Fandom: Danny Phantom
Description: Young George has just died, but he still has a lot to learn about the nature of the universe. Fortunately, Clockwork, his new mentor, is there to guide him into learning these dark new life lessons.
Status: One-shot, completed
Genre: Dark drama
Rating: 13+
Characters: Clockwork, OC
Date: 2010 and/or 2011

**

Time passes, as it does. It does so inevitably, without regard to the happenings around it. Seasons change, people live and die, but still time passes. Time passes, and the world moves with it. Time passes, as it does.

I stare out at the window before me, watching the eternity of time pass below. Right now, it's quiet, a few ghosts drifting about in the green stillness. One ghost pauses before a purple door, then opens it and floats in.

He will soon be eaten by a giant plant. I know this before it happens. It happens, and I feel a prick in my stomach as the life is extinguished from Spencer William Basa. Time passes, and people die.

I hold a hand to my chest, feeling the glass vibrate as the pendulum swings back and forth, back and forth. It's a familiar, even pleasant sound, even as it's temporarily blanked over by the death of Saran Ibrahim. Time passes, and people die.

I turn now and see George watching me, as I knew he would. His eyes are wide, his lips parted in a small 'o'. "Clockwork?"

"Yes?"

"What—what was that I just felt?"

I drift toward him, reaching out a hand I place it on his chest, feeling the warm, gentle thrum of the pendulum growing inside him. "Feel that?"

"Yes," he says, nervous.

The sound resonates on my hand, warm and strong. Fundamentally human. I clench my hand, and the pendulum stops at an angle, frozen in time.

George winces, gasps. "What—"

I put a hand on his mouth. Sh." I pause, cocking my head. "Feel that?"

There's silence as we both feel Louise O'Reilly pass from existence, a gentle soul taken by sleep.

I move my hand, and the pendulum resumes swinging back and forth, back and forth. George fixes me with wide, shocked eyes. "Did she— Did she—"

I stare back at him, my eyes imploring him to say the word.

"—die?"

I nod once.

George's eyes fill with tears, and again I am not surprised. He stumbles, lurching toward me, pressing himself into me. "Clockwork— Clockwork, why? Why?"

I let him press his face into my ribcage, his face vibrating in time with my pendulum.

"George?"

He looks up at me now, breaking away. But his hands are trembling, and his eyes are wet. "What?" The voice calm, controlled, hiding the pain inside.

"Come with me."

He stares up at me, then climbs up on my back after I bend into position. He won't have to do this much longer, though—his robe will sprout tomorrow. This I know.

"Ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

And his legs tighten around my hips.

As I fly, I keep an eye around us. The Ghost Zone is waking up; ghosts are floating about, trailing green smoke after them. I float by Albert, who's boxing up a gift for Jenny, and we nod at each other.

"Tell me, George," I begin, spreading my limbs so that my robe flares out behind me, "what do you think of time?"

"Time?"

But I hear the pain in George's voice and I know it's because he just felt the death of Adelaide Jeng, who jumped from a nine-story building a few hours ago.

"Yes. Time."

George trembles above me, and I can hear the thoughts resonating within his slowly dying heart: Why did she kill herself? Why couldn't I help her?

"Time," he says, and I sense him hold a hand to his chest, "moves on all the time. It never stops when we need it to."

"That's true."

"It always moves at the same pace. It can't slow down or speed up."

"That's also true."

A pause

"Time hurts."

"It does."

And it will hurt more. I can envision the pain George will feel when his heart finally dies, the shock that will obscure his face when he realizes he's lost all ties with the human world.

"Why is it like that, Clockwork? Why do people have to hurt so much?" And he winces—Lex Carrington is gone, dying quickly after his hypothermia made him shed his clothes in freezing-cold Antarctica.

"Why, George? Well, let us see. Let us see time as it works." I drift along more quickly, knowing that it's anticipation which makes his legs tighten around me. "We will return to Earth."

"Earth?" Dread. He doesn't know what to expect, but it already scares him.

"Yes, Earth."

And I say no more.

We're on Earth now. George has dismounted and fallen into step beside me, his eyes on the ground. I know his fear is growing, and his body is wracked by trembling.

Then, finally—

"Clockwork?"

"Mm?"

"Does it ever stop?"

We don't stop walking, but his hand clamps onto his chest, his pain radiating through him.

Then I shake my head, once, twice.

George lets out wordless cry of pain. The next death is personal—it's Jake Penn, a homeless man he used to see when he went downtown. "That was my fault, Clockwork! My fault. If I'd just given him some money—"

I raise a hand. "Silence yourself."

"Wh-what?" The words choked out.

"If you keep quiet, you'll learn to keep the pain inside. Once it's inside, it'll be internalized. One death, two death." And I gesture, a wide sweeping movement as Caterina Corretti and her brother Carmelo die instantly, the victims of a car crash. "Soon they won't be deaths anymore—just uncomfortable pricks in your stomach."

"You can't expect me to do that!" His eyes are pained, his face distressed.

I stare evenly back at him. "You have no choice."

He shakes his head, but says no more. I can still feel his pain, though, strong and loud as countless deaths pound through him—Tom Garrow, Dick Martinson, Harry Chin...

"George," I say again, and my voice is quiet. We're still walking through the same farmland, cows grazing in calm meadows. "Tell me—what does time mean to you?"

"Time?" And he trembles—Victor Cobb this time, dead after a long battle with throat cancer, the product of a lifetime of smoking. "Time—I just said what it is."

"Yes, you said what it is. But what do you think of it?"

"Time?" And he winces again—Charlie Hill, dead from complications arising from heart disease. "Time is— Time, well. I don't really know what to say of it. It's always passing, I guess. It never stops; it never starts. It's just always going on." His voice is trembling, but he stumbles on ahead. "That's how it is?"

I nod, stopping purposefully beside a tree. Only the grazing cows are out—the nearby farmers are inside their barns, supervising the other cows being milked—and no one will see us, neither my constant shifting into different age nor George's pain, his wide eyes full of fear. "True, George. True. Time does work in that way."

A careless misstep makes Hunter Green fall to his doom, and George winces. "Why have you brought me here?" The voice is flat, cold. I know he's angry at me for making him feel this pain, from preventing him from helping the humans, who he still sees as his people.

Though not for much longer.

"Your view on time is correct, though it's limited. I want to show you a different way of considering it."

George nods. He's frowning, and I know he's on edge, anticipating the next death.

"Time," I say, gesturing to the tree, half-yellow, half-green, beside us, "is time. It, as you said, never stops. And, as time passes, seasons change."

We watch in silence as a yellow leaf falls from the tree, twirls delicately to the ground in a gentle golden wind.

"As time passes, people are born." I put a hand on George's arm, and we reappear, invisible specters at St. Joseph's. A woman is giving birth, her screams of anguish melting into screams of joy as her doctor hands her a baby girl.

I motion for George to leave the room, and we walk down the halls, silent ghosts in a busy world. Doctors, nurses, and orderlies bustle about, their scrubs flapping behind them as they rush off to their next patients. No one sees us. Being a ghost has its perks.

We stop at a room where an old man lies. I slip through the door, soon followed by George. The man is hooked up to all manner of tubes and drips, but that can't help the dead look in his blue eyes, the lifeless, pure white hair.

I stop at the man's bedside George trailing behind me. I make myself visible to the old man, and his eyes light up for the first time in ten years.

"You've come," he says, and he's smiling. Smiling at the thought of his own—very eventual—death.

"I have come."

The man and I join hands, palms pressed flat against each other, long and gloved against dead and liver-spotted. He smiles again, and his hand curls tight with mine. In the next instant, Danny Fenton has passed quietly out of existence.

"Time passes, and people die."

George leaves in silence, stricken by the experience. I drift after him, smiling at the thought of Danny finally having achieved peace. We've slid back into invisibility and intangibility now, and I hear the cries of Dr. Austin Carrera as he discovers the old man finally a corpse after a decade of pointless procedures, pointless surgeries.

"Clockwork," George says as I guide him through the wall to the site outside.

"Mm?"

"Did you know that man?"

"As I've said before, I know every thought that has ever gone through a person's head. I know their every emotion, their every feeling. I know everything which has happened to anyone, great or small, and on all consequences on every person in both dimensions."

"But did you know him personally?"

I nod, once.

George falls silent, and we continue walking. Then we come to the urban part of the city, and his eyes pop. "That's— That's where I was until—until it happened."

He still doesn't want to refer to it by name; the very thought traumatizes him. I need not bother him more.

So instead I nod, agreeing with him. "Yes. This is your hometown."

He falls silent again, and we continue moving through the city. People move about, clouding up the streets and sidewalks. Though he's behind me, I can sense George's eyes widening as he passes familiar buildings—the corner store, the tailor's, the laundromat.

Then he feels Elroy Samson die, dead in a plane crash with a hundred others, and he winces. "Clockwork..."

"I can't stop the pain. Like I said, you'll have to control it, since otherwise it will distract you." I say that for the specific purpose of drawing out his pain longer. It's the only way for him to learn.

"No, no, not that.|" George wets his dry lips. "Clockwork... . We can't be here. This is where I was raised, where I grew up. All the people I've ever known are here, Clockwork. And they all think I'm dead." He puts an emphatic hand to his chest, staring at me with wide eyes.

I say nothing; I just grind to a halt. We have arrived.

George's eyes pop out of his skull. 'No, what are you thinking? We can't go here. Please, Clockwork, please." His cries become louder; he becomes more agitated, latching onto my arm. "Please, let's not go. Please don't. Please, please, please!"

"Are you done?"

And, without waiting for an answer, I take him by the hand and float through the wall. He struggles, but my grip is strong, and he struggles against pure air.

Then we are where we are. We both watch—me in calm acceptance, he in trepidation and fear—as a woman bustles about. She rearranges the flowers in a vase on the dresser, anxiously pats the corner of the neatly folded bedspread.

I clap my hand against George's mouth before he can cry out. "They can still hear us," I whisper.

He says nothing, but his struggling become more agitated. I squeeze his hand, hard enough to cause him pain, and he falls against me. His head slumps downward against my shoulder, and his hood falls over his wide-open, terrified eyes.

He's in pain, but he understands.

We watch together as the door opens. The woman—Lashana James—rushes forward, bustling about the visitors, a man and a woman. "I'm so glad you came," Lashana gushes, the words quick together, clattering against each other. "You'll find that the room is set out the way you asked—we've installed below the curtains, and the attached bathroom has extra Tylenol, like you asked. And there's the double bed, obviously." She laughs.

"Thank you," says the man in a Swedish accent. "We can't thank you enough."

He and his wife each shake Lashana's hand. She smiles at them, wipes a tear from her eye as she moves to stand in the doorway. "We can't thank you enough. We really needed the money."

They begin talking, and the voices fade into the distance. George stares at them, arms crossed and shoulders tight, his mouth parted in a small 'o'. Lashana and the Swedish students continue talking, their words swirling around us.

George opens his mouth proper to say something, but I hold up a finger, stopping him. "As time passes," I say, swivelling around so that my back is turned to him, "people forget."

The babble of conversation swirls around us, fades as the couple exist to explore the new city. Lashana is left alone. She sighs, then sits on the bed. Tears start running on her face in complete silence. She doesn't sob; she doesn't shake. She merely weeps.

I can feel George's shock, resonating through him as he follows her gaze: her tear-stained eyes are looking up at a picture on the far wall. In the picture, George himself stares back at us, his face wreathed in a smile, his arms wrapped around each of his little sisters. In the picture, he's happy, vibrant, and very much alive.

"As time passes, people remember. Though time heals all wounds, it does not heal them in the full."

George walks to Lashana, his back held straight and rigid, his arms tight at his sides. But all the tension, all the anger melts out of him as he moves to stand before his mouth. He smiles gently at her. She doesn't see, of course, but—like a sixth sense—she feels the sudden surge of warmth when he places his hand inside her chest, his hand wrapping itself protectively around her heart.

George comes back to me. "As time passes, some things never change," he says, and his face is stained with tears.

"For all that time does, something still stay the same, until they too crumble into the abyss at the end of time. These things—friendship, love, kindness—bring comfort to us in our times of need, humans and ghosts alike. as the world turns, people feel pain and suffering. But they also feel good things—love, kindness, friendship, even simple pleasures like food. we say, living our lives—mere specks in the vastness of time. We cannot change the past, and we cannot see the future, but we do what we can."

It's some time later. George and I are sitting in an empty forest; I have set George to the task of setting a small fire. We are once more visible and tangible; all the hunters and campers are in other parts of the forest, far away, and only the animals can see us now—he strange man in a flowing purple robe with glowing red eyes, the boy whose heart, shielded in glass, is slowly turning into a pendulum.

And so, it's in silence that I explain the new concept of time to George. "So what do you think? Have you anything more to add?"

He shakes his head, his hands tripping over the sticks he's rubbing together as he looks up at me. "No. Have you?"

I'm thoughtful, studying George as he rubs the sticks together, creating a spark. "Time passes," I say, "and some things change. Time passes, and some things stay the same. But, fundamentally, time is always there, the undercurrent to our lives. it is there at all times—bad, good, and in between. Regardless of what happens, time always passes and, eventually, everything changes."

The spark has turned into a small fire, alimented by the kindling I gathered precisely an hour, twenty-two minutes, three-point-five seconds ago. "Nothing stays the same," says George, and I know he's thinking of Lashana, crying as she gazed at his picture. "Mom and Dad are still alive... Kendall and Gina too," he murmurs. "You have to let me go visit them someday—they miss me. They all think I'm dead. Please." He grabs my arm with terrified eyes.

I shake him off me, stare at him. My profound eyes, with the knowledge of the universe plain in them, meet his eyes wide with fear. "Tell me what time is."

George lets go of me and slides away across the grass. When he speaks, his voice is flat and dead. His eyes flicker away from me, stare out into the distance as he turns his head away. "Time passes, as it does. It does so inevitably, without regard to the happenings around it. Seasons change, people live and die, remember and forget, but still time passes, and the world moves with it."

He sighs, moving back to my side, I don't protest when he leans into me, our sides pressed together, his head on my shoulder. He sighs again, closing his eyes.

Together, we say," Time passes, as it does."