Phic Phight - I Tried But Not In Time
Lancer just wanted to help, but sometimes being ‘helpful’ just gets people killed. Especially when there are already dead, or half-dead, people involved.
Lancer considered himself a decent man, a good teacher, and an overall respectable member of society. He did his part, paid his taxes, and helped the next generations thrive. In many ways he did more for society and humanity than most did, even if he hardly got the pay or recognition he likely deserved. But he didn’t really care about those things, the children were what he cared about; their future and their happiness. It saddened him when there were some kids he couldn’t help and gutted him when there were others he merely failed to help.
Daniel wasn’t one he couldn’t help and he refused to let the boy be one he failed. Not this one. Not the boy once so filled with life and a positive bright future; even if it was a bit over-ambitious. Not the brother to the most brilliant child he’s ever meet. Not the son of the people that, while strange, helped defend this town. Not someone who could do well and thrive but wasn’t, not through any fault of their own intellect or the school structure or home life, but simply a lack of effort and drive. A bit of missing commitment.
Lancer gave him a bit of a pass -maybe he shouldn’t have- after that accident of his for the first while that school year; it was perfectly reasonable to be a bit lazy while recovering from any sort of accident, good even. But the boy merely got worse, not better. At first he suspected that his parents were going easier on him due to guilt -it was their invention that hurt him after all- and were thus slacking in the discipline department. So he had tried disciplining the boy, not only had that proven entirely ineffective but somehow also practically impossible to do. No amount of locked doors kept him in detention or his office. No amount of grabbing his arm to drag him to classes would stop him from literally slipping through his fingers. Verbal scolding didn’t even seem to do more than make him embarrassed or nervous; he’d sit and take it but nothing would change.
What really caught Lancer was spotting one of the many many times -he’s sure it’s extremely often- Dashiel had pinned Daniel to a locker by the shirt, holding him above the ground by a solid foot. Lancer was going to intervene, knowing full well Dashiel would deny anything was wrong and would act ‘all buddy buddy’ with Daniel, but he’d noticed Daniel’s hand on Dashiel’s wrist, the other hand curled into a fist. Daniel actively wanted to punch the other teen. But... he didn’t. He restrained himself. Practiced good self-control. Self-discipline perhaps. So maybe discipline wasn’t the issue.
So he took a different route. He tried very literally sitting down and watching Daniel closely, giving him one on one help with his work and... it helped! The teen did fairly well immediately! Lancer thought that this little success would be enough to restart Daniel’s drive and willingness to put in the work, the effort; since that seemed to really be all he actually needed to do.
But it wasn’t to be.
That sort of success only ever repeated itself when Lancer sat Daniel down and helped him one on one. If it wasn’t for the teen lacking all other signs he would have suspected some kind of learning disability, caused by the accident perhaps, but he was otherwise normal if a bit paranoid. And Lancer certainly wasn’t revisiting that attempting to send the teen into therapy event again, that had made things actively worse and Lancer doesn’t exactly... trust therapists these days.
Then the frequent growing tardies and skipping entirely made him think that maybe Daniel really truly didn’t care unless he was very literally forced to.
And now... now there were the C.A.T’s coming up and Lancer was out of time to help the teen. This was entirely in Daniel’s hands and maybe Jasmine’s a little as well, he doesn’t doubt she’ll help him with studying. Maybe she’ll even sit him down and make him study? Sadly though, if she hasn’t done that yet he doubts she ever really will. Unfortunate, truly unfortunate.
But then... the answer sheet went missing and Lancer could think of one, and only one, student who could seemingly slip through solid objects and move as if invisible: Daniel. And Lancer is perfectly well aware that Daniel wasn’t the most... law-abiding individual and was absolutely not above cheating, theft, or trickery. Lancer usually let that slide because Dashiel truly deserved it and he’s pretty sure that one time the teen locked him in a closet was a fluke; he thinks the teen's eyes might have been red actually...
But stealing test answers was absolutely unacceptable.
“But Mr. Lancer, you still have no proof Danny took the test answers“.
Judging by the way she cringed, Lancer’s fairly certain he’s right. Regardless, he technically doesn’t have real physical on-camera proof, “fair enough. He has up until the test to return the answers. But if he cheats, I won't just fail him. I'll destroy his future”. Lancer nods to himself, that was probably overdramatic but he was a drama kid and the cheer squad was for life. Jasmine, as expected, takes him seriously and gulps before nodding curtly while walking off likely to go find her unusual brother.
Lancer is perfectly fine letting Daniel retake the test -a makeup one with different answers of course and far enough away he has time to study, without feeling the need to commit a felony just to pass; which seemed incredibly extreme to Lancer- if Daniel simply gives him back the answer sheet. Frankenstein’s Bride! The boy could give them back halfway through the test and that would be good enough; Lancer would be far less impressed with that though. Will he be proud if Daniel gives over the answers beforehand? Yes, of course. Even Lancer knows how much harder it can be to own up to our mistakes and make things right than it is to make the mistakes in the first place. He’d still be in trouble for stealing them of course, with a punishment of lots and lots of one on one intensive study sessions.
But what Lancer hadn’t expected, upon walking back into his classroom, is for there to be a well-dress but old-fashion-looking man leaning against his desk; seemingly polishing some kind of staff. Lancer quirks an eyebrow as he speaks, “hello?”.
The man doesn’t so much as look up from the staff, turning a nob at the top with some clicking noises, “William Edward Lancer, you are a man of simple paradoxes and ironies”.
Lancer stays exactly where he is, hand on the doorknob, oddly he doesn’t feel safe. In fact, he feels like he is explicitly in danger and being actively judged for his worth. “Pardon?”.
The man still doesn’t look to him, but at least he stops tinkering with the staff, placing the base on the ground and standing straight, “you seek to educate the youth, yet cripple them with stress from excessive testing. You turn a blind eye to encourage strength of self, yet that only makes the weak meeker. You try to inspire, yet are so out of touch you discourage instead. Your goal is to make for a bright thriving future for every child you can, and yet... you’ve become a gear cog in the educational machine that is the catalyst for most of their premature deaths”.
Lancer decidedly does not like where this is going and takes a step back, only for the man to seemingly disappear into thin air and for Lancer to bump up against something or someone behind him. Spinning around and staggering backwards into the classroom at seeing that the man is now behind him and staring at him with apathetic judgmental crimson eyes. This man... was a ghost. But nothing like what Lancer’s seen before, he’s sure. Gulping, Lancer grabs the first thing he can -a stapler- and holds it up like a weapon, “what do you want”. He always impressed himself with how not terrified he can make himself sound when faced with a ghostly threat.
The ghost frowns slightly, “from you? Nothing. From Daniel? Plenty. And as much as you are a cog in the educational system, you are also a cog in Daniel’s existence; and so far, not a very good one”.
Lancer’s not sure what to make of that except... “you, ghost, whatever you want with my student, you leave him alone”, swallowing, “and I help him were I can, where’s the fault in that”; he’s not sure why he feels the need to defend himself but he does.
“Explanations? Very well. The fault is in that you push him towards that which is no longer in the universes cards for him. Adding stress and crisis unnecessarily. When all is said and done, some people would be better helped left alone. Would be better to seemingly fail in the eyes of larger mortal society”.
Lancer has to cut in, “I don’t believe that. Every student and child can be great if given help, guidance, and education”; that was the philosophy of any teacher worth their salt.
The ghost actually almost seems to chuckle and smirks faintly, “make no mistake, Daniel has every possibility to be quite great. Or more so, it is something in the potential of the future; a future that, due to your intended future actions, will not come to pass”. Lancer gets that explicitly ominous ‘I’m in danger’ feeling again and tightens his grip on the stapler while the ghost continues though sounding far more malicious, “so as such, the best option is for the problem, for you, to be eliminated”, and brandishes a very large scythe.
Now Lancer knows he is absolutely in danger; he had never imagined he’d be the specific target of any ghost or ghost attack in general. But the best option currently is to RUN! Which, with his weight, is not an option he’s all to confident in. That, and the ghost’s blocking the doors. Said ghost shakes his head in mild disappointment before swinging with the scythe, Lancer barely manages to move to side and lands on the floor with a thud while the scythe slices a desk clean in half. Lancer scrambles on the floor wide-eyed, this ghost really meant to kill him!
Doing what he always does Lancer tries to think quick and grab for anything that might help him -a stapler was doing nothing against a scythe and that’s a fact- lunging for the ghosts staff thinking that maybe the ghost would value that enough to avoid damaging it. He’s not going to claim to know why the ghost left it to the side. Glancing back, Lancer has just a slight feeling that the ghost is smiling? as he grabs the staff. Lancer realises far too late, as the staff makes a clicking noise and a portal begins to swirl open around the top, that maybe this was the ghosts plan all along.
The portal swallows him whole in an instant. The ghost hums to themselves, thins their lips, and nods slightly; disappearing from sight with the swirl of clock-hands.
Lancer lands in the dirt practically face first, scrambling to get up and away from the staff. Craning his head around and wincing before cracking out his back, one too many hours spent bent over a desk; the things he gives for those kids. At least the ghost is nowhere in sight but something’s not right, the wall of the alleyway he’s apparently in looks far more weathered and beaten down than the city would allow; had to keep things looking good to avoid the wrath of the rich citizens. Putting his hand to the wall and bits of it crumble off, Lancer gets the distinct feeling the entire wall would crumble to dust with one solid push. He doesn’t like this, it feels too much like he’s in the middle of a serious ghost battle; the lemon/lime stench of ectoplasm in the air doesn’t help.
He’s unsure what to do at this time, stay put and wait for the first responders to start yelling that it’s safe and to come out? or risk going out himself? Both options left him at risk of a violent ghost, like the one just previously after him.
But what he doesn’t get about that is what in the name of Shakespeare did that ghost mean?!? When Lancer threatened Jasmine with ruining Daniel’s entire future that was not meant literally! So why had that ghost seemingly acted as if it was literal? And better yet, what did that ghost seem to want with Daniel?
Yes Lancer was well aware of the Fenton family business, who wasn’t?, and that his parents very likely had plans for him to take over the business one day, but as far as Lancer knew Daniel had little to no interest in that. Maybe Daniel was more involved with ghosts than he knew? Or maybe the Fenton parents' intentions to have him inherit the business was exactly why a ghost was interested in Daniel. Sabotaging or influencing a future important hunter would be something that ghosts would consider doing, even if said future hunter had zero interest in being a hunter. Shaking his head, all this think is getting him nowhere, he needs to decide his actions now.
Swallowing, well he was a man of risks, both calculated and sudden. And it has been a bit.. Gulping Lancer lifts a foot to move to step out before pausing and glancing back to the staff, it sitting innocently on the ground. What would happen if someone else stumbled upon that? Nothing good he imagines. Nodding to himself before gathering it up gingerly and returning to taking a cautious step out of the alley way; at the very least he can use the staff as a beating implement or a spear even.
But stepping out is like exiting an empty silent movie theatre into a crowded mall, like time itself had been stopped until he made up his mind to step forward. The scene that greets him is like an active war zone, people are running around without paying attention to where they’re going, there’s screaming, something is cackling with a heavy echo in the distance, an entire building starts collapsing; Lancer doesn’t know where to look or what to do so he just... stands there, frozen in spot.
At least until he sees what brought down the building, or more so who, a crumbled body flopping and skidding across the ground surrounded by rubble. At first all he can make out is the red suit, The Red Huntress, that’s enough to get him running; running off towards the downed Huntress. but when he gets close... he sees the dark skin, the shaved military hair cut, and the determined expression even with blood rapidly pooling around her head.
“Valerie!”. Lancer immediately kneels next to her, putting fingers to neck and grimaces over the lack of a pulse.
No ones ever died before. But... Lancer was trained to deal with death, in the case of a parent or Shakespeare forgive a student dying. So maybe he’s a little more calm than he should be but, no, never from a ghost attack. People might get hurt sure, but they don’t die! And this barely makes sense! Valerie looked to be in her late twenties. He scoops her up anyways, he is not just leaving her; gripping the staff tightly as he runs, panting heavily.
He sets her off near a more sturdy-looking building, there really was nothing he could do. Him slumping against the wall and crouching, “Chicken Soup For The Soul, what is going on here”, glancing at Valerie, “is this what the ghost meant by ‘cause of their death’?”, shaking his head and glancing to the staff, staring at the top, at the clock, the thing the ghost had been fiddling with. Was... was this a time-travelling device??? One way to find out... Lancer pokes at the nob on top, finding that won’t budge, then prodding the clock hands which move. Gulping, he pushes the hour hand backwards slowly and watches as the world around him reverses. Valerie seemingly glides along the ground and back through the building, the building puts itself back together, people run backwards; it’s a lot to take in.
Lancer pulls his hand away from the staff clock face, backs away from the people, slipping back into the alleyway and breathing out heavily. Glancing to the staff, “it is a time travel device”, he’s not sure whether to be in awe or completely horrified. Because that meant this was the future, he doesn’t want this to be that. Not by a mile. He flinches from the sound of a building collapsing, now knowing exactly what was happening out there.
Sliding down the wall and running a hand over his balding hair, he wants to go back, but what was the point of going back? His job was to prepare people for the future, prepare children for the future; but no one could be prepared for whatever this was. It was like something out of an apocalypse drama! The sound of another building going down sounds like definite emphasis. A sudden voice startles him, “that is indeed what it is”. Lancer snapping his head to the side and jolting upright, knees protesting; it’s the scythe-wielding ghost again... minus the scythe. And he looks like a proper ghost now, blue-skinned, cloaked, and sporting a ghostly tail.
Lancer narrows his eyes, more certain now that this ghost let him take the staff intentionally, “why?”.
The ghost almost seems to chuckle, “why not? A lesson taught in shock value sticks far better than any lesson plan, but I shouldn’t have to tell a human that. Now of course that isn’t the real question, now is it. No, the real one is why you”, the ghost floats a little closer, “why now”, and closer, “why here”, the ghost gets slightly closer and gestures with an arm, small screens appearing from thin air showing destruction taking place all around the globe, “and yet it’s not just here”; Lancer lets the ghost pretty well get up into his face, his back pressed up against the wall and shaking slightly. But where else is he going to go? Into the streets filled with suffering? He’ll take his chances here... and maybe this ghost had a point, not all ghosts were evil after all. Phantom proved that.
But as if on cue, a larger sneering ghost lands on the wall across the alleyway, cackling loudly and looking a lot like an older Phantom. But while Phantom felt safe, childish and goofy even, this ghost feels like death has arrived and is knocking down his front door with a battering ram. This ghost feels like terror and suffering without even looking at him; and looking felt like his god had come and he wanted nothing but his absolute obliteration. When Lancer jerked his head to take that unpleasant look to the side at the Phantom-like ghost, the strange ghost reaches out and taps the staff before yanking it away. Lancer snapping his head back to that ghost just as a purple portal opens up under his feet and he falls down. He’s almost glad purely because it’ll get him away from the Phantom-like ghost, away from death and torture come knocking.
If he stayed in this time, that time, nothing but brutal pain would await him.
Lancer staggers but manages to stay on his feet when he lands on the ground this time, putting a hand against what feels like wall to steady himself further; shivering still and glancing around cautiously. It looks as if he’s back in normal Amity but his gut’s doing flip-flops and, in the name of Dracula, he is trusting his gut. Especially after just having had run-ins with two of the only ghosts he’s ever felt truly and genuinely deeply afraid of. The only times he’s felt like something dead, something that was death itself, had set its eyes on him. His paranoia right now is cranked up to eleven.
Even so he still doesn’t expect the sudden explosion seeming to come from the building he’s directly behind that shakes the ground violently and blows out his eardrums, clapping his hands over his ears and wincing. He still walks cautiously to make his way around the building, coughing on the smoke as he goes; only to come face to face with bits and pieces of flesh and clothing.
Including clothing that looked disturbingly familiar to what was in his own closet. The breath he sucks in nearly makes him choke; from smoke and shock alike.
But looking up, there on the road, there’s Daniel kneeling on the ground with an outstretched hand looking stunned and red-eyed. And looking back down, Lancer understands, he gets it.
The bits of red hair.
The chunks of blue and orange spandex.
Half a dark-coloured beret.
The pair of almost jarringly intact faux leather combat boots.
The clothes that look so much like his own.
And the piece of the Nasty Burger sign impeded into the ground.
If Daniel never returned the test... this place, the Nasty Burger, was were he intended to take him and his parents; his sister of course would have came.... his friends too. They were there for him through thick and thin, even if that thick was cheating or expulsion or jail time or just a slap on the wrist. To Kill A Mocking Bird, they’d come faster and more determined than the boy’s own parents would.
There was something deeply wrong with that. Wasn’t there.
The sound of sirens overtaking the ringing in his ears gets him to look back up, back to Daniel who hasn’t so much as moved yet, his face is wet with tears. Lancer can’t do anything but watch the paramedics get to him, shake him and check him, try to ask him questions. He can’t do anything because... because he’s realised that this was what that ghost really meant. This was his own doing.
He brought Daniel and them all here in his vain self-indulgent desire to help the teen with what he thought were normal issues that just needed correction.
He brought them here and they all died because of it.
All of them but one.
And Lancer doesn’t have that staff to turn back the tides of time this time. He wishes he did because he doesn’t want, almost can’t bare, to watch Daniel be checked again and again. Watch the boy push them off when he remembers himself enough and refuses to let them take him away with surprising strength. Watches as Vladimir Masters, one of the richest men in the world, arrived seemingly out of nowhere and places a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
The amount of pure hatred filling Daniel’s eyes makes Lancer unable to doubt for even a second that Vladimir has something to do with this. But the green that flares up in those eyes is what finally makes Lancer move, jerk a step backwards. Yet still watching as Vladimir subtly jabs Daniel with something and the teen goes limp; the man telling the paramedics that he’ll handle this, that he can look after the boy himself, that he’s family. At first they protest but, with red flashing in their eyes, they agree.
And then... everything stops as if it’s a photo rather than real life. Even the puffs of smoke and steam are still.
“For a mortal to be faced with their own death, it is a grounding thing, is it not”.
Lancer doesn’t bother turning around, watching Daniel’s limp frozen form instead, “that’s not it”.
“Ah then perhaps it is Daniel, the one left behind, the forgotten child to fall between the cracks. The one the system, your system, failed”.
Lancer swallows and shakes his head weakly, but he doesn’t deny it because it’s not a lie. Lancer knows in his gut that wherever Vladimir is taking Daniel he won’t come back from.
Daniel was going to die.
And Lancer helped ensure that.
Because he did what he was supposed to do. He tried to help and he did, in some ways. But he missed something, missed a malicious presence, so entirely, so completely, that it didn’t matter; that it did the opposite of help.
Lancer glances to the side as the ghost, now appearing to look like a small buck-toothed child, floats near his shoulder, “there are times that you, as a mortal, must realise when you are at your limit. When something is simply outside of your reach. When someone is. And you must let go. If you do not...”, they tilt the staff just slightly and Lancer is transported with them to a place that looks like a lab. Lancer’s stomach drops.
Daniel is strapped down and thrashing against the restraints on a table.
Vladimir forcing a gas mask onto his face and slowly... that struggling dies.
Clawed gauntlets are wielded and Lancer can only watch as Daniel gets impaled by them and thrashes even though he’s unconscious.
Phantom is torn from him like something out of a nightmare and he lunges at Vladimir full of rage and wrath. Lancer’s never seen anything like this from the ghost, rage and hatred. The desire to hurt. He sees now how Phantom could have grown to become the other version he saw. This was how he was tainted.
Phantom, in his rage, tears a ghost out of Vladimir and devours him piece by ectoplasm splattered piece. The teen ghost has completely lost it.
Daniel has slipped off the table and woken up, has tried crawling off to the corner. It does him no good as Phantom sets his sights on Daniel.
Lancer collapses down to his knees and nearly vomits when Phantom violently tears out Daniel’s stomach, tossing intestines and organs across the room before tearing Daniel’s throat out with his teeth. He’d never imagined even ghosts to be capable of such cruelty. A bout of insanity, surely, that the hero wouldn’t come back from.
This wasn’t just Daniel’s death, but the fall of a hero too. Where they one and the same? Lancer isn’t going to claim to know, not after today.
The strange ghost speaks up again as Lancer stares down at the blood pooling on the ground and slowly creeping towards his knees. “Someday I will teach that boy, and I will teach him well. So, I want to make a deal”, the ghost leans over his shoulder near his face, all Lancer can do is side-eye them as the ghost continues, “he will live, mostly. He will thrive, in a way. But he will amount to absolutely nothing in your mortal society. In fact, he will amount to less than that, another failed statistic. And you, you will let him. He will misbehave, and you will wave it off. He will skip and miss classes, and you will let it go. He will do everything worthy of expulsion, and you will act as if no wrong has been done. You are but a bump in the road of his existence and you will act like it, and you may become his favourite adult because of that fact alone. People often appreciate the simple things in life, do they not. So be a simple thing. Deal?”.
Lancer swallows, “and everyone will be alright”. He doesn’t really have a choice here, does he?
“But of course”. The ghost sounds sickly sweet.
Lancer doesn’t know what he’s agreeing to or what he may be condemning Daniel to, but he nods weakly anyway; anything would be better than this after all.
“Much appreciated. Truly. He’ll make for a very satisfying-”.
Lancer jerks, spinning around, suddenly back in his classroom, an open empty briefcase sitting on his desk. He does hear the end of the ghosts statement though...
Lancer stares forwards for a bit before shaking his head violently and slumping down into his desk chair. Eyeing the briefcase warily, moving his hand and closing the lid with a soft click. Closing the lid on this day. Closing the lid on a teenager's future. Closing the lid on Daniel.
There’s something’s he’s better off not knowing. And some people better off left unhelped. The book of Daniel Fenton’s life is staying firmly unread. ‘God’ that ghost had said...
Glancing to the wall clock, it’s about that time that he talked to Jasmine, before whatever exactly that ghost was that messed with everything. But this time... Lancer’s staying right here. He’s not moving from this chair, he’s not reopening that briefcase, and he’s not talking to anyone.
He’s... not going to ignore Daniel but he is not even going to consider interfering with him and whatever The Great Gatsby was going on with the teen. He’s also going to run away if he ever even glimpses that cloaked staff-wielding ghost again. Very far away.
Daniel looks shocky and shaky the next day, but at least he and everyone else is alive. And Lancer’s going to have to live with his decisions and actions, or lack thereof.
Prompt: Lancer + Time Travel
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