First Danny Phantom fanfiction, and actually the first time I've put my own hands back in the 'fic-writing biz for a couple years. Hopefully this turned out alright; it was really just a silly idea I got all of a sudden and then just went with it. I'm honestly surprised I finished it; that hasn't happened for a while, with anything I've written. Anyway, enjoy.

Oh, and, of course, I don't own Danny Phantom. Never have, never will, and frankly don't want to. There's my disclaimer, and I'm sticking to it.

Valerie felt strange, watching the ghost girl fly away. The relation between her and Phantom was obvious, and obviously very close. The ghost boy, himself, was smiling broadly, clearly relieved that his cousin was alright.

Again, for she didn't know what time that night, she wondered. Ghosts could have cousins?

Now that Dani was out of sight, Phantom turned to her, and held out his hands. "What's that for?" Valerie asked him, having been distracted by her thoughts.

"Deal's a deal," Phantom said. There was just a hint of nervousness in his voice, but a glance to the sky, the way Dani had gone, erased it from his face. "You helped me save Dani, you can now have me back as your captive."

Valerie frowned. She had honestly forgotten about their arrangement, and taking in the ghost boy didn't feel right, not after everything that had happened. Seeing him with his cousin had shown her a side she had never realized he could have. Phantom had been desperate to save Dani, and the relief he was feeling now was palpable. It didn't fit with the image she had constructed around him, of the evil ghost boy that terrorized the town. Nothing he had done this whole night had matched that idea, and Valerie had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't just because of his cousin.

Which brought to mind the question she had before. Could ghosts even have families? And why would Phantom, who had ruined her life, even care for one?

She sighed, putting a hand to her head. No, it didn't feel right. But she wanted answers, and right now, she had a willing ghost to give them to her. "Alright." She pulled out the thin restraining device, and soon pink ecto-energy had tied Phantom's hands together. A thin line of the energy connected the cuffs to the rod in her hands, and she flew her jet-sled towards the warehouse she had held at Phantom before.

Phantom was quiet the whole way, which she hadn't expected. He trailed behind her, keeping pace and not even forcing the restraints. Dani had struggled against the bonds a lot at first, so Valerie knew they would hold, but it was strange for Phantom to not even try. Stranger was that he didn't speak, given how she was so used to him joking around during their fights. It made her uneasy, to say the least.

Reaching their destination, Valerie's jet sled disappeared, compacting into the bottoms of her boots. The line from the rod cut, leaving the bonds in place around Phantom's wrists.

Phantom settled on the ground, the wispy tail she was used to seeing as he flew shifting into a pair of legs. He walked towards the larger restraining device, the one he had been trapped in earlier.

"Don't bother," Valerie told him. He glanced at her, glowing green eyes surprised. "Like this is fine. Since I know you won't run away now," she clarified. She didn't add that the idea of stringing him out like that made her uncomfortable, after seeing him act so... human.

Phantom shrugged, wary. "You're the boss." He sat on one of the crates, eyes drifting over the space. He fidgeted nervously, and Valerie wondered if he almost would have preferred being in the same restraints as before, just because it was what he had expected. "So... what do you want to know?"

Valerie glanced at the files spread on the desk next to her. There were lists of questions she had compiled, waiting for Phantom to wake up. They dealt with the ghosts that most frequently showed up in Amity, along with some questions about ghosts in general.

But right now, that didn't seem important. The ghost hunter was plagued with other questions, ones that had started gnawing at her mind during the trip back here. Unsure of how to order them, she decided to start with the one that had set them off.

"Can ghosts even have families?"

Phantom flinched, clearly not expecting that. "Ah, well, you see...." He glanced around the room, eyes finally settling on the ceiling as he cleared his throat. "Well, ghosts were alive once, you know, and...."

"So she was your cousin when you were alive?"

"She is my cousin," Phantom said firmly, green eyes flashing. The glow faded as he looked away, determination sliding into confused consideration. "I mean...." He sighed. "Dani is... important to me." He looked up, meeting Valerie's eyes again. "It's a weird situation, and I can't really explain it."

"Does it have anything to do with her being a human and a ghost?" Valerie's hands were on her hips, a small frown on her face as she watched the ghost boy.

Phantom winced. "Yeah, that's the big part of it."

Valerie's frown deepened. "How does something like that even happen?"

Phantom was looking at the ground now. "It's... complicated." He glanced at the case of anti-ghost equipment Valerie had threatened him with before. "Anyway, I thought you wanted to know about ghosts. Why are you asking about Dani?"

Valerie sighed. Reaching over, she shut the case. Phantom seemed to be responding better to simple questioning than he had to threats, and having them ready wouldn't exactly make it easy to believe that she wouldn't use them. Besides, her suit was more than equipped, if it came to that. "She's part ghost, right? That means I can ask."

Phantom shook his head. "She's human. I thought we went over this already."

"Fine, then, ghost boy." Valerie leaned against the desk, crossing her arms. "Tell me about you."

Phantom definitely looked uncomfortable. "What's to tell?" he asked, forcing a light tone.

"Well, for starters, why you'd care so much about a human girl you'd give up your freedom just to save her."

"I think I hear a broken record," Phantom muttered. "She's family. Why wouldn't I help her?"

Valerie was taken aback by the honesty in Phantom's voice. Just a simple confusion as to why anyone needed an answer to something like that. For that to be a self-evident truth to the ghost boy, of all people....

"But she's clearly not just human. Why can she turn into a ghost?"

Phantom shrugged, looking off to the side with strained nonchalance. "You know, I thought this was going to be a simple Q and A session. You ask about Skulker, I tell you about the purple-backed gorilla thing. You ask about Technus, I make a joke about his long-winded speeches. We both laugh about the Box Ghost and go 'beware!' It's a beautiful bonding experience with the threat of me getting shocked by your anti-ghost gizmos only semi-immanent." He arched an eyebrow. "Can't we do that instead? What's with you obsessing over my family?"

"That's just it!" Valerie stood up straight, throwing her hands up. "Ghosts aren't supposed to have families! But here you are, with a cousin that looks exactly like you, except apparently she's actually human and just 'turns into a ghost' sometimes!"

Phantom bit his lip, clearly reconsidering letting himself be taken in. "The thing with Dani... It's really not that easy to explain, you know? And there's a lot of it I just can't tell you. Can't we just say she's my cousin and leave it?"

"Listen, ghost boy." Valerie could feel the anger creeping into her voice, her enmity towards him resurfacing. "I told you before, I need to know about the ghosts. Just because your cousin isn't a threat, it doesn't mean there aren't more like her that are. If there are part-ghosts that can go around like humans, I need to know so I can stop them."

Phantom glared. "Well, you don't need to worry about that! There's only three halfas in the world, and she –" He cut off abruptly, horrified.

"Halfa?" Valerie repeated. "Half a what? Ghost?" Her eyes widened. "That's what Dani is, isn't it? Half ghost, half human." The ghost boy wasn't meeting her eyes. His hands had tightened to fists, pulling slightly on the cuffs. "How did that happen? Why Dani?"

"Because of me!" Phantom snapped, green eyes sparking with anger. He was standing up now, fists clenched in front of him. The pink ecto-energy bonds pulsed, refusing to release him. "It's my fault, alright? Happy now?"

Before Valerie could retort, the anger left Phantom's eyes, replaced with concern. Groaning, he raised his hands over his face, sitting back down as his fingers raked back into his hair. "Can't we do plan B? You know, the one with jokes?" The slight whine couldn't fully hide the underlying panic.

Valerie didn't answer. She studied the ghost boy, taking everything in. The messy white hair, still slightly windswept from the flight. The faint glow that always surrounded him. The tears and scorch marks from the battle earlier, mostly hidden by the black of his jumpsuit. There was a slump to his shoulders Valerie wasn't used to, and didn't like. The ghost boy looked... defeated, somehow. And she didn't think it had anything to do with being her captive.

"She really is important to you, huh."

Phantom chuckled, though it was without humor or warmth. "Well, duh."

Valerie touched a hand to her chin, thinking. She wasn't used to seeing the ghost boy get this worked up. Earlier, it had been that desperation that had convinced her to help Phantom save Dani. Now, the ghost's protectiveness for the girl was coming up again, making him just as desperate.

"How did Dani become a 'halfa?'" Valerie asked quietly. "And why does her ghost form look like you?" When Phantom didn't answer, she crossed her arms. "I'm asking nicely here, ghost boy," she said, adding a drip of anger to her tone.

Phantom put his hands in his lap, but didn't look up. "You remember Vlad?"

"Masters or Plasmius?" Valerie's tone was warning, but the ghost boy didn't seem to pick up on it.

"Both." She uncrossed her arms, mouth open to argue, but he went on, not even noticing. "I don't really care if you believe me, but they're the same person. Vlad's a halfa, too." He paused now, thinking, though he still didn't look up. Deciding that it was better that he was finally talking, Valerie just crossed her arms again, leaning against the desk as she waited.

"A little while ago, Vlad decided he wanted an heir. Another halfa, like him. But halfas aren't really common, so he decided he'd have to make one." The boy hesitated again, his fingers twisting together in his lap. "For that, he'd need human and ghost DNA. Or an cto-imprint, whatever you want to call it. I'm pretty powerful for a ghost, so he wanted to use me."

"So that explains why her ghost form looks like you," Valerie said, considering the information and letting the boy know she was paying attention. "But couldn't he have just turned you into a halfa?"

Phantom shook his head emphatically. "I'd never work for him." He paused again, clearing his thoughts with another shake. "And anyway, it doesn't work like that. Ghosts are dead, they can't come back. Even if you give them a body, all they can do is overshadow it. A halfa is still alive. So you need to be a human to turn into a halfa."

"So that's why he needed Dani. But why did he choose her?" Valerie frowned, remembering how scared Dani had been of going to Vlad. "If he wanted an heir, like you say, wouldn't he have picked someone that wanted the job?"

Phantom cringed. "Because of me. Since he was using my ghost DNA... he needed my human DNA, too."

"So... he used your cousin?" The ghost didn't respond, his fingers twisting together tighter. "What about her parents? The rest of her family? Didn't they notice her disappearance?"

Phantom shook his head. "Dani's alone. I'm all she's got." He grimaced. "And Vlad 'made' her, so technically he counts, too. Not for much, though."

"And you just let her go?" Valerie asked, disbelief creeping into her voice. "A kid like that, and you're letting her wander around by herself?"

"What do you want me to do?" Phantom asked, holding his hands up. "I can't exactly take her home, after all. And you've seen her; she's smart and can take care of herself. The ghost powers help her with that." He chuckled. "Sometimes I think she's better off than I am. At least she doesn't have people shooting at her." The wistful tone made Valerie wince. Not only that, Phantom clearly wasn't jealous of his cousin; he was genuinely proud and happy for her. For the ghost boy to have that kind of connection with anyone, regardless of family, was throwing her for a loop for the umpteenth time tonight.

Valerie sighed. "Fine. I won't ask anymore about Dani." Phantom looked up, eyes bright as he smiled. "But I still don't believe you about Mr. Masters." The glowing green dimmed a little.

"So... who's the third halfa?" Valerie felt a little smile tug at the corners of her mouth as Phantom blanched, mouth hanging open.

"Ah, well, you see...." His eyes roamed the empty warehouse, though for what, Valerie couldn't tell. "I, uh, he... that is...."

Valerie grinned, crossing one ankle over the other as she watched Phantom verbally stumble. Despite what some might think, the hunter wasn't stupid, and she was far from unobservant. The physical similarity of the two Phantoms' ghost forms had triggered the idea of another that had long gnawed at the back of her mind. Blue eyes and black hair of the girl, coupled with the shared mannerisms the elder Phantom had with a certain local boy, had pointed to, in retrospect, an obvious truth. The new information about "halfas" had been the final piece of the puzzle, the one that had otherwise left it an impossibility, allowing Valerie Gray to finally figure out the biggest mystery of Amity Park. She might not know the whole of the situation right now, but she didn't need to; even without proof, she was sure she was right, and she was satisfied with what she had for now. Patience was a virtue, and for a hunter doubly so. The rest would come in time, if she let it. She didn't come forward with this revelation, however, due to a small, vindictive part of her that wanted to rake Danny over the coals just a little longer for all he'd put her through.

"Take your time, ghost boy. I've got aaall night."