A breeze as cold as winter's first wind could not have compared to the chilling, heart stopping one that welled through the leaves of the forest, making everything, including the plants, seem restless.
Soft footsteps padded delicately but swiftly against the dirt of the forest floor. Light panting emitted from the small form; a young brunette haired boy in a white hooded cloak. Terror shown in his blue eyes through the darkness of the forest as he continued to run from the roaring beast of a mass, following closely behind him.
He dared not turn to see what it was, as he knew all too well what was pursuing him. He could feel its cold presence on his back, its black tentacles slithering ever closer.
So close, in fact, that they tripped him.
Squeaking in distress, the boy tumbled forward through bushes and over broken branches, earning himself a few small minor cuts on his face and arms. "Eh...!" he shrieked as he tried to stop himself, only to land on his back to face those same, unblinking green and red eyes, staring him down into the darkness of unconsciousness...
Cold...dark...loneliness...

"Do you think he's alright?" a voice uttered softly that seemed off in the distance of his mind. The boy slowly began to come to, opening his eyes slowly to see three figures before him, all blurs of color and voices muffled. He could tell he was being held up slightly, but his face and body tingled numbly and his ears were ringing slightly. He couldn't tell if he was dreaming or not.

Slowly but surely, his vision and hearing came back. He couldn't remember what he had been doing to get to the current state he was in now. Maybe he had hit his head and fallen unconscious? Soft chirping of morning birds echoed through the forest which he noticed around him as the figures above him also came into clearer view.

One of them was a white haired young teen, crouching next to him on his left, staring at him with worried, emerald eyes. To his right, he couldn't quite tell what it was, but it reminded him of an enlarged cleaning sponge he used to see the kitchen workers use on dishes, but with a face and limbs, and a crown-like garment upon his square head with equally as worried, if not more worried, crystal blue eyes. Above him, apparently holding him up a bit, was a boy about his age, give or take a year of difference, with interesting shaped auburn hair and soft, sapphire blue eyes that stared down at him, silently asking him if he was alright.

"You ok there, friend?"

Blinking his eyes more to adjust to the morning light, the boy glanced at the three around him curiously. Sitting up slowly and being allowed help by the one holding him, he stared at the group in slight bewilderment. "Wh-who...?" he groggily mumbled with a tired voice.

"It's ok...we're not here to hurt you..." the one still holding him said quietly, "...what's your name?" Still staring at them, the boy gulped softly before speaking up again, replying, "...T-Timmy...m-my name is Timmy." The three smiled, with the white haired teen being the first to speak, who introduced themselves to the youngest, "I'm Danny...this is Jimmy...and this is SpongeBob...how'd you get all the way out here, Timmy? Do you live in the village nearby?"

The brunette sighed softly and shook his head lightly, "N-no...actually I'm...not too sure where I am right now...you might say I've been...traveling an awful lot lately."
The three stared down at the youngest for a long moment, noticing that he had averted his gaze, looking rather lost in thought. They exchanged glances with each other, nearly telepathically saying the same thing to each other, having their suspicions about this boy, but would wait and see for sure before actually telling him anything.

"Well...why don't you stay with us at the inn for a while, Timmy? Our treat," Jimmy offered with a smile.

Feeling a bit more at ease than his previously confused state, Timmy felt he could actually trust these people for once. Mostly any place he went had people he couldn't trust, who were all usually crazy or calling him crazy.

Just like back home...

But for some reason, these three had some sort of aura about them that made him feel...safe...even though they had just met.

After helping the small boy up, the four made their way back to town to the inn where they gathered for breakfast, the others mostly asking the youngest about himself and where he was from and how he got here. "...I ran away from home...s-sort of..." the brunette responded, "there was...so much happening, I..."

Pausing for a moment, the boy sighed, the slight anger on his face was hidden as he pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head.

On the street outside the inn as the three ate breakfast, a rather fancy stagecoach pulled up, the driver stepping down from the driver's seat to open the door for a rather uptight looking boy. Stepping out of the coach along with a few of his attendants, he looked around the village with interrest. From inside the inn, the four had taken notice to the rich boy's arrival.

With nearly half a pastry in his mouth, Danny asked with a raised eyebrow, "...Who's that?" Jimmy frowned, a questioning look upon his face as he stared outside as well. "Not sure...but it might be Eustace Strytch...I heard he's this village's richest kid of the richest family. They live up the hill quite a ways in a mansion, apparently." SpongeBob, also with a load of pastry in his mouth, mumbled something inaudible to the youngest of the group, but Danny seemed to understand as he nodded in agreement. Timmy was fully interrested at the moment, staring out the window curiously also. Why would the richest boy in town come down to the village? Maybe he wasn't like many of the rich people he had labelled as snobbish, but...

Any other question the four had was answered as Eustace held up a poster to show his attendants. Timmy's face turned deathly white. The poster had HIS picture on it. "...n-not another one..." the youngest mumbled softly, gaining the others' attention, "People I don't even know have been searching for me...l-like I'm some kind of criminal or something...I've never done anything wrong..."

The sickened and worried look on Timmy's face never left. Danny furrowed his brows as he looked out at Eustace once more. "Don't worry, Timmy..." he mumbled softly as he turned back to the boy, gently turning the younger's head away from the window, "Just avoid eye contact and keep your hood up..." Timmy obeyed, but he no longer had the appetite to eat the remaining food in front of him. He was far too frightened for what lie ahead. If these people were working to bring him back to his home village...

The sound of the inn door opening made him jump slightly, Danny then whispering to the group, "Just go on like nothing's happening." The three continued eating, but at seeing his younger friend not eating across from him, Jimmy gave Timmy a worried look. "Timmy?..." the auburn haired one mumbled softly to the dazed younger. Slowly looking up to meet the other's eyes, staring nervously at his year-older friend, Timmy suddenly stood up. "I-I'm...I'm going to the bathroom..." the boy spoke softly as he swiftly walked to the back where the restrooms were before the others could argue.

Unfortunately, the dazzling white cape of the boy caught Eustace's attention, making him ponder for a moment before turning to his attendants. "...Head out back...if I'm not out in five minutes meet me at the front again...and bring the coach with you..." As he nonchalantly made his way back to the restrooms, the other kept their eyes on him the whole time, knowing what was up, but didn't want to make any false moves that would get them in trouble.

After seeing Eustace disappear to the back, the three stood up quickly, heading outside after the stagecoach was taken behind the building, sneaking around back themselves. Sure they hadn't known Timmy for very long, but why would they let him be taken away if he was so worried about being caught for something he didn't do? Something just wasn't right...

Timmy splashed cold water on his face as he stood over the sink on a small stool. He sighed and looked up into the mirror for the first time in a long time. He barely recognized himself, which made his heart skip a beat in distress. He looked so exhausted, the dark rings around his eyes showing the lack of sleep he'd had the past few weeks, even though he had a relatively pleasant sleep last night, despite it being in a forest.
With another sigh he grabbed a towel off the pile on the counter, covering his face to dry it with. After removing the towel from his face, he stared down at the counter, where he placed his used towel. With a sigh, he looked back up in the mirror, meeting two pairs of eyes. Wait...

With a startled gasp, Timmy turned around to face Eustace, who had somehow managed to sneak in without the younger hearing. Taking the poster of Timmy out of his coat pocket, Eustace looked over it for a moment before putting it away once more. "So, Timothy...you're pretty observant if you're already trying to hide from me...I just got here, after all," the rich boy said with a smug smile.

Timmy only pressed himself back against the counter more, remaining silent, feeling imitated but also slightly angry. "Oh, do forgive me. Where are my manners? My name is Eustace Strytch." Holding out a hand to Timmy, the younger secretly hoped Eustace wasn't going to turn him in as he cautiously accepted it, shaking his hand lightly before the older grasped his hand tightly, pulling him closer to get a better hold on him. Unprepared, Timmy squeaked in alarm, squirming in the tight grasp, glaring up at the other.

"Oh, come now, Timothy, I'm not going to hurt you...I'd only like a chat with you," Eustace said with a coy grin, worrying the younger further. The struggling stopped for a moment as Timmy pondered on what to do. The others...HAD to have seen Eustace come back here...right? "...O-ok..." Timmy reluctantly mumbled softly. But would the others even care if he was being taken away...? They barely knew him! He felt this was going to end badly either way.

With an approving smile, Eustace guided the younger out back where his stagecoach awaited them. Allowing Timmy in first, Eustace followed in after him, telling the driver to "take them home". The stagecoach wobbled along on the stone street up a hill, and at the very top, Strytch Manor, the mansion owned by Eustace's family. "...What do you want with me?" Timmy finally asked in a soft voice, but thick with annoyance. Another smile grew on the latter's face. "Oh, I don't need you for anything, my wanted friend...I'd just like the reward money..."

Taking the poster out of his coat once more, Eustace handed it to Timmy. "Timothy Turner" it read, "$1,000 Reward". The younger blinked softly at it. "...are...these up everywhere?" Timmy asked softly once again. Eustace shook his head lightly. "No, a man came to my door last week and handed it to me personally...perhaps he was someone you know..." the rich one replied subtly.

"I'm not good at remembering names or facial features but I suppose you'll know once they arrive to my home...I do hope you enjoy the place...It's rather quite homie..." The stagecoach came to a stop outside the steps of the large mansion. Eustace stepped out first and with an annoyed groan snapped his fingers for his attendants, "Come now, really? Get him inside before I freeze out here." The freckles on the rich boy's face wrinkled lightly along with his nose as he walked into his home, clearly irritated by the apparent slowness of his attendants, who hurriedly grabbed Timmy out of the coach, pulling him into the mansion.

The younger hadn't been paying attention at all as he was guided up through the large front doors of the mansion. He didn't seem to care about all the fancy and expensive decorating around him. He was too worried and focused about who gave Eustace the poster. He would not, he COULD not go back home. That was the last thing he wanted. He secretly prayed whoever it was that handed out the poster was someone completely unrelated to anything that had ever happened in his life. But what were the chances of that happening?

He had to shake his head to snap back to reality as he realized he was sitting in a rather cozy chair in a small study in front of a fire place. Eustace had said something to him and left but he hadn't paid attention in the slightest. He was tempted to try and escape but the room was windowless and he guessed the door was locked since a soft click from the doorknob was what partially snapped him back down to earth.

So at this point, he knew there wasn't much he could do but wait. The young brunette stared into the warm fire in front of him. For whatever reason, ever since he was born, warm lights always made him feel much more content, even if the light wasn't physically warm, he just felt a bit better when he was in the light.

The flames danced colorfully in the fire place, casting shadows along the walls, and, unless Timmy's eyes were fooling him again, the shadows were gradually getting larger and larger. That was what made him uncomfortable. Darkness. He'd been afraid of the dark since he could remember. He had always asked if he could sleep with a candle by his bed until he fell asleep.

Timmy's exhausted eyes started getting to him. Slowly letting his eyelids fall, he relaxed, intending to fall asleep, but a cold draft suddenly rushed through the room, completely burning out the fire and snapping Timmy awake.

Oh God, he thought, it's back again... His eyes scanned the room as they adjusted to the dark. It was quiet, and it was eerie. It was one of the reasons why he was afraid of the dark; everything seemed so unnatural. His nervous, soft breathing was all he could hear, but it was quickly out-volumed by a low, inhuman groan, coming from the other side of the room.

Timmy shivered and slowly slid out of the large chair he was seated in. He was guessing it was that...thing...that was back for him. His assumption was confirmed as the dark shadows on the wall started growing, stretching up and down across the ceiling and floor. This was all too familiar to Timmy, and he was terrified.

However, since he'd dealt with this thing before, he knew to stay quiet and avoid the stretching tentacles of shadow as long as he could. But he could have just been imagining this... His eyes did love playing tricks on him.

Regardless, he silently crept to the door, keeping his eyes on those nearing shadows as he checked the doorknob. Locked, as he had suspected. With a soft gulp he converted to creeping along the wall to get as far away as possible. He knew he wouldn't last long here, but he just needed some time to think.

His now darkness-adjusted eyes glanced around for any escape options...or at least any method of defense lest the shadows now closing in on him decide to attack.
But all his thoughts went blank as he found himself facing that same pair of swirling, glowing green eyes with those intimidating red pupils. A soft noise escape his throat in fear. The Darkness had followed him.

It's shadowy tentacles slowly continued to close in around him as it continued to stare into, what Timmy felt like, his very soul. A cold sweat suddenly rushed over him. He couldn't let this horrid thing take him. He'd avoided it for so long...

Then he felt it there. Like a cold, abandoned blanket, one of its tentacles gently caressed his cheek, wiping away the tears he didn't know he was shedding from fear. What...was it doing? Wasn't it going to devour him like the monster it was?

He'd never let it get this close before, and he felt both intimidated, and at ease. The cloud of blackness before him stared down at him, a longing noise softly filling the air around him as it slithered its tentacles around his tiny body. It was a strange feeling...but...somehow Timmy felt...

He jumped slightly as the door opened quickly, snapping out of the Darkness' trance as he turned to see his three friends standing there in the doorway, completely shocked at what they were seeing.

"T-Timmy...!" he heard Jimmy shriek before his ears stared ringing again. His hearing would usually do this when he was in a state of fear or desperation, and he'd never felt so confused and afraid in his life, realizing he'd let this demon actually take hold of him. The Darkness quickly clenched onto Timmy tighter, growling inhumanly at the three who had interrupted it.

Entering the dark room fearlessly, Jimmy and Danny took out two staffs from behind them, as though they came from their cloaks, Danny's glowing a cool blue light with a moon at the end and Jimmy's an orange-red with a glowing sun, while SpongeBob readied his hands with a sparkling turquoise light, twinkling brightly with flecks of white, star-like dust.

Timmy's eyes widened in complete astonishment. He'd always heard stories when he was younger of three beings who protected the Keeper of Light with their lives. But...was this really happening? His three newly made friends...we're the Guardians of the Keeper?!

Knowing it was easily outnumbered in its sensitive state, the Darkness hissed at the Guardians, releasing itself from its prey before slithering to the far corner of the room, where it shrank into the shadows and vanished, hissing softly all the while as it made longing glances at Timmy.

Sighing in relief, the Guardians slowly eased their fighting poses before turning to Timmy, who sat in a confused little huddle on the ground, staring off to where the Darkness had disappeared. "You alright, Timmy?" Danny asked softly as he helped the small boy up, happy to see him unharmed other than the slightly pale-ish look on the brunette's face. Timmy nodded and turned to the three, who all stared back with worried looks. It wasn't until the hooded one smiled lightly that the others felt at ease. He decided to keep his thoughts about them to himself.

"...you came to help me?"

All smiling back at the boy, Jimmy laughed softly, "Of course, Timmy, we weren't just going to abandon you..."

Feeling at peace for a second, relieved he had the others there to help him and also in a state of admiration, Timmy's moment was cut short thanks to a very angry Eustace who stormed into the room behind the Guardians.

"You cannot simply waltz into my home and demand me my hostage without a reason! I have a man coming for him with my money! Are you even listening to me, you brutes?!"

He clearly hadn't seen any of the events that had just happened. The three Guardians groaned and rolled their eyes in annoyance that the rich kid had actually followed them, but chose to ignore him as Danny offered Timmy a hand, who gratefully took it as the three walked out of the mansion.

"You bring him back in here right now! I don't have time for games, you hear?! I WANT MY MONEY! I'll have all of your faces on wanted posters for the rest of your lives!"

With an annoyed growl, Danny swiftly turned around, pointing his finger in the young Strytch's face. "...I'm not a bad guy, but you're making it very difficult for me to be the nice guy...so I'll just say this. Money isn't everything, pal. Get used to it."

Shocked, Eustace could barely comprehend what was happening. Was this nobody actually threatening HIM? With one last glare, Danny turned and followed the others down the hill after taking Timmy's hand once more, leaving Eustace to continue fuming insults and other obscenities at losing his prize money.

The four walked in silence for a few minutes as they made their way back down to the village. It wasn't until Timmy decided to say something that the silence was broken. "...why did you come for me? It's...not like I'm important to you..."

Silence for about another moment, then Jimmy added softly, "...even if you weren't important to us...we still would have come to get you..." It didn't take long for Timmy to understand what his friend had said. "...I'm important to you?"

Exchanging glances once again, the Guardians silently agree that it was about time to she'd some light on the situation for Timmy. He'd been confused for far too long. They stopped walking, and Danny crouched down to his level. "...well...I'm sure you probably know who we are by now...right?" Timmy nodded, sighing softly but deeply, "...Guardians..."

The three smiled and nodded. "Yeah...and...I'm sure you know how we're supposed to protect the Keeper of Light, correct?" Jimmy added. Another nod from Timmy told him he could go on, "Well...the thing is...what happened back there...that...pretty much told us...we've found him..."

Confused for a moment, Timmy merely stared agape at the three before his eyes widen in surprise. "W-wait...you...think I'm...?" Danny shook his head, "No, we don't think you are, Timmy...you ARE the Keeper of Light..." Paralyzed in shock, the smallest of the group gulped softly, frozen for a moment before finally managing to whisper, "...how do you know?"

"Well, when the Darkness had you back there...we came in and you were glowing...like...like a soft little candle," SpongeBob mentioned softly as he folded his hands together, closing his eyes, giving Timmy a cheerful little smile. Eyes still wide, Timmy breathed out softly in amazement. "...g-glowing?"

Jimmy was the next to smile as Danny was staring wide eyed in surprise at the youngest, a soft, gold light eliminating the Guardians' faces suddenly. "Yeah...and you're doing it now Timmy," Jimmy mentioned, still smiling warmly at him. Surprised, Timmy looked down at himself, gasping in awe to see a soft, warm light emitting from, what he guessed, the core of his body.

Still barely able to comprehend what was all happening, Timmy suddenly started shivering uncontrollably, now ignoring the fact that he was glowing like a little firefly. There was just so much to comprehend. The Keeper? Him? Is this why the Darkness always chased him? Why him? How did-

"Timmy? You ok?" The boy had barely noticed Jimmy walk up to him, who placed a comforting hand on his back to try and snap him back to reality. "U-uh...I...I don't know..." What else was he supposed to say? He was, essentially, terrified. Danny frowned, approaching the two with SpongeBob beside him. "...Hey...don't worry, Timmy, we won't let anything happen to you!" the white haired teen reassured, crouching down to Timmy's size once more, "...we're your Guardians now...we'll protect you, no matter what."

Still unsure of himself, Timmy looked around the group, his last glance landing on Jimmy, who still wore the same, warm, friendly smile. "...we'll protect you, Timmy. Do you trust us?" His auburn haired friend offered him a hand, and after a short moment, Timmy smiled lightly and nodded, gently taking Jimmy's hand before the four all continued back to the village.