Perhaps it was the frigid temperature outside, misting his breath and confusing his ghosts sense, permanently setting him on edge, or maybe it was the fact that he had just spent the past fifteen minutes in a locker because Dash Baxter had decided by some unknown formula that it was his fault wet snow soaked his new designer sneakers, or maybe it was simply that this time of the year always just pissed him off. Whatever reason behind it Danny arrived, late, to Mr. Lancer's class bruised, agitated, and in one of the foulest moods he'd known since freshman year.
Friday his class, along with the rest of the junior student body, had the good fortune to be given printouts the size of Chinese fortune cookie slips, each having on it a name randomly chosen by a computer program. They were, as the teacher instructed, to play secret Santa or 'mystery gift giver' if you want to get anal about such things. So here he was, trying to ignore the sniggers of his classmates and Lancer's cold death glare of teacher disapproval, on a cold Monday morning, with his triple R necessities and a small package hidden beneath layers of Fenton Wrap tucked beneath his arm, an expensive gift for a grossly undeserving person.
"Mr. Fenton, I assume the term 'secret' Santa eludes you?" Lancer inquired with a raised brow, indicating to the wrapping with large green Fs and his father's own smiling mug inked onto the paper.
"Apparently," Danny deadpanned and a few students giggled.
Truth was, despite his parents' rather impressive salary and substantial savings; he had to deal with a minuscule allowance that after saving two months was almost enough to buy a new computer game he had wanted. Yet Friday every junior teacher announced, reminded, broadcasted over loudspeakers, repeated until ears bled, and all but performed neurosurgery in an attempt to get as many people as possible to participate in this pointless pitiful excuse of good will. So he had spent his money on a stupid gift for someone he neither liked nor cared about, and with a total of forty-five cents left to his name he used the cheep wrapping paper that even his father thought was tacky and didn't decorate gifts with.
Yet the Christmas spirit was strong with this particular teacher and even Danny's foul mood and sarcastic teenage wit couldn't kill the glittering tree-lights in his eyes. Lancer simply moved on to roll without so much as a retort or detention slip.
"Well," Lancer said after the last half-dead student gave a lazy wave and a muttered 'here', "I'm sure you all are eager to receive your gifts."
There was a chorus of cheers. Mr. Lancer had taught high school long enough to know when to be patient, so he merely held up a hand and waited. "However," He finally said and the silence started in the room again, the students tense and waiting for whatever bad news would come, as bad news always did after a teacher uttered the word 'however.'
"However, there are a few who have either not had the chance, the money, or simply didn't feel like buying a gift. So the other teachers and I have decided to postpone it all until Friday."
The chorus returned, this time warped with disappointed complaints. "Might I add that, as of this morning this is now for a grade?" Lancer said loudly and the complaints started to trickle off. "I know many of you brought your gifts today and I also realize how easy it is, especially for young adults like yourselves, to misplace important things." He looked pointedly at a student well known for forgetting assignments, the girl ducked her head sheepishly and he went on.
"So your other teacher's and I devised a way to keep safe your gifts until Friday comes, and that is to trust the whole of it to a single student."
A boy, one whose chipper, helpful attitude always reminded him creepily of his sister, took the bait and asked, "Just one student, but Mr. Lancer—" and with a smile Lancer cut him off.
"Ah, but this is a trustworthy student whom we all believe would never try to open or damage the presents. He will collect the gifts each day and take down both your name and the name of your assigned recipient." Lancer looked at Dash's whispering group, who fell into abrupt silence. "He will also be under the close observation of students and staff to be sure he is not hassled during all this."
"Who is it?" Dash asked with false enthusiasm.
Danny snorted, the eraser of his pencil slowly tortured between his teeth. Oh were the students ever predictable. Lancer, standing at the front of the class, looked like a sinister villain from a Saturday morning cartoon, everyone in the classroom playing right into his hand. "Why," he began, his lips twitched, a pleased grin attempting to emerge, "the only student we can trust not to care at all about holiday gifts."
Uh oh, this was not good. Danny saw the grin finally spread across his teacher's face, he had a fraction of an idea that he was not going to like what happened next, but before that sliver of sense managed to penetrate his dulled teenage mind Lancer was continuing.
"That student," he declared, "is our very own scrooge, Daniel Fenton."
The pencil he had been nibbling on fell to the desk and Danny stared at Mr. Lancer, smiling at the front of the classroom.
Way to paint a target on his back, gee thanks. He barely registered Dash mumble "Bah Humbug" and the students tittering.
It was utterly ridiculous, really it was, but he couldn't find a way around his enraged silence to protest as all the Junior teachers gathered in the teacher's lounge laden with gifts, big and small, collected from their classes. Gifts he, apparently, was going to be in charge of cataloging and guarding.
That wasn't the utterly ridiculous part however, what he thought was ridiculous was that he, Daniel Fenton, number one hater of all things Christmas, had to go around the school for four whole days, seven-thirty am to two-ten pm, with a big, red, velvet bag and collect Christmas gifts and names and not toss the lot into the nearest waste bin available and demand being transferred to a different school, an atheist school preferably.
"This," Mr. Lancer began as he and Principal Ishiyama wheeled a large metal safe into the room, "is a gift from your parents Mr. Fenton." Danny resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Of course he knew it was a gift from his family, he helped build the damn thing, but he kept silent, patiently waiting for Lancer to get to the point so he could flat out refuse and walk away.
"It will be used to store the more dangerous chemicals in the science lab, but up to Friday shall house all the gifts you will be collecting."
"Why don't you just collect them like you did today," Danny, his exasperation having cooled his rage slightly for the moment, addressed them all. "It seems much more logical then to trust a student with all these potentially expensive gifts." Danny pointed to the safe. "If you have that, what's the problem?"
"The problem is, Mr. Fenton, that there are exactly two keys to this safe, one for the science teacher, and one for myself." The principal said. Danny opened his mouth to say he knew all of this, he had, after all, made the damn safe, but seeing as how he was speaking to, you know, the principal, he kept his vocals quiet and let her continue. "If all the teachers are collecting gifts and they don't have a key they'll be forced to leave them here, in the teachers lounge, unguarded, until Lancer or myself can unlock they safe and put them away properly. That gives students ample time to snoop or steal."
Danny hated to admit it, even to himself, but that did make sense. He hadn't thought of that when he suggested just two keys to his parents, he figured if only the science teacher and the principal had a key than fewer students could snag one and get hold of things that would hurt them. He hadn't expected this turn around. "So one student collecting gifts, and holding one of the two keys, isn't just simpler, it's safer." Lancer nodded, glad the child was catching on quickly, but Danny still had to ask. "Why me?" He looked at them all. "You assume simply because I don't want to look at my own gift that would stop me from destroying or stealing any of them to either sell or give away."
"Mr. Fenton." Danny's Algebra II teacher spoke up. "We all hold complete confidence in your high morale." Danny almost snorted, but Lancer beat him to it. "You were already on our short list. You are a trustworthy, honest person. Your abhorrence of the winter season only lent weight to your already extensive qualifications."
This time Danny did roll his eyes, she should have been a literature teacher. Mr. Lancer caught the gesture, but only smirked, probably having thought the very same things. Such big words were wasted on a c average student such as he.
Also, he found it humorous how teachers, and many people these days, fervently avoided using the terms Christmas, or any reference to Santa. Winter season, holiday gifts, mystery gift givers, please.
People were too anal these days.
"In case any of you forgot," Because he knew beyond a fraction of a doubt that they all had to have noticed, "I'm not exactly the safest kid on campus. Making me the guard of expensive Christmas gifts is like asking a mouse to make sure the cat doesn't eat the thanksgiving turkey."
The teachers all pretended to be distracted by the motivational posters on the walls, not going to flat out lie to him, but not looking at him either. All save for Mr. Lancer, whose kind single handedly gave power to jocks and bullies everywhere.
"Mr. Fenton, I assure you that, as of twenty minutes ago you officially became 'the safest kid on campus'." Lancer pulled out a long metal key Danny instantly recognized as belonging to he safe's lock, but with a velvet red ribbon tied to it with three tiny jiggling bells attached to the end. He placed the Christmassed-up key in Danny's hand and with a slight push on his lower back steered him towards the bulky metal box.
Now." He began while Danny was still frantically trying to think of a way out. "open it up and accept your new responsibilities.
Dash tapped his pencil impatiently against his desk, the teacher monotoning today's lesson in the background of his universe as he stared up at the clock, willing the bell to ring to signal lunch.
Every year he counted down the days to the last week before Christmas break, the designated time for gift giving on school campus. The days when students everywhere lavished gifts upon those they loved, those they respected, those they wanted to impress, and who was more loved, more respected, than the popular kids?
And who among them more than Dash? Even Paulina, queen and center of her own little universe, gave him a gift each year.
But not this year, no, this year Lancer declared a stupid Secret Santa gig in which every Junior had to go out and get a gift for someone they may not even know. Even if they couldn't afford something grand. Meaning of course that with his luck he probably got some poor kid who shopped at Dollar Tree as his Santa.
Friday would be an embarrassment. Everyone opening their gifts, getting great stuff, and him, him getting some ninety-nine cent store mug with a football painted on the side in lead paint no doubt.
Warning may contain substances known to cause cancer.
He couldn't let that happen, he had to figure out who his secret Santa is an, if it was some broke looser, switch the gift out for something cooler. Problem was, Danny Fenton had both the gifts and the list of names. Not too big a problem ordinarily, but every teacher was supposedly keeping a hawk-eye on him.
He had to find a way to get to him.
Danny leaned back in his chair, still in the teacher's lounge, homework, classwork, and notes were neatly placed in a pile beside him for today's classes that he missed, all so generously donated by the teachers who confined him in here. Amazing was that he wanted to do the work more than this idiocy.
Looking down at the clipboard he scanned his smooth, clean handwriting. Names matched with names, some going way out and random, some almost hilariously ironic. Like his own secret Santa being Dash Baxter.
The package wasn't really large or small, and terribly inconspicuous. Dash obviously didn't want him, or anybody else, to know it was from him.
It looked harmless enough but Danny suspected it contained a sick prank of some kind, and while others would no doubt be seriously tempted to open their own gift, Danny stuffed his at the bottom corner of the huge safe, far from sight and far away from him.
With what miniscule temptation he might have had dwelling within him at the prospect of a gift killed mercilessly, with a blender on purée, he began stacking the rest of the presents neatly inside. Polishing off what was left of his lunch he grabbed his work and, sadly, the velvet bag, and headed out to meet his friends.
"Hey, we missed you in third period Danny." he was greeted by Sam as he took a seat beside them outside. "You weren't in fourth either."
"Teachers lounge." He answered with a sigh. "They have me doing the Secret Santa Security."
"The what?" Tucker asked around a mouthful of meatloaf.
Sam hit the back of his head causing him to choke. "Remember what our homeroom teacher said this morning?" she asked, "that they put one student in charge of all the gifts?"
"Yeah, the lucky jerk." Tucker answered, Sam hit him again. "Ow, what?!" Danny bunched his shoulders and glared at the carvings in the table. "No way! That's you?" He ducked before Sam could hit him again.
Danny wished he had saved some of his lunch so he could pretend he was concentrating on something other than who was a bitch and who loved who, trying not to meet his friends eyes.
"Oh it's not like it's the end of the world Danny." Sam said in exasperation. "So you collect the gifts for a few days and give them out of Friday, so what? You get of an entire weeks worth of classes too! Not to mention every teacher has their eyes on you so," Sam paused, blinked, "Oh."
"Yeah, oh." Danny mimicked. "I disappear for two seconds and people will go ballistic." He ducked his head when the lunch lady peeked her head out, glancing around the grassy lunch area before she spotted them and with a wrinkled smile waved. Only when she was safely inside the school did he continue. "I can't go ghost for risk of discovery, and god help everyone if a ghost attacks at all during the school day because all the teachers will instinctively be looking for me."
"I figure they'll instinctively be looking to save their own behinds, but if you want to think you're so important." Sam shrugged, taking one last gulp of her apple juice before crumbling up her trash.
"Yeah Danny, and besides what are the chances of ghosts attacking during the school day this week? That would be incredibly coincidental." A bright flash of green zoomed by inches behind Tucker, disturbing the air around them and kicking up a wind that knocked his biretta off and blew Danny and Sam's hair into their faces.
"You were saying?" Sam glared, brushing her shoulder length black hair back away from her mouth.
"I'm going—gah!" Danny was interrupted by the groundskeeper grabbing his arm and tugging him up the stairs and inside the school, he never got even a small glance of who was attacking.
"You were saying?" Tucker grumbled back at her.
A large saber-toothed rabbit jumped down right in front of them and roared, effectively cutting off whatever argument would have ensued.
"Danny!" They cried out in unison.
"Guys really, you're both acting like it's my fault a ghost attacked and I got locked up in the faculty bathroom." He muttered as he trudged through the hallway after lunch. "It's very clean in there by the way, with like, magazines and everything."
Sam glared up at him, the hairbrush caught on a drying clump of rabbit slobber, Tucker just kept fiddling with the singed hole in his precious hat.
"Danny, we aren't blaming you for that, what I'm wanting to know is, once you were safely locked away and out of danger, why didn't you go ghost and kick butt? No one would have noticed." Sam argued.
"I did, but then Lancer caught me, and threw me back, in the same bathroom." Danny said in exasperation. "And was in there with me until it was clear!"
Sam and Tucker winced. It had been half an hour before the usual ghost alert system had called the Fentons and Maddie had put the rabbit ware-bunny's rampage to a stop. Half an hour with Lancer.
"Well, you should be used to it right? What with all those detentions," Tucker tried at humor, slipping his biretta back on his head with a half hearted smile as they reached their lockers. "And now school is out for the rest of the day thanks to all the damage that bugs bunny out there did."
"Yeah, thanks for the uplift Tuck." Danny grumbled, tucking the gift-name clipboard under his arm and shoving the red gift bag into the locker while simultaneously taking his backpack out in one fluid motion. He had developed the habit of keeping his locker open for the least amount of time possible since freshman year.
It paid off, apparently, as Just as he closed the locker Dash Baxter was up beside him, looming with a scowl on his face. "Hey Fenton." He ground out and Danny instinctively pressed himself up against the locker, hoping his weight would prevent the jock from being able to open it and shove him in.
"He-hey Dash," he managed to get out when he realized Dash was waiting for an answer.
"Hey." He repeated, swallowing, Danny watched the movement of his throat, he looked hesitant. "Mind if I walk home with you?"
"What?" Danny snapped his gaze back up to the face right above him.
"Walk, you and me." Dash said between clenched teeth. Danny chanced a glance over to where his friends were, or rather, where the used to be. He saw them, walking in the distance, two familiar heads in a thick crowd of students. "Do you want to?"
"Uh, why?" Danny felt one of his eyes twitch at the word, expecting pain at questioning Dash Baxter.
"Because." Dash leaned over, his hand connecting with the Danny's locker, index finger spinning the combination idly, stalling. "There are a few kids who wanted to jump you after school, and I'd rather not have my gift be among the ones they steel." Dash muttered the lie.
"Oh." Danny relaxed, just a little. What a shallow and completely predictable answer. Sam would have snorted, if she were there. A tiny, very pissed little voice in his mind grumbled but he mentally squashed it down and kept his attention on Dash. "No need to worry about that, all the gifts are in the safe."
Dash leaned back, shoving his hands in his pockets, looking down at Danny out of the corner of his eye. "Safe?"
"Yeah," Still touching the locker, though not pressing up against it so much anymore Danny reached under his shirt and pulled out the key he had shoved there. "I've got the only key besides the principal, and I put the gifts inside every day right after I get them." He explained. "I don't take any of them home with me."
"Oh." Dash said, filing the information away quickly before his attention waned, "But, they don't know that." He took a hand out of his pocket and picked up his backpack, which he had dropped on the ground near Danny's locker, and slung it over his shoulder.
"Then I'm walking you home."
"But, you don't have to worry about you—"
"I'm walking you home." Dash said, and grabbed Danny's arm, tugging him along. Danny yelped, barely keeping hold of his backpack and the clipboard as he was forcibly pulled into motion.
"O-Okay." He said, getting his feet under him into the familiar pattern of walking.
"Weatherman says it'll snow tomorrow." Dash said in way of conversation as they walked. Danny had long since yanked his arm back and wrapped his scarf around his neck and face. Dash thought he looked idiotic; Danny just didn't want to see his own breath and spend the whole way home expecting ghosts to jump out and go boo. There was still at least a week or so before the Christmas truce started, and he didn't exactly enjoy the rush of fighting that always came right before the downtime.
"Gee, won't that be swell."
"What's your problem Fenton? You don't like snow?" Dash glared down at the trudging teen.
"No, actually I love snow, have a real affinity towards it." Danny mumbled.
"What's that Fenton?"
"I just don't like this time of year okay?' Danny snapped, head tilting up to meat Dash's cold glare with his own. "It puts me on edge."
"Christmas, snow, Santa, a million other reasons," Danny bent his shoulders down again and started walking faster. "I'm doing much better this year than I did last year, and last year was tons better than the year before, which may have been my worst and best Christmas ever, but I can't get over a lifetimes worth of hating it, because I still hate it."
"Um, why?" Dash's long strides easily kept up with Danny.
"Because I just do."
Dash shrugged. 'okay, filing that under the things I don't know about Fenton tab.' Dash grimaced when he saw the towering op center and all its protruding ghost hunting mechanisms. "Haven't been here in a while." He reflected out loud.
"Since about when?" Danny asked, sounding a bit too eager to change the topic.
"Last summer, the big graduation party your parents threw for your sister."
"Oh yeah." Danny remembered, he remembered having half the school in his house and not being able to talk to anyone because the only people he associated with were Sam and Tucker, who were away on summer trips with their families. 'They're always there for Danny Phantom,' Danny thought 'why does it seem they're never around when Danny Fenton needs them?'
"Well, here we are, I'm home, safe and sound, the key remains around my neck, nobody hassled me or seemed threatening in the least, aside from you that is, and look, Dad got the Christmas lights up with only a few roof shingles broken. I'd say it was an accomplishing day wouldn't you?"
"No need to thank me, your sarcasm says it all."
"Yeah well…" Danny was in an awkward situation here, he would rather be eating the Lunch Lady's fruitcake really. "Thanks, I guess, for the escort."
"Yeah um, well just looking out for what's mine." Dash crossed his arms and looked down the street. Danny fiddled with his keys, finally putting one in the lock and turning it, listening as the deadbolt slid back into its little cavern in the door.
Danny opened the door, stood there in the threshold a moment, "Well, see you tomorrow, I guess."
"Um, hey." Dash put his hand of the door just as Danny was about to close it. "The ice rink, Kwan's family owns it, they said if it snows tomorrow they'll throw a big party eight pm, you're invited."
"Kwan's family owns the ice rink?" Danny looked a bit surprised. "What, no restaurant, no Laundromat, no corner store?" he smirked.
"Watch it Fenton, that's almost a racist comment."
"Hell, it is a racist comment." Danny said, and shut the door.
"Fenton?!" Dash shouted through the door.
"Maybe." And music was suddenly blasted. Dash had an odd feeling of having just finished a very bad first date.
Shaking it off he hoped down from the porch and headed home, trying to get his bewildered mind to focus on what he'd just learned today and formulate some kind of a plan.
The first half of my two-shot Silver Bells, hope you lot enjoyed it. This is not slash. Okay? Not. Slash. Same as my one-shot You Know Dasher is not slash. The only Slash Christmas based fic I'm doing is Width of a Thread, and that isn't even really Christmas related, just a Christmas gift.
Sorry to everyone who expected this to be up sooner. You know, Life.
On a less chipper note, I've started to edit Time of Death II Rigor to be more, reader friendly. Want an Excerpt?
Dash leaned against the tombstone, the carved marble statue of his hero still sat, ever motionless, atop it. Danny's legs were on either side of him, the curved stone knees reached his shoulders before the legs tilted back to travel up and join the hips planted in a permanent seat against the grave marker. He stared longingly at the upturned face of his lost friend and foe, who in turn continued his wistful stargazing.
He had forgone the usual black cloak this night because it had begun a warm, refreshing evening. Yet as the moon rose higher, having begun its ascent sometime around midnight, the ground relinquished its last reserves of warmth stored within the sun-baked earth to the evening air. The dew that normally sprinkled each delicate yet robust blade of grass had turned to frost, and cracked under his weight as he shifted, his neck becoming strained from gazing so far back, and tried not to think about how his head was resting in the statue's lap. The night had slowly become bitterly cold, as it always is in the darkest hours, just before the sun rose. But the calm that hung about the cemetery was heavier than usual, the chill deeper.
Perhaps it was the absence of his thick, woolen mantle, though he still dressed in warm black slacks and sweater, or maybe it was the absence of his grief stricken companions. Who were not so much in mourning anymore but apprehensive of life and its end. As they went on with their lives, coming up to the grave only a few occasions a month Dash continued his nightly visits with an ardor that spoke obsession. In truth, it had become habit, like returning home to your spouse at the end of the day. By love or obligation, you felt the tug in your body that said you belonged there, even when you did not want to be. And at this moment, Dash did not want to be.
He should have left hours ago. What was the use of coming out to the grave in the first place? In the beginning they had all clustered around it together by sheer coincidence, having all felt the compelling need to see it again, if only to solidify the fact in their minds that Daniel Fenton truly was gone.
An unspoken plan was made between them, they would come here every night and visit him, sitting on blankets and talking of him, to him, hoping he would hear wherever he was. But Dash knew he couldn't hear, because all that remained in the ground below his feet was a body, a shell, a sack of rotten flesh for the worms and maggots to digest. Fenton wasn't here anymore, and perhaps had not been since the day he died.
The day he died. Dash could remember it so clearly, too clearly. Maybe it was the cold bitterness of the night or just that the sun would rise in a few hours and he hadn't slept, but he felt tired. So tired, and the weight of what had happened pressed hard on him.
He hadn't wanted to believe it, wouldn't believe it. When he read the paper and saw that Danny Fenton had gone missing he had joked, laughed, remarked on the disappearance with his friends, because they all believed he was like every other teen, just running away and having fun. He would show up again soon.
And he did, but it was not what they had expected.
Like that? Now you're probably thinking, 'this doesn't sound so bad! Rin, honestly, you're overreacting.' How about I give you the mildest, most toned down image of death I have here, no wait, damn I still have to cut and edit some parts to make it fit with the teen rating of Silver Bells. Damn.
Danny lay flaccid on the stainless steel operating table, flesh from his forehead peeled and lying in a limp fold over a portion of his empty eye sockets, an oblong section of the skull had been removed and his brain glistened in the harsh lights brought in by the forensics team. His ordinarily pale skin was a ghastly white save for the purple discolorations lining his back and the underside of his arms and legs where blood had pooled. The coroner was correct, unlike the usual amateur slice and grab of street organ harvesting, a simple slashing through the abdomen from navel to breastplate, Daniel Fenton had been cut from each shoulder to just under the sternum and downward in the usual Y pattern, his breastplate sawed through and removed, lying innocently in all its grisly glory in a basin next to a bloody cranial saw looking for all the world like a campy Halloween decoration, to reveal what remained of his organs, wet and plump, juicy from the spilled blood.
Disappointed? Well, when the body is first discovered it is a lot creepier, but then it was discovered in a dark meat locker. Like the intense lights now brightening the body, I made the second description of him lighter, less grisly. I figured the excerpt should fit with my teen rating here, but the story itself will probably be pushing the M rating limits. Just wanted to let everyone who has been bugging me know, yes it will be posted one day.
The original, uncensored version will probably be posted on several ero-guro sites I frequent, where the disgustingness of it all will be most appreciated.
Enjoy your Christmassy fic and the nice bitter aftertaste of dissected Danny Phantom.
I feel dirty now….yay.