Disclaimer: I do not, not, not own any of the rights to Danny Phantom or any of its characters. I merely came up with the plot here, and in future chapters of this fanwork.
A/N: Critiquing will be accepted. Rates and reviews will be appreciated. Flames will be ignored. Catnip cookies will be eaten. Nyaa.
All was quiet in the study, save for the occasional sound of a page from a book being turned slowly. There were many books in the room, their spines showing those that were old and those that were new, and various stages in between; one trait they shared, sitting on the shelves reaching from floor to ceiling, was that they were all cared for. One could tell they had been read, but they did not have dirty, torn pages or cracked, worn spines. Any wear done to these items were done by time itself.
But that was not all that was in the room. There were a couple of old-fashioned, green armchairs sitting in one corner of the study, the wood of both their legs and the nearby end table – upon which a gold lamp with a green shade sat – made of the same dark wood of the bookshelves that served as the walls of the room. Next to the reading corner was the ornate-looking door separating the study from the rest of the house, and directly across the room from that was the one wall that wasn't covered in books.
Instead, two large windows with the same dark emerald-green curtains as the room's other upholstery ran up the length of the wall, sitting on either wide of a large, white marble fireplace. The fireplace was only for show, as were the two golden football trophies permanently fixed to them. Over the pit was a painting of a regal, intimidating-looking man in a suit. His pale, white-and-gray hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and gray-blue eyes stared down from the canvas surface in a look of disinterest.
The subject of the painting sat at an expensive desk, facing a window that was usually drawn shut. The only light in the room came from the desk's lamp – a brother to the one on the end table – that sat to the man's right, whereas a computer screen sat to his left. Two other contraptions sat nearby: a phone and a fax machine. The man was curled over a book, far larger and tattered compared to the others.
Vlad's total and undivided attention was on the dusted volume laid out before him. The dark mahogany desk was older than Vlad himself, yet it sparkled like new compared to the tattered, leather-bound book, its pages slightly yellowed with time despite even the great care it had been dealt with for all its centuries of life. The book spoke of many different myths of the Ghost Zone – a realm that the billionaire visited regularly – and the man was enthralled with its every detail, as he was every time he read through its pages and pages of history mixed with story.
Tales of a knight with a blade that threw mortals into waking nightmares; of a ghostly king more terrible than any natural or manmade calamity; of a key that could open any door. So many other things aside resided in the tome, each as interesting in subject as its predecessor. It tickled at his lust for knowledge and power in both the Ghost Zone and the Real World time and again.
He had been visiting – and conquering – in the Ghost Zone for the last nine years, ever since… His eyes shot crimson for a moment at the book, as if it had caused his accident. No matter; he was Vlad Plasmius in the Ghost Zone, a feared and powerful force to be reckoned with, and in the Real World, Vlad Masters was much the same when it came to business and money. Either way you looked at him, he was famous up to and including the point of notoriety. All because of one little mishap with a prototype machine and a can of diet soda.
Frowning, he sighed slightly, reclining in his seat. Obviously, if his mind was wandering, he needed to take a break from his reading and possibly get some 'real' work done. He could get into contact with Skulker, send the hunter for news on any one of the subjects he'd been studying. The ghost was willing to hunt for information as long as he got paid, and there would be a possibility of a challenging fight involved; there frequently was.
At that moment, his phone started ringing. Vlad raised an eyebrow at the contraption. He led a fairly reclusive lifestyle, and all of his business associates called during the week. Today was Saturday.
When the phone rang again, he picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hello, is this Vlad Masters? Friend of Jack and Maddie Fenton?"
This wasn't going to be a pleasant conversation. His lips made a thin line, and one could feel the discontent radiating off of him like heat from a radiator. "Speaking."
"Sir, I'm with the Amity Park police department. I'm… afraid there's been an accident."
Jack and Maddie Fenton were an odd couple. They were nice people, albeit a little eccentric, and it was hard not to like their two little children. Jazmine – "Jazz" for short – was outgoing and polite, with a tendency to seem nosy and bossy. But that was like many girls her age, so it was a personality flaw easily forgiven. Danny was younger, and also outgoing, but seemed to have his head in the clouds and was often shunned by his peers for being unrealistic. It didn't help that he was small, even for his age.
But the Fentons were a happy family, and both parents were proud of their kids, as every parent typically is. Of course, they had a nasty habit of trying, often unsuccessfully, to merge their home life with their occupation and pastime – ghost hunting. Anyone looking at their basement could tell that, and their basement was open for anyone to look around in.
In retrospect, it could have been wise for them to lock the door leading to the basement, or at least keep their chemicals, weapons, and other tools and experiments out of the reach of a six-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. Perhaps they mistook Jazz's disinterest in her parents' work as a sign that their children knew better than to mess with their things, or maybe they were just absent-minded and didn't think of it at all.
Such was the case one Friday afternoon, as Maddie brought her daughter home from school, to the two-story townhouse with its large, electric sign that read "Fenton Works".
"Guess who got an A on her math test!" the mother said as she opened the door, declaring that the two had arrived.
"Baby! Jazzerincess! Good to see ya!" Jack was out of the kitchen in a flash, kissing his wife hello and lifting his daughter onto his shoulder. "Nothin' happenin' in the Ghost Zone while you were gone. But the fudge is ready to eat!"
Jazz huffed, crossing her arms. "Daddy! Put me down! I'm way too old for this – I'm in the first grade, remember?"
At this, both parents hid their 'isn't that adorable!' smile. "Of course, of course. How could I forget? I'm sorry Jazz." Jack said, placing the girl back on the ground. Grinning, he asked, "So, you did pretty good on your math test, eh, kiddo?"
"Yeah! I got a gold star and everything!" She lit up like a Christmas tree as she showed her father how well she'd done on her assignment.
"We're very proud of you, Jazz." Maddie said, hugging her daughter.
"I'll say. This is goin' on the fridge next to Danny's finger-painting! And then, fudge to celebrate!" Jack ran into the kitchen with the math test. Jazz squealed with delight.
Maddie looked around for the familiar mop of black hair. "Speaking of, where is Danny?"
"Oh, you know him – he's probably outside, playing space man or something. Good thing, too! He'll need to get used to holding a gun for when he starts hunting ghosts!" Jack exclaimed, hands on his hips while he grinned at the thought. "Just think, Jazz! One day, you and your brother will carry on that family business. Won't that be fun?"
"But I wanna be a psychologist." Jazz pointed out. "And I'm pretty sure Danny wants to be an astronaut."
Her father and mother both chuckled at this. "Oh, you kids and your ever-changing dreams of the future." Maddie said, smiling.
Jack Fenton was partially correct in his assumption about Danny's whereabouts. The child was in the basement, playing space man with his favorite toy of the day: a plastic gun that was largely yellow, blue and red. It was his favorite toy more often than all others, because at the end of its barrel was a dome of clear plastic, which covered said-end. Every time he pulled the trigger, sparks shot to life!
"Blam! Pow-pow! Take that, space monster!" he cheered, then dropped dramatically to the floor. "Oh, no! It's got me! Help!"
He made a mock-gagging sound, sprawling out on his back with his tongue hanging out in a clear state of 'dead', then began giggling at his own game.
Just then, something shiny on one of the counters caught his eye. It was silver and neon green, about the size of a pistol. He knew it was one of Mommy's guns, and that quickly made it way cooler than his plastic toy of primary colors.
"A real space man gun!" he softly exclaimed, running over to it, his own forgotten. He picked it up with both hands, looking at the glimmering object.
For awhile, the boy just stood and stared at it. A small voice told the little boy that he shouldn't be playing with Mommy and Daddy's grown-up things, but Danny was too far enthralled with his game.
"Oh, no! The space man has a really cool power-up!" He mocked an 'alien' voice, then began aiming it around again, making his firing-the-gun sound effects at the ghost cutouts left in their 'target practice' positions on the walls.
Behind him, something beeped next to the Fenton Portal: the Ecto Filtrator. Of course, Danny didn't know what it was, or that it was sounding its alarm because the filter needed to be changed.
"An alien death-ray!" He turned and pointed the gun at the source of the noise.
Only this time, the gun really went off, and a ball of neon ectoplasm hit the box on the wall dead-center. Pressure screamed out of a crack that appeared on the Filtrator, and Danny's blue eyes went wide with fear as the Fenton Portal's alarm began to go off.
Pale, green-and-white light flooded the room. First it was freezing, and then it quickly burned him alive. Danny tried to scream out, but his small voice was lost in the deafening explosion that ate up the house and its inhabitants. A short ten seconds after the Ecto Filtrator was hit, the whole of Fenton Works was reduced to a pile of rubble.
Vlad stared out at Amity Park from the window of his hotel room. Well, maybe room wasn't the right word – it was the penthouse. It took up the entire top floor.
He had cancelled any previous-standing appointments until further notice and gotten on his private jet immediately. It had been raining since before he'd arrived, and it didn't show signs of letting up anytime soon. He could see lights vaguely in the distance where Fenton Works used to be. Jack and Maddie Fenton were gone with it.
They had been friends in college, Jack being Vlad's best friend. Sure, the man was an idiot and a klutz, but his intentions were as pure and noble as a child's. That was precisely why they had been such friends: Vlad was incredibly unpopular for being a business-minded science geek; the only time other people got along with him was at any Packers game, where he was easily the most enthusiastic fan of them all. Jack immediately liked everyone, much as a Labrador does, and had even taken to following Vlad around once they'd interacted even a little. You could practically see the wagging tail, perfectly accompanying his hyperactive, can-do nature and semi-permanent grin.
But, he'd caused Vlad's accident, turning his so-called 'best friend' into a halfa, a freak of nature. Half-ghost, half-human – and sending Vlad to the hospital with a case of Ecto Acne that had taken the best years of his life! And now, to top it off, he'd caused another disastrous accident that had lead to the deaths of his entire family! That bumbling oaf had killed Maddie!
Vlad Masters sighed as her face swam across his mind, frowning sadly at the rain pattering against his window and kicking himself. Ah, Maddie; sweet, unselfish Maddie. This whole mess could have been avoided if he had just manned up and told her how he felt. Even after he'd become a halfa. Even after she'd married Jack Fenton. Why had he been so timid about it? One confession, a little seduction, and he would have won her. She wouldn't be dead, buried in the rubble and remains of Fenton Works. Instead, they would be in Wisconsin, madly in love with each other, possibly with kids of their own.
Another turn in the mental train track: Why hadn't he visited them, even once? Yes, he was furious with Jack, but how was he supposed to go about 'wooing' Maddie from Wisconsin? He hadn't even met his godchildren, Jazmine and Daniel. Now he'd never get the chance. Their parents had written to the billionaire, too, telling him how well they were doing and how much they wished he would come visit their family. How could he be so cruel to mere children?
He took a minute to try reasoning with himself. After all, it wasn't like this was his own design, or he'd had a prophetic vision about the disaster. This was an accident. No one had seen it coming.
But it was all Jack Fenton's fault!
Vlad jumped on the phone as soon as it rang, literally teleporting in a swirling fuchsia mist from one end of the floor to the other. "Is this Officer Harris?" he demanded immediately.
"Uh, yessir, Mr. Masters. We found the Mr. and Mrs. Fenton and their daughter. We need you to come down to the morgue and officially identify the bodies. It's standard procedure." the voice on the other end explained.
"I understand." Vlad pinched the bridge of his nose. Being on this side of 'standard procedure' was always a pain, but in this case… it was particularly miserable.
The drive to the morgue was silent. The office of the morgue was silent. Following the office assistant and Officer Harris into the back room was silent. In each instance, that silence was deafening and made Vlad want to roar in rage and protest.
Even before the sheets were pulled back, Vlad knew it was Jack and Maddie. His bulk, her curves – it couldn't be any other two people in the world.
"Yes." he said quietly, every bit as poised and professional-looking as ever. "That's them."
"Thank you, Mr. Masters." Officer Harris raised a hand to pat the man on the shoulder, but thought better of it. He cleared his throat and excused himself instead. "I'll go check and see how the search is coming on the boy. The search crew thinks he might have been in the basement when it happened."
"We'll give you a moment to say goodbye." the mortician said. She offered him a half-hearted smile of sympathy.
Vlad nodded to her as she passed. "Thank you."
And then he was alone with the three bodies. They each looked like they were asleep, ignoring the ashen complexion they shared. Already he could tell that none of them were coming back as ghosts. Maddie would let neither herself, nor Jack return as a specter, as they worked under the notion that ghosts needed to be put back down to be laid to rest, or else they would just cause nothing but trouble for the living. As for Jazmine, she was far too young.
It pained Vlad to look at the girl. From what he understood, she was a brilliant child who accelerated in her studies and was always trying to help out the teacher and other students. He had smiled at the letters once or twice when he'd come across these events, likening her so much to her mother. Now he could see that she even looked like Maddie, with the same hair color and facial features. Yet here she was, on a slab. She wouldn't get to grow up, have a family, and make something of her life.
He couldn't look at Maddie, either. He had failed her by not saving her from this fate. If she had been his wife, he could have nipped her ghost-fighting habit in the bud! Or even, at the very least, distracted her. Either way, she wouldn't have been a threat to him and his plans as Vlad Plasmius. But, he was just returning to his never-ending cycle of torment about how he had loved, lost, and let her die on top of everything. What kind of man was he?
So Vlad settled on Jack. Jack, who he should have hated for causing the accident that ruined his life, stole the woman who should have been his, and betrayed him without even having the manners to realize it when Vlad didn't call, or return a single letter! The man who murdered the family that was rightfully Vlad's! Best friend; yeah, right!
The gray-haired man scowled away at the far wall before he lost control and spattered Jack's dead innards and blood all over the room.
A hand made its way slowly to Vlad's forehead, thumb and index finger each rubbing a temple. His rage and despair were going to eat him alive if he continued this thought process. Would he even find relief once he returned to Wisconsin, and put his mind back to his economic empire in the Real World and his power search in the Ghost Zone?
No, probably not. Or, if he did, his work and lust for power would drown him inside of himself instead.
"Forgive me, Fentons. I have failed each of you in some way or another." he finally murmured, turning and walking out of the room. He couldn't take it anymore.
The receptionist cast him a look of pity that was completely ignored as he walked by the front desk. He just wanted to be rid of Amity Park, but felt that he now ought to stick around for the funeral. He would give the family an excellent funeral, one fit for people far beyond their social status. It was what Maddie and her children deserved, after all.
He could have knocked Officer Harris' head off of his shoulders. Couldn't he see that Vlad just wanted to go home and start the arrangements for the funeral? What was wrong with him? Why was he standing there, outside of the morgue, grinning like an idiot?
"What is it?" Vlad managed not to sound like an agitated killer. Kudos.
"They found him! They found the boy!" The officer's eyes were wide with disbelief, and he was breathless. "Can you believe it? He's alive!"
Hope you liked the first chapter. Brainstorming for the next chapter has begun. PM me if you have any requests of things you may want to see in this fic; they might be considered. No yaoi, obviously - I know, I know, I've been in a few yaoi fandoms, too. Just not this one.