Danny explained what had happened to Jazz, almost expecting her to laugh. She didn't, of course. But she gave him a look that made it clear she thought he should've been able to figure this out for himself, if he'd just taken the time to do so. For all that she spent so much time buried in books that were supposed to teach her about psychology, she was forgetting a few basics that he'd figured out: their minds worked differently. Just because something was obvious to her, it didn't mean he automatically knew what it was.

"So?" Danny prompted. "What'd I do?"

Jazz sighed, leaning back on her chair. Since their parents were still out, according to Jazz, it was safe to talk in the living room. "Denial, Danny. It's the first stage."

Danny raised an eyebrow. "Really? Because I thought the first stage was her shutting down. I mean, she was doing good for a while. Listening to me. Accepting what I had to say. Not asking too many questions."

"That was a defense mechanism."

"A defense mechanism? How is that a defense mechanism?"

Jazz snorted. "Shutting down? It's avoidance. You should know. You try that one a lot."

Danny ignored that jibe. "But this is different how?"

"It's a refusal to accept the truth," Jazz explained, although to Danny it still sounded like the same thing as avoiding the truth. "And it probably wasn't anything you did, though I somehow doubt you put it as well as you could have."

"Gee, thanks," Danny muttered.

"Just give her a bit of time," Jazz recommended. "She'll come around. Her friendship with Danny Fenton is greater than her dislike of Danny Phantom."

"Hatred, you mean."

Jazz shook her head. "She might say that, and you might say that, but it's not hatred, and you both know it. Especially now. From what I gather, you two were getting along recently. Valerie said something about helping you save someone. Dani, I'm assuming, although it would've been nice to know that she'd come back."

Danny nodded. He'd ended up telling Jazz about Dani shortly after the first time he'd run into her. He hadn't really wanted to at first—it wasn't exactly the easiest thing to bring up in a conversation, especially with a sister who tried to analyze everything you said—but it hadn't taken Sam (and Tucker) very long to point out that it was definitely necessary for when Dani came back.

He'd sort of been hoping she'd stay for longer, and he'd talked to Jazz in anticipation of coming up with some way to make that possible, but after seeing Dani in such good spirits, he knew she needed to travel first. She was still a child. She was still learning. But she could protect herself, and he couldn't pretend that he'd never had the urge to just fly off somewhere to explore.

"That wasn't the first time Valerie's helped you," Jazz pointed out, even though he knew as well as she did how many times Valerie had called a truce with him. "And from the impression I was getting, she was starting to warm up to you."

"Until she flipped and started accusing me of lying, yeah, she wasn't taking things too badly, even before she figured it out."

Jazz rolled her eyes. "You just need to remember her perspective, little brother. It's not very different from what Dani went through. Vlad had her after you, too."

"But Dani never—"

"Dani," Jazz cut in, "isn't Valerie, and Dani understood more than Valerie does, even now."

Danny shot his sister a small smile. Having his secret out wasn't a laughing matter, but since it was Jazz's fault…. "You know, she'd know less if you were a better actor."

Jazz raised her eyebrows, clearly knowing exactly what Danny was getting at. "This is far from the worst that could happen, Danny, and you know it. You'll probably be better off with her knowing. She won't be hunting you anymore."

"Or she'll be hunting me nonstop."

Jazz shot him a look. "Are you even listening to me? You're her friend, Danny. You've been her friend longer than her enemy. It's a stronger bond."

"Actually, I haven't, really," Danny reminded her. "Before Valerie got thrown off the A-list, I was no more friends with her than I was with anyone else on it."

Jazz didn't argue, meaning she'd conceded that point. "But while you were friends with her…."

She didn't need to finish. Danny knew what she meant, and he wasn't really surprised that Jazz had seen it. "Yeah. I had fun. I still have fun with her, whenever we hang out. It's just that, even if we are with Sam and Tucker, a ghost always interrupts and Val and I both run off and end up shooting at each other and…. It just doesn't end well."

"And now that's not going to happen."

"I hope not," Danny murmured.

"Hey, you asked," Jazz said. "Don't you trust my judgement?"

"For this? Yeah. I guess."

"You do," Jazz corrected. She reached over to ruffle his hair, and Danny only just managed to duck out of her way. "So make your choice, little brother. Wait for her here, or go looking for her where you think she'd be."

"The park?"

Jazz smiled. "Probably."

"But…what if I do go looking for her and she still wants to shoot me?"

"She won't shoot you."

"You don't know that," Danny pointed out. As he said it, he suddenly realized this was the same conversation he'd had with Sam—only this time, he was on the other side.

He wanted to trust Valerie. He really did. But she…wasn't taking this revelation very well.

She thought he was making it up. That it was just a joke, that he was playing her like Vlad had, that he'd constructed everything so that she came to the conclusion that he was a halfa, that Fenton and Phantom were the same. The truth, which she thought was a lie. Because the truth hurt.

He wasn't so sure that she wouldn't shoot Phantom on sight, if she was still convinced that he was a full ghost with a cruel sense of humour.

"I should go as Fenton, shouldn't I?" Danny realized.

"That's your best bet, especially since Mom and Dad are still scoping out the park and will be for some time yet. Valerie won't arouse their suspicion as the Red Huntress, but if Phantom shows up…."

Danny grimaced. "I don't need to be chased across town right now. Right. Thanks, Jazz."

"Just watch your step, little brother," Jazz said, smiling at him. "That's thanks enough." Danny turned, and Jazz added, "And, Danny?"

He stopped. "Yeah?"

"Walk slowly, and maybe wait for Valerie to leave before you do confront her. You should be able to cover the major exits and keep an eye on the air, too, without much trouble. It's just…. She needs some time, and while you don't want to wait too long, this isn't a confrontation you want to rush."

"Right," Danny said again, softly. "I'll do that."


Danny Fenton was Danny Phantom. Fenton was Phantom. Danny was….

No matter how many times Valerie repeated it, no matter that she'd accepted it, she still found it hard to believe. The ghost she'd thought was her enemy was her friend. One of her best friends, truth be told. It was rather ironic; ghost hunting had meant she'd pushed so many of her friends away, and to find out that one of the ones she'd tried to keep was actually someone she'd been hunting….

The fact that Danny's parents did the same was little comfort. She almost couldn't believe that he'd never told them—until she remembered how she'd reacted.

Valerie passed Danny's parents as she made her way out of the park, ducking back into the trees so they didn't see her. It was getting dark now—it was later than she'd realized—but the Fentons did try to be thorough, so their presence wasn't surprising. Still, they no doubt regarded her as a reliable witness, and she didn't feel like being questioned about the ghost attack. She wasn't sure how easily she could talk about what had happened now that she knew more of the story. Things weren't black and white anymore, and she couldn't pretend they were. She'd been pretending for far too long as it was.

"Hey, uh, Valerie? Can we talk?"

She hadn't been paying too much attention to where she was going, just letting her feet carry her past one of the park entrances, but that voice stopped her in her tracks.

"Sure, Danny," she said softly.

Silence. Finally, "I'm sorry." A slight pause, then a hurried, "About earlier, I mean."

He was playing it safe. He didn't know what was going on in her head, what conclusions she'd come to. She couldn't blame him for not being able to guess; she wasn't entirely sure, either. Not really. "It's okay. I get it now. Not all of it, but enough. Enough to know that you're not the one who should be sorry. I'm sorry."

She hadn't been looking at Danny, so she risked a quick glance at him now. He had a relieved smile on his face. "So you, uh, accept it now?"

Valerie nodded. "And forgive you. Can you do the same?"

"I never blamed you for anything in the first place," Danny said. "Of course I can forgive you, even if you didn't really do anything wrong. Not when you didn't know."

"You might not blame me, but I blame myself," Valerie admitted. They were walking side by side now, slowly, weaving their way back to Danny's house. She was glad he let her lead; she didn't want to go to the Nasty Burger now. Somehow, she was sure Sam and Tucker would still be there. It wouldn't be closed yet, after all, and Danny had undoubtedly told them what had happened with her—and how she'd reacted to the truth. Frankly, Valerie wasn't sure she could face them unless she first faced Danny alone.

They walked in silence for a while. She wasn't sure what to say, and she doubted Danny knew, either. But she wanted to say something, so she finally started the conversation again. "You didn't tell anyone else in case they reacted like I did, right?"

"And because of what I said before," Danny replied. "And other stuff. I mean, I was going to tell Mom and Dad at first, but then I just…didn't. There was never a good time."

"Guess there wouldn't be," Valerie agreed. She didn't want to tell Danny what to do, but she wasn't sure keeping this a secret wasn't going to blow up in his face at some point. Because it wasn't just his secret anymore. There was Vlad. There was Dani.

Dani….

"Who's Danielle?" Valerie asked, the words out of her mouth before she realized she was asking.

Danny sighed. "It's a long story."

"Well, I'm listening," Valerie said. In her mind, she was lining up things that didn't quite make sense. Danny had said that he and Danielle weren't actually cousins, even if they called each other that. He'd just said that she felt like family. But there seemed to be a family resemblance. Now that she thought about it, their human forms looked as much alike as their ghost forms. And they had both adopted the name 'Phantom'.

"I just don't know if I should say," Danny admitted. "I know you wouldn't do it intentionally, Val, but I don't want you to think differently of her. She's just a girl."

"I don't think differently of you," Valerie said bluntly. "Why would I think differently of her?"

When Danny didn't answer right away, Valerie suddenly wondered if some of her initial thoughts could be right. What if Vlad had managed to make Danielle a halfa? What if she had been his experiment after all? What if her 'creation' as a half ghost hadn't been an accident like it had been for Danny? Like it had undoubtedly been for Vlad?

Danny glanced at Valerie and seemed to read her thoughts. "It was Vlad," he said simply.

The sick feeling from earlier had returned. The more she learned about Vlad, the more she couldn't believe she'd ever thought highly of him. "That's horrible."

Danny shrugged. "Dani's stable now. As long as she's safe and happy, I'm happy."

Valerie shot a sideways glance at Danny. "I don't get it," she said. "How come Danielle wasn't stable and you and Vlad are?"

Danny stopped abruptly. "Oh," he said, very quietly. "I thought you'd realized."

Valerie hadn't thought she could think any less of Vlad by this point, but she supposed she shouldn't be surprised to learn that Mr. Masters had been up to something even worse than what she'd been thinking. From the sounds of it, he'd done more than just experiment on an innocent girl. Danny had seen a lot; he had to have, if only because he was Phantom. To have that tone….

"Dani was one of Vlad's experiments," Danny explained in a low voice. "But she…. She's more than that, Valerie, but she can't…. I think that's why she keeps going off. She's trying to find herself. And I keep letting her go because I don't know what else to do, even though I…. I don't want to see her go." The last words were barely audible.

She'd been right. Oh, Lord, she'd been right. Vlad had created Danielle. Actually made her what she was: half a girl, half a ghost. Made her.

But…if she wasn't really Danny's cousin, then what was up with the family resemblance? 'Cause there was no way that was just a coincidence. They looked way too much alike. More so than even Jazz and Danny. Heck, if she didn't know better, she'd say—

Oh, God.

Valerie looked at Danny, really looked at him, and the realization hit her like a punch to the gut. She couldn't believe she hadn't realized it before, and she was horrified that she'd realized it now, even without Danny out and out telling her.

Vlad had…had….

Experimenting was bad enough. She'd been disgusted enough when she'd first suspected his genetic research had been limited to using ectoplasm and energy and whatever else to making more part ghosts like him. But playing God?

That was sick. Low, even for him. To do that and to just... To turn around and try to...

No wonder Danny was so protective of Danielle.

No wonder he didn't want to talk about her.

Danny started walking again. He was staring at the ground, pointedly not looking at her. "I'm sorry," Valerie said. She couldn't think of anything else to say. She was just too horrified and sickened to think straight. "For asking, I mean. I shouldn't have. It's none of my business."

There was silence for a while. They just kept walking, keeping beside each other but neither saying anything. Then, finally, Danny said, "You can't say anything."

"I won't," Valerie said immediately, alarmed that Danny would think she'd dream of opening her mouth, especially after…. "I promise. You're my friend, Danny. Even if I never realized how much of one." He'd stood by her when she'd been trying to destroy him, after all. That was worth more to her than he knew.

"I mean you can't say anything to anyone," Danny said. "Not to your father, not to your friends."

"What about Sam and Tucker? Maybe if they know I'm not planning on hunting you down, they'll warm up to me."

There was a pause. "That's probably true," conceded Danny, "but I'm more worried about Vlad."

Valerie raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said the others were safe because they knew about all the halfas. So why doesn't this apply to me?"

"Because," Danny answered softly, "you're still safer if everyone else thinks you're just hunting ghosts like you always were. That you don't know about me or Vlad or even Danielle. All the other ghosts know that Sam and Tucker know my secret, and I'm pretty sure most of them know that Jazz figured it out, too, since she's fought with me a few times. But I've only ever worked with you when we called a truce. You told Vlad you were going to take a break, so maybe if you just ease up on me…."

"I'm not going to keep hunting you down when I know who you are," Valerie protested immediately. "That's nuts!"

"I'm not saying that," Danny said. "I'm just saying it's safer for you if no one thinks you know anything else, if it seems like you're just like my parents, with no notion that the existence of half ghosts is even possible. I just…. I'm not sure I can protect you, Val."

"Protect me?" Valerie knew she shouldn't be using this tone, but she couldn't believe what Danny was saying. "You think I need protection? Me? You know how much training I've gotten, and that's not even counting ghost hunting."

"Yeah," Danny admitted, "but this is against ghosts like Plasmius. And unless you do want to try training with Mom and Dad—well, Mom—then you've only got the weapons you have now and the ones you can make."

He figured she'd have a target on her back if it got out that she knew. That she wouldn't be able to handle an upward swing in pressure. That her cover would slip. That, all too soon, the secret of her being the Red Huntress wouldn't just be common knowledge around ghosts. And if her secret could get out….

"But come on, Danny," Valerie said, refusing to think that something terrible would happen just because she knew, "can't you just have a little more faith in my hunting skills?"

There was silence for a moment. Then, "How many times have you actually captured me, Val?"

Great. He would pull that one on her. "Once," she muttered, figuring he wouldn't count earlier today since she hadn't actually been hunting him at the time.

"Yeah. Plasmius easily has twenty years' experience on me. You don't want to mess with him."

"But I wasn't going to."

"You know about him." There was a pause, and Valerie knew what Danny didn't say: if Vlad suspected that she knew about Danny, then he might wonder how she'd found out, since Danny hadn't told her before and didn't appear to have any reason to tell her now. And if he did much investigating, he might realize that his secret wasn't safe from her, either. "If he finds out, then he'll do something."

She didn't really want to think of what he would do, though her imagination was currently supplying her with multiple unpleasant possibilities. "But he didn't to you guys."

"Because it's different."

"But you can't even explain how it's different!"

"It still is, okay?" Danny was looking at her earnestly right now. "Just trust me on this. Vlad's been after me since the minute he realized I was a halfa, too, and Danielle's a prime example of how desperate he got when I wouldn't join with him. He tried to pit Jazz against me once, so he's not above using the people I care about against me. Sure, you're a good hunter, Val. You really are. But you're so used to fuelling your fights with anger, I'm not so sure you can fight with a clear head, and you need one when you go up against Plasmius. It's all a game with him, and if you can't stay focussed…."

"You lose," Valerie finished slowly.

"Nine times out of ten, yes."

"So what do I do?" Valerie asked quietly. "Keep trying to pretend that this doesn't mean anything? That I don't know anything? That this doesn't change everything?"

Danny shook his head. "Just keep being who you are."

"And what if Vlad confronts me about this? What am I supposed to say?"

Danny shrugged. "Whatever you have to. Just don't confirm anything for him. If you aren't careful, he'll set a trap and you'll walk right into it. You can't take back what you've already said."

"But what if he's—"

"Valerie." Danny caught her hands, which she belatedly realized she'd been flailing around, making gestures to emphasize her words, her anger, her fear. "Breathe. Just breathe. You'll get through this. You've gotten through other stuff."

Yeah, she had. But this…. She hadn't realized quite how cocky she must have been getting, how arrogant. She'd been wrong about so many things, and she'd never realized it until now. Never had an inkling, in all the time she'd been ghost hunting. She'd just thought she knew it all. That her knowledge couldn't possibly be flawed.

And it was. Every bit of it. And she'd been acting as if her ghost knowledge was infallible, making excuses for everything that didn't fit.

Now, as penance, almost, she had to keep doing that.

So she wasn't slaughtered, literally or figuratively, by the ghost she'd unwittingly been working for.

Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Valerie took a few deep breaths. "I'm okay," she said. She wasn't okay, and Danny probably knew it, judging by the concern in his eyes, but he released her hands anyway.

Danny Fenton was Danny Phantom. She knew Danny a lot better than she knew Phantom, so she knew that most of what she'd thought about Phantom was wrong. Assumptions, misconceptions, lies, the lot. But knowing that just served to remind her that if what she'd thought she'd known about him wasn't true, then she really didn't know anything.

That was the difference, then. The difference Danny couldn't pinpoint. She knew his carefully guarded secret. She didn't know his story. Even if she did know, vaguely, how it had begun, how Phantom had come to be, she didn't know him. Knowing that Danielle and Vlad were out there, that they existed as what they were, was no different. She didn't know the background, she didn't know the stories, and, to be honest, she didn't understand why things had played out as they had.

If she was perfectly honest with herself, she wasn't even sure why Danny risked his life every single day (and night, if the number of times he'd fallen asleep in class and the number of times she'd chased him after dark was anything to go by) to fight ghosts.

She'd done it out of vengeance, wanting revenge for a perceived wrong. She'd let it consume her and give her purpose. She'd been wrapped up in an obsession, no better than the ghosts she'd hunted.

But that couldn't be the case for Danny. He'd said it had been an accident. She supposed it might have started because he somehow thought that this was all his fault. She wouldn't put it past him. If he figured Amity Park was such a hotspot for ghosts because he was what he was or because he'd made sure his parents' ghost portal provided a stable passageway between the two dimensions, he could easily take more than his fair share of the blame. Then again, it could be a sense of duty, a desire to protect his family and friends any way he could. Or it could even be because his family was a family of ghost hunters and hunting ghosts was just…ingrained in him.

For all she knew, it was all those reasons and more.

Since her fall from popularity, she'd considered herself Danny Fenton's friend. She still did, even now, but she knew…. She knew why Sam and Tucker had tried so hard to stop their friendship from forming and, particularly when it came to Sam, from growing. Sam and Tucker had been there since the beginning. With the way Jazz could put the pieces together and see through lies, Danny likely hadn't managed to keep the truth from her for very long, either. So the bond those four had was their protection. Their love, their friendship, their trust, their knowledge, their skill. It had protected them because they'd protected each other. They hadn't needed to do any second guessing.

She didn't have that.

Not with them.

To be honest, she didn't have that with anyone anymore. She wasn't sure if she ever had. Everyone she knew from the A-list had been little more than fair weather friends. And while she'd become friends with Danny, she never had been best friends with him, not in the way that Sam and Tucker were. Neither of them had shared their biggest secret with the other, even when they'd been dating. They'd gotten along. They'd liked each other. Maybe, given time, they would've trusted each other. But she'd cut their relationship short before it had ever had the chance to develop to that level, all in an effort to protect Danny from Phantom and all the other ghosts.

The irony of that, and of her actions since then, was painfully obvious to her now.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Danny asked gently. "I mean, if you want to talk it out, just name the place and I'll go."

"No, I'm fine," Valerie replied automatically. She knew she should take him up on his offer. She'd wanted to find him for that very reason, after all. To talk. To get some answers. To understand.

But Danny was right.

It was safer, right now, if she pretended to remain oblivious. She couldn't ask Danny to spill his guts, to tell her everything that had happened since he'd become Phantom, to try to force a bond between them to form. That wouldn't make it a true bond. It wouldn't be strong. She was better off to bide her time, to let it develop naturally, to let him tell her what he wanted to, like he did with Sam and Tucker.

She wouldn't hunt him anymore, though. She couldn't. She didn't care if that change in behaviour might pique Vlad's interest; she wouldn't try to destroy her friend. The boy who was probably her best friend, even if she wasn't his.

It was easy enough to explain away. Vlad knew she'd rescued Dani, even if he was pretending that Masters had been in a closet the entire time. If he asked, she'd just insist that she didn't feel right fighting off any ghost that didn't first attack. She wouldn't say it was because she suspected that there might be others like Danielle, providing he tried to corner her about it to see if she suspected anything about the existence of half ghosts; it was easy enough to use Danielle as the reason she could no longer deny the claim that some ghosts were good.

Maybe Vlad would see right through her. Maybe, now that she knew more of the truth, she wouldn't be able to hide her disgust of him. But she had to try. For Danny's sake, and for hers. She couldn't ask him to try to protect her any more than he already was. She'd have to deal with Vlad herself. Even though she knew what he was capable of. Even though she knew that, if he really wanted to, he could find a way to kill her and make it look like an accident.

If he really wanted to, he could probably find a way to kill her and blame it on Danny. On Phantom.

She wasn't going to think about it. Vlad hadn't resorted to that yet, and she doubted he'd want to get his hands dirty. It would be easier for him to take it out on her through her father. If he lost his job and couldn't get another one, they really would be struggling to make ends meet, far more than they were now. But if she kept her mouth shut, Vlad shouldn't find reason to resort to that now. She was on thin ice by taking this break, but she needed it. She couldn't work for him anymore. Even knowing what quitting might mean, she knew she couldn't continue.

And Danny would try to protect her. She knew that. He'd be looking out for her now, thinking she had a target on her back. But she'd have to keep looking over her shoulder, even with his protection. Even as Phantom, she wasn't sure he could be in two places at once. He'd said he couldn't, and she suspected that that hadn't just been a lie to throw her off the scent.

As far as she knew, Phantom still needed to work on duplication. For all that he was capable of it, it needed work. Besides, Danny would probably be in less trouble if he'd already mastered it. He wouldn't need to run out of class all the time, for one. And if he was determined to keep this a secret from his parents, he'd have more luck if they started seeing Phantom and Fenton together. From what she understood, they figured Danny was terrified of ghosts and just ran every time one showed up.

She was rather surprised they hadn't tried some crazy method of teaching him to stand his ground and fight the ghosts, making sure he was wearing enough anti-ghost devices to ensure that he wasn't in danger in case something went wrong. She was willing to bet that something the Fentons had invented could sense Phantom in Danny.

Then again, with Jazz on Danny's side, perhaps his parents had never had a good opportunity. Perhaps they didn't even think that would be the best way to go about it.

"You know," Danny said slowly, "if you want, we can just hang out with Sam and Tucker. Now, or tomorrow if you want some more time to just…digest everything. It'd just be for fun. Like old times."

Like old times, before she knew his secret. "Yeah," Valerie agreed. "I'd like that."

"We can even—" Danny broke off. For a split second, Valerie could've sworn she'd seen his breath.

"What?" Valerie asked. Even as the word came out of her mouth, though, she knew the answer to her question. She'd turned the volume down on her ghost sensor during her last conversation with Danny Fenton, but she could still hear the beeping coming earnestly from her bag.

"Ghost," Danny answered needlessly. "I'll just, uh…."

"Go," said Valerie. "I'll be fine. You need a thermos?" She offered hers to Danny, and he grinned and took it before dashing off.

No wonder Phantom always showed up wherever the ghosts were. Danny knew when they turned up. She still wasn't sure how, entirely, but she suspected she hadn't been seeing things earlier.

Valerie dug out her ghost sensor and turned it off. Her fingers itched to curl around a blaster, but she wasn't going to blow her cover. She was taking a break from ghost hunting, even if it killed her. She still wondered who it was, though. Not Skulker, not after the state they'd left him in. Perhaps one of the more challenging ghosts? There usually was a bit of a lull just before a powerful one turned up, almost as if the other—

"I am the Box Ghost!"

Valerie smirked. A challenge? No. Not that ghost. Not since her first day. And though she wouldn't have minded taking out some of the tension she was feeling on the unfortunate ghost, she found she could relax without it. Finding out about Danny hadn't taken away her purpose, even if she had poured a lot of her time into hunting Phantom down. Instead, it had…opened her up, in a way. Lifted off a weight she hadn't noticed she'd been carrying.

She wasn't bitter anymore.

Valerie's smirk melted into a smile as she listened to Phantom's—Danny's—voice in the distance, taunting the Box Ghost. It would take a while before her life reached a state that resembled 'normal' again, but she was willing to take the time to work towards it. She just had to be careful and play her cards right. At some point, she was pretty sure Danny would have to tell his parents his secret. And maybe once he did…. Maybe then, she wouldn't have to pretend she was blind to everything. Maybe then, they would have worked out a way to make sure Vlad wasn't a threat or, at the very least, was less of one.

Maybe then, Danny could feel as light and free as she did right now.

And until then? They'd get through whatever was thrown at them. Somehow. They were certainly no strangers to keeping secrets. If they worked together, they could shape things for the better, set the stage so that the odds were in their favour when the cat was finally let out of the bag. And once it was, well, they'd still find a way to keep going. Valerie was certain of that.

Fin


A/N: Okay, slightly open-ended. I've written worse. (Connections, anyone? Some people didn't even realize I'd finished that….) But we'll just say Vlad doesn't find out about Valerie yet, shall we? It hasn't been that long since their meeting, after all, and that encounter didn't go so poorly that Vlad would immediately suspect Valerie knew something, if not precisely what she knew. And Danny's solution was mostly to buy them as much time as possible before Vlad finds out, if anyone's wondering. My reasoning, anyway.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review this story. I quite appreciated it!