A/N: Doesn't anyone else find it weird that in TUE we don't know exactly what went down at the Nasty Burger for the Danny that became evil?
Between the Eye of the Flames
Valerie was at home flipping through television channels. It had been five days since the Nasty Burger incident as she sat alone in the living room of the small apartment she shared with her father. "Alright, sweetie, I'm off to work." Her father entered the room buttoning the last button to his uniform. He then kissed his daughter's forehead before heading out to start his night shift.
As soon as he was out the door Valerie turned off the television and picked up the newspaper that was sitting on the coffee table. On the first page was a picture of the people who were lost in the incident and its sole survivor, Danny Fenton. A tear slid down Valerie's face as she touched the picture of Tucker and Sam. Sure, they had their problems, but after losing her popularity, Valerie soon came to realize what friends were and so she liked to believe that she, Tucker, Sam, and Danny were in the beginning stages of forming a friendship.
"Danny," she whispered as she realized he was another issue all together. She knew he was in grieving, but he had been avoiding her for the last few days. She had tired to approach him after the funeral, to try to give him a small bit of comfort as she saw others doing, but when she had reached him, he turned his back on her and walked away. The empty look in his eyes before he did gave Valerie the chills because it was almost as if he was gone too.
As she continued to look over the paper she saw that there was an eye witness who saw the explosion from a distance. They claimed that they saw the ghost, known to them as 'Inviso Bill' leaving the scene. Valerie's hands slowly started to squeeze into a fist, crumpling the paper as she did so. It was that ghost's fault this happened, she knew it, and when she found him, she swore there would be hell to pay.
Suddenly, there came a knock at the door. Valerie looked at it strangely as she put down the paper. It's late, who could that be? She thought as she stood up and walked over to the door. "Danny," she said once again as she saw him standing in the hallway.
"Can- can I come in?" he asked quietly not making eye contact with her.
"Of course." She opened the door wide and allowed him inside.
"I'm sorry for coming over so late," he tried to explain. "It's just if I had to spend another night, in that house. . ." he trailed off, but he didn't have to finish for Valerie to understand. Sure, it was under a different circumstance, but she knew what it was like to wake up in the middle of the night, frighten, and only having yourself to comfort.
Her father was a very loving man that she could never deny; she knew she was her father's world. It had been that way since her mother died when she was a small child, but they were going through hard times and he was working hard even for the little that they had which often left her alone. In fact, if it wasn't for her ghost hunting, the one thing in her life that made her feel alive, she didn't know how she would deal.
"It's okay, Danny." She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Why don't you sit down?" she asked. "If you want I can fix you something to eat or something to drink-"
"Valerie, please." He pulled away from her. "I don't need you to treat me like I'm broken." He looked at her angrily. "I get that from everyone else in this town and I don't need nor want that from you."
"That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm only trying to be your friend," she said just as angrily.
Danny groaned as he put both hands to his face and slid them down. "You're right, I'm sorry. You're the last person I want to fight with."
Valerie smiled sadly as she watched him sit down. "How can you help it? It's what we do."
"More than you know," Danny said quietly to himself as Valerie sat down next to him.
"So what are you going to do now?" she asked him.
"It's amazing," he began, sitting on the edge of the couch and looking down at his laced finger. "Last week I was worried about my C.A.T.s. I was convinced that it was the most important thing in my life, at the moment, so when I was given the opportunity. . . I cheated," he confessed.
"You cheated?" She looked at him in surprise.
Danny nodded before continuing. "Lancer called my parents to the Nasty Burger to tell them that he suspected me of cheating on the test. If only I had remembered about the exploding sauce." He cringed. "What am I talking about? If only I hadn't cheated. If only I had stayed instead of going after that-" he stopped himself as he realized he almost gave the real reason he had survived that night.
He had sensed a ghost as Jazz was pulling up into the Nasty Burger parking lot with Sam and Tucker. His fight with the ghost had led them inside of the fast-food restaurant were one of his own stray shots changed everything he ever knew. Danny scoffed. "And here I thought some stupid test would determine my future." He took a long deep breath. "Now I don't even know if I'll be able to face it or if I can do it alone." He turned his head gradually towards Valerie. "Do you know what it's like to lose everything?" he asked her.
"Danny," she began softly as she rested her hand on his back. "I know that's how it feels, but know you still have me, and I'm not going anywhere."
He gave her a small smile as he straightened up and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. "Thank you. . . but I am."
As they pulled away, Valerie gave him a bewildered looked. "What do you mean?"
"I'm leaving Amity Park," he tried to explain. "It's just that everywhere I go, everywhere I turn, I expect to see them," tears threaten to fall, "and when I don't," he closed his eyes, "it's then that I realize I'll never see them again." His bottom lip began to quiver and the tears flowed down this face. "And my heart, it hurts so bad." Valerie then found herself drawling him back into her hold as he cried. "Make it go away, Val. Please, just make the pain go away." He clung onto her desperately, as if he dared to let go she would slip away and he would lose her too.
Valerie rested her chin on top of Danny's head as she stroked back his dark hair. "I don't know how, Danny," she whispered, but then suddenly, without warning, Danny's lips crushed against hers. Valerie's eyes were wide with shock as her heart began to pound within her chest. Then slowly her eyes fluttered closed as she began to kiss him back.
She had secretly been waiting for this moment. The moment when he would chose her over Sam. But as she kissed him, she realized there was no more Sam, and she was simply what was left over. She was being used. "Stop." She pushed him away. "Just because you weren't able to tell her how you obviously felt, doesn't mean you can use me as a replacement. I can't be Sam." She stood up to create some distance between them. She turned her back to him as she held herself and took a few steps away from him.
Danny stood up too and followed. "What?" He looked confused. "I know you're not Sam," he stated sadly. "No one can replace her, or Tucker, or my family." He turned her around and lifted her downward face. "You're Valerie Gray and no one in this world can replace you either."
"Then I don't understand what you want from me," she told him heatedly as she pushed his hand off of her.
He looked at her in disbelief. "I just want the only person left in my life, that I give a damn about, to understand!" he yelled in a angry tone he didn't really feel towards her. "My life, my entire life was gone the moment the dust settled and nothing will ever be the same for me!" he yelled. "And all I wanted was for you to-" he stopped as he saw the fear starting to invade Valerie's features.
Danny then took a staggered breath, in an attempt to try to calm himself. "All I wanted was to feel like there was still someone in this world who, at least, cared for me." He shrugged. "But we haven't known each other long and I guess that's asking too much of you." He took a step back. "I'm sorry. It's late and I shouldn't have come here." He turned around and started towards the door. "Good-bye, Valerie," he said softly.
As he started to turn the handle he felt Valerie take his hand. "Don't go," she said urgently. "Not yet." Danny slowly turned to her, but said nothing as he stared into the green eyes of the girl who was not only his friend, but unknowingly to her, one of his fiercest adversaries. The girl, who in the beginning, gave him nothing but headaches that lasted for days. A girl, who used to make him so angry, that she lit a fire within him and had him wanting nothing more than to destroy her where she stood.
But then there were moments like these, where she allowed him to see, what he hoped, was her true self. A kind and soft person who was capable of making him feel so calm, so at peace. Maybe I can trust her, he thought before asking, "Can you keep a secret?"
Valerie only looked at him as he walked around her and stood in the middle of the room. His eyes never left hers as they went from blue to green. Valerie's mouth fell open, unbelievingly shaking her head from side to side as she took in the full scope of what she was seeing. "No," she said softly, but then angrily, "no!"
"Valerie!" Danny shouted after her as she made a mad dash to her bedroom. He started to go after her, but came to a drastic halt as he found himself staring down the barrel of one of her ecto-ray guns.
"It's all your fault," she said to clench teeth. "It's your fault I'm living in this hell hole." She started walking forward which forced Danny to retreat. "It's your fault Sam and Tucker are dead!"
"Don't you think I know that!" he yelled back at her. "Don't you think I have to live with that" -he pounded his fist against his chest with a bruising force- "every. Single. Day! I never wanted any of this. Did you ever think of that? Huh?" He then just looked at her as if excepting her to answer. His face soon softened as he changed back into his human form. Sighing he lifted his arms in a surrender like gesture. "Don't you get it? I can no longer handle having to live this double life when it comes to you. You're my friend. I don't want to be your enemy anymore. I don't want to have to fight you. But if you feel, in any way, that I am still a threat to you, then do what you must."
Danny closed his eyes before he heard the sound of her gun charging. There was then a long silence before Valerie finally sighed and said, "Damn you, Ghost." She then lowered her weapon before it slipped from her fingers and fell harmlessly to the floor. Danny reopened his eyes. "Damn you, Fenton."
One side of Danny's mouth curled up into a smile as he reached for Valerie's hand. "You won't regret this," he told her. "Maybe now we can fight together instead of against each other."
"This better not be a trick," she told him with a look that Danny could, ironically, only describe as ethereal.
"It's not," he reassured her. He then lowered his head. "I should be going. I have a long trip in head of me tomorrow."
"Where are you going?" she asked him.
"Wisconsin," he answered.
"For how long?"
"Until I feel as if I can come back and not feel the pain of their lost," he told her, still holding her hand they headed towards the front door.
"If you ever feel it's too much, call me," she told him.
Danny nodded. "And if you ever need a hand handling any unruly ghosts. . . I'll be here at the drop of a dime."
"It's good to know someone has my back."
"Same here," he told her.
Then before he or Valerie knew it, they had the other in a warm embrace, both just desperately trying to hold on to a little bit of normalcy in a world where they had little. But little did they know that this night would be the first and last tender moments they would ever share. For neither knew what lay head, neither knew that a trust in its infancy would never have the chance to grow, and neither knew that sadly this was only the eye between the flames.