A/N: Since you asked for it, here it is: another chapter. Seriously though, I kind of wanted to write another chapter too. Because it just seemed mean to leave Danny alone in at the GIW agency.
My Judas- Pt. II
Valerie stood stock still in the sunlit kitchen, her mouth open in shock, ignoring the persistent whistling of the coffee maker. Her mind was replaying over again what the announcer on the telescreen had reported mere seconds ago: due to a new law, the GIW was being shut down and the infamous Danny Phantom was being released. Valerie's hands, clutching an empty ceramic mug, began to tremble. She hadn't seen Phantom...Danny...since that terrible day when she'd turned him over to the Guys in White. Ever since that cold December Wednesday seventeen years ago...
Fifteen-year-old Valerie Gray clutched the phone to her ear. She was tired—she hadn't slept a wink the night before, she had been so confused and unsure. Phantom had said he was Danny Fenton. He had to be lying...but what had he done to the real Danny? Was he possessing him? Val shuddered at the thought. Maybe she could help Danny by separating him from Phantom?...No, she had no clue how she would even begin that process. Should she tell Danny's parents? Did his parents already know? And what about Sam and Tucker?
With a muffled cry of frustration, Valerie burrowed her head under her pillow, pressing the soft fabric to her ears as is physically blocking out her thoughts. Her alarm clock stared at her, its digital face reading 1:10 a.m. Valerie bit her lip. She didn't know what to do! She recalled her threat to Phantom: I'll turn you over to the Guys in White! The answer clicked into place, and Val flung the pillow off her head and shot out of bed. She could call the Guys in White! They were experienced with ghosts, they could fix Danny! She smiled cheerily as she pressed the 'on' button on her computer so she could look up a number at which to call the GIW agency.
The agency opened at 5 a. m., and it was at that time exactly that a sleep-deprived Valerie called in to report Phantom had taken over the body of a teenager named Danny Fenton. The operative at the other end of the line didn't believe her at first; she had to describe exactly what Phantom had looked like, and how the white rings had turned him into the human Fenton. When she finally hung up, heart thudding in her throat, she had a powerful urge to call back and say No, it was a joke, of course Phantom hasn't taken over a human! But she wasn't brave enough to lift the phone more than an inch off the receiver. She set the phone back into its cradle and crawled into bed again, the full weight of a night of no sleep pressing down on her, and closed her eyes.
When she awoke at noon—apparently her father had decided to let her skip school for once—she went straight for the kitchen. Slathering cream cheese on a wheat bagel and listening some music playing softly on the radio, Valerie felt very content indeed. Danny was going to be saved and it was all because of her! Humming, she poured herself some orange juice. Just as she took the first swallow, the phone screamed shrilly. Valerie choked; coughing, she went over to the ringing phone and picked it up. "Hello?" she coughed.
"Oh, hi, Dad." There was a pause at the other end of the line, then her father said in a cautious voice "Have you heard the news?"
Her heart quickened. "No, what happened?"
"They caught Phantom, sweetheart—" Her father's voice seemed to fade away as Valerie remembered the expression on Phantom's face after he had morphed into Fenton. For some reason, Phantom getting caught seemed wrong. Yes, she had been the one to report him, but somehow it hadn't seemed real.
"Valerie? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, dad." Her voice sounded slightly unsteady, and she gripped the phone harder. "I...have to go."
But she'd already hung up the phone. For a minute she stood in the kitchen, staring blankly at her half-eaten breakfast and not feeling hungry at all as she imagined Danny being dragged to the GIW agency. She felt sick.
What had she done?
Thirty-two year old Valerie shrugged on a thin yellow jacket. It was autumn, and wind was chilly. She had called in sick to work; she really didn't feel like going to Axion today. She had other plans.
The newscaster had said that Phantom was staying with an old friend. That left Valerie two options: Tucker or Sam. And she was pretty sure it was Sam. So now she stood on the sidewalk in front of the Manson mansion, which Sam took care of because her parents were too old to do it themselves. The building loomed in front of her, looking sinister with half-dead trees and curtains drawn shut. Valerie shivered as a breeze swept frigidly past.
She had to do this. She knew that he knew that it was she who had turned him in. Even Sam and Tuck hadn't known that it was her fault.
Valerie gathered all her courage together and marched up to the front door. With one shaking hand, she knocked. After a few seconds, there was the thunder of combat boots clunking down stairs, and Valerie almost turned tail and ran away. Her stubbornness forced her to stay on the doorstep, and when Sam Manson inched open the door it was to see a very frightened-looking Valerie clutching her purse hard enough to leave little indents in the faux leather.
"Hi. Is Danny here?"
Sam stared, then opened the door wider and allowed Val to slip inside.
He looked different. It shouldn't have surprised her but it did. A part of her still expected to see young, cute, clumsy Danny Fenton. This Danny looked frail, with skin so pale it was teetering on the verge of translucent. His raven hair was messy and slightly long, and his clothes were obviously borrowed from Tucker. Valerie inwardly cringed. The accusation It's all your fault skittered across her brain, and she knew it was true.
His azure eyes landed on her, and she quickly looked down. She couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze. Her muscles were tense and her heart was pattering so hard that he could surely hear it from across the room. She stared resolutely at the floor, which consisted of a fluffy white carpet over shining hardwood floorboards.
Sam said, "You can sit down." Valerie hesitated. A quick glance to the side revealed that a chair was several steps away; they were in the living room and there was a table with chairs conveniently set up around it. She shuffled to the chair and obediently sat, still staring downward. The dark wood of the tabletop was polished so that it reflected the chandelier. Sam made a motion as if she too was going to sit, but Danny murmured something and Sam disappeared. From somewhere far down the hall another voice sounded. It sounded like Maddie Fenton.
"Uh..." She chanced a peek at Danny. He looked a little confused and surprised. "Hi." Great, Valerie. You get him locked up for seventeen years and all you can say is 'hi'? She blushed, embarrassed.
"Valerie." His acknowledgement was soft and gentle, which was surprising and unnerving. Shouldn't he be yelling at her by now, or kicking her out of Sam's house? He didn't add anything else, and it occurred to Valerie that he was simply waiting for her to say what she needed to say. He was not going to help her along.
"Um...I just wanted to say...I never meant for ..." She took a deep breath and stared hard at the tabletop. Danny waited patiently.
"I'm sorry." There. She'd said it. Her eyes burned. "I didn't mean for ...that to happen. I thought they would...I don't know...separate you and Phantom and let you go. And then...I guess our lives could go back to normal. Or as normal as our lives could get." She sighed and repeated "I don't know. I'm sorry."
He was quiet for a moment. She looked at him, her dark eyes lingering on his left arm, which was resting on the table. The bones of his wrist and knuckles were disturbingly visible, and Tucker's shirt hung loosely over the thin appendage. He said, "I'm sorry too, Val."
She tilted her head. "Sorry for what?"
He shrugged. "Sorry for not telling you before. Sorry that you didn't listen when I tried to explain." Coming from his mouth, it did not seem as if he were reproving her. It was a mere statement, nothing more.
"I was going to visit you," added Valerie, unsure of how to continue. "But I was too..." Scared. Ashamed. She didn't finish the sentence, but the look in his pure blue eyes said that he understood anyway.
A question started in Valerie's throat, but she bit her tongue. It was a question that she had wondered about ever since he was captured. Unable to contain herself, she blurted "What did they do to you?"
An unreadable expression darted across his thin face. His bony fingers drummed the tabletop thoughtfully. "They experimented on me. I mean, I was a valuable half-ghost, so they didn't treat me like yesterday's garbage." At first. "But I wasn't considered human either, so there were a lot of experiments." He stared distantly into nothing, then slowly continued, choosing his words carefully. "I can deal with physical pain. It was the mental stuff that got to me. The being kept prisoner and having the GIW control my life..."
He sounded so haunted and so old. Valerie twisted her fingers in her lap. "I'm so sorry, Danny." She really was sorry. Had been sorry the moment she heard that Phantom had been captured. For seventeen years she'd agonized over her foolish decision, had hated herself for what she'd done. She recalled what he'd looked like that first day at the GIW agency, when he was being led away, his wrists and ankles shackled. His young face had an odd slack quality to it, like he was drugged (which he probably had been), and he'd looked at her standing there behind his family. Even his eyes had looked perfectly vacant, devoid of anger or sorrow. It had chilled her to the bone, and deepened her regret. As he'd been led past, she had whispered I'm sorry. She had known he couldn't hear it, but there was a chance he would see it.
She could apologize ten million times and never make up for the pain she had caused him. She had basically cost him his life. And then there were the Fentons, and Sam and Tucker...she'd ruined their lives as well. They didn't know it was her fault. Only Danny did.
She had a lot of apologizing to do.
He asked about her life. What she had been doing all those years he'd been locked away. So she told him about college, about her father retiring and her taking over his job at Axion labs, about the guy she'd almost married before she decided she wasn't ready. Mostly she talked to either distract herself or to fill any awkward silences. And there were a lot of those silences. He laughed a fair few times at her stories; his laughter was a harsh barking sound, rusty from disuse and heavy with pain.
After a couple of hours she met with Maddie, Jack, and Jazz, who had all kindly given Val and Danny their privacy. She bade goodbye to them, Sam, and Tucker (who had just arrived half an hour ago with new clothes for Danny), and left the mansion, feeling a lot lighter than she had when she'd arrived.
Upon reaching the sidewalk, she realized with a jolt that Danny had never actually said that he'd forgiven her. He hadn't acted mad at her, and had accepted her numerous apologies, but that was it. She circled back toward the house, then changed her mind and turned away.
Perhaps Danny just wasn't ready to forgive her; it was understandable. She just had to give him some time, and there would definitely be plenty of time to make amends.
She had waited seventeen years for this. She could wait a little longer.