Vlad made his own eggs, along with bacon crispy enough to make Danny wince. He ate much faster than Danny, and then watched as Danny slowly, carefully, squished the egg around his mouth with his tongue.
"What?" demanded Danny.
"Nothing," said Vlad. "I was still in the hospital when my teeth came in."
"But you said it took years for them to–"
"Yes," said Vlad, smiling thinly. "It does. Now, I have told your parents that I am teaching you something, and it would be remiss of me to neglect that. You will be accompanying me as I work today."
Danny, who had been planning on spending most of the day hiding somewhere on Vlad's massive property, looked at Vlad incredulously. "I thought the point of this was to keep people from seeing that I'm missing teeth."
"Not all of my work needs to be done in-person, Daniel. I would expect you, as a teenager, to know the internet exists."
"And, what, you want me to look over your shoulder while you play business solitaire or something."
"Hardly. I have something much more suitable to your skillset. Such as it is."
Danny bristled at the implied insult, and tapped down on the urge to bare his teeth. Sure, that might look frightening at the moment, but not for reasons Danny wanted.
… Although, the baring teeth thing was also new, and probably connected. Ugh.
"Come, now, Daniel. Don't you want to be able to tell the truth if anyone asks what you did for your internship? This way, you'll be able to put something on your resume."
Bold of Vlad to assume he was ever going to be able to hold a job with all the ghost attacks. But he did have a point.
"Fine," grunted Danny. "What are we doing?"
Vlad smiled so smugly that Danny almost picked a fight then and there. "Excellent. I will be reviewing the Dalv R&D monthly operation reports. You will be doing something different." He got up and walked away from the table. Danny, reluctantly, followed him.
As they walked, he tentatively tested his teeth. Still loose, of course. He wasn't sure why he'd expected them to suddenly fix themselves. He folded his tongue back. It was easy to resolve not to poke and prod, but actually refraining from poking and prodding was a different story entirely.
Vlad strode into a lavish office. Or should Danny call it a study? He wasn't sure what the difference was. In any case, it had a writing desk big enough to have its own zip code, and the walls were lined with bookshelves. The curtains and other upholstery were dark red and black, and the wood was a deep chocolate brown. Danny didn't know if this was better or worse than the office in his Packers-themed office back in Wisconsin. It certainly leaned deeper into the vampire aesthetic.
Vlad settled himself into an ornate chair behind the desk, and opened one of the drawers, pulling out stack after stack of papers.
"It's phase-proof," he said after a moment.
"I thought you might be wondering why I didn't phase these out. The desk is phase-proof. Then again, I suppose you are in enough pain to be distracted, so I can forgive the oversight. Go ahead and sit down. Make yourself at home."
What a Fruitloop.
Danny continued to stand as Vlad pushed a packet of papers over to him. They were stamped with the title ETHICS REVIEW.
"As something of an incentive," said Vlad, "if you take this seriously, I will refrain from pursuing any of these projects that you mark as ethically dubious."
"If I take what seriously? You still haven't explained anything."
"The ethics review for proposed research and development projects for the next quarter. I, personally, find the initial review tedious."
Vlad rolled his eyes and dropped a spiral bound booklet on top of the first packet. "These are Dalv's and Vladco's ethics guidelines and ethics review rules. Read it, and start filling out the reviews."
"And if I do this, then you won't do them?"
"If you find them unethical, yes."
"Well, this'll be easy. I don't think anything you do is ethical."
"And if you take the review seriously. I expect reasoned arguments, Daniel. Not teenage snark. My other option is simply approving all of them. If you want to stop my horrible, exploitative, capitalist, mad scientist ways, you'll have to work for it. And sit down, for goodness' sake. You aren't going to make any progress standing there like that."
Danny sat down and slouched as much as he could. "Are you really going to listen to me?"
"Yes," said Vlad, with a heavy sigh. "I don't know why you carry around that overdeveloped sense of morals with you, if you aren't going to do anything with it. At the very least, you should be excited to have insight into what I'll be developing next." He slid a set of pencils and pens in a small case over to Danny and opened up one of his own folders. "My evil plans and all that."
He reached to one side and turned on a small speaker. The sound that came out of them was so deep Danny could just about feel it in his bones. Heck, he could feel it in his teeth, which, given present conditions, wasn't at all pleasant.
"Music, Daniel. I enjoy listening to it while I work. It helps me focus."
"That's not music."m
"It's far more musical than that Metallica knockoff you and your friends like. This piece was composed by taking long recordings of ambient sounds in the Ghost Zone and speeding them up to near-human audibility while overlaying select ectosignatures converted into a sound designed to aid in concentration. Not that I'd expect you to understand."
Once again: Fruitloop.
Danny continued to glare at the booklet for another three seconds… which was about as long as it took for him to give into his curiosity and grab the guideline booklet.
It was… honestly pretty interesting. He didn't think any companies had anything like this, much less Vlad's, even if some of the things and reasoning in it seemed pretty backwards. Danny, with a sense of slight vindictiveness, chewed lightly on Vlad's fancy pencil as he read.
By the time he finished, Danny actually felt like this might be meaningful. Maybe. If Vlad kept his word, which wasn't a guarantee. But reading through the examples made him think that maybe doing this might help not just him, but other people who'd be affected by Vlad's inventions or businesses.
He put the guideline booklet to one side, and opened up the review packet.
Some of the proposals were… honestly pretty gross, in terms of what their results were supposed to be, or in terms of the materials they were supposed to use. Dalv was one of Vlad's ghost research companies, and it definitely showed. Danny couldn't believe that Vlad had even considered accepting some of these… but, no, wait, he could. Vlad was a Fruitloop. The Fruitloop, even.
But recognizing something sucked (particularly when it sucked for him and Vlad, specifically) was a lot different from writing down why it sucked in words, which was still different from filling out the paperwork in the 'correct' and 'acceptable' way.
It was a lot more engaging than Danny had expected. Almost soothing. Like putting together a puzzle. It even made that 'music' seem a little less
At some point, Vlad asked him something, but Danny waved him off. Whatever he had to say, it couldn't be that important. He kept working.
There was a squelching, crunching sound as he bit down a little too hard on the pencil and his tooth bent sideways in a very painful way. Blood dripped down on his paperwork. He swore, the words garbled, and put his hands over his mouth.
Fingers under his chin forced him to look up. When had Vlad gotten so close?
All at once, Danny was hit with–
A need to go to the bathroom.
An ache in his lower back.
He blinked, confused. What had happened…?
The view beyond the curtains, outside the window, was black.
"Your first time finding something that continuously satisfies your Obsession, is it?"
Danny's brows pinched inward. He had no idea what Vlad was talking about. What he did know was that he was bleeding, it hurt, and his blood was all over his finished paperwork.
"No matter," said Vlad, tilting Danny's head back and forth, which hurt so much that Danny phased backward through the chair. Vlad sighed at his bloody, but empty hand. "I have some dental cotton we can use to stop the bleeding, unless you like losing that much blood."
Danny nodded, briefly.
Vlad sorted through a box of things as Danny stemmed the flood of blood with a wad of cotton.
"These are mainly for later," said Vlad, "seeing as full ghosts skip this stake of development, and their teeth simply shape themselves into fangs. However, there should be something… Aha! Here. In the future, chew on this instead of my pencils."
Vlad handed Danny a… stress ball? A stress ball shaped like a blob ghost? A stress ball filled with ectoplasm?
Danny wasn't sure he wanted to put this into his mouth.
"You'll need something more substantial once your fangs start to grow in properly," said Vlad, "but it should be acceptable for the short term."
Danny squeezed the ball. It was nice and soft, and the ectoplasm made it conform to his hands more than something like sand or flour would have.
"Now, we can go upstairs and you can eat and get ready for bed."
Danny made a faint noise of protest.
"It is that late," said Vlad, responding to an imagined question. "You worked all day, which I'm sure is a novel experience for you. You didn't even stop when I suggested you take a break for dinner or lunch. Now, I made a pudding for you–"
Danny more or less tuned Vlad out, shoulders drooping in disappointment. He'd wanted to finish…
"Of course, you can continue to work on the ethics review tomorrow. I'll phase out the blood."
Oh, good, he'd been worried that–
Why was he looking forward to paperwork? On the weekend, no less.
"Did you hypnotize me?" asked Danny, every word a pain. That stupid 'music–'
"Heavens, no," said Vlad, looking delighted. "I wouldn't dream of it. You're more than welcome to work on the ethics review in any room you please, as near to or as far from me as you'd like."
Danny tried to cover up his confusion with a glare.
"You really don't know what an Obsession is, do you?" Vlad chortled. "Another area of your education that's lacking. I had thought that Maddie would have realized by now, but… perhaps she simply didn't tell you."
Danny glared harder.
"But you do need your rest, Daniel. We can't keep you awake the whole week. So. Up. Food. And then bed for you, little badger."
Danny really hated that nickname. But he was hungry, among other things, so he followed Vlad upstairs and was served a rather large bowl of pudding that was an incredible chore to eat before he went back upstairs to the space-themed room that was not his.
He sat on the bed, thinking. Vlad was being… weirdly nice, hypnotism aside. Danny did sometimes get distracted while doing things, but that level of distraction was usually related to space or anxiety on patrols. Not paperwork. Not even interesting paperwork, although before today Danny would have said those two things weren't at all compatible.
Speaking of patrol… Despite being tired and worn out by the pain and the unexpected hours-long paperwork session, he walked over to the window, opened it, and saw the tell-tale gleam of Vlad's human and ghost shield, power turned down so it didn't glow too brightly. Danny had no doubt that it would, however, jump to full strength if he tried to get past it.
What a Fruitloop. Really. He took back everything he'd thought about him being nice.