The second half of the prose of this chapter was the first scene of this story that I wrote. In fact I wrote it not knowing what it went to, when it happened, only that it fit into this AU somewhere. I have eight or ten of these types of scenes, many of which will probably never see the light of day.
This chapter is rated T because Vlad's response to Venkmen's dig about his sexuality was to write about some, ahem, personal experimentation. And because Danny has interesting thoughts when he's trying to fill the silence.
Once the core flare was initiated the ghost was observed seeking out the presence of another. The only other present was an individual with a core of Flame. The ghost displayed his intentions by arcing electricity around her and attempting to begin a core cascade wherein his core flare would induce hers to flare without relying on the presence of her native element. She accepted by responding with a show of strength as the two individuals began a fierce and almost ritualized combat. Combat devolved into an animalistic flurry of claws, fangs, and elemental fury as she overpowered him and took what she wanted. Conditions within the experimental chamber measured 724 Kelvin at maximum with an ambient current of greater than 100 amps.
After the cascade was exhausted and the elemental cores depleted she was observed declaring their interaction to be 'a one time fling' and ordered him not to call her. Both individuals took the opportunity to replenish their elemental strength.
-Masters, V. Interactions Between Elemental Cores. Journal of Psychic Deviancy. 1992.
Who the hell do you think you are, Masters? The Alfred Kinsey of ghosts? Or do you just enjoy watching revenants get it on? I knew you were a freaky kid when I first read your work but really! Most victims of succubi at least have the decency to act ashamed about it.
-Venkmen, P. Personal Correspondence.
I never said I watch, Venkmen.
-Masters, V. Personal Correspondence.
Three days. Three days at City Hall laboring under the stack of papers foisted off onto him while Vlad lounged in his office watching old movies and laughing his ass off. Tucker had put up with it for three days before he broke and stormed into the mayor's office fully intending to tell Vlad to take this internship and shove it. Instead he found his rants were derailed before they could even begin by Vlad being so goddamned civil and sitting him down to watch some old Marx Brothers movie. What began as an indignant rebellion ended with Tucker sprawled on the floor watching the big TV recessed into the wall, a steak sandwich and jolt cola keeping him company while he found himself giggling at scenes of an old-timey football game with a horse pulling a janitor's cart like a chariot making the game-winning touchdown.
Only after the movie ended and Vlad had given him the rest of the week off and shoved him out the door did Tucker think that maybe something was wrong. He could smell the evil plans being formed somewhere about something, he just didn't know what. He knew someone who might, though.
As he dialed Danny's number he hoped the whole breakup thing had died down somewhat.
"Fenton residence," Danny said as he picked up the phone.
"Yo, Danny, you sound less bummed, you wanna go hang out?"
Danny looked around the house. Jazz was out with her friends, Dad was watching TV, Mom was in the lab... "Hey Dad, I'm gonna go hang out with Tucker," he shouted.
"That's a yes, innit," Tucker said, his tone kept flat for maximum sarcasm.
"No, really," Danny said, returning the sarcasm. He listened to his father shout back something about curfew. "I gotta be home by ten. Whaddaya wanna do?"
"Let's hit the lake," Tucker suggested. "I've been cooped up in this tie for far too long and I need to be as close to naked as possible."
"Oh my..." Danny twisted his voice to sound as scandalized as possible.
"Shut up. I mean swim trunks."
"Yeah, right," Danny said, grinning. His smile faded a bit as he thought of just him and Tucker hanging out. It didn't seem right. "Hey, Tuck? You think you can invite Sam? If I do it won't seem like a 'just friends' thing and, well, it seems wrong..."
Tucker cringed. "You're not still fighting are you?"
Danny shrugged even though his friend couldn't see him over the phone. "I think we've called it off for now. We're just friends." He ignored the warring voices in the back of his mind: the one that wanted to chase after her, the one that wanted to hold her, the one that wasn't sure, and the one that just wanted to know what in heck was going on.
Tucker wasn't sure. On one hand he wanted to stay as far away as possible from that sort of ambiguity. On the other he missed his friends and just hanging out the way they used to before that stupid space rock. "I'll call her but I swear, if the two of you start fighting I'm leaving you there."
"Got it, Tuck," Danny said." Don't worry about it. We'll be fine." He hung up and headed up the stairs to get ready. Or tried to.
"You're just going to the lake?" Jack asked.
Danny stopped in his tracks. His dad looked confused, like he wasn't entirely sure what was going on. Jack was staring at him. "Yeah. With Tucker and Sam. We're gonna go swimming, maybe goof off later." Danny rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly nervous. He wasn't used to being stared at like this, like a test subject who'd just defied theory.
"You're not going to go hunt ghosts or fly around or something weird?"
"Not planning on it," Danny said.
Jack waved his son upstairs. As the boy ran off to go get ready Jack marveled at how... normal their plans were. Just goofing off like teenagers on summer vacation. No evil villains, no being mayor, no weird powers, no fighting ghosts by turning into one. It was like he had his son back.
Or maybe he'd never lost Danny. Maybe he's always been there.
As Danny ran out the door with his backpack stuffed with things and barely a wave 'goodbye' Jack found himself sighing happily as he switched the TV over to his cartoons. For the first time in months things felt right.
The hot summer sun blazed overhead. Fluffy clouds drifted in the August sky, waiting for their chance to grow into a thunderstorm. The sounds of splashing and carefree fun drifted across the lake to the secluded cove where Danny, Tucker, and Sam were hiding from the heat and the populace. Tucker sat on the shore in a lawn chair with built-in canopy overhang. He was using the portable shade to keep the glare off of his PDA. Sam hid from the sun under a black cloak, an attempt to cling to her Goth-ness despite the heat, their surroundings, and her light purple bikini. Danny'd given up all pretense and was just laying on his belly in the cool waters of the lake, feet dangling out in deeper waters.
Life was returning to some semblance of normal. Their senior year of high school was less than a month away. Soon there would be college applications to worry about, futures to plan. But until then three friends were glad for the chance to just hang out and let time and thoughts pass them by.
Speaking of thoughts it was too damn quiet. "Why does Vlad chase after my mom anyway?" Danny asked randomly, breaking that quiet.
"Because he's in love with her?" Sam said.
"Because he's a fruitloop?" Tucker countered.
"He is a fruitloop," Danny agreed. He rolled over in the lake and began to float on his back. He lazily reached above his head to grab a weed before he drifted away. The sky is really pretty today... "But other than that. You ever think maybe he chases after her because she's safely unattainable?"
"You mean the chase being more fun than the actual relationship?" Sam asked.
"Something like that," Danny said. His mind kept going over the events of a few days prior. He'd wanted to chase after Sam so bad. Only a split second recognition of how weird it was had stopped him. After all, what kind of healthy person longed to chase after a woman just so she'd hit him? He shook off the thought and instead focused on Vlad.
"What do you mean?" Sam asked.
"Think about it for a second," Danny described. "Single rich guy in his 40s. Probably has women throwing themselves at him. Instead he goes home to a cat. Ignoring that it's Vlad, what does that sound like to you?"
"Sounds like he's gay," Tucker said absently. Then he sat up straight as he realized what he'd just said. "Wait, you think Vlad's gay?"
"Makes sense," Sam admitted. "He's probably so far in the closet he can't see past the feather boas."
There was a splash as Danny snorted with laughter and ended up losing his buoyancy. He popped up out of the water, coughing and spitting. "Somehow I can't see Vlad with feather boas," he said once he got his breathing back.
"The man wears a cravat every day," Sam countered.
"He does get manicures," Danny admitted. He still remembered the mud bath and the incredibly de-masculinizing... procedures he'd put up with afterward and how Vlad just sighed happily and let those people do all of these girly things to them both. Sure it felt good and relaxing at the time but he'd needed days to reassert his masculinity.
"He wears eye make-up," Tucker said.
Sam snorted and turned to fix Tucker with a demented and delighted grin as she tried not to laugh. "Eye make-up?"
"He says he needs it to add definition to his right eye. Yanno, since it's solid red. I didn't call bullshit because I like my limbs attached."
"He's gay," Sam said, convinced. She giggled.
"He might not be," Danny said. "I mean, he was really beat up from his time in space. Maybe he only started the girly stuff after he got back. 'Cause he needed to feel or something."
Sam fixed Danny with a 'you know something' glare.
"I walked in on him in a mud bath," Danny admitted. He shrugged as he stood chest-deep in the lake. "He said either leave or he'd make me join him. I, well..." He blushed. "I didn't leave."
Tucker and Sam gave him nearly identical looks of disturbed disgust.
It took a moment of being stared at for Danny to realize what they were thinking. "No! No, not like that! Ick, guys, no! They stuck me in a completely different mud bath. And invisibility means nobody gets to leer."
Tucker accepted this with a nod. Sam remained unsure.
"So I got stuck in a mud bath, which I add was amazingly civilized, then there was a massage then food and the manicure and then I booked it because I did not want my toenails painted and other people washing my hair is weird. It took me three days to reassert my masculinity."
"Was that when you challenged Dash and his buddies to a no-ghost-powers fight and put them in double jock locks?" Tucker asked.
"And Kwan managed to give me a black eye with his elbow? Yeah, then. Kwan ruined it by trying so hard to make it up to me."
"But Vlad stayed after you left?" Sam asked.
"He looked so disappointed when I left," Danny admitted. "I swear, it was like some creepy, gay, villainy father-son bonding or something."
"Maybe he doesn't know he's gay," Sam said.
"Oh he knows it," Tucker said. "The guy's gettin' his toenails painted and wearing eyeliner. He knows he's gay."
"Maybe I could check," Danny offered.
"What're you going to do, ask?" Sam demanded.
"What else do you think witty banter is for?" Danny countered. He laughed evilly and dropped underwater before popping up nearby.
"So you're seriously going to wait until you guys fight again and then you're going to flat-out ask him if he's gay under the pretense of witty banter?"
"Yeah, why not?"
"I dunno whether to ask you to get a video or if I can have your stuff," Tucker said.
"I'll be fine," Danny said, waving dismissively. "You'll see."