Well, this is it. The final chapter of "The Gloaming". I really enjoyed writing this story and I can only hope I could keep you entertained, at the very least :) Thank you so much for reading, reviewing, and/or adding this to your favorites. Very special thanks to Darth Frodo for being my beta for this chapter. Thanks again for all your support and everything.
So, yeah, I'll shut up now, heehee.
Epilogue: The Gloaming
This week will never end, will it?
Fridays shouldn't be this stressful or even tiring. Of course, trying to avoid someone all day while running on only two hours of sleep wouldtire anyone.
Sighing once again, I gather all the energy I can manage to deal with my most recent issue: staying awake during the rest of my English class, which is quite a task even on quiet days. Or should it be 'especially' on quiet days? Ugh, I can't even make sense.
Seriously, I wouldn't have bothered to come here half awake if it weren't for my already low grades. Besides, staying home would mean not having anything to use as a distraction from thinking about Danny and Vlad. Not that I can stop thinking about them while I'm in class anyway, but it's better than pacing around my room or watching lame TV shows to no avail.
I stifle a yawn as the lecture continues. I know I'm exhausted half of the time because of my nightly patrols, not to mention the attacks I have to stop every other morning before school, but right now that's not why I'm tired. It has more to do with the fact that I had a severe case of insomnia after a nightmare woke me up, which made me spend the rest of the night trying to get some sleep.
At first it was like any other dream; I don't even remember what it was about exactly, I just know it was nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe I was just in the middle of class or fighting ghosts at school, since most of my nightmares begin like that. Heck, school is a nightmare in itself. Anyway, it's still fuzzy, but the thing is I ended up chasing a ghost outside of Casper High somehow. I chase about two ghosts a day so, like I said, nothing special.
But then… Danny showed up. He was injured in his Phantom form and asked for my help, but I was too mad at him to even pay attention. Though that part is also kinda hazy, I know he was trying to explain himself, but I didn't listen. I didn't want to listen. I remember it felt like everything he said was just a lie, a way to get my sympathy. So I just grabbed a gun, pointed it at his chest, and fired.
I don't know what happened first: if he changed back to human or if the shot he received made him do it. All I know is he had such a look of pure terror on his face that I can't even get it out of my head. He fell limp to the ground and didn't move. His blood --red blood— just poured out of his chest and flooded the sidewalk until it reached my feet. I felt myself sinking, all while knowing I made a huge mistake. I was drowning in innocent blood.
That's when I woke up shaking and almost crying.
I couldn't believe I had simply killed Danny in my nightmare.
Even if he is in part the same enemy I used to hate for all these months, he's still part human which means he's still a living being. I can getserious about kicking a ghost's butt or even blasting it to ectoplasmic smears, but I will never be a murderer. Never.
Maybe I just needed to be reminded of that. That I'm supposed to be protecting people, but killing will never be part of the means to justify the end I'm fighting for. Knowing that I haven't lost sight of my purpose helps to put part of my mind at ease. Maybe it's a start.
Of course, dad didn't seem as certain a couple of hours later while we were having breakfast…
"I really don't know if it's safe for you to go to school if Danny really is the ghost kid, Valerie," he said. I was taken aback by his concern, but since he knew my history with "Phantom", he was well aware of what he was capable of doing.
"Danny doesn't even know I know his secret, dad. Besides, I still don't know what to think about him," I replied honestly up to that point. "With Vlad up to something, Danny will be probably too busy to even pay attention to me, so I know he won't try to hurt me," And that's my hopeful guess.
But apparently dad wasn't satisfied with the answer… "And what if you're wrong? What if—"
"Look, dad," I interrupted before he could add to my own insecurity. "Danny hasn't hurt me before at school and he doesn't have a reason to start now. I know how to protect myself in case anything happens and I'll figure how to deal with his Phantom half when the time comes, all right? I just… can't stop living my life because of what happened."
I can't stop moving because of them. I can't become a scared little puppy hiding even from potential enemies. I'm a fighter and a survivor so I have to go on with my life and try to make the best of it, even in the middle of this madness. If not, if by any circumstance I decide to stop and give it all up, I would be giving Vlad the satisfaction of seeing me defeated.
With the furrowed brows and concerned frown, I could tell Dad still wasn't entirely sure to let me go to school, but I think I was able to get my point across. "Well, Val, you know don't have to go to school today if you're not feeling well, and it could help if we used that time to talk about what happened. But you're right. Just be careful."
Thankfully, I also convinced him to let me explain this afternoon once he gets home from work. I still don't know how much I want to tell him about what happened yesterday or the information I found about Vlad, so at least now I'll have enough time to decide.
But, first, I have to think of how the heck I'm going to deal with Danny, other than what I've been doing thus far.
In all honesty, I've been kinda avoiding him all morning. Well, okay, not kinda. I have tried hard all day to stay away from him, even during lunch, but I don't know how long I can keep up with this. I mean… we've been in the same class at least twice today, including this one. I've still managed to block any chance he might get to talk to me, even through notes. For this class, I just told Mr. Lancer I was feeling dizzy and asked him to let me sit closer to the window, so I'm not sitting near Danny anymore.
Still, I know I can't avoid him forever, that I'll have to face him sooner or later. I just wish I had a clue of what to do when that time finally comes.
As Lancer continues with his lecture, I try to look at Danny discreetly. It's just so… surreal. If anyone looked at him right now, it would be very hard to believe that a powerful ghost like Phantom is in reality the shy and clumsy Fenton.
He's sitting three rows away from me: far enough to avoid a conversation but close enough to keep an eye on him. Usually he's asleep by now, but I guess he's a bit edgy after yesterday. I notice he's shifting on his seat every now and then, and I even caught him glancing in my direction several times. Either he saw a ghost outside or I'm the one who's making him a bit nervous, which is more likely.
After everything he told me yesterday, at the very least he knows I know he's connected to Phantom. With that in mind, he probably doesn't know how to talk to me either, which actually makes things a bit easier. I don't want to jinx it, but maybe I'm finally starting to catch a break.
Still, is that how things will be between us from now on? Full of awkward moments, lies, and mistrust? 'Cause, as long as anyone doesn't do something drastic,we're still going keep attending the same school and most of the same classes.
I just wish there was some way I could trust him again, believe in him, but I don't think I ever will. I know I was willing to give Phantom a chance before; now, I'm not sure.
"… Then let me find another way to prove I'm a good guy."
But what if--
The bell startles me when it rings. Everyone begins to stand up as Mr. Lancer reminds all of us of our homework for Monday. Danny turns to see me and notices I'm looking in his direction, but I avoid his gaze immediately. With my mind being a total mess, I rush to stand up and head for the exit, not wanting to stay in the room any longer.
I really thought I was ready to deal with Danny today, but I can't even decide what to think about him: if he's either just messing around and playing games with me, or if he's really just trying to be some sort of hero.
He's still part ghost, which means his ghost side can't be completely good, right? So, what if I end up giving him a chance but I can't get rid of the constant fear that he might turn evil?
"Valerie, wait!" Danny's voice freezes me on the spot.
Why am I stopping? I could pretend I didn't hear him and just head back home. Or I could just tell him I need to go and that I can't talk right now, let him think whatever the heck he wants. At least that should give me some time.
But what if that time is now? When will I know for sure?
I hear Danny's nearing footsteps as he runs in my direction and I can't help but turn around. I see Sam and Tucker coming out of our same classroom at the end of the hall, but they head in a different direction. Not without Sam glaring at me before they leave, of course. Danny probably told them what happened and she must be blaming me for everything.
At least it's a good thing I finally know why Sam and Tucker don't really like me.
Fenton stops right in front of me. The sheepish smile he was wearing suddenly changes into a concerned frown. "Are you all right? You look like you didn't get any sleep."
Why does he even care? "I'm… fine," I reply shortly. "You needed something?"
He nervously rubs the back of his neck, something I used to find cute before. Sadly, I'm not sure if I still do. "Uh, y-yeah. Ah, look, about yesterday…"
My eyes slightly widen in surprise as I realize he might want to explain or come clean about what happened yesterday. I thought he wouldn't be ready to talk to me about it. Heck, I'm not sure I'm ready. And, knowing Danny as I do now, he'll probably just tell me another half-truth. No, now's not the time. I don't need to hear this. What I need is to think things through.
I start to tense while he hesitates with whatever he's trying to tell me. "Val, I-"
"Wait," I interrupt before he can say anything else. "Danny… I…" C'mon, say anything, Valerie. "I… shouldn't have called you yesterday," I suddenly blurt.
No. I did not just panic.
Danny gives me a confused look and just blinks. "What?"
I glance at the lockers to my left as I try to think of what to say next. "I… I called you home and even had to call Tucker because I was looking for you. I really needed to see you," I lamely explain, not wanting to get any closer to the truth. "But it was probably a bad idea, anyway."
"Oh," Danny seems to deflate slightly; I don't know if it's because I cut him short or because I basically said that seeing him would be a bad idea. He tries not to meet my gaze as he nervously shifts on his feet. "So, uh, what made you change your mind?"
I pause for a moment to try to look into his eyes. I start looking for the Phantom beneath them, but it's too hard to find him. His intense green eyes are just too different from his now calm, baby blue gaze.
Or maybe that's only what I still want to believe.
"Things got… complicated, yesterday," I reply softly, no longer caring if I sound either vague or straightforward. "And it made me realize that there's still a lot to figure out before I decide anything."
If I let him go, I don't know if I'll be getting rid of an enemy or if I'll really be losing a friend. I don't want my nightmare to come true but I still need to be cautious.
So, what if we let things stay as they are between us? Maybe if I play it dumb with him for a while, I'll have enough time to make up my mind. If he's not aware of what I know, I'll even be able to really watch him closely as Fenton and see what kind of guy he really is. They say knowledge is power; learning more about Danny will probably give me the power to make my decision.
In fact, I could even try offering a truce to get closer to "Phantom", to see if he's up to something or if he's really the good guy he's claiming to be…
"He already has to deal with ghosts all the time, so maybe he likes having that tiny bit of normalcy left with you, even if it gets awkward for him at times."
…And, if he is the hero everyone thinks he is, maybe this can help us keep that "tiny bit of normalcy" for a little longer. At least until he's really ready to confess about his not-so-secret identity. Maybe one day I'll talk openly to him about mine.
"Do you… want to talk about it?" Danny tentatively asks, though I'm sure he already expects 'no' for an answer.
I shake my head in response, all while I hope I'm making the right choice. "I just need time."
He gives me another worried frown and studies me briefly with his gaze. "Well, I—" Whatever he wanted to say is cut short by a sharp gasp, caused by a blue mist coming out of his month: his ghost sense. How didn't I notice these things before? His eyes widen and I pretend to be looking at my watch when he looks back at me. "I… gotta go, but I'll see you later, okay?"
"Sure, later" I mumble my reply. He gives me one last look and smiles weakly before he runs outside. The ghost alarm in my watch suddenly starts beeping.
The goodbye would probably have been less rushed, but he already knows he'll see me during the battle.
This is not the kind of battle I want to get involved in.
I shake my head in disbelief as I silently look at the "attack" from a nearby roof. Yeah, that's a bit more like the goofy Fenton I know. On the bright side, maybe I can use this chance to start that "truce" with Phantom.
"When I said 'first thing this weekend', I didn't mean it this literally!" the struggling ghost kid yells to his foe; or friend, really. There's no telling these days…
I can't hide a smirk when his defense falters and he ends up wrapped in another one of Klemper's hugs. "You said you'd be my friend!"
As much as I'd love to kick that annoying ghost's butt after that humiliating battle yesterday, Danny could still use a little "harmless" torture.
"Gah!" he yells as he tries to break the tight embrace. As if struck by inspiration, he suddenly stops and smiles slyly. "Say, Klemper… wanna play hide-and-seek?"
The ghost's face suddenly brightens and he fervently nods. "I love playing games!"
"Ah, that's… good," Danny replies. "So, uh, why don't you go hide somewhere, with no humans around, while I count up to… a thousand?"
"Okay!" And with that, Klemper goes flying back to Casper High. As soon as he's out of sight, Danny sighs in relief.
Noticing the end of the "fight", I decide to act now. "He better not do any damage, Phantom," I yell at him as I fly in his direction, ectogun in hand, just in case. I really don't want to take any chances.
Danny flinches and turns around to see me. He begins to charge a small shield, obviously expecting a blast, but stops once he realizes I'm not going to fire. "Wait, why aren't you attacking me?" he asks in confusion.
"I just want to talk," I explain shortly.
He studies me for a moment and keeps his hands raised in protection. "Nice way of asking," he says while staring at my gun.
I roll my eyes at his dry tone and sigh tiredly. "I thought about what you said yesterday and…" And what? I have thought about what he said but I can't make up my mind. I think having an ectogun pointing at him proves that. But I have to stick to what I planned to do... "I want to make a truce with you."
Danny just stares in complete disbelief. "What?"
"Look, Vlad is obviously up to something, so teaming up would probably help to figure out what his next move is," I answer simply, lowering my gun but not putting it away.
His face becomes a bit somber at the mention of Vlad's name but it soon fades. "To be honest," he uneasily begins as he rubs the back of his neck, which only helps to remind me he really is Danny Fenton behind that ghostly appearance, "I was kinda going to keep an invisible eye on you in case he tried to hurt you, but now we can work on a better plan than that and without having to work behind your back, right?" He chuckles briefly but there's not much humor in his voice. He then lowers his gaze and gets more serious. "Maybe you don't want to believe it, but I do worry about your safety."
I'm taken aback by his comment and I look at him curiously through my mask. I don't know if that's the truth or not, but it's hard not to believe him when he gets that serious. "I'm still going to keep my eyes on you, spook. If you mess up just once or do anything funny, you're in for it."
I click on my jetsled and prepare to leave when Danny's voice stops me again. "Val, wait." I turn to face him as he floats closer to me. "I know it doesn't make a difference, but I'm so—"
"Don't." I give him a hard look and he stops. "Don't tell me you're sorry. If you want me to trust you, just prove you can be trusted."
Danny nods solemnly and I prepare to take off again. "And don't forget to look for your pal!" I yell as I fly away from him. With one last glance in his direction, I see him slapping his forehead and then flying back to Casper High.
I want to think it's for the best. I'll keep an eye on both sides of Danny and maybe, just maybe, I can find a way to make sure he really doesn't become evil. It's so weird how things have turned out to be like this, with so many complications, secrets, and half-truths.
I know things will never be the same.
I'll never have my mentor again, now that I know he's some manipulative, evil jerk. He only misguided me and used me for his own benefit. Now, instead of being protected under his wing, I'll probably be a constant target just like so many other obstacles in his life have been.
I also know I'll never have my best friend back. I can try giving him as many chances as I want, but I know I'll never be able to trust him like I did before this mess started.
Still, Mom once told me that if I cried because the sun has gone, my tears would prevent me from watching the stars. So, even if things look uncertain or just in plain state of decline, that doesn't mean I have to throw it all to waste and give up.It just means I have to keep fighting for something different. I guess all it takes is just being more willing to change.
Well, I did promise Danny I would keep an open mind, right? Out of all the promises that have been made between us so far, I guess this is one worth keeping despite who or what Danny is.
Funny… for the first time today, I'm beginning to feel like things might actually work out, somehow. It just depends on how I look at it. After all, every time darkness falls, the light eventually rises.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
The story isn't over over. There are two planned sequels coming after this. The first one is titled "The Dawning" and the first chapter is already up. I don't know how often I'll be able to update since I'll be leaving town for five months. Anyway...
Prologue: Beginning – sequel to this story, in which Danny continues narrating where Valerie left off.
If you wish to continue reading, check the story in my profile.
Thanks again so much for reading and bearing with me and my lousy schedule. I hope you enjoy the rest in case you decide to continue reading. Thank you!
(Takes a deep breath)
00-Nothing, AirGirl Phantom, Aki-sama, Alchemist Astrid, 'ali - boo - bah', Alithia, Almaseti, Anasumi, Angel Frog, AnimeBando33, AnitalavalatinA, Anne Camp aka Obi-quiet, Arihx, Asilla, Augee, Azure Inu, BratCat, buggirl101, Bunny Bubble, CalicoKitty13, Celestial Moonshine, chaotic.calm, Chocolatecoatedchibi, chocolate-Monster, Clones-for-Breakfast, conan98002, Crossover Fiend, Crowesama, Dani-Colephin, DanPhantom, Dark Dagzar, DarkKitsuneYoka, dArkliTe-sPirit, Darth Frodo, Dawn Gray, deanine, December'sRose, definenormalAB, Delia Ra'Nar, Diamond Gryphon, Diamond Raider, Digi-Dolphin, DiscordianSamba, DP fan, dPhantoMfreak, DP-shrine-in-closet-girl, Dragon of Dispair, dragon-game, Dream's Abyss, Dyslexic Angel, Ed Chandor, em, Ember518, emotigone crazy, Esme Kali Phantom, Evolved, Fan-Fic-CC27, fan-girls2.0, FantomoDrako and Linda, firewolfalpha, ghostanimal, gjcoolio, Griffinkhan, Gwynevere, Halfa-NariMaruko, Harm Marie, Hiei's Cute Girl, hollybells1, horselova32312, Hu Edith, hydraling110, i AM the Random Idiot, iluvlucy7, InuPhantom, Invader Johnny, irksome one, Isadora The Great, Jesape, jjeeff185, Kage Jaganshi, Kahlii, kaiyotes, Karen Rosalie, Kassi, Kat, kawaii chibi shun, Kenna, KieiNeko, Kitty Kyinsky, Kkwy, Koros89, lady booklover, Lainblueraven, Laryna6, Lask, Laughing Hyena, leadfoot352, Leppers, Lexi Ludd, Lightning Streak, Lilios, LokiWaterDraca, lunarwolfdragon, Lyoko Guardian, magpie8spook, Me-against-the-world, MidnightAbyss, Miss Selarne, MissMeliss4251, Mizuki hikari, Moosanana, Morgruth, mushroomcloudslooklikebroccoli, My Eternal Façade, Nassa, necromancer king, Nic the Nefarious, Ninjamuffin13, none, oblivionknight7, Ohka Breynekai, optimustaud, Paparazzi, Phantom2B, PhantomCrazed, PhantomKat7, phantomshadowdragon, PhantomShadowKat, Possesed Angel, ProphecyProtector, Pterodactyl, purpledog100, readysetmo, Ryo Hoshi, Sasia93, sesshyluver, Shadewolf7, sharpwind, Siberian Husky, silvermoonphantom, Snickerer, Songbird21, Soulcat56, Sparky the Wonder Weasel, spectora, Sqweakie the Wonder Mouse, Starshinesoldier, strawberrypockywolf, Sunshine, Silverjojo, Swiftrivers, tag.0, TaylorTheWeird, TexasDreamer01, The Alchemist's Muse, The Bushranger, Umbrus-Sama, ur1crazedupfruitloop, uula, Warrior of winds, Weary-Traveler, whirlgirl, WingsOfMorphius, WolfDaughter, Writer's-BlockDP, xheartkreuzx, yami4eva91, Zarz, Zilleniose, zizzy333, Zuzanny and all the anonymous readers out there as well as anyone else I might be missing, heh.