It was late in the evening and Danny was pacing the length of his room, agitated and nervous as he toyed with a glowing ball of green ectoplasm in his hand, gently tossing it back and forth in an effort to calm himself. He couldn't stop thinking about everything that Clockwork had shown him and his mind was working too quickly for him to keep up with.
On the one hand was the fact that he was forced to admit that Vlad had not had a good start in life and it was bound to have an effect on him as a person. But, Danny couldn't completely forget everything that Vlad had done to him. Vlad was generally not a good person and no matter why he was the way he was, it didn't change that fact that Vlad and Danny were enemies.
His sister and two friends were sat around the room on his bed and on the plush, much used chairs. They'd arranged to have a 'sleepover' at his house so that Sam and Tucker's parents wouldn't notice them missing in the night and so far all they'd done was spend a few hours watching him storm around town looking for ghosts, and then return to his room to watch him pace again.
"Danny, I wish you'd just calm down," Sam sighed.
"How can I calm down?!" he boy snapped, the ectoplasm in his hands flaring up with his words. "Whoa..." Danny yelped, looking down at his hands in shock as he worked to control his power again.
"Maybe it won't be as bad as you think..." Jazz said, attempting to calm her brother down.
"...I thought about asking mom and dad, but..." Danny trailed off uneasily, "...I dunno...maybe I should just try and talk to Vlad first..."
"Don't you think that's a little risky?" Jazz asked.
"Yes...no...maybe..." the young hybrid sighed, "I don't know, that's just it. I know I told Clockwork I'd talk to the guy, but what am I supposed to say? I can't just go up to him and say 'hey, Vlad, I'm really not here to fight, only I've just found out that you're my godfather and no one bothered to tell me. Would you mind explaining that, please?' He'll go nuts!"
"Not to mention blast you through a dozen buildings with a ghost ray," Tucker added.
"Thanks, Tuck," Danny murmured.
"And then he'd probably..."
"Knock it off," Sam threw a cushion from her chair at him and he grumbled in protest.
"I'm dead, aren't I?" Danny asked sadly.
"Yep," Sam answered happily.
"Thanks for the support, guys...maybe I should go by myself."
"No way, we already agreed..." Tucker began.
"I know, but I...I really want to deal with this myself..." Danny sighed, "I still can't believe that after everything he's done...how could he do all that...I just don't get it. If he really cared why would he keep trying to kill me?!"
"Danny..." Jazz said quietly, "How much more powerful would you say Vlad is...compared to you, I mean?"
"More than a little...try a heck of a lot!" her brother moaned.
"Well...if he really meant to kill you...don't you think you'd be dead already, then?"
"...Good point...kinda..." Tucker muttered, "...Guess we never thought of it like that..."
"He's beat me up often enough," Danny scowled as he made the ectoplasm in his hands dissipate and floated up above the floor lying on his stomach.
"And you have gotten better at fighting because of it," Jazz pointed out.
"Of course I have, because he never gives up!" the young hybrid yelled and his sister pinned him with a look that said she clearly thought he was an idiot.
"Don't you remember seeing how Vlad's dad taught him how to fight? It's the same thing..."
"Jazz!" Danny exclaimed, "Just...stop tryin'a...humanise him!"
"But he is human..."
"No, he's not!"
"He's half human, just like you are, and the human Vlad went through a heck of a lot for a kid before he even got his ghost powers," Jazz said, "Both our parents love us and they'd never treat us the way his dad treated him. That kind of abuse leaves mental scars on people that don't ever fully heal no matter how old or powerful they get," she continued with confidence.
"I think you've spent too much time with your head in the books, Jazz. The only scars he's leaving are on me when he throws me through buildings and electrocutes me!"
"I know, and I'm not condoning any of that," Jazz frowned, "I'll never forgive him for what he's done to you or dad or mom, but he's not just a black and white, evil comic book villain for you to defeat, Danny."
"No one is just good or evil; even the best people can do bad things...I thought you'd learnt that already."
"I...yeah...I guess you're right..." Danny sighed, "But it's still..."
"I know," Jazz nodded, "But we'll be there with you, for...moral support," she smiled.
"And ectoplasm butt kicking support," Sam grinned, "...Whether you want it or not."
"I feel safer already," Danny gave a small smile.
As soon as Danny's parents turned off their light and went to sleep, he and his friends floated down into the lab and into the Spectre Speeder.
"Are you sure you know where this portal is, Danny?" Jazz asked him.
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure," he nodded, "And if I get lost, trust me, it's not easy to miss."
"Somehow, that's not exactly comforting," Sam murmured as she slung a huge Fenton Foamer gun over her shoulder.
She, Tucker and Jazz were busy trying to carry as many ghost weapons as they could, and though they knew that Vlad would still probably have the upper hand, it made them feel more secure.
"Come on," Danny sighed, "Let's get this over with," he said, leading the way through into the Fenton Portal and into the Ghost Zone.
After a while they found the ridiculously large purple football and it was impossible not to stare at it. It was impossible to know whether to laugh or cry.
"This is it," Danny breathed quietly, hovering in front of the portal.
"Wow..." Tucker raised an eyebrow, "It's so...obvious..."
"That's Vlad for you," Sam scoffed, "Now, are we just gonna stare at this thing or are we gonna do this?"
"This is not gonna be good," Danny muttered to himself as he pushed back the football.
They soon found themselves entering Vlad's high tech lab and Jazz expertly parked the Spectre Speeder without a sound while Danny lit up the dark empty room with a glowing ball of ectoplasm in his hand.
"Kinda creepy," Tucker remarked as he got out of the vehicle and looked around at the room now illuminated by green light.
Jazz handed both Sam and Tucker a selection of ghost weapons and not for the first time that night, Danny had a bad feeling about the whole idea; he had ghost powers and he couldn't match up to Vlad, so his friends would fare even worse than he would if it ended up in a fight.
"Let's do this," Sam grinned and Danny sighed heavily.
They walked through the house, moving slowly and carefully from room to room with an increasing sense of foreboding. It didn't help their nerves when the castle was so empty, silent and dark, giving the impression of being an old set from a horror film.
It seemed to take an age to scour the length of the castle and eventually, they came to the building's main siting room. It was the biggest room in the castle and had a decidedly medieval feel about it. The bottom half of the walls was lined with wood panelling while the upper half was painted a deep red.
It was different from when Danny had first seen the place and he had to admit he liked this version rather than the green and gold from Vlad's football obsession.
The room was in total darkness except for a large fire burning at the far end in a huge stone fireplace. The soothing crackling from the fire along with a quiet, rough cough every few seconds were the only sounds that Danny could hear. As he looked around at the expensive and unfamiliar furniture and bric-a-brac around him, Danny began to regret his decision.
"Come to fight, have we, children?" Vlad suddenly asked and Danny and his friends jumped.
"How'd you know we..." the boy trailed off, "...Never mind," he muttered, looking around the room for Vlad. He traced the source of the voice to one of the huge arm chairs around the fire and he floated slowly over to face Vlad.
He had several thick blankets covering him, his skin was paler than usual and he looked much less prim and proper with his white hair loose around his shoulders and his long cotton shirt sleeves rolled back. "Wow...you look terrible," Danny remarked.
"Go away," the older hybrid muttered.
"Now!" he yelled, his eyes glowing red.
"Don't even think about trying anything funny," Sam smirked, powering up her weapon, "We're armed."
"Oh, please," Vlad rolled his eyes, "Even in this state, you wouldn't stand a chance..." he growled but his voice was too hoarse and he ended up coughing again.
"...You got a cold or something?" Danny asked.
"I did just recover from Ecto-ache, Daniel."
"That was like two weeks ago," Danny replied, "And Sam and Tucker are okay..."
"Of course they are, I only gave them a..." Vlad stopped quickly.
"What?" Danny frowned.
"Nothing," the older hybrid sighed, "Why are you still here?!"
"...Because..." the boy fidgeted, "Well, it's because...I..."
"Just spit it out, Danny," Sam muttered to him.
"Shut it," Danny mumbled back, "Well, Vlad...see...erm...I kinda found out you're my godfather..." he said so quietly even Vlad had a hard time hearing it. Of course it didn't help that he wasn't functioning at a hundred percent either.
"You did what?" Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"...I know you're mine and Jazz's godfather, okay?!" Danny threw up his arms, "There I said it! I know you're our godfather and I can't believe no one ever told me before! I mean, you never thought to mention it in between fights, did you?"
"I assure you, I have absolutely no idea..."
"Don't even try it, Plasmius, I really know it's true," Danny sighed.
"Ah..." Vlad murmured quietly.
"Ah," Danny repeated, "I was expecting something a little more...well...I don't know..."
"Who told you? Your parents?”
"Doesn't matter," the boy shrugged, "I know now. Why didn't anyone ever say anything?
"It was best all round if you didn't know," Vlad scoffed, "Especially after our...somewhat rocky start at my reunion party."
"...Is there anything else I should know?" the boy asked sarcastically.
"Well, since you asked so very nicely," Vlad replied in a simple tone, "You're also the main benefactor of my will," he said and Danny almost choked on thin air.
"It's true, aside from a few minor donations to a cousin of mine and about half a dozen colleges, you inherit the lions' share, so to speak...of course, your sister, Jasmine, in the unfortunate event of my demise, will receive enough to live in considerable luxury as well."
"W...what...why would you do that?" Danny blinked, sharing a look of utter confusion with his equally stunned friends and sister.
"In total, I own seven major companies employing around 500,000 people worldwide and I have shares in twenty three smaller companies. My entire estate is worth around fifty billion dollars and is expected to double within the next few years..."
"T...then what the heck are you thinking leaving it to me? You don't even like me, we hate each other!" Danny spluttered.
"Who else is there?" the man shrugged, "You are my godson whether you like it or not."
"...I'm still not going to be your creepy apprentice or whatever just because you say you've..."
"I don't expect anything in return, you were never meant to know about any of this."
"Kindly stop gawping at me, Daniel," Vlad rolled his eyes.
"...Gawping..." Danny repeated incredulously, "But this...it doesn't...I don't get it!"
"You don't have to 'get it', it is what it is."
"I don't expect you to understand," Vlad said, "After all, you're a child, and don't know the first thing about me."
"Don't know anything, huh?" Danny murmured, sharing a look with his friends. Jazz shook her head but Danny ignored it as he turned back to Vlad, "Your dad's called Vladislav and your mother is called Rosalyn, you have an uncle called Alexei and a cousin called Valya, she used to call you 'Vladdie' just like my dad..."
"...Your favourite book is 'Dracula' and when you ran away from home you left your mom a note in it."
"Daniel..." Vlad warned.
"...Your dad beat you up and..."
"Enough!" Vlad yelled suddenly his eyes glowing red, "Enough!" he growled.
Vlad suddenly vanished from his armchair and reappeared in front of Danny, he reached out his hand to grip the boy's throat. He lifted Danny up against the wall and his back hit the hard surface painfully as Vlad squeezed his neck with a snarl.
"Danny!" Jazz cried and fired her ecto gun at Vlad. But he simply turned around and raised a hand to absorb the energy from the attack making it fizzle away in his hand.
"...J...azz...don't..." Danny gasped out, his hands still fighting uselessly against Vlad's own that was around his throat.
"Are you crazy?!" Sam exclaimed, "He started it! This is war!"
"Well, if it's war you want, it is a war you shall get," Vlad snarled at Danny, ignoring the boy's friends.
"D...don't w...want...war..." Danny managed to say.
Vlad was still in his human form and this hadn't escaped Jazz's notice, she knew that Vlad relished any opportunity to prove that he was different and better than anyone else, so what wasn't he doing so now? He'd said earlier that he was 'recovering' so maybe the ecto-acne disease had a more detrimental, and lasting effect on his health than they'd thought. But with him trying to strangle her little brother, Vlad wasn't doing much to help her think in his favour.
"Put him down, Vlad," Jazz said with confidence, "If you wanted a fight you would've transformed already."
"I don't need to," the older hybrid scoffed, "You children are weak compared to me!" he said, watching Danny gasp for air.
"Maybe we are," Jazz said, "But everything Danny said is true, we both know it. Is strangling my brother going to change any of it?"
Vlad sighed and suddenly loosened his grip on Danny's neck, letting the boy drop to the floor, coughing and spluttering at the abuse done to his throat.
"Very clever, Jasmine," Vlad murmured, turning away from Danny and walking over to the fire. He glanced down at his left hand, the one he'd used to absorb the attack from Jazz's weapon, with a grimace at the pale skin that was slightly singed. "Very clever," he repeated, "But you must be bluffing, you can't possibly know..."
"Oh, we know, alright," Tucker remarked, "And you should know that I was rooting for you on more than one occasion, dude," he said and Sam elbowed him sharply. "What?" the techno-geek demanded, "I was!"
"What are you talking about?!" Vlad hissed, his head snapping around to glare at them.
"Blame Clockwork," Danny said, pushing himself up off the floor and rubbing at his aching throat, "He thought he'd teach me a lesson, apparently," he added, his voice slowly returning to normal.
"And what does my personal life have to do with your 'lesson'?"
"Everything," Jazz answered.
"He...he erm..." Danny fidgeted uncomfortably, "He kinda...maybe...showed me the past...your past...when you first got your powers...and then he showed all of us...you...when you were a kid...I told him not to, really, I did but..."
"What?!" Vlad yelled, "What right could he possibly have to do that?!"
"Dude is the Master of Time," Tucker murmured.
"Of ghost time," Vlad hissed, "Not mine!"
"You're half ghost," Sam remarked.
"All of you just get out," the man breathed deeply, willing away his red eyes, "I don't want to have to look at you for at least a month and I won't be held responsible for my actions if you stay."
"Well, if you'd learn to control your temper..." Danny began.
"You haven't learned yet, Daniel, even after all this time you still don't understand," Vlad shook his head.
"U...understand what?" Danny asked.
"All ghosts have an obsession, Daniel, it's not something they can ignore or avoid or change. Skulker's for example is the hunt, the Box Ghost - for some ridiculous reason, is..."
"Boxes..." Danny muttered, "...And bubble wrap," he added and Vlad nodded.
"Yes," the man said, "...Yours is to protect others, while mine...mine has always been and will always be to protect myself. I can't change that and neither can you...and you don't help matters by antagonising me," he finished, walking slowly across the room to sit back in his chair.
"Protecting yourself?" Danny repeated, confused, "You're, like, the most powerful ghost in the Ghost Zone, it's not like you even have to try and..."
"Don't you see? Don't you understand?" Vlad snapped quickly, "I have to protect myself, I don't have a choice in that. I have to look out for myself because..."
"Because you couldn't back then..." Jazz said.
"...Exactly," Vlad sighed, leaning his elbows on his knees and resting his hands in his hair, his face turned down at the floor. For a moment he stayed like that, until he pushed his hair back and sat up, turning to look at Jazz, "You know, you really are quite bright," he said with some amount of bitterness, "Has anyone ever told you, you should be a psychologist?"
"Frequently," Jazz frowned, "And don't change the subject."
"Very well," Vlad raised an eyebrow, "So tell me, what did you really come here for, Daniel?" he asked, turning his attention to the boy. "Surely it's not merely to gloat that you have such a powerful ally to show you all of my dark secrets."
"Course not," Danny scoffed, "Only you'd think something like that."
"Well he did, didn't he?"
"Erm...maybe..." the young hybrid gulped, rubbing the back of his neck, nervously, "So...you redecorated...it looks...nice..." he said quickly.
"Yes, Daniel, I redecorated," Vlad furrowed his brow and shook his head incredulously, "People do that on occasion, and people with money tend to redecorate quite frequently. Now, back to the problem at hand; what do you want?"
Vlad's unrelenting stare never failed to send a chill down Danny's spine and even his friends and sister could feel a need to run and hide, but they refused to do so.
"What do I want?" Danny repeated, "I want to know why you're such a jerk to me all the time! I want to know why you won't leave my dad alone and I want you to stop treating me like your own personal pawn!"
"Is that all?" Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"No, y'know what, that's not all," Danny exclaimed, "If you're really my godfather how d'you get off trying to kill me every other day? That's not right! And another thing you infected my best friends with a potentially lethal disease just to save your own skin! What kind of person does that?!"
"If I hadn't done what I did I would have died," Vlad replied coldly.
"You could've asked for help, did you ever think of that?" Danny emphasised.
"I never ask for anything, and you certainly never would have listened if I had."
"Probably not, but my parents would've, you could've asked them."
"The ecto-acne I had twenty years ago was never medically cured, it went away once my ghost powers developed; no cure was ever found and I thought it unlikely that the disease would ever resurface," Vlad shrugged. "I knew your parents - namely your mother, wouldn't be able to cure it. You have certain means that they lack but you had no encouragement to cure me, so I gave you the encouragement."
"By trying to kill us?" Sam scoffed.
"No," Vlad admitted, "Actually, what I gave to you was a very diluted form of the disease. I modified it myself to give you all the visual effects I had with none of the internal damage, but of course, the substandard equipment of your parents," he glanced at Danny, "...Failed to pick up on this."
"So...we wouldn't have died?" Tucker asked.
"No," Vlad answered, uncharacteristically quiet.
"Well, it sure felt like dying," Sam snapped.
"Of course it did; you're how old, fifteen? You know nothing of dying," Vlad replied haughtily.
"It was a big risk though, wasn't it?" Jazz asked, curiously, "...I mean, why go through all the trouble of altering the molecular structure of a complicated disease, when it would've just been easier just to give them the real thing?" she said, but Vlad turned away staring into the fire. "Just what does the real thing do to a normal person?" Jazz asked after a moment of silence.
"Would it have given us ghost powers?" Tucker asked the older hybrid.
"...Well...would it?" Jazz pressed when the man didn't speak.
"...No." Vlad finally relented, "The disease itself wouldn't give a person any ghost powers but it is capable of killing, or at the very least causing crippling internal damage to vital organs."
"So you modified the disease," Jazz nodded.
"I don't expect you to understand what I did," Vlad told them, "But I have my reasons."
"The reason being, you didn't want to kill them," she said quickly.
"You made it seem as though you did," Danny scoffed.
"Of course I did, boy, use your head!"
"You're just...I don't get you at all," the young hybrid shrugged, "I swear...you have a split personality or something..."
"I think I understand," Jazz said to her brother, "I don't think it's as complicated as that."
"Oh, boy, here we go," Danny rolled his eyes in good humour.
"Well, first off, I can't believe you don't understand it yourself, and second..." Jazz began but a loud roaring sound cut her off. "What...was that?" she asked slowly.
The sound reminded Danny of an angry Tyrannosaurus he'd seen in a film, it was incredibly loud and overbearing and everything was shaking, like an earthquake. The floor they were standing on was shaking, the ceiling above them was quaking and the furniture was topping over, only adding to the chaos.
Just as Danny was about to ask what was going on, his eyes widened as he felt his ghost sense escape his mouth in a blue wisp of air, "Guys...we've got a problem," he swallowed.
The roaring sound seemed to burst their ears again and they could tell that it was coming from outside the castle so Danny ran to the window and pulled back the thick red curtains. "...Make that three problems..." he muttered, staring out at the three monsters he found there.
He went through the window and out onto the lawn where three huge, red Behemoth ghosts were standing. They had huge sharp teeth and angry red eyes, their bodies covered in a mix of tough fur and hard scales. Each one was about twenty times larger than the small ghost boy and Danny didn't fancy his chances, but he could hardly run away.
Instead, he flew up into the air so that he was at eye level with the Behemoths, "So...I don't suppose you're here to talk to Plasmius too, right?" Danny ventured a guess and was unsurprised when they roared simultaneously again. "Yeah...didn't think so..."
One of the ghosts immediately launched an attack at Danny and he was forced to put up a shield. Unfortunately, it was no match for this monster and he was thrown back down to earth, skidding painfully across Vlad's lawn like a football.
From inside his sitting room, Vlad watched this interaction with a frown on his face. He raised his hand to stare at the burns that still hadn't healed properly and sighed. If he had his full powers that wound would've healed in seconds, but it was evident that he was far from having his full powers.
He morphed into his ghost half, holding his breath, but the black rings seemed to crackle and fizzle as they brought forwards his ghostly appearance. In truth, Vlad didn't know how long he could use his powers for without passing out and the fact that he was able to morph successfully, actually surprised him.
Danny's friends were too busy to pay it much notice though as they ran back through the room and out the front door.
"Danny!" Jazz yelled as she fired her ecto weapon at one of the ghosts. Sam and Tucker did the same, but their weapons had little to no effect on the Behemoths who swatted away their attacks like flies.
"This isn't good," Tucker blinked.
"No joke," Sam agreed heavily, "...Let's hit the same one together," she suggested and aimed towards one of the ghosts.
"Right," Jazz nodded as she and Tucker simultaneously aimed, and then the three of them fired.
Their attacks hit the Behemoth dead centre and it did have more of an effect, but not nearly as much as they'd have liked. It was pushed back only a few metres and it recovered instantly. With a ferocious growl, loud enough to make them have to cover their ears, it retaliated, sending a large blast of red energy at the young ghost hunters.
Danny jumped up at once and threw up the strongest shield he could muster, and with his feet firmly on the ground, when it hit it was like trying to hold back a tsunami with sand bags. He grunted as he felt himself being pushed backwards and with a bust of green light, he forced the attack in half, sending it away from himself and away from his friends.
But the use of so much power in so short a time was tiring the young hybrid out and he fell to his knees in exhaustion.
"Danny," Jazz knelt beside him, "Are you okay?"
"No," Danny sighed, "...Those things...are really strong."
"Yeah," Tucker winced, "So what'd we do? There's no way we can beat all three of 'em."
"And it's not like Vlad's gonna help us," Danny muttered.
"We need a plan," Sam said quickly, watching the three Behemoths smirk at them.
"How about, don't get hit," Danny replied, "I don't think I can make many more shields," he said, standing up again.
He began charging an ecto-blast in his hand, trying to make it more powerful when suddenly, he and his friends found themselves trapped in a large pink bubble.
"Hey!" Tucker yelled, "What gives?!"
Danny quickly surveyed the energy surrounding them and reached out a hand to touch it. The pink energy crackled when his hand met it and when Danny tried to break through it, he failed.
"...Vlad," Danny growled.
Seeing this, the three Behemoths attacked the small pink bubble, their angry red attacks narrowing in on Danny and his friends within a tenth of a second. The young teens could only close their eyes but the attack they waited for never came. The red ecto-blasts hit the dome shaped shield and simply dissolved on contact.
"What just happened?" Sam questioned with a raised eyebrow.
Vlad suddenly emerged floating in front of them in a puff of smoke, his back was turned to them but Danny pounded his fists against the shield in frustration. "Let us outta here, fruit loop!" he yelled, but Vlad seemed to ignore him.
"Who sent you?" Vlad addressed the Behemoths, flying up to them and away from the teens.
"They didn't talk to me, what makes you think they'll talk to you?!" the young hybrid shouted out.
For once, Vlad thought, Danny did have a point when, as soon as he'd spoken, the three huge ghosts surrounded him, tactically cutting off any retreat and then they attacked him.
Vlad raised his hands and attempted to absorb the energy and redirected it back into three separate ecto blasts which hit the Behemoths sending them flying to the ground. He'd made more progress in one attack than Danny and his friends had in several, and it only reinforced Danny's sense of inadequacy when it came to his powers.
The older hybrid felt his fingers tingle like he'd submerged them in boiling water but he wasn't given time to dwell on the strange sensation. He dodged one of the creatures as it swung its tail at him and then he dodged again when another of them swiped its claws at him. They seemed to be more brawn than brain which both helped and hindered Vlad; with his powers depleted his mind was his best asset and quite possibly his only chance at surviving this fight.
"Does he seem...slower...to you?" Jazz asked slowly.
"...Kinda..." Danny murmured.
"Well he didn't morph earlier...and he usually would've, wouldn't he...so...maybe he was telling the truth...maybe he is weaker right now," Jazz pounded aloud.
"Or maybe he was lying and he's at full power!" Danny yelled, hitting the dome with another attack. "Man I hate his powers!" he cried when his lack of progress continued. He kicked the shield one last time before sighing and looking up to watch the fight fully, rather than containing to try and shatter the shield around them.
The four of them jumped in shock when, out of nowhere, Vlad landed hard on the ground, making a trench as the force threw him across his own lawn.
"Argh!" Vlad groaned as he came to a stop.
He raised a hand to his aching head and blinked his eyes in an attempt to shake away the blurriness in his line of sight. Vlad could feel his body giving in and trying to morph back to conserve energy but he forced the feeling back as best he could. The shield that he'd put around Danny and his friends started to flicker and weaken and the young hybrid tried in vain to take advantage of that. He attacked the dome again and though, in places, it did start to crack like an egg shell, it still stood, keeping them trapped inside.
"Now will you let me help?!" Danny yelled, watching powerlessly as the three Behemoths floated down toward Vlad who was still on the ground.
Instead of running or even using his intangibility, Vlad stood up and met the attack that the ghosts launched with one of his own, the red energy collided with his own ectoplasmic attack with an almighty 'crash.' It let of a burst of light, blinding them all and showering everything with small sparks of energy that escaped.
Vlad felt his feet being forced backwards but there was little he could do to stop it. So, instead, he created three invisible duplicates and positioned them, one behind each of the Behemoth ghosts and sent the strongest blast of electricity he could manage.
With three resounding roars of agony, two of the ghosts vanished, proving that they had been duplicates and the one that remained was thrown to the ground at Vlad's feet. The impact shook the castle's foundations and even made the surrounding countryside quiver in fear.
With a sound, almost like a machine powering up, lightning began to gather in the sky, crackling menacingly in the clouds gathering and greying above their heads. It began to strike the ground where Vlad stood leaving singeing and smouldering patches of blackened ash in its wake.
One large bolt of lightning struck down, right atop Vlad and like he'd done with the Behemoth's attacks, he took the lighting in his hands and threw it straight at the ghost whose strong shield shattered without mercy. It cried out in agony as the unrelenting lighting shocked him.
It was a ruthless attack and Danny was glad he wasn't on the receiving end of it. He'd seen Vlad use this power before, but never to this extent; it probably would've killed him if it had been used against him. Danny could even see the skeleton of the ghost flicker in the light.
As Vlad continued the attack he began to morph back into his human half, much like Danny did when he used his ghostly wail, and though he tried to fight it, he failed. He was now rapidly losing the will to even stand up and the lighting ceased to generate but its task was complete.
The Behemoth ghost shakily floated away and without looking back it fled into the shadows while all traces of lighting in the sky vanished completely and Vlad let out a deep breath as he turned towards the heavens to see for himself.
"Wow...no offence to your powers or anything, Danny...and I don't know about you guys...but that was the coolest thing I've ever seen..." Tucker breathed.
"Thanks, Tuck," Danny sighed, though he couldn't help but agree as they watched the red Behemoth retreat.
Vlad immediately fell to the ground onto his knees and at the same time, the shield keeping Danny and his friends trapped also vanished.
"Think it's safe to move?" Tucker murmured after it was gone.
Danny didn't answer as he flew across to Vlad, watching the older hybrid breathe and cough, still on the ground. He watched as Vlad rubbed at the burn marks on his pale hands and winced at the raw wounds he saw there.
"Hey...you okay..." Danny asked nervously.
Vlad's breathing evened out and he looked up to see Danny hovering there with the three ghost weapon-carrying teens caught up to them. The older hybrid stood up on shakily limbs and without warning, he rounded on Danny.
"What in the name of evil were you thinking?!" Vlad yelled.
"What was I thinking?" Danny repeated, "What were you thinking? You never get hit in a fight! What the heck happened?”
"I told you, I'm recovering!" Vlad ground out.
"Then why wouldn't you let us take that thing?!"
"You wouldn't have 'taken' them, you foolish boy, it was a Behemoth! Even at full power they're a formidable opponent for me; the five of you wouldn't have stood a chance."
"Why does that matter to you? I thought you enjoyed seeing me get my butt kicked! Isn't that why you're always spying on me?!" Danny yelled back.
"I keep an eye on you for your own good!"
"Yeah, right," Danny scoffed, "Like I'd believe that."
"This is why I keep these things from you; because you're too much of a child to understand properly," Vlad replied, slowly calming himself down.
"Oh, I understand, I understand just fine...I understand that you're a total psycho and that this was the worst idea of my life!" the young hybrid waved his arms about in his furry but it was more confusion that was making him so angry. He didn't understand why Vlad had done so much to save him and his friends when it was clear that Vlad was considerably weaker than usual.
"Well, you're welcome," Vlad murmured, straightening his back and stretching out the sore muscles.
"...Why'd you do it?" the young hybrid frowned.
"Do what?" Vlad questioned, starting to brush the dust from his clothes.
"Really, Vlad, you're gonna be like that?"
"...I know how you fight, Daniel, you can't handle more than one attacker, you never could," Vlad said, "If I hadn't done what I did, you'd all be dead - is that what you would have preferred?"
"No...but..." Danny said, still confused, "I still don't see why you'd...I don't...I..I can't believe I'm saying this...but...thanks, Vlad..." he sighed.
"Yeah, thanks dude," Tucker added, "I guess we still need more practice, huh?" he muttered, to which Sam and Jazz only sighed.
"Practice," Vlad scoffed, "This isn't a childish game for you to play outside of school. This is serious."
"You're one to talk," Danny scowled, "You're the one using your powers to get to the top."
"If have the skills, I see no reason why I shouldn't use them. I'm prepared for the consequences, can you say the same?" Vlad said condescendingly.
"Except you didn't really use them to get to the top, did you?" Jazz asked suddenly.
"Jazz, we're a little busy having an argument here, could this wait till later?" Danny frowned.
"I've got a feeling you're lying about it," she continued, paying no notice to Danny's objections.
"I really don't think this is the best time for..." Danny began again, then blinking in realisation. "Hey…wait a sec...You’re right...Clockwork showed me something..." he murmured and then clicked his finger when he remembered. "You got the business job legit!" he smirked, pointing at Vlad, "And you stopped all those people getting fired."
"He did what?" Sam asked, confused.
"I think that fall may have scrambled your head, dude," Tucker added.
"Just because I got one job through...normal means, doesn't mean I didn't use other methods to enhance my career later on down the line," Vlad scowled, "I've stolen many a fortune, I've lied and cheated to get where I am."
"Why didn't you cheat at the start then?" Jazz asked.
"Why does that even matter?" Danny groaned.
Vlad sighed, turning he walked a few feet away from them and folded his arms and was silent for a moment. The atmosphere became ever more tense and Danny glanced nervously from his sister to Vlad when the man suddenly spun on his heels and sent a bolt of ectoplasm straight at Danny who just about managed to turn intangible fast enough to avoid it.
"What was that..." Danny began to shout as the older hybrid attacked again.
Sam and Tucker raised their ghost weapons and fired at Vlad without a word but he waved his hand and the weapons disintegrated into puddles of ecto-gloop at their feet.
"Hey!" Sam yelled, taking out the Fenton Thermos and pulling off the lid.
Unfortunately, because Vlad had remained in his human form, he couldn't be sucked into the Thermos and he sent a sharp blast to knock it out of Sam's hand.
"How about now?" Vlad growled, "Evil enough for you?" he growled.
"Now you're just proving my point," Jazz replied.
"What is the point?!" Danny yelled.
"That Vlad's not as bad as he makes out to be," his sister answered, "He just wants people to think he is."
"Well...that's...Jazz that's the worst idea you've ever had," Sam replied dryly.
"You're stubbornness is going to land you in serious trouble," Vlad narrowed his eyes at Jazz.
"Danny and I get stubbornness from both our parents...just like you do," she replied.
"He really did show you my past, didn't he?" the hybrid sighed heavily.
"Are you done attacking us now?" Danny asked sarcastically.
"Yes, Daniel, I'm done," Vlad closed his eyes, "I'm done," he repeated, walking back up to the castle.
"Hey!" Danny cried, "Where are you going? We're so not done!"
Vlad reached the top of the steps leading up to the front door and stepped inside the building, holding the edge of the thick, wooden door in his hand.
"Yes, we are, go home, Daniel," Vlad replied, closing the door behind him.
"He does know we need to get through the Ghost Portal...doesn't he?" Tucker asked slowly.
"That means we have to go back inside," Sam added with a grin.
"Okay, wait a minute guys," Danny began, "I want to talk to Vlad by myself now, I really think it's best..."
"But we've come this far..." Tucker shook his head.
"And look at everything that's happened," the young hybrid said with urgency, "I appreciate that you guys came with me, but I can get back by myself, you know I can."
"Are you sure, Danny?" Jazz asked him.
"Yeah, I'm sure," he answered honestly.
"Whoa...no way," Sam protested, "Not gonna to..."
"It'll be fine, Sam," Danny said, "Really."
"Alright, little brother," Jazz replied, "Just...don't make him angry and don't forget everything Clockwork showed us."
"...Yeah..." the young hybrid nodded.
Using his intangibility, Danny flew his friends and his sister back into the house and down into Vlad's lab. After they climbed back into the Spectre Speeder and flew back into the Ghost Zone, Danny lead them safely back to his parents' portal. On the journey back, no one said a word and when they to he'd down back in his parents' lab, Jazz have her brother a last look of sympathy before he took off back into the Zone.
Danny flew as fast as he could back through the swirling green atmosphere, his mind inundated with conflicting thoughts. After everything that Clockwork had shown him, Danny was still cautious about what he should do next. He wasn't entirely sure what he should do; be brave and try and make peace before one of them ended up badly hurt or worse, or run away and ignore everything he'd learned. One thing was for sure, he knew that Clockwork must have had a reason for acting as he had, he must be aware of something happening in the future that he believed was dire enough to warrant his attention.
Although Danny wasn't sure he could ever forgive Vlad for everything he'd done, he would admit that he felt bad about many aspects of Vlad's life. That the man grew up with a cruel brute of a father, he wouldn't deny, but he'd also grown up with a mother who loved him so surely he understood how to be a better person. What Danny couldn't understand was why Vlad chose to be like his father when he knew he had a choice not to be. Vlad was a smart person, Danny knew that, but he also knew, from first-hand experience, that the man had a foul temper and the power to get what he wanted.
As he neared Vlad's portal, Danny shook his head to shatter his conflicting thoughts because he knew that in some ways, Vlad was like a wild animal; he could smell fear. If he got wind of how terrified Danny really was then Vlad would probably take advantage of it.
The young hybrid flew back through the portal after taking a deep, calming breath, and quickly so that he wouldn't think twice, he locked it after some effort of navigating the controls, and floated up through the ceiling, back to the ground floor.
He found Vlad in the large sitting room again, reclining in the same chair as though he'd never left it. The room was just as it was when Danny had left and the boy jumped when he heard Vlad speak.
"Your friends went home then," Vlad said redundantly.
"...Mmm," Danny nodded, floating into the room and coming to stand close to him, but not too close in case he had to react to a fight.
"Why didn't you go home like I told you to?"
"When do I ever do what you tell me?" the boy shot back.
"So...what're you gonna do? You gonna attack me again?" Danny asked calmly.
"Not unless you deserve it."
"That's reassuring," the boy muttered, "What'd I ever do to deserve getting attacked anyway?"
"...Did Clockwork tell you why he did what he did?" Vlad asked after a moment, choosing not to answer Danny's question.
"Why'd you wanna know about..."
"Just tell me," Vlad demanded.
"He...he didn't really say much...he said I had a chance to change things, that it was really important that I listened...oh...he said it'd be 'the end of everything I knew' if I didn't pay attention," the young hybrid made quotation marks with his gloved fingers in the air. "I don't really know what he meant though," Danny added.
"And why did you choose to listen?"
"What makes you think I did?"
"You're here now, you must have done," Vlad replied nonchalantly.
"Well...at first I didn't," Danny shrugged, "But Jazz made me think...and...I don't think we should keep fighting all the time, I mean..."
"You mean you admit that I'm your superior and you fear the consequences of losing to me," Vlad scoffed.
"Maybe, but that's never stopped me fighting back," the boy retaliated, "I just...I guess I never really thought about why you did all that stuff..."
"Spare me your pity," the man sneered, "I've had enough of that to last a lifetime."
"Yes, you are," Vlad said, standing up from his chair. He turned so that his back was to the fire, his body in shadow as he faced Danny, casting an imposing figure over the small boy. "You think that because you saw what a pathetic little child I was that you suddenly understand my every thought? You're more naïve than I feared..."
"I don't think that!" Danny yelled.
"Really," the boy emphasised, "I know you had a bad childhood and everything, but that doesn't make it right for you to go around doing whatever you want!"
"What would you know? Your father may be a brainless oaf but he does happen to care for you."
"So why do you want to take me away from that?" Danny asked, "Why do you think I'd 'renounce' my dad, when I love him?"
Vlad said nothing and Danny thought it best not to press the issue, he didn't want to make Vlad angry again. He could already feel the atmosphere thicken and when Vlad was angry the air got colder and it always sent shivers down Danny's spine as though reminding him not to go too far - reminding him about self preservation.
"...My desk," Vlad suddenly said, gesturing with his head, turning to glance at the old oak desk across the room, "Go and open the bottom right hand drawer," he ordered, sitting back down in his chair.
Danny walked over to the old desk and ignored all of the papers and folders scattered across its surface to open the drawer that Vlad had mentioned. It was empty save for a small wooden box with gold hinges which Danny picked up and made to lift the lid.
"No," the man shook his head, stopping Danny, "First you have to tell me something."
"...Tell you what?"
"Prove it to me, tell me what's in the box? Tell me what I took back from my father that I planned to give to on your next birthday," Vlad demanded.
"I...I don't know what you're talking about," Danny shook his head.
Danny put down the small box on the surface of the desk and made sure not avoid eye contact with Vlad. He knew that if he chose to answer the question, he'd be acknowledging that Vlad had once been a vulnerable child whose father had failed him, and he didn't want to do that. Danny understood that Vlad was proud and if he admitted that he knew Vlad's secrets, then the older hybrid would probably never forgive him.
"You're lying," Vlad proclaimed, confidently.
"No...I really don't know..." Danny shrugged, "Really."
"Daniel," the older hybrid warned.
"...Alright, alright...it's your dad's pocket watch."
"Correct," Vlad murmured and Danny bravely chose to open the box and found himself staring down at the gold pocket watch he'd seen in the memories that Clockwork had shown him.
"You said it was a...family tradition..." Danny said.
"It was, but traditions were never my father's forte," Vlad shrugged.
"He...took it back off you when you were a kid?" Danny remembered.
"Apparently I was a disappointment," Vlad answered without emotion.
"I don't see why you'd want to give it to me," Danny said, confused, "It's yours."
"It's never been mine."
"It should've been," the boy replied, walking back over to Vlad with the box in hand. "Here," he said, holding it out for the older hybrid to take from him.
"I have no use for it," Vlad replied.
"But...that's not the point," Danny said. He took the watch out of the box and opened it. The inside of the cover was engraved with elaborate Russian lettering;
Беды хороший учитель.
To Danny, who spoke not a word of Russian, it was impossible to decipher so he turned to Vlad, "What's it say?" he asked.
"Adversity is a good teacher," Vlad answered.
"That's a bit of downer," Danny remarked, closing the pocket watch shut with a quiet 'click'.
"It's a phrase I grew up with."
"...Could've done with a better one."
"No doubt," Vlad scoffed lightly, "Take it with you, there's no point in keeping it back now you know," he added.
"But...you've never given me anything before, why would you give me this?" Danny asked, glancing down at the watch. "It's important, isn't it, and it looks expensive..."
"Sell it if you like and keep the money then," the older hybrid shrugged.
"But it's a family heirloom! You're not supposed to sell them."
"Do what you want, Daniel, you always have."
"Yeah, and so have you, that's why we're in this whole mess in the first place, isn't it?"
"No, we're in this 'mess' because your father wronged us both. It's his fault that we're both half ghost and you refuse to see it," Vlad replied.
"I can't believe you can hold a grudge like this for twenty years!"
"It's not so easy to forget that someone is responsible for half killing you," Vlad growled back.
"But you like being half ghost, you'd never get rid of your powers...would you?"
"I've had them for so long I've forgotten what it's like to be fully human, and so will you after a few more years.
"Then what's the problem?!" Danny asked in exasperation, "When you were sick my parents did everything to help you, they might not know about the accident, but that's all it was. An accident! Maybe if you'd just told them about it then things wouldn't be so bad."
"If my secret comes out, Daniel, then so does yours," Vlad threatened.
"...T...that's not the point," Danny spluttered, "The point is; I'm sick and tired of having to fight you all the time, okay?! Clockwork said it, and Jazz said it too, one of us is gonna end up getting seriously hurt if we don't quit it."
"You mean you're going to get seriously hurt," Vlad corrected smugly.
"Seriously? You choose now to be childish?!" the boy groaned, face palming in his frustration. "Look, you can say you're doing...all that stuff you do, for 'my own good' or whatever, but going out and beating me to a pulp every time you think I need to learn something isn't right. I want to learn about my powers, okay, I do, there's only so much I can do by myself and you know so much more about it than me," he sighed.
Danny glanced down at the pocket watch again, "I really think you hate me all the time and I don't get why you'd even think about letting me have this if you hated me so much."
"I don't hate you, Daniel."
"Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it," Danny shook his head, "This is why I mention the split personality thing 'cos I don't know whether I'm coming or going..." he sighed.
Danny didn't know what else to do; Vlad wasn't listening to him and pretty soon, Danny was sure he'd give up trying altogether. There was only so much he could do to try and win the older hybrid around and so far it didn't look like he'd made much progress. He felt like he'd been hitting his head again a brick wall and he'd not even made a dent.
"Okay, how about this," Danny began again, "If you really want to teach me about my powers, then teach me in a way that won't put me in hospital."
"I've never put you in a hospital," Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"Well, if I didn't have my powers, I'm pretty sure I would've ended up with more than a dozen broken bones in all our fights."
"You wouldn't learn anything if I went easy on you," the man defended only half heartedly.
"Yeah, that what your dad said and you still hate him," Danny said quickly. As soon as he'd said it though, he regretted it and Danny wished he could take it back but he couldn't, "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have said that..." he murmured quietly, "But there's gotta be a better way...unless you really want us to hate each other’s guts."
"You have such a way with words, Daniel," Vlad rolled his eyes.
"Can you please be serious for one minute?" Danny sighed, "I'm trying to do a good thing here and you're really you're not making it easy."
Danny wasn't sure when, but sometime during their conversation, he'd started to care about making things work out and Vlad was making it very difficult. He wasn't sure whether it was because he felt sorry for Vlad and everything the man had been through, or because he genuinely wanted to stop getting beaten up by him, but Danny did believe that Vlad deserved a second chance. He wanted to think that Vlad did care, in his own warped way, because most of what Clockwork had shown him had certainly seemed to back that theory up. Vlad just didn't know how to show that he cared in any other way and no matter how much he tried not to, Danny found that worthy of pity even if Vlad didn't want it.
"Haven't things gone far enough?" the boy asked when Vlad kept quiet, "...Will you at least think about it?" Danny asked in a way that reminded him of Clockwork when he'd last seen him, "Please," he added quietly.
"Very well," Vlad sighed in defeat and Danny let out a deep breath of relief.
Danny had been terrified that Vlad would explode in anger, and though the older hybrid was weaker than usual, Danny didn't doubt that he'd still be the stronger one in a fight. Of course, that wouldn't stop him from trying to defend himself if he had to, but it wouldn't help him in trying to convince Vlad that he was genuine.
"Thanks, Vlad," he gave a small smile and moved to out the box he was still holding, down on the coffee table by Vlad's chair.
"I told you to take it with you," Vlad said quickly.
"What...really?" Danny blinked in confusion.
"You're still my godson no matter what you think of me, I want you to have it."
"...Are you sure?"
"Really?" Danny asked again and Vlad pinned him with a stare that clearly said he wasn't amused, "...Sorry," the boy muttered.
He was incredibly nervous and he couldn't think of anything else to say as he shuffled on his feet. Danny decided to call it a night, there was really nothing left to say that he hadn't already said.
"Night, then," Danny muttered nervously.
Before waiting for an answer, Danny flew through the floor and down into the lab and back into the Ghost Zone. Though out his whole journey home he carried the small wooden box very gently, like it was a delicate bomb that could explode at any minute.
When he got back into his room he saw Sam and Tucker lying in their sleeping bags and his own was looking very inviting. As a rule on their sleepovers, everyone always slept in a sleeping bag because they'd gotten tired of fighting over the one bed in either of their bedrooms.
"Hey, guys," Danny murmured, falling onto his designated sleeping bag and morphing into his human half. He could tell that they were still awake so he knew he wasn't waking them.
"...What took you so long, dude?" Tucker mumbled, rubbing his eyes, "I almost fell asleep five times and Sam kept kicking me."
"Just did, so spill," Sam demanded and Danny sighed.
"Vlad gave me this," he replied, pushing the box over to her.
Sam clicked on a torch that the three of the always kept in case of emergencies, and looked down at the box as she opened it. "He...gave you an old pocket watch...oh, wait...is this..." she breathed, "Is this the same one..."
"Same one," Danny nodded.
"Wow..." Tucker said, "...That's...something..."
"Yeah," the young hybrid muttered, "...He said he'd think about things, anyway..."
"And...you didn't end up in a fight?" Sam asked, closing the box and giving it back to Danny.
"No, I just...I didn't know what else to say to him..."
"What'd you think he'll do?" Tucker asked, settling down again.
"Dunno," Danny answered, fluffing out his pillow, "I dunno," he repeated, closing his eyes. "Night guys," he added, falling asleep within minutes.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, History101Write a Review