Co-written between Tangerine Catnip and NebulousMistress
This story deals with some very harsh themes. Kidnapping, imprisonment, and graphic rape with the goal being forced pregnancy. However, this chapter is rape-free. Honestly, I think the rest of this story is technically rape-free. In that Vlad would argue it's not technically rape anymore...
Wham wham. Thud.
Danny sighed and opened the door. The cold air from outside made her shiver as she frowned at the visitor who'd been pounding on the door with his head. She pulled herself up to her full height and glared at her bull. Theodore looked right back, his large white butt planted on the mat. Danny crossed her arms.
"Go back to the barn, boy," she said sternly. He didn't answer her, he just kept sitting and staring. "Come on, you'll freeze out here if you don't go back." Still not a budge. Danny sighed even louder. "Look, I've got something I want to do and it would be way easier if I didn't have to bring a cow."
Theodore made a face and an odd sound before he started chewing his cud. Danny slapped herself in the face. Ugh. She was taking to a friggin' cow. Was she really expecting him to suddenly spring up and start a conversation?
"Fine then," she said, stepping out into the snow and wrapping an arm around the bull's neck. "If you won't go back to the barn you'll have to come in here." She pulled the cow through the door, his hooves clopping on the wooden floor as he stepped into the hall. Danny let go and closed the door behind him with a slam. The air inside warmed up slowly as the cold was shut away. Danny shivered again and looked at her cow. At least now he wouldn't freeze.
It was just her luck that he would start acting oddly on the day she finally decided to do something interesting. Theodore sniffed at her and sat down again, still chewing whatever he had dragged up from his four stomachs.
Well, he could stay in the hall then. She would just tell Vlad that he refused to go back to the barn. Besides, he'd probably be so mad at her by the time the day was out he wouldn't even notice the cow in the hall. She patted him on his head.
Now that that was dealt with she figured she'd better get moving. Vlad would be back in a few hours and she wanted to have as much time as possible to find his office. She knew it was in the half of the castle she had been forbidden to enter and today she was going to find out why he didn't want her up there. If he was hiding something she needed to know. Just because she was locked up here didn't mean she could let Vlad do evil as he pleased. Besides, he might have a laptop in there and she would trade food for a week for an hour on anything electronic, even if it was just a game of minesweeper. A flash of light splashed over the walls as she transformed into her ghost form and made her way up the stairs.
"Moo." Theodore flipped his ears around, seeking an odd sound, the sound that had brought him out of the barn to see his Mama. He mooed at her, trying to see if she heard it too when it got loud and suddenly stopped. And then it changed.
Theodore blinked then flipped his ears forward, following the sounds of his Mama. "Moo." She was leaving without him, how dare she. He followed her, his hooves clopping on the floor as he went. He had to follow her, to make sure she didn't do anything wrong. It was a Need. He Needed to keep her from doing something brash and stupid.
Danny blinked as she heard the sounds behind her. Oh no… Guh, he was just like a needy puppy dog sometimes. She shot a look over her shoulder. Danny hoped the stairs would deter him but he barely paused before climbing them.
"Oh, come on!" she muttered, pouting. "I already gave you your dinner, what more do you want?"
Theodore climbed the steps cautiously, knowing somehow that getting down them again would be very difficult. But... if she was going to climb then he had to as well. He Needed to follow her.
He caught up to her then nuzzled her dress. She smelled good. He liked her smell. A moo rumbled in his throat. He grabbed her dress and pulled. She wasn't supposed to go this way. Her dress wasn't supposed to be this tasty.
Danny pulled her skirt out of his mouth. "No, bad boy!" she scolded. "Vlad already took away my ghost suit and this is the only dress I have left with the right colors." Danny fluffed the black and white dress, gazing down at the stitched-on copy of her personal symbol. "I have some tacky things in my closet I'll put on tomorrow, you can eat them." She patted his head then stopped. "And I'm still taking to a cow. Wonderful."
She shook her head and took flight, starting down the hallway that lead to the west wing. She turned a corner, not stopping to look at the cow trotting after her. She could hear that he was there.
The further she wandered away from her part of the castle the darker it got. Vlad must have turned off the lights before he left. Danny curled her fingers into a fist and summoned a ball of ectoenergy. Her hand began to glow, casting eerie shadows over the decor lining the walls.
Theodore trotted after her. She flew faster than she walked, not lingering in any one place for long. This was Bad. Very very Bad. He Needed to get her to stop, to go back to the ballroom or the barn or the greenhouses or the dining room or anywhere else she was allowed to go. Not here. Didn't she realize that she was kept out of this wing of the castle for a reason?!
He snorted and galloped ahead, putting himself in the way of a door. "Moo." No, don't go in here. "Moo." He gave her a stern look, his ears falling back and his tail swishing.
Danny tilted her head, looking down at her cow from where she was floating. "Oh, you want me to look in there, Theo?" she asked. He mooed at her, looking agitated. Danny shrugged. "Okay, if you insist. This is as good a place to start as any." She went intangible and floated through the door, leaving the bleating calf on the other side. As soon as she entered the room her heart skipped a beat.
A plasma screen so large it would have made the old Danny green with envy was mounted across from some overstuffed leather chairs and a sofa. It wasn't a large room but that just made it feel more comfortable. There was even a bar smushed in one corner of the room, bottles of expensive looking spirits piled on top of it.
Danny went to the TV first, poking at the remote as she tried to get it working. She wanted to see the news. She felt so isolated out here; she was dying for some proof that the outside word hadn't gone away.
Try as she might, though, all she got was static. A quick inspection revealed the cable box was missing and any cables gone. She swore and threw the remote against a wall. She slumped to the sofa and covered her face with her hands. A deep breath and she looked again. At least there was a DVD player.
Outside Theodore snorted and bellowed, the sound echoing through the hallway. He stamped, tail swishing. Alerting her of places she shouldn't go was not his plan.
He laid down in front of the door. Maybe he could keep her inside the room. It wasn't very important, really. Nothing to get her into too much trouble. Unless of course she drank all the alcohol. Wait... That was a bad thing! Theodore bleated, attempting to sound scared and confused. Perhaps he could draw her out. Come here, Mama, I'm scared...
Danny had just located the cabinet of DVDs when Theodore started bleating. Her fingers twitched. She wanted to watch a movie, any movie... even one Vlad picked out. But she couldn't let him go on like that. Not only would it be distracting but he might catch the attention of one of Vlad's ghost guards. She didn't know what they would do if they caught her in here but she knew the 'I'm pregnant' reminder probably wouldn't work as well on them as it did on Vlad.
But! At least she knew where this room was. She could sneak back in here later when she didn't have a cow following her.
With a heavy sigh she floated back through the door, kneeling down and wrapping her arms around Theodore's neck. "Hushhh," she soothed. "I'm right here, now shut up before someone hears you and comes after me."
Theodore nuzzled her, sticking his snout right in-between her breasts. She smelled best here. He snuffed, both to sound contrite and comforted as to catch as much of that scent as she would allow. She could fly through doors. That meant if she wanted to she could easily fly away through the wall and leave him here all alone in the corridor. Then he wouldn't be able to keep her from getting into trouble. Therefore he needed to make sure she didn't have reason to fly away but also that she didn't forget him.
He laid his head in her lap and gazed up at her with big brown eyes.
Danny shook her head and pulled away. "Okay, you can come with me from now on. But only if you promise to be quiet." She scratched the bull behind his stubby horns and continued down the hallway to the next door on the left. If she couldn't watch a move she could at least find out what else was down here.
It turned out to be a bedroom, one that actually looked lived in. She spotted a suit hanging off a chair and realized this must be Vlad's room. Hmm… She frowned. This didn't look like the master bedroom of the castle, it was far too ordinary for that. She made her hand glow brighter as she took a quick look around. She expected a fruitloop like Vlad to sleep on five different mattresses with the pelts of lions and tigers for blankets. The bed was a king-size and had what looked like silk sheets… and yes.. a bear pelt. She smirked, feeling downright smug that she'd called it.
Theodore stood at the door, locked out again. Hmmph. She shouldn't be in that room. But at least nothing too damaging was inside. He laid down in front of the door and snuffed.
Danny kept snooping around. There was still the off chance that she might find something that would help her understand Vlad's mindset better. Questions had gotten her nowhere so it was up to her to piece this whole situation together herself. She floated over to the bed. The bed looked freshly made so there were no clues there. The bedside table had an empty glass sitting on it next to an old fashioned oil lamp and a prescription bottle. She picked up the bottle, thinking for a moment they might be anti-depressants or mood stabilizers that Vlad seemed to be forgetting to take.
"Take 2 nightly to relieve chronic insomnia," she read aloud. Danny frowned and put the bottle back. Well, this explained why Vlad seemed so listless lately.
It was a promising start. She moved to the dresser, scanning the scattered books. They were all about pregnancy. Vlad had a whole library about childbirth here. Danny clenched her fists; she wasn't sure exactly why she was mad at the sight of them but she settled on the fact that he didn't see fit to leave books like this in her room. If anyone should know what was going on it was her.
She would take one with her, then. She picked up one and tucked it under her arm. She meant to leave but then got another idea. She turned back to the dresser and opened the top drawer. Sure enough, she was greeted with the sight of row after row of designer boxer shorts and briefs.
She took out a pair of silk boxers and gave them long hard look. On the one hand she was dying to have proper underwear again. On the other hand she would be wearing something that had been on Vlad junk. Decisions, decisions... In the end it wasn't that hard to make up her mind. She hitched up her skirt and pulling on the shorts. She sighed happily; she'd almost forgotten how comfortable underpants really were. As long as she ignored who they belonged to they felt awesome.
Theodore mooed plaintively. He was giving up on his Need to keep her out of this wing of the castle. But maybe he could do something else... He butted the door, bleating impatiently. He had an idea. "Moo."
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Danny called, walking back into the hall with the book in her arms. She looked back down the hallway and made a low sound. She couldn't check all these rooms… but then she got an idea. Theodore had found the room with the TV, maybe he could help her again.
"Okay, Theo, use your cows senses and lead me to a room with a video game console… and maybe some candy and popcorn..."
Theodore didn't know what a 'video game console' was but he had an idea. He led her down the hallway to the door at the very end of the hallway. He stood next to it and bleated quietly. He butted the door with his head. It opened with an ominous creak.
Danny looked from the door to her cow. He looked back as blank as ever. She shrugged and pressed forward, stepping into the darkness. Her green eyes shot wide open and she diverted more power to her hand. The room brightened even further, showing her that she wasn't just seeing things.
The walls were lined with paintings. On one wall, portraits, always of a man looking smug and self-important. As the portraits progressed from person to person the costume grew more and more ridiculous, ending with a fur-lined red robe, a gigantic crown made of cheese, and a sceptre topped with a gilded ice cream cone. On the other wall were paintings of those same men, each one leading a cow with a boy astride the animal like he was riding a horse.
There were also trophies, awards going back a century. County fairs, regional competitions, state fairs, national awards, little gilded statues of cows looked down on her from every angle. Danny flinched and looked back at the portraits, another flash of gold catching her eye. Each one had a brass plaque with a name and every last one ended with the surname 'Masters'.
Slowly Danny realized... Wait... She recognized one of them. That was the kindly old man who had saved her from Vlad's trap so she could rescue her father during the reunion. The Dairy King as he'd looked in life… She looked back around the room, taking in the portraits, the implications... Not the only dairy king then. Just the latest in a long line. Or maybe not the last, there was space for one more portrait at the end of the room. A blank space.
Danny had always assumed Vlad killed the Dairy King for his castle but if this was right... He'd lived here long before he ever had ghost powers. She leaned closer to the portrait to read its nameplate, the name 'Eugene Masters'. And the painting across from him, the boy laughing as he sat on the cow's back looked disturbingly familiar...
Theodore strolled in behind her. He didn't understand all the pretty pictures, not really. Although one held some resemblance to... He bleated loudly with utter joy as he felt ghostly hands appear out of nowhere to scratch him behind the horns.
"Whoa there. Whatcha doin' out of where you're supposed to be then?"
Danny fell out of the air, landing with a squeak. Her ball of light blinked out, plunging the room into a deep darkness broken only the outlines of herself and the ghost hovering over her cow. She shot to her feet, book forgotten, and readied plasma blasts.
The light from her attack faded as she recognized the ghost whose portrait she had just seen. Her mouth hung open as her cow licked the ghost's face, mooing happily. "Holy shit," she murmured.
The Dairy King floated there, his ice cream topped sceptre held askew as both his hands were currently scratching the young bull behind the horns. Bulls always made the cutest sounds when they were loved in just the right way... "Cheese logs, watch your mouth, little lady," he scolded. "Profanity curdles the milk there, dontcha know. Now then, what's a pretty little thing like you doing so far out of where he's supposed ta be? Yes, you're all da way in here, you're supposed to be in the barn where it's nice and warm."
Danny blinked in shock, her core thrumming like a race car engine. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself. This was the Dairy King for heaven's sake, he wasn't going to hurt her. "I-I came because I wanted to find out about Vlad," she said, sounding as awkward as she felt. "He won't tell me anything... but... I think I found it? You two are related?" She moved over to Theodore, standing so he was placed as some sort of shield between her and the Dairy King.
The Dairy King was too preoccupied with Theodore to notice Daniella was still in the room. But he knew he had a station to hold, he had to hold it like a proper monarch. Especially for the sake of the little princess. He dragged himself away from this pretty little thing to deal with her fumbling questions. "O' course we're related, little lady," he said. "Vlad's my ever wayward nephew. It right near killed me when I heard o' his accident. Tha boy's been runnin' my dairy ever since. Runnin' it real bad there, dontcha know. Got rid a the cows an' the whole family."
Danny nodded. She'd heard that part from Vlad before. "So you're the cra-" She caught herself before she called him crazy; probably not a good idea to insult him. "Um... you're the uncle he mentioned?"
She pawed at the floor with her foot much like how Theodore did when he was nervous. Now that she had someone to answer her questions they all seemed to be falling out of her head. She looked at Theodore, looking for an idea. "I actually wanted to ask you about that," she said. "Do you know why Vlad's decided to start it up again? I mean I'm not exactly trained to take care of cows… as nice as Theodore is..."
Danny's question struck a chord with the Dairy King. He seemed to remember a conversation like this one so long ago. A woman with black hair streaked with premature white, her belly swelling with life, a bull calf laying at her feet, the same question on her lips. "Ya don't need ta know anything special for a sweet little bull like Theodore," he said. "You're perfect for raisin' him real good there. Jus' be sweet an' nice an' rub 'im behind da ears an' tell 'im he's such a sweetie. All o' my bulls were raised by hand like that, dontcha know. An' always by someone like you. Makes 'em nice an' easy ta handle. Real lovin' too. Like a big puppy. Oh, an' your pretty little babe is gonna love ridin' him around on his back like he's a fat horse!"
Danny's hand lowered to her tummy; she had a habit of doing that whenever someone mentioned her child, like she needed a reminder that it was still there and this wasn't just some very long bad dream. She had other things to think about though and he'd dodged the important part of her question. "Yes but why now? Why does he want to restart the farm after he sold everything? He is way too rich for this to be a business thing. Not to mention the fact it's in the middle of winter and there's a baby in the way. "
"Because, little lady, now's tha time!" The Dairy King spread his arms in a grand gesture, a reference to everything and everyone around him. "Now's tha perfect time ta be startin' the dairy again, dontcha know!" He then turned conspiratorial. "And I told 'im to," he whispered. "Tha boy's just as bad at readin' signs as you seem ta be. Dunno why, he's got tha gift somethin' fierce, he jus' doesn't seem ta wanna use it fer nothin' tha's nae money an' you. Well, at least you're quite tha pretty prize. I knew you'd be a pretty little lady when I firs' saw you, dontcha know." He reached out, trailing his fingers down her cheek.
Danny flinched before she pulled away. This was getting creepy. She tried to shake thoughts of conspiracy from her head. He was just a kindly old man...right? "You… you don't mean at the reunion, do you?" she asked slowly. "When I was fourteen and I met Vlad for the first time..."
"Yea, then. Even then you were a pretty little lady. I just knew you'd be a pretty little princess for my lonely wayward nephew." The Dairy King sighed happily, looking at her as a father to a favored daughter. "He were so lonely dontcha know. And always chasin' after women far beneath'im. Never got a single little babe outta any of them tho he tried. I made sure he tried. I was just so happy when I seen you, little lady. I seen you and that you were just like my poor lonely Vladimir."
The Dairy King made a face. "An' then he had ta go wastin' the first few years chasin' your mother, dontcha know. I told 'im there weren't no reason ta wait for you ta grow up, you could grow up here with us! But no, he insisted we wait."
"He.. you.. wait... what!" The blood rushed to Danny's head and suddenly she needed to sit down. The floor served well enough. She landed on the carpet with a bump. "You.. You're a part of this? You told Vlad to..."
The light from her hands went out and she dropped her head in her hands. They had been planning this since she was fourteen. Since the day she first came in contact with Vlad. All the battles they had fought, in the back of Vlad's mind he was deciding whether or not we wanted her to…
"He wasn't lying," she realized. "This wasn't just a random desperate thing…"
Danny's brain hurt. All those years preparing for college, trying desperately to get her schoolwork done while fighting ghosts. Every day she worked and tried and strove rendered pointless by the scheming of two crackpots.
The Dairy King glanced down at young Theodore. The bull blinked then mooed, kneeling down next to Daniella and laying his head in her lap. He mooed plaintively, trying to offer comfort and solicit petting.
"Of course he wasn't lyin', dontcha know. And of course it weren't all his choice neither. No, not at all. You see, little lady, he was goin' ta be makin' someone an honest woman outta them. But what's the point if there aren't any little babes comin' outta that marriage? Love alone don't make any heirs. We're monarchs, dontcha know. Monarchs a the moo-cow, kings a cream, dukes a dairy..." The Dairy King paused for a moment. "I gotta find somethin' that starts with a 'ch' for cheese. Anyway, I'd all but given up hope for the boy until you came around. And now..." The Dairy King turned scheming red eyes onto Daniella. There was a triumph there, the triumph of a ghost in the midst of his deepest obsession. "And now you're here, little lady."
Danny's arm tightened around Theodore's neck, hard enough for him to grunt in protest. "That's what this is about isn't it?" she muttered softly, her eyes glowing hot with green energy. She stood slowly, her body shaking as she tried to come to terms with this hot scoop of crazy that had been dumped in her lap. She tossed her hair back and glared at the Dairy King. "Are you seriously telling me I was kidnapped to continue a line of Wisconsin dairy royalty!?"
"Ugh!" Her scream was powerful enough to make the floor shake. She clenched her fists, trying to calm herself enough to avoid a ghostly wail. Theodore trembled but the Dairy King looked unimpressed by her outburst.
"And you!" she shouted, teeth bared. "I thought you were just a nice old ghost but you're just as insane as everyone else! You're not even really a king! You're just a dairy farmer in a stupid hat!"
"Now see here, little lady!" the Dairy King scolded.
"What is the meaning of this?!" Vlad demanded.
Danny turned to her captor, her hand glowing brightly. She was so very tempted to send a plasma bolt right into his face. She opened her mouth to yell again but Theodore reared up and pushed her over, pinning her to the floor as he knelt down over her chest and laid his head on her belly. She struggled but she wouldn't hit her cow. Danny glared up a Vlad from the floor. The Dairy King floated near the ceiling, his arms crossed sternly.
Vlad pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, glaring from Daniella to the Dairy King and back again. He wondered what he'd walked in on and if he could possibly get some sensible answers out of either of the combatants. He searched for something to say, something to ask. And yet there were far too many questions, none of which he would enjoy the answers to.
A plaintive moo and the stench of cow brought his attention. At least this was something he could address. "Would either of you mind telling me why there's a cow in the castle?" he asked, slowly and deliberately.
The Dairy King made the effort to look innocent and unknowing. Vlad glared at him. Well, that answered that...
Danny huffed from her place on the floor; she had more pressing questions than why there was a cow in the castle. "He wouldn't go back to the barn," she snapped, trying mightily to remain civil. "It was let him in or let him freeze to death. After that he kept following me." She tried to push herself up but Theo didn't budge. "If you don't mind though I'd like to know a few things about this room full of dusty old portraits and your crazy ghost uncle."
"She says it like it's a bad thing," the Dairy King huffed. "As if readin' signs ta be makin' the right decisions is a bad thing."
Vlad hid behind his hands. If he hid long enough maybe his crazy uncle would go away. It didn't work. Time for the next best thing. "Daniella... Will you come with me?" he asked. "Somewhere less..." Less crazy? Less judgemental? Less cheesy? "Less dark?"
Danny growled angrily. "I fucking swear, Vlad, I will not be your dairy maid!" She shoved Theodore away and took to the air, floating out of her cow's reach so he couldn't tackle her again. She shook her head, making for the door. "I've changed my mind, I don't care. I already know what you're going to tell me anyway. The Dairy King did a wonderful job of explaining why I need to carry on the family line. I mean what would all the cheese do without a leader?"
Vlad glared at the Dairy King as Danny stormed off down the hallway. He sighed, glared, opened his mouth and then...
"She were wanderin'," the Dairy King said. "I had ta keep watch on her, dontcha know."
Vlad growled. "I don't have time for this, Uncle," he snapped. "Just... get the cow back in the barn." And then he ran off down the hallway.
"Daniella, stop!" he shouted. "Listen to me!"
"I don't want to hear it, Vlad!" Danny picked up speed, flying down the hallway. "I get it now. This is what you meant about not having a choice. You and your uncle are absolutely insane!"
There was a flash of black light behind her and Plasmius was catching up. Danny growled and shot down the hallway at full speed, flying into the entrance hall and up to the chandelier. "I can't believe you, Vlad! You're not a king and neither was your uncle! Just because you live in this moldy old castle doesn't entitle you to anything, especially not me!" She pulled a crystal from the chandelier and threw it at him. "And I won't let you brainwash my child!"
Danny flitted through the chandelier like a ghost in the fog. Vlad took a crystal to the head, faceted glass bouncing off as he raised his arm to block the next volleys. After a few good hits he went intangible. "Daniella, come down, let's talk about this," he pleaded. "I won't even be angry about breaking into the west wing."
"I don't care. You can be as angry as you want, you old loon! Or should I call you 'Your Majesty, King of the Fruitloops'." She gripped the chandelier's golden chain and pulled to punctuate her point, sending the whole fixture swaying and its lights flickering. "You're sick, you know that! How long have I been a piece of meat to make your babies?! Were you even my arch enemy at all? Was everything I fought for just a game to you!?" Danny screamed and yanked the chain hard.
The chandelier seemed to hover for a moment as it went dark, as the chain tore from the ceiling. And then it fell. Shards of crystal flew everywhere as the chandelier met with the stone floor and both shattered. Neither Vlad nor Danny even noticed.
"I never wanted this!" Vlad shouted. "How do I make you see that? I wanted your mother, some measure of control over my own life, anything! Not this! I never wanted this for you, I swear it! But you! You never could let me chase Maddie in peace, no, of course not. And then the cloning! Why else would I view little Daniel as a failure? Think about it! If only you'd let me finish it we wouldn't be here, you'd be living out your life with the perfect clone in your place."
"But no..." Vlad's red eyes glared in the darkness. "You couldn't even let me save you from me. You had to ruin it all again. You brought this fate upon yourself, my dear. You made sure you became my only option."
"You never deserved options, Vlad!" she shouted. "You don't have the right to ruin anyone's life, mine or my mother's!" Danny wanted to punch him so bad but getting into close proximity with him never worked out in her favor. "Even if I was a clone I would still hate you because you're still a ruthless, heartless, insane jerkface who abuses anyone he's ever come in contact with! Daniel figured that out soon enough and any child you have with me will know it to! Face it Vlad, you're going to be alone and miserable for the rest of your life and it's all your fault!"
"And where would you be without me?" Vlad demanded. "Barely graduating high school, flitting from menial job to menial job, never getting into college, never holding down a job for more than a few weeks before you have to drop everything to hunt some ghost, always relying on your parents, always disappointing them? Without me your life would go nowhere! You would do nothing! Here I at least give you a chance to do something with yourself! To become something more than a failure! How have I ruined your life then, hm? How!"
He growled at her, flying a few feet behind her as she darted around the room. "I never ruined your life, Daniella," he purred. "I gave you one. Even from the very beginning all I've done is give you your life. Give you your power. Give you your chances. I gave you the only reason you had to develop your powers! I'm giving you a chance at something here."
"Fuck your chances!" Danny yelled, puling her foot away just before Vlad could grab it. "No one cares if the Dairy King legacy goes on besides you and your uncle!" She dove through the wreckage of glass before making for the stairs up to her room. Maybe if she turned on the ghost shield and barricaded the door Vlad wouldn't be able to get inside. She flew towards the door only to be blinded by another flash of light as Vlad appeared in front of her. She barely had time to think the words 'fucking teleportation' before she smacked headlong into his chest.
A hand closed around her dress, blunted claws digging into the fabric. "I'd still rather be a failure than here with you," she snarled. "I'd even rather be dead."
"You forget," Vlad purred. "You're not the only one affected by your decisions anymore." He reached down and grabbed her belly, fingers digging into her flesh hard enough to make her gasp. "Could you really condemn an innocent to death simply to rid yourself of the burden of life? Your actions have consequences, my dear. Am I really so horrible that you'd kill to rid yourself of me?"
"Stop touching me! You'll hurt them!" Danny slammed her knee into his belly and wiggled in his grasp. Vlad grunted in pain but kept her pinned to the wall. His eyes flared and he snarled at her, very softly. Danny shivered and stopped squirming, suddenly very afraid of what he might do. "No… I won't.. I cant.. You know I won't..."
She went slack, her black hair falling over her eyes as she admitted defeat. "Fine, you win, Vlad. Just let me go."
Vlad loosened his grip on her but didn't let go, not really. He kept his hands on her shoulders, gently stroking her both to try to calm her down and to prevent her from falling over. The books did mention something about fainting and she was well known for it on the battlefield after anything really strenuous. "Come down to the parlor with me," he offered. "I'll have some hot chocolate made and you can ask me all the questions you want about my family."
Danny slumped bonelessly against the wall. Just like that another fight was defused with absolutely no progress made towards anything. She wanted to hide somewhere and lock the door but that wouldn't to her any good. She had to remember that this wasn't for her, it was for the child. Maybe... maybe she could convince Vlad to return to even some little bit of sanity. After all, she seemed to be the linchpin that was keeping from going on a rampage. "Only if you swear to answer everything I ask you," she said flatly. She pulled away from his touch and steadied herself on her feet.
"So long as you answer one question of mine," Vlad agreed. "So... why are you wearing my underwear?"
Danny stopped dead in her tracks, embarrassment reigning before indignation kicked in. "Because you obviously feel the need to look up my skirt when I'm flying," she snapped, glaring at him. "It's bad enough you took away my jumpsuit! Perverted fruitloop."
"As if your jumpsuit fits anymore," Vlad mused. "You were the one complaining it's too tight to move properly in. I'm sure your dress is at least somewhat preferable to flying around naked." A shade appeared and was then sent off as he led her to the parlor. "That still doesn't answer my question. Why are you wearing my underwear?"
"Because my butt was cold," she huffed angrily. She phased through the wall and plopped on a sofa. Her white rings flashed and she turned human, bonding the underwear to her ghost form. She was stuck without again but at least now Vlad couldn't take them away. She curled up on one end of the sofa and rested her head on a pillow. "I found your DVD collection, too," she grumbled, trying to change the topic. "How come I'm not allowed to watch TV?"
"Because I figured if you were less reminded of your old life and the outside world you'd acclimate easier," Vlad said, answering truthfully. "I wanted to make the transition as quick and easy as possible." The shade returned with a tray. Two mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream, a bowl of marshmallows, another bowl of peppermint candies, and a plate of cookies. Vlad picked up one of the mugs and licked the whipped cream off the top.
"Well you're doing a really crappy job of it," Danny muttered. She picked up her mug and curled into an even tighter ball. "Anyway I have better questions." She looked up at Vlad, a hand straying to her belly. "You don't actually want to be the dairy king do you? I know you hate cows. So your uncle had to be lying about a few things."
"I would not be surprised," Vlad admitted. "My uncle always was a scheming fruitloop. But I didn't always hate cows. When I was much younger I loved cows. They were my pets. All of them. I learned how to ride a cow perhaps a decade before I learned horseback riding. Heck, I remember playing with your father in the barn, we'd hide behind the cows and try and aim the udders at each other and squeeze..." Vlad trailed off. He didn't want to remind Danny of her parents. Yes. That was why he stopped. It had nothing to do with his own pain at the ruined friendship or the utter embarrassment he felt admitting such incidents from his past to anyone.
Danny tilted her head and sipped slowly from her mug. She had definitely not heard that one before. She wondered if she should believe him or not but it was a rather odd and embarrassing thing to lie about. The thought of Vlad and her father being friends just seemed so wrong, though. "But you still got rid of them and your picture isn't on the wall with the other dairy kings. You kicked the rest of the family out so why does your uncle get to sit around and encourage you to kidnap people?" She picked up a spoon and mixed in the whipped cream to sweeten her cocoa, throw in a few marshmallows...
"I inherited the dairy and its fortune after the accident," Vlad said. "My family was... less than willing to accept me in the position. Nothing I did was good enough. Everything that went wrong was my fault. Even something as random as a rainstorm was somehow my fault. It didn't help that my ghost powers were manifesting after so much time spent in the hospital."
He sipped his cocoa and leaned back on the couch cushions. This was a difficult story for him to tell but there was some vague satisfaction in reliving his ultimate triumph. "I had to embezzle my own money from my own company to start VladCo on the side. I supplemented it with money stolen from banks, acquired by weaselling my way into the wills of dying millionaires, various other 'evil' methods you've attributed to me before. All done with one plan in mind. I was going to buy the dairy from myself. Buy out the rest of the family and send them packing. But they refused. So I did the next best thing. I poisoned the milk. The dairy was ruined. What was left of the cows were sold for whatever price the family could get. And then I evicted them all from the castle. My portrait isn't on the wall because the first time the castle blew up I didn't feel that painting deserved to be repaired."
Danny groaned, put her mug down, grabbed a pillow, and face planted onto the sofa, covering her head with the pillow. This was getting her nowhere. She lifted her head and glared at Vlad. "Honestly, Vlad I'm not really in the mood for whatever tragic backstory you're going to claim," she said. "Not even the part where you killed innocent people to ruin a dairy. I know you're messed up and I know why you're messed up. Really, all we're missing here is an evil stepmother." She tossed the pillow across the room and sat up. "Let's try this again. All I really need is my facts set straight. Your whole life you've been like a dog chasing its tail, fine, I get that. Always wanting something but that thing always out of reach. You wanted power and you wanted out so you cheated and conned your way out from underneath your family. Then it was all about getting more power and money. It's different now though, because five years ago you decided you wanted something else."
Danny got up and walked over to Vlad. She felt strange all of a sudden, like a thought had crossed her mind for the first time. "There's a huge time gap between when you gained your ghost powers and when you started stalking my mother. If she was always your prize then you had plenty of time before Jazz or I were born. The Vlad who kicked his family out is not this Vlad. So don't tell me stories about him because I don't give two shits. I don't even care about the creepy Dairy King stuff; it's just more fruitloop to deal with." She poked him in the chest to punctuate her point. "I want to know why. I want to know what made you change gears so hard that you went from plotting supervillain to desperate skirt chaser. I want to know that because that's the real reason I'm here."
"You want to know why," Vlad mused. "Why I chased your mother. Why I chased you. Why I waited so long." He sipped his cocoa again, wishing he had something stronger to put in it. "Very well."
"Vengeance, mostly," he admitted. "It was all for vengeance. After I kicked out the family I was finally free to spend all my time on what I wanted. Power. Something I'd never really had before. And of course with power came money. And that was fine for a while. A rather long while, really. Until I turned 40. Then... Well... Then I realized how... empty my life really was. I needed more. I decided that first I needed closure over what had happened to me. I needed Jack Fenton to pay for his mistake. So I came up with the plan to seduce away from him that which he loved most: your mother.
"And I failed. Worse, the Dairy King sussed out your existence. I kept him and his twisted attempts at setting me up with you at bay by continuing to work toward my goal of vengeance. At first it worked. I'd decided I was going to kill Jack or die trying. But after your mother rejected me I started to have doubts. That's when I started toying with the idea of cloning while continuing to pursue Maddie. But after three years of being rejected, ignored, denied... I'm not an idiot, Daniella. I could see I was grasping at straws. I was looking for any excuse to avoid my uncle's twisted attempts at setting me up with you. So... I gave up resisting."
"So it was his idea then." Danny sighed. "At least now I know you're not such a creep that you've been planning this since before I hit puberty." Danny turned away and eyed the room. Maybe she should just curl up under a chair.
"I have another question," she said quickly. "If I were a clone or if I was brainwashed or if you did manage to break me, which you won't, but…" She trailed off as she lost her nerve. "Nevermind." She went back to the couch and curled up. "It doesn't matter now. You and I can bite and throw things all we want but it won't change the facts."
Vlad was curious about her question but didn't ask. Instead he plucked a cookie off of the tray and dunked it in his cocoa. "Lamenting about facts that we can't change doesn't help us adapt to them," he said. "Was there anything else?" He wondered if she would be receptive to allowing him to drape his arm over her shoulders.
Danny glared at him. "One last thing," she said. "I meant what I said before, Vlad. I'm not going to bend for this 'dairy king' shit. If you want cows I'll raise cows but the line of Wisconsin dairy royalty ends here. No more crowns and no more paintings. I'm not letting any son or daughter of mine become a fruitloop."
"I think that should be up to them, don't you think?" Vlad asked. "I'll grant you this. No stupid hats, no royal cloaks. As far as I'm concerned that dreadful costume died with my uncle. But paintings..." Vlad sat back and munched on cocoa-dipped cookie. "Why no more portraits?"
"Because that's something that pompous royalty do," Danny grumbled. "I meant ones like you have in that creepy room. The generational ones. There's nicer, less crazy ways to document your family line." She kicked her feet over the side of the sofa and laid down, resting her head on the cushions about an inch away from Vlad's thigh.
Vlad made a noncommittal hum. "Nobody appreciates anything handmade anymore," he muttered. "What if I were to show you some of the less... crazy portraits? Some of them are quite pretty, actually. There's one of my sister and I at the lake, several of the castle itself, one of the rose garden that you might like to see... The portraits in the Monarch's Hall up there are supposed to be stuffy and crazy. That doesn't mean they all have to be. Perhaps you'd like to sit for a portrait."
"Wouldn't that require the presence of another human being?" she asked. "I thought that was against the rules."
"The painter could be a ghost," Vlad allowed. "Many skilled artists never finish their work and continue on with a very real need to create. There's one I've worked with before."
Danny crossed her arms and frowned. "You'd just dress me up like a princess again."
Vlad looked her up and down, seeming almost innocently sheepish in his appraisal. "I would," he admitted. "You make a beautiful princess, my dear. But diamonds and pearls aren't what create your beauty, they merely accent it. Sometimes even detract from it. A single rose can sometimes speak more than dozens."
Danny frowned, absently tugging her dress over her legs. Vlad's complements were starting to slip past her defences. No one ever called her beautiful back home but her archenemy had a habit of doing it as often as possible. "What would you even do with a portrait of me?" she wondered aloud. "You wouldn't have chosen me, remember? Any picture of me like this would just preserve how we both failed. This isn't exactly a part of my life I need captured in oil and paint."
Because if you do run away after having our child I'd like them to have something to remember their mother, Vlad thought. But he couldn't say it. If he said it then it might come true and she might still run away. "Just because I wouldn't have chosen you doesn't mean I don't want to remember this," he said. "I very much want to remember you like this. I'm sure our child would want to see their mother like this as well."
"And this is your mother two months after she was kidnapped and forced into pregnancy. Isn't it such a lovely memento?" She sighed and rested both her hands to her stomach. "Fine," she whispered. "If it's for the kid…"
"It will take some time to contact the artist," Vlad said. That and he wanted to hold off on her portrait until she was a little fuller, a little rounder. If he was right about her then she would look absolutely exquisite as she grew with pregnancy. "A few weeks at least. Perhaps before then I can show you one of the less... crazy galleries. So you have a better idea as to what you can expect."
"Hmm," Danny hummed listlessly. She didn't mind if he took his time; maybe she'd get lucky and Vlad would forget about it. The ghost girl rested her head on her upper arm and closed her eyes. "It's your damn panting."
A still moment passed in silence before her lips parted for a one word question. "Vlad?"
"Yes, my dear?"
"My head hurts," she murmured, moaning softly and curling into herself again.
Vlad put down his empty mug and slid across the couch to her. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to rest against his chest. "I don't doubt it," he said. "Today has not been easy."
Danny let her shoulders slump and rested her head on Vlad's chest. The pounding in her temple had built steadily out of confusion and exasperation and now it was hard to think of anything else. She tried to open her eyes but the room started to spin around her and she quickly shut them, moaning in pain.
Ugh, she hated being pregnant. She felt so weak and useless. "How often do woman die in childbirth anyway?" she wondered.
"Very rarely," Vlad said. Still, today had likely been a horrible shock to her, body and mind. He would need to keep an eye on her for the next few days to make sure she and the baby didn't suffer any ill effects. He ran his hand through her hair, petting her to calm her down. To make sure she knew she was safe. "Close your eyes, my dear," he whispered. "Do you need me to check you out in the infirmary?"
Danny shivered and shook her head. She did not need to add another checkup to her regiment. "No… No thanks... I just need to lie down for a little bit."
"Do you want me to take you to bed?" Vlad asked. Although considering the way she was curled on his chest... "Or we could stay here if you'd like."
Danny bit her lip, Vlad was warm and her bedroom was probably ice-cold. It took a while for that room to warm up properly. She figured that came with living in a drafty old castle. "Here is good, just don't move," she murmured.
Vlad got comfortable and wrapped his arms around her. She was warm, somewhat. There was a chilling cold that lurked underneath the surface, masked by the warmth of a living body. He kissed the crown of her head, nuzzling her hair as he inhaled her scent. "Get some sleep," he whispered. "I'll keep you warm."
"Mmm," Danny hummed. Her head felt better if she didn't think about things. It was a lot easier to just relax and wait for the pain to go away. Then she would push Vlad off her and go hide in bed or under a desk or in the greenhouse for a few days. Right now though this was nice...
There is a short associated with this chapter. Check out The Prince's Choice (chapter 34 of Danny Phantom's Shorts) for more of the Dairy King's scheming.