Disclaimer: I don't own Danny Phantom in any way, shape, or form.
Summary: An AU where Vlad keeps his being a half-ghost secret from Danny during the events"Bitter Reunions." Instead, he holds that card close to his chest as he edges into the life of the younger hybrid, hoping to guide him as the amiable Uncle Vlad. Poor Danny doesn't know the ghost he met in Wisconsin and has been bothering him ever since is the man who he would welcome into his home with open arms.
Chapter One: How Unexpected
My study was quiet in those early hours of morning. The fireplace behind my desk roared in that silence, emitting comforting warmth. I stood in front of the large window trying to focus on the imbecile that I had vowed to destroy. To kill. Thoughts of that idiot usually filled me with the familiar wrath. Instead, they filled me with a strange pity. Pity for the boy forced to be raised by his hands.
Daniel, the second hybrid Jack's idiocy managed to create, slept soundly in the room provided to him. With any luck, he would think that battle earlier was a dream. The absence of wounds made that was easy to arrange. Of course, I had been there when Daniel awoke, and he seemed to have easily filed it away into a nightmare. I smiled at that small success.
Humanity was so easy to manipulate. Especially when it concerned that which they did not want to accept. Always a justification. Always an explanation. That was probably why ghosts were still believed to be fiction. Humans always made my job that much easier when it came to getting what I wanted. Crushing defeat, for Daniel, seemed to be something he couldn't truly wrap his mind around. Not yet, anyway.
But the poor boy had no one to turn to in his home. Not one of those full humans would understand the burden. The loneliness. He needed someone to guide him and I was the only one qualified. Yet, could I reveal myself now? In our fight, I practically announced my intent of killing Jack. It would take a fool not to figure out how I truly felt about his father.
Surely, he took after Maddie and not his father in logical deduction. So, no chances there, I'm afraid. Not yet.
I let out a breath as the sun started to rise above the forest surrounding my castle. I would have to face them at breakfast. Daniel would be a delight to have at the table. As would Maddie, of course. I found myself wanting—no needing—to know more about that child. I turned away from the window and glanced at a mirror on the opposite wall. The usual bags under my eyes were heavier and my hair was in no shape for me to allow myself to be seen in public.
I left my study, heading to my private chambers to freshen up. I still wore the same suit from the day before. That wouldn't do at all.
The hall was empty, unlike most mornings where I'd see a maid or two dusting or vacuuming. I gave the staff the weekend off from cleaning. I hired an outside catering service for the reunion's refreshments. They had orders to deliver the food, set up, and leave. I paid the company far more than their asking price for that alone. It was no small wonder the woman I spoke with said she had no problem with my demands. Money does such wonders sometimes.
I walked through the doors to my apartment, going to the master bath to shower. Once clean, I reentered my bedroom. The king-sized bed was too large for just myself. Soon, it wouldn't feel so large. The heavy drapes were closed, letting in no natural light. Usually, a staff member would have seen to that by now.
My wardrobe consisted of a number of three-piece suits. All designer, of course. One needed to dress to match the money one held, after all. I took out one by Armani, deciding it would have to be good enough. Maybe Maddie would notice.
Having dressed and readied myself for today, I let myself think on the evening. This would be the most important day of my life, barring, of course, the day that ruined it. Jack would be dead within hours and Daniel and Maddie would no longer have that insufferable oaf to bother them. Yes. Things would definitely work to my favor this night.
But for now, off to breakfast. See Jack in his final hours. Be there to comfort Maddie and Daniel when the time came.
I straightened my tie before leaving my apartment. Daniel. I needed to distract him during this evening. Keep him busy somehow without revealing who I was before the time was right. Oh, I wanted to tell him as soon as I could get him alone. That he wasn't the only one of his kind. I wanted to start teaching him immediately. Alas, the risk was too great at the moment. So what to do? Think fast, Masters, I thought. Think fast.
Opening the door to my lavish dining hall, I saw the Fentons already eating. Jack and Daniel seemed to share similar…vigorous eating habits. Maddie and Jasmine ate more conservatively. With time, I could teach Daniel proper dining etiquette.
I smiled when I settled my eyes on the woman of my dreams wearing another blue jumpsuit that fit so snugly to her form. It wouldn't be long, now, Masters. "Good morning," I said, forcing cheerfulness into my voice as I moved my eyes from Maddie to Jack, "old friends."
"Hey, V-man!" Jack shouted in that annoyingly childish way. He sat straight in his chair and waved at me to sit beside him. I suppressed a scowl. "What took you so long?"
"I must have lost track of time," I admitted, my smile never faltering. "I was finalizing some details with the caterers for tonight."
"Really?" Maddie asked. Her voice sounded like the angel's own choir. "I didn't think you'd hire an outside service. You must have chefs for your cooking."
I sat down at the head of the table, as per usual. Daniel, thankfully, was to my left with Jack that much further from me. Maddie sat to my right. It should be like this all the time. "I gave my staff the weekend off," I confessed. I hoped it would make me look all the more better in her eyes, though that was hardly the reason for it. There would be much fewer eyes to witness what I had planned for the evening.
"Then why did we have someone bring our food?" inquired Jasmine. She tilted her head innocently.
"My head butler, Alexander, refused to take the vacation," I sighed and shook my head, like I couldn't believe someone would choose work over a weekend with family. "He actually demanded I let him stay for the reunion. He doesn't trust me alone with the house, I suppose." I laughed softly and the oaf burst into a guffaw. The others chuckled quietly at my little funny.
"Throw one too many parties, huh Mr. Masters?" jibed young Daniel. His smile warmed my heart. I smiled fondly at him.
"You could say that, little badger." I leaned over to ruffle his hair. He kept up his jovial smile. How was it that Jack managed to get everything I ever wanted? I would ruin him in front of both Maddie and Daniel before killing him. That much was certain.
I bit down on the anger raging through my body and quickly removed my hand from Daniel's head. I didn't want to accidentally hurt the lad. My judgment, it seemed, was very sound when Jack beamed at me and said, "Vladdy, my man, you have got to show me where I can find that ghost of the Dairy King."
"All in due time," I said. "And who knows? You might be joining him tonight!" I caught an odd look from the rest of the family, as if I just said something wrong.
But Jack. Good, dependably stupid Jack nearly jumped from his seat in excitement, "Excellent! I'll get my gear!" His outburst dispelled any thought that I meant anything other than his meeting the ghost in question.
We watched Jack leave the dining room. He slammed the door shut behind him and I winced at the thought of the possible damage he might have done to my house. But with him gone, my mood became less dour on the inside. I could now turn my attention to the boy. "How did you sleep, Daniel?"
"Oh, just fine, Mr. Masters," he said between bites of breakfast. "Again, sorry about giving you a scare, though."
"Nonsense," I chewed my own food before continuing, "I was only concerned. I don't know if you suffer nightmares regularly."
Maddie looked between the two of us and asked, "What does he mean by that, sweetie? Did you have a bad dream?" Her face melted into worry. She leaned over the table, stretching a hand to touch her son's.
"It was nothing, mom," Danny answered cheerfully. "I had a nightmare and was pretty loud when I woke up. Mr. Masters heard me. But he was pretty cool about it."
Her frown deepened, though gave me a look of gratitude. She most likely wished to have been there to comfort him herself. "Okay," she said, "as long as Vlad wasn't bothered."
"Oh, Maddie, don't worry too much about it. It was of no inconvenience to myself. I happened to be walking by when I heard his shouting."
"But," Daniel frowned, "shouldn't you have been sleeping? I mean, it would have been pretty late, right?" The unasked question hanging in the air. Why were you outside my room at that precise moment?
It was good to know Jack hadn't dulled his mind completely. Of course, the nights ghost hunting probably kept his mind sharp for odd occurrences such as the night before. "I suffer from insomnia from time to time," I assured him. "the anxiety of seeing my old college acquaintances probably attributed to the condition. I usually walk through the halls of my castle at random when I get like this. It was just a coincidence that I strolled through that one." He seemed to accept this half-lie. Sometimes my planning did force me to pull all-nighters. Business affairs and the like were also common reasons for any lack of sleep on my part. And walking through the castle was a way I coped with it.
After that, we moved onto topics that I don't care to remember. Maddie often lit up whenever we managed to get on the subject of ghosts. I noticed Daniel fidgeted in his seat when she did. Hearing how she would love to examine a ghost personally and how she'd do it wasn't much of a comfort for myself, either. Jasmine, however, rolled her eyes at the subject. The teens lost interest in the conversation when Maddie and I recollected on our college days together before my accident.
Then Jack returned, carrying his various ghost-hunting equipment. I sighed inwardly and excused myself from the table. I gave him a brief tour of the castle of where I had spotted the Dairy King's ghost on occasion. He still acted like we were the best of friends and I indulged him. What's that saying? Let them die happy? Well, I could certainly do that for my dear friend.
Once Jack was set up, I made my way back to my private study. I was not able to speak to Daniel as much as I wished, but I was still able to catch a few interest's of his. And I still needed to distract him for the evening. Something to keep him busy. I already ruled out locking him in a room with a ghost shield. He'd only be suspicious. I could release some ghosts for him to fight, keeping him focused on that while I dealt with Jack. No, that wouldn't be safe enough. Names could be dropped during battles.
Strawberry Shortcake! Why did the ghost boy have to turn out to be Jack's son?
I tapped my finger against the desktop, staring at a picture frame on the corner. The photo from my college days sat on the corner of my desk. Jack was tastefully ripped from the image so it was just myself and Maddie. I frowned at the picture. Those idiot vultures lost the part I'd given them of Jack's face. From their report, they had already unknowingly revealed it to Daniel's ghost form. If he had gotten a hold of it, well, there was an incriminating piece of evidence in his hands.
I picked up the frame, a thumb stroking the glass. I would have to destroy it. A shame, though, it was one of the few pictures I had of Maddie in those youthful days. But I couldn't leave the possibility open for Daniel to know I sent those vultures. I opened the frame and removed the photo. I held it and let out a sigh. I truly regretted this as I turned to the fire behind me. I kissed Maddie's image before tossing it into the fire. I watched it curl in on itself, flames eating through the middle of the photo paper, until everything had turned to ash.
The now-empty frame was placed into a desk drawer. It would need a new picture soon. Perhaps one day soon it would be filled with a family portrait. A new smile lit my face when I thought of that bright future. I could do this. I only needed this one night and everything would be right in my world. And I knew exactly how I would play it.
~ Hours later ~
Playing host is the worst part of any party I've ever held. The forced smile—the expected strain showing—greeting every person who bothered to come to Wisconsin tiring my facial muscles. I thought about all the entertainments I had set up while I spoke those words of welcome. The film reel of the Packer's games, documentaries, and the like played in one of the theaters I had installed in the castle. In another such theater, I had various films playing. The ballroom was playing music those in my generation would enjoy. That would be where most of these people would gather, I was sure.
Finally, after explaining where everything could be found, I stole into the ballroom. Daniel stood off to the side, Harriet Chin beside him. They both stared mortified at Jack, whose hand wrapped itself around Maddie's wrist. The buffoon pogoed without a thought to the displeased look on his wife's face. Yes, I was definitely doing her a favor. The burning desire to fire an ecto-ray through his head was almost unbearable.
I was sure my mask of politeness was slipping when someone from my class—I didn't know their name off the top of head—glanced at me nervously. I gave the smaller man an easy smile, which prompted him to return to his conversation with another guest. He reminded me of my duties as host and I made my rounds, making small conversation with each of them.
I kept my eyes on the little badger. His boredom with the night becoming so apparent as the party continued. He propped himself on the refreshment table with his arms. His hair falling in his face as he tried to concentrate on staying awake. Now would be the best time to approach him.
Evading the people I had little care for, I soon found myself at Daniel's side. It would be so easy to send him off on an errand he'd have no hope of completing before the end of the night. Still, too unpredictable and I rather enjoyed being in control of every aspect of my life. I molded my face to suit this purpose.
"Well, son, you're looking much better," I said. He perked up as soon as he saw me. I could grow used to seeing that face every day.
"Thanks, Mr. Masters," he said, "but, please, call me Danny. Son's what my dad calls me."
"Oh, yes, yes, of course," I replied. I couldn't help but feel he was already my son. I stayed beside him, not saying anything for a long while. I was still a little high on the smile, I suppose. "But, you're not enjoying this much are you?"
He became nervous, shaking his head, when he answered, "N-no. I'm having the time of my life." His forced enthusiasm was adorable.
"It's okay to hate this little get-together," I told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He was a little tense. "Goodness knows, I tire easily from these things."
"You?" The boy looked up at me with wonder in his eyes. "But you're a big shot. I thought rich people partied all the time."
"You must watch far too much television, my boy," I chuckled. "The ilk of Hollywood might have constant parties, but those of the business world, like myself, are often only hosting or visiting such gatherings for appearances only. They're dull and the only entertainment occurs if someone had a bad enough day to drink their weight in alcohol." Maybe that last sentence had been a bad move. Was Daniel even aware that adults drank? I was sure his parents didn't drink around their children, if at all. I glanced down at him to see his reaction. It still held that awed look.
Then he burst into laughter, probably imagining some rich snob in a drunken state. My smile widened. Yes, this was definitely going to be the better option. I glanced at my watch, noting the time came to begin. An invisible duplicate broke from me, flying toward Jack while I stayed with Daniel. I saw no visible reaction from him at the sudden presence of the clone and I asked, "What's so funny, little badger?"
"Oh nothing," he said once he calmed himself. "It's just, I never thought about it like that." Then he winced, "I didn't think rich people could get bored."
"You'd be surprised how often that happens," I told him.
My duplicate was right behind Jack now. The idiot stood beside Harriot, who was yapping about the stories she covered. He looked as bored as Daniel had just moments before. She asked him, "Am I boring you, Jack Fenton?"
"Frankly, yes," said Jack, pulling his face from the rim of his cup. I kept to the boy's side, my face itching to break into a triumphant grin when the clone overshadowed the oaf. Poor Harriet, having been caught in the cross fire. It took control almost immediately and said, "So what do ya say we liven up this shindig?" I had him pick up the panicked woman and throw her across the room.
Young Daniel immediately stood up, looking around for a place to hide. I couldn't let that happen. I let fear take over my features, my eyes appropriately wild with surprise. Latching onto Daniel's shoulders, I forced him down behind the table. "Daniel, get down," I cried. He looked over his shoulder to see my panic-laden face.
I felt Jack fight against my power through the duplicate. His mind was easy to suppress and my duplicate took over. The change in behavior was stark and obvious. Maddie immediately lashed out at him, "Jack Fenton! What on Earth are you doing?"
The duplicate forced Jack to turn around. Unfortunately, the duplicate used some of my mannerisms and speech patterns when it used Jack as a puppet. "Why Maddie, didn't you know I'd always turn on you? That when you chose me, you chose wrong?" He still fought me and managed to grab hold of her shoulders. His true mind came forward and he struggled to say, "Get out! Get out of me!" No way, you imbecile. This is completely necessary. "Ghost," he rasped. "Overpowering me. Maddie, run!"
The woman stayed still for a brief second before she fled out of the room, Harriet following after. I thought I heard something about the assault vehicle—quickly amended as "RV"—they had arrived in. If she destroyed Jack herself, that would be deliciously sweet. I would love her all the more.
"Dad!" Daniel shouted from beneath me. The duplicate had regained control, having Jack hover in the middle of the room. I had to keep the boy down, or at least keep him from transforming into his ghost form. "Mr. Masters, please let me go! My dad's in trouble! I have to help him!"
"Daniel, you can't!" I told him sternly. You can't ruin this for me! "It's too dangerous."
"I don't care," he struggled to break free of my iron grip on his shoulder. "He's my dad!"
This was going to be harder than I thought. I had the duplicate fire a few ecto-rays at random places around the room. One nearly hitting the boy and myself. I had us duck before it could hit, though. I gave an award-winning cry of shock when it burned the stone right beside us. Both Daniel and eye looked at it wide-eyed. His was of recognition. Mine was false fear.
The screams of the other guests filled the hall as they scattered, looking for shelter or escape. I had to fight the triumphant smirk from showing itself. "Please, Mr. Masters," the boy begged. "I have to try. I don't care about the danger. Please!"
Daniel grabbed my shirt, desperate for me to let him. This boy was persistent. And very much the hero those ghosts I sent described. I would have smiled affectionately if I wasn't supposed to be the concerned adult for the young man. I gripped his shoulders and let him come up into a crouch. The duplicate was having a field day ruining Jack's reputation before his peers above us. "Look, Daniel," I gazed into his eyes, hoping he saw my own desperation to keep him safe, "I understand you love your father"—that was painful to say—"but, right now he isn't of his right mind. There's no telling if he'll hurt you in the state he's in."
The boy didn't seem to care. His eyes were set in determination as he stuck his chin out to me. It pained me to do this. I was this close to achieving everything and the boy was trying to thwart me. Perhaps I should have locked him away somewhere. But then, thought of letting him beat me crossed my mind. It would be good for his morale, in the long run, thinking he had a chance to defeat me. I made the decision and slackened my grip on the boy. He wriggled free and I stared dumbly after him, calling, "Daniel! Where are you going? Come back!"
A moment after the boy disappeared through the doors, 'Danny Phantom' flew in. He hovered in front of his possessed father. I stood up from my hiding place, displaying the right amount of shock and distress at the situation. "How the blood pudding did all these ghosts get in my castle?" I demanded, flabbergasted at the sight of the new white-haired ghost hovering in the air.
Daniel glanced down at me with those neon green eyes, a worried expression on his face. How delightfully perfect. My Jack puppet fired an ectoplasmic beam at the boy, throwing him back and regaining his attention. He cried out in pain when he hit the wall, but he came around very quickly. The young hybrid flew threw the air towards his father, going intangible. I knew exactly what he was aiming to do. "Get out of him!" shouted Daniel.
Even though it didn't take my duplicate by surprise, Daniel forced it out of his father. Daniel returned to his father's falling form and gently placed him on the floor. The imbecile groaned and grabbed his head. He was mumbling about the ghost possessing him. Daniel's face was wracked with emotion, debating with himself as to whether he should say something to comfort his father or just leave and fight the ghost that had overshadowed the man. He opted for the latter.
He was getting better at this, I thought. I had the clone act as if he were dazed for the boy's benefit. This allowed for the boy to gain another 'advantage' and force the ghost into another room—the library from the night before, in fact. Even more perfect.
I'd have to make this fight very convincing. Let him rough "me" up a bit and I run away, vowing to return another day? I allowed my pleased smirk to finally show itself. My panic stricken guests were too concerned about the thought of another ghost arriving, that they ignored me. I walked out of the hall, calmly. I heard the sound of the Fenton's vehicle speeding down the corridors of my castle, aiming for the now well-underway ghost fight.
My duplicate, meanwhile, had landed a very nice hit on Daniel's chest. A few ectobeams between the two us. The boy throwing a shield around him until he dispersed it and charged my clone. It was amusing to lower myself to just above his level. From the look on his face, he knew I was going easy on him. He expected more duplicates. More power in those blasts. Instead, I allowed him to hit me, allowed myself to get hit with a few rays of his own. It was all sport for me, anyway.
"Who are you?" Daniel asked, firing another ray at the clone. It answered him with a malicious laugh and no definitive answer. It was a shame that now he would associate my ghost-half with just another evil-doer. That could be remedied. This was all a show, after all.
I reached the door of the library the moment the assault vehicle turned and smashed the doors of the room down. I frowned as I looked at the mess Maddie made of the entry. Those wouldn't cost too much, sure, but I still didn't like my house being trashed like this. But I had to tolerate it for now.
Now then, I slipped into the mask of a panicked host as I ran through the battered doors. I stared up at the ghost battle, ducked under the rays that missed their targets. Maddie was already firing some of the weapons. Oh dear, what if they were to hit Daniel? Well, that would the end of his secret, most likely. I'd have to adjust accordingly as I moved into his life.
Then Jack ran in behind me. He looked recovered from my little possession of him. "Jack," I hissed at him from behind a sofa, "what are you doing running around?"
He narrowed his eyes up at the two ghosts fighting above us before turning to me and giving me his childish grin, "Hey, V-man, glad to see you unharmed." I motioned over for him to join me, but he refused. He had set his jaw as he focused on my duplicate and shouted, "Nobody uses my body as a meat-puppet you ghost!"
I had to hand it Jack, running to his death like that. My clone immediately dived at the man, evading the younger hybrid's attacks. A moment later, Daniel followed the ghost and reached his father first. Maddie was still too focused on trying to attack the duplicate of mine that she failed to notice her son overshadowing her husband and saving the man from my clutches. The large man, a puppet once more, rolled and then fell into a crouch. The boy held his father's hand back into a punch and my clone took it. He, the clone, flew upwards.
The young hybrid stayed in his father's body for the duration of the fight. "What, are you through, vampy?" goaded Daniel using his father's voice. We'd have to work on his insults.
But, was he going to restore his father's integrity with this little stunt? I was aghast at the notion, and because the emotion is highly appropriate for the situation, I allowed it to show on my face. Another day will come, I told myself. It would be all right in the end.
I grew weary of this entertainment, though. I had my duplicate give them a show. "How could this happen?" I heard my duplicate shout in mock despair. It threw an arm over its forehead and glanced up at the ceiling. "I, with all of my power, have been defeated with one hit from Jack Fenton! Surely, his skills are as formidable as they say!" I began to call it back to me with final words echoing through the library, "I shall return, boy." And it faded into nothingness, quietly returning to me. The last word, I made sure, was only heard by Daniel. He glared at the empty space until he was sure the ghost wouldn't be returning.
I might not get to kill Jack this time around. Then again, I didn't have that as my primary goal for the evening anymore. Not with what I had done earlier by allowing Daniel into the fray. I'd have to reign in my emotions more closely for future actions, then. Daniel couldn't be allowed to sway my decisions like he had back in the ballroom.
And Maddie. Well she hadn't been much use this evening with the RV. She didn't get the chance to try to save her husband and kill him by accident. Oh, darn. I guess the happy accident wouldn't happen by her hands this time. Or ever. Of course, I'd have to be the one to strike the final blow. It wouldn't feel right if it wasn't by my hand.
I walked from my hiding place, looking every bit the part of the baffled man I should be. "Did you see that?" I asked, raising my hands above my head. Maddie stepped out of RV, Harriet right behind her. The infernal reporter held a tape recorder and a wicked smile on her face like she won the lottery. No doubt the woman thought this was the story of the century. "An actual ghost! In my castle!"
I saw Daniel slip out of his father, who stumbled into Maddie's loving arms. I could still kill him if I wanted, too. While Daniel was busy finding a place to change back into his human form, it would be the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, the young hybrid ran through the wreckage of the door. He glanced nervously at me, wondering if I thought him a coward after he ran off and supposedly never returned. I gave him a reassuring smile, to which he seemed to relax. He ran over to his parents, hugging them both.
I very much wanted to kill Jack. Instead of acting on impulse, I smiled at the touching scene, lying to everyone in the room with that small expression. Things seemed to wrap up very nicely, though it seemed the young man would think of my ghostly half as nothing but trouble. Give me enough time, and I might be able to play this entire incident off to my favor once I revealed myself to Daniel.
Of course, with all of the excitement, a crowd of guests was gathering. Jasmine was the first to enter. She looked very displeased when her eyes fell upon the RV and then her family acting like nothing was wrong. She approached me, a look of apology in her eyes. I found this hilarious, considering what transpired earlier. "Mr. Masters," she said, "whatever my parents did, they probably didn't meant to do it. So please, don't hold whatever it is they did against them ."
I patted her head, though I never really looked at her, and said, "It's hardly the fault of your parents, Jasmine. If you can't tell by the scorch marks around the room, we had a bit of a problem with an angry ghost." She looked up at me like I was crazy. "Fortunately, we had such talented ghost hunters here." I gestured toward the adult Fentons. They chatted amiably with Daniel.
Jasmine was still skeptical. Smart girl, won't believe in anything unless she sees it. "There are no such things as ghosts, Mr. Masters."
"Oh, you'd be surprised what can exist in this world," I responded. I noticed the crowd behind me. Most of their chatter was nervous and questions. They wanted to know if it was rude if they left after that excitement with the ghost battle. I excused myself from Jasmine to let them know that I wouldn't be offended if they left the castle. The crowd took that as a sign and headed toward the entrance.
That left myself, Harriet, and the Fenton family. Harriet was busying herself with pressing questions onto the family to get her story. She hadn't even gotten the okay from her editors at the Milwaukee Journal before latching onto the story. Too bad she didn't have any photos to back up her claim that ghosts were real.
I left the battle-worn library, seeing to the remaining guests. Some of them weren't even sure why a mass exodus from my grounds was occurring until they saw the wreckage that vehicle of the Fenton's caused on its crash course though the castle. Once they did, they figured some lunatic went on drunken spree and started smashing up my house with their truck for "shits and giggles", as it were. I was more than happy to agree with them, reinforcing their simple explanation.
Once the majority found their way out, I returned to my study for the third time that day. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and the battle I had with Daniel. I desperately wanted to close my eyes and rest, but I needed to think.
There was a knock at my door before Alexander entered with a single cup of tea. The older man wore his uniform with pride as he stepped into the study. He must have seen my act for the crowd. It would have convinced him, too. And, as always, he knew exactly what I needed when distressed. Sometimes having a human staff is exactly what one needs.
"Master Vladimir," he muttered, bowing his head. He walked over to the desk and set the cup down.
"Thank you, Alexander," I said before taking the first sip. My eyes lit up at the delicious taste of chamomile. A pleased purr left my throat.
The man watched me for a moment with concerned brown eyes. I knew he wanted to lecture me about sending the staff away. Which meant he saw the mess, then. I hid my smile with the tea cup. "Sir," he began, "the Miss Chin would like to offer her apologies for leaving without informing you, personally. She also extends her gratitude for inviting her to this function, but would like, for future consideration, not to invite her should the Fenton family be involved."
So something went wrong for Harriet with that story she so wanted. Not completely unexpected. I set the cup down and made a note to call Harriet in the morning. Still, it wasn't quite what I thought he'd be telling me. Must be saving that for tomorrow after I've had my sleep. "Thank you," I thought of that last sentence, "and what of the Fentons? Have they left as well?"
Alexander shook his head, "The Mister Fenton refuses to leave the premises until he knows for sure that you are safe and well. The young Mister Daniel was also concerned for your wellbeing."
I nodded in gratitude and finished the tea. It delighted me that Daniel thought of my wellbeing. It gave me hope that the day when he would look upon me as his father would come. Strange that I already thought of him as a son after such a short time knowing him. Ah well, they say the heart is illogical.
The butler retrieved the tea cup as I stood up. He bowed his head again as I made my way to the door. He followed after me with quiet steps. Oh yes, Alexander knew exactly what I wanted in a servant. He was also the best at managing the staff I had.
I found the Fentons just outside the doors of the castle. Their monstrous RV sat innocently in the drive. Like it hadn't wreaked havoc on the insides of my home. Jack still looked weary from having been overshadowed twice. Maddie supported him, giving me apologetic smiles for the damage done, mostly. Jasmine looked like she scolded her parents already. Daniel, however, looked worse than his father. His mind likely replayed the battle he had with my duplicate. How easy it had been for him. The recognition that the ghost was the same as the one he met the night previous. He could come to the correct conclusions if he followed certain lines of thought. It wouldn't matter even if he did. They would only be suspicions.
The family seemed to brighten at the sight of me. Jack and Daniel saw me safe and unharmed. Maddie apologized for the damage, of which I said was hardly anything to worry over. I had plenty of money to pay for the repairs. It wouldn't cost too much. A few thousand at least. But once they were all appeased, I watched them clamber into their vehicle and drive off. Still the happy family they were when they arrived.
Well, the evening definitely didn't go exactly as planned, but I managed to get something out of this entire affair. I finally met the ghost boy of Amity Park. I learned Jack managed to make not only one, but two hybrids. Too often, I wonder if I spared him the night of the reunion as a measure of gratitude for granting me the option of a companion who could truly understand me. Not likely, but the possibility exists. And Daniel held me in a mostly positive light. That would definitely be useful down the road.
The problem, now, was keeping his opinion of me unchanged with future encounters.