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Vlad carefully dabbed a light line of foundation beneath his eye, covering the dark bags that he himself had applied there minutes earlier.

He was rather talented when it came to cosmetics, the first layer was flawless, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, pale and still a hint of bruising from his beating.

The bruises were the trickiest, he had to find the right shade of yellow to get that 'almost healed' look.

On top of his haggard masterpiece, he meticulously applied a mismatching foundation in a carefully slap-dashed manner, a poor attempt to cover up his rough appearance.

A more convincing lie was a lie you tried to hide.

Rumpling his shirt collar in a subtle but not unnoticeable way, he gave himself one more glance over in the vanity mirror before picking up his jacket and heading for the door.

The announcement would be taking place on the steps of town hall, the stage had already been set, all he needed to do was show up and shed a few tears.

No, not shed tears, almost shed tears. The 'almost' was important, he had to maintain the visage of a man barely holding it together, not a complete mess. Too much emotion would feel artificial compared to the reputation he'd cultivated. It was a fine line but Vlad was confident he could walk it steadily.

His arrival at town hall set everything into motion, he was exactly 13 minutes late, enough to cause concern but not aggravate those waiting on him. He wanted pity not irritation.

He was subjected to roughly 20 rushed minutes of being shuffled around, given instructions on which cameras to look at and which reporters to avoid. He was not under any circumstances to say the words 'murder', 'poisoning', or 'possession'. He was only to refer to last week's events as 'The Incident'.

He knew this already, of course. Vlad was familiar with politics, he knew how to cultivate a certain image and play a crowd.

Cameras snapped and flashed as he stepped out into public view. He winced slightly as the bright lights hit his sensitive eyes. Having keen night vision occasionally had its drawbacks.

The restless crowd quieted down as he stepped up to the podium and cleared his throat.

"Good mor-," he carefully caught his voice on the word before clearing his throat and continuing. "Good morning. I'd like to thank you all for your patience during my recovery after Ja- after the events of last week."

He cleared his throat again and pretended to shuffle his notes. Almost throwing in Jack's name would be a sufficient reminder of their personal relationship. It would increase empathy among the public, he hadn't just been forced to kill a man, he'd been forced to kill his friend. A friend who had so enthusiastically, so publicly supported him during his election campaign.

"The incident was... unfortunate." he added a slight shudder to his voice, only barely noticeable, but noticeable nonetheless. "But after many, many days of discussions, our justice system has determined that I was not in control of my own actions, and as such will not be held to the full extent of the law."

There was some murmuring among the crowd, but no outcry over the decision. A good sign.

"This has, however, opened up new complications for our legal system. There will be much debate over how to approach incidents of this nature in the future."

He paused, taking a long shuddering breath.

"But despite my innocence in the eyes of the law, this incident has weighed heavily on me personally. So I have decided of my own volition that I will be stepping down as Mayor."

The murmuring exploded into a barrage of questions, the few reporters present practically leaped from their seats with microphones in hand. Vlad raised a hand in a plea for silence, it took a few moments but the crowd settled.

"I believe this is the best decision for myself and for the people of Amity Park. I cannot perform my duties to the best of my ability at this present time, and I have no desire to let you all down."

He swallowed hard, letting his lip tremble slightly.

"Not again." He added, quietly. "That is all."

Vlad quickly stepped away from the podium, a hand over his eyes, the implication of hiding tears.

His place was taken by another spokeswoman, who would answer all questions on his behalf. He was ushered back into the building and entered his office for the last time, an assistant brought him some tea and left him alone at his request. They wouldn't bother him until they were certain enough time had passed for him to calm down, nobody had seen him like this before, nobody wanted to be the unfortunate soul forced to comfort him in his time of crisis.

Ah politicians, he would miss the self centred egotism, they were all quite cute. This job had been a fun little side hobby, but it was time to move on. He had more important goals in mind now.

He began to sip his tea when he was interrupted by his phone. A glance at the screen had him brighten up in an instant. He answered.

"Maddie dear, a pleasure as always to hear from you." he struggled to keep up a weary voice through his cheshire grin.

"Hi Vlad," said Maddie, her voice strangely stilted. "I just saw the broadcast, how are you feeling?"

"Tired mostly," Vlad sighed. "It'll be nice to finally go home and rest. Are you ready for the trip this afternoon?"

"That's... sort of why I called."

Vlad felt the smile slip from his face, he had a bad feeling about where this was going.

"Oh? Is something wrong?"

"Vlad I... I've been a terrible mother." Maddie's voice shook.

"Oh Maddie dear, that's just not true, you-"

"I haven't been here for them. They need me and I haven't been here Vlad! They've been the ones looking after me! I'm their mother, I shouldn't be relying on my children, who just lost their dad, to be looking after me. What kind of mother does that? How could I be so, so... ugh I'm so stupid!"

Vlad stared silently at the wall as Maddie sobbed into the phone.

"Maddie I..." he paused, this was the first he'd heard her truly cry like this since the party, he wasn't quite sure what to say. "I'm sorry, this must all be very hard for you."

He paused, thinking over his words carefully, he had to be delicate here.

"But just think of how much time you can all spend together after that ghost has finally been captured. You won't have to live in fear that something might happen to them-"

"But what if that's what he wants? What if he's just waiting for me to leave? I couldn't live with myself if something happened to them while I was gone, I just couldn't. I'm sorry Vlad, I can't go to Wisconsin, I can't leave my family, I don't know why I ever thought I could."

Vlad bit back a violent curse, he had almost had her, it was all going so well, what went wrong?

Daniel, he thought, or... no, no Jasmine, this had her fingerprints all over it. She could be quite the manipulative little snake when she put her mind to it. He would almost be proud if he weren't furious.

He could hear his phone creaking in his grip, the screen cracked.

"I... understand Maddie. If you need to be with your children," he took another deep breath to keep himself from screaming as he forced out his next words through gritted teeth. "Then you take as much time as you need."

"Thank you Vlad, I'm sorry."

She hung up.

The phone shattered, pieces of plastic and metal flew across the room as Vlad slammed a fist down on his desk. He could feel his eyes burn and his sharp teeth sink into his lip.

Heat singed his lips on every breath, his lungs burned as his rage sent boiling ectoplasm through his system. He could feel his pitiful human flesh almost shrivelling under the heat of his plasma core.

Reign it in you fool, reign it in, anyone could walk in on you right now for goodness sake.

It was becoming more evident that his human half was struggling to keep pace with his ghost half, it simply couldn't handle when his powers bled out anymore. He was tempted to switch into his ghost form while trying to get his temper back under control, but he refused. He could deal with this, his body could cope, he would make it cope.

A few more minutes of even breathing and he pulled his burning energy back in. He could work with this, it would take a little more time but he would not be beaten. He had been overly optimistic, overconfident, he needed to be more patient. He could fix this, he would fix this.

He licked his lips as his core cooled, he could feel the cracked skin beneath his tongue pull back together, healing up in a matter of minutes, it used to be seconds.

He wondered if it had started happening to Daniel yet, his power had increased at a remarkable rate, much faster than Vlad's. If his human half hadn't started feeling the effects yet, it would soon.

Maybe Daniel would even come crawling to him for answers, how sweet it would be to have the boy at his mercy once more.

Vlad picked up his tea and took a long sip. He didn't like to admit that he needed help, but Maddie was different. Maddie was a genius, with intellect that rivalled his own. He was ready to accept that he needed her mind, between her brilliance and his data on halfa biology, he was certain they could come up with a solution together to restore balance to his molecular structure.

He needed her, more than he ever had, and he was going to have her.

No matter what it took.