Burning Black

Act 4:

The Darkest of Secrets

1


There were few times in their young lives that the members of Team Turner were at a loss for ideas. The previous day was mostly a blur now, receding into their memories as activity bustled around them in the Ivory Tower. They watched dozens of anti-fairies fly in and out of the Tower on missions to local spots in search of additional negative energy, small groups going out as the rest clustered in guest rooms to rest and hide from Jorgen Von Strangle. It wasn't normal; once Friday the Thirteenth ended, all anti-fairies would be taken back to Anti-Fairy World by the drill instructor, always forcefully. This time, the antis were smart enough to stay within Dimmsdale, protected by the nullification field that prevented Jorgen's usual explosive entrance. He could have gone in through the round-about method, leaping down to Earth from another bridge point and then moving into Dimmsdale physically, but he probably wasn't smart enough to get that idea.

Another bit of normality that had been suspended was the organization; anti-fairies only obeyed Anti-Cosmo's orders, when he chose to give them. Without him around, they would keep the rulings in mind, but they generally did whatever they pleased. Team Turner sat tiredly on the plush sofas of the foyer, looking up at the ceiling artwork and the occasional anti-fairy flying overhead.

It was Saturday, more than twelve hours since they found Timmy bent over Anti-Cosmo's broken body, clutching a letter and urging the evil little creature to open his eyes, cackle maniacally, say something sophisticated and devilish, anything. Saturday, and the last anyone heard of Timmy's voice was his startled exclamation at Anti-Wanda's words ("Sugarsnack, Anti-Cozzie told us that if he couldn't lead us, you were gonna be our stand-in boss! So boss already!") and then his first command to the anti-fairies.

"Half of you, go out into Dimmsdale a squadron at a time and cause as much bad luck as you can! Gather the energy and bring it to the Ivory Tower! The rest of you, go to the Tower and rest your wings! I want you to trade places with each squadron of antis that return so everyone can get some time to recover from this!"

He hadn't spoken again since then, just stood outside the glass wall of the Ivory Tower's intensive care unit, staring into it as Mint Adnade, a highly skilled healer that worked in the medical ward of the Tower, bustled about the various machines that kept Anti-Cosmo rooted to the living world. The note remained clutched in one hand.

There had been efforts to talk to him, get him to respond to them, but nothing worked. Not even his fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, could reach him. They could have tried harder, but they were also affected by the tragedy in their own strange ways. Wanda floated by her anti-self, offering what she could in comforting words as she gazed worriedly at her godson. Cosmo spent more time in the training room, destroying every drone that waddled out without even looking at it, muttering angrily to himself as he lashed aside with his wand. When he did talk to Timmy, it was in short sentences, often struggling with his words, almost as though some invisible hand was trying to wrench his voice out of his throat.

The other fairies clung close to their godchildren to keep them protected; Andromeda to Tootie and Apollo to Trixie. Chester, A.J., Sanjay, Elmer, Victoria and now Chip Skylark resorted to hoping that they would be overlooked in the mad dash for energy, the negative emotions of humans the only real sustaining force keeping Anti-Cosmo from withering into dust. They had succeeded in their mission to cut the network connections, ready to plan the attack on the next Dark Spire, and then this happened. And Wanda adamantly screaming at everyone to leave the Spires alone; Timmy didn't even bother to address that. The group looked at one another worriedly. What were they supposed to do now? Chip had already been given a basic rundown of what was happening and had jumped at the chance of helping them. The team was growing in members and power, but their team leader, the one who wielded the most magical potential, had sunk into some unreachable cave within his mind.

"This is crazy." Tootie whispered to no one in particular, gazing down at her boots as anti-fairies continued flying back and forth over her, "We scored a major victory, and then... blah. God, we have the worst luck." She winced just as she finished saying that and glared up at an anti that paused and looked down at her hopefully, "Oh, fine. Take it. If it'll help Anti-Cosmo and get Timmy back to normal, do it and get out of here." And in a matter of moments, a black aura flared up around her, all her frustration and anger and sorrows called up by the magic of the anti-fairy and siphoned away by its wand. The anti grinned an evil grin and flew back to the higher levels of the Tower, ready to deliver another life-sustaining boost of negative energy.

"Normally, I would say that that wasn't such a good idea, but given the circumstances..." her fairy godmother, Romi, remarked tiredly. She looked around at the gathering of humans and the only other fairy in the group, then sighed. "So... what now?" she finally asked.

"Dunno." Chester muttered, his face resting on his fists as he looked past the group in boredom, "We really can't do much with all of our power fighters tied up like this. Danny Phantom's gone psycho, Caleb's gone off the deep end trying to fix him and now Timmy's standing up there like a comatose statue 'cause some anti-fairy got the shit beat out of him." He rolled his eyes up and squinted thoughtfully. "We can put together a plan to take out the next Spire, but we won't be able to do it until all this gets worked out." he added.

"Should we try talking to him again?" Trixie asked carefully, flinching at the collective glare shot towards her.

"Nothing gets through that head of his." Victoria griped, her arms thrown back over the sofa and legs crossed in mock relaxation, "I kicked him over earlier. Know what he did? Got back up, dusted himself off, then went right back to watching that blonde bimbo in ICU punch buttons." Her face soured even more. "I wanted to rip his head off, but he probably would've just reached up and pulled it back down on his stubby neck and not even blink."

"The power of music didn't help. It just went over his head." Chip sighed dejectedly, "Never saw the little dude look so..." He paused as he tried to search his brain for the appropriate phrase. "Torn." he decided on, "Like he doesn't know what to do, but he's doing his damnedest to make sure we don't see that in him."

"We've tried all manners of psychological comforts to have our dear friend come out of that shell, but nothing has worked." Sanjay sighed and lifted his hands to shake at the heavens in some religious fervor, "Oh, why have you forsaken the blessings of the blissful Shangri-la from our beloved Heart?" Elmer shot him a glare from his seat on the sofa.

"It's not a real place!" he yelled in irritation, "God, how many times do I have to tell you that?" The Hindu turned and poked at his nose.

"And how many times have I told you to keep that hat on your head?" he retaliated as Tootie stood up with a newly determined expression.

"I'm sick of just sitting here, twiddling my thumbs and not doing anything!" she finally screamed in frustration, waving her fists furiously in the air, "Timmy Turner! Get the hell down here and tell us what's wrong with you!"

"He's not gonna hear you from all the way down here, stupid." Trixie griped, earning a quick glare from Chester. She flipped her hair back and looked worried. "Although, should someone go up there and see if he's gotten any better?"

"We checked five minutes ago. He hasn't moved an inch." A.J. sighed, "And since he's dead, he won't be moving anytime soon."

"He will be now." Tootie growled and marched towards the glass elevator, "I'm getting his mind off of all this so he can relax and recover from this and there's only one way I can think of to do it!" She spun in the lift and thrust a finger into the air as it began to move. "Our date!" As it disappeared into the upper layers, Trixie uttered a sudden sharp curse, making everyone stare at her in surprise.

"Dammit! I forgot he lost that bet!" she grumbled.


He was still there.

Tootie stood at the entrance to ICU, shaking her head slowly and with some amount of sympathy. He really did have attachments to the strangest people. Like any normal kid, Timmy viewed those who did him harm in any way as an enemy, yet he was slowly turning some of those enemies into allies, maybe even friends. Strange, he was giving the anti-fairy leader the same attention he gave to Cosmo and Wanda...

"Timmy?" she finally called out and walked up beside him, gazing into the room beyond the glass wall, "How is he?" Silence stretched on between them as they watched the healer working the various machines and devices.

"This is my fault." Timmy finally said, his voice hollow, dead. Tootie looked up at him in alarm. "He got hurt because of me. Danny got changed because he was busy worrying about me and not himself. Caleb is mad because of me." he went on and bowed his head, "I'm no Hero; I'm a curse. Look what I did. I should never have been brought back to life."

"Don't say that!" the Goth exclaimed hotly, "Never say that! The things that happened to Danny and Caleb and... and... and even Anti-Cosmo... aren't your fault!" She shook her head, glaring up at him fiercely. "They got hurt trying to help you, true, but they chose to do it themselves! You didn't force them to help; you tried to get them uninvolved in things as much as possible!" She waved a hand towards the comatose anti-fairy. "He wanted to find out why you were murdered for his own reasons, right? That's what he said, right? So he got hurt doing his own personal mission; that's no excuse to heap all the blame and guilt on yourself!" The brunet gave her a tired look.

"But it was because of me that he went off and this happened." he insisted in a dull tone. Tootie scowled and punched at his shoulder.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" she yelled, emphasizing each word with a blow, "What happened, happened! Let! It! Go!" She continued punching until she felt a hand grab her wrist tightly, then looked up at Timmy's angry face in mild surprise.

"Stop hitting me." he growled at her, "I don't need your Gothic healing tricks; that doesn't work on me like it does for Danny." Tootie huffed and gave him another punch, this time with her free hand. The blow didn't land; it, too, was snatched out of the air and trapped in the brunet's grip. "I told you to quit hitting me!" Timmy snapped, "What do you want from me? Everyone keeps bugging me; it's getting annoying!"

"You're the one just standing up here and staring while the rest of us are sitting around and waiting for Remy and Crocker to kill magic! That's annoying!" Tootie shot back and yanked her arms free before folding them over her chest, glaring up at him over the rims of her glasses. Timmy glared back for a moment, then sighed and pressed the heel of one hand against one eye, trying to hold back a headache. Another moment more and he pulled his hand away, looking more exhausted than he had ever been before. He held the note in his hand out to Tootie.

"I wasn't just staring, Tootie. I was thinking." the brunet replied murmured, "About this. About all of this." Tootie took the note and opened it, reading through the childishly scrawled words. "Everything is so confusing. Taking down the Spires is helping the fairies and helping the world gain back magic and mana, but Anti-Cosmo found out that it's also going to reveal some kind of truth." he explained, "And apparently that's really bad. Wanda freaked out and said that we had to stop destroying the Spires." He leaned back against the wall behind him and sighed heavily. "I don't know what to do. How can I take down those things without destroying them so I can save the world without revealing whatever secret Anti-Cosmo was worried about?"

"Has it ever occurred to you that he might just be making it up to get you to stop?" Tootie asked thoughtfully, "I mean, with the Spires up, no fairies can come to Earth to stop the anti-fairies and bring them back up to their prison. And anti-fairies are immune to the Spires, so they have free reign." Timmy lifted his head to stare at her. "This is perfect for anti-fairies; maybe Anti-Cosmo knew that and made up this 'secret' to get you to stop wrecking the Spires."

The brunet blinked at her, then looked past her through the glass wall to the room beyond. Mint stood by the human-sized bed, gazing down with the same eternally gentle eyes at the bandaged anti-fairy lying silent under the white sheets. The rhythmic tones of the heart monitor sounded softly within the room, paired visually by the green line peaking at steady intervals on the monitor. In the waiting room, Anti-Wanda sat alone on a chair, hugging a stuffed doll as though it were her last lifeline, her pink eyes wide and shiny with tears. Timmy took all of that in, then slid a frown towards the raven-haired Goth standing before him.

"He can't be lying. Anti-Cosmo would never do anything that would hurt his wife, and Anti-Wanda is crying her heart out over what happened to him. There's no way he set himself up to look hurt just to get me to do what he wants." he finally defended, "I trust him; what happened to him was real. Somebody really did this to him, to keep him from giving me this message." He looked vaguely evasive. "Besides... Wanda and Cosmo know what the secret is, too. Wanda said so..." he mumbled, "They just won't tell me what it is."

"Then why didn't they just kill him?" Tootie asked suspiciously, "If whoever did this really didn't want you to know what would happen if you destroyed all the Spires, wouldn't they just flat out kill Anti-Cosmo? And wouldn't Wanda and Cosmo tell you what the secret is themselves? Why didn't you wish for it?" There was a flicker of doubt that ran across the brunet's face, but it was quickly swept away.

"I don't know." Timmy finally murmured, "I don't know anything anymore. I can't do this by myself. I'm not a leader. Caleb, Danny; one of them would give me pointers, show me where to go, what to do." He slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. "I'm no Hero. I'm just following whoever looks like he knows what he's doing."

"But you plotted out the mission in the sewer without them! You are a leader, Timmy; you just have to have more faith in yourself!" Tootie urged and sighed as she watched him just shrug listlessly. "You need a break. Some time away from all this." she added and put one hand out on his shoulder, hoping she wasn't blushing furiously, "Remember that date Chester said you had to take me out on? Why don't we just go out and spend the day together, like a couple of normal kids?" She waited for an answer as Timmy gazed almost blankly at his shoes. He blinked after a while and sighed.

"Normal. What's normal anymore for me?" he mumbled but stood up, "I can't focus on anything, not even to meditate. Maybe you're right. If I can just pretend to be normal for a while, maybe I can relax enough to get some kind of idea of what to do." He shook himself off, stretched out his limbs and back, then looked aside at the girl in time to see her quickly turn her head, a furious blush coloring her face. "Oookay. What's wrong with you?" he asked, confused.

"Nothing!" Tootie barked and covered her mouth. She pulled her hand away and managed a grin up at him. "So, where to?" she asked more normally.

"Let me tell Cosmo and Wanda where I'm going, then we'll just check out Dimmsdale until we find someplace interesting, I guess." the brunet returned and headed off towards the elevators, "I bet Wanda went to the training room to check on Cosmo, so let's go there."


The two fairies were in the training room, as Timmy suspected, but not for a quick check on one another. The young immortal slid open the door and looked in on them with Tootie at his side, blinking in surprise at the yelling match. Strange; Cosmo and Wanda did have their small spats, usually over something minor that was quickly forgiven and forgotten, but this was different. Timmy wasn't sure how, but it was just a feeling that this wasn't a normal lovers' quarrel. This was one of those arguments that had popped up in Cosmo's arsenal sometime after the first year they were together, back when he was still alive. The kind that tore into Wanda badly and left Timmy wondering if something was seriously wrong with the relationship. It usually took a few hours to recover from one of those fights, and Cosmo was always apologizing like mad when he regained his senses. Those spats had lessened greatly over the time he'd been living beyond death, so what suddenly brought this on again?

"Leave me alone!" Cosmo snapped at Wanda, "All day, it's just nag, nag, nag! What'd I do to you?"

"If you would just calm down and stop screaming at me, you'd know!" Wanda shrieked back, "We can't do this whole 'destruction of the Spires' thing anymore!"

"I don't care about that! I'm doing this for me! Now get out before I smash one of these tin cans on your fat head!"

"Stop calling me fat, you idiot!"

There was a burst of green magic light from Cosmo's wand, aimed directly at his wife. In a flash, her little body expanded to look like she'd been filled with helium. Her tiny wings unable to support the sudden weight gain, she dropped onto the floor in shock.

"Now I don't have call you fat! You can show everyone by yourself!" Cosmo hissed scathingly. Wanda flicked her wrist and her own magic changed her back to normal. She glared furiously at her husband.

"You stupid jerk! Take this!" she yelled and fired a beam of pink back at him. A burst of smoke and her husband was now a monkey, chattering in excited fury as he flapped his arms and clutched his wand in his tail.

"Whoa. They look mad." Tootie murmured inanely, eyes wide with shock and alarm, "Timmy! Do something!" The brunet just stood there, equally as stunned by the blasts of magic being traded between the couple. Finally, he yelled into the room.

"Stop it!" he shouted and both fairies looked at him in surprise as Wanda fired off another beam of magic.

"Oof!" Cosmo grunted as he was thrown back onto the floor, tumbled for a bit, then came to a rest on his stomach, face twisted in an faint expression of pain. Wanda yelped and flew down to him, trying to help him as he got up on all fours and shook his head. He jerked away from her. "Don't touch me." he growled and finally got to his feet. His wings fluttered once before he made a quick about-face and marched away, leaving Wanda floating in shock.

"What's going on? What happened?" Timmy asked worriedly, running up to her, "Why were you guys fighting like that?" Wanda shook her head and sighed tiredly, hair frayed from the stress and excitement.

"It's nothing. Just fairy stuff." she replied, "What do you need, Sport?" The brunet looked unconvinced by the response.

"I'd like to know why Cosmo got so ticked off, but I bet neither of you are gonna tell me anything, huh?" Timmy returned in frustration, "I came to tell you that Tootie and I will be going out to help me clear my head. Maybe you two should also have some time to cool." He stood and folded his arms over his chest. "Cosmo, Wanda! I wish you two had the day off to go do whatever you feel like doing together!" he declared. The two fairies looked up at him in apprehension. "And don't come after me no matter what! I'm already dead, nothing's gonna hurt me anymore."

"If that's what you wish, Sweetie." Wanda sighed, lifting her wand.

"Idiot." Cosmo growled, but waved his own wand in sync with his wife's. The two fairies poofed out of the training room and Timmy turned back to the Goth.

"That should give them some time to cool off and get back into the flow of things." he remarked as the two of them headed back to the elevator, "I always hate seeing them fight, and this one looked like a bad one." He tapped his front teeth worriedly. "I wonder what started the fight in the first place?" he mused aloud, "I should have wished for that first."


Remy paced the balcony of his mansion in a fury. Why did it take so long for that idiot Bender to make the report that someone had been rifling through his records? Why did he take so long to tell him that Tootie might have been involved? Especially when, if Tootie was involved, Timothy Neogene had a glove-covered hand stuck in the pot! He stopped pacing and gripped the rail around the balcony, glaring out at the city. From where he stood, he could see hundreds of anti-fairies zipping back and forth, causing mayhem and misery everywhere they went. It was a miracle none of them came after him. Yet, he was still furious, for somewhere out there was a brunet, blue-eyed immortal plotting to do something that involved the sewers.

Was it possible that he knew about the underground network connections that linked the Spires together?

"Why, why, why is this happening to me? And now of all times?" Remy fumed. He glared at the city again, then spun around and marched towards his computer, fully intent on opening another video conference call to Crocker. Juandissimo looked out the window at the anti-fairies, glancing aside as his godchild made his way to the desktop computer. Part of him wanted to just break down and reveal everything to Remy; surely the boy had the right to know who it was that was making him so miserable that all of the wishes he could grant wasn't even making a dent in it.

"Ah, Crocker, there you are. Have you received that metal shipment? Are you putting it to good use?" Remy began the conference once the retired teacher picked up the call.

"It was a rather substantial amount, and I'm adding it to the latest invention. This device will deal with young Timothy once and for all." Crocker returned with a sour expression, "Speaking of Timothy, he's much more resourceful than I originally credited him with. We've lost access to the servers of Spire Three." Remy stiffened and leaned forward.

"What?" he shrieked, "He's destroyed another Dark Spire? Already?"

"Not physically. He's managed to discover the underground network and severed the connections to Spire Three. The sewers were flooded with massive amounts of mouthwash. By the time the investigation teams were able to assess the damage, nothing could be done to salvage it." the teacher growled, "Those servers are isolated from the network and work on the nullification program has been set back by at least two months without their additional help." Remy stood up and slammed his fists onto the desk in rage.

"How is he getting so much power? He's some dead, orphaned brat! There's no way anyone can be given that much power!" he shrieked and shook in a fury, "I want it! I want that power! I want immortality! I want the power to manipulate the elements! I want the power to command other fairies! I want it all!"

"Yes, yes, that's all you care about, isn't it?" Crocker returned in an unimpressed tone, "Haven't you ever heard of 'You can't have everything you want'?"

"Don't lecture me, old man! Just get to work on re-establishing contact with that Spire and that special invention you promise shall rid me of that annoying immortal for good!" the blonde snapped back and cut the conference short, spinning around and storming back out to the balcony. A group of anti-fairies was already floating there, grinning at him. "Oh, what the bloody hell do you want?" he snapped at them as well.

"Whaddya think? That enough negative energy to revive Anti-Cosmo?" one of the antis asked another. A female eyed the blonde carefully and grinned back.

"If it isn't, it'll sure give him some jollies while he's snoozing away in ICU. Remy's misery is like some super-juiced candy to him!" she remarked and laughed, "This is, like, too dang perfect! The one guy our brainiac leader is dead-set on making pay up for what happened to Pink Hat back there, and he's gonna donate a megaton of energy to boost his power!" The anti-fairies whooped and held their wands out towards Remy.

"What? What are you flying rats talking about? What are you doing?" the young millionaire exclaimed, looking around in shock as a thick black aura surrounded him and was quickly drained away into the black star wands each anti-fairy gripped. Once they were done, they cackled amongst themselves and began to fly off, halted only by Juandissimo floating before them and aiming his own wand at the group.

"What did you banditos do to my little godchild?" he demanded of them. One of the antis flew forward and grinned, folding his arms over his chest as he floated there cockily.

"Heh, nothing in comparison to what Anti-Cosmo would have done. All we did was just suck up some energy to run on. Nothing against either one of the copies of Da Rules, eh, fairy?" he returned haughtily.

"No bad luck?" Juandissimo asked suspiciously.

"Oh, no way, Mr. Turn-Tricks!" the female anti-fairy laughed cruelly, "We're savin' that little luxury for our boss and our current stand-in boss!" She waved her arms about joyfully, "They're gonna make your kid so freakin' miserable, Anti-Cosmo's sure to be right as rain in no time! Then, we're gonna make all you fairies pay for what happened fourteen years ago!" With that, the group laughed and anti-poofed away in shades of blue and black smoke. Juandissimo flew down to Remy, puzzled as the blonde looked around for any other antis that might have decided to drop on them as well.

"Fourteen years ago? I recall nothing special about fourteen years ago involving the anti-fairies." the fairy mused aloud.

"Stand-in boss? Juandissimo, this Anti-Cosmo fellow is leader of the anti-fairies, correct? Who would he entrust to fill in for him at any time?" Remy asked in confusion. His godfather shrugged, lost. The blonde rubbed his head, baffled by the antis' speech. "I don't understand what's going on. When did my attempts to take over the world become so complicated? It used to be so simple and work flawlessly, this plan to perfect the Spires for global use." he wondered aloud, "Everything was going so well; when did Fate decide to turn against me?"

"You can change Fate, but you cannot sway Destiny from her path." Juandissimo murmured, gazing out at the city, "And one who was destined for this city can continue after Fate destroys them." He blinked as he noticed his godchild stare up at him, then rubbed his own head with a sheepish laugh. "Ah, don't mind my idle musings, amigo! They mean nothing!" Remy frowned, but said nothing else, just turned and went back into his room to finish his fuming and raging.


Master Control Spire~

Crocker huffed in irritation once the video call ended. As much as he found the new Timmy to be entertaining and worthy as an adversary, this last attack left him in a black mood. Since when did a child have the understanding to do such... professional... damage to an enemy stronghold? This made things far too easy for him; there would be little to force the child to train harder, work harder, become stronger in his magic. And if he continued at that rate, there wouldn't be much pleasure in draining him of it all to resurrect Timmy Turner.

Especially if he wired the device with its 'aionis' components to redirect that power to the reborn Heart. If he couldn't get enough power to him, there would be little to no chance of Turner overthrowing that blonde brat out there in his safe little mansion.

Crocker looked back at the chamber he was building, lifting an eyebrow at the sight of the gleaming metal that shimmered in their places on the construct. Aionis; that was the term stamped on each crate of metal that had suddenly appeared in his storage rooms. So the magical metal had a name of its own. Handy, but it told him nothing of its properties. He tested it, hooked up a sample to a device holding the strange violet crystal and flipped the switch. To his delight, the sparks from the gem touched onto the metal, flowed down the metal in a shimmering wave and surrounded a dead battery. A test of the battery confirmed that it had been re-energized by the contact with metal and gem. The aionis had the ability to channel energy from one source to another, perfect for use in his magic draining chamber.

"Grow stronger, New Timmy; I want all the power you can muster to be given to the Heart of Dimmsdale." he whispered, looking down at the image of the pink-hatted boy he held in his hands, "The Heart that will revive this city and spare it from oblivion. Am I the only one who knows the truth; the truth of who you are to this city, Turner? Am I the only one who understands that your death condemned us all to follow you to the next world? Where you go, Dimmsdale has no choice but to follow. But if I bring you back to this world, stronger, greater, and more powerful than anyone could dream, Dimmsdale will thrive and grow on your power." He smiled and gazed heavenward. "Turner, when you return, everything you ever desired will be given to you in a heartbeat, now that the city understands it is nothing without you."


Streets of Dimmsdale~

"Not too far. Closer. No, more like..." Timmy muttered, stepping one way, then another, eyeing the space before him critically. He paused, reached one hand out tentatively, flinched, and passed his fingertips across the street before the toe of his shoe, turning a strip of asphalt to a pink color. "Right there. That's it."

Tootie rolled her eyes but came forward to peer down at the strip of pink. She looked up at the brunet and lifted an eyebrow at him.

"This is where the boundary is? The space between a magic zone and an anti-magic zone?" she asked. The brunet nodded, arms folded over his chest as he looked out at the city. "And stepping across this would...?"

"Make me wanna hurl, curl up and die again." Timmy returned, "But not for about ten minutes. It takes a while for the effects to really build up, but the time limit for me being able to function at all in an anti-magic zone has begun to shrink." He looked up at the Spires in the distance. "I guess that's proof that the Spires are improving the nullification field more and more. If this keeps up, I won't even be able to step beyond the boundary without getting the magic ripped outta me."

"Ew." Tootie muttered and pointed elsewhere, "Well, how about we go to that shop over there? It's not near the boundary and they've got some wicked cool new charms I've been wanting to check out." The brunet blinked at her, followed her arm and tilted his head.

"A Goth shop? Man, you really are taking after Sam." he remarked and headed for the store with her. Tootie smiled and shook her head.

"I've been like this since you... um, left." she corrected, "So I already had a thing for these kinds of places." She rubbed her arms and looked faintly somber. "I couldn't stand the sight of pink anymore; it all reminded me of you. Anytime I saw pink, I just broke down and cried. So I made myself hate it, threw out everything in my room that had it... except for that action figure you gave me." Timmy blinked at her, then lit up in understanding.

"Oh, that Crimson Chin figure?" he asked and she nodded.

"The one that had so many 'I hate Vicky' phrases and just couldn't break no matter what she did to it. I never could get how it was able to do that, but now I think I do." the Goth murmured and a smile tugged at her mouth, "You wished for it to be like that for me, didn't you?" She smiled wider as his blush answered the question. "What was it that you said when you gave it to me? It was going to be our secret of love, right? The kind of thing a boy would say to a girl to distract her with happy fantasies while he made his escape..."

"Actually, I wanted you to have it on the condition that you didn't follow me home ever again but... I guess..." the brunet muttered and the blush got deeper as he shot a quick glance at her before returning his gaze to the street, "Did I... really say that?" Tootie nodded.

"But, like I said, you probably didn't mean it." she sighed as they entered the shop, "After all, I wasn't anywhere near as pretty as Trixie back then, right?" The boy beside her jerked his head up and stared at her in shock.

"No!" he exclaimed and flinched as the other shoppers turned annoyed glares at him, "Th-that's not it... I mean..." Timmy rubbed his head, puzzled as he continued tripping over his own words. He sighed and shook his head. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, so I gave it to you to make you happy. I just said that other stuff so you wouldn't know that... that's why I did it." he finally mumbled, "You shouldn't beat yourself down because of me. I'm not... really... all that worth it..." Tootie picked out a silver charm and held it up before her, studying the twisted figures of dragons in some strange design.

"And you shouldn't do the same. You did it to make me happy, even if you yourself weren't happy or liked the idea of it. If that doesn't prove you deserve the title of Heart of Dimmsdale, then why are you still doing it?" she asked and turned around, placing the charm just below the brunet's neck, "Hmm, no, this doesn't match." She put it back and began picking among the rest of the charms. "So, tell me how New York is; was it fun to live there?"

"Huh?"

"I said we were going to go out like normal kids. So be normal. What's New York like? I've never been there." Tootie went on and picked out another charm, holding it in place of the first, "Nope, still not right."

"To be honest, I haven't really seen as much of New York as I would have liked. Most of my time was spent in the Archive building or hanging out with Daniel and Phantom in Rockefeller Center." Timmy returned and winced at the strange look Tootie gave him, "Well, you know how Caleb builds clones of ancient and modern Heroes and stuff? Well, Daniel and Phantom are both robot copies. One is a replica of my cousin, Danny Fenton. The other is a copy of Danny Phantom."

"Why would he copy both of them?" Tootie asked curiously, holding out another charm.

"My cousin is a big help to Danny Phantom, so Caleb counts them both as Heroes. There are two sets of them in New York, the original pair and the current set. The newer Phantom is what's taking Danny Phantom's place in Amity Park until Caleb changes him back." the brunet answered and looked glum again, "It's been so long. Will he ever go back to the way he was?" He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I just have to keep believing that he will; it's just a mana overwrite. If anyone can fix mana, Caleb can. I just have to keep putting it in my head, the image of the Danny Phantom I know overwriting this messed-up version."

"So you lived in the Archive the whole time. What did you do for fun?" Tootie quickly changed the subject, testing two more charms against the dark blue of Timmy's shirt.

"Besides making wishes to keep my mind off the fact that my heartbeat could just up and stop at any random time and I wouldn't even know it unless someone said so? Not much." Timmy laughed dryly and shut one eye in thought, "Although, Danny would take me on trips through the Ghost Zone to visit a few friends here and there. It took a lot of work to get on the Ghost Writer's good side again, but that guy has some of the coolest stories ever if you just make the effort to sit and listen to him. And sometimes other Heroes come to visit Caleb and I get to hang out with them when they have some extra downtime. That's always fun, especially if you know how to annoy a Hero." He tilted his head as Tootie tried several more charms. "What exactly are you doing? You've been putting those things on me for quite a while now."

"I wanna see which ones look good on you. You dress like a Goth, may as well go all the way, right?" she replied with a grin.

"I am not a Goth, okay? I just dress like this so no one gets the idea of who I am." Timmy sighed, "Can't you get that?" Tootie shrugged and wandered off towards the book section. He followed her and sighed again. Much as he didn't want to admit it to himself, the 'date' was working. He could feel himself relaxing some, the stress and anxiety of all that happened slowly melting away for later thoughts.

She picked through various books, remarking idly on which authors she liked, which subjects she found most fascinating, asking if some of the 'magic spells' written about in others actually worked or not. Timmy couldn't help but laugh at a few.

"Okay, that one does work, but don't tell anyone else. Caleb gets ticked off by people suddenly running down animals just to get ingredients for a stupid spell that doesn't really do much." he whispered, "And that one over there doesn't work at all. It's just mumbo-jumbo. That one comes close, but it's using the wrong channel."

"What about wicca?" Tootie asked, holding up another book.

"That one? You'd have to ask Caleb, but he doesn't talk much about it. The furthest you'd probably get is a face." he returned and grimaced, sticking his tongue out. "Like that." he finished, "If the magic isn't mana-based, he usually turns his nose up at it. Kinda snooty, if you ask me." Tootie laughed and he grinned, making several more faces for her until she couldn't hold back a snort.

"Oh, God, now look what you did!" she blurted out with a reddened face and turned her back on him, still snickering behind her hands. She finally calmed, then looked back at him slyly. "How about... angels? Do those exist?"

"Depends on what kind of angels you're asking about. Caleb's an angel, a mechanical one, but still an angel." Timmy returned, picking up a book and flipping through it, "Derris-Kharlan has a few angels, but they're just half-elves wearing some weird rock that makes them out like angels."

Tootie drifted from the books to the clothing section, humming to herself as she ran her hands along the assorted black and darkly colored fabrics that surrounded her. She picked one outfit out and held it over herself, spinning around as the young immortal set down the book and caught up to her. With a smile, she tilted her head almost coyly.

"What do you think?" she asked, mentally surprised at the idea of her flirting like this with him, "Is it me?" He blushed again and rubbed the back of his head.

"Um... it... it looks like... it would show... a lot..." he stammered bashfully and swallowed hard, "It looks nice." He paused and suddenly gave her a suspicious glare. "What are you doing to me?" he demanded softly. Tootie blinked at him, surprised.

"What do you mean?" she asked and he waved a hand at the clothing racks, then at her.

"This. All of this. I can't focus here." he replied with a faintly annoyed tone, "I try to think and it all goes scrambled." He glared at her again. "You must be doing something." Tootie huffed indignantly and scowled back at him over her glasses.

"You have some serious trust issues, Timothy Neogene, if you think I have to do something to you for any stupid reason." she growled and turned her back on him again, shoving the outfit back among the racks. "If you don't want to be here with me, just leave. Nobody's stopping you. Nobody has the power to." she added and glared at him over her shoulder, "Just answer me this. Would you be this pissy if it was Trixie making you feel unfocused?"

"Yes." Timmy returned flatly. The Goth looked startled by the admission, turning around to take him in and blink in shock. "Yes, I would be just as mad if Trixie was doing it." he repeated for her sake, "I don't like anyone doing this to me. Keeping a clear head, for me, is all that stands between my freedom to at least live like I want to and being trapped in some lab somewhere with scientists doing whatever they want to me." He headed for the back wall and leaned against it, watching her impassively. "I'm dead, Tootie, remember? And as such, I should be buried, decomposing, my soul wandering the land of the dead for all eternity or something. But I'm not. I'm walking the earth, untouchable by Death, able to withstand anything that could be fatal to your average human being." he whispered darkly, "Any slip of my guard and I'll disappear into the clutches of people who would do anything to make my power theirs, for the sake of greed, their own selfish desires. So whatever it is you're doing to me, please stop it. I don't plan on staying in Dimmsdale all that long anyway."

"Where are you going?" Tootie asked in a soft, horrified voice, eyes wide with alarm. Timmy looked aside for a moment, then lifted his gaze to hers.

"I told you I've been thinking while I was in ICU. I thought about everyone and everything, about all the stuff that's happened because of me." he murmured, "I decided that, after I've finished destroying the Spires and restored magic to Dimmsdale and Danny gets better, I'm going to ask him to reopen The Veil Between Life And Death. I want to find Death and ask him to take me back." He gave a small shrug. "It will set Cosmo and Wanda free, it will let Caleb and Danny continue their lives without worrying over some inexperienced kid revealing their secrets, and it will restore order to Nature. Besides, I was murdered, right? Someone wanted me dead, and for the sake of ensuring someone is happy, I will stay dead." he added and managed a small smile, "Besides, I'm kinda tired of all this. Of knowing that, because I'm still here, people are getting hurt. If I die, for good this time, then their pain will end." Tootie scowled and grabbed his hand, yanking him along as she stormed out the shop.

Grumbling and growling under her breath, she dragged the startled teen down the street towards a bus stop. Once there, she waited for a bus to arrive, then dragged him onto it, still growling to herself as it took them all the way to Dimmsdale Cemetery. Pulling Timmy off, she marched into the area and made a beeline for the boy's grave. Stopping only a few yards from the tombstone, she halted and pointed at it.

"Take a good long look at it, Timmy, and tell me again that you dying will stop their pain." she snapped at the brunet. Timmy blinked in astonishment, watching the gathering of adults and children standing around his grave with assorted flowers and toys in their arms. He'd seen visitors to the site before, but not in such large groups. The people ignored the anti-fairies that passed over them, pulling up black auras that constantly reformed around them and only rushing away when the visitors settled their offerings onto the grave.

One child reached out and passed a hand over the dates on the tombstone, then looked up at his mother and pointed at himself. The woman nodded and the boy hung his head, sobbing as she knelt to comfort him. Timmy looked to Tootie for an explanation and she gave him a deadpan expression.

"It's hard to have little kids learn that they can die at such a young age. You have no idea how much that changes them; they lose half their dreams that way. The eyes of those who honestly believe that the Heart of Dimmsdale is gone forever are just as dead as the body in that coffin." she told him flatly, "Your bringing down the Spires is slowly restoring the life to this city, and to its people, but if you leave and die once they're gone, who can say that Dimmsdale will stay saved?" Timmy looked back at the mourners, confused. "A Hero who saves the world only once isn't much of a Hero. Nothing lasts forever, not even peace. If you stop Remy and Crocker, then go away, who will stop them from doing this all over again? Team Turner? We're only making a dent in them because you're the one leading us. Your power is all that is keeping us together, because we believe in you. Our faith in you is what gives us power." She pulled her dagger free and walked forward, then abruptly turned around and pointed it directly at him as his eyes went wide at her actions.

"But then you don't care, do you?" Tootie went on harshly, "You just want it your way. That makes you worse than Remy. What good is all the training you're doing, when you're just gonna throw it away in the end?" She tossed her head back at the group of people. "They are just as dead as you, without their hopes and dreams. They only live because of you, because they don't want to forget you. They tell stories of the little boy that brought them happiness because he tried so hard to just live life the way he wished to live, to survive the harshness of life with the love of those who cared about him. They looked up to him in secret, wanted to be just like him so they can survive reality themselves.

"Are you going to be so selfish as to destroy that by giving up your new life like this? Because if you do, I'll be damned if I end up like them. I'm going to fight on with or without you, you stupid buck-toothed bastard."

The brunet stared at her, taken aback by her words. This wasn't like the Tootie he remembered, who stalked him for reasons he hadn't cared to know at the time. This was someone who seemed to have moved on past him, decided that waiting for him, depending on him for validation, was pointless. This was someone who would stand by herself, regardless of whether or not he was there. She didn't need him; she only kept him close to be sure he was there for others, the others who did need him to be there.

This Tootie had her own power.

"So what's it gonna be, Timmy?" she hissed, "You gonna run away again like some sissy little punk, or are you gonna stand and fight like me? Fight for as long as it takes to keep Dimmsdale from crumbling to pieces? Fight until the last breath in our bodies is ripped away by something that has to prove it was stronger than all the magic we possess?" She ignored the sudden blush that was creeping along the brunet's face as he shrank back from her. "I want an answer. I haven't got all day and if you make me wait, so help me, I will throw a blast of Holy Lance on your stupid ass!"

"All right! Fine! I'll stay! Just stop threatening me!" Timmy yelled back in exasperation and rubbed at his face, "Geez, when the heck did you get all tough like that?"

"When I decided I could do better things with my time than try to throw myself at you like Miss Popular does." Tootie returned irritably, sheathing the dagger and walking towards a nearby tree to take a break on the bench sitting in its shade. She lifted an eyebrow as he hurried to sit beside her and stared down at his boots, the blush still there on his face.

"I... I don't think I've ever seen you like that before." he murmured, "It was... kinda cool." Tootie blinked at him uncertainly, then looked distant as some tiny feeling flickered within her, a sensation of... victory? Why would she be feeling that way over what he said?

"Well, if you would just think about what you say and do, I wouldn't have to be turning into a little Goth bitch to get you on track again." she stammered back, trying to sort out her emotions and failing at it, "I mean, everyone keeps saying that they've begun believing in their dreams and stuff since they started hanging around you, and that was way before they learned you were really Timmy Turner and not just some guy named Timothy Neogene." She fidgeted on her seat, digging the edge of her boot into the grass. "I just want them to keep believing in themselves, so I'm going to make sure that you understand that you're doing lots of good being alive and with us, than just by shooting a fireball or something at a Dark Spire." She paused and glanced at him. "Were you really gonna do that? Go and find Death on your own?" she asked in a whisper. He nodded slowly, a sudden melancholy expression on his face. "Timmy?" she murmured and waited until he looked at her in mild wonder, "What is it like? To die?"

He stared at her in surprise, then seemed to retreat into himself, hunching up his shoulders and gazing down at his hands in an effort to focus on something else. Was it something really bad? Maybe she shouldn't have asked about it. Tootie opened her mouth to tell him to forget it, but he sighed and lifted his head, gazing skyward as he leaned back against the bench.

"It started off cold. Everything was cold and dark, like you were frozen and there's no chance of ever getting warm again, and so dark, it's worse than a black hole. Then when light does show up, it's... well, it's beautiful." Timmy began softly and closed his eyes at the memory, a faint expression of longing crossing his face, "Like you're surrounded by vast walls of white and gold, but they're not solid. Mist. It's like mist, and it's all around you and its shining and shimmering. It's bright, but at the same time, it's not. It's beautiful and peaceful and you want to stay there forever. There were so many other souls there, some I recognized, but they all looked so happy and I think I was happy there, too." The blissful expression faded to a frown.

"But then I was being carried away by someone, just scooped up and carted off. I didn't know who it was, but then I looked up and saw into the black hood the guy was wearing and all I saw was a skull." He opened his eyes and the frown deepened. Timmy glanced over at the Goth beside him to be sure she heard clearly what he was going to say next. "That's about when I realized a couple of things. First, I got the idea that this was Death carrying me away from all my friends and family. The next thing I realized was that I didn't care." he whispered.

Tootie gasped softly and leaned closer to him, a horrified expression on her face. He held her gaze for a moment, then looked away and nodded slowly.

"All my emotions had just seemed to be stripped away somehow and here was Death collecting me to take me somewhere else. I knew I should have been scared out of my mind, I knew I should have been feeling something, but there was nothing. All I knew was that wherever Death was taking me, it was away from that beautiful place and I couldn't tell if I missed it or not." he went on and closed his eyes, "We walked away for what seemed like just a short while. That's when I saw Danny."

"Your cousin?"

"No, Danny Phantom. He showed up in that shining place and I thought that maybe he had been killed, too, and he was going to join me on whatever journey I was being carried along on. Part of me knew that the idea of it should hurt because he had things he had to do back in the living world, but I didn't feel anything about it. I didn't even care that he was there because, without my emotions, he was just another wandering soul to me." Timmy murmured, feeling tears start to trickle down his face, "He started teasing Death, firing the Ghost Ray at him to get him to drop me and some of the shots got kinda close to me. I thought that would make me mad, I knew it should, but again, nothing. I had stopped caring about everything. I didn't even care enough to cry over the fact that I stopped caring. It was all gone from me." He paused, then took a deep breath before continuing.

"Danny finally got Death distracted enough to pull me out of his arms and flew off as fast as he could back to wherever he came from. I should have been happy, I should have been excited, because part of me knew that Danny was saving me, but all I did was just sit there in his arms, not caring. We passed over the mist and the light again and I felt that peacefulness again, like I could just rest there and relax. I think Danny might have felt it, too, 'cause he kinda slowed down, but then he sped back up and we left the mist and I stopped caring again. Then there was this bright light from a hole or something in the air and I could see through it, but I didn't see much because we passed through the hole really fast, and there was this sudden rush of air and heat and I felt like something was forcing me into a tiny cramped space and all I wanted to do was scream." The brunet managed a slight grin, reflecting on that bit of memory. "So I did. I screamed as loud as I could, as long as I could, just this awful painful screaming. And everyone was around me, crying or looking worried or tired, and I just kept screaming. I don't know how they could have stood that. I would have have told myself to shut up already if I was them. Because, you see, the reason why I screamed was because I got my emotions back and it all came down on me like some big weight. The pain of it all was too much, so I screamed." He opened his eyes, laughed shortly, then smiled over at Tootie.

"I found out what that place was when I finally got over myself. Danny Phantom told me. It was The Veil. All that time I had been wandering in The Veil Between Life And Death, just all caught up in how beautiful it was and losing all my memories and emotions to it. He said it was a first stop for all those who passed on, a place to strip away the bad stuff from you once you died, and your emotions, too, so you didn't get all freaked out over moving on. There might have been more to it, but he didn't want to talk about it anymore." Timmy murmured and sighed, resting back against the bench as he closed his eyes once more. "And that's what it was like to die. And get brought back to life, but you didn't really ask about that. I kinda got carried away. Sorry." he added with a half-grin.

"No, I'm sorry for asking. I didn't know how bad it was for you." Tootie murmured, looking down at the grass shamefully. She blinked as she felt his arms wrap around her in a fierce hug.

"Nah. It's okay. I kinda feel better now, talking about it and not just holding it in. Danny didn't ask me, 'cause he already knows kind of how it feels to die, but his 'death' is different. And Caleb doesn't get the idea of it because his memories of not existing are a little scrambled." Timmy returned softly, "And it wasn't bad, not all of it. I just couldn't care enough about anything else to bother fighting for myself. But now that you've told me about everyone needing me here to keep fighting for their own lives, I'll have to make sure I keep caring." He pulled away and smiled at her. "Thanks, Tootie. This date wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Let's go back to the Tower and start figuring out our next step." The two stood up, grinned at each other, then linked arms and walked off, ready to face the next Spire as the anti-fairies overhead soared on to find new sources of negative energy.