Well, this is my first attempt at first-person narration. I told myself I would never attempt it cause, well, it's just not one of my gifts you could say. But I was hit with this sudden urge to write first-person, and with Clockwork no less! Ha! I'm nuts! But here goes everything! Hopefully I didn't mess up too bad!
Just so you all know what to expect, this is a one-shot in which Clockwork is looking through the events happening in Checkmate. So, um, if you have not read what I have posted so far for CM then I recommend reading it first. You won't understand a single bit of this, if not. Anyways, beware of hints, semi-spoilers, and sneak speaks! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom.
"I-I'm offering you… what's left of me," he answered sadly, his eyes down casting yet again.
Vlad halted and looked back at the boy whose face was currently buried in his gloved hands. He moved down on one knee beside the young half-ghost and lowered his respective hands to make the boy look at him.
"Daniel, if I accept, that means you will serve me with all the strings that come with the word. I want your loyalty. Your powers, your strength, everything you hold will become my own. You will yield completely to me," Vlad stated in a serious and commanding voice.
Danny looked into his enemy's eyes, and nodded his response.
The older half-ghost grinned. "Very well; you join me and in return you may see your loved ones…. Do we have an agreement?"
Danny buried his face in his hands and just nodded his head.
"No," Vlad said in a serious tone, kneeling back down and forcing the boy to look at him by grabbing his face. "I want to hear you say it. You agree?"
Danny's eyes glazed with tears as he stared into the man's demanding ones. "I agree," he whispered, the tears in his eyes falling with his words.
Vlad's lips slowly curved into a small but genuine smile. "You have just made the best decision of your life, little badger." But seeing the boy shed more tears, his eyebrows creased slightly, and he sighed, before pulling out a handkerchief from his coat. "I know you do not see that now, but you will… eventually," he assured as he wiped away the young half-ghost tears.
I left my hand on the top of my staff and gazed calmly at the frozen scene before me. If anyone was looking—which I knew they were not—they might believe it was a cold look. Perhaps… it was. But after centuries' worth of seeing the dark times in others' pasts, presents, and futures, there was no other way I could react.
Perhaps my outer indifference was because I knew how it would all end. I knew what the purpose, the lesson, behind this child's suffering was. I knew his future… and I knew his enemy's. I knew where fate has led them. And I say 'has' since time is irrelevant to me. How could it be significant when I am its master?
You see, for me, time moves forwards and backwards, and in the end, it has moved nowhere at all. I exist outside of time's grasp. My forms are proof of that. I am a child, an adult, and an ancient all at once. I really have no age because time simply does not affect me. But I can affect it. I am above it. I watch it as someone would a parade. Except that, unlike those I am occasionally employed by, I do not watch time as a mere sequential thing after another. Rather, I see it from all angles; every twist and turn it might or might not take has its own significance. And I only interfere with it to let those in the timeline see those different paths. But in the end, they choose which to follow.
And Danny Fenton has just made his choice.
But is it the correct one?
Well, it all depends on how you see it. His choice will bring him more suffering—you don't need to be me to know that. And with it, he has just taken that large leap towards the future I was once charged to prevent by eliminating him. But his choice has also brought him a step closer to understanding what he must from all this.
So, is it the correct choice?
It is in my eyes.
If there is one thing I would not hesitate to tell Danny, it is precisely this: there are no alternate futures. There is only one; it just can have several outcomes. I would tell him this truth…. if it didn't mean putting the timeline at risk. He tries so hard to prevent this alternate fate of his when in the end he is already on the path to it. And it will come to pass—or as far as I'm concerned, has passed.
With or without his loved ones' tragedy, it is part of his fate to be where he is now: beside the one whom he deems his 'arch-enemy'. Danny will grow to be the most powerful and dangerous ghost in existence… Indeed, when I said his fate was sealed, I meant it.
But the threat doesn't lie in following this alternate path of his, but rather, on the choices he makes. The power of just a single choice can lead Danny down one of the darker twists in the road of his life. So it isn't this 'alternate future' he should be worrying about, but his choices. Just because he will grow to be the most powerful and the most dangerous ghost in existence doesn't make him evil. Being evil comes by choice. Everything comes by choice. …Hasn't he realized that by now?
With a sigh and a shake of my head, I realize he obviously has not.
Pressing the button on my staff's clock, I move forward in the boy's timeline and stop on a new image.
Danny shook his head while he swirled his hand in the blue pool water. But then he soon sighed fearfully.
Clearly in thought, Danny cupped water from the pool in his hand, absentmindedly watching it slip through his human fingers.
And a moment later he whispered, "Clockwork."
Danny closed his blue eyes, clearly in emotional pain.
"Of course he did," the teen answered his own thoughts bitterly.
He continued to swirl the water with his hands as a single tear escaped his eyes. But with a soft sigh he swiped it away.
It's interesting how some images, no matter how many times you have seen them, still have the same affect on you. And although I do not realize it, it is why, once again, my creased eyebrows betray my outer sobriety.
There is very little I do not understand. And one of those things is why others assume that I have all the answers. I am the Master of Time. Not God. I can only see what happens throughout the timeline. As a matter of fact, I do not even know where my own destiny leads, since I exist outside of what I can see--not that I would want to know anyways. There's no fun in that.
But that's beside the point. The point is that it gets tiring to hear others blame things on you—I cannot read others' minds, but it's obvious Danny is …bitter with me. I might be powerful, and I might know others' fate. But that does not make me all-knowing. And that certainly does not make me anyone's savior. Where would the time stream be if I was?
And still, my creased eyebrows are not sign of irritation, or even anger towards the boy. But perhaps… sympathy.
Contrary to popular belief, Danny is not my first 'assigned responsibility'. I have been other beings' guardian in the past. But they are no longer in the time line's existence. And none of them had been as young as Danny…
Perhaps that's it. In all my existence, I have never encountered someone as unique and important to the timeline as this fifteen-year-old boy. He is more special than he realizes yet. And he's a lot stronger, too.
I smirk with my last thought. By the end of these series of events, he will know that at least.
Although I do not like admitting it, Danny has grown on me more than anyone else I've met. It is why I would gladly aid him with his problems in the timeline, if it didn't mean making matters worse for him. How can he learn, how can he grow, if he doesn't pass through the trials fate has designed for him? No, I cannot help him, because I would only hurt him in the end.
But that doesn't mean I do not try to steer the child into the right direction every-now-and-then. If he only knew the torture I have to go through every time I do. A lecture from the Observants can make even someone like me feel like they are part of time. And what's worse is that they somehow manage to drag it to the point that a minute of hearing them feels like a lifetime. How is that possible? Well, that is one of those things I do not understand.
A sigh escapes my lips. "Speaking of Observants…" I mutter under my breath, before using my staff to vanish the frozen image before me.
Like me, my employers also exist outside of time. Therefore, I cannot see the things they do, and they cannot see the things I do… Unless I, or they, do those 'things' within the time stream.
Confusing? It's supposed to be.
Still, I do not need to see their every move to know when they are about to pay me a visit. I have learned to predict it. Trust me, it's not too hard.
And true enough, I soon feel them behind me.
I turn to them with a cool look. There really is no point in acting surprised. They, too, know that by now I expect most of their visits.
"We need to talk to you about the boy," one of the two present Observants say to me in their usual dire tone of voices. Now, why they must make everything sound like it is about to bring forth the destruction of all existence is beyond me…. It's a good thing that only I—and not they—realize just how many things I do not comprehend… I'm being sarcastic, of course.
I finally address them, but do nothing to hide my annoyance for them; and I certainly do not humor them, although I know who they refer to.
"What 'boy' are you referring to?" I ask, looking at my staff. I do that a lot, I realize. But believe me; it's much more appealing to look at than their faces.
"Danny Phantom, Clockwork. We have seen his current situation. And we are not pleased. Things are rapidly resembling the events that led to his dark future. We allowed you to spare the boy's life with the belief that you could keep those events from occurring without going to such extremes. And now, things are repeating themselves. He is your responsibility, Clockwork. What are you going to do about this?"
I sigh in annoyance, wishing they would make up their minds. At one moment they come here to ask why I have interfered in the time line. And the next, they ask me why I have not. There is just no satisfying them. But then again, I have never cared to.
Looking back up at them, I utter my response. "Nothing."
They just stare with a stun expression in their eyes.
I decide to elaborate before they go off into another rant. "I will do nothing. This is something he has to solve on his own. If he chooses that dark path this time around, then I will step in. And this time, I will not spare his life. Last time, you wanted me to let him choose, and I did, except that I cheated a bit. This time, there will be no cheating. He now knows what will happen if he chooses to turn evil. And he must make his choice even when those he cares about are no longer at his side."
The two Observants shared a look, before turning back at me and nodding. "Alright. But what of his entrance into Vlad Plasmius' life? What if he discovers—"
"It's possible, yes," I interrupt, knowing what 'discovery' they were referring to. I decide to not mention that it's not just "possible" he will discover what they are worried about, but that Danny will discover it.
"But it would not make much of a difference," I add…. Alright, so maybe my definition of 'much' is not the same as theirs. Oh well.
"It cannot even be a possibility, Clockwork! The boy cannot find out!" they stress, clearly not happy with my response. Of course. "You know, it is best if we talk to—"
"I already have," I interrupt once more. "I know what I'm doing. And I am well aware of who and what I am responsible for. So if you do not have any other topic to discuss with me, then could you both be so kind…?" I emphasize my silent demand by pointing my staff to the door. I had enough of them for the moment.
They look at each other once more, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes. If I didn't know any better, I would say they have telepathic abilities from how well they are in tune with one another.
"Very well," they both say simultaneously.
"But you will have to take action if he does go astray once more," one of them add. And the other soon follows with, "We cannot risk the future with another evil Danny Phantom."
With that they both vanish. Finally.
I look toward a dark hallway for a moment as I contemplate the being in a cylinder container placed on a table within a room. I know that he won't be trapped in there forever. But that is another story, another moment in time…
And so, I turn back to the time-viewing device I was looking at. This time, I set my focus on someone else besides Danny. And that someone is almost as important to the time line as is the boy. He just doesn't know it yet.
Vlad turned back to the boy and let out a sigh. He lowered his gaze for a moment in silent thought. But then, he whirled his cape and teleported into the simulation room.
He silently walked up to the weeping boy, who didn't even acknowledge his presence, and knelt down beside him. His guilt and sympathy were obvious in his eyes.
"Daniel," Vlad called in a soft, and almost saddened, voice.
The teen looked up at him with frightened and teary eyes.
Plasmius changed back into his human self before continuing, "This place isn't going to hurt you again," he assured him, "I'm running the room. There is no one here besides you and me, alright? Now, get up and transform," he said gently.
Danny shook his head. "No, you don't understand. I can't do this. Please, just let me leave. I don't want to be here," he answered, his voice cracking at the end.
Vlad sighed. But then he changed into Plasmius once more and stood. He then quickly grabbed the boy by an arm, forcing him to stand. "All I'm asking you to do is shoot a couple of mere wooden targets! Now enough of your drama, Daniel! You morph this instant!" he demanded.
Lightly, I drum my fingers on my staff, and soon a smile creeps up my features.
If there is one thing that intrigues me—and trust me, it takes a lot for anything to intrigue me-- it is Vlad Masters' …should I say, feelings for Danny? I might not know what others are thinking—much less, feeling-- at any given time, but I have seen this man's past, present, and future. And know it well enough to say I have never seen someone so confused, so lost about their own feelings as this man.
He is certain he hates the boy. And after all the suffering he has, is, and will cause Danny, how can he or anyone think anything different?
But as they say: "actions speak louder than words." And they most certainly speak louder than any thought. And though most of those who witness Vlad Master's actions may believe they are proof of his hatred for the boy, it proves much more to me. And that 'much more', I know, is stronger than his hate. But not even this man himself knows that. And he will not. Well, not until something drastic happens... Vlad Masters simply does not learn the value of something until he loses it. Pity.
Truth be told, I cannot decide who I pity more; Danny Fenton or Vlad Masters.
It is… unique how this man's life has unfolded. His past seems to always haunt him; in fact, more than he realizes at this point in time. No one can deny he's strong in many ways… But it is also undeniable he's weak in others…
I smirk at my next thought.
Very much like Danny, really. Ironically, Vlad's belief that he and the boy are alike is not too far off…. It just isn't precisely in the ways he believes.
For one, his future is as bleak as the boy's once was, or is—take your pick. And like Danny, Vlad's own choice will lead him to his… tragic future…
But, of course, the future is not set in stone.
Here, my smirk only widens. Even when alone, I seem to enjoy the usage of cryptic words and phrases. But when you have already seen the outcome of every life—human and ghost alike—more times than you can count, you, too, would enjoy speaking and thinking as I do. It brings some… life into my afterlife--if you can pardon my pun.
But don't get me wrong. There are some lives that no matter how many times you have seen them play-out, they are still… dare I say, interesting to follow. And obviously these two half-ghosts fall in that list of mine. But there is another I'm currently thinking of…
It is why, as my form changes to that of a child's, I switch back to Danny's timeline… but not with the purpose of looking at him.
"What?" he responded venomously without lifting his head.
"I…I brought you a piece of cake," Niane replied in the same quiet tone of voice.
Danny looked up angrily. "I don't want anything from that--"
"It's not from him," the maid interrupted, which received a bewildered and stunned look from Danny. Niane looked around nervously, before turning back to the boy. "I-I thought you might be hungry so I-"
"Why?" Danny asked, frowning suspiciously at the girl.
"I'm sorry?" Niane replied, not understanding the question.
"Why would you risk getting in trouble for me? Or is there a catch? What do you want?" he demanded, his anger returning.
The ghost sighed sadly as she shook her head. She placed the tray in her hands, containing a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of milk, down on the floor next to the cage. "There is no catch, Master Danny. I-I just don't think you're all that bad, i-if you'll excuse my honesty."
Danny looked at the ghost for a moment, but then looked away. "Can I ask you something?" he asked almost timidly.
"Of course, sir," she replied with a small smile.
"Why do you work for him? How can you work for someone that's so …evil?" Danny asked, looking back up at her with hate, but it wasn't directed towards her.
Niane instantly frowned at the question. She just stared at him for a moment. But then she floated down and sat in front of him with her knees tucked under her. She looked away from him, nervously straightening her dress. But her expression was unreadable as she whispered her response, "Just because he's evil in your eyes doesn't mean he's evil in everyone else's."
With a sigh Niane followed her two companions into the kitchen.
"George?" one of the older maids called.
The chef immediately snapped out of his thoughts, and turned to the voice close to him. He smiled at the three maids floating up to him, and kindly said, "Hello, girls. What can I do for you?"
Martha, who had first called to the ghost chef, answered, "Well, I was telling Patricia that garlic gives chicken a better flavor."
"No, it does not!" Patricia argued back, "Lemon and pepper does."
George gave the two older maids an amused look as they began to bicker with themselves, but then he looked down at Niane, and grinned at seeing how bored she was with her companions.
As the chef talked to the other two ghosts, Niane just crossed her arms and sighed once more with disinterest. But then the young maid's attention went to the teenager sitting at the table.
She shook her head sadly. However, the sad look melted into a thoughtful one, which made her seem older than she physically looked. She studied Danny for a moment more, as if debating something within herself. But then, she sighed with her decision and floated over to the young half-ghost.
Now just a few feet from Danny, who was so deep in thought that he didn't realize he had company, the young ghost maid's demeanor suddenly became timid. "Master Danny?" she called softly.
Danny broke out of his trance upon hearing Niane's voice. He looked up at her without words or expression, silently waiting for her to continue.
The girl ghost fiddled with her fingers, clearly trying to decide what to say. And she soon did. "A-Are you alright?" she asked with sincere worry on her face.
Danny sighed, before returning his gaze to his soup. "No," he answered softly.
Niane bit her lower lip. "Is there anything—"
"No," he interrupted in the same voice.
The ghost maid's hesitation seemed to suddenly vanish. She furrowed her eyebrows in deep concern. "Master Danny," she began in a more confident voice.
"Please," he interrupted in a louder, but pained voice. "Leave me alone."
Niane saddened in response, but nodded in understanding. "Yes, sir," she replied, before floating off.
Even though I have already seen these images before, I cannot help but to softly chuckle at them again. They are that amusing to me.
"Niane…" I say her name out loud and with amusement. "If they only knew…"
The ghost was truly not what she seemed to be. And it even amazed me how well she played her role. Her young appearance really helped her pull it off. Though, most of her success was due to her good acting skills. Then again…. said skills just naturally ran in her family.
Still, her interest in Danny, I know, is genuine. And I'm glad it is. He needs a voice of wisdom around for what's to come. If only he would listen…
I shake my head helplessly. I can't really blame Danny for taking so long to figure things out. He is just a child after all. But if he would learn to listen, I mean, truly listen, he could avoid himself a lot of hardships.
He has practically forgotten my last words to him. And it is not until he remembers them is he going to realize I gave him the solution to his current troubles.
Alright, so, I did cheat again… But it was more indirect this time around; and also necessary. He needs to learn that battles are not always about brains and brawns. And I know once he finally figures it all out, he will move forward.
Smiling calmly, I decide to move forward myself, but with the boy's time line. I want to look ahead.
He smiled at seeing the familiar florescent stars on his ceiling. He began to head out of his room, but something caught his attention.
"Mom?" he whispered in disbelief. He slowly approached her before kneeling down on one knee.
Danny stared at her, his eyes glazing with tears. But then he leaned over and gave her a light kiss on her cheek. He bit his lower lip upon seeing her shudder. "I love you, Mom" he whispered.
"I love you, too, Danny."
With a growl Vlad threw the boy to the floor. "Very well, Daniel, you don't seem to want to listen to reason, so I'll just beat it into you!"
Danny's eyes widened as the man ignited his hands with pink energy.
"V-Vlad, wait. I-"
Vlad blasted the boy to the wall, "I suggest you defend yourself, because it's the only way you are leaving this place breathing!"
Danny backed up into the wall, his breathing accelerated.
Vlad approached the cornered boy and grabbed his arm and flung him to the floor before shooting a blast at his stomach.
Danny grabbed his stomach. "Please, stop," he whimpered trying to push oxygen into his lungs.
"Maybe I was wrong about you, Daniel. You are just as pathetic and incompetent as your idiot father!"
Danny placed his towel on one of the pool chairs, before removing his shirt. He soon dived into the pool, before coming back up to breath.
Quickly, he dived back down, and gazed at the fish aquarium surrounding him. But when he returned to the surface, his ghost sense went off.
Danny whirled around and gasped at the sight of Dazzler's honey-brown eyes. Immediately, he diverted his gaze from the ghost and backstroked away from him.
"Good day, little one," Dazzler calmly greeted him, his hands folded behind him.
"W-What do you want?" Danny asked, still keeping his gaze averted.
The ghost chuckled, causing Danny to nervously glance down at the bracelet on his wrist.
The ghost saw his action and smiled evilly in response, before uttering, "He will never get here in time, you know."
"What's wrong, Uncle Vlad? Aren't I what you expected? " Danny mocked with a chuckle. "Did your twisted game not go as you planned?"
Vlad let go of the teen's shirt, and just stared coldly at him. But then suddenly, he lifted a hand and slapped the boy hard across the face.
Danny yelped, and stumbled backwards. He soon froze; his eyes wide as he held his red cheek and stared up at the man. But then they narrowed. "Why you-"
"Master," Vlad cut off. "That's what you will call me from now on."
"Alright," Dazzler stated indifferently. "Look at me, little one," he commanded.
"Daniel, No!" Vlad shouted at the teen as he did just that.
Danny quickly was paralyzed under the ghost's gold eyes. And then quickly a transparent clawed hand plunged into his chest.
The boy screamed in pain and Vlad gasped in fear.
Dazzler quickly retracted the hand, bringing back in its grasp a brightly-glowing white sphere from within the boy.
I, of course, know what the outcome of each of Danny's fights will be. I know how it will all end for him.
But he does not.
And so, despite my calm exterior, internally, I do sympathize for him. It is not easy for anyone to endure what he has, what he is, and what he will. It is only natural for him to lose his way—something my employers have always failed to understand.
But I do not need to be who I am to know he will always right himself. Anyone who knows Danny Fenton can be sure of this.
He will remember himself again. And when he does, he will remember his past lessons. And they will steer him to the ones he will learn this time around.
My form changes into that of an elder as my smirk returns. Perhaps I did not cheat after all. He does not need to recall my warning to remember what he must. I warned him because I knew he would forget. It will not be my warning that will help him, but rather, those around him. They will help him learn what he must.
Still, I like to believe I aided him in some way…. What kind of guardian would I be if I did not?
Ironically through, his biggest aid will come from who he least expects. And that will be—or was, for me--another set of events that I deem interesting.
With that thought, I press the button on my staff's clock and run Danny's timeline forward. But this time I do not pause on any specific part, and instead, watch several events move by, the quick glimpses of them being enough for me to recognize them.
I must admit, out of all the trials I have seen in Danny's timeline, his current one is at the least one of the most difficult he will face… Sometimes one's battles are not exactly with whom one believes. He must learn that eventually.
Suddenly, I stop on a specific image. And I let it play out.
Breathing heavily, Danny backed out of the lab, before quickly leaving.
Vlad looked down at the ghostly gloves in his hands, before looking back up in the teen's direction. With a deep frown, he didn't hesitate to go after him.
It didn't take long for the man to find Danny who was clutching his chest and shaking as he continued down the corridor.
"No," the boy whispered, pressing up against a wall.
"Daniel!" Vlad exclaimed, immediately catching the boy's attention.
Danny's eyes widened, his eyes locked on the gloves Vlad had.
"No! I mean it! Keep those things away from me!" Danny shouted, firing a blast at Vlad, before turning intangible and fleeing from him.
It didn't take long for the man to turn into his ghost form and pursue the young half-ghost.
When you have spent your entire existence looking at how time flows for others, you come to believe in something called fate. You see, time has a purpose. It has a plan. And that plan is called Fate.
I might be Clockwork, Master of Time. I might be able to control time itself. But there is one thing I cannot and will not ever control and that is time's plan. That is fate.
However, just because I cannot control it does not mean it cannot be controlled.
Each being, regardless of them existing within or out of time, has a fate. And it is only oneself who can control one's own fate.
Danny has a fate. But he can choose where he wants it to lead him. He controls his fate. Just like he controls everything else that's part of him.
But no matter where he chooses for fate to take him, in the end, he will learn its lesson. And that part of fate cannot be altered or stopped by anyone. Fate's lesson is always there.
And Danny will learn it.
Or in my case, has learned it.
I smile as I use my staff to bring up one last image.
Danny looked towards the sky, just in time to catch a shooting star. He grinned happily, his eyes glowing with their old fire. But now, there was something new in them that made that fire glow brighter.
Danny shot into sky in the direction of his home. And as he frolicked in the night's warm embrace, he uttered in a sure voice:
"I'm going to win, Vlad. The hero always does."
I calmly watch as the image fades away, leaving my viewing mirror just a swirling cloud of green. But still, the smile on my face has not left.
I realize now that what others' might believe as indifference in my exterior is what I know as calm. There is no other way for me to feel in the end when I know what that end is.
Fate's lesson is the most hardest of lessons to learn.
Find who you really are.
Find your true self.
But it is the most important.
Use it to light your path.
It is your fate.
To know who you are.
The most simple.
But the most powerful.
To be a hero
You must first save yourself.
You must first learn what you are.
Just as it should be…
As it will be…
As it is.