A/N: This story takes place immediately after D-Stabilized (which I imagine can be guessed from the summary) and, to be safe, disregards Phantom Planet. If I'm going to pretend it has any relation to Connections and Confessions, then this story occurs first. Standard disclaimers apply.
Vlad Masters was Vlad Plasmius. Vlad Masters was Vlad Plasmius. Masters was Plasmius.
Valerie still couldn't believe it, and she'd seen it with her own eyes.
She'd been hired to hunt ghosts by a ghost! Or a…part ghost or whatever. How the heck was that even possible, anyway? And it couldn't be wholly unique, either, since Vlad and Dani Phantom both had the same…condition.
Oh, God, how many other ghosts were hiding out as humans?
What had ever possessed her to let Danny Phantom go? A brief bout of generosity, she supposed, and she wouldn't have found out about Vlad if she hadn't, but to think…. She could've had all the answers she wanted. He knew about Dani, since she was his cousin, and he'd known about Vlad. He'd know if there were others.
She still wanted to know about everything else, of course, but the fact that some ghosts were both human and ghost was definitely right at the top of her list.
This time yesterday, she'd vowed to get Vlad back. To hunt him, because now she knew he was a ghost, too, and she knew he'd been using her. But for some irritating reason, she couldn't forget what Danny Phantom had said to her when he'd pleaded with her to help him save Danielle. Could she really destroy another human? That was murder.
She…she couldn't…. Not humans. Ghosts, yes. But humans? Even part ghost humans? Where was she supposed to draw the line? Phantom was probably right. If the ghost part was destroyed, the human part would be, too. He ought to know, being a ghost. He probably knew all about it. They all probably did.
She needed information, and she was darn well going to get it. Being stubborn had its advantages. And since Phantom seemed to be such a wealth of information, well, she was definitely going to get some answers out of him. She'd warned him that the hunt would be back on. And, especially since it was the weekend, it would be. Her dad had the weekend shift, so he wouldn't even know. She had as long as she needed.
Besides, she'd caught the ghost boy before. She could catch him again. She just needed the right bait.
Or maybe…. Maybe she should try a bit of a different tactic. Phantom wasn't stupid, but he was gullible. She could use that against him. Besides, he knew she was the Red Huntress and, aside from revealing her to her dad, had kept her secret. Maybe if she tried to talk to him as Valerie rather than as the Red Huntress, he'd let his guard down.
For all that he'd have it up after she'd warned him that she wouldn't stop hunting him, he'd trusted her enough to help him rescue Dani. And she had helped him. And he'd even been willing to turn himself in afterwards, been willing to keep his part of the deal. She'd let him go free in a moment of soft-heartedness, but if she played her cards right, she might be able to get him to think that she was changing.
Dani had fallen for it, but Phantom had probably been around for longer, or at least around her for longer. But if she didn't shoot him the next time she saw him, if she didn't appear to actively try to capture him or destroy him, maybe he'd walk into her trap. Fly into her trap. Whatever.
Ghosts didn't have emotions, not really. They only had impressions of emotions. She knew that. But Phantom had a certain…fondness for Dani, and he definitely hated Vlad. And even if the rest of the supposed emotions he displayed were false, she could still use them to her advantage. He certainly seemed to believe they were real, even if they weren't.
Valerie smiled. This might just work. Of course, Phantom probably wouldn't hesitate to try to blast her to bits the moment she activated her suit, so she'd have to carry a few small things, like an ectogun and handcuffs, with her in a bag that she could whip out when necessary. She could surely manage one ghost fight without her suit if she didn't intend to do much actual fighting. After all, Phantom would be far more likely to fall for her act if she determinedly didn't fight him. He'd have to notice if he knew she'd spotted him but made no move to go after him, and he seemed to be the type who'd have to actually stop and ask why.
The smile on her face turned into a smirk. Sometimes, ghosts could be so predictable. Of course, relying on their predictability could get her killed, so she knew better than to do that, at least in a fight, but she figured she could pique Phantom's curiosity enough that he might just actually ask her why she'd changed her mind and stopped hunting him. At least, in his eyes.
Besides, she had an answer to that. Sort of. He'd been right about Vlad. He might (though she'd only admit it to him once) be right about something else, too.
The drawback to the entire plan was that it was based on a ghost showing up and her being in the area and Phantom keeping with his not-an-evil-ghost act, but if she kept her tracker on, she figured she'd be able to find a ghost—and therefore Phantom—before the weekend was over.
After all, if she spent her Saturday in Amity Park, there was almost a greater likelihood of a ghost showing up than a ghost not showing up, these days.
Though Valerie enjoyed being able to sleep in occasionally as much as the next teenager, especially on weekends, she set her alarm, knowing full well how early it would go off. She didn't have to work this weekend, but if she intended to catch the ghost boy, she needed to be vigilant. That ghost showed up at all hours. She'd get one good night's sleep, and then she'd have forty-eight hours to catch him and interrogate him, and then she might finally get some answers to her questions.
Because, whether she liked to admit it or not, she figured Phantom had a bunch of the answers she needed, and that meant playing nice to get them. He'd probably only wanted to save Dani because she was a part ghost and his cousin or something like that, so he trusted her more than he trusted Vlad. As much as a ghost could trust, anyway.
Valerie bit her lip, trying to ignore the squirming feeling in her stomach. Last night, Phantom hadn't acted…well, evil. He hadn't been the ghost trying to melt Dani down into goo. He'd been, as he'd so often proclaimed, the 'good guy'. And he'd even been willing to keep his part of the deal to make sure that Dani was safe.
But why…. Why go that far? Why not just scram the moment he'd saved Danielle? Why make a point of trying to keep his promise? Was he trying to trick her, to get on her good side?
Or did he really mean it? Keeping his word because it was the right thing to do and all that?
"Get real, Val," she told herself. "You can't fall for Phantom's good guy act now. He probably would've blasted you the moment you went to put handcuffs on him."
Valerie intended to get a good night's sleep. She really did. But last night had shaken her conviction, and though she'd spent the entire day in a daze, probably paying even less attention in her classes than Danny Fenton, she hadn't managed to sort anything out. Her world had tipped. What she thought she knew had been turned on its head. Vlad Masters was Vlad Plasmius. He had lied through his teeth. And Danny Phantom…. Well, Phantom had been willing to keep his word, and he'd tried to save an innocent little girl whom Vlad had tried to destroy.
It wasn't the first time she'd had to work with Phantom. It wasn't the first time he'd saved people, and it certainly wasn't the first time he'd claimed to be a good guy.
So what if it wasn't the first time he'd told her the truth, either?
Valerie groaned and buried her head in her pillow, but the thoughts kept circling in her mind, and it was a long time before she fell asleep. Only one thing was for certain: she was darn well going to get answers out of Phantom if it was the last thing she did.
A/N: Updates will be sporadic, but I've had this first bit on my hard drive for over six months and I finally gave into the urge to post it. Also, to be clear, this might turn into a revelation fic. I'll see how it goes. So, thoughts?