Cell of a Splintered Past

Vlad Masters: The Catalyst to Change

"I will see you tomorrow, and remember what I said, 25. Real and not real."

Spooks was naturally cautious. Anyone who watched the boy for five minutes could figure that out. He would always watch people as they walked by, eyes calculating and untrusting. As he walked he always tried to keep his back towards a wall, seeming to think that an attacker would confront him anytime, anywhere. The only time he allowed his back to be open was when he was being escorted by the guards. Even then, he would always be tense, ready for action at a moment's notice.

However, the greatest evidence of his caution was that no one knew anything personal about him other than the fact he had a dead sister. Some argued that he was just a private person, but most considered his lack of communication to be the result of barely being an adult in one of the world's highest security prisons.

Yes, saying the boy was cautious was like saying Batman was slightly intimidating, a severe understatement. But even to the residents of Arkham who were used to his caution, today Spooks seemed jumpier than usual.

When the boy returned from wherever he'd been taken by the guards, he looked… frazzled to say the least. His shoulders were slumped slightly, his eyes darted nearly everywhere so fast his head should have been hurting, and his right fingers were tapping his handcuffs without any sign of stopping. The inmates silently agreed that saying the boy was a little worse for wear was the understatement of the century…or at least of the day.

The middle aged guard that gripped the boy's shoulders in what looked to be a painful grasp seemed annoyed. Previously, he had seemed almost kind, but now he was obviously irritated, which was never a good thing with Rusher, as many of the veteran inmates could vouch for.

Spooks' cell slid open with a small clatter, and he was pushed roughly with enough force that he stumbled into the metal leg of his bed. The boy looked up, slightly surprised. His body tensed as Rusher spoke to him with a growl.

"Try anything, and your life will be hell." Spooks froze, eyes wide as the guard started to take off the handcuffs. Some of the inmates smirked, glad that the brat was finally getting some rough treatment while others were just as shocked as the boy was. When Harley later heard of what happened, she would blink for a few moments before smiling sweetly in a way that sent shivers up even the most hardened villains' spines... except for the Joker, who would have simply laughed at her reaction if he had been there.

(Thirteen days later, Mr. Rusher would be out for medical leave, suddenly being unable to stop laughing to the point of near suffocation. The Joker was blamed for the incident, but Harley's triumphantly malicious smirk for the next week told the residents of Arkham another story, though no one had any proof that it was her.)

Once Spooks was unshackled, the guard once more pushed him roughly towards the corner of the cell. Because the boy was unprepared, he stumbled clumsily inside, barely catching himself in time to keep his head from hitting the back wall.

His head snapped up once he was steady, though he kept his hand on the wall just in case. "W..w..why?" He asked quietly, sounding confused.

But the guard didn't answer. He simply glared at him one last time before grumbling something under his breath, closing the boy's cell with a rough clash. Spooks watched as he left, betrayal obvious on his face. He stared at the guard's retreating back, rushing up to the bars to see Rusher leave.

His knuckles turned white with the force he gripped the bars. At the same time his face showed the conflicting emotions running through his mind. The inmates watched, intrigued, at what would occur, hanging on the edge of their metal beds. What would Spooks do? Was he just gonna take it? Would he finally grow a backbone towards the guards? He certainly looked affronted enough to do something drastic. The inmates were practically buzzing with excitement. This was it! What would Arkham's favorite mystery do today?

Nearly all were watching in anticipation of the show. Sometimes the soap opera that was Arkham was the only entertainment these villains got. If it was a show they wanted, a show they would get.

But you know how the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

The torment of emotion suddenly stopped as Spook's face became blank. Almost robotically, he lowered his arms and backed away from the bars, his body stiff and emotionless.

The boy walked back towards his bed and picked up a couple crayons from the floor. If he cared to know, the crayons were red and blue. Weird, to pick of the colors of tranquility and aggression. Maybe they were to represent something else, a warning sign maybe? A part of him trying to tell himself to stop and keep calm lest a disaster would occur? Or was it just random chance?

Who knew? Either way, he wasn't paying attention to the colors.

He turned towards his wall of blank pages, which had been filled over the year with symbol-like writing. On the corner of the papers, people could vaguely make out shades of green where the boy had used… something to put up the pages. Many inmates thought he used his abilities to put them up, since they never saw him with tape. However, many dismissed that idea entirely, arguing that the boy obviously only had super strength and ice powers, nothing more, nothing less.

Others thought of his haunting green eyes and didn't think the idea was very farfetched. However, they kept it to themselves so as not to end up like the Riddler. When he brought the possibility up, the villain was shunned and pranked for two months before being transferred to Belle Reve after being declared unfit for Arkham.

Many villains had a laugh at the Riddler's embarrassment.

Spooks walked sluggishly to the wall. He stared at the previous notes that he made, muttering something under his breath as he scanned the pages. Column by column, he kept mumbling and reading the symbols until he reached the last note in the middle of the third row of papers. For a moment, he simply stared at blank pages as if trying to decide something, his dominant hand switching between the red and blue crayons.

Then, as if in a trance, he dropped the blue crayon on the floor, raised the red crayon the pristine white paper, and started writing.

He wrote slowly at first, his hand shaking so much that the symbols were merely a mush of color. It was as if a young child was writing for the first time. But after a few unsteady minutes, he picked up the pace, writing faster and faster, and the symbols unconsciously grew larger as he desperately tried to write his thoughts. If anyone were to pay attention, they would see the symbols repeat over again. It seemed that Spooks was writing the same statement, whatever it may be, in an almost desperate frenzy as if to convince himself of its existence.

He placed his hand on the wall above him to steady himself, accidently smudging his previous musings, not that he cared at the moment. As Spooks trailed down lower to the floor, he let himself out of his crouched position and nearly slammed to the floor and onto his knees. However, despite the pain he must have been feeling, he didn't stop his writing.

This probably would have continued on for hours, judging by the irrational, obsessive look on his face. If everything in the world was as physically nearly indestructible as Spooks was, it would have. Fortunately, crayons were not known for their strength, considering they could be crushed by five year olds. As such, with the iron-like grip that the unstable super powered young adult held the tool, as he desperately ground the thing into the wall, the crayon broke miserably with an audible snap.

Spooks blinked confusedly at what had happened. He brought his hand up, examining it with an odd fascination. He watched as the remains of the crayon smeared across his palms and crumbled between his fingertips. The little crumbles fell to the floor like red snowflakes, possibly staining the pure white tile.

He simply stared, blinking at the color incomprehensibly. Spooks cocked his head to the side, examining the tile in confusion. Then, as if something clicked in his mind, his body tensed as he laid staring at the stains in horror. With increasing loud mutterings of, "no, no, no, No, NO!" under his breath, he stumbled towards his bed and fumbled to get the piece of drawing paper that he was messing with earlier that day.

Using the bed as a flat surface, he furiously tried to wipe any remains of the red crayon off his hand. After a few seconds of doing this, he seemed to realize that most of the stains were still there and not being even slightly deterred by his actions.

The stains seemed to be almost mocking him, reminding him of his darkened past. Or horrible nightmares. Either one worked.

Spooks snatched up the paper, and using the untainted side, scrubbed at the stains at his palms, the back of his hand, in between his fingers. Everywhere he could get. At the moment, it seemed the boy's very existence was determined on getting the bright red coloring off his hands.

After what seemed like hours, he finally stopped. Spooks was breathing heavily, flipping his hand back and forth frantically to see if the red was gone. Once it seemed that he deemed the appendage clean, he carefully crumpled up the stained drawing paper and rolled it under his bed.

Spooks didn't give the paper a second glance. He slowly placed himself on his bed, and facing the wall, held his knees to his chest, holding onto his arms painfully to keep himself in a tight ball. Not that the villains could see, but the boy had his eyes closed. Clenched more like it. It was as if he was trying to desperately to drown out the world around him.

Not that the world would comply, of course, but it was the thought that counted. Maybe for a moment, just a small beautiful moment, it could give him peace like the calm before the inevitable storm.

And what a storm it would be…

High above Gotham city but below the low reaching clouds, a lone figure scanned the surrounding area. If one were to look up at the figures exact location, they would see nothing but the smoggy sky above them. That's because the figure was hovering invisibly in the afternoon sun, nose twitching in disgust at the smell of sewage and industrial waste from heated city below him.

Vlad, whether he be Masters or Plasmius, had never been a fan of large cities. While it was true that he preferred his other properties due to their isolation from society, cities just didn't appeal to him as much as the vast wilderness or miles of empty plains could. His dislike mostly stemmed from the lack of privacy from the close buildings, but that wasn't all. He hated the obnoxiously bright lights that disturbed his sleep even with the darkest of curtains. He hated the endless noise from the various machines that were more nuisances to society rather than helpful inventions. But most of all, he hated the people that resided in these scum infested seas of asphalt.

Oh, butter biscuits, the people! So many people. Everywhere he went, people were pushing, yelling, chatting, coughing, sneezing, running, and just being disgusting pains in his backside. The sheer mass of humanity made these places unbearable. The only thing cities were good for was their ability to round up the sheep of society into one location and keep their idiotic tendencies within confined borders and away from his person.

It didn't help matters that Gotham was infested with super villains more persistent than the idiotic Box Ghost.

Plasmius had no idea how someone as seemingly sensible and bright as Jasmine could even stand Gotham and its inhabitants. Goodness knew Vlad would have had an aneurism before the month ended if he lived here.

At the thought of the oldest Fenton child, Vlad frowned, his eyes flashing slightly. With one quick movement, he pulled the torn piece of parchment out of his ghost form's suit and examined it, the downward quirk of his lips only dissipating slightly.

It read as follows:

Meet me at my apartment today at 3 pm. I took the afternoon off. I will explain everything the best I can. Don't do anything you might regret.

He placed the paper back in his suit, shaking his head. It amused him that the young woman thought she even had a choice in revealing this information to him. To think, that after keeping the fact that Daniel was alive for who-knew-how long a secret, Jasmine would have the gall to think she had some say in this situation. And "Don't do anything you might regret"?

Ha. The irony. Did she not regret betraying him then?

One small part of him was annoyed that she didn't even put her home address on the paper. The girl had assumed Vlad knew it. He did, of course, but it was the principal of the matter. He was to be a guest in her humble abode in room 1203, twelfth floor, in her apartment at a complex near the eastern edge of Gotham. Jasmine should treat him as such.

Sometimes Vlad swore that this generation had no manners whatsoever.

Shaking his head again, he looked towards the local clock tower that Gotham, fortunately, had. The clock hands read a little past three.

The middle aged halfa smirked. There. Now, he could arrive at young Jasmine's fashionably late. While he prided himself as a gentleman, making the girl wait on his behalf was only a small part of the price she would have to pay for her manipulations and lack of consideration.

The rest of the price would depend on her answers tonight.

Vlad allowed himself to drift down towards the city below him, fast enough to be considered a brisk pace, but slow enough as to not let his cape ride up too much. As he plummeted towards the ground, he noted the flashing advertisements flickering on the semi-worn billboards, the hidden alley ways where all types of scum lurked, and, of course, the various types of people that littered the streets of this part of town.

In the back of his mind, he idly wondered if the destruction of this filthy part of town would be more helpful for the overall standards of Gotham than decimating to its people. After all, without all the riff raff and scum endangering everyone, the main city might actually be hospitable. Goodness knew how many villains were in these parts of town. Unfortunately, his opinion, he knew, was an unpopular one, so he let the rat infested slum be and focused on his much more important task of locating Jasmine's apartment.

Right before his boots scraped the top of the highest building, he suddenly swooped eastward and towards the middle class portion of the city. The streets, buildings, and lights turned into a blur around him until all he could see was the gleaming afternoon rays mixing with undefinable dark gray.

The halfa only needed to fly a few minutes before he found his destination. Vlad slowed to a stop and smirked when he saw the complex. Well, the girl had good enough tastes for the limited budget she had. Of course, if Jasmine had let him pay for her apartment instead of being so infuriatingly 'independent' as she was so insistent on being, the girl could have a much better place to live in a much safer part of town.

Although on second thought, he would concede that 'Gotham' and 'safe' should not be used in the same sentence unless 'is not' or 'will never be' were in between the two words. Still, there were relatively safer neighborhoods with less criminal activity that he would have happily funded for her had her stubborn Fenton nature not kicked in.

Maybe Vlad could 'convince' her to let him pay for a new apartment this afternoon. A way to repay him for the trouble she caused, so to speak. The idea appealed to him greatly.

With a small smirk, he floated intangibly through the building until he found the twelfth floor and in effect, Jasmine's room. He paused momentarily, mentally going over his plans as he stared at the brass numbers on the apartment door. He would go in, play a few mind games with the girl to convince her that leaving Daniel in an insane asylum was not a good idea, and if all went well, maybe he could get her to leave this city to get a job someplace less villain infested.

Simple and effective.

With his plans decided, he walked through the door and into the shrink's apartment.

As Vlad walked in, he took a moment to memorize her quarters. Her entry way, or what little of it there was, had plain white tiles, smudged slightly off-white from use. A coat rack holding various items including what seemed to be a rarely used doctor's coat and two pairs of frequently used shoes laying on the floor also adorned the space. To the left of him the beige carpet started and led to a small dark brown L-shaped couch that faced a TV. At the couch end closest to him, an end table with a coaster and a lamp sat waiting for a relaxing night of reading. Across of him, the tile continued towards the kitchen which held a nice blue and white theme throughout the room, broken only by the stainless steel appliances.

Vlad might not have had much influence in location or monthly payments, but it didn't mean he hadn't demanded that she let him pay for the furniture and other, more permanent, things in her life (even if he did only pay for the things that she handpicked from a catalogue). It was one of those compromises that he disliked to have to make, but at the time, it had kept the peace.

In between the living room and kitchen, a small hallway led to what he presumed to be the bathroom, bedroom, and…closet? There were three shadowed doors at the very least. Next to the hallway was his opponent. Peeking between the columns that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house, was a flash of orange red hair sitting in a dining room chair.

He floated closer to get a better look at what he was dealing with this afternoon. To his surprise, the girl was not in regular or at the very least semi-casual attire, but pajamas of all things. They weren't lacy and pink, thank goodness for the small things in life, but a simple pair of black sweat pants and a teal t-shirt that perfectly matched the color of her eyes.

Her fiery red hair hung was down for a change. It flowed loosely around her face, the face that looked painfully like his beloved Maddie's, and stopped right below her shoulders. Vlad watched as she yawned, covering it slightly with her left hand, before taking a sip of something that he assumed to be coffee from her mug.

With a small twang in his heart, he noticed the mug had Daniel's (in)famous logo on the side of it.

To distract himself, he took note of the other object on the small, square shaped table. One empty plate sat at the end with an empty mug as well (logo not included). His seat, most likely. In the center was a larger plate with various types of cookies of a rainbow colored variety, poured out from a package. Each pastry looked soft, as if merely touching them would make them crumble, each one being only about twice the diameter of a soda cap, and if he thought about it, about twice as thick as one too. At the end of table was Jasmine with her own plate, which contained the crumbled remains of sweets and of course, the infamous mug.

My, my, she was prepared for this encounter.

"You're late."

He blinked in slight surprise at her sudden statement. Not one to give the advantage to his opponents, he pulled himself away from his previous thoughts and smirked, regaining visibility in front of her couch, "My, my Jasmine. How perspective. Tell me, how did you know I was here?"

She rolled her eyes, much to his annoyance, "Give me some credit, Vlad. I used to hunt ghosts. When you're alone in a room, and it suddenly gets colder for no explainable reason, either the heater is broken or there's a ghost in the room. Considering I was expecting you, it doesn't take much to put two and two together."

He nodded at her explanation and turned back into his human form, "Logical as always."

Vlad watched her for a moment, gauging her reaction. He expected her to be staring at him or at the very least glaring, but no. She wasn't. The girl was drinking her coffee in a calm manner, not giving him so much as a glance as she enjoyed her sweets. It was like he had unexpectedly interrupted her afternoon snack instead of been invited for a discussion.

The girl was playing mind games with him, and he didn't like it… that was a lie, he enjoyed the challenge as much as the game, but only when he was the one in control. Besides, seemingly ignoring your opponents while idly drinking something but in reality waiting for them to make the first move was an obvious, and quite frankly, amateurish move.

"So are you going to sit or are you going to keep watching me like a creeper?" Vlad snapped himself out of his thoughts only to be met with an arched eyebrow and a raised mug, "I made tea."

Not coffee then. He strode to the chair across from her, but didn't take a seat. Not yet anyway. Instead, he stood behind the chair with an air of confidence and superiority. Some part of him noted that their seating situation was not unlike his one with Daniel at Arkham.

He suddenly pushed the thought away. Vlad needed focus on the here and now. He eyed the infamous mug, "I didn't take you for the tea type."

She shrugged and took a cookie from her plate, placing her drink back down at the same time, "I don't like the taste of coffee."

"How did you survive college?"

"Tea has caffeine."

"Hmmm. A shame. Coffee would have really gone well with these cookies," He finally took a chair and picked up one of the treats from the center of the table, examining a yellow cookie with interest. He gestured it towards her, "Is this lemon?"

"Look, we're not here to discuss my preference of tea over coffee, so let's cut to the chase. How did you find out about Danny?" He spared a glance at the girl, who seemed to have put on her 'business' face. The interrogation may have just begun, but Jasmine was a little behind on the game. He already started his plays the moment he revealed himself. Yes, she may have had tea and cookies, but that was amateurish in comparison to what his words could do. If Jazz wanted to play with the professionals, she would have to step up her game.

He arched an eyebrow at her serious expression, "I don't know what you're talking about. I seem to remember a certain Number 25, but Daniel?" He stopped examining the cookie and gave her a pointed look, "Well, according to you, he's dead."

She frowned, "Vlad, I'm being serious."

"So am I! We're here to discuss 25 are we not?" He frowned with mock shock, placing the cookie on his plate as he did so, "Unless, of course, you have something to confess to me."

"What are you talking about?"

He couldn't stop the smirk appearing on his face, "And here I thought you were of above average intelligence. My mistake."

"Stop playing games Vlad," Shame, he hoped that she would be nearly growling and shouting at him at this point. Unfortunately, only the ever increasing frown on her face and the sharp glare at his last remark showed her discomfort. Maybe he should take it up a notch.

Vlad casually picked up the lone yellow cookie that he examined just moments ago and gestured to Jasmine with it in his hand, "You talk as if you haven't been playing them yourself. You know, I always said Daniel was more like me than he realized, but truly, you are the most like me in the best of ways," He took a bite out of the pastry, noting that it was in fact lemon, before smirking darkly, "Or worst, depending on your opinion."

She pursed her lips, "You're rambling."

"Am I?"


He shrugged, placing the cookie back on his plate, "You call it rambling. I call it discussing. By the way, may I have some of that tea that you're drinking? I'm a bit parched," She eyed him for a moment, before tentatively going to the kitchen. After some shuffling of what he assumed to be items in the fridge and the grumbling machinery of the ice maker, she came back with a cup of ice and a pitcher of tea.

Iced tea? Not exactly what he thought it would be, but better than nothing, he supposed.

"Look, I invited you here to keep the peace, not to argue over pointless things," She said, placing the items near him. She crossed her arms and gave him a look that an adult would use towards a misbehaving toddler, "Will you please cooperate?"

He shrugged, taking the cup of ice in hand, "I guess you should have thought of that when you were busy hiding Daniel from me."

The young woman frowned, but stood straighter than before, more defensively if Vlad read her body language right, "He was the one hiding. I just didn't tell anyone."

"Oh really?" He drawled, not even giving her a spare glance. He lazily poured half the ice into his mug, "And you expect me to believe that, when all evidence points to you striving to keep his existence away from me?"

"I didn't-"

He cut her off by slamming the glass hard enough to ring throughout the room, but not enough force to break it. Jasmine looked shocked for a moment, and Vlad took this crack in her innocent façade to attack, his voice was sickly sweet with accusation laced beneath his words, "You didn't do what? Tell me he was alive? Tell me that he was in the very same prison you were working in? Because you didn't tell me anything, and because of that, I had to find my own way to him."

She straightened up again, eyes cold. They glared intensely at one another, not unlike their contest of wills within Arkham. When she finally did answer him, her voice was like frostbite lingering on a fool's unknowing body in the dead of winter, slow, deadly, and chilling to the bone... chilling for one who hadn't heard masters of that tone beforehand, "I'm here to answer your questions, not to be insulted. Either be civil or get out of my apartment."

If she was trying to be intimidating, she only succeeded partly. While Vlad would give the girl credit for her potential ability to scare the mindless masses of the world, towards him her words had little to no effect. Only the knowledge that she was capable of such coldness was even noteworthy.

He met her glare with a dark smirk, "I thought you said not to do anything you might regret? Do as I say and not as I do, I suppose," He shrugged again and put on an unimpressed expression, taking the pitcher and pouring the tea into his mug as if he hadn't just nearly been kicked out of the apartment by the infuriated red-head. Vlad waited for her to say something, anything really, but as he looked up at the young woman, he found that she taken her seat once more. Her eyes were still cold and calculating, a strange expression on such a youthful face.

Vlad thought that Jasmine was at the right level of annoyance to still act rational, but she would also make enough mistakes in her attempts to 'thwart' Vlad in his 'evil schemes' that he would be able to manipulate the situation to his advantage.

Not that he wasn't already at the advantage in the first place.

He took a sip of the iced tea, sighing softly at the surprisingly refreshing taste before speaking once more, "Well, since this conversation seems to be going nowhere, how about a little game to end this stalemate?"

Her eyes narrowed further, looking suspicious of his actions yet curious at the same time, "What kind of game?"

"Well, it's less of a game and more of a back and worth answer session, so to speak."

She took a reddish cookie from the center plate and placed it on her own, "Go on."

"It seems like someone is impatient," Jasmine did her best interpretation of the 'scary eyes' towards Vlad. They had no effect on him, of course, but it was a nice attempt on her part. He sighed dramatically as if resigned, "Very well, Jasmine. You see, it's quite simple. I question you about some topic, let's say the reason why you felt it to necessary to not tell me of Daniel's existence at Arkham for the last year, or something of the sort, and you answer back truthfully.

"Then we switch roles and go back and forth between the two of us until the first one to not answer a question is forced to answer all the other person's questions. The winner does not have to respond the other person's questioning any longer," He smirked, and causally leaned back in his chair, "Does that sound good to you?"

Vlad watched in satisfaction at the various emotions crossing the red head's face. At first, shock grazed her features before quickly turning into accusing rage. However, that fire quickly flickered out, her face becoming carefully blank. Jasmine took her hands away from the mug, leaned back in her chair, and intertwined them, her knuckles white with the force of her holding her fingers together.

She paused again, reading him, before speaking slowly, as if controlling the speed would control the boiling volcano that Vlad could clearly see bubbling just below the surface, "You're treating Danny's health like it's a game?" When she spoke, her voice was emotionless, but the underlining undeniable feeling of disgust interlaced her words.

Vlad arched an eyebrow, "And you haven't?" Jasmine's eyes twitched slightly, but there was no other indication of the rage that Vlad knew was under the surface of those cool, teal pools.

"I don't know what you're talking about, but I don't think you are being the reasonable one here."

He rolled his eyes, "I'm sure you don't. After all, you are such the perfect saint and I'm just the manipulative, old Fruitloop."

She frowned, "I'm no saint, Vlad, but you being a fruit loop?" She shrugged, looking like she was trying to do so nonchalantly, but the small, purposeful upward quirk of her lips betrayed her true feeling, "You're the one who said it, not me."

It was his turn for his eyes to narrow, "Quite," He quickly took the expression off, and smiled, taking an off-white (coconut?) cookie from the tray, "Well, if you believe that you can do wrong, why don't you play? After all, we both want information."

"How do I know that you're telling the truth?" He nearly snorted at the naïve question, but kept his expression even as to not infuriate the young woman more.

Well, Jasmine wouldn't be able to tell, at least not entirely. Her years of psych training might have taught her some tricks to being a human lie detector, but Vlad had spent many more years with practical experience against masterful manipulators. He knew of the signs that people looked for to tell when someone was lying. In response, the billionaire spent countless hours practicing his lying skills against less dangerous opponents to eliminate these little quirks, these tells. Of course, he might have missed one, but that wasn't the point. If he wanted to, Vlad could easily run circles around the junior psychologist with lies upon lies of word games and double meaning that would leave her completely unaware of his less than truthful responses.

But that wasn't the point of this meeting. He wanted to her to know that she wronged him. The billionaire could take no satisfaction if he told lies because even half-truths would seem like a hollow victory. No, for once, he would tell the whole truth, if only to know that it was not his own actions that caused her to come to be in this predicament, but the bull-headedness of a stubborn, childish mentality that could not for the life of her see the lengths he had gone to in order to change his own character.

Yes, Jasmine would get the truth and feel shame from his words, a needed blow to her ego like he had needed years ago. Of course, she wouldn't know his game, which in the end would make the victory even sweeter when the girl knew the truth.

As for Vlad, ever since his accident, he had a built-in lie detector. While advanced hearing had its annoyances, including adding another reason on his long list of why he hated blasted cities, being able to hear the heartbeats of individuals when he concentrated hard enough made it easy to tell when someone was trying to pull the wool over his eyes.

So no, neither party had to worry about liars in this session, which, in a way, made this game so much more entertaining.

Vlad took a sip of tea, a small hint of a smirk on his lips, "Don't trust me, Jasmine?"

"I did, partially, before today. Now, I can't be sure."

He raised an eyebrow at that, "And if I asked you to play this game before today?"

"Then I would have wondered why you suddenly wanted to know everything about my life and be worried that you found out about Danny," She answered immediately. Vlad had to wonder the state of the girl's mind at the moment that she believed in her controversial responses. Partial trust? More along the lines of no trust whatsoever.

At least she was being truthful, though insanity had people believing their own delusions. In either case, it was a good reason to get her out of Arkham. That place was bad for her mind.

Vlad sighed despairingly, picking up the off-white cookie between his index finger and thumb and dangling it over his plate, "And based on that response alone, I know you don't trust me."

He heard her scoff, "Do you blame me?"

"Considering I paid for the remainder of your college days including tuition, boarding, and all other fees, paid for your furniture for your home, and recommended you at Arkham in the first place?" He gave her a pointed look that was met with only a blank face. He sighed and shook his head, placing the cookie back on his plate, "No then? And here, I thought we had come to an understanding."

"An understanding? Yes. Complete and utter trust? While I know you're not scheming to take over the world by going through time with the Infi-Map anymore," He nearly scowled at that remark, "I know you're not exactly Mister trustworthy. Didn't Dalv just make a deal with LexCorp recently? Something about possible future business deals for a better brighter future? They aren't exactly the most trustworthy of individuals," At his lack of response, she simply shook her head, sitting up straighter in her chair, "No, Vlad, I didn't fully trust you, and any trust you had was shattered the moment you went behind my back to meet with Danny instead of contacting me. It was dangerous, irresponsible, and wrong of you."

…What did she just say?

Vlad suddenly stood up. A fire sustaining rage filled his entire being and turned him into a mad beast. Did she really… really just accuse him? Accuse, him, of acting like the irresponsible one?!

Every bit of his composure he had mustered, every bit of self-restraint, broke at the comment. With it, the dam that held back his anger, betrayal, pain, and utter despair over the last few days came barreling through him and focused on the girl in front of him. He needed to shout, to let her know the pain of the past few days, so she could feel every bit as miserable and distressed as he was feeling.

"Went behind your back?" He knew his eyes flashed bright red when Jasmine flinched. But he couldn't even feel satisfied, "How dare you say that I went behind your back when you never even once contacted me? I could have given any medical attention that Daniel needed! I could have helped him recover from what the blasted government did to him! But no, you are too wrapped up in the idea that I'm some villain that you didn't see how I could have been at the very least a valuable asset!

"But that's makes it easier, doesn't it?" Vlad hissed, accusingly, "You can keep Daniel all safe away from the evil Fruitloop in some cell. Sure, he won't be a hero, but he would be safe, which is all that matters, isn't it, Dr. Fenton?"

Jasmine held his (must be very) enraged glare with a blank face, her eyes not even betraying the emotion underneath. Vlad felt his rage stroked even more. He wanted her to be guilty and feel shame for her actions. He knew it with every fiber of his being that Jasmine Fenton was not right. Vlad Masters did nothing wrong. Yet judging by the look on her face, the girl took his opinion with a grain of salt.

And then she frowned and looked away, her face only showing discomfort rather than remorse.

And why would she take his opinion? In her eyes, he was the deranged Fruitloop, the enemy, the evil psychotic billionaire who had once tried to control the hero's life. Despite her belief in the good in individuals, Vlad knew that Jasmine would ever accept that he had truly changed. To be completely honest with himself, he only wanted to see Daniel safe and happy, to give him a life when he surely should have died. Both for the accident and his… disappearance.

But that would never happen. Vlad had played his games before and now they coming back to haunt him, in a half literal sense. Retrospect was a cruel thing. The 'if only's coming back in his mind, teasing images of being the family friend that Jack always wanted him to be, of finding and training Daniel without the animosity between them, of everyone being whole and unbroken.

But that was the past, a time long since passed, and now Vlad could only look at the options that he had before him and play the hand he'd been dealt with, despite knowing he had lost nearly every other game he'd try to play before. Because now, Daniel needed him, and no one, not even a deluded, overprotective sister was going to stop him from getting the young halfa a happy ending… or at least a better one.

After all, if Vlad, who admittedly was not someone one would describe as 'good', found his own sort-of-happy ending then why couldn't Daniel?

He slumped back into his seat, the angry fiery rage suddenly draining out of him and replaced with a cool conviction. He would give Daniel his happy ending, he just had to bide his time, get information, and wait. Chess was his forte after all, so why shouldn't he use his skills in strategy for goodness for once in his life?

The two nibbled on cookies and drank tea in a tense silence. Every once in a while, Vlad would dart his eyes toward Jasmine, only to find her in a contemplative position. Although the girl ate, it was mechanical and distracted. Eat a cookie, drink tea, rest and stare at the mug, repeat, all the while, her eyes far off yet calculating, a smidge of sadness creeping in their depths.

Jasmine was up to something, he could tell, but at the moment, he let her be, after all it was her move. He had said his piece, more than enough thinking back on his rant, and her reaction would make all the difference in the conversation.

Over time, the center plate slowly lost most of its cookies, only a few fully intact pastries remained. The ice in Vlad's tea had mostly melted, with only a few stray ice cubes left floating in the watered down liquid. By his calculations, the time was a little over half past four, maybe even close to five. Not that he had anywhere to be; he too had taken the day off.

"I thought about telling you. It was two days after I found out where he was, I think."

So, she had finally chosen to speak, quietly but still, it was a start. He looked up at her with narrowed eyes.

"But you didn't," He countered, his voice low and accusing.

"No, I didn't," She conceded, "But I had my reasons why. Let me explain them. No games. No manipulations. No interruptions. Just the cold hard truth."

He eyed her warily. Some part of him wanted to accept her offer of a truce. It was the part of him that insisted earlier that day to talk to Jasmine about Daniel before bombarding into Arkham. However, he ignored it. This was his time, and he wouldn't give the girl the satisfaction of controlling all the cards.

He shook his head, a dark smirk coming across his face, "While that does sound tempting, you miss the point of this exercise. I like to play games. It makes this much more fun."

Her face became stony and unreadable, much to his annoyance. She pursed her lips, leaning back in her chair with that expression, "Fine then," She said curtly, much to his surprise, "But the maximum is five questions. If you win, do whatever you think is best for Danny. If I win, he stays at Arkham. If there is a tie, we'll find a compromise. That sound fair?"

Well, things just got interesting. He chuckled, eyeing her with a smirk, "Now who's playing with his health?"

"Is that your first question?"

Vlad chuckled again, picking up a blue (maybe blueberry?) cookie in amusement, "No, dear Jasmine. That's what one would call a rhetorical question. I would think that someone of your caliber would have heard of them."

"And being facetious helps how?"

Vlad smirked, "Is that your first question?"

Her eyes narrowed, "No, the game hasn't started yet."

"Oh, we both know that that's not true. The game started the moment I entered the room. But where are my manners? Ladies first," He finished. Vlad felt excited by this. Not only would he get his answers, but he would also have a way to show her all her grievances with only the truth. Overall, it was a win-win situation.

Her lips pursed tighter at his 'gentleman-like' attitude, "Fine. First question. How did you find out where Danny was?"

So getting the heart of the matter first? That was fine by him, "I found out about him in a roundabout way," He explained. "You see, I was looking into Arkham files a little over a month ago to see what villains you were working with, for your well-being, of course."


"Oh, ye of little faith. Well, I noticed one of your patients were unnamed. Naturally, I checked for a description and picture so I could identify said patient. Do you know what I found?" He paused for dramatic effect, seeing her bristle slightly in annoyance, "Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. There was only a number within the system. So I did my own research, emphasize on search."

"You went into Arkham as Plasmius didn't you?" She concluded.

"Now why would I do that? That's what you call a rhetorical question, Jasmine, so it doesn't count," Her eyes narrowed at that, but he ignored her, "No, I sent one of my employees to get a picture of the said inmate and any other pertinent information. And you can say that the rest was history," He finished with a smile, "Now, my turn. Why didn't you tell me about him?"

"Multiple reasons actually," Oh really? "The first, Danny made me promise not to tell anyone. No ghostly allies, human allies, and he mentioned you by name. The second reason, it wouldn't be best for him in his psychological state to interact with you. Third, I didn't know how you would react to him being alive, for both your benefit and his own," Both of their benefits? What sort of contrived backwards thinking led her to that conclusion?

If Jasmine noticed his incredulous reaction, she didn't show it, "Now, my turn." Oddly, a small, almost chipper smile ran across her face. What was she…? "How's Danielle?"

That stopped him short, "What?"

"It's a simple question. How is she? I haven't seen her in a while."

"She's doing well," He said slowly, the image of a tiny little, blue eyed raven haired girl reaching out to him to pick her up flashing to the front of his mind. A small smile tried to appear on his lips, but he suppressed it. He couldn't let himself be soft… at least not at the moment. Something else occurred to him, "Although, my Little Rabbit has been throwing the worst of tantrums lately," He grimaced at the memory of Danielle screaming when she didn't get dessert after dinner one time. Vlad swore that she was developing Daniel's ghostly wail early with those lungs of hers.

"She's almost three now right?"

He nodded, "Physically, yes."

She smiled wistfully, leaning back in her chair while holding the DP cup, "I remember when Danny was that young. I was about ten at the time and couldn't really understand why anyone would want something that loud and destructive in their house. He nearly destroyed Bearbert so many times," Her smile turned sad at the memory, though Vlad could defiantly hear the longing in her tone for better times.

"Yes, I could imagine him as a troublesome toddler," He said simply, not really sure how to respond to the change in conversation. Score for Jasmine. He shook his head, "Now enough of that. Second question. Did you know that Daniel was at Arkham when you asked to apply there?"

She shook her head, slowly bringing herself back from memory lane, "I had no idea he was there. In fact, I didn't see him until a little under a month after I was employed. Even then, it was for a session for an uncooperative patient, not Danny. Apparently, he wasn't responding to questioning or any treatments other than the sedatives they gave him at night. I was a sort of last resort. The two of us were entirely surprised that the other was at Arkham."

He could hardly believe that, but her heartbeat didn't seem irregular. It didn't excuse her for not telling him, but at the very least, it was good that she hadn't been betraying him since the very beginning. Still, Jasmine shouldn't have kept Daniel's existence away from him.

When Vlad didn't comment, she continued, "Why did you make a deal with LexCorp?"

Vlad would deny it to himself later, but he was relieved when Jasmine didn't question him any further about his home life. That was a bit too personal for this type of conversation.

He shrugged, "I didn't agree to any specifics. The only reason I even agreed to this 'better brighter future' nonsense was so my company wouldn't fall. While Dalv is one of the strongest corporations in the world, LexCorp could still ruin it with one word. I have little to no intention in actually cooperating with them."

"You do realize there will be issues with that in the future," The billionaire rolled his eyes.

"You don't need to tell me that. I'm considering putting away some money just in case the company is bought out," Jazz nodded.

"Sounds smart."

He smirked, "This is me we're talking about," Jasmine rolled her eyes, but didn't respond much further. Vlad's smirk didn't falter, however. He merely took a sip of tea, mentally chastising himself for drinking the disgusting watered down version, before continuing, "Alright, how does keeping Daniel in Arkham help him? Since you seem so determined to keep him there," Vlad expected her to give a half-baked excuse about protecting him from the world that betrayed him or something of the sort. He did not expect, however, the odd expression on her face as she froze at his words, "What?"

Jasmine seemed to have to force herself to relax, if only a bit. She bit her lip before speaking slowly, every word said meticulously. It was almost as if she had to force the words out, "Vlad, Danny isn't entirely… sane anymore." If she noticed his incredulously shocked expression, she didn't give a sign. She merely gripped the cup tighter, "Remember your reaction when you found out what the Guys in White did. You killed nearly everyone in that building and then spent six months trying to salvage enough DNA from our house to create a clone of Danny. You nearly went insane in the process. Don't you try to deny it either. The few times we interacted during that time, you were defiantly a literal fruit loop."

He flinched. Those were… dark times to say the least, worse than those years of loneliness as he plotted against Jack. At least then he felt like he had some form of control over his life. He nodded slowly, "I suppose I was, but I couldn't imagine that Daniel would take such drastic measures."

She sighed despairingly into her tea, shaking her head slightly, "While Danny wouldn't kill anyone, he still had a drastic reaction considering the… circumstances." The shrink let out a shaky breath and took a sip of tea, probably trying to control her emotions from the unwanted memories. After a moment, she continued like nothing had happened, "Anyway, combine Danny's obsessive ghostly nature and the torture and hardship that his human psyche must have had after nearly a year of experimentation... well, something has to give," She sighed again, "To be completely honest, I'm surprised he's doing this well."

Something didn't sit well with Vlad, and he decided to voice his concerns, "He seemed perfectly fine when talking to me, a bit nervous, but nothing out of the ordinary."

Jasmine laughed humorlessly, "That's because he thought he was talking to a dream version of you. He told me ever since he became a halfa, his dreams have become more realistic," Only his years of dealing with politics kept him from cringing. He, himself, had spent many a night waking up from nightmares about various horrid moments of this life, included but not limited to his childhood, those first years as a halfa, and his imagination mocking him by creating Maddie's and Daniel's final moments. The realism in those dreams were never a gift. Even the happy dreams merely mocked him by showing him of what could have been instead of facing reality.

Once in a blue moon, he had a happy dream that didn't leave him feeling melancholy afterwards. Not surprisingly, those dreams most often included his Little Rabbit, Danielle, having a wonderful, happy future.

With Daniel and his experiences, his dreams were sure to be dreadful. Well, nightmares, as the case seemed to be. He only hoped that the people in Arkham had the sense to give him something that would leave him dreamless.

She continued, sounding frustrated with the situation, but unaware of his reaction, "It doesn't help that the sedatives they give him causes him to have lucid dreams sometimes, which you would think would help, right? Wrong. Whenever he tried to change the dreams themselves, the nightmares became worse. The only reason he's still on them is so the entire floor wouldn't be kept up all night from his screaming," She added at his disbelieving look.

Internally, he went over the information in his head and saw no discrepancies. Though, why would a hospital keep an inmate on a drug that would hurt his condition, he had no clue. That would be the first thing to go the moment he had custody over Daniel. He continued with a small frown, "So Daniel thought I was just a nightmare, and he was simply reacting to it the way he thought he should."

She nodded, "Exactly. But that's not the only issue," Is it ever? "He has little to no trust for… anyone really. The only person he talks to about anything is me. While Arkham might not be the best environment, it's the one he feels most comfortable in right now. He doesn't have to worry about his powers acting up as much nor does he have to worry about my well-being since he's in close proximity to me every day.

"As much as I want him to be out of there, he's actually really sick, and to be completely honest, I don't know what anyone could do to help him," She sighed once more and took a tip of tea. The girl started tracing the rim of the cup, a frown on her face, "Anyway, next question. If you win this game, what do you plan to do with him?"

"Take him back to my mansion, of course," He watched with slight annoyance as Jasmine's hand clenched around her mug before returning back to its semi-lax position. However, she stopped tracing the rim and held the cup's other side. Vlad raised an eyebrow, "You seem to disagree. Does that have something to do with his sanity issue?" He found a certain satisfaction in her slight eye twitch, "I guess it is. If that's the case, I can hire you as well as the world's best psychiatrists to look after him. Not only that, if you feel that his powers are an issue, I can buy even better repressors to keep his abilities in check or invent them if necessary.

"See? Problem solved. No cell included."

Apparently not in her opinion, because she narrowed her eyes at him, "First of all, they're inhibitors not repressors. Second, no, it isn't, Vlad. Yes, while the sanity issue that you call it is what I'm referring to, taking him to your mansion would just make everything worse. The heart of Danny's problems is paranoia, and you and that mansion are part of that."

"Oh yes, he must believe that I spent all this time and all of my resources just to find him and make him my evil apprentice. Daniel-"

"Does believe that. Whole heartedly," His anger must have shown because the girl let out a frustrated huff, "Think about it. The last time the two of you interacted, you were at each other's throats. At the same time, you were trying to make his life as hard as possible so you could repress his will and make him your evil apprentice. He hasn't seen you since then, so for you to suddenly waltz in and want to take him away, he's going to assume the worse," The shrink laid back in her seat casually after she finished her rant, taking one of the last cookies from the center plate as she did so, "Oh, by the way, that was another question."

He blinked but his surprise was quickly quenched in favor of sending a small smirk, "Nice try Jasmine, but I didn't say it counted."

She shook her head, "Doesn't matter. You asked a question and I answered, therefore it counts," She said, taking a bite of her cookie before setting it down and taking a sip of tea.

As much as he hated to admit it, the girl had a point. There were little to no set rules to this game other than the back and forth question rule. To be completely honest, he was more peeved that he didn't think of the idea first. She had asked questions within her answers after all.

Oh, well. He had gained information either way.

Pretending to contemplate her reasoning, he sighed and leaned back in the kitchen chair, looking towards the ceiling as if it would yield an answer to a problem of sorts, "Very well," He drawled, his tone one of a person taking on a great burden, "Go on then. Ask me another question."

"How kind of you," She deadpanned.

"Wasn't it?"

Jasmine rolled her eyes, but then eyed him sternly, "Now I want you to perfectly honest here."

"Your lack of faith pains me."

"And be serious."

He smirked mischievously, "Of course. Aren't I always?"

"Right," She drawled sarcastically, "Anyway, last question. I'm going to give you a scenario and you're going to respond as truthfully as possible."

He rolled his eyes, though he was curious, "How creative."

A long frustrated sigh escaped her lips, "Anyway, here it goes. Both Danny and Danielle are being held captive by ghosts. You were recently hit by the Plasmius Maximus or something of the sort, so your powers are repressed. You have no resources, no ways to call back up, nor any way to escape. Essentially, you're trapped," Vlad frowned, not liking where this was going, "The villain that captured you three comes in and tells you that he would let you go since he got what he wanted from you. However, you could only choose between one of the other two halfas to go with you. So the question is if it was between Danny's or Danielle's safety, which one would you choose?"

"Jasmine!" How could she-?

"Choose Vlad, or do you surrender?"

"That question-"

"Is perfectly acceptable to ask. Now answer."

He scowled, "You know very well that it isn't."

She shrugged, "There were no set requirements on what type of questions could be asked, therefore this is a perfectly legal question," The shrink gave him a pointed look, one that showed no remorse of the situation, nor satisfaction. Just pure calculation, "Now choose."

"I can't."

"Then do you surrender?"

"My answer is that I couldn't choose between the two," He said, trying to find a way out of the predicament. Unfortunately for him, the formidable girl had a response to that.

"Then you refuse to answer," She replied, "That means, I win."

"No, it means that the villain would take me instead of those two," He hated how desperate his voice sounded because to him, this game wasn't just a matter of principal, but also a matter of Daniel and his future.

But in reality, he knew this was an uphill battle, and he had a feeling he was losing ground fast.

Case and point, the girl shook her head and answered back casually, "No, that means everyone is killed."

"I wouldn't allow it!"

Jasmine shook her head again, much to his ever growing despair, "You have no control. You're just a prisoner. If you can't pick between the two of them, neither of their safeties are secured, so you don't answer the question. Remember, you have to answer truthfully," She finished stoically, her eyes unrelenting.

Vlad tried to think of any other scenario that would work, but he realized that no matter what he did, that, unless he lied, there would be no way for him to truly win this game. He had to commend Jasmine on her brilliance in manipulation. Yes, he could lie, but again that wasn't the point of this game.

Still, that little rat outmaneuvered him...

He slumped in his chair, suddenly feeling old, and eternally tired from the world's antics on his soul, "I can't answer the question then," Vlad said quietly.

"So I win." No satisfaction was in her tone.

He watched her. There was no triumph in her eyes either, "I suppose so," He responded. Vlad could practically feel the cards falling from his hands at the loss. What could he do now? He huffed slightly, looking at the pastries on the table with slight distain, "That was a dirty trick."

"Maybe so," She conceded, "But you forget, Vlad. I work with super villains on a daily basis. I know how their minds work. I know all the tactics to get information out of their heads. I'm not proud of it, but playing mind games is my specialty."

He huffed again, but the man couldn't find the anger within him to be annoyed, "So I am a villain now?"

"If you keep acting like a villain, I'll keep treating you like one," She replied.

Now, Vlad was annoyed. He frowned slightly, "How am I being a villain, Jasmine? For wanting Daniel's safety? For finding the truth? Tell me," His voice sounded too pleading for his tastes, but at the moment, he couldn't care about how he sounded.

Jasmine looked at him for a long moment before glancing at her infuriating mug for some reason, "The rules of the game say that I don't have to answer any more questions," Her voice sounded almost robotic.

That's right, that was part of the original rules wasn't it? He sighed again, thinking that he might as well start thinking of another plan to try to get Daniel without tipping off Jasmine, "No, you don't. Do you?"

"Nope, but I will anyway, since you asked so nicely."

He scoffed, "I don't need your consolation prize."

"That's just it, Vlad, this isn't a consolation prize. There was never a prize to begin with as far as I was concerned."

He arched an eyebrow, "Oh really?"

"Yes, really," Jasmine said, sounding exasperated. She frowned a bit, and said softly to him, "Vlad, I know you're frustrated. I know you're feeling betrayed and confused. Heck, I would be too if I were in your shoes."

"Then why was my reaction so immature to you?" Vlad interjected.

"Because you should have gone to me first," She countered, sounding slightly annoyed, "People don't do things without reasons, Vlad, and in my opinion I have perfectly valid ones."

Unfortunately, that made sense, though it didn't mean he had to be happy about it, "I could have helped."

She shrugged, "Maybe, but Danny doesn't see it like that, and now all the progress that I made with him is probably gone."

"With just one visit?" He asked incredulously.

"Yes and no. It was the way you visited. If you had been with me at the time and knew of his condition, then maybe it would have ended up better. But with you surprising him and making his many nightmares a reality?" She shook her head, "There was little to no chance of that ending well. In fact, you probably did the worst possible thing you could have possibly done other than kidnapping him directly."

"Why does this make me a villain?"

"Because you're making this entire scenario into a game, not taking anyone else seriously and only really thinking about your own needs. I know you care about Danny, but the way you're caring is like how you obsessed over our mom, not thinking about what she wanted or needed and only thinking about yourself," He flinched, some part of him wanting to disagree strongly. However, he hushed that part of him, since looking back, it was a little bit more than true, "You want Danny safe and in your care. I get that. But without taking both sides of the story, you end up hurting him more than helping."

He considered her argument. On one hand, he hated to be accused of villainy for wanting Daniel's safety, but on the other hand, he could… maybe in some sort of way see how his actions could have possibly been a bit villainous and obsessive-like.

He sighed, conceding that yes, it may have been a bit more than a little obsessive, "I suppose you have a point," He eyed her sternly though, "But where do we go from here? I can't just pretend I don't know he's there."

She puffed herself up, looking to be in 'business mode' again, the conversation coming full circle, "Well, you have a couple options. One, we wait and see if he improves in ti-… or not," She added, seeing at his glare. The girl sighed, and gave Vlad an unsure look. Then as if deciding something, she sighed again and gave him a soft smile, "Or two," She continued, her words slow and tentative, "Two, you let me see his condition for a while, and in time, we start having short visits to catch up on recent events. Essentially, we'll be starting over in a way."

He straightened, that was not expected, "What do you have to gain by me having access to Daniel?"

She shook her head, "I don't anything to gain. In fact, you coming into his life will most likely be detrimental to his health rather than improve any sort of stability he may have," He narrowed his eyes, but was confused just the same. She smiled ironically, "But I'm giving you a second chance."

He snorted, "Must you make me ask why?"

"Because of Danielle."

Vlad straightened again, "What does she have to do with anything?"

She rolled her eyes, taking the second to last cookie off the center plate, "Ever since you started caring for her, you've become a better person… in general. From what I've seen, she's a happy little girl, if a bit spoiled, that loves her father. And more importantly, you care for her just as much as Danny, if not even more so."

He frowned, and leaned back in his seat, "Yes, I love my Little Rabbit, but what does that have to do with Daniel?"

"I know you're not really that bad of a guy, a fruit loop for sure, but after working with real villains for almost a year… well," She grimaced, looking at the cookie with a sneer, before giving him a pointed look, "Let's just say, there's a difference between you being annoyingly manipulative and psychopathic meta-humans trying to rule the world by encasing it with ice."

He didn't know if being not as bad as an insane super villains whom didn't care about the value of a life was a compliment or not.

He ignored the thought, and pointed out an important note, "Yet you say I'm acting like a villain."

"Yes, you were. But that's a bit my fault," She answered with a shrug.

"Go on," He drawled, leaning forward with a smirk, "How is this your fault as well?" Yes, he wanted to know he was right. Vlad would never claim he wasn't a bit petty. Entirely petty? No, but he would take satisfaction in Jasmine's explanation of her wrong-doings, even in small amounts.

She rolled her eyes, seeming to understand his motivation, but indulging him on his sense of self-righteousness… or self-centeredness, depending on who you asked. She took a bite of the cookie before explaining, "Because I didn't trust you about Danny, you automatically assumed that I was not to be trusted either. In such, you started to revert to your old tactics, by going behind everyone's backs to have total domination and complete power over your opponents. If I had trusted you with the information earlier then this could have been avoided. But I didn't, and that is my fault."

"And now?"

"Now?" She paused, placing the cookie down, as if to emphasize the importance of the moment. The young woman looked at him straight on, straightening herself in the seat with an even expression on her face, "Well, if you promise to cooperate, then down the road, maybe just maybe, Danny can actually recover from all this," The even expression melted, and she smiled softly, something undefinable glittering in her teal eyes, "Then if all goes well, he might… might actually be able to see his little cousin grow up."

That stopped him short. His Little Badger and Little Rabbit meeting? Daniel being an older brother to Danielle? A family? He couldn't stop himself from picturing in his head, the images flooding into him with almost a desperate force.

Back in his mansion in Wisconsin. After a long day of classes at the local college, Daniel would come home and his Little Rabbit would stumble into a run towards her cousin. They would laugh and Daniel would suddenly pick her up over his shoulder, a childish squeak erupting from Danielle as she banged her little fists on his back. He would whirl her around a few times until she was screaming with glee before putting her down with a smile.

Another scene. Downstairs in the training room. Both he and Daniel helping Danielle with her developing ghost powers. Daniel would hold his little girl's hands as he unsteadily starting flying. As she flew, Vlad would come up behind her and guide her to new heights until she became more comfortable in the air, the three of them laughing as she did flips with her newly found love of flying. When training was done for the day, Daniel would use his ice powers to create a mini ice rink for them to skate on, and Vlad would use his own fire core to make the perfect hot cocoa. Jasmine would be teaching Danielle how to skate, and they would end the evening huddling up together by the fireplace.

Yet another moment. They were in one of the sitting rooms, the one in library, if he recognized the space correctly. He was looking at one of the most adorable scenes that his mind dared to conjure. Jasmine, Daniel, and Danielle all sitting on one of the lounging couches. The shrink sat to the left of the raven duo half-heartedly reading a book, but in reality was looking on the two younger halfas lying beside her. Daniel was lying against Jasmine's shoulder, a small amount of drool threatening to escape his mouth with his youngest of the trio curled between them. The male halfa clung to Danielle with his free arm, the appendage almost reaching the Jasmine's knee. His Little Rabbit, bless her soul, snored softly, shuffling every once in a while to get closer and closer to the boy. Jasmine smiled softly at the two of them, as Daniel held tighter to Danielle unconsciously in his sleep, a small smile tugging on the boy's lips. The shrink looked up from the little scene and towards Vlad.

In the vision, their eyes met, and suddenly, he was thrust back to reality.

All of this flickered through his mind in an instant. His whole being ached for this. It would be perfect. Absolutely and unbelievably wonderful and heart wrenchingly ironic considering the circumstances involved to getting this happy ending.

Some part of Vlad knew that Jasmine was pressing the right buttons on purpose, offering him his deepest desires by a few simple words that could easily be taken away with a few wrong steps on his part. If she wanted to, and if he agreed, the girl could manipulate his actions so thoroughly with her claim to this unbelievable dream that in the end, he would get nothing in return. It was risky, too risky for his usual tastes.

But that was the true point of this meeting wasn't it? Trust, the lack of it, and a way to rebuild it. He flickered his gaze towards Jasmine for an instant. There was no look of triumph in her eyes, no secretive twinkle, just patience and maybe even a little bit of hope. Her entire body was tense in anticipation, as she held the DP mug tightly in her hands, the symbol itself barely visible between her intertwined fingers.

He looked back unseeingly to his plate, thinking about what her reaction could mean. Instantly, the familial image of Jasmine smiling towards the two younger halfas came rushing back to him, and he couldn't keep a small smile from coming to his lips. Maybe… maybe this is what she wanted too. A chance at happiness for everyone. They had been fighting for so long after all… maybe, just maybe, this was everyone's chance for redemption and in time, peace.

Vlad realized at this moment that he was at a crossroads. Leaving the table now would mean no more association with Jasmine, and he could simply take Daniel away. However, if what the psychologist said was true, taking him now would just make everything end horribly for everyone. But if he stayed and agreed to this compromise, then maybe...

Danielle's smiling face rose to his mind, following quickly by Daniel's and Jasmine's and finally his own. The four of them together, sitting together at a dining table in the mansion, having dinner, at peace, and happy, truly happy despite the tragedy of their lives.

…Then maybe there could be happy ending for everyone.

"Vlad? What do you say?" Vlad was snapped out of his thoughts when Jasmine suddenly spoke up once more. Her hopeful eyes prodded at him again, and he could see them wanting the same chance for a happy future that he did. Maybe not the same one, but one in the same direction.

And so he made his choice, silently hoping that it was the right decision to make.

He looked her straight in the eyes, a small smile tugging to his lips, "I say, I think that's a compromise I can deal with," His voice came out surprisingly quiet, a whisper that managed to speak volumes more than all the words in the world ever could. It was filled with an innumerable amount of emotions, more than he even knew he had, more than any creature in his eyes could have possibly achieved. And yet, in strange way, he couldn't imagine him agreeing any differently.

And so the deal was made.

Apparently, he made the right choice in Jasmine's eyes because she let out a sigh, her previous tension nearly gone at his decision. Even so, the shrink gave him a stern look, though the hope in her voice was obvious, "But it will be a long process. It could take years."

"So be it," He said with a nod, "As long as Daniel can recover, I'll do whatever it takes... though you should get him off that medicine."

Before Jasmine could respond to this, there was suddenly the sound of a piano resounding from the bedroom, Beethoven maybe? It was still odd to say the least, and if wasn't for the lack of spectral activity in the area, he might have thought it to be a ghost.

Apparently, Jasmine knew what was going on because she gave a small, embarrassed smile, "Sorry, that's my phone, let me get it, since it might be work," Ah, that was a ring tone. To be completely honest, it wasn't surprising that she would choose classical music.

He waved her off, "It's no problem, my dear. Just hurry back," She nodded and hurried out of the room to get the phone before it went to voicemail. He chuckled at her antics before looking back to his plate. Only a few crumbles remained of the previous cookies remained.

Vlad looked back towards the bedroom Jasmine disappeared to. Everything was changing again. He could practically feel it. This time, Vlad hoped that he was to be on the right side of change. The man nearly snorted to himself. To think, he came in here thinking he would be giving Jasmine a hard time, and now he was actually cooperating with her.

He sighed. His life hadn't been this complicated in years. Somehow, he didn't know whether to feel annoyed or relieved.

After a few moments of deciding whether or not it was rude to take the last cookie in the center plate, the door suddenly slammed open and Jasmine practically ran out of the room she was in such a rush. Before he could ask her anything, she swept past him, picking up car keys from a small bin in the kitchen, and rushing towards the front.

He blinked, "Jasmine?"

She didn't respond. Vlad was growing worried, as she cursed softly when her shoes wouldn't go on her feet. The girl stumbled to grab her doctor's coat that hung on the coat rack and put on her shoes at the same time. However, she lost her balance and fell to the floor with a loud thunk.

"Sweet Logs!" He rushed out of his chair and towards the fallen girl, who had pushed the coat rack messily towards the couch. As he reached out to help her up, she ignored his presence and pushed herself up with the wall as leverage, seemingly not to see him. Her red hair fell haphazardly around her face, flying in random directions. But she didn't seem to care, in fact, the young woman was acting like a wild animal with no other purpose but to get out of the house as quickly as possible.

His worry grew exponentially. Before she could fully get the doctor's coat on, which had somehow gotten turned inside out, he grabbed her arm and looked her sternly in the eyes. "Jasmine! Tell me what is wrong before you give me a heart attack!"

"Vlad," Something in her tone made him freeze, obviously scared yet determined at the same time. She swallowed and looked at him shakily, his stomach dropping at her words, "Vlad please! Something's wrong with Danny and his ice core is going crazy. Now let me go so I can get there before he accidently blows up the entire facility!"

And with that, the happily ever after he had imagined started to fade.

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