Thanks to Pterodactyl, YumeTakato, FantomoDrako, wfea, egyptianqueen777, and Coronadofwb for the wonderful reviews!
Chapter 12: Resolution
I may own Will Spirit, Aster, and Cathy Martin, but I don't own Mr. Lancer, Danny Phantom, or anyone else in Amity Park. I'd like to, but I don't. I also don't own Anne of Green Gables, though it is part of my national heritage. I don't drink Coke, so there's no reason for me to own it.
The reunion got underway at ten o'clock the next morning. William Lancer, the school's retiring vice-principal, and Cathy Martin, the woman who'd organized the event almost single-handedly, were waiting at the doors to greet their former classmates. Both wore name badges that loudly proclaimed their identities. Lancer's was plain and unimaginative, while Cathy had chosen to do each letter of her name in a different colour of marker. Cathy's husband, Matt, was inside organizing the CDs of background music. His nametag was purposefully upside-down.
Lancer welcomed and made small talk with everyone who came up the steps of the school. He noted with silent amusement who of his classmates had become successful and who hadn't. They weren't the people he would have predicted in high school.
By one o'clock that afternoon, when the caterers set out lunch for them, all but a few people had arrived and Cathy and Lancer finally had time to mingle. Lancer quickly found himself surrounded by the rest of the cheering squad, trying to look as if he was interested in hair care and fashion. In the middle of a particularly dull description of one woman's clothing store, Cathy leaned over from her spot beside him and said in a low voice, "Let's get out of here." She stepped backwards and Lancer casually followed.
"Were they always that shallow?" Cathy asked in disgust once they were out of earshot of the group.
"I think so," Lancer laughed. "I can't believe they actually expected me to be interested."
"I know," she remarked dryly. "I pity their husbands. Look, William, I'm going to go see if Matt needs anything. Dave Bowman's over there. He's a novelist now. I'm sure you two will find something to talk about."
She pushed him playfully over towards the drinks table , where a flushed man in a grey turtleneck was pouring himself some Coke.. Lancer gave an apprehensive roll of his eyes. Just because I taught English, she assumes I'll like novelists. I've met a few. They blather on more than Jack Fenton does.
"Excuse me?" Lancer asked the man when he reached the table. He offered his hand. "Dave Bowman? William Lancer."
"Uh-huh." The man looked at Lancer's hand and ignored it. He sneered, "The cheerleader, right? What are you doing now?"
Lancer struggled to remain pleasant. "I've just retired as vice-principal of this school. I taught English and history."
"Oh. Congratulations, then." Bowman continued, smugly, "I'm a writer, myself. Horror, mostly ghost stories. I'm doing one right now with this boy who causes his family's death, kills himself because he can't stand the grief and guilt, then joins his essence with an evil ghost who haunts his house to destroy everything that reminds him of his life. He's a terrifying character. It's kind of apocalyptic and gory, but very gripping, I think."
Great, thought Lancer. He'll think he knows everything about ghosts, then.
The man looked at Lancer, puzzled. "But aren't you a little young still? To be retiring, I mean."
Lancer sighed before answering. "My heart just wasn't in it anymore. I've got a new job, though, running an education program for the city."
"Oh, is it that GEIST thing I read about in the papers this morning?" Bowman asked, interest appearing on his face. "I can understand the worry, but don't you think the city's going overboard? I mean, ghosts are fine in fiction, but they're not actually real. Why defend yourselves from something that doesn't exist?"
"They do exist," insisted Lancer. "Amity Park has a real problem with them, especially at this school. That's why I'm helping out. I did grow up here after all."
The other man looked unconvinced. "They're having you on. It's probably all staged for the tourists. Bet you're even being paid to say that." Bowman sounded as doubtful as Lancer had predicted he would be. He was certainly skeptical of everything and Lancer didn't blame him. After all, he'd thought the same sort of thing once himself.
"Trust me, they're real," Lancer replied in the voice he normally used with Dash Baxter. "I've seen them with my own eyes. But they're also nothing like that book you're writing." His inner voice rolled its eyes. I can't believe I'm actually defending ghosts. Even if I'm part of their world too.
"I'll believe it when I see it," scoffed Bowman, and he walked off with an air of disinterest. A petite woman approached Lancer two seconds later.
"Did I hear you mention ghosts?" she asked. Lancer sighed as he turned towards her.
And I'd hoped to keep this quiet. "Yes, you did. Why?"
"I think I might have seen one this morning. I'd dismissed it as a trick of light, but if you say they're real ..."
"What did it look like?"
"Purple mist floating down the hallway of my hotel. It was only there for a second. I thought I heard someone laugh, too."
Desiree. Danny will want to know about that. "That probably was just a trick of the light," Lancer lied. "It doesn't sound like the ghosts I know of." He crossed his fingers. Hopefully that will contain the situation.
It didn't. Within ten minutes of the woman walking off (he could only assume that she had been one of the school gossips), Lancer was surrounded by people wanting to know about ghosts, about the Ghost Education and Information Support Team he'd be helping start, and about what it was like teaching in a haunted school. A lot of people were frightened or worried, but he managed to calm them down, especially when Cathy wandered over and began to say similar things. A surprising number of people were actually interested in what he had to say. Many of them wanted to share their own paranormal experiences with him as well.
Chalk up one more for the human fascination with the macabre, Lancer thought drily.
Unfortunately, the furor eventually got so bad that Lancer had to treat his former classmates as if they were schoolchildren.
"Anne of Green Gables, be quiet!" And like the students in his English classes, the adults quickly fell silent. Lancer continued. "You didn't come here to hear about ghosts or to listen to me talk. I've said all I'm going to on the subject. Now go speak to other people. You haven't seen them either."
The people surrounding Lancer looked at him blankly. He looked at them pointedly, and there was an awkward silence.
"You heard the man," spoke up Cathy firmly, "leave him alone."
Then they listened, and finally drifted into groups. Lancer walked over to one of the tables and sank into a chair, head in his hands. A minute or so later, Cathy joined him.
"Still don't like being the center of attention, huh?"
"Not when I'm trying to keep track of multiple conversations." Lancer grimaced. "I'm not an expert on ghosts either, and they were treating me like I am."
"Yeah," Cathy agreed. "Nice to know I'm not the only ghost-obsessed person here. I feel less crazy now." He really does know an awful lot about the creatures, she noted happily. That's more support for the Spirit theory.
"Hmph," Lancer snorted. "You shouldn't. You definitely have them beat in that department." She's interested in ghosts? She always did go for the strange and unusual at the slightest prompting. I wonder how she'd deal with halfas... Lancer glanced over at Cathy to see her reaction to his teasing. She smiled at it, and drained her glass.
"Well, I guess I'd better mingle," she said, getting up reluctantly. "You probably should too. Enjoy yourself. You've earned it."
"Ha. Have not," Lancer shot back, but he did as she suggested. The reunion continued well into the night, with slideshows and reminiscing, and the inevitable after-dinner dance. Lancer sat on the sidelines for that, like he had in high school. Even though he'd officially been a cheerleader, he hadn't enjoyed the popularity. There had been a lot of talk among the female population of Casper High back then about his sexuality. Now, he was just a bald, slightly overweight man who tended to fade into the background even when he wasn't using ghost powers.
Oh yes, he mentally added. And it doesn't help that I can't dance. No, no, it really doesn't.
Finally the night was over and he helped clean up the food and the litter, along with Cathy, Matt, and a few other people who he remembered from his hours in the school library. Everyone would be going their separate ways the next day, though many would probably hang around in Amity Park a while longer, to visit friends and perhaps even see a ghost.
Maybe I'll see that they aren't disappointed, Lancer thought to himself. I bet the Box Ghost would be game.
Lancer locked up the school behind everyone again, and then looked around quickly. He couldn't see or hear anyone, so it was safe. He opened a portal to the Ghost Zone and stepped through, going ghost as he did so. It was time for his weekly visit.
After an uneventful flight through the Ghost Zone, William Lancer, or rather, Will Spirit, touched down in front of the Ghost Writer's door and rang the bell. He smiled to himself as he waited for his friend to open the door, and was still smiling when he did.
The Ghost Writer did a double take at Lancer's expression. He wasn't used to seeing the halfa so contented. This was a good thing, though. The worry had been bringing both of them down lately, and Writer got the impression that Lancer hadn't been this free of care in a long while. He wasn't used to bodily contact either, but decided now would be an appropriate time. He reached out and hugged Lancer awkwardly. The other ghost gave a start at the unexpected gesture.
"Glad to see you smiling for once," Writer remarked, pulling away again. "Come on in and tell me all about it." The Ghost Writer led the way into the parlour and brought out a cake, which he proceeded to slice. Lancer took his seat in the armchair and let his body relax into it.
"We got rid of that ghost," he announced.
The Ghost Writer raised an eyebrow. "The hippie? How?"
"Turns out he was just looking for a taste of life. He came to us and asked us to give it to him, so we did. Not a bad guy, in the end, just annoying. He left last night."
"Glad to hear it. The reunion was today, wasn't it?"
"Uh-huh. That went well too. Everyone ended up asking me about ghosts, though." The purple-clad ghost chuckled as he transferred slices of cake onto two china plates.
"That would have been good training for GEIST. How did you handle it?"
Lancer accepted a plate from across the coffee table. "Well, I was as vaguely specific as possible, and I didn't mention the ghost portion of the protection squad. They lapped it all up, and a lot of them had stories of their own." Lancer took a bite of cake and continued. "If that's how everyone's going to react, my job will be easier than I thought."
Writer nodded. "I still can't believe they actually bought it," he said after a moment's pause.
"What?" Lancer asked. "My proposal for a ghost education program? Neither can I, actually."
Ghost Writer stopped in mid-chew, as if he'd thought of something important. "Finish that," he said, pointing his fork at Lancer's plate. "I want to show you something."
An hour later, Lancer and the Ghost Writer had come to a stop in a somewhat remote corner of the Ghost Zone. About a hundred meters below them floated a black and white brick building eerily similar to Lancer's beloved Casper High. At this time of night it was silent and dark, but Lancer could tell that during the daytime it would be as busy as any school in the human world.
As he was puzzling over why exactly he'd been brought here, the Ghost Writer dug a folded piece of paper out of his coat pocket and passed it to him. Lancer opened it and read the advertisement, then looked at his friend quizzically.
"The principal came to my home a few days ago," Writer explained. "He wanted me to take it, but I said I can't handle children well. I also told him I knew someone who might be interested."
"I belong in the human world," Lancer protested. "I have another job."
The Ghost Writer looked at him amicably. "It's only part-time," he said, pointing to a portion of the paper. "It doesn't hurt to apply."
"I guess not." Lancer sighed and folded the ad again, then turned to his friend. "Thanks for the evening, and the offer. I'll think about it. It's time I was getting back."
The Ghost Writer hugged him again in encouragement, then Lancer opened a portal and went home to the start of a different life.
The EndAnd there's the end of the third story, folks. Phew! I ended up with two extra chapters this time round.
I'm about half done editing Comedy of Errors, but I'm far enough that I can start posting it, and I will in a couple days time. I've just got to get through this week first. Gah! I hate massive projects!