Not fifteen minutes later, Vlad sat at the end of Danny's bed, watching the boy slowly stuff soggy pizza into his mouth with the quality of one who knows something must be done but would give anything to curl up in bed and fall into a deep and forgiving sleep. The boy's face was pale aside from a soft flush that had risen on his cheeks after Vlad had turned up the heat a bit, and his eyes were very tired—every feature of Danny Fenton's face seemed to droop in exhaustion which attributed to both mental and physical aspects, but one would not have guessed in a lifetime that the boy's mind was racing as it was.

Of course, the boy was not ignorant to what Vlad had gone out and done when he'd left over three hours ago—though he'd never asked Vlad, and the man had never clarified a thing to him, Danny already knew, and because he did not think he would be able to bring himself to do so, he would never request to be told otherwise. In fact, the moment he'd seen the blood that coated Vlad Plasmius' once stunningly white uniform, he'd known exactly what the man had done as he slept the unnatural sleep of drugs, one he'd put himself into with the knowledge that Vlad would be very upset with him if he did not do as he was told and frankly too tired, as he was now, to evoke the man's wrath. Rather, by lying down and going to sleep like a good little badger, he was keeping what little peace had grown between them in the past few days, and though he knew it was wrong, and it frankly made him feel very sickened to do so, it was also very safe. That was what was important, wasn't it?

Not if it meant jeopardizing an innocent person's life, it wasn't, but he was instilled with a knowledge that was becoming increasingly alarming to him—even if he had wanted to disobey Vlad Masters now, what could he do to save the bullies who had offered him a single puff on their cigarette against the man's power? Of course, it was not as if he'd ever possessed more strength than Vlad, but now there seemed to be a shift in his attitude, one that, like his fear, was becoming increasingly larger—more noticeable, that was. It seemed that before the accident that had destroyed his life, Vlad Masters/Plasmius approached his encounters with Daniel with an openness that was as unhidden as this ever-changing outlook. In fact, Vlad Plasmius had seemed to advertise that while he might have engaged in a quest for Maddie's love and Daniel's affection/servitude, he was also very amenable when it came to the events that surrounded his presence and the effect they would have on that over-all goal. For example, take Danny's and his mother's refusal to remain with him at his home in the Rockies. While he had, of course, sought to take them both in upon first luring them there, Danny's attitude, coupled with the fact that it seemed Maddie's decision was based solely on how the boy felt, rendered his death essential. Now, however, it was apparent to Danny that Vlad's goals had become very clear-cut, rather inflexible, as the emotional and physical tolls of the past day's events loomed heavy, and that playfulness, that, "I'm just going to wing this thing and see how it turns out" seemed to fade swiftly. Now, it seemed that Vlad Masters was a shadow of that former manipulative, game-obsessed man he had once been—now, he would do what he had to in order to get what he could, and he would chance nothing. If this meant he had to kill Dash in order to keep his little badger—the only thing that kept him bound to this world any longer—healthy and cancer-free, he would; he would not wait to see how Danny would respond, or how the jock might try to persuade him again in order to formulate more useless and tiring plans.

But this was not so alarming as the greater knowledge that loomed over him like a shadow of one whose intent is very ill, like a rapist showing his candy to a little unsuspecting girl—it was just now that the small teenager seemed to realize that he was now forever bound to Vlad in this sense.

In the end, Danny Fenton knew what Vlad really wanted, no matter how he once might have teased and toyed, played pawn after pawn, time and time again—what he really wanted, of course, was the perfect half-ghost son, and it was becoming ever-apparent that since Vlad had lost his lust for the thrill of the chase, any chance he'd had of escape—perhaps, ultimately, in death, for flexible Vlad held power over him of leagues unimaginable—had been lost with it. For despite the fact that Vlad had not once claimed, or simply attempted to treat him as if it were true, that he'd achieved his ultimate goal—and this was a great reassurance to Danny, like a beacon in the blackness of the night—the boy was still overcome with the notion that the death of his family and best friends had indeed condemned him to a life at Vlad's side, one in which the man's control over him would steadily grow stronger as time dragged on. Though he was lenient now, Danny was not ignorant to the fact that in a month, or perhaps sooner, Vlad would be setting his curfew and regulating what he watched on the television and sifting through any new friends he made for deadbeats. Because no matter how inappropriate the time may be, Vlad was not above using this as an excuse to take what he thought so rightfully belonged to him, and no matter how much lust for the chase he'd lost, he had not dismissed his tactfulness, for he was now carefully drawing the boy in closer—no tricks, no distractions. And Danny Fenton would soon come to realize that when the man truly applied himself, there was so much he could accomplish; soon, Danny thought with great certainty, his life would belong solely to the man.

But the boy could not help but wonder distantly, his mind racing without cease as he ate the pizza Vlad set in front of him like a good son, Does it already? However, he would not venture, because he was terrified of what he might find at the end of his quest for knowledge, and as is said so often, ignorance is bliss.

Vlad (Masters now) had cleaned the blood from his body and changed into some spare clothes he'd packed in a small suitcase—a slightly unbuttoned dress shirt, formal jeans and socks. Much to Danny's surprise—though it was almost unnoticeable compared to every other emotion rushing through his head—Vlad had released his slivery hair from its normal plait. His legs were folded, his elbows resting on his knees and his face in his hands as he stared at Danny with eyes that were so uncharacteristically loving despite their great undertones of sadness, and among these there was unmistakable possessiveness. He was smiling a bit. "I'm happy to see you eating, Daniel," he said softly. "I was growing very worried, you see."

To this, the boy said nothing, and staring down at his plate piled high with greasy slices of pizza, he continued to eat.

Vlad paused a small moment in anticipation of a response, but when he was met without one he continued, attempting to keep his voice very gentle because he was not lost to the fact that Daniel was terrified, "Unfortunately, however, we have much work to do if we are to get you at a healthy weight again."

There was a pause as the boy worked up the courage to add meagerly, "I'm not that thin."

"Oh, Daniel," Vlad said softly, regarding Danny with sympathetic eyes, his mouth now turned down in a frown. "You really can't afford to diminish this. It's very serious, and until you gain a few pounds, I won't regard you as anything other than sickly."

"So you're fattening me up? Is that what you're getting at?" the boy asked softly, still unable to face the man, especially now that Vlad had introduced this horrid idea to him. The man might tell him not to diminish his illness, or whatever this was, but he was certainly diminishing his newest plan, addressing it as if it were as simple as buying a new t-shirt, throwing information in his direction as if to distract him from the bittersweet truth that he planned to stuff him like the boy in that old fairytale that sends chills up the spines of kindergarteners everywhere. But the image the evocation of this fairytale created sent chills up his spine as well, and it was so vivid that he thought he could practically reach out and feel the steam as it wafted out of vents cut into the crust of the pie Witch Vlad stuffed into his forcibly open mouth. His own face was turning a sickly green, and his eyes appeared to struggle to keep from rolling back in his head. He had a large belly on him now (or what he considered to be large but was only about the size of Valerie's, and she did not weigh much more than himself).

Nevertheless, it made him set the piece of pizza he'd been nibbling on down.

"Well, yes, I suppose you could put it that way but…" Vlad paused a moment, and then, staring at him intently, as if reading his mind, he said, "but that is rather unpleasant. It makes me sound like the witch of Hansel and Gretel."

Danny did not respond, rather unnerved at Vlad's intuition at his thoughts, once again grimly reminded of the power he possessed and the idea that he would never be free from it, doomed to spend the rest of his life at the man's side, and he was only fourteen. He pushed the plate of pizza away and stood up from the bed.

"Where do you think you're going?" Vlad said immediately, and likewise stood, regarding him with questioning eyes, the compassion in each cooling swiftly.

"A walk," the boy said quietly, his voice rising just barely above a whisper.

"Danny," Vlad said, and reached out and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "We need to talk."

"Tomorrow," the boy said, shrugging the hand off and advancing to the door.

"Danny—"

"Please," the boy said, gazing at the man with eyes that were beseeching, desperately so, and with one simple look into those eyes the man was instilled with the knowledge that the boy was currently so unstable it would really do no good to attempt to reason with him now.

So he said softly, although he was very disappointed, and no-longer-surprisingly saddened, though two weeks ago one might think the man impossible of feeling such an emotion, "All right, Danny. That's fine. But will you please be back in forty-five minutes? An hour at most?"

"Why?"

"We have to prepare for the service tomorrow, Daniel," Vlad said, and his expression grew further saddened.

"I'm not going," Danny said softly, and gripped the knob of his door.

"What? Why ever not?" came Vlad's suddenly alarmed voice, and without turning to face him, Danny replied,

"In an hour."

With this, he walked out, consuming Vlad Masters in suffocating silence.


A/N:

Hey, everyone.

So, I am very sick, and this chapter was not easy, considering I've had snot dripping out my nose and one of my teeth tingling for absolutely no reason whatsoever, dry hands and frostbitten toes because it snowed on Thanksgiving. UGH! Needless to say this was not the easiest update, but I hope it is better than the last, although I had written it in a period of sickness also.

Well, as always, please review, and hang in here with me. It will get better as chapters increase.

Whatever you do, damn you, don't get sick.

~DM/P