The morning was gray and dreary, but it seemed that the rain trapped in the clouds refused to fall. It was strange for the weather to be like this so late into the season. It was the beginning of November, after all. After staring outside for a few minutes after waking up, Danny decided to head out to their small kitchen for breakfast, only to leap in surprise, pulling his staff from beneath his cape he'd just put on, aiming at the blond-headed stranger cooking at the stove. "Who are you..?! How did you get in?!"
Turning in surprise with a squeak, the blond's eyes widened in alarm. "D-dwah...! Danny, no, it's me!" the scrawny male squeaked in a familiar voice. Danny's eyebrow raised in suspicion for a moment until he finally seemed to realize. "...SpongeBob...?" Nodding swiftly, the other's hands stayed in the air, making sure his friend wouldn't attack him. "I-I...didn't think you'd be up for a while...I...can't exactly cook in my other form otherwise I get all shriveled up from the heat...!"
Glancing over his changed friend, Danny realized he was indeed the spitting image of a human SpongeBob...all that was missing was his headpiece he usually wore. "...your headpiece...turns you into a sponge...?" Sighing in relief that his friend understood, SpongeBob nodded and lowered his hands, turning back to his cooking as Danny approached his side. "Yes...it's a defense mechanism of my people...my true from is a sponge, of course, but my headpiece is embedded with a special water stone that, when removed from me, allows me to change form to adapt to my surroundings...or hide from enemies since they only know me as a sponge," he explained as he flipped the pancakes he was making a few times. As they finished and after he put them on a plate, Danny couldn't help but ask where he got the ingredients for pancakes. "Ah, I asked our landlord for some...nice fellow, really. I offered to pay him for it all but he insisted I just take it. ...could you go get Jimmy and Timmy up? Or...at least if it looks like they aren't too exhausted..."
Nodding, Danny left the kitchen as SpongeBob set the table and put his headpiece back on, transforming as Danny left the room entirely. Peeking the door open, Danny peered into Jimmy and Timmy's room, only slightly surprised to see the both of them in Timmy's bed. It was easy to tell Jimmy had frightened away whatever fears Timmy was having last night, seeing them both sound asleep. It made him smile, but also made him want to wait to wake them up, but when Jimmy started to stir he entered the room quietly.
"Mmmmhey, Danny..." Jimmy mumbled sleepily as he yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Hey...how's Timmy?" the moon guardian asked as he crouched next to the sleeping Keeper. "...he had a bit of trouble getting to sleep last night...but we talked a bit and...well I suppose you could say it helped," Jimmy replied as he smiled to see Timmy still asleep. Danny simply nodded and stood up again. "Wanna come out? SpongeBob made breakfast...we can let Timmy sleep for a little longer...he needs it, that's for sure..."
It was about an hour later before Timmy woke up. As he opened his eyes, he for once didn't feel alarmed as to where he was or how he got there. He awoke actually feeling safe. Though Jimmy was no where in the room, he still knew he and the others were still in the house, because, for once, he had friends who hadn't left his side after a day's company. Safe as he felt, however, he couldn't help but glance outside at the dreary, dark clouds slowly soaring closer over the vast, open hills that were viewed through the window by his bed, making him feel a little less than content. A storm was coming, but the unfriendly clouds seemed to warn him of a different danger that made its way toward him.
Regardless, he calmly got out of bed and walked to his bedroom door, surprised to find Jimmy right on the other side, staring back at him with equally surprised eyes.
"O-oh...! Good morning, Timmy," the sun guardian smiled beamingly at his friend, "I was just coming in to see if you were up. SpongeBob made pancakes for us!"
Making their way out to the kitchen, Timmy learned that Danny and SpongeBob had already eaten and that Danny had gone into town to buy a few things before the obvious storm that was coming got there. He also learned that Jimmy had waited to eat so they could enjoy breakfast together.
"I was disappointed to discover that a storm was heading our way this morning..." Jimmy lamented as he buttered his pancakes after Timmy passed him the butter, "I was going to show you something neat with my sun staff but that obviously won't work without any sun..."
Timmy let a soft giggle escape his lips. As he poured syrup over his pancakes he asked, "Do you always need the sun to use your staff?" Shaking his head lightly, Jimmy followed suit with the syrup as he replied, "Nah, but what I wanted to show you requires a bit of sunlight...My powers will work anywhere but the more sunlight their is the more power my staff has...and...I myself has. At night or in the dark my powers will work...but weakly. However, I DID notice that ever since we found you my powers at night have been significantly increased... Guess you boost them by just being around me."
Jimmy couldn't help but smile to himself as he finished, cutting his pancakes all the while. The young Keeper, too, found himself smiling at the other before taking a bite of his own breakfast.
Suddenly, from outside, the thunder from the storm that had apparently arrived let out a loud booming crack, lightning flashing behind the curtain-covered windows. Shortly after, rain began to continuously pelt against the covered glass, letting itself be known to all that it had only begun and that it wouldn't stop any time soon. Just then, too, the front door opened and Danny rushed in, having had just made it but not enough for he still had gotten a bit wet.
SpongeBob, who had just entered the room from the bathroom, gave Danny an odd glance, which made the other two turn to realize how alarmed Danny looked. Timmy frowned at his disheveled expression. "...What's wrong, Danny?" he asked softly, half curious but half not wanting to know what had startled the usually brave-looking teen. Opening his mouth as though to say something, the moon guardian could only let out an irritated sigh as he couldn't find what to say, knowing it would scare Timmy. But at that moment, he collected himself enough to remember what he saw, proceeding to swiftly turn around and lock all the bolts on the door.
This immediately caught SpongeBob's full attention. "Danny, what's wrong? ...did you go to town...?" the sponge asked as he glanced at the bags Danny was holding.
"U-uh...yeah...got some...bread and milk...and..." he stopped as he set the things on the counter, facing away from Jimmy and Timmy as SpongeBob floated up to Danny's level. The white-haired one mumbled something to the star guardian that was inaudible to the younger two.
The same shocked expression on Danny's face appeared on SpongeBob's. "Oh...dear..." the sponge breathed as he slowly floated to the ground, not moving for a moment until he looked up at Danny once more, the both of them swiftly moving to Jimmy and Timmy who had yet to finish their breakfasts.
"There's someone outside..." Danny said with a soft gulp as he immediately moved to the front door again, taking out his moon staff and proceeded to create a glowing seal around the door. Letting out a sharp alarmed noise, Jimmy stood from his chair. "S-someone...? You mean...someone's outside watching the house?!"
SpongeBob nodded as he repeated what Danny had done to the door to the window with glowing hands. "Yes...and he was definitely trying to hide from view..." Sighing, the sponge turned to Danny, asking, "Are you sure it was one of them...?"
"Positive... He's the only one I've seen and it's sort of difficult to forget a face like that," Danny replied, shuddering at the thought.
Jimmy, without question, jumped to assist in sealing the rest of the windows around the house. Timmy, all the while, still sitting at the table, stared down at his pancakes sadly, knowing he certainly had no appetite to finish them anymore. Even without a full story on the situation, the young Keeper knew what was going on. Danny had come home and must've glanced over to wherever this person stood by accident and saw him, who he recognized, and rushed in. It was one of the men of the Syndicate the Guardians had told him about. Who else could have made Danny turn so pale?
As soon as the three had finished their protective sealant of light around the house, they returned to Timmy to elaborate for him, but suddenly felt awful at seeing how swiftly this incident had made his happiness fade, especially Jimmy. He had seen him wake up, in all actuality, the happiest he'd seen Timmy so far, and now that emotion was drained entirely, making his friend look as exhausted and terrified as he looked during the Darkness accident back at Strytch Manor.
Carefully, the auburn-haired guardian led his friend to the couch, Danny lifting the small, frightened boy onto the cushion, the teen sitting next to him as he wrapped an arm around his shoulders while the other two gathered around as well. "...you're safe with us, Timmy..." was all Jimmy could manage as he gently touched the Keeper's hand, still feeling guilty for Timmy's misery.
Squeezing the hand touching his own, Timmy finally seemed to snapped out of the little trance he was in, looking around at the guardians with wide eyes. "Wh-who's out there...?" he whispered quietly, as though the man outside could hear them.
Danny sighed looking over to the curtain covered window to be sure no one could peek in. "Well...it's one of the men from the Syndicate...somehow he'd found us..." the moon guardian mumbled with a scowl.
"His name is Vlad...he's probably the most famous of the Syndicate, due to his apparent ability to appear in different places all of a sudden. He's also the only member of the Syndicate I've spoken to..." The scowl on Danny's face didn't disappear as he continued to stare at the closed window. Next to him, Timmy heard SpongeBob whisper, "Danny's also the only one of us who's actually spoken to or seen any of the Syndicate members..." Breathing in awe, the young Keeper looked up at the focused teen with white hair. He could tell by that look that this Vlad character must have done something very serious in the past to get Danny so angry.
"...p-please be careful, Danny..." the boy half-consciously mumbled to the older in worry. Suddenly turning to the younger with a softer, more confused look, it took Danny a moment before he could get himself to smile down at the small form his arm was still wrapped around, realizing the kid was hugging him tightly now. "...I will be, Timmy...don't you worry, alright?" he reassured as he ruffled the brunette's hair lightly, "I'm angry at him but I know he's powerful...I know I couldn't beat him alone."
Jimmy smiled, squeezing Timmy's hand gently that returned to his own. "Yeah! We have YOU on our side now, after all, Timmy! We might be harmless alone, but together we'll bring some light back to this dark world, and not even the Syndicate will be able to stop us!"
Unable to help but smile, Timmy stared back at his friend quietly for a moment before the thunder struck once more in a rather menacing fashion that made all four flinch in some way. Not seconds later did the few light bulbs in the house turn off and the candles blow out, leaving the Keeper and his guardians in the dark, making the youngest gasp softly in sudden fear.
The three guardians didn't fail to get closer to the brunette and start up their powers, the colors from their staffs and hands lighting up the room once more, but leaving dark shadows on the brims of their light.
Timmy held tightly to the hand that was holding his as Jimmy glanced around the room at those dark shadows, pointing the sun of his staff at them to see what was lurking there. However, the loud banging on their front door made them all jump and causing a soft shriek from the younger two.
Swiftly getting up and aiming his staff at the door, Danny softly commanded, "Jimmy...stay with Timmy..." as he approached the door with SpongeBob, who was floating along side the teen, hands glowing and at the ready as the banging on the door increased, causing it to visibly shake on its hinges. Jimmy had climbed up on the couch with Timmy, who still hadn't dared let go of his hand yet, and also held his staff at the ready, just in case.
But suddenly, just as the banging and the thunder and the bustling wind continued to make a ruckus, it came to an eerie silence. It did not cause the guardians to move a muscle, however. The two standing continued to stare at the door while Jimmy and Timmy carefully exchanged glances, when, ever so quietly, the sound of the front door's lock made soft, clicking sounds. Someone was picking the lock...
Scowling, Danny brought his staff up more, the end glowing a fierce, icy blue. He hadn't planned on the Syndicate to find them already, but he certainly wasn't going to let this dampen his spirits. He'd have had to do this eventually. What ever way it happened he'd protect Timmy regardless.
As the doorknob slowly turned, the two awaiting their uninvited guest braced themselves like statues as Timmy gulped and huddled closer to his auburn-haired friend. When the door began to slowly open, Danny and SpongeBob tensed for a long moment, expecting someone to be standing there, but once the door was open just an inch or two, all movement seized. For a split second, the moon and star guardians thought their visitor had seen their lights peeking through the door, but Danny realized the reason behind the hesitation as he glanced down at the ground, eyes widening at the sight of a ghastly, black tentacle sneaking its way inside along the floor.
The word had unconsciously slipped through Danny's lips as a sound of disgust and alarm, both causing the very word to sound much louder than anticipated. With an inhuman screech and a longing wail, the Darkness, a massive black form of shadows and creeping tentacles, burst its way in around the two guardians who were far too shocked to move right away. The beast crept its way along the ceiling before dropping itself into a massive blob of a thing before the Keeper and the Guardian of the Sun. Jimmy, though frozen in shock, held his glowing staff tightly, aiming directly at the horrid creature as he knelt on the couch in front of Timmy, who sat pressed as far as he could into the back of the couch, eyes wide with terror as he huddled into himself, staring back at the beast that stared so longingly into his blue eyes.
"...Timmyyyy..." came a gurgling, deep, monstrous tone that echoed within itself. It only made the four freeze up even more, especially Jimmy. Timmy wasn't kidding when he said the Darkness had spoken to him. But suddenly, the boy broke out of his trance, staring daggers as best as he could at the frightening cloud of fear before him. "Get away, you monster! Don't you dare touch Timmy again!" Flipping his staff in a full circle, he then blasted fire from his staff that licked at the Darkness' tentacles that dared to venture closer to the two on the couch, making the beast shriek in pain as it slithered back, only to shriek once more as it ran into the glowing staff of the moon guardian, who threatened it to get it to go back into the corner, receiving aid from the star guardian, who shot balls of sparkling light at the ground, popping at the Darkness' "feet".
Hissing in annoyance and growling in anger, the never-blinking eyes of the Darkness once again landed on Timmy, who still sat in a terrified little huddle on the couch. It seemed to whine in a childish manner for a moment, but suddenly the thing's red pupils grew brighter and it roared with rage, growing larger with a sudden burst of cold energy, sending the guardians back a few feet, giving it enough room to attempt to get closer to the Keeper once more, reaching to the small form with a few of its tentacles while it loomed over the quivering child who had lost the strength to hold back his tears of fear.
Exchanging glances with the beast was never this frightening. Its eyes were still red with anger as it looked at the young Keeper of Light who tried in his very best to stay away from it as he climbed over the side of the couch desperately as it tried to grab at him, its tentacles just brushing his arms before it could lay hold on him.
"G-go away...! Leave me alone! I don't want to go with you! I never will!" Timmy cried as he ran to the kitchen, only to find he had simply trapped himself as the Darkness slammed itself between the walls of the kitchen, making it appear as though leaving the kitchen would be walking into a black hole. Staring with wide, teary eyes, Timmy opened his mouth to yell at the thing once more, but was interrupted by its shriek of pain, falling down into a much flatter heap, the three guardians standing behind where the sheet of shadows had been, staffs glowing as the Darkness burned where it was hit.
Angrily touching the Darkness with his still-glowing staff, Jimmy hissed, "Make one more move and I'll be sure you're smoldering ash in no time..." Hissing right back at him, the Darkness evaded Jimmy's staff enough to slither out the door into the darkness of outside, not bothering to glance at Timmy this time around before leaving.
Moving quickly, Danny began to close the door as Jimmy immediately considered comforting Timmy, but the door was stopped about halfway closed, only to be forced open again once more by the very man Danny had seen standing outside their house. He was very tall and rather lean with white hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, a billowing black cape trailing behind him that seemed to merge with the enormous dark mass that followed him closely.
Stunned for a moment, Danny swiftly moved to aim his staff at the man while Jimmy ran in front of Timmy, staff illuminating his angered expression. The man, Vlad, smirked sinisterly at the group in the room until his gaze landed on Timmy, who didn't hesitate to huddle behind the sun guardian even more.
A dark chuckle escaping his throat, Vlad slowly began to walk towards the two boys cornered in the kitchen. "So this is the young Keeper of Light we've been searching so long for..." He was interrupted only for a moment by Jimmy, whose scowl had turned into a threatening snarl, staff aimed up at the man's face who only seemed to give an amused grin. "And of course, I had yet to meet the other two Guardians!" he laughed lightly as he turned to SpongeBob, whose fingers were positioned ready to snap if the man or the Darkness decided to make any false moves.
Vlad's gaze slowly shifted to Danny, who still stood there behind him unmoving, staff aimed at the man's torso, glaring daggers at him. Smirk growing again, he turned his full attention to the moon guardian for a moment. "Ah, Daniel...it's been so long, hasn't it?" he laughed coldly as a rather psychotic look gleamed in his eyes, "Honestly I had never expected you to be the one to find the Keeper before me... Well, I am very grateful." Turning to gaze at Timmy again, he extended a hand towards him expectantly.
"So I'll be taking him off your hands now..."
Shivering lightly, the young Keeper only held on tighter to his friend in front of him. At this point, Danny and SpongeBob had had enough and stepped in front of Timmy and Jimmy themselves, stopped Vlad from moving any closer for the moment.
"Good one...but we don't make deals with traitors to humanity..." Danny growled lowly before taking a rage-filled swing at Vlad, managing to knock him back a bit from sheer surprise. Laughing darkly at the teen's antics, the man lifted a hand lightly, allowing the Darkness behind him to crawl up on his arm. "I see... Very well then. I thought I'd offer a reasonable trade; give me the boy and I'll spare ALL of your lives...but unfortunately, the Darkness doesn't like to be kept waiting..."
Too quickly did he move for any of the four to see it coming. Vlad spun around, and in the process, channeled his powers through his arm and to the Darkness, which lunged off, crashing between the star and moon guardians standing there, knocking them to the sides roughly. It was quick enough to shove Jimmy out of the way, but not quick enough to grab the frightened boy who stared at the beast only for a moment before it was yanked back by Jimmy, who didn't hesitate to scorch it with blazing fire from his staff.
It shrieked and shrank back, Vlad looking rather shocked and annoyed with the situation, so instead, he moved in on his own.
His movements were frighteningly swift, and Jimmy didn't even see him coming until he was next to him, hand not hesitating to smack the guardian away. Whimpering in concern for his friend, Timmy was suddenly grabbed by the man who smiled devilishly down at him. Eyes wide in terror, he thought about struggling, but Danny and SpongeBob were quicker to move, grabbing the man and yanking him away from the Keeper. Sitting up, Timmy could only watch as a fight began in their living room between the two guardians and the Syndicate member.
He had almost forgot about the black cloud before him, but was quickly reminded of its presence when it grabbed his ankle. Whimpering in alarm, he kicked at it, but it only seemed unfazed as it climbed up his leg more, holding on tightly. It came closer to his face, green swirling eyes slowly becoming more visible as they stared into Timmy's. For a moment, he felt the same way he had back in that mansion in the dark room with nothing but the Darkness there with him. The Darkness was rough, but something about it was...comforting...
He actually...almost felt...
"Get off of him!" Jimmy's desperate cried, snapped him back to reality, realizing that the beast had fully covered him! Panic racing through his mind he shrieked and squirmed, the thing around him like a giant elastic sheet that seemed to grow tighter the more he struggled.
The noise escaped his mouth before his brain realized he was about to say it. Nonetheless, terror-stricken as he was, he struggled and cried desperately for his friend, the sound of the other two guardians fighting and the sun guardian's voice slowly melting into the distance. Tears streaming down his cheeks he continued to try and struggle, but the Darkness was too tight all around him.
Fear ridden tears continued to fall from his eyes, still whimpering his friend's name as he sobbed. Was this what it would be like to be trapped forever in the Darkness? He'd been so unprepared for it that it hurt. His heart raced and his mind scrambled. He was scared and alone...and his very soul began to collapse in agony from fear.
But slowly, some muffled, distant shrieking came to ear's path. It was so quiet, but as the sound seemed to come closer, the tight grip on him also loosened. Heart pounding yet, Timmy breathed swiftly, fear still evident in his huddled form. The shrieking grew louder still, and the louder it became the more inhuman it was. It wasn't until the Darkness that had held him so tightly was far enough off of him that he could see what was happening. A glow of soft light reflected off the walls of darkness around him. He gasped softly as he looked down at himself, the core of his body glowing brightly.
The walls of the Darkness continued to spread further away from him, but he could tell by the roar of the beast that it was now fighting back, its blackness slowly pushing back against the light, sending him into a panic again. His mind scrambled, but all he seemed to be able to think about were his friends he had seen fighting so hard for him. How Danny and SpongeBob had peeled that frightening man off of him. How Jimmy had desperately called his name as the Darkness enveloped him.
Once again, the Darkness screeched in pain, the light fighting the dark much more swiftly now. The thin walls began to give out, and the light began to tear through the black heap.
"Timmy!" he suddenly heard three familiar voices cry all at once. Heart leaping in joy, he stared up at the dark cloudy sky through he holes in the Darkness. As he looked up, a beam of light soared to the sky, pealing apart the clouds that covered the sky, sunbeams draping down and scorching the giant shadow, making it howl in agony until it unraveled the cage that held its hostage, sliding away quickly to hide from the sun.
"Timmy!" he heard once more as he slowly sat up, turning to his three friends who ran towards him. Letting out a surprised sound, he tried to stand up, but found it useless as he was surrounded by a tight wall of guardians. He found this a much better situation to be stuck in, tears of relief welling in his eyes as he clung to them all tightly.
As they all continuously asked about his condition, he glanced over to the escaping Darkness, Vlad following slowly behind, looking in pretty bad shape as well as he turned and glared at the group once more before disappearing into the black cloud.
"...I'm ok..." he subtly replied as he quietly clung to them once again, unable to hold his tears in any longer.
They all sat there for a while, but the sound of distant thunder made them all turn. "...w-we...we should go..." Danny mumbled as he picked Timmy up who insisted on walking, but the older didn't allow so until they had reached the train station in town. Buying four tickets to the town farthest away, Danny lead the group onto the train, remaining silent for the most part, feeling terrible about letting what happened happen. Timmy sat close to Jimmy, and vise versa. After all that, Jimmy certainly knew he wouldn't be leaving the other's side for anything for a while.
A few hours later, they were on their way. Tired as he was, Timmy couldn't allow himself to sleep...and it seemed the Guardians couldn't allow themselves either. With a deep sigh, Timmy leaned against the sun guardian next to him. He knew what had happened what not the biggest thing to come...and he was utterly terrified of what lay ahead of them...