(03/12/14 UPDATE) A/N: I... well I found an old reworking of this story from two years ago. So... if it's actually possible, I'm updating this story with chapters that look less embarrassing for me to reread. (And the fact that you guys keep spamming my inbox with reviews. I had no idea people still want me to continue this.)
Where the Ghost of Time lived, many spectral spirits did not usually visit. It was a place designed for only the strongest could survive in, like the deepest depths of an ocean. The paranormal there was too volatile, too warped, that even a long since dead spectre would have its soul collapse from it all if they didn't have the will to survive, to keep themselves in their forms molecule by molecule lest they become dissolved completely.
The lack of suitability meant that it became ridiculously lonely, but Clockwork would have taken true loneliness than deal with the Observers. They were riding up his proverbial back once again and he was losing his patience. It only took, what, a few millennia before it happened?
Angered dulcet tones caused his strongest and yet most delicate bauble in his chamber to shake violently. They were not done complaining. Clockwork took a non-existent breath, counting up to ten. He was a patient ghost, but his limits had an end, and it was slowly reaching maximum capacity.
"Clockwork, you have meddled with this time line... again!" Observer number one scowled, his only eyeball swerving to and fro and resembling a human response to an annoyed tick. Clockwork turned from a young man into a wizened man to tap into the proverbial years of patience the elderly tend to have in the face of impertinence.
"That girl was supposed to die in the explosion," the Observer continued sourly, "causing the contractors to think before building on top of an endangered species habitat!"
"Habitat!" Observer number two mimicked. Another deep breath and Clockwork closed his wizened eyes. He counted to twenty this time before answering with a calmness that would placate a raging elephant. Unfortunately it did not work with his superiors. One needed to have human-like emotions first after all.
"What is it with you two and death?" The Ghost of Time raised an eyebrow, turning back into a young man. His fatherly tone devolved into a sardonic one from the transformation. "I have not meddled so much as she had when she took the choice into her own hands."
Observers number one and two both pointed their fingers up in dramatic unison. "SHE LIVES!"
Sometimes Clockwork wondered if the Observers were more heartless to keep the timeline in place, or because they thought it was more interesting to have dramatic deaths to keep them entertained. A dull ache blossomed in the middle of his forehead, which stunned him since it was technically impossible for ghosts like him to have something as alive as a headache. With another deep breath, he switched from a young man to a child, feeling indulgent in his artificial youth.
"Yes," Clockwork muttered almost in irritation. Perhaps the headache was making him imagine things, but he heard a soft sound of snickering across the room, reverberating from a suspicious-looking thermos, not like the rest of his gadgets near the mantle. Ignoring the sound, he continued his explanation without any further interruption. "She lives, but the lesson is still learned. The contractors have decided not to build despite that she apparently... lives. Everyone wins."
"You are too soft, Clockwork!" Observer number one proclaimed. The uniform ghost turned and faced the many liquid-like windows visualizing the different aspects of the time line. "First it was the Danny Phantom fiasco... which happened TWO times, I might add!" The screen followed dutifully to the Observer's words and visualized the battle between Danny and his alternate older counterpart. It then dissipated into scene with the Ecto-Acne event. "Second was the Bridal disaster and now it's the fate of this girl!" The scene changed dramatically between a wedding and an industrial inferno, which Clockwork watched again with a small sense of pride. "What shall we do with you, Clockwork?"
Observer number two chimed on time. "What shall we do with you, Clockwork?"
"Fire me?" There was an all-knowing smirk playing at the corners of Clockwork's lips when he transformed back into a young man. "Do you have another Deity of Time in mind? Chronos? Sailor Pluto, perhaps?" The smirk turned coy.
Observer number one waved a finger at Clockwork's bemused expression. "Sometimes, we wish we HAD someone to replace you, Clockwork! You are more of a menace than that creature you keep trapped in that thermos!"
"Amen to that!" Now Clockwork knew he wasn't hearing things. The thermos bleated out that unneeded religious diatribe so loudly, all three turned to stare at the Fenton contraption.
"And what do you plan to do with this Dan Phantom in the meantime?" Observer number two demanded, turning i's gaze back at the meddling Ghost of Time.
Clockwork blinked at the second Observer, a rare moment of actual surprise on his features. "I didn't know that you talked without mimicking him." He quirked his staff at Observer number one for emphasis. "How intriguing."
"Enough!" Observer number one glided between them. "You don't honestly believe that you plan on keeping him around here, are you?"
Clockwork brushed a bit of ghostly spark from his staff's clock, as if contemplating the answer. "I don't know. He's good for... stress." Another menacing snicker. He didn't even know if Observers understood double innuendo, but someone sure did. He was glad to be some sort of entertainment. For someone.
Observer number one didn't catch on. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
"It means he fucks me over when he feels like it!" Phantom growled from his cylinder prison. "He shakes me. Fucking shakes me! Let me out or I will tear you all from limb to limb!"
"Hush." Clockwork's voice bordered between playfulness and a stiff tone, which caused Phantom to fall silent. It meant that he was going to be punished severely later on, maybe be shaken harder, violently. Clockwork was slowly reaching that peculiar mood with each passing second.
Observer number one grabbed the thermos and shook it in examination, causing Phantom to howl loudly at the abuse. "I FUCKING HATE YOU, YOU TIME TURNING FUCKER!"
"It's not me." Clockwork reasoned, gliding to his one-eyed employer, his ghostly tail the only evidence of his annoyance when it twitched slightly. He raised a hand. "If you don't mind, I'm a bit more gentle when I bother him."
But the Observer refused to hand it over, raising it over his head as if Clockwork would try the child's way of jumping up to take it back. "And what happens when an oblivious ghost happens to open this thing on false pretenses?"
"Yes, his psychotic, evil voice makes every ghost swoon under his power," Clockwork said sarcastically and dropped the offered hand. It was apparent that his employer would not surrender the thermos. His day... his endless day was sure to never end. Feeling actually tired for once in his existence, he placed his staff behind his neck to stretch, his arms hanging off of it in the most visual look of nonchalance. "No one would dare come in without my express permission." His red eyes began to glow with an unseen threat.
"Did you just make a funny?" Phantom wondered in mid shake. "Holy shit."
Clockwork stared at the thermos in boredom. "Do shut up."
"This is the greatest ghost of the alternate future?" The Observer placed his slimy green hand on the top of the thermos and Clockwork's eyes narrowed in warning. "He's not so tough."
"Yes, yes! Open me up, bitch!" Clockwork could practically envision Phantom's tell-tale sneer, rattling around the small prison in trepidation. "If you have the guts!"
"No, stop... don't do it," In pure boredom, Clockwork raised his staff. "He must never be released."
Phantom's loud proclamation startled the Observer enough to drop the container. As if in slow motion, the cap popped out and a great burst of red ecto-energy forcing its way out with a loud bang. It exploded like a volcano all across the room, Phantom's psychotic laughter causing the gizmos to shake violently.
"I'M FREE!" Phantom gave a loud roar and a menacing laugh as the plasma materialized into a familiar muscular ghost, whose flaming white ponytail billowed and burned the gizmos around the ceiling.
The Observers looked at each other before looking at Clockwork, who gave them the most annoyed stare. "We'll... we'll let you handle this."
"Handle this." Observer number two echoed as they made a swift exit, causing Clockwork to sigh and palm his face as Phantom made the notion to zip around his room, laughter echoing all over the once serene dimension.
Just as Phantom decided on a little justice by sucking Clockwork into the thermos, Clockwork raised his staff menacingly. "Time out."
Phantom stayed in midair, the thermos clutched in his hand as his face was in a semi-contortion of terror, hearing Clockwork utter the magic words.
Clockwork sighed contentedly and floated away as if there wasn't the most powerful ghost in Ghost Zone history frozen in his workroom. "It's quiet now."
"I want you to burn, Clockwork. I want you to just die." Phantom grumbled hours later, tugging his new accessory of the evening: a metallic collar that buzzed with spectral shocks in warning, urging the ghost not to touch or mess with it's mechanism. It would have deterred any other ghost from pulling on it. Phantom was not one of them.
Clockwork was wise enough to understand that the ghost was being metaphorically mean, but Dan Phantom hated lengthy responses and Clockwork never wanted to disappoint the violent spirit. "You are a bad ghost," he half-chided. "If you would rather be stuffed in the thermos than temporarily leashed, you need to only ask."
And like Clockwork had anticipated, Phantom didn't care for his frank response.
Phantom's eyes lit up in a nasty way, licking his lips lewdly at the remark. "You prefer me leashed, do you? Kinky."
Not amused the slightest, Clockwork turned his back away and refocused on his current task at hand, not in the mood for such childish antics.
"I suppose I don't blame you. Even Ember nipped at my heels before she turned into a bloated whale. I'd be a better decoration all chained up for your pleasure than as a soup can," The once terror of Amity Park pointed out with a low rumble of pleasure. Clockwork ignored that too. He pointed to his collar, which Clockwork briefly glanced at.
Too much junk accumulated over an eternity. The Ghost of Time contemplated doing an actual spring clean if not to find what he was looking for.
"I know you take me for a fool, but there is no reason for me to actually act like one for your entertainment." Clockwork finally answered before tossing some weird stress squeak thing over his shoulder. Phantom had caught it and squeezed until its eyes popped out. "I can't let you go around destroying the Ghost Zone after Danny worked so hard to defeat you."
"What, are you in love with him or something?" Phantom smirked and he fell back onto Clockwork's 'bed' with a huff. It wasn't really a bed, but it was the one place of comfort Clockwork usually kept for mortal dimensional travelers. At least, that was what Phantom thought whenever he periodically heard strange entities drop by asking for directions. "Can't blame you, I'm too sexy to resist."
Clockwork looked over his shoulder and gave him a piercing dark look. "What gives you the idea that I'm interested in children, more so the fact that he had once inevitably became you."
"And what's wrong with me?" This made Phantom perk up in interest, sitting up.
With a small sound of triumph, Clockwork finally retrieved his goal: pen and paper. A novelty in the Ghost Zone, especially the pen which can change into four colors. It had been a gift from a way-ward dimensional pencil-pusher who didn't realize that he had to pay a finder's fee in order for Clockwork to send him in the right direction.
Phantom fell back onto the bed again and stretched, feeling his ghostly bones pop in such delicious ways. So much time in the thermos, even Clockwork's bedroom felt too spacious. It was a bit overwhelming. Not that he'd ever tell the other ghost that.
"What the hell are you doing anyways?" Phantom sat up and watched in slight interest as Clockwork began to write on the piece of paper. "Your will and testament once I get you to take off this blasted collar?"
"I'm going on vacation. I need a break from the Observers." Clockwork finished his writing and looked at it before placing it on his desk, hoping that his letter meant more 'Wish you were here in Amity Park!' than 'Screw you guys, I'm going on vacation!'. His note was bland and professional, just like the Observers. "And you are going to be quiet and go back into the thermos like a good bad ghost."
No way in hell. Phantom jumped up like he was being shocked and toppled away, ruining the once meticulous sheets in the process. Clockwork glared at the ghost's ungraceful performance. "I sleep on that bed sometimes, you know."
"You can't put me back in there!" Phantom snarled, trying to phase through the wall. He smacked against it with a groan, his powers diminished by the obscene glow of his collar. "No more. I'm not going back there! I'll go insane!"
"You already are insane," Clockwork pinched the bridge of his nose. He wanted to leave. Immediately. "You are trying my patience. Cooperate now or I will do it the hard way."
Phantom's red eyes darted the room back and forth, looking for an escape. Seeing none, he let out a growl of pain and frustration, gripping his flaming hair in desperation. "Don't. Please. I can't take it. It's too fucking cramped. I can't..."
Knitting his eyebrows together in a mix of suspicion and pity, Clockwork lowered the thermos, his equally red eyes watching the once terrifying ghost slump in defeat. "Is that an emotion other than rage, or are you pulling my tail?"
"Leave me the hell alone."
Another sigh and Clockwork lowered the thermos completely. He was a sucker for pitiful ghosts. Perhaps Phantom was rehabilitated enough for... "I'm giving you another option."
Phantom looked up. "What?"
"I said that I'm giving you another chance." Clockwork closed the thermos, which perked the Phantom up a great consideration. "Or rather, an ultimatum."
With a raise of his hand, a ghostly screen appeared, which revealed Amity Park. Phantom's left eye twitched at his once hometown.
"I'm taking my vacation here, to keep an eye on Danny. I am aware that your younger self has a tendency to brush paths with me. It is... unsettling." Clockwork then revealed an apartment complex. "You may come with me for your test."
"What's in it for me?"
"Re-learn human emotion, Dan Phantom," Clockwork said with a hint of intrigue. "If you reform from your evil ways, I will release you. You will be free."
Phantom cocked his head to one side, the ultimatum sounding too good to be true. "No more meddling from you?"
"If you desire it, you won't have to see me ever again in this lifetime or the next." Clockwork remedied with a small shrug. "Considering you're a ghost, that means forever."
The thought of leaving the thermos and the insufferable Ghost of Time forever brought a rise of his mouth into a visible smirk. "And if I don't succeed?"
Clockwork raised the thermos threateningly. "You will be returned into the thermos. For all eternity. And you will be shaken. Daily."
"Deal then." Phantom grinned as he imagined pummeling the blasted thing over and over with his Ghostly Wail. "I have nothing left to lose."
Clockwork tapped on his staff thoughtfully. "You will have that collar on in the meantime. It prevents you from unleashing your full powers. You'll be easy to overcome if you go rogue."
"And how ghostly handicapped would I be?"
"The equivalent of the present era's Box Ghost if you are desperate to know." The incredulous look on Phantom's face caused the corners of the Time Ghost's mouth to twitch upwards.
"I fucking hate you."
"I am always aware of this."