Danielle: Part VI
Twelve years after the accident
Something weird was going on with the ghosts. Danielle wasn't sure exactly what, but after living in the Ghost Zone on her own for more than a year back when she was thirteen, she had a pretty good grasp of the code by which most ghosts operated, and their behavior last night just didn't fit. It wasn't the escalating attacks on Amity Park—that was a given. With Danny Phantom gone, they'd see the town as ripe for the picking and, in their way of thinking, they'd even consider it a show of support for him. It was pretty much standard operating procedure for ghosts.
What was weird was the way Johnny 13 had suddenly kidnapped Sam. Dani had been uptown with Valerie fighting Technus, Spectra, and Bertrand when Tucker called for help on the Fenton Phones, sending Valerie off looking for Johnny and Sam. But Dani couldn't figure out why Johnny 13, of all ghosts, would grab her. Ever since hers and Danny's wedding, the ghosts saw Sam as one of them. While that didn't mean they were above fighting her, or even killing her if she opposed them—which she clearly was doing—it just didn't seem like something Johnny would do. He was more of a troublemaker than a really dangerous ghost, and he had no grudge against humans in general, or Sam in particular, that Dani knew of.
Walker, on the other hand, hated humans in general, and Sam in particular. If he had been the one who had grabbed her, it would've made sense to Dani, but instead, almost right after Johnny took Sam, Walker had suddenly become the focus of all the rest of the ghosts, who inexplicably called off their attack on Amity Park to go after him. Now, Dani knew there was no love lost between Walker and the majority of the other ghosts. His arbitrary rules and the way he enforced them made no one happy, but Dani couldn't figure out why they would pick that exact moment to decide to do something about it. And they'd let Sam go at that point, too. When Valerie had come home last night, she'd told Dani and Tucker how she'd found Sam in the park with Skulker, but instead of fighting back when Valerie went after him, he'd told Valerie to take Sam home before taking off after Walker like every other ghost in town.
None of it made any sense and, as Dani sat at the kitchen table in Tucker and Valerie's townhouse, tapping her spoon aimlessly on the side of a bowl of cereal she was attempting to eat for breakfast, she tried to sort it out. What was going on, and did it have something to do with Danny's arrest? And what could Walker have done that was such an affront to the others that they would call off their siege on the humans to go after him?
While she was ruminating about this, Valerie came into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee from the pot Dani had brewed. Putting her spoon down in the bowl, Dani looked up at her. "We need to figure out what's up with the ghosts. There must be some reason Johnny 13 would go after Sam like that."
Valerie turned around and regarded her thoughtfully over her mug of coffee. "You care what happens to Sam?"
Grunting, Dani rolled her eyes. "Oh, give me a break. Of course I care what happens to her! Just because I'm really mad at her doesn't mean I want anything bad to happen to her."
"Then maybe you should go see her."
She sighed. "Yeah, I don't think so."
"She's family, Dani. Be mad at her, but don't shut her out."
"I just can't be around her right now, okay? What she did—"
"Whoa, you can stop right there, kiddo, because I am so not on your side on this one. If it weren't for Sam, the Guys in White would know who you are."
"If it weren't for Sam, Danny would be safe in the Ghost Zone somewhere, and so would I!"
Valerie gave her a tired look. "Okay, no point in rehashing this same argument. You and she disagree on what the best course of action that night should have been. So what? She's family, Dani. When are you going to get over this and talk to her? And don't even get me started on how you're avoiding the Fentons. They ask me every time I see them if you're ever going to come home, and I'm tired of not knowing what to say to them."
Dani studied the soggy remains of the corn flakes in her bowl. "How am I supposed to face them? They'd have their son if it weren't for me."
"Oh, for the… They love you, Dani!"
"They love me because of him."
"They love you because of you. Why is that so hard for you to comprehend? You aren't second best to him. They've raised you since you were fourteen, and you are their daughter in almost every way that matters. So your answer is to shut them out at the exact same moment they lost their son? How do you think that feels for them?"
Dani looked up at her. "You know I don't want to hurt them, but I know that every time they look at me, they see him, and I hate that I'm still here and he's not!"
"Hiding away is not making it better, Dani. They're family."
"I know. You've said that, like, fifteen times now."
"Well, family's feeling more important than ever right now. I…" She took a deep breath and sat down at the table across from her. "There's something you need to know, Dani. You're… gonna be a sister."
For a moment, Dani thought she meant that Maddie was going to have a baby. Maddie really was her mother in most respects, after all. But why would Valerie put it that way, saying she was going to have a sister rather than using the "cousin" euphemism? Or even calling her the baby's niece, which is what she'd actually be. Unless… Her eyes widened. "You? You're pregnant?"
Valerie snorted. "Oh, that'd go over really well during an election year, wouldn't it? 'Representative Foley has baby out of wedlock.'"
"Please. The wedding's only a little more than three months away. No one's gonna care." She gave Valerie a broad smile. "Is it true, then? You're really…?"
"I'm not pregnant, Dani." She exhaled slowly. "Sam is."
It took a minute for Dani to absorb this. If Sam was pregnant then… "Danny's going to be a father?"
"He doesn't even know…"
"No. Sam just found out herself last night. Apparently, the ghosts could tell, and she confirmed it with a couple of different home pregnancy tests."
"The ghosts…?" And then everything fell into place. Johnny 13 hadn't kidnapped Sam; he'd been protecting her. From Walker, the one ghost who'd never accepted her as one of them. He'd never approved of humans mixing with ghosts. The other ghosts had a code they kept to with each other, and babies and expectant mothers were off limits. But if the code applied to Sam's baby… if they could tell she was pregnant… Dani sucked in her breath. "The baby's a ghost, isn't it? Or at least part ghost."
Valerie's eyebrows shot up. "What makes you say that?"
"That would explain why the ghosts were acting all weird last night. If the baby's a ghost, they'd sense it and they'd feel it's their duty to protect her until the baby's old enough to defend itself. But Walker hates half-ghosts and he hates that one married a human, so naturally he'd hate any children they might have. Johnny grabbed Sam to protect her from Walker while all the ghosts went after him for not following their moral code… such as it is."
"You sound like this makes sense to you."
"It does, in a cultural-studies kind of way." She frowned. "Oh, man. If Sam's pregnant with a half-ghost, then Walker's the least of her problems. What are the Guys in White gonna do to her?"
"First of all, we don't know for sure the baby's got ghost powers. Second, we're gonna hide the pregnancy for as long as possible. No one knows, except for family. Sam told Tucker last night, he told me, and I'm telling you. She's probably over at FentonWorks telling Danny's parents right now, and I'm sure she'll be telling Jazz today, too. Then maybe her family, Dash and Patrick, and probably her lawyer. But that's it. We're keeping this secret as long as possible, and when we can't hide the fact that she's pregnant, we'll keep her medical records private. So long as they don't know for sure, they can't touch her."
"Oh, right, 'cause the Guys in White are all about playing fair."
"This isn't as cut-and-dried as it was with Danny. They knew he was a ghost and they knew he'd broken his probation, and even then, the way they handled it is killing them in the public eye. Like it or not, the law as it stands was clearly on their side. But they're gonna have a really hard time justifying going after a pregnant woman with little more than a suspicion that the baby might be a ghost." She sighed. "None of that is the point, though. The point is, you need to patch things up with her, and you need to start talking with the Fentons again. We're all family, and we're all gonna have to pull together, for the baby and for Danny."
"Danny." Danielle shook her head. "He needs to be here for this."
"I know. And that's why we have to work together to get him back." She crossed her arms and gave Dani a look of warning. "And not go off half-cocked after the Guys in White. That won't help."
"I didn't say anything."
"I know you, Danielle Fenton. I know you'd do anything to get him back. We all would. But we've gotta do it the right way. The legal way. Otherwise, everything Danny sacrificed will be for nothing. You got me?"
Dani rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mom."
Valerie arched an eyebrow at her. "And none of that lip, either."
Dani had long since finished dinner and was on the couch in the living room flipping through one of her anatomy books by the time Tucker returned home that evening. Between work, campaigning, and checking up on Sam, it was nearly eight o'clock before he showed up, and Dani was trying to refresh her memory on some of her coursework before the new semester started in a couple of weeks. She'd talked with her advisor a few times about whether or not she should take a year off, and she hadn't quite decided what to do, but she'd been leaning towards going back. If nothing else, it would get her out of Amity Park and away from the people she still couldn't bring herself to face. But with the news about Sam's pregnancy, she was beginning to rethink that. She'd have to reconcile with her eventually, and she wanted to be around to help protect her and the baby once the news became public. With that on her mind, she couldn't really focus on the book, and Tucker's arrival only served to distract her further as she listened to him and Valerie talking in the kitchen behind her.
"How's Sam?" Valerie asked him.
Dani could hear him sliding a plate of meatloaf from dinner into the microwave. "She's still kinda freaked, but better now that she's talked to the Fentons."
"How'd they take the news?"
"Well, they're thrilled, of course, although no one's happy that Danny's not here to be a part of everything. Sam's really relieved though, because Mrs. Fenton already has an idea how to make sure the baby stays put if it has intangibility powers. I guess she's been thinking about this stuff for years, ever since she found out Danny was half ghost. She just needs to work it out with Sam's doctor."
"You think Sam can trust her doctor?"
"She said she likes her regular doctor well enough, but there's an OB/GYN who sits on the Human-Ecto Alliance board. A Dr. Moshi or something like that. Sam's been thinking about switching to her anyway, so she's gonna start there." The microwave dinged, and he pulled the plate out and went and sat down at the table. "I'll tell you what, though. The Guys in White really have me worried."
"They're not gonna know anything for a while yet."
"I know, but we can't keep it a secret forever. If Sam got pregnant on their anniversary, like she's thinking, then she's already almost two months along. That gives us, what? Two more months, tops, before she starts showing. And you know how the tabloids are. If she so much as starts wearing loose clothing, they're gonna be all over it, so we might even have less than that."
"At least she doesn't wear half-shirts anymore."
"True, but she still wears stuff that's pretty form-fitting. One loose blouse and you know the tabloids are gonna have a field day. She can be evasive and all that, but the Guys in White will be paying pretty close attention by then. 'Cause the more I think about it, the more valuable I think Danny's kid would be to them. Maybe even more than Danny himself."
Danielle's hand froze in mid page-turn on her anatomy book. Danny's kid more valuable to the Guys in White than Danny himself? She listened more closely while trying to look like she was absorbed in her book.
"How do you figure?" Valerie asked Tucker.
"Think about it. What's the big thing with the Guys in White?"
"Well, yeah, but you hunt ghosts, too. So do I, and so do the Fentons. But we just do it to send 'em back to the Ghost Zone when they're messing with the Human World. The Guys in White, though—they're all about ridding the world of the ecto 'infestation.' They even tried obliterating the Ghost Zone once, and they'd try it again if they could manage it without destroying our world along with it. They want everything to be 'normal.' As soon as they found out Danny Phantom was half human, they wanted to get their hands on him even more than before, because a ghost-human hybrid's about as not-normal as you can get."
"So why would that make them want the baby even more?"
"Because Danny's mutation was just an accident. For the first fourteen years of his life, he was a completely normal kid. But imagine what they'd do with someone who was born a hybrid. Someone who inherited the ecto 'contaminated' DNA genetically. Tell me they won't want to get their hooks into that."
"You may have a point there." Valerie sounded thoughtful. "But grabbing a pregnant woman or a newborn baby? That'd have to be a political nightmare for them. Look how much the video of Danny's arrest has hurt them in the polls."
"The Guys in White aren't politicians."
"No, but they're regulated and funded by politicians. Their supporters in Congress are gonna reign them in if it'll hurt them in the polls."
"But that's only until November. What happens after the election, especially if they lose the majority in one or both houses? From November until January, we'll have a lame duck anti-ecto president, a lame duck anti-ecto majority in both houses of Congress, and two years until the next election. Public perception isn't gonna matter. It'd be a perfect time for them to go after her and the baby."
"Not if they can't prove it's got ghost powers."
Tucker grunted. "That's why keeping Sam's medical records secret is gonna be crucial. By the election, her pregnancy will be public knowledge, so the only thing we'll have is making sure they can't prove it's half-ghost. And they're gonna try, Val, believe me. Not just warrants, but they'll try and push some kind of legislation that allows them DNA testing without warrants or something like that. There's been talk about that ever since Danny came out and they realized it was possible for a human to have ghost powers. Just you wait. I'd bet every piece of technology I own that there'll be a bill introduced as soon as we reconvene after the election." He lowered his voice, and Dani had to strain to hear him. "Val, I want you to talk to Sam. I know she's already thinking about all this stuff, but I need you to make sure she's making… contingency plans."
"Contingency plans? You want her to—?"
"Buh buh buh!" Tucker cut her off. "I don't want to know. I can't know because of my position. Just talk to her for me, okay? Don't tell me what you talk about. Just… make sure the baby's gonna be safe no matter what."
"She's a smart girl, Tuck. Danny making the choice as an adult to let them take him is one thing, but Sam's not gonna let them lay one finger on her baby."
"Just… make sure. For me, okay? Protecting that baby just became Job Number One, as far as I'm concerned."
Dani's grip tightened on her anatomy book as she remembered what Valerie had said that morning. We've gotta do it the right way. The legal way. She chewed her lip as a plan began to form. If they'd want someone born a hybrid more than they'd want Danny, then maybe we should just give them what they want.
It was either ironic or fitting—Dani couldn't decide which—that the offices of the Human-Ecto Alliance didn't have a ghost shield. They did have a standard door alarm and motion detectors, but the former was a non-issue when she could phase in through the wall, and the latter was easily taken care of once she was inside. A small blast of ice to freeze the alarms for an hour or so without damaging the system permanently was all that she needed. She very rarely used her ice powers—they hadn't been completely developed before Vlad had decimated her ability to fully go ghost, and they made her feel sick faster than using her more standard powers like ectoplasm or intangibility did—but she was fairly well rested, and the blast required to disable the alarm was small and well worth the energy expended.
The clock on the wall read just past two in the morning when she made her way through the dark and silent building looking for the office that belonged to Rob Collins, the HEA's General Counsel. He was also the lawyer who brokered the deal wherein Danny turned himself into the government in exchange for full immunity for all those who knew his human identity. She found his office easily enough and, although it was locked, there was no separate alarm, so she only had to phase through the door and she was inside.
Finding the file she was looking for was a little harder. The filing system was complex, and it took her a while to figure out that it wasn't in with the regular files, but was a part of the separate group where everything that pertained to the current lawsuit was kept.
Understanding the file once she found it was even more difficult. As a medical student with high grades and a good understanding of complicated Latin terms, she would've thought it wouldn't be hard to decipher, but legal-ese was like a whole other language and she had to struggle to figure out exactly what the terms of the deal between Danny and the government were. Although she knew the gist of it was that none of the people who had known Danny's identity could be prosecuted for conspiracy or anything related to having kept Danny's secret over the years, one thing was clear—in order for her to pull off what she hoped to do, she was going to need a lawyer. She couldn't use Rob Collins or any of the other lawyers working on Danny's case, because then Sam would find out, and if Dani had learned anything from the fiasco of Danny's arrest, it was that Sam's priorities were different from her own. But if not one of the HEA's lawyers, then who could Dani trust? It would have to be someone who was firmly pro-ecto, but wasn't involved with Danny's case or the HEA.
She went to Sam's office next. There, she booted up the computer and searched through Sam's address book. There were many lawyers listed, and it was hard for Dani to even begin to tell which one might be best, when she came across a name she thought she recognized. Miguel Sanchez. He'd done some legal consulting work back when Sam was still in college and getting the foundation off the ground. Dani, who had been in high school at the time, remembered meeting him a couple of times, and he'd seemed rather friendly and approachable. Better yet, his current address listed his office in Georgetown. Dani copied down his contact information, shut down the computer, made a photocopy of Danny's original deal with the government before returning it to where she'd found it in Rob Collins' office, then left quickly.
By time the ice around the alarm system melted, she was back at Valerie's and in bed, planning out her next course of action.
"You wanna what?" Valerie gaped at Dani as if she'd just suggested she wanted to go live on the moon.
"I wanna go to D.C. with you and Tucker when Congress reconvenes next month. I… I don't want to be here without you."
Valerie shook her head. "Dani, you can't run away from your family, especially not now. You just found out yesterday about the baby. If you're not gonna go back to school—"
"I'm not. There's just no way I could focus on my studies, not with everything that happened."
"And I get that. I do. But if you're not gonna do that, then you belong here, in Amity Park, with your family."
"You're my family, too."
"But I'm not your whole family, Dani. You need your parents—the ones who raised you, I mean. And you need Jazz and Nick, and you need Sam and the baby. And she needs you, Dani. You can't keep running away."
"The thing is, Valerie, I need to get away. Not forever. But for a little while. One way or another, I'm leaving Amity Park for a while. If you won't let me stay with you in D.C., then I'll go somewhere else on my own. But I can't stay here. It's… it's too hard."
Valerie wasn't thrilled. Tucker was even less so, and he spent the better part of the next two days trying to convince her to stay in Amity Park and to go back home to FentonWorks. But Dani was stubborn—she was her mother's daughter, after all—and when it was clear she wasn't going to stay in Amity Park no matter what they did, Valerie relented. "I don't like it, Dani. I think you're being ridiculous. But if you want, you can come out to D.C. with us. But you'd better promise not to do anything stupid. I'm not gonna let you go off half-cocked after the Guys in White, so if that's your plan, you can just forget it and stay here."
"I promise, Val. No going off after the Guys in White half-cocked."
It wasn't a lie, not really. When she went after the Guys in White, it wouldn't be half-cocked. She would be fully loaded, with her target directly in the crosshairs.