Maple Street Mayhem
Danny stood at the end of Maple Street, looking up at the crumbling mansion that became a haunted house every Halloween. He wasn't sure what he was doing there. Probably being nostalgic, because he hadn't felt as much a part of Amity Park life this year. College apparently did that, even if it was only in Elmerton and he still lived at home.
Suddenly curious to see what the teacher who'd gotten stuck with the Haunted House this year had done with the place, Danny began walking up the driveway. When he reached the porch, he quietly turned the rusty knob on the double front doors, allowing one to swing open with a soft creak. The gloom of the hallway was punctuated with beams of light from the two open doors on the western side of the house, and motes of dust flickered in the air.
The stillness of the scene was marred by two consecutive crashes and a swaying pile of boxes coming out of the second doorway. Danny found himself running to support them, his ghostly instincts kicking in before he even fully registered the situation. Whoever was carrying the boxes staggered back momentarily when they felt the weight lift, and Danny hastily uttered a reassurance before lifting the top two boxes off the stack.
When he saw who was behind them, he blinked. The teacher blinked back.
"Uh, hi, Mr. Lancer."
"Mr. Fenton. This is a surprise…."
"So, er, where do these need to go?" Danny lifted his burden nervously.
"Second floor," Lancer answered, a little taken aback still. "The rooms at the back."
"Okay. I'll meet you up there." The younger man started moving towards the staircase, then paused and half-turned when he realized his former teacher wasn't following. Lancer answered the pause with, "You're not going to fly?"
Danny shrugged. "I feel like walking." He turned towards the stairs again and began climbing them.
When Lancer reached the back of the house a few minutes later, his former student had already begun to unpack the first box of decorations, smiling a little at how familiar and lame they all were. The aging teacher set his own boxes down and stretched a kink out of his back.
"Can I assume I've got a helper?" he asked.
"Yeah." Danny stood up with an armload of cotton spider web. "Might as well, right? Make up for ninth grade?"
Ninth grade? Had something happen in nin— /a "The detention?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry about that, sir. But—"
"I understand," Lancer cut in. "You were trying to cover up a ghost fight, weren't you? I'm the one who should be sorry," he added, sadly.
"Hey, you didn't know." The young man started tacking webbing up in a corner of the room.
"Fair enough, but I'm still sorry. How many DTs did I give you that weren't because of ghosts?"
"Probably about five." Danny turned back towards Lancer, concerned. "You're not beating yourself up about that, are you?"
"After having two years to deal with it?" Lancer laughed, grabbing a handful of purple spiders from one of his own boxes. "No."
"Good." His tone of voice managed to convey that he was tired of people berating themselves on his account. Lancer didn't know to respond to it so stayed silent.
A few minutes later, once they'd used up half the spider webs and a fair number of spiders, Danny spoke again.
"I don't think this is going to look very scary."
"What? The room?"
"The house," Danny corrected. "It wasn't all that scary the last time you did it either, even with mine and Dash's help."
"Dash's and my," Lancer said automatically. He looked around the room. Danny was right. This wasn't scary, even by his standards. No way he'd beat Tetslaff like this. "What do you suggest then? More of your parents' inventions?"
"What? Oh, um, no. Er…" Danny lapsed into thought for a moment. "I think I've got an idea. I'm going to take a look around." Two rings of light transformed him into Danny Phantom and he headed off through a wall, leaving Lancer standing in the middle of the room.
A few minutes later, the halfa returned and slipped easily back into his human form. "Right," he announced, grinning. "Here's what we do…."
Danny had helped Lancer carry the boxes of decorations out to his car and as he was stashing them in the truck, his teacher had pulled two cans of soda from a cooler in the back seat. The two men were now sitting on the most stable of the front steps, enjoying the first moments of twilight.
"I forgot to ask you, Danny," Lancer said, breaking the silence. "What are you doing here?"
"Like, why am I not with my friends or something?" Danny sighed. "Tucker's at MIT and can't really leave, and Sam got roped into helping with her parents' costume party. I'm not sure they know what they're getting into."
"And your family?"
"Out hunting ghosts. I'm letting them have their fun." He took a swig from his can and continued, "I was just kind of wandering around town, ended up here, thought I'd come see who got stuck with this job. Didn't think you'd be getting it again so soon…." He shot a glance at Lancer, who chuckled. Danny raised an eyebrow at the sound. How was that funny?
"It's a lottery," Lancer explained.
"Ah." Danny nodded. "Bad luck. I'm sorry."
"Thanks." The teacher drained his can and set it down beside him. "And thanks for your help too. I can't wait to see what Lois thinks of it."
"Lois?" Danny was puzzled. "Oh. Tetslaff. Yeah. Me neither, with all the hell she gave me after I went public." He smiled and rolled his soda between his hands.
"I never had a chance to say thanks, Mr. Lancer," he said after a moment.
Lancer raised an eyebrow and looked at him. "For what? All the hell I gave you?"
"Ha. No." Danny met his teacher's eyes. "For treating me like a normal kid. I think you were the only one, afterwards."
Lancer smiled. "You're welcome, then. I figured you needed that from someone." He paused, considering something. "And we're both adults now. You don't need to stick to formality."
"So what do I call you?"
"Will, please." He grabbed his empty can and stood up, groaning. Danny finished his can and followed suit more lithely. "You've really got nowhere to be tonight, Danny?" Lancer asked him.
"Well… I should probably drop by the Mansons sometime to make sure Sam's okay. Other than that," Danny shrugged, "no."
"Go now," his companion told him. "The students won't be here for another few hours. Play it safe."
"I'll have you know I'm quite capable of looking after myself," Lancer said dryly. "Go be with Sam."
Danny gave him another hesitant look, but then transformed and flew off towards downtown. Lancer walked back to his car and pulled out his laptop, a portable lamp, and a folding canvas chair. He might as well get some work done while he waited.
Two hours later, he was halfway to getting the Keys to the Internet back from the Ghost in the Machine when a voice above his left shoulder asked, "Is that Doomed II?"
Lancer screamed and almost dropped his computer as he jumped out of his seat and spun around. Danny was floating behind the camp chair looking embarrassed and apologetic.
"Sorry," the halfa mumbled. "I … didn't really think that through."
Lancer rolled his eyes and mentally added, No kidding. He was still wheezing too hard to say anything out loud.
Realizing his teacher's distress, Danny stepped worriedly through Lancer's chair and took the laptop from him. He placed it gently on a rotting wooden packing crate, then led the teacher back to his seat and changed back to human.
"Can I get you anything, Mr. La–, Will?" he asked nervously. "I really didn't—"
"'S'okay," Lancer got out, waving Danny's worry aside. "Just scared me. I'm fine." He finally got most of his composure back and let himself fall against the back of the chair. Danny picked the laptop up from where he'd left it and sat gently in its place.
"I never pegged you for a gamer," he said. "I thought you spent all your time grading homework."
"I'd appreciate you not sharing this with anyone, please." Lancer stood up and unceremoniously grabbed his computer off Danny's lap.
"Right. Of course. Reputation, right?"
"Something like that," the teacher said dryly. He folded the laptop up and slid it back into its bag.
"I should take this to the car and get my costume," he added. "You'll be okay alone?"
"Probably," Danny deadpanned, then grinned. "I'll get things started while you're gone."
Lancer nodded and left the room as Danny switched back to Phantom. A few minutes later, the teacher returned with a garment bag. The door opened itself as he reached the top of the stairs, but after a moment's disconcertion he realized it was only Danny, invisible as they'd planned earlier, and he stepped over the threshold. The door closed.
"Well," Lancer said warmly to thin air, "that's certainly effective."
"Good." Danny faded into view. "I've done the downstairs rooms, so be careful where you go. I'm heading upstairs now, and I'll play spotter at the same time." He took off for the ceiling without waiting for a response.
Lancer made his way down the hallway towards the "dressing room" that had once been a pantry, stopping at the second door to crack it open and laugh vindictively. He was very glad to have a ghost on his side tonight.
The night was going well, Lancer thought. Danny had apparently gained the power of inanimate possession during the last year or so, and the ability was put to good use tonight — oddly, the effect looked much like what had happened when the Fright Knight was unleashed four years ago. There were giant green spiders, living cobwebs, a few zombies upstairs, and assorted other ghouls and monsters roaming the mansion. Not to mention Danny, who was appearing just outside people's blind spots and vanishing when they looked his way, and Lancer himself in what he felt was a rather dashing vampire costume, standing in a makeshift coffin in the parlor. Three groups of children had already left, giggling off their scares, and by the sounds of it, another troop of them was coming up the hill now. Lancer shifted position slightly and waited.
The door opened and shut. There was some shuffling of feet, a few appreciative oohs, and then someone suggested they start exploring. There was just enough ghostly glow in the room for Lancer to see a few freshmen, none he recognized, walk tentatively into the parlor. He bared his fangs and stepped forward just as they passed by him. As a mass, they shrieked and ran out of the room. It was all he could do to stifle his laughter. Similar scenes played themselves out over the next fifteen minutes in various parts of the house, before the kids regrouped in the front hall and started a relieved debriefing.
As their footsteps descended the stairs outside, Lancer heard a solitary set coming up. The door opened…
"Nice string, Lancer. Let's see if that's the best you can do."
It was Tetslaff. Before Lancer could decide if he should be glad or afraid, she'd strode into the room and started examining it critically. She was keeping up a running litany under her breath and Lancer cringed. If she was already tearing things apart…
"Ah, there you are!" the woman boomed, crossing the remaining distance between her and Lancer in two steps. "Pathetic. That costume wouldn't frighten a mouse."
Bristling, Lancer stepped out of his coffin. "Then why did thirty children run out of this room when they saw me?"
"Luck." Tetslaff scrutinized him. "The rest of this dump had better be scarier than what I've seen so far, or you're doing lunch supervision until Christmas. Again."
Lancer sent her a seething glare, which his rival didn't see because she'd spun on her heels and was already leaving the room. He contemplated following her to see her reaction to the really good stuff, but thought better of it. She'd be more likely to show bravado to spite him if he was actually around.
Instead, Lancer crossed to the front windows and tugged the blackout curtain aside enough to see the driveway and Maple Street. No one was coming quite yet, but it looked like he might be getting another group in about ten minutes, if they hit all the houses between them and him.
He let the curtain fall back into place and settled himself back into his coffin to wait (and listen for signs of Tetslaff's progress). She'd made it through the rooms on the ground floor, by the sounds of it, since there were footsteps on the stairs. Lancer followed her movements with his head, right up to the point where she entered the room above him.
There was a scream fit to curdle blood. It was vaguely female. Lancer grinned. Tetslaff had met the zombies.
A moment later, just as the fight upstairs was properly breaking out, Danny Phantom appeared in the doorway to the room and drifted quickly across the floor, grinning madly. Lancer tore his eyes from the peeling plaster above him and met his ex-student's eyes.
"Came to see how you were doing," Danny told him. "Want to see?" He jerked his head upwards.
"How would I get in there before it's over?" Lancer asked rhetorically. "Or without her seeing me?"
Danny laughed. "You're forgetting I'm a ghost." He positioned himself around Lancer and grabbed him by the chest. Danny's arms were cold, but not shockingly so. "You may want to close your eyes, Will."
"No, I'll be fi-ii-ii-ine." Funny, he'd always been all right with flying before. He planted his feet firmly on the floor, in one of the outer corners, he noted, and watched Tetslaff try to take on Danny's possessed zombies. They seemed evenly matched.
Danny must have sensed Lancer suddenly tensing and guessed the reason behind it, because he whispered, "I've programmed them not to draw blood or get too violent," into his companion's ear. Lancer nodded and relaxed, a little.
In the center of the room, Tetslaff swung a chair leg like a cricket bat and sent one of the zombies flying away from her. Like any good sportswoman, she followed through on her swing and her gaze passed right across Lancer and Danny without a hint of recognition before she renewed her efforts against her attackers.
"And we're invisible," Danny added quietly.
Danny removed one of his arms from Lancer's chest and pulled something out of what Lancer could only assume was a pocket. Judging by the movements of air currents, Danny then held the "thing" over Lancer's shoulder.
"Video camera," Danny told him. "Sam's taught me that you never, ever give up an opportunity for blackmail."
Could Danny read minds or something? Lancer wouldn't be overly surprised if he could, given the range of his other powers.
"And no, I'm not telepathic. I just know you too well. Blame all those detentions."
That was just creepy.
Tetslaff let out another roar and lit into the two zombies still standing. She clubbed one in the face, stunning it, and kicked the other into the far wall. The stunned zombie grabbed her ankle, however, and pulled her to the ground, where the woman actually had the nerve to bite it. Unsurprisingly, it let go.
A few well-placed hits later and Tetslaff was the only one standing in the room, apart from Lancer and Danny, both of whom had decided that they never wanted to make her angry or frightened ever again. She lifted her head and arms into a champion's pose and yelled out her supremacy.
Lancer used the sound to ask Danny sotto voce to let go of him. A warmth washed over him as Danny complied and Lancer became visible. He braced himself, standing straight and squaring his shoulders underneath his cape.
Tetslaff lowered her head, traces of fear and bloodlust still in her posture, and saw Lancer standing almost directly in front of her.
"Will?" Tetslaff quavered. "But, but, but y-you were just d-downstairs, I-I s-s-saw you, how did you ge-ge-get in here?"
Lancer grinned smugly, showing his fangs, the words, "Wouldn't you like to know?" making their way to his lips. They never got there though, because Tetslaff's bravado suddenly left her and she flung herself out of the room through the wall. Lancer crossed over to the hole and looked down, as his rival teacher crashed through the roof over the back porch, raced across the lawn, and vaulted the fence. He started laughing.
Danny quickly joined him, clutching his stomach with one hand and a digital video camera with the other, and the two men shared a good minute of hysterics before sobering up.
"Well," Danny finally managed to gasp out, "I think you won."
"Yeah." Lancer's mouth twitched. "Guess I did, didn't I?"
Danny held his hand up for a high five and Lancer tentatively slapped it palm-first.
"You'd better take me back downstairs," he said. "There'll be some more kids soon. Wouldn't want to disappoint them."
"Right," Danny grinned. He grabbed Lancer's wrist and started pulling downwards. This time, Lancer had the sense to keep his eyes shut until he hit ground again. He turned to his stud–, ex-stud–, friend? and nodded his thanks, then watched Danny float upstairs again, probably to look after his zombies. He settled himself into his box again and waited.
Things quieted down considerably around two in the morning, later than what Lancer had expected. Apparently after Lois Tetslaff was seen downtown jabbering about the Haunted House, everyone in town decided to come. At least, that's how it felt to Lancer and Danny.
It was hard to tell which man has more tired. Lancer wasn't used to being awake past 10:30, and Danny was having a hard time keeping the possessed items animate, since he'd never had to go more than two hours before. They'd already decided to leave the packing up until the morning by that point, so, as soon as the last visitors had left, Danny pulled his extended energy back into himself and walked Lancer out to his car.
Lancer insisted on driving Danny home, but by the time the car reached the bottom of the driveway, he was almost asleep at the wheel and Danny didn't have much trouble convincing him to switch places. He carefully eased the car out onto the street and took directions from Lancer on how to get him home. The car ride was silent. Neither man had the energy left to talk, nor did they know what to talk about.
Lancer was brought out of a doze by Danny putting the emergency brake on outside his apartment building. He grabbed his laptop from the backseat and climbed out, Danny following and passing him the keys.
"Thanks, Danny." It had been a better night than he'd hoped, and he owed most of it to the young man in front of him.
"No problem, Will." It was getting easier to use Lancer's first name. "And thanks. It was fun."
"So I can call you next time?" Lancer joked. To his surprise, Danny shrugged.
"Maybe. I'd be glad to help, but you can't hold me to it if I'm out saving the world or anything."
Lancer chuckled. "Of course not." He paused. "Anyway, thanks. I don't think I could have done it without you. See you around?"
"Yeah. You too." Danny transformed and lifted himself gently into the air. "Bye."
"Bye." Lancer stood for a moment until the halfa was little more than a smudge of black on black, then locked his car and went up to his room.
It had been a good night. Understated, for the most part, but good. As he drifted off to sleep, Lancer realized that he just might have made a friend tonight.
Halfway across town, Danny Fenton realized the same.
A/N — So I know I haven't been around much when it comes to posting fics. This isn't likely to change, sadly. Fanfic just isn't as much a part of my life as it used to be.
I was originally going to write a poetic narrative from Ghostwriter's POV, but that idea kind of petered out. Then I watched "Fright Night" and ended up with the basic plot of this. I think I'm the only person capable to writing a warm fuzzy story about Halloween…
Reviews are appreciated.