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Chapter 5

Valerie let out a long sigh as she leaned on the balcony, watching as the setting sun turned the sky a beautiful orange.

They had been playing games all afternoon, trying to relax. And it had worked for a while. Valerie realised that taking out your anger on someone through throwing red shells at them was very therapeutic.

However, after one too many rage quits, they had decided that it might be a good idea to play some other games. After a few hours, they had decided to take a break, leading to Valerie taking a moment by herself.

Despite spending a whole afternoon with each other, none of them had mentioned any of the recent events, which was… rather nice actually. There were a few moments when someone would do or say something and everything would turn all awkward, but they made sure to distract each other from that as much as possible. It felt normal, like nothing had happened, like they were just four idiots playing games with each other.

Of course, that wasn’t reality the truth though, wasn’t it?

It was one thing to learn that your friends knew that you had been hunting ghosts this entire time, it was another to learn that one of those friends was one of the very things you’re trying to get rid of.

It felt like a betrayal, but it also...wasn’t. The entire afternoon, Sam and Tucker had made sure to not leave Valerie and Danny alone for a single moment. She understood that, really she did! But the fact that they couldn’t trust her alone with Danny still stung.

She knew it was her they were afraid of because they knew Valerie. She was always the one to shoot first at Phantom. She was the one who shouted and berated him. She never once considered why he never tried to fight back.

And now it makes sense, because it was Danny. It was always Danny, and she never noticed. Danny with the bright blue eyes and the wide smile, who was always kind to her and stood by her side.

And it was also Phantom. With the cold green eyes and smirk on his face, who taunted and laughed but never once harmed.

It was the harsh reality, the bitter truth. And it was one she was going to have to accept, no matter what. And she thinks that, because it’s Danny, she might be alright in accepting it.

The thought brought a small smile to her face, but it quickly evaporated when a deep chill settled around her. She whirled around quickly, only to come face to face with Danny, who looked as startled by her sudden reaction as she felt.

That’s strange, she thought. She had never felt that before when he was a human.

“S-sorry.” The dark haired boy stammered. “I didn’t mean to-”

“Have you always been that cold?” She interrupted him. She suddenly realised that he might not have understood that in the way that she meant it, and silently cursed herself as his eyes widened even further. She decided to clarify. “I mean, you bring a slight chill with you. I thought that you could only do that as Phantom.”

“Oh!” He looked less surprised and more… concerned? “I- no that- this has never happened before.”

His brow furrowed slightly, like he was concentrating, and the air seemed to lift into its usual evening warmth. This would all take some time to get used to…

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

She shook her head. “It’s fine.”

They lapsed into a strange silence, Danny refusing to meet her eye as he looked like he wanted to say something to her. She didn’t want to interrupt this time, and let him take his time, instead choosing to study the boy before her.

The changes had been gradual, but now that Valerie really looked at him, she could see the differences in Danny as compared to before. He was pale, much paler than any person really should be, but he didn’t necessarily look unhealthy. For a long time, he used to have heavy bags under his eyes, waving them off due to just a lack of sleep. But now, they were gone, and he seemed more to be brimming with energy than anything. Although his eyes were avoiding her, she had noticed earlier that they held a sort of glow to them, with flecks of green hidden within them. The only thing that hadn’t seemed like an unusual change was the length of his hair and his height. His black locks had become longer and thicker, like he was growing it out or couldn’t be bothered to cut it (probably the latter). He had also grown slightly taller, but not as much as she had expected him to.

It worried her that, should these changes keep developing, more people might notice and start asking questions. And that was the last thing her friend needed. Despite what Danny, Sam, Tuck and Jasmine might think about Valerie knowing Danny’s secret, she was glad she knew. It meant that she now had the chance to help him in battle without feeling any resentment towards him, and she could also cover his back both in and outside of school as well.

Though there were some things she still wasn’t quite comfortable with, and she was a bit miffed about the lies and secrets, she understood it. She could live with it. The afternoon she had spent with them all, how relaxed she felt with them all, the rare kindness that Sam had shown her when she had invited her, she just… couldn’t let go of it all. She didn’t want to lose those times.

Eventually, Danny took in a deep breath and met her gaze. “I need to apologise to you, for everything. I know that it doesn’t make up for- for the lies, the excuses, the times I couldn’t trust you. But I… I didn’t know how you would react, and I am ashamed to admit it, but I was afraid that you would not… take things very well.”

She felt her eyebrows shoot up. So many thoughts and questions were circling in her mind, but she knew it was best to keep them to herself for the while. “Did you want to tell me?”

He nodded. “I did. But I knew that I couldn’t put you in that position. So many things were happening, every time you saw me it seemed that you seemed to hate me more and more. I didn’t know what to do. I value our friendship so much, Val. I know that Sam and Tuck love you too, but I just didn’t want to hurt you anymore than I had.” A pained expression came across his face. “I’m sorry, Valerie. I’m so sorry for everything.”

Damn this idiot for making me tear up, Valerie thought as her lip began to tremble. Without much thought, she stepped closer and threw her arms around her friend. She was glad that Jasmine had gone back to their house to get a fresh change of clothes, otherwise Valerie wasn’t sure how well she would handle the smell of blood.

“I forgive you.” She whispered as tears began to stream down her face. “And I’m sorry too, for all of it.”

 

He began to wrap his arms around her slowly. “Aren't I freezing you to death right now?”

“Yes. You are fucking freezing, but I don’t care right now.” It was true, it was like holding a giant ice cube. No wonder he always wore long sleeved shirts and avoided contact with people. Sam and Tucker must have become immune to it by now with how close they’d always stand to Danny.

The halfa stiffened and tried to pull away, but Valerie held on tight. “Val…”

She could hear the worry in his voice over her shivers, and decided to let go. She wondered how hard it must be to go around knowing that you could easily hurt people just by being touched. “We’re idiots, aren’t we?”

“Yeah.” He let out a breathy laugh. “It’s a good thing we aren’t alone then, isn’t it?”

She hummed in agreement. Yes, that was a good thing.