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Danny Phantom, The Lost Arc

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Vladimir Masters was weathering a midlife crisis. Not that he ever would admit to such a problem when he had such a carefully crafted persona to keep up... No, this little crisis was something he had become adept at hiding for a little more than two years now. At present, it had been almost four months since the failed ‘cloning’ incident, as Daniel called it. Chuckling bitterly at his desk Vladimir paused in thought. He didn’t like reminiscing on those events. He had lost more than Daniel would presumably ever know during that time period and Vladimir was still coping with the emotional stress that came from that particular act of desperation.

Grasping the bottle back to his face he took another swig. The ocher liquid splashed greedily against his jaw. Now the mayor of Amity Park, he was having serious issues retaining his narcissistic personality for the boy. The fire for his resentment just wasn’t there anymore. In reality, it never had been. He never detested Jack Fenton. He had been his best friend, and most staunch confident for nearly two years in college. Vlad could never see someone who had comforted him, supported him and shared his problems with him equally, as an enemy. He did; however, carry anger and grief in spades. Jack had abandoned him after the accident….so had Maddie. Vlad was hurting, but he didn't hate the Fentons. He never had. He loathed himself.

It’s easy to pretend to hate someone and plot from a distance. Their proximity to him, however, was starting to cripple the resolve for his little web of lies. Worse yet, Vladimir was becoming overly attached to the fat oath’s son.

The only two natural hybrids in the world, and they were beating each other up under false pretenses. Vlad groaned and struck his head against his desk. The whiskey wasn’t helping like it ordinarily did. He was second-guessing his motives again, ripping apart his carefully stitched and clumsily taped resolve back into fractured pieces.

Vlad’s fingers drummed his desk in worry. Sitting back up he glared at his hand’s nervous gestures. Perceiving his emotions out in the open was more than a cause for frustration. Angry, he ceased the movements and flung his now fisted hand hard against the mahogany. The closer he became to the Fentons the more his locked emotions became clear, and he HATED himself for it.

“Why should I care if that welp disappeared? He’s sixteen! It’s not like I care for that insufferable brat!!!” Glaring at the bottle in his left hand he took another swig. In his head, the thoughts lamented. ‘Since when did you NOT care Vladimir? Isn’t this all for him? For them?’

Vlad sat the whiskey bottle down on the desk and angrily glared at the almost mocking bottle. Yes… he was overly attached by this point. He wrung his hands in frustration. Enraged at his own thoughts Vladimir’s hand wrapped around the abandoned whiskey bottle and hurled it into the adjacent wall with enough force to crack the mansion’s office wall. The glass shattered and fell against the floor with a heavy crack. Chestnut paneling darkened in color where the remaining liquor had fallen. Angry, and fairly drunk, Vladimir slouched in his chair.

“Why the heck did things have to be this way?” Gnawing his lip in frustration he brought his hand to the bridge of his nose. ‘Because I am a deplorable liar…’ He groaned. Sometimes portraying a villain led to more serious morality issues than others. He could hope and trust in Daniel’s abilities, or he could intervene. Vlad’s eyes saddened.

‘It’s already been a week... If you don’t act now it will be too late…’ Getting up clumsily from his office chair, Vlad calmly called his secretary and informed her of his needed absence from the office for a few days. The dull click of the reservoir signified the end of his hastily made one a.m. call to Bertra Ann.

The woman was odd but hard-working and had never ceased to question his schedules or tendencies. With everything in order, he began re-buttoning his shirt before sighing and casually walking toward the door. A sharp stab of pain in his heel redirected his attention. He had forgotten all about the glass shattered across the wooden floor. Wincing, he reached down and gently grasped the shard that had become embedded in his barefoot only for another sharper and more excruciating pain to blossom through his body. Losing his balance he staggered into the end table adjacent to the Jack Daniel’s remnants. Something hot had scorched his hand when he had removed the shard. In his drunken aggravated state though he had failed to notice its source.

“DAMN IT!” He flinched remembering his therapy and rolling his eyes corrected himself, “Butter Biscuits.” Looking over the floor his gaze trailed to the wall outlet near the booze disaster. Grumbling in frustration, he stood and crouched down to look at the mess. “Just great I fried the damned outlet.” Grabbing his head and standing he berated himself. ‘What was the point of going to anger management classes when I was younger if a couple of bottles of liquor negate everything?!?’

Turning from the mess his dark brow twitched in agitation. ‘This week isn’t off to a good start….’

Steel-blue eyes took one last glance at the office and frowning he walked into the hallway and shifted into Plasmius. There was immeasurable pain as the dark black rings expanded from his torso and activated his ghost attributes. The pain wasn’t entirely new. He had attributed it to a relapse in his genetics, similar to the forced reconstruction of his genome when it was first spliced with his ghost half in college. Really, what was he supposed to think? His body strained against the ghost plasma that morphed him. As the rings faded Vlad’s blue-tinged skin, spiked ebony hair and vampire-like appearance came into fruition.

Taking in a tremulous breath as Vlad Plasmius, he absently stared at his right gloved hand. He was having more issues than he could honestly admit to his friends…. Clasping his hand closed he floated intangible into the downstairs lab and opened the portal. The swirling familiar green shifted and danced, lighting the walls in neon sickly hues common in most horror films. Furrowing his brow he calmly stepped between the doorway connecting the two dimensions. Putting a gloved hand to his forehead he floated shakily for a moment to try and stop the spinning in his skull. The booze wasn’t going to help him any tonight… “I really should learn restraint when it comes to that garbage….”

Flying through the weightless murk of green and the varied assortment of doorways and landmasses that hovered around him he grumbled under his breath. “Grabbing a certain ghost and interrogating him over Daniel shouldn’t be too difficult.” His eyes rolled in annoyance. “It’s about time I paid a visit to the Box Ghost.”

Reaching Pandora’s domain Vlad hastily cloaked his breathing and heart rate. Unlike Daniel, revealing he was half ghost carried way more risk… Looking at the maze-like assortment of hedges and Greek architecture Vladimir’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance. The Box Ghost was almost as bad as Klemper and an extended conversation would surely tax his patience for the night.

Floating into the maze, Vlad quickly composed himself. From what he had heard in Amity, the Box Ghost was the last real battle Daniel had fought before disappearing. Granted, the pathetic cardboard obsessed fool was harmless, but he had been the last to see Daniel.

Easily walking past the Cyclops and the three-headed mongrel patrolling the grounds he found the blue specter. Eyes narrowing he casually addressed him, “I see your petty stunt in Amity has left you a common gardener.” Startled, the box ghost froze from his labors and spun around. Seeing Vladimir’s crimson eyes and the subtle crackle of condensing plasma from Vladimirs palms, he squeaked and dropped his hedge clippers onto the black grass.

The ghost timidly lifted his hands up in his customary greeting, “Beware..?” Vlad face palmed himself in annoyance and began asking the ghost about what he needed to know.

“Hello, Lawrence, I came here to ask you about a certain someone…”

The Box Ghost gulped at his name being used so casually. Typically, real names were reserved for only two things. Close friends or serious, often life-altering situations. The types of situations with severely negative and often painful implications. Looking at Vladimir’s expression he was willing to bet this was the latter of the two. Fastening his eyes fearfully with Plasmius, he meekly asked, “Um…whom do you want to talk about?”

Without even a pause of deliberation, Plasmius answered. “Danny Phantom.” His voice echoed threateningly to Lawrence, “The boy is a part of my new territory and as of your little incident no one has seen the brat!”

The Box Ghost’s eyes widened at the news. The boy had been there observing his labors around a week ago? Lawrence's nose squished in frustration. Vlad’s black boot tapped above him as he floated, waiting for the information. Gulping, Lawrence quickly blurted. “ We haven’t seen him since he left last Sunday? I think? I mean, human time is different depending on what area of the ghost zone you’re in!”
Vlad’s eyebrows furrowed.“So, I am guessing you have no clue which direction the little monster left by?” Plasmius frowned angrily.

“He said he was going to the timeless zone to check in with a friend before he departed.” The Box Ghost shuffled against the abandoned hedge he had trimmed nervously.

At this information, Vlad instantly felt a shiver go up his spine. Unlike typical ghosts, some didn’t establish their homes in a singular space and would often, instead, stand by secluded areas until prey or a worthy meal came by. The timeless zone was no exception to that. If anything? It probably had many more demons than the younger hybrid could ever imagine. Vlad groaned internally. He was supposed to instruct Daniel on these things... He was the older of the two of them and more experienced. His little game was now causing more harm than good. Clockwork had been hinting for some time that Daniel would have to be taught formally by him about the nuances of their roles. Vladimir was more than apprehensive about the idea. After playing a villain for over a year, he had no doubt Daniel hated him with every fiber of his being. That was the plan, wasn't it?

‘This is my fault... The boy has no clue how the ghost zone really works….’

“For your sake Box Ghost, or more accurately for your afterlife’s sake Lawrence, I suggest you keep our little chat and my appearance here boxed up.”

The box ghost’s head bobbled like a plastic toy in response to both Plasmius’ threat and the menacing purple and pink energy saturating around the vampire ghost’s hands. “Yeeesss sir!” He bumbled and bowed.

Vlad turned and with a whirl of his white cloak vanished in a poof of pink and scarlet mist. Reappearing next to Pariah’s keep, he stumbled and placed a hand to his head. “Hmmm… good, Fright Knight’s sword is still sealing this dump.” Feeling dizzy he leaned against the green shield. Teleporting not only deprived him of oxygen but also energy. Looking around and seeing no phantoms or spirits near the abandoned castle he temporarily turned human and glanced at his watch. Five a.m. flashed in bright fluorescent green against the silver. ‘It’s almost the same color as that little brats ey-’ Vlad cut off the thought. Annoyed with his drunken thoughts he shifted back into Plasmius. The split and sudden pain seemed to only multiply with the booze drumming against his cranium. Sighing, he absently teleported near Clockwork’s and began exploring the area for the teenager.

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Danny Phantom was having the time of his life. Vlad was out of his hair permanently. The idiot, after trying to kill Danni, had threatened the entire planet with the ultimatum he and he alone could save everyone in exchange for vast amounts of money and complete control over the world. Flying through the air Daniel laughed. “The megalomaniac, narcissistic Fruit Loop had it coming..” To top it off he had revealed his alter ego to the entire planet before threatening everyone. Daniel paused in his flight and looked up to the stars. ‘ Wait. Vlad always took great lengths to keep the fact that he was a half ghost hidden… why flaunt it?’ He shook his head to dispel the thought. He couldn’t possibly be thinking about that space hermit. ‘I mean... Six months have passed. Vlad is probably dead by now.’ Daniel’s green eyes saddened slightly. Looking down at Amity he smiled bitterly. It was a little late to lament his arch enemy and what cause did he have to worry? Vlad Masters had been a manipulative villain to the bitter end. Looking at the moon’s position in the sky he groaned. He was late for his date with Sam. Flipping in the air he spun downward toward the park. Tucker was Mayor. Sam and him were going steady. His parents had fully accepted him, as had every other human being in the world. The ghost’s in the ghost zone didn’t hate him anymore. He was content…... His heart shuttered…

He paused mid-flight and, feeling dizzy, turned human for a split-second and began plummeting to the ground. Catching himself he expertly forced a shift back into ghost form. The sickening jolt hadn’t been the first. They had become more and more frequent as the month’s dragged on. Floating back up into the sky he stroked his silver hair tiredly. Press stress and his hero duties must have been causing his powers to fluctuate. Popularity did that to a person. He grinned widely at the thought and sped his flight to Sam up, unaware of the dark shadow blending into the sky above him, spying and lurking in wait.

Daniel also had neglected to piece a few facts together about his supposed happily ever after…. Space rock...namely an asteroid the size of a small moon, would have taken years to reach earth from Saturn and not merely a few days. Being electrocuted to death wouldn’t have negated his powers and being blasted by every ghost he knew wouldn't have given his abilities back. Turning the ghost repelling asteroid intangible wouldn't have worked. The rock, if it existed, would have simply swatted the energy into the cosmos and shattered the planet like sugar glass…. But what did a happy sixteen-year-old really know? He was content, and everything was perfect for him. No enemies, no fear, no hate.

White hair glistening in the night, Daniel danced joyously between the clouds. With a deep sigh of gratitude, he beamed at the voice below him and sprung downward in delight.

Dreams have a funny habit of seeming perfect, that is until we finally wake up.

Chapter Text

Something was off.

Vladimir, having floated through the timeless zone for several hours, was starting to feel weird. A sudden shift in the air around him caused him to cough uncontrollably. There was an unnatural warm searing pain in his chest. Feeling a burning heat flaring from the center of his abdomen, he grasped a hand to the spot in agony and winced. The other hand shot to his mouth in confusion. A narrow sliver of coiled gray smoke had wrestled its way through his fangs and was lazily dissipating in front of his line of sight.

Still recovering from his whiskey bender, Plasmius angrily admonished himself. “Note to self, half ghosts should REALLY drink in moderation.” He frowned. The feeling was unnatural to him and even in his drunken state, he had an inclination that the smoke was a reaction to something in his general vicinity. Pausing he closed his eyes and focused his hearing. His pointed ears twitched and his eyes opened in surprise. He could hear breathing nearby. Reluctantly and cautiously he followed the sound through several warped and congealed masses of green matter until he came to the source. He froze instantly.

A vast, shaded archipelago floated ominously next to him. Purple torrents of poisoned water dripped and dissipated from the island’s waterfall-like protrusions. Inky, shadowy clouds of mist danced and swayed through the spectral foliage. Clearing his head of any doubt he phased through the impenetrable black fog and into the isle’s trees. Seeing a black blossom with red stripes curling around the stem Vlad froze. Touching his glove to the bloom warily, he inspected the plant.

A look of recognition blossomed across his features and his eyebrows twitched in annoyance. ‘ I send Skulker and Fright Knight away and end up stumbling onto Nocturn’s isle myself? If that isn’t the most ironic…’ Growling angrily, he withdrew his hand from the bloom and focused back to the task at hand.

Nocturn was fairly elusive, and Vladimir from his extensive studies knew what to expect. Vlad tensed as he quietly looped around the blooms on the forest floor. The last thing he needed was for a sleep demon to get ahold of him. He suffered enough nightmares and being fed on by a dream mahr wouldn’t help his already sleepless nights. ‘Okay, Vladimir...think… you're completely drunk, but you do possess some knowledge, right?’He challenged himself as stepped over the thorny stems.‘ Okay…’He breathed in deeply and narrowed his eyes for a moment in concentration.‘Nocturn… he’s an Old Norse ghoul who consumes life from dreams. A mårt.’Vlad’s brow furrowed.‘He’s reclusive and is fond of hunting people who can’t defend themselves or have heavy self-doubt.’Vlad opened his eyes and, rolling them, continued making his way deeper into the island. ‘Therefore, technically, I am on the menu...lovely…’Looking around, his ears twitched animalistically toward the sound of the breathing. It was labored and pained. His red eyes glinted with worry.

‘Focus Vlad! If you step on any of these blasted thorn snares you won't be able to help anyone…’ He reprimanded and pulled his boot back from the black tendril that had started moving towards the slight warmth emanating from his body.‘ I assume Skulker and Fright Knight neglected the timeless land when they initiated their search because of rumors about Clockwork...foolish ghosts and their superstitions…’Vlad’s red eyes flashed, and he froze. There was currently a heartbeat to accompany the labored breathing, and it was sporadic and faint. Vladimir almost would have confused it for one of the streams disrupted nearby by debris.

Pushing his way through the lush black grass and underbrush, he made his way to a spacious field-like clearing. The grass was warped and disjointed around the center and seemed to wave of its own accord, despite there being no wind. ‘Banshee’s Clover?’ Vlad glared at the glowing purple flowers gently waving around in the grass. ‘ Okay...you've discovered its feeding ground Vladimir...now what?’

Even as he surmised it... he knew what he would have to do. The heartbeat and breathing seemed to be coming from a small pile of rocks in the middle of the clearing about ninety feet away from him. The black and scarlet blossoms favored by Nocturn gently swayed around the outcropping. Looking around and not detecting any traces of the dream demon Vlad strode forward only to gape in shock as he came closer to the blooms.

The mound, as he formerly thought, possessed white-gloved hands entrapped among the flowers. He had found Daniel. Teleporting forward he quickly reached the unconscious teen. Still in phantom form, the sixteen-year-old had not needed nourishment or common necessities to survive in the ghost zone. ‘He should have turned human...What’s-?’Vlad paled as he fully took in Daniel’s condition. A helmet-like array of blooms looped and curved around his eyes, blocking any out outside visuals. The stems and their thorny protrusions laced around his unconscious form and were slowly snuggling into his chest. Green ectoplasm and carnal blood freely flowed from the wound only for the ghost zone’s ambient energy to feed Daniel’s body and resurface the flesh.

“JESUS CHRIST?! Is Nocturn trying to feed off of his comatose state and his core?!”His panicked voice seemed to reverberate and echo in the clearing. Vlad’s hand promptly shot to his mouth. Expecting his drunken foolishness to have alerted the dream demon, Vlad grimaced in anticipation of a confrontation only to be met with stifling silence. The sole things resonating in the clearing were the sounds of Vlad’s now frantic heart and Daniel’s failing one paired with their breathing.

Nocturn had found a better and more sustainable food source than his usual query. He had grown weary of sifting through temporary portals in hospital morgues and feeding off of the comatose or frail poltergeists. Why risk searching out meals away from the zone when a simple substitution would feed him indefinitely? And so he had decided to capture a more coveted prize, the now widely known Danny Phantom.

Vlad, wasting no time, growled angrily and began trying to figure out how to coax Daniel safely away from the plant tendrils without injuring him. Ultimately deciding on a course of action he used his hands to produce a thin, concentrated blast of ectoplasmic energy. Hovering the beam next to the boy, he directed it at the roots of the plants ensnaring Daniel. The plants writhed and flinched away at the violent heat and shriveled once they became detached at their bases. Seeing no more possible tendril-like appendages on the boy, Vladimir gently shook his shoulders to try and rouse him from his ghost induced stupor.

In panicked whispers, he addressed the bleeding half ghost, “Daniel? Wake up for the love of God! We have to…” He was cut off by a white-gloved hand that shot up in his direction. The blast cracked into his ribs and flung him backward in the grass. Vlad moaned. His hand limply held onto the side of his chest that was practically shot through. Daniel floated above him menacingly. And then, plummeting toward Vlad’s dazed form, kicked him into the trees.

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Danny’s date with Sam had been going great. After eating at the Nasty Burger in town they had leisurely set-up a blanket on a hill overlooking Amity Park. Not a cloud obscured the flawless crystalline sky and the constellations twinkled despite the lights from the city below them. Sam was fidgeting with a small ring on her finger and blushing next to him. “So which one is Orion again?” She questioned curiously. Daniel smiled and pointed upward.

“Orion is the one with the three bright stars. See that’s his belt. If you follow the dots, you will be able to make out Betelgeuse. It's that bright star that forms his armpit. After that? You can keep following the line east along the hunter's arm to see his bow.”

Sam nodded enthusiastically. “ It’s a shame we can’t see Scorpio this time of year.”

Daniel nodded absently. “ Yeah, winter does that…Hey, Sam?”He turned to her deep purple eyes and asked curiously.“ Why the interest in Scorpio?”

She pondered this absently. “It’s tragic, isn’t it? In mythology, Scorpio slays Orion, the great hunter, because of a trick…”Daniel raised an eyebrow at this morbid remark. Seeing his face Sam laughed. “ It’s my Zodiac sign so I read up on the myth…” Daniel furrowed his brow. ‘Why’s she lying? Her birthday falls around August…’Daniel’s blue eyes flashed for a second to radioactive green only to turn back to blue as Sam reached over to his face and kissed him.

Blushing profusely he nervously averted his eyes, “Um, was that a fake-out make-out?”Smiling widely she leaned forwards across the blanket and gathered a soda from her backpack.“You tell me, dream boy? Was it?”He blushed and put a hand behind his neck nervously...She saw his expression and laughed jubilantly. Leaning back towards him, she secured her arm under his jaw. “ Why not test your theory?” Smiling he leaned forward to kiss her only for a sudden jolt to shake everything. Vlad Plasmius floated above them threateningly. Daniel’s blue eyes flashed green in rage and shock. ‘NO WAY.HE'S DEAD. HE CAN'T BE ALIVE.”

“Sam! Stay back I have this!’ Shifting he turned toward where Sam had been sitting only to pale. An overturned grape soda bottle limply lay across the blanket. Vlad laughed hauntingly from above him. The noise fluctuated and warped like a broken radio signal. Flying upward toward Vlad, Daniel charged his hands. Blasting the figure in the shoulder he watched as Plasmius faded and rippled from view.

“A duplicate or?” Daniel floated warily in the cold winter air. A startled scream from behind him jarred him out of his ponderings. Another Plasmius was suspending Sam by the hood of her purple flannel jacket some forty feet above the ground. Daniel’s vivid green eyes widened in horror.
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Vlad snapped through the underbrush and trees with a sickening cracking sound. Winded, he shakily crawled away from the spectral tree that he had snapped in half from the force of his body slamming into it. Coughing up ectoplasm he numbly stared at the gaping gash that extended from his left pectoral muscles all the way down to his lower ribs. Green dripped lazily from the wound and hastily ate at the singed fabric. The teen wasn’t in control of his power levels.

‘ Ow.’ Shakily getting to his feet he experienced a moment of temporary dizziness and almost slumped back into the red and black foliage face first. Gloved hands had whirled to his knees and supported him before his face could reacquaint itself with the island.
Any other day and Vlad would have been able to intercept the boy’s attacks but today… well, at present he was for lack of a better word fully inebriated. Hearing a branch snap nearby, Vladimir paled.

“Oh, fudge…” The billionaire gasped before being kicked yet again in the wounded area by the teenager. Now back on the ground, he struggled to take in a decent gulp of air after being winded. Wincing in pain he looked up at Daniel. And then it clicked. They weren’t alone, and Daniel was definitely ‘not at home.’The blank green orbs that locked on Plasmius’ bleeding and struggling form stared at him but saw nothing. They were lifeless.

The boy was sleepwalking to Nocturn’s whims. ‘ …. Well… this can’t possibly get any worse Plasmius…’Standing shakily back up, Vlad’s red eyes darted around the boy trying to discover an opening.‘ You could always blast him?’Vlad’s hands charged and then limply fell back to his sides.‘ Then again...there's no guarantee that wouldn't do more harm than good.’Vlad snarled at his lack of options. Grimacing, he bit his lip and turned intangible. Phasing through Daniel, he swiftly turned solid and proceeded to shake the boy in an attempt to wake him up and severe the connection. Flinging the boy around to confront him he shook him even more roughly.

“WAKE UP DAMN IT!!!” Plasmius all but slapped the teen. A glimmer of something sparked in Daniel’s green eyes.
Whatever granule of accomplishment Vlad had gotten in his bleeding and drunken state immediately dissipated a few seconds later when another fierce, searing pain ripped through his abdomen. Daniel had shot him again. Knees buckling to the ground Vladimir struggled to keep his red eyes coherent. “ ….I hate my job…” He half coherently mumbled.
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Daniel could feel his heart stop in his chest. A large tearing sound echoed through the frigid air. Sam’s hood was ripping. Plasmius grinned broadly at the sound. Sam’s hands desperately latched onto his gloved hands in an attempt to prevent herself from plummeting. Her round eyes widened in terror and her ebony-stained lips widened into a scream.

“PLASMIUS! DON'T!” Daniel’s panicked voice ripped through the tension and suddenly everything shook again. The entire world seemed to spin and fluctuate around the three of them. A violent blast aimed at his head shifted his attention back to Vlad. The ghost’s grip on Sam’s hood was now reduced to a lone hand. The other arm was aimed at Daniel and readied to blast him again.

A peculiar muffled noise seemed to reverberate around him.

“WA…UP!”Daniel’s neon eyes widened, and he floated apprehensively, but now puzzled, across from the still evilly grinning older half-ghost.

“Did you just say 'Was’ up?”It was Vladimir’s voice surely, but the billionaire would never utter something so tactless. In reply to the question, Plasmius leisurely lifted up Sam’s still struggling form in front of Daniel. “DANNY? I’M SCARED!” Sam’s voice pierced through Daniel’s question, and he extended his hands up in front of his face.“Fruit Loop ...please...don’t.She’s not involved in this…”

Vlad’s face contorted in rage. “ Not involved? Dear boy, she’s just as much to blame as you are!”Sam’s fingerless gloves latched desperately onto Vlad’s black ones. Scuffing at her attempts to stabilize herself he looked into Daniel’s eyes and smiled. “The world’s hero, huh? Tell me little Badger… you can top what? One hundred and thirty miles per an hour in your current form? I know you’re bad at math, so I’ll make this simple Daniel. If I drop her from this distance would you be able to make it in time?”

He paused and shook Sam’s dangling form to emphasize the point and the hood ripped even more. Sam’s black mascara trailed down her face from her tears. Vlad’s smile morbidly stretched across his features. And then he let go of Sam.

Her form stayed suspended for a split second in mid-air and then her ebony hair tousled up as she began falling. Daniel immediately dove to her. ‘I can make it!’ He could practically touch her.

And then the world shook and fluctuated again. Daniel could feel his heart constrict, and his powers fluctuate. When everything stopped spinning Daniel’s eyes widened in anger and grief. Sam’s body lay limply against the pavement where she had fallen. Her indigo, gray eyes stared into the sky unable to see. Tears snaked across Daniel’s face and his hand immediately shot upward and blasted Plasmius square in the chest.
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Vlad, still struggling to stay coherent could detect tepid water dripping onto his face. Puzzled, he locked his eyes up to Daniel’s face and froze. Danny Phantom was crying. Vladimir’s crimson eyes widened in horror. Choking against the now iron-rich human blood and static-filled ectoplasm in his mouth, Vlad whispered, “ Little badger...it's just a nightmare…wake-up…”

Daniel’s tears seemed to only grow stronger. A breeze rustled through the grass and around Daniel, whipping his snow-white hair to and fro. A hand latched to Vlad’s shoulder and hefted him up.

The boy's eyes, still distraught, hauntingly contrasted with the smile that played across his lips. ‘He’s feeding on him from the inside…Think…Think damn it!’ Vlad dully gripped the boy's white-gloved hand in his own ebony one.‘Skulker is going to annihilate me when he finds out about this little ordeal…’ Swallowing nervously Vlad turned intangible and forcefully possessed Daniel’s body.

Daniel’s body convulsed and flashed red for a moment at the intrusion. Crimson and deepest black fought for control in his unconscious eyes. Vlad, now suspended in Daniel’s body could feel the crippling lattice-like fog rolling over him. “DANIEL!!!” Seeing a segmented part of Daniel’s subconscious netted in REM sleep Vladimir quickly fused his consciousness into the portal like void. The world seemed to ripple and pulsate and a dazzling flash of brilliant green light temporarily blinded Vlad. When he opened his eyes, the sound of agonized screaming from Daniel jostled his consciousness. Daniel was lifting a young girl’s head in his arms and cradling her against himself. His body racked with grief, he shook against himself. Grimacing, Vladimir stumbled forward and seeing her lifeless eyes he froze. He could feel his guts twist and turn at the sight.

‘What type of hell verse did I just stumble into?! NO WONDER HE BLASTED ME!’Vlad’s gloved hand desperately latched against his still freely bleeding torso. He was feeling faint. The use of his abilities in his state wasn’t going to be easy. He was the one possessing Daniel any damage made to his temporal form would most certainly transfer to his corporeal body when he returned to the external world again. He could already feel Nocturn’s presence warping his resolve and his thoughts. Daniel’s screams ripped Vlad from his ponderings, and he painfully began making his way towards the teen.“....Daniel? Are you alright?”

Daniel’s body stiffened and the sobbing stopped. Vlad’s red eyes flashed with concern. Clutching the hand from his wounded chest, he reached toward the boy only to feel himself being flung back into yet another tree. “YOU KILLED HER YOU BASTARD!”

Daniel’s hands continued blasting and his green eyes flashed wildly. The blasts were sporadic and fluctuate in intensity and density. Vlad’s form crumbled and fell face-first into the grass. His black-gloved hand numbly dug into the ground as the assault continued. ‘Shield… have to shield…’A weak pink dome shot up to protect Vlad from the blasts only for the sudden exertion to drain his now heavily bruised and bloody body of valuable energy. The boy's blasts internally weren't as fierce, but they did produce sizeable damage. After a few moments, Vlad started to slip and faint. His head dully hit against the ground and the pink shield shattered and broke. Daniel, seeing Plasmius' unmoving, quickly ran forward to him. Vlad’s wrist moved numbly as he attempted to crawl away only for a white boot to slam into his back and plunge him back into the ground. Vladimir screamed in agony as his chest was pressed into the frozen earth.

Turning Vlad over with his foot, the teenager glared. Daniel’s glare, however, turned to a look of puzzlement as his focus landed on the older hybrid’s rapidly bleeding chest. He was certain his ectoblasts hadn’t caused that much damage. Vlad’s red eyes dully locked with Daniel’s as he was lifted up. Daniel’s neon green orbs, still grief-stricken, narrowed at Vlad. Lifting up one of his hands from Vlad’s neck, he charged it and rammed it point black against Vlad’s stomach. Vlad screamed in agony as Daniel lifted him up higher by the nape of his neck. Crimson eyes teared and his hands numbly tried to fight the grip depriving his consciousness of clarity.

After a few moments, his hands began going limp. Vlad struggled through the clinched fingers around his throat to address the teen. “......Badger…wake-up…” Daniel’s hand tightened slightly. Blood dripped down Vladimir’s jaw. “....Wake up...for Christ’s sake…Daniel…” Tightening his grip further and hearing the low gurgle from the adult, inhuman darkness consumed Daniel’s form and a wicked smile morphed onto his face. Placing his other hand around Vlad’s throat, he charged his hands and began burning his neck. Vlad’s body numbly writhed against the burning and his eyes began to try and close. ‘Damn it…’

A movement from behind Daniel prompted him out of his pained stupor. The girl’s body had morphed and shifted into a gray shadow adorned with compact stars. Its red eyes gleamed wickedly as it stared at Vladimir’s injured form. Lifting his arm up weakly Vlad blasted the creature that had previously been disguising as the girl. Daniel’s eyes widened at the barely conscious half-ghost and the inhuman darkness snapped and faded from his body. What the blazes had his arch-enemy just fired at?!

Glancing behind them, Daniel paled. A lumbering shadow hissed and flailed as the blast made contact with its chest. The world shook and seemed to crack around them. As soon as the shadow collapsed everything faded to black.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now back on the floating isle Vlad desperately gasped for air. The ghost zone’s cold dry atmosphere stung at his chest. Red had started dripping through the green ectoplasm more profusely. His ghost form was weakening too much to differentiate the shifts between his living blood and his spectral form. ‘Well, this is just peachy!’ Seeing Nocturn’s sprawled carcass across from him he immediately sprung back to his feet.

Daniel’s limp body lay between the two of them. In a pop of pink, Vlad latched on to Daniel and teleported him a reasonable distance away. Popping back to Nocturn he cracked his knuckles. The mårt, now dazed from being knocked back into the ghost zone from Daniel, was moaning and flickering spastically without its food source. A gaping hole through its torso leaked green onto the black grass. The blades guzzled it up greedily. Stepping forward, Plasmius latched his hand under the ghost’s jaw. It hissed angrily and stared into his red eyes with malice and killing intent. Vladimir glanced at his chest and smirked before casually glaring right back into the specter’s equally red eyes.“You really should have stayed in hiding Nocturn…god knows this has damned you.”

Nocturn’s jaw unlatched and his dagger-like fangs extended and exposed themselves. In ghost speak he snarled, “You’re already half out of it! What makes you think I am just going to-” At this, Vladimir smiled wickedly and casually tore off the ebony glove from his right hand with his teeth. Nocturn paled. “You’re the-!”

Vlad charged the hand and knocked it into the nightmare’s jaw, cutting off his sentence. “Shhhhh. The boy’s sleeping. We wouldn’t want him to hear this…” A bubble of white energy and pink sparks encased the compact area. Vlad rolled his neck and still holding Nocturn grinned devilishly. In ghost speak, he lamented. “You just had to pursue my future prodigy didn’t you?” He lifted the ghost into one arm and teleporting above him spiraled his leg right into Nocturn’s bleeding chest. Nocturn realizing he was in dire straights turned intangible only for Plasmius’ hand to latch on to his immaterial form and electrocute him back into reality. “ You know… it’s a shame ghosts and demons don’t possess bones. I almost wanted you to know just how painful that really felt.”Vlad snarled. Latching his hand under the ghost’s robes, he pitched him back into the ground and began wailing on him with his bare hands. Five or ten minutes passed with Plasmius just charging and discharging his hands against the ghoul.

Nocturn hissed and thrashed under his grip. A taloned hand ripped into Vlad’s chest and slashed deeply into the large gashes Daniel had carved into him. Seeing his condition wasn’t favorable for a long confrontation Vlad charged his right hand. It pulsed and warped with a pale white mist. Purplish sparks shot from around his fingers and danced around the palm. Straightening his blue taloned hand, he rammed it into Nocturn’s core. The ghost screamed and crumpled in on itself, fading into black mist as its core imploded. Breathing heavily, Vlad grasped onto his right hand as it burned and pulsed. Grimacing, he summoned a black glove from his spectral energy and re-covered the limb. Standing back up he felt the rings around his chest attempting to transform him back human. He had exhausted his resources for the night. Fighting the transformation rings he quickly walked over to Daniel and picked him up.

‘Well, little badger…I think it’s time we brought you home…’ Holding the sixteen-year-old tightly to his wounded chest, Vladimir teleported back to his portal’s location in the Ghost Zone. Vladimir’s spectral form immediately fizzled out of existence as he stepped into his basement. Without the ghost zone feeding Plasmius’ injured body, the rings simply popped around him and cut it off forcefully in order to redirect energy to his healing. Stumbling, he began falling and he grimaced as he redirected the impact to his back in order to avoid waking up Daniel.

‘Damn it.’ The wounds he had sustained from both Daniel’s physical form and his subconscious form dripped hauntingly through his formerly white shirt. Placing his palm to Daniel’s neck, he sighed somewhat in relief. His heartbeat was stronger. Worriedly he inspected Daniel’s pale form. The boy’s white t-shirt flashed into existence as his own thin frame shifted back human. As the bright white rings faded out Vlad felt his throat catch. A large bleeding circle was carved into the center of his chest.

‘Damn it.’ Ignoring his own state of disrepair, he gently laid Daniel onto the floor. Looking around he growled. The dim light made it practically impossible to see the full extent of Daniel’s injuries.‘I can’t go looking for medical supplies. My ghost powers are practically toast.’Vlad’s hands were shaking as he elevated Daniel up slightly off of the floor and lamented his own stupidity.

Tearing off Daniel’s shirt and creating strips from the fabric, he began trying to patch the minor. The boy moaned at the pressure. Daniel’s chest continued bleeding through the hastily made t-shirt bandages Vladimir had fashioned and the adult clucked in agitation. Yanking off his own shirt, he grimaced as the blood dripped down his chest began pooling against his pants. Dizzy, he angrily began tearing off the bloody remnants and straightening the fabric so that it would passably conceal Daniel's wound. Shrouding it around Daniel, he quickly tied off the torn sleeves at the shoulder and hefted the boy into his arms. Vlad could feel himself slipping under from blood loss.

Vlad’s eyes flashed red as he forced a teleportation against the wishes of his own body. The summer air stung against his bare chest. It was night, meaning he had been gone from Amity for twenty-four hours. Placing the boy on the doorstep, he collapsed against the brick wall and shakily tolled the bell. Dull footsteps could be heard approaching from within the home. Straightening himself against the wall, he took one last fleeting glance at the teenager and teleported back to his manor.

Doubling over in pain, he stumbled and fell to the floor. He gasped as he felt the darkness engulf him and his fatigued body slipped into a troubled slumber. His ghost-enhanced cells immediately went to work resurfacing his torn and bleeding flesh. Several times throughout the night the crimson morphed and fluctuated to green ectoplasm in an act of preservation. Ectoplasm, as the thicker of the two substances acted much like a coagulant and by extension, was needed at the moment by Vlad’s human form. Survival coaxed the dimensional shifts out of necessity, starving oxygen and depleting spectral energy in spades.

Before the sun came up both the ghost and human energies stored in his body dissipated and faded. His chest, for the most part, remained wounded. Vlad stirred slowly from the stone. The early morning illuminated the crimson splattered and pooled across the white herringbone tile. Moaning, he slowly brought himself to a kneeling position. Using the island as support, he straightened himself up to stand on his bare feet. His bangs flopped into his face, partially obscuring his red eyes, as he held onto his chest. Making his way to the downstairs bathroom, he inspected his wounds carefully in the mirror. Too weak to shield or cloak his scars, he simply sighed. He hated his old wounds and the fact he couldn’t conceal them ticked him off slightly. Furrowing his brow, he casually duplicated and began patching himself up. While he wrapped his hands and applied gauze and salve to his chest the clone began unwrapping the bandage rolls from the first aid kit under the counter. Once done bandaging himself, the clone fizzed and popped out of existence.

Physically and emotionally exhausted, Vladimir clumsily made his way from the bathroom and teleported to his bedroom. ‘.. Better to be low on ghost power than to rip myself open going up those infernal stairs…’ Dropping onto the dark green comforter, he balled his fists angrily. Deep-set eyes peaked at his wrist and he groaned. It was two-thirty in the afternoon. Annoyed, he ripped the offending watch from his arm and slung it onto the side table.

‘Knowing Jack and Maddie, they probably hauled him to the hospital...' Turning on his back he let out a soft hiss of agony. His now watch free right hand lounged across his face as he began thinking over what his little break in character could possibly signify. The palm sparked at the thoughts that raced through his weary skull. ‘ Blasted seal...It hasn’t been working correctly since god knows when ….’

He sighed heavily. ‘ It’s been what? Two and a half months? Everything burns and hurts when I use the blasted thing…Is it possible I tainted it?’He rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly and then slammed his arms down onto the mattress. He glanced at his palm worriedly. ‘God knows, Clockwork wouldn't pop by after our little fight last year to help…’ He looked to the ceiling tiredly. ‘Is it too much to ask for a little break? Huh?’

Vladimir yawned and turned to his side in an attempt to rest.

Chapter Text

Daniel Fenton awoke some time earlier that morning to his father worriedly trying to coax him out of his stupor. They were in an ambulance.
“What's-…. What’s going on?...”Daniel’s blue eyes groggily locked onto his jumpsuit-clad parent. Jack displayed deep circles under his normally energetic eyes. The paramedics at his side looked curiously over the teen.

Jack furrowed his brow. “Danny-boy? Where were you? It’s been a week! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”His father's gloved hand wiped Daniel's black hair out of his eyes gently.

Daniel’s eyes widened and he tried to shoot up only for the paramedics to latch onto him.

“A WEEK?” Daniel’s voice choked out. Jack seeing the look of confusion and terror radiating off his son calmly reassured him. “ Daniel? It’s okay. Calm down. You’re safe. Maddie and Jazzy-pants are driving to the hospital to meet us. Just relax.”

Daniel, however, was having a mental breakdown. Vague flashes of a monstrous shadow engulfing him after he left Pandora’s garden surfaced. He could feel bile trying to score its way up his throat. ‘ They don’t know! AGAIN! How the heck am I supposed to tell them?’Bitter tears started dripping down his face and Jack worriedly put a hand to his shoulder. He squeezed comfortingly. “Danny? What happened?”

Daniel angrily nibbled his lip and stared at his clumsily bandaged chest. Jack, realizing Daniel was in shock, sighed deeply and returned his attention to the paramedics. “So...um...what can he expect when we get there? I attended medical school when I was younger and I'm familiar with the basics. You’re keeping him wrapped in that to make sure he doesn't bleed out everywhere correct?”

The male paramedic nodded. “Yeah, the bleeding seems to be contained. We don't want to remove those shirt scraps until we are certain it's not a deep wound that requires a blood transfusion. He looks fairly healthy but maybe a little food deprived. He most likely only has slight injuries, so I don't see him staying longer than a few hours…”The man rubbed the back of his head.“ At least, that’s my opinion.”

Jack sighed in relief. The ride to the hospital was hauntingly silent after that. Every time Daniel’s father went to comfort him, the teen would flinch at his touch. Ultimately giving up, Jack left Daniel to his thoughts. ‘ Sam is still alive… but what…? God, my head… I was seventeen already in that damned nightmare… Everyone appreciated me and loved me... and now what? I'm a freak again! I hate this. I DESPISE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS!!! ’He cringed as he was wheeled into the hospital.‘And to garnish it all off? ALL THE GHOSTS PROBABLY STILL HATE MY ECTOPLASMIC HIDE! ’He balled his tired hands into fists.‘ I’M BACK TO BEING A WALKING, TALKING TARGET FOR MY PARENTS AND EVERY SOLITARY GHOST AND GHOST HUNTER ON THE ENTIRE PLANET AND THE GHOST ZONE! ’He was jarred from his internal ramblings by the doctor that came in. Cutting off the shirt scraps gently, he inspected the rather shallow wound in the middle of Daniel's pectorals.

“ Well my boy, you seem relatively fortunate. The wound won't even require stitches! At most, you merely have to wrap it for a few weeks."
‘Pfff, you mean two days? I mean, usually, I only get light wounds or bruises. Even Plasmius doesn’t-.’Daniel froze in thought. Dream Vlad had been in an entirely different league than the regular brand of fruit-loop he had grown accustomed to. Heck, prior to the whole nightmare? Vlad had even started almost becoming…. playful? Vlad was many things, but he wasn't a true killer… ‘God… what am I thinking?!’

The doctor snapped him back to attention. “You know... I think all we really have to do is place a band-aid pad over this. It's only about two inches in diameter and it doesn't even seem to have broken through the epidermis and into the muscle. You will, however, most likely bear a sizable scar.”He cleaned the wound and Daniel flinched.“So? What caused you to go missing my boy? There have been posters plastered everywhere for over a week now. Even the mayor was making efforts to locate you.”
Daniel’s blue eyes widened at this information, but he grimaced bitterly at the thought.‘Yeah, probably to brag to my mom when he found me so he could weasel his way into her good graces again. Lousy cheesehead.'

" I was going over to a friend’s and a ghost snatched me.”His voice was flat, but his eyes carried a noticeable amount of bitterness and resentment.
The doctor positioning the band-aid pad sighed. “ To bad the Phantom kid wasn’t nearby...then again ghost attacks pretty much dropped right around when you disappeared…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow.“ Wait. Really?” The doctor nodded and then shrugged.“ I mean... We saw some weird, blue punk-chic with a guitar screaming for Phantom for a few days but even she dropped off the radar.”

Daniel's eyebrow stayed up.

Ember had been searching for him? For what reason? He groaned. Everything was making his head hurt. The doctor smiled encouragingly. “ Don’t worry. You’re not with whatever ghoul snatched you anymore.”He paused at the door and scribbled something on his clipboard.“ From those wrappings, we thought you were bleeding out profusely. Those shirt scraps are practically crimson. You, however, don’t seem to be bleeding as severely as they suggested when the paramedics loaded you up from your porch.”He paused at the door and wrote something on his clipboard.

The doctor turning out the door finished, “I think it'll be in your best interests to be with your family, so I won't make you stay here. They've been looking for over a week and you don't look like you need to be in a hospital.”And with that, he departed out of the room. Daniel became slightly ill at the sight of the fabric next to him. Both his shirt and what looked like a charred and bloodied adult’s dress shirt were just out of touching distance. His curiosity was gnawing him out of his skull!

The doctor, from his small perspective through the ajar door was in the hallway discussing Daniel's condition with his parents and sister.

A startled yelp and a nurse’s annoyed voice rang down the hall outside his door. “ Hey! You two! No running!”

A few seconds later both Sam and Tucker busted into his room. Sam ran up to Daniel and noticing the bandage across his chest frowned. Her hand extended in what looked like a sign of comfort only to end in an angry red blemish on Daniel’s cheek. She had slapped him. Blue eyes widened in shock at the tears trailing down her face.

“Sam! Calm down! I'm alright!”He motioned with his hands for her to breathe slowly and gripped her shoulder gently. Still crying bitterly, she questioned, “Do you mind explaining?”

Tucker walking up from behind them and tore off his rusty beanie before lobbing it at Daniel’s head. “ I second that! Seriously man?! What the hell?”His voice was tinged with angry grief.“We couldn't even get into the ghost zone to look for you after your dad and mom locked it up! They thought some monster was prowling after their kids and we thought you were -”

Daniel winced. “ Tucker, Sam? Guys calm down. Allow me to explain.”He rolled his eyes.“ Trust me, this story is one hell of a yarn. It probably tops every other ghost related accident or bullshit fight we've ever had…”

 

Sam raised her eyebrow and Tucker pulled up a chair. Crossing his t-shirt covered arms over his chest he motioned for Daniel to start.

Daniel groaned. “ Okay… so remember the Box Ghost thing? Pandora and all that jazz?”They both nodded.

“ Well, after I dropped by her domain to check on that blue moron I decided to visit Clockwork. I mean, he NEVER gets the company so I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for him... I was making good time to until I got blasted in the back of the head. Everything just went dark… really, really dark.”He cringed.“ Guys. That thing... I don't even know if it's possible to consider it a ghost. It rooted in my head for hours until it found some good thoughts and memories to make a little dream prison for me. I sincerely thought…”He gripped his fists angrily.“ He even made me dream that I had defeated him. Nocturn… that’s his name… or was… I’m kind of vague on how I actually got out of the whole thing. Jesus, guys... he had me so far under I thought six months had passed…”He gripped his fists angrily.

“The dreams were so vivid. I just thought I woke up from a nightmare…" Daniel swallowed. "At the start, he seemed to be appraising me. Figuring out what made me tick. He made this comatose reality where everyone was trapped in some Sleeping Beauty like state while he fed on everyone.”Daniel grimaced. "Nocturn, even hinted that he fed off of people's life forces through dreams but of course I was completely oblivious...probably partially because Dash kept popping up to distract me. He was like a corny ‘poster boy’ for nightmares.”

Tucker chuckled half-heartedly. “Sounds pretty accurate. Dash can distract anyone…”

Daniel smiled tiredly.

“Then he seemed to start testing ideas for villains or enemies…First, he tried Walker but that didn't really work well at keeping me under. Then he tried Vlad… and well that dream was seriously warped even by regular standards. Valerie and Vlad tag-teamed against Danni and tried melting her to study her remains… god, the screaming…”

He flinched and Tucker and Sam both looked worriedly at him.“Nocturn made sure that the dream version of Valerie seemed more approachable and settled on Vlad as the ideal villain for his whole master dream...”

Daniel jerked his head. “ I'm such a moron.” He ran a hand through his raven hair tiredly. “ There were sooooo many inconsistencies and I still rattled along to that piper’s melody! I mean… his dream in the end? It was so forced and just… just out of sorts… I couldn't break away from it, though. I wanted it to be true so badly. Even if it was outrageous…”

Tucker raised an eyebrow. “ How outrageous?” Daniel smiled once more and this time chuckled. “ Earth almost got swiped out of orbit by an asteroid the size of a small moon, Vlad turned megalomaniac and threatened the planet as Plasmius, and you… you were mayor.”

Tucker raised an eyebrow and then laughed. “ Have you seen my grades? Pffff… and out of both of you, I'm far more anti-social. Public speaking? Yeah… only in YOUR dreams.”He snickered.

Sam laughed, “Seriously Danny? Tuck for mayor? What was his first rule of business?”

Daniel laughed. “ Putting recycled PDAs into the school district so people could get a feel for classical technology.” Sam rolled her eyes and pulled out her iPhone. “ Yeah. That's never going to happen. I prefer the modern stuff.”

Daniel grinned at Tucker’s annoyed features. “ Don’t we all?” He paused and nervously eyed the fabric across from them.

“ Guys? That last dream though got pretty dark. It’s almost like Nocturn was grasping at straws to keep me conked out. Six months passed between the whole asteroid hitting the planet and me revealing I was… well me. And then suddenly he flipped everything. I mean, first, he popped Vlad back into the picture. I thought he was dead somewhere in outer space.”

Observing their faces, he rolled his eyes.“Nocturn made me think that that stupid creepazoid cheesehead became a space hermit after his plan to rule the world backfired. Believe me, I don't want to elaborate. At any rate, he suddenly puffed back into the world, right as rain’ and murdered…” He looked at Sam and suddenly felt nauseated.

Sam gulped. “Eh… How exactly did- ”

Daniel groaned. “ Dream Vlad yanked you up by your hoodie and then dropped you onto the pavement…" Daniel shivered. "I'm going to have some serious frightmares for a while after that imagery.”He furrowed his brow and propped a hand to his head.“ The dream just became so disjointed… and then I was killing Plasmius… god… I was so enthralled with the idea, but he wasn’t like the others… And then next thing I knew I was waking up in an ambulance.”

He furrowed his brow and twisted his hair in frustration.“I know I didn't get out of the ghost zone alone and they discovered me on the porch apparently...and… I...just don’t…”He stopped as his eyes landed on the pile of clothing still splayed across the metal tray. A flash of silver had captured his gaze. Both Tucker and Sam followed his line if sight and Sam got up to inspect the metallic object. She paled at the blood soaking the garment and then gently tore the cufflink from the sleeve. Holding it in her hand, her eyes widened. Tucker, seeing her expression, got up from his seat and walked over to snatch the metal piece out of her palm. Noting the letters engraved on it, he dropped it to the floor as if it were molten hot or some sort of venomous animal.

Sam slowly reached down to pick it up and both teens exchanged an equally stunned and somewhat bewildered expression.

“ Guys? What is it? Please tell me?” Daniel’s voice broke through their confusion. Looking from Daniel to the cufflink and back again Sam finally walked over to Daniel and placed it in his hand.

“ Sam? Tuck? It's just a cufflink! What’s wrong wi-” Sam narrowed her eyes and jabbed a finger worriedly toward the silver. This time Daniel noticed the letters. A small VM was stamped in the metal. ‘Oh god…What?!’

That’s impossible… That’s impossible…”Daniel shook his head in disbelief. Looking back on everything, though… only one person could have got him out. After all, Vlad Masters was the only one with a currently operating portal…
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vlad was feverish, and he tossed and rolled in his bed trying to rest with no considerable progress. Everything was burning and pained after he slept shirtless and barefoot on the kitchen floor earlier. Angry, he readjusted the makeshift ice pack on his head. The paper towel wrapped mess was currently his only viable solution to the ungodly heat. ‘God...I could really use some spectral painkillers…Where's that blasted green booger when I need him?’

He moved slightly and feeling the excruciating abrasions burned onto the left portion of his side, stifled a pained scream. With his chest ripped open, fever reducers would likely prevent his blood from coagulating. The last thing he wanted was for Skulker and Fright Knight to barge in on him free bleeding all over the floor. Turning ghost was also a big no-no. Plasmius was out of commission. Sure… he could probably chance a shift, but the spectral form would just consume too much energy…he'd have to reserve it for emergencies.

Vlad’s feverish eyes focused on the ceiling. ‘ Why? Why am I still keeping up the farce? Daniel practically got killed! ’Vlad gripped his head in frustration and turned on his side.‘No… this isn't helping… I don't need to think about this right now… I need sleep.'

The thoughts persisted, however, fueled by the fever. “How long will it be before I actually lose my sanity over this?” He questioned aloud. His voice was hoarse and sore. Numbly he touched his hand against the burned flesh around his neck. “A collar for a monster perhaps? God knows I probably deserve that much and more…”He winced as his hand made contact with one of the thin finger-shaped pieces of burnt flesh. He could feel his cells morphing and ripping apart around the area as a defense mechanism. His face, his neck… and the visible skin on his hands had always healed completely and faster than any other part of his body. He winced as his hand made contact with one of the thin finger-shaped pieces of burnt flesh.The dangers of being caught due to a visible injury were just too numerous and severe to count. Vlad, however, was currently angry at his body’s prioritization over the minor wounds. His neck was of little consequence. His chest was the far more fatal and dangerous of the injuries. Vlad snickered. ‘The damned mark merely wants to make sure I’m presentable before I get stuck six feet under.’ He paused and rolled his eyes. ‘Not like that's going to happen Plasmius…’ He turned tiredly and flinched in agony.

The science behind healing in ghosts wasn’t a sound one. Vladimir being a half-ghost had never helped the equation. His job also added to his troubles. The more energy that was used by Plasmius, the more likely a wound would scar instead of fade or heal completely. In other words… the more human he was, the more his body healed like a human’s, with the exception of certain parts or extremely damaged areas. Ghosts didn't possess bones. Their organs also didn't work, although they did retain a semblance of human anatomy for their ectoplasm to circulate through. Internal damage healed far faster and more completely than outward damage. The same applied to Vladimir. If ribs were broken, they would be healed first. If he was impaled, the spectral energy would twist its way outward and not inward. He had a suspicion that his face, neck, and hands-only healed so rapidly because they were exposed the most to the portal. His scars were also becoming less and less frequent as time progressed. Whether his super healing was just evolving to the rest of his body or not, he couldn't say.

Thinking about it all made his head throb. A soft groan escaped his lips. Thirty minutes of self-berating and angry mental rants followed the mockingly hungover dissection of his healing capabilities until he finally fell back to sleep. The nightmares, however, were waiting for him…

Memories… raw and violent realities he could scarcely begin to cope with flashed in R.E.M. sleep. He woke up screaming sometime later. It felt like he was drowning. ‘Calm down. You’re fine. It's just a dream.’He clamped his hands around his arms to stabilize himself. ' You're safe…Breathe…’He snatched several tremulous breaths into his lungs. Noting the time from the watch splayed under the lamp by his bed, he begrudgingly got to his feet.

Walking into his closet, he snagged a black, long sleeve shirt and began buttoning it up his chest. It was, at present, 8:30 pm and the shirt wouldn't serve any purpose in practicality this evening. It wasn’t as if anyone would be stopping in…His eyes however flinched at the older scars peeking out from under the bandages. Buttoning up his collar absently, he placed his palm against his now concealed chest. The shirt was more of a support system at this point...Touching his forehead and feeling the heat he groaned. Swearing under his breath, he began tying back his silver hair.

Noting the bandages getting ensnared in his tresses, he numbly shed them off of his fingers and pitched them into a trash can by his bedroom desk. His chest arched up to yawn and he gasped in pain. A searing burn had snaked its way up his chest with the sudden movement. Walking the door, he numbly put a hand to his waist. He smiled sadly, “It looks like the little badger has given me a week of recovery time…” His weary blue eyes rolled in annoyance. He wasn't going to be fighting or moving suddenly for a while. ‘On the bright side you're not shot or impaled again…’ He absently conducted a hand to the bridge of his nose. Vague memories came to mind of the events and a low guttural growl escaped his lips. His fangs, now un-hindered because of his inability to cloak them, glinted from under his lip. Bobbing his head in aggravation, he pushed the thoughts aside and then flinched in pain from the jerking movement. ‘...Smooth move… God… what I need is a pain reliever…’

Teleporting to the kitchen downstairs he almost fell over and cleaved his head open on the still blood-soaked tile by the fridge. Steadying himself slightly, he rummaged through the liquor cabinet and began pulling out multiple bottles. Some nightmares… he reasoned, needed to be drowned out, and seeing as how Skulker couldn't give him any spectral medications to soothe the pain … a human pain reliever was needed.

Sitting at one of the bar stools, he broke off the end of a bottle of scotch with one hand and began drinking. Half ghosts couldn't kill themselves with booze… God knows, Vladimir had tried on one or two occasions. Vlad himself detested the idea of drinking and solely reserved himself to it when his mind raced with worry and fatigue. Lately, he was more and more prone to it.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Having eaten dinner with his parents and sister, Daniel had tiredly snuck up to his room. Glancing at the old rocketship clock next to his desk he began nervously pacing. A silver cufflink jangled hauntingly in his pocket.

Three hours passed with him silently digging his feet across and around the blue rug in front of his bed. His head darted nervously from the window to the bed, over and over again.

‘ Fruit-loop wouldn’t have merely dropped me off at my house… There's no way…’Daniel wrung a hand through his hair. Frustrated he began whispering aloud his internal ramblings. “ He would've bragged to mom right? And even then… why not just get rid of me? Every single thing I've ever seen from the moron contradicts this ridiculous cufflink!”He bitterly wrenched it from his pocket to inspect it for the millionth time. The letters stood out mockingly in the dimly lit room.

‘ Damn it! I won't be able to sleep until I figure this out! ’Grimacing angrily, he shoved the metal back into his pocket and shifted into Danny Phantom. His clock chimed, informing him to the fact it was past midnight. Neon green eyes locked on the window. ‘ You either go now or not at all, Fenton! Man up! You can easily whoop his ass if he gives you any trouble… Just go confront the moron and see if this damned piece of metal is his!!! ’Growling at himself, he turned intangible and flew through his bedroom window and out toward Vlad’s manor across town on Canterville drive. He typically avoided the area like the plague and he only recalled the address because his family briefly neighbored Vlad's mansion. Vlad's home was almost completely secluded. Two manors neighbored him but neither saw any permanent residents because of Amity’s haunted status. Literally, the area was a dead zone.

Landing in front of the door he paused apprehensively. His hand moved to knock only for him to retract his wrist. ‘.... He may shoot you… maybe spying around would be better?’ Turning intangible and invisible, he floated through the door and into the entranceway. Looking around, he frowned in confusion.

The inside of the house was similar and yet completely different from what he remembered during is brief stay during Amity’s weather problem. Then again, quite a few things were out of place last time as well…

‘Wait? No, Packers garbage?’His eyes darted curiously around the almost sparsely decorated entranceway. No greens and golds… just muted honey colors and dark wooden chestnut shades. Some blues and pale reds also peaked through. Raising an eyebrow he inspected the manor's layout questioningly. Despite external appearances, it had no sweeping staircases or wide expansive ceilings, at least from his perspective at the entryway. If anything it almost looked like an average home to the unassuming eye. ‘God… this is so bizarre… Where's the tasteless extravagance? The pompous greens and yellows?’He shook his invisible head in annoyance and wrung his hands in the air.

‘ I'm not seeing anything fancy or rich! Sam even has fancier digs than this, and Vlad's like two pegs above her family in the wealth department?! Did he fire his interior decorator? Weren’t there vases and-’ Growling angrily he floated bitterly at the crossways between the rest of the house and the front hall. He was almost tempted to blast something until he noted a faint light down the hallway to his left. He passed by three doors as he floated toward the almost eerie yellow. Floating forward he stopped in his tracks. The entire manor-Everything was silent... except for the choked whispers coming from the room only a few feet away from him. Daniel gulped.

Still invisible, he peeked through the ajar door and his eyes widened. He gasped only to hastily cover his mouth. His arch-enemy was laying across his breakfast bar with at least six bottles of whiskey and scotch draped across the floor and counter. Vlad's hair had come unbound from his ponytail as he hunched over the marble. His fingers all but clasped at the nape of yet another bottle like it was a lifeline. It quivered above the floor, and Vlad shook against himself with his head lounging on the stone. His arm shakily lowered the glass back to the counter and subdued whispers could be heard coming from the inebriated man.

“...Why… Why did they leave?” He gurgled.“.... I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…”He shook and wrapped his hands around the bottle only to retract his hand to wipe away the tears accumulating on his face.“....Please..” There was a small sob and his voice cracked.“ Forgive me… I just-…Please… don’t…”

Daniel’s eyes where practically jutting out of his skull in confusion at the breaks in Vlad’s speech. The confusion soon faded into grief and remorse though once he finally was able to grasp onto Vlad’s words… ‘Jesus… I never… why is he acting like this? ’Looking once more at the scene, he began feeling nauseous. Vlad's kitchen looked like a ransacked liquor store.

‘He’s the villain right? My arch-nemesis? I came to confirm the stupid cufflink not to see…’

Vlad’s voice continued in hushed whispers as he numbly wrapped his arms under his head on the counter. “.... Jack…Mads…m’ ...sorry…”

Daniel froze again.‘Apologizing? Doesn’t he loathe my dad? What is this? Am I still drugged up in Nocturn’s fantasy world? ’Daniel gnawed his lip as he observed Vlad's actions.
The older hybrid’s words were becoming fainter and after what felt like an eternity he fell asleep, unaware of the sixteen-year-old lurking and listening to his pained ramblings. Daniel waited worriedly and, noting Vlad's relatively labored breathing, floated into the kitchen. Turning visible he hovered cautiously above Vladimir's unconscious form. ‘He couldn't have… I mean…’Daniel looked from the emptied bottles to Vlad’s almost feverish looking body nervously.

Vlad shivered in his sleep from the proximity to Daniel’s ghost form. Already precariously balanced and slightly askew on the counter he fell to the ground. Daniel's mouth widened in horror. The bottle which had been laying next to Vlad cracked and shattered against the floor by his arm. A small shard cut against Vlad’s cheek and he grimaced. The blood dripped lazily as he groggily tried to open his eyes. His head rolled absently and discerning the bright neon green orbs above him, he passed out again.

‘Oh my fucking god! Vlad!’Daniel instantly dropped down to the floor in utter panic and began trying to pull Vlad out of the glass and liquor snaking across the tile. Vlad's breathing was irregular and his eyes fluttered spastically behind closed lids. Cradling Vlad's head, Daniel paled considerably.

The adult was burning up. The heat was practically fear-inducing. Daniel eyed the freezer, and returning his gaze to Vlad tried jostling the adult back. Vlad grimaced in his sleep but didn't wake up. Feeling the fever again Daniel noted the long sleeve shirt Vlad was wearing with disdain. Angry, he placed his hands on the fabric roughly. “ Why the hell do you wear these ridiculous button-up shirts fruit-loop?!”

Receiving no response from his outburst, he hastily began unbuttoning Vlad’s wrinkled and now drenched shirt.

Daniel's face widened in absolute horror. He immediately retracted his white-gloved hand in fear. The large bandages on his arch-enemy had become loose and red had gradually forged its way through the white. Daniel stared at his glove in disdain. It was also now stained crimson.

“What did you do to yourself?!”He had never seen so much blood in his entire life. Worriedly latching on to Vlad, he wrenched him up a little higher out of the alcohol slowly dripping towards them. Vlad’s feverish head fell to the side as Daniel desperately tried to support him and take in the severity of his wounds. “VLAD! COME ON! PLEASE?!”Daniel shook him.

A small moan of agony and a grimace that exposed vampiric fangs resonated from the adult. Daniel, oblivious to the teeth, was still warily staring at Vlad's closed and practically tearing eyes.‘He’s completely out of it…’ Noticing Vlad's heavy and sporadic breathing Daniel became even more worried.

“Shit.” Daniel’s eyes darted around frantically in search of a solution to Vlad's predicament. “ You just had to play hero this time around!” Hearing his own words, he tensed. ‘Why exactly was Vlad his arch-enemy anymore? He hasn't done anything truly evil in months. He didn't even flirt with mom anymore, and he never went through with his threats on killing his father...But then again… everything prior was just so warped…’

Vlad tossed slightly, jumping Daniel out of his ‘villain versus hero’ mental crisis. Vlad's gray hair was practically plastered to his face from sweat, and his brow was furrowed in pain. The older ghost hybrid’s condition was getting worse. Daniel hastily rearranged the man, so he could handle him. Hefting him upward he clinched him to his chest and, turning intangible, went through the ceiling to where he hoped a bed or a bathroom would be.

Chapter Text

Looking around Daniel sighed somewhat relieved before hastily carrying Vlad to the bed. The sheets were already pulled back. ‘ This must be his room…’ reaching his hand across Vlad's chest, he grabbed the black shirt and, turning it intangible, ripped it off of Vlad's panting and now shivering form. His head twisted duly in pain from the sudden temperature change.

Daniel cut on the lamp beside them and looking back at Vlad froze apprehensively. Vlad was scarred? Ribbons of pink, red slash marks, and what appeared to be bite marks haphazardly laced under his bandages and along his arms. ‘Yep… I am defiantly dreaming. No way that's real. I've seen him in his birthday suit… his body didn't look like…’ Vlad’s breathing hitched and Daniel immediately snapped back to attention. Feeling Vlad's neck he frowned. Vlad's heartbeat was way faster than it was supposed to be.

‘Okay. Think Fenton! Mom taught you basic first aid…’Redirecting his attention to Vlad’s chest, he began trying to remove the bandages. Before he could turn them intangible, Vlad began moving in his sleep. His head tossed back against his pillow and his mouth opened to scream only for a pained gasp and labored breathing to escape his lips. Daniel, encountering the fangs for the first time, quickly removed his hand.

“Holy shit. You have fangs?”Daniel rubbed the sweat from under his own snow-white hair and then, seeing Vlad starting to convulse, quickly grabbed onto the adult’s shoulders.

“He’s having a seizure…”Releasing Vlad and spying a bathroom connected to the room, he hastily flew in and cut on the cold water to fill the tub. Zipping back into the master suite he grabbed several pillows from the bed and transferred them to the quickly filling claw foot. Submerging them, he heard pained moans from the bedroom.
Flying back and seeing Vlad crying and writhing in his sleep he quickly hefted him in both arms again.

“God, I hope this works fruit-loop!”Carrying the panting and feverish man to the bathroom, Daniel ripped off the blood-drenched bandages adorning Vlad's chest with his intangibility. With the utmost care, he placed him in the water. Vlad's eyes opened slightly at the change in temperature only to groggily weave in and out before he fainted again. Supporting Vlad's head, Daniel duplicated himself. While he rearranged Master’s body, his clone began tearing apart the bathroom in search of medical supplies.

‘Okay… obviously, he has a high fever and...’ Daniel's gaze went to Vlad's chest, and he had to restrain himself from vomiting. The wounds were extensive and gaping. Sections of muscle and burnt tissue poked out from beneath the freely bleeding segments of flesh. His stomach, in particular, looked like it had been shot at close range. Realization dawned on Daniel and he could audibly hear his heart falter.

‘...I... I did this?’ To confirm his theory, he gazed back up to Vlad's sweat-drenched face and gently moved aside some of the silver hair floated around his neck. Sure enough, his own handprints morbidly shined against the frigid water now brightly illuminated by the bathroom lights. Vlad tossed lightly against the ghost’s cool presence. His body attempted to move away only for his form to tense in pain. He groaned at the contact.

“Cheesehead? Can you hear me?”Daniel touched his hand to Vlad's head and feeling the still rising temperature frowned.“ What would mom do?”He gently rearranged Vlad's wrists to face upward.“I have to cool the areas of his body with arteries close to the skin.”At this, the clone grabbed a towel and began ripping it into strips. Pitching them to Daniel, it returned to its panicked search for medical supplies. Daniel grasped the strips and dunked them into the water. Bringing them to his face, he froze them with his breath. He was about to place the first strip around Vlad's right wrist when the room’s lights started flickering.

Two black rings darted in and out of reality around Vlad's unconscious waist and he screamed in agony as his body was shifted forcefully into Plasmius. Daniel promptly dropped the ripped towel segment and lifted Vlad up slightly from the water. Plasmius was equally in dire straights. Vlad's ghost counterpart was practically green instead of blue, and his raven tinted spiky hair was clinched across his brow and eyes in sweaty ringlets. His eyes, presently open from the sudden energy spike, were glazing over and the orangish red that usually signified the location of his pupils was fading rapidly. ‘He's...he’s...dying.’ Daniel's green eyes sparked neon blue at the realization, and he hissed angrily. Activating his ghost core fully he began forcefully cooling the room. Vlad's body tensed and writhed slightly from the cold.

His duplicate, having finally found a first aid kit began rummaging through the contents. Finding a thermometer he quickly tossed it to Daniel who snatched it in the hand not supporting Plasmius. Gently coaxing Vlad's mouth open he placed the white and silver instrument under his tongue and waited. A minute later a beep signaled him and he hastily plucked it out. A temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit flashed in the dimly returning lights. ‘Dying nothing… he should be dead at this point. Hell, his brain should be toast and he should be pushing up daisies. Normal humans can and usually do die at 108 degrees.’

Dropping the thermometer Daniel groaned. Plasmius, unlike his human counterpart, was completely dressed. Tearing off the adult's gloves, he watched in amazement as the fabric turned into black mist and condensed back into Vlad's body. ‘Woah…That's new.”

Snapping himself back to the task at hand, he swiftly began placing the ice-cloaked towel scrapes along every major blood flowing area, starting with Vlad's wrists and his exposed neck. Removing Plasmius’s shoes, which dissipated once they left his body, he placed some at his ankles. Vlad’s crimson eyes seemed to be clearing slightly at his efforts. He was crying again. Daniel placed him back nervously in the water and started stuffing more wads of the frozen towel scraps under Vlad's neck, under his arms, and across his groin. Vlad's eyes, still unable to grasp where or what was happening fully, rolled back and forth at the ceiling above him. Daniel, now sure there was enough cold, focused his attention back to Vlad's chest. Green ectoplasm was leaking through his white shirt and splatters of red where clawing lazily through the spectral fabric. Gulping, Daniel latched his hand to Vlad's tunic and cape. Turning them intangible, he gently wrenched them off. Both disappeared the moment they left Vlad's body.

Daniel's clone, now with his hands full, quickly stepped over to the makeshift tub turned cooler and began throwing supplies on the floor. Looking over the boxes of fever reducers and pain medications Daniel furrowed his brow in frustration. ‘I can't give him anything with all that booze circulating through his system…’ Aloud he snarled. “ Smooth move moron! What type of idiot drinks when half their organs are almost visible from the outside? You crazy, stupid-”

His rants were cut off by Plasmius. Between labored pants, he had begun whispering incoherently. His pained and cracked voice was begging. “.......Jack…….it hurts…”Plasmius clinched his eyes shut and opened them again. “..Please…You promised…”His voice choked.“They...They won't stop…”His head numbly tossed and his eyelids tried to shut.

‘He's talking in his sleep…’

“Vlad?” Daniel dropped the Tylenol in his hands to the floor and worriedly prepared another ice cloth for Vlad's forehead. “ Fruit-loop? Come on...wake up…”Vlad, however, was too far under.“Ed… Romulus… make it stop…”Daniel froze.‘Ed? Romulus? Who are they? Is he hallucinating from the fever?’

Vlad numbly tried to lift his right arm out of the water only for Daniel to grasp onto it. “......It burns…Someone…” Daniel held onto the limp hand and squeezed reassuringly.‘This… this doesn't sound like him… he's crying… Masters would never ….’ Vlad's fingers twitched slightly in Daniel's grip.“.... Jack? You won't….You wouldn't-…I…” He clenched his eyes shut and his chest arched up slightly from whatever he was dreaming about.‘Then again he's way past the safe range for body temperature...He's most definitely not of sound mind…’ Daniel worriedly draped the cold cloth over Vlad's forehead and gently moved the black hair out of his face.

“ …. Badger? I… I'm sorry…”Daniel froze and tightened his grip on Vlad’s hand. “ I promised… Lied….. I...I...couldn't… I'm a monster…. Please….someone…?”Daniel’s hand had begun shaking.‘What's he talking about?!’

“Vlad? Wake up? Come on!”Vlad, however, didn't stir and his eyes began closing as his breathing finally began to calm.‘I can't bandage him…Not until he's dry...and he's still too feverish to take out of the water…’

Dissipating his duplicate, Daniel began trying to clean the wounds. Vlad flinched and tossed slightly at the movements. Satisfied for the moment with the fact Plasmius's ectoplasm had temporarily sealed the injuries, he continued off and on, switching the towel scraps and freezing new pieces of fabric for three hours. After a while, the telltale spark of energy that encompassed Vlad's injured form laced across his body. Forming the two black rings at his center, the energy spread apart and changed him back into the silver-headed mayor of Amity. Seeing Vlad's fever and breathing returning to safer levels, he grabbed the thermometer again and gently opened Vlad's mouth. Now used to the vampiric canines protruding from Vlad's upper and lower jaw, Daniel carefully slipped the metal through his more human teeth and back under his tongue. Waiting patiently he flinched at the high-pitched beep that signaled the tool was ready. Sighing, he removed the instrument. 101.3 degrees flashed.

“Well, it looks like I'm going to be staying with you for the duration of this.” Standing up, he walked over to the sink and quickly rinsed and replaced the thermometer to its spot in the first aid kit his clone had torn apart. Walking back over to Vlad, he launched himself off of the floor and floated above the adult, debating his next course of action. Keeping the adult submerged would probably cause more damage than good at this point and his chest still needed attention. Carefully reaching down, he looped his arms under Vlad and pulled him up and out of the tub. Noting the now lukewarm water dripping across his own chest from Vlad, he hovered them both over the tub and turning them intangible, focused the water off of their bodies. The once drenched billionaire turned slightly from the movement but didn't wake. With Vlad and himself now dry, Daniel quickly flew into the master bedroom and laid Vlad down on the bed. Seeing some red making its way back through the gashes and cuts, Daniel groaned.

“The movement must have ripped it open again…” Turning his head from Vlad, he quickly flew back to the bathroom and began gathering the gauze, bandages, and antibacterial salves. Carrying the pile in a discombobulated heap, he floated through the wall and back into the bedroom only to drop everything. Vlad was now somewhat conscious, and his hand was shakily reaching to his feverish and throbbing head. Flying over to his sprawled form, he worriedly pulled away the hand to inspect his eyes. Vlad's navy blue eyes dully locked on Daniel's and a muffled question escaped from his lips.

“...Why are-?”And then just as suddenly his eyes widened as he fully took in the teenager grasping his hand above him. His back arched up out of sheer primal instinct and fear at the boy’s presence, shifting him to a sitting position. He briefly had held himself up before he rolled over in pain. Something wet and warm was lazily creeping down his abdomen.

“CALM DOWN!” Daniel swiftly brought the adult back up to the previous stance. Vlad struggled against screaming from the sudden movements. Duplicating, Daniel had his clone fetch the medical supplies lying haphazardly against the wood flooring.

Vlad’s raspy voice between pants moaned, “ What are you…”Before he could complete the question the room began spinning and Vlad's head numbly fell against Daniel's shoulder.
Grabbing the gauze and medical supplies now next to them, Daniel began wrapping up Vlad's torso. A numb, quivering hand from the older hybrid latched onto Daniel's chest. A shove, bordering on wet kitten pathetic, tried to nudge the teen away only for the limb to simply fall back to the bed.

“Take it easy Cheesehead.” Daniel frowned. Vlad was sweating again from the movements.

“It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you…. I'm trying to help... Just hold still.”

Vlad seemed to calm slightly against Daniel's shoulder. Daniel, seeing this, motioned his duplicate to get behind Vlad to prop him up. Vlad winced and numbly writhed against Daniel's attempts at wrapping his abdomen. “ Vlad… I'm sorry. I have to bind it. You’re bleeding too much.”

Vladimir's eyes were pained, and he was having trouble keeping himself coherent. “.....Why...are….you-?....”His voice was strained and dazed.“You hate…me...Why-?” Vlad tried once more to push away only to wince in agony. Slumping forward onto Daniel, his eyes numbly closed and he passed out.

Daniel’s duplicate poofed out of the room and Daniel, now supporting Vlad's unconscious body, gently patted him on the back. Vlad shifted his head slightly in his slumber in reaction to the movements. Daniel’s green eyes saddened considerably. “Vlad?” Daniel swallowed. Seeing the adult had succumbed to his body's need for rest, he gently arranged him back against the bed and adjusted the pillows under him.

“......Jez…” Daniel pulled up a chair tiredly and rummaged a hand through his hair. Transforming back into Daniel Fenton, he tiredly yanked off his hoodie and looked back to the adult sleeping on the bed next to him.

“What am I supposed to believe after this fruit-loop? After I almost kill-” He winced at the thought. Glancing at Vlad's bandages and heavy breathing, he put a hand to the bridge of his nose. “I was going to kill you… And you just let me do that… What's wrong with you?” ‘What's wrong with ME?’

Looking at the watch on the table, his eyebrow twitched. ‘Mom and Dad are probably freaking out. I can't believe it's 8 am already.’ Standing up hastily, he felt both of his pockets. Flicking out his phone, he frowned. It was out of battery.

Glancing at Vlad nervously, he sighed. “ Fruit-loop? I’ll be right back.” Turning out of the room he begrudgingly began searching for a phone. To make his search easier he shifted back to Phantom form. Darting in and out of the rooms on the second floor he frowned. With Vlad's room, there were five bedrooms. None had phones and all of them looked to be out of use.

Curiously, there was also a child's room at the end of the hall done up in light oranges and corals. “ This is… a little girl's room…..Why would he have-?”Daniel numbly picked up a small stuffed bear covered in dust. Unlike the other rooms, this one had not been cleaned or touched. Daniel felt a shiver run up his spine. He wasn't supposed to be here….it felt wrong. Like he had just walked into something Vlad had even tried to forget about. Placing the bear down, he slowly backed out of the room. ‘Why have a little girl's room in this place anyway? Hadn't Vlad only been living in Amity the last few months?’ Daniel stopped floating and, landing on his feet, rubbed a hand through his hair.‘That dust…. That's more than two months… more like four or five? ’Furrowing his brow, he bit his lip.‘What the heck is going on here?’ He paused.‘Well, I've known him for what? Two and a half years almost? Then again it's not like we stop to chat about our lives when we go to blast each other out of the sky...’

He leisurely walked down to the hall and seeing another turnoff, paused. Only one door was down that way. Rolling his eyes, he walked past the hall and instead turned his face intangible and peaked into the room. It was desolate. ‘Weird…’ Extracting his head, he made his way to the final room on the second floor. He gasped. It was a second-floor entrance to an expansive library. Floating over the metal railing, he stared in wonder at the dusty volumes and tomes stacked methodically on the shelves. Some of the novels even seemed to glow in spectral blues and greens. “ Woah. A library almost as big as half the second floor… that's insane…”

Putting a palm to the stain glass window, he ran his finger along the multicolored glass. A massive tree with glittering shades of yellow and green sparkled from the crystalline mosaic. Scarlet flowers laced themselves among the light ochre roots of the tree and small birds and animals in a medley of sizes hid among the foliage. Latin words were etched along the paneling encasing the iron and glass. The morning sun refracted and flashed the image across the floor below him. Various books and maps littered the tables and chairs. Curious, he descended to the first floor. Looking at the books, he raised an eyebrow. Digging one up, he absently ran a hand along the spine. The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: the Viking Runes flashed in metallic lettering surrounded by strange symbols. Daniel scratched his head at the book's subject. Laying the red and gold scripted hardcover down he picked up another book. The blue book, slightly smaller than the red that had been stacked on top of it read, Assyrian Mythology; A study in Demons and Gods . ‘Weird choice of reading…Wouldn't he be looking at books about mad science or thievery, and not mythology and ancient languages?’

Sighing, Daniel tossed the book back to its spot on the worn-out dark beige sofa. Looking around and seeing no phone his gaze caught onto something else just as curious. A large leather bound book lay open on a desk hidden in the corner of the room. Several piles of books leaned precariously against the worn-in wood grain. Flying to the congested area he landed next to the desk and curiously leafed through the journal. ‘What the heck is this?’ Strange inhuman writing was scrawled across the pages along with various diagrams and drawings. Torn out segments of pages from other books and manuscripts were pasted between the notes. Large red x’s adorned multiple illustrations of swords, jewelry, helmets, and what looked like old woodcuts of demons and pictures of ancient renderings of gods.

‘This… is soooooooo out of my comfort zone.’Still flipping through the pages his hand stopped on the most recent entry. Seeing the black star adorned wood engraving with ram’s horns hovering over a Norse boat, Daniel felt his stomach turn. Along with the illustration, there were several news articles about children being pulled off of life support after succumbing to severe comas they initially never had. Slamming the book shut, he backed away from the desk. “What… the actual hell is all of this?”Turning, he walked to the door and attempted to open it only to realize it was locked. Raising an eyebrow he turned intangible and quickly made his way through the hardwood. ‘Phew…. Fenton. Breathe…”

Looking around nervously, he turned into the room on his right and stepped on some broken glass. A shattered liquor bottle was strewn across the hardwood flooring. “ And there's even more booze?!” Facepalming himself, he looked at the floor more closely and vaguely made out a dried bloody footprint against the wood.

" I guess he stepped in the glass?”

Floating over the mess, he spotted a landline phone on the desk and grinned broadly. “Okay… now I can…” Daniel froze.“ What the hell am I going to say?!”
‘Think… Think…’He dully slapped his palm against his brow.‘ Wait! I got it! I'll tell them I'm at Vlad's to thank him for looking for me. That works right?’ He nodded to himself.‘ Yep. That should totally work…’

Flying over he quickly turned back into Daniel Fenton and sitting on the edge of the desk picked up the phone and began pressing the buttons. ‘ I can't believe I couldn't find a cellphone anywhere…Wait…’Still holding the now ringing phone he groaned. A black Samsung phone was poking out from under a manilla folder. Rolling his eyes, he absently tossed the file aside to inspect the phone. ‘I would've pegged him as having some ridiculous futuristic piece of garbage… Why a regular old…?’His father's voice on the other end of the line jostled him from his thoughts.

“Vladdie!” Jack's voice boomed. ‘Wait? Why does Dad know his number? What the heck…’

“Um. Actually, Dad, it's me. Danny.”Daniel stammered apologetically.

“Daniel?! Why… ?” He could hear his father trying to compose himself, so he wouldn't yell. “ You’re not supposed to leave the house! What if another ghost snatches you?!”

“Dad! I'm fine! This time I brought protection for myself. I have the Fenton thermos…”

A deep sigh resonated over the line. “ It's a little early for a visit to Vlad’s. Daniel? Why-”

Daniel swallowed and catching himself flatly stated. “ The doctor yesterday said he was trying to help find me… I wanted to thank him...”

“Well…. God, your mama is going to be so peeved…..”A dull tapping noise could be heard.“ Okay. Daniel James Fenton? You promise me you won't go wandering around? I trust V-man can take care of you but I don't want you disappearing again.” Daniel snickered internally at this. ‘ Him take care of me? Ha. I am pretty convinced it's the other way around…’
“ Dad? I promise I won't go wandering around.” ‘It's not like I can with Vlad practically comatose upstairs..’

“Just be careful? And tell Vlad I said thanks as well, k? I know he hasn't been sleeping over this…”

“ Of course.” Daniel paused and then added, “ I'll call to check in later. I love you, dad.”

Jack’s voice perked slightly at the promised call. “ Love you to Danny. Keep your promises ‘kay?”

“ Okay, dad. Okay. I'm a Fenton remember? I'll be fine. Talk to you later!”Hanging up the line Daniel ran a hand through his hair.

A small meowing sound caused him to turn his head. A white cat with piercing golden eyes was leisurely rubbing against a portion of the offices wood paneling. ‘Wait… that's right… he got a cat...pfff…’Daniel put a hand to his mouth to restrain himself from laughing. The dainty feline was clawing against something on the side of the office. Walking over to the snow white cat he gently pulled it back away from the wood. The cat hissed and clawed at his presence and Daniel chuckled. Animals had a questionable habit of reacting differently around him since he was zapped by the portal. Cats especially seemed to resent him.

“ Sorry fluff ball.” He backed away, palms extended in a sign of peace.

The cat looked at him curiously and then darted through the wall. “ Holy shit… A ghost cat or?”Putting his hand to the wall, he noticed the air coming from behind the bookshelf. The cat hadn't gone through the wall, just a narrow crack between the fake shelf and the door’s opening. Pulling open the door curiously, Daniel noticed the security monitors. The cat was leisurely laying against the corner of the wall preening herself.

Sitting at the monitor, Daniel debated looking through the archived footage. Seeing a file time stamped with the day he was found he clicked it. Several images of various rooms popped up. Clicking on the one that apparently showed Vlad's portal, he fast-forwarded through the video. Around six o'clock am Vlad stumbled into the lab clinging onto him. Falling over, he redirected the impact to his spine to avoid waking or hurting the teen. Him worriedly checking Danny Phantom’s pulse and then freezing as he turned human with a look of panic plastered across his face also flashed onto the screen. Lifting Daniel up, he forced a partial shift to his hand. Using his black talons, he quickly ripped off Daniel's shirt and began roughly fashioning it into bandages for his chest wound. Vlad's hands were shaking, and he was darting in and out of consciousness as he worked. Seeing the wound was still bleeding through the bandages he growled in anger and began taking off his own shirt. He grimaced in agony and the Daniel watching the monitor felt his heart drop again. Vlad's torso prior to Daniel's impromptu visit had been a million times worse. There was blood dripping and pooling down his pants and onto the floor in small droplets. Vlad's eyes practically closed again only for him to force himself back as he began ripping the shirt up to bandage Daniel. ‘Oh god… fruit-loop…’ The Vlad on the monitor was panting and sweating profusely. Wiping a blood covered hand across his brow he grabbed onto Daniel and stood up. A crackle of energy resonated, and they both disappeared. ‘He was bringing me home…Dad said the doorbell rang around six and they found me. Wait… he …. Oh man… What did I do…’

Nauseous, he maneuvered back to the home screen. Clicking on several rooms and fast forwarding to the present time, he found nothing. Finally seeing the last video feed in the kitchen, he clicked it. Skipping forward he watched in pained horror as Vlad teleported back to his home. Landing in the kitchen his hand numbly tried to grasp onto the fridge only for him to drop to his knees on the floor. Vlad’s body was shaking and then he fell forward onto the tile. His hand moved, clawing across the white as a red puddle began forming under his abdomen. ‘He was bleeding to death.’ Daniel's eyes flinched away from the monitor. Vlad eventually stopped moving. He shifted several times in his sleep from human to ghost. Speeding up the video he watched in disbelief as Vlad crawled onto his hands and knees and shakily stood up from the slasher-isc pool that had encompassed his body. Breathing heavily he stumbled clumsily out of the kitchen. Pausing the video, Daniel rubbed a hand across his face. There were no cameras in any of the bedrooms so he wouldn't be able to see exactly what went on after. Realizing Vlad's drunken stupor was also in the same kitchen he skipped ahead in the video.

Teleporting into the kitchen, an obviously feverish and pained Vlad Masters stumbled and almost cracked his head against the counter only to right himself the last second. Growling and eyes flashing red he began ripping bottles out of a cabinet by the booth near the window. Numbly holding his side, he walked over to the marble island and sat down on one of the bar stools. Snapping off the top of the bottle with his wrist, he bitterly began drinking. After the first two bottles, he retracted the arm around his waist and sighed in relief. He seemed to be talking to himself but with no audio Daniel could only assume and speculate. After a few minutes, a look of grief and then anger flashed across his face. His eyes flashed red again and his hand sparked. Snapping off the top of the bottle with his wrist, he bitterly began drinking. Holding his head, he began yelling and ranting to the bottle. Soon it was empty and Vlad's eyes tiredly loomed to the ceiling. Teleporting back to the liquor stash he grabbed several more bottles in his arms and returned to the stool. The six bottles almost seemed menacing as he laid them across the white counter. He half looked like he was going to blast them into a thousand glittering pieces. Lifting his arm, his hand sparked and then just as suddenly he grasped his chest in agony. Snarling, Vlad began drinking the rest of the liquor he had collected. Around the fifth bottle, he began swaying unsteadily and talking to himself. His conversations seemed to be rather animated and his eyes flashed, enraged. Slapping himself across the face, he picked up another bottle and opened it.

Soon he was crying and whispering against the stone. Daniel already familiar with what was going to happen paused the video feed and stood up tiredly. Looking toward the ceiling, he phased upward and made his way back to Vlad's bedroom. The adult, still sleeping, had turned slightly in his bed. Walking over to him, Daniel gently rearranged him again to keep him off of his sides or his torso. Vlad flinched slightly in his sleep and his leg moved partially but he didn't wake up. Feeling Vlad's head, he sighed in relief. The fever was down to manageable levels. Exhausted, Daniel sat back into the chair he previously occupied and crossed his arms. Now heavily sleep deprived from his efforts, he decided to take a nap.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Vlad’s small form stood in shock. The tile felt like ice against his socks. Having just arrived home from his part-time job and school, he had stumbled into a living nightmare. The shadows licked and danced around the dimly lit room. Their adoptive father was standing over the now red tiles with a bemused drunken look on his face. His yellow teeth and shallow brown eyes locked onto Vladimir’s frozen form and Vlad felt every single nerve in his body scream. The adult smiled and casually returned his gaze back to the floor. Vlad's eyes followed his. Just across from the man, Vladimir's biological sister was sprawled on her back. Her foot stuck out from behind the laminate cabinets, unmoving. Dropping his bag off of his shoulder Vlad ran forward. A large drunken hand immediately shot out and latched onto his shoulder before he could reach her. He briefly felt the sickening slickness against his sock as he was thrown backward. Winded from the impact Vlad regained his vision only to scream in absolute horror and disbelief. Liza’s eyes were lifelessly staring into the popcorned ceiling above them and she didn't stir. Crawling to her, he was wrenched upward by a swift kick to his ribs. Panting on the floor and crying he numbly reached outward toward his sibling. James stared at both his charges. An arm slung out and grabbed onto Vladimir by his black hair before throwing him into the crimson puddle that had accumulated on the floor .
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Vlad's screaming ripped through everything. Daniel immediately shot up from his nap. The older hybrid’s body was arched against the bed like he was trying to get away from something or someone and his eyes watered behind closed lids.

Panicking the boy ran to his side and began shaking him out of whatever dream he had been having. Vlad awoke hyperventilating and confused. Feeling hands gripping into his shoulder, he numbly shook his head to try and get his bearings. A teenager’s voice jolted him out of his confusion, “ You alright? What's wrong?”Looking up, Vlad's eyes grew large, and he immediately flinched away and out of the boy's grasp. Recoiled against the headboard and panting he shakily locked eyes on the teen.
“Why the blazes are you here?!” A sharp pain caused him to shoot a hand to his abdomen. Dizzy, he started pitching forward. ‘This isn't good. This isn't good at all…’ The teen’s arms immediately went to support him, and Vlad knocked his outstretched hands away.

“Vlad? Calm down. I just want to help you. You’re going to end up making yourself worse!” Looking at his bandages, Vlad paused. His vision was still swimming, but he could tell the medical work wasn't his doing. ‘ Shit. He saw. How the heck do I explain this?!’

“Aren't heroes supposed to beat villains?! Tell me dear boy; why should… I …. le-?!?”Vlad winced at his rants and began toppling toward the mattress again. Daniel caught him this time. The adult numbly writhed and protested against him. “ Jez! Relax! You’re probably still drunk, just breath for a second Fruit-loop!”

Vlad growled. Panting he snapped, “ WHY SHOULD I TRUST YOU?!?!”

Daniel frowned and raised an eyebrow. “ Funny, I've been thinking the same damned thing after I busted in here last night to find you bleeding everywhere …” Daniel mumbled angrily.

Silenced, Vlad stared in confusion at the sixteen-year-old. His head was still ringing, and the room and everything around him felt like it was being tussled in waves of static. Groaning, he sighed with resignation and then apologized, “ ….Sorry….”

Daniel's baby blue eyes widened, and he smirked, “ Yeah, you are most definitely still drunk.”

Vlad's eyebrow twitched at this. ‘Drunk? Oh, wait...that's right… I was in the kitchen last night.’ Groaning again, he clasped a free hand to one of Daniel’s. “Why are you even here? Possibly to flaunt your ridiculous and childish presumptions on heroism?” Daniel still supporting Vlad began trying to lay him back down.

“Actually, currently, I'm taking care of a bratty and heavily injured adult who doesn't realize when he should shut up and lay down.” Vlad narrowed his eyes at Daniel's words.
“Okay, little badger. Tell me? Why are you in my manor in the first place? Aren't I your enemy? A deplorable monster intent on killing your idiot father and seducing your mother? You literally have nothing to gain from this interaction!” He hissed, and his eyes flashed crimson to accentuate the point.“ Aren't I your villain Danny Phantom?!?! So why are you-” Vlad, suddenly feeling dizzy again, felt his head sway and he slumped further into Daniel's hold.

“Hmmmm…. Not looking very villainous right now, are you? Especially after I found you yesterday…” To prove his point, he roughly pushed Vlad back into the pillows. The adult to winced in agony. Satisfied Vlad was laying down again he stood up to glare at the still slightly feverish moron.

Vlad, grimacing, snarled and tried to shoot upward only to feel a stiff pain in his waist. Groaning he glared at the teen. “Stop avoiding the questions! Why was Danny Phantom lurking around? Better yet, why help me? God knows you despise my very existence! Why not...”

Daniel annoyedly tossed a pillow at the adult, startling him.

“For peat's sake! Shut up already!”He pointed at Vlad's chest, “ What the hell was I supposed to do?!?! Especially after I found out I-…”

Vlad tensed immediately and his eyes widened. ‘There’s no way. He couldn't know...There's no possible way…’Daniel noticed the behavior and sighed. Looking away from Vlad, he continued on his previous train of thought but decided to omit his knowledge of Vlad's little hero act.

“Vlad? Please. Just… just stop… I'm getting really tired of you doing stupid shit. Just relax. God knows you have WAY to much booze in your blood for a normal person to even be able to breathe, much less talk.”

Vlad sighed and stared at the ceiling before lowly growling under his breath. After a few seconds, he began trying to get out of bed. Daniel turned back to the sound and immediately pushed him back against the mattress.

“ WHAT.ARE.YOU.DOING?” Daniel reprimanded.

In response, Vlad glared and put a hand to his waist. “Obviously, I'm getting up! I have things to do, and I don't need some teenage-”

At this, Daniel forcefully held him against the bed. “You're not going anywhere! Vlad, you almost went full ghost last night. If that's even a thing with us… Literally, if I hadn't popped by out of curiosity you'd be lying in a morgue right now!” Daniel yelled.

Startled Vlad locked his gaze against Daniel's. ‘What is he talking about? I've had waaaayyyy worse injuries. That and it isn't unusual for me to be drunk after sustaining wounds or unconscious.’

Vlad numbly latching his free arm around Daniel's wrist withdrew the arm to place his hand against the bridge of his nose. “ What are you blathering about Daniel? I've had far worse wounds than this! What exactly happened last night?”

Seeing the boy's dark circles under his eyes, he withdrew his hand from the bridge of his nose to stare into Daniel's angry and slightly worried blue eyes.
“ Vlad? You had a temperature of one hundred and twenty.” Vlad's dark blue eyes widened at this.‘Damn it… the alcohol must've made the fever worse…’

Seeing Vlad mulling the information over but still trying to get up he continued, “You weren't even coherent and your eyes were glazing over.”Daniel's last few words came out as more of a hiss. Vlad stopped moving against his hold. Vlad opened his mouth to argue only for Daniel to glare daggers at him.

“Honestly, I don't know how the hell you managed this far! Heck? I should be tending to a corpse at this point. Every damned brain cell you have should be fried. A regular human would've been set up for a granite slab at one hundred and fifteen degrees! Yet here you are, still being an annoying cheesehead with no sense of self-preservation!”
Vlad, sitting silently flinched at Daniel's words. Seeing a ghost of fear flashing across the teen’s blue eyes above him, he resigned himself back to the bed and dropped his head to the pillow under him. Speaking calmly he addressed the sleep-deprived boy still immobilizing him.

“The fever is new… I …” He sighed and, looking at Daniel bitterly, finished.“ Fine. I won't move.”Looking elsewhere rather sheepishly, he continued, “ But, I do hate to inform you that all I have been sustaining myself with the last two or three days has been Jack Daniel’s…..”

He grimaced as Daniel released his shoulders. Daniel stood puzzled for a moment. Finally understanding what Vladimir was getting at, he facepalmed himself in annoyance. Slightly startling Vladimir, he jabbed a finger toward him and reprimanded. “ Seriously?”

The teenager looked like he was going to slug the adult. Turning from the flabbergasted and wounded man he muttered angrily under his breath a string of profanities. “ I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Vlad watched as he phased into the kitchen below him. Resigning himself to what he promised the teen he closed his eyes in frustration. The silence was almost deafening. ‘ Well. This week can't possibly get any worse…’He smiled somewhat sadly. Several minutes passed and still fatigued he fell back to sleep.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Downstairs near the breakfast booth on the far side of the kitchen, Daniel was debating on how to approach Vladimir's nourishment problem. Walking across the kitchen to the island that previously hosted Vlad's feverish drinking binge he tiptoed through the glass. Not bothering with a shift he casually looped around the island. A hand went to open the stainless steel fridge only for him to find himself pausing at a sickening sticky sound emanating from the floor. Glancing down he frowned. Daniel Fenton’s white tennis shoe had just stepped in a large red and black mass of congealed blood.

“Oh…. that's right… he collapsed next to the fridge yesterday…”Lifting his shoe up he began mentally juggling how he was supposed to handle everything.‘Okay… firstly, I need to get this up. I can't help anyone if I slip on my ass and bust my head open in the kitchen against broken glass and liquor bottles…’ Retracting his hand from the fridge, he casually launched himself off the floor and floated to the sink to clean of his sneaker. Cutting on the water he ran his foot under the stream and yanked several paper towels from a small dowel by the sink to wash off the mess. ‘How many did that moron lose? Three?’

Sighing, Daniel left the sink running and returned to the floor. " I need more paper towels..."
Seeing the glass shards he groaned, “-and a broom.” Turning into Danny Phantom for ease of access, he quickly phased back into Vlad's room. Glancing at the bed, he smiled at the fact the adult had taken his advice on resting. Now asleep, his breathing had returned to its normal rhythms instead of the panicked hyperventilating he had showcased when he was awake.

Floating past the adult, he casually opened the door and left it ajar. There was a supply closet behind Vlad's bedroom, just adjacent from the abandoned children's room and the staircase. Walking in he casually flicked on the lights. Sure enough, several cleaning supplies in various states of wear were organized neatly on the back wall. Finding the copper dustpan and the broom, Daniel grinned broadly. “Yet again… you surprise me. We even have better cleaning supplies than this…” ‘Granted, these are way better-taken care of.’

Daniel paused as he began taking rolls of paper towels from the shelf to his right. Several cardboard boxes were stacked across from him. We even have better cleaning supplies than this… The first box seemed to be filled with old photos. Picking one at random he glanced at the image. In it, Vladimir was wearing an oversized blue hoodie. He looked to be around eighteen or nineteen years old. Smiling warmly at a college-age version of his dad, his hand was casually draped over Jack’s shoulder. A cake was being held up by Maddie to the right of the photo. Jack was rolling his eyes. Turning over the photo Daniel could see blue ink roughly in the right corner. Jack's 20th Birthday. July 26, 1991. ‘Wait...what? Why keep this? ’Glancing back at the box nervously he shakily put a hand back into the aged cardboard abyss and pulled out another photo. This one, a Polaroid, was a sloppily made selfie. Vlad was grinning broadly and blushing while jerking his thumb backward at Jack and Maddie kissing in the booth behind him at a bowling alley. Daniel's hand shook. ‘What the actual heck is this?’ Turning the photo over he read the small notes on the back. Finally got the blasted morons to kiss in public. Jesus, they're slow. Summer 1991. Glancing at the box apprehensively he tore it down from the shelf. It was practically filled to the top. Eyes wide, Daniel pulled another photo out. This one was taken in a dorm room. Vlad was asleep at his desk with what looked like a cast on his left wrist. A yellow sweater numbly covered the majority of it. A hand, obviously Jack’s was leaning over him with a sharpie drawing a sloppy doodle of a stick figure knight on Vlad's wrist. Below the knight, in sprawling letters, a Monty Python quote from the Holy Grail movie contrasted against the white. "Tis but a scratch.” Turning the photo over Daniel quickly read the back. His father's writing was casually looped across the top. Sorry, V-man. Couldn't resist! You trying to write with your right hand is just to damn funny! Below that, Vlad's neater and loopier cursive writing flatly responded. Jack? You have made a grave error in judgment. Let the games begin.
Raising an eyebrow Daniel picked up another photo. This one also seemed to be a continuation of the previous. In this one, Vlad was smiling broadly with a small air horn in front of the camera. Using one of the fingers clasped around the cylinder he pointed to Jack mischievously, while lifting up his doodled on wrist. Jack was sleeping with his hands full of shaving cream. His face was covered in sloppily applied makeup. The red lipstick was applied in a long, looping girth around his mouth like a clown’s. Daniel giggled at the photo and turning it over read the back. Maddie, Jack and Me. Prank war. April 12, 1991. ‘ I guess mom was taking the photo.’

Setting it down he pulled another one out. This one, upside down, was dated the same day. Turning it over, Daniel smiled. Maddie, obviously holding the camera up, was taking a selfie of Vladimir and Jack splayed on the floor of their dorm. Vladimir's black hair and face were plastered in shaving cream from Jack. Jack, grinning, was pushing the laughing Vladimir against their dorms carpeted floor. Maddie sat between them in cargo shorts and a tank top giggling. Her hair was sloppily tied in a braid, and her free hand held several sharpies and tubes of makeup. ‘I don’t understand. Why keep any of these? If you hate someone… You wouldn't keep things like this, would you? ’Dropping the photo back into the box he numbly grabbed the others he had been snooping through and replaced them.‘ I can look through these later. Right now, I have to tend to the stupid jerk.’ Pushing the box back in place, Daniel went to turn back to the supplies only to pause at another box with something poking out of the top. Dragging it down he stiffened. A small green and white dress was neatly folded in the center. The ribbon across its middle was tattered. Next to it a small ragged and torn doll laid haphazardly against the side. Something in the pit of Daniel's stomach lurched at the items, and he quickly dropped them and shoved the box back. Realizing he was hyperventilating, he calmed himself and took several slow breathes. ‘Why am I freaking out over a child's dress? What the actual heck?’

Staring worriedly at the shelf, he quickly whipped his head around, and grabbing the supplies, phased through the floor and into the downstairs. Walking into the kitchen he quickly began sweeping up the glass and wiping up the blood. ‘ And today on Vlad's house of horrors? Creepy occult books, contradictory photos, abandoned rooms, and blood… lots and lots of blood…’ Tossing the last napkin in the garbage can under the sink, he sighed.“ I just had to walk in on a real-life Amityville horror.” He quipped sarcastically.

Chapter Text

Smiling slightly at his clever but half-hearted pun, he quickly washed his hands and directed his attention back to the fridge. Finally opening it he frowned.

“Has he ever heard of grocery shopping?” The fridge was a barren wasteland. Only two of the shelves had anything on them.

“He even eats like a bachelor…” Daniel facepalmed himself. Eyebrow furrowed he floated to the left of the fridge and began searching the pantry as well. 'Wonderful… the guy must live off of takeout.'

Glancing down at the bottom shelf, his eyes widened. “ Is… is that insta-ramen!?!?” Putting a hand to the cup, Daniel burst out in hysterical laughter. 'Bachelor nothing… he eats like a broke college student!' Wiping a tear from his eye he casually grasped the ramen cup to inspect it.

“ Yep. I'm probably still in Nocturn's dream palooza. There’s no way a multi-billionaire would eat instant noodles…” Tossing the cup back on the shelf he absently began taking stock of what he had to work with. Seeing some chicken broth cubes and some egg noodles he smirked. Grabbing the two items he retreated from the lackluster shelves and walking into the kitchen, stacked the two items on the marble island. Opening the fridge again he smiled broadly. Sure enough, there was a package of chicken, some onions, a carrot, and some garlic.

“ Chicken noodle soup for the invalid it is then…” Grabbing everything he tossed it all on the countertop. ‘Cause’ I am soooo not making him dollar store ramen. Dream or otherwise.’ Rummaging for a few minutes he found a saucepan, some spices, a knife, and a cutting board. Chopping the onion and the chicken he lightly seasoned them and then stuck them in the pan to cook. Once the meat was white he turned up the burner and walking over to the sink added the water needed to make the broth. Tossing in two cubes he returned to the chopping board and finished slicing the carrots. Setting his broth to simmer with the lid on he quickly phased back upstairs to check on Vlad.

Vlad, still sleeping, shivered slightly at Danny Phantom’s presence. Leaning over the adult, he casually draped a blanket across him only to suddenly tense at the sound of a doorbell being frantically rung. Glancing at Vlad and seeing him shift in his sleep Daniel bit his lip and immediately flew through the building to the entranceway. Turning into Daniel Fenton he roughly yanked the door open.

Jazmine's knuckles were practically white as she clenched them to her sides. Her turquoise eyes flashed menacingly from under her orange tresses.
Jabbing her hand at the house she growled, “ Why aren't you at home resting?” Her eyes narrowed at Daniel. “ AND why are you at this deranged moron's house?!?!” Her voice held evident hatred and disapproval as she tapped her black Vans against the doormat.

“ Jaz, calm down…. just let me explain.” Quietly ushering her through the halls he led her to the kitchen. Looking nervously around the deserted halls she quickly grabbed his wrist and spun him around before he could get to his destination. “ You better have a good reason FOR THIS Daniel!!!!” Her eyes flashed dangerously as she waved her arm around where they were standing.

“JAZ!” Daniel snapped and then glancing at the ceiling nervously continued in hushed whispers, “Stop screaming… please...You're going to wake him up.”

Jaz gritted her teeth at this and, snarling, retorted, “ WHAT’S WITH YOUR SUDDEN CHANGE IN ATTITUDE ?!?” Seeing Daniel's eyes flash green threateningly as he jabbed a hand to the ceiling she lowered her voice a couple of octaves and continued. “Did he come up with a mind control ray!?? Or perhaps more nanobots?” Her voice although lower, still held evident contempt.

Yanking his sibling into the kitchen by her hand, he growled, “Jazz? For the love of god, shut up!” He angrily motioned toward the ceiling. “ The situation has changed.”

Now confused Jaz’s brow switched from enraged to perplexed. “ Yeah? How so?”

“ Remember that shirt? The one you guys found me in?” Jaz nodded and then frowned at Daniel's question. Realizing what he was getting at, she herself angrily jabbed a hand toward the ceiling and raised her eyebrow. “ That moron?” She rolled her eyes. “ At least that's who I'm assuming you keep motioning towards?” She redirected her gaze back to Daniel. “ He would never. Heck? He couldn't possibly have!”

At this Daniel rubbed a hand across his face. “ Good to see I'm not the only one to have that reaction.” Putting a hand in his pocket he gently snatched out the cufflink and tossed it to Jazz. She caught it absently in her palm and glancing at the initials looked up to Daniel in utter disbelief. “Too bad everything I've stumbled upon contradicts what we thought huh? I’d still be thinking the same thing as you if it weren't for that cufflink and the state I found him in last night.”
Curious, she questioned, “ What happened last night?”
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A blaring and repetitive ringing awoke Vladimir. ‘God…. my head. Make it stop….’

Groaning and ignoring his body's pleas for him to stay stationary he shakily began maneuvering himself out of his bed. Clearing his head somewhat from the feverish fog, his blue eyes flashed tiredly to red. The ringing persisted. ‘Someone's ringing the doorbell? It can't be anyone from the town council. They would have called ahead.. and it can't be Bertra, can it?’ Rubbing his eyes he used his right arm as a counterweight to avoid bending his torso as he got out of bed. Dizzy he pitched forward before quickly righting himself. Noticing his lack of a decent covering and the bandages he groaned.

‘Okay….I need a shirt….’ Looking over to his closet he numbly lifted his hand and in a flash of purple and pink a worn-in white dress shirt materialized. ‘Man, that was stupid. I should've just walked over and tore it off the hanger. What a waste of energy…’ Panting with the effort and still slightly feverish he began draping the shirt over himself only to hear angry yelling from downstairs. A haughty and reprimanding female voice echoed and splintered through the absence of the ringing doorbell.

“ You better have a good reason FOR THIS Daniel!!!!”

‘That can't be good.’ Looking at the gauze on his chest Vladimir bit his lip. He had choices. The question was which one would be safest with such a large portion of himself trying to heal? ‘ I could phase to the kitchen from here. I probably can make it down fairly easily, but the downside is my cells will take longer to recover and my dizziness can leave me open to the obviously enraged female’s attacks, if she decided to do so... I would also lose a chance to access the situation from a distance.’

Rubbing his forehead and feeling the sweat on his brow, he growled. ‘And if I take the stairs like a human I risk breaking my neck…because obviously, despite me being somewhat more alert... I'm still half out of my head....’ Sighing he glanced back to the flooring. Another yell shook through the house and he stiffened.

“ WHAT’S WITH YOUR SUDDEN CHANGE IN ATTITUDE ?!?”

Looking from his chest to the floor where the sound was emanating from, he groaned. “I guess I'll take the stairs….” Stumbling to the ajar doorway, he turned right and begrudgingly made his way past the storage room, avoiding looking at the room just to the left of the barely used staircase. Holding tightly to the banister he grimaced as he made his way down steps. His free hand clutched tightly to his chest as he sagged to the side of the wall and his knees tried to sway out from under him. ‘Lovely….I'm blacking out. Just what I need…’ Growling under his breath he stepped down the last few stairs only to hear Daniel talking somberly to the young female from the kitchen. The words however where to vague for him to make out. ‘ Fuck it. Might as well announce my presence. I can't even stand correctly now, much less turn invisible or teleport upstairs.’ Wincing he stumbled to the open kitchen and began falling forward.

Catching the doorframe, he grimaced in agony. A small line of crimson had sprung across his wrappings. Looking up, he spotted Jazmine Fenton standing near the breakfast bar. Her face turned to him and her jaw dropped in utter disbelief and surprise. “ Of course… more intrusive Fenton brats…” His eyes flashed red as he growled angrily toward the redhead before something else ripped from under the bandages. Eyes wide, his hand dropped from the doorframe and he fell forward.

Seeing the tile through his blurry vision, Vlad grimaced. ‘ Yeah. This is going to hurt.’ He closed his eyes tiredly only to feel a hand latching onto his shoulder. Now on his knees, he groggily made out Danny Phantom’s white hair nestled beside his own gray. Vlad, dazed from his wounds, went limp against the teenager.

Still somewhat coherent he numbly and bitterly addressed the two teenagers. “.....Since...when has my home become a teen..clubhouse…?” Daniel pulled away from him slightly to raise an eyebrow at the adult’s question. Seeing the red snaking across the bandages he himself became heavily annoyed. “Well, good afternoon to you to Plasmius!” Rolling his eyes he growled. “ Nothing says thank you like sarcasm! I mean, I could drop you? God knows you could use more time laying down.”

At this Vlad’s eyes narrowed through the daze and he numbly tried pushing away from the teen only to gasp in agony as his chest moved. Daniel, eyes wide, immediately latched his hands under Vlad's form and hefted him off the floor. Vlad's eyes hazily locked on the teen and realizing he was being carried bridal style he turned crimson. Hissing he glared at the boy. “Put. Me. Down!”

Grimacing at the verbal effort, he numbly struggled only to feel another rip through the gauze. He cringed and shut his eyes to avoid screaming.

“ Hold still you stubborn moron! Are you still drunk? Or do you fancy having your organs splayed all over the kitchen floor?” Daniel growled. Vlad, however, was becoming faint and his head was struggling to focus. Seeing Vlad conking out again and the now slowly turning red bandages he groaned. Jaz, now worried for the adult as well, quickly trailed her sibling to the breakfast booth in the corner of the kitchen.

The morning sun flashed morbidly over the scene. Vlad stirred slightly in the light. Jazmine’s hand quickly pulled back part of the open shirt to get a better view of Vlad's chest. Vlad feeling her hand jolted from his feverish fainted state and growled. “.... What do you...want?...To gloat?” His eyes flashed and sparked crimson angrily. Seeing her concerned eyes his own widened and then returning to a glare he snarled, “Don't pity me!” His hand snapped into the white marble he was laying on with enough force to crack it. Jaz, raising an eyebrow at the temper tantrum, flatly retorted. “Oh, this? This isn't piety, this is concern.” Seeing Daniel phase upstairs for something, she began inspecting the bandages.

Vlad flinched as her hand connected to them tentatively. Now in pain, he snarled. “ Don't touch me!” Seeing his neck she paused. Grabbing onto his shoulder she pushed him back down onto the table to inspect the curious marks on his neck.

‘ Great, she inherited her mother's upper arm strength and I'm too injured to protest without passing out or making my condition worse. I should have just ignored the brat and stayed in bed!’ Her hand grasped onto his neck and she turned his face to the side. His brow furrowed in pain and his mouth opened in a silent scream. ‘THAT FUCKING HURTS!’
Feeling the fever from the contact with his skin she winced. “ Well… you’re really not doing well are you Masters?”

Vlad unable to answer moaned in agony as she continued looking at the marks on his neck. Daniel, having finally come back with the first aid kit, quickly snapped at Jaz. “Jaz? Stop touching his neck! Those are burns! That has to freakin hurt!”

Vlad, seeing Daniel, groaned. Forcing his voice and now slightly delirious he begged. “....Phantom….get her….off…” His head numbly rolled. Daniel in response glared at his sibling and she, finally taking the hint, removed her hands from Vlad's neck.

Vlad sighed in relief. Trying to focus he flinched as a duplicate of Daniel lifted up his torso. “ You just had to go and move around! What part of ‘almost a corpse’ do you not understand?”

Vlad in reply, tiredly answered. “In my defense...m’ already halfway there…”

Jazmine's eyes widened as did Daniel's. “Did you just make a joke?” Vlad rolled his eyes at Daniel's question.

“....Yes?...so…? Would you rather I talk to you pretentiously or condescendingly?” Vlad grimaced.

The duplicate grinned above Vladimir and Jaz snickered. “ Well… that's new.”

Vlad glared at Daniel and Jaz before flatly retorting. “By all means...continue antagonizing me… trust me children….I may be injured but I'm not above kicking you both out by force…”

At this Daniel’s duplicate casually reached over and put a hand to Vlad's chest. The adult recoiled in agony.

“Suuuuuuurrrrre…” Daniel smiled.

Vlad's eyebrow twitched. Regaining some composure, but still breathing heavily he snapped. “ Listen you little punk! I don't have time for this! I’ve humored your request for rest but I have a job to do this afternoon. Injury or no…” The clone touched him again and Vlad practically fainted. The real Daniel paused from the supplies he was holding and looked to Vlad curiously.

Jazmine's eyebrow raised. “ Pfff. Job? What? Being mayor? Running your companies? Thievery?”

Vlad’s face grew slightly panicked and realizing he was about to slip up he quickly tried pulling away only for Daniel's clone to squeeze his chest. Vlad writhed in agony and fell forward slightly. Sweating he tiredly looked back up at the sixteen-year-old and eighteen year old looking at him in puzzlement.

Swaying in the duplicate's hold, Vlad began mumbling somewhat incoherently under his breath… “...They…...should...be back..where are...those morons?... Already found….stupid demon nest….”

Vlad breathed in heavily and, coughing, continued. “I've got work….let go….” His hand numbly reached for the clones and weakly tried pulling away. “ I...don't want to...you...know...but I will use it...if you don't…” Both Jaz and Daniel stared apprehensively at the adult. Jaz realizing Vlad was out of it questioned.

“ Vlad? What work..?” Vlad, now slumped against the duplicate and breathing heavily, gently tried taking the hand holding him off again. “....Itz…a....secret...It's important….”

Something on Vlad's palm flashed. His body bucked slightly with the energy and he groaned in pain. “...No…. not here…. damned...seal...stop…” Vlad released the clone and numbly grasped onto his right hand. Daniel, seeing this, motioned his clone to lay Vlad back down temporarily. Vlad’s eyelids heavily draped across the blue underneath and his hold on his palm began to go slack. Daniel, curious as to what Vlad was talking about, motioned his clone to hold him down against the marble. Vlad, unable to protest, tried to keep his right arm out of Daniel's grasp. Daniel however easily grabbed the limb. At his touch, a symbol of glowing white surfaced and fluctuated across the flesh. It was circular in nature with what looked like some sort of ancient writing around and through segments. Both Jaz and Daniel watched in awe as the symbol pulsed and buzzed with energy. “What the heck is that?” Staring over to Vlad, they both groaned. The adult had passed out.

“Well, the mysteries just keep adding up….” Daniel rolled his eyes.

Jazmine looked from him to Vlad questionably. “ Danny? You never told me what happened and now I'm even more curious…”

Groaning, he got rid of his duplicate and tiredly rubbed his eyes. “Jaz. I'm having some serious issues with all of this. Heck, I still think I'm dreaming….”

At this, Jazmine reached over and pinched him hard on his arm. He yelped. “Okay. Apparently not dreaming….”

Jaz rolled her eyes. “Let's bandage him first and then you can explain? His chest looks like an abstract painting at this point….”

Daniel smiled bitterly. “Sure. Let's get this over with. You seeing the wounds will probably help when I explain everything.”

Chapter Text

Frowning slightly, he made two duplicates this time. Carefully grabbing onto Vlad's shoulder blades they suspended him up so Daniel could remove the now completely bled through bandages. Vlad’s shirt lay on the bench seat next to him in a ruffled heap from where the left clone had tossed it. Vlad groaned in his sleep but didn’t stir from the movements. The palm still glowed and buzzed but seemed to be getting fainter. Putting a hand to Vlad he turned the medical wrappings intangible and yanked them off.

Jaz, seeing the extent of the damage, stumbled and almost fell backward. “Danny? What happened to him?”

Daniel grimaced. “Me.”

Jaz looked from Vlad's bleeding and heavily damaged chest to Daniel worriedly. “What are you talking about?”

Sighing, Daniel gently lifted up Vlad’s neck to expose the fading burns ribbed across his flesh and then overlapped his hand to the marks. Jaz paled considerably at the sight.

Daniel gently began cleaning off the blood on Vlad's chest with a towel he had snatched from the upstairs storage closet. “ Jaz? He went into the Ghost Zone to save me and I tried to murder him in cold blood. You know that ghost I told you about? Nocturn? Well, Vlad somehow found me out there and tried waking me up. I think he probably used possession. He showed up in my dream… right after Sam was murdered and I...I just lost it.” Daniel clenched his fists bitterly. “ I was ripping him apart, shooting him, burning through his neck… and he didn't even raise a fist at me…. and then to top everything off?” Daniel gulped. Tracing a hand across Vlad's wounds he began medically taping the edges together. “God...Jaz. While I was at the hospital he was bleeding to death on the floor a few feet away from us…”

Jaz grimaced and looked to Vlad as she addressed Daniel again, this time stepping forward to help wrap the adult. “Daniel? Are you sure he shouldn't be in a hospital?”

Daniel frowned. “ How would he or we explain away finger-shaped brand marks? Or all of these scars I've yet to figure out? I mean look at him!”

He stopped his wrapping and pointed a hand to a large pink scar looped across Vlad's right shoulder in a crescent. “That's a bite mark! Heck, he's riddled with all sorts of bizarre scars under his clothes. I think there are even bullet marks…. He looks like he's been tortured for Christ’s sake! I'm sure that would just go over wonderfully with the ER. Don't you?”

Jazmine traced another scar on Vlad's left shoulder curiously. It looked like a claw mark and beside it, there were two large circular scars rimmed by paper puncher sized holes, long ago sealed over. “No need for the sarcasm...I get what you’re saying.” Finishing the wrapping, Daniel motioned his clones to lay Vlad back down. The adult stirred slightly and tried to wake up. Jazmine, noting the movement, ticked her head toward the adult to direct Daniel's attention.

Daniel still oblivious to the movement, had turned to put the rest of the supplies back up. In an annoyed growl, he ranted.“ To add to this? When I found him yesterday he was completely drunk. We’re talking 1,000 times the legal limit. I'm pretty sure a normal person would get drunk from a glass or two of Jack Daniel's or scotch, but seven bottles?”

Daniel wrung a hand through his white hair in annoyance. Vlad’s eyes slowly started to open and his palm flashed. Seeing the light out of the corner of his eye Daniel walked over to the adult and tried to get him to focus. Both clones dissipated. “Yo!?Earth to Fruit-loop? Do you read?”

Vlad stared incoherently at the teen. Shakily reaching a hand out, he limply laid it on Daniel’s shoulder. “ Heads ringing….but I think… I read you…” He grimaced and moaned from the movement. “.... I think…. overdid painkillers… Ed wasn't here…. tried booze…and the fever wouldn't go….”

Jaz looked just as confused as Daniel at the name. “ Who's Ed?” She hissed to Daniel. Daniel shrugged.

Vlad turning from the teen ranted under his breath. “ ..Stupid… green… runt..never should've upgraded…. Romulus is way more…responsible...”

“Wait… green?” Daniel paused in thought. Realizing Vlad was still out of it he gently shook the adult's shoulder. “You’re talking about Skulker, right?”

Vlad groaned at the name. “Asked’ the idiot to go searching… Him and Romulus both… Haven't seen them in a week… Already found the island and got...rid of it…”

Daniel's curiosity was peaked now. “Got rid of what?”

Vlad shook his head. “Another… one… dream stealer...was almost too late…. the pulse was fading…” Daniel froze.

Vlad, tired, grudgingly began closing his eyes. “.... It's been….weeks…. Sleep...I need...sleep…. but it hurts….” Vlad tiredly turned on his side and clutched his chest. Still facing Daniel he smiled warmly. His eyes, however, were hazy. Daniel's neon green eyes widened in shock and astonishment. “... Shouldn't have drank… Blood is not normal… transferred to ghost half….everything's mush….” He rolled his eyes. “Used seal… to much…M’ stupid…”

Jaz giggled slightly at this. Leaning in to inspect the adult she smiled. Turning to Daniel she elbowed him, “ Danny? I think he's delirious from blood loss…” Daniel smiled slightly at this. “ Yeah… that and the residual alcohol in his system …”

“ Fruit-loop? Your job? What is it?” Daniel asked hoping the man's inebriated state would yield the answer.

Vlad's brow furrowed slightly. “ … Promised… wouldn't tell… promised to lie…… that's the plan… don't get involved… stupid plan…. brat got hurt…” Vlad was slipping again.

Daniel, now even more curious about the babbling, shook the adult roughly. “ Your job Vlad? What is it?” Daniel questioned louder.

“….. -demons… artifacts…. get rid of… regulate...kill…really hate my job…m’ a halfa target board....” Vlad's eyes were closing.

Jaz put a hand to Daniel's and sighed in exasperation. “ Daniel? He's not making sense. Let him go to sleep. I think the strain is messing with his head.” Daniel, however, suspected the opposite. In the last twenty- four hours, he had realized something. Vlad wasn't honest unless he was to out of it to realize what he was saying. Whatever he was blabbing about and his expressions while he talked were all genuine. Daniel grabbed the discarded shirt and gently put in on Vlad. Sighing, he relented his mental frustrations and gently picked the now unconscious adult up off of the table.

“ Jaz? I'm going to take him upstairs and put him back in bed. Do me a favor and don't go wandering around? This place is just as confusing and weird as that conversation we were just having with him…” Jaz raised an eyebrow. “ I'll take your word for it.”

Floating into the upstairs bedroom and setting Vlad down on the bed, Daniel began tucking him in. Vlad turned slightly in his sleep. “ Fruit-loop… When you actually wake up later today, you are going to have a hell ton to explain….”

Phasing through the floor, he happily noted Jaz turning off the burner on the stove.

Shifting back to Daniel Fenton, he tiredly mused, “I've searched this entire house practically for clues...and it's just making my head hurt worse…. Jaz? He has a box upstairs full of photos of him and dad…. and then there's the weird library… and, of course, I can't neglect to mention the abandoned room behind the stairs…”

Jaz raised an eyebrow. “ Wait? Photos? That doesn't make any sense…”

Daniel rubbed a palm to his face, “Neither does Plasmius saving me or his fever last night. Jaz he topped one hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. I thought he was toast. In fact, I'm fairly sure he would be if I hadn't cooled him down. Everything is a freaking contradiction. When he had his fever yesterday? He was begging and crying out for Dad. What even? And let's not forget him apologizing in his drunken stupor as well…to me, dad, mom…The list just keeps on going!”

Jaz was looking warily at the ceiling. “ Yeah… this is really weird Daniel… but then again… he hasn't exactly been acting evil lately has he?”

Daniel nodded. “ Yeah, I noticed. I'm even starting to think he's been bluffing for a while now… He is half ghost for god’s sake! If he wanted he could probably just kill dad off in some freak accident, he's smart. I know he knows that's an option. But does he ever commit? Nope. Zip. Nada.”

Jaz nodded. “ I'm confused… really, really confused by all of this…”

Daniel groaned. Turning to face her, he flatly sighed, “ Jaz? I'll figure this out. You saw his condition. He won't be out of bed for at least another day and a half. Maybe three. Those cuts and burns are deep. Tell mom and dad I’m helping Vlad out for a few days ’kay?”

Pursing her lips, she frowned. “Danny… are you sure? I mean… the cloning thing? Flirting with mom? The whole Pariah Dark incident? The portal stealing? That Red Huntress chick you were telling me about? The nanobots? I can't forgive him for what he's done.”

Daniel tiredly shrugged his shoulders. “ Who said I was going to forgive him? I can, however, try to understand him and maybe he can change for the better…”

Jaz sighed. “Okay...okay… that's fair I guess….But, I will be checking in every day. You yourself just got out of the hospital yesterday.”

Grinning, Daniel lifted his shirt and tore off the bandage on his chest. A pale circular scar shined mockingly. In an annoying voice, he boomed, “ I am Iron Man.”

“ You mean moron man?” Jaz leered and rolled her eyes. Daniel, in response, snickered. “Hey! It's not nice to pick on someone when they're out of earshot.” He pointed to the ceiling and she smiled.

“ I'm still going to drop by. You need clothes for the week, and a phone charger, right? I'll go home and pack you some stuff. That alright with you?”

“ Suuuurrre mom… whatever you say.”

Sticking out her tongue, she walked to the counter and picked up her keys. “See you in a few hours.”

“See you Jaz.” She then departed, leaving Daniel to cut the stove back on. Adding the carrots he paused in thought.

Vlad's words were still clanking around in his brain. “Another… one… dream stealer...was almost too late…. the pulse was fading…” Ten minutes passed slowly as he tried to decipher Vlad's words.

‘Dream stealer. He was talking about Nocturn. And the pulse thing he mentioned….he must have been talking about me...the question is what did he mean by another one?’

Another word flashed to mind and Daniel nearly dropped the bag of pasta in his hands. “Demons.”

“I think… I think I need a third party opinion…” Looking at the ceiling, he groaned as he felt the completely dead cellular device in his jeans. “Well. I could use the office phone to call Sam but I don't have her number memorized because her mom made her change it.”

Bitterly putting the lid back on the pot, he snarled, “ That and Friar Tuck is useless with occultism. I’d be like asking me to do advanced Trigonometry with a toothpick for a pencil…”

Sighing, he absently tossed in the noodles and some celery flakes. Looking around the kitchen, he took note of the rather simple layout.

'Huh... You walk through the door and to your right there's the pantry. Walk forward and you hit the island, the fridge, and the sink. Go over a ways to your right and you reach the stove and the breakfast booth. Shouldn't he have something a little crazier or snobby? This is just a simple and plain kitchen...'

Walking over to the marble booth, he ran a hand across the large crack made by Vlad in his angry and hurt state. “That...is some seriously crazy strength for a half ghost vegetable….” Picking up the bloodied bandages he went over to the trash can under the sink and chunked them in.

Somberly, he looked up at the ceiling. ‘Let him sleep for another hour. Then you can try and wake him up for food… For now Fenton? Those photos-...You need to double check….”

Morphing back into Danny Phantom, he casually flew over to the stove and cut down the burner.

Backing away from the stove and standing a few feet behind the island to avoid phasing through Vlad's bed or the adult he jumped up and floated through the ceiling and back into the bedroom. Vlad wasn't where he left him.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Text

Vlad slept for a while, at least that's what he assumed. Everything had started to blur after Daniel's clone squeezed his still recovering rib cage. Vlad could still feel the prickles of pain shooting up his chest and flickering under his bruised and torn skin. He was about to go back to sleep when he felt the nausea hit. Holding back the sickness, he tossed the covers aside and half ran, half stumbled to the bathroom. Excruciating agony and pain caused him to almost double over. Choking back the bile snaking up his throat he fell to his knees in the restroom and began retching. ‘The alcohol is finally clearing out of my body… god it burns….how much did I drink?!?!’

Several minutes passed like this with nothing but pained vomiting and moaning to fill the room. ‘God make it stop….’ Delirious, he noted someone leaning down next to him and pulling back his hair. Vlad's bangs masked his view partially. Covering his mouth, Vlad grimaced at the smell of blood and alcohol around him.

Daniel's voice seemed to echo off the walls. “ Vlad...just breathe…”

Vlad immediately tensed. Cradling his head with his hands, he tiredly turned toward the teen assisting him. Danny Phantom was worriedly leaning over his shoulder and supporting him so he wouldn't tip over.

Vlad glared at him. Eyes narrowed, he choked out raspily. “ ...Brat? Was having your clone torturing me really in anyone's best interests? …. I already have broken ribs… I didn't need to be knocked out like that!”

Daniel's green eyes widened considerably. Vlad, now completely empty, reached over tiredly and flushed the whiskey down the commode. The teen paused sheepishly in consideration of his words, “ Um… broken ribs?....”

Vlad composed himself and sneered, “Yeah. Broken ribs. Three if I've counted correctly. Being kicked by a-” He stopped abruptly and, turning away from the teen, ripped the boy’s arm off of his shoulder. Leaning back against the wall, he tiredly inspected the bandages on his torso. Raising an eyebrow, he looked back to Phantom. “ ...New bandages? When did that happen?”

Vlad shook his head tiredly to try and jostle a vague recollection or memory. Nothing. Everything was a blurred blank.

“ Well… after my duplicate squeezed you, you kind of started passing out. Jaz and I took the opportunity to change your wrappings.” Vlad tiredly gripped his chest.

“...God everything's still spinning…” Vlad leaned his head backwards against the wall, fatigued.

Daniel, seeing an opportunity, sat down next to the adult. “Vlad? Why do we even fight anymore?”

Vlad's eyes widened slightly at the question but, thinking quickly, he narrowed them and replaced his expression to mimic his mocking tone and voice. Snarling, he answered, “Well, let's see brat… It couldn't possibly be the fact that I hate your father or maybe the fact that I've openly tried to woo your mother into leaving him and marrying me? Take your pick! Or maybe we can just shoot back to the undeniable …”

Daniel groaned and cut the adult off. “ Why do you lie to yourself like that?”

Vlad's eyes widened again and he stopped in thought. ‘ This… this isn't good at all. Have I been slipping up? Of course… since she disappeared- I'm becoming too complacent.’

Daniel looked over to Vlad and seeing the expression from around the hand cradling his head, the teen smiled slightly. “ You blame them, and you even say you want to kill my dad, but nowadays, at least in the last few months… you haven't been into it. Our fights are shorter, and I think you’re even starting to end them earlier and earlier.”

Vlad dropped his hand and a ghost of fear flashed across his blue eyes. He was caught. They both knew it. A hand clasped onto his shoulder and he flinched.

“ I used to hate you soooo much.”

Vlad tensed.

“We are the same and yet you’ve hurt my family and me time and time again with hollow revenge and stupid schemes…”

Vlad's features saddened considerably. Yanking away from Daniel he stood abruptly. His eyes flashed crimson. “ Great! Isn't that the point?!?! I play villain, you beat me, they're safe. Happily ever after! Goodbye. The end!” He glared first at the boy and then to himself.

“ What would a blasted fourteen-year-old have ever known!? Parading around like he knows exactly how the world works!?!? Two years of catching blasted level one poltergeists and some low-level ghosts in soup canisters and you’re still so dense! It's arrogance and stupidity! Revenge? Seriously? I don't need such a stupid excuse! I'm the villain! I hate all of you! Every single blasted Fenton! So why? We both know that's what you think! Why go through the trouble?!?!? Is it some sickening form of guilt? Or am I really that pathetic?!?!”

Vlad, glowering at the white-haired and gaping teenager, turned abruptly to step out of the room. Still screaming he continued. “Heck! What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to figure this mess out?!?!? MY OWN FRIENDS DIDN'T EVEN WANT ME! And now look where I am? The stupid brat has finally pieced together something though! But wait there's more… he still fails to grasp that even adults lie.” Shifting into Plasmius, he glanced back at the child who was now standing in stunned silence by the towel rack.

“ YOU HAVE NO IDEA! Not a single clue what I…” Biting his tongue, Vlad turned. There was a flash of conflicted emotion followed by a grimace before he teleported away from the teenager.

Now in the library Vlad collapsed onto his side by the desk. Putting a hand to his throbbing skull he angrily screamed. “Sugar Cookies! I hate this!”

Reaching up to his desk he grabbed the leather-bound journal and grabbing a pen, roughly yanked it open and crossed out the illustration of Nocturn. ‘Blasted brat! And here I went and started ranting! How much does he even know? Should I be concerned about this?’

Growling he slammed the journal back onto his desk and began pacing. “What do I do? I’m already too far down the rabbit hole…. Two and a half years of planning. Scrap that, close to fifteen of me intervening! And for what? All of it to go up in smoke because of some condescending, angry teenager with no sense of fear? I mean FUCK!” Catching himself he angrily put a hand to his mouth. “ Jesus Plasmius… pull yourself together…. it's all just a bad dream… you’re probably passed out in the kitchen again… or Ed’s drugged you to get you to sleep.” He tiredly ran a hand through his ebony spiked hair.

“ It's all a bad dream….” He sighed heavily and feeling the searing pain in his side began ranting again. “ OR not! Dreams aren't this fucking painful!!!!” He growled.

“ And now I'm cussing again. Just wonderful. I finally break the habit somewhat and I'm completely back to square one.” Standing, he gazed around the library.

'I need something to occupy my head…. I can start research on the next item…' Swaying slightly he floated up to a shelf and finding the book on immortality began reading through its contents. An hour passed. No new information surfaced. Snarling, he tossed the book back in its place.

Fishing out one on the Fountain of Youth he absently levitated it above his head and flew back down to grab his journal. Now with the two books hovering above his hand and a black pen, he casually floated to the ceiling and began taking notes. Time passed slowly as he wrote.

Suddenly feeling faint, Vlad bobbed slightly in the air. Dropping his pen to the ground he stared in disbelief at the rings circling his torso. ‘Everything is…-it's going dark...ugh…’

Slumping backward, he fainted. Both him and the items began plummeting to the floor. The books and the pen clattered across the rug. Vlad, however, was caught mid-air by a somewhat guilty and remorseful teenager. The adult's fever had come back. Opening his eyes, Vlad furrowed his brow and turned away from the teen. “ What are you still doing here? More idiotic and childish stupidity? You might as well drop me and put me out of my misery. Heaven forbid I have to deal with either Skulker or Romulus after this…”

Daniel frowned. “You…. um…. what you said earlier….I….don't understand…”

Vlad, growling in human form, snapped, “ Isn't that the point?!?!?! You’re just now learning to drive for pete’s sake! And your grades? Pffff. Of course, you don't understand! Best to just roll with the punches like you usually do, right?”

Vlad angrily teleported out of the teen’s arms and onto the floor. Doubling over, he coughed up blood onto the wood. Daniel paled at the sight of the blood and immediately bolted down to the adult.

Vlad charged a hand defensively and hissed. “STAY AWAY FROM ME!”

Daniel ignored the hand and sat down on his knees in front of the enraged and sickly adult. “.... Fruit-loop? Obviously…. I…”

Sighing, he rubbed a hand down his face. “I think it's time we put this all aside…”

He paused and reached out a hand toward Vlad's glowing one. Vlad's wrist started to turn slack and his face grew confused. The plasma energy circulating around his hand faded and dissipated as Daniel latched onto his shoulder. “Vlad….I want a truce.” Everything went silent for what seemed like an eternity.

Vlad's eyes widened in disbelief, narrowing them he quickly whipped his head away from the boy. Dropping his hand onto the floor, he numbly squeezed his arm in an attempt to make sure he wasn't dreaming or passing out.

“ WHY GIVE ME A CHANCE?!” His voice tried to carry as bitter but came off as pleading and remorseful. “ A truce?! After everything and everyone I've hurt you’re willing to bury the hatchet?!” Vlad tried pulling Daniel’s hand from his shoulder only for the teen to tighten his grip.

“ Of course Vlad…. I can't just go back to fighting you after I almost killed you.”

Vlad tensed instantly.

In an angry self-loathing voice, he questioned, “ How did you find out….?”

Daniel smiled sadly. “ Who else has a working portal and wears dress shirts twenty-four seven?”

Vlad chuckled bitterly. “ Ah… so my own drunken stupidity was my downfall.”

Daniel rolled his eyes tiredly. “ Or maybe your saving grace? Vlad? You can show compassion, kindness, remorse, and even grief… You and I? We’re both human and ghost. Those emotions, they don't just disappear in either form. Granted, I don't know everything. You’re right. I'm a kid still. I'm brash. I'm stupid at times. But apparently, you have those traits too.”

Vlad's eyes tiredly stared into Daniel's green. “ And if I accept? How would this work Daniel? We've been fostering hatred for each other for over two years.”

Daniel paused and retracting his hand from Vlad's shoulder put one under his chin to ponder the question.

Looking down at Vlad, he casually answered, “ Okay. We do have some serious issues. Thinking about it though? It takes two people and understanding to work towards peace. Our differences… our history thus far...? We can’t ignore it but we can build something better for our futures. I want to work toward that goal. The question is, will you?”

Vlad looked from Daniel to his right hand and back to Daniel. With a defeated sigh he whispered. “ I'm… I’m growing tired of this…. All of this.Daniel?” Vlad swallowed. “ I think … I can try to strive for peace...It's not like it matters anymore anyway. The jig is pretty much up..” He lazily motioned to himself. “ I'm a pathetic mess playing games and life isn't very accepting toward that….”

Daniel’s eyebrows furrowed. “ You promise you'll elaborate on all this? Right? I mean- Earlier your hand was glowing and then there are all these books…”

Vlad paled slightly and took in a deep breath. “Daniel? It's not that easy. I just-” Seeing Daniel's face he frowned. “ Daniel? I'm… well….”

His shoulders fell. “You’re not going to believe the truth after more than two years of…” Vlad sighed deeply.

Daniel in response extended his hand to help the adult up.“Cheesehead? You don't have to tell me right now… I'm not going to press you for information when you can barely even walk.”

Vlad raised an eyebrow and smiled sadly. “ So, a promise to reveal everything eventually?” He chuckled sadly. “ Now that really will be interesting.” Standing up Vlad's legs suddenly began to go numb.

“WOAH! I gotcha. Go easy. You’re still injured!” Vlad leaning against Daniel's shoulder laughed. “ You must be joking… This?”

In response, Daniel looked at the blood on the floor and the red dripping off of his ex-enemy’s jaw. “ Vlad? Are you sure I shouldn't be flying you to the hospital?”

Pure fear and undiluted panic spread across Vlad's face. He shook his head briefly and spoke in hushed tones to calm himself as he reassured the younger half ghost, “Daniel? I’ll be fine. I just need bed rest.”

Daniel, having seen the fear flash across Vlad's eyes, sighed deeply. “ That bad?”

Vladimir winced. “ Little-badger? Humans….humans can be more monstrous than anything that goes bump in the night…. I can't even look at a hospital without-” Vlad grimaced. “Can we change the subject...please?”

Daniel patted his shoulder. “So….erm…. I made food…?”

Vlad raised an eyebrow. “ Well… I'm not dead yet. As long as your cooking isn't as bad as your grades I may live through the night.”

Daniel’s eyebrow twitched as he walked Vlad to the kitchen. “ This coming from a billionaire with insta-ramen in his pantry.”

Vlad smirked. “ Are you insinuating I'm cheap? Pfff. I just have a bad habit of not eating properly.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Sure….and what about that tacky old phone of yours?”

Vlad raised snickered. “ I assume you're talking about that old Samsung I use? Ghosts drain energy from surrounding objects to sustain themselves. Half ghosts pull similar stunts. That ‘tacky old phone’ has a really good battery. Additionally,” He sighed, “...just because I have money doesn't mean I can spend it on whatever I want. Keeping up appearances is one thing. The money, however, can go toward more suitable endeavors .”

Daniel raised bit his lip in confusion and adjusted Vlad's weight before asking, “ Like what? Aren't you supposed to be a thief?”

Vlad tiredly rolled his eyes. “Yes. I'm a thief.” He paused. “ That much I’ll admit.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow curiously at the statement. It had a double meaning, he was positive of that much. Finally, at the other end of the hall, he led Vlad tiredly into the kitchen. Vlad, still a little faint, timidly tried to pull away from Daniel. “ I think I need to wash the blood off my face.”

Daniel in response rolled his eyes and tightened his grip on the adult's shoulder.

Vlad, more than a little peeved, reprimanded, “ You know… I can walk just fine? It's what, six feet away? I can easily make it to the sink!”

Daniel snickered. “ I had to catch you out of the air before you hit the floor a few minutes ago. Can you just let me lead you over to the sink without being a stubborn idiot?”

Vlad went to turn in order to glare down at the teen only to stop in his tracks. The boy had grown. Apparently, he had inherited his father's height and his mother’s slender frame. Two years ago, the teenager would have scarily reached his chest. Now he was practically at his neck. ‘ He's growing fast…’

Daniel was staring at him worriedly. “ Hey? Vlad? Are you alright?” He shook Vlad's shoulder. “You’re not going faint again are you?”

Vlad snapped his head away quickly and snickered. “ Ha. I'm being carted around by a pint-sized half ghost. Then again...this is probably an improvement over me being tossed around by a six-inch green globule with an attitude .”

Daniel smiled. “Skulker?” He shook his head in disbelief. “ How do you get along with that lunatic? The guy has threatened to skin me alive multiple times. You’re a half ghost as well. I can't see him just giving up on the idea of a halfa mantelpiece over his fireplace.”

Vlad groaned. “ What have you been smoking? Ed’s not interest-” Vlad paused and facepalmed himself. Sighing he leaned against the sink and cut on the water. “ Daniel? I'll talk with him when he returns…..” Vlad tiredly washed the blood off of his face. A ring at the doorbell startled them both.

Vlad turned and, buttoning his shirt, teleported to the door before Daniel could grab onto him again.

Opening the door, Vladimir immediately froze. A sharp electric whir buzzed around the gun’s barrel. Something painful ripped through his chest, keeping him in place despite his mental pleas to flee. He didn't even have time to shield before he felt the gun go off.

He screamed in agony as the electrical charge shot through his body. The force spun him from the entrance and into the hall where he crumpled to his knees from the residual charge. Two teens immediately rushed into the entryway.

Vlad slumped forward and fell face first onto the carpet as the shock dissipated. ‘Everything... it’s spinning…’ A girl with black hair and a crop top kicked him over onto his back. Vlad’s right hand sparked warningly. A teenage boy with a red beanie and a sweater vest clasped onto his collar and pulled him up slightly off of the floor. Vlad’s blue eyes sparked red and then white. Realizing he was about to lose control, he purposefully activated the mark on his hand, releasing a bright flash of white light.

Dazed, the two teens held their eyes. Vladimir began backing away in a panic as he felt his body forcefully shifting into Plasmius as a protective measure. White light was engulfing his limbs…. A deep voice echoed. “ Child of man! Stay back! My body has no control right now! I don't want to harm you! Please for my sake and yours, don't…”

Another blast ripped through the room and Vladimir's body shifted. He screamed in agony. His tunic and cape morphed and a silver glowing armor eclipsed his form. A spectral shield rapidly engulfed his body. Everything was rippling and shifting with the white energy tendrils snaking and wrapping around the dome and the entire hallway glowed erily as the two teenagers approached to finish the job.

Chapter Text

Daniel had relented, thinking Jaz was just dropping his stuff off and that Vladimir could answer the door without hurting himself or being hurt. He couldn't have been more wrong. A large bang echoed through the house and an agonized scream ripped through the warm air. Dropping the bowl he was filling he immediately ran down the hall. A bright flash of white spectral light filled everything instantaneously. A panicked voice was pleading. “ Child of man! Stay back! My body has no control right now! I don't want to harm you! Please for my sake and your’s, don't…”

Reaching the entryway he watched in horrified disbelief as Sam shot Vlad with the Fenton Spectral Disrupter in the chest. Vlad screamed in agony and his entire body pulsed in response to the shot. Then everything went deathly still and silent. A strange shield had engulfed around Vladimir's ghost half. His clothes had shifted to some sort of armor and his hand numbly sparked against the floor. His eyes, instead of a luminous red, were a glowing misty white. Daniel immediately ran toward the shield. “Vlad!? Can you hear me?” Vlad's eyes were trying to close.

Turning around to Sam, Daniel took the gun from her. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO?” She was staring fearfully behind Daniel. “... Dan…. behind you…. what is that…?”
Turning back to the shield, Daniel’s jaw dropped. Vlad's body was fluctuating rapidly with energy. It sparked and rippled across everything in luminescent white and pink tinted wisps while Vlad seemingly writhed in agony against the floor.

Looking up, he screamed. “ DANIEL! GET THEM OUT OF HERE! I’M TRYING TO HOLD IT IN BUT I DON’T HAVE THE STRENGTH TO CONTROL IT!” Daniel's eyes widened. All three teens could feel their hair standing on end from the electricity sparking throughout the room. Every instinct in Daniel’s body screamed for him to do exactly what Vlad said. Instead, he put his hands to the shield engulfing Vlad. “ VLAD? WHAT’S HAPPENING?”

Vlad clinched onto his right hand in a blind panic. Panting, he glared at the boy. Vlad struggled to his knees and, wincing, teleported in a flash of white and pink. As soon as he disappeared the entire house shook at its foundation. Dust fluttered down from the chandelier in the entranceway like confetti. Daniel gaped. Turning to Tucker and Sam in a blind panic he snapped, “ What did you shoot him with?!?!”

Sam glanced at the discarded gun in absolute fear. “ Just… just that…. I don't understand…”

Daniel immediately blasted the gun to pieces. There was an audible thump and a glow flickered and died around the corner. Running forward, Daniel quickly reached Vlad who had turned back human a little ways past the kitchen. Lifting him up he briefly noted the armor dissipating and condensing back into Vlad's skin. He quickly carried him into the kitchen. Laying Vlad down across the breakfast bar he began checking his wounds.

Dazed, Vlad’s eyes numbly locked on Daniel. “....Some friends….you’ve got….” He blearily tried to focus. “ ...Shoot first ask questions….later…. birds of a feather, huh?” Vlad flinched as Daniel touched his chest. Sam and Tucker stood at the door nervously.

Tucker seeing the bandages immediately rushed forward. Daniel, still angry at both Sam and Tucker snapped, “What the hell were you two thinking?”
Sam was stood shell-shocked by the door. Tucker, leaning over Vlad, answered, “ We went by your house man, and your dad said you were at Vlad's! We panicked!”
Daniel lifted up Vlad's head to check his pulse before he growled angrily, “So you shot him?!?!”

Vlad, now half out of it, looked over to Tucker tiredly. Turning to Daniel, he glared. “Why...didn't you get them … away? Do you even realize how much energy my body just zapped the basement with? I just melted a solid concrete wall and six inches of metal in the training room….”

Daniel's face turned ashen. “ You did what?!?!?”

Vlad flinched and tried to get up only to writhe in agony. Coughing, he slammed his head back against the white stone defeatedly. He paused. “Daniel…. can you help me sit up? I can't breathe properly after your little friends zapped me. My lungs are still not taking in enough and the room is spinning.” Daniel quickly complied and lifted Vlad up to a sitting position. The adult tiredly wiped a palm across his face. Looking at the two teens now in his home, he groaned. “ Ms. Samantha Ann Manson and Tucker Jeron Foley…?” Vlad addressed the two tiredly.

Both Sam and Tucker froze at their names. Daniel also tensed. Vlad noticing their stares rolled his eyes. “ What?!? You think I wouldn't know who's who in your little motley crew of ghost hunting novices?” He shoved a thumb at Sam. “I've already had to intervene on that one's part several times!” Turning to the teenager he growled. “ First off! Ms.Manson? Next time you decide to jury rig a bulldozer make sure Daniel's around hmmm? You’re lucky I was supervising and inspecting that building as part of my mayoral duties otherwise you'd be dead!”

Sam paled considerably.

“ And then there's that idiotic thing you did with that spray paint over that blasted awning… a duct tape harness? Seriously? And-” Vlad's voice was heated and angry. Noting his frustration, he sighed deeply to calm himself and gingerly touched his chest. “Ow.”

Both Daniel and Tucker were starring from Sam to Vlad in alarm. Standing up, Vlad almost fell forward only for Daniel to catch his shoulder. “...Thanks….I'm still a little out of it...” Vlad muttered apologetically.

Daniel leading Vlad to the booth sat him down. Sam was starring from the door, wide-eyed like a kid who had stuck her hand in a cookie jar only for a parent to come around the corner. Vlad, seeing her expression, motioned her forward. “ One last thing. When someone answers the door, ask before shooting, hmmm? I just nearly destroyed the neighborhood because of your stupid stunt!”

She looked faint. “ You?…. I thought…. I tripped out of the way of that machine… You couldn't have.” Vlad’s eyebrow twitched. “Ms.Manson? The only reason you're not dead is because I was able to latch onto your ankle and turned us both intangible.”

Looking over to Tucker, he groaned. “ At least this one has some brains…. then again…” He glared at the teen, “ Tell me Mr.Foley, with all your technical prowess and expertise, is illegally downloading government software to speed up a video game really worth it?”

Tucker's mouth widened and he flinched. “ Um…. How did you-?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “What? Do you think I wouldn’t keep tabs on you all? You are kids! Ms.Manson's folks are too pompous to care for her little rebellious streak and your parents are too kind to notice your own idiotic stunts!” Feeling dizzy, Vlad groaned and put a palm to his forehead. “Uh… my head….”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ Since when did you start spying on them? I didn't peg you as the protective type.”

Vlad snickered. “ Since when are you the expert on me? Last time I checked, you hated me prior to yesterday.” Vlad numbly put a hand across his waist and grimaced. “ I only started spying on them after I realized a nature sprite took over Amity while I was away.”

He absently put a hand to the bridge of his nose. “I leave for what? A week? Next thing I know, I’m hearing news about a Leafman terrorizing an urban populace.” Vlad's eyes sparked crimson and he snarled, “ It's a shame it attempted to feed on humans… blasted demon…” Vlad shivered. “Finding a disposing of the little weed before it could find a living host again was such a hassle.”

Daniel paused. “ Leafman?”

Sam, however, answered, “ It's a nature spirit, one who is often associated with architecture. It's usually not linked with an actual creature though.”

Vlad smiled tiredly. Clapping sarcastically he looked over to the girl. “Yes, usually... That thing, however, was a poltergeist created from the collective hatred for urbanization and expansion in Amity. An artificial spirit or ghost made from raw emotion and not the death of an actual person.”

Daniel's eyes widened, “Wait? Undergrowth?”

Vlad yawned. “ Yep. Poor Skulker and Romulus dragged me halfway across the ghost zone looking for the blasted monstrosity once it darted through a natural portal somewhere here in town.”

Vlad groaned. “ Let me tell you… getting impaled in that thing’s home turf? Extremely painful…” He absently rubbed a segment of his chest just below his right shoulder. Glancing at Daniel, he snickered. “ Just thank your lucky stars poltergeists are weak on this side. Otherwise? You'd have been done for.”

Daniel glared at the adult. “ Weak? What are you, crazy? That thing zombified the entire town and was trying to turn everyone into mulch!”

Vlad laughed, “ Little-Badger? That thing was a million times worse in its domicile. Its pollen could control a human being in the ghost zone. And it's limbs? Each branch was able to create toxins lethal to both humans and ghosts. Skulker nearly bit the dust… and if I hadn't used my body to shield Romulus? He’d be history as well.”

Sam swallowed. Turning to the girl, he sighed. “ Ms. Manson? Come here. I have to check something.”

She stepped forward and his right hand shot out behind her neck instantly. She was out before she realized what was happening. Both Tucker and Daniel became enraged and rushed forward only for Vlad to put up a shield between them. Lifting Sam onto the table, Vlad growled angrily. “ Of course… No wonder my entire body froze at the door. Blasted thing planted a seedling in her neck!”

Both Daniel and Tucker froze at this. “ I take it she was its host?”

Vlad unwrapped some of the gauze on his shoulder. A circular scar was turning black and pulsating outward in vine-like patterns. Grimacing, he felt the spot before turning back to Sam and gently lifting her head. Raising his right palm, the entire room fluctuated with white.

Grasping onto the back of her neck with the charged hand, he extracted a small, red bead-like object. It immediately broke open at his touch and a black mist shot out. Thorny branches snaked across Vlad's palm and rubbed into his flesh. He smiled condescendingly at the thorns engulfing the mark. “ Ashes to ashes…” Vlad snickered. The vines desperately struggled as he clasped his hand around the barbs, “ You should have just stayed dormant. I may have overlooked this if you had just picked a tree to guard or became a nymph but a human host? A regrettable decision on your part, one I'm finally going to alleviate.” His palm sparked and the entire room flashed. When the light cleared Vlad slumped and fell backward into the shield….

“ M’kay….. maybe used to much…. The seal hasn't been working properly for months…. Everything's spinning again.” Grasping his head tiredly, he noted the blood dripping down his right arm.

“ Ms. Manson?” He sighed.“You are alright. Wake up will you?”

Sam shot up at her name. Her eyes were wide and she looked confused. Seeing Vlad on the floor, she jumped down from the booth’s table. “What happened to you?”

Vlad annoyedly turned from the teen. “ My job. Or at least a segment of it. I honestly thought I disposed of all of that monstrosity. Maybe I could have avoided getting zapped earlier if I would've checked you last month…” Groaning, his head swayed and he fell over. “ Ow.”

Daniel tapped against the shield worriedly. “ Um, Fruit-loop? Do me a solid and drop the shield?”

Vlad groaned and attempted to turn only to grimace in agony. Still facing away from Daniel, he flatly asked. “ You’re not going to try and blast me I presume? I saw your hands charge the second I went for her neck. Not one for trust are we? If I jumped in front of a 100,000 pound machine to help her what makes you think I’d harm her now?”

Daniel realized the adult was right and paused awkwardly. “ Oh…. Um… sorry? It's kind of a conditioned reflex at this point? I mean you were my arch enemy up until forty-eight hours ago…”

Vlad tiredly chuckled. Sam paled as she leaned over him. “ Guys? His chest!”

Reaching down she quickly turned him over and he groaned. A large mark had ripped open where the circular scar had been. Vlad winced as she touched it. “Ms.Manson? Please don't touch that….”

Feeling her head and her neck she froze. “ My migraine is gone…. What did you do ?” She paused fearfully.

Vlad’s shield cracked and shattered a few seconds later, dissipating into pink mist. Vlad tiredly responded. “Pffff….Gardening…?”

Daniel lifted Vlad up and glared at the adult's blatant disregard for bodily harm. “Cheesehead? What the actual heck?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “What? Would you prefer I just ignored it? That type of manifestation kills! I'll be damned if I was just going to let her walk out of her with a demonic house plant rooting through her skull!”

Tucker was staring in awe at the interaction. Vlad winced as he was lifted partially off the floor. “ Daniel? That's painful! Stop.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ And now we have to bandage your arm.”

Vlad frowned. “ At least it's my right and not my left. I may be able to write with both, but my coordination is rather poor with my right….”

Tucker raised an eyebrow, as did Sam.

Looking at the teens he groaned, “What? Should I just start ranting or laughing maniacally? Proper villainous behavior?” He scuffed. “ Sorry to be a disappointment brats but I'm not one to act when the curtains are drawn closed.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow himself. “ Wait...what?”

Vlad annoyed teleported out of the teen's hands and plopped back to the booth seat with a defeated sigh.

“ Let me simplify. I'm tired. I'm sore. I just blew up half my basement to avoid nuking a city block. And to top everything? I'm still food deprived and I have three chatty teenagers conversing in my kitchen. Two of which have shot or injured me in the last three days. I don't see anyone who requires me to ‘save face’ at the current time and honestly I don't really care at this point….” Looking at his arm, he bitterly sighed. “ This blood is never coming out of this shirt….”

Absently pecking at his sleeve with his thumb and forefinger, he glared at the limb. Shrugging, he phased the now tattered and bloody shirt off and caught it on fire in a swirling mass above them with a plasma blast. Laying his head on cold marble, he ranted. “ Might as well send it off properly….”

Tucker snickered. “ You know? He's actually pretty interesting.”

Hearing this Vlad lifted his head to stare at the teen. “ Hmmm? How so? Me blasting away things that contain my blood so a demon doesn't duplicate me again? Or maybe my lack of villainous pep?” He rolled his eyes. “Honestly, if that's what you consider interesting you're setting your standards low.”

The room went silent. Vlad rubbed his eyes. Looking at his arm, he casually inspected the damage. “ Okay… I have to bandage this fairly quickly…. The poison is setting in.” Standing up he clinched onto his shoulder and with a curt nod teleported.

Chapter Text

Sam, Tucker and Daniel stared for a good five seconds at the place he had previously occupied. A crash below them knocked them back to their senses. Grabbing onto Sam and Tucker, Daniel phased through the floor. His ghost sense flared and icy air wisped through his teeth.

They were in some sort of vault. A bloody handprint on the door signaled the direction Vlad had went. The lights flickered off and on spastically giving the entire room a serious horror movie vibe. Various beakers, locked boxes, and spectral green cases housed items of every shape and size. Sam reached a hand out to one of the items. It was a doll in a small red kimono. Its brown eyes stared sadly out from under the green casing housing it. The moment her hand became too close to the glass, the object stirred. It's head clicked to the side and the ceramic making up its face cracked into a devilish grin. Sam immediately retracted her hand.

“ Okay…. find the billionaire...get out of the basement? Sound like a plan?” Daniel questioned.

Sam nodded and Tucker before glancing back at the doll laughing behind the case. “ You know… I may not be afraid of hospitals anymore after this…”

Walking out of the room they found themselves across from a rounded spiral staircase made of metal. Daniel inspected it and seeing no blood turned his gaze. The long room was lined with tools, beakers, and various machines. A portal gleamed warily from the opposite end.

“ Blasted poison! I just can't catch a break?! First that lake poltergeist … and then…. that vampiric three weeks ago… and now where are we at Plasmius? You just got tased by some teenage ghostbuster knockoffs for Christ’s sake!”

Daniel, hearing this, clasped onto Tucker and Sam's shoulders and turned the three of them invisible. Going into the doorway they all stiffened. Right in front of them, a concrete and metal vault-like room stood smoking and crumbling. The door, broken in on its hinges, loomed threateningly. Peaking in, they all stiffened. Segments of the ceiling were crashed against the floor and various pieces of metal and wire were melted in odd heaps. Large gauges were torn into the back wall.

Daniel gulped. ‘This looks like the after effect of my ghostly wail...Did that stupid gun set off a similar panic mode?’

Directing himself and his friends from the disaster they made their way to the left. This door, unlike the others, was much thinner and had a small window. It also was ajar. Turning them intangible, Daniel casually stepped into the flickering room. It was a medical ward of some sort. Vlad was muttering under his breath and tossing several items out of a drawer angrily. “ Okay. There is no more of that antidote I made for Skulker… That means I have to resort to plan B’.”

Sighing, his glowing red eyes glanced at the right arm, “The question is… with the blood loss recently and my injuries… will I even be able to regulate it?”
Rubbing his temple, he growled. “ The limb is already partial shifting into Plasmius, I don't have time to debate this!”

Standing up, he turned to walk out only to immediately tense and freeze. He glared right at the spot the three teenagers were occupying and crossed his arms. “ Nosey… intrusive … little morons…” Turning away from that segment of the wall, he stomped through the machinery on the left of the room and into the lab.

Daniel, Tucker, and Sam stood in silence for a moment before they all turned visible. They had been holding their breath from the moment he had looked over at them. “How….the heck?...Did.. he see… us?” Tucker choked.

Daniel was thinking the exact same thing. Running into the lab, Daniel watched as Vlad shifted into Plasmius and fell onto his knees panting. There was a large flash of white light that shot out from Vlad's injured arm and a strange spark of energy that rippled throughout the entire basement. Daniel’s hair floated up and stood on end despite him already being in Phantom form. The light vanished soon after and Vlad, turning human, began angrily wrapping the limb in bandages.

Growling through the gauze he was holding in his teeth, he snarled, “.... Brats....lucky I didn't…. Stupid...stupid little…”

Tieing off the end of the gauze, he stood up and turned to walk back to the infirmary room only to start swaying unsteadily. Daniel, finally finding his voice, spoke up, “Hey? Vlad? Need a little help?”

Vlad paused and turned his head toward the teenager. Looking at his arm and his unsteady legs, he sighed. “ Yes… I think I can use the help…. but if you could tell those two to get out of-” Vlad suddenly tensed.

His face grew ashen and he teleported. Daniel felt his blood run cold. There was a loud crashing sound and then the screaming began.

Chapter Text

Vlad was fed up. Standing up from the floor, he numbly grasped his throbbing and sore right arm. His embassary mark had purified the majority of the poison from Ms.Manson’s plant aliment but there would be traces in his body for a few days. He couldn't afford to strain the mark when his body was still recovering from his escapades in the ghost zone from trying to knock Daniel to his senses. Looking at the ceiling, he groaned. The lab portion was stable, as was the vault and the infirmary, the training room was toast, however.

‘It's a shame… Edmond just remodeled that room, and now it’s in complete shambles.’

“Hey? Vlad? Need a little help?”

Turning his head to Daniel he internally groaned. ‘Where are those other two?’ Focusing his hearing again he made out two heartbeats a little ways past the infirmary. ‘Shit! Those stupid brats are snooping in the wreckage.’

Looking at his arm and his unsteady legs, he sighed. “Yes… I think I can use the help…. but if you could tell those two to get out of-” Vlad suddenly tensed.

There was a familiar cracking sound somewhere close to the area the two heartbeats were coming from. Teleporting, he appeared just above the two teenagers leaning over a demolished practice dummy. The ceiling was coming down. He barely had time to shield before the large mass of concrete and metal fell down on them. Both teens, hearing the crack above, instantly turned and screamed. Everything went dark.

‘Okay… running out of juice….Where's that little moron when I need him?!?!’

Standing over the teens, his eyebrow twitched in annoyance as he numbly supported the shield around them. His arm had started bleeding from the strain on the muscles.“ You know? I'm starting to think you both are just complete idiots! Demolished room? Underground? Ring any bells?”

He swayed slightly with the outburst and dropped to his knees while still supporting the roof. The shield keeping them from being crushed like soda cans had so little energy it was incapable of anything but a light glow, which did nothing to illuminate the small six-foot space. Everything was pitch dark surrounded by a dull, almost dead, fluorescent pink mist. Vlad looked around tentatively. They were somewhere next to the far corner of the training room by the target practice simulation course. Glancing into the darkness masking the thousands of pounds of rubble above them, Vlad groaned.

‘ Well, the good news is the house won't collapse on top of us. This is just the first layer of cement…Everything else is supported for large explosions to prevent any more portal mishaps….’

Vlad's eyes glowing red in the dark scanned around tiredly. The pink light encircling the space highlighted vague shadows but nothing else. Both Sam and Tucker were shaking against the floor. Vlad sighed. In a tired whisper, he addressed the two. “ …Hey?... calm...calm down….. I'm going to try and phase to ghost form’ Kay? I'll take up less oxygen… The brat, he’s-…He’s ... trying to find us…..” Dizzy, Vlad forced a shift.

Tucker and Sam both realized what he was saying and immediately calmed. Seeing Vlad's red eyes trying to close, Sam quickly jumped up to help support him and the shield he was projecting around them. “Just….. a little longer …. he's almost…. everything's getting really heavy…..”

Ms.Manson shook him slightly.

“Plasmius? Dude. Stay awake!” Tucker’s voice was now echoing in the dark.

Vlad smiled tiredly. “ …. I've gone months before….without sleep…. I can last a…. little longer……” He looked to their left. “….Stupid kid….. still has… got no clue…. how to focus hearing…. Then again…. the training room is pretty big…..”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “You can hear him?” Vlad chuckled tiredly. “.... How else…. would I …. have known… you were in here?..... I can hear his heart and lungs…he’s…. intangible…. but vibration still carries through the air pockets…… Surroundings…. echo….lots…..” Vlad's head started falling forward.

Sam shook him again and he winced in agony. Feeling the immediate jolt, he opened his eyes slightly wider. Staring at the teen, he tiredly snapped. “ Ribs…. haven't healed. Still broken…. don't touch….”

‘I'm slipping. Everything's going really dark.’ Vlad tiredly stared at the wall next to them. “….. Foley?....Manson?…. I can't keep this up… forever…… I need the two of you to get underneath me…...I-I....can shield…. you…. still…. even if this stuff falls…”

Both Sam and Tucker looked horrified. “ Dude?!? What?!?!”

Vlad annoyedly glared at the boy in the darkness. “ …. I'm critically wounded….. probably wouldn't survive….can't even turn intangible right now….poison from earlier… packs a punch…. I'm going to turn human….I don't have a say.. The shield and the ghost form… are all I've got going right now….”

He coughed and felt something drip down his face. ‘Great…. ectoplasm… I'm bleeding internally again… Shit… just bear with it…’

Continuing, he finished. “….Please? …. I know you both…. hate me… kinda comes… with being a….monster…. but I can still shield you… The brat is...coming close though… Just a precaution….if he doesn't…..”

Someone slapped him and he winced. Looking down, he noticed the goth girl’s tense form. “ What-?... What's that for???”

The boy next to her raised an eyebrow. “ Sam? Did you just slap the poor guy? What the actual fuck?”

Vlad groaned. “ Foley…. language….” His head started to sway. His eyes flashed from red to blue and the rings started to try and manifest. Snarling he snapped them back and away to keep his ghost form.

Ms. Manson’s face was horrified as she felt her hand. “ Your face-This… Is this blood?”

Tucker's head immediately turned back to Plasmius. Vlad, now slumping further into the floor, answered. “ ...Probably… Poison?… Blunt trauma?….Maybe ectoplasm?…. It hurts…”

Tucker crawling over to Vlad put an arm under him to help keep him upright. “Sam? Help me keep him up!” She immediately went under Vlad's right arm and latched onto him. The shield was flashing. “ Stop…. you two…. Get under…. I'm not going to be able to….”

Tucker in response pointed to their left side. “ Sir? How far is he?”

Vlad struggled to hear through the blood drumming in his head. “ Three feet... to your right…. There are air pockets… I'm… I'm starting to pass out….” Vlad feeling the rings shift him continued holding the shield in place. “ I…. I'm almost out of it…. bleeding-… bleeding a lot…. I… I'm going… to make the shield just... above…”

He tightened and constricted the energy just above their heads. Dust shot up as the rubble around them shifted slightly and settled. Vlad slumped against the two teens, his red eyes still tiredly flashing. “ … Brat…. heard… he can get in…. get you out…..”

Sam shook Vlad. A futile effort...

There was a flash of green and Vlad finally passed out.

Chapter Text

Vlad groggily came to as he was being carried down the hallway. ‘Infirmary…. they're taking me into it.’ “Vlad? Man are you alright? Hey!” Daniel was looking into his eyes and trying to direct his gaze. Dizzy, Vlad noted the cot he was being laid on.

" Hey? Fruit-loop? Come on! I can see you’re awake. Answer me!”

“.... Badger?..… They're safe right?... The ceiling….I heard it coming down...”

Daniel smiled slightly.

“You know Vlad? You’re a complete mess right now.” Vlad's eyes cleared slightly and he tiredly looked at himself. Foley was draping a blanket across his legs and Manson was taking off the gauze on his hand.

Groaning he shifted slightly. “....So much…. for me wrapping it… ?” He tiredly joked. Daniel, now inspecting his head, frowned. “ You used up too much energy earlier with that attack thing you did in that room, didn't you? You’re feverish again…”

Vlad nodded. “ ...Yeah…. that and the poison from the plant… bad mix…”

Daniel took a disinfectant cloth out of a jar next to them, opened it, and began trying to get the ectoplasm off of Vlad's mouth.

Vlad glared and numbly tried to move from the boy's hand. Unable to talk through the alcohol wipe and still dizzy from the overuse of his powers, he partially fainted from the smell and slumped back into the cot. Everything after that passed in a blur.

Daniel, noticing Vlad was semi-conscious again, gently began to inspect the wounds on his chest. Turning the bandages intangible, he daintily yanked them off.

Sam and Tucker both backed away in horror. “ Holy shit! You mean he was walking around like that?”

Daniel inspected the wounds and breathed a sigh of relief. “ Actually? This is way better than earlier. I can't see into his chest anymore. Everything is just flesh wounds at this point…”

Daniel gently placed his gloved hand against a bruised segment and Vlad groaned. “ Those must be the ribs he was telling me about earlier.”

Vlad tossed as he was lifted up and rebandaged. ‘ This… is ridiculous…. We're wasting more bandages than most hospitals at this point…’ Vlad grimaced and almost completely passed out as Daniel pulled the bandages taunt.

A doorbell rang upstairs. Vlad stirred slightly from this. “ ….ugh… Daniel? Someone's at the door again…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ Yes? So? It's probably Jaz.”

Vlad, in response, pointed to the still flickering lights. Grimacing, he calmly countered. “This place is trashed. Can you just get the four of us back in the kitchen?” He paused at the repetitive and annoying ringing imitating from the upstairs and his eyebrow twitched.

“ Yes… that's Jazmine ….” He stared back to Danny in exasperation. “I'm definitely not answering this one….”

Tucker smiled and Sam elbowed him. “ What? He has a point! I wouldn't want to answer the door either after getting electrocuted!”

Vlad smiled. “ Glad someone understands….” He sighed.

“ I'll stay in bed for the rest of the day… Just please... get me upstairs? Being this close to the portal when I have poison that consumes ectoplasmic energy drumming in my blood is making everything worse, healing included. I need at least a day before it filters out.” ‘Or a week. My seal is being pretty fickle and doesn't seem to be working correctly. This, plus everything else is going to seriously drain me.’

Daniel relented. “ Fine. I'll get you up there.” He looped an arm under Vlad's shoulder to help him up and then motioned for Sam and Tucker to grab on. “But I'm only taking you to the kitchen because you still haven't eaten.”

Vlad smiled slightly. “ That too.”
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Vlad sat down tiredly at the booth in the kitchen and, wrapping his hands under his head, he laid himself against the stone. Closing his eyes, he tried to rest a bit despite the drumming in the back of his skull. Daniel was somewhere at the door leading Jaz in. Too sore to move, he simply just fell asleep where he sat.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Walking back into the kitchen, this time with Jaz in pursuit, Daniel glanced over at Vlad. The adult had fallen asleep against the marble breakfast booth. Tucker was draping the gray medical blanket he had grabbed from the cot downstairs over his shoulders.

Vague flashes of Vlad’s eyes rolling back came to mind. Daniel almost didn't make it to them before the shield Vlad was struggling to keep up broke..‘Gez….that was close…’

Sam was next to the stove staring at the soup Daniel had cooked in annoyance.Turning to him she spoke quietly, “Danny? This stuff is practically inedible at this point…”

Daniel smirked. “ Well, I did start cooking it hours ago…” He rolled his eyes. “ There's not many good options here. Plasmius has practically no food in this dump.”

Jaz raised an eyebrow, “ Wait seriously?” Turning to the fridge she walked over and opened it. She immediately stiffened.

Tucker curiously glanced from his seat across from Vlad toward Jaz.

Turning from the fridge her eyebrow twitched. “Wow….batchelor much?”

Daniel grinned. “ I dare you to check the pantry. Trust me… it's hilarious…” At this Sam dropped the spoon she was absently poking the soup with and turned to eye the pantry warily.

“Should we be concerned?” She questioned.

Daniel chuckled. “Probably...yeah…”

At this Tucker stared over to Vlad's sleeping form worriedly. Seeing neither Jaz nor Sam moving to look in the pantry, he stood up and casually walked across the kitchen and into the sparsely lit room.

Staring at the shelves contents, he frowned. ‘ Ketchup, mustard, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, insta-rame…’

He stopped in his tracks. Picking up the box, he restrained himself from laughing at the mental image of a blue-skinned, pointy-eared half-ghost in his thirties or forties slurping on dime store noodles. The image persisted and he burst out laughing.

Both Jaz and Sam ran into the pantry to see what had Tucker practically in tears. Seeing him sprawled on the floor holding a cup of ramen they both turned crimson. Sam snorted and Jaz began giggling. Looking back at the adult and seeing he was still sleeping, Jaz questioned. “ Danny? You didn't stick this in here as a stupid joke, right? We’re talking about Vlad Masters? Billionaire? Villain?” She prodded.

Sam’s brow furrowed. Looking around she paused and re-evaluated the kitchen. “Wait…. there’s no cooks…. or maids….?” Looking at the shelf she absently touched the food. Half the bread was gone. A few apples lay scattered a few feet away on another part the shelf.

“ This stuff… it's not even close to what my mom and dad have our butler and chef stock in the kitchen. The bread here? It’s stale....” She glanced back into the kitchen curiously at Vlad.

Daniel paused to reflect on this. “Well, I didn't see anyone in the house. No maids… no nothing. Everything's really clean despite that… Well, with the exception of the little girl's room upstairs. But that… that’s not something I want to ask him about.” Daniel shivered.

Sam paused at this information. “You mean he's been cleaning a house this size on his own?”

Everyone froze. Daniel looked around at everything in a new perspective. “ I don’t know…. maybe? Sam, I've only been here for a few hours. Last night he was bleeding to death… it's not like I've had time to ask about his day to day lifestyle!” Realizing he had raised his voice, he looked back to the adult who had shifted slightly in his sleep at the noise.

Tucker whistled. “ Dang… and I thought my chores were bad…”

Sam started pulling out her phone. Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ What are you doing?”

She covered one end of the phone and whispered, “ Getting my homeboy Maurice over here. What else? You can't feed him that mess on the stove with him sick. And we can't make him anything when his food choices are worse than yours!”

Tucker smirked. “ Did you just call your butler your homeboy?”

Sam smiled. “ It pisses off my mom. I take pleasure in the little things.”

An older gentleman’s voice reverberated in the room. “ Yes, Ms. Manson?”

“ Hey, Maurice? Can you leave the house for a bit? I need a favor.”

The voice chuckled, “ I don't have to dress as a giant frog this time, do I madam?”

Tucker snickered. “ Wow.”

She elbowed him and, still smiling like it changed the tone of her call, continued, “No! No costumes this time. I just need you to have Amy cook some things for you to bring over.”

The butler paused, “ That is duable. What do you wish for us to bring over? And the address would also be useful.”

Sam paused in thought. Turning to Daniel, she questioned. “ What can we feed him?”

Jaz rolled her eyes. “ Obviously soup is the best option… just tell him to bring over some edible chicken soup.” She smiled at Daniel's disdainful glare.

Tucker, however, interjected. “Pizzas would be nice to… if you’re buying and what not…”

Sam nodded at the two requests and, turning back to the phone, spoke. “Can you bring one meat pizza, one veggie pizza, two supremes, a couple of canisters of chicken soup, and some drinks to 503 Canterville drive?”

The butler paused at this, “Madam? Isn't that the current mayor's residence?”

Sam smirked and rolled her eyes. “Yes, it is. My friend Daniel is helping him out for a few days and we are all too tired to cook right now.”

“ Madam? I hate to say this but you are a terrible liar. Whatever the case, I will bring the food you requested. I do expect you to give me a suitable excuse for your mother…”

Sam grinned. “ Very funny Maurice! Mom left for that women's socialite event earlier this morning. She won’t know unless you bring this up.”

Maurice laughed heartily over the phone. “ I’m glad you are so spirited. It makes my job all the more interesting. I'll bring the requested items within the hour. See you soon.” And then with a click, he hung up.

Reholstering her phone in her pocket she made mock finger guns at the ramen cup on the floor and mimed shooting it. Tucker grinned.

Jaz rolling her eyes walked out of the pantry and toward Vladimir's sleeping form.

“ You know, when he's sleeping he looks fairly normal….” She remarked.

At this, Sam leaned down to inspect the adult's face. Noting the silver gray hair sloppily splayed across his dark eyebrows and the shadow of gray arching across his subtle chiseled jawline, she rolled her eyes. “If you mean normal as in a romantic’s version of a vampire, sure.” She pointed at his rounded face and then smirked. “The guy looks like he's practically wearing eyeliner he's so sleep deprived.”

Daniel stiffened slightly. Fangs…

He hadn't seen them since earlier that morning.

He gulped. Sam noticed the reaction and turned. “ Um? Why the sudden freeze frame Buzz Aldrin? See a ghost?” She questioned smugly.

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ It's nothing. It must have been a trick of the light yesterday.”

Even as he said it, he was leaning in closer to examine Vlad's face. The adult looked fairly young for his age. Dad had told him Vlad was born a year after him, but the half-ghost looked like he was in his early thirties. Vlad shivered at Daniel’s proximity and turned his head ever so slightly in his sleep. Despite appearances from a distance, Vlad had a five o'clock shadow extending across his face and even the tell tale signs of a light beard. The silver notably, made these small details hard to spot. Only his chin seemed to have a slightly darker shade to it. Hence the subtle goatee he sported. Daniel's interests, however, were on the mouth right below his greek nose. Or more so, what he presumed was hiding there. “ So… um Sam? Vampires… How do you test for vampires?”

Tucker giggled. “Okay, guys I know Plasmius looks the part but that's a stretch.” He pointed, “ I saw him open his mouth earlier. No fangs.” He motioned with his fingers to his mouth sarcastically.

Vlad turned slightly in his sleep and yawned. There was a glimmer of something for a split second and everyone froze. ‘Fangs’

Tucker looked mortified. Jazmine, being the most forward of the four, walked over and began laying Vlad down on the booth seat. He stirred slightly and his red eyes locked on her questioningly. “… Watz… going on…?”

Seeing his mouth open briefly and noting the absence of fangs, she smiled reassuringly. “ Nothing, you were just falling over… go back to sleep.”

He eyed her tiredly but, deciding he was too worn out, simply turned his head toward the side and fell asleep again.

Jaz put her hands on her hips and smiled. “ Nope. Not a Dracula. Case closed.”

Daniel, however, wasn't sure, and he most certainly would be checking later.

Sam was also staring with new found interest at the sleeping adult.

“ You know…. vampires can retract their fangs in a ton of the myths, right? I mean…. He could have just woke up enough to realize and then hid them…”

Jaz raised an eyebrow. “ Sorry, but I'm not boarding that particular train of thought. The crazy express can do without one more passenger. I'm already struggling to picture a billionaire surviving off of ramen and peanut butter. Thinking of him as a vampire just makes the entire situation all the loopier.”

Tucker grinned. “ Dracula and Ramen? Pffff, yeah... that's a crazy mental image.”

Chapter Text

Sam tapped her chin thoughtfully. She leaned over and felt Vlad's head. “Hey, Daniel? He's kind of feverish. Can you get some ice out of the freezer or something?” Vlad stirred slightly at her touch. Opening his eyes again he groggily stared at the teenager leaning over him.

“Uh….Manson? I didn't ...almost fall over again...did I?” Vlad tiredly put a hand to his head. Sitting up he tried to stand only for Daniel to latch onto his shoulders.

“ Fruit-Loop? Just go back to sleep? Your body is drained and you need the rest.” Vlad in response numbly tried freeing himself from Daniel's grip. “I'm fine….. This is just a normal day.”

Everyone raised an eyebrow at this. “ Normal? How is this normal?” Jaz pointedly motioned to Vlad, who now slumped against Daniel's shoulder, scuffed at her appraisal of normalcy. “Granted, I haven't been wounded so severely in at least two years. But yes, this is normal.”

Tucker frowned. “ Dude… your chest looks like it was stuck up close and personal to a hand grenade or a weed wacker.”

At this Vlad tiredly glanced at Daniel. “You know Daniel? I think he may have a career as a creative writer. A hand grenade to the chest is pretty accurate for the blasts.”

Daniel grimaced. “Uh… yeah… Vlad... I….”

Vlad sighed. “Don't bother. Apologizing for something you didn't mean to do is pointless. On the bright side, Mr.Foley may have come up with a new nickname for my repertoire against you. Weed-Wacker doesn't have the same zing as Cheesehead but I guess it'll work.” Vlad leaned his head across Daniel's shoulder.

“Just another set of battle scars… heck, give it a few months and they'll just become a part of the collection. You know it's funny? I was trying so hard…. Trying to get someone to…..” Vlad's eyes were getting heavy again. “You’re all still kids… I probably should just keep my private life out of this. Pfff… better than being torn apart molecule by molecule, right ?”

Everyone's eyes widened in understanding of the phrase. Daniel's thoughts raced.‘Oh god. Vlad knows about that? No wonder he’s bitter towards Dad.’

Daniel gently repositioned Vlad on the bench seat. The adult too tired to argue was now sitting up again. He leaned his left arm absently under his head and glared at the table. Daniel, Jaz, and Sam sat across from him. Tucker casually stood near the island six or seven feet away. Finding his voice Daniel questioned, “Fruit-loop? Um. The molecule by molecule thing?”

Vlad's eyes saddened and he smiled tiredly.“ Do you think you’re the first to hear that? He started using it in college. Jack… and Mads, they thought ghosts couldn't feel pain. They said that dissecting them and tearing them apart wouldn't hurt… prior to the portal. That didn't sound right…. It kind of made me fearful. Molecule by molecule….” Vlad scuffed. “Not that it mattered. Ghost hunters and what not….” He moved his head slightly on his hand to stare up at the teens. “ I'm pretty sure that's Jack's catchphrase now…” Vlad groaned. “ Kind of like that stupid phrase you used for so long. Going Ghost? Ha. Well, at least the catchphrases didn't get inherited to Jazmine…” Vlad sighed.

The room went silent. Vlad tiredly curled his arms around his head and laid his chin against the stone. Rubbing his eyes he questioned, “ What time is it?”

Tucker casually looked down at his watch. “ Four thirty in the afternoon.”

Vlad immediately stood up with his eyes wide. “ Fudge! That means she's going to…” Suddenly, dizzy Vlad swayed. Daniel immediately rushed up and went to steady the adult only for Vlad to back himself through the wall and out of the kitchen. To shocked to process what had just happened the four of them stood in place silently. Right on cue, a doorbell rang in the hall. A few seconds later the sound of the door opening reverberated through the halls. Vlad's voice could be heard.

“ Mrs. Dolce, I do apologize but I have company over right now.” His voice was sincere and even.

A young woman’s voice politely answered. “ I’m sorry for the intrusion Vladimir. I just brought the faxes from Trisha and those contracts. I thought you would want to look over them.”

Vlad laughed. “ Yes, of course.” There was a pause. “ What are these? Pills?”

The woman giggled, “ No offense sir, but you've been looking especially exhausted the last few weeks. It's a herbal remedy one of the interns from the company recommended a few months ago. It's supposed to help with sleep.”

Vlad's voice sounded slightly amused. “ That bad? Really?”

“ Mr. Masters? I’ve been glued to you since god knows when. You never sleep well. Just promise me you'll try? I know you have those…”

Vlad's voice stiffened, “ Mrs.Dolce? Please. My sleep deprivation is just from work.”

She laughed. “Whatever you say, sir. Who's over? If you don't mind me asking?”

Vlad’s voice in a more kinder tone answered, “ A few locals with some concerns about ghosts.”

Daniel and Jaz stifled a laugh. “ I mean...he's not lying.”

The women's voice turned jovial. “Ah! The joys of you juggling more than you can handle strike again! Mr.Masters? I will be bringing papers by tomorrow for you to sign. You're already a few months ahead of schedule on all the proposed zoning plans and I'm happy to report that the permits have been cleared with the city.”

Vladimir's voice became more enthusiastic but also a touch exhausted. “It sounds like you weren't thinking me capable? A business can't function by just handling problems and situations as they come about. We both know that you have to be ahead or you'll end up pulling the rest of the gaggle down with yourself. Running a town is no different.”

Jazmine raised an eyebrow at this, “ That’s an interesting way of putting things in perspective….” Sam nodded in agreement.

Mrs.Dolces voice became bemused. “ I was insinuating no such thing! You are capable. I'm just slightly worried you are overextending yourself.”

Vlad sounded just as bemused. “I'm not dead yet. I think I can handle the company and this town just fine.”

The woman giggled but it sounded strange...warped.

Vlad's voice became slightly confused but was still level. “ What's so funny?”

“ Oh, nothing! I'm keeping you from your guests. I advise you take those after they leave, hmm? You look like you could use a nap. I'll see you tomorrow. Oh and there's that dinner party planned for this Wednesday at the fire department. You will be going, correct?”

Vlad's voice was reassuring and kind. “ Of course.”

Mrs.Dolce’s words practically became syrup. “ Goodbye Vladimir. See you sooooon.”

Vlad paused and after a few seconds spoke. “ Yes, see you tomorrow Mrs.Dolce. Please remember to call ahead this next time?”

And then the door closed. The sound of footsteps could be heard in the hallway. Vlad, however, didn't phase through the wall like they would've assumed. Instead, the slow labored footsteps echoed on the wood as he trudged toward the doorway of the dining hall connected to the kitchen.

The teens stared toward the doorway connecting the rooms in silent wonder. There was an abrupt thump and the next thing they knew Vlad's outstretched arm was laying in front of the opening. All four teenagers immediately bolted from their spots in the kitchen and ran to him.

“ Holy shit! How did he change clothes so fast?!?!” Tucker pointedly addressed the gray suit Vlad was wearing. Daniel, turning Vlad over and noting the fever again, began phasing off Vlad's dress jacket and vest. Vlad stirred slightly.

“ Okay….crisis...crisis averted…” Vlad’s eyes were watering.

Daniel, lifting Vlad up slightly from the floor, frowned. “ Yeah, sure. Except now you're even worse off. Did you seriously think that through? Your ghost form is already maxed out with trying to heal your wounds and you’re poisoned! Maybe a little more tact?”

Vlad furrowed his brow at this. “Danny Phantom… lecturing me...pffff.” He paused. Raising an eyebrow he deliriously looked up at the teen. “ ...Where did the vocab come from? … I thought… you were failing...English literature…?”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Yeah, I'm failing. Mainly because my backpack and my homework kind of get destroyed by ghosts. A lot.” He smirked, “Just because my grades are shit doesn't mean I'm not smart.”

Vlad smiled slightly. “ Daniel? You've pulled stupider stunts then the other three teens in this room combined….Also, your last sentence was a double negative.”

Jaz broke out in laughter. Sam snorted and Daniel turned bright crimson. Tucker looked away from Daniel with a large smirk.

Vlad smiled tiredly. “ Sorry… saw the opportunity…” Vlad’s eyes began closing. Sam rifling through the papers scattered around them began neatly stacking them. Picking up a plastic bag she looked at the contents curiously. Four white pills dimly reflected themselves in her eyes.

Daniel, seeing Vlad unconscious, gently lifted him up off of the floor and carried him back into the kitchen. Unbuttoning the shirt Vlad was wearing, he laid him back across the booth seat. Vlad stirred slightly as he was being set down. “ Just go to sleep, you stubborn idiot.” Daniel snapped.

Vlad grudgingly nodded and dozed off.

Chapter Text

Sam, still holding the bag, walked back into the kitchen with Tucker and Jazmine in pursuit. Clasping her pointer finger against the pills, she pulled the bag up to eye level and worriedly addressed Daniel. “ Um, Danny? These pills that lady dropped off seem sketchy.”

Daniel looked up from Vlad to inspect the bag curiously. “ How so? They're just capsule pills, right?”

Sam pursed her lips. “ That's the thing… wouldn't she give him a bottle? And there are no markings on these. If I didn't know any better I'd say she was trying to date rape the guy.”

Tucker and Jazmine exchanged a look. “ She did sound weird… Vlad even seemed wary….” Jazmine added.

At this, Tucker yanked the bag out of Sam’s hand and began searching up information on his PDA. “ Uh… yeah… guys? These aren't listed on anything I can find on the web. And herbal stuff? It's usually not white.” He paused.

Looking at Vlad, he frowned. “ These are clear capsules. It's some sort of powder... I think we should throw them away.”

Daniel looked at the bag warily. “Trash can is under the sink. Chunk them. Sleep drugs or not, he doesn't need to be conked out by shady pills, especially with poison running through his system.”

Tuck nodded and turning toward the sink opened the trashcan’s drawer. He was about to throw them in when he stopped cold. “ Woah.”

Turning to Daniel, he pointed, “ What's with all the booze bottles?”

Daniel groaned. “ From what I gathered from the security cameras in this place, Vlad began drinking himself stupid because he couldn't take pain relievers or fever reducers. Trust me.... when I found him yesterday he was completely inebriated. Heck, I’d think he was still drunk if I hadn't seen him vomiting it all up earlier.” Daniel glanced at Vlad worriedly. Shifting back to Daniel Fenton, he sighed.

Tucker dropped the pills in the trashcan and turned back to the group tiredly. “ So… are we going to talk about the level of weird here or not?”

The room was silent. “ Danny? The guy was trying to get us under him when the roof was collapsing because he knew he was turning human… What type of villain does that? And Sam-… He took that thing out of Sam…”

Daniel leaning over Vlad checked his fever. “ I have no clue. I really don't. He and I made a truce a few hours ago. The guy… he's different than I thought. Every other time we’ve clashed he's been ...I don't know….almost fake? But now…”

He glanced down at Vladimir’s sleeping form on the booth seat.“Guys? I’m conflicted. I've been fighting him for two and a half years and I never thought to look at him with a different perspective. He could have killed my dad. He could’ve killed me after the cloning thing. Heck, he's mayor now, he could have pulled anything he wanted in Amity and practically gotten away with it! But where are we at? He’s been fighting me less and less. His heart isn't in it. I'm starting to think it never was.”

Sam, seeing Vlad's fever still in full swing, walked to the freezer and began taking out an ice cube tray.

“So...basically, Vlad Masters is off the enemy board?” Tucker pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow. “ You know... after today? I'm fine with that. He's actually kind of funny when he isn't plotting or doing anything dastardly and I'm growing attached to the sarcasm.”

Sam, finding a ziplock bag began filling it with ice and wrapping it in paper towels.

Daniel smiled tiredly. “ What about you? Sam? Jaz? Are you willing to help me reform Sir Fruit-Loop?”

Jazmine smirked. “ Well, considering how many times he's passed out today… sure. Let's reform a narcoleptic sociopath.”

Sam rolled her eyes. “Jaz? Narcolepsy means he conks out during the day. Vlad? I don't think he's slept in weeks. I mean look at the poor guy.” She motioned to Vlad's sleeping form.”

Jaz sighed. “ I'm sticking with sociopath, at the very least, until he proves otherwise.”

Sam rolled her eyes and turning to Daniel nodded. “ Considering he's saved my recyclo-vegetarian tush twice today? I'm fully acceptant of the whole reform the villain plan.”

Kneeling down, she gently draped the ice pack over Vlad's head. The adult grimaced in his sleep and opened his eyes slightly. Sam paused at the flash of red. Vlad's mouth was slightly ajar and a glint, again, caught Sam’s eye. “ It's just some ice… it'll help.”

Vlad tiredly closed his eyes again and fell back to sleep.

Turning to Daniel, she smiled. “So… how about a tour?”

Tucker frowned, “ As long as it doesn't involve basements or creepy vaults.”

Sam nodded. “ Yeah, everything except those areas.” Daniel frowned.

“ Guys? This place is pretty boring unless you count the library, the little girl's room, and the storage closet. I can't take you into that bedroom.. it's… I don't know… like he was or is in mourning…”

The other three teens raised their eyebrows at this. He motioned them to follow him out of the room. Walking out into the hall, he led them upstairs where they would hopefully be out of Vlad's hearing range. Turning to them, he recounted.

“ Guys? That room...” He pointed to a door next to the staircase. “ It's like he lost a child. There's dust on everything… And the locks melted on the door.”

Jazmine's face saddened slightly at this. “ What does it look like inside? Besides the dust?”

To answer her question, he turned the wall invisible.

The orange and coral bedspread was caked in a thin blanket of gray. A set of children's books lay half opened in one corner, the pages had begun to turn yellow. A menagerie of stuffed animals peaked out from under the bed. The bed itself housed a lone teddy bear, slightly free of the dust blanketing its surroundings. Its small black eyes stared across the emptiness dully, like it too was searching for the room's occupant as well. The closet, slightly ajar, was filled with a ten or eleven-year-old girl's clothing. There was even a glass of water on the end table by the bed, ringed with dust.

“Oh…. oh god…..” Jaz was looking at the room with remorse.

“ Do you think he had a kid?” Tucker questioned.

Daniel looked away from the room and frowned. “ If so….. I mean....”

Sam looked sadly into the dusty corals. “Whoever she was… he loved her. Look at the books. The edges are worn from being read…. and that bear? It's well made, but if you look closely? The ribbon is frayed.”

The observation made the entire scene even heavier. They weren't supposed to be snooping there. It wasn't in their place. Dropping his hand from the wall, Daniel turned to the room across from them. “ Okay…. you saw why I can't take you in there. Ready for more mysteries?”

They eyed the storage closet warily. Opening the door, he ushered them in and pulled the light cord. Sam's eyes immediately went to the cleaning supplies. “Well, those are old.” Tucker nodded in agreement. Jaz absently brushed her fingers across the copper dust pan hooked on the wall.

Turning to Daniel she questioned, “The photos… they're in here aren't they?”

Daniel in response flew up a foot off the ground and gingerly picked up a box from the shelves on the left side of the entranceway.

Placing it on the ground he pointed. “ These? These take the cake for contradictory.”

Sitting down, Sam gently picked up a photo from the box. In it, a college version of Vlad was grinning broadly between a roller coaster line and Jack at an amusement park. Jack was wrapping his arm around Vlad who was wearing a large oversized hoodie. Part of Vlad's face had a bandage across it. They were both happy and carefree. Flipping the photo she read the back. Bay Beach Amusement Park, September 1991. The fourth week with goofball, 2nd year.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “ I thought he hated your dad… What are these?”

“I think these are the things he treasures…...”Daniel looked at the box like it could crawl to life any second. “ Which is why I'm almost afraid to look through them…” Sitting down, he picked another photo out of the pile. This one was different. Older. In it, a girl with copper brown hair cut to neck length was leisurely balancing a cookie on her nose while making a face. Her emerald eyes playfully loomed from the aged paper. Looking on the back, he noted the child's handwriting. 10th Birthday, May 11, 1984 .

He frowned. “ Jaz? When was Vlad born?” Jaz scratched her head.

“ I think he was born in 1972? He's supposed to be a year younger than dad.”

“ I wonder who this kid is? A friend of his perhaps?” He motioned at the picture. ‘She looks familiar. I'm almost positive I've seen her before…’

“ Yeah, probably.” Tucker paused and, seeing another photo, his eyes widened. “Hey look at this one!”

He held up the photo for everyone to see. An eleven or twelve-year-old boy with black hair and an apron was grinning from behind a video game cabinet. His hair was cut in choppy layers and obscured a small portion of his right eye. The steel blue gleamed playfully from under his black locks. His gray sweatshirt was oversized and frayed at the edges. Everything he wore looked worn in.

“ Is that...?” Jaz gaped.

Daniel froze at the photo as well. Taking it from Tucker, he flipped it over. Lismet Crane Arcade, First Day. The description was vague but one thing was obvious, the boy in the photo was Vladimir. Dark circles were still evident under his eyes and despite his expression, he looked beaten down and fatigued.

“ I've never seen a kid with that look in their eyes before. He looks...like he's broken….” Jazmine whispered.

Sam nodded and then seeing a small shade of green across the boy's wrist in the photo she paled. “ Guys? Look at what's peeking out under the shirt sleeve. I think he was being beaten up or something.”

Daniel immediately dropped the photo like he's been slapped. “ You think he was bullied or?”

Everyone went silent. Jazmine gently picked up the photo and replaced it to the abyss it came from. Latching onto another one, she smiled slightly. It was a picture of Jack and Vlad sleeping against each other on the floor surrounded by medical textbooks and notes. Vlad's pen lay limply in one hand and his eyebrows were furrowed slightly in his sleep. Jack, in contrast, had an arm looped over Vlad's shoulder and was sleeping with his mouth ajar.

Sam, seeing the photo, giggled. “ Hey, Tuck? Daniel? Look at that.” She glanced over to Daniel and pulled out her smartphone again. Flipping through her camera roll, she came across a photo of Tucker and Daniel curled next to each other at the zoo. “ Like father like son, heh?”

Daniel turned red with embarrassment and Tucker went to snatch the phone. Jazmine, however, spoke, “ Who took this photo?”

Daniel looked toward it and sighed. “ Probably mom. She seems to have taken several in there.”

Picking out another photo from the box, Sam grinned. In it, Jack and Maddie had fallen asleep next to each other in a lab. Several cups of coffee and various pens were scattered along the papers they were resting on. Her smile faded once her eyes spied what they had been working on. “ Oh…. oh god…”

She quickly turned the photo. Pfff lovebirds sleeping on the job again. March 6,1992. Her hand shook. “ Danny? This is from when they working on the portal…”

Daniel immediately snatched the photo. Sure enough, a small metal hoop similar to the glowing green vortex that occupied his own basement was leering just outside of the frame.

Daniel grimaced. “ I wonder… if that had never happened… how would all of our lives have played out?”

Jazmine sighed. “ Looking at the glass as half empty isn't going to make anyone's outlook better.” She snatched the photo and her expression grew confused. “ Is it me or was he setting Mom and Dad up?”

Daniel stiffened and, reaching into the box, he pulled out the selfie Vladimir took when he was younger at the bowling alley. The other three teens reading the back of the photo gaped. “ I told you this box was full of contradictory stuff.”

Jazmine tiredly rubbed her eyes. “Vlad was a serious shutterbug in college wasn't he?”

Daniel smirked. “ Yeah, except some of these were taken by Mom and Dad.”

Sam and Tucker groaned in frustration. “ So...Plasmius has a lot of skeletons in his closet?” Tucker glanced at the box.

Daniel shrugged. “ At least in this one anyway…”

Sam remembering something about the library questioned, “ Soooo… um…. should we be worried about the library you mentioned?”

Putting up the photos back onto the shelf he smiled. “ Sam? It's a thousand times more mysterious than the Skulk and Lurk on Elm.”

She smiled broadly. “ Lead the way, Casper.”

Chapter Text

Walking down the hallway, Daniel swung open the double doors leading into the room.

Sam, Jazmine, and Tucker gaped.

“ You know… I hate reading, but this place? This place may give me a reason to put down my PDA…” Tucker whispered in awe.

Both Sam and Jazmine were fixated on the large stained glass window.

Jazmine reaching over the railing traced a finger along the words enshrined in Latin.

Ut ego esse praesidio qui opus praesidio,
Dux pro illis in via,
A navi, ratis, a ponte, nam illi, qui volunt, ad crucem diluvium.
Ut dixi, et sit lucerna in tenebris,
A requies pro fessis,
Medicinam medicina ad omnes, qui sunt male
Vase, de copia, arbor miracula.
Et pro immensa turbas de animantibus
Ut ego adducam alimenta et quibus,
Perennem quasi terra et caelum
Donec omnia entia sunt liberati a dolor
Et omnes sunt excitetur.

Tapping her chin she began deciphering the words. “ That's weird… it's a prayer….”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “ You can read that?”

Jazmine smiled, “ Well duh! I want to be a brain surgeon! Do you know how many terms stem from Latin? I had to pick the language up.”

Both Tucker and Daniel stared at her slightly impressed.

“ Okay, so what does it say?” Sam smugly countered.

Jaz rolled her eyes.

“May I be a guard for those who need protection,
A guide for those on the path,
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.
May I be a lamp in the darkness,
A resting place for the weary,
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles.
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening,
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.”

Jazmine took a long breath after finishing the recitation.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “ A Buddhist prayer written in Latin… interesting…”

Tucker frowned. “ Not as interesting as the words themselves...the entire thing is basically promoting aid and peace toward others.”

Daniel nodded and touched the glass before he turned to the others. “ And the mysteries deepen…”

Grasping onto Sam, Tucker, and Jaz he floated them downstairs.

Sam picked up a book from the chair next to her with a questioning expression. “ Woah… interesting reading choice….” Her black nail polish adorned hand lingered across the title and the tell-tale pentagram. A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, & Pagans flashed in white print over a plain black background.

Tucker, with the same amount of surprise, picked up another book. This one, substantially thicker, was navy blue with golden script tightly knit across its cover that read, The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, Edited by: Gordon Stein, Ph.D. Flipping through the book, he paused as a page fluttered out and fell to the floor.

It was a sloppy handwritten note. His brow furrowed. “Hey, guys? Come check this out.”

Daniel immediately floated over to peer at the notebook page.

'Fairy circles as natural portal manifestations? Check rune archives with Ghost Writer. Source of possible European disappearances. Research “sorcerers’ rings” (France). Also, look into “witches rings” and Walpurgisnacht, the eve of April 30. Get Ed and Romulus to gather information in the zone.

Sam and Jaz raised their eyebrows.

“ Fairy rings? Occult books?” Jaz questioned.

Daniel looked at the page curiously. “ Yeah, and then there's the books on ancient languages scattered everywhere and the maps lying all over the place charting the ghost zone and the real world. Heck, most of them are more detailed than the infi-map.”

To prove his point, he picked up a map of the United States covered in green wisp-like lines and symbols. Sam looked at the map in awe. “ Daniel? That's hand-drawn.” Daniel stiffened and redirected his gaze to the map. Sure enough, the telltale blots of ink at the edges revealed the line work to have been drawn and not printed.

Jazmine gaped at the delicate and precise cartography. Gently pulling the paper towards herself, she scanned the key in fascination. “ The circles represent permanent portals…. there's four in Wisconsin and two in Amity…. Triangles represent fluctuated or inconsistent portals… and the squares mark temporary portal spawning sites…”

Tucker whistled. “ Wow… yeah, waaaaayyyy more detailed than the infi-map.”

Jazmine, still looking at the key, paused and ran a finger over the looping signature in the far left corner. “ Vlad drew this.”

Daniel immediately turned the map back towards himself to read the signature. Sure enough, Vlad's elegant looping scrawl was tacked across the bottom. “ You know? The more I see the more confused I get?”

Tucker nodded. “ Yeah, picturing Plasmius or Vlad drawing at a desk is kind of weird.”

Jazmine shook her head. “ Is it really though?”

Everyone looked up to Jaz curiously and she rolled her eyes. “ Guys? He is a half ghost. You want to know where you’re going in the zone, right? He’s no different. That, and from what we overheard earlier from that conversation with his secretary, he’s juggling not only being mayor, but his business as well. Tack in his endeavors in the ghost zone and he absolutely can't afford to waste time getting lost or stranded in an alternate dimension.”

Sam traced the lines across the map with her fingers. “ I wish I had this type of finesse with a pen.” She smirked.

Daniel smiled and shook his head. ‘Vlad? You’re one complicated enigma.’

Looking over at the floor, his gaze drifted to the items Vlad had dropped earlier when he fainted. Walking over he reached down and picked them up.

Sam and Jaz raised their eyebrows. “ What’s that?” Seeing they were talking about the cramped and overstuffed leather journal, he sighed and tossed the ochre hardcover novel in his other hand to the side.

“ This?” He lifted up the worn, tanned item sluggishly. “ Like everything else here? I have no earthly idea.” He flipped through it absently. “ It’s written in some sort of foreign language. It looks familiar but I can't read it.”

Tucker rolled his eyes and, leaning over, took the book and began rifling through it. “This looks like research notes or something..”

Sam peaked over his shoulder. “ Yeah. OR SOMETHING. All those red x’s are giving me the creeps.”

Jazmine grinned. “Villainous maybe?”

Daniel shook his head. “ I don't think so.” Taking the book, he flipped through it till he came to the section on Nocturn. His brow furrowed at the large crimson x’ angrily drawn across the page with the wood engraving. Putting a hand to the image he shivered. “ Some of this stuff is ripped from other books. These news articles are in English, so it kind of hints about the topic even if we can’t discern the rest of what's in the book.” He pointed a finger to the image and lifted the book up for the others to see. “ This is Nocturn. Or was...I’m starting to get a clue as to what the x’s may be…”

Sam and Tucker stiffened. “ So paranormal mafia?” Tucker questioned intrigued.

Jazmine, ignoring the image, began leafing through the articles. Her eyes widened and she furrowed her brow in confusion. “ No.....he’d have nothing to gain from messing with this thing. These articles are all centered on people being pulled off of life support after becoming comatose. Most aren’t even in this state. New York? Philadelphia? Heck, this one is from Ireland.”

The room went silent. Sam tentatively turned to Daniel. “So….um? Maybe a villain getting rid of competition?”

Daniel groaned. “ I seriously doubt it.” Sighing, he shut the book still extended in his fingers and set it gently aside on one of the tables. “ I plan on pulling out the truth from him eventually but I want to make sure he's healed first. He seems to have a really bad habit of moving when he’s practically in critical condition and I don't need him stomping out of the room again and fainting…” Daniel winced at the recollection.

Looking to a spot a few feet ahead of them he sighed. “ I almost forgot the blood from earlier. “ He facepalmed himself.

Sam, Tucker, and Jazmine paled at the blood droplets. Daniel elaborated. “The moron teleported out of my grasp earlier and starting coughing up blood. I think he accidentally ripped something in his gut with all of his angry ranting and floating around. Either that, or it was the fall from the ceiling.”

Tucker looked horrified. “ He fell from the second floor?”

Daniel casually waved him off. “ I caught him, don’t worry about it, Tuck.”

Jazmine and Sam exchanged glances worriedly. “He fainted?”

Daniel rolled his eyes, “ Well considering he was bleeding to death in the kitchen yesterday and had a temperature of one hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit? Yeah, he fainted. I should have dragged his ass to the bedroom again but I ended up bringing him to the kitchen. The guy hasn’t eaten in three days….”

The room went morbidly silent. “Please tell me your joking…three days?” Jazmine whispered worriedly.

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ I wish. I had just set him at the sink so he could clean off the blood when Sam and Tucker rang the doorbell.”

Sam grimaced. “ Yeah…. that wasn't exactly planned.”

Tucker glared at her. “ Funny? Your hand was already on the trigger when I rang.”

Her eyes became downcast. “ How was I supposed to know he was injured? Better yet, how was I supposed to know he made a truce and lost his villainous persona overnight? My thoughts were on Daniel being experimented on or cloned.”

Everyone frowned. Daniel absently ran a hand through his hair.

Jazmine sighed and looked at her wristwatch. “ Guys? We should probably go check on him.” She pointed toward the blood. “ If his track record from the last two days says anything it’s that he is stupidly stubborn.”

Sam nodded worriedly. “ Yeah.”

Daniel sighed and, escorting them to the door, phased them all out of the room. Walking down the hallway, Sam abruptly stopped. Her phone had started ringing in her cargo pants. Whipping it out, she casually answered. “Maurice? Ah. You're here?”

She nodded her head to whatever he was saying and then hastily spoke, “ No! No… I'll open the door. Don't ring or knock.” She furrowed her brow. Smirking, she casually lied, “Mayor Masters is on the phone with someone.”

She smiled at whatever Maurice had said. “ Of course, I'll be right over.” Hanging up, she motioned Jazmine to follow her to the front door.

“ We’ll bring in the food. You guys go make sure Vlad's ready to eat.” Turning toward the entranceway, she huffed under her breath. “ Three days!”

Daniel and Tucker nodded and quickened their pace to the room.

Walking into the kitchen, Daniel worriedly rushed forward. In the hour they had been exploring, Vladimir's fever had apparently gotten worse. Still asleep on the booth seat, he was now laying on his side. The ice pack was sprawled on the floor in a melted puddle and his gray hair was splayed across his face in disheveled layers. His bandaged right arm hung loosely over his chest.

Leaning over Vlad, Daniel quickly crouched down and whipped the hair out of his face. Gently shaking Vlad's shoulder and seeing no real response, he motioned for Tucker to help him.

“ Hey? Fruit-Loop? Come on… wake up?” Vlad's eyes were tearing in his sleep. Tucker raised his eyebrow in surprise. Leaning over Vlad and feeling the temperature, he shivered. “Danny? Man? He's not doing too good…”

Daniel nodded and this time turned Vlad over onto his back. The adult's brow furrowed in his sleep. “ Vlad?” Vlad's eyes tiredly began opening. Startled, he shot up defensively out of reflex only to slump forward. Daniel immediately caught him. “Woah… easy…. just breathe. Your fever is getting worse. After you eat I'm going to give you some Tylenol.”

Vlad grimaced and groaned. “....Everything's….it's burning again….”

Daniel smirked, “ Yeah? Well, that's not surprising considering your lack of self-preservation.”

Vlad snickered. “ Whatever you say Inviso-Bill.” Daniel’s eyebrow twitched in agitation and Tucker covered his mouth to restrain his laughter.

Smiling, Tucker chortled. “ I'm starting to really like him.”

 

Vlad smirked from over Daniel's shoulder and continued, “ And self-preservation has never been either of our strong suits, Daniel. Half-dead remember?”

Tucker’s grin broadened. He whistled. “ You know Daniel? I believe your ex-arch nemesis has a knack for sass. He’s more volatile than Sam and that's saying something.”

Vlad raised an eyebrow at Foley and snickered, “ Have you seen this kid’s grades? A gerbil could sass him and win.”

Tucker’s mouth widened in a surprised and amused ‘o’.

Daniel trying to restrain himself from glaring at Vlad held him outward and flatly replied, “Really? A Gerbil?” Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Plasmius? I hate to tell you this but the kid your insulting has saved your ass three times today. A little gratitude?”

Vlad went silent and his eyes became downcast. He bitterly laughed under his breath. “Thanks, Mr. Thermos...It almost would have been ironic if I could have just died after everything I've had to put up with the last…” Vlad bit his lip.

Seeing Tucker’s and Daniel’s worried and perplexed expressions, he sighed. “ Forget it.”

He curled his arms under his head and laid himself against the stone again. “ Just file everything I’ve said under the bitter arch-nemesis file you no doubt have stored in a computer somewhere…”

Tucker and Daniel exchanged a guilty look with one another. There was indeed a file on Plasmius but it was more of a tacky collage of his exploits with some vague notes on some of his possible schemes sprinkled between hastily made quip ideas. It was really more of a cruel joke at this point.

Sam and Jaz came into the kitchen a few moments later with the food piled in their arms. Vladimir looked up at their entrance and raised an eyebrow. “Chicken soup and pizza, huh?”

Sam and Jaz both froze and gaped. Vlad rolled his eyes. “ What? Hasn’t Dan…”

A look of realization passed across Vlad’s tired features and his eyebrow twitched. “ Are you telling me Daniel hasn’t learned how to focus his powers to any of his five senses?”

He looked over in annoyance at the teen. “ Dear boy, what do you do in your spare time? It's been what, two years and you still have no clue how to master the basics of power manipulation? Or perhaps your so dense you failed to realize your powers strengthen more than just your muscles?”

Daniel immediately tensed. Vlad groaned and slammed his head against the stone. Raising a hand in defeat, he mused. “ Why am I even surprised at this point? You would think with you being chased to kingdom come by spirits twenty-four seven you'd be able to grasp it…”

The sickly halfa sighed tiredly and Sam and Tucker raised their eyebrows knowingly.

Jazmine, placing the food on the booth counter, duly replied. “ In all honesty? Daniel doesn’t learn anything unless he has an example.”

Vlad peaked out and snapped sarcastically, “ Oh! I didn't know that. I wonder how he learned duplication? Or better yet energy manipulation for shielding?”
He leaned in closer to the table. “Little green eyed….…..”

The room went silent. Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Vlad? Erm…”

Vlad lifted his head. His eyes glared daggers at the teenager. “ Oh come on! You started trying to master duplication soon after you first met me and your first successful shield was during our second fight. I'd be stupid not to notice your learning curve.”

Daniel sighed and bit his lip. “ So? What does it matter?”

Vlad looked up to Daniel and a flash of unrecognizable emotion ran across his features. ‘Was that guilt?’ Daniel pondered.

Vlad turned and attempted to get up to leave only for Jazmine to attempt yanking him back into the seat.

“ Let me go!” Vlad tried phasing out of his shirt to get free only to slump and fall forward.

Tucker quickly ran forward and caught his shoulder. “ Okay? Guys? Can we all just take a chill pill? “

Looking downward at Vlad’s pained face, Tucker apologized. “Um... Plasmius? Er… Vlad...not really sure what you want me to call you at this point and all.”

Tucker readjusted his hold and led Vlad back to the booth. “ I’m sorry for that...I know it probably hurt when I caught you. You need to eat though.”

Dinner was void of any social interaction between the five of them. Vlad ate in silence and once he was finished he stood up rigidly. Turning to Sam he bowed curtly, “ Thank you, Ms. Manson, for the meal.”

And then with a swift flicker, his eyes flashed crimson and he dissipated out of the kitchen.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day was awkward between the two half-ghosts. Every time Daniel came into the room to check on Vladimir, the older man would snap at him. Daniel reasoned the sudden shift in attitude had something to do with the expression of guilt Vlad had exhibited earlier at the mention of Daniel’s lackluster power development.

Around eight o'clock in the afternoon Daniel was leading Jazmine, Sam and Tucker out of the house and into Jazmine’s car. Sending them off he looked at the house under a new lense. It was a simple constructed two- story. The outward appearance of the stone masonry was a purplish gray that screamed gothic manor. White spiraled columns stuck out on either side of the two large double doors. The bronzed handles were worn in and lightly faded from use. Five steps down from the entrance a large cobblestone road lazily wove through the greenery and to the wrought iron gate. Purplish pink roses laced up the sides of the yard leisurely. Daniel smirked at the plack dimly illuminated in the setting summer sun. The town had decided to make a removable sign for each mayor that gained residence starting with their previous Mayor, Ernesto Montez three years prior. The sign was a cruel billboard more than anything, that basically labeled whoever was housed under it as the town’s blame guy for the paranormal. The metal Mayor’s Mansion sign had switched locations from Ernesto’s humble suburban dwelling a few months ago to Vlad’s gate with as much fan fair and pep as the town could muster. In two years time, if Vlad decided not to run again, it would probably be in someone else's lawn.

Sighing, Daniel casually strolled back up the steps and went back into the home.

“Pfff. The house even looks like a vampire's den with that color scheme.” Daniel froze. He hadn’t had a chance to check Vlad for fangs again… ‘ Okay. Time to sneak into his room.’

Creeping close to the wall adjacent from Vlad's bed, Daniel nervously floated past the fireplace and peered over the ruffled blankets. His gaze caught onto Vlad's sleeping form and he stealthily hovered over to the adult, intending to look at Vlad's mouth.

Vlad shivered at Daniel’s presence and turned on his side. A sudden thirty or forty-degree temperature drop tended to have that effect on people. Daniel internally facepalmed himself and gulped.

‘ I know he had fangs earlier, so where?’

Slowly, Daniel floated to the side of Vlad and began leaning toward him. He was startled by Vlad's eyes flashing open. The scarlet locked directly onto Daniel's invisible green and then Vlad smiled devilishly.

“ Holy shi-!” Daniel immediately yelped and turned visible with his hands raised defensively in front of himself.

Vlad’s laughter cut through Daniel's panic and then he groaned. Holding his bandaged torso Vlad smirked at the teen. “ What exactly were you up to little badger? Maybe a game of hide and seek?” His eyebrow raised sarcastically at Daniel's flustered features.

Straightening himself Daniel snapped. “ I was just… you… I mean...you had fangs last night?” Daniel wrung his hands in the air to accentuate the point. “What are you? An extra from Fright Night?” The teen stammered and pointed at the slightly annoyed adult.

Rolling his eyes Vlad sat up. “ My dear boy, of all the films you could compare me to about vampires you chose that tacky flick? If you compare me to a vampire at least reference a more refined movie.”

“ But...you had fangs!” Danny's voice was laced with evident annoyance but wavered as he spoke.

Vlad, sensing an opportunity to both frighten the teen and shut him up, motioned the sixteen-year-old forward. Once within whisper distance, Vlad sneered jovially, “ If you were curious, next time just ask.” Opening his mouth ever so slightly he allowed the teeth to reveal themselves from under the guise.

Daniel starred in perplexed amazement. “ Woah! Wait. You mean you always have had those?”

Daniel leaned in closer making Vlad slightly uncomfortable.

Annoyed, he leered, “ Always? Pfffff. Spectral fangs just came up a few years after my little accident while I was in the hospital. It unnerves people so I keep them cloaked.”

Daniel rubbed his chin in thought. “So what about that cloak or cape you wear when you transform? It wasn't some weird wear cosplay to science class day was it?” Daniel suppressed a snicker at the thought.

Vlad's eyebrow lifted questioningly and his usually stoic face contorted in confusion. “Cosplay?” He questioned. Seeing Daniel’s amused smirk Vlad assumed insult.

“ I'll have you know Daniel, I didn't get the luxury of quick zap powers like a certain hyperactive brat.” He glared at the floating phantom, fangs fully exposed and his voice laced in venom.

Raising up his white gloved hands, Daniel frowned apologetically, “ Sorry, I meant no offense fruit-loop.”

Vlad, still angry, continued. “ My cosplay as you so sarcastically put it just developed with my powers as I shifted from sickly human to half-ghost. I had no say in the matter.”

“ Vlad, do you realize how hilarious this is?” Daniel stifled a laugh. “ Your name is Vlad, you have fangs, and you have a cape!” He pointed toward Vlad's annoyed skowl accusingly. “You’re an accidental Dracula knock off!”

Vlad's eyebrow twitched. “ At least I'm not the half-ghost equivalent of insta-ramen, Mr. one minute spook,” Vlad smirked.

Continuing, Vlad yanked the blanket back slightly and morphed. “ As for your originality? You’re not the first to point out the obvious. For all intents and purposes, I might as well be a vampire.”

And with that bitter note, Vlad's hand went to his head and he swayed. His half hearted smirk vanished. The rings flickered, and Vlad fell back against the bed with a dull thud. “ ….I guess I still have some... poison in me....”

Daniel worriedly landed next to him and put a hand to his feverish head.

“ You know, it may not be all poison? I mean you were practically whiskey snorkeling yesterday evening.”

Vlad's tensed and gently tore Daniel’s worried hand away from his head. Groaning he brought his own hand up to cover his eyes dejectedly. “ You weren't supposed to see me like that.” He flatly whispered.

Seeing Vlad’s face, Daniel gently spoke, “ Vlad? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have gone there.”

Vlad's frown stayed and his somber eyes darted from Daniel. Turning to the side facing away from the boy he laid back down.

Nervously, Daniel raised a white gloved hand toward Vlad's shoulder. Vlad tensed at the contact. His voice, muffled by the pillow growled, “ Let go.”

Daniel loosened his grip but didn't release his hold. “ Vlad?” Daniel asked tentatively. “Why do you do that to yourself? I found the glass in the study…” Daniel frowned. “ Do you do that all the time?”

After a few moments of stifling silence Vlad answered. “ Only when I'm having a really horrible day… I don't do that often, and when I do? I usually almost always grow to regret it after.”

Daniel sighed.“ I'm surprised you don't get liver poisoning.”

At this, Vlad groaned and, sitting up, began removing his bandages.

Daniel immediately yelped and rushed forward. “ What are you doing?!?”

Vlad, grabbing onto his wrappings, casually phased them intangible. “ I'm showing you why the whiskey doesn't kill me.” Vlad snapped. With one swift flick, the gauze and linen dressings fluttered onto the bed.

Daniel's eyes widened, “ Well, that’s definitely better than earlier…” Vlad's chest, still riddled with damage, no longer had the gaping burn wounds it had possessed earlier and the large gashes weren't bleeding.

Vlad, glaring at his wounds continued, “ You already know we heal extremely fast correct?”

Daniel nodded. “ Yeah, kind of hard not to notice when a large cut or gash disappears after a few days. Granted yours are waaaaay worse. You are still trying to heal. Wasn't that a little bit stupid ripping off those bandages like that?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ But you still assume we can get liver poisoning?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow intrigued.

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ Okay, Daniel, teaching moment.” He paused and winced at his wounds. “ Our cells, because we are constantly torn between dimensions by our spliced genetics, rapidly regenerate. Dying or damaged cells and flesh are just converted into plasma or spectral energy to feed healthy newly created flesh. Our cells don't split like a normal human’s, instead, the materials just fade from existence and become something more easily used by our body.”

“ Huh?” Daniel creased his brow perplexed.

Slapping his forehead and then instantly regretting the pain, Vlad continued.“ We heal spontaneously? It's kind of hard for liquor to effect someone who's blood almost instantaneously filters it. When our spectral forms are weak however the healing slows or stalls. Human medicine seems to work on us fairly well because our body accepts it as an aid to our recovery. Liquor is recognized as a poison to our human halves and so our ghost half filters and destroys it much more rapidly. To poison one of us, it would take something far more potent than the average human would be able to handle.”

Daniel nodded, “ So your body just regenerates faster than the booze can destroy it?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ In brat terms?” Vlad frowned, “ Yes.”

Daniel not wanting to delve further into the whole liquor and self-poisoning topic quickly changed the subject. “Okay, so you say you've been compared to a vampire before but you don't like the movie I picked,” Daniel smirked and rolled his eyes. “ Which movie would you want to be compared to?”

Seeing a shift in the conversation the fatigued silver headed adult answered, “Interview with a Vampire.”

Daniel now further intrigued prodded, “ Why?”

Shrugging tiredly Vlad replied, “I can relate to Louis.” Vlad pursed his lips, “That and the book was a favorite of mine in college.”

“ Oh… well, I mean..” Seeing Vlad's fatigued features Daniel sighed. “Nevermind.”

Vlad smiled curtly, fangs still exposed, and clapped sarcastically. “Congrats, we officially just wasted ten minutes of both of our lives on a conversation with no truly meaningful development.”

Daniel frowned. “ That's uncalled for fruit- loop.” He rolled his eyes. “ You didn't have to suck the life out of the interaction.”

“ You do realize you openly compared me to a vampire, correct?” Vlad countered sarcastically.

Daniel's mouth twitched, “ And you compared me to insta-cup cancer. At least I didn't go and poke fun at the fact you openly dissed a classic!”

Vlad, turning from Daniel, put a hand to his face to suppress the laughter trying to make its way out of his mouth. His eyes widened and his lips snaked into a jovial grin. Rolling his eyes he sarcastically quoted, “ Oh, call me anything you want. Only you're the one failing trig, not me.”

Daniel stood, shocked at the genuine show of emotion and the rather specific reference. Pointing, he tumbled over in laughter. “ Ha! For a tacky flick, you seem to have watched it quite a bit!”

Vlad snickered. “ I blame Skulker. That mechanized pain loves the 80’s horror comedy genre.”

Daniel burst into a fit of muffled laughter at the thought of Skulker and Vlad sitting down and watching horror comedies.

Vlad crossed his arms tiredly and returned his expression to something more neutral.

“I hope our truce isn't solely going to revolve around bad puns and poor quality quips at one another.” His eyes flashed away from Daniel and toward the opposite wall. “I honestly have no clue how we are supposed to keep this up if all of our conversations consist of light hearted banter and insults.”

Daniel’s expression became somewhat less enthusiastic and more embarrassed in nature.

“Erm? Vlad? I have been thinking about what you said earlier….”

Vlad turned to him curiously. “ What in particular are you referencing? Today I've been quite talkative around you and your friends.”

Taking a deep breath Daniel locked his gaze to Vlad’s tired gray blue eyes. “ I was thinking..” Daniel began awkwardly twiddling his thumbs as Vlad stared at him. “ Um… maybe we could train together?”

Vlad stiffened and his eyes locked curiously with the teen’s. He opened his mouth to speak only for Daniel to blurt, “We never do anything but fight. At least up until this point. And you were right earlier… I didn't know we could focus our powers like that. I have been learning my abilities solely based off of my fights with other ghosts...but I still don't quite know what I am doing. The only way we have ever resolved things is by fighting so why don't we turn that into something constructive?”

Out of breath, Daniel looked away from Vlad. Vlad’s eyes widened slightly and then he spoke. “So instead of beating the flap-jacks out of each other out of hatred, you propose we wail on each other for closure?” Vlad smirked and furrowed his brow. “You’re kind of weird aren’t you?”

Daniel turned scarlet and quickly tried to defend himself. “Well, when you put i-”

He, however, was cut off by Vladimir’s reply. “ I accept.” Vlad casually answered.

Daniel’s neon green eyes widened in disbelief and his jaw dropped. Slamming his hands onto the mattress he questioned, “WAIT? WHAT?”

Vlad frowned and looked away from the teenager again. Dropping his hands from his chest, he tiredly explained the reason for his acceptance of the idea. “ I agreed I would concede to a truce because I am sick and tired of fighting empty battles. If you think we can reach a level of peace through brawling with one another-” He rolled his eyes.“-as ridiculous as that sounds, I’ll fight toward the progression of that ideal.”

Daniel beamed. Vlad snickered, “Well someone is happy. Is my reply that usual?”

“ No… I mean...Just a little ironic.” Daniel’s smile turned into a half hearted smirk and his eyes became somber.

“ How so? I don’t quite see what you’re getting at...” Vlad stared worriedly toward Daniel and began getting out of bed. Sitting at the edge of the mattress he pointedly questioned. “ Do you mind elaborating?” His voice all though cool carried a hint of intrigue and worry.

Daniel grew silent. “Vlad? Gosh, this is a little awkward…” He swallowed. “ You…”

Daniel bit his lip in frustration. “ Fruit-loop? Why were you a villain? You kept trying to make me renounce dad… and the cloning thing..? I just don't understand...”

Vlad stiffened and something close to grief and pain flickered across his eyes. The expression soon dissipated into something fearful. Standing abruptly, he teleported leaving Daniel alone in an empty bedroom more confused than when he had first entered.

“He’s hiding something…” Daniel whispered to himself in an attempt to negate the crippling silence around him. A chill ran up his spine and his eyes widened. ‘His chest... and he just…’

Flying out of the room in a blind panic, Daniel began checking every single area of the house to no avail. He even risked a glance in the child’s bedroom. Vlad wasn’t in the home. Taking a peek outside at the foreboding black and gray whisps enshrouding the night sky Daniel paled. It was starting to rain. “Oh god….his fever.”

Daniel began flying desperately through the rain. ‘Come on...Vlad where are you?’ “VLAD!!!” The yard remained silent except for the rain picking up pace around him. “VLAD!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?”

The rain was getting heavier. “FRUIT-LOOP! PLEASE?!?!” No answer resonated over the downpour. ‘Oh….oh god...He probably collapsed or he’s unconscious..’

Daniel darted between trees and outcroppings around the yard to no avail in his search for the adult. Thirty minutes passed with no traces of Vladimir. Stopping mid-air he shook the rain from his eyes. Duplicating into four, he sent two of his doppelgangers into town while he continued searching in the yard.

“Think Fenton..he couldn’t have gotten far with those injuries.” Daniel’s brow furrowed as he concentrated. “ How can I find him??”

Vlad’s words came to mind, ‘The ceiling….I heard it coming down…’

Daniel’s eyes widened. ‘Concentrate.’

Closing his eyes, he focused on the sounds around himself. ‘Damn it. All I am hearing is this blasted rain!’ Swallowing, he put all of his concentration into hearing his surroundings. His jaw dropped. Small heartbeats, hidden in the trees pulsed and fluttered against the heavy drops of rain surrounding them. He could hear the small lungs that accompanied the songbird’s tiny beating breasts as they exhaled and inhaled. A much larger heartbeat drew his attention. The lungs accompanying it were strained and the breathing was faint and labored. ‘Vlad.’

Daniel immediately darted to the roof.

Chapter Text

“ How so? I don’t quite see what you’re getting at..” Vlad stared worriedly toward Daniel and began getting out of bed. ‘Is it really that big of a jump for me to be amicable around him? Then again everything I have done so far doesn't exactly paint me as a dependable.’ Sitting at the edge of the mattress, he pointedly questioned. “ Do you mind elaborating?” His voice all though cool carried a hint of intrigue and worry.

Daniel grew silent. “Vlad? Gosh, this is a little awkward…” He swallowed. “ You…”

Vlad tensed. ‘Awkward? What can he possibl-?’ Daniel bit his lip in frustration. “Fruit-loop? Why were you a villain? You kept trying to make me renounce dad… and the cloning thing..? I just don't understand...”

Vlad felt the entire world shaking out from under him. It was like he was suffocating. ‘And in the end? I really am a deplorable bastard...even if I tried to do everything right…’ Vlad stiffened and something close to grief and pain flickered across his eyes. ‘ I can try to explain…’ Vlad opened his mouth to speak and then closed it immediately. ‘No I can’t. I am a monster…..They gave up on me...she’s died..he’s died...they’re gone. I am a liar and that’s all this boy has ever known me as. He won't believe a word I say..’

Vladimir could feel the fear lacing across the pit of his stomach. His face grew to mimic the undiluted panic and apprehension he felt at the teenager’s questions. Standing abruptly, he teleported. ‘No… I can’t. I don’t want to talk about why.’

Holding his breath, he felt the familiar airless void between pocket dimensions and the location he was focusing on before he reappeared outside next to the road. Hands shaking, he tiredly leaned against the front gate. ‘Breathe.’

He looked at his hands angrily. ‘Damn’t it Vladimir. You need to tell him the truth...you can't keep coddling the boy and you can't keep resigning yourself to perpetuating this blasted farce!’ He growled at his own cowardice. ‘ You have nothing left to lose! Everything else is gone and here you are being given a lifeline by the kid...Just go in and apologize…’ Vlad turned from the gate and looked back at the manor now surrounded by flurries of black rain clouds. Biting his lip, he grimaced.

‘ The problem is I don’t deserve forgiveness….I was trying to get them to-’

A deep searing burning sensation crawled up his throat. Coughing he staggered and fell face first against the front lawn. His chest felt like it was being squeezed and constricted against the ground. “What the-” Hacking and still coughing his eyes widened. Everything was spinning and rippling in his field of vision. ‘Couldn’t be... the poison…What is this..?’ Vlad winced and tried to crawl back to the house. With a sudden pop, he felt all the air leave his lungs as he was teleported and slung above the yard, chest first into the large thorny climbing roses encompassing the backyard.

The plants long limbs seemed to wrap around and cradle against his flesh as he fell into them. The burning persisted and seemed to permeate the air. The world became muggy and distorted. Vlad's arm tiredly tried snaking out from under the brambles only for him to feel a mind-numbing pain ripping through his chest. The sudden drop had reopened one of the larger gashes on his abdomen and he was bleeding out heavily.

Vlad’s blue eyes widened in panic. ‘ My powers…..what’s?’ Everything was burning...an unnatural fiery heat...and then suddenly it was raining. Vlad began passing out. Struggling to breathe, he attempted teleporting back to the house only to feel his body being flung into the large cupola over the manor’s purple-grey shingled roof.

A panicked voice was screaming for him against the thunder and heavy rain. “VLAD!!!” The heat was becoming heavy.

Choking, he pleaded, “ Help......it burns…” Reaching out a bloody and still thorn covered arm he weakly clawed at the wall obscuring his view. Another sharp pain stabbed through his chest and Vlad’s arm fell limply to the floor.

Struggling to breathe and losing to much blood, he numbly curled against himself. The room was fogging. ‘ Why…..I don’t..understand....someone...it’s burning..’
“VLAD!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?” The rain was almost deafening and the thunder made everything numb against the sixteen-year old’s frantic words. Vlad’s eyes were watering. Steam was engulfing everything and Vlad’s soaked clothes drank at his wounds greedily. A small crimson puddle was forming under his waist.

The rain was getting heavier. The boy’s voice, now more frantic, was desperately ripping through the static of water and thunder .“ FRUIT-LOOP! PLEASE?!?!”

Swallowing, Vlad choked, “Badger...here..in here…..”

‘ It burns...it’s so dark…’ And with those last thoughts, Vlad’s eyes closed.

Chapter Text

Daniel’s ears led him to the small room like protrusion on the roof. Phasing through the wall, he froze as a flash of lightning illuminated Vlad. Eyes wide, he immediately charged a hand with glowing green energy so he could access Vlad’s condition. The adult’s limbs were entangled in several small segments of thorns and briar rosebuds. Small nicks and cuts laced up every square inch of exposed skin. Turning Vlad over, Daniel felt a weight drop in the pit of his stomach. Vlad’s chest had reopened. The large wound in his lower abdomen was now freely bleeding onto the roof. “ Vlad? Can you hear me?”

Vlad's breathing, now heavy and labored, came out of his mouth in steam like clouds against the moisture in the air. Daniel gently shook him. “ Vlad…. wake up….”

Realizing the dampness wasn't helping him, Daniel gently hefted Vlad into his arms and phased through the roof and into the hallway on the second floor. Flying through the room's, he made it to Vlad's bedroom. Vlad, trying to come to, moaned.

Daniel's eyes immediately darted to Vlad's face. The adult's eyes were trying to focus. “Vlad? Hey?”

Vladimir winced. Coughing, he hoarsely rasped, “ …. Powers went...spastic….couldn't…” Dizzy his eyes tried to close only for Daniel's hand to redirect him. “…. Badger?....I fucked up….”

Daniel's eyes widened in surprise. ‘ Did he just cuss?!?!?!’

Vlad, still trying to talk, continued, “ ….Panicked…..wasn't ready to...talk….kinda stupid….Was going to...apologize….ugh.” Vlad's eyes began watering. “... It's burning….”

Daniel, dissolving his previous duplicates, made a new one in the bedroom, “ Quick, towels. He's bleeding too heavily.”

Vlad grimaced. “... Fell…. got teleported over yard…..couldn't fly…”

Daniel paled. ‘ Oh god…. he fell?!?!’

Vlad was starting to pass out again. Daniel gently sat him against the wood floor by the fireplace. “ Vlad? How far did you fall? I need to know.” Vlad's eyes were closing again, and Daniel gently patted his cheek to coax him back. “Come on..Fruit-Loop? How far was the drop?”

Coughing, Vlad winced. “ Don't know….couldn't breathe...could see the roof…” Vlad turned against Daniel's hold slightly and began blacking out.

‘ That's what, thirty feet? Jesus Christ.’

Seeing Vlad’s eyes closing again, he laid him against the floor on the makeshift towel mat his clone had set up.

Vlad somehow still awake chuckled quietly, “ ….Ed is….going to...murder me…”

Daniel’s clone returned with bandages from the infirmary and sat down next to Vlad to keep him still while Daniel patched the wound. “Vlad? I think you need stitches…”

Vlad winced. “ ...You can try…. wouldn't do much good…. it'll start closing...in a few hours …” Vlad grimaced and tensed as Daniel began cleaning the wound.

Daniel's brow furrowed. “ Vlad? I….” He sighed as he began tethering the skin together with medical tape. “ I'm sorry about this…”

Vlad grimaced. “ ...Not your fault…. one hundred percent mine… He even warned me…. but I didn't…listen.”

Daniel's eyes widened and he looked to Vlad worriedly. “ What are you talking about?”

Vlad winced and now slightly more delirious mumbled, “ Clockwork...he warned me...said I had to start teaching you formally instead….of the cloak and dagger bullshit…..Told him to screw off…”

Daniel gaped. “ Wait? What?”

Vlad’s head fell further into the towels. “ …. Clockwork….after he did that…. I was so angry….haven't spoken in over a year….”

Daniel, now leaning over Vlad's head, gently lifted him up so he could clean the cuts on his face. “ You know Clockwork? I don't understand… Every other ghost thinks he's a myth….How do you-?”

Vlad tried smiling. “.... My job…. He's annoying….Kidnapped me twice...Real bastard….”

Daniel's jaw dropped. Vlad laughed quietly. “ Should have seen…. when I decked him….ha…..”

Daniel's eyes were practically jumping out of his sockets. “ You punched him? How did you manage that?!?”

Vlad snickered. “ ...M’...more powerful...than him...he’s just an appointee….no biggie…” Groaning he numbly reached a hand to his head. “....Uh….now I have to..explain what that is..”

Daniel, however, sighed. “ Vlad? Don't worry about it tonight. Just explain everything when you're healed…. I don't need you having a panic attack or something when your chest is sliced open.”

Vlad’s eyes narrowed under heavy lids. “ Wasn't….really a panic attack…” He swallowed. “ Wasn't sure you...would've believed….after all the...lies...Didn't want to chance it…”

Daniel smiled half-heartedly. “Ah…. so you teleporting away from me was because you were nervous?”

Vlad smiled tiredly. In a cracked and faint whisper, he concluded,“...Sure...Badger...let's go with..that..…” And then he was out.

Daniel shook his head to clear out the clutter accumulated from the events of the last twenty-four hours. Cradling Vlad's head, he gently applied two bandaids to the deeper cuts on his face and seeing his clone was already done with Vlad's arms and ankles, he phased Vlad's shirt off. Tossing the bloody and tattered fabric aside, he began inspecting Vlad for any other wounds. Seeing none, he sighed in relief.

Glancing at Vlad's pants, however, he openly cringed. The grey suit pants were stained dark crimson. ‘ Shit...I can't leave him in those…’

Gently putting down Vlad's head, he quickly phased off the ruined clothes and casually tossed them over his shoulder. ‘ Woah… his legs even have scars.’ Seeing a circular mark on Vlad's calf he grimaced. “ Bullets, huh?”

Frowning, he looked over Vlad curiously. ‘ Claw marks, puncture wounds, bullet holes...teeth marks…’ Daniel groaned. “ You know? This isn't helping my head? I'm already confused and this is just adding to it.”

Seeing some cuts along Vlad's lower legs, he began cleaning them. Vlad shivered and attempted to turn on his side. Daniel’s duplicate however quickly caught the movement and turned Vlad back onto his back. Groaning, Vlad tried opening his eyes again. “...uh...Daniel...What's-?” Vlad's eyes widened slightly at his state of undress. “Ugh…. Daniel...clothes...what happened to my clothes…?”

Daniel sighed and casually flicked his thumb at the wad of bloody fabric behind him. “They're unsalvageable. Do you have any pajamas I can help you into?”

Vlad, grimacing, nodded. “Drawer...in the nightstand…” He tiredly lifted his arm and latched onto Daniel's shoulder as the teen tried to stand up. “ ...Thanks…. I know… you probably...still...hate...me….”

Daniel grimaced at his words. “Vlad… I…” Vlad dropped his arm from Daniel's jumpsuit and groggily began pulling himself up only for Daniel to quickly latch his arms around him to keep him from falling over. “ ….I wanted you….to hate...me...that was the plan….” Vlad tiredly slumped against Daniel. “ I couldn't avoid it….”

Daniel's eyebrows furrowed. “Vlad? Why did you do it?”

Vlad tensed. In a muffled voice, he whispered,“ Daniel? I can't… I just can't tell you…. Not now…. It's too hard to explain…especially when I...” Vlad's voice broke.

Daniel's eyes widened worriedly and he winced. Sighing, he gently helped Vlad to his feet and led him to the bed. Helping him into his sweatpants he smirked, “Do me a favor, will you? Stay in bed tonight and don't go ripping yourself open again?”

Vlad snorted. “ Trust me… I don't plan on doing that again.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, Vlad?” Daniel sat behind the kitchen island pouring himself a bowl of cereal. The small multi-colored loops klincked and spun against the dark ceramic.“Why don't you have any maids or cooks in this place?” Casually, motioning around with his spoon he continued, “ I mean, you’re loaded. It doesn't make any sense.”

Vlad smirked and rubbed the back of his neck. “ Why would it make any sense to have them?”

Daniel glared from the counter and raised an eyebrow. “ What do you mean?”

“ Privacy is a treasure, especially when you dart in and out of alternate dimensions constantly.” Pursing his lips and raising an eyebrow, Vlad turned away from Daniel and re-tied his hair. Rolling up his sleeves, he reached for a small pan above the stove. Yesterday had been strained and awkward with the teenager around and he was starting to find himself falling further and further from his normal habits around the boy.

Daniel groaned behind him. “ I still don't get it. I mean… I have people around at my house constantly, what's the difference?”

Vlad chuckled bitterly and, raising an eyebrow, turned to the fridge a pulled out some bacon and a couple of eggs.

“ Daniel? I have no doubts that you yourself have almost been caught darting out of that portal in your basement at one time or another, now picture that situation with complete strangers milling around who don't care for anything but their next paycheck.”

Daniel stirred his cereal haphazardly. “ So… Big-bad Vlad Plasmius is afraid of company?”

Sighing, Vlad countered, “ Just imagine the situation we had yesterday, hmm? If there was a maid or a cook who could gain from exposing my secret they would do so without a second's hesitation. I'm fairly prone to hazards with my job and I doubt I would last long if I came home injured only for the GWI to incarcerate me because of a hired hand’s loose lips. Being torn apart by humans again isn't something I fancy.” Vlad, now staring at the food he was tiredly trying to cook, failed to notice Daniel’s sad and almost fearful gaze behind him. ‘ Holy shit. I… Jesus… how many of those are from people?’ His mind began running through the dimly lit memories he had of Vlad's scars.

Yawning, Vlad tiredly stirred his bacon. “ Or to put this into a more relatable perspective? How would you feel if a stranger unearthed your greatest secret and stood to gain from revealing it?”

Daniel winced and dropped his spoon. Averting his gaze from Vlad, he muttered, “ I guess that kind of does make sense…”

‘ Those bullet marks…. those had to be from humans… How many other marks are there?’ Daniel stared at his bowl for a moment before he dejectedly retrieved his utensil.

Turning, Vlad tiredly crossed his arms, “ Now dear boy, do you mind explaining why you are still hanging around my house?”

Daniel couldn't help but reply with sarcasm, “ I suppose it's because I have a desire for the company of a rich bratty adult?” Batting his eyelashes and cradling his spoon to his cheek, he smirked at Vlad.

“ I didn't sign up for a babysitter Daniel.” Vlad's eyebrow twitched in agitation.

Rolling his eyes and putting another spoonful of cereal in his mouth, Daniel swallowed and then snapped, “Vlad? I'm not stupid enough to let you off the hook after yesterday. Heck? I should be dragging you to a hospital.”

Vlad's shoulders tensed and his eyes flashed crimson. Frowning, Vlad immediately turned from Daniel to stir his food. Daniel frowned deeply and winced. ‘Damn...I just brought up the hospital thing again…’

Looking down into his cereal, he began stabbing his spoon into the milk drenched mess. ‘ ...fruit loops?’ Something mischievous and playful flashed in Daniel's blue eyes. Vlad distractedly stirred his bacon unaware of the looming doom behind him.

“ Hey VLAD!” Daniel screamed. Vlad instinctively morphed as he spun around. A large spoonful of circular multi-colored cereal splattered against his ghost form’s forehead with a humiliating thunk.

Vlad closed his eyes and his eyebrow twitched in irritation. Daniel burst into a fit of laughter at the sight and, gripping his stomach, gleefully prodded, “ Look Fruit-Loop, you have company now!”

Chapter Text

Wiping his forehead, Vlad snarled. “Very mature.” Turning around, he smirked.

Watching Daniel's movements from the reflections in the pots and pans above the stove and seeing another spoonful of soggy grain being loaded and aimed, Vlad sighed. A playful and mischievous light of his own flickered across his fatigued eyes. ‘Two can play at this game.’

He pointed his hand upward toward a slightly larger pan above his head. Feigned grabbing it, he took careful aim with a plasma blast. A satisfying pop of ceramic and a loud splash followed. Turning around and crossing his arms leisurely, he smirked at the now sopping wet and angry youth. Shifting back into his normal human form, he raised an eyebrow and prodded,“ Next time little badger? Weigh the merits of milking a situation for everything it's worth before committing.”

“Ha.Ha.Ha.” Daniel's frown deepened at the sight of Vlad's smug grin.

‘ Pffff. Daniel? You had to see that coming.’

Vlad averted his gaze and covered his mouth to keep from laughing at Daniel's shaggy black hair. Several dozen fruit loops were slowly slicking across his raven locks in a race to see what color gravity preferred. Others still, hung around dryer tufts like they were a part of a miniaturized ring game from a carnival.

Hearing the stool being backed up, he returned his gaze to the teenager. Daniel casually glared at Vlad and then turned intangible to relieve himself of his breakfast turned fashion statement. Vlad, turning from the teen, cut off the stove burner and made his way to the fridge. Opening the door. he casually grabbed a carton of orange juice and, glancing back at Daniel, smirked. “ And you’re cleaning that up.”

“ Stupid old man….” Daniel snarled angrily under his breath. Reaching down, he grabbed the largest segment of the bowl and cradled it against his palm. Vlad, who was pouring himself a glass of orange juice, paused and raised an eyebrow, “ Excuse me?”

Daniel’s sneakers squeaked slightly as he rounded toward the trash can with the remnants of the cereal bowl. Looking up at Vlad, he snapped, “ You heard me.”

Eyebrow twitching in irritation, Vlad interjected, “ I'm forty-two, that hardly counts as old.” Recapping the orange juice, he squeezed past Daniel and placed it back in the fridge. Grabbing his plate and his glass, he went over to the booth by the window.

Daniel stared at him in perplexion. Vlad grabbed his newspaper and casually opened it.

“Wait, forty-two ?” Daniel wasn't the best math student but even he knew the number was off. Eyebrow raised, he continued, “ That doesn't make any sense! You and Dad were only a year apart in college and he's turning forty-seven this year.” A frown spread across his face.

Vlad, now tiredly eating his breakfast showed no sign of indiscretion at the observation. Internally, however, Vlad was making careful notes on how to handle future situations like the predicament he had just roped himself into.

‘ Shit. Okay…. play it cool. You just need to guard what you say more often when you’re around him.’

Casually taking a sip of his drink, he redirected his attention to the newspaper. “ Decide what you want, Daniel… It's not like it's a fairly important tidbit of information.”

Daniel, in response, rolled his eyes and stubbornly marched out of the kitchen and toward the upstairs storage room. Grabbing the broom and a mop, he quickly sank through the floor and flew back to the kitchen.

Vlad, having just finished his food, calmly folded the paper on the breakfast bar and grabbed his dishes before trudging to the sink.

Daniel muttered angrily behind him as he picked up shattered remnants of the cereal bowl. “ Stupid aim….lousy old…..”

Vlad smiled warmly out of the view of the teen and, then frowning, he began washing the dishes. Thirty seconds passed and Vlad had just set the items on the counter to dry when he spotted a piece of blue ceramic poking out next to the island. Without thinking, he instinctively reached down to pick it up. Eyes widened and he immediately shot out a hand to grasp the counter.

Daniel’s blue eyes darted to Vlad at the sudden movement and, dropping the mop, he sprinted over to him. “I told you getting out of bed this morning was a bad idea! Cheesehead, Jesus! What part of almost died do you not understand?!?!”

Vlad frowned, “Shut up. I’m fine Daniel.”Squeezing his eyes shut for a brief moment to gather himself, Vlad abruptly straightened his posture. A sudden jolt almost broke his composure.

‘AH!!! JEZ THAT HURTS!’

“Just clean up your mess!” He snapped. Cutting off the sink, he hastily made his retreat from the kitchen. Rounding the doorway, his eyebrow twitched at Daniel’s parting comment, “Jerky Fruit-Loop.”

‘Little brat.’

Walking down the hall, he stopped just prior to the library and turned into his office, or as Daniel had labeled it “his private study”. Growling as the pain flared up, he casually snatched his cellphone from the desk and attempted to click it on. “ Out of battery….well if that isn't the most inconventiat-”

Sighing, he grabbed onto the old black landline phone on the edge of his desk and dialed in Bertra’s phone number.

A few seconds passed before Mrs. Dolce’s overly enthusiastic voice dripped on the line, “Mayor Masters? Why aren’t you calling me from your cell phone?”

Cradling his head, Vlad forced a change in demeanor before answering her tentative question.

He chuckled dryly. “ I’m afraid my cellphone is out of battery and I haven't the time to charge it.” Absently, he began flicking through the papers Bertra had dropped off the evening prior.

Bertra’s voice chimed over the line, “ You sound tired Vladimir. Did you take those pills I gave you?” Vlad paused. He definitely needed the sleep. He had been feeling sickly for several weeks now. Skulker and Romulus had both noticed his deteriorating health as well and had told him to stay in Amity while they searched in the zone for artifacts and demons. He had been attributing the sudden weak spells and feverish episodes to work-related stress. Running a hand through his silver hair, he guiltily answered, “ No, I’m afraid I lost them….Yesterday was rather nerve-wracking with so many guests milling about in my manor.”

Bertra giggled. “ So what can I do for you, Vladimir? Are you coming to the office today?”

Grimacing, he politely responded. “No, I can't come to the office today. Something has come up. Can you bring my work for the day here?”

Bertra’s voice, still upbeat, wavered slightly with intrigue. “ Sure Mr. Masters.” She paused. “ Do you mind elaborating on the reason? Maybe I can -?”

Vlad sighed heavily and quickly interrupted her question. “ Sorry, it's more of a personal matter. I have company again this morning and he is quite a handful.” His voice at the end dripped with annoyance.

Bertra, immediately picking up on the shift in attitude, teased, “ Him?”

“Yes, a him.” Vlad snapped in aggravation. “ It’s a teenager, to be specific, the son of an old college friend of mine.”

“ I never pictured you as a babysitter Vladimir.” Bertra giggled and Vlad groaned.

‘ Funny? Babysitting others seems to be an annoying quirk I’m quickly adaptable to…’

“Mrs. Dolce? The kid is hardly an infant, he just acts likes one on occasion..” Vlad interjected. “ If anything an infant would be easier to handle.” He finished flatly.

Bertra’s voice switched to something relatable and reassuring, “ I'll bring everything over as soon as possible Vladimir. Hang in there.”

Vlad rolled his eyes but smiled slightly. ‘Yep… we've officially gone full circle, Vladimir. Instead of him trying to kill you? He's cleaning your kitchen. Ha.’

“ Sure thing, Mrs. Dolce. Thank you for your assistance."

She laughed. “ Isn't it my job to supervise you at this point?” Her voice wavered slightly and almost sounded sarcastic in a cruel or secretive sense. Vlad paused and his brow furrowed.

‘ She’s just weird Vladimir….Calm down, she's always been like this.’

“ See you soon sir.” And before he could say goodbye she hung up.

Vlad rubbed his temple and began rifling through the papers Bertra had dropped off the day prior. Two of the documents were construction contracts with several small local companies and one was a licensing proposal for a medical invention being spearheaded by Axion Labs.

Vlad snickered. ‘ I wonder how everything is going on her end right now?’ Something heartbroken flickered across his face and he sighed. Leaning back against his chair, he looked to the ceiling wistfully. ‘ Pfff. She's capable...just because I haven't seen her in three months doesn't mean she can’t manage.’

Returning his attention the documents on his desk, he flicked open the file he had been looking over the Friday prior and began signing pages and initialing lines. After some time, he dejectedly opened his desk drawer and picked up the files from the previous Mayor’s term.

Chapter Text

As soon as Bertra clicked the disconnect button on her cell phone a ghoulish smile spread across her lacquered lips.

“Interesting.” Straightening her posture and smoothing out the crinkles in her navy blue suit, she daintily reached over to the file cabinet next to her. Her nails trailed across the file names rhythmically.

“Jail...nope...school...nope…..ah..here it is.”

Flicking her wrist, she casually yanked out the file from its nested brethren and leafed through the contents. Standing up from her chair, she smiled. Her heels clicked as she spun around and exited the room. With the file perched between her bosom and steel blue nails, she walked briskly through the hall. The cop standing by the security center at the front of the building watched her in passing and quickly got up from his seat to pursue her.

She rolled her eyes openly and smiled smugly. Taking a brief glance at the man, she phased into the abandoned storage closet at the end of the hall before he could see where she went. Her green eyes flashed crimson and a wicked leering smile ghosted across her features. A deep male voice issued from her mouth once the portly officer retreated back to his post.

“No matter how many times I claim to be married in this guise some blasted imbecile tries to court me.”

An ecstatic laugh echoed from behind her and still grinning Bertra, turned toward Spectra. Spectra sat leisurely on top of the janitor’s desk with her legs crossed. Her flame red pixie cut was slicked back against her ivory skin and she wore an elegant red sundress. Her green, almond-shaped eyes looked to Bertra wistfully.

“Took you long enough.” She mused. Her thin lips curled into a devilish, toothy grin. “ How is our little meal doing?”

Bertra scuffed and transformed back into the form they both preferred. Now back in his regular black suit and red vest, Bertrand sneered and reached over to rub his feet. “ Firstly, love? Why am I still masquerading as his secretary? You are the natural female here, not me. I'm getting tired of being flirted with by every man in this building with the exception of our little test case.”

Spectra’s eyes rolled at the question, “ Darling? I can’t change forms like you and he’s already seen me before.”

She casually stepped down from the desk and looped her hand under his chin to redirect his pouting and annoyed face. Winking, she teased, “ I’d be counterproductive love.”

Bertrand chuckled hoarsely and blushed, “ Yeah...but heels are annoying and transforming into a woman for almost twenty years is downright irksome and embarrassing.”

Spectra smiled apologetically and reached for his face again. Kissing him on the nose, she grinned. Her eyes, for a split second, flashed crimson and her hair faded to smoke at the contact for the briefest of moments.

Bertrand in response casually smirked. “ It looks like you need to feed off of him again ...your form is shifting back.” She pouted in annoyance and sighed at the observation before questioning worriedly, “ So how is our little bull? In poor spirits, I hope?”

Bertrand frowned. “ Vladimir, apparently, is entertaining company today. From what I have gathered, I am presuming it’s that green-eyed brat.”

Spectra’s eyes widened in surprise. “ Oh!” Her mouth pursed and a tentative smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “ And they haven’t torn each other limb from limb yet?”

“ From what I heard over the phone the older halfling is annoyed but otherwise not in the killing mood.” Bertrand lifted up the stacked file in his hands to accentuate the point. “ In fact, it seems he will be working at home today.”

Spectra pouted. “ Aw...but I was looking forward to some quality time with him this evening.”

Bertrand snickered and casually rubbed his mustache at the idea. “ I can drug him again if you’d prefer? I still have to get him to consume some more of that spectral poison to weaken that blasted seal…” He scratched his gray hair tiredly, “It's been too long between doses. I can add the sleeping agent to the drink I am going to bring him when I drop these off.” Bertrand pointedly lifted the papers again.

Spectra put a finger to her chin and paused in thought to mull it over. Looking back to Bertrand, she sighed. “ Go ahead and drug him. I won’t feed with that little brat around, but I can get to him later after the nightmares set in.”

Bertrand nodded. “ And what do we do about Vladimir’s sudden change of face? He didn’t sound like Daniel being in his home was truly problematic…”

“ I want to see how this plays out.” She crumpled a hand under her chin wistfully. “Now that that other demonic is purged, his seal and body will no doubt begin developing to higher levels.”

She yawned. “ Watching him wriggle and writhe against his own heart for two and a half years now had been swell and all but I think it's time we started thinking more progressively…” She paused and smiled at Bertrand. “ We’ve been lurking in the shadows for too long hubby.”

He grinned broadly.

Cracking her fingers, she amusedly questioned, “He has reached his freezier point correct, Bertrand?”

“Love? I think after nearly twenty years of being tied to his hip I would notice any physical changes he has.”

She pouted and he rolled his eyes and smirked in retort. “ To answer your question? Yes. He has been the same for some time now.”

She smiled and her eyes flashed red again. Crossing her legs on the desk with a look of bliss, she continued, “Bertrand? I want you to spy on Vladimir some more. See how he interacts with the boy. His heart is so torn and shattered right now it’s almost irredeemable. A knight turned into a fading flicker of his former strength and vigor. I want to see the light in his eyes extinguished again, don't you?”

Bertrand immediately perked up. “Are you saying we will finally be moving forward with the plan?”

Spectra waved her hand casually in the air and scoffed. “ I'm not about to let another demon take my meal away. We’ve waited too long. Now that we are sure the bull has no horns and that he is in his prime, I think it would be in our best interests to tighten the fence and start stunning our prize. If we are lucky we may even be able to snag a young calf in the process!”

At the thought of not having to dress as a ditzy blonde secretary anymore, Bertrand’s smile flickered into view and exposed a set of needle-like fangs. “ How do you want to proceed?” He asked giddily.

Spectra smiled warmly, “Firstly, make sure you wear that spectral cloaking device you stole from Vladimir and deliver that parcel and the poison before he gets agitated. Watch how he interacts with that Fenton brat. Once sure of their status, whether friend or enemy, report back here and we will plan accordingly for the harvest.”

Bertrand’s entire face lit up in anticipation. Shifting back into Bertra, he curtly nodded to his spouse and phased through the ceiling with the paperwork for Vladimir.

Spectra stared off into the distance smugly. “ It’s finally time I finished what we started all those years ago Vladimir…” Her eyes flickered with energy and she grinned exposing her own needle-like fangs.

“ Everything is just going to turn out fabulously!”

And with a giddy laugh, she dissipated from the room.

Chapter Text

Daniel, having grown bored and wishing to shy away from agitating Vladimir, was reading a book in the entranceway when the knock echoed from the door. Closing the worn out astronomy guide, he had pilfered from Vlad’s library, he casually set the book on the shelf in the hallway and strolled across the red area rug.

Grasping onto the rounded handle, he boredly opened the large door.

A beautiful young woman in her thirties or forties stood in the doorway clutching a styrofoam cup and some documents in her slender hands. Daniel could almost see his own crimson blush reflected in her deep emerald eyes. Adjusting her grip on the items, she swept a curled blonde lock behind her glasses and smiled at Daniel.

‘ Holy cow...she’s gorgeous.’

“ Is Mayor Masters at home? Usually, he gets the door…” Seeing his confusion, she smirked and chuckled slightly. “ I take it you’re his guest? He asked me to drop by with his work from city hall. He has quite a bit to sign.”

Daniel, seeing the papers more clearly, immediately jolted his sluggish brain into focus.

“Come on in… I am pretty sure he is in his office.” Stepping aside, he motioned her through the doorway.

She grinned widely.

Still blushing he quickly turned from her and led her robotically around the corner and to Vlad’s door. Knocking on the door, he hollered without thinking about his surroundings, “ Hey! Vlad? There’s a chick out here who looks like Cameron Diaz with some papers you need to sign!”

Bertra laughed behind him and Daniel felt his blush becoming almost intolerable. Pure undiluted humiliation laced across his features at the thought of what he had just screamed aloud.

‘ I am such an idiot.’ Internally facepalming himself, he jumped slightly at Vlad’s voice.

Vlad, completely oblivious to Daniel’s words, absently responded, “Come in, the door is unlocked.”
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vlad tiredly rubbed his hair out of his face. The memo on fund distributions from the previous mayor had several gaps between months and portions of information whited out. Piecing together exactly where the town’s money had gone to during the rather rampant ghost issues the past few years was extremely difficult. Vlad groaned. Amity didn't have a lot going for it in state and government funding unless you counted ghost research. If anything the entire city was almost becoming codependent with the paranormal. A sad irony Vladimir was going to have to alleviate as the city’s new protective saint. Being assigned as mayor after the election meant he had to quelm the vast majority of paranormal issues in the area. Funding for the city would have to come from other places.

‘On the bright side? Fewer ghost hunters will frequent the area and the GIW will have a harder time nosing into this town’s affairs.’ Vlad rubbed his temple and highlighted several names and public sponsors from the list. ‘The only way to dig this town out is to start partnering with both private and public organizations and looking into special sales taxes in the area….uh….people are going to hate me more than the ghosts…’

Vlad tiredly scratched out another line item on his notepad. ‘ If we look into bank based infrastructure we can at least get some of the roads and the public transit in this town re-established.’

A knock at the door and muffled words could be heard. Vlad tiredly set down his pen.

“ Come in, the door is unlocked.”

Glancing up at the now open door, Vlad straightened his tie. “ Mrs. Dolce? Quick as ever I see.”

Seeing Daniel, he sighed, “ I do hope he hasn’t kept you too long.”

Bertra giggled at this. “ He just was a little confused at the door, other than that he would make an excellent doorman, Vladimir.” She paused and reached her free hand to Daniel’s cheek. Lightly pinching, she joked, “ Why I could just eat him up!”

Vlad chuckled dryly and tiredly rubbed his eyes. “ How are things at city hall?”

Bertra rolled her eyes, “ Jim had his shift today.”

Vlad smiled and seeing Daniel’s smitten expression he openly commented, “ Maybe you should just wear your wedding band? I doubt he would bother you so vehemently if he saw a visible sign you were attached to someone.”

Daniel’s eyebrow twitched in irritation at the smug grin Vlad was flashing in his direction.

‘Sorry little badger…. Miss Gray or Miss Manson would be far more suitable.’

Bertra smirked. “ You know that gets in the way of my writing.”

Vlad rolled his own eyes and she stepped forward with the drink and the papers in hand.

Vlad looked at the styrofoam cup questioningly, “ What’s this?” He tentatively poked at the brown cup with his pen as she set it down on his desk.

Bertra smiled warmly. “ Vladimir? You’ve been under the weather for weeks. It's a herbal tea.”

Vlad snickered. “ Herbal this...herbal that...You’ve been giving me stuff constantly since around the time this entire fatigue set in. I'm not sure if it's enduring or if I am just that pathetic…”

Vlad tiredly reached for the cup only for Daniel’s eyes to catch his. The boy was looking at him worriedly and eyeing the cup suspiciously.

‘Strange….What is he..?’ Vlad casually retracted his hand from the cup and instead reached for the papers from Bertra.

She gently handed him the documents. “ Can you blame me? You've collapsed on and off several times the last few weeks.”

Daniel’s eyes widened at the revelation and Vlad grimaced slightly. “ It's just fatigue Bertra. I have a lot on my plate."

Bertra frowned. “ Fatigue huh? What about when your head got split open two weeks ago, Vladimir? You’re lucky I stumbled onto you.”

Daniel’s eyes were round with horror.

‘ Goddammit it. Shut up, Bertra.’

She, in response to his self-loathing features, gently pushed the cup forward. Daniel’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at the beverage. Vlad defeatedly took the cup and downed the contents, much to Daniel’s horror and Bertra’s amusement.

Tiredly rubbing his eyes, Vlad set down the cup and lamented, “ Bertra? I drank it. Please stop shelling out my workplace woes in front of my guest.”

She raised her arms mockingly. “Pfff. You're the one who refuses to go to the hospital, Vladimir.” Vlad grimaced and Daniel seeing a sore subject was being touched on again left the room.

Vlad redirected his gaze to the desk and lifted the papers Bertra had given him with a defeated sigh. “ Thank you for dropping these by. I’ll have them to you by tomorrow morning at the latest.”

Bertra smirked. “ How about tomorrow evening? You still have to attend that firefighters’ fundraising event.”

Vlad smiled tiredly, “ I almost forgot about that….Thank you for reminding me, Mrs. Dolce.” He paused and his voice became slightly apologetic. “ You can take the rest of the day off to spend with your spouse Bertra, I doubt they need you at city hall.”

She bowed low at this and smiled up at him with an amused smirk, “ Thanks, Mr. V!” She chortled.

‘ Ah...the stupid irksome nickname she uses to piss me off strikes again.’

Rolling his eyes, Vladimir tiredly flicked through the file Bertra had given him. Smirking, she leaned over the desk and questioned, “ Vladimir? Do you need the stock reports for Dalv or Vlad Co.? I know you’re considering separating yourself from-”

Vlad tiredly raised a hand to silence her. “ Mrs.Dolce? I haven't decided anything yet.”

Absently brushing his fingers over his brow, Vlad paused in thought. ‘I honestly have no clue where I'm going with anything lately. Do I want to separate myself permanently? Is it responsible to leave Trisha at the reigns of the company while I become a full-time mayor? Can I continue keeping both this and the company up?’ Vlad's fingers rubbed against his temple. ‘God my head hurts.’

“ Mrs. Dolce? If you could just gather a list of our most recent acquisitions for me to look over, that would be preferable. I'm considering meeting with Trisha to discuss the future of the company in a few weeks time.” He rubbed his eyes tiredly at the thought.

Mrs. Dolce smiled warmly and nodded her head in agreement. Her curled hair, piled in a sloppy bun, shook and bounced against her head as she spoke, “Sure, I’ll get right on that tomorrow morning.”

Vlad grinned tiredly. “ Thanks.”

Turning from him she rounded toward the door only to hear a drawer being opened. “Bertra Ann? Wait a moment. I need you to fax these over to Trisha.”

He stepped around the desk to hand her the documents. Spinning back around, Bertra had a brief moment of panic as her heel snagged against the rug and she pitched forward.

‘Shit! Catch her Vladimir.’

Vlad quickly stepping forward and allowed Bertra to collide with his chest.

Pure agony enveloped everything and he grimaced.

Chapter Text

Bertrand had to restrain himself from revealing his ghost form out of sheer humiliation and aggravation. Having tumbled over the rug with every assurance that the red and brown Persian spread below would meet his human guise head on, he was startled instead by his collision with his employer.

He didn't look up for what seemed like an eternity. ‘I hate this form so much….’

Finally looking up at Vlad, Bertrand swallowed his pride and feigned a humiliated smile as he straightened his posture. “Oops!”

‘ I'm going to enjoy tearing you apart Masters. Twenty years of me acting like this are finally going to pay off.’

Vlad frowned and he raised an eyebrow in concerned annoyance, “Maybe you should start wearing flats?” He questioned somewhat sarcastically.

Bertrand's face turned beat red with embarrassment. The bull was being condescending. Opening his mouth to reply, Bertrand paused and his eyes widened.

‘ That aroma….. I know this scent.’ Bertrand smiled happily. ‘The rich, iron sweet scent of one’s life ebbing away.’ Bertrand giggled. ‘ Is it his? Let's find out!’

Vlad's eyebrow raised in confusion at Bertra’s odd behavior but was quickly quelmed by her sarcastic answer, “ Please! A woman without her heels?”

Turning, Bertrand began slowly and clumsily picking up the papers that had fluttered to the floor from their brief collision. ‘ Come on Vladimir, I know you'll help… you’re to kind hearted.’

Sure enough, Vlad rolled his eyes in annoyance and reached down to pick up a sheet near his desk. Bertrand smiled broadly. The scent was stronger now.

Glancing over his shoulder and seeing Vlad grimacing in agony, a warm spark fluttered through his core. Quickly standing with the page, Vlad gently handed it to his presumably clumsy and fool hearted secretary. Tapping the pile in his hands, Bertrand smiled openly, “Thank you, Vladimir.”

 

Vlad in response smiled half-heartedly and looped his right arm around Bertra’s shoulder to lead the presumably female human out the door. He was so distracted by his pain, he failed to notice the flicker of scarlet that laced through Bertrand's eyes.

“ Goodbye Vladimir, see you soon.” ‘ I do have to make sure the dosage is still working after all.’

“ Goodbye Mrs. Dolce. See you tomorrow evening.”

‘ Oh, our visit will be so much sooner than that Vladimir…’

Chapter Text

As soon as the office door shut, Vlad gasped in agony. ‘Ow….ow...ow..Damn it Bertra!’

Every time he turned around someone or some unfortunate accident was ripping apart his almost healed flesh. Strolling toward the desk, he tiredly leaned against the wood and took several calming breaths until the pain from the impact subsided. Using one hand, he began unbuttoning his shirt while the other continued gripping the desk for support.

“ Oh Butter Biscuits…..” He snarled. “ Just what I needed, a reopened chest wound!”

Glaring down at his now bleeding chest, he lamented the stupidity of his little chivalrous act. Placing a palm on his head, he groaned. ‘ If Daniel sees this I'm never going to hear the end of it.’ Vlad paused at the thought and smirked tiredly.

Looking around casually, Vladimir phased into Plasmius and slunk upstairs to his master bathroom. He then quickly made his way to the medicine cabinet perched below his sink. While examining the cut Vlad couldn't help but roll his eyes at his own blatant stupidity.

“ Why did I phase when I could have just teleported the kit to me? Even if I didn't settle on doing that, I could still have just teleported to it, right? God….my head hurts..” Swaying slightly and angrily throwing aside the linen bandages on his chest, he began patching the last two remaining cuts on his abdomen. Squeezing the counter, he grimaced.

‘Why did Daniel look at that cup like that? He almost looked at it like it was poisoned….’ Vlad smiled sadly at the thought. ‘ I doubt after nearly two decades she would just start poisoning me out of the blue...it's more likely for her to slap me upside the head with a pile of paperwork.’ He snickered.

Taking one last look at himself in the silver framed mirror. He buttoned his shirt absently with one hand and with a curt nod to himself, teleported. Popping back in a cloud of pink and purple, Vladimir reappeared in his office. He wearily sat down at his desk and sighed before he began looking over the papers again.

A splitting burn ripped through his abdomen a few minutes after he finished initialing and signing everything and his head began feeling heavy.

‘ Shit. I must have lost to much blood…’

Vlad dropped his pen to his desk with a dull clatter and cradled his head. There was a painful, tingling throb climbing up his throat. A sharp lemony and static scent reverberated off of everything.

‘Ectoplasm?.....What’s going on…?’

A wisp of black smoke curled from Vlad’s jaw and the burning intensified. Standing abruptly, he brought a hand to his lips and cradled his mouth. He coughed spastically and his free arm knocked over the cup splayed on his desk as he shakily tried to keep his footing.

Everything felt feverish.

His legs buckled a few moments later and the room went dark abruptly. Unable to fight the fog, Vlad tiredly clawed at the floor until his limbs went numb. Now unconscious, he failed to notice the figure looming over him with an expression of disbelief and rage.

“It would seem the bull is beginning to grow his horns after all this time. We can't have that….”

Chapter Text

Daniel’s ghost sense was going bonkers.

Darting up from his spot in the hallway, he quickly transformed and rushed to the guest bedroom he had temporarily claimed to retrieve the Fenton Thermos. Feeling the cold intensifying near the part of the house Vladimir was in Daniel paled considerably.

‘Oh….oh no…’

Flying through the wall at breakneck speed, Daniel glimpsed Vlad’s hair splayed out from behind the desk and immediately threw down the thermos. Flying through the desk and cupping a hand under Vlad’s head, he stiffened at the perspiration lacing across the adult’s forehead. Vlad’s fever was back.

“Fruit-Loop? Hey, what happened?” He gently shook him but seeing no response, grimaced. Eyeing the cup next to them, Daniel’s face lit with distrust.

‘ There’s no way…..His secretary couldn't be poisoning him, could she? What if Sam and Tucker are right…?’

Vlad moaned against Daniel’s touch and his brow furrowed.

“ Plasmius? Wake up? Please?” Vlad shifted in Daniel’s hold and numbly tried reaching out to his wrist. Opening his eyes sluggishly, he coughed. “....I think…..I need….to go back to bed….Everything-...It's so hot…”

Daniel frowned. “ Fruit-Loop? Your secretary said you've been passing out…”

Vlad frowned and grimaced. “Yeah….last few weeks….the fever keeps coming...back.”

Daniel’s green eyes turned away from Vladimir in anger and worry. “ Mind telling me why you didn't share this earlier?”

Vlad’s head fell deeper into Daniel’s hand. In a faded whisper, he answered. “...Didn’t...really come up….with… the other wounds….” He coughed. “ Ed….and Romulus….they told me to stay at home…..They noticed it to….”

Sighing, Daniel looped his arms under Vlad and began carrying him to his bedroom. Vlad, still speaking, swallowed, “...I don’t….understand though...I was actually...getting a little better… this weekend…”

Daniel’s eyes widened.

“ Vlad? Don’t take anything from that woman again...She claims that stuff is herbal but I am starting to suspect it's something far more dangerous.”

Vlad’s watering blue eyes locked onto Daniel’s curiously.

“...I noticed….the way you looked….at the cup…..You think….she would?” Vlad coughed. His eyes began closing and his breathing became slightly labored. “...If…..she wanted to kill...me…..she has had...plenty of chances...the last…..two decades….”

Daniel sighed. “ She may not be trying to kill you. Who knows? She may be genuinely trying to help you. The problem is that some herbs in this world are potent against ghosts. She may accidentally be making your condition worse.”

Vlad nodded tiredly and began lapsing in and out. Daniel noticed and shook him slightly. “Hey? Vlad? Try to stay awake a little longer… I need you to change into your pajamas. I’m not letting you out of your room for the rest of the day.”

Vlad groaned, “.....Sleep….sleep sounds good….Everything is so….hot...it hurts…”

Daniel frowned and phasing into Vlad’s room sat him against the bed. “Fruit-loop? You’re starting to pass out...Stay awake just a little longer?Please?”

Coughing, Vlad attempted to forcefully open his eyes. Looking at Daniel through watery slits, he rasped, “ It’s getting...hard to breathe…..”

Daniel felt his ectoplasm run frigid at the statement. “Vlad…” Reaching down, he put a hand to Vlad’s forehead and felt the still increasing heat on the elder halfa's flesh. His eyes widened in fear.

‘It’s worse than last time.’

Patting Vlad’s cheek, he reprimanded. “ Stay awake you stupid, old Packer’s nut.”

Vlad’s eyes widened slightly and he growled through his fever. “Fucking...Packers….”

Daniel’s eyes widened. ‘ That has got to be the fever talking……’

Vlad swayed against Daniel and slumped against his shoulder. Now panting, he whispered, “ …..Everything….is spinning….Make it stop…The heat…..”

Daniel, wrapping an arm around Vlad’s shoulder to steady him, gently pulled him to his feet. “ Vlad? We have to cool you off.”

Vlad winced as he was half dragged, half carried to the bathroom. “What’s….going on?….What are we-?” In response, Daniel lifted Vlad up over the bathtub.

Vlad’s eyes widened slightly in confusion. Daniel began filling the tub with cold water. “ Vlad? Phase out of your shirt and coat.”

Vlad, seeming to recover slightly from the drop in temperature, nodded his head and attempted to concentrate only to sway. Daniel caught his arm before he became submerged. Vlad’s breathing was heavy and labored. “Badger..?.... I can’t….Powers...glitching…again...”

Daniel feeling Vlad’s forehead bit his lip in agitation. “ Vlad? You’re burning up...I’m going to fix you ...Just go to sleep. I’ll figure this out.”

Vlad protested slightly against him. “.....Sleep?......I need it…..but ….sleeping….means the dreams….they'll come back… with this fever...I don't want…”

Vague snippets of conversation and Vlad’s sudden screaming fit the day prior came to mind with resounding clarity. ‘ He has nightmares…?’

Seeing Vlad was still struggling against the fever, Daniel sighed and phased his shirt and jacket off. Vlad grimaced and his powers instinctively tried to cloak his scars and his fangs from Daniel’s view. Panting, Vlad shook against himself. Daniel’s brow furrowed. “ Fruit-Loop? Just relax...Stop trying to hide the scars.”

Sweating, Vlad whispered. “M’...not doing it…...My seal….It’s a protective measure….Originally it was something I did myself….Now it's reflex….I can’t stop it….”

Daniel raised an eyebrow at this and then duplicated. His doppelganger casually strolled over to the first aid kit under the sink for the thermometer while Daniel kept Vlad upright. Vlad was still shaking but his voice came out more level and slightly clearer, “ …..Still burning….but not as bad now…..”

“ Vlad, open your mouth… I have to see how bad your fever is.” Vlad tiredly complied. Grimacing, he allowed Daniel to place the thermometer under his tongue. A few seconds later a muffled beep emanated. Taking it out of Vlad's mouth, Daniel glanced at the number readout and nearly dropped the device. Looking from Vlad to the thermometer in horror, he questioned, “ Um, when was the last time you changed the batteries in this thing?”

Vlad winced as he looked up at Daniel from under his bangs.” Its new….Skulker made me get it….haven't used it yet…” Seeing Daniel’s expression, he grimaced, “ How...bad is...it?”

Daniel looked from Vlad to the thermometer in morbid fascination. “ Erm….I mean….you’re not dead, obviously, but um….”

Vlad raised an eyebrow and numbly reached over to grab Daniel’s wrist. Looking at the temperature readout, he snickered, “ …...Must be broken….that doesn't make…...any sense….”

Daniel, however, was having some doubts. He could feel the heat coming from Vlad’s hand. “ What if it isn’t?”

Vlad swayed slightly and dropped Daniel’s wrist. “ If….it isn't…..we have issues….one hundred and twenty-five….degrees...should not be possible….I would be a corpse.” Vlad grasped his head and his body fell forward before Daniel could catch him. Vlad, however, quickly latched out an arm before he became submerged. Panting, he added, “Water….may have messed with it.”

Daniel smiled tiredly. “ Vlad? I'm going to give you some fever meds.”

Giving Vlad the correct dosage, he waited a few minutes in silence for Vlad to stop shaking. Seeing Vlad somewhat more coherent, he questioned, “Feeling any better Fruit-Loop?”

Vlad nodded and looking up he addressed the teen, “ Daniel?...I’m …..Well…. I want to apologize...You're probably onto something with those herbal remedies….”

Daniel beamed at Vlad’s slur-free speech, “ You do realize I'm sticking around a lot longer after this little escapade, right?”

Vlad shivered and chuckled. “ At this point? I think I’m thankful I have the company...the last thing I need is a repeat of what happened last week.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “ What happened last week?”

Vlad smiled sheepishly and tiredly crossed his arms. “ With Edmond and Romulus in the zone, I was forced to intervene in a territory dispute between lovers. Johnny 13 seems set on West Park Avenue because of some ritzy stores that are attracting attractive female clientele. Him setting up shop for himself and his unchivalrous behavior agitated Catherine, and somehow I ended up in the mix.” Vlad snickered and tiredly rubbed his eyes. “ I honestly don’t blame her. After fifty-five years of being practically tied to each other by the hip, him flouncing after every girl in Amity was bound to get him on her bad side again. He thought he was in the right, but the way he went about the situation screamed moronic. We got into a minor argument over one of the buildings and he lashed out with Shadow….”

Daniel gaped and interrupted, “Wait? You didn’t fight him?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ No, I didn’t fight him. The ghosts you face aren't really evil Daniel...They just get confused fairly easily and become overemotional.”

Daniel rubbed his temple. “ Okay finish your recap of your confrontation with those two and then explain what you mean about the ghosts I face.”

Vlad nodded and yawned tiredly. Looking up at Daniel, he questioned, “Badger? Can we finish this from the bed….I’m kinda falling asleep here….”

Daniel shook his head yes and helped Vlad to his feet. Turning them both intangible to relieve Vlad of the water on his clothes, he smirked. Vlad smiled from under his loose hair. “ Thanks….I still can’t use my abilities right now. This little feverish episode packed a lot more punch than I bargained for.”

Staring awkwardly away from Daniel, he winced as they made their way to the bedroom. Vlad staggered as they rounded the bed and he tiredly reached down and opened the drawer in his nightstand for another pair of sweats and a tank top. Glancing at Daniel, he cleared his throat. “….Daniel?…. Can you let me change in privacy for a moment?”

Daniel glared at him in annoyance. “ Fruit-loop? We are both guys, and I hate to tell you this but I have seen you in your birthday suit before.” Vlad furrowed his brow in agitation and bit his lip. “ Humor me? Please? I have scars everywhere from attacks and tortures and honestly, it’s a little unnerving having a teenage boy seeing them all…”

Daniel stiffened and his features became somber. Vlad grimacing, looked to the floor in embarrassment and self-hatred. His hands gripped the fabric in his fingers like a lifeline. Daniel opened his mouth to speak and cringed.

‘Man….I didn’t think about that…’

“ Vlad….I…”

Vlad’s shoulders slumped, “Daniel? Please….I consented to explain Catherine and Johnny’s spat, not my scars…. Just give me a few seconds of reprieve so I can change?”

Daniel nodded and turned around. A few moments later, Vlad coughed and spoke again, “Okay, Daniel. I'm done…”

Daniel, shifting into Daniel Fenton, looked back at Vlad and stifled a laugh. “ You know Vlad? Those suit you way better than your suits.” Vladimir, now sitting on the bed raised an eyebrow and smirked, “Oh, I'm sure I'll enjoy any insult you’re about to dish out at me little badger...Fair warning though? I’m of much sounder mind than a few minutes ago and am quite verbally volatile..”

Daniel rolled his eyes and waved his hand in the air to accentuate Vlad’s attire. “Actually? It's not really an insult.” Daniel smiled reassuringly at Vlad, “ It kind of makes you look like a monster hunter or a martial artist.”

Vlad’s eyes widened and flashing red, he exposed his fangs in a grin. “ Ah, well that's not too far off ….”

Daniel stiffened and his eyes widened slightly. Narrowing them, he rolled his eyes. “You’re not going to explain that yet, are you?”

Vlad starred toward his lap and snickered. “ I think I would rather explain my job more fully with Ed and Romulus here…. It’s a lot to take in and they would, no doubt, be more efficient at explaining it to you.”

Daniel scratched his head tiredly. “Fine...fine..” Crossing his legs he directed, “ How about you lay down already Fruit-Loop and finish that yarn about you being a middleman to a lover’s quarrel?”

Vladimir sighed and leaned back against the pillows.

Chapter Text

“ Do you want the full run down or the basics?” He glanced at Daniel smugly.

Daniel grinned, “ You might as well give me a full recap. I haven't been in Amity for over a week and having met them both, I can’t see how you handled the situation without punching someone.”

Vlad laughed quietly and then wincing laced an arm across his stomach. “ Full version it is then.”

Rubbing a hand through his hair and clearing his throat, Vlad began, “Johnny Miller, or as you know him by his ghost name, Johnny 13 has always been a roundabout, youthful spirit around Kitty.”

Daniel raised a hand to stop Vlad and Vlad raised an eyebrow in mild annoyance. “I haven't even started yet and you're already asking questions?”

“Wait…. His last name was Miller? Do all ghosts also go by their living names or…?”

Vlad sighed and explained. “Ghosts and half-ghosts go by their ghost aliases or nicknames but they do have actual names, Daniel. Just like you or I, a ghost was originally given their name. Names in the ghost zone hold power and priority. They are sacred. To use a person’s name, the one given to them when they were first introduced to the world and the one left when they fade from it, is usually only reserved for friendships, formal occasions, and death threats. Not everything you've faced has been a ghost though… Quite a few of your would be enemies are poltergeists. They are ghosts made from emotions and feelings cast off from living people and the dead. Usually, a poltergeist doesn't gain sentience like a human ghost unless multiple people put their power and belief into its formation. They almost assuredly go by simple ghost aliases and nothing more.”

Daniel’s eyes widened in perplexed disbelief and fascination. Vlad seeing the expression chuckled slightly. “You have a lot to learn little badger….”

Crossing his arms, Daniel prodded, “ Okay….one more question before we continue the recap. Poltergeists? Who do I know that’s a poltergeist?”

Vlad smiled wistfully. “ Okay, I'll answer this and then you will let me finish my story correct?”

Daniel nodded and Vlad tiredly focused some energy to his palm. Sweating, he condensed it and Daniel rushed forward. Vlad fell back slightly and when he opened his cupped palm a small octopus lay amusedly between his fingers. Daniel’s jaw dropped. The small specter floated up and danced between them.

“ This is a simple poltergeist, one created by a human or ghost based off of an emotion or idea. They’re quite unstable and often lack barely more than enough power for simple errands and tasks.” The small spirit faded and melted from view and Vlad winced. Coughing, he continued. “ I have two of those you've met before but they tend to dissolve after a few months and need to be remade or repaired…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ You mean you made those two? What was the idea or thought behind them?” Daniel asked somewhat bitterly.

Vlad groaned. “Daniel….I don’t ….” Seeing Daniel’s expression he sighed. “ Daniel? I promised to answer the one question about poltergeists… not a plethora of them.”

Daniel in response rolled his eyes and pointedly snapped, “ Can you blame me for wanting to know why those two kept getting flung at me?”

Vlad grimaced and seemingly resigned, he looked at his lap tiredly and spoke. “ Yes, the octo-twits were my creations, Daniel….but their purpose is to simply be cannon fodder. They're moving target practice, nothing more.”

Daniel, seemingly more confused, opened his mouth and then bit his tongue. “ Fine. You'll elaborate eventually.”

Vlad smiled somewhat relieved and continued. “ Have you met Desiree?”

Daniel nodded, “ Yeah I’ve met her. Are you saying she’s a-”

Vlad nodded and then explained, “Desiree is a unique anomaly, a split personality created by a heartbroken young woman. A genie, she fed off of her host’s desperation and unfulfilled desires. The young harem girl her form was originally created from was courted and used by a man she didn't love with promises of freedom and her own land to govern. The sultan’s wife, however, cast her out and banished her from her land and home to wander the desert as a nomad with nothing but a tattered lamp to keep her company in the cold and searing heat.”

Daniel winced at the story and Vlad rubbing his head tiredly continued, “The girl's emotions and distraught feelings fused with the metal and flickering flames, creating a poltergeist that sought the fulfillment of wishes as a justification for her existence. Desiree’s wishes, however, just like her original creator’s candid dreams, are nothing more than illusions that fade over time. She’s a curse poltergeist, Daniel. You get a wish close to your heart, any desire, fulfilled... but in the end? You yourself become the victim just as her creator did. The lamp became a spectral beacon, and in time, after the harem woman aged and died it was consumed by the ghost zone where it fed on rampant energy from unfulfilled souls.”

Daniel’s eyes were now as wide as saucers. “ Vlad? I know I promised not to ask any more questions but I have one more….and it's kind of important.”

Vlad tensed and became slightly worried.

Daniel shifted into Phantom and pointed at the logo on his chest. “ Um...my friend a while back, she made a wish around Desiree. This logo somehow survived as a result...Why is it still-?”

Vlad chuckled in relief and motioned Daniel forward. “ Daniel?” He mused while poking at the jumpsuit. “ Our spectral forms, or at least our clothes, change based off our emotions and needs. Desiree's wish may have instigated the change but it's doubtful this symbol is a visage left from her handiwork. Trust me. If you still had it from one of her wishes, something precious would have been sacrificed in return. Your personal want for people to stop calling you Inviso-Bill, no doubt, cemented the costume change.”

Daniel sighed, somewhat relieved, and then mimed zipping his lips so Vlad could continue his recap about Kitty and Johnny Thirteen’s fight. Vlad smiled and then tiredly began again, “ As I was saying.”

He narrowed his eyes slightly as if to challenge Daniel. Seeing no further interruption, he continued where he had left off, “ Miller was only seventeen or eighteen years old when he met and fell in love with Catherine. Her father, a preacher, was highly against their relationship. Probably for good reason, considering Johnny’s more than simply flirtatious nature and possessive tendencies. The fact that Kitty was underage did not help their circumstances either. They dated for two years and then abruptly decided that the small town they grew up in wasn’t to their speed. They ran away together. Three months into it they had a lover's quarrel. From what I understand, they were at a truck stop somewhere in the midwest. Probably in Arizona. The scenery Kitty described to me sounds like Sedona, but there is no way for me to know for sure unless I ask again... and, well, that’s not something I am to keen on doing.”

Vlad grimaced and Daniel swallowed. Sighing, Vlad sat up slightly and continued in a slightly more hushed voice. “ Johnny and her stopped in a diner nearby for dinner one late Saturday evening. It was near closing time and there were fairly few people around. Just a bunch of old truckers, tired cooks and two lovey-dovey teenagers. The waitress, however, had her eyes set on Johnny and was flirting with him. He, of course, being a lady killer by nature couldn’t resist flirting back. Kitty was hurt. They argued, words were exchanged, and Miller was left alone in the diner to ponder his mistakes. Catherine, in a fit of anger, stormed out and went to smoke a cigarette by the road.” Vlad rubbed the back of his neck and paused for a breath before continuing.

“A few minutes into her cigarette she went to turn around from the diner only to have Johnny crying and begging for forgiveness next to her. They stood talking in the middle of the road for some time. He apologized in earnest and said he would never abandon her or hurt her on purpose. He was crying, she was crying. They made up….The problem is neither of them saw the truck speeding towards them. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Johnny, being the closer of the two to the truck saw his shadow from the headlights and desperately tried to push Kitty out of the way." Vlad grimaced. “ He died with her and his shadow as the last things he saw. His wish for that shadow to have protected her transferred to his ghost counterpart and created a poltergeist with unlucky tendencies. Shadow’s volatile and protective nature can make it quite the nuisance. Catherine died from internal bleeding thirty or forty minutes later. They both ended up together, just not in the way they would have wanted. He still blames himself for her death and she still blames herself for luring him out into the road by accident.”

Vlad groaned. “ The two of them are still having on and off fights that usually end up as morbid tests of devotion or jealousy.” Vlad tiredly rubbed his eyes.

Daniel, feeling his jaw hanging slightly, closed his mouth and raised an eyebrow. “So… backstory squared away, what happened last week?”

Chapter Text

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ Johnny was taking a stroll in a human guise and snapping pictures of different girls on a stolen smartphone. The little moron didn’t notice Kitty lurking behind him. She got a full view of him turning invisible and knocking up several skirts with Shadow to take a peek at what the poor young ladies were wearing underneath. I was meeting with a few employees from Axion Labs to discuss future projects in stem cell research at a cafe nearby when they started tearing the street open.”

Vlad yawned and his eyes became slightly heavier. “ I was just about to take a sip of my coffee when Shadow flashed by the window. The glass instantly shattered and sprayed all over the place. Coffee cups slid and blasted apart everywhere, serving trays fell over, chair legs broke, several electronics short-circuited. Mass screaming and panic everywhere. Luckily, I had the sound of mind to duplicate my form. While my duplicate evacuated the immediate area, I transformed into Plasmius and snatched Johnny up by the back of his coat. Turning us both invisible to avoid Kitty’s rather irksome kisses, I flew over to the area with new construction downtown...”

Seeing Daniel's slight confusion, he elaborated, “I'm not sure if you know, Daniel, but Kitty is a specialist in portal displacement manipulation. Her kisses? They're kind of like a female version of your ghostly wail except they're defense and not offense. They create a temporary portal into a pocket dimension. The problem with pocket dimensions though is that they are airless voids. Her kisses act as a portal gateway, they can teleport anyone, male or female to a said space in the ghost zone through pathways in these voids. Pocket dimensions fade and rapidly appear over time. Getting stuck in one gives you a twelve-hour window. Not that it would do much good with no air…” Vlad snickered. “ She, thankfully, is merciful enough to transport parts of the environment around her victims into the void before redepositing them in the ghost zone. As one of her past victims… I can testify that the after effects of her little limbo world are beyond confusing...”

Daniel’s eyes widened in terror. “She can do that?” He whispered worriedly.

Vlad winced.

“She uses her necklace to magnify the ability.” Vlad tiredly rubbed his head and laughed nervously.

“ She doesn't quite understand her powers and usually just threatens and brags around other ghosts that whoever she kisses disappears after twelve hours if she doesn't put them back. In reality though? She's too kind-hearted to permanently zap someone out of existence and usually settles on blasting her victims straight to an abandoned mid-western town in the ghost zone with no discernable end until she thinks they've been punished enough.” The adult rolled his eyes.

“ Johnny would definitely know. The idiot has been stranded there multiple times for his tomfoolery.”

Yawning, Vlad continued, “ I figured Miller would not cause as much collateral damage with Shadow if he was out of range of the more crowded areas in the city. Boy, was I wrong.” Vlad snickered and his eyebrow twitched in agitation.

“I mean, when I set him down he was fairly thankful for the quick escape from Kitty’s rampage...but when I asked for the phone? Jez….you couldn’t have seen the guy angrier.”

Putting a hand up in the air, Vlad motioned and mocked, “ Why do I have to give you the phone pops? Better yet? Why are you even in Amity? Aren't your digs in Wisconsin?"

Vlad mimed trying to calm Johnny, “ Jonathan? Just a thought? Maybe let me get rid of that before Catherine decides to strand us in an endless Wild Western rerun?”

Daniel snickered and tried not to laugh. “ Really Fruit-Loop? First name bases, huh?”

Vlad smiled. “ It's either friend them or fight them. I have enough enemies as is and they both are genuinely gentle, if not a bit mischievous, souls.”

Vlad flicked his wrist tiredly and then shot back into the impersonation. Miming Johnny, he raised an eyebrow mockingly and hissed, “ I didn't ask for your help Plasmius! I was doing fine with the foxes before you busted into the henhouse!”

Vladimir facepalmed. Raising an eyebrow toward Daniel, he continued with the reenactment. “ Johnny? You know that just pisses her off. Aren't you supposed to be loyal to her? To protect her and care for her? Heck… aren't you guys set for a wedding again in the zone? I know you two keep pushing it off but maybe this time….”

Daniel's eyes widened in awe, “Wait. Hold up. They're engaged?”

Vlad chuckled sadly. “ Ghosts don't age or change form but their maturity does. They've far surpassed the regular parameters for a healthy relationship at this point and would do much better if they just stopped picking on each other. They have a very bad habit of snuffing and then rekindling a flame that already has sufficient fuel.”

Daniel rubbed his eyes. ‘ I honestly didn't know any of this…. wow….’

Vlad seeing the question was answered, cleared his throat and continued, this time miming Johnny flicking through a phone. “ Pops? I'm not stupid. I was looking for a wedding present.”

Vlad shook his head and then continued, “ Johnny? How was sexually harassing those teenagers in any shape or form associated with a wedding present?”

Vlad snickered. “The poor idiot. He was trying to gauge what underwear would look good on her….”

Daniel snorted, “ Seriously?”

Vlad grimaced. “ My thoughts exactly.”

Vlad, turning back to the story, switched to Johnny and sheepishly turned the phone and rubbed the back of his head. “ Erm… Plasmius? Can you help a brother out… Do you think Kitten would wear-?”

Vlad mimed putting a hand up to stop Johnny. “ Johnny? If you need to find her a present I would be more than happy to help you but first, you have to get rid of that phone!”

Miming Johnny, he thrust the arm holding the phone out angrily and screamed in admonishment, “ Stop being such a square!”

Vlad cringed. Turning to Daniel, he sighed. “ He did it out of reflex. Shadow reacts to his emotions protectively. If he's angered the shadow becomes avaricious.”

Vlad tiredly rubbed his eyes and swayed slightly. Daniel, seeing this, reached out an arm to steady him and then laid him down against the pillows. Vlad smiled in gratitude toward Daniel before sighing and continuing the recap. “We were standing on the sixth floor overlooking a large apartment building currently in the works. Shadow connected against my chest and I blacked out for a split second. Somehow I was able to keep my ghost form up. Johnny was reaching out to help me up when several metal pipes suspended by the crane above us fell. I shielded but was too dazed to keep it up. The shield cracked and I panicked. I tried turning intangible but my powers short-circuited because of the residual energy from Shadow. I was too solid and something hard smacked against the back of my head.”

Vlad swallowed. “ You see… only a few people in the zone know my secret and they guard it quite well. Johnny and Kitty didn't know…. They assumed I was a full ghost.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow intrigued. “ Wait, hold up. You mean your half ghost status is a secret on that side?”

Vlad chuckled. “ Unlike you Daniel? I have way more at stake if the ghosts in the zone knew what I am or what I do for a living. I disguise my heart and breathing around them. They think I'm a full ghost.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow intrigued, “ What happened after you got hit?”

Vlad rubbed his head and winced at the memory. “ That poltergeist’s ability can be quite bothersome. When I got hit my body slumped over the side of the roof and I fell two stories into the scaffolding.”

Daniel's eyes widened in horror. Seeing his expression, Vlad grimaced and tiredly leaned back against the bed to stare at the ceiling. “ That wasn't the end of it though…. Kitty saw him coming toward me and aimed one of those kisses. She was assuming he had dropped the phone or something and was trying to pick it up. The kiss engulfed the entire platform, from what Johnny told me, and both of us got flung into her desert prison in the ghost zone.”

“ Jesus. Fruit-Loop...Seriously?”

Vlad tiredly rubbed his head. “I haven't been sleeping well for a long while now...Too much has been going on… and with all the sudden dizzy spells lately and fevers? Heck… I'm surprised I didn't end up worse off from the entire scuffle.”

Daniel winced. “ So what happened then?”

Vlad smiled bitterly. “ Well, Kitty tends to forget her captured targets for a while…Johnny and I were stuck and he knew it. I kept darting in and out of consciousness as he carried me into the ghost town. Ironically? There are no actual ghosts living there in her little prison space… Nothing but ungodly heat, orange sand, dilapidated buildings and reddish-yellow spectral succulents everywhere. The entire world is spiraled in on itself….If you were to look up you would just see a blue fog surrounding even more desert above you.” Vlad sighed.

“ My head was bleeding pretty bad...and my arm was dislocated. Other than that I was surprisingly pretty injury free from the fall. I couldn't stand correctly or make any sudden movements, but I blame that on the concussion.”

“ How did Johnny take you being a human?” Daniel asked intrigued.

Miming Johnny again, Vlad panickedly waived his hands in the air, “Plasmius? Are you-?” Vlad paused and mimed eyes widening.

He chuckled, “ I passed out again before I got the full view of his reaction but it's not hard to imagine from the way he was worriedly taking care of me like a mother hen when I came to in the saloon an hour or two later. The poor guy kept screaming in desperation for Kitty to let me out so I could get help but she didn't listen to him for several hours. He actually bandaged my head and was keeping the fever down fairly well, all things considered.”

Vlad’s eyes were now starting to close and his head was falling further into the pillows. Daniel smiled. “ Kitty eventually zapped us back. It was around midnight and I had taken a bit of a turn for the worse. My breathing was labored and I couldn't focus correctly or talk without swaying in Johnny’s hold or passing out. Kitty, thankfully, had the sound of mind to put the lover's quarrel on hold temporarily so they could drag me back home. I woke up in my bed with them both nervously leaning over me. Kitty, in particular, was heartbroken that she had blasted me into a desert with a severe head injury.”

Seeing Vlad starting to pass out, Daniel spoke. “ Fruit-Loop? I think you could use the rest right now, let's put this on hold. I'll come back in a few hours with some food.”

Vlad rolled his eyes sluggishly and then chuckled tiredly, “ Sure…. I guess I am starting to conk out again, aren't I?”

Daniel nodded and gently draped a sheet over Vlad. Vlad sheepishly looked away from him. “ Erm….Daniel? I have to go somewhere tomorrow. It's unavoidable...and I don't trust my current condition. I'm fairly good at acting normal around other people when the situation requires it but if I blackout in public….”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “ Is Vlad Plasmius asking me to go to work with him?”

Vlad tensed and his eyebrow twitched. Mumbling under his breath, he growled, “ Well it's not like I can just ring up Ed or Romulus in my condition! They've been out of range for over a week now. Usually, when it gets this bad...I have them to keep guard so nothing takes advantage of my situation or wounds.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow and looked at Vladimir somewhat angrily. “This bad?”

Vlad groaned. “ Every once in a while I get hurt doing my job… Injuries this severe are rather rare. Honestly? I've become somewhat reliant on them to help keep up appearances in public the last few weeks. Skulker has saved my ectoplasmic tush at least three times in that time frame. And Romulus got me away from my secretary before she could snag me away to a hospital after my head split open at that party two weeks ago.”

Daniel sat back down on the edge of the bed. “ Vlad? What exactly happened? I know I said I wanted you to sleep for a bit, but I'm curious about how you got in that situation.”

Vladimir winced. “ I was fine for the most part. Actually, more than fine… I was feeling better than I had in weeks. After I made a speech I retreated to the balcony with my drink. I was just standing and gazing out at the cityscape. Bertra came out and we talked for a bit. I set down my glass. She excused herself and went inside. And then everything started swaying. I couldn't see straight and my head began to throb. I stumbled, and the next thing I knew I was in a vivid nightmare. Some time passed and I woke up on the balcony with a large gash near my hairline. Bertra said I fell forward and knocked against the masonry.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed and he raised an eyebrow. “ Fruit-Loop? Did she give you that drink?”

Vlad stiffened and then sighed. “Honestly? I don't remember. After I hit my head everything prior became a vague blur. Romulus and Skulker apparently were searching the city in a blind panic because my seal went spastic. Romulus found me first and distracted Bertra with a paranormal occurrence while Skulker carried me back here.”

“ Your seal? What is that? You've mentioned it several times.”

Vlad groaned. “ Daniel? Let's file that under something I need to explain fully when the two of them return? It's a little complicated. For the purpose of answering what happened to me, let's chalk it up to a paranormal life alert bracelet.”

Nodding his head, Daniel looked back at Vlad's tired features and smiled slightly. “ So… it's that firefighter’s thing tomorrow, right? Do I need to dress formal or-?”

Vlad smiled tiredly. “ No, you don't need to dress up. It's just a small event partnering a bunch of business owners and rich families in junk clothes to help out around the firehouse for an evening of upkeep. Bertra labels it as a dinner party but really it's just a lot of people coming together to clean the building and donate funds over a few slices of pizza.”

Daniel grinned. “ Count me in. You should have just said pizza first. I'm all for free food.”

Vlad snickered and began closing his eyes. “ I'm….all for any food. Usually, I never have time to cook….” He tiredly tried to rub the sleep away.

Sitting up, Daniel checked Vlad's temperature. ‘ He’s not as hot but that fever is still there.’ Vlad looked up at him in mild annoyance as Daniel retracted his glove from his forehead.

“ Get some rest Cheese Head.”

Vlad nodded slightly and then tiredly closed his eyes. He was out before Daniel made it to the door.

Seeing Vlad fully asleep, Daniel retreated to his guest room temporarily to ponder everything he had just learned. Not only had he never known about the usage of names in the ghost zone, but he also didn't know anything prior to Vladimir’s story about Kitty or Johnny Thirteen. The fact that Desiree wasn’t even a true ghost, also was a complete eyeopener.

‘ In thirty minutes I learned more about them than I have on my own in the last two years. God, that's pathetic.’

Chapter Text

Another thought also popped into focus with sickening clarity. Vladimir was probably being poisoned. Thinking about the secretary, Daniel’s heart fluttered slightly. ‘ She looked genuinely concerned. She probably really has good intentions, but now I have to guard him to make sure she doesn't slip anything into his system again. The last thing he needs is another fever in the condition he’s in now.’

Grabbing his phone from the top left corner of the queen mattress it was resting on, he dialed up Sam. The phone rang absently for a few moments and then she answered.

“ Sam’s Roadside Morgue, You hit em’, we hide them. What can I do for you today, Sir Oreo de Ghoul?”

Daniel laughed and, rolling his eyes, answered, “ Nothing much. Really just looking for someone to vent to.”

Sam paused and raised her voice in suspension. “ To vent? Plasmius didn’t do-”

Daniel immediately cut her off, “No, surprisingly he’s really easy to get along with.”

He paused and his voice became contemplative, “ The poor guy collapsed again today.” Daniel tiredly scratched his head.

Sam’s voice, now worried, prodded. “ From those injuries or?”

Daniel grimaced and his voice held evident distrust and worry, “ I think his secretary is poisoning him, Sam. She dropped by with a cup of tea earlier and prodded him into drinking it. An hour later he was collapsed on the floor with the highest fever I have ever seen.” He swallowed. “ He thinks the thermometer was broken by I am starting to suspect that the herbal stuff she keeps giving him is short-circuiting something in his system.”

“ How high was the fever?” Sam questioned worriedly.

Daniel grimaced and sighed a dishearted answer, “ One hundred and twenty-five degrees?”

Dead silence filled the line. After a moment, Sam spoke. “ Has he eaten lunch yet?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow and sat down on the bed tiredly, “ No, he hasn’t. I was going to go and try making him something in an hour or two.”

Sam snorted. “ With the supplies he has? What would you make? A peanut butter sandwich?”

Daniel smiled and his voice lightened in response, “ You’re worried about him aren't you Sam?”

There was another pause and then a rustle of static over the line that signified she had sighed in exasperation. “ Yes, I am worried. It’s kind of hard not to be when someone tries to help you and all you really give them in return is a bowl of soup and a zap of electricity to their torso. I also want to see if I can figure out what that chic has been giving him.”

Tossing his white hair out of his eyes, Daniel smirked. Phasing back into Daniel Fenton, he amusedly added, “ Oh? And Sam? Just so you know? The guy does have fangs.”

She paused and then there was a giggle, “ I fucking knew it.”

Daniel beamed, “ If you think that's entertaining get this, Skulker has a thing for 80’s horror comedies. Apparently, he makes Vlad watch them.”

Sam snorted, “ You’re kidding right?”

Laughing, Daniel tiredly laid down against the bed, “ I wish. I started comparing him to vampires yesterday evening and…”

Daniel stopped abruptly and Sam, noticing the familiar pause, questioned, “Something happened after we left, didn't it?”

“ He panicked and teleported away from me again yesterday. His powers malfunctioned though, and he was dropped from above the roof into the rose bushes in the yard. It started raining and he was delirious from blood loss. I couldn't find him for thirty or so minutes and when I did he was practically comatose.”

Sam’s voice became tinged with horrified shock, “ What made him panic?”

Daniel’s mind raced back toward Vlad’s genuinely fearful and nervous expression right before he had fled from the room. “ I asked him why he decided to be a villain. You should have seen him, Sam.” Daniel paused and tiredly rubbed his eyes. “ He looked like someone was butchered in front of him. All of the color just left his features. It was almost bordering on terrorized.”

Sam sighed. “ I’ll be over in an hour. Keep him out of trouble will you?”

Daniel chuckled, “ Ah yes, keep Plasmius out of trouble… What else do you want, world peace?”

Sam laughed. “ Touche. Tata, for now, your ghostliness.”

And with that, she hung up.

Staring at the ceiling, Daniel arched his arms up and yawned. Glaring at the clock on the end table, he grudgingly sat back up. “ Hmmm… what can I do in this dump for an hour? It's only ten o'clock right now….”

Scratching his chin, he tiredly drifted his gaze to the wall across from him. ‘ I probably should get him an ice pack. That fever is still pretty intense.’

Plopping his sneakers against the wood floor and rolling his shoulders tiredly, he drifted through the floor and to the kitchen. “ Okay…. ice…” Looking at the depleted ice cube tray, he couldn't help but groan in annoyance.

‘ And we have no ic-’ Daniel’s eyes widened and he facepalmed himself. ‘ I'm such a dunce. Ice powers? Duh.’ Grabbing the empty tray and retreating to the sink he, cut on the tap. Torrents of cold water guzzled from the small silver faucet and overflowed the tray. ‘ Shoot.’

Growling and shaking the water from his sleeves Daniel retreated from the sink and activated a cold hand under the tray. Hearing the tell-tale cracking of the water as it solidified he began rummaging through the cabinets for a ziplock bag.

Tossing six or seven hastily created cubes into the bag he wrapped it and returned through the ceiling to Vlad.

Vlad was tossing and turning in his sleep. Daniel’s eyes widened in worry as he observed the adult's unrestful slumber.
‘ Nightmares again? Or is it the fever?’ Walking forward and seeing the sweat and Vlad's obvious discomfort, Daniel assumed the fever.

‘ What the actual hell did she slip him?’

Gently grabbing Vlad's shoulder, he shook him awake. Vlad, bleary-eyed and still exhausted, stared at Daniel curiously and tried to get up, only to sway unsteadily. Pushing Vlad back against the bed, Daniel smiled apologetically. “ I'm just bringing you some ice. That fever is still pretty strong.”

Vlad nodded, “... Thanks.” Daniel, in response, gently pulled back the sheets somewhat. Vlad furrowed his brow at the sudden temperature change and winced.

“ Vlad… Whatever she gave you? I don't know what it is, but your body obviously isn't handling it well.”

Vlad grimaced as the ice pack was placed over his forehead. “ …. I don't know….either.... ugh….” Vlad coughed and started tossing lightly against the pillow. “It's hurting again…”

“ Vlad? Just sleep some of the fever off. I'll cut the temperature down in the room.”

Turning from Vlad’s practically semiconscious form, Daniel activated his core ever so slightly to cool the bedroom.

Vlad's heavy breathing calmed. Looking back to Vlad, and seeing the adult had passed out from fatigue, Daniel smiled warmly.

‘ You really don't sleep much do you, Vlad? You're so tired your body is forcefully knocking you out so you can heal.’

Vlad's brow furrowed in his sleep and he turned slightly. Leaning down, Daniel readjusted the ice pack.

‘ I'll just slip into the library for a new book real quick.’ Glancing at Vlad, he phased through the wall and flew into the library. Golden hues now flickered brightly against the entire floor and a segment of wall across from the stained glass. Seeing a promising stack of books, Daniel floated over and began reading the spines. One, in particular, was glowing a ghostly blue and tingled against his gloved hand. ‘A Condensed Almanac of Ghost Subspecies and Anomalies, Reprint Composed by Jacob T. Marley.’ Daniel gently yanked the tome from the shelf and gazed at it revenantly.

‘ Almanac? As is farming? Or does it mean something else in context to ghosts?’

Gripping the book tightly to his chest, Daniel quickly flew back to Vlad's bedroom and gently opened the cover. A small handwritten note graced the print below the title page.

‘Dearest Vladimir,
I know you are busy with your embassary duties old friend, and so I decided to compile this book for ease of reference. (It's written in English but if you wish I can easily redraft one in mortuus loqui.) I've added young Daniel to the contents, although I doubt you need any of the information listed. Do be careful?
Best wishes, G.W.
P.S. Also, thanks for bailing me out of Walker’s prison. I know you’re mad at me as well for my little Christmas driven rage against Phantom and I hope this alleviates some of your anger towards me. Please know that my use of the writer’s artifact was in poor taste and I will be refraining from touching the device until you are sure of my intent. Please feel free to visit.’

Daniel looked from the book to Vlad’s sleeping form with peaked curiosity. ‘ Wait… Ghostwriter is friends with him?’

Daniel rubbed the bridge of his nose and pursed his lips at the thought as he tried to digest what he had just read. Vlad was angry with Ghostwriter over what had happened during Christmas two years ago? And then there was all of the cryptic vocabulary laced in the note.

‘Embassary? What is that? And what's an artifact?’

Groaning in annoyance, Daniel began reading through the book. The first chapter covered nature poltergeists and how they were created. Daniel read intrigued only to pause at the information once he reached the end of the chapter.

‘Demonic Nature Poltergeists
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
: Vladimir? I know this is no new information to you but I decided to add it. Most of these you've already dealt with, so I'm sure you won't wander long over these brief summaries.
Vortex, is a weather poltergeist created from human prayer. An Anemoi or wind spirit that has strayed from his pursuits and became vindictive against the living and the dead alike in his pursuit of creating perfect chaos. ( As I'm aware, you recently captured him and dissolved some of his memories in the hopes that the observants can corral and detain his abhorrent destructive nature. Granted he doesn't feed off of humans and ghosts, like a regular demonic, but his powers do cause death.) He was born during Greece’s formation as a deity created through prayer. Eurus, the southeast of the world was his given name and so the title still wanes power over his material construct in the zone. He, unlike his three siblings, who have faded and disappeared or evolved to the needs of human desire, retains more individual thought process and egotistical tendencies regarding his purpose. Having been written off as an extra of Greek beliefs and given no season under his birth name, he instead garners attention by creating disaster to sustain himself.
As a tempest spirit, his original form was a horse. He isn't mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns-

A doorbell rang from downstairs and Vlad shifted in the bed. Groaning, he blearily reached a hand to his head. “Ugh….What’s…?”

“ Don't worry Fruit-Loop. I'll get it. Just stay put.”

Vlad shifted slightly but nodded in compliance.

“ If it's Mrs.Dolce… just… tell her I ran out?...er..something?.. uh…” Vlad tiredly flinched at the sound of the doorbell.

Closing the book, Daniel sat up from the armchair and phased downstairs to let Sam in.

Sam looked up from behind several large paper sacks and smiled. Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ Woah… What's all this?”

She rolled her eyes and stepped inside. “ Groceries and lunch. I'm not about to let you half dead morons fend for yourselves.”

Daniel smirked and snatched two of the bags from her. “ I'm touched...It's almost like you have no faith in my survival skills.”

At this, she playfully reached over and kissed his cheek. Daniel turned crimson. A tired chuckle came from the hallway and both Sam and Daniel turned to face the source of the noise.

Chapter Text

Vlad, now with a shirt partially buttoned over his bandages, was leaning slightly against the wall as he sighed in relief. “Sorry…. couldn't restrain checking…. I was worried… My secretary…. has a nasty habit of busting… into my house….”

Swaying slightly, Vlad gripped his head. Two black rings formed around his torso and his eyes widened. “What… the-”

Vlad fell to his knees. Green ectoplasm trailed down the light blue skin under his nose. Daniel and Sam both dropped their bags and rushed toward Vlad. “Woah? Vlad? Can you hear me?”

“ Daniel….I… What's happening... to me?...I-….” Vlad's red eyes began dulling slightly. Sam gently moved Daniel aside. “Quick, go get a blanket.”

Daniel immediately duplicated and sent a clone upstairs for the comforter in Vlad's bedroom.

Sam, now addressing Daniel, questioned, “ What symptoms does he have besides fever?”

Daniel tensed, “ I don't-”

Vlad started trembling. Sam paled. “ Vlad? Sir? What's happening? I need to know so we can help you..”

Vlad's eyes watered. Both Daniel and Sam froze in apprehension. Daniel's clone came back with the blanket as Vlad began passing out. Sam immediately lifted his head up and tried focusing his eyes. “Masters? Come on. What's going on?”

Vlad, still passing out, choked. “ m’ kinda dizzy...throat hurts…” Coughing, Vlad began going limp in Sam's hold. Feeling his pulse she retracted her hand from the feverish heat emanating from his skin. Vlad's bleary eyes fought to stay open.

“ His pulse is a little fast but I don't think he's in any immediate danger. We need to cool him off though.” Sam murmured. “ Daniel? Help me get this blanket under him.” Vlad passed out slightly as he was lifted from the floor and set back down.

“ I think his body shifted because of the fever.” Daniel groaned. Vlad stirred before tiredly slipping under again.

Sam looking over him in worry. “ I think his ghost form actually may be taking more damage. Look at his skin… he's turning green.”

Daniel nodded. “ Sam? Go put the food in the kitchen. I'm going to try cooling him off for a bit.”

Sam frowned and gently protested “ Let’s get him into the kitchen as well? He doesn't need a sore back on top of this and the booth will probably be a better spot for him to rest.”

Daniel grinned. “ Well, you're not wrong.” Looking down at Vlad he frowned. “ Sam? I'm getting really concerned at this point. Whatever she gave him is practically killing him.”

Sam grimaced and furrowed her brow. “ What's this secretary of his like?”

Daniel paused and sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. “ She's hyperactive and enthusiastic, but puts off some seriously creepy mother hen vibes.”

Wrapping his arms under the blanket and Vlad, he hefted him up. Vlad’s head slumped against Daniel’s shoulder and curled against the cool imitating from his chest. A soft sigh escaped his lips as part of the heat was relieved. Both Sam and Daniel froze at the small sound.

Sam pursed her lips. “ Daniel? When your core is activated how cold is your skin?”

Daniel paused, “ Well, it's not really my skin that gets cold, just the energy radiating around me. I’d wager I'm probably about the temperature of an ice cube right now.”

Sam paused in thought. Looking at Vlad, she noticed the green dissipating from under his skin and the slightly steadier breathing. “ I'll put up the groceries, but I think I'd be best if you keep holding onto him right now.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow in annoyance. “ Seriously Sam? What if he wakes up like this?”

Sam rolled her eyes. “ Really? That's what you're worried about? You’re such a doofus, Aldrin.”

Leaning over Vlad, she checked his pulse. “ Your body is working as a stabilizer for him. Whatever she gave him is causing him to go into shock. Right now he's actually getting better from being close to you.”

Daniel looked at Vlad curiously and, noticing the adult’s gentle breathing, sighed in defeat. “So, I'm playing ice pack for a bratty, forty-something-year-old villain? Lovely.”

Sam snickered. “ Well this villain is pretty beat up and sickly.” Feeling Vlad's forehead, she paused and grinned. “ That, and this is excellent blackmail material.”

Vlad stirred slightly in his sleep and Daniel adjusted his hold before leaning down against the wall and sitting with him.

Sam gently set down one of the paper sacks in front of the two of them before gathering the rest and running into the kitchen.

Vlad's brow furrowed in his sleep and his head tossed lightly against Daniel's shoulder. Daniel stiffened. “Fruit-Loop? You’re going to be alright.”

Vlad relaxed slightly against him.

A small click echoed from the hallway. Sam had taken a photo with her iPhone. Daniel glared at her and went to move only for Vlad to groan in his sleep.

Sighing, he sat back down and adjusted Vlad so that he was slightly closer to his core. Sam walked forward with a childish smirk of knowing flickered across her brow. Sitting down next to them, she chuckled. “ It's not every day you see two half-ghost frenemies in their natural habitat.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and draped a hand over Vlad's forehead to speed up the temperature reduction.

“ You know he doesn't look that old if you negate the hair color? When he is in this form, it just becomes all the more obvious. He actually looks a little like a twenty-year-old or someone in his early thirties.” Sam pointed out.

Daniel smirked.“ Yeah, except he's a year shy of being my dad's age.”

Sam chuckled. Looking back to Vlad, she frowned worriedly and leaned forward. Eyes wide, she questioned, “ Is he crying?”

Daniel's head immediately whipped down to look at Vlad. Sure enough, tears were dripping down his face and splattering against Daniel’s hazmat suit. Daniel stiffened and both him and Sam locked gazes nervously. Removing his hand, Daniel gently laid Vlad down in front of them.

Sam worriedly began checking him again. Daniel stopped her, “ He's probably just having issues with the fever. He did the same thing when I found him two nights ago.”

Vlad turned slightly and his brow furrowed in his sleep. A sudden knock on the door startled both teenagers.

“ Sam? Go answer that. I'll hide us.” Sam nodded and made her way to the door while Daniel latched onto Vlad, the bag and the blanket in the hallway, turning them all invisible. Cradling Vlad against himself he looked to the door with mounting suspicion.

Sam opened on the third knock and Bertra Ann beamed.

“ Aren't you adorable! Are you Mr. Masters’ maid or-”

Sam smiled politely, “ No, I'm just a friend of the family. I was dropping off some groceries.”

Mrs. Dolce grinned. “ Well, I stopped by earlier with some paperwork for him. I made it to the office to fax his report to our company headquarters but ran into some issues with the printer. I tried calling him but no one answered, so I thought I'd drop by again.”

Daniel felt a shiver run up his spine. No one had tried calling.

“ I can tell him for you Mrs-?” Sam left the question open and raised an eyebrow.

“ Dolce, my name is Bertra Dolce.” The secretary smiled overly warmly at Sam and Sam, in turn, squeezed the door slightly harder.

“ Ah, I've heard about you. You’re Mr.Masters’ secretary.” Sam exclaimed with false cheeriness.

Mrs. Dolce winked, “ Yep. He is quite the handful. Speaking of which, where is Vladimir? I was hoping to spend some time discussing matters for tomorrow evening.”

Sam tensed. Responding cooley, she replied, “ I'm afraid Vladimir is dropping Daniel off at his home and will be staying with him for dinner.”

Bertra locked gazes with Sam as if trying to decrypt some secret language before sighing in exasperation.

“ I guess I made the trip again for nothing." She paused and tapped her chin, mulling over her next move. Stiffening, she raised an eyebrow. “ How did you get in Vlad's house? If you don't mind me asking?”

Sam snorted and rolled her eyes. “I called ahead and they left the door unlocked.”

Bertra raised an eyebrow and attempted to push past Sam. “ I need to check on something. May I come in for a moment?”

Sam tensed. Glancing back toward Daniel, she swallowed and turned back to Mrs.Dolce. “ Mam? I don't feel comfortable letting you in while they're out.”

Bertra Ann seethed slightly but composed herself. “ Very well.” She went to leave, only to pause. Her heels grated against the stone steps. Rounding back to Sam she pulled a small ziplock bag out of her purse. “ Make sure he takes his sleeping medication tonight, dear? He could use the rest.”

Sam grasped the bag and locked her gaze with the secretary's manipulative green eyes before simpering with false cheeriness, “ I'll be sure to remind him. What brand of pills are these if you don't mind me asking? I want to make sure I give him the right dosage.”

Mrs. Dolce stiffened. “ Oh, they don't really have a brand name. They're herbal supplements. Two pills wouldn't hurt tonight and he can take the rest tomorrow.”

Sam nodded and, looking up from the bag, smiled warmly, “ Thank you for stopping by. I'll be sure to tell him about the fax not going through, and the correct dosage for these.” Sam shook the bag slightly to emphasize the point.

Mrs. Dolce grinned and her eyes flashed with something inhuman. “ Thank You. Goodbye dear.”

Both Sam and Daniel watched as the blonde woman stalked away, her heels clanking ominously against the cobblestone driveway.

Shutting the door and leaning against the wood, Sam took a deep breath. Glancing at the bag in her hands, she slung it to the floor like it was a rabid animal.

Daniel flickered into view with Vlad a few moments later.

“ Sam…. No one called the house.”

Both teens swallowed and looked to Vlad with increasing worry. Vladimir, still crying in his sleep, tossed against Daniel and began hyperventilating. Daniel's hands latched onto him to wake him up. Before he could shake him, however, two black rings expanded around his torso. Vlad's body arched from the floor and he writhed against Daniel’s hold. A scream of agony ripped through the room. All the two teens could do was watch as Vlad numbly struggled against the change. After an eternity, Vlad's human form flickered back. Panting, he numbly curled against himself.

Looking from the pills discarded on the hall rug and then to Vlad, Sam spoke in a shaky voice. “ Daniel? I think she's genuinely trying to hurt him.”

Daniel nodded and began gently trying to wake Vlad up. Vlad relaxed slightly from the cold and soon his breathing was completely normal again. Sighing, Daniel lifted Vlad up against his chest again to relieve the fever some more. Sam, now sitting across from Daniel, pulled out her phone.

Dialing a number, she shakily reached down for the pills.

Chapter Text

The phone rang for a moment before someone picked up. An enthusiastic, Santa-like voice shot over the line. “ Miss Manson? Do you need to schedule a checkup or do I need to write another prescription for your allergies?”

Sam smiled tiredly. “ Dr. Walters? Can you figure out what a pharmaceutical is from the symptoms or do you need the actual pills?”

The voice, mildly worried questioned, “ Samantha? Did you get peer pressured into taking something?”

Sam smiled, “ No. Of course not. I need help figuring out for a family friend. A girl slipped him something last night and when I came into his home this morning he was delirious. He keeps shaking, crying in his sleep, he has a high fever, and he passed out a little while ago. She left the pills here and I just found them.”

Walter’s voice became worriedly curious. “ Samantha? Is this friend in a hospital by any chance? That doesn't sound like a regular date rape drug.”

Sam frowned. “ They don't look like regular date rape pills either. They're clear tablets filled with white powder and what appears to be small blackish red flakes. I think the chick was mixing things up and making homemade knockout pills.”

Walters paused to digest the information. “ Where are you, Samantha? I think I need to see these pills.”

Sam looked over to Vlad and sighed. “ I'm at the mayor's house.”

Daniel froze, “ Sam? What are you doing?”

Sam paused, “ Daniel? If we don't figure out what she's been giving him we won't be able to help him.”

Walters’ voice shot out from the speakers on her phone. “ Samantha? Are you saying Mr. Masters was drugged?”

Sam winced. “ Dr. Walters? I've said no such thing.”

Dr.Walters sighed in exasperation, “ Samantha? I've known you and your family for more than a decade. I know when you’re lying.”

Sam looked back to Vlad worriedly. “ If I said yes, what would you do?”

Dr.Walters paused. Sighing, his voice becoming loving and gentle and he answered. “Sammy? You’re like my niece at this point or the daughter I never had. I won't question this and I won't do anything you would see as harmful. If Mr. Masters refuses to see me, then I'll just look over the pills this mystery woman left and give you a prognosis.”

Sam smiled. “ Thank you. When will you be over?”

Dr. Walters laughed. “ I'm actually close to the neighborhood. I was making a house call. I can be there in five minutes.”

Sam beamed. “ See you soon.”

And with that, she hung up. Walking over to Vlad, she gently shook him. Now with a reduced fever, he groggily attempted to open his eyes. Daniel pulled him up slightly from where he was resting to help him back into consciousness. “Vlad? We are going to go upstairs now, ‘kay?”

Vlad nodded slightly and dazedly moved as Daniel hoisted him and the blanket up. Turning to Sam, he commented, “ Just stop by his room when the doctor leaves and knock on the door, alright?”

Sam nodded. “ Don't worry. I won't let him see Vlad. The most he's going to look at are these narcotics that ditzy blonde serial killer has been drugging him with.”

Vlad stirred against Daniel. “What's…?.. Everything's...spinning…. Where…?”

Daniel tightened his hold and flew through the ceiling and into Vlad's bedroom. “ It's okay. It's just that herbal garbage your secretary gave you… You’re not quite out of the woods yet so you need some more rest.”

Vlad winced as he was set down in the bed. “.... Badger?...ugh… What happened?.... My head….”

Daniel smiled half-heartedly. “ You collapsed again Fruit-Loop. This time, however, you seemed to be having some serious issues controlling your ghost half. You shifted involuntarily twice.”

Vlad grimaced. “.....My chest hurts….” Reaching over the side of the bed, Daniel gently redirected the sheets over Vlad.

Vlad tiredly tried to stay awake but ended up falling back into an unrestful slumber. An hour passed before Sam's petite hand cracked against the door. Three small thumps echoed. Daniel opened it and seeing her expression, froze apprehensively. Glancing back at Vlad, he stepped out into the hallway.

Sam tiredly pulled out one of the pills. “ Danny? These are some sort of roofie. My doctor thinks these pills are a type of heavy hitting tranquilizer. A highly potent, concentrated medicinal cocktail, meant to immobilize and sedate. We are talking some seriously bad juju. She didn't lie, they're sleep pills. But they're also something else. There are weird specks of dried flowers and red crystals that kind of look like sugar suspended in the regular white gunk. Dr.Walters said he couldn't help more than that because he isn't a botanist .”

Daniel felt something lurch in his stomach. “Sam? Can I see that?” He paused abruptly as she went to hand it to him only to quickly retract his arm. Looking into her eyes, he stiffened. “Sam? Um… could you break that pill casing open? In your hand? I want to test something… I think I know what the flowers may be.”

Sam nodded and broke open the capsule. Daniel's gloved hand went to touch the powder only for unbelievable pain to creep up his throat and through his limbs.

Collapsing and panting, he wheezed, “ Blood…. Blossom...damn….”

Sam immediately ran down the hallway and into one of the guest bedrooms to dispose of the contents of the pill in one of the bathroom lavatories.

Running back to Daniel, she gently lifted up his head. He winced. “ Jesus Sam… she's been poisoning both sides…. That amount of blood blossom…? Ingested? I can't even fathom how he's still alive right now!”

Sam winced. “ Danny? She's dangerous. I'd keep him as far away from her as possible if I were you. That was just one pill. She wanted me to give him more than one…”

Daniel felt his stomach lurch. Wincing, he shakily got back to his feet with Sam's help. A startled yelp shot up from Vlad's bedroom and Daniel immediately phased through the wall. Vlad, now floating slightly over the bed, was staring wide-eyed at his hands. Silver hair was sticking up as if he had just rubbed against a trampoline, and he was shaking slightly. Daniel went to step forward only for Vlad to turn abruptly.

Flinging his arms out dizzily, Vlad warned. “ Daniel?... Ugh-” Vlad swayed and Daniel again went to step forward. Vlad floated back slightly to avoid contact and an arch of static electricity shot up from the bed and tacked onto his arm, causing him to wince.

Daniel's eyes widened and Vlad continued, “… Stay back… something's off with my powers again…”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Vlad? Can't I leave you alone for five minutes without you getting into some sort of mess?”

Vlad, somewhat more awake, smiled tiredly. “ I need someone to keep me in line, don't I? Villain remember?”

Daniel laughed and gently kicked off from the ground to help Vlad. Vlad's eyes widened apprehensively, “ Daniel? What are you-?” Seeing Daniel's hair spiking up and floating from the static, Vlad burst out laughing.

Daniel grinned. “ You should see your hair. You look like you stuck your fingers in a power outlet.”

Vlad, realizing Daniel was right, tentatively poked a strand only to yelp again because of the sudden zap.

Daniel burst into hysterics. “ Uh… Fruit-Loop? Maybe it would be in your best interests to ground yourself? Like stepping on the floor so the charge can dissipate?”

Vlad's eyes widened and he raised an eyebrow. “ That's a swell observation, Daniel but I think this is a little more electrical build up than the floor can handle.”

Daniel grinned wickedly. “ Oh really?”

Vlad felt something twist in his gut. “ Urm…. Little Badger? What are you-?”

Before Vlad could finish the statement a small zap from Daniel's hand reverberated through his shoulder blade, causing him to grimace. “ Daniel… that's not nice, boy!”

Daniel smiled widely, “ What are you going to do about it Plasmius?”

Vlad grinned and casually poked Daniel.

“ Yeoachhhh!” Daniel immediately began rubbing his chest. “ Gosh, that smarts!”

A small giggle leaked from the doorway and both men turned to see Sam trying to restrain herself behind black and purple nails. “ Pfff. You two are hilarious.”

Daniel smirked, and seeing Vlad distracted, quickly flew up closer to him and shifted back into Fenton. Vlad's eyes narrowed. “ Don't you dare.”

Daniel grinned. “ I'm just giving Unkie Vladdie a hug….”

And with that Daniel's duplicate dispersed and the Daniel behind Vlad latched his arms around the adult before tackling them both to the floor. Sharp prickles of static and zaps of electricity zipped across the floorboards as they collided. Vlad blacked out slightly and awoke to Daniel and Sam worriedly looming over him.

Groaning, Vlad tiredly rubbed his head. Staring up at Daniel, he growled, “ Brat? Let's just...stick with Fruit-Loop?”

Sam turned to Daniel and elbowed him. “ I think he hit his head when you tackled him.”

Daniel smirked. “ Well considering I grounded Vlad Plasmius, it's not too surprising he bonked his head.”

Vlad snorted. “ That was a terrible pun.”

Sam and Daniel both raised an eyebrow. Sam grinned, “ I stand corrected. He's fairly alert considering everything.”

Vlad groaned again and tried to sit up only to start falling backward. Daniel latched onto his shoulder to keep him upright. “ I'm right here. Can we stop addressing me in the third person, Ms. Manson?”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Sorry, old habits die hard considering you've been unconscious most of the evening.”

Vlad nodded slightly. “ Yeah… sorry about that… I don't know what happened...Frankly, I don't remember getting out of bed.” Gripping a hand to his brow, Vlad sighed tiredly, oblivious to the two teenager’s knowing glances at one another.

Sam smiled warmly. “ Do you think you can eat anything?”

Vlad dropped his hand and a warm smile, unlike anything Daniel or Sam had ever seen prior lit his face. “ I think I can try to eat as long as it's not something Daniel had a part in making.”

Both Daniel and Sam froze, mouths gaping. Vlad's eyes widened at their expressions and in a panic, he turned his head away from them. Biting his lip and closing his eyes, he teleported.

Sam spoke first in unrestrained awe. “ Did he just smile at us? Like genuinely smile?”

Daniel looked at the blank space Vlad had occupied and sighed in exasperation. “ Yes, and he insulted my cooking skills now that I'm thinking about it.” Pausing, he yanked up a small throw blanket from the chair he had been reading in earlier and motioned for Sam to follow him. “ Come on… I can hear him downstairs in his office.”

Chapter Text

Phasing through the floor with Sam, he slowly walked over to the office and stopped abruptly. He could hear Vlad talking to himself in low whispers. “ Why did they look at me like that? Am I that detestable? God...They looked like Jack and Maddie when they saw-”

Daniel flinched.

Daniel pulled Sam back from the door and winced. Motioning for her to be quiet, he waited a moment.

“ Sam? Wait here. I think we brought up some bad memories….”

Sam froze and nodded. Phasing through the office door and seeing Vlad sitting against his desk, he spoke. “ Vlad? Are you alright? You running off like that worried us.”

Vlad stiffened and looked toward Daniel with a neutral expression. “ Sorry about that… I just…” He swallowed. Chuckling bitterly, he put a hand to his face. “ Was it the fangs? You two were looking at me like I was some foreign object instead of…”

Daniel’s hand clamped on his shoulder and placed the blanket over him, all the while smiling reassuringly, “Actually? No. We were just confused. You aren't exactly one to smile and it was kind of interesting seeing it.”

Vlad looked up and raised an eyebrow. “ I smile all the time, Daniel.” His voice echoed with fascinated amusement.

Daniel laughed. “ Not like that you don't.”

Vlad visibly lost the tension in his body and leaned back against the desk. Daniel, seeing an opportunity, quickly stooped down and pulled Vlad back to his feet. “Let’s get some food in you. You’re still an invalid.”

Vlad rolled his eyes. Pausing, he rubbed his head. “ Did anything happen while I was out of it?”

Daniel draped the blanket around Vlad and smiled tiredly. “ What do you remember exactly?”

Vlad winced. “Vague flashes of me teleporting downstairs. Ms. Manson kissing you-”

Daniel blushed deep red and his blue eyes flickered up at Vlad to catch his expression. Vlad smirked tiredly.

“ Daniel? Sorry for intruding on that. If it's any consolation I think you two complete each other. Someone has to reign in the other’s recklessness.” Vlad chuckled softly and pitched forward slightly. Daniel raised an eyebrow and smiled as he readjusted Vlad's arm over his shoulder.

“ Do you remember anything else?”

Vlad rubbed his head with his free hand. “ I think I passed out? Burning… everything felt like it was on fire and then suddenly everything was extinguished.”

Daniel nodded, somewhat relieved Vlad didn't remember him cuddling against him to cool him down. “ Yeah, you definitely passed out. I cooled you down while Sam put up the groceries.”

Vlad nodded slightly. “ How long was I out?” Covering his mouth, he coughed.

Daniel tiredly rubbed his head. “About an hour? You didn't sleep very well. That fever is becoming quite a problem.”

Vlad nodded tiredly as they walked into the hallway. Sam was rounding the corner with the paper bag they had almost completely forgotten about in the foyer.

Vlad looked up apologetically. “ Ms. Manson? I do apologize for my behavior… I'm just not used to having living people around, much less people that I've acted less than favorable around in the past.” Vlad averted his gaze to the floor.

Sam raised an eyebrow but sighed in relief. “Masters? It's fine. Trust me. Let's just get some food in you before you collapse again.”

Vlad nodded.“ Yes… that's probably a good idea.”

Dragging Vlad into the kitchen and sitting him down next to the booth, Daniel turned to Sam. “So what's on the menu?”

Vlad laughed slightly, “ Tomato soup and grilled cheese?”

Sam smiled warmly. Looking over to Daniel, she dramatically took out the plastic tupperware containers from the bag. “ What he said.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. Looking over to Vlad, he smirked. “ How did you figure out the whole enhanced sense thing?”

Vlad rubbed his eyes. “ When enough things want to kill you, you eventually adapt.”

Daniel and Sam both exchanged a worried glance. Sam of course asked. “Vlad? I don't want to intrude but, um… could you give some examples?”

Vlad paused slightly and his eyes became contemplative. “ Erm…. you know? I'd rather not.” His expression grew slightly dark and he quickly redirected his gaze back to the table sheepishly.

Daniel, figuring out a loophole, questioned, “ How about an example of how you've used the scent thing?”

Vlad paused, looking up at Daniel and raising an eyebrow, sighed in defeat. “Avoiding getting shot is a good reason, I presume? Gunpowder… The scent is a cross between charcoal and flint but carries an acrid and sour note.”

Sam and Daniel gaped. And Vlad, oblivious, yawned and finished, “It helps to know when someone's carrying a gun.”

Looking back at the teens and seeing their expressions, he redirected his gaze to the table and tucked his arms under his head. “ Sorry. Maybe I should have used a different example?”

Daniel winced. “ No, I asked. I guess being a thief ends with nasty consequences.”

Vlad sneered and winced. Sitting up again, he snapped,“ Who said the shooters were chasing a thief?”

Daniel tensed. Vlad continued bitterly, “ On one side of the spectrum I'm a wealthy businessman. People in other companies and firms don't appreciate competition. There are also people that try to kidnap or exploit me for ransom or monetary promises. Then there are some that simply want to off me because they don't agree with me. The simplest solution is to go intangible when they bring out the gun or phase the weapon out of their hand. It's harder to hit something you can't touch.”

Sam swallowed. Vlad pursed his lips and looked away from them again.“Yes. I'm a thief .” He continued flatly. The word, however, became weighted with double meaning again. “ My thievery however only occurs under certain circumstances...”

Realizing he was letting out too much, Vlad looked back to Daniel and Sam dejectedly. “ I think it would be ideal if we changed the topic.”

Sam thankfully redirected the conversation as she began laying the food out on the kitchen counter. “ Vlad? Don't you have a microwave?”

Vlad snickered and rolled his eyes. “ Had. Romulus panicked and blasted it into a million pieces when Skulker tried cooking popcorn a few months ago. I haven't had time, as of yet, to get a new one.”

Daniel's eyes widened. “ Skulker was cooking popcorn? And Romulus… who's Romulus? I've been hearing his name for several days now.”

Vlad rolled his eyes and tiredly stood up. Lifting the picture frame behind him, he smirked. A large black blast mark was stamped into the drywall. “Skulker was making popcorn so he could drag me into the lounge for a break, and he failed to tell Romulus that…” Vlad air quoted. “... the strange black square with a carriage wheel for a heart growls when it's done cooking the food placed in it.” Sam smiled and Daniel looked away from the hole and chuckled.

“ I take it this Romulus ghost is really old fashioned?” Sam laughed.

Vlad snickered and put a hand to his head, “ That's putting it mildly. You should have seen him when I brought him here to recuperate. The poor ghoul was scandalized every time he saw a girl in a skirt.”

Daniel laughed. “ Is Romulus his birth name or?”

Vlad rubbed his chin and then shrugged. “ No and yes…. It's fairly complicated.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief and reached for a saucepan above the stove and a frying pan. Pouring the soup in the saucepan and setting it on low heat she questioned. “ So this Romulus guy...What does he look like?”

Vlad, now sitting again, laughed. “He looks like a college student and sounds like one when his armor isn't obscuring his head. He has black hair that goes down to the middle of his back and green eyes.”

Sam stirred the soup and Daniel sat down next to Vlad. “ What century did he get ghosted in?” Daniel questioned.

Vlad raised an eyebrow at the wording of the question and replied, “ I'm pretty sure he died during King Arthur's supposed time period.” Vlad absently placed a hand under his jaw as he leaned against the table. “ So he's older than both Skulker and I but extremely skittish and childish at times. It's actually kind of humorous considering most of the ghost zone is afraid of him.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, expecting elaboration. Vlad, however, chose to ignore him. Sam, now satisfied with the soup’s temperature, grabbed the sandwiches and began heating them as well. “ So you just have ghosts over at your house twenty-four seven?”

Vlad smirked. “ No, not twenty-four seven. It's usually just Romulus, Edmond, and I, and they can't stay full time on this side of the worlds without getting weak or sick. They also have domains to manage in the zone. Occasionally Ember visits, but that's usually to yank Ed back into the zone for some quality time together.”

‘ I think I dreamed of something like that while I was with Nocturn?’ Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Why would she want Skulker around?”

Vlad cocked an eyebrow. “ You mean to say you didn't know they were a couple? They've been together for over a decade now.”

Both Sam and Daniel froze and glanced at each other. Daniel swallowed. ‘ Was Nocturn gathering gossip or something to make the dreams more real? What the actual-’

“ I take that as a no.” Vlad smirked.

“ You know, witty banter is dandy and all but it may do you some good to actually talk with your supposed adversaries? Hmm?” Vlad prodded slyly. “From what they've told me you instigate the majority of the fights by taunting or ignoring them and then stuffing them in a thermos for several days.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “ Woah… wait they talk about me? Just casually in conversations?”

Vlad snorted. “ Little Badger? You've managed to personally piss off every nice ghost I know, and that's saying something. You're infamous in the zone.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. Vlad rolled his eyes. “ Lawrence is a great example. All he wants is a box or two and some notoriety or a pleasant conversation. Granted his habit of sputtering, ‘Beware!’, is rather irksome.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “ The Box Ghost's name is Lawrence?”

Vlad chuckled. “ He prefers Larry. His full name is Lawrence Jameson Hawthorn. He died during the 1920s in a shipping yard near Manhattan when a rather large wooden crate knocked into him.”

Both Sam and Daniel froze. One of the sandwiches began to burn and Vlad immediately teleported over next to Sam and turned the food. Sam let out a startled yelp from his suddenly close proximity.

“ Daniel? Do you ever ask them why they're on this side? Or maybe convince them to go back to theirs? It's not too complicated and I'm fairly surprised you didn't know the name of the one ghost you've caught almost daily for the last three years.” Vlad looked at Daniel worriedly.

Daniel winced. “ No… I didn't think to ask them. And I didn't know about the Bo-Larry.” Daniel finished lamely.

Vlad awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck and turning to Sam apologized in earnest. “My apologies Ms.Manson. I saw it burning and didn't want you caught up in a kitchen fire.”

Sam shrugged. “ Vlad? Why are you acting this way around us?”

Vlad stiffened. Sighing bitterly and turning from her he muttered. “Ms. Manson? I believe you’re asking the wrong questions.”

Sam crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow as did Daniel. Vlad cut off the burner to the stove and stepped back in thought. Looking at the burner, his eyes grew somber. “ The question should have been, why aren't you acting around us?” He whispered quietly.

Sam and Daniel both froze. Vlad leaned against the stove tiredly. The next words to grace out of his mouth held far more weight and merit than anything uttered prior. “ After you sacrifice enough to try and do right by others, at the cost of everything you are, you eventually come to something you can't really face. You can shield, lie, protect. Ironically you can do all these things flawlessly and still end up destroying both yourself and the people you were trying to save with your own hands… It's kind of a bitter just dessert really. People just fail to see humanity or compassion and find it easier to look at these qualities in contrast to something bitter or dark. But I think you already knew this Little Badger? Then again my ramblings probably seem fairly vague without context...I-.”

Vlad paused in thought, trying to swallow back the weight in his throat before he continued. Sam gaped. Daniel went to speak only to see Vlad's body abruptly tense. A cold wisp of air escaped Daniel's jaw. Sam saw the wisp and seeing Vlad paling ran to his side. Vlad at that moment suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe. The deep, stabbing pain in his chest resurfaced and the world spun. The sharp electric tang from earlier was dulled and no smoke curled from his lips but the ungodly searing pain still clashed within his flesh.

Daniel flew to him just as his legs gave out. Vlad was out before he hit the ground.

Daniel hissed and looked around the kitchen worriedly. Vlad was sweating and panting against Daniel's shoulder. “Vlad! Come on, it's just a ghost.”

Sam bent over Vlad and, turning him, began trying to lift him up. “ I think the blood blossom in his system is reacting to the presence of it. Like a spectral flare up or something.”

Daniel's eyes widened. Looking down at Vlad, he quickly activated his core and lifted him up. Vlad groaned and slumped against Daniel's hold.

“ Damn it.” Looking over to Sam, he worriedly lamented. “Well whatever that garbage she gave him does it's definitely targeting both sides. You'd think him being in human form would've reduced the blood blossoms’ effects, but instead, he’s being harmed just because a ghost is nearby.”

Chapter Text

Vlad shivered slightly and tried to open his eyes. “.... Badger?.... Manson…?... What's-?” Wincing, he dizzily noted that he was being floated through the ceiling and laid back in bed.

‘Fudge. I must have passed out again.’

Daniel worriedly leaned over him.

‘I honestly don't think I have ever been this pathetic before in my entire life. Why do I keep fainting?!?!’

“Vlad? Are you alright?” Daniel raised an eyebrow and his lips tightened into a worried frown.

Coughing, Vlad answered. “ Uh… Did we get the…. license plate ...of the car that... hit me?” He joked.

Daniel's eyes widened and he began trying to lift Vlad up again. “ Great! The damned fever fried his brain!”

Vlad winced as Daniel fingers accidentally brushed against his still healing chest injuries. “ Badger?... I was...joking….”

Daniel stopped and took his hands out from under Vladimir. Running his fingers through his white hair, he began laughing in relief. “ Jesus, Fruit-Loop. Don't scare me like that. You almost got a concussion earlier. You’re lucky I caught you before your head could hit the tile.”

Vlad turned slightly in the bed.“What… happened….?”

Daniel sighed and began pulling up the gray sheets over Vlad's legs. “ You fainted? I don't know what's happening to you unless you tell me… I can only speculate.”

‘ I fainted? Is it because of my injuries? Or was it Mrs.Dolce’s drink? God my head hurts.’

Furrowing his brow, Vlad tiredly rasped. “ … It's kind of fuzzy… Everything just suddenly felt suffocating and hot…”

Daniel nodded. “ Was there a sharp branding like pain?”

Vlad stiffened. “ Actually? Yes.”

Daniel looked to the floor contemplatively before sitting down at the edge of the bed. “Yeah. Makes sense.”

Vlad turned away from Daniel. “ I take it… you two…. figured out...something?”

Daniel winced and looked to Vlad reassuringly. Swallowing, he clasped a hand to his shoulder and spoke. “ Your secretary's herbal stuff? Well, it had blood blossom petals in it.”

Vlad stiffened and his eyes widened. Grasping onto the sheets next to him, he squeezed the fabric and closed his eyes to block out his surroundings. “Why… why didn't it burn… when I drank it?”

Daniel squeezed his shoulder lightly. “ Vlad? I honestly don't know. Sam and I both don't trust her. She stopped by again earlier and tried breaking into the house to check on something.” He practically hissed the last part.

Vlad sighed. “ I have…. terrible luck… with women…”

Daniel chuckled lightly and Vlad weakly smiled in return.

Sam at that moment came upstairs with a serving tray in tow.

Vlad winced. “ I… guess I'm under… house arrest… huh?”

Sam grinned. “ That's putting it mildly. You’re not leaving this room until whatever she gave you filters out.”

Vlad snickered. “ You sound like Skulker... Granted, he probably... would have drugged me... by now and hooked me to an IV.”

Daniel snorted. “ So Skulker is your babysitter?”

Vlad laughed tiredly. “ I like...to think… we babysit each other...We...both can be…. pretty reckless.”

Placing the tray over Vlad, Sam reached over to feel his forehead. “ Yep, still feverish as hell.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ I could have told you that Sam.”

Vlad grimaced. “ Likewise.”

Sam smirked and, placing her hands on her hips, pointed to the food. “ Do us a favor and eat before you pass out again?”

Vlad grimaced. “... Fine.”

Coughing, he tried to sit up only to slump back slightly. Daniel, seeing the issue, quickly helped Vlad into a sitting position.
Vlad turned away in embarrassment. “ I never thought...I would see...the day… two teenagers… would treat me like...a stubborn child…”

Daniel snorted. “ Aren't you though?”

Vlad rolled his eyes tiredly. “Whatever you...say… Inviso-Bill.”

Sam snickered and Daniel gave Vlad the scary eyes briefly before sitting back on the foot of the bed. Sam spied the glowing book on the nightstand and picked it up. Vlad tentatively started taking bites of the soup. Glancing over at the book in Sam's hands, he groaned. Putting down the spoon, he yanked the book from her hands with his powers. Catching it tiredly, he glanced at the cover and winced. “Daniel….?... Ugh-”

Vlad tiredly lifted a hand to his forehead. “ You may… want to stay… away from the glowing books…. this one is fairly safe…. but the others can kill…. if you don't… treat them correctly…”

Sam's eyes widened. Daniel furrowed his brow. “ Whaaaaattt? You mean your house has killer books?”

Vlad absently flicked through the blue book before reaching out to hand it back to Sam. Looking down into his soup bowl, he casually pulled up his shirt sleeve. Pointing to a large scar, he mused. “ Yes. This house has….. some killer books in it. Or really artifact's... Item poltergeists. The truly dangerous ones ...are locked away downstairs in the vault but…. a few are in the library hidden in plain sight.”

Daniel winced. Vlad snorted. “Quite the... paper cut, huh?”

Sam flinched and raised an eyebrow. “ Why do you keep stuff like that just lying around?”

Vlad looked up and sighed. “ I can handle the books... in the library fairly well. The only reason I got bit ….by the artifact was that I was drunk... and didn't pay attention to how I opened it.”

“ A book bit you?” Daniel and Sam shared equally amused and horrified expressions.

Vlad, in response, chuckled tiredly and smirked. “ You know that one scene from Harry Potter….. with that monster book of monsters? Imagine that….. but with a far more …...vicious and agitated hardcover that can fly.”

Daniel cocked an eyebrow. “You've watched Harry Potter? Seriously Vlad?”

Vlad took a bite of his sandwich and shrugged. Swallowing the bite, he answered. “ Yes? Why not? Granted, I haven't watched... anything in a while due to work…. but Skulker and Romulus both enjoy watching the tv in the lounge.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief. “Okay, I have a bigger question. How did you deal with the book?”

Vlad winced and put the sandwich in his right-hand back down onto the gray plate. “ I would love to say the interaction was in my favor … but that would be a blatant lie… Skulker phased into the room when he heard the glass shattering… at that point, I was pinned… to the floor by several...large paper claws. The book seeing a new adversary...slung me...into the shelving and turned on… Ed.” Vlad sighed and winced from the memory. “ Ed easily tied the book down and closed it…. After dealing with the origami pseudo me that was strangling the life out of me near the shelving.”

Daniel stiffened. “ Wait… the book made a paper you?”

Vlad nodded and, now slightly more alert, continued. “ It needed the blood to sustain the form. If Ed hadn't come into the room I probably would have become a vampiric book’s lunch.”

Sam rubbed the bridge of her nose. Turning to Daniel, she snorted. “He's a walking, talking entertainment center. That was wild from start to finish.”

Vladimir crossed his arms tiredly and sighed. “ I'm glad to find someone thought it amusing. Skulker wouldn't leave me alone for days after that. Something about me being, and I quote, a reckless halfa exorcist with stubbornly stupid suicidal tendencies.”

Daniel smirked. “ Well, he's kind of right if you were drinking before handling a paper vampire.”

Vlad chuckled tiredly and returned his attention to the food in front of him. “I guess you have a point. In retrospect drinking before handling that particular book was more than a little foolish.”

Taking another bite of the soup, he glanced over at Daniel who was addressing Samantha. “ Sam? Would you mind coming with us tomorrow to a charity thing?”

Sam raised an eyebrow as did Vlad. “ What charity?” Sam questioned.

Daniel paused. “ Okay, rephrasing. Would you accompany the two of us to the firehouse tomorrow for pizza and helping out around the building?”

Sam burst out laughing. “ My mom is going to be so confused. Her and Dad were trying to rope me into that earlier this morning and I hit them with a hard no.”

Setting down his spoon, Vlad raised an eyebrow. “ I take it you want Ms. Manson around in case something happens?”

Daniel smirked. “ Two heads are better than one. If push comes to shove, her being a distraction in the event you pass out again would be good.”

Vlad nodded in compliance and snickered. “ Babysitted by you two?….Oh, the irony.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ What are you getting at Fruitloop?”

Vlad snorted. “ Nothing.” Vlad paused and rubbed the back of his neck. Looking at Sam, he questioned, “ Miss Manson? How did you get rid of Bertra?”

Sam shivered. “ Masters? A word of warning? Stay away from that psychopathic blonde. She gives me the creeps and I've seen some reeaaaallly creepy stuff.” Sam shivered and pulled a few stray locks of black hair out of her face.

“ I told her you were dropping Daniel off at Fenton Works and that I was dropping off groceries for you. Even then she still tried busting through the front door. I ended up promising that you would take some more of her herbal crud,” Sam finger quoted and, looking to Vlad seriously, warned, “ -which you will, under no circumstances touch after today.”

Vlad smiled weakly. “ Yeah… from what Daniel told me, she's been feeding me blood blossoms?” He furrowed his brow and grimaced at the thought.

Vlad groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Speaking seriously, he agreed, “ I will most definitely be avoiding her remedies from now on.”

Sam beamed. “ Awesome. Oh… that reminds me!” Both Daniel and Vladimir looked to her curiously as she ran out into the hallway. The stiff thwacks of her combat boots echoed on the wooden stairs.

Vlad looked to Daniel and confusedly questioned, “ I don't have to worry about her doing anything crazy right now, correct?”

Daniel winced. “ Erm… honestly? I have no earthly idea what she just ran off for.”

Chapter Text

Both men shared a worried glance before eyeing the door apprehensively. The dull thuds of her boots made there way up the stairs again and Sam busted into the room with her arachnid shaped backpack clutched between her fingers. Shuffling through it, she rounded on Vlad and began pulling out several metal tins and a steel gray pillow. Tossing the pillow to Daniel, she pointed, “ That is for that ridiculous fever that keeps coming back. It's made to cool down body temperatures. The fact that you both are supposed to have temperatures of about eighty-one or eighty, on average, and Vlad's reaching over one hundred and twenty is a testament to your need for proper cooling equipment.”

Both Daniel and Vlad's eyes widened. Vlad raised an eyebrow. “ How did you know our regular-?”

Sam rolled her eyes. “ Daniel couldn't miss any more school days this last year and ended up getting one hell of a ghost bug from Klemper. I had to take care of him between classes and I kind of figured it out.”

Daniel looked at the pillow passively before setting it down on the edge of the bed.

Vlad looked over to Sam with an impressed smile. Looking back to Daniel, he prodded. “May I suggest you two begin going steady? Clearly, she's the more level headed, even if she pulls some stupid stunts.”

Daniel turned bright green before switching back to Daniel Fenton. As soon as the rings finished the transformation, he snarled, “ Why should I take relationship advice from a forty-something bachelor?”

Vlad winced and stared back to his soup bowl somewhat somber. “Please...don't go there…”

Daniel stiffened before he tried to apologize, “ I mean, if you just could have given up on my mom-”

Vlad tensed and flinched. “ I hate to tell you this boy, but I actually haven't had any feelings of the romantic sort since my first year of college with your mother….”

Daniel's eyes widened and flashed green. “ Bullshit! You lying, sleazy- ”

Vlad growled. “ WELL OF COURSE? WHAT LOGIC SAYS I WOULD OPENLY COURT A WOMAN WHO WANTS TO TEAR ME APART MOLECULE BY MOLECULE?!?!”

Daniel's eyes widened, still angry he charged a hand, “ BECAUSE YOU’RE A CRAZY, NARCISSISTIC CLONING BASTARD WHO ONLY THINKS OF HIMSELF?!?”

Vlad's eyes glowed red and a look of absolute agony crossed his features. Snarling, he glared up at Daniel. “FUNNY? ONLY ONE DAMNED WORD OUT OF THAT'S TRUE.YOU’RE RIGHT I AM A BASTARD! IT'S PROBABLY WHY I WAS BUTCHERED FOR FIVE YEARS! OR BETTER YET, WHY MY FRIENDS ABANDONED ME?!?! YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY I HAVE NO ONE? NEWS FLASH BRAT, EVERYONE I HAVE EVER LOVED HAS BEEN HURT BECAUSE I EXIST!”

Sam's features paled as did Daniel’s. Before either teen could continue the conversation. Vlad teleported from them.

Sam turned to Daniel and slapped him across the face. Daniel's eyes widened and Sam hissed. “ You didn't notice he was being honest? What’s wrong with you?!?”

She looking to the vacant bed with dread. Turning back to Daniel, she snarled, “ Is he nearby?”

Daniel winced and clenched his fists to his side. “ No. He's gone.”

Pulling out her phone she dialed Tucker. After a few seconds, the techno-geek answered.

“ Hey, Sam! What's up? We still on for Doom at your place?” Tucker's voice, painfully optimistic, waited for Sam's response.

Sam, still glaring at Daniel, spoke. Her words angrily reverberated over the line. “ Tuck? Daniel fucked up with Vlad and I need your help finding him.”

Tucker's voice became worried. “You need my help finding Danny? I thought Vlad was being nice… Did he blast him or?”

Sam bit her lip and swallowed, “Not Danny. We have to find Vlad.”

Tucker paused and his voice became somewhat cold. “ What did Danny do?”

Sam glowered, “ Vlad was being honest and Daniel decided to call him a lying bastard. Well, at least that's the summary of what he said.” She hissed.

“ Vlad's in no condition to be out on his own and his secretary poisoned him earlier. He can't even walk correctly and his ghost powers keep fucking up. I need your help tracking him down before he has another feverish episode or collapses in an alleyway.”

Tucker paused, “ How do you propose we find him? He's half-ghost and we don't exactly have the boomerang locked on him.”

Sam stiffened. “ Actually, we may have it locked on him. Remember that cloning thing? The boomerang hit Vlad so now his spectral signature is on it.”

Daniel winced at the memory. “Why even look for him? He was obviously lying! If he's not willing to be truthful, I see no reason why I should-”

Sam snarled, “ Daniel James Fenton? Shut the fuck up….Are you really that dense? Jesus… He was genuinely explaining what he did… he was trying to tell you and you full out verbally assaulted him! If anything, he looks like he wants this truce to work more than you!”

Daniel winced and then yelled back. “ WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE?!?! HE FLIRTS NONSTOP WITH MY MOM FOR OVER TWO YEARS AND I'M SUPPOSED TO TAKE HIM BY HIS WORD?!?!”

Tucker, on the other end of the line still, groaned. “ Sam? I'll run over to Fenton Works to get Jaz and the boomerang. Talk down lover boy before you two go searching.”

And with that Tucker hung up.

Sam stomped her foot angrily. “Daniel? Can you honestly say you haven't seen the way he's been acting around us? He was so close to telling us downstairs! So close! And then, when he elaborates on something truthfully thirty minutes later you bash him and call him a lying narcissistic bastard?”

Daniel winced and sighing he took a deep breath. ‘ I took it to far….He just pissed me off so badly...Why flirt if he didn't like her?’

“ You’re right… I overreacted… This is just… It’s just so confusing and frustrating! Everything I thought I knew is being tossed up and under piles of contradicting mush and it's making me so angry!”

Sam took a deep breath and gripped Daniel's shoulder. “ So you vented at Vlad? Daniel… you offered the truce and he accepted. He just wants peace...From everything we've witnessed he's been keeping a fairly large secret or something equally important from us… Either that or we never really knew anything about him, to begin with.”

She paused and looked toward the bed bitterly. “ Doesn't he have enough to deal with right now? He's poisoned, he’s injured, and he’s trying to come to grips with trusting us. I'd like to hope you can somehow reel in your over emotional tendencies to be the hero I know you are and help him…”

Daniel rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “ Damn it… you’re right. He hasn't done a single hateful or cruel thing since I found him in the kitchen a few days ago. If anything he's just been emotionally reserved. We were actually getting along and I just burnt that bridge down…”

Sam cupped her hand under Daniel's chin and motioned for him to transform. “ I think it would be a good idea for us to find Vlad so you both can apologize? Just a bit? Sure he was a villain and I can't justify his actions but the fact remains, he's not a callous, heartless prick… He's just confused.”

Daniel nodded. “ Okay… Let's go hunt down Plasmius.”

Chapter Text

‘ That ignorant little…. God, that stung! What did I really expect though? He had every right after I flirted with her constantly.’ Vlad groaned and gripped his head tiredly.

‘ Then again? Does it actually count as flirting when the aim is not seduction but pissing off the other person?’

Vlad, now invisible, was scuffling through the kitchen of a diner near the outskirts of Amity and making himself some coffee. The waitress on break smiled shyly at the invisible rustling of a styrofoam cup and the slushing of the liquid.

Speaking up, she smirked at the patch of air behind the floating cup. “Another tough day spook?”

Vlad sighed and flickered into being in front of her. “ You have no clue…. Teens are just so infuriating!”

The waitress laughed. “ You are by far the strangest customer we have.” Pointing to the box near the fridge, she smiled. “ Creamer is in there. Do you need any sugar or?”

Vlad smiled politely. “ No… I think the bitterness will help with my mood.”

The waitress grinned. “ Do you want to talk about it? I know you're a ghost but you’re fairly relatable and I wouldn't mind helping you...”

Vlad gently set down his coffee on the kitchen counter next to the cook's station. “ It's not exactly something that's easily remedied with a lighthearted vent session.”

He paused and starred to the counter, “ Two and a half years of bullshit being explained to an ecto-blasting teenager and his accomplices is practically impossible. To add to my woes I'm considered a bad guy to them. Partially my own fault… I was trying to piss them off...Now we've extended an olive branch and everything's warped and cracked.”

The waitress whistled. “ Ouch.”

Fingering her apron, she tapped her chin thoughtfully. She smiled comfortingly as she looked over to Plasmius. “ All good things take time. Just be as honest as you can and they'll eventually warm up to you.”

Vlad smiled tiredly and cocked an eyebrow, his pointed ears perked slightly. “Is it ever really that easy?”

The waitress chuckled and, walking over to the box by the fridge, picked out a hazelnut creamer before tossing it to Vlad. “Who said it would be easy? Getting caught in a lie sucks and explaining yourself is even worse. Baby steps, ghost...baby steps…”

Vlad glanced at the creamer and plopped it open tiredly. “ Why do you show interest in me? I would think you would openly fear ghosts considering where you live.”

The waitress glanced at the empty diner and smiled truthfully. “ The fact my only customer today is you, is a testament to why. Granted, it's pouring rain outside and no one wants to get through the muck....”

Putting a hand to her hip and popping a wrist up she motioned around them. “You look intimidating but I never see you doing anything cruel or fear-worthy. Your tips are pretty awesome too. Seriously? How does a ghost even get one hundred dollar bills?”

Vlad grinned. “ The guy I haunt is extremely gracious and gives me a good allowance?”

The waitress grinned. “ Is it that cute black haired fellow that keeps dropping by?”

Vlad turned bright green and almost spilled his coffee. “ Brown eyes right?”

The waitress grinned. “ A twin brother or?”

Vlad smiled. “ Yeah. I guess you could say we are two sides of the same coin? Cut from the same cloth?” He chuckled slightly.

The waitress nodded appreciatively before patting Vlad's shoulder. “ You both have looked like hell lately. Family issues?”

Vlad shrugged. “ Just issues in general. A lot can happen in seven months. Friends die, people forget things...I guess we are both just tired.”

Pausing, he rubbed the back of his neck. “ Thanks for talking Damian out of committing suicide. That weather fiasco and work just crushed him. It was nice for him to have friendly human company after such a long time distancing himself, Paula.”

The waitress sighed tiredly. “Yeah… he looked ragged. Next time you see him, tell him to stop by again? I know he's a sucker for the chocolate chip pancakes.”

Vlad beamed. “ Sure. I'll tell him.”

A customer walked into the diner and Vlad turned invisible. “ See you later Miss Maynard.”

She grinned and, turning out of the kitchen, went to approach the gruff gentleman waiting at the counter for service.

Vlad phased through the ceiling and shielded invisibly to keep the rain off of himself. Flying off toward one of the buildings being constructed, he found a dry spot and hunkered down to drink his coffee.

‘ That waitress is something else.’

Vlad smiled warmly and hugged his coffee against himself, savoring the warmth he had been devoid of for several months now. It didn't quite quell his desire for human comfort but it did alleviate some of the ache.

Time passed slowly as he mused over his thoughts. ‘ Did I say too much? I really should've just taken what he said without rebuttal. Maybe then this wouldn't be so damned painful? Then again releasing my bent up emotions and heartache probably was never a sound idea.’

Swallowing another sip of coffee, he sighed and leaned himself up next to a metal and concrete pillar. “ Just a pathetic bastard, huh?”

Sneering, he looked to the white styrofoam in mock amusement. “The bitterness isn't helping like I thought it would. Maybe I should just go back and get some pancakes?”

Sighing, he teleported back into the diner.

Chapter Text

Paula was raising her hands in the air behind the counter and fearfully looking to the gentleman she had previously been serving. Vlad groaned and a shield popped up between Paula and the man. The baggily clothed, and balding gentleman fired the gun and the waitress flinched. The two bullets that fired at her plopped off the shield and clanked to the floor with dull thuds.

“ Well, that's awfully rude. A beautiful young woman offers you service and you in return try piercing her through with hot lead?”

The man spun around fearfully only to be splashed in the face by a boiling hot pot of coffee. The man screamed and fell to the floor. Vlad turned visible and sighed. Setting the pot back on the counter, he glanced down at the man with a look of absolute annoyance. Looking over to Paula, he pointed at the customer screaming profanities on the floor, “ Do you ever have pleasant customers or is it always societal degenerates and oddballs?”

Paula smiled slightly from behind the shield. “ The good ones are few and far between.”

Vladimir sighed and yanked up the man from his previously writhing position into a standing one. “ I'll drop him off at the police station. He's probably done this before.” Punching him in the stomach, Vlad rolled his eyes and hefted the would-be robber over his shoulder. The semiconscious man groaned and Vlad rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “This day can't possibly get any worse.”

As if to prove him wrong a shattering of glass could be heard behind him. He tensed and went to shield only to feel a heavy smack against the back of his skull. Falling to his knees, he groggily tried to stay coherent only to feel the dizziness from earlier coming back with a vengeance. Paula, in a blind panic, ran out from behind the counter and began dragging Vladimir away from the dazed attacker and the softly beeping weapon that had stunned her savior. Vlad groaned and tiredly struggled against the fizzling energy trying to condense around his torso to change him back. ‘ What….hit me…?...Uh…’

Paula cradled Vlad against herself fearfully, “ Ghosthunters…”

Two dripping wet figures could be seen clambering over the broken window. “ Get away from us! He was protecting-”

Vlad passed out against her shoulder with a small thump.

Chapter Text

Tucker and Jazmine were driving fairly fast to keep up with the boomerang. It had locked almost immediately on Vlad's signature and was spinning much faster through the air than it normally did when chasing Daniel. The small homing device was practically hell-bent on pursuing the residual energy clinging to it.

Tucker raised an eyebrow as they drove. “What the actual heck is up with the boomerang today?”

Jaz winced and shrugged as she spun the wheel in pursuit. “ Some of this rain may have fried something.”

Tucker nodded and, seeing the boomerang crashing through a small diner, motioned Jazmine to pull over. Both teens hastily jumped from the car and ran, splashing through the water and rain congealing over the road. Tucker leaped through the window first, followed closely by Jazmine.

Both of them rigidly froze at the sight they were met with. A dazed and pain-stricken man was curling against himself next to a large puddle of coffee and by the far wall, there was a waitress protectively holding Vladimir to herself.

Vlad, almost completely out of it, fully slumped against her shoulder as she began screaming in a blind panic. “ Get away from us! He was protecting me! Ghost hunters have no business-”

She stopped and her eyes widened. “ Y-You’re just a couple of kids?”

Two rings began splitting around Vlad and the waitress hugged him closer. Her surprise at the children ghost hunters was quickly overshadowed by her rage. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?!?”

Tucker and Jazmine both paled as they cautiously made their way forward. Tucker raised his arms comfortingly, “Miss, we are just trying to help him...What happened? ”

The waitress narrowed her gaze and, seeing Vlad's hair turning from short spiky black to silver, she paled. Where there was previously a cold ghost there was now a slightly feverish man being held against her. Whipping her gaze back to the two, she glowered. “ What did that device do?!?”

Jazmine raised an eyebrow and bent down to eye level with the woman. She went to reach for Vlad only for the woman to bitterly slap away her hand. “LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

Tucker approached comfortingly. “Miss? Please? What happened?”

Still holding Vlad, she growled. “ H-He came by for coffee earlier and left because I had a customer… My customer wanted more than food and pulled out a gun. He came back and took care of the problem and was just about to drag my assailant off to the police station when that thing,” She hissed as she stared at the still softly beeping device behind them. “ -brained him!”

Jazmine widened her eyes at this. “How hard did it hit him?!?!?”

The waitress, confused by the worried tone, furrowed her brow. “ Hard enough for him to collapse.”

Jazmine cautiously leaned forward and reassured. “ It was a tracking device… It wasn’t meant to hurt him. Please...let me check him? He was hurt badly a couple of days ago. The only reason we were searching for him was to make sure he's safe.”

The waitress allowed Jazmine’s hands to brush over Vlad as Tucker helped lay him down.

The woman's eyes widened. “ He’s the mayor?”

Jazmine gently put her palm to Vlad's neck to feel his pulse and shook him slightly. Vlad was unresponsive.

“ He's out cold.”

Tucker winced. “ What the actual hell was wrong with the boomerang? It’s never acted like that before!”

The waitress unfurled her apron and folded it to put it under Vlad's head. “You must be those teens he was talking about earlier.” She whispered quietly.

Both Jazmine and Tucker exchanged worried glances. “What did he say?”

The waitress stiffened and sighed. “ Something about struggling with two and a half years of bullshit and how he was supposed to explain the truth? I'm not seeing any ecto-blasting teenagers around so I guess you're his accomplices? He was looking for advice and he was shelling out a lot of self-blame and talking about how he was unsure about how things were progressing.”

Both Jazmine and Tucker winced. “Yeah… we’re the ecto-blasting teenager’s accomplices.” Tucker murmured. Looking over Vlad, he questioned, “ Why did he come here?”
The waitress rubbed her eyes tiredly. “ Him and the other guy that drops by here both have been overly depressed lately. For a little more than six months now. They seem comforted by just hanging out and talking.”

There was a click behind them and all three individuals stiffened.

“ I'm taking the mayor with me. You three, get up and walk to the counter nice and slow.” The man's gruff voice stabbed through the air like ice. The gun barrel leaning against Jazmine's long red locks casually tapped against her shoulder before motioning toward the counter. “Move it, little lady.”

Tucker glowered at the man, as did the waitress.

The waitress's eyes sparked and she went to grasp onto Vlad again only for a smoking hole to appear in the wooden floor next to Vlad's head.

“ Don't you dare… Just back away from the freak! Any more sudden movements and I'll finish him right here and now!”

The waitress’s eyes widened and, glaring, she backed over to the counter with Tucker and Jazmine. Reaching down, the man quickly ripped some zip ties from his coat pocket and bound Vlad's wrists in front of him. He smiled vehemently as he hefted the now bound halfa up from the floor.

Tossing the adult over his left shoulder and still holding the gun, he began exiting the diner. “This cocky paranormal asshole is coming with me.” He purred the words and smiled leeringly at the horrified expressions of the three behind the counter.

“ Don't worry, we’ll have plenty of fun to make up for earlier.”

Still smiling, he aimed the gun and shot just to the right of the small group causing them all to instinctively duck. Seeing his opportunity, he quickly bolted out the door and into the rain with his captive.

Tucker immediately whipped out his phone. “ SAM!?!? Where are you guys?!?”

Sam answered, “ We’re in town looking. What's wrong? Where are you at?”

Tucker winced and looked out to the downpour outside. “ Some psychopath just kidnapped Vlad. He has a gun. We're in the northern outskirts of town near Canfield's Diner. Please tell me Danny has some way of tracking crazy bastards??!?”

Both Jazmine and Tucker ran out of the diner, the young waitress closely followed behind them. The man was ducking into an alleyway about a block ahead of them with Vlad. “Update Sam? The guy just ran into an alleyway nearby with Vlad slung over his shoulder.”

“Danny is on his way. Just keep the guy distracted or something?!?”

Tucker growled. “ Easy for you to say! Vlad's knocked completely out thanks to the Fenton Boomerang and the guy still has a gun!”

Sam’s voice, slightly panicked, instructed. “ Follow him! Don't let him get out of sight!”

Tucker groaned as he ran through the rain. “ Already ahead of you. Jazmine and I are turning down the alleyway right now.”

Hunkering down, the three watched as the assailant threw Vlad onto the ground so he could break open one of the boarded-up windows blocking his entry. Looking down at Vlad, he poked the partially unbuttoned shirt aside and seeing the bandages smiled wickedly.

“Mr. Mayor is in another bought of trouble now, isn't he?” Rifling through Vlad's pants, he snarled at the lack of money. Looking toward the window, he grinned at his efforts and then pulled Vlad up by his hair before hefting him over his shoulder again. Kicking down one last piece of wood, he crawled in with Vlad whistling as he crept further and further from peering eyes.

Tucker snarled into the phone. “He just broke into that abandoned mattress warehouse near the docks.”

Sam relayed the information to someone else on a different line before speaking to Tucker again. “ Danny’s three minutes out.”

Tucker winced. “ I'm going in… Don't worry, I'm going to keep out of sight.”

Before Sam could protest, he hung up and motioned the two girls to stay behind. “ Jaz? Go get your car. Vlad's probably going to need us to cart him home after this.”

Jaz nodded warily and grabbed onto the waitress. “ Come on.”

Tucker shook his head. “ No. She needs to stay here so she can signal Daniel down.”

The waitress's eyes widened from under the drenched hair flopping against her cheeks in sopping wet ringlets. “Who's this Daniel I'm supposed to signal?”

Tucker grinned tiredly. “Just Amity’s resident ghost hero.”

“ So the ghost fighting ghost is going to save a ghost? What-?”

Tucker sighed. “ Trust us. We honestly don't want that bastard hurting Vlad. Just stay here and signal down the temperamental ecto-blasting teenager?”

She nodded reluctantly and Tucker raced forward to the hastily made entrance and jumped in. Staying in the shadows and crawling through the cobwebs, he slowly crept down the hallway until he came to a lit office. The man, still whistling, tossed Vlad onto a bed and began reinforcing his zip-tied hands with a pair of metal cuffs. Leaning in to inspect his prize, he rubbed the muzzle of the gun against Vlad's cheek.

Vlad stirred slightly and noticing his hands were tied attempted to phase only for his captor to flip the gun over in one hand before bringing the back of the weapon against Vlad’s head. Vlad fell back with a dull thud and his eyes groggily fluttered closed.

“Now now embassary…. we can't have those powers of yours causing us any trouble now can we?” A deep female voice morphed and fluctuated with terrifying inhuman undertones from the shadows in the abandoned room.

The man turned and smiled to a vacant spot knowingly. “ I found your prey for you? Really? Wow! Today must be my lucky day...You never said I would be hunting the mayor though.”

A voice laughed giddily, “ A mayor? How deliciously humorous.”

The robber chuckled. “ Wasn't the big bad paranormal purifier supposed to have more fight in him? A kid’s boomerang knocked him senseless! Talk about pathetic.”

“ You really are weak now, hmm?” A woman with yellow skin and glowing blue eyes gazing predatorily toward Vladimir materialized into the room and smiled, exposing hundreds of barbed fangs.

“ And here I was losing hope you wouldn't be so easily lured out… It's a shame your body is so heavily damaged. I guess I'll have to feed on you slowly?” She tapped her chin wistfully and grinned before leaning in against Vlad. “ Your seal didn't even alert you to my taint…. I wonder why that is?” Her fingers slyly brushed through his hair and untied it.

“ Come on embassary…. Show me you’re deserving?”

Tucker swallowed and slowly retreated from the opening. Backing up, he made his way to the entrance and phoned Sam. In a low hiss, he whispered, “Sam!?! For fuck’s sake, something inhuman is in there with him!”

Sam worriedly questioned. “ What are you talking about Tuck? What about the guy with the gun?!?”

Tucker, in a panicked whisper, screeched. “ That dude isn't the one in charge. This thing is talking about feeding off of him!”

Daniel appeared next to Tucker and put a hand to his mouth. Hanging the phone up, Tucker sighed in relief. Whispering, he hissed, “ Tell me you have a plan? The thing tying Vlad down isn't like the box ghost and honestly, it's creepier than that doll we saw yesterday.”

An agonized female scream ripped through the hallway and both Tucker and Daniel paled.

The female voice could then be heard yelling angrily. “Damn it! It’s activating!?!? Lift him up! I need his wrists exposed more….”

There was a shuffling and a stiff bang emanated from the room.

“ Don't you dare damage my meal human…”

Daniel's eyes flashed menacingly. “Tucker? Stay here.”

Tucker nodded and backed up against the window fearfully.

Chapter Text

Daniel turned invisible and crept to the room. Vlad was being secured to the headboard of a bed by an angry and highly irritated man with a gun tucked in his waistband. “ Can't you just feed off of him somewhere else?”

A female voice purred. “ No, I prefer him unaware and completely secluded like this….Tear off that ridiculous fabric adorning his chest… I can smell the blood and it's becoming rather cumbersome to view my prey bundled up as such.”

The man snarled. “ You are quite petty for a demon. Here I summoned you for riches and I'm instead being used as bait and a henchman.”

Roughly grabbing onto Vlad's shirt, he began tearing it off of his chest. Vlad numbly tried to open his eyes and moved slightly against his restraints. The man quickly pulled the gun and snapped the handle to the side of Vlad's head a couple of times, effectively knocking him out. Daniel flew forward to intervene only to pause apprehensively when the woman's voice pierced the air again, “ Hold open his mouth. We can't have his other form or his abilities interfering.”

Daniel, seeing Vlad's unconscious form being lifted up slightly against the restraints, hissed angrily and blasted both the man and the monster into the wall. The demon growled ferally and cocked her head to the side as she stared at Daniel. Jumping to her feet, she crouched animalistically. Her ebony locks and plaid skirt seemed to shift and flicker from a non-existent wind as she gazed at the boy.

“ And what is it we have here? Some pitiful half-pint hero come to save the embassary?” She cackled and her fangs grew even larger. “ You smell familiar boy. Is it not you who butchered him so? He's quite sickly and weak as of now… Why not let us have him, hmmm?”

Daniel grimaced and his eyes sparked. “ What the actual fuck are you doing?!?”

She raised an eyebrow and laughed with undiluted mirth. “ Did you not know the prize you wounded? If you have no clue of its value why not leave us in peace, spirit? Or maybe you find some sort of attachment to your enemy? Why else would one’s spectral signature be so painfully sliced into his being?”

Daniel questioned again, this time more angry and loud. “ I’LL SAY THIS ONE MORE TIME. WHAT ARE YOU TWO FREAKS TRYING TO DO TO HIM?”

The man laughed. “ Danny Phantom, the ghost hero? Seriously? God the last week has been wild! Well, if you must know kiddo, my partner here is a demon that feeds off of want and flesh. She seems to have her heart set on consuming the balance between or some such nonsense… The Mayor over there just happens to be that and I don't get my money until she's devoured his heart. Understand spook?”

Daniel choked back bile. “ You plan on eating him?”

Both of them laughed and Daniel's ectoplasm buzzed uncomfortably. The woman took a step closer to the bed and gazed possessively at Vlad's sleeping form. “Yes boy, I plan on consuming him…. He’s no threat as of now and his emotions are just ripe enough to satisfy my cravings.”

Daniel's aura spiked and both hands charged dangerously. “ I’m giving you a chance to leave… If I were you? I'd take it.”

The demonic laughed frugally. Eyeing Daniel's expression with giddy amusement, she purred. “ You would let me flee where your precious enemy would exorcise me on the spot? And you call yourself the hero? Tell me, boy...Do you know what demons are, what our obsessions center on?”

Seeing Daniel's expression, she teleported to the bed and lightly stroked Vlad’s cheek. “We feed off of the living and the dead by destroying them from the outside and the inside. We get our enjoyment from breaking them. If I can not have him yet, I'll just go after another until a new chance arises to claim him. We do not give up on our meals easily child. So I ask again, why not leave your enemy with me?”

Daniel growled and hissed angrily. “ Get.off.of.him.”

The demon in response sneered before turning Vlad’s bandages intangible and ripping them off. “Begone boy, this concerns you not!”

Reaching down and poking a finger against Vlad's healing chest, she slowly impaled the stomach wound. Vlad’s spine arched slightly and his eyes opened briefly only for him to slip back under. Daniel blasted her and she hissed as she connected against the wall. Lifting the finger to her mouth, she licked the crimson and her eyes sparked slightly.

“ Ohhhhh! That's why it's activating! Such a pitiful existence and yet he still wishes that? How absurd!” She laughed and starred over to Vlad happily before looking back at Daniel. “He really told you the truth earlier didn't he? Poor little halfling! He was so distraught at your response…”

Daniel's eyes widened fearfully. “H-How do you k-know that?”

The demon gazed at Vladimir and raised her blood-drenched finger up so Daniel could see. Licking it, she purred in contentment. A look of pure disgust crossed Daniel's features and she chuckled. “ Blood and ectoplasm share energy patterns... Genetics hold soul memories. My kind do love this so...We can see every weak spot in a person's armor and are capable of ripping into them in every way imaginable… I never thought he would taste so satisfying even with this poison running through his body…”

Daniel's eyes narrowed and he blasted the specter again. She hissed against the wall and bared her fangs. Seeing her human partner aiming the gun in his peripheral, Daniel created a shield. The man grinned at him and motioned back to the demonic Daniel had left unattended. The creature, now lifting Vlad up, smiled toothily as she ran her long serpentine tongue along his exposed abdomen.

Her eyes rolled back giddily. “Hmmmm…. how interesting.”

She lifted Vlad’s head up and smiled toward Daniel. “ He really hates himself, doesn't he? Such a kind heart…. To protect... he willingly gave it all up, he surrendered and allowed himself to be torn apart…” Tilting Vlad's head back, she began propping open his mouth. Taking a vial out of her orange leather jacket, she uncapped it. Daniel's fist connected against her jaw a split second later and she tumbled off of the bed. Her body glowed with murderous intent as she sprung back to her feet.

“ You little spectral nuisance! I'll get rid of you first!” Claws extended from her hands and she circled them angrily.

Daniel growled at her words. “You took the words right out of my mouth, monster.”

Vlad's right hand dully attempted to spark. Creating a shield around himself and Vlad, Daniel began trying to wake Vladimir up. The adult, however, remained limp and unresponsive. “ Come on Vlad… Wake up…”

Pulling back some of the wet gray hair from Vlad's brow, Daniel felt his head and worriedly patted his cheek. Vlad groaned and tried to open his eyes only to slip back under again. The fever was back thanks to the rain. Daniel glowered at the demonic running her claws over his shield.

“ Give him back boy… That's my meal!” The shield screeched and Daniel winced.

“I laid claim to him!” Her talons extended and raked across the shield harder. The ear-numbing, nails on a chalkboard sound caused Daniel to writhe.

“He is mine!” And with that she thrust her talons through the shield completely, cracking it. The shield shattered like sugar glass and dissipated. Daniel protectively arched himself over Vlad and the demonic lunged forward, slicing into his shoulder. Smiling, she flung him into a wall away from Vlad. Ignoring the teen, she turned toward the older unconscious half ghost and raised her arm with the intent of rendering him as close to death as possible so that she could make the boy's protests pointless. She didn't get a chance to act on her plan. Daniel, eyes flashing a light neon blue, slammed his palm to the floor. A large ice spike spiraled from the rotting laminate and into the creature's spine. She hissed and thrashed. Glaring at Daniel, she began trying to phase only for the teenager to expand the ice through her core. With a muted thud and a yowl of agony, she dissipated in a wisp of black smoke.

Panting and gripping his ectoplasm dripping shoulder, Daniel looked back up to Vlad only to see the human assailant propping a gun to his head. Lifting up some strands of silver the man angrily snarled, “ Look what you did ghost brat! Do you realize how much money she promised me?!?!”

The man latched onto Vlad's head and hefted him up into a sitting position. ‘Damn it. Vlad…’

Creating an invisible duplicate, Daniel had his doppelgänger position himself next to Vladimir. A stiff metallic click echoed as the man raised the gun more snugly against Vlad's head. Daniel's double latched on to Vlad's shoulder and prepared to phase him.

“ Well jokes on you, you little ectoplasmic freak! If I'm going down I'm taking your sickly paranormal friend with me!”

‘ Now!’

The enraged individual pulled the trigger twice and seeing no blood and no dead mayor, he growled angrily and tried to make a run for it. Daniel sent his double after him. Flying over to Vlad, Danny frantically phased him out of the cuffs and the zip ties. “Fruit-Loop, we’re getting you home. You’re going to be alright…”

Vlad grimaced in his sleep as he was lifted up. Daniel frowned deeply at the crimson coating Vlad’s torso. Laying him back down, he clicked the secure channel on his Fenton Phone to contact Tucker and Sam with a joint call.

Tucker's panicked voice rang out first, “ We heard gunfire! Are you alright Pham?”

Daniel winced and looked to his shoulder. “ I'm fine considering that thing used me as a scratching post. My duplicate is bringing that guy out to you now. I beat him up pretty good so I doubt he will be getting away on his own. Do me a favor and wait there? I'm sending another duplicate out with some cuffs to phase onto the bastard.”

Sam worriedly questioned, “ What happened to Vlad?!?”

Daniel went quiet for a moment. Sighing, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Sam? Do you have anything we can wrap him in? Whatever that thing was, ripped his bandages off and was playing around in his wounds.”

Sam paused, “ No… I don't have anything Danny… I'm outside with Jaz now.”

There was a pause. Sam spoke up somewhat relieved, “ Okay, we have something! Jaz had a blanket in the backseat of her car. Can we come into the building or?”

Looking at the giant ice spike and Vlad, Daniel smiled tiredly, “ Yeah, come on in. I'm probably going to need your help with carrying him out. My left arm got sliced through…”

Sam’s voice, somewhat fatigued gave a brief, “ Coming in.” And then with a small click, she hung up.

Tucker, still on the line questioned. “ Danny? Dude? What was that chick?”

Daniel paused and swallowed. “Tuck? I think we just met a demon.”

Tucker went silent for a moment. “Can you send out another duplicate Danny? I have an idea about how to handle this bozo out here.”

Daniel smiled slightly, “ Sure.”

His duplicate flew by just as Sam and Jaz rounded the corner and made their way into the room. Seeing Daniel's shoulder, Jazmine immediately rushed toward him only for him to push her away. “ Treat Vlad first….”

Jazmine glanced over to Vlad and, wincing, rushed over to his side. Cradling his head, she gently tried waking him up. Her eyes widened fearfully. “ Danny… this fever…”

Sam, hearing this, sprinted over and began checking Vlad herself. “ His temperature isn't leveling out… it's still getting higher.”

Nodding, Daniel began cooling the room rapidly. “ He's probably not going to wake up for a while. Those monsters hit him over the head a couple of times to keep him from phasing away or teleporting.”

Jazmine's slender hand gently prodded through Vlad's hair. Her fingers connected to a large bruised portion and Vlad grimaced in his sleep. “ Jesus…. they hit him hard…”
Probing the rest of his head for injury, she felt something sticky and wet near the back of his skull. Retracting her hand, her eyes widened. “ Danny…?”

Her hand shakily lifted, exposing the blood to both Sam and Daniel. Both teens felt their own blood run far more frigid than the icy room. Growling, Sam took the initiative and began tearing up her cotton long sleeve shirt into a makeshift bandage. Gently prodding Jazmine aside, she lifted Vlad's head up and began trying to temporally bandage him. Vlad’s eyes lazily fluttered open and he coughed. Sam gently comforted him, “ Vlad? Can you hear us?”

Vlad grimaced and numbly began darting in and out of consciousness. Sam lifted him up slightly and checked his pupils. “ No brain trauma. He's just hurt too badly to make any actual conversation.”

Vlad grimaced and fell forward slightly in her hold. She continued expertly trying to wrap his injured head with the shirt scraps.

Daniel and Jaz both worriedly hovered over Vlad and now seeing the back of his head fully, both stared venomously toward the doorway of the room.

Daniel growled, “ I think I should have beat that bastard a little more thoroughly...” Looking back to Vlad and leaning down, he tried focusing the adult again.

Vlad numbly registered Daniel's shoulder and his right arm shakily reached for him. There was a flash and Vlad passed out against Sam. Jazmine looked from Vlad to Daniel and then her eyes widened in complete disbelief. “ Daniel?!?! Your shoulder! Look at your shoulder!”

Daniel's eyes darted to the numb flesh and then grew round with disbelief. Looking back up at Jaz he questioned, “Did he just….?”

Sam, trying to adjust her hold on Vlad, attempted to look back. “ He just what? Some of us are trying to keep him from falling on the floor here! A little explanation would be grand right about now!”

Daniel and Jaz shared an equally perplexed gaze before Daniel answered. “So, um…. my shoulder’s fine now?”
Sam stiffened. “ Wait… he can heal other people?”

Vlad moved slightly against her and she cupped her hand behind his neck to keep him steady.

Jazmine moaned in annoyance and Daniel grumbled, “ And of course he passed out before we could get an explanation from him!”

Sam angrily snapped at them, “Well excuse him for being a decent human being and getting brained by Fenton equipment! Or better yet, let's stand here ogling at him for being kidnapped thanks to his inability to defend himself because of said faulty equipment and then pistol whipped? Stop bickering and whining! I need your help wrapping him in that blanket and carrying him to the car!”

Both Fenton's turned contrasting shades. Jazmine tinted red and Daniel green, due to embarrassment and guilt. Flustered, they both helped lift Vlad off of Sam. Sam sprung up and, grabbing the blanket she had dropped on the floor, began swaddling Vlad's exposed torso. Turning to Daniel, she motioned for him to pick up Vlad.

Reaching down and hefting the adult up as easily as one would a small bag, he cradled him to his chest. Vlad moved unconsciously toward Daniel's core. Sam smiled slightly. “ And the human air conditioner strikes again.”

Jaz nodded and motioned them all to walk forward. Turning to Daniel, she added, “I think you should ride in the back of the car with him Danny.”

Daniel readjusted his hold before speaking. “ I'll meet you guys out there.”

They nodded and Daniel turned intangible and invisible. Flying through the wall with Vlad and into the street, he landed on the roof of the car and sunk both himself and Vlad through the vehicle and into the backseat. Laying Vlad up against the seat next to the darkly tinted window and gripping a cooling hand to his head, he waited for Sam, Jaz, and Tucker to get into the car.

The doors clicked open a few minutes later and both Jazz and Sam got into the front seat. Looking into the backseat, Sam instructed Daniel to move over and lay Vlad down.

“ What about Tuck?”

Sam smiled wickedly, “ Tuck is helping a kind diner waitress with apprehending an armed thug. Something about him sneaking up behind the man as he held her at gunpoint and beating him over with a coffee pot?”

Daniel grinned, “ Well, that explains why he asked my duplicates to drag the guy back to the diner. Granted, locking him in the freezer was my idea.”

Sam and Jazz exchanged somewhat understanding glances before hastily pulling away from the street.

Chapter Text

It was still raining by the time they pulled up to Vlad's manor.

Daniel gently shook Vlad and this time the adult groggily focused on him. “Ugh….Daniel….Where are we? Itzzz all...uh-”

Both Sam and Jazz's heads whipped around to stare at Vlad. Vlad tiredly grimaced and his leg bent in as struggled to grasp exactly where he was and how he got there. Daniel gently comforted. “ It's okay… You accidentally got hit in the head…”

Vlad numbly looked up at Daniel. “Seal…. something dangerous...what? Uh….My head?…n’ you're ...injured..I-I saw...it..”

Daniel hefted him up slightly and gripped him closer. “ That's just the head injury talking Vlad... We’re home now. Just calm down Fruit-Loop. You just had a bad dream.”

Vlad tensed and his right palm numbly clawed itself from under the blanket. His eyes flashed white for a moment and he slumped. “ You’re….a bad….liar...Badger…” Wincing, his body's struggles slackened and he fell further into Daniel's hold.

Jazmine smiled apologetically. “Yep… definitely, some head trauma based delirium.”

Sam rolled her eyes and looking toward Vlad, worriedly reached over the seat to check his fever. “ Good. It's gone down some. When we get him inside we'll give him some Tylenol.”

Vlad moved slightly from her touch and tried opening his eyes again only for her to sigh in exasperation. “ Okay… go to sleep already! Do you even realize how injured you are Vlad?”

Vlad smiled slightly and through half-lidded eyes looked toward the sound of her voice. “Manson?.... I...think … I know…M’...kinda hurting...a lot...right now...”

Vlad winced and Sam’s brow furrowed. Looking at Daniel, she questioned. “ That chic? Was she a ghost? She may have activated the blood blossom still in his system.”

Daniel nodded. “ She had a ghost core so I'm assuming yeah?”

Vlad’s brow furrowed as Daniel lifted him up into his lap. “I'm going to float him into the house. I'll meet you both upstairs.”

Sam smiled. “ Gotcha. We'll be in a few minutes.”

Wrapping his free arm under Vlad's legs, he phased them both intangible and through the roof of the car. Flying through the upstairs, he quickly made his way into Vlad's bedroom again and began helping Vlad out of the blanket he was wrapped in. Vlad shakily held himself at the edge of the bed before speaking. “….Badger?... I have….to wash the blood off….before we wrap…”

Daniel grimaced and nodded.

“ I'll find a washcloth and some water.”

Vlad blearily locked his eyes with Daniel and, looking away, he added, “I….think...I need a ….bath…”

Frowning, Daniel questioned. “ How do you propose you go about that Vlad? I can't just let you out of my sight when you're practically unconscious!”

Vlad winced. “ I….have...an idea?”

Daniel crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow. “ Go on, I'm listening.”

Vlad smiled tiredly and duplicated. The duplicate and Vlad both grimaced. “ I can turn…..one duplicate...into Plasmius...He can..alert you….if I conk out… He'll fade if I lose consciousness…”

Daniel nodded, slightly impressed. “ Okay… I'm game for this.” With that, the duplicate morphed into Plasmius. Both Vlad's ghost counterpart and himself fainted partially before righting themselves. The double blurred and then solidified again as Vlad stood up shakily and began pitching forward.

Daniel caught him and, draping him over his shoulder, helped him to the bathroom. “Vlad? I think I'd be more confident in your ability to manage if you took a shower sitting down? No baths where you can drown and no slick tile for you to re-crack your head on?”

Vlad nodded. “ …. Kind of…..to dizzy to...stand anyway…”

Leading Vlad to the walk-in shower, he gently sat him down on the small lip of tile dividing the bathroom floor from the small wash area. Vlad nodded in thanks and Daniel politely vacated the room.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vlad sat tiredly for a moment to try and gather the incoherent babble zipping and darting inside his cranium. Every second after the diner was warped and so blurred he couldn’t make heads or tails of what happened to him. Phasing his clothes intangible, Vladimir tiredly chunked them to the floor. Standing briefly to cut on the shower, he grabbed the body wash from the shelf and sett the water to a comfortable temperature. Sitting down in the stream, he begrudgingly felt the fabric on his head and phased it off as well before he began tenderly feeling the spots he had been clubbed in.

‘ Ow...uh… I was hit with a gun right?...’

Vague recollections of him waking up in a strange room with the diner burglar looming over him and hitting him relentlessly in the head until he had blacked out, clawed their way into focus.

‘ I guess….I should've...poured the coffee….on his crotch?... Ballzy….bastard…’

Daniel laughed from the other room. Vlad raised an eyebrow tiredly and gently began cleaning his head injury and his chest.

Dizzy, he swayed forward and winced as some of the suds dribbled into his eye. ‘ And to add to today's….bs? ….I now have... soap in my eye….Damn that stings!’

This time three individuals could be heard laughing from the bedroom. Vlad rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly and, directing himself back under the stream of water, he mentally ranted, ‘ What is...so funny? Did...Daniel...accidentally….fry the cat?.... God my brain….’

Vlad weakly chuckled internally at the thought.

‘Manson would... be livid…’

Sitting under the stream of water and, curling his legs against himself, Vlad continued his ponderings oblivious to the fact his dazed and equally out of sorts duplicate was muttering his thoughts aloud in the other room.

Chapter Text

Jaz, Sam, and Daniel were watching the practically semiconscious duplicate in giddy amusement.

“ This is so sad. Does he know how out of it he is right now?” Jaz whispered.

“ I've only been knocked this senseless once Jaz, and I never attempted duplication in that condition.” Daniel snorted and pointed to the dazed clone.

The clone’s brow furrowed as he leaned back against the wall and curled his knees against his chest. Looking to the floor, he mused, “ Why….do...I always end...up like this?”

He cradled his head slightly and rubbed his brow against his arm. “ mmm… probably cause I'm… a pathetic…. crazy, narcissistic cloning... bastard who only thinks of himself…? Pathetic...lousy...that's true right?... I can't even protect a little girl…..Narcissistic… pfft. I never… thought of myself… as anything but….a man.....I'm less...than that…though…..just a freak….a monster…”

The three watching Vlad's duplicate paled. The duplicate, still oblivious squeezed his shoulders and curled against himself further. “Liz?....I'm so tired….Everything hurts…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ Who's Liz?”

The other two shrugged, just as confused by the name.

Plasmius paused and, raising his head abruptly, he questioned, “Clones? Fuck!….Never cloned-...” Vlad's features became hauntingly dark and then he slammed his head back under his folded arms defeatedly. “Uh… god, my head…. make it stop…”

The duplicate shook slightly against himself. “ …..That's all you could do… Distancing them…. pissing them off… Cruel irony…. Is it wrong…. to want this?...To want...a chance… even after… I failed….?”

Plasmius sighed and clutched his shoulders a little more tightly as his head turned out from under his arm. He was crying. Wiping the tears off, he smirked.

“Photographic….memory hurts…. Words fucking….hurt…..Itzzz my fault though…. I didn't want…. another person… damned like me…”

Vlad winced and one of his legs extended out. Propping a hand under his jaw, he continued. “ Daniel's not...like me though......he didn't have his friends….leave him...He has a family… They're alive...not dead….M’ thankful… and proud….He...can still enjoy life...he's not hollow or broken…”

Vlad ran a hand through his hair and winced as his hand connected to one of the bruises. The duplicate’s eyes flashed white for a second and he laughed bitterly. “Another….demon tried….killing me...pfff…. they never learn… joys of being a monster… Talk about… a...lousy job.”

Becoming slightly sarcastic, Vlad bitterly continued. “Surprise...you aren't an experiment... or prisoner….anymore…. but get this?.... You are damned...for hoping...things could change...Waitress wonders why I was so intent on just shooting myself….Then again bullets….don't work to good… when you instinctively turn intangible...Ha..”

The three teens winced.

Vlad numbly curled up against himself again and, dizzy, he gripped his head. The duplicate flickered slightly but continued staying tangible.

“ God, the depressing... thoughts keep… coming… The demon must have… licked or fed….? I haven't...thought this way… in weeks...Damn it…”

Biting his lip and cradling his head, he sighed in an attempt to calm himself. “…. On the bright side….I'm not blind….I'm not impaled...and m’ not being pinned to...a table….and-”

Vlad chuckled bitterly and his eyes became downcast. “ Damned demon...really must have gotten a taste…. Poison in the saliva? ..Not what I needed… then again… doubt this will affect... anything too much…. Cause I'm the lucky… halfa bastard… the entire world wants six feet under….including …Maddie and Jack...blah…”

Vlad fell over slightly and gripped he hands to his ears for a moment. “So….dizzy……. Feels like Ed tranqued me again…” The duplicate sighed and he smiled warmly. “ Him…. and Rom… they're..gonna be livid when… they realize I finally dropped the act...No point… the damage was done…”

Vlad stiffened and his eyebrow raised tiredly. Staring at the ceiling, he mused. “ Huh… if Ed tries attacking Danny...should I like hit him with...a newspaper or something?... Spritz...spritz bad...hunter?”

The teenager’s jaws dropped and they quickly stifled more laughter. The sudden sarcasm caught them off guard after such a depressing and heartfelt monologue.

Plasmius groaned. “ Little green… moron...And what about Rom? Pretty sure he doesn't like Danny… Then again? Kid’s been labeled a ghost racist… Gotta give Agatha props… not a term you hear every day…”

Yawning, Plasmius slouched down further against the wall. “ Damn… got work tomorrow…. Cause joy… paperwork… At least thirty grandmothers… in hoop skirts and….hair rollers aren't… trying… to molest me again… Fucking Ed… Pisses off a knitting club and leaves my address on a scrap piece...of paper… Spiteful little booger… Excuse me… World’s greatest hunter… my spectral ass. Ohhh, look… gonna hunt a poltergeist into… a circle of old ladies… and I'm going to miss… the fucking monster and instead net two old codgers… and a hospice nurse..”

All three teens burst out laughing and the Vlad duplicate rolled his eyes, “Wonder….what they… are laughing about?... Probably found something humiliating...Fuck it… too tired to care…”

Straightening slightly, Vlad's duplicate tiredly mused. “ Probably should summon some clothes….Totally makes friggin sense…right? You’re a wizard Vladdie. Pffff.”

Daniel and Jazmine were practically blue from restraining laughter and Sam snorted.

Lifting his right palm up amusedly, Plasmius snapped his fingers. Several stiff thuds could be heard from inside the bathroom. Plasmius grinned and tried to get up only to stagger. “Okay… maybe I should just sit here for a few moments….”

Leaning back against the wall and rubbing his chin Vlad groaned. “ … I would shave but…. I'm about as coordinated as a sailor in a liquor outlet mall…right now.... the...last thing I need… is to butcher my face. I'm… a half ghost, I don't need...to pull an Edward Scissorhands…with my straight razor…’ Could always have a duplicate attempt-...What am I thinking? Double... the stupid and uncoordinated?.... Wait… that's Daniel's job…” Plasmius snorted.

Daniel raised an eyebrow but let the comment slip by him.

Vladimir, still fairly out of it, curled himself slightly against the wall. “ ...Uh...why does….my chest hurt?.... The burning… it doesn't stop...Blood Blossoms shouldn't… cause this…. It should be circulated through the ectoplasm….by now...Maybe my ghost….half is decaying?..... That's terrifying… But then...why am…I hurting...in human form?....I'm almost getting used...to the heat...and the pain… Maybe God just likes… fucking with my life….in particular…?”

Plasmius groaned and faded slightly. “ Damn it…. damn itzzz hurting…. It doesn't stop… Maybe Bertra did give… me something else… in that drink…I... can't even create an ectoblast… currently or shield… correctly… Shielded Paula in the diner… couldn't shield myself though… -spent too much energy… teleporting… Didn't want to collapse….. and fall out of the sky again …”

The teens stood attentive and listened carefully so they could better help him. “ The burning… it's like I'm being roasted over coals … and when… I shift…? God…..it hurts….It's almost...like when….I first got...zapped….”

Plasmius’s eyes widened for a moment and his mood soured. Coughing could be heard from the bathroom. “Oh….oh damn… okay….maybe bleeding internally?....Blood...lots of blood.”

Daniel worriedly shouted into the restroom, “ Vlad? Are you alright in there?!?!”

Plasmius went to get up and staggered over. “ Lie….for god's sake… you just need a day….to heal...he doesn't need to know...He still hates-...Better he….never knew right?” Plasmius winced and swallowed. Vlad's voice, somewhat shaky and slurred echoed from the bathroom. “I'm fine...Daniel…”

Plasmius faded slightly again and put his cheek to the flooring. “Lying...bastard….stupid...bastard….inhuman freak….Monster….Guess….the demons are right in the end….. I never deserved...to live….but why is that…? Did I just get the... lucky universal scratch ticket for ...hatred and abuse?”

Plasmius stiffened slightly and he trembled. “ Broken….broken and pitiful… She was right….” Plasmius paused. “Probably should apologize….to the kids…. especially Samantha ...n…. Danny… Some host… I've been…? Should've just went along …. with what Dan… said…. but lying more won't help…. I'm sick of lying….”

Plasmius snorted. “ Then again?… Daniel…. doesn't trust….me...probably would think… I'm up to something… or have ulterior motives….mmmm’.... a villain?… Ha…some....villain….”

More coughing echoed from the bathroom. Plasmius’s eyes dulled slightly and he slouched further into the floor. “Blood….Blood doesn't...stop...won't stop..ugh..”

The shower could be heard turning off in the bathroom. Plasmius groaned. “.....Passing out….. okay….clothes…”

There was a rustling of fabric behind the door for a minute and then a heavy muted thump followed by a small cry of pain. Plasmius stiffened and his eyes widened. “….It hurts….someone….I….”

Daniel immediately slung open the bathroom and ran into the room. Plasmius dissipated behind him as he rounded on Vlad's unconscious form. Vlad’s chest was darting in and out somewhat spastically and he was numbly curled against himself. An outstretched hand was gripping loosely against the nightshirt, which lay on the floor beside him.

Turning Vlad over, Daniel gently lifted his head and began checking him over. Jazmine and Sam both rushed in a few seconds later. Sam carried a variety of medical supplies from the downstairs infirmary in her somewhat shaking arms. Laying them down on the floor, she quickly began rifling through the boxes and bottles.

Lifting Vlad's back up slightly and still cradling his head, Daniel grabbed the antibacterial spray from Sam and began liberally dosing the wounds in the hopes that whatever the demon had in her saliva would dissipate with the liquid. Vlad winced and turned slightly in his hold from the stinging. Blue eyes fluttered open for a split second before rolling back and closing again.

Propping Vlad up into a sitting position, Daniel motioned for the gauze and began firmly wrapping it around Vlad's chest. The adult’s eyes shot open and he pulled back, flinching and grimacing in agony at the contact. Jazmine gently lifted Vlad's head up by his chin. “ Woah… easy there….It's okay. Vlad? I know it hurts. It's going to be alright.”

Vlad practically screamed as the bandages where tightened and secured. His body went limp right after they were done and his heavy-lidded eyes closed the moment his head slumped backward. Sam stood at the ready to treat his head injury. Gently maneuvering her hold, she motioned Jaz to hold his shoulders while she inspected the head wounds.

“ Well, it's healing fast… The cut was pretty shallow so I don't think he needs any bandages on his head now.”

Jazmine winced. “ What do you think did it? The boomerang or that crazy robber?”

Sam grimaced. “ There's no telling.”

Daniel gently began slipping Vlad's sweatshirt over his chest. Vlad shook and coughed in their hold, a small stream of crimson gently slipped from his jaw and all three teens stiffened. Daniel's eyes flashed and he motioned for Sam to give him a rag from the sink. Laying Vlad on his side temporarily, Daniel turned to Sam, “Go ahead and dampen it.”

She nodded and cutting on the sink, quickly soaked and wrung out the small parcel of fabric. Jazmine winced as they began cleaning off Vlad's jaw. “So...Vlad’s depressive and self-loathing?”

Daniel grimaced as he gently cradled Vlad up slightly against himself. Turning ghost again, he activated his core. Vlad curled against the cold and sighed in relief. “ Apparently… yeah…. Do you guys think he actually tried shooting himself?”

Sam and Jazmine both flinched. “He talked about it but he probably was only theorizing what would've happened.” Jazmine’s words, still slightly unsure, managed to calm the small group. Putting his arms under Vlad and hefting him up, Daniel briskly carried the sleeping older half ghost into the bedroom. Sam followed closely behind him. Moving the tray table from earlier, she tossed the covers lightly to the side of the mattress so Vladimir could be laid down and tucked in properly.

Curling against his left side as he was set down, Vlad gently rubbed his aching body deeper against the soft linens and pillows. Sam beamed and pulled the blanket over Vlad. Tucking him in, she groaned. “ Okay, in a few hours were going to have to wake him up for that medicine. For now though? Danny? Chill that pillow I brought over here, will you?”

Daniel smiled slightly and began cooling the fabric after a few moments he handed it to Sam. She smiled at the delicate cold emanating from the pillow before gently lifting Vlad's head and wedging it between his cheek and the bed. Vlad's arm limply curled under it and hugged it closer.

Jaz smiled broadly. “ Vlad is kind of a-dorkable. I mean….This just screams....evil .” She sarcastically mused. Sighing, she rubbed her temple. “What the hell was with the nanobot thing and that death battle royal though?”

Daniel sat down tiredly in the chair to the right of Vladimir's bed and propped his feet up. “Beats me? I call him a Fruit-Loop for a reason, Jaz.”

He rubbed his temple tiredly. “ Let’s just let go of what he has done for the moment? Me doing that is what landed him in this condition earlier.”

Tucker could be heard taking off his shoes in the hallway.

Sam smiled in thanks. “ So we are finally giving the poor goofball a break?”

Daniel groaned. “ Well after hearing that? And what happened earlier because I verbally lashed him for being honest? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if we just continued pouring salt in his wounds.”

Tucker walked in tiredly and tossed his drenched beanie and coat to the floor.

He was just about to speak when Sam's phone rang.

Chapter Text

She quickly answered before Vlad could be jostled awake. “ Oh… Hi mom.”

Sam paused nervously. “ No, I'm not at the Fenton's. I'm helping one of my friends.”

Sam rolled her eyes and growled, “ Well mom, you wouldn't be saying that if you knew who my friend was.” Whatever Mrs. Manson said on the other end of the line caused Sam's eyes to flare dangerously.

In a level and cold voice, she replied,“ Excuse me mother…. I do believe I'm inclined to pick my company. You also have no right to pick and choose who I associate with based on lackluster and biased observations. Every single individual I know is worth ten of those societal jerks you insist I conform to and befriend. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to help Mayor Masters around his house while he finishes up some post-election paperwork. Next time instead of insulting me or assuming my friends are classless garbage, consider instead asking me why I'm friends with them or what I'm actually doing in my spare time? Just a thought?”

Sam’s foot tapped in annoyance against the wooden floorboards. “ Ask Maurice. I've been coming over to help Mayor Masters with Daniel, Tucker, and Jazmine for the last few days in order to develop character and learn more about politics and business.”

Tucker and Daniel both gaped at the smoothness and flawless execution of her woven lies. Tucker whistled. Elbowing Daniel, he winked. “ Danny? I hope you never piss her off.”

Daniel groaned. “ You should have seen her earlier..”

Sam, now angrily pacing, continued. “ Well, I have to get going now that you realize how rude you are being. I have a dinner to make. The help won't touch this place because it's haunted. I'll call Maurice to escort me home later tonight and I will arrive before curfew. Goodbye.”

And with that she clicked the power button on her phone, disconnecting the call.

The room was silent for a moment. Sam sheepishly tossed her hair out of her face and blushed slightly. “ My mom is pretty damned rude.”

Tucker raised an eyebrow. “ She can't be that bad?”

Sam cringed. “ You didn't hear the words she hissed at me when she assumed I was hanging out with you two instead of being at a luncheon with some preppy snobs at a country club for my summer vacation. She's arrogant and stuck up!”

Daniel nodded in agreement. “Yeah, no argument there.”

Tucker, seeing Vlad curled under the comforter, walked forward and inspected him worriedly. Turning to Daniel, he prodded. “ So… What did that freaky piranha toothed chic do?”

Daniel tiredly rubbed his brow. “She mainly was trying to convince me to let her consume him… What's sick is that the robber was all for feeding Vlad to her in exchange for some money.” Daniel shivered. “ Something about demons feeding on humans and ghosts and how Vlad was some rare meal? God, it hurts my brain thinking about it! The damned thing stuck her finger through him and tasted him like someone would a pie…”

Tucker's eyes rounded in horror and his jaw dropped. “ She tasted him?”

Daniel grew pale at the memory. “Yeah….Three times.”

Jazmine shivered. Sam put a hand to her mouth to resist the urge to gag.

Vlad numbly tossed in his sleep and his brow furrowed in discomfort. Tucker looked at him somewhat worriedly.

“ Has he woken up at all since you got him away from the warehouse?”

Sam snorted. “ Oh yeah. He was definitely awake… Well, sort of…”

Jaz nodded and winced. “ I think it's best he sleeps this off.”

All four teens were startled by the moan of pain coming from the bed. Curling against himself, Vlad dully writhed as the two ebony rings formed around his torso and expanded outward. Plasmius desperately hugged the cooling pillow against himself. Pushing Tucker aside, Daniel began cooling the room again. Vlad’s brow relaxed in his sleep and his pointed ears raised slightly.

Tucker cocked an eyebrow at the ear movement and looked over to Daniel's ear curiously before yanking hard against the lobe. Daniel yelped and slapped Tucker across the face in a frenzied panic.

Wincing, Tucker questioned. “ I've always wondered… Why does he have elf ears? I can't remember a single ghost we have ever encountered with those.”

Sam raised an eyebrow and looking at Vlad's ears, rubbed her chin in thought. “ You know… that's a pretty good question?”

Daniel groaned. Looking down at Vlad's feverish ghost form, he gently wiped the black hair out of his face to cool the adult’s forehead. Vlad winced and his ear twitched.

Sam snorted and giggled. “ He's like a cat…”

Both Jaz and Daniel quickly covered their mouths to keep from laughing outright. ‘ Fruit-Loop? I swear to god….if you start purring….’

As if on cue, something began purring gently below Vlad's bed. Wrapping out from under the wooden post by the nightstand nearest to Vlad, the white blur gingerly leaped up onto the bed and nuzzled herself against Vladimir's pained form. Settling herself in the small gap near his stomach, she purred contentedly and rested her small head against his gloved wrist as she laid against him.

Vlad's brow furrowed again and the cat worriedly nudged his hand as if comforting him. Vlad's ear twitched and his right arm numbly moved in his sleep to comfort the small animal.

Daniel gaped. A click startled him from his astonishment. Sam guiltily put her phone back in her pocket. “ What? I kind of wanted photographic evidence. It's not like he is going to remember or admit to cuddling a cat in his sleep…”

Jaz sighed and tiredly rubbed her forehead. “ He actually has a cat?”

Looking at the content feline and its bright golden eyes, Jaz smiled slightly.

“ She's a beautiful little thing isn't she?” Sam smiled.

Daniel quirked an eyebrow and attempted to reach her collar to see the name only for the feline to hiss and scratch. Backing into Vlad, she glared at Daniel maliciously.

“How the heck did he get that furball docile around him? Every time I get near her she goes spastic!” Daniel groaned.

Sam winked, “ It looks like her owner and her have something in common, huh?”

Tucker snorted. “ I never thought he would be the pet keeping type.”

Jaz peered closer to Vlad and gently went to readjust his head.

“ We should probably try making dinner while he's out of it.”

Sam beamed. “ I gathered supplies for macaroni and cheese. You guys want to help me?”

Tucker grinned and Jazmine nodded. Daniel looked down toward Vlad and sighed. “Sure.”

Chapter Text

Vlad was having a fairly nice dream for once.

Jack had just walked back to the dorm with him after they both had spent time with Maddie at the movies. The Silence of the Lambs had brought up a rather livid conversation about motives and morality. Jack, of course, argued that no one as twisted as Hannibal Lector would have left Starling free to roam around. Vlad had bit his cheek in silent knowing that some people did keep people around to toy with for sick amusement and had quickly shifted the conversation to Jack and Maddie. They were starting to get closer after his efforts the semester prior. The kiss had been the first step but now Jack and Maddie were becoming nervous around one another. Him being dragged to the movies was just another security measure for Jack's increasing nerves. Vlad yawned. There, of course, was a solution to this...He would just have to set them up on an actual date and pay for it in advance so they wouldn't be able to refuse going together. But what could he set them up with? He's eyes tiredly loomed to the ceiling as Jack exited the dorm to go to the showers.

'I know....There's that theater troupe coming to town this April. When was the first showing?....' He furrowed his brow in remembrance of the poster in the campus library. A dark caped figure stooping over a young woman, fangs extended. 'Oh right! The seventh....A Sunday, so I should be able to claim I have work off campus.'

Fluffing his pillow, he smiled warmly and nestled against the comforter Jack had bought him. It was a serious upgrade to what he had been using prior. He drifted off peacefully and to his annoyance, something began shaking both him and his bed. His eyes must have only been closed for a millisecond!

Groaning, he swatted at the movement and shifted against the bedding. It had been a long night and he realllllyyy needed the sleep. The shaking persisted and Vlad turned slightly to try and get comfortable again only for whatever was shaking him to redirect the movement.

'Fuck.....Maddie decided to wake us up...Stop...N-no....I need the sleep...'

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vlad blearily attempted opening his eyes and shifted in the arms trying to gently shake him fully back to the waking world. In the dim room, however, and still partially asleep, he continued lapsing between his dreams and the bedroom.

A redheaded figure was worriedly leaning over him and in a hushed tone, she questioned. “ Vlad? Hey? You awake?”

Vlad numbly turned from her and closed his heavy-lidded eyes again.“Ugh….The redheaded...brute…?..Go away…”

The girl shook him slightly harder and grabbing a pillow, he numbly smacked her. “Maddie? Just go….bother ...Jack? I'm...not in the mood……”

Pulling the blanket over his head, he tiredly rolled onto his side. The blanket was ripped back violently and Vlad dizzily shivered. “ Jack?...Call off Mads…. She won't lay off….”

Hands gently wrapped onto his shoulder. Vlad grabbed another pillow and smacked it into the living alarm clock so rudely waking him up from his slumber.

Hearing a muted thwack and a small profanity he smiled in accomplishment. ‘ Ha. Deserved it. Go to breakfast already….’

Vlad stiffened as he was roughly pulled over onto his back again. Growling, he groggily yanked the covers up with his arm and moved himself to get comfortable again. One leg splayed over the edge of the bed and his left arm numbly hugged the plush comforter against his chest. Someone was leaning overhead and staring at him intrusively. He could feel their warm breath hovering over his eyelashes. Tossing his head slightly, he angrily muttered. “Flapjack?...Call MC... off or …..I swear to god I'm not…. helping you study anymore…”

Hearing no response, Vlad groaned. There were some muffled footfalls and Vlad smiled contently. The noise, however, was back a few moments later along with a comfortingly cool breeze. Muffled whispers permeated the chilly air.

“ You really need my help?” A young male voice questioned curiously. There was a brief silence and feeling the cold coming closer Vlad numbly pulled his leg up and pulled the blankets even tighter against himself.

“ Vlad? It's time for dinner.” Hearing Maddie's voice again, Vlad groaned and plopped the covers over his head.

“ Mads…. If Jack put you up to this-”

Something soft smacked against his leg and Vlad growled. “ Would it kill you to let me sleep in? Take Jack!”

There was silence for a moment. Feeling the cold creeping even closer, Vladimir numbly reached for another pillow from under his blanket and launched it at what he presumed was Jack. “Fenton…. Ugh…. for the love of god...call her off…”

Someone laughed and Vlad smiled slightly. “ Stop laughing...itzzz not funny!”

A hand roughly yanked the blankets back again and Vlad just as quickly pulled them back up.

A soft sigh echoed from somewhere. “ Wow… Talking in his sleep or-?” The young male questioned.

Vlad snorted. “ Maddie? Whoever you wrung up to wake us this morning just escort them out? M’ too tired for this…”

“ Yep… he's completely in dreamland. Hey, why does he keep-” Another female voice shot out.

Vlad, now to annoyed to even care anymore, roughly rubbed his eyes. “Mads... Jack? I'm going to absolutely destroy you for this.”

Grabbing two pillows from beside his head, he expertly launched them toward the noises. Four startled yelps resonated. Vlad smiled contently and hearing no more noise, slipped back fully into his actual sleep.

Walking out of the room all four teens collapsed in the hallway and burst into a fit of laughter.

“ I guess we can always go for round two? Fruit-Loop still isn't awake and we have to get him to take that Tylenol.” Daniel beamed cheekily.

Sam pursed her lips and then smirked, “ He must have thought Jaz was your mom...pffff.”

Jazmine rolled her eyes. “ Good! Someone else noticed! For a minute there I thought I stumbled into the twilight zone.”

Tucker groaned and readjusted his glasses. “ He didn't even have to look to hit us! What is he, a pillow fight demigod?”

Daniel grinned. “ Let’s just let him sleep for ten more minutes? Obviously, he was having a good dream.”

Pausing and rubbing his chin, Daniel smiled devilishly. “ But when we go back in there? We are gathering all of his ammunition before we try waking him up…”

The other three grinned in anticipation.

Chapter Text

Vlad, feeling a sudden chill, groaned. Hearing laughter and mischievous giggles, Vladimir's brow furrowed and he reached for a pillow only to grasp empty air.

Raising an eyebrow and groggily rubbing his eyes, he sat up and cradled his head. ‘ Weird dream…’

Feeling around him for another pillow and literally touching nothing but linen sheets Vlad scanned the room apprehensively. “ Where did-”

And then, feeling something watching him, Vlad growled ferally before avoiding a streak of white. Dodging and weaving against other bright white blurs, he flipped himself against the ceiling in the corner of the room. Fangs exposed, Vladimir's eyes flashed vaguely to Plasmius's. Seeing thermal outlines and hearing human heartbeats, Vlad's muscles relaxed briefly. Now with the adrenaline fading from his system, his ghost form’s talons faded and retracted from the wall, causing him to slump midair.

Something cushioned the fall and Vlad groggily looked up to see Daniel grinning sheepishly. Vlad raised an eyebrow tiredly and questioned, “ Do I even want to know?”

Daniel snorted, “ We tried waking you up. You wouldn't budge. This was plan B.”

Vlad tiredly took in his surroundings and seeing the pillows that usually occupied his bed scattered in piles and several other pillows from the guest bedrooms, he chuckled lightly. “ So instead of just, I don't know… lightly zapping me or pinching me, you decided to go full out commando with the bedding?”

Sitting up in Daniel's hold and swaying, the adult tenderly felt his head. A set of black nails pulled his hand away from his skull. “ Vlad? Do us a favor and leave your head alone? You got brained like three or four times from what we gathered. You don't need to go agitating the bruises…”

Dropping his hand to the floor, Vlad bitterly mused. “ I got off lightly this time?...Wow......Good to know.” Grimacing, he positioned himself on to his knees beside Daniel and tried to stand. Not making much progress, Vlad relented. “Urm…. I think I need help back into the bed….”

Jazmine paused from her efforts recovering the splayed downy weaponry from the floor to look over at Vlad. Dropping the pile on the edge of the bed, she bent down and questioned. “Firstly, why did you run off to that Diner?”

Vlad stiffened and growled. “ That is none of your concern,Jazmine.”

Jaz tapped her foot in annoyance. Daniel was moving to help Vladimir to his feet when Jazmine snapped at him. “Danny? We aren't helping him up until we get some solid answers. Drop his arm.”

Both Vlad and Daniel exchanged a worried glance.

‘ Well…. what did I do to piss off dear Jazmine now?’

Daniel begrudgingly released his hold on Vlad and backed away. The adult, realizing he couldn’t keep sitting up without proper support, leaned back slightly and laid himself against the wall. “I guess I can become reacquainted with the floor. It's fairly nice down here.”

Jazmine wasn't taking no for an answer. “ Vlad. Answer me right now. Why did you run off to a ramshackle diner? And no, I'm not asking what led you to it, I'm asking why you chose that place.”

Vlad closed his eyes tiredly. “ I suppose it's because I couldn’t very well teleport to the liquor store again? Or maybe I just like the coffee there? Decide what you want.”

Jazmine was lightly fuming at Vlad's unwavering vagueness. “ Answer the question, Claire!”

Vlad raised an eyebrow and peaked an eye open. “ So you choose to go down that route? Fine.”

Clearing his throat he mocked, “Look, I'm not gonna discuss my private life with total strangers.

Jazmine raised an eyebrow in perplexion. “ Wait...What?”

Sam burst into a fit of giggles. Turning to Jaz, she snorted. “ You accidentally tossed a movie quote at him and he hit you back with one of Claire’s lines from the Breakfast Club.”

Vlad closed his eye again and snuggled closer to the wall, a light smirk snaking across his features. “ Ms. Manson? It'd probably be best if you leave poor Jazmine to flounder. The fact that she let that slip over her head is a testament to her thick-headedness. She probably doesn't even know the line she slapped me with was from a sexual interrogation scene.”

Jazmine gaped and turned bright crimson.

“ I-I… I what?” Blue-green eyes, bright with embarrassment she wrung her fingers through her now wavy, moisture ridden hair in frustration before pointing a finger at Vlad. “ I didn't mean it that way! You guys are putting words into my mouth!”

Both Sam and Vlad glanced at each other and burst into a fit of laughter.

Jazmine, even more confused, glowered. “ What's so funny?!?”

Vlad stopped laughing for a moment to speak. “ You accidentally…” Vlad rubbed a hand across his face to control his expression better. “ -quoted the film.”

Sam nodded. “ Word for word.”

Jazmine stomped over and leered in Vlad's face. “ You are so childish!”

Vlad paused and looked up at Jaz with a certain level of mirth. “ Childish? Only on occasion Jazmine. Currently, I'm not the one throwing a temper tantrum.”

Jazmine smiled wickedly and Vlad narrowed his gaze. “ What are you-”

Her hand slammed into the wall next to his head and Vlad groaned. “ Like mother like daughter.” The words, a faint whisper, carried slightly in the silence. Vladimir closed his eyes and growled under his breath.

‘ Does every female in her bloodline punch like a freight train?’

“ If you’re going to hit me just get it over with?” Vlad's eyes opened to crimson. ‘ Go ahead. Vent.’

Seeing her eyes widening and her mouth gaping slightly, his features became concerned. “ What? What's-?”

Jazmine worriedly bent down to inspect his face. Vlad lightly protested against her touch and she snapped. “ Stop moving!”

Sam, noticing the change in tone, looked at Vlad and then bolted to the bathroom. Running back, she jammed a wet rag against his nose.

‘ What are they doing?!?!’

Sam's hand pressed lightly, “ Vlad? Lean forward. Your nose is bleeding heavily.”

Vlad stiffened. “ Wait? What?”

Daniel groaned and clasped onto Vlad's shoulder before tanking his head down. Vlad growled in agitation. “ Ow.”

Daniel retracted the hand guiltily, “Sorry. But she's right. Just stay still for a few minutes like that?”

Vlad winced and whipped his head up in retaliation only for Sam to gently pull him down again. Vlad sighed in defeat.

Jazmine, after a few minutes, removed Sam's hand to inspect Vlad's face. Seeing no more blood, she sat down and crossed her legs next to Sam. “ You're not getting out of this Vlad. I doubt you can do much right now powerwise and you're far too weak to stand after earlier. Every ten seconds you're practically conking out or bleeding… Can't you just honestly answer a few questions?”

‘ Baby steps….’

Vlad sighed. “ Do I at least get an option for answering them? I'm not exactly comfortable just releasing all my secrets to you four after only a couple of days.”

Jazmine paused. “ Sure. If you can't answer or won't just say, next question? Sound fair?”

Vlad nodded. “ Fine. What do you want to know?”

Jaz paused. “ Why did you go to a rundown diner in a flash flood?”

Vlad groaned. “ I wanted Miss Maynard to give me some friendly company? If you haven't noticed, I don't exactly have many friends with a pulse.”

Jaz raised an eyebrow worriedly. “So you wanted someone to talk to, but why….”

Vlad stiffened. “ Maybe because I'm half human? There's only so much a person can take in one day. I need a breather like anyone else every once and awhile.”

Sam glared at Daniel and the teen sluggishly slipped his own leg underneath the other to sit beside the group.

Jazmine paused to reflect his answer and then sighed. “ Why was she so protective over you?”

Vlad paused and looked up to Jazmine curiously. “ Protective? What are you-”

Tucker elbowed Jaz. “ I'm pretty sure he was almost completely out of it by the time she laid into us Jaz.”

Vladimir's tousled gray locks flopped in front of his eyes as he slouched further against the wall. “ What are you two yammering about?”

Tucker mimed hugging and batted his eyelashes. “ Oh, nothing much. Just the waitress threatening to kill us practically if we laid a finger on you after you got smacked upside the head.”

Vlad winced at the memory. “…..What was that? The thing that hit me I mean?”

Jazmine paused and cocked an eyebrow before rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly, “ Erm… a faulty tracking device. Sorry, about that Vlad. It never acted like that prior to today.”

Vlad chuckled tiredly. “ Of course….I should have guessed it was Fenton based.”

Jazmine frowned slightly but continued the questioning. “ Why did you go back to that diner anyway? That waitress told us you left and then came back.”

Vlad paused and slowly rubbed his rather sore wrist. “ I was going to ask her if she would be open to-” Vlad blushed bright red.

All four raised an eyebrow and Tucker suggestively winked. Vlad seeing this, grew slightly irritated. “ For god's sake you four are ridiculous! Miss Maynard is barely in college! I was going to take her up on her offer for-”

Vlad covered his face.

Daniel prompted, “ For what Fruit-Loop? Spit it out.”

Vlad bit his lip. Finally gathering his nerve, he looked away from the four and elaborated through a whispered growl. “ The coffee wasn't helping my mood. The bitter just made everything worse so I was going to see if she'd-” Vlad closed his eyes and stammered. “ She knows I like chocolate chip pancakes, alright? She offered and I figured-!”

All four teenagers burst into fits of laughter.

“ Seriously Vlad? Pancakes? You have got to be lying! If you like her just-”

Seeing Vlad's humiliated expression, Daniel gawked and his eyes widened. “ You're telling the truth aren't you?”

Vlad winced and blushed brighter.

Tucker grinned. “ Pancakes, huh?”

Vlad turned from the teens and his eyebrow twitched. “ Yes. Pancakes. I suck at cooking and am incapable of even attempting anything other than sandwiches.”

Jazmine giggled, “ You just don't do it enough or?”

Vlad paused. “ I grew up on food stamps. Most of the stuff I ate was pre-packaged junk food. There's not really room to learn when you’re limited by materials.”

Jazmine's eyes became downcast. “ Um…. This is out of the blue and what not… but were you bullied or something as a child?” An uneasy air sparked through the room and Vladimir's blue eyes flickered into a muted and terrifying tone of red.

Vlad took a moment before he looked up to Jazmine somewhat pleadingly.“ I…” He sighed heavily. “No… Jazmine. I wasn't bullied as a child.”

Sam quickly steered the obviously dark path back to something light-hearted. “ So why chocolate chip pancakes?”

Vlad froze and the tension visibly disappeared only to be replaced by a bright blush. “Errr…. That's a bit of a long story?”

Tucker smiled. “ Plasmius has a sweet tooth doesn't he?”

Vlad’s eyebrow twitched. Sighing he nodded. “ Yes, Foley. I have a sweet tooth. Daniel is probably no different. Spectral energy tends to favor crazy amounts of sugar.”

Daniel furrowed his brow and pursed his lip in contemplation.

Vlad noting the silence looked at the four circled around him warily. “ Am I free yet? Or do you have something else you want to-?”

An odd, brassy bell sound rung out from somewhere downstairs and Vladimir went ashen. All four teens tensed.
Vlad quickly jumped to his feet despite his fatigue and phased through the floor. The teens scrambled after him thanks to Daniel's intangibility. Standing at the portal Vladimir quickly morphed and put up a shaky barrier around the area he was working in. Wincing in pain, he quickly discarded a black glove and placed his finger on the security panel next to the portal. Seeing several energy signatures on a screen, he bitterly cursed a pastry-themed profanity under his breath.

Glaring at the open portal he crossed his arms in agitation.

“ Hurry up already Travis!” Vladimir hissed.

Daniel's ghost sense flared up and Vlad seemed to suddenly lose his composure. His breathing hitched and he began sweating. Stumbling back slightly, the rings around his waist flickered. All four teens watched in horror as Walker and two dozen or so ghost cops walked through the open portal.

Chapter Text

Daniel began desperately banging on the shield but it appeared to be soundproof.

“ Long time no see Pl-” Walker tensed and, seeing Vlad, an unrecognizably panicked expression ghosted across his features. Vlad gripped his chest in agony and tumbled forward only for Walker to quickly teleport to him. The barrier around Vlad and the ghosts began cracking and the sound of Walker’s words and his men were soon accompanied by the harsh thudding sounds resonating from Daniel's efforts. Seeing Daniel, Walker glared venomously.

Looking to his men, he ordered. “We're taking him with us. Keep the boy occupied.”

Daniel began screaming. “ You crazy asshole! Drop him!”

Walker glared and holding tighter to Vlad, stiffened as he felt the energy ripple from Vlad's transformation. Lifting Vlad up, he growled, “ I don't have time for you punk! Stay out of our business!”

Vlad began hyperventilating against Walker and shaking. In a low whisper, he addressed the warden. “Walker?Ugh... Don’t…..You’re-”

Walker’s face grew rigid, and making a split second decision he motioned one of the guards forward. Yanking a syringe from the ghost's hand, he quickly uncapped it and stabbed it into Vlad's neck. Vlad shuttered and passed out against him with a muted thud.

The shield broke and Daniel ran forward blasting sporadically at Walker’s men. “ Put him down!”

Walker growled and quickly began walking toward the portal with Vladimir in hand. Vlad continued sweating and panting against him.

Jazmine's voice screamed out. “What are you doing to him?”

Walker growled and glared toward Daniel who was still openly blasting his men. “ I'm taking Plasmius away from you blasted rule breaking brats!”

Sam, being the most level headed of the group, ran through the throngs of ghosts and up to Walker. Latching onto Vlad's hand, she growled at the warden. “ Why are you taking him?”

Walker growled and pushed Sam off of Vlad. “ Don't touch him!”

Sam's eyes widened. “ You’re not trying to hurt him?!?!”

Walker growled angrily and shouted for his men. “ Hold off Phantom until I can get Vladimir away from here!”

Sam shouted louder. “ WE AREN’T TRYING TO HURT HIM! PLEASE?!? IF YOU DRAG HIM INTO THE ZONE RIGHT NOW IT MAY KILL HIM!”

Walker immediately froze and then whistled sharply. His men immediately stopped. Looking from Vladimir's heaving and pained breathing to Sam, he commanded, “ Elaborate. Now.”

Before Sam could answer, Daniel came flying into Walker. Walker quickly shielded and cradled Vladimir against himself protectively. Both Jazmine and Tucker were running forward. Sam jumped in front of Walker’s shield and angrily screamed at Daniel, “ DANNY! STOP BLASTING!”

Daniel growled. “ You want that bastard to kidnap him Sam?!?!”

Walker growled and glared up at Daniel. “ Watch your tongue child!”

Daniel, still glaring began taking a deep breath in preparation for his Ghostly Wail. Sam paled. “ DANNY! STOP! YOU'LL HURT VLAD!”

Daniel's green eyes widened and he quickly closed his jaw. Glaring daggers at Walker and Sam, he questioned. “ What the actual hell is going on here?!?”

Walker raised a nonexistent eyebrow. Vlad was sweating heavily and panting even harder. His eyes were darting around spastically under closed lids. Glancing from the portal and then to Vladimir, Walker desperately turned toward Sam. “What's happening to him?!?”

Sam pointed to the portal. “ You have to get him away from that! Some chick poisoned him earlier and it's reacting with the paranormal!”

Eyes wide, Walker quickly dropped the shield and teleported to a spot near the staircase. Setting Vladimir down, he hastily cupped a hand under his neck to try and help him breathe. “Vladimir? Come on…. For Pete's sake!”

Vlad's breathing hitched slightly and Walker immediately lifted his neck up higher to ease the intake of air. Daniel came flying and knocked into Walker, slamming him against the wall. Walker's men immediately lifted their weapons in preparation to fire. Seeing this, Walker shoved Daniel aside and commanded. “ I said cease fire! You'll hurt Vladimir at this range!”

Daniel froze and his expression grew heavily confused. The green aura that had accumulated around his hands in preparation for another attack dissipated, “What are you getting at? Do you want him healthy for prison or something?”

Walker hissed angrily at the accusation. “ You stupidly ignorant child! I wasn't taking him to incarcerate him! I was taking him to get medical aid!”

All the teens froze. Walker motioned his men backward. “ Alfonse? Grim? You stay with me. The rest of you? Go back to the prison.” And with those words twenty guards fizzled and faded from existence, leaving two who hovered over warily.

Sam ran forward to Vladimir and feeling the fever screamed. “ Danny! For god's sake… cool him down!”

Vlad’s eyes opened slightly and, arching his back against the floor, he began coughing violently. His legs tiredly dug into the metal and his hands were shaking. Sweat was dripping down his face. Daniel immediately bolted forward and scooped Vlad into his hands before phasing into the upstairs master bathroom. Filling the tub with cold water Daniel adjusted slightly and leaned Vlad against his shoulder blade. Walker followed with his men carrying Sam, Tucker, and Jazmine.

Laying Vlad down in the water, Daniel activated his core and began chilling the room rapidly.

Lifting Vladimir's head up slightly in one white-gloved hand, Daniel motioned for Sam to grab another washcloth.

Walker backed up with his men to the far side of the restroom. “ What was he poisoned with?”

Daniel growled. “ We don't know! The damned pills had blood blossom and god knows what else mixed in!”

Walker’s face soured. “ That's not the effects of blood blossom. Whatever that is is far more potent...”

Walker immediately turned to the ghost on his right. “ Do you have any of the Ophelia bloom on hand?”

The specter nodded and pulled out a glowing magenta vile from his vest pocket. Walker quickly snatched it and teleported over to Vlad. Pushing Daniel to the side, he gently coaxed Vladimir's jaw open and poured the contents of the tube down his throat. Vlad instantly went numb and his breathing calmed.

Daniel raised an eyebrow and feeling Vladimir's head, questioned. “What did you give him?”

Walker gently wiped the hair out of Vlad's face. “ Ophelia bloom. Its extract, when ingested, circulates through a ghost’s ectoplasm kind of like human morphine. It will temporarily restrict spectral energy in his body and in his environment. His powers will be sluggish and hard to pull from for at least a week, but it should alleviate some of the effects of the poison you claim he ingested.”

Vlad groggily turned in Walker’s hand and sluggishly tried to open his eyes, “Travis?....ugh….What are you-? What happened?”

Walker snorted. “ You collapsed again Vladimir. Do you not learn? Every time I seem to stop by in order to give you information or leads, you -”

Seeing Vlad's expression, he sighed. “ Rough day at work?”

Vlad smiled gently. “Something...like that…”

Walker chuckled, “ For the most powerful creature in the zone you can be such a pain to care for Plasmius.”

Vlad groaned. “ Walker….? Flattery….won't get you...anywhere…”

Walker rolled his eyes. “ Ah, yes! Embassary, forgive me for stating the stupidly obvious. Granted, every time I see you, you’re a disaster. Can't you go through a single day without landing in some sort of trouble?”

Vlad numbly tried sitting up only to fall back against Walker’s hand. Wincing, he rolled his eyes. “ Kind of my job?... I'd think you of all...people understand…”

Walker reached down and slapped Vladimir across the cheek. Vlad's eyes became alert and he hissed. Fangs exposed and he snapped, “ What the blazes was that for?!?!”

Walker paused and grinned, “ I was just trying to knock some sense into you. I'm glad you revived so quickly.”

Daniel, Jazmine, Sam and Tucker watched the interaction in fascination.

Walker glanced back at the four youths and scowled. Turning to Vlad, he questioned. “Why is Phantom in your domicile Plasmius?”

Vlad blearily answered. “ Beats me…I just woke up with him nursing me yesterday ...”

Walker stiffened slightly. Glaring, he reprimanded. “ Plasmius…. I smell blood. What did you get yourself into?”

Vlad chuckled. “ Your nose is literally nonexistent. I'm not injured.”

Walker growled. “ Vladimir. Phase the shirt off.”

Vlad snorted. “ Who are you to ask me to strip in my own home, Jonah?”

Walker gritted his teeth in frustration. Reaching roughly into the water, he grasped onto Vladimir's shirt and yanked it off. Seeing Vlad's normal looking chest, he hissed angrily. “Uncloak your flesh this instant Vladimir!”

Vlad growled. “ I'm not in the mood for this, Jonah. Keep your blasted hands off of me!”

Walker's brow twitched in frustration. “ Fine. We’ll do this the old fashioned way.”

Holding Vladimir down into the tub, he commanded. “ Grim? Pass the baton.”

A stick was passed to Walker. Vladimir weakly attempted teleporting to no avail. Struggling against Walker’s grip, he snarled, “ You annoying, pain in the-”

His words were cut off by the zap to his lower stomach. Vlad fainted and Walker, seeing the skin morphing to show his bandages, gently picked Vlad up and phased the water off of him. “ Phantom? A word?”

Seeing the others walking forward, he sighed. “You other three should stay here for a moment.”

They froze apprehensively, unsure of what they should do. Sam, however, nodded in agreement. Seeing her trust in Walker, Jazmine and Tucker exchanged worried glances and then nodded reluctantly as well.

Daniel followed Walker into Vladimir's room. Setting Vlad down on the bed and phasing off the bandages, he stiffened. All was quiet for a moment and then, Walker abruptly turned and socked Daniel square in the jaw. “What the actual zone did you do to him?!?!”

His voice, icy and angry, reverberated in the room. Walker glaringly lifted Daniel up from the floor and pointed toward Vlad's painfully moving chest. “ His body is so heavily injured that his seal was practically nonexistent when my arm locked onto his wrist earlier!”

Daniel paled. “ I wasn't in the right mind! It was an accident!”

Walker scuffed. “ You little spectral delinquent! What the actual heck was running through your head? Was it your biased against ghosts? Or did you just revel in the thought of tearing him apart?!? Those blasts had to have hit his internal organs! He's lucky he’s even breathing.”

Motioning toward Vladimir's unconscious form, he growled. “ What was going through that head of yours? Hmmm?”

Daniel snarled. “ What does it matter to you?!?!”

Walker looked like he was ready to fillet the boy. “ YOU BLASTED THE BALANCE BETWEEN OUR WORLDS PUNK! YOU HURT MY BOSS! MY FRIEND!”

Daniel's eyes widened. “ Your boss?!?!”

Walker tiredly rubbed his brow, “Yes, you little neon spackled pain in the ass! My boss!”

Motioning toward Vlad, he continued. “ He’s worth a thousand of you Phantom!”

Leaning over Vlad and checking the injuries, he hissed mockingly. “Protect the kid. Keep him out of the zone, Walker so he doesn't land into trouble. Make sure he figures out how to be on his guard.”

Growling, he resisted the urge to blast the lamp on the side table. “ What the actual blazes where you thinking? Do you have no self rule? No moral code?”

Daniel glared bitterly at the floor and winced. “ I was possessed. I didn't know it was him.”

Walker growled. “ Funny? You don't exactly sound so sure of that.”

Vlad shifted slightly in the bed and Walker lowered his voice. “ For his sake? I'll refrain from blasting you boy. But if you ever hurt him like this again-”

Vlad groaned and slowly opened his eyes. Rubbing his head and wincing, he tried to get out of the bed. Coughing, he growled. “Jonah… leave the boy be.”

Walker glared at Daniel but kept his avarice controlled to instead put his attention back toward Vladimir.

Vlad numbly protested as he was hefted over Walker’s shoulder. Using his free arm Walker snatched Daniel by the scruff of his jumpsuit and phased through the flooring and into the lab. Steering them into the infirmary, he growled worriedly, “Plasmius? Explain your chest. I already got the basics but I want it from the horse's mouth.”

Vlad grimaced as he was sat up on one of the cots. “ Nocturne showed his true colors. I took care of it.”

Walker dropped the gauze he was unrolling and stared up at Vladimir in aggravation. “You pursued the one demon I adamantly begged you not to hunt? Are you just that stupid? Vladimir, that thing was dream based. You have always had problems with…”

Vlad glared at Walker. “ Jonah? Keep my personal life out of this.”

Walker snarled, “ Vladimir? Your appointees… Where are they? They should have been the ones dealing with him!”

Vlad snickered tiredly. “ That was the plan originally. I couldn't wait for them though. Nocturne was feeding on a new victim. If I would have waited…”

Vlad expression turned dark and he became sickly at the thought. Squeezing the cot, he glared at the floor tiredly.

Sighing, Walker strolled forward and lifted Vladimir's head up. “ Do I even want to know why the scent of blood lingers on your head?”

Vlad snorted. “ Yet another poorly timed interaction with a demon. I'm not exactly up to my usual power levels right now.”

Walker rolled his eyes. “Obviously, Plasmius.”

Daniel, finding his voice, stepped over to Vlad's side. “ Vlad? What's the meaning of this? Why is Walker here?”

Vlad tiredly rubbed his brow. “A work-related visit?” Vlad dropped his hand and looked up to Walker to confirm it. “Correct, Travis?”

Walker clicked his tongue and winced. “ Well, now it’s not! I should just leave my men here to guard you until your flesh heals and go on my merry way, but I won't even be able to do that! How the heck did you manage to get poisoned on top of all this?” He angrily shoved his hand toward Vlad's chest.

Vlad grimaced. “ I'm just as curious as you are. I have known the woman who apparently poisoned me for close to two decades now. You could say I was caught painfully off guard by the entire scenario.”

Walker growled. “ Hold still!”

Grabbing Vlad's shoulder, he began expertly rewrapping the injuries.

Chapter Text

Vlad fainted slightly but quickly revived as the bandages were pulled taut.

Daniel broke the silence. “ Vlad? He said you’re his boss? What does-”

Vlad groaned and tiredly rubbed the bridge of his nose. Eyebrow twitching, he glared at Walker. “ What did you tell him, Travis?”

Walker flatly crossed his arms and furrowed his brow. “ I told him enough. Just sit still Vladimir.”

Vlad glared and his voice became cold and cutting, taking on a power and authority Daniel had never heard before. It warped and rippled between languages. The English stuck out most prominently. Eyes flashing white, Vladimir questioned. “What did you tell him, Jonah?!?”

Walker's eyes sparked with something akin to worry and possibly fear.

“ I told him you were important to me. That you’re my boss and my friend, and I warned him that the next time he openly-”

Vlad calmed slightly before standing. “ Daniel? Leave.”

Daniel stiffened. Growling he argued. “ Why the hell don't you want me in here Vlad? Are you just planning some sort of evil crud again with Walker?”
Vlad froze and bit his lip.

Walker's face turned absolute enraged. “ You little… Did you just call him evil? Do you have any idea what he-”

Vlad raised a hand to silence Walker. Turning to Daniel, he leveled his voice. “ Badger? Just go upstairs. This doesn't concern you right now.”

Daniel turned bright green in rage. “ Why do I even bother with you?!? You’re still sneaking around! Can't you ever just try?”

Vlad flinched and his eyes saddened. Looking to the floor he laughed somewhat sadly. “Think what you want…”

Daniel's eyes flashed. “ I think you’re a selfish pig!”

And with that Daniel stomped out. Turning invisible in the hallway, he slunk back to listen in on their conversation, making sure he was still in the hallway in the event Vlad heard his heart or lungs.

Walker's voice echoed. “ That insufferable little-”

There was a crash of metal.

Walker's voice worriedly screamed out, “ Plasmius!”

Daniel immediately flew into the room in a blind panic. Vlad was gently being lifted up from the floor and leaned against Walker’s shoulder.

Growling, Walker snarled, “ That insufferable little monster!”

Vlad flinched. “ Let it go Jonah.”

Walker gently sat Vlad down on the cot again and turning around blasted the wall to relieve some bent of anger. “He did this to you, correct? God damn it, Vlad! That boy is a fool and he's going to get himself or those kids killed if he continues breaking the laws of our world and this one!”

Vlad flinched and his brow furrowed. Gripping the edge of the cot, he snarled. “ Don't you dare speak poorly of him.”

Walker stiffened and whipped around angrily, “ AND WHY NOT?!?! HE JUST INSULTED THE MOST IMPORTANT ENTITY IN THE ZONE! EVIL? REALLY? DOES HE HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOUR SCARS ARE FROM? THAT LITTLE MORON IS THIS CLOSE….” Walker minutely motioned with his hand before angrily flipping a medical cart, “-FROM BEING THE NEWEST ADDITION TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT!”

Vladimir hissed. “Keep your tongue, Travis! If you keep yelling one of them will overhear!” Standing up, he began pacing tiredly. After a minute, he growled and his features sombered. Clenching his fists, he whispered.“ That boy is justified for his views on me.”

Walker's eyes widened and he slung a gloved hand around angrily. “HOW?!?! How was any of that lunacy he just spat justified?”

Vladimir growled and swung out his arm, “ BE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO VIEW ME AS SUCH! HE EVEN HAS THE RIGHT TO KILL ME IF HE THINKS IT’S JUSTIFIED!”

Vlad swayed unsteadily and dropped to his knees. Walker immediately was by his side trying to help him. “Breathe… Vladimir….for zone's sake...breath.”

Vlad began coughing spastically. A small trickle of crimson snaked across Vlad's cupped hand and dripped against the floor.

Walker worriedly pulled the hand away and leaned Vlad forward to clear his airway.

“ Plasmius…. I expect you to stay out of the zone for at least a week and a half. Do you understand? You're in no condition to fight anything or anyone as you are now.”

Vlad growled. “ And what would you possibly do, if I didn't take your little advice to heart?”

Walker raised an eyebrow. “ Firstly, if I see you in the zone at all for that time period I'm dragging you to my domicile and tying you to a medical cot.”

Pausing, he continued, “ Secondly? I'll tell Edmond.”

Vlad paled. “ You wouldn't dare!”

Walker smiled knowingly. “ Oh, I most certainly would.”

Vlad rolled his eyes. Sighing, he questioned. “ What did you come by for today old friend?”

Walker picked Vladimir up and carried him to the cot again. This time, he laid him down and pulled a blanket over him. Tucking him in, Walker sighed, “ I was coming here to give you reports on the sectors to the north. I know your next artifact is that cursed youth object and I wanted to help narrow the location down.”

Vlad chuckled. “ You’re holding out on me. Twenty-something of your lieutenants following you anywhere practically spells disaster.”

Walker smiled sheepishly. “Okay… okay…. I was going to round up Manuel… Or at least try searching for him before the next lunar cycle...and-”

Pausing, he sat at the edge of the cot. He took off his hat tiredly to expose his skull like features and clinched his jaw debatingly. “- I was going to warn you that there are some nasty rumors spreading around about demon hunting parties stalking through Amity. Some human corpses showed up in the zone again, completely drained middle-aged men with their wrists severed open and their hearts missing. Their wallets all carried Wisconsin addresses and the last two we found were from Amity.”

Vlad's features became grief-stricken. “ How many died, Walker?”

Walker winced. “ Five.”

Vlad sighed defeatedly. “ Don't worry about that demonic. Daniel apparently exorcised her earlier this afternoon. She's gone. I just regret we didn't stop her little human meal cartel before now.”

Walker gently patted Vlad's leg to comfort him. “ You can't catch them all Vlad...You’re only human.”

Vlad sadly chuckled, “ No… I am not.”

Walker closed his eyes in contemplation. “ Are you sure she was the only one Vladimir?”

Vlad grimaced. “ Most definitely. Her tendencies were black widowed in nature. From the looks of things, she was picking up needy individuals and thugs as lackeys and when she grew tired of them, she fed on their flesh. Classic vampiric behavior.” Vlad tiredly rubbed his eyes. “That and her kind are extremely territorial. She would have most definitely scoped out the town before picking her prospective meals.”

Walker nodded tiredly. Looking down at Vladimir, he questioned. “Why did Daniel get rid of her Vladimir?”

Vlad tensed. “ Because I was indisposed?”

Walker snarled. “ That is a really vague answer… How about we try this again?” Leaning down, Walker prodded. “Why did that inexperienced boy, you are so content with keeping out of their clutches, come face to face with one in combat?”

Vlad narrowed his gaze. “ As I said Jonah, I was indisposed. Whatever is running through my body kept me from fighting.”

Walker tiredly rubbed his eyes before sitting up. “ I'll get you back upstairs Plasmius. You need rest desperately. Have you eaten?”

Vlad yawned. “ Those kids are probably going to force me.”

Walker snickered. “ Well, it looks like something good came of this. Remember that one time you passed out from not eating when you were younger?”

Vlad snorted and tiredly protested as Walker hefted him up into his arms. The blanket wrapped around him shifted slightly.“M’... yeah, not my best idea going that long without food.”

Walker chided, “ A month Vladimir? You’re lucky you’re a halfa. Most living men have died from such complacency. At least you had the sound of mind to drink during that time frame. God knows what I would've stumbled onto in that study otherwise.”

Vlad chuckled lightly. “ It was that artifact's… fault…” Vlad's eyes were getting heavy again. Walker readjusted his hold and began walking into the lab.

Daniel followed from a distance.

“ Yes, because of course, you had to touch a famine relic.” Sighing, he rounded on the stairs.

Vlad groggily questioned, “ Why are...you carrying me up… like this…? You could always teleport or fly … with me…”

Walker glanced at Vlad somewhat annoyedly. “ I would rather not put your cells through any more strain right now. Phasing through the floor with that brat and you earlier was poorly planned. Even with that spectral bloom I gave you circulating to counteract the poison in your blood, you’re still far too weak to withhold from the residual amounts of poison siphoning energy from your ectoplasm.”

Vlad slumped in Walker's hold. ‘Oh… makes...sense...n’ Walker… Why am I ...uh…’

Walker beamed. “ I may or may not have injected you with a sleeping agent after your little tantrum. Just relax.”

Vlad smiled gently through half-lidded eyes. “ ….. Drugs ….again? ...Lousy...… spectr-ugh...” And with that, he was out.

Walker stopped and turned toward Daniel. “COME OUT YOU LITTLE MONSTER!”

Daniel stiffened. Turning visible in the room, he guiltily gripped his shoulder and looked away from Walker.

Walker snarled, “ You couldn't even respect his wishes, could you? You’re lucky I didn't delve into the details of those other victims. Did it even cross your pathetic mind that maybe, just maybe, he didn't want you hearing about people getting butchered?”

Daniel winced. Walker, not done yet, continued. “ You call him selfish? Newsflash punk, he just tried to protect you from a hard-hitting fact! There are things in the zone that kill human beings in the most brutal ways imaginable-”

Walker stopped abruptly and looked to Vladimir who had shifted in his drugged slumber. Looking back up at Daniel, he flatly finished. “ I'll honor his wishes, even if you are a detestable little brat. I advise you don't betray his trust.” Walker turned and began ascending the stairs again. Pausing, he glared back. “And if you kill him, boy? I'll throw you so far under you'll rue the day you slaughtered him.”

And with that, the warden silently continued his travels up the stairs again. Daniel stood in silence for several minutes before he forced himself through the ceiling and into the hallway.

Chapter Text

Walker was talking politely with Sam and Jazmine.

“ So he got hit with a tracking device?”

Sam nodded. “ A tracking device traveling at a ridicules speed.”

Walker sighed tiredly and cradled Vladimir closer to himself. Motioning one of his men forward, he gently handed him off. “ Lay him down in the kitchen? I don't want him being moved more than he needs to be around his domicile right now.”

The cop nodded and, carrying Vladimir gently, floated into the kitchen.

Jazmine questioned. “ Why is he unconscious again?”
Walker groaned and, pulling off his hat, sighed, “ He's trying to hide it, but his internal organs are damaged. He kept moving around to suddenly downstairs, so I drugged him.”

Jazmine grimaced. “ His organs?”

Walker nodded. “ Blunt force trauma? I can only presume because I can't risk turning his chest cavity invisible right now to take a peak. That poison seems to react a little to cruelly to ectoplasmic energy….”

Looking to Sam seriously, he continued. “ You need to make sure that punk avoids taking any ghost related shortcuts with him for a few days. And Plasmius is under no circumstances allowed in the zone for at least a week. Too many things would jump at the chance to tear him apart as he is now.”

Walker tiredly groaned, “He's stubborn and will probably neglect my warning after that time has passed….”

Seeing his lieutenant floating back into the room, Walker apologetically bowed to the two girls and tipped his hat. “I need to take my leave now. I can't afford to be near him for the next twenty-four hours and neither can any of my men. His body needs that time to calm and adjust. Tell him when he awakes that he's temporally on sick leave? No work? I don't need the blasted fool hacking up blood all over the floor again.”

And with that, Walker and his men teleported. Tucker walked out of the kitchen with his PDA in hand. Looking at Danny, he frowned. “ Dude? What the actual heck was wrong with you?”

Daniel paled and Sam and Jazmine looked to Tucker questioningly.

Tucker grimaced and looked to the floor. “ I connected the Fenton Phone you are wearing back to my PDA when Walker took you. I heard everything…..”

Daniel glared at the floor. “ Tuck? Let it go…”

Tucker snorted bitterly. “ Let it go? Jez man, he was acting so kind earlier and you just had to rail into him again?”

Daniel flinched. “ I didn't rail into him.”

Tucker raised his PDA and after a brief second, some dialogue reverberated into the hallway.

I told him enough. Just sit still Vladimir.” Walker flatly reprimanded.
Vlad’s cold and cutting voice, authoritative and warped, rippled between languages more prominently on the device. The English, still clear, questioned. “What did you tell him, Jonah?!?

I told him you were important to me. That you’re my boss and my friend, and I warned him that the next time he openly-” Walker sounded comforting and yet wary as if he was trying to settle a large and rather terrifying animal.

There was a pause and Vlad's voice became kind and gentle.“ Daniel? Leave.

Growling, Daniel argued. “ Why the hell don't you want me in here Vlad? Are you just planning some sort of evil crud again with Walker?

There was a stifling pause and then Walker snarled,“ You little… Did you just call him evil? Do you have any idea what he-

Vlad's voice cut him off. “ Badger? Just go upstairs. This doesn't concern you right now.” His words were clearly more pleading than Daniel had cared to notice the first time they were issued.

The teen cringed.

A moment later his own voice viciously yelled, “ Why do I even bother with you?!? You’re still sneaking around! Can't you ever just try?

There was a small sad laugh. “Think what you want…” Vlad's voice broke at the end.

Daniel’s angry and bitter voice echoed cruelly, “ I think you’re a selfish pig!

Tucker clicked a button on the PDA to pause the audio.

Jazmine and Sam looked horrified.

Tucker looked up tiredly, “ I'll refrain from playing the rest. Obviously, Vlad had good intentions for why he was trying to get you out of the room…. Are you just intent on confusing him, Danny?”

Daniel cringed. Sitting on the floor against the hall wall, he cradled his head. “He was with Walker, Tuck...My enemy...I didn't think...It all just came bursting out… He treated me like I was a kid…”

Tucker leaned against the doorway and taking off his glasses rubbed his jaw tiredly. “ By the sounds of what I heard? Dan… Vlad openly defended you against Walker… He adamantly wanted Walker to respect you. And to add to all of this? Danny, he was trying to get you out of the room so you wouldn’t have to hear about what that thing had done prior to today…”

Daniel flinched. “ I know that now Tuck.”

Tucker glanced back into the kitchen for a moment. “ He genuinely smiled earlier… And now he's probably going to be distant again. What happened to not pouring salt in his wounds?”

Tucker sighed. Turning from the doorway, he began walking back into the kitchen. “ You know what hurt the most listening to that? He told Walker you have every right to murder him… Do you have any idea how sick and sad that is?” Tucker replaced his glasses to his nose.

Sam and Jazmine’s features had grown absolutely horrified. Sam broke her gaze from Daniel and trudged into the kitchen. Her combat boots clacked against the tile briefly and rustling could be heard from the corner of the room where the breakfast booth occupied. Jazmine sighed heavily and walked over to Daniel.

Sitting down next to him, she crossed her arms in her lap and stared into the kitchen. From the angle, she occupied she could easily see Tucker and Sam worriedly rearranging Vladimir so he could sleep easier.

After a moment, she spoke. “Danny? I know you’re angry with him. You have every right to be… But what if everything wasn’t always so black and white?”

Daniel cradled his hands against his ears as if to shield himself from Jazmine’s words. “Jaz? It’s just...it’s so hard… Every time he freezes up or references something he’s done to me...to our family...I just lose it. I spoke to you about wanting to understand him? I don’t. I just don’t. I don’t think I ever will.”

The sixteen-year old’s shoulders shook slightly.

Jazmine reached over with her left arm and cupped her sibling’s head against her shoulder. “ I never thought I would see the day Danny Phantom gave up on someone.”

Daniel’s eyes widened in horror. He trembled against her. Biting his lip he hissed. “What was I thinking? Why did I even offer that ridiculous Fruit-loop a truce?”

Jazmine stiffened against him and turning her head, her features became a paler mix of disappointment and grief. “After all of this….you think giving him a chance was wrong? Danny-”

Daniel curled his knees against himself tighter. “ I didn’t say that Jaz.”

Jazmine furrowed her brow and, biting her lip, she questioned, “ Then what are you saying?”

Daniel grimaced. “ Jaz….I just don’t know... “

Jaz stared at the ceiling remorsefully before glancing into the kitchen at Vlad’s gently breathing form and then briefly back to Daniel. “ It hurts knowing you’re responsible, in some part, for what happened...doesn’t it?

Daniel’s shoulders slumped. In a quiet voice, he continued. “ I am supposed to be the hero Jaz. I’m Danny Phantom…..I save people right? I protect them?”

Jaz gently brushed a hand through his snow-white hair as the rings transformed him back in Daniel Fenton. Daniel choked against the words. “And here I am being the villain …”

Jazmine gently looped her arms around him in a warm embrace. “ Change takes time Danny. You both are showing sides of yourselves...feelings you've restrained and shoved under the rug for two and a half years now. There is going to be some conflict. It’s inevitable.”

She gently pecked a small kiss on his forehead. “ But that’s what will make you all the stronger. You’ll both grow.” She glanced into the kitchen. “And him? I think he’ll grow the most.”

Daniel looked toward Vlad tiredly and smiled. “How can black and white coexist, Jaz?”

Jaz beamed. “ You just have to find that warm gray area, little brother.”

Chapter Text

Vlad could hear a young girl giggling above him. He turned slightly against the warmth underneath him and feeling the tug on his hair groggily opened his eyes. Jazmine and Ms. Manson were looming above him and smiling tenderly. He smiled warmly back and seeing their surprised faces, he grimaced and looked toward the wall.

Sam spoke. “ Hey...what gives Plasmius? Why the sudden cold shoulder?”

Vlad stiffened and raised an eyebrow. Closing his eyes, he coolly replied, “ What are you to up to now?”

Sam lightly tugged on one of the strands of silver laying against his shoulder and he winced. “ Currently? We are trying to manage your poor hair.”

Vlad immediately opened his eyes and turned in their hold. “ Oh no, you don’t!”

Jazmine grinned. “ It’s a little late for that Masters. We finished with you a few minutes ago.”

Vlad locked his gaze with Sam for a moment and then turning to Jazmine, he questioned. “Ms. Manson didn’t have access to any hair dyes, correct?”

Sam snorted before Jaz could answer. “ Why would I ruin silver elf hair? That would just scream stupidity.”

Vlad raised an eyebrow tiredly and then chuckled. “ I guess that’s a bit comforting. I presume you also didn’t take a pair of scissors to me?”

Sam beamed. “ I would never cut someone’s hair without permission. Besides, I think this is a good look for you, Vlad.” Lifting a mirror above him she smiled toothily at his somewhat surprised and then accepting expression. Two locks of long hair had been braided backward into a small ponytail above his regular long tresses. His bangs, expertly pulled back into the makeshift style, were almost completely out of his face with the exception of one or two pale stray strands.

Vlad chuckled lightly. “ Not bad…”

Both Jazmine and Sam quirked an eyebrow. “ Just like that? No sarcasm? No protest?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ I am a bit to drugged, thanks to Walker, to really put up a fight or a struggle right now. The fact you both were genuinely trying to be nice also adds to my ever-growing list of reasons why I am completely fine with looking like a rough and tumble version of Legolas from Lord of the Rings.”

Sam laughed and Vlad realized where his head was laying. “ Manson? Why am I laying across your lap?”

Sam cocked an eyebrow. “Because it was easier to tie your hair back with you sitting up. After we were done you started tossing in your sleep so we sent the boys to go and get that cool pillow from upstairs. Or if you want the simple answer? It’s easier to sit you up without hurting your injuries when you're already partially there.”

Vlad sighed and his eyebrow twitched. “ I appreciate the gesture girls, but can we maybe help me up now?”

Jazmine smiled and latched onto his arm while Sam cradled his back up. Vlad grimaced at the movement and tiredly rubbed his brow. Looking around, he questioned, “Where’s Walker?”

Jazmine, now placing some bowls of food on the table, replied. “ Back in the ghost zone. He couldn’t stick around. Before he departed he left you a message....”

Vlad groaned. “ Let me guess….? Don’t work and don’t go into the zone?”

Sam grinned. “ Yep.”

Vlad sighed heavily and leaned back slightly against the wall. “He and Skulker can be so annoyingly underhanded with spectral drugs…”

Vlad lifted his palm up and amusedly tried summoning some energy only to sway and start tilting forward. The small pale pink spark immediately fizzled from his hands as he darted out of consciousness. Tucker quickly appeared from his right side and caught him. Vlad drowsily looked up to the boy apologetically. “ I guess Walker doped me up on Ophelia Bloom, huh?”

Tucker nodded. “ Yeah… he drugged you up pretty good. You've been asleep for two hours now.”

Daniel phased through the ceiling with a pillow in hand. And landing on the kitchen floor tiredly sighed when he caught sight of Vladimir. “ Well, it looks like getting the pillow was a bust.”

Vlad coughed shakily and looked away from Daniel somewhat guiltily. Jazmine, in a stent to disperse the tension, shoved a bowl of macaroni and cheese toward Vlad. Vlad looked at the food curiously.

Sam grinned. “ Go ahead and take a bite. I swear my cooking is better than anyone else's here. My mother insisted on classes when I was in middle school.” Sam ate a portion of her own to accentuate the point.

Vladimir's expression softened. Taking a spoonful of the rather colorful pasta, he took a tentative bite.

The spiraled rotini noodles, surrounded in a blanket of tomatoes, cheeses, and various minced vegetables, created warm chills throughout the five individuals.
Swallowing, Vlad cocked an eyebrow. “Well… that was unexpected.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, “ What? What was unexpected? Did I add too much salt?”

Vlad grinned and looked to her appreciatively. “ Nothing of the sort. You just surprised me. It’s not often I find someone who can show up every other macaroni and cheese I've tried thus far in my lifetime….”

Sam smiled. Jazmine raised an eyebrow. “ She topped every other macaroni and cheese you've tried?”

Vlad nodded. “ Yes… She just bested them. Granted, it’s a close tie to the diner in Madison, Wisconsin I used to eat at with Jack and-”

Vlad paused. “ ...How big of a dose did Walker give me?” His eyes widened worriedly.

Daniel winced. “ Enough to keep your powers tanked under for at least a day?”

“ I'm not talking about the blossom…. The blossom doesn’t make someone this complacent. I'm talking about what he stabbed into my calf earlier….” Vlad tiredly stared into his food bowl. “Then again, it was just me and him downstairs…”

Daniel worriedly questioned, “What do you think he gave you?”

Vlad rubbed the bridge of his nose. “ If my guess is correct he probably slipped me one of those ridicules ampules of ghost restraint he uses for particularly rowdy specters under his care.”

Vlad grimaced. “ The question is… Did he give me a full dose or a half dose?” He spoke the words to himself tiredly.

Jazmine interjected, “ What's the difference?”

Vlad looked up at her and, seeing her expression, laughed. “ Nothing dangerous…. Just hindering. I'm probably going to have the world's worst migraine tomorrow morning.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, “ Is that all Vlad?”

Vlad snorted. “ No. And it’s not like I'm telling you four...” He shook his head tiredly, “No thanks.”

Tucker raised an eyebrow and then an idea dawned on him. “ Hey, Vlad? What do you do in your free time?”

Vlad, without even pausing to consider the question, answered, “ Usually I spend the hour or two allotted around town making sure there aren't too many natural portals. The portals have a tendency to release poltergeists created from human frustration and sometimes children can stumble into the voids by accident. It takes a lot of energy to close them though and I -”

Vlad's eyes widened in horror and he quickly cupped a hand to his mouth.

Everyone was staring at him with jaws agape. Tucker smirked. “ Ghost Truth Serum, huh?

Vlad shivered at the expressions on the teens that had formed from Foley’s words.
Unclasping his mouth, Vladimir protested. “Mr. Foley, I claimed nothing of the sort!”

Jazmine quirked an eyebrow. “But it is truth serum, correct?”

Vlad cocked his head lightly and answered, “ Yes and no. Wolfgang's lily is a spectral incarnation of Scopolamine, the white bloom used in creating truth serum. Technically there's no real truth serum in existence though… at least not for humans. A spectral medicine, however, tends to be rather potent. Where Walker's drug is usually used for confinement and interrogation it can also pull away from a ghost's ability to mentally project or create a lie. Really, it's a one-shot whitewash that circulates through the ectoplasm and numbs the response rates of a ghost's energy signature. It's often used as an insta-snooze drug for spirits because it spreads so quickly. The problem is, that blasted drug tends to mind wipe the poor ghoul after a few hours…” Vlad stiffened. Standing up abruptly he roared.“TRAVIS YOU PARANORMAL….WHEN I GET MY MITTS ON YOU I'LL STRANGLE THE AFTERLIFE OUT OF YOU! YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE! YOU CO--ugh” Vladimir swayed dizzily and held onto the booth table. Sam caught his shoulder.

Jazmine whistled. “ Damn. Ghost drugs are pretty powerful juju.”

Vlad worriedly bit his lip and looked at the teenagers. All four carried a peaked interest in his debilitated state.

Daniel stood up. “ You really can't lie right now can you?”

Vlad clamped his jaw shut and his body forced his head to nod yes. Vlad's eyes shined with pure undiluted fear. His brain was practically a waterlogged blanket for all the good it did him to fight the movement. Daniel pondered this. Swallowing, he leaned over the table. “Vlad? Why did you accept the truce?”

Vlad stiffened and seemed to be internally fighting something. He hissed slightly at the brief reddish glow that surrounded him to calm his protests and collapsed slightly further against Manson's shoulder. She quickly sat him down against the booth seat. Vlad groaned. Now dazed, he answered. “ I never wanted to fight you. It was all really a bad set of circumstances, that I beg you allow me to explain at a future date. I would rather remember explaining everything properly than being mentally molested by you four…”

Vladimir's brow furrowed in pain and he continued, “I accepted because I consider you my family? Kind of pitiful right? I just have no more reason to lie...Granted, the last two months have been rather contradictory toward that. No motivation or goals….The fact you were becoming increasingly endangered by my roundabout ways of handling you only added to the mess.”

He blearily slouched against the seat and began fading out slightly. Covering his eyes, he spoke shakily to the occupants in the room, “Daniel? I know I'm not going to remember this… but if you...if all of you, could refrain from asking why I did what I did… Just for the moment...It would be deeply appreciated.” Vlad shook slightly.

Daniel confused even more questioned, “ Why can't we ask that?”

Vlad shook more prominently and his hand fell. Vlad Master’s stormy blue eyes were pained and lost. “I… I just would rather try and be something else….just this once. It's selfish… and god I know how my selfishness hurts… But I want a chance to let go of that...all of that…,so I can move forward. I'm getting so tired… -tired of sitting by and watching as everything gets ripped apart and shattered around me. I just want it to stop.”

Vlad bitterly chuckled but his eyes remained tormented. “ Guess I'm a villain no matter what, huh?”

The teens winced. Daniel’s gaze softened. “ Vlad? I'm not going to ask anything like that… We aren't going to pull something so lousy when you've already been through hell the last two days. Just relax.”

Vlad looked up startled for a moment. “ Then what exactly would you ask me? I know you probably are still going to use this situation somewhat to your advantage…”

Jazmine sighed. “ What would you be okay with us asking about?”

Vlad shuttered. “ Jazmine? I….” He tiredly rubbed his face, “Who I am isn't a good subject…. Neither is what has happened the last three years…”

He gripped his head tiredly as if to squeeze the words out correctly.“ I don't know what's safe for you to ask... If you have any suggestions I implore you to run them by me.”

Sam smiled comfortingly. “ Easy Plasmius. We won't ask anything that makes you uncomfortable.”

Tucker nodded reassuringly. Vlad relaxed slightly. Looking up toward Daniel, he waited. Daniel pondered his options for a moment. “ Would you explain that box of pictures if we showed them to you?”

Vlad tensed and then laughed somewhat jovially. “ Couldn't resist snooping around, huh? Guess I was asking for that…”

Vlad closed his eyes deep in thought for a moment and then somewhat forlornly addressed them. “ I would like to say yes… but some of the photos in there don't have really good endings. Several of them bring up some rather painful memories I would rather not share openly until I'm more familiar with you all.”

Daniel paused. “ Why keep a photo that makes you miserable?”

Vlad tiredly rubbed his eyes. Looking up he smiled sadly. “ Sometimes when you lose something precious, it's nice to have mementos. Even if it hurts, it serves as a reminder. We can't repair or save everything. Looking back on kinder times or at someone we miss holds no shame.”

Daniel sat down tiredly besides Jazmine on the other side of the booth. “You are such weirdo Fruit-Loop.”

Vlad smiled kindly. “ Takes one to know one Daniel.”

Sam tapped her chin. “ Okay, what about a rundown on how you got so chummy with Walker?”

Daniel's interest peaked and he looked to Vlad expectantly.

Vlad considered the question and sighed. “ Walker wanted balance to the zone. I just happened to be the naturally born spook made for the role. He thinks of himself as a mediator to balance the rules of life and death. And no, that doesn't mean he sees himself as a grim reaper or some other ridicules garbage. He just makes sure the living don't get trapped in the zone and the dead don't decay in this world.”

Tucker raised an eyebrow. “Ghosts can decay? Does that mean they die?”

Vlad nodded. “ Ghosts are the consciousness left behind from tragedy or unfulfilled lives. You could say that they're life without body. If their core, or more accurately, they're soul is left to wander without spectral energy or a source of substance they fade away or die. The soul’s essence, however, circulates back into the system. Energy can't be destroyed, after all, only perpetuated and dispersed into other places.”

Jazmine's eyes widened, Sam gaped, and Tucker looked from Vladimir to Daniel with an are you freaking kidding me expression.

Vlad nodded off slightly but jostled himself back. Sam took the initiative and dragged him closer to his food. Vlad looked to her curiously in his sluggish state before noting the food again. Picking up his fork, he began slowly finishing what Sam had cooked.

After a few minutes he set down the utensil again and continued, “Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, they all had theories on how life progresses after the fact. Plenty of others before and after them carried ideas and notions about life cycles and the state of the soul. Many eastern faiths such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism hold reincarnation as a key part in how we move on.”

All four teenagers listened intently. Vladimir yawned. “And before you ask? No, you don't flip-flop between human and animal. People always stay people. As for karma? God? I have no clue. Heaven and hell are a bit of a paradox. Think of them as a relative state every living and deceased creature is capable of creating and permeating for themselves and others. We experience both those dualities. You don't just get clunked into some scripture stuttering individual’s idea of punishment or reward. Nothing is that straightforward.”

Vladimir's arm blearily curled under his chin as he laid his head against the table.

Sam looked from Vladimir to Daniel with utter amazement. “ Well, I guess that alleviates some questions? Fearing mortality is pretty stupid after all.”

Vlad smiled slightly, “ Fear nothing but fear itself.”

Tucker shook his head in disbelief. “ Vlad is officially the most interesting person I know.” Looking at Daniel, he smirked. “ No offense Pham.”

Daniel shrugged. “ None taken.”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Daniel questioned, “ Hey, Vlad?”

Vlad sluggish peered at the teen through half-lidded eyes, “ Hmmm?”

“ Why did you get a cat?”

Chapter Text

Vlad snorted. “ More like, why did I save a cat? It was raining and she was stuck in the storm drain near the diner a while back. I ended up phasing her out and nursing her back to health. I wasn't able to save her kittens though…”

Vladimir cringed. “ She wouldn't stop yowling…. It took weeks to get her adjusted to human...er-ghost…” Vlad sighed in annoyance, “...Well, joint company.”

Jazmine questioned, “ What's her name?”

Vlad turned several shades redder. “ … Okay… Don't judge me… I was heavily drunk and…”

Vlad groaned and nestled his head under his arms to hide his embarrassment.

“ This is going to be good.” Tucker smirked.

Vlad snorted. “ That depends on your perspective Foley. Granted, the name was justified considering how much the feline scratched and snarled at me. And in part, I did name her what I did to spite Daniel for telling me to get a cat. You know, I just figured to hell with it and all…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow intrigued. “ Fruit-Loop? Spit it out. What's the cat’s name?”

Vlad swallowed, “ I-… Well-… Her name is Maddie.”

There was a pause and then the room exploded in laughter.

Vlad grimaced. Daniel snorted. “That's just plain sick Vlad.”

Vlad growled slightly and pulling his head up, he elaborated. Still red with embarrassment, his voice rung.“ It's not like that! I said I was drunk alright? I kept calling her mad cat because she kept trying to scratch the blue blazes out of me! I got her declawed and her mood improved. It was late, she was being nice and I drunkenly joked she was only a little mad-ee. Still, out of it, I began laughing about the irony of me accidentally picking up a cat that hates my guts and how the name would probably piss you off. Skulker overheard and couldn't resist fashioning a collar for her so now the name’s stuck! Happy?”

Daniel tried to keep a straight face, he really did, but seeing Vladimir's flustered and genuinely embarrassed features he instead found himself bursting into equal hysterics with the other three teens in the room.

Vlad sighed and covered his face under his arms. “ You four are despicable…”

Tucker wiped away a tear, “ That was beautiful.”

Sam smiled. “ Mad Cat. Pfff.”

Jazmine snickered. “ That explains why she tried tearing Daniel to pieces earlier.”

Vlad snorted. “ Congrats! Yet another half ghost victim of the infamous mad-cat.”

Daniel blushed. “ That must have been one of the stupidest ways to name a pet I've ever heard of.”

Vlad cocked an eyebrow. “ Again? I was way too drunk and miserable to notice the long term effects of my inebriated joking. If I knew Edmond was invisibly spying on me to make sure I didn't pull anything stupid I would have been far more careful about what I said aloud.”

Tucker questioned. “ So Skulker babysits you?”

Vlad groaned, “ Not usually. The last few months however he's made it a priority to ensure I don't do anything reckless or fatal.”

Everyone raised an eyebrow at this. Vlad groggily rested his cheek against his arm again.

Jazmine, finding her voice, questioned, “ Why did he make it a priority?”

Vlad paused and tiredly scratched his nose. “ Probably has to do with all the drinking and that vampiric book that tried offing me in the library a while back...” Vladimir snickered.

Daniel’s brow furrowed. “ Fruit-Loop? You lied about how much you drink didn’t you?”

Vlad smiled softly. “ I didn’t lie. I’ve just been more prone to it the last few months because of-” Vlad abruptly paused. Biting his lip he quickly finished, “I think I want to steer away from this subject.”

Daniel winced, “ Yeah...I guess discussing your reasons for the booze is a bad idea.”

Vlad sighed. “ Lately, I’ve just been using it to conk myself out if that makes you feel any better….”

Sam questioned, “ Those dark circles under your eyes are pretty intense. Do you have problems sleeping?”

Vlad grimaced, “ I have had problems sleeping from the time I was six years old. Granted, it was better in college…”

Jazmine became more concerned, “ You’re an insomniac?”

Vlad blearily narrowed his gaze before shrugging. “ I ….guess that’s..what I am…?”

Tucker paused. Looking around his brow furrowed. “ Vlad? I hope this isn’t too personal but, why do you have no family photos anywhere?”

Vlad was starting to drift off. “I...am assuming….you mean….blood relations?...”

Tucker nodded, “ Yes. I mean, we’ve been looking around and there are no photos on any of the walls or in frames.”

Vlad closed his eyes slightly, “Don’t... have any…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “ Don’t have any what?”

Vlad pursed his lip and curled deeper against the table as he started falling under the drugs again. “ Both….”

Seeing Vlad starting to conk out, Sam gripped his shoulder and gently pulled the gray blanket Walker had carried him up in over him.

Jazmine, not satisfied with the answer and even more intrigued, prodded, “ The pictures or-”

Vlad sleepily murmured, “….dead…”

All four teenagers paled. Sam gently shook his shoulder, “ Vlad? What do you mean?”

Vlad passed out slightly but managed, “... My family?….They’re dead….”

The room became stifling. Vladimir, even in his debilitated and drugged state, noticed and somberly stared at the table.

“ It...was a long..time ago...Just forget I said...anything… I won't even remember….the last few hours come morning.”

Daniel felt like he had just wantonly stepped on molten coals.

Vlad laughed slightly. “Manson?... Jazmine…. Thank you...for...everything….” Vlad's eyes began closing fully, “ It was nice,….even if….it won't...be remembered,...to have….a warm meal….with someone….You... two kind of reminded….me of …….her…

Vlad smiled gently with the vague word and fully fell asleep against the table. Everyone was frozen in place for a moment and then Sam silently reached over and patted Vlad on the back.

Jazmine winced. “ They died? What does that mean? Was he an orphan? Did they get in an accident?”

Tucker tiredly rubbed his hatless head before sitting up from his spot at the corner of the booth. “ Let’s get him back in bed….”

Daniel nodded and turning intangible phased through the booth to assist Tucker. Tucker groaned. “ Dan? Ixnay on the powers?”

Daniel nodded and silently shifted back to Daniel Fenton once he was on the other side of Vladimir. Turning to Sam, he asked, “ Sam? Can you go upstairs and rearrange the bedding with Jaz while we get Fruit-Loop situated?”

Sam smiled tiredly. “ Sure thing Aldrin.”

Jaz nodded toward Daniel reassuringly and filed after Sam as they left the kitchen.

Gently lifting Vlad's arms up and over their shoulders, the two teens gingerly hefted him into a standing position. Tucker cocked an eyebrow. “ He is really lightweight for his size.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Half ghost, Tuck… Half ghost.”

Tucker snorted. “ I know that Danny! What I am saying is that he's lighter than you….”

Daniel paused and tested the weight leaning against his right arm experimentally. Sure enough, Vlad was indeed lighter than him. “ Huh...weird. Maybe it's because he got zapped by a smaller portal?”

Tucker rolled his eyes, “ I don't think that's how it works…”

Daniel snorted and began side stepping with Tucker in order to maneuver Vlad out from behind the booth. “ It's not like I'm the expert on all things portal zapped.”

Glancing at Vlad, he continued, “Currently, we are carrying the expert.”

Tucker looked to Vlad's passed out form tiredly. “ He is going to be absolutely wrecked tomorrow morning. Dan? Truth serum leaves the victim with a nasty migraine. When he wakes up you need to give him some aspirin.”

Daniel nodded as they began ascending the staircase. Jazmine rounded the corner of the landing as they reached the second floor. Giving a gentle smile, she whispered, “ We changed the blankets and the sheets. Do you guys need help getting him in the bed?”

Daniel and Tucker both exchanged a look and then snorted. “ I think we can lay him down just fine Jaz. If you two want to dot on him like mother hens, that's your choice.”

Jazmine rolled her eyes. Looking to Vlad and seeing the gray blanket falling off she quickly adjusted it. Speaking softly, she elaborated,“...From a psychological perspective, Vlad's interesting. I'm starting to think he has a fear of getting attached to people…The fact he’s a chronic insomniac and he has a severe self-hatred is making me a little concerned for his well being though.”

Daniel nodded as they led Vladimir into his room. “ Yeah… I'm getting worried for him as well. With all these drugs ripping off his villain mask, he’s becoming someone I want to relate to more… He’s just so….so human when he's not plotting against me or dad.”

Tucker snorted. “ Vlad Plasmius… drunkard and jokester. Please tell me we are in some ghost’s idea of the twilight zone?”

Jazmine rolled her eyes. “ Let’s just get him in bed?” Holding the door open, she motioned the two and the unconscious adult into the room. Sam was folding the covers back so they could lay him down correctly. Walking over to the right side of the king-sized bed, Tucker and Daniel turned sideways and leaned back with Vladimir to get him onto the mattress. Sam gently cradled his head as they repositioned their arms to heft him over to the correct area of the bed. Two minutes of very delicate and precise maneuvering elapsed. Vlad stirred slightly in their hold but didn’t wake up.

Satisfied with Vlad’s position on the mattress, Daniel gently grabbed his ankles and placed them on the bed. Inspecting their efforts, all four teens smiled in relief. Sam gingerly grabbed the sheets and tucked Vlad in. Vlad turned minutely, and in the muted lighting the occupants in the room could just barely make out a small content smile ghosting across his fatigued features.

Chapter Text

Vlad awoke the next morning with the mother of all migraines. Tossing lightly against the pillows propped under his head he sighed and begrudgingly sat up and slid his legs over the side of the bed.

‘Walker must have laid me in bed after I passed out.’ Rubbing his eyes, Vladimir tiredly stood up and walked over to the closet. Finding a simple white button up shirt and some slacks, he changed out of his pajamas. Making his way into the bathroom and glancing at his reflection, he tiredly noted the strange hairstyle he was sporting. Fingering the now rough and stray hair laden braids, he began untying them.

Unwinding the rope-like strands, he attempted to phase the black hair tie out of his hair only to feel a pull of resistance against his abilities. ‘That's right...Walker gave my Ophelia Blossom.’ Pushing against the wall like energy restricting his abilities Vladimir managed to phase the tie out. Winded, he leaned against the counter and stared at his bed-headed reflection. Groaning, he stroked his cheek. ‘ And now I need to shave.’

Brushing the tangles out of his hair, he piled all of his hair up into a loose ponytail. He sighed at his weary image as he combed back his bangs and gelled them in place. Despite the unusual amount of sleep the last two days his body was still adamantly craving more rest. Reaching into the medicine cabinet he grabbed his straight razor, his cream brush, the wooden bowl, and the shaving soap. Making a lather, he began the task of applying it to his face.

The ice-cold suds helped him wake up substantially. Grasping the thin silver knife, he gently propped the blade at a thirty-degree angle against his cheek and tediously began trimming the unwanted growth away. Rinsing his face and cleaning off the equipment, he numbly reached for a towel and dried himself off.
Looking at his reflection he amusedly snorted. ‘ You’re a mess.’

He went to turn only to feel eyes at the side of his head, watching him intently.

Growling threateningly, he addressed the invisible figure. “ Whoever is hiding, I invite you to reveal yourself.”

No one answered or appeared at his voice and Vlad continued. “ Let’s rephrase. Come out now and I won't have to beat you within an inch if your afterlife…”

A voice snorted. “ Not much of a morning person are you Vlad?”

Vlad's shoulders relaxed slightly and his eyes became tired. “ Daniel?”

Daniel's acid green eyes flickered into view by the tub. Crossing his legs, he musedly twirled a glass of water and a couple of pills in his gloved hands. “ Yep, your resident dogooder and pill dispenser.”

Vlad rolled his eyes, “ I could do without the sarcasm, dear boy.”

Daniel smiled warmly and Vlad tensed awkwardly.

Daniel, in an attempt to quell the animosity he had tossed toward Vlad yesterday, complemented, “So you shave with a straight razor, huh? Where did you learn that?”

Vlad shrugged. “ In high school... I never liked the disposable razors and I was sick of getting a partial shave.”

Vlad smiled in memory of the person who introduced him to his blade. “Believe it or not, a woman taught me how to use it.”

Daniel gaped, “ A chic taught you how to use a straight razor?” Daniel's jaw went slack. Swallowing, he questioned, “How?”

Vlad laughed, “ How else? By sitting me down and shoving the blade in my hands. She couldn't very well use herself as an example. The woman didn't have a hair on her that required such a tome.”

Daniel snorted. “ How did that fair for you?”

Vlad chuckled, “ I epically butchered myself under my chin and she yanked the blade out of my hands.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Is that why you allow the facial hair to be thicker there?”

Vlad paused and looked at himself in the mirror. “ Actually? I keep my hair like this because a friend recommended it. The scar I got from my razor blade fiasco healed before I graduated. I no longer have it.”

Vlad paused and smiled slightly. “The razor I use was her father's. From what I understand it was passed down for generations from father to son until she was born.”

Vlad yawned and, looking toward Daniel, questioned. “ How about we go out for breakfast this morning?”

Daniel’s features grew confused. “Why?”

Vlad tiredly rubbed the back of his neck, “ I honestly don't trust myself right now next to a stove and you’re no better.”

Phantom’s green eyes flashed slightly and then he rolled his eyes. “ To bad Sam and Tuck won’t be seeing us till this evening. They probably could have helped us make pancakes or something.”

Vlad sighed. “ I am never living the pancake thing down am I?”

Daniel grinned and motioned toward the glass and the pills he was holding, “ Just take some of this aspirin already? You look like shit.”

Vlad froze and turned to Daniel, “Language, young man...Language.”

Daniel snickered, “ Does the great Plasmius hate french?”

Vlad snorted, “ Ce n'était pas français.”

Daniel’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “ Did you just speak actual french?”

Vladimir grinned devilishly and took the glass an the pills from the startled teen. Walking toward the door, he quickly tossed the pills in his mouth and swallowed them down with a swig of the water. Before he was out of the bathroom, he playfully questioned, “ Une pilule difficile à avaler petit blaireau?”

Daniel groaned and chased after him. Vlad rolled his eyes. “ Little badger? Staying in Phantom form constantly just because you can won’t do your body any favors in the long run.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and questioned, “ Why?”

Vlad rounded the stairs with his house guest and froze abruptly. “ Daniel? Go get your hoodie.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “ Why? It’s not like it’s-”

Vlad smugly motioned toward the ceiling just as a clap of thunder emanated.

Mouth agape, the teenager prodded, “ Can you predict the future? That’s a ghost power right?”

Vlad smiled and shook his head no. “ I just could smell the rain coming… That, and sudden storms like the ones we’ve been having change barometric pressure. After you get enough broken bones the spots that are fractured begin to ache when the weather changes.”

Daniel quickly shut his mouth and flew into the guest room he had been occupying for the last two nights. A few seconds later, Daniel Fenton layered in an overly large hoodie and hole-ridden jeans rushed toward the landing. Seeing Daniel’s foot connecting to the edge of the staircase incorrectly, Vlad quickly latched onto his shoulders to prevent him from tumbling down the landing. Looking into Daniel’s now blue eyes, he smirked. “ I see why you prefer Phantom...you’re rather clumsy still, aren't you?”

Vlad released him and continued walking. Looking back at the furiously red teen, he added seriously, “ The reason you stumble into things and have problems finding your footing is that Phantom’s power was used for too long. Your other side is poking its way through your human form and turning things partially intangible when you’re not paying attention to keep up the power flow’s momentum.”

Daniel’s blue eyes widened. Vlad smiled slightly, “ You need to learn how to subtly release energy and how to adjust in human form.”

Turning from Daniel, Vladimir stepped into the hall and began walking toward the door. Stopping in the intersection between the entryway and the main hall, he made a detour and turned toward his office. Grabbing a trench coat and two umbrellas, he tossed Daniel one of the parasols. Daniel smirked. “ Fruit-Loop? Can’t we just create a shield overhead or something?”

Vlad snorted. “ I think you’re becoming too reliant on your abilities Daniel. It helps to be humble on occasion you know.”

Vlad gently tried pulling the coat over his shoulder only to wince in pain and start falling forward. Dropping the umbrella he was holding, Daniel quickly latched onto the adult to keep him upright. Vlad sighed and chuckled. “ Thanks for the save….” Wincing and numbly holding his chest, Vladimir straightened himself.

Averting his gaze from Daniel, he gently removed his hand and turned toward the door.

Daniel worriedly questioned, “ Are you sure it’s a good idea for you to go out in this weather? I can always fly over to a restaurant and bring back something…”

Vlad shrugged. “ I think the walk would do me some good.”

Daniel stiffened. “ You do realize we are a good forty-minute walk from town and another twenty minutes from any restaurants right?”

Vlad looked back at the teenager with an unspoken challenge. Rolling his eyes, Daniel snatched his discarded umbrella and followed in pursuit of the gray-headed adult.

Vlad opened the front door tiredly and motioned Daniel out with a curt nod.

Popping open their umbrellas in unison they began walking down the drive. Daniel in a bid for conversation questioned, “ So….broken bones...erm- I have had a broken arm and my leg got twisted a while back. What about you?”

Vlad paused and turned to Daniel with a tired expression. “ Daniel? Let’s put this under one of those really painful topics I would rather not explore with you until a later date?”

Daniel sighed. “ That’s not fair Fruit-Loop. I’m just curious is all… I know you’re pretty scarred and you were talking about the weather affecting your bones…”

Vlad answered. “ I’ve broken the majority of my bones more times than it’s possible to recap. Mostly my ribs. Can we leave it at that?”

Daniel nodded and changed gears. “ Sooooo….where are we walking to?”

Vlad grinned mischievously, “ The Nasty Burger.. Where else?”

Daniel gawked, “ You’re kidding right?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ What? Do you have a different preference?”

Daniel went ashen, “ Vlad? You do realize the majority of the teenage population in this town hates your guts right?”

Vlad paused and tiredly rubbed the bridge of his nose. “ Ah...yes… our little prank war.”

Pondering his options for a moment, Vlad cocked an eyebrow and smirked. “I should have just enough energy to avoid anyone recognizing me.”

Daniel opened his mouth to protest and Vlad sighed. “ Fine. Are you good with donuts?”

Daniel grinned. “ Yes...I am good with donuts. You know a place?”

A loud, amused chuckle crept from the adult. “ Of course I do. I can’t cook, remember? My best bet is to scope out all the restaurants in an area.”

Daniel snickered, “ You’re what? Forty-seven? Don't you think cooking would be something you'd prioritize? It's kind of basic Fruit-Loop.”

Vlad snorted, “ So says the Pop-tart murder. Tell me, Daniel? How did you so poetically catch the toaster and the box on fire?”

Daniel stiffened and turned beet red. “ How did you-?”

Vlad rolled his eyes. “ Jazmine told me a while back.”

Daniel grumbled angrily for a few minutes while they walked. Vlad paused abruptly and Daniel ran into his back.

“ What gives Fr-?!”

Vlad immediately dropped his umbrella and clasped a hand to Daniel's mouth. In a low whisper, Vlad worriedly instructed. “ Daniel? Be quiet. We're not alone.”

Daniel stiffened. A few seconds later his ghost sense went off from behind Vlad's fingers and Vlad hissed in discomfort from the scalding cold. Keeping his grip, he kicked up the umbrella and flung it to their left. The parasol was ripped to shreds in midair. Fine wisps of ebony fabric and metal scraps clacked to the ground.

Chapter Text

Vlad grabbed onto the nape of Daniel's hoodie and jumped upward with the teen in hand. Landing on a nearby roof, Vlad swayed and staggered from behind Daniel. His arm fell from the boy's hoodie. Panting and dizzy, he started blacking out. Daniel immediately caught him by the wrist as he fell backwards.
Groaning, Vlad tried to make out what was happening around him.

Daniel's eyes turned acid green abruptly as he latched his arm under Vlad's shoulder. “What the heck is that thing?”

Vlad chuckled, “ Another monster intent...on eating me….?”

Daniel's eyes locked onto Vlad's dazed serious ones and he frowned. “You're joking right?”

“ Not remotely.” Vlad rubbed his eyes tiredly, “Usually, I don't get swamped like this…. I am fairly capable of handling small fry like these on a normal day. The problem is my powers are toast right now. What little I just used to aid my jump up here with you practically knocked me out.”

Daniel looked to Vlad, “ How did you see that thing? Where is it?”

Vlad looked to Daniel in surprise, “Please tell me you noticed?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “Noticed what?”

Vlad felt something creeping up behind them and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Turning, he pushed Daniel out of reach as an invisible mass railed into him from the side and slung him up into the air. Flipping over the animalistic claw that made a pass for him, Vlad numbly landed on the creature's back. Daniel watched in disbelief for a moment where he lay.

Vlad looked to Daniel and turned ashen, “ DANIEL, BEHIND YOU!”

Daniel turned abruptly and rolled as a set of large, invisible claws raked through the roof.

Vlad slipped in the rain and spiraling through the air, landed on the townhouse’s flat roof in a crouched position. Dodging a claw he yelled, “DANIEL! AIM FOR THE CORE, THEY'RE POLTERGEISTS!”

Dodging another claw Daniel yelled, “ HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO HIT SOMETHING I CAN’T SEE?!?”

Vlad growled and bit his lip. “DANIEL! SHIELD NOW! FULL SPHERE, OFF THE ROOF!”

Daniel immediately complied. Gritting his teeth, Vlad activated his seal and kicking up rammed his arm in an invisible spot above him. Electricity sparked and rippled in the area, ticking and knocking around raindrops and splitting them with small static snaps. The invisible thing above him flickered into view for a moment and Daniel's eyes widened.

The large elephant-sized creature was bear-like in stature but had eight eyes and large, long sloth like appendages for arms tipped with claws equivalent to those of Wolverine. It opened its green jaw in a hiss and then shattered into a black mist. Vlad backflipped and slid on his hands to avoid the second attacker coming from his right. Using his hand as leverage he shot up and kicked the invisible creature in the neck. A hiss could be heard from below Daniel as the blow connected. Landing on the roof, Vlad charged both hands with electricity and shot the blast into the wet floor. The power went out in the street and the other figure appeared yowling in pain before it shattered into mist as well from Vlad's duplicate.

Panting and dizzy Vlad fell to one knee and slumped forward only for something else to crack into his side. Vlad rolled and tossed like a rag doll until he came to a stop eight feet away from his original spot. The duplicate fizzled and dissipated as Vlad lost consciousness. Daniel immediately released his shield to aid Vlad. The adult was crumpled in a small heap by the edge of the roof. A faint groan emanated as he attempted to lift himself up from the ground with a shaky hand. The limb shook and fell out from under him, causing him to smack back into the roof with a dull thwack. A small stream of red could be seen dripping from Vlad's mouth.

The rain had picked up and this time Daniel could see what Vlad had been trying to tell him about. The ghosts were invisible but not intangible. The water was rippling off of them...and currently, a rather large adversary was crouching over Vlad.

Flying in front of the adult, Daniel created an ice column and drove it where he assumed its core pulsed. True to form the creature materialized momentarily from the blow and then dissipated into mist.

Daniel turned to help Vlad and his eyes widened in horror. Another creature had picked Vlad's now unconscious form up in one of its hands while Daniel had been preoccupied. Vlad's arm limply splayed from under one of the large paws and hung in the air as he was inspected. Straightening its hold, the poltergeist amusedly rubbed Vlad's sleeping face with a claw, delicately enough not to harm him, but enough for him to stir slightly. The creatures invisible head turned toward Daniel challengingly before it began tightening its hold Vlad's body.

A muffled and pained gasp echoed across the roof. The creature purred contently at the noise and then hissed as it core was impaled by another well-aimed ice column.

Chapter Text

Vlad floated momentarily in the dissipating creature’s hold above the roof before Daniel caught him.

Carrying Vlad down toward the roof and laying him down, Daniel questioningly shook him. Vlad tossed lightly and his eyes opened sluggishly, “....Ow….”

“ You are freaking mental Vlad! What was that?!?! Where you trying to kill yourself?!?”

Vlad rolled his eyes tiredly and tried to sit up only to let out a pained gasp.

“ Woah…. easy.”

Vlad sighed tiredly, “ Powers shorted out right after I zapped that one… Sorry, about that…”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “Erm… Vlad? How did you fight like that? You didn't fly or shift. Your duplicate was even human. He jumped to kill that last one…”
Vlad smiled tiredly, “ You don't honestly think I waste all my time plotting against teenagers, do you? Our human forms are just as physically capable as our ghost forms…”

Daniel sighed. Looking around, he questioned, “ There's no more of them right?”

Vlad groaned and sluggishly tried propping himself up. Daniel looped an arm behind his back to help him. Looking up at Daniel, Vlad sighed. “ Okay… I have a way of checking but it'll probably knock me out. Can I trust you not to do something stupid while I'm out of it?”

Daniel's brow furrowed. “ I'm not liking the sounds of whatever your planning.”

Vlad rubbed his head tiredly, “ It may not even work…. It didn't go off like it was supposed to earlier...The mark has practically been reduced to a skin adornment the last few weeks…”

Daniel groaned and flatly reprimanded, “ Then I'm saying no.” Putting a hand on his shoulder, he added, “You’re not supposed to be using your powers at all today Vlad. Drugged up for a reason remember?”

Vlad snorted, “ I don't like playing the invalid.”

Daniel groaned, “ Obviously...Fruit-Loop...Obviously…”

Vlad winced as he was helped to his feet. “ We may want to grab food before another hunting possie decides to stalk by. I'm a little too weak to close any natural portals right now and those particular poltergeists hunt in packs. We killed four so there are at least two more somewhere. Whether they're in the zone or in Amity, I don't know…”

Daniel sighed. “ What did you do to piss them off, Vlad?”

Vlad stiffened and then scuffed, “I exist.”

Daniel tensed, “ You mean they just try killing you because you're-”

Vlad sighed, “ Daniel? I've never met these creatures prior to today… never touched or even came across them in the zone. They simply wanted to feed off of me as one would a stag or a trophy animal.”

Daniel’s expression turned into disgust, “ Why you in particular?”

Vlad smiled sheepishly, “Erm...my job and what I am probably have the most to do with why.” Vlad winced as they turned invisible and floated down from the roof and into an alleyway. “I usually make sure poltergeists with killing intent or avarice in those amounts are disposed of, or I prevent them from feeding…. Bruises, insomnia, sudden anger spikes, depression….These are usually signs of them lurking around, granted those are the small fry. The more advanced ones legitimately take humans and ghosts so they can physically feed off of the flesh, usually killing the individual in some sort of sadistic torture.”

Daniel's eyes widened. “ You mean those things were like baby versions of that crazy ghost chic yesterday?”

Vlad nodded yes, “ Sort of?....That crazy ghost chic, however, had been feeding for years…She was probably originally a human ghost... Those things on the roof, in contrast, were made from emotions targeted toward someone in town...Who? I don't really know.”

Vlad straightened himself slightly in Daniel's hold and looked down the alley tiredly. “Someone hates something or someone so much that they've created a hunting posey with the intent of murdering the person or destroying that thing. Usually, the poltergeists get birthed in the zone and stay to their confines or domiciles without breaking into this dimension… The only reason they would leave to feed is if they felt a stirring of their own desires toward the object of the malice or they've gained enough avarice to separate and form their own wants. The fact that these particular poltergeists are behemoths in comparison to their pint-sized cousins makes this all the more unusual and unlucky.”

“ Wait… so they are someone's emotions?”

Vlad paused, “ Yes and no. There must be a portal nearby… a natural one opened from a weak spot between plains. Poltergeists are usually created near the rifts and either get sucked into the zone to form or latch onto their human creator to feed on their life energy… The emotions create the energy that materializes their cores. Think of them as vengeful daydreams or really nasty incarnations of human consciousness.”

“ And they want to eat you because you're in the way of them feeding right?”

Vlad groaned and looking to Daniel shrugged defeatedly, “They know I'm pretty much helpless right now… That and I'm a rare item on the menu.”

Daniel shivered, “ That's so gross….”

Vlad chuckled tiredly, “ Apparently they like Fruit-Loops…”

Daniel paused and turned to Vlad accusingly, “ That was-” Seeing Vlad's tired and somewhat delirious features, he sighed and laughed. “ That was actually pretty funny.”

Vlad smiled weakly, “Badger….I'm kinda starting...to pass out again…Let's just finish getting...the food? They won't attack if we are in a crowded area… Not with your parents looming around with ghost hunting equipment.”

Daniel smiled. Turning back into Fenton, he sighed exasperatedly before duplicating. “I'll send my duplicate out for umbrellas … He'll be back in a minute.”

Vlad chuckled and looking toward Daniel’s still rapidly soaking hair, smiled weakly, “ At least you got a shower out of this.”

Daniel snorted, “ I'll refrain from slapping you considering your practically dead on your feet.”

Vlad groaned and rolled his eyes. Narrowing his gaze, he corrected. “ Half-dead…”

Daniel smirked, “ That's the spirit, Fruit-Loop.”

Vlad and Daniel both laughed at their half-hearted puns. Vlad, however, was starting to conk out again. Daniel sighed at the sight and smiled sheepishly, “Thanks for the save Vlad.”

Vlad tiredly smiled in return, “ I'm not about to let you get shish kabobbed when I can prevent it.”

Daniel, finding a dry spot near the edge of the alley, propped Vladimir up slightly against the wall as they waited for the umbrellas. Trying to keep Vlad awake, he questioned, “ So… how often do poltergeists come around to off you?”

Vlad tiredly looked up into the downpour, “ Mainly just the last six weeks...usually, they avoid me like the plague. I didn't tell Skulker or Romulus about the attacks because I didn't want them hounding me twenty-four seven.”

Daniel groaned, “ You mean you were fighting these things when you were conking out?”

Vlad winced, “ It's not like I had much of a choice Badger…It's either I fought them or I became an orderve. It doesn't take a genius to see which route I chose.”

“ Well, that's pretty blunt. I guess you have a point.” Daniel mused. Crossing his arms and yawning, he slouched up against the wall.

“ Hey, Fruitloop? Have you noticed there haven't been many ghosts around Amity since around the time I went missing? Sam, Tuck, and Jaz say they haven't seen diddly since last Tuesday. You apparently saw Johnny and Kitty, and my doctor at the hospital told me Ember was ranting around, but no severe property damage or really annoying ghost junk seems to have happened. With the exception of that creepy demon chic and those sloth bear thingies, I haven't seen anyone around here either.”

Vlad smiled slightly. “ Don't worry about it, Daniel. They probably just found a better place to haunt.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. After a moment his eyes widened at a realization. Wisconsin, with the exception of Plasmius and the Dairy King, was pretty lax when it came to ghost attacks.

‘Did he do something while I was gone?’

Daniel was brought out of his ponderings by a stiff thud beside him.

Chapter Text

Vlad was dizzily holding himself up on his hands and knees. Daniel quickly shot down to help him up, “ Vlad? Jesus….Woah, easy.”

Vlad dizzily noted the arms hefting him up and supporting him. Groggy, he weakly gripped the shoulder he was leaned against.

“ Fruit-Loop? Can you hear me?”

Vlad groaned, “ Danny? Ugh….This week? Kinda sucks.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “ Vlad? You do realize you just used my nickname instead of my full name, right?”

Vlad blearily twitched an eyebrow and noticing the unanswered question, assured, “ I’m fine… Daniel. I'm just a little discombobulated from trying to use my powers earlier.”

Daniel sighed. “ Vlad? I was thinking…. You're obviously in no condition to protect yourself or even move to suddenly without assistance, and Sam and I don't want your secretary left alone with you after what happened yesterday… So...um..”

Vlad tiredly wiped his dripping gray hair out of his face. Looking to Daniel questioningly, he asked, “ So what? I don't bite… What were you thinking?”

Daniel sighed. “ Erm….Can I stay weekdays at your place this Summer?”

Vlad tensed abruptly and his head whipped up to meet Daniel's eyes. A white-gray paler stemmed across his features. Wincing, he attempted to leave Daniel's grip only for the sixteen-year-old to tighten his hold. Baby blue eyes met stormy sapphire and Daniel added, “You agreed to train me right Fruit-Loop? Why not make this summer a ghostly study hall of sorts? One condition though? I don't want you trying to get into my mom’s hazmat suit and I don't want you trying to kill my dad.”

Vladimir's face became a conflict of emotion. The last sentence, however, left him feeling nauseous.... In all his life, those two things had never been his aim. They were just two means to an end….lies he used under his employ to aid in his goal…. That goal, however, was dead. The problem was gone. And now? Now he had a sixteen-year-old thinking he wanted to sexually assault one of his parents and murder the other. Vlad's look of absolute horror and disgust didn't go unnoticed by Daniel.

The teenager immediately became apprehensive at Vlad's expression and jumped to the conclusion the adult was either disgusted with his company or disgusted with his parents. Liking neither scenario, he abruptly pushed Vlad off of himself and onto the ground. Vlad groaned and tried meagerly to look up at Daniel only for the teen to stare at him with a mixture of betrayal and loathing. Vlad's eyes widened and saddened considerably at the sight of the bright, almost neon yellow, green flashing in his direction. Daniel stared at him in silence for several moments before he noticed the crimson dripping from under Vlad's dress shirt. The blood immediately snapped him out of his anger. Vlad gripped his stomach and turned away from the teen. “ Whatever you were thinking, Daniel... it wasn't what you assumed. I was just disgusted with the idea that I-”

Vlad glanced back up at Daniel and stiffened. A small icy cloud had went unnoticed from the younger’s lips as he stared at the adult. Vlad had spotted the faint ice wisp and seeing the lumbering figure behind Daniel's oblivious form, he paled rapidly. Eyes flashing red, Vlad teleported. Daniel turned around just in time to hear the sickening crack of a hastily made shield. Vlad lapsed out and fell to his knees. Feverish and now dazed from the blow that shattered the pink dome, he dizzily noted the blood dripping down his torso before briefly looking back toward Daniel.

A yellowish rope like tongue, sparking with electricity, shot out of thin air and latched onto Vlad's leg. With a muted whip-like snap, it yanked him forward against the concrete and into another invisible creature's clutches. The one that attacked Vladimir first, blocked Daniel as the other slung Vlad against the alleyway wall. Vlad attempted to shield but the impact and the residual electricity was too much and he fainted from the power use. Picking up Vlad's unconscious form in one hand the creature nodded to its companion who began relentlessly attacking Daniel. The teenager’s eyes grew enraged. “ You disgusting freaks… HE’S NOT YOUR BREAKFAST!”

Eyes glowing bright neon blue as he activated his core, he quickly froze the ghosts to the ground. Not wasting a moment he solidified them into two transparent sloth-bear statuettes. Flying up to Vlad's limp form, Daniel hastily phased the adult out of the ice sculpture’s grip. Hefting the man over his arm, he angrily impaled the two statues, shattering them into a million glittering pieces. Flying to a dry spot and seeing his clone returning with the umbrellas, he laid Vlad down and lifted his shirt up to inspect the damage. The adult shivered and writhed as Daniel's cold hands trailed over the wounds and cooled the rapidly forming bruises. Looking at his duplicate, he sighed and fished into Vlad's pocket for the money. Spying the two one hundred dollar bills the boy's jaw dropped. “ Were you planning on buying three hundred donuts or something?”

Getting no response, he handed a bill to his clone. “ Go to the Nasty Burger, get two drinks, two burgers and two fries. Meet us back at Vlad's.”

The duplicate nodded and flew off with the money in tow. Picking up Vlad and the two umbrellas, Daniel quickly made his way back to the manor. Phasing through the wall and into the upstairs master bathroom, he quickly dried Vlad off over the tub and removed his now blood-drenched shirt and coat.
Vlad stirred slightly in his sleep and his brow furrowed. Daniel paused from his wrappings afraid he had accidentally harmed or hurt the elder by pulling too tightly on the bandages. Vlad winced and turned onto his side on the bathroom floor. After about ten minutes Daniel sighed and phased them both downstairs and into the kitchen. Setting Vlad at the booth seat he sat beside the adult. “Fruit-Loop?”

Vlad moved and numbly reached a hand toward his now painfully throbbing head. Dark spots were still flickering and dancing in his vision from being thrown against the wall. Weakly propping himself up with shaky arms against the seat he dimly registered the still blurry figure beside him and survival instincts kicked into overdrive. Unnerving green eyes penetrated the fog as he backed up growling into the wall behind him. Daniel’s eyes widened, “Vlad?”

At the sound of the boy’s voice, Vlad’s exposed fangs cloaked themselves again and the dull sickly red in his eyes dissipated to a confused and drowsy blue. “Daniel? What’s….ugh...Where are we?”

A lithe arm wrapped around Vlad’s shoulder, “ Easy there Fruit-Loop. We are back at your place. I sent my duplicate to get the food. Just breathe for a moment.”
Vlad noted the arm on his shoulder and looked from it to Daniel curiously. Coughing, he questioned, “You’re not hurt right? I-”

Daniel sighed, “ I’m fine Fruit-Loop. Next time you decide to play the human shield? A little warning would be great. You’re the one injured after all and I was more than capable of shielding the two of us from those things.”

Vlad nodded and averted his gaze. “ It was a conditioned reaction...I did it out of reflex…” He went to remove Daniel’s hand only for the limb to tighten almost painfully around his shoulder blade. Vlad looked up questioningly.

Daniel had a highly unimpressed expression adorning his features coupled with a condensing smirk. “ Fruit-Loop? I saw your expression before you teleported. If you were worried about me it’s fine to admit so.”

Vlad shivered slightly remembering the lumbering figure that had almost beheaded the teenager prior to Vlad’s weakly shield blocking the blow. An awkward silence elapsed. Daniel swallowed. “ ….What was with that expression earlier? Am I and my family that unsettling to you?”

Vlad stiffened and looked like he was going to say something, only for him to close his mouth and avert his gaze to the booth seat. After a moment, he spoke. “It’s complicated Daniel…. I don’t-” Swallowing dryly, he continued, “ What you say is partially true but not for the reasons you think. There’s bad blood between all four of us at this point… the idea of being amicable after so much avarice is foreign and a little terrifying… I-My actions haven’t exactly made me the most trustworthy or reliable person in their eyes… Jack still looks to me as a friend but Maddie finally took the hints and well…..Daniel...it’s a mess…”

Daniel clapped his hand across Vlad’s shoulder reassuringly. “ I still stand by what I asked earlier Fruit-Loop. You’re not really too bad of a guy right now and I want to help you..."

Vlad interrupted and pulled Daniel’s arm from his shoulder, “ If it isn’t obvious Daniel, I have no intent on seducing your mother at this point in time or hurting Jack.”

Daniel froze and awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. “ You really hate my dad don’t you?”

A pained expression crossed Vlad’s features briefly. “ Daniel? It’s complicated.”

Daniel stared at the expression in confusion, “ You’re hiding something.”

Vlad stiffened and Daniel prodded, “ Vlad?”

Vlad rubbed his head tiredly. “Daniel? I told you before, some things are a little too painful and hard to explain. I….I messed up. It’s done...It’s over with, and right now I don’t think I am ready to confide fully.” Daniel’s expression became hurt and a little angry. Vlad added, “ It has nothing to do with me not trusting you. I’m just...I am still dealing with the repercussions of what I chose. Most of my actions aren’t fair or justifiable but I can honestly say my refusal to explain stems from the fact that it simply hurts too much to talk about it…”

Daniel’s expression became gentle and reassuring. “ Vlad? Tomorrow I’m going back to my house to pick up some more clothes. After tonight? You’re not leaving this place until I’m sure you won't become some sort of ghost snack. You almost got eaten three times in the last two days. You don’t want to hurt my dad or flirt with my mom right now so I think it's perfectly reasonable that I supervise you.”

Vlad smiled weakly, “ Is it really that easy?”

Daniel snorted, “ Who said any of this is easy Fruit-Loop? But that doesn’t mean we have to conform to some ridiculous predetermined role or pattern based off of our previous encounters. I want to try for something better, you want to try for something better…..I don’t want to throw a chance away at peace. You need this, I need this. Let’s just take this slowly and when you’re ready you can explain why you decided to royally tick me off for two and a half years.”

Vlad bristled slightly and then nodded in agreement.

Chapter Text

The duplicate arrived back with their belated afternoon meal around twenty minutes later. Vlad ate in silence and then got up to exit the room. Looking back at Daniel he smiled warmly, “Thank you Little Badger.”

‘ For trying…..but I am afraid that I may be too far gone at this point….’

A voice in the back of his head countered, ‘ Or the hero may just save the monster. Only time can tell, right?’ Hope and a sincere desire for the latter clawed its way through the older halfa’s chest as he strolled to his office. Feeling a crippling heat burning through him again he groggily stumbled into the wall.

‘Breathe….It’s just another feverish episode…. Don’t you dare collapse again! You’re turning out-right pathetic with all of your passing out and fainting the last few weeks.’

The rest of the day was a sluggish crawl for the two. Vlad stayed in his study working on rereading materials and taking notes on several assets for his company and Daniel stayed in the library reading several books on astronomy and astrophysics. Three o'clock rolled around and Vlad came into the library to find Daniel floating upside down on the ceiling and reading intently on Greek constellation artifacts. Glancing from the book and seeing Vlad he sheepishly flew down and placed the item on one of the desks. A glowing red novel fell from a stack near where Daniel placed the small green hardcover and Vlad’s eyes widened. “DANIEL!SHIELD!”

Daniel tensed and Vlad seeing the book's protector poltergeist rocketing toward the teen quickly tackled the boy. They both rolled into the shelving, knocking over several stacks of books as they went. Vlad's back hit first with a muted thump and he slumped against the younger hybrid weakly. The tengu’s wings flapped angrily as it hissed, “ You disrespect my vessel?!?!”

Vlad growled, “ It was an accident Hayato! For Pete's sake!”

The poltergeist growled and drew its sword. It's red eyes flickered and flashed. “ My business goes to the young ghoul besides your person… move aside, Vladimir.”

Vlad growled and hissed, “ He didn't do anything you feather adorned moron! Your home fell because you precariously balanced it after your offering was given! Next time alert me to put you up after you drink!”

The birdman glowered and stepped forward only for a weakly duplicate of Vlad to tackle the spirit from behind. Daniel froze fearfully and Vlad pushed him, “Quick! Close the book!”

The teen immediately darted toward the pile of literature strewn across the floor. A hiss of pain echoed as the duplicate was flung headlong into Vlad. The Tengu growled angrily, “Masters….I expect retribution for your disrespect to my person.”

A hand gripped the elder up by his shirt. “ Ugh… Hayato….stop…”

The raven hair birdman cocked his head in aggravation. “ Where's your honor embassary? Won't you fight me as an equal Plasmius?”

Daniel duplicated and prepared to blast the spirit, only for Vlad to weakly shield the poltergeist from the attack. “Daniel! Find the book and close it! If you blast Hayato we will have to deal with something much more-”

A fist crumpled into Vlad’s chest and he weakly coughed as he slumped to the floor. The tengu snarled, “ Have you grown weak? What is this mockery?”

Vlad’s eyebrow twitched, “ You tell me I have no honor and yet you pick fights with the injured and children… I'm not the mockery Hayato-”

The dull end of the sword’s handle clipped Vlad in the stomach as he tried to stand. The elder half ghost’s eyes dulled slightly as he slumped over the poltergeist’s arm. The tengu growled, “Your seal is weak guardian and I serve no lord who cannot defend himself.”

A hand curled around Vlad's half-conscious form and tossed him into the shelves. The Japanese spirit lumbered forward and lifted his sword over Daniel’s frantically searching back, only for Vladimir to hiss angrily and shield the teenager. Growling, he teleported between them and forced his ectoplasmic energy into a weak blade in order to parry the ghoul’s attacks. Panting and heaving, he numbly pushed against the poltergeist. “Daniel….hurry….m’....starting…..to…”

The book poltergeist side swiped Vladimir with a roughly aimed kick and Vlad narrowly blocked with a rapidly wavering shield. “ Move aside Embassary! I demand his blood!”

Vlad growled, “Shut….up….you….crazy….bastard….ugh….Daniel?”

More rapid shuffling and searching could be heard behind the two adults.

The tengu snarled. “ Did you just insult my person? You pathetic-” The blade came closer to Vlad's neck and began pushing Vlad's own sword into his throat, “ excuse for an exorcist!” The shield shattered and Vlad's blade cracked from the pressure. There was a snap of paper and leather behind them and Hayato snarled angrily as he dissipated and faded back into the book he harbored as a vessel. Vlad slumped, frozen in place for a moment before Daniel worriedly flew over to him. The moment the teen’s hand touched his shoulder Vlad’s sword shattered and groaning, he began falling forward. Daniel gently gripped him to keep him upright. “Vlad? Fruit-Loop? Hey…?”

Vlad grimaced and, weakly pushing Daniel away, teleported to the upstairs bathroom where he vomited a mixture of blood, gunk, and ectoplasm into the toilet. Moaning, he dizzily fell against the tile and began shaking against himself. ‘ Way to much power use…. The Ophelia blossom is reacting….God….it hurts…. it hurts so much….’

Daniel phased up in a blind panic a few moments later and seeing Vlad shaking and weakly clawing against the floor he worriedly phased the adult's shirt off and turned him onto his back. Vlad furrowed his brow in discomfort. Daniel, seeing the blood and ectoplasm remnants around Vlad's mouth, grabbed a hand towel and gently cleaned off his jaw. Vlad winced and jokingly rasped, “ On the bright side….the...dragon didn't...come out…?”

Daniel's eyes went wide, “ A dragon?!?!”

Vlad weakly chuckled and then gripped his exposed torso in agony. Panting, he numbly clutched the inch wide spot where the swords dull hilt had ripped through the healing flesh.

Daniel's eyes darted to the spot and he, panicking, ripped Vlad's hand from the wound. Touching a shaking hand to it, he watched as Vlad numbly convulsed and clawed into the floor. Putting pressure on the wound, he questioned, “ Vlad? Can you heal it?!?!”

Vlad groaned, “ No….can't heal myself...usually I just leave...it...and it heals on its….own...ugh…”

Daniel growled, “ SERIOUSLY?!?”

Vlad weakly chuckled, “Badger….m’....starting...to black out….I used too much... energy….The Ophelia...blossom….didn't take well...to it…”

Daniel worriedly gripped the adult's shoulder and lifted him slightly so he could continue adding pressure. “Vlad? Stay with me here. What can I do to stop the bleeding? You can't afford to just bleed out when your ghost half is practically toast! It won't coagulate enough…”

Vlad blearily glanced at the wound. “ Dan...you've got...a point...m’...ugh…”

Patting Vlad's cheek, he questioned, “ Come on mad scientist! What can I do to keep you from free bleeding all over the bathroom tile?”

Vlad weakly chuckled and coughed. “ Dan...this is….normal...don't worry about it…”

Daniel growled, “ Vlad? How do I stop the bleeding? You can't keep having this wound ripping open.”

Vlad weakly clutched his hand to Daniel's and briefly glanced at the wound before falling backward against the tile. Daniel's free hand quickly latched behind his head to prevent further injury. Vlad sighed, “ I would...cauterize...the flesh.....I’ve done...it a few...times before….” Vlad groaned and tried turning onto his side only for Daniel to clamp him back onto his spine.

Looking at the still torn flesh and Vlad's deteriorating condition he duplicated. One duplicate grappled Vlad's shoulders to the floor while four more tacked his arms and legs against the tile. Vlad numbly noted the hold and winced. “....Badger...what…?”

Daniel furrowed his brow and smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture before he charging a hand with a low burst of ectoplasmic energy. “ Vlad? This is going to hurt. Just bear with it...I promise you'll feel better afterward.”

Vlad sighed tiredly and coughed. “Badger….do me a favor?... Don't... cook the Fruit-Loop?”

Daniel nodded curtly and using his free hand pressed the wound together at the seams. Vlad writhed and bit his lip to keep from screaming. Limbs went taunt and his spine arched the moment the pulsating green energy connected and began searing the flesh together. Vlad screamed in agony at his touch and struggled against the duplicates’ hold.

After a few minutes of Vlad desperately trying to escape the pain and screaming weakly, his muscles went lax and he slumped in Daniel's grip. Eyes darted and watered profusely as teen finished the impromptu medical work. Vlad passed out as soon as the pain stopped. Dissipating the duplicates, Daniel gently patched the swollen flesh with some gauze and wiped the tears from Vlad's cheeks.

Grasping onto the adult and pulling him over his shoulder to keep the pressure off of his chest, he maneuvered him back into the master bedroom. Groaning, Vlad groggily tried stirring. Daniel sighed, “ Vlad? Just take a nap until Sam picks us up?”

Vlad nodded in compliance as he was set down. “....Thanks…..m’....sorry….about that….”

Daniel's eyebrow twitched, “You're sorry? Vlad? You don’t-”

Seeing Vlad's rhythmic breathing and now closed eyes, Daniel sighed and propped a sheet over the adult.

Chapter Text

Vlad woke up to Sam and Daniel both worriedly leaning over him a few hours later. Tiredly sitting up, he nodded politely to Samantha and blearily rubbed his eyes. Looking at his shirtless torso apologetically, he sighed, “ Ms.Manson? …. Can you reach into the closet and grab me a shirt?”

Sam smiled slightly and walked over to the closet. “ Do you have a preference?”

Vlad smiled tiredly, “ Anything that won't bleed through easily but can pass as somewhat casual.”

Daniel smiled slightly, “ Feeling a bit better?”

Vlad flinched and nodded, “Daniel?… I am sorry for earlier… You shouldn't have had to have been the one to do that…”

Daniel cocked an eyebrow. “ It's not like you could've sealed it yourself Fruit-Loop.”

Sam returned with a black long sleeve shirt. “ I guess this explains why you wear suits constantly.”

Vlad smiled tiredly, “ It's easier to hide injury if less flesh is seen.” Smiling sheepishly he continued, “That and it's more advantageous when it comes to getting to the bandages when you can just unbutton the clothing.”

Danny raised an eyebrow, “ You can phase them off, you know that right?”

Vlad snorted and answered somewhat sarcastically, “ Really? Twenty-something years of me being a halfa and I never thought about phasing them off.”

Sam grinned. “ So why not?”

Vlad groaned. “ Ms.Manson? Sometimes I become powerless, whether from injury or a weird occurrence. It's kind of hard to take off a sweater or a t-shirt when a fatal injury is involved...How I am currently is a great example of the scenario. This morning I was forced to take drastic action and as a result, Walker’s antidote from yesterday shortcircuited me as soon as I landed in the bathroom.”

Daniel winced and then paused. “Wait you mean you're humanized right now?”

Vlad rolled his eyes and smiled gently, “ Yep… pretty much. Unless I want to have my guts doing somersaults again I'm going to have to keep power use to a minimum. On the bright side, my fangs are still cloaked.”

Sam winced. “ Yeah. Let's avoid the whole 'nausea and bleeding everywhere' bit this afternoon?”

Vlad nodded and slowly stood up. Dizzy, he winced and stumbled only for Daniel’s arm to whip out around his shoulder. “ Vlad? Tomorrow you're staying home, alright?” Daniel questioned.

Vlad glanced at his chest and then sighed. “ I don't think I have much choice in the matter. I’ll probably be laid up in bed as soon as we get back here tonight.”

Daniel smiled gently. “ Well, the Mansons are waiting outside. So is Tucker. Jaz decided to tag along to. You ready to get going?”

Vlad nodded and tiredly straightened himself. “ You two go ahead and get downstairs. I’ll be down in a minute.”

Sam and Daniel both exchanged worried glances and Vlad smiled somewhat reassuringly. “ Ms. Manson? Daniel? You seem to forget my pants are covered in today’s blood splatters. I need to change before I step outside lest we give someone's parents a heart attack…”

Sam glanced at the dry blood on the suit pants and winced. “ Yeah….that’s a good idea.”

Daniel paused reluctantly. “ Vlad? I’ll stand outside the doorway… I don’t want you taking a nosedive down the staircase while trying to get downstairs.”

Vlad chuckled. “ Sure. That’s a pretty sound plan. I’ll be out in five minutes, okay?”

Both Sam and Daniel exited the room while Vladimir changed into a pair of black dress pants and tucked his somewhat messy hair back into place. Walking to the door, he detoured by the bed and snatched the shoes he had been wearing earlier. ‘Daniel must have taken them off of me while I was unconscious.’

Changing his expression to something more guarded and stoic he tucked in his shirt and clipped his belt around his waist. ‘And now to take care of the fundraiser.’ Walking to his nightstand he grabbed several one hundred dollar bills, twenty-three to be exact.
Amity Park’s constant haunted status had made firefighting a thousand times more tiring and risk related in the last three years due to the Fenton’s portal constantly being open and weakening the space between the two realities. Accidental fires, power outages, homes collapsing, minor injuries… They scarcely got a break and because of Amity’s weird funding situation prior to Vladimir’s election, their pay grade was significantly cut. Ernesto apparently reasoned that repairs to city property were more important than making sure the first responders had adequate pay to survive off of. The charity event was meant to bolster support from the community and give richer individuals a chance to get to know their city’s first responders on a more personal level. Where a regular firefighter in New York would make around $46,000 annually, the firefighters in Amity made a scarce $30,000. Other traditional firefighters also worked in twenty-four-hour shifts followed by a forty-eight hour rest period. Amity had no such system. Montez’s last four terms had all systemed a standard twelve hour work day accompanied by a twelve hour resting period which usually amounted to a two-hour free slot that got bumped over by ghost attacks. Add in a measly seven dollar an hour pay grade and you get twenty-three individuals with dangerous and unfairly compensated jobs. By all accounts, on paper, the system looks good to property owners in Amity but fell extremely short when considering the city’s and it’s employees’ needs. Repairs on equipment and the trucks all have to be paid out of pocket due to ghost related problems not covered by the cities policies. The uneven number of firefighters also made it to where one unlucky individual was usually drawn for the extra twelve-hour slot without compensation at the end of the work week. Vlad had noticed the situation soon after the Vortex dilemma and had been trying to alleviate the problem to the best of his abilities.

Vlad tiredly wadded the money and put it into his pocket. ‘ Firstly? Go to the event and see the condition of the equipment and the firefighters again. Secondly? Find a way to alleviate the deficit through more balanced city budgeting.’

Daniel at this point peaked into the room and spotted Vlad’s somewhat troubled features. “ Hey, Vlad? You alright?”

Vlad paused and tensed and then smiled reassuringly, “ I’m fine… I just have a lot on my mind.”

Daniel cocked an eyebrow, “Come on Fruit-Loop. Let’s get this over with.”

Vlad nodded in agreement and quickly followed the teen to the staircase. Descending it he paused and groaned. Daniel looked back to him worriedly. Sighing, Vladimir questioned. “Daniel? I know you probably wouldn’t want to do me a favor but seeing as how I currently can’t use my powers…”

Daniel’s blue eyes softened a bit and he questioned, “ It depends on the favor.”

Vlad smiled sheepishly and pulled out the wad of cash. Daniel’s eyes went as wide as saucers at the sight and Vlad obliviously continued, “ Okay….. so sometime tonight you’re going to have to sneak into the firefighters’ locker room and slip in a bill in each of their personal belongings. I would do it but seeing as how I can’t exactly go intangible at the moment…”

Daniel’s jaw dropped. “ You want me to put money into their lockers?”

Vlad raised an eyebrow, mildly nervous by Daniel’s disbelieving tone, “Yes?”

Daniel looked to the money and then to Vlad again to verify his ears weren’t playing tricks on him. ‘ Ah, yes….villain mentality contradictions. I probably just fried the kid’s brain.’ Vlad put the wad back into his pocket. “Nevermind… I’ll figure something out…” Vlad began walking forwards again and Daniel’s hand clipped onto his arm, stopping him.

“ You’re being serious?”

Vlad sighed. “ Daniel, I’m being serious. Come along now, the Manson’s probably aren't too keen on waiting on the two of us and I think-”

“ I’ll do it!”

Vlad’s head whipped around to stare at the flustered sixteen-year-old. A small smile ghosted across his features, “Well that was an interesting turn of events.”

Rubbing the back of his neck and staring away briefly, he questioned, “ Are you really okay with-?”

Daniel groaned and stalked up to face Vlad directly, “ I said I’ll do it Fruit-Loop!”

Vlad stared at the teen for a few moments and then retrieving the money, slipped it into Daniel’s hands and continued down the staircase.

Daniel froze at the gesture briefly before he ran to the adult. Vlad glanced at the teenager and seeing the bulge in his hoodie, grinned, “ Not one to leave the thermos, huh?”

Daniel stuck out his tongue and rolled his eyes before replying. “ I don’t need you getting into fights with any ghosts. I think seven confrontations is enough for one day in your condition.”

Vlad snorted as they rounded the hall and reached the entranceway. “ The types of things that pursue me little badger aren't the type you would want to capture and release.”

Daniel paused and tapped his foot. “ Obviously, those things are a kill or be killed scenario fruitloop.I’m talking about the more human stuff. It’s not like you can face Desiree or Technus in your current condition.”

Vlad paused and turned to Daniel abruptly. Smiling, he temporarily exposed his fangs and red eyes. “ My friends won't attack me, Daniel.” Turning, he opened the door and stepped out before Daniel could press him further.

Chapter Text

Once in the family’s limo, Vladimir kindly engaged in conversation with both of the Mansons and expertly verified Sam’s alibi for her visits to his home. Four minutes passed by somewhat pleasantly until Sam’s mother decided to steer the conversation toward her own motives.

Ms.Manson’s orange curled bob shook slightly as she fingered her powder pink smock. Looking to Vlad she nodded graciously, “ Thank you for helping put her on the right track.”

Sam looked like she was slapped. Both Jaz and Daniel cringed. Tucker glowered at the woman.

Vlad stiffened slightly, “ I beg your pardon Mrs. Manson? Right track?”

His steel blue eyes sparked. Mr. Manson saw the look and looked to his spouse worriedly. Ms. Manson, however, went unphased by the somewhat volatile glint and continued, “Sammy is going through a bit of a rebellious streak. She hangs out with the wrong crowd and has a tendency to get into trouble.” Her eyes glinted with disgust as she glanced over to Tucker and the Fentons.

Vlad’s eyebrow cocked up and he spoke with an air of authority. “ Your daughter can choose her own path Ms.Manson. She’s a hard worker, intuitive, compassionate and responsible. As for her friends, for which I have noticed your disgusted glaring? I consider all three of them close relations. Young Jazmine is already on the fast track to Harvard or Yale starting this next semester. Daniel is an intuitive strategist and idealistic, he can pursue any career he sets his sights on. And as for young Mr. Foley? He has a great future in electronics ahead of him.” All four teens stiffened at his words and went wide-eyed. Both Manson parents froze.

Vlad grinned devilishly, “ Tell me, Mrs. Manson? To which of these friends or her own still developing traits do you find discourse in? If it’s a matter of clothing, black attire is seen as a staple in the business world.” He motioned toward himself. “ Or maybe you are wanting her under dear Elizabeth’s company assets for which both you and your husband have already discredited? I hate to tell you but the thirty percent of her grandmother’s wealth that you inherited with her stocks at retirement will be a fraction of what she’ll get by the time she graduates unless she pursues her own interests.”

The Mansons went wide-eyed at the simple revelation. Vlad sensing a weak point questioned Sam, “ Samantha? What do you aspire to be after high school?”

Sam froze for a second and then smiling she answered, “ I was hoping to become a zoologist.”

Ms. Manson looked aghast, “Sammy kins you don’t want a career in-”

Vlad raised an eyebrow. “ She is sensible. Did you know the average income for her chosen profession Ms. Manson is approximately $60,000 annually? Sure, it isn’t as high, as say, a doctor’s or a veterinarian’s pay grade but her goal is well defined and suits her interests. Your daughter isn’t much for wealthy aristocracy and I find her position respectable.”

Ms. Manson turned to her husband to back her up. The man rubbed a hand across hers and argued, “ Then why not her become a doctor?”

Vlad chuckled somewhat, “ Who says she won’t? Careers change. I original went to school to become a surgeon and an accident made it to where I couldn’t even look at a scalpel without shaking. I wouldn’t be who I am currently without the option of changing viewpoints.”

Mr. Manson paled considerably at the statement. And then added, “ We want the best for her…”

Vlad sighed exasperatedly and motioned his hand toward Samantha who had taken to staring at her feet, “ Jeremy? She’s a sixteen-year-old girl. Your mother knows this, I know this...her parents surely should know this as well. She has nothing but to grow and develop into her own views. Children grow up fast, I’d think you two would want to encourage that growth wouldn’t you?”

Both Mansons looked to Sam questioningly and Ms. Manson went to speak only for her husband to sigh. “ Yes, you are right. We want to see her grow.” Looking at Daniel, he narrowed his gaze, “Young man? Refrain from giving us a reason to stint your company around our daughter, okay?”

Daniel rapidly shook his head in agreement. “ Trust me, I’d rather keep my friends out of trouble instead of in it.”

Vlad smiled gently at Sam and looking back to the Manson’s, switched to the topic of Sam’s grandmother Izzy.

“ I hear Elizabeth is on another world trip. I’m guessing the home’s been fairly quiet while she has been away?”

Ms. Manson laughed at the thought of her mother in law, “ Yes, it has been quiet. In her old age, she seems to really enjoy the more eccentric facets of culture. It’s kind of soothing at times and at others problematic.”

Vlad grinned. “ Surely she hasn’t been too outrageous since she moved over from Boston a few years ago?”

Mr. Manson paused, “ You sound like you’re well acquainted with my mother. Where did you meet?”

Vlad smirked, “ Let’s see now….” He paused and rubbed his chin in thought. “ I believe it was a year after Daniel was born. It was a business purchase of one of her old warehouses so my company could expand shipment routes overseas more easily. We became distant relations and kept in contact over the years. She owns five percent of Vlad Co as of now.”

Mr. Manson and Mrs. Manson sat slack-jawed as their vehicle pulled up to the firehouse. Vlad smiled politely, “ It looks like we are here.”

The door opened and he waited patiently for the kids to file out. Seeing Sam’s tense shoulders he soothingly reached out and motioned toward the door, “ After you Ms. Manson.”

She nodded and smiled before stepping out. Her parent’s followed suit and Vlad exited last. The chauffeur smiled and nodded to Vlad as he stepped out. “Thank you, sir.”

Chapter Text

Vlad nodded curtly to the man and walked up the front steps of the firehouse. The two Manson adults quickly entered the building while the teens stayed outside. As soon as the adults were clear Sam whipped around and hugged Vlad. Vlad froze up instantly and looked sadly at the teen from over her shoulder. Jazmine, Daniel, and Tucker all caught the expression before Vlad hid it. Patting her back he smiled apologetically and, pulling from her, he spoke, “Ms. Manson? I hope I didn’t say anything that-”

She cut him off, “ That was fucking awesome!”

Vlad stiffened and his eyebrow twitched in mild annoyance, “ Language young lady, language .”

Sam grinned, “ Big, bad Plasmius just told off my mom and dad… Do you realize how crazy and cool that was?”

Vlad smiled slightly. “Ms.Manson? Let's get inside before your patriarchal mother and father decide to see what's taking the five of us so long?”

Sam smirked and grabbing the adult's sleeve began pulling him to the group. Tucker snorted at the sight. Jazmine raised an eyebrow, “ Did you mean all of that?”

Vlad stiffened and he smiled tenderly, “ Every word, with the exception of me backing Samantha’s excuse for visiting my home, was truthful Jazmine.”

Jaz smiled tenderly and then her eyes widened. “ Wait…. every word?”

Vlad heard the horror in her voice became apprehensive. He lifted his hands up defensively and stiffened. “Jazmine? What's-?”

“ You wanted to be a surgeon? And the accident- Why couldn't you look at a scalpel?” Jazmine's voice cracked.

Vlad’s eyes flashed red at the memory and something dark and bordering on traumatized ghosted through his eyes. “ J-Jazmine? Let's avoid this topic?”

Jazmine prodded worriedly, “ Why choose to be a surgeon? Was it for money or-?” Seeing his eyes more clearly in the dim light she stopped.

Vlad looked absolutely sick and Daniel quickly rushed to his side. “ Vlad? Hey? Fruit-Loop? Let's get inside and get this night over with so we can get you home, alright?”

Vlad nodded curtly and took a breath. The five of them trudged into the building only for a large man in his sixties to clamp his arms around Vladimir in an embrace, “ Evening Mr.Mayor!”

Vlad smiled kindly. “ Ah, Amity’s Fire Chief at his finest. It looks like you could use an off day my friend.”

The man nodded and clamped a hand to Vlad's back, “ What gave it away?”

Vlad's features softened, “ You haven't had a chance to shave and you look like you've been taking the zombie shift.”

The firefighter mellowed and sighed defeatedly, “ Yeah. I picked the short straw. It's not all that bad though.”

Vlad disagreed, “ On the contrary, the situation is bad. Ryan? You’re running on what? Two hours of sleep? At your age, that's cutting it to close for comfort.”

Ryan sighed and seeing the shocked group behind Vlad he perked, “ I see you coerced some youngin’s our ways Mr.Mayor!”

Vlad chuckled, “ I coerced no one..” He paused and, glancing at Daniel, smiled gently. “Well, I coerced one of them. The rest sort of packed together after that.”

Ryan nodded graciously and shook each teen’s hand warmly. “ It's a pleasure to meet you all. I apologize for my attire.” He motioned to his firefighters pants, oil stained face and tattered white t-shirt. “ As Mr.Masters pointed out, I drew the lot for the zombie shift.”

Vlad sighed, “ Ryan? I swear I'm working on-”

The fire chief smiled warmly and raised a hand to interrupt. “ Mr.Masters? Don't sweat it. The fact you organized this for us means the world.”

Vlad furrowed his brow, “ I’m not resting until I've made good on what I promised you and the boys. It's just taking time to adjust Ernesto’s work. I promise, by Christmas you'll be able to enjoy-”

Ryan beamed and latched onto Vlad’s shoulder. “ Sir? You look ragged. Don't worry about it right now. The guys want to meet you formally this time around. Several families have already shown up and your secretary arrived a few minutes ago.”

At the mention of his secretary, Vlad flinched. Daniel's eyes flashed slightly and Sam gritted her teeth angrily. Vlad sighed, “ I guess we should join the festivities. Lead the way, Mr. Mayweather.”

Ryan grinned and stroking his growing facial hair, motioned down the hallway to the recreational facilities, “Right this way.”

Vlad hung back slightly with the teens as they made their way through the hallway and into the bright but somewhat disheveled room. Mrs. Manson was being escorted around the living space to the right side of the hallway by a young Hispanic firefighter while Mr. Manson started up a conversation with a couple of higher class families. Paulina Sanchez, her father, and her mother were all conversing with two young firemen about how schedules worked in the building. Paulina glanced toward the new group and her expression soured slightly. In the last few months, the posey had noticed her approach toward Tucker and Daniel had become more mellowed. Sam, however, was still on the chopping block after the whole necklace fiasco. Mrs. Dolce smiled warmly and sauntered over to the fire chief who blushed slightly and motioned toward Vlad.

Vladimir composed his expression and greeted her politely, “ Good evening Mrs. Dolce. I’m sorry I didn’t catch you yesterday when you stopped by the home a second time. Samantha informed me that the fax machine broke at city hall?”

Mrs. Dolce grinned sickeningly sweetly, “ Yes it did, I called a repairman this evening. I take it that’s why the documents I left in your care aren't with you today?”

Vlad smiled apologetically, “ In all honesty, the documents didn't cross my mind. I haven't exactly been feeling well this week.”

His eyes locked with her’s questioningly and she sighed. “ You know you are doing to much right? It’s only been two months Vladimir…. You need to take a break and catch up on your sleep. Speaking of which, did young Samantha give you those sleeping pills?”

Sam grasped Vlad’s arm in warning and he, without missing a beat, nodded. “Yes, she gave me the pills. Those herbal supplements are rather potent. You wouldn’t happen to know what herbs are in them would you?”

Mrs. Dolce snickered in amusement, “ Why? Do you want to start using them more regularly?” Her Cheshire Cat grin caused Sam’s hold on Vlad’s sleeve to tighten and both Daniel and Tucker to narrow their gazes. Mrs. Dolce tapped her chin in thought. “ You know Vladimir? I think the only ingredients I’m certain those pills contain is valerian and sanguinem germina.”

Vlad tensed slightly, “ Why Mrs. Dolce, you do know that sanguinem germina is a ghost repellant right?”

Mrs. Dolce laughed but it was an unsettling sound, “ Yes, I’m familiar with what it does Vladimir. It’s an odd occult herb with a pension for exorcism but it also cures depression and insomnia.”

Vlad sighed tiredly, “ Thank you for worrying Mrs. Dolce.” He smiled politely, “ I think we should probably begin helping the others with the cleanup effort now.”

His secretary nodded and smiled toward Sam. “ Thank you for your help, Samantha .”

After she walked away Sam growled, “ Masters? I don’t care what she said. I think she did it on purpose.”

Daniel came up behind Vlad and added, “I’m agreeing with Sam.”

Tucker shivered. “ So… that was the blonde serial killer Sam mentioned…”

Vlad groaned, “ I don’t trust her either at this point but until I have solid evidence I can’t just fire her.”

Glancing at his secretary, he continued, “ If you four are up for it, I think we can explore the engine room. Ryan talked to me briefly about the equipment a week ago over the phone and I think both Mr. Foley and Daniel will find it interesting.”

They nodded in agreement and followed Vlad through the hallways.

Chapter Text

Jazmine smiled slightly, “ Hey, Vlad? What was that about you setting this up?”

Vlad smiled curtly, “ The previous mayor siphoned money from first responder departments in order to try and bring up property values under his Ghost Repair movement two years ago. As it is now, every fireman you see here today has no choice but to live on site.” He motioned toward the cracked walls and duct taped air vents. “ They make around $7 an hour and work overtime without being paid. Call me old fashioned but I won't stand for seeing an integral part of the city decayed and neglected for some rich real estate developer’s ego.”

Jazmine froze abruptly. “ You’re kidding, right? They only get $7 an hour?”

Vlad sighed tiredly. “ No, I'm not kidding. I’m trying to remedy the problem but several higher end families don't quite see the struggle for what it is. This event serves as a slap in the face and as a fundraiser until I can sort out this town’s financial problems fairly.”

Jazmine gaped. Daniel paused and felt his pocket, “ So that’s why you asked me to-”

Vlad nodded, “ Yes, Little Badger. That is why I asked you do do that favor. Despite popular opinion, I took this mayor gig for the right reasons. Granted, aggravating Mr. Foley, Ms. Manson and yourself was highly enjoyable.”

Daniel cocked an eyebrow and his voice became somewhat hard. “ Vlad? You became mayor as revenge for those pranks. You won by possessing everyone. Nothing about that screams right.”

Vlad snorted, “ Actually? I was planning on becoming mayor before the incident due to certain circumstances. You phasing my hotel room transparent while I was practically nude was what triggered my spite tactics after the fact. And as for my cheating? I was just poking fun at the fact you couldn’t duplicate correctly still. My proxies faded out as soon as they made it to the voter’s booths. I won because people were growing tired of rampant ghost problems and property damage.”

Jazmine, Sam, and Tucker gawked. Daniel cringed. “ You’re telling the truth aren’t you?”

Vlad turned and smiled devilishly at the four. “ I’ll let you believe what you want.”

And with that, he walked into the engine room every bit as confident and unphased by the four teenagers disbelieving and confused gazes. Not hearing them in pursuit he motioned with his hand for them to follow. “ You’ll all catch flies if you leave your mouths open like that. Come along now before Mrs. Dolce decides to follow us.”

At the mention of the secretary, all four teens immediately followed hot on Vlad’s tail. The engine room was fairly silent. Vlad looked at the singular engine curiously. Ryan stepped into the room behind them. “ How do you like the color?”

Vlad chuckled, “ Neon green and silver suits the vehicle's maiden name in my opinion. The Flying Dutchman was recommended by the children’s hospital wasn’t it?”

Ryan beamed. “ Yes, it was. It was nice to have the vehicle donated this last month and the kids were ecstatic about seeing her two weeks ago and naming her.”

Vlad smiled, “ And what about Clifford? Is that vehicle still in for repairs after the Vortex incident?”

The chief nodded sheepishly. “Yeah…..It was completely waterlogged from being submerged. The ladder controls were toast. We are looking at another two weeks before that big red tank is back in the garage.”

Vlad smiled apologetically. “ I’m glad you and those other three were able to get out in time. I’m truly sorry about that ghost’s apparent affliction with that weather taming device I had placed in Amity.”

Ryan sighed tiredly. “ It’s not your fault Amity is the most haunted city in the United States. At least not all of the ghosts seem to be bad. That Danny Phantom kid is pretty cool and if it wasn’t for that weird vampire ghost we probably wouldn’t have made it out of the vehicle.”

Vlad stiffened slightly and seeing the teen’s expressions quickly changed the topic. “ So what’s the game plan tonight chief?”

Ryan snorted, “ I am up for anything. Someone donated some paint and drywall for the walls in the living quarters, so most of the guys are cleaning their rooms desperately right now. They’ll be done in ten minutes or so. If you and the kids want you can help clean up in here while I get everything set up in the other rooms?”

Vlad smiled warmly and nodded in agreement. “ I’m fine with that arrangement. Just send for us when you’re ready.”

Ryan beamed and smiled curtly to the teens as he left the room. As soon as he rounded the corner all four teens whipped their heads back to Vlad questioningly. Vlad, however, was quick to roll up the sleeves and grab a broom. Walking away from the teens, he began sweeping a portion of the floor near one of the workbenches. Feeling the teenager’s gazes on the back of his head, he continued ignoring them. Thirty agonizingly silent minutes passed.

Tucker signed heavily after enduring the crippling and awkward silence for so long and went for a dustpan to help Vlad. Sam grabbed another broom and partnered with Jazmine for the other side of the engine room.

Daniel strode over to Vlad and got in his face. “ Mind explaining what that all was about?”

Vlad looked up tiredly and Tucker paused by the trashcan to eye the two half-ghosts.

“Daniel? Can we file this under a conversation for a later date?” Vlad questioned tiredly.

Daniel rolled his eyes and somewhat bitterly growled,“ I think I have a right to know Vlad.”

Vlad sighed and tiredly looked up from his sweeping. “ Daniel….”

“ No Vlad. I expect some sort of explanation. You take Vortex from the observants, you dragged me into that mess, you ditched me, and you left me, Tucker and Sam to clean up your mistake!”

Vlad turned to Daniel slightly confused, “ How did you know about the observants Daniel? Who told you-?”

Daniel rolled his eyes, “ I went to Clockwork after I caught him in the Thermos and he gave me a recap on how you decided to steal Vortex from the observants and use him for your own nefarious ends.”

Vlad dropped the broom. “ HE SAID WHAT?” Notable anger and annoyance permeated the air.

Daniel growled at the avarice, “He showed me what Vlad.” Staring at the adult he continued, “ You fucking around with Vortex’s weather powers for voting approval ratings screwed up my town!”

Vlad bit his lip and clenched his fists. “ Daniel…..Clockwork isn’t-”

“ Clockwork isn’t what Vlad? Go ahead. Spit it out.”

Vlad’s eyes flickered with several frustrated emotions. Turning from Daniel, he quickly rounded the fire engine and exited. “ If I were you, Little Badger, I would consider what inconsistencies have popped up thanks to your relations with that ghoul.”

Daniel paused. “ Wait...What are you-?”

Vlad, however, was already out of the room. Daniel stared at the doorway confused for several minutes until Tucker groaned. “ Daniel? Maybe you should go apologize? It sounds like he was madder at Clockwork than he was at you.”

Daniel groaned, “ Tucker? My head keeps getting tossed for loops here and I’m getting tired of his vague answers.”

Sam snorted, “ Danny? Considering Clockwork tried beheading you when we first met him I am kind of siding with Vlad here. He can stop time for Pete's sake. He probably has several powers we don’t even know about at his disposal. Is it too far of a stretch to consider that maybe Vlad has a reason for being angry?”

Daniel paused. “ Now that you mention it..” Rubbing his neck sheepishly, he sighed. “Vlad said Clockwork was a royal pain in the ass and that they haven't spoken in over a year because of a disagreement…. Vlad apparently punched him…”

Sam interrupted in amazement, “HE PUNCHED CLOCKWORK? THE CLOCKWORK?”

Daniel quickly brought a finger to his mouth, “ SHHH. You don’t have to announce it to the entire building Sam.”

Tucker whistled, “ You’ve never even managed that before... Why did he punch him?”

Daniel furrowed his brow. “ I have no earthly idea. Vlad also said Clockwork kidnapped him twice...Maybe that’s one of the reasons? Whatever the case, they sound like they’re at odds with one another over something.”

Jazmine interrupted, “ Is it possible Clockwork showed you an alternate timeline or something to get back at Vlad?”

Daniel froze. “ Now that you mention it that could have-”

Sam winced. “ Ouch. I guess Vlad has a right to be a little angry if Clockwork bullshited you into thinking he was a mega-villain… Then again a lot of the stuff he’s pulled hasn’t been too far off?”

Daniel leaned across the workbench tiredly and rubbed the bridge of his nose in thought. Vague dialogue came to mind.

‘Clockwork...he warned me...said I had to start teaching you formally instead….of the cloak and dagger bullshit…..Told him to screw off…’

“ Oh….guys..? I think I know why Vlad’s ticked off at Clockwork.” Daniel spoke up sheepishly.

Sam and Jazmine waited patiently and Tucker shoved Daniel slightly, “ Any day now Pham.”

Daniel swallowed, “ Clockwork wanted Vlad to teach me formally and Vlad wanted to teach me through underhanded shenanigans….. Vlad ended up telling him to screw off. Those are his words by the way, not mine…”

Tucker whistled and then froze. “Wait… Clockwork wanted him to teach you formally? About what? Your ghost powers?”

Sam furrowed her brow in confusion. “ Wait…. Vlad was trying to teach you?”

Jazmine leaned against her broom. “ That’s must have been what he was hinting at that first day! Guys…..Remember? He was talking about Daniel’s learning curb. He wasn’t talking about it in passing… He was openly pointing out key moments in Danny’s development. But why-?”

Daniel sighed and then froze abruptly at the familiar cold wisp that curled from his mouth. “ Guys? We have company.”

Chapter Text

Vlad was starting to feel feverish again. Mrs. Dolce, seeing him on the edge of the throngs of people, walked forward in mild amusement. “ Mr. Masters? You should get a drink of water or something. You look beat.”

Vlad in response tiredly nodded. “I probably should…”

Mrs. Dolce casually lifted up a closed soda can. Eyeing the closed container, Vladimir graciously took it and popped the top. “Thanks.”

Mrs. Dolce smiled overly warmly, “So? Teenagers getting you down boss?”

Vlad sighed and rolled his eyes as he took a sip of the beverage. “ They’re intrusive and nosey but I’m hoping they’ll eventually stop being so up in arms around me.”

Bertra quirked an eyebrow, “ That so? They asking nitty-gritty personal things or just being regularly annoying teens?”

Vlad rubbed his brow. “ A bit of both?” Shaking his head from the encroaching migraine he attempted a weak smile, “ It’s complicated.”

Taking another sip of the drink he questioned, “ Is everything going smoothly at city hall in my absence?”

Bertra smiled and rolled her eyes before nodding yes. “ Everything's going fine Vladimir. Months ahead of schedule remember?”

Vlad nodded and walking away from Mrs.Dolce began helping the firefighters with their living quarters.

Ryan looked up from his drywall patching and seeing Vlad, smiled warmly. “ The kids are still cleaning up the engine room, huh?”

Vlad laughed. “ Yes. They seem to have a knack for chattering while sweeping. The topics became a little too personal for comfort so I left them to their own devices.”

Ryan cocked an eyebrow. “Personal?”

Vlad smirked, “ The redhead and the black haired boy are practically family. I went to school with their parents when I was younger, and needless to say they can be a little bit in my face about certain topics.”

Ryan beamed, “ Ah. Well if you want some alone time there's one room at the end of the hall that could use some putty in places.”

Vlad finished his soda and tossed the can in the garbage can across from them before extending a hand for the can of putty and the spatula, “ Aye aye Captain.” He jokingly quipped.

Ryan laughed, “ Here. Don’t overwork yourself, kay?”

Vlad nodded curtly as he clasped the items. “ One could say the same to you. See you in thirty or so minutes.”

And with one last wave, Vlad ducked out of the packed living space and made his way toward the darkly lit storage area at the end of the hall. Weaving between several dusty boxes and feeling the wall for a light switch he began to feel groggy and dizzy. Stumbling into a pile of boxes, he numbly dropped both the can and the spatula he had been holding in order to try and stabilize himself.

A small worried voice caused him to look up dizzily from where he collapsed. “Sammy? He doesn’t look too good.”

A six-year-old ghost in a firefighter’s suit and a skeletal dog stared at him from behind the boxes. Seeing Vlad’s eyes on him the boy froze in fear. Only the dead and children or those with the heart of a child could see him. This man looked like neither.

The skeletal dog growled fearfully. “ Benjamin? Hide….something is coming…”

The boy looked to Vlad and to his pet fearfully. “ Sam? We can’t just-”

The skeleton looked at Vladimir and somewhat ponderingly crinkled its nose-less snout.

Vlad choked and pleaded. “Sam…..Samson?.....Get Benny….out of here….”

Recognition lit the canine’s features and he quickly morphed into a large snake that surrounded Youngblood to keep him from making any noise. Turning invisible, he watched as Vlad went slack and his breathing became shallow. A glowing green mist-like energy with ruby red eyes slunk into the room and turned Vladimir’s unconscious form onto his back. “ Good. The drugs took effect. It seems he didn’t suspect the drink…”

Hefting Vlad up, it slung him over a warped shoulder and smiled wickedly. “That ghost brat should be preoccupied with whatever spook is in the vicinity for a bit, Plasmius. Let’s have some fun, hmmm?”

Youngblood’s green eyes widened in horror and he struggled against his poltergeist’s hold desperately. ‘Sammy! Let me go! We need to help! PLEASE!’

The snake hissed angrily internally but refused to let go of his grip, ‘That thing can destroy you, Benny! I will not disrespect Vladimir’s wishes. We need to get help for him!’

The green figure amusedly looked around the room before he departed with Vlad. Benjamin and Sam both appeared the moment after and quickly flew out of the room in desperation. Spying Danny Phantom floating through the hall with a thermos in hand, the boy pleaded. “Phantom! PLEASE HELP! A MONSTER TOOK MY FRIEND!”

Pale glowing tears traced across his green skin as he wailed. Daniel nearly dropped the thermos in shock before he quickly flew into the small ghost and turned the both of them and Sammy invisible. Rocketing into the room, he sat the young spirit down and questioned, “Youngblood what are you-?”

The small ghost sobbed harder and Samson explained, “ Our friend was taken by a malevolent spirit a few moments ago. We need your help.”

Daniel froze, “ Who did-”

Youngblood’s voice cracked, “ I-IT TOOK PLASMIUS...IT TOOK MY FRIEND….DANNY?....PLEASE? HE TOLD US TO RUN….. HE COULDN’T….”

Daniel turned ashen. Putting a hand on Youngblood’s shoulder and looking around the room he growled in frustration. “ What did the thing that took him look like, and what direction did it go?”

Samson answered, “ It looked like a simple ectoplasmic poltergeist but it had red eyes and a strong aura. It picked a rather human-looking Vladimir up and fled due east.”

Danny nodded and quickly latched onto Youngblood’s hand in pursuit. Cutting on his earpiece he contacted Sam. “ Guys? We have a problem.”

All three of the other teens groaned through their devices. “It’s not the Box Ghost again is it?” Sam growled.

Tucker snorted, “ It’s probably Technus.”

Daniel angrily snarled, “ No. Another one of those things decided to corner Vlad while we were all distracted and now he’s gone. Jaz? Do you happen to have the boomerang on hand?”

Jaz, in a panicky voice, practically screamed over the earpiece she was wearing, “ YOU MEAN SOMETHING KIDNAPPED HIM AGAIN?”

Daniel growled. “ Well considering Youngblood is practically traumatized I think that’s the case Jaz! Do you have the boomerang or not?!?!”

Sam snapped, “ I brought it! WHERE ARE YOU? “

Daniel paused, “ Currently on the roof with Youngblood and his boney croney. Just throw it out a window and tell it to find Vlad!”

Sam could be heard running and there was a whoosh over the comlink. “We’ll be right-”

Daniel cut her off, “ NO! Stay here and lie if anyone asks where me and Vlad went. Especially if that creepy secretary stalks by. Just keep everyone occupied for a bit while I get Fruit-Loop back!”

A glowing silver device darted from around the building and bolted up. Turning mid-air, it began a breakneck pace towards where it sensed Vlad’s ectoplasmic signature.

Chapter Text

Youngblood trailed after Daniel desperately as they pursued the device. At one point it paused over the town hall and stayed in place as if pondering where the signature went to. Twenty minutes passed before it started moving again. Soon it was leaving Amity and circling through the woods sporadically. Daniel and Youngblood both paused apprehensively before following.

Youngblood spotted the storm drain by the road first. The boomerang dully clinked against the bars. Daniel grabbed it and clicked it off before slipping it in his boot. Looking at the drain he made a move to enter. Samson stopped the teenager and the ghost child from touching the grate. “ I’ll check first. You two stay here.”

Daniel’s brow furrowed but seeing Youngblood’s shaking and tear-stained form he nodded in agreement. The snake passed through the bars and after a minute his voice could be heard, “ I FOUND HIM! Phantom? He’s not waking up.”

Daniel growled and phasing into the storm drain came to a spot that resembled a room under the road. Vlad lay unconscious in the center of the water with Samson desperately trying to coax him awake. Both arms were roughly secured behind his back by a segment of old rope and he was partially curled against himself on his side. Gray hair obscured his face in the dim lighting. Labored and short breaths echoed through the room and tears snaked across his visible features sluggishly. Something had unbuttoned his shirt to examine the wounds. Daniel’s ghost sense went off again and he tensed. “ Bonehead? Go back to Youngblood. Something’s down here.”

Samson nodded and quickly phased through the metal and concrete to get back to his ward. Daniel growled, “Whatever the fuck you bastards are come out! I can sense you damn-it!”

Something laughed and in the metal tunnel the sound came off as even more warped and terrifying. Daniel’s arms wrapped around Vlad’s sickly figure in comfort and feeling the dampness by Vlad’s neck he charged a hand and glanced at the spot. Seeing the blood, he growled venomously, “ COME OUT RIGHT NOW YOU MONSTERS!”

There was another laugh at his reaction and an additional snicker. The female sounds abruptly disappeared after a few moments, as did Daniel’s flaring ghost sense. Seeing that the spirit had fled, he quickly grasped onto Vlad and phased the both of them out to where Youngblood and Samson were waiting. Laying Vlad down and phasing his arms out of the ropes, he gingerly checked the adult’s rapid and sporadic pulse. Youngblood worriedly kneeled next to Vlad and gently grasped onto one of his hands, “ Plasmius?…..”

Daniel rubbed his silver hair out of his face and noting the circular wound on Vlad’s neck, he phased back into human form and took off his hoodie. Taking the sleeve, he quickly pressed the cloth to Vlad’s neck. Vlad groaned and his brow furrowed as he wept. Daniel gently begged, “Vlad? Wake up?”

Samson growled, “ That thing earlier was gloating about drugging him….this looks like the effects of ghost wine when it’s ingested by a human…”

Daniel’s head whipped up to the skeletal serpent, “ Wait… It poisoned him?”

The snake nodded, “ It said something about him not expecting it in the drink.”

Vlad shot up abruptly and screamed bloody murder. Red eyes glinted through his tears and disoriented and confused he backed up weakly. Teleporting, he collapsed a few feet away from them. He wretched and clawed his hands into the ground as spasms of heat based pain racked through his body. Daniel and Youngblood both rushed to his side. Vlad, unable to focus or fight the debilitating torment in his chest, shifted involuntarily and painfully several times. Tortured screaming shot through the trees, scaring several of the avian occupants inhabiting the area. Vlad’s right hand faintly sparked as he struggled against Daniel’s hold. After a few minutes, the adult’s pained protests began to calm. Taking shaky and uneven breaths, he noted the blurred figures around him and the cold pressure around his burning flesh.

An arm gently cradled his head, “Fruit-Loop? Breathe….You’re safe.”

Vlad numbly registered Daniel’s voice and coughed weakly, " Where…..am I…..? Everything became…..so hot…..I couldn’t-….The nightmares wouldn’t stop…….."

Samson eyed Vlad worriedly. “Phantom? This isn’t a ghostly guise. Is he a halfa?”

Daniel bit his lip and then hugged Vlad slightly tighter to calm the fever he could feel through his hazmat suit. “ Yes. He’s a halfa.”

Samson worriedly curled himself over Daniel’s shoulder, “ Phantom? He needs out of the damp. If he was indeed given ghost wine it was relatively a low dose. Maybe a couple of spoonfuls. Any more and he would be beyond our help at this point. Whatever took him wanted him alive.”

Youngblood worriedly cupped a hand to Vlad’s cheek. “ Plasmius?”

Vlad smiled weakly at the small apparition, “B-Benny…...you’re….safe….I heard…..Samson….I’m glad…..”

Youngblood turned and floated to Daniel’s other side in order to face the teen. “ Danny? He’s going to be alright, right?”

Daniel smiled reassuringly and feeling Vlad’s head slumping against his shoulder and faint breaths by his neck he patted the older’s back reassuringly. “ He’ll be fine….This week’s just been bad for him…”

Samson worriedly nudged Vlad and the adult shifted slightly. “ Phantom? I think he passed out from the trauma.”

Daniel gently retracted Vlad from his shoulder to inspect him. “ Yeah...he’s out.”

Sighing, Daniel contacted his resident goth friend. “ Sam? Vlad’s sick so I’m flying him home. I’m going to send a duplicate your way to help around the fire station. Tell the chief he was called to a family emergency.”

Sam worriedly questioned, “Danny? Is he-?”

Daniel sighed, “ Sam? His neck is bleeding and he is feverish and incoherent. He just phased against his will multiple times and vomited everywhere. Youngblood and his boney compadre think he was poisoned. They heard the thing that took him say something about him drinking something.”

Tucker groaned, “ Pham? Get him home. We’ll deal with things here.”

Jazmine’s voice echoed over the line, somewhat confused and worriedly, “Hey guys? Has anyone seen his secretary?”

The line when dead silent for a moment. Sam growled, “ That….that bitch!”

Tucker paused, “ Guys? She can’t be a ghost. Danny’s ice breath feature didn’t go off around her.”

Daniel readjusted his hold on Vlad and hefted him up into his arms. Vlad grimaced in his sleep and his arm limply splayed over his stomach. Samson curled protectively around his chest and nuzzled against him. Youngblood hovered beside them as they made their way out of the tree line.

Daniel considered the secretary and shuttered, “ She may be working for one of those things?” He pondered into the comlink.

Samson gently rubbed against Vlad’s limp hand as a sign of comfort, “Phantom? The creature we saw was male.”

Daniel paused in confusion for a moment, “ What I heard in the drainage pipe was female….So there were two creatures in on this?”

Tucker overheard the ghost and spoke up, “ Maybe the male has been phasing things into stuff for Vlad to ingest? I mean...the secretary seems like a stereotypical blonde ditz. It wouldn’t take much to sneak stuff in what she brings him right?”

Sam growled, “ Yeah, except she also gave him blood blossom for god knows how long on purpose! Tuck? Danny? I don’t think we should let her within a ten-mile radius of him!”

Daniel smiled gently and landed on a roof in town. Setting Vlad down temporarily, he duplicated and handed the money to his human-looking double. ‘You know what to do. One bill in each locker and help Sam and Tucker clean. Ride back with Sam and her family and then dissipate once you get back to Vlad's home.’

The duplicate nodded and turned invisible before he flew off.

Youngblood gently hugged Vlad against himself. Daniel noted the behavior curiously, “Youngblood? How do you know Vlad?”

Youngblood stiffened and glared slightly at Danny before he spoke, “He’s one of the only ones who still plays with me. Johnny, Plasmius, Ember….Skulker and Fright Knight …….They’re my friends!”

Daniel stiffened slightly. “ He plays with you?”

Youngblood growled angrily, “NOT MUCH ANYMORE! HE’S BEEN TO BUSY PLAYING WITH YOU!” Tears started dripping down the ghost's face again as he almost possessively cradled Vlad. “And when I tried to get him to pay attention to me with Ember and with tormenting you, he still wouldn’t…..I-I…..”

Vlad stirred slightly and a shaking hand limply gripped onto Youngblood’s firefighting suit. “Benny…?.....ugh…..Why are you….crying?....”

Youngblood glared and his eyes flashed, wailing he hissed, “ WHY DID YOU PLAY HERO AND VILLAIN WITH HIM PLASMIUS? YOU PROMISED...YOU SAID WE WOULD PLAY!”

Vlad gently pulled Benny against himself and hugged him weakly, “Benny…...m’ sorry…….I did…..promise….but I got hurt….I couldn’t play…Stuff….kept coming….up...Being an adult….sucks little buddy…..”

Youngblood gripped Vlad's shirt and argued, “ Why play with him then?”

Vlad choked out a small laugh. “….Babysitting…..and playing….are vastly different...Chief….”

Youngblood perked slightly, “ So you just babysit Danny?”

Vlad smiled weakly, “Benny…?....Playing involves….both people...having fun….Neither of us...have ever enjoyed…..what we've ...done….”

Daniel watched Vlad's dazed apology in fascination. Vlad gently patted the small ghost's back. He arm began going numb. “ …...You…..can ask…..Danny...Ben?....m’ sorry….I couldn't….I wanted to….”

Samson sighed at the sight of Vlad passing out with Youngblood protectively gripped to his chest. “ Benny? We need to get Plasmius home now. He's really sick and needs medical attention.”

Daniel stared at the boney creature in fascination. “ You’re a poltergeist aren't you?”

The snake grinned, “ Yes, one made as a protector of the young. Benny is my companion, my playmate. I steer him out of trouble and occasionally fall into trouble with him.”

Youngblood sighed. “ Danny? Is what he said true? You weren't playing?”

Daniel groaned, “ You're kidding right? Every time we saw each other we were at each other's throats like rabid animals. Nothing about the scenario screamed fun .”

Samson became apprehensive, “So you are his enemy Phantom?”

Daniel took a breath and looked to Vlad worriedly, “ No… not anymore. We're trying to patch things up…”

Rubbing his hair tiredly he continued, “ He's not as big of an asshole as I thought he was…”

Someone cleared their throat over the comlink, “ Little bro? Do us a favor and get Vladimir home already before something else tries eating or maiming him?”

Sam snickered, “ Did I just hear Vlad Masters talking to Youngblood like he was his?”

Tucker added, “ I second that! What's this about Vlad playing with Youngblood?”

Daniel smirked, “ Guys, I’ll talk to you later. I have to detach Youngblood from under Vlad's arms. Vlad was hugging him when he passed out.”

There was a collective gasp before Sam hissed, “ You better get a photo!”

Daniel groaned, “ Hanging up now.” And clicking the button he disconnected the call. Sam, however, called him again, “ I’m going to continue bothering you until you take a photo ‘cause I need undeniable proof a supposed villain is cradling a kid against himself.”

“ Sam? Really?” He questioned.

“ I’m not hanging up until I hear a click, Aldrin! How else will we know you’re telling the truth?”

Sighing, Daniel shifted into Fenton and lazily took out his cracked iPhone. Turning it on and raising it up, he snapped on the light and took a photo of Vlad and Youngblood. Youngblood looked blurred and faded in spots but was easily distinguishable in the photo. Hearing the click, Sam gushed, “ Send it over as soon as you get Vlad in bed. Toodles!”

And with a half-hearted sigh, she hung up. Putting the phone back in his pocket, Daniel shifted again and walked over to the Vlad and the two ghosts. Youngblood was still hugging Vlad and nuzzling his head against his shoulder. Vlad turned in his sleep and hugged the boy tighter against his chest. Samson gently spoke, “Benny? Phase out of Vladimir's hands. Phantom needs to pick him up so we can get him home.”

Youngblood looked out from under Vlad's arms and sighed remorsefully before phasing through the adult. Daniel immediately bent down and picked Vladimir up. Youngblood hovered nervously near Daniel. “ C-Can….Can we follow you?”

Daniel smiled tiredly, “ Yeah. It'll be safer if you use Vlad's portal to get back into the zone anyway…”

Youngblood nodded and Samson draped across his shoulder as they flew beside Danny. Five minutes passed silently until the group landed in the second-floor hallway. Noting Vlad's blood-drenched neck, Daniel paused abruptly and sighed. “ I need to bandage him first. You guys can wait here if you want.”

With a stiff nod, the teen phased through two floors and flew into the infirmary. To his surprise, both Youngblood and his companion followed. Laying Vlad down on one of the gurneys, Daniel phased off his shirt and bandages. A small choked sound slunk from Vlad's throat as he was lifted up slightly. Duplicating two proxies, Daniel had the two of them hold Vlad against the bed while he gathered enough alcohol wipes to disinfect and cleanse the injuries. ‘There's no telling what was crawling in that water…’ Daniel internally snarled.

Gently turning Vlad's neck to expose the bleeding gauge, he began cleaning the wound. After a few moments, he realized what the crescent was.
‘ I-It bit him?’ Vlad tossed lightly and groaned at the alcohol seeping into the ripped flesh.

Youngblood gently took his right hand from the cot and squeezed comfortingly as Daniel wrapped and bandaged him. Sighing, he gently hefted Vlad up again and motioned for Youngblood and the now monkey shaped skeleton to follow.

Chapter Text

Phasing back into Vlad's bedroom, he questioned, “ Um, youn-Benny? Can you pull the blankets back so we can tuck him in?”

Youngblood stared up at Daniel questioningly, “ You called me my name?”

Daniel smiled apologetically and nervously fidgeted. “ Um… Yeah? It's just...I figured if I'm friends with Vlad and your friends with him then I'm kinda your friend too? If you like Youngblood then I can-”

The child ghost beamed and quickly pulled back the blankets. “ I'm fine with either…. Thanks for helping us… If it counts? Plasmius got onto me for the wild western playdate I set up…”

Daniel quirked an eyebrow and looked at Vlad questiongly, “ Did he now? How did he find out about that?”

Youngblood shrugged, “ I have no zonely clue. He got onto me after I got back home but once he heard I was trapped underwater for so long he ended up letting go of the entire ordeal…”

Daniel nodded and tiredly sighed, “Er- Ben? I'm sorry about that. Why did you and Ember do that anyway?”

“ Ember wanted to help Plasmius out with you. Her boyfriend said Plasmius was hurt. I wanted to play to and ended up tagging along with Samson.”

“ Wait… he was hurt? From what?” Daniel questioned curiously.

Youngblood scratched his messy green hair and crossed his legs in the air before shrugging. Turning to his companion, he questioned, “ Sammy? Do you know what did it?”

The monkey cocked its head and, looking from Daniel to Youngblood, sighed, “ Last time I checked, Plasmius ran amuck with a human in Japan with an artifact blade forged to exorcise ghosts. Or at least...that's what Skulker told me.”

Daniel winced as he laid Vlad down and slipped off his shoes, “ You mean someone stabbed him?”

The monkey jumped on the bed and patted Vlad's head. Turning to Daniel, he added, “ I don't know Phantom.”

Daniel’s brow furrowed slightly. “You know you can call me Daniel or Danny right?”

The monkey glared up at the teen, “ Considering my ward was stuck at the bottom of that lake without adequate energy from the zone for over a month? I regret to say you haven't earned my use of your birth name, boy. Benjamin hates confined spaces and loneliness. It took everything I had to keep his core from shattering from the fear induced from that escapade. Ember and Skulker even searched for us, Plasmius as well. Skulker actually came close but couldn't hear us through the blasted shield.”

Daniel winced. Turning to Youngblood, he gently floated up and hugged the small and shaking ghoul. “Ben? I am really sorry. I didn't know… I don't know a lot of things about ghosts or how the zone works. I assumed you were fine… I didn't think ghosts could fade or die...Vlad's teaching me stuff. I'm trying to learn the right way to deal with things. I promise I'll never knowingly leave you or your bonehead buddy in that situation again.”

Youngblood grinned brightly and his aura flared slightly, “ Promise?”

Daniel grinned, “ I promise.”

Looking back at the skeleton poltergeist he sighed, “ Can I at least call you your name? The fact I don't know what to call you because you're a poltergeist is fairly aggravating.”

Samson rolled his spectral doll-like eyes, “ I was born onto the name Sammy or Sam by Benjamin’s desires. I am that name. You may use either. Plasmius alone calls me Samson. Why? I honestly don't know but I've taken it as a form of respect.” The specter paused.

“The reason I hid Benjamin so fast was because Plasmius instructed me by that name. I wouldn't have known it was him otherwise. Benny figured out it was Plasmius a few minutes later when what took him started gloating.”

Daniel furrowed his brow, “I already know a Sam. Is it okay if I call you Samson too?”

The monkey scratched its head and then shrugged before plopping down on the blankets beside Vlad. “ I’ll be fine with that. Zone knows... I'm growing tired of the bone puns you use when addressing me.”

Daniel smiled sheepishly. Turning to Vlad and feeling the fever again he sighed and became apologetic to the two ghosts. “ He was poisoned yesterday as well with some sort of spectral flare up concoction….Walker gave him Ophelia bloom to calm the effects but he's still having issues with his powers and the paranormal. I want you to be able to stay but it may not be a good idea with the condition he's in.”

Samson nodded and turned to Benny. “ Benjamin? I think it's time we leave Plasmius to rest. We can visit him once he gets better.”

Youngblood looked from Vlad to Samson pleadingly. “ Sammy? I don't want to leave him after that thing-”

Daniel floated up and assured, “ I won't leave his side, Ben. I promise. And when he's all better I'll make him visit you. I'll even tag along and play with you too if you want?”

Youngblood’s eyes widened slightly and a small nervous smile spread across his dimpled face. His freckles squeezed together were his cheeks rose with the expression. “Okay.”

Turning to Samson he grinned, “ It looks like I have to clean my room huh, Sammy?”

Samson chuckled slightly. “ Yes, Benny. We need to go clean your domicile. I doubt Phantom wants to be buried under a giant checkerboard or attacked by a spectral slinky.”

Nodding curtly to Daniel, Samson added, “ He's the closest thing to family Benjamin has. I owe him my life and want nothing but for his well being. Take care of Vladimir.”

Danny nodded. “ Don't worry. I'll keep him out of trouble. Or at least snatch him from it if he gets into it again.”

Samson smiled, “ Then we will depart. Goodbye Phantom .”

The poltergeist disappeared first and Youngblood lingered for a moment. Flying over to Vlad, he pecked a kiss on his cheek before he to vanished. Daniel stood slack-jawed for a moment before he tiredly rubbed his forehead. Sitting in the chair by the bed Daniel pondered the night’s events. Sighing he phased back into Fenton and took out his phone. Sending the photo to Sam, he clicked off the device and curled against himself for a nap. A few minutes later the phone shook against the nightstand and woke Daniel up. Reaching over tiredly, he clicked the phone on and answered. His dad was on the other end of the line.

Chapter Text

“ Danny? You haven't called the last two days. Your mom and I are getting-”

Daniel rubbed his eyes and smiled slightly, “ Sorry about that Dad. Vlad’s been a handful. The guy keeps overworking. Tonight we went by the fire station with the Manson's, Jaz and Tucker for a charity thing and I haven't had a chance to call because of all the painting and the cleaning.”

Jack chuckled over the line. “ He's keeping you busy, huh?”

Daniel snickered, “ More than you know. The guy is a walking, talking catastrophe. I'm coming home tomorrow to pick up some more clothing and stuff. He's not going to sleep correctly unless I force him to. He's painful stubborn.”

Jack’s voice became mellow. “ His stubbornness isn't necessarily a bad thing. So you're staying with him until he starts taking care of himself Danny Boy?”
“ That looks like how it's going to be. He's dead on his feet twenty-four seven and don't even get me started on his meager food supplies. A dozen apples, some peanut butter and a stale, half-eaten loaf of bread isn't exactly healthy.”

Jack's voice became worried, “Really? He's not skipping meals is he?”

Daniel groaned, “ I've been getting on to him. I'll probably have to wake him up in a bit to get him to eat something. I dragged him home from that event once I noticed how bad off he was. He's out like a light right now.”

Jack went silent for a moment. “Should I stop by son?”

Daniel froze up and after a minute answered, “ No dad. I can handle this.”

Jack paused again and his voice became somewhat more concerned, “Danny? Vladdie isn't sick or something right?”

Daniel glanced at Vlad. The adult had turned onto his side in his sleep. “He’s not sick Dad, he’s just tired. From what I’ve gathered he is still juggling his company while also trying to restructure the town. That takes a lot out of a person.”

Redirecting the conversation, he added, “ Did you know the firefighters in Amity only make seven dollars an hour and don't get paid for overtime? And they have to live in the building….Poor Vlad apparently is trying to switch some previous city policies around to fix it but a bunch of rich people are arguing against the changes..”

Jack paused, “ Woah…. Really?”

Daniel snorted, “ Dad? The building’s duct taped together in segments. I’m surprised they haven't been accidentally collapsed in on from a lack of repairs.”

Jack sighed, “ How did the charity thing go-”

A sharp pained scream reverberated through the room. Daniel nearly dropped the phone. Vlad had bolted upright from the bed tearing and ripping his fingers through the blankets. Running over to Vlad and slinging the phone aside, he comforted, “ Hey? Vlad? It’s just a nightmare. Breathe.”

Vlad’s red eyes blearily focused on Daniel and he shuttered before weakly slumping in Daniel’s arms. Laying Vlad back down and covering him, Daniel grabbed the phone and exited the room. His father could be heard yelling over the line, “ DANIEL JAMES FENTON? WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHO SCREAMED?!?!”

Daniel quickly shushed his father and proceed to deter the situation. “ It’s alright dad! It was just the DVR in the living room. I forgot to unpause the horror flick I was watching before we left and the timer ran out.”

Daniel…..What's going on there?” Jack's voice was flat but had morphed into his lesser-known authoritative parent tone. The tone he exclusively used when he was beyond the stage to take any nonsense.

Daniel involuntarily gulped. “Dad? Honest. It was the DVR. Vlad was doing paperwork earlier and I was bored so I clicked on Saw.”

Jack paused on the other end again and could be heard nervously tapping his booted foot against the lab floor. “ ….Alright son. I'll see you tomorrow.”

Daniel smiled, “Love you, dad.”

He was going to hang up when his father questioned, “ Will Vlad be stopping by as well?”

Daniel glanced at the ceiling nervously before answering, “ If he doesn't get swamped by paperwork I'll drag him over.”

Jack's voice lightened. “Goodnight Danny.”

“ Goodnight. Sleep tight...don't let the ecto-pressure cooker bite.” Daniel mocked warmly.

His dad chuckled and Daniel smiled before hanging up the phone. A knock on the door startled him from his ponderings. Looking at his clothes and seeing no blood, he quickly phased into the downstairs and went to answer before anyone could ring the bell.

Chapter Text

Bertra Ann was standing resolutely by the entranceway. “ Wow! You sure did get here fast! Is Vladimir alright? I heard he had a family emergency?” Her voice dripped with honey but her eyes remained calculating.

‘ She knows something….’

“ Yeah, his nephew got hurt and needed his attention.”

Bertra tapped her chin wistfully and leaned down to cup Daniel's face. Purring she admonished, “Vladimir's only sibling is dead. I don't see how he could have a nephew… Is he not feeling well? He looked feverish at the station.”

Daniel felt a shiver go up his spine. “ He's fine! Jez lady...give him some personal space? What are you? Infatuated? Maybe he just needs to catch up on some sleep right now.”

Something cold flashed in the woman's eyes and she retracted her manicured hand. Tapping her chin, she glanced at Daniel somewhat venomously. “ Maybe I should check on him….”

Daniel stepped in front of the doorway to block her. “ Leave. He doesn't need to worry about work or anything else right now. If you really wanted him healthy you'd stop being so intrusive and clingy!”

Mrs.Dolce grinned with an air predatorial hate. “Fine. I will leave. But first…”

Roughly slamming the door open, she strode into the entranceway and questioned, “Those papers he signed and dated are in his office correct? I might as well grab them so I don't have to come back tomorrow morning.”

Daniel eyed the woman angrily and his eyebrow twitched slightly. “ Yes, they're in his office. I'll escort you.”

Grabbing onto the woman's wrist he led her to the office and opened the door. “ It should be on the desk. Just find the papers and leave.”

She nodded amusedly and with a flinty grin slunk over to the desk. Humming, she began flicking her fingers through the documents in order to find the ones she needed. Daniel angrily glared at her and failed to notice the wisps of icy air that escaped his lips due to the distraction. Berta giggled at his angry expression. “Don’t get so green in the face kiddo. I'm just looking out for his best interests.”

Daniel bit his lip and clenched his fists to keep his eyes from sparking green on impulse. “Somehow? I highly doubt that.”

Bertra leaned against the desk with the stack of documents in hand. Crossing her arms, she rolled her eyes. “Teenagers. Pfff. You just complicate the equation. Vladimir doesn't need you little pests crawling around.”

Daniel gritted his teeth and hissed, “ Leave.”

She feigned pouting. “ But I'm enjoying this conversation. I thought you liked me, Danny?”

Daniel snarled, “ I’d like you to leave.”

“ Touchy! What did I ever do to you?” She cocked her eyebrow and shuffled the papers on her lap.

“ It's not what you've done to me….I'm on to what you're doing to him!”

Bertra giggled, “ And what am I doing? Hmmm?”

Daniel glowered before he stepped forward and grappled the woman's wrist. She stood without a fight and laughed at his actions. “ My, my… is someone protective?”

Daniel growled, “ You've overstayed your welcome. Next time call ahead.”

Rounding the hall, he spotted the door. Bertra snorted, “ I'm not the unwanted teenager lounging in his home. You act so nobel but I bet you hate him don't you?”

Daniel froze and, turning, he glared at the amused green-eyed blonde. Seeing his confused and angry expression, she continued. “ Poor Vladimir has been soooo sick for so long…. It's a wonder my boss has even made it this far. Especially these last two years….”

Smiling, she stepped closer to Daniel. “ It’s a shame, isn't it? His kindness really is going to kill him.”

Ripping her wrist from Daniel's hand she waved in farewell. Glancing back she smiled toothily, " Make sure he doesn't skip meals? It would be a waste to see him undone by something as pitiful as poor nutrition…” The words carried a hint of threat mixed in with bitter sarcasm. Daniel's eyes widened. Turning from him, she stepped out and began humming as her heels clicked down the drive.

Daniel immediately slammed the door shut and locked it. Flying upstairs and not seeing Vlad in the bed he panicked. Focusing his hearing and noting the sporadic breathing and heartbeat below him in the kitchen he quickly phased down. Plasmius was numbly curled against himself on the breakfast counter. A small stream of green ectoplasm was dripped down his jaw and he was shaking slightly. Daniel's arms wrapped around him comfortingly and sat him up on the counter. Worried for Vlad’s condition, he gently began coaxing him awake. “ Vlad? Hey?”

Seeing groggy red eyes trying to flash from under his almost completely closed lids, he pleaded, “ Fruit-Loop? Shift back into human form. Being in ghost mode is depleting you too much.”

Vlad weakly gripped the counter and arching his back he screamed in agony as the rings engulfed him and shifted him back into human form. As soon as the rings eclipsed fully around his body Vladimir's eyes sparked blue and rolled back. Daniel caught him against his chest and comforted him with a brief hug. Vlad's fever was still running strong.

Daniel's eyes grew somber, “Vlad? What did you get yourself into?”

Chapter Text

Cradling Vlad against himself, he phased back into the bed above them and gently laid the adult down. Seeing the ectoplasm remnants plastered across Vlad's pale features, he darted into the bathroom and picked up the hand towel from earlier.

Vlad furrowed his brow slightly and twitched at the damp cloth’s presence. The doorbell rang again and Daniel glanced from the floor to Vlad worriedly. Duplicating, he sent his double outside invisibly to see who was at the door. Noting Tucker and Jazmine with the addition of his duplicate from earlier and seeing the Manson's pulling away he quickly instructed the duplicates to phase the two into the home.

A few seconds later frantic footsteps could be heard slamming up the staircase. Jazmine busted into the room first and worriedly rounded to the bed. Tucker rushed in second. Jazmine's hand brushed across Vlad's head and she looked to Daniel questiongly. “ What happened?!?”

Daniel flatly growled. “Something dragged him off and took a bite out of him….”

Jazmine looked from Vlad to Danny in horror. “ Where did it-?”

Daniel walked forward and placing a palm to Vlad's neck, turned the bandages invisible.

Tucker cringed and whipped his head away from the bloody wound. “Dude! What the actual-?!?!”

Vlad weakly grimaced in his sleep and turned slightly onto his side. Jazmine readjusted the pillows to cradle him better. “ What's with him and getting fatally injured or beaten up? What is the likelihood a person could even get kidnapped twice in a week?!?!”

Tucker eyed Vlad worriedly, “Pham? I second what Captain Bearbert said. What the actual heck?”

Daniel winced, “ His secretary busted into the house earlier. She knows something guys….”

Tucker looked up to Daniel in disbelief, “ She busted into the house?”

Daniel sighed, “Yes. She busted in and I confronted her. She beat around the bush instead of confessing and subtly threatened me… When she wasn't insulting me that is…”

Jazmine gently pulled back the blanket draped over Vlad to inspect his wounds. Spying the bruises on his wrists, she questioned, “ What happened to his wrists?”

Daniel glanced at the purplish green marks and bit his cheek before answering. “ He was tied up and unconscious when we found him. That's probably from the rope.”

Tucker bent over Vlad and gently patted his cheek. Vlad lapsed in and out briefly before succumbing back into his drugged stupor. Jazmine slunk into the restroom and grabbed the first aid kit lying on the floor. Rounding toward the bed, she turned to Daniel. “ Go get a glass of water. Your core isn't cooling him fast enough.”

Daniel nodded and phased through the floor while Tucker and Jazmine began gently trying to wake Vlad.

Chapter Text

Bertrand was unnerved by Vladimir's more pointed questions at the start of the evening. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the elder halfa realized the pills contained blood blossoms... but neither he nor Spectra would've guessed the jig would end so soon.

Bertrand, in his female guise, snickered from his corner in the room. For the past few minutes, he had been eavesdropping with his refined hearing on the four brats and his meal. Vladimir could be heard leaving abruptly after they had conversed about the ghost zone’s version of myth, Clockwork. Bertrand and Spectra at one point would have written off their conversations as the blabbering of loons if they hadn't fed on Vladimir's emotions so routinely the last few months.

Hearing Daniel’s annoyance and a few choice curses about a ghost being somewhere in the building and spying Vladimir's slightly paler form entering the lounge, Bertrand smiled broadly.

‘ Time to test the little freak’s core.’

Keeping the cola Spectra had modified earlier in the day concealed, Bertra walked to her boss cheerfully.

“ Mr. Masters? You should get a drink of water or something. You look beat.” Bertrand grinned amusedly at Vlad’s obviously exhausted and slightly feverish state. ‘ His core is trying to flare up...or maybe this is the after effects of yesterday's dose?’

Vlad stiffened slightly but kept his composure. Nodding at her curtly, he made a move to evade her. “I probably should…”

Bertrand quickly pulled out the drink. ‘ Oh no, you don't Masters… We haven't had our fun for the night.’

Holding the can aloft, Bertrand twirled it smugly and motioned it toward the sickly half ghost. Vladimir paused at the sight of the can. He looked from it to Bertra questioningly before smiling politely and taking the can. “Thanks.”

‘ Go ahead...drink it. One sip and you won't even be able to scream for help in a few minutes.’

Smiling overly warmly as a distraction, Bertra prodded. “So? Teenagers getting you down boss?”

Vlad sighed and rolled his eyes as he took a sip of the beverage. Bertrand smirked wryly. ‘ Good….keep drinking. It'll all be over soon Plasmius.’

“ They’re intrusive and nosey but I’m hoping they’ll eventually stop being so up in arms around me.”

Bertrand quirked an eyebrow, “That so? They asking nitty-gritty personal things or just being regularly annoying teens?”

‘ Spectra will be pleased. All of these confused emotions! It's so delectable. We just have to make sure that pathetic core of his doesn't fully form before we can feed off of him fully …’

Vlad rubbed his brow. “ A bit of both?” Shaking his head from the encroaching migraine he attempted a weak smile, “ It’s complicated.”

Taking another sip of the drink, he questioned, “ Is everything going smoothly at city hall in my absence?”

Bertrand smiled and rolled his eyes before nodding yes.

‘ Ha. Work should be the last thing on your mind Masters.’

“ Everything's going fine Vladimir. Months ahead of schedule remember?”

Vlad nodded and walked away from the fake secretary. ‘ And now we wait.’

Ten minutes ticked by and Bertrand dimly noted Danny Phantom’s presence circling through the engine room and the sides of the building behind him in search of the ghoul or specter that set off his core’s pulse. Bertrand licked his lips. Humming, he clicked his red heels down the carpeted hall until he reached the living quarters. Waltzing over to the Chief, he inquired. “ Have you seen Vladimir? Someone called him and said it's urgent.”

The elderly man stiffened and then sighed, “ He should be in the storage room, Mrs. Dolce.”

Bertra beamed, “ Thanks!”

Turning from the slightly blushing elderly man, Bertrand rounded down the hall. Seeing no one in the vicinity but sensing Phantom some distance behind him searching the spot he was previously in, Bertrand shifted into an anamorphic green mass and slipped into the storage room. Spying Vladimir's collapsed form from under a few boxes, Bertrand happily bent down and flipped Vlad's limp and unresponsive body onto his back. Seeing the faint breathing, he exclaimed happily, “Good. The drugs took effect. It seems he didn’t suspect the drink…”

‘ The fool must have drunk it all.’

Grappling two cloudlike arms under Vladimir's lower back, the ghoul jostled him up slightly. The older halfa’s hair and head limply hung back as Bertrand eyed him curiously. ‘….All the better for me and Spectra.’

Hefting Vlad up, as casually as one would a purse and slinging him over a warped shoulder, Bertrand smiled wickedly. “That ghost brat should be preoccupied with whatever spook is in the vicinity for a bit, Plasmius . Let’s have some fun, hmmm?”

And with a brief readjustment of his load and a small glance around, the specter phased both himself and Vladimir toward city hall, where his darling wife was preparing for their company. Landing in the storage closet with their bull, he unceremoniously threw the helpless exorcist onto the ground.

Spectra's short spiky red pixie cut fluttered slightly as she floated over to inspect Vladimir's drugged body. Fingering his shirt she giggled and pulled him up by his hair and toward the desk. “ Let's see what Plasmius’s development status is.”

Bertrand snorted. “ Firstly, love?”

He phased into his human guise and tossed the necklace toward her. “Cloak his signature so that those brats can't find him easily.”

Spectra amusedly fingered the small metal trinket and tied it to Vlad's wrist. Grasping his shirt, she gingerly yanked the fabric apart and began feeling the bandages cloaking the hybrid’s chest. Purring, she transformed into her shadow form for a better dining experience. “Mmmmmm…”

Cradling Vlad’s head in her arms, she cupped the shell of his ear and began whispering. Vlad tossed slightly after a few minutes and began crying in his sleep. Spectra grinned broadly and detached herself. Straddling him she found a small portion of his neck and rubbed it curiously, “ I think it's best I taste him… His misery is delectable, but it doesn't give me a good reading on his core status. The blood will also work wonders for my skin!”

Bertrand snorted and grabbed a newspaper. Crossing his legs, he sat down as his wife began playing with her food. Yanking Vladimir's neck sideways and bending down she allowed her dagger-like fangs to elongate. Licking the points, she leisurely ran her tongue along the nape of his neck. Finding a spot away from any vital areas she angled her jaw and punctured the flesh. Vlad's body convulsed and a hand weakly reached up. Glazed red eyes numbly stared into the ceiling and a silent scream ripped his mouth open. Spectra casually grasped his head and slammed it back into the desk as she fed. Small and weakly gurgles echoed through the room as Vlad unconsciously struggled against the ghoul feeding on him.

Muscles rigidly protested and limply tried freeing him from whatever was biting into his neck. His body eventually became too hot from his developing core's reactions to the proximity of the spirit. Spectra hissed angrily at the burning sensation and roughly detached herself from his neck. Vladimir's head fell to the desk with a muted thump.

Turning to Bertrand, Spectra licked some of the crimson off her hand and motioned him forward. Reverting to her human guise she winked. Bertrand raised an eyebrow and walked over to his wife curiously, only to gasp happily as she kissed him. Tasting the blood, he growled angrily and retracted himself from her.

“He’s coming into the later stages. Darling we have to-”

Spectra giggled, “ Berty? He’s growing attached again…. Just think? We get to break him right after he gets glued back together!”

She whipped her head around to Vladimir and examined their pet project more astutely. Twirling a lock of grey hair, she snickered. “ Can you imagine the heartbreak and despair losing his last semblance of hope will create?” Forming a small black shadow figure in the palm of her hand, she watched as it screamed in agony. “ It’ll be the final straw that broke the halfa's back!”

Glancing at Vladimir, she crushed the shadow figure in her hand. “ And after all of it’s said and done? We’ll tell little Daniel who's really responsible!” She smiled merrily and clawed a hand against Vladimir's neck wound.

Bertrand grinned, “ It sounds like you have something in mind darling?”

She chuckled, “ Of course…. but it's not quite time yet....We need to allow them to bond a bit more before we shred them apart!”

Bertrand grinned, “ I can spy on them a little more to see how this progresses. The brat seems to be pretty attached already.”

Spectra roughly grabbed Vladimir’s limp form and threw him into the ground. “ Darling? Pass that rope from over there….I think it's time we test the calf a bit.”

Roughly securing the hybrid’s wrists behind his back, Bertrand tossed him over his shoulder and latched onto his wife's hand with his free arm. “ Let's go and find a good setting for the little loser to play hero in…” He snickered at Vladimir's unconscious body. “It's such a shame he doesn't know what Vladimir's intentions were….” He mused the words sarcastically as a wicked grin lit his features.

Spectra smirked, “ He won’t know until it’s too late.”

Phasing through the building and turning invisible, he spied Danny Phantom and Youngblood nervously floating and staring at a stationary boomerang. ‘ Ah, that ridiculous tracking device. Too bad, they didn't think to check the building. Pffff…’

Flying away from the group and into the woods, Spectra and Bertrand phased into a secluded storm drain and flung Vlad hard into the inch high water. Pulling out a needle from her coat pocket, Spectra leaned down and grappled one of Vladimir's arms. Injecting the drug, she watched in giddy amusement as Vlad's body fluctuated and rippled between forms spastically. Chest arching, he screamed and numbly curled to his side. Shaking against himself, he dizzily tried to fight the nightmares the drug was encouraging. After a few minutes of him writhing and splashing weakly, Spectra bent down and ripped the necklace from his wrist. “Meet you at his place hubby?”

Bertrand snickered. “ You know it. I'll distract the brat and get a feel for him while you tamper with that infernal embassary mark.”

Spectra nodded and pecked a small kiss before she hid in the tunnel. “See you soon…”

Chapter Text

Vlad woke up hyperventilating and disoriented in Jaz and Tucker's arms. Coughing, he weakly swayed and tried to take in where he was. Vague, incoherent blurs of a dark figure biting into his flesh surfaced. Wincing, he numbly noted a white-gloved hand bringing a glass of water to his lips.

Jazmine smiled reassuringly. “Vlad? Your fever is pretty high right now. You need to take these.”

Vlad grimaced and noting the pills weakly nodded. “….Jazmin’….what….?…..Everything, it..hurts….”

Vlad coughed again from the verbal effort and numbly swayed only for Tucker to latch onto his shoulder blade.

“ Vlad? Do you remember any of what happened?” Daniel questioned as he leaned down to wipe the man's hair out of his face.

Vlad's brow furrowed and, grimacing, he replied, “ Something….held me down….was feeding...everything was so heavy…..” Vlad's eyes flashed crimson momentarily and he furrowed his brow in pain and squeezed his eyes shut.

Daniel cupped his face gently. “ Vlad? I know you're hurting right now… Trust me, we can tell. You need to swallow these pills though.”

Vlad took the pills from Jaz and dizzily cupped them into his mouth. Jaz brought the glass of water back to him and helped him down some of the contents. Laying him back in the blankets, Jaz worriedly questioned, “ What happened after you left the engine room, Vlad?”

Vlad coughed before rasping. “.... Left the room… Mrs.Dolce….cornered me… I tried walking past her….wouldn't let up… She said I looked….ill...passed me a drink….it looked safe….wasn't opened ….”

All three teens stiffened. Tucker swallowed, “ She gave you a closed drink?”

Vlad weakly nodded. “ …..Yeah… I took a few sips...and she backed off...Went to see what...I could do near the...living quarters…. Ryan...directed me to...the storage room… Everything was spinning and it-…..I couldn't breathe….Samson….I heard Samson say something...Something was coming….I told him to run...everything turned black… Few seconds later...she was holding me down...demon wouldn't let go…’ Couldn’t shift…..it’s all… ugh…”

Falling deeper into the sheets, he continued, “ Blurs….flashes...I got slammed into something wet and hard…..next thing I knew...the nightmares...they got worse…..wouldn't….stop….” Pausing tiredly, Vladimir finished weakly. “Dan….something was….in here….”

Daniel's eyes widened in horror as Vlad began lapsing out again. “ Woah! What do you mean?!? Vlad?!?”

“ Woke up...in bed….heard the door….something pinned me down…Everything hurt… Screamed...No sound...came out.....It... grabbed...my arm… everything got heavy again….”

Jazmine nearly dropped the water glass. Tucker turned to Daniel in a panic. “How long did that blonde psycho stay in the house, Danny?!?”

Daniel paled, “ She was here for six or seven minutes. When she left I rushed upstairs but Vlad somehow was in…-”

Daniel's eyes widened in horror and then he growled, “ That bitch! She-”

Vlad groaned abruptly and numbly latched onto his chest. Two black rings circled from his waist and he screamed in agony as they engulfed him. Panting, he numbly writhed in Daniel and Tucker's holds before he passed out in ghost form. Reaching over and feeling the fever, Daniel hissed angrily and began cooling the room.

“ Damn it! She was distracting me that entire time! That evil, conniving monster!”

Jazmine gulped. “ She drugged him and set him up…. God….That so-”

“ -sick.” Tucker grimaced. Jaz reached over and rubbed Vlad's spiky black hair gently.

“ Now what? Daniel… He hasn't had any time to heal…. By the sounds of everything? They're kicking him while he's down....” Jazmine’s voice was heavy with worry.

Daniel growled. “ I have no clue what to do! Vlad's usually a peg or two above me! I'm not used to being the more capable one… Jesus… It got to him and I was in the same building...Twice! Not once but twice! How the heck am I supposed to keep him in one piece?!?!”

Vlad’s ear twitched slightly in his sleep as Jaz comforted him. “ Obviously they like ganging up on him when he's alone. You're just going to have to make sure he isn't left where they can get to him.”

Daniel nodded. Tucker flipped out his PDA and messaged someone. With a click, he cut off the device and smiled tiredly. “ Sleepover at Plasmius’s it is then.”

Daniel smiled slightly. “Thanks, Tuck.”

Tucker grinned, “ Don't sweat it. I couldn't live with myself if he turned out to be a nice guy and then got eaten.”

Jaz sighed. “ I can run home and get some weaponry for you guys?”

Daniel shook his head no. “ I’ll send a duplicate to get Sam. She has a few wrist rays and some plasma pistols stored in her backpack. You need to get home Jaz… I don't need Mom and Dad flipping out more than they already are.”

Jaz bit her lip and looked to Vlad somewhat debatingly. “ If you think that's best, I won't argue. I'm coming by tomorrow morning though...Okay?”

Daniel nodded. “ Sure. I could use a ride. I promised Dad I'd stop by tomorrow morning and if you get me, he may let up a bit.”

Pausing, he added. “And Jaz? If Dad asks? Vlad's just sleep deprived.”

Jaz sighed and then nodded. Taking one last glance at the ragtag group she smiled slightly and went to the doorway. “ If that secretary shows up again? Call me. I'll be here with the Fenton Ghost Peeler in a nanosecond.”

Daniel grinned. “ Sure. See you later Jaz.”

Hearing the door closing downstairs, Tucker turned his attention back to Plasmius and winced. “ You know? If this happens all of the time I'm pretty sure I'd be a bitter depressive too.”

Daniel flinched and looking toward Vlad's feverish form he sighed and duplicated. ‘ Get Sam. Tell her what happened. Get weapons.’

The duplicate nodded curtly before disappearing through the wall.

Chapter Text

Tucker sat up and cracked his fingers, “ So… urm-..... How has it been around here when it's just the two of you?”

Daniel smiled tiredly. Crossing his legs and sitting by Vladimir he draped a cooling hand over the adult's brow. A small sigh escaped the feverish half ghost at the temperature change. “He’s actually pretty easy to get along with…. He saved my ass at least three times today from various things trying to off us with practically no powers at his disposal. I'm actually surprised he's shifted right now. Then again those drugs those monsters gave him are probably draining him like a battery. He's obviously in pain every time he shifts……”

Tucker winced. “ Does it hurt when you shift?”

Daniel debated it, “ No… Well at first, when I got zapped it did….”

Tucker winced. “ Yeah….”

An awkward silence elapsed for a few minutes only to be interrupted by Vlad's sudden tossing and weakly turning in his sleep. Chest arching he numbly cried out in agony as he shifted back into Vlad Masters. Seeing dazed blue eyes, Daniel gently comforted, “ Vlad?.... Go to sleep. Tuck, Sam and I aren't going to leave you alone. Just rest.”

Vlad weakly choked, “House…...arrest….again...hmmm?”

Tucker snorted, “ No, we were thinking more along the lines of a paranormal slumber party, complete with pranks, guns, and spin the phantom.” Sarcasm dripped from every word. Vlad chuckled slightly and then coughed.

“ Foley…..pranks?....Bad idea…..you all would…...be done for….” He teased.

Danny smirked, “ Ha. Vlad? You couldn't prank someone in your condition if you wanted to.”

Vlad smiled slightly and his half-lidded eyes glittered with mischief. “That….a challenge….little...badger?”

Daniel snorted, “ Nope. It's a fact. You’re one hundred percent invalid at this point.”

A small smile ghosted across Vlad's features. “ Willing…...to bet….on it?”

Tucker raised his hand defensively, “ Woah! Hey? Guys? Do me and Sam a favor and leave us out if you’re going to pull another prank Armageddon?”

Vlad looked to Tucker apologetically. “ Foley……?.....M’....asking Dan….You’re safe….unless you aid him….”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “ You think you can prank me? And what's this about a bet? What are we betting?”

Vlad's brow furrowed slightly. “…..Ugh….let me think?...If you win…. I'll let you….pick a power….and I'll teach it?....”

Daniel raised an eyebrow intrigued. “ Any power?”

Vlad weakly smiled and nodded.

“ And what if you win Vlad?” He questioned curiously.

Vlad's brow furrowed again. Feverish blue eyes pondered the situation for a moment. “C-could….you help me apologize….to M-Maddie….and Jazmine?....”

Daniel questiongly prodded. “Why do you want to apologize to my sister?”

Vlad stared at the ceiling and sighed. “ For lying...about the nanobots?... Someone...I care about was dying…. I sent Ed to get the medical….research from Axiom…. Jazmine...came to my manor at…..a bad time...and Ed dumped you….in the lab …. Hell?... That day sucked….couldn't have you two….nosing around so….I bluffed you out….She died anyway….….”

Daniel and Tucker both stiffened.

“ Vlad? Who died….?”

Vlad grimaced, “ Daniel?.... She passed a short while ago…. I'd rather not talk about it…”

Both Tucker and Daniel thought back to the child's bedroom and grew nauseous.

Clearing his head, Daniel questioned, “ And why my mom?”

Vlad snorted tiredly, “ I was trying….to piss…..her off….Worked pretty good….to….”

Daniel's jaw went slack. “ Please tell me you're joking….”

Vlad chuckled tiredly, “Badger….best way to piss of people?….Flirt with their spouse...To bad Jack didn't take that one...in stride, huh?”

Tucker raised an eyebrow. “ So you made moves on Danny’s mom to piss off his dad?”

Vlad nodded and weakly raised a finger toward Foley from the bed, “….Bingo….”

Tucker whistled, “ Now that is some high-class fuckery…”

Vlad groaned, “Foley…..language?”

Daniel burst out laughing. “ You flirted with mom to piss off dad? Jesus...And what about all of your evil ass commentary? The ‘ Jack’s an idiot’ and ‘ I want to kill him’ crap?”

Vlad groaned, “ Both good points that are….a bit hard...to explain....?”

Pausing, he numbly sighed. “Then again…. Mads…..is pretty dense to….Ew… I almost had to get her to kiss….me...to get the...point across….. I leave two of everything….lying around….and she spends the entire time….looking for a phone….”

Daniel stiffened and raised a finger accusingly, “ You-….How did you know about-?”

Vlad smiled slightly as he began lapsing back under again. “Duplicate….followed….Maddie while I distracted….you...Had….to make sure….that belt was away….from you both…. That hurt….Willingly hugging you….to get bug zapped….ha….”

Coughing, Vlad continued, “Poltergeists Ed...captured went mental after seeing those….pelts… Those were from….the previous owner by the way…. Vengeful fur balls….however… don't really care….as long as they have something….to claw into…..Ed wouldn’t stop laughing for….a month… Vlad Plasmius, chipmunk chew toy….”

Tucker snorted. “ So you were pissing off his mom and stealing a fashion accessory?”

Vlad chuckled, “ Wouldn't have….worded it….that way….but yes…”

Daniel narrowed his gaze at the sickly adult. “ So you knew I was bullshitting you with the fake dad stuff?”

Vlad nodded his head back and stared into the ceiling before quirking an eyebrow, “Daniel? Your….poker face….is horrible…. You suck at lying…. so does your sister…. You probably inherited it from Jack…”

Daniel went slack-jawed and Tucker grinned. “ He has a point, Danny. You do suck at lying.”

Daniel turned bright red, “ Do not! I'm a great liar!”

Vlad snorted, “ Really Daniel…?... Every time….you bluff...or pull an excuse….it's almost comical….Not saying you're stupid...but you….can be dense...I could drip with sarcasm……. and it would fly right over your…... head… I mean really? Give me a big hug, new dad? .....Pfff….Yeah….suurrreee…..I saw that belt...coming a mile...away….”

Daniel gaped for a few more seconds before turning redder with embarrassment. “You-….you conniving….”

Vlad chuckled weakly, “ Trust me…. I hated that evening….just as much as you….If not more…. At least you didn't...get zapped….for several….hours….Ed couldn't get the belt off….and I had to reverse… engineer it…”

Tucker winced. “ How long was it stuck to you?”

Vlad smiled sheepishly, “Eh….Let's see….It was twelvish when….Dan put….it on...me...Huh…. you know….I think it was...on me for close to...sixteen….hours…? M’ kinda fuzzy...on how much I was conscious for…. Ed and a friend periodically kept me up on the flight….home….”

Daniel felt a wave of guilt wash over him. He personally threw the key to the belt from the helicopter and into a river on the way back to Amity.

Vlad began lapsing out slightly. “So…..wanna bet?.... Your poker face...won't land you….in the big leagues….but strategy….is in...your favor…”

Dizzy, Vlad coughed weakly and turned slightly only to groan and fall back into the pillows with a muted thump. “There's….an irony...in me….being told….to stay out of the zone….so demons won't get me…..only for them to make….house calls….” He chuckled weakly.

Daniel sighed. “ I'll take your bet if you promise to stay in the house for the remainder of the week...or better yet? In bed…”

Vlad paused and nodded, “Sure?..... I’ll call...the office….tomorrow….I think I need….the break….” Starting to drift off, Vlad smirked. “Ground…...rules?....Separate rooms...when you sleep….n’...stay….out of vault...and library?...”

Tucker snorted, “ No worries on the vault thing. That place gives us the hibbie-jibbies.”

Daniel nodded. “ And after today I'm not stepping foot in the library without a thermos or you on hand Fruit-Loop.”

Vlad raised an eyebrow before he began falling under more rapidly. Too tired to continue forcing the conversation he numbly closed his eyes and slumped further into the bedding.

Tucker worriedly felt the adult's fever and his brow furrowed, “ Danny? How far out is Sam?”

Daniel winced at the brief tunnel vision splitting his head and seeing his clone flying over Vlad's yard he smiled. “She’ll be here in three... two…” The teen pointed at the ceiling as a pair of black combat boots accompanied by his duplicate’s white rain boots began phasing through. Landing in the room, Sam set down her bags and stalked over to Vlad's side. Bringing her fingers around his wrist, she worriedly checked his pulse. Noting the pale skin tone and cold sweat on his palm, she removed her hand. Growling, she hissed, “ That secretary is a monster….”

Daniel and Tucker both grimaced and nodded in agreement.

Chapter Text

“ Hopefully tomorrow he can catch a break.” Daniel whispered.

Vlad turned slightly in his sleep and Sam sighed. Putting a palm to her head she tiredly mused. “ How did they even get the jump on him? He was wary of her… He openly tried avoiding her so how could she possibly-?”

Vlad groaned and his brow furrowed. Another set of rings eclipsed his form and chest arching again, he gasped and numbly writhed as he shifted into Plasmius. Panting heavily but still unconscious, he shakily shivered from under the blankets. Daniel winced and, growling, he turned to Sam. “ Stay with him. He can’t keep shifting like this...it’s hurting him too much and taxing the energy he needs to heal.”

Sam paused and looked from Vlad to Daniel questioningly, “ What are you going to do?”

Daniel looked to Vlad apologetically and sighed. “ I’m going to look for that ridiculous ghost taser. If I zap him he should be able to stabilize without having his lungs ripped from his chest every time he shifts.”

Tucker looked horrified, “ Wait! What?” Looking from Vlad to Daniel, he questioned, “You mean your lungs get ripped out when you shift?”

Daniel nodded. “ Yeah, they regrow with the rings. But looking at his? The shifts are to slow.”

Vlad’s ghost form was slightly green from the fever pulsing under his skin and his breath looked like it was fogging. Sam winced and nodded in understanding. Tucker gently sat by the bed and grasped onto Vlad’s hand in an act of comfort.

Giving Sam and Tucker the go-ahead, the teen phased into the lab. Looking through several drawers and on the workbenches, he eventually found the two-pronged device. Swallowing, he looked to the ceiling remorsefully and quickly turned himself and the small weapon intangible. Reappearing in the bedroom and seeing Vlad caught between another shift and being held against the bed by Tucker and Sam, he turned the ghost taser on. Moving Tucker and Sam aside he positioned the device just above Vladimir’s arching chest and connected the prongs. Vlad screamed in agony and writhed where he laid. Daniel’s face saddened and he quickly looped his arm under Vladimir’s spine to support him. The room flashed white abruptly and swirls of energy condensed and rippled before dissipating. Vlad’s dull and listless red eyes flashed the same silvery hue before he went slack in Daniel’s grip and passed out. Still shaking in his sleep, he numbly turned toward the cold the younger hybrid was emitting.

Tucker gaped, “ What the actual heck was that Pham?”

Daniel furrowed his brow, “ I have no idea… It may be a defense mechanism brought out by the stress on his body...Kind of like my ghostly wail.”

Sam winced at the tears trailing down the sickly man’s features. “ What if it was the ghost taser?”

Daniel furrowed his brow. “Couldn’t have been…. I’ve zapped him with it before. It just drained him like it did me last time.”

Wiping the tears from Vlad’s face, Daniel phased through the adult and began rearranging him on the bed. Sam swallowed and flinched at the sight of the gauze around his neck.

“ Is it possible that whatever bit him had venom or something in addition to the poison he ingested?”

Daniel grimaced and looked to Vlad tiredly, “ I have no clue...It’s not like I’m familiar with emergency halfa medicine. We just have to hope he gets enough rest tonight to be able to differentiate the shifts.”

Sam nodded and walking over to her bags she pulled out two wrist rays and flung them toward the two boys. Daniel deftly caught his and Tucker fumbled with the one slung in his direction before clasping it in his hands.

Sam smiled slightly. “ So...who’s got guard duty first?”

Tucker smiled, “ I’ll do it.”

Daniel made a move to protest but Sam and Tucker both smiled apologetically.

Tucker rolled his eyes, “Danny? You look like hell. Just go take a nap.”

Sighing, Daniel looked from Vlad to his friends and nodded in agreement. Turning toward the wall he glanced back tiredly, “ You guys have a thermos right?”

Sam nodded, “ Yeah, we have a thermos. Go to sleep Casper.”

Smiling, Daniel phased through the room and immediately flopped onto the guest bed he had been occupying the last few nights. The rings circulated and morphed around him and by the time he was Fenton again he was fully asleep.

Chapter Text

Vlad woke up screaming sometime around midnight. Sam and Tucker immediately darted up from their positions by the fireplace and to his side. Hyperventilating, the older hybrid shook in his semiconscious state as Sam latched onto him and hugged him to calm him down. Vlad’s crimson eyes numbly flashed and he breathed heavily against the two teens for what felt like an eternity. Crying bitterly, he begged, “...m’ sorry….I was late...Liz…..I promised…..’m sorry……” Sam and Tucker both stiffened and looked to each other in horror.

“ Vlad? Dude, wake up…”

Vlad numbly shook again. “No….Don’t….Leave her alone… God….no…..please….” Vlad curled against Sam’s hold and continued weeping. After a few minutes of quite incoherent pleas and grief, his muscles went lax again and he slumped against her shoulder.

Patting his back, Sam looked to Tucker questioningly. “ Liz? Who was she ?”

Tucker flinched and recalled the bedroom, “ His daughter, maybe?”

Sam cringed. Curling her hand behind Vlad’s neck, she motioned for Tucker to help her lay him back into the bed. Vladimir’s brow furrowed in his sleep and he shakily clawed a hand into the blankets beside him. Covering him properly, Tucker turned and rounded toward the fireplace. Sitting down and cradling his head, he whispered, “ Sam? I don’t think he’s evil…. I’m starting to think he’s traumatized.”

Sam flinched. “ From what though? The portal? Or-”

Tucker shook his head. “ His body is torn to ribbons Sam…. What if something tore apart someone he cared about? Or maybe he’s just been tortured so much he’s become numb to expressing things? I mean...fuck…”

Sam tiredly sat down next to him. “ Why do you think he did it? All of it? The flirting with Danny’s mom and-”

Tucker tiredly rubbed his brow and seeing the dust on his glasses, he took them off to wipe them on his hoodie. “ Sam? The guy was flirting to piss off Danny’s dad. He actually wants to apologize to Mrs. Fenton over that whole scenario…”

Sam froze. “ You mean he was bluffing?”

Tucker snorted. “ Is that so hard to believe? Maybe he’s pissed at Mr.F for becoming a ghost hunter after college? If I was a half ghost and my best friend decided to become a full-blown ghost hater I’d probably hold some resentment to... Or maybe he’s sad and temperamental because Daniel has a family and he doesn’t…?”

Sam pondered the possibilities and grimaced. “ Danny had a support system…” She swallowed and looked to Vlad, “ Why didn’t anyone check or look in on Vlad? He doesn’t like talking about it but from what I’ve gathered from the few times he’s had an emotional breakdown… His friends….Danny’s parents left him alone after the accident…”

Tucker tensed, “ They left him alone?”

Sam winced and nodded, “ He said they abandoned him...Can you imagine? No family...no friends? Five years of being locked away and forgotten?”

Tucker looked up to Vlad and swallowed. “ No wonder he hates Danny’s dad so much…. What type of kick in the face would that be? Having someone you thought of as family just forgetting about you like you were some discarded toy and then acting like nothing happened years later….. That’s just so warped Sam..”

Sam brought her knees to her face and whispered, “ Vlad was absolutely traumatized when Jaz brought up the hospital…. God… I’ve never seen someone's face grow so scared and broken so quickly. I mean...he can’t even look at a scalpel without shaking? Why the hell would anyone-”

Tucker shot up immediately and ran over to the bed. “ Sam? Help me out… I need to check something.”

Sam quickly got up and helped Tucker pull back the blankets. Vlad’s brow furrowed in discomfort as he was lifted up from the bed. Taking out a pocket knife, Tucker began cutting off the bandages on Vlad’s chest while Sam held him upright. After a few minutes, he tore off the gauze and, reaching over, flicked on the lamp beside them.

There was a morbid silence for a few moments as the teen surveyed the scars more carefully. Tucker then swallowed and looked into Vlad’s sleeping features with remorse before taking a shaking hand to his refurbished PDA. He snapped a photo of Vlad’s chest before placing the device down and grabbing the first aid kit from the side table.

Vlad winced and writhed as Tucker rewrapped him. Groggy, the adult opened his eyes and fought to stay awake. Blearily noting Tucker, he questioned, “Foley...What’s going….on….?”

Tucker patted his shoulder apologetically. “ You moved to abruptly in your sleep and accidentally hurt yourself. I’m just patching you.”

Vlad attempted a smile and choked. “ Thanks……..M’ sorry…..you shouldn’t have to…m’ so sorry...”

Tucker winced, “ Just go back to sleep Plasmius… You need some serious rest.”

Vlad groggily noted the hands on his shoulders and sighed before slowly closing his eyes. After a few brief moments, he was asleep in their hands. Finished with the wrapping, Tucker cupped a hand behind Vlad’s upper spine and motioned for Sam to move. Laying Vlad down and covering him, he tiredly rubbed his eyes before glancing at his discarded PDA. Slipping off of the bed, he grabbed the device and motioned Sam to follow him.

Walking into the bathroom Tucker glanced at Vlad and then to Sam somewhat disbelievingly. “ Sam?.... I think I figured out why he’s so traumatized and afraid…”

Sam furrowed her brow. “ What is it, Tuck?”

Opening his PDA, he zoomed in on several thin silver lines snaking across Vlad’s chest cavity. Turning the device to Sam, he questioned, “ Sam? I’m not familiar with hospitals… I’m damned near terrified of them...but this? Sam…..please tell me those aren't what I think they are…”

Sam brought a hand to her mouth and choked back bile. Looking through the door at Vladimir’s sleeping form, she grimaced and averted her gaze back to the photo. A few tears welled across her cheeks at the sickening imagery the familiar lines she had seen so often on reruns of NCIS and Dr. G procured. “What type of monster dissects a living, breathing person….god….He can’t look at a scalpel? Tuck….His friends left him and someone decided to make him a laboratory frog…..”

Tucker bit his lip and shook his head. “ Someone tore him apart…. They poked around inside him… I’ve read about people in Nazi camps being dissected but for someone to take someone in a modern hospital and use them like that....Jesus Christ… Sammy? He has PTSD...That’s why he can’t sleep.”

Sam bit her lip as she digested all of the information they had just gathered. “Maybe the reason Vlad played a monster was because everyone treated him like one…” She looked to Vlad’s sleeping form and flinched, “ Can you imagine? What if Danny had no family and we were his support system...his friends… And then we decide to goof off and build a portal. Imagine being zapped by a small portal…” She averted her gaze and looked at Tucker’s PDA bitterly, “Vlad was only zapped in his face…..That means the mutation that spliced him was slower… It had to spread….”

Looking to Tucker, she tried to force her words through choked syllables, “And then instead of helping our friend we somehow decided he could handle it all alone… Or maybe we felt so disgusted with him being scarred we decided to purposefully ignore him… Imagine someone you consider family leaving you to some sadistic fuck with a scalpel who wanted to conquest your body in the name of science…. God...five years….Tuck….He was in a hospital for five years and if they cut him open like that...what else did they do?”

Tucker flinched at the implications. Cutting off his PDA he tiredly shoved the device in his pocket and walked back into the room. “ I think we should wait to tell Danny about this….. At least until him and Vlad have a more stable friendship going...I think Vlad needs to know there's someone like him-That he has a support system outside of Skulker and that Romulus guy.”

Sam cringed, “ What if he was a villain because he wanted to have a connection, any connection, with the only other person like him? I mean...if he hates Mr. Fenton that badly and Daniel knew...Vlad would probably still want a connection of sorts with him…. At some level, he probably knew Daniel would never renounce his dad and join him… So was him saying it a ploy? Just like his flirting? Piss off Daniel and make the younger half ghost notice that he exists too?”

Tucker sat against the wall and cradled his head. “ Fuck.” Biting his knuckles he looked toward the bed. “Sam? You may be on to something.”

Chapter Text

Several hours later Vlad shot up screaming again. Sam and Tucker both darted awake and gently comforted him. Crying, he tossed in Tucker’s hold and numbly shook. Tucker winced at the fever coming from the man. Sam gently rubbed Vlad’s bangs out of his eyes and coaxed him out of his dream. Eyes blearily flashing red, soon faded to a fatigued blue. Seeing this, Sam gently patted his cheek to coax him awake some more. Grabbing the glass of water by the side table, she brought it to his lips. “ Come on Vlad… here..”

Vlad numbly noted the glass and dizzily took a few small sips with Sam’s help. Slightly more awake from the cold water he attempted moving only to grimace. Tucker patted his shoulder, “Easy big guy… You’re alright… It was just another nightmare.”

Vlad coughed weakly and a shaking hand gripped the pressure supporting his body. Noting the teen’s hand, he wiped his face tiredly and feeling the water his eyes flashed scarlet again. Biting his lip, he flinched from the two teens and tried to teleport only to feel dizzy and discombobulated.

Tucker sighed, “ Vlad? Calm down. The last thing you need right now is to waste energy you don't have.”

Vlad nodded and tried to focus on his surroundings. “Sam?….Tucker?…..What's….happening to me..?….I can't….shift….”

Both teens froze at the casual address Vlad used instead of their last names.

Tucker patted Vlad's back, “Daniel tased you so you wouldn't keep shifting forcefully.”

Vlad winced and cupped a hand to head. “ Tased?.....ugh….”Vlad groaned and quickly brought a hand to his mouth. Shaking, he pleaded, “ Foley?.....I think I need help up…Something’s trying to come up...”

Sam and Tucker immediately began looping their arms under his and dragging him to his feet. Carting him to the bathroom, they worriedly sat Vlad against the floor. Curling against himself, Vlad began coughing sickly green ectoplasm and blood. Tucker averted his gaze momentarily and then swallowed before he quickly helped Vladimir to the toilet. Sam held his hair while he retched. After a few moments of shaking and dry heaving Vlad coughed, “It’s...funny….almost….”

Sam quirked an eyebrow worriedly. “What is Vlad?”

Vlad numbly propped his head up with his hand in an attempt to stay coherent. “Dan….never told….you?”

Tucker quirked an eyebrow. “ Told us what?”

Vlad dizzily glared at the toilet and snickered. “ Guess...it's not to …..common a topic… Thought it was funny….having a toilet and it only being….used for vomiting….ugh….”

Sam and Tucker gaulked. “ You mean halfas don’t go to the restroom?”

Vlad flinched, “ Insides…..are mostly ghost….we absorb the matter….No waste material…..Kinda surprising….’thought Dan….would brag….Kid’s a bit… of a showboat….”

Tucker groaned, “ That bastard owes me twenty bucks…”

Vlad dizzily questioned, “He bet ...you didn’t he……?"

Tucker snickered, “ I should have known he was cheating.”

Vlad hoarsely laughed and swayed slightly only for Sam to keep him steady. “That…..kid….likes playing dirty…..."

Sam raised an eyebrow smugly. “Aren’t you just as inclined to underhanded stuff?”

Vlad smiled tiredly as he was leaned against the wall. “ Subterfuge with permeable cause…... directed toward ...opposing parties as a…. means of distraction and resolution.”

Both Tucker and Sam furrowed their brows again. Tucker groaned, “English Plasmius?”

Vlad ignored them before he coughed tiredly and leaned back against the wall. “ M’ glad….Daniel has….you two….Do me a favor though?…..Shifting in public?…...Bad idea…...Only so many times….a person can…. cloak or distract….”

Sam and Tucker both bristled. “Vlad? Sir? Can you elaborate for us….?”

Vlad smiled weakly. “ I-I….was out of options…...Tell me…..If you could save….the people you love….at...the cost...of yourself…….would you?.....”

Sam and Tucker shared horrified glances and Sam reached over to feel his head. Hissing at the fever she looked to Tucker worriedly. “ Tuck? I think he isn’t all here right now..”

Tucker bit his lip and patted Vlad’s cheek. “ Plasmus? Hey….dude? Your fever is up again.”

Vlad opened half-lidded eyes and they flashed a muted red, “ Fever….has been….here for….a while…now...Since I got rid of that monster...I never...wanted Danny...to know...….”

Sam gently motioned Tucker to help her lift up Vlad. Vlad whimpered slightly at the pressure on his ribs. Sam froze, “ Vlad?”

Vlad groaned, “Sorry….ribs…..Some ribs got broken again...Didn’t tell Daniel…”

Sam glanced toward Vlad’s chest in horror, “ When?”

Vlad darted out a little as he was sat against the bed, “ When….we were attacked...early today…..A poltergeist...cracked them…. It got a good laugh….at me waking up….to my bones...being crushed….”

Tucker quickly leaned Vlad back partially and began inspecting the bandages. “ You neglected to tell us your ribs were broken?!?!”

Vlad winced, “ Uh…..sorta...use to it?….It hurt….and I passed out...but I’ll be okay….Happens a lot….”

Sam began seething and her eyebrow twitched, “ What the actual heck do you do to get in this type of disrepair Plasmius?”

Vlad numbly groaned, “Lucky...halfa bastard……?”

Tucker grabbed a blanket and tossed it over Vlad’s shoulder. “ How about a vote of confidentiality Vlad? Can you tell me and Sam why you're such a disaster case?”

Vlad chuckled sadly, “ Do….you want me to monologue or...something...Foley? I’m….too far gone to...salvage… things…..And I’ve been….a monsters’….cutting board…….since I was…..six…….I’m a mistake…..that...somehow….continued being torn apart…… Family? Friends?.... Dead or don’t remember I even exist…...I was supposed to die…..but instead, the universe likes….holding me down…..and forcing me to watch…..as my own desperate antics…..come back to haunt me….”

Sam and Tucker gulped. Vlad started pitching forward and Tucker quickly looped a hand under him to keep him upright. Sam prodded, “Vlad….what-?”

Vlad wearily tightened his hand against his shoulder, “ Playing villain...You know that’s the only thing I seemed to excel at….Pissing off people…. No one ever knew….I faked him out…...A hero…..needs a villain…..ha.”

Vlad’s head groggily stared into the floor. “ It’s….kind of sad…..when you think about it…..If Danny knew...he’d hate me for sure…..Jack and Maddie want me in a specimen jar……” Pausing, he took a shaky breath. “ Demon hunter…..counterbalance…..zone regulation….returning the lost…..protecting both plains….. Clockwork was ecstatic when Daniel...came along….Another person like me…….he gushed about it and complained when….I didn’t teach him formally….. Being….a monster hurts…...He was only fourteen…..He was just a little boy who wanted to play hero…….He didn't need to see the hell storm coming....”

Vlad dryly swallowed, “Damned…..bastard traumatized…..Danny……”

Sam and Tucker sat enthralled as Vlad incoherently vented. “ Because I ...wouldn’t...teach Daniel….Clockwork tried using….the looking glass on him…. He hurt him….God….I was bleeding….so badly…..The blood was everywhere….when I stumbled in….and saw Daniel crying…..in his sleep….Damned Sandman.” Vlad gritted his teeth and his eyes flashed crimson “...I punched him so hard my arm busted open…...And then, to know….he still….acts like there was….nothing wrong with it… I….told him...not to go near Daniel...not to touch him….So much for that…Danny….trusts….that appointee… but I want to punch him...again…..Would….it have killed him...not to humor me….this once with...the villain stuff?”

Vlad winced and his head began slumping tiredly to his chest. Tucker grabbed him and began laying him down. Sam crossed her legs at the left edge of the bed. “ So Clockwork did muck with him about Vortex?”

Vlad nodded, “ No doubt….I didn’t take Vortex for political crud. Ha...I ordered the observants….to give him...over so….I could try and get him under control...Too bad Edmond….and Romulus…. Were in the zone…...I was passing out…..a lot...The fever was bad to….Couldn’t do my job so I asked Daniel for help…….The barometer was an...artificial artifact...but it was weak…..I was trying to get Vortex corralled… I had duplicates around the city getting people to safety when the flood hit…One of my duplicates spotted the firetruck near...the riverwalk…. The wind ripped it up...and flipped it….into the water… Me and Daniel...floated up to Vortex and I began feeling dizzy. I had a choice to make…Daniel...was capable...I was positive…..of it…..So I sarcastically introduced them and darted out...of view….Danny thought of me as a villain….It...would make sense if I left him to flounder, right?…. Only had enough energy to phase the firefighters….As soon as I got them out the fever started again….I made it to an alley and everything got dark...Sometime later I woke up and figured out Daniel got weather zapped…”

Vlad numbly grimaced as he stared into the ceiling, “ I got caught…. Two years….of playing the villain...to protect them...and I slipped up….with Nocturn….”
Vlad winced as Sam put a hand to his head. Lightly turning under her palm he apologized, “Sidekicks….Daniel's….sidekicks are helping….me...Helping a monster…”

Sam's eyes widened and Tucker reached down to try and keep Vlad coherent. Vlad numbly stared into amethyst grey and army green eyes as they comforted him.
Vlad choked, “...Kinda...makes me wonder...if that demon…. was onto something…. It was….gloating, holding me down and whispering…. personal things….Things it should've known…. It didn't bite prior...How did it know?.... It wouldn't stop talking….about them...dying….And then….then it started whispering….about why I did it… It was giggling….purring at what happened….I could feel her rooting around…..”

Vlad began tearing slightly. “ I'm so tired….” Wincing his eyes shut, he turned his head and sighed, “I'm sorry….I vented….I'm hurting pretty...bad….right now...and it's hard….really hard to breathe…..”

Sam gently pulled his head up slightly and began wiping the perspiration and tears off of his face. Swallowing, Vlad numbly whispered, “ Thank….you….for helping me…..I know you two...probably think…. I'm a lying…..bastard….to….It’s kind of nice...to have someone…. The last few weeks… Ed and Rom have been too far… I've been passing out….waking up…..to fevers...nightmares…”

Sam tried to smile reassuringly, “Plasmius? ….We don't think that...We're just trying to help and understand you.”

Vlad numbly shivered, “ T-this week's been tougher than most…. Some….balance, huh?....I'm so torn...apart right….now...I can't even….do my job….”

Tucker patted his shoulder, “Shhh, it's alright... Vlad? Go back to sleep.”

Vlad flinched. “ Sleep….sleep is bad…. They’re not nightmares like...regular people have...They're memories….”

Sam swallowed dryly and motioned Tucker to wet a rag for Vlad's forehead. Tucker nodded and got up.

Sam gently squeezed Vlad's hand. “ Vlad? What is your job? I mean… we've heard you summarize and explain segments but I don't understand the connection to you?”

Vlad furrowed his brow. “ Told you I regulated the ….zone and this side correct?”

Sam nodded, “ Yes, you did.”

Vlad weakly squeezed the blankets beside him. “ I'm….the...poor bastard….who’s...soul summoned a power….scarcely heard of...in either plain….”

Vlad dizzily lifted his right hand and inspected it. “ Clockwork….knows Danny is like...me...But...I didn't want a ...little boy...dragged into...this…We’re...supposed to purify...”

Sam finally began piecing together everything and she paled. Vlad winced. “Pure....souls with a strong...life force... have to….be used...for a halfa... Ectoplasm is….to refined a source….it would kill...literally….everyone else…. if it fused to living...flesh….”

Sam brought a hand to her mouth. “ You mean only good people can fuse with ectoplasmic energy?”

Vlad whispered, “Samantha…..don't tell Danny….I-I….think I owe it….to him to tell him….I didn't want him seeing….the darker side….of being a hero….and here I ended up… trying to train him anyway…..guess I knew he would get ahold of a demon by accident…”

Coughing, Vlad turned his head away from her, “ M’.... to talkative….this week….but I am going….crazy….trying to keep….the bs going….”

Tucker came into the room and with a wet rag in hand and gently laid it over the adult's brow. Vlad shuttered and grimaced at the temperature change. Sam clasped his hand slightly tighter. Vlad tried to weakly smile. “ It's….sad….We both….half….died trying to...help the ones we….love….We died….trying to help people…”

Sam winced and Tucker sat at the edge of the bed tiredly. “ Who were you trying to help Vlad?”

Vlad shook slightly, “ There was….a wire loose….in the portal….I saw it and was leaning...in to inspect it so...no one would get...hurt….And...I think...I….wanted to see my….little sister again….I wanted to tell her...I was sorry…..”

Sam and Tucker grew ashen. “You mean you were trying to fix the proto portal?”

Vlad nodded gently. “ Was’ trying to help...my friends…..It was an accident….I knew that….he didn't know…”

Tucker looked like he was going to vomit. “ Sir? I don't want to pry...but can I ask you something?”

Vlad nodded, “ Go ahead….I...don't mind….”

Tucker swallowed, “ Mr. and Mrs. Fenton… did they ever visit you?”

Vlad's eyes grew distant. “They said they wouldn't leave me…..I never...saw them once I got there…”

Sam and Tucker both began comforting him to try and calm his slightly erratic breathing.

Vlad shuttered. “ I remember….begging…..god...to kill me..so I wouldn't wake up….for treatments….I never...saw outside of that...room unless...they wanted to try...something...They did it….so many times….I screamed….and no one came…”

Sam paled. “ Vlad… We saw the incision marks on your chest...Did they-?”

Vlad flinched and his eyes turned scarlet at the memory. Biting his lip he nodded and then rasped, “ More than once…”

Sam gently rubbed his hand. “ Are those what you have nightmares about?”

Vlad nodded no and smiled sadly, “ There are….so many...more horrific...things a person...can remember…” Closing his eyes he whispered, “ Lately...I've had to see...them die...again… especially Liz and Anna….”

Tucker began rubbing his shoulder, “ Thank you for being honest with us Vlad.”

Vlad shuttered slightly, “….I wish….I could've...been honest...with Danny...in the beginning….but if I had…. he would've died….” Vlad numbly stared into the ceiling. “ I lied...and lies rarely….can be fixed….”

Tucker smiled comfortingly, “Vlad? We are going to give you some fever meds again. Is that alright?”

Vlad nodded yes in reply. Tucker immediately began rifling through the first aid kit. Spying the correct pills, he popped them out of the container and looped an arm under Vlad's back to sit him up temporarily. Vlad grimaced and bit his lip to keep from screaming at the pressure his ribs were under. Sam raised the water glass and gently took the pills from Tucker. “Here Vlad. Take these, they'll help.”

Vlad numbly reached up and popped the pills into his mouth. With Samantha's help, he dizzily downed the contents of the glass. Slumping slightly in Tucker's hold, he rasped. “This...beats…..crawling...to the first aid kit…..”

Sam growled, “ You're kidding, right?”

Vlad weakly chuckled. “Have...you seen….me?....Mostly scar tissue….”

Tucker smiled gently and laid Vlad back against the pillow. Vlad groaned and blearily locked his half-lidded eyes with the teens. “....I...think I’m trying...to distract myself….the nightmares are bad...and I don't want to...slip under….”

Sam gently grabbed the rag that had fallen against Vlad's bandages and smiled comfortingly before laying it back on his brow. “ An adult that doesn't want to sleep? That's rich.”

Vlad weakly smiled. “You….wouldn't want...to fall asleep either….”

Tucker patted him again and began tucking him in. “ Vlad? I know you don't want to sleep but you need the rest to heal. You're pretty injured. If you have any nightmares again we'll be here. Just relax and try to get some more rest.”

Vlad shifted slightly against his pillow. After a moment he squeezed his hand against the comforter around him and nodded in understanding. Staring at the ceiling, he began dozing off. “ ..Thank….you…”

Chapter Text

After a few minutes, Vlad's breathing had become deep again and his fever began going down slightly. Seeing he was fully asleep, Sam tiredly cradled her head. “Vlad was good….He is good ...Jesus Christ...He was tortured and locked away because he was trying to help his friends…”

Tucker looked to Vlad and then flinched, “ More than once. Someone...some bastard...cut him open repeatedly to take a peak at him….”
Vlad numbly turned against his side. Tucker and Sam both watched him curiously as he slept for what seemed like an eternity.

Vlad numbly turned against his side. Tucker and Sam both watched him curiously as he slept for what seemed like an eternity.

Sam fell asleep sitting up and Tucker laid himself out in the floor to process the emotional jigsaw puzzle Vlad left them with. Around four o’clock in the morning, Vlad began shaking like a leaf in his bed. The movements quickly jostled Sam. Worriedly leaning over him, she began wiping his bangs out of his eyes and trying to calm him.

Vlad numbly curled against himself further. “ …..M’ sorry….I'm a monster….Jack?...Mads?” Vlad shivered. “.....Someone….help...” Red eyes abruptly darted open and Vlad blindly flailed against his covers. Hyperventilating he clumsily backed away from Sam and onto the edge of the bed. In a muted pop of pink, he teleported out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. Every light in the house flickered on and off rapidly. Several bulbs burst and water could be heard coming from faucets in the open bathroom. The shattering of a mirror jolted them to action. Darting into the room both Tucker and Sam eyed the dimly glowing red eyes peeking out from behind Vlad’s shaking arms in the shower.

Daniel could be heard cursing from the bedroom and quickly arrived in Phantom form. Stepping down and feeling the glass underfoot his eyes widened. “VLAD?!?”

Vlad numbly swallowed. “ It….it burns….someone….make it stop…..I'm sorry….make it stop…”

Sam and Tucker gently tried coaxing Vlad out of the dark corner so they could inspect him. Daniel leaned down worriedly, “ Fruit-Loop? Come on...answer me…?”
Vlad shuttered. “ B-Badger…..the fever…..it's getting….worse…-won't stop….Someone….make it….make it stop…”

Sam went to touch Vlad's sleeve through the water and her eyes widened in horror before she quickly retracted her fingers. Tucker noted the expression and quickly tried the same thing only to quickly retract his hand in disbelief. Turning to Daniel he yelled, “ Pham?!? Cool the room! That waters evaporating off of him!”

Daniel's green eyes flashed blue and he quickly began deep freezing the bathroom. Vlad continued shaking and soon more glass could be heard breaking around the teenagers. Vlad covered his ears and screamed in agony. Green tinted red slowly curled from his nose as he backed up in a panic against the tile.

Hyperventilating he begged, “Someone….please…...it hurts…..I'm sorry…”

Sam went to rush forward only for Daniel to hold her back. “ Go get the taser!”

Nodding she quickly ran out of the room while Daniel stumbled through the pitch black and toward Vlad. Vlad began coughing violently. Daniel ran toward Vlad at the sound and hissed from the unnatural heat radiating off of the adult. “Vlad! Come on! I’ve got you!!! Please…”

Vlad numbly registered the voice but his eyes were turning a dull rust, completely devoid of his spectral energy. Daniel's arms cooled and wrapped around him in an effort to calm him. Vlad gurgled weakly as he was held and continued softly spasming. Feeling Vlad's breathing hitch the teen yelled, “ SAM! HURRY!”

The thud of boots against tile quickly closed the distance. Grabbing the taser from Sam, Daniel flicked the switch and connected it to the small of Vlad's back. Vlad numbly registered the pain from the shock but unable to scream simply went limp in Daniel's grip. As if on cue the lights in the house flashed on.
Vlad's breathing was labored and sporadic against Daniel and his eyes weakly watered as he was held.

Sam and Tucker gaped at the room in horror. In the shower there were splatters of blood and neon green ectoplasm riveted across the walls in frantic grasping motions. Besides those, large claw-like gashes were stamped into the ceramic. Noting Vlad's bloodied hands, Sam ran for the first aid kit. Daniel grimaced and gently hugged Vlad against him in an effort to cool him down. Vlad numbly registered the running water above them and a few tears began dripping down his features. Daniel noticed and comforted, “ You're alright Vlad… Whatever those monsters gave you is going to filter out. I promise. Breathe.”

Vlad choked a faint breath before his eyes rolled back and his neck fell over Daniel's arm. Daniel looked to the shower knob above them and cut it off with his powers. Picking up Vlad and gently laying him down in a spot free of glass or blood, he began trying to tend to his wounds with Sam and Tucker's help. Vlad numbly writhed as the bandages on his neck came loose and Sam growled in anger. Blackish tendrils where lacing through the flesh and bruising the surrounding tissue.

Daniel duplicated and positioned his doppelgängers around Vlad. “ I'm going to burn the wound…”

Tucker grimaced. “ Are we sure that's a good idea?”

Sam looked to Vlad sorrowfully. “ I agree with Danny. The heat will probably purify whatever's in his system. He's obviously trying to fight a paranormal poison with fever but he can't regulate. If Danny torches the one spot Vlad should be able to recover faster.”

Tucker winced and took hold of Vlad's right shoulder blade. “ Okay...Let's get this over with.”

Sam nodded. Daniel took a deep breath and turned Vlad's neck to expose the bite mark. Charging his right hand, the teen squeezed the flesh together. Vlad bucked and tossed slightly. Dull blue eyes shot open once the energy surge connected and the adult choked against the pain. Limbs became rigid and then protested against the contact. Tears slowly leaked and trailed down his pale features as he numbly shook and shivered against the heat burning his flesh. After a few seconds, he began begging in his sleep. “M’sorry...please stop…..please….”

Sam comforted, “ He's almost done. Hold on...I promise….Jesus Christ, Vlad we’re sorry….”

Vlad continued writhing and his chest arched. White light tried condensing around his right wrist and he tried pulling his head away from Daniel. “ M’ sorry….please….please...stop...it -it burns….please…”

“ I know Vlad… God… I'm almost done. I swear! Hang in there!” Bloodied hands clawed into the tile, scratching and sparking. Vlad was sweating profusely and his features had started elapsing between pained states of alertness and hyperized semi-consciousness by the time Daniel completed the burn. Daniel's duplicates faded with a muffled hiss of air. Gasping and choking, Vlad numbly felt a cool hand grasping onto the wound.

Bright red sclera eyes, so commonly seen in Plasmius, flashed spastically from dull blue, to red and then to orange irises despite the ghost taser’s usage.
Quickly washing and wrapping the wounds, Daniel cradled him against himself to further cool his skin. “Shhh….Breathe Vlad….”

Vlad numbly reached for Daniel's sleeve and leaned further in against the teen's cryo-core as he held him. Eyes continued flashing spastically between forms and tearing numbly. Still shaking, he began starting to come to. “ D-Daniel……..What…..happened…..?”

Daniel began rubbing circles against his back in an effort to calm him further, “Whatever bit you poisoned you Vlad…. It’s alright though… You just need to relax.”

Vlad continued shaking. “ B-Badger…?......It still….hurts...Why….-”

Vlad coughed weakly and his eyes sparked white. Sam and Tucker bent down next to him and held onto his hand. Vlad registered the touch and his fingers twitched slightly in their hold. “F-Foley….M-Manson?....That's you two...r-right?”

Vlad swallowed and continued shaking. Sam and Tucker worriedly noted the eye changes and quickly pulled him from Daniel. “ Vlad! Hey… Dude? Can you see anything?”

Vlad fearfully gripped the hand beside him. “ E-everything…..is blurring...It hurts….t-thermal…..night vision…..n-normal…it won't s-stop..”

Daniel's eyes widened at the now more predominant eye changes and he gently cupped a hand to Vlad's jaw. “Vlad? Hey...It's alright. We're going to fix you.”

Vlad continued shaking and dizzily reached for the blurry white and black limb comforting him. “.....B-Badger..?.....I-I...am….kinda…..scared….I-...I can hear….everything….r-right now….without...p-powers….”

Daniel’s face went ashen. “ Vlad? It's going to be alright. Breathe...just breathe.”

Tears started dripping down his cheeks. “......D-Danny…..c-claws….ripped through hands….didn't shift….like with ghost form….t-tore open….human...side…..s-shifts….aren't s-splitting…”

Vlad's eyes began to dull further. Sam saw the lack of color and paled. Reaching over and patting his cheek she ordered, “ Don’t you dare! Stay awake!”

Vlad's eyes weakly gained back some color again and he tried smiling. “....I-I...am not….the best..c-company….Ms.M-Manson….”

Sam gently rubbed his hair. Tucker grabbed his now free hand. “Come on….you're going to be fine Vlad. Don't pull something lousy like going full ghost on us when we're just now growing attached to the sarcasm.”

Vlad choked out a weak laugh and reached for one of the hands keeping his face up so he could breathe easier. “…..D-Did….you know….halfa's...can't g-go….full g-ghost….?”

Daniel's eyebrow furrowed. “Vlad….What are you talking about…?”

Vlad numbly swallowed and his hand began going slack. “ When...y-you're both….you can't s-switch….back to one...We...c-can't…”

Vlad flinched and shivered as Tucker reached over to get some of the hair out of his face. “ Don't talk like this Vlad. You're fine… just confused.”

Vlad swallowed, “ F-Foley….?....S-something's….wrong….V-very….wrong…”

Vlad's eyes numbly locked on Daniel as he was lifted up and hugged against him again. “ Shhhh…Vlad...It’s going to be okay….”

Vlad continued shaking. “ B-Badger…..I-I think….'m d-dying….”

Daniel withdrew Vlad and sharply inhaled at the sight of green ectoplasm dripping from his jaw and nose. Vlad's normally storm blue eyes looked whitewashed and sickly and his skin was becoming a deathly paler.

Daniel immediately laid him down and began cooling him. “ You're going to be okay….I promise...We won't leave you! Just stay awake!”

Vlad numbly choked and tears began dripping down his features again. He tried to smile, “J-Jack...said...t-the….same….t-thing…..B-Badger...”

Sam lifted his head up. “ Vlad…Keep talking while we cool you down! Please?”

Vlad winced as he was lifted up. “I-I’ll….t-try….S-Sam…”

Daniel quickly carried him out of the shower and to the tub. The teen's white boots cracked against the broken mirror on the floor. Vlad weakly gripped his sleeve as he was carried. Several sickeningly wet coughs came from Vlad's throat and crimson dripped lazily down his jaw. Daniel froze at the red splatters and quickly set Vlad down in the tub. Dull caspian eyes stared blankly into ice blue as the water was turned on.

Sam gently reached under his head to support him better while they filled the tub, “Come on Vlad…. You promised to talk.” Sam pleaded.
Vlad rasped, “ S-Sorry….What do….y-you..want t-to...talk h’bout…..?” His voice trembled slightly as his eyes stared into the ceiling.

Sam felt his pulse. “ Danny! His heart is slowing down!”

“ Keep talking to him Sam! Tuck? Quick! Go get ice!!! Every tray in the fridge!”

Sam began patting Vlad's cheek, “ Vlad? You're still here right?”

Vlad choked, “ Y-Yes…”

Daniel's hands reached down and phased his pants off. Vlad grimaced and shuttered against the teen's icy touch.

Daniel began cooling the room more rapidly. “ Vlad? What's your favorite color?”

“...G-green….”

Daniel smiled encouragingly. “Good… What's your middle name Fruit-Loop?”

Vlad started darting out and Sam patted him. “ Come on Vlad. Please.”

Vlad numbly turned in the water and winced. “ ..D-Damian…”

Tucker could be heard stepping over the broken glass with several trays. Vlad swallowed numbly and shook as the ice was poured in. Sam continued, “Your ghost name?”

Vlad coughed and his eyes began rolling back. Daniel shook him slightly. “Vlad! Wake up!”

Crying, Vlad answered, “..Plas...mius-s”

Tucker gently held his hand. “Vlad….hang on man…. Jesus… Just pull through this.”

Seeing Vlad slipping under again, Sam shook him. “ Vlad? What was your little girl's name?”

Vlad began crying slightly harder and he choked, “ A-Annabe-ll.”

Sam patted his head gently as he shook. “ How old was she?”

Vlad started becoming distant and Daniel cursed at the sweat still gathering on Vlad's still paling skin. Putting a cold hand to Vlad's brow he gently jostled him with the other limb. “Come on Fruit-Loop. How old was she?”

Vlad numbly swallowed, “ E-Eleven…”

Tucker quickly questioned, “ Who was your mother?”

Vlad trembled against them and began slipping, “ I-I d-don’t...k-know...S-Sheryl..?”

Sam gently patted his cheek. “Stay awake….Vlad? It's alright. Slow breaths. Easy.”

Vlad choked slightly and his hand numbly twitched in Tucker's hold. Daniel leaned over and began patting his face. “Vlad?” Vlad remained unresponsive so the teen lightly shook him, “Vlad? Can you hear us?!?!”

Vlad's brow weakly furrowed. “ B-Bad-ger?....I-I…....want-t….to go-o…....to s-sleep…….”

Daniel growled and shook him again, “ You listen here you selfish asshole! Stay awake! I'll be damned if I finally consider being your friend only for you to fucking die on me!”

Vlad numbly began crying again. “B-Badg….?....It's b-burning…..”

Daniel felt his head and turned to Tucker, “ Tuck! Thermometer, quick!”

Vlad weakly tried lifting his arm only for Daniel to catch his palm. “ Come on Vlad… You always fuck up and come back swinging! Don't you dare prove me wrong now!”

Vlad weakly gripped the limb. “ B-Badger….I-” Vlad's chest slowed and his hand went limp in Daniel's hold. Blue eyes numbly closed and Sam's fingers shakely reached for his neck. Feeling no pulse, she began shaking Vlad desperately. “DANNY! HE’S NOT BREATHING!”

Grabbing Vlad into his arms, Daniel quickly left Sam and Tucker upstairs while he rushed Vlad to the infirmary.

Chapter Text

Duplicating, he carried Vlad to the nearest gurney and began chest compressions. “Come on!”

His four duplicates began raiding the medical equipment as he worked on Vlad's lungs and heart. Sam and Tucker ran in a few seconds later. Seeing an automated external defibrillator, Sam quickly ran for the device. Tucker ran to Danny. Vlad's lungs weren't being filled adequately and his lips had started turning blue.

Sam growled, “ DANNY, KEEP UP CPR!”

Danny nodded and continued beating Vlad's chest in and out desperately, “ COME ON PLASMIUS! GET YOUR CRAZY ASS BACK HERE!” Reaching down and taking a breath, the teen clamped Vlad's nose and breathed out. Vlad's chest rose slightly and a minuscule amount of color tried returning. Tucker growled, “ Still no pulse!”

Sam quickly flung open the latch on the portable defibrillator. A voice chimed, “Call for help now.” Three small beeps echoed.

Tucker hissed from over his shoulder as he checked for a pulse, “Thanks captain obvious!”

Daniel growled, “ Tuck! Switch out. I need to get him air!”

Tuck nodded and quickly jumped onto the gurney to manually move Vlad's chest.

“ Remove all clothing from the patient's chest.”

Daniel growled between breaths and glanced at Sam from over Vlad, “Fuck! Sam?!?!? We’re losing him!”

Sam ran to the table next to them and placed the machine, “ KEEP PRESSING!”

“Pull red handle to open bag.”

A frantic rip of Velcro could be heard from beside Daniel as he worked.

“ Look at the pictures on pads.”

Sam began looking at the pictures desperately. Looking up she commanded, “Phase his bandages off!”

Sweating, Daniel motioned a duplicate to phase the gauze off while he continued keeping Vlad alive.

“Peel one pad off of blue plastic.”

Sam quickly complied and the voice continued, “ Apply pad to bare skin exactly as shown in the picture.”

Sam's hands grabbed the pad and quickly reached under the right side of Vlad's collarbone to tack it in place.

“ Press pad firmly. Peel other pad off blue plastic.”

Sam hastily grabbed the second pad and ripped off it’s backing.

“Apply pad to bare skin as shown in the picture.”

Finding the spot below Vlad's armpit and slightly above his rib cage, she tacked it on.

“ Evaluating heart rhythm.”

Sam swallowed.

The only sounds were Daniel, Tucker and the machine. After a moment the device released a small electrical hum.

“Stand by. Preparing to shock.”

Sam growled, “ Everyone off!”

Both Tucker and Daniel jumped away from the gurney.

“ Everyone clear. Do not touch the patient.”

There was a buzz from the machine and it spoke again. “ Delivering shock.”

Several muted beeps sounded and then a loud stapler like noise reverberated through the room as Vlad's chest arched from the gurney.

“ Shock delivered. Provide chest compressions and rescue breaths.”

Daniel and Tucker rushed forward again. Checking Vlad's pulse and feeling a faint beat that quickly faded out Daniel growled, “ DAMN IT!”

Beginning chest compressions again he started growling, “ You aren't leaving me alone after you promised to turn over a new leaf! You cocky bastard!”

Sam's eyes began watering. Two minutes passed and the machine began remeasuring Vlad for a pulse. Sensing no vitals it shocked him again. This time however there was a faint gasp and some color crept back into his features.

Tucker's eyes widened and he went to detach the machine only for Sam to stop him. “Wait! We don't know if he has a stable pulse yet!”

Two more minutes passed and they finally got confirmation when the machine chimed, “No shock advised. Continue CPR.”

Running forward, Tucker and Sam began ripping off the pads. Daniel's hand curled up under Vlad's head, “ Fruit-Loop? Do you hear me?”

Vlad's brow hazily furrowed after a few moments and his cloudy blue eyes numbly tried opening. “ D-Daniel?...ugh-”

Reaching over and feeling a strong pulse, Daniel sighed in relief. “ He's got a steady heartbeat and air...I think he's going to be out for a while though…”

Sam nodded and worriedly rubbed some of Vlad's hair out of his face. Walking to the medical cabinet and spying a blanket, she quickly grabbed it and brought it over to Vlad. Covering his legs, she passed a pillow to Daniel. Gently lifting Vlad's head and tucking the fabric under the adult, Daniel tiredly collapsed on the floor and hugged his knees against his head.

“ We almost lost him…”

Sam grimaced and looked up to Vlad's warn out features. “ God….what did they give him?”

Tucker swallowed, “ Whatever it was? It just almost offed him…. Guys? If he was alone he wouldn't have made it…”

Daniel tiredly rubbed his brow and dissipated the fading duplicates around them. Standing up, he worriedly rechecked Vlad's pulse, and seeing it was still strong he smiled slightly. “ You're tough, Fruit-Loop….” Grabbing his hand, he squeezed reassuringly. “I told you, you wouldn't die.”

Sam nodded and smiled tiredly. “ I think it's best we keep him down here until we know he isn't going to flatline again.”

Tucker nodded in agreement and noting the shallow breathing added, “ I think he needs more air… we probably should find a breathing mask or something?”

Daniel groaned, “ Tuck? I have no clue how to use one of those things. I don't want to risk him suffocating by accident.”

Sam nodded. “ I hate to say it, but Danny's right. We don't know the proper amount or how to hook up a mask.”

Seeing the blood drying on Vlad's jaw, Daniel grabbed an alcohol pad and began cleaning him off.

Vlad dimly registered the touch and weakly squeezed one of the hands holding his. Sam smiled comfortingly at the half-conscious eyes peeking through heavy lids. “ Vlad?”

Vlad numbly gripped her hand to show he heard her. Daniel gently put a hand to Vlad's head and, still feeling a fever, sighed. Looking into Vlad's eyes, he reprimanded. “ Thanks for giving us a heart attack.”

Vlad weakly tried smiling only to cough and become slightly dizzy. Seeing Vlad conking out again, Daniel gently adjusted the blankets and pillows around him to keep him in the medical gurney. He was going to turn away from the bed for a chair, only for Vlad's wrist to weakly grasp onto his sleeve. Glancing back at the adult and seeing his almost pleading features through the daze, Daniel smiled comfortingly. Grabbing the bloodied wrist he winced and promised, “ I'm not leaving Vlad. I'm just pulling a chair over here.”

Vlad nodded his head slightly and with a small thud, fell back against the gurney unconscious. Tucker gently checked his pulse. “ We’re good. He just passed out from everything that's happened today.”

Daniel nodded and glancing at Vlad's fingernails, he winced. “ Sam? Can you bandage his fingers? He wasn't joking about claws coming out, the nail beds are ripped open from underneath.”

Sam grimaced and nodded before starting work on Vlad's hands.

Chapter Text

Daniel pulled up a few chairs for the trio and, noticing Tucker's eyes wandering over Vlad's chest, he walked over.

“ Tuck? What's up?”

Tucker swallowed slightly. “Hey...Danny? Why did your folks never visit him?”

Daniel paused at the question. “I don't know….People grow apart in college?”

Tucker flinched like he was slapped. “ Danny? Man…..They never told you why?”

Daniel awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck and averted his gaze. Sitting down with his hands in his lap he tiredly stared into the floor. “ Tuck? They just said they hadn’t seen him since college. That's it. Dad never elaborated and mom shimmied away from the proto portal incident.”

Sam gently squeezed the hand she was bandaging. “ Danny? Don't you think there was something wrong with that? Maybe just a little?”

Daniel grimaced and looked down at Vlad's feverish and unconscious form remorsefully. “ It's not like I can change the past….Guys? Everything happens for a reason… Maybe this is just how we were supposed to be?”

Tucker growled, “ What was that? Clockwork’s words of wisdom?”

Daniel's head shot up. “ So what if it is? That ghost has saved my bacon more times than I can possibly count!”

Tucker gripped the side of the gurney angrily. “ I don't trust Clockwork. Daniel…..Jesus…. Can't you see how wrong it was? Did your folks seriously leave Vlad like that?”

Daniel flinched. “ So what if they did? He wasn't exactly hero material, to begin with! You should see the stupid shit, Clo-”

Daniel felt the name die in his throat. ‘ Clockwork…. Clockwork has always been the one to show me… And if he hates Vlad….’ Daniel swallowed his nausea.
“ Why are you two so interested in Vlad? His past shouldn't account for much considering.”

Tucker looked murderous and Sam flinched. Glancing at Vlad, Tucker made up his mind and decided to reveal what they had learned early.

“ Danny? Did you get to asking him what happened yet?….. After the portal?” Tucker whispered.

Daniel froze and Tucker, seeing his opportunity, stomped over and grabbed his wrist. “Fun fact Danny? Your villain?”

Tucker whipped off a segment of the medical blanket, “ He's got a pretty damned good reason to be afraid of hospitals.”

Daniel's eyes searched for a moment and then widened in horror at the almost hidden y shaped scars extending from Vlad's collarbone and down his chest cavity.

Daniel's jaw went slack and his hands went limp by his side. “ N-No...Fruit-Loop…..”

Tucker snarled, “ You tell me, Danny? What type of selfish fucker leaves someone to get ripped apart for five years? And let's add in everything else we learned, hmm? Vlad's suicidal, can't sleep, and has severe self-hatred. Do you want to know what those symptoms add up to? PTSD, Danny. Your villain is so fucking traumatized he can't even look at himself without hating his own existence. Isn't that just peachy?”

Daniel's hand shakily reached up to the gurney and he brought his finger along the line. Vlad began shaking in his sleep and Daniel's eyes widened in horror before he recoiled the limb.

Running a hand through his hair he turned to Tucker. “Someone….Someone dissected him?”

Tucker snorted. “ Take another look, Pham! You think they stopped playing operation on him after the one time?”

Daniel leaned over and began looking at the lines. To his horror, multiple thin incisions beside the more pronounced medical cut could be seen, obviously older. Daniel choked at the sight. “Oh….oh god…. Vlad…..”

Sam flinched and gently squeezed Vlad's now bandaged hand in comfort.

Vlad groaned slightly as a set of ice cold hands began looking over the scars. Daniel's fingers stopped once they reached his more recent injuries.

“ My dad…. he would never knowingly leave Vlad to this…. Guys? He loves Vlad….”

Tucker flinched, “ Then how did Vlad become someone's experiment, Danny? Wouldn't they have noticed something? Anything?”

Daniel swallowed the lump in his throat. “ My dad thinks the world of Vlad… He talks about him constantly...Tuck….”

Tucker tiredly took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Raising a hand to silence him he pointed to Vlad, “ Your dad knowingly became a ghost hunter with your mom Pham! Do you know how fucking twisted that scenario becomes after that? He's best friends became bloodthirsty hunters centered on ripping him apart molecule by molecule!”

Still ranting Tucker continued, “What's the likelihood Vlad had anyone besides some crazy fuck with a scalpel tearing into him like he was some sort of deceased lab rat? How do you think that shaped him, hmmm?”

Danny looked to Vlad remorsefully. Tucker looked like he was going to say something else only for Sam to stop him. Motioning toward Vlad she sighed, “ Guys…. that's enough. He doesn't need to be woken up to us arguing or ranting about him…”

Tucker sighed and tiredly threw his beanie off of his head. Turning to Danny he questioned. “ Dan? Can I spot you a twenty for some energy drinks?”

Daniel nodded and duplicated. Turning to his duplicate, he motioned to Tucker. “ Go ahead. I doubt anyone's going to sleep after this.”

Sam reached over and gently patted Vlad's wrist. Vlad shifted slightly in his sleep and she reached up to feel his fever. “ He's still pretty high up there….”

Daniel nodded and walked over to Vlad's side in order to help cool him. “ I think they tried killing him outright yesterday because he stopped willingly taking his secretary's meds.”

Sam grimaced. “ That definitely makes sense…”

Tucker tiredly slouched into a chair next to Vlad. “ That blonde skank is up to something…”

Daniel nodded, “ No doubt.”

Vlad grimaced in his sleep and Daniel worriedly rubbed his cheek. “ I have to pick up clothes from my house with Jaz in a few hours… I don't want to leave him alone though and I'm not skilled enough to keep duplicates up over such a large distance without them fading or disappearing when I get distracted.”

Tucker tiredly smiled, “ Pham? My folks split on a trip late last night. I can stay here as long as you guys need.”

Sam sighed and hissed, “ I wish I could say the same but my mom will be barging into my bedroom in half an hour for her morning wake up ritual.”

Daniel nodded. “ Can I duplicate and fly you home? After you get a change of clothing you can get a ride back from Maurice, right?”

Sam smirked. “ That's doable.”

Tucker jumped slightly as Daniel's duplicate flew in with the drinks. Passing a Red Bull to Tucker and two coffees to Sam and Danny it dissipated. Tucker's change clanked to the floor as the last tendrils of mist faded into oblivion.

Reaching down, Tucker began picking up the eight dollars and fifteen cents left. Once everything was up, he tiredly jammed the money into his pants. Popping his energy drink, the teen readjusted his glasses so they wouldn't slip off of his nose and took a large swig of the beverage.

Sam took a sip of her coffee and glanced toward Vlad tiredly. “ What are we going to do once he wakes up?”

Daniel snorted and rolled his eyes. “ Babysitting.”

Sam smiled slightly. “ I'm sure Plasmius will just love that word usage.”

Daniel shrugged. “ To quote him, neither of us are having fun with this scenario .”

Tucker nodded. “ In a few hours, we're going to have to try and get him to eat something. He was vomiting last night and I pretty sure he didn't eat any dinner.”

Sam frowned. “ I forgot about that....”

Daniel tiredly rubbed his eyes and took another sip of coffee. “ We’ll figure out what to do when we get to that point.”

Sighing he growled and leaned against his seat. “I'm almost worried enough to cave and go looking for a doctor or something but then what? Vlad's not human...Heck? I'm not human anymore. Take one blood test they'll know something's amiss. They would probably chalk his illness to blood poisoning and try curing him… if they didn't decide to start experimenting on him.”

Sam swallowed. “ I guess this room kind of makes sense…. He doesn't have a place to go other than his home…”

Tucker nodded, “ Let's be thankful for that… If this room wasn't here he’d be dead in our arms right now.”

Daniel's coffee slushed slightly against the brim as he twirled his cup in his hand. “Should I get Jaz to watch him? I mean… she's pretty level headed most of the time and as long as she doesn't go berserk in his library or the vault…”

“ No...no, absolutely not! Dan? Jaz is great but she'll call an ambulance if she sees how bad he is right now!” Tucker argued. Swinging a hand toward Vlad he motioned, “ The guy is wrecked. Jaz being added into the mix just spells disaster! Pham? Remember the thermos? Hmm?”

Daniel winced. “ Yeah… you have a point…”

Taking another sip of coffee Daniel kneaded his temple with his free hand and silently pondered how they would keep him safe.

Sam rolled her eyes, “ Danny? Tuck can hold the fort with you for thirty minutes while I sneak to and from my place. Once I'm here again you can ring up Jaz. Tell her to pick you up at the edge of the drive.”

Daniel smiled. “ Sounds like a plan.”

Chapter Text

A bright light woke Vlad up from an unrestful sleep. Dizzy and lightheaded, he tried pushing up from where he was laying only to feel someone pushing him back. Squinting through the light he began gathering his bearings.

Tucker was gently holding him back against the cot. “ Vlad? You alright?”

Vlad blinked a few times. “ugh….. Foley?... My chest….feels like someone danced on it…”

Tucker grinned. “ Well, at least your humor is intact. God, knows I'd miss it if it just disappeared.”

Vlad chuckled weakly. Glancing around he looked to the teen and questioned, “Where are Beetlejuice and Lydia Deetz?”

Tucker snorted, “ Daniel's up at Fenton Works and Sam's upstairs cooking breakfast.”

Vlad weakly smiled and numbly tried sitting up again only to gasp in pain.

“ Woah! Vlad? Dude, you flatlined last night. Just stay in here.” Tucker gently looped an arm under the adult and laid him back down. Vlad grimaced and winced at the contact.

Swallowing, he questioned, “ I flatlined?”

Tucker’s brow furrowed. “ Yes. You flatlined. We had to zap you back to the land of the living so I recommend you stay in one place…”

Vlad sighed. “ Sorry… I don't know what happened exactly. I thought I passed out from the poisoning?”

Sam came into the door with a tray. “ I wish. You were almost a few daisies shy of a headstone, Plasmius. My advice? Fire that secretary, pronto .”

Vlad nodded and blearily smiled, “Good morning Ms.Manson...I'd get up to greet you...but, well...you know…”

Sam smiled brightly. “ How are you feeling?”

Vlad quirked an eyebrow, “ I feel-” He paused to think about it. “...like I just had my tush handed to me by Agatha.”

Sam quirked an eyebrow. “ Who?”

Vlad snickered. “ Oh...that's right. You don't go by their actual names, just their aliases. Gosh….what was her alias again?”

Vlad tiredly rubbed his chin. “Luncheon? Box Lunch? Lunch something…”

Tucker gaped, “ The Lunch Lady?”

Vlad smirked slightly. “ That's the one. A really chatty German grandmother with anger issues right?”

Sam grinned. “ The Lunch Lady is named Agatha?”

Vlad nodded from his spot in the cot. “ Yep. Death by heart attack. Pretty tragic, hmm? One of my old friends from Wisconsin has a schoolboy crush on her. Whether he'll ask her out or not is anyone's guess though..”

Sam raised an eyebrow, “ The one with the crush wouldn't be the Box Ghost right?”

Vlad snorted, “ Ew...Lawrence? Ha. That ghoul absolutely loathes Agatha!”

Tucker gaped, “ You're kidding right?”

Vlad smiled weakly. “ They're bitter rivals… Well, sort of. I guess the more accurate term would be angsty neighbors. Me and Skulker betting on who would get stuffed in a box and shipped to Bardo was one of the highlights of 2008.”

“ Bardo?” Tucker questioned.

Vlad sighed and stared into the ceiling tiredly. “ Please tell me you three haven't been poking into the zone without respecting the territories ?”

Tucker paused. “ Wait! There are territories?”

Vlad groaned. "What the actual sugar coated-?…. That boy is so dense…” Vlad tiredly rubbed his brow.

Sam sat the tray down and questioned, “ So there are territories in the zone? What does that mean?”

Vlad smiled slightly and closed his eyes to ponder the thought. Opening them he looked toward Sam and Tucker. “The territories are the different cultures and beliefs in what the afterlife entails. Gardens? Roman gods? Buddhist havens? Native American tribal areas? Usually, an entire segment or culture that coincides with the living world is shaped under one banner or territory. Bardo is a segment of the zone that coincides with Tibet. Currently, America’s segment is plastered between Niflhel, a section of Nordic and Medieval areas in the zone, and Bardo. It goes by Oz-.”

Tucker interrupted, “ Woah! Woah? Hold up! Oz? Like ruby slippers and yellow brick roads?”

Vlad snorted, “ It's just a nickname for the territory. Some ghoul from the 1930’s saw the green ectoplasm morphing and spinning and coined it after the children's book. America’s fairly new when it comes to myths on the afterlife and the culture is a modge podge of everything so it's place in the zone marks a paranormal highway between other territories.”

Vlad tiredly smirked, “ I always preferred the Southern Plain . Most ghosts use that name, but more and more seem to favor the whimsy and mystery of Oz nowadays.”

Tucker grinned. “ Over the portal, huh?”

Vlad snickered, “ Try, over the carnivorous canyon poltergeist. Trust me, waaayyyy more interesting.”

Sam paused, “ Wait… the carnivorous canyon? That ghost ravine with teeth?”

Vlad sighed, “ It's not an actual ghost. It's a poltergeist created by an old codger who wanted a divider between territories that was easily seen. Nothing says stay out of my domicile like a giant ghoul-eating piece of rock with an overbite. Technically, it's actually an artifact though….Granted, a HUGE artifact.”

Tucker and Sam smiled broadly. Tucker spoke curiously, “And what are artifacts?”

Vlad paused. “ Eh…” Rubbing the back of his neck he strained to sit up. “I can show you two if you can help me over to the vault?”

Sam and Tucker exchanged a look with one another and Vlad sighed. “ I take it you saw that repulsive Asian Chuckie?”

Both kids nodded and Vlad smiled. “ Not something you'd want to play with, huh?”

Both quickly nodded in agreement and Vlad smiled gently, “ You don't have to fear it. It's pretty docile when it's imprisoned like that. However, it can be absolutely horrifying when it has free reign. Edmond and I had to track it down in a mansion up in Wales. Blasted thing kept possessing different toys by using noise as displacement zones for attachment. Take one step or one breath and that little murderous doll would fly up behind you with a butcher knife…”

Sam and Tucker gulped, “ You mean you had to catch it!?!?”

Vlad snorted and motioned toward the lab wall tiredly, “ Obviously. It didn't get there itself did it?”

Vlad paused and smiled reassuringly. “ I promise you two will be safe. I just need help in there to grab two or three examples so I can explain correctly.”

Sam bit her lip in frustration and Tucker glanced at the door. Turning to him they caved, “Fine. We will help you up and over to the vault.”

Vlad smiled gently and made a move to get to the edge of the bed. Noting the pajama pants on him he raised an eyebrow. “ How did I get in these?”

Sam smiled apologetically. “Danny popped in before he left. Him and Tuck rewrapped and clothed you while I stopped by my place.”

Vlad smiled apologetically, “ Sorry for that.”

Tucker shrugged, “ It's no biggie. Besides? You had to try and move eventually. That and you don't seem the type to want so much skin showing.”

Vlad noted Sam more fully and bowed his head, “ Miss Manson? I'm sorry I-”

Sam rolled her eyes. “ You were dying. Forget about it… I didn't even pay attention to your attire this morning.”

Vlad sighed slightly and winced. “I guess you have a point...I truly am sorry though. Usually, I'm not this bad off.”

Tucker snorted and reached an arm under Vlad's shoulder. “ Come on Plasmius. After you explain this artifact stuff we are dragging you back in here for your breakfast.”

Vlad smiled slightly and with Tucker's support began walking out of the infirmary. Making their way into the lab, Vlad numbly flicked on a light switch. The dark and foreboding space immediately lit up in hues of silver and blue chrome. Tucker whistled, “ You know? Lighting works wonders on a place. You just TLC’d a gothic torture chamber into a Meet the Robinsons’ garage.”

Vlad chuckled. “ Foley? My advice? Start stand up comedy. You're really quick with your words.”

Tucker mocked gratitude, “ Thank you, thank you. Hold the applause.”

Sam elbowed him.

“ Ouch!”

Rolling her eyes she added, “Yes, a real riot.”

Vlad smiled as they came upon the door. “ It looks like Travis sealed the vault.” Sighing he glanced toward the teens, “Okay...ground rules.”

Vlad put a hand to the vault door. “ One? Don't touch anything. It's all fun and games until you get blasted into a video game console or turned into a pigeon."

Sam and Tucker went wide-eyed. “ Two? Under no circumstances are you to look at that doll. She feeds on fear and can try breaking the glass if you allow your emotions to consume you.”

Vlad lifted his right hand and a rune-like symbol appeared on the flesh. Wincing and dizzy, he pressed the limb into the sealed door. The metal briefly flashed white as snake-like vines of energy slunk into the wall. Steel combed against steel in firecrackery golden sparks as the symbol from Vlad's palm imprinted on the vault door. With a crack, the entrance slung open. Small white orbs hovered from the now open door and lit up the room in swarms of firefly-like clouds.

Vlad groaned and leaned in against Tucker dizzily, “ Damn….my seal? It's toast.”

Sam and Tucker looked from Vladimir to the now open room in amazement.

“ What was that?!?!” Tucker gaped.

Vlad smiled. “ That was a barrier artifact that only opens when my mark or blood seal touches it. Ed, Romulus and I are the only ones that can access this room unless I gain a new appointee.”

Chapter Text

Sam paused and motioned for Vlad's hand, “ This glowing rune thingy is your mark, right? What is it?”

Vlad sighed, “ A brand that shows I'm a target board for demonics? A condensed circlet of soul-based energy? A healer’s mark? Purification symbol?...Take your pick. Currently, you're looking at the only one in existence as of right now. You have to meet power and age requirements to get one.”

Sam inspected the dimly glowing white mark curiously. “ How did it get put on you?”

Vlad smiled slightly and tried straightening himself against Tucker. “ I met the requirements for an embassary, so the blasted thing formed from my flesh and tacked itself into my palm. I’m kind of fuzzy on the details. I was bleeding a lot…”

Sam and Tucker both winced. Vlad tried smiling apologetically. “ It was a long time ago and I'm pretty injury oriented. Don't pay it too much merit. At least my mark serves a purpose besides reminding me of what a royal klutz I am.”

Sam smiled slightly. “ So Danny is supposed to become an embassary, huh?”

Vlad sighed tiredly, “ Yes… he is…”

Vlad leaned in against the doorframe and stared into his right palm wonderingly. “ But I don't think he's ready yet…. What I do? What Clockwork wants him doing? It's dangerous.”

Tucker nodded, “ Like that demon chic?”

Vlad nodded, “ Yes, like her… and I hate to say she's one of the weaker demonics out there. Daniel almost got eaten because he didn't pay attention to how dangerous the zone is…. People die in there. I've had to bring corpses back several times...Well, what's left of them.”

Sam and Tucker exchanged horrified looks with one another.

Vlad rubbed his eyes, “ I wanted Daniel to be able to choose his life… I still want that for him. But he's still growing with his powers, which means he's probably going to get branded as well.”

Vlad sighed and retracted his hand from his face. “ And of course, I can't just come out with all of this mess without fostering this truce further... and with Clockwork’s stupidity…” Vlad sighed tiredly. “ I have my work cut out for me.”

Tucker gently squeezed his shoulder. “You really wanted Daniel to have that chance, huh?”

Vlad smiled sadly, “ Pathetic right? But then what was I supposed to do? Daniel's parents are ghost hunters. What if they-” Vlad cringed and looked away from the teenagers. “They love Daniel, but Phantom? If they accidentally catch Phantom and decide to play operation the boy's ghost adrenaline will kick in. He'll be stuck in Phantom form until the body reverts from blood loss…”

Sam winced. “ Ghosts have adrenaline?”

Vlad smiled politely. “ Well no… But Daniel and I do. Our bodies adapted to avoid death… and the best way to avoid death? Turning intangible or shielding. Both easier done in ghost form. In layman's terms, our chemical compounds and ectoplasm can forcefully lock the shift if we are in life-threatening situations as an act of preservation.”

Tucker winced. “ Dude… That fucking sucks.”

Vlad sighed, “ LanguageTucker, Language.

Tucker grinned, “ Look at that...Plasmius is dropping formalities.”

Vlad smirked, “ Don't get to use to it Foley.”

Sam paused and glanced into the doorway. Looking back to Vlad, she questioned worriedly, “ Why are you showing and explaining all of this to us?”

Vlad snorted, “ Would you rather I let you three in the zone without properly knowing what's in there? Artifacts are dangerous forms of ectoplasmic binding with inanimate objects and human beliefs. A harmless toy can kill or maim. A watch can trap you in a maze somewhere in the zone as a prisoner. A sword can chase you down to run you through. Things happen. I'd rather you speak from my experiences than your own.”

Sam and Tucker gaped. “ You mean there is just random possessed crap floating around there and waiting for a worthy victim?”

Vlad smiled, “ Exactly.”

Turning into the doorway, he somewhat dizzily motioned the two teens in. “ I tried getting Walker to scare Daniel out of the zone a couple of times but that boy just loves poking his nose over boundaries.”

Sam paused, “ You mean Walker was trying to keep Daniel out of the zone? I thought he wanted to arrest him for like a one-thousand-year sentence or something?”

Vlad glanced back at Sam and rolled his eyes. “ He's always been one for theatrics. Nothing says consequences like imprisonment. Pfff.”

Tucker argued, “ But Vlad? Why threaten Danny with jail time?”

Vlad paused. “ Honestly? I don't know what Walker’s motives were. He lives by a ‘ law is upheld through law mentality’. If I had to guess he figured Daniel, like any fourteen-year-old boy, would be terrified by the thought of getting stuck in ghost prison for a couple of centuries.”

Sam laughed. “ So he was bluffing?”

Vlad snorted. “ I’d like to think he was offering a paranormal time out. Beggars can't be choosers and Daniel had already proven my word meaningless. What better way to keep him on his toes, if not by making him look over his shoulder constantly for Walker and his goons?”

Tucker nodded. “ So you were hiring Walker out as a paranormal deterrent to keep Pham away from the zone….”

Vlad smiled slightly as he looked through one of the shelves. “ To put this in a slightly more understandable position? Many demonics in the zone get their kicks by torturing humans and ghosts. They weaken their life forces to feed off of them. Daniel and I are like meal combos. I didn't want that boy or you two snatched and eaten because you threw caution to the wind.”

Sam nodded and then abruptly looked back up to Vlad. “Oh….That's why-…” Her eyes trailed down some of the large bite wounds and impalement marks adorning segments of Vlad's unwrapped torso.

Vlad paused and looked up to her slightly concerned, “ That's why what?”

Sam winced. “ Your scars… Those are from the zone aren't they?”

Vlad paused and motioned the two teens forward. Leaning against a barrel full of weapons, he tiredly sighed. “Ms.Manson? Mr.Foley? Humans and Demons are brethren on more than one account. Demons are born from humans. My...appearance- These marks?” He motioned to a few scarred over lines peeking out from under the gauze wrapping his chest. “ I would love to say that monsters dwell exclusively in the zone but if I did I would be lying. People can be cruel and dangerous. It doesn't matter if you're a human or ghost, if they don't like you they can do horrendous things to justify or gain something of value.”

Tucker winced. “ So everything really does try killing you constantly?”

Vlad went silent for a moment and looking up he laughed nervously. “ Lucky halfa bastard remember?”

Tucker and Sam grimaced and Vlad rubbed his arm apologetically. “Samantha? Come here for a moment. You to Mr.Foley.”

Sam nervously shuffled in front of Vlad and he smiled gently. “I'm certain you have heard of this item after that whole Pariah incident. This is the skeleton key.”

Plopping a small gray key wrapped in canvas into Sam's hand he motioned for her to inspect it. “ It's an artifact that creates tunnels and openings in time-space.

It's rather weak though because the majority of its energy is based off of how much life energy is channeled into it. It's a parasitic.”

Sam nearly dropped it and Vlad chuckled. “ No worries Ms.Manson. It doesn't feed on humans or even ghosts. The skeleton key only works with embassary’s.”

Taking a breath Vlad reached for the key. As soon as his finger connected with the metal his entire body shuttered and the key grew a bright neon green. Red gems glistened and swirled. Vlad groaned and slumped forward slightly only for Tucker to pull him away. Vlad dizzily looked up at the teen and mumbled an apology, “ S-sorry….it hasn't fed…..in a while….I forgot it...was hungry.”

Sam looked to the key in disgust. “ It feeds off of you?!?!?”

Vlad nodded. “ An artifact….that is made and... centered in a single form of energy. Walker calls them SP’s ….or singular plasmas.”

Tucker looked at the key in horror. “ Dude…. You just got slurped by Pariah Dark’s coffin key.”

Sam flinched and looked to Vlad questiongly. “ Wait…. Vlad? You said the key could only work with embassary's. Skulker told us seven ancients sealed pariah.”

Vlad sighed, “ I guess a history lesson is unavoidable. Those seven ancients were appointees. Embassary assistants. The marks we govern to our assistants connect them with us. They sealed Pariah by using the energy that created their marks to activate the key. But as you just saw….using the skeleton key… even touching it, comes at a heavy price.”

Sam gulped. Tucker winced.

“ What happened to the seven ancients?”

Vlad sighed. “ They faded. The seals used to condemn Pariah were connected to their cores. The moment the key locked Pariah in forever sleep was the moment they all shattered into oblivion.”

Vlad paused. “ Well… all except for one. He lived because the embassary prior sacrificed their own life force to save him, making him a partial embassary.”

Tucker and Sam winced. “ So the key commits genocide….”

Vlad winced. “ When you put it that way? Yes.”

Tucker looked at the key with revulsion. “ Vlad? Who was the other appointee? The one that lived?”

Vlad sighed, “ Clockwork.”

Sam and Tucker went deathly silent and Vlad continued. “ He's also the ghoul who manifested Behemoth to guard the key after he found out about Daniel and I. Having seen everything to do with embassarys and the appointees slaughtered, he holds evident malice for the key and its usage. I, sadly, had no choice in its use. The crown of fire and the ring of rage were needed as a counterbalance to another pressing problem in the zone. But as you saw, it weakens the user.”

Vlad tiredly slouched against a segment of the vault. Rubbing his eyes and staring at the key he summarized, “The key nearly kills a full embassary when used to open or seal doorways. Pariah got loose easily because he had the crown feeding his spectral form despite his imprisonment and because I was sucked dry.”

Tucker growled. “ You mean the key tries killing the user?”

Vlad nodded. “ Every single time. I've kept it in here to prevent anyone from trying to wake Pariah again.”

Sam glowered at the metal and the red stones in the skull seemed to smile wickedly. Revolted, she asked, “ Can I put this back on the shelf?”

Vlad nodded. “Yeah.. go ahead.” Pausing, he turned toward Tucker and weakly smiled. “Mr.Foley… Would you help me up? This next artifact is far more friendly than what you both just saw and I think you and Ms.Manson will find it rather intriguing.”

Tucker nodded and gently helped Vlad back up to his feet. Turning from the children, Vlad kneeled down and gently picked up a long, red velvet adorned parcel.

Smiling, he stood and motioned the two teens to follow him out of the vault and into the lab.

Chapter Text

Sam and Tucker eyed the parcel warily. Sam questioned,“ Vlad? What is that?”

Vlad smiled gently, “ I figured you two would like to meet Vivian.”

Tucker stiffened, “ Wait… A woman? Where?”

Vlad chuckled lightly and looked down to the item in his hands. “ You two need to stand back a little. She'll probably create a pensive pool to form around.”

Seeing them standing back, Vlad bowed his head and connected the end of the fabric against the metal flooring with a dull thud. Twisting the parcel, they watched in disbelief as the fabric curled and burned from around a glowing silver blade cradled in immaterial wisps of light. Vlad lowered his head respectfully and began speaking in a foreign and inhuman tongue. After a moment, the sword let out a ripple of energy and a pool of green ectoplasmic energy surrounded the floor. Fluctuating from neon green to a crystal blue, the pool reflected Vlad staring into its depths, and behind him a woman in medieval garb.

Vlad switched to English, “Excalibur’s herald, the Lady of the Lake.”

The woman reached her hand from the reflection and smiled. “ You have brought children to visit me?”

Vlad smiled tiredly. “ I do believe the young man and woman giving us company hardly count as children.”

The figure smiled and with a flash of light, she was in the room kneeling across from Vlad. She stopped abruptly and her brow furrowed. “ Embassary? Is something ailing you?”

Vlad bowed his head slightly more, “ Nothing dear fairie… Just fatigue.”

Sam gaped and squealed in delight and Tucker turned to Vlad in shock. “ You mean you had Excalibur lying around in your basement?!?!”

Vlad chuckled lightly. Vivian raised a silver brow and her blue robes swirled slightly, “ Is he talking about our arrangement good, sir?”

Vlad smiled, “ I was explaining artifacts to them. They are unfamiliar with the dangers present in this world and yours.”

Vivian bent down and curled a hand under Vlad's chin. “ You haven't touched the scabbard in a great many moons dear knight. Why? I've grown worried.”

Vlad flinched slightly and kept his gaze averted. “ I've just been busy with my duties.”

Vivian's eyebrows weaved worriedly. “ Embassary? Look at me… please?”

Vlad refused and instead spoke to the teenagers. “ Ms. Manson? Mr.Foley? This is an artifact poltergeist that has gained its own soul from continued human belief. She's a water spirit or fairie tempered into a spectral blade. She resides in my home as a form of protection to ensure no one uses her for ill gain.”

Vivian sighed exasperatedly and turned toward the teenagers. “ It's a pleasure to make you acquaintances Sire Foley and Lady Manson.”

Sam bowed and seeing Tucker gaping, kicked him in the shin. Tucker quickly bowed his head as well. “ I-It’s a pleasure to meet you, fair lady!” The teen squeaked.

Vlad snickered. Vivian bowed in return and smiled cordially toward Tucker and Sam. Speaking up, she questioned, “Vladimir? May I show them fate’s tide?”

Vlad stiffened and looked up slightly to meet Sam and Tucker's gazes. “As long as you explain to them what your premonitions are and why you seek shelter here I see no fault in them.”

Sam and Tucker gaped.

Vivian smiled warmly and motioned toward Sam. “ Come child. I wish to tell you your future. A possibility, a shadow set by preexisting circumstance and past action. Whether you are able to follow this path or avoid it is entirely up to you. No fate is set in stone.”

Sam swallowed. “ You're an oracle?”

The faerie smiled lovingly. “ Yes, dear one. I see things as they progress. I note the tide, the brambles, and stones obscuring it. Before I was used for bloodshed. A weapon. My use, however, was only ever meant for the protection of others. I'm a spirit formed from a want to protect innocence and lovers from death.”

Sam nodded and looked from Vlad to Tucker before stepping into the pool of water.

Chapter Text

As soon as her feet connected, small ghostly purple fish began swimming around them. Vivian’s eyes sparked lilac.

“ A knot in wood creeps on nimble feet…. Words of comfort and words of strife…. Change the fate by choosing life. Take heed child, time draws near. If you see the blade of darkness, do not fear. Pursue, gather, find, and amend. Your heart of gold may save thine friend.”

Sam's purple eyes widened and she choked, “ What do you mean?”

Vivian’s eyes flashed to their normal ice blue and she bowed in apology. “ You apparently have an opportunity in the near future to save someone precious. Don't allow fear to dictate your choices.”

Sam nodded gruffly and then smiled weakly. “ Thank you.”

Vivian gently pulled her back over to the metal floor and motioned for Tucker. Tucker glanced at her hand apprehensively and, looking toward Sam, he swallowed and stepped onto the pool. The fish turned orange and swirled rhythmically above him. Vivian smiled gently and her eyes grew to mimic the color.

“ Dire straits lie ahead at the bend. A long-awaited truth will be gained at heavy cost. When the time is right, confront your friend or more than one innocence will be lost. Things are not as they appear...Poisons, enemies and tainted dreams will give you clues. Find the hunter and the sword, dispel the ruse.”

Tucker shivered. “ Pretty dark forecasts for such a pretty lady…”

Vivian’s eyes darted toward Vlad worriedly. “ Vladimir? This child speaks truth. Why do both their fates stem toward calamity?”

Vlad averted his gaze. “ I do not know Vivian. I was assuredly not expecting such premonitions either.”

Vivian bent down beside him. “Vladimir? Let me see your eyes...I know you have never asked for fate, you've avoided it… but this time I think you need to-”

Vlad pulled away slightly, “ I'm fine dear lady. Please forgive me of my rudeness at this time.”

Vivian’s eyes narrowed and she stiffened abruptly. “ Damian Masters? What is happening to your vessel?”

Vlad stiffened and looked up out of reflex. Caspian blue eyes sparked silver and locked with ice blue. Vivian's eyes widened. Vlad tried looking away but she quickly secured his hands to his sides. Water rippled from the floor and forced him into a sitting position. Vlad's embassary's marked palm shot up against the current to try and free himself from her hold only for the spirit to clasp onto the limb. Her eyes widened in horror. “Embassary?!?! Look at me this instant!”

Vlad numbly averted his gaze. Growling, the spirit turned toward the teens. “ If you two value his life you'll come here immediately and hold him still! His mark is fading!”

Vlad growled, “ Let go, Vivian! Please!”

“ Silence, you foolish demon slayer!”

Sam slipped across the wet floor with Tucker in pursuit. Vivian turned to them. “ Hold him down! I need eye contact to get the reading.”

Vlad numbly writhed. Vivian glowered. “ I do this for your life exorcist. Please forgive me.”

And with that, her hand clipped into his stomach. Vlad doubled over and numbly moaned against his restraints. Tucker and Sam looked to the spirit in horror. “What are you doing to him?!?”

“ I'm trying to save him. I saw a glimpse of it… I need to see the rest. If you wish him dead I implore you to seal me now. If you wish him life then I beseech you to please help me drag him into the pool! The streams are interweaving and if he isn't prepared his future will end.”

Tucker growled in aggravation before grabbing onto Vlad and dragging him off of the floor and toward the pool. Vivian pinned him onto the mirror-like surface as soon as his flesh met the water. Groaning, he numbly tried loosening his restraints only for a slender hand to pull his face upward.

Vlad’s blue eyes definitely locked with Vivian's and she began speaking in the same latinesque language Vlad had used prior. Vlad protested and argued back while fighting against his bindings and Vivian's hold. She growled before saying some more illegible gibberish in the same ghoulish tongue. Switching to English, she used the water to bind him to the floor. “ This is for your own good! Be still!”

“ Vivian! Release me this instant!”

Growling, she cupped a hand across his mouth to stifle him. “ No. I will not. You let it go that far, Vladimir? A sacrifice that great?”

Vlad growled from under her hand and tried to morph only to shutter and fall back against the floor in a daze. Pulling his face back she continued, “ A heart’s sacrifice repeated over and over again at the cost of a soul. You won but lost something dear. I will not stand by as you get torn asunder again!”

Turning to the teens, she commanded. “ Children! Come here at once!”

Both Sam and Tucker stepped into the pool and rushed forward. Vivian’s dress morphed and fluctuated around them. Turning to Tucker, she motioned toward Vlad, “ I need you to hold him down so I can sedate him! His seal is to sickly for him to protest this much without causing harm to himself!”

Turning toward Sam, she pointed toward the sword. “ Grab the blade, I will force him if I must!”

Sam ran for the sword and pulled it out as Tucker gripped onto Vlad's head and pinned him against the floor. Turning to Tucker, Vivian instructed. “ I'm going to submerge him. Do not panic. My waters have healing properties and his body will see no injury. Pay attention to the verse that transcribes upon the waters and the images branded in ice.”

Vlad weakly groaned against the hand gagging him and tried freeing his wrists. Vivian cupped her other hand to his face and apologized. “ I'm sorry dear knight, but you've left me no options.”

Turning to Sam, she added, “Lady Manson? Sheath the blade at his feet once the words begin to materialize. My power will wane once the blade turns scarlet. At that moment you must free him or he risks suffocation. Do you understand?”

Sam nodded. Turning to Vlad, Vivian removed the hand gagging him. “S-Stop….Vivian….I don't….w-”

A set of slender lips locked onto Vlad's and his struggles went slack. As she kissed him her form meddled and morphed into water, starting with her face. The dress spun and fluctuated, knocking Tucker gently away from Vlad and ensnaring the adult, now druggedly staring into transparent blue eyes. Retracting herself temporarily she brushed his hair from his eyes and comforted, “ Damian? It's alright….Just rest. I promise I won't hurt you.”

Vlad’s eyes weakly sparked white and he again tried moving from her hold. Sighing, the spirit reconnected her face to his. Vlad sputtered and choked but after a few seconds, his body went limp in her arms. Cradling him against herself, Vivian nodded to Tucker and Sam. The water immediately filled the orb and both Vladimir and the spirit floated up. Vlad's unconscious red eyes blankly locked with Vivian's as his hair became weightless. Bringing her head to his she reattached her mouth to give him air while they were submerged. A crinkling of ice could be heard and the dome froze over, creating a crystalline prison.

Bright reddish-pink and golden white fish began filling the room and both Vladimir and Vivian's eyes sparked white.

Sam and Tucker gaped and tensed. A reverberating chime of glass sunk through the orb. It cascaded waves of sound against the sides of the sphere in halo-like rings of light. Silver words enshrined at their touch and fluttered in fiery mist.

Sam rushed forward with the blade and plunged it into an outcropping of ice by the base of the orb. The blade twisted of its own accord and the hallowed ring in its hilt filled with a transparent icy gem. At the blades touch, Vivian's voice echoed.

“ Embassary born of strife and grievances, time draws near. Allies and foes stitch bindings of stone. Here lie in ruin the costs of fighting alone.”

Around Vlad's ensnared form, images began to emerge. A young Plasmius in what looked like stealth clothing was cowering and bleeding under a lab table. Two large bulbous red eyes turned to him in the darkness and a shot rang out. He screamed and his fearful eyes fluctuated as the images shifted. The next was Vlad sitting in a child's bedroom hugging a dark-haired girl against himself in the dim light. Broken sobs racked through his body as he pulled her tighter against his chest. In another he lay almost completely lifeless in a pool of his own blood, numbly choking in a wooded outcropping. The image morphed again and Vlad was screaming in agony in a burning house, frantically clawing through the inferno in search of someone or something only to see a pool of crimson dripping from behind an ajar doorway. Red eyes turned hollow and the light died.

Sam and Tucker's eyes widened in horror and Vlad unconsciously writhed from within the bubble.

Vivian's voice continued. “Tread water tainted in past remorse. Monsters and demons await at the source.”

A wickedly smiling green mist with red eyes could be seen grabbing Vlad's unconscious form from the firehouse. Vague images of a black mass pinning him down and extending large dagger-like fangs into his neck rippled through the ice. Laughing could be heard.

“ These harbingers of death court unholy sin. The destruction of balance and protector of men….”

Images showing Vlad desperately gripping his bleeding chest and running through an alleyway surfaced. Sam and Tucker watched in horror as a bright green blast switched out the vague blurs into something darker. Daniel's eyes, cold and cruel, stared hauntingly as his foot slowly dug into Vlad's chest. Vlad looked up to him and weakly grasped the leg pinning him down while Daniel charged another attack.

“ Tainted souls that have lain in wait, bring traps strung and set with honeyed bait. Eyes harrowed by greed… a heart will be wounded based on their deceit.”

A blurry image of a little boy with black hair was being dragged violently into a vehicle kicking and screaming by a smiling older gentleman while a little girl with bright green eyes was being grappled by a thin elderly woman. The images morphed to broken liquor bottles and a bloodied body numbly crawling through puddles of crimson. Familiar and dulled blue eyes flashed from under the mop of raven hair. The images rippled and a young man could be seen shaking in the corner of his hospital room while a woman's shadow eclipsed him with a syringe. The bleak images contrasted darkly against the white lights and glowing marine life surrounding the sphere.

“ To amend and save the power strong, a center of love must be nurtured along.”

A dark, grisly flash of Daniel being splattered in blood surfaced. Horrified eyes traced up to the source and Vlad numbly gripped onto the taloned ebony hand impaling him before his eyes became distant.

“A core given in turn for what was always free. Take heed protectors, the grim draws near. Once hope dies, a monster...your kin… the ember of light will stall and thin. Tread carefully and tend the flame with truth….For iced grip will condemn him to their use.”

Vlad numbly shook from within the dome and Vivian's eyes sparked from white to blue as his eyes closed. Still holding Vlad against herself, she channeled her voice through the blade. “Now Ms.Manson, Sir Foley! Make haste and unsheathe the blade!”

Sam and Tucker ran forward and pulled against the hilt. It immediately slipped from the ice and the water surrounding Vlad and Vivian turned into a green mist that solidified and shot through the blade and into the clear stone, turning it emerald green.

Vivian sat with Vlad curled against her dress, tenderly stroking his hair. Once the blade was finished extracting the water, the ice cracked and shattered from around the two. Sam and Tucker ran forward in a panicked frenzy.

Tucker choked, “What the hell was that?!?!”

Vivian gently curled a hand around Vlad's unconscious jaw. “ It would seem the guardian for our worlds has cast a fate most troublesome upon himself in an effort to save everyone but himself from destruction. These images are what will coincide unless proper caution is used. He will perish by the hand of someone he loves, willingly or metaphorically unless truths become known. A hunting party seeks out, not only his life but the green-eyed child he protects.”

Lifting Vlad into her lap she felt his brow. “ It's already starting. The fire is consuming and ripping at the fates weave….This stream has two starkly different endings little ones. He will either die heinously by the hands of his assailants, alone and torn apart because of spite and the anger of the boy or he will finally find the family that has been ripped apart and slaughtered in front of him from his conception.”

Vlad tossed in his sleep and Vivian petted him affectionately as she lifted his right wrist. “ He's already losing. The blood must have been poisoned for a great many moons. On top of this, the grief ripped into his heart from loss has made his spirit state fragile and scarred.”

Sam and Tucker looked to Vlad in horror. “ You mean he's been poisoned prior to all of this?”

Vivian frowned and gently lifted Vlad's wrist so the children could see his mark. “ Little ones? This being represents the ebb and flow of life and death. He is an incarnation of continual energy and healing. This mark mandates his symbolic properties and denotes him as a guardian of life. Both spectral and blood born.”
She paused and touched her fingers to the symbol. Vlad writhed and numbly furrowed his brow at her touch. “But it's contaminated. A powerful drug has been used with occult properties centered on destroying his very energy signature….”

She paused and her eyes widened. Looking up she locked her gaze with Sam, “ Lady Manson? Where are Sir Romulus and the huntsmen? They should have immediately felt his illness and come to his aid!”

Tucker looked to the portal, “They left into the zone a week or two ago from what he's told us. They were searching for a demonic named Nocturn.”

Vivian gently pulled Vlad up against her legs more and checked his pulse. “ Something has tainted the mark’s warning capabilities. The connection between him and his assistants is frayed and damaged.”

Sam kneeled down with the sword and propped it beside Vladimir's unresponsive fingers. Turning to Vivian, she questioned worriedly, “ Is there any way to avoid this?”

Vivian shook her head no. “Events are already in motion. The only thing you two can do is ease the shift. He has a half chance at life as of this moment in time. A faint break between life and death that will be based on both your choices and the green-eyed young man we saw in the water’s path.”

Glancing at the red blade, she hissed in annoyance and scrunched her face with worry. Turning back to Sam and Tucker, she pleaded. “ My time draws near. As a spirit born of necessity my uses become limited with such shows of power. Even in his weakened state, sedating him took a heavy toll on my form. I will not be able to aid you anymore. I plead that you see him through this and toward the brighter stream. If you can get him and yourselves to that point all of you will find happiness. If Vladimir falls though, so does the boy. They are linked by more than just the bonds of their kind. Where one shall perish the other shall surely follow. Please...traverse lightly.”

Sam and Tucker nodded and Vivian smiled warmly. Looking toward Vlad she gently caressed his cheek again. “ Dear friend, I pray you finally find happiness. May the next time we meet be filled with more grand tidings.”

Looking up at Sam, she smiled and extended her hand. “ Lady Manson, Sir Foley? Good Luck.”

And with a soft smile and a few tears, she faded and merged back into the blade beside Vladimir. Tucker quickly reached down and caught Vlad's head as she dissipated. Turning Vladimir onto his back, Tucker tiredly rubbed his brow before turning toward Sam. “ Sam? What the actual heck are we going to do?”

Sam bit her lip and gently grasped onto Vlad's hand. “We're going to tread lightly and keep Vlad under lock and key. Those things are hunting him and they're trying their damndest to separate him off in order to tear him apart. I say we don't let them. You heard the mystic sword. Vlad's fate is in our hands. I don't know about you but I kind of like the idea of everyone getting a happily ever after.”

Tucker flinched and looked down into Vlad's sleeping features remorsefully. “ Some of that- some of those were memories… Sam? What type of fate wheels around someone being tortured emotionally and physically like that without reprieve?”

Sam sighed. “ That's just it isn't it? She wished that he would finally find happiness. Tuck? I think that brighter future has to do with an end to the suffering he's been enduring. Maybe this truce is supposed to mean more than just an end to a piety game of cat and mouse? Maybe it's an end to misfortune and heartache for Vlad and Danny.”

Vlad numbly turned against the steel floor and shivered. Tucker smiled tiredly and bent down to help Vlad up. Pausing, he quirked an eyebrow. “ Wait…. he's lighter than Danny.”

Sam paused and looked to Vlad curiously, “ So?”

Tucker cracked his knuckles and grinned broadly, “That means I can carry him… easily.”

To prove the point, Tucker bent down and scooped Vlad up into his arms. “ The guy weighs as much as my cousin! That's what? A hundred? A hundred and ten? Heck, I've babysitted twelve-year-olds heavier than this!”

Vlad turned slightly in Tucker's hold and his head numbly curled up against his chest. Tucker glanced toward the sword, “ Sammy? Do me a solid and grab Excalibur? I doubt either of them wants a blade that valuable lying against the lab floor.”

Sam nodded and almost reventaly picked up the blade. “ How long so you think he's going to be out of it?”

Tucker looked down into his arms at Vlad's gentle rhythmic breathing and drenched form. “ I have no clue. I'm no expert on fairy drugs…. My guess is that the poltergeist knocked him out temporarily…” Pausing, Tucker adjusted Vlad. Vlad's wrist limply fell over his side and his waterlogged tresses fell loosely against Tucker's shirt sleeve. “She said she used to much power while trying to ruffie him so it stands to reason he'll wake up soon, right? I mean that's just a guess-”

Sam nodded and quickly walked ahead to open the infirmary door. Tucker carried Vlad over to the medical gurney and set him down. Grabbing the grey blanket, he leaned the adult against his shoulder and began trying to dry him off. Vlad groaned and flinched at the contact but continued sleeping. Sam laid the sword down by one of the medical carts and began assisting Tucker.

Satisfied with Vlad's now dry hair, Sam kneeled onto the bedding and loosely braided the locks behind his face. Tucker smiled. “ You know? The long hair suits him.”

Sam smirked. “He really looked like a knight early, huh?”

Tucker snorted, “ The Lady of the Lake claimed him as one outright and seeing all of his scars? Well, I'm willing to jump on the demon purge bandwagon right about now.”

Bringing a hand under Vlad's back the two gently maneuvered him onto his side and replaced the now drenched blanket with a dry and clean one.

Sam plopped into the seat next to Tucker and sighed tiredly. “ What do we tell Danny?”

Tucker winced. “ Honestly? I have no clue…. You saw those visions. Dan was trying to full out murder Vlad. I've never seen Pham so bloodthirsty!”

Sam shivered at the recollection of the angry and merciless neon green orbs. Glancing at Vlad, she whispered, “We have to tell Danny something Tuck. You heard her. They both will die if proper steps aren't taken.”

Tucker fiddled with his glasses tiredly. Biting his lip, he groaned. “ How exactly are we going to explain us getting a quest from a magic sword, Sammy?”

Sam defeatedly stared into the ceiling. “ Er...Just tell Danny we asked Vlad about artifacts? Say you were bragging about a video game or something and Vlad rolled his eyes sarcastically and whipped out Excalibur? That it went frantic and decided to give us a paranormal lesson in palmistry? Use your imagination Friar Tuck.”

Tucker snorted and rolled his eyes. “ My imagination is pretty lit after that power show. We just met King Arthur's sword! And the fairy that lives in it? That stuff isn't something someone could just make up on the fly.”

Sam smiled. “ Vlad definitely gave us a ghost lesson, huh?”

Looking back to the adult she mused, “ It's a shame he didn't get to show us any more artifact's before the Lady of the Lake smooched him into submission.”

Tucker smirked, “ I would've traded places? I mean-”

Sam elbowed him. “ Keep talking like that and I'll end up wishing you had as well, if only to muzzle you.”

Tucker grinned, “ Stingy Samikins ?”

Sam glowered, “ Easy there… You don't want to pick a fight with a short person Tuck. I'm way closer to Hell than you are.”

Tucker mimed fear, “ Ah! So frightening! Little miss gruff-it and her gummy bat loving, gothica tush has wounded my techno-geek heart.”

Sam rolled her eyes. “ I'll call Danny. Keep Vlad company while I attempt to tell Pham about Excalibur’s forecast.”

Tucker winced, “ Sam? You may not want to delve too much into those images we saw. Just give Danny the basic rundown. I think Vlad should have the right to explain his past and those future images aren't set in stone. If Danny genuinely grows to trust Vlad, I can't possibly see him hunting him down to murder him.”

Sam nodded and looked to Vlad tiredly. “ So a basic warning? Beware two demonics with a taste for Plasmius and keep Vlad safe until he heals?”

Tucker nodded tiredly. “ At least until we figure out what those things are up to.”

Sam tiredly rubbed her brow before nodding in agreement. Whipping out her phone, she clicked the chrome home button and swiped onto the call menu. Tucker peaked over at her home screen and teasingly poked the photo. “Sammy and Phantom sittin’ in a tree-”

Sam's eyebrow twitched in agitation before she reached over with her arm and clipped Tucker in the back of the head with a small furled fist. Standing up and glaring at Tucker's goofy grin, she casually plincked Danny's number on her screen and pressed the dial button.

Chapter Text

Jazmine's teal manicured hands drummed against the steering wheel nervously. Daniel had texted her for pickup around eight-ish and she had been making good time through Amity. She was a block away from Canterville Drive when Daniel intercepted her in Phantom form.

Motioning her to pull over, the white-haired teenager casually turned invisible and slunk into the back seat of the vehicle. Noting the coffee stained upholstery and ectoplasm sparkled foam the ghoul languidly crossed his legs before morphing into Daniel Fenton.

Jazmine sighed in exasperation. “Danny? Why did you meet me out here?”

Daniel rolled his eyes and smirked into the rearview mirror before flippantly answering, “ Vlad needs me to lay off a bit. I think he feels out of sorts with everything that's going on this week. He’s resting up with Friar Tuck and Sam on guard duty.”

Jazmine's eyes flickered slightly and she tapped the steering wheel in agitation. “ That didn't answer my question… And everything you just told me was a lie… Vlad Masters is many things but I seriously doubt he'd push the superpowered teenager out in favor of two ghosthunting teens with Fenton Ware. What is really going on?”

Daniel's finger went to his hoodie tiredly. Unzipping the fabric, he sighed before motioning her to drive. Staring out the window he answered. “ Vlad wasn't doing to good this morning Jaz. If I had my way I would be staying with him right now and not going to the house.”

Jazmine's blue-green eyes glanced back and she swallowed nervously. “ How bad is it? I thought the bite and the poison were stable when I left…”

Daniel bit his lip and stared into his lap tiredly. “ Jaz? He stopped breathing.”

A foot slammed into the brake and ripped the vehicle to a stop in the middle of the street. Whipping her head around in a tussle of copper, she screeched, “What?!?”

Daniel motioned for her to pull over. Growling, she spun the wheel to a nearby curb and parked. Pivoting in her seat, she flung off her seat belt and demanded, “What happened when I left?!?”

Baby blue eyes became heavy and Daniel's voice cracked, “ He couldn't control himself Jaz… His body became so feverish he couldn't do anything but shake against himself and beg for someone to end the heat. The entire house went spastic. Lights flickered and bulbs exploded. And that bite? It was turning black and lacing around his flesh like some sort of bizarre oil drip art. He was so scared.” Daniel shuttered and looked into open palms blankly. Clenching his fists, he waited for Jazmine to speak.

“ Danny? You said he stopped breathing… You mean he-”

“ He died on us Jaz. We had to restart his heart.”

The car became stiflingly silent and Daniel tiredly rubbed his brow. “ Jaz? We need to get to our place and back to Vlad's as quick as possible. He needs my protection right now. If he has another power surge-”

Teal eyes turned back to the road and a seatbelt was clicked into place. Starting the vehicle, she curved away from the sidewalk and began driving to Fenton Works. After a few minutes, she questioned, “ How long are we planning on staying at the house?”

Daniel stiffened, “ Jaz… I don't-”

An angry growl snaked from behind light rose-tinted lips. “ If you dare tell me I won't be coming with… I swear to god I’ll reveal both of your secrets to our parents! He died? Do you realize how horrific that is?!?”

“ YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW?!?JESUS, HE DIED IN MY HANDS JAZ! HE WAS CHOKING ON HIS OWN BLOOD AND ECTOPLASM AND SHAKING AND ALL I COULD DO WAS HOLD HIM AND TELL HIM IT WOULD BE OKAY! I HAD TO FEEL HIM SUFFOCATING!”

Jaz flinched and bit her lip as she turned. Beating the wheel, she pleaded, “ I need to make sure he’s okay.”

Daniel's features sombered, “Jaz? I want you to see him too, but we need to space things out so mom and dad don't start questioning things.”

Jaz shook her head tiredly, “….Shouldn't we tell them? Mom doesn't like Vlad as much as she use to but she still considers him a friend. And Dad? Dad loves him...If he died? Danny, it would destroy dad.”

A calloused and cracked hand swept through black hair and Danny bitterly countered, “That's right. Dad loves Vlad, but neither of them even remotely like Plasmius. Hell? I'm willing to wager they'd be willing to put him in a specimen jar quicker than Phantom.”

Jaz sighed, “ You don't know that. What if-”

Daniel's eyes flashed neon green. “ What if what, Jaz? Please, I'm all ears. Tell me how mom and dad, Amity’s resident ghost hunters, would openly welcome the two ghouls who have personally set their sights on seemingly messing up their lives? Hmm?”

A bitter silence filled the vehicle. After a few minutes, Jazmine's voice sharply pierced the void, “They love you both in human form… Isn't it possible they'd see that humanity in your ghost halves?”

A sad chuckle echoed from the back of the car and Daniel's eyes became hollow. “ I'm sure we'd just love to chance being torn apart molecule by molecule in order to see the sentiment carried over.”

Jaz went rigid. “ Danny….They do love you.”

Daniel sighed and his eyes became downcast. Gripping his shoulder, he apologetically concluded, “ I'm only staying for breakfast. I have some questions I need to ask mom and dad while I'm here though.”

Jaz nodded in understanding as they pulled around the back of the modified townhouse and into the garage.

Taking the key out of the ignition Jaz tiredly finished before the stepped out, “ You need to tell them eventually Danny...Someone's going to end up hurt or even dead if you don't.”

Daniel swallowed. His sister was right but admitting to one's parents that you were half of something they hated with a passion always left a bitter taste in the back of his throat.

His parents had always held resentment toward ghosts. There were even pictures of him in his cradle next to anti-ghost equipment somewhere in the photo albums upstairs. If anything they became more obsessive as they grew older. When he was six, his dad gave him a small ghost alert bracelet for christ’s sake. Fighting and shielding from the paranormal was their volition, their religion. The portal only came back up as a topic around his twelfth birthday when they realized ectoplasm could generate massive amounts of energy in electronics if purified through a conductor with filtration properties. A drive for upgrading the filtration system of the original prototype portal led to the large doorway in their basement used to harness and split the veil between dimensions. Carbon crystals solidified into rods surrounded by wafer-thin ampules of various metals and electronics created the technology to harness the energy.

A morbid curiosity about death had somehow spiraled into a full out war. Bizarrely enough? No ghost ever caught by the Fentons, with the exception of Daniel's after hour escapades, ever made it into the lab. Strange accidents or unlucky circumstances always led to inventions and random ghost traps rapidly disintegrating or blowing up. Daniel knew from experience that his parents were more than adept at hunting and catching ghosts. They were mad geniuses.

Thankfully, however, they were easily distracted and rather unlucky.

‘ Not that any other ghost hunter has ever caught a ghost… The GIW? The Groovey Gang? Heck...no ghost hunter I've ever met has ever held a ghost long enough to figure out anything! Maybe some things are just meant to be left unknown?…’

Stepping out of the car, the teen stretched slowly to unfurl his tense muscles.

The garage was a crowded mess of cardboard boxes, gun pieces, and net weaving contraptions. Jack had made the space a two car parking area when Daniel was eight because the neighbors complained about the Fenton Family Assault vehicle being on the street. Below the vehicles, a lesser know part of the building was hidden….Jack's practical joke slash family history project. The Fenjeon...or really… The Fenton Dungeon. The room skirted below the lab and made up the sub-basement. A contrast of old and new… that was the entire Fenton legacy.

Fenton Works itself was a miss-mash of paranormal research and city-authorized building permits. The original townhouse was at one point a fire station during World War I. Sixty years of renovation had seen the red three-story reimagined and refaced more times than humanly possible to count. The first floor had four lead-lined glass windows from the original building, neatly nestling a rounded Tudor red door. The front entranceway opened into a short hallway that led to the staircase transitioning to the second floor. If you made your way to the left you'd see the main living room which was rarely used due to experiments and lab equipment strewn over every surface. If, on the other hand, you walked to the right of the entrance you'd find yourself in a cozy waiting room jackknifed off of the kitchen. The kitchen was rehauled when the Fenton's purchased the home to accommodate a large testing facility in the basement. A simple turn to the left, away from the honeyed yellow cabinetry and the industrial grade lab table that served as a dining area and you came straight into the main facility... and of course the portal. Daniel's room was positioned on top of the main living room with one of the four-second story windows providing a view of the street below. Jazmine's room was askew by four or five feet to the left, across from his. Their parents’ room and their mother’s home office were situated over the kitchen and waiting area. The building had three bathrooms. One small one by Jazmine's room that both teens shared, Maddie and Jack's master bath, and the small bathroom upstairs in the guest bedroom located in the ops center. The stairs leading to the attic and the operation booth’s connection hatch were next to his mother's office. Maddie Fenton's work in biochemical medicine and prosthetic engineering provided most of the income for the family and ghost hunting provided the more passion-fueled and fun revenue stream. Fenton Works was known in Amity for the paranormal and ghost hunting, but in the rest of the United States the small facility was favored by private physicians for limb replacement technology and biochips that simulated nerve function. The battle suit Danny had used to take on Pariah Dark was one of the many examples of the Fentons cross platforming their work and their hobbies.

Daniel tiredly took a breath and got out of the car. Walking past the trap door hiding the dungeon and making his way to the mudroom with Jaz, he slipped off his tennis shoes and hoodie.

Chapter Text

The smell of blueberries, cream, and fresh butter wafted through the house. Daniel smiled in relief at not having to smell any remnants from a destroyed experiment. Charred ectoplasm tended to smell like staticky lemon juice, which was pleasant in its own sense….and his mom loved it partially for that cleaning supply like scent. It brought serious fight or flight reflexes to the teen however when it was present. He was just as much ectoplasm as human and smelling the equivalent of his own charred flesh constantly made the home a dismal reminder that doom and a kiss shared the same context.

Something friendly and homey, like his mother's baking, soothed the tension and Daniel couldn't help but pick up his pace as he stumbled through the screwdriver and wire ensnared living room and toward the kitchen.

His mom heard his socks squeaking across the linoleum. Spinning around her eyes locked with his from under her coppery neck length bob. A warm smile ghosted across her lips and clicking the button on her ear she mined talking with his father. Bobbing her head as she cooked she looped her arm through Daniel's hair and pecked a kiss on his cheek.

Winking mischievously she sighed, “ Yes. Jack these work fine.” Mouthing sorry to Daniel and waving to Jaz she flipped another pancake as she listened to Daniel's father talking about some sort of power conduit on the roof that they needed to replace. Maddie chuckled and then spoke, “ Honey? Daniel's home. Do you want to come down from the observation tower to have breakfast with everyone?”

There was some more chatter over the line and Maddie groaned before playfully bribing, “ But boo-berry pancakes Jack? Hmmm?”

There was a sigh over the com piece and Daniel decided to use his newfound super hearing to see what his father was up to. He began eavesdropping as he poured himself a glass of orange juice and sat at the dining table.

His father was questioning his mom. “ Did Vladdie stop by? I was kinda hoping I could talk with him about something… He didn't answer his phone when I called him at the hospital about Danny and well…I wanted to thank him.”

Daniel's mom tensed and her features turned sad and contemplative as she worked over her skillet. “ There's no sign of him. Jaz and Danny are the only ones in the house.”

A heavy sigh reverberated over the earpiece. “ Can you send Danny up? I need to attach something before I come down and I could use that kid's eyes so I don't test out the anti-shock capabilities of my suit again.”

Maddie snickered, “ I told you upgrading that ecto-shield in this weather was a bad idea!”

Jack chuckled, “ It's not like we have much choice babycakes. That freak power surge last night practically fried everything not hooked up to the portal’s power grid! People three towns over had appliances and lights exploding...We're lucky the lab didn't go into lockdown on us.”

‘ HOLY SHIT.’ Daniel choked on his drink and Maddie turned worriedly. “Danny? Are you alright?”

Coughing the teen wheezed, “Wrong pipe...sorry.”

Maddie nodded and motioned for him to slow down on the OJ.

“ Is Danny alright?” Jack worriedly questioned.

“ No worries Jack. He just was drinking to fast.” She smiled.

Daniel's brow furrowed in worry and Jazmine looked to him curiously before mouthing, ‘What is it?’

Daniel subtly flashed his eyes green and tapped his glass three times. The group’s covert signal for, ‘ It’s ghostly and I'll tell you later.’

She nodded but continued watching him curiously.

Jack yelped over the earpiece and Maddie groaned and clicked off the comlink. Turning to Daniel she smiled. “Sweetie? Can you go help your dad upstairs for a minute with the shield? We had some sort of freak power surge around four o'clock this morning and it fried everything not hooked to the portal.”

Daniel’s mouth froze at the brim of his glass. Taking a breath he laid the glass down on the table and smiled toward his mom. “ Sure. I’ll help him. I have to ask him something about Vlad anyway.”

Maddie froze by the stove and looked back to Daniel worriedly. Biting her lip she went to turn back to her cooking only to abruptly turn off the burner. Slipping off her oven mitt, she turned to face her son who was exiting the kitchen. “ Danny?”

Daniel froze apprehensively before turning toward her.

“ Wait. Before you go up to your father, I need to talk to you for a minute.”

Daniel swallowed, “ What about?”

Maddie’s grey-blue eyes tiredly rolled, “ For starters?… We both know Vlad is-” She paused and bit her lip before settling on a word. “ …. Weird. So why did you suddenly decide to stay at his house?”

Daniel tiredly rubbed his brow and shrugged. Rubbing his arm tiredly he answered, “ I owe him. That and he’s pretty bad off when it comes to sleeping and eating properly. I’ve practically had to force feed him-”

His mother leaned against the counter tiredly, “ Daniel….I know how much you detest Vladimir. I can't possibly see you two getting along after the entire cabin debacle.” She shivered at the memory and Daniel sighed.

“ Uh...yeah...mom? About that-”

His mother raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”

“ He really is sorry for that entire fiasco...He was trying to piss you off for something… And trust me...He was beyond embarrassed and guilty when I brought that up.”

Maddie bit her cheek angrily, “Well he should have thought about that before he started being a two-faced philanderer…. Danny? I don’t want you hanging out around him. He was a wonderful man in college. The best type of person imaginable but people change and I seriously doubt his little romance stint was aimed at just pissing me off…”

Daniel winced. “ Who’s to say that guy you knew in college isn’t still there mom? He said he was sorry…. I’ve been lashing out at him the last three days and he’s been nothing but truthful and remorseful…”

Maddie’s eyes grew somber. “Honey?… Having a teenager apologize in one’s stead doesn’t fix what he did. He not only betrayed my friendship but also your father’s.”

Daniel took a deep breath. “ He didn't tell me to apologize for him. I am just telling you, from what I’ve seen the last few days, that whatever impression you or Dad have is probably wrong.”

Maddie rubbed the bridge of her nose and somewhat bitterly countered, “Really? So he isn’t being a rich corporate sleazeball pining after a married woman?”

Daniel winced like he had been slapped and both his mom and Jaz noticed the somewhat guilty and remorseful expression. “Mom? Please don’t make the same mistake I made.”

Maddie’s brow furrowed in concern and she walked over to him somewhat confused. “What mistake Danny?”

Danny tiredly gripped the hand she placed to his cheek and removed it. Looking into her eyes he questioned. “ If I screwed up you would never hate me right? If I lied? Or had secrets?”

Maddie’s features saddened slightly and she sighed. Wrapping her black-gloved hand around his palm she brought her other hand up to his cheek and gently rubbed it. “ We would never hate you, Danny… Even if you lied to us… but what does this have to do with Vladimir?”

Daniel's brow furrowed debatingly. “ At one point in time…. mom, wasn't he like family? The way dad talks about him you'd think they were siblings.” Looking up almost pleadingly he continued, “ You can't just tell me one lie ruins that! Mom….things aren't always what they seem… People can change somewhat but they're still the same in their core. If you could forgive me if I lied or did something stupid, why not him?”

Jaz’s eyes widened at his words. She had caught the double meanings laced within his plea. He was not only begging for her to be lenient toward Vlad but also himself, to Phantom.

Jasmine's eyes flashed to her mom's pondering features worriedly. Her answer would probably determine if Daniel admitted to being a half ghost or continued lying until something horrible forced him to reveal his identity.

Purplish-gray eyes locked with baby blue and Maddie frowned deeply. “You're my baby Danny… And you're right, Vladimir was practically Jack's sibling for how much he loved him… But I'm not sure any lie he came up with would have justified what he did. No apology would ever lead me to forgiving him for saying something so betraying of the bond him and Jack shared. He was my friend to Daniel but I think his wealth ruined him. He’s a lost cause.”

Jazmine winced and averted her gaze. Daniel's eyes grew angry and he pulled away from his mother. “ You think his wealth changed him? That he became some greedy monster? Monsters don't wake up screaming in agony and crying out pleas of forgiveness to every single person they have ever known. Greedy people don't anonymously slip money into people's lockers even though they themselves only have a few scraps of food to their name.”

Maddie paled as Daniel turned to leave her in the kitchen. “ Wait! Danny? Please…. What do you mean he's been screaming in his sleep?!”

Daniel paused and sighed tiredly, “ Since you're the expert on all things Vlad, how about you tell me, mom? Tell me why he can't sleep or why he wakes up hyperventilating and crying when he finally does drift off…”

Maddie’s eyes widened in horror. “ You mean he hasn't been sleeping at all ?”

Daniel snorted, “ I thought we established that at the beginning of this conversation mom. He's depressive, sleepless, overworked- heck I can probably make a good thirty item list on all of his issues right now. But then again the sleepless bit isn't anything new from what he's told us. He hasn't been able to sleep correctly since he was six.”

Maddie's brow furrowed. “ I never- Vladimir never showed any signs from what I knew about him Danny….”

Daniel sighed heavily. “ It's funny how none of us really knew, huh? There's a real kicker in seeing someone calling out for their friends in their sleep and knowing that one of his friends has already given up on him.”

Maddie's winced and her face fell. “ Danny…. I just- It's hard to forgive someone for openly discrediting so much…. I want to believe that the Vladimir I knew when we were younger is still in there but he hasn’t given me anything to prove different.”

Daniel tiredly began exiting the kitchen. “ I need to go help Dad now. I have to ask him if he knows what triggered the nightmares….”

Maddie nodded but her brow furrowed in concern. “ Danny? I...I’m going to make extra.” She motioned toward the pancakes. “You said he hasn't been eating… Could you bring him some when you go to leave?”

Daniel froze in the living room and raised an eyebrow. “ I thought you said he was a lost cause mom.” His blue eyes darted back to her searchingly.

Maddie flinched, “ Until he proves me wrong Danny…. I still see a part of him as the joking and considerate young man I went to school with. That part is probably the only reason I'm even considering having you bringing him food.”

Daniel's expression sobered. “Guilty until proven otherwise, huh?”

Maddie smiled gently, “ Danny? If you truly see that segment buried under everything he's grown to show me?... Show me he isn't too far gone. Despite what you think, I desperately want to believe my friend is still in there.”

Daniel smiled sadly. “ I’m starting to think he never left….I think he's just lost right now.”

Maddie nodded. “ You better go help your father before he busts down here. Breakfast will be ready by the time you come downstairs.”

Daniel nodded in understanding and began trudging up the stairs. Three flights later and he was in the operation center. Hearing muted curses and a few small yelps of pain above him he glanced at the service hatch leading to the observation deck and, with a sigh, began climbing.

Chapter Text

Sneakers thumped rhythmically as he ascended the metal ladder leading to the broadcasting equipment and service panels. A large bulbous orange form could be seen twisting and fidgeting from beneath a string of wires and loose sheets of metal.

Hearing the sound of footsteps nearby, Jack froze from under the machine. “ Danny? Can you pass me the needle nose pliers?”

Daniel smiled and began rifling through the old tackle box his father used for his precision tools. Finding the neon green handled tool he passed plopped it into his father's outstretched hand.

A gruff thanks was whispered as his father worked. After a few moments of tinkering the adult was zapped by a small spark of green energy. Sighing he chuckled, “ Can you believe that freak power surge did this much damage?”

Daniel winced. “ Yeah, pretty crazy, huh?” Pausing he rubbed the back of his neck. “ Is it true that more than just Amity got zapped by it?”
His father casually twisted and tucked the wiring up behind a few buttons before sliding out from under the equipment. Wiping his gloved hands onto his hazmat suit to rid himself of some of the grime he smirked. “ Kremmling and Parshall both had blackouts. It seems to have centered out from Amity though. Probably another spook messing with us.”

Daniel cringed slightly. ‘ Yeah… a spook… ‘

Smiling up, his father prodded, “Don't I get a hug? It's been what? Three days?”

Daniel smiled and gladly leaned in toward his father's embrace. Large cable-like arms engulfed him and snuggled him close. Pulling from him he questioned. “So Vladdie couldn't make it, huh?”

Daniel nodded and plopped down next to his father tiredly. “ He needs the sleep so I left him in bed. Sorry.”

Jack's brow furrowed and he took a deep breath before asking, “ He's still having nightmares isn't he?”

Daniel's eyes went wide and turned to his father in shock. “ How did you-?”

Jack pulled out a screwdriver and began fiddling with it absently. “ I know that scream… You weren't watching horror movies.” Sighing heavily, he rubbed the back of his neck and set the tool down. “ It took me a good thirty minutes to place the sound but I don't think I could ever forget it.”

Daniel grimaced and questioned. “So you knew….How did-”

Jack chuckled sadly. “ Vladdie was my roommate in college Danny. It's kind of hard not to notice when your bunkmate wakes up screaming in agony and crying every other night.”

Daniel winced. “ You mean he was doing that before the accident!?! What traumatized him that badly, dad?”

Jack's gaze saddened. Turning to Daniel he looked to the boy questiongly. “Has Vlad told you about his childhood, Danny?”

Daniel frowned and looked over at the skyline before answering. “ He told me that his family died a long time ago. He hasn't elaborated though.”

Jack nodded. “ No surprise there… It took me three weeks of hugging him and comforting him before he finally opened up to me…”

Jack grimaced and then rubbed his hands before questioning. “ Danny? Did I ever tell you how V-man and I met?”

Daniel stiffened, “ No, you haven't really ever mentioned much about your college days.”

Jack winced, “ The accident is partially to blame for that I suppose…” Jack's eyes saddened. “ He died in my arms twice before the ambulance got there…..And the blood….Danny? It was enough to give anyone a negative outlook on their carefree college days.”

Daniel’s eyes widened in horror. “You mean he died?!?!”

Jack grimaced. “ I wish I could say it ended when he got to the hospital but from what the nurses and doctors told us he just continued dying and rapidly coming back.”

Daniel choked back nausea. After a few moments, he questioned, “ Can you tell me? How you two met? And about those nightmares he has?”

Jack smiled slightly and, nodding, he began. “ I guess the best place to start is the beginning, huh? You, of course, know that I was raised by your great grandpapi up in Massachusetts until I received my acceptance letter for the University of Wisconsin. I don't know what drew me to that state. Maddie jokes that it was the fact they produce a third of the dairy in the United States but honestly that wasn't my reasoning. I wanted a clean break from everything back home so I could start out on my own and make something for myself.”

Pausing, he rubbed the back of his neck. “ Admissions went smoothly and my contract for housing was set. The day came… I think it was August twenty-fifth of nineteen ninety? It was pretty humid out.”

Snorting, he rubbed the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “ I spotted Vlad before I knew he was my dorm mate. Or really, I crashed into him with the cart I was using to get my stuff into the dormitory. He fell over onto the cement and ripped open his hands. I didn't get a good look at him because of what he was wearing. All I saw was a scrawny looking fellow in an oversized grey hoodie that obscured his face. By all accounts, the guy looked like some local kid darting around campus. At first glance, he didn't even have any bags or luggage. No blankets, no pillows, just...nothing.”

Daniel winced, “ You mean you accidentally bumped into him? How did that fair?”

Jack rolled his eyes, “ Well, we actually bumped into each other. We were both looking in different directions and he was running around with a piece of paper in his hands. I bent down to help him up and he rolled away from me. To quote him? ‘ Just leave me alone. I can get up on my own.’ The way his eyes darted to my hands though, like he was expecting some sort of confrontation...He just looked so apprehensive. Before I could try and calm him down he abruptly crawled backward and kicked himself up into a standing position. Five seconds later he was gone.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ He bolted?”

Jack nodded. “ The paper he was carrying got swept up in the ten mile an hour breeze blowing through campus. It apparently had something important written on it…”

Smiling slightly, Jack locked his gaze on his son somewhat wistfully. “I was the first one in the dorm room and the first to set up. Lunch came around and no one showed up so I ended up heading out to one of the dining halls for a bite. When I got back I saw him again through our dormitory window. He was carting around stuff for some girls and helping them move into their dorm rooms. Time passed and I got bored just sitting in the dormitory by myself so I went to explore the campus.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, “Wait… so he was helping people move in during setup?”

Jack chuckled, “ Sort of? From what I gathered he was hired out by several freshmen students to set up and carry their stuff to their rooms while they explored or looked at the campus.”

Daniel frowned, “ He was working?”

Jack nodded, “That's my guess. Whatever the case, by the time dinner rolled around he still hadn’t shown up in our room. I ended up going to get food for myself and when I got back at around nine-ish there was a small convenience store bag and a backpack on the bunk corner-tucked against mine. Still no sign of my roommate though. Two more hours passed and I had begun rearranging my bedding to go to sleep. A sound from the door startled me. He didn't see me because the closet wall obscured me as he walked in. He was on autopilot. Vladdie was so dead on his feet he just numbly stumbled over to his bed and began trying to set it up enough to sleep in. After a few minutes, he still hasn't noticed I was in the room with him. He rolled out the dorm mattress in a complete daze and tacked a sheet on before slipping his hoodie off. I thought he was just taking it off to hang it up or something before going to get sheets from the hallway.”

Sighing, he smiled weakly. “ I never would have guessed that that tattered hoodie was going to be his blanket for the night.”

Daniel's eyes widened, “ He didn't have any bedding?”

Jack nodded. “ Not a single piece. No pillows either.”

Daniel's brow furrowed, “ What happened next?”

“ You mean before he noticed me or before he went to bed?”

“Both?”

Jack chuckled, “ He tiredly pulled a bruised apple out of his sweatshirt and crammed it in his jaw before he tried bandaging his hands and face with some dollar store medical supplies he had stashed in his backpack.”

Daniel furrowed his brow, “Wait...what happened to his face?”

Jack winced, “ An upperclassman or another freshman who knew one of the girls Vlad was helping cut his face. His knuckles were bruised to….”

Daniel cringed, “ So he got beat up his first day?”

Jack chuckled, “ No, the other guy got beat up on his first day. No one was going to peg the skinny guy in baggy clothes as the one who wailed on them. Apparently, the guy thought Vlad was a new boyfriend for one of the girls and got jealous so they waited until he was alone and tried teaching him a lesson. They got a good swipe at him with a box cutter to the face and Vlad in return beat the blue blazes out of them. The culprit never came forward but there was one guy that was limping and giving Vladdie a wide girth for four months.”

Sighing, Jack leaned back against the metal paneling. “ Any way… back to the story. So Vlad was bandaging his hands and his face while he ate and after he finished both the apple and the first aid, he dumped the dollar store bag on the bed and wrapped the core in it before tossing it over his shoulder and into the trash can.”

Jack chuckled sheepishly." At this point, I was pretty curious about him so I walked over behind him and went to put a hand on his shoulder. To say that was poorly advised just after he was in a fight was an understatement…”

Daniel paled, “ Did he take a hit at you?”

Jack shook his head no, “ He felt my hand reaching for him and rolled under my arm. His hand caught onto my wrist and the next thing I knew my arm was pinned behind my back.”

Daniel gaped. “ He put you in an armlock?”

Jack smiled, “ Easily.” Wincing he added, “It's a shame he was so worn out. Right after he got behind me his grip abruptly slackened and he fell backwards onto his hands and knees.”

Daniel winced. “ So he easily pinned you and then fainted?”

Jack's blue eyes became more dissective as he mulled it over. “ I guess that's accurate. He tried getting up again and kind of dizzily fell back against the floor in a half-conscious heap. I went to help him up and he growled out something about flapjacks before trying to push me away.”

Daniel laughed. “ The pastry substitutes for profanities were already going strong in college, huh?”

His dad smiled, “ That particular profanity ended up being my nickname for two years.”

Daniel grinned, “He seriously nicknamed you after a veiled cuss word?”

Jack chuckled and tossed his wrist up mockingly before continuing, “Yep. Flapjack. I think it was his way of still venting when I agitated him. The fact that he smiled when he said it after about a week though took away whatever menace the word had.”

Daniel nodded and raised an eyebrow, “ So what happened after that?”

A somewhat humiliated expression lit the older Fenton’s face before he elaborated, “ Well… he glared at me after a few moments and then snapped, ‘What are you doing in here Fenton?’ Him knowing my name absolutely terrified me until he pointedly motioned toward the name tag on my t-shirt.”

A small smile ghosted across Daniel's face.

Jack continued, “ And then he kind of grasped that I was his dorm mate. His eyes widened ever so slightly and his eyebrow twitched before he got up and made his way around me.”

Daniel cringed, “ So he tried avoiding you?”

Jack snorted. “ That's the understatement of the century. He was practically a ghost until Monday night came around. That night he curled up under that tattered hoodie again and conked out while I was looking over my textbooks. It got late and I ended up closing up shop around one in the morning to catch a few z’s myself. I was asleep for twenty minutes at most before the screaming started.”

Daniel's expression fell. Jack nodded and continued. “ Completely traumatized doesn't even begin to cover the state he was in when I rushed over to his bunk. Up until that point, he was distant, reclusive, and he made a habit of acting condescending around me. Heck? Three days and I still didn't even know his name.”
Jack winced. “ I had to shake him awake Danny… and he still couldn't stop crying. He was practically blue, he was hyperventilating so much… It was like the life had been completely beaten out of him.”

Daniel's eyes grew somber. His father tiredly rubbed his eyes and continued. “ I ended up on the floor next to his bed hugging him like I would you or Jaz when you were little, for hours. He started opening up to me after that but didn't elaborate on why he couldn't sleep. We became good friends quickly… Vlad seemed comforted by just having someone that treated him normal. Believe it or not, V-man was the one who set up the first real date between your mom and me, granted that was a good eight months into us knowing each other….a Dracula play…” Jack's rounded features brightened at the memory and Daniel burst out laughing. The father looked to his son questioningly.

Snorting, Daniel elaborated, “Sorry, there's just something funny about the date him setting up for you both being centered on a play about monster hunters and the undead.”

Jack smirked, “ An irony in your mom and mine’s hobby, huh?”

Daniel nodded and then his features saddened slightly. ‘ My mom and dad turned into monster hunters and Vlad…. Vlad's a vampire practically...Crud.’

Finding his voice, Daniel finally questioned. “ The nightmares- You said it took three weeks before he told you what was tormenting him. What-?”

Jack shuddered, “ Frightmares would be the better description. Danny?... A regular old nightmare doesn't do that level of damage on a person.”

Swallowing, Jack tiredly locked his gaze with his son and turned to face him. “I promised Vlad I would never tell a soul, son. I haven't even told your mother about what Vladdie told me. But seeing as how you are trying to help him sleep? I'm going to ask you to keep this to yourself. Can you do that son?”

Daniel bit his lip before nodding. Light blue sparked up to a slightly darker hue and he confidently swore, “ I won't tell a living soul, dad. Not unless it becomes absolutely necessary to do so.”

Chapter Text

Jack nodded and rubbed a hand through his hair tiredly. Closing his eyes briefly he reopened them and flatly began. “ Firstly? You need to know Vladimir was a ward of the state. His birth mother was a waitress who could barely afford to feed them and child services came and took both his sibling and him away. Secondly? Their new home? It was nothing less than a living hell.”

Daniel grimaced and his eyes widened in piety before Jack winced and continued. “ His frightmares aren't some run of the mill boogeyman that you can simply wish away in the morning or some ridiculous scenario concocted from something as mediocre as a fear of heights or confinement.”

Daniel's eyes locked onto his father more attentively. Jack looked away from him and fisted his hands tiredly in his lap. “ When Vladdie was fourteen he came home to find the only person in the world who loved him, his little sister…..God, she was only twelve….”

Jack grimaced and choked. Daniel's eyes widened and he swallowed apprehensively. His father turned back to him remorsefully and continued, “ Their adoptive father let her corpse lie on the floor for hours Danny….”

Daniel's eyes widened in absolute horror, “She died?!?! What-?”

“-happened?” Jack finished. Eyes growing fatigued, he answered, “ Their dad murdered her and left her for Vladimir to find when he got home.”

Daniel's eyes clenched shut. “What happened to Vlad?”

Jack bitterly gazed out across the observation deck. “ Vladdie walked home from his part-time job to find a pool of blood with his little sister in it. And when he tried to get to her in order to see if she was okay, their parent shoved him into the blood and beat him within an inch of his life. The screaming ended up alerting a neighbor and they called nine-one-one.”

Daniel sat stunned. “ Is that what he dreams about? That day?”

Jack winced. “ That's what he woke up screaming over when we were in school Danny. He tried keeping the majority of his childhood locked up and I gladly respected his wishes. I never pushed him after finding that out.”

Daniel's brow furrowed, “ Dad? Did he even mention someone named Sheryl to you?”

Jack's brow furrowed and after a moment he sighed, “ That would be his adoptive mother. After Vlad was left homeless she took him in and raised him. She died right before he graduated high school.”

Daniel winced. “ Whatever happened to his original mom? And his dad?”

Jack shrugged, “ I don't know. He was awfully young when he was taken, Danny. Six or seven years old if I’m guessing it correctly.”

Daniel curled his knees to his face. “ So his nightmares are exclusively centered on him failing to save the people he cared about?…. Jesus….”

Jack winced. “ Yeah…. Vladdie always seemed to have that cross to bear. He's the best guy I know though. V-man helped me study in school, he’d pick up fudge flavored ice cream when I got depressed and he even gave me advice on how to woe your momma. Despite that, he always seemed to be apprehensive and guarded around other people. His screaming eventually made the two of us targets for bullying…”

Jack grimaced and smiled sadly, “Vladdie was so distraught over that. He asked me constantly if I wanted to find a different roommate. Practically pleaded so that I wouldn't get dragged down with him.”

Daniel flinched, “ You mean people started picking on him about being traumatized?”

Jack grimaced and fisted his hands. “ I wish….” Loosening his hold he began fiddling with a glove as he explained, “ Sometime around when Mads and I started dating a rumor popped up that Vlad and I were sleeping with each other. He came back to the dorm constantly with bruises, cuts…. heck? One time I thought I smelled gasoline on his clothes. He even walked in while I was studying with a broken wrist once. He claimed it was an accident but the break was just to coordinated. It had a hand shaped bruise around it and everything. He was constantly in or picking fights.”

Daniel thought back to the cast Vlad sported in one of the pictures and had to restrain himself from gagging. “So people just targeted him for no other reason but a rumor?”

Jack nodded but looked unsure, “That's what I gathered …. But Vladdie was an expert fighter…. What injuries he got were usually minuscule in comparison to the guys he tossed hands with. He played the nerd at school but I saw glimpses of what he was when our classmates weren't around. The guy knows how to hold his ground.”

Pausing, Jack winced. “ I remember we all went to the bowling alley together before our second year started… We were having a blast with each other and Vladdie brought this ridiculous camera to tease us with. He was smiling but I saw the way he was bristled. He kept looking over his shoulder the entire time while I was hanging out with Mads. Halfway through he excused himself and ducked outside. I got worried after a few minutes and decided to see what was going on.”

Daniel tensed. “ Someone followed you guys to the bowling alley?”

Jack flinched, “ Try six or seven guys. They were waiting in the parking lot for one of us to come out. I was peeking around the building and into the space between the volleyball court and the fencing to see what was happening.”

Jack sighed, “They were exchanging threats when I caught sight of them. Vladdie’s face was covered in a bandana but I recognized his voice immediately. His more astute side comes out when he's fighting. His first strike always comes verbally when he's taking in an opponent’s capabilities. This time he was severely ticked off.”

Jack rubbed his eyes. “ It's summer break. Don't you pitiful morons have better volitions than pursuing that harlot’s orders? Or do you honestly have nothing better to do than pick fights?”

Daniel winced. “ So a chick was sending people out to beat Vlad up?”

Jack nodded and continued. “ The real gruff looking guy standing in front of him just kind of rolled his eyes and hissed, ‘The easiest way to get this over with is to just get rid of the problem lying in front of everything. You're what? One hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet? Against six or seven men and you're being cocky?’ Vladdie just looked up at him and smirked knowingly through the fabric hiding his face. I felt chills run down my spine. The air around him practically screamed that he was fully capable of taking every single one of them down.”

Daniel nodded and his eyes continued staring into his father's features, entranced. His father then mockingly mimicked Vlad, “ The guys she sent last time didn't tell you exactly who you're messing with, did they? Allow me to demonstrate then….”

Jack chuckled, “ He just casually put his hands in his pockets and roundhouse kicked the guy in the groin. Another fellow came up from the side and Vlad sidestepped him before tripping him into the wall. ‘ How about I make this easier? I'm sure you've watched Sesame Street... God knows with what few brain cells you vermin possess that may even be a stretch. Let's practice your numbers, shall we? I've always loved subtraction.’ Vlad then proceeded to dodge a fist flying towards his face. Ducking, he maneuvered the fight into the corner of the space near the back of the fence where it was dimmer. All seven thugs then started smiling like a bunch of morons. Vlad casually took both hands out of his pockets and unzipped his hoodie.”

Jack smiled, “The guy he kicked in the groin was being supported up slightly by one of his friends. He mocked Vlad for acting so tough and being all bark and no bite. The idiot then lunged to swing at Vlad. Vladdie threw his hoodie into the guy’s face, effectively blinding him before using his momentum to sling him into the fence .” Jack mimed Vlad casually propping up a middle finger, “One.”

Daniel grinned. Jack chuckled and continued the narration. “ Then the guy’s other buddies decided to rush Vlad because the individual attack approach wasn’t working in their favor. Vlad just casually yanked his hoodie up and locked it onto one of their fists. Stepping on the guy's foot he ducked and one of the other thugs knocked out the fellow he had pinned. ‘ Two.’ After that, he just started wailing on them. A guy jumped him from the left and Vlad punched him. ‘ Three.’ Another fellow whipped out a knife. Vlad grabbed his wrist and elbowed him in the face before throwing the knife out of the alleyway. ‘ Four.’ The last three tried rushing him again. He took the first one out with ease and lifted his hand up mockingly at the other two. ‘ Five.’ The remaining two guys growled a string of profanities before the taller one went for Vlad's arm to pin him and the shorter went for his legs. Vlad allowed his arm to get snatched and then kicked up from the wall to tip the taller guy's balance. Vlad fell on top of him and punched him in the face. ‘Six.’ His short buddy tried kicking Vlad from behind but Vlad sensed it and rolled off the guy he toppled. The poor guy took the kick right to the stomach and Vladdie slipped up behind the shorter guy and casually leaned in next to his ear, ‘ I guess that makes you the last one? Where were we? Ah, yes. Seven.’ And then Vlad looped his arm around him and strangled him out. Seven guys knocked out or whimpering in writhing heaps in as little as four minutes.”

Daniel smiled, “ He likes going for the theatrics, huh?”

Jack smiled slightly and then winced. “ Vladdie was coming out of the alleyway to go back inside. I was about to duck back in myself when I saw one of them coming up behind him again. Vlad was just putting on his jacket and reaching for the bandana when the board nailed him upside the head.”

Daniel grimaced. “ Did it knock him out?”

Jack winced. “ No, it dazed him. But that's all the guy really needed. He latched on to Vlad's head and slammed him into some broken glass near the asphalt. I was running toward Vlad when the guy spotted the knife he had tossed earlier and picked it up.”

Daniel's eyes widened. “ The guy grabbed the knife? Please tell me he didn't use it on Vlad…”

Jack grimaced. “ He turned Vlad over and pinned him up against the wall. The knife was brought up under his throat and his hair was being yanked up to expose the skin better. At this point, I had grabbed the board the guy had dropped and swung it as hard as I could against his head.”

Pausing Jack furrowed his brow. “Vlad was almost completely out of it but his eyes managed to lock on mine as I was leaning in to help him up.”

Jack snorted. “ He tried making his voice sound different. It would have been hilarious if not for the fact I could see something red staining the blue fabric on his face. ‘ If I were you dough-boy, I'd scram. These assholes aren't exactly here for sodas and air hockey.’ You should have seen his face when I raised an eyebrow at the dough-boy insult and smiled. ‘ V-man… Word of advice? Don't piss me off when I'm the one in charge of meals this week.’ His eyes narrowed and his eyebrow twitched. ‘ I have no clue who or what you're talking about. Bamuss.’ The guy had the audacity to continue the fake voice and everything.”

Daniel quirked an eyebrow, “ So what did it sound like?”

Jack smirked, “ You know that mid-1990’s Batman cartoon you and Jazzy-pants like? He sounded exactly like that Batman.”

Daniel grinned and whistled. “What happened after that?”

Jack grimaced slightly. “ Well, Vladdie was still intent on me leaving but I wasn't having any of that with the condition he was in. He ended up shakily getting to his feet and throwing my arm off of his shoulder. ‘ Okay. I'm good. Get out of here.’ Again? Batman voice.” Jack sighed.

“ Of course I protested. ‘ Vladdie? Come on. I'm taking you back to the house.’ The idiot was still growling at me. ‘Look? Your help is appreciated but I can get back to my own place without you.’ I was about to argue again when Vladdie suddenly went wide-eyed. The fake voice disappeared and he was screaming frantically, ‘FLAPJACK! DUCK!’ He pushed me out of the way and the knife got jammed into his arm. A fist caught him when he screamed out and then he crumpled onto the cement in a semi-conscious heap.”

Daniel flinched, “ He took a knife for you?”

Jack nodded. “ Yes, he took a knife for me.” Jack's brow furrowed. “ The stupid bastard who stabbed him didn't know what hit him when I got ahold of him. The second Vlad fell I tackled the guy and beat him black and blue. I may not have been a good combatant but with the weight, I carried to throw around I was as good as a wrecking ball. Once the guy fainted I went over and turned Vladdie onto his back to see the damage.”

Jack snorted. “ Idiot had the gall to ask if I was okay when he was the one with a switchblade jammed into his bicep. I tore the bandanna off of him and ended up leaning him forward so his bloody nose wouldn't impede his breathing. ‘So...Um...I guess the... jigs up?’ I, of course, growled at him in response. ‘Next time? Your stubborn hyde is going to agree the first time I ask something!’ Regrettably, the bowling alley we were at was too far of a walk from any clinics. Maddie had her license and she drove us, so I had to go get her. Vladdie knew this and was panicking. ‘Jack...tell her I got mugged? Please…’ I wasn't about to snitch after he got stabbed for me, so I ended up carrying him out from behind the bowling alley on my shoulder. Maddie was outside of the alley looking for the two of us. Vladdie was out cold on me by the time I spotted her so we dragged him into the car and carted him to the hospital.”

Raising his arm, Jack growled, “Idiot was half an inch from bleeding to death. The blade almost cut into his brachial artery. The lucky bastard nearly gave us a heart attack.”

Daniel gaped. “ So he almost got tanked by someone's knife?”

Jack snorted. “ First thing we learned in medical school, Danny? God likes rolling the dice to see who bites it and who doesn't. Despite what action films dictate it's not common for someone to just go unphased by a knife wound or a bullet wound. Usually, it's a quick one or two blows and you bleed to death.”

Daniel winced. “ So… say someone was shot multiple times? Stabbed? Impaled? Erm...even dissected… What are the chances they'd live? Hypothetically?”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “ That's a rather morbid question Danny-boy… Depending on where they were shot they could easily bleed to death or have their organs ruptured. Bullets can also ricochet once they get into the body. More than one organ can get nicked or shredded. Impalement? Again…there is a high probability the organs would get punctured unless the poor bastard somehow had the ability to heal incredibly fast or turn into mist like some of those spooks your momma and me hunt. We shot a spike at one of them a while back and it pinned them to a wall. They phased out of it and seemed to heal the damage spontaneously. If it's a living breathing person however I can only see the organs somehow miraculously shifting out of the targeted area. And as for dissection? If it's a living person it's called vivisection. After World War II procedures like that were labeled as torturous and inhumane. They are illegal in every medical field. Doctors even take oaths that say they’ll abide by helping people and will not harm a person knowingly. If someone did do that though you'd probably slowly bleed to death unless the person cutting you open decided to leave your organs intact and sewed you up afterward.” Jack grimaced and looked to Daniel with a raised eyebrow.

“ Son? Why the curiosity about such morbid things?”

Daniel flinched, “I saw a ghost with marks like that and was wondering which would have offed him first.”

Jack winced. “ You saw a ghost ripped up like that? Jesus…. What ghost?”

Daniel sighed and looked up to his father tiredly. “ Don’t worry about it, dad.” Standing up and reaching down for his father's arm, he smiled. “ How about we head down for breakfast? Those boo-berry pancakes sound pretty good right about now.”

Jack grinned. “ Sounds like a plan son.” A black hazmat glove reached up and locked onto the limb for support. Both Fenton men tiredly lumbered down the ladder and through the operations booth.

Chapter Text

Jack smirked weakly. “ So… how's V-man handling all the teenagers around his place?”

Daniel rolled his eyes and smiled broadly. “ Fairly well considering how he would normally handle a situation around us.”

Jack raised an eyebrow questioningly. “ Care to elaborate?”

Daniel flinched and stopped abruptly before sighing. “I think he's rethinking his usual priorities after I went missing. Usually, he'd lie and kick us out of the house to distance himself as quickly as possible but right now he's fairly docile and actually likable because he's trying to strengthen his bonds with us.”

Jack's brow furrowed. “ Distance himself? Why would Vladdie distance himself?”

Daniel shivered and failed to notice the ghost sense that wisped out of his mouth due to the nature of the question his father had asked. Shrugging, he answered before rounding on the hatch leading through the attic, “ I'm sure he had his reasons. A lot can happen in twenty-something years. I think a kid he knew passed away recently so he doesn't like seeing teenagers as much as he normally would.” The half-lie seemed to appease his father.

Jack winced. “ I guess that would be a good reason. Has he elaborated or-?”

Daniel grimaced. “ I’d rather not ask him…. I think he's still in mourning for someone and I don't want to push him when he needs my help to adjust to Amity. He's working twice as hard as he normally would and I think it's partially in an effort to bury away some of the grief.”

Jack sighed as the made there way to the landing the bedrooms were on. “ I'll be down in a minute. I have to wash my hands real quick. I got motor oil and all sorts of gunk on my gloves and your mama with murder me if I so much as graze her mother’s vintage glassware with them.”

Daniel smirked. “ You could always boycott them again dad. Remember when you used that flask for your coffee and that Petri dish as a plate?”

Jack groaned and smirked before rolling his eyes. “ Ah yes… The whole ectoplasm poisoning debacle. No thanks. I'd like to just wash my hands rather than have to toss neon green cookies into a trash bin for two weeks.”

Daniel nodded, “ Doesn't mom have a specimen frozen somewhere? To immortalize that entire biohazard?”

Jack reached for his bedroom handle and smirked. “ Yes, she does. I almost made the mistake of taking it out of the mini fridge in the lab a few days ago.”

Daniel snorted and turned from him. “ I'll meet you downstairs. I need to go gather some things from my bedroom.”

Jack smiled. “ Sure.” And with a brief nod, he disappeared into his bedroom.

Daniel's feet tiredly plopped toward his own room. Sliding open the door and seeing the familiar unmade bed and messy carpet, he sighed. “ Home sweet home….I really need to clean this.”

A socked foot nudged a couple of fast food wrappers. Sighing, he bent down and picked up the offending paper and plastic remnants before tossing them over to the trash can under his desk. Walking over to the left side of the room and into the closet, he began grabbing several pairs of jeans and a couple of t-shirts to stuff into his backpack. His fingers numbly brushed over the shelf above the rack and finding his spare thermos and a few miscellaneous ghost hunting tools, he quickly dragged them down. Bundling the pile and snatching his bag from the closet floor the sixteen-year-old walked across the room and grabbed several pairs of underwear and socks from the drawer. Jamming the pile into the faded bag he grinned in accomplishment before walking out of the room and making his way downstairs. Passing the staircase and the lab entrance wedged against the kitchen cabinetry, he tiredly entered the room to see his mother laying out plates.

Jazmine smiled weakly and patted the seat beside her expectantly. Nodding, the boy casually made his way to the seat nestled between his father and his sister and sat down. Retrieving his glass from earlier he took another sip leasurily before he started eating the three haphazardly stacked cakes plated on the blue ceramic in front of him.

Maddie filled herself a cup of coffee and sat down across from him. Grabbing the newspaper, she began skimming over the classifieds in search of technology, parts, or ghost hunting jobs to start off the day. Jack ate fairly quickly and with a wink stood up, “ I have to fix that shield before we have another freak rainstorm.” Turning to Daniel, he grinned. “Remember to call tonight. And try to get Vladdie on the line?”

Daniel nodded and smiled. “ I'll try to get him on the phone. Love you, dad.”

Ruffling Danny's hair, he made his way to the lab in an effort to gather more tools for the repairs. Maddie sighed after a few minutes and tore a page out of the newspaper. “ I'll be back in a few hours Jaz. Apparently, there's a ghost running around in the park that's been terrorizing joggers.”

Turning to Danny, she smiled sadly. “ Those leftovers are on the counter baby. Make sure he at least tries to get some sleep? And tell him I expect an explanation from him when I see him next time.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and smiled. Pecking a kiss on his cheek, she reached over to Jaz and gave her one as well. “See you two later.”

Jaz smiled. “ Alright, mom. See you tonight.”

Maddie nodded and grabbing the keys to the vehicle she absently gripped onto the neon green ghost keychain and smiled. “ Danny?There's twenty dollars on the counter next to the pancakes. Use it if you need to get anything. And Jaz? I know you have that study session with Mr.Baxter later this evening. I left your money in the living room.”

Both teens nodded. Jazmine piped, “Drive safe! And remember to pick up milk!”

Maddie smirked and waved farewell from the front door. Jazmine sighed in relief once she left and immediately turned to Danny. “ Are you ready to go?”

Daniel nodded. “ I've got everything I need to keep those bastards from eating him.”

Jaz nodded, “ I'll be in the car. Gather up any last minute stuff.”

Standing up and grabbing her own keys, she went to the counter and snatched both the tupperware container containing the food and Daniel's money. Quickly making a beeline out of the kitchen, she rounded the corner and soon was out of sight. Daniel grabbed his bag and slung it over his shoulders. Walking to the doorway, he stopped at the sound of his phone going off. Seeing the contact number, he immediately answered.

“ Sam? Is everything going alright over there?”

Sam's voice sighed tiredly. “ Did you know your archenemy had Excalibur in his basement?”

Daniel tensed. “ What does a mystical sword have to do with anything? You guys weren't attacked right?”

Sam assured. “ No, no attacks. Tucker questioned about artifacts and Vlad was trying to explain why the zone wasn't exactly a holiday hot spot. Long story short? Vlad got knocked out by a mystic sword and is currently sleeping off the mother of all paranormal makeout sessions.”

Daniel blanched, “ Vlad did what?!?!”

Sam assured. “ He was showing us a poltergeist artifact. Excalibur is an object that houses a female ghost named Vivian. She's the Lady of the Lake from the story of King Arthur’s sword.” Sam took a breath, “She’s also an oracle and she wanted to show us why she was hidden away. So we both each received a paranormal poem dictating our current futures. Both ended up centered on doom and gloom. The ghost turned on Vlad and began pleading with him to allow her to see what path he was on. He refused so she drugged him up on a paranormal kiss and forced him to let her show us what's going on with him.”

Daniel interrupted worriedly, “ She didn't hurt him right?!? I mean yesterday he was flatlining Sam! What were you guys thinking?!?”

Sam growled. “ She actually managed to heal his chest up a bit. She was helping, Danny. That and she told us some fairly important stuff. Vlad's being hunted actively. He's been something’s prey for a while now and whatever it is has pretty brutal plans centered on catching him and torturing him to death. We even saw glimpses of what happened yesterday when the artifact started flashing imagery. To summarize? We either protect Vlad and keep him safe or he gets murdered by two sadistic monsters. As an added bonus? Vlad's ghost half has been slowly poisoned for months now. The artifact said his mark is too weak to summon his friends to his aid.”

Daniel's brow furrowed in frustration. “ Jaz and I are on our way. Just make sure Vlad doesn't get up again. We don't need him tearing open something or coughing up blood again.”

Rounding the corner the teen quickly made his way through the living room and out of sight, completely unaware that two people had overheard a good majority of the conversation.

Jack Fenton numbly gripped the cufflink hidden in his hazmat suit pocket as Daniel ran by. “Vladdie….bud? What did you get yourself into?”

Bertrand quirked an eyebrow invisibly from above him. ‘ Interesting. It would seem we need to speed this up a bit. We can't have this moron ruining all of that wonderful misery we've cultivated. And we surely can't have the boy becoming too attached. We still need him to break Vladimir again after all….’

Jack furrowed his brow. Taking out the metal from his pocket and biting his lip, he tiredly sat down on the stairs. “How do I go about this? If you're really hurt right now I need to-”

Sighing, his gloved hand closed around the small circle tiredly. “ Don't worry Vladdie...I’ll visit you soon.”

Bertrand sneered and quickly exited the house. “ No… My wife and I will be visiting your precious Vladimir. We will be sure to send our regards.”

And with a wicked laugh that echoed over the building, the ghost quickly made his way to city hall.

Chapter Text

Groaning, Vlad sleepily tried opening his eyes to look at whatever was poking his face. Sam smiled gently at him. “ Welcome back Masters. You feeling alright?”

Vlad winced and numbly tried sitting up only to crumple to the bed weakly. Tucker worriedly leaned over him. “ You're not hurt right?”

Vlad smiled weakly. “ No worries...I’m just a little numb. Vivian can paralyze...ghosts and seeing as...how I'm half?.... Kinda unable to move...correctly..”

Tucker sighed in relief and pulled the blanket up tighter over Vlad's shoulder. “ Do you remember anything that happened after she kissed you?”

Vlad winced. “ No...not a clue...What happened?”

Both Tucker and Sam exchanged a look. “ We got a basic warning that you're being hunted by two demons with a taste for Plasmius.”

Vlad nodded and groaned against the blanket. “Figures...that it would be...something we...kind of..know?...Now I...feel drunk...and dizzy…”

Sam quirked an eyebrow, “ Drunk and dizzy?”

Vlad blearily curled against the cot. “ Yeah...room is spinning...and everything's...garbled...er-..echoey…? Then there's the...migraine..”

Sam nodded and questioned, “ Is that what usually happens with her?”

Vlad winced and sleepily closed his eyes. Murmuring, he answered. “….It’s the first….time...she has told my future...M’ not...sure I liked it….”

Tucker gaped, “ You mean you have a future forecasting sword and you just refrained from using it up until now?”

Vlad smirked and tiredly answered, “ Foley?.... No...fate is set...in stone...I'm not...going to narrow my...gaze on one possibility...I've...only used Vivian’s assistance…..in healing...people...and combat...I've never...used her vessel with...myself in mind...It's probably why she...was yelling at me before...she drugged me…”

Tucker smiled weakly and Sam mimicked the expression. “ On a scale of one to ten? How tired are you?”

Vlad snorted and peaked his eyes open slightly, “ Dead...tired.”

Both teens chuckled and Sam rolled her eyes. “ Danny and Jaz will be here in five minutes. I recommend you sleep while you can before they both give you a lecture.”

Vlad groaned. “ The mini-psychoanalyst and...the genderbent powerpuff girl...ohh...I'm just shaking in my boots...with that..combo...”

Tucker burst into laughter. Sam smirked. Vlad smiled weakly and his eyes numbly shut again. After a few moments, he was sound asleep.

Tucker shook his head in disbelief. “ If Danny ever gets in a fight with him based purely off of sass he's going to lose so quickly.”

Sam smiled and nodded in agreement.

“ Danny said he's bringing some more weaponry….”

Tucker snorted, “ I have a feeling Vlad probably has some stuff here as well considering all of those crates, boxes, and barrels in that vault filled with swords and guns.”

Sam smirked. “ Are you proposing we try offing a ghost with a sword or a gun?”

Tucker rolled his eyes and argued, “ Paranormal swords and guns? Artifacts remember?”

Sam quirked an eyebrow before looking at Vlad. “ We won't use those unless he tells us what is safe. He did warn us that we could get turned into birds if we touched anything without being told to.”

Tucker shivered. Looking to Vlad he concluded, “ Good point…”

Sam musedly glanced at the now cold tray of food she had brought down for Vlad. Tucker glanced at the food and raised an eyebrow. “ That’s a crying shame, you didn't make him any bacon?”

Sam shivered and furrowed her brow, “ I am not going to cook up piglet for anyone Tuck. That and I am Jewish, bacon goes against principle.”

Tucker snorted, “ It’s more of a lesson in avoiding waste. By boycotting meat that is raised and slaughtered, you’re really just making the loss of life a moot point. If I eat meat I’m making sure they didn’t die just to get thrown away in some market.”

Sam froze and whipped her head up to Tucker in surprise. “ But wouldn’t avoiding it altogether cut off some of their revenue? Maybe fewer animals would die because someone decides to eat veggies and fruits instead of meat?”

Tucker smiled kindly and sat down tiredly. “And that’s your choice, Sammy. You're entitled to your own beliefs and ways of dealing with problems. You like facing things head on like Danny but you’re better at weighing emotions than he is. I am more analytical." Lifting his PDA he sighed. “ If you want to really take a crack at the whole senseless killing and waste thing you should probably make a video or something. Your family has the connections.”

Sam smiled slightly. “ I’ve thought about it…. But you know? I’d rather just see better regulation in the industry. If people eat meat it should be humane.”

Tucker smirked, “ That video they showed you in health class in middle school really did a number on you huh?”Tucker paused, “ I agree, Sammy. Nothing deserves to suffer but I also believe making sure the reason why they went through it in the first place shouldn’t be forgotten. God, knows I wouldn’t want a ghost cow or chicken chasing me down because I threw out their body like their death was meaningless. If there's meat already cut and in the fridge, it stands to reason that cooking it would be ideal.”

Sam nodded in understanding. Pausing, she allowed a mellow grin to snake across her fuschia purple lips.“I’m glad you goobers are so down to earth…”

Tucker smiled broadly and nudged his glasses up his nose.“ I think our ability to see things differently but still, agree with one another is what makes us such a kickass team.”

Sam smirked. “ Why the sudden urge to go all sentimental on me, Tuck?”

Tucker glanced toward Vlad. “ I like to think if you and I are friends Sammy, then maybe Vlad and Danny don’t have such a long shot at making it to the same goal.”

Sam looked to Vlad and her gaze saddened. “ I don’t really think they are that different.”

Tucker smirked and raised a hand mockingly from his lap to count off the similarities, “Temperamental? Check. Half ghost? Yep. Gets constantly chased by the Fentons? Again, check. Poor eating habits?” Tucker looked up from his fingers and back to Vlad. “ Scratch that last one, Vlad is way worse at managing himself.”

Sam winced and nodded. “Instant ramen and apples… It’s a miracle he’s even still around.”

Vlad shifted slightly from where he laid and both teenagers worriedly stood and walked toward him. He was sweating again and numbly clawing a hand against the covers. Feverish breaths that seemed to mist slightly escaped his lips in small labored gasps. Tucker and Sam immediately reached over and pulled him into a sitting position. Vlad winced and coughed before noting the two. Grimacing, he reached a hand to his throat. “ The burning….it’s getting worse….”

Sam nodded and reaching over to the tray grabbed the glass of water she had retrieved from upstairs. “ Here. Take slow sips.”

Vlad nodded and numbly reached for the glass. Taking a sip he winced and retracted the glass. “ What the-?!”

Sam and Tucker looked to him questioningly. Sam worriedly went to grab the glass only to yelp as the cup made contact with her skin. The glass fell from her hand instantly and shattered on the floor. Vlad worriedly grabbed her hand to inspect it. Seeing her fisting the wounded palm, he dizzily pleaded, “Ms. Manson…? Please. Let me see it.”

Sam took a breath and unfurled her palm to reveal red and blistered skin. Vlad’s brow furrowed. “ What is going on here?”

He glanced to the glass in the floor and then quickly retracted his own hands from her wrist in horror. Tucker grimaced. “ What the fuck did that blonde demon give you Vlad?”

Vlad paled. “ I don’t know…” Looking from Tucker to Sam again, he raised his palm up and directed. “ Ms. Manson? Can you trust me for a moment?”

Sam looked into his sickly features worriedly.“ That depends on what you're planning on doing Vlad.”

Vlad tiredly answered. “ My job?” Furrowing his brow, he looked away from her. “ That burn needs to be treated.”

Sam sighed. “ If it's all the same to you Plasmius? I’d rather you not.”

Vlad flinched and his gaze went to his lap. Sam, seeing the expression looked to him remorsefully. “ It's not like that.”

Vlad nodded and sighed. “Please? I'd rather not have another mistake layered on my ledger. There’s enough red already...”

Tucker grimaced. “ Vlad. It's just a small burn. Danny gave us plenty when he was first trying to control himself.”

Vlad glanced up and motioned toward Sam dizzily. “ Well, Daniel would've had a better grip on his powers if I would've-” Vlad grimaced and tiredly brought a hand to his forehead. “ You do realize he never would've been cursed to this if I just would have come clean to Maddie and Jack right?”

Sam and Tucker both cringed. Sam’s shoulders slumped. “ Do you really consider it that big of a curse?”

Vlad looked at her and smiled gently. “ I regret many things in my life, Samantha. My greatest regret has never been taking that blast. If given the option I probably would do it all over again because I know two people I consider my siblings would have probably suffered in my place. Whether my role or what has happened to me, as a result, is considered a curse? That's debatable.”

Tucker sighed. “ I guess that's something you and Danny are separate in. Danny doesn't deal well with pressure and he jumps to conclusions easily. He blames being ghosted for a lot of his problems.”

Vlad glanced at the shattered glass on the concrete. “ My godson is a mess isn't he?”

Tucker and Sam both whipped their heads up. “ What?!?”

Vlad looked up tiredly and chuckled dryly. Coughing, he elaborated, “My life has never been one that most would willingly choose. And god…. it hurt so badly when I received those letters... Not a single phone call or note prior, no signs they even knew I existed or lived and then to have them place their faith in me for protecting two of the most precious things in their lives? To raise and love them in the event Maddie and Jack could not? I remember when Jazmine's birth announcement came first.”

Vlad's eyes lit up slightly. “ She was so beautiful. Jack even gave her my little sister’s name. He named her middle moniker, Elizabeth...I-...” Vlad squeezed his leg. “ I was so happy that they stayed together. That they married and had a baby. And when Daniel was born I was even more surprised and overjoyed. But that joy only brought confusion and heartache.”

Tucker sat down tiredly. “ So you're technically like Danny's uncle.”

Vlad winced and nodded. He paused for a moment before continuing. “You know what hurt the most? Reading those letters and realizing my best friends thought they'd die in some freak lab accident one day or get maimed by some paranormal entity…”

He paused and rubbed the back of his neck before smiling weakly again. “And then to realize that you're half of the thing they fear and hate...That you're a monster? A sin that they think shouldn't exist? Something that doesn't feel or understand pain? A simple shadow of a man doomed to wander about because of an obsession or ghostly volition?”

Sam and Tucker both reached out for him to comfort him. Vlad backed away slightly. “Miss Manson? Mr.Foley? I'd rather you not touch me until I can figure out what's causing these power fluctuations. I don't want to accidentally hurt someone.”

Looking to Sam's burnt hand he growled in frustration. “ Then again I already managed that much didn't I?”

Sam smiled comfortingly. “ If you love Mr. and Mrs. Fenton so much why did you-”

Vlad sighed. “ Love makes people do stupid things. I was trying to protect them.”

Tucker raised an eyebrow, “ From what?”

Vlad paused and a darkness filled his eyes. “ Anything I say on the matter would be grossly inadequate. Just know that I did what I did because I had no other alternatives. That entire ordeal was slated to happen from the moment I got blasted by the portal.”

Chapter Text

Vlad's eyes dulled slightly and he swayed against the cot. Noting the change Sam panicked and reached out to steady him. Vlad weakly tried pushing her and Tucker away as they gripped onto him. Whipping out her phone, she dialed Daniel. He picked up on the first ring.

“ Is everything okay still?”

Sam quickly questioned. “ How far out are you? He's starting to flare up again!”

There was a dull click and not a minute later Danny Phantom was phasing through the lab in a hurried panic. Vlad grimaced and weakly tried phasing out of their grasps. “Stop….I'm….fine..”

Daniel growled, “ You aren't fine! You're a walking disaster case with ghost powers! Stay still, you stubborn moron!”

Vlad rolled his eyes numbly and seeing Daniel's ghost sense, paled. A green mist latched onto Vlad's shoulder and with a small thud, he crashed into something in the lab. Coughing from the sudden teleportation, he tried to at least get to his hands and knees.

A taloned hand grabbed onto his neck and dug into the sealed bite wound before yanking him up. A glowing green ghost leeringly sneered and threw Vlad toward the portal. Vlad growled as he made it to his hands and knees. “How dare you enter an embassary's domicile!”

The green figure’s voice morphed and fluctuated between tones and dialects as it spoke, remaining indistinguishable. “ Some embassary, aren't you? You’re weak Plasmius. Tell me? Was it your little girl's untimely end that finally broke that will of yours?”

The spirit leisurely threw up a shield around them as Daniel flew into the room. Vlad numbly struggled to his feet and gripped his now bleeding neck before glaring at the intruder. “What are you getting at demon?”

The mist-like figure snickered and raised a few fingers nonchalantly to stare at its own black talons.“ I'm just doing damage control. We can't have you re-gaining any strength after all. Not like it matters. Little Vladimir is just as helpless and pathetic as that kid that demoness tore into teeny tiny pieces!”

Vlad's eyes sparked and rage engulfed his entire frame. Daniel and the other two teenagers were desperately blasting away and attacking the shield. The green entity noticed and, turning to face Daniel, smirked broadly. Making sure to draw the words from his lips so the boy could read them, he evilly sneered. “Make sure to watch Daniel. This is what happens to pathetic freaks like you and little Vladimir.”

Vlad was making a move forward to fight only for a searing pain to rip through his chest. Staggering, his eyes widened in horror and a shaky hand went to his mouth. Red dripped through his fingers and splattered against the floor as he coughed. The green figure glanced back and duplicated. The duplicate switched places with the one laughing at Daniel's horrified features and tapped on the shield to draw the enraged sixteen-year-old’s gaze. “ Look at that. The little freak can't breathe! I wonder why that is? Maybe his lungs are cooking? Wouldn't that be scrumptious Phantom?”

The other mist figure cocked it's head as it approached Vlad. “ Does that hurt Masters? I hope it does…”

Vlad numbly glared and attempted to shield himself. The green mist rolled its eyes at the weak energy construct and blasted Vlad through it before clasping its taloned hand to Vlad's shoulder. Vlad glowered through his pain and went to charge a hand to strike. Reaching up to his assailant, he numbly blasted it in the opposite shoulder. The figure hissed and turned angrily, only to see Vlad's knees buckle from under him.

Reaching down and grasping onto his neck, he pinned him against the shield and began leisurely securing his hands to the construct. Vlad's eyes sparked white and his right hand flashed only for his eyes to try shutting. The light he had manifested quickly dimmed and dissipated. The mist tsked at the attempt and reached a hand under Vlad's chin. Lifting his dazed face he turned him from side to side to inspect the growing damage from his proximity. Seeing the smoke curling from Vlad's mouth and the halfa starting to scream in agony he moved out of the way so the teenagers could see. Vlad’s red eyes darted in and out spastically as he screamed and soon his body was shaking as he hacked and coughed in a desperate bid to get oxygen. Turning to Daniel, the mist crossed its arms. “ I stand corrected. His insides are melting. I bet that's a bitch isn't it?”

Daniel could be seen screaming desperately at the sight and tried even more frantically to break through the dome.

Vlad’s body began forcefully shifting and his chest arched. The mist next to him reached down to Vlad's now black hair and lifted his face up to its own. “ You know the brat is just toying with you right? Who would honestly care about you after you let her do that? Not once but twice to the people you cared about? Doesn't that sting?”

Vlad's eyes teared and he began darting in and out as another shift ripped through his now almost completely limp body. Releasing Vlad from the wall and watching him fall against the floor, the figure glowered at the teen focusing himself in preparation to blast the shield with a ghostly wail.

Both their attentions were caught by the flash of black that shifted Vlad. Reaching down and grabbing onto Plasmius, he sneered and threw him roughly in front of Daniel. The duplicate then snickered as Daniel abruptly cut off the buildup for his ghostly wail. The teen's eyes went to Vlad, who was now semiconscious on the floor and gurgling numbly.

Metal was buckling and bubbling near Vlad's body. Seeing the glowing white metal, the mist like ghost crouched down and yanked Vlad up. Slamming him against the shield in front of Daniel, he languidly pointed to the heated and now almost pooling steel. Daniel's eyes widened in horror as Vlad was dragged to the segment of the floor. The figure then threw its voice outside of the shield. “ What should we burn first? His face or his hands? Tell me brat...which do you think would be best?”

Daniel snarled. “ YOU SICK SON OF A BITCH! LET HIM GO!”

The mist looked toward Vladimir and seeing the halfa now completely unconscious he glanced back to the teen and teased. “ Look at that… Big, bad Plasmius seems to have lost his ability to breath again. I wonder if I can get that precious halfa heart stalled twice in one day?” As he spoke two rings engulfed Vlad and sluggishly began splitting. The green specter sighed amusedly. “Darn...The freak’s not shifting correctly. I guess I'll help him along, hmm?”

Wrapping its hand tighter around Vlad's throat, it squeezed just enough to force the shift to speed up. Vlad's limp and bandaged human form came back and the green ghost whistled.

Sam and Tucker growled.

The entity snorted at them. “And it looks like the little loser’s friends decided to start investing in this little asset as well. It's a shame I don't plan on leaving him here.”

Spying the open portal the specter smirked. Turning toward Daniel and squeezing Vlad's neck, he leaned in next to the adult and grinned as Vlad's eyes dulled further and his chest arched from the proximity. The smoke twirling between his fangs was making the shielded space hazy. Seeing the bandages on Vlad's neck, the demon glowered. “ Well look at that! Someone decided to keep my wife's poison from spreading.”

Turning toward them again and seeing the still bubbling metal, the figure purred. “ You wanted me to let him go? I'll let him go.” Dragging Vlad to the hot surface he lifted him up by his neck and was about to drop him when a large blast echoed through the space. It shattered through the shield and into the spectral assailant’s shoulder with a loud electrical crack. Hissing, the ghost dropped Vladimir next to the bubbling metal and quickly teleported away. The demon left only a few faint traces of ectoplasm plastered across the metal from where it had stood as Jaz’s blow tore into it. Vlad slumped to his knees and, still suffocating, began falling toward the smoldering segment of flooring. A hand caught his shoulder before he could connect and gently hugged him away from the steel.

Jazmine numbly deactivated the Fenton Ghost Peeler as she ran forward.

Daniel activated his core against the adult and watched as the smoke strangled off and stopped. After a few minutes, Vlad's eyes regained some consciousness.

Trying to speak, he weakly attempted smiling. “ Thank….g-god Jazmine...has...her m-mother's...aim?”

Daniel laughed somewhat in relief as did the rest of the group. “ You wouldn't be saying that if you saw how she handles a thermos.”

Vlad numbly choked. “....S-sorry….about….all….of this….”

A hand reached under his neck and feeling the fever gently patted him. Sam worriedly looked to Jaz. “ Jaz? What do we do? He's not breathing correctly.”
Jazmine's hand gently brushed aside her brother's and feeling Vlad's skin she winced. “He's delirious again…. He had too little oxygen and the heat made it worse…”

Vlad flinched as he was picked up and carried to the infirmary. Dizzy and out of sorts the adult numbly grasped onto a small segment of Daniel's sleeve as he was cradled. Shaking, he passed out against him. Turning to Jazmine, Daniel prodded. “ Don't we have a prototype ghost shield somewhere at the house?”

Vlad grimaced as he was laid down. Both Sam and Tucker were worriedly stepping over broken glass to check him themselves. Tucker, feeling Vlad's pulse, snapped off his hat and growled in frustration. “ WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS WITH EVERYTHING TRING TO MAIM AND TORTURE HIM?!?CAN’T THEY GO AND SCREW WITH EACH OTHER INSTEAD?!?!”

Vlad groaned and turned against the cot. Panting, he tossed his head and gasped as he turned into Plasmius yet again. Green fever could be seen under the greyish blue skin as the half-ghost continued tossing in discomfort and shaking. Daniel flinched and quickly pulled Vlad up against himself. Plasmius writhed slightly as he was leaned against his shoulder but quickly relaxed.

Chapter Text

Bringing a hand to the back of Vlad's neck to steady him and feeling a strange rectangular bump through his glove he questioningly phased of Vlad's cape and tilted him forward. Spying an indentation near Vlad's hairline, he stiffened and motioned Tucker to look. “Tuck? What's that on his neck? I can't look at it from here.”

Tucker pawed the hair and taking a step back his face grew ashen. “Danny….dude… That's a serial number.”

Both Jazmine and Sam leaned in to inspect the area. Nimble fingers lifted a few spiked locks of black and graced across the scarred flesh. Vlad shivered at their touch and Daniel patted his back as he was inspected. Sam looked away in discomfort. “ You know...my great uncle was one of the people placed in Auschwitz? They’d tattoo them to mark them as prisoners….or working property…. This looks just like that…”

Jazmine's eyes darted over the digits questiongly. “ It's a brand.” Pausing, she looked to Vlad sadly before bringing her attention back to the mark. “The flesh seems to have healed over almost completely. There's just a little bit of scarring left. I can't even make out what the numbers were… These last two look like letters though.”

Tucker rubbed a hand through his curly hair and tiredly leaned his head against a wall. “What.the.actual.hell?”

Vlad shifted slightly and his pointed ears flicked up minutely as Daniel readjusted his hold. Sam looked to Daniel worriedly, “ Did that ghost have some sort of flame power?”

Daniel growled. “ Probably.”

Jazmine tiredly sat in the chair in front of the teenager. “ He can't stay in this house. It's not safe.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “ Where do you think we should take him? The guy can't go to a hospital. They'll dissect him.”

Jaz rolled her eyes. “ I think we should bring him to one of the abandoned tenant buildings on Newport street. At least there it'll be harder for anyone to track him.”

Tucker looked over to Vlad and worriedly questioned. “ What do we do if he gets wounded again? He needs the medical supplies…”

Jazmine motioned around. “ We’ll just have to take what we need from here. A day away from this house should give him enough time to try and heal without that Slimer reject coming back to barbecue him.”

Daniel nodded. “ Is there a certain building you have in mind?”

Jazmine furrowed her brow and after a minute nodded. “ Yeah… Actually? I think I may have something better than one of those buildings....”

Yanking out her phone she pressed a few numbers into the screen and waited as it rang. “ Hi, Miss Maynard? Remember when you were talking about offering a safe haven if Vladimir needed it?”

Daniel focused his hearing and began listening in as he cradled Vlad.

A worried voice chimed, “ Yes! Of course! Is he alright?!?”

Jazmine grimaced. “ He needs a hiding spot for the night. Something broke into his house and hurt him pretty badly. Do you have space for him and an ecto blasting teenager or two?”

“ The attic in my building has a bed set up for emergencies. You're welcome to stay here as long as you need to. Do you have a pen and paper to write the address or do you want me to text it to you?”

“ If you could text it to me that would be swell. We need to carry him out to the car and pack some stuff.”

There was a pause. “ How badly did he get hurt?”

Jazmine winced and Daniel grimaced. “ Pretty bad for normal ghost standards. He's got a fever and he’s unconscious again.”

“ Okay. I'll message you the address. Just knock when you get here and I'll help you in.”

“ Thank you.”

The woman paused. “ I can't have my best customer kicking the bucket on me. Just make sure he arrives here in one piece?”

“Will do. See you soon.” And with a click, she hung up.

Daniel quirked an eyebrow, “ Was that the waitress from two days ago?”

Jazmine nodded. “ She gave me her cell number because she wanted to be sure I'd call her when we got Vlad home safely.”

Floating up with Vlad in hand Daniel nodded curtly. “ I'm going to take him to the car. How many duplicates do you guys need to grab the stuff we’re taking?”

Sam furrowed her brow. “ We need one upstairs to grab my stuff and one to grab your clothes and a shirt for Vlad. Tucker, Jaz and I can snatch some food and the medical stuff.”

Pausing, she worriedly glanced toward Excalibur. Walking toward the sword, she gingerly picked up the blade. “I'm going to go close that vault. We don't need that thing coming back here and stealing a bunch of paranormal weaponry.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “ I think it would still be able to get in Sam. We phased into the vault remember?”

Sam's brow furrowed. Walking over to Daniel, she questioned. “ Can you float down to floor level?”

Daniel, seeing her intentions, looked to Vlad and sighed tiredly before descending. Sam gently shook the adult. Dazed, half-lidded red eyes groggily opened. “Ms.Manson…?”

Sam smiled weakly, “ Vlad? We need to lock the vault. If we close the door nothing can phase into the room right?”

Vlad nodded yes before rasping. “S-Spectral...seal….causes the room...to shift….N-Nothing goes in or o-out…”

Sam nodded and apologetically added. “ I'm sorry for waking you up. Go back to sleep Plasmius.”

Vlad coughed and gently smiled. Closing his eyes slightly, he added. “ T-thank you….for thinking….a-about it….” Pausing he drowsily finished. “This...isn’t...m-my week….…”

Jazmine peaked over and smiled reassuringly. “ It's going to be alright Vlad. Just get some rest?”

Vlad's eyes numbly began drifting out as he was supported against Daniel. He coughed and grimaced as his body tried shifting but failed to cement the change back to Masters. Daniel flinched and the other teens cringed.

Daniel redirected Vlad. “ Vlad?”

Vlad blearily groaned, “ S-sorry….I'm not…..trying to-”

A cool hand gently went to Vlad's neck and Daniel cut him off. “ We know Fruit-Loop… Just breathe.”

Vlad winced out a sigh. “ I don't think...I'll be able...to sleep. Badger….My chest….It hurts to breathe…”

Jazmine sighed, “ Yeah, smoke inhalation does that.”

Tucker spotted Vlad’s neck and groaned. “ Danny? We need to fix him up before we leave.”

Vlad dizzily gripped onto Daniel’s sleeve as he was propped back up on the cot. “Daniel?.....This….probably….is partially my fault..”

Daniel and everyone else present snorted or rolled their eyes. Grasping Vlad’s shoulder, Daniel inquired, “ How so Fruit-Loop?”

Vlad winced as his bandages where phased off and the wound was inspected. “Probably….residual energy from Shadow…..”

Daniel paused and looked to Vlad worriedly, “ That wouldn’t make sense Vlad….The most I’ve ever been affected by Shadow was-” Thinking back on it and biting his lip he turned to Tucker.

“ Tuck? How long was that bad luck stint we had three or four months ago?”

Tucker raised an eyebrow. “ I think it was four days?”

Vlad groaned. “ Have you gotten... walloped by him.. recently? Now that...your core is active?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Actually? He’s avoided having Shadow do any damage on me...I want to say he’s being more friendly but...?” He shrugged slightly and prodded, “ Why the interest?”

Vlad smiled weakly. “Badger?.... Avoid pissing off that poltergeist...in the future… He won't go easy on you anymore.”

Daniel’s face fell. “ What are you getting at?”

Vlad chuckled and coughed against his free hand. Looking up to Daniel, he matter of factly added. “Shadow is a….curse poltergeist...that takes into account….age...experience...and power levels….To put this bluntly…..It’s like...a snake. Its ability is the equivalent of venom….It can control the dose it gives...I’m probably still stuck in a bad...luck spell...You’re still young...but now that you have an operational core?....Pfff….he’d do the same to you in a millisecond...despite Johnny’s wishes…..”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “ Well, that explains a lot. How else would you even remotely end up this bad off in the span of a week?”

Vlad smiled tiredly. “ If this doesn't kill me? The humiliation of being toted around like some sort of damsel in distress by a teenage vigilante will.”

Daniel awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “ It’s not like I enjoy it either. Neither of us has much of a choice considering you can’t even walk right now.’

Vlad’s eyebrow twitched. Fueled by a desire to prove he was capable of such a simple task, his voice confidently declared, “ I can most certainly walk!”

Daniel glared and his eyes flashed. Grinning he growled, “ Fine. Prove it .”

Vlad clumsily staggered to his feet and went to move forward only for the entire room to spin uncomfortably. Tucker rushed to him and quickly latched onto his shoulders to keep him from crumpling to the concrete.

Daniel smirked. “ And that cements it. You’re stuck with this arrangement until you can manage on your own.”

Vlad growled. “ You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”

Daniel quirked an eyebrow and then leaned down to Vlad’s slumped form in order to stare him down. “ Well, I was right which means you were wrong, Fruit-Loop...”

Vlad’s eyebrow twitched and composing himself he groaned to Tucker, “And I’ve officially been sassed by the pseudo hamster.”

Tucker smiled gently. “ I don’t think it counts Plas. He kind of knew your pride was only going to help you along so far.”

Vlad smirked slightly and winced.

Jazmine worriedly leaned in and questioned. “ What hurts?”

Vlad quirked an eyebrow and looked from himself to Jazmine with disbelief.

Jazmine smiled weakly, “ Sorry? Standard question.”

Clasping a hand weakly to his throat, he sighed. “ I think whatever it did burnt the inside of my throat.”

Everyone winced and Vlad snorted. “ I think the injury is pretty minor.”

Sam’s eyebrow twitched. “Yes...because getting the inside of your body burned is totally minor .”

Vlad rolled his eyes. Opening his mouth to speak again, he paled and groaned before making a desperate pass for Daniel’s shoulder as he phased threw Tucker’s grasp involuntarily. Seeing Vlad’s body falling toward the glass, Daniel quickly snatched him. Moaning, Vlad dizzily curled his head towards his own chest in an attempt to stop the nausea that had accompanied the sudden movement.

“ And now your powers are fucking up again.” Daniel worriedly put a gloved hand to his forehead. “ On top of being feverish...”

Vlad winced and peaked up to the worried teens before sighing, “So now what? Daniel…..I can’t control much of anything right now....”

Daniel grimaced and tightened his hold slightly on the adult. “ Just don’t hold this against me when you wake up.”

Vlad tensed, “ What are-?”

A sharp, prodding pain latched through the skin on Vlad’s lower back and his eyes closed almost instantaneously as he body numbed and went lax. Two black rings sluggishly split and Vlad Masters slumped against the teen’s shoulder.

Daniel sighed and pulled out the spectral dart his mother had been working on the last few months as gently as he could. “ That’ll keep him under for a bit.”

Sam worriedly stepped forward. “Isn’t that dangerous? You just drugged him with something and you don’t know-?”

Jazmine interrupted, “It’s a Fenton Ghost Dazer. Chillax, Sam... It’s an energy neutralizer.”

Daniel gently felt Vlad’s pulse and smiled tiredly. “ Mom accidentally nicked me with one of those a few weeks ago. I was out for three or four hours. She thought I fainted.”

Jaz nodded. “ He couldn’t shift for another two afterward.”

Tucker bent down and smirked. “A humane alternative to using the ghost taser, huh?”

Daniel winced and tightened his grip. “ He’s hurting enough without me adding to it. I’ve done enough damage this week.”

Daniel duplicated the requested amount of doubles and curtly nodded to Tucker before phasing himself and Vlad to Jaz’s car.

Jazmine sighed and Sam turned to lock the vault.

Chapter Text

Bertrand clutched the torn, mist-like ligament hanging from his shoulder blade angrily as he landed in the janitor’s closet in city hall.

Spectra looked up at his abrupt appearance and quickly rushed to his aid. “Berty? Hubby? What happened?!?”

Staggering slightly he glowered to the wall beside him knowing her concern would quickly shift to rage at his admissions. Cradling his head she gently cupped the wound. “ Did that fat oath and his wife get to you?”

Bertrand sighed. “ Penelope? I-”

Tsking, she tentatively touched the limb and snarled, “ Which one did it? I'll tear their eyes out!”

Bertrand swallowed dryly. “ You know how I wanted you to accompany me to Vladimir's earlier ?”

She paused and her skin morphed slightly to her mist form in anger. “ You went anyway didn't you?”

Bertrand growled. “ Well, now we have bigger problems! His core is showing more aggressive signs of forced acclimation. In a few days, he's either going to be a corpse or he'll be a fully formed halfa!”

Spectra’s brow furrowed at the news. “ What signs did you see?”

Bertrand snarled furiously and held up the hand that had gripped Vladimir's neck. “ The bull burned me from the brief contact I made with his flesh and the floor was melting. He’s a fire core for sure.”

Spectra worriedly began pacing and noting the ectoplasm pooling in the floor in thick globules she sighed. “You'll have to feed on some of the blood I stole from him yesterday. That wound is too extensive to heal quickly with a simple detour into the zone.”

Bertrand sighed. “ I wasn't expecting that red-headed Fenton twerp to be packing heavy artillery.”

Spectra raised an eyebrow and tapped a manicured finger to her lips in contemplation. “So little Jazmine is in on this as well now?”

Bertrand snorted, “ I’d say she's fully invested in our meal. The brat shot me to save Vladimir.”

Spectra growled in frustration. “Why were you so intent on checking on him Berty? You never elaborated early!”

Bertrand sighed heavily. “ Jack Fenton poses a problem now. He seems to have pieced together Vladimir’s involvement in saving the brat from that Mahr.”

Spectra’s lip turned into a sultry frown. Pulling a small ampule of blood from her dress suit pocket she tossed it to her husband and sat down on the edge of the desk by the wall. “ So that oath is finally closing in on dear little Vladimir’s double life. That definitely adds some layers of intrigue to our little cat and mouse game.”

Bertrand looked to the ampule of blood and apologetically questioned. “Don’t we need this for your plan, darling? If I take it-”

Spectra raised a hand and interrupted. “ We will amend the plan. By the looks of things, we will have to make our move sooner rather than later in order to butcher our prize before he fully adapts or destabilizes. I wanted a few weeks to secure their bond but hearing about the situation we may have to rush our little antics in favor of more aggressive tactics. This situation may end up being a blessing in disguise. Use the ampule, Berty. We will get more from him before the show starts.”

Bertrand nodded and quickly downed the contents of the vial. A sharp pulse of white tinted, red energy pulsed through his form and the wound dripping down his arm caved in on itself before filling with new ghost matter. Shivering at the power spike, Bertrand smiled druggedly. “ At least we know a physical feeding will be far more potent than just siphoning his energy as we normally do.”

Spectra nodded absently. “Halfa’s are such a delicacy…. Two spectrums endowed with strong life forces and powers that neither human or ghost can even imagine. The fact that he’s an embassary only adds to his blood's value. We would be fools just to consume scraps of shattered emotion when his physical essence is so much more fulfilling.”

Pausing, she sighed heavily. “ I was looking forward to dragging this out but now the entire meal has to be prepped and put together in a rush!”

Growling, she slammed her hand into the desk. “ The question is how do we incorporate that fat lard ball into this?”

Bertrand beamed. “ I see an opportunity, my dear... We know Vladimir’s voilitions, his heart's desires, and his innermost fears. We know every sin and grace he’s ever made. And little Daniel Fenton is no different. Granted, we haven't fed off that little freak since we tried offing little Miss Brainiac, but we still know enough. Wouldn’t adding something precious as collateral sweeten the pot?”

Spectra paused and, looking to Bertrand, a wicked grin flickered across her lips. Jumping to her feet she clapped her hands together. “ That’s brilliant!”

Bertrand grinned toothely and winked, “ Isn’t that why you married me, darling?”

Spectra coely wrapped her fingers under his jaw as he transformed back into his normal elderly form. “ On the contrary, I married you because you know how to take what you want. You’re devious, possessive, and all mine.”

Bertrand smirked and leaned in against her touch. “Mmmm, and you’re bloodthirsty, conniving, and drop dead gorgeous.”

Spectra giggled at the joke and chortled. “ You know we have to make arrangements now….Right, Berty?”

Bertrand rolled his eyes and cupped a hand to her cheek tiredly. “ How do you want to go about this? It’s only a matter of time before Vladimir’s appointees figure out he is in peril and return from the zone to aid him.”

Spectra quirked an eyebrow. “Ah….yes... Skulker and that ex-demon. They’re at what? Almost three weeks away from their precious leader while in search of a mahr that no longer exists? I would wager they both will be returning soon seeing as how they were so worried for his well being prior to departing.”

Bertrand grimaced. “ Shouldn't we close Vladimir's portal forcefully? If they come back to soon our plans will be in jeopardy.”

Spectra nodded and turned to the desk she had been sitting on prior. Rifling through one of the drawers she amusedly added. “ We cannot close Vladimir's portal yet. We still need to gather sufficient materials to synthesize a worthy embassary suppressant that takes into account Vladimir's new spectral energy patterns. The problem is I don't know what ghost pharmaceuticals would be most suitable.”

Bertrand tapped his chin. “ Can't we just continue the regular doses of our normal spectral poison? It works effectively enough.”

Spectra rolled her eyes and flicked her wrist languidly to her bosom. “Any more blood blossom and he’ll taste off. We need a different brand of misery for our little delicacy. I'm thinking about using wraiths weed….and we need to harvest that plant from the plain near the border between territories. A spectral tranquilizer to keep him knocked out for a couple of hours is also a necessity.”

Bertrand nodded. “ But what of his appointees?”

Spectra growled and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “ We will gather the plants first and then we'll lock his portal. Unless they somehow find a natural portal in the zone that leads back to Amity, they'll be far too late to assist him.”

Fingering his cufflink, Bertrand sighed. “Won't we have to shatter their core's as well Penelope?”

A wickedly fanged grin lit Spectra's features. “ I wonder? Berty? Do you think we can forcefully activate the embassary's life-line attribute? If we reverse it and feed on him while it's activated his little friends should perish as he does.”

Bertrand laughed giddily and walked up to Spectra. Wrapping a hand around her shoulder, he nodded. “ Yes. I think that's perfectly manageable. What else do we need?”

Spectra paused in thought. Turning under his arm and leaning down to cradle his jaw again, she smiled gently. “First? Break into his home and gather that infernal power shorting device…. What was it called again?”

Bertrand’s eyebrow twitched and a weary smirk flickered across his jaw. “The Plasmius Maximus?”

“ Pompous isn't he?” She rolled her eyes.

Bertrand grinned. “ Just like a certain brat, hmmm?” Cracking his knuckles, he motioned for her to continue. “Anything else?”

Spectra pecked a kiss to his cheek and pulled at his necktie. “ We need a stockade.” She grinned. “I was thinking about pilfering the Fenton’s new Spectre Deflector and recalibrating it. We can sequence it to his ghost signature so that it only harms him. It'll be easier to feed once he can't fight back.”

Bertrand grinned broadly and nodded. “ And what of Jack Fenton and the brat? If Vladimir is discovered prior to us taking him, that little halfa and that orange suited travesty may end up unveiling the truth and ruining all of that savory fear and heartache we've been selectively breeding in our dear little embassary.”

Heels tapped against the floor for a moment, filling the silence will dull wooden clicks as she pondered the question. “ I doubt either halfa would willingly reveal themselves. Jack Fenton may pose a problem, however. How worried is he?”

Bertrand snorted and glowered, “That fudge obsessed, Telly Tubby reject is fully set on marching up to Vladimir's front door and forcefully checking him for injury or ailments. You'd think that fat bastard would have taken the hints or pieced together what happened to his dear friend!”

Eyes lighting in mirth, he smiled at the thought before purring, “It's pathetic to see a ghost hunter with no knowledge that his own child and dearest friend are half dead because of his own shortsightedness!”

Spectra snorted, “ Still spiteful about those two years playing pretend, huh Berty?”

Bertrand’s features soured and he turned abruptly. Raising his hand angrily, he slammed it into a wall. “ TWO YEARS COMPLETELY WASTED IF THAT IGNORANT GHOST HUNTER TELLS VLADIMIR THE TRUTH!”

Spectra floated over and laced her hands through his hair. “ Why not visit him as Vladimir's secretary? Or better yet? Break into the bull’s home and call him using Vladimir's phone. You drank enough of the embassary's blood to be able to mimic his voice again. Just put him off of Vladimir's tail for a bit until we're ready to harvest.”

Bertrand's shoulders dropped. Turning up his head to look at her he sighed. “ So I have to do that again?”

Spectra turned from him and walked back over to her desk. “ I can distract him if you wish? I partook in his blood as well. I may not be able to change forms as you do but I can mimic him enough to sound passable.”

Bertrand nodded but quirked an eyebrow before rubbing his chin. Looking up to her face he questioned, “ And what of Vladimir's new bodyguards? I doubt they'll leave him unattended now that he's injured so severely. Sneaking into that home will practically be impossible!”

Spectra snorted. “ No risk, no reward darling. You've already set them on alert so now it's your job to make sure our precious little test case doesn't escape to pasture due to some foolish human’s kind heart.”

Bertrand groaned but nodded in agreement. “ We might as well go and make a house call on the little invalid.”

Spectra smirked, “Yes, yes indeed.” Interlocking her fingers with his, she floated through the ceiling and toward the general direction of Vladimir's estate. ‘I wonder?’ She mused, ‘ How will Vladimir look with a collar?’

Chapter Text

Jack Fenton was many things. Reckless, stubborn, obsessive, complacent…. but he prided himself on one key factor of his personality.
He was protective of the people he cherished. Probably to a dangerous extent.

Being a neon orange version of a discount store ghostbuster was a result of such characteristics. He was a stubborn scientist with a reckless passion for the paranormal that bordered on insanity. Jack knew it as a provoked obsession. A hobby built from a knowing that something inhuman had, at one time, watched his family...touched his children, and broken into his home for god knows what reason. His superstitions were amply justified. The Wisconsin Ghost, spectral buzzards, ghost animals, a strange mechanical robot like specter, and even a young biker ghoul who had dated his daughter had all entered his home with rather vague or unsavory purposes. Each had also gotten away from him. The town claimed his inability as a simple case of foolish rage driven hunting. ‘A fool with a key to the gun cabinet.’ Had been the previous mayor's words for describing him. He was complacent and that led to serious damage to property.
His complacency usually was labeled as idiocy by his neighbors and associates. The problems and mistakes were often due to his often diverted attention. Like any genius mind, he was easily derailed from a task or idea unless something could come out of it that justified or entertained him. His lumbering, door- like frame also did him no favors. Coordination was often his biggest hazard in the laboratory due to his stocky frame. Where his petite five-foot five-inch spouse could easily maneuver around delicate flasks and almost crystalline vials with ease he often found himself knocking over shelving or tripping over wires. Where his wife had claimed the basement he had claimed the operations booth on the roof due to size and comfort with the materials. He was a tinkerer and she was a doctor. He could do finesse if he set his mind to it but he preferred his wife's steady and gentle touch over lab work rather than his own gruff and often clumsy movements.

Pacing in the kitchen tiredly, he swept a hand through salt and peppered hair before looking to the stove clock. The old appliance flashed mutely, signaling an hour’s passing since Daniel and Jazmine had departed.

‘ What the actual heck did the kids mean?’ Looking back up to the time readout nervously he pivoted his boot and completed another circuit in front of the lab door. His tools lay forgotten on the dining table where he had set them. There were no vehicles he could use to go and check on Vladimir due to Maddie taking the assault vehicle and Jazmine taking her new replacement car….

Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly and cursed his poor luck. He had been planning on getting Daniel a vehicle that summer but because of the freak weather incident that had totaled Jazmine's car, he had been forced to find her a replacement instead.

‘Stupid ghosts, as always..’ He seethed internally. ‘If that weather ghoul hadn't messed with us there'd be another car in the garage right now and I wouldn't be tearing my hair out!’

Slamming a hand against the metal table beside him, he glared at the tools that had shifted from his movements. Staring at the chrome and silver he bit his lip. ‘No souped-up ghost fighting vehicle and no white sedan. Crud!’

Looking to the aged landline phone the family kept for emergencies, he sauntered over to the counter and dialed Vladimir's number. It rang several times and when no one answered he angrily slammed the plastic back onto the hook. ‘Think….think….What can get me to his house?’

An idea struck and he quickly ran into the lab. Bolting down the wooden stairs and rounding the banister he quickly grabbed a thermos, a med kit and a small three-inch clicker he had been developing the last few weeks to operate his intended vehicle. Smiling at his own cleverness, he leaned down and quickly snapped up a helmet from under one of the lab tables and tucked it under his arm. Cradling the plastic, he thundered back into the kitchen. He was about to make his way out of the room when he froze and glanced back at the phone.

Blue eyes rimmed with worry lines as his brow creased, and a thin scowl plastered his face as he debated the pros and cons of contacting his spouse. As of late her and Vladimir were both at odds for whatever reason…. She avoided his name, scowled often when he was brought up and gave her trademark nervous chuckle whenever she saw a conversation pivoting toward him. How she would react to their children's cryptic conversations and odd behavior would probably only add to the layers of confusion already brimming one on top of the other.

‘ But, the car would be faster.’ Jack’s brow furrowed in agitation. He could use the buggy or he could call Maddie and possibly insight her wrath. Biting his lip, he turned from the kitchen and made his way to the garage. Finding the vehicle by the workbench he pushed on the clicker and watched as the dune buggy adjusted it's wheels for the road and started up. Thirty seconds later he was speeding out of Fenton Works and toward Vlad’s home, completely unaware that his home phone had started ringing in his absence.

Chapter Text

Both Spectra and Bertrand were beyond enraged once they arrived at Vladimir's home. The house was completely devoid of life. No bull, no calf, and no meddlesome brats…..

Spectra's enraged scowl was highly evident as she dialed Fenton Works for what seemed like the hundredth time since she had arrived with Bertrand. Snarling, she slammed the office phone back onto its hook and blasted a segment of the paneling near the wall. Glowering at the singed paneling, she faintly noted Bertrand phasing into the room and turned to him.

“ Did you find them?”

Bertrand snorted and his eyebr