Hooray! Danny's PoV!

So I had this thing more or less finished, but then I realized it SUCKED so I had to rewrite it. Sorry for the wait. -_-' On another note, HOLY CRAP GUYS! The DP phandom is EXPLODING on Tumblr and I had no idea. o_o It's the coolest thing ever! Ten years later and we're still kick'in strong! *snort* Hell, people are making up new material with background characters all on their own cause we love this show so much. XD You guys are so awesome it makes me all teary inside.

...Sooooo Employee of the Month, anyone? No? Yes? *Edit: Guys, I didn't get employee of the month. I'm not that cool. Search Walter Weston on the tumblr and all will be explained. haha*


Sometimes I feel like my grip on reality is held together by nothing more than a tiny collection of frayed strings, that it's always been so precarious, even before Vlad took over the world.

Breathy pants echoed around the empty bathroom, the singularity of the sound emphasizing my isolation. Tiny beads of sweat inched down my temple, seeping into the creases of my tightly sealed eyes. My hand was moving furiously, squeezing the erection that had me on all fours. I couldn't really feel the cold tile cutting into my knees. I was locked in my own head, replaying a memory that should have been nothing more than a nightmare.

"This is a good look for you, Daniel."

A guttural noise fell from my gasping mouth, imagining his hands on my body, recalling the sensation of his lips trailing down my neck. He handled me roughly, disregarding the tremble that betrayed fear. I didn't fight him, rolling my hips into his imagined erection after he pushed me to my stomach. Sordid, carnal desire pooled somewhere below my waist. A shiver quaked through me as his hands took purchase on my hips.

I moved my hand faster, toes curling in anticipation.

"I know exactly what you want, Daniel, and in a few seconds you will too."

Vivid memory of the way his cock eased into my body, penetrating deep, filled me in a way nothing else could. It erupted an aching moan that reverberated within the lonely bathroom, stimulated by my hand. I yearned for him, whispering his name and rolling my hips against the open air. Friction warmed my core when he moved faster, his dick sliding in and out. His hands held me down and abused my frame with a seamy indifference, every bit of it feeding the mounting climax.

"Danny..."

His low tenor echoed in my head, synchronized with the moans that increasingly filled the bathroom. God, I was so hard. I wanted him to touch me so much it hurt. The Vlad in my fantasy continued to fuck me, putting me on my knees. I could almost feel the satin sheets bunching under my finger tips, migrating slightly as his thrusts bounced my smaller form against the imagined mattress.

I masturbated in time with each propulsive force, moving faster and faster until the moans turned into a long stream of sound, carrying his name all across the tiled bathroom. My orgasm convulsed through me, coming out in reluctant, abrupt spurts. I forced every last drop out, dry, the moans turning into heaving sobs that tore through my throat as I struggled to pull away from the indecent fantasy. Shame trickled down my face in manifested tears. It took several deep breaths to remember myself, and even then, I was left shaking.

When I was finally able to look at my clammy, trembling hands, strings of cum wove between the fingers like fine strands of spider web. Bile rose suddenly, but I forced it down, grabbing a wad of toilet paper to erase the evidence. As always, there was no post-orgasm warmth, or even the illusion of satisfaction. It was just a fucked-up urge momentarily satiated with the abuse that spurred it.

For a long, empty moment, I remained kneeling on the floor. Tears still bubbled from my eyes, feeling cumbersome like the ejaculate staining the floor. I tried hopelessly to move past the unbearable self-loathing constricting my chest, but it was an exhausting task. I just wanted to sleep, sleep and never wake up. If I hadn't promised Elysia that I'd keep fighting...if it wasn't for the way she constantly stood up to Vlad...

And she thinks I'm the strong one.

Bitterness came swiftly after the thought, encasing me in a protective shield as I picked at the floor rug. Vlad was waiting in the dining room down the hall and my dinner was probably getting cold. Where was my family now? Were they even trying to find a way to get me out? Elysia had come up with an escape plan, and a pretty good one too, so why couldn't they? Why was I having to rely on myself and a girl I met barely two months ago to get out of here when I should have been able to count on my friends and family? I've always tried to be someone they can depend on. I assumed that feeling was mutual.

An uncomfortable sense of shame, unrelated to the bugs that constantly crawled under my skin, shadowed the traitorous thoughts. A fading part of me knew I shouldn't think like that about my friends and family. Maybe they were doing everything they could to get me out, but I was too tired to stop myself anymore. Too hurt.

Not for the first time, Ghostwriter's words drifted through my head.

"If you stopped caring, you'd stop hurting."

I stumbled to my feet and hastily cleaned up the remaining mess, trying to ignore the hollowness in my stomach. While washing my hands, I accidentally caught sight of myself in the mirror, the black look settling deeper. I wondered, also not for the first time, if escape was even worth it anymore. Even if I left, Vlad would forever haunt me. I'd never be free of that sunken, defeated reflection, not after betraying myself so throughly, not after the...things I've felt for the older man.

The things I still feel.

An unnamed sickness seemed to shiver down my spine, bringing to attention the most disturbing development yet. The increasing ferocity of my less-than-platonic feelings for Vlad continually plague my every waking moment. What had once been a relatively easy urge to disregard had grown into an overwhelming force that demanded obedience. Vlad pretended not to notice why I ran into the shower every morning, just as he played ignorant to the suspiciously time-consuming "bathroom breaks" I took throughout the day. I was a slave to my own body as much as I was a slave to Vlad, but that wasn't the worst part.

I couldn't find the distinction between physical attraction and something that went deeper. Part of me...a large part of me...didn't just want to...to mess around with him...I wanted to be near him. I wanted to listen to him talk, and sit next to him in the study, and kiss him because I lo-

"No." I hissed, turning away from the mirror suddenly and crouching down.

My nails dug deep into my scalp. I bit my tongue until blood seeped along the pressed line of my lips and primitive pain consumed all thought. There was no worst part to this. Everything was the worst part. Nothing, nothing, explained the feelings and desires unraveling my brain.

"I hate him." I spat forcefully, enraged by the mere thought that it could be anything else.

Something small and fragile cracked inside of me as I whispered those words so venomously. I refused to acknowledge the lingering ache, pushing it away into the farthest corners of my mind. But deep down, down where the blackest part of me thrived and spread, I knew those words weren't true.

And really, that was the worst part.

"Feeling better, Daniel?" Vlad asked casually once I finally returned to dinner.

"Peachy."

"Good to hear, dear boy. With the increasing receptacle breaks, I was worried you were perhaps coming down with something."

He spoke in an airy tone, but I wasn't fooled. Vlad was no idiot, he knew exactly what I was doing during those "receptacle breaks". I ground my teeth in silence, taking my place next to him at the table. If he wanted to play dumb, then who was I to argue? It's not like I wanted to talk about his newfound, uncharacteristic chastity. All it did was exacerbate the convoluted mess of emotions currently stewing in my brain. Clearly, he knew this would happen. He knew cutting me off would open an ocean of bullshit emotions that make no sense whatsoever. Now he was just waiting for me to put on a show, but like hell was I gonna play his game.

"Are you alright, Daniel? You seem upset."

I almost believed the note of genuine concern laced into his tone.

"I said I'm fine." I replied shortly, stabbing a piece of steak.

Vlad considered me for a long moment, and then he started pressing all the buttons.

"No you're not. You're angry."

"Oh yeah? Did you figure that out all by yourself?"

"Hiding behind a veil of hostile sarcasm isn't going to make things easier."

"Make what easier?" I snapped acidly, daring him to say it out loud.

His expression hardened.

"I'm not trying to start a fight with you, Daniel-"

"You never are."

Vlad stopped talking, a steely coldness radiating from his posture. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise as dread creeped in. Numbing memories took over, unbidden reminders of the way Vlad towered over me in unhinged rage, my ghostly reflection in the mirror, broken. The elder hybrid brought it all back with his next words, returning me to that night in the study.

"I thought we discussed the dangers of lying to oneself, little badger." He inspected his nails casually as he spoke. "Surely you don't need to be taught again?"

Words refused to come. My throat constricted, taking with it any remaining breath in my brittle chest. Vlad pinned me with a wintry glare, waiting, but all the fight had been extinguished. I realized with sudden, cold clarity that I had no desire to fight Vlad, and not just because his rage terrified me. I didn't want to fight him because he was right. There was no longer the illusion of blame to hide behind. I understood my part in all our fights, the consequences of my anger and self-hate. Even now, I couldn't resent him for the secrets he openly kept, the behavior he wouldn't explain. How could I justify any anger towards him when really, I was just angry at myself?

"...Sorry." I murmured, lips moving of their own accord.

Vlad seemed as shocked as I was by the unexpected apology. Silence, suspended above us like tethered fireflies, gradually eased the frothing tension. A blush dusted my cheeks as I pushed a bit of parsley around on my plate, avoiding eye contact. Vlad stood after an eternity, moving behind my chair and resting his hands on either side of my head. I felt his lips touch down, pressing heavily against my hair.

"Thank you." He replied quietly, his warm breath threading between the raven locks.

I shivered, wrestling with the knot doing backflips in my stomach. Helium was coursing through my arms, the kind I used to always get when Sam got a little too close. I tried not to pay attention to it. Vlad returned to his seat, but I could still feel his hands resting against my head, his fingertips massaging the tressed skin. His presence seemed to linger behind me like an echo, a silent unacknowledged yearning that wished for his return. If he picked up on any of this, he remained expertly aloof. I could only detect an unfamiliar smile lifting his features just slightly. It was warm, and genuine. The helium turned into butterflies, and I hated myself even more.

"I see you're eating better." He began conversationally. I struggled with the sudden, overwhelming desire to appease him.

"Yeah. ...It's not completely awful."

"Don't insult my chef's now. I doubt they'd appreciate it."

I winced, thinking of a number of things Charlie and Tyler probably didn't appreciate.

"Do you have much homework this evening?"

"Shockingly, no. I think Ghostwriter is trying to lull me into a false sense of security before dumping an ungodly amount of assignments on me."

"At least you won't be taken by surprise."

"That's not much of a consolation."

"On the contrary, that's the best kind of consolation."

"Spoken like a true evil genius, Vlad."

He tipped his wine glass towards me, smirking behind the crystal rim. I rolled my eyes. Our dinner together was bearable for the first time ever, punctuated by light banter and a teasing mien. I wanted to hate every second of it, but how could I? It'd almost turned into a fight, which always ended badly for me, or it could have been another night of stony silence, miserable for us both. Was it wrong to feel so relieved and grateful for this evening of unexpected synergy? Probably. We finished our meals and retired to the study, silent, but not seething.

Vlad poured our usual tumblers of liquor once we arrived, handing me the amber drink from over the back of the couch. I settled into my usual spot, already opening tonights assignments. Vlad was supposed to go to his computer and mutter to himself for the rest of the evening, but instead he moved to draw the long hunter green curtains across the dusky landscape. We were soon sealed inside the study, cut off and cloistered from the rest of the world. The elder hybrid set his glass on the coffee table before lighting the prepped fireplace with a burst of pink ecto-flame. Immediately the dry logs crackled to life, throwing an orange glow far across the room.

Then he perused the monstrous book shelf encompassing the wall, rifling through them with a familiarity that betrayed his frequent use. I watched as he picked a red bound book with no visible title and took a seat in the armchair positioned adjacent to the couch. He grabbed his neglected tumbler, flicked on a table lamp, and proceeded to read.

For a long hour, as we sipped carefully at our drinks, not a word was spoken. We attended to separate activities in the comfort of agreeable silence, content in each other's presence. Or maybe content was too strong a word, at least in my case. I tolerated him, pretending the sentiment didn't turn into something warmer as the disappearing liquor eased my enmity.

Ghostwriter's assignments took less time than I thought they would. Either he was giving me a break or I was getting smarter, and because I sincerely doubted the former, I couldn't help but feel a tiny glint of pride as I closed the economics tome. Vlad glanced over at the muffled snap, observing my muted smile. I briefly met his eyes before draining the tumbler, snuggling down into the couch cushions contentedly. Very contentedly.

"Already finished?"

"Yep."

Vlad's eyebrows rose slightly, his lips reflecting my smile.

"Impressive. It's not even eight o'clock yet."

I shrugged, though the bubble of pride remained strong. Free time was a luxury I'd been deprived of for far too long. I didn't even have to worry about Vlad initiating perverse contact, not if recent patterns held true. Would he let me have this time to myself?

Would now be my chance to sneak away and steal Elysia her weapon?

My eyes snapped open at the sudden, terrifying thought, but before I could expand on it, Vlad saved me.

"Would you like to play a game of chess, Daniel?"

"Chess?" I repeated, slow to return from my own head. "Uh..."

Vlad waited expectantly. I quickly decided that sneaking out from under him tonight wouldn't be ideal. I'd need to wait for a more opportune time. Yeah.

"Sure, let's play chess."

The older man grinned with a devious shadow hovering behind his pupils, the one he gets right before he destroys someone. Awesome.

"I'll go easy on you." He lied, standing swiftly and with entirely too much excitement.

"Sure you will." I muttered, just barely catching sight of the fine gold scrip embossed into the spine of his book. It was titled The Science of Dimensional Drift.

Vlad dragged me to a chess table nestled between the study doors and the ceiling-high book shelving. It'd always looked fancy from far away, but now I realized what a gross understatement that had been. The game pieces were meticulously carved from iridescent pearls, black and white alike. They sat upon a waxed board of checkered onyx and opal, nestled into a darkly stained, red sandalwood table. The wood was tastefully covered in highly detailed relief carvings, clearly done by hand, of various battles throughout history. The piece was completed by two matching chairs, also decorated with rich carvings, which I felt unworthy to sit on.

"Well you certainly spared no expense on this." I commented dryly. Vlad held one of the ornate chairs out for me, laughing amicably.

"Of course not, dear boy. This is a game to be held in the highest esteem."

He seemed amused by my lack of faith, ruffling my hair in a way that made the butterflies fluster. Inexplicably, my brain decided to remind me that he hadn't kissed me in days. I scowled.

"I trust you've never played before?"

"Duh."

Vlad faked a gusty sigh and proceeded to give me a run down of all the pieces. It was a little confusing at first, but only because I was having difficulty concentrating on the words coming from his lips as opposed to the lips themselves. God, this was fucked up.

"-And white always has first play. Are you ready to begin?"

"I think so?"

"Don't worry, little badger, we'll take it slow. Feel free to ask questions as we play."

I grumbled to myself, wondering why he couldn't have shown such generosity the first night he dragged me into bed. The pearl pawn felt cool between my fingertips, making a crisp sound against the board when I set it down two spaces closer to Vlad's black pieces. He made his move immediately after, decisively, and yet I got the impression that he was hardly thinking about it. I managed to get in three more turns before realizing how royally screwed I was. Vlad's stoic expression never broke as he calmly infiltrated my joke of a defense, trapping my king in a matter of minutes. It was embarrassing.

"Checkmate." He announced simply, only a trace of a gloat in his eyes.

"Well that wasn't surprising." I grumbled, tipping over the defeated king.

Vlad flinched at the resounding crack, frowning.

"Don't be disgraceful in your loss, Daniel. There's no shame in learning from your mistakes." He chided, picking up the irradiant game piece. "You lasted longer than I expected."

I rose a brow, but didn't argue with the doubtful statement. Vlad proceeded to break down how he had won and outlined the mistakes I made. We set the board up and played again. I lasted five minutes longer than last time.

"Darn it!"

"But you're improving. Care to try again?"

"Fine, just one more time."

Nearly an hour later, Vlad and I were locked into what had to be our twentieth game of chess. Vlad refused to let me win, but he'd give me a break once in a while and explain why a move I made was bad. He even let me take some moves back to keep the game going. Our ever-present spirit of competition remained unyielding, but unlike every other confrontation, it stayed fun. Somewhere along the line, I think I actually began to enjoy Vlad's company.

"What was that book you were reading?" I asked casually. "About dimensional drift?"

The elder hybrid paused just enough to arouse suspicion, an unreadable shift in his face. He calmly took my bishop, seeming to mull over his response before finally deflecting the question, which was interesting.

"I'm surprised you noticed the title. My lessons are working better than I thought."

"Better than you'd probably like, too." I leaned back and crossed my arms.

Vlad took his attention away from the board, observing my resolute posture with a grim sort of smile.

"On the contrary, Daniel. It does my heart good to see you act with such sharp intelligence, especially against me."

Before I could question this comment, he unleashed a deep sigh that nearly proved all of my paranoid suspicions. He was hiding something. I waited, knowing he'd answer because he wasn't flying off into a rage. Vlad motioned for me to take my turn in the nearly forgotten game. He refused to say a word until I did.

"You were inevitably going to find out about this. I just wasn't sure how to bring the subject up."

His words did nothing to quell the agitation in my gut, but I tried not to let it show, using the game as a cover.

"I had an idea, Daniel, years ago, one I could never fully put to rest."

He moved a knight, threatening one of my rooks.

"It came upon me in one of my darkest hours, as a delirious, harebrained thought. The burden of my ghost powers and the loss of my humanity had taken a heavy toll, alone as I was. I no longer fit into any sphere of existence. I could feel in in my core, just as you surely do."

I didn't reply, using my last bishop to try and save the rook.

"We don't belong here, Daniel, but we don't belong in the ghost zone either. Personal relationships can lessen the impact, as I'm sure you know better an I, but in the end, they only conceal the problem like a rug covering a deep stain. We are but a product of scientific experiment, taken from our natural born dimension and thrust cruelly, half-way, into another. I know you feel the same restlessness, the same unnatural pull to the ghost zone and the simultaneous repulsion. We'll never be able to find peace with ourselves, and how can we when our deepest essence remains constantly at war?"

His words were becoming more heated, bitter. I felt nothing but a pervasive chill, barely noticing when he took out the rook despite my best efforts. He even took the bishop on his next turn. Vlad was saying things I'd never allowed myself to feel, things that only ever became real in distant nightmares.

"Half-ghost." He nearly spat the word, startling me to look up. "Half-alive. What are these but empty terms? Nothing describes the paradoxical existence we have been forced to live; and you to be so young."

He then looked at me with an ancient, weary sadness, a pitying smile in his face. The guy was starting to freak me out. I'd never heard Vlad talk about his ghost powers like this, almost in disgust.

"But...you like having ghost powers. Don't you?"

"Like them?" He blinked. "But of course, I cherish them. Everything I've become, the success and power I've achieved, it's all because of what I am, a human-ghost hybrid. Do not misunderstand me, dear boy, our powers are not a burden, they are biology's providence. The issue isn't with the powers themselves, it's the consequences they inevitably bring in a world yet evolved to accommodate them, temporary side effects, you could say."

I was sorely tempted to say, "Like insanity?", but held back. Vlad would just get angry, and more than that...I was admittedly too enthralled by his words to do much of anything except gape. Some of what he was saying hit entirely too close to home.

"Side effects?"

"Don't pretend to be ignorant." His voice turned sharp. "You know of what I speak, the haunting displacement that's been dogging your footsteps since you rolled out of the ghost portal, the lurking sense of isolation you can't escape. Even surrounded by family and friends as I never was, you can't tell me that for the past two years, you've felt at home in your own skin even once."

The chess game was completely forgotten. Vlad was glaring at me, daring me to say he was wrong. My wide-eyed gaze remained transfixed on his encompassing form, silent. The elder hybrid continued, the avenging ire in his tone lessened slightly.

"Our physiology gives us no choice but to feel homeless, Daniel. However, I reject the notion that we lack the power to change our fate. That's why I've spent years studying alternate realities and trans-dimensional shifts, supplementing the holes left by human scientists with truths only attainable in the ghost zone. My investigations into the veil that separates us from the ghosts has led to astounding discoveries, and at last, I believe I'd found the answer to our vagrancy."

He was scaring the hell out of me. I'd never seen so much fruitloop energy bubbling over at one time.

"Our very being is a fusion of two separate worlds, ghost and human. It only makes sense that the answer to our unending exile is to merge these separate worlds and create a new dimension as hybridized as ourselves!"

Yep. Vlad had officially lost it.

"And you're going to accomplish this how?" I asked slowly, wondering if I should be backing away.

"I'm constructing a series of super portals placed strategically around the globe." He answered proudly, standing up to pace. "At the moment of their simultaneous activation, the portals will draw enough ectoenergy from the ghost zone to shred the veil that conceals this world from the next. The entire planet will be subsumed within the ghost zone and I'll have achieved what no creature, living or dead, has ever done before!"

"Careful, Vlad, you're foaming at the mouth a bit."

The fruitloop gave me a withering look.

"Joke all you want, Daniel. I know you can comprehend the gravity of what I'm going to accomplish."

He was right. I did, and it was crazy. Maybe I could understand the whole not-at-home-in-your-own-skin thing, to a point, but that did not mean I wanted to screw up two different realities for the sake of personal comfort. Did Vlad even realize what he was doing? How could he confidently say this wouldn't end in complete and total disaster? I'm not exactly a physics expert, but I'm pretty sure this constitutes ripping a hole in the space-time continuum or something.

"Correction." I stood as well, facing him with what I hoped was a tone of stern equanimity. "I can understand the gravity of what you're attempting to accomplish. How can you be sure you won't destroy both worlds? This isn't exactly something you can test first. It's all or nothing."

"But Daniel, this has been tested before. Twice, in fact. The results are standing in this very room. We should have died completely in our exposure to the ghost zone's basest composition, but instead our molecular structure adjusted itself to accept what translated into new DNA. This phenomena occurring once could have been interpreted as a fluke, but twice?" A grin was stretching wide across his face. "The moment I discovered you, I knew it was possible. You changed everything that day, Daniel, everything."

I didn't know what to say. Jesus, what was I supposed to say? I couldn't exactly tell him, "No, this is bad, I'm gonna stop you". Shockingly enough, I was kind of over poking Vlad into a psycho rage. But how could I sit back as he turned the tables on humanity and pushed our mutation onto the rest of the planet? Biological providence, my ass; he was taking selfish to a whole new level here.

"You think I'm insane, don't you?"

"Vlad, I'm always gonna think you're insane."

"Well," He begrudged, smiling wryly. "At least you're not flying off into one of your insipid hero-sermons."

"I'm starting to understand the ineffectiveness of that tactic."

"About time." His smile grew, a firm hand clasping on my shoulder. I realized there was only one thing I could do.

"How long?"

"The portals should be finished by next week. We depart for our new home at the moment of their activation."

It felt like a rock had been dropped into my stomach. I didn't realize this was all happening so fast. The pressure to get Elysia her necessary materials doubled, the sudden onslaught of urgency quickening my heart-rate. Vlad felt it, but mistook the palpitations for nerves.

"Don't worry, little badger. I have no doubt the transition will go smoothly."

"As smoothly as the day we turned into half-ghosts? I dunno about you, but nothing about that experience can be considered smooth."

The fruitloop frowned slightly, combing his fingers through my hair.

"And yet here we are. Perhaps the adjustment period will be trying, but who better to lead the world through such struggles than ourselves? I do hope you'll help me restore order. Humanity might need your more sympathetic touch."

Again, I didn't know how to reply. Never once had I considered the actuality of helping Vlad rule the world. It'd been such an awkward idea in my head. My hate for him was always too strong, and my detestation toward power kept me grounded. But now I wondered if there might be some good I could do after all, assuming, god forbid, Elysia's plan failed. I'd always imagined ruling with Vlad meant being as vicious and evil as him, but now he was painting a different picture. I still had zero desire to do it, of course, but maybe, if I never got free...it wouldn't be completely unbearable.

Vlad must have picked up on this perturbing revelation, for he spoke to me carefully.

"You and I balance each other, Daniel. It's this precise quality I intend to rely on once you accept your place here and allow our true potential to shine forth. I'm well aware of my weakness for power," He conceded with small laughter. "I'm also aware of the unsavory pattern that befalls such figures throughout history, and I have no intent to be next in line. You, a near paragon of integrity, have the qualities befitting a leader and yet resist using them. I know you can rise to the task when left with no choice, and what's more, you flourish in it. Your crippling fault is a lack of common-sense. All leaders, even the historically 'good' ones, must get their hands dirty. The consequence of being a cruel ruler is getting stabbed in the back, the consequence of being a benevolent one is stabbed in the front. I'm hoping to prevent both by bringing you into the equation."

"...People are never going to be okay with us ruling the world, Vlad. Especially with us hanging the ghost zone over their heads."

"Why not?" He challenged, intensely serious. "Societies have been okay with much worse before. Our rule and the inclusion of another reality breaks down all national boarders. The only thing people have to war against anymore is us, but with the deracination of their own reality, how can they hope to mount an offensive? The population is scattered now, broken. We only have to step in and rebuild civilization as we see fit. So long as people are safe and happy, who will be able to stop us? Who will want to?"

A hollow realization was opening the chasm in my heart, bringing with it dawning comprehension.

"It's exactly what you're doing to me." I breathed quietly.

Vlad stared at me ruefully, the air hanging heavily between us.

"Yes." He replied, a strangely nurturing bent to his tone.

We were both quiet for a long time. I didn't even know what to think anymore. Every time I thought I saw the bottom of Vlad's schemes, he turned on another light and the pit went deeper. How could I beat him when I couldn't fathom his plots? Merging the ghost and human world? Rebuilding civilization? I didn't even want to know how he planned on accomplishing that one. No doubt I'd be heavily involved with the process. I'll probably even agree with his ideas. By then I'll be remade, restructured just like the rest of the world. I'll be Daniel Masters through and through.

I had to get Elysia that weapon.

"It's getting late." Vlad broke my thoughts with a gentle rousing. "We should get to bed."

"...Yeah."

I let him steer me down the hall and into our room, the exhaustion of the day dragging my shoulders down. A moonless night sky twinkled beyond half-concealed windows. I stripped, and so did Vlad. We settled into our usual positions between the fresh sheets, but before I could fully turn over, Vlad touched my arm.

His face was startlingly close to mine, silver hair hanging loose over his shoulders. My heart immediately jumped to my throat, the sudden proximity erasing all rational thought. Before I could decide what to do, Vlad moved forward and captured my lips between his. Goosebumps exploded across my skin, mirroring the synapses lighting up my brain. I didn't think, I reacted, pressing my lips against his and dancing with the tongue in my mouth. Vlad pulled away before I could begin to feel horrified, his hot, minty breath ghosting over my sensitized mouth.

"I love you, Daniel." He whispered, and to my sudden horror I felt the responding sentiment rise in my throat.

"I-"

Holy fuck.

Abruptly, I cut off the damning words and turned away, yanking the blankets up past my chin. Vlad was left frozen behind me, stuck in a moment I already wanted to forget. Slowly, he moved away, settling on his side of the bed in complete silence. The metallic taste of blood seeped across my tongue as I bit it viciously, fists clenched tightly around the sheets. I didn't want to think about the look on Vlad's face right now, or the way his heart was probably racing. Did he know what I nearly said? Had he guessed?

Through the thick slough of horror and pain, unbidden recollections of his mouth as it pressed against mine returned, cruel in their vivid detail. I could still feel him hovering so close to me, the heat of his breath, the tingling that raced over my limbs as his tongue swam over mine. The memory played in my head with the ferociousness of a dehydrated man finding water, enticing a dreaded warmth. I buried my face into the pillow as humiliated tears pricked my eyes, already feeling the awkward weight growing between my legs.

It was an eternity before I felt brave enough to sleep.


"Daniel..."

I moaned, a hot and needy sound. The sheets around me shifted.

"Daniel."

"Vlad..." I groaned, reaching for him within a hazy shroud of pleasure.

His presence moved beside me, touching with warm, invasive hands. I moaned again, squirming into his ministrations. The haziness grew thicker as I settled more deeply into the swath of hedonism, luxuriating in it.

"Daniel..."

God, it felt so good.

"Wake up, Daniel."

Like a sudden deluge of ice water, those words broke the spell.

My eyes snapped open, cold horror washing away the lingering dregs of a libidinous dream. Vlad was right there, right there, leaning over my sweaty, reddened, and mortified face.

"What the fuck, Vlad!?" My voice cracked.

I scrambled to sit up and hide myself, heart beating out of my chest. He's never woken me up like this, never. He usually yells from across the room or gives me a nudge and walks away before I notice, always giving me a chance to pretend he doesn't know why I run straight to the shower. There was no hiding the tent rising from the sheets this time. His eyes even wandered to the unfinished erection, a leer just barely playing at his lips.

"That must have been some dream, little badger."

If possible, my face flushed even deeper. I could barely force out a response.

"I-I wasn't-it-" There was no way I could deny it. "...S-so what if it was? What's it to you?"

Vlad shrugged carelessly, a devious smirk on his face that left the impression of something deliberately unsaid. He rolled away from my glare, pushing himself out of bed. I watched through narrowed eyes as he waltzed about the room, pretending I hadn't just been caught moaning his name. It was like I'd suddenly become part of the wall decorations again. I was left, as usual, squirming, confused, and with a strong desire to strangle him.

I tried to take deep, calming breaths as he strut his way into the bathroom, the distant sounds of a shower echoing out. Vlad graciously allowed me to fall back into the facade that my evolving feelings toward him were a secret, though I wondered why I even bothered. At this point it was a fucking joke. Maybe it had always been a joke.

It took the full force of my imagination to get rid of the perverse erection, picturing everything from dead puppies to Mr. Lancer's sister. In retrospect, the effort was completely pointless because Vlad made sure to bring it back once I joined him in the shower. What scared me, however, was the fact that he didn't even really do anything. He just stood behind me and washed my hair. I was the one who couldn't stop thinking about him bending me over and fucking me against the shower wall.

This insanity followed me all the way down to the dining room. Every flat surface looked inappropriately tempting. Vlad's presence was too alluring. I had to stop myself just from walking too close to him. The indecent urges were always this bad when the dreams didn't finish in release. Unfortunately, waking up next to him with cum smeared everywhere was just as bad. Everything fed the confusion eating me alive, antagonizing the fuses on my internal time bomb. Other than this morning, Vlad had never even cast a glance at what I pathetically tried to hide. His insistence on turning a blind eye to these incidents perpetuated the growing infection of shame and humiliation, but for all the wrong reasons. It went beyond the fact that he was silently laughing at me every time I excused myself for a "bathroom break". My shame and embarrassment stemmed from the fact that his indifference actually hurt. I wanted him to pay attention to me. It flourished like a poisonous vine in my heart because when he finally stopped touching me, this was how I reacted. If I were in Vlad's shoes I'd probably be laughing too.

"Daniel?"

His voice floated out from beyond the breakfast I wasn't eating. He sounded concerned again, the bastard. His next words made me freeze, a tangled mess of emotions blooming viciously in response.

"You don't have to feel ashamed, little badger."

I didn't reply.

"What your body is doing is perfectly natural-"

"Shut up."

Miraculously, he did. Only now I had to explain myself. It took a few moments to formulate the words; they came out awkward and reluctant, outraged.

"After weeks of...of ignoring me, you can't just sit there and, and...act like you careor something."

He remained quiet, forcing me to fill the silence that stretched on. I couldn't look at him. Despite the swarm of questions constantly lurking, I didn't want to talk about this. Not to him.

"W-why are you bringing this up now?"

"We have to talk about it at some point."

"WHY?" I slammed my fork down, spinning around to face him, trying and failing to keep a lid on my emotions. "Was this your plan all along? Fucking me into this sick, twisted form of attraction and then just abandoning me? Why-why couldn't you have just-just-"

"Just what?" He pinned me with a daring glare. "Just keep forcing sex between us? Hurting you? Would you like me to do that again, Daniel? Is that what you want?"

"I-n-no, of course not." Vlad had said it so boldly, so plainly, that my unstable fury was immediately abashed.

The elder man kept me locked in place with his glare, justified anger burning in every line of his face. I couldn't handle being under that gaze, averting my eyes and squirming in shame before him. His next words make me flinch, heart turning cold.

"I didn't make you feel this way."

"...But...you knew it would happen..."

"You can't get mad at me for knowing you better than you know yourself, little badger. I've done nothing but what you asked. I stopped touching you."

His words cut with a kind of pain that only truth could bring, echoing hollowly, mercilessly. He was right. He hadn't done a damn thing. I was the one who couldn't function without his attention anymore. Elysia wants to blame him for molesting me first, but did it matter? What mattered was the fact that my interest developed at all. That meant somewhere, deep inside, this kind of relationship had always been possible between us. Vlad had known. He'd seen it when all I saw was hate.

Unsought memories rose to the forefront of my mind, words he'd once said bearing a heavy, ominous suggestion.

"Love is a funny thing, my boy. It's surprisingly similar to hate."

Maybe I'd never really hated Vlad at all.

My appetite fizzled away with this sobering thought. I had the uncomfortable feeling that Vlad knew what I was thinking, though he demonstrated an astonishing level of tact for my benefit by not mentioning it. In fact, he let the issue drop completely, wearing only a small frown that was entirely too understanding. Ever the gentleman, he pulled out my chair and escorted me to the impending lessons with Ghostwriter once it became clear that I could eat nothing else. Vlad's arm remained draped across my shoulder as we walked down the long, empty halls, hugging my compliant body to his side. He kissed my temple before leaving me in the writer's precarious care, and I violently squashed the pang in my chest as I watched him go. It was a low whistle that finally brought me from my internal grappling.

"My, my, he's done quite a good job on you, hasn't he?"

Ghostwriter's oily sneer crawled up my spine and settled like grease in my head, viscous and vilifying. I had to bite my tongue to prevent taking the bait, forced into a silent simmer. His grin only widened, confirming the suspicion that the next three hours would be exceedingly long.

"Let's just get this over with." I muttered, resigning myself to fate.

Ghostwriter bowed, an array of essays, reports and books appearing on the table. Weariness rose in a momentary wave at the sight, but I rolled with it, sliding into the hard-backed chair. One of the books suddenly caught my eye, inspiring slight nausea. I held it up, giving the ghost a dry stare.

"Really?"

"You can't deny he was an effective leader."

"There were better ones."

"Of course there were. This book isn't a guideline, little Phantom, it's a lesson. You're going to read it and tell me what he did right and what he did wrong, but please, only in the context of his rhetoric." Ghostwriter pulled a soured expression. "You can't imagine how boring it gets hearing of nothing but 'crimes against humanity' and such."

"I'm sure your suffering is beyond compare."

He snickered.

"Your banter has gotten much better, Danny. Excellent work."

I glared, taking my eyes off him to casually flip open the cover of Mein Kampf. I stared at the tiny black text. It took an embarrassingly long moment to realize a rather significant problem.

"Uh...I can't read this."

"Why ever not? Don't you know how to read?"

"I don't know how to read in German!" I snapped hotly, a bad feeling rising in my gut.

"Which brings us to our newest challenge." He grinned manically, his taunting expression confirming my fears.

Fuck. This was not good. I could remember taking one Spanish class the year before Vlad took over the world. It had not gone well.

"How many do I have to learn?" I asked, throat gone dry.

"Your esteemed partner wants you fluent in German, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and French by the end of next year."

"But that's just seventeen months! How am I supposed to learn five different languages in less than a year and a half? That's-that's insane!"

"Mmm, perseverance, I suppose."

I gapped at his toothy smile helplessly. There was no use arguing, lest I be hit with that iron ruler. Thankfully it hadn't been in much use lately. Not since that night in the study. All I could do was close my mouth and accept the impossibility of my task. Ghostwriter waited with a sneer as I turned a few more pages of Adolf Hitler's stupid autobiography. The foreign text swam across the pages like squiggly noodles, jeering at me. I closed the book as my professor set a beginners guide to German before me, and we got to work.

The lesson progressed smoothly after that, which means Ghostwriter switched to a new subject when he could no longer tolerate my butchering of the German tongue. We touched briefly on economics and mathematics again, to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. He assigned a new list of vocabulary words, cause apparently every self-respecting ruler of the world should delight in lording big words over their subjects. The rest of the lesson was dedicated to a relatively new subject.

Ghostwriter had me studying all manners of social psychology, delving into the science of civilization itself. We looked at why ancient societies thrived and what caused their downfall, the influence of internal and external factors, and what people really cared about at the individual level. All of it, the papers he had me write, the books I was assigned to read, all of it was to groom me for future rule as Vlad's apprentice. It was a role they seemed convinced I would fill, unaware that most of the dogma they spouted went in one ear and out the other. I wasn't consumed with their psycho power trip games, I was consumed with something else entirely.

The clock ticked closer to noon, increasing the toxic mixture of nausea and dread frothing in my gut. Ghostwriter's company was nearly unbearable, but once Vlad came to collect me, I'd have to find a way to slip past the elder hybrid and get Elysia her supplies. The half-formed, lunatic idea to achieve that end still floated around in my head, waiting for a better stroke of inspiration to come along, preferably before noon. Meanwhile, I couldn't stop thinking about what she'd need. The weapons would be down in Vlad's lab. I'd probably be able to find a compass in the man's study, so she wouldn't get lost in the sewers of Amity Park. I thought I saw a particularly fancy one embellishing a book end. Hopefully it was a functioning tool and not just a decoration. Before I attempted to risk everything on this shot at escape, however, I needed to make sure Vlad wouldn't be anywhere near his lab or his study. Unfortunately, Vlad didn't make a habit of telling me his day-to-day schedule, not that there was much of a need. Over two-thirds of his day was spent obsessing over me, and when he wasn't, I was being carefully watched by Ghostwriter. The only times I could be sure of his location, sure that he wasn't floating around his study or lab, was during our meals.

I twisted the hem of my shirt beneath the table, not listening to a word Ghostwriter was saying. Yesterday I'd gotten away with nearly ten minutes to myself while Vlad sat in the dining room and waited. He's been excusing me for 'bathroom breaks' with increasing frequency, no doubt to accommodate the embarrassing intensity of these urges I can't stop feeling. It was the only thing I had at my disposal. If I didn't make a move now, I'd be transported across the Atlantic ocean by the end of the week.

I'd have to do it-

Knock, knock.

Ghostwriter stopped babbling as I gave a sudden, violent jump. The specter looked at me strangely before dumping a litany of assignments into my notebook. I didn't care. Vlad came up behind me as I turned around, the nausea and dread turning unexpectedly into guilt when he cast me a soft smile. With a simple tilt of the head, he relieved the writer of his duties and walked me out the door, seemingly unaware of the way my heart was beating out of my chest. I had to get control of myself. If I messed this up and Vlad saw through my lie...unless it wasn't completely a lie.

The fruitloop always said the best deceptions came in half-truths.

...I couldn't believe I was about to do this.

It wasn't hard to bring up last night's dream. Oddly, it'd started out differently than any of the others, taking place in a future where I appeared older, though not by much. At first it wasn't even sexual. If anything, it seemed...domestic. We lived in a castle that looked vaguely familiar. I was playing the exact role Vlad wanted me to, ruling by his side with the same, cold sharpness in my eyes. I remember feeling disturbed by the prophetic nature of the dream, even as I was having it. When it descended into the expected ambience of heat and pleasure, it carried the distinctive element of comfortable familiarity, erasing any unease I'd previously felt. It was one of the reasons I'd had a harder time pulling away from it this morning. It felt so real.

"Daniel." He whispered, the word moving over my skin as warmly as his breath.

His voice was low, powerful. It snaked around me, disembodied hands following after and trailing up to my neck. He was kneeling between my legs, casting a deep shadow over my prone body. Vlad kissed the length of my spine, massaging my aching balls and procuring a needy moan. Soon his weight settled above me, calloused hands gripping my hips and moving them into position. I felt his erection bounce against my skin before settling at the puckered ring of muscle. I moaned again, begging him.

Vlad's breath hitched as he pushed his cock into my pliant body, pressing in until I'd swallowed him whole. Unsteady gasps shook my chest as he began moving in and out, hoisting me to my knees for better penetration.

"Oh god, Vlad." I gasped, fingers sliding over the soft, satin sheets below us.

He groaned, leaning over me, towering over me. I felt him inside, each thrust bouncing my body forward slightly and then back. He quickly fell into a rhythm, gripping my waist and forcing me into the stiff erection. My voice grew louder, panting for him, calling his name over and over again-

"Are you alright, Daniel?"

I jumped violently, yanked away from the consuming fantasy. The panting had inadvertently melted into real life, my face burning with a deep blush. It took seconds to become aware of the bulky weight shifting awkwardly in my pants, the morning's erection having returned with a vengeance.

"Dammit..." I breathed weakly, not meaning for it to go that far. Much to my chagrin, however, it worked to my advantage.

I didn't even have to ask Vlad to excuse me for a bathroom break. It took all of my will-power to look up and meet his eyes, barest hints of malignant amusement dancing in the irises that traveled to the tent between my legs.

"There's a restroom down the hall from here." He smirked, gesturing with his hand. "Come down to the dining room once you've finished."

"...Okay."

His brows furrowed at my tiny, ashamed voice, pausing. For a terrifying second I thought he'd do something unexpected. The look in his eye was uncommonly empathetic for a man of his nature. Luckily, Vlad was too meticulous to break from whatever plot he had cooking beneath his skull. He soon turned away, leaving me alone so I could go masturbate.

The second he was out of eye sight, I ran.

It was as though a stranger had suddenly overshadowed my body, leaving my mind blank. Nothing existed but the propulsive terror urging me forward. It overwhelmed conscious thought, devouring everything but the mantra of supplies I needed to get for Elysia. Portraits, tapestries, and doorways flew past as I all but phased into Vlad's empty study. The compass was ripped from the bookend and shoved deep into my pocket before I even realized I'd reached the shelves. I yanked on the golden football statue that concealed the secret entrance to his lab. Cold, sterile air rushed past my face; I took stairs three at a time. The sight of his equally vacant lab almost tempered my anxiety, but its enormity sobered such sentiments. From every angle, spotless, stainless steel surfaces gleamed and reflected the fluorescent lighting. Everything looked distressingly identical, stirring the churning panic that threatened to erupt at any second. I glanced at my wrist watch.

Five minutes had passed already.

Half the drawers I tried and nearly all of the cabinets were locked. The rest contained nothing of use, not even a scalpel. Every fruitless search doubled the fear constricting my chest. Desperation sent me deeper into the lab, through doorways that slid open at my approach and closed with a suffocating swiftness. All the rooms I pilfered through contained foreign and ominous machinery. Once such contraption took up the length of an entire wall, and when I stepped into the room that housed it, all the hairs on the my body stood high. It was creepy. Shelves of what looked like Vlad's imitation of a Fenton thermos stood opposite of the massive machine. Oddly, they weren't locked behind a wall of glass. I grabbed one impulsively, rushing on to the next room.

The moment I crossed the threshold a dizzying onslaught of relief turned all the tension in my limbs to jelly. I'd stumbled into what looked like his workshop. An array of weapons and gadgets in varying stages of development littered the many counter tops. Immediately I scanned around for the smallest, most functioning looking gun, distantly noticing Vlad's obsessive need for organization in even the most dismantled of weapons. All the individual pieces were clearly laid out according to some unknown system, translating to the single most organized mess I'd ever seen.

It didn't take long to locate a pocket sized laser. It looked like it'd fit perfectly in Elysia's hand, and when I barely tested the trigger, it began to warm and whine to life. Giddy elation momentarily out-shined the terror, drawing an unstable smile to my lips. Between this laser and the ghost thermos, Elysia would have no problem finding her way to my family's hide out. They'd supply her with better weapons on the return trip. Maybe they'd even come back with her.

This thought alone was evidence of how hysterical relief had made me. I didn't think about the letter I'd written for my friends and family, which even to me, sounded like it came from the hands of a stranger. If my parents ever saw me again, they certainly wouldn't recognize me, of that I was sure.

These grim realities took a backseat in my exhilarated state, absorbed as I was by my mission. I cradled the acquired supplies into a more secure grasp, glancing at my watch again. Any sham of alleviation immediately shattered upon sight, the all-consuming terror returning with a vicious swiftness as I realized Vlad had been waiting on me for nearly fifteen minutes.

"Shit!" I hissed, retracing my steps at a full-out sprint.

My heart raced in time with each pounding step, fighting for room in my chest between the gasping lungs. Panic leaked in at a steady stream now. I couldn't imagine what would happen if Vlad caught me, arms full of incriminating contraband. There was no plausible lie that could explain sneaking into his lab to steal weapons. He'd know in an instant that I was trying to escape.

I couldn't re-enter the study quietly, not with the way his secret entrance was set up. I prayed with every fiber of my being that Vlad was still waiting in the dining room three floors below. The stone entrance slid open slowly. I squeezed myself into the widening crack, scanning the empty room erratically. He wasn't here, but there was no time to relax or be thankful. I bolted for the door as soon as I could, peaking into the hallway and running for the stairs.

It was the most terrifying run of my life. I expected to run into Vlad at any second. The stolen supplies felt irrationally heavy in my arms. Another glance at my watch increased the swell of hopelessness until it was too much. I knew I couldn't risk taking this stuff to the locker room. It was too far away. Thinking fast, I stopped at the second floor and ran into the first room I came across, which happened to be an unused parlor. Quickly, I stuffed the items under the couch, scrambling for the stationery materials that rested beside a matching, antique phone. The writing tools were superfluous decorations for taking phone messages, but I used them for something slightly different, praying Elysia would be able to read my hand writing.

I stuffed the note in my pocket, remembering the compass and stowing that under the furniture too. Without wasting another second, I hurtled toward the staircase, nearly tripping over the hall rug. The finely polished banister flew under my fingertips as I fought to calm my racing heart, even as I hastened forward. I could explain away the rumpled clothing and panting gasps Vlad would undoubtedly question, but only if guilty fear wasn't plastered all over my face. I hit the second floor and kept up with my run all the way into the dining room, working on a convincing lie as I barreled through the entrance.

"Vlad, I'm sorry, I lost-"

He wasn't here.

Oh fuck.

He wasn't waiting in the dining room. Vlad was gone.

I stood frozen in the doorway, feeling as if time itself had paused to let me understand just how completely screwed I was. Vlad's absence capsized the feeble grip I had on my barely contained composure. I had no idea what to do. I knew I was caught, that Elysia would end up dead because of me, but while I waited for Vlad to return and unleash all hell, the only movement I could muster was a convulsive walk to my seat at the table. I sat down, devoid of thought, staring at the empty doorway and waiting for my senses to return. Hopefully before Vlad.

Approaching footsteps came from the outside hall. My heart leapt to my throat, cutting off all oxygen. I couldn't do this. Oh my God, I couldn't-

Vlad walked in through the doorway casually, brushing off a spot on his sleeve. He didn't even notice me at first, wrapped up in his own thoughts with an easy, private smile on his face. Something instinctual told me to compose my face into a less implicating expression, but there was no way that was gonna happen. Instead, I bowed my face to the plate of food, just now realizing it was there. Vlad still wasn't saying anything. He wasn't screaming or grabbing me by the hair, forcing me to explain the equipment he found under the couch. I grabbed my fork clumsily, shoveling food in my mouth.

Did he not know?

"Slow down, little badger, you're going to make yourself sick."

He was chuckling, shaking his head, talking to me like I was the most amusing thing in the world. I swallowed the lump of food, feeling my throat practically tear. The accompanying wince helped hide my lingering panic, tentative confusion coloring my next words.

"Where...where did you go?"

"Hm? Oh, well I figured I'd take a little bathroom break myself, seeing as you get to enjoy them so frequently. Why? Did you miss me?"

He was being coy...and an ass, if that taunting grin meant anything. A blush flamed across my face at the thought of Vlad masturbating, the still unattended arousal easily sparking an erection to life. Thank god I was sitting down.

"No." I scowled petulantly, glaring at him.

He laughed again, ruffling my hair.

"You're so cute when you pout, Daniel."

I narrowed my gaze, turning back to my food and giving him the silent treatment, mostly so I could compose the chaos flipping my stomach. I really thought we'd been caught that time. I was so sure he was going to kill Elysia...or even me, if by accident. But he didn't know anything. In my pocket, the scribbled note rasped against my fingertips. My heart raced a little faster, knowing we weren't in the clear yet.

Hopefully no one would find the hidden supplies before I managed to talk to Elysia.


Hope this chapter is up to snuff. I'm feeling more confident about Danny's deteriorating mental state. :) Sorry for the abrupt end. The next chapter will be in Vlad's PoV and it's gonna pick up directly where this one ends. I'm actually thinking about waiting to post the next four chapters at once cause SHIT IS ABOUT TO HIT THE FAN.

I will try my hardest. If it takes longer than 90 days, I'll post whatever chapters I have written by that time. None of this six-month updating bullshit.