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You, Me, and ghostly biology.

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Danny feels like shit.

 Actually, that's not entirely accurate. He feels like he does during those nights where he wakes up too early, when he sneaks downstairs to get a drink and somehow his body doesn't realize he's gotten up just a little too fast until he's already gotten a bottle of whatever out of the fridge- and then he's flat on his back in a puddle of orange juice, because he'd actually blacked out from running on fumes. 

 And there is always, right between the grabbing the juice bit and waking up on the floor, a very unsettling series sensations. He gets overheated, and dizzy all of a sudden, the kitchen seems to spin around him and there's this distinct weight that settles in his gut right before he hits the ground....

 That is exactly what Danny's feeling right now, and unfortunately, it is not because he's about to pass out. 

 The Fenton phone buzzes to life in his ear, and Tucker's voice jolts Danny from his stupor "You doin' alright up there man?" 

 His vision swims as he forces his head out from between his knees, reaching up to click the button on his earpiece, "Yeah, I'm good. Just...."

 He doesn't want to say "tired" because he knows Tuck would call him out on his bullshit, but admitting to not feeling well would have an even worse outcome, and he really doesn't want his friend to go all mother-hen on him right now-

 "I'm just not feeling it tonight?"

 "The hell is that supposed to mean?" 

 "I mean, we've been staking out Axion for days now, I think if Vlad was gonna pull something he would've done it by now." Danny sighs, "Or I dunno, maybe he already fucking did it somehow." 

 Tuckers about to say something, but Sam cuts in over the line, "Discount Dracula at 6' o clock." 

 Danny can practically hear Tucker smirking, "You were saying?"

 "Screw you, Foley." 

 Tucker just laughs as Danny launches himself off the street lamp he'd been perched on. His ghost sense goes off as soon as he's phased through the slate gray brick of the laboratory. 

 "Alright, Froot Loop." his palm glows green as he charges up an ecto-blast, "Come on out, we've done this song and dance enough times already, you know exactly how it ends."

 "Then maybe it's time we changed the tempo."

 Danny looks up just a second too late as Vlad fires from where he's pressed up against the ceiling. The force of the blast throws him across the room, beakers and test tubes go flying as he slams into a table. Vlad's laughing as he kicks off from the ceiling, Danny picks himself up in time to see the tail end of his cape disappear around the corner-

 And then the chase is on. 

 Danny's not entirely sure what Vlad's even here for, he'd only heard about the other Halfa's interest in Axion after Skulker had let it slip- but right now it feels like Vlad's only goal is losing him in the maze of the laboratory's hallways, flying at breakneck speeds that have Danny grazing the corners whenever he takes a turn, and then Vlad phases through a wall and they're both back outside. Danny clicks the Fenton phone back on, hovering idly over the parking lot as Vlad speeds away, "Still don't know what he came for and I don't know if he got it, gonna try and intercept him in the GZ." 

 He doesn't wait for either of his friends to respond, flying as fast as he can towards Fenton Works. 

 Danny's home in record time, dropping down through the house and into the lab just as Vlad flies through the portal. Danny goes in after him and then he's stumbling in the air, vision blurring as the weight in the pit of his stomach gets suddenly so much heavier. He shakes his head and tries to steady himself as he races after Vlad, firing off several ecto-blasts that all miss him by a couple yards. 

 Vlad yells a taunt over his shoulder, "Losing your edge Little Badger?" 

 Danny tries to shoot again, but Vlad beats him to it, blasting him down onto a nearby island. 

 The older Halfa touches down in his lab, grinning as goes to shut the blast doors of his portal. There's a mechanical whir as they start to slide shut, and Vlad moves to head upstairs, mission accomplished.

 And then he whirls around at the sound of an abrupt, metallic thud. One of the doors creaks and sways and slams down off its track, Danny strides into the lab-

 He looks positively Feral

 His eyes are on fire, lit with something beyond what they should be- this isn't just Daniel's usual attempt at intimidation either, the entirety of his eyes are glowing an acidic green, it's not just the iris. 

 Vlad takes a step back and Danny lunges at him. His palms connect with Vlad's chest and he gets a glimpse fangs as Danny snarls in his face. Vlad flails on the floor, and Danny lets out a high pitched yelp when he manages to kick him off. He scoots back, fumbling to grab something to defend himself with off of a low shelf. His hand closes around a familiar black cube as Danny picks himself off the floor. 

 The spectral energy neutralizer. 

 He has no idea if it'll actually contain Daniel, it had worked fine before- but that was years ago, back when the boy had been significantly younger and weaker. He throws it anyway hoping to at least buy some time. The box expands as it sails through the air. Danny raises his arm and Vlad cowers from the shrapnel as he blasts it apart.

 He shouldn't have been able to do that-

 Vlad scrambles to his feet in a panic, grabbing at the edge of the shelving-

 Something is very, very wrong with Daniel because he really Should Not have been able to do that-

 And then Dannys across the room and his hands are on Vlad's throat and the older Halfa feels sick because he knows exactly what's wrong with him the second he touches his skin-

 Danny freezes in front of him like a deer caught in headlights, and Vlad grips the shelf a little harder. Danny loosens his hold on his neck, trying to step back but swaying in uncertainty. Vlad just manages to keep him from hitting the floor. 

 "...Daniel?" the younger Halfas gone limp in his arms, "Can you hear me?"

 Danny makes an attempt at speech, but the words come out slurred and unintelligible. 

 Well, at least he's still conscious...

 Vlad does his best to ease them both down to the floor, Danny slumping against Vlad's chest as he kneels down, his breathing fast and shallow. 

 "Daniel," He tries to speak calmly, but his voice wavers anyway, "You need to calm down. Just- breathe deeply, please." 

 Danny takes in a stuttering breath, lets out a choked noise as he exhales "H-hurts." 

 "I know, I know just-"

 Danny bucks his hips against Vlad's lap.  

 Goddammit Daniel .

 Vlad mentally flips through all his options and finds that he really doesn't have a whole lot of them. He could try and knock Danny out, he's certainly disoriented enough at this point, but he's got no idea if he'll actually be able to, and no way of knowing if Danny will just go fudging feral again when he wakes up-

 Danny digs his nails into Vlad's shoulders and whines

 He tries to shift underneath the teen, just to get it so at least he isn't straddling his lap- but Danny mistakes his movement as an invitation and starts grinding against him-

 Vlad swears under his breath, puts aside his pride and places a hand on Danny's hip to steady him. Danny lets out a sort of broken noise at the touch, burying his face in Vlad's shoulder with a breathy moan. 

 Vlad is painfully aware of the fact that he's going to need an extremely cold shower after this.  

 Danny, on the other hand, isn't aware of very much at this point. He knows what he's doing, and he knows that he's doing it to Vlad, but strangely enough he really Doesn't Care . He's shaky and lightheaded and it feels like he's burning. Like someone holding a branding iron flush against his back and the heat from it is just radiating out over the rest of his body in unrelenting waves. 

 Moving like this is the only thing that's helping, and shit it feels so fucking good-

 Vlad is trying really, really hard to focus on Literally Anything else, like how cold the floor of his lab is, or the shelf currently digging into his back, but Danny's movements are getting even more frantic and erratic and he's just moaning and gasping right into his ear-

 It's taking Vlad using all of his willpower not to scream in frustration, and then he winds up yelping anyway because Danny bites down on his fucking collar bone when he finally comes. He twitches in Vlad's lap for another moment, panting as he pulls away, then those bright white rings run across the length of him and suddenly Danny's on the floor, completely unconscious. 

 Vlad just stares at him for a moment as the shock wears off. 

 Then, he pulls himself together, picks himself and Daniel up off the floor, and makes his way upstairs. The first thing he does is discard Danny on the living room couch. After that, he makes a beeline for the liquor cabinet because the conversation he needs to have with Daniel after all that isn't one he wants to have while sober .

 Danny wakes up on the couch and as he rolls over he's suddenly very aware of the soaking wet mess between his legs. He instantly remembers what happened, and really, really, wishes he didn't. 

 "You know, I was rather hoping you wouldn't wake up for a while longer." 

 Danny sits up at the sound of Vlad's voice, the older Halfas sprawled out on the recliner across from him, legs slung haphazardly over one arm rest, a bottle in his hand. Vlad stares him down as he takes a swing of his drink, and then sits up with a long suffering sigh, "Alright, so-" 

 "I gotta pee." 

 "I- What?" 

 Danny's already stumbled off the couch, and he's halfway down the hall before Vlad yells at him, "Daniel that's- wrong way!" 

 He freezes, "What?" 

 Vlad gestures towards the hall behind him, exasperated, "The nearest bathroom would be that way." 

 Danny sprints back past him, and Vlad slumps against the chair as the door slams. He takes another sip of whiskey, attempting to organize his thoughts. He really doesn't know how he's going to explain the situation to Daniel, and honestly, the only reason he hadn't figured out how to already was that he'd thought he'd never have to.

 It'd been... what? Three, maybe four years since Daniel had gained his abilities? Vlad had thought that if he was ever going to start Cycling, it would've happened ages ago. Obviously he'd been wrong.

 It didn't make sense though, the Fenton's portal alone was releasing more than enough ambient Ectoplasmic energy- but maybe he was expending that faster than he'd been taking it in? Or maybe it was just because he was so much younger? Vlad had been in his 20's when he'd had his accident, Daniel was still a teenager..that shouldn't have meant that he hadn't matured enough, but he was probably still growing, maybe that's what his body had been putting all that energy towards? 

 By the time Vlad comes to that conclusion, he also realizes that Danny's been in the bathroom for a concerningly long period of time. He puts the bottle down on the coffee table and goes to look for him. The bathroom door swings open as he knocks on it, and Vlad is not at all surprised to find the room completely empty. 

 

~

 

Unfortunately, Danny could only avoid Vlad for so long. 

 His parents had recently discovered that Vlad hadn't distanced himself from old hobbies as much as he'd claimed. This was due in part to some rather unfortunate timing, and also the fact that it was better to admit interest in Ecto-weaponry, than to explain that he'd been threatening their son with a piece of said weaponry. 

 Jack and Maddie had reacted enthusiastically, of course. The end result being the few hours that occured every other Sunday night, where in the two halfas now had to pretend to tolerate each other when Vlad came over for dinner. 

 Danny'd had every intention of hiding out in his room, but his dad had roped him into helping him cook the second he'd gotten home from school. 

 As he turns the stove off, Danny contemplates making a break for it before his parents and Vlad came up from the basement- 

 "-wouldn't have had to push you out the window if you'd just jumped like everyone else. The dorm was only on the third floor!" 

 Maddie's cheerful voice floats upstairs, forcing him to abandon that train of thought. 

 "You know Jack didn't so much push me as Throw me-" 

 "What was I supposed to do?" Danny heard his dad cut Vlad off with a boisterous laugh, "The cops were there and you wouldn't move!" 

 Vlad lets an exaggerated sigh as the three of them enter the kitchen, "I've honestly no idea how either of you made it through college, your lack of self preservation was terrifying." 

 Jack crosses over to the stove, hefting the pot of pasta off to drain it in the sink, "Thanks for finishing up Danno!" 

 "Yeah, sure," he gives his dad a weak smile, which quickly turns into a grimace upon seeing Vlad pull a chair out for his mom. 

 His dad bounds over with the pasta bowl, oblivious. 

 It’s not as bad as it could be honestly, Danny’s pretty sure that Vlads been make an Actual Effort to be subtle , for once. Not to say that he’d suddenly become any less infatuated with Maddie, just that he was definitely trying to be a bit less obvious about it. Which also meant that he couldn't exactly call Vlad out on it- for all intents and purposes it just looked like he was being polite. Danny sighs a little as he sits, silently wishing that Jazz would come home from college already, she’d always had a knack for shutting Vlad’s shit down with nothing more than a glare across the table. 

 Danny lets his mind wander off a bit as he fills his plate, letting his parents chattering about whatever it is their working on fade into the background. It’d honestly never made any sense to Danny that Vlad was more afraid of his sister than him- not that Jazz couldn’t be intimidating, but she wasn't the one with ghost powers. Or maybe that was it? The fact that they had nearly the same abilities, and yet he was so much more inexperienced and clumsy with them. Danny is suddenly viscerally reminded of that one scene from the Lion King where Simba tries to scare Scar’s hyenas in the Elephant Graveyard, feeling his face flush with a mixture of anger and embarrassment at the comparison his brain made, because yeah, that explains how Vlad views him pretty damn well-

 Danny flails and drops his fork when something jabs his shoulder. 

 “Daniel, I’m not going to stab you with a butter knife.” 

 Vlad’s voice drags him back to reality. Danny glares at the other Halfa, wanting nothing more than to slap the smirk off his face. 

 He rubs the sore spot on his shoulder instead, “Is there a reason you poked me with it, then?” 

 “Well,” Vlad gestures across the table with said butter knife, “Your father was trying to ask you a question?” 

 “I just wanted to know how your day went, is all,” Jack looks at his son with mild concern. 

 “Are you feeling alright, sweetie? You seem a little out of it." Maddie chimes in, reaching across the table to feel his forehead. 

 Danny squirms away, “Mom! It’s fine, I’m fine. I just zoned out for a minute.” his chair scrapes against the floor as he stands, “I think I’m gonna head upstairs for the night.”

 Maddie starts to stand too, “Are you sure you’re not getting sick? You hardly ate anything, maybe I should take your temperature.”

 Danny’s protests die in this throat as his mom goes to get a thermometer.  

 Vlad gets up then, making a quick circuit around the table collecting dishes.

 “Oh, hey,” Jack twists around in his seat, “Vladdy you know you don’t have to do that Danny usually takes care of cleaning up.”

 Vlad just waves him off, dropping plates and cutlery in the sink with a noisy clatter, “No it’s fine, really, there’s no sense in forcing his chores on him if he’s ill.” he turned the tap on, “It’s the least I can do.”

 Maddie comes back into the kitchen, “Jack, did you move the thermometer? I could’ve sworn it was in the bathroom.”

 “Huh,” Jack’s brow creases, and he gets up to help her look, “No? Maybe? I don’t know where else it would be though-”

 Danny seizes the opening, voice pitching and cracking far more than he'd like, “Guys it’s fine! We don’t need a thermometer, I swear I’m not sick!” 

 Maddie looks uncertain, and then Vlad turns around, “Well, that’s a relief, you can help me with the dishes, then.” He tosses a dish towel in Danny’s general direction, “I’ll wash, you dry, and,” he beams at Danny’s parents, “I’ll meet you both in the basement when we’re done.”

 It only takes another few moments for Danny’s parents to relent, and then he’s gripping at the dish towel because he’s alone with Vlad , “.....You did that on purpose.”

 Vlad just shrugs, “Perhaps.” 

 He doesn’t say anything else, he simply pulls a dripping plate out of the sink, looking expectantly at Danny. Danny gives in with an agitated huff. 

 They work in relative silence, the only noise is that of the running water, and Danny’s almost unnerved by how quiet Vlad is. 

 The silence doesn't last long, of course.

 “How much do you know about Ghost Cores?” 

 Danny fumbles a bit with a serving spoon, “Huh?”

 "It's a fairly simple question, Daniel." 

 It really isn't a simple question at all, Cores are responsible for so many different things, Danny's not even entirely sure how a normal ghost's core functions, much less his own- but he's not gonna let Vlad know that, "I know enough." he rolls his eyes and tosses the spoon onto the drying rack.

 Vlad turns the tap off, and leans back against the sink, "Care to elaborate?"

 The sudden absence of the backdrop of running water, combined with the shift in his tone is enough to put Danny on edge. He toys with his damp towel for a moment, choosing his next words carefully, "It's like...a heart..and a soul and a hard drive?"

 Vlad cocks an eyebrow, and Danny's face flushes a bit because that had sounded significantly more profound in his head, "I mean it stores everything about a ghost, so..." he trails off. 

 "Well, I suppose it's not an entirety inaccurate comparison." Vlad glances away for a moment, "Although, I should have worded that better, I wanted to know if you were aware of how a core functions ."

 "It sort of….. regulates shit? Ectoplasm and energy, I mean."

 Vlad nods, "...And do you have any idea why that is?" 

 "Maybe I do, maybe I don't." Danny crosses his arms defensively, " Why are you asking me all these questions?" He squints up at him suspiciously. 

 "Daniel, just bear with me please, I'm trying- " he pauses, winces, because that came out harsher than he intended, "I just need to explain something to you." 

 "About cores?" 

 Vlad heaves a sigh, "About what happened." 

 Danny blanches at that, vividly recalling the incident Vlad's referring to. 

 

Vlad's hands on his hips, 

Steady friction against the heat pooling underneath him-

The way that flesh had yielded against his teeth and the acidic sting of ectoplasm on his tongue- 

 

Danny swallows hard, willing the memory away, "And what does that...have to do with Cores?" 

 "It's a biological process," Vlad deadpans.

 Danny's embarrassment shifts to confusion, and it must show on his face because the older Halfa pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation before following up with, "I'm just going to explain this in the most clinical manner possible-" 

 Danny opens his mouth to speak,

 "Please hold all questions until I've finished." 

 "Uh...okay?" 

 "Okay, so-," Vlad stops before he's really started, struggling to figure out how to word things. He starts toying awkwardly with the end of his ponytail, and then stops once he realizes what he's doing. He inhales sharply, and very pointedly avoids looking directly at Danny as he finally launches into his explanation.

 "A major function of a ghost's Core is to regulate the intake and expulsion of ectoplasmic energy. Replenishing what's lost from use of the specter's abilities, and expelling enough to keep their form in a stable state, too much energy can cause destabilization in the same way that too little could-" 

 

Vlad pauses for a breath, and Danny takes a moment to think about how much this sounds like its coming straight from a textbook-

 

 "There is, however, instances where excess energy is necessary. Small portions of energy that is taken in is often set aside within another area of the core and reserved for those occasions- usually instances of severe injury or overexertion, but-" 

 

Vlad takes another deep breath here, a bit winded, and the last bit comes out in a rush, 

 "MostOfThatStoredEnergyIsReservedForReproduction."

 Vlad finally looks at Danny, visibly red in the face, he tries to clear his throat but his voice cracks slightly anyway, "Any questions?"

 Obviously the first thing out of Danny's mouth is, 

 

"Vlad, What the actual fuck?"

 

"It's not really an issue for most ghosts but our Cores have adapted to account for still having actual reproductive organs-" 

 

Danny grips at his hair, "Vlad What The F u ck!?" 

 

  "I really don't-" 

 

"Please just shut up and let me process this ohmygod-"

 Danny puts his head in his hands as he slumps back against the sink, mumbling, "God....Why is this shit only just happening Now!?" 

 

"You do have a severe energy deficiency." 

 Danny pulls himself up, glancing upwards at Vlad, "huh?" 

 He shrugs, "I doubt that's the case anymore, but if I had to hazard a guess- your Core was simply reserving energy for more vital functions." 

 Danny steadies himself against the counter, slowly coming to terms with the situation, "okay, okay . So- how often does this- I mean is it a Regular Thing-" 

 "Cycles vary but these instances generally occur a few times a year, and no, I've already said that our experiences aren't normal compared to most ghosts," Vlad's speech is less awkward now, tone far more conversational now that Danny's started to calm himself. 

 "And how many times a year does it….?" 

 Vlad lets out a puff of air, thinking for a moment "I suppose…......roughly every other month?" 

 "And you have to deal with-" 

 Vlad cuts him off with a curt nod.

 Danny winces, "Is it always that bad?" 

 "No, no, nowhere near that level," Vlad quickly reassures him, "not usually, but I'd suggest monitoring your energy levels to avoid another... incident." 

 "Right yeah, uh," Danny looks down the floor, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, "Sorry about that?" 

 Vlad surprises him with a rather nonchalant shrug, a far cry from his previous demeanor, "Honestly Daniel, you weren't completely in control of yourself. You genuinely had no idea what was happening and I can't blame you for that." 

 

"Oh." 

 

Vlad opens his mouth as if to say something else but an explosion from the basement rattles the whole house before he can. 

 Danny seizes the opening, "You should probably go deal with that." 

 Vlad makes a break for the basement door.

 

~

Danny's not entirely sure what to do with himself after that conversation, but he settles on booting up his computer to distract himself with a few rounds of DOOM. 

 Neither Sam or Tucker are online- he's not sure if he should be disappointed or relieved by that. As much as he enjoys teaming up with his friends there's a fair chance he'd wind up trying to explain everything over that chat and this entire situation is really something he should tell them in person- if he really needs to tell them at all. 

 He winds up joining a public server and starting a randomized match. 

Danny lets himself get so immersed in the game that he doesn't notice how late it's gotten until his mom startles him with a light tap on the shoulder. He looks up from the monitor, slipping off his headphones and blinking owlishly as he tries to adjust to how dark the living rooms gotten without the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. 

 Maddie can't help but laugh a bit at the surprised look on her son's face, "I'm heading up to bed, don't stay up too late, okay?" 

 "Oh, yeah, of course, sure." Danny's already clicking out of the game, "What time is it now anyway?" 

 Maddie yawns, scratching at the side of her face, Danny notices a bit of soot clinging to her cheek, "Around ten."

 "Guess I should head up too, then." 

 Maddie nods tiredly, then bends to press a light kiss to Danny's forehead before he can move to get up, "Night, Sweetie." 

 Danny pulls away, with an exaggerated eye roll,  feigning embarrassment, "Goodnight, mom." 

 Maddie just grins and ruffles his hair playfully before turning to go to bed.

 He takes another minute to stand and stretch as he shuts down the computer before heading upstairs as well. Danny doesn't bother to turn on the light in his room, exhaustion settling in as he reached the top of the stairs. He fumbles around in the dark for a moment, before managing to pull an oversized sleep shirt from his dresser. He strips down quickly,

Or tries to, anyway. His binder gets stuck halfway off his chest and over his head, the fabric tented taunt around his arms and shoulders. He quickly gives up on trying to wiggle out of it and just phases it off. A slight ache settles around his ribs, and he makes a mental note not to wear the damn thing for so long tomorrow.

  He dresses in his pajamas and flops down in bed with every intention of  passing right the hell out, but something crinkles loudly under his back and he shifts curiously to find a stack of papers beneath him. Danny furrows his brow in confusion as he clicks on the bedside lamp, he'd been pretty sure he'd already put away his homework- 

 But no, this is something else entirely.

The papers are stapled and clipped together haphazardly, and there's a lot of them too. Some are lined, pulled raggedly out of notebooks, the majority of it is crisp printer paper, but there's a few thicker pieces, construction paper or cardstock, maybe. Flipping over the first page causes a bright yellow sticky note to flutter down into his lap. Danny holds it up to the light and finds that it's a note, written in a neat cursive scrawl, 

 

"Daniel, 

I've no doubt that my attempt to explain current circumstances has gone poorly. However, I thought it best to leave you with something, the following articles are of my own observations, research and notes from various tests and experiments. Hopefully, you'll find at least some of it useful in dealing with things.

In the unlikely event that a medical emergency not discussed in said notes should arise- please refer to the GZ'S Directory of professionals

(included in here; somewhere) rather than myself, and save us both the embarrassment.

Good luck. 

 

-Vlad.