Disclaimer: DC owns everything, with the express exception of the things they don't.
This Story Contains: Brief allusions to rape (non-graphic), humiliation and violence.
A/N: I love the Clock King. Presumably, I'm not the only one. Yet this is the first story about him on this site. Hmmm. I smell untapped fic potential. This story was originally intended to be a one shot, but it's ballooned out to six thousand words thus far and it's not even half over yet. For reading ease, it's being broken into chapters because I secretly fear it'll turn into a novella if I'm not watching it.
Also, I'd like to acknowledge that there's a clock/curiosity shop in my hometown which helped inspire this fic. I haven't been there since I was a wee thing, but my memories of it are so vivid that I can't pretend I didn't base the shop in this story, in part, on it.
Tick, tick, tick, tick.
With surgical precision, the brass hands on the Clock King's ornate pocket watch slice their way around the mother of pearl watch dial. Their movements are strict, sharp, exact. There is no margin for error, never a single second lost, because time-as the Clock King's core philosophy decrees-is the most precious commodity of all. Like every dew drop in a desert oasis: to be cherished, appreciated and never to be wasted.
This is the watch that has seen a dozen heists; the watch that has perfectly timed the execution of a hundred plans; the watch which is guaranteed to never lose a second in a century.
The watch that, tonight, has struck its last hour.
The hands do not slow. Their progress does not ebb in a gradual manner, the way an old watch winds down, they simply stop altogether.
This moment of unplanned chaos does not belong in the Clock King's orderly, suffocating and organized existence. He carries a dozen more watches-another dozen clocks reside in his lair-there is no shortage of time pieces in his life.
Yet, he will not let this watch die.
This Will Not Do. This simply Will Not Do at all.
This is the watch which he carried on that fateful day when his life was completely upended and he launched his career as the Clock King. The other watches, they are all byproducts of his turn to villainy; this one is a keepsake from his days as a law abiding civilian. He would not let you call him sentimental; he reasons that he likes having it as a reminder of why he became what he is, but really, he does feel a pang of almost painfully bittersweet nostalgia whenever he looks at his trusty pocket watch.
The ache of wistfulness is all the more acute when the finely crafted hands freeze in place and refuse to move forward. Temple Fugat frowns deeply, his face creasing unattractively and comes to a decision. Though he could easily replace the pocket watch, he will not. He refuses to let this watch stop permanently.
Determined, he sets out to find a watch maker. Surely in a city as large as Gotham there must be at least one. He will dispose of the proprietor when he no longer needs his services-but his primary concern is the watch.
Only rich men wear pocket watches anymore. Rich men who are so rich they usually decide to throw away a fifty thousand dollar Rolex and buy a new one rather than have it repaired.
As such, watch makers are not in terribly high demand.
There is a single shop-Brookstien's-which has survived the ravages of a throwaway generation and it is one of Gotham's oldest family businesses. Micah Brookstien immigrated from Germany with his three young sons-Melvin, Gabriel and Jacob-shortly before the first world war and set up shop immediately. Melvin left to seek his fortune and Gabriel died in WWII in the line of duty, but Jacob-who had always been in too delicate health to leave home, neither as self made man nor soldier-took over when Micah's hands got too crippled with age to continue with the delicate operations involved with watch repair.
Now, Jacob runs the shop. He has been at this job for more than half a century and though his last birthday cake has so many candles they couldn't be counted, he is still a sharp eyed expert in his chosen field. This expertise is the only thing that keeps him in business where other watchmakers fail right out of the gate.
It is also his expertise that will be his undoing, as if he were a mediocre watchmaker, a criminal of the Clock King's stature would not have sought him out.
The watch shop is immaculate as Temple Fugat enters it and he is pleased. The glass display cases may be old, but they are gleaming and their contents are obviously arranged with great care.
Brookstien is behind the antique register-a brass affair that's nearly as aged as he is-and there is no light of recognition in his eyes as the Clock King enters in plain clothes. The old man is tinkering with a clock and Fugat approaches, laying his watch on the counter and narrowing his eyes appraisingly at the proprietor.
"I need this fixed."
"So I vould assume," Jacob replies dryly, reaching out with a gnarled hand-used up from decades of delicate work-and turning the watch over. Jacob reaches under the counter and retrieves a pair of old gold wire spectacles, placing them carefully on the bridge of his beaky nose. He studies the watch, frowning. "Ven do you vant it?"
His accent already grates on Fugat's nerves.
"When can you deliver it?"
"I do not yet know vat is vrong vith it."
"You try my patience."
"I get ze impression a great many things try your patience, sir," Jacob says pointedly, looking over the rims of his spectacles at Temple. "But come back in ze morning."
"Morning," Jacob repeats, as though he is speaking to a small, dense child. "If ze shop is open, it vill be ready."
"Do I have your guarantee on that statement?"
"No. Zere are no gaurantees. If I cannot complete ze repairs, zen at least you vill know vat ails your vetch."
"To come back here without knowing that my watch is repaired would be a waste of time."
Jacob shrugs his hunched shoulders. "Time is to be vasted."
Temple's blood pressure skyrockets and for a moment, he contemplates how easy it would be to bring up his cane and strike the old man down.
He takes a breath, even as the homicide plays out in his head, and then steps away from the counter.
Ten o'clock sharp, Fugat returns to Brookstien's only to find the shop already open. The blinds in the front window that had been drawn the night before are open, letting sunshine stream in on a dozen brass, silver and shining wood clocks that are artfully scattered on display.
Temple barely takes note of how exquisite the morning sun looks, filtering through the window-only finding himself annoyed with the proprietor for the bad business practice involved with opening early.
He pushes through the front door and finds, not Jacob Brookstien behind the counter-but a young woman, leaning over a pocket watch and tinkering expertly with its innards. She is small and slight-almost childlike-but even as he looks at her with disdain, he can't deny that she is also strikingly beautiful. It's not the sort of screen siren beauty that is so idolized and sought after; instead, she is the sort of lovely that is often overlooked due to its understatement. Her posture is awkward, like she doesn't yet know how to sit up straight, and her own obliviousness to her prettiness helps to make the understatement of her beauty even more muted. If she were standing next to a painted, perfectly coiffed bombshell, the eye would be drawn to the flash, no doubt, leaving her to fade into the background, like a single cornflower next to a dozen roses.
Her graceful fingers are still hard at work and she has not yet looked up, but Temple yanks her unceremoniously out of her task by striding up to the counter and laying his hands on it hard.
She jumps violently and gasps, the sudden intake of air setting off a coughing fit. She looks up at him with large china-blue eyes, set into a face so white she looks like a doll that is in danger of shattering under the sheer pressure of his gaze and for a split second-no more-Temple feels remorse for having startled her.
His first impression is that she's not a day over seventeen, but her eyes have the slight creases around them of a woman in her mid-twenties. Not yet noticeable enough to make her look old, but enough to betray her age.
"I'm here for my watch," he states straight away.
"Rebecca!" a voice harkens from the back of the shop-presumably that of Jacob. "Is zat ze impatient man?"
She stutters for a moment and darts away from the counter, looking at Temple-Temple, the man who intentionally gave her a fright-a sympathetic glance. She lifts a single finger, instructing him to wait a moment. Like a ghost, she flutters to the door that leads to the back of the shop and slips inside, leaving Fugat alone, the sound of ticking clocks the only thing to keep him company.
He rather likes it.
His fingers tap out an imperceptible pattern on the glass countertop, but the seemingly nonsensical arrangement of beats compliments the ticking rather well.
Fugat glances at his wristwatch-a device no less expensive than the pocket watch he left here, but much less personally significant-and decides to give the girl another fifteen seconds before he loses his patience completely and barges through the door after her.
She makes his deadline with four seconds to spare. Jacob trails behind her and his age-which wasn't quite so obvious when he sat behind the counter-is painfully clear in his wobbly, limping gait. Rebecca's grace is all the more apparent next to the elderly Brookstien.
"It's about time," Fugat barks, taking a perverse sort of pleasure in the way Rebecca flinches at the sound of his voice.
Jacob is unaffected.
"Zis is a vatch shop, of course it is about time."
"Is badly damaged," Jacob says, cutting the other man off. Fugat notices that Rebecca suddenly averts her eyes and stands with her hands folded in front of her, like a guilty child. "Zere vere several springs out of place-and a cracked gear."
"That is impossible," Fugat counters. Only, after saying it, he realizes that perhaps the activities often associated with a criminal lifestyle-taking a beating from Batman or eluding the police, for example-might have caused such damage after all.
"Zat is vhat I thought, but zese things happen. Though how I haven't the foggiest notion."
"Can you fix it or not?"
"Vith a replacement part from Svitzerland, ya."
Temple blows out a puff of breath. "How long?"
"A veek, two at most."
He has a heist planned in six days. He wants the watch with him but it may take too long. Temple removes a folded handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabs at his forehead.
"Send for the part. Immediately. I-"
"Vill be back every morning to see if it has arrived," Jacob finishes, reading Temple's face like a book.
"I will indeed. And so help me, if you try to cheat me in any fashion-"
"I have many clients I vould rather svindle than you, sir."
The sudden exhalation of breath from Rebecca can only be that of a carefully restrained chuckle and the corners of her mouth are upturned as she looks up at Temple.
He narrows his eyes at her, his lips pursing into a severe, grim line.
Her face falls and her eyes dart away once more.
The bell on the front door jingles as the Clock King exits.