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Breathing. It was so simple. Until it wasn't.

"Relax, Daniel," said Vlad, lips brushing against Danny's ear as he spoke. "Really, you're making an unnecessary fuss over all of this."

He made it sound so simple. Danny thrashed, trying to throw him off, trying to grab him. All he succeeded in was temporarily pushing himself farther under.

"You must have noticed by now that we have no need for oxygen. Why, you chased Miss Grey into space without any consideration for the stuff."

Danny wasn't listening. His lungs felt like they were about to burst. He wanted to breathe. He wanted to breathe so badly.

"Just breathe, Daniel. It's only ectoplasm. It isn't going to hurt you."

Ectoplasm might not hurt him, but Danny was reasonably confident he wouldn't enjoy it in his lungs. It was like water in that way.

"Breathe," ordered Vlad. "Get it over with. I can do this all day."

And Vlad could, or near enough to it that it didn't matter. He'd hit Danny with the Plasmius Maximus, so right now Danny was weak and painfully human.

He needed to breathe, no matter what Vlad said about oxygen. But he couldn't, wouldn't breathe ectoplasm.

Again, he bucked against Vlad's restraining hand, but Vlad held firm, keeping Danny's face in the thick liquid.

"I could still put you in the vat or the chamber," said Vlad. "I don't have to stay here, talking you through this first breath." Vlad sighed, heavily.

A sharp crack split the air and was quickly followed by a line of burning pain across the backs of Danny's knees. Already, he'd been having trouble supporting himself; he collapsed, chest impacting painfully on the edge of the tank. A large bubble, followed by a series of smaller ones, escaped his mouth.

"Inhale, Daniel," said Vlad, sounding frustrated and bored. His grip on Danny's hair tightened, painfully. He gave Danny a little shake.

And Danny inhaled. He couldn't help it. His mind went blank with pain and the feeling of wrong. Liquid was not supposed to be there. His lungs spasmed, trying to expel the ectoplasm, but more just rushed back in.

Finally, he fell still, trembling and exhausted, his lungs working much harder than they usually did, but no more dead than he was before.

"There we are," said Vlad, drumming his fingers on Danny's back. "Wasn't that easy?"

He picked Danny up around the waist and tipped him into the ectoplasm tank. The ectoplasm soaked into Danny's clothes, weighing him down, pulling him deeper into the tank like a grasping hand. Even so, he kicked to the surface.

His fingers encountered something hard and flat.

Vlad had closed the lid.