Jim nearly cut himself on his sword when he accidentally bumped into a trash bin in the alley as he tried to catch up with Claire and Toby further ahead. He winced when he saw Toby and Claire shoot simultaneous glares in his direction.
“Sorry!” he whispered. Jim dismissed Daylight. “Wasn’t looking.”
Claire rolled her eyes, while Toby snorted. “Usually I’m the clumsy one,” his best friend joked. Jim could see the playfulness in his smile and posture even in the dim light of the fading afternoon.
He walked over to them, catching Claire parting her lips to snark back, but she hesitated and just sighed. Then she noticed him. She quickly looked away and clenched the Shadowstaff tight before she moved forward, stalking towards their destination. Jim bit back a sigh. That girl was just too damn determined .
“Okay, okay… Claire, ” Jim called out as he reached her. She momentarily looked his way. “So, um… no second thoughts?”
His girlfriend ( girlfriend now, she was his girlfriend ) pursed her lips, tension not quite leaving her shoulders as she turned to face him. “Nope. None at all.”
“Really? Creepy vision-premonition-something-whatever tells you to ‘come to this spot, specifically’ and you’re just… taking it in stride? You didn’t even tell us what it was about!” He was starting to get even more worried - it was probably obvious on his face, because Claire’s expression turned into an irritated-looking frown.
“You couldn’t have asked this earlier ?” She scoffed. “Listen, you wouldn’t get it-”
“Claire, I tried, but you sorta left pretty fast before I could-”
“Hey you two lovebirds, hate to be the third wheel, but I think whatever Claire’s visions told her is kinda right here ,” Toby butt in with a gesture of his arms that pushed both of them apart. Jim felt his face twist into a scowl. Toby rolled his eyes, and he felt - slightly offended, but before he could say anything Toby quickly pointed to the right of the alley, where-
“What the hell? ” There was a glowing surface on the alley wall that was shaped like a mirror - no, a portal . A luminescent blue portal. Blurry figures moved around on the other side, but Jim couldn’t make them out. Then, of course, Toby began prodding the sides of it with his fingers.
“Dude, don’t touch it! We don’t know where it goes!” Jim yanked his best friend’s fingers away from the clearly dangerous portal to God knows where .
But then - “...me was speaking the truth…”
“Uh, what?” Jim whirled on Claire.
Claire blinked owlishly at him. “What?”
“Me. What do you mean, me?” He - emulated the pose his mom usually did whenever she started interrogating him: hands on his hips, chin tilted slightly up to make full effect of his height, and eyes narrowed to bore holes into Claire. For a moment, it felt weird doing this to Claire, but the situation called for it.
“I...” Claire glanced away guiltily, arms held in her hands. “Okay, fine . The vision was from - me. A me, or - something! She had my voice, told me to come here to this alley and bring you two, so-”
“Wh- seriously? Claire, what the fuck , you don’t just… up and trust something like that! Did you forget about Otto ? Or-or Morgana?!” he half-shouted.
“I was in a hurry! And besides, she said it was-”
“Yo, dudes,” Toby once again interrupted. He was still staring at the portal, a hand on his chin as he hummed. He tapped his foot impatiently. “I swore I saw someone in a dress walk by like a second ago. I think it’s a party or something?”
“Tobes, are you kidding me right now?”
“No, really, I think it’s like a whole party in there!” He leaned forward and sniffed a few times. “Oh boy, I smell a whole flippin’ buffet! And.. alcohol? Something metallic, too.”
A groan escaped his throat. He grabbed Toby by the arm and pulled him back. “Tobes, it could be a trap. Come on, a buffet? Alcohol? You’d end up as - dessert, or something!”
He rolled his eyes, his head bobbing with the motion. His green eyes peered up at Jim. “Psshh, Jimbo, I’m not reckless . Unlike you and Claire.”
“Uh, what does that mean?!” Claire sharply retorted, whirling on Toby, and Jim had half a mind to join her.
Toby took out his phone, which was on his contact profile for Blinky. “I’m gonna call this in, warn Blinky and Aaarrrgghh ‘bout it so they can back us up if we get in trouble. That’s what I mean.” He smirked.
“...oh. I - forgot to do that,” Jim admitted, shame burning his tongue. Claire frowned, eyes cast down as if in thought.
“I-! Well. Okay, I concede on that, I totally forgot to call Blinky. Call him now. I want to check this portal out ASAP.”
“You mean the one into the obvious trap ?” Jim snapped.
“Oh, not this again -”
“ Hey! No fighting.” Toby gave him and Claire a hard glare. He sighed dramatically, which shifted into a groan. “Man, what would you two do without me?” he said, kinda jokingly, kinda exasperatingly.
Jim didn’t answer. Claire snorted. The two of them hung back (though a few steps from each other) as Toby started dialling Blinky. Jim felt - guilty, seeing Claire recalling the Shadowstaff, clutching her arms, and refusing to meet his eyes.
“Jim, I get it. You’re worried.” Claire bit her lip and exhaled a sigh. “Sorry I didn’t tell you at first.”
“Y-yeah. It’s okay. Sorry for making a big deal out of it. Let’s just…” he gestured at the portal and Toby struggling with his phone. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Her face brightened, and Jim couldn’t hold back his smile. With a thwoosh , her Shadowstaff was out and ready. “So, let’s see what’s on the other side of the portal, and find the source of my vision. And if it’s dangerous, we just do what we always do.”
“Attack with extreme prejudice?”
She grinned cheekily. “Sure, let’s go with that.”
Jim smirked, and resummoned the blade of Daylight on his back.
“...guys?” Toby rushed over to them, teeth gritted in a concerned frown. “One, no signal, and two?” He put his phone up for him and Claire to see.
“My phone clock’s been stuck at 3:43 for like, the past 3 minutes! Or whatever! I can’t mentally keep the time!”
“What? That’s not-” Claire took the phone from Toby’s hand, and started counting the seconds. A minute passed, and the clock remained unchanged. “How is that even…?”
A memory came to the front of Jim’s mind: the timer on his phone reaching its end and the alarm beeping loudly, Angor Rot’s gaze landing and then searing into him just as he started putting the ring on-
“The Kairosect,” he sputtered. “It’s just like the Kairosect. Time’s frozen.” Then he looked around, and found a pigeon frozen mid-flight, just at the end of the alleyway. He pointed at it. Toby started looking queasy, and Claire muttered “shit”.
“How does that even work ?”
“Jim, are you sure the Kairosect was safe?” Claire asked him. She gripped her Shadowstaff and hugged it to her chest.
She kinda looks adorable- no, wait, focus. “No. I left it with Blinky - he threw it in a chest, somewhere. And even if someone did get their hands on it, it’s already wasted. No more charges.”
“Maybe they reverse-engineered it or got it charged up again,” Toby weakly suggested.
“You’d have to be Merlin to do something like that,” Claire said. “And who knows, maybe he did. Or maybe-”
“ You did, I’m guessing.” Toby looked back at the portal. “And it’s definitely connected to whatever this is. If it really is another you, then she’d know how to do portals, too. You from the future, maybe?” Something probably lit up in his head because his eyes went wide and he gasped, and- “Ohh my gosh, what if this is one of those ‘travelling to the future’ plots? Like Ultimate Ben 10 or something? Are we gonna meet an Ultimate Claire?!”
“You still watch that? ...though, now that I think about it, that actually sounds exciting.”
“Or terrifying. Evil Ultimate Claire!”
“PFF- yeah, right . Maybe. What if there’s an Evil Ultimate you ?”
“I’d kick his ass!”
“Get yours kicked, more likely.”
Jim tuned out the conversation happening behind him. He walked over and traced the edges of the portal with his fingers. They - tingled, and he watched as a wave of blue electric energy travelled up his carpals.
“-it’s blue, though, so maybe-”
“We can’t be too sure. I guess we just….”
“Fuck around and find out, got it.” Toby grinned. He raised his fists, his hands flaring with an orange aura. Toby struck a pose that reminded Jim of something he saw in an anime. Jim cracked a smile. Toby, never change . “Well?”
“We’ve put it off long enough. Before we do, quick review of the facts: time-manipulation, portal-making abilities, vision-sending - dreamwalking? - and a… party.” She pointed the Shadowstaff towards the portal. “Ready?”
“Ready.” “Ready as ever, Claire-bear!”
“Don’t call me that. Toby, mind coming in at the same time as me?”
Toby nodded. “Not at all.” He walked over to stand beside Claire. Jim tensed, ingrained instincts making his limbs flow into a battle stance. He double checked his surroundings - the timestop was still active.
“Right. Jim, watch our back.” He nodded and turned his back to them. Jim looked back as Toby and Claire jumped into the portal. Brief flashes of blue, arcing energy accompanied them. He waited a moment, made another glance around the alley, then leaped in after them.
What awaited him on the other side met Toby’s initial assessment - a party.
What he didn’t expect was their own faces, multiple , looking back at them, on the people milling about in the room.
It also looked like a ballroom.
“What. What the fuck ,” Claire sputtered. Her entire body was shaking. Jim quickly took hold of her arm, and it was probably for both their benefit, because he was- he was-
“I’m freaking out, I’m freaking out, right? Please tell me this is a hallucination,” Toby finished his thought for him. His best friend swiveled from left to right, up and down, in just about every direction.
Someone in a green - gown? walked out of the sea of people (who had their faces , there were TWO of him at the front) and-
“ Mary? ”
“That would be me, yup,” her voice answered out of the woman with her face. It was Mary Wang in an adult body, all the curves he’d… well, didn’t really specifically expect from her, but. Her hands were on her hips, and she had a smug look on her face. “Shocked? Yeah, don’t worry, you weren’t the only one.” She made a sweeping gesture with her arm, and Jim blinked, noticing her muscles . Scars lined it from her biceps down to her wrist, from cuts to weird branching marks.
Mary ( a Mary?) motioned at a nearby Jim, who looked a little older than he was. He, too, had a pair of Toby and Claire by his side, though his Toby was wearing a blue parka rather than the red-orange sweater vest he’d come to associate with him. “I suggest after the shell-shock wears out, go talking to those three - this is their second time here, so they can help you three adjust. Oh, do you mind dispersing your armor, or do you feel more comfy that way? I know some Jims who prefer the armor out, so.”
“Cool.” For a moment, she just stared at him until he realized what she wanted him to do. When he dismissed Daylight, she nodded, handed Claire a piece of paper, and started walking away. “Have fun! And don’t forget to read your leaflet.”
“That’s... Mary, all right,” Claire mumbled and started flipping through the leaflet. The crowd started breaking up, though some people greeted them. Toby nodded dumbly at some of them and echoed back their greetings.
“Hey! It’s great to have another universe connect. Let’s talk later!” A Jim in a pink hoodie greeted.
Jim followed Toby’s lead. “Uh. Nice to meet me - er, you, too.” The other Jim smiled and waved him goodbye as he joined the rest of the crowd. Jim turned around and - yep, the portal’s gone.
“O...kay, then.” Jim grabbed Claire’s hand (he let go of it some time earlier) again and pulled Toby back to their small circle. He avoided looking at the other people in the room. “This is a thing. This is happening.”
Toby’s eyes looked glazed over. “...yeah.” Then he blinked, and a little of their color came back. “Yeah, holy balls . I - other dimensions. Multiverse theory. Alternate versions of me, you, and Jim. This is…”
“Screwed up. Some of our alternate selves drink like, actual blood,” Claire answered. Her eyes were still glued to the leaflet. “Vampires. Actual vampires, I can’t believe this-”
“I was going to say awesome !”
“Toby, look at this leaflet. Look at it.” Claire held it up to his face and flipped through it with her hands, and… it kept on flipping. Pages rushed by impossibly, even though the leaflet looked like it was just two pages long. She stopped at a page that had - Toby? Was that Toby in a leather costume, wielding a chain-whip? And beside him was Steve in - that was the armor of Daylight. “Trollhunter Steve. And you as a vampire hunter. This is insane .”
“Exactly what I mean! Awesome!”
“Give me that.” Jim snatched the leaflet out of Claire’s hands, and stared . “Steve as the Trollhunter. There’s a world out there where Steve is the Trollhunter - wait, WHAT?!”
Claire winced. “...yeah, he’s dating his version of you.”
“ Whyyy. ” The leaflet fell limply out of his hands. Toby’s hand darted out to catch it.
“Hey! I take offense to your horror,” a Steve in the room, who was sitting on a couch by the wall, called out. There was… blood on his chestplate. Jim didn’t ask, because he was still busy trying to process a world where he was dating Steve “Dumb Blonde Jock” Palchuk.
“‘s not so bad, says here you two came to a mutual understanding - Steve’s a much better guy because of it. Ooo, and something about ‘gay realization’ shenanigans, that sounds fun. I’d love to meet him.” Toby patted Jim on the back, and he and Claire started guiding him to sit somewhere.
Jim plopped down on a sofa. It was so soft he could sink into it, but its comfort was nothing against the thoughts running through his head. He groaned and palmed his face.
“How are you guys just - accepting this.” His head leaned on Claire’s shoulder.
“I’m really not,” Claire admitted. She was pretty unsettled, judging by the way her eyes kept darting around. “I - how do we even start? Do we just, like, start talking to someone?”
“I’m guessing that’s the first course of action!” Toby cheerfully opined. “I want to go check out the rest of this place.”
“Nuh-uh. Sit down and plan.”
“Sure, sure.” Toby rolled his eyes. “Ooor we just take a moment to relax and just breathe. How ‘bout that?”
“... you know what, fine. If no one attacks us in the next 5 minutes, I’m not going to portal us all out.”
“Thaaat’s not happening,” a Claire piped up from somewhere near them. They all swiveled their heads in the direction of - Trollhunter Claire. “You can play with your Shadowmancy as much as you want, but there’s no getting in or out - there’s a magical transdimensional Faraday cage. That means no phone signal, too. Though the internet's still allowed, and it’s like, lightspeeds fast.”
Toby pulled out his phone, and his eyes went wide. “Oh my god. She’s right. How does my Wi-fi signal have 10 bars? ”
“You’re the Trollhunter? How’d that happen?”
“Different world, diverging circumstances.”
“That’s… not an answer.”
Jim tuned his companions out. Sighing, he decided to just… check out the various people in the room. A Claire was riding on a troll that he’d never seen before, who looked like a darker and hairier version of Aaarrrgghh. Near the entrance to another room was a pair of blue glowing… aliens, probably, talking with who were probably versions of them from another universe. Two Tobys were play-fighting with their Warhammers, while another was floating in midair and chatting with them. He caught the words “gravity hex” and “control” in their conversation. A Claire was talking to an old, white-haired woman, both their palms out and pulsing different-colored magic. There were, and to his surprise, trolls who looked like him. One was in a hood and seemed more human, in a way (changeling?), and he was engaging in a weird glaring contest with a Jim in Eclipse armor who really fit the bill for the whole troll look. Then the latter took out their glaives, the former a pair of knives that looked like Strickler’s signature weapons, and started comparing.
Huh. Troll Jims.
...did that say something about his future?
(And no, he wasn’t going to dwell on the Jim with Strickler’s knives. No. Nope.)
Minutes passed by this way, and more people started coming in through portals, greeting them, or in some cases, sharing their looks of bewilderment. Claire figured out that they were supposed to be wearing bands indicating their multiversal designation, which was ‘Delta-Insurgence-Morgan’ (“Read the leaflet, guys.”), so the three of them plucked out some orange colored bands from… the leaflet, on the page meant for them and their universe.
“And then Strickler projectile vomited ,” Toby Alpha-Ontario said, cackling. He was the Toby in the blue parka that the Mary from earlier (designation Omega-Null-Parade) suggested they chat with. His Jim and his Claire sat beside him and shared his laughter.
“ No way,” his Toby gasped in disbelief.
“ YES way , ” the other rebuffed. He showed them a video of said incident. “It happened , thank you very much.”
“That’s fucking AWESOME!” Toby cheered. Their small group roared into laughter, Jim included. That memory was going to be stuck in his head for days. He clinked his glass of orange juice with Toby AO’s lemonade. Both of them drank down their respective drinks and let out breaths of satisfaction. “Man, your timeline sounds cool.”
“You guys faced Morgana early and won , though - no offense to the Morganas that aren’t like, evil. That’s definitely earned some points in my book,” Trollhunter Claire (Omega-Revolution-Blaster) commented. Claire Alpha-Ontario mhmm ed in agreement.
His Claire sighed, lips pursed. “But she might come back. My Shadowstaff isn't broken, not like the other Claires.”
“I’d suggest destroying it and taking out the Dragon’s Tear, except… yeah.” Trollhunter Claire shook her head sadly. “Timeline consistency cascade at the end of the week.”
And wasn’t that a surprise, finding out that the convention lasted a week . They could leave anytime they wanted, sure, but then they’d miss out on literally everything . Time would go back to normal, and they’d completely forget everything that happened here until two months passed by and the convention would resurface.
“Dragon’s Tear?” Claire asked. That sounded weird, Jim thought. He raised his eyebrows at Claire ORB.
She mirrored his confusion. “What? You know, the Dragon’s Tear. The relic inside the Shadowstaff that powers its Shadowmancy? ...does your Shadowstaff not have that?”
“Let me take a quick look,” an adult Claire piped up from nowhere, appearing in a brief flare of shadows. Everyone startled in surprise.
His Claire blinked rapidly, then: “Hey, wait! You’re-”
“The Claire who invited you three, yeah,” the older version of his girlfriend giggled. She gestured with a prosthetic blue-colored hand, the sleeve of her dress fluttering, materializing sparks of purple magic that somehow demanded his attention. He only realized he’d unconsciously focused on the disappearing remnants of the light show after Claire nudged him in the shoulder.
“Call me… the Weaver of Shadows, Weaver for short. My universe is Alpha-Dream,” Weaver said, her voice silky and refined.
“That’s - really close to Alpha,” Claire breathily mumbled.
The woman gave her a wrinkly smile, but she looked ethereal in spite of them. “Yes, well. My timeline is one of the few closest in terms of multiversal parallel proximity to it. Now, if you’ll let me?”
His girlfriend quietly handed over her Shadowstaff to her. The older Claire inspected it, tilting it here and there, then incanted some words he couldn’t catch - or comprehend - casting a white light that travelled along the staff in a spiral motion. Jim’s breath catched in his throat as he was unable to tear his eyes away from the sight. No one pointed it out, but the entire room had gone silent. It seemed everyone else was caught in a trance, too.
Then Weaver was finished. The spell died down and faded into glistening motes of dust. When it did, it was like the entire world came into motion, the volume of the hubbub in the halls rising back up in his ears. He gasped, and noticed everyone else nearby doing the same.
Weaver’s eyes looked reticent, but the curves of her mouth said otherwise. “I apologize - I can’t really control that aspect of my magic,” she confessed, though Jim, and probably the rest of the room, knew she was lying. But it was done in such a way that it was like a joke that she shared with everyone; playful and strangely not at all arrogant. Jim found that he couldn’t really put it against her. Neither did anyone else, apparently, as someone even chuckled - the rest looked at her with awe in their eyes.
Is this who Claire could - would - grow up to be?
“I’ve finished analyzing your Skathe Hrün,” she stated. “It’s as Claire Omega-Revolution-Blaster suspected: this is a version of the staff that wasn’t made with the Dragon’s Tear. I suppose you kids shall be really getting into a discussion now, with that little nugget of information?”
“Oh, I bet,” Jim Alpha-Ontario joked. Jim and the others laughed, and even Weaver joined in.
“It’s nice to see you all having fun. I recommend you begin with the topic of the differences of your respective magic systems,” Weaver suggested. “I’ll be going now! Oh, and remember, in 6 hours, the entrance ceremony will begin. Goodbye!” And with that, her form sunk into the ground in a pool of shadows.
“... that was…” his Toby trailed off.
“Yeah,” agreed the Claires all at once. They blinked and all pivoted their heads to stare at each other.
Toby looked thoughtful. His arms were crossed, and a smile crept its way onto his face. “She was… awesome. And nice.”
“Nice?” Toby Alpha-Ontario asked, but he didn’t sound confused. He sounded - expectant.
“Yeah. Like… a mom, or something.”
Jim felt a back part of his mind wince and clench, waiting for Claire - or a Claire - to make a sarcastic remark, but instead: “You don’t have a mom,” Claire observed without judgment in her voice.
A melancholy blanketed over their little group. Trollhunter Claire glanced over at his Toby, words of sympathy (or rapport) shining unsaid in her eyes. Jim recalled that she opened up a little about her world and her Toby, who was hanging out somewhere else in the halls; she was apparently a lot closer to her version of him, compared to most versions of her. And she mentioned that she lost her parents, too.
Jim opened his mouth to say something, but his Alpha-Ontario self beat him to it. “Hey, let’s not let the mood get dragged down,” he said, and nodded minutely at him. Jim nodded back. Then he took out his Amulet, and put it on the table. “Weaver said we should talk about magic? Then let’s talk about magic.”
The discussion took up an entire hour of their time.
Four hours later, and the three of them found themselves in the main hall.
It was - to her senses, it was absolutely tumultuous. There were just so many people. Different groups huddled together in various tables and couch coves. If she looked up, Claire could see people flying - most of the time, it was just Tobys and Claires, but there also tended to be the odd Jim out (she counted at least three with wings), even a Strickler or two (and it was weird, finding out Strickler had wings the entire time ), and, well, some others.
Claire flushed the thought out of her mind - she didn’t really want to think about that.
“I still can’t believe there’s like, five different main schools of magic. I thought Blinky or at least Vendel would have mentioned it at some point,” Claire complained. Taking a sip of her drink, she went back to trying to figure out the dimensions of this convention hall. It was just basically impossible, at least from her perspective. Space warping magic was something entirely out of her league. And then there was the fact that the whole place was basically a super casual prom night/week (an entire week , what the fuck), what with how it was all set-up; especially the giant colorful chandeliers, disco balls, and colorful chandelier disco balls . Claire suspected it was a Toby that was behind that monstrous amalgamation of a festivity article.
“You heard what Omega-Revolution-Blaster me said: Arcane Order being assholes, deciding that censoring magic and repressing information about it was a good thing. In some universes, those schools were just common knowledge. In others, they were either condensed into one, two, or just altogether fucked up in a mishmash of - whatever the smart guy said.” Toby took another swig of his wineglass. And yeah, actual wine. It was probably diluted (magically - Claire felt a bit of magic in the wine), but yeah. There wasn’t a drinking age here, though anyone who was decidedly a little child still didn’t get access to the alcohol, if the 10-year old Jim trying to sneak a wine bottle getting descended on by three different Barbara Lakes Claire had the privilege of witnessing 30 minutes ago meant anything.
Seeing a young Jim getting telekinetically swatted and then loudly scolded in front of hundreds of people is something she desperately wished she could’ve snagged a picture of. Damn that magical Faraday Cage and automatic timeline correction forcefield-something. At least there was that “Best Moments” picture hall that definitely had a video of that framed, 1080p and 120 frames per second in all its embarrassing glory…
Speaking of Jim, his attention was focused elsewhere. Curious, she looked in the direction he was staring in, and noticed a conglomeration of Marys, with some Elis here and there at the edges. Huh. Could he hear them?
It poked and prodded at her brain how Jim had suddenly gotten used to - well, everything. He was still the slowest of the three of them, but it was like a switch went off in his mind when they met Alpha-Ontario. He relaxed so quickly Claire suspected the other Jim had a gemstone for it in his amulet.
Meanwhile, Toby was now on his sixth glass. Apparently, he liked the taste, and was a heavyweight. On the other hand, Claire took one sip of wine and immediately got dizzy. Fuck you too, Toby .
It was comforting to know that it was watered down, however slightly.
Then she saw a pack of Tobys pass by, all older-looking. They carried warhammers behind them, engaging in a loud flurry of excited conversation. Something in their gaits struck Claire as self-assured and trained - the way they held themselves, casual yet imposing.
(And kinda hot- wait, what? Claire immediately nuked that train of thought . Was it ‒ what the hell was in this wine!?)
Her Toby spared them a glance, scoffed, and finished his glass.
… huh. She did remember Toby seeming out of place when they met with another group of Tobys a while back...
She turned her attention back to the Marys. The conversation was loud enough that she could eavesdrop with some magic - she had to find a way to thank Alpha her for that little trick later.
“Okay, so. Ship names ,” one of them began.
Oh god. This was gonna be a trainwreck.
“Jlaire,” a Mary in a weird, brown-red pajama looking outfit stated. She recognized her as being from Omega-Myth.
“Hell yeah!” “Eh, could be better.” “Why is it named that? Why not Daystaff, jeez, none of you have taste.” “Ah, the nominal couple.” “Wait, this isn’t the conspiracy meet-up…”
Beside her, Jim snorted. She flinched when Jim glanced at her, but he gave a little smile. Claire probably couldn’t fight the reddening blush on her face.
“Okay, okay… next?
Jim rolled his eyes and nudged Toby, who also apparently heard, based on his steadily rising brow. I mean - maybe… Claire thought to herself.
“Cute!” “Deserved better.” “Not enough content.” “Met a couple earlier - more like Dynamic Dumbasses . They were adorable.” “Guys?”
“I see. Okay, now this one’s pretty controversial. Myths?”
“Cloby, or better known as Warstaff.”
Silence descended on their table. Jim just narrowed his eyes, but at the mention of the name, she and Toby instantly locked their eyes together.
“Heck yeah!” “For sure would have been better.” “Best rarepair.” “I prefer it only when they’re in a poly.” “Other me, this isn’t the consp- wait, you’re actually here for this ?”
A blush completely crept full-force up her neck upon hearing the chorus of, dare she say, enthusiastic responses at the prospect of a relationship between her and Toby. She did see some - versions of her and Toby while going through the leaflet, and she even passed by some, but she didn’t really want to think about it. Except now, she was, and nothing else. The thought kept circulating in her head.
Me and Toby? Me and Toby. That. Toby’s not- but then- oh god, what if it actually didn’t sound so bad, wait, no, now it’s REALLY...
Jim gave her a knowing and smug look, and Toby refused to meet her eyes, downing his seventh, eighth wineglass in quick succession-
“Wait, wait!” interrupted a loud Mary, snapping Claire out of her interpersonal crisis. She would be relieved and thankful, if that Mary didn’t then proceed to say:
“What about Staja ?”
Apparently, whatever she just said (Steve and… the Aja girl? She was an Akiridian or something, right?) was akin to someone trying to start a debate with the argument that maybe Gunmar did some things right, because instantly the other Marys, including the Elis who were arguing, fell completely silent. They stared at her with such intensity that Claire wondered if something magical was going on.
It was probably the case, because Omega-Myth Mary took that moment to float over to that Mary, point at her, and say without even a hint of irony - “Mary Alpha, I’m taking your rights.”
Myths then proceeded to rip off a badge from her shirt that said “RIGHTS”. Claire blinked and realized that the other Marys and even the Elis had the same badge.
“NO! MY RIGHTS!” Mary Alpha screamed.
From above, a Stalkling with a hot-pink collar appeared and descended upon her, dragging her off into the air with its claws. The poor Mary screamed bloody murder as she was unceremoniously flown away somewhere.
“Anyway,” Jim segued. She only just noticed his shit-eating grin, but it was too late. “Warstaff?”
Before Claire could even say anything, Toby flung his wine glass over his shoulder right into an Aaarrrgghh’s open mouth, and stomped away.
“... so, Claire, any th-”
“Jim Lake Jr., if the next thing that comes out of your mouth is about my relationship with Toby, I’m going to shove the Shadowstaff so high up your ass and dump so much magic into your gastrointestinal system that you burp shadow portals for the next decade.”
Jim wisely chose to shut up.
“Claire and me. Claire and me . Gah. ” The Twinkie tasted like ash in his mouth. He continued eating it anyway… wait. Looking at the package, it was actually ash. ‘Volcanic Ashfall’? Toby remembered something in the leaflet about “different dietary requirements”- whatever. He swallowed the rest, and splashed some water he gathered from the sink with his hands onto his face. “I mean, different strokes for different folks, I guess, but. Wow.”
God, he was so drunk. He wasn’t slurring his words, but he was very much drunk. He could barely stand up straight. It took awhile for the alcohol to set in, apparently. And it was an experience . His thoughts felt - straighter (hah), like he could actually focus on a single idea, except he focused on it way too hard. And that was the dilemma, wasn’t it.
Claire and him. Claire and him . He’d gotten used to the idea of there being an entire multiverse containing infinite possibilities of different circumstances that had his other selves, since, hell, he’d been faced with that entire reality for the past five hours, but still . The idea of it just‒
It reminded him of the quick conversation he had with Alpha Toby and Alpha Darci, a … few hours ago, when they bumped into them. Apparently, he and Darci were dating in their universe.
Which was weird, because there wasn’ t a Darci going to their school. The nearest person he could think of was Marlon, who was also black and had pretty frizzy hair, but he was a pretty nervous and shy guy in comparison to Darci.
… but then again… no. Toby shook his head. Marlon didn’t go to school for weeks after what those assholes did, pulling that bullcrap and spray painting the gym walls with- it pissed him off just thinking about it. And being drunk as he was, that meant him silently spitting out curses into the sink.
Except. If his intuition was right, that Marlon may actually be Darci, just - different, and hadn’t realized his real name yet, well. That was interesting, but it was also none of his business .
Anyway . Refreshed but still sort of out of it ( drunk ), Toby stopped staring at his own reflection (should he dye his hair red? Or maybe a streak of green, like Toby Omega-Revolution-Blaster) and walked to leave.
Well, more like ambled. And stumbled. And tripped, and knocked his head on the wall like five times before he remembered he could just lean on it.
A productive three minutes.
Just as he managed to get a steady hand on the doorknob though, someone came in.
Someone he recognized as another version of himself, and the one that he’d been hearing about in whispers ever since he came into the main hall.
“... oh, hey, you’re new,” the other him said a little dumbly. It was probably exactly what he would’ve said, if he wasn’t as stunned.
Because staring right back at him was Toby Omega-Myth (or Myths, how “apt” or whatever Claire would say), but where Toby was an overweight Caucasian straight-haired brown head decked out in a bright red checkered sweater vest over an orange floral-patterned polo, way too tight jeans, and boring red-striped sneakers, Myths was a muscle-bellied dark-skinned and curly brown haired guy in a loose green parka overlaid on a black shirt, military pants, and thick combat boots.
He even carried himself like a soldier, holy shit - he basically towered over him, taller by a foot and a half (and considering Toby was just basically a mirror of Alpha, that meant he was taller than just about every other Toby in their age group that was in the Convention). His green eyes were deep, and they wandered in a way that Toby suspected was strategic, taking in everything he needed to know in just a few seconds without revealing his cards.
He was everything he should’ve been, and he was only two years older. God knows what Myths was like when he was sixteen. Reliable, strong. How could he even catch up…?
“Uh. You okay?” It was weird, hearing his voice come out of the tower of the guy in front of him. Myths took a sniff. “Oh, you’re drunk. You seem pretty good on your feet, though.”
“...I’m on like, my ninth wine.”
“Dude.” Myths stared at him with absolute incredulity. “Most of the wine’s a little diluted - magically , but… you should be fucking plastered. You’re one hell of a heavyweight.”
Then Toby appropriately nearly fell over, and Myths reached out to hold him by the shoulders. He winced.
“...still! Still a heavyweight. And at least you aren’t vomiting. You’ve got that going for you.”
“I-” Toby’s back met the bathroom stall, and he leaned on it. “‘pparently. For fucking how much longer, though? God, being drunk sucks .”
“I could help?” Myths offered. He was being sincere, Toby could tell that much. “I’ve got magic. You probably need it.” Pause. “And also because I don’t want you crying on me. That would. Be weird.”
Toby, though drunk, could see the wisdom in that. Why not? (And of course Myths could do magic. Of course.) Then the last thing he said finally processed in his ears, and- “ Yeah , no, please. Go ahead.”
Myths smiled at him, and put a hand on his shoulder. Green, curling streaks of energy spread out of the older guy’s glove. Then, in one weird and lurching moment, Toby’s stomach felt like it suddenly flipped upside-down and the tingling that he didn’t even know was in his limbs flattened and then flowed right back, cycling between gone and there again repeatedly.
This continued for a few more seconds until it finally passed, and Toby gasped, because oh, he was sober now.
“Holy fuck ,” he heaved. His vision cleared, which he didn’t even know was woozy until after the fact, among other things like being able to stand on his two feet without toppling over. “That was so weird.”
“Yep. Dr. Lake, uh, my Dr. Lake, used that on me once. I think I actually fainted for a hot sec.”
“ Really now ,” Toby asked, sarcastic. God, it was so good to be able to just. Be sarcastic, after being drunk.
“Uh-huh. I was also one hell of a crybaby.”
“...what?” That didn’t really line up with the idea of Myths that had instilled itself into his head. He must’ve looked incredulous, because the older Toby snorted when he saw his face.
“Yep. A little bitch. What, did you think all of us Myths started out as badasses or something?”
“I‒” Well. “Yeah?”
That did it in for Myths. The man’s cheeks puffed up, and in a second, he doubled over, laughing. Toby just stood there in complete disbelief as the older him had a chucklefest over his answer. His answer, that, suddenly, started looking like a crappy misconception, the more he thought about it and stared at the person that idea centered around having a fucking fit over it.
“...so you weren’t a total bad boy that got all the chicks?” he asked, dumbly, after Myths’ laughter started dying out and he wiped a tear away.
“Pfff, fuck no . All I got was Claire and she’s already one hell of a handful! And Jim, too, but he doesn’t count, I’m used to his antics.” Myths sighed, rubbing at his chin musingly over a memory Toby couldn’t possibly know. Then he stopped, bit at his lips, and nervously glanced an eye over to him. “Don’t tell my Claire I said that. In fact, don’t tell any Claire. At all. Ever. Please.”
Toby… was 99.8% sure that at least 10 different Claires (and like 50+ different Marys plus the odd Eli) in the Convention were spying on this conversation, and had already secretly recorded that line for blackmailing and “reasons to murder Myths Toby” purposes. Despite that, he smiled, and said “I got ya, bro,” anyway, shooting him a finger gun and a wink.
The older man smiled, sufficiently humored, and then slung an arm over his shoulder. Toby nearly buckled under the weight of those guns .
“So, you wanna hear about my adventures as Jim’s sidekick and plus one? And why I’m totally not the instant badass everyone seems to be saying we are?” asked Myths.
And Toby Delta-Insurgence-Morgan, not anymore drunk and feeling curious about this older version of himself who was quick to open up about his not-so-awesomeness rather than flaunt and compare warhammers the instant they met, nodded, grinning from ear to ear.
The following conversation was ‒ both eye-opening and humbling. Domzalski (Myths asked him to call him that) went on to talk about the absolute wringer and mess that was their first few months into Trollhunting. It had a similar start to other universes, yeah, but there was. A lot more pain and struggling involved. And Domzalski ‒ suffered, moreso than the typical Toby, including DIM himself, because he pushed himself way too far for his Jim, but gained a lot more experience quicker.
So he quietly asked if perhaps he should have done that as well, and Domzalski‒
“ Absolutely not ,” he declared with a cross-swipe gesture of his arms, his left prosthetic that was covered up by his jacket briefly appearing and letting Toby catch a quick glance of the pitch black material. “You did just fine, dude! You didn’t have to be like me. And didn’t I just tell you I got tortured by the dentist counter girl changeling?”
“Uh, yeah, but‒”
“But but but nooo way, buddy. We all have our different journeys and our different paths in life. I was different from you, sure, and sure , I got some cool magical gloves like part one of my Trollhunting job while others got theirs part two, but that doesn’t mean I was like, inherently better than you. You did what you did, you do what you do, you get what you got, and that’s that .”
“I. Uhh.” Toby was feeling a little overwhelmed by the sudden lecture. Even some other people who had been overhearing the conversation looked the same way. A catgirl (?!) holding a Shadowstaff eyed Domzalski a little warily. Her Trollhunter of a blonde partner, who was ripped as fuck by the way, held her shoulder and shook her head at her.
“Little buddy, hey. Look at me.” Domzalski grasped his shoulders and gazed intensely into his eyes. “You should be proud of your own achievements. You were a key player in your battle against Morgana. When she broke your warhammer, you proceeded to master your gravity hex on the spot and knocked that bitch out of the air .”
Nearby, a young Morgana sputtered out her wine. The Merlin sitting next to her chortled, and instantly got karma for it as the young sorceress sacked him in the face with a Mage Hand.
“...I really did, huh?”
“Yeah! I haven’t heard of a single Toby who did that that early into their adventures!”
And Toby ‒ looked up. Looked into the sincerity in Myths’ eyes, thought about how much the older him was trying to tell him to be confident in himself, to be satisfied with his life.
So, finally, he tried out believing it. Toby Delta-Insurgence-Morgan, under the pressure of a version of himself that had become his best self while still looking 19 (well, he was 25, actually, the reason for that being sorta complicated), relented.
“You know what, sure. I think I’ll ‒ try believing in myself.”
It was definitely not happening in under just a few hours, and it probably didn’t matter anyway because by the end of the week he’d just forget, but.
Fucking at least try , right? Then maybe he’d remember next time, or maybe… a little bit of it would bleed through into his actual self. This was a time and place, after all, for the sole purpose of learning to be happy with yourself, even if everyone else looked so cool and better.
It was probably different for other people, but that was how Toby saw it.
Domzalski grinned, brightly, and patted him on the shoulders. “Good. Now, come on. Let’s get back to your buddies; the entrance ceremony’s starting soon. And before then, maybe we can talk about Warstaff possibilities, eh?”
Then Toby choked, audibly, and started screaming at the older Toby in denial as Domzalski laughed at his failing attempts to hide his true feelings on the matter.
Also, on the way, they passed by a few anthropomorphic turtles being led by a Claire who was in a shinobi outfit. Toby didn’t realize it at first, but once he took in the different colored masks…
“WAIT, THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ARE REAL!? OH MY GOD, I’M SUCH A BIG FAN!”
“ That’s what surprises you the most?”