Mr Foley Goes to Washington
Eleven years after the accident
By the time he was twenty-five, Tucker thought he had his future pretty well laid out for him. Hired by Axion straight out of college, elected to his first term in the Indiana State House of Representatives six months later, then re-elected two years after that, the plan was now for him to finish out the remaining year of his House term, then run for the state Senate. A term or two as state senator, then maybe he could start looking at a full-time political career. A run for Governor, or the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps.
But that was years down the road. Five, at least. Or so was the plan, until Representative Hatcher of Indiana's District One, where Amity Park was located, was killed in a boating accident on Lake Michigan over Labor Day weekend. Two days afterwards, two of the top state leaders of Tucker's party, along with the House Minority Whip, a congressman from California, came to Amity Park to meet with him.
"You want me to run for Congress?"
"Absolutely, Mr. Foley. Surely you've considered it."
"Well, yeah, but not yet. I'm the second-youngest person in the General Assembly, and I wasn't even old enough to run for state senator until a couple of months ago."
"Which makes you old enough to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, too."
"Old enough to run, but to get elected? Hardly anyone under thirty gets elected to Congress. Surely there are better, more experienced people to run. I can think of three state senators from Congressional District One off the top of my head—"
"Do I need to remind you that you were Mayor of Amity Park two years before you were even old enough to vote? That you still hold the record for the youngest person in the nation to ever serve as a mayor?"
"Well, yeah, but I was appointed to that position, and that was within hours of getting my name splashed all over the news for helping Danny Phantom save the world from that asteroid."
Tucker leaned back in his seat, folding his arms. "Oh, I see. You think I've still got connections."
"You're a known ghost hunter, and your most notable achievement in the state General Assembly was the passage of the bill you championed regulating ghost hunting in Indiana. Thanks to you, we have the most comprehensive protections for ecto-beings in the nation. Don't think that hasn't gone a long way towards making a name for you in this district. While the nation may be polarized over ecto-rights, Indiana District One is overwhelmingly in favor of them, largely because of Amity Park and your local ghost celebrity, Danny Phantom."
"You make it sound like I'm a one-trick pony. Ghost rights isn't the only issue important to me. Education, for example. We're still lagging way behind Japan in technological development, because our school kids are learning on outdated equipment. And health care—"
Up until this point, the local guys had done all the talking. Now the congressman from California smiled. "Yes, of course, Mr. Foley. These are top priorities for our party as well. And if you get elected, you can work on all of these. Besides, you've done all you can for ghost rights at the state level. Wouldn't you like a crack at the federal Anti-Ecto Code? Get the kind of legislation you helped pass here enacted on a federal level?" He leaned forward. "I can almost guarantee you a seat on the Homeland Security Committee's Ecto Affairs Subcommittee if you're elected."
Tucker thought of Danny's near-arrest by the Guys in White six years earlier. Six years, and still nothing had changed. Heck, it'd been nine years since the asteroid, and still Danny Phantom was considered an outlaw by the federal government, despite all the times and ways he'd saved people's lives over and over again. "Yeah, I'd like a crack at the federal Anti-Ecto Code."
"Then give it some serious consideration. Your governor will be calling a special election to fill Representative Hatcher's seat by the end of the month. It might be your best chance to get your foot in the door and get yourself a place on Capitol Hill."
Tucker drummed his fingers on the table. "I'll need a day or two to think it over."
His parents were thrilled with the idea of their son running for Congress. Sam was ecstatic, already coming up with legislation he could push for once he was sworn in, and he hadn't even decided to run yet.
Danny was supportive, but a little noncommittal. "I'm selfish, that's all. I don't like the idea of you not being in Amity Park full-time. But if this is something you wanna do, Tuck, then go for it. I'm with you all the way."
Valerie was the most evasive of all, telling him only that she wanted whatever he wanted, and that the decision was his.
In the end, he'd decided to run, and before the month was over, he made history once again, becoming the third youngest person ever elected to Congress, and the youngest member of the current U.S. House of Representatives.
With his victory party at the Garnier Hotel in full swing, Tucker finally found a moment alone with Valerie. "Let's go for a walk."
"Now? It's the middle of your victory party!"
"I know, but we've barely had five seconds to talk over the last few weeks. I need to get away for a bit. Come take a walk with me, okay?"
She relented, and they slipped out, heading for the lake.
"I'm proud of you, Tuck," she told him as they walked along the hotel beach. "You're gonna be a really good congressman."
"I know this happened really fast, Val, and now all of a sudden I've gotta go to Washington, when a month ago I never even considered leaving Axion. At least not this soon."
"Yeah. I'm gonna miss you when you're there."
Tucker stopped. "Come with me, Val."
"What? To Washington?"
"Yes." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, swallowing nervously as he handed it to her. Her expression unreadable, she opened the box, revealing the diamond ring inside, and he swallowed again. "Will you marry me, Valerie?"
Her eyes widened. "Tucker, don't you think your life just changed enough for one month?"
"I know, but you're the part I don't want to change. I want us together, wherever we are."
"Tuck…" She bit her lip, and he knew before she said anything more that he wasn't going to get the answer he wanted. She handed the ring back to him. "I… I don't think I'm the right person to be a congressman's wife." Then, a self-deprecating smirk ghosted across her face. "Pretty ironic, since that's exactly the kind of thing I would've aspired to back before my dad's bankruptcy."
While he wasn't completely shocked at her refusal—she'd been hesitant to get engaged when they'd discussed it in the past—her reason surprised him. "You're not the right person to be a congressman's wife? What's that supposed to mean?"
"You got through this election without anyone digging too deeply into your personal life, but you're gonna have to run in the regular election next year, and then people are gonna start asking questions. I've got a few too many skeletons in my closet to stand up to the kind of scrutiny a congressman's fiancée would get, don't you think?"
"What skeletons in your closet? Everyone knows you're the 'Ghost Hunter Girl' now. You've even started your own ghost hunting business."
"Yeah, but you know as well as I do that the suit everyone thinks is just cool tech is really ecto-based. It's in my blood, Tuck. Literally. I may not be half ghost, but I'm as much in violation of the anti-ecto laws as Danny is."
"Why do you think I wanted to get into the House in the first place? So we can change those laws."
"Right, but in the meantime, what happens if someone digs a little too deep? I know I'm not in the same kind of danger from the Guys in White as Danny is, but Lord knows if the truth got out, it wouldn't be pretty. And that's not even getting into the other stuff. All it would take is a little digging into my past connections with Vlad, and—"
"Oh, no. You are not gonna use that to put up a wall between us. If Vlad had kept any records of what he did to you, they would've been found nine years ago when the authorities seized all his stuff after he tried to hold the entire world for ransom. The mansion in Amity Park and the chalet in Colorado—even the rubble in Wisconsin—they went through everything with a fine-tooth comb, and nothing came out about any of that. And that was a good year before we even knew the truth."
"Still, I can't take the risk."
"That's a load, and you know it. And if you felt this way, why the heck didn't you say something before I ran?"
"Because I don't wanna be the one who holds you back!"
"But you're okay with me making a decision about our future without knowing how you felt about it?"
"Not our future, Tucker. Your future."
He glared at her. "And you didn't think that after seven years together, I might consider them one and the same? It's not like me proposing is exactly out of the blue. We've talked about it before."
"And I've said I wasn't ready. This is exactly why."
"Because you didn't want me to run for national office, but didn't bother to clue me into that fact?"
"No, Val. This can't be an excuse. If you didn't want to be married to a congressman, you could have said something before I ran. Don't use it now as an excuse to push me away. You either want to be with me, or you don't. Which is it?"
She closed her eyes, and he had his answer. Slipping the ring into his coat pocket, he turned away from her.
"Tucker, I'm sorry."
Without turning back, he said softly. "Yeah, Val. So am I."