"What on earth is going on here?"
Just outside of city hall, stood an entire crowd of citizens both big and small. What it was they had gathered to see was a mystery, and Raven almost passed it up all together until she spotted Jack standing in the middle of the fray. That invoked enough curiosity to at least check it out.
Making her way to the middle of the scene Raven spotted Jack standing hunched over Sally who seemed to be sitting in a chair facing the other direction. She held something in her arms, but what it was became blocked by anxious on lookers. It even appeared, that for the first time in the history of her existence, not one of the town's folk attempted to take a verbal jab at her as she passed. No. They were much too entranced by whatever it was Sally was holding.
"Hey dad, what's up?" She was quick to get Jack's attention and was surprised by the look of total confusion upon his face. "Hello? Dad?"
Shaking his face back into its normal state Jack smacked his palm to his head before smiling. "Sorry Raven, I guess I lost myself."
If she hadn't known any better, she would have guessed that he had forgotten who she was for a moment. That was worrisome. "I'm back from Holiday Town."
Again his expression sank into confusion. "Oh! Right, that town through the door with all the small holidays."
"Yeah…" This was getting tiresome. "So what's going on?"
Now Jack seemed to know something. "It's absolutely amazing." Taking her by the hand he led Raven around to face Sally directly, and what met them was both shocking and unnerving. "Dr. Finklestein surprised us this morning. He put so much work into her, isn't she wonderful?"
Looking up at her Raven found a baby girl swaddled in a white cloth. Her construction was similar to Sally's and yet her face resembled that of Jack. This was a new baby…a baby sister no less, and from the look of it both Sally and Jack were in love. 'I don't know why…but this does not bode well for me…'
For the next few minutes both Jack and Sally went on and on about the happiness the two of them were now feeling. They were ecstatic and quite frankly they seemed to have very big plans for their new child. She would have said something if the two hadn't become once again enthralled in what they were doing.
"Raven. Might I have a word with you?" Addressing her was none other than Dr. Finklestein. He wore an odd grin upon his face that would make anyone uncomfortable. Another sign of bad things to come.
Watching him extend a hand she accepted and followed him out. On the way they passed Zalen who looked somewhat concerned as to what was happening but turned away before he could show any real concern.
Upon reaching the outskirts of town Finklestein stopped and turned to face Raven with a serious look upon his face. "My dear, there is no nice way to say this…but I believe you have served your purpose. It's about time you went home."
Giving him a confused look she closed her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
Releasing a sigh he gestured to walk beside him further away from Halloween Town. "What I am saying is simple. Your arrival in this world all those years ago was most likely an accident. My Sally found you and Jack, loving her as he did, allowed you to stay against his better judgment. Now theses have been a trying 18 years, however they have proved their worth in helping prepare both Jack and Sally for their TRUE family."
Stepping out into the Doctors path Raven cut him off. "What the hell do you mean "REAL family"?" She shook with rage at what he seemed to be implying. "You think I was just some sort of trial run?!"
"That is precisely what you were!" He hissed. "No one in this place will ever accept a mortal, you should know that by now. Jack and Sally are no different." Calming himself he turned back to face the distant town. "Look…"
"Look what?" Raven sounded more than a little angry.
"Thick…look to the town." Waiting for her to follow his example the doctor cleared his throat. "What do you see? Is there anything living? Breathing? No. This Raven, is a land of the dead. Frozen in time and in need of new residents, residents who belong, citizens unlike yourself." Turning back to face her he gave an evil grin. "Unless you'd like to try to belong. Would you like that?"
Backing away Raven was suddenly afraid of the Doctor. He was suggesting the impossible, and she knew he knew that. "That's impossible. You know it's impossible."
"We'll never know unless we try. Will we my dear?" Slowly approaching her, he laughed. "However, I don't enjoy failure." Shaking his head the doctor sighed. "That day…the day you arrived. Jack wanted to send you back to the real world as soon as possible. It took that wretched Sandy Claws to convince him to keep you. For almost 3 years Jack refused to spend time with you. Finally he gave in when Mr. Claws scolded him and threatened to never allow him the ability to visit the Christmas realm again. Jack was so addicted to his yearly visits to the other holiday realms, he caved and became the Jack you know today."
This was news to Raven, and for once she shut up and listened. She could remember his distance from all those years ago, but was never able to piece it all together. "It's true…you're not lying to me."
"I would never lie about such an important matter." He reassured her. "If you care about this world or this town…if you care about Jack and Sally, you will turn and leave now. I don't care where you go, but you can't stay here."
"Then she can come with me." Zalen stood as still as a statue, and it took a moment for either Raven or the Doctor to spot him in the midst of the several tomb stones surrounding them. "Jack did put me in charge of making sure she stays out of trouble in the other worlds after all."
Thinking it over for almost an entire second the doctor agreed. "Now remember what I said girl. It would be best if you never came back."
Walking forward Zalen took Raven firmly by the hand and began to lead her away. What was worse…he seemed to be leading her to Christmas town.
"Hey! Wait a minute-" She sounded distraught as he dragged her into the woods. "You can't do this!" she tried to force her hand out of his but found it useless. "No! Not that. Take me ANYWHERE but Christmas Town! Take me to Holiday Town, please just take me there!"
"No. I will not take you to Holiday Town." He stated coolly. "It's not safe for you there…"
"Not safe? So it's true! You have been lying to everyone…" Reaching over and grabbing a tree limb she forcibly stopped him in his tracks. "We aren't going anywhere until you tell me what you're hiding!"
Finally it seemed he had had enough of her, and pushing her up against a tree he held her there. "You want to know? Well that's too bad, because I didn't put so much time into protecting you just to blow it all now!" He was in her face now, only inches away from her. "Please don't ask any more questions. I've been doing my best to keep you away from that place. You can't imagine how valuable you are n the event's that are about to take place."
"What do you mean valuable?" He had gotten her attention and all questions she had only burned into her mind even more so than they had before. "Why do I matter? Why do you care about it?"
Looking her in the eye Zalen looked legitimately anxious. "Please no more questions."
"But I-" Raven found her protest interrupted when Zalen pressed his lips firmly against her own. The feeling of electricity…that feeling she would always get when his skin touched hers…it was almost unbearable, but at the same time she found it oddly pleasing and intoxicating.
After a moment he released her and looked away. "I'm sorry I forced that on you…it's just…nothing."
"It didn't look like nothing." The strange voice of a man echoed through the trees just to the left of both Raven and Zalen. "Good job my boy." Stepping out from behind a large tree came a tall man in a tan, button down suit and hat. His hair was green and his eyes a deep black. His cuffing appeared to be two dice and it he looked the gambling type.
"O-Oogie." Stepping out in front of Raven, Zalen looked almost shaken. "What are you doing here? It's not time yet."
"Time…?" Raven looked upon the man in confusion. "Ok. What the HELL is going on here?"
Lazily strolling up to the two the man took off his hat and bowed in greetings. "Well hello there."
The man before her looked oddly human and dressed as such as well. "Um…hi." She was still slightly stunned by the kiss she had just received. 'Why…would he do that?'
"Oogie, what are you doing?" Zalen now backed into Raven forcing her to be pinned between both him and the tree. "T-this wasn't in the plan."
"Oh? Neither was you betraying me by bringing the girl here." Replacing the hat on his head the man continued to stroll forward. "You thought you would be able to sneak away with her?! Under my watch? ARE YOU MAD?" Reaching forward he grasped one of Zalen's shoulders and squeezed.
Zalen's teeth clenched together in pain as the bones in his shoulder began to crack for all around to hear. "Raven you have to go…" Forcing himself forward he tackled Oogie to the ground. "GO!"
Shaking her head Raven was confused. "Zalen, what's going on?!" Stepping forward she found her eyes meeting Oogie's. They were dark and lifeless as they looked upon her and for some unexplained reason they seemed to trap her in place with fear. 'What's wrong with me? I-I should be able to run…"Another group of hands nabbed her from behind and forced her to the ground. They were small hands, but they showed such force it was as if they could snap her arm's clean off.
Looking back Raven saw two now very familiar faces. "Yomi…? Raksha…?" Without another word she was knocked to the ground unconscious by none other than Oogie.
Over his shoulder he carried Zalen whom was also down for the count. "I will take care of this one. He's got some of that love bug nonsense trapped in that wandering mind of his. Nothing a little time and some magic can't cure."
Taking one hand each both Raksha and Yomi proceeded to drag Raven away into the darkness. Soon no one remained at the scene…no one but a couple of extremely stealthy Halloween Town Citizen's by the names of Medea and Simon.