Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Counseling Casper High
Danny Fenton and Sam Manson broke up. Officially. In front of half the student body. It was the worst disaster to hit Casper High in its history.
"How did this happen?" Mr. Smith, the school's new counselor asked, head in his hands. He was leaning against a table in the teacher's lounge and looking like Death himself was coming to call.
Lancer exchanged a glance with Principal Ishiyama. "We told you," Ishiyama said kindly, "it's a weird school."
"I assumed you meant because of the ghosts!"
Lancer bit back a chuckle. "Well, that's part of it. If you ask me --" Smith glared, he had not asked Lancer "-- the students need stability and Danny and Sam have been something stable since their earliest educations."
"It's one couple! How can an entire student body fall apart just because two teenagers broke up?"
"You remember what it was like before they became an official item," Ishiyama said, "everyone teased them about being a couple because everyone saw it as inevitable."
"Even us," Lancer added.
Ishiyama nodded. "They were a little bit of stability in a town that has far too little of it. Now the kids need to find something else to rely on."
"It doesn't make any sense," Smith said, shaking his head.
Lancer looked up at the clock. "Regardless, you'd better get back out there. Don't you have appointments all day?"
Smith shakily rose from his seat, nodding. "I suppose I'll have to handle Fenton and Manson. When I'll fit them in though…."
As he walked away Ishiyama turned to Lancer. "Why don't you talk to Danny and Sam?"
"Me?" Lancer cried, paling considerably.
"You know them better than any of the other teachers here."
Lancer pursed his lips, knowing he wouldn't be able to argue his way out of this, but still -- "What exactly do you want me to do, Izzy?"
"I'm not asking you to get them back together -- though that would solve all our problems -- I just want to know that they're okay. If they seemed inevitable to the rest of the world think of how it must have been for them."
Lancer asked Danny to stay after school that day, which the boy grudgingly agreed to, thinking he needed to make up for a failed test or something along those lines. Lancer himself wasn't looking forward to the appointment and used his free period to run to Smith's office in search of advice. When he reached the door though, he was stopped dead by Paulina Sanchez's voice.
"It just doesn't make any sense! Those two losers belong together, do they think they can do better than each other?" She gave a small huff of annoyance which sounded a great deal like a sorrowful sniff.
A buzz went off and Smith sighed. "I'm sorry, Paulina, but I have to get ready for my next appointment. Do you think you'll be okay?"
"Of course! Why would anything be wrong?"
"I'll give you an extra three minutes on the pass so you can stop by the bathroom if you need to."
Lancer leapt aside as Paulina breezed through the door. The girl didn't even notice him.
"Smith," he said, stepping into the office. "Are they all like that?"
Smith ran a hand through his blond hair and sagged back in his seat. "Pretty much. Whatever they come in for they always find their way back to the subject of Danny and Sam. Dash Baxter actually asked me yesterday how anyone could make it if those two couldn't."
"Didn't you just break some sort of therapist code by telling me that?"
Smith's dark eyes met Lancer's. "Do I look like I care? They trained us for all the typical teenage crap: raging hormones, depression, general angst -- but never for the complete breakdown of an entire student body due to one couple's inability to work." He took a deep breath that seemed to revitalize him, if only a little. "Did you need something?"
Lancer couldn't bring himself to ask for help from Smith, now that he knew the pressure the poor man was under. "Just to tell you that I plan on talking to Danny and Sam, so you don't need to worry."
Smith's face froze and Lancer could see relief in his haggard eyes. "Thank you," he said quietly, barely moving his mouth to get out the words.
"No problem," Lancer said and hurried out the door. "Good luck!" he called over his shoulder.
"What do I have to do?" Danny asked, unceremoniously throwing his book bag onto a desk and flopping into the seat beside it.
Lancer whirled, dropping his chalk and forgetting all about preparing the board for tomorrow's lessons. "I didn't hear you come in."
Danny just stared at him, a scowl on his face. Lancer realized suddenly that he had never seen Danny's eyes such a dark shade of blue, they were always something more cheerful, closer to robin's egg, now they were an icy midnight.
"I didn't ask you here because you have to do anything, Danny," Lancer said, coming around the front of his desk and leaning casually back against it. "I asked you here to talk."
Danny blinked once, twice. "About what?"
Lancer stared a moment, doing his best to copy Danny's incredulous expression. "You know very well what."
"No, I don't!" Danny cried, jumping up. "If I knew, I wouldn't have asked! So either tell me or let me go because I've never been good at mind games."
Lancer waited until Danny's breathing leveled out before saying, "I asked you here to talk about your breakup with Samantha Manson."
A muscle in Danny's cheek twitched and he slowly took his seat. Quietly he said, "No one calls her 'Samantha.'"
"I know," Lancer said gently. "You don't have to tell me what happened or why, but it's plain and obvious -- especially considering your behavior in the last few minutes -- that you're not taking this well. I just want to help you get through this as best I can."
"I'm fine," Danny ground out.
"Daniel Fenton," Lancer said, keeping his voice level but sharpening his tone just enough to force the boy's gaze up, "never in all the years I've taught you have you raised your voice to me like that or shown me such disrespect."
Danny said something that sounded like, "I did once," but when Lancer asked what he'd said the boy merely answered, "Nothing."
"How about this," Lancer began, reaching back to open the top drawer of his desk, "we head down to the lunch room and have some ice cream?" He pulled out his set of keys and waved them with a smile. "We can eat and talk or just eat, your choice. I would invite you to Nasty Burger since I'm sure that's what you'd prefer, but it would no doubt ruin your street cred to be seen with me."
The corners of Danny's mouth lifted ever so slightly. "Okay."
"I just couldn't do it anymore," Danny said, twirling the bare stick from his ice cream idly between his fingers.
"I'd never pegged Ms. Manson for the demanding type."
Danny looked up at him sharply. "No, no she was perfect. I just -- couldn't do it," he finished lamely. "I couldn't put her in that position anymore. It was too dangerous."
Again Danny looked up sharply. Lancer almost laughed. Something about giving kids ice cream, especially the kind they'd enjoyed when much younger, made them forget you were even there.
"Yeah," Danny said, his voice tightening, "you know, with my parents' experiments and all. We'd go down into the lab a lot to -- you know. It wasn't safe."
"Surely you could have found a safer place to -- you know."
Danny shook his head. "It was just too much. And I know what you're thinking, I know what everyone's thinking: it's Danny and Sam, meant to be forever and always. Well maybe that was true once but it's not anymore, too much has changed."
"Like me," Danny said quietly. He shook his head, grasping the stick tightly in his hand. "Listen, thanks, Mr. Lancer, but I should really be getting home."
Lancer nodded. "I understand. You run along before your parents get worried." But Danny was already halfway across the cafeteria, hurrying towards the double doors.
The way back to Lancer's room took him right past the computer lab, which sounded like a war zone despite the rule that no students were allowed to enter after school ended. He gently eased the door open, not the slightest bit surprised to find Tucker Foley playing some space age racing game on the projector screen. As Lancer walked inside it felt like every speaker in the room was blaring. Instead of getting Tucker's attention in the conventional manner, Lancer came up behind the boy, who was standing in the middle of the floor, controller in his hands as he raced for his virtual life. Lancer grabbed a chair and climbed on top of it so he could better reach the projector, which was screwed to one of the room's crossbeams. Tucker screamed when the image disappeared and whirled as the sounds of a fiery crash filled the room. He looked sheepishly at the floor while Lancer climbed down.
"I know," Tucker said quickly, "students aren't allowed but --"
"You're avoiding Danny and Sam."
"Yeah, and -- wait, how did you know?"
Lancer laughed and motioned for Tucker to take a seat. "The entire school is reeling from the news."
"I've thought things were off -- but I just figured it was a ghost or something."
"Is that really the first place you kids' minds go?"
Tucker paled slightly. "Um, well, you know me, total techno geek." He let out a weak laugh and Lancer nodded.
"Has it been hard?"
"What? Oh, you mean with Danny and Sam. A little. Danny's moody and Sam won't talk to anyone so -- okay, it's more than a little hard."
"How are you doing?"
"Me?" Tucker laughed. "I'm fine! It's those two you should be worried about!"
Tucker nodded. "Maybe school's not as fun as it once was, but I have more time to catch up on my techno geekery and I'm spending a lot less time in mortal da -- dating," he finished quickly. "Mortal Dating, it's this stupid new game that Sam's quality testing, it's really bad. Hey, I should probably let you get back to grading papers or writing incredibly difficult tests or whatever it is you do. And I should go 'cause I'm not supposed to be in here anyway so -- bye!" And with that Tucker Foley fairly flew from the computer lab.
Lancer could not make sense of it all. Obviously there was more going on than what either boy was admitting to but he had no idea what it was. Lancer, a gamer himself, knew for a fact that there was no upcoming game called Mortal Dating -- though, he thought to himself, with the proper graphics and storyline such a game could be pretty good. And he knew that even if Danny Fenton was stupid enough to make out with a girl in a lab full of unstable equipment, he was not stupid enough to break up with a girl over that alone. What had the three of them -- yes, Lancer was certain it was all three of them -- been up to that could force Casper High's only truly stable couple to break up?
He was not looking forward to the next twenty-three hours. Waiting to speak to Sam Manson until the next afternoon would be hard enough, but after that he would have to figure out what was going on. He decided that a stop at his favorite tea shop would sooth his nerves and as he took a sip of Mora's specialty, sighed happily. A gasp pulled him from his happy place and he turned to the door.
"Ms. Manson," he said much more calmly than he would have thought himself capable.
"Mr. Lancer," she said uncomfortably. She turned, "I was just leaving."
"Wait! Please, I need to talk to you and this is as good a place as any."
She turned slowly, looking at him through her hair. "You need to talk to me?"
She sighed and slid into the seat across from him. "About Danny?"
"How did you know?"
She smiled. "Danny's the clueless one."
Lancer laughed lightly. "You don't have to --"
"We broke up. It happens all the time."
"Yesterday we discussed 'The Gold-Bug' and you never said a thing."
"I wanted to give the rest of the class a chance."
"Sam," he said gently, "I just want to make sure that you're all right."
She smiled but it didn't reach her eyes. "I will be." When he didn't say anything she let out a laugh. "Really, I --" Her gaze moved to just over his shoulder and her eyes widened fearfully. He turned and saw the small television set on the counter. Danny Phantom was fighting a particularly nasty ghost.
"Don't worry," Lancer said a moment later, turning back to Sam, "it's out by the edge of town and they should already have evacuated the area."
This news did not seem to calm Sam and her eyes did not move from the screen.
"Sam, Samantha." She flinched and he heard several of their fellow patrons cry out. He turned to see that Phantom had taken a particularly nasty blow. The ghost rose from the dirt but there was something off. He seemed -- distracted. Mona turned up the sound just in time for the reporter to announce that Phantom's foe was moving into the city.
"I have to go," Sam said and Lancer was shocked at the strained expression on her face. "I have to go home." She raced from the restaurant along with several others who were eager to get out of the ghost's path.
Lancer moved more slowly, opting to help Mona clean up after the crowd and help usher people to the storm cellar.
"Are you staying?" Mona asked.
"No," Lancer said with a smile, "I live just around the corner."
"I know," she said, returning his grin.
"See you tomorrow?"
Lancer hurried out the door as Mona locked it behind him. The sounds of the battle echoed through the streets but he was used to them by now and they did not frighten him into hurrying. Running tended to attract ghosts' attention and being noticed at this moment was not something he wanted. An animalistic cry drew his attention upward and he saw Danny Phantom roaring as he wrestled with the offending ghost. The boy threw it to the pavement mere yards from Lancer and, when it did not rise, pulled out the familiar thermos.
"Impressive," Lancer said as the ghost disappeared into a beam of light.
Phantom looked up at him sharply and Lancer noted that the legendary green eyes were glowing yellow.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
Phantom looked away. "I just beat the ghost. Everything's just peachy."
Lancer sighed, knowing the idea he'd just had was his craziest ever. "Hey!" he called, stopping Phantom before he could fly away. "I've been counseling my students all day and I live right there so -- if you need to talk --"
Phantom's shoulders sagged but he gave no other indication of giving in.
"I have pizza. It's cold but --"
To his eternal surprise Phantom laughed. The sound made Lancer smile, it reminded him of another laugh that he couldn't quite place.
"Sure, I'd love some."
Lancer had to admit, having the infamous Danny Phantom standing in his apartment was the oddest moment of his life thus far. The boy was walking cautiously around, examining pictures and mementos. Lancer brought two paper towel wrapped pieces of pizza from the kitchen.
"That's from Japan," he said, making Phantom start.
"I didn't hear you come in."
Lancer grinned and handed Phantom his slice. "I said the same to a student this afternoon." He could have sworn, as he took a seat in his recliner, that Phantom blushed slightly.
"What is it?" Phantom asked, turning back to the book.
"It's an antique copy of the Kokinshu. It's a book of poetry. Very good, you should try it some time."
Phantom nodded, moving on to the next shelf. "Where'd you get it?"
"Japan, of course."
Phantom whirled, his eyes growing wide. "You've been to Japan?"
"I used to be quite the world traveler," Lancer said, taking a bite. "In my twenties I went all over the world. I worked for various organizations and businesses teaching their employees English."
"It was fun."
"Hey," Phantom said, stopping at pictures of his family, "where's your sister?"
"Sister? What made you think I had a sister?"
"I --" Phantom looked around as if lost. "Nothing." He sunk onto the couch, looking much, much smaller than Lancer had ever seen him.
"You seemed a bit -- off during the battle out there. Is something wrong?"
"Only everything," Phantom muttered.
Phantom paled, though a moment before Lancer would have sworn it wasn't possible. "There's this -- person."
Lancer bit back a smile.
"This person and I -- we go way back and I finally had to tell h-- this person that it was too dangerous for them to be around, what with all my ghost fighting and all."
Lancer nodded slowly.
"So, you agree?" Phantom asked, hope lightening his tone.
"Oh, not at all. Do you believe that what you do is important?"
"Then why can't this person support you?"
"It's not the support that's the problem. Okay, maybe it was, but there were other problems."
"I was putting her in danger!" Phantom cried, leaping to his feet much the same way another boy had earlier that day. "How can I be with her when I know that every time I leave her side I'm giving one of my enemies an opening, that they'll go after her as soon as they will this town because they know it'll kill me if either gets hurt?"
The pizza in Lancer's hands was completely ruined, having been crushed in his tight grasp. Suddenly he could see similarities he never had before and the implications left his blood cold. If he was right -- and in that moment he knew that he was -- then nothing could ever be the same. But ultimately, as Phantom began apologizing for frightening the poor man and excusing himself, he realized none of that mattered as much as a teenager's delicate heart.
"Wait!" Lancer cried. "I'm sorry, I was just -- thinking." Phantom didn't turn from the door, but he did pause. "If you really love her, you should let her decide. I doubt -- I doubt any girl who's crazy enough to love you -- to really love all of you -- would make such a decision lightly. And trust me when I say that no matter how much you fill you life with other things, be they books or battles, it's pretty dreary with no one to spend it with."
"Really?" Phantom asked, half turning.
Lancer nodded. "Really, Mr. Phantom. And I would hate for you to wake up one morning only to realize that you had pushed away everything you had ever fought for."
Phantom nodded slowly. Before leaving he lifted the pizza, still clutched in his hand. "Thanks."
"No problem. Feel free to drop in anytime."
Lancer caught the ghost of a smile on Phantom's lips before the boy phased through the door. As he dropped his ruined pizza in the trash he saw Phantom flying away in the direction of Amity's upscale residential area. At least the boy had some brains. Hopefully come tomorrow Casper High would be fixed and the town would be a tad safer. More than that though, Lancer hoped that his student did indeed drop by again, he wanted to learn more about Danny Fenton's other side.
AN: There's no chapter 2 coming, so you might as well press that review button now.