Author: In a review on Daniel Masters, the user Unknownmusic indicated that ze was interested in what could have happened before Daniel was taken from his timeline and placed in semi-canon. This got me thinking. I remembered the phone conversation I wrote where Daniel basically demanded that Vladimir adopt him, and then Vladimir insisted it be written from his perspective because...well, because he's Vladimir. This will not be a continuous story, but rather snap-shots of Daniel and Vladimir's life together. Because reasons.

You might want to read Daniel Masters first for this to make complete sense, but I suppose it can stand alone as an AU.

Disclaimer: I tried to think of something witty to write, but only managed to generate: Not mine.

Prologue

Vladimir sat down behind his desk, turned on his computer, and let out a long, slow sigh.

It was hard, working through grief. Still, he couldn't afford to lose himself in mourning—not only was it unbecoming, but Maddie wouldn't have wanted that.

The passing memory of her name made him wince.

It still doesn't seem real, he thought. That she's…gone.

A freak accident, the news reports said, and freakish it was. Who had ever heard of a fast food joint exploding? The casualties had been few, but, of course, the people who did die were important to Vladimir.

Well, Maddie, and to an extent, Jasmine had been important. Jack…

Vladimir scowled at his loading screen.

I suppose I'll miss the bumbling fool, too, Vladimir admitted grudgingly. It was easier to recognize the tiny amount of irritable affection he felt for his former lab-mate when he knew he'd never have to confront the man again.

Of course, because the universe's motions were powered by spite, there had been a lone survivor.

Daniel.

It makes a twisted amount of sense, that the half-ghost would survive, Vladimir thought bitterly. We are awfully difficult to kill.

Of course he felt terrible for the boy. There were probably immense psychological and emotional repercussions to seeing your family killed in front of you, but Vladimir knew himself to be the absolute dead-last person that Daniel would turn to for comfort. Daniel saw him as his arch-enemy. The one time he attempted to contact Daniel, a few days after the 'accident', the boy had hung up on him after just hearing him say his name.

Vladimir shook his head and turned his mind to his work.

Vladimir's phone rang, and he frowned. No-one called so early in the morning.

"Yes?" he answered.

"I have a Danny Fenton waiting for you on the other line. Shall I transfer him?"

Vladimir's eyebrows snapped together. Daniel? What could he want?

"Yes, do so."

The line went dead, then rung once and connected the calls.

"Daniel?" Vladimir asked, shoving down the awkward combination of hope, suspicion, and irritation that were warring in him.

"Vlad. I..." Daniel sighed. "I have something I need to ask you."

Daniel sounded absolutely terrible, which made Vladimir frown.

"Yes?"

"I want you to adopt me."

Vladimir was stunned into silence before he heatedly replied, "Don't jerk my chain—you'll regret this."

"No! Wait! Don't hang up! I'm serious Vlad! I want to move in with you!" Vladimir heard Daniel take a deep, shuddering breath that bordered on a sob. "Look, I can't stand these people anymore. They don't understand how fundamental ghosts have become to me. They don't...I didn't tell them about my ghost powers, and even if I did they'd probably think I was delusional or crazy or something and try to commit me to a mental institution. You know I'm not crazy. You know that I can't just get rid of my ghost powers. They define me." There was a short, pained silence. "Please, Vladimir. You always wanted me as your son before—here I am, asking to be that."

Vladimir stared at the phone. "You're being serious."

"Yes."

Vladimir rolled over the request in his mind, quickly running it through its viability. Would he be able to adopt him? Or would he only be able to foster? How much paperwork would he have to fill out, how much could he buy away? It obviously could be done, but…did he want to do it?

The quick, frantic breathing on the other side of the line decided him. Daniel wouldn't contact him unless he had exhausted all other options.

"Fine. When can I pick you up?" Vladimir asked, bringing up his e-mail on his computer.

"How about now?"

Vladimir's eyebrows shot up and he couldn't help the disbelieving chuckle that was drawn from him. "Well, then. I'll have someone there within the hour. Does your current family know?"

"Kinda."

"Daniel."

"Okay, they don't. But everyone's busy and it's suffocating here. I'll leave a note or something. They won't be overly worried. I don't...fit right here."

Vladimir shot off a few e-mails, opened a few browser windows, then tugged on the line that called his ghostly servants to him.

"Fine," Vladimir said. "You'll be picked up within the hour, and my son before noon."

"Thank you, Vlad. Thank you," Daniel whispered, and the relief in his voice was terrifying.

"We'll see how much you'll be thanking me later," Vladimir said dryly, trying to find any way inject some emotion other than despair in Daniel's voice.

"Goodbye," Daniel whispered and the line went dead.

Vladimir slowly replaced the phone on its receiver and frowned at the piece of technology.

This is….

It appeared that pretending to be normal while carrying a ton of guilt and sadness on his shoulders had obviously been taxing beyond the boy's coping capabilities.

Vladimir shook his head in disgust at himself. It was uncharacteristic of me to give up so easily. I suppose I can blame grief.

Still, that was water under the bridge now that Daniel had basically begged him to become his son. He was going to finalize everything before Daniel could reconsider his decision, which was probably spur-of-the-moment, if he knew Daniel at all.

Vladimir quickly scanned through the process regarding adoption, had the forms printed out, and filled them out with an efficiency he rarely showed. Most of the time, he was content to take things slowly, to let people struggle and to build his trap carefully and meticulously. This, however, required quick and decisive action, since he would have to take Daniel away from family that could technically lay claim to him.

However, it appeared that Jack's family was more amiable to monetary manipulation than the man himself had been, and custody was transferred almost immediately after he introduced himself and his offer. Ghosts and money greased the legal wheels and, as he had promised Daniel, they were nominally father and son by noon of that day.

It was suspiciously more satisfying than a corporate takeover.

I suppose… Vladimir tapped his fingers together. That it is because this is a dream come to fruition.

Vladimir was able to concentrate more easily on his work than he had in the months since Maddie had died.

"Hey, boss."

Vladimir looked up from working on business matters he should have been doing instead of adopting Daniel, and gave one of his vultures an irritated look. "Yes?"

"The ghost kid should be at ya place in a hour."

Vladimir hummed, the gestured the vulture away.

I should be there for him, Vladimir thought and stood.

"Miss Austin, I will be out for the rest of the day. Family matters have arisen that require my immediate and total attention."

"Yes, Mr. Masters," the woman replied, and was wise enough to not ask questions when it was public knowledge that Vladimir didn't have a family that he was intimate enough with to allow himself to be called away from his work.

Vladimir teleported back to his castle and was hit with sudden and inexplicable nervousness. Then again, he had never lived with another person after he had received his ghost powers, so what was an acceptable living arrangement for him might not be so for other people. Considering how Daniel had sounded on the phone, Vladimir had a feeling that it would take all of his ingenuity to get the boy to come out of the shell of guilt that he had built for himself, if doing so was even possible.

It dawned on Vladimir that he might not be prepared for what met him at his door, but he discarded the notion. Vladimir had always been quick on his metaphorical feet—having a teenager sharing his home, especially one who had recently endured a loss that Vladimir understood very well couldn't be too difficult to handle. It certainly could not as bad as maneuvering in the economic and political realm.

Right?

Still, the defeat and exhaustion in Daniel's voice when they had spoken on the phone made him wary.

He walked outside the front door and waited patiently for the limo to come up the long driveway, stomping down his irritation at how time seemed to crawl. It wouldn't be good to come off eager to have Daniel has his son, even though the boy had asked for it. From his tone of the phone, he was obviously depressed, and Vladimir wanted to do nothing to make Daniel feel worse.

His first sight of the boy who was now his charge was…shocking, to put it lightly.

Daniel had dark circles under his eyes, had lost a significant amount of weight, and couldn't manage even the tiniest expression, even of disgust, when Vladimir placed his hand delicately on Daniel's shoulder. The teen's eyes were instead drawn to a picture he held in his hand, and Vladimir's stomach wrenched.

It was a photo of Daniel's family and friends. Everyone was posed in front of Fenton Works, everyone looked happy. It reminded Vladimir of the photo that had once perched on his own desk, the one that he had thrown away the moment he had heard the news of Maddie's death.

"Come," Vladimir said softly. "You don't need to worry about your belongings."

A haunted look flashed across Daniel's face, and Vladimir wondered what he could have possibly said to provoke such a strong emotional response so quickly.

"No, I don't," Daniel said, his voice hoarse. "I don't have to worry about my stuff. I don't need to worry about mom's ghost inventions, dad's terrible cooking, Jazz's nattering, cleaning my room, anything, I don't have to worry about anything…" the litany deteriorated into quiet, hysterical laughter. "I don't have to worry about anything because there's nothing left. Only a scrap of Tuck's hat…no bodies, no bones, not even a drop of blood on the pavement. Everything just suddenly, suddenly, gone and it is all my fault."

Vladimir wasn't sure what to do with the teen who had quickly devolved from laughter to tears, but knew that Daniel's family had always been physically affectionate with each other, so he tugged Daniel into an unfamiliar and likely awkward hug.

Daniel buried his face in Vladimir's chest, his entire body heaving with guilt. Vladimir stroked the back of Daniel's disheveled hair and pulled him closer. Daniel's hands fisted in his suit jacket and Vladimir could feel tears dampening his shirt.

"Daniel," Vladimir began, but Daniel shook his head sharply.

"Don't. Just…don't," Daniel cut in, his voice muffled.

"When was the last time you slept?"

There was a long pause before Daniel answered: "The nightmares, frootloop. Oh, God, the nightmares."

"I take it that means that it has been a while," Vladimir said dryly, and Daniel hiccupped what might have been a laugh. "Come on. Let's…"

Vladimir floundered briefly. He had always wanted to be a father, but he had no idea what it actually meant, and he was pretty sure that he no idea how to parent anything besides the occasional goldfish he kept in his office. He hadn't known his own father much, so it seemed as if Vladimir was going to start from square zero, which he did not relish. Vladimir rifled through what he did to relax, and decided that Daniel didn't seem the kind to find comfort in stress-baking, so finally settled on: "Let's get you into a hot bath, some pajamas, and then we'll find a bed for you."

"Packers pajamas?" Daniel asked and Vladimir smirked.

"What other kind?" Vladimir replied, and Daniel slowly pushed away. The boy's mein made Vladimir's heart ache. This wasn't Daniel, this wasn't the boy he knew and was constantly stymied by. He didn't know what he could do to fix it, if there was anything he could do at all, but he would try.

If only for Maddie's memory, he would try.

"Follow me," Vladimir said, and Daniel entwined their fingers, allowing himself to be lead slowly, carefully away from the front door and into the castle that was to be his new home.