He handed the pink slip Lancer had placed on his desk at the end of first block to the secretary and sat in the plastic chair set outside the principal's office. Any other day, he would've been elated to miss math class… but something didn't sit right with him today. After all, it wasn't every day he was pulled out of class for a one-on-one meeting with Principal Ishiyama.
The last time he'd been in her office had been the day he was readmitted to Casper High after his… 'untimely suspension' as she'd put it. Mom and Dad had spoken most of the meeting, assuring her that the inhibitors they'd designed were foolproof. They also discussed how he would realistically balance his schoolwork and hero work. It'd been two months since then and Danny couldn't help but wonder where he went wrong. Had he missed too many assignments? Had he abused his make-up work privileges? Had the school-board changed their minds about letting him return?
Whatever this was about it couldn't be good.
Before he knew it, the door to Ishiyama's office opened and one of the language teachers walked out. She gave him an encouraging smile but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
That was all the confirmation he needed. He was fucked.
Danny took a careful breath before entering the room. He sat across Ishiyama, who was wearing a purple pantsuit with neon green cufflinks. Wait… those were the compact specter-detector cufflinks his parents had designed, right? Weird.
"Mr. Fenton," she greeted easily. "It's been a while since we've talked. How have things been since you returned?"
Was he supposed to say that things were good or would that make him sound like a freeloader? He couldn't say that they were bad though—adults got worried when you said things were bad.
"Different, I guess?"
"In a good way, I hope?"
"Yeah… in a good way."
She thumbed through a leather-bound planner before setting it down on her desk. "Good. We have a lot to discuss."
Another wave of dread settled at the bottom of his stomach and Danny curled his fingers around the inhibitor snapped onto his wrist.
"Have I… have I not been doing enough?"
"What do you mean?" she genuinely looked puzzled.
"Of the schoolwork. I mean, I've been trying to do as much as I can without… taking advantage of the extra time. I get it if my teachers have said—"
She cut him off with a laugh.
"No, Mr. Fenton. You've been doing a stellar job in your classes, all things considered. I wanted to talk to you today about your future, well, the school's future."
Great. Another college talk. He'd had enough of those with Jazz, his parents, Tucker's parents, his counselor… the list went on and on. He wasn't even sure he wanted to go to college!
"How much do you know about ghosts? No, let me rephrase that… how much do you think you'd be able to teach me about ghosts in five months?"
What kind of question was that?
"Uh, a fair amount, I guess? I'm still learning more and more about them, but it's pretty easy since I have a firsthand advantage."
"Hm… that's what I thought. What about the science side of it? For instance, what your parents do for a living? Would you be able to explain the basic mechanics of ectology?"
This was getting weird...
"I'm sure by now, you're well aware of the petition to include a 'Ghost Science' course as an elective."
He'd heard something about that a few weeks ago. It was started by Star and some of the other A-Listers but he hadn't paid it much thought. People started petitions all the time—he never imagined that the school would seriously consider it!
"Whether we like it or not, ghosts are an important part of our town's society. Personally, I feel severely uneducated about them and several of your peers feel the same. Normally, I'd never consider having a student lead a class—especially with all your other responsibilities stacked on top of it—but you're one of the world's only experts in that field."
She wasn't really asking him to…?
"If you recall, I sat in on one of your English classes a few weeks ago. It wasn't just coincidence that was the day you were presenting your individual book critique. I must say, you have outstanding public speaking skills. Combined with your knowledge of ectology… you'd make a pretty fine teacher."
She was staring at him now, waiting for him to react, but he didn't know what to say. What could he say? This was all out of the blue… he had no idea if he could agree to that sort of commitment!
When he didn't speak, she continued.
"It must sound daunting, but I've put serious thought into it. If you were to teach, you'd be assisted by another member of staff. They could help you reign in the classroom and pitch in with grading when you don't have time. You wouldn't be alone."
"I don't think—I don't think I can. I've never taught before and—and I don't—"
"Mr. Fenton. Danny. I think you've proved by now that you're much more capable than even you know."
"That doesn't mean that I'm cut out to teach! I'm just sixteen!"
"That's not what your teachers think. Nor your classmates. When I inquired about your leadership skills, do you know what they told me?"
"Probably something blown totally out of proportion," he muttered.
"Two years ago, you led thirty of your classmates on a mission to save several adults from a flying pirate ship. Not as Phantom, but as Danny Fenton. Then three months ago, you put your secret on the line to save this town from an invasion and won. Those both sound reasonably in proportion to me."
He felt his face heat up. "What do those things have to do with being a teacher?"
"Leadership has everything to do with being a teacher and you have it. I'm not asking for a yes today, I'll give you a week or so to think about it, but I really want you to consider it. The course would be a ninety-minute, one-semester class. I'd suggest teaching it in the fall but it all comes down to what other classes you want to pair with it."
"Why me, though? Why not my parents—or an actual ectologist?"
"We've looked into hiring other specialists but most of them don't have any real qualifications, just loons spouting a bunch of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. We have considered your parents but they don't quite make the cut for teachers. Please don't take this the wrong way but our school has had far too many incidents with your father spraying teachers down with ectoplasm."
Now that he thought about it his parents would be horrible teachers. They'd probably set the fire alarm off twice before lunch.
"Yeah, I can see that. And I… I'll think about it."
She nodded. "Thank you. Also, if you can keep this under wraps. Nothing is official yet so I'd rather there be no rumors."
"I can tell my parents though, right?"
"Yes. If you agree, they'll have to come in for another meeting to discuss how this will affect your education and how you'll be paid."
He almost choked. "Paid?"
"Of course. It wouldn't be a full-time salary but I'm sure we can settle on an hourly rate."
This couldn't be real. He'd expected to be chastised about missing too many assignments, not offered to teach other students about ghosts. The last thing he expected was to be offered a paying job!
"As I said, I'll give you two weeks or so to make a decision. You can email me your choice and then we'll go from there."
She leaned forward to shake his hand. He pushed his inhibitor further up his arm and accepted her grip.
"It was nice talking with you, Mr. Fenton."
Senior schedules were mailed out a week before the fall semester. Danny had managed to keep quiet all summer, so when his classmates learned that Fenton, Daniel James would be teaching fall Ectology... all hell broke loose.
Valerie wasn't the first person to message him about his impromptu teaching career, but she was definitely the first person with enough guts to fly straight to his window sill demanding answers.
"How the fuck did you pull this off?" she stepped through his window and pulled her mask off. "You didn't overshadow the school-board, did you? I swear—"
"Ishiyama offered me the job last February."
Her face fell and he could see the wrath burning in her eyes.
"February? You've known since February and didn't tell me!"
He shrugged. "I was sort of sworn to confidentiality in case it fell through."
"How are you going to teach and attend your classes and fight ghosts? How the hell do you have time for that?"
"Eh, I'll figure it out. Who knows? Maybe you can give me tips—after all, you have two jobs."
She shook her head and fell into a slump on his bed.
"I can't believe you're teaching an Ectology class and I'm not in it. When I saw it on the course registration form I thought that they'd have someone like Mr. Falluca teach it! So instead I signed up for AP Bio and now there's no way they're going to let me change my schedule! Everyone's trying to change theirs now… GAH! You should've let me know, dumbass!"
"I already told you I couldn't."
"So? You could have if you wanted. I bet you told Sam and Tucker, didn't you?"
"I didn't!" She gave him a disbelieving look and he caved. "Fine… Jazz told them for me."
She slammed a fist against his headboard. "Why did you make me take AP Bio, traitor!"
"I didn't 'make' you do anything. You could've taken anything besides AP Bio!"
She only groaned in response.
As he looked over the roster, he noticed that there were more Freshmen than he expected in his class. Which was okay because that meant he didn't already know them. He'd much rather teach strangers than people like Dash or Paulina. Fortunately, neither of them were in his class but Star, Kwan, and Dale were. Besides them, there were only three other Seniors. In total there were ten Freshman, five Sophomores, seven Juniors, and six Seniors… he could make that work. Yeah, he could make that work.
After all, he was getting paid twenty dollars per hour, eight hours per week. For that kind of money, he'd put up with anything.
"Are you going over your lesson plans again?" Lancer asked.
Danny looked up from his desk to find the older man watching him. He'd come into the school several times over the past week to workshop his curriculum with Mr. Lancer, who'd eagerly filled the role of Danny's 'co-teacher'. He never thought he'd find his Freshman English teacher's presence calming but the past few days had subverted many of his preconceived notions of the man. He'd done a lot to curb Danny's anxiety and help him mentally prepare for the job.
"Oh, no. I finally got a copy of the roster and I'm just checking for familiar names," he admitted. "Trust me, I can only go over basic ghost vocabulary so many times."
Lancer snorted. "I'd imagine so. I'm kind of disappointed that you didn't ace my vocabulary tests from how much you've studied your own."
"Well, Freshman year I didn't have as much leeway when it came to schoolwork, did I?"
"Ah. Yes, I suppose that would make sense. So, your accommodations have been helping you?"
Lancer posed the question as if he already didn't know the answer but Danny wasn't naive. He was well aware that he was a frequent breakroom topic for the staff. After all that had happened, who wouldn't talk about the poor kid who was suspended on account of being a half-ghost hybrid? Who wouldn't talk when the school-board went back on their very public decision and allowed him to return back to school given that he wore government-mandated inhibitors?
"Yeah, the extra time really helped last semester. I managed to pull up my GPA from the gutter and for once in my life I actually felt like I understood math."
There was a grin etched across Lancer's face. "That's good."
"Yeah." He brushed his hand across the back of his neck. "Uh, anyway there's something that I've been meaning to ask you about. How are we going to handle when I have to leave? For a ghost, I mean."
His smile slipped. "Don't I just have to unlock your inhibitors?"
"No. Well, yeah, you do have to do that. But I was talking about when I'm actually gone during a lesson. You'll have to stand-in for me, right?"
"I suppose I will."
"So, that means you need to be familiar with the content too. Just in case."
"That's generally how substitution works," Lancer reminded him. I'll just follow your lesson plans, Danny."
"But shouldn't we have a better plan put in place?"
"We'll get there when the time comes. Trust me, education is much more flexible than most teachers lead you to believe."
He sighed. "I just don't want it to be too flexible. What if the entire class is a mess? What if it's too easy or too obvious? What if nobody learns anything useful? Or what if I make it too boring? I don't even have anything to go by because there's never been an Ectology class before!"
"What if they don't take me seriously because I'm a kid? Or worse… I make everyone afraid of me again because I'm a ghost." He propped his arm against the table and leaned into his hand, looking down. "Either way, I'm bound to screw this up."
There was a beat of pensive silence between the two of them before Lancer tenderly brought a hand to his shoulder. "You're going to do just fine. Remember, Mrs. Ishiyama selected you for a reason—many reasons."
"It's okay to doubt yourself from time to time. I've had my fair share of doubt in myself too. When I first started teaching, I was terrified! And that was with months of experience from student-teaching. It doesn't matter whether you're a kid or if you're a ghost—taking the plunge is hard. Not every student will respect you and that's not because you're a bad teacher, it could be for any reason. As long as you do everything you can to branch out to them, to teach and look out for them… you'll do a great teacher."
Why did this man have to give such good advice?
"Th—thanks, Mr. Lancer." He looked up and met the man's knowing, blue eyes again. "That does help some, I guess."
"You're welcome, Danny."
His first day of Senior year started off with a bang. Apparently, his parents had been working on a new invention and accidentally cut the wire that was supposed to bypass his ecto-signature. When he met them at the kitchen table, the device—which looked like a blender with a spiral blade fixture on top—exploded in his face. It didn't do much damage but he'd have to sport a mottled, green burn along his jawline for the rest of the school-day since his inhibitor scaled back his healing factor.
It was fine. Really, he was just swell.
"Are you sure you don't want a bandage?" Mom fretted. "We have some of those new ones, lined with ectopl—"
"I'm good," he dismissed. "It's not bleeding anymore and putting something on it will just make me more aware it's there."
She and Dad watched him with guilty, twin gazes. Even though it hurt, he knew that they hadn't meant to do it. After the reveal, they'd taken great strides to avoid incidents like this and he couldn't fault them for a freak accident. Similarly, he didn't fault them for the accident, which had taken a long, painful heart-to-heart to resolve.
"If you're sure, Danno," Dad said.
"Mm-hm. Anyway, I should probably get going." He mentally prodded his core and let his transformation wash over him. "Class starts in ten and I still have to meet up with Sam to return her USB stick she lent me last weekend."
"Oh! Okay then, have a good day!" Mom forced a smile.
"We love you. Good luck with your ghost class!"
"And remember to ask Mrs. Ishiyama if we can be guest speakers."
"I will, don't worry!"
Like hell he would.
Dad leaned forward and ruffled his wispy, white hair. "That's my boy!"
Danny left the house laughing, having almost forgotten about the burn that lined his face until he touched down outside of the school's front entrance. There, he shifted back into human form and snapped his inhibitor on his wrist with an almost practiced exasperation. He understood why he had to wear it, but that didn't mean he liked it. The device itself created an electric field around his core, suspending his powers in a way that was far more than invasive. His only saving grace was that the discomfort was immediate and only lessened throughout the day—it would be worse if it were the opposite… building and building all day long.
He braced himself for the wave of visceral wrongness that he'd been fortunate enough to forgo for the past two months. When it came, he had to stop himself from crying out in alarm as his entire face twinged.
The burn had stopped healing. Oh fuck, it felt so much worse now than it had at home—fuck!
After a moment or so the brunt of the pain passed. It was still there, still eating away at him, reminding him that something wasn't right, but at least he could function now. He took an assured breath and stepped through the double-doors for one last first day.
His first two classes were uneventful. He'd had to stay behind for each of them, discussing his accommodations with his new teachers. To his chagrin, he'd accidentally stayed too long with his second block teacher which made him late for third block… Ectology. He was almost certain that being late on the first day would definitely not leave a good first impression on his students. Lancer had put so much faith in him and he'd already screwed up!
The tardy bell rang and Danny barrelled down the nearly vacant hallway. He'd never admit it, but all he could think was 'make way for the half-human trainwreck' before slamming straight into a poor Freshman girl nose-deep into her schedule.
"I'm—I'm sorry," she said. "I wasn't watching where—"
"You're good. It was me."
He moved to walk around her, but at the last second she threw out an arm and blocked him. "Aren't you Phantom?"
He almost swore. Now was not the time for this.
"Yeah, and I'm kind of in a hurry."
If only he could phase right now... "Yep."
"I'm in your class and I'm lost."
That made him stop in his tracks.
"Uh, nice to meet you? I'm Danny, Mr. Fenton—whichever."
Talia Marcus, his memory provided.
"Alright, Talia, the classroom isn't too far down. Just follow me."
When they arrived at his classroom, Lancer had started taking roll. He was a bit taken aback that he'd gone ahead and taken initiative without him, but Lancer had probably assumed that Danny had left on ghost business.
"Ah, Mr. Fenton. Have trouble getting here?" he raised a brow.
"No more than usual," he quipped back. "My schedule is pretty booked these days."
Danny crossed the room and dropped his bag beside his desk. Then, Lancer resumed taking roll while Danny got his materials in order. By the time he called Youn, Sara he had readied himself for his introductory speech.
"Hi, so as I'm sure you all know I'm Mr. Fenton. You don't have to call me that, though. You can just call me Danny or Fenton or even Phantom if you want—I'm not that picky. Anyway, welcome to Ectology! Not that I've ever taught before, but I think this class will be pretty laid-back schoolwork wise. I want you guys to learn but that doesn't mean I'm gonna weigh you down with a lot of busywork either."
He picked up a stack of papers from his desk and handed them off to Lancer to distribute.
"I've outlined most of what this course will be covering in the syllabus, but keep in mind that it's subject to change since this is a relatively new type of course. At the moment, I have about six units planned through December and after that, we'll begin a review unit. In order, we are going to cover Ghost Formation, Anatomy, Psychology, Defense, Culture, and History and Lore. As I said, none of these are set in stone yet; we'll just have to play it by ear.
"Each unit will have its own vocabulary list that you'll have to know. At the end of each unit, you'll define them for a quiz grade. Once I get our Google Classroom set-up… somehow… I'll post Quizlet links so you can begin studying those. I wouldn't stress too much over them because I'm not a stickler like Mr. Lancer over there—" cue laughter "—I'm gonna have weekly Kahoot games because damn, if I'm going to have my own class we're going to play Kahoot."
Several of his students were smiling. A few were whispering to each other, which he expected, and that was okay. Nonetheless, he carried on.
"The syllabus also mentions that each nine-weeks we'll have a group project. I know, I'm not a fan of them either, but I now have the authority to make them fun so don't write it off immediately. Other than that, there's a few classroom rules on there. It's just general stuff like lab-safety in case we do any live examinations and keeping your cell phones in your pocket. I've been advised to take your phones up for this class, but I won't do that unless you abuse your privileges—so keep them away so you don't ruin it for everyone else. Trust me, I've been the kid that's ruined it for everyone before. You don't want to be that person."
Back at his desk, he picked up a stack of index cards and started handing them out on his own this time.
"Most of my teachers usually do an introduction for themselves. I'm not going to bore you with details about myself you probably know already, so instead, I'm going to let you guys ask me what you want to know. On your card, write your name at the top, one random fact about yourself, a question about me, and any questions you have about this course. And before you ask, yes, I am half-ghost. Once you're done, leave them in the tray on my desk and I'll do my best to answer them all before class is over."
When he returned to his seat, he had enough time to feel proud of himself. He'd practiced that spiel on-and-off in front of a mirror last night and couldn't believe that it had actually gone swimmingly! Lancer gave him a subtle thumbs-up from his chair beside Danny's desk which only expedited the feeling. He couldn't wait to tell Sam and Tucker at lunch.
After five minutes, Danny looked up and found only two people left writing: one of Dash's goons, Dale, and an underclassman with blue streaks in his hair. He could tell the rest of the class was starting to get antsy and he wasn't keen on waiting any longer either. "If you haven't finished yet, please bring your card to the front."
Reluctantly, they obliged and Danny shuffled all the cards with a careful sleight of hand. The topmost card was from Kwan, which said 'I like playing foot ball and I think you're really cool. Can you posessess a person and what does that feel like? Can we have snacks?'
"Alright, this one is asking if I can overshadow a person. I can do that, but I don't really like to for ethical reasons. How do I put this? It's like you're in a really hot Halloween costume, except that costume is made out of meat. If I ever have to, it's never for long."
A brown-haired girl in the front row raised her hand. Danny pointed to her.
"When have you had to do it?" she asked.
"More than I'd like. Usually, just in ghost fights whenever I need to get someone out of the way or need to be inconspicuous. I only ever used it for personal gain when I first figured out how to do it, and that was to save myself from a parent-teacher conference with, uh…" Against his better judgment, he risked a glance at Lancer who was starting to piece it together. "Next question!"
"Now, Mr. Fenton—"
"Mm, I can't hear you. Anyway, this next question is on snacks. Snacks are chill. I still don't get why some teachers don't let people eat, it's so dumb."
Lancer was still trying to non-verbally get his attention but he ignored him. They could have that discussion later. Or never. Hopefully never.
"This next one asks why I became a teacher. To be honest, I was offered the job a few months back because the school figured that I'm one of the only people who can really teach Ectology. Surprised me too, trust me. Once I was roped into this, I spent most of my summer prepping for this job. I spent a lot of time in the Ghost Zone, talking with other ghosts and brushing up on ghost literature. My parents were also really good tutors when it came down to the nitty-gritty science side of it."
"Why aren't they teaching, then?" Talia blurted.
"You ever met my parents?"
She and a few others shook their heads.
"They're… not good in a classroom setting."
At this, he flipped to the next card and had to keep himself from choking.
Are you single?
Yes, yes he was. But he was not going to say that to one of his fangirls, especially not one of his students. Especially when he was so close to getting everything right with Sam. She'd been dropping hints lately and he thought that meant he was supposed to ask her out, but he could never find the words. Just like he couldn't find the words right now to answer this stupid question.
He couldn't say no, because Sam would kill him if she found out he did say they were dating and then they'd never date because she'd be too mad at him. It was a goddamn catch-22.
"Uh, for who asked if I'm single or not—it's complicated?"
The class "ooh"ed in response. Danny wanted to die again.
"N—next question." He drew another card. "What's the green stuff on my face? Oh, funny story, well not really funny, but it's a burn. One of my parents' inventions blew up at me and normally I'd bleed red, but I think something in the device affected my ghost half so that's why the injury is green. It'll be gone by tomorrow. I just can't heal right now because of this," he held up his wrist for the class to see.
The boy with blue streaks raised his hand so Danny called on him.
"How fast can you heal?"
"Usually, injuries like this one take about two or three hours to go away. Major injuries like broken bones can take up to two days."
Danny continued to sift through the cards and by the time he was finished, there were only ten minutes left in class. They'd had a good round of conversations and he'd been excited to learn from the cards that one guy, Sahil, aspired to work for NASA. He'd have to strike up a conversation about that sometime. Danny doubted he'd ever make it that far, but it was still fascinating to talk about. Though, speaking of future plans… this teaching thing might be something to consider. Even though it had only been one day, Ishiyama and Lancer had been right. He did have the skills and drive for it—despite his initial anxiety, it felt natural.
He would make his class a place that each of his students felt comfortable in.
Written for GothMoth's Phic Phight Prompt: Danny Fenton teaching an Ectology/Ghost class at Casper High.