A/N: It's kinda sad that most of the fics I think are my personal best haven't been read much at all, just because they don't appear from the summary to be about a popular couple. *grimace* starting to remember how ff works again. Doesn't mean I care, mind. Don't have any delusions; this one isn't remotely romantic. But I really like it, so one way or another. If you do too, poke around my other stuff. It doesn't all have to be DannyxSam fluff. It can't all be DannyxSam fluff, else I'd go mad. I like to think that there are other things worth reading.

Disclaimer: Danny Phantom belongs to Butch Hartman, as do the characters themselves. Anything you don't like is undoubtedly mine, as is just about anything you think is clever.


Somewhere in the midst of his tale, he found himself floating, upside-down and cross-legged. He wasn't sure exactly how he'd wound up there, but he tried not to think too much about just what he was doing at these meetings. If he let himself think about the danger involved, he would freeze up.

So instead, he talked. He talked and talked and didn't let himself stop until he had to. "...and I just don't understand why he can't go haunt a junkyard or something. Somewhere with empty boxes no one wants. I am sick of him! Even when there's not a real ghost that needs dealing with, he's still there; scaring the witless and making a mess of everything."

There was a resounding chuckle from the kitchen, and Danny grimaced at the absence of the stress and falsehood usually behind the familiar sound. "Have you tried suggesting it? Sounds to me like everyone wins."

"Ghosts are generally pretty hard to reason with."

"You're a ghost yourself," the voice replied smoothly. Danny's acute hearing could pick up the slight shuffling and increase in volume that meant he was nearing the doorway. His stomach twisted itself into knots of anticipation; it was always so much harder to talk to him face-to-face.

"Yeah. And maybe you've missed this, but I'm not exactly a diplomat."

A shadowy figure finally stepped through the doorway. Despite the fact that he already knew exactly who he was talking to, Danny still had to swallow when the visual hit him. He stepped closer to where the ghost hung upside-down, a knowing smile across his face. "Well, you have the sense to know what you want to protect, and the diplomacy to sit and talk with me."

A hand held out a steaming cup of hot chocolate, and the warm, chocolatey seam that drifted up to his nose was impossibly tempting. Despite the valiantly working heater and his already low body temperature, he couldn't think of too many things more appealing to him in that moment than the warm, centrally-heating cocoa.

Unable to stop the small smile on his lips, he flipped himself upright and cupped both of his hands around the warmth of the cup. The first sip, pure warmth dipped in chocolate, was the tiniest taste of heaven. Against his own wishes, he couldn't help feeling at ease.

Opening his eyes in the wake of a short-lived chocolate euphoria, the smile remained, lingering.

"Doesn't mean much, really." He grimaced, but it was a hauntingly good-natured gesture. "I'm still stubborn and far too easy to blindside."

"I'm fairly sure I can attest to the fact that it comes with the territory."

"Territory?"

"Ghost or no, you're still a teenager. You're not supposed to have it all figured out yet." Leaning against the wall, the bulky man smiled over the rim of his own steaming cup.

Finally, the grimace returned to his face, and he found himself staring into his hot chocolate as if it held the answers to the universe. To an outsider, at least. Danny himself was pleading with it to swallow him up for getting so comfortable. He had to stop these visits. "Maybe I'm not supposed to, but I need to. I've got an entire city resting on my shoulders—sometimes more than that—not just a handful of soon-to-fade relationships and my own ever-changing fate." His next swallow of hot chocolate was too warm, too sweet, too inviting. This wasn't where he should be.

"Mr. Phantom, I think that you-"

"I am the BOX GHOST!" The cry pierced the chill night before Danny could realize that the steam around his head wasn't entirely from his drink.

Setting down the no-longer-appealing beverage, Danny unwound his legs and floated a little higher in the air. "Speak of the devil," he growled, glaring at the nearest window.

"I'd call him more of the devil's henchman, if anything." The room's other occupant smiled, but made no move to shift from his position.

"Really, he's mostly just annoying."

"Good luck."

Danny just nodded before he shifted to intangibility and was off. A pair of worry-creased eyes stared at the spot he'd left through, his humor gone with the boy. He took a long sip of his own drink before he finally left his place against the wall, picking up the ghost boy's half empty one.

He set them both down on the kitchen counter and then braced himself against it, the faintest of echoes from the battle overhead drifting to his ears.

Glancing up to see nothing but his bland white ceiling, he sighed. "I suppose this means he'll be short an assignment again."

-S-P-A-C-E-A-N-D-T-I-M-E-G-A-P-

The next morning, when a dead-on-his-feet Danny Fenton trudged to English class, he wanted nothing more than another mug of hot cocoa and the comfort of his bed. He would have settled for slipping, unnoticed, into his seat, but of course Lancer waved him over the second he stepped through the door. At least he wasn't late.

Casting a quick glance over his shoulder to his friends, who just shrugged, he made the doubtless-forsaking walk to Mr. Lancer's desk.

"Mr. Fenton," the teacher began in a tone that made Danny cringe, too reminiscent of the hot-chocolate-bequeathing man who attempted to give guidance to Phantom.

"Yes, Mr. Lancer?" Danny asked hesitantly, prepared for a chewing-out.

Clasping his hands on top of a stack of papers, Mr. Lancer's surprisingly knowing gaze locked onto Danny's. "I just wanted to let you know that I've caught wind of your... troubles. Don't you dare abuse this, but if you need a little extra time on assignments..."

Danny's eyes widened as he caught onto what his English teacher was saying... and the implications. "Are you saying..."

His teacher cut him off with a nod that was both warning and affirmative. After a momentary uneasiness, Danny let a small smile settle over his face, and it was reflected on Lancer's.

Nowhere near satisfied but knowing full well that it was not the place, Danny turned to join his friends in the back of the class.

"Oh, and Mr. Fenton?" Danny snapped quickly around, the tiniest bead of fear forming in his chest. Lancer's knowing smile upset it just a bit. "I'll know."