That I Could Fear a Door by Emachinescat

A Trollhunters Fan-Fiction

Summary: Jim had thought that going back home, back to the real world, would be an easy and painless process. He thought it would be simple - it should have been simple. It wasn't. A reimagining of Jim's return from the Darklands, where he quickly finds that adjusting to real life after so much trauma isn't as easy as one might think. TW: PTSD, depression, panic attacks.

A/N: Welcome to my first foray into Trollhunters fan-fiction! I've been lurking in this fandom for quite some time, and finally became so inspired that this fic all but wrote itself in the span of about 3 hours. I'm sure there have been people who have explored similar themes and ideas in the past, but this is my take on it, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. I'm thinking of writing a follow-up, either a second chapter or a straight-up sequel, if people are interested, but more info on that in the ending note. Please enjoy, and let me know your thoughts!

Also, the title and the quote at the beginning is from Emily Dickinson's poem "Home." It fits so perfectly with the theme of this story. I'd highly recommend you read the whole thing; you can find it easily online!

TW: PTSD, depression, panic attacks. And obviously, there will be spoilers for the end of season 1 and beginning of season 2.

That I Could Fear a Door

Years I had been from home,

And now, before the door

I dared not open, lest a face

I never saw before …

I laughed a wooden laugh

That I could fear a door,

Who danger and the dead had faced,

But never quaked before.

From "Home" by Emily Dickinson

Jim had thought that going back home, back to the real world, would be an easy and painless process. After all, during his weeks in the Darklands, first alone and searching the endless shadows, then hunted like an animal, then captured and beaten and forced to fight for the sport of others, hadn't he dreamed endlessly of just that? Of seeing the sun again, of seeing his friends, of hugging his mom, of cooking and eating and training and playing video games and slacking off on homework? He thought it would be simple - it should have been simple.

It wasn't.

The first few moments after crashing back into the over world were indeed euphoric. There was the sun, filtering in through the branches of the trees. It took all of his self-control not to stare straight into it. Even in the evening breeze, there was a warmth in the air that he hadn't felt in so long that it seemed more like a memory. He lay there, flat on his back in the grass, wishing he could feel the soft tickle of the blades on his skin, but trapped in his Eclipse armor. Still, he was free.

Much of the next hour was a blur. He later would recall a few hazy moments - hugging his friends, receiving the amulet from Blinky and finally - finally - shedding the stifling second skin of the Eclipse armor, trying to convince Nomura to stick around, Claire semi-joking about how bad he smelled, and the word free chasing itself around in his head like a dog after its own tail. Free, free, free!

He would always remember in perfect clarity the moment he hugged his mother again, but that hadn't come until later the next week. He wanted more than anything to go to her immediately upon his escape, but Toby and Claire convinced him otherwise.

"What's she going to think if you come home looking like … well, looking like… that?" Toby demanded, gesturing unhelpfully to Jim as a whole.

"And the smell…" Claire added, also unhelpfully.

"You have been through a great ordeal, Master Jim," Blinky reminded him gently. "If you go home now, there will be questions you cannot answer and not the rest you need."

And so Jim reluctantly agreed to go home in Toby's stead with AAARRRGGHH! while Toby covered for him at home once more.

It was surreal, Jim found himself thinking as he stood in the Domzalski household's upstairs bathroom, shower already running hot behind him and AAARRRGGHH! just across the hall, waiting for him in Toby's room. Just this morning, he had woken up in a cage on cold stone, in a state of perpetual, gnawing hunger that had become the norm, hanging on to the tiniest thread of hope that today might be the day he was finally rescued - but knowing deep down that it was much more likely to be the day he finally died. Now, he had a full stomach for the first time in nearly a month. He was with his friends, safe, electric lights warding off the darkness that had been his hell for so long. Hot water waited for him, beckoned for him. He could be warm and clean again. Just a few days ago he had said something about how much he missed soap. He should have been happy, he thought miserably. Maybe happy wasn't the right word. He was very happy to be away from the Darklands, from Gunmar and Dictatious and goblins and monsters. But he wasn't content.

He also couldn't bring himself to undress. He had been standing in front of the mirror for a good five minutes now, as steam billowed out from behind the curtain and fogged the glass, obscuring the face he'd barely recognized anyway. Good riddance, he thought half-madly, for the boy in the mirror was a warped doppelganger, touched by death and despair, with his sunken eyes, wan skin stretched too tight over abnormally prominent cheekbones, dark, puffy bags under his eyes, and a smattering of bruises and cuts pulling the whole package together with a sickly little bow. His hair was a bit longer than he usually kept it, matted and caked with dirt and blood. It felt crusty to the touch, and brittle somehow, as if it would crumble to dust if he tried to brush it.

He looked bad enough as it was from the neck up. He had no desire to see what awaited him beneath his filthy clothes. He wondered blearily how they had gotten so disgusting when they had been underneath his armor the whole time. Sweat and revoked shower privileges would do that to a person, he finally reasoned, and at once he found he couldn't get in the shower quickly enough.

He stripped off the offending garments with an urgency he hadn't felt even at his most desperate moments in the Darklands, nearly tripping over the edge of the tub in his haste to get in. He was relieved that the mirror had fogged, but he still avoided making eye contact with it just in case.

The water burned his skin, but he turned it hotter, attacking his hair first with nearly half a bottle of shampoo, applying and rinsing, applying and rinsing, until he couldn't see from the suds cascading down his face and the murky water ran clear. He conditioned once, something he'd never done before. He didn't know if it did anything, but it made him feel cleaner.

And then he was scrubbing himself all over, the water reddening the skin on his arms (he studiously avoided looking anywhere else), again and again, as if trying to peel his very skin off. Dirt and sweat and blood poured off of his battered body and he watched it meander toward the drain in a detached sort of way before resuming his frantic washing.

It wasn't until his skin was so raw that he felt like he was an onion peeled of its top few layers that he stopped, breathing heavily, exhaustion threatening to overwhelm him, nausea roiling as he regretted the deli sandwich he'd scarfed down earlier. Knees weak, he found himself sinking to the floor of the tub, knees drawn up awkwardly to his chest. The water pounded on his head, back, shoulders, and he let it, slipping into a kind of sleep-trance, watching the water swirl around his feet before making its relentless way to the drain. He thought of nothing, felt nothing, and only broke out of the haze when the water grew cold and panic lanced through him at the loss of warmth. He turned off the water, more tired than he could ever remember being in his life, somehow managed to stand up on wobbly legs, wearily slid back the shower curtain - and froze.

Since he'd been in the shower so long that the water had gone cold, the mirror had also de-fogged, and he found himself unwillingly confronted with the specter that he had been hoping to avoid - his reflection.

Before he'd been captured, he'd scavenged for food and found himself eating something mostly every day, so he'd been nourished but always hungry. After he'd been taken, however, any meals - and he used that word lightly - were few and far between. They'd fed him just enough to keep him alive. He could see now from his emaciated frame that they had still essentially starved him. He'd been Gunmar's prisoner for what felt like years, but it had to have been a week at most.

Still, close to a month without a reliable food source had done its work: He'd always been skinny, but now he could see, fully defined, every rib. Any muscle mass, lean though it might have been, that he'd gained during his training was gone, his arms weak and frail looking. His armor had protected him from extensive physical damage all the times that he had been beaten or tossed around like a soccer ball, but his whole torso was mottled with bruises of all colors, shapes, and sizes, all in different stages of healing. A good deal of them were centered over his ribs, and he winced as the pain that had been his constant companion flared up. He wondered vaguely if he needed to see a doctor. He wouldn't be surprised if Gunmar had cracked a few in one of his rages. He cast the thought aside - how would he explain the state he was in? - and turned abruptly from the horrible, somehow shameful image of his battered body and quickly dressed in the pair of pajamas Toby had let him borrow. They would have swallowed him whole on a normal day, but now they made him feel tiny and breakable and pathetic and weak, and he only kept them on because he hated the way he looked underneath even more.

He offered a simple "G'night," to AAARRRGGHH! before falling into Toby's bed, expecting to fall asleep the instant his head hit the pillow.

To his surprise, and to his irritation, sleep refused to come. He couldn't get comfortable. The bed was too soft, the blankets too warm, and the moonlight making its way in between the cracks in the curtains toyed with him, tickling his eyelids with the suggestion of light and making it impossible to fall asleep. There were none of the noises he'd come to grow accustomed to, either - no faint buzzing of the magically reinforced bars holding him in, no tromping footsteps of the guards, no click-clacking of goblin claws or snorts or whistled operas or snarls or distant, echoing screams…

In the end, Jim tossed and turned, sick with fatigue and enraged at how cruelly sleep evaded him. He finally, mercifully fell into a restless, nightmare-filled slumber around five in the morning, but even the worst of the dreams didn't wake him, exhausted as he was, and he was trapped back in the Darklands, suffering torture after torture at Gunmar's hands, until he woke again eighteen hours later, on a cot in Troll Market.

He had been moved there at dusk the next day when his coma-like slumber pressed on and his friends, who had not realized the extent of his injuries or exhaustion, grew worried. Vendel had examined him while he slept, expertly bound ribs that had indeed been cracked, and performed all the healing rituals and magic he knew to be safe for a human. Even so, he'd warned Jim, who felt numb and wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, it would be a week before he could even begin to regain his strength and pass as his old self, and longer for him to truly be back to the same physical shape he had been in before he'd gone to the Darklands.

And so Jim stayed in Troll Market, under Vendel's care, for another eight days, while Toby got to put on a magical mask and pretend to be him and have his life and hug his mom. Jim tried not to be bitter about it, but it was hard. Blinky and AAARRRGGHH! spent all their spare time with him, and Claire and Toby came to Troll Market after school every day and kept him company until they were expected home. Jim talked to them, laughed hollowly, took the homework they gave him, and then retreated within himself as soon as they had disappeared out of sight.

It will be better soon, he kept telling himself desperately. I just need to get out of Troll Market, go back home, get back to my normal life. Once I'm feeling better and things are back to the way they were, it will be like I never left.

Once again, he was very wrong.

In the weeks that followed his re-emergence into his real life, Jim discovered very quickly that the life he had left was either very different than he had remembered it to be, or that he himself was very different than he had once been. He supposed both might be a little true.

Being in his mother's embrace was the only thing that felt completely safe and normal after his return. He didn't care that she had just grounded him; when he finally saw her again, he hugged harder and longer than he could ever remember doing, and he had felt better, more like himself, until he'd tried to go to sleep that night and the cold returned. The next morning, he had attempted to do his usual routine like nothing had ever happened, but even that familiar motion felt hollow and the smile he flashed his mom before leaving for school barely concealed the emptiness just beneath the surface.

Other than that first hug, everything else around him, including his friends, school, good food, trolls, even his mom - all things he had coveted during his time in the Darklands - were strange and foreign to him.

Claire and Toby, though they did their best to be understanding and supportive, were obviously thrown off by his sudden mood swings and sullen attitude. They seemed distant and somehow unfamiliar, and Jim found himself feeling awkward around them, unable to figure out what to talk about or why he should laugh at the joke Toby had just made. Didn't they understand that none of this really mattered? There was so much darkness and pain and fear just beneath the skin of this world, and if they scratched the surface just a little too deeply, it could break loose and destroy them all. So he did what he could to avoid these awkward moments all together, and barely noticed the hurt and disappointment blooming in their eyes as he shut them out and walked away.

He'd thought school would be a great return to normalcy, but everything about it grated on his nerves. Even the cheers as he returned to campus - Congrats on beating Jim Lake Disease! - made him feel claustrophobic. He barely held it together anytime Steve cornered him, his heart racing madly in his chest like it wanted to escape, with or without him. The teachers were demanding, the sound of the lockers made his head ache and reminded him too much of the sound of a cage door slamming shut, and once, when Coach had grabbed his arm to show the class proper movement for a volleyball serve, raw, animal fear had overtaken him, and he'd flipped the teacher onto his back and scurried, terrified, under the bleachers. He barely remembered it, except for the pain in his chest, the short, insufficient puffs of breath, and Claire finally coaxing him out after class dismissed and herding him to the nurse. It was a panic attack, she'd said, eyeing him with concern, and had he had any drastic life changes, any unusual stressors? He lied, because he couldn't do anything else, and she told him to consider seeing a counselor anyway.

"Maybe the nurse is right," Claire said on their way to Troll Market that evening. "You're obviously struggling with this. Maybe you should go to counseling, or something." Her voice was soft and soothing, like she was talking to a wounded beast. Perhaps she was.

Jim laughed, a harsh, cold sound that stopped his best friends in their tracks. "Oh, sure, I'll just do that," he said sarcastically, hating himself as the bitterness dripped from his lips like an overflowing witch's brew but unable to stop the words or the emotions that spawned them. "I'm sure there's plenty of shrinks out there that can help me with my troll-induced trauma."

One of the things he'd missed the most was food - good food, not soupy nightmare-creature eggs or slimy soup made from monster meat that was probably not good for humans but that he had scarfed down on the rare occasion that Gunmar had deigned to feed him. Now, he ate because it was expected of him, but he barely tasted the food. Even his favorite recipes were like ash in his mouth, and cooking didn't bring him the pleasure it once had.

If Claire and Toby were baffled by his behavior, their confusion was nothing compared to that of Blinky and AAARRRGGHH!, his two closest friends and trainers in Troll Market. Blinky had fretted on more than one occasion that perhaps they had brought home a changeling Jim somehow, not the real one. After all, Jim Lake, Jr. was kind and funny and fun to be around, and this new Jim was brooding and dull and never truly present. Jim saw the worry in Blinky's six eyes and in the anxious set of AAARRRGGHH!'s jaw, and it saddened him - just not enough to shake him from the waking hell his life had become. Training was a monotonous routine as he gradually built his strength back up, and even Draal, perhaps the least emotionally-inclined of the trolls save for Vendel, found himself hesitantly asking the young Trollhunter if he was okay, if there was anything he needed that might help him feel better. Jim gave him a half-hearted smile, truly touched, but said no. He wasn't sure anything could fix this hole that had been drilled inside of him. It was too dark, too empty, and it hurt too damn much.

His mom had noticed a difference in him too, but she was at a complete loss. Jim tried his hardest to be his old self when he was with her, and being in her company did bring back a spark of his personality, but even so, he saw the concern in her bright blue eyes whenever she looked at him, and he'd seen her at school in conference with Seňor Uhl, and knew that she was trying to get any inkling of what was eating away at her son. Claire and Toby were no help to her, either, for after she had cornered them after school one day, demanding to know what had happened and why Jim was behaving so uncharacteristically, they had taken extra care to avoid her, unable to say or do anything to ease her worry.

And so this went on for nearly two weeks before Toby, Claire, Blinky, AAARRRGGHH!, and Draal met up with the sole intention of finding a way to bring their friend back. He was suffering so much, and no one could truly understand what he had gone through.

"He clearly has signs of PTSD," Claire said heavily, clarifying for a befuddled AAARRRGGHH!: "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

"This… order?" AAARRRGGHH! drawled, eyes wide in concern.

"Disorder, big guy," Toby corrected, heaving a weary sigh. "It means he's been through something traumatic, and he can't deal with it."

"Well, how do humans usually deal with their trauma and stress?" Blinky asked, always straight to business.

Claire and Toby exchanged knowing glances. "Most of the time, we don't. We just avoid it all together," Claire admitted. "But when someone has been through something like Jim has - extended periods of isolation, being a prisoner, abuse - it's not enough to pretend it doesn't exist." A tear rolled down her cheek and she brushed it away with the heel of her hand angrily. "I knew he'd be in bad shape when he came back," she admitted. "But he was so happy to see us when we rescued him that I thought that maybe he would be okay."

"What do humans do if they cannot ignore this trah-mah?" Draal enunciated the unfamiliar word. It was quite endearing to see such a hulk of a beast with so much concern in his dark eyes.

"Usually, they see a therapist," Toby supplied.

AAARRRGGHH! frowned. "There - I - pissed?"

Toby snorted in almost manic laughter. "Therapist," he repeated, still chuckling. "A person who goes to school to know how to help people with their problems and stuff."

"Well," Blinky said, a new light in his eyes, "we shall venture forth and find Master Jim one of these therapists! Then he'll be back to his old self in no time!" He noticed the dubious expressions on the humans' faces. "What? Are the therapists extinct?"

"No," Claire replied. "But Jim was right - he can't talk to anyone but us about what has happened, and he obviously has no interest in talking to us!"

"Yeah," Toby chimed in, "if he went up to a shrink and told them that he had been stranded in a dark, forbidden hellscape searching for a lost child and then was the prisoner of a crazy troll that wants to escape his eternal prison and conquer the overworld… he'd be thrown in the loony bin for sure."

"So it's hopeless." Blinky's arms fell limp at his sides. "We can do nothing to help Master Jim escape the clutches of PDSC." Neither Toby nor Claire bothered to correct him. Blinky continued, "Is there anything else that might help Master Jim? Anyone else that he might talk to that would not throw him in this 'loony bin'?"

Claire opened her mouth to say no, but shut it abruptly, the light of an idea sparking in her eyes. "Actually," she said, the hint of a real smile making an appearance for the first time in a very long time, "I think I have an idea." When six pairs of eyes locked onto her hopefully, she added, "And it might even be a good one!"

When Jim got home from school two days after the secret meeting between his friends he was surprised to hear someone bustling about in the kitchen when he opened the front door. His mom worked late on Tuesdays, and anyway, her car wasn't in the drive. He reached his hand into his bag, paranoia growing, and his fingertips had just brushed the curve of his amulet when a tall Asian woman wearing a smart pantsuit limped into sight. His bag fell to the floor.


It was odd seeing her in her human form; after spending so much time around her changeling form in the Darklands, he had forgotten that she was quite pretty as a human. "Hello, Little Gynt." Her voice was also much less grating in this shape, but he found he didn't like the softer tones as much anymore.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, picking his bag up and hanging it on the stair rail, though he closed his hand around the amulet first, clutching it tightly in one fist. It wasn't that he didn't trust Nomura - she had proven herself to be a loyal, if reluctant friend - but because he had come to associate her presence in general with danger. If she noticed his cautionary measure, she didn't mention it. "I thought you left," he added as an afterthought.

"I did, but I came back," she replied vaguely. A stab of annoyance shot through Jim, and even the negative emotion came as a relief - he had felt nothing but fear and numbness since returning home. The change was nice, even if it was fleeting.

"Why?" His eyes narrowed. "Don't tell me you were worried about me?"

She studied him with dark, serious eyes for a long moment. "I don't worry about anyone," she finally responded.

Jim felt a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth. She said this, but he could see beneath the surface now. Their time as prisoners of Gunmar had shown him that there was much more to the changeling than met the eye. He waited for the consuming awkwardness that always set in when he was around his friends to descend, but to his surprise, he continued to feel relatively comfortable around Nomura, more at home than he had in a long while.

"Shouldn't you be in a wheelchair or on crutches or something?" he asked, gesturing to her legs. Normally she wore dresses, so he could only assume that the legs of the pantsuit hid some spectacular bruises. "I thought your legs were really hurt."

"They were broken," she agreed. "But my kind heals quickly." She moved forward slowly, then sat on the couch. "They still need a bit of rest to recover fully, though."

Jim sat down across from her in an armchair. "I can't remember if I ever said - thank you, for believing me, for helping me escape." He paused, eyes on his fidgeting hands in his lap. "For being kind."

"Well, I'm more than just a pretty face," Nomura said, and it was impossible to tell if she were joking or not. After a companionable silence, she asked, "So how have you been holding up, Little Gynt?"

Jim didn't know what it was about her, but something made him want to tell Nomura about sleepless night after sleepless night, about the nightmares that plagued him whenever he finally collapsed from exhaustion, about the cavern that had been dug seemingly overnight between himself and his friends, about how he either felt nothing or everything at every moment, about how loud footsteps made him anxious and how physical touch - except hugs from his mom - made him want to wither into himself or run away screaming, about how he had had all these expectations about what life would be like on the other side of Killahead Bridge, and how none of them had come through. He gave her a weak smile, and said, "I'm fine."

An undefinable expression flitted across the changeling's features. "Yeah, kid," she said finally. "I'm fine, too."

After that, Jim came home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, his mom's late days, expecting Nomura to be there, because she always was. Sometimes they'd have a cup of tea and sit in silence. Often they'd talk about mundane things - Jim would talk to her about school and his mom, and Nomura would talk about anything from opera to history to art to the strange old man who had flirted with her at the laundry mat Sunday night.

These visits, as ordinary as they were considering she was a changeling and he the Trollhunter, slowly seemed to draw more of the old Jim back out into the light. Talking to Nomura was different than talking with his friends; perhaps it was because she had been there with him in the Darklands, had suffered alongside him at the hand of Gunmar. And the more he talked to Nomura, the easier it was to talk to his friends, too. Slowly, the cavern that had been dug between him and his friends, troll and human alike, began to shrink, and he laughed aloud at a stupid pun Toby made at lunch, and he didn't retreat into himself every time a locker slammed. Still, there was a barrier between himself and his real life, the one he wanted back more than he could express but that was always just out of reach.

He found himself actually complaining to Nomura about this three Tuesdays after he had first found her waiting for him in his home. "Toby spent weeks wearing a magical mask and pretending to be me and to have my life," he said. "Sometimes I just wish that I could put that mask on and be me again too."

Nomura was quiet for several seconds, and then she told a story that seemed to be very much off topic: "When I was a child, I was told stories of the human world. It was a wonderful place, full of light and life and the sun…"

"What does this have to do with-?"

"Shut up and let me talk." When Nomura told you to do something, you did it or risked life and limb. So Jim wisely shut up and let her continue. "I grew up longing to go to that world, to see the sun and to feel the warmth and the light. The surface world was a fairy tale, and I was a little girl who grew up in the dark. Nothing else could have spoken to me more.

"But when I was finally given my chance to come into the world, to take the place of a little Asian-American girl named Zelda Namura, I was separated from my parents and my home, all alone in a world I did not understand, and it didn't matter how much I had dreamed of the sun, it wasn't what I had expected at all.

"Adjusting was… difficult. It was not until the human body I had replaced had grown older and was taken by her family to the opera that I found something that connected me to this world, something to enjoy, something of beauty. But it wasn't until I met another one like me, here in Arcadia, while under the employ of Bular, that I truly felt at home."

"Mr. Strickler," Jim realized.

"Yes. There's something very special about talking with someone - even if it's someone you're not crazy about - that understands you, where you've come from, and what you've been through."

"Is that the moral of this story?" Jim asked, partially touched, partially exasperated. "Are you trying to tell me that talking to you is going to make all of this go away because we've been through the same thing?"

Nomura shrugged. "Who knows? I just think it's a good story. You can take what you want from it."

Jim smiled.

And then everything, like water pushing relentlessly at a weakening dam, broke.

Jim could never remember crying the way that he did that evening. He didn't think he was sad, exactly, or hurt, or even angry anymore - he was just exhausted and overwhelmed with everything that he had gone through but kept to himself. The fear and humiliation of his capture, the paranoia that his friends were never going to trust him after he betrayed their them and went to look for Enrique without them, anxiety about Gunmar and the paralyzing horror every time he wondered if there was any way he could have followed them out of the Darklands, how he was having trouble connecting with the world he'd always known, the sleepless nights, the nightmares, the numbness and terror that followed him interchangeably, the way that every touch to his arms sent him back to his prison, being dragged painfully between two trolls strong enough to rip him in half with one swift yank…

He talked and cried and had no fewer than two panic attacks, and Nomura just sat there quietly all the while, watching with an unreadable cocktail of emotions in her eyes. When he had finally quieted, his heart feeling both emptier and lighter than it had since before he had made his journey to the Darklands, she simply handed him a packet of tissues she had packed in her purse and asked, "Better?"

He offered her a sniffle and a watery smile, unable to speak anymore, too stunned to fully process what had just happened. She stayed by his side, just being there, until his mom's headlights shone through the blinds. She would climb out the bathroom window and into the night.

Jim slept peacefully that night. If he had bad dreams, he didn't remember them.

It was a slow process, even after the cathartic conversation with Nomura. Jim slowly found himself acclimating more and more to his old life, with friends, school, home life, and even troll hunting becoming things to look forward to rather than dread. Loud noises and unexpected touch still startled him, but he was able to ground himself more easily now. He fell into a routine very similar to the one he'd had before, what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Cracked ribs, bruises, and cuts healed much faster than emotional scars, but at least he knew, in time, he would be okay. He was acutely aware that nothing would ever be exactly the same as it had always been, though. What he had gone through was something no person, no teenager especially, should have to experience. And while he had entered the Darklands of his own volition, none of what had happened to him there was his fault (at least that's what they told him; it would take a long while to truly believe that himself, but that knowledge, like everything else, would come in time). He had been isolated in the dark, on the run, hunted, captured and held in deplorable conditions, starved and beaten, forced to fight for his life, and nearly broken beyond repair, but he had made it this far.

Things might never be as they were, but he could forge a new path from here. He could grow stronger, adapt, overcome, and prove to Gumnar, to his friends, to troll kind, and to himself that he was more than what had been done to him. He was more than pain and trauma and helplessness and fear and rage.

He was James Lake, Jr., Jim to his friends, the first ever human Trollhunter, the son of Barbara and student of Blinky, Little Gynt, and even, he supposed, Buttsnack. Some days he would only feel like some of these things. On bad days, he wouldn't feel like any of them.

But he wouldn't forget the truth. He wouldn't lose sight of who he was so completely, not again. And, if by some horrible twist of fate he did, he knew now that he had an odd but utterly complete assortment of friends - humans, trolls, and even a couple of changelings - who would help him fight his way out. Out of the Darklands. Out of the past and pain and dark recesses of his own mind.

And into, as cliche as he knew it was, the light.

A/N: I seriously went through some emotional turmoil of my own writing this story. I felt this needed to be written to give that particular story arc - and Jim's own emotional and mental state - more than it got in the show. I totally understand that the show could not delve into this dark subject matter, especially with its rating, but I thought this avenue was very much worth exploring. It was so much fun bringing Nomura into this and having her help Jim cope, since she was the only one who truly understood what he was going through.

A quick note - I'm not entirely certain about Nomura's timeline, considering we only get bits and pieces of her past. However, I'm going to assume for the point of this story that the woman she replaced - Zelda Nomura - was a more recent edition to the changeling army. It worked best for the purposes of this work at least. :)

One last thing - I'm thinking of writing a sequel or second part that takes place during the end of the season where Jim is triggered by getting arrested and put on trial - after all, he's dragged around by the guards in Troll Market the same way as he is by Gunmar's men in the Darklands, and then he's thrown in a cage. But this time, he will be without his friends to help him. It's an idea I've been tossing around in my mind, so please let me know if you're interested in seeing it come to life or if you've had enough trauma and emotional whump for one lifetime! :)

Again, please check out the poem "Home" by Emily Dickinson. It meshes so well with this story. Please let me know your thoughts, and if you're interested in more from me in this fandom. I'm definitely wanting to explore it more in the future!

Thanks for reading!

~Emachinescat ^..^