A/N: It's the finale. Must I say more?
It couldn't be. It was impossible. There was absolutely no way that he could be anywhere close to the truth. It just couldn't be! It wasn't even fathomable!
Phantom was a ghost. Danny was a human. And people who were very much alive couldn't be ghosts who were very clearly dead! As far as Mr. Lancer knew, that alone was scientifically, accurately, even physically impossible, and he hadn't even started thinking about the little mechanics behind it, such as how and why.
It just. Wasn't. Possible.
So why did he find himself doubtful?
Because the evidence was right in front of him. That was why. The names, the picture, the other things in Paulina's diary, were all the proof he really needed. That, on top of Danny's absence, Phantom suddenly appearing to erase the ghost threat…
Even if it really couldn't be possible, it sure did explain a heck of a lot about Danny.
But Phantom, with his 'hip coolness', was outside, fighting a ghost just like he did practically every day. He somehow managed to face such terrifying enemies without showing a single concern. His strong confidence allowed him to throw witty comments into the - probably dangerous and very aggravated - ghost's face, but he was never worried about the consequence of his arrogance. Phantom's awe-striking powers were enough to make anyone intimidated, yet he always seemed to use that power for good, responsible things.
Mr. Fenton, on the other hand, was the farthest thing from cool, and he seemed to be paranoid of everything. He was the shy slacker who found himself hanging from the flag-pole by his underwear twice a month because he was too wimpy to fend for himself. He was the kid who, if handed any sort of power, would probably use it to persuade someone into doing his homework so he could sit and play video games for hours on end. But if someone handed him responsibility to go hand-in-hand with that power, he would either ignore it or try to run away from it.
So, no, it wasn't true. Based on the differing ways that those two acted, they were most definitely notthe same person. Mr. Lancer had just let his imagination manifest on a silly notion for far too long. In a few days, he would look back and laugh at himself for being so stupid. It was just a mind trick. That was all the explanation he needed...
But that didn't explain why the signatures of Mr. Phantom and Mr. Fenton were almost the exact same. The similarity of the two boys' names didn't remain unnoticed by the teacher, either. And Mr. Lancer's pathetic excuse still hadn't explained why the two boys looked like they could be twins - minus the different hair and eye colors, of course.
One look at that monochrome picture in the diary was enough to send shivers all up and down Mr. Lancer's spine. The newspaper clipping of Danny Phantom, indeed, made him look practically identical to Danny Fenton.
Phantom's snow white hair was spiked forward, just like Mr. Fenton's. The shape of his face was almost identical to that of Mr. Fenton's. The lack of color in the picture made it impossible to tell what color Phantom's eyes really were, and the panicking teacher could very well imagine them being icy-blue, not electric-green. The relation between where Phantom's facial features were... Mr. Lancer may have thought that it was Fenton dressed up as Phantom for Halloween if he hadn't known better.
Still, it could have been just a coincidence. There was absolutely no way...
Sherlock Holmes' voice found its way into Mr. Lancer's head, reminding him, once again, of his idol's words.
'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,however improbable, must be the truth.'
That concept was elementary enough for Mr. Lancer to understand. But that meant that he was still faced with an impossible, yet somehow true, scenario. After all, there was too much evidence supporting his theory to even consider another explanation-
Then the evidence is wrong! Mr. Lancer insisted as he slammed the diary shut. It has to be! I'm missing a big clue, or there isn't enough proof, or… or something!
Mr. Lancer cupped his face in his hands and sighed desperately. He was in denial, his mind completely set on ignoring what was clearly right in front of him. But the more he thought over the situation at hand, the more and more difficult it was for Mr. Lancer to throw his whacked-out theory out of the window.
Danny Phantom was somehow Danny Fenton's heroic alter ego.
The thought made him feel sick. Danny... being heroic? It really stretched the imagination - especially Mr. Lancer's overworked one. It was mind blowing. Completely out of Mr. Fenton's character. But that didn't necessarily make it untrue. To put it in a simple form that Mr. Lancer's panicking mind could fully grasp, Fenton was in disguise, flying around and blowing things up instead of attending school like his peers.
Adding school into the equation somehow helped with the understanding problem.
But... No. I'm wrong. As he looked at the situation through different eyes, Mr. Lancer began to reconsider and re-word his previous statement. Mr. Fenton is rescuing complete strangers and constantly putting his life on the line. He's doing all of this instead of spending time with his friends and family like any normal teenager.
That was when the truth really set in. Mr. Lancer's most disappointing student was, in all reality, a teenage superhero. Danny was giving up his own social life to save the lives of others.
The puzzle pieces were finally fitting together. The same mysteries that had made Mr. Lancer wonder in his office chair for hours on end were unraveling themselves, one by one.
It seemed more than plausible that Mr. Fenton's wimpy teenage attitude was just a deep cover that he put on to protect his true identity. That excuse explained why Phantom and Fenton acted so differently - it was a cover-up.
And if Danny, as Phantom, was fighting ghosts whenever they showed up, it would explain why he had to be excused from class practically every day.
And if the ghost fights kept him up at night - which was all too likely, considering that the bewitching hour was midnight - then he couldn't get more than a couple hours of sleep per night. That would certainly give him an excuse for nodding off when he actually showed up at school.
And on those few occasions when Danny was able to make it to class... his peers and teachers were trying their best to make his life a living hell.
And Mr. Lancer knew that he was one of the worst culprits.
It made him feel... hideous. Ashamed. Danny Fenton was doing so much for the community, yet Mr. Lancer knew that he had treated this student like he was worth nothing. Like he wasn't capable of getting anywhere in life, or doing anything even remotely worthwhile. Granted, the teacher hadn't known Danny's true identity at the time, but regardless, his own behavior to Danny, and even some of the other students, was sometimes border-line cruel. And it wasn't right.
The teacher knew that he had to change something, and quickly. Understanding a little more about the situation began shedding a lot of light for Mr. Lancer. He felt as though the more he did understand, the more he could actually help.
He decided, right then and there, that he was going to call Mr. Fenton to his classroom - after school, during lunch, whenever a break would come up – and they were going to have a nice, little talk. Just the two of them, man to man. Mr. Lancer was going to make sure that both ends understood exactly what was going on. He was going to make things right.
Later that day...
"Danny Fenton, go to room 107 during lunch, please," The intercom blared.
Mr. Lancer shifted uncomfortably in his chair, waiting patiently for the lunch bell to ring. He exhaled in relief when it finally did. No more waiting or wondering.
After only a few minutes, someone slowly opened his classroom door. There was a moment of hesitation before Danny shuffled into the classroom.
"Ah, Mr. Fenton," the teacher said, surprised by how calm his own voice sounded. "So glad you could make it this time. Take a seat, please," he suggested, motioning to one of the desks on the front row.
There was a second of awkward silence until Danny finally spoke up. "Um, Mr. Lancer, am I in trouble?" He asked uncomfortably as he flung his backpack under his desk and sat down.
"No, no. We just need to talk, that's all."
"Um… okay… What about?" The boy asked, his voice shaking from nerves.
Mr. Lancer cleared his throat. "We just need to discuss some things… about school, your absences, your grades… That sort of thing. Nothing too bad," he assured.
Danny sank in his seat and mumbled in humiliation. "Grades?"
Mr. Lancer nodded.
"Skipping?" When Mr. Lancer nodded a second time, Danny seemed to deflate even more.
"Now, we both know that you're efforts at school have been… not acceptable, to say the least," the teacher began, "But that's not all I want to discuss with you."
"Well, then…?" Danny shrugged meekly. "I mean… What else is there to talk about?"
Mr. Lancer ignored the teen's cracking voice and continued, making sure not to sound too unapproachable. "I really want to talk about the cause – the very root – of your bad grades and absences and whatnot."
"Yeah?" Danny gulped and subconsciously rubbed the back of his neck. "What about it?"
"Can you tell me anything about exactly why your schoolwork seems to lack any sort of… effort?"
"No." It came quickly, extremely determined. And for one moment, Mr. Lancer could imagine that it was Phantom's powerful voice echoing around his room, not one belonging to an apparently wimpy teen.
Danny backed down a little, rubbing his neck awkwardly, seeming more than a little embarrassed. "I mean… Well, life happens, you know? School's just been really difficult for me, and it's just… You know, stuff like that. It's nothing, really."
Mr. Lancer put on his 'I'm not convinced' face, which just made Danny all the more uncomfortable.
"Are you sure there isn't anything else?"
"Why would there be? What makes you so sure that there is something else going on?" Danny asked, but he seemed far too frantic in his attempt to get Mr. Lancer to believe him. "I'm… I'm just dealing with what every other kid has to deal with, honest! There is nothing bothering me, other than what I've already told you."
"Are you absolutely sure?"
"I'm sure, Mr. Lancer!" He snapped back, causing the teacher to raise an eyebrow. Danny looked down at his desk, shaken by his sudden and probably very suspicious outburst.
Mr. Lancer continued softly and at a slow pace, for he knew what fragile grounds he was treading on. "Because, Danny, I've looked at your records from Junior High, and you were a straight-A student just a few months ago. What happened over the summer that changed all of that?"
Danny knew Mr. Lancer was on to him. The teacher could see the defeat flash over the kid's face. Denying that something had happened would be ineffective at this point, and both of them knew it. Danny's head hung low and took the moment to think over everything that he could say in response. It was only a few seconds before he slowly looked up Mr. Lancer. He then stated simply, "I can't tell you,".
That reaction was somewhat expected. After all, what's a superhero without a super identity? But there was a deeper connotation behind Danny's words that made Mr. Lancer wonder if his student had another, much darker reason for keeping his secret to himself.
"Would you care to elaborate?" He suggested lightly, trying not to sound too curious.
Danny shook his head. "I can't," The boy repeated.
Mr. Lancer sighed. Part of him wanted to stop interrogating the boy. After all, it was none of his business, and Danny seemed to be doing relatively fine no matter what obstacle he faced in either form. Sure, Fenton might not have been doing that well in school, but he still had friends and family who cared for him. And Phantom hadn't killed himself or anyone else, yet. So, as far as Mr. Lancer was concerned, Danny could handle whatever he had gotten himself into.
But another side of him knew that he was a teacher. A responsible adult. He was in a position that could let him actually be helpful with whatever was going on. And that side of Mr. Lancer's conscious reasoned that, with everything that Phantom probably had to experience every day, some serious scarring had been done to Danny. No teen could handle anything like that without knowing that they have someone, besides fellow teens, helping them.
He had to try just a few more times. I don't care how predetermined this kid is. I'm going to get this 'confession' out of him. It's for his own good, after all,Mr. Lancer convinced himself.
"I just don't want you to get hurt or anything," He began explaining sincerely. Danny raised an eyebrow as the teacher continued, "I'm not as unfeeling, as indifferent, or as clueless as the other students might make me out to be, you know. And if you're doing something… dangerous, or-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on!" Danny's eyes widened in disbelief. "It's not drugs or gangs or abuse or anything like that!" He defended with palms raised, telling Mr. Lancer to back off.
The teacher tilted his head, never taking his scrutinize gaze off of Mr. Fenton.
"I never said it was," He challenged.
Danny's mouth closed stubbornly. He sat in silence, returning Mr. Lancer's stare. He remained as unwavering as ever.
Mr. Lancer had originally wanted Danny to tell him about his heroic activities. The teacher didn't want to tell Danny that he knew already; he had to establish trust first. But the teen seemed too unwilling to give anything away. It was clear that even a little push wasn't going to get reluctant Danny talking.
The prolonged silence allowed Mr. Lancer's doubts to etch their way back into his mind. What if he had gotten it all wrong? What if there really was nothing bothering Mr. Fenton – other than ordinary teen problems? What if, by continuing to question Mr. Fenton, he was just going to end up making a fool of himself? But the teacher knew that he was right. All he had to do was ease the information from Mr. Fenton, even if that meant spoon-feeding the opportunity to him.
Mr. Lancer cleared his throat, folded his hands in his lap, and broke eye-contact. He thought over what he was going to say one more time. This tactic was his absolute last resort, and there was a very good chance that it would just make Danny retreat even deeper into his confining shell. But it was the only idea Mr. Lancer could come up with. It had to work.
Finally, he spoke up. His words came out slowly, and, for the first time, some nervousness found its way into his voice. "What if I were to tell you, Danny, that I might already have some ideas as to what has caused your academic downturn?"
Danny's eyes grew even wider for a second, but he hid his alarm with a semi-relaxed façade. "No. Trust me. Whatever ideas you have, they're probably wrong."
"And why would that be?"
Once again, Danny's face held the expression of panic. He had practically admitted blatantly that something dangerous was, indeed, going on. The panic, however, was short-lived, and he expertly smoothed it over with a dead-pan look. He shrugged. "It's… complicated?" It had come out more like an unsure question than a fact, which was probably unintended.
But Mr. Lancer just leaned back into his chair, not wanting to push another question on the clearly anxious teen. "I see," was all he said.
They had reached yet another dead end. And the more dead ends the conversation hit, the more that Mr. Lancer became certain that Danny was hiding his identity for less obvious reasons, which got him thinking.
A thought hit Mr. Lancer, a thought that made complete sense. Danny's parents… They were ghost hunters, after all. Danny must have felt like he had to hide his ghostly identity from them to keep himself safe.
And maybe, for some dark reason, he was trying to keep them safe, too.
He's an adolescent ghost who tried his best to keep the city safe from specter threats, Mr. Lancer reasoned. So he has a lot of enemies. To Fenton, maybe his secret getting out is much more than him getting unwanted trouble or even fame. Maybe it's to protect the ones he cares for. His friends, his family…Mr. Lancer sighed, resisting the urge to put his face in his hands.
Danny, what have you gotten yourself into?
Mr. Fenton seemed itching to leave the classroom. His hand was reaching down to grab his backpack. His eyes were glued to the door. There was absolutely no way that he was going to open up when he wanted to leave so badly. Mr. Lancer knew that there was only one other thing he could do.
"Danny, before you are dismissed, there is something else I would like to for us to talk about."
Should I tell him?
More doubts found their way into the teacher's head.
How will Danny react, knowing that everything he has worked for – keeping his secret a secret – has been soiled so easily? The boy might panic; who knows what he thinks his parents could do to him? With all that power, who knows what he's capable of when feeling threatened? He could lash out, or, even worse, become distant form everyone he knows…
Mr. Lancer finally decided that he couldn't allow that to happen. It was a whim, really, the new resolution that Mr. Lancer made to himself. And before he could dare question it, words were already leaving the teacher's mouth.
"I want to talk to you about giving easy extra credit assignments."
Danny looked at him quickly, too surprised to consider the full reasons behind the proposal. Mr. Lancer was a little surprised himself, but before he could stop or reconsider what he was truly saying, his mouth was already working on autopilot.
"I know a lot is on your plate, Danny," He continued, "And sometimes… I admit it; sometimes I've been very hard on you. I don't act so difficult to any of my other students, and your situation seems to be very different from theirs."
Mr. Lancer half-way cringed on the inside… Danny would probably question that last sentence later, when he thought back over their full conversation. After all, he didn't know that Mr. Lancer knew anything, so in his mind, the teacher had no way of knowing how special his situation was.
Oh Well. Let him stew on it, Mr. Lancer mentally shrugged.
He continued, "I will make some extra credit available to you over the next few days. I could even give you tutoring sometime – whenever your schedule allows it, of course. I may even cut you some slack every now and again for being late… but only if your effort is clearly present in the work that you are able to complete. Understand?"
Danny nodded slowly in shock, his mouth gaping.
"Now…" Mr. Lancer sighed, spending a moment to let his brain catch up with his mouth. "Go eat some lunch. Hang out with your friends!"
As if snapping out of a trance, Danny scrambled to get his stuff together. He darted clumsily for the hallway, the shock still taking it's time wearing off. With one last uncertain, yet thankful look thrown over his shoulder, the door closed with a soft bang.
Mr. Lancer was left in solitude for the rest of the period. He thought over the crazy week's events, and he found himself smiling.
Mr. Fenton was no longer his most disappointing student. He was the most commendable. The teen had to balance school, family, friends, and his difficult work on his young shoulders. Not only that, but he was doing his best to keep his town and everyone he cared for safe, all while keeping the biggest secret known to man. But now, Mr. Lancer had to keep a secret of his own.
Why does Danny have to know that I know anything?He wondered. Lending a hand from the sidelines might just be the biggest help of all.
Mr. Lancer smiled again. He felt very confident and proud of the fact that he had helped his special student in the best way he possibly could.
Finally, he had done something right.
A/N: This is the end ofAutograph! It's over! You all have survived the entire journey! It's time to celebrate (Or cry in a corner if you were reallythatfond of to my little story), and not leave with a bitter, apologetic taste in your mouth! :P
My sincerest 'Thanks!' go out to everyone who has tagged along since the beginning, who has story/author alerted this, and/or who has story/author favorited this. If you have an account that allows you to PM, and if I didn't send you a personal thank-you for a review, then I will try to do better in the future! I thank you one and all!
Disclaimer: And, guys… I don't own DP. If you haven't caught on to that yet, then… I'll pray for you.
This is a shout out to the best-est beta-reader in the word, sapphireswimming! She has really inspired me throughout this whole experience, and was always there to remind me to keep chugging along!
Thank you so much for finishing my story! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it! Ciao!