Vlad Masters stood in front of a mirror, staring at his reflection, his fingers nervously tugging at his tie. He looked at himself with an expression of uncertainty and something like disappointment, if he were capable of feeling this way about himself. He regarded his navy blue suit with a light blue vest and tie skeptically, catching the attention of the saleswoman who was helping them. She bounded over quickly from a rack where she had been paging through suit after suit, trying to select the perfect one for Vlad, a pile of clothing in her hands. She dropped everything and approached him.
"How do you like it, Mayor Masters?" she asked, although she already knew exactly what he thought of it.
"It's…well, it's all right. Certainly never something I envisioned myself wearing. But—" Vlad jerked his thumb in the direction of the leather sofa where the dark-haired, teenaged boy sat, legs crossed, arms folded, observing silently. "—it's Danny's favorite."
"It is," Danny Fenton said, his expression stern and calculating, looking at Vlad as someone whose expertise is formal wear regards their newest creation, "and you'd be stupid if you didn't pick this one."
"I know you like it, Daniel, but it isn't my style."
"Vlad, don't flatter yourself. I wouldn't say you really have a style so much as the same black suit and bowtie."
"On the contrary Daniel, I have multiple black suits and bowties," Vlad responded, grinning, causing Danny to roll his eyes.
"Whatever," Danny said, unamused. "You're not going to wear that old thing to your date. Trust me, it's an automatic turn-off."
"And how do you know?"
"Vlad, it may have made girls hot back in the seventies, but no one wears those ugly ties anymore. Especially not on dates."
"Well, you are the expert on these things," Vlad replied sarcastically, smiling.
The saleswoman, who had been listening in on their conversation, smiled that delightfully robotic smile and chirped up suddenly, "Oh, a date? How exciting!"
Danny nodded. "It is, considering this fool's been single all his life."
"Hey now, that's no way to address your mayor, Daniel," Vlad said, attempting to sound stern but ultimately unable to; his voice was lighthearted and almost gleeful sounding.
Danny flashed him a toothy grin in return. "No, I guess not."
The saleswoman paid no mind to their unnecessary chatter. She said in that unnatural way of speaking, the liveliness and energy so obviously forced, as if she could not care less but felt it was her duty to ask, "Who's the lucky girl?"
At this, a grin much like Danny's had been spread across Vlad's face, one goofy and filled with teeth. Danny observed this and found himself shocked, despite the fact that he knew how excited Vlad was for this date. It was a date he had waited for all his life, and, Danny thought, if he'd been in the same position he would have grinned in such a manner, too. But this was Vlad they were talking about, not any normal, lonely, cat-loving man in his forties who'd been single his whole life. Even if he should have expected this, he didn't, because he didn't ever think Vlad was capable of wearing a grin that was not fueled by evil or some other malicious emotion.
Vlad grinned in this fashion as he stared at himself in the mirror, tugging at his tie—a real tie, not a bowtie, which Danny thought suited him a thousand times better. He almost looked, well…he almost looked young. It was as if he was looking at a photograph of Vlad from twenty years ago; he looked almost like a bachelor who'd decided to go for the quote on quote trendy look and had dyed his hair white. The combination of blues in his attire brought out an intense ice-blue in his eyes, a color that had before seemed muted and dull, oppressed, Danny guessed, by the blackness of his suit. He did really look stunning, and Danny knew she was going to fall for him the moment she saw him.
"Someone I've been waiting for my whole life," Vlad said, reminding Danny vaguely of a character in the love story Mr. Lancer had forced them to read, Romeo and Juilet. The two of them did not really know each other, but they were somehow certain they were meant to be together. Vlad certainly was Romeo tonight, but Danny doubted if his date would be so eager to take up the roll of Juliet. Vlad might be sure that the two of them were destined to be together, but Danny couldn't say the same about the woman he'd fallen in love with, the woman who was not in love with him and who had only agreed to go on this date tonight after much haranguing on both their parts.
"That must have been the best day for you, wasn't it, Vlad?" Danny said, still grinning up at him. "The day they got divorced?"
Vlad's grin faded and he moved his gaze from his own reflection, to Danny's reflection, to Danny. "You know I felt awfully for you, little badger," he said gently, almost timidly.
"But you shouldn't have. I've told you already, I was glad when they did too. I was tired of seeing my dad drink and hit her."
"I know, Danny, but I promise you, if your mother gives me the chance, I'm going to help. I know how much you need a father figure in your life," Vlad said sincerely, putting a hand on Danny's shoulder.
"That's why this date has to go well."
Vlad nodded. "Yes, you're right."
"But I have a good feeling it will. My mom's a sucker for blue suits, but you probably picked up on that."
Vlad's grin returned. "Yes, I did."
"And that's why you're wearing this one."
"Alright, alright, if you say so," Vlad said, chuckling.
Danny smiled triumphantly. "Good, because I want this date to work, probably even more than you do."
Vlad's expression softened considerably. "You don't know how much that means to me, little badger."
"Well, it means a lot that you want to step in."
"I certainly do, in more ways than one. I plan to be a father as well as a husband, if your mother lets me."
Vlad smiled again, and it was fueled by excitement and warmth this time. "Well, I can't thank you enough for setting this date up."
"It's no problem, Vlad."
"Well, still. I owe you one."