Warning-- spoilers for ACiT start NOW!

If you haven't finished and want to keep yourself spoiler-free, turn away quickly!

...Did "The Plumber's Advice" bug anybody else? I mean, the phrase "It's not a time machine" was a major part of the last scene, but...wasn't it just used as one? Forgive me if I'm overlooking some majorly important plot point...but I never have been good at science...

Oh, I should probably mention that this one isn't a positive oneshot. It's not majorly depressing, but it's definitely not the fluff that I'm so fond of...

It had taken longer to get the Great Clock fixed up than the little mech would have liked to admit.

After facing an angry lombax, a great deal of the machinery needed to be repaired; with so much delicate work to be done, it was bound to take awhile. Opposing that was the pressing issue of the heavier equipment that needed to be mended, and it never seemed like anything could wait. If only they had another pair of hands around here, then maybe-

No, he couldn't start thinking about that; he wouldn't let himself…because, if he did then he would be admitting that…

Briefly, Clank shut his optic sensors, only to snap back to attention as a group of Zoni flew by with a childish "Wheee!". The caretaker shook his head in exasperation and slowly made his way toward the Orvus chamber, keeping a tight grip on the Chronoscepter. He had absolutely no idea where Sigmund had gotten off to; wherever the larger bot was, though, he was probably still arguing with the computer. The thought made him smile, if just for a moment.

Briefly, he cast a glance off to the side, where Aphelion had once docked. She was long gone, now; to where was anybody's guess. Perhaps another galaxy, or maybe just back to Fastoon or the Apogee Space Station; it was hard to tell, sometimes, what she would argue about with her pilot. The ship was hardly the worst of Clank's concerns when it came to where someone had gone, though. Qwark didn't top the list either, though the bot certainly hoped that the self proclaimed "Mega hero" had made it out of the Nefarious Space Station intact. It was…concerning that Lawrence had escaped; there was no telling what the former butler was doing, now. Blarg, maybe he wasn't even in the market for an "evil" job anymore; either way, it wasn't Clank's business, now.

The chamber was empty when he entered it, as per the usual; something was happening very quickly on one of the screens positioned in the room, but he paid it no mind. Instead, his gaze was focused on the control mechanism for the entire clock. Again, Clank shut his eyes, giving his head a good shake this time. He turned away from the switch, toward the control panel for the holographic message Orvus had left behind; he watched the copy of his father idly, only just paying any attention.

"-like any father, my only wish-"

Having heard something behind him, the little mech whirled around, accidentally pausing the recording. What he found, however, wasn't anything- or anyone- new.

"You're thinking again, aren't you? You really do worry too much, pal."

Not for the first time, his sight sensors blurred; and Clank had the feeling that, were he an organic being, he'd be on the verge of tears. "Of course I worry. Just look at what has happened due to my carelessness…"

The lombax reached out to lay a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder, but apparently thought better of it, and brought his hand back after reaching halfway. "It wasn't your fault; we both know the Clock's not a time machine…"

"There must have been something that I could have done…"

"C'mon, that's not true and you know it. Things didn't turn out…too badly, anyway."

"How is this not "too badly"? Must I remind you that you are dead?"

There was a brief, awkward silence, before Ratchet spoke up. "…by whose standards?"

"Any organic being!" The caretaker snapped, uncharacteristically enraged, "Will you please take this seriously?"

"I am." The lombax answered shortly, "I'm going to do whatever you need me to, pal; I'm here for you."

"I-I am aware of that."

That tone was certainly not what he'd been expecting; quite suddenly, a frightening prospect occurred to the apparition. "If you want me to, I can leave."

Clank failed to reply to this; he just stared up at his longtime companion sadly. As he'd often done in the past, Ratchet knelt down to the robot's level, reaching out a transparent hand to rest on his shoulder; it never made contact, but they'd both been expecting that. The lombax offered his best friend a weary smile, then vanished, as he was prone to doing, recently.

Clank sighed and leaned the Chronoscepter up against the console, next to the one piece of equipment that had failed to make it back with Aphelion: the Omniwrench. Almost automatically, he reached over and reactivated the recording.

"-is that my son does that which makes him feel whole."

He wished he could; he really did.