i thought ghostlazer’s design was reALLY COOL,
If they’re working at the zoo for volunteer hours you know Sam’s gonna try and pull shit
the first doodle I had in my new sketchbook is Phantom flying around after lorikeets
Mr. Lancer let the dull drawl of the morning news pass through his ears, absently letting it fill his head with a kind of pleasant static as he sipped a cup of lukewarm coffee. He was buried neck deep in papers, and while he hated to waste his mornings flipping through essays that, largely, were beyond help, he had to admit the weather had taken a nice turn, the trees filling out with green, some wandering bumblebees flitting from flower to flower, so he couldn’t say it was entirely unpleasant being awake this early.
He glanced up, breathing the smell of vanilla creamer and coffee beans, and settled his attention briefly on the little television set. A local news station rolled across the screen, the kind that focused on little human interest stories and clung to the anemic viewership of the old and lonely.
When he tuned in, it was detailing a charity drive at the senior center on West Avenue. The blond news reporter, with one cowlick jutting up above his left temple, held a microphone slightly too far away from the gray haired man to his left. This man, probably in his sixties, spoke with anxious excitement about fundraising bingo. His voice cracked frequently, he ended his sentences like questions, and he closed everything he said with an awkward preposition, but Lancer tried to disregard it. He was grading papers, not the news.
“This is something we really hope to help the center with. We’re not certain where it’ll be hosted at—but um, not yet at least of course—but the nice Hilton people from last year said they’d probably be able to…” The man lost a little steam, flustered with the interview and fidgeting with his tie. He sweated visibly, and fell more and more to quiet, curt, hesitant laughs between his words.
“I-it’s something we can raise a lot of money with and help a lot of our seniors with, so we’re all very excited here.”
Lancer shook his head with a little smile and lost his eyes in the back window. Shy pink peered over the skyline, little dew drops decorating his porch, and he briefly considered moving himself outside to finish grading. Though the furniture was perhaps a bit too wet…
He yanked the next essay from his pile. “Danny Fenton” was written with clumsy loops at the top, and Lancer already felt his heart sink.
“Romeo and Juliet is a play about two teenagers who fall in love, and it represents how love can be used for change by how they loved each other to death.”
A quiet, wispy sigh pushed past his lips, the English teacher of his core cringing at the very sentence. Fenton had told him it was bad; he knew to expect it, and now he had no idea what to do with the paper.
Lancer looked up with a ripple of surprise as the television set echoed his thoughts. The bingo man was gone, replaced with the two main anchors of the show. He focused on the tiny screen, quietly noting how much they’d had perked up. The female, 30-something and pock-marked, shifted excitedly in her seat. The male anchor, whose toupee had drifted to the right side of his head, beamed back.
“We’re apparently getting video feed right now. Of course, if there are small children around, we urge you to shut off the television…because, haha, well we have the video feed delayed in case anything happens.”
Lancer watched with a dense lump in his throat as the video feed shifted. The audio came delayed, and it groaned under the heavy assault of wind, but he could still make out the on-sight reporter’s voice.
He didn’t care about the voice though, not for a second. He sat, mesmerized, as the video feed relayed a heated fight between Danny Phantom and a globby, red-eyed creature that dripped searing ectoplasm on the ground below.
Had he ever seen a fight? Lancer felt glued to his seat, anxious to watch how these things went.
Phantom let loose pulsing green ecto-blasts in quick succession, but the creature phased through them, twisting its viscous tail as it spun forward. With the momentum it had pack into its tail, it nailed the ghost child from the side. Danny tumbled through the air, hitting the ground with a crack, and gasped for breath.
Ice settled in Lancer’s veins, his blood running cold.
The glooping creature swooped over the prone boy, but Phantom reacted first. In an instant he unclipped the thermos from his belt, tore off the cap, and jammed the traction button. Lancer blinked and nearly missed it.
The ghost was sucked away into nothing. Wind consumed the audio for two whole seconds as Danny didn’t move, only his hair whipping in the gust.
Steadily, slowly, Danny got to his wobbling feet, a thin, stretched smile on his face, and the happy chatter of the reporter rang out from the television set. Lancer almost smiled himself, but Danny quickly doubled over, coughed, and pulled a hand away from his mouth streaked with red-green.
The visual immediately cut away.
Four hours later, third period, Monday morning, Lancer watched a band of tired, grumbling students file into the computer lab. The majority still rubbed sleep from their eyes, which they hadn’t properly shaken in the first two morning classes, and crowded into rows with their friends.
His heart beat nervously as he watched the students enter one by one. Baxtar, Lukas, Kleinbard. A short gap. Manson, Foley.
The boy walked with painfully obvious rigidity, but otherwise he carried himself in much the same manner as everyone else. Tired, bothered, he took his seat like his 23 other classmates. Lancer looked deeper, longer, and picked apart the boy’s appearance.
Fenton’s eyes bore the same bleary exhaustion as usual, but there was a quickness to his breath, and Lancer saw him suck in a pained gasp as he sat in his seat.
The boy’s hand shook as he settled it on the mouse.
Lancer swallowed the lump in his throat, pulled Microsoft Word open on his computer, and messed with a few unorganized documents.
“Fenton!” Lancer called. “Come here a second, please?”
Danny looked up with livid fire in his eyes, clear distrust burned into their dull blue shine. He held his glare for a few tense seconds, but finally pushed his stiff body out of the seat, wincing, less obviously, as he righted his position.
“I’m missing some papers I need to pass out. I just sent them to print.” Lancer produced a ring of keys, a few obviously his, a few clearly the school’s. He flicked forward a tarnished gold one and presented it to Danny. “Could you get them from the copy room?”
Danny stared back, silently, keeping his breathing under control.
“Sure thing,” he muttered, and snatched up the keys.
“They might take a while to all print!” Lancer shouted after him. “The machine’s old.”
Danny studied the key in his hand, carefully ignoring the searing pain in his gut. He ran three distracted fingers over his shirt and remembered the blotchy purple marks that creature had left behind.
He clenched the key tighter in his hand, feeling the prongs carve little rivets in his palm. What right did Lancer have to send him out? Lancer, if anyone, should know better.
There was a printer in the computer lab, Danny realized with a wave of anger. Every step hurt, and he didn’t need to come all this way for something so unbelievably stupid.
Danny stopped sharply in front of the copy room, nearly missing its weathered sign above the door. It resided in the oldest wing of the school, alongside the office, guidance, and supervisors’ department, and all the doors had long since lost their labeling. However, he’d never been inside the copy room. He hardly knew it existed. It just sat, like the unpopular kid in the corner of the cafeteria.
The key fit easily into the lock, no problem, right on the first try, and a pang of frustration raced through Danny’s body. He’d wanted something to take his anger out on, something he could justifiably jam and twist and bang on, and the cooperative lock wasn’t making things better.
He wrenched the door open, attempted to slam it behind him, stalked to the far end of the room, and jammed the keyring into his pocket.
Danny’s eyes flickered sharply from one dusty old machine to another, overlooking a xerox and fax machine before he found the simply printer. He shot a hand out to grab Lancer’s stuff, but drew it back with sharp annoyance.
There wasn’t even a stack of papers in the printer yet. There was just one lone upside down sheet poking pathetically over the edge of the tray, and Danny remembered with a wave of irritation that Lancer warned they’d take a while.
That one paper bothered him for more reasons than he understood. He hated it, so he pulled it sharply from the printer, not caring when the edge tore under his fingers. Lancer could deal with his damn torn piece of paper.
Danny flipped it right-side up, and found nothing about Romeo and Juliet.
“No one uses this stupid copy room. Close the door and lock it. Lie down. Come back at the end of the period if you can. If not, I’ll tell your next teacher I’ve kept you late.
By the way, I’ve officially exempt you from the project. -Edward Lancer”
Danny felt the paper crumple in his quivering hands. Relieved tears welled in his eyes, and his legs turned to jello beneath him. His back hit the wall, sliding down onto the carpeted floor, and Danny drew a few, deep, stuttering breaths.
He silently thanked his teacher, shut his eyes, and let little tears drip down his cheeks. His hands wrapped around his aching side, but the pain dulled as soon as he stopped hiding it.
Danny lay down fully on the carpet, crazed happiness pulsing through his veins, and let the tears fall one by one.
Forty minutes passed, and Lancer looked up with quiet surprise when he noticed Danny Fenton’s things had gone missing. He pushed himself away from the too-low desk, and waded upstream through the flood of students b-lining for the door. The bell wouldn’t ring for another 15 seconds, but the kids had a perfectly-tuned sense about these things.
There it went. With the bell, his students took to the hall, and suddenly he was alone.
Lancer placed a hand on the edge of Danny’s monitor, his eyes scouring the ground for any sign of the boy’s things. It was possible Manson or Foley took them—he hadn’t seen them leave—but he still couldn’t be sure.
His eyes did another scan of the spot, this time locking on a little triangle of white. A piece of folded paper stuck out beneath the keyboard, and Lancer grabbed it, quickly realizing it was his own printed paper that had been folded inside-out. He flicked it open and read the messy scrawl on its back side.
“Got my stuff. Heading to math. No need to talk to the teacher.”
He smiled slightly at the note, re-reading it once or twice, and tucked it away into his pocket, planning to shred it later. He pulled his hand back out, startled as a set of keys materialized and dropped into his outstretched palm. They slipped through his surprised fingers, and Lancer barely stopped them from falling to the ground.
“Thank you,” he heard a voice whisper in his ear. It was cold, almost distorted, ringing with a shivering echo. It unsettled Lancer, but the sheer gratitude in it was unmistakable.
“Thank you so very much.”
“Don’t mention it.” Lancer spoke to his keys, a smile in his eyes. “Never mention it. As far as you and I are concerned, I’ve done nothing.”
He looked back up at the silent room and didn’t wait for a response. He grabbed his things, pocketed his keys, and shut the door, flicking off the lights behind him.