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Midnight Men

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The sun’s last rays descended from the skyline as Atlas smashed the remaining goblin’s head with the pummel of his blade. It splattered across the wall with a sickening crunch. He felt some of it blowback onto his face. Ugh, gross. His girlfriend handed him a towel, a bemused smile gracing her lips. 

 

Even covered in blood, she looked beautiful. He flicked off a glob of goblin from the top of her head. In return, she reached out and pulled a piece of its hair from his long pointed ear, which twitched in response. She giggled.

 

“Well, this might be in the running for the number one worst date we've had so far.” Claire giggled. 

 

Sluggishly, the teen wiped his face of the goblin blood and gagged. It would take hours, if not days, to get the smell off of him. “Easy for you to say. I seem to recall a date that—coincidentally—involved all of your friends secretly stalking us. Badly I might add.”

 

He slumped down to the ground, long legs refusing to move. This was what he got for skipping leg day. Atlas groaned pathetically. What was supposed to be a romantic movie night turned into an all-out slug-fest with a horde of vicious goblins.

 

She rolled her eyes, her armor vanishing as she sat down alongside him. “They’re just worried. “

 

“Worried about what?”

 

“That you’ll betray me.”

 

It was his turn to roll his eyes. He brushed a lock of her hair back with a clawed finger. “If I wanted to betray you I would have done it ages ago. Your group is pathetically disorganized and your trainer Blanky is by far the most incompetent troll I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, I’m amazed Vendel hasn’t suffocated him in his sleep.”

 

“It’s Mr. Blinky and he’s one of the smartest trolls I know.” Claire said, “Maybe, if you got to know them, you could see them for who they really are.”

 

“A bunch of idiots?”

 

She smacked his shoulder playfully. “No, dummy. They’re my friends. My best friends. I trust all of them with my life. Don’t you have any friends?”

 

“Of-Of course I do.” He said a little too quickly. “Loads of friends.”

 

Claire raised two fingers. “Let me guess, Ms. Nomura and Mr. Strickler? They don’t count.”

 

He threw her a glare. “How could they not count?”

 

“They’re your family.” She stated, “Mr. Strickler is your dad and Ms. Nomura is like your weird crazy aunt. No, I’m talking about friends outside of your family.”

 

Atlas gripped the end of his pommel, a pensive expression crossing his features. Ever since he started dating the human Trollhunter she would get under his skin from time to time, uncovering all the parts of him he preferred to keep hidden.

 

“Who would even want to be my friend?” He admitted to her, “Before, the changelings barely tolerated me. Now, because I’m dating the Trollhunter it’s like I’ve betrayed them or something. The trolls distrust me because they think I’m in league with the changelings and the humans, well, one look at me and they’d probably run away screaming. Claire…How can I make friends when no one wants to have anything to do with me?”

 

“I’m your friend.” she whispered, her fingers intertwining with his own.

 

He smiled, though it didn't reach his eyes. “I know.”

 

“You know; humans aren’t as scared of you as you might think. We’re pretty resilient folk.”

 

“So what, you think I should make friends with some humans?” He said, skepticism riding his voice.

 

Claire was one thing, but the rest of humanity? There was no love lost between Atlas and the same race who tried to dissect him. Humans recoiled at the sight of him. He was a freak, even amongst his own people. Unlike the rest of the changelings, Atlas was unable to change into human form. The teen was stuck between the two worlds, neither truly human nor troll. Outside of Claire and her little human friends, any sort of friendly human relationship would be damn near impossible.

 

“I don’t know, maybe? Expand your social circle a little.” Her eyes brightened, “In fact, that should be your homework assignment!”

 

“Homework? Why do I need homework? I don’t even go to school.”

 

She stood up, pointing a finger at him. “Young Atlas,” she started, imitating his father’s accent, “I order you to go out and make friends.”

 

“Hmm, what is, ‘No for 400’?” He said, smirking in pride at his use of human television knowledge. 

 

Claire’s eyes grew big, her bottom lip more pronounced. Atlas squirmed, suddenly uncomfortable. He hated that expression. It reminded him of a kicked puppy.

 

“Please,” she begged, hands gripped together as if in prayer. “I would be really happy if you did. I don’t want you to be lonely.”

 

He brought his sword up to shield his eyes, but it was futile in the wake of Claire's adorable yet annoying persistence. “You’re a terrible girlfriend, you know that right?”

 

She perked up. “So you’ll do it then?”

 

“Ugh! I’ll think about it, alright? I’m not promising anything though. Now, stop it with that face!”

 

Really though, what sort of human would want to be a monster’s friend?

 

 


 

 

Speak of the devil and he doth appear, Atlas would later think over tacos and video games.

 

He encountered his first human friend by accident. Atlas normally didn’t involve himself with humans, but after his girlfriend’s latest request, he tried to be a bit more sympathetic to the fleshbags. It was his sort of his ‘Bad Troll Twelve-Steps program’, as Claire's friend Mary liked to call it. He had no idea what those twelves steps consisted of, but Atlas liked to think he was doing pretty well for himself over all. He rescued Mary and Darci from a Stalkling last week and only yesterday apprehended a league of nefarious Gnomes living in Claire’s basement.

 

But this, this was something completely different. He was entirely out of his element.

 

“Go! Go! Go! It’s going to kill us.” The fat human said as it rode his back. His stubby legs kicked at the Atlas' sides, causing him to growl.

 

Atlas jumped from rooftop to rooftop, hoping to evade the creature. Unfortunately, the flaming hell cat continued its hunt, edging ever closer to its prey.

 

He stumbled upon the human boy in an alley near the outskirts of town, cornered by the cat-like menace. Feeling like a good ol' samaritan, he decided to help. 

 

Which was a mistake. A big mistake. 

 

Atlas contemplated throwing the young human off and using him as cannon fodder against the fiery creature, but his conscience won out. Watching others get hurt always made Atlas feel bad. Perhaps because of his own history, or maybe because, somewhere in his twisted black soul, he did care about others' wellbeing. Ugh, he shook his head. Being sentimental was not going to help him right now. 

 

“How in the hell did a rock do this?” Atlas screamed over his shoulder at the pudgy human.

 

 "Don't ask me, I got it from a guy underneath a bridge." The human quipped, "also, it wasn't a rock, it was volcanic slag.”

 

“What’s the fucking difference?”

 

“Well,” before he could finish his sentence, Atlas’ left foot slipped off the edge of the building. 

 

The human nearly choked him into unconsciousness with his terrified panic, but by the grace of whatever deity existed, they landed onto a pile of trash, Atlas’ armor taking the blunt of the fall. The smell of rotten eggs and meat met his nose. The other boy broke away from Atlas, using the others horns to pick himself up from the rubbish.

 

"Hey, watch the merchandise, human." Atlas said. 

 

The boy raised his hands. "Oh, sorry. My bad, dude." 

 

Unfortunately, it also put them right in the demonic fire cat’s way. It descended from the roof and hissed, spitting out flames.

 

Atlas pulled out his sword and swung it down at the creature, the concrete cracking beneath at the force. It dissipated for a moment, only to arise into three new ones soon after.

 

“What should we do?” The human asked.

 

“How the hell should I know?” Atlas pushed the human behind him. “Stand back if you don’t want to get hurt. Maybe I can distract them while you sneak away.”

 

“And leave you here with them alone? No way!”

 

Atlas looked over at the human. Despite his short and round appearance, the boy wasn’t scared, more worried if anything. His green eyes searched Atlas’ own. Something itched at the edge of his mind. Where had he seen those eyes before?

 

The felines drew closer, burning trash in their wake. 

 

Snapping himself out of his thoughts, Atlas nodded to the boy. “Fine, have it your way.”

 

One of the fire-cats leaped at them. Atlas grabbed a trashcan lid, smacking the creature straight into an open dumpster.

 

“I think I’ve got an idea.” The boy remarked. 

 

“Out with it then,” Atlas said as he blocked another attack from one of the creatures, the flames licking his face.

 

“Maybe they’re like Litten.”

 

“What’s a Litten?”

 

“It’s a Pokemon.”

 

“What the hell’s a Pokeman?” He asked as he sideswiped at one of the cat-demons with an open claw, recoiling when he burned himself. "Damn it! That hurts!"

 

“It’s a video game.”

 

Atlas, ever more confused, pinched the bridge of his nose. “Let’s assume I know nothing about these Pokemans. What exactly is your idea?”

 

“Well, Litten’s a fire pokemon, and its weak to water, so…”

 

“…So we need some water. But where can we get a source of water?”

 

The human pulled a water bottle out of his backpack. “Will this work?”

 

He shook his head. “No, we’ll need something bigger.”

 

“What about the fire hydrant over there?” The human gestured past the cat.

 

“Excellent,” Atlas said. He threw the lid at the creatures, who scattered. The teen unsheathed his sword, its obsidian blade gleaming under the streetlights. Right as the hellcats were about to pounce he swung the weapon around like a discus then let go. It flew past the creatures then tore through the fire hydrant like paper, resulting in an explosion of water that drenched the entire area.

 

The cats yowled as they disappeared into smoke. The human boy pumped his fist. “Woohoo! Suck on them apples, world! I knew video games would save my life one day.”

 

Atlas snorted, pulling his blade from the broken hydrant and putting it back in its sheath. It began to leak out more.

 

“Ah, should we—“

 

“I’m sure the human authorities can handle it.” Atlas waved him off, leaning against one of the dumpsters for support. He pulled off his open toe boots, letting the water drain out of them.

 

A hand appeared in his line of vision. Atlas looked up, startled.

 

“My name’s Toby. Tobes for short. I normally don’t let people call me that, but…you remind me of someone. Thanks for saving my life.”

 

“Ah," the half-troll looked at it in confusion. He'd seen handshakes between his father’s people, but most of the time it was over a deal or exchange of some sort.

 

“You shake it. It’s like a greeting.”

 

Atlas gripped the boy’s small hand, careful not to crush his bones. “Atlas. And if it wasn’t for you quick thinking, both of us would be BBQ right now.”

 

The taller boy’s stomach rumbled. Atlas covered his reddening face, embarrassment filling him.

 

Suddenly, the human began to giggle, which only caused Atlas to do so in turn, until both boys were crackling manically.

 

“Oh my god, I thought we were going to die. I saw my life flash before my eyes.” Atlas admitted between breaths.

 

“Same. Oh gosh, I about pissed my pants when they went from one to three.”

 

"Me too."

 

Sirens rang in the distance. The human—Toby—smiled brightly. “I’ve got loads of tacos back home and Nana doesn’t care if I have guests over. It would be a shame if I had to eat them all by myself. I mean, there’s so many.”

 

Atlas raised an eyebrow. “We’ve just met, Tobes.”

 

“They’re extra crispy.”

 

They were, indeed, extra crispy.

 

 


 

 

Atlas sighed in relief as the Gruesome turned to dust. His stomach grumbled. What he would do for food right about now. Alas, his new human friend/taco dealer Tobes was sick with the flu.

 

Such a tragedy, Atlas thought, I suppose I’ll have to find another source of free food. Maybe Claire’s house had something to eat.

 

In the meantime, his two human companions sank to the floor. While the small brown one looked up at him with interest, the taller blond one appeared more suspicious, his right arm protectively wrapped around the smaller.

 

“You saved us.” The smaller one exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I’m actually talking with a creeper. This is so cool! I never thought I’d get to talk with one of you guys. Oh, my name’s Eli. Nice to meet you, Mr. Creeper.”

 

Once again, a hand presented itself to him. Now accustomed to the greeting, Atlas shook it. “Atlas.”

 

“Yeah, and I’m Steve. Now that everyone’s introduced themselves, I’ve got a question for you.” The human Steve pointed his index accusingly into Atlas' chest. “Who and what the hell are you?”

 

“Steve,” the one named Eli gasped, “he saved our lives. You can’t just ask him that.”

 

Atlas scanned the area. It wouldn’t be long before the other humans came back to inspect the museum. “Can we do this somewhere else? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be here when the Police come.”

 

“There’s a fire exit near the backside of museum,” Eli supplied. “Maybe we could take that.”

 

Steve smacked his forward. “Pepperbuddy! What the hell? Are you trusting him now?”

 

Atlas rose to his full height, towering over the other two. The blond boy stepped back, a wary look on his brow. Wiping the flour off of his pants, he said, “Do what you want, Humans. I’m leaving.”

 

Thankfully, the exit wasn’t too hard to find. The human—Eli, he remembered—continued to question him, which bemused the teen. He reminded Atlas of an overeager puppy.

 

Eli struggled match the taller boy’s pace, using his rolling shoes to keep up. “What kind of creeper are you?”

 

“Creeper?”

 

“Oh, sorry. Is that racist?” Eli asked, “What do your kind call themselves?”

 

“I’m the only one of my kind.” Atlas said. "So I guess I’m an Atlas.”

 

Steve rolled his eyes, arms crossed. “Still not giving us anything to work with, creeper.”

 

“I guess you could say I’m a half-breed.” He supplied to the two. It couldn’t hurt to give the young humans a little bit of info, could it? “My mother was a human.”

 

“Was?” Steve asked, “What happened to her?”

 

Atlas kicked open door with a little too much force. It snapped off the hinges. Eli and Steve jumped in alarm. “Whoops.”

 

“I think you made him angry.” Steve whispered to Eli.

 

“Me? You’re the who asked.” Eli whispered back.

 

“How was I supposed to know the creeper had mommy-issues?”

 

Atlas leaned over the two smaller humans, startling them. “I can hear both of you.”

 

Steve gulped, which amused him. 

 

Atlas checked his phone, then muttered, “Dang it Claire, where the hell are you?”

 

“You know Claire?” Eli inquired, surprise written on his face. "Claire Nuñez? That Claire?' 

 

He continued typing on his phone, not bothering to look up. “Yeah, she’s my girlfriend.”

 

The shorter teen’s mouth fell. “What!”

 

“That explains why none of my charm worked on her.” Steve remarked, realization dawning on his features. “We were wrong, Pepperjack. Claire wasn’t the creeper, her boyfriend was! So, what, you’re, like, a good creeper or something, yeah?”

 

No texts back from Claire. Atlas frowned, putting the phone away. Was she ignoring him? Well, he did punt her flour child at the creature. “Yeah, sure. Looked like you guys needed help.”

 

“We didn’t need your help,” Steve grumbled. “We were doing perfectly well until you came along, creeper-boy.”

 

“Atlas.” Eli supplied.

 

“Whatever!” The blond teen exclaimed, turning his back to the other two.

 

“Yeah, the Trollhun—my girlfriend wants me to be nicer to people. Make friends and all that jazz.”

 

“I’ll be your friend!” Eli said excitedly.

 

Steve brought an arm over the smaller teen’s shoulders, bringing them into a semi-huddle, their backs to Atlas. “Pepperbuddy! What the hell?” He said in a low-voice. 

 

“What? If we want to learn how to fight creepers, we need help and who better than him? If he’s on the good guy’s side, why not recruit him?”

 

“But the Creepslayerz is our thing.”

 

Eli covered Steve’s hand with his own. The blond boy relaxed. Atlas resisted the urge to gag. Was this how everyone saw him and Claire?

 

“Steve, what if this is it? What if this is the first moment humans and creepers come together? This could be the beginning of humans and creepers living together in harmony! Think about it!”

 

“Just because he’s all nice now doesn’t mean he won’t turn on us. What if he decides to sell us out as food to his creeper buddies?”

 

“He won’t do that. You heard what he said: Claire’s his girlfriend. She’d kill him if he did.”

 

“Neither of you are being discreet.” Atlas remarked, gesturing to one of his long ears. “I can hear both of you.”

 

Eli turned his attention back to him, eyes wide and hopeful. “So, will you join us?”

 

“Join what?”

 

“The Creepslayerz. We protect humanity from things that creep in the night.”

 

Atlas scratched one of his horns. “Listen, Eli. That’s nice of you to ask, but—“

 

“Great! So that settles it then.” Eli said. “Now, who wants some food? I don’t know about you guys, but all this Creepslaying is making me hungry!”

 

 


 

 

“What on earth are you playing?” His father asked as he entered his bedroom. The changeling sat down next to him on his bed, brushing back the teen's unruly bangs. Atlas leaned into the touch instinctively.

 

Ever since his father started dating that Doctor, he’d become softer, more physically affectionate. It was weird. Before Bular’s death, Atlas lived on a tight Spartan schedule, expected to become another warrior for Gunmar’s army. Or its janitor, depending on Stricklander's orders. It was only during sparse private moments between the two that his father gave him any semblance of comfort. Weakness was not tolerated amongst Changelings; Atlas had scars from Bular and the other Changelings to prove it.

 

But now, neither he nor his father were that madman’s tools. Now, they were just father and son, and Atlas wouldn’t trade anything in the world for that.

 

“Pokemon. Tobes lent me his game,” Atlas said. “It’s pretty fun. I get to enslave monsters and use them to battle one another. It’s delightful.”

 

“Tobes? That’s a human name.” His father said, his body stiffening slightly.

 

He rolled over, facing the other male. “Yep. He’s my new human friend.”

 

“Does he know what you are?”

 

“Don’t worry father,” he said, “I’ve kept him and the others in the dark for the most part. I won’t risk the changelings’ secrets, you know that.”

 

“They? There are more than one?” His father stood, arms crossed in disapproval. “The more humans that know the harder it will be to keep our secrets from them.”

 

“I trust them.” Atlas shut off his game and looked back up to the older man. “They won’t betray me. Well, Steve might, but I’m pretty sure he’s head-over-heels for Eli and Eli think’s I’m the best thing since sliced bread.”

 

“Sliced bread?” His father smiled, “You’re picking up human idioms. You never showed any interest in human culture before.”

 

Atlas didn’t bother telling him that whenever he did show any interest the other changelings would target him for it. Better to show no interest than open yourself up to weakness. He didn’t want to hurt his father’s feelings however. Some things were best not spoken of between them. The past was the past. They had the future to look forward to now. 

 

Atlas shrugged. “You always said it was good to study the enemy.”

 

“You’re old enough to take care of yourself, my young Atlas, but be careful. Humans are dangerous creatures.”

 

“Speaking of dangerous creatures, how’s your girlfriend?”

 

 


 

 

“Good evening gentlemen and welcome to our first official Creepslayerz meeting! Now, on to our first order of business: the induction of our newest members into our group. Please, introduce yourselves." 

 

Atlas inwardly cursed every deity he could think of, wondering how in the hell he deserved this. The Pale Lady must be punishing him. 

 

The pudgy boy went first, “Ah, hi, I’m Toby Domzalski, also known as Tobes, but only two people can call me that and one of them is Atlas and the other, well, he isn’t around anymore... Um, my favorite color is red and when I grow up I want to be—“

 

Steve smacked the back of the boy’s head with an open palm. “This isn’t school, dumbass. Just your name and your reason for joining the Creepslayerz.”

 

“Oh, uh, I’m Toby and I want to join the Creepslayerz because I think supernatural stuff is awesome and I want to fight the bad guys.”

 

The group turned their attention toward the tallest boy in the room. Atlas brought a potato chip to his mouth.

 

“I’m Atlas and I’m just here for the free food.” He admitted. 

 

Eli clapped his hands together, eyes sparkling. “Now that that’s settled, onto our next order of business: Elections! Now, I’ve printed out some ballots here—“

 

Steve interjected, “—Eli can be Pres because he’s the first who found out about the creepers and I don’t want to do any paperwork Presidents are required to do. I’m Vice-Prez, ‘cause I’m the coolest guy here. Domzalski can be Treasurer or something, I don’t care. Creeper-Face over there is Secretary. All say aie?”

 

“But what about democracy?” Eli argued.

 

“Aie,” everyone in the room answered.

 

“Democracy dies in darkness…” The boy muttered sadly, “Oh well. On to our second order of business: Creeper News.”

 

Eli turned toward Atlas expectantly.

 

Atlas snatched the pretzels bag from Steve’s open hands, the human scowling in frustration. “Same ol’, same ol’, I guess.”

 

“Oh, I’ve got one!” Toby said, rubbing his hands together excitedly. “Okay, so, last week Señor Uhl’s car mysterious vanished in the night and was found on top of the school’s roof! How insane is that? Maybe it was a ghost or some other kind of ghoul.”

 

Raising his hand, Atlas admitted sheepishly, “Uh, that was me.”

 

“How did you do it?” Eli asked in wonder.  

 

“He leaves his keys in his car. So I took it for a little joy ride. Claire failed her Spanish test because she was late to class after spending the night with me, so I wanted to make her smile. I borrowed a pulley from your school gym and the rest,” he snapped his fingers, “is history.”

 

“Dude,” Toby gushed, “that is totally awesome. Take me with you next time!”

 

“Me too!” Eli added.

 

“Ugh! You guys are so lame.” Steve said, “Okay. I’ve got a story. Once, when I was in school’s restroom, I saw a mysterious glowing object—“

 

“—Also me.” Atlas confessed.

 

“Oh!” Toby began, “I’ve got another story. Remember when that mysterious museum artifact went missing?”

 

He raised a finger this time. “Me, again.”

 

Steve threw his fists into the air in frustration. “Dang it, Creeper-Boy! Why does everything have to be about you? Pepperbuddy, what’ve you got?”

 

“Well, I do have one clue, but it’s pretty sketchy.” Eli pulled out a blurry newspaper photo, posting it against his 'Wall of Conspiracies' or whatever he called it. “Even I’m kinda doubtful about this one, you guys. The newspaper claimed the photographer saw it flying over Arcadia a day before yesterday. No one knows if it’s a bird or a bat or what. Looks photoshopped though.”

 

Atlas blinked, bringing a clawed finger to his chin. He cocked his head from side-to-side, examining the image. After a few moment’s pause, he said, “I’ve got nothing, but I definitely know that’s not a bird or a bat. It’s a lot bigger.”

 

Toby pumped his fist. “Ah, yeah. First mission is a go!”

 

“Better get suited up then,” Steve pulled himself up, puffing his chest out. “Eli, get our gear.”

 

Eli saluted the other. “On it.”

 

Backing away from the picture, Atlas gestured to himself. “I think there’s a problem with your little plan, guys. I can’t exactly go around public looking like this.”

 

“Got you covered, Creeper-Boy.” Steve said, throwing him a helmet.

 

Catching it with one hand, Atlas examined it, both equally impressed and mortified. The helmet was black with a white Z scratched on the front. Two holes—presumably modified for horns—were carved out near the back portion. A small smile graced Atlas’s face. 

 

“Guys, this is awfully sweet of you, but I don’t think—“

 

Eli wrapped a blue scarf around the Trolling’s neck, muffling what Atlas’ words, then stood back in triumph. “Perfect! No one will suspect anything.”

 

He pulled back the scarf. “You can’t seriously expect fool the adults with this, do you?”

 

“It’s cool, Creeper-boy. We can just say you’re a Homestuck fan or something.”

 

Atlas threw a questioning look at Toby, “Do I even want to know?”

 

“Please, Atlas? I’ve never been on an adventure before.” Toby said. “Come on! It’ll be fun.”

 

“It’s either all of us, or none of us.” Eli added, snapping his own helmet on. “We won’t go without you, Atlas.”

 

“I would,” Steve muttered under his breath.

 

Atlas closed his eyes, desperately trying to think of some excuse, but coming up with none. Claire’s words rang through his mind. With a deep sigh, he said, “Fine. Only once though. I’m not doing this again. And Tobes? I expect tacos from you after this.”

 

Maybe this won’t be so bad, Atlas thought. To hang out with other boys his age. Despite the other males’ strangeness, Atlas could almost say he felt a sort of fondness for them. Is this what it’s like to have friends?

 

“Creep, Creepslayerz, Defenders of the night, Dun dun dun duh dun dun duh duh,” Eli began to sing.

 

Nope. Spoke to soon.

 

 


 

 

It was a dragon. A motherfucking dragon in Arcadia.

 

Straddling the creature’s long scaled neck, Atlas punched it in the eye. It screamed in fury, lashing out with its tail and trying to buck him off. Blood dripped from his temple, his helmet cracked from the pounding he’d received earlier. He hit its other eye, completely blinding it.

 

“Now, Tobes!” Atlas yelled.

 

“Wahhhh!” Toby screamed as he stabbed the monster in the foot with the Atlas' sword. It retaliated by smacking the little human with one of its wings, sending him flying into the bushes.

 

“It’s not working!” Eli exclaimed from behind one of the trees, ducking to avoid the dragon’s spiky tail.

 

“Nice work, Creeper-Boy! Now it’s gonna kill us all.”

 

“Well, excuse me,” Atlas growled, “We wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t because of you. I wasn’t the one who fucking woke it up then charged at it!”

 

“Ah, guys?” Tobes interrupted, “We’ve got company.”

 

His hearing picked up a feminine cough. Swerving his head, he waved halfheartedly at the Trollhunter and her crew.

 

“Oh, hey, Claire.” He struggled to an upright position, made all the harder by the bucking creature beneath him. “Fancy seeing you here.”

 

“Atlas…” She started, then paused. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I was just passing through.”

 

“We’re here to defeat the monster!” Eli cried out.

 

“Eli? Is that you?” Claire’s friend Mary asked, squinting in the dark.

 

“Toby and Steve too?” His girlfriend asked, “What are you guys doing here?”

 

“Excuse me, Master Claire.” The Blue Troll said, “do you know these humans?”

 

“Yeah, they’re my classmates.”

 

“We’re the Creepslayerz!” Eli cried out, “We protect humanity in the shadows, watching in wait for when evil’s afoot.”

 

Claire sent Atlas a look.

 

He gave a half-hearted shrug. “Humans say just the darndest things.”

 

“Lol, Claire,” Mary said, snorting, “Your boyfriend looks like a Hot Topic reject.”

 

“Shut up, you…” Atlas mulled over the words Steve used to describe her, “…you failed Instagram Thot.”

 

“Oh shitttt…” Another voice, Darci he presumed, remarked.

 

“Claire, your boyfriend is a dead man!" Mary screamed. 

 

“Okay, everyone needs to chill out for a moment,” Claire started, before being brushed aside by Steve. 

 

“Creeper-boy! Go long!” Steve said, throwing his sword.

 

It flew in an arc. Releasing his hold on the dragon’s neck, the teen jumped, catching the weapon with ease. He twisted in mid-air then pointed the blade downward into the soft part of the Dragon’s head. It sank in like butter, the creature falling to the grass hard, shaking the ground beneath it.

 

Claire crossed her arms, her head tilted to one side. “Creeper-Boy? Is that what they call you?”

 

“I can explain.”

 

“Creeper-Boy’s a member of the Creepslayerz.” Steve said as he helped up Eli. “Got a problem with that?”

 

Her eyes widened, lips upturned into a grin. “Oh my god, Atlas, are these guys your new friends? I can’t believe it! I’m so proud of you.”

 

Atlas froze, “You’re…you’re not mad?”

 

“How could I be? I didn’t think you would take my words to heart.”

 

“She might not be mad, but I sure as hell am,” Mary said, struggling to escape AAARRRGGHH!!!’s grasp.

 

“Claire, I take everything you say to heart,” Atlas said, ignoring her friend, “I care about you. I know I’m not the greatest of boyfriends, but I’m trying to be the best one I can be. For you.”

 

Her arms wrapped around him, pulling him in. Hesitantly, he hugged back, laying his chin on her head. Atlas buried his nose in her hair, breathing in her strawberry and lavender scent. Bending down, he kissed her forehead. Someone gagged in the background.

 

“As adorable as all this is,” Darci started, “we’ve still got a job to do. It’s clean-up time, Claire.”

 

“Oh, right, sorry.” Claire said, pulling away. She brandished her weapon, stepping toward the dead creature. Sinking the blade into its body, the corpse turned crystalline then crumbled in on itself, leaving only a pile of glitter-like dust behind. Blinky stepped forward to collect the material, though for what purposes Atlas had no clue.

 

Toby groaned, struggling to get up. Atlas moved forward, letting the smaller boy lean on him. Toby limped a bit, but didn’t appear too worse for the wear. “Ouch. I think I pulled a muscle. Remind me to get some armor next time.”

 

“Next time? You want to do this again?” Atlas said. 

 

“We’re the Creepslayerz, dude. Someone’s gotta protect humanity.”

 

“Oh, don’t mind us Trollhunters over here,” Mary called out. “It’s not like we don’t save the world every other day or something.”

 

His friend threw out a fist. Warmth filling his chest, Atlas bumped it with his own. The duo grinned at each other.

 

Claire was right. Having his own friends was nice.

 

“Friendship forever will stop all the creepers, we know all the secrets, for we are the keepers…”

 

Atlas hid his face between his hands. Claire will never let him live this one down.