Chapter One
In which absolutely nothing of any importance happens

Alright, so maybe he didn't love his stupid alarm that much after all.

Especially when it made him fall off the bed the way it just had.

"Okay, okay, I'm up," he mumbled under his breath as he got up to his feet to turn the devilish thing off and left his room, stretching and yawning in the process. He couldn't help glancing through the window, subconsciously stopping in his tracks to admire the view. The sun was shining brightly, diffused in the morning mist that hovered in the air, wrapping the buildings like a soft, fluffy blanket. The world was drowning in all hues of gold, and honestly, there wasn't a sight more welcomed than this peaceful, quiet image.

Jim Lake Jr smiled widely, inhaling fresh, cold air that was coming through the ajar window frame. A week after he'd come back from the Darklands he still found himself amazed by the very sight of natural light.

He'd been positively sure he would never experience it again.

He shook his head, laughing quietly at his own dilly-dallying and made his way to the bathroom. He took a shower, got dressed, brushed his teeth – and almost choked to death when he looked up at the wall clock, and saw its hands threateningly nearing to six fifty in the morning.

'How is that even possible?' he mused as he stormed out of the bathroom, running in the direction of the kitchen, simultaneously trying to cause as little noise as possible, a task he'd been practising for many years now. 'I couldn't have spent that much time in that bath. Or before that mirror. And certainly not -'

Oh, right. He'd spent it before the window.

His phone vibrated when Toby texted him to remind about the special packed lunch Chef Jim had promised to prepare for them. The boy shook his head once more, thinking of how much he spoiled his best friend – only to realise that he totally deserved it. For his attention, for his friendship, for his undying support. For everything Toby had done for him only a week ago.

The second alarm on his phone went off, happily announcing it was seven already, making the boy jump in surprise. He thought that he really should work on his focus, or he might as well wave goodbye to both his Trollhunting and school.

Doing his best to keep his thoughts under control, he set off to the fridge, and started his work. He was swift in his actions, chopping, stirring and spicing as if cooking was his main and only job, never interrupted by matters so trivial as fighting his greatest fears, be it a ten foot high black lord of the underworld or school. He was confident of his skills in this field, and nobody could ever tell him otherwise.

It was almost as if he'd never been to the Darklands in the first place.

The dark-haired teenager shivered at the thought that crept into his mind against his earlier resolution, and almost cut his finger as the result. He cursed his inability to get over those silly memories that made his attention scattered, and caused him to run late more often than ever before. He was well aware that he didn't have much time to spare, especially with all the catching up he had to do for Arcadia High.

Cooking itself was a pretty time-consuming task too, especially when one was supposed to prepare a dish as complicated as the one Toby 'the Duke' had asked for – still, Jim was determined to fulfil his friend's dreams and deliver his package of balsamic mushrooms, meatloaf, chunky, sun-dried tomatoes and cardamom all put together in one golden, crispy pancake.

Crispy. That was the key word.

As usual, he placed one serving on a plate, lay the latter on a wooden tray on which a glass of orange juice had already been waiting, and pushed all of it aside, almost ready to bring the food to his mother's bedroom. He only had to put the rest of the portions in the paper bags, and then he'd be done.

Yes, that was it. One for Barbara, one for Toby, one for himself, and…

And one for Claire.

Jim's grin widened significantly at the memory of the raven-haired girl who had so unexpectedly – and let's face it, quite accidentally – joined the team he, Toby, Blinky and Argh had created not so many months ago. Never in his life had he thought he would live to the day when he would be on such good terms with her, and he certainly hadn't expected that entire Trollhunting business to be of any help at that – and yet there they were, no longer strangers, but friends. Best friends. More than friends.

The young Trollhunter took the tray in his hands and rushed to his mother's room, humming joyfully as he went, just this once letting his thoughts wander free around Claire and his not entirely definable relationship with her. He still couldn't be absolutely certain about the nature of the connection that linked them, as the terms of boyfriend and girlfriend had never really been spoken between them; yet Jim didn't cease to hope that it was rather because the words were unnecessary than unwanted. They hadn't talked about dating either, but how else should he describe their romantic ride during the Spring Fling? Or their dancing right after? And wasn't her determination to save him enough to let him believe she truly cared for his pathetic, stubborn self?

Not to mention, she'd looked pretty happy when he'd finally got out of the Darklands and kissed her on that rock.

A sound of a bell approached his ears and roused him from the pleasant meditation, mercilessly reminding him of all the time he'd already wasted that morning. He ran down the stairs, grabbed his bag, and with that he was gone.

"Where have you been, Jimbo?" Toby's voice was the first thing he heard after leaving the garage. "I've been waiting here for at least ten minutes. Didn't you want to get to school earlier today?"

"Sorry, Tobes. I've been a little distracted since… Well, since that entire underground episode, and everything just takes so much longer. Plus making those lunches requires quite a lot of time, too. Here," he reached to his bag, grasped one of the packets and threw it to his short companion. "Still warm, or at least it still should be."

Toby sighed in delight, admiring the scent that came from the package.

"We really don't deserve your meals. But please, don't stop making them. Also, we really are late."

"I won't stop." Jim chuckled as he put his helmet on. "And calm down, we still have a few minutes left before the classes start, we can totally make it. With Claire and her staff we'll be there in no time."

Toby raised his eyebrows.

"What? What is it?"

"Well, you do realise Claire isn't here, right? Which means we can as much as dream of magically teleporting ourselves to school and avoid being eaten alive by Miss Janeth when we finally get to that hole of pain and misery, also known as algebra class? We're practically dead, dude!"

"Wait, what?"

The Trollhunter froze for a moment, glaring intensively at his interlocutor, who answered him with a disbelieving look on his side. Was Jim really that oblivious to the world around him?

"Wow, man. You really are distracted," Toby summed up a moment later. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"I'm fine," the taller boy responded impatiently. "But what's going on? Where is Claire?"

"I don't know Jimbo, but it's fifteen minutes after our usual meeting time, and she's still not here – and we all know the Nuñez aren't the ones to be late. Now come on, or that Janeth woman will kill us for real!"

"But what if something happened to her? What if there are more of those Blood Goblins messing around? What if -"

"What if her parents decided to give her a lift to school today, and she's already waiting there? It's not like she said she'd be here today, we just kinda assumed she would be. Now for Deya's grace, can we just go?"

And not wasting another minute, Toby climbed on his bike saddle and took off, knowing that his companion would have no problems gaining on him. Jim blinked in surprise, but followed nevertheless, desperately trying to close his mind to the thoughts that had suddenly started to spring into it. Claire was most certainly safe and sound – and he was just being paranoid.

"Sorry," he said when he caught up with his friend. "Apparently, it's not so easy to switch to normal after all those days in the dark. But I'm working on it, trust me."

"What do you – mean – switch?" Toby stammered as he pedalled along the road. Good Troll, how much he wished he had his friends' physical condition.

"You know, over two weeks of constant vigilance, with dangers lurking from every corner, not to mention Gunmar the Black eventually imprisoning me," Jim sighed, manoeuvring between the trees. "I was doing well enough for the first three days, but then something cracked. I… I don't know, Tobes. It's just strange not to have to fret about surviving another day on my own, about finding food or avoiding all those creepy creatures that live down there. It's strange to see the sun. And it's hard to stop worrying."

Jim sighed again. He didn't want to upset Toby, but he needed him to understand. He needed him to give him more time.

"The time!" he shouted unexpectedly, and pulled out his phone to check the hour, miraculously avoiding crashing on a rock that appeared on his way on this very moment. His face brightened when he saw they hadn't missed their chance just yet.

"We can still make it," he stated absent-mindedly.

"Whatever you said – I did not hear – that! I can't hear a word in this –"

"I said we can still make it! Come on Tobes, hurry! Or we'll spend the rest of our lives in detention for nothing!"

He speeded on, while Toby stared at his back, trying to understand his partner's mood swings. There was nothing he wanted more than to facepalm at his behaviour, finding it the only accurate reaction to all the craziness he was witnessing; and he would, if not for one tiny detail. He couldn't ride without both of his hands on the handlebar.

So he snorted instead, praying that first, Jim would come to his senses sooner rather than later – and second, that Miss Janeth would not arrive at the classroom before them.

They had crossed the threshold exactly a minute before she did.

"I can't do this, Jim. I can't. I just – goodness gracious, you really should repair your Vespa," Toby laid his forehead on the desk, breathing heavily, completely unable to focus on anything their black-haired algebra teacher was saying.

"Give it a rest, will you?" Jim whispered carelessly, not bothering to look at his troubled classroom neighbour; unlike the other boy, he was doing his best to follow Miss Janeth's thinking process, aware of the fact that he could not afford any more backlog. "We've been here for almost ten minutes already, that's more than enough to recover after such a short ride. And what does my Vespa have to do with it?"

"Look, after all these years you should know that our bodies don't follow the same rules. Ten minutes is enough for you to rest, I'll need at least twice the time."

"Are you telling me you can wield an enormous troll Warhammer on a daily basis with no problem, yet you can't survive a few minutes on a bike?"

"The Warhammer is charmed, dude! It's troll magic we're talking about!"

"You still need your own muscles to swing it, don't you? And you were doing it for hours in the forge last night."

"One more explanation for my tiredness today!"

"Mr Domzalski, am I bothering you?" A harsh voice interrupted their talk, making Toby straighten up in a second, while Jim prayed quietly his friend would not make the matters worse for them.

"No, no! I mean, I was just asking about -"


"Right, sorry! It won't happen again." The boy remained stiff until he was certain the teacher was once again devoted to the equation she'd been writing earlier; he leaned back in his chair, and murmured, "Gee, she's worse than Bullar. If someone told me to choose between algebra and the Darklands, I would take the latter for sure."

"And you can be sure you'd regret it," Jim muttered in response, glancing at his interlocutor and sending him a slightly pitiful smile. "Be nice to Janeth, there are more evil creatures walking around the world."

"Are there really?" Toby answered in a strained voice. "After everything we've seen so far, I'm ready to bet she's got a secret second life as well. Do you think she might be a changeling? That sounds like a good reason for firing her."

"Look, if she were one, we would all be dead by now. Calm down."

"Or maybe she's just keeping up appearances? Strickler had been teaching us too, and he's never been half as mean to us as she is."

"That's because he was the one keeping up appearances. Also, he kind of stopped being nice after he'd discovered who the new Trollhunter was. Now, could you just focus on those exercises and let me do the same? You know I've got problems with that."

"Fine, fine. I still think you should repair the scooter."

"For trolls' sake, Tobes -"

"Mr Lake!" Miss Janeth raised her voice again, glaring at the boy with disgust. Jim wanted to bang his head against the desk but decided it would be better not to give the irritated woman more reasons for shouting at him – so instead of showing his own annoyance, he simply apologised, intending to get back to work immediately. He really didn't need more trouble.

There was something that kept bugging him however, no matter how much he tried to ignore it, forcefully dragging his scattered attention to his own notebook and pen instead. He fought it with all of his might, continually telling himself to stop overreacting and just focus on what he was supposed to be doing; but his endeavours were all doomed to fail.

Because Claire Nuñez was not there.

Author's note: A very unexpected story for a very unexpected series with which I very unexpectedly fell in love with. I guess that's what happens when you're hiking right after starting a new show. Well, no regrets here.

Anyway, as you probably know, this is my first approach to Trollhunters fanfiction (and I'm already leaving you on a cliffhanger?), so it's especially important for me that you share your opinions with me. There's not much romance there, but I promise you it will come and soon - for now, I'd love to know what you think of my writing for Toby and Jim.

I really hope to update the story regularly - once every two weeks, I hope - so stay tuned.

Also, this little work is dedicated to the amazing FanWriter02 - if you don't know her yet, please check her account out! She's already written a lot of great httyd stories, and some for Trollhunters as well.

I guess it's all for today.

Miss you already,