


 

In no time at all, they arrived at the restaurant, and once again Valerie practically leapt off the bike like it had burned her.

"I think you liked riding behind me that time," Dan quipped and as she pulled the helmet back over her head, curls spilling everywhere.

She gave him a disgruntled stare as a blush bloomed on her cheeks. "Don't go putting words in my mouth!" she retorted as she once again threw the helmet at him.

"Would you rather I put something else in your mouth?" he replied with a wide grin as he effortlessly caught the projectile. His response obviously stumped her as she stared at him, mouth open and blush spreading to her whole face. Unable to contain it, Dan burst out laughing as he got off the motorbike.

Valerie smacked him across the arm as she turned to walk into the restaurant. "If you ever tried something like that, the beat down you would get would make the ones I give Phantom look like a slap-fight."

"I would expect nothing less of the Red Huntress. I would pity any man who would be foolish enough to earn your ire in such a way." He caught up to her and casually slipped an arm around her waist. She gave him a warning glance as they approached the door, but he only returned it with a lazy grin.

The dark wood doors opened without a sound as the two entered the establishment. It was dimly lit with small lanterns spaced evenly along the walls and a large chandelier hung over the main entranceway. A young blonde girl in a black dress stood behind the hostess platform, and she smiled pleasantly as they approached.

"Hi, welcome to The Blooming Rose. Do you have a reservation?" she asked cheerily.

"Two for Rainier," Dan replied as she searched a list for the name he had given. After a moment, it seemed she found it as she picked up two black menus before going to lead them into the seating area.

"Right this way."

The interior was decorated in the same red and black colors that were on the card he had been given. Black tablecloths adorned every table along with a single candle and a rose in a vase. The lighting was dim to promote a romantic mood and had the same small lanterns placed along the walls.

"And here is your table." The hostess led them to a corner booth that was semicircular with the place settings beside each other at the back. It was secluded from the rest of the restaurant and allowed them much privacy, which Dan liked very much. "Your waiter tonight will be Kayden, enjoy."

With that, she took her leave after she placed the menus on the table.

"May I take your coat, Miss Gray?" the disguised ghost asked somewhat rhetorically as he knew that she wouldn't be eating dinner while wearing it. She gave him a distrustful stare as she undid the belt around her waist.

"Trying to get me out of my clothes already? I thought you'd at least wait until after dinner," she quipped and Dan chuckled in response as she slipped her arms from the sleeves.

"If I were truly trying, it would be much more than just your coat decorating the floor."

At his response, she blushed heavily but nonetheless allowed him to take the heavy coat from her shoulders.

Her red dress hung off her shoulders with a v-neckline that drew attention directly to the silver embroidery that adorned the front over her bust. It was form fitting and accentuated her hour-glass figure perfectly. The material was bunched on her left hip with more silver accents and then extended asymmetrically down her front to her right leg where he had caught a glimpse of it earlier.

Something deep within him stirred at the sight of her in the dress. Knowing that she had put on this outfit for him and only for him was… a strange feeling. It wasn't something he was familiar with. It felt like his insides were squirming.

"You look very beautiful," he murmured before he could even think of stopping himself, and he pressed his lips together tightly. Dammit, he shouldn't be saying stuff like this. This woman was his arch enemy! They fought to kill each other every day. Yet here he was, giving her compliments and going all soft. He was beginning to forget that he was only here to gain information about the Shield.

"Thank you," Valerie responded as a blush dusted her nose and they sat down on the plush red seats.

Their waiter appeared not a minute later wearing a black vest over a white dress shirt and a black apron over black dress pants. He had perfectly coiffed brown hair and a fake smile. A tray with water glasses and a decanter kept him from making eye contact right away, but Dan didn't need it. He froze.

"Hi there, I'm your waiter for tonight. My name is Kayden; can I start you off with some drinks?"

"You." Dan seethed a lip lifting over his teeth as his hands fisted with rage.

The waiter finally looked up at him and Valerie before his blue eyes widened in recognition, "You!" he reacted as Dan stood abruptly nearly knocking the glasses over in his haste.

"Oh my god, I can't believe this." Valerie exhaled heavily.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Dan sidled out and before the other man could do anything, he had him by the front of his shirt.

"I just work here man, lay off!" Kayden defended himself and tried to pry the disguised ghost's fingers off him with no success.

"You gonna try and drug people here too?" His vision was starting to seep into a red haze as he started to lift the other man up by his shirt.

"Fuck off man, get your dirty hands off me."

"My hands are dirty? That's rich coming from a filthy date rapist." Dan pushed the waiter away, and he stumbled for a moment until he was able to find his footing once again.

"Jake, stop it, you're making a scene!" Valerie protested which was the only thing that stopped him from chasing down the still-stumbling Kayden. A quick glance out of the corner of his eye proved that to be true as the whole of the restaurant had turned to look at them.

"We should go. Who knows if the water is even safe since he's defiled it already," Dan spat as he moved to take Valerie's coat off the rack right beside the booth.

That did it.

"You son of a bitch!" cried the waiter only a second before he brought his arm back to punch Dan in the face.

His blue eyes widened with surprise. But before he could block it, an armored arm appeared between him and the rapist.

There was a distinct cracking noise as Kayden's fist struck the open metal palm, and he cried out.

"That's enough out of both of you! God, I can't go anywhere anymore!" Valerie exclaimed exasperated as she then let go of the waiter's hand. He could only stare wide-eyed at her as he massaged his now broken hand. Her armor retracted back into the silver bracelet she always wore.

If they didn't have the whole restaurants' attention before, they definitely did now.

Valerie looked at Dan with a watery shine in her eyes before she took her coat from him and pushed by him as she marched towards the exit. Dan took one more look at the waiter, who was holding his hand and doing his best to hold back tears, before heading off after Valerie.

"Valerie, wait!" Dan called after her and proceeded to chase after her out of the restaurant. She had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk as she retied the belt around her waist. "Wait, just—don't go."

"Look, I appreciate the fact that you're willing to stand up for me but I just…" she trailed off for a moment and Dan could hear her struggling with the emotion in her voice. "I just, can't. This isn't me, and I don't know who I think I'm fooling in this stupid dress and with this makeup." She turned around as she carefully wiped away some of the tears that had spilled over onto her cheeks. "Then to top everything else off, that mess happens, and fucking hell, I can't do this anymore. You're not gonna want to stay with me for very long anyway. So let's just both save ourselves the heart ache and end it now."

Dan could only stare silently in shock. She was… dumping him? What had he done wrong? He had the bike, the nice clothes, he was treating her to dinner, what more did she want?

"Valerie, wait, don't go."

"Goodbye, Jake." She turned to walk away, heels clicking on the pavement.

He had to salvage this. She was already walking away from him! He jumped in front of her, blocking her path. She looked up at him with bloodshot eyes and tears that were beginning to smudge her makeup.

"Wait, Valerie, let me make it up to you. That was a mess in there, you're right, but I was only trying to impress you, dressing up in these clothes, taking you to the fancy restaurant. I thought that might be what you… want," he finished lamely, rubbing the back of his neck. Dammit, he was screwing this up!

"Well," she laughed once and a small smile curled the corner of her mouth, "if that's what you thought I would like then, that rules out the possibility of you being a stalker." The smile faded. "But you still should go date someone else. My life is too crazy for me to guarantee any time with you ever. At the drop of a hat, I have to be ready to go fight ghosts, and you don't deserve that from me." She waved in a general direction away from him. "Go be this smooth, dashing character for someone who has the time to appreciate it."

He stepped closer so that there was but a few inches between them, and he tilted her chin so she was looking up at him. His thumb brushed away a tear on her cheek as he cradled her jaw and the back of her neck. "I don't want anyone else, Valerie. I want you." He leaned down, carefully placing his mouth over hers and waiting a moment to see if she would respond. After only a slight bit of hesitation, she moved her mouth so their lips fit more snugly against each other.

He gripped the back of her neck tighter and pulled her closer until their bodies were just as close as their lips. Her hands appeared on his waist, gripping the sides of his vest and pulling him flush against her. A groan escaped his throat as he wound his fingers into the sleek curls of her hair, enjoying the soft, springy texture. His hands slid down to her shoulders and gripped them tightly. How he wished that she wasn't wearing that damn coat!

Her hands reached around to grip tightly onto his back, her nails digging into his skin even through the thick material of his vest. He made a noise deep in his throat as he moved his hands back to her neck and did his best to feel her skin beneath the high collar of her jacket. He needed to feel her—not her coat.

As his fingers went to reach for the first button to give him better access, she broke the kiss. He leaned his forehead against hers as he stared into her eyes. Both of them were breathing heavily, and Dan could see that her pupils were dilated as wide as they could go. As they started to catch their breath, he couldn't help but smile, "So you think I'm 'smooth' and 'dashing'?"

Valerie chuckled a watery laugh as her fingers began to trace random patterns on the material of his vest. "I don't think I said that, did I?" she denied as she sniffed to clear her nose.

"You don't have to. The way that you're fingering my clothes would suggest that you think that regardless." His voice was just a deep rumble but it was enough to bring a genuine smile to her lips once again, and he swore he could see a hint of a blush. "Let's go eat, I know the perfect place."

With that he pulled away, tracing a hand down her arm until he entwined her fingers with his own and began to lead them down the sidewalk.


 

The true ghostly form of Dan Phantom lay on his back, staring up at the rocky ceiling of his lair, remembering the night he had just shared with his arch enemy. He remembered her smile, the way her eyes lit up when she laughed at something he'd said, the feel of her lips on his own. Valerie would never let him touch her like that if he'd appeared as he was now.

After he had led her to The Nasty Burger 2, things had gone much better from there. She had relaxed around him completely and was able to enjoy herself.

The grin faded from his face. It was nothing but a ploy to get her to trust him, and he was falling for his own con. How pathetic! Here he was reminiscing over the date like a 16-year-old boy who finally asked his crush out for the first time. Ridiculous!

Dan scoffed and sat up, crossing his legs and assuming his resting position. He had a big day tomorrow. A couple insects had been discussing how nice it had been that he hadn't laid siege to their pathetic city in so long. Obviously they needed a reminder as to why they were living in a bubble.

Tomorrow he'd make sure to fix that.


 

"Valerie! Where are you? It's time to come out and play!" Dan Phantom called out in a sing-song voice as he fired blast after blast into the energy field that surrounded the city. Even through the Ghost Shield, he could hear the terrified screams of the Amity Park residents. He laughed maniacally. Oh, how he loved this!

Not more than a minute later, the familiar whine of jet engines filled the air. He turned to see her flying towards him, battle suit on and ready to go. "You wanna play?" She retorted. "I got a game for you! It's called Open Wide and Eat Lead!" And with that she opened fire on him with her machine gun.

The gun had special bullets with an ectoplasmic base that would destroy him if enough of them hit him. Of course, first she would have to hit him, and he never made that easy.

Effortlessly he weaved through the hail storm of bullets. "Come on Valerie, is that really the best you can do?" he taunted her, flashing a wide grin to reveal his fangs.

"The best? Not even close, buddy, I'm just getting warmed up!" Then she hit a button on her sled with her heel, and several missiles popped out from multiple compartments. From past experience, he knew they would seek out his ectoplasmic signature.

"Oh, new missiles, just for me? Valerie dear, you shouldn't have." The false gratitude did hardly anything to lighten his tone. In fact, if anything it just the opposite.

As the missiles launched themselves at him, Dan immediately flew up and reached top speed. There was a boom that echoed across the wastelands as he broke the sound barrier. The projectiles, unlike last time, managed to continue to follow him. Impressive Valerie must have upped their power level. Oh this was going to be fun.

In fact, if he were correct, and he always was, they were actually gaining on him. Oh yes, fun indeed.

Turning, he blasted them with a ghost ray but quickly found that did nothing. It only slowed them down a little bit if anything. Looks like he would have to get creative.

"Hey Phantom, eat this!"

Dan looked up just in time to see Valerie aiming her grenade launcher at him. She fired and there was a purple smoke trailing behind the bomb. Diving downwards, he avoided it and when it collided with the missile that was in the lead of the three following him, it exploded. The shockwave knocked against her metal surfboard but she remained balanced a purple mist filled the air and that was when he realized she had also filled them with blood blossom poison. It just kept getting better and better.

"Oh Valerie, no one makes my cold, dead heart beat the way you do!" he called out as he began to fly in circles, tighter and tighter until he was practically creating his own tornado. The missile's tracking code faltered and one crashed into the other destroying them both.

"Funny, that's the exact opposite effect that I want," she quipped, and with a flick of her wrist, a gun popped out from her arm. Taking aim, she fired a laser in one continuous stream at him.

He laughed maniacally. "Oh, what would I do without you, Valerie? No one else entertains me like you do. No one makes me think like you do."

"I have to say, I don't feel the same, Phantom." She shot more lasers at him, which he avoided fairly easily.

"Is this all you have for me now, Huntress? A few lasers and grenades?"

"Nope, I'm just distracting you."

His red eyes widened with shock and it was at that moment when the whistling of a projectile caught his attention, but not before it exploded onto the small of his back. Crying out in agony, he was thrown from the sky and landed in a spray of dirt into the cold, hard ground.

He coughed as ectoplasmic blood flew from his mouth and horrible sharp pains wracked his body. That must have been one of the tracking missiles, but could have sworn she only launched three. There must have been a fourth that she had fired after he had flown away to avoid them.

"Had enough already, Phantom? I was just getting warmed up!" The explosive shot of a gun caught his attention right before the sun was blocked out in the square pattern of a woven net. The ghost rolled to the side and managed to avoid it just as it began to spark with electricity. No doubt, it would have neutralized his powers, or at the very least immobilized him long enough for Valerie to finish the job.

"Why my dear Huntress, I do believe you're starting to play dirty." With another boom of the sound barrier breaking, Dan appeared in front of her before she could do anything about it. "I love it when you play dirty."

After that everything seemed to move in slow motion as he brought a hand up to her chest and it glowed with a green light right before a beam of pure energy shot from his palm. At point blank range, it shattered the clear covering over her glowing chest piece, and he could see her eyes widen in shock behind her blue visor as she was blasted backwards off her jet sled.

Her limbs went limp and like a ragdoll as she soared through the air. She landed in the cold dirt with a hard crash. Bits of her armor flew off into the air and she slid about a hundred feet before coming to a stop in a limp heap.

She did not move.

Dan laughed cruelly as he floated down to where she lay. "Come now, Valerie, it's too early for an afternoon nap! It's barely past sunrise!"

Not even a twitch.

The ghost narrowed his eyes. Was she ignoring him? Or had he simply knocked her out so completely she had yet to come back to her senses? He dropped to his feet and took a few steps towards her, kicking her limp foot with his own. "Valerie, get up." He demanded.

She continued to lie there.

A thrill of something he didn't recognize flew through his body at the sight of her unresponsive form. Becoming impatient, he approached her and by the edge of her helmet, tore it off, setting her black ringlet hair free.

Her teal eyes stared unseeing into the distance.

Another stab of that same sensation shot through his system again. "Valerie. I said get up!" he grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him, but her eyes didn't focus, or even so much as twitch in his direction. They only continued to stare at an unknown point that seemed to be somewhere beyond him. "Valerie," he repeated and shook her.

Nothing.

That same sensation persisted.

Pulling off a glove, he stuck his hand underneath her nose to check for breath.

Nothing.

The feeling intensified.

Those same bare fingers desperately checked for a pulse.

Nothing.

He let her go and she flopped ungracefully back to the ground where she continued to lay immobile and unresponsive.

"Valerie, this isn't funny." Breath he didn't need caught in his chest. "Answer me!" He kicked her a little more viciously in the side of her ribs. She only moved because the force of his hit.

She wasn't… she couldn't be! He hadn't meant to kill her! She was just playing pretend, right? Gripping her by the shoulders, he shook her vigorously as her head lolled backwards and forwards with the momentum, "Gray snap out of it!" he demanded as his eyes glowed a bit brighter.

Her head only dropped lifelessly onto her chest.

Dead.

That was it. He had finally won.

And he had never been more devastated.

Dan Phantom collapsed to his knees at the body of his arch enemy and screamed his pain into the barren landscape around him.


Oh I do love happy endings.

This wasn't one of them but I do love them. *cracks knuckles* Now the fun part begins!

Leave me a review, if you'd like! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Okay I said to myself that I would update my other story first, but this is the one my brain can't stay away from.

I also know that I caused quite a bit of you some pain with the ending of the previous chapter. Hopefully this one can make up for it.


Alone in a corner, Dan sat staring into the bottom of his empty cup. His human disguise was till proving useful for infiltrating Amity Park. The insects were none the wiser of the fox in the hen house. For some reason, he still found it entertaining to wear his false human skin, even though the main reason for it was long gone…


Dan had lost track of how long he'd stared down at Valerie's lifeless form. If he turned his back for even a moment, she would jump up and attack him. Surely she would. Such a blast wasn't enough to end the Red Huntress for good. He had hit her with similarly powered blasts before, and she had bounced back from them with barely a scratch.

Glancing down, he noticed—not for the first time—her shattered chest piece. Obviously, that had something to do with it.

Static crackled from her helmet, and a gruff voice came through the com. "Valerie, what's going on? The ecto-sensors have stopped picking up signs of your fight. Is he gone?"

Damon. Her father.

There was a moment of silence as he waited for a reply that would never come. Dan walked over to the helmet and observed it for a moment. A part of him wanted to destroy it along with the memory it carried, but another part couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Baby girl? Are you there? Can you hear me?" His voice crackled through the speaker again. This time, Phantom could hear the rising fear and the panic in his tone.

Something about Damon's fear brought back a familiar, sadistic joy. Drawing himself up to his full height, a small smirk stretched across his face. He was supposed to celebrate. His arch enemy was dead, and now the world belonged to him. No one would dare stand against him now.

Picking up the helmet, Dan pressed the button on the outside that would allow him to reply. "Valerie isn't here right now," his rough baritone rumbled into the microphone, and there was a moment of silence on the other side.

"Phantom," Damon hissed. "Where is she? What have you done with her?"

"It wasn't a 'with.' It was more of a 'to', and I simply did what I've been trying to do since the beginning." There was silence on the other end as Dan turned to face Valerie's unfocused gaze once again as the feeling of triumph drained from his system. "I won."

"…What?"

"You heard me. Your precious savior is dead."

"You—you—monster!" Damon cried, voice cracking. "You murdered her!" There was the sound of a strangled moan.

Dan turned his back on the dead gaze of the Huntress. It was beginning to crack his composure. He had a reputation to uphold, after all. "You had to know this day would come. It was inevitable."

"I want her body back. Don't you dare defile her any further!" Damon warned him, voice rough with barely restrained emotion.

"I suppose I can manage that. As long as I get something in return." Dan's smirk returned once again.

"You just took my daughter's LIFE—what more could you possibly want, you bastard?"

"I want the key to the Ghost Shield."

"Over my dead body," the resistance leader hissed.

"There's already one dead body here. You want to make it two?" He couldn't help taunting the other man a bit more.

"If it keeps you from killing anyone else—" a sob cut off Damon's sentence for a moment, "—I will gladly lay down my life."

"In that case, I believe the Red Huntress's body will make an excellent addition to my lair. I think right at the foot of my throne would be appropriate." The thought of such dishonorable treatment of the woman he so admired made him sick, but the mere concept of it seemed to have worked.

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare…" Another sob cut through the speaker. "Tower 9, ten minutes. Be there with Valerie, or I'll hunt you down myself, and then you'll wish you'd never been born."

The connection was cut as the line went dead.

Dan turned back to the motionless form of his old enemy as she stared unseeing into the distance. Something in her face looked surprised.

"What, shocked that I agreed to give you back to the Resistance? I don't want you rotting around my lair," he argued as he set the helmet on the ground. Then he picked her up.

Her head lolled to rest on his shoulder as he stood, carrying her bridal style. She still appeared shocked, and so he said, "I am capable of kindness, as long as it's beneficial to me as well. Returning your corpse gives me access to the Shield. With it, my goal will finally be realized. The world will belong to me."

With that, he flew off to Tower 9 where Damon would hand over the key to the last stronghold.


Taking a drink from his freshly filled cup, Dan regarded the little black device sitting innocently on the table in front of him. There was nothing special about it, the black button in the center being the only interesting feature. Mainly because if he pressed it, the blue dome that surrounded Amity Park would dissipate, and he would be able to invade.

What was the point anymore though?

Everything was too easy. No one would be strong enough to take a stand against him. He had won.

The army the Fright Knight had brought together under his name wasn't truly needed anymore. Amity Park was his in all but name, and conquest no longer interested him if the challenge of a resistance were gone.

Sighing heavily, he stared out the window into the cloudy, gray day that it was. It brought him back to that day. The day everything became too real for him.


The persona of Jake stood off to the side, hidden under the canopy of some tall trees. A moderate number of people had gathered for the ceremony. They were all situated around a closed casket and a nearby tall structure hidden underneath a sheet. As expected, everyone was dressed in black, and most were crying or had some sort of tissue in their hands.

One dark-skinned man stood nearest to the casket. He was missing his right eye and left arm, but Dan did not need those identifying features to know that it was Damon Gray, Valerie's father. He had the most sodden handkerchief of all.

As people one-by-one stepped up to pay their respects. Dan could make out the words if he decided to listen, but he couldn't bring himself to care. His focus was trained on the coffin that no doubt contained the body of the only woman who had challenged him in any way.

And now she was even more deceased than he was. At least he was a ghost. Valerie had not come back. No matter how long he had searched the regions of the Ghost Zone; no matter how much he wished she would.

She was truly gone now.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Valerie Gray, better known as the Ghost Slayer and the Red Huntress. She was dearly beloved by all who knew her and even by those who did not. It is only thanks to her efforts that we are able to live even a semblance of our normal lives from before the necessity of the Shield." A minister of some form spoke eloquently as he stood on the far side of the casket and faced the crowd that had gathered. The covered form stood behind him, the large sheet completely hid whatever was underneath.

"It is in her honor that we bestow upon her passing this memorial to immortalize her image and all that she represented." With a wave of his hand, the minister gestured to the mass behind him, and the cloth was pulled away with a flourish.

A statue of Valerie in all her armored glory lay beneath. She stood on her jet sled staring up into the sky, black ringlet hair flying behind her head in an eternal breeze. The statue stood at least twenty feet tall and was made of bronze. Her eyes glinted with a hint of teal, and the chest piece a bright blue, the result of semi-precious stones no doubt.

Dan's breath caught in his chest, and for the first time since her death, he felt a swell of satisfaction in his chest. At last, the insects were treating her with the proper respect she deserved.

The feeling died as suddenly as it appeared. All it took was her death. An unholy fury began to bubble forth ion his veins. The insects were disgusting. They deserved to be wiped from the earth.

As people walked up to leave flowers at the base of the statue, however, the disguised ghost felt his anger dissipate. The pile grew and grew until the entire base of the statue was completely covered. At least in death, she would finally be treated as she deserved.

Somewhat more satisfied, Dan sat back and half paid attention to the rest of the proceedings. Her father made a watery speech, and surprisingly even Paulina stood up to say a few words on Valerie's behalf.

Not long after that, people began to disperse. Slowly, they trickled out of the park. The ceremony came to a close and soon it was only Paulina, Dash and Damon left. No one had noticed Dan from where he'd stood, off to the side, but that was how he preferred it.

As Damon turned away, shoulders dropped and spirit broken, Dash put a hand on his back comfortingly. Paulina stayed for a moment longer before she wrapped her arms around herself and followed the other two men. As she turned around, however, her bloodshot eyes strayed to the tree where Dan rested.

With a quick glance to her two companions who continued to walk on, unaware she had stopped, the woman began to make her way over to him. "I didn't think you would be here." The watery tone of her voice suggested that the young woman hadn't gotten her emotions under control yet. "None of her other boyfriends showed up."

"Don't compare me to them. It's best those insects weren't here. They would do nothing but defile her memory," Dan spat in response, offended.

"I suppose you're right about that, chico. They only ever wanted to be with her because she was the Huntress. They just wanted the status of saying they were able to tame her," Paulina admitted with a sigh. Dan's blue eyes flashed to red for a brief moment as his infamous temper flared red hot. "But you're different from the rest of them. You seem to have genuinely liked Valerie for Valerie. She was lucky to have someone like you in her life," she paused for a moment to blink away tears, "even if it had only been for a little while at the end."

The end that he was responsible for. A heavy weight settled in his stomach and his eyes began to burn. "It's beginning to rain."

Paulina looked confused for a moment as she looked up into the sky. "No I don't think so."

"No, it's definitely raining." A tear slipped down his cheek as he turned his back and walked away.


Two months and three weeks had passed since that day. Things had changed drastically. The people wondered what happened to Dan Phantom who had disappeared almost entirely. Not one attack had been made on the Shield since the day he defeated the Red Huntress.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

For some ungodly reason, Dan found himself protecting this cesspool of insects.


One of the rare days Dan found himself in a ghost form outside the Shield, he was merely doing a regular patrol of his lands. Even though he had finally conquered everything, it didn't stop other ghosts from trying to take it back.

A glow of blue caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. The Ghost Shield remained intact and strong, untouched even though he now had the key to bring it down. It was just too easy now, too simple, nothing seemed to excite him anymore. Not since Valerie— he shut down that dangerous line of thought. He would not give in to such  human  weakness, not again.

A gurgled roar emanated from far below, and he glanced down to see a green, mass with tentacles flying uncoordinatedly as it propelled itself forward, chasing something across the wastelands. He was uninterested for a moment until he heard a cry of a child.

Upon further inspection, it seemed the tentacle monster was in fact chasing a human kid. For a moment, he tried to convince himself that it wasn't any of his business. What did he care if another human died?

'Is this any way to honor my legacy?' For better or worse—mostly worse—Valerie had become the voice in his head.

"I'm not trying to honor your legacy. I killed you. I won," he replied to the empty air as he watched the child desperately sprint for the blue of the Shield. His hands clenched and unclenched nervously at his sides.

'You always were a bad liar. If you let that kid die, you'll be dishonoring my memory,' her voice echoed in his head.

The green monster reached out with a tentacle and wrapped it around the child's ankle, pulling him down into the dirt. It roared its triumph as it began to drag the child back towards its gaping maw filled to the brim with sharp teeth.

"No. What do I care if that kid dies? He was obviously dumb enough to be out beyond the Shield without protection. Natural selection at its finest."

'Stop putting on a show for yourself. You murdered me—now you're saddled with my mantle to uphold.'

"I'm not putting on a show! And your mantle means nothing to me. It has always been my goal to destroy it, and now I have finally achieved that. Stop tainting my victory."

'Your victory was a sham, and you know it. Do you feel victorious? Does that gnawing pit in your stomach feel good? You've felt nothing but guilt ever since that day.' Her voice cut into the very core of the truth about how he felt.

"Shut up! What do you know? You're dead!"

'Just like that kid if you let him die. You can save him. What better challenge is left other than to try and get rid of your own destructive legacy?'

The child in question fought and struggled to no avail against the bond on his leg.

"I'm not going to undo my own legacy. That would make everything I've worked towards a waste."

The monster by this point was lifting the child up into the air, opening its jaws. The kid screamed in terror, begging for help.

'Then that thing is an invader on your own lands. Better do something about it. You never know, it might become comfortable enough to challenge you one day.' Her voice almost sounded smug in his head. So like Valerie when she would taunt him.

"Fine," he sneered, "but I'm not saving the kid because I want to. That thing is foul and is trespassing on my lands. It needs to be destroyed."

'You're still a bad liar.' He could hear the smile that would have been on her face.

"Shut up and stay dead," was his final retort before he rocketed down to the creature dropping the child into its mouth. Time seemed to slow as the tentacle released the child. Dan reached out and grabbed his arm, lifting him from the dangers of the beast's mouth just as the jaws snapped shut with an audible click.

For the briefest of moments, the child met his blood red gaze, tears of horror spilling out onto his cheeks. His purple eyes widened in recognition but was unable to do anything about the situation. Landing, Dan skidded to a stop with the child cradled close to his chest.

The beast bellowed in anger at having its dinner stolen as Dan put the child down and stepped in front of him, using his own body as a shield. Roaring a savage battle cry Dan, using both hands, blasted a swirling cyclone of white fire at the creature.

It brought its tentacles up to protect the main portion of the body, but the heatless flames tore through them like wet noodles. Green blood splattered in every direction, and the beast screeched in agony. The pieces continued to flame without burning as they turned black and appeared to rot instantly.

With a wave of his hand, Dan dispersed the flames, revealing the formless mass that was left. Nearly all of its tentacles were gone. A large hole in the side of its body burned sluggishly, and the blood appeared to have crystalized—almost like it had been frozen. It gave one last pitiful gurgle before it flopped to the ground, completely limp and finally destroyed.

Sneering at the disgusting creature, Dan turned to the young kid who still cowered behind him. Purple eyes gazed up in absolute fear, knees drawn protectively to his chest. He looked like he was about to bolt.

There was a beat of silence between them as Dan regarded the young boy who couldn't be older than eight. He had jet black hair, a red hoodie and a pair of black jeans that had several tears in them. Whether they were from strenuous activities or designed to be that way, Dan couldn't tell nor did he care.

"Get back inside the Shield, it's dangerous out here." He nodded towards the blue dome as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at him. "Your protector is gone. Don't expect me to save you again."

The kid nodded vigorously and swallowed before jumping up and running as fast as his legs would carry him. Dan watched as he disappeared into the Shield, but just before he returned to the safety of the city, the child turned and gave him a cheery wave.

At a loss, the ghost turned and leapt into the air.


That hadn't been the last time a ghost attacked the Ghost Shield of Amity Park, and for some reason, Dan found himself rising to the occasion to defend it. He tried to tell himself that it was because he was defending his territory but another, much larger part, whispered that it was to protect Valerie's memory. He wanted Amity Park to remain just as it was forever, just as it had been when she—

Dan clenched his jaw and took a long drink of coffee. At least he never saw that kid outside the Shield ever again. Although if he'd known whose kid it was at the time, he would have stayed his helping hand for sure.


Jake sat in the park on a bench across from the Huntress Statue, gazing up at it longingly. Maybe if he stared long enough, wished hard enough, it would turn into the real thing. It was a fool's wish, he knew that, but it was something he longed for nonetheless. To hear her voice, her real voice one last time, for just one more moment, something he could hold onto for the rest of time; that was all he wanted.

It was in vain.

Unable to hold his head up any longer, he hung his head and stared down at the asphalt beneath his feet. She was gone and never coming back, and it was all his fault. The misery was nearly overwhelming as he sat there, wishing for the impossible.

A pair of blue sneakers entered his vision. "Hi!" a cheery voice greeted him. Dan looked up to see a pair of familiar purple eyes, and his own false blue ones widened in recognition.

"You." His voice was gravelly from misuse, but the child seemed unperturbed. It was in the next moment he remembered he shouldn't be acting like he knew this kid. Despite the fact that this kid acted like he knew him.

Without any hesitation, the strange child, whom he had saved from the tentacle monster, hopped up on the bench beside him. "Thanks for saving me last time," the little boy said cheerfully.

He—he couldn't  possibly  know? How? There would be nothing linking this form to his true ghostly one. Dan turned to stare curiously at the child who was still smiling blissfully, completely at ease.

"Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me," the child assured him as he swung his feet in the air beneath them.

"And what secret is that?" Dan probed. Maybe this kid was mistaken.

"That you're really Phantom."

Shit. "Is that so?"

"Yup!"

"And you aren't going to tell anybody? I could kill everyone in this park right now, and there would be nothing you could do about it." He stared the child right in the eye as he let the natural crimson of his irises show through. "I killed the Huntress."

"Yeah, but you saved me too. You can't be all bad." Without even barely blinking, the child met his gaze steadily.

Dan was caught completely by surprise at this blind faith this kid was displaying. How was such innocence even possible?

Sitting back, he brought the fake blue back to complete his disguise once again. "How do you know?"

The kid shrugged. "I know things. Mommy says it's a good thing, but sometimes it's not. I see scary things sometimes."

"Hm, what's your name kid?"

"I'm Danny." He stated proudly with that happy smile on his face.

That revelation left Dan at a loss for words. The blood rushing through his ears drowned out all other sound as the weight of that name slammed into him like a tsunami.

"Where are your parents?" he finally breathed out, mouth dry.

The child opened his mouth to reply only for a loud shout of, "Danny! There you are! What have I told you about running off?"

Dan looked up to see none other than one Dash Baxter running up to the bench where he and this child sat. The man looked stressed, no doubt at the thought of losing track of this kid. He wore a blue polo t-shirt and blue jeans with a sweater tied around his waist. Surprisingly, Dash had managed to keep a trim figure.

"Hi dad! I'm sorry, I got excited," Danny apologized half-heartedly as he jumped off the bench to take his father's hand.

"You're in big trouble when we get home and mom finds out you ran off again," Dash scolded him.

Suddenly, the boy's purple eyes widened in fear. "No, not mommy! I'm sorry I really am. I'll be good from now on, I won't do it again." The child grasped desperately at Dash's shirt, pleading for mercy.

"I'm sorry about him, I hope he didn't bother you too much," the father apologized to Dan, but the disguised ghost was still reeling from the name 'Danny' and the fact that Dash had procreated and that a part of him liked that child. "I'm Dash Baxter, and this is Danny, my son."

"Jake Rainier." Dan took the outstretched hand that Dash had offered.

"Jake, that name sounds familiar. I could be wrong, but were you dating Valerie before she… passed?"

"I might be, what's it to you?" Dan responded shoving his hands into his pockets of his jeans.

"My wife, Paulina, mentioned you. She said Valerie seemed really happy when you appeared." Suddenly, everything made sense. Paulina and Dash seemed perfect for each other, shallow and self-centered. No wonder things had gotten serious between them.

"I didn't know her for… long."

"Her loss hit us all hard." His eyes were sympathetic for someone other than himself for once, which Dan found to be incredibly strange. This version of his high school bully was so much more different than what he remembered. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"Sorry doesn't bring her back," the Ravager of Worlds responded before he turned and walked away. He thought there was a cheery 'bye!' from Danny, but he wasn't sure.


Finishing his drink, Dan wished for something stronger. But he had already found out the hard way that anything more than one or two distantly spaced drinks of alcohol caused immediate blackout drunkenness. The last time he had indulged to drown his sorrows, he had woken up somewhere in the wastelands with a pounding headache and nausea like he'd never experienced before. He'd thrown up several times on the way back to his lair.

He continued to fiddle with the key to the Ghost Shield as he gazed out the window to the outside. People passed by, carrying on with their normal lives despite the fact that the key player in the war waging around them was gone. They were now relying on their last line of defence that was the Shield, which Dan held in the palm of his hand.

Once the Shield was gone, they would all die and Amity Park would be ruined.

Her memory would disappear. Everything to remind him of this constant pain he felt deep inside his chest where his cold black heart had stopped beating.

Perhaps it was time.

He needed to free himself from this.

He had mourned her for too long now. She was gone. That was it. And she wasn't coming back. The steel once again laced through his core, strengthening it once again.

Distantly, he noticed the 'ding' of the door but ignored it.

If he couldn't leave Amity Park as a testament to her memory, he would destroy it. He would wipe all traces of her from this world. Valerie Gray, the Red Huntress and Ghost Slayer, would turn to nothing but myth and legend. The human woman who thought she could face the most powerful ghost in this world, and win.

Gripping the black device tightly, Dan began to stand and begin his plan—only to be stopped by something he heard so many times in his head.

He thought he was hallucinating again. But out of all the things the voice had ever said, it had not once uttered the phrase he heard:

"I'll have a medium cappuccino, please."


*waggles eyebrows*

Thanks for reading and leave a review if you'd like. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Alright here is the next chapter! I know you all have been eagerly awaiting some answers so I hope I can deliver some with this update! Big thank you to LightningStreak for (as always) taking time out of her busy schedule to edit this for me!

 


"Oh, sorry, could I get a medium black coffee too, please?" the voice asked again as an after thought.

The cheery barista replied with a chirpy, "Yup."

Dan didn't turn around for fear that if he did, his hopes would be dashed and everything would remain just the same as it had before.

The possibility of change left him dreading it.

Surely he hadn't imagined it. Surely if he were to turn around, she would be there.

His power core hummed loudly in his ears, the blood rushing through his head so quickly he feared he would pass out.

The anticipation was killing him. He had to know. Had to know for sure if he were hallucinating or if it were true.

He turned slowly, still afraid that it would turn out to be a lie.

At first, he did not see her. But movement caught his eye as a grey sweater and a green ball cap caught his attention. She was taking the coffee she had ordered before quickly turning and leaving. Her head was turned down to avoid any attention, black curly hair with hints of caramel highlights peeking out from underneath her cap.

Valerie.

For a moment, he couldn't do anything but stare in disbelief. She was alive. It truly had been her voice he heard.

The door dinged as it shut behind her, and that was when Dan realized he needed to do something. She was alive. The full weight of that sentence truly began to sink in.

She was alive. How?

Leaping into action, Dan followed her out the door.

Outside the coffee shop was busier than he expected it would be. A quick scan of the area surrounding him revealed nothing. Her green cap was no where to be seen. Dammit! He had wasted time staring, and now he was losing her again!

The crowd parted at just the right angle, and there she was. The green hat and gray hoodie. She was already all the way across the street and still going strong. He'd never catch her on foot.

Lifting a lip in irritation, he hurried over to his motorcycle and put the keys in the ignition, flaring the engine into life. Not bothering with the helmet, he revved the engine and sped off in the direction of the spot he'd last seen her.

Horns blared around him as he cut off several other vehicles in his haste, but he paid them no heed. Emotions were raging inside of him, it was hard to discern which one he felt the most; betrayal, anger, or happiness.

There on the sidewalk, the green cap.

Narrowing his eyes, Dan zeroed in on her position. Not slowing down hardly at all, the disguised ghost fishtailed to a stop in front of a narrow alley directly in front of the Red Huntress. Other pedestrians jumped out of the way and yelled obscenities at him, but Dan only had eyes for Valerie.

She stared at him with a mix of horror and surprise as her mouth dropped open. There was no doubt in her face that she knew he had recognized her.

His blue eyes were like ice as he held the helmet out to her. "Get on," he ordered with barely concealed rage.

"I have coffee," she argued, holding up both hands, which contained the aforementioned drinks.

"You owe me an explanation. I assumed you would like to keep it private, but we can have it right here if you prefer." The subtle threat hung in the air for a moment before she sighed heavily and climbed onto the bike behind him.

"I'm not taking my hat off to put on that helmet, so wear it yourself and don't drive like an ass because if you do, these drinks are going all over your crotch," Valerie threatened him as she wrapped both her arms around him and squeezed his legs tightly with her knees. "Also we're going back to my place because there's someone there waiting for me. So go back on the road here and hang a left."

"It's not Paulina, is it?" Dan asked apprehensively, feeling the color drain from his face.

"No, it's not. Now hurry up. The coffee's getting cold."

"Maybe that's what I'm waiting for." Stuffing the helmet over his head, he relished in hearing the sound of her voice again, truly hearing it. Damn it felt so good to fall back into old habits and arguments again.

"Just drive," she sighed, exasperated.

Even when she was angry at him, it only fueled the warm feeling in his stomach. He couldn't remember the last time he felt such genuine happiness.


 Dan pulled into the parking lot and into one of the few stalls reserved for guests. Valerie quickly hopped off his bike while also doing her best to make sure she didn't spill any more of the hot beverages she carried. Some had already dropped onto his leg, searing through the jean to scald him. Thankfully, it missed anything important, but it had stained his pants nonetheless.

"You owe me a new pair of pants," he groused half-heartedly as he followed her into her apartment building.

"It's not my fault you decided too late to stop for that yellow light," Valerie argued back as she quickly scanned her key to unlock the main door.

"I thought you would be impressed that I was 'driving responsibly'."

"'Driving responsibly' involves not having to slam on the breaks at the last minute," she deadpanned while they waited for the elevator. Dan didn't have a response but as they lapsed into silence, he was once again hit with his new reality.

Valerie was alive.

Stepping in front of her, he gazed deep into her teal eyes that stared up at him with wary confusion. The disguised ghost searched her face for any sign that his mind might be lying to him and that he hallucinated this entire thing.

"Jake…?" Her voice was hesitant and confused. He was standing very close to her after all.

"Say it again, I need to know you're real and I'm not hallucinating." The Valerie he'd created in his head never called him by his alias.

"Jake, what are you—mmmf?" Her sentence was cut short when he tore the baseball cap off her head and captured her lips with his with a hand to cup the back of her neck. She resisted for only a moment before Dan could feel her relax into it. He pulled her tight to him needing to feel her body against his to ground him in this reality.

The elevator dinged its arrival, and Dan growled his displeasure.

"We need to go." Valerie whispered breathlessly.

"Yeah…" was his non-committal reply as he continued to stand there, staring into her eyes.

"Come on hot shot, we gotta go." She pulled away from him at that point and made her way to the closing doors of the lift. Putting her foot in between them she stopped them from shutting completely. Dan followed closely behind her.

Once the doors did shut, she scanned her electronic key again, and the elevator began to move upwards. Dan stood close to her with one hand on her waist. He was worried if he didn't constantly make sure she was real that she would fade away. They spent the ride in silence until the doors opened to reveal a wide open suite with windows along every wall and an open concept.

Dan was impressed. "The penthouse?" he asked rhetorically as he followed her out of the lift, still keeping a hand on her hip at all times. There were a few moving boxes still scattered here and there throughout the kitchen and large living room. Obviously, she hadn't lived here all along.

"Yeah, it wasn't my idea though," was her rather unimpressed reply.

"Who's was it then?"

"Valerie, are you back already?" Dan froze at the sound of that familiar voice. "That was sure quick. I was not expecting you for another few minutes at the very least." Turning in the direction of the familiar baritone, sure enough there stood the very man whom he had left for dead all those years ago.

Vlad.

He hadn't changed much, but the years had clearly taken a toll on him. He no longer stood quite as tall as before, but he still held a dignified air around him. His long white hair was pulled into a neat ponytail at the back of his neck, and he still wore a black suit with a red neck tie. The only thing that had truly changed were his eyes. They were a milky blue with the surrounding skin covered in silvery scars.

In his hand was a red-tipped cane.

"I ran into an old friend who gave me a lift back." Valerie grasped Vlad's hand and put one of the coffees into it. "Here's your coffee."

Vlad looked shocked for a moment before a happy grin split his face. "And is this 'friend' the one who accompanied you up here?" There was a sly, teasing tone to his voice that had Valerie blushing.

"Yes, Vlad Masters, this is Jake Rainier."

Dan froze for a moment before he approached the older man and took the outstretched hand. "Hello, Mr. Masters," he replied a little tensely.

"Quite a grip you have there, Jake. Do be careful not to break an old man's hand." Vlad chuckled light-heartedly, and Dan smiled forcefully. He then added to Valerie, "I don't need to head into another room and plug my ears do I, my dear? Your friend sounds rather displeased that I am here."

"What?! Vlad, no!" Valerie screeched outraged, and the disguised ghost's smile became a little more genuine when he saw the blush that instantly flared over her face. "It's just… he wasn't… he didn't know…"

"Ah, I see how it is. In that case, I shall take my leave so that you may explain everything to him without worrying about me. Thank you for the coffee, my dear." Vlad turned back to Dan. "It was nice meeting you, Jake. Do make sure to come around again." The older man reached out searchingly until he made contact with Dan's shoulder and gave it a reassuring pat. Then he made his way back towards the elevator that would lead him out, his walking stick helping him to avoid any objects and walls.

Once he had left, Dan turned back to Valerie, who avoided eye contact and nervously sipped her coffee. The silence between them became so thick that he could have cut it with a spoon.

"Do you want something to drink?" she offered awkwardly, attempting to break the hush that had fallen over the room.

"I think a situation like this calls for gin," he replied, and she nodded.

With that, she made her way into the kitchen and got two glasses from one cupboard and a bottle of gin from another. Unscrewing the cap, she poured until each glass was a third full and then grabbed a 2 litre bottle of tonic water from the fridge. Uncapping that, she topped up both glasses nearly to the brim. Once she was finished, Dan walked over to the counter and grabbed one while she took the other.

"We should probably sit down; this might take a while." Valerie sighed as she led them towards the living room where a black leather couch sat against a window, overlooking the city.

Not wasting any time, Dan cut straight to the point. "You were dead. There was a funeral and everything. They even gave you a statue to honor everything you've done for them! They mourned you, I—" His throat closed up before he could finish his sentence, and he looked away to hopefully hide the weakness he was displaying. "—I mourned you. You abandoned the people of Amity Park, your duty to fight ghosts, and to keep everyone safe from Phantom!" He met her teal gaze with his ownbright blue.

"Jake, I'm sorry I couldn't tell you, but it was a top-secret mission that I had to keep under wraps. The only reason my father knew was because he helped me come up with it." She avoided his searching gaze. "The fewer people who knew about it meant the fewer people we had to worry about leaking the secret. The person we needed to convince the most was Phantom, and if too many people knew my… death…to be a lie, then it would be all for nothing."

"Why?" His eyes narrowed and darkened ever so slightly.

She sighed heavily and took a drink of the gin in her hand. "It was a trap."

Those two words hit him like a ton of bricks as he sat back, shocked.

"We had been getting readings in the Ghost Zone of large amounts of ectoplasmic activity. It could have meant only one of two things." She held up a finger. "Ghosts were gathering as an uprising against Phantom," she held up a second, "or—more likely—he was gathering an army."

"So you thought killing off the best person to fight that army would be a good idea?" Dan demanded as he too took a small sip from the drink in his hand. The liquor burned his throat all the way down to his stomach, where it tingled pleasantly.

"Yes. The plan was to wait for him and his army to break through the Shield, and once they were on our turf, we were going to raise all sorts of ecto traps and inhibitors. Then once his army had been defeated, the last thing he would be expecting would be to see me again. He wouldn't have planned to face me, and for the brief moment it would take for him to recalibrate, I would have the upper hand."

The degree to which the insects had thought this plan through was impressive. He didn't think them capable of such intelligent planning. The exception—of course—being Valerie, but then again it seemed she was the spearhead for this operation anyway.

He took another gulp from the glass. "You have left out the part of how you faked your death in the first place."

She fiddled with her glass. "That was the riskiest part of it all. It was a serum derived from the puffer fish, once consumed, it simulates the illusion of death. My it slowed my heart beat down to barely a beat a minute and had a similar effect on my breathing. Although if I took too much, I would have died for real, and if I didn't take enough, it wouldn't have fooled Phantom."

Dan finished his glass, horrified at her explanation. He considered asking for another, but he could already feel the effects of the alcohol in his system. One more drink would push him beyond the edge of sobriety and his ability to control his illusion. "You did all this, just so you could gain the possibility of surprising Phantom? Valerie, what if you had died? We would all be at his mercy once again, and everyone knows that he has very little of it."

"Except, from what I hear, that may have changed. He hasn't made a move on the Shield and the activity we noticed before has stopped. Moreover, Paulina told me that the last time Danny had gone beyond the Shield, Phantom had saved him." The mention of the child known as 'Danny' sent an uncomfortable tingle down his spine. Dan still wasn't sure how he felt about a child named after him, much less one spawned by Paulina and Dash.

"Perhaps he's just biding his time, letting the people of Amity Park believe he has given up, before he strikes again?" the disguised ghost posed.

Valerie shook her head. "No, he's never thought that far ahead before. If there's one thing I can always count on with Phantom, it's that he's straightforward in his tactics. There's never any subterfuge or anything, it's always head on, fists flying and ghost rays."

A pit sank into his stomach that he refused to label as guilt. "Well, either way, it appears your secret remains safely within the walls of Amity Park since there isn't an outraged Dan Phantom tearing down the Shield to get revenge for your trick." He began to make himself comfortable on her couch. Laying down on his back, he stretched out and pushed his feet into Valerie's lap.

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded, mortified at his familiarity, but he noticed she did not push his legs off her.

"I'm making myself comfortable to keep an eye on you and make sure you don't try something so reckless ever again." He closed his eyes as an amused smirk took over his features.

She scoffed in disbelief more than actual irritation. "I don't think so, buster! I don't need a keeper!"

"On the contrary, you have proven to be an endangerment to yourself as well as the general public of Amity Park. Therefore, I have appointed myself as tribute to make sure you never do something so foolish ever again." He settled in more comfortably, resting his head on the arm rest. "You can thank me now if you wish."

She laughed. "Nuh-uh, you get your butt up off my couch. You are not going to be 'keeping an eye on me,' as you so bluntly put it." This time, she did push his legs off her lap, but he merely bent one knee to rest against the back of the couch while the other hung off the edge to rest on the floor.

"I can't. I'm too comfortable." He yawned dramatically. "And sleepy too, I might take a nap."

"Jake, don't you dare!" she warned him, but he could hear the smile in her voice.

His only response was to snore lightly.

He heard another scoff for a second before a pillow came down on his face.

Immediately jolting upwards, he could only stare in shock as Valerie held a decorative pillow in her hands and a smug look on her face. "Still sleepy?"

He grinned widely. "You don't understand what you've started. While I may not start pillow fights, I do enjoy finishing them."

Grabbing his own ammunition from behind, the disguised ghost began his feathery assault on the Red Huntress. She squealed as he smacked her with the plush makeshift weapon before she managed to defend herself with her own pillow. Laughing, she stood to gain the advantage as he delivered blow after blow to his face. Eventually, he had to bring up his arms to defend himself.

Once there was a break in her assault, he aimed a low blow at her unprotected stomach and knew he had stuck true when he heard the air rush from her lungs. Stunned, Valerie was unable to stop him from suddenly standing and throwing her over his shoulder.

"Jake! Oh my god!" she yelped with surprise that dissolved into laughter as she hung down his back. She continued to beat him with her pillow but it was ultimately futile.

He laughed as he spun her around and grinned victoriously when he saw her pillow fly across the room and nearly knock over a potted plant. With Valerie now defenseless, he threw her back down onto the couch before pinning her there.

She continued to laugh joyously and Dan couldn't help but join in with her. After a moment, she stopped to take a breath, and that's when he realized just how close they were. Their noses were nearly touching, and their breath intermingled.

Before he could react, suddenly Valerie had closed the distance between them and was pressing her lips against his. Dan returned the kiss, hands gripping her hips tightly and pressing his body against hers. Her fingers tangled themselves in his long hair as one of his legs slipped in between hers, allowing him to press even closer than before.

Her hands slipped below his shirt collar, and in response his pushed the edge of her shirt so it revealed the toned stomach just above the waist line of her pants. Breaking the kiss, she gasped in a breath as he dived down her jaw and began to plant a trail of kisses all along her neck.

"We need to stop," she murmured half heartedly as she put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him away. Reluctantly, he allowed himself to be moved backwards as he stared into her teal eyes. "You should probably go now, it's beginning to get late."

Dan moved a hand up to play with one of her curls. "If I leave, how will I know you won't disappear on me again?" He leaned onto his elbow and for the first time let all the pain and worry show on his face. "I lost you once, I can't do it again." A lump formed in the back of his throat that refused to move no matter how hard he swallowed.

Bowing his head, Dan tried to hide his moment of weakness but was surprised when a finger appeared underneath his chin and tilted his face back up to meet her sympathetic gaze. "I promise I'm not going away any time soon."

That did it. Unable to keep it contained any longer, he buried his face in her shoulder as a shaky breath escaped him. He wasn't crying. That would be weak and beneath him. But the Ravager of Worlds could not deny the relief he felt at hearing those words.

A gentle hand appeared in his hair and gently began to stroke the long strands. "Well I guess I'm not getting rid of you tonight, but you're sleeping on the couch," she insisted.

He couldn't help but breathlessly chuckle into her neck. "That seems rather ridiculous. There isn't enough room for the both of us on this couch."

Valerie scoffed indignantly. "Oh, I'm not sleeping on the couch, I'm sleeping in my bed. You're sleeping out here alone."

"That's what you think."

"That's what I know," she insisted.

"Well, you're here with me right now," he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her tightly against him, his body weighing her down, "and I'm feeling sleepy again."

"No! Let go of me!" Valerie cried as she began to struggle half-heartedly.

Dan grinned wider and fake snored.


I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Leave me with a review if you'd like! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Hello everyone!! *dodges rotten fruit and vegetables thrown by readers* yes i know it's been a very long time and I apologize for that! I hit an angst kick for a few months because of the fluff from the last chapter and I didn't want that to completely change the tone of this story. Some of it did affect my other Dark Gray fic but that's okay because that's where it belongs.

Not much to report beyond that. I think I responded to every review, anonymous reviews are in my profile. If i forgot you please let me know so I can fix that!

Alright, Happy New Year and enjoy the chapter!


 

An annoying repeating musical tone roused Dan from his resting state. Scowling, he groggily opened his eyes and located the source of the annoyance.

On the coffee table, a phone buzzed as it continued to ring.

A groan sounded from beneath him as a long, dark-skinned arm reached out blindly to grab the annoying device and finally silence it with a groggy, "Hello?"

"Good morning, Valerie. I didn't wake you did I?" the smooth voice of Vlad Masters emanated from the other end. Any joy that Dan had been feeling up until this point fizzled out like a spark in the rain.

"No—I mean yes—but it's mostly because I'm being nearly crushed to death right now." Valerie wheezed, and the disguised ghost scowled lightly as he tightened his hold around her waist pulling her flush against him. What little breath had been present in her lungs whooshed out all at once.

"Oh, young Jake stayed the night? In that case I'm terribly sorry to have taken you from him. I was only wondering if you still planned on attending breakfast with me this morning. I was worried something may have happened."

"Shit! Breakfast! I completely forgot. I'm sorry, Vlad." The young woman exclaimed and clapped a hand over her eyes nearly smacking Dan across the face. He took the opportunity to press even closer, it was beginning to sound like she was going to leave.

"That's quite alright, my dear. Whenever you can make it over is fine."

"I'm on my way."

"Oh, and do bring Jake with you. I would feel just dreadful if he were left out."

He could feel her stiffen in shock just the same as he did. Seeing Vlad again wasn't exactly something he wanted to deal with. It was probably best for him to leave now. This disguise was taking a toll on his powers, as this was the longest he'd ever needed to… keep up appearances, so to speak.

Valerie began to protest, but the telltale click of a phone being hung up sounded through the receiver. Dan couldn't help the smirk that pulled up a corner of his mouth; he liked hearing her at a loss for words. Burying his face into her hair, the disguised ghost settled more firmly into the couch. With a heavy sigh, he could feel himself relax once more.

"Well, you heard all that didn't you?" the dark-haired woman asked with a sigh.

"Yes, unfortunately," Dan murmured into her shoulder.

"So you know what that means, it's time to get up."

"Nope."

"Yes! Come on, you're crushing me!"

"You are the Red Huntress, Savior of the World. Surely me holding you here is nothing compared to what you're used to?"

Valerie groaned and struggled to get out of his grip. "That's when I have my armor on. Otherwise I'm just a normal person."

Her admission sparked a dangerous thought in his mind. She was vulnerable now and didn't suspect him in the slightest. It would be so easy to just end her there and now. For good this time. He wasn't even using a fraction of his true strength to keep her here with him. Then true victory would be his.

A deep sadness settled itself in his stomach when he was reminded of how pointless his existence seemed without her, and suddenly all desire to take advantage of her weakness disappeared.

"Now let go, I have to go shower," Valerie demanded and tried to unwrap his arms from around her.

Dan's ears pricked with interest.

His arms tightened and pulled her even closer as he rested his chin on her shoulder and grinned mischievously into her skeptic gaze.

"What a coincidence, I do as well."

A vivid blush immediately colored her cheeks as her free hand reached up to flick him in the nose. "Alone. I will be showering alone."

The disguised ghost wrinkled his abused nose, "I seem to recall you saying something similar about me sleeping alone on the couch, and yet here you are."

"Yeah, well, this time I'm serious, and if you try and follow me in the bathroom, you're really going to find out why I was able to handle Phantom all by myself for eight years."

"I am appalled that you think me a lowly pervert. But if you insist on bathing by yourself, I have no choice but to respect your wishes, as disappointing as they may be," Dan lamented as he finally released her from his grip. Perhaps while she was occupied, he would allow himself to rest his illusion.

"I won't be long, twenty minutes tops. Then you can use it if you want."

Dan nodded to Valerie's retreating back as he rolled to face the back of the couch and block out as much light as he could. Last night had not been a very successful rest. The couch was lumpy, and Valerie was something of a wiggle worm in her sleep, unable to keep still for long, which kept disturbing his concentration.

He waited until the sound of running water greeted his ears before the ghost allowed his disguise to drop and reveal his true form. Making himself more comfortable, Dan settled into the couch and truly began to rest.


 

"Hey! Hey, wake up!" a small voice whispered frantically as a pair of hands roughly shook him back and forth by the shoulder.

Groggily, Dan awakened from his resting state to find none other than the young Danny standing beside the couch, looking panicked. It took only a moment for the ghost's brain to kick back into high gear.

"You!" he growled before, in one fluid motion, lifting the young boy up by the collar and standing from the couch.

The boy looked scared but—strangely—not of him. He kept looking over his shoulder towards the hallway—wait… if he was here… then that meant—

"It looks like chica's in the shower, so we're not going to make a mess while we wait. Right? Dann—" the annoying nasally voice of Paulina rounded the corner along with (unfortunately) the rest of her. Upon laying eyes on the scene in the living room, she stopped dead in her tracks, eyes widening in horror.

There was a beat of silence as they regarded each other. Dan in his true ghostly form, and Paulina, terrified for her son in his grip.

In the next second, she took a deep breath and before she could so much as utter a single sound, the Ravager of Worlds clamped a hand securely over her mouth. The woman began to struggle immediately, clawing at his hand and beating his arm, but he did not budge.

"Sshh!" he commanded and shook her head a little to get her attention. Surprisingly, she obeyed glancing fearfully to her son, whom Dan had yet to release.

The sound of running water persisted uninterrupted. He breathed a small sigh he hadn't realized he'd been holding; Valerie remained unaware. Directing his attention back to the Latina woman, he let his crimson gaze bore deeply into hers, "Don't scream, and I won't kill you or the boy. Got it?"

A fire ignited in her eyes as she shook her head and renewed her fight to get free. She was even going as far as to try to bite his hand. Patience drawing thin, a snarl began to lift the corner of his lip before a small hand was placed over his—the one holding the child.

"Mommy, it's okay. He saved me, remember?" The innocent voice of Danny broke through the silence, and Paulina stopped her struggle as both adults turned to stare into the innocent eyes of the child. "He's different now, right, Jake?"

One of Danny's hands put itself on his head, right amidst the flames of his hair. Dan knew they carried no heat, but there was no way the child knew that. "It's soft!" the child exclaimed happily as he continued to run his small fingers through the flickering locks. Of course his hair was soft; he was no savage! "Like a puppy!"

The villainous ghost face-faulted for a moment before he glowered at the tiny being, who only returned it with a full smile, revealing a hole in between some of his teeth where a baby tooth had fallen out. It was at this point he was at a loss for words. This boy, this child, held no fear of him whatsoever and the name of Danny… it was like he was looking in a mirror back to his own childhood. Or well, Fenton's, childhood.

Pulling Danny out of arm's reach of his hair, Dan looked him dead in the eye, "I am not like a puppy," he growled, offended but with very little legitimate anger behind it. Much to his displeasure nonetheless, the young boy just giggled and continued to grin.

Paulina watched everything studiously through wide, horrified eyes.

Turning his attention back to her, he once again stared into her face and asked, "Are you going to scream?"

Paulina glanced nervously between him and her son before she shakily motioned her head "no," and Dan carefully released her mouth.

The shower continued to run uninterrupted. If nothing else, that was going right, which was a relief.

The woman kept her word, much to his surprise, as he lowered the child back to the ground.

"Danny," she called quietly and the young boy ran obediently into her arms. "What are you doing here, Phantom. What do you want? How did you get inside the Shield?"

Dan could clearly hear the fear in her voice but she stood her ground and refused to drop direct eye contact. If nothing else, that was admirable. "My intentions aren't really any of your concern."

"They are if they involve Valerie. What are you going to do to her?" The Latina's voice got stronger with every word until Dan felt himself becoming threatened by her.

Snarling, he snapped, "I don't have time to explain myself to you. Any minute, she's going to be done—"

"I don't care! The only reason I haven't ratted you out already, buster, is because you saved Danny that one time." Her blue eyes turned to ice and bored into his gaze. "How did you get inside the Shield?"

"How is that important right now?" Dan countered, still straining to hear the sound of running water. It was still going, how long was she going to be in there? Twenty minutes, what a liar!

"Because you're a ghost and you're inside the Shield that's supposed to keep you out! Not only that, but you're Dan Phantom who supposedly killed the Red Huntress only to be found romancing her in disguise! You have some serious explaining to do, chico." Paulina seemed to have found her courage and was now in full tilt against him. All fear in her body had been replaced with a protective rage that Dan found impressive for the girl who had once only cared about herself.

The water shut off.

"Alright, fine! But not now." He hurried to placate the Latina who now held the ability to foil his entire scheme in her hands.

"Do you intend to hurt her?"

"No! And if you don't keep this a secret, woman, you'll force me into drastic measures, and neither of us wants that."

"You don't want to destroy everything?" The skepticism was heard clearly in her tone. But he was getting desperate; Valerie was likely nearly in hearing range.

"Not like that!"

"And you don't intend to hurt my girl?"

"No, I made that mistake once. I'm not going through that again." His admission was hasty, and a blush of embarrassment darkened the tips of his pointed ears.

A damnably coy smirk lifted her lips. "Now it all begins to make sense, chico. Alright, I'll play along, but if I even think that one thing might be out of place even a little all bets are off, boy then I'm telling her e-v-e-r-ything."

For whatever godforsaken reason, he believed her.

The door to the bathroom creaked open, and Dan quickly reassumed his human disguise, long black hair falling down his shoulders, bandana completely askew.

"I still hate that bandana," the Latina pouted

"Paulina? What are you doing here? How did you get in?" Valerie called from her bedroom, confusion and a slight bit of irritation coloring her voice.

"I have a key; don't you remember? But if I'd known your boyfriend was going to be here, I wouldn't have interrupted you two," Paulina teased as Danny wriggled out of her grasp and ran back over to Dan, who had fallen tiredly back onto the couch. The mother glanced worriedly over her shoulder before giving the disguised ghost a dark warning glare.

He returned it with a heavy sigh and leaning his head back onto the headrest as Danny climbed into his lap. Today was going to be a long day.


 

"Bye Jake, bye Auntie Val!" Danny called from the other end of the parking lot as he waved goodbye and climbed into the back seat of Paulina's black sports car. The raven-haired woman gave a small wave too, and when Valerie turned to walk toward his motorcycle behind him, the wave changed to a glare. She motioned 'I'll be watching you' with her hand before climbing into the driver's seat.

Dan winced as he turned to follow Valerie. If only he hadn't released his disguise, none of this would have happened. But then again, the child seemed to know more than he let on. For all Dan knew, he would have revealed his true identity anyways.

"Hey, hotshot, are we gonna go or what? We're already late," Valerie chided him as she tilted her head expectantly, and curls cascaded over her shoulder, bouncy and fresh from her shower. For a brief second, his power core faltered in astonishment. The way they shined in the daylight, he could barely take his eyes off them. "What is it, why are you staring? Do I have something on my clothes?"

"Your hair is beautiful." The words slipped out before he could stop them. There was a beat of silence where her cheeks darkened with a deep blush, and she bit her lip nervously. Shit, he'd said that out loud! What an idiot! A blush threatened his own complexion but thankfully managed to supress it to only the very tips of his ears.

"Thank you," she mumbled finally as she twirled a curl around her finger.

"Y-yeah, you're welcome." In an effort to end the awkwardness of the situation, Dan climbed on the motorbike and started it up with a quick twist of his wrist. Valerie got on behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Something about the action flustered him and caused his neck to heat up.

What was wrong with him? Was he blushing? Like a pre-pubescent boy? This was absurd! How was it possible his body still carried these instincts? Hadn't he ascended past these pathetic human emotions when Vlad had ripped him from his human half?

Disgusted with himself, he revved the engine and they shot off.


 

A short while later they pulled up in front of the large house, obviously this was where Vlad lived. Whatever money he had left over after the explosion; he had obviously used to rebuild a portion of his mansion. Instead of a monolithic house, it was a decently sized house that was without a doubt the largest in Amity Park but was no where near as large as his mansion had been.

"I have to admit; your driving has been getting better lately," Valerie commented as she hopped off the bike, tossing his helmet back to him.

A smile split Dan's face. "I was always a good driver, what are you talking about?"

Valerie scoffed, "In your dreams, hot shot."

"As long as you'll be there, Valerie," Dan teased back, his smirk growing wider by the second.

A blush darkened her face, and she pointedly avoided eye contact. "Oh yeah, I'll be there to smack you upside the head!" Her retort was rather weak but nonetheless, the disguised ghost chuckled quietly.

As they approached the door, Valerie rang the doorbell, and the meowing of a cat could be heard on the other side. "Come in, come in! The door's open, my dear!" the voice of Vlad invited them in.

Taking hold of the handle, Dan pushed open the door with a mild snarl of disgust. Almost immediately, he was met with a rather impertinent black cat who meowed up at him demandingly with the greenest eyes the disguised ghost had ever seen. They practically glowed, they were so vibrant.

"Badger, come here and leave our guests alone," Vlad called from the kitchen area of the house. That blind old fool wasn't cooking, was he?

The cat—being a cat—completely disregarded the order and instead put his paws up on Dan's leg and continued to meow loudly at him, demanding to know who he was and why he was on his turf.

It was at this point the ghost realized the animal was not completely black like he thought at first. Each foot carried a white sock and had a white ruff all around its neck. Suddenly a lead weight sunk into Dan's stomach. The black and white appearance of the cat, combined with the name 'Badger' coming from Vlad, brought back an old nickname the old man used to call him.

"Jake, what's the hold up? Are you gonna let me in too or what?" Valerie demanded from outside the door, and the false human jolted back to awarefulness as he stepped inside to allow the young woman entry as well. The cat pushed away from his leg but continued to stay close and meow demandingly.

Valerie took one look at the creature as she put up a finger. "Hush, you," she commanded, and the cat fell silent at once, choosing instead to rub vigorously against her legs and purr loudly. She sighed, "Yes, yes I love you too. Now go away so I can take my shoes off."

The cat, however, did not listen and continued to rub against her legs even as she pulled off her small ankle boots. Dan did the same as he watched the cat wind around her. Their gazes met at one point and the creature seemed to put his body in between them as if protecting the young woman. The disguised ghost furrowed his brow in suspicion to which the animal once again meowed loudly.

"Little Badger, that is quite enough. Even though the only one you ever seem to listen to is young Valerie." The elderly form of Vlad strode proudly around the corner, his red-tipped cane sweeping the area in front of him.

A flash of movement caught the corner of Dan's eye, and upon turning his head he spotted yet another cat. This one was white and majestically fluffy with piercing blue eyes that seemed to tear through his whole façade right down to his core. It sat with perfect posture on the back of the couch staring him down, not making a sound.

"So glad you two could make it; thank you for coming," Vlad greeted the two of them finally, and Dan was snapped out of the trance he'd been in with the cat. The older man had one of Valerie's hand in between the two of his as he gazed into the general direction of her face, his milky eyes taking in nothing of her appearance.

"I'm sorry we're late, Vlad. It's been a hectic morning," Valerie apologized as he stepped back to slip an arm around her waist. This whole situation was beginning to unnerve him. Coming here had been a bad idea. Every instinct was screaming for him to run and keep running.

"Pish posh, nonsense, my dear. I understand that you would never purposefully stand anyone up like this, much less an old fool like myself." The 'old fool' turned to Dan and searchingly held out a hand, having let go of Valerie. "And young Jake, glad you could join us. I'm sure you have lots of good stories to tell over a hot meal. Speaking of which, the food is ready, and best we eat it before it becomes cold. This way."

With that, their host turned and once again started making his way back towards the kitchen.

"Hey, hot shot, are you okay?" a quiet voice asked from beside him, and the disguised ghost turned to face Valerie with surprise. She gazed up at him with concern in her sparkling teal eyes. "You're looking a little pale, and you're gripping me pretty tight."

Her genuine worry for his wellbeing caught him so unexpectedly, he was rendered speechless for a moment. Something felt funny in his stomach, like something was fluttering around in it. But a warmth began to spread throughout his whole body, and where he expected to feel irritation and offense at having someone assume him to be weak, he felt only comfort.

A genuine smile curved his mouth upwards. "I'm just hungry," he leaned down until he was almost nose-to-nose with her, "since I couldn't eat you out this morning."

Valerie blushed and smacked him, but he could only chuckle. Perhaps this meal wouldn't be so bad after all.


The secret's beginning to come out! I love little Danny, he's so pure I don't feel worthy of writing him.

(I hope someone recognises what I've done with the cat)

Thank you for reading! Leave me a review if you'd like, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Hello all, I'm sorry for the long wait on this! But I hope this new chapter finds everyone well! There is some major squish in this chapter again, I hope that everyone enjoys it! We're hitting some major turning points for the story now and it's gonna start ramping up here very shortly!

Without further ado, here is the next chapter!


 

Dan sat on the old, worn out couch with Valerie beside him. She chatted easily with Vlad, who sat in an armchair across the wooden coffee table. The ghost in disguise paid little heed to the humans, however; he was busy trying to prove his superiority.

The white cat was perched impertinently on his lap, piercing blue eyes locked securely onto his. He refused to be the first to break eye contact, even with just a blink. That being said, his eyes were beginning to burn.

The feline swished its tail back and forth before it scooted just a few steps closer until its front paws were resting directly on his lower abdomen. Lowering his eyebrows, Dan began to glare at the cat.

He could feel the fluffy tail begin to lash more violently across his legs, and the feline began to utter a low meow, almost a growl but not quite. Then, much to his horror, the little beast stretched up to stick its face into his own.

Two pairs of blue eyes locked onto one another as the paws on his chest were like two little pressure points on his body. The cat continued to make the low meow in its throat as it began to sniff his face. He snarled, patience drawing thin. Much to his astonishment, the creature put a paw over his mouth, as if to silence him before he even made a sound.

A snicker to his left alerted him to the fact that Valerie was now aware of his plight, but he couldn't be distracted from the cat that challenged his dominance as the superior being in the room.

"Having some trouble there, hot shot?" Her amusement was poorly hidden as she struggled to contain giggles. "Is the cat winning?

"No." His response was slightly muffled due to the paw over his mouth.

"Is Little Badger causing young Jake some trouble again, my dear?" Vlad asked, poorly concealed mirth also coloring his tone. Dan glared harder down at the cat who had yet to break eye contact, and if it didn't give up soon, it would soon become a dead cat.

"No, this time it's Maddie."

The name 'Maddie' once again sent a pit of dread straight down into his stomach. There were too many reminders of Fenton's past here.

"Maddie…" Vlad called gently and the white cat in question meowed in complaint but otherwise did not move. "Maddie leave poor Jake alone, he is our guest. Come here."

Again, she meowed in complaint but this time she sat down, still maintaining eye contact with Dan. Another tense moment passed where the ghost decided his patience had run out, and if the tiny beast did not leave his person or admit defeat, it would suddenly find itself ejected out the window to his right.

A chirrup meow emanated from the cat before a fluffy tail swiped across his face as the cat jumped from his lap. Sputtering, Dan did his best to get rid of the hair from his mouth. Valerie laughed from beside him, and the ghost scowled over at her.

"A lot of help you were for that, I was practically being mauled!"

Valerie only laughed harder, and the black cat currently curled in her lap yowled at his warm place being disturbed. "Oh you big baby, you were fine!" She turned to him, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. "Unless you're saying you can't handle a little pussy."

Any other time, Dan would have found that statement incredibly attractive, except for now. With a dark grin he leaned over her. "You're going to regret that," he intoned lowly.

An irritated yowl sounded from beneath him, and a light but rapid swatting of a soft object started up on his supporting arm. Confused, Dan looked down to spot the black tuxedo cat hitting him, ears flat to the side of its head. An irritated meow sounded from its throat as its tail lashed wildly back and forth, glaring at him with piercing green eyes.

"Not a cat person, Jake?" Vlad asked casually as he gently pet the cat Maddie, who had settled comfortably on his lap. Dan glared back down at the black cat who continued to watch him carefully, tail lashing back and forth.

"No, not really," he bit out and settled back down away from Valerie. He wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to take being here. Breakfast had ended nearly forty minutes ago; what point was there to continue hanging around? Human pleasantries were so excessive.

There was a moment of silence all around before the jingle of a collar and a whiny meow caught his attention. Glancing back to the young woman, Dan saw she was putting Badger on the floor. "Well, thank you for breakfast Vlad, but I think it's time Jake and I got going. I have a few errands to run, and I want to get it done before rush hour hits."

"Of course, of course, not even death will keep the Red Huntress from staying busy." The elderly man gently placed Maddie on the floor before grasping his cane from beside him. His hands shook with effort to push himself from the chair, and Valerie leapt up to assist him. Dan moved to stand only to once again find a cat on his lap.

Little Badger stared him down, green eyes searching his carefully, looking for something unknown to the ghost. Two paws pressed down on his leg, like little weights holding him down for the cat to examine.

Not to be intimidated, Dan stared back full force. In the background, Valerie and Vlad once again exchanged pleasantries with each other. This time they seemed to be giving farewells. The dull thump of the male cat's tail hitting the back of the couch was like a clock, ticking away at the seconds until the cat would find what he was searching for.

Those piercing green eyes saw through him completely, he was sure. They could see past his human skin to the ghost that lay underneath. It unnerved him, those eyes. They brought back hazy memories he had repressed for years. A family, people who cared for him, the scorn of the people he fought to protect—it seemed to bring everything back.

The disguised ghost swallowed hard but refused to look away.

After another beat of tense silence between him and the creature, it churred deep in its throat before reaching up to butt the top of its head on Dan's chin. Purring, it continued to rub against his chest as it walked over his lap, and jumped off the couch.

Unsure as to what that was all about, Dan stood up off the couch. He was eager to get away from all these cats and surroundings that brought with them too many memories and feelings he'd worked for too long to repress.

Vlad turned his blind attention to the other man in the room, hand outstretched to take his. After a quick glance to Valerie's worried and expectant face, Dan accepted the handshake. "Jake, thank you for joining us this morning. It was a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I do hope you will continue to stay around young Valerie," he pulled the younger man closer to whisper in his ear, "she needs someone to help keep her out of trouble."

"Yeah, I know," Dan responded before he even had the chance to think otherwise, and Vlad chuckled good naturedly.

"Excellent. Now since you both have other places to be, I will show you to the door." Laboriously, the old man led them back to the entrance. Valerie took one of his arms, to help support him. "Ah, thank you my dear, these old knees aren't what they used to be."

Valerie must have said something in return to acknowledge the old man's thank you, but the disguised ghost was in too much of a daze to concentrate on it. He could still feel the eyes of both cats on his back as he walked to the front door. It unnerved him, and he was eager to leave.

After a few more quick goodbyes that Dan blocked out, finally he was once again out in the open air. Breathing deeply, he tried to clear his head but only had minimal success. Valerie put her hand on his arm and stepped in front of him. "Hey, are you okay?"

Her teal eyes were full of genuine concern—concern for him. It made something squirm uncomfortably in his stomach. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said dismissively. Whatever this situation was, he wanted out of it as soon as possible.

"No, something's wrong. What's up? You've been tense and agitated all morning." She grasped his hand, and her searching, turquoise eyes bore deep into his being. She could see through his façade much too well. He suddenly feared that she could see through his entire disguise. A lead weight of dread dropped into his stomach. What if she had been playing him this whole time? Did she have some sort of trap planned? He clearly needed to be more vigilant.

He dropped her gaze to stare over her shoulder, down at the ground, and pretty much anywhere but her, his lack of response doing nothing for his case. Sensing his discomfort, Valerie briefly pressed against his side, still firmly holding his hand, before she began to lead him towards the motorcycle.

"Alright, well, I don't believe you, but I guess if you don't want to tell me, you don't have to. Now come on, let's go. I wasn't kidding about having places to be and wanting to beat rush hour." She smiled gently and pulled his arm.

A smirk slowly spread across his face. "Are you turning me into your personal chauffer?" he teased, finally feeling like things were falling back into place.

"What are you going to do about it?" She let go of his hand to sashay up to the motorcycle and swing her leg over the back of it. Sitting down, she stared back at him as she balanced with her hands in front of her, one leg on either side of the Valerie-dubbed 'death machine'. "Now come on! Let's get a move on!" she called.

Dan smirked wider as he realized just how much he liked the sight of her on his motorbike. Her shapely legs straddling the vehicle, toes barely touching the ground, sent something dark and warm down into his stomach.

"I think I'm going to enjoy placing myself between your legs, that's what I'm gonna do." Was his lazy reply as he grabbed the keys from his jacket pocket. He cautiously swung a leg over the bike, avoiding Valerie, and then the engine roared to life beneath them. Grabbing the helmet off the handle bars, he passed it to Valerie behind him, and she took it from his grasp. "Make sure to press yourself against me."

He heard a scoff before two arms wrapped around him, and a soft body pressed itself against his back. That same warm rock in his stomach sunk even lower into his lower abdomen and settled itself quite comfortably there. He had just been teasing; he hadn't expected her to actually do it. Not that he was going to complain, though. It felt nice to have her warmth on his back.

Revving the engine, he turned his head towards her, "Where to first?"

"The grocery store on Third. I need some food."

With a twist of his wrist, they shot off like a rocket.


 

Later, laden with grocery bags filled with all sorts of ingredients for cooking, the disguised ghost and Ghost Slayer made the walk from his motorcycle to the apartment building. "Are you gonna be able to eat all this?"

"I wouldn't have bought it if I didn't think so. What are you saying, you think I'm gonna get fat or something?" She laughed at the end, indicating she was just joking.

"I would never suggest something like that, but even if you did get fat, I have no doubt you would still look sexy in your battle suit." Dan responded and was disturbed at how easy it was becoming to fall into this flirtatious routine. It felt so natural. Their chemistry was perfect and effortless. It was dangerous too, but then again, he always loved danger.

"You sap," Valerie chuckled and hip bumped him. He returned her grin.

As they stopped at the door, and the young woman fiddled with her keys, a familiar scratchy yowl emanated from around Dan's feet. A glance down confirmed it.

Twining around his legs was the same cat that had been present the first night he had followed Valerie and Paulina to the complex. It still looked the same, black with green eyes. Thankfully they were not nearly as piercing as Vlad's cat, these were almost somewhere in between a yellow and green.

"You're just a magnet for cats today, aren't you?" Valerie teased him.

"It would seem so. Whose cat is this?" From what he could see, there was no tag or identification of any kind.

"I think he's a stray. I've seen him out here several times, but he's never had anyone with him ever, or any kind of identification on him."

Another smirk tugged at Dan's lips. "Perhaps you should adopt him, then."

"I guess I still have some cans of tuna until I go back to the grocery store…"

She seemed to be seriously considering it, which caught Dan slightly off guard as once again he hadn't been serious. Glancing back down to the cat, it continued to wind around his feet. He supposed that wouldn't be a bad thing. Out of all the cats he had met today, he liked this one the best.

"If you take these bags, Jake, I'll take the cat."

"So now I'm your pack horse too?" he grinned as he amicably took all the bags and prayed that the cheap plastic wouldn't break.

"Think of it as an upgrade from chauffer to valet," Valerie replied as she bent over to pick up the feline, who almost immediately began to purr loudly. He looked right at home in her arms as he settled comfortably against her shoulder.

Both of them gave the ghost the exact same look of triumph, and suddenly Dan worried that he had made a mistake in encouraging her to adopt the animal.


 

Several hours later, after all the food had been put away, the cat made herself comfortable—they had discovered the cat was in fact female—over the arm chair in the sun. It was late afternoon now, and Valerie sat beside Dan on the couch as she aimlessly flipped through the channels pausing briefly on the news to see if there was anything new. After a few minutes of boring and entertainment-less updates, she changed the channel to what appeared to be a cop show. Another few minutes later, the ghost laughed out loud as the captain screamed a rather crude term for sex from his office door before the scene finished and the jaunty intro tune played.

"Oh, you like this show?" Valerie asked, a smile similarly on her face.

"I've never seen it before."

"What?! Oh, we are so changing that!" Valerie exclaimed before changing to a video streaming service and brought up the tv show to start out on the first episode of the first season.

"No, I want to watch the other episode!" Dan whined and reached for the remote before she could hit play.

"Nope! You gotta watch it all in order first! That way you'll know what's happening and who everyone is!" she protested and held the remote out of his reach. His eyes lit up with a challenge as he went low to grab her by the hips and pull her underneath him on the couch.

She squealed in surprise and tried to worm her way out, but had no success when he lowered his hips onto hers and pinned her body to the couch with his own. He admired her tenacity as she continued to hold the remotes above her head, doing her best to keep it from him.

The now-familiar opening theme started to sound from the speakers, and Valerie smirked devilishly. "Alright now, come on, watch the episode." And then she made the critical mistake of taking her eyes off him to turn to the tv.

"But I don't want to watch the episode anymore." Dan lowered himself so he pinned her body completely and buried his nose in the junction between her neck and collarbone. Her skin smelled vaguely of cinnamon and sand.

Pressing his lips to the soft skin, he could feel her shudder beneath him as her hands lowered onto his shoulders, one still holding the remote. He planted another kiss on her neck, this time higher, on her pulse. A soft whine escaped her throat as she gripped his shoulder tightly, her nails digging through his shirt and into his skin. He smirked into the kiss as his tongue began to trace circles over her pulse.

The remote clattered to the floor as Valerie groaned and arched beneath his body as both her hands dug into his shoulders. Shifting, so he could get better leverage, Dan placed on more kiss right behind her jaw before the last of Valerie's will broke.

Grabbing his face, she directed his mouth towards hers as she hungrily kissed him. She slipped her one leg out from underneath his body so he rested right between her legs and he pressed against her, his hips grinding roughly into hers.

Her hands grabbed desperately at his shirt, dragging it up so it bunched behind his neck. Dragging her fingers down his back, she only encouraged him to get closer. Likewise, he lifted her shirt and slipped his hands underneath to feel her toned stomach and the satin material of her bra.

Reaching around behind her back, he gripped her shoulders and pulled her flush against him. His teeth grabbed her lower lip and bit down gently. She groaned again and dug her nails deeper into his back. The pain mixed with the pleasure as he growled deep in his throat and started to reach for her bra strap holding the most inconvenient piece of clothing ever together.

Valerie suddenly broke the kiss and got his attention. "No, we need to stop now…" she whispered breathlessly, chest heaving with gasps, her heart pounding in her chest. Dan stared down into her eyes that gazed back at him with almost regret.

"Okay," he responded, only slightly throatier than usual, but he didn't move from where he lay with his hands up her shirt. Lazily, he began to draw circle patterns on her skin, just enjoying the soft texture underneath his fingers.

Her eyes closed in contentment as he laid his head back down onto her chest and listened to her heartbeat slow back down to a normal rhythm. Valerie turned her head to face the TV. "We missed the first episode."

"I much preferred what's in front of me anyways," he replied as he closed his eyes. Like this, everything felt right with the world. Like this he knew where he belonged.

A sudden thought struck him. His original goal had only been to find a way to bring down the Shield. His goal had long been completed, but if he did, moments like these would end. The persona of Jake would disappear, and it would be back to the war and the fighting that used to be.

Her fingers also began to trace mindless patterns on his back, and he could slowly feel his worries melting away.

What was the rush? There was nothing saying that he had to conquer Amity Park immediately. It was essentially his anyways. No other ghost was powerful enough to break through the Shield, and with the button to bring it down at will, bringing it down to conquer the city was merely a formality at this point.

He could allow himself to enjoy this. He never wanted to worry about losing her ever again. He just needed to get the key to the Shield back to his lair before Valerie realized he had it.

"I should get going," he murmured as he pushed himself upwards, removing his hands from her shirt. As he sat up on his knees, she surprised him by grabbing his hand.

With vulnerable eyes, she stared up at him. "No, don't go." There was almost a note of desperation in her voice. "I don't want to be alone tonight, not anymore."

Dan stared down at her in surprise, and after a moment a small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Alright, but I want the bed. Preferably with you in it."

Valerie returned his smile, happiness glittering in her eyes. "Just don't get any ideas, hot shot."

"Wouldn't dream of it."


 

(Phantom's Lair- Fright Knight)

After the sun had set, on the second night of his Master's failure to return from the human strong hold of Amity Park, the Fright Knight stood dutifully beside the makeshift throne. He was beginning to worry that the Ravager of Worlds had been defeated or detained by the insects of Amity Park. Shaking his head, he shook such thoughts from his head. His Master was the most powerful ghost since Pariah Dark; there was no way that he would be defeated by anyone other than the Red Huntress, who was now dead.

A familiar signature appeared outside the lair, and as it got closer, a clone of Dan Phantom in all his ghostly glory appeared around the corner. He approached the Halloween ghost and held out a black box with a single black button on it.

"I am trusting you with this object. It is the key for the Ghost Shield surrounding Amity Park," the clone stated and the indentured ghost took it, in a daze.

Only one question burned in his mind, "Why has the Master not taken down the Shield and taken Amity Park? The Red Huntress is dead; the city is defenseless."

The clone glowered, in all essence still Phantom, "It is not your place to question me on my plans."

For the first time, suspicion bloomed in the Fright Knight's mind. Something seemed off about this situation. Why was he spending so much time in Amity Park; what could be keeping him there? "Of course, please forgive me." The medieval ghost bowed in submission, and the clone seemed satisfied.

"Granted, now he orders that you upkeep his territory and to make sure that no other ghosts attempt to lay claim to it," the clone stated haughtily.

Irritation ground on the servant ghost's nerves. Something was wrong, "It will be done, my liege." The response was automatic and monotonous, but the clone seemed satisfied enough.

"Good, that is all." And with that, the clone dissipated into thin air.

The Fright Knight straightened from his bow and observed the black box. His gut was telling him that the infamous Dan Phantom had lost the motivation for his goal of total world domination. There was only one thing that the purple ghost knew that would distract the Ravager of Worlds so completely. He was now duty-bound to uphold his Master's purpose and goal. In Phantom's name, he would take Amity Park.

After all, there was only one thing that would make Dan Phantom abandon his single-minded purpose.

The Red Huntress lived.


I said it was gaining momentum didn't I? Ohhhhh things are gonna start getting good!!

Leave me with a review if you'd like. I'd love to hear your thoughts!!

Chapter Text

Hello and sorry I've had such a long absence from this fic! I had some severe creator's block as well as putting school first for my last semester ever! I'm graduating in June and I'm so excited!

Also I've started a comic! The link is in my profile and it's called Imperium! It's of course Dark Gray so I hope everyone is willing to check it out!

That being said, here's the next chapter please enjoy! We're hitting a major turning point!


The next morning, the light filtered through the blinds, casting slanted shadows onto Dan's face. Wincing, he pulled himself up and carefully stretched out the stiff muscles. Using his resting state while lying down was proving to be a bad idea, as it only made him cramp up.

Dan put his feet on the cold hardwood floor and began to stretch. For a few moments, his ligaments protested the activity, but after a few minutes his limbs were once again limber and spry.

A quick glance around the bedroom determined that Valerie had already gotten up, and the sound of the running shower only confirmed it.

A grin slowly split his face as he realized the potential for mischief at hand. The urge to find out how Valerie would react to him entering the bathroom while she was in the shower was almost too tantalizing to resist. She would most certainly be angry with him, and she was always so beautiful when she was angry.

Dan shook his head. What the hell was that? There must have been something wrong with him; he was becoming soft, giving in to weak human things like sentiment and caring.

He was the Ravager of Worlds, Dan Phantom the Undefeated. What was he doing here? He had achieved his goal—the key to the Ghost Shield of Amity Park was his.

The blue of his eyes bled to red and his canines extended into fangs. That was right. He owned the world now. A dark smirk stretched his mouth.

Stepping towards the window, he tugged the string, and the blinds flew up to reveal the bustling city of Amity Park. The sun was just past the horizon and illuminated everything he now owned in a hazy morning glow. His kingdom was complete.

Hair lifting off his shoulders, the color began to drain from it. Yes, this was how it was supposed to be. He would officially lay claim to the last of his territory.

A vision of Valerie smiling happily crossed his mind's eye, and his smirk fell from his face.

Except she would rise to the defense of the city, and this time he would have to kill her for good. There wouldn't be any room for subterfuge this time. It would be real.

The color returned to his hair as it once again rested on his shoulders.

No, it was better this way.

His fangs retracted into regular canines, and the pure blue of his irises returned. Like this, everything was as it should be. The Huntress alive, and Dan was sitting on the top of the world.

A scratchy yowl caught his attention as a set of pin pricks dug into his leg.

Glancing down, the cat Valerie had adopted last night stretched up his leg, kneading the black borrowed sweat pants between its claws. Its green eyes stared up at him expectantly as it meowed again, its tail flicking side to side with impatience. Sighing, Dan grabbed the feline and propped it in his arms across his chest.

Apparently not satisfied, the cat climbed up his body to instead drape itself around his shoulders, with its paws resting on either side of his face.

Confused but not entirely inconvenienced by the cat's change of position, he accepted it and walked out to the kitchen. As a bonus, the cat was quite warm on his bare chest. There had been few options for sleeping attire the night before. The pants were apparently from one of Valerie's exes who had left them there.

The thought of wearing something that had once belonged to a pitiful insect, much less one of her even further worthless exes, disgusted him. But when he had suggested sleeping in nothing, she had turned a rather brilliant shade of red and said that it was inappropriate. A lazy grin stretched his features as he opened the fridge.

Now where was that orange juice she had bought yesterday…

Reaching behind an equally large gallon of milk, he grabbed the plastic carton and with a twist of his wrist, popped the cap and began to drink straight from the container.

"Who are you, and what are you doing in my daughter's apartment?" demanded a gravelly voice.

Dan whipped around from the fridge, mouth still full of juice. The carton dropped from his hand and landed with a dull thud on the hardwood floor, orange liquid spilling everywhere. The sudden noise caused the cat to leap from his shoulders and make a mad dash back into the bedroom.

A dark skinned, one eyed man glared viciously at him, hand reaching for something on his waist.

Damon Gray.

"Well? Spit it out, boy," he demanded threateningly. Without breaking eye contact, the disguised ghost swallowed the juice and opened his mouth to answer only to be interrupted by a frantic Valerie. She looked fresh out of the shower, hair and skin still wet… and only dressed in a towel.

"Dad! What are you doing here?" She turned her wide eyes gaze to Dan. "What happened? I heard a crash!"

Dumbfounded—and more than a little distracted by how little she was wearing—'Jake' could only point down to the ever-increasing puddle of juice.

"Dammit, what did you do? Now we'll have to get another one!" Valerie cried, throwing one arm up in the air—the other held up her towel.

"'We'?!" Damon repeated, incredulous as he turned his attention to his daughter. Dan took the opportunity to close the fridge door and carefully step around the puddle of juice around his feet. "Valerie, put some clothes on! This can wait until after! And you," he turned back to Dan, "pull yourself together and stop staring at my daughter!"

"I'm not staring, I'm admiring." A smirk stretched across his face.

Damon's face turned red with rage as he pointed a finger towards the younger man, "That's not any better!"

"Jake!" Valerie cried, voice cracking with surprise as a deep blush covered her face.

"Valerie! Clothes!" Damon exclaimed, before he turned to glare viciously at the younger man.

"I will, I just want to know that you two aren't going to kill each other when I leave, are you?" she looked at each of them, the underlying threat of how unhappy she'd be to find out otherwise hanging dangerously in the room.

Dan was almost tempted to disagree, but she raised her eyebrow expectantly in his direction, and the urge disappeared.

"No," Damon and Dan responded at the same time before they looked at each other in synchronized horror.

"Good, I'll be back." And with that, she turned around in a flourish of hair and disappeared back into the bedroom, the door closing with a solid finality.

There was a beat of silence as the men regarded each other with barely concealed hostility.

"So, why don't you tell me who you are now?" Damon demanded as he perched himself on one of two tall bar stools at the counter island.

Dan followed suit but made sure to sit as straight as possible to still look down on the older man. "My name is Jake Rainier. You are Valerie's father?"

Damon huffed, "Well you're not as dumb as I thought you'd be. You can call me Damon." There was a pause for another beat of awkward silence. Dan began to pray to Valerie to hurry. "How long have you been…seeing my daughter?"

"Since before the funeral."

The effect of those words had exactly the impact Dan hoped they would. Damon's lone eye widened in shock. "You know—!?"

"I do."

His moustache bristled dangerously as the two men stared each other down. "You had better keep that secret tighter than your own bum if you intend on staying with her."

Dan nearly choked on his own spit in shock. "Tighter than my what?"

"Alright, ready." Valerie emerged from the bedroom fully dressed in a detailed, loose fitting blue shirt and a pair of white capri pants. Dan could only stare uncomprehendingly at how beautiful she looked in that bright color. Normally he preferred nothing but red, but this was a one-time exception.

She turned her gaze towards him, and a smile broke out over her face. "Are you gonna pick that jaw up off the floor? C'mon, hot shot, I can't leave you here by yourself. You should put a shirt on and some decent pants," Valerie teased him, a twinkle in her blue eye.

A gruff "harrumph" from Damon was what brought him out of his daze. Standing up, he made a beeline directly for Valerie. "You look wonderful," he murmured, wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulled her against him and leaned in for a kiss.

Breaking his mouth away from hers, he lowered his head beside her ear. "I'd like those clothes much more if they were decorating the floor at your feet instead." He could feel the heat of a blush rise into her cheeks.

"Jake!" she stage whispered and half-heartedly slapped his arm as he pulled away entirely. Chuckling lowly, he meandered back into the bedroom where his discarded clothes from the night before lay. Glancing over his shoulder, Dan took note of the burning stare of one Damon Gray burning a hole into his back. Grinning lopsidedly, Dan closed the door and cut off visual contact.

He could hear them start to converse after he closed the door to the bedroom. Dan supposed it would piss Damon off if he were to leave it open. There was a moment where he debated going back and reopening the door to do just that. After a moment of consideration, he decided to just get dressed. If he intended to continue seeing Valerie, a good impression on Damon was vital to the success of their relationship.

A relationship. With Valerie.

For some reason, the thought of that sent butterflies into his stomach and a rush of adrenaline and excitement through his limbs. It was a highly unusual sensation, but it didn't feel…negative. Nonetheless, he could not place it, could not identify the nature of this feeling.

The scratchy yowl of the cat caught his attention as it leapt onto the bed and stared at him expectantly, tail swishing side to side. He grinned good-naturedly and gave a quick rub to the cat's ears as he started to find his clothes from the night before.


The true form of Dan Phantom flew back to his lair, the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Already he missed the warmth of Valerie's presence, her burning vitality making him feel alive like he hadn't felt in years.

He fiddled absentmindedly with the key that she had given him. It wasn't much more than a specialized magnet, but the symbolism behind it was everything. She wanted him to come back and not just on her terms, but his own. She trusted him.

Or she trusted Jake….

His hand clenched the key tightly. She would have never given Dan Phantom such easy and willing access to her private living quarters. Pocketing the tiny device, he landed outside the mouth of the cave.

Valerie and her father had left together in a rush this morning once he had gotten dressed. Damon had said something about spiking ectoplasmic readings in the Ghost Zone. Dan wouldn't have been able to hear that had he been a normal human, but he was far from human and therefore exceeded those limitations.

The information concerning the ghost zone intrigued him, however, and the closed nature of their conversation suggested he was not welcome to accompany them. That gave him the perfect excuse to leave and check back in on his ghostly affairs, which he had left to Fright Knight.

Stepping into his throne room, Dan saw that his medieval vassal stood facing his makeshift throne, a hand on the hilt of the sword at his hip. "I see you have returned at last, master."

"Yes, I have. What news do you have to report? The human Resistance is detecting ghost activity in the Zone; what is happening?" Dan demanded of his vassal, not missing the unusual emphasis on his title.

"The Red Huntress lives." Purple eyes turned to stare levelly at the green ghost, who could only stare back in irritated confusion.

"What?"

"Do not attempt to hide the truth. The Red Huntress is the only thing capable of keeping your attention so completely." The Halloween ghost brought out the black device meant for taking down the Ghost Shield. "Is that not also why the Shield surrounding Amity Park is still functional?"

Dan could feel dread sink into his stomach like a dead weight. "You dare question my motives?" he snarled.

"Since you defeated Pariah Dark, I swore to serve you and only you until such a day that I could no longer perform my duties." Fright Knight began to glow purple as he drew his sword.

Dan assumed a fighting stance and lit a white flame in his palm. "You dare betray me?"

"You betrayed yourself! You allowed yourself to be seduced by a human woman and the lures of the past. You claim to be better than the humans, that you are not one of them, but it is clear you still hold some value for them. Otherwise, the Shield would be long destroyed, and Amity Park conquered." The Fright Knight drew his sword. "Even if you no longer have the will to carry out your goal, I do. I will continue your work, and the army I have gathered will follow me into an assault on Amity Park."

Slashing wide, he tore through the very reality of the material plane and opened a portal to the Ghost Zone. He began to step through as he waved the black device for Dan to see. "Amity Park now belongs to me."

Snapping out of his shock, Phantom launched a powerful fire blast at his once faithful servant. It roared from his palms in a great pillar of flame, but much to his dismay, he succeeded only in burning a hole through the wall of his lair.

Fright Knight had escaped.

Enraged, he slammed both fists down onto the bedrock beneath his feet, deeply fracturing the stone.

What had he done?


The day passed in a blur and before Dan knew it, the sun had set. Having no where else to go, he resorted to the one place he knew he would feel wanted.

The elevator doors dinged as they opened to reveal the apartment he had become so familiar with. It offered him a sense of calm that not even his own lair allowed anymore.

It was dark, and the lights were out. The shadow of night shrouded the usually bright and airy living space. Nonetheless, it felt like home.

"Jake?" a voice asked from around the sectional wall where the glow of the tv shone bright. Backlit by the LEDs, Valerie stepped around the wall. From her silhouette, he could see that she wore a baggy tank top and equally loose comfortable shorts. "What are you doing here?"

In a need for reassurance and an anchor in this reality, the disguised ghost marched with purpose towards her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her hair. As always, it smelled of flowers and rain. "Forgive me." He swallowed thickly. "I couldn't be alone tonight."

Her arms wrapped around him and held him close to her. "Yeah, I understand. It's okay." She rubbed his back comfortingly. They stayed that way for several moments until she gently pulled away. Taking his hand, she began to lead him back towards the bedroom. "Come on, hot shot, let's get you to bed. Things will be better in the morning. I promise."

Dan allowed himself to follow her, tightening his grip on her hand, afraid to let go.

Valerie did not turn on any lights upon entering the bedroom, instead they remained in the dark. A pair of lips pressed against his own, and warm hands cupped the sides of his face.

Lifting her shirt ever so slightly, he slipped his hands underneath the thin fabric to feel the soft texture of her skin. Her fingers tugged impatiently at the collar of his white t-shirt, and slowly began to bunch it under her hands as it slipped upwards over his stomach.

Pulling away for a moment, he allowed her to undress him as the plain piece of clothing fell to a discarded heap at his feet. Valerie's hands explored the hardened planes of his chest as he swooped back in for another passionate kiss.

She took a step backwards, and he followed. Guiding him by the neck, she pulled his head down as the faint protest of bed springs sounded to the weight being placed on them. As his knees hit the edge of the bed, he crawled up on the comforter, in between Valerie's legs.

One of her hands combed through his hair, brushing it away from his face as she broke the kiss. What minimal light made its way into the room illuminated her dark skin, making her glow like a goddess. In that moment Dan had never seen anything as beautiful as the woman who lay beneath him. He brushed a wayward curl off her cheek as he rested his weight onto his forearms and took in her beauty.

"What would it take for you to allow me to stay, forever?" he murmured, almost afraid to break the moment between them.

She grinned softly. "I thought that's why I gave you the key?"

A warm sensation bubbled up through his power core, and the sensation was so alien, Dan couldn't place it. But the sight of Valerie's blissful face, softly illumated by the moonlight only made it swell further until he found himself saying, "I love you."

There was a beat of silence between them as he realized what he'd said and that he'd meant it. He waited in fear for her response.

Surprised etched itself onto her face as she searched his eyes looking for signs of a lie. Then a smile began to curve her full lips upwards, and her eyes shone with a happiness unrivalled to any he had seen before. Cupping his face once more she guided him down for a soft kiss. "I love you too," she whispered into his mouth.

The warm sensation returned, but this time Dan knew what it was. It had been so long since he had felt genuine blissful emotion that he had forgotten its sensation.

This was happiness.


The next morning, sunshine shone bright through the open window. Dan groaned and opened his eyes that were still heavy with sleep. Dragging a hand down his face, he pushed himself up from the pillow and swung his legs off the side of the bed.

He'd slept.

The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. He hadn't fully slept in years, not since he had discovered his 'resting' state. To be honest, he had forgotten how refreshing it was to fully rest like that.

A blur of green caught his attention, and in a moment of fear, Dan noticed he was no longer in his human disguise. His natural ghost form had returned.

Panic seeping into the bottom of his stomach as he regarded his green hands and bare legs. In a mad hope that Valerie was still sleeping, he looked over his shoulder.

Valerie sat, a blanket partially held up by her arm and wrapped hastily around her naked form. Her face held the look of ultimate betrayal as tears streamed down her face. There was a beat of silence as ghost and human regarded each other. Even though she held a gun pointed directly at his power core, he still felt the urge to wipe the tears from her face and hold her close.

"Valerie…"

She sobbed once before a red flash blinded him and an electric current wracked his body.

Dan fell twitching to the floor, and that was the last he knew.


:3

Thanks for reading! Drop me a review if you'd like I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Hello everybody! I'm sorry for my lack of updates lately! Life has kept me busy, so busy I don't think I've replied to hardly any reviews, even from a chapter previous! I'm so sorry about that guys! I'll do better to make sure I reply to each of you! Anonymous replies will be made in my profile!

Please enjoy this chapter!


Coming back to awareness, Dan realized everything hurt. His shoulders burned, and his hands were numb from lack of ecto blood. Opening his eyes, he blurrily looked around to see a square room with black walls and floors, and a single door straight ahead.

Attempting to turn his head to the side proved difficult. Something chafed around his neck and held his head down. Upon further inspection, it was a collar chained to the floor in front of and behind him to restrict his movement.

Something was over his mouth as well; a hollow echo of his breath resonated back into his ears. Judging by the pain he felt with every expansion of his chest, it was filled with a blood blossom poison.

The door to the nondescript room opened, and for a moment, Dan was elated with the idea of seeing Valerie again. His hopes were immediately dashed when it was clearly a male silhouette. The lack of a right arm also made the identity of his visitor blatantly obvious.

"You're finally awake, you monster?" Damon asked, and Dan could only glare hatefully but did not verbally respond. The older man huffed as he reached for a chair off to the side and dragged it across the stone floor. Setting it down directly in front of the chained ghost, he took a seat and stared directly into Phantom's red eyes.

"Silent treatment? That isn't going to help your situation at all, ghost. I'm sure you can feel the after effects of the blood blossom gas fed directly into your muzzle. I can turn that back on with a wave of my hand if you prove difficult."

Dan felt nothing. No fear, no anger. Everything just felt like a void had opened in his being.

"Where is Valerie?" he 's moustache bristled dangerously, and a vein popped in his forehead. "That is irrelevant right now."

"Where is Valerie?" Dan flexed, testing the limits of his restraints and found them unyielding.

Damon started to literally shake with rage. "You dare ask after my daughter so easily? What right do you have to ask for her presence?" His fist slammed onto the metal arm of his chair.

In the past, Dan would have smirked, pleased with the amount of stress he was causing the leader of the last known human stronghold. This time, however, he could only feel his stomach sinking in despair.

"Where is Valerie?" he repeated once again.

Damon stood up with such force that the chair fell over with an ear shattering clatter. "She is none of your concern, Phantom! Now for the love of god, you will cooperate or so help me, I'll make sure you suffocate on blood blossom gas!"

The captured ghost glared up at the human man. "You can gas me all you want, but I won't talk to anyone but the Ghost Slayer herself." He adjusted his shoulders with what little wiggle room he was afforded. "I won't ask again. Where is Valerie?"

"You hold no authority here. What right do you have to demand to talk or see anyone?" He leaned down and got right into Dan's face. "If I have it my way, you'll never see her again."

Something in the older man's face gave away that perhaps he would not have his way entirely. A smirk pulled at the corner of Dan's mouth.

Valerie, stalwart as ever; it was one thing that he loved about her.

The Resistance leader threatened, "Wipe that smirk off your face, boy. You're dealing with me, and there is nothing funny about this situation. If you don't start behaving, you'll be having a nice long nap under the influence of blood blossom poison."

The thought of inhaling the gas sent a pit of dread into his stomach. No doubt it would cause splitting pains and intense muscles spasms within his chest. "If you refuse to let me speak with Valerie, then we're done here. Do your worst, Damon. I do not fear you."

"Fine."

Damon turned and walked out of the room. The door closed behind him with a slam that echoed throughout the chamber. Dan waited, and sure enough there was the sound of hissing air as his next breath delivered into his lungs the scent of blood blossoms.

He coughed violently as his body rejected the poison. Each contraction of his chest was like a thousand needles puncturing into his organs. Breathing became difficult as his diaphragm began to spasm and seize rapidly. As his mind began to shut down, his breaths became shallower and shallower until he was barely breathing at all.

The darkness consumed him for what seemed like only a moment, and the next time he opened his eyes, he found another presence in the room with him. Her curly black hair framed her face with its wild flyaway, and her aquamarine eyes glinted like steel in the harsh white lights. She stood with her arms crossed over her battle suit.

Dan grinned wryly. "Hello, Valerie."


(Danny POV)

One little boy leaned against a closed door, listening to his mother and his auntie Val argue.

"You knew! You knew, and you didn't tell me!" Valerie cried, betrayal clear in her voice as she yelled at Paulina behind the closed door. "How could you keep this from me? After all that's happened, after all I've been through?!" It was supposed to be a private conversation, but with how loud Auntie Val was yelling, Danny wasn't sure how it was going to remain a secret.

Not that he would tell anyone about what was going on. He was good at keeping secrets. He liked helping people keep secrets. Plus, auntie Val would be sad if he told anyone about how she was crying behind that door. He just wished she would stop yelling at mom.

"Chica, what was I to do? He threatened to hurt Danny if I told you!" Paulina choked on her words, equally distraught as auntie. Danny could feel his stomach twist uneasily. He wanted nothing more than to ignore the stern designation to stay out here and to burst through the door to comfort his mom. Clenching his tiny hands in his pockets, he began to feel something heavy settle in his stomach.

It made him feel sick.

All of this was his fault. Mom was in trouble with auntie because of him. If he hadn't been playing outside the Shield that day, , he would have never met Dan. Never needed to be saved by him, never met him in the park, and never would have found him on the couch that day.

A tear dropped into his lap, and he hurriedly wiped away more that threatened to follow. Everything was his fault.

"And what about after you had gotten away? After he had let go of Danny? What's your excuse there, Paulina?" Auntie Val sounded just as upset as he felt.

"Chica…I'm sorry, but after we learned he had saved Danny from being eaten, I—I felt like I owed him something. And maybe he deserved a second chance! He treated you well as Jake—"

"DON'T SAY THAT NAME!" Valerie cried hoarsely, her voice cracking, and the sound of strangled muffled sobs filtered through the wood of the door. "How could you even think that? This is Phantom we're talking about. He manipulated and used me for months! He even got me to care about him!" There was a strained silence for a moment, broken only by the sound of his mom and Auntie Val crying together. "He'll never deserve a second chance. He'll never be anything but a monster."

Danny couldn't bear it anymore. He quietly jumped down from the bench where he sat and shuffled over to the door. Auntie sniffed and cleared her throat as he grasped the handle to turn it.

"It doesn't matter anymore anyways." Valerie's voice was much stronger now, its rough edge the only indication she'd been crying. Danny stopped, instincts screaming that he waits and listen.

Paulina also picked up on the sudden change in Valerie, "Oh dios mio, chica, what did you do?"

"I did what had to be done. Phantom's going under for the longest nap of his afterlife."

"My God…" The horror was evident in mommy's voice.

"He'll never see the light of day again. Dan Phantom will fade out before another half hour passes."

Danny's heart pounded in his chest as he started to breathe heavily.

Dan was going to die. That thought sent what felt like lightning through his body, making the tips of his fingers tremble even as he held onto the doorknob.

Memories of how Dan snatched him from the jaws of certain death flew across his eyes. How sad Dan had looked sitting on that bench in the park staring up at the statue of Valerie.

Danny let go of the door and mindlessly stumbled back a few steps until his back hit the seat of the bench where he'd been quietly sitting until now. This couldn't be happening. Auntie Val was so warm and kind; there was no way she would be able to purposefully kill anyone.

"If you'll excuse me, I must do what I always do, and clean up Phantom's mess." The door opened, and Valerie stormed out, her face in a fearsome glare, but not quite dry tear tracks still shining on her face. She didn't even glance down towards the young boy staring up at her in fear and awe. She wasn't auntie Val right now. She was the Red Huntress. Her cold hard steps echoed down the hall, almost like a drum.

Muffled crying could still be heard from inside the office, and as Danny peeked around the edge of the door, he saw his mom sitting in a chair, face in her hands shoulders shaking with her emotions. The young boy wished he could do nothing more than comfort his mom, but something much larger was at stake right now. He couldn't let Dan die.

He had to do something.

Disregarding everything else, Danny ran from the room as fast as his legs would carry him.

He could hear his mom call his name off in the distance, but he couldn't answer her right now. There was no time to explain what he needed to do. Plus, mommy wouldn't listen. Neither would auntie Val. They were both too mad to see that Dan had changed. He would have to show them.

Danny had travelled the halls with his dad many times when his babysitter, Stacy, couldn't come over to take care of him. The little boy knew exactly which way to turn at every fork to make it to the room where Dan was being held. Daddy had told him to never go in there and that it was very dangerous, but going outside the Ghost Shield was dangerous too and everything was still okay. Dan would protect him.

An announcement sounded over the speakers. "Attention all personnel, a young boy with black hair and a red sweatshirt has gone missing. Be on alert, he responds to the name Danny. If found, please bring him to Admiral Damon Gray's office on the 14th floor."

Danny didn't really understand all the words in that big grownup sentence, but he knew that he needed to hurry as fast as he could.

Panting hard he turned the last corner and was faced with the heavy double doors. Directly to the right was the best possible toy-that-is-not-a-toy for a young boy.

A number pad.

Even though daddy had never let him enter the big room, Danny had watched his dad enter the same numbers in many of the other pads to enter the rooms. His dad had always forbidden Danny from touching the number pads.

Excitement burned through his body. Now he would finally get to push the forbidden buttons. They beeped a satisfying beep as he punched them in correctly. As he pushed the last number, the doors hissed and began to slide open.

"Danny, NO!Dash screamed from the end of the long hallway.

Frightened, Danny turned just in time to see his dad begin to run towards him. Knowing that if he was caught he'd be stopped from his mission, the little boy quickly darted into the mist-filled room. "I have to save him!" he cried before the doors buzzed loudly and shut with a cold determination. Daddy's terrified face unnerved the little boy. Maybe he wasn't doing the right thing. Maybe this was a bad idea.

Heart beating fast, he slowly turned to face into the room. It was a plain room with metal walls and was so cold a thin mist covered his ankles.

In the center was Dan. His head was bent forward, a collar around his neck and wires connecting him to the floor. A mask covered his nose and mouth. His arms were bent up at an awkward angle and similarly wired to the walls on either side of him.

Danny swallowed nervously as he approached the ghost. As he got closer, the young boy could see that Dan looked sickly and faded. He was beginning to be able to see through his wrists, and his fire hair did not flicker with its usual gusto and fiery energy. It lay limp around his face and shoulders, an occasional twitch and spark the only indication it was not normally inanimate.

"D-Dan?" Danny asked fearfully, scared that it may already be too late.

Dan did not even twitch, his eyes completely still from behind his closed lids.

Dancing from foot to foot, Danny glanced hurriedly around the room for anything that might help. He had to do something.

A tremor shook the building and for a moment, the young boy was pushed off balance and fell to the ground. Something was happening outside. Something bad, he could feel it.

Getting up, the boy rushed to the ghost. "Dan you have to wake up! You can't go to sleep!" Grabbing his pale face between his small hands, Danny began to lightly slap his cheeks in hopes that it would help bring the man back to wakefulness.

Dan wheezed and blearily opened crimson eyes that were streaked with stripes of green blood. He stared unseeing at Danny's face for only a moment before his head fell once again, his body too weak to hold it up for any longer.

"Dan! DAN!" he cried more desperately and slapping more forcefully.

There was no response a second time.

Time was running out.

The boy gripped the mask covering his mouth and nose and tried to pry it off, but it was secured to his face with a heavy belt. A desperate sob escaped his throat when his small fingers were not strong enough to remove the buckle.

Glancing up he spotted the solution.

A big red button.

Desperation filled Danny's body, and before he could think twice he was lunging towards the large red button. He smashed the button as hard as he could, and with a loud siren it sunk in.

Cold mist enveloped the room as the clatter of Dan's mask falling to the ground was nearly engulfed by the siren and hiss of the sprinklers. It was nearly impossible to see in the room and when another tremor wracked the building, Danny once again went sprawling across the floor.

Getting up he found he was once again directly in front of Dan, who was looking less and less solid as time went on.

"DAN!" Danny continued to cry and gently slap his face.

No response, not even a twitch.

Scared and frantic, the little boy did something he never thought himself capable of.

Bringing his tiny arm back as far as he could, he slapped the Destroyer of Worlds across the face with a slap that echoed off the walls. "WAKE UP!" he screamed.

Dan's eyes snapped open as he snarled in pain, revealing a razor-sharp canine.

"Dammit, Valerie!" Dan cursed before he looked directly into the innocent eyes of young Danny. They narrowed in confusion and accusation. "You. You're not Valerie."

"No! You gotta get up! Auntie Val was gonna do something really bad!" He sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve. "She was gonna leave you to sleep forever!"

Dan slumped down once more and sighed heavily, his breath shuddering on the exhale. "I know."

"What?"

"She told me before she left that I wouldn't be waking up again. The Blood Blossom poison would be the last thing I felt."

"No, you can't die! You're good now!" Danny cried, tears streaming down his face.

"I'll never be the good guy, kid. No matter what I do, she'll never accept me. What's the point?" Dan coughed roughly, and stringy ectoplasmic blood dripped to the floor from his mouth.

"But I know you're good! You saved me! I can make other people see it too! What if you saved more people?"

"Why do you care, brat?" Dan questioned the small boy, suspicion heavy in his tone. "I threatened you and your mom with death if you didn't keep my secret."

"You wouldn't do that. You're good now. You saved me, you're not all bad. You just have to show other people too and then they will like you too!"

"Stupid, naïve child. What the hell do you know?" Dan tensed and flexed his powerful muscles, the restraints suddenly straining against his strength. "I destroyed the world and ruled the ashes! Destruction and death is all I know. You are truly the spawn of that bitch Paulina and ape-brained Dash if you think I could ever be diff—"

"STOP SAYING MEAN THINGS!" Danny yelled, distraught before once again slapping Dan across the face.

Instantly, his hair flared to life and his ghostly aura returned, nearly blinding the little boy. The wires holding Phantom to the ground began to whine and groan under heavy duress.

"YOU CAN'T GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU IF YOU SAY MEAN THINGS!"

"It doesn't matter what I say, you little brat! Everyone will hate me regardless, so I will hate them. I will wipe them all from the face of the earth!"

"That's dumb! Mommy always says be nice to people, and they'll be nice to you!"

"I don't care what your mommy says. No one will listen to me. So it doesn't matter," Dan snarled with hatred as his eyes began to glow a hot orange. The bindings started to fray, and one wire around the collar snapped entirely.

"Then SHOW people you can be good! Auntie Val needs help. Help her!" Danny yelled, scared and desperate. "People will believe that!"

There was a beat of silence as Dan stared in confusion at the little boy, who was beginning to cry. Another tremor shook the building, and the harsh lights flickered. Danny once again lost balance and tumbled to the floor. The ghost watched the spectacle with mild amusement.

"Why do you care so much if people think that I'm good?" Dan asked, his glow subsiding somewhat and restraints slackening.

The little boy clumsily picked himself up off the floor. Sniffling loudly, he turned back towards Dan and puckered up as much courage as he could to look directly into his red eyes. "Because I like you and want you to be good."

For the first time in his life, Dan was the first to break eye contact from a staring contest. He slumped in the remainder of his restraints, chin resting down on his chest. The ghost was silent. The only sound in the cold room was Danny's shuddering breaths and occasional sniffle.

After several beats of silence, Dan spoke. "Turn the gas back on, kid. It's better for everyone if I'm gone. For good this time."

Danny stared in horror at what Dan had just asked of him. He couldn't…. want to die? Nobody wanted to die! The little boy stumbled back one step in his shock. Tears filled his amethyst eyes, threatening to spill over onto his cheeks.

No, he couldn't cry. Roughly the little boy wiped his eyes on his hoodie sleeve. Determination filled his body, and he stood strong against the captured ghost. Puffing out his chest and giving his best 'Dan-like' glare, Danny stared down at the flame-haired ghost.

"No." His voice was strong and steady, which only made him stand stronger.

"Dammit, kid, listen to me! No one wants me around!"

"NO!"

Dan snarled, but Danny could see it in his eyes that he wasn't mad. He was very sad.

"NO! I won't do it! Because if you die, then I'll be very sad." Without giving the older ghost any time to react, Danny quickly swooped in and wrapped his arms tightly around Dan's neck, enveloping him in a hug. "Dan, please don't die. I'll miss you too much."

Danny could feel the sharp intake of breath upon contacting him, but he did not let go and continued to squeeze the ghost as tightly as possible. After a moment of hesitation, the little boy felt Dan rest his head on his back, returning the hug as best as he could. Smiling happily, Danny nuzzled into his flaming locks, marveling at how they carried no heat.

A tremor shook the building, worse than the last time. The lights flickered, and a couple went out plunging them into partial darkness. A couple metal panels fell from the roof around the two, and the boy could feel Dan tense and move around him with the sound of more wires snapping. A sudden movement in the ghost's body, and a harsh metallic clatter off to the side made Danny suspicious. Had he knocked away a falling panel?

A large hand appeared on the young boy's back and dug deep into the thick fabric. Suddenly, he found himself able to keep much better balance even as the floor beneath them shook and shuddered violently.

Once it subsided, Danny pulled away from Dan and smiled widely up into the red eyes. Dan's hand was still on his back even as the tremors stopped, and the ground once again became solid.

A beat of peaceful silence fell between them only to be shattered by the explosion of the door being blown in.

Dan once again pulled Danny into his chest and curled around him as best he could to protect the boy from any possible harm.

Dash walked through the smoke, a gun at the ready. The father's eyes widened in horror when he spotted his son in the arms of the Destroyer of Worlds. "DANNY, GET AWAY FROM HIM!" he screamed, panicked as the gun prepped whirred to life.

"Daddy, wait! He won't hurt you!" the little boy cried while putting himself in between the ghost and the terrified human man. "He's good now! He even made sure I was okay when the roof fell and when you blew up the door!"

"He's fooling you, Danny now get behind me. We need to go." Dash dismissed his son almost immediately as he took a few steps closer. "Don't move a muscle Phantom. All I have to do is pull the trigger, and the last thing you'll see are your brains splattering the floor."

"Dad, no!"

"Danny don't argue with me, behind me now."

"Dad please—!"

"DANNY, NOW."

"It's okay Danny, go, I'll be okay," Dan murmured into his ear quietly enough that Dash wouldn't be able to hear.

"Don't talk to him, Phantom." Dash took another step forward.

Danny glanced nervously between his angry father and the calm ghost but against his gut reaction, the little boy took hesitant steps towards his dad.

Just then, another quake shook the building worse than any before it and Danny stumbled, falling hard at the feet of Dash who struggled and failed to keep his balance. The blaster flew from his grip, but before that his nervous finger squeezed the trigger and released a blast into the ceiling. With metal panels missing, he destroyed several main supports as well as much of the wiring keeping security measures up, including an operational security door.

All but a few lights went out immediately and plunged the room into near darkness. A heavy groan resounded throughout the room as the walls began to buckle and the ceiling give way. Dirt and earth poured from the opening quickly encouraging the neighboring panels to similarly open.

The roof was quickly deteriorating, it wouldn't be more than a minute or two before the whole room was crushed under an unknown amount of earth.

He needed to get out of here. Breaking the last of his restraints with ease, Dan stood once again to his full height. There was a cry of agony when a particularly solid piece of rock fell through the roof.

"Danny! Danny, where are you?" Dash cried worriedly, his voice strained like he was in great pain.

Lighting a white flame in his hand, Dan illuminated the area. Sure, enough dash's legs were trapped under a large mound of earth with more slowly piling on top. The young boy rushed over to his father and tried to help move the debris off his legs.

"Dan, help me! We need to save dad!" Danny cried, fear and desperation once again coloring his voice.

The ghost hesitated. It was likely that Dash's legs were broken underneath all that weight. He could leave with Danny right now—the integrity of the room would not last much longer. Even as he thought through his options, the room grew smaller and smaller as less of the ceiling was able to hold up under the weight of the earth.

Danny screamed in fear as rocks and dirt burst through the ceiling beside him and narrowly missed his head, "Dan, we need your help! Be the good guy and help us!" the young boy cried as the last of the ceiling gave way above his head.

"SAVE US!"


Another cliffhanger! I'm not sorry, but things are really heating up! There's probably only like 3 chapters left at the most now! We're coming into the endgame!

Leave me a review if you'd like! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Hello everybody! I'm here with another chapter! I'm sorry for such a long wait, life has been crazy on my end here with a big move across a whole province and a new job that takes all my energy. But I was finally able to write again after so long! Thank you to everyone who has stayed with me for this long, I'm happy to say there's only like TWO more chapters left MAX. I might be able to wrap it up in the next chapter!

Please enjoy the new chapter!!


 The last chunk of concrete holding the ceiling up above the young boy gave way and crumbled towards the two humans below.

Before he could think, Dan's body was moving on its own.

Shielding young Danny—and by extension, Dash—Dan's body took most of the impact from the falling debris. He grunted with the pain of the impact.. Even as the heavy soil and foundations of the underground facility continued to fall onto his back and the weight increased tenfold, he would not fall. He was Dan Phantom. The Earth would bend to his will—not the other way around.

As he exerted his power, his red irises burned into hot orange and illuminated the teary face of Danny and the horrified and panic-stricken expression of Dash. Growling with effort, Dan refused to kneel, and sure enough as the debris and rock settled around them, it stabilized enough to warrant the ghost to release the roof of their new haven.

"We do not have much time. This will not hold for long," Dan stated frankly, and even as he spoke, the make-shift ceiling shifted slightly as pebbles slipped through the numerous cracks.

"I knew you were a good guy!" Danny cried happily and attached himself to Dan's leg.

The ghost's lip curled in slight disgust, but it was more of an instinctual reaction than a true indication of his feelings towards the young boy's actions. Especially in how he didn't try to remove the child from his person. Moving towards the human adult, Dan reached for the edge of the concrete slab crushing Dash's legs. With a grunt of effort, he lifted it from the man's crushed appendages with one hand while he grasped the man's arm with the other and pulled him from his crushing prison.

Much to his credit as once he was out from underneath the rock, it was very clear that Dash's legs were indeed broken, but the man did not make hardly a sound of pain.

Unfortunately, moving the rubble to free Dash destabilized the rest of the earth and debris precariously balanced around them. More pebbles and dirt showered through the cracks and peppered the three inhabitants of the space.

"Why are you helping us?" Dash asked, the pain of his injury clear in his voice as Danny finally released Dan to hug his newly rescued—semi-rescued—father.

The ghost could only stare in stony, tense silence at the person who in Fenton's childhood had caused so much pain and stress for no other reason than he could. The one person he had sworn to never forgive no matter what. But he found it harder and harder to hate the pathetic being that stared up at him in fear and confusion. Now, all Dan could feel towards the man was pity.

"Because Dan doesn't want to be the bad guy anymore, right?" Danny supplied, and having no answer of his own, Dan merely nodded.

"Yeah, something like that."

Dash raised an eyebrow in disbelief and skepticism but otherwise did not raise any protest. "Alright then, Mr. Hero, how are we getting out of here?" The derision was clear in Dash's voice.

Dan grinned sinisterly, revealing both sets of fangs. Combined with the only light source of his hair, it created a horrifying image. "I'm going to blow a hole through the ceiling to the surface, and then you're going to hang on to me for dear life while I fly you out before it collapses back in on itself. How does that sound?" There was an evil enjoyment plainly evident in his tone.

The human male didn't appreciate the amount of amusement the ghost was taking at his expense as his eyebrows lowered over blue eyes into a distrustful glare. The young boy, however, missed it entirely and upon hearing the news of Dan destroying things with his powers became excited, his purple eyes shining with eagerness. "You're gonna blow a hole to the surface! That's so cool! Isn't that cool, dad? See I told you he's good now!" The child began to jump up and down, unable to contain his newfound energy.

Clenching his fist, Dan collected his power around his hand. It glowed red, into orange and then past yellow straight into white, and with all his strength, he released it into one solid beam that cleared through everything in a three-foot diameter all the way to the surface nearly a quarter mile above them. Light shone weakly down the hole, the blue of the Ghost Shield nowhere to be seen.

Unsure of the stability of the passageway he'd created, the ghost turned back to the injured human, quickly offering him a hand up, which was accepted without hesitation. Dash had also a firm hold of young Danny, and once he was securely between both adults, Dan pushed off the ground and flew as fast as he dared up the narrow passage.

He could feel Dash tense in agony as the motion roughly jostled his heavily injured legs. There was no time to be delicate. The integrity of the hole was deteriorating even as they flew through it. The exit was even beginning to crumble inwards, and it was with a great shower of debris that the three unlikely companions burst through to the surface.

The sight that Dan beheld before him was like nothing he'd ever seen and yet was all he'd even known.

In the distance, Amity Park was on fire. Buildings were only scaffolding, and smoke was everywhere, darkening the already cloudy and smoggy air. He could hear the screams of the towns people as they ran from ghosts.

In the past, that would have brought him joy, but now all he could see were his mistakes being thrown mockingly in his face.

"Maybe we could land somewhere? I don't like the feeling of depending on a mass murderer for my life," Dash quipped tensely, agony clear in his strained voice.

Dan grunted a non-committal noise and looked around the destroyed open plains surrounding them. There was a small group of humans behind an outcropping, firing upon a group of ghosts that sought to destroy them. His violent entrance caught the attention of most of the ones hiding behind the debris as they turned to see the cause of the commotion.

"DANNY! DASH!" Screamed the shrill and panicked voice of Paulina, who immediately detached herself from the group to run towards them. Even though his lip curled in disgust, Dan lowered to an acceptable height from which to drop Danny and his nuisance father.

"MOM!" the young boy cried in return upon being released and began to rush towards his mother. Dash unfortunately instinctively clung to Dan to keep himself upright.

"Paulina, no! Don't!" the rough voice of Damon called out only moments before Dan had to dodge a blaster shot aimed directly at his head. Scowling, the ghost raised a glowing palm and returned the blast towards the Resistance leader.

One blue eye widened in fear and realization as the red beam flashed towards him.

The sound of bones clattering to the ground seemed to echo over the space.

Damon turned in disbelief to find a skeleton ghost completely shattered behind him, the beam having gone directly over his shoulder to hit it instead of him.

'Then SHOW people you can be good!... People will believe that!' Danny's voice echoed in Dan's head.

"Dan saved us! If he hadn't blasted us a way out of that room, me and daddy would have been crushed," the little boy explained amongst the chaos of the rapid fire of blaster fire, and the clatter of skeleton bones as minions fell left and right under fire of the humans' weapons.

"Phantom… saved you?" Damon spoke brokenly, obviously still in shock from being saved himself, Dan allowed himself a small smirk.

"Yeah! He saved both me and daddy! He's a good guy now, and he's going to help Auntie Val!" Danny exclaimed excitedly as his mother held him close.

"'Saved' is a strong word. 'Helped' would be better, but even then, it might be a bit of a stretch." Dash gasped as others rushed from their outcropping to help him off Dan's side. Or they were attempting to, but each of them were too afraid to approach Phantom so closely.

"Take him now, or I'll drop him," Dan ordered, fed up with their inability to accomplish such a simple task as taking one of their own from him. Immediately, two people, a man and a woman rushed in to take the incapacitated Dash. The human male in question chuckled sardonically as he was pulled away to a safe distance.

"Do you truly intend to help my daughter?" Damon leveled his blaster at him once more. "If not, I will end you here and now."

The ghost glanced down to Danny, who gave him a big toothy grin and an enthusiastic thumbs up. Dan smiled slightly. "You're just going to have to find out," he answered cryptically before he launched himself into the sky, breaching the sound barrier within only a second and sped towards the heart of the fight.


 "Wake up, Phantom."

The familiar voice jolted him into awareness. Glancing up, he spotted Valerie. She stood defensively with her arms crossed tightly over her chest. Battle armor encased her fully except her helmet.

"Valerie," he breathed, voice rough from disuse and the poison he was forced to inhale.

"I'm not here to chat. I'm here to get information." She desperately tried to be intimidating, but he could hear the waver on her voice and see the dark circles underneath her eyes. He didn't know how long he'd been there, but it must have been at least a full twenty-four hours now.

She swallowed hard and sniffled before regaining her composure. Dan spoke again before she had the chance. "You've been crying. Why?"

A fire ignited in her eyes, and a blush appeared on her cheeks. "It's none of your concern, Phantom!"

"You're lying," he responded easily, the mask muffling and distorting his voice ever so slightly.

"What does it matter to you?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously, but her lips quivered with barely concealed emotion.

"Because everything I did, I did for you. Why do you think that is?" He held her gaze determinedly. "I stand by what I said the last time we were together."

Valerie swallowed thickly and turned away for a moment. There was a small snuffle, and she daintily wiped her nose. "I don't."

Dan felt his stomach drop into his knees as he flexed, straining his bonds. His eyebrows lowered over his crimson eyes. "Don't lie to me Valerie! You said you loved me!"

"I said I loved JAKE!" The fire returned to her body as she whipped around towards him, fists clenched and stance solid. "I think you'll find there is a huge difference between Dan Phantom and Jake Rainier!"

"HOW? Jake would not exist without me!"

There was a beat of tense silence between them before Valerie spoke once more.

"Everything would just be better if you died and stayed dead this time."

The conviction in her sentence severed through his entire being. Dan could feel the strength drain from his limbs. The wires chaining him in place groaned in relief as he fell limp into their support.

"Could you ever love me?"

"No."

"So, everything I did, everything I said, it all means nothing to you."

"A few good deeds don't absolve you of a lifetime of wickedness."

Dan flexed once again. "I don't care about absolution. I just want to know if you were ever happy with me, even if just for a moment."

Valerie hesitated ever so slightly for the ghost to raise his hopes. "No, never."

The Ravager of Worlds knew her answer to be a lie, but it was clear she would never admit to anything. She didn't want to be with him, that much was clear, and he no longer desired world dominion like he once did. The only purpose he had left in this world was Valerie, and she clearly did not want anything more to do with him.

"Then clearly I've lost. You win, Huntress, now do with me what you would do with any other ghost you captured."

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched her bring up a remote and with a finalized 'beep,' she pressed the button. Almost immediately, the pain of blood blossom gas filled his lungs, but he welcomed the pain. After all, it would be the last thing he ever felt.

How fitting.


 Dan flew through the remains of the city. Valerie would obviously be right in the thick of the fight, most likely fighting the Fright Knight himself. That would be good. Dan had a few bones to pick with the Halloween ghost, and not even Valerie would get in his way.

Skeletons and low-level minions roamed the streets terrorizing the citizens of Amity Park. Some of them had weapons to defend themselves but most did not. Struck with a new desire for altruism, Dan did them a favor and vaporised any undead pursuers of the public. Danny's statement about being good still echoing in his head. He smirked slightly—that damn kid.

The sound equivalent to a sonic boom echoed through the streets, a shockwave clearing away dust and shattering all the windows of several nearby skyscrapers to the calamity. Without a doubt, that would be Valerie. Without any hesitation, Dan made a beeline straight for the cause of the incident.

The first thing he noticed upon entering the scene was the giant crater that had been indented into the central plaza.

The second was that it was not a ghost in the crater. As Fright Knight floated above the center of the depression, he realized there could only be one person in that fissure.

Valerie.

"The era of Mortals has ended; the era of Ghosts has just begun." The Halloween ghost's words resonated with a dark promise.

Time seemed to slow for a moment as the purple ghost readied his broadsword which began to glow with an ethereal light. The flame-haired ghost knew he had only a few split seconds to act. For the second time in less than an hour, his body was moving before he could think as he bolted down towards the crater, his only instinct, to protect Valerie.

Dan dove forward. The Fright Knight plunged his sword downwards. Dirt exploded upwards several hundred feet from the force of impact obscuring everything in a shower of earth.


Yes another cliffhanger! No I'm not sorry! Thank you for reading! Please drop me a review if you'd like! I'd love to hear your thoughts!!