Sam's Secret Santa
"I heard they've all been sworn to secrecy until after last period," Tucker muttered under his breath to Sam and Danny as they passed the latest class to exit Lancer's class. They weren't the last class of the day, only second to last, but whatever it was that had all of Lancer's other students squirming since first period was enough to make the loser trio of Casper High worried.
Sam shrugged, the least phased of them all. "It can't be illegal, I know he cleared it through Ishiyama."
It was Danny's turn to snort as he pushed his hair back from his eyes. "He also got the A-List out of detention how many times by going to her?"
"Point taken," Sam said with a roll of her eyes as they slipped through the door of Lancer's classroom and headed for the far corner.
It was their habitual seating choice in any of the classrooms, affording a good view of everyone and everything that went on inside, a fair view of the hall through the windows in the doors, and an excellent view of whichever side of the school lay out of the windows. And it was such diligent thinking that had all three very weirded out, if not intrigued, by whatever Mr. Lancer had cooked up to torment his classes with this holiday season. But then, just the fact that Mr. Lancer got into Christmas so much was enough of a reason to make them nervous. Whenever the teacher got enthusiastic he tended to drag his class right along with him.
For instance, last Christmas he'd alternately begged and bullied his classes into volunteering for the now annual Christmas Fair thrown in the gym. It was a good cause and Sam would have forced Danny and Tucker both to participate, even if there hadn't already been the promise of much needed extra credit for every day they did. Then again, Danny might have done it anyway, even without Sam's prodding and the promised grades. It was something that Sam was into, helping people, and the Christmas Fair was designed to help underprivileged children have an actual Christmas, complete with Lancer dressed up as Santa Claus. No padding needed, though they'd glued the wig and beard on to head off enterprising children looking to expose fakes.
"All right, class," Mr. Lancer boomed just after the bell rang, and Danny sat up a little straighter, his wandering attention snapped forcefully back into focus. "First things first, I'm going to hand back the tests from yesterday."
There groans everywhere, and Danny slouched low in his seat. He hadn't had much time to study and had, in fact, crammed till school started the night before the test. Sam had been kind enough to call him at two when she saw him patrolling past her house to tell him when he finished to come over, and she'd help him. He could only hope that it got him a C, he couldn't afford to fail another test—his parents were already on his case about his chemistry grade, and it was actually alright. If they had any idea how close he was to failing senior English, they'd skin him alive and he wouldn't have to worry about what they'd say when they found out he was Phantom.
The first few tests were handed out and Danny only felt worse as he saw Tucker's B in bright red ink, and Sam's usual A. he'd bombed it, he just knew it. "There were some that needed improvement, Mr. Baxter," Lancer said pointedly as he handed Dash his test, and Danny caught a glimpse of a D before Dash shoved the paper in his backpack and promptly went back to lounging in his chair. "And some that were excellent examples of hard work."
This was said as Danny's paper was placed face down in front of him, and Danny shot the teacher a surprised look before Mr. Lancer moved on and Danny flipped the test over to see B, underlined twice. There were a lot of red marks down the page, but not as many as he feared, and on second count Danny realized that there were too many for the B he'd been given. He flipped it over to see the messy scrawl of his essay portion, and below that saw a much neater note in red. Ten points, extra credit. An excellent attempt—you deserve the B.
He wasn't one to question a gift like that, though, and only smiled at the thumbs up he got from Sam and the wry grin Tucker gave him as he flashed his own test at Danny. Then all attention was back to the front of the room as Mr. Lancer started scratching chalk across the board. SECRET Santa, it proclaimed in large, bold letters. Danny groaned. This, oh, this was so going to suck.
"Alright, students, we'll be doing a Secret Santa project this year," came the announcement, and the expected groans echoed. "So everyone get out a sheet of paper and write me a Dear Santa letter. I want requests and specific reasons why you should get what you ask for, then we'll be passing names for our victims."
Silence ruled as a dozen pencils scratched across paper, a few were smoother sounding glides from those who used pen. Sam was one, Danny knew, but he stuck with pencil. His handwriting alone dictated the need to be able to erase and rewrite illegible bits, and the way his thoughts tended to scatter made it even more necessary. He had a bad habit of wandering while he wrote, and sometimes the things he thought made it onto his assignments. He went through a lot of erasers, a source of endless amusement for the three members of Team Phantom. But try as he might Danny couldn't come up with a single thing to write down as his request from Santa.
He supposed part of it was simply because he knew that Santa didn't exist—or at least, if he did, Danny hadn't come across him yet. Ghosts existed, so maybe the jolly old elf did, too. But in all reality Danny couldn't come up with a single thing he really wanted that was deliverable from a store or toyshop in the North Pole. Mostly he wanted a day off every now and then. The work of ghost hunting nonstop got to him after a while, but that wasn't something anyone could give him. At least until Christmas. If anything, Danny looked forward to that single day of harmony in the Ghost Zone more than anyone else; it truly was the only day of the year he actually got to rest. He wanted his family to be safe, and his friends. But he worked on that himself every day, and again, it wasn't a gift that could just be given.
There was one other thing… but it still wasn't something that anyone could just give him. No, that wasn't true. Someone could give it to him, but he needed to give her a reason first. But it was an interesting thought. Santa, or whoever was reading these letters, couldn't get too many requests for their best friend to fall madly in love with them. Even still, he already had one up on that request. She liked him, and he knew it. He just hadn't figured out how to tell her how he felt yet.
It wasn't exactly tactful to walk up to Sam and say, I love you. Even if that's what he wanted to do.
Well, there wasn't a word limit, and Danny pressed lead to paper and began scratching away. I want an opportunity, he wrote, his bottom lip between his teeth as he chewed at it. There isn't anything else I really want. I think I deserve it, but maybe not. I've probably let so many pass already that asking for one now is stupid. But I've had to let so many things go already; I don't want to let this one go.
It wasn't much, but it was enough for Danny to be content to lay his pencil down as he and Mr. Lancer waited for everyone else to finish. He dozed off waiting, his head in his hand, face tilted toward the sun as it shone through the cold glass of the window. That in itself was an opportunity, Danny realized with a faint grin as he turned tired eyes to the teacher as he collected the letters passed forward in each row of desks. If it had been any other class Danny might have worried that someone might read what he'd written, but Mr. Lancer was very conscientious about it and the one time someone had actually tried to read someone else's work as it was passed forward, Mr. Lancer had descended with a week's worth of detentions. Come to think of it, that was the only time Danny could ever remember Dash having detention in all four years of high school.
Mr. Lancer flipped briefly through the letters, pausing at a few to actually read them. Danny wondered if his was one of them and found himself torn between wanting it to be, but at the same time hating the thought of Lancer reading the one wish he had so casually in front of the class. It wasn't very long before he was laying the stack of paper face down on his desk and picking up a small bowl. He fished a hand through it and pulled a small piece of paper, cut up and folded in half out before showing the class that inside was a neatly typed name. it was too far away for Danny to read it, but he didn't really care anyway, it was obvious that it was for demonstration purposes only.
"I'll be walking this around to make sure that everything is completely anonymous," Lancer said before refolding the paper and dropping it insides. "But there are a few guidelines. Price does not matter," was the first dispensation that he made. "I realize that some of you are better equipped to get really elaborate with gifts, but there are the rest of us who aren't. Therefore I'm leaving the minimum and maximum cost up to the person buying. The only requirement is to actually put some thought into it. Other than that, the only rule is to hold your tongues."
Paulina's hand shot into the air. "Mr. Lancer? I can't do that; it'll smudge my lipstick," she said and then proceeded to demonstrate for a moment, her tongue poking out to be grabbed by perfectly manicured fingers.
Sam snorted, and Danny found himself burying his face in his hands in an effort not to laugh at the hilarity. He couldn't even decide which was funnier: Paulina's literal translation of Mr. Lancer's instruction, or the way she demonstrated it.
"Ah, Ms. Sanchez, it's an expression." Apparently Lancer was having a few issues with laughing at her himself, though he was manfully fighting it down. "What I mean is that I demand absolute discretion regarding this project. You will not speak of it to anyone, either inside or outside of class, unless you're speaking to me."
Paulina didn't even have the grace to be embarrassed as Mr. Lancer began making a circuit around the room, holding the bowl out to each student in turn. At this rate, Danny would be the last one to pull a slip; he could only hope that by the time it got to him any and every one from the A-List had already been pulled. He could only imagine what he would do if he wound up having to shop for any of them. Paulina, for instance. What could he get her that wouldn't cost a bundle and would still be thoughtful? And he didn't even want to imagine if he got Dash for his Secret Santa, though the opportunities (and the pun wasn't lost on Danny) for revenge were there exponentially.
By the time the bowl got to him Danny was wondering at who everyone had gotten. There were groans, lots of them, and Sam's was especially ineloquent. The moment that thought crossed his mind Danny wondered if he dared tell her it; she'd be impressed with the fact he'd managed to use ineloquent. She'd probably be impressed that he knew what it meant and assume, correctly, that her vocabulary was finally rubbing off on him. Alternately she'd probably kick his shins in for applying it to her.
But there was only one slip when Danny reached in and pulled it out, his eyes meeting Mr. Lancer's apprehensively for a moment before he opened it and read the name typed inside. Samantha Manson.
So maybe asking for an opportunity hadn't been so farfetched after all, because this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
It took two and a half weeks for the day of the exchange to come, and by the time that it had Danny was so antsy he was practically twitching as he walked through the halls with his two best friends. They were chattering along animatedly trying to guess who each other had gotten, what they'd gotten their Secret Santa's, and poking at people from other classes for still holding the silence. Lancer had put out the word at the beginning of the week that until the final bell rang on Friday, the last day of school before Christmas break and the day of the exchange, silence was to be maintained.
He'd dropped his gift off with Mr. Lancer the night before, going so far as to stalk the poor man after school and discreetly slip it into the box where Lancer was collecting the anonymous gifts marked only with the intended recipients name using the slips of paper pulled from the bowl weeks before. He really didn't want to risk anyone finding out that the prettily wrapped present was from him. Not that he'd wrapped it, the professional job had come along with it. Given what was inside the small box he couldn't be surprised that they'd just done as he asked when he presented them with paper, ribbon and bow.
But as they slipped back into the classroom, as the last class on the last day of school, Danny couldn't help the butterflies that seemed to be dancing a rumba in stomach as he saw his box carefully laid out with the other gifts on Lancer's desk. If anything, he was even more nervous now, but if his friends noticed his uncharacteristic silence they'd chosen not to comment on it. He'd been blaming it on finals, but that excuse was dead in the water since the last final had been taken on Wednesday. Maybe they thought it was because he was worried about his grades, even if it wasn't true. But how could they know that he'd taken the time to already talk to all of his teachers and learn his grades already? It was going to be the best report card he'd had since he started high school: straight B's.
The bell rang but Mr. Lancer was nowhere to be seen, and the silence that had been holding Danny finally broke as conversation started across the room and Sam and Tucker both turned to him with amused smiles.
"All right, Danny," Sam said.
Tucker finished it with, "What gives?"
Danny shrugged as he avoided both of their gazes. "What do you mean?"
Sam stuck her tongue out at him, and Danny couldn't help but smile at her. "You've been about as talkative as a corpse lately. What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he was quick to exclaim. "I'm good, I'm alright. No new ghosts, grades are alright. Just… I want the holiday to start."
"Liar," Tucker muttered as he poked Danny with a textbook. "Just tell us, alright? And then we can all figure out how to fix it and I don't have to listen to Sam complain about your silent routine."
Sam turned a glare on Tucker even as her cheeks heated pink. "You weren't supposed to tell him I was worried, Tucker," she growled and snatched the textbook from his hands, whapping him with it across the head so that he howled quietly beneath her attack.
"You guys were worried?" Danny asked. "You don't have to, I'm just nervous." His brain turned quickly for a moment before he came up with a valid excuse—he hadn't meant to say that and he didn't want either of them guessing at the true reason. "It's getting really close to Christmas and I'm behind on my shopping."
"When aren't you?" Sam asked him as she dropped Tucker's textbook on his desk with a thump.
Danny shrugged but was saved from having to continue the discussion as Lancer finally made his appearance, a red Santa hat perched jauntily on his head and a Christmas carol being whistled. "Merry Christmas, class! Is everyone looking forward to the holiday?"
There were cheers, a few catcalls, and the general energetic rustling of papers. They were seniors about to have two weeks free from school, it was to be expected.
"Are we ready for the gift exchange?" Lancer asked as he ran quick eyes across the undisturbed gifts laid out neatly on his desk. Again came the cheers, as most of the class had really gotten into the spirit of the occasion. "Alright, then. I'll be passing these out individually and in no specific order. First up," he said as he picked up a random present and read the name taped onto it. "Mr. Baxter."
The largish box was handed over and the jock wasted no time in admiring the cheerful red and green paper before ripping the bow off and shredding it to nothing more than holiday colored confetti. Then he was shouting as he saw what was inside: a brand new football with a bunch of scribbling on it and a piece of paper tucked into the box.
"Oh my god!" It was the first time Danny had ever heard him mention god without telling a nerd to pray before getting beaten up. "It's signed by the 49ers! And it's real! Oh my god, this is so cool!"
And just like that the tone of excitement was settled in. The gift giving wasn't slow, but it certainly wasn't very fast. Danny assumed that it was carefully engineered to take up class time as Lancer distributed several more, including Valerie's and Tucker's. Val was squealing as she pulled what looked like an expensive sweater from her box, and Tucker damn near fainted when he pulled out the newest version of Doomed that so far was only available in Japan. If didn't matter to him if the box was written in a foreign language, a typed note inside assured him that it had various language settings built in and he could choose English when he installed it on his computer.
A few more and then the bright silvery paper on Sam's gift was flashing in Mr. Lancer's hand, and Danny's heart was beating so fast that he thought it might explode. "Ms. Manson, this is for you."
Sam took it and turned the box over in her hands to admire the clean lines of the wrapping. "It's so pretty," she murmured so low that Danny thought he might have been the only one to hear it. Slim fingers lipped underneath tape where ribbon and paper met on the back and she snapped it before carefully slipped the sheathe of silver from the dark blue box. Her forehead wrinkled as she saw the logo of one of the better jeweler's in Amity Park emblazoned in, again, silver, across the top. He could practically see the wheels in her head turning as she realized that she could find out who'd given it to her easily, and Danny was counting on that. He was planning on following her after school, because he knew her well enough to know that she would go and ask immediately.
That way when she came out of the store knowing he'd given it to her, he'd already be there waiting. He even had a few flowers tucked away in his locker just for it.
She was holding her breathe as she lifted the lid, and it came out of her on a sigh as she lifted out the sparkling necklace from within. If the catcalls from the beginning of class were anything to measure the classes reaction to the necklace, it was deafening. But it was worth it, he'd thought so hard about what to give her. A diamond, even if it wasn't a ring. But they had years to get to the point where she would say yes, so the necklace was perfect.
The jeweler had called it a Journey necklace, and Danny had found the name of the style so appropriate that he couldn't help saying yes right off the bat. It had taken a lot of driveways to make up the difference in the price, and sure, he'd have to start saving again to get the paint job on the old Honda his parents had given him when he was sixteen, but the cost of it was nonexistent when he saw the soft smile on her face as her fingers slipped across each of the seven diamonds that dangled from the white gold chain. Truly, there were some things that were worth any amount of money.
"Oh," she breathed as she looked at it, and then her eyes darted up and around the room, wide and violet as she considered each and every face in the class. She even lingered on his face for a moment, but Danny kept his carefully schooled expression of bewilderment in place until she finally turned away, the question on her lips as she finally stopped looking about.
After that all of the gifts were a little less exciting; even as more gifts were handed out speculation about Sam's necklace ran rampant. Paulina was less than thrilled when she opened hers, a bottle of perfume. Star and Liz were at least impressed with their gifts, tickets to the Moscow ballet and a voucher for a half day at a local spa respectively. The entire class was amused at Lancer's gift of Rogaine, though truthfully it was the first time that Danny realized Mr. Lancer had participated in their class's Secret Santa. And Kwan barely even blinked at the Patriots jersey he was given. It seemed to Danny that he'd killed the excitement, but he couldn't really find it in him to care.
Danny himself took the small box that Mr. Lancer gave him with a small smile and opened it to find a Danny Phantom keychain. He very nearly laughed, knowing that his Secret Santa had to have been one of his two friends.
At least until he looked at the clock behind Lancer and realized that there were still twenty minutes left to class, and the teacher was wearing a very self satisfied smirk as he surveyed his senior English class.
"Well, that was certainly eventful," the teacher said into the dawning silence. "And now it's time for us to share." There was confusion for a moment before Lancer pointed at Dash and beckoned him to stand up. "Now, who gave Mr. Baxter the football so that he can properly thank them?"
Danny's face blanched and he thought he was going to be sick. Then Sam stood up and he was sure he was going to be, because this meant that his carefully laid out plan was being ruined right before his eyes.
"That was me," Sam said with an almost sheepish smile. She hated to flaunt her wealth, but in the spirit of the holiday she'd done her research and given Dash something that he would really enjoy. What was so surprising was the real and true thank you the jock gave her, even as he looked at her with a considering eye. It was enough to make Danny's eyes flash green in jealousy before the jock sat down, and Mr. Lancer pointed to the person sitting behind Dash.
And so it went, with Danny's nerves alternately mounting and falling as he hoped and prayed that by the time Sam was reached the bell would have rung and they could all escape—she had the last seat in the class. But it was still amusing. It turned out that Dash had given Valerie the cashmere sweater, his face red as he stammered something about Paulina helping him pick it out. Tucker gave Paulina the perfume, and she only gave him a grudging shrug for thanks. Kwan was responsible for the ballet tickets, and one of the boys on the debate team had done the spa voucher. Paulina didn't even bat an eye as she owned up to the Rogaine for Mr. Lancer, and Valerie had pulled the few strings she had left to get Tucker Doomed V.
When Danny stood and held out the keychain Mr. Lancer smiled and said, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Fenton. That gift is the work of several years' research."
Danny suddenly felt even sicker as he read the implications into that statement, and his mind was so preoccupied by it that he hadn't even realized that Sam was reached, and that she was staring at him with eyes even wider than when she'd opened the box. It only took him about five seconds to realize what she was staring, and he didn't even have the presence of mind to groan as he realized he was the only one left in the class who hadn't already owned up to a gift for someone else.
The necklace was bright and shining where it lay just below her throat, the diamonds winking with cold brilliance against her dark shirt, and Danny could only give her a faint smile.
"Danny?" she asked softly, her hand reaching up to touch it.
He nodded once, saying farewell to his plans, and tried giving her a smile that wasn't half terrified. "Merry Christmas, Sam." It would have been bad manners to add, I love you, but he was tempted to anyhow. It wasn't anything less than the truth.
The expected ooh's and ah's were drowned out as the final bell rang, but Danny didn't really notice it as his eyes stayed locked on Sam's. it was a battle of sorts, icy blue versus confused lavender as she struggled to wrap her mind around what Danny was trying to tell her… Just without saying the words. He could almost be annoyed or angry that Lancer had pulled one over on them, even if he could understand the lesson behind it. But Danny didn't really give a damn about Lancer's ulterior motives with exposing the givers of the gifts, he just cared that Sam still couldn't understand it.
"Danny—Why?" she breathed out as her eyes dropped back down to look at the now empty box in front of her, her fingers still playing across the diamonds and gold.
The bell was done, students were beginning to file out, and Danny finally gave in to the overwhelming desire to show her exactly what he meant. Even with some of his fellow students still there, even with Lancer watching with an aloof, amused look to his face, and Tucker with his jaw permanently unhinged—none of it matter to Danny as he slid out from his chair and slid over to Sam's desk. It was perfect, like she was expecting it, her face tilting up and her lips already parted. So it was understandable that Danny couldn't really help himself as he leaned down and captured her lips with his.
In that moment time stopped. There were no students, no teacher, no gawking best friend readying himself to collect bets. There was only him, and there was only her, and the sweet vanilla taste of her lip gloss, the clean warmth that was simply her. And the way that she kissed him back.
Sam was smiling at him oddly as the three of them headed down the steps that led into Casper High. "So you were nervous because you were behind on your Christmas shopping, huh?"
Danny gave her a sheepish grin as Tucker out and out laughed. "Well, I panicked, and you know I suck at lying."
"Yeah, you really do," Tucker told him as he slipped his backpack around to dig out Doomed V from his backpack. "And I totally banked on this, guys. You won't see me again till Christmas is over."
Sam laughed and poked him. "Yeah, we got pretty decent stuff. Who would've thought that even Dash would do good? Even if he had Paulina pick it out," she added with a roll of her eyes. "What'd you get again, Danny?"
"Oh, I got a—" He stopped as he realized he'd left the keychain on his desk, and his head swiveled around. "A keychain, I forgot it."
He shot a glance at Sam and Tucker before he pulled his hand from hers. "I'll be right back," he said and darted back into the now empty halls of the high school.
Lancer's classroom this year was upstairs, a fact that the rotund complained about often enough when he thought that no one could hear it. Danny never complained because he didn't think he could afford to complain about school, and even without ghost powers his long legs covered the stairs two and three at a time as he headed up them and turned left to skid to a stop next to the open door to the room. Lancer was grading papers as he headed in with an apologetic smile.
"Forgot something," he offered by way of explanation before heading to his desk and picking the silvered keychain up from it. He flipped it over in his fingers before turning back to Lancer and walking slowly to his desk.
"Uh, Mr. Lancer? Can I ask you something?" Danny asked quietly.
"You just did, Mr. Fenton," the teacher replied, but was smiling as he stilled the red pen in his hand to look up at the boy.
Danny held the keychain out and let it dangle from his fingers. "Why this one?"
Lancer smirked at him a little, one brow arching in a smug knowing way. "I thought it was highly appropriate. Merry Christmas, Mr. Fenton."
J, sorry I never showed at Panera. Wanted to, but I wrote this instead. Forgive me?