This is a project I've been working on for a while now. I've seen a few variations of kid-Vlad, adult-Danny, so I hope you enjoy this one!
Age-swapped AU. Mentions Jack/Maddie and Vlad-Maddie. Danny Fenton in this story isn't related to Vlad's friends because AU. Since Jack wasn't involved in the creation of the portal, there's no ecto-acne. Will update weekly.
Thanks for reading!
Do not own DP or assorted characters.
Bored, not to mention annoyed, Vlad leaned against the passenger's side door and gave dirty looks to the traffic passing by his window. No matter how far the ride, he always managed a nearly-civil silence with his father for most of the trip. It didn't really make him feel much better about being alone with the stern older man. Having Maddie along would have made the trip so much more bearable. They could sit in the backseat and talk, and pretend Vlad's father wasn't even in the car. Vlad suspected his father would have preferred being ignored, too. Even Jack might have perked the whole situation up, by annoying both of the car's other passengers so much that they would forget to quietly loathe each other.
They turned onto a smaller side road, or an extensive paved driveway, eventually coming to a wide iron gate, abstract metal designs decorating the thick bars. His father put in a security code beside the gate, and then they kept driving down the huge driveway a few more minutes. Vlad remembered his father mentioning that his old classmate had struck it rich, but he hadn't quite imagined how rich. When the huge stone mansion came into sight around the last turn of the driveway, Vlad was taken aback. It was almost too much, downright vulgar. He wondered cynically what kind of insecurities drove a man to hide in so much conspicuous spending, and tried to concentrate on feeling that and not a sense of awe as they stopped at the front steps, and a neatly dressed man immediately took their car to park elsewhere.
Another servant let them in the front door and into a huge entranceway, marble floors leading to a wide staircase. Overhead, a glass chandelier hung from the ceiling. Several display cases lined the room, on either side of the staircase. Vlad glanced around at the décor while they waited. It was… quirky, to say the least. While he supposed some of the items on display in the glass cases might have been genuinely valuable, others seemed to be worthless things, such as toy models of spacecraft, displayed with the same cheerful ostentation.
"He was always a weird guy," Vlad's father muttered.
"Hey! Pete!" A voice echoed from the top of the stairs, and a broad-shouldered man came into view. Daniel Fenton looked taller on TV, Vlad decided. Still, he was impressive enough in his pressed designer suit, a faint hint of white at his temples adding a little aged dignity to an otherwise rather youthful face. His expression was bright and open, blue eyes flashing with obvious humor, as he drew closer. "Looks like you made it."
"Piotr." Vlad's father managed to keep his voice even for the correction, although from long familiarity Vlad could tell he was annoyed. "And, thank you. I see you haven't changed much."
"You know me, Pete, I'll live forever!" Mr. Fenton laughed and flung an arm around Piotr, ignoring the other man's wince. Leaning a little closer, he added in a slightly less friendly tone, "Just pretend you like me for the reunion, and I'll let you live in the lap of luxury for the next two days! That seems like a pretty good deal to me."
Vlad's father recoiled, ducking under the arm and shifting away from the other man, scowling suspiciously now. Mr. Fenton just smiled at him for another moment until shifting his gaze to Vlad. His expression seemed to soften, hinting at genuine friendliness again, a feeling that left Vlad feeling more awkward than reassured.
"So, what's your name? I'm Danny." He held his hand out to shake. Vlad took it reflexively.
"Vlad… Vlad Masters." Danny's grip was firm and warm, and he seemed sincere enough, less as though he were condescending to an old classmate's child and more as if he were greeting an equal. He still seemed crazy, but maybe it was a charismatic sort of crazy.
"Nice to meet you." Danny turned away again, to help lead them to their rooms. The mansion didn't get any less impressive as Vlad saw more of it. The rest of the place had a slightly gloomier look than the entrance, a lot of imposing long stone halls and actual candelabras in the walls, although the corridors were lit now by electric lights gracefully hidden in the tall ceilings. Their footsteps echoed, making the halls seem larger than they were. The predominant colors of the objects on display seemed to be blue and green, sometimes blended gracefully but more often seeming like a mish-mash of whatever item of a vaguely appropriate hue had caught Danny's eye. Still, the gaudiness did nothing to cover the immense value of the building itself, or the casual purchasing that seemed typical of their host.
He wondered how much his father was picking up from their brief tour. While he'd obviously come just for the opportunity to suck up to his old classmate and possibly get something for himself, it sounded from Danny's blunt attitude as if success wasn't likely. In fact, Vlad wondered why Danny had invited his father at all; apparently they didn't get along.
The Fenton Ghost Portal was the original, invented when Danny and Vlad's father were in college. Over time, it had disappeared from public attention as a hoax, although thanks to his father, Vlad knew better. In the last few years, the government had finally gotten enough information on the device to create their own. That had been the project Vlad's father had been working on when the accident happened.
Naturally, it had all been Jack's fault. Maddie had been curious, but not unduly so. Vlad had been fascinated with the world that had been discovered as a mirror of their own, but he'd never have dared to try to sneak in on his own. It was Jack's insane plan which drew Maddie in, which subsequently drew Vlad in, and while they'd wandered around the lab amazed at getting so far, Vlad had managed to turn the fudging thing on.
It had made escape much easier, although he'd used the ghost powers first with a sense of terrified urgency, not innate skill. Later, deliberately causing full intangibility for himself, much less his friends, took months of practice. Long, embarrassing months that saw him become the clumsiest kid in school. Maybe if Jack hadn't spent those months frequently saving Vlad from discovery or his own powers, Vlad wouldn't have been able to forgive him for being responsible for his accident. As things turned out, he had managed to work back to begrudging acceptance of Jack's right to exist.
For the fifth time that evening, Vlad wondered what was happening in Madison. Maybe some new ghost had come out of the government's portal and was harassing the town. Maddie was capable enough with the small hordes of weaponry they'd snuck from under the GiW's noses, but Jack usually managed to foul things up. That was the main reason Vlad participated, really—to keep Maddie from suffering for Jack's weird obsessions. Never mind that Vlad had the same obsession with ghosts, he wasn't obsessed with fighting them. The government opened the portal, the government could handle the ghosts that came through it, Vlad thought. Maddie had been the one to point out that if the government fought more ghosts, they would become better at fighting ghosts, and if they became better at fighting ghosts, they might wind up fighting half-ghosts too. And so he and Maddie… and, to some limited degree, Jack… fought the ghosts back themselves.
Watching people twice his age dance wasn't his idea of a great night. In fact, ghost fighting would have been an improvement. Vlad had originally intended to smuggle in a book and read it under the table, but his father had cut that plan short, declaring it "rude." So, instead, Vlad was sitting politely and glaring out at the tacky decorated room and the cheerfully inept dancing adults who filled it. His father had even unwound enough to stand near the mini-bar and carry on conversation with some of his old classmates. Vlad was so busy sulking that he didn't even notice he wasn't alone, until he heard Danny's amused voice.
"You look like you're having a ball, kid."
"Sorry, Mr. Fenton." Vlad sat up, a little annoyed at being drawn out of his thoughts, but offered a relatively friendly smile anyway. "I didn't sleep that well."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Danny didn't look sorry, so much as anxious. Piotr had definitely been right, weird guy. "Listen, would you do me a favor?"
"Sure." If it would get him out of the room, Vlad might consider washing the entire mansion's toilets. "What do you need me to do?"
Danny relaxed faintly, making Vlad wonder. "Great, thanks. I left some stuff on my desk in the library, some notes for later, but I didn't want to run off from the party just when it's getting started. I can trust you to grab them and come back fast, right?"
Maybe he was worried about some business papers he'd left out. Vlad's father would doubtlessly jump at the opportunity to enjoy some low-level corporate espionage, which was more than enough reason to refrain. "Just tell me where to go, and I'll bring it right back."
The library, as it turned out, was nearly directly above the room where the reunion was being held. In ghost form, a few seconds of floating, but Vlad couldn't risk one of the guests seeing him. Going the human way was fast enough, and despite his words, he was in no great hurry to get back to the party. At least the upstairs halls were quiet; the soundproofing in this place was impressive.
Danny's library was messy, crowded with more pointless knickknacks held not in glass cases but strewn across table tops and bookshelves. Once Vlad spotted some papers laid out on the heavy-looking cherry desk at the far side of the room, he stepped forward, and didn't realize he was being watched until he heard the door click shut behind him.
Twisting around, and barely resisting the urge to transform from surprise, Vlad scowled. Danny was leaning against the door, smirking at and watching him with a deeply unsettling expression of satisfaction.
There were only a few explanations that sprang to mind, none of them good. The worst possibility was that Danny, somehow, knew. His first experiment, decades ago, had involved ghosts. While it had seemed that the rich man had put that aside for more practical inventions, who knew? Maybe ghost hunting was a private vice. Or maybe he figured, when a ghost was stupid enough to wander into his house, the ghost was asking for it.
"Did you want something else, Mr. Fenton?" Vlad managed to sound nearly polite, despite the growing urge to flee. He had been careless, shouldn't have assumed that just because the Guys in White couldn't catch him that nobody could...
"Didn't mean to scare you. And sorry for lying, but what I really wanted was to talk to you in private." Danny's smile had calmed a little, as he stepped forward. Vlad automatically shifted back, until he felt the edge of Danny's desk against his back. A few feet away, Danny paused. "Didn't I ask you to call me Danny?"
"Let me out." Vlad answered in an even, dark voice. "I don't want to talk."
"Huh. Maybe I'm pushing too fast." Danny looked thoughtful as he considered, then discarded, the notion. "Well, we only have until tomorrow afternoon. I have an offer for you."
"What?" While it wasn't the whirring sound of some ghost weapon powering up, the mystery behind Danny's behavior was nearly as unnerving. Still suspicious, Vlad glared and watched Danny's hands, just in case he was going for a weapon. He'd seen what could happen to ghosts who were caught.
"You're a little paranoid, aren't you, kid?" Danny was obviously amused, which only riled up Vlad's temper further. "I guess that's for the best. You're right, y'know. If they catch you, that'll be it. Best keep your eyes open."
"Who do you think you are?" Vlad's hands were clenched into fists at his sides, his voice edged with anger and confusion.
"I'm the first one." Danny raised his hand in a small theatrical gesture, just as two bright rings of light began to spread across his body.
Unlike Vlad's alternate form, Danny looked much the same. If it weren't for the strange intensity of green in his eyes or the glow around his body, Vlad might have taken him for a human. Vlad's costume was ostentatious, nicely intimidating though a bit strange, but Danny's was only a plain jumpsuit in black and white. His hair had gone white, a match to the color Vlad's hair had turned in his human form. The mere idea that someone else might have had an accident to match his own had once seemed ludicrously unlikely. Still, if anyone were a similar victim, surely it would be someone else who'd been around a ghost portal's creation…
"What I wanted to offer you is a helping hand, kid. You're going to get yourself killed, if you keep at the rate you're going." Danny's tone was sincere enough, although Vlad kept watching his hands as he gestured. "I've been at this for twenty years. I understand these powers better than you do."
Vlad couldn't help feeling a little fascinated. After all, he'd never expected to meet anyone else like him, a person straddling the line between life and death. Twenty years more experience, by someone who was once a pioneer in ghost studies? There were so many questions he could get answered…
"And why do you want to help me?" Danny himself had pointed it out—they couldn't trust anyone. Maybe not even each other. Vlad's mind was starting to race. If there was more than one half-ghost, what did that make them to each other? Members of the same species? A weird sort of family? Or rivals?
Danny was rich. Danny was very, very rich. Danny had managed to keep his most important invention out of government hands for nearly two decades, despite their urgent attempts to claim it. In the public eye, there was suspicion as for any successful man, but no one had ever been able to find any serious proof of misdeeds beyond the rumors of the ghost portal 'hoax.' The few times Vlad's father had mentioned Danny before the reunion, it had been to curse his insane luck…
"Did you steal all of this?" Vlad stared around the cluttered room with a different kind of calculation. "With your powers?"
The older half-ghost's green eyes widened in surprise, but he answered evenly, "You're a sharp kid. No, I didn't steal all of it. But it didn't all come honest, either. Haven't you used your powers for anything besides annoying ghosts?"
"I don't annoy ghosts." That sounded a little more defensive than he'd ordinarily like, but Vlad was too alarmed to argue well. His eyebrows furrowed together. "Why do you know so much about me?"
"When I heard the Guys in White had finally made a prototype that seemed like it might work, I started keeping an eye on the project. I guess I couldn't keep them out of there forever… anyway, I didn't know about you, at first." Danny rubbed a hand through his short white hair. "I started seeing more reports of ghost sightings around the portal, which I knew would happen… and someone other than the Guys chasing them off. They're still confused about you, by the way, but it won't be long before you become one of their main targets."
"So, how did you know it was me? I assume you didn't invite my father here because you like his company." Vlad was certain he still wasn't getting the whole truth.
"It took some time, but…" Danny paused, frowning slightly, and crossed his arms. "You know, if I can find you, so can the government. Be more careful from now on."
"I'm always careful," Vlad said, his sharp tone not really covering for his own awareness that Danny had cornered him. "Why don't they know about you?"
"Because I don't spend every free minute I have flying around having big showy fights with ghosts. Heck, I make friends with them, if I can." Danny's expression softened a little, although he still loomed over Vlad. "We can be friends too. I'm not out to get you. Anyway, if I wanted to get rid of you, you'd be dead already."
"What?!" That had definitely been a threat. Vlad would know; he made enough of them. His eyes narrowed, although he still didn't transform. It seemed too much like inviting a fight.
"I just mean, I'm a lot stronger than you are. You're still a kid, you're developing. Maybe you'll be a real bruiser eventually, but you haven't even come close to facing the worst things from the Ghost Zone. You're playing with stuff you don't really understand yet." Danny offered one hand, lit only by the faint white glow that covered his body. "C'mon. I can help you. You could quit dropping your pants by accident in front of that girl."
"What—how—" Slack-jawed horror was replaced by bitter rage. "You've been following me?"
"Nah. I have other things to do with my time." Danny's smile went crooked. "I might've recorded some stuff, though. Sorry if you're embarrassed. You keep holding fights right in the middle of town, maybe you should have tried to be less obvious."
"I don't get to decide where ghosts attack!" It was an obvious truth, but Vlad still felt as if he were admitting to a weakness. "And I don't need help!" Especially from a weird older man who'd apparently been stalking him.
"You can keep telling yourself that, but what're you going to do when you face something too tough for you, much less your little pals? You're going to get steamrolled someday, and it's probably going to be sooner rather than later." Danny lowered his hand, apparently accepting that Vlad wasn't going to take it just yet. "Besides, I'd think you'd jump at the chance to spend time with somebody other than Pete. Guy's a dick."
"What?" Vlad found himself floundering at the sheer gall of the other man. "It's none of your business even if he is! He's still my father!"
"All right, sorry." Danny raised his hands again, this time in an insincere defensive gesture. "You're right, that's got nothing to do with us."
"What do you mean, us?! There's no us! There's you, and me, and you cornering me in your stupid library!" Vlad felt his temper starting to go out of control, but was surprised when Danny backed up a step, eyebrows raised.
"No need to go all glowy-eyed on me." Danny frowned a little. "Why're you so high strung?"
"Because you—you—" Vlad wasn't really sure why, once the question was asked. There was just something insulting about the whole thing, that Danny seemed to expect him to accept his 'help,' no questions asked. "You lied to me, you secretly recorded me, you held a whole party just to talk to me, and you're creepy!"
"That's mean, kid." Danny tilted his head, as if examining Vlad from a different angle. "You're really that eager to fly alone?"
"I'm not alone! My friends are all the help I've needed." Well, Maddie was, anyway. If it weren't for her, he might consider listening to the other man's warnings if not his offers of help, but Vlad knew that Maddie admired his fight against the ghosts that escaped past the GiW and into the city. She'd never really seemed to look at him before in the same way, but now it seemed wonderfully plausible that she was starting to feel the same way he felt about her. Stopping now would ruin that, and it sounded as if Danny wanted him to cut out fighting ghosts altogether. "Let me out of your library or I'll fight my way out! I mean it!"
"God, you're as bad as Pete. It must be a family trait." Danny turned away, presenting his back as a perfect target. Vlad wasn't sure why he didn't try one of the ectoplasmic blasts then. Maybe the older man's threats were getting more to Vlad than he wanted to admit. "Okay, okay, I'm not kidnapping you. Kinda mad I went through all this trouble and you won't even hear me out, though."
"You're a crazy person," Vlad muttered angrily. He didn't quite trust Danny's word, but as he walked past, Danny only watched him and didn't reach out to stop him. Pausing in the doorway of the library, feeling a strange pang of regret, Vlad glanced back once more. When he saw Danny smiling at him expectantly, the anger overcame it, and Vlad rushed through the door without bothering to open it. He didn't need the man's help. The only person he needed was Maddie.