I Loved You Too Much
I had often prided myself in being of superior mind to the Observers; as I had often said, they merely observe and do nothing to act on their complaints of the timeline, and instead leave me to carry out the countless, thankless jobs that went with being the Master of Time. I am a being of action; I detest standing by and letting things happen without doing anything about it. It has always been both a pet peeve and a weakness of mine. But nevertheless, I still revel in the fact that I get things done while the Observers sit back and watch the time fly.
…Millennia down the timeline, for the first time, I began to empathize with them.
It all began the day Daniel Fenton caught himself in the portal between the mortal world and the Ghost Zone. As I watched infinisecond by infinisecond his DNA being taken over by GNA—as he affectionately called it—I knew that this boy was destined for greatness, be it either heroic or villainous. The moment he stepped out of that portal a halfa, infinite futures for the boy ran into my line of view. Three major ones caught my attention the most.
The first one was if he had decided to use his powers for his own selfish gain; I had already seen that happen to Vladimir Masters, and almost shuddered to think what would happen if there were two of them—working together.
The second one was if he used his powers for good, but fell into temptations somewhere down the line and ended up split from his humanity and combined with the evil that was Vlad Plasmius. Both he and I stopped that future from happening, though the rotten fruit of that future still remains on my shelf.
The third future I saw was Danny Phantom as a hero of the world; he would bring together the mortal and ghosts worlds for a common cause and—somewhere down the line—bring peace to both; the mortal world as a halfa and the Ghost Zone as a pure ghost, and the new benevolent Ghost King.
Danny avoided the first future himself by deciding to become a hero to protect his friends and family.
I aided him in changing the second future myself; besides, the five people who died in that accident all had a hand in creating the third future for him.
And that third future was well on its way to being fulfilled. Danny had gathered the aid of his former enemies to save both Earth and, in turn, the Ghost Zone, and became the hero I knew he could be.
Of course…I could do nothing after his future was chosen for him. After he saved the Earth, the Observers finally lost their patience with me and said that if I had anything else to do with the boy's life again with my manipulations, then they would be finding themselves a new Master of Time.
I wouldn't trust the Timeline to those argumentative, indecisive buffoons for the power of God; so of course, I didn't seek Danny out again.
…But they said nothing about him seeking me out.
It was a year after he saved the Earth and the Ghost Zone, and I was examining another timeline completely when he suddenly burst into my clock tower in a mess of emotion and collapsed in front of me, begging me to make the world stop—just for awhile—so he could escape it.
I had not seen this coming, and I cursed the Observers, who had all obviously banded together and erased Danny's timeline from my sights so I would not be tempted to help him again. But looking at the boy in front of me, I could care less if they locked me defenseless in the Thermos with Dark Phantom; I would be damned if I didn't help the boy when he needed me.
I picked him up and held him as he cried for me to make it all stop—time, the world, everything. And I couldn't; not if I would be forced to give up my position. So instead, I told him that he could stay in the clock tower for as long as he wanted. He gave me a look as though I had taken the literal weight of the world off of his shoulders, and promptly fell unconscious in my arms.
He didn't wake up for a very long time, and I didn't need to see his timeline to know that it was because he was physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted with the life of a hero. As he slept, I watched him more than I watched the Timeline. When it looked like he was having troubled dreams, I brushed my fingers through his hair and he immediately calmed down.
When he woke up, he looked as though age had been lifted from his face. He looked like a proper, healthy child should look like. I gave him a sad smile; all that pressure put on him to be a hero, and everyone seemed to forget that he was a fifteen-year-old boy. Still a child. I gave him something to eat and told him to talk to me.
He told me about everything—having to travel the world to save it, his relationship problems with Samantha, how he never gets to talk to Tucker anymore, and how he and Valerie were still on harsh terms. His parents and sister seemed blind to his peril, so he finally ran to me, looking for something—anything—to lean on.
I told him that my offer still stood for him to stay as long as he wanted; the Earth didn't collapse on itself before he was a hero, and it wouldn't fall to ashes if he happened to take a vacation. He smiled at me and took me up on that offer.
He stayed for a week in the Ghost Zone, where he wasn't hero-worshipped or expected to do anything. While he was exploring, I contacted Technus and instructed him to find every electronic ghost portal and shut it down; the last thing Danny needed was a rescue team coming to take him back before he was ready.
After the week was up, Danny finally said that he had to go back. I opened up a portal of my own, and gave him a bracelet that would create portals as a gift, telling him that he was welcome to my clock tower anytime he needed a rest.
I knew that I would be seeing much more of my favorite boy in the near future.
The Observers could do or say nothing about it; after all, I was doing nothing but giving him a place of solace and a friend to talk to. Still, they voiced their concerns to me.
"You care too much for him," they told me.
Yes. I cared for him. I wasn't going to deny that. But I wasn't going to turn him away when he needed a friend just because they had 'concerns'.
Danny came back to me many times over the course of three years; many of those times were to beg and plead with me to change time so he would never be the world's hero. And of course, I had to break his heart and tell him no. I swore every time he burst into emotionally turmoiled tears, my clock skipped a tick or two and a gear slipped out of position. Sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years old, and the boy slipped back into infancy in my eyes, and the urge to protect him from his own life overwhelmed me.
And the worst part was, I could do nothing about it.
When Danny was nineteen—on his birthday—he came to my clock tower, looking more depressed than I had ever seen him. I sat him down and asked him what was wrong. He just looked me in the eye and said with tears in his eyes,
"I just want to die."
It took all of my eternity's worth of self-control not to scream at the Observers to give me my sight into his timeline back. I put my arms around him and told him that it would be okay, lying through my teeth. I didn't know if he would be alright. Not anymore. Damn the Observers and damn their rules. I wanted back into this boy's timeline. I wanted to help him.
Danny finally calmed down enough to tell me that all in the course of one day—his birthday, I reminded myself—Samantha had broken up with him, him and Valerie had gotten into it when he accidently shot her out of the sky with a wayward ecto-blast out of frustration, his parents and his principal had gotten on his case because of his grades—Ds and Fs, not that I could blame him at all—and to top it all off, he was supposed to speak in front of the United Nations tomorrow about something or the other.
And because of all of this, he was ready to give up and end his life, and though the very thought horrified me—no good ghost ever came out of suicide—I couldn't blame him one bit for wanting to.
I wanted to tell him not to go back; to stay here with me, where I could pull him out of the Timeline and protect him for all eternity. At very least, I wanted to go back in time and stop Vlad Masters from altering the Meteor's course so that none of this would have ever happened. But I couldn't. I just hugged him and let him cry, telling him the only thing I could think of:
"You don't have to do anything you don't want to, young Daniel."
I was happy enough to see that my words held meaning and comfort to him. He relaxed in my arms and asked me if he could stay for a little while. I was all too happy to oblige.
After he had finally gone back to Earth, I instructed Skulker to watch out for him and at very least make his job easier. The hunter understood; he knew what the boy was going through, and I envied the mech for knowing what I did not.
It was barely four months later that Skulker burst into my clock tower with an unconscious Danny in his arms. I took one look at my boy and automatically froze his person in time, stopping the gushing of blood and ectoplasm from his left wrist, then sent Skulker to fetch Hoster, a ghost surgeon that occupied a part of the Ghost Zone.
Danny's surgery didn't take long, as Hoster was very good at what he did and had some latent talent in healing with ectoplasm. But I knew that the physical injuries were nothing compared to Danny's mental state. As the boy healed, I found myself glaring at the mortal world in anger. Couldn't they see that they were killing their savior? Couldn't they see his pain? His suffering? The cross they threw on his shoulders? I actually debated letting Dan out of his Thermos on them to teach them a well-deserved lesson.
I had to stop that dangerous train of thought, and all routes that it was taking. Once more, I cursed the Observers, but this time, because they were right.
I cared too much. I was willing to put my boy—Danny—before the well-being of the Earth. I cursed myself now; that was what got the LAST Master of Time in trouble. And the one before that. I thought back to when I had first taken the Time Scepter in my hands and learned one of the most important warnings of being the Master of Time:
If you become involved emotionally, you become involved completely. And THAT is the downfall of the Masters of Time.
For millennia, I had kept my distance from attachments, and then Danny came into existence and looked at me not as an intangible entity like everyone else had before him, but as a friend. A confidant. A PERSON.
And Masters of Time were not meant to be 'people'. 'People' made mistakes. 'People' screwed up. 'People' were flawed.
…Well, call me a mistake-making flawed screw-up.
When Danny woke up, he saw his scarred wrist and immediately knew that his quest for freedom had been denied. I took his screams of 'why' and 'why not'. I took his verbal abuse. I even took a hit to the face. But I still held him when he sobbed and apologized. I wished I could apologize too; apologized for not allowing his freedom yet. But that would have been in bad taste. So instead, I apologized for his situation and once more said he could stay as long as he wanted.
He was gone in two weeks.
And back in a month, this time just needing someone to talk to. He asked me if it was worth it, what he was going through. If I had my sight of his timeline, I could answer that. But I didn't. So I told him the truth.
"I don't know. That is something you will have to figure out on your own."
He nodded contemplatively at me and left with a smile on his face. I often wondered why he treated every word I spoke to him like they were the words of God.
The next time he came back was with a smile on his face. He looked different, and I knew that it was because he had aged; he was twenty-two now. His hair was long and tied in back, and his 'awkward teenage' body was gone and replaced with a physique similar to his darker future's own.
He had gone from a beautiful boy to a beautiful man right before my eyes.
He told me that he was currently taking a cold-turkey sabbatical from hero work and decided to travel the world. I smiled and listened as he talked about all the places he had gone and actually laughed with him when he told me how many of his own statues he had vandalized. He was the happiest I had seen him in such a long time.
I never wanted that happiness to fade from him, ever. I wanted to trap it in time and keep it close to the clock in my chest for all eternity.
The words left my mouth before I knew what I was really saying. Danny's happy smile remained frozen in my clock tower, and my clock skipped a few ticks again. I reached forward and stroked his face.
"This is my weakness," I told him, even though he couldn't hear me. "I care too much for you, my Daniel. You will be my end." I smiled at him and leaned forward, pressing my lips to his time-frozen ones.
I could practically feel the steel threads of my own timeline fray. I knew that sometime within my boy's, my own timeline would eventually come to an end, sometime just before or after his own ended.
I pulled away from him and stroked his face once more before sitting back.
And Danny picked up right were he left off. I smiled and nodded. Let my timeline end. As long as his ended on this happy note, I could really care less.
When it concerned my own timeline, I could only have guesses at my future. My guesses were generally more like premonitions, really, and right now, my premonition sense was going haywire.
And I knew that it was near my end.
I smiled bitterly and turned to the Observers. I knew why they were here. I wouldn't put up a fight. Danny was happily exploring the world with his clone Danni, and I could sense a good future from him. I had that much faith in him.
I held still as two of the Observers held one of my arms each and a third take my Time Scepter. The fourth one stood in front of me.
"Clockwork, you are charged with and found guilty of tampering with the Timeline, becoming emotionally attached to a Drifter (the derogatory term for any life within the Timeline) and becoming romantically involved with said Drifter. Have you anything to say?"
I looked up at him with a smile. "His name is Daniel," I told him. "And I regret nothing." And that was all I had to say.
"Then you are hereby revoked of your title as Master of Time, stripped of your powers, and sentenced to existence termination. However, if you repent for your sins, your sentence will be lessened to mere normal ghosthood. What say you?"
I looked the Observer right in the eye. "I regret and apologize for nothing." I kept the smile on my face as the Observer opened up the case on my chest. "I however have a last request."
"Give my pocket watch and cloak to Daniel," I told him. "That is all." The Observer looked to the one holding my Time Scepter, who took off my cloak and unlatched the pocket watch from my belt. He stepped back and the Observer in front of me reached into my chest and clutched my clock, then tore it out.
I had exactly one minute before I would cease to exist. In that minute, I could see Danny's future.
He would be visited by the Observers and given my gifts to him. Danni and Skulker would have to restrain him from killing the Observer, and would go down crying and screaming why. He would be depressed for the longest time, wearing my cloak obsessively, until he finally opened my pocket watch to read the inscription I had etched inside:
Live as I have lived, Daniel.
Apologize for nothing.
Danny would understand, and take up the mantle as hero once more. When he finally died at age forty-five after giving up his human life essence to save Danni, whose own human essence was failing, he returned to the Ghost Zone with my cloak and watch to take up the mantle as the Ghost King. And he would rule, living as I had lived, knowing how much I cared and how much I loved him.
I loved Danny.
I don't regret it.
I don't apologize for it.
I knew of his future.
I made it so.
I got the last laugh.
Damn, I finished this story crying. Quick tip: Listen to "The Final Hour" by X-Ray Dog while reading the last section. It'll really put you in the mood.