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Doff Thy Name

Chapter Text

There was a troll.

In his back yard.

Staring at him.

...

Well, in the troll’s defense, he had just been caught rummaging through his trash bins, but still.

Troll.

Back yard.

He took a deep breath, let it out, and then crossed his arms. “You know... if you were looking for food, you could have just asked.”

The troll stared at him for another ten seconds, then turned and fled.

He snorted.

That was not how he’d imagined tonight going. Really.

“Jim, are you still up?”

He looked over his shoulder in surprise. He hadn’t realized...

“Yeah, mom! There’s dinner in the fridge... I just have to clean up out here; raccoons got into the trash again.”

Actually, a troll had gotten into the trash again, but it wasn’t the usual troll. And that...

Oh, boy. How was he going to explain this one to Stricklander? “Hey, guess what? I saw a random troll digging around in my trash bins last night. We had a staring contest for a while and then he got spooked by Dr. Lake. Yeah, can’t see that going over well...”

“Talking to yourself again, Jim?”

He groaned and tossed a slightly moldy loaf of what had been banana bread toward the voice.

“Ooh... Yummy. I should start coming around your house more often.” A tall pink figure emerged from the shadows, glowing green eyes watching as he cleaned up the rest of the trash.

“Please don’t. Barbara’s getting suspicious enough about the raccoons, and I just had a troll digging through my bins. As in, someone from Trollmarket decided rifling through my trash was a good idea.”

Nomura stopped, raised her head to sniff, and took a half-step back. “That scent... No, it couldn’t be.”

“You knew him? Blue, pretty impressive set of horns, crystal protrusions from his back...”

“His name’s Draal,” Nomura cut him off before he could say any more.

Jim froze.

Draal.

He knew that name. That was...

“Hm. Now what is Kanjigar’s son doing running around on the surface?” he muttered.

Nomura’s cackling really didn’t help.

“Jim? Is there someone out there?”

And in the second it took him to stand up and put the lid back on the bin, Nomura was gone.

“No, I’m just talking to myself. Trying to, you know. Practice for the play auditions,” he said.

“Play?” Barbara Lake asked, half leaning out the garage door to look at him as he stepped back inside.

“Yeah, Romeo and Juliet. I figured, why not? Sounded like fun. And the girl who told me about it, Claire? She’s really excited about it, and they need a lot more boys to join than they’ve gotten, so...”

“Ooh, there’s a girl involved...?”

Jim fought not to grimace. “Mom... I’m not interested in her like that. She’s cool, but... You know. More, possible best friend material than possible girlfriend material. If that makes sense.”

She just gave him a smile, and he fought not to roll his eyes. “If you say so, Jim. If you say so. Now... I really think you need to get to bed. I’ll be heading that way myself as soon as I’ve eaten.”

Jim smiled. “Love you, Mom.”

She leaned in to kiss him on the forehead. “Love you too, Jim.”

Chapter Text

Claire stepped off the stage with a grin, and Jim saw her glance his way as he stepped out, taking a deep breath. He remembered his lines, barely, and though struck by a moment’s hesitation, he stood up straight regardless.

“Ah, Mr. Lake. And what part will you be auditioning for?”

Jim offered a smile to Ms. Janeth. “Romeo, if I may.”

“Most certainly! Carry on, then.”

Another deep breath, and Jim glanced to Claire.

 “She speaks! O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art as glorious to this night, being o’er my head, as is a winged messenger of heaven unto the white-upturned wondering eyes of mortals that fall back to gaze on him when he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds and sails upon the bosom of the air.”

Claire giggled, and Jim managed not to grin.

This was... fun.

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet,” Claire piped up, proving that she knew the scene as well as he did.

“Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?”

“’Tis but thy name that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, though not a Montague... What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by another other name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title,” Claire recited, much to what appeared to be Ms. Janeth’s amusement. “Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.”

He grinned and shifted from where he’d been standing pressed against the curtain around the stage. “I take thee at thy word; Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized. Henceforth I never will be Romeo.”

Claire glanced at Ms. Janeth before delivering the next lines. “What man art thou that thus bescreen’d in night so stumblest on my counsel?”

Jim put a hand over his heart. “By a name, I know not how to tell thee who I am. My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself, because it is an enemy to thee. Had I it written, I would tear the word.”

“Ooh, you two are going to do so splendidly!”

Jim bit his lip to keep from grinning.

“So...”

“You do seem to be the best Romeo act we’ve gotten yet! And such good chemistry with Claire, our undisputed Juliet!”

Jim really wasn’t all that surprised when Claire jumped up onto the stage and grinned at him.

“You’re really good!”

Jim chuckled. “I’ve... had to do a lot of acting over the years. First time for Romeo and Juliet though. Should be fun, right?”

Claire nodded. “Yeah. And I’m sure the two of us can keep the rest of the cast on point.” She paused and blushed a little. “Really, though... thanks. I really don’t think Eli would have gotten the Romeo part, and we were kind of running out of options.”

Jim smiled. “Any time.”

Chapter Text

“So...”

The same troll from three nights previously jumped and spun around, gold eyes wide as they locked on him.

“...Do you always eat trash, or does human food work, too?”

The vague idea of a plan was beginning to form in his mind. It wasn’t a good plan, and his brother would kill him if he found out about it in the early stages, but...

For a moment, it looked like he would bolt again. Instead, he took a half-step back, eyeing Jim warily. “You’re... not afraid of me.”

“Should I be?”

“Humans typically do fear trolls.”

Jim smirked. “Well, I’m not most humans. So. Food.”

The troll turned back to the garbage bin. “I’m not certain if human food alone would sustain me. And wouldn’t the other human you live with wonder where your food went?”

“Not really. I tend to cook for the people across the street, too,” Jim admitted, glancing toward the eastern sky, then at his watch.

Last time, he’d caught the troll before going to bed. This time, he’d spotted the familiar, spiky blue outline after waking up. And if he was right...

The mist cleared enough for the sunlight to peek over the trees, and the troll hissed, rapidly retreating into the shadows as blue sparks danced over his shoulders.

Unfortunately, darting into the shadows left him in the garage with Jim. Not that he seemed to notice immediately.

“Oh, no... Father’s going to kill me...”

Jim looked up at him and feigned confusion. “You can’t be in the sun?”

“No, sunlight kills trolls.” He grimaced. “And I didn’t exactly tell anyone I was coming to the surface.”

Jim looked to the east, then frowned. “You could hide in the basement if you want. Mom never goes down there... when she’s in the house at all.”

The troll looked down at him in surprise. “You’d... offer me shelter?”

Jim blinked. “Yeah. I mean, kicking you out now would be to kill you and I’m really not up to committing murder before school today.”

A few moments of staring contest, and he sighed. “Name’s Jim, by the way.” Then he turned and headed into the house. He needed to make lunches for himself, Toby, and Barbara, and breakfast for the two members of the Lake household, and...

And, the troll was following him.

And carefully avoiding the patches of sunlight.

Jim wandered around the house, pulling the blinds closed without a word, though he paused to gesture to the basement door. “The basement’s that way, if you’re taking me up on that offer,” he said. He may have to modify his half plan, he mused as he pulled out a few pans. Didn’t look like the original version was going to work...

“I... Thank you.”

He stopped and turned around, looking at the rather out-of-place troll standing near the end of his counter.

“You’re welcome.”

Hm... Maybe he could do pasta today. They’d had meatloaf yesterday...

“I am Draal, son of Kanjigar. And I am in your debt.”

Jim fought down the urge to react in any of the manners he wanted to—grinning or smiling or celebrating in any way would just alarm the troll—and instead plastered on an expression of confusion. “What, for letting you in?”

“I was being foolish, letting myself lose track of the time. I cannot return home while the sun remains in the sky. If I’m lucky, my father won’t punish me harshly for... this.” He stopped and made a somewhat distressed sound. “We’re not supposed to be seen, yet... This is the second time you’ve caught me.”

Jim glanced over at him. “Well, I won’t tell anyone.” Except Nomura and Stricklander and every other Changeling in Arcadia Oaks, but even then, it wouldn’t be immediately.

“I owe you for this, truly.”

“You snuck out, didn’t you?” It was something he’d been suspecting for a while now, but...

Draal visibly flinched.

Jim sighed. “Family troubles? You’ve mentioned your father a couple times now.”

“Why do you care?”

Jim shrugged, draining the pasta he’d had boiling and going through the familiar motions of mixing up a sauce. “Just curious. My family’s not perfect, either. I mean, come on. My mom works ridiculous shifts and is rarely if ever around, and my dad ran off on us when I was five.” His biological family wasn’t much better, considering his mother was dead, his brother hated him, and his father was playing a dangerous game playing favorites with his younger son.

Draal made a sound of vague and grim amusement. “My father isn’t much better than your mother. Always working, always gone...” Was that... bitterness Jim heard in the troll’s voice? He seemed to hesitate before continuing. “I know his job’s dangerous, but... does he have to push me away all the time?” Draal stopped and looked over at him, as if realizing he was opening up to a complete stranger, and Jim turned back to his lunch, finishing with the pasta and putting together lunch bags.

“I’m sorry...”

“It’s alright. I get it,” Jim said. “Sometimes... you just need someone to rant to.” He finished with the lunches, glanced at a clock, and moved on to breakfast. He’d leave Barbara’s portion in the fridge since she wasn’t home at the moment.

Draal watched on silently as he cooked. “That... doesn’t smell terrible.”

Jim smirked a little. Yeah, that had been the same thing Bular had said the one time he’d had to deal with the lone free Gumm-Gumm hovering over his shoulder while he was cooking.

He had more than enough to make what would typically amount to eight portions. If Draal got six of them... well, his mom didn’t need to know that.

Still, it couldn’t last forever.

“I have to head out soon. Don’t let my mom see you when she comes home.”

“I won’t. Mm. Might sneak out again just for the food.”

Jim chuckled. “Try not to make it too common a habit? I can pass off a few times a month as me feeding Toby and his grandmother, but much more than that...”

“I don’t think I should be sneaking out that much, anyway,” Draal agreed.

“I’ll be back in about fourteen hours, so just after dark... if nothing comes up. See you before you head home?”

Draal nodded, something like a smile on his face. “I’ll still be here.”

Chapter Text

“So... Whatcha planning to do for your birthday this year?” Toby asked, the chubby boy somehow managing to skip ahead of Jim without falling over or dropping his bike. And, well... He’d been expecting this question for a while now.

And his answer was the same as usual. “Nothing.”

His excuse was that he didn’t like being reminded about his dad walking out on his fifth birthday, but the real reason was twofold, and just as simple. Not only did he not remember when his birthday was (growing up in the Darklands really sucked when it came to things like that), he was pretty sure it wasn’t the same day as James Lake, Jr.’s birthday. So, it didn’t really feel right to celebrate a birthday that wasn’t his.

Toby just looked exasperated, even as they reached the grocery store. His friend looked over the storefront for a moment, then frowned. “Are you working this afternoon, or just here to get groceries?”

Jim chuckled. “Both.”

“Dude, you’ve been scheduled all week?! I didn’t think they gave that many shifts to the under-sixteens!” Toby asked, suitably incredulous all things considered.

Jim shrugged. “I’ve actually been picking up as many shifts as I can when the other kids call in. Gotta pay for that scooter somehow, right? You know my mom’s never going to buy it for me,” he said, weaving a believable excuse.

Toby grinned. “Nice! Don’t overwork yourself, though. Turning into your mom and all that,” the boy teased him, slapping him good-naturedly on the shoulder and getting up onto his bike. “See you tomorrow morning?”

Jim grinned and nodded. “Of course! Tell Nana I said hi!” he called after his friend as Toby started off down the street.

He was a good kid... and a good friend, no matter how many times he had to tell his brother that the boy was just a cover, an accessory to make him look inconspicuous.

And with Toby now gone...

Jim eyed the grocery store, trying to decide if he was going to get groceries tonight or save it for tomorrow...

His phone started playing a familiar tune, one he usually dreaded hearing for one reason and one reason only.

It was usually followed up by some sort of bad news.

He reluctantly pulled his phone from his pocket and glanced at the screen.

Nomura.

He sighed, hit ‘accept,’ and raised the phone to his ear. “I’m not due on a shift until Sunday night,” he said bluntly. It was Friday.

“Your brother’s demanding to talk to you tonight. So much so, in fact, that I’ve just lost another security guard. Do you have any idea how hard it is to replace these guys with your brother constantly eating them?!”

He rolled his eyes. “So bitch to Strickler about it. Keeping him fed is not my job.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Junior Professional Chef,” Nomura shot back. “But seriously, if you don’t show up tonight, he’s coming to your place. So... Barbara, or the security guards. And frankly, I kinda like Barbara. She’s pretty spunky for a human.”

Which was as close as Zelda Nomura would ever come to admitting that she’d rather neatly tucked his ‘mother’ into the ‘BFF/sister’ zone.

Still... “Bular at my house would be... bad. Very, very bad. For multiple reasons.”

“So I can tell him you’ll be here and not have to worry about being killed because you’ll actually show up, then,” Nomura said with a faux-cheerfulness that never failed to make him groan, because it meant he was going to have one hell of a headache on his hands.

“Yeah. I’ll be there, after my shift at the grocery store.”

“Thanks, kiddo.” The call promptly cut out, and Jim groaned.

Why did he put up with this nonsense again?

...Oh, right. His father had shoved him into this position.

He muttered a few expletives in Trollish under his breath.

“Well, that didn’t sound good.”

Jim glanced over his shoulder and blinked at the amused face of Walter Strickler. “Now what?”

He got a sympathetic smile and a hand on his shoulder for his efforts. “Your brother?”

“Who else?” He pushed his bike in through the doors and headed for the staff-only area in the back, Walter never once leaving his side. Which was weird, because he was pretty sure tonight was supposed to be the teacher’s night off from everything.

“I don’t suppose you know what the issue is?”

Jim shook his head. “No. But I’ll know in a few hours, I guess.” He stopped at the large swinging doors that led into the back of the store and gave Walter a confused look. The elder Changeling offered up a smile and shrugged.

“I needed groceries. Thought I’d offer an ear. You looked rather bothered, and that was before I got close enough to listen to your cursing.”

Jim smiled. “Thanks. I’ll see you at school Monday, then?”

“Yes... I do hope you were actually paying attention to the lecture today, Romeo, considering the homework I assigned,” Walter said.

Jim chuckled. “I think I’ll manage. Thanks for trying to help.” He watched as his friend walked away, and then pushed through the doors and into the back. Through here, leave his bike and helmet, grab his mask out of his bag...

Everyone in the Janus Order always knew when he was rotated onto cooking duty, so he wasn’t sure why he bothered with it, but it was habit anyway.

Hopefully soon it wouldn’t be necessary...

Chapter Text

Jim climbed up out of the sewers sometime just after midnight and glanced around as soon as he’d replaced the heavy trapdoor. No one in sight.

At least, not at first glance. A shadow moved, revealing Nomura, still in her human guise. Which was either a good sign, or a very bad sign. And given that Bular had been, in her own words, demanding his presence...

Jim sighed and dropped his bag next to a pottery stand. “What’s this about?” he asked, already making a beeline for the upstairs ‘soon-to-be-revealed’ exhibit where they were rebuilding Killahead Bridge.

Nomura grimaced. “Honestly, I don’t know.”

Oh. Great.

“Stay out of sight unless I call for you,” he ordered, sparing only a thought for his form to change, his body size doubling as a troll took the place of a human.

The last few stairs were taken at a near-run, before he shoved the plastic curtain to the side and entered the ‘exhibit’ room.

“I swear, Bular, if you are wasting my time again—“

The black troll threw something at his face, and he barely caught it in time.

At a glance, it looked like a piece of Killahead Bridge.

And if he were any less familiar with the magic imbued in the stones they were collecting, it might have fooled him.

He bared his teeth at it. “A fake?”

“We had an entire batch of them come in,” Bular growled. “Tell me then, Imbar. Do your Changelings truly think I’m so stupid as to be fooled by poorly-magicked rocks?!”

He narrowed his eyes at the stone in his hand, claws tightening around it until it broke, or rather crumbled, the weak magic failing and revealing the sandstone underneath.

“No. Nomura!”

A moment passed, and then with a wash of blue sparks, the pink Changeling slid out of the shadows, obviously having hoped that she wouldn’t need to get involved. “Track this shipment. I want the names of every Changeling involved by morning. This isn’t Changeling magic, it’s troll magic.”

“You think part of our Order has been compromised.” Nomura sounded indignant, and he growled, pointedly grinding the less-than-sturdy sandstone and letting the sand drift to the floor. He’d clean it up himself if he had to, but for now, he had a point to make.

“They’ve either been compromised, or the trolls in their area know we’re looking for the bridge and have been replacing pieces. More likely the former; no Changeling worth their salt would fall for this,” he said.

Nomura paused and picked piece up a second piece out of an open crate. Then, with a snarl, she turned and stalked past him, her own piece of illusioned sandstone crumbling and leaving a trail in her wake. “You’re right. None of us should be that stupid,” she snarled. “You’ll have your report in a few hours.” As she shifted back to her human form, he heard her continuing to mutter under her breath. “Not even a good illusion. A human could break that without trying.”

She was gone in moments, leaving he and his brother by themselves in front of the incomplete bridge.

An entire shipment, wasted. The pieces probably taken and hidden much better than they had been previously.

“This is going to set us back by at least a month. Likely many months,” he muttered crossly, glaring up at the bridge.

“How did this happen? Your Changelings—“

“We’re not infallible, Bular. We can try all we’d like, but we’re not,” he cut him off. “And neither are you.”

Bular was larger than him. Not quite twice his size, no, he had grown enough in his troll form to at least have enough mass on him to not look quite as scrawny next to Bular as the likes of Nomura and Stricklander, but he was still smaller, still not fully-grown...

“Bular.”

Both of them froze, eyes shifting to the faintly glowing bridge.

It wasn’t perfect, it was still being rebuilt, but they’d reached the halfway point weeks ago, and that meant...

“Father?” Bular called.

“So, when were you planning to tell me that the bridges are starting to reconnect finally?” he asked, rather annoyed at his brother for not mentioning anything. The last Fetch they’d used (the one that James Lake, Jr. and he had been switched through) had been destroyed almost three years ago when the goblins had gotten careless and Kanjigar had gotten ahold of it.

Which meant neither brother had been able to speak to their father since then.

Except, with the bridges starting to reconnect...

“You would have known if you could be bothered to help me actually rebuild it!”

“Enough!” The two of them broke out of their heated glaring to look at the bridge. “Do not fight amongst yourselves, my sons. There are greater enemies for you to deal with.”

“The Trollhunter will fall to my blade,” Bular asserted.

A wash of blue magic, and Jim rolled his eyes and fought back the urge to curse at his brother. “We need him alive. In case you’ve never actually heard the damn incantation, daylight is his to command. Unless, by some dumbass fluke of Merlin’s, the amulet chooses a Changeling or you as the next Trollhunter, we won’t be able to use it ourselves. Kanjigar will have to open the bridge for us.”

“As if he would ever do so willingly,” Bular sneered. Whether it was aimed purely at his comment, or the human form he was wearing once again, Jim neither knew nor cared at this point.

 “I have... half of a plan. Which I would be doing a better job of, you know, turning into an actual plan if this mess hadn’t delayed my return to my Familiar’s home.”

“And how likely is this plan of yours to work, Imbar?”

Imbar, second son of Gunmar and de facto leader of the Changelings, took a deep breath and braced himself. “I’ve made contact with the Trollhunter’s son, and as of right now, he is unaware of my status as a Changeling, let alone my true identity. If I can salvage this wreck... Draal will bringhis father right to us, or he will be excellent bait.”

“Hm... Go, my son.”

Bular was pacing on the other side of the room, clenching his jaw and clearly trying to keep himself silent as Gunmar summarily ignored him. Jim grimaced, once again wishing that his father would stop playing favorites.

“Yes, Father.”

And then he turned and started away, ready to get away from both the bridge and his highly agitated brother.

Chapter Text

The lights were out when he got home at the unholy hour of half past three in the morning. He wasn’t surprised, not after having to deal with Bular and then getting a text reminder that he was on clean-up duty tonight as it was his last night in the kitchens for a couple months. Nor was he surprised to find that there was a note on the door to his room.

Will be working late; don’t stay up long. –Mom

He sighed, dropped his bag on the floor in his room, and headed back downstairs. No Draal, not at a glance...

A peek in the basement revealed that the troll wasn’t there, either. So, he’d probably left when ‘Jim’ had failed to come home. And with so little time before morning... looked like he wasn’t getting any sleep tonight.

He’d only just finished his homework a bit over an hour later when a clanging sound drew him outside to investigate. Finding Draal out in the back yard, digging in the bins again, Jim couldn’t help but smile. “Is the stuff I throw out just that tasty?” he asked, realizing now where the troll had disappeared to all night.

“Yes,” came the deadpanned reply, before Draal seemed to realize whom he’d spoken to.

The troll stood up a moment later, righting the bin and crossing the distance between them, a decidedly worried expression on his face, not that Jim would bring his attention to it. “You were late returning.”

Jim nodded. “I was,” he stated tiredly. “I’d say that something came up, but really, multiple things came up. Which sucks, because I—“

He spotted her green eyes just before she leapt over the fence, the faint noise of her landing on the lawn alerting Draal as Jim cut off mid-sentence.

The Trollhunter’s son turned, spotted Nomura, and immediately tensed. From the grin on the pink Changeling’s face, they knew each other. Great. Just what he didn’t need to make his night worse than it already was.

“Nomura!”

“Hello, Draal... Ooh, not being a good little daddy’s boy anymore~?”

He really shouldn’t have been surprised that Draal charged Nomura, or that she met his charge with the wickedly curved blades he’d never be able to wield, himself.

Nomura was highly skilled. Draal had strength and durability on his side, even without an actual blade in his hand. One of them was going to kill the other. And...

He needed them both alive.

For now. Too much more of this bullshit and he was going to kill both of them, and Otto to boot. Possibly Bular and Kanjigar too, just to round out the set of headache-inducers.

But that was something to be considered later, when he still had a hair’s width of rope left and didn’t still have them all slotted nicely into the ‘useful’ box in his head.

With a reluctant sigh, and then an angry roar, he pulled on the magic inside him and shifted into his troll form once more.

Draal lost his focus for a moment, startled by his transformation, and in the split second when Nomura tried to take advantage of it, Imbar moved, his smaller, thinner frame giving him speed where his brother was all bulk and power.

Metal met metal, Imbar standing practically with his back pressed to Draal’s chest (not a move he would normally condone, but his options were limited) as he and Nomura snarled at each other.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“I could ask you the same thing, Nomura. Don’t you have work you were supposed to be doing?”

The pink Changeling backed off, allowing Imbar to shift to the side, no longer back-to-chest with Draal. “Four agents in the region the shipment came from are missing. No bodies, yet. The Order’s looking into it now.”

“Any word on the originals they were meant to send?”

“None yet.” She looked behind him. “Lucky night for you, son of Kanjigar. Imbar’s a little higher on the food chain than I am.”

He growled. “You’re going to find yourself a lot lower on it if you don’t leave, Nomura.”

An overdramatic bow, and then she was gone, blades strapped to her back as always.

He waited until she was gone to sheath his own sword again, and turned to look at Draal somewhat reluctantly, fully aware that his plans had just gone straight down the crapper.

Draal, who looked absolutely horrified, but had made no move to kill him yet.

With Draal still clearly in shock, and definitely not wanting to push him at this point, Imbar strode into the forest nearby and found a tree to destroy, because this... This was probably the worst night he’d had since they’d lost the last Fetch.

He needed to murder something, and the trees... no one would miss a random tree.