Danny slowly walked over and picked up the medallion lying on the ground. He turned back to Valerie, who hadn't yet moved. "Is he really gone?" she asked.
Danny considered for a moment then nodded. "I think so. Without this he's been sent back to his own time."
She sighed. "So, it's over." Her ecto-cannon retracted into her suit.
Danny looked at Valerie uncertainly. Sam and Tucker pretended to be busy shutting off the Ghost Shield and checking out the GAV.
"Val, why didn't you stick to the plan?" Danny finally asked.
She shook her head, unable to speak for a second. "I just… it was my fault. I had to fix it, end it somehow." She shrugged, unable to continue.
"No, it wasn't your fault," Danny said firmly. "You haven't done… that… yet. You won't now."
"Can you forgive me?"
"For future you killing future me? Something you haven't even done? Can you forgive me for future me coming here and trying to kill you."
Valerie chuckled a little and shook her head again. "This is all so screwed up."
"You're telling me." Danny grinned back, then quickly became somber again. "Look, seriously, Val. I should have told you my secret earlier. I should have trusted you. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry I hunted and tried to destroy Phantom and never really gave you a chance."
"Well, at least it all turned out all right," Tucker chose this moment to interrupt. "I think using the portable Ghost Shield in the GAV worked better than dropping the Ghost Containment Unit on him would have anyways."
Danny gave Valerie a rueful smile, then turned to Tucker. "Yeah, that was a good call, Tucker."
Sam strode over to join the trio. "Hey guys, we'd better get going. Jazz just radioed me that she's freed Mr. and Mrs. Fenton and they're heading this way. Don't want them to find us here."
Danny gave a tiny growl of frustration. "So he did have them."
"Er, no," answered Sam. "Well, maybe. Apparently they were setting up a trap for Phantom and somehow it accidently triggered and they got stuck in their own net. They never saw Phantom. I suppose he could have somehow been responsible though."
Danny snorted a short laugh. "Not likely. Trust me, Dad doesn't need any help getting stuck in his own inventions."
"Yeah, that's what Jazz said too."
Danny flew Sam and Tucker back to Fenton Works, staying close behind Valerie who had insisted she was well enough to fly on her own. She kept glancing back at him, and he would give her a quick smile and she'd quickly turn her gaze forward again. When they arrived, Danny phased them all through the wall into the guest bedroom, eliciting a shiver from Valerie at his touch. He frowned, but didn't say anything.
Valerie made it back to the bed before letting her suit retract and collapsing onto it. Sam hastily went to help Valerie get settled in. "Thank you," Valerie said softly, a curious look in her eyes.
Sam turned awkward, "Um, well, you're welcome. I guess…" She took a deep breath and rushed ahead, "I guess you're not so bad after all. Thank you for not killing Phantom." Valerie just nodded in response. Tucker's eyebrows went up and his mouth started to open, but before he could speak Sam held out a raised finger toward him. "Not a word."
Tucker shrugged and looked sheepish, "Um, I was just going to say how glad I am everyone's getting along now."
Sam turned around preparing her retort, but was surprised to see Danny was still in his ghost form. "Uh, Danny," she said instead, "don't you think you should turn back before your parents get home? They shouldn't be too far behind us."
"No," Danny shook his head as if coming out of a daze. "I've got to go return this." He held up the cog he had been slowly turning over in his hands. He floated down through the floor to the lab without waiting for a response. "And maybe get some real answers this time," he muttered, opening the Ghost Portal.
Clockwork was waiting for Danny when he arrived. The Master of Time was an old man, wrinkled and stooped. But his eyes were sharp and his voice as resonating as ever. "Hello, Daniel," he greeted.
Danny landed on the rough stone floor a dozen feet from Clockwork. He held out the cog-shaped medallion. "I believe this is yours."
Clockwork raised his staff and a beam of blue energy shot forth and took the medallion from Danny's hand, floating it through the air back to its rightful owner. It quickly disappeared into his robe once it reached him. "Thank you for returning it."
"Maybe you can keep it out of the wrong hands next time," Danny said defiantly.
Clockwork nodded with a small smile. "And why do those hands always seem to be yours, I wonder?"
Danny's eyes narrowed. "You tell me. I'd really like to know what this was all about."
A younger face now considered Danny as Clockwork straightened and shrunk into a small child. "It was about what it is always about for you."
Danny's fists clenched. "I don't want any more riddles! I want answers!" he shouted.
Clockwork pulled himself up to his full adult height and loomed menacingly over Danny, power starting to crackle around him in blue arcs. Then suddenly he turned away, the power dissipating. "Perhaps this time you do deserve some," he said quietly.
He waved a hand at a glowing white panel nearby and a mist started to form above it. The mist slowly coalesced into the figure of a person. Danny tensed as he realized it was Phantom – the now white-eyed Phantom he had just faced.
Phantom looked at himself, then desperately at Clockwork, confused. "What am I doing here? I shouldn't still exist, right?"
"I have just brought you back from your timeline temporarily," Clockwork answered, walking toward the door. "You needed some answers." He gestured vaguely at the green-eyed Danny, then stepped out of the room.
"Oh." Phantom straightened his shoulders and turned to face Danny with a resigned expression. Danny's fists were still at his side, but green energy was beginning to coalesce around them.
When Phantom made no move toward him, the energy fizzled out of Danny's hands. Phantom sighed and floated down to the floor to lean against one of the rock walls. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "Alright then. Ask away," he said.
Danny glared at Phantom. "Why?" he asked tensely. "Just, why would you ever do that to Valerie?"
Danny's frown deepened. "You said during one of our fights that Val killed me – human me. Or you, rather. Arg. You know what I mean! So, what? Is this all about revenge for Val killing you?"
Phantom's glowing white eyes opened slowly and looked at Danny. "No. This was never about revenge for me. It was about stopping Valerie."
"So, kill her before she killed you."
"No!" Phantom protested. "It isn't like that." Danny just stared at Phantom, waiting for him to continue. Phantom blew out an exasperated breath. "Look, Valerie was the one always after revenge, you know. For everything we'd ever done to her or she imagined we did to her. We had our truce for awhile but… well, it's really better if you don't know the specifics. But basically she did the usual – jump to conclusions, blame me, etc. She wanted revenge on Danny Phantom for ruining her life, for all the evil he'd done, and she got that. She killed Danny Phantom, she killed me."
Phantom had closed his eyes again, but his whole body was tensed. "She did give me one chance to explain," he went on. "But I couldn't come up with an excuse fast enough. It would have entailed telling her the truth about who I was, and I couldn't do that, not even to save my own life. I didn't think she would really do it. I didn't even consider attacking her first.
"When I died, my body changed back, and my ghost half kind of… separated from it. When Val realized she had killed her friend Danny she was full of remorse, of course. But it was too late, wasn't it?
"Killing Danny sent Val over the edge. She blamed ghosts more than ever – me, Phantom-me, more than ever – feeling Phantom had somehow tricked her into it. She never believed the truth, even knowing about Danielle. She just couldn't accept it. Val became vicious and relentless, going after ghost after ghost more and more recklessly. I tried to protect her, but I couldn't get near her without… well, it only made it worse. A ghost killed her only two months later. "
"So, what were you trying to do then?" Danny demanded when Phantom went silent.
Phantom sat up straight and looked at Danny sadly. "You'd never tell her to save your own life, I kind of proved that," Phantom said with a morbid chuckle, "but you might to save hers."
Danny stared incredulously at Phantom. "What?! You mean this was all about just getting me to tell her my secret? There had to be at least a hundred easier ways to do that that didn't include half-killing Val!"
A surge of anger brought Phantom to his feet. "Don't you think I tried? Tried everything else? I wasn't even sure telling her our secret would stop her, since no matter what else I tried it always came down to revenge for her. Telling her was the only thing left. But she wouldn't believe me if I just told her, since I couldn't turn human and prove it to her. And you'd deny everything. You wouldn't tell her! There was always some excuse – you wanted to find another way, we could just make that one misunderstanding go away. But there was always another! It didn't matter what I did. You just couldn't bring yourself to do it. You just couldn't see the danger. Do you know how many times I tried?" he cried, tears now streaming down his cheeks. "I had to save Valerie. I had to, no matter what it took," he said, his voice breaking.
"Because she's your obsession. When you died, she became your obsession," Danny said quietly, all the anger gone out of him. "But not killing her. Saving her from herself."
"And now?" Danny asked.
"She'll be ok," Phantom said, "and so will you."
Phantom started to fade from view. "And Danny," said his disembodied voice, "you should probably tell your parents soon too, just in case."
Thank you to all of you who have followed, reviewed, and favorited this story! I appreciate it all.
Jim89 - I started to add a long explanation about what had happened between Danny and Valerie to make her turn on him, but the explanations were getting long as it was and it really didn't seem important in the end (in my opinion at least). So, that's a tale for another story perhaps...
A/N edit 1/1/14: Editing is now finished and this story is complete. But, if anyone has any better ideas for a title than "Revenge", please send them along! I still think "Revenge" is the best title, but it is also the title of about 50 other Danny Phantom fics so I need something different. Thank you again!