Wow. Three updates in four days! I have too much time on my hands.

Trouble

Vlad Masters, world-famous billionaire, and half-time ghost, woke up in his waterbed and slid out of the silk sheets onto a hardwood floor that would have been happier if Vlad had let it stay in the Amazonian jungle. He slipped into brocade slippers and a luxurious robe, yawned, stretched and headed off into the top-of-the-line shower.

Just another day. Sign a multimillion dollar deal. Work on my scheming. Maybe fight Daniel after dinner...

Vlad left the shower, became intangible to dry off quickly, and stepped into the sauna he'd imported from Finland a year ago.

Ah, this is the life. Power, wealth, time for the simple things. All I need to exact revenge.

While he was contemplating his lot in life, a violent scratching noise began on the door to the sauna. It eventually got loud enough that the steam from the sauna could no longer drown it out, and Vlad began to wonder what was going on. Then the screaming started.

Mmmmmmrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooooouuuuuuuuuu!

Cotton candy, what is that noise?

Vlad yanked open the door to the sauna. There was no one there.

MMMMMMRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOO!

Ghosts don't make that sort of noise. What on earth is going on?

Something heavy and warm fell against his bare leg. Then he felt a soft pressure on his bare knee, followed by a quick burst of pain, as if five needles had been driven into a nerve at the same time.

"Yaargh!"

Vlad staggered backwards impulsively, slipped on the water that had condensed on the floor of the sauna, and landed heavily on the ground. He groaned and closed his eyes, trying to compose himself. When he opened them again, he saw a triangular white and gray face staring straight at him, two inches from his nose. It said, "Miaou."

A cat? Where on earth did that come from?

Vlad picked himself up off the floor and stared down at what appeared to be a very curious tabby cat. It began to purr and weave between his legs.

Oh fudge. Doesn't it realize I hate cats?

"Skulker!"

"Yes?" The ghost hunter appeared behind Vlad.

"What is this?"

"That's a cat, Lord Plasmius."

"I know that. What is it doing here?" Vlad's voice dripped venom.

"The Lunch Lady found it at the kitchen door this morning, sir. She was feeding it and it must have got away."

"I want it gone now, understand?"

"It's just a cat."

Vlad glared.

"Yessir, right away."

"Good."

----

Vlad saw the cat again that afternoon when he was flying around his estate. It was trying to get at the koi in his fishpond. Vlad watched as it edged out onto a log that hung over the water, lost its balance, and fell in. Normally, at this point, Vlad would have simply watched it drown, laughing, but instead he dove down immediately and pulled it out. After all, the cat was reasonably harmless and innocent. It stared up at his blue vampire face and began purring again. Vlad rolled his eyes at the sappiness of it all, set the cat down a ways from the pond, and continued his flight.

---

The next morning Vlad found himself wondering whether the Lunch Lady was feeding the cat again. Then he reminded himself that he didn't like cats and that thinking about it was just silly. Cats were perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Mind you, the tabby had looked thin. Perhaps it was ill? Gummy worms, he was doing it again!

Vlad had a business meeting that afternoon, so he dressed in his best Armani suit. He straightened out the black silk tie as he left his bedroom suite, and stumbled on something in the hallway. He lost his balance and crashed into a wall. He looked behind him to see what had thrown him off. He had a pretty good idea already.

---

Several minutes later, the irate billionaire was standing in the middle of his kitchen shouting at the top of his lungs at the grandmotherly ghost he employed as a cook. In his right hand, he held a white and gray cat by the scruff of its neck, and was gesturing wildly with it. The cat didn't look pleased.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, LETTING THIS, THIS CAT INTO MY CASTLE AGAIN? DIDN'T SKULKER TELL YOU I HAD FORBIDDEN IT? THIS THING IS A SAFETY HAZARD AND A HEALTH RISK! I ALMOST BROKE MY NECK THIS MORNING BECAUSE OF IT! I FORBID YOU TO EVER, EVER LET IT BACK IN, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

The Lunch Lady took one look at her employer's eyes, which had turned bright red in his anger, and decided not to mention how she had found the cat outside the door last night soaking wet and had brought it in and dried it off, or how she'd found the basket it had been sleeping in empty that morning and had sent Skulker out looking for the cat. The "Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter" shouldn't have had a problem finding it, but obviously he had.

"Sorry," she mumbled, "won't happen again." If she had been talking to any other ghost, she would have yelled back and made use of her powers. But this was Plasmius. He could take her out in a second, even in human form.

Vlad took the cat over to the door, set it down, and gave it a push to make it go out. The cat sat down. It wasn't going to go anywhere. There was warmth, and food, and people, inside. Inside was good. Vlad's breath left his mouth in an angry hiss, and he picked the cat up to actually throw it out. It dug its claws into his arm and gazed up at him with affection. This flustered the man and he thrust the cat at the Lunch Lady.

"Here. Deal with it." He stomped out of the room, steam almost visibly coming from his ears. He climbed into the waiting limousine and the driver pulled out. Vlad bent down to activate his seat's massager, and noticed that his suit was covered in hair.

"Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!"

The driver slammed on the brakes.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Keep driving." Vlad waved the driver on and made an attempt to brush the hair off with his hands. It just spread the hair more. In desperation, he went intangible, and the hair finally dropped off. He sighed and leaned back, enjoying the quiet of the cat-free vehicle.

---

Vlad returned to his castle that evening and was looking forward to a quiet evening of machination. He stepped out of the limo and froze.

"V-man! Great to see ya, old buddy! How've you been? Haven't seen you in months! Still healthy and wealthy, I see! Great to see ya!"

"You already said that," Vlad wheezed. Jack Fenton had him in a massive bear hug, and didn't seem to want to let go. Maddie Fenton, Jack's wife and Vlad's obsession, appeared to the left of her husband.

"We're on our way to Minnesota to investigate a massive haunting, and thought we'd pop in for the night, since you're on our way. You don't mind, do you?" And tonight we'll all get to sleep in real beds rather than the Family Ghost Assault Vehicle. But I didn't tell Jack that when I suggested we come here, she added mentally.

"What's the matter, Vlad, aren't you glad to see us?" That sarcastically innocent voice was Danny, the Fenton's son. Like Vlad, he was half ghost, but chose to protect people rather than harm them. He hated Vlad for trying to get him on his side and using his powers for evil.

"Delighted, of course. Come on in. How good to see you all again. My, how Daniel's grown!"

Vlad led his guests upstairs to the rooms they had had on their last visit.

"I'll leave you to get settled, then. I'll tell Cook to expect more for dinner."

He left them and headed downstairs, to secure his lab and make sure anything incriminating was hidden. You could trust Jack to misinterpret anything he saw, but not Maddie or Daniel. Or even the daughter, Jasmine, for that matter.

Vlad finished tidying his den and turned to leave. Danny was blocking the exit.

"If you're trying to hide stuff, I already know where your lab is, and I'm pretty sure I can find any secret compartments if I really try."

"Why would I be hiding anything from you, little badger? You're almost like a son to me. I do so wish you'd let me teach you what I know."

"And I wish you'd just leave me alone and give up. You're a fruit loop who's never gonna win, and you know it."

There was a crash from the direction of the kitchen. Both Vlad and Danny jumped.

"I'd love to stay and chat, but I really must see about dinner," Vlad said hastily, "Cook's been a little off today." He almost ran out of the room. If that crash meant what he thought it did, he was seriously going to lose it.

---

When Vlad burst through the doors of the kitchen for the second time that day, he was greeted with chaos. The Lunch Lady was trying to catch a gray and white blur that was streaking around the room. Pots and pans had fallen to the floor, and the bag of flour had been knocked over. White clouds obscured most of the scene. Vlad began coughing violently in spite of himself. In the confusion, the cat shot out between Vlad's legs and ran into the entrance foyer, hair on end. Vlad ran after it, but didn't even get the chance to put it out this time. The cat stopped when it hit a redheaded girl in a black top and blue pants. She picked it up and cooed.

"Oh, sweetie, it's okay. No one's going to hurt you now. Oh, you poor thing, you look like you've seen a ghost."

Jazz Fenton continued walking, cradling the cat in her arms. Danny appeared in the hall as well, and fought back a laugh.

"When did you get the cat, Vlad? Nice to see you're finally listening to my advice. Have you given up the plotting too?"

"Of course not. The cat's not mine. I don't know where it came from."

"Well, it's a little darling," said Jazz. "You should think about looking after it. It's not mentally healthy to live alone like you do. Every human needs companionship, even if they're half-dead."

"I am never getting a cat!" Vlad was fuming by this point. "That one is going outside right now before it does any more damage!"

Sadly, Vlad still didn't get the chance to rid himself of the stray, because Jack Fenton came barreling down the stairs at the moment, noticed the cat in his daughter's arms, and went over to it. The cat hissed at him. Jack reached out his hand to pet it, and the cat dug its claws into him.

"Oh, that's too bad, Jack, it doesn't seem to like you." Vlad's voice was full of mock concern. "Here, let's go and get some antiseptic on that right away." So that cat has some redeeming qualities.

Vlad took Jack into a bathroom, rummaged around in a cabinet for the most painful thing he could find, and liberally poured it over Jack's hand. He smiled to himself as Jack screamed.

"Sorry, Jack. Hand slipped," Vlad said, faking an apologetic smile. "Now, let's bandage that up..."

Ten minutes later, Jack and Vlad left the bathroom in the direction of the dining room, since it was almost time to eat. Jack's hand was hidden in a ball of bandages ("Can't be too careful with such a dear friend."). Vlad had enjoyed his foray into first aid. Torturing Jack was always fun. He would have to thank the cat later.

Vlad played the perfect polite host throughout dinner, and successfully managed to ignore the cat, which was acting like it completely belonged in his home. Then he sat through two hours of Jack's blathering about ghosts, including a little speculation about the origins of the "Wisconsin Ghost," which was actually slightly amusing. Somewhere along the way the cat made itself comfortable in his lap. Maddie eventually managed to drag Jack away with a "we have an early day tomorrow" and Vlad was finally left alone again. He grabbed the cat and went outside. He turned the cat so he could look into its eyes.

"Look. This can't work between us. You're a cat. I'm a confirmed villain."

Mra?

"I'm serious. You belong with a loving family, not an old bachelor."

Miour.

"Yes, I liked what you did to that bumbling idiot too, but that's not enough to get into my good books."

Raou.

"I'm going to put you down now and go back inside, and you're just going to walk away into the night. Understand?"

Rrrrhrrrrrhrrrrhrrrr.

"Purring isn't going to get you anywhere. There you go, now, shoo!"

Vlad turned and walked back inside. He shut the door and went back to his favourite armchair by the fire. He stopped, and turned around. The cat was sitting in the doorway. Vlad sighed.

"Fine, but you understand this is just for the night, right? You have to leave in the morning."

The cat padded over and jumped into his lap again. It fell asleep and Vlad stroked it for a while, nodding off in the firelight. It never occurred to him that he had actually had a conversation with an animal. What did occur to him was that maybe the cat could stay a little longer. Its quiet companionship was actually somewhat soothing, but it still had its independence and spirit. Vlad liked that. And any animal that hated Jack was an automatic friend of his. Maybe young Daniel had been right...

---

The cat woke Vlad up at dawn. Vlad pushed it gently off his lap, and then had a brilliant idea. If the cat was going to stick around, it had better earn its keep. He picked the cat up and floated up to the second floor. He phased himself and the cat through the door of Jack and Maddie's room, and hung there invisible for a moment. Maddie, being an early riser, had gone out to the Ghost Assault Vehicle, as Vlad had suspected. Jack, however, was still snoring blissfully. Vlad flew over to the bed and dropped the cat. Then he sat back and watched the fireworks. Who knew cats could be such good weapons?

Vlad stayed in the room until the cat had finished attacking Jack, then left. He reentered in human form several minutes later, looking sleepy.

"Jack? Is everything all right? I heard noises. Oh dear, what happened? It wasn't a ghost, was it? Good. I'd hate to think you were attacked by ghosts in my own home. Again. Come on, let's get you bandaged up." That cat was definitely staying now. Those had possibly been the best five minutes of Vlad's life.

---

That night, after the Fentons had left and Vlad had gotten most of the ectoplasmic goo off the walls (Jack had started firing his ectoguns at the cat after it attacked him), Vlad turned to the animal on his lap.

"Well, cat, if you're going to stay, and it looks like I don't have a choice in the matter, you're going to need a name. I can't keep calling you 'the cat.'" Vlad chuckled softly, scratching the cat behind the ear. "I think I'll call you ... Trouble, because that's all you cause."

Trouble purred, and the bachelor sighed. Life was a tiny bit better for both of them.

A/N: I'm a cat person. Can you tell?