If Theres Anything You Wanted to Say to Me
Before the thing with the Ghost King, I never really gave much thought to Valerie Gray. I know that sounds weird, considering she got that battle suit and became a ghost hunter completely out of the blueand I was her favorite target. But she wasnt even close to being my most dangerous adversary, even if she was one of the trickiest because I couldnt just wail on her like I could the ghosts. At first, she really wasnt much more than an occasional annoyance. Sure, she could aggravate the snot out of me, but usually Dash and Kwan were so busy making high school a living hell that Valerie barely made the radar.
After being forced to team up with her, first as parents to a sack of flour for health class, and then as Skulkers prey in the Ghost Zone, I got to know her a little better and see life through her eyes, and I decided she wasnt nearly as bad as I originally thought. But it wasnt until just before the Ghost King showed up, when she and I shared a hiding space from our respective tormentorsDash for me, Nathan for herwhen I really began to see her in a different light. Not as an annoyance, nor a rapidly improving ghost hunter who could potentially take me out some day, but as a friend.
Maybe even… more?
When that idea first popped into my head as we were checking over our book reports for Lancers class while hiding from Dash and Nathan under a cafeteria table, I brushed it off as ludicrous. She was a ghost hunter who wanted nothing so much as to see my alter-ego blasted out of existence. But when Tucker and Sam voiced those same concerns, I found myself defending her to them, and the idea didnt seem quite so ludicrous anymore.
And when we fought together against the Fright Knightthat was awesome. She was really turning into an amazing ghost fighter and was a blast to work with. When she wasnt, you know, trying to kill me.
Unfortunately, she was no match for the Ghost King. Neither was I, nor even Vlad, for that matter. But it was Valeries defeat, and the sight of her, unconscious and banged up that put me over the edge. Shed been out there in there first place because of Vlad, who had not only brought the Ghost King down on all of us by stealing his ring, but had used her to hide it from him. But my gut was telling me it went deeper than just Valerie being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Vlads actions were never random and, even before that, hed known who she was. For some reason, hed chosen her, specifically. And whatever that reason was, it had something to do with me. That made what happened to her my responsibility, which meant it was up to me to make things right.
It was time to take the fight to the Ghost Zone and away from Amity Park and the people I cared about. No matter what the cost.
So, with Valeries bruised and battered face burned into my mind, I made the decision to face an enemy far more powerful than myself using a weapon that might well kill me. And yet, it wasnt Valeries face that stayed with me as I prepared to go. It wasnt Valerie that I was worried Id never see again if…
If I didnt come back.
I can see you over there, you know, I said over my shoulder to Sam and Tucker as they peeked out of the doorway to the roof of the Op-Center to watch me power up my dads Ecto-Skeleton .
Their cover blown, they came out to stand at the foot of the giant battle suit, and Sam looked up at me, the worry plain in her violet eyes. Danny, please.
Come on, guys. You didnt think it was always gonna be as easy as shoving the Box Ghost into the Fenton Thermos, did you? Ill be back.
Tucker didnt look any happier than Sam. Your mom used the word fatal.
Guys, Ill be back. I said it with a confidence I didnt completely feel, and it hit me then, looking at my two best friends in the world from my perch high up in that huge battle armor, that there was a very good chance I wouldnt be back. That this might well be the last time Id ever see them. That Id ever see her. But… i-if theres anything you wanted to say to me… I began on impulse, kneeling down beside Sam so that I could be closer to eye-level with her. Now might be an excellent time to do it.
She met my gaze, and it was another of those weird electric moments, like at the dance, or after that first fake-out make-out, or at the movie theater after the thing with Desiree when I was so happy to have things back to normal and her in my life like she was supposed to be. Im not sure what I was looking for, or what I wanted her to say. I just knew that in that moment, whatever it was, I wantedno, I neededto hear it.
I never got the chance, though. An image of the Ghost King flared across the sky in red smoke and lightning, and it was time for me to do what I had to do.
It was the hardest battle Id ever faced. At first, the sheer thousands of skeleton-ghost warriors hed amassed made me think Id wear out all my energy before I got anywhere near that castle to actually face him, but then Sam and Tucker showed up in the Specter Speeder, loaded to the breaking point with ghosts to take on the skeleton army, freeing me up to go after the Ghost King. See, it wasnt the last time you got to see herthemagain, I told myself as the Specter Speeder disappeared back into the mottled green sky of the Ghost Zone. And this wont be, either.
Even without having to deal with the skeleton army, it wasnt looking good for me. The Ecto-Skeleton made me strong enough a match for the Ghost King, even with his Crown of Fire and Ring of Rage, but it was draining me by the second. If the power percentage reading got down to zero, I wouldnt survive.
The Ghost King knew it, too. Surrender, child. You cant possibly win. Meaning, I wouldnt walk away from this fight alive.
The thing was, me walking away alive wasnt what mattered. I dont have to win. I just have to make sure that you lose! And I used the last remaining bit of my energy, amped up by the Ecto-Skeleton, to shove him back into the Sarcophagus of Forever Sleep and hold him there until the ghostly coffin could put him to sleep. Or until I was completely depleted. Whichever came first.
As I put everything I had into holding that Sarcophagus shut against his violent struggles, my power percentages slipping into the single digits and my consciousness ebbing away, I thought of Sam, wishing I knew what she would have said to me, and wondering what Id hoped to hear.
I didnt know the answer, and I couldnt think about it anymore because, without warning, the struggling stopped. I slipped to the floor, my energy gone, and only then did I see. Vlad was there, holding the key hed used to lock the Sarcophagus in one hand and the Crown of Fire in the other, with… was that the Fright Knight beside him? And all the other ghosts, they were there, too.
As everything slipped away, I tried to make sense of it. I dont understand…
What? That I used two fourteen-year-old pawns to turn a knight and topple a king? Its chess, Daniel. Of course you dont understand. But then, you never really did.
It was Sams voice, saying my name, that woke me, and her face was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. I was lying in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house. She wasnt alone, either. My whole family was there, along with Tucker, and Valerie and her dad. Valerie still was banged up from her fight, and her arm was in a sling, but she was smiling and looked like she was gonna be okay. No thanks to
You gave us quite a scare, there, little badger.
If Id had an ounce of energy, I would have used it to choke the life out of him. As it was, I couldnt do much more than shudder at the creepy, unwanted affection in that nickname, and burn in rage as my dad recounted the tale Vlad had spun for them about how hed found me outside the shield that had been protecting the town and saved my life. He was the cause of all this in the first place, bringing the Ghost Kings wrath down on us, getting Valerie involved. So help me, if it was the last thing I did, I would find out what exactly his connection to her was. Wanting nothing more than to pummel the truth out of him and make sure he never went near her again, I tried to sit up, but a hand pushed me back down.
She smiled at me, and I let it go, returning her smile with one of my own as I remembered my last wish before Id passed out in the Ghost Zoneto know what shed been about to say to me up on the roof of the Op-Center. I still didnt know but, somehow, it didnt seem to matter so much anymore. I was alive, and Id gotten to come back to her after all. Whatever shed needed to say, whatever Id needed to hear, there was still time. And for now, that was enough.