WoM- I know, I know, I'm not following my update pattern… but StarofTwilight45 asked me for this update in exchange for winning a contest I was running over at DA. My updates are probably gonna be a little weirder now, since three of my ongoing stories are being turned into comics (Apprenticeship, Moments of Clarity and Outta this World. Unmasked is too, but that's already done, so there's no worries there) And I'll be needing to supply those artists with more material.
"Never raise your hands to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected."
In three years, any number of things could happen. For example, three years is enough time for a company like Vlad Co. to nearly double in size, now controlling everything from nuclear technology to toothpaste companies. Three years is also enough time for Vlad to brush up on his Ghost Zone history in his spare time (which seemed to be getting rarer and rarer lately…) and discover the legend of Pariah Dark, the Ring of Rage and the Crown of Fire.
And three years is also enough time for Danny to go from what Skulker classified as a 'wailing little pest' to 'an insolent brat on a permanent sugar rush.'
"Master Danny?" Dora called helplessly as she floated down the halls, twisting around in hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive boy. "Master Danny!"
"Lost him again?" Dora cringed at the voice, though the tone was a mix between sympathetic and amused.
"I didn't mean to!" She protested hastily, worried about the consequences if the incident reached Vlad. "And I've already checked all his usual hiding spots! I only turned my back for a second…" She sighed helplessly to Bertrand, who smiled ruefully.
"That's a second too long when you're dealing with a toddler who can walk through walls, Princess." He responded, shifting the boxes of files in his arms. "You should know that by now."
"I thought he was tired." Dora defended herself, frowning at Bertrand, "I was putting him down for a nap when Technus came in and started going on about some invention or another and by the time he left, Danny was already gone!"
"Does anyone else know he's wandering around?" Bertrand asked.
"No." Dora said, pursing her lips. "And if Skulker or one of the vultures had found him, he would have returned him to me immediately."
"True." Bertrand nodded. "Ah well, he'll turn up eventually. Don't know why you're so worried, Princess… It's not the first time the kid split on you."
"That's not it…" Dora hesitated, looking abashed. "It's just… well… Sir Walker's due for another visit with Lord Plasmius today." Bertrand winced here, seeing Dora's problem at last.
Walker was the warden of the Ghost Zone's prison, a rule-happy military nut who disliked not being in control of any given situation. He and Vlad had a contract of sorts, where Vlad supplied Walker and his men with advanced weapons and armor developed by Skulker and Technus in exchange for information and the ability to move about the Ghost Zone freely.
Despite that though, relations between the businessman and the warden had always been strained at best. Neither of them fully trusted their 'business partner' and both would betray the other the first opportunity they got. In fact, for the longest time Walker was convinced there was no one in existence, human, ghost or otherwise, he could dislike more then Vlad.
Then he met Danny.
"Considering how energetic Master Danny's been lately, I felt it would be best to keep him on his floor, where there wasn't a chance of him running into Sir Walker." Dora explained in a desperate tone. "That is probably the best course of action, given how badly their last meeting went…"
"Well, I'm not so sure I'd call it 'bad.'" Bertrand said with a rather impish smile. "I mean, how many people can say they saw the might Walker covered from head to toe in silly string and drenched from water balloons? Spectra still brings the photos out whenever someone needs a laugh…"
"I still don't want Master Danny running into him again, especially when Lord Plasmius isn't right there to protect him…" Bertrand scoffed at that.
"You worry too much, Princess." He told her dryly.
In all actuality, that was a drastic understatement. Though Dora was reluctant when she first took the job as Danny's caretaker, she'd quickly grown attached to the infant, and could now fuss over him in ways that would astound even the most overprotective of mothers.
Between her and Plasmius, it's a wonder the kid isn't growing up in a padded room… Bertrand thought dryly.
"I'll keep an eye open and call you if I see him." Bertrand said out loud as he turned and continued on his way.
Walking down the halls, Bertrand chuckled and shook his head as the sounds of Dora's fretting followed him. It was clear the princess was starting to get stressed, something she usually avoided since it turned her into her dragon form…
That thought more then anything convinced Bertrand to quicken his pace back to Spectra's office. Somehow, the thought of dealing with an angry Ghost Dragon was unappealing to the shape shifter.
After heading up two flights of stairs to the higher levels of the castle, Bertrand slowed down a little, his attention wandering to the pictures lining the walls. Three years had had just as heavy an impact on them as it had the ghosts (And half ghosts) living within those walls.
Before Danny, most of the decorations consisted of a smirking Masters or some bizarre Packers paraphernalia. Now though, a slightly chubby toddler beamed down at Bertrand in every direction he turned, and crayon drawings were framed with all the care of a DeVinchi masterpiece.
Who would have thought that a ruthless businessman and merciless tyrant would turn into the world's most affectionate Daddy? Bertrand wondered as he entered Spectra's office.
"I don't care what that idiot said, if you have the new software ready for presentation in three day you're fired! Mr. Masters doesn't give second chances, Ishimura, and he doesn't settle for second best. Understand? Good. Now get back to work before Mr. Masters finds out about your lack of progress." Hanging the phone up, Spectra chuckled as she sat back in her chair. "Humans are so much fun when they're squirming…"
"Here are those reports you need." Bertrand said, setting the box on the desk and ignoring the woman's sadistic remark. "And you wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the kid's most recent disappearance, do you? Vlad ain't gonna be happy if she levels half the castle looking for him again…"
"Danny got out?" Spectra asked, arching an eyebrow in open amusement. "That makes the fifth time this week…"
"He's getting better at hiding, too." Bertrand said absently. "Dora said she checked all the usual spots already." Spectra chuckled.
"I don't think you're giving the boy enough credit." She said with a smirk. "Danny's only found when he's good and ready to be found, never before." Spectra couldn't fully disguise her smug tone as she said this, betraying her affections towards the mischievous toddler.
Despite Vlad's insistence that he didn't want his son in the same room as the shrewd psychiatrist, 'Auntie Spectra' had become one of Danny's favorite people to play with. 'Nanny Dora' was also on that list along with 'Uncle Skulker.' (Much to the hunter's dismay.) Still, as fun as these playmates were for young Danny Masters, none of them could ever replace the center of the young boy's sheltered world…
Before this line of thought could be continued though, Spectra's door swung open once again, this time admitting a very smug looking Vlad Masters followed by an impatient Walker.
"Spectra." Vlad drawled out. "Would you please find the contract Walker and I signed at our last meeting. There seems to be some dispute about the payment methods we agreed on."
"Oh?" Spectra said, amused.
"I don't care what you say, Plasmius." Walker growled out. "I would never agree to let you have access to Pariah's castle!"
"Actually, you agreed to just that." Spectra said innocently, fishing out a piece of paper from the box Bertrand had brought her. "It's right here, underneath the agreed deadline for your weapons."
"I assure you Walker, I have no intention of reviving Pariah. I merely hope to settle my curiosity about a few matters that have caught my interest of late." Walker muttered bitterly for a moment before sighing.
"Fine!" He barked out. "But if I find out you're poking around in places you shouldn't be, no amount of wordplay contracts will stop me from locking you up for a long, long time!"
"Very well then." Vlad said smoothly. "Shall we continue to the lab?"
Walker grumbled to himself as he left the room, Vlad following at a leisurely pace. Idly, the billionaire wondered how much longer this would take. He still had to talk to Skulker later on, after all, and not to mention checking up on Daniel's ever progressive powers.
It won't be much longer before I can start training him. Vlad thought smugly, proud of the way his son was adapting so quickly to powers that'd taken him years to prefect. But then, maybe his youth had something to do with that…
"Master Danny! Wait, don't--!"
"YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" His blood freezing in his veins, Vlad snapped around to focus his wide-eyed gaze at the top of the master stairway, where his son could be seen sledding on one of Vlad extremely expensive silver platters.
Too stunned to stop him, Vlad could only watch in horror as the three year old slid downwards, bowling over anyone who couldn't get out of his way. Which, Vlad noted with a cringe, included the rule-happy sheriff of the Ghost Zone.
"Master Danny, are you alright?" Dora asked when she's finally caught up to where the boy had slid to a stop by the front door. Vlad sighed as he went to his son's side as well, giving the boy a pointed look that'd become far too familiar to the child. Wincing, Danny summed up how deeply he was in trouble the best way his three year old vocabulary knew how.
"Damaging a two million dollar platter, running over one of the most dangerous men in the Ghost Zone, sneaking away from Dora, stealing cookies in the kitchen and nearly getting yourself killed." Vlad counted off to his son, who was sitting on his bed with his shoulders hunched with guilt. "Is there anything you have to say for yourself, young man?"
"Sorry Daddy…" Danny muttered, kicking at his bed frame with a heel before looking up at Vlad with his big blue eyes, giving him the 'I'm too cute to stay mad at' look that the boy had down to an art form.
It took all of Vlad's composure to fight down a smile.
"'Sorry' isn't good enough, Daniel." Vlad said sternly. "What if you'd hurt someone, hmm? Or if you got hurt yourself?" That last thought killed any chance of Danny's look winning him over. After all, Vlad wouldn't know what to do if Danny got hurt too severely for the private doctors to handle. "Did you ever stop and think of that, Daniel?"
"No…" Danny said, looking more and more guilt ridden by the second. Sighing, Vlad took a seat next to his son and hugged the boy close.
"You have to understand Daniel, I wouldn't know what to do if I ever lost you." He said softly.
"Then how come you're always too busy with work play with me?" Danny asked with watery eyes. "And then when I do see you, you're too tired to play!"
That one hit Vlad where it hurt.
The truth was, he had been a little too obsessive over finding out more about the Pariah myth for the past month or so, and hadn't been spending nearly as much time with his son as he usually did. He didn't think the boy would mind as much, given the fact that he could always hunt down any number of Vlad's employees to play with, but apparently he was wrong.
"I'm sorry…" Vlad said, tousling the boy's hair. "I guess I have been busy lately, haven't I? Why don't we go away this weekend to the vacation home in Colorado, just the two of us? Spectra can handle the business for a weekend…"
"Really?" Danny said, his face glowing at the promise of one-on-one time with his father.
"Yep." Vlad nodded sagely. "And I'll even start teaching you to fight, just like Daddy does."
"Really!" Squealing, Danny threw his arms around his father. Vlad laughed as he returned the hug, happy that his son thought so highly of him.
"But you have to promise you'll be good for the rest of the week." Vlad added sternly when his son pulled away. "Do everything Dora tells you to, okay?"
"'Kay!" Danny promised with a vigorous nod.
"Good. Now it's past your nap time, little badger." Giggling, Danny scooted to duck underneath the covers, too eager for the trip with his father to do anything wrong. Vlad laughed slightly as he picked up the stuffed Badger he'd bought for Danny years ago. (Which was constantly being re-stitched due to all the wear and tear it'd endured.) Handing it to Danny, who took it eagerly, Vlad kissed his son on the forehead and rose to his feet.
"Wait!" Danny called out. "You forgot Bee-Bee." Vlad smiled as his son thrusted the neglected plushy forward.
"Dear me." The half ghost said in mock alarm, sitting back down on the bed. "I did now, didn't I?" Taking the toy, Vlad pecked it good-night as well before returning it to his son, who was now content and clearly drained. "Pleasant dreams, little badger…"
Leaving the room, Vlad shut the door softly behind him, smiling at the sight of his son cuddling Bee-Bee as the boy drifted off to sleep. Chuckling to himself, Vlad started away from Danny's room, already making plans for their vacation to the Rockies.
He was halfway down the stairs when his senses alerted him to the presence of a ghost.
"Boss!" Skulker said as he phased through the wall, turning visible as he landed. "I have those reports you wanted."
"Good." Vlad nodded. "Let's hear them."
"You were right about Axion Lab having the technology you need." Skulker said, nodding. "But they have a lot of anti-ghost security, so stealing it may prove a challenge." Vlad frowned at that.
"Anti-ghost security?" he repeated sharply. "Why would they have that?"
"There's a natural portal in Amity Park, much more consisted them most." Skulker explained with a shrug. "Apparently, ghosts have been taking advantage of it."
"A natural portal?" Vlad repeated, frowning. Nothing like that had existed when he'd gone to Amity Park three years ago…
The explosion must've helped create it. Vlad realized grimly.
"I see… Look into the matter of this portal more. I'll get Spectra to work on buying out Axion Labs."
"Yes sir." Skulker said with a curt nod, phasing down to the basement to return to the Ghost Zone.
It seems there are a few loose ends in Amity Park that need to be tied up… Vlad though grimly, looking back towards his son's room. For the first time in a while, Vlad wondered what Maddie would think of the little ball of energy he'd raised…
Shoving that thought away, Vlad continued towards his office.
It doesn't matter anymore. He thought curtly. Daniel is my son now, and nothing in the world will take him away from me.
WoM- :D That's all for now! Next chapter'll be drenched in father/son fluff, though, so stay tuned! (And don't worry, that update won't take nearly as long )
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Next Update- Outta This World Ch 4 (Please allow for another day or two .)