Since it was the end of October, the air was cool with the nip of fall, the leaves of trees different colors, either in the process of falling off or completely bare already. The sun had already set, and the three Guardians and the young Keeper were sheltered within an inn in a new village, miles away from the village where Eustace Strytch lived.
Timmy looked over at the bed next to the queen sized one he sat on, seeing Danny, who had dozed off, lying there in an exhausted heap. He'd been on night watch since they'd found Timmy, and he finally crashed. The youngest couldn't help but smile lightly over at him. He'd really grown on Timmy, like a protective older brother. It really made him feel safe. There hadn't even been a Darkness incident since Strytch Manor.
Jimmy, who sat next to him on the rather large bed, looked quite exhausted as well. He stared with half lidded eyes at the warm fireplace in front of the two beds which illuminated the dark room. Timmy wasn't surprised that they were tired. They had all had a long trip.
Before they were in the inn which they now stayed, they were traveling in a hay cart, the driver kind enough to lend the four of them a ride to the village. Their plan was to get to this village to catch a train to make their journey quicker. A homeless man, who called himself Chuck, was on the cart before them, but he was a very calm, kind man who Danny and SpongeBob had a nice chat with on their way to the village while Jimmy and Timmy either rested or listened to the conversation, huddled together in the cold October night to keep warm.
Now they were safe and warm in their inn room, Danny sleeping and SpongeBob floating in the corner by the bed, who appeared to be meditating. Or sleeping. Timmy couldn't quite tell. "How are you feeling, Timmy?" Jimmy suddenly asked in a soft, tired voice. Turning to his friend, the younger smiled lightly, replying with a quiet, "Fine...thanks." He'd apparently been shivering quite a lot while journeying to the village, according to Jimmy, but he couldn't remember doing so. He must have been sleeping through it. Jimmy seemed awfully concerned about him, and more than just today.
Ever since they'd met, Jimmy always seemed to go out of his way to make sure Timmy was ok. Not that he could complain, but he didn't want Jimmy to be his servant, pampering him at every moment. Jimmy was his friend, not his slave. Plus he was a Guardian. He was far greater than he was, regardless of what Jimmy said.
"...Jimmy...you...don't have to treat me like royalty," the young Keeper mumbled softly, "I really appreciate it...but...I just...want to be treated as your equal...I'm no one special..." Surprised, his auburn haired friend's eyes widened, sitting up more to meet Timmy's gaze. "...but...you ARE someone special...you're the-" "I know, but..." Timmy softly interrupted, sighing softly before looking at him again, "...I just...I'd rather be treated like your friend...not as a Keeper..." Catching himself, Timmy sighed and looked away once more, "I-if...you consider me a friend, too, of course..."
Frowning and sitting up completely, Jimmy put a hand on Timmy's shoulder, reassuringly replying, "...of course we're friends, Timmy...I just..." Pausing, the Guardian also sighed, "...I just don't want anything to happen to you, I guess..." Turning to his friend once more, Timmy smiled softly, nodding lightly in response, "...thank you...I...guess I didn't think of it like that..." Shyly looking down with a smile, Timmy giggled softly, "...I...don't think I've ever had a friend as great as you, really..."
Jimmy grinned happily at the compliment, flopped back against his pillow and stared up at the ceiling as Timmy did the same. "...do you know where we're going?" the younger asked curiously. Jimmy, who had put his arms behind his head, sighed deeply before giving a decent response. "Honestly...I don't know...I think as of right now we're just moving around a lot to keep our location unknown until we find a place far enough away from where Eustace Strytch lives...since he could tell whoever was looking for you where we went...but if we get somewhere random they'll have no clue where we went," pausing to turn to his friend with a gentle smile, he added, "so we can keep you safe..."
Smiling back at the sun Guardian, Timmy nodded in gratitude before turning back to the ceiling, his thoughts starting to wander. Was there something they were supposed to be doing? Other than running from the Darkness, of course. He felt like he was missing something, maybe some kind of lead to follow. Then again, he figured, the Guardians are who he's following, so that answered that question. Maybe Danny or SpongeBob knew the answer. He would ask them in the morning.
He had asked, and he received an unexpected answer. Even Jimmy was rather surprised as well to learn where they were going and what they were doing. It was now the middle of November, and it had become increasingly colder. The group had made their way to a small village where they now resided in a rental home, their landlord understanding of their situation...since all he knew was that they were all orphans and had no where else to go. SpongeBob couldn't help but jokingly praise Danny for his canny ability to lie well.
Their temporary home, as Danny called it in case they had to leave quickly, was rather small, but comfortable. It contained four rooms; two bedrooms, a living room-kitchen, and an indoor bathroom, much to everyone's approval.
He didn't want to ask, but eventually his curiosity got the best of him, so Timmy asked Jimmy, as they sat on the couch listening to music on the radio and reading the local newspaper, "...who's after me, Jimmy?...do you know who hired Eustace that one time?" Looking up from the article he was reading, Jimmy blinked confusedly at his friend before realizing what he was asking. "O-oh...besides the Darkness, I assume?" With a nod as his answer, the Guardian continued, "Well...I couldn't tell you correctly for sure...but...my bets are-" Glancing over at the table where SpongeBob and Danny sat, he saw the moon Guardian giving him a stern look, almost glaring. However, this didn't seem to faze the younger Guardian at all.
"...we'll have to tell him eventually, Danny...it's not right to keep secrets from him."
With a softened expression and a sigh, the white haired one consented with a nod, but turned his full attention onto the conversation as SpongeBob had done as well. "Well, it's not just the Darkness that's hunting- erm...LOOKING for you, Timmy...there are...others...that are working closely with the Darkness," Jimmy explained.
Danny sighed and nodded lightly. "Yeah...they're called the Syndicate of Shadows...guess you could say they're the ones who freed the Darkness from its ancient seal of the previous Guardians...it granted them some of its powers...and now their goal is to find the new Keeper and..." Cutting himself off, Danny sighed heavily before mumbling the last part with a heavy heart, "...feed him to it..."
Feeling himself wince, Timmy looked down at his feet, which barely reached the edge of the couch. So there were others helping the Darkness find him? Is that why the Darkness showed up at Eustace's house? He felt his mind swirling with questions, but permitted himself to ask only one.
"...y-you won't let them get me...will you?"
Quick to answer, SpongeBob floated up out of his seat a little to make sure the young Keeper could see him. "Of course not, Timmy!" the worried sponge answered as he stared concernedly at the small boy, "We will never let anything happen to you! You have all of our promises..."
Timmy felt himself shiver. The genuineness in the star Guardian's words made him feel even more safe than ever before, especially after receiving approving nods from the other Guardians. He sighed softly. He knew he should relax, but the thought of more people chasing them frightened him. "...how many are there?"
"Four...within the Syndicate itself at least...but that's why we need to be careful out in public...since anyone could be helping the Darkness without even being in the Syndicate," Danny clarified quickly, but smiled to reassure Timmy, "But just as long as we're around you, Timmy, no one can get you."
Timmy couldn't get himself to sleep that night. His mind was too full of unanswered questions and fear that he couldn't close his eyes for more than a few seconds. He sat up finally, leaning his back against the wall as he curled up into a little ball within his blankets. His eyelids were heavy, but he dared not let them drop, feeling as though the Darkness could come any moment and eat him up.
"...Timmy?" Jimmy softly mumbled from the twin bed next to the Keeper's. Timmy glanced over at him with a soft, startled gasp after breaking from his thoughts, but upon seeing his friend, he seemed to relax, but also break down into a crumpled heap, sobbing softly. Confused and still groggy, Jimmy barely thought as he got out of his bed and stumbled towards Timmy's, gently grabbing his friend's shoulder. "T-Timmy...? What's wrong? Wh-what happened?"
Looking up slowly with tired eyes, Timmy stared into his friend's concerned blue gaze, finding a certain sense of comfort before whimpering and leaning into his arms. Surprised, Jimmy could only stare down at the Keeper for a long moment before finally understanding what was wrong. He sighed softly and hugged Timmy tightly. "...I'm sorry we can't do a better job to make you feel safe, Timmy..."
Shaking his head and sniffling, the brunette lifted his head a little, but kept his gaze down. "No...no you're doing amazing...d-don't think you aren't...I-I don't think I can feel more safe than when I'm with you and Danny and SpongeBob...but I just...forget I'm not alone..." Looking up to meet his friend's gaze once more with his sad eyes that nearly crushed Jimmy's heart to look at, Timmy whispered with a soft, scared little voice, "...I don't want to be alone...not again..."
"...wh-what do you mean...'again', Timmy?...what...what happened before?..." Jimmy asked cautiously, hoping to not bring back painful memories for Timmy. Looking away for a moment, Timmy sighed, collecting himself so he could at least tell Jimmy some of his past.
"Well...I really am an orphan...I grew up in an orphanage. I've never known my parents," he began before sitting back against the wall as Jimmy did the same, listening intently, "One of the orphanage owners and runners was an amazingly kind older lady...I don't know if she was married since I never saw her husband..."
Pausing, Timmy smiled, "She was a really kind old lady...I was always around her and she was almost like my own mother...next to fifteen other kids in the orphanage...but I spent most of my time with her rather than the other kids...since none of them seemed to like me all that much...and there was this other lady, who was much younger than she was...her name was Vicky and she was really mean and nasty to all the orphans...and...she hated me especially since the older lady always defended me from her and she got all mad...
"...Then...one day...she said she had to leave us for a while...she had gotten sick and said she was going to go somewhere to get help and to get better...that was when I was six...she never came back..." Pausing again, Timmy sighed heavily before deciding to continue, "For three years, Vicky made sure to make my life as miserable as she could...along with the other orphans, since she now ran the place...but me especially...since the Misses was always there for me...and now she wasn't...I felt abandoned...and scared and..."
Jimmy grabbed Timmy's hand tightly when he saw tears rolling down his friend's cheeks again. "...you don't have to finish if you don't want to Timmy..." he reassured warmly. Shaking his head, the Keeper continued, "She...liked to beat me when I did something 'wrong'...but...I did everything just as she told me to do and she still...a-and I couldn't..."
Shaking and sighing, Timmy squeezed the hand holding his for strength to finish. "...but during those three years...I started to see...things...especially at night...sometimes I would even have dreams...no...nightmares that made me wake up screaming... That annoyed Vicky of course...and by the time I was nine it had gotten much worse...so much worse that Vicky couldn't take it anymore and just sent me to the insane asylum..."
At this point, Jimmy couldn't help but let out a soft noise of disapproval. "...you...you were sent there without a good reason? But you weren't harming anyone!" Timmy sighed, looking away even more, "...the doctors there told me it was so they could try and help me...and they did try...but...nothing helped...it was...always there...and it...talked to me..."
Frowning deeply, the sun Guardian squeezed his friend's hand gently to try and comfort him. "...what was there? ...what talked to you, Timmy?" Slowly looking towards his friend, the young Keeper found it difficult to look into Jimmy's eyes without his own tearing up in fear once again.