Danny woke up feeling especially bleary and ill-used. His mouth felt. Bad. Tasted bad, too. Coppery, stale, and sore, like something had died in it. Other than him. Ha. Ha.

Ugh. Even death puns weren't doing it for him.

He got up slowly, and moaned as his cheek stuck to the fabric of his pillow. He'd been bleeding again. The blood was tacky on the pillowcase. He blinked at it slowly. That… might phase out. Maybe.

It was one thing to phase away liquids or things like surface dust from something that was all one piece, like his hazmat suit, and another thing entirely to phase something dry off of something that was made of lots of little pieces.

… Danny might have disintegrated a couple shirts that way.

… One of them was Sam's.

Well, he didn't really care about Vlad's pillow, so… He picked it up and brought it with him when he went to the bathroom.

… Stupid big bathroom with stupid full sized tub… ugh…

Vlad was definitely trying to bribe him with this room. Gross. Grosser than the pillow, even.


He walked over to the tub, held the pillow over it, and turned it intangible. Globs of blood dropped down to impact the white porcelain with splatting sounds, and drier chunks flaked off bit by bit. He shook it to loosen a bit more. That looked about right.

He tucked the clean(er) pillow under his arm and twisted the faucet on the tub to wash the blood down the drain.

Why was he bleeding so much? He didn't bleed this much when he lost his baby teeth, he was pretty sure.

He tossed the pillow back on his– the bed, and went downstairs.

Vlad was waiting for him. "Your breakfast," he said, offering up a tall glass with a straw in it. "As I doubt you're up to chewing anything after last night."

"What's it?" asked Danny, his words slurring together.

"A smoothie," Vlad said. "Come, now, it's not poisoned."

Danny made no move to take it. "Like th'music wasn' hypnosis."

"If it bothers you so much, I can leave it off, today. Unlike some people."

"'N' the shield?"

"Daniel, we're nemeses. Surely you can understand why I'd want a deterrent to intruders around the place I sleep." Vlad shook the smoothie under Danny's nose. "Drink up. We have a lot of work to do today, and I don't want you passing out in the middle of it."

Danny snatched the smoothie. He was hungry, but… His teeth hurt a lot. But the straw… He cautiously wrapped his lips around it. It wasn't as bad at chewing, but even the suction pressed a little too hard.

Feeling slightly nauseous, he stopped.

"Well, you can finish it as you work," said Vlad, already leading the way to his study.

Danny followed with mixed feelings. But, true to his word, Vlad just passed him the packet and started work on his own thing. No music.

Just like the previous day, Danny got sucked into the work. It wasn't quite so easy… it took him a long time to get into the rhythm and–

Vlad snapped his fingers under Danny's nose. Danny recoiled as if a firework had gone off. Vlad placed the smoothly squarely in front of the paperwork. "Drink," he said. "I was quite serious about you not passing out."


Danny did not drink the smoothie as aggressively as he thought the situation warranted, but only because his mouth hurt too much to do that.

"Now," said Vlad, "I have business elsewhere I need to attend for the next few hours. You can take care of yourself, can't you? I suppose your parents leave you to it often enough."

Danny's jaw clenched and his eyes flared– each of those things he immediately regretted.

"Temper, my boy," said Vlad, genially.

Danny had a lot to say to that phrase. It all came out as an inarticulate mumble.

"Of course, I could always cancel my appointments if you're going to insist on hurting yourself."

"Go do y'r stupid thing," said Danny, waving him off.

"Very well. The refrigerator downstairs has two more smoothies for when you get hungry, although I don't plan to be that long."

Danny grunted at him and pointedly put the empty smoothie glass down far away before he turned back to the packet. Some of the things Vlad's researchers were asking for were really awful…

He was able to focus again relatively quickly, and tuned out all other noises. He wanted to finish this today so he could go sulk somewhere away from Vlad, and also so that neither he nor the general public ever had to deal with these things.

Vlad snapped his fingers under Danny's nose again.

But this time, this time, Danny was somehow expecting it even less. Startled and distracted, he bit the sudden intruder into his space and yoweled.

That hurt.

"I suppose I deserved that," said Vlad, looking down at his blood-splattered hand, "and that you've gotten the worst of it." He extracted a handkerchief from a pocket and wiped the blood off.

"Why're you even back alrea'y?" asked Danny, dripping, almost unintelligible, but incensed enough to want to know. One of his front teeth was almost perpendicular to how it was supposed to sit, and its roots poked backwards sharply against his tongue.

"I've been gone for three hours. My business was concluded. Let's see how you've hurt yourself this time." Vlad put his hand under Danny's jaw, holding it between his thumb and fingers.

Danny froze. He felt as if any additional pressure would make his jaw shatter, teeth and all.

But eventually his sense of 'the Fruitloop is touching me' overcame his sense of 'oh no oh no my teeth are coming out,' and he pulled away. This jostled his teeth painfully, as expected.


A tooth came out.

The tooth whose roots had been bothering Danny clattered to the desk. Danny began to wail, and not in the cool, ghostly way, either. In the pathetic, oh, no, I just lost a tooth way. Why did teeth have so many nerve endings?

Vlad cleared his throat. "Considering all this," Vlad gestured pointedly to the tooth resting on the desk, "I suggest we go to the lab and take some scans to check how your teeth are progressing."

Danny shook his head. Carefully. Very carefully.

"You've bled so much these past two days that I hardly need to do a scan of you to clone you," said Vlad. "Be reasonable, Daniel. You've spent so much time bleeding today it's a wonder you have any blood left at all. Not to mention how little you've eaten."

Danny hunched his shoulders and prepared to bolt.

"Additionally, one of my goals for today was finding a way to accelerate all… this."

"Y're in th'Zone?"

"Of course I was in the Zone. I was hardly about to gallivant around town when I'm supposed to be in Wisconsin."

That made sense. Danny didn't like that it made sense. He also didn't like that he hadn't asked where Vlad was going.

But all of that was a little hard to think about at the moment.


"Daniel," said Vlad, grabbing his attention again.

Danny… really wanted this to be over. "'Kay."

"Finally. I thought you'd never see reason." He walked over to one of the bookshelves and pulled a book down, away from the shelf. The shelf swung to one side, revealing a door with a palm reader on it, which Vlad used to unlock the door. "Don't forget your tooth."

Danny, tentatively, picked up his tooth. He thought that, just possibly, the long root - the single root, he saw, now - might be the culprit with respect to the bleeding problem. Baby teeth didn't have those. Not like that.

He shoved the tooth into his pocket, and with one hand over his mouth, followed Vlad down into the lab.

"I already have everything set up, so get yourself settled," said Vlad, pointing at something that could have been either a dentist's chair or a torture device. Considering that Vlad had only known about Danny's problem for a short period of time, and the amount of other equipment around it and attached to it, Danny leaned towards the latter option.

This whole experience had been horrible. He wanted it to be over. Vlad had never not screwed him over when they teamed up or cooperated. Vlad had been decent this time, except for the general and expected insults. It was in Vlad's interest to make sure Danny returned home intact and with as few obvious differences as possible.

Danny was… choosing to trust. Just this once. He sat down gingerly.

"When was the last time you had an x-ray?" asked Vlad. "No, no, I know, your mouth, I suppose it doesn't matter. Stay still for this next part."

Danny tensed.

"There," said Vlad after a minute. "Hm. Interesting."

Danny got up and walked around behind him. The screen showed something that looked almost like an x-ray, then several other images in different colors. He… had no idea what he was seeing. He wasn't a dentist.

Vlad pointed at a small blob on the screen. "It looks like you're developing a venom sac."

"No," said Danny.

"Yes," said Vlad. "I do wonder what kind of venom you'll have. Ghost venom is wonderfully diverse, after all."

"No," repeated Danny, as forcefully as he could manage at the moment.

"I'm afraid you don't have a choice, little badger. The rest of your new teeth seem to be coming in properly." He pointed at a shape that almost looked like the tooth he lost, next to a long, sharp-looking shape. "This is the replacement for the one you just lost."

"Faster?" asked Danny, lisping the word painfully.

"Ah, yes. There is some evidence that removing all the old teeth at once can encourage the new teeth to grow faster. Now, this does have some downsides, as you might be able to see - You can see, can't you? - but I'm prepared to set you up with an IV."

Okay. Maybe Danny sat in Vlad's creepy torture chair, but he definitely drew the line at the man putting things in his body.

"Really, if you don't want to be suffering through this at school, this is your best choice. I… admit I was optimistic regarding my prediction that with your front teeth replaced, no one would notice anything. This level of bleeding would, naturally, be impossible to miss for anyone who isn't as blind as your father."

Did Vlad have to do that?

"Although, I suppose I could either manufacture some emergency or other reason for you to stay with me past the end of spring break. Is that what you want, little badger? I would be amenable."

Danny knew what Vlad was doing, and he didn't like it one bit. There were other options. Like telling Vlad where he could stuff his emergency and amenability.

He could always just go home. He could hide things. He'd hidden things so far. His parents hadn't noticed his tooth problems at all.

They… would probably notice this much blood, though. And the missing teeth. Maybe he could hide out somewhere else and just go to school? Make everyone think he was at someone else's house and just camp? He did have the supplies for it. More or less.

But, then, what would happen when Dash gave him a little love tap and his remaining teeth came flying out.

"If you're worried about being bored, I have other things you could do. I need someone to organize a review of Mastersoft's charitable donations, for example."

Oh, that actually sounded– No! Focus!

"Or that primer on being half ghost that I've mentioned before. Not a literal one, of course, but… You are woefully lacking in knowledge about how ghosts operate, little badger. If I were you, I'd want to repair that lack."

And whose fault was that? Not Danny's. He wasn't the one going around and threatening to kill people and flirting with married women and throwing teenagers into buildings.

Danny really wanted to punch him. Any fight, however, would wind up horribly one-sided with Danny in his current state.

"No? Well, whichever you choose, I suppose we can start working on it tomorrow, once you've slept on it." He turned off the monitor.

Everything about this was so incredibly suspicious.

Danny really wanted this to be over.

"Do you still have your teething toy?" asked Vlad. "I ask, because you've been chewing your bottom lip for this whole conversation."

Danny sucked his lips in, which was a bad choice.

"You ought to try it. I know I would have liked something like it when I was regrowing my teeth." He shook his head. "I doubt you ate anything while I was gone, considering your reaction. Do you think you're capable of a smoothie, or should I start the IV now?"

Danny, bereft of any other way to respond, made a rude gesture at Vlad and stalked back up the stairs. Gently. So his footsteps didn't jostle so much.

Of course he could drink a smoothie.

He rubbed the edges of his jaw. Venom. He really didn't want venom. It didn't matter what it did. He didn't want it. Not that that would matter to Vlad. Smug Fruitloop dangling information over Danny's head and expecting him to jump.

Thing was, with this kind of fire under his feet, he probably would jump, sooner rather than later.