A/N: This is the first thing I've written in a long time. So long, in fact, that I couldn't remember how to access my old ffn account and decided it was just as well to made a new one since I'm less than proud of much of my old writing. There are some things in here that are part of an idea I have for another fic, so they aren't really explained, but I put them in anyway because I wanted them there. Also, I had intended to put the whole story up as a one-shot, but it's longer and more complicated than I was expecting, so I'm doing it by chapters instead. Anyway, I'm rambling, so enjoy!
Chapter One: Fenton, Phantom, and Findings
"Remember people, your creative writing assignment is due tomorrow. And since you've known about it for two weeks I expect everyone to have it done." Mr. Lancer said the last with a special glare for Daniel Fenton as the troublesome boy filed past him on the way out of the classroom. Speaking of Danny...
"Mr. Fenton, could you stay behind a moment?" The only response the overworked teacher received was a sigh from the boy as he waved off his two friends. Though he couldn't see it, Mr. Lancer was sure that the wave had been accompanied by a roll of the eyes.
Taking advantage of the time it would take for everyone to pack up and leave, Lancer sized up the seventeen year old. The boy looked tired, though truth be told the teacher had to strain to remember a day in the last three years when Danny hadn't looked like he'd been up all night. Those three years had made some differences - even if the laziness and perpetual tardiness remained the same. Danny wore his black hair slightly longer than he used to and had gained some small bit of muscle, his white with red-trim tee and jeans outfit had been forsaken for sand coloured khakis, a black tee-shirt and a long sleeved, collared black shirt. The black is probably Ms. Manson's fault.
The strangest part of his apparel was a short chain with large silver links which had a small star attached. In the middle of the star was what looked like a stylized CW, though that made no sense whatsoever. The chain had been the cause of some commotion amongst the student body a while back when Dash Baxter had attempted to steal it only to find that apparently no one but Danny Fenton and his friends could even touch it. Current popular thought was that it was some strange ghost related item made by Jack and Maddie Fenton; Mr. Lancer found that particular explanation lacking.
Turning his thoughts back to the teenager in front of him, it occurred to Lancer that there was more than just cosmetic changes. In some inexplicable way, Danny looked old. His blue eyes still held mischief, and there was a self confidence that had been previously lacking, but there was something else there that bugged the hell out of his English teacher.
"Uh... Mr. Lancer? You okay?"
Snapping out of his musings, Lancer realized that the classroom was clear and that he had been staring for quite some time.
"Yes, Mr. Fenton, thank you, just thinking about something I have to do tonight."
Danny raised an eyebrow but seemed to accept the lie easily enough.
Clearing his throat Lancer launched into the actual reason he had asked Danny to stay behind. "I am not one to discourage creativity in my students, which is why I did not take your sketchbook from you during class. However, doodling when you need to be paying attention is a sure fire way to bring your grades down. And though you've been maintaining a B average this year, that average is far from a steady one. So I suggest that you refrain from indulging your hobby during lectures."
Instead of the brush off he'd been expecting Mr. Lancer was surprised to see Danny give him a considering look followed by a sheepish grin. "Yeah, you're probably right there. Sorry, Mr. Lancer."
The response earned a rare smile, "Go join your friends, Mr. Fenton. I'm sure they're waiting for you."
Danny was part way out the door when Lancer called out to him, "Oh, and Mr. Fenton?"
"I expect good things from your assignment tomorrow."
One of the great things about Amity Park is that it is extremely safe.
Well, if you discounted the ghosts.
And Jack Fenton's driving.
It was this sense of security combined with extreme insomnia that had Mr. Lancer walking around the park at two in the morning. Ender's Game! I'm going to be as tired as Mr. Fenton tomorrow. In truth, it was Danny Fenton who was keeping him awake. Something just wasn't right there, and whatever it was had been off for a long time.
There was no reason a physical or mental illness would not have been reported to the school by his family. And Danny's family may not have been entirely normal, but trouble at home was laughable. Problems with friends was an impossibility given that Danny Fenton was inseparable from Sam Manson and Tucker Foley, and had a somewhat close friend in Valerie Grey. Girl issues was an equally unlikely culprit given the obvious persistence of whatever was wrong, despite the fact that Fenton and Manson were visibly having issues admitting their feelings towards one another. Bullying ... well, bullying was decidedly a problem for him, but it was one that was improving, while to Lancer's mind Danny was getting worse.
Whatever it was, Lancer apparently wasn't going to figure it out tonight.
Turning to head back home, an unearthly white light in the trees caught his attention. Lancer debated for a moment - investigating strange occurrences in Amity Park was a terminally stupid idea - but he was not in the mood to put up with more mysteries. If it's a ghost, I'll just leave.
What he found surprised him. It was, of course, a ghost, though given which ghost it was Mr. Lancer decided that leaving was not necessary.
Besides, how often did one get a chance to watch the illustrious Danny Phantom without his knowledge, and while he was relaxing?
Based on his appearance the ghost-boy had been in a fight quite recently. His hair was messy, even for him, while his pale skin looked like it was going to bruise in several places and there was a gash along his right side which looked painful. I didn't realize a ghost could get hurt like that.
However, the local savior seemed entirely unconcerned with his injuries, as his leaned contentedly against the base of a rather large tree. A globe of white light hovered just above his right shoulder, apparently the source of the light Lancer had noticed earlier. Phantom's concentration was on the black-bound book and pencil in his hands, much to Mr. Lancer's curiosity.
Wait . . . Is he drawing?
It made sense, in a weird kind of way. Everyone needed a hobby, everyone needed something to get them away from their everyday life. And given the 'life' Danny Phantom led, he probably needed it more than most. What was giving Lancer the creeps was the absolute normality of it.
If you could get past the white hair, the glowing green eyes, the black with white hazmat, the weird glowing orb, the fact that he battled ghosts on a daily basis, and the fact that he himself was a ghost, then Phantom looked shockingly like a seventeen year old engrossed in a favorite pastime. In fact, Lancer was strongly reminded of how Danny Fenton had appeared while sketching in his class earlier.
But something about that wasn't right, Phantom should not look like a seventeen year old. He should, in theory, look like a fourteen year old. At least, the teacher was pretty sure that ghosts were not supposed to age. Well, you learn new things every day.
For the second time the book obsessed adult found himself examining a teenager. Right at the moment, the ghost appeared harmless, if not almost totally worn out. Lancer knew from experience that Phantom was not as harmless as he seemed. After three years of close calls, the teacher was firmly in the camp that declared the ghost a hero, but that did not discount the fact that Danny Phantom was powerful. If anything ever happened to turn the ghost from his path as a hero . . . That doesn't bare thinking.
Why did Phantom work so hard to protect Amity Park from other ghosts? It wasn't like the locals gave him a reason to do so, in fact there were many of them who would have gladly gotten rid of the ghost given the chance. The human ghost hunters would fight on side with him, only to turn back to chasing the ghost once the immediate threat was over. But Phantom never fought back, not enough to convince Lancer that he actually trying to hurt the people who were attempting to destroy him.
There were so many questions running through Mr. Lancer's head that he was considering just revealing himself and asking the ghost for answers, when a strange blue vapor escaped from Phantom's mouth. Stiffening the ghost dropped the sketchbook and pencil, grabbing a metal thermos which Lancer had failed to notice.
To Mr. Lancer's mind the attack came out of nowhere, though Phantom was apparently prepared since his head was no longer where the blast hit.
"That the best you can do, Skulker?" The ghost-teen's words came out as cocky and bored, belying the wary posture and serious expression Phantom had now taken on.
"Of course not, ghost-child. There would be no joy in the hunt if my prey was not given a chance to defend itself in vain."
Lancer recognized the newcomer as one of the ghosts who regularly attacked Amity Park. Now is probably a good time to leave.
He didn't get the chance. The fight started with a roar and a blast of green ectoplasm from Phantom, causing Skulker to phase through several trees before the two began a ghost version of an aerial dog fight.
Mr. Lancer stood shock still for several moments after the combat had drifted far enough away that he could no longer see or hear them. It took another ten minutes before he became convinced that the two ghosts were not coming back any time soon and that it was both prudent and safe to return home.
He started to do just that when it registered that the orb of white light was still floating in the same spot it had been in when Phantom had been sketching. The lethal sense of curiosity that had brought him over in the first place now caused the normally sensible teacher to drift over to examine the glowing ball.
It was, to all appearances, a tightly packed ball of light about the same colour as Phantom's hair. Though how it could be light and seem solid, or how it was being maintained, or, for that matter, how it was floating was well beyond even Mr. Lancer's surprisingly considerable scientific knowledge. Some ghost thing, most likely.
Ignoring the advice his own mind was screaming out at him, Lancer reached out to touch it, only to jump back in surprise when the orb simply ceased to exist. Left temporarily blinded, and muttering some choice words he had picked up from the kids at school, he attempted to take a few steps in the darkness, tripping over something instead.
"Lord of the Rings!" The exclamation sounded loud in his ears. With a sigh Lancer settled himself into a sitting position while waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
As soon as his vision returned Mr. Lancer found the reason he had tripped.
Phantom had forgotten his sketchbook.