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lie like a tombstone (yet secrets will bloom)

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The first time Valerie sees the flowers, she doesn’t think anything of it.

 

They’re tall and sprawling, with white petals, and embed deeply into the soil. Something feels… off about them. 

 

Where they’re located, firstly, is almost ridiculous. The flowers reside in one chunk at a corner of the park, which edges onto near the woods. Now at first you’d think that maybe these plants just like the shade. No.

 

Valerie can’t find a single flower that even resembles the huge clump that inhabits the corner of the park. There’s something different about these flowers, they’re not like any other usual weed or plant. Sometimes, she swears she can see them glow.  

 

Mainly a blinding white, but sometimes they’ll glow a pasty green or an icy blue. It has to be a trick of the light.

 

Until one day, when she visits Fentonworks.

 

She’s visiting so she can get some new equipment that the Fenton’s mentioned, a type of blaster that is able to track ghosts as well as disable their powers. Which is perfect for her to track Phantom, considering he’s like a weasel in her grasp. 

 

“So, how is everything?” asks Valerie as she awkwardly slumps against the wall.

 

“Going as well as it can. The new ectogun prototype is up and running, however we’ve had a few.. distractions.” Mrs Fenton admits, as she pulls up her goggles.

 

What type of distractions? Valerie knows that Jack Fenton can be quite enthusiastic , however by the tone in the woman’s voice, it doesn’t sound good.

 

“Like what?” The girl tilts her head, and a startled gasp interrupts the two women.

 

It’s Danny Fenton at the kitchen table, blue eyes wide and his hands clenched to the table as if it were a lifeline. He’s looking for a way to escape, she can tell, from the way he’s awkwardly crouched, ready to spring away. 

 

“No running away young man. Mr Lancer was kind enough to provide you with catch up work, and I expect it to be done by tonight. No escaping, you hear me?” The older woman faces the teen, and Danny awkwardly slumps back in his chair, but his eyes are still flickering around nervously.

 

Huh. Valerie didn’t know the teenager would escape. She doesn’t really know him that well, but from what she knows, even if Fenton does run away at times, she wouldn’t see him as one to try to escape his home. 

 

The only gossip Valerie has picked up in the past is about him and his friends, Sam and Tucker. Those three were as thick as thieves, and then some sort of mishap happened and the three weren’t friends anymore.

 

“Yes, Mom.” Danny nods, hesitantly looking back down at his work.

 

“Anyway, I’ll lead you down to the lab, you can see for yourself.” The ginger haired woman beckons her to go down the stairs, so she obliges, walking down into the room, which is filled in a soft, almost familiar green glow.

 

Nothing seems amiss, Valerie thinks as Maddie walks around a few workbenches and leads her towards the portal.

 

Silene latifolia, also known as white campion, or the Flower Of The Dead.” Points Maddie, and there she sees them, a sprawl of white flowers bordered around the portal.

 

The same as the ones at the park. Her heart stops with realisation.

 

“We don’t know why they’re here.” Maddie shrugs, whilst turning to the bench behind her and picking up the prototype ectogun, “We theorised it may be because the portal is an entryway to the land of the dead, or either the rich ectoplasmic levels give the flowers the right temperament to grow in.”

 

Her fingers clench in a fist as she gazes at the white flowers, mocking her with the way they sway gently, looking like a harmless flower. Ghosts. Of fucking course.

 

Then why the heck were they in the middle of the park? The teenager is lost.

 

“Why are they called the flower of the dead?” Questions Valerie.

 

“They normally grow around gravestones and in cemeteries — that’s why we’re so surprised to see them here. But it does make sense, with the portal being to the Ghost Zone — where the dead live.” Maddie shrugs, and crouches down, her hands brushing the petals of one of the white flowers, “However, these seem much more — paranormal than the samples we took from the cemetery. They glowed, and Jack saw them absorbing ectoplasm one afternoon.”

 

Her stomach sinks for the second time that day. 

 

The flowers grew around gravestones, and where she’d found the flowers had been quite secluded and a distance away from the children’s playgrounds or any paths from which onlookers might peer. Additionally, the grass had seemed disturbed, almost clumpy and overturned in a certain rectangular patch.

 

Now she thought about it, it looked just like if someone had dug a hole and tossed a body into.

 

Have — have I found a crime scene? 

 

Blanching, Valerie hurriedly thanks Maddie, who looks startled as she runs out of the lab, not even pausing to grab the prototype ectogun. She knows exactly where she’s heading.

 

At the top of the stairs, she’s faced with Danny Fenton and his former friends, Sam and Tucker, mid-argument. They must’ve arrived while she was in the lab, but she doesn’t care.

 

“Red! Where are you-“ Begins Danny, but the huntress ignores that he’s talking, and that he just called her Red — Phantom’s nickname for her.

 

Running out the door, her feet pound on the pavement, her breath heavy and eyes shedding tears.

 

Heck, she doesn’t even know if she’s right — but she’s potentially stumbled across a body. Of all the people, it happened to her, didn’t it?

 

The park begins to enter her eyesight, and Valerie can barely see the area near the woods as she passes the playground, with a few parents and kids frolicking around, enjoying themselves, blissfully unaware of the casualty lying metres away from them.

 

How long has it been there? She thinks, as she continues running. A couple of passers-by give her weird looks of alarm and confusion, the Red Huntress running frantically through the park certainly a strange sight.

 

The body could’ve been here years, months, or maybe just weeks. She didn’t know how long the flowers had been there before she’d spotted them.

 

And there it is, right ahead of her, those eerily glowing flowers with their winding stalks, surrounding a clump of overturned soil and grass. Looking closer, Valerie swears she can see scratches scarring the dirt, as if someone had dug with their hands in desperation.

 

Valerie kneels on the grass, swallowing nervously. She doesn’t know how to feel. Was this a murder? A simple accident? Who did it?

 

And most importantly, who was lying in the ground below her?

 

Then the glowing of the flowers caught her eye — surely if ghostly flowers were growing around a grave — then the victim would come back as a ghost?

 

Was it possible for a ghost to bury its own body? But according to the Fenton’s, ghosts can’t remember their past life, so it wouldn’t be able to happen.

 

But, there was someone there. Right underneath where she was kneeling, there was someone who’d once lived in Amity Park, had a family, gone to work or school. And she didn’t know.

 

What sort of hero am I if I didn’t even notice a potential homicide?!

 

A rage of anger fills her and Valerie grabs at the grave flowers and rips at them, tearing and shredding a clump right off their stalks.

 

Stupid flowers, stupid me! Stupid body which is buried here for heck knows why!

 

The upturned soil digs into her fingers as she grips at the ground, sighing heavily. 

 

“There’s no point to this.” The teenager sighs, and glances at the flowers in her hand, forlorn and no longer glowing. Her eyes steel to the grass, “But I promise I’ll get your name back and find out who you once were. It’s the least I can do — I’ve overlooked this for so long. I just can’t believe I never noticed.”

 

“Red?” Behind her, a familiar voice spoke, although it has a tinge of coldness to it.

 

“What are you doing here?” It accuses sharply.

 

She turns to see Phantom standing there, arms folded, his green eyes uncharacteristically cold, watching her with suspicion. Stranger than his normal demeanour — the ghost was usually cocky and mischievous with a flicker of excitement in his eyes. This time there is none.

 

She considers if her past thoughts about Phantom being an evil ghost are true, then shakes it out of her head. The ghost kid can help her with this.

 

“Do you know who’s grave this is?” She turns her head to him briefly, dropping the flowers on the grass beside her.

 

Phantom freezes for a second, his eyes observing the ground before he walks around Valerie — unsettling her as she’s so used to seeing him flying — and plants himself on the grass next to her.

 

Blinking rapidly, the ghost’s eyes go wide for a second and he taps his chin in consideration.

 

Valerie prevents the urge to grit her teeth. It’s a simple question, it shouldn’t be this difficult to answer.

 

And after what seems like an eternity, the ghost shrugs absentmindedly.

 

“How do you even know it’s a grave?” He gestures dumbly, trying to look convincing, but failing.

 

Then and there, Valerie almost tackles him to the floor, but prevents herself from doing so. Fists clenched, she glares at the ghost. This was probably a joke to him, wasn’t it? He was probably enjoying dragging her along and wasting precious time.

 

However, he had pretty much just confirmed that it was a grave. She’d known that the whole time, but it being confirmed really made her stomach flip with anguish.

 

“Ghostly glowing flowers, upturned grass in a shape big enough to fit a body. And you just pretty much confirmed it.”

 

Phantom sighs, his green eyes trailing away, avoiding meeting with hers. “Fine. It’s a grave,” The words sound like cement on his tongue.

 

“But I didn’t murder them, if that’s what you’re gonna accuse me of!” His head turns so fast as if it would come clean off his shoulders, and he splays his hands forward, trying to reassure the huntress of his innocence.

 

Valerie can’t blame him. She did accuse him of anything and everything back then. It’s no suprise Phantom still walks eggshells around her.

 

Perhaps if they work together to find the body, he can learn to trust her again.

 

But then a strike of realisation goes through her. He’d mentioned murder.

 

Is it a murder? Is there a killer in Amity Park, walking free, not convicted of their crime? 

 

“It’s a murder?” Tenses Valerie, fear jolting through her like lightning. Amity Park could be in danger. Crime rates were always low in the town (except for ghosts), which meant less police, which meant a higher risk of a homicide to slip through the cracks and go unnoticed.

 

“And you know who it is?” She faces Phantom. If he knew it was a murder, he must know who the killer and the victim are.

 

“No! No! It was an accident. Just a stupid accident. Not a murder…” He trails off, looking forlornly to the soil.

 

Valerie gives a bark of laughter, but it has no humour in it. “An accident?! You’re telling me that a body buried in a park in an accident.”

 

“Yes.” A hand trails to the back of his neck in discomfort. “So, is that all?”

 

The ghost pushes up, as if to leave. 

 

“Nu-uh! You missed a question.” She folds her arms.

 

“What, I- I did?” Now standing up, the ghost looks down at her, his face blank, unconvincing.

 

“Who’s body is it?” Her voice is firm. No messing around now. She needs the information. And by the jumpy way Phantom is acting, it’s clear he has information about this.

 

“I don’t know!” He protests.

 

“You seemed to know an awful lot about the circumstances of this person's death, considering you don’t know them.” She retaliates curtly.

 

“Not my fault. I didn’t exactly expect to be bombarded with questions about a random body that I have no idea about.” Phantom shrugs, his eyes narrowing.

 

Fiery anger builds up in her, and Valerie pushes herself up, pointing an accusing finger at Phantom,

 

”But you knew the context of their death, so why didn’t you report it to the police?! Someone is dead Phantom, and you never even considered reporting the body?”

 

Perhaps if he had, she wouldn’t be left with the remnants of this huge problem. Literally.

 

“Ah yeah. A ghost reporting a dead body to the police. I’m sure they’d believe me if I said it wasn’t me who killed them and it was just an accident.” The teeenager scoffs, rolling his eyes, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

 

He has a point, she stubbornly admits internally, and takes a step back from him. 

 

“Why are you even here?” She finally asks, changing the topic. They were getting nowhere.

 

“The heck do I know.” exclaims Phantom, spinning around dramatically, emphasising to the whole park, “All I know is that I’m at home and the next thing is I’m here.”

 

He has a home? Ghosts can do that? She considers. Phantom has always been weird after all.

 

“I still don’t trust how you know it was an accident and not a murder, though.”

 

“Fine then. Don’t. Because I don’t know who it is. Look, if it was a murder, the person definitely would’ve been reported as missing and there would’ve been more evidence. I mean, this? It’s haphazardly been thrown into the ground, obviously someone was pretty desperate.” He points to the ground, and Valerie goes nauseous again. 

 

She’d forgotten that there’s a body literally in the ground beneath them. But how can a person go missing and not be reported? Unless…

 

“Are you suggesting that this person went missing and no one knows they've died?!” Her eyes widen in horror.

 

Oh God. Valerie glances at the floor. Beneath her feet, mere centimetres, was a person who’d died, violently she presumed, considering they were buried in a shallow grave in the park, and no one knew they were missing or that they were dead. It didn’t really imply good things for the person when they’d been alive either. If no one had reported then missing.. well they mustn’t have had anyone who cared.

 

You must’ve been so lonely. She thinks, looking at the grave. But I care, even if your family didn’t care to report you missing. You must’ve died in so much pain, presuming that your death would go unsolved and no one would ever find out what happened to you. But I promise it won’t. 

 

“I don’t know.” Phantom awkwardly inputs after a while, “Maybe.”

 

Why is he here, though? Of all the ghosts — it had to be Phantom to show up. Without thinking, words spill past her lips.

 

“Maybe it’s a sign.”

 

“What’s a sign?”

 

“A sign that you were summoned here.”

 

“What?”

 

“You had to be summoned here for a reason, right?” reasons Valerie, folding her arms and staring at the ghost, who now looked bored and confused. “That reason is to help me bring that person back:”

 

“Red, you do know how stupid that sounded right?” Phantom accuses casually, brushing a hand through his hair and lightly laughing. He leans forward on his toes and speaks dismissively, “I was summoned here because of the grave flowers. They alert me whenever someone gets too close to my body so I can sort—“

 

Phantom freezes mid sentence.

 

Valerie is too shocked to speak.

 

“You-your body?!” She stutters.

 

Phantom has never looked so terrified in his life. Face as pale as snow, green of his irises practically unnoticeable, his mouth gawping but making no sound.

 

“Fuck.” Is the only legible words he can shove through.

 

So many questions flood her head. When? What? How?

 

Before she can question him, Phantom flickers out of sight. She’s left, standing alone above the soil that Phantom’s body rests in — and all she can wonder is how alone and terrified he must’ve been in his last moments, and what life he was living before if his family never even reported their teenage son missing.